The Children of the Abbey
Of joys departed—never to return,
How bitter the remembrance.
A fortnight passed in this way, and she began to feel surprise and uneasiness at not hearing from Mrs. Dermot: if much longer silent, she resolved on writing, feeling it impossible to endure much longer the agony her ignorance of Lord Mortimer’s proceedings gave her. The very morning previous to the one she had fixed for writing, she saw a sailor coming to the house, and believing he was the bearer of a letter to her, she forgot everything but her feelings at the moment, and starting from her seat ran from the room—she met him a few yards from the house, and then perceiving he was one of the sailors of the vessel she had come over in—“You have a letter for me, I hope?” said Amanda. The man nodded, and fumbling in his bosom for a moment, pulled out a large packet, which Amanda snatched with eager transport from him; and knowing she could not attempt to bring him into the house for refreshment, gave him a crown to procure it elsewhere, which he received with thankfulness, and departed. She then returned to the parlour, and was hastening to her closet to read the letter, when Mrs. Macpherson stopped her. “Hey-dey,” cried she, “what is the matter? What is all this fuss about? Why, one would think that was a love-letter, you are so very eager to read it.”
“It is not, then, I can assure you,” said Amanda.
“Well, well, and who is it from?”—Amanda reflected, that if she 429 said from Mrs. Dermot, a number of impertinent questions would be asked her, she therefore replied, a very particular friend!” “From a very particular friend! Well, I suppose there is nothing about life or death in it, so you may wait till after dinner to read it, and pray sit down now, and hear the children their spelling lessons.” This was a tantalizing moment to Amanda; she stood hesitating whether she should obey, till reflecting, that if she went now to read the packet, she would most probably be interrupted ere she had got through half the contents, she resolved on putting it up till after dinner. The moment at last came for Mrs. Macpherson’s usual nap, and Amanda instantly hastened to a recess amongst the rocks, where seating herself she broke the seal: the contained two letters: the first she cast her eyes upon was directed in Lord Cherbury’s hand. She trembled, tore it open and read as follows:
“TO MISS FITZALAN.
“In vain, my dear madam, do you say you never will receive pecuniary favours from me. It is not you, but I, should lie under obligations from their acceptance, I should deem myself the most ungrateful of mankind, if I did not insist on carrying this point: I am just returned to London, and shall immediately order my lawyer to draw up a deed, entitling you to three hundred pounds a year, which when completed I shall transmit to the prioress (as I have this letter) to send to you. I am sensible, indeed, that I never can recompense the sacrifice you have made me, the feelings it has excited I shall not attempt to express, because language could never do them justice; but you may conceive what I must feel for the being who has preserved me from dishonour and destruction. I am informed Lord Mortimer has left Ireland, and therefore daily expect him in town. I have now not only every hope, but every prospect of his complying with my wishes: This, I imagine, will be rather pleasing to you to hear, that you may know that the sacrifice you have made is not made in vain; but will be attended with all the good consequences I expected to derive from it. I should again enjoy a tolerable degree of peace were I assured you were happy; but this is an assurance I will hope soon to receive, for if you are not happy, who has a right to expect being so? you, whose virtue is so pure, whose generosity is so noble, so heroic, so far superior to any I have ever met with.
“That in this world, as well as in the next, you may be rewarded for it, is, dear madam, the sincere wish of him, who has the honour to subscribe himself,
“Your most grateful, most obliged,
“And most obedient humble servant,
“Unfeeling man!” exclaimed Amanda, “how little is your heart interested in what you write, and how slight do you make of the sacrifice I have made you, how cruelly mention your hopes which are derived from the destruction of mine. No, sooner would I wander from door to door for charity, than be indebted to your ostentatious gratitude for support, you whose treachery and vile deceit have ruined my happiness.” She closed the letter, and committing it to her pocket, took up the other, which she saw by the direction was from her dear Mrs. Dermot.
“TO MISS DONALD.
“Ah! my dear child, why extort a promise from me of being minute in relating every thing which happened in consequence of your departure, a promise so solemnly given, that I dare not recede from it; yet most unwillingly do I keep it, sensible as I am that the intelligence I have to communicate will but aggravate your sorrows. Methinks I hear you exclaim at this; surely, my dear Mrs. Dermot, you who know my disposition and temper so well, might suppose I would receive such intelligence with a fortitude and patience that would prevent its materially injuring me; well, my dear, hoping this will be the case, I begin, without further delay, to communicate particulars.
“You left me, you may remember, about three o’clock; I then went to bed, but so fatigued and oppressed I could scarcely sleep, was quite unrefreshed by what I did get. After prayers I repaired to the parlour, where the assiduous care of sister Mary had already prepared every thing for your breakfast and Lord Mortimer’s. I told the sisters not to appear till they were sent for. I had not been long alone when Lord Mortimer came in, cheerful, blooming, animated. Never did I see happiness so strongly impressed in any countenance as in his; he looked indeed the lover about receiving the precious reward of constancy. He asked me had I seen you? I answered, No. He soon grew impatient, said you were a lazy girl, and feared you would make a bad traveller. He then rang the bell and desired the maid to go and call you. Oh! my dear girl, my heart almost died within me at this moment; I averted my head and pretended to be looking in the garden, to conceal my confusion. The maid returned in a few minutes, and said you were not above. Well, said Lord Mortimer, she is in some other apartment, pray search and hasten her hither. In a few minutes after she departed, sister Mary, all pale and breathless, rushed into the room. “Oh, !” cried she, “Miss Fitzalan cannot be found, but here are two letters I found on her dressing table, one for you, madam, and one for Lord Mortimer.” I know not how he looked at this instant, for a guilty consciousness came over his mind, which prevented my raising my eyes to his. I took the letter in silence, opened, but had no power to 431 read it. Sister Mary stood by me, wringing her hands and weeping, as she exclaimed, “What—what does she say to you?” I could neither answer her nor move till a deep sigh or rather groan from Lord Mortimer roused me. I started from my seat, and perceived him pale and motionless, the letter open in his hand, upon which his eyes were rivetted. I threw open the garden door to give him air; this a little revived him.
“Be comforted, my lord,” said I. He shook his head mournfully, and waving his hand for me neither to speak or follow him, passed into the garden. “Blessed heaven!” said sister Mary again, “what does she say to you?” I gave her your letter and desired her to read it aloud, for the tears which flowed at the affecting situation of Lord Mortimer, quite obscured my sight; and here my dear child, I must declare that you have been too generous, and also, that the sum you betrayed us into taking, is but considered as a loan for us; but, to return to my first subject, the alarm concerning you now became general, and the nuns crowded into the room, grief and consternation in every countenance. In about half an hour I saw Lord Mortimer returning to the parlour, and I then dismissed them. He had been endeavouring to compose himself, but his efforts for doing so were ineffectual. He trembled, was pale as death, and spoke with a faltering voice. He gave me your letter to read, and I put mine into his hand. “Well, my lord,” said I, on perusing it, “we must rather pity than condemn her.”
“From my soul,” cried he, “I pity her—I pity such a being as Amanda Fitzalan, for being the slave, the prey of vice; but she has been cruel to me, she has deceived, inhumanely deceived me, and blasted my peace forever.”
“Ah, my lord!” I replied, “though appearances are against her, I can never believe her guilty; she who performed all the duties of a child as Amanda Fitzalan did, and who, to my certain knowledge, was preparing herself for a life of poverty, can never be a victim to vice.”
“Mention her no more,” cried he, “her name is like a dagger to my heart; the suspicions, which but a few nights ago I could have killed myself for entertaining, are now confirmed; they intruded on my mind from seeing Belgrave haunt this place, and from finding her secreted amidst the ruins at a late hour. Ah, heavens! when I noticed her confusion, how easily did she exculpate herself to a heart prepossessed like mine in her favour. Unhappy—unfortunate girl—sad and pitiable is thy fate! but may an early repentance snatch thee from the villain who now triumphs in thy ruin, and may we, since thus separated, never meet again. So well,” continued he, “am I convinced of the cause of her flight, that I shall not make one inquiry after her.” I again attempted to speak in your justification, but he silenced me; I begged he would allow me to get him breakfast. He could touch nothing, and said he must return directly to Castle Carberry, but promised in the course of the day to see me again. I followed him into the hall; at the sight of your corded boxes he started, 432 and shrunk back with that kind of melancholy horror which we involuntarily feel when viewing any thing that belonged to a dear lost friend. I saw his emotions were agonizing; he hid his face with his handkerchief, and with a hasty step ascended to his carriage, which, with a travelling chaise, was waiting at the door.
“I own I was often tempted, in the course of conversation, to tell him all I knew about you; but the promise I had given you still rose to my view, and I felt, without your permission, I could not break it; yet, my dear, it is shocking to me to have such imputations cast on you. We cannot blame Lord Mortimer for them: situated as you are with him, your conduct has naturally excited the most injurious suspicions; surely, my child, though not allowed to solve the mystery which has separated you from him, you may be allowed to vindicate your conduct, the sacrifice of fame and happiness is too much; consider and weigh well what I say, and if possible, authorize me to inform Lord Mortimer that I know of your retreat, and that you have retired neither to a lover or to a friend, but to indigence and obscurity, led thither by a fatal necessity which you are bound to conceal, and feel more severely from that circumstance; he would, I am confident, credit my words, and then, instead of condemning, would join me in pitying you. The more I reflect on your unaccountable separation, the more am I bewildered in conjectures relative to it, and convinced more strongly than ever of the frailty of human joy, which, like a summer cloud, is bright, but transitory in its splendour.—Lord Mortimer had left the convent about two hours, when his man arrived to dismiss the travelling chaise and attendants: I went out and inquired after his lord. “He is very bad, madam,” said he, “and this has been a sad morning for us all.” Never, my dear Miss Fitzalan, did I, or the sisterhood, pass so melancholy a day. About five in the afternoon I received another visit from Lord Mortimer; I was alone in the parlour, which he entered with an appearance of the deepest melancholy; one of his arms was in a sling; I was terrified, lest he and Belgrave had met—He conjectured, I fancy, the occasion of the terror my countenance expressed, for he immediately said he had been ill on returning to Castle Carberry, and was bled. He was setting off for Dublin directly, he said, from whence he intended to embark for England: but I could not depart, my dear good friend, (continued he,) without bidding you farewell: besides I want to assure you, that any promise which the unfortunate girl made you in my name I shall hold sacred. I knew he alluded to the fifty pounds which he desired you to tell me should be annually remitted to our house: I instantly therefore replied, that we had already been rewarded beyond our expectation or desires for any little attention we showed Miss Fitzalan: but his generous resolution was not to be shaken. He looked weak and exhausted. I begged permission to make tea for him ere he commenced his journey. He consented. I went out of the room to order in the things. When I returned he was standing at the window which looked into the garden, so absorbed in meditation, he did not hear me. I heard him 433 say, “cruel Amanda! is it thus you have rewarded my sufferings!” I retreated lest he should be confused by supposing himself overheard, and did not return till the maid brought in the tea things.
“When he arose to depart he looked wavering and agitated, as if there was something on his mind he wanted courage to say. At last, in a faltering voice, while the deadly paleness of his complexion gave way to a deep crimson, he said, “I left Miss Fitzalan’s letter with you.”
“Ah! my dear! never did man love woman better than he did, than he now loves you. I took the letter from my pocket, and presented it to him. He put it in his bosom with an emotion that shook his whole frame. I hailed this as a favourable opportunity for again speaking in your favour: I bid him retrospect your past actions, and judge from them whether you could be guilty of a crime.—he stopped me short; and begged me to drop a subject he was unable to bear. Had he been less credulous he said, he should now have been much happier: then wringing my hand he bid me farewell, in a voice and with a look, that drew tears from me. “Ah, my dear madam!” cried he, “when this day commenced, how differently did I think it would have terminated.”
“I attended him to his carriage; he was obliged to lean upon his man as he ascended it, and his looks and agitation proclaimed the deepest distress. I have sent repeatedly to Castle Carberry since his departure to inquire about him, and have been informed, that they expect to hear nothing of him till Lord Cherbury’s agent comes into the country, which will not be these three months.
“I have heard much of the good he did in the neighbourhood: he was a bounteous and benevolent spirit indeed; to our community he has been a liberal benefactor, and our prayers are daily offered up for his restoration to health and tranquillity. Among his other actions, when in Dublin, about three months ago, he ordered a monument to the memory of Captain Fitzalan, which has been brought down since your departure, and put into the parish church where he was interred. I sent sister Mary and another of the nuns the other evening to see it, and they brought me a description of it; it is a white marble urn, ornamented with a foliage of laurel, and standing upon a pedestal of grey, on which the name of the deceased, and words to the following effect, are inscribed, namely, “That he whose memory it perpetuates, performed the duties of a christian and a soldier, with a fidelity and zeal that now warrants his enjoying a blessed recompense for both.”
“I know this proof of respect to your father will deeply affect you; but I would not omit telling it, because, though it will affect, I am confident it will also please you. The late events have cast a gloom over all our spirits. Sister Mary now prays more than ever, and you know I have often told her she was only fit for a religious vocation: it is a bad world she says we live in, and she is glad she has so little to say to it.
“I am longing to hear from you. Pray tell me how you like Mrs. 434 Macpherson; I have not seen her since her youth, and years often produce as great a change in the temper as the face; at any rate your present situation is too obscure for you to continue in, and as soon as your thoughts are collected and composed you must look out for another. I hope you will be constant in writing; but I tell you beforehand, you must not expect me to be punctual in my answers; I have been so long disused to writing, and my eyes are grown so weak; this letter has been the work of many days, besides, I have really nothing interesting to communicate: whenever I have, you may be assured I shall not lose a moment in informing you.
“The woman was extremely thankful for the five guineas you left her. Lord Mortimer sent five more by his man, so that she thinks herself well rewarded for any trouble or disappointment she experienced.—If you wish to have any of your things sent to you, acquaint me, you know I shall never want an opportunity by the master of the vessel. He speaks largely of your generosity to him, and expresses much pity at seeing so young a person in such melancholy. May heaven, if it does not remove the source, at least lessen this melancholy.
“If possible, allow me to write to Lord Mortimer, and vindicate you from the unworthy suspicions he entertains of you: I know he would believe me, and I should do it without discovering your retreat. Farewell, my dear girl: I recommend you constantly to the care of heaven, and beg you to believe you will ever be dear and interesting to the heart of
Poor Amanda wept over this letter. “I have ruined the health, the peace of Lord Mortimer,” she exclaimed, “and he now execrates me as the source of his unhappiness. Oh! Lord Cherbury, how severely do I suffer for your crime!” She began to think her virtue had been too heroic in the sacrifice she had made; but this was a transient idea, for when she reflected on the disposition of Lord Cherbury, she was convinced the divulgement of his secret would have been followed by his death, and great as was her present wretchedness, she felt it light compared to the horrors she knew she would experience, could she accuse herself of being accessary to such an event; she now drank deeply of the cup of misery, but conscious rectitude, in some degree, lessened its noxious bitterness. She resolved to caution Mrs. Dermot against mentioning her in any manner to Lord Mortimer. She was well convinced he would believe no asseveration of her innocence, and even if he did, what end could it answer? their union was opposed by an obstacle not to be surmounted, and if he sought and discovered her retreat, it would only lead to 435 new sorrows, perhaps occasion some dreadful catastrophe. “We are separated,” cried she, folding her hands together, “forever separated in this world, but in heaven we shall again be re-united.”
Absorbed in the reflections and sorrow this letter gave rise to, she remained in her seat till Mrs. Macpherson’s little girl suddenly appeared before her, and said her mistress had made tea, and was wondering what kept her so long.
Amanda instantly arose, and carefully putting up the letter returned to the house where she found Mrs. Macpherson in a very bad humour. She grumbled exceedingly at Amanda’s staying out so long, and taking notice of her eyes being red and swelled, said, “indeed she believed she was right in supposing she had got a love-letter.”
Amanda made no reply, and the evening passed away; peevishness on one side, and silence on the other.
The charm which had hitherto rendered Amanda’s situation tolerable, was now dissolved, as Mrs. Dermot had said she would write but seldom, and scarcely expected to have anything interesting to relate; she would gladly, therefore, have left Mrs. Macpherson immediately, but she knew not where to go. She resolved, however, ere winter was entirely set in, to request Mrs. Dermot to look out for some other place for her; as she had connexions in Scotland, she thought she might recommend her to them as a governess, or a fit person to do fine works for a lady.
She arose long before her usual hour the next morning, and wrote a letter expressive of her wishes and intentions to Mrs. Dermot, which she sent by a poor man who lived near the house to the post-town rewarding him liberally for his trouble.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLII
she therefore replied, “from a very particular friend!”
open quote missing
the envelope contained two letters:
text has envelop
I could scarcely sleep, and was quite unrefreshed by what I did get.
text has and and was
“Oh, heavens!” cried she, “Miss Fitzalan cannot be found
text has heaven’s
Amanda went to her chamber the moment Lord Mortimer departed
Among Mrs. Macpherson’s pupils were two little girls, who pleased and interested Amanda greatly.