The Children of the Abbey
And oft as ease and health retire,
To breezy lawn or forest deep,
The friend shall view yon whitening spire,
And mid the varied landscape weep;
But thou who own’st that earthy bed,
Ah! what will every dirge avail!
Many years are now elapsed since I took up my residence in this sequestered hamlet. I retired to it in distaste with a world, whose vices had robbed me of the dearest treasure of my heart. Two children cheered my solitude, and in training them up to virtue, I lost the remembrance of half my cares. My son, when qualified, was sent to Oxford, as a friend had promised to provide for him in the church; but my daughter was destined to retirement, not only from the narrowness of my income, but from a thorough conviction it was best calculated to ensure her felicity. Juliana was the child of innocence and content, she knew of no greater happiness than that of promoting mine; of no pleasures but what the hamlet could afford, and was one of the gayest as well as the loveliest of its daughters. One fatal evening I suffered her to go, with some of her young companions, to a rustic ball, given by the parents of Belgrave, to their tenants, on coming down to Woodhouse, from which they had been long absent. The graces of my child immediately attracted the notice of their son: though young in years, he was already a profest libertine; the conduct of his father had set him an example of dissipation, which the volatility 316 of his own disposition too readily inclined him to follow. His heart immediately conceived the basest schemes against Juliana, which the obscurity of her situation prompted him to think might readily be accomplished.
From this period he took every opportunity of throwing himself in her way; my suspicions, or rather my fears were soon excited, for I knew not then the real depravity of Belgrave; but I knew that an attachment between him and my daughter would prove a source of uneasiness to both, from the disparity fortune had placed between them. My task of convincing Juliana of the impropriety of encouraging such an attachment, was not a difficult one; but alas! I saw the conviction was attended with a pang of anguish, which pierced me to the soul.
Belgrave, from the assumed softness and delicacy of his manners, had made an impression on her heart, which was not to be erased; every effort, however, which prudence could suggest, she resolved to make, and in compliance with my wishes, avoided Belgrave. This conduct soon convinced him that it would be a difficult matter to lull my caution or betray her innocence; and finding all his attempts to see her, or convey a letter to her, ineffectual, he departed with his parents from Woodhouse.
Juliana heard of his departure with a forced smile; but a starting tear, and colourless cheek, too clearly denoted to me the state of her mind. I shall not attempt to describe my sufferings on witnessing hers: with my pity was mixed a degree of veneration for that virtue, which in so young a mind could make such exertions against a passion disapproved of by a parent.—The evening of his departure, no longer under any restraint, she walked out alone, and instinctively, perhaps, took the road to Woodhouse. She wandered to its deepest glooms, and there gave way to emotions, which, from her efforts to suppress them, were become almost too painful to support. The gloom of the wood was heightened by the shades of evening, and a solemn stillness reigned around, well calculated to inspire pensive tenderness. She sighed the name of Belgrave in tremulous accents, and lamented their ever having met. A sudden rustling among the trees startled her, and the next moment she beheld him at her feet, exclaiming, “we have met, my Juliana, never more to part.”
Surprise and confusion so overpowered her senses, as to render her 317 for some time, unable to attend to his raptures. When she grew composed, he told her he was returned to make her honourably his; but to effect this intention, a journey from the hamlet was requisite.
She turned pale at these words, and declared she never would consent to a clandestine measure.
This declaration did not discourage Belgrave: he knew the interest he had in her heart, and this knowledge gave an energy to his arguments, which gradually undermined the resolution of Juliana. Already, he said, she had made a sufficient sacrifice to filial duty; surely something was now due to love like his, which, on her account, would cheerfully submit to innumerable difficulties. As she was under age, a journey to Scotland was unavoidable, he said, and he would have made me his confidant on the occasion, but that he feared my scrupulous delicacy would have opposed his intentions, as contrary to parental authority. He promised Juliana to bring her back to the hamlet immediately after the ceremony; in short, the plausibility of his arguments, the tenderness of his persuasions, and the secret impulses of her heart, at last produced the effect he wished, and he received a promise from her, to put herself under his protection that very night.
But oh! how impossible to describe my agonies the ensuing morning, when, instead of my child, I found a letter in her room, informing me of her elopement; they were such as a parent trembling for the fame and happiness of his child, may conceive; my senses must have sunk beneath them, had they long continued; but Belgrave, according to his promise, hastened back my child, and as I sat solitary and pensive in the apartment she so often had enlivened, I suddenly beheld her at my feet, supported by Belgrave as his wife. So great a transition from despair to comfort, was almost too powerful for me to support. I asked my heart, was its present happiness real; I knelt, I received my child in my arms; in those feeble arms I seemed to raise her with my heart to heaven in pious gratitude, for her returning unsullied. Yet when my first transports were abated, I could not help regretting her ever having consented to a clandestine union. I entreated Belgrave to write in the most submissive manner to his father. He promised to comply with my entreaty, yet hinted his fears, that his compliance would be unattended with the success I hoped. He requested, if this should be the case, I would 318 allow his wife to reside in the cottage till he was of age. Oh! how pleasing a request to my heart; a month passed away in happiness, only allayed by not hearing from his father. At the expiration of that time, he declared he must depart, having received orders to join his regiment, but promised to return as soon as possible; he also promised to write, but a fortnight elapsed, and no letter arrived.
Juliana and I grew alarmed, but it was an alarm that only proceeded from fears of his being ill. We were sitting one morning at breakfast, when the stopping of a carriage drew us from the table.
He is come! said Juliana, he is come! and she flew to open the door, when, instead of her expected Belgrave, she beheld his father, whose dark and haughty visage proclaimed that he came on no charitable intent. Alas! the occasion of his visit was too soon explained; he came to have the ties, which bound his son to Juliana, broken. My child, on hearing this, with firmness declared, that she was convinced any scheme his cruelty might devise to separate them, the integrity, as well as tenderness of his son, would render abortive.
Be not too confident of that, young lady, cried he, smiling maliciously. He then proceeded to inform her, that Belgrave, so beloved, and in whose integrity she so confided, had himself authorized his intentions, being determined to avail himself of non-age, to have the marriage broke.
Juliana could no more: she sunk fainting on the bosom of her wretched father. Oh! what a situation was mine, when, as I clasped her wildly to my heart, and called upon her to revive, that heart whispered me, it was cruelty to wish she should! Alas! too soon she did, to a keen perception of misery. The marriage was dissolved, and health and happiness fled from her together: yet, from compassion to me, I saw she struggled to support the burthen of Every remedy which had a chance of prolonging it, I administered; but alas! sorrow was rooted in her heart, and it was only removal, which was impossible, that could have effected her recovery. Oh! how often have I stolen from my bed to the door of her apartment, trembling, lest I should hear the last groan escape her lips! how often have I then heard her deep convulsive sobs, and reproached myself for selfishness at the moment, for wishing the continuance of her being, which was only wishing the continuance of her misery! Yes, I have then said, I resign her, my Creator, unto thee: I resign her, 319 from a certainty that only with thee she can enjoy But alas! in a moment frail nature has triumphed over such a resignation, and prostrate upon the ground I have implored heaven either to spare the child, or take the father along with her.
She saw me unusually deprest one day, and proposed a walk, with the hope that any exertion from her might recruit my spirits: but when I saw my child in the very bloom of life, unable to sustain her feeble frame: when I felt her leaning on my almost nerveless arm for support, oh! how intolerable was the anguish that rived my heart! In vain by soft endearments, she strove to mitigate it. She motioned to go towards Woodhouse; we had got within sight of the wood, when she complained of fatigue, and sat down. She had not been many minutes in this situation, when she beheld coming from the wood, Belgrave and a young girl she knew to be the steward’s daughter. The familiar manner in which they appeared conversing, left little room to doubt of the footing on which they were. The hectic glow of Juliana’s complexion, gave place to a deadly paleness: she arose and returned with me in silence to the cottage, from whence, in less than a week, she was borne to her grave.
Eight years, continued he, after a pause of some minutes, have elapsed since her death, yet is her worth, her beauty, and her sufferings still fresh in the remembrance of the inhabitants of the hamlet. In mine, oh! Miss Fitzalan, how painfully, how pleasingly, do they still exist; no noisome weed is allowed to intermingle in the high grass which has overgrown her grave, at the head of which some kind hand has planted a rose tree, whose roses blossom, bloom, and die upon the sacred spot. My child is gone before me to that earthly bed, to which I hoped she would have smoothed my passage. Every spot in and about the cottage, continually recalls her to my view: the ornaments of this little room, were all the work of that hand, long since mouldered into dust: in that bed—he stopped, he groaned, and tears burst from him—in that bed, resumed he, (in a few minutes, though with a broken voice) she breathed her last sigh; in that spot I knelt and received the last pressure of her clay cold lips. Of a calm night when all is hushed to repose, I love to contemplate that heaven, to which I have given an angel: an angel to whom, I hope, shortly to be re-united: without such a hope, surely of all men wreathing, I should be the most wretched: oh, how cruel is it then 320 in those who, by raising doubts of an hereafter, attempt to destroy such a hope. Ye sons of error, hide the impious doubts within your hearts, nor with wanton barbarity endeavour to deprive the miserable of their last comfort: when this world presents nothing but a dreary prospect, how cheering to the afflicted to reflect on that future one, where all will be bright and happy.—When we mourn over the lost friends of our tenderest affections, oh! how consolatory to think we shall be re-united to them again; how often has this thought suspended my tears and stopped my sighs; inspired by it with sudden joy, often have I risen from the cold bed where Juliana lies, and exclaimed, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” both lost in the certainty of again beholding my child.
Amanda shed tears of soft compassion for the fate of Juliana, and the sorrows of her father, and felt if possible, her gratitude to heaven increased, for preserving her from the snares of such a monster of deceit and barbarity as Belgrave.
Howell relieved the anxiety she laboured under about the means of returning home, by assuring her he would not only supply her with a sum sufficient for that purpose, but see her to Park Gate himself.
His name struck Amanda: it recalled to remembrance her Weld friend. She inquired, and heard, that the young and tender curate was indeed the son of her benefactor. “The softness of Henry’s disposition,” said his father, “particularly qualifies him for the sacred function, which prevents his having occasion to mingle in the concerns of the great world. He writes me word, that he is the simple shepherd of a simple flock.”
One day was all Amanda would devote to the purpose of recruiting her strength; nothing could prevail on her longer to defer her journey. A chaise was accordingly procured, into which, at the first dawn of day, she and Howell stept, followed by the blessing of the affectionate Eleanor, who from her own wardrobe, had supplied Amanda with a few necessaries, to take along with her. The church yard lay about a quarter of a mile from the hamlet: it was only divided from the road by a low and broken wall. Old trees shaded the grass-grown grave, and gave a kind of solemn gloominess to the place.
“See,” said Howell, suddenly taking Amanda’s hand, and letting down the glass, “See the bed where Juliana reposes.”321
The grave was distinguished by the rose tree at its head: the morning breeze gently agitated the high and luxuriant grass which covered it. Amanda gazed on it with inexpressible sadness, but the emotions it excited in her breast, she endeavoured to check in pity to the wretched father, who exclaimed, while tears trickled down his pale and furrowed cheeks, “there lies my treasure.”
She tried to divert him from his sorrow, by talking or his son. She described his little residence, which he had never seen; thus, by recalling to his recollection the blessings he yet possessed, checking his anguish for those he had lost.
The weakness of Amanda would not allow them to travel expeditiously. They slept one night on the road, and the next day, to her great joy, arrived at Park Gate, as she had all along dreaded a pursuit from Belgrave. A packet was to sail about four o’clock in the afternoon; she partook of a slight repast with her benevolent friend, who attended her to the boat, and with starting tears, gave and received an adieu. She promised to write as soon as she reached home, and assured him his kindness would never be obliterated from her heart. He watched her till she entered the ship, then returned to the inn, and immediately set off for the hamlet, with a mind somewhat cheered by the consciousness of having served a fellow creature.
Juliana could bear no more
text unchanged: 1800 and 1816 editions both have “hear”
I saw she struggled to support the burthen of existence.
a certainty that only with thee she can enjoy felicity.
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.
The weakness which Amanda felt in consequence of her late illness, and the excessive sickness she always suffered at sea, made her retire to bed immediately on entering the packet