The Children of the Abbey
Thus let me hold thee to my heart,
And every care resign;
And shall we never—never part,
Oh! thou my all that’s mine.
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; early as she rose in the morning, she was but a short time in the parlour before Lord Mortimer arrived. He appeared with all the transports of his soul beaming from his eyes, and was received by Amanda with tender and trembling emotion. He caught her to his heart as a treasure restored to him by the immediate hand of Heaven. He pressed her to it with silent exstacy. Both for a few moments were unable to speak; but the tears which burst from Amanda, and those that stopped on the glowing cheeks of Lord Mortimer, expressed their feelings more forcibly than any language could have done.
Amanda at length found utterance, and began to thank his lordship for all the difficulties he had gone through in vindicating her fame.390
He hastily stopped those effusions of gratitude, by bidding her ask her heart whether he had not been serving himself as well as her by what he had done.
From the soft confusion into which his transports threw her, Amanda endeavoured to recover herself by repairing to the breakfast table, on which the good sisters had spread all the niceties (adapted to a morning repast) which the convent could produce; but her hand was unsteady, she spilt the tea in pouring it out, and committed twenty blunders in helping Lord Mortimer. He laughed a little archly at her embarrassment, and insisted on doing the honours of the table himself, to which Amanda with a blush consented; but breakfast was little attended to. Amanda’s hand was detained in Lord Mortimer’s while his eyes were continually turning towards her, as if to assure his heart that in the lovely evidence of his happiness there was no deception; and the tenderness Amanda had no longer reason to restrain, beamed from her looks, which also evinced her perfect sensibility of her present felicity—a felicity heightened by her approving conscience testifying she had merited it. The pure, the delightful satisfaction resulting from this reflection gave such radiance to her complexion, that Lord Mortimer repeatedly declared her residence at St. Catharine’s had made her more beautiful than ever. Twelve o’clock struck, and found them still loitering over the breakfast table. “The nuns will think we have made a tolerable feast,” cried Lord Mortimer, smiling, while Amanda arose with precipitation. “I need not,” continued he, following her, “like Sterne, ask nature what has made the meal so delicious, I need only ask my own heart, and it will inform me, love and tenderness.” Amanda blushed, and they went together into the garden. She would have walked before the windows of the convent, but Lord Mortimer forced her gently into a dark sequestered alley. Here their conversation became more connected than it had hitherto been! the generous intentions of Lady Martha Dormer, and the arrangement she had made for the reception and nuptials of Amanda, were talked over; the marriage was to take place at Thornbury, Lady Martha’s seat; they were to continue there for a month after its solemnization, and from thence to go to an estate of Lord Cherbury’s for the remainder of the summer; a house in one of the squares was to be taken and prepared for their residence in winter, and Lady Martha Dormer had 391 promised, whenever she came to town, which was but seldom, she would make their house her home, provided they would promise to spend every Christmas, and three months at least in summer, with her at Thornbury: Lord Mortimer said he had his choice of any of the Earl’s seats, but chose none, from an idea of the Hall being more agreeable to Amanda. She assured him it was, and he proceeded to mention the presents which Lady Martha had prepared for her; also the carriages and retinue he had provided, and expected to find at Thornbury against she reached it, still asking if the arrangements he had made met her approbation.
Amanda was affected, even to tears, by the solicitude he showed to please her, and he, perceiving her emotions, changed the discourse to talk about her removal from St. Catharine’s; he entreated her not to delay it longer than was absolutely necessary to adjust matters for it. She promised compliance to his entreaty, acknowledging that she but obeyed her inclinations in doing so, as she longed to be presented to her generous patroness, Lady Martha, and to her amiable and beloved Lady Araminta.
Lord Mortimer, delicately considerate about all which concerned her, begged she would speak to the prioress to procure a decent female, who should be a proper attendant for her journey; they should travel together in one chaise, and he would follow them in another. Amanda promised she would lose no time in making this request, which, she had no doubt, would be successful.
Lord Mortimer presented her with a very beautiful embroidered purse, containing notes to the amount of five hundred pounds. Amanda blushed deeply, and felt her feelings a little hurt at the idea of being obliged to Lord Mortimer for everything. He pressed her hand, and, in a voice of soothing tenderness, told her he should be offended if she did not from this moment consider her interest inseparable from his. The notes, he said, of right belonged to her, as they amounted to but the individual sum he had already devoted to her use. He requested she would not curb in the least her generous spirit, but fulfil in the utmost extent all the claims which gratitude had upon her. The benevolent sisters of St. Catharine’s were the foremost in the list of those who had conferred obligations upon her, and he desired she would not only reward them liberally at present but promise them an annual stipend of fifty pounds.392
Amanda was truly delighted at this; to be able to contribute to the comfort of those who had so largely promoted hers, was a source of exquisite felicity.—Lord Mortimer presented her with his picture, which he had drawn in London for that purpose; it was a striking likeness, and most elegantly set with brilliants which formed a cypher upon a plait of hair at the back. This was indeed a precious present to Amanda, and she acknowledged it was such. Lord Mortimer said, that in return for it he should expect hers at some future time; but added, smiling, “I shall pot heed the shadow till I procure the substance.” He also gave her a very beautiful ring, with an emblematical device, and adorned in the same manner as his picture, which Lady Martha had sent as a pledge of future friendship; and he now informed her, that her ladyship, accompanied by Lady Araminta, intended meeting them at Holyhead, that all due honour and attention might be paid to her adopted daughter.
In the midst of their conversation, the dinner bell rang from the convent. Amanda started, and declared she had not supposed it half so late. The arch smile which this speech occasioned in Lord Mortimer, instantly made her perceive it had been a tacit confession of the pleasure she enjoyed in their tête-à-tête.
She blushed, and telling him she could not stay another moment, was hurrying away. He hastily caught her, and holding both her hands, declared she should not depart, neither would he to his solitary dinner, till she promised he might return to her early in the evening. To this she consented, provided he allowed her to have the prioress and sister Mary at least at tea. This was a condition Lord Mortimer by no means liked to agree to, and he endeavoured to prevail on her to drop it; but, finding her inflexible, he said she was a provoking girl, and asked her if she was not afraid that, when he had the power, he would retaliate upon her for all the trials she had put his patience to; but since she would have it so, why it must be so to be sure, he said; but he hoped the good ladies would have too much conscience to sit out the whole evening with them. That was all chance, Amanda said. The bell again rang, and he was forced to depart.
She took the opportunity of being alone with the prioress for a few minutes, to speak to her about procuring a female to attend her in her journey. The prioress said she doubted not but she could procure 393 her an eligible person from the neighbouring town, and promised to write there that very evening, to a family who would be able to assist her inquiries.
Both she and sister Mary were much pleased by being invited to drink tea with Lord Mortimer. He came even earlier than was expected. Poor Amanda was terrified, lest her companions should overhear him repeatedly asking her whether they would not retire immediately after tea? Though not overheard, the prioress had too much sagacity not to know her departure was desired; she therefore, under pretence of business, retired, and took Mary along with her. Amanda and Lord Mortimer went into the garden. He thanked her for not losing time in speaking to the prioress about her servant, and said that he hoped, at the end of the week, at farthest, she would be able to begin her journey. Amanda readily promised to use all possible despatch. They passed some delightful hours in rambling about the garden, and talking over their felicity.
The prioress’ expectation was answered relative to a servant; in the course of two days she produced one in every respect agreeable to Amanda, and things were now in such forwardness for her departure, that she expected it would take place as soon as Lord Mortimer had mentioned. His time was passed almost continually at St. Catharine’s, never leaving it except at dinner-time, when he went to Castle Carberry; his residence there was soon known, and visitors and invitations without number came to the castle, but he found means of avoiding them.
Amanda, laughing, would often tell him he retarded the preparation for her journey by being always with her; this, he said, was only a pretext to drive him away, for that he rather forwarded them by letting her lose no time.
Lord Mortimer, on coming to Amanda one evening as usual, appeared uncommonly discomposed; his face was flushed, and his whole manner betrayed agitation. He scarcely noticed Amanda; but, seating himself, placed his arm upon a table, and leaned dejectedly upon it. Amanda was inexpressibly shocked, her heart panted with apprehension of ill, but she felt too timid to make an inquiry. He suddenly knit his brows, and muttered between his teeth, “curse on the wretch!”394
Amanda could no longer keep silence: “What wretch!” she exclaimed, “or what is the meaning of this disorder!”
“First tell me, Amanda,” said he, looking very steadfastly at her, “have you seen any stranger here lately?”
“Good heavens!” replied she, “what can you mean by such a question? but I solemnly assure you I have not.”
“Enough,” said he, “such an assurance restores me to quiet; but, my dear Amanda,” coming over to her, and taking her hands in his, “since you have perceived my agitation, I must account to you for it. I have just seen Belgrave; he was but a few yards from me on the common when I saw him; but the mean, despicable wretch, loaded as he is with conscious guilt, durst not face me: he got out of my way by leaping over the hedge which divides the common from a lane with many intricate windings: I endeavoured, but without success, to discover the one he had retreated through.”
“I see,” said Amanda, pale and trembling, “he is destined to make me wretched. I had hoped indeed that Lord Mortimer would no more have suffered his quiet to be interrupted by him; it implies such a doubt,” said she, weeping, “as shocks my soul! If suspicion is thus continually to be revived, we had better separate at once, for misery must be the consequence of a union without mutual confidence.”
“Gracious heaven!” said Lord Mortimer, “how unfortunate I am to give you pain! You mistake entirely, indeed, my dearest Amanda, the cause of my uneasiness; I swear by all that is sacred, no doubt, no suspicion of your worth has arisen in my mind. No man can think more highly of a woman than I do of you: but I was disturbed lest the wretch should have forced himself into your presence, and lest you, through apprehension for me, concealed it from me.”
The exclamation calmed the perturbation of Amanda; as an atonement for the uneasiness he had given her, she wanted Lord Mortimer to promise he would not endeavour to discover Belgrave. This promise he avoided giving, and Amanda was afraid of pressing it, lest the spark of jealousy, which she was convinced existed in the disposition of Lord Mortimer, should be blown into a flame. That Belgrave would studiously avoid him she trusted, and she resolved, that if the things she had deemed it necessary to order from the neighbouring town were not finished, to wait no longer for them, as she 395 longed now more than ever to quit a place she thought dangerous to Lord Mortimer. The ensuing morning, instead of seeing his lordship at breakfast, a note was brought to her, couched in these words.
“TO MISS FITZALAN.
“I am unavoidably prevented from waiting on my dear Amanda this morning, but in the course of the day she may depend on either seeing or hearing from me again. She can have no excuse now on my account about not hastening the preparations for her journey, and when we meet, if I find her time has not been employed to this purpose she may expect a severe chiding from her faithful
This note filled Amanda with the most alarming disquiet. It was evident to her that he was gone in pursuit of Belgrave. She ran into the hall to inquire of the messenger about his master, but he was gone. She then hastened to the prioress, and communicated her apprehensions to her. The prioress endeavoured to calm them, by assuring her she might be convinced that Belgrave had taken too many precautions to be discovered.
Amanda’s breakfast, however, remained untouched, and her things unpacked, and she continued the whole morning the picture of anxiety, impatiently expecting the promised visit or letter; neither came, and she resolved to send, after dinner, the old gardener to Castle Carberry, to inquire after Lord Mortimer. While she was speaking to him for that purpose, the maid followed her into the garden, and told her there was a messenger in the parlour from Lord Mortimer. She flew thither; but what words can express her surprise, when the supposed messenger, raising a large hat which shadowed his face, and removing his handkerchief which he had hitherto held up to it, discovered to her view the features of Lord Cherbury! She could only exclaim, “Gracious heaven, has anything happened to Lord ere she sunk into a chair in breathless agitation.
“Gracious heaven, has anything happened to Lord Mortimer?”
text has Mortimer?’
But a shock more severe than those she had lately experienced was yet in store for our hapless heroine.
Lord Cherbury hastened to support and calm her agitation, by assuring her Lord Mortimer was in perfect safety.