The Children of the Abbey
Denied her sight, he often crept
Beneath the hawthorn shade;
To mark the spot in which she wept—
In which she wept and pray’d.
The night was waning fast, and Adela rose to depart as her friend concluded her story: yet it required an effort of resolution to retire. Mrs. Marlowe, however, was too well convinced of the expediency and propriety of this to press her longer stay, though the eyes of Oscar, suddenly turned to her, seemed to entreat she would do so. The night was dark and wet, which prevented Mrs. Marlowe from accompanying Adela to the carriage. Not so Oscar; he took the umbrella from the servant who held it for his mistress, and bade him haste on to have the carriage door opened. “Oscar,” cried Mrs. Marlowe, extremely unwilling to allow even this short tête-à-tête, “Mrs. Belgrave will dispense with your gallantry, for you are really too great an invalid to venture out on such a night as this.” Adela attempted to dissuade him from it, but her voice was so low and faltering as scarcely to be articulate; Oscar gently seized her hand, and pulled it under his arm; he felt it tremble as he did so; the touch became contagious: a universal tremor affected his frame, and never, perhaps, had he and Adela experienced a moment of greater unhappiness. Adela at last found herself obliged to speak, conscious that her silence must appear particular, and said, she feared he would be injured by his attentions to her. More fatally injured than he already was, he might have replied, he could not be; but he checked the words ready to burst from his lips, and only answered, that he would be unfit for a soldier if he could not endure the inclemency of the wintry blast. The light from the globes of the carriage gave him 143 a view of her pale lovely cheeks, and he saw she was weeping. Confused at the idea of betraying her distress, she averted her head and hastily ascended the steps; yet, for a moment, her trembling hand rested upon Oscar’s, as if, in this manner, she would have given the adieu she had not the power of pronouncing. Lost in agony, he remained like a statue on the spot where she had left him, till roused by the friendly voice of Mrs. Marlowe, who, alarmed by his long absence, came to seek him. Soothed by her kind solicitude, he directly returned with her to the house, where his indignation against the perfidious Belgrave again broke forth. He execrated him, not only as the destroyer of his peace, but a peace infinitely more precious than his own, that of the charming Adela.
Mrs. Marlowe essayed every art of consolation, and, by sympathy and mildness, at last subdued the violence of his feelings; she acknowledged the loss he sustained in being deprived of Adela, but, since irrevocable, both virtue and reason required him to struggle against his grief, and conceal it; by their sacred dictates she entreated him to avoid seeing Adela. He felt she was right in the entreaty, and solemnly promised to comply with it; her friendship was balm to his wounded heart, and her society the only pleasure he was capable of enjoying; whenever he could absent himself from quarters, he retired to her, and frequently spent three or four days at a time in her cottage. By discontinuing his visits in the gay neighbourhood of Woodlawn, he avoided all opportunities of seeing Adela, yet often on a clear, frosty night has he stole from the fireside of Mrs. Marlowe, to the beloved and beautiful haunts about the lake, where he and Adela past so many happy hours together; here he indulged in all the luxury of woe, and such are the pleasures of virtuous melancholy, that Oscar would not have resigned them for any of the common-place enjoyments of life.
Often did he wander to the grove, from whence he had a view of Adela’s chamber, and if a lucky chance gave him a glimpse of her, as she passed through it, a sudden ecstasy would pervade his bosom; he would pray for her felicity, and return to Mrs. Marlowe as if his heart was lightened of an oppressive weight. That tender friend flattered herself, from youth, and the natural gaiety of his disposition, his attachment, no longer fed by hope, would gradually decline; but she was mistaken: the bloom of his youth was faded, and his gaiety 144 converted into deep despondency: had he never been undeceived with regard to the general and Adela, pride, no doubt, would quickly have lessened the poignancy of his feelings; but when he reflected on the generous intentions of the one, and the sincere affection of the other, and the supreme happiness he might have enjoyed, he lost all fortitude: thus by perpetually brooding over the blessings once within his reach losing all relish for those which were yet attainable, his sorrow, instead of being meliorated, was increased by time; the horror and indignation with which he beheld Belgrave, after the first knowledge of his baseness, could scarcely be restrained; though painful, he was pleased the effort had proved a successful one, as, exclusive of his sacred promise to Mrs. Marlowe, delicacy on Adela’s account induced him to bear his wrongs in silence; he could not however, be so great a hypocrite as to profess any longer esteem or respect for the colonel, and when they met, it was with cold politeness on both sides.
The unfortunate Adela pined in secret; her interview with Oscar had destroyed the small remainder of her peace; his pale and emaciated figure haunted her imagination; in vain, by dwelling on his unkind letter, did she endeavour to lessen her tenderness; she felt the emotion of pity stronger than that of resentment, and that the friendship of Oscar would have been sweeter to her soul, than the love or attention of any other object; by obeying the impulse of passion, she feared she had doomed herself to wretchedness. Belgrave was a man, whom, upon mature deliberation, she could never have chosen; the softness of his manners gradually vanished, when the purpose for which they had been assumed was completed; unfeeling and depraved, the virtues of Adela could excite no esteem in his bosom, and the love (if it can merit that appellation) which he felt for her quickly subsided after their marriage; but as the general retained the greatest part of his fortune in his own power, he continued tolerably guarded in his conduct—a slave, however, to the most violent passions, he was often unable to control them, and forgetful of all prudential motives, delighted at those times in mortifying Adela, by sly sarcasms on her attachment for Oscar; though deeply wounded, she never complained; she had partly forged her chains, and resolved to bear them without repining; tranquil to appearance, the poor general, who was not penetrating, thought his child perfectly happy; 145 such, however, was not the opinion of those who visited at Woodlawn; the rose of health no longer spread its beautiful tints on the cheek of Adela, nor were her eyes irradiated by vivacity.
The colonel never went to Enniskellen except about military business, but he made frequent excursions to the metropolis, and other parts of the kingdom in pursuit of pleasure. Adela felt relieved by his absence, and the general, satisfied at his not attempting to take her along with him, never murmured at it. The period now arrived for the departure of the regiment; Adela had not seen Oscar since the interview at Mrs. Marlowe’s; she declined going to the reviews which preceded the change of garrison, and sincerely hoped no chance would again throw him in her way. Oscar sickened at the idea of quitting the country without seeing her; he knew she was not to accompany the colonel; the officers were going to pay a farewell visit to Woodlawn, and he could not resist being one of the party; they were shown into the drawing-room, where Adela and the general sat: she was startled at the appearance of Oscar, but though a blush tinged her pale face, she soon recovered her composure, and entered into conversation; the general pressed them to stay to dinner, but they had many visits to pay, and begged to be excused. “My dear Fitzalan,” said the general, who had long dropped his displeasure, “I wish you happiness and success, and hope I shall soon hear of your being at the head of the company; remember I say soon, for I am an old veteran, and should be sorry to drop into the trench till I had heard of the good fortune of my friends; your father was a brave fellow, and, in the speedy advancement of his son, should receive a reward for his past services.” Oscar pressed the general’s hand to his breast, he cast his tearful eyes on Adela: she sighed and bent hers to the ground.—“Be assured, sir,” he cried, “no gratitude can be more fervent than that your goodness has inspired me with, no wishes can be more sincere than mine for the happiness of the inhabitants of Woodlawn.” “Ineffectual wishes,” softly exclaimed Adela: “happiness from one of its inhabitants, at least, has, I fear, fled for ever.”
The general’s wishes for the success of Oscar may be considered as mere words of course, since not enforced by more substantial proofs of regard; but, in reality, soon after his daughter’s marriage, in his usual blunt manner, he had mentioned to the colonel his giving a 146 thousand or two to help the promotion of Oscar. Belgrave, who could not bear that the man whom he had injured should have a chance of obtaining equal rank with himself, opposed this truly generous design, by saying, Oscar was taken under the patronage of Lord Cherbury, and that the general’s bounty might therefore, at some future period, be better applied in serving a person without his interest. To this the general assented, declaring, “that he never yet met with a brave soldier, or his offspring, in distress, without feeling and answering the claim they had upon his heart.”
Oscar obtained a ready promise from Mrs. Marlowe of corresponding with him; he blushed and faltered, as he besought her sometimes to acquaint him with the health of their friends at Woodlawn.
Change of scene produced no alteration in him; still pining with regret, and languid from ill health, his father and sister found him. The comforts of sympathy could not be his, as the anguish which preyed upon his heart he considered of too sacred a nature to divulge, he hoarded up his grief like a miser hoarding up his treasure, fearful that the eye of suspicion should glance at it; as he pressed his lovely sister to his heart, had he imagined she was the object of Colonel Belgrave’s licentious passion, the bounds he had hitherto prescribed to his resentment would in a moment have been overturned, and he would, had it been necessary, have pursued the monster round the world, to avenge the injury he had meditated, as well as the one he had committed.
We shall now bid adieu to Oscar for the present, and drawing on our boots of seven leagues, step after Fitzalan and Amanda.
To begin then, as they say in a novel, without further preface, I was the only child of a country curate
Castle Carberry, to which our travellers were going, was a large Gothic pile