The Children of the Abbey
Oh! fields, oh! woods, when, when shall I be made
The happy tenant of your shade.
Solitude to Amanda was a luxury, as it afforded her opportunities of indulging the ideas on which her heart delighted to dwell; she yet believed she should see Lord Mortimer, and that Lord Cherbury’s sanctioning their attachment would remove the delicate scruples of her father. From soothing his passing hours, beguiling her own with the accomplishments she possessed, and indulging the tender suggestions of hope, a pleasure arose she thought ill changed for the trifling gaiety of the parties she was frequently invited to; she was never at a loss for amusements within Castle Carberry, or about its domain; the garden became the object of her peculiar care; its situation was romantic, and long neglect had added to its natural wildness. Amanda, in many places, discovered vestiges of taste, and wished to restore all to primeval beauty; the fruit trees were matted together, the alleys, grass-grown, and the flowers choked with weeds; on one side lay a small wilderness, which surrounded a Gothic temple, and on the other, green slopes with masses of naked rock projecting 166 through them; a flight of rugged steps, cut in the living rock, led to a cave on the summit of one of the highest; a cross, rudely carved upon the wall, and the remains of a matted couch, denoted this having formerly been a hermitage; it overhung the sea, and all about it were tremendous crags, against which the waves beat with violence; over a low and arched door was a smooth stone, with the following lines engraved upon it:—
The pilgrim oft
At dead of night ’mid his orisons hears
Aghast the voice of time—disparting towers,
Tumbling all precipitate down, dash’d
Rattling around, loud thundering to the
Under Amanda’s superintending care, the garden soon lost its rude appearance, a new couch was procured for the hermitage, which she ornamented with shells and sea weeds, rendering it a most delightful recess, the trees were pruned, the alleys cleared of opposing and over the wall of the Gothic temple she hung the flowers she had purchased at St. Catherine’s, in fanciful wreaths.
She often ascended the devious path of the mountain, which stretched beyond Castle Carberry, and beheld the waves glittering in the sunbeams, from which its foliage sheltered her. But no visionary pleasure, no delightful rambles, no domestic avocations, made her forgetful of the calls of benevolence; she visited the haunts of poverty and relieved its necessities to the utmost of her power; the wretchedness so often conspicuous among many of the lower rank, filled her not only with compassion, but surprise, as she had imagined that liberty and a fruitful soil were generally attended with comfort and prosperity; her father, to whom she communicated this idea, informed her that the indigence of the peasants proceeded in a great degree from the emigration of their landlords; “Their wealth,” said he, “is spent in foreign lands, instead of enriching those from whence it was drawn; policy should sometimes induce them to visit their estates; the revenue of half a year spent on them would necessarily benefit the poor wretches, whose labours have contributed to raise it, and by exciting their gratitude, and inclination to industry consequently augment their profits.
“The clouds, which are formed by mists and exhalations, return from the places from whence they were drawn, in fertilizing showers 167 and refreshing dews, and almost every plant enriches the soil from which it sprung; Nature, indeed, in all her works is a glorious precedent to man, but while enslaved by dissipation, he cannot follow her example, and what exquisite sources of enjoyment does he lose—to lighten the toils of labour, to cheer the child of poverty, to raise the drooping head of merit!—Oh! how superior to the revels of dissipation, or the ostentation of wealth.
“Real happiness is forsaken for a gaudy phantom called pleasure; she is seldom grasped but for a moment, yet in that moment has power to fix envenomed stings within the breast; the heart which delights in domestic joys, which rises in pious gratitude to Heaven, which melts at human woe, can alone experience true pleasure. The fortitude with which the peasants bear their sufferings, should cure discontent of its murmurs, they support adversity without complaining, and those who possess a pile of turf against the severity of winter, a small strip of ground, planted with cabbage and potatoes, a cow, a pig and some poultry, think themselves completely happy, though one wretched hovel shelters all
Oh! how rapturous, thought Amanda, the idea of Lord Mortimer’s feeling recurring to her mind, to change such scenes, to see the clay-built hovel vanish, and a dwelling of neatness and convenience rise in its stead; to wander, continued she, with him whose soul is fraught with sensibility, and view the project of benevolence, realized by the hand of charity, the faded cheek of misery regain the glow of health—
“The desert blossom as the rose,”
and content and cheerfulness sport beneath its shades.
From such an ecstatic reverie as this, Amanda was roused one morning, by the entrance of the Kilcorbans and Lady Greystock, into the dressing room where she was working. “Oh! my dear,” cried the eldest of the young ladies, “we have such enchanting news to tell you: only think who is coming down here immediately, your uncle, and aunt and cousin: an express came this morning from Dublin, where they now are, to the steward at Ulster Lodge, to have every thing prepared against next week for them.” “I declare,” said Miss Alicia, “I shall quite envy you the delightful amusement you shall have with them.” Amanda blushed and felt a little confused; “You 168 will have no reason then, I fancy,” replied she, “for really I do not know them.”
“Oh Lord!” exclaimed Mrs. Kilcorban, “well that is very comical, not know your own relations; but perhaps they always lived in Scotland, and you were afraid to cross the sea to pay them a visit.”
“If that was the only fear she had,” said Lady Greystock, with a satirical smile, “she could easily have surmounted it; besides, would it not have held good with respect to one place as well as another?” “Well, I never thought of that,” cried Mrs. Kilcorban; “but pray, miss, may I ask the reason why you did not know them by letter?”
“It can be of very little consequence to you, madam,” replied Amanda, coolly, “to hear it.”
“They say Lady Euphrasia Sutherland is very accomplished,” exclaimed Miss Kilcorban, “so a correspondence with her would have been I dare say you write sweetly yourself; so if ever you leave Castle Carberry, I beg you will favour me with letters, for of all things I doat on a sentimental correspondence.”
“No wonder,” said Lady Greystock, “you are so particularly well qualified to support one.”
“But, my dear,” resumed Miss Kilcorban, “we are to give the most enchanting ball that ever was given in this world: papa says, we shall have full liberty to do as we please respecting it.” “It will be a troublesome affair, I am afraid,” said Mrs. Kilcorban. “We are to have confectioners and French cooks from Dublin,” continued her daughter, without minding this interruption, “every thing is to be quite in style, and prepared against the third night of the marquis’s and marchioness’s arrival; so, my dear, you and your papa will hold yourselves in readiness for our summons.” Amanda bowed. “My sister and I are to have dancing dresses from town, but I will not give you an idea of the manner in which we have ordered them to be made; I assure you, you will be absolutely surprised and charmed, when you see them; all the elegant men in the country will be at our entertainment: I dare say you will be vastly busy in preparing for it.”
“Nature,” said Lady Greystock, “has been too bounteous to Miss Fitzalan, to render such preparations necessary.” “Oh lord!” cried the young ladies with a toss of their heads, “Miss Fitzalan is not such a fool, I suppose, as to wish to appear unlike any one else in her 169 dress; but,” rising with their mamma, and saluting her much more formally than they had done at their entrance, “she is the best judge of that.”
Fitzalan had never seen the marchioness since his marriage, nor did he ever again wish to behold her; the inhumanity with which she had treated her lovely sister; the malice with which she had augmented her father’s resentment against that poor sufferer, had so strongly prepossessed his mind with the ideas of the selfishness and implacability of hers, as to excite sentiments of distaste and aversion for her; he considered her as the usurper of his children’s rights; as accessary to the death of his adored Malvina, and consequently the author of the agonies he endured—agonies which time, aided by religion, could scarcely conquer.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter XVIII
Rattling around, loud thundering to the moon.
texts (1800 and 1877) have “Dye”: corrected from 1816 edition
the alleys cleared of opposing brambles,
text has brambles.
one wretched hovel shelters all alike.”
close quote missing
a correspondence with her would have been delightful.
text has delightful?
The following evening they were engaged at a farmer’s
At the expected time, the marquis and his family arrived