The Children of the Abbey
Begone my cares, I give you to the winds.
In the drawing-room were already assembled the marquis, marchioness, Lady Euphrasia, Miss Malcolm, and Freelove. Lady Araminta perceived, in the hesitating voice of Amanda, the emotions which agitated her, and which were not diminished, when Lord Cherbury taking her trembling hand, said,
“Mortimer, I presume you have already seen Miss Fitzalan in Ireland.”
“I have, my lord,” cried Mortimer, bowing, and at the same time approaching to pay his compliments.
Every eye in the room, except Lord Cherbury’s and Freelove’s, was now turned upon his lordship and Amanda, and thought, in the expressive countenances of both, enough could be read to confirm their suspicions of a mutual attachment subsisting between them.
Amanda, when seated, endeavoured to recover from her confusion. Miss Malcolm, to prevent Lord Mortimer’s taking a seat by her, which she thought she perceived him inclined to do, beckoned him to her, and contrived to engage him in trifling chat, till they were summoned to dinner. On receiving his hand, which he could not avoid offering, to lead her to the parlour, she cast a look of exultation at Amanda. Lady Araminta perceiving all the gentlemen engaged, good humouredly put her arm within Amanda’s, and said she would be her chaperon on the present occasion. Lord Mortimer quitted Miss Malcolm the moment he had procured her a seat, though she desired him to take one between her and Lady Euphrasia, and passing to the other side, placed himself by Amanda. This action pleased her as much as it mortified them; it embarrassed her, however, a little; but perceiving the scrutinizing earnestness with which the marchioness 231 and Lady Euphrasia regarded her, she exerted her spirits, and was soon able to join the general conversation, which Lord Mortimer promoted.
The unexpected arrival of Amanda in London, astonished, and notwithstanding his resentment, delighted him. His sister, when they were alone in the morning, had mentioned her with all the fervency of praise; her plaudits gave him a sensation of satisfied pride, which convinced him he was not less than ever interested about Amanda. Since his return from Ireland, he had been distracted by incertitude and anxiety about her; the innocence, purity and tenderness she had displayed, were perpetually recurring to his memory; it was impossible, he thought, they could be feigned, and he began to think the apparent mystery of her conduct she could satisfactorily have explained; that designedly she had not avoided him: and that but for the impetuosity of his own passions, which had induced his precipitate departure, he might ere this have had all his doubts removed. Tortured with incessant regret for this departure, he would have returned immediately to Ireland, but at this period found it impossible to do so, without exciting inquiries from Lord Cherbury, which at present he did not choose to answer. He had planned an excursion thither the ensuing summer, with Lady Araminta, determined no longer to endure his suspense; he now almost believed the peculiar interposition of Providence had brought Amanda to town, thus affording him another opportunity of having his anxiety relieved, and the chief obstacle, perhaps, to his, and, he flattered himself, also to her happiness, removed: for if assured her precipitate journey from Wales was occasioned by no motive she need blush to avow, he felt he should be better enabled to combat the difficulties he was convinced his father would throw in the way of their union. Notwithstanding Lady Araminta’s endeavours to gain his implicit confidence, he resolved to withhold it from her, lest she should incur even the temporary displeasure of Lord Cherbury, by the warm interest he knew she would take in his affairs, if once informed of them.
Amanda looked thinner and paler than when he had seen her in Ireland, yet, if possible, more interesting from these circumstances; and, from the soft glance she had involuntarily directed towards him at the entrance, he was tempted to think he had, in some degree, contributed 232 to rob her lovely cheek of its bloom; and this idea rendered her dearer than ever to him.—Scarcely could he restrain the rapture he felt on seeing her, within the necessary bounds; scarcely could he believe the scene which had given rise to his happiness real; his heart at the moment, melting with tenderness, sighed for the period of explanation, which he trusted, which he hoped, would also be the period of reconciliation.
The gentlemen joined the ladies about tea time, and as no additional company were expected. Lady Euphrasia proposed a party to the Pantheon: this was immediately agreed to. Amanda was delighted at the proposal, as it not only promised to gratify her curiosity, but to give Lord Mortimer an opportunity of addressing her, as she saw he wished, but vainly attempted at home. The Marquis and Lord Cherbury declined going. Lady Greystock, who had not ordered her carriage till a much later hour, accepted a place in the marchioness’s.
Neither Lady Euphrasia, nor Miss Malcolm, could bear the idea of Lord Mortimer and Amanda going in the same carriage, as the presence of Lady Araminta, they were convinced, would not prevent their using an opportunity so propitious for conversing as they wished; Lady Euphrasia, therefore, with sudden eagerness, declared she and Miss Malcolm would resign their seats in the marchioness’s carriage, to Miss Fitzalan and Freelove, for the pleasure of accompanying Lady Araminta in hers. The marchioness, who conjectured her daughter’s motive for this new arrangement, seconded it, to the secret regret of Amanda, and the visible chagrin of Lord Mortimer. Amanda, however, consoled herself for this disappointment, by reflecting on the pleasure she should enjoy in a few minutes, when freed from the disagreeable observation of the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia. Her reflections were not in the least interrupted by any conversation being addressed to her. The marchioness and Lady Greystock chatted together, and Freelove amused himself humming a song, as if for the purpose of mortifying Amanda by his inattention. When the carriage stopped, he assisted the former ladies out: but as if forgetting such a being existed as Amanda, he went with them. She was descending the steps when Lord Mortimer pressed forward, and snatching her hand, softly exclaimed, “We have met again, and neither envy nor malice shall again separate us.” A beautiful glow 233 overspread the countenance of Amanda; her hand trembled in his, and she felt in that moment recompensed for her former disappointment, and elevated above the little insolence of Freelove. Lord Mortimer handed her to his sister, who was waiting to receive her, and they proceeded to the room. Lady Euphrasia entered it with a temper unfitted for enjoyment: she was convinced the whole soul of Mortimer was devoted to Amanda, and she trembled, from the violent and malignant feelings that conviction excited. From the moment he entered the carriage till he quitted it, he had remained silent, notwithstanding all her efforts, and Miss Malcolm’s to force him into conversation. He left them as soon as they reached the Pantheon, to watch the marchioness’s carriage, which followed theirs, and on rejoining Amanda, he attached himself entirely to her, without any longer appearing anxious to conceal his predilection for her. He had, indeed, forgotten the necessity there was for concealing it; all his feelings, all his ideas were engrossed by ecstasy and tenderness. The novelty, the brilliancy of the scene, excited surprise and pleasure in Amanda, and he was delighted with the animated description she gave of the effect it produced upon her mind. In her he found united, exalted sense, lively fancy, and an uncorrupted taste: he forgot that the eyes of jealousy and malevolence were on them; he forgot every object but herself.
But, alas! poor Amanda was doomed to disappointment this evening. Lady Greystock, according to a hint she had received, after a few rounds, stept up to her, and declared she must accompany her to a seat, as she was convinced her health was yet too weak to bear much fatigue. Amanda assured her she was not in the least fatigued, and that she would prefer walking: besides, she had half promised Lord Mortimer to dance with him. This Lady Greystock absolutely declared she would not consent to, though Lady Araminta, on whose arm Amanda leaned, pleaded for her friend, assuring her ladyship “she would take care Miss Fitzalan should not injure herself.”
“Ah, you young people,” said Lady Greystock, “are so carried away with spirits, you never reflect on consequences; but I declare, as she is intrusted to my care, I could not answer it to my conscience to let her run into any kind of danger.”
Lady Araminta remonstrated with her ladyship, and Amanda would have joined, but that she feared her real motive for so doing 234 would have been discovered. She perceived the party were detailed from proceeding on her account, and immediately offered her arm to Lady Greystock, and accompanied her and the marchioness to a seat, Lady Euphrasia, catching hold of Lady Araminta’s arm, hurried her, at the same instant, into the crowd; Miss Malcolm, as if by chance, laid her hand on Lord Mortimer, and thus compelled him to attend her party. She saw him, however, in the course of the round, preparing to fly off; but when they had completed it, to her inexpressible joy, the situation of Amanda made him relinquish his intention, as to converse with her was utterly impossible, for the marchioness had placed her between Lady Greystock and herself; and, under the pretence of frequently addressing her ladyship, was continually leaning across Amanda, so as to exclude her almost from observation, thus rendering her situation, exclusive of regret at being separated from Lord Mortimer and Lady Araminta, highly disagreeable. The marchioness enjoyed a malicious joy in the uneasiness she saw she gave Amanda: she deemed it but a slight retaliation for the uneasiness she had given Lady Euphrasia; a trifling punishment for the admiration she had excited.
Amanda, indeed, whilst surveying the scene around her with wonder and delight, had herself been an object of critical attention and inquiry; she was followed, universally admired, and allowed to be the finest girl that had appeared for a long season.
Relieved by her absence. Lady Euphrasia’s spirits began to revive, and her good humour to return. She laughed maliciously with Miss Malcolm, at the disappointment of Lord Mortimer and Amanda. After a few rounds, Sir Charles Bingley, in company with another gentleman, passed them: he was, to use Miss Malcolm’s own phrase, “an immense favourite with her,” and she had long meditated and attempted the conquest of his heart. The attention which politeness obliged him to show, and the compliments she sometimes compelled him to pay, she flattered herself, were intimations of the success of her scheme. Lady Euphrasia, notwithstanding her intentions relative to Lord Mortimer, and her profest friendship for Miss Malcolm, felt an ardent desire to have Sir Charles enrolled in the list of her admirers; and both ladies determined he should not again pass without noticing them. They accordingly watched his approach, and when they again met, addressed him in a manner that, to a man at 235 all interested about either, would have been truly flattering. As this, however, was not the young baronet’s case, after paying his compliments, in a general way, to the whole party, he was making his parting bow, when his companion, pulling him by the sleeve, bid him observe a beautiful girl sitting opposite to them. They had stopped near the marchioness’s seat, and it was to Amanda Sir Charles’s eyes were directed.
“Gracious heaven,” cried he, starting, while his cheek was suffused with a glow of pleasure, “can this be possible? Can this, in reality,” advancing to her seat, “be Miss Fitzalan? This surely,” continued he, “is a meeting as fortunate as unexpected; but for that, I should have been posting back to Ireland in a day or two.”
Amanda blushed deeply at thus publicly declaring her power of regulating his actions. Her confusion restored that recollection his joyful surprise had deprived him of, and he addressed the marchioness and Lady Greystock. The former haughtily bowed, without speaking; and the latter, laughing significantly, said, “she really imagined ecstasy on Miss Fitzalan’s account, had made him forget any one else was present.” The situation of Amanda was tantalizing in an extreme degree to Sir Charles: it precluded all conversation, and frequently hid her from his view, as the marchioness and Lady Greystock still continued their pretended whispers. Sir Charles had some knowledge of the marchioness’s disposition, and quickly perceived the motive of her present conduct.
“Your ladyship is kind,” said he, “in trying to hide Miss Fitzalan, as no doubt you are conscious ’tis not a slight heart-ache she would give to some of the belles present this evening; but why,” continued he, turning to Amanda, “do you prefer sitting to walking?”
Amanda made no answer; but a glance from her expressive eyes to the ladies, informed him of the reason.
Lady Euphrasia and Miss Malcolm, provoked at the abrupt departure of Sir Charles, had hurried on; but scarcely had they proceeded a few yards, ere envy and curiosity induced thorn to turn back. Lady Araminta perceived their chagrin, and sweetly enjoyed it. Sir Charles, who had been looking impatiently for their approach, the moment he perceived them, entreated Amanda to join them.
“Let me,” cried he, presenting his hand, “be your knight on the present occasion, and deliver you from what may be called absolute captivity.”236
She hesitated not to accept his offer; the continual buzz in the room, with the passing and re-passing of the company, had made her head giddy; she deemed no apology requisite to her companions and, quitting her seat, hastened forward to Lady Araminta, who hid stopped for her. A crowd at that moment intervening between them retarded her progress. Sir Charles, pressing her hand with fervour, availed himself of this opportunity to express his pleasure at their unexpected meeting.
“Ah! how little,” cried he, “did I imagine there was such happiness in store for me this evening!”
“Sir Charles,” said Amanda, endeavouring, though in vain, to withdraw her hand, “you have learned the art of flattering since your return to England.”
“I wish,” cried he, “I had learned the art of expressing as I wish the sentiments I feel.”
Lord Mortimer, who had made way through the crowd for the ladies, at this instant appeared; he seemed to recoil at the situation of Amanda, whose hand was yet detained in Sir Charles’s, while the soft glow and confusion of her face gave at least a suspicion of the language she was listening to.
On rejoining the party, she hoped again to have been joined by Lord Mortimer; but, even if inclined to do this, Sir Charles totally prevented him. His lordship deserted them, yet almost continually contrived to intercept the party, and his eyes were always turned on Amanda and Sir Charles; he was really displeased with her; he thought she might as well have left her seat before, as after Sir Charles’s appearance, and he resolved to watch her closely. She was asked to dance by Sir Charles, and several other gentlemen, but refused, and Lady Araminta, on her account, followed her example. Lady Euphrasia and Miss Malcolm either were too much discomposed, or not asked by gentlemen they liked, to join the festive group.
Amanda, from being disappointed, soon grew languid, and endeavoured to check, with more than usual seriousness, the ardent expressions of Sir Charles, who repeatedly declared, “he had hurried over the affairs which brought him to England, entirely on her account, as he thought every day an age till they again met.”
She was rejoiced when Lady Araminta proposed returning home. Lady Euphrasia and Miss Malcolm had no longer a desire to accompany 237 her ladyship, as they believed Lord Mortimer already gone, and she and Amanda, therefore, returned alone. Sir Charles was invited to supper, an invitation he joyfully accepted, and promised to follow her ladyship as soon as he had apprised the party he came with of his intention.
Lady Araminta and Amanda arrived some time before the rest of the party; her ladyship said, “that her leaving town was to attend the nuptials of a particular friend,” and was expressing her hopes, that on her return, she should often be favoured with the company of Amanda, when the door suddenly opened, and Lord Mortimer entered. He looked pleased and surprised, and taking a seat on the sofa between them, exclaimed, as he regarded them with unutterable tenderness, “Surely, one moment like this is worth whole hours, such as we have lately spent. May I,” looking at Amanda, “say, that chance is now propitious to me, as it was some time ago to Sir Charles Bingley? Tell me,” continued he, “were you not agreeably surprised to-night?”
“By the Pantheon? Undoubtedly, my lord.”
“And by Sir Charles Bingley?”
“No: he is too slight an acquaintance, either to give pleasure by his presence, or pain by his absence.”
This was just what Lord Mortimer wanted to hear.—The looks of Amanda, and above all, the manner in which she had received the attentions of Sir Charles, evinced her sincerity. The shadow of jealousy removed, Lord Mortimer recovered all his animation. Never does the mind feel so light, so truly happy, as when a painful doubt is banished from it.
“Miss Fitzalan,” said Lady Araminta, recurring to what Amanda had just said, “can see few beings like herself capable of exciting immediate esteem: for my part, I cannot persuade myself that she is an acquaintance of but two days, I feel such an interest in her welfare, such a sisterly regard.” She paused and looked expressively on her brother and Amanda. His fine eyes beamed the liveliest pleasure.
“Oh, my sister,” cried he, “encourage that sisterly affection: who so worthy of possessing it as Miss Fitzalan? and who but Amanda,” continued he, passing his arm around her waist, and softly whispering to her, “shall have a right to claim it?”238
The stopping of the carriages now announced the return of the party, and terminated a scene which, if much longer protracted, might, by increasing their agitation, have produced a full discovery of their feelings. The ladies were attended by Sir Charles and Freelove. The marquis and Lord Cherbury had been out, but returned about this time, and soon after supper the company departed, Lady Araminta tenderly bidding Amanda farewell.
The cares which had so long pressed upon the heart of Amanda, and disturbed its peace, were now vanished; the whisper of Lord Mortimer had assured her, that she was not only the object of his tenderest affections, but most serious attention; the regard of Lady Araminta flattered her pride, as it implied a tacit approbation of her brother’s choice.
The next morning immediately after breakfast. Lady Grey stock went out to her lawyer, and Amanda was sitting at work in the dressing room, when Sir Charles Bingley was announced. He now expressed, if possible, more pleasure, at seeing her, than he had done the preceding night; congratulated himself at finding her alone, and repeatedly declared, from their first interview her image had never been absent from his mind. The particularity and ardour of his expressions, Amanda wished and endeavoured to repress: she had not the ridiculous and unfeeling vanity to be delighted with an attachment she could not return; besides his attentions were unpleasing, as she believed they gave uneasiness to Lord Mortimer; she therefore answered him with cold and studied caution, which to his impetuous feelings, was insupportable. Half resenting, half rallying it, he snatched her hand, in spite of her efforts to prevent him, and was declaring he could not bear it, when the doors opened, and Lord Mortimer appeared.—Had Amanda been encouraging the regard of Sir Charles, she could not have betrayed more confusion. Lord Mortimer retreated a few steps in evident embarrassment; then bowing coolly, again advanced and took a seat. Sir Charles started up, with a look which seemed to say that he had been most unpleasantly interrupted, and walked about the room. Amanda was the first who broke silence; she asked in a hesitating voice, “Whether Lady Araminta was yet gone?”
“No,” his lordship gravely replied, “but in a few minutes she proposed setting out, and he meant to accompany her part of the way.”239
“So, till her ladyship was ready,” cried Sir Charles, with quickness, “that no time might be lost, you came to Miss Fitzalan?”
Lord Mortimer made no reply; he frowned, and rising directly, slightly saluted Amanda and retired.
Convinced, as she was, that Lord Mortimer had made the visit for the purpose of speaking more explicitly than he had yet done, she could not entirely conceal her chagrin, or regard Sir Charles without some displeasure. It had not, however, the effect of making him shorten his visit; he continued with her till Lady Greystock’s return, to whom he proposed a party that evening for the opera, and obtained permission to wait upon her ladyship at tea, with tickets, notwithstanding Amanda declared her disinclination to going: she wished to avoid the public as well as private attentions of Sir Charles: but both she found it impossible to do. The impression which the charms of her mind and form had made on him, was of too ardent, too permanent a nature to be erased by her coldness: generous and exalted in his notions, affluent and independent in his fortune, he neither required any addition of wealth, nor was under any control, which could prevent his following his inclinations: his heart was bent on an union with Amanda; though hurt by her indifference, he would not allow himself to be discouraged by it; time and perseverance, he trusted and believed, would conquer it. Unaccustomed to disappointment, he could not, in an affair which so materially concerned his happiness, bear the idea of proving unsuccessful. Had Amanda’s heart been disengaged, he would probably have succeeded as he wished; for he was calculated to please, to inspire admiration and esteem; and Amanda felt a real friendship for him, and sincerely grieved that his ardent regard could not be reduced to as temperate a medium as hers.
Lady Greystock had a numerous and brilliant acquaintance in London, amongst whom she was continually engaged. Sir Charles was well known to them, and therefore almost continually attended Amanda wherever she went. His unremitted and particular attention excited universal observation, and he was publicly declared the professed admirer of Lady Greystock’s beautiful companion. The appellation was generally bestowed on her by the ; as many of Lady Greystock’s female inmates declared, from the appearance of the girl, as well as her distressed situation, they wondered Sir 240 Charles Bingley could ever think about her; for her ladyship had represented her as a person in the most indigent circumstances, on which account she had taken her under her protection. All that envy, hatred, and malice could suggest against her, Miss Malcolm said. The marchioness and Lady Euphrasia, judging of her by themselves, supposed, that, as she was not sure of Lord Mortimer, she would accept of Sir Charles; and though this measure would remove all apprehensions relative to Lord Mortimer, yet the idea of the wealth and consequence she would derive from it, almost distracted them; thus does envy sting the bosoms which harbour it.
Lord Mortimer again resumed his reserve: he was frequently in company with Amanda, but never even attempted to pay her any attention; yet his eyes, which she so often caught rivetted on her, though the moment she perceived them they were withdrawn, seemed to say, that the alteration in his manner was not produced by any diminution of tenderness: he was indeed determined to regulate his conduct by hers to Sir Charles: though pained and irritated by his assiduities, he had too much pride to declare a prior claim to her regard; a woman who could waver between two objects, he deemed unworthy of either. He therefore resolved to leave Amanda free to act, and put her constancy to a kind of test: yet notwithstanding all his pride, we believe, if not pretty well convinced that this test would have proved a source of triumph to himself, he never would have submitted to it. The period for Lady Araminta’s return was now arrived, and Amanda was anxiously expecting her, when she heard from Lady Euphrasia, that her ladyship had been ill in the country, and would not therefore leave it for some time. This was a severe disappointment to Amanda, who had hoped by her ladyship’s means, to have seen less of Sir Charles, and more of Lord Mortimer.
The appellation was generally bestowed on her by the gentlemen;
text has gentleman;
The dejection of Amanda gradually declined, as the idea of seeing Lord Mortimer again revived.
Amanda was sitting alone in the drawing room one morning, when a gentleman was shown into it