The Children of the Abbey
Who knows the joys of friendship,
The trust, security, and mutual tenderness,
The double joys, where each is glad for both,
Friendship, our only wealth, our last retreat and strength.
Secure against ill fortune and the world!
Among Mrs. Macpherson’s pupils were two little girls, who pleased and interested Amanda greatly.—Their father, for whom they were in mourning, had perished in a violent storm, and their mother had pined in health and spirits ever since the fatal accident—the kindness with which Amanda treated them, they repaid with gratitude and attention; it had a double effect upon their little hearts, from being contrasted with the sour austerity of Mrs. Macpherson; they told Amanda, in a whisper, one morning, that their mamma was coming to see their dear, good Frances Donald.
Accordingly, in the course of the day, Mrs. Duncan came; she was young and pleasing in her appearance; her weeds and deep dejection rendered her a most interesting object. She sat by Amanda, and took an opportunity, while Mrs Macpherson was engaged with some of the children, to tell her in a low voice, “she was truly obliged to her for the great attention and kindness she showed her little girls, so unlike their former treatment at the school. The task of instructing them was hers,” she said, “till her declining health and spirits rendered her no longer able to bear it.” Amanda assured her, “it was a pleasure to instruct minds so docile and sweet tempered as theirs.” Mrs. Duncan, as she rose to depart, asked her and Mrs. Macpherson to tea that evening, which invitation was instantly accepted by Mrs. Macpherson, who was extremely fond of being sociable every where but in her own house. Mrs. Duncan lived but a little distance, and every thing in and about the house was neat and comfortable. She had an old neighbour in the parlour, who kept Mrs. Macpherson in chat, and gave her an opportunity of conversing freely with Amanda. She marked the delicacy of her looks, she said, “She believed she was ill qualified to endure so fatiguing a life as her present.” She 437 mentioned her own lonely and melancholy life, and the happiness she would derive from having such a companion, and expressed her hopes of often enjoying her society. Amanda said this would be impossible without disobliging Mrs. Macpherson, and Mrs. Duncan on reflection allowed it would be so. She then inquired if she ever walked: Amanda replied she did, and was asked where she generally rambled; by the sea side she replied.
Mrs. Duncan sighed deeply, and her eyes filled with tears: “it is there I generally ramble too,” said she. This led to the mention of her late loss: “Mr. Duncan had been the kindest, best of husbands,” she said; “the first years of their marriage were attended with difficulties, which were just removed when he was lost on a party of pleasure with several others. It was some consolation, however,” continued Mrs. Duncan, “that the body was cast upon the shore, and I had the power of paying the last rites of decency and respect to him.”
In short, between her and Amanda there appeared a mutual sympathy, which rendered them truly interesting to each other. From this period they met generally every evening, and passed many hours on “the sea-beat shore,” talking and often weeping over “joys departed never to return!” Mrs. Duncan was too delicate to inquire into Amanda’s former situation, but was too well convinced it had been very different from her present one. Amanda, however, of her own accord, told her what she had told Mrs. Macpherson, respecting herself. Mrs. Duncan lamented her misfortunes, but since she had met them, blessed the happy chance which conducted her near her habitation.
A month passed in this manner, when one evening, at the usual place of meeting, Mrs. Duncan told her, “that she believed she should soon be quitting that part of the country.” Amanda started, and turned pale at this disagreeable intelligence. She had received no answer to her letter from Mrs. Dermot, consequently dreaded that necessity would compel her to remain in her present situation, and on Mrs. Duncan’s society she had depended for rendering it bearable to her.
“I have been invited, my dear girl,” said Mrs. Duncan, leaning on her arm, as they walked up and down the beach, “to reside with an aunt, who has always been kind, and was particularly so to me in my 438 distress. She lives about ten miles from this, at an old place called Dunreath Abbey, of which she is housekeeper. Have you ever heard of it?” Amanda’s agitation, at hearing her mother’s native habitation mentioned, is not to be described; her heart palpitated; she felt her colour change, and said Yes, and No, to Mrs. Duncan, without knowing what she answered; then recollecting herself, she replied, “she had heard of it.”
“Well, then, my dear,” continued Mrs. Duncan, “my aunt, as I have already told you, is housekeeper there; she lives in great grandeur, for it is a magnificent old seat, and has the absolute command of everything, as none of the family have resided at it since the Earl of Dunreath’s decease.
“My aunt is lately grown weary of the profound solitude in which she lives, and has asked me, in a letter which I received this morning, to go immediately and take up my residence with her, promising if I do she will leave everything she is worth to me and my children, and as her salary is very good, I know she must have saved a good deal; this is a very tempting offer, and I am only withheld from accepting it directly, by the fear of depriving my children of the advantages of education.”
“Why,” said Amanda, “what they learn at Mrs. Macpherson’s they could easily learn anywhere else.”
“And I intended, when they were a little older,” replied Mrs. Duncan, “to go to some one of the neighbouring towns with them; if I once go to my aunt, I must entirely relinquish such an idea, and to a I could not send them, for I have not fortitude to bear separation from them; what I wish, therefore, is to procure a person who would be at once a pleasing companion for me, and an eligible governess for them; with such a person, the solitude of Dunreath Abbey would be rather agreeable than irksome to me.”
She looked earnestly at Amanda as she spoke, and Amanda’s heart began to throb with hope and agitation. “In short, my dear girl,” continued she, “you, of all others, to be , are the person I would choose to bring along with me; your sweet society would alleviate my sorrows, and your elegant accomplishments give to my children all the advantages I desire them to possess.”
“I am not only flattered, but happy by your prepossession in my favour,” replied Amanda.439
“I am pleased we agree in point of inclination,” said Mrs. Duncan, “but I must now inform you that my aunt has always been averse to admit any stranger to the Abbey: why, I know not, except it is by the commands of the family, and she tells me in her letter, that if I accept her invitation, I must not, on any account, let it be known where I am removing to: I dare not, therefore, bring you with me without her permission; but I shall write immediately, and request it. In the course of a day or two, I may expect an answer; in the mean time, give Mrs. Macpherson no intimation of our present intentions, lest they should be Amanda promised she would not, and they separated.
She was now in a state of the greatest agitation, at the probability there was that she might visit the seat of her ancestors. She dreaded a disappointment, and felt that if she went there as the companion of Mrs. Duncan, she should be better situated than, a few hours before, she had ever expected to be again. Two evenings after her conversation with Mrs. Duncan, on going to the beach to meet her, she saw her approaching with an open letter in her hand, and a smile on her face, which informed her its contents were pleasing. They were so, indeed, as they gave permission to have Amanda brought to the Abbey, provided she promised inviolable secrecy as to where she was going. This Amanda cheerfully did, and Mrs. Duncan said, she had some affairs to settle, which would prevent their departure for a few days: at whatever time she appointed, her aunt was to send a carriage for them, and it was agreed that Mrs. Macpherson should be informed Mrs. Duncan was leaving that part of the country, and had engaged Amanda as a governess to her children.
Mrs. Duncan then mentioned her own terms. Amanda assured her an idea of them had never entered her thoughts. Mrs. Duncan said she was sure of that, but at the same time thought between the most intimate friends exactness should be preserved. Every thing being settled to their mutual satisfaction they separated, and the following day, after school broke up Amanda informed Mrs. Macpherson of her intended departure. The old dame was thunderstruck, and for some time unable to speak, but when she recovered the use of her tongue, expressed the utmost rage and indignation against Amanda, Mrs. Duncan, and the Prioress; against the first for thinking of leaving her, the second for inveigling her away, and the 440 third for recommending a person who could serve her in such a manner. When she stopped, exhausted by her violence, Amanda took the opportunity of assuring her that she had no reason to condemn any of them, as for her part, previous to Mrs. Duncan’s offer, she intended to leave her, being unable to bear a life of such fatigue; that, as her removal would not be immediate, Mrs. Macpherson could suffer no inconvenience by it, there being time enough to look out for another person ere it took place: but the truth now broke from Mrs. Macpherson, angry as she was with Amanda, she could not help confessing, that she never again expected to meet with a person so well qualified to please her, and a torrent of bitter reproaches again burst forth for her quitting her.
Amanda resented them not, but did all in her power to mollify her; as the most effectual method of doing so, she declared she meant to take no recompense for the time she had been with her, and added, if she had her permission, she would write that very evening to Mrs. Dermot about a woman she had seen at the convent, whom she thought well qualified to be an assistant in her school. This was the woman who had been engaged to attend her to England. Mrs. Macpherson at last consented she should write for her, as her wrath had gradually subsided from the moment Amanda declared she would take no payment. Amanda accordingly wrote to Mrs. Dermot and informed her of the agreeable change there was about taking place in her situation: also of Mrs. Macpherson’s displeasure, and her own wish that a person might immediately be procured to fill the place she was resigning. She mentioned the woman already spoken of as a proper person, but requested, if she consented to come, she might not be allowed to do so till she had left Mrs. Macpherson’s, else who she really was would be betrayed. She now thought little of the tedious and disagreeable days she spent, as the eagerness with which she saw Mrs. Duncan preparing for their departure, promised so speedily to change them; she received an answer from Ireland even sooner than she expected. Mrs. Dermot congratulated her on having met so amiable a friend as Mrs. Duncan; said the woman accepted the offer made in Mrs. Macpherson’s name; but should not depart till she had written for that purpose, and concluded her letter by saying, there was no intelligence yet of Lord Mortimer. Mrs. Macpherson was pleased to find she should not be long without a 441 companion, and two days after the receipt of the letter, Mrs. Duncan told Amanda their journey was fixed for the ensuing day, and begged Amanda to sleep at her house that night, to which she gladly consented; accordingly after dinner she took leave of Mrs. Macpherson, who grumbled out a farewell, and a hope that she might not have reason to repent quitting her, for the old lady was so incensed to have the place Mrs. Duncan was going to, concealed from her, that all her ill humour had returned. Amanda with a pleasure she could scarcely conceal, quitted her inhospitable mansion, and attended by a man who carried her trunk, soon found herself at Mrs. Duncan’s, where she was received with every demonstration of joy. The evening passed sociably away; they arose early in the morning, and had just breakfasted when the expected carriage from Dunreath Abbey arrived; it was a heavy, old-fashioned chaise, on whose faded panels the arms of the Dunreath family were still visible. Mrs. Duncan’s luggage had been sent off the preceding day, so that there was nothing now to delay them. Mrs. Duncan made Amanda and the children go into the chaise before her, but detained by an emotion of the most painful nature, she lingered some time upon the threshold; she could not indeed depart from the habitation, where she had past so many happy days with the man of her tenderest affections, without a flood of tears, which spoke the bitterness of her feelings. Amanda knew too well the nature of those feelings to attempt restraining them; but the little children, impatient to begin their journey, called out to their mamma to come into the carriage. She started when they spoke, but instantly complied with their desire: and when they expressed their grief at seeing her cheeks wet with tears, kissed them both, and said she would soon recover her spirits; she accordingly exerted herself for that purpose, and was soon in a condition to converse with Amanda. The day was fine and serene: they travelled leisurely, for the horses had long outlived their mettlesome days, and gave them an opportunity of attentively viewing the prospects on each side, which were various, romantic, and beautiful; the novelty of the scenes, the disagreeable place she had left, and the idea of the place she was going to, helped a little to enliven the pensive soul of Amanda, and she enjoyed a greater degree of tranquillity than she had before experienced since her separation from Lord Mortimer.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLIII
to a boarding-school I could not send them
text has boarding-shool
“you, of all others, to be explicit, are the person
text has expicit
our present intentions, lest they should be defeated.”
close quote missing
A fortnight passed in this way, and she began to feel surprise and uneasiness at not hearing from Mrs. Dermot
“My dear, dear Fanny,” said Mrs. Duncan, addressing our heroine by her borrowed name