The Children of the Abbey
Cease then, ah! cease, fond nature to repine
At laws, which nature wisely did ordain;
Pleasure, what is it, rightly to define?
’Tis but a short-lived interval from pain:
Or, rather each alternately renew’d,
Gives to our lives a sweet vicissitude.
The emotions Amanda experienced from reading this narrative, deeply affected, but gradually subsided from her mind, leaving it only occupied by pity for the penitent Lady Dunreath, and pleasure at the prospect of Oscar’s independence, a pleasure so pure, so fervent, that it had power to steal her from her sorrows, and when the recollection of them again returned, she endeavoured to banish it, by thinking of the necessity there was for immediately adopting some plan for the disclosure of the will. Lady Dunreath had advised her to put into the hands of a friend of integrity and abilities.
“But where,” cried the disconsolate Amanda, “can I find such a friend?” The few, the very few whom she had reason to think regarded her, had neither power nor ability to assist her in what would probably be an arduous demand for restitution. After sitting a considerable time in deep meditation, the idea of Rushbrook suddenly occurred, and she started, as if in joyful surprise at the remembrance, she considered that, though almost a stranger to him, 476 an application of such a nature must rather he regarded as a compliment than a liberty, from the great opinion it would prove she had of his honour by intrusting him with such a secret. From his looks and manner she was convinced he would not only deeply feel for the injured, but ably advise how those injuries should be redressed. From his years and his situation there could be no impropriety in addressing him, and she already in imagination beheld him her friend, advocate, and adviser: he also, she trusted, would be able to put her in a way of making inquiries after Oscar. Oh! how delightful the prospect of discovering that brother, of discovering but to put him in possession of even a splendid independence. Ah! how sweet the idea of being again folded to a heart interested in her welfare, after so long a solitary mourner treading the rugged path of life, and bending as she went beneath its adverse storm. Ah! how sweet again to meet an eye that should beam with tenderness on hers; an ear, which should listen with attentive rapture to her accents, and a voice that would soothe with softest sympathy, her sorrows; it is only those, who, like her, have known the social ties of life in all their sweetness, who, like her, have mourned their loss with all the bitterness of anguish, that can possibly conceive her feelings as these ideas occurred to her mind. “Oh! Oscar, oh! my brother,” she exclaimed, while tears wet her pale cheeks, “how rapturous the moment which restores you to me! How delightful to think your youth will no more experience the chill of poverty, your benevolence no longer suffer restraints! Now will your virtues shine forth with full lustre, dignifying the house from which you have descended, doing service to your country, and spreading diffusive happiness around.”
The morning surprised Amanda in the midst of her meditations. She opened the shutters and hailed its first glories in the eastern hemisphere; the sun-beams exhaling the mists of the valley displayed its smiling verdure, forming a fine contrast to the deep shadows that yet partially enveloped the surrounding mountains; the morning breeze gently agitated the old trees from whose bending heads unnumbered birds arose, and in their matin notes seemed to consecrate the first return of day to the Great Author of Light and Life!
Spontaneous praises burst from the lips of Amanda, and she felt all that calm and sweet delight which ever pervades a mind of religion 477 and sensibility, on viewing the rural beauties of nature. She left the charming scene to try and get a little rest, but she thought not of undressing; she soon sunk into a gentle sleep, and awoke with renovated spirits near the breakfast hour.
Mrs. Bruce expressed the utmost regret at the necessity there was for parting with her guests; but added, that she believed, as well as hoped, their absence from her would be but short, as she was sure the marquis’s family would leave Scotland almost immediately after Lady Euphrasia’s nuptials. In vain did Amanda struggle for fortitude to support the mention of those nuptials: her frame trembled, her heart sickened whenever they were talked of; the spirits she had endeavoured to collect, from the idea that they would all be requisite in the important affair she must undertake, fleeted away at Mrs. Bruce’s words, and a heavy languor took possession of her.
They did not leave the Abbey till after tea in the evening, and the idea that she might soon behold her brother, the acknowledged heir of that Abbey, cast again a gleam of pleasure on the sad heart of Amanda, a gleam, I say, for it faded before the almost instantaneous recollection, that ere that period Lord Mortimer and Lady Euphrasia would be united; sunk in a profound melancholy, she forgot her situation, heeded not the progress of the carriage or remarked any object; a sudden jolt roused her from her reverie, and she blushed as she thought of the suspicions it might give rise to in the mind of Mrs. Duncan, whose intelligent eye, on the preceding night, had more than half-confessed her knowledge of Amanda’s feelings. She now, though with some embarrassment, attempted to enter into conversation, and Mrs. Duncan, who with deep attention had marked her pensive companion with much cheerfulness, rendered the attempt a successful one. The chaise was now turning from the valley, and Amanda leaned from her window to take another view of Dunreath Abbey. The sun was already sunk below the horizon, but a tract of glory still remained, that marked the spot in which its daily course was finished; a dubious lustre yet played around the spires of the Abbey, and while it displayed its vast magnificence, by contrast added to its gloom, a gloom heightened by the dreary solitude of its situation, for the valley was entirely overshadowed by the dark projection of the mountains, on whose summits a few bright and lingering beams yet remained, that showed the wild shrubs waving in the 478 evening breeze. A pensive spirit seemed now to have taken possession of Mrs. Duncan, a spirit congenial to the scene, and the rest of the little journey was past almost in silence; their lodgings were at the entrance of the town, and Mrs. Bruce had taken care they should find every requisite refreshment within them. The woman of the house had already prepared a comfortable supper for them, which was served up soon after their arrival. When over, Mrs. Duncan, assisted by Amanda, put the children to bed, as she knew, till accustomed to her, they would not like the attendance of the maid of the house. Neither she or Amanda felt sleepy; it was a fine moonlight night, and they were tempted to walk out upon a terrace, to which a glass door from the room opened; the terrace overhung a deep valley which stretched to the sea, and the rocky promontory that terminated it, was crowned with the ruins of an ancient castle, the moonbeams seemed to sleep upon its broken battlements, and the waves that stole murmuring to the shore cast a silvery spray around it. A pensive pleasure pervaded the hearts of Mrs. Duncan and Amanda, and, conversing on the charms of the scene, they walked up and down, when suddenly upon the floating air they distinguished the sound of a distant drum beating the tattoo: both stopped, and leaned upon a fragment of a parapet wall, which had once stretched along the terrace, and Mrs. Duncan, who knew the situation of the country, said that the sounds they heard proceeded from a fort near the town. They ceased in a short time, but were almost immediately succeeded by martial music, and Amanda soon distinguished an admired march of her father’s. Ah! how affectingly did it remind her of him. She recalled the moments in which she had played it for him, while he hung over her chair with delight and tenderness, she wept at the tender remembrance it excited, wept at listening to sounds which had so often given to his pale cheek the flush of ardour.
They did not return to the house till convinced by a long interval of silence, that the music had ceased for the night.
Amanda having formed a plan relative to the will, determined not to delay executing it. She had often mentioned to Mrs. Duncan her uneasiness concerning her brother, as an excuse for the melancholy that lady, in a half-serious, half-jesting manner, so often rallied her about, and she now intended to assign her journey to London (which she was resolved should immediately take place) to her anxious wish 479 of discovering, or at least inquiring about him; the next morning she accordingly mentioned her intention. Mrs. Duncan was not only surprised but concerned, and endeavoured to dissuade her from it, by representing, in the most forcible manner, the dangers she might experience in so long a journey without a protector.
Amanda assured her she was already aware of these, but the apprehensions they excited were less painful than the anxiety she suffered on her brother’s account, and ended by declaring her resolution unalterable.
Mrs, Duncan, who in her heart could not blame Amanda for such a resolution, now expressed her hopes that she would not make a longer stay in London than was absolutely necessary, declaring that her society would be a loss she could scarcely support.
Amanda thanked her for her tenderness, and said, “she hoped they should yet enjoy many happy days together.” She proposed travelling in a chaise to the borders of England, and then pursuing the remainder of the journey in a stage coach: the woman of the house was sent for, and requested to engage a carriage for her against the morning, which she promised to do, and the intervening time was almost entirely passed by Mrs. Duncan in lamenting the approaching loss of Amanda’s society, and in entreaties for her to return as soon as possible. Till this period she did not know, nor did Amanda conceive, the strength of her friendship. She presented her purse to our heroine, and in the impassioned language of sincerity, entreated her to consider it as the purse of a sister, and take from it whatever was necessary for her long journey and uncertain stay.
Amanda, who never wished to lie under obligations, when she could possibly avoid them, declined the offer; but with the warmest expressions of gratitude and sensibility, declaring (what she thought indeed would be the case) that she had more than sufficient for all her purposes, all therefore she would accept was what Mrs Duncan owed her.
Mrs. Duncan begged her to take a letter from her to a family, near whose house her first day’s journey would terminate: they were relations of Mr. Duncan she said, and had been extremely kind to him and her; she had kept up a correspondence with them till her removal to Dunreath Abbey, when she dropped it, lest her residence there should be discovered; but such an opportunity of writing to them by a person who would answer all their inquiries concerning 480 her, she could not neglect; besides, she continued, they were the agreeable and hospitable people she had ever known, and she was convinced would not suffer Amanda to sleep at an inn, but would probably keep her a few days at their house, and then escort her part of her way.
Averse to the society of strangers, in her present frame of mind, Amanda said she would certainly take the letter, but could not possibly present it herself. She thanked Mrs. Duncan for her solicitous care about her; but added, whether she lodged at an inn or private house, for one night, was of little consequence, and as to her journey being retarded, it was what she never could allow.
Mrs. Duncan declared, “she was too fond of solitude,” but did not argue the point with her; she wrote the letter however.
They took leave of each other at night, as the chaise was ordered at an early hour. As Mrs. Duncan folded Amanda to her heart, she again besought her to hasten back, declaring, “that neither she or her little girls would be themselves till she returned.”
At an early hour, Amanda entered the chaise, and as she stepped into it, could not forbear casting a sad and lingering look upon a distant prospect, where the foregoing evening a dusky grove of firs had been pointed out to her as encompassing the Marquis of Rosline’s Castle. Ah! how did her heart sicken at the idea of the event which either had, or was so soon to take place in that castle! Ah! how did she tremble at the idea of her long and lonesome journey, and the difficulties she might encounter on its termination! How sad, how solitary did she feel herself; her mournful eyes filled with tears as she saw the rustic families hastening to their daily labour, for her mind involuntarily drew a comparison between their situation and her own! And, ah! how sweet would their labour be to her, she thought, if she like them was encompassed by the social ties of life, fears before unthought of rose in her mind, from which her timid nature shrunk appalled, should Rushbrook be absent from London, or should he not answer her expectations: but “I deserve disappointment,” cried she, “if I thus anticipate it. Oh! let me not be over exquisite
“To cast the fashion of uncertain ills,”
oppressed as I already am with real ones;” she endeavoured to exert her spirits; she tried to amuse them by attending to the objects she 481 past, and gradually they lost somewhat of their heaviness. On arriving in London, she designed going to the haberdasher’s where it may be remembered she had once met Mrs. Rushbrook; here she hoped to procure lodgings, also a direction to Rushbrook. It was about five when they stopped for the night, as the shortest days of autumn would not permit a longer journey, had the tired horses, which was not the case, been able to proceed. They stopped at the inn, which Mrs. Duncan had taken care to know would be the last stage of the first day’s journey, a small but neat and comfortable house, romantically situated at the foot of a steep hill planted with ancient firs, and crowned with the straggling remains of what appeared to have been a religious house, from a small cross which yet stood over a broken gateway; a stream trickled from the hill, though its murmur through the thick underwood alone denoted its rising there, and wandering round the inn, flowed in meanders through a spacious vale, of which the inn was not the lone inhabitant, for cottages appeared on either side, and one large mansion stood in the centre, whose superior size and neat plantations, proclaimed it master of the whole. This was really the case, for immediately on entering the inn, Amanda had inquired about the Macqueen family, to whom Mrs. Duncan’s letter was directed, and learned that they inhabited this house, and owned the ground to a large extent surrounding it. Amanda gave Mrs. Duncan’s letter to the landlady, and begged she would send it directly to Mrs. Macqueen. The inn was without company, and its quiet retirement, together with the appearance of the owners, an elderly pair, soothed the agitated spirits of Amanda. Her little dinner was soon served up; but when over, and she was left to herself, all the painful ideas she had so sedulously, and with some degree of success attempted to banish from her mind in the morning by attending to the objects she passed, now returned with full or rather aggravated force. Books, those pleasing, and in affliction, alleviating resources, she had forgotten to bring along with her, and all that the inn contained she had been shown on a shelf in the apartment she occupied, but without finding one that could possibly fix her attention, or change its melancholy ideas: a ramble, though the evening was uninviting, she preferred to the passive indulgence of her sorrow, and having ordered tea against her return, and invited the landlady to it, she was conducted to the garden 482 of the inn, from whence she ascended the hill by a winding path. She made her way with difficulty, through a path which seldom trodden was half choked with weeds and brambles; the wind blew cold and sharp around her, and the gloom of closing day was heightened by the thick and lowering clouds that involved the distant mountains in one dark shade. Near those mountains she knew the domain of Rosline lay, and from the bleak summit of the hill, she surveyed them as a lone mourner would survey the sad spot in which the pleasure of his heart was buried; forgetting the purpose for which she had walked out, she leaned in melancholy reverie against the fragment of the ruined building, nor heard approaching footsteps, till the voice of her host suddenly broke upon her ear. She started and perceived him accompanied by two ladies, who he directly informed her were Mrs. and Miss Macqueen. They both went up to Amanda, and after the usual compliments of introduction were over Mrs. Macqueen took her hand, and with a smile of cordial good nature, invited her to her house for the night, declaring that the pleasure she had received from Mrs. Duncan’s letter was heightened by being introduced through its means to a person that lady mentioned as her particular friend. Miss Macqueen seconded her mother’s invitation, and said “the moment they had read the letter they had come out for the purpose of bringing her back with them.”
“Ay, ay,” said the host good humouredly, (who was himself descended from one of the inferior branches of the Macqueens) “this is the way, ladies, you always rob me of my guests. In good faith, I think I must soon change my dwelling, and go higher up the valley.”
Conscious, from her utter dejection, that she would be unable, as she wished, to participate in the pleasures of conversation, Amanda declined the invitation, alleging as an excuse for doing so, her intention of proceeding on her journey the next morning by dawn of day.
Mrs. Macqueen declared, that she should act as she pleased in that respect, and both she and her daughter renewed their entreaties for her company with such earnestness, that Amanda could no longer refuse them, and they returned to the inn, where Amanda begged they would excuse her absence a few minutes, and retired to pay her entertainers, and repeat her charges to the postillion to be at the house as soon as he should think any of the family stirring. She then returned to the ladies, and attended them to their mansion, which 483 might well be termed the seat of hospitality. The family consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Macqueen, four sons and six daughters, all now past childhood, and united to one another by the strictest ties of duty and affection. After residing a few years at Edinburgh for the improvement of the young people, Mr. and Mrs. Macqueen returned to their mansion in the valley, where a large fortune was spent in the enjoyment of agreeable society and acts of benevolence. Mrs. Macqueen informed Amanda during the walk that all her family were now assembled together, as her sons, who were already engaged in different professions and in business in various parts of the kingdom, made it a constant rule to pay a visit every autumn to their friends. It was quite dark before the ladies reached the house, and the wind was sharp and cold, so that Amanda found the light and warmth of the drawing-room, to which she was conducted, extremely agreeable. The thick window-curtains and carpeting, and the enlivening fire, bid defiance to the sharpness of the mountain blast which howled without and rendered the comforts within more delectable by the effect of contrast. In the drawing-room were Mr. Macqueen, two of his daughters, and half a dozen ladies and gentlemen, to whom Amanda was presented, and they in return to her. In the countenance of Mr. Macqueen, Amanda perceived a benevolence equal to that which irradiated his wife’s. Both were past the prime of life, but in him only was its decline visible. He was lately grown so infirm as to be unable to remove without assistance, yet was his relish for society undiminished, and in his arm-chair, his legs muffled in flannel, and supported by pillows, he promoted as much as ever the mirth of his family, and saw with delight the dance go on in which he had once mixed with his children. Mrs. Macqueen appeared but as the elder sister of her daughters, and between them all Amanda perceived a strong family likeness; they were tall, well but not delicately made; handsome, yet more indebted to the animation of their countenances than to regularity of features for beauty, which was rendered luxuriant by a quantity of rich auburn hair, that unrestrained by superfluous ornaments, fell in long ringlets on their shoulders, and curled with a sweet simplicity on their white polished foreheads.
“So the boys and girls are not yet returned,” said Mrs. Macqueen, addressing one of her daughters; “I am afraid they have taken their friends too She had scarcely spoken, when a party was heard 484 under the windows, laughing and talking, who ascended the stairs immediately in a kind of gay tumult. The drawing-room door opened, and a lady entered (of a most prepossessing appearance, though advanced in life) and was followed by a number of young people.
But, oh! what were the powerful emotions of Amanda’s soul, when amongst them she beheld Lady Araminta Dormer and Lord Mortimer!—Shocked, confused, confounded, she strained an eye of agony upon them, as if with a hope of detecting an illusion, then dropped her head, anxious to conceal herself, though she was fatally convinced she could be but a few minutes unobserved by them. Never, amidst the many trying moments of her life, had she experienced one more dreadful. To behold Lord Mortimer, when she knew his esteem for her was lost: at a period, too, when he was hastening to be united to another woman, oh! it was agony, torture in the extreme: vainly did she reflect she deserved not to lose his esteem. This consciousness could not at present inspire her with fortitude; her heart throbbed as if it would burst her bosom, her frame trembled, and she alternately experienced the glow of confusion, and the chill of dismay—dismay at the idea of meeting the silent but expressive reproach of Lord Mortimer’s eye for her imaginary errors—dismay at the idea of meeting the contempt of his aunt (who was the lady that first entered the room) and sister.
bending as she went beneath its adverse storm. Ah! how sweet again to meet an eye that should beam with tenderness on hers; an ear, which should listen with attentive rapture to her accents, and a voice that would soothe with softest sympathy, her sorrows; it is only those, who, like her, have known the social ties of life in all their sweetness, who, like her, have mourned their loss with all the
they were the most agreeable and hospitable people she had ever known
text has the meet agreeable
“I am afraid they have taken their friends too far.”
“Adoring the Power who has given me means of making restitution for my injustice, I take up my pen to disclose to your view, oh! lovely orphan of the injured Malvina
Bitterly did Amanda regret having been tempted from the inn