The Children of the Abbey
And whence, unhappy youth, he cried,
The sorrows of thy breast?
The raptures of this meeting surpassed description; to Oscar they were heightened by surprise; he was, unfortunately, that day on guard at the bank, therefore, could only pay them a few short, and stolen visits, but the next morning the moment he was relieved, he came to them. Fitzalan had given Amanda money to purchase whatever she deemed necessary for her convenience and amusement, and Oscar attended her to the most celebrated shops, to make her purchases; having supplied herself with a pretty fashionable assortment for her wardrobe, she procured a small collection of books, sufficient, however, from their excellence, to form a little library in themselves, and every requisite for drawing; nor did she forget the little wants and vanities of Ellen; they returned about dinner time to the hotel, where they found their father, who had been transacting business for Lord Cherbury in different parts of the town. We may now suppose him in the possession of happiness, blessed, as he was, in the society of his children, and the certainty of a competence; but alas! happiness has almost ever an attendant drawback, and he now experienced one of the most corroding kind from the alteration he witnessed in his son. Oscar was improved in person, but his eyes no longer beamed with animation, and the rose upon his cheek was pale; his cheerfulness no longer appeared spontaneous, but constrained, as if assumed for the purpose of veiling deep and heartfelt sorrow.
Fitzalan, with all the anxiety and tenderness of a parent, delicately expressed his wish of learning the source of his uneasiness, that by so doing he might be better qualified to alleviate it, hinting at the same time in indirect terms, that if occasioned by any of the imprudences which youth is sometimes inadvertently led into, he would readily excuse them, from a certainty that he who repented never would again commit them. Oscar started from the remotest hint of divulging his uneasiness; he begged his father, however, to believe 93 (since he had unfortunately perceived it) that it was not derived from imprudence; he pretended to say it was but a slight chagrin, which would soon wear away of itself if not renewed by inquiries. Fitzalan, however, was too much affected by the subject to drop it as readily as Oscar wished. After regarding him for a few minutes, with an attention as mournful as fixed (while they sat round the table after dinner), he suddenly exclaimed, “Alas, my dear boy, I fear things are worse within, than you will allow.” “Now indeed, Oscar,” cried Amanda, sweetly smiling on him, anxious to relieve him from the embarrassment these words had involved him in, and to dissipate the deep gloom of her father’s brow, “though never in the wars, I fancy you are not quite heart whole.” He answered her with an affected gaiety; but, as if wishing to change the discourse, suddenly spoke of Colonel Belgrave, who, at present, he said, was absent from the regiment; occupied by his own feeling, he observed not the glow which mantled the cheeks of his father and sister at that name.
“You know Mrs. Belgrave,” said Amanda, endeavouring to regain composure. “Know her!” repeated he, with an involuntary sigh, “oh yes!” Then after the pause of a few minutes, turning to his father, “I believe I have already informed you, sir,” said he, “that she is the daughter of your brave old friend, General Honeywood, who, I assure you, paid me no little attention on your account; his house is quite the temple of hospitality; and she the little presiding goddess.” “She is happy, I hope,” said Amanda. “Oh, surely!” replied Oscar, little thinking of the secret motive his sister had for asking such a question; “she possesses what the world thinks necessary to constitute felicity.”
Fitzalan had accounted to his son for leaving Devonshire, by saying the air had disagreed with Amanda: he told him of the friendship of Lord Cherbury, from which he said he trusted shortly to be able to have him promoted. “Be assured, my dear Oscar, most willingly would I relinquish many of the comforts of life to attain the ability of hastening your advancement, or adding to your happiness.” “My happiness!” Oscar mournfully repeated. Tears filled his eyes; he could no longer restrain them, and starting up, hurried to a window. Amanda followed, unutterably affected at his emotion. “Oscar, my dear Oscar,” said she, as she flung her arms round his neck, “you distress me beyond expression.” He sat down, and leaning his head 94 upon her bosom, as she stood before him, his tears fell through her handkerchief. “Oh heavens!” exclaimed Fitzalan, clasping his hands together, “what a sight is this! Oh! my children, from your felicity alone could I ever derive any; if the hope I entertained of that felicity is disappointed, the heart which cherished it must soon be silent.” He arose and went to them. “Yet,” continued he, “amidst the anguish of this moment, I feel a ray of pleasure at perceiving an affection so strong and tender between you; it will be a mutual consolation and support when the feeble help and protection I can give is finally removed; oh! then, my Oscar,” he proceeded, while he folded their united hands in his, “become the soothing friend and guardian of this dear, this amiable, this too lovely girl: let her not too severely feel—too bitterly mourn—the loss of an unhappy father.”
Amanda’s tears began to stream, and Oscar’s for a few minutes were increased. “Excuse me,” at last he said, making an effort to exert himself, to his father, “and be assured to the utmost of my ability I will ever obey your wishes, and fulfil your expectations; I am ashamed of the weakness I have betrayed; I will yield to it no more; forget therefore your having seen it, or at least remember it without pain, as I solemnly assure you, no effort on my part shall be untried to conquer it entirely; and now let the short time we have to continue together be devoted to cheerfulness.”
Soon after this, he mentioned Parker’s performance in Marlborough green, and proposed, as it was now the hour, taking Amanda there; the proposal was not objected to, and Ellen, who they knew would particularly delight in such an amusement, was committed to the care of Oscar’s servant, a smart young soldier, who escorted her with much gallantry. The green was extremely crowded, particularly with officers, whose wandering glances were soon attracted to Amanda, as one of the most elegant girls present. Oscar was soon surrounded by them, and compelled, not only to gratify their curiosity, by discovering who she was, but their gallantry by introducing them to her. Their compliments soon diverted her attention from the exhibition; and Ellen, who sat behind her on the bench, afforded innocent mirth by her remarks. “Pless her soul and poty too,” she said, “it was the most comical and wonderfulest sight she had ever seen in her porn tays.” A string of red coats would have attended Amanda to the hotel, had not Oscar prevented95
The next day was devoted to visiting the public buildings, the park, and a few of the most beautiful places in its vicinage. On the ensuing morning Fitzalan and Amanda continued their journey to the north, where Oscar assured them he expected leave to visit them the following summer, after the reviews were over; as he helped his sister into the carriage, she put a pocket-book into his hand (given by her father for that purpose,) which contained something to replenish his purse.
Ere we attend the travellers, or rather while they are journeying along, we shall endeavour to account for the dejection of Oscar.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter X
would have attended Amanda to the hotel, had not Oscar prevented it.
i in “it” invisible
Amanda was sitting in the recess in the garden
Oscar’s regiment, on his first joining it in Ireland, was quartered in Enniskellen