The Children of the Abbey
The blossoms op’ning to the day,
The dews of Heav’n refin’d,
Could nought of purity display,
To emulate his mind.
After tea Amanda asked little Betsey to accompany her in a walk, for Ellen (dressed in all her rural finery) had gone early in the evening to the dance. But Amanda did not begin her walk with her usual alacrity: her bonnet was so heavy, and then it made her look so ill, that she could not go out till she had made some alterations in it; still it would not do; a hat was tried on; she liked it better, and at last set out; but not as usual did she pause, whenever a new or lovely feature in the landscape struck her view, to express her admiration: she was often, indeed, so absorbed in thought as to start when Betsey addressed her, which was often the case; for little Betsey delighted to have Miss Amanda trace figures for her in the clouds, and assist her in gathering wild flowers. Scarcely knowing which 47 way they went, Amanda rambled to the village; and feeling herself fatigued, turned into the church-yard to rest upon one of the raised flags.
The graves were ornamented with garlands of cut paper, interwoven with flowers; tributes of love from the village maids to the memory of their departed friends.
As Amanda rested herself, she twined a garland of the wild flowers she had gathered with Betsey, and hung it over the grave of Lady Malvina: her fine eyes raised to heaven, as if invoking at the moment the spirit of her mother to regard the vernal offering of her child; while her white hands were folded on her heart, and she softly exclaimed, “Alas! is this the only tribute left for me to pay!”
A low murmur, as if from voices near, startled her at the instant; she turned with quickness, and saw Lord Mortimer, with a young clergyman, half hid by some trees, attentively observing her. Blushing and confused, she drew her hat over her face, and, catching Betsey’s hand, hastened to the cottage.
Lord Mortimer had wandered about the skirts of the cottage, in hopes of meeting her in the evening: on seeing the direction she had taken from it, he followed her; and just as she entered the church-yard, unexpectedly met the curate. His company, at a moment so propitious for joining Amanda, he could well have dispensed with: for he was more anxious than he chose to acknowledge to himself to become acquainted with her.
Lord Mortimer was now in the glowing prime of life: his person was strikingly elegant, and his manners insinuatingly pleasing; seducing sweetness dwelt in his smile, and, as he pleased, his expressive eyes could sparkle with intelligence, or beam with sensibility, and to the eloquence of his language, the harmony of his voice imparted a charm, that seldom failed of being irresistible; his soul was naturally the seat of every virtue; but an elevated rank, and splendid fortune had placed him in a situation somewhat inimical to their interests, for he had not always strength to resist the strong temptations which surrounded him; but though he sometimes wandered from the boundaries of virtue, he had never yet entered upon the confines of vice, never really injured innocence, or done a deed which would wound the bosom of a friend: his heart was alive to every noble propensity of nature; compassion was one of its strongest 48 feelings, and never did his hand refuse obedience to the generous impulse. Among the various accomplishments he possessed, was an exquisite taste for music, which with every other talent, had been cultivated to the highest degree of possible perfection; his spending many years abroad, had given him every requisite advantage for improving it. The soft, melodious voice of Amanda, would, of itself, almost have made a conquest of his heart; but, aided by the charms of her face and person, was altogether irresistible.
He had come into Wales, on purpose to pay a visit to an old friend in the Isle of Anglesea: he did not mean to stop at Tudor-Hall; but within a few miles of it, the phaeton in which he travelled (from the fineness of the weather) was overturned, and he severely hurt. He procured a hired carriage, and proceeded to the Hall, to put himself into the hands of the good old housekeeper, Mrs. Abergwilly; who, possessing as great a stock of medical knowledge as Lady Bountiful herself, he believed would cure his bruises with as much, or rather more expedition, than any country surgeon whatever. He gave strict orders, that his being at the Hall should not be mentioned, as he did not choose the few days, he hoped and believed he should continue there, to be disturbed by visits, which he knew would be paid, if an intimation of his being there was received. From an apartment adjoining the music-room, he had discovered Amanda; though scarcely able to move, at the first sound of her voice he stole to the door, which, being a little open, gave him an opportunity of seeing her perfectly; and nothing but his situation, prevented his immediately appearing before her, and expressing the admiration she had inspired him with. As soon as she departed, he sent for the housekeeper, to inquire who the beautiful stranger was. Mrs. Abergwilly only knew she was a young lady lately come from London to lodge at David Edwin’s cottage, whose wife had entreated permission for her to read in the library, which, she added, she had given, seeing that his lordship read in the dressing-room; but if he pleased, she would send Miss Dunford word not to come again. “By no means,” his lordship said. Amanda, therefore, continued her visits as usual, little thinking with what critical regard, and fond admiration she was observed. Lord Mortimer daily grew better; but the purpose for which he had come into Wales, seemed utterly forgotten; he had a tincture of romance in his disposition, and 49 availed himself of his recovery to gratify it, by taking a lute and serenading his lovely cottage girl. He could no longer restrain his impatience to be known to her; and the next day, stealing from his retirement, surprised her, as already related.
As he could not, without an utter violation of good manners, shake off Howell, he contented himself with following Amanda into the church-yard, where, shaded by the trees, he and his companion stood watching her unnoticed, till an involuntary exclamation of rapture from his lordship discovered their situation. When she departed, he read the inscription on the tomb-stone; but, from the difference of names, this gave no insight into any connexion between her and the person it mentioned: Howell could give no information of either: he was but a young man, lately appointed to the parsonage, and had never seen Amanda till that evening.
Lord Mortimer was solicitous, even to a degree of anxiety, to learn the real situation of Amanda: as Howell, in his pastoral function, had free access to the houses of his parishioners, it occurred to him, that he would be an excellent person to discover it; he therefore, as if from curiosity alone, expressed his wish of knowing who she was, and requested Howell, if convenient, to follow her directly to Edwin’s cottage, (where, he said, by chance he heard she lodged,) and endeavour to find out from the good people every thing about her. This request Howell readily complied with; the face, the figure, the melancholy, and above all the employment of Amanda, had interested his sensibility, and excited his curiosity.
He arrived soon after her at the cottage, and found her laughing at her nurse, who was telling her, she was certain she should see her a great laty. Amanda rose to retire at his entrance; but he, perceiving her intention, declared, if he disturbed her, he would immediately depart; she accordingly reseated herself, secretly pleased at doing so, as she thought, either from some look or word of the curate’s she might discover if he really was the person who had serenaded her; from this idea she shewed no averseness to enter into conversation with him.
The whole family, nurse excepted, had followed Ellen to the dance; and that good thought she could do no less for the honour of Howell’s visit, than prepare a little comfortable supper for him. The benevolence of his disposition, and innocent gaiety of his temper, 50 had rendered him a great favourite amongst his rustic neighbours, whom he frequently amused with simple ballads and pleasant tales. Amanda and he were left tête-à-tête, while the nurse was busied in preparing her entertainment; and she was soon as much pleased with the elegance and simplicity of his manners, as he was with the innocence and sweetness of hers. The objects about them naturally led to rural subjects, and from them to what might almost be termed a dissertation on poetry: this was a theme peculiarly agreeable to Howell, who wooed the pensive muse beneath the sylvan shade; nor was it less so to Amanda: she was a zealous worshipper of the Muses, though diffidence made her conceal her invocations to them. She was led to point out the beauties of her favourite authors; and the soft sensibility of her voice raised a kind of tender enthusiasm in Howell’s soul; he gazed and listened, as if his eye could never be satisfied with seeing, or his ear with hearing. At his particular request, Amanda recited the pathetic description of the curate and his lovely daughter, from the Deserted Village; a tear stole down her cheek as she proceeded. Howell softly laid his hand on hers, and exclaimed, “Good Heavens, what an angel!”
“Come, come,” said Amanda, smiling at the energy with which he spoke, “you at least should have nothing to do with flattery.”
“Flattery!” repeated he emphatically, “Oh heavens, did you but know my sincerity——”
“Well, well,” cried she, wishing to change the subject, “utter no expression in future, which shall make me doubt it.”
“To flatter you,” said he, “would be impossible; since the highest eulogium must be inadequate to your merits.”
“Again!” said Amanda.
“Believe me,” he replied, “flattery is a meanness I abhor; the expressions you denominate as such, proceed from emotions I should contemn myself for want of sensibility if I did not experience—”
The nurse’s duck and green peas were now set upon the table, but in vain did she press Howell to eat; his eyes were too well feasted to allow him to attend to his palate. Finding her entreaties ineffectual in one respect, she tried them in another, and begged he would sing a favourite old ballad; this he at first hesitated to do, till Amanda (from a secret motive of her own) joined in the entreaty; and the moment she heard his voice, she was convinced he was not the person 51 who had been at the outside of the window. After his complaisance to her, she could not refuse him one song: the melodious sounds sunk into his heart; he seemed fascinated to the spot, nor thought of moving, till the nurse gave him a hint for that purpose, being afraid of Amanda’s sitting up too late.
He sighed as he entered his humble dwelling; it was perhaps the first sigh he had ever heaved for the narrowness of his fortune. “Yet,” cried he, casting his eyes around, “in this abode, low and humble as it is, a soul like Amanda’s might enjoy felicity.”
The purpose for which Lord Mortimer sent him to the cottage, and Lord Mortimer himself, were forgotten. His lordship had engaged Howell to sup with him after the performance of his embassy, and impatiently waited his arrival: he felt displeased, as the hours wore away without bringing him; and, unable at last to restrain the impetuosity of his feelings, proceeded to the parsonage, which he entered a few minutes after Howell. He asked, with no great complacency, the reason he had not fulfilled his engagement. Absorbed in one idea, Howell felt confused, agitated, and unable to frame any excuse; he therefore simply said, what in reality was true, that he had utterly forgotten it.
“I suppose then,” exclaimed Lord Mortimer, in a ruffled voice, “you have been very agreeably entertained.”
“Delightfully,” said Howell.
Lord Mortimer grew more displeased; but his anger was now levelled against himself as well as Howell. He repented and regretted the folly which had thrown Howell in the way of such temptation, and had perhaps raised a rival to himself.
“Well,” cried he, after a few hasty paces about the room, “and pray, what do you know about Miss Dunford?”
“About her?” repeated Howell, as if starting from a reverie— “why nothing.”
“Nothing!” re-echoed his lordship.
“No,” replied Howell, “except that she is an angel.”
Lord Mortimer was now thoroughly convinced all was over with the poor parson; and resolved, in consequence of this conviction, to lose no time himself. He could not depart, without inquiring how the evening had been spent, and envied Howell the happy minutes he had so eloquently described.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter V
and that good woman thought she could do no less
text has womam
Mine eyes were half closed in sleep.
While Amanda was at breakfast the next morning, Betsey brought a letter to her