The Children of the Abbey
For thee, who, mindful of the unhonour’d dead
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate,
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,—
Haply, some hoary headed swain may say,
Oft we have seen him at the peep of dawn,
Brushing with hasty step the dews away.
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
I left Enniskellen, said Oscar, with the idea that I might no more behold Adela; yet dear and precious as her sight was to my soul, I rejoiced she had not accompanied the regiment, since, to have beheld her but as the wife 555 of Belgrave, would have been insupportable.—Had the disappointment of my passion been occasioned by its not meeting a return, pride would have assisted me to conquer it; but to know it was tenderly returned, at once cherished and if possible, increased it.—The idea of the happiness I might have obtained, rendered me insensible of any I might still have enjoyed. I performed the duties of my situation mechanically, and shunned society as much as possible, unable to bear the raillery of my gay companions on my melancholy.
The summer you came to Ireland, the regiment removed to Bray, whose romantic situation allowed me to enjoy many delightful and solitary rambles. It was there a man enlisted, whose manner and appearance were, for many days, subjects of surprise and conversation to all: from both it was obvious he had been accustomed to one of the superior situations in life. A form more strikingly elegant I never beheld; the officers made many attempts to try and discover who he really was, but he evaded all their inquiries, yet with the utmost agitation. What rendered him, if possible, more interesting, was his being accompanied by a young and lovely woman, who like him, appeared sunk beneath her original state; but to their present one both conformed, if not with cheerfulness, at least with resignation.
Mary obtained work from almost all the officers. Henry was diligent in his duties, and both were universally admired and respected. Often in my lonely rambles have I surprised this unfortunate pair, who, it was evident, like me sought solitude for the indulgence of sorrow, weeping together, as if o’er the remembrance of happier hours. Often have I beheld them gazing, with mingled agony and tenderness, on the infant which Mary nursed, as if shuddering at the idea of its destiny.
The loveliness of Mary was too striking not to attract the notice of Belgrave, and from her situation he flattered himself she would be an easy prey; he was, however, mistaken; she repulsed his overtures with equal abhorrence and indignation. She wished to conceal them from her husband, but he heard of them through the means of his fellow-soldiers, who had several times seen the colonel following his wife. It was then he really felt the bitterness of a servile situation. Of his wife he had no doubt; she had already given him a convincing proof of constancy, but he dreaded the insults she might receive from the colonel. The united vigilance of both, prevented, however, for 556 some time, a repetition of those insults. Exasperated by their vigilance, the colonel at last concerted one of the most diabolical plans which could have entered into the heart of man. A party of the soldiers were ordered to the sea-side, to watch there for smuggled goods; Henry was named to be of the party, but when the soldiers were drawn out, he was not to be found. Belgrave’s servant, the vile agent of his master, had informed him that the colonel meant to take advantage of his absence, and visit his wife. He, trembling for her safety, resolved to run every risk, sooner than leave her unguarded, and accordingly absconded till the departure of the party. The consequence of this was, that on his re-appearance, he was put under an arrest for disobedience of orders, tried the next day, and sentenced to be flogged on the following one. The very officers that passed the sentence regretted it; but the strictness of military discipline rendered it unavoidable.
I shall not attempt to describe the situation of the unhappy young couple; they felt for each other more than for themselves, and pride heightened the agonies of Henry.
Pale, weeping, with a distracted air, Mary flew to my apartment, and sinking at my feet, with uplifted hands besought me to interpose in favour of her husband. I raised the poor mourner from the ground, and assured her, yet with a sigh, from the fear of proving unsuccessful, that I would do all in my power to save him. I therefore hastened to the colonel to ask for another that favour I should have disdained to desire for myself. But to serve this wretched couple, I felt I could almost humble myself to the earth.
The colonel was on the parade; and, as if aware of my intention, appeared sedulous to avoid me. But I would not be repulsed by this, and following him, entreated his attention for a few minutes.
“Dispatch your business then in haste, sir,” said he, with an unusual haughtiness.
“I shall, sir,” cried I, endeavouring to repress the indignation his manner excited, “and I also hope with success.”
“What is your business, sir?” demanded he.
“’Tis the business of humanity,” I replied, “and ’tis only for others I could ask a favour.”
I then proceeded to mention it. Rage and malice inflamed his countenance as I spoke.557
“Never,” exclaimed he, “shall the wretch receive pardon from me; and I am astonished at your presumption in asking it.”
“Yet not half so astonished,” replied I, “as I am at your obduracy:—though why do I say so? from your past actions, I should not be surprised at any you may now commit.”
His passion grew almost to frenzy; he asked me “if I knew whom I was addressing?”
“Too well,” I replied, “I know I am addressing one of the completest villains upon earth.”
He raised a small rattan he held, at these words, in a threatening manner; I could no longer oppose my indignation: I rushed upon him, wrested it from his hand, broke it, and flung it over his head.
“Now,” cried I, laying my hand upon my sword, “I am ready to give you the satisfaction you may desire for my words—words, whose truth I will uphold with my life.”
“No,” said he, with the coldness of deliberate malice, “’tis a far different satisfaction I shall expect to receive.”
Some of the officers had by this time gathered round us, and attempted to interfere; but he commanded their silence in a haughty manner, and ordered me under immediate arrest.
My fate I then knew decided, but I resolved to bear that fate with fortitude, nor let him triumph in every respect over me. I was confined to my room, and Henry the next morning was brought forth to receive his punishment. I will not, my sister, pain your gentle heart, by describing to you, as it was described to me by an officer, his parting from his wife; pride, indignation, tenderness, and pity, were struggling in his heart, and visible in his countenance. He attempted to resume composure; but when he reached the destined spot, he could no longer control his feelings: the idea of being exposed, disgraced, was too much for his noble soul: the paleness of his face increased, he tottered, he fell into the arms of a soldier and expired, groaning forth the name of Mary.
Four days after this melancholy event, a court martial was held on me, when, as I expected, I was broken, for contempt to my superior officer. I retired to a little solitary inn near Bray, in a state of mind which baffles description, destitute of friends or fortune.—I felt at that moment, as if I had no business in the world.
I was followed to the inn by a young lieutenant, with whom I had 558 been on an intimate footing. The grief he expressed at my situation roused me from almost a stupefaction that was stealing on me. The voice of friendship will penetrate the deepest gloom, and I felt my sorrows gradually allayed by it. He asked me, “Had I fixed on any plans for myself?” I replied, “I had not, for it was vain to fix on plans when there were no friends to support them.” He took my hand, and told me “I was mistaken; in a few days he trusted to procure me letters to a gentleman in London, who had considerable possessions in the West Indies, if such a thing was agreeable to me.” It was just what I wished for, and I thanked him with the sincerest gratitude.
In the evening, I received a message from the unfortunate Mary, requesting to see me directly; the soldier who brought it said she was dying. I hastened to her; she was in bed, and supported by a soldier’s wife. The declining sunbeams stole into the apartment, and shed a kind of solemn glory around her. The beauty that had caused her misfortunes was faded, but she looked more interesting than when adorned with that bloom of beauty. Sighs and tears impeded her words for some minutes after I approached her; at last, in a faint voice, she said “I sent for you, sir, because I knew your goodness, your benevolence, would excuse the liberty; I knew you would think that no trouble which would soothe the last sad moments of a wretched woman.”
She then proceeded to inform me of the motives which had made her send, namely, to convey her infant to her father, a person of fortune in Dublin, and to see her remains, ere I did so, laid by those of her husband’s.— unfortunate Henry,” she added, “had been son to a respectable merchant: their families were intimate, and an attachment which had commenced at an early period between them, was encouraged. Henry’s father experienced a sudden reverse of fortune, and hers, in consequence of it, forbid their ever thinking more of each other; but they could not obey his commands, and married clandestinely, thus forfeiting the favour of all their friends, as Henry’s thought he wanted spirit, and hers deemed her deficient in respect to her father, they were therefore compelled, by necessity, to a state of life infinitely beneath them: but in my grave,” continued she, “I trust my father will bury his resentment, and protect this little orphan.”559
I promised a religious observance to all her commands, and she expired in about an hour after I quitted her. Mournful were the tasks she enjoined me. I attended her remains to the grave, and then conveyed her child to Dublin.
Startled, amazed, distressed, her father too late regretted his rigour, and received her infant to his arms with floods of repentant tears.
I now procured my recommendatory letters, and sailed for England, having first written farewell ones to my father and Mrs. Marlowe, in which I informed both I was about quitting the kingdom. As soon as I had procured cheap lodgings in London, I repaired to the gentleman to whom I was recommended; but conceive my consternation when I heard he was himself gone to the West Indies. I turned into a coffee-house, with an intention of communicating this intelligence to my friend. While the waiter was getting me materials for writing, I took up a newspaper, and cast my eyes carelessly over it. Oh! my Amanda, what was the shock of that moment, when I read my father’s death: grief for him, anxiety for you, both assailed my heart too powerfully for its feelings; my head grew giddy, my sight failed me, and I fell back with a deep groan. When recovered, by the assistance of some gentlemen, I requested a carriage might be sent for, but I was too weak to walk to it. On returning to my lodgings I was compelled to go to bed, from which I never rose for a fortnight, during my illness, all the little money I had brought along with me was expended, and I was, besides, considerably in debt with the people of the house, for procuring me necessaries.—When able to sit up, they furnished their accounts, and I candidly told my inability to discharge them; in consequence of this I was arrested, and suffered but to take of my clothes a change or two of linen. The horrors of what I imagined would be a lasting captivity, were heightened by reflecting on your unprotected situation. A thousand times I was on the point of writing, to inquire into that situation, but still checked myself by reflecting, that as I could not aid you, I should only add to tiny griefs you might be oppressed with by acquainting you with mine. The company of Captain Rushbrook alleviated in some degree the dreariness of my time. I knew I should sustain an irreparable loss in losing him, but I should have detested myself if any selfish motives had prevented my rejoicing at his enlargement. Oh! little did I think his liberation was leading the way to Early this 560 morning he returned and introduced Sir Charles Bingley to me.— Gently, and by degrees, they broke the joyful intelligence they had to communicate; with truth I can aver, that the announcement of a splendid fortune was not so pleasing to my heart, as the mention of my sister’s safety. Of my poor Adela, I know nothing since my confinement; but I shudder to think of what she may have suffered, from being left solely to the power of such a man as Belgrave, for the good old general died soon after I left Enniskellen.
“Regret not too bitterly, my dear Oscar,” said Mrs. Marlowe, in one of her letters, “the good man’s death, rather rejoice he was removed, ere his last hours were embittered by the knowledge of his darling child’s unhappiness.”
“Oh! my sister,” continued Oscar, with a heavy sigh; while tears fell from him and mingled with those Amanda was shedding, “in this world we must have something to wish and to sigh for.”
Oscar here concluded his narrative, with such an expression of melancholy, as gave to Amanda the sad idea of his passion for Adela being incurable. This was indeed the case; neither reason, time, nor absence could remove or lessen it, and the acquisition of liberty or fortune lost half their value by brooding over her loss.
When their friends returned to the drawing-room, and again offered their congratulations, Oscar’s dejection would not permit him to reply to them. When Mr. and Mrs. Rushbrook spoke of the happiness he might now enjoy, he listened to their recapitulation of it as a fulsome tale, to which his heart in secret gave the lie; an innate sense of piety, however, recalled him to a proper recollection of the blessings so unexpectedly declared to be his; he accused himself of ingratitude to heaven in yielding to murmurs, after so astonishing a reverse in his situation: perfect happiness he had early been taught, and daily experience confirmed the truth of the remark, was rarely to be met with; how presumptuous in him, therefore, to repine at the common lot of humanity: to be independent, to have the means of returning the obligations Sir Charles Bingley had conferred upon him, to be able to comfort and provide for his lovely and long afflicted sister, and to distribute relief among the children of indigence, were all blessings which would shortly be his: blessings which demanded his warmest gratitude, and for which he now raised his heart with thankfulness to their divine dispenser. His feelings grew composed: 561 a kind of soft and serene melancholy stole over his mind; he still thought of Adela, but not with that kind of distracting anguish he had so recently experienced; it was with that kind of tender regret which a soul of sensibility feels when reflecting on a departed friend; and to him Adela was as much lost as if already shrouded in her native clay. “Yes, my love,” he said, as if her gentle spirit had already forsaken its earthly mansion, “in that happy world we shall be re-united, which only could reward thy goodness and thy sufferings.”
He could now enter into conversation with his friends about the measures which should be taken to forward his pretensions. It was the opinion of Captain Rushbrook and Sir Charles, that to make known his claim to the Marquis of Rosline, was all that was necessary; a claim they did not imagine he would or could dispute, when such proofs of its validity as the testimony of Lady Dunreath, and the will could be produced: was it disputed, it was then time enough to apply elsewhere for justice.
Sir Charles knew the marquis personally, and was also well acquainted in his neighbourhood, and declared he would accompany Oscar to Scotland. Oscar thanked him for his intention: the support of a person so well known, and universally esteemed, he was conscious would essentially serve him.
Sir Charles said regimental business required his presence in Ireland, which, however, would occasion no great delay; as he should have it transacted in a few days; and as his regiment lay near Donaghadee, they could cross over to Port Patrick, and in a few hours after, reach the Marquis of Rosline’s castle.
The day after the next he had fixed for commencing his journey and he asked Oscar if it would be agreeable and convenient to accompany him then. Oscar instantly assured him it was both.
Amanda’s heart fluttered at the idea of a journey to Ireland; it was probable, she thought, that they would take Wales in their way; and her soul seemed already on the wing to accompany them thither, and be left at the cottage of nurse Edwin, from whence she could again wander through the shades of Tudor Hall, and take a last, a sad farewell of them; for she solemnly determined from the moment she should be apprised of Lord Mortimer’s return to England, to visit them no more; in such a farewell she believed she should find a melancholy consolation that would soothe her spirits. She imagined 562 there was no necessity for accompanying her brother into Scotland, and except told there was an absolute one, she determined to decline the journey, if she should be asked to undertake it. To go to the very spot where she should hear particulars of Lord Mortimer’s nuptials she felt would be too much for her fortitude, and might betray to her brother a secret she had resolved carefully to conceal from him, as she well knew the pain he would feel from knowing that the pangs of a hopeless attachment were entailed upon her life, and would defeat whatever flattering hopes he entertained for her. Exclusive of the above-mentioned objects, she could not bear to go to a place where she might, perhaps, witness the pain which Lord Mortimer must unavoidably feel from having any disgrace befal a family he was so nearly connected with. O, how her heart swelled at the idea, that ere Oscar reached Scotland, the interest of the Marquis of Rosline and Lord Mortimer would be but one. From her apprehensions of being asked to undertake a journey so truly repugnant to her feelings, she was soon relieved, by Oscar’s declaring that except she wished it, he would not ask her to take so fatiguing a one, particularly as her presence he could not think at all necessary.
Sir Charles Bingley assured him it was not, though in a low voice he said to her, “it was against his own interest he spoke.”
She would now have mentioned her wish of going to Wales, had not a certain consciousness checked her; she feared her countenance would betray her motive for such a wish; while she hesitated about mentioning it. Sir Charles Bingley told Captain Rushbrook that he had applied to a friend of his, in power, for a place for him, and had been fortunate enough to make application at the very time there was one of tolerable emolument vacant at ——, about seventy miles distant from London, whither it would be necessary he should go as soon as possible. He therefore proposed that he and Mrs. Rushbrook should begin preparations for their journey the ensuing morning, and exert themselves to be able to undertake it in the course of the week.
They were all rapture and gratitude at this intelligence, which opened a prospect of support through their own means, and the bread of independence, however hardly earned, which here was not the case, must ever be sweet to souls of sensibility.
Oscar looked with anxiety at his sister, on the mentioning of the Rushbrooks’ removal from town, as if to say, to whose care then can 563 I intrust you? Mrs. Rushbrook interpreted his look, and instantly requested that Miss Fitzalan might accompany them, declaring her society would render their felicity complete. This was the moment for Amanda to speak; she took courage, and mentioned her earnest wish of visiting her faithful nurse, declaring she could not lose so favourable an opportunity as now offered for the gratification of that wish, by accompanying her brother into Wales. Emily pleaded, but Amanda, though with the utmost gratitude and tenderness, as if to soften her refusal, was steady. Oscar was pleased with his sister’s determination, as he trusted going into what might be called her native air, joined with the tender care of nurse Edwin, would recruit her health.
Sir Charles was in raptures at the idea of having her company so far on their way.
Every thing relative to the proceedings of the whole party was arranged before dinner, at which Sir Charles presided, giving pleasure to all around him by the ineffable sweetness of his manners. He withdrew at an early hour at night, and his friends soon after retired to their respective chambers. On entering the breakfast room next morning Amanda found not only her brother and the Rushbrooks, but Sir Charles Bingley there. Immediately after breakfast he drew Oscar aside, and in the most delicate terms insisted on being his banker at present, to which Oscar gratefully consented. As soon as this affair was settled, he put a note into his sister’s hands to purchase whatever she should deem necessary, and she went out with the Rushbrooks, who according to Sir Charles’s directions, began preparations for their journey this day. After their return, Sir Charles found an opportunity of again making an offer of his hand to Amanda.
The sincere friendship she had conceived for him made her determined to terminate his suspense on her account. “Was I to accept your generous proposal, Sir said she, “I should be unworthy of that esteem which it will be my pride to retain, and my pleasure to return, because beyond esteem I cannot go myself: it is due to your friendship,” cried she, after the hesitation of a moment, whilst a rosy blush stole over her lovely face, and as quickly faded from it, “to declare, that ere I saw you, the fate of my heart was decided.”564
Sir Charles turned pale; he grasped her hands in a kind of silent agony to his bosom, then exclaimed, “I will not, Miss Fitzalan, after your generous confidence, teaze you with further importunity.”
“Her unfortunate Henry,” she added
open quote missing
Oh! little did I think his liberation was leading the way to mine.
“Was I to accept your generous proposal, Sir Charles,” said she
close quote missing
We shall now account for the incidents in the last chapter.
The ensuing morning Oscar, Amanda, and Sir Charles, began their journey.