The Children of the Abbey
Such on the ground the fading rose we see,
By some rude blast torn from the parent tree;
The daffodil, so leans his languid head,
Newly mown down upon his grassy bed.
Experience convinced Amanda that the change in her situation was, if possible, more pleasing than she expected it would be. Mrs. Duncan was the kindest and most attentive of friends—Mrs. Bruce was civil and obliging, and her little pupils were docile and affectionate. Could she have avoided retrospection she would have been happy; but the remembrance of past events was too deeply impressed upon her mind to be erased; it mingled in the visions of the night, in the avocations of the day, and in the meditations of her lonely hours, forcing from her heart the sighs of regret and tenderness; her mornings were devoted to her pupils, and in the evenings she sometimes walked with Mrs. Duncan, sometimes read aloud whilst she and her aunt were working; but whenever they were engaged in chatting about family affairs, or at a game of piquet (which was often the case, as Mrs. Bruce neither loved walking or working) she always took that opportunity of retiring from the room, and either rambled through the dark and intricate windings of the Abbey, or about the grounds contiguous to it; she sighed whenever she passed the Chapel which contained the picture of her mother; it was in a ruinous condition; but a thick foliage of ivy partly hid, while it proclaimed its decay; the windows were broken in many places, but all too high to admit the possibility of her gaining admittance through them, and the door was strongly secured by massy bars of iron, as was every door which had a communication with the eastern part of the Abbey A fortnight passed away at the Abbey without any thing happening to disturb the tranquillity which reigned in it. No one approached it except a few of the wandering children of poverty, and its in habitants seemed perfectly content with their seclusion from the world. Amanda, by Mrs. Duncan’s desire, had told Mrs. Dermot to direct her letters to a town about five miles from the Abbey; thither a man went every day but constantly returned without one for her.449
“Why,” she asked herself, “this anxiety for a letter, this disappointment for not receiving one, when I neither expect to hear any thing interesting or agreeable? Mrs. Dermot has already said she had no means of hearing about Lord Mortimer, and if she had, why should I desire such intelligence, torn as I am from him forever?”
At the expiration of another week an incident happened, which again destroyed the composure of our heroine. Mrs. Bruce one morning hastily entered the room, where she and Mrs. Duncan were sitting with the little girls, and begged they would not stir from it till she told them to do so, as the Marquis of Rosline’s steward was below stairs, and if he knew of their residence at the Abbey, she was confident he would reveal it to his lord, which she had no doubt would occasion her own dismission from it. The ladies assured her they would not leave the apartment, and she retired, leaving them astonished at the agitation she betrayed.
In about two hours she returned, and said she came to release them from confinement, as the steward had departed. “He has brought unexpected intelligence,” said she; “the marquis and his family are coming down to the castle; the season is so far advanced, I did not suppose they would visit it till next summer: I must therefore,” continued she, addressing her niece, “send to the neighbouring town to procure lodgings for you till the family leave the country, as no doubt some of them will come to the Abbey, and to find you in it would, I can assure you, be attended with unpleasant consequences to me.”
Mrs. Duncan begged she would not suffer the least uneasiness on her account, and proposed that very day leaving the Abbey.
“No,” Mrs. Bruce replied, “there was no necessity for quitting it for a few days longer; the family,” continued she, “are coming down upon a joyful occasion, to celebrate the nuptials of the marquis’s daughter, Lady Euphrasia Sutherland.”
“Lady Euphrasia’s nuptials!” exclaimed Amanda, in an agitated voice, and forgetting her own situation, “to whom is she going to be married?”
“To Lord Mortimer,” Mrs. Bruce replied, “the Earl of Cherbury’s only son, a very fine young man. I am told the affair has been long talked of; but—” here she was interrupted by a deep sigh, or rather groan from the unfortunate Amanda, who at the same moment fell 450 back on her chair, pale, and without motion. Mrs, Duncan screamed, and flew to her assistance; Mrs. Bruce, equally frightened, though less affected, ran for restoratives, and the children clasped her knees and wept. From her pensive look and manner Mrs. Duncan suspected, from their first acquaintance, that her heart had experienced a disappointment of the tenderest nature. Her little girls too had told her that they had seen Miss Donald crying over a picture. Her suspicions concerning such a disappointment were now confirmed by the sudden emotion and illness of Amanda; but she had all the delicacy which belongs to true sensibility, and determined never to let Amanda know she conjectured the source of her sorrows, certain as she was that they had never originated from any misconduct.
Mrs. Bruce’s drops restored Amanda’s senses; but she felt weak and trembling, and begged she might be supported to her room to lie down on the bed. Mrs. Bruce and Mrs. Duncan accordingly led her to it.—The former almost immediately retired, and the tears of Amanda now burst forth. She wept a long time without intermission, and as soon as her sobs would permit her to speak, begged Mrs. Duncan to leave her to herself. Mrs. Duncan knew too well the luxury of secret grief to deny her the enjoyment of so melancholy a feast, and directly withdrew.
The wretched Amanda then asked herself, if she had not known before, that the sacrifice she had made Lord Cherbury, would lead to the event she now regretted? It was true she did know it; but whenever an idea of its taking place occurred, she had so sedulously driven it from her mind, that she at last almost ceased to think about it; was he to be united to any other woman but Lady Euphrasia, she thought she would not be so wretched. “Oh Mortimer! beloved of my soul,” she cried, “were you going to be united to a woman sensible of your worth, and worthy your noble heart, in the knowledge of your happiness my misery would be lessened; but what an union of misery must minds so uncongenial as yours and Lady Euphrasia’s form! Alas! am I not wretched enough in contemplating my own prospect of unhappiness, but that yours also must be obtruded on me?”
“Yet, perhaps,” she continued, “the evils I dread on Lord Mortimer’s account may be averted. Oh! that they may,” said she with and raising her hands and eyes. “Soften, gracious Heaven; 451 soften the flinty nature of Lady Euphrasia: Oh! render her sensible of the blessings you bestow, in giving her Lord Mortimer, and render her not only capable of inspiring, but of feeling tenderness. May she prove to him the tender friend, the faithful, the affectionate companion, the unfortunate Amanda would have been.—Oh! may she build her happiness on his, and may his be great as his virtues, extensive as his charities, and may the knowledge of it soothe my afflicted heart.”
Her spirits were a little elevated by the fervency of her language; but it was a transient elevation; the flush it spread over her cheeks soon died away, and her tears again began to flow.
she cried, “in a few days, it will be criminal to think of Lord Mortimer as I have hitherto done, and I shall blush,” continued she gazing at his picture, “to contemplate this dear shadow, when I reflect its original is the husband of Lady Euphrasia.”
The dinner-bell now sounded through the Abbey, and almost at the same time she heard a tap at her door. She started and reflected for the first time, that her deep dejection would naturally excite suspicion as to its source, if longer indulged. Shocked at the idea of incurring them, she hastily wiped away her tears, and opening the door, found her friend Mrs. Duncan at it, who begged she would come down to dinner.—Amanda did not refuse, but was obliged to use the supporting arm of her friend to reach the parlour. She could not eat; with difficulty could she restrain her tears, or answer the inquiries Mrs Bruce made after what she supposed a mere bodily indisposition. She forced herself, however, to continue in the parlour till after tea, when cards being produced, she had an opportunity of going out and indulging her anguish without fear of interruption, unable, however, to walk far, she repaired to the old chapel, and sitting down by it, leaned her head against its decayed and ivy-covered walls. She had scarcely sat in this manner a minute when the stones gave way with a noise that terrified her, and she would have fallen backwards, had she not caught at some projecting wood. She hastily rose, and found that the ivy entirely concealed the breach. She examined it, however, and perceived it large enough to admit her into the chapel. A sudden pleasure pervaded her heart at the idea of being able to enter it, and examine the picture she had so 452 long wished to behold. There was nothing to oppose her entrance but the ivy. This she parted with difficulty, but so as not to strip it from the wall, and after stepping over the fallen rubbish, she found herself in the body of the chapel. The silent hour of twilight was now advanced, but the moonbeams that darted through the broken roof, prevented the chapel from being involved in utter darkness. Already had the owls began their melancholy strains on its mouldering pillars, while the ravens croaked amongst the luxuriant trees that rustled around it: dusty and moth-eaten banners were suspended from the walls, and rusty casques, shields, and spears were promiscuously heaped together, the useless armour of those, over whose remains Amanda now trod with a light and trembling foot. She looked for the picture, and perceived one reclined against the wall, near the altar. She wiped away the dust, and perceived this was indeed the one she sought, the one her father had so often described to her. The light was too imperfect for her to distinguish the features, and she resolved, if possible, to come at an earlier hour the ensuing evening. She felt impressed with reverential awe as she stood before it. She recollected the pathetic manner in which her father had mentioned his emotions as he gazed upon it, and her tears began to flow for the disastrous fate of her parents and her own. She sunk into an agony of grief, which mournful remembrances and present calamities excited, upon the steps of that altar, where Fitzalan and Malvina had plighted their irrevocable vows; she leaned her arms on the rails, but her face was turned to the picture, as if it could see, and would pity her distress. She remained in this situation till the striking of the Abbey clock warned her to depart. In going towards the entrance she perceived a small arched door at the opposite side. As the apartments Lady Malvina had occupied were in this part of the building, she resolved on visiting them before she left the Abbey, lest the breach in the wall should be discovered ere she returned to it. She returned to the parlour ere the ladies had finished their game of piquet, and the next evening, immediately after tea, repaired to the chapel, leaving them as usual engaged at cards. She stood a few minutes before it to see if any one was near: but perceiving no object, she again entered it. She had now sufficient light to examine the picture: though faded by the damp, it yet retained that 453 loveliness for which its original was so much admired, and which Amanda had so often heard eloquently described by her father. She contemplated it with awe and pity. Her heart swelled with the emotions it excited, and gave way to its feelings in tears. To weep before the shade of her mother, seemed to assuage the bitterness of those feelings. She pronounced the name of her parents, she called herself their wretched orphan, a stranger and a dependant, in the mansion of her ancestors. She pronounced the name of Lord Mortimer in the impassioned accents of tenderness and distress. As she thus indulged the sorrows of her soul in tears and lamentations, she suddenly heard a faint noise like an advancing footstep near her. She started up, for she had been kneeling before her mother’s picture, terrified lest her visit to the chapel had been discovered, which she knew, if the case, would mortally disoblige Mrs. Bruce, though why she should be so averse to any one’s visiting it she could not conceive. She listened in trembling anxiety a few minutes; all again was still, and she returned to the parlour, where she found the ladies as she had left them; determined, notwithstanding her late fright, to return the next evening to the chapel, and visit the apartments that were her mother’s.
Oh! that they may,” said she with fervour,
“Alas!” she cried, “in a few days, it will be criminal
first open quote missing
“My dear, dear Fanny,” said Mrs. Duncan, addressing our heroine by her borrowed name
The next evening Amanda’s patience was put to the test; for after tea, Mrs. Duncan proposed a walk