The Children of the Abbey
Thy grave—shall with fresh flowers be drest,
And the green turf lie lightly on thy breast;
There shall the morn her earliest tears bestow,
There the first roses of the year shall blow.
A gentle noise in her chamber roused Amanda from a light refreshing slumber, and she beheld her nurse standing by her bed-side, with a bowl of goat’s whey; Amanda took the salubrious draught with a smile, and instantly starting up, was dressed in a few minutes. She felt more composed than she had done for some time past; the transition from a narrow dark street to a fine open country, 36 would have excited a lively transport in her mind, but for the idea of her father still remaining in the gloomy situation she had quitted.
On going out she found the family all busily employed; Edwin and his sons were mowing in a meadow near the house; the nurse was churning; Ellen washing milk-pails by the stream in the valley; and Betsey turning a cake for her breakfast.
The tea-table was laid by a window, through which a woodbine crept, diffusing a delightful fragrance; the bees feasted on its sweetness, and the gaudy butterflies fluttered around it; the refulgent sun gladdened the face of nature; the morning breeze tempered its heat, and bore upon its dewy wings the sweets of opening flowers; birds carolled their matins almost on every spray; and scattered peasants, busied in their various labours, enlivened the extensive prospects.
Amanda was delighted with all she saw, and wrote to her father, that his presence was only wanting to complete her pleasure. The young man who had attended her, on receiving her letter, set out for the village, from whence he was to return in a stage coach to London.
The morning was passed by Amanda in arranging her little affairs, walking about the cottage, and conversing with the nurse relative to past times and present avocations. When the hour for dinner came, by her desire it was carried out into the recess in the garden, where the balmy air, the lovely scene which surrounded her, rendered it doubly delicious.
In the evening she asked Ellen to take a walk with her, to which she joyfully consented. “And pray, Miss,” said Ellen, after she had smartened herself with a clean white apron, her Sunday cap, and a hat loaded with poppy-coloured ribbons, smiling as she spoke, at the pretty image her glass reflected, “where shall we go?”
“To the church-yard,” replied Amanda. “Oh Lord, Miss,” cried Ellen, “won’t that be rather a dismal place to go to?” “Indulge me my dear Ellen,” said Amanda, “in shewing me the way thither: there is one spot in it my heart wants to visit.” The church-yard lay at the entrance of the little village; the church was a small structure, whose gothic appearance proclaimed its ancient date; it was rendered more venerable by the lofty elms and yews which surrounded it, apparently coeval with itself, and which cast dark shades upon the spots where the rude “forefathers of the hamlet slept,” which37
With uncouth rhymes, and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
Implor’d the passing tribute of a sigh.
And it was a tribute Amanda paid, as she proceeded to the grave of Lady Malvina, which Ellen pointed out: it was overgrown with grass, and the flag which bore her name, green from time and damp. Amanda involuntarily sunk on her knees, and kissed the hallowed earth: her eyes caught the melancholy inscription.—“Sweet spirit,” she said, “Heaven now rewards your sufferings. Oh, my mother! if departed spirits are ever allowed to review this world, with love ineffable you may now be regarding your child. Oh! if she is doomed to tread as thorny a path as the one you trod, may the same sweetness and patience that distinguished you, support her through it; with the same pious awe, the same meek submission, may she bow to the designation of her
The affecting catastrophe drew tears from the tender-hearted Ellen, who besought her not to continue longer in such a dismal place. Amanda now rose weeping; her spirits were entirely overcome: the busy objects of the day had amused her mind, and prevented it from meditating on its sorrows; but in the calm solitude of the evening they gradually revived in her remembrance. Her father’s ill health, she feared, would increase for want of her tender attentions; and when she thought of his distress, his confinement, his dejection, she felt an agony at their separation.
Her melancholy was noticed at the cottage. Ellen informed the nurse of the dismal walk they had taken, which at once accounted for it: and the good woman exerted herself to enliven her dear child; but Amanda, though she faintly smiled, was not to be cheered, and soon retired to bed—pale, languid, and unhappy.
Returning light, in some degree, dispelled her melancholy; she felt, however, for the first time, that her hours would hang heavy on her hands, deprived as she was of those delightful resources, which had hitherto diversified them. To pass her time in listless inaction, or idle saunters about the house, was insupportable; and besides she found her presence in the morning was a restraint on her humble friends, who did not deem it good manners to work before her; and to them, who like bees were obliged to lay up their wintry hoard in summer, the loss of time was irreparable.
In the distraction of her father’s affairs, she had lost her books, 38 implements for drawing, and musical instruments; and in the cottage she could only find a bible, family prayer-book, and a torn volume of old ballads.
“Tear heart, now I think on’t,” said the nurse, “you may go to the library at Tudor-Hall, where there are books enough to keep you a-going, if you lived to the age of Methusalem himself, and very pretty reading to be sure amongst them, or our parson Howell would not have been going there as often as he did, to study, till he got a library of his own. The family are all away, and as the door is opened every fine day to air the room, you will not be noticed by nobody going into it; though for that matter poor old Mrs. would make you welcome enough, if you promised to take none of the books away with you. But as I know you to be a little bashful or so, I will, if you choose, step over and ask her leave for you to go.”—“If you please,” said Amanda; “I should not like to go without it.”—“Well, I shan’t be long,” continued the nurse, “and Ellen shall show you the way to-day; it will be a pretty pit of a walk for you to take every morning.” The nurse was as good as her word; she returned soon, with Mrs. permission for Amanda to read in the library whenever she pleased. In consequence of this she immediately proceeded to the Hall, whose white turrets were seen from the cottage: it was a large and antique building, embosomed in a grove, the library was on the ground floor, and entered by a spacious folding door. As soon as she had reached it, Ellen left her, and returned to the cottage; and Amanda began with pleasure to examine the apartment, whose elegance and simplicity struck her with immediate admiration.
On one side was a row of large windows, arched quite in the Gothic style; opposite to them were corresponding arches, in whose recesses the book cases were placed: round these arches were festoons of laurel, elegantly executed in stucco work, and above them medallions of some of the most celebrated poets: the chimney piece, of the finest Italian marble, was beautifully inlaid and ornamented; the paintings on the ceiling were highly finished, and of the allegorical kind; and it was difficult to determine, whether the taste that designed, or the hand that executed them, merited most praise: upon marble pedestals stood a celestial and terrestrial globe, and one recess was entirely hung with maps. It was a room, from its situation and 39 appearance, peculiarly adapted for study and contemplation; all around was solitude and silence, save the soft rustling of the trees, whose dark foliage cast a solemn shade upon the windows. Opposite the entrance was another folding door, which being a little opened, Amanda could not resist the desire she felt, of seeing what was beyond it: she entered a large vaulted apartment, whose airy lightness formed a pleasing contrast with the gloomy one she had left: the manner in which it was fitted up, and the musical instruments declared this to be a music-room. It was hung with pale green damask, spotted with silver and bordered with festoons of roses, intermingled with light silver sprays; the seats corresponding to the hangings; the tables were of fine inlaid wood; and superb lustres were from the ceiling, which represented, in a masterly style, scenes from some of the pastoral poets; the orchestra, about the centre of the room, was enclosed with a light balustrading of white marble elevated by a few steps.
The windows of this room commanding a pleasant prospect of a deep romantic dale; the hills, through which it wound, displaying a beautiful diversity of woody scenery, with green pastures and barren points of rocks: a fine fall of water fell from one of the highest of the hills, which, broken by intervening roots and branches of trees, run a hundred different ways, sparkling in the sunbeams as they emerged from the shade.
Amanda stood long at the window enjoying this delightful prospect, and admiring the taste which had chosen this room for amusement; thus at once gratifying the eye and ear. On looking over the instruments, she saw a piano forte unlocked; she gently raised the lid and touching the keys, found them in tolerable order. Amanda adored music, her genius for it was great, and had received every advantage her father could possibly give it: in cultivating it he had laid up a fund of delight for himself, for “his soul was a stream, that flowed at pleasant sounds.”
Amanda could not resist the present opportunity of gratifying her favourite inclination. “Harmony and I,” cried she, “have long been strangers to each other.” She sat down and played a tender little air: those her father loved recurred to recollection, and she played a few of them with even more than usual elegance. “Ah dear and valued object,” she mournfully sighed, “why are you not here to 40 share my pleasure?” She wiped away a starting tear of tender remembrance, and began a simple air.
Ah, gentle hope! shall I no more
Thy cheerful influence share?
Oh, must I still thy loss deplore,
And be the slave of care!
The gloom which now obscures my day
At thy approach would fly,
And glowing fancy should display
A bright unclouded sky.
Night’s dreary shadows fleet away,
Before the orient beam;
So sorrow melts before thy sway,
Thou nymph of cheerful mien.
Ah, seek again my lonely breast,
Dislodge each painful fear!
Be once again my heavenly guest,
And stay each falling tear.
Amanda saw a number of music books lying about; she examined a few, and found they contained compositions of some of the most eminent masters. They tempted her to continue a little longer at the instrument; when she rose from it, she returned to the library, and began looking over the books, which she found a collection of the best which past or present times had produced. She soon selected one for her perusal, and seated herself in the recess of a window, that she might enjoy the cool breeze which sighed amongst the trees. Here, delighted with her employment, she forgot the progress of time, nor thought of moving till Ellen appeared, with a request from the nurse for her immediate return, as her dinner was ready, and she was uneasy at her fasting so long. Amanda did not hesitate to comply with the request; but she resolved henceforth to be a constant visitor at the Hall, which contained such pleasing sources of amusement; she also settled in her own mind, often to ramble amidst its shades, which were perfectly adapted to her taste. These resolutions she put in practice; and a week passed in this manner, during which she heard from her father, who informed her, that suspecting the woman with whom he lodged to be in Colonel Belgrave’s interest, he proposed changing his abode; he desired her, therefore, not to write till she heard from him again, and added, Lord Cherbury was daily expected.
may she bow to the designation of her Creator.”
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poor old Mrs. Abergwilly would make you welcome enough
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she returned soon, with Mrs. Abergwilly’s permission
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superb lustres were suspended from the ceiling,
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interspersed with green pastures and barren points of rocks:
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Fitzalan, the father of Amanda, was the descendant of an ancient Irish family
Mine eyes were half closed in sleep.