The Children of the Abbey
Mine eyes were half closed in sleep. Soft music came to mine ear; it was like the rising breeze that whirls, at first, the thistle’s beard; that flies, dark, shadowy, over the grass.
Amanda went every morning to the Hall, where she alternately played and read; in the evening she again returned to it; but instead of staying in the library, generally took a book from thence, and read at the foot of some old moss-covered tree, delighted to hear its branches gently rustling overhead, and myriads of summer flies buzzing in the sunny ray, from which she was sheltered. When she could no longer see to read, she deposited her book in the place she had taken it from, and rambled to the deepest recesses of the grove; this was the time she loved to saunter carelessly along, while all the jarring passions that obtruding care excited, were hushed to peace by the solemnity and silence of the hour, and the soul felt at once composed and elevated; this was the time she loved to think on days departed, and sketch those scenes of felicity, which, she trusted, the days to come would realize.—Sometimes she gave way to all the enthusiasm of a young and romantic fancy, and pictured to herself the time, when the shades she wandered beneath, were
————the haunts of meditation,
The scenes, where ancient bards th’ inspiring breath
Extatic felt, and from this world retired,
Conversed with angels and immortal forms,
On gracious errands bent: to save the fall
Of virtue struggling on the brink of vice.
Her health gradually grew better as the tranquillity of her mind increased; a faint blush again began to tinge her cheek, and her lovely eyes beamed a placid lustre, through their long silken lashes.
She returned one evening from her usual ramble with one of those unaccountable depressions on her spirits, to which, to a greater or lesser degree, almost every one is subject. When she retired to bed, her sleeping thoughts took the tincture of her waking ones, and images of the most affecting nature arose in her mind; she went 42 through the whole story of her mother’s sufferings, and suddenly dreamt she beheld her expiring under the greatest torture; and that while she wept her fate, the clouds opened, and discovered her adorned with seraphic beauty, bending with a benignant look towards her child, as if to assure her of her present happiness. From this dream Amanda was roused, by the softest, sweetest strains of music she had ever heard; she started with amazement; she opened her eyes, and saw a light around her, far exceeding that of twilight. Her dream had made a deep impression on her, and a solemn awe diffused itself over her mind; she trembled universally; but soon did the emotion of awe give way to that of surprise, when she heard on the outside of the window the following lines from Cowley, sung in a manly and exquisitely melodious voice, the music which woke her being only a symphony to them.
Awake, awake, my lyre,
And tell thy silent master’s humble tale.
In sounds they may prevail,
Sounds that gentle thoughts inspire,
Though so exalted she,
And I so lowly be,
Tell her such different notes make all thy harmony.
Hark how the strings awake,
And though the moving hand approach not
Themselves with awful fear,
A kind of numerous trembling make.
Now all thy forces try,
Now all thy charms apply,
Revenge upon her ear the conquest of her eye.
Weak lyre, thy virtue sure
Is useless here, since thou art only found
To cure, but not to wound,
And she to wound, but not to cure.
Too weak too, wilt thou prove,
My passion to remove,
Physic to other ills, thou’rt nourishment to love.
Sleep, sleep again my lyre,
For thou canst never tell my humble tale,
In sounds that will prevail,
Nor gentle thoughts in her inspire.
All thy vain mirth lay by,
Bid thy strings silent lie,
Sleep, sleep again, my lyre, and let thy master die.
Ere the voice ceased, Amanda had quite shaken off the effects of her dream; and, when all again was silent, she drew back the curtain, and saw it was the moon, then at full, which, beaming through the calico window curtains, cast such a light around her. The remainder of the night was passed in ruminating on this strange incident; it was evident the serenade was addressed to her; but she had not seen any one since her arrival in the neighbourhood, from whom she could have expected such a compliment, or, indeed, believed capable of paying it; that the person who paid it was one of no mean accomplishments, from his performance she could not doubt. She resolved to conceal the incident, but to make such inquiries the next morning as might possibly lead to a discovery. From the answer those inquiries received, the clergyman was the only person whom, with any degree of probability, she could fix on; she had never seen him, and was at a loss to conceive how he knew anything of her, till it occurred he might have seen her going to Tudor Hall, or rambling about it.
From the moment this idea arose, Amanda deemed it imprudent to go to the Hall; yet so great was the pleasure she experienced there, she could not think of relinquishing it without the greatest reluctance. She at last considered, if she had a companion, it would remove any appearance of impropriety: Ellen was generally employed at knitting; Amanda therefore saw that going to the Hall could not interfere with her employment, and accordingly asked her attendance thither, which the other joyfully agreed to.—“While you look over the books,” said Ellen, as they entered the library, “I will just step away about a little business.” “I beg you may not be long absent,” cried Amanda. Ellen assured her she would not, and flew off directly. She had, in truth, seen in an enclosure near the Hall, Tim Chip, the carpenter, at work, who was the rural Adonis of these shades; he had long selected Ellen for the fair nymph of his affection; which distinction excited not a little jealousy among the village girls, and considerably increased the vanity of Ellen, who triumphed in a conquest that at once gratified her love, and exalted her above her companions.
Amanda entered the music room; the preceding night dwelt upon her memory, and she sat down to the piano, and attempted them; her ear soon informed her 44 that the attempt was successful; and her voice (as the words were familiar to her) then accompanied the instrument. “Heavenly sounds!” exclaimed some one behind her, as she concluded singing. Amanda started in terror and confusion from the chair, and beheld a tall and elegant young man standing by it. “Good heaven!” cried she, blushing, and hastily moving to the door, scarcely knowing what she said, “where can Ellen “And do you think,” said the stranger, springing forward, and intercepting her passage, “I shall let you escape in this manner? No, really, my charming girl, I should be the most insensible of beings, if I did not avail myself of the happy opportunity chance afforded, of entreating leave to be introduced to you.” As he spoke, he gently seized her hand, and carried it to his lips. “Be assured sir,” said Amanda, “the chance as you call it, which brought us together, is to me most unpleasant, as I fear it has exposed me to greater freedom than I have been accustomed to.”
“And is it possible,” said he, “you really feel an emotion of anger? Well, I will relinquish my lovely captive, if she condescendingly promises to continue here a few minutes longer, and grants me permission to attend her home.”
“I insist on being immediately released,” exclaimed Amanda. “I obey,” cried he, softly pressing her hand, and then resigning it: “you are free: would to heaven I could say the same.”
Amanda hurried to the grove; but in her confusion took a wrong path, and vainly cast her eyes around in search of Ellen. The stranger followed, and his eyes wandered with hers in every direction they took. “And why,” cried he, “so unpropitious to my wish of introduction? a wish, it was impossible not to feel from the moment you were seen.” Amanda made no reply, but still hurried on; and her fatigue and agitation were soon too much for her present weak state of health; and, quite overpowered, she was at length compelled to stop, and lean against a tree for support. Exercise had diffused its softest bloom over her cheek; her hair fluttered in the breeze that played around her; and her eyes, with the beautiful embarrassment of modesty, were bent to the ground, to avoid the stranger’s ardent gaze; he watched her with looks of the most impassionate admiration, and softly exclaimed, as if the involuntary exclamation of rapture, “Good Heavens, what an angel.”45
“Fatigue has made you ill,” he said, “and ’tis your haste to avoid me has occasioned this disorder. Could you look into my heart, you would then find there was no reason to fly from me; the emotions that lovely face excites in a soul of sensibility, could never be inimical to your safety.”
At this moment Amanda perceived Ellen leaping over a stile; she had at last left Mr. Chip, after promising to meet him in the evening at the cottage, where the blind harper was to attend to give them a dance. She ran forward, but on seeing the stranger started back in the utmost amazement. “Bless me,” said Amanda, “I thought you would never come.”
“You go then,” said the stranger, “and give me no hope of a second interview. Oh say,” taking her hand, “will you not allow me to wait upon you?” “It is utterly impossible,” replied Amanda, “and I shall be quite distressed, if longer detained.”
“See then,” said he, opening a gate which led from the grove into the road, “how like a courteous knight I release you from painful captivity. But think not, thou beautiful though cruel fair one,” he continued gaily, “I shall resign my hopes of yet conquering thy obduracy.”
“Oh Lord!” cried Ellen, as they quitted the grove, “how did you meet Lord Mortimer?” “Lord Mortimer?” repeated Amanda. “Yes, himself, indeed,” said Ellen, “and I think in all my porn days I was never more surprised, than when I saw him with you, looking so soft and so sweet upon you; to be sure he is a beautiful man; and besides that, the young lort of Tudor Hall.” Amanda’s spirits were greatly flurried, when she heard he was the master of the mansion, where he had found her seated with as much composure as if possessor of it.
As they were entering the cottage, Ellen, twitching Amanda’s sleeve cried “Look, look.” Amanda, hastily turning round, perceived Lord Mortimer, who had slowly followed them half way down the lane; on being observed, he smiled, and, kissing his hand, retired.
Nurse was quite delighted at her child being seen by Lord Mortimer (which Ellen informed her of:) her beauty, she was convinced, had excited his warmest admiration; and admiration might lead (she did not doubt) to something more important. Amanda’s heart fluttered with an agreeable sensation, as Ellen described to her mother 46 the tender looks with which Lord Mortimer regarded her. She was at first inclined to believe that in his lordship she had found the person, whose melody so agreeably disturbed her slumbers; but a minute’s reflection convinced her this belief must be erroneous: it was evident (for she would have heard it) that Lord Mortimer had only arrived that day at Tudor Hall; and even had he seen her before, upon consideration she thought it improbable that he should have taken the trouble of coming in such a manner to a person in a station, to all appearance, so infinitely beneath his own. Yes, it was plain, chance alone had led him to the apartment where she sat; and the common-place gallantry fashionable men are accustomed to, had dictated the language he addressed to her. She half sighed, as she settled the matter thus in her mind, and again fixed on the curate as the serenader. Well, she was determined, if ever he came in her way, and dropped a hint of an attachment, she would immediately crush any hopes he might have the vanity to entertain.
And though the moving hand approach not near,
text has near.
the melodious strains she had heard the preceding night
text unchanged: 1816 has “the harmony of the preceding night”
“where can Ellen be?”
text has be?’
A gentle noise in her chamber roused Amanda from a light refreshing slumber
After tea Amanda asked little Betsey to accompany her in a walk