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The Children of the Abbey

CHAPTER LIII.

Love, gratitude, and pity wept at once.

Thomson.

We shall now account for the incidents in the last chapter. Amanda’s letter to the Rushbrooks, filled them with surprise and consternation. Mrs. Rushbrook directly repaired to Mrs. Connel, who, without hesitation, gave it as her opinion, that the whole was a fabri­cation, invented by malice to ruin Sipthorpe in their opinion, or else by envy to prevent their enjoying the good fortune which he offered to their acceptance. Mrs. Rushbrook was inclined to be of the same opinion; her mind was sensibly affected by the favours Sipthorpe had conferred 545 on her family, and yielding to its gratitude, she resolved to be guided implicitly by her friend, who advised her to show the letter to him. She consi­dered this as the best measure she could pursue: if innocent, he would be pleased by the confidence reposed in his honour; if guilty, his confusion must betray him. But Belgrave was guarded against detection; his servant had seen Amanda as she was alighting from the coach the evening she arrived in town.—He inquired of the maid concerning her, and learned that she was to lodge in the house, and go by her assumed name. These circum­stances he related to his master the moment he returned home, who was transported at the intelligence; from her change of name, he supposed her not only in deep distress, but removed from the protection of her friends, and he determined not to lose so favourable an opportunity as the present for securing her in his power. He instantly resolved to relinquish his designs on Emily; designs which her beautiful simplicity and destitute condition had suggested, and to turn all his thoughts on Amanda, who had ever been the first object of his wishes. His pride, as well as love, was inter­ested in again ensnaring her, as he had been mortified by her so successfully baffling all his stratagems. He knew not of the manner she had left his house; half distracted at what he supposed her escape from it, he had followed her to Ireland, and remained incognito near the convent, till the appearance of Mortimer convinced him any schemes he formed against her must prove abortive; but to concert a plan about securing her required some deliberation; ere he could devise one, he was summoned to Mrs. Connel’s parlour to peruse the letter, and from the hand, as well as purport, instantly knew Amanda to be its author. With the daring effrontery of vice, he directly declared she was a discarded mistress of his, who from jealousy had taken this step, to prevent, if possible, his union. He assured them her real name was not Donald, bid them tax her with that deceit, and judge from her confusion whether she was not guilty of that, as well as everything else he alleged against her. His unembarrassed manner had the appearance of innocence to his too credulous auditors, prejudiced as they were already in his favour, and in their minds he was now fully acquitted of his imputed crimes. He was now careless whether Amanda saw him or not (for he had before stolen into the house,) being well convinced nothing she could allege against him would be credited. When night approached 546 without bringing her, he grew alarmed, lest he had lost her again. At last her return relieved him from his fear. The conversation which passed in the parlour he heard through means of his servant, who had listened to it. The mention of Amanda’s removal in the morning made him immediately consult this servant about measures for securing her, and he, with the assistance of the maid, contrived the scheme which has already been related, having forged the letter in Emily’s name. But how inadequate is language to describe the rage that took possession of his soul, when, going at the appointed hour to carry Amanda off, he found her already gone! He raved, cursed, stamped, and accused the woman and his servant of being privy to her escape. In vain Mrs. Deborah told him of the trick she had played on her, and how she had been obliged to get into the house through the window. He continued his accusations, which so provoked his servant, conscious of their unjustness, that he at last replied to them with insolence. This, in the present state of Belgrave’s mind, was not to be borne, and he immediately struck him over the forehead with his sword, and with a violence which felled him to the earth. Scarcely had he obeyed ere he repented this impulse of passion, which seemed attended with fatal consequences, for the man gave no symptoms of existence. Consideration for his own safety was more prevalent in his own mind than any feelings of humanity, and he instantly rushed from the house, ere the woman was sufficiently recovered from her horror and amazement, to be able to call to the other servants, as she afterwards did, to stop him. He fled to town, and hastened to an hotel in Pall-mall, from whence he determined to hire a carriage for Dover, and thence embark for the continent. Ascending the stairs he met a man of all others he would have wished to avoid, namely, Sir Charles Bingley. He started, but it was too late to retreat. He then endea­voured to shake off his embarrassment, from a faint hope that Sir Charles had not heard of his villainous designs upon Miss Rushbrook; but this hope vanished the moment Sir Charles addressed him, who, with coldness and contempt said, “he would be glad to speak to him for a few minutes;” but ere we relate their conversation it is necessary to relate a few parti­culars of the Rushbrooks.

Captain Rushbrook, from knowing more of the deceits of mankind than his wife, was less credulous; the more be reflected on the 547 letter, the more he felt doubts obtruding on his mind; and he resolved sooner to forfeit the friendship of Sipthorpe than permit any farther inter­course between him and his daughter till those doubts were removed. He sent his son to Sir Charles’s agent, and had the satis­faction of hearing he was then in town, and lodged at an hotel in Pall-mall. He immediately wrote to Sir Charles, and requested to see him whenever he was at leisure; adding, as he was well convinced his benevolence would excuse the liberty he had taken, when informed of the purpose for which his visit was requested. Sir Charles was fortunately within, and directly attended little Rushbrook to the prison. The letter had filled him with surprise, but that surprise gave way the moment he entered the wretched apartment of Rushbrook, to the powerful emotions of pity; a scene more distressing he had never seen, or could not have conceived. He saw the emaciated form of the soldier, for such his dress announced him, seated beside a dying fire, his little children surrounding him, whose faded countenances denoted their keen participation of his grief, and the sad partner of his misery, bending her eyes upon those children with mingled love and sorrow.

Rushbrook was unable to speak for a few minutes after his entrance. When he recovered his voice he thanked him for the kind attention he had paid his request, briefly informed him of the motives for that request, and ended by putting Amanda’s letter into his hand. Sir Charles perused it with horror and amazement: “Gracious heaven!” he exclaimed, “what a monster! I know not the lady who has referred you to me, but I can testify the truth of her allegations. I am shocked to think such a monster as Belgrave exists.”

Shocked at the idea of the destruction she was so near devoting her daughter to, disap­pointed in the hopes she entertained of having her family liberated from prison, and struck with remorse for her conduct to Amanda, Mrs. Rushbrook feel fainting to the floor, overpowered by her painful emotions. Sir Charles aided in raising her from it, for the trembling hand of Rushbrook refused its assistance. “Unhappy woman!” he exclaimed, “the disap­pointment of her hopes is too much for her feeble frame.” Water, the only restorative in the room, being sprinkled in her face, she slowly revived, and the first object she beheld was the pale and weeping Emily whom her father had insisted on being brought to the prison. “Oh! my child,” she 548 cried, clasping her to her bosom, “can you forgive the mother who was so near devoting you to destruction? Oh! my children, for your sake, how near was I sacrificing this dear, this precious girl! I blush, I shudder, when I reflect on my conduct to the unhappy young creature who, like her guardian angel, inter­posed between my child and ruin; but these dreary walls,” she continued, bursting into an agony of tears, “which we must not hope to pass, will hide my shame and sorrow together!”

“Do not despair, my dear madam,” said Sir Charles, in the soft accent of benevolence; “nor do you,” continued he, turning to Rushbrook, “deem me impertinent in inquiring into these sorrows.” His accent, his manner were so soothing, that these children of misery, who had long been strangers to the voice of kindness, gave him, with tears and sighs, a short relation of their sorrows. He heard them with deep attention, and when he departed gave them such a smile as we may suppose would beam from an angel, if sent by heaven to pour the balm of comfort and mercy over the sorrows of a bursting heart.

He returned early in the morning; how bright, how animated was his countenance! O ye sons of riot and extravagance! ye children of dissipation! never did ye experience a pleasure equal to his, when he entered the apartment of Rushbrook, to inform him he was free; when in the impassioned, yet faltering accents of sensi­bility, he communicated the joyful tidings, and heard the little children repeat his words, while their parents gazed on each other with surprise and rapture.

Rushbrook at length attempted to pour out the fulness of his heart but Sir Charles stopped him. “Blessed with a fortune,” cried he, “beyond my wants, to what nobler purpose could super­fluous wealth be devoted than to the enlargement of a man who has served his country, and who has a family, which he may bring up to act as he has done? May the restoration of liberty be productive of every happiness! your prison gates, I rejoice to repeat it, are open; may the friendship which commenced within these walls be as lasting as our lives!” To dwell longer on the subject is unnecessary. The transported family were conveyed to Mrs. Connel’s, where he had been the preceding night to order every thing for their reception. He then inquired about Sipthorpe, or rather Belgrave, whom he 549 meant to upbraid for his cruel design against Miss Rushbrook; but Belgrave, as soon as his plan was settled about Amanda, had quitted Mrs. Connel’s. The joy of the Rushbrooks was greatly damped the next morning on hearing of the secret departure of Amanda. What Belgrave had said against her they never would have credited, but for the appearance of mystery which enveloped her; still her amiable attention to them merited their truest gratitude; they wished to have expressed that gratitude to her, and offer her their services. Much as appearances were against Amanda, yet from the very moment Mrs. Rushbrook declared it her idea that Belgrave had traduced her for the purpose of depriving her of protection, a similar idea started in Sir Charles’s mind, and he resolved to seek Belgrave, and never rest till he had discovered whether there was any truth in his assertions against Amanda. Their meeting at the hotel was consi­dered as fortunate as unexpected by him; yet could he not disguise for a moment the contempt his character inspired him with. He reproached him as soon as they entered an apartment for his base designs against Miss Rushbrook; designs in every respect degrading to his character, since he knew the blow he levelled at the peace of her father could not, from the unfortunate situation of that father, be resented. “You are,” continued Sir Charles, “Not only the violator, but the defamer of female innocence; I am well convinced, from reflection on past and present circum­stances, that your allegations against Miss Fitzalan were as false as vile.”

“You may doubt them, Sir Charles,” replied Belgrade, “if it is agreeable to you; but yet, as a friend, I advise you not to let every one know that you are her champion.”

“Oh, Belgrave!” cried Sir Charles, “can you think without remorse of having destroyed not only the reputation but the existence of an amiable young creature?”

“The existence!” repeated Belgrave, starting, and with a kind of horror in his look; “what do you mean!”

“I mean that Amanda Fitzalan, involved through your means in a variety of wretchedness she was unable to support, is now on her death-bed!” Belgrave changed colour, trembled, and in an agitated voice demanded an explanation of Sir Charles’s words.

Sir Charles saw his feelings were touched, and trusting they would produce the discovery he wished, briefly gave him the parti­culars he asked for.

550

Amanda was the only woman that had ever really touched the heart of Belgrave. His mind, filled with horror, and enervated with fear, at the idea of the crime he had recently committed, could make no opposition to the grief he experienced on hearing of her situation; a grief heightened almost to distraction, by reflecting that he was accessory to it. “Dying!” he repeated, “Amanda Fitzalan dying! But she will be happy; hers will be a pure and ministering spirit in Heaven, while mine lies howling; the angels are not purer in mind and person than she is!”

“Then you are an execrable villain!” exclaimed Sir Charles, laying his hand on his sword.

“Strike!” exclaimed Belgrave, with an air of wildness, “death will rid me of horrors; death from you will be better than the ignominious one which now stares me in the face; for I have—oh! horrible—this night I have committed murder!”

Astonished and dismayed, Sir Charles gazed on him with earnestness.

“It is true!” continued he in the same wild manner, “it is true! therefore strike! but against you I will not raise my hand; it were impious to touch a life like yours, consecrated to the purposes of virtue; no, I would not deprive the wretched of their friend.”

Sir Charles, still shuddering at his words, demanded an explanation of them; and the tortured soul of Belgrave, as if happy to meet any one it could confide in, after a little hesitation, divulged at once its crimes and horrors. “No,” cried Sir Charles, when he had concluded, “to raise a hand against him over whom the arm of justice is uplifted, were cruel as well as cowardly: go then, and may repentance, not punishment, overtake you.” To describe the raptures Sir Charles experienced at the acquittal of Amanda is impossible; not a fond father rejoicing over the restored fame of a darling child, could experience more exquisite delight. The next morning, as soon as he thought it possible he could gain admittance, he hastened to Mrs. Connel’s and had the satis­faction of hearing from Mrs. Rushbrook that Amanda was then in a sweet sleep, from which the most salutary consequences might be expected. With almost trembling impatience, he communicated the transports of his heart, and his auditors rejoiced as much at these transports on Amanda’s account as on his. Mrs. Rushbrook and Emily had sat up with her the preceding night, which she passed in a most restless manner, without any perception 551 of surrounding objects. Towards morning she fell into a profound sleep, which they trusted would recruit her exhausted frame. Mrs. Rushbrook then withdrew to her husband. It was past noon ere Amanda awoke.—At first a pleasing languor was diffused through her frame, which prevented her from having an idea of her situation; but gradually her recollection returned, and with it anxiety to know where she was. She remembered to the moment she had met Sir Charles, but no farther. She gently opened the curtain, and beheld, oh, how great the pleasure of that moment! Emily sitting by the bed-side, who instantly rising, kissed her cheek in a transport of affection, and inquired how she did. Oh! how delightful, how soothing was that gentle voice to the ears of Amanda! the softest music could not have been more grateful, her heart vibrated to it with an exquisite degree of pleasure, and her eyes feasted on the rays of benevolence which streamed from those of Emily. At last, in a faint voice, she said: “I am sure I am safe since I am with Emily.”

Mrs. Rushbrook entered at that instant: her delight at the restored faculties of Amanda was equal to her daughter’s; yet the recollection of her own conduct made her almost reluctant to approach her. At last advancing, “I blush, yet I rejoice, oh! how truly rejoice, to behold you,” she exclaimed: “that I could be tempted to harbour a doubt against you fills me with regret, and the vindi­cation of your innocence can scarcely yield you more pleasure than it yields me.”

“The vindication of my innocence!” repeated Amanda, raising her head from the pillow: “Oh, gracious heaven! is it then vindicated? Tell me, I conjure you how, and by what means.”

Mrs. Rushbrook hastened to obey her, and related all she had heard from Sir Charles; the restoration of her fame seemed to re-animate the soul of Amanda, yet tears burst from her, and she trembled with emotion. Mrs, Rushbrook was alarmed, and endea­voured to compose her.

“Do not be uneasy,” said Amanda; “these tears will never injure me; it is long—it is very long since I have shed tears of joy!” She implored Heaven’s choicest blessings on Sir Charles for his generosity to her, his benevolence to the Rushbrooks. Her heart, relieved of a heavy burden of anxiety on her account, now grew more anxious than ever to learn something of her poor Oscar, and, notwith­standing Mrs. Rushbrook’s entreaties to the contrary, who feared she was 552 exerting herself beyond her strength, she arose in the afternoon, for the purpose of going to the drawing-room, determined, as Sir Charles’s generous conduct merited her confidence, to relate to him, as well as Mr. Rushbrook, the motives which had brought her to town, the parti­culars of her life necessary to be known, and to request their assistance in trying to learn intelligence of her brother. Emily helped her to dress, and supported her to the drawing-room. Sir Charles had continued in the house the whole day, and met her as she entered with mingled love and pity, for in her feeble form, her faded cheek, he witnessed the ravages of grief and sickness; his eyes more than his tongue expressed his feelings, yet in the softest accent of tenderness, did he pour forth those feelings, whilst his hand trembled as it pressed hers to his bosom.

“My feelings, Sir Charles,” said she, “cannot be expressed; but my gratitude to you will not cease but with my existence.”

Sir Charles besought her to be silent on such a subject. “He was selfish,” he said, “in every thing he did for her, for on her happiness his depended.”

Rushbrook approached to offer his congratulations. He spoke of her kindness, but like Sir Charles, the subject was painful to her, and dropped at her request. The idea of being safe, the soothing attention she experienced, gave to her mind a tranquillity it had long been a stranger to, and she looked back on her past dangers but to enjoy more truly her present security. As she witnessed the happiness of the Rushbrooks, she could scarcely forbear applauding aloud the author of that happiness; but she judged of his heart by her own, and therefore checked herself by believing he would prefer the silent plaudits of that heart to any praise whatsoever. After tea, when only Sir Charles, Mr. and Mrs. Rushbrook, and Emily were present, she entered upon the affairs she wished to communicate. They heard her with deep attention, wonder and pity, and when she concluded, both Sir Charles and Rushbrook declared their readiness to serve her. The latter, who had betrayed strong emotions during her narrative, assured her, “he doubted not, nay, he was almost convinced, he should soon be able to procure her intelligence of her brother.”

This was a sweet assurance to the heart of Amanda, and cheered by it she soon retired to bed. Her strength being exhausted by speaking, she sunk into a tranquil slumber, and next morning she 553 arose to breakfast. “Well,” said Rushbrook to her, as they sat at it, “I told you last night I should soon be able to procure you intelligence of your brother, and I was not mistaken.”

“Oh, Heavens!” cried Amanda, in trembling emotion, “have you really heard anything of him?”

“Be composed, my dear girl,” said he, taking her hand in the most soothing, most affec­tionate manner, “I have heard of him, but” ——

“But what?” interrupted Amanda, with increased emotion.

“Why, that he has experienced some of the trials of life; but let the reflection that those trials are over, prevent your suffering pain by hearing of them.”

“Oh! tell me, I entreat,” said Amanda, “where he is. Tell me I conjure you, shall I see him?”

“Yes,” replied Rushbrook, “you shall see him: to keep you no longer in suspense, in that dreary prison from which I have just been released, he has languished for many months.”

“Oh! my brother,” exclaimed Amanda, while tears gushed from her.

“I knew not,” continued Rushbrook, “from the concealment of your name, that he was your brother till last night. I then told Sir Charles, and he is gone this morning to him; but you must expect to see him somewhat altered. The restoration of liberty, and the possession of fortune, will no doubt soon re-establish his health. Hark! I think I hear a voice on the stairs.”

Amanda started, arose, attempted to move, but sunk again upon her chair. The door opened, and Sir Charles entered, followed by Oscar. Though prepared for an alteration in his looks, she was not by any means prepared for the alteration which struck her the moment she beheld him: pale and thin, even to a degree of emaciation; he was dressed, or rather wrapped, in an old regimental great coat, his fine hair wildly dishevelled. As he approached her Amanda rose.

“Amanda, my sister,” said he, in a faint voice. She tottered forward, and falling upon his bosom, gave way in tears to the mingled joy and anguish of the moment. Oscar pressed her to his heart. He gazed on her with the fondest rapture; yet a rapture suddenly checked by surveying the alteration in her appearance, which was as striking to him as his was to her. Her pale and woe-worn countenance, 554 her sable dress, at once declared her sufferings, and brought most painfully to recollection the irreparable loss they had sustained since their last meeting.

“Oh, my father!” groaned Oscar, unable to control the strong emotions of his mind; “Oh, my father I when last we met we were blessed with your presence.” He clasped Amanda closer to his heart as he spoke, as if doubly endeared to her by her desolate situation.

“To avoid regretting him, is indeed impossible,” said Amanda; “yet had he lived, what tortures would have wrung his heart in witnessing the unhappiness of his children, when he had not the power of removing it!”

“Come,” cried Captain Rushbrook, whose eyes, like those of every person present, confessed his sympathetic feelings, “let us not cloud present blessings by the retrospect of past misfortunes. In this life we must all expect to meet with such losses as you lament.” —As soon as Oscar and Amanda grew composed, they were left to themselves, and Oscar then satisfied the anxious and impatient heart of his sister, by informing her of all that had befallen him. He began with his attachment for Adela, and the disap­pointment of this attachment; but as that part of the story is already known, we shall pass it over in silence, and merely relate the occasion of his quarrel with Belgrave.

Errata: Chapter LIII

permit any farther intercourse between him and his daughter
text has betweeen

like her guardian angel, interposed between my child and ruin
text has betwen
[And we know where the missing “e” went.]

he has languished for many months.”
close quote missing


Amanda had not reached the parlour when the door opened, and Mrs. Connel came from it


I left it with the idea that I might no more behold Adela

Introduction and Contents

 

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