The Children of the Abbey
Thou first of virtues, let no mortal leave
Thy onward path, although the earth should gape,
And from the gulf of hell, destruction cry
To take dissimulation’s winding way.
“Well, colonel,” said Oscar, “I fancy I was not mistaken in thinking the general wanted to speak with you concerning me, I am convinced you will not conceal any particulars of a conversation it may be so essential to my honour to hear.” “Why, faith,” cried the colonel, delighted to commence his operations, “he was making a kind of complaint about you, though he acknowledges you a brave lad, 109 yet hang him, he has not generosity enough to reward that bravery with his daughter or any of her treasure.”—“Heaven is my witness!” exclaimed the unsuspicious Oscar, “I never aspired to either; I always knew my passion for his daughter as hopeless as fervent, and my esteem for him as disinterested as sincere; I would have sooner died than abused the confidence he reposed in me by revealing my attachment; I see, however, in future I must be an exile to Woodlawn.” “Not so, neither,” replied the colonel, “only avoid such particularity to the girl: I believe in my soul she has more pride than susceptibility in her nature; in your next visit, therefore, which for that purpose I would have you soon make, declare, in a cavalier manner, your affections were engaged previous to your coming to Ireland; this declaration will set all to rights with the general, he will no longer dread you on his daughter’s account, you will be as welcome as ever to Woodlawn, and enjoy during your continuance in the country, the society you have hitherto been accustomed to.” “No,” said Oscar, “I cannot assert so great a falsehood.”—“How ridiculous,” replied the colonel: “for heaven’s sake, my dear boy, drop such romantic notions; I should be the last man in the world to desire you to invent a falsehood which could injure any one, but no priest in christendom would blame you for this.” “And suppose I venture, what will it do, but bind faster round my heart chains already too galling, and destroy in the end all remains of peace.”
“Faith, Fitzalan,” said the colonel, “by the time you have had a few more love affairs with some of the pretty girls of this kingdom, you will talk no more in this way: consider (and be not too scrupulous) how disagreeable it will be to resign the general’s friendship, and the pleasing society you enjoyed at Woodlawn; besides, it will appear strange to those who knew your former intimacy; in honour too you are bound to do as I desire you, for should the girl have been imprudent enough to conceive an attachment for you, this will certainly remove it, for pride would not allow its continuance after hearing of a favourite rival, and the general will be essentially served.” “My dear colonel,” said Oscar, his eyes suddenly sparkling, “do you think she has been imprudent enough to conceive a partiality for me?” “I am sure,” said the colonel, “that is a question I cannot positively answer; but to give my opinion, I think from her gay, unembarrassed manner, she has not.” “I suppose not, indeed,” cried 110 Oscar, mournfully sighing, “why then should I guilty of a falsehood for a person who is already indifferent to me?” “I have told you my reason,” replied the colonel coldly, “do as you please.” They were now both silent, but the conversation was soon renewed, and many arguments passed on both sides. Oscar’s heart secretly favoured the colonel’s plan, as it promised the indulgence of Adela’s society; to be an exile from Woodlawn was insupportable to his thoughts, reason yielded to the vehemence of passion, and he at last fell into the snare the perfidious Belgrave had spread; thus by a deviation from truth, forfeiting the blessing a bounteous providence had prepared for him.
Oh! never let the child of integrity be seduced from the plain, and undeviating path of sincerity; oh! never let him hope by illicit means to attain a real pleasure; the hope of obtaining any good through such means will like a meteor of the night, allure but to deceive.
Soon after this fatal promise to the colonel, a self-devoted victim, he accompanied him to Woodlawn: on their arrival Miss Honeywood was in the garden, and Oscar trembling went to seek her; he found her sitting in a flower-woven arbour
“Herself the fairest ”
Never had she looked more lovely; the natural bloom of her cheeks were heightened by the heat, and glowed beneath the careless curls that fell over them, and her eyes, the moment she beheld Oscar, beamed with the softest tenderness, the most bewitching sensibility. “My dear! dear Fitzalan!” cried she, throwing aside the book she had been reading, and extending her hand, “I am glad to see you, I hope you are come to take up your residence for some time at Woodlawn.” “You hope,” repeated Oscar, mournfully, “I do indeed! but bless me, what is the matter, you are so pale and thin, you look but the shadow of yourself, or rather like a despairing shepherd, ready to hang himself on the first willow tree he meets.” “I am indeed unhappy!” cried Oscar, “nor will you wonder at my being so, when I acknowledge I at this present time feel a passion which I must believe hopeless.” “Hopeless! well now I insist on being your confidant, and then (smiling somewhat archly) I shall see what reason you have to despair.” “Agreed,” exclaimed Oscar; “and now to 111 my story—” then pausing a minute, he started up, “no,” continued he, “I find it impossible to tell it—let this dear, this estimable object, (drawing a miniature of his sister from his bosom), speak for me and declare, whether he who loves such a being can ever lose that love, or help being wretched at knowing it is without hope.” Adela snatched it hastily from him, and by a sudden start betrayed her surprise: words are indeed inadequate to express her heart-rending emotions, as she contemplated the beautiful countenance of her imaginary rival; and was Oscar then—that Oscar whom she adored—whose happiness she had hoped to constitute—whose fortune she delighted to think she should advance—really attached to another; alas too true he was—of the attachment she held a convincing proof in her hand, she examined it again and again, and in its mild beauties thought she beheld a striking proof of the superiority over the charms she herself possessed; the roses forsook her cheeks, a mist overspread her eyes, and with a shivering horror she dropped it from her hand. Oscar had quitted the arbour to conceal his agonies. “Well,” said he, now returning, with forced calmness, “is it not worthy of inspiring the passion I feel?” Unable to answer him, she could only point to the place where it lay, and hastened to the house. “Sweet image,” cried Oscar, taking it from the ground, “what an unworthy purpose have I made you answer—alas! all is now over—Adela—my Adela!—is lost for ever—lost—ah heavens! had I ever hopes of possessing her—Oh no! to such happiness never did I dare to look forward.” Adela, on reaching the parlour which opened into the garden, found her father there; “Ah! you little baggage, do I not deserve a kiss for not disturbing your tête-à-tête? Where is that young rogue Fitzalan?” “I beg, I entreat, sir,” said Adela, whose tears could no longer be restrained, “you will never mention him again to me, too much has already been said about him.” “Nay, pr’ythee, my little girl,” exclaimed the general, regarding her with surprise, “cease thy sighs and tears, and tell me what’s the matter.” “I am hurt,” replied she, in a voice scarcely articulate, “that so much has been said about Mr. Fitzalan, who I can never regard in any other light than that of a common acquaintance.” The colonel, who had purposely lingered about the wood, now entered. Adela started and precipitately retreated through another door:—“Faith, my dear colonel,” said the general, “I am glad you are come, the boy and girl 112 have had a little skirmish, but like other love quarrels, I suppose it will soon be made up, so let me know how the lad bore the announcement of his good fortune.” “It fills a rational mind with regret,” exclaimed the colonel, seating himself gravely, and inwardly rejoicing at the success of his stratagem, “to find such a fatality prevalent among mankind, as makes them reject a proffered good, and sigh for that which is unattainable; like wayward children neglecting their sports to pursue a rainbow, and weeping as the airy pageant mocks their grasp.” “Very true, indeed,” said the general, “very excellent upon my word; I doubt if the chaplain of a regiment ever delivered such a pretty piece of morality; but, dear colonel,” laying his hand on his knee, “what did the boy say?” “I am sorry, sir,” he replied, “that what I have just said is so applicable to him; he acknowledged the lady’s merit, extolled her generosity, but pleaded a prior attachment against accepting your offer, which even one more exalted would not tempt him to forego, though he knows not whether he will ever succeed in it.” “The devil he did?” exclaimed the general, as soon as rage and surprise would allow him to speak, “the little impertinent puppy; the ungrateful young dog! a prior attachment—reject my girl!—my Adela—who has had such suitors already: so, I suppose I shall have the whole affair blazed about the country; I shall hear from every quarter how my daughter was refused, and by whom?—why by a little Ensign, whose whole fortune lies in his sword knot—A fine game I have played, truly; but if the jackanapes opens his lips about the matter, may powder be my poison if I do not trim his jacket for him.” “Dear general,” said the colonel, “you may depend on his honour, but even supposing he did mention the affair, surely you would know it would not be in his power to injure Miss Honeywood—amiable—accomplished—in short, possessed, as she is, of every perfection, I know men, at least one man, of consequence, both from birth and fortune, who has long sighed for her, and who would, if he received the least encouragement, openly avow his sentiments.” “Well,” cried the general, still panting for breath, “we will talk about him at some future time, for I am resolved on soon having my little girl married, and to her own liking too.”
Oscar and Adela did not appear till dinner time; both had been endeavouring to regain composure, but poor Oscar had been far less successful than Adela, in the attempt; not that she loved less, for 113 indeed her passion for him was of the tenderest nature, and she flattered herself with having inspired one equally ardent in his breast; sanctioned by her father, she thought it would constitute the felicity of their lives, and looked forward with a generous delight to that period when she should render her beloved Fitzalan prosperous and independent; the disappointment she experienced, as the first she had ever met, sat heavy on her heart, and the gay visions of youth were in a moment clouded by melancholy; but her pride was as great as her sensibility, and as its powerful impulse pervaded her mind, she resolved to afford Oscar no triumph, by letting him witness her dejection; she therefore wiped away all traces of tears from her eyes, checked the vain sigh that struggled at her heart, and dressed herself with as much attention as ever; her heavy eyes, her colourless cheeks, however, denoted her feelings; she tried, as she sat at table to appear cheerful, but in vain, and on the removal of the cloth immediately retired, as no ladies were present.
The general was a stranger to dissimulation, and as he no longer felt, he no longer treated Oscar with usual kindness; when pale, trembling, and disordered, he appeared before him, he received him with a stern frown, an air scarcely complaisant; this increased the agitation of Oscar: every feeling of his soul was in commotion, he was no longer the life of the company; their happiness and mirth formed a striking contrast to his misery and dejection; he felt a forlorn wretch, a mere child of sorrow and dependence; scalding tears dropped from him as he bent over his plate, he could have cursed himself for such weakness; fortunately it was unnoticed. In losing the general’s attention he seemed to lose that of his guests; his situation grew too irksome to be borne; he rose unregarded, and a secret impulse led him to the drawing room. Here Adela, oppressed by the dejection of her low spirits, had flung herself upon a couch, and gradually sunk into a slumber. Oscar stepped lightly forward, and gazed on her with a tenderness as exquisite as a mother would have felt in viewing her sleeping babe. Her cheek, which rested on her fair hand, was tinged with a blush, by the reflection of a crimson curtain through which the sun darted, and the traces of a tear were yet discernible upon it.—“Never!” cried Oscar, with folded hands, as he hung over the interesting figure, “never may any tear, except that of soft sensibility for the woes of others, bedew the cheek of Adela—perfect 114 as her goodness be her felicity—may every blessing she now enjoys be rendered permanent by that power who smiles benignly upon innocence like hers.—Oh! Adela, he who now prays for your felicity, never will lose your idea; he will cherish it in his heart, to meliorate his sorrows; and, from the dreary path which may be appointed for him to tread, sometimes look back to happier scenes.” Adela began to stir, she murmured out some inarticulate words, and suddenly rising from the couch, beheld the motionless form of Fitzalan; haughtily regarding him, she asked the meaning of such an intrusion. “I did not mean, indeed, to intrude,” said he, “but when I came and found you, can you wonder at my being fascinated to the spot?” The plaintive tone of his voice sunk deep into Adela’s heart; she sighed heavily, and turning away seated herself in the window. Oscar followed; he forgot the character he had assumed in the morning, and gently seizing her hand, pressed it to his bosom: at this critical minute, when mutual sympathy appearing on the point of triumphing over duplicity, the door opened, and Colonel Belgrave appeared. From the instant of Oscar’s departure he had been on thorns to follow him, fearful of the consequences of a tête-à-tête, and was attended by the rest of the gentlemen.
Oscar was determined on not staying another night at Woodlawn, and declared his intention by asking Colonel Belgrave if he had any commands for Enniskellen, whither he meant to return immediately. “Why, hang it, boy,” cried the general, in a rough grumbling voice, “since you have staid so long, you may as well stay the night; the clouds look heavy over the lake, and threaten a storm.” “No sir!” said Oscar, colouring, and speaking in the agitation of his heart, “the raging of a tempest would not make me stay.” Adela sighed, but pride prevented her speaking. Fitzalan approached her. “Miss Honeywood,” said he—he stopped—his voice was quite stifled. Adela, equally unable to speak, could only encourage him to proceed by a mild glance. “Lest I should not,” resumed he, “have the happiness of again visiting Woodlawn, I cannot neglect this opportunity of assuring you, that the attention, the obligations I have received in it, never can be forgotten by me; and that the severest pang my heart could possibly experience, would result from thinking I lost any part of the friendship you and the general honoured me with.” Adela bent her head, and Oscar, seeing that she either would not or could 115 not speak, bowed to the general, and hurried from the room; the tears he had painfully suppressed gushed forth, and at the bottom of the stairs he leaned against the banisters for support; while he cast his eyes around, as if bidding a melancholy farewell to the scene of former happiness, a hasty footstep advanced; he started, and was precipitately retreating, when the voice of the butler stopped him; this was an old veteran, much attached to Oscar, and his usual attendant in all his fowling and fishing parties; as he waited at tea, he heard Oscar’s declaration of departing with surprise, and followed him for the purpose of expressing that and his concern:—“Why, lord now, Mr. Fitzalan,” cried he, “what do you mean by leaving us so oddly? But if you are so positive of going to Enniskellen to-night, let me order a standard to be prepared for you.” Oscar for some time had had the command of the stables; but knowing as he did, that he had lost the general’s favour, he could no longer think of taking those liberties which kindness had once invited him to: he wrung the hand of his humble friend, and snatching his hat from the hall table, darted out of the house: he ran till he came to the mountain path, on the margin of the lake; “Never,” cried he, distractedly striking his breast, “shall I see her again! oh! never, never my beloved Adela! shall your unfortunate Fitzalan wander with you through those enchanting scenes; oh! how transient was his gleam of felicity!”
Exhausted by the violence of his feelings he fell into a kind of torpid state against the side of the mountain; the shadows of the night were thickened by a coming storm, a cold blast howled amongst the hills, and agitated the gloomy waters of the lake; the rain, accompanied by sleet, began to fall, but the tempest raged unregarded around the child of sorrow, the wanderer of the night.—Adela alone
“Heard, felt, or seen,”
pervaded every thought. Some fishermen approaching to secure their boats, drove him from the situation, and he flew to the woods which one side of the house; by the time he reached it the storm had abated, and the moon, with a watery lustre, breaking through the clouds, rendered, by her feeble rays, the surrounding and beloved scenes just visible.116
Adela’s chamber looked into the wood, and the light from it riveted Oscar to a spot exactly opposite the window. “My Adela,” he exclaimed, extending his arms as if she would have heard and flown into them, then dejectedly dropping them, “she thinks not on such a forlorn wretch as me: oh! what comfort to lay my poor distracted head for one moment on her soft bosom, and hear her sweet voice speak pity to my tortured heart.” Sinking with weakness from the conflicts of his mind, he sought an old roofless root house in the centre of the wood, where he and Adela had often sat.
“Well,” said he, as he flung himself on the damp ground, “many a brave fellow has had a worse bed, but God particularly protects the unsheltered head of the soldier, and afflicted.” The twittering of the birds roused him from an uneasy slumber, or rather lethargy, into which he had fallen, and starting up, he hastened to the road, fearful, as day was beginning to dawn, of being seen by any of General Honeywood’s workmen: it was late ere he arrived at Enniskellen, and before he gained his room he was met by some of the officers, who viewed him with evident astonishment; his regimentals were quite spoiled, his fine hair, from which the rain had washed all the powder, hung dishevelled about his shoulders, the feather of his hat was broken, and the disorder of his countenance was not less suspicious than that of his dress; to their inquiries he stammered out something of a fall, and extricated himself with difficulty from them.
In an obscure village, fifteen miles from Enniskellen, a detachment of the regiment lay; the officer who commanded it disliked his situation extremely, but company being irksome to Oscar, it was just such an one as he desired, and he obtained leave to relieve him; the agitation of his mind, aided by the effects of the storm he had been exposed to, was too much for his constitution; immediately on arriving at his new quarters he was seized with a violent fever, an officer was obliged to be sent to do duty in his place, and it was long ere any symptom appeared which could flatter those who attended him with hopes of recovery; when able to sit up he was ordered to return to Enniskellen, where he could be immediately under the care of the regimental surgeon.
Oscar’s servant accompanied him in the carriage, and as it drove slowly along he was agreeably surprised by a view of Mrs. Marlowe’s orchard; he could not resist the wish of seeing her and making 117 inquiries relative to the inhabitants of Woodlawn; for with Mrs. Marlowe, I should previously say, he had not only formed an intimacy, but a sincere friendship; she was a woman of the most pleasing manners, and to her superintending care Adela was indebted for many of the graces she possessed, and at her cottage passed many delightful hours with Oscar.
The evening was far advanced when Oscar reached the orchard, and leaning on his servant slowly walked up the hill. Had a spectre appeared before the old lady she could not have seemed more shocked than she now did at the unexpected and emaciated appearance of her young friend—with all the tenderness of a fond mother, she pressed his cold hands between her own, and seated him by the cheerful fire which blazed on her hearth, then procured him refreshments, that, joined to her conversation, a little revived his spirits; yet, at this moment the recollection of the first interview he ever had with her, recurred with pain to his heart; “Our friends at I hope,” cried he, he paused—but his eyes expressed the inquiry his tongue was unable to make.—“They are well and happy,” replied Mrs. Marlowe, “and you know, I suppose, of all that has lately happened there.” “No, I know nothing, I am as one awoke from the slumbers of the grave.” “Ere I inform you then,” cried Mrs. Marlowe, “let me, my noble Oscar, express my approbation, my admiration, of your conduct, of that disinterested nature which preferred the preservation of constancy to the splendid independency offered to your acceptance.” “What splendid independency did I refuse?” asked Oscar, wildly staring at her. “That which the general offered.” “The general?” “Yes, and appointed Colonel Belgrave to declare his intentions.” “Oh, heavens!” exclaimed Oscar, starting from his chair, “did the general indeed form such intentions, and has Belgrave then deceived me! he told me my attentions to Miss Honeywood were noticed and disliked—he filled my soul with unutterable anguish, and persuaded me to a falsehood which has plunged me into despair!” “He is a monster,” cried Mrs. Marlowe, “and you are a victim to his treachery.” “Oh, no! I will fly to the general and open my whole soul to him, at his feet I will declare the false ideas of honour which misled me, I shall obtain his forgiveness and Adela will yet be mine.” “Alas! my child,” said Mrs. Marlowe, stopping him as he was hurrying from the room, “it is now too late. 118 Adela can never be yours, she is married, and married unto Belgrave.” Oscar staggered back a few paces, uttered a deep groan, and fell senseless at her feet. Mrs. Marlowe’s cries brought in his servant as well as her own to her assistance: he was laid upon a bed, but it was long ere he showed any signs of recovery: at length, opening his heavy eyes, he sighed deeply, and exclaimed, “She is lost to me forever!”
The servants were dismissed, and the tender-hearted Mrs. Marlowe knelt beside him. “Oh, my friend,” said she, “my heart sympathizes in your sorrow, but ’tis from your own fortitude, more than my sympathy, you must now derive resources of support.” “Oh horrible! to know the cup of happiness was at my lips, and that it was my own hand dashed it from me.” “Such, alas!” said Mrs. Marlowe, sighing as if touched at the moment with a similar pang of self-regret, “is the waywardness of mortals; too often do they deprive themselves of the blessings of a bounteous Providence by their own folly and imprudence—oh! my friend, born as you were, with a noble ingenuity of soul, never let that soul again be sullied by the smallest deviation from sincerity.” “Do not aggravate my sufferings,” said Oscar, “by dwelling on my error.” “No—I would sooner die than be guilty of such barbarity; but admonition never sinks so deeply on the heart as in the hour of trial; young, amiable as you are life teems, I doubt not, with various blessings for you—blessings which you will know how to value properly, for early disappointment is the nurse of wisdom.” “Alas!” exclaimed he, “what blessings?” “These at cried Mrs. Marlowe, “are in your peace, the happiness which ever proceeds from a mind conscious of having discharged the incumbent duties of life, and patiently submitted to its trials.” “But do you think I will calmly submit to his baseness?” said Oscar, interrupting her, “No! Belgrave shall never triumph over me with impunity!” He started from the bed, and rushing into the outer room, snatched his sword from the table on which he had flung it at his entrance; Mrs. Marlowe caught his arm: “Rash young man!” exclaimed she, “whither would you go—is it to scatter ruin and desolation around you? Suppose your vengeance was gratified, would that restore your happiness? Think you that Adela, the child of virtue and propriety, would ever notice the murderer of her husband, how unworthy 119 soever that husband may be: or that the old general, who so fondly planned your felicity, would forgive, if he could survive the evils of his house occasioned by you?” The sword dropped from the trembling hand of Oscar; “I have been blamable,” cried he, “in allowing myself to be transported to such an effort of revenge; I forgot everything but that; and as to my own life, deprived of Adela, it appears so gloomy as to be scarcely worth preserving.”
Mrs. Marlowe seized this moment of yielding softness, to advise and reason with him: her tears mingled with his, as she listened to his relation of Belgrave’s perfidy; tears augmented by reflecting, that Adela, the darling of her care and affections, was also a victim to it: she convinced Oscar, however, that it would be prudent to confine the fatal secret to their own breasts. The agitation of his mind was too much for the weak state of his health, the fever returned, and he felt unable to quit the cottage; Mrs. Marlowe prepared a bed for him, trusting he would soon be able to remove, but she was disappointed, it was long ere Oscar could quit the bed of sickness; she watched over him with maternal tenderness, while he, like a blasted flower, seemed hastening to decay.
The general was stung to the soul by the rejection of his offer, which he thought would have inspired the soul of Oscar with rapture and gratitude; never had his pride been so severely wounded, never before had he felt humbled in his own eyes: his mortifying reflections the colonel soon found means to remove, by the most delicate flattery and the most assiduous attention, assuring the general that his conduct merited not the censure, but the applause of the world; the sophistry which can reconcile us to ourselves is truly pleasing, the colonel gradually becoming a favourite, and when he insinuated his attachment for Adela, was assured he should have all the general’s interest with her; he was now more anxious than ever to have her advantageously settled; there was something so humiliating in the idea of her being rejected, that it drove him at times almost to madness: the colonel possessed all the advantages of fortune, but these weighed little in his favour with the general (whose notions we have already proved very disinterested) and much less with his daughter; on the first overture about him she requested the subject might be entirely dropped, the mention of love was extremely painful to her; wounded by her disappointment in the severest manner, her heart 120 required time to heal it, her feelings delicacy confined to her own bosom, but her languid eyes and faded cheeks denoted their poignancy; she avoided company, and was perpetually wandering through the romantic and solitary paths which she and Oscar had trod together; here more than ever she thought of him, and feared she had treated her poor companion unkindly; she saw him oppressed with sadness, and yet she had driven him from her by the repulsive coldness of her manner; a manner too, which, from its being so suddenly assumed, could not fail of conveying an idea of her disappointment; this hurt her delicacy as much as her tenderness, and she would have given worlds, had she possessed them, to recall the time when she could have afforded consolation to Oscar, and convinced him, that solely as a friend she regarded him. The colonel was not discouraged by her coldness—he was in the habit of conquering difficulties, and doubted not he should overcome any she threw in his way; he sometimes, as if by chance, contrived to meet her in her rambles; his conversation was always amusing, and confined within the limits she had prescribed, but his eyes, by the tenderest expression, declared the pain he suffered from this prescription, and secretly pleased Adela, as it convinced her of the implicit deference he paid to her will.
Some weeks had elapsed since Oscar’s voluntary exile from Woodlawn, and sanguine as were the colonel’s hopes, he found without a stratagem they would not be realized, at least as soon as he expected: fertile in invention, he was not long in concerting one; he followed Adela one morning into the garden, and found her reading in the arbour; she laid aside the book at his entrance, and they chatted for some time on different subjects; the colonel’s servant at last appeared with a large pacquet of letters, which he presented to his master, who, with an hesitating air, was about putting them into his pocket, when Adela prevented him: no ceremony, colonel,” said she, “with me, I shall resume my books till you have perused your letters;” the colonel bowed for her permission, and began; her attention was soon drawn from her book by the sudden emotion he betrayed—he started, and exclaimed, “Oh heavens! what a wretch!” then, as if suddenly recollecting his situation, looked at Adela, appeared confused, stammered out a few inarticulate words, and resumed his letter; when he finished, he seemed to put it into his pocket, but in 121 reality dropped it at his feet for the basest purpose; he ran over the remainder of the letters, and rising, entreated Adela to excuse his leaving her so abruptly, to answer some of them. Soon after his departure, Adela perceived an open letter at her feet; she immediately took it up with an intention of returning to the house with it, when the sight of her own name in capital letters, and the well known hand of Fitzalan, struck her sight; she threw the letter on the table, an universal tremor seized her, she would have given any consideration to know why she was mentioned in a correspondence between Belgrave and Fitzalan; her eye involuntarily glanced at the letter, she saw some words in it which excited still more strongly her curiosity, it could no longer be repressed; she snatched it up, and read as follows:
TO COLONEL BELGRAVE.
“You accuse me of insensibility to what you call the matchless charms of Adela, an accusation I acknowledge I merit; but why? because I have been too susceptible to those of another, which in the fond estimation of a lover (at least), appear infinitely superior. The general’s offer was, certainly, a most generous and flattering one, and has gratified every feeling of my soul, by giving me an opportunity of sacrificing at the shrine of love, ambition and self-interest: my disinterested conduct has confirmed me in the affections of my dear girl, whose vanity I cannot help thinking a little elevated by the triumph I have told her she obtained over Adela: but this is excusable indeed when we consider the object I relinquished for her. Would to heaven the general was propitious to your wishes, it would yield me much happiness to see you, my first and best friend, in possession of a treasure you have long sighed for; I shall, no doubt, receive a long lecture from you for letting the affair relative to Adela be known, but faith, I could not resist telling my charmer; heaven grant discretion may seal her lips; if not, I suppose I shall be summoned to a formidable combat with the old general. Adieu! and believe me, dear colonel, ever yours,
“Wretch!” cried the agitated Adela, dropping the letter, (which it is scarcely necessary to say was an infamous forgery), in an agony of grief and indignation, “is this the base return we meet for wishing to raise you to prosperity: oh! cruel Fitzalan, is it Adela who thought you so amiable, and who never thoroughly valued wealth till she believed it had given her the power of conducting you to felicity, whom you hold up as an object of ridicule, for unfeeling vanity to triumph over?” Wounded pride and tenderness raised a whirl of contending passions in her breast, she sunk upon the bench, her head rested on her hand, and sighs and tears burst from 122 her: she now resolved to inform Fitzalan she knew the baseness of his conduct, and sting his heart with keen reproaches, now resolved to pass it over in silent contempt; while thus fluctuating the colonel softly advanced and stood before her; in the tumult of her mind she had quite forgot the probability of his returning, and involuntarily screamed and started at his appearance; by her confusion, she doubted not, but he would suspect her of having perused the fatal letter; oppressed by the idea, her head sunk on her bosom, and her face was covered with blushes. “What a careless fellow I am,” said the colonel, taking up the letter, which he then pretended to perceive; he glanced at Adela, “curse it!” continued he, “I would rather have had all the letters read than this one.” He suspects me, thought Adela, her blushes faded, and she fell back on her seat, unable to support the oppressive idea of having acted against the rules of propriety; Belgrave flew to support her. “Loveliest of women,” he exclaimed, with all the softness he could assume, “what means this agitation?” “I have been suddenly affected,” answered Adela, a little recovering, and rising, she motioned to return to the house. “Thus,” resumed the colonel, “you always fly me; but go, Miss Honeywood, I have no right, no attraction, indeed, to detain you, yet, be assured,” and he summoned a tear to his aid, while he pressed her hand to his bosom, “a heart more truly devoted to you than mine, you can never meet: but I see the subject is painful, and again I resume the rigid silence you have imposed on me: go then, most lovely, and beloved, and since I dare not aspire to a higher, allow me, at least, the title of your friend.” “Most willingly,” said Adela, penetrated by his gentleness; she was now tolerably recovered, and he prevailed on her to walk instead of returning to the house: she felt soothed by his attention, his insidious tongue dropped manna, he gradually stole her thoughts from painful recollections.
The implicit respect he paid her well flattered her wounded pride, and her gratitude was excited by knowing he resented the disrespectful mention of her name in Fitzalan’s letter; in short, she felt esteem and respect for him, contempt and resentment for Oscar. The colonel was too penetrating not to discover her sentiments, and too artful not to take advantage of them; had Adela indeed, obeyed the real feelings of her heart, she would have declared against marrying, but 123 pride urged her to a step which would prove to Fitzalan his conduct had not affected her: the general rejoiced at obtaining her consent, and received a promise that for some time she would not be separated from him. The most splendid preparations were made for the nuptials; but though Adela’s resentment remained unabated, she soon began to wish she had not been so precipitate in obeying it; an involuntary repugnance rose in her mind against the connection she was about forming, and honour alone kept her from declining it for ever. Her beloved friend, Mrs. Marlowe, supported her throughout the trying occasion, and in an inauspicious moment, Adela gave her hand to the perfidious Belgrave.
About a fortnight after her nuptials she heard from some of the officers of Oscar’s illness. She blushed at his name. “Faith,” cried one of them, “Mrs. Marlowe is a charming woman; it is well he got into such snug quarters: I really believe elsewhere he would have given up the ghost.” “Poor fellow,” sighed she heavily, yet without being sensible of it. Belgrave rose, he caught her eyes, a dark frown lowered on his brow, and he looked as if he would pierce into the recesses of her heart; she shuddered, and for the first time felt the tyranny she had imposed upon herself. As Mrs. Marlowe chose to be silent on the subject, she resolved not to mention it to her, but she sent every day to invite her to Woodlawn, expecting by this to hear something of Oscar, but she was disappointed. At the end of a fortnight Mrs. Marlowe made her appearance; she looked pale and thin. Adela gently reproved her for her long absence, trusting this would oblige her to allege the reason of it; but no such thing. Mrs. Marlowe began to converse on indifferent subjects: Adela suddenly grew peevish, and sullenly sat at her work.
In a few days after Mrs. Marlowe’s visit, Adela, one evening immediately after dinner, ordered the carriage to the cottage. By this time she supposed Oscar had left it, and flattered herself, in the course of conversation, she should learn whether he was perfectly recovered ere he departed. Proposing to surprise her friend, she stole by a winding path to the cottage, and softly opened the parlour door; but what were her feelings when she perceived Oscar sitting at the fire-side with Mrs. Marlowe, engaged in a deep conversation! She stopped, unable to advance. Mrs. Marlowe embraced and led her forward. The emotions of Oscar were not inferior to Adela’s; 124 he attempted to arise, but could not. A glance from the expressive eyes of Mrs. Marlowe, which seemed to conjure him not to yield to a weakness which would betray his real sentiments to Adela, somewhat reanimated him; he rose, and tremblingly approached her. “Allow me, madam,” cried he, “to”—The sentence died unfinished on his lips; he had not power to offer congratulations on an event which had probably destroyed the happiness of Adela as well as his own. “Oh! a truce with compliments,” said Mrs. Marlowe, forcing herself to assume a cheerful air; “prithee, good folks, let us be seated, and enjoy, this cold evening, the comforts of a good fire.” She forced the trembling, the almost fainting Adela to take some wine, and, by degrees, the flutter of her spirits and Oscar’s abated; but the sadness of their countenances, the anguish of their souls increased; the cold formality, the distant reserve they both assumed, filled each with sorrow and regret; so pale, so emaciated, so wo-begone did Fitzalan appear, so much the son of sorrow and despair, that, had he half-murdered Adela, she could not at that moment have felt for him any other sentiments than those of pity and compassion. Mrs. Marlowe, in a laughing way, told her of the trouble she had had with him, “for which, I assure you,” said she, “he rewards me badly; for the moment he was enlarged from the nursery, he either forgot or neglected all the rules I had laid down for him.—Pray do join your commands to mine, and charge him to take more care of himself.” “I would most willingly,” cried Adela, “if I thought they would influence him to do so.” “Influence!” repeated Oscar, emphatically, “oh heavens!” then starting up, he hurried to the window, as if to hide and to indulge his melancholy. The scene he viewed from it was dreary and desolate; it was now the latter end of autumn, the evening was cold, a savage blast howled from the hills, and the sky was darkened by a coming storm. Mrs. Marlowe roused him from his reverie. “I am sure,” said she, “the prospect you view from the window can have no great attractions at present.” “And yet,” cried he, “there is something sadly pleasing in it; the leafless trees, the fading flowers of autumn, excite in my bosom a kind of mournful sympathy; they are emblems to me of him whose tenderest hopes have been disappointed, but unlike him, they, after a short period, shall again flourish with primeval beauty.”—“Nonsense,” exclaimed Mrs. Marlowe, “your illness has affected your spirits; but this gloom 125 will vanish long before my orchard reassumes its smiling appearance, and haply attract another smart red-coat to visit an old woman.” “Oh! with what an enthusiasm of tenderness,” cried Oscar, “shall I ever remember the dear though dangerous moment I first entered this cottage!” “Now, no flattery, Oscar,” said Mrs. Marlowe; “I know your fickle sex too well to believe I have made a deep impression; why, the very first fine old woman you meet at your ensuing quarters, will, I dare say, have similar praise bestowed on her.”—“No,” replied he, with a languid smile, “I can assure you solemnly, the impression which has been made on my heart will never be effaced.” He stole a look at Adela; her head sunk upon her bosom, and her heart began to beat violently. Mrs. Marlowe wished to change the subject entirely; she felt the truest compassion for the unhappy young couple, and had fervently desired their union; but since irrevocably separated, she wished to check any intimation of a mutual attachment, which could now answer no purpose but that of increasing their misery. She rung for tea, and endeavoured by her conversation to enliven the tea-table. The effort, however, was not seconded. “You have often,” cried she, addressing Adela, as they again drew their chairs round the fire, “desired to hear the exact particulars of my life. Unconquerable feelings of regret hitherto prevented my acquiescing in your desire; but, as nothing better now offers for passing away the hours, I will, if you please, relate them.” “You will oblige me by so doing,” cried Adela; “my curiosity, you know, has been excited.”
Notes and Corrections: Chapter XII
“why then should I be guilty of a falsehood
text has be a guilty
Herself the fairest flower.”
to the woods which screened one side of the house
text has screaned
“Our friends at Woodlawn I hope,”
text has Woodland
“These at least,” cried Mrs. Marlowe, “are in your power—the peace
text has “These at least,’ . . . power the peace
Adela prevented him: “make no ceremony, colonel,”
open quote missing
Adela perceived an open letter lying at her feet;
text has laying
Oscar’s regiment, on his first joining it in Ireland, was quartered in Enniskellen
To begin then, as they say in a novel, without further preface, I was the only child of a country curate