The Children of the Abbey
By suffering well, our torture we subdue.
Fly when she frowns, and when she calls pursue.
Overwhelmed with grief and disappointment at the supposed perfidy of Amanda, Lord Mortimer had returned to England, acquainting Lord Cherbury and Lady Martha of the unhappy cause of his returning alone; entreating them, in pity to his wounded feelings, never to mention the distressing subject before him. His dejection was unconquerable; all his schemes of felicity were overthrown, and the destruction of hopes was the destruction of his peace. It was not in these first transports of bitter sorrow that Lord Cherbury ventured to speak his wishes to his son; he waited till by slow degrees he saw a greater degree of composure in his manner, though it was a composure attended with no abatement of melancholy. At first he only hinted those wishes! hints, however, which Lord Mortimer appeared designedly insensible of. At last the earl spoke plainer; he mentioned his deep regret at beholding a son, whom he had ever considered the pride of his house, and the solace of his days, wasting his youth in wretchedness for an ungrateful woman, who had long triumphed in the infatuation which bound him to her: it filled his soul with anguish, he said, to behold him lost to himself, his family, and the world, thus disappointing all the hopes and expectations which the fair promise of his early youth had given rise to in the bosom of his friends, concerning the meridian of his days.
Lord Mortimer was unutterably affected by what his father said. The earl beheld his emotion, and blessed it as a happy omen. His pride as well as sensibility, he continued, were deeply wounded at the idea of having Lord Mortimer still considered the slave of a passion which had met so base a return. Oh! let not the world, added he, with increasing energy, triumph in your weakness: try to shake it off, ere the finger of scorn and ridicule is pointed at you, as the dupe of a deceitful woman’s art.
Lord Mortimer was inexpressibly shocked; his pride had frequently represented as weakness the regret be felt for Amanda; and the earl 580 now stimulating that pride, he felt at the moment as if he could make any sacrifice which would prove his having triumphed over his unfortunate attachment; but when his father called upon him to make such a sacrifice by uniting himself to Lady Euphrasia, he shrunk back, and acknowledged he could not give so fatal a proof of He declared his total repugnance at present to any alliance; time, and the efforts of reason, he trusted, would subdue his ill-placed attachment, and enable him to comply with the wishes of his friends.
Lord Cherbury would not, could not drop the subject next his heart; a subject so important, so infinitely interesting to him; he exerted all his eloquence, he entreated, he implored his son, not forever to disappoint his wishes: he mentioned the compliance he had so recently shown to his, though against his better judgment, in the useless consent he had given to his marriage with Miss Fitzalan.
Lord Mortimer, persecuted by his arguments, at length declared, that were the object he pointed out for his alliance, any other than Lady Euphrasia Sutherland, he would not perhaps, be so reluctant to comply with his wishes; but she was a woman he could never esteem, and must, consequently, forever refuse; she had given such specimens of cruelty and deceit, in the schemes she had entered into with the marchioness, against (he blushed, he faltered, as he pronounced her name) Miss Fitzalan, that his heart felt unutterable dislike to her.
The earl was prepared for this; he had the barbarity to declare in the most unhesitating manner, he was sorry still to find him blinded by the arts of that wretched girl; he bid him reflect on her conduct, and then consider whether any credence was to be given on her declaration of Belgrave’s being admitted to the house without her knowledge.
Lord Mortimer was startled; her conduct, indeed, as his father said, might well make him doubt her veracity. But still the evidence of the servants; they acknowledged having been instruments in forwarding the scheme which she said was laid against her. He mentioned this circumstance: the earl was also prepared for it; the servants, he declared, had been examined in his presence, when, with shame and contrition they confessed, that seeing the strong anxiety of Lord Mortimer for the restoration of Miss Fitzalan’s fame, and tempted by the large bribes he 581 offered, if they could or would say anything in her justification, they had, at last, made the allegation so pleasing to him.
Lord Mortimer sighed deeply: on every side, cried he, I find I have been the dupe of art; but it was only the deceit of one could agonize my soul. Still, however, he was inexorable to all his father could say, relative to Lady Euphrasia.
Lady Martha was at last brought in as an auxiliary: she was now as strenuous for the connexion as ever Lord Cherbury had been; a longer indulgence of Lord Mortimer’s grief, she feared, would completely undermine his health, and either render him a burden to himself, or precipitate him to an early Whilst he continued single, she knew he would not consider any vigorous exertions for overcoming that grief necessary; but if once united, she was convinced from the rectitude and sensibility of his disposition, he would struggle against his feelings, in order to the incumbent duties he had imposed upon himself. Thus did she deem a union requisite to rouse him to exertion, to restore his peace, and in all probability to save his life. She joined in her brother’s arguments and entreaties, with tears she joined in them, and besought Mortimer to accede to their wishes; she called him the last hope of their house; he had long, she said, been the pride, the delight of their days: their comfort, their existence, were interwoven in his, if he sunk, they sunk with him.
The yielding soul of Mortimer could not resist such tenderness, and he gave a promise of acting as they wished. He imagined he could not be more wretched; but scarcely had this promise passed his lips, ere he felt an augmentation of misery. To enter into new engagements, to resign the sweet though melancholy privilege of divulging his feelings, to fetter at once both soul and body, were ideas that filled him with unutterable anguish. A thousand times was he on the point of retracting his regretted and reluctant promise, had not honour interposed, and showed the inability of doing so, without an infringement on its principles. Thus entangled, Mortimer endeavoured to collect his scattered thoughts, and in order to try and gain some composure, he altered his former plan of acting, and mingled as much as possible in society; he strove to fly from himself, that by so doing, he might fly from the corrosive remembrances which embittered his life. But who shall paint his agonies at the unexpected 582 sight of Amanda at the Macqueens’! The exertions he had for some time before compelled himself to make, had a little abated the pain of his feelings, but that pain returned with redoubled violence at her presence, and every idea of present composure or future tranquillity vanished. He felt, with regret, with anguish, that she was as dear as ever to his soul, and his destined union became more hateful than ever to him. He tried, by recollecting her conduct, to awaken his resentment; but alas! softness, in spite of all his efforts to the contrary, was the predominant feeling of his soul. Her pallid cheek, her deep dejection seemed to say she was the child of sorrow and repentance. To sooth that sorrow, to strengthen that repentance, oh! how delightful unto him; but either he durst not do, situated as he then was.
With the utmost difficulty Lady Martha Dormer prevailed on him to be present when she demanded the picture of Amanda. That scene has already been described, also his parting one with her; but to describe the anguish he endured after this period, is impossible. He beheld Lady Euphrasia with a degree of horror: his faltering voice refused even to pay her the accustomed compliments of meeting; he loathed the society he met at the castle, and regardless of what might be thought of him; regardless of health or the bleakness of the season, wandered for hours together in the most unfrequented parts of the domain, the veriest son of wretchedness and despair.
The day, the dreaded day at length arrived which was to complete his misery. The company were all assembled in the great hall of the castle, from whence they were to proceed to the chapel, and every moment expected the appearance of the bride. The marquis surprised at her long delay, sent a messenger to request her immediate presence, who returned in a few minutes with a letter which he presented to the marquis, who broke the seal in visible trepidation, and found it from Lady Euphrasia.
“She had taken a step,” she said, “which she must depend on the kind indulgence of her parents to excuse; a step which nothing but a firm conviction that happiness could not be experienced in a union with Lord Mortimer, should have tempted her to. His uniform indifference had, at last, convinced her, that motives of the most interested nature influenced his addresses to her, and if her parents inquired into his, or at least Lord Cherbury’s conduct, they would 583 find her assertion true, and would consequently, she trusted, excuse her for not submitting to be sacrificed at the shrine of interest. In selecting Mr. Freelove for her choice, she had selected a man, whose addresses were not prompted by selfish views, but by a sincere affection, which he would have openly avowed, had he not been assured in the present situation of affairs, it would have met with opposition. To avoid, therefore, a positive act of disobedience, she had consented to a private union. To Lord Mortimer and Lord Cherbury,” she said, “she deemed no apology necessary for her conduct, as their hearts, at least Lord Cherbury’s, would at once exculpate her, from his own consciousness of not having acted either generously or honourably to her.”
The violent transports of passion the marquis experienced are not to be described. The marchioness hastily perused the letter, and her feelings were not inferior in violence to his. Its contents were not known, and amazement sat on every countenance. But oh! what joy did they inspire in the soul of Lord Mortimer: not a respite, or rather a full pardon to the condemned wretch, at the very moment when preparing for death, could have yielded more exquisite delight; but to Lord Cherbury, what a disappointment! it was indeed a death stroke to his hopes: the hints in Lady Euphrasia’s letter concerning him, plainly declared her knowledge of his conduct: he foresaw an immediate demand from Freelove, foresaw the disgrace he should experience, when his inability to discharge that demand was known. His soul was shaken in its utmost recess, and the excruciating anguish of his feelings was indeed as severe a punishment as he could suffer. Pale, speechless, aghast, the most horrid ideas took possession of his mind; yet he sought not to repel them, for anything was preferable to the shame he saw awaiting him.
Lord Mortimer’s indignation was excited by the aspersions cast upon his father; aspersions he imputed entirely to the malice of Lady Euphrasia, and which from the character of Lord Cherbury, he deemed it unnecessary to attempt refuting. But alas! what a shock did his noble, his unsuspicious nature receive, when, in a short time after the perusal of her letter, one from Freelove was brought him, which fully proved the truth of her assertions. Freelove, in his little trifling manner expressed his hopes that there would be no difference between his lordship and him, for whom he expressed the most entire friendship, on account 584 of the fair lady who had honoured him with her regard; declared her partiality was quite irresistible: and moreover that in love, as in war, every advantage was allowable: begged to trouble his lordship with his compliments to Lord Cherbury, and a request that everything might be prepared to settle matters between them on his return from his matrimonial expedition. An immediate compliance with this request, he was convinced, could not be in the least distressing; and it was absolutely essential to him, from the with which he designed Lady Euphrasia Freelove should make her bridal entry into public. As to the report, he said, which he had heard relative to Lord Cherbury’s losing the fortune which was intrusted to his care for him at the gaming table, he quite disbelieved it.
The most distressing, the most mortifying sensations took possession of Lord Mortimer at this part of the letter; it explained the reasons of Lord Cherbury’s strong anxiety for an alliance with the Rosline family which Lord Mortimer indeed had often wondered at, he at once pitied, condemned, and blushed for him. He stole a glance at his father, and his deep despairing look filled him with horror. He resolved, the first opportunity, to declare his knowledge of the fatal secret which oppressed him, and his resolution of making any sacrifice which could possibly remove or lessen his inquietude.
Lord Cherbury was anxious to fly from the now hated castle, ere farther confusion overtook him. He mentioned his intention of immediately departing, an intention opposed by the marquis, but in which he was steady, and also supported by his son.
Every thing was ready for their departure, when Lord Cherbury, overwhelmed by the dreadful agitations he experienced, was seized with a fit of the most violent and alarming nature; he was carried to a chamber, and recourse was obliged to be had to a physician, ere the restoration of his senses was effected; but he was then so weak, that the physician declared, if not kept quiet, a return of his disorder might be expected.
Lord Mortimer, tenderly impatient to lighten the burthen of his father’s mind, dismissed the attendants as soon as he possibly could, and then in the most delicate terms declared his knowledge of his situation.
Lord Cherbury at this started up in the most violent paroxysm of anguish, and vowed he never would survive the discovery of his 585 being a villain. With difficulty could Lord Mortimer compose him, but it was long ere he could prevail on him to hear what he wished to say.
Few there were, he said, who at some period of their lives, he believed, were not led into actions, which upon reflection they had reason to regret; he thought not, he meant not to speak slightly of human nature, he only wished to prove, that liable as we all are to frailty—a frailty intended no doubt to check the arrogance of pride and presumption, we should not suffer the remembrances of error, when once sincerely repented of to plunge us into despair, particularly when, as far as in our power, we meant to atone for it.
Thus did Lord Mortimer attempt to calm the dreadful conflicts of his father’s mind, who still continued to inveigh against himself.
“The sale of Tudor Hall,” Lord Mortimer proceeded, “and mortgages upon Lord Cherbury’s estates would enable his father to discharge his debt to Mr. Freelove. He knew,” he said, “it was tenderness to him which had prevented him ere this from adopting such a plan; but he besought him to let no farther consideration on his account make him delay fulfilling immediately the claims of honour and justice. He besought him to believe his tranquillity was more precious to him than any thing in life, that the restoration of his peace was far more estimable to him than the possession of the most brilliant fortune; a possession which,” continued Lord Mortimer, deeply sighing, “I am well convinced, will not alone yield happiness. I have long,” said he, “looked with an eye of cool indifference on the pomps, the pageantries of life: disappointed in my tenderest hopes and expectations, wealth, merely on my own account has long been valueless to me: its loss I make no doubt, nay, I am convinced, I shall have reason to consider as a blessing; it will compel me to make those exertions which its possession would have rendered unnecessary, and by doing so, in all probability remove from my heart that sadness which has so long clung about it, and enervated all its powers; a profession lies open to receive me, which, had I been permitted at a much earlier period, I should have embraced, for a military life was always my passion. At the post of danger I may perhaps have the happiness of performing services for my country, which while loitering supinely in the shade of prosperity I could never have done. Thus, my dear father,” he continued, “you see 586 how erroneous we are in opinions we often form of things, since what we often consider as the bitterest evil, leads to the most supreme good. We will, as soon as possible, hasten every thing to be prepared for Freelove, and thus I make no doubt, disappoint the little malice of his soul.
“My aunt, my sister, are unacquainted with your uneasiness, nor shall an intimation of it from me ever transpire to them; of fortune, sufficient will remain to allow, though not the splendours, the comforts, and elegancies of life. As for me, the deprivation of what is falsely termed my accustomed indulgences, will be the most salutary and efficacious thing that could possibly happen to me. In short I believe that the realization of my plan will render me happy; since with truth I can assure you, its anticipation has already given more pleasure to my soul, than I thought it would ever have again enjoyed.”
Lord Cherbury, overcome by the tenderness, the virtue of his son, by the sacrifice he so willingly offered, so strenuously insisted on making, of his paternal fortune, could not for some minutes speak. At length the struggling emotions of his soul found utterance.
“Oh! virtue,” he exclaimed, while the tears of love, of gratitude, of contrition, flowed from his eyes, and fell upon the hand of his son, clasped within his, “oh! virtue, I cannot say, like Brutus, thou art but a shade: no, here in this invaluable son thou art personified—this son, whom I so cruelly deceived, so bitterly distressed.—Oh! gracious powers, would not that heroic, that heaven-born disposition, which now leads him to sign away his paternal fortune for my sake have also led him to a still greater resignation, the sacrifice of his Amanda, had I entrusted him with my wretched situation. Oh! had I confided in him, what an act of baseness should I have prevented his experiencing? but to save my own guilty confusion, I drew wretchedness upon his head, I wrung every fibre of his heart with agony, by making him believe its dearest, its most valuable object unworthy of his
Mortimer started—he gasped—he repeated, in faltering accents, these last words; his soul seemed as if it would burst its mortal bounds, and soar to another region, to hear an avowal of Amanda’s purity.
“Oh! Mortimer,” cried the earl, in the deep desponding tone of 587 anguish, “how shall I dare to lift my eyes to thine, after the avowal of the injustice I have done one of the most amiable and loveliest of human beings?”
“Oh! tell me,” cried Mortimer, in breathless trembling agitation, “tell me if indeed she is all my fond heart once believed her to be? in mercy, in pity, delay not to inform me?”
Slowly, in consequence of his weakness, but with all the willingness of a contrite spirit, anxious to do justice to the injured, did Lord Cherbury reveal all that had passed between him and “Poor Fitzalan,” cried he, as he finished his relation, “poor unhappy friend; from thy cold grave couldst thou have known the transactions of this world, how must thy good and feeling spirit have reproached me for my barbarity to thy orphan in robbing her of the only stipend thy adverse fortune had power to leave her—a pure and spotless fame?”
Lord Mortimer groaned with anguish; every reproachful word he had uttered to Amanda darted upon his remembrance, and were like so many daggers to his heart. It was his father that oppressed her; this knowledge aggravated his feelings, but stifled his reproaches; it was a father, contrite, perhaps, at the very moment stretched upon a death bed—therefore he forgave him.
He cast his eyes around, as if in that moment he had hoped to behold her, have an opportunity of falling prostrate at her feet, and imploring her forgiveness: he cast his eyes around as if imagining he should see her, and be allowed to fold her to his beating heart, and ask her soft voice to pronounce his pardon.
“Oh! thou lovely mourner,” he exclaimed to himself while a gush of sorrow burst from his eyes, “oh! thou lovely mourner, when I censured, reviled, upbraided you, even at that very period your heart was suffering the most excruciating anguish: Yes, Amanda, he who would willingly have laid down his life to yield thee peace, even he was led to aggravate thy woes; with what gentleness, what unexampled patience didst thou bear my reproaches! no sudden ray of indignation for purity so insulted, innocence arraigned, flashed from thy eyes; the beams of meekness and resignation alone stole from underneath their tearful lids.
“No sweet hope of being able to atone, no delightful idea of being able to make reparation for my injustice, now alleviates the poignancy 588 of my feelings: since fate interposed between us in the hour of prosperity, I cannot, in the bleak and chilling period of adversity, seek to unite your destiny with mine, now almost the child of want myself, a soldier of fortune obliged by the sword to earn my bread, I cannot think of leading you into difficulties and dangers greater than you ever before experienced. Oh! my Amanda, may the calm shade of security be forever thine; thy Mortimer, thy ever faithful, ever adoring Mortimer, will not from any selfish consideration, seek to lead thee from it. If thy loss be agonizing, oh! how much more agonizing to possess, but to see thee in danger of distress; go, then, into new scenes of life, with only thy dear, thy sweet and worshipped idea to cheer and support me, an idea I shall lose but with life, and which to know I may cherish, indulge, adore, without a reproach for weakness in so doing, is a sweet and soothing consolation.”
The indulgence of feelings, such as his language expressed, he was obliged to forego, in order to fulfil the wish he felt of alleviating the situation of his father: but his attention was unable to lighten the anguish which oppressed the mind of Lord Cherbury; remorse for his past conduct, mortification at being lessened in the opinion of his son, sorrow from the injury he was compelled to do him, to be extricated from the power of Freelove, all preyed upon his mind, produced the most violent agitations, and an alarming repetition of fits.
Things remained in this situation for a few days, during which time no intelligence had been received of Euphrasia, when one morning, when Lord Mortimer was sitting for a few minutes with the marquis and marchioness, a servant entered the apartment and informed his lord that a gentleman was just arrived at the castle, who requested to be introduced to his presence. The marquis and marchioness instantly concluded this was some person sent as an intercessor from Lady Euphrasia, and they instantly admitted him in order to have an opportunity of assuring her ladyship, through his means, it must be some time (if indeed at all) ere they could possibly forgive her disrespect and disobedience.
Lord Mortimer would have retired, but was requested to stay, and complied, prompted by curiosity to hear what kind of apology or message Lady Euphrasia had sent. A man of a most pleasing appearance entered, and was received with the most frigid politeness. He 589 looked embarrassed, agitated, even distressed. He attempted several times to speak, but the words still died away undistinguished. At length the marchioness, yielding to the natural impetuosity of her soul, hastily desired he would reveal what had procured them the honour of his visit.
“A circumstance of the most unhappy nature, madam,” he replied, in a hesitating voice, “I came with a hope, the expectation of being able to break it by degrees, so as not totally to overpower, but I find myself unequal to the distressing task.”
“I fancy, sir,” cried the marchioness, “both the marquis and I are already aware of the circumstances you allude to.”
“Alas! madam,” said the stranger, fixing his eyes with a mournful earnestness on her face, “I cannot think so; if you were, it would not be in human, in paternal nature to appear as you now do.” He stopped, he turned pale, he trembled, his emotions became contagious.
“Tell me,” said the marquis, in a voice scarcely articulate, “I beseech you, without delay, the meaning of your words.”
The stranger essayed to speak, but could not; words indeed were scarcely necessary to declare that he had something shocking to reveal. His auditors like old Northumberland, might have said. “The paleness on thy cheeks is apter than thy tongue to tell thy errand.”
“Something dreadful has happened to my child,” said the marchioness, forgetting at that agonizing moment all displeasure.
“Alas! madam” cried the stranger, whilst a trickling tear denoted his sensibility for the sorrows he was about giving rise to; “alas, madam, your fears are too well founded; to torture you with longer suspense would be barbarity. Something dreadful has happened indeed—Lady Euphrasia in this world will never more be sensible of your kindness.” A wild, a piercing, agonizing shriek burst from the lips of the marchioness as she dropped senseless from her seat. The marquis was sinking from his, had not Lord Mortimer, who sat by him timely started up, and though trembling himself with horror caught him in his arms. The servants were summoned, the still insensible marchioness was carried to her chamber, the wretched marquis reviving in a few minutes, if that could be called reviving, which was only a keener perception of misery, demanded, in a tone 590 of anguish, the whole particulars of the sad event; yet scarcely had the stranger began to comply with his request, ere with all the wild inconsistency of grief, he bid him forbear, and shuddering, declared he could not listen to the dreadful particulars; but it were needless, as well as impossible to describe the feelings of the wretched parents, who in one moment beheld their hopes, their wishes, their expectations finally destroyed: Oh! what an awful lesson did they inculcate of the instability of human happiness, of the insufficiency of rank or riches to retain it. This was one of the events, which Providence, in its infinite wisdom, makes use of to arrest the thoughtless in their career of dissipation, and check the arrogance of pride and vanity: when we behold the proud, the wealthy, the illustrious, suddenly surprised by calamity, and sinking beneath its strokes, we naturally reflect on the frail tenure of earthly possessions, and from the reflections, consider how we may best attain that happiness which cannot change; the human heart is in general so formed, as to require something great to interest and affect it. Thus a misfortune happening to a person in a conspicuous, and to one in an obscure situation, would not, in all probability, equally affect or call home the wandering thoughts to sadness and reflection. The humble floweret, trampled to the dust, is passed on with an eye of careless indifference; but the proud oak, torn from the earth, and levelled by the storm, is viewed with wonder and affright. The horrors of the blow, which overwhelmed the marquis and marchioness, were augmented by the secret whispers of conscience, that seemed to say it was a blow of retribution, from a Being all righteous and all just, whose most sacred laws they had violated, in oppressing the widow and defrauding the orphan.—Oh! what an augmentation of misery is it to think it merited; remorse, like the vengeance of heaven, seemed awakened now to sleep no more; no longer could they palliate their conduct, no longer avoid retrospection, a retrospection, which heightened the gloomy horrors of the future. In Lady Euphrasia all the hopes, the affections of the marquis and marchioness, were centered: she alone had ever made them feel the tenderness of humanity; yet she was not less the darling of their love, than the idol of their pride: in her they beheld the being who was to support the honours of their house, and transmit their names to posterity; in her they beheld the being who gave them the opportunity of gratifying the malevolent, as well as tender 591 and ambitious passions of their souls; the next heir to the marquis’s title and fortune had irreconcilably disobliged him, as a means therefore of disappointing him, if on no other account, Lady Euphrasia would have been regarded by them.
Though she had disappointed and displeased them by her recent act of disobedience, and though they had deemed it essential to their consequence to display that displeasure, yet they secretly resolved not long to withhold forgiveness from her, and also to take immediate steps for ennobling Freelove.
For Lady Euphrasia they felt indeed a tenderness, her heart for them was totally a stranger to: it seemed as if cold and indifferent to all mankind, their affections were stronger being confined in one channel: in the step she had taken, Lady Euphrasia only considered the gratification of her revenge. Freelove, as the ward of Lord Cherbury, in honour to him had been invited to the nuptials; he accepted the invitation, but instead of accompanying, promised to follow the bridal party to the castle. A day or two ere he intended setting out, by some accidental chance, he got into company with the very person to whom Lord Cherbury had lost so much, and on whose account he had committed an action which had entailed the most excruciating remorse upon him; this person was acquainted with the whole transaction; he had promised to keep his knowledge a secret, but the promises of the worthless are of little avail. A slight expression which, in a moment of anxiety, had involuntarily dropped from Lord Cherbury, had stung him to the soul, because he knew too well its justice, and inspired him with the most inveterate hatred and rancorous desire of revenge. His unexpected meeting Freelove afforded him an opportunity of gratifying both these propensities, and he scrupled not to avail himself of it.—Freelove was astonished, and when the first violence of astonishment was over, delighted.
To triumph over the proud soul of Lord Cherbury and his son, was indeed an idea which afforded rapture; both he had ever disliked, the latter particularly; he disliked him from the superiority which he saw in every respect he possessed over himself. A stranger to noble emulation, he sought not by study or imitation to aspire to any of those graces or perfections he beheld in Lord Mortimer, he sought alone to depreciate them, and when he found that impossible, beheld him with greater envy and malignity than ever. To wound Lord Mortimer 592 through the bosom of his father, to overwhelm him with confusion, by publicly displaying the errors of that father, were ideas of the most exquisite delight—ideas which the wealth of worlds would scarcely have tempted him to forego; so sweet is any triumph, however accidental or imaginary, over a noble object to an envious mind, which ever hates that excellence it cannot reach. No fear of self-interest being injured checked his pleasure; the fortune of Lord Cherbury he knew sufficient to answer for his violating trust; thus he had another source of triumph in the prospect of having those so long considered as the proud rivals of his wealth and splendour, cast into the shade; his pleasure, however, from this idea was short lived, when he reflected that Lord Mortimer’s union with Lady Euphrasia would totally exempt him from feeling any inconveniency from his father’s conduct; but could not this union be prevented! Freelove asked himself: he still wanted a short period of being of age, consequently had no right at present to demand a settlement of his affairs from Lord Cherbury; he might, however, privately inform Lady Euphrasia of the affair so recently communicated to him. No sooner did he conceive this scheme, than he glowed with impatience to put it into execution: he hastened to the marquis’s, whither, indeed, the extravagant and foppish preparations he had made for the projected nuptials had before prevented his going, and took the first opportunity which offered of revealing to Lady Euphrasia, as if from the purest friendship, the conduct of Lord Cherbury, and the derangement of his affairs.
Lady Euphrasia was at once surprised and incensed; the reason for an union between her and his son being so ardently desired by Lord Cherbury, was now fully explained, and she beheld herself as an object addressed merely from a view of repairing a ruined fortune; but this view she resolved to disappoint. Such was the implacable nature of her disposition, that had this disappointment occasioned the destruction of her own peace, it would not have made her relinquish it, but this was not the case; in sacrificing all ideas of an union with Lord Mortimer to her offended pride, she sacrificed no wish or inclination of her soul. Lord Mortimer, though the object of her admiration, had never been the object of her love; she was indeed incapable of feeling that passion; her admiration had, however, long since given place to resentment, at the cool indifference with which he 593 regarded her; she would have opposed a marriage with him, but for a fear that he might, thus freed, attach himself to Amanda. The moment, however, she knew a union with her was necessary for the establishment of his fortune, fear, with every consideration which could oppose it, vanished before the idea of disappointing his views and retaliating upon him that uneasiness he had, from wounded pride, made her experience by his cold and altered behaviour to her.
She at first determined to acquaint the marquis of what she had heard, but a little reflection made her drop this determination. He had always professed a warm regard for Lord Cherbury, and she feared that regard would still lead him to insist on the nuptials taking place; she was not long in concerting a scheme to render such a measure impracticable, and Freelove she resolved to make an instrument for forwarding, or rather executing her revenge. She hesitated not to say she had always disliked Lord Mortimer, that in short there was but one being she could ever think, ever hope to be happy with. Her broken sentences, her looks, her affected confusion, all revealed to Freelove that he was that object: the rapture this discovery inspired he could not conceal; the flattering expressions of Lady Euphrasia were repaid by the most extravagant compliments, the warmest professions, the strongest assurances of never dying love; this soon led to what she desired, and in a short space an elopement was agreed to, and every thing relative to it settled. Freelove’s own servants and equipage were at the castle, and consequently but little difficulty attended the arrangement of their plan. In Lady Euphrasia’s eyes, Freelove had no other value, than that he now merely derived from being an instrument in gratifying the haughty and revengeful passions of her nature. She regarded him indeed with sovereign contempt; his fortune, however, she knew would give her consequence in the world, and she was convinced she should find him quite that easy convenient husband, which a woman of fashion finds so necessary: in short, she looked forward to being the uncontrolled mistress of her own actions, and without a doubt but that she should meet many objects as deserving her admiration, and infinitely more grateful for it than ever Lord Mortimer had been.
Flushed with such pleasing prospects, she quitted the castle—that castle she was destined never more to see; at the moment, the very moment she smiled with joy and expectation, the shaft, the unerring shaft was raised against her breast.594
The marriage ceremony over, they hastened to the vicinity of the castle, in order to send an apologising letter as usual on such occasions. The night was dark and dreary, the road rugged and dangerous, the postillions ventured to say, it would be better to halt for the night, but this was opposed by Lady Euphrasia. They were within a few miles of the destined termination of their journey, and pursuant to her commands they proceeded. In a few minutes after this the horses, startled by a sudden light which gleamed across the path, began plunging in the most alarming manner. A frightful precipice lay on one side, and the horses, in spite of all the efforts of the postillions, continued to approach it. Freelove, in this dreadful moment, lost all consideration but for himself—he burst open the chariot door, and leaped into the road. His companion was unable to follow his example; she had fainted at the first intimation of danger. The postillions with difficulty dismounted; the other servants came to their assistance, and endeavoured to restrain the horses: every effort was useless, they broke from their hold, and plunged down the precipice. The servants had heard the chariot door open, they therefore concluded, for it was too dark to see, that both their master and Lady Euphrasia were safe. But who can describe their horror, when a loud shriek from him declared her situation. Some of them immediately hastened, as fast as their trembling limbs could carry them, to the house adjoining the road, from whence the fatal light had gleamed which caused the sad catastrophe; they revealed it in a few words, and implored immediate assistance. The master of the house was a man of the greatest humanity; he was inexpressibly shocked at what he had heard, and joined himself in giving the assistance that was desired.
With lanthorns they proceeded down a winding path, cut in the precipice, and soon discovered the objects of their search. The horses were already dead, the chariot was shattered to pieces; they took up some of the fragments and discovered beneath them the lifeless body of the unfortunate Lady Euphrasia.
The stranger burst into tears at the sight of so much horror, and in a voice scarcely audible, gave orders for her being conveyed to his house, but when a better light gave a more perfect view of the mangled remains, all acknowledged that, since so fatal an accident had befallen her, Heaven was merciful in taking a life, whose continuance would have made her endure the most excruciating tortures.
Freelove was now inquired for; he had fainted on the road, but in 595 a few minutes after he was brought in, recovered his senses, and the first use he made of them was to inquire whether he was dead or alive; upon receiving the comfortable assurance of the latter, he congratulated himself in a manner so warm, upon his escape, as plainly proved self was his whole and sole consideration. No great preparation, on account of his feelings, was requisite to inform him of the fate of Lady Euphrasia; he shook his head on hearing it; said it was what he already guessed, from the devilish plunge of the horses; declared it was a most unfortunate affair, and expressed a kind of terror at what the marquis might say to it, as if he could have been accused of being accessory to it.
Mr. Murray, the gentleman whose house had received him, offered to undertake the distressing task of breaking the affair to Lady Euphrasia’s family, an offer Freelove gladly accepted, declaring he felt himself too much disordered in mind and body to be able to give any directions relative to what was necessary to be done.
How Mr. Murray executed his task is already known; but it was long ere the emotions of the marquis would suffer him to say, he wished the remains of Lady Euphrasia to be brought to the castle, that all the honours due to her birth should be paid them. This was accordingly done, and the castle, so lately ornamented for her nuptials, was hung with black, and all the pageantries of death.
The marquis and marchioness confined themselves, in the deepest anguish, to their apartments: their domestics, filled with terror and amazement, glided about like pale spectres, and all was a scene of solemnity and sadness.
Every moment Lord Mortimer could spare from his father he devoted to the marquis. Lady Euphrasia had ever been an object of indifference, nay, of dislike to him; but the manner of her death, notwithstanding, shocked him to the soul; his dislike was forgotten; he thought of her only with pity and compassion, and the tears he mingled with the marquis’s were the tears of unfeigned sympathy and regret.
Lady Martha and Lady Araminta were equally attentive to the marchioness; the time not spent with Lord Cherbury was devoted to her. They used not unavailing arguments to conquer a grief which nature as her rightful tribute demands; but they soothed that grief by shewing they sincerely mourned its source.
Lord Cherbury had but short intervals of reason; those intervals 596 were employed by Lord Mortimer in trying to compose his mind, and by him in blessing his son for those endeavours, and congratulating himself on the prospect of approaching dissolution.
His words unutterably affected Lord Mortimer, he had reason to believe they were dictated by a prophetic spirit; and the dismal peal which rung from morning till night for Lady Euphrasia, sounded in his ears as the knell of his expiring father.
Things were in this situation in the castle, when Oscar and his friend Sir Charles Bingley, arrived at it, and without sending in their names, requested immediate permission to the marquis’s presence, upon business of importance.
Their request was complied with, from an idea that they came from Freelove, to whom the marquis and marchioness, from respect and affection to the memory of their daughter, had determined to pay every attention.
The marquis knew and was personally known to Sir Charles; he was infinitely surprised by his appearance; but how much was that surprise increased, when Sir Charles, taking Oscar by the hand, presented him to the marquis as the son of Lady Fitzalan, the rightful heir of the Earl of Dunreath.
The marquis was confounded—he trembled at these words: and his confusion, had such a testimony been wanting, would have been sufficient to prove his guilt.
He at last, though with a faltering voice, desired to know by what means Sir Charles could justify or support his assertion.
Sir Charles, for Oscar was too much agitated to speak, as briefly as possible related all the particulars which had led to the discovery of the earl’s will; and his friend, he added, with the generosity of a noble mind, wished as much as possible to spare the feelings and save the honour of those with whom he was connected; which nothing but a hesitation in complying with his just, and well supported claim could destroy.
The marquis’s agitation increased; already was he stripped of happiness, and he now saw himself on the point of being stripped of honour. An hour before he had imagined his wretchedness could not be augmented; he was now convinced human misery cannot be complete without the loss of reputation. In the idea of being esteemed, of being thought undeserving our misfortunes, there is a sweet, a secret 597 balm, which meliorates the greatest sorrow. Of riches, in his own right, the marquis ever possessed more than sufficient for all his expenses; those expenses would now, comparatively speaking, be reduced within very narrow bounds; for the vain pride which had led him to delight in pomp and ostentation, died with Lady Euphrasia. Since therefore of his fortune such a superabundance would remain, it was unnecessary as well as unjust, to detain what he had no pretensions to: but he feared tamely acquiescing to this unexpected claim, would be to acknowledge himself a villain: ’tis true, indeed, that his newly felt remorse had inspired him with a wish of making reparation for his past injustice; but false shame starting up, hitherto opposed it, and even now, when an opportunity offered of accomplishing his wish, still continued to oppose it, lest the scorn and contempt he dreaded should at length be his portion for his long injustice.
Irresolute how to act, he sat for some time silent and embarrassed, till at last recollecting his manner was probably betraying what he wished to conceal, namely, his knowledge of the will, he said, with some sternness, “that till he inspected into the affairs, so recently laid before him, he could not, nor was it to be expected he should say how he would act: an inspection which, under the melancholy circumstances he then laboured, he could not possibly make for some time. Had Mr. Fitzalan,” he added, “possessed in reality that generosity Sir Charles’ partiality ascribed to him, he would not at a period so distressing have appeared to make such a claim. To delicacy and sensibility the privileges of grief were ever held sacred; those privileges they had both violated; they had intruded on his sorrows; they had even insulted him, by appearing on such a business before him, ere the last rites were paid to his lamented child.”
Sir Charles and Oscar were inexpressibly shocked; both were totally ignorant of the recent event.
Oscar, as he recovered from the surprise the marquis’s words had given him, declared in the impassioned language of a noble mind, hurt by being thought destitute of sensibility, “that the marquis had arraigned him unjustly; had he known of his sorrows,” he said, “nothing should have tempted him to intrude upon them; he mourned, he respected them: he besought him to believe him sincere 598 in what he uttered.” A tear, an involuntary tear, as he spoke, started into his eye, and trickling down his cheek, denoted his sincerity.
The marquis’s heart smote him as he beheld this tear; it reproached him more than the keenest words could have done, and operated more in Oscar’s favour than any arguments however eloquent.
Had this young man, thought he, been really illiberal, when I reproached him for want of sensibility, how well might he have retaliated upon me my more flagrant want of justice and humanity; but no, he sees I am a son of sorrow, and he will not break the reed which Heaven has already smitten.
Tears gushed from his eyes: he involuntarily extended his hand to Oscar; “I see,” said he, “I see indeed, I have unjustly arraigned you, but I will endeavour to atone for my error; at present rest satisfied with an assurance, that whatever is equitable shall be done, and that, let events turn out as they may, I shall ever feel myself your friend.” Oscar again expressed his regret for having waited on him at such a period, and requested he would dismiss for the present the subject they had been talking of from his mind; the marquis still more pleased with his manner, desired his direction, and assured him he should hear from him sooner than he expected.
As soon as they retired his agitation decreased, and of course he was better qualified to consider how he should act; that restitution his conscience prompted, but his false ideas of shame had prevented, he now found he should be compelled to make: how to make it therefore so as to avoid total disgrace, was what he considered. At last he adopted a scheme, which the sensibility of Oscar, he flattered himself, would enable him to accomplish; this was to declare, that by the Earl of Dunreath’s will, Mr. Fitzalan was heir to his estates, in case of the death of Lady Euphrasia: that in consequence therefore of this event he had come to take possession of them; that Lady Dunreath (whose residence at Dunreath Abbey he could not now hope to conceal) was but lately returned from a convent in France, where for many years she had resided. To Oscar he intended saying, from her ill conduct he and the marchioness had been tempted to sequester her from the world, in order to save her from open shame and derision; and that her declaration of a will they had always believed the mere fabrication of her brain, in order, as he supposed, 599 to give them uneasiness. This scheme once formed, his heart felt a little relieved of the heavy burthen of fear and inquietude. He repaired to the marchioness’s apartment, and broke the affair gently to her, adding at the same time, that sensible as they now must be of the vanities and pursuits of human life, it was time for them to endeavour to make their peace with heaven. Affliction had taught penitence to the marchioness, as well as to her husband; she approved of his scheme, and thought with him, that the sooner their intention of making restitution was known, the greater would be the probability of its being accomplished; Oscar, therefore, the next day received a letter from the marquis, specifying at once his intention and his wishes. With those wishes Oscar generously complied; his noble soul was superior to a triumph over a fallen enemy; and he had always wished rather to save from, than expose the marquis to disgrace; he hastened as soon as possible to the castle, agreeable to a request contained in the letter, to assure the marquis his conduct throughout the whole affair should be regulated according to his desire.
Perhaps at this moment public contempt could not have humbled the marquis more than such generosity, when he drew a comparison between himself and the person he had so long injured; the striking contrast wounded his very soul, and he groaned at the degradation he suffered in his own eyes. He told Oscar, as soon as the last sad duties were performed to his daughter, he would settle every thing with him, and then perhaps be able to introduce him to the marchioness. He desired he might take up his residence in the castle, and expressed a wish that he would attend the funeral of Lady Euphrasia as one of the chief mourners. Oscar declined the former; but promised with a faltering voice to comply with the latter request. He then retired, and the marquis, who had been roused from the indulgence of his grief by a wish of preserving his character, again relapsed into its wretchedness. He desired Oscar to make no secret of his now being heir to the Earl of Dunreath, and said he would mention it himself in his family; through this medium therefore did this surprising intelligence reach Lord Mortimer, and his heart dilated with sudden joy at the idea of his Amanda and her brother at last enjoying prosperity and independence.
In a few hours after this, the sufferings of Lord Cherbury were 600 terminated; his last faltering accents pronounced blessings on his son. Oh! how sweet were these blessings—how different were the feelings of Lord Mortimer from the callous sons of dissipation, who seem to watch with impatience the last struggles of a parent, that they may have more extensive means of gratifying their inordinate desires. The feelings of Lord Mortimer were soothed by reflecting that he had done every thing in his power for restoring the tranquillity of his father, and his regret was lessened by the conviction that Lord Cherbury, after the discovery of his conduct, could never more in this life have experienced happiness; he therefore, with tender piety, resigned him to his God, humbly trusting that his penitence had atoned for his frailties, and insured him felicity.
He now bid adieu to the castle and its wretched owners, and accompanied Lady Martha and his sister to Thornbury, at which the burying place of the family lay. Here he continued till the remains of his father arrived, and were interred; he then proceeded to London, to put into execution the plan he had projected for his father. He immediately advertised the Tudor estate: a step of this kind could not be concealed from Lady Martha; but the mortgages on the other estates he resolved carefully to guard from her knowledge, lest suspicions prejudicial to the memory of his father would arise in her mind; but during this period the idea of Amanda was not absent from his soul; neither grief nor business could banish it a moment, and again a thousand fond and flattering hopes concerning her had revived, when a sudden blow dispersed them all, and plunged him, if possible, in greater wretchedness than he had ever before experienced. He heard it confidently reported, that the Earl of Dunreath’s sister (for Oscar had by this time claimed, and been allowed to take the title of his grandfather) was to be married to Sir Charles Bingley; the friendship which he knew subsisted between the earl and Sir Charles rendered this too probable; but if a doubt concerning it still lingered in his mind, it was destroyed, when Sir Charles waited on him to treat about the purchase of Tudor Hall; it instantly occurred that this purchase was made by the desire of Amanda. Unable to command his feelings, he referred Sir Charles to his agent, and abruptly retired. He called her cruel and ungrateful; after all his sufferings on her account, did he deserve so soon to be banished from her remembrance, so soon supplanted in her affections by another, by 601 one too, who never had, who never would have an opportunity of giving such proof as he had done, of constancy and love? She is lost then, he sighed! she is lost forever! Oh! what avails the vindication of her fame? Is it not an augmentation of my misery! Oh! my father, of what a treasure did you despoil me? But let me not disturb the sacred ashes of the dead—rest—rest—in peace—thou venerable author of my being, and may the involuntary expression of heart-rending anguish be forgiven! Amanda, then, he continued, after a pause, will indeed be mistress of Tudor-Hall; but never will a sigh for him who once was its owner heave her bosom: she will wander beneath those shades, where so often she has heard my vows of unalterable love—vows, which alas! my heart has too fully observed, and listen to similar ones from Sir Charles: well, this is the last stroke fate can level at my peace.
Lord Mortimer (or as in future we must style him Lord Cherbury) had indeed imagined that the affections of Amanda, like his own, were unalterable; he had therefore indulged the rapturous idea, that, by again seeking an union with her, he should promote the happiness of both. It is true, he knew she would possess a fortune infinitely superior to what he had now a right to expect; but after the proofs he had given of disinterested attachment, not only she, but the world, he was convinced, would acquit him of any selfish motives in the renewal of his addresses. His hopes destroyed, his prospects blasted, by what he heard, he resolved, as soon as his affairs were settled, to go abroad. The death of his father had rendered his entering the army unnecessary, and his spirits were too much broken, his health too much impaired, for him voluntarily now to embrace that destiny.
On the purchase of Tudor-Hall being completed by Sir Charles, it was necessary for Lord Cherbury to see his steward; he preferred going to sending for him, prompted indeed by a melancholy wish of paying a last visit to Tudor-Hall, endeared to his heart by a thousand fond remembrances. On his arrival, he took up his abode at the steward’s for a day or two, after a strict injunction to him of concealing his being there; it was after a ramble through every spot about the demesne, which he had ever trodden with Amanda, that he repaired to the library and discovered her: he was ignorant of 602 her being in the country. Oh! then, how great was her surprise—how exquisite his emotions at her unexpected sight!
I shall not attempt to go over the scene I have already tried to describe: suffice it to say, that the desire she betrayed of hastening from him he imputed to the alteration of her sentiments with respect to him and Sir Charles, when undeceived in this respect, his rapture was as great as ever it had before been at the idea of her love, and like Amanda, he declared his sufferings were now amply rewarded.
acknowledged he could not give so fatal a proof of fortitude.
or precipitate him to an early grave.
text has grave,
in order to fulfill the incumbent duties he had imposed upon himself.
anomalous spelling unchanged
from the éclat with which
text has eclat
its most valuable object unworthy of his regard.”
close quote missing
1800 edition has “regards”
all that had passed between him and Amanda.
text has Amanda,
I will go, then, into new scenes of life
text has “I will
Thus a similar misfortune happening to a person
text has similiar
The ensuing morning Oscar, Amanda, and Sir Charles, began their journey.
“But, my love,” cried Lord Cherbury, as he wiped away the tears which pity and horror at the fate of Lady Euphrasia had caused Amanda to shed