The Children of the Abbey
But yet, I say,
If imputation and strong circumstances
Which lead directly to the door of truth,
Will give you satisfaction, you may have it.
From that evening, to the day destined for the ball, nothing material happened. On the morning of that day, as Amanda was sitting in the drawing-room with the ladies, Lord Mortimer entered. 285 Lady Euphrasia could talk of nothing else but the approaching entertainment, which she said was expected to be the most brilliant thing that had been given that winter.
“I hope your ladyship,” said Amanda, who had not yet declared her intention of staying at home, “will be able to give a good description of it.”
“Why, I suppose,” cried Lady Euphrasia, “you do not intend going without being able to see and hear yourself.”
“Certainly,” replied Amanda, “I should not, but I do not intend going.”
“Not go to the ball to-night!” exclaimed Lady Euphrasia.
“Bless me, child,” said Lady Greystock, “what whim has entered your head to prevent your going?”
“Dear Lady Greystock,” said Lady Euphrasia, in a tone of unusual good humour, internally delighted at Amanda’s resolution, “don’t teaze Miss Fitzalan with questions.”
“And you really do not go?” exclaimed Lord Mortimer in an accent expressive of surprise and
“I really do not, my lord.”
“I declare,” said the marchioness, even more delighted than her daughter at Amanda’s resolution, as it favoured a scheme she had long been projecting, “I wish Euphrasia was as indifferent about amusement as Miss Fitzalan: here she has been complaining of indisposition the whole morning, yet I cannot prevail on her to give up the ball.”
Lady Euphrasia, who never felt in better health and spirits, would have contradicted the marchioness, had not an expressive glance assured her there was an important motive for this assertion.
“May we not hope, Miss Fitzalan,” said Lord Mortimer, “that a resolution so suddenly adopted as yours, may be as suddenly changed?”
“No, indeed, my lord, nor is it so suddenly formed as you seem to suppose.”
Lord Mortimer shuddered, as he endeavored to account for it in his own mind; his agony became almost insupportable: he arose and walked to the window where she sat.
“Amanda,” said he in a low voice, “I fear you forgot your engagement to me.”286
Amanda, supposing this alluded to her engagement for the ball, replied, “she had not forgotten it.”
“For your inability, or disinclination to fulfil it then,” said he, “will you not account?”
“Most willingly, my lord.”
“When?” asked Lord Mortimer, impatiently, for unable longer to support his torturing suspense, he determined, contrary to his first intention, to come to an immediate explanation relative to Belgrave.
“To-morrow, my lord,” replied Amanda, “since you desire it, I will account for not keeping my engagement, and I trust,” a modest blush mantling her cheeks as she spoke, “that your lordship will not disapprove of my reasons for declining it.”
The peculiar earnestness of his words, Lord Mortimer imagined, had conveyed their real meaning to Amanda.
“Till to-morrow, then,” sighed he heavily, “I must bear my disquietude.”
His regret, Amanda supposed, proceeded from disappointment at but having her company at the ball; she was flattered by it, and pleased at the idea of telling him her real motive for not going; certain it would meet his approbation, and open another source of benevolence to poor Rushbrook.
In the evening, at Lady Euphrasia’s particular request, she attended at her toilet, and assisted in ornamenting her ladyship. At ten she saw the party depart, without the smallest regret for not accompanying them: happy is self approbation, a delightful calm was diffused over her mind; a treacherous calm, indeed, which lulling her senses into security, made the approaching storm burst with redoubled violence on her head; it was such a calm as Shakespeare beautifully describes:
We often see against some storm
A silence in the heavens; the wreck stands still,
The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
As hush as death.
She continued in Lady Euphrasia’s dressing-room, and took up the beautiful and affecting story of Paul and Mary, to amuse herself. Her whole attention was soon engrossed by it, and with the unfortunate Paul she was shedding a deluge of tears over the fate of his lovely 287 Mary when a sudden noise made her hastily turn her head, and with equal horror and surprise, she beheld Colonel Belgrave coming forward. She started up, and was springing to the door, when rushing between her and it he caught her in his arms, and forcing her back to the sofa, rudely stopped her mouth.
“Neither cries nor struggles, Amanda,” said he, “will be availing; without the assistance of a friend, you may be convinced, I could not have entered this house; and the same friend will, you may depend on it, take care that our tête-à-tête, is not interrupted.”
Amanda shuddered at the idea of treachery, and being convinced, from what he said, she could not expect assistance, endeavoured to recover her fainting spirits, and exert all her resolution.
“Your scheme, Colonel Belgrave,” said she, “is equally vile and futile; though treachery may have brought you hither, you must be convinced, that under the Marquis of Rosline’s roof, who by relationship as well as hospitality, is bound to protect me, you dare not, with impunity, offer me any insult. The marquis will be at home immediately; if therefore you wish to preserve the semblance of honour, retire without further delay.”
“Not to retire so easily,” exclaimed Belgrave, “did I take such pains, or watch so anxiously for this interview. Fear not any insult; but till I have revealed the purpose of my soul, I will not be forced from you; my love, or rather adoration, has known no abatement by your long concealment; and now that chance has so happily thrown you in my way, I will not neglect using an opportunity it may offer.”
“Gracious heavens!” said Amanda, while her eves flashed with indignation, “how can you have the effrontery to avow your insolent intentions: intentions which, long since, you must have known would ever prove abortive?”
“And why, my Amanda,” said he, again attempting to strain her to his breast, while she shrunk from his grasp, “why should they prove abortive? why should you be obstinate in refusing wealth, happiness, the sincere, the ardent affections of a man, who in promoting your felicity, would constitute his own? My life, my fortune, would be at your command; my eternal gratitude would be yours for any trifling sacrifice the world might think you made me; hesitate no longer about raising yourself to affluence, which, to a benevolent 288 spirit like yours, must be so peculiarly pleasing: Hesitate not to secure independence to your lather, promotion to your brother; and be assured it the connection I formed is an ill-fated hour, deceived by a specious of perfection, should ever be dissolved, my hand, like my heart, shall be yours.”
“Monster!” exclaimed Amanda, beholding him with horror, “your hand, was it at your disposal, like your other offers, I should spurn with contempt; cease to torment me,” she continued, “lest, in my own defence, I call upon those who have power, as well as inclination, to chastise your insolence. Let this consideration, joined to the certainty that your pursuit must ever prove unavailing, influence your future actions: for be assured that you are in every respect, an object of abhorrence to my soul.”
As she spoke, exerting all her strength, she burst from him and attempted to gain the door. He flung himself between her and it, his face inflamed with passion, and darting the most malignant glances at her.
Terrified by his looks Amanda tried to avoid him, and when he caught her again in his arms, she screamed aloud:—no one appeared:—her terror increased.
“Oh Belgrave!” cried she, trembling, “if you have one principle of honour, one feeling of humanity remaining, retire: I will pardon and conceal what is past, if you comply with my request.”
“I distress you, Amanda,” said he, assuming a softened accent, “and it wounds me to the soul to do so, though you, cruel and inexorable, care not what pain you occasion me; hear me calmly, and be assured, I shall attempt no action which can offend you.”
He led her again to the sofa, and thus continued.
“Misled by false views, you shun and detest the only man who has had sufficient sincerity to declare openly his intentions; inexperience and credulity have already made you a dupe to artifice. You imagined Sir Charles Bingley was a fervent admirer of yours, when be assured, in following you, he only obeyed the dictates of an egregious vanity, which flattered him with the hope of gaining your regard, and being distinguished by it; nothing was farther from his thoughts, as he himself confessed to me, than seriously paying his addresses to you, and had you appeared willing, at last, to accept them, be assured he would soon have contrived some scheme to disengage himself from 289 you. The attentions of Lord Mortimer are prompted by a motive much more dangerous than that which instigated Sir Charles; he really admires you, and would have you believe his views are honourable; but, beware of his duplicity, he seeks to take advantage of the too great confidence you repose in him: his purpose once accomplished, he would sacrifice you to Lady Euphrasia: and I know enough of her malevolent disposition to be convinced she would enjoy her triumph over so lovely a victim. Ah! my dear Amanda, even beauty and elegance, like yours, would not, on the generality of mankind, have power to make them forego the advantages annexed to wealth; on Lord Mortimer, particularly, they would fail of that effect: his ambition and avarice are equal to his father’s; and though his heart and soul, I am confident, revolt from the person and mind of Lady Euphrasia, he will unite himself to her, for the sake of possessing her fortune, and thus increasing his own power of procuring the gratifications he delights in.—As my situation is known, I cannot be accused of deception, and whatever I promise will be strictly fulfilled: deliberate therefore no longer, my Amanda, on the course you shall pursue.”
“No,” cried she, shall indeed no longer deliberate about it.”
As she spoke, she started from her seat.—Belgrave again her hand. At this moment a knocking was heard at the hall door, which echoed through the house. Amanda trembled, and Belgrave paused in a speech he had begun. She supposed the marquis had returned: it was improbable he would come into that room: and even if he did, from his distrustful and malignant temper she knew not whether she would have reason to rejoice or regret his presence. But how great was her confusion, when instead of his voice, she heard those of the marchioness and her party. In a moment the dreadful consequences which might ensue from her present situation, rushed upon her mind.—By the forced attentions of the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia, she was not long deceived, and had reason to believe, from the inveterate dislike they bore her, that they would rejoice at an opportunity like the present for traducing her fame; and with horror she saw that appearances even in the eyes of candour, would be against her. She had positively and unexpectedly refused going to the ball: she had exprest delight at the idea of staying at home. Alas! would not all these circumstances be 290 dwelt upon! What ideas might they now excite in Lord Mortimer, who already showed a tendency to jealousy?
Half wild at the idea, she clasped her hands together, and exclaimed in a voice trembling with anguish, “Merciful heaven! am ruined forever.”
“No, no,” cried Belgrave, flinging himself at her feet, “pardon me, Amanda, and I never more will molest you; I see your principles are invincible: I admire, I revere your purity, and never more will I attempt to injure it; I was on the point of declaring so, when the cursed knock came to the door; compose yourself, and consider what can be done in the present emergency; you will be ruined if I am seen with you; the malicious devils you live with, would never believe our united asseverations of your innocence: conceal me therefore, if possible, till the family are settled: the person who let me in, will then secure my retreat, and I swear solemnly never more to trouble you.”
Amanda hesitated between the confidence her innocence inspired, and the dread of the unpleasant construction malice might put on her situation. She heard the party ascending the stairs; fear conquered her reluctance to concealment, and she motioned to Belgrave to retire to a closet adjoining the dressing room. He obeyed the motion and closed the door softly after him.
Amanda, snatching up her book, endeavoured to compose herself; but the effort was ineffectual: she trembled universally; nor was her agitation diminished, when from the outside of the door, Lady Euphrasia called her to open it. She tottered to it, and almost fainted on finding it locked: with difficulty she opened it, and the whole party, followed by the marquis, entered.
“Upon my word, Miss Fitzalan,” said the marchioness, “you were determined no one should disturb your meditations; I fear we have surprised you; but poor Euphrasia was taken ill at the ball, and we were obliged to return with her.”
“Miss Fitzalan has not been much better, I believe,” said Lady Euphrasia, regarding her attentively.
“Good Lord! child,” cried Lady Greystock, “what is the matter with you? why you look as pale as if you had seen a ghost.”
“Miss Fitzalan is fond of solitude,” exclaimed the marquis, preventing her reply to Lady Greystock.291
“When I returned home about an hour ago, I sent to request her company in the parlour, which honour, I assure you, I was refused.”
The message indeed had been sent, but never delivered to Amanda.
“I assure you, my lord,” said she, “I have heard of no such request.”
“And pray child, how have you been employed all this time?” risked Lady Greystock.
“In reading, madam,” out Amanda, while her death-like paleness was succeeded by a deep blush.
“You are certainly ill,” said Lord Mortimer, who sat beside her in a voice expressive of regret at the conviction: “you have been indulging melancholy ideas, I fear,” continued he softly, and taking her hand, “for surely—surely to-night you are uncommonly affected.”
Amanda attempted to speak: the contending emotions of her mind prevented her utterance, and the tears trickled silently down her cheeks. Lord Mortimer saw she wished to avoid notice, yet scarcely could he forbear requesting some assistance for her.
Lady Euphrasia now complained of a violent head-ache: the marchioness wanted to ring for her remedies: this Lady Euphrasia opposed; at last, as if suddenly recollecting it, she said, “in the closet there was a bottle of eau-de-luce, which she was certain would be of service to her.”
At the mention of the closet, the blood ran cold through the veins of Amanda; but when she saw Lady Euphrasia rise to enter it, had death in its most frightful form stared her in the face, she could not have betrayed more horror. She looked towards it with a countenance as expressive of wild affright, as Macbeth’s when viewing the chair, on which the spectre of the murdered Banquo sat. Lord Mortimer observing the disorder of her looks, began to tremble; he grasped her hand with a convulsive motion, and exclaimed “Amanda, what means this agitation?”
A loud scream from Lady Euphrasia broke upon their ears, and she rushed from the closet, followed by Belgrave.
“Gracious heavens!” exclaimed Lord Mortimer, dropping Amanda’s hand, and rising precipitately.
Amanda looked around—she beheld every eye fastened on her with amazement and contempt; the shock was too much for her to support; a confused idea darted into her mind, that a deep-laid plot 292 had been concerted to ruin her; she faintly exclaimed, “I am betrayed,” and sunk back upon the sofa.
Lord Mortimer started at her exclamation. “Oh heavens!” cried he, as he looked towards her; unable to support the scene that would ensue in consequence of this discovery, he struck his forehead in an agony, and rushed out of the room.
In the hall he was stopped by Mrs. Jane, the maid appointed by the marchioness to attend Amanda.
“Alack-a-day, my lord,” said she, in a whimpering voice, “something dreadful, I am afraid, has happened above stairs, oh dear, what people suffer sometimes by their good nature; I am sure, if I thought any harm would come of granting Miss Fitzalan’s request, she would have begged and prayed long enough before I would have obliged her.”
“Did she desire you to bring Colonel Belgrave to this house?” asked Lord Mortimer.
“Oh, to be sure she did, my lord, or how should I ever have thought of such a thing; she has been begging and praying long enough for me to contrive some way of bringing him here; and she told me a piteous story, which would have softened a stone, of his being a sweetheart of hers before he was married.”
“Merciful powers!” cried Lord Mortimer, clasping his hands together, “how have I been deceived!”
He was hurrying away, when Mrs. Jane caught his coat.
“I shall lose my place,” said she, sobbing, “that I shall, most certainly, for my lord and lady never will forgive my bringing any one, in such a way, into the house; I am sure I thought no great harm in it, and did it quite from good nature; for indeed, how could one resist the poor dear young lady; she cried, and said, she only wanted to bid farewell to her dear Belgrave.”
Lord Mortimer could hear no more; he shook her from him, and hurried from the house.
Amanda’s faculties suffered but a momentary suspension; as she opened her eyes, her composure and fortitude returned.
“I am convinced,” said she, rising, and advancing to the marquis, “it will shock your lordship to hear that it is the treachery of some person under your roof, has involved me in my present embarrassing situation. For my own justification, ’tis necessary to acknowledge 293 that I have long been the object of a pursuit from Colonel Belgrave, as degrading to his character as insulting to mine. When he broke so unexpectedly upon me to-night, he declared, even with effrontery declared, he had a friend in this house, who gave him access to it. As your guest, my lord, I may expect your lordship’s protection; also that an immediate inquiry be made for the abettor in this scheme against me, and a full discovery of it extorted, that should the affair be mentioned, it may be explained, and my fame cleared of every imputation.”
“That, madam,” said the marquis, with a malicious sneer, “would not be quite so easy a matter as you may perhaps suppose: neither the world nor I are so credulous as you imagine; your story, madam, by no means hangs well together; there is no person in my house would have dared to commit the act you accuse them of, as they must know that the consequence of it would be immediate dismission from my service. Had not Colonel Belgrave been voluntarily admitted, he never would have been concealed: no, madam, you would have rejoiced at the opportunity our presence gave you, of punishing his temerity. Innocence is bold; ’tis guilt alone is
The truth of part of his speech struck forcibly upon Amanda; but how could she explain her conduct? how declare it was her dread of the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia’s malice which had made her consent to conceal him.
“Oh! I see,” said she in the agony of her soul, “I see I am the dupe of complicated artifice.”
“I never in my life,” cried the marchioness, “met with such assurance:—to desire the marquis to be her champion.”
“As she was entrusted to my care, however,” exclaimed Lady Greystock, “I think it necessary to inquire into the affair. Pray, Sir,” turning to the colonel, “by what means did you come here?”
The colonel, with undiminished assurance, had hitherto stood near the fatal closet, leaning on a
“That, madam,” replied he, “I must be excused from revealing; let me, however, assure your ladyship, ’tis not on my account I affect concealment.” Here he glanced at Amanda. “Those parts of my conduct, however, which I choose to conceal, I shall always be ready to defend.”
“Sir,” cried the marquis haughtily, “no explanation or defence of 294 your conduct, is here required. I have neither right nor inclination to interfere in Miss Fitzalan’s concerns.”
The colonel bowed to the circle and was retiring, when Amanda flew to him and caught his arm. “Surely, surely,” said she, almost gasping for breath, “you cannot be so inhuman, as to retire without explaining this whole affair. Oh! Belgrave, leave me not a prey to slander; by all your hopes of mercy and forgiveness hereafter, I conjure you to clear my fame.”
“My dear creature,” said he in a low voice, yet loud enough to be heard by the whole party, “any thing I could say would be unavailing; you find they are determined not to see things in the light we wish them viewed; compose yourself, I beseech you, and be assured, while I exist, you never shall want comfort or affluence.”
He gently disengaged himself as he spoke, and quitted the room, leaving her riveted to the floor in amazement, at his insolence and perfidy.
“I am sure,” said Lady Greystock, “I shall regret all my life the hour in which I took her under my protection: though, indeed, from what I heard soon after my arrival in London, I should have dispatched her back to her father; but I felt a foolish pity for her; I was in hopes, indeed, the society I had introduced her to, would have produced a reformation, and that I might be the means of saving a young creature from entire destruction.”
“From what I have already suffered by her family nothing should have tempted me to take her under my roof,” exclaimed the marchioness.
“Was she my relation,” cried the marquis, “I should long since have come to a determination about her; as yours, madam,” turning to the marchioness, “I shall not attempt forming one: I deem it, however, absolutely necessary to remove Lady Euphrasia Sutherland from the house till the young lady chooses to quit it: I shall therefore order the carriage to be ready at an early hour for the villa.”
“I shall certainly accompany your lordship,” cried the marchioness, “for I cannot endure her sight; and though she deserves it, it shall not be said that we turned her from the house.”
“The only measure she should pursue,” exclaimed Lady Greystock, “is to set off as soon as possible for Ireland: when she returns to obscurity, the affair may die295
“It may, however,” said Amanda, “be yet revived, to cover with confusion its contrivers: to heaven I leave the vindication of my innocence; its justice is sure, though sometimes slow, and the hour of retribution often arrives when least expected: much as I have suffered—much as I may still suffer, I think my own situation preferable to theirs, who have set their snares around me: the injurer must receive greater pangs than the injured—the pangs of guilt and remorse. I shall return to my obscurity, happy in the consciousness, that it is not a shelter from shame, but a refuge from cruelty I seek: but can I be surprised at meeting cruelty from those, who have long since waved the ties of kindred;—from those,” and she glanced at Lady Greystock, “who have set aside the claims of justice and humanity.”
The marchioness trembled with rage at this speech, and as Amanda retired from the room, exclaimed, “intolerable assurance.”
Amanda repaired immediately to her chamber: she tottered as she walked, and the housekeeper and Mrs. Jane, who, with some other servants, had assembled, out of curiosity, near the door, followed her thither.
The emotions she had so painfully supprest, now burst forth with violence; she fell into an agony of tears and sobs, which impeded her breathing. The housekeeper and Jane loosened her clothes, and supported her to the bed. In a short time she was sufficiently recovered to be able to speak, and requested they would engage a carriage for her against the next day, at an early hour, that she might commence her journey to Ireland; this they promised, and at her desire retired.
Success, and not happiness, had crowned the marchioness’s scheme; she triumphed in the disgrace she had drawn upon Amanda, but feared that disgrace was only temporary; she had entangled her in a snare, but dreaded not having secured her in it; she distrusted those who had assisted her designs, for the guilty will ever suspect each other; they might betray her, or Colonel Belgrave might repent; but such evils, if they did ever arrive, were probably far distant; in the interim, all she desired to accomplish, might be effected. Long had she been meditating on some plan, which should ruin Amanda forever, not only in the opinion of Lord Mortimer, but in the estimation of the world. With the profligacy of Colonel Belgrave she vhf 296 well acquainted, and inclined from it to believe, that he would readily join in any scheme which could give him a chance of possessing Amanda. On discovering her residence, he had ordered his valet, who was a trusty agent in all his villanies, to endeavor to gain access to the house, that he might discover whether there was a chance of introducing him there. The valet obeyed his orders, and soon attached himself to Mrs. Jane, whom the marchioness had placed about Amanda, from knowing she was capable of any deceitful part. She was introduced to Belgrave, and a handsome present secured her in his interest.
She communicated to the marchioness particulars of their interview: from that period they had been seeking to bring about such a scene as was at last acted; for the conduct of Amanda had hitherto defeated their attention. Her staying from the ball at last gave the wished for opportunity.
Lady Euphrasia was apprized of the whole plot, and the hint of her indisposition was given in the morning, that no suspicion might be entertained in the evening, when mentioned as a plea for returning home earlier than was intended.
Colonel Belgrave was introduced into the closet by Mrs. Jane, through a door that opened from the lobby; and whilst Amanda sat pensively reading, he stole out, and secured the other door, as already mentioned.
When Lady Euphrasia declared she was loo ill to continue at the ball, Lord Mortimer offered to attend her home; had he not done so, the marchioness intended to have asked him.
The marquis was persuaded that Amanda was an artful and dangerous rival to his daughter, and he hated her from that consideration. The laws of hospitality obliged him to treat her with politeness, but he gladly seized the first opportunity that offered for expressing his dislike.
Lady Greystock saw through the plot, but she profest her belief of Amanda’s guilt, which was all the marchioness required.
The marquis left the ladies together, while he went to give orders about his early journey.
Soon after his departure a loud knocking was heard, which announced a visitor; and from the lateness of the hour, they conjectured, and were right in doing so, that it must be Lord Mortimer.297
After traversing several streets, in an agony no tongue could describe, he returned to Portman Square. His fancy presented Amanda to his view, overwhelmed with shame, and sinking beneath the keen reproaches levelled at her. In the idea of her sufferings, all resentment for her supposed perfidy was forgotten. Human nature was liable to err, and the noblest efforts that nature could make, was to pardon such errors. To speak comfort to this fallen angel, he felt should relieve the weight which prest upon his own breast.—Pale and disordered, he entered the room, and found the ladies apparently much affected.
“My dear lord,” said the marchioness, “I am glad you are come back; as a friend of the family, you may perhaps honour us with your advice on the present occasion.”
“Indeed,” exclaimed Lady Greystock, “I suppose his lordship is at as great loss to know what can be done as we are. Was the colonel in a situation to make any reparation! but a married man, only think how horrible!”
“Execrable monster!” cried Lord Mortimer, starting from his seat, and traversing the room; “it were a deed of kindness to mankind to extirpate him from the earth: but say,” continued he, and his voice faltered as he spoke, “where is the unfortunate—” he could not pronounce the name of Amanda.
“In her own room,” replied the marchioness: “I assure you, she behaved with not a little insolence, on Lady Greystock’s advising her to return home. For my part, I shall let her act as she pleases.”
She then proceeded to mention the marquis’s resolution of leaving the house till she had quitted it, and that he insisted on their accompanying him.
“To return to her father, is certainly the only eligible plan she can pursue,” said Lord Mortimer, “but allow me,” continued he, “to request, that your ladyship will not impute to insolence, any expression which dropped from her; pity her wounded feelings, and soften her sorrows.”
“I declare,” cried Lady Euphrasia, “I thought I should have fainted from the pity I felt for her.”
“You pitied her, then,” said Lord Mortimer, sitting down by her ladyship, “you pitied and soothed her afflictions?”
“Yes, indeed,” replied she.298
If ever Lady Euphrasia appeared pleasing in the eyes of Lord Mortimer, it was at this moment, when he was credulous enough to believe she had shed the tear of pity over his lost Amanda.
He took her hand, “Ah! my dear Lady Euphrasia,” said he, in an accent of melting softness, “perhaps even now she needs consolation; a gentle female friend would be a comfort to her wounded heart.”
Lady Euphrasia immediately took the hint, and said she would go to her.
He led her to the door. “You are going,” cried he, “to perform the office of an angel; to console the afflicted: ah! well does it become the young and gentle of your sex, to pity such misfortunes.”
Her ladyship retired, but not indeed to the chamber of the forlorn Amanda; in her own she vented the rage of her soul, in something little short of execrations against Lord Mortimer, for the affection she saw he still retained for Amanda.
On her ladyship’s retiring, Lady Greystock mentioned every particular she had heard from Mrs. Jennings, and bitterly lamented her ever having taken Amanda under her protection.
The subject was too painful to be long endured by Lord Mortimer. He had heard of the early hour fixed for the journey, and saying he would no longer keep the ladies from repose, precipitately retired. He gave his man directions to watch their motions, and inform him when they left the town.
Exhausted by the violence of her emotions, a temporary forgetfulness stole over the senses of Amanda, on her being left to solitude. In this state she continued, till roused by a bustle in the house; she started, listened, and heard the sound of a carriage; supposing it to be the one she had ordered for her departure, she sprang from the bed, and going to the window, saw, instead of one for her, the marquis’s, into which he was handing the ladies. As soon as it drove from the door, she rang the bell, and the housekeeper immediately appeared, as Mrs. Jane had attended the marchioness to the villa. Amanda inquired “whether a carriage, as she directed, had been engaged for her.”
The housekeeper replied, “the hour in which she spoke was too late for such a purpose, but she had now sent for one.”
Amanda endeavoured to exert herself, and was packing up her 299 clothes, when a maid entered the chamber, and said, “Lord Mortimer was below, and wished to speak to her.”
Tumultuous joy pervaded the mind of Amanda; she had believed it probable she should not see him again before her departure for Ireland, from whence she had determined writing to him the particulars of the affair. His visit seemed to announce he thought not unfavourably of her; she supposed he came to assure her, that his opinion of her integrity was unshaken, “and I shall yet triumph,” cried she, in the transport of the idea, “over malice and treachery.”
She sprung past the maid; her feet scarce touching the ground, and in a moment she found herself in the arms of Lord Mortimer, which involuntarily opened to receive her, for trembling, weak, and disordered, she would else, on seeing him, have sunk to the floor.
He supported her to a sofa; in a little time she raised her head from his shoulder, and exclaimed,
“Oh! you are come, I know you are come to comfort me.”
“Would to heaven,” he answered, “I were capable of either giving or receiving comfort; the period, however, I trust, may yet arrive, when we shall both, at least be more composed:—to mitigate your sorrows, would lessen my own; for never, oh never can my heart forgot the love and esteem it once bore Amanda.”
“Once bore her!” repeated Amanda, “once bore her. Lord Mortimer, do you say?—then you wish to imply, they no longer exist.”
The tone of anguish in which she spoke, pierced the heart of Lord Mortimer; unable to speak, he arose, and walked to the window to hide his emotion.
His words, his silence, all conveyed a fatal truth to Amanda; she saw a dreadful and eternal separation effected between her and Lord Mortimer:—She beheld herself deprived of reputation, loaded with calumny, and no longer an object of love, but of detestation and contempt.
Her anguish was almost too great to bear, yet the pride of injured innocence made her wish to conceal it; and as Lord Mortimer stood at the window, she determined to try and leave the room without his knowledge, but ere she gained the door, her head grew giddy, her strength failed, she staggered, faintly screamed on finding herself falling, and sunk upon the floor.
Lord Mortimer wildly called for assistance; he raised and carried 300 her back to the sofa; he strained her to his bosom; kissed her pale lips, and wept over her.
“I have wounded your gentle soul, my Amanda,” he cried, “but I have tortured my own by doing so; ah! still dearest of women, did the world compassionate your errors, as I compassionate them, neither contempt nor calumny would ever be your portion. How pale she looks,” said he, raising his head to gaze upon her face, “how like a lovely flower, untimely faded; yet were it happiness for her never to revive: a soul like hers, originally noble, must be wretched under the pressure of scorn. Execrable Belgrave! the fairest work of heaven is destroyed by you. Oh! my Amanda, my distress is surely severe, though anguish rives my heart for your loss. I must conceal it: the sad luxury of grief will be denied me; for the world would smile if I should say, I now lamented you.”
Such were the effusions of sorrow which broke from Lord Mortimer, over the insensible Amanda. The housekeeper, who had been listening all this time, now appeared, as if in obedience to his call, and offered her assistance in recovering Amanda, Heavy sighs at length gave hopes of her restoration. Lord Mortimer, unable to support her pathetic lamentations, determined to depart ere she was perfectly sensible.
“Miss Fitzalan,” said he to the housekeeper, “will wish, I am convinced, to quit this house immediately; I shall take upon myself to procure her a carriage, also a proper attendant for her journey, which, I flatter myself, she will be able to commence in a few hours: be kind, be gentle to her, my good woman, and depend upon my eternal gratitude. When she is recovered deliver her this letter.”
The housekeeper promised to observe his injunction and he departed.
To Ireland, with Amanda, he intended sending an old female servant, who had formerly been an attendant of his mother’s, and his own man. He was shocked at the conduct of the marchioness and Lady Greystock, and thought them guilty of the highest inhumanity, in thus deserting Amanda. The letter he had put into the housekeeper’s hands, excited her curiosity so strongly that she was tempted to gratify it. Amanda was not in a situation to perceive what she did: the letter could easily be sealed again; and, in short, without longer hesitation, she opened it. How great was her amazement, 301 on finding it contained a bank note for five hundred pounds the words were as follows:
“Consider me, Amanda, in the light of a brother: as such accept my services: to serve you, in any manner, will be a source of consolation, which, I flatter myself, you will be happy to allow me. ’Tis necessary you should return immediately to your father; hesitate not then about using the enclosed; your complying with my request, will prove that you yet retain a friendship for
“What a sum,” cried the housekeeper, as she examined the note, “what a nice little independency would this, in addition to what I have already saved, be for an honest woman! What a pity it is such a creature as it is designed for, should possess it?” The housekeeper, like her lady, was fertile in invention: to be sure there was some danger in her present scheme, but for such a prize it was worth her while to run some risk. Could she but get Amanda off, ere the carriage from Lord Mortimer arrived, she believed all would succeed as she could wish. Amanda, ignorant as she was of Lord Mortimer’s intentions, would not, consequently, be influenced by them, to oppose anything she could do. Full of this idea, she ran out, and calling a footman, high in her favour, desired him immediately to procure a travelling chaise for Miss Fitzalan. She then returned to Amanda, who was just beginning to move.
“Come, come,” cried she, going to her, and roughly shaking her shoulder, “have done with those tragedy airs, and prepare yourself against the carriage you ordered, comes: it will be at the door in a few minutes.”
Amanda looked around the room, “Is Lord Mortimer gone then?” said she.
“Lord, to be sure he is,” cried the housekeeper, “he has left you on the floor, and as he went out, he said you should never have another opportunity of deceiving him.”
A sudden phrenzy seemed to seize Amanda: she wrung her hands, called upon Lord Mortimer in the impassionate language of despair, and flung herself on the ground, exclaiming, “this last stroke is more than I can bear.”
The housekeeper grew alarmed, lest her agitation should retard her departure; she raised her forcibly from the ground and said, “she must compose herself to begin her journey, which was unavoidable, 302 as the marchioness had given absolute orders to have her sent from the house early in the morning.”
“Accursed house!” said Amanda, whose reason was restored by the strenuous remonstrances of the housekeeper, “Oh! that I had never entered it.” She then told her companion, “if she would assist her, as she was almost too weak to do anything herself, she would be ready against the carriage came.” The housekeeper and maid accordingly attended her to her chamber; the former brought her drops, and the latter assisted in putting on her habit, and packing up her clothes. Amanda having secured her trunks, desired they might be sent by the first opportunity, to Castle Carberry; she had left a great many clothes there, so took nothing at present with her but a small quantity of linen. She had but a few guineas in her purse, her watch, however, was valuable: and if she had money enough to carry her to Dublin, she knew there she might procure a sufficient sum on it to carry her home.
At last the carriage came; with a trembling form, and a half broken heart, Amanda entered it. She saw Nicholas the footman, who had procured it, ready mounted to attend her. She told him it was unnecessary to do so, but he declared he could not think of letting so young a lady travel unprotected. She was pleased at his attention; she had shuddered at the idea of her forlorn situation, and now dropt a tear of sweet sensibility at finding she was not utterly deserted by every human being. The carriage took the road to Park-Gate, as Amanda chose to embark from thence, the journey being so much nearer to it than to Holyhead. It was now about eight o’clock; after travelling about four hours, the chaise stopt at a small house on the road side, which appeared to be a common ale-house. Amanda was unwilling to enter it, but the horses were here to be changed; and she was shown into a dirty parlour, where almost sinking with weakness, she ordered tea to be immediately brought in. She was much astonished, as she sat at the tea-table, to see Nicholas enter the room, with a familiar air, and seat himself by her. She stared at first, supposing him intoxicated; but perceiving no sign of this on his countenance, began to fear the insults she had received at the marquis’s made him think himself authorized to treat her with this insolence. She rose abruptly, and summoning all her resolution to her aid, desired him to retire, adding, “if his attendance was requisite, she would ring for him.”303
Nicholas also quitted his seat, and following her, caught her in his arms, exclaiming, “bless us, how hoity toity you are grown.”
Amanda shrieked, and stamped on the floor, in an agony of terror and indignation.
“Well now really,” said he, what happened at home, I think you need not be so coy with me.”
“Oh! save me, heaven, from this wretch,” was all the affrighted Amanda could articulate.
The door opened, a waiter appeared, and told Nicholas he was wanted without. Nicholas released Amanda, and ran directly from the room. Amanda sunk upon a chair, and her head turned giddy at the idea of the dangers with which she was surrounded. She saw herself in the power of a wretch, perhaps wretches, for the house seemed a proper place for scenes of villany, without the means of delivering herself. She walked to the window: a confused idea of getting through it, and running from the house, darted into her mind, but she turned from it in agony, at seeing a number of countrymen drinking before it. She now could only raise her feeble hands to heaven to supplicate its protection.
She past some minutes in this manner, when the lock turned, and made her shudder; but it was the landlady alone who entered; she came, she said, with Nicholas’ respectful duty, and he was sorry he was obliged to go back to town, without seeing her safe to her journey’s end.
“Is he really gone?” asked Amanda, with all the eagerness of joy.
“Yes,” the woman said, “a person had followed him from London, on purpose to bring him back.”
“Is the carriage ready?” cried Amanda.
She was informed it was.
“Let me fly, then,” said she, running to the door, “Let me fly, or the wretch may return.”
The landlady impeded her progress to tell her the bill was not yet settled. Amanda pulled out her purse, and besought her not to detain her. This the woman had no desire to do: things were therefore settled without delay between them, and Amanda was driven, with as much expedition as she could desire, from the terrifying mansion. The chaise had proceeded about two miles, when in the middle of a solitary road, or rather lane, by the side of a wood, it 304 suddenly stopt. Amanda, alarmed at every incident, hastily looked out and inquired what was the matter; but how impossible to describe her terror, when she beheld Colonel Belgrave, and Nicholas standing by him. She shrunk back, and entreated the postillion to drive on; but he heeded not her entreaty. Nicholas opened the door, and Belgrave sprang into the carriage. Amanda attempted to burst open the door at the opposite side, but he caught her to his bosom and the horses set off at full speed. Colonel Belgrave’s valet had been secreted by Mrs. Jane the preceding night in the house, that he might be able to give his master intelligence of all that passed within it, in consequence of his being discovered in the closet. On hearing that the family were gone to the marquis’s villa, Belgrave believed he could easily prevail on the domestics, to deliver up Amanda to him. Elated with this hope, he reached the house, attended by his valet, just after she had quitted it. The housekeeper hesitated to inform him of the road she had taken, till she had procured what she knew would be the consequence of her hesitation, a large bribe. Hordes were then immediately procured, and Belgrave and his servant set off in pursuit of Amanda. The sight of a travelling chaise at the little inn already mentioned, prompted their inquiries; and on finding the chaise waited for Amanda, the colonel retired to a private room, sent for Nicholas, and secured him in his interest. It was settled that they should repair to the wood, by which the postillion was bribed to pass, and from thence proceed to a country house of the colonel’s. Their scheme accomplished, Nicholas, happy in the service he had done, or rather the reward he had obtained for that service, again turned his face towards London.
The carriage and attendants Lord Mortimer procured for Amanda, arrived even earlier than the housekeeper had expected, and she blessed her lucky stars for the precipitancy with which she had hurried off Amanda.
They were followed by his lordship himself, whose wretched heart could not support the idea of letting Amanda depart without once more beholding her. Great was his dismay, his astonishment, when the housekeeper informed him she was gone.
“Gone!” he repeated, changing colour.
The housekeeper said, that without her knowledge Miss Fitzalan had a chaise hired, and the moment it came to the door, stopped into 305 it, notwithstanding she was told his lordship meant to provide every thing proper for her journey himself; “but she said, my lord,” cried the housekeeper, “she wanted none of your care, and that she could never get fast enough from a house, or from people, where and by whom she had been so ill treated.”
Lord Mortimer asked if she had any attendant, and whether she took the letter.
The housekeeper answered both these questions in the affirmative; “Truly, my lord,” she continued, “I believe your lordship said something in that letter which pleased her, for she smiled on opening it, and said, ”Well, well, this is something like comfort.”
“And was she really so mean,” he was on the point of asking, but he timely checked a question which was springing from a heart that sickened at finding the object of his tenderest affections unworthy in every respect of possessing them. Every idea of this kind soon gave way to anxiety on her account; his heart misgave him at her undertaking so long a journey under the protection of a common servant; and unable to endure his apprehensions, he determined instantly to pursue, and see her safe himself to the destined port.
The woman who had hitherto sat in the chaise was ordered home; he entered it with eagerness, and promised liberally to reward the postillions if they used expedition. They had changed horses but once, when Lord Mortimer saw Nicholas approaching, whom, at the first glance, he knew. He stopped the carriage, and called out,
“Where have you left Miss Fitzalan?”
“Faith, my lord,” cried Nicholas, instantly stopping and taking off his hat, “in very good company; I left her with Colonel Belgrave, who was waiting by appointment on the road for her.”
“Oh! horrible infatuation!” said Lord Mortimer, “that nothing can snatch her from the arms of infamy.”
The postillion desired to know whether he should return to London.
Lord Mortimer hesitated, and at last desired him to go on according to his first directions. He resolved to proceed to Park-gate, and discover whether Amanda had returned to Ireland. They had not proceeded far, when they overtook a travelling chaise. As Lord Mortimer passed he looked into it, and beheld Amanda reclining on the bosom of Belgrave. He trembled universally, closed his eyes, 306 and sighed out the name of the perfidious Amanda. When they had got some way before the other chaise, he desired the postillion to strike off into another road, which, by a circuit of a few miles, would bring them back to London. Amanda, it was evident, had put herself under the protection of Belgrave, and to know whether she went to Ireland was now of little consequence to him, as he supposed her unreclaimable; but how impossible to describe his distress and confusion, when almost the first object he beheld on alighting in St. James’ Square, was his aunt, Lady Martha Dormer, who, in compliance with his urgent request, had hastened to London. Had a spectre crossed his sight, he could not have been more shocked.
“Well, my dear Frederick,” said her ladyship, “you see I lost no time in obeying your wishes: I have flown hither, I may indeed say, on the wings of love; but where is this little divinity of thine? I long to have a peep at her goddess-ship.”
Lord Mortimer, inexpressibly shocked, turned to the window.
“I shall see, to be sure,” cried her ladyship, “quite a little paragon: positively, Frederick, I will be introduced this very evening.”
“My dear aunt, my dear Lady Martha,” said Lord Mortimer, impatiently, “for heaven’s sake spare me.”
“But tell me,” she continued, “when I shall commence this attack upon your father’s heart.”
“Never, never,” sighed Lord Mortimer, half distracted.
“What, you suppose he will prove inflexible? but I do not despair of convincing you to the contrary; tell me, Frederick, when the little charmer can be seen.”
“Oh God!” cried Mortimer, striking his forehead, “she is lost,” said he, “she is lost forever.”
Lady Martha was alarmed; she now, for the first time, noticed the wild and pallid looks of her nephew.
“Gracious heavens!” she exclaimed, “what is the matter?”
The dreadful explanation Lord Mortimer now found himself under the necessity of giving: the shame of acknowledging he was so deceived: the agony he suffered from that deception, joined to the excessive agitation and fatigue he had suffered the preceding night, and the present day, so powerfully assailed him at this moment, that his senses suddenly gave way, and he actually fainted on the floor.307
What a sight for the tender Lady Martha; she saw something dreadful had happened, and what this was, Lord Mortimer, as soon as he recovered, informed her.
He then retired to his chamber; he could neither converse, nor bear to be conversed with: his fondest hopes were blasted; nor could he forego the sad indulgence of mourning over them in solitude; he felt almost convinced that the hold Amanda had on his affections could not be withdrawn; he had considered her as scarcely less than his wife, and had she been really such, her present conduct could not have given him more anguish. Had she been snatched from him by the hand of death; had she been wedded to a worthy character, he could have summoned fortitude to his aid, but to find her the prey of a villain, was a stroke too horrible to bear, at least for a long period, with patience.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXIX
an accent expressive of surprise and disappointment.
text has disappointment.”
deceived by a specious appearance of perfection
text has apearance
“No,” cried she, “I shall indeed no longer deliberate about it.”
text has ‘I shall
Belgrave again seized her hand.
text has siezed
“In reading, madam,” faltered out Amanda
text has faultered
Innocence is bold; ’tis guilt alone is timorous.”
close quote missing
leaning on a chair.
text has chair.”
when she returns to obscurity, the affair may die away.”
close quote missing
“after what happened at home, I think you need not be so coy with me.”
open quote missing
Lord Mortimer, distrest by the indisposition of Amanda, hastened, at an earlier hour than usual (for his morning visits) to Portman Square
Amanda had fainted soon after Colonel Belgrave entered the carriage, and she was reclining on his bosom in a state of insensibility, when Lord Mortimer past.