The Children of the Abbey
And let a maid thy pity share,
Who seeks for rest but finds despair
Companion of her way.
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. In this situation she continued, till they had gained a solitary road, when the carriage stopt, and water procured from an adjacent cottage, being sprinkled on her face she recovered: but either by arguments, or action, she was now unable to oppose Belgrave; she felt a weakness through her whole frame, which she believed the forerunner of death; and a languor on her mind that almost deprived it of the perception of misery.
The refreshments ordered to her, she could only refuse by a motion of her head; and in this manner they proceeded till about nine o’clock at night, when they entered an extensive wood, in the very centre of which stood Colonel Belgrave’s mansion. He carried Amanda himself into it, and laid her upon a sofa in a large parlour. Some female 308 domestics appeared with drops and cordials, to try to recover her from the almost lifeless state in which she lay. One of them presented a letter to Colonel Belgrave, which excited no little perturbation, in his mind; it came express to inform him that his uncle, whose estate and title he was heir to, lay at the point of death, and that his presence immediately was required.
The colonel was not so absolutely engrossed by love as to be incapable of attending to his interest. An addition to his fortune was extremely agreeable, as his affairs were somewhat deranged; and as Amanda was not in a situation at present to comply with any overtures he should make, his resolution was immediately formed to set off without delay, and against his return, he trusted Amanda would not only be recovered, but willing to accede to his wishes.
He dismissed the woman who had brought her a little to herself, and taking her hand, informed her of the painful necessity he was under of departing for a short time: he also mentioned his hopes, that on his return he should have no obstacle thrown in the way of his happiness by her. “You must be sensible, my dear Amanda,” said he, with coolness, “that your reputation is as much gone as if you had complied with my wishes: since it is sacrificed, why not enjoy the advantages that may, that will certainly attend the reality of that sacrifice.”
“Monster!” cried Amanda, “your arts may have destroyed my fame, but my innocence bids defiance to your power.”
“Conquer your obstinacy, Amanda,” replied he, “against I return, or I shall not promise but what I may at last be irritated. As you will have no occasion for money here, you must excuse me, my dear creature, if I take your purse into my own keeping: my domestics may be faithful, when they have no inducement to the contrary: but no bribery, no corruption, you know.”
He then deliberately took Amanda’s purse and watch from her pocket, and deposited them in his own. He had already given directions to his servants concerning the treatment of Amanda, and now ordered them to carry her to a chamber, and make her some refreshment.
“Reflect, Amanda,” said he, ere she retired, “on your present situation, and timely estimate the advantages I offer to your acceptance; wealth, pleasure, the attention of a man who adores you, are 309 not to be despised. Upon my soul it grieves me to leave you, but the joys of meeting will I trust, pay the pangs of absence.”
As he spoke, he attempted to embrace her, but she faintly shrieked, and shrunk from his grasp. He looked provoked, but as he had no time to lose, he reserved a declaration of his anger for another opportunity, and directly set off for his uncle’s.
Amanda was supported to a chamber, and lay down in her clothes on a bed. They offered her bread and wine, but she was too sick to touch any. To remonstrate with the insolent looking creatures who surrounded her, she knew would be unavailing, and she turned her face on the pillow to stifle her sobs, as she believed they would exult in her distress. Death she thought approaching, and the idea of being separated from the dear objects who would have soothed its last pangs, was dreadful; her father in agony, and Oscar, her beloved brother bewailing her with tears of sorrow, were the images fancy presented to her view.
“Dear objects of my love,” she softly exclaimed, “Amanda shall no more behold you, but her last sigh will be breathed for you. Ah! why, why,” she cried, “did I suffer myself to be separated from my father?”
A young woman leaned over Amanda, and surveyed her with the most malignant scrutiny; she was daughter to Belgrave’s steward, and neither she nor her father possessed sufficient virtue to make them reject the offers Belgrave made them on her account. His attachment to her was violent, but transient, and in the height of it he made her mistress of the mansion she now occupied, which character she maintained with tyrannic sway over the rest of her domestics. Belgrave was really ignorant of the violence of her temper, and had no idea she would dare dispute his inclinations, or disobey his orders; he believed she would be subservient to both, and from this belief gave Amanda particularly into her charge.
But scarcely had he departed, ere she swore, “that let the consequence be what it would, the vile wretch he had brought into the house to insult her, should never remain in it: she shall tramp,” cried she, “though I follow her myself, when he returns, for such a little hussey shall never triumph over me.”
The servants, ignorant and timorous, did not attempt to oppose her.310
“Come, madam,” said she, suddenly seizing Amanda’s arm, and pulling her from the pillow, “have done with these languishing airs, and march.”
“What do you mean?” cried Amanda, trembling at her inflamed countenance.
“Why I mean that you shall quit this house directly, and I wonder Colonel Belgrave could have the assurance to bring such a creature as you into it.”
“You mistake, indeed,” said Amanda, “treachery, not inclination, brought me into it, and I am not what you suppose; if, as you say, you allow me to depart, I shall ever regard you as a friend, and in every prayer I offer up to heaven for myself, you shall be remembered.”
“Oh dear, but you shall not impose upon me so easily, come,” continued she, turning to her maid, “and help me to conduct this fine lady to the hall door.”
“Gracious heavens,” said Amanda, who by this time was taken or rather dragged from the bed, “what are you about doing with me? Though I rejoice to quit the house, yet surely, surely,” she cried, and her soul recoiled at the idea, “without a guide at this hour of the night, you will not turn me from it.”
She then mentioned Colonel Belgrave’s having deprived her of the purse and watch, and besought the woman in the most pathetic terms, to supply her with a small sum, which she solemnly assured her should be returned, as soon as she reached her friends; and ended with saying, she should depart with gratitude and joy, if she complied with her request, and allowed some one to guide her to a place where she might procure a carriage.
“Such madams as you,” replied the imperious woman, never at a loss for means of procuring money, or a place to go to: I see through your art well enough; you want me to pity you, that I may let you stay till your colonel returns: but who would be fool then I wonder? the tables, I warrant, would soon be turned upon me: No, no, out you go this moment.”
So saying, she rudely seized Amanda, and assisted by another woman, hurried her down stairs, and out of the house directly: they carried her to an intricate part of the wood, and then ran back, leaving the helpless mourner leaning against a tree.311
Amanda looked around her: dark and awful were the shades of the word: no light appeared but what came from a few wandering stars, which only served to render darkness visible. “Have mercy upon me, heaven,” groaned Amanda, as she felt herself sinking to the earth. The cold acted as a kind of restorative, and almost immediately revived her. She rested her head against a little bank, and as she thus reclined, a tender sadness pervaded her soul, at the idea of her father’s sorrow when he heard of her fate. “When he hears,” cried she. “that I was driven from the house, as unworthy of pity or protection from any being; that his Amanda, whom he cherished in his bosom as the darling of his age, was denied the pity he would have shewn the greatest wretch that crawls upon the earth, and that she perished without shelter, it will break his heart entirely. Poor Oscar, too, alas! I shall be a source of wretchedness to Will Lord Mortimer lament when he hears of my fate? Alas! I cannot believe that he will: he that could leave me in the arms of insensibility, and so readily believe ill of me, must have a heart steeled against compassion for my sufferings. But my unhappy father and brother will never doubt my innocence, and by them I shall be tenderly and truly mourned.”
The idea of their sufferings at last recalled her wandering thoughts, and pity for those sufferings, made her endeavour to support her own, that she might be able to make some efforts for preserving a life so precious to them: besides, as she reflected, she could not but attribute her expulsion from the house of infamy, to the immediate, interposition of Providence in her favour; and whilst her heart swelled with gratitude at the idea, her fortitude gradually returned. She arose, but the vigour of her nerves was not to the ardour of her intentions: she walked on, and as she proceeded, the gloom grew more profound: the paths were intricate, and her progress was often impeded by the roots of trees and the branches which grew about them. After wandering about a considerable time, she at last began to think, that instead of gaining the skirts, she had penetrated into the very centre of the wood, and that to quit it till morning would be impossible. Yielding to this idea, or rather to her excessive weariness, she was seeking for a place to sit down on, when a faint light glimmered before her; she instantly darted through the path from whence it gleamed, and found herself at the extremity of the wood, and that the light proceeded from a small hamlet contiguous to it. 312 Thither she walked, as fast as her trembling limbs would carry her. A profound stillness reigned around, only interrupted by the hoarse and hollow barking of some distant dogs, which, in such an hour, had something particularly solemn in it. The stillness, and sudden disappearance of lights from various windows, convinced Amanda that every cottage was closed for the night; “and were they open,” said she, “I perhaps should be denied access to any, deprived as I am, of the means of rewarding kindness.” She shuddered at the idea of passing a night unsheltered. “It is now, indeed,” said she, “I really know what it is to feel for the houseless children of want.” She moved softly along; the echo of her own steps alarmed her, she had nearly reached the end of the hamlet, when before a neat cottage, divided from the others by a clump of old trees, she saw a venerable man, who might well have passed for an ancient hermit; his grey locks thinly shaded his forehead; an expression of deep and pensive thought was visible in his countenance; his arms were folded on his breast, and his eyes were raised with a tender melancholy to heaven, as if that heaven he contemplated, was now the abode of some kindred and lamented spirit. Surely such a being, thought she, will pity me. She approached him,—stood close to him, yet was unnoticed. Thrice she attempted to speak, and thrice her heart failed: at last she summoned all her courage to her aid, and faintly articulated “pity—” she could add no more, but fainted at his feet. The stranger’s mind was fraught with all the benevolence his countenance ; the transient glance be had caught of Amanda, interested every tender feeling; he called to his servant, an elderly woman, his only companion in the cottage, to assist him in conveying her in. The woman’s heart was as tender as her master’s, and the youth, the beauty, and forlorn situation of Amanda, equally excited their wonder and pity. It was many minutes ere she opened her eyes, and when she did her senses were quite bewildered, and “my father! alas, my father, I shall never more behold him,” was all she could articulate. She was supported to a small chamber, the old woman undressed her, put her to bed, and sat up with her the remainder of the night. Amanda often started; she raved continually of Belgrave, the author of her woes, and betrayed the strongest horror. “The wound he had inflicted on her heart,” she said, “the hand of death could only heal.” She mentioned the cruelty of the marchioness; called upon her father 313 to save her from destruction, and reproached Mortimer for aiding to overwhelm her in disgrace. She continued in this situation three days, during which the old man and his faithful servant watched her with unremitted attention. A neighbouring apothecary was summoned to her aid, and a girl from one of the cottages procured to sit up with her at night. The old man frequently knelt by the bed side, watching with anxiety, for a favourable symptom. Her incoherent expressions pierced him to the heart. He felt, from mournful sympathy, for the father she so pathetically mentioned, and invoked heaven to restore her to him.
The afternoon of the third day, Amanda after a long slumber, awoke, perfectly restored to her senses; it was many minutes, however, after her awaking, ere she recollected all the circumstances that had caused her present situation.
She at last opened the curtain, and perceived the old woman, whom we shall hereafter call Eleanor, seated by the bed side.
“I fear,” said she with a languid smile, “I have been the occasion of a great deal of trouble.”
“No, no,” replied the kind Eleanor, delighted to hear her speak so calmly, and drawing back a little of the curtain at the same time, to observe her looks.
Amanda inquired how long she had been ill. Eleanor informed her, and added, “heaven, my dear child, was kind to you, in throwing you in my master’s way, who delights in befriending the helpless.”
“Heaven will reward him,” exclaimed Amanda.
The chamber was gloomy; she requested one of the shutters might be opened. Eleanor complied with her desire, and a ray of the declining sun darting through the casement, cheered her pensive heart.
She perfectly remembered the venerable figure she had beheld on the threshold of the cottage, and was impatient to express her gratitude to him. The next day, she trusted, would give her an opportunity of doing so, as she then resolved, if possible, to rise. The wish of her soul was to be with her father, ere he could receive any intimation of what had happened. She resolved to communicate to her benevolent host, the incidents which had placed her in such a situation; and she flattered herself, on hearing them, he would accommodate her with the means of returning to Ireland: if unable (unwilling she 314 could not think she should find him) to do this, she then intended writing to her father.—This measure, however, she fervently trusted, she should have no occasion to take, as she well knew the shock such a letter would give him.
Contrary to the inclinations of Eleanor, she rose the next day, and as soon as she was drest, sent to request Mr. Howell’s company Eleanor had informed her of her master’s name.
The chamber was on a ground floor; before the window were a row of neat white cottages; and behind them rose a range of lofty hills, covered to the very summit with trees, now just bursting into verdure; before the cottage ran a clear murmuring rivulet, at which some young girls were washing clothes, whilst others spread them upon hedges, and all beguiled their labour with singing, chatting and laughing together.
“Ah! happy creatures,” cried Amanda, “screened by your native hills, you know nothing of the vices or miseries of the great world: no snares lurk beneath the flowery paths you tread, to wring your hearts with anguish, and nip the early blossoms of your youth.”
The old man appeared and interrupted her meditations. When he beheld the pale face of Amanda, beaming with angelic sweetness: when he saw her emaciated hand extended towards him, while her soft voice uttered her grateful acknowledgements, his emotions could not be supprest: he prest her hand between his: tears rolled down the furrows of his face, and he exclaimed,
“I thank the Almighty for reviving this sweet flower.”
A deep sob from Amanda, proved how much he had affected her feelings.
He was alarmed, and hastily endeavoured to compose his own, out of regard to hers.
When a little composed, with grateful sweetness she continued to thank him for his kindness.
“Pity,” said she, “is a sweet emotion to excite; yet from you, without esteem, it would be humiliating; and esteem I cannot flatter myself with obtaining, till I have accounted for being a wretched wanderer.”
She then gave a brief account of her father, and the events of her life.
“Ah! my dear,” cried the old man, as she finished her narrative, 315 have reason, indeed, to regret your knowledge of Belgrave, but the sorrow he has occasioned you, I believe and trust, will be but transient: that which he has given me will be as lasting as my life: you look astonished:—alas! but for him, I might now have been blest with a daughter as lovely and as amiable as Fitzalan’s. I see you are too delicate to express the curiosity my words have inspired but I shall not hesitate to gratify it; my relation will draw the tear of pity from your eye: but the sorrows of others often reconcile us to our own.”
Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXX
“are never at a loss for means of procuring money
open quote missing
I shall be a source of wretchedness to both.
the vigour of her nerves was not equal to the ardour of her intentions
l in “equal” invisible
all the benevolence his countenance depictured;
“you have reason, indeed, to regret your knowledge of Belgrave
open quote missing
From that evening, to the day destined for the ball, nothing material happened.
Many years are now elapsed since I took up my residence in this sequestered hamlet.