The Children of the Abbey
Lo! I am here to answer to your vows,
And he the meeting fortunate! I come
With joyful tidings—we shall part no more.
But a shock more severe than those she had lately experienced was yet in store for our hapless heroine. About a fortnight after the visit of the Kilcorbans and the priest, as she was rambling one evening, according to custom, amongst the solitary ruins of St. Catharine’s, indulging the pensive meditations of her soul, the figure of a man suddenly darted from under a broken arch, and discovered to her view the features of the hated Belgrave. Amanda gave a faint cry, and in unutterable dismay tottered back a few paces against a wall. “Cruel Amanda,” exclaimed Belgrave, while his look seemed to 376 imply he would take advantage of her situation; his look, his voice operated like a charm to rouse her from the kind of stupefaction into which she had fallen at first sight of him, and, as he attempted to lay hold of her, she sprang past him, and, with a swiftness which mocked his speed, flew through the intricate windings of the place till she reached the convent. Her pale and distracted look, as she rushed into the prioress’ apartment, terrified the good old lady, who hastily interrogated her as to the cause of her disorder; but Amanda was unable to speak. The appearance of Belgrave she thought an omen of every ill to her. Her blood ran cold through her veins at his sight, and terror totally subdued her powers. The prioress summoned sister Mary to her relief; drops and water were administered, and the overloaded heart of the trembling Amanda was relieved by tears. The prioress again asked the cause of her agitation; but, perceiving Amanda did not like to speak before sister Mary, she immediately pretended to think it proceeded from fatigue; and Mary, who was simplicity itself, readily credited the idea. The prioress soon sent her upon some pretext from the room, and then in the gentlest terms, begged to know what had so cruelly alarmed her young friend. Amanda had already confided to the prioress the events of her life, so that the good lady, on hearing Belgrave now mentioned, no longer wondered at the agitation of Amanda; yet, as her fears, she saw, were too powerful for her reason, she endeavoured to convince her they were unnecessary. She called to her remembrance the singular protection she had already experienced from Heaven, and the protection which, whilst she was innocent, she would still have a right to expect. She also mentioned the security of her present situation, encompassed by friends whose integrity could not be warped, and whose utmost zeal would be manifested in defeating any stratagems which might be laid against her.
Amanda grew composed as she listened to the prioress; she was cheered by the voice of piety and friendship, and her heart again felt firm and elevated. She acknowledged that, after the singular, nay, almost miraculous interpositions of Providence she had experienced in her favour, to give way to terror or despair was sinful, since it showed a distrust of the Power, who has promised, with guardian care, to watch the footsteps of the innocent.
It was, however, agreed that Amanda should venture no more 377 from the convent, but confine her rambles to the garden, which was enclosed with a high wall, and had no places of concealment. Five weeks yet remained of the period Lord Mortimer had requested her to stay at St. Catharine’s; before it was expired, she trusted and believed Belgrave would be weary of watching her, and would decamp; if then she neither saw nor heard from Lord Mortimer, she resolved to relinquish all hope concerning him, and immediately think upon some plan, which would put her in a way of procuring subsistence.
Her paintings and embroidery still went on; she had executed some elegant pictures in both, which, if obliged to dispose of, she was sure would fetch a good price; yet, whenever compelled by reflection to this idea, the tear of tender melancholy would fall upon her lovely cheek, a tear which was ever hastily wiped away, while she endeavoured to fortify her mind with pious resignation to whatever should be her future fate.
Three weeks more elapsed without any event to discompose their tranquillity; but as the termination of the destined period approached, the agitation of Amanda, in spite of all her efforts to the contrary, increased; she deemed the awful crisis of her fate at hard, and she trembled at the reflection.
She now, for the first time, avoided solitude; she waited to fly from herself, and sat constantly with the prioress, who had nothing of the gloomy recluse, save the habit, about her.
They were chatting together one evening after tea, when sister Mary entered the room, bearing a large packet, which she rather tossed than presented to Amanda, exclaiming, “From Lord Mortimer. I wish the troublesome fellow had not come back again; here we shall have him frisking or storming continually, and again plaguing us out of our lives.”
“From Lord Mortimer!” exclaimed Amanda, starting from her chair, and clasping the letter between her hands; “Oh! gracious heaven!” She said no more, but flew from the room to her chamber. She tore open the seal; the envelope contained two letters; the first was directed in a hand unknown to her; her heart sickened as she dropped it on the ground; the other was the superscription of Lord Mortimer. She opened it with revived spirits, and read as follows:378
“TO MISS FITZALAN.
“I am returned, returned to tell my Amanda that nothing but the awful fiat of Heaven shall part us more. Yes, my love, a sweet reward for all our difficulties, our trials, let me add, our persevering constancy is at hand, and one name, one interest, one fate, I trust, will soon be ours.”
Tears of joy gushed from Amanda as she exclaimed, “Can this—can this be true? Is Lord Mortimer, so long, so hopelessly beloved, indeed returned to tell me we shall part no more? ’Tis true, true, and never can my grateful heart sufficiently acknowledge the goodness it experiences; but how was this event brought about?” She wiped away her tears, and resumed the letter.
“Your solemn refusal to unite yourself to me, threw me into agonies; but true love, like true courage will never despair, will never yield to difficulties, without first trying every effort to conquer them: I soon, therefore, roused myself from the heavy weight which oppressed my spirits at your resolution, and ere long conceived a project so feasible, so almost certain of success, that my impatience to realize it cannot be described; yet you may conceive some idea of it from the abrupt manner in which I quitted Castle Carberry, without desiring to bid you adieu; but, ere it could be accomplished, I plainly saw I had many difficulties to encounter; difficulties which it was absolutely essential to overcome, that I might prove to the world I was not the dupe of love, but the friend, the lover, and the vindicator of real innocence and virtue. From what I have said, you may suppose the difficulties I allude to were such as I expected to encounter in my attempt to unravel the whole of the deep and execrable plot which involved you in a situation so distressing to your feelings, and injurious to your character! and, oh! with what mingled pride and pleasure did I meditate on being your champion, clearing your fame from each dark aspersion, and proving, clearly proving, that your mind was as lovely, as angelic, as your person!
“I was happy, on my arrival in London, to find Lady Martha Dormer still at Lord Cherbury’s house. I have already told you that I left town on pretence of visiting my sister in Wales. My father, I soon perceived, suspected that had not been the real motive of my departure: but I soon perceived he did not desire to reveal his suspicions, as he asked me some questions concerning Lady Araminta, which, you may be sure, I answered awkwardly enough, and had a comic writer been present, he might have taken the hint of a good blundering scene from us both.
“The Marquis of Rosline and his family, I learned, continued at his villa. Their absence from town rejoiced me, as it not only exempted me from society I abhorred, but as it gave me an opportunity 379 of interrogating their household, amongst whom I was convinced I should discover the trusty agents the amiable marchioness had made use of in her scheme against you. The morning after my arrival, I accordingly set off to Portman Square. The man who opened the door knew me not, which I considered a lucky circumstance, for, not being able to mention my name to the housekeeper, whom I desired him to send me, she was not so much on her guard as she would otherwise have been. She started as she entered the parlour, and lifted up her hands and eyes with unfeigned astonishment. Soon, however, recovering herself, she addressed me in the most obsequious manner, and spoke as if she supposed I was come purposely to inquire after her Lord and Lady; an artful way of trying to terminate her own suspense by learning the nature of my visit. I soon gave her to understand it was not of the most amicable kind to her: I came, I said, to demand either the letter, or an account of the letter which I had entrusted to her care for Miss Fitzalan, which contained a note of large value, and which I found had never been received by that young lady. Her countenance in a moment condemned her: it spoke stronger than a thousand tongues against her. She first grew deadly pale, then fiery red, trembled, faltered, and hung her head to avoid my eyes. Her looks, I told her, confirmed the suspicions I was forced to entertain of her integrity; yet, shocking as the action was which she had committed, being not only a breach of trust, but humanity, I was willing to come to an easy and private accommodation about it, provided she would truly and fully confess the part she had taken or knew others to have taken, in injuring Miss Fitzalan, while she resided in the marquis’s house, by bringing Colonel Belgrave into it. I paused for her reply. She appeared as if considering how she should act. I thought I saw something yielding in her face, and eager to take advantage of it, I proceeded: What I have already said, I am going again to repeat; that is, if you confess all you know relative to the plot which was contrived and carried into execution in this house against Miss Fitzalan, I will settle every thing relative to the letter and its contents, in a manner pleasing to you. Her innocence is unquestioned by me; but it is essential to her peace that it should also be so to the rest of her friends, and they who regard her welfare will liberally reward those whose allegations shall justify her.
“Upon this she turned to me, with a countenance of the utmost effrontery, and said she would not tell a lie to please any one. I will not shock you by repeating all she said. She ended by saying, as to the letter, she set me at defiance; true, I had given her one for Miss Fitzalan; but I might remember Miss Fitzalan was in a fit on the ground at the time, and she had called in other servants to her assistance, she said; and in the hurry and bustle which ensued, she knew not what became of it; others might as well be called upon as her. I could no longer command my temper; I told her she was a wretch, and only fit for the diabolical service in which she was employed. The note, which I enclosed in the letter I had given her for you, I 380 had received from my father’s agent in the country; as a post note I had endorsed it, and taken the number in my pocket-book; I therefore left Portman Square with a resolution of going to the Bank, and if not already received, stopping payment; I stepped into the first hackney-coach I met, and had the satisfaction of finding it had not been offered at the Bank. I suspected she would be glad to exchange it for cash as soon as possible, and therefore left my direction, as well as request for the detention of any person who should present it.
“In consequence of this a clerk came the following morning, to inform me a woman had presented the note at the Bank, and was, agreeable to my request, detained till I appeared. I immediately returned with him, and had the satisfaction of seeing the housekeeper caught in the snare. She burst into tears, at my appearance, and coming up to me, in a low voice said, if I would have mercy upon her, she would in return make a full confession of all she knew about the affair I had mentioned to her yesterday.
“I told her, though she deserved no mercy, yet, as I had promised on such condition to show her lenity, I would not violate my word. I received the note, sent for a coach, and handing the lady into it, soon conveyed her to Portman Square. She no sooner entered the parlour than she fell on her knees, and besought my forgiveness. I bid her rise, and lose no time in revealing all she knew concerning the scheme against you. She then confessed, that both she and Mrs. Jane, the attendant who had been placed about your person, were acquainted and concerned in all the contrivances the marchioness had laid against you, who scrupled not acknowledging to them the inveterate hatred she bore you. Their scruples, for they pretended to have some in abetting their schemes, were over-ruled, by knowing how much it was in her power to injure them in any future establishment, had they disobliged her, and by her liberal promises of reward, which the housekeeper added she had never kept: but this brief and uncircumstantial account was by no means satisfactory to me. I called for materials for writing, and insisted she should, to the best of her recollection, relate every word or circumstance which had ever passed between her and the marchioness, and their other associates, relative to you. She hesitated at this. On those terms only, I said, I would grant her my forgiveness, and by her complying with them, not only that, but a liberal recompense should be hers. This last promise had the desired effect; she laid open indeed a scene of complicated iniquity, relating the manner in which Colonel Belgrade was brought into the house by her and Mrs. Jane, how they had stationed themselves in a place of concealment to listen, by which means they knew what passed between you, which she now, in almost the very same words you made use of, repeated to me; as she spoke I wrote it, and made her sign the paper under a paragraph, purporting that it was a true confession of the part she had taken, and knew others to have taken, in attempting to injure Miss Fitzalan.
“I now mentioned Mrs. Jane, whose evidence I wished for to corroborate hers. This she assured me I might procure by promising 381 a reward, as Mrs. Jane was much dissatisfied with the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia, neither of whom had recompensed her as she expected, for her faithful services to them. She was now at the villa; but the housekeeper added, that she would strike out some expedient to bring her to town in the course of the week, and would inform me immediately of her arrival. I told her the affair of the note should be no more mentioned, and gave a bill for fifty pounds as the reward I had promised, and she eagerly accepted. I told her she might promise a similar one in my name to Mrs. Jane, provided she also told truth. I also told her I would take care she should suffer no distress, by quitting the marquis’s family, which she lamented would be the consequence of what she had done.
“Mrs. Jane did not come to town as soon as I expected; but on receiving a summons to inform me of her arrival, I hastened to the house like an inquisitor-general with my scroll; prepared to take the confession of the fair culprit, which exactly corresponded with the housekeeper’s, and I had the felicity of seeing her subscribe her name to it. I gave her the promised recompense most cheerfully, as I had not half so much trouble in making her tell truth, as I had with the housekeeper. Mrs. Jennings, your old landlady, and Lady Greystock’s faithful friend, was the next and last person whose malice I wanted to refute. I made my servant inquire her character in the neighbourhood, and learned it was considered a very suspicious one. I went to her one morning in my carriage, well-knowing that the appearance of rank and splendour would have a greater weight in influencing a being like her to justice than any plea of conscience. She appeared lost in astonishment and confusion at my visit, and, I saw, waited with trembling expectation to have the reason of it revealed. I kept her not long in suspense. I was the friend, I told her of a young lady whose character she had vilely and falsely aspersed. Her conscience, I told her, I believed would whisper to her heart the name of this lady, and send its crimson current to her face at the mention of Miss Fitzalan.
“The wretch seemed ready to sink to the earth, I repeated to her all she had said concerning you to Lady Greystock. I told her of the consequences of defamation, and declared she might expect the utmost rigour of the law, except she confessed her assertions were infamous falsehoods, and the motives which instigated her to them. She trembled with terror, and supplicated mercy: I desired her to deserve it by her confession. She then acknowledged she had grossly and cruelly wronged you, by what she had said to Lady Greystock, and that she had many opportunities of being convinced, while you resided in her house, that your virtue and innocence were of the purest nature; but that she was provoked to speak maliciously against you from resentment at losing all the rich gifts Colonel Belgrave had promised her, if she brought you to comply with his wishes. She related all the stratagems they had mutually concerted for your destruction, and she brought me some letters, which I have kept, from him to you, and which she pretended you had received, lest she 382 should lose the money he always gave when she was successful in delivering one.
“I bid her beware how she ever attempted to vilify innocence, lest the friends of those at whom she levelled her arrows of defamation should not be as merciful to her as Miss Fitzalan’s had been, and was the tale of the slanderer thus ever to be minutely investigated, the evil might die away by degrees, and many hapless victims escape who are daily sacrificed to malice, revenge, or envy.
“Oh! my Amanda, I cannot express the transports I felt when I found the difficulties, which I dreaded as intervening between me and happiness, thus removed. I felt myself the happiest of men; my heart acknowledged your worth, I was convinced of your love, and in my hands I held the refutation of falsehood, and the confirmation of your innocence.
period for mentioning my project was now arrived: I desired, the morning after my visit to Mrs. Jennings, to be indulged in a tête-à-tête in Lady Martha’s dressing-room; I believe she half-guessed what the subject would be: she saw by my countenance there was joyful news at hand. I shall not recapitulate our conversation; suffice it to say, that her excellent feeling heart participated largely in my satisfaction: it did more than participate, it wished to increase it, and ere I could mention my project, she declared my Amanda should henceforth be considered as her adopted daughter, and should from her receive such a fortune as such a title claimed. Yes, my Amanda, the fortune she ever destined for me, she said she should now consecrate to the purpose of procuring me a treasure, the most valuable heaven could bestow—the richest—the most valuable indeed—a treasure dearer, far dearer to my soul for all the dangers it has encountered. I fell at Lady Martha’s feet, in a transport of gratitude, and acknowledged that she had anticipated what I was going to say, as I had been determined to throw myself on her generosity, from the time I was convinced of your inflexible resolution, not to unite yourself to me without you brought a fortune.
“It was now agreed we should keep Lord Cherbury a little longer ignorant of our intentions; we proposed taking the marchioness and Lady by surprise, and hoping by so doing, to be able to remove from his eyes the mist which partiality had hitherto spread before them, to obscure the defects of the above-mentioned ladies.
“He had hinted more than once his wishes for my paying my compliments to the marquis’s villa. I now proposed going thither myself the ensuing day. He looked equally surprised and pleased. At his proposal Lady Martha agreed to accompany me, and his lordship, you may be sure, determined to be one of the party, that he might supply the deficiencies of his son, which he had heretofore found pretty manifest in such society.
“We had the happiness to find all the family at home when we reached the villa. The ladies all expressed themselves delighted at my unexpected appearance, and quite charmed by my recovered looks. The Marquis, with his usual sang froid, declared himself glad to see 383 me. Ye smiling deceivers, I cried to myself, as I surveyed the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia, your triumph over innocence and beauty will soon be over. After passing half an hour in uninteresting chit-chat, I took the opportunity of one of those pauses in conversation which so frequently happen, to commence my attack: it would be as painful to you as me, to recapitulate all which ensued in consequence of it. Rage, guilt and confusion were conspicuous in the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia: the marquis and Lady Greystock looked with astonishment, and my father seemed overwhelmed with surprise and consternation.
“I said (addressing the marchioness) I now trusted the resentment her ladyship entertained against her unoffending niece was sufficiently appeased by what she had made her suffer, and that she would rather rejoice than regret the opportunity that presented itself of vindicating her fame. I wished, I said, as much as possible, to spare her ladyship’s feelings, and, provided she would clear Miss Fitzalan from the obloquy which the transactions in her house cast upon her, I was willing to conceal the share her ladyship had in them. In a voice of smothered rage, and with a look into which she threw as much contempt as possible, she replied, “She thanked me for the attention I professed myself inclined to pay her feelings; but she fancied I had overlooked all inclination of this kind, when I undertook to bribe her servants to asperse her character, that Miss Fitzalan might be cleared. She was sorry, she said, to find I could be capable of such complicated baseness and weakness. Miss Fitzalan, she perceived, had made me her dupe again; but this was not surprising, as she was the professed pupil of art; too late I should behold her in her native colours, and find the disgrace, which, by artifice, I now to remove from her character, thrown back upon her, perhaps to overwhelm me also by its weight.”—“She has infatuated him (said Lord Cherbury,) she will be the bane of his life, the destruction of my hopes.”
“Not Miss Fitzalan, (cried I, assuming as much coolness as possible, though, like the marchioness, I found it a difficult task,) not Miss Fitzalan, but the enemies of Miss Fitzalan deceived me. I own I was the dupe of the scheme contrived against her: anything so horrid, so monstrous, so execrable, I did not think could have entered the minds of those who were bound by the united ties of kindred and hospitality to protect her, and I rather believed I owed my misery to the frailty than the turpitude of human nature.”
“You see, my lord, (exclaimed the marchioness, turning to Lord Cherbury,) Lord Mortimer acknowledges his passion for this wretched girl.”
“I do, (cried I,) I glory in confessing it. In loving Miss Fitzalan I love virtue itself: in acknowledging a passion for her, I violate no faith, I break no engagement; my heart ever resisted entering into any which it could not fulfil.”
“Unfortunate proposition (said Lord Cherbury, sternly:) but why, why, when you believed her guilty, were you so infatuated as to follow her to Ireland? Why not calmly resign her to the infamy she merited?”384
“I followed her, my lord, (I replied) in hope to withdraw her from her seducer’s arms, and place her in her father’s. I hoped, I trusted, I should be able, also, to alleviate the bitter destiny of poor Fitzalan’s: alas! not in the arms of a gay, successful seducer, but apparently in the arms of death, did I find Amanda. I saw her at the solemn hour which consigned her parent to his grave, and to have doubted her protestations of innocence then, would have been almost impious. Gracious Heaven! how impossible to disbelieve her truth at the very moment her gentle spirit seemed about to take its flight to heaven! From that period she has stood acquitted in my mind, and from that period I determined to develope, to the utmost of my power, the machinations which had made me doubt her innocence. My success in their development has been beyond my expectations: but Providence is on the side of suffering virtue, and assists those who stand up in its support.
“Contrary to my first intention, my dear Amanda, I have given you a sketch of part of our conversation. For the remainder it shall suffice to say, that the marchioness persevered in declaring I had bribed her servants to blacken her character, in order to clear Miss Fitzalan’s: an attempt which she repeatedly assured me I would find unsuccessful.
“The marquis talked in high terms of the dignity of his house, and how impossible it was the marchioness should ever have disgraced it by such actions as I accused her of committing. I answered him in a manner equally warm, that my accusations were too well grounded and supported to dread refutation: that it was not only due to injured innocence, but essential to my own honour, which would soon be materially concerned in whatever related to Miss Fitzalan, to have those accusations made public, if her ladyship refused to contradict the aspersion which might be thrown upon Miss Fitzalan, in consequence of the scene which passed at his lordship’s house.
“This the marchioness, with mingled rage and contempt, refused doing, and Lady Euphrasia, after the hint I gave of soon being united to you, left the room in convulsive agitation.
“Lord Cherbury, I perceived, suspected foul play, by some speeches which dropped from him; such as if there had been any misunderstanding between her ladyship and Miss Fitzalan, it was better surely to have it done away; or certainly, if any mistake was proved relative to the affair which happened in her ladyship’s house, it was but justice to the young lady to have it cleared up.
“Yet, notwithstanding the interest he felt in the cause of suffering innocence, it was obvious to me that he dreaded a rupture with the marquis’s family, and appeared shocked at the unequivocal declaration I had made of never being allied to it.
“Lady Martha Dormer took the cause. The testimony Lord Mortimer had received, she said, of Miss Fitzalan’s innocence, was incontrovertible, and exempted him alike from being stigmatized either as the dupe of art or love; humanity, she was convinced, exclusive of every warmer feeling, would have influenced him to have undertaken Miss Fitzalan’s cause: it was the cause of innocence and virtue, 385 a cause in which every detester of scandal and treachery should join, since not only the defenceless orphan, but the protected child of rank and prosperity were vulnerable to their shafts.
“I again repeated the evidence of her servants, and the refutation of Mrs. Jennings to her former story; I produced to strengthen it, the unopened letters of Colonel Belgrave—thus continuing to put proof upon proof of your innocence (as Sancho Panza says) upon the shoulders of demonstration.
“The passions of the marchioness rose at last to frantic violence. She persisted in alleging her integrity and yours; but with a countenance so legibly impressed with guilt and confusion, that a doubt of her falsehood could not be entertained, even by those who wished to doubt it.
“The scene of violence we now became witness to, was painful to me, and shocking to Lady Martha; I therefore ordered the horses immediately to her ladyship’s chariot, in which, accompanied by me, she had preceded Lord Cherbury’s coach, from the idea that our continuance at the villa might not be quite so long as his lordship’s.
“As we expected, his lordship staid behind, with the hope, I perceived, of being able to calm the perturbations of the marchioness, and lessen the breach between us. He returned the next day to town. I have so long dwelt upon disagreeable scenes, that to go over any others would be dreadful; nor should I hint to you that I had such scenes to encounter, was it not to excuse and account to you for my absence from Castle Carberry; our difficulties (you see I already unite your interests with mine) began to decrease, and are at last happily overcome. Lady Martha made me write her intentions relative to you, and his lordship was quite satisfied with them. He authorizes me to assure you he longs to receive you into his family, at once a boast and acquisition to it, and he says, he shall consider himself under obligations to you, if you hasten, as much as possible, the period of becoming one of its members, thus giving him an opportunity of making early amends, by attention to the daughter, for the injustice he did the father.
“Lady Martha Dormer’s intentions I have only hinted to you; in the letter, which I have the pleasure of enclosing, she is more explicit concerning them. I have given you this long narrative on paper, that when we meet, our conversation may be unembittered by any painful retrospect, and that we may enjoy uninterrupted the bright prospect which now lies before us.
“But, ere I close my letter, I must inform you that knowing you could never be selfishly wrapped up in your own enjoyments, I made every possible inquiry relative to your brother, and was at length referred by the agent of his late regiment to an officer in it: with some difficulty I found he had quitted his quarters on leave of absence. I wrote immediately to his family residence, and, after waiting long and impatiently for an answer to my letter, I dispatched a special messenger to learn whether he was there or not. The courier returned with a polite note from the officer’s father, informing me his son 386 was gone on an excursion of pleasure with some friends, and that if be knew where to find him he would have transmitted my letter, which I might depend on, being answered the moment he returned.
“I have no doubt but we shall receive intelligence from him concerning Mr. Fitzalan; it shall then be our business, if his situation is not already pleasing to change it, or render it as much more so as possible to him.
“Keep up your spirits therefore about him, for by the time we arrive in England I expect a letter from his friend, and let me not be any more pained by seeing your countenance clouded with care or anxiety.
“As a reward for reining in my impatience to see you this evening, be propitious to my request for early admission to-morrow; if charitable, you will allow me to breakfast with you, for I shall take none except with you, and, without an express command to the contrary, shall take it for granted I am expected.
“’Tis said that contrast heightens pleasure, and I believe the saying. I believe that without having felt pain in all its acuteness as I have done, I never should have felt such pleasure as I now enjoy. After so often giving you up, so often lamenting you as lost forever, to think I shall soon call you mine is a source of transport which words cannot express. Mine, I may say, is the resurrection of happiness, for has it not been revived from the very grave of despair? But I forget that you have Lady Martha Dormer’s letter still to peruse. I acknowledge that, for old friendship’s sake, I supposed you would give mine the preference; but in all reason it is time I should resign my place to her ladyship. But ere I bid you adieu, I must tell you that Araminta is a sincere participator in our happiness; she arrived from Wales but a few minutes previous to my leaving London, and I would not allow her time, as she wished, to write to you. I almost forgot to tell you, that the marquis’s family, amongst whom Lady Greystock is still numbered, instead of returning to town, set out for Brighthelmstone: I have learned, contrary to my and their expectations, that neither the housekeeper nor Mrs. Jane have been dismissed, but both sent to a distant seat of the marquis’s. As we know the marchioness’s revengeful disposition, it is plain she has some secret motive for not gratifying it immediately by their dismission; but what it is, can be of little consequence for us to learn, since we are both too well guarded to suffer from any future plot of hers; like every other which was formed against my dear Amanda, I trust they will ever prove abortive. I was disturbed, within a few miles of Castle Carberry, by a gentleman passing on horseback, who either strongly resembled, or was Colonel Belgrave. My blood boiled in my veins at his sight; I left the carriage, mounted one of my servant’s horses, and endeavoured to overtake him. He certainly avoided me by taking some cross-road, as his speed could not have outstripped mine; my efforts to discover his habitation were equally unsuccessful. As to your personal security I had no apprehensions, having heard constantly from my good friend the doctor about you; 387 but I dreaded the wretch, if it were really him, might disturb your tranquillity, either by forcing into your presence, or writing; thank heaven, from all intrusions or dangers of this kind, my Amanda will now be guarded; but again am I trespassing on the time you should devote to Lady Martha’s letter. Adieu, and do not disappoint my hopes of being allowed to visit you early.
Amanda perused this letter with emotions which can be better conceived than described. She could scarcely have parted with it without a second reading, had not Lady Martha’s demanded her attention; she snatched it hastily from the ground where it hitherto lay neglected and read to the following purpose.
“That I warmly and sincerely congratulate my dear and amiable Miss Fitzalan on the happy revolution in her affairs she will readily believe, persuaded as she must be of the deep interest I take in whatever concerns a person on whom the happiness of him whom I have loved from childhood so materially, so entirely, I may say, depends.
“Yet do not suppose me, my dear Miss Fitzalan, so selfish, as not to be able to rejoice at your happiness on your own account, exclusive of every consideration relative to Lord Mortimer: long since I was taught by description to esteem and admire you, and even when the hope of being connected with you became extinct, I could not so totally forego that admiration, as to feel uninterested about you. Oh! how truly do I rejoice at the revival of the hope I have just mentioned, and at its revival with every prospect of its being speedily realized! I shall consider Lord Mortimer as one of the most fortunate of men in calling you his, and to think I have been able to promote his happiness gives me a satisfaction which never was, nor ever will be equalled by any circumstance in my life.
“Though I cannot give my adopted daughter a fortune by any means equal to that which Lady Euphrasia Sutherland will possess, Lord Cherbury is fully sensible that her perfections will abundantly make up for any deficiency in this respect. Ten thousand pounds, and one thousand a year, is at present to be her portion, and the reversion of the remainder of my fortune is to be secured to her and Lord Mortimer: the final adjustment of all affairs is to take place at my house in the country, whither I propose going immediately accompanied by Lady Araminta, and where we shall both most impatiently expect your arrival, which we mutually entreat may be hastened as much as possible, consistent with your health and convenience: Lord Cherbury has promised to follow us in a few days, so that I suppose he will also be at Thornbury, to receive you. Would to heaven, my dear Miss Fitzalan, injured virtue and innocence may always meet with such champions to vindicate them as Lord Mortimer! was that the case, we should see many lovely victims of scorn and reproach raising their heads with triumph and satisfaction. 388 But pardon my involuntarily adverting to past scenes, though at the same time I think you have reason to rejoice at your trials, which served as so many tests and proofs of the estimable qualities you possess. Farewell, my dear Miss Fitzalan; I have been brief in my letter, because I know I should not be pardoned by a certain person if I engrossed too much of your time. I told him I would give you a hint of the impetuosity of his disposition; but he told me, perhaps to prevent this, that you were already acquainted with it. In one instance I shall commend him for displaying it, that is in hastening you to Thornbury, to the arms of your affectionate friend,
Amanda’s happiness was now almost as great as it could be in this world; almost I say, for it received alloy from the melancholy consideration that her father, that faithful and affectionate friend who had shared her troubles, could not be a partaker of her joys; but the sigh of unavailing regret which rose in her mind, she checked, by reflecting, that happiness all-perfect was more than humanity could either support or expect, and with pious gratitude she bent to the Power who had changed the discoloured prospect, by which she had been so long surrounded, into one of cheerfulness and beauty.
If her pride was wounded by the hint, though so delicately conveyed, which Lord Mortimer had given of the difficulties he encountered in gaining Lord Cherbury’s approbation, it was instantly relieved by the flattering commendations of Lady Martha Dormer, and to be connected with her and Lady Araminta, she looked upon amongst the most valuable blessings she could enjoy.
To express what she felt for Lord Mortimer was impossible; language could not do justice to her feelings: she felt love, gratitude and admiration for him, all in the fullest extent, and all united, and she wept in the fulness of her heart over the joyful assurance of being his. With the two letters in her hand she repaired to the prioress’s apartment, whom she found alone. The good old lady saw the traces of tears on Amanda’s face, and exclaimed, in a voice which evinced her sympathy in her concerns, “Oh! I fear, my child, something has happened to disturb you!” Amanda presented her the letters, and bid her judge from them whether she had not reason to be agitated. As the prioress read, her sudden and broken exclamations manifested her surprise and pleasure, and frequently were her spectacles removed to wipe from off them the tears of joy by which they were bedewed. When she had finished the welcome packet, 389 she turned to Amanda, who had been attentively watching the various turns in her countenance, and gave her a congratulatory embrace. “Lord Mortimer is worthy of you, my child,” said the prioress, “and that is the highest eulogium I can pass on him.” After commenting upon different parts of the letter, she asked Amanda, a little archly, “whether she intended sending an express command to his lordship against coming early in the morning?” Amanda honestly confessed she had no such intention, and expressed her wish to behold him. The prioress said she would have breakfast prepared for them in the garden parlour, and that she would take care they should not be interrupted. She also promised to keep every thing secret, till matters were arranged for Amanda’s removal from St. Catharine’s.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXXVIII
’Tis true, ’tis true, and never can my grateful heart
text has ’Tis true, tis true without apostrophe
“The period for mentioning my project was now arrived:
open quote missing
we proposed taking the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia by surprise
text has Euprasia
which, by artifice, I now attempted to remove from her character
text has attempt
She persisted in alleging her integrity and vilifying yours
text has villifying
The turbulence of grief, and the agitation of suspense, gradually lessened in the mind of Amanda
Joy is as great an enemy to repose as anxiety. Amanda passed an almost sleepless night, but her thoughts were too agreeably employed to allow her to suffer for want of rest