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The Children of the Abbey

CHAPTER XLVII.

For true repentance never comes too late:

As soon as born she makes herself a shroud,

The weeping mantle of a fleecy cloud,

And swift as thought her airy journey takes,

Her hand heaven’s azure gate with trembling strikes

The stars do with amazement on her look;

She tells her story in so sad a tone.

That angels start from bliss, and give a groan.

Lee.

Adoring the Power who has given me means of making restitution for my injustice, I take up my pen to disclose to your view, oh! lovely orphan of the injured Malvina, the frailties of a heart which has long been tortured with the retrospect of past and the pressure of present evil. Convinced, as I have already said, that if your mind as well as form resembles your mother’s, you will, while you condemn the sinner, commiserate the penitent, and touched by that penitence, offer up a prayer to Heaven (and the prayers of the innocent are ever availing) for its forgiveness unto me.—Many years are now elapsed since the commencement of my confinement, years which diminished my hope of being able to make reparation for the injustice and cruelty I had done Lady Malvina Fitzalan, but left unabated my desire of doing so.

Ah! sweet Malvina! from thy soft voice I was doomed never to hear my pardon pronounced; but from thy child I may, perhaps, have it accorded: if so, from that blissful abode, where thou now enjoyest felicity, if the departed souls of the happy are allowed to view the transactions of this world, thine, I am convinced, will behold with benignancy and compassion the wretch who covers herself with shame to atone for her injuries to thee.

But I must restrain these effusions of my heart, lest I encroach too much on the limited time allotted to make what I may call my confession and inform you of parti­culars necessary to be known.

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My cruelty and insolence to Lady Malvina you no doubt already know in my conduct to her. I forgot the obligations her mother had conferred upon me, whose patronage and kind protection laid the foundation of my prosperity. I rejoiced at her marriage with Captain Fitzalan, as a step that would deprive her of her father’s favour, and place her in a state of poverty which would conceal charms I detested for being superior to my daughter’s.—The earl’s resentment was violent at first: but with equal surprise and concern I soon perceived it gradually subsiding; the irrevo­cableness of the deed, the knowledge that he wanted no acquisition of fortune, above all, Fitzalan’s noble descent, and the graces and virtues he possessed, worthy of the highest station, dwelt upon the earl’s imagination, and pleaded strongly in extenuation of his daughter: alarmed lest my schemes against her should be rendered abortive, like an evil spirit I contrived to re-kindle, by means of my agents, the earl’s resentment, they presented the flagrant, the daring contempt Lady Malvina had shown to parental authority, and that too easy a forgiveness to it might influence her sister to similar conduct with a person perhaps less worthy, and more needy, if possible, than Fitzalan.—This last suggestion had the desired effect, and Lady Malvina he declared in future should be consi­dered as alien to his family.

I now hoped my ambitious views relative to my daughter would be accomplished; I had long wished her united to the Marquis of Rosline; but he had for years been Lady Malvina’s admirer, and was so much attached to her, that on her marriage he went abroad.—My arts were then tried to prevail on the earl to make a will in Lady Augusta’s favour; but this was a point I could not accomplish, and I lived in continual apprehension, lest his dying intestate should give Lady Malvina the fortune I wanted to deprive her of. Anxious, however, to procure a splendid establishment for my daughter, I everywhere said there was no doubt but she would be sole heiress to the earl. At the expiration of three years the marquis returned to his native country; his unfortunate passion was subdued, he heard and believed the reports I circulated, and stimulated by avarice, his leading propensity, offered his hand to my daughter and was accepted. The earl gave her a large portion in ready money, but notwith­standing all my endea­vours, would not make a settlement of any of his estates upon her; I however still hoped, and the marquis from what I said, believed 463 that she would possess all his fortune. My daughter’s nuptials added to my natural haughtiness; they also increased my love of pleasure, by affording me more amply the means of gratifying it at the presumptuous entertain­ments at the marquis’s castle; engaged continually in them, the earl, whose infirmities confined him to the Abbey, was left to solitude, and the care of his domestics. My neglect you will say was impolitic, whilst I had any point to carry with him, but Providence has so wisely ordained it that vice should still defeat itself. Had I always acted in uniformity with the tenderness I once showed the earl, I have little doubt but what at last I should have prevailed on him to act as I pleased; but infatuated by pleasure, my prudence, no, it deserves not such an appel­lation, forsook me: though the earl’s body was a prey to the infirmities of age, his mind knew none of its imbecilities, and he sensibly felt, and secretly resented my neglect: the more he reflected on it, the more he contrasted it with the attention he was accustomed to receive from his banished Malvina, and the resentment I had hitherto kept alive in his mind against her gradually subsided, so that he was well prepared to give a favourable reception to the little innocent advocate she sent to plead her cause. My terror, my dismay, when I surprised the little Oscar at the knee of his grandfather, are not to be described. The tears which the agitated parent shed upon the infant’s lovely cheek, seemed to express affection for its mother, and regret for his rigour to her; yet amidst these tears I thought I perceived an exulting joy as he gazed upon the child, which seemed to say, “Thou wilt yet be the pride, the prop, the ornament of my ancient house.” After circum­stances proved I was right in my inter­pretation of his looks; I drove the little Oscar from the room with frantic rage. The earl was extremely affected. He knew the violence of my temper, and felt too weak to enter into any alter­cation with me; he therefore reserved his little remaining strength and spirits to arrange his affairs, and by passiveness seemed yielding to my sway; but I soon found, though silent, he was resolute. My preventing your brother from again gaining access to his grandfather, and my repulsing your mother when she requested an interview with the earl, I suppose you already know. Gracious heaven! my heart sickens, even at this remote period, when I reflect on the night I turned her from her paternal home, from that mansion, under whose roof her benevolent mother had sheltered my tender 464 years from the rude storms of adverse life. Oh! black and base ingratitude, dire return for the benefits I had received, yet almost at the very instant I committed so cruel an action, she was avenged. No language can describe my horrors as conscience repre­sented to me the barbarity of my conduct. I trembled with involuntary fears; sounds had power to terrify; every blast which shook the Abbey (and dreadful was the tempest of that night) made me shrink as if about to meet with an instantaneous punishment.

I trembled at my undivulged crimes,

Unwhipt of justice.——

I knew the earl expected either to see or hear from your mother: he was ignorant of the reception she had met from me, and I was determined, if possible, he should continue so. As soon as certified of Lady Malvina’s departure from the neighbourhood of the Abbey, I contrived a letter in Captain Fitzalan’s name, to the earl, filled with the most cutting and insolent reproaches to him for his conduct to his daughter, and imputing her precipitate departure from Scotland to it. These unjust reproaches I trusted would irritate the earl and work another revolution in his mind, but I was disap­pointed: he either believed the letter a forgery, or else resolved the children should not suffer for the fault of the parent; he accordingly sent for his agent, an eminent lawyer in one of the neighbouring towns. This man was lately deceased, but his son, bred to his profession, obeyed the summons from the Abbey. I dreaded his coming, but scarcely had I seen him ere this dread was lost in emotions till then unknown; a soft, a tender, an ardent passion took possession of my heart, on beholding a man in the very prime of life, adorned with every natural and acquired grace that could please the eye and ear. Married at an early period, possessed of all the advantages of art, said and believing myself to be handsome, I flattered myself I might on his heart make an impression equal to that he had done on mine; if so I thought how easily could the earl’s intentions, in favour of his daughter, be defeated, for that love will readily make sacrifices I had often heard. A will was made, but my new ideas and schemes divested me of uneasiness about it. Melross continued at the Abbey much longer than he need have done, and when he left it his absence was of short continuance. The earl’s business was his pretext for his long and 465 frequent visits; but the real motive of them he soon discovered to me, encouraged no doubt by the partiality I betrayed. I shall not dwell on this part of my story, but I completed my crime by violating my conjugal fidelity, and we engaged to be united whenever I was at liberty, which from the infirm state of the earl I now believed would shortly be the case. In consequence of this; Melross agreed to put into my hands the earl’s will, which had been intrusted to his care, and he acknow­ledged drawn up entirely in favour of Lady Malvina Fitzalan and her offspring; it was witnessed by friends of his whom he had no doubt of bribing to silence. You may wonder that the will was not destroyed as soon as I had it in my possession; but to do so never was my intention; by keeping it in my hands I trusted I should have a power over my daughter, which duty and affection had never yet given me. Violent and imperious in her disposition, I doubted not but she and the marquis, who nearly resembled her in these parti­culars, would endeavour to prevent from pride and selfishness, my union with Melross; but to know they were in my power would crush all opposition I supposed, and obtain their most flattering notice for him—a notice, from my pride I found essential to my tranquillity. The earl requested Melross to inquire about Lady Malvina, which he promised to do; but it is almost unnecessary to say, never fulfilled such a promise. In about a year after the commencement of my attachment for Melross he expired, and the marchioness inherited his possessions by means of a forged will executed by Melross. Ignorant indeed at the time, that it was by iniquity she obtained them, though her conduct since that period has proved she would not have suffered any compunction from such a knowledge. I removed from the Abbey to an estate about fifteen miles from it, which the earl had left me, and here, much sooner than decency would have warranted, avowed my intention of marrying Melross to the marquis and marchioness of Rosline. The consequences of this avowal were pretty much what I had expected. The marquis, more by looks than words, expressed his contempt; but the marchioness openly declared her indignation; to think of uniting myself to a being so low in life and fortune, she said, as Melross was an insult to the memory of her father, and a degradation to his illustrious house; it would also be a confirmation of the scandalous reports which had already been calculated to the prejudice of my character 466 about him. Her words roused all the violence of my soul; I upbraided her with ingratitude to a parent, who had stepped beyond the bounds of rigid propriety to give her an increase of fortune. My words alarmed her and the marquis. They hastily demanded an explanation of them. I did not hesitate in giving one, protesting at the same time that I would no longer hurt my feelings on their account, as I found no complaisance to my wishes, but immediately avow Lady Malvina Fitzalan the lawful heiress of the Earl of Dunreath. The marquis and the marchioness changed colour; I saw they trembled lest I should put my threats into execution, though with consummate art they pretended to disbelieve that such a will as I mentioned existed.

“Beware,” cried I, rising from my chair to quit the room, “lest I give you too convincing a proof of its reality; except I meet with the attention and complaisance I have a right to expect, I shall no longer act contrary to the dictates of my conscience by concealing it. Unlimited mistress of my own actions, what but affection for my daughter could make me consult her on any of them? Her disappro­bation proceeded alone from selfishness, since an alliance with Melross, from his profession, accom­plish­ments and birth, would not disgrace a house even more illustrious than the one she is descended from or connected to.” I retired to my chamber, secretly exulting at the idea of having conquered all opposition, for I plainly perceived by the marquis and marchioness’s manner, that they were convinced it was in my power to deprive them of their newly acquired possessions, which to secure, I doubted not their sacrificing their pride to my wishes; I exulted in the idea of having my nuptials with Melross celebrated with that splendour I always delighted in, and the prospect of having love and vanity gratified, filled me with a kind of intoxicating happiness. In a few hours after I retired to my room, the marchioness sent to request an interview with me, which I readily granted. She entered the apartment with a respectful air very unusual to her, and immediately made an apology for her late conduct. She acknow­ledged I had reason to be offended; but a little reflection had convinced her of her error, and both she and the marquis thanked me for consulting them about the change I was about making in my situation, and would pay every attention in their power to the man I had honoured with my choice. That I did not 467 think the marchioness sincere in her professions you may believe, but complaisance was all I required. I accompanied her to the marquis; a general recon­ciliation ensued, and Melross was presented to them.

In about two days after this the marchioness came into my dressing room one morning, and told me she had a proposal to make, which she hoped would be agreeable to me to comply with; it was the marquis’s intention and hers to go immediately to the continent, and they had been thinking, if Melross and I would favour them with our company, that we had better defer our nuptials till we reached Paris, which was the first place they intended visiting, and their solemnization in Scotland so soon after the earl’s decease might displease his friends, by whom we were surrounded, and on their return, which would be soon, they would introduce Melross to their connexions, as a man every way worthy of their notice.

After a little hesitation I agreed to this plan, for where it inter­fered not with my inclinations, I wished to preserve an appearance of propriety to the world, and I could not avoid thinking that my marrying so soon after the earl’s death would draw censure upon me, which I would avoid by the projected tour, as the certain time of my nuptials could not then be ascertained. Melross submitted cheerfully to our new arrange­ments, and it was settled, farther to preserve appearances, that he should go before us to Paris. I supplied him with every thing requisite for making an elegant appearance, and he departed in high spirits at the prospect of his splendid establishment for life.

I counted the moments with impatience for rejoining him, and, as had been settled, we commenced our journey, a month after his departure. It was now the middle of winter, and ere we stopped for the night, darkness, almost impenetrable, had veiled the earth; fatigued and almost exhausted by the cold, I followed the marquis through a long passage, lighted by a glimmering lamp, to a parlour which was well lighted and had a comfortable fire. I started with amazement on entering it, at finding myself in a place I thought familiar to me; my surprise, however, was but for an instant, yet I could not help expressing it to the marquis. “Your eyes, madam,” cried he, with a cruel solemnity, “have not deceived you, for you are now in Dunreath Abbey.”

“Dunreath Abbey!” I repeated; “Gracious Heaven! what can be the meaning of this?”

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“To hide your folly, your imprudence, your deceit, from the world,” he exclaimed, “to prevent your executing the wild projects of a depraved and distempered mind, by entering into a union at once contemptible and preposterous, and to save those, from whom alone you derive your consequence, by your connexion with them, farther mortifi­cation on your account.”

To describe fully the effect of this speech upon a heart like mine is impossible; the fury which pervaded my soul would, I believe, have hurried me into a deed of dire revenge, had I had the power of executing it; my quivering lips could not express my strong indignation.

“And do you then, in a country like this,” I cried, “dare to think you can deprive me of my liberty?”

“Yes,” replied he, with insulting coolness, “when it is known you are incapable of making a proper use of that liberty; you should thank me,” he continued, “for palliating your late conduct, by imputing it rather to an intellectual derangement than to total depravity: from what other source than the former could you have asserted that there was a will in Lady Malvina Fitzalan’s favour?” These words at once developed the cause of his unjustifiable conduct, and proved that there is no real faith between the guilty. From my disposition, the marquis was convinced that I would assume a haughty sway over him in consequence of the secret of the will; he also dreaded that passion or caprice might one day induce me to betray that secret, and wrest from him his unlawful possessions; thus pride and avarice tempted and determined him, by confining me, to rid himself of these fears.

“Oh! would to heaven,” cried I, replying to the last part of his speech, “I had proved my assertion; had I done justice to others, I should not have been entangled in the snare of treachery.”

“Prove the assertion now,” said he, “by shewing me the will, and you may, perhaps,” he continued, in a hesitating accent, “find your doing so attended with pleasing consequences.” Rage and scorn flashed from my eyes at these words. “No,” cried I, “had you the power of torturing, you should not tear it from me. I will keep it to atone for my sins, and expose yours to view, by restoring it to the right owner.” I demanded my liberty, I threatened, supplicated, but all in vain. The marquis told me I might as well compose myself, for my fate was decided.

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“You know,” cried he, with a malicious look, “you have no friends to inquire or interfere about you, and even if you had, when I told them what I believed to be the case, that your senses were disordered, they would never desire to have you released from this confinement.” I called for my daughter. “You will see her no more,” he replied. “the passions she has so long blushed to behold, she will no more witness.”

“Rather say,” I exclaimed, “that she dare not behold her injured parent, but let not the wretch, who has severed the ties of nature, hope to escape unpunished; no, my sufferings will draw a dreadful weight upon her head, and may, when least expected, torture her heart with anguish.” Convinced that I was entirely in the marquis’s power, convinced that I had nothing to hope from him or my daughter, rage, horror, and agony, at their unjust and audacious treatment, kindled in my breast a sudden frenzy, which strong convulsions only terminated. When I recovered from them, I found myself on a bed in a room, which at the first glance, I knew to be the one the late Lady Dunreath had occupied, to whose honours I so unworthily succeeded.—Mrs. Bruce, who had been housekeeper at the Abbey before my marriage, sat beside me; I hesitated a few minutes whether I should address her as a suppliant or a superior: the latter, however, being most agreeable to my inclinations, I bid her, with a haughty air, which I hoped would awe her into obedience, assist me in rising and procure some conveyance from the Abbey without delay. The marquis entered the chamber as I spoke. “Compose yourself, madam,” said he. “Your destiny, I repeat it, is irrevocable; this Abbey is your future residence, and bless those who have afforded your follies such an asylum; it behoves both the marchioness and me, indeed, to seclude a woman who might cast imputations on our characters, which those unacquainted with them might believe.” I started from the bed in the loose dress in which they had placed me on it, and stamping round the room demanded my liberty. The marquis heard my demand with contemptuous silence, and quitted the room. I attempted to rush after him, but he pushed me back with violence, and closed the door. My feelings again brought on convulsions, which terminated in a delirium and fever. In this situation the marquis and marchioness abandoned me, hoping, no doubt, that my disorder would soon lay me in a prison, even more secure 470 than the one they had devoted me to. Many weeks elapsed ere I showed any symptom of recovery. On regaining my senses, I seemed as if awaking from a tedious sleep, in which I had been tortured with frightful visions. The first object my eyes beheld, now blessed with the powers of clear perception, was Mrs. Bruce bending over my pillow with a look of anxiety and grief, which implied a wish, yet a doubt of my recovery.

“Tell me,” said I, faintly, “am I really in Dunreath Abbey? Am I really confined within its walls by order of my child?”

Mrs. Bruce sighed. “Do not disturb yourself with questions now,” said she, “the reason heaven has so mercifully restored, would be ill employed in vain murmurs.”

“Vain murmurs!” I repeated, and a deep desponding sigh burst from my heart. I lay silent a long time after this; the gloom which encompassed me at length grew too dreary to be borne, and I desired Mrs. Bruce to draw back the curtains of the bed and windows. She obeyed, and the bright beams of the sun darting into the room, displayed to my view an object I could not behold without shuddering; this was the portrait of Lady Dunreath, exactly opposite the bed. My mind was softened by illness, and I felt in that moment as if her sainted spirit stood before me, to awaken my conscience to remorse, and my heart to repentance; the benevolence which had irradiated the countenance of the original with a celestial expression, was powerfully expressed upon the canvass, and recalled, oh! how affectingly to my memory, the period in which this most amiable of women gave me a refuge in her house, in her arms, from the storms of life; and yet her child, I groaned, her child I was accessory in destroying; oh! how excruciating were my feelings at this period of awakened conscience; I no longer inveighed against my sufferings; I consi­dered them in the light of retribution, and felt an awful resignation take possession of my soul. Yes, groaned I to myself, it is fit that in the very spot in which I triumphed in deceit and cruelty, I should meet the punishment due to my misdeeds.

The change in my disposition produced a similar one in my temper, so that Mrs. Bruce found the task of attending on me, easier than she had imagined it would be; yet I did not submit to my confinement without many efforts to liberate myself through her means; but her fidelity to her unnatural employers was not to be 471 shaken; blushing, however, at my past enormities, I should rather have shrunk from that solicited admission again into the world, had not my ardent desire of making reparation to the descendants of Lady Dunreath influenced me to desire my freedom. Oh! never did that desire cease—never did a morning dawn, an evening close, without entreating Heaven to allow me the means of restoring to the injured, their inheritance. Mrs. Bruce, though steady was not cruel, and nursed me with the tenderest attention till my health was re-established: she then ceased to see me except at night; but took care I should be always amply stocked with necessaries. She supplied me with religious and moral books; also materials for writing, if I chose to amuse myself with making comments on them. To those books I am indebted, for being able to endure, with some degree of calmness, my long and dreadful captivity: they enlarged my heart, they enlightened its ideas concerning the Supreme Being, they impressed it with awful submission to his will, they convinced me more forcibly than my transgressions, yet without exciting despair, for while they showed me the horrors of vice they proved the efficacy of repentance. Debarred of the common enjoy­ments of life, air, exercise and society, in vain my heart assured me my punishment was inadequate to my crimes, nature ripened and a total languor seized me. Mrs. Bruce at last told me that I should be allowed the range of that part of the building in which I was confined (for I had hitherto been limited to one room) and conse­quently air from the windows, if I promised to make no attempt for recovering my freedom, an attempt which she assured me would prove abortive, as none but people attached to the marquis lived in or about the Abbey, who would immediately betray me to him, and if he ever detected such a step, it was his determination to hurry me to France.

Certain that he would be capable of such baseness, touched by the smallest indulgence, and eager to procure any recreation, I gave her the most solemn assurances of never attempting to make known my situation. She accordingly unlocked the several doors that had hitherto impeded my progress from one apartment to another, and removed the iron bolts which secured the shutters of the window. Oh! with what mingled pain and pleasure did I contemplate the rich prospect stretched before them, now that I was debarred from enjoying it, at liberty, I wondered how I could ever have contemplated it 472 with a careless eye, and my spirits, which the air had revived, suddenly sunk into despondence, when I reflected I enjoyed this common blessing but by stealth; yet who (cried I with agony) can I blame but myself? The choicest gifts of Heaven were mine, I lost them by my own means; wretch as I was, the first temptation that assailed warped me from integrity, and my error is marked by the deprivation of every good; with eager, with enthusiastic delight, I gazed on scenes which I had often before regarded with a careless eye; it seemed as if I had only new perception to distinguish their beauties; the season’s difference made a material change to me, as all the windows were shut up in winter, except those of the apartment I occupied, which only looked into a gloomy court; ah! how welcome to me then was the return of spring, which again restored to me the indulgence of visiting the windows; how delightful to my eyes the green of the valley, and the glowing bloom of the mountain shrubs just bursting into verdure; ah! how soothing to my ear the lulling sound of water-falls, and the lively carol of the birds; how refreshing the sweetness of the air, the fragrance of the plants which friendly zephyrs, as if pitying my confinement, wafted through the windows; the twilight hour was also hailed by me with delight; it was then I turned my eyes from earth to heaven, and regarding its blue and spangled vault but as a thin covering between me and myriads of angels, felt a sweet sensation of mingled piety and pleasure, which for the time had power to steep my sorrows in forgetfulness! But in relating my feelings, I wander from the real purpose of my narrative, and forget that I am describing those feelings to a person, who from my injurious actions, can take but little interest in them.

The will I shall deliver to you to-night: I advise you, if your brother cannot immediately be found, to put it in the hands of some man, on whose abilities and integrity you can rely; but till you meet with such a person beware of discovering you have it in your possession, lest the marquis, who, I am sorry to say, I believe capable of almost any baseness, should remove from your knowledge the penitent, whose testimony to the validity of the deed will so cheerfully be given, and is so materially essential: be secret then, I again conjure you, till every thing is properly arranged for the avowal of your rights; and oh! may the restoration of all those righty you shall claim be to you and to your brother, productive of every felicity.

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From your hands, may the wealth it puts into them bestow relief and comfort on the children of adversity; thus yielding to your hearts a pare and permanent satis­faction, which the mere possession of riches, or their expenditure on idle vanities can never bestow. As much as possible I wish to have my daughter saved from public disgrace; from me you will say she merits not this lenient wish; but alas! I hold myself accountable for her misconduct; intrusted to my care by Providence, I neglected the sacred charge, nor ever curbed a passion, or laid the foundation of a virtue. Ah! may her wretched parent’s prayers be yet availing, may penitence, ere too late, visit her heart, and teach her to regret and expiate her errors. Had she been united to a better man, I think she never would have swerved so widely from nature, and from duty; but the selfish soul of the marquis, taught her to regard self as the first consi­deration of life.

Mrs. Bruce informed me that the marquis had written Melross, informing him that I had changed my mind, and would think no more about him, and she supposed he had procured some pleasant establishment in France, as no one had ever heard of his returning from it. She made several attempts to prevail on me to give up the will to her; but I resisted all her arts, and was rejoiced to think I had concealed it in a place which would never be suspected. My narrative now concluded, I wait with trembling patience for your expected visit; for that moment, in which I shall make some reparation for my injuries to your mother; I am also anxious for the moment in which I shall receive the promised narrative of your life, from your tears, your words, your manner, I may expect a tale of sorrow; ah! may it only be that gentle sorrow which yields to the influence of time, and the sweets of friendship and conscious innocence.

I cannot forbear describing what I felt on first hearing your voice—a voice so like in its harmonious tone to one I knew had long been silent; impressed with an awful dread, I stood upon the stairs which I was descending to visit the chapel, as was my constant custom at the close of the day, shivering and appalled, I had not for a few minutes power to move; but when I at last ventured nearer the door, and saw you kneeling before the dust covered shade of her I had injured, when I heard you call yourself her wretched orphan, ah! what were my emotions! an awful voice seemed sounding in my 474 ear.—Behold the hour of restitution is arrived! Behold a being, whom the hand of Providence has conducted hitherto receive reparation for the injustice you did her parents; adore that mighty hand that thus affords you means of making atonement for your offences. I did adore it; I raised my streaming eyes, my trembling hands to Heaven, and blessed the gracious power which had granted my prayer. The way by which I saw you quit my retirement proved to me your entrance into it was unknown, with an impatience bordering on agony I waited for the next evening; it came without bringing you, and no language can express my disap­pointment! dejected I returned to my chamber, which you entered soon after, and where you received so great a fright; yet be assured, not a greater one than I experienced, for the gloom of moonlight which displayed me to you, gave you full to my view, and I beheld the very form and face of Lady Malvina. In form and face you may alone resemble her; different, far different, be your destiny from hers. Soon may your brother be restored to your arms. Should he then shudder at my name, oh! teach him with a mercy like your own, to accord me forgiveness.

Ye sweet and precious descendants of this illustrious house—ye rightful heirs of Dunreath Abbey—may your future joys amply recompense your past sorrows! May those sorrows be forgotten, or only remembered to temper prosperity, and teach it pity for the woes of others! May your virtues add to the renown of your ancestors, and entail eternal peace upon your souls! May their line by you be continued, and continued as a blessing to all around! May your names be consecrated to posterity by the voice of gratitude, and excite in others an emulation to pursue your courses!

Alas! my unhappy child! why do I not express such a wish for you? I have expressed it—I have prayed for its accom­plishment—I have wept in bitterness at the idea of its being unavailing; lost to the noble propensities of nature, it is not from virtue, but from pomp and vanity, you seek to derive pleasure.

Oh, lovely orphans of Malvina! did you but know, or could you but conceive the bitter anguish I endure on my daughter’s account, you would think yourselves amply avenged for all your injuries.

Oh, God! ere my trembling soul leaves its frail tenement of clay, let it be cheered by the knowledge of my child’s repentance.

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Oh! you young and tender pair, who are about entering into the dangerous possession of riches, learn from me that their misappli­cation, the perversion of our talents, and the neglect of our duties, win, even in this world, meet their punishment.

Resolute in doing justice to the utmost of my power, I am ready, whenever I am called upon, to bear evidence to the validity of the will I shall deliver into your possession. Soon may all it entitles you to, be restored, is the sincere prayer of her who subscribes herself

The truly penitent

Annabella Dunreath.

Errata: Chapter XLVII

the one she is descended from or connected to.”
close quote missing

may, when least expected, torture her heart with anguish.”
text has anguish.’

in vain my heart assured me my punishment was inadequate to my crimes
text has indaqueate


The next evening Amanda’s patience was put to the test; for after tea, Mrs. Duncan proposed a walk


The emotions Amanda experienced from reading this narrative, deeply affected, but gradually subsided from her mind

Introduction and Contents

 

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.