The Children of the Abbey
It would raise your pity, but to see the tears
Force thro’ her snowy lids their melting course,
To lodge themselves on her red murm’ring lips,
That talk such mournful things; when straight a gale
Of starting sighs carry those pearls away,
As dews by winds are wafted from the flow’rs.
Bitterly did Amanda regret having been tempted from the inn, and gratefully would she have acquitted fortune of half its malignancy to her, had she been able to steal back unnoticed. The party that entered, engaged in talking to those they found in the drawing-room, 485 (laughing and describing their ramble, which Lady Araminta said was in the style of Will-o’-the-whisp over brakes and through briars) were sometime before they observed Amanda; but soon, ah! how much too soon did she perceive Mrs. Macqueen approaching to introduce those of her family, who were just returned.
“The trying moment is come,” cried Amanda, “oh! let me not by my confusion look as if I really was the guilty thing I am supposed to be.” She endeavoured to collect herself, and rose to meet the young Macqueens, by a timid glance perceiving that they yet hid her from the eyes she most dreaded to encounter; she was unable however to return their compliments, except by a faint smile, and was again sinking upon her seat, for her frame trembled universally, when Mrs. Macqueen taking her hand led her forward, and presented her to Lady Martha and Lady Araminta Dormer. It may be remembered that Lady Martha had never before seen Amanda, she therefore gave her, as Miss Donald, a benignant smile, which had she supposed her Miss Fitzalan, would have been lost in a frown; seldom, indeed, had she seen a form more interesting than our heroine’s; her mourning habit set off the elegance of her form, and the languid delicacy of her complexion, whilst the sad expression of her countenance denoted that habit but the shadow of the unseen grief which dwelt within her soul; her large blue eyes were half concealed by their long lashes, but the beams that stole from beneath those fringed curtains were full of sweetness and sensibility; her fine hair, discomposed by the jolting of the carriage and the blowing of the wind, had partly escaped the braid on which it was turned under her hat, and hung in long ringlets of glossy brown upon her shoulders, and careless curls about her face, giving a sweet simplicity to it which heightened its How different was the look she received from Lady Araminta to that she had received from Lady Martha! in the expressive countenance of the former she read surprise, contempt and anger; her cheeks were flushed with unusual colour, her eyes sparkled with uncommon lustre, and their quick glances pierced the palpitating heart of Amanda, who heard her repeat, as if involuntary, the name of Donald. Ah! how dreadful was the sound to her ear!— Ah! how sad a confirmation did it convey, that every suspicion to her prejudice would now be strengthened!—“Ah! why—why,” said she to herself “was I tempted to take this hated name? Why did I not prefer 486 incurring any danger to which my own might have exposed me, rather than assume any thing like deceit!” Happily the party were too much engrossed by one another to heed the words or manner of Lady Araminta.
Amanda withdrew her hand from Mrs. Macqueen, and moved tremblingly to her seat; but that lady, with a politeness poor Amanda had reason to think officious, stopped her.—“Miss Donald—Lord Mortimer!” said she. Amanda raised her head, but not her eyes, and neither saw or heard his lordship. The scene she had dreaded was over, and she felt a little relieved at the idea. The haughty glance of Lady Araminta dwelt upon her mind, and when her agitation had a little subsided she stole a look at her, and saw Mrs. Macqueen sitting between her and Lady Martha, and from the altered countenance of the latter, she instantly conjectured she had been informed by her niece of her real name. She also conjectured from the glances directed towards her, that she was the subject of conversation, and concluded it was begun for the purpose of discovering whether Mrs. Macqueen knew anything of her real history.
From these glances she quickly withdrew her own, and one of the young Macqueens drawing a chair near hers began a conversation with all that spirit and vivacity which distinguished his family. The mind of Amanda was too much occupied by its own concerns to be able to attend to any thing foreign to them; she scarcely knew what he said, and when she did reply, it was only by monosyllables. At last a question, enforced with peculiar earnestness, roused her from this inattention, and blushing for it, she looked at the young man, and perceiving him regarding her with something like wonder, she now for the first time, considered the strange appearance she must make amongst the company, if she did not collect and compose his spirits. The family too, to whom she was (she could not help thinking) so unfortunately introduced, from their hospitality, merited attention and respect from her; she resolved, therefore, to struggle with her feelings, and, as an apology for her absent manner, complained, and not without truth, of a head-ache.
Young Macqueen with a friendly warmth said he would acquaint his mother or one of his sisters with her indisposition, and procure some remedy for it: but she insisted he should on no account disturb the company, assuring him she would soon be well: She then 487 endeavoured to support a conversation with him; but ah! how often did she pause in the midst of what she was saying, as the sweet insinuating voice of Mortimer reached her ear, who with his native elegance and spirit, was participating in the lively conversation then going forward. In hers with young Macqueen, she was soon interrupted by his father, who, in a good humoured manner told his son he would no longer suffer him to engross Miss Donald to himself and desired him to lead her to a chair near his.
Young Macqueen immediately arose, and taking Amanda’s hand led her to his father, by whom he seated her, and by whom on the other side sat Lady Martha Dormer: then, with a modest gallantry, declared it was the first time he ever felt reluctance to obey his father’s commands, and hoped his ready acquiescence to them would be rewarded with speedy permission to resume his conversation with Miss Donald. Amanda had hitherto prevented her eyes from wandering, though they could not exclude the form of Lord Mortimer: she had not yet seen his face, and still strove to avoid doing so. Mr. Macqueen began with various inquiries relative to Mrs. Duncan, to which Amanda, as she was prepared for them, answered with tolerable composure. Suddenly he dropped the subject of his relation, and asked Amanda, “from what branch of the Donalds she descended?” A question so unexpected, shocked, dismayed, and overwhelmed her with confusion. She made no reply till the question was repeated, when, in a low and faltering voice, her face covered with blushes, and almost buried in her bosom, she said, “she did not know.”
“Well,” cried he, again changing his discourse, after looking at her a few minutes, “I did not know any girl but yourself would take such pains to hide such a pair of eyes as you have; I suppose you are conscious of the mischief they have the power of doing, and therefore it is from compassion to mankind you try to conceal them.”
Amanda blushed yet more deeply than before at finding her downcast looks were noticed. She turned hers with quickness to Mr. Macqueen, who having answered a question of Lady Martha’s, thus proceeded: “And so you do not know from which branch of the Donalds you are descended? Perhaps now you only forget, and if I was to mention them one by one your memory might be refreshed; but first let me ask your father’s sir-name, and what country woman he married, for the Donalds generally marry each other?”488
Oh! how forcibly was Amanda at this moment convinced (if indeed her pure soul wanted such conviction) of the pain, the shame of deception, let the motive be what it may which prompts it. Involuntarily were her eyes turned from Mr. Macqueen, as he paused for a reply to his last question, and at the moment encountered those of Lord Mortimer, who sat directly opposite to her, and with deep attention regarding her, as if anxious to hear how she would extricate herself from the embarrassment her assumed name had plunged her into.
Her confusion, her blushes, her too evident distress, were all imputed by Mrs. Macqueen to fatigue at listening to such tedious inquiries; she knew her husband’s only foible was an eager desire to trace every one’s pedigree; in order, therefore, to relieve Amanda from her present situation, she proposed a party of whist, at which Mr. Macqueen often amused himself, and for which the table and cards were already laid before him. As she took up the cards to hand them to those who were to draw, she whispered Amanda to go over to the tea-table.
Amanda required no repetition now, and thanking Mrs. Macqueen in her heart for the relief she afforded her, went to the table, around which almost all the young people were crowded; so great was the mirth going on amongst them, that Miss Macqueen, the gravest of the set, in vain called upon her sisters to assist her in serving the trays, which the servants handed about, and Mrs. Macqueen had more than once called for; Miss Macqueen made room for Amanda by herself, and Amanda, anxious to do anything which could keep her from encountering the eyes she dreaded, requested to be employed in assisting her, and was deputed to fill out the coffee. After the first performance of her task, Miss Macqueen, in a whispering voice, said to Amanda, “Do you know we are all here more than half in love with Lord Mortimer; he is certainly very handsome, and in his manner is quite as pleasing as his looks, for he has none of that foppery and conceit which handsome men so generally have, and nothing but the knowledge of his engagement could keep us from pulling caps about him. You have heard to be sure of Lady Euphrasia Sutherland, the Marquis of Rosline’s daughter; well, he is going to be married to her immediately. She and the marquis and marchioness were here the other day; she is not to be compared to Lord Mortimer; but 489 she has what will make her be considered very handsome in the eyes of many, namely, a large fortune. They only stopped to breakfast here, and ever since we have been on the watch for the rest of the party, who arrived this morning, and were, on Lady Martha’s account, whom the journey has fatigued, prevailed to stay till to-morrow. I am very glad you came while they are here; I think both ladies charming women, and Lady Araminta quite as handsome as her brother; but see,” she continued, touching Amanda’s hand. “the conquering hero comes.” Lord Mortimer with difficulty made his way round the table, and accepted a seat from Miss Macqueen, which she eagerly offered him, and which she contrived to procure by sitting closer to Amanda. To her next neighbour, a fine lively girl, Amanda now turned, and entered into conversation with her; but from this she was soon called by Miss Macqueen, requesting her to pour out a cup of coffee for Lord Mortimer.
Amanda obeyed, and he arose to receive it; her hand trembled as she presented it. She looked not in his face, but she thought his hand was not quite steady. She saw him lay the cup on the table, and bend his eyes to the ground. She heard Miss Macqueen address him twice ere she received an answer, and then it was so abrupt that it seemed the effect of sudden recollection. Miss Macqueen grew almost as inattentive to the table as her sisters, and Mrs. Macqueen was obliged to come over to know what they were all about. At length the business of the tea-table was declared over, and almost at the same moment the sound of a violin was heard from an adjoining room, playing an English country dance, in which style of dancing the Macqueens had been instructed in Edinburgh, and chose this evening in compliance to their guests. The music was a signal for universal motion; all in a moment was bustle and gay confusion. The young men instantly selected their partners, who seemed ready to dance from one room to another. The young Macqueen, who had been so about Amanda, now came, and taking her hand, as if her dancing was a thing of course, was leading her after the rest of the party, when she drew back, declaring she could not dance. Surprised and disappointed, he stood looking on her in silence, as if irresolute whether he should not attempt to change her resolution. At last he spoke, and requested she would not mortify him by a refusal.490
Mrs. Macqueen hearing her son’s request, came forward and joined in it. Amanda pleaded her headache.
“Do, my dear,” said Mrs. Macqueen, “try one dance, my girls will tell you dancing is a sovereign remedy for everything.” It was painful to Amanda to refuse; but scarcely able to stand she was utterly unable to dance; had even her strength permitted her to do so. She could not have supported the idea of mingling in the set with Lord Mortimer, the glances of whose eye she never caught without a throb in her heart which shook her whole frame. One of the Miss Macqueens now ran into the room, exclaiming, “Lord, Colin, what are you about? Lord Mortimer and my sister have already led off; do pray make haste and join us,” and away she ran again.
“Let me no longer detain you,” said Amanda, withdrawing her hand.—Young Macqueen finding her inflexible, at length went off to seek a partner. He was as fond of dancing as his sisters, and feared he should not procure one; but luckily there were fewer gentlemen than ladies present, and a lady having stood up with his youngest sister he easily prevailed on her to change her partner.
“We will go into the dancing room if you please,” said Mrs. Macqueen to Amanda, “that will amuse without fatiguing you.” —Amanda would rather have not gone, but she could not say so, and they proceeded to it. Lord Mortimer had just concluded the dance, and was standing near the door in a pensive attitude, Miss Macqueen being too much engrossed by something she was saying to the young lady next to her to mind him. The moment he perceived Amanda enter, he again approached his partner, and began chatting in a lively manner to her.—Amanda and Mrs. Macqueen sat down together, and in listening to the conversation of that lady, Amanda found herself insensibly drawn from a too painful attention to surrounding objects. On expressing the pleasure which a mind of sensibility must feel on witnessing such family happiness as Mrs. Macqueen possessed, that lady said, “she had reason indeed to be grateful to heaven, and was truly so for her domestic comfort. You see us now (she continued) in our gayest season, because of my son’s company! but we are seldom dull; though summer is delightful, we never think the winter tedious: yet though we love amusement, I assure you, we dislike dissipation: the mornings are appropriated to business, and the evenings to recreation; all the work of the family goes through the hands of my daughters, 491 and they wear nothing ornamental which they do not make themselves: assisted by their good neighbours they are enabled to diversify their amusements; the dance succeeds the concert, sometimes small plays, and now and then little dramatic entertainments. About two years ago they performed the Winter Tale; their poor father was not then in his present situation.” Mrs. Macqueen sighed, paused a minute and then proceeded; “time must take something from us; but I should and do bless with heartfelt gratitude, the power which only by its stealing hand, has made me feel the lot of human nature. Mr. Macqueen (continued she) at the time I mentioned was full of spirits, and performed the part of Autolycus. They made me take the character of the good Paulina; by thus mixing in the amusements of our children, we have added to their love and reverence, perfect confidence and esteem, and find, when our presence is wanting, the diversion, let it be what it may, wants something to render it complete.—They are now about acting the Gentle Shepherd.—Several rehearsals have already taken place in our great barn, which is the theatre. On these occasions one of my sons leads the band, another paints the scene, and Colin, your rejected partner, acts the part of prompter.” Here this conversation, so pleasing to Amanda, and interesting to Mrs. Macqueen, was interrupted by a message from the drawing-room, to inform the latter the rubber was over, and a new set wanted to cut in.
“I will return as soon as possible,” said Mrs. Macqueen, as she was quitting her seat. If Amanda had not dreaded the looks of Lady Martha almost as much as those of Lord Mortimer or Lady Araminta, she would have followed her to the drawing-room. As this was the case, she resolved on remaining in her present situation; it was some time ere she was observed by the young Macqueens. At last Miss Macqueen came over to her; “I declare,” said she, “you look so sad and solitary, I wish you could be prevailed upon to dance; do try this, it is a very fine lively one, and take Flora for your partner, who you see has sat in a corner quite discomposed since she lost her partner, and by the next set Colin will be disengaged.”
Amanda declared she could not dance, and Miss Macqueen being called to her place at the instant, she was again left to herself; Miss Macqueen, however, continued to come and chat with her, whenever she could do so without losing any part of the dance. At last Lord 492 Mortimer followed her. The eyes of Amanda were involuntarily bent to the ground when she saw him approach: “You are an absolute run-away,” cried he to Miss Macqueen, “how do you suppose I will excuse your frequent desertion?”
“Why, Miss Donald is so lonesome,” said she.
“See,” cried he, with quickness, “your sister beckons you to her; suffer me (taking her hand) to lead you to her.”
Amanda looked up as they moved from her, and saw Lord Mortimer’s head half turned back; but the instant she perceived him he averted it, and took no farther notice of her. When the set was finished, Miss Macqueen returned to Amanda, and was followed by some of her brothers and sisters; some of the gentlemen also approached Amanda, and requested the honour of her hand, but she was steady in refusing all. Rich wines, sweetmeats, and warm lemonade, were now handed about in profusion, and the strains of the violin were succeeded by those of the bagpipe, played by the family musician, venerable in his appearance, and habited in the ancient Highland dress; with as much satisfaction to himself as his Scotch auditors, he played a lively Scotch reel, which in a moment brought two of the Miss Macqueens and two gentlemen forward, and they continued this dance till politeness induced them to stop, that one might be begun in which the rest of the party could join. Dancing continued in this manner with little intermission, but whenever there was an interval, the young Macqueens paid every attention to Amanda, and on her expressing her admiration of the Scotch music, made it a point that she should mention some favourite airs, that they might be played for her; but these airs, the lively dance, the animated conversation, and the friendly attentions paid her, could not remove her dejection, and with truth they might have said,
That nothing could a charm impart
To soothe the stranger’s woe
The entrance of Mrs. Macqueen was the signal for the dance being ended. She made the young people sit down to refresh themselves before supper and apologized to Amanda for not returning to her; but said Lady Martha Dormer had engaged her in a conversation which she could not interrupt. At last they were summoned to supper, which, on Mr. Macqueen’s account, was laid out in a room on 493 the same floor; thither, without ceremony, whoever was next the door first proceeded. Mr. Macqueen was already seated at the table in his arm-chair, and Lady Martha Dormer on his right hand; the eldest son was deputed to do the honours of the foot of the table; the company was chequered, and Amanda found herself seated between Lord Mortimer and Mr. Colin Macqueen; and in conversing with the latter, Amanda sought to avoid noticing or being noticed by Lord Mortimer; and his lordship, by the particular attention which he paid Miss Macqueen, who sat on his other side, appeared actuated by the same wish. The sports of the morning had furnished the table with a variety of the choicest wild fowl, and the plenty and beauty of the confectionery denoted at once the hospitable spirit and elegant taste of the mistress of the feast; gaiety presided at the board, and there was scarcely a tongue, except Amanda’s, which did not utter some lively sally; the piper sat in the lobby, and if his strains were not melodious, they were at least cheerful. In the course of the supper Lord Mortimer was compelled to follow the universal example of drinking Amanda’s health; obliged to turn her looks to him, oh! how did her heart shrink at the glance, the expressive glance of his eye, as he pronounced Miss Donald; unconscious whether she had noticed in the usual manner his distressing compliment, she abruptly turned to young Macqueen, and addressed some scarcely articulate question to him. The supper things removed, the strains of the piper were silenced, and toasts, songs, and sentiments succeeded. Old Mr. Macqueen set the example by a favourite Scotch air, and then called upon his next neighbour. Between the songs toasts were called for. At last it came to Lord Mortimer’s turn. Amanda suddenly ceased speaking to young Macqueen. She saw the glass of Lord Mortimer filled, and in the next moment heard the name of Lady Euphrasia Sutherland. A feeling, like wounded pride, stole into the soul of Amanda: she did not decline her head as before, and she felt a faint glow upon her cheek. The eyes of Lady Martha and Lady Araminta she thought directed to her with an expressive meaning. “They think,” cried she, “to witness mortification and disappointment in my looks, but they shall not, (if indeed they are capable of enjoying such a triumph) have it.”
At length she was called upon for a song. She declined the call; but Mr. Macqueen declared, except assured she could not sing, she 494 should not be excused. This assurance, without a breach of truth, she could not give; she did not wish to appear ungrateful to her kind entertainers, or unsocial in the midst of mirth, by refusing what she was told would be pleasing to them and their company; she also wished, from a sudden impulse of pride, to appear cheerful in those eyes, she knew were attentively observing her, and therefore after a little hesitation, consented to sing. The first song which occurred to her was a little simple but pathetic air, which her father used to delight in, and which Lord Mortimer more than once had heard from her; but indeed she could recollect no song which at some time or other she had not sung for him. The simple air she had chosen seemed perfectly adapted to her soft voice, whose modulations were inexpressibly affecting. She had proceeded through half the second verse when her voice began to falter; the attention of the company became, if possible, more fixed; but it was a vain attention, no rich strain of melody repaid it, for the voice of the songstress had totally ceased. Mrs. Macqueen, with the delicacy of a susceptible mind, feared increasing her emotion by noticing it, and with a glance of her expressive eye, directed her company to silence. Amanda’s eyes were bent to the ground. Suddenly a glass of water was presented to her by a trembling hand, by the hand of Mortimer himself. She declined it with a motion of hers, and reviving a little raised her head. Young Macqueen then gave her an entreating whisper to finish her song; she thought it would look like affectation to require farther solicitation, and, faintly smiling, again began in strains of liquid melody, strains that seemed to breath the very spirit of sensibility, and came over each attentive ear.
Like a sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour.
The plaudits she received for her singing gave to her cheeks such a faint tinge of red, as is seen in the blossoms of the wild rose. She was now authorized to call for a song, and, as if doomed to experience cause for agitation, Lord Mortimer was the person from whom in the rotation of the table, she was to claim it. Thrice she was requested to do this ere she could obey. At last she raised her eyes to his face, which was now turned towards her, and she saw in it a confusion 495 equal to that she herself trembled under. I ale and red by turns he appeared to her to wait in painful agitation the sound of her voice; her lips moved, but she could not articulate a word. Lord Mortimer bowed, as if he had heard what they would have said, and then turning abruptly to Miss Macqueen, began speaking to her.
“Come, come, my lord,” said Mr. Macqueen, “we must not be put off in this manner.”
Lord Mortimer laughed, and attempted to rally the old gentleman but he seemed unequal to the attempt, for with a sudden seriousness he declared his inability of complying with the present demand; all further solicitation on the subject was immediately dropped. In the round of toasts they forgot not to call on Amanda for one; if she had listened attentively when Lord Mortimer was about giving one, no less attentively then did he now listen to her. She hesitated a moment, and then gave Sir Charles Bingley. After the toast had passed, “Sir Charles Bingley?” repeated Miss Macqueen, leaning forward, and speaking across Lord Mortimer. “Oh! I recollect him very well, his regiment was quartered some years ago at a little fort some distance from this, and I remember his coming with a shooting party to the mountains, and sleeping one night here; we had a delightful dance that evening, and all thought him a charming young man. Pray, are you well acquainted with him?”
“Yes—no,” replied Amanda.
“Ah! I believe you are a sly girl,” cried Miss Macqueen, laughing. “Pray, my Lord, does not that blush declare Miss Donald guilty?”
“We are not always to judge from the countenance,” said he, darting a penetrating, yet quickly withdrawn glance at Amanda. “Experience,” continued he, “daily proves how little dependence is to be placed on it.” Amanda turned hastily away, and pretended, by speaking to young Macqueen, not to notice a speech she knew directly pointed at her; for often had Lord Mortimer declaimed, that “in the lineaments of the human face divine, each passion of the soul might well be traced.”
Macqueen laughed, and said, “she always judged of the countenance, and that her likings and dislikings were always the effect of first
The company broke up soon after this, and much earlier than the usual hour on account of the travellers. All but those then immediately 496 belonging to the family having departed, some maids of the house appeared to show the ladies to their respective chambers. Lady Martha and Araminta retired first: Amanda was following them, when Mrs. Macqueen detained her to try and prevail on her to stay two or three days along with them. The Miss Macqueens joined their mother, but Amanda assured them she could not comply with their request, though she felt with gratitude its friendly warmth. Old Mr. Macqueen had his chair turned to the fire, and his sons and Lord Mortimer were surrounding it. “Well, well,” said he, calling Amanda to him, and taking her hand, “if you will not stay with us now, remember on your return we shall lay an embargo on you; in the meantime, I shall not lose the privilege, which my being an old married man gives me.” So saying he gently pulled Amanda to him, and kissed her cheek. She could only smile at this innocent freedom, but she attempted to withdraw her hand to retire. “Now,” said Mr. Macqueen, still detaining it, “are all these young men half mad with envy!” The young Macqueens joined in their father’s gallantry, and not a tongue was silent except Lord Mortimer’s; his head rested on his hand, and the cornice of the chimney supported his arm; his hair, from which the dancing had shaken almost all the powder, hung negligently about his face, adding to its paleness and sudden dejection. One of the young Macqueens turning from his brothers, who were yet continuing their mirth with their father, addressed some questions to Lord Mortimer, but received no answer. Again he repeated it. Lord Mortimer then suddenly started, as if from a profound reverie, and apologized for his absence.
“Ay, ay, my lord,” exclaimed old Mr. Macqueen jocosely, “we may all guess where your lordship was then travelling in idea—a little beyond the mountains I fancy: ay, we all know where your heart and your treasure now lie.”
“Do you?” said Lord Mortimer, with a tone of deep dejection, and a heavy sigh, with an air also which seemed to declare him scarcely conscious of what he said: he recollected himself, however, at the instant, and began rallying himself, as the surest means of preventing others doing so. The scene was too painful to Amanda: she hastily withdrew her hand, and faintly wishing the party a good night, went out to the maid, who was waiting for her in the lobby, and was con ducted to her room. She dismissed the servant at the door, and 497 throwing herself into a chair, availed herself of solitude to give vent to the tears, whose painful suppression had so long tortured her heart. She had not sat long in this situation, when she heard a gentle tap at the door. She started, and believing it to be one of the Miss Macqueens, hastily wiped away the tears, and opened the door. A female stranger appeared at it, who, curtsying respectfully, said, “Lady Martha Dormer, her Lady, desired to see Miss Donald for a few minutes, if not inconvenient to her.”
“See me!” repeated Amanda, with the utmost surprise, “can it be possible!” She suddenly checked herself and said “she would attend her ladyship immediately.” She accordingly followed the maid, a variety of strange ideas crowding upon her mind. Her conductress retired as she shut the door of the room into which she showed Amanda; it was a small anti-chamber adjoining the apartment Lady Martha was to lie in. Here with increasing surprise she beheld Lord Mortimer pacing the room in an agitated manner,—His back was to the door as she entered, but he turned round with quickness, approached, looked on her for a few minutes, then striking his hand suddenly against his forehead, turned from her with an air of distraction.
Lady Martha, who was sitting at the head of the room, and only bowed as Amanda entered it, motioned for her to take a chair, a motion Amanda gladly obeyed, for her trembling limbs could scarcely support her.
All was silent for a few minutes, Lady Martha then spoke in a grave voice.—“I should not, madam, have taken the liberty of sending for you at this hour, but that I believed so favourable an opportunity would not again have occurred of speaking to you on a subject particularly interesting to me—an opportunity which has so unexpectedly saved me the trouble of trying to find you out, and the necessity of writing to you.”
Lady Martha paused, and her silence was not interrupted by Amanda.—“Last summer,” continued Lady Martha—again she paused—the throbbings of Amanda’s heart became more violent. “Last summer,” said she again, “there were some little gifts presented to you by Lord Mortimer; from the events which followed their acceptance, I must presume they are valueless to you; from the events about taking place they are of importance elsewhere.” She ceased, but Amanda could make no reply.498
“You cannot be ignorant,” said Lady Martha, with something of severity in her accent, as if offended by the silence of Amanda, “you cannot be ignorant, I suppose, that it is the picture and ring I allude to; the latter from being a family one of particular value, I always destined for the wife of Lord Mortimer, I therefore claim it in my own name. The picture I have his lordship’s approbation and authority to demand, and to convince you I have, indeed if such a conviction be necessary, have prevailed on him to be present at this conversation.”
“No, madam, such a conviction was not necessary,” cried Amanda—“I should ——.” She could utter no more at the moment, yet tried to suppress the agonizing feelings that tumultuously heaved her bosom.
“If not convenient to restore them immediately,” said Lady Martha, “I will give you a direction where they may be left in London, to which place Mrs. Macqueen has informed me you are going.”
“It is perfectly convenient now to restore them, madam,” replied Amanda, with a voice perfectly recovered, animated with conscious innocence and offended pride, which also gave her strength. “I shall return,” continued she, moving to the door, “with them immediately to your .”
The picture was suspended from her neck, and the ring in its case lay in her pocket; but, by the manner in which they had been asked, or rather demanded from her, she felt, amidst the anguish of her soul, a sudden emotion of pleasure that she could directly give them back; yet when in her own room she hastily untied the picture from her neck, pulled the black ribbon from it, and laid it in its case, her grief overcame every other feeling, and a shower of tears fell from her—“Oh, Mortimer! dear Mortimer!” she sighed, “must I part even with this little shadow? must I retain no vestige of happier hours! Yet why, why should I wish to retain it, when the original will so soon be another’s? Yes, if I behold Lord Mortimer again, it will be as the husband of Lady Euphrasia.”
She recollected she was staying beyond the expected time, and wiped away her tears: yet still she lingered a few minutes in her chamber, to try and calm her agitation. She called her pride to her aid, it inspired her with fortitude, and she proceeded to Lady Martha, determined that lady should see nothing in her manner which she could possibly construe into weakness or meanness.499
Never did she appear more interesting than at the moment she re-entered the apartment. The passion she had called to her aid gave a bright glow to her cheeks, and the traces of the tears she had been shedding, appeared upon those glowing cheeks like dew on the silken leaves of the rose ere the sunbeams of the morning have exhaled it. Those tears left a humid lustre in her eyes, even more interesting than their wonted brilliancy.—Her hair hung in rich and unrestrained luxuriance, for she had thrown off her hat on first going to her chamber, and gave to the beauty of her face, and the elegance of her form, a complete finishing.
“Here, madam, is the ring,” cried she, presenting it to Lady Martha, “and here is the picture,” she would have added, but her voice faltered, and a tear started from her eye: determined to conceal if possible, her feelings, she hastily dashed away the pearly fugitive. Lady Martha was again extending her hand, when Lord Mortimer suddenly started from a couch on which he had thrown himself, and snatched the picture from the trembling hand that held it, pulled it from its case, and flinging it on the floor trampled it beneath his feet:—“Thus perish,” exclaimed he, “every memento of my attachment to Amanda! Oh! wretched, wretched girl,” cried he, suddenly grasping her hand, and as suddenly relinquishing it. “Oh! wretched, wretched girl, you have undone yourself and me!” He turned abruptly away, and instantly quitted the room. Shocked by his words and terrified by his manner, Amanda had just power to gain a chair. Lady Martha seemed also thunderstruck; but from the musing attitude in which she stood, the deep convulsive suffocating sobs of Amanda soon called her.—She went to her, and finding her unable to help herself, loosened her cravat, bathed her temples with lavender, and gave her water to drink. Those attentions and the tears she shed revived Amanda. She raised herself in her chair, on which she had fallen back, but was yet too much agitated to stand.
“Poor unhappy young creature!” said Lady Martha, “I pity you from my soul. Ah! if your mind resembled your person, what a perfect creature had you been! How happy had then been my poor Mortimer!”
Now, now was the test, the shining test of Amanda’s virtue, agonized by knowing she had lost the good opinion of those whom she loved with such ardour, esteemed with such reverence. She knew 500 by a few words she could explain the appearances which had deprived her of his good opinion, and fully regain it, regain, by a few words, the love, the esteem of her valued, her inestimable Mortimer, the affection, the protection of his amiable aunt and sister. She leaned her head upon her hand, the weight on her bosom became less oppressive, she raised her head; “Of my innocence I can give such proofs,” cried she—her lips closed, a mortal paleness overspread her face, the sound of suicide seemed piercing through her ear, she trembled, the solemn, the dreadful declaration Lord Cherbury had made of not surviving the disclosure of his secret, her promise of inviolably keeping it, both rushed upon her mind, she beheld herself on the very verge of a tremendous precipice, and about plunging herself and a fellow-creature into it, from whence at the tribunal of her God, she should have to answer for accelerating the death of that fellow-creature: “and is it by a breach of faith!” she asked herself. “I hope to be re-established in the opinion of Lord Mortimer and his relations? Ah! mistaken idea, and how great is the delusion passion spreads before our eyes, even if their esteem could thus be regained! Oh! what were that, or what the esteem, the plaudits of the world, if those of my own heart were gone forever? Oh! never,” cried she, still to herself, and raising her eyes to heaven, “oh! never may the pang of self reproach be added to those which now oppress me!” her heart at the moment formed a solemn vow never by any wilful act to merit such a pang: “And oh! my God,” she cried, “forgive thy weak creature, who, assailed by strong temptation, thought for a moment of wandering from the path of truth and integrity, which can alone conduct her to the region where peace and immortal glory will be hers.”
Amanda, amidst her powerful emotions, forgot that she was observed, except by that Being to whom she applied for pardon and future strength. Lady Martha had been a silent spectator of her emotions, and, thinking as she did of Amanda, could only hope they proceeded from contrition for her past conduct, forcibly awakened by reflection on the deprivations it had caused her.
When she again saw Amanda able to pay attention she addressed her; “I said I was sorry for witnessing your distress, I shall not repeat the expression, thinking as I now do, I hope that it is occasioned by regret for past errors; the tears of repentance wash away the stains 501 of guilt, and that heart must indeed be callous which the sigh of remorse will not melt to pity.”—Amanda turned her eyes with earnestness on Lady Martha, as she spoke, and her cheeks were again tinged with a faint glow.
“Perhaps I speak too plainly,” cried Lady Martha, witnessing this glow and imputing it to resentment, “but I have ever liked the language of sincerity. It gave me pleasure,” she continued, “to hear you have been in employment at Mrs. Duncan’s, but that pleasure was destroyed by hearing you were going to London, though to seek your brother, Mrs. Duncan has informed Mrs. Macqueen. If this were indeed the motive, there are means of inquiring without taking so imprudent a step.”
“Imprudent!” repeated Amanda, involuntarily.
“Yes,” cried Lady Martha, “a journey so long without a protector to a young, I must add, a lovely woman, teems with danger, from which a mind of delicacy would shrink appalled. If indeed you go to seek your brother, and he regards you as he should, he would rather have you neglect him (though that you need not have done by staying with Mrs. Duncan) than run into the way of insults. No emergency in life should lead us to do an improper thing, as trying to produce good by evil is impious, so trying to produce pleasure by imprudence is folly: they are trials, however flattering they may commence, which are sure to end in sorrow and disappointment.
“You will,” continued Lady Martha, “if indeed anxious to escape from any further censure than what has already befallen you, return to Duncan, when I inform you, (if indeed you are already ignorant of it) that Colonel Belgrave passed this road about a month ago, on his way from a remote part of Scotland to London, where he now is.”
“I cannot help,” said Amanda, “the misconstructions which may be put on my actions; I can only support myself under the pain they inflict by conscious rectitude.
“I am shocked, indeed, at the surmises entertained about me, and a wretch whom my soul abhorred from the moment it knew its real principles.”
“If,” said Lady Martha, “your journey is really not prompted by the intention of seeing your brother, you heighten every other error by duplicity.”502
“You are severe, madam,” exclaimed Amanda, in whose soul the pride of injured innocence was again reviving.
“If I probe the wound,” cried Lady Martha, “I would also wish to heal it; it is the wish I feel of saving a young creature from further error, of serving the being once so valued by him who possesses my first regard, that makes me speak as I now do. Return to Mrs. Duncan, prove in one instance at least, you do not deserve suspicion; she is your friend, and in your situation, a friend is too precious a treasure to run the risk of losing it with her: as she lives retired, there will be little danger of your history or real name being discovered, which I am sorry you dropped, let your motive for doing so be what it may, for the detection of one deception makes us suspect every other. Return, I repeat, to Mrs. Duncan’s, and if you want any inquiries made about your brother, dictate them, and I will take care they shall be made, and you shall know the result.” Had Amanda’s motive for a journey to London been only to seek her brother, she would gladly have accepted of this offer: thus avoid the imputation of travelling after Belgrave, or of going to join him, the hazard of encountering him in London, and the dangers of so long a journey; but the affair of the will required expedition and her own immediate presence—an affair the injunction of Lady Dunreath had prohibited her disclosing to any one who could not immediately forward it, and which, if such an injunction never existed, she could not with propriety have divulged to Lady Martha, who was so soon to be connected with a family so materially concerned in it, and in whose favour, on account of her nephew’s connection with them, it was probable she might be biased.
Amanda hoped and believed, that in a place so large as London, with her assumed name, (which she now resolved not to drop till in a more secure situation) she should escape Belgrave. As to meeting him on the road, she had not the smallest apprehension concerning that, naturally concluding that he never would have taken so long a journey as he had lately done, if he could have staid but a few weeks away; time, she trusted, would prove the falsity of the inference, which she already was informed would be drawn from her perseverance in her journey. She told Lady Martha that she thanked her for her kind offer, but must decline it, as the line of conduct she had marked out for herself rendered it unnecessary, whose innocence would yet be 503 justified, she added. Lady Martha shook her head; the consciousness of having excited suspicions which she could not justify, had indeed given to the looks of Amanda a confusion when she spoke, which confirmed them in Lady Martha’s breast. “I am sorry for your determination,” said she; “but, notwithstanding, it is so contrary to my ideas of what is right, I cannot let you depart without telling you, that should you, at any time, want or require services, which you would or could not ask from strangers, or perhaps expect them to perform, acquaint me, and command mine: yet in doing justice to my own feelings, I must not do injustice to the noble ones of Lord Mortimer; it is by his desire, as well as my own inclination, I now speak to you in this manner, though past events, and the situation he is about entering into, must forever preclude his personal interference in your affairs. He could never hear the daughter of Captain Fitzalan suffered inconveniences of any kind without wishing, without having her indeed, if possible, extricated from it.”
“Oh! madam,” cried Amanda, unable to repress her gushing tears, “I am already well acquainted with the noble feelings of Lord Mortimer, already oppressed with a weight of obligations.” Lady Martha was affected by her energy, her eyes grew humid, and her voice softened. “Error in you will be more inexcusable than others,” cried Lady Martha, “because like too many unhappy creatures, you cannot plead the desertion of all the world: to regret past errors, be they what they may, is to insure my assistance and protection, if both or either are at any time required by you; was I even gone, I should take care to leave a substitute behind me, who should fulfil my intentions towards you, and by doing so, at once soothe and gratify the feelings of Lord Mortimer.”
“I thank you, madam,” cried Amanda, rising from her chair, as she wiped away her tears, summoning all her fortitude to her aid, “for the interest you express about me; the time may yet come, perhaps, when I shall prove I never was unworthy of exciting it, when the notice now offered from compassion may be tendered from esteem—then,” continued Amanda, who could not forbear this justice to herself “the pity of Lady Martha Dormer will not humble but me because then I shall know that it proceeds from that generous sympathy, which one virtuous mind feels for another in distress.” She moved to the door. “How lamentable,” said Lady Martha, “to have such talents misapplied!”504
“Ah! madam,” cried Amanda, stopping and turning mournfully to her, “I find you are inflexible.”
Lady Martha shook her head, and Amanda had laid her hand upon the lock, when Lady Martha said suddenly, “there were letters passed between you and Lord Mortimer.” Amanda bowed.
“They had better be mutually returned,” said Lady Martha. “Do you seal up his, and send them to Lord Cherbury’s house in London directed to me, and I pledge myself to have yours returned.”
“You shall be obeyed, madam,” replied Amanda, in a low broken voice, after the pause of a moment. Lady Martha then said she would no longer encroach upon her rest, and she retired.
In her chamber the feelings she had so long, so painfully tried to suppress, broke forth without again meeting opposition; the pride which had given her transient animation, was no more, for as past circumstances arose to recollection, she could not wonder at her being condemned from them. She no longer accused Lady Martha in her mind of severity, no longer felt offended with her; but oh! Mortimer, the bitter tears she shed fell not for herself alone, she wept to think thy destiny, though more prosperous, was not less unhappy than her own, for in thy broken accents, thy altered looks, she perceived a passion strong and sincere as ever for her, and well she knew Lady Euphrasia not calculated to soothe a sad heart, or steal an image from it which corroded its felicity. Rest after the incidents of the evening was not to be thought of, but nature was exhausted, and insensibly Amanda sunk upon the bed in a deep sleep, so insensibly, that when she awoke, which was not till the morning was pretty far advanced, she felt surprised at her situation; she felt cold and unrefreshed from having lain in her clothes all night, and when she went to adjust her dress at the glass, was surprised with the pallidness of her looks. to escape a second painful meeting, she went to the window to see if the chaise was come, but was disappointed on finding that she had slept at the back of the house; she heard no noise, and, concluding the family had not yet risen after the amusements of the preceding night, sat down by the window which looked into a spacious garden, above which rose romantic hills that formed a screen for some young and beautiful plantations that lay between them and the garden; but the misty tops of the hills, the varied trees which autumn spread over the plantations, nor the neat appearance of the garden had power to amuse the imagination of Amanda! 505 Her patience was exhausted after sitting some time, and going to the door she softly opened it, to try if she could hear any one stirring. She had not long stood, when the sound of footsteps and voices rose from below.—She instantly quitted her room, and descended the stairs into a small hall, across which was a folding door; this she gently opened, and found it divided the hall she stood in from one that was spacious and lofty, and which her passing through the preceding night before it was lighted up, had prevented her taking notice of; here, at a long table, were the men servants belonging to the family and the guests, assembled at breakfast, the piper at the head, like the king of the feast. Amanda stepped back the moment she perceived them, well knowing Lord Mortimer’s servants would recollect her, and was ascending the stairs to her room to ring for one of the maids, when a servant hastily followed her, and said the family were already in the breakfast room; at the same moment Mr. Colin Macqueen came from the parlour which opened in the little hall, and paying Amanda, in a lively and affectionate manner, the compliments of the morning, he led her to the parlour, where not only all the family guests who had lain in the house, but several gentlemen, who had been with them the preceding night, were assembled.—Doctor Johnson has already celebrated a Scotch breakfast, nor was the one at which Mrs. Macqueen and her fair daughters presided, inferior to any he had seen; besides chocolate, tea and coffee, with the usual appendages, there were rich cakes, choice sweetmeats, and a variety of cold pastry, with ham and chickens, to which several of the gentlemen did honour; the dishes were ornamented with sweet herb and wild flowers, gathered about the feet of the mountains and in the valley, and by every guest was placed a fine bouquet from the green-house, with little French mottoes on love and friendship about them, which being opened and read, added to the mirth of the company.
“I was just going to send one of the girls for you,” said Mrs. Macqueen, when Amanda had taken a place at the table, “and would have done so before, but wished you to get as much rest as possible, after your fatiguing journey.”
“I assure you, madam,” said Amanda, “I have been up this long time, expecting every moment a summons to the chaise.”
“I took care of that last night,” said Mrs. Macqueen, “for I was 506 determined you should not depart at least without Amanda was seated between Mr. Colin Macqueen and his eldest sister, and sought by conversing with the former, for the latter was too much engrossed by the general gaiety to pay particular attention to any one, to avoid the looks she dreaded to see: yet the sound of Lord Mortimer’s voice affected her as much almost as his looks.
“Pray Lady Martha,” said the second Miss Macqueen, a lively, thoughtless girl, “will your ladyship be so good as to guarantee a promise Lord Mortimer has just made me, or rather I have extorted from him, which is the cause of this application?”
“You must first, my dear,” answered Lady Martha, “let me know what the promise is.”
“Why, gloves and bridal favours, but most unwillingly granted, I can assure your ladyship.” Amanda was obliged to set down the cup she was raising to her lips, and a glance stole involuntarily from her towards Lord Mortimer, a glance instantly withdrawn when she saw his eyes in the same direction. “I declare,” continued Miss Pheby Macqueen, “I should do the favour all due honour.”
“I am sure,” cried Lord Mortimer, attempting to speak cheerfully “your acceptance of it would do honour to the presenter.”
“And your lordship may be sure too,” said one of her brothers, “it is a favour she would wish with all her heart to have an opportunity of returning.”
“Oh! in that she would not be singular,” said a gentleman.
“What do you think, Miss Donald,” cried Colin Macqueen, turning to you imagine she would not?” Amanda could scarcely speak; she tried, however, to hide her agitation, and forcing a faint smile, with a voice nearly as faint, said, “that was not a fair question.” The Miss Macqueens took upon themselves to answer it, and Amanda through their means was relieved from farther embarrassment.
Breakfast over, Amanda was anxious to depart, and yet wanted courage to be the first to move: a charm seemed to bind her to the spot where, for the last time, she should behold Lord Mortimer, at least the last time she ever expected to see him unmarried.
Her dread of being late on the road, and she heard the destined stage for the night was at a great distance, at last conquered her reluctance to move, and she said to Mr. Colin Macqueen it was time 507 for her to go. At that moment Lord Mortimer rose, and proposed to the young Macqueens going with them to see the new plantations behind the house, which old Mr. Macqueen had expressed a desire his lordship should give his opinion of.
All the young gentlemen, as well as the Macqueens, Colin excepted, attended his lordship, nor did they depart without wishing Amanda a pleasant journey.
Silent and sad she continued in her chair for some minutes after they quitted the room, forgetful of her situation, till the loud laugh of the Miss Macqueens restored her to a recollection of it. She blushed, and rising hastily, was proceeding to pay her farewell compliments, when Mrs. Macqueen rising drew her to the window, and in a low voice repeated her request for Amanda’s company a few days. This Amanda again declined, but gratefully expressed her thanks for it, and the hospitality she had experienced. Mrs. Macqueen said, on her return to Scotland, she hoped to be more successful. She also added, that some of her boys and girls would gladly have accompanied Amanda a few miles on her way, had they not all agreed ere her arrival to escort Lord Mortimer’s party to an inn at no great distance, and take an early dinner with them. She should write that day, she said, to Mrs. Duncan, and thank her for having introduced to her family a person whose acquaintance was an acquisition. Amanda having received the affectionate ideas of this amiable woman and her daughters, curtseyed, though with downcast looks to Lady Martha and Lady Araminta, who returned her salutation with coolness.
Followed by two of the Miss Macqueens, she hurried through the hall, from which the servants and their breakfast things were already removed: but how was she distressed when the first object she saw outside the door was Lord Mortimer, by whom stood Colin Macqueen, who had left the parlour to see if the chaise was ready, and one of his brothers; hastily would she have stepped forward to the chaise, had not the gallantry of the young men impeded her way: they expressed sorrow at her not staying longer amongst them, and hopes on her return she would.
“Pray my lord,” cried the Miss Macqueens (while their brothers were thus addressing Amanda) “pray my lord,” almost in the same breath “what have you done with the gentlemen?”508
“You should ask your brother,” he replied; “he has locked them up in the plantation;” a frolic was at all times pleasing to the lighthearted Macqueens, and to enjoy the present one, off they ran directly, followed by their brothers, all calling as they ran to Amanda not to stir till they came back, which would be in a few minutes; but Amanda, from the awkward, the agitating situation in which they left her, would instantly have relieved herself, could she have made the postillion hear her; but, as if enjoying the race, he had gone to some distance to view it, and none of the servants of the house were near: conscious of her emotions, she feared betraying them, and stepped a few yards from the door, pretending to be engrossed by the Macqueens; a heavy sigh suddenly pierced her ear. “Amanda,” in the next moment said a voice to which her heart vibrated. She turned with involuntary quickness, and saw Lord Mortimer close by her.
“Amanda,” he repeated; then suddenly clasping his hands together, exclaimed, with an agonizing expression, while he turned abruptly from her: “Gracious Heaven! what a situation! Amanda,” said he again, looking at her, “the scene which happened last night was distressing. I am now sorry on your account that it took place, notwithstanding past events I bear you no ill will; the knowledge of your uneasiness would give me pain; from my heart I forgive you all that you have caused, that you have entailed upon me; at this moment I could take you to my arms, and weep over you, like a fond mother over the lost darling of her hopes, tears of pity and forgiveness.”
Amanda, unutterably affected, covered her face to hide the tears which bedewed it.
“Let me have the pleasure of hearing,” continued Lord Mortimer, “that you forgive the uneasiness and pain I might have occasioned you last night.”
“Forgive!” repeated Amanda, “Oh! my lord,” and her voice sunk in the sobs which heaved her bosom. “Could I think you were, you would be happy.” Lord Mortimer stopt, overcome by strong emotions.
“Happy!” repeated Amanda, “Oh! never—never,” continued she, raising her straining eyes to heaven, “oh! never—never in this world!”509
At this moment the Macqueens were not only heard but seen running back, followed by the gentlemen whom they had been prevailed on to liberate. Shocked at the idea of being seen in such a situation, Amanda would have called the postillion; but he was too far off to hear her weak voice, had she then even been able to exert that voice. She looked towards him, however, with an expression which denoted the feelings of her soul.—Lord Mortimer, sensible of those feelings, hastily pulled open the door of the chaise, and taking the cold and trembling hand of Amanda, with one equally cold and trembling, assisted her into the chaise, then pressing the hand he held between both his, he suddenly let it drop from him, and closing the door without again looking at Amanda, called to the driver, who instantly obeyed the call, and had mounted ere the Macqueens arrived. Oh, what a contrast did their looks, blooming with health and exercise, their gaiety, their protected situation, form to the wan, dejected, desolate Amanda. With looks of surprise they were going up to the chaise, when Lord Mortimer still standing by it, and anxious to save his unhappy, lost Amanda, the pain of being noticed in such agitation, gave the man a signal to drive off, which was instantly obeyed.
Thus did Amanda leave the mansion of the Macqueens, where sorrow had scarcely ever before entered without meeting alleviation, a mansion, where the stranger, the wayfaring man and the needy, were sure of a welcome, cordial as benevolence and hospitality could give, and where happiness, as pure as in this sublunary state can be experienced, was enjoyed. As she drove from the door, she saw the splendid equipages of Lord Mortimer and Lady Martha driving to it. She turned from them with a sigh, at reflecting they would soon grace the bridal pomp of Lady Euphrasia. She pursued the remainder of her journey without meeting anything worthy of relation. It was in the evening she reached London. The moment she stepped at the hotel she sent for a carriage, and proceeded in it to Mrs. Connel’s in Bond-street.
would have been lost in a contemptuous frown
text has contemptous
giving a sweet simplicity to it which heightened its beauty.
for the Donalds generally marry amongst each other?”
text has amogst
The young Macqueen, who had been so assiduous about Amanda
text has assidious
Miss Macqueen laughed, and said, “she always judged of the countenance, and that her likings and dislikings were always the effect of first sight.”
text has “Miss Macqueen
final . missing
“with them immediately to your ladyship.”
text has your adyship.”
I have ever liked the undisguised language of sincerity.
text has undisguished
return to Mrs. Duncan, when I inform you
the pity of Lady Martha Dormer will not humble but exalt me
text has exhalt
Anxious to escape a second painful meeting, she went to the window
text has anxious
you should not depart at least without breakfasting.”
close quote missing
turning to Amanda, “do you imagine she would not?”
text has Amanda,” do
The emotions Amanda experienced from reading this narrative, deeply affected, but gradually subsided from her mind
She alighted from the carriage when it stopped at the door, and entered the shop