The Children of the Abbey
Dissembling hope, her cloudy front she clears,
And a false vigour in her eye appears.
She alighted from the carriage when it stopped at the door, and entered the shop, where, to her inexpressible satisfaction, the first object she beheld was Miss Rushbrook, sitting pensively at one of the counters. The moment she saw Amanda she recollected her, and starting up, exclaimed, as she took her hand, “Ah! dear madam, this is indeed a joyful surprise!—Ah! how often have I wished to meet you again to express my gratitude.” The affectionate reception she met, and the unexpected sight of Miss Rushbrook, seemed to promise Amanda, that her wishes relative to Rushbrook would not only be accelerated, but crowned with success. She returned the fervent pressure of Miss Rushbrook’s hand, and inquired after her parents: the inquiry appeared distressing, and she was answered with hesitation, that they were indifferent; the evident embarrassment her question excited, prevented her renewing it at this time. The mistress of the house was not present, and Amanda requested if she was within, she might see her directly. Miss Rushbrook immediately stepped to a parlour behind the shop, and almost instantly returned followed by the lady herself, who was a little fat Irish woman past her prime, but not past her relish for the good things of this life: “Dear madam,” said she, courtesying to Amanda, “you are very welcome; I protest I am very glad to see you, though I never had that pleasure but once before; but it is no wonder I should be so, for I have heard your praises every day since, I am sure, from that young lady,” looking at Miss Rushbrook. Amanda bowed, but her heart was too full of the purpose of this visit to allow her to speak about anything else. She was just come from the country, she told Mrs. Connel, where (she sighed as she spoke) she had left her friends, and, being unwilling to go amongst total strangers, she had come to her house in hopes of being able to procure lodgings in it.
“Dear ma’am,” said Mrs. Connel, “I protest I should have been 511 happy to have accommodated you, but at present my house is quite full.”
The disappointment this speech gave Amanda rendered her silent for a moment, and she was then going to ask Mrs. Connel if she could recommend her to a lodging, when she perceived Miss Rushbrook whispering her. “Why, madam,” cried the former, who by a nod of her head seemed to approve of what the latter had been saying, “since you dislike so much going amongst strangers, which indeed shows your prudence, considering what queer kind of people are in the world, Miss Emily says, that if you condescend to accept a part of her little bed, till you can settle yourself a little more comfortably in town, you shall be extremely welcome to it; and I can assure you, madam, I shall do every thing in my power to render my house agreeable to you.”
“Oh! most joyfully, most thankfully, do I accept the offer,” said Amanda, whose heart had sunk at the idea of going amongst strangers.—“Any place,” she continued, speaking in the fulness of that agitated heart, “beneath so reputable a roof, would be an asylum of comfort I should prefer to a palace, if utterly unacquainted with the people who inhabited it.” Her trunk was now brought in, and the carriage discharged; “I suppose, ma’am,” said Mrs. Connel, looking at the trunk on which her assumed name was marked, “you are Scotch by your name, though indeed you have not much of the accent about you.”
“I declare,” cried Emily, also looking at it, “till this moment I was ignorant of your name.”
Amanda was pleased to hear this, and resolved not to disclose her real one, except convinced Rushbrook would interest himself in her affairs. She was conducted into the parlour, which was neatly furnished, and opened into a shop by a glass door. Mrs. Connel stirred a declining fire into a cheerful blaze, and desired to know if Amanda would choose any thing for dinner. “Speak the word only, my dear,” said she, “and I think I can procure you a cold bone in the house. If you had come two hours sooner, I could have given you a nice bit of veal for your dinner.”—Amanda assured her she did not wish to take any thing till tea-time.
“Well, well,” cried Mrs. Connel, “you shall have a snug cup of tea by and by, and a hot muffin with it. I am very fond of tea myself, 512 though poor Mr. Connel, who is dead and gone, used often and often to say, I that was so nervous should never touch tea; but, Biddy, he would say, and he would laugh so, poor dear man, you and all your sex are like your mother Eve, unable to resist temptation.”
Emily retired soon after Amanda entered; but returned in a few minutes with her hat and cloak on, and said, “nothing but a visit she must pay her parents should have induced her to forego, for the first evening at least, the pleasure of Miss Donald’s society.”
Amanda thanked her for her politeness, but assured her, if considered as a restraint, she would be unhappy.
“I assure you,” said Mrs. Connel, as Emily departed, “she is very fond of you.”
“I am happy to hear it,” replied Amanda, “for I think her a most amiable girl.”
“Indeed she is,” cried the other, “all the fault I find with her, is being too grave for her time of life.—Poor thing, one cannot wonder at that however, considering the situation of her parents.”
“I hope,” interrupted Amanda, “it is not so bad as it was.”
“Bad! Lord, it cannot be worse; the poor captain has been in gaol above a year.”
“I am sorry,” said Amanda, “to hear this; has any application been made to Lady Greystock since his confinement?”
“To Lady Greystock! why, Lord, one might as well apply to one of the wild beasts in the Tower. Ah! poor gentleman, if he was never to get nothing but what she gave him, I believe he would not long be a trouble to any one. It is now about fourteen years since my acquaintance with him first commenced. My poor husband, that is no more, and I kept a shop in Dublin, where the captain’s regiment was quartered, and he being only a lieutenant, had not room enough for his family in the barracks, so he took lodgings at our house, where Mrs. Rushbrook lay in, and I being with her now and then during her confinement, a kind of friendship grew amongst us. They had not left us long to go to America, when a relation of my husband’s who owned this house and shop, having lost his wife, and being lonesome without either chick or child, invited us to come and live with him, promising us if we did to settle us in his business, and leave us every thing he had. Well, such offers did not come every day, so to be sure we took him at his word, and here we had not 513 long been when the poor man bid adieu to all mortal care, and was soon followed by Mr. Connel. Well, to be sure, I was sad and solitary enough: but when I thought how irreligious it was to break one’s heart with grief, I plucked up my spirits, and began to hold up my head again; so to make a short story of a long one, about six years ago, Mrs. Rushbrook and Miss Emily came one day into the shop to buy something, little thinking they should see an old friend; it was to be sure a meeting of joy and sorrow as one may say, we told all our griefs to each other, and I found things were very bad with the poor captain; indeed I have a great regard for him and his family, and when he was confined I took Emily home as an assistant in my business; the money she earned was to go to her parents, and I agreed to give her clothes gratis: but that would have gone a little way in feeding so many months, had I not procured plain work for Mrs. Rushbrook and her daughters. Emily is a very good girl indeed, and it is to see her parents she is now gone; but while I am gabbling away I am sure the kettle is boiling:” so saying she started up, and ringing the bell, took the tea-things from the beaufet where they were kept; the maid having obeyed the well-known summons, then retired, and as soon as the tea was made, and the muffins buttered, Mrs. Connel made Amanda draw her chair close to the table, that she might, as she said, look snug, and drink her tea comfortably.
“I assure you, ma’am,” cried she, “it was a lucky hour for Miss Emily when she entered my house.”
“I have no doubt of that,” said Amanda.
“You must know, madam,” proceeded Mrs. Connel, “about a month ago a gentleman came to lodge with me, who I soon found was making speeches to Miss Emily; he was one of those wild-looking spares who, like Ranger in the play, look as if they would be popping through every one’s doors and windows, and playing such tricks, as made poor Mr. Strickland so jealous of his wife. Well, I took my gentleman to task one day unawares; so Mr. Sipthorpe,” says I, “I am told you have cast a sheep’s eye upon one of my girls, but I must tell you she is a girl of virtue and family, so if you do not mean to deal honorably with her, you must either decamp from this, or speak to her no more. Upon this he made me a speech as long as a member of upon a new tax. Lord! Mr. Sipthorpe,” says I, “there 514 is no occasion for all this oratory, a few words will settle the business between us. Well, this was coming close to the point you will say, and he told me then he always meant to deal honourably by Miss Emily, and told me all about his circumstances, and I found he had a fine fortune, which indeed I partly guessed before, from the appearance he made, and he said he would not only marry Miss Emily, but take her parents out of prison, and provide for the whole family. Well, now comes the provoking part of my story. A young clergyman had been kind at the beginning of their distress, to them, and he and Miss Emily, took it into their heads to fall in love with each other. Well, her parents gave their consent to their being married, which to be sure I thought a very foolish thing, knowing the young man’s inability to serve them. To be sure he promised fair enough; but Lord! what could a poor curate do for them, particularly when he got a wife and house full of children of so I supposed they would be quite glad to be off with him, and to give her to Mr. Sipthorpe: but no such thing I assure you. When I mentioned it to them, one talked of honour, and another of gratitude, and as to Miss Emily, she fairly went into fits. Well, I thought I would serve them in spite of themselves, so, knowing the curate to be a romantic young fellow, I writes off to him, and tells him what a cruel thing it would be, if, for his own gratification, he kept Miss Emily to her word, and made her lose a match, which would free her family from all their difficulties, and in short, I touched up his passions not a little, I assure you; and, as I hoped, a letter came from him, in which he told her he gave her up. Well, to be sure, there was sad work when it came; with her I mean, for the captain and his wife were glad enough of it, I believe, in their hearts; so at last every thing was settled for her marriage with Mr. Sipthorpe, and he made a number of handsome presents to her, I assure you, and they are to be married in a few days. He is only waiting for his rents in the country to take the captain out of prison: but here is Miss Emily, instead of being quite merry and joyful, is as dull and as melancholy as if she was going to be married to a frightful old man.”
“Consider,” said Amanda, “you have just said her heart was pre-engaged.”
“Lord!” cried Mrs. Connel, “a girl at her time of life can change her love as her cap.”515
“I sincerely hope,” exclaimed Amanda, “that she either has or may soon be able to transfer hers.”
“And now, pray, madam,” cried Mrs. Connel, with a look which seemed to say Amanda should be as communicative as she had been, “may I ask from whence you have travelled?”
“From a remote part of Scotland.”
“Dear, what a long journey!—Lord! they say that it is a very desolate place, ma’am, without never a tree nor a bush in it.”
“I assure you that it wants neither shade nor verdure,” replied Amanda. “Really; well, Lord, what lies some people tell! Pray, ma’am, may I ask what country-woman you are?”
“Welch,” said Amanda, “Really! well, I suppose, ma’am, you have had many a scramble up the mountain after the goats, which they say are marvellous plenty in that part of the world.”
“No indeed,” replied Amanda. “Are you come to make any long stay in London, ma’am?” “I have not determined.” “I suppose you have come about a little business, ma’am?” resumed Mrs. Connel. “Yes,” replied Amanda. “To be sure, not an affair of great consequence, or so young a lady would not have undertaken it.” Amanda smiled, but made no reply, and was at length relieved from these tiresome and inquisitive questions by Mrs. Connel’s calling in her girls to tea; after which she washed the tea things, put them into the beaufet, and left the room to order something for supper. Left to herself, Amanda reflected that at the present juncture of Rushbrook’s affairs, when his attention and time were engrossed by the approaching settlement of his daughter, an application to him on her account would be not only impertinent but unavailing; she therefore determined to wait till the hurry and agitation produced by such an event had subsided, and most sincerely did she hope that it might be productive of felicity to all. Mrs. Connel was not long absent, and Emily returned almost at the moment she re-entered the room. “Well, Miss,” said Mrs. Connel, addressing her ere she had time to speak to Amanda, “I have been telling your good friend here all about your affairs.”
“Have you, ma’am?” cried Emily, with a faint smile, and a dejected voice. Amanda looked earnestly in her face and saw an expression of the deepest sadness in it. From her own heart she readily imagined what her feelings must be at such a disappointment 516 as Mrs. Connel had mentioned, and felt the sincerest pity for her. Mrs. Connel’s volubility tormented them both; supper happily terminated it, as she was then much better employed in her own opinion, than she could possibly have been in talking, Amanda pleaded fatigue for retiring early. Mrs. Connel advised her to try a few glasses of wine as a restorative; but she begged to be excused, and allowed to retire with Emily. The chamber was small, but neat, and enlivened by a good fire, to which Amanda and Emily sat down while undressing. The latter eagerly availed herself of this opportunity to express the gratitude of her heart. Amanda tried to change the discourse, but could not succeed. “Long, madam,” continued Emily, “have we wished to return our thanks for a benefaction so delicately conveyed as yours, and happy were my parents to-night, when I informed them I could now express their grateful feelings.”
“Though interested exceedingly in your affairs,” said Amanda, making another effort to change the discourse, “be assured I never should have taken the liberty of inquiring minutely into them; and I mention this lest you might suppose, from what Mrs. Connel said, that I had done so.”
“No, madam,” replied Emily, “I had no such idea, and an inquiry from you would be rather pleasing than otherwise, because I should then flatter myself you might be induced to listen to griefs which have long wanted the consolation of sympathy—such, I am sure, as they would receive from you.”
“Happy should I be,” cried Amanda, “had I the power of alleviating them.”
“Oh! madam, you have the power,” said Emily, “for you would commiserate them, and commiseration from you would be a balm to my heart; you would strengthen me in my duties, you would instruct me in resignation; but I am selfish in desiring to intrude them on you.”
“No,” replied Amanda, taking her hand; “you flatter me by such a ”
“Then madam, whilst you are undressing, I will give myself the melancholy indulgence of relating my little story.”
Amanda bowed, and Emily thus began.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter L
a speech as long as a member of parliament upon a new tax.
text has parliment
a wife and house full of children of his own? I thought,
text has his own, I thought?
“No,” replied Amanda, taking her hand; “you flatter me by such a desire.”
text has desire’”
Bitterly did Amanda regret having been tempted from the inn
“To open our hearts to those we know will commiserate our sorrows, is the sweetest consolation those sorrows can receive