The Children of the Abbey
Heard, felt, and seen, possesses every thought,
Fills every sense, and pants in every vein.
Books are but formal dulness, tedious friends,
And sad amid the social band he sits,
Lonely and unattentive. From his tongue
Th’ unfinish’d period falls, while borne away
On swelling thought, his wafted spirit flies
To the vain bosom of the distant fair.
Howell was no stranger to the manner in which hours rolled away at the cottage; he hovered round it, and seized every interval of Lord Mortimer’s absence, to present himself before Amanda: his emotions betrayed his feelings, and Amanda affected reserve towards him, in hopes of suppressing his passion; a passion, she now began to think, when hopeless, must be dreadful.60
Howell was a prey to melancholy; but not for himself alone did he mourn; fears for the safety and happiness of Amanda added to his dejection; he dreaded that Lord Mortimer, perhaps, like too many of the fashionable men, might make no scruple of availing himself of any advantage which could be derived from a predilection in his favour.
He knew him, ’tis true, to be amiable: but in opposition to that, he knew him to be volatile, and sometimes wild, and he trembled for the unsuspecting credulity of Amanda. “Though lost to me,” exclaimed the unhappy young man, “oh never, sweetest Amanda, mayest thou be lost to thyself.”
He had received many proofs of esteem and friendship from Lord Mortimer; he therefore studied how he might admonish without offending, and save Amanda without injuring himself. It at last occurred that the pulpit would be the surest way of effecting his wishes, where the subject addressed to all, might particularly strike the one for whom it was intended, without appearing as if designed for that purpose; and timely convince him, if indeed he meditated any injurious design against Amanda, of its flagrance.
On the following Sunday, as he expected, Lord Mortimer and Amanda attended service; his lordship’s pew was opposite the one she sat in, and we fear his eyes too often wandered in that direction.
The youthful monitor at last ascended the pulpit: his text was from Jeremiah, and to the following effect:
“She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.”
After a slight introduction, in which he regretted that the declension of moral principles demanded such an exhortation as he was about giving, he commenced his subject; he described a young female, adorned with beauty and innocence, walking forward in the path of integrity, which a virtuous education had early marked for her to take, and rejoicing, as she went, with all around her; when, in the midst of her happiness, unexpected calamity suddenly surprised, and precipitated her from prosperity into the deepest distress: he described the benefits she derived, in this trying period, from early implanted virtue and religion; taught by them (he proceeded) the lovely mourner turns not to the world for consolation—no, she looks 61 up to her Creator for comfort, whose supporting aid is so particularly promised to afflicted worth. Cheered by them she is able to exert the little talents of genius and taste, and draw upon industry for her future support; her active virtue, she thinks the best proofs of submission she can give to the will of heaven: and in these laudable exertions she finds a conscious peace, which the mere possession of fortune never could bestow. While thus employed, a son of perfidy sees and marks her for his prey, because she is at once lovely and helpless; her unsuspecting credulity lays her open to his arts, and his blandishments by degrees allure her heart, the snare which he has spread at last involves her: with the inconstancy of libertinism he soon deserts her, and again she is plunged into distress. But mark the difference of her first and second fall; conscience no longer lends its opposing aid to stem her sorrow; despair, instead of hope, arises; without one friend to soothe the pains of death, one pitying soul to whisper peace to her departing spirit; insulted too, perhaps, by some unfeeling being, whom want of similar temptations alone, perhaps saved from similar imprudences; she sinks an early victim to wretchedness. Howell paused; the fullness of his heart mounted to his eyes, which involuntarily turned and rested upon Amanda; interested by his simple and pathetic eloquence, she had risen, and leaned over the pew, her head rested on her hand, and her eyes fastened on his face. Lord Mortimer had also risen, and alternately gazed on Howell and Amanda, particularly watched the latter, to see how the subject would affect her. He at last saw the tears trickling down her cheeks; the distresses of her own situation, and the stratagems of Belgrave, made her in some respects, perceive the resemblance between herself and the picture Howell had drawn. Lord Mortimer was unutterably affected by her tears, a faint sickness seized him, he sunk upon his seat, and covered his face with his handkerchief to hide his emotion; but by the time service was over, it was pretty well dissipated. Amanda returned home, and Lord Mortimer waited for Howell’s coming out of church. “What the devil, Howell,” said he, “did you mean by giving such an exhortation? Have you discovered any little affair going on between some of your rustic neighbours?” The parson coloured, but remained silent; Lord Mortimer rallied him a little more, and then departed; but his gaiety was only assumed.
On his first acquaintance with Amanda, in consequence of what 62 he heard from Mrs. Abergwilly, and observed himself, he had been tempted to think her involved in mystery; and what but impropriety, he thought, could occasion mystery. To see so young, so lovely, so elegant a creature, an inmate of a sequestered cottage, associating with people (in manners at least) so infinitely beneath her; to see her trembling and blushing if a word was dropped that seemed tending to inquire into her motives for retirement; all these circumstances, I say, considered, naturally excited a suspicion injurious to her in the mind of Mortimer; and he was tempted to think some deviation from prudence had, by depriving her of the favour of her friends, made her retire to obscurity; and that she would not dislike an opportunity of emerging from it, he could not help thinking. In consequence of these ideas, he could not think himself very culpable in encouraging the wishes her loveliness gave rise to: besides, he had some reason to suspect she desired to inspire him with these wishes; for Mrs. Abergwilly told him she had informed Mrs. Edwin of his arrival; an information he could not doubt her having immediately communicated to Amanda; therefore, her continuing to come to the Hall seemed as if she wished to throw herself in his way. Mrs. Edwin had indeed been told of his arrival, but concealed it from Amanda, that she should not be disappointed from going to the Hall, to which she knew, if once informed of it, she would not go.
’Tis true, Lord Mortimer saw Amanda wore, at least, the semblance of innocence; but this could not remove his suspicions, so often had he seen it assumed, to hide the artful stratagems of a depraved heart.
Ah! why will the lovely female, adorned with all that heaven and earth can bestow to render her amiable, overleap the modesty of nature, and by levity and boldness lose all pretensions to the esteem which would otherwise be her involuntary tribute.
Nor is it herself alone she injures; she hurts each child of purity; helps to point the sting of ridicule, and weave the web of art.
We shun the blazing sun, but court his tempered beams; the rose which glares upon the day, is never so much sought as the bud enwrapped in the foliage; and, to use the expression of a late much admired author, “the retiring graces have ever been reckoned the most beautiful.”
He had never heard the earl mention a person of the name of Dunford; and he knew not, or rather suspected, little credit was to 63 be given to her assertion of an intimacy between them, particularly as he saw her, whenever the subject was mentioned, shrinking from it in the greatest confusion.
Her reserve he imputed to pretence; and, flattering himself it would soon wear off, determined, for the present at least, to humour her affectation.
With such ideas, such sentiments, had Lord Mortimer’s first visit to Amanda commenced; but they experienced an immediate change, as the decreasing reserve of her manners gave him greater and more frequent opportunities of discovering her mental perfections; the strength of her understanding, the justness of her remarks, the liveliness of her fancy; above all, the purity which mingled in every sentiment, and the modesty which accompanied every word, filled him with delight and amazement; his doubts gradually lessened, and at last vanished, and with them every design, which they, alone, had ever given rise to. Esteem was now united to love, and real respect to admiration: in her society he only was happy, and thought not, or rather, would not suffer himself to think, on the consequence of such an attachment. It might be said he was entranced in pleasure, from which Howell completely roused him, and made him seriously ask his heart, what were its intentions relative to Amanda.—Of such views as he perceived Howell suspected him of harbouring, his conscience entirely acquitted him; yet so great were the obstacles he knew in the way of an union between him and Amanda, that he almost regretted (as every one does who acts against their better judgment) that he had not fled at the first intimation of his danger. So truly formidable indeed, did these obstacles appear, that he at times resolved to break with Amanda, if he could fix upon any plan for doing so, without injuring his honour, after the great attention he had paid her.
Ere he came to any final determination, however, he resolved to try and discover her real situation; if he even left her, it would be a satisfaction to his heart to know, whether his friendship could be serviceable; and if an opposite measure was his plan, it could never be put in execution, without the desired information. He accordingly wrote to his sister, Lady Araminta Dormer, who was then in the country with Lord Cherbury, to request she would inquire from his father, whether he knew a person of the name of Dunford; and, 64 if he did, what his situation and family were. Lord Mortimer begged her Ladyship not to mention the inquiries being dictated by him, and promised, at some future period, to explain the reason of them. He still continued his assiduities to Amanda, and at the expected time received an answer to his letter; but how was he shocked and alarmed, when informed, Lord Cherbury never knew a person of the name of Dunford! His doubts began to revive; but before he yielded entirely to them, he resolved to go to Amanda, and inquire from her, in the most explicit terms, how, and at what time, her father and the earl had become acquainted; determined, if she answered him without embarrassment, to mention to his sister whatever circumstances she related, lest a forgetfulness of them had alone made the earl deny his knowledge of Dunford. Just as he was passing the grove with this intent, he espied Edwin and his wife coming down a cross-road from the village where they had been with poultry and vegetables; it instantly occurred to him, that these people, in the simplicity of their hearts, might unfold the real situation of Amanda, and save him the painful necessity of making inquiries, which she, perhaps, would not answer, without his real motives for making them assigned, which was what he could not think of doing.
Instead, therefore, of proceeding, he stopped till they came up to him, and then, with the most engaging affability, addressed them, inquiring whether they had been successful in the disposal of their goods; they answered bowing and curtseying; and he then insisted that, as they appeared tired, they should repair to the Hall, and rest themselves. This was too great an honour to be refused; and they followed their noble , who hastened forward, to order refreshment into a parlour for them. The nurse, who, in her own way, was a cunning woman, instantly suspected, from the great and uncommon attention of Lord Mortimer, that he wanted to inquire into the situation of Amanda. As soon as she saw him at some distance, “David,” cried she, “as sure as eggs are eggs (unpinning her white apron, and smoothing it nicely down as she spoke), this young lort wants to have our company, that he may find out something apout Miss Amanda. Ah! pless her pretty face, I thought how it would be; but we must be as cunning as foxes, and not tell too much or too little; because, if we told too much, it would offend her, and she would ask us how we got all our intelligence, and would not 65 think us over and above genteel, when she heard we had sifted Jemmy Hawthorn for it, when he came down from London with her. All we must do is just to drop some hints, as it were, of her situation, and then his lordship, to be sure, will make his advantage of them, and ask her every thing apout herself, and then she will tell him all of her own accord: so, David, mind what I say, I charge you.” “Ay, ay,” cried David, “leave me alone; I’ll warrant you’ll always find an old soldier cute enough for any poty.” When they reached the Hall they were shown into a parlour, where Lord Mortimer was expecting them; with difficulty he made them sit down at the table, where meat and wine were laid out for them: after they had partaken of them, Lord Mortimer began with asking Edwin some questions about his farm (for he was a tenant on the Tudor estate), and whether there was any thing wanting to render it more comfortable. “No,” Edwin replied, with a low bow, thanking his honourable lordship for his inquiry. Lord Mortimer spoke of his family. “Ay, Cot pless the poor things,” Edwin said, “they were to be sure a fine thriving set of children.” Still Lord Mortimer had not touched on the subject nearest his heart; he felt embarrassed and agitated: at last, with as much composure as he could assume, he asked how long they imagined Miss Dunford would stay with them. Now was the nurse’s time to speak; she had hitherto sat simpering and bowing. “That depended on circumstances,” she said. “Poor tear young laty, though their little cottage was so obscure, and so unlike any thing she had before been accustomed to, she made herself quite happy with it.” “Her father must miss her society very much,” exclaimed Lord Mortimer. “Tear heart, to be sure he does,” cried nurse. “Well, strange things happen every tay; but still I never thought what tid happen would have happened, to make the poor old gentleman and his daughter part.” “What happened?” exclaimed Lord Mortimer, starting, and suddenly stopping in the middle of the room; for hitherto he had been walking backwards and forwards. ’Twas not her business, the nurse replied, by no manner of means, to be speaking apout the affairs of her petters; but for all that, she could not help saying, because she thought it a pity his lordship, who was so good, and so affable, should remain in ignorance of every thing, that Miss Amanda was not what she appeared to be; no, if the truth was told, not the person she passed for at all; “but lort, 66 she would never forgive me,” cried the nurse, “if your lortship told her, it was from me your lortship heard this. Poor tear thing, she is very unwilling to have her situation known, though she is not the first poty who has met with a pad man; and shame and sorrow be upon him, who tistrest herself and her father.”
Lord Mortimer had heard enough; every doubt, every suspicion was realized; and he was equally unable and unwilling to inquire further. It was plain Amanda was unworthy of his esteem: and to inquire into the circumstances which occasioned that unworthiness, would only have tortured him. He rung the bell abruptly, and ordering Mrs. Abergwilly to attend the Edwins, withdrew immediately to another room. Now was there an opportunity for Lord Mortimer to break with Amanda, without the smallest imputation on his honour. Did it give him pleasure? No: it filled him with sorrow, disappointment, and anguish; the softness of her manners even more than the beauty of her person, had fascinated his soul, and made him determine, if he found her worthy (of which indeed he had then but little doubt,) to cease not, till every obstacle which could impede their union should be overcome. He was inspired with indignation at the idea of a snare he imagined she had laid for him, thinking his modesty all a pretext for drawing him into making honourable proposals. As she sunk in his esteem, her charms lessened in his fancy; and he thought it would be a proper punishment for her, and a noble triumph over himself, if he conquered, or at least, resisted his passion, and forsook her entirely. Full of this idea, and influenced by resentment for her supposed deceit, he resolved, without longer delay, to fulfil the purpose which brought him into Wales, namely, visiting his friend; but how frail is resolution and resentment, when opposed by tenderness! without suffering himself to believe there was the least abatement of either in his mind, he forbid the carriage, in a few minutes after he had ordered it, merely, he persuaded himself, for the purpose of yet more severely mortifying Amanda; as his continuing a little longer in the neighbourhood, without noticing her, might, perhaps, convince her, she was not quite so fascinating as she believed herself to be. From the time his residence at Tudor Hall was known, he had received constant invitations from the surrounding families, which, on Amanda’s account, he uniformly declined: this he resolved should no longer be 67 the case; some were yet unanswered, and these he meant to accept, as means indeed of keeping him steady in his resolution of not seeing her, and banishing her, in some degree, from his thoughts. But he could not have fixed on a worse method than this, for effecting either of his purposes: the society he now mixed among was so different from that he had lately been accustomed to, that he was continually employed in drawing comparisons between them; he grew restless; his unhappiness increased: and he at last felt, that, if he desired to experience any comfort, he must no longer absent himself from Amanda; and also that, if she refused to accede to the only proposals now in his power to make her, he would be miserable: so essential did he deem her society to his happiness; so much was he attached, from the softness and sweetness of her manners. At the same time he finally determined to see her again, he was in a large party at a Welsh baronet’s, where he had dined; and, on the rack of impatience to put his determination in practice, he retired early, and took the road to the cottage.
Poor Amanda, during this time, was a prey to disquiet; the first day of Lord Mortimer’s absence, she felt a little uneasiness, but strove to dissipate it by thinking business had detained him. The next morning she remained entirely at home, every moment expecting to behold him; but this expectation was totally destroyed, when from the outside room she heard one of the nurse’s sons tell of all the company he met going to Sir Lewis ap Shenkin’s, and amongst the rest Lord Mortimer, whose servants had told him the day before their lord dined at Mr. Jones’, where there were a deal of company, and a great ball in the evening. Amanda’s heart almost died within her at these words; pleasure, then, not business, had prevented Lord Mortimer from coming to her; these amusements, which he had so often declared were tasteless to him, from the superior delight he experienced in her society. Either he was insincere in such expressions, or had now grown indifferent. She condemned herself for ever having permitted his visits or received his assiduities; she reproached him for ever having paid those assiduities, knowing, as he must, the insincerity or inconstancy of his nature. In spite of wounded pride, tears of sorrow and disappointment burst from her; and her only consolation was that no one observed her. Her hours passed away heavily; she could not attend to anything, and in the 68 evening walked out, to indulge, in a lonely ramble, the dejection of her heart; she turned from Tudor Hall, and took (without knowing it indeed) the very road which led to the house where Lord Mortimer had dined. With slow and pensive steps she pursued her way, regardless of all around her, till an approaching footstep made her raise her eyes, and she beheld, with equal surprise and confusion, the very object who was then employing her thoughts. Obeying the impulse of pride, she hastily turned away, till recollecting that her precipitately avoiding him would at once betray her sentiments, she paused to listen to his passionate inquiries after her health: having answered them with involuntary coldness, she again moved on; but her progress was soon stopped by Lord Mortimer; snatching her hand, he insisted on knowing why she appeared so desirous to avoid him. Amanda made no reply to this, but desired he would let her go. “Never,” he exclaimed, “till you wear another face to me. Oh! did you know the pain I have suffered since last we met, you would from pity, I am sure, treat me with less coldness.” Amanda’s heart throbbed with sudden pleasure; but she soon silenced its emotion, by reflecting that a declaration of uneasiness, at the very time he was entering into gaiety, had something too inconsistent in it to merit credit. Hurt by supposing he wanted to impose on her, she made yet more violent efforts to disengage her hand; but Lord Mortimer held it too firmly for her to be successful; he saw she was offended, and it gave him flattering ideas of the estimation in which he stood with her, since to resent his neglect was the most convincing proof he could receive of the value she set upon his attention. Without hurting her feelings by a hint, that he believed the alteration in her manner occasioned by his absence, in indirect terms he apologized for it, saying, what indeed was partly true, that a letter lately received had so ruffled his mind, he was quite unfit for her society, and had therefore availed himself of those hours of chagrin and uneasiness to accept invitations, which at some time or other he must have done, to avoid giving offence, and, by acting as he had done, he reserved the precious moments of returning tranquillity for her he adored. Ah! how readily do we receive any apology, do we admit of any excuse that comes from a beloved object! Amanda felt as if a weight was suddenly removed from her heart: her eyes were no longer bent to the earth, her cheek no longer pale; and a smile, 69 the smile of innocence and love, enlivened all her features. She seemed suddenly to forget her hand was detained by Lord Mortimer, for no longer did she attempt to free it; she suffered him gently to draw it within his, and lead her to the favourite haunt in Tudor Grove.
Pleased, yet blushing and confused, she heard Lord Mortimer, with more energy than he had ever yet expressed himself with, declare the pain he suffered the days he saw her not. From his ardent—his passionate expressions, what could the innocent Amanda infer but that he intended, by uniting his destiny to hers to secure to himself a society he so highly valued? What could she infer, but that he meant immediately to speak in explicit terms? The idea was too pleasing to be received in tranquillity, and her whole soul felt agitated. While they pursued their way through Tudor Grove, the sky which had been lowering the whole day, became suddenly more darkened, and by its increasing gloom foretold an approaching storm. Lord Mortimer no longer opposed Amanda’s returning home; but scarcely had they turned for that purpose, ere the vivid lightning flashed across their path, and the thunder was awfully reverberated amongst the hills.
The Hall was much nearer than the cottage, and Lord Mortimer, throwing his arm around Amanda’s waist, hurried her to it; but ere they reached the library, whose door was the first they came to, the rain began pouring with violence. Lord Mortimer snatched off Amanda’s wet hat and cloak (the rest of her clothes were quite dry,) and immediately ordered tea and coffee, as she refused any other refreshment; he dismissed the attendants, that he might, without observation or restraint, enjoy her society. As she presided at the tea-table, his eyes, with the fondest rapture, were fastened on her face, which never had appeared more lovely: exercise had heightened the pale tint of her cheek, over which her glossy hair curled in beautiful disorder; the unusual glow gave a greater radiance to her eyes, whose soft confusion denoted the pleasure she experienced from the attentions of Lord Mortimer.
He restrained not, he could not restrain the feelings of his soul. “Oh what happiness!” he exclaimed. “No wonder I found all society tasteless after having experienced yours. Where could I find such softness, yet such sensibility; such sweetness, yet such animation; 70 such beauty, yet such apparent unconsciousness of it. Oh, my Amanda, smoothly must that life glide on whose destiny you shall share.” Amanda endeavoured to check these transports, yet secretly they filled her with delight, for she regarded them as the sincere effusions of honorable love. Present happiness, however, could not render her forgetful of propriety; by the time tea was over, the evening began to clear, and she protested she must depart; Lord Mortimer protested against this for some time longer, and at last brought her to the window, to convince her there was still a slight rain falling. He promised to see her home as soon as it was over, and entreated, in the mean time, she would gratify him with a song. Amanda did not refuse; but the raptures he expressed while singing, she thought too violent, and rose from the piano when she had concluded, in spite of his entreaties to the contrary. She insisted on getting her hat and cloak, which had been sent to Mrs. Abergwilly to dry; Lord Mortimer at last reluctantly went out to obey her.
Amanda walked to the window; the prospect from it was lovely; the evening was now perfectly serene, a few light clouds alone floated in the sky, their lucid skirts tinged with purple rays from the declining sun; the trees wore a brighter green, and the dew-drop that had heightened their verdure, yet glittered on their sprays; across a distant valley was extended a beautiful rainbow, the sacred record of Heaven’s covenant with man. All nature appeared revived and animated; the birds now warbled their closing lays, and the bleating of the cattle was heard from the neighbouring hills. “Oh! how sweet, how lovely is the dewy landscape!” exclaimed Amanda, with that delight which scenes of calm and vernal nature never fail of raising in minds of piety and tenderness.
“’Tis lovely indeed,” repeated Lord Mortimer, who returned at the moment, assuring her the things would be sent in directly. “I admire the prospect,” continued he, “because you gaze upon it with me; were you absent, like every other charm, it would lose its beauty, and become tasteless to me. Tell me,” cried he, gently encircling her waist, “why this hurry, why this wish to leave me? Do you expect elsewhere to meet with a being, who will value your society more highly than I do? Do you expect to meet with a heart more fondly, more firmly attached to you than mine? Oh, my Amanda, if you do, how mistaken are such expectations!”71
Amanda blushed, and averted her head, unable to
“Ah, why,” continued he, pursuing her averted eyes with his, we create uneasiness to ourselves, by again separating?”
Amanda looked up at these words, with involuntary surprise in her countenance. Lord Mortimer understood it: he saw she had hitherto deluded herself with thinking his intentions towards her very different from what they really were; to suffer her longer to deceive herself, would, he thought, be cruelty. Straining her to his beating heart, he imprinted a kiss on her tremulous lips, and softly told her, that the life which without her would lose half its charms, should be devoted to her service; and that his fortune, like his heart, should be in her possession. Trembling, while she struggled to free herself from his arms, Amanda demanded what he meant: her manner somewhat surprised and confused him: but, recollecting that this was the moment for explanation, he, though with half averted eyes, declared his hopes, his wishes, and intentions. Surprise, horror, and indignation, for a few minutes overpowered Amanda; but, suddenly recovering her scattered senses, with a strength greater than she had ever before felt, she burst from him, and attempted to rush from the room. Lord Mortimer caught hold of her; “Whither are you going, Amanda?” exclaimed he, affrighted by her manner.
“From the basest of men,” cried she, struggling to disengage herself.
He shut the door, and forced her back to a chair; he was shocked, amazed, and confounded by her looks: no art could have assumed such a semblance of sorrow as she now wore; no feelings, but those of the most delicate nature, have expressed such emotion as she now betrayed: the enlivening bloom of her cheeks was fled, and succeeded by a deadly paleness: and her soft eyes, robbed of their lustre, were bent to the ground with the deepest expression of wo. Lord Mortimer began to think he had mistaken, if not her character, her disposition; and the idea of having insulted either purity or penitence was like a dagger to his heart. “Oh, my love!” he exclaimed, laying his hand on her trembling one, “what do you mean by departing so abruptly?”
“My meaning, my lord,” cried she, rising, and shaking his hand from hers, “is now as obvious as your own: I seek forever to quit a man who, under the appearance of delicate attention, meditated so 72 base a scheme against me. My credulity may have yielded you amusement, but it has afforded you no triumph: the tenderness which I know you think, which I shall not deny you have inspired me with, as it was excited by imaginary virtues, so it vanishes with the illusion which gave it birth: what then was innocent, would now be guilty. Oh heavens!” continued Amanda, clasping her hands together, in a sudden agony of tears, “is it me, the helpless child of sorrow, Lord Mortimer sought as a victim to illicit love! Is it the son of Lord Cherbury destined such a blow against the unfortunate Fitzalan!”
Lord Mortimer started. “Fitzalan!” repeated he. “Oh! Amanda, why did you conceal your real name? and what am I to infer from your having done so?”
“What you please, my lord,” cried she, “the opinion of a person I despise can be of little consequence to me. Yet,” continued she, as if suddenly recollecting herself, “that you may have no plea for extenuating your conduct, know that my name was concealed by the desire of my father, who, involved in unexpected distress, wished me to adopt another, till his affairs were settled.”
“This concealment has undone me,” exclaimed Lord Mortimer; “it has led me into an error I shall never cease repenting. Oh! Amanda, deign to listen to the circumstances which occasioned this error, and you will then, I am sure, think me at least less culpable than I now appear to be; you will then perhaps allow me to make some atonement.”
“No, my lord,” cried Amanda, “willingly I will not allow myself to be deceived; for, without deceit, I am convinced you could mention no circumstance which could possibly palliate your conduct, or what you so gently term an error.
“Had I, my lord, by art or coquetry, sought to attract your notice, your crime would have been palliated; but when you pursued, I retired; and the knowledge of your being Lord Cherbury’s son first induced me to receive your visits. I suffered their continuance, because I thought you amiable; sad mistake! Oh! cruel, ungenerous Mortimer; how have you abused my unsuspecting confidence!”
As she ended these words, she moved towards the door. Awed by her manner, confounded by her reproaches, tortured by remorse, and half offended at her refusing to hear his vindication, he no 73 longer attempted to prevent her quitting the apartment: he followed her, however, from it. “What do you mean, my lord,” asked she, “by coming after me?”
“I mean to see you safely home,” replied he, in a tone of proud sullenness.
“And is it Lord Mortimer,” said she, looking steadfastly in his face, “pretends to see me safe?”
He stamped, struck his hand violently against his forehead, and exclaimed, “I see—I see—I am despicable in your eyes; but, Amanda, I cannot endure your reproaches. Pause for a few minutes, and you will find I am not so deserving of them as you imagine.”
She made no reply, but quickened her pace: within a few yards of the cottage, Lord Mortimer caught her with a distracted air. “Amanda,” said he, “I cannot bear to part with you in this manner; you think me the veriest villain on earth; you will drive me from your heart; I shall become abhorrent to you.”
“Most assuredly, my lord,” replied she, in a solemn voice.
“Cannot compunction then extenuate my error?”
“’Tis not compunction, ’tis regret you feel, for finding your designs unsuccessful.”
“No: by all that is sacred, ’tis remorse, for ever having meditated such an injury. Yet, I again repeat, if you listen to me, you will find I am not so culpable as you believe. Oh! let me beseech you to do so: let me hope that my life may be devoted to you alone, and that I may thus have the opportunity of apologizing for my conduct. Oh! dearest Amanda,” kneeling before her, “drive me not from you in the hour of penitence.”
“You plead in vain, my lord,” cried she, breaking from him.
He started in an agony from ground, and again seized her. “Is it thus,” he exclaimed, “with such unfeeling coldness I am abandoned by Amanda? I will leave you, if you only say I am not detested by you; if you only say the remembrance of the sweet hours we have spent together will not become hateful to you.”
He was pale, and trembled; a tear wet his cheek.—Amanda’s began to flow. She averted her head, to hide her emotion; but he had perceived it.
“You weep, my Amanda,” said he, “and you feel the influence of pity!”74
“No, no,” cried she, in a tone scarcely articulate.
“I will acknowledge,” continued she, “I believe you possessed of sensibility; and an anticipation of the painful feelings it will excite, on the reflection of your conduct to me, now stops my further reproaches. Ah! my lord, timely profit by mental correction, nor ever again encourage a passion, which virtue cannot sanction, or reason justify.”
So spake the cherub; and the grave rebuke
Severe in youthful beauty, added grace
Amanda darted from Lord Mortimer; and, entering the cottage, hastily closed the door. Her looks terrified the nurse, who was the only one of the family up, and who, by means of one of her sons, had discovered that Amanda had taken refuge from the thunder-storm in Tudor Hall.
Amanda had neither hat nor cloak on; her face was pale as death; her hair, blown by the wind and wet from the rain, hung dishevelled about her; and to the inquiries of the nurse, could only answer by sobs and tears. “Lackatay,” said the nurse, “what ails my sweet child?”
Relieved by tears, Amanda told her nurse she was not very well, and that she had been reflecting on the great impropriety there was in receiving Lord Mortimer’s visits, whom she begged her nurse (if he came again) not to admit.
The nurse shook her head, and said she supposed there had been some quarrel between them: but if Lord Mortimer had done any thing to vex her tear chilt, she should make him pay for it. Amanda charged her never to address him on such a subject, and having made her promise not to admit him, she retired to her chamber, faint, weary, and distressed. The indignity offered her by Colonel Belgrave had insulted her purity, and offended her pride, but it had not wounded the softer feelings of her soul—it was Mortimer alone had power to work them up to agony.
The charm which had soothed her sorrows was fled; and, while she glowed with keen resentment, she wept from disappointed tenderness. “Alas! my father,” she cried, “is this the secure retreat you fondly thought you had discovered for me? Sad mistake! less had I to dread from the audacious front of vice than the insidious 75 form of virtue: delicacy shrinking from one, immediately announced the danger; but innocence inspired confidence in the other; and credulity, instead of suspicion, occupied the mind. Am I doomed to be the victim of deception? and, except thy honest, tender heart, my father, find every other fraught with deceit and treachery to me? Alas! if in the early season of youth, perpetual perfidy makes us candour and hope, what charms can the world retain? The soul, sickening, recoils within itself, and no longer startles at dissolution. Belgrave aimed at my peace—But Mortimer alone had power to pierce the ‘vital, vulnerable heart.’ Oh! Mortimer, from you alone the blow is severe—you, who in divine language I may say, wert my guide, my companion, and my familiar friend.”
Lord Mortimer was now a prey to all the pangs which an ingenuous mind, oppressed with a consciousness of error, must ever feel; the most implacable vengeance could not devise a greater punishment for him than his own thoughts inflicted; the empire of inordinate passion was overthrown, and honour and reason regained their full and natural ascendency over him. When he reflected on the uniform appearance of innocence Amanda had always worn, he wondered at his weakness in ever having doubted its reality; at his audacity, in ever having insulted it; when he reflected on her melancholy, he shuddered, as if having aggravated it.
“Your sorrows, as well as purity, my Amanda,” he cried, “should have rendered you a sacred object to me.”
A ray of consolation darted into his mind, at the idea of prevailing on her to listen to the circumstances which had led him into a conduct so unworthy of her and himself, such an explanation, he trusted, would regain her love and confidence, and make her accept what he meant immediately to offer—his hand: for pride and ambition could raise no obstacle to oppose this design of reparation; his happiness depended on its being accepted. Amanda was dearer to him than life, and hope could sketch no prospect, in which she was not the foremost object. Impetuous in his passions, the lapse of the hours was insupportably tedious; and the idea of waiting till the morning to declare his penitence, his intention, and again implore her forgiveness, filled him with agony: he went up to the cottage, and laid his hand upon the latch; he hesitated; even from the rustics he wished to conceal his shame and confusion. All within and without the 76 cottage was still; the moon-beams seemed to sleep upon the thatch, and the trees were unagitated by a breeze.
“Happy rustics,” exclaimed Lord Mortimer.—“Children of content, and undeviating integrity, sleep presses sweetly on your eyelids. My Amanda too rests, for she is innocent.” He descended to the valley, and saw a light from her window; he advanced within a few yards of it, and saw her plainly walk about with an agitated air—her handkerchief raised to her eyes, as if she wept. His feelings rose almost to frenzy at this sight, and he execrated himself for being the occasion of her tears. The village clock struck one. Good heavens, how many hours must intervene ere he could kneel before the lovely mourner, implore her soft voice to accord his pardon, and (as he flattered himself would be the case) in the fulness of reconciliation, press her to his throbbing heart, as the sweet partner of his future days! The light was at last extinguished: but he could not rest, and continued to wander about like a perturbed spirit, till the day began to dawn, and he saw some early peasants coming to their labors.
they followed their noble conductor,
text has conducter,
Amanda blushed, and averted her head, unable to speak.
“Ah, why,” continued he, pursuing her averted eyes with his, “should we create
text has ‘should
He started in an agony from the ground,
t in “the” invisible
perpetual perfidy makes us relinquish candour and hope
text has relinqish
While Amanda was at breakfast the next morning, Betsey brought a letter to her
The moment he thought he could see Amanda, Mortimer hastened to the cottage