The Children of the Abbey
Go bid the needle its dear north forsake,
To which with trembling rev’rence it doth bend;
Go bid the stones a journey upward take;
Go bid th’ ambitious flame no more ascend:
And when these false to their own motions prove,
Then will I cease, thee, thee alone to love.
In an emotion of surprise at so unexpected a visit, the book she was reading dropped from Amanda, and she arose in visible agitation.
“I fear,” said his lordship, “I have intruded somewhat abruptly upon you: but my apology for doing so, must be my ardent wish of using an opportunity so propitious for a mutual eclaircissement; an opportunity I might, perhaps, vainly seek again.”
He took her trembling hand, and leading her to a sofa, placed himself by her. As a means of leading her to the desired eclaircissement, he declared the agonies he had suffered at returning to Tudor Hall, and finding her gone—gone in a manner so inexplicable, that the more he reflected on it, the more wretched he grew. He described the hopes and fears which alternately fluctuated in his mind during his continuance in Ireland, and which often drove him into a state nearly bordering on distraction: he mentioned the resolution (though painful in the extreme) which he had adopted on the first appearance of Sir Charles Bingley’s particularity; and finally concluded, by assuring her, notwithstanding all his incertitude and anxiety, his tenderness had never known diminution.
Encouraged by this assurance, Amanda, with restored composure, informed him of the reason of her precipitate journey from Wales, and the incidents which prevented her meeting him in Ireland, as he had expected; though delicacy forbade her dwelling, like Lord Mortimer, on the wretchedness occasioned by their separation, and mutual misapprehensions of each other, she could not avoid touching upon it sufficiently, indeed, to convince him she had been a sympathizing participator in all the uneasiness he had suffered.
Restored to the confidence of Mortimer, Amanda appeared dearer to his soul than ever; pleasure beamed from his eyes as he pressed 250 her to his bosom, and exclaimed, “I may again call you my own Amanda; again sketch scenes of felicity, and call upon you to realize them.” Yet in the midst of this transport, a sudden gloom clouded his countenance; and after gazing on her some minutes with pensive tenderness, he fervently exclaimed, “would to heaven, in this hour of perfect reconciliation, I could say, that all obstacles to our future happiness were removed.”
Amanda involuntarily shuddered, and continued silent.
“That my father will throw difficulties in the way of our union, I cannot deny the apprehension of,” said Lord Mortimer: “though truly noble and generous in his nature, he is sometimes, like the rest of mankind, influenced by interested motives: he has long, from such motives, set his heart on a connexion with the Marquis of Rosline’s family; though fully determined in my intentions, I have hitherto forborne an explicit declaration of them to him, trusting that some propitious chance would yet second my wishes, and save me the painful necessity of disturbing the harmony which has ever subsisted between us.”
“Oh! my lord,” said Amanda, turning pale, and shrinking from him, “let me not be the unfortunate cause of disturbing that harmony; comply with the wishes of Lord Cherbury, marry Lady Euphrasia, and let me be forgotten.”
“Amanda,” cried his lordship, “accuse not yourself of being the cause of any disagreement between us: had I never seen you, with respect to Lady Euphrasia, I should have felt the same inability to comply with his wishes; to me, her person is not more unpleasing than her mind; I have long been convinced that wealth alone was insufficient to bestow felicity, and have ever considered the man, who could sacrifice his feelings at the shrine of interest or ambition, degraded below the standard of humanity; that to marry merely from selfish considerations was one of the most culpable, most contemptible actions which could be committed: to enter into such an union, I want the propensities which can alone ever occasion it, namely, violent passion for the enjoyments only attainable through the medium of wealth. Left at an early age, uncontrolled master of my own actions, I drank freely of the cup of pleasure, but soon found it pall upon my taste: it was indeed, unmixed with any of those refined ingredients which can only please the intellectual appetite, and 251 might properly be termed the cup of false, instead of real pleasure. Thinking, therefore, as I do, that an union, without love, is abhorrent to probity and sensibility, and that the dissipated pleasures of life are not only prejudicial, but tiresome, I naturally wished to secure to myself domestic happiness, but never could it be experienced except united to a woman whom my reason thoroughly approved, who should at once possess my unbounded confidence and tenderest affection, who should be, not only the promoter of my joys, but the assuager of my cares; in you I have found such a woman, such a being, as I candidly confess some time ago I thought it impossible to meet with; to you I am bound by a sentiment even stronger than loss, by honour; and with real gratitude acknowledge my obligations, in being permitted to atone in some degree for my errors relative to you. But I will not allow my Amanda to suppose these errors proceeded from any settled depravity of soul; allowed to be, as I have before said, my own master, at an early period, from the natural thoughtlessness of youth, I was led into scenes, which the judgment of riper years has since severely condemned; here, too, often I met with women, whose manners, instead of checking, gave a latitude to freedom: women, too, who from their situations in life, had every advantage that could be requisite for improving and refining their minds; from conversing with them, I gradually imbibed a prejudice against the whole sex, and under that prejudice first beheld you, and feared either to doubt or to believe the reality of the innocence you appeared to possess.
“Convinced, at length, most fully, most happily convinced of its reality, my prejudices no longer remained; they vanished like mists before the sun, or rather like the illusions of falsehood before the influence of truth. Were those, my dear Amanda, of your sex, who, like you, had the resistless power of pleasing, to use the faculties assigned them by a bounteous Providence in the cause of virtue, they would soon check the dissipation of the times.
“’Tis impossible to express the power a beautiful form has over a mind; that power might be exerted for nobler purposes; purity speaking from love-inspiring lips, would, like the voice of Adam’s heavenly guest, so sweetly breathe upon the ear, as insensibly to influence the heart; the libertine it corrected, would, if not utterly hardened, reform; no longer should he glory in his vices, but touched and abashed, instead of destroying, worship female virtue.252
“But I wander from the purpose of my soul; convinced as I am of the dissimilarity between my father’s inclinations and mine, I think it better to give no intimation of my present intentions, which if permitted by you, I am unalterably determined on fulfilling, as I should consider it as highly insulting to him, to incur his prohibition and then act in defiance of it, though my heart would glory in avowing its choice. The peculiar circumstances I have just mentioned, will, I trust, induce my Amanda to excuse a temporary concealment of it, till beyond the power of mortals to separate us; a private and immediate union, the exigence of situation and the security of felicity demands; I shall feel a trembling apprehension till I call you mine; life is too short to permit the waste of time in idle scruples and unmeaning ceremonies; the eye of suspicion has long rested on us, and would, I am convinced, effect a premature discovery, if we took not some measure to prevent it.
“Deem me not too precipitate, my Amanda,” passing his arm gently round her waist, “if I ask you, to-morrow night, for the last sweet proof of confidence you can give me, by putting yourself under my protection; a journey to Scotland is unavoidable; in the arrangement I shall make for it, all that is due to delicacy I shall consider.”
“Mention it no more, my lord,” said Amanda, in a faltering accent; “no longer delude your imagination, or mine, with the hopes of being united.”
Hitherto she had believed the approbation of Lord Cherbury to the wishes of his son would be obtained, the moment he was convinced how essential their gratification was to his felicity; she judged of him by her father, who, she was convinced, if situations were reversed, would bestow her on Mortimer without hesitation. These ideas so nourished her attachment, that, like the vital parts of existence, it at length became painfully, almost fatally susceptible of every shock. Her dream of happiness was over, the moment she heard Lord Cherbury’s consent was not to be asked, from a fear of its being refused: ’twas misery to be separated from Lord Mortimer, but it was guilt and misery to marry him clandestinely, after the solemn injunction her father had given her against such a step. The shock of disappointment could not be borne with composure: it pressed like a cold dead weight upon her heart; she trembled, and, unable to support herself, sunk against the shoulder of Lord Mortimer, while a shower of tears proclaimed her agony. Alarmed by her emotion, 253 Lord Mortimer hastily demanded its source, and the reason of the words which had just escaped her.
“Because, my lord,” replied she, “I cannot consent to a clandestine measure, nor bear you should incur the displeasure of Lord Cherbury on my account.—Though Lady Euphrasia Sutherland is not agreeable, there are many women who, with equal rank and fortune, possess the perfection suited to your taste: seek for one of these; choose from among them a happy daughter of prosperity, and let Amanda, untitled, unportioned, and unpleasing to your father, return to an obscurity, which owes its comforts to his fostering bounty.” “Does this advice,” asked Lord Mortimer, “proceed from Amanda’s heart?” “No,” replied she, hesitatingly and smiling through her tears, “not from her heart, but from a better counsellor, her reason.”
“And shall I not obey the dictates of reason,” replied he, “in uniting my destiny to yours; reason directs us to seek happiness through virtuous means; and what means are so adapted for that purpose, as an union with a beloved and amiable woman? No, Amanda, no titled daughter of prosperity, to use your own words, shall ever attract my affections from you.—“Imagination cannot form a shape besides your own to like of,” a shape which even if despoiled of its graces, would enshrine a mind so transcendently lovely, as to secure my admiration. In choosing you as a partner of my future days, I do not infringe the moral obligation which exists between father and son; for as on one hand, it does not demand implicit obedience, if reason and happiness must be sacrificed by it; nothing should have tempted me to propose a private union, but the hope of escaping many disagreeable circumstances by it: if you persist, however, in rejecting it, I shall openly avow my intentions, for a longer continuance of anxiety and suspense I cannot support.”
“Do you think, then,” said Amanda, “I would enter your family amidst confusion and altercation? No, my lord, rashly or clandestinely I never will consent to enter it.”
“Is this the happiness I promised myself would crown our reconciliation?” exclaimed Lord Mortimer, rising hastily, and traversing the apartment: “is an obstinate adherence to royal punctilio, the only proof of regard I shall receive from Amanda? Will she make no trifling sacrifice to the man who adores her, and whom she professes to esteem?”254
“Any sacrifice, my lord, compatible with virtue and filial duty most willingly would I make; but beyond these limits, I must not, cannot, will not step. Cold, joyless, and unworthy of your acceptance would be the hand you would receive, if given against my conviction of what was right. Oh, never may the hour arrive, in which I should blush to see my father; in which I should be accused of injuring the honour intrusted to my charge, and feel opprest with the consciousness of having planted thorns in the breast that depended on me for happiness!”
“Do not be too inflexible, my Amanda,” cried Lord Mortimer, resuming his seat, “nor suffer too great a degree of refinement to involve you in wretchedness; felicity is seldom attained without some pain; a little resolution on your side, would overcome any difficulties that lay between us and it; when the act was past, my father would naturally lose his resentment, from perceiving its inefficacy, and family concord would speedily be restored. Araminta adores you: with rapture would she receive her dear and lovely sister to her bosom; your father, happy in your happiness, would be convinced his notions heretofore were too scrupulous, and that in complying with my wishes, you had neither violated your own decency, nor tarnished his honour.”
“Ah, my lord, your arguments have not the effect you desire; I cannot be deluded by them to view things in the light you wish; to unite myself clandestinely to you, would be to fly in the face of parental authority; to be proposed to Lord Cherbury, when almost certain of a refusal, would not only subject me to insult, but dissolve the friendship which has hitherto subsisted between his lordship and my father. Situated as we are, our only expedient is to separate; ’tis absurd to think longer of a connexion against which there are such obstacles; the task of trying to forget, will be easier to you, my lord, than you perhaps imagine; the scenes you must be engaged in, are well calculated to expunge painful remembrances; in the retirement my destiny has doomed me to, my efforts will not be wanting to render me equally successful.”
The tears trickled down Amanda’s pale cheeks as she spoke; she believed that they must part, and the belief was attended with a pang of unutterable anguish: pleased and pained by her sensibility, Lord Mortimer bent forward, and looked in her face.255
“Are these tears,” said he, “to enforce me to the only expedient you say remains? Ah, my Amanda,” clasping her to his breast, “the task of forgetting you could never be accomplished, could never be attempted: life would be tasteless, if not spent with you; never win I relinquish the delightful hope of an union yet taking place. A sudden thought,” resumed he, after pausing a few minutes, “has just occurred: I have an aunt, the only remaining sister of Lord Cherbury, a generous, tender, exalted woman; I have ever been her particular favourite; my Amanda, I know, is the very kind of being she would select, if the choice devolved on her, for my wife; she is now in the country: I will write immediately, inform her of our situation, and entreat her to come up to town, to use her influence with my father in our favour. Her fortune is large from the bequest of a rich relation; and, from the generosity of her disposition, I have no doubt she would render the loss of Lady Euphrasia’s fortune very immaterial to her brother. This is the only scheme I can possibly devise for the completion of our happiness, according to your notions, and I hope it meets your approbation.”
It appeared indeed a feasible one to Amanda; and as it could not possibly excite any ideas unfavourable to her father’s integrity, she gave her consent to its being tried.
Her heart felt relieved of an oppressive load as the hope revived that it might be accomplished. Lord Mortimer wiped away her tears, and the cloud which hung over them both being dispersed, they calked with pleasure of future days.
Lord Mortimer described the various schemes he had planned for their mode of life. Amanda smiled at the easiness with which he contrived them, and secretly wished he might find it as easy to realize as to project.
“Though the retired path of life,” said he, “might be more agreeable to us, than the frequented and public one, we must make some little sacrifice of inclination to the community to which we belong. On an elevated station and affluent fortune, there are claims from subordinate ranks, which cannot be avoided without injuring them; neither should I wish to hide the beautiful gem I shall possess in obscurity; but, after a winter of what I call moderate dissipation, we shall hasten to the sequestered shades of Tudor Hall.” He dwelt with pleasure on the calm and rational joys they should experience 256 there: nor could forbear hinting at the period when new tenderness, new sympathies would be awakened in their souls: when little prattling beings should frolic before them, and literally strew roses in their paths. He expressed his wish of having Fitzalan a constant resident with them: and was proceeding to mention some alterations be intended at Tudor Hall, when the return of Lady Greystock’s carriage effectually disturbed him.
Lord Mortimer, however, had time to assure Amanda, ere she entered the room, that he had no doubt but every thing would soon be settled according to their wishes, and that he would take every opportunity her ladyship’s absence gave him of visiting her.
“So, so,” said Lady Greystock, coming into the room, “this has been Miss Fitzalan’s levee day; why, I declare, my dear, now that I know of the agreeable tête-à-têtes you can enjoy, I shall feel no uneasiness at leaving you to yourself”
Amanda blushed deeply, and Lord Mortimer thought in this speech he perceived a degree of irony, which seemed to say all was not right in the speaker’s heart towards Amanda; and on this account he felt more anxious than ever to have her under his own protection; animated by the idea that this would soon be the case, he told her ladyship, smiling, “she should be obliged to him, or any other person, who could relieve her mind from uneasiness,” and departed.
This had been a busy and interesting day to Amanda, and the variety of emotions it had given rise to, produced a languor in her mind and frame she could not shake off.
Her expectations were not as sanguine as Lord Mortimer’s: once severely disappointed, she dreaded again to give too great latitude to hope: happiness was in view, but she doubted much whether it would ever be within her reach; yet the pain of suspense she endeavoured to alleviate, by reflecting that every event was under the direction of a superior being, who knew best what would constitute the felicity of his creatures.
Lady Greystock learned from her maid the length of Lord Mortimer’s visit, and she was convinced, from that circumstance, as well as from the looks and absent manner of Amanda, that something material had happened in the course of it. In the evening they were engaged to a party, and ere they separated after dinner, to dress for it, a plain looking woman was shown into the room, who Amanda 257 instantly recollected to be the person, at whose house she and her father had lodged on quitting Devonshire, to secrete themselves from Colonel Belgrave. This woman had been bribed to serve him, and had forced several letters upon Amanda, who, therefore, naturally abhorred the sight of a person that had joined in so infamous a plot against her; and to her exclamation of surprise and pleasure, only returned a cool bow, and directly left the room. She was vexed at seeing this woman. The conduct of Colonel Belgrave had hitherto been concealed, from motives of pride and delicacy; and to Lady Greystock, of all other beings, she wished it not revealed; her only hope of its not being so, was, that this woman, on her own account, would not mention it, as she must be conscious that her efforts to serve him were not undiscovered.
Mrs. Jennings had been housekeeper to Lady Greystock during her residence in England, and so successfully ingratiated herself into her favour, that though dismissed from her service, she yet retained it. Lady Greystock was surprised to see she and Amanda knew each other, and inquired minutely how the acquaintance had commenced. The manner in which she mentioned Amanda, convinced Mrs. Jennings she was not high in her estimation, and from this conviction, she thought she might safely assert any falsehood she pleased against her. As she knew enough of her lady’s disposition, to be assured she never would contradict an assertion to the prejudice of a person she disliked; by what she designed saying, she trusted any thing Amanda might say against her would appear malicious, and that she should also be revenged for the disdainful air with which she had regarded her.
She told her ladyship, “that, near a year back. Miss Fitzalan had been a lodger of hers, as also an old officer she called her father; but had she known what kind of people they were, she never would have admitted them into her house. Miss was followed by such a set of gallants, she really thought the reputation of her house would have been ruined. Among them was Colonel Belgrave, a sad rake, who she believed was a favourite. She was determined on making them decamp, when suddenly Miss went off, nobody knew where, but it might easily be guessed she did not travel alone, for the colonel disappeared at the same time.”
The character of Fitzalan, and the uniform propriety of Amanda’s conduct, forbid Lady Greystock’s giving implicit credit to what Mrs. 258 Jennings said: she perceived in it the exaggerations of malice and falsehood, occasioned she supposed by disappointed avarice, or offended pride. She resolved, however, to relate all she heard to the marchioness, without betraying the smallest doubt of its veracity.
It may appear strange that Lady Greystock, after taking Amanda, unsolicited, under her protection, should, without any cause of enmity, seek to injure her: but Lady Greystock was a woman devoid of principle; from selfish motives she had taken Amanda, and from selfish motives she was ready to sacrifice her.—Her Ladyship had enjoyed so much happiness in her matrimonial connections, that she had no objection again to enter the lists of Hymen, and Lord Cherbury was the object at which her present wishes were pointed.—The marchioness had hinted, in pretty plain terms, that if she counteracted Lord Mortimer’s intentions respecting Amanda, she would forward hers relative to Lord Cherbury.
She thought what Mrs. Jennings had alleged would effectually forward their plans; as she knew, if called upon, she would support it. The next morning she went to Portman Square, to communicate her important intelligence to the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia.
Joy and exultation sat upon their features, at receiving this interesting communication, which opened so charming a prospect of separating Lord Mortimer from Amanda, by giving them the power of injuring her character. This joy and exultation they deemed requisite for some time to conceal; they considered their measures would more successful for being gradually brought about, and therefore resolved rather to undermine, than directly strike at the peace of Amanda.
Like Lady Greystock, they disbelieved Mrs. Jennings’ tale, but like her ladyship, confined this disbelief to their own bosoms. In the manner, the appearance of Amanda, there was an innocence, a mildness that denoted something holy dwelt within her breast, and forbid the entrance of any impure or wayward passions: besides, from a gentleman who had resided in Devonshire, they learned the distress Fitzalan was reduced to by Belgrave’s revenge for the virtue of his daughter. This gentleman was now, however, on the continent, and they had no fear of their allegations against Amanda being contradicted, or their schemes against her being overthrown.
After some consultation, it was agreed, as a means of expediting 259 their plot, that Lady Greystock and Amanda should immediately remove to the marchioness’s house; by this change of abode too, Lord Mortimer would be prevented taking any material step relative to Amanda, till the period arrived, when his own inclination would most probably, render any further trouble on that account unnecessary.
Lady Greystock, on her return to Pall Mall, after a warm eulogium on the friendship of the marchioness, mentioned the invitation she had given them to her house, which she declared she could not refuse, as it was made from an ardent desire of enjoying more of their society than she had hitherto done during their short stay in London. She also told Amanda, that both the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia had expressed a tender regard for her and a wish of proving to the world a that any coolness which existed between their families, was removed by her becoming their guest.
This projected removal was extremely disagreeable to Amanda, as it not only terminated the morning interviews which were to take place between her and Lord Mortimer, during the absence of Lady Greystock with her lawyers, but threatened to impose a restraint on her looks as well as actions, being confident, from the views and suspicions of Lady Euphrasia, she should continually be watched with the closest circumspection. Her part, however, was acquiescence; the lodgings were discharged, and the next morning they took up their residence under the Marquis of Rosline’s roof, to the infinite surprise and mortification of Lord Mortimer, who, like Amanda, anticipated the disagreeable consequences which would result from it.
The altered manner of the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia surprised Amanda; they received her not merely with politeness, but recapitulated all Lady Greystock had already said, concerning their regard; bid her consider herself entirely at home in their house, and appointed a maid solely to attend her.
Notwithstanding their former cool, even contemptuous conduct, Amanda, the child of innocence and simplicity, could not believe the alteration in their manners feigned, she rather believed that her own patience and humility had at length conciliated their regard; the idea pleased her, and like every other, which she supposed could give her father satisfaction, it was instantly communicated to him.260
She found herself most agreeably mistaken, relative to the restraint she had feared; she was perfect mistress of her own time and actions; and when she saw Lord Mortimer, no lowering looks, no studied interference, as heretofore, from the marchioness or Lady Euphrasia, prevented their frequently conversing together. The marchioness made her several elegant presents, and Lady Euphrasia frequently dropped the formal appellation of Miss Fitzalan, for the more familiar one of Amanda.
Sir Charles Bingley, agreeable to his resolution of not relinquishing Amanda without another effort for her favour, still persisted in his attentions, and visited constantly at the marquis’s.
Amanda had been about a fortnight in Portman Square, when she went one night with the marchioness, Lady Euphrasia, Miss Malcolm and Lady Greystock, to the Pantheon, Lord Mortimer had told her that if he could possibly leave a particular party he was engaged to, he would be there. She therefore, on that account, wished to keep herself disengaged; but immediately on her entrance, she was joined by Sir Charles Bingley, and she found she must either dance with him, as he requested, or consent to listen to his usual conversation; and she chose the first, as being least particular. The dancing over, Sir Charles was conducting her to get some refreshments, when a gentleman hastily stepping forward, saluted him by his name. Amanda started at the sound of the voice; she raised her eyes, and with equal horror and surprise beheld Colonel Belgrave.
She turned pale, trembled, and involuntarily exclaimed, “Gracious Heaven!” her soul recoiled at the sight, as if an evil genius had suddenly darted into her path, to blast her house of happiness; sickening with emotion, her head grew giddy, and she caught Sir Charles’s arm to prevent her falling.
Alarmed by her paleness and agitation, he hastily demanded the cause of her disorder; willing to believe, notwithstanding what he had seen, that it did not proceed from the sight of Colonel Belgrave. “O take me, take me from this room,” was all, in faltering accents, Amanda could pronounce, still leaning on him for support. Colonel Belgrave inquired tenderly what they could do to servo her, and at the same time attempted to take her hand.
She shrunk from his touch with a look of expressive horror, and again besought Sir Charges to take her from the room, and procure 261 her a conveyance home. Her agitation now became contagious; it was visible to Sir Charles that it proceeded from seeing Colonel Belgrave, and he trembled as he supported her.
Belgrave offered his services in assisting to support her from the room, but she motioned with her hand to repulse him.
At the door they met Lord Mortimer entering. Terrified by the situation of Amanda, all caution, all reserve forsook him, and his rapid and impassioned inquiries betrayed the tender interest she had in his heart. Unable to answer them herself, Sir Charles replied for her, saying, “she had been taken extremely ill after dancing,” and added, “he would resign her to his lordship’s protection while he went to procure her a chair.”
Lord Mortimer received the lovely trembler in his arms; he softly called her his Amanda, the beloved of his soul, and she began to revive: his presence was at once a relief and comfort to her, and his language soothed the perturbations of her mind; but as she raised her head from his shoulder, she beheld Colonel Belgrave standing near them. His invidious eyes fastened on her; she averted her head, and saying the air would do her good, Lord Mortimer led her forward, and took this opportunity of expressing his wishes for the period, when he should be at liberty to watch over her with guardian care, soothe every weakness and soften every care.
In a few minutes Sir Charles returned, and told her he had procured a chair. She thanked him with grateful sweetness for his attention, and requested Lord Mortimer to acquaint the ladies with the reason of her abrupt departure. His lordship wished himself to have attended her to Portman Square, but she thought it would appear too particular, and would not suffer him.
She retired to her room, immediately on her return, and endeavoured, though unsuccessfully, to compose her spirits.
The distress she suffered from Belgrave’s conduct had left an impression on her mind, which could not be erased; the terror his presence inspired, was too powerful for reason to conquer, and raised the most gloomy presages in her mind; she believed him capable of any villany: his looks had declared a continuance of illicit love: she trembled at the idea of his stratagems being renewed: her apprehensions were doubly painful, from the necessity of concealment, lest those dearer to her than existence, should be involved in danger on her account. To heaven she looked up for protection, and the terrors 262 of her heart were somewhat lessened, conscious that heaven could render the aims of Belgrave against her peace, as abortive as those against her innocence had been.
Sir Charles Bingley parted from Lord Mortimer immediately after Amanda’s departure, and returned arm in arm with Belgrave to the room. “Belgrave,” said he abruptly, after musing some minutes, “you know Miss Fitzalan?”
Belgrave answered not hastily: he appeared as if deliberating on the reply he should give; at last, “I do know Miss Fitzalan,” cried he, “her father was my tenant in Devonshire; she is one of the loveliest girls I ever knew.”
“Lovely indeed,” said Sir Charles with a deep and involuntary sigh, “but it is somewhat extraordinary to me, that instead of noticing you as a friend or acquaintance, she should look alarmed and agitated, as if she had seen an enemy.”
“My dear Bingley,” exclaimed Belgrave, “surely at this time of day, you cannot be a stranger to the unaccountable caprices of the female mind.”
“’Tis very extraordinary to me, I own,” resumed Sir Charles, “that Miss Fitzalan should behave as she did to you: Were you and her family ever very intimate?”
An invidious smile lurked on Belgrave’s countenance at this question.
“Belgrave,” exclaimed Sir Charles, passionately, “your manner appears so mysterious, that it distracts me; if friendship will not induce you to account for it, my intentions relative to Miss Fitzalan, will compel me to insist on your doing so.”
“Come, come, Bingley,” replied the colonel, is not a country for extorting confession; however seriously you might depend on my honour, exclusive of thy friendship, to conceal nothing from you, in which you were materially interested.” So saying, he snatched away his arm, rushed into the crowd, and disappeared.
This assurance, however, could not calm the disquietude of Sir Charles; his soul was tortured with impatience and anxiety by an explanation of the mystery which the agitation of Amanda, and the evasive answers of Belgrave had betrayed. He sought the latter through the room, till convinced of his departure, and resolved the next morning to entreat him to deal candidly with him.
Agreeably to this resolution, he was preparing, after breakfast, for 263 his visit, when a letter was brought him, which contained the following lines:
“If Sir Charles Bingley has the least regard for his honour or tranquillity, he will immediately relinquish his attentions relative to Miss Fitzalan; this caution comes from a sincere friend, from a person whose delicacy, not want of veracity, urges to this secret mode of giving it.”
Sir Charles perused and re-perused the letter, as if doubting the evidence of his eyes: he at last flung it from him, and clasping his hands together, exclaimed, “This is indeed a horrible explanation:” he took up the detested paper: again he examined the characters, and recognized the writing of Colonel Belgrave. He hastily snatched up his hat, and with the paper in his hand, flew directly to his house: the colonel was alone.
“Belgrave,” said Sir Charles, in almost breathless agitation, “are you the author of this letter?” presenting it to him.
Belgrave took it, read it, but continued silent.
“Oh! Belgrave,” exclaimed Sir Charles, in a voice trembling with agony, “pity and relieve my suspense.”
“I am the author of it,” replied Belgrave, with solemnity, “Miss Fitzalan and I were once tenderly attached; I trust I am no deliberate libertine; but when a lovely seducing girl was thrown purposely in my way——”
“Oh, stop,” said Sir Charles, “to me an extenuation of your conduct is unnecessary; ’tis sufficient to know that Miss Fitzalan and I are forever separated.” His emotions overpowered him; he leaned on a table, and covered his face with his handkerchief.
“The shock I have received,” said he, “almost unmans me: Amanda was—alas, I must say, is dear, inexpressibly dear to my soul: I thought her the most lovely, the most estimable of women, and the anguish I now feel, is more on her account than my own; I cannot bear the idea of the contempt which may fall upon her: Oh Belgrave, ’tis melancholy to behold a human being so endowed by nature as she is, insensible or unworthy of her blessings. Amanda,” he continued alter a pause, “never encouraged me, I therefore cannot accuse her of intending deceit.”
“She never encouraged you,” replied Belgrave, “because she was ambitious of a higher title; Amanda beneath a specious appearance 264 of innocence, conceals a light disposition and a designing heart; she aspires to Mortimer’s hand, and may probably succeed, for his language and attentions to her last night, were those of a tender lover.”
“I shall return immediately to Ireland,” said Sir Charles, “and endeavour to forget I had ever seen her; she has made me indeed experience all the fervency of love and bitterness of disappointment; what I felt for her, I think I shall never again feel for any woman.”
I’ll lock up all the gates of love,
And on my eye-lids shall conjecture hang,
To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,
And never more shall it be gracious.
Sir Charles Bingley, and Colonel Belgrave, in early life, had contracted a friendship for each other, which time had strengthened in one, but reduced to a mere shadow in the other. On meeting the colonel unexpectedly in town, Sir Charles had informed him of his intentions relative to Amanda. His heart throbbed at the mention of her name, he had long endeavoured to discover her; pride, love and revenge, were all concerned in the accomplishment of his designs, which disappointment had only stimulated. He was one of those determined characters, which never relinquish a purpose, “though heaven and earth that purpose crost.” The confidence Sir Charles reposed in him, joined to his warm and unsuspicious temper, convinced him he would be credulous enough to believe any imputation he should cast on Amanda; he therefore lost no time in contriving his execrable scheme, without the smallest compunction for destroying the reputation of an innocent girl, or injuring the happiness of an amiable man.
Removed from the protection of her father, he believed his destined victim could not escape the snare he should spread for her: and as a means of expediting his success, under the appearance of feeling, urged Sir Charles’s return to Ireland.
The easy credit which Sir Charles gave to the vile allegations of Belgrave, cannot be wondered at when his long intimacy, and total ignorance of his real character is considered. He knew Belgrave to be a gay man, but he never imagined him to be a hardened libertine; besides he never could have supposed any man would have been so 265 audacious, or sufficiently base, as to make such an assertion as Belgrave had done against Amanda, without truth for its support.
The errors of his friend, though the source of unspeakable anguish to him, were more pitied than condemned, as he rather they proceeded more from the impetuosity of passion than the deliberation of design, and that they were long since sincerely repented of.
Amanda could not be forgotten, the hold she had on his heart could not easily be shaken off, and like the recording angel, he was often tempted to drop a tear over her faults, and obliterate them for ever from his memory; this, however, was considered the mere suggestion of weakness, and he ordered immediate preparations to be made for his return to Ireland.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXVII
they considered their measures would be more successful
text has he more
they received her not merely with politeness, but affection;
“this is not a country for extorting confession;
open quote missing
he rather believed they proceeded more from the impetuosity of passion
text has believe
Amanda was sitting alone in the drawing room one morning, when a gentleman was shown into it
Lord Mortimer, distrest by the indisposition of Amanda, hastened, at an earlier hour than usual (for his morning visits) to Portman Square