The Children of the Abbey
A song, a flower, a name, at once restore
Those long connected scenes when first they mov’d
Th’ attention ————————
The dejection of Amanda gradually declined, as the idea of seeing Lord Mortimer again revived. It revived not, however, without hopes, fears, and agitations. Sometimes she imagined she should find him devoted to Lady Euphrasia: then again believed his honour and sincerity would not allow him to give her up so suddenly, and that his apparent indifference proceeded from resentment, which would vanish if an opportunity once offered (and she trusted there would) for explaining her conduct. She endeavoured to calm the emotions these ideas gave rise to, by reflecting that a short time now would most probably terminate her suspense.
They stopped for the night, about five o’clock, at an inn about a mile from Tudor Hall. After dinner Amanda informed Lady Greystock, she wished to accompany Ellen to her parents. To this her ladyship made no objection, on finding she did not want the carriage. She charged her, however, not to forget the hour of tea, by which time she would be refreshed by a nap, and ready to engage her at a game of piquet.
They set out unattended, as Ellen refused the hostler’s offer of carrying her portmanteau, saying, “she would send for it the next day.” This she did by Amanda’s desire, who wished, unobserved, to pursue a walk, in which she promised herself a melancholy indulgence, from reviewing the well-known scenes endeared by tender recollections.
A mournful yet not undelightful sensation attends the contemplation of scenes where we once enjoyed felicity: departed joys are ever remembered with an enthusiasm of tenderness, which soothes the sorrows we experience for their loss.
Such were the present feelings of Amanda; while Ellen, undisturbed by regrets for the past, pointed out, with pleasure, the dwellings 214 of her intimates and friends. Yet when she came to Chip’s deserted cottage, she stopped, and a tear stole from her eye, accompanied at the same time by a smile, which seemed to say, though thou art now lonely and cheerless, the period is approaching when comfort and gaiety shall resume their stations within thee, when the blaze of thy fire and thy taper shall not only diffuse cheerfulness within, but without, and give a ray to the desolate or benighted traveller, to guide him to thy hospitable shelter.
Amanda, leaning on Ellen’s arm, proceeded slowly in her walk; the evening was delightful; the blue vault of heaven was spangled with stars, and the air without being severely cold, was clear and refreshing. The road, on one side, was skirted with the high woods of Tudor Hall. Amanda gazed on them with emotion: but when she came to the gate which Lord Mortimer had opened for her departure at the first interview, the softness of her heart could no longer be resisted; she stopped, leaned pensively upon it and wept. The evergreens with which the woods abounded, prevented their wearing a desolate appearance: she wished to have pierced into their most sequestered gloom, but she had no time to indulge this wish: nor did she indeed believe her companion, who was tinctured with superstitious fears, would have accompanied her. “When the glow of vegetation again revives,” said she to herself, “when the blossoms and the flowers again spread their spangled foliage to the sun, and every shade resounds with harmony, where, alas! will Amanda be? Far distant in all probability, from these delightful scenes, perhaps neglected and forgotten by their master.”
The awful murmurs of the wind, rustling through the trees, joined to the solemn sound of a neighbouring water-fall, began to excite fears in Ellen’s breast. She laid her trembling hand on Amanda, and besought her for the love of Cot, to hasten to the cottage. The road still wound round the wood, and lights from a small village, which lay on its borders, cast various shadows upon the trees, whilst the hum of distant voices floated upon the gale, and fancy pictured joyous groups of rustics assembling round their fires, to enjoy refreshment after the labours of the day.
“Peaceful people,” said Amanda, “when the wants of nature are satisfied, no care or trouble obtrudes upon your mind: tired, but not exhausted, with the toils of the day, with preparing the bosom of the 215 earth for the ethereal mildness of the spring, you seek and enjoy a calm repose.”
In the lane which led to her nurse’s cottage, Amanda paused for a moment; down this lane Lord Mortimer had once pursued her; she looked towards the mansion of Tudor Hall; she endeavoured to discern the library, but all was dark and dismal, except the wing which Ellen informed her was occupied by the domestics.—Through the window of Edwin’s cottage, they saw all the family seated round a blazing fire, chatting and laughing. The transports of Ellen’s heart overcame every idea of caution: she hastily unlatched the door, and flung herself into her parents’ arms; their surprise and joy was unbounded, and Amanda was received and welcomed with as much tenderness as their child, without ever asking the reason of their sudden appearance. The first question was, “Would she not stay with them?” and her answer filled them with regret and disappointment. Perceiving them about procuring her refreshments, “she declared she had not a minute to stay: the time allotted for her walk was already exceeded, and she feared Lady Greystock would be offended at being left so long at an inn by herself;” she therefore hastily presented some little presents she had brought for the family, and was bidding them farewell, when poor Ellen, who, from so long residing with the young lady, almost adored her, suddenly flung herself into her arms, and clinging round her neck, as if to prevent a separation, which, till the moment of its arrival, she thought she could have supported, exclaimed, “Oh, my tear young laty, we are going to part, and my heart sinks within me at the idea; even Chip himself, if he was here, could not console me. I know you are not happy and that increases my sorrow; your sweet cheek is pale, and I have often seen you cry, when you thought no poty was minding you; if you, who are so goot, are not happy, how can a peing like me hope to pe so. Oh may I soon pe plest with seeing you return the mistress of Tudor Hall, married to the sweetest handsomest nobleman—who I know in my soul loves you, as well inteed he may, for where he see the fellow of my young laty. Then Chip and I will be so happy, for I am sure you and my lort will shelter our humble cottage.”
Amanda prest the affectionate girl to her breast, and mingled tears with hers, while she softly whispered to her not to hint at such 216 an event; “but, be assured, my dearest Ellen,” continued she, “that I shall ever rejoice at your felicity, which to the utmost of my power I would promote, and hope soon to hear of your union with Chip.”
“Alack a tay,” said the nurse, “are you going away when I thought you come to stay among us; and then, perhaps, my lort would have come, and then there would have peen such a happy meeting: why, I verily thought he would have gone distracted when he found you, as one may say, run away; and to pe sure I did pity him, and should have made no scruple to tell him where you were, had I known it myself, which he suspected, for he offered me a sight of money if I would discover. Then there is Parson Howell, why, he has peen like unto nothing put a ghost since you went away; and he does so sigh—and he comes almost every tay to ask me apout you, and whether I think or know Lort Mortimer is with you; he will pe in such grief to think you were here without his seeing you.”
“Well,” said Amanda, endeavouring to appear cheerful, “we may all yet have a happy meeting.”
She then repeated her farewell, and leaning on the arm of old Edwin, returned to the inn, where she again bid him adieu, and hastening to her ladyship, found her just awaking from a comfortable slumber. They drank tea, and after playing for about an hour at piquet, retired to rest. Amanda, who enjoyed but little repose, rose early in the morning, and finding her ladyship not quite ready, went down into the court to walk about till she was, where, to her great surprise, the first object she perceived was Howell, leaning pensively against a gate, opposite the house. He flew over, and catching her hand, exclaimed—
“You are surprised, but, I trust, not displeased. I could not resist such an opportunity of seeing you once more, after all I have suffered from your precipitate journey, and the probability of never beholding you. I have been watching here, in expectation of this happiness, since the first dawn of day.”
“I am sorry,” said Amanda, gravely, “your time was so ill employed.”
“How coldly you speak,” cried he; “ah! could you read my heart, you would see so little presumption in it, that you would, I am confident, pity, though you could not relieve its feeling. Every spot you loved to frequent, I have haunted since your departure; your mother’s 217 grave has often been the scene of pensive meditation; nor has it wanted its vernal offering; the loveliest flowers of my garden I have wove into wreaths, and hung them o’er it, in fond remembrance of her angel daughter.”
The plaintive sound of Howell’s voice, the dejection of his countenance, excited the softest feelings of sensibility in Amanda’s bosom; but she grew confused by the tenderness of his expression, and saying she was happy to see him, tried to disengage her hand, that she might retire.
“Surely,” said he, still detaining it, “a few moments you might grant me without reluctance; you who are going to enjoy every happiness and pleasure, going to meet the favoured—”
Amanda anticipated the name he was about uttering, and her confusion redoubled. She attempted again, yet in vain, to withdraw her hand, and turned to see whether any one was observing them; how great was her mortification on perceiving Lady Greystock leaning from a window exactly over their heads. She smiled significantly at Amanda, on being seen, and the carriage being ready, said she would attend her below Howell now relinquished Amanda’s hand; he saw she looked displeased, and expressed such sorrow, accompanied with such submissive apologies for offending her, that she could not avoid according him her pardon. He handed both her and Lady Greystock into the carriage, and looked a melancholy adieu as it drove off.
“Upon my word, a pretty smart young fellow,” said Lady Greystock; “though impatient this long time to set out, I could not think of interrupting the interesting tête-à-tête I saw between you and him. I suppose you have been a resident in this part of the country before, from your seeming to know this tender swain so well.”
Amanda wished to avoid acknowledging this; if known, she feared it would lead to a discovery, or, at least, excite a suspicion of her intimacy with Lord Mortimer, which she was desirous of concealing, while in this uncertainty concerning him.
“Your ladyship has heard, I believe,” replied she, “that Ellen’s mother nursed me.”
“Yes, my dear,” answered her ladyship, with some smartness; “but if your acquaintance even commenced with this youth in infancy, I fancy it has been renewed since that period.”218
Amanda blushed deeply, and to hide her confusion, pretended to be looking at the prospect from the window. Lady Greystock’s eyes pursued hers. Tudor Hall was conspicuous from the road, and Amanda involuntarily sighed as she viewed it.
“That is a fine domain,” said Lady Greystock, “I presume you have visited it, and know its owner.”
Amanda could not assert a falsehood; neither could she evade the inquiries of Lady Greystock, and therefore, not only confessed its being the estate of Lord Mortimer, but her own residence near it the preceding summer. Her ladyship immediately conjectured it was then the attachment between her and Lord Mortimer commenced; and the blushes, the hesitations, and the unwillingness of Amanda in owning her visit to Wales, all confirmed this conjecture. She tried, however, to insinuate herself into her full confidence, by warm expressions of esteem, and by hinting that from the disposition of Lord Mortimer, she could not believe he ever did, or ever would think seriously of Lady Euphrasia; this she hoped would either induce or betray Amanda to open her whole heart, but she was disappointed. She flattered herself, however, with thinking she had discovered enough to satisfy the marchioness, if she (as Lady Greystock feared she would) expressed any disapprobation at seeing Amanda her companion; she intended saying, that Fitzalan had absolutely forced her under her protection.
They arrived late in the evening of the third day at Pall Mall, where her ladyship’s agent had previously taken lodgings for them.
Lady Greystock, though immersed in business against the approaching trial, neglected no means of amusement; and the day after her arrival sent a card of inquiry to the Rosline family, as the most eligible mode of informing them of it. The next morning, as she expected, she received a visit from them. Amanda was sitting in the window when the carriage drove up to the door; she instantly arose and left the room, determined neither to expose herself to their impertinence, nor appear solicitous for their notice, by staying in their company uninvited. Lady Greystock soon informed them of Amanda’s having accompanied her to London; and they, as she expected, expressed both surprise and displeasure at it. As she had settled in her own mind, she therefore told them, “that Fitzalan had urged her to take his daughter under her care, with entreaties she 219 could not resist; entreaties,” she added, with a significant look, “she believed he had good reason for making.” She then related all she suspected, or rather had discovered, relative to the attachment between Lord Mortimer and Amanda, having commenced the preceding summer in Wales.
The marchioness and Lady Euphrasia instantly concluded she was sent to London for the purpose of having it completed by a marriage. This, however, they determined to prevent. The marchioness felt the most inveterate hatred against her, and also that to prevent her being advantageously settled, even if that settlement threatened not to interfere with the one she had projected for her daughter, she could undertake almost any project. Though she abhorred the idea of noticing her, yet she was tempted now to do so, from the idea that it would better enable her to watch her actions. This idea she communicated in a hasty whisper to Lady Euphrasia, who approving of it, she told Lady Greystock, “as Miss Fitzalan was her guest, she would, on that account, permit her to be introduced to them.” Amanda was accordingly sent for. On entering the room, Lady Greystock took her hand, and presented her to the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia. The former, half rising, with a coldness she could not conquer, said, “Whenever Lady Greystock honoured her with a visit, she should be happy to see Miss Fitzalan along with her.” The latter only noticed her by a slight bow; and when Amanda drew a chair near the sofa on which she sat, or rather inclined, she continued staring in her face, and alternately humming an Italian air, and caressing a little dog she had brought with her. The unembarrassed elegance of Amanda’s air and manner surprised and mortified them; as they expected to have seen her covered with confusion at an introduction so unexpected. To their haughty souls nothing was more delightful than the awe and deference which vulgar and illiberal minds are so apt to pay to rank and fortune. They were provoked to see in Amanda conscious dignity, instead of trembling diffidence. As she sat by Lady Euphrasia, the marchioness could not help secretly confessing she was a dangerous rival to her daughter; for never did her lovely features and ingenuous countenance appear to such advantage, as when contrasted to Lady Euphrasia’s. The marchioness withdrew soon after her entrance, unable longer to restrain the malignant passions which envy and hatred had excited.220
Both she and Lady Euphrasia were convinced that to communicate their suspicions at present to Lord Cherbury, about her and his son, would not answer the end proposed; for it could be of little consequence, they reflected, to withdraw the esteem of the father, if that of the son continued: who, independent in his notions, and certain of the fortunes of his ancestors, might not hesitate to gratify himself. The point therefore was, by some deep laid scheme, to ruin Amanda in the estimation of Lord Mortimer; and if in the power of mortals to contrive and execute such a scheme, they gave themselves credit for being able to effect it.
The blow at her fond hopes they resolved should be followed by one against the peace of Fitzalan, on whom they knew, whenever they pleased, they could draw the resentment of Lord Cherbury; thus should they completely triumph over the lovely Amanda; plunge two beings they detested into poverty and wretchedness; destroy expectations which interfered with their own, and secure an alliance with a man they had long wished to unite to their family.
From the unaltered indifference of Lord Mortimer to Lady Euphrasia, they were convinced of his predilection for another. Flattering themselves that nothing but a prior attachment could have rendered him insensible to the attractions of her ladyship; to render the object of his attachment contemptible in his sight, they believed, would produce the transfer of affections they so long desired. The haughty soul of Lady Euphrasia would never have permitted her to think of accepting Lord Mortimer (after his neglect of her), but by the opportunity she should have by such an acceptance, of triumphing over Amanda; from this idea, she entered warmly into all her mother’s plans.
Lord Cherbury had never yet spoken explicitly to his son concerning the union he had projected for him; he often, indeed, dropped hints about it, which he always either neglected, or purposely misunderstood; and from these circumstances was pretty sensible of the disinclination Lord Mortimer felt to his wishes; he knew he entertained high notions of the independence which a rational mind has a right to maintain, and that in an affair of such consequence, as Mortimer frequently said he considered matrimonial connection to be, he would neither be controlled by the opinion of others, nor merely allured by the advantage of fortune.221
To avoid a disagreeable argument with a son he not only loved but respected, he sought rather, by indirect means, to involve him in an entanglement with the Rosline family, than come to an open explanation with him. For this purpose, he contrived parties as often as possible with them into public; when, by Lord Mortimer’s being seen with Lady Euphrasia, reports might be raised of an intended alliance between them; reports which he, himself, propagated among some particular friends, with a desire of having them circulated: but an injunction of secrecy as to their author; these reports would, he trusted, on reaching Lord Mortimer, lead to a discussion of the affair; and then he meant to say as Lord Mortimer had partly contributed to raise them himself, by his attendance on Lady Euphrasia, he could not possibly, with honor, recede from realizing them: yet often did his lordship fear his scheme would prove abortive; for well he knew the cool judgment and keen penetration of his son: this fear always inspired him with horror, for he had a motive for desiring the union which he durst not avow.
Lord Mortimer quickly indeed discerned what his father’s views were, in promoting his attendance on Lady Euphrasia; he therefore avoided her society whenever it was possible to do so, without absolute rudeness; and contradicted the reports he almost continually heard, of an intended alliance between them, in the most solemn manner: he had always disliked her, but latterly that dislike was converted into hatred, from the malevolence of her conduct towards Amanda; and he felt, that even were his heart free, he never could devote his to her or give his hand where it must be unaccompanied with esteem; he wished to avoid a disagreeable conversation with Lord Cherbury, and flattered himself, his unalterable indifference to her ladyship would at length convince his lordship of the impossibility of accomplishing his projected scheme, and that consequently it would be dropped ere openly avowed, and he saved the painful necessity of absolutely rejecting a proposal of his father.
In the evening Lady Greystock and Amanda received cards for dinner the next day at the Marquis of Rosline’s. Amanda made no objection to this invitation; her father had often declared if the marchioness made an overture for an intimacy with his children, he would not reject it, as he always deemed family quarrels highly prejudicial to both parties, with regard to the opinion of the world; 222 besides, had he objected to it, she should either have been a restraint on Lady Greystock, or left to total solitude; and the idea also stole upon her mind that she should lose a chance of seeing Lord Mortimer, who, she supposed, was a frequent guest of the marquis’s. Her heart fluttered at the idea of soon beholding him; and the bright glow of animation which overspread her countenance, in consequence of this idea, attracted the observation of Lady Greystock, who congratulated her on the alteration that was already visible in her looks, and inferred from thence, that she was so well recovered from her fatigue, as to be able to contrive a little trimming for her against the next day. This Amanda cheerfully undertook, and having a quick execution, as well as an elegant taste, she soon made a progress in it, which delighted her ladyship; who, to divert her whilst she worked, related some of the many entertaining anecdotes with which her memory was stored.
Though Amanda submitted her beautiful hair to the hands of a frizzier, she departed not from the elegant simplicity always conspicuous in her dress; her little ornaments were all arranged with taste, and an anxious wish of appearing to advantage; so lovely indeed did she appear to Lady Greystock, that her ladyship began seriously to fear that she should not be forgiven by the marchioness, or Lady Euphrasia, for having introduced such an object to their parties.
About six they reached Portman Square, and found a large party assembled in the drawing-room. After the first compliments were over, and Amanda introduced to the marquis—not indeed as a near relation, but an utter stranger; a gentleman stepped up to the marchioness, and addressing her in a low voice, was immediately presented by her to Amanda, as the Earl of Cherbury. “My dear young lady,” said he, “allow me to express the pleasure I feel at seeing the daughter of my worthy friend, Mr. Fitzalan; allow me also to increase that pleasure,” continued he, taking her hand and leading her to a very lovely girl, who sat at some distance, “by presenting Miss Fitzalan to Lady Araminta Dormer, and desiring their friendship for each other.”
Surprised and confused, yet delighted by notice so little expected, the heart of Amanda heaved with emotion; her cheeks mantled with blushes, and the tear of sensibility trembled in her eye: she was not, however, so embarrassed as to be incapable of expressing her 223 acknowledgment to his lordship for his attention, and also to assure him, she had early been taught, and sensibly felt the claims he had upon her gratitude and respect. He bowed as if to prevent a further mention of obligations, and left her seated by his daughter, who had expressed her pleasure at being introduced to her, not in the supercilious style of Lady Euphrasia, but in the sweet accents of affability and tenderness.
The conduct of Lord Cherbury had drawn all eyes upon Amanda: the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia regarded her with peculiar malignancy; the idea, however, that they could, whenever they pleased, deprive her of his notice, a little lessened the jealousy and mortification it had excited.
“Pray who is this little creature?” exclaimed Miss Malcolm (who was a relation of the marquis’s, and from being extremely ugly, extremely rich, and extremely ill-natured, was an immense favourite of Lady Euphrasia’s) “that puts one in mind of a country miss, on her first appearance at a country assembly, blushing and trembling at every eye she meets?”
“Some kind of a far off relation of my mother’s,” replied Lady Euphrasia, “whom that old Lady Greystock, picked up in the wilds of Ireland, and has absolutely forced her upon our notice; though I assure you, from compassion, we should have taken the poor creature long ago under our protection, but for the shocking conduct of her family to the marchioness, and the symptoms she has already betrayed of following their example: it is really ridiculous sending her to London—I dare say her silly old father has exhausted all his ways and means in trying to render her comforting himself, no doubt, with the hope of her entrapping some young fool of quality, who may supply his wants as well as hers.”
“Ay, I suppose all the stock in the farm was sold to dress her out,” cried young Freelove, a little trifling fop, who leaned on the back of her ladyship’s chair; he was a ward of Lord Cherbury’s and his fortune considerable, but nature had not been quite as bounteous to him as the blind goddess; both his mind and person were effeminate to a degree of insignificance: all he aimed at was being a man of fashion: his manners, like his dress, were therefore regulated by it, and he never attempted to approve of any thing, or any creature, till 224 time on Lady Euphrasia, and she encouraged his assiduities, in hopes of effecting a change in Lord Mortimer’s manner; but had his lordship even been a passionate lover, poor Freelove was not calculated to inspire him with jealousy. “I declare,” continued he, surveying Amanda through an opera glass which dangled from his button hole, “if her father has nothing to support him, but the hope of her making a conquest of importance, he will be in a sad way, for ’pon my soul, I can see nothing the girl has to recommend her, except novelty, and that, you know, is a charm which will lessen every day: all she can possibly expect is an establishment for a few months with some tasteless being, who may like the simplicity of her country look——”
“And more than she merits,” exclaimed Miss Malcolm; “I have no patience with such creatures forcing themselves into society quite above them.”
“I assure you,” said Lady Euphrasia, “you would be astonished at her vanity and conceit, if you knew her: she considers herself a first-rate beauty, though positively any one may see she is quite the reverse, and pretends to the greatest gentleness and simplicity; then she has made some strange kind of people, to be sure they must be, believe she is accomplished; though I dare say, if she can read tolerably, and scrawl out a decent letter, ’tis all she can do.”
“We will quiz her after dinner, about her accomplishments,” said Freelove, “and have a little fun with her.”
“Ay, do,” cried Miss Malcolm. “We will ask her to play and sing,” said her ladyship; “for I assure you she pretends to excel in both; though from her father’s poverty, I am certain she can know little of either: I shall enjoy her confusion of all things, when her ignorance is detected.”
While this conversation was passing, Amanda, in conversing with Lady Araminta, experienced the purest pleasure. Her ladyship was the “softened image” of Lord Mortimer; her voice was modulated to the same harmony as his, and Amanda gazed and listened with rapture. On her confusion abating, her eye had wandered round the room in quest of his lordship, but he was not in it. At every stir near the door her heart fluttered at the idea of seeing him; nor was the idea relinquished, till summoned to dinner. She fortunately procured a seat next Lady Araminta, which prevented her thinking the time spent at dinner tedious. In the evening the rooms were 225 crowded with company, but Lord Mortimer appeared not among the brilliant assembly; yet the pang of disappointment was softened to Amanda by his absence intimating that he was not anxious for the society of Lady Euphrasia:—true, business, or a prior engagement, might have prevented his coming, but she, as is natural, fixed on the idea most flattering to herself.
Lady Euphrasia, in pursuance of the plan laid against Amanda, led the way to the music-room, attended by a large party; as Freelove had intimated to some of the beaux and belles, her ladyship and he were going to quiz an ignorant Irish country girl. Lady Euphrasia sat down to the harpsichord, that she might have a better pretext for asking Amanda to play.—Freelove seated himself by the latter, and began a conversation, which he thought would effectually embarrass her; but it had quite a contrary effect, rendering him so extremely ridiculous, as to excite a universal laugh at his expense. Amanda soon perceived his intention in addressing her, and also, that Lady Euphrasia and Miss Malcolm were privy to it, having caught the significant looks which passed among them. Though alive to every feeling of modesty, she had too much sense, and real nobleness of soul, to allow the illiberal sallies of impertinence to divest her of composure.
“Have you seen any of the curiosities of London, my dear,” exclaimed Freelove, lolling back in his chair, and contemplating the lustre of his buckles, unconscious of the ridicule he excited.
“I think I have,” said Amanda, somewhat archly, and glancing at him, “quite an original in its kind.” Her looks, as well as the emphasis on her words, excited another laugh at his expense, which threw him into a momentary confusion.
“I think,” said he, as he recovered from it, “the Monument and the Tower would be prodigious fine sights to you, and I make a particular request that I may be included in your party whenever you visit them: particularly the last place.”
“And why,” replied Amanda, “should I take the trouble of visiting wild beasts, when every day I may see animals equally strange, and not half so mischievous?”
Freelove, insensible as he was, could not mistake the meaning of Amanda’s words, and he left her with a mortified air being to use his own phrase. “completely done up.”226
Lady Euphrasia, now rising from the harpsichord, requested Amanda to take her place at it; saying, with an ironical air, “her performance (which indeed was shocking) would make hers appear to amazing advantage.”
Diffident of her own abilities, Amanda begged to be excused; but when Miss Malcolm, with an earnestness even oppressive, joined her entreaties to Lady Euphrasia’s, she could no longer refuse.
“I suppose,” said her ladyship, following her to the instrument, “these songs,” presenting her some trifling ones, “will answer you better than the Italian music before you.”
Amanda made no reply, but turned over the leaves of book to a lesson much more difficult than that Lady Euphrasia had played. Her touch at first was tremulous and weak, but she was too susceptible of the powers of harmony, not soon to be inspired by it; and gradually her style became so masterly and elegant, as to excite universal admiration, except in the bosoms of those who had hoped to place her in a ludicrous situation; their individual scheme, instead of depressing, had only served to render excellence conspicuous, and that mortification they destined for another fell upon themselves. When the lesson was concluded, some gentlemen who either were, or pretended to be, musical connoisseurs, entreated her to sing. She chose a plaintive Italian air, and the exquisite taste and sweetness with which she sung, equally astonished and delighted; nor was admiration confined to the accomplishments she displayed; the soft expression of her countenance, which seemed according to the harmonious sounds that issued from her lips, was viewed with pleasure, and praised with energy; and she rose from the harpsichord covered with blushes, from the applause which stole around her. The gentlemen gathered round Lady Euphrasia, to inquire who the beautiful stranger was, and she gave them pretty much the same account she had already done to Miss Malcolm.
The rage and disappointment of that young lady, and her ladyship, could scarcely be concealed.
“I declare, I never knew anything so monstrously absurd,” exclaimed Lady Euphrasia, “as to let a girl in her situation learn such things, except, indeed, it was to qualify her for a governess, or an opera singer.”
“Ay, I suppose,” said Miss Malcolm, “we shall soon hear her quivering 227 away at one of the theatres, for no person of fashion would really intrust their children to so confident a creature.”
The fair object of their disquietude gladly accompanied Lady Araminta into another room; several gentlemen followed, and crowded about her chair, offering that adulation which they were accustomed to find acceptable at the shrine of beauty: to Amanda, however, it was irksome, not only from its absurd extravagance, but as it interrupted her conversation with Lady Araminta. The marchioness, however, who critically watched her motions, soon relieved her from the troublesome assiduities of the beaux, by placing them at card tables: not, indeed, from any good-natured motive, but she could not bear that Amanda should have so much attention paid her, and flattered herself she would be vexed by losing it.
In the course of conversation Lady Araminta mentioned Ireland. “She had a faint remembrance of Castle Carberry,” she said, “and had been half tempted to accompany the marquis and his family in their late excursion: her brother,” she added, “had almost made her promise to visit the castle with him the ensuing summer.—You have seen Lord Mortimer, to be sure,” continued her ladyship.
“Yes, madam,” faltered Amanda, while her face was overspread with crimson hue. Her ladyship was too penetrating not to perceive her confusion, and it gave rise to a conjecture of something more than a slight acquaintance between his lordship and Amanda. The melancholy he had betrayed on his return from Ireland, had excited the raillery of her ladyship, till convinced, by the discomposure he showed whenever she attempted to inquire into the occasion of it, that it proceeded from a source truly interesting to his feelings. She knew of the alliance her father had projected for him with the Rosline family, a project she never approved of, for Lady Euphrasia was truly disagreeable to her; and a soul like Mortimer’s, tender, liberal, and sincere, she knew could never experience the smallest degree of happiness with a being so uncongenial in every respect as was Lady Euphrasia to him. She loved her brother with the truest tenderness, and secretly believed he was attached in Ireland. She wished to gain his confidence, yet would not solicit it, because she knew she had it not in her power essentially to serve him: her arguments, she was convinced, would have little weight with Lord Cherbury, who had often expressed to her his anxiety for a connexion with the Rosline 228 family. With the loveliness of Amanda’s person, with the elegance of her manner, she was immediately charmed: as she conversed with her, esteem was added to admiration, and she believed that Mortimer would not have omitted mentioning to her the beautiful daughter of his father’s agent, had he not feared betraying too much emotion at her name. She appeared, to Lady Araminta, just the kind of a woman he would adore, just the being that would answer all the ideas of perfection (romantic ideas she had called them,) which he had declared necessary to captivate his heart. Lady Araminta already felt for her unspeakable tenderness; in the softness of her looks, in the sweetness of her voice, there were resistless charms; and she felt, that if oppressed by sorrow, Amanda Fitzalan, above all other beings, was the one she would select to give her consolation. The confusion she betrayed at the mention of Mortimer, made her ladyship suspect she was the cause of this dejection. She involuntarily fastened her eyes upon her face, as if to penetrate the recesses of her heart, yet with a tenderness which seemed to say, she would pity the secret she might there discover.
Lord Cherbury, at this moment of embarrassment to Amanda, approached. He said “he had just been making a request and an apology to Lady Greystock, and was now come to repeat them to her. The former was to meet the marquis’s family at his house the next day at dinner; and the latter was to excuse so unceremonious an invitation, which he had been induced to make on Lady Araminta’s account, who was obliged to leave town the day after the next, and had, therefore, no time for the usual etiquette of visiting.”
Amanda bowed. This invitation was more pleasing than one of more form would have been; it seemed to indicate friendship, and a desire to have the intimacy between her and his daughter cultivated, it gave her also a hope of seeing Lord Mortimer. All these suggestions inspired her with uncommon animation, she entered into a lively conversation with Lord Cherbury, who had infinite vivacity in his look and manner. Lady Araminta observed the attention he paid her with pleasure; a prepossession in her favour, she trusted, might produce pleasing consequences.
Lady Greystock, at length, rose to depart—Amanda received an affectionate adieu from Lady Araminta; and Lord Cherbury attended the ladies to their carriage. On driving off, Lady Greystock observed, 229 what a charming, polite man his lordship was; and, in short, threw out such hints, and entered into such a warm eulogium on his merits, that Amanda began to think he would not find it very difficult to prevail on her ladyship to enter once more the temple of Hymen.
Amanda retired to her chamber, in a state of greater happiness than for a long period before she had experienced; but it was happiness which rather agitated, than soothed the feelings, particularly hers, which were so susceptible of every impression, that
They turned at the touch of joy or woe,
And turning, trembled too.
Her present happiness was the offspring of hope, and therefore peculiarly liable to ; a hope derived from the attentions of Lord Cherbury, and the tenderness of Lady Araminta, that the fond wishes of her heart might yet be realized; wishes, again believed, from hearing of Lord Mortimer’s dejection, (which his sister had touched upon) from his absenting himself from the marquis’s, were not uncongenial to those he himself entertained. She sat down to acquaint her father with the particulars of the day she had passed, for her chief consolation in her absence from him, was, in the idea of writing and hearing constantly; her writing finished, she sat by the fire, meditating on the interview she expected would take place on the ensuing day, till the hoarse voice of the watchmen proclaiming past three o’clock, roused her from the reverie; she smiled at the abstraction of her thoughts, and retired to bed to dream of felicity.
So calm were her slumbers, and so delightful her dreams, that Sol had long shot his timorous ray into her chamber ere she awoke. Her spirits still continued serene and animated. On descending to the drawing-room, she found Lady Greystock just entering it. After breakfast, they went out in her ladyship’s carriage to different parts of the town. All was new to Amanda, who, during her former residence in it, had been entirely confined to lodgings in a retired street. She wondered at, and was amused by the crowds continually passing and repassing. About four they returned to dress. Amanda began the labours of the toilet with a beating heart; nor were its quick pulsations decreased on entering Lady Greystock’s carriage, which in a few minutes conveyed her to Lord Cherbury’s house in 230 St. James’s Square. She followed her ladyship with tottering steps; and the first object she saw, on entering the drawing-room, was Mortimer standing near the door.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXIV
for where would he see the fellow of my young laty
text has whould
she would attend her below stairs.
text has stairs.”
whom that old dowager, Lady Greystock, picked up in the wilds of Ireland
first , missing
exhausted all his ways and means in trying to render her decent;
till assured they were quite the ton; he had danced attendance for some time on Lady Euphrasia,
missing line “assured . . . some” supplied from 1800 and 1816 editions
Though tremblingly alive to every feeling of modesty
text has trembling
Amanda made no reply, but turned over the leaves of the book
text has a book
uncommon animation, and she entered into a lively conversation
text has animation, had she entered
the offspring of hope, and therefore peculiarly liable to disappointment;
text has dissappointment;
A month after the departure of Lord Mortimer, the Rosline family left Ulster Lodge.
In the drawing-room were already assembled the marquis, marchioness, Lady Euphrasia, Miss Malcolm, and Freelove.