The Children of the Abbey
Canst thou bear cold and hunger? Can these limbs,
Fram’d for tender offices of love,
Endure the bitter gripes of smarting poverty?
When in a bed of straw we shrink together,
And the bleak winds shall whistle round our heads,
Wilt thou talk to me thus,
Thus hush my cares, and shelter me with love?
Fitzalan, the father of Amanda, was the descendant of an ancient Irish family, which had however, unfortunately, attained the summit 12 of its prosperity long before his entrance into life; so that little more than the name, once dignified by illustrious actions, was left to its posterity. The parents of Fitzalan were supported by an employment under government, which enabled them to save a small sum for their son, an only child, who, at an early period, became its sole master, by their dying within a short period of each other. As soon as he had in some degree recovered the shock of such calamities, he laid out his little pittance in the purchase of a commission, as a profession best suiting his inclinations and finances.
The war between America and France had then just commenced; and Fitzalan’s regiment was amongst the first forces sent to the aid of the former. The scenes of war, though dreadfully affecting to a soul of exquisite sensibility, such as he possessed, had not power to damp the ardour of his spirit; for with the name he inherited the hardy resolution of his progenitors.
He had once the good fortune to save the life of a British soldier: he was one of a small party, who, by the treachery of their guides, were suddenly surprised in a wood, through which they were obliged to pass, to join another detachment of the army. Their only way in this alarming exigence, was to retreat to the fort from whence they had but lately issued: encompassed as they were by the enemy, this was not achieved without the greatest difficulty. Just as they had reached it, Fitzalan saw far behind them a poor soldier, who had been wounded at the first onset, just overtaken by two Indians. Yielding to the impulse of compassion in which all idea of self was lost, Fitzalan hastily turned to his assistance, and flinging himself between the pursued and pursuers, he kept them at bay till the poor creature had reached a place of safety. This action, performed at the imminent hazard of his life, secured him the lasting gratitude of the soldier, whose name was Edwin; the same that now offered an asylum to his daughter.
Edwin had committed some juvenile indiscretions, which highly incensed his parents: in despair at incurring their resentment, he enlisted with a recruiting party in their neighbourhood; but accustomed all his life to peace and plenty, he did not by any means relish his new situation. His gratitude to Fitzalan was unbounded; he considered him as the preserver of his life; and on the man’s being dismissed, who had hitherto attended him as a servant, entreated he might be taken in his place. This entreaty Fitzalan complied with; 13 he was pleased with Edwin’s manner; and having heard the little history of his misfortunes, promised on their return to Europe, to intercede with his friends for him.
During his stay abroad, Fitzalan was promoted to a captain-lieutenancy: his pay was his only support, which of necessity checked his benevolence of spirit, “open as day to melting charity.”
On the regiment’s return to Europe, he obtained Edwin’s discharge, who longed to re-enter upon his former mode of life. He accompanied the penitent himself into Wales, where he was received with the truest rapture.
In grief for his loss, his parents had forgotten all resentment for his errors, which indeed had never been very great; they had lost their two remaining children during his absence, and now received him as the sole comfort and hope of their age.
His youthful protector was blest with the warmest gratitude: tears filled his fine eyes, as he beheld the pleasure of the parents, and contrition of the son; and he departed with that heartfelt pleasure, which ever attends and rewards an action of humanity.
He now accompanied his regiment into Scotland; they were quartered at a fort in a remote part of that kingdom.
Near the fort was a fine old Abbey belonging to the family of Dunreath; the high hills which nearly encompassed it, were almost all covered with trees, whose dark shades gave the appearance of gloomy solitude to the building.
The present possessor, the earl of Dunreath, was now far advanced in life; twice had he married, in expectation of a male heir to his large estates, and twice had he been disappointed. His first lady had expired immediately after the birth of a daughter. She had taken under her protection a young female, who, by unexpected vicissitudes of her family, was left destitute of support. On the demise of her patroness, she retired from the Abbey to the house of a kinswoman in this vicinity; the earl of Dunreath, accustomed to her society, felt his solitude doubly augmented by her absence. He had ever followed the dictates of inclination, and would not disobey them now: ere the term of mourning was expired, he offered his hand and was accepted.
The fair orphan, now triumphant mistress of the Abbey, found there was no longer occasion to check her natural propensities. Her soul was vain, unfeeling, and ambitious; and the sudden elevation broke 14 down all barriers which prudence had hitherto opposed to her passions. She soon gained an absolute ascendency over her lord—she knew how to assume the smile of complacency, and the accent of sensibility.
Forgetful of the kindness of her late patroness, she treated the infant she had left with the cruelest neglect; a neglect, which was, if possible, increased on the birth of her own daughter, as she could not bear that Augusta, (instead of possessing the whole) should only share the affections of her father. She contrived by degrees to alienate the former from the innocent Malvina; and she trusted she should yet find means to deprive her of the latter.
Terrified by violence and depressed by severity, the child looked dejected and unhappy; and this appearance, lady Dunreath made the earl believe, proceeded from sulkiness and natural ill humor. Her own child, unrestrained in any wish of her heart, was, from her playful gaiety, a constant source of amusement to the earl; her mother had taken care to instruct her in all the little endearments, which, when united with infantine sweetness, allure almost imperceptibly the affections.
Malvina, ere she knew the meaning of sorrow, thus became its prey; but in spite of envy and ill treatment, she grew up with all the graces of mind and form, that had distinguished her mother; her air was at once elegant and commanding; her face replete with sweetness: and her fine eyes had a mixture of sensibility and languor in them, which spoke to the feeling soul.
Augusta was also a fine figure; but unpossessed of the winning graces of elegance and modesty, which adorned her sister; her form always appeared decorated with the most studied art, and her large eyes had a confident assurance in them, that seemed to expect and demand universal homage.
The warriors of the fort were welcome visitants at the Abbey, which lady Dunreath contrived to render a scene of almost constant gaiety, by keeping up a continual intercourse with all the adjacent families, and entertaining all the strangers who came into its neighbourhood.
Lord Dunreath had long been a prey to infirmities, which at this period generally confined him to his room: but though his body was debilitated, his mind retained all its active powers.15
The first appearance of the officers at the Abbey, was at a ball given by lady Dunreath, in consequence of their arrival near it: the gothic apartments were decorated, and lighted up with a splendour that at once displayed taste and magnificence: the lights, the music, the brilliancy and unusual gaiety of the company, all gave to the spirits of Malvina an agreeable flutter they had never before experienced; and a brighter bloom than usual stole over her lovely cheek.
The young co-heiresses were extremely admired by the military heroes. Malvina as the eldest opened the ball with the colonel: her form had attracted the eyes of Fitzalan, and vainly he attempted to withdraw them, till the lively conversation of Augusta, who honoured him with her hand, forced him to restrain his glances, and pay her the sprightly attention so generally expected—when he came to turn to Malvina, he involuntarily detained her hand for a moment; she blushed, and the timid beam that stole from her half-averted eyes agitated his whole soul.
Partners were changed in the course of the evening, and he seized the first opportunity that offered for engaging her; the softness of her voice, the simplicity yet elegance of her language, now captivated his heart, as much as her form had charmed his eyes.
Never had he before seen an object he thought half so lovely or engaging; with her he could not support that lively strain of conversation he had done with her sister. Where the heart is much interested, it will not admit of trifling.
Fitzalan was now in the meridian of manhood; his stature was above the common size, and elegance and dignity were conspicuous in it; his features were regularly handsome, and the fairness of his forehead proved what his complexion had been, till change of climate and hardship had embrowned it; the expression of his countenance was somewhat plaintive; his eyes had a sweetness in them, that spoke a soul of the tenderest feelings; and the smile that played around his mouth would have adorned the face of female beauty.
When the dance with Lady Malvina was over, Lady Augusta took care for the remainder of the evening to engross all his attention. She thought him by far the handsomest man in the room, and gave him no opportunity of avoiding her; gallantry obliged him to return her assiduities, and he was by his brother officers set down in the list of her adorers. This mistake he encouraged; he could bear raillery 16 on an indifferent subject; and joined in the mirth, which the idea of his laying siege to the young heiress occasioned.
He deluded himself with no false hopes relative to the real object of his passion; he knew the obstacles between them were insuperable; but his heart was too proud to complain of fate; he shook off all appearance of melancholy, and seemed more animated than ever.
His visits at the Abbey became constant; Lady Augusta took them to herself, and encouraged his attentions; as her mother rendered her perfect mistress of her own actions, she had generally a levee of red coats every morning in her dressing-room. Lady Malvina seldom appeared; she was at those times almost always employed in reading to her father; when that was not the case, her own favourite avocations often detained her in her room; or else she wandered out, about the romantic rocks on the sea shore; she in solitary rambles, and loved to visit the old peasants, who told her tales of her departed mother’s goodness; drawing tears of sorrow from her eyes, at the irreparable loss she had sustained by her death.
Fitzalan went one morning as usual to the Abbey to pay his constant visit; as he went through the gallery which led to Lady Augusta’s dressing-room, his eyes were caught by two beautiful portraits of the earl’s daughters; an artist, by his express desire, had come to the Abbey to draw them; they were just finished, and that morning placed in the gallery.
Lady Augusta appeared negligently reclining upon a sofa, in a verdant alcove; the flowing drapery of the loose robe in which she was habited, set off her fine figure; little cupids were seen fanning aside her dark brown hair, and strewing roses on her pillow.
Lady Malvina was represented in the simple attire of a peasant girl, leaning on a little grassy hillock, whose foot was washed by a clear stream: while her flock browsed around, and her dog rested beneath the shade of an old tree, that waved its branches over her head, and seemed to shelter her from the beams of the meridian sun.
“Beautiful portrait,” cried Fitzalan, “sweet resemblance of a seraphic form.”
He heard a soft sigh behind him; he started, turned, and perceived Lady Malvina; in the utmost confusion he faltered out his admiration of the pictures, and not knowing what he did, fixed his eyes on Lady Augusta’s, exclaiming, “How beautiful!”—“’Tis very handsome 17 indeed,” said Malvina, with a more pensive voice than usual, and led the way to her sister’s dressing-room.
Lady Augusta was spangling some ribbon; but at Fitzalan’s entrance she threw it aside, and if he had been admiring her picture. Yes, he said, ’twas that alone had prevented his before paying his homage to the original. He proceeded in a strain of compliments, which had more gallantry than sincerity in them. In the course of their trifling, he snatched a knot of the spangled ribbon, and pinning it next his heart, declared it should remain there as a talisman against all future impressions.
He stole a glance at Lady Malvina,—she held a book in her hand; but her eyes were turned towards him, and a deadly paleness overspread her countenance.
Fitzalan’s spirit vanished; he started and declared he must be gone immediately. The dejection of Lady Malvina dwelt upon his heart; it flattered its fondness, but pained its sensibility. He left the fort in the evening immediately after he had retired from the mess; he strolled to the sea-side, and rambled a considerable way among the rocks. The scene was wild and solemn; the shadows of evening were beginning to descend; the waves stole with low murmurs upon the shore, the soft breeze gently agitated the marine plants that grew amongst the crevices of the rocks; already were the sea fowl, with harsh and melancholy cries, flocking to their nests, some lightly skimming over the surface of the water, while others were seen, like dark clouds, rising from the long heath of the neighboring hills. Fitzalan pursued his way in deep and melancholy meditation, from which a plaintive Scotch air, sung by the melting voice of harmony itself, roused him. He looked towards the spot from whence the sound proceeded, and beheld Lady Malvina standing on a low rock, a projection of which afforded her support. Nothing could be more picturesque than her appearance: she looked like one of the beautiful forms, which Ossian so often describes; her white dress fluttered with the wind, and her dark hair hung dishevelled around her. Fitzalan moved softly and stopped behind her; she wept as she sung, and wiped away her tears as she ceased singing: and she sighed heavily. “Ah, my mother,” she exclaimed, “why was Malvina behind you?”
“To bless and improve mankind,” cried Fitzalan. She screamed, 18 and would have fallen, had he not caught her in his arms: he prevailed on her to sit down upon the rock, and allow him to support her, till the agitation had subsided. “And why,” cried he, “should Malvina give way to melancholy, blessed as she is with all that can render life desirable? Why seek its indulgence by rambling about these dreary rocks,” fit haunts alone, he might have added, for wretchedness and me? “Can I help wondering at your dejection,” (continued he) “when to all appearance, (at least) I see you possessed of every thing requisite to constitute felicity?”
“Appearances are often deceitful,” said Malvina, (forgetting in that moment the caution she had hitherto inviolably observed, of never hinting at the ill treatment she had received from the countess of Dunreath and her daughter.) “Appearances are often deceitful,” she said, “as I, too fatally experience. The glare, the ostentation of wealth, a soul of sensibility would willingly resign for privacy and plainness, if they were to be attended with real friendship and sympathy.”
“And how few,” cried Fitzalan, turning his expressive eyes upon her face, “can know Lady Malvina without feeling friendship for her virtues, and sympathy for her sorrows.” As he spoke, he pressed her hand against his heart, and she felt the knot of ribbon, he had snatched from her sister: she instantly withdrew her hand, and darting a haughty glance at him, “Captain Fitzalan,” said she, “you were going, I believe, to Lady Augusta; let me not detain you.”
Fitzalan’s passions were no longer under the dominion of reason; he tore the ribbon from his breast, and flung it into the sea. “Going to Lady Augusta?” he exclaimed, “and is her lovely sister then really deceived? Ah! Lady Malvina, I now gaze on the dear attraction that drew me to the Abbey. The feelings of a real, a hopeless passion could ill support raillery or observation: I hid my passion within the recess of my heart and gladly allowed my visits to be placed to the account of an object truly indifferent, that I might have opportunities of seeing an object I adored.” Malvina blushed and “Fitzalan,” cried she, after a pause, “I detest deceit.”
“I abhor it too, Lady Malvina,” said he; “but why should I now endeavour to prove my sincerity, when I know it is so very immaterial? Excuse me for what I have already uttered, and believe that though 19 susceptible, I am not aspiring.” He then presented his hand to Malvina; she descended from her seat, and they walked towards the Abbey. Lady Malvina’s pace was slow; and her blushes, had Fitzalan looked at her, would have expressed more pleasure than resentment; she seemed to expect a still further declaration; but Fitzalan was too confused to speak; nor indeed was it his intention again to indulge himself on the dangerous subject. They proceeded in silence; at the Abbey gate they stopped and he wished her good night. “Shall we not soon see you at the Abbey?” exclaimed Lady Malvina in a flurried voice, which seemed to say she thought her adieu rather an hasty one. “No, my lovely friend,” cried Fitzalan, pausing, while he looked on her with the most compassionate tenderness. “In future I shall chiefly confine myself to the fort.” “Do you dread an invasion?” asked she, smiling, while a stolen glance of her eye gave a peculiar meaning to her words. “I long dreaded that,” cried he, in the same strain, “and my fears were well founded; but I must now muster all my powers to dislodge the enemy.” He kissed her hand and then precipitately retired.
Lady Malvina repaired to her chamber in such tumult of pleasure as she had never before experienced. She admired Fitzalan from the first evening she beheld him; though his attentions were directed to her sister, the language of his eyes to her contradicted any attachment these attentions might have intimated; his gentleness and sensibility seemed congenial to her own. Hitherto she had been the slave of tyranny and caprice; and now, for the first time, experienced that soothing tenderness, her wounded feelings had so long sighed for. She was agitated and delighted; she overlooked every obstacle to her wishes, and waited impatiently a farther explanation of Fitzalan’s sentiments.
Far different were his feelings from hers; to know he was beloved, could scarcely yield him pleasure, when he reflected on his hopeless situation, which forbade his availing himself of any advantage that knowledge might have afforded. Of a union indeed, he did not dare to think, since its consequences he knew must be destruction; for, rigid and austere as the earl was represented, he could not flatter himself he would ever pardon such a step; and the means of supporting Lady Malvina, in any degree of comfort, he did not possess himself. He determined, as much as possible, to avoid her presence, and 20 regretted continually having yielded to the impulse of his heart, and revealed his love, since he believed it had augmented hers.
By degrees he discontinued his visits at the Abbey; but often met Lady Malvina at parties in the neighbourhood; caution, however, always sealed his lips, and every appearance of particularity was avoided. The time now approached for the departure of the regiment Scotland; and Lady Malvina, instead of the explanation she so fondly expected, so ardently desired, saw Fitzalan studious to avoid her.
The disappointment this conduct gave rise to was too much for the tender and romantic heart of Malvina to bear, without secretly repining. Society grew irksome; she became more than ever attached to solitary rambles, which gave her opportunities of indulging her sorrows without restraint; sorrows, pride often reproached her for experiencing.
It was within a week of the change of garrison, when Malvina repaired one evening to the rock, where Fitzalan had disclosed his tenderness; a similarity of feeling led him thither; he saw his danger, but he had no power to retreat; he sat down by Malvina, and they conversed for some time on different subjects; at last, after a pause of a minute, Malvina exclaimed, “You go, then, Fitzalan, never, never, I suppose, to return here again.” “’Tis probable I may not, indeed,” said he. “Then we shall never meet again,” cried she, while a trickling tear stole down her lovely cheek, which, tinged as it was with the flush of agitation, looked now like a half-blown rose moistened with the dews of early morning.
“Yes, my lovely friend,” said he, “we shall meet again—we shall meet in a better place; in that heaven,” continued he, sighing, and laying his cold trembling hand upon hers, “which will recompense all our sufferings.” “You are melancholy to-night, Fitzalan,” cried Malvina, in a voice scarcely articulate.
“Oh! can you wonder at it?” exclaimed he, overcome by her emotion, and forgetting in a moment all his resolutions; “Oh! can you wonder at my melancholy, when I know not but that this is the last time I shall see the only woman I ever loved—when I know, that in bidding her adieu, I resign all the pleasure, the happiness of my life?”
Malvina could no longer restrain her feelings; she sunk upon his 21 shoulder and wept. “Good Heavens,” cried Fitzalan, almost trembling beneath the lovely burden he supported—“What a cruel situation is mine! But, Malvina, I will not, cannot plunge you into destruction. Led by necessity as well as choice to embrace the profession of a soldier, I have no income, but what is derived from that profession: though my own distresses I could bear with fortitude, yours would totally unman me; nor would my honour be less injured than my peace, were you involved in difficulties on my account. Our separation is therefore, alas, inevitable.”
“Oh! no,” exclaimed Malvina, “the difficulties you have mentioned will vanish. My father’s affections were early alienated from me; and my fate is of little consequence to him—nay, I have reason to believe he will be glad of an excuse for leaving his large possessions to Augusta; and oh! how little shall I envy her those possessions, if the happy destiny I now look forward to is mine.” As she spoke her mild eyes rested on the face of Fitzalan, who clasped her to his bosom in a sudden transport of tenderness. “But though my father is partial to Augusta,” continued she, “I am sure he will not be unnatural to me; and though he may withhold affluence, he will, I am confident, allow me a competence—nay, Lady Dunreath, I believe, in pleasure at my removal from the Abbey, would, if he hesitated, in that respect become my intercessor.”
The energy with which Malvina spoke, convinced Fitzalan of the strength of her affection. An extasy, never before felt, pervaded his soul at the idea of being so beloved; vainly did prudence whisper, that Malvina might be deluding herself with false hopes; the suggestions of love triumphed over every consideration, and again folding the fair being he held in his arms, to his heart, he softly asked, would she at all events unite her destiny with his.
Lady Malvina, who firmly believed what she had said to him would really happen, and who deemed a separation from him the greatest misfortune which could possibly befall her, blushed, and faltering, yielded a willing consent.
The means of accomplishing their wishes occupied their thoughts; Fitzalan’s imagination was too fertile not soon to suggest a scheme, which had a probability of success; he resolved to intrust the chaplain of the regiment with the affair, and request his attendance the ensuing night in the chapel of the Abbey, where Lady Malvina promised 22 to meet them with her maid, on whose secrecy she thought she could rely.
It was settled that Fitzalan should pay a visit the next morning to the Abbey, and give Malvina a certain sign, if he succeeded with the chaplain.
The increasing darkness at length reminded them of the lateness of the hour: Fitzalan conducted Malvina to the Abbey gate, where they separated, each involved in a tumult of hopes, fears, and wishes.
The next morning Lady Malvina brought her work into her sister’s dressing-room; at last Fitzalan entered: he was attacked by Augusta for his long absence, which he excused by pleading regimental business. After trifling some time with her, he prevailed upon her to sit down to the harpsichord; and then glancing at Malvina, he gave her the promised signal.
Her conscious eyes were instantly bent to the ; a crimson glow was suddenly succeeded by a deadly paleness; her head sunk upon her bosom; and her agitation must have excited suspicions, had it been perceived; but Fitzalan purposely bent over her sister, and thus gave her an opportunity of retiring unnoticed from the room. As soon as she had regained a little composure, she called her maid, and after receiving many promises of secrecy, unfolded to her the whole affair. It was long past midnight hour ere Malvina would attempt repairing to the chapel; when she at last rose for that purpose, she trembled universally; a kind of horror chilled her heart; she began to fear she was about doing wrong, and hesitated; but when she reflected on the noble generosity of Fitzalan, and that she herself had precipitated him to the measure they were about taking; her hesitation was over; and leaning on her maid, she stole through the winding galleries, and lightly descending the stairs, entered the long hall, which terminated in a dark arched passage, that opened into the chapel.
This was a wild and gloomy structure, retaining every where vestiges of that monkish superstition which had erected it; beneath it were the vaults which contained the ancestors of the earl of Dunreath, whose deeds and titles were enumerated on gothic monuments, their dust-covered banners waving around in sullen dignity to the rude gale, which found admittance through the broken windows.23
The light which the maid held produced deep shadows that heightened the solemnity of the place.
“They are not here,” said Malvina, casting her fearful eyes around. She went to the door which opened into the thick wood; but here she only heard the breeze rustling amongst the trees; she turned from it, and sinking upon the steps of the altar, gave way to an agony of tears and lamentations. A low murmur reached her ear; she started up; the chapel door was gently pushed open, and Fitzalan entered with the chaplain; they had been watching in the wood for the appearance of light. Malvina was supported to the altar, and a few minutes made her the wife of Fitzalan.
She had not courage, till within a day or two previous to the regiment’s departure from Scotland, to acquaint the earl with her marriage; the countess already knew it, through the means of Malvina’s woman, who was a creature of her own. Lady Dunreath exulted at the prospect of Malvina’s ruin; it at once gratified the malevolence of her soul, and the avaricious desires she had of increasing her own daughter’s fortune: she had, besides, another reason to rejoice at it: this was, the attachment Lady Augusta had formed for Fitzalan, which, her mother feared, would have precipitated her into a step as imprudent as her sister’s, had she not been before with her.
This fear the impetuous passion of Lady Augusta naturally excited. She really loved Fitzalan: a degree of frantic rage possessed her at his marriage; she cursed her sister in the bitterness of her heart, and joined with Lady Dunreath in working up the earl’s naturally austere and violent passion into such a paroxysm of fury and resentment, that he at last solemnly refused forgiveness to Malvina, and bid her never more appear in his presence.
She now began to tread the thorny path of life; and though her guide was tender and affectionate, nothing could allay her anguish for having involved him in difficulties, which his noble spirit could ill brook or struggle against. The first year of their union she had a son, who was called after her father, Oscar Dunreath: the four years that succeeded his birth were passed in wretchedness that baffles description. At the expiration of this period their debts were so increased, Fitzalan was compelled to sell out on half-pay. Lady Malvina now expected an addition to her family; her situation, she 24 hoped, would move her father’s heart, and she resolved to essay every thing which afforded the smallest prospect of obtaining comfort for her husband and his babes: therefore she prevailed on him to carry her to Scotland.
They lodged at a peasant’s in the neighbourhood of the Abbey; he informed them that the earl’s infirmities were increasing, and that Lady Dunreath had just celebrated her daughter’s marriage with the marquis of . This nobleman had passionately admired Lady Malvina: an admiration the countess always wished to transfer to her daughter. On the marriage of Malvina he went abroad: his passion was conquered ere he returned to Scotland; and he disdained not the overtures made for his alliance from the Abbey. His favourite propensities, pride and avarice, were gratified by the earl of Dunreath’s sole heiress.
The day after her arrival Lady Malvina sent little Oscar, with the old peasant, to the Abbey: Oscar was a perfect cherub.
The bloom of op’ning flowers’ unsullied beauty,
Softness and sweetest innocence he wore,
And look’d like nature in the world’s first spring.
Lady Malvina gave him a letter for the earl, in which, after pathetically describing her situation, she besought him to let the uplifted hands of innocence plead her cause. The peasant watched till the hour came for Lady Dunreath to go out in her carriage, as was her daily custom: he then desired to be conducted to the earl, and was accordingly ushered into his presence; he found him alone, and briefly informed him of his errand. The earl frowned and looked agitated, but did not by any means express that displeasure which the peasant had expected: feeling for himself, indeed, had lately softened his heart; he was unhappy; his wife and daughter had attained the completion of their wishes, and no longer paid him the attention his age required. He refused, however, to accept the letter: little Oscar, who had been gazing on him from the moment he entered the apartment, now ran forward, gently stroking his hand; he smiled in his face and exclaimed, “Ah! pray do—take poor mamma’s letter.” The earl involuntarily took it; as he read, the muscles of his face began to work, and a tear dropped from him, “Poor mamma cries too,” said Oscar, upon whose hand the tear fell. “Why did your mamma send 25 you to me?” said the earl. “Because she said,” cried Oscar, “that you are my grandpapa—and she bids me love you, and teaches me every day to pray for you.” “Heaven bless you, my lovely prattler,” exclaimed the earl, with sudden emotion, patting his head as he spoke. At this moment Lady Dunreath rushed into the apartment; one of her favourites had followed her, to relate the scene that was going forward within it, and she returned with all possible expedition to counteract any dangerous impressions that might be made upon the earl’s mind. Rage inflamed her countenance: the earl knew the violence of her temper; he was unequal to contention, and hastily motioned for the peasant to retire with the child. The account of his reception excited the most flattering hopes in the bosom of his mother; she counted the tedious hours, in expectation of a kind summons to the Abbey; but no such summons came. The next morning the child was sent to it; but the porter refused him admittance, by the express command of the earl, he said. Frightened at his rudeness, the child returned weeping to his mother, whose blasted expectations wrung her heart with agony, and tears and lamentations broke from her. The evening was far advanced, when suddenly her features brightened; “I will go,” cried she, starting up—“I will again try to melt his obduracy. Oh! with what lowliness should a child bend before an offended parent. Oh! with what fortitude, what patience, should a wife, a mother, try to overcome difficulties, which she is conscious of having precipitated the object of her tenderest affections into.”
The night was dark and tempestuous: she would not suffer Fitzalan to attend her, but she proceeded to the Abbey, leaning on the peasant’s arm. She would not be repulsed at the door, but forced her way into the hall: here Lady Dunreath met her, and, with mingled pride and cruelty, refused her access to her father, declaring it was by his desire she did so. “Let me but see him for a moment,” said the lovely suppliant, clasping her white and emaciated hands together—“by all that is tender in humanity, I beseech you to grant my request.” “Turn this frantic woman from the Abbey,” said the implacable Lady Dunreath, trembling with passion—“at your peril suffer her not to continue here. —The peace of your lord is too precious to be disturbed by her exclamations.”
This imperious order was instantly obeyed, though, as Cordelia 26 says, “it was a night when one would not have turned an enemy’s dog from the door.” The rain poured down in torrents: the sea roared with awful violence: and the wind raged through the wood as if it would tear up the trees by the roots. The peasant charitably flung his plaid over Malvina; she moved mechanically along; her senses appeared quite stupefied; Fitzalan watched for her at the door; she rushed into his extended arms, and fainted, and it was long ere she showed any symptoms of returning life. Fitzalan wept over her in the anguish and distraction of his soul; and scarcely could he forbear execrating the being who had so grievously afflicted her gentle spirit; by degrees she revived, and as she pressed him feebly to her breast, exclaimed, “The fatal stroke is given—I have been turned from my father’s door.”
The cottage in which they lodged afforded but few of the necessaries, and none of the comforts of life; such at least, as they had been accustomed to. In Malvina’s present situation, Fitzalan dreaded the loss of her life, should they continue in their present abode; but, whither could he take her, wanderer as he was upon the face of the earth? At length the faithful Edwin occurred to his recollection; his house, he was confident, would afford them a comfortable asylum, where Lady Malvina would experience all that tenderness and care her situation demanded.
He immediately set about procuring a conveyance, and the following morning Malvina bade a last adieu to Scotland.
Lady Dunreath, in the mean time, suffered torture: after she had seen Malvina turned from the Abbey, she retired to her apartment; it was furnished with the most luxurious elegance, yet could she not rest within it. Conscience already told her, if Malvina died, she must consider herself her murderer; her pale and wo-worn image seemed still before her; a cold terror oppressed her heart, which the horrors of the night augmented; the tempest shook the battlements of the Abbey, and the wind, which howled through the galleries, seemed like the last moans of some wandering spirit of the pile, bewailing the fate of one of its fairest daughters. To cruelty and ingratitude Lady Dunreath had added deceit: her lord was yielding to the solicitations of his child, when she counteracted his intentions by a tale of falsehood. The visions of the night were also dreadful; Malvina appeared expiring before her; and the late Lady Dunreath, by her bed-side, 27 reproaching her barbarity. “Oh cruel!” the ghastly figure seemed to say, “is it you, whom I fostered in my bosom, that have done this deed—driven forth my child, a forlorn and wretched
Oh Conscience, how awful are thy terrors! thou art the vicegerent of heaven, and anticipate its vengeance, ere the final hour of retribution arrives. Guilt may be triumphant, but never, never can be happy: it finds no shield against thy stings and arrows. The heart thou smitest bleeds in every pore, and sighs amidst gaiety and splendour.
The unfortunate travellers were welcomed with the truest hospitality by the grateful Edwin; he had married, soon after his return from America, a young girl to whom, from his earliest youth, he was attached. His parents died soon after his union; the whole of their little patrimony devolved to him. Soothed and attended with the utmost tenderness and respect, Fitzalan hoped Lady Malvina would here regain her health and peace: he intended after her recovery, to endeavour to be put on full pay; and trusted he should prevail on her to continue at the farm.
At length the hour came, in which she gave a daughter to his arms. From the beginning of her illness, the people about her were alarmed; too soon was it proved their alarms were well founded; she lived after the birth of her infant but a few minutes, and died embracing her husband, and blessing his .
Fitzalan’s feelings cannot well be described; they were at first too much for reason, and he continued some time in perfect stupefaction. When he regained his sensibility, his grief was not outrageous; it was that deep, still sorrow, which fastens on the heart, and cannot vent itself in tears or lamentations: he sat with calmness by the bed, where the remains of Malvina lay: he gazed without shrinking, on her pale face, which death, as if in pity to his feelings, had not disfigured; he kissed her cold lips, continually exclaiming, “Oh! had we never met, she might still have been living.” His language was something like that of a poet of her own country;
Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flower,
I met thee in a luckless hour.
It was when he saw them about removing her that all the tempest 28 of his grief broke forth. Oh! how impossible to describe the anguish of the poor widower’s heart when he returned from seeing his Malvina laid in her last receptacle! He shut himself up in the room where she had expired, and ordered no one to approach him; he threw himself upon the bed; he laid his cheek upon her pillow, he grasped it to his bosom, he wetted it with tears, because she had breathed upon it. Oh how still, how dreary, how desolate, did all appear around him! “And shall this desolation never more be enlivened,” he exclaimed, “by the soft music of Malvina’s voice? shall these eyes never more be cheered by beholding her angelic face?” Exhausted by his feelings, he sunk into a slumber; he dreamed of Malvina, and thought she lay beside him; he awoke with sudden extasy, and, under the strong impression of the dream, he stretched out his arms to enfold her. Alas! all was empty void: he started up: he groaned in the bitterness of his soul: he traversed the room with a distracted pace; he sat him down in the little window from whence he could view the spire of the church (now glistening in the moon-beams), by which she was interred. “Deep, still, and profound,” cried he, “is the sleep of my Malvina—the voice of love cannot awake her from it; nor does she now dream of her midnight mourner.”
The cold breeze of night blew upon his forehead, but he heeded it not; his whole soul was full of Malvina, whom torturing fancy represented to his view in the habiliments of the grave. “And is this emaciated form, this pale face,” he exclaimed, as if he had really seen her, “all that remains of elegance and beauty, once unequalled?”
A native sense of religion only checked the transports of his grief; that sweet, that sacred power which pours balm upon the wounds of sorrow, and saves its children from despair; that power whispered to his heart, a patient submission to the will of heaven was the surest means he could attain of again rejoining his Malvina.
She was interred in the village church-yard; at the head of her grave a stone was placed, on which was rudely cut,
ALIKE LOVELY AND UNFORTUNATE.
Fitzalan would not permit her empty title to be put on it: “She is 29 buried,” he said, “as the wife of a wretched soldier, not as the daughter of a wealthy peer.”
She had requested her infant might be called after her own mother: her request was sacred to Fitzalan, and it was baptized by the united names of Amanda Malvina. Mrs. Edwin was then nursing her first girl: but she sent it out, and took the infant of Fitzalan in its place to her bosom.
The money which Fitzalan had procured by disposing of his commission, was now nearly exhausted; but his mind was too enervated to allow him to think of any project for future support. Lady Malvina was deceased two months, when a nobleman came into the neighbourhood, with whom Fitzalan had once been intimately acquainted; the acquaintance was now renewed; and Fitzalan’s appearance, with the little history of his misfortunes, so much affected and interested his friend, that without solicitation he procured him a company in a regiment, then stationed in England. Thus did Fitzalan again enter into active life; but his spirits were broken, and his constitution injured. Four years he continued in the army; when pining to have his children (all that now remained of a woman he adored) under his own care, he obtained, through the interest of a friend, leave to sell out; Oscar was then eight, and Amanda four; the delighted father, as he held them to his heart, wept over them tears of mingled pain and pleasure.
He had seen in Devonshire, where he was quartered for some time, a little romantic solitude, quite adapted to his taste and finances: he proposed for it, and soon became its proprietor. Hither he carried his children much against the inclinations of the Edwins, who loved them as their own; two excellent schools in the neighbourhood gave them the usual advantages of genteel education; but as they were only day scholars, the improvement, or rather forming of their morals, was the pleasing task of their father. To his assiduous care, too, they were indebted for the rapid progress they made in their studies, and for the graceful simplicity of their manners; they rewarded his care, and grew up as amiable and lovely as his fondest wishes could desire.—As Oscar advanced in life, his father began to experience new cares; for he had not the power of putting him in the way of making any provision for himself. A military life was what Oscar appeared anxious for; he had early conceived a predilection 30 for it, from hearing his father speak of the services he had but though he possessed quite the spirit of a hero, he had the truest tenderness, the most engaging softness of disposition; his temper was, indeed, at once, mild, artless, and affectionate. He was about eighteen, when the proprietor of the estate on which his father held his farm, died, and his heir, a colonel in the army, immediately came down from London to take formal possession; he soon became acquainted with Fitzalan, who, in the course of conversation one day, expressed the anxiety he suffered on his son’s account. The colonel said he was a fine youth, and it was a pity he was not provided for: he left Devonshire, however, shortly after this, without appearing in the least interested about him.
Fitzalan’s heart was oppressed with anxiety; he could not purchase for his son without depriving himself of support. With the nobleman who had formerly served him so essentially, he had kept up no intercourse since he quitted the army; but he frequently heard of him, and was told he had become quite a man of the world, which was an implication of his having lost all feeling: an application to him, therefore, he feared would be unavailing, and he felt too proud to subject himself to a repulse.
From this disquietude he was unexpectedly relieved by a letter from the earl of Cherbury, his yet kind friend, informing him he had procured an ensigncy for Oscar, in Colonel Belgrave’s regiment, which he considered a very fortunate circumstance, as the colonel, he was confident, from personally knowing the young gentleman, would render him every service in his power. The earl chid Fitzalan for never having kept up a correspondence with him; assured him he had never forgotten the friendship of their earlier years; and that he had gladly seized the first opportunity which offered, of serving him in the person of his son, which opportunity he was indebted to Colonel Belgrave for.
Fitzalan’s soul was filled with gratitude and rapture; he immediately wrote to the earl and the colonel, in terms expressive of his feelings. Colonel Belgrave received his thanks as if he had really deserved them; but this was not by any means the case; he was a man devoid of sensibility, and had never once thought of serving Fitzalan and his son; his mentioning them was merely accidental.
In a large company, of which the earl of Cherbury was one, the 31 discourse happened to turn on the Dunreath family, and by degrees to Fitzalan, who was severely blamed and pitied for his connexion with it; the subject was, in the opinion of Colonel Belgrave, so apropos, he could not forbear describing his present situation and inquietude about his son, who, he said, he fancied must, like a second Cincinnatus, take the plough-share instead of the sword.
Lord Cherbury lost no part of this discourse; though immersed in politics and other intrinsic concerns, he yet retained, and was ready to obey, the dictates of humanity, particularly when they did not interfere with his own interests; he therefore directly conceived the design of serving his old friend.
Oscar soon quitted Devonshire after his appointment, and brought a letter from his father to the colonel, in which he was strongly recommended to his protection, as one unskilled in the ways of men.
And now all Fitzalan’s care devolved upon Amanda: and most amply did she recompense it. To the improvement of her genius, the cultivation of her talents, the promotion of her father’s happiness seemed her first incentive; without him no amusement was enjoyed, without him no study entered upon; he was her friend, guardian, and protector; and no language can express, no heart (except a paternal one) conceive the rapture he felt, at seeing a creature grow under
—— his forming hand
———— so fair,
That what seemed fair, in all the world, seem’d now
Mean, or in her contain’d.
Some years had elapsed since Oscar’s departure, ere Colonel Belgrave returned into their neighbourhood; he came soon after his nuptials had been celebrated in Ireland, with a lady of that country, whom Oscar’s letters described as possessing every personal and mental charm, which could please or captivate the heart. Colonel Belgrave came unaccompanied by his fair bride. Fitzalan, who believed him his benefactor, and consequently regarded him as a friend (still thinking it was through his means Lord Cherbury had served him,) immediately waited upon him, and invited him to his house. The invitation after some time was accepted; but had he imagined what an attraction the house contained, he would have long hesitated about entering it; he was a man, indeed, of the most 32 depraved principles, and an object he admired, no tie or situation, however sacred, could guard from his pursuit.
Amanda was too much a child, when he was last in the country, to attract his observation: he had therefore no idea that the blossom he then so carelessly overlooked had since expanded in such beauty.
How great was then his rapture and surprise, when Fitzalan led into the room where he had received him, a tall, elegantly formed girl, whose rosy cheeks were dimpled with the softest smile of complacence, and whose fine blue eyes beamed with modesty and gratitude upon him. He instantly marked her for his prey, and blessed his lucky stars, which had inspired Fitzalan with the idea of his being his benefactor, since that would give him a freer access to the house than he could otherwise have hoped for.
From this time he became almost an inmate of it, except when he chose to contrive little parties at his own, for Amanda: he took every opportunity that offered, without observation, to try to ingratiate himself into her favour; these opportunities the unsuspecting temper of Fitzalan allowed to be frequent; he would as soon have trusted Amanda to the care of Belgrave, as to that of her brother, and never, therefore, prevented her walking out with him, when he desired it, or receiving him in the morning, while he (himself) was absent about the affairs of his farm; delighted to think the conversation or talents of his daughter (for Amanda frequently sung and played for the colonel) could contribute to the amusement of his friend. Amanda innocently increased his flame, by the attention she paid, which she considered but a just tribute of gratitude for his services: she delighted in talking to him of her dear Oscar; and often mentioned his lady, but was surprised to find he always waved the latter subject.
Belgrave could no longer restrain the impetuosity of his passions; the situation of Fitzalan (which he knew to be a distressed one) would, he fancied, forward his designs on his daughter; and what those designs were, he, by degrees, in a retired walk one day, unfolded to Amanda.
At first she did not perfectly understand him; but when, with increased audacity, he explained himself more fully, horror, indignation and surprise, took possession of her breast, and yielding to their feelings, she turned and fled to the house, as if from a monster. 33 Belgrave was provoked and mortified: the softness of her manners had tempted him to believe he was not indifferent to her, and that she would prove an easy conquest.
Poor Amanda would not appear in the presence of her father, till she had in some degree regained composure, as she feared the smallest intimation of the affair might occasion fatal consequences: as she sat with him, a letter was brought her; she could not think Belgrave would have the effrontery to write, and opened it, supposing it came from some acquaintance in the neighbourhood. How great was the shock she sustained on finding it from him! having thrown off the mask, he determined no longer to assume any disguise. Her paleness and confusion alarmed her father, and he instantly demanded the cause of her agitation; she found longer concealment was impossible, and throwing herself at her father’s feet, besought him, as she put the letter into his hands, to restrain his passion. When he perused it, he raised her up, and commanded her as she valued his love or happiness, to inform him of every particular, relative to the insult she had received: she obeyed, though terrified to behold her father trembling with emotion. When she concluded, he tenderly embraced her, and bidding her confine herself to the house, rose, and took down his hat: it was easy to guess whither he was going; her terror increased, and in a voice scarcely articulate, she besought him not to risk his safety. He commanded her silence with a sternness never before assumed; his manner awed her; but when she saw him leaving the room, her feelings could no longer be controlled; she rushed after him, and flinging her arms round his neck fainted on it. In this situation, the unhappy father was compelled to leave her to the care of a maid, lest her pathetic remonstrances should delay the vengeance he resolved to take on a wretch, who had meditated a deed of such atrocity against his peace. But Belgrave was not to be found. Scarcely, however, had Fitzalan returned to his half-distracted daughter, ere a letter was brought him from the wretch, in which he made the most degrading proposals, and bid Fitzalan beware how he answered them, as his situation had put him entirely into his power.
This was a fatal truth; Fitzalan had been tempted to make a large addition to his farm, from an idea of turning the little money he possessed to advantage, but was more ignorant of agriculture than he 34 imagined, and this ignorance, joined to his own integrity of heart, rendering him the dupe of some designing wretches in his neighbourhood, his whole stock dwindled away in unprofitable experiments and he was now considerably in arrears with Belgrave.
The ungenerous advantage he strove to take of his situation, increased, if possible, his indignation; and again he sought him, but still without success.
Belgrave soon found no temptation of prosperity would prevail on the father or daughter to accede to his wishes; he therefore resolved to try whether the pressure of adversity would render them more complying, and left the country, having first ordered his steward to proceed directly against Fitzalan.
The consequence of his order was an immediate execution on his effects: and, but for the assistance of a good-natured farmer, he would have been arrested. By this means, and under favour of night, he and Amanda set out for London; they arrived there in safety, and retired to obscure lodgings. In this hour of distress, Fitzalan conquered all false pride, and wrote to Lord Cherbury, entreating him to procure some employment which would relieve his present distressing situation; he cautiously concealed every thing relative to Belgrave; he could not bear that it should be known that he had ever been degraded by his infamous proposals.
Oscar’s safety, too, he knew, depended on his secrecy; as he was well convinced, no idea of danger, or elevation of rank, would secure the wretch from his fury, who had meditated so great an injury against his sister.
He had the mortification of having the letter he sent to Lord Cherbury returned, as his lordship was then absent from town; nor was he expected for some months, having gone on an excursion of pleasure to France. Some of these months had lingered away in all the horrors of anxiety and distress, when Fitzalan formed the resolution of sending Amanda into Wales, whose health had considerably suffered from the complicated uneasiness and terror she experienced on her own and her father’s account.
Belgrave had traced the fugitives; and though Fitzalan was guarded against all the stratagems he used to have him arrested, he found means to have letters conveyed to Amanda, full of base solicitations, and insolent declarations; that the rigour he treated her 35 father with was quite against his feelings, and should instantly be withdrawn, if he acceded to the proposals he made for her.
But though Fitzalan had determined to send Amanda into Wales, with whom could he trust his heart’s best treasure? At last the son of the worthy farmer, who had assisted him in his journey to London, occurred to his remembrance: he came often to town, and always called upon Fitzalan. The young man, the moment it was proposed, expressed the greatest readiness to attend Miss Fitzalan. As every precaution was necessary, her father made her take the name of Dunford, and travel in the mail coach for the greater security. He divided the contents of his purse with her, and recommending this lovely and most beloved child to the protection of Heaven, saw her depart with mingled pain and pleasure, promising to give her the earliest intelligence of Lord Cherbury’s arrival in town, which he supposed would fix his future destiny. Previous to her departure he wrote to the Edwins, informing them of her intended visit, and also her change of name for the present.—This latter circumstance, which was not satisfactorily accounted for, excited their warmest curiosity; and not thinking it proper to ask Amanda to gratify it, they, to use their own words, sifted her companion, who hesitated not to inform them of the indignities she had suffered from Colonel Belgrave, which were well known about his neighbourhood.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter II
should only share the affections and estates of her father.
“and estates” supplied from 1816 edition
she delighted in solitary rambles
final d in “delighted” invisible
and asked him if he had been admiring her picture.
text has and asking if
“And why,” cried he, “should Lady Malvina give way to melancholy,
text has lady Malvina
“as I, alas! too fatally experience
text has alas?
Malvina blushed and trembled.
the departure of the regiment from Scotland;
text has to Scotland
Her conscious eyes were instantly bent to the ground;
text has groud;
her daughter’s marriage with the marquis of Rosline.
text has Roseline.
driven forth my child, a forlorn and wretched wanderer!”
text has wanderer!’
embracing her husband, and blessing his children.
text has child.
from hearing his father speak of the services he had seen:
text has seen.
he would not have long hesitated about entering it
text has he would have long hesitated
Hail, sweet asylum of my infancy!
A gentle noise in her chamber roused Amanda from a light refreshing slumber