Mary Jane Mackenzie.

Geraldine; or, Modes of faith and practice. : A tale, in three volumes. (Volume 3) online

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to such a mind, the magnificent spectacle
of the ocean is something more than a
show to be gazed at for a moment and for-
gotten ; when sleeping in calm beauty
beneath the morning beam, it whispers a
tale of mercy j when rising in majesty and



grandeur with the freshening gale, it telis
of mighty and resistless power, and leads
the devout spirit to communion with Him,
whose * way is in the deep, whose path is
in the great waters, and whose footsteps
are not known.'

Many such emotions had Geraldine felt
while contemplating, with Mr. Maitland,
that * glorious mirror,' that ' deep and
dark blue ocean, boundless, endless, and
sublime ; the image of eternity,' and
though she rejoiced with Mrs. Mowbray
in their safe arrival, she dwelt upon the re-
collection of their voyage with feelings of
pleasure and gratitude.

Being anxious to reach Florence as soon
as possible, the party left Leghorn the fol-
lowing morning, and proceeded with _^the
utmost expedition to Florence.

Geraldine's heart beat with strong and
varying emotions, as they approached this
beautiful city. It was not its enchanting
vale, glowing beneath the beams of a set-


ting sun ; its orchards and groves smiling in
rural beauty ; its far-famed river, the theme
of many a bewitching strain, that occupied
her thoughts; her eye wandered over these
objects, scarcely sensible of their charms.
She could think only of her father ; her
imagination was busy in picturing their
approaching interview j and feelings, at
once, timid, tender, and anxious, filled her
heart to overflowing.

On arriving at the inn where they were
to pass the night, Mrs. Mowbray made
some enquiries, by which she ascertained
that Mr, Beresford resided in a villa at a
short distance from the town. The master
of the house said, that he had the honour
of receiving him on his arrival at Florence,
and that he had remained at his house
until he hired the villa which he now oc-
cupied. Mrs. Mowbray desired to know
if a messenger could be sent thither that
night ; and on receiving an answer in the
affirmative, wrote the following billet to
Mr. Beresford.

E 6



" My dear brother ;

" You will fancy yourself in a dream
when you see from whence this note is
dated ; but nothing can be more certain
than that I am at this moment in Florence,
and that Geraldine is by my side,

" The motive of our journey 1 will not
iiow explain: I will only add, that if you
feel half the anxiety for an interview that
we do, you will be with us at the dawn of
day. Adieu, till we meet.

" Georgiana Mowbray*'*

Geraldine passed a restless night, and
rose at day-break in the fond hope of soon
embracing her father. She waited with
tolerable patience, though with a secret
feeling of mortification, till summoned to
breakfast ; but when the silent meal was
finished, and no note or message arrived,
her restlessness became uncontrollable.
She walked up and down the room listen-
ing with breathless eagerness to every little
noise, fancying that every distant, sound


announced her father's approach, — that
every footstep was his ; but vainly she look-
ed, — vainly she listened.

Four tedious hours passed away, and the
eagerness of expectation was blended with
the most acute and painful disappointment.
Her agitation was, at length, in some de-
gree calmed by Mrs. Mowbray's suggest-
ing that probably Mr. Beresford was from
home. She eagerly caught the consoling
idea, and by constant recurrence to it, the
evening passed off with tolerable tranquil-

Another note was dispatched by Mrs.
Mowbray the following morning, with in-
structions to the messenger to wait for an

Geraldine made a strong effort to com-
mand her feelings, to be reasonable and
patient till his return ; but the time of his
absence appeared insupportably tedious.
She looked at her watch every five minutes,
fancied that it had stopped, listened to it.


^'— 'looked again, — and beeame every mo-
ment more tremulous and agitated.

In about three hours tlie servant re-
turned, and deUvered a note to Mrs. Mow-
bray. It was in a female hand, and con-
tained the following words : —
*' Madam,

** The urgent desire of your messenger
for an answer to the letter of which he has
this morning been the bearer, has compelled
me to open it, though addressed to Mr.
Beresford ; and I am deeply grieved to
communicate the afflicting intelligence, that
he is at this moment very daugeroasly ill,
and unable to rise from his bed : conse-
quently the interview you request cannot
possibly take place. I have the honour to
be, Madam,

<' Your most obedient Servant,

** Laura Beresford."

. Geraldine, pale and trembling with emo-
tion, fixed her eyes on Mrs. Mowbray
whilst she read this note j and observing



the rapid changes of her countenance, in-
treated in a voice ahnost inarticulate, with
terror and agitation, to hear its contents.

" They are of a distressing nature, indeed,
my dear," said Mrs. Mowbray, witli her
eyes still fixed on the signature , " but we
must hope for the best."

Geraldine sunk on a chair ; and, unable to
speak, could only stretch out her hand for
the letter.

. " Your father is' ill, my dear," continued
Mrs. Mowbray, still retaining the letter,
and folding it up as she spoke ; ** and I am
not certain that we can be admitted to him
to day."

'* Not admitted," repeated Geraldine,
the most dreadful apprehensions crowding
into her heart ; " — then he is dying ; he is

dead," exclaimed she, shuddering with
horror, and shaking in every limb.

, Mrs. Mowbray endeavoured to soothe and
comfort her, by an earnest assurance that
her fears were without foundation.

}■ M. If heis. still alive," said Geraldine, start-


ing up, and speaking in a tone of recovered
energy ; '' no consideration on earth shall
keep me an hour longer from his bedside.
Who can have the right to exclude me ?
surely no one will refuse me the mournful
privilege of watching by my father."

She urged Mrs. Mowbray to order the
carriage immediately, and hastened away
to_make the preparations that were neces-

*« What is to be done," said Mrs. Mow-
bray, turning to Mr. Maitland, and put-
ting the letter into his hand, as Geraldine
quitted the room ; " this poor child has no
suspicion of the formidable rival she has to
encounter. I always suspected that there
was a mistress in the wood ; but if this
be not a usiu'pation of the style and title
of Beresford, aflairs are in a more des-
perate state than I apprehended."

" However distressing an interview with

this person may be," said Mr. Maitland,

deeply concerned for Geraldine, ** I think

it should take place immediately. Miss



Beresford ought certainly to be allowed the
privilege she so earnestly desires : it will
be some relief to her feelings ; and in the
performance of this painful duty, she will,
I trust, find a degree of consolation."

*< It is very likely," said Mrs. Mowbray,
after musing over the letter for some mi-
nutes, ** that she may be only Mrs. Beres-
ford, by courtesy ; and that there is some
finesse in this account of my brother's ill-
ness. These sort of people are as full of
stratagems as a prime-minister ; and if she
be only a sultana for the time being, she
is trembling, I suppose, lest our arrival
should precipitate the decline and fall of
her empire."

Mr. Maitland, who thought this con-
jectural reasoning very unsatisfactory, pro-
posed ordering the carriage immediately ;
and Mrs. Mowbray, rejoicing in her own
sagacity, and persuading herself that the
account of her brother's illness was a stroke
of desperate policy, to retard or prevent
their meeting, declared that she was quite
willing to storm the castle, if necessary.


Geraldine, on her return to the room,
felt astonished at the renewed cheerfuhiess
of her voice and manner.

" Do not distress yourself so much, my
dear,'* said she ; " I really hope there is
no reason for it : you know I always hinted
that there was a lady in the case — an en-
chantress, of course, as wary and wily as
any of her sisterhood : let this hint console
you. We shall soon see/' added she, as
they stepped into the carriage, '* what form
she will think proper to assume , — whether
we shall have an Armida to resist, or a dra-
gon to combat."

Geraldine felt rather bewildered than
consoled, by Mrs. Mowbray's hints ; but
she derived more support from the words of
kind encouragement, and the quiet atten-
tions offered by Mr. Maitland, during their
ride. Involuntarily she caught his arm, as
the carriage stopped, and clung to him for
support, in the trying scenes which she



At any other moment the magnificent ap-
pearance of the villa, and its beautiful situ-
ation, would have fixed Geraldine's atten-
tion ; but at present totally insensible to
the charms, either of nature or art ; she
crossed a hall adorned with exquisite -sta-
tues, and entered a saloon hung with the
finest paintings, without perceiving either*

Mr. Maitland led her to a sofa, endea-
vouring to fortify her mind, and to suggest
ideas of hope and comfort.

They had been seated only a few minutes,
when the door was thrown open, and a lady
of a tall and commandino; fiorure entered the
room, and advanced to meet them. A slight
shade of sadness might be traced upon her
brow J but her step was firm, and her man-


11 er unembarrassed. As she approached, Ge-
raldine's heart beat with dreadful violence ;
she made an attempt to speak, but could
not articulate a single word.

Mrs. Mowbray, who never for a moment
lost her self-possession, returned the stran-
ger's salutation with ease and grace j pro-
fessed that she was sorry to intrude on her so
abruptly ; but that the afflicting intelligence
she had communicated, rendered them rather
more than less desirous of seeing Mr. Be-
resford immediately j and that she pre-
sumed no opposition could be made to so
reasonable a request.

The lady replied, that Mr. Beresford was
becoming rapidly worse ; and that she did
not think his physicians would consent to
the interview.

At this intelligence, Geraldine,in an agony
of grief, earnestly intreated for immediate
admission to her father. The stranger ap-
peared to be touched with sympathy, and
the physicians, who were in attendance, were
summoned. They had quitted their patient,


and expressed a hope that the young lady
would spare herself the shock of seeing him
in his present state. They acknowledged
that it would not be injurious to Mr,
Beresford ; for they were sorry to say that
he was now incapable of recognizing any

Geraldine's grief became every moment
more intense ; but she reiterated her re-
quest, and w^as at length conducted to her
father's apartment.

She paused a moment on entering the
chamber, terrified at the profound stillness
which pervaded it ; — this stillness was
quickly interrupted by a low and feeble
groan. With desperate eagerness Geral-
dine approached the bed, and beheld the
convulsed and dying countenance of her
father. A woman, apparently a nurse, was
supporting his head with one hand, and with
the other wiping the dews of death from
his forehead.

In unutterable agony she threw herself
on her knees by the bed-side, and clasped


the cold and clammy hand which lay
extended before her* Another mterval of
silence, broken only by her own sobs,
succeeded. In a few minutes she felt her
hand grasped with violence ; — she looked
up ; — alas ! it was not the tender clasp of re-
cognition, but the clench of sudden agony.
The last fearful struggle was over — death
had claimed his victim.

In speechless horror Geraldine remained
kneeling by the bed-side, till gently raised
and led away by Mrs. Mowbray and the
attendants. She yielded, without resist-
ance, to their wishes ; no word escaped
her lips ; her death-like paleness, and the
convulsive shuddering which shook her
frame, alone betraying the intensity of her

During many successive days she strug-
gled in vain to meet this blow with humble
resignation ; her own efforts, and the
soothing attentions of those around her,
were equally unavailing. The shock had
been too great ; the dying countenance of

her father was incessantly present to her ;
she still felt the last rigid, convulsive
grasp of his hand.

Such entire possession had this image
taken of her mind, that the scenes and dis-
closures which followed seemed scarcely
to rouse or interest her.

Upon Mrs. Mowbray they produced a
very different effect. She had, indeed, felt
both shocked and grieved at the unexpected
death of Mr. Beresford : but when the first
burst of natural feeling had subsided, she
found so much to hear, to wonder at, and
to relate, that little leisure remained for the
indulgence of grief.

A few lines, hastily written by Mr. Mait-
land, had been immediately forwarded ,tO
Mr. Mowbray ; and about a fortnight after
the death of her brother he received the
following letter from his lady : —

'' To H. Mc^d^brat/, Esq.

<* You are by this time acquainted with
the sad event which has occurred sincq our


arrival in Florence; and you will easily
imagine all we have felt and suffered on
this melancholy occasion.

« I do not know whether Mr. Maitland
entered into any detail : perhaps he has
already told you that my brother w^as ill
only three days ; he w^as seized with a fit of
apoplexy, w^hich, though not instantly
fatal, left no hope of recovery ; and expired
half an hour after w'e reached his house.

" Geraldine is still overwhelmed with
affliction ; and, indeed, if I had not happily
been born before * nerves were invented,'
I do not know how I should have sustained
the shock.

- " His death is not the sole misfortune
we have to lament: sooner or later we
learn to reconcile ourselves to losses of this
nature ; but how w^e are to become recon^
died to the strange revolution that has
taken place I know not. My heart really
aches for Geraldine : fortune, in one of her
capricious moods, has completely reversed,
her fate. This mistress, whom, even as a


mistress, I wished at the ' farthest verge of
the green earth/ proves to be a lawful
wedded wife ; and, what is still more ter-
rible, is the mother of a fair son, whom
you might mistake for an infant Hercules.

" By what successM manoeuvre the
marriage was accomplished I have not yet
learned : that it has actually taken place is
too certain. I resisted conviction w^ith
desperate pertinacity for some time ; but an
interview with the Catholic priest and
Protestant clergyman, who performed the
marriage ceremony, have left me without a
shadow of hope.

" My brother died without a wall : the
estate, of course, devolves upon his son ;
and his fortune, thanks to the ingenious
extravagance of this ' foreign wonder,' is
reduced to a complete wreck. All Geral-
dine's worldly wealth is now comprised in
her mother's jointure ; a very poor affair
indeed — not more than two hundred

" What a fine theme this reverse will



afford to those who love to prose and
moralise. I think I can hear all the com-
mon-place remarks that will be made upon
the changes and chances of this mortal

" Mr. Maitland is one of those religious
alchymists who pretend to extract gold
from the most unpromising materials.

« I do not know how his eloquence may
succeed with Geraldine ; but it will certainly
fail to convince me that bitter is sweet, and
sweet bitten

** I shall return from this luckless expe-
dition as soon as Geraldine is well enough
to travel, which, I hope, will be in a few
days ; and, till then, I reserve all descrip-
tions and discussions.

" I never, in my life, longed more for
the sight of my own fire-side ; so impatient
am I to talk over with you the causes and
consequences of this disastrous discovery.
Adieu, till we meet.

" Your affectionate

«« G. Mowbray."



IHE train of circumstances which had
terminated in the union so much deplored
by Mrs. Mowbray, was by no means fully
understood by that lady ; and of far too
intricate and delicate a nature to be com-
pressed into the compass of a letter.

Mr. Beresford, on his arrival at Florence,
had intended, after remaining there a few
weeks, to return to England. Travelling
had ceased to please him ; the zest of
novelty was over, and the quiet joys of
home, when contrasted with the wandering
and solitary life he had lately led, pre-
sented themselves in softer and more
attractive colours. Still, melancholy recol-
lections mingled with this feeling; and, in
recalling the ties and endearments of home,
F 2


he felt more keenly sensible of the va-
cuum which death had occasioned there.
To escape as much as possible from these
depressing thoughts, he busied himself
with the many beautiful specimens of the
fine arts to be found in Florence ; and de-
termined to enrich his collection of paint-
ings, by purchasing good copies of the
finest subjects in the Florentine gallery.
For this purpose, he was introduced to
Signor Morelli, an artist of eminence,
who begged leave to show him some va-
luable specimens of the old masters in his
own possession.

Mr. Beresford accepted the invitation,
and accompanied him to his house. As
they entered a saloon, hung with exquisite
paintings, a lady whom Signor Morelli
slightly named, rose, and with a passing
bow to Mr. Beresford, immediately with-
drew\ Short as the interview had been, it
had enabled him to discover, that her face
and figure were extremely beautiful 5 and
whilst Signor Morelli was descanting on


the matchless perfections of Titian and
Claude, his eyes were often turned towards
the door, in expectation that the lady would
re-appear. The hope, however, was not
realised J she continued invisible, and Mr.
Beresford took his leave with a vague and
indefinable feeling of curiosity, respecting
the fair phantom.

In a few days he repeated his \isit to
Signor Morelli, and had again a transient
view of the lady. His curiosity was rather
stimulated than satisfied ; for on express-
ing a fear that he disturbed her, she replied
with the utmost grace and facility in En-
glish. Struck with the circumstance, and
determined, if possible, to learn her history,
he made some enquiries of an acquaintance
in Florence, by which he ascertained, that
the beautiful young woman, who had thus
excited his admiration, filled the honour-
able station of mistress to Signor Morelli.
Upon hearing this account, Mr. Beresford's^
curiosity became mingled with pity ancf


surprise, and these feelings were increased
by every succeeding interview.

Signer Morelli courted his acquaintance
with peculiar assiduity; he had frequent
opportunities of contemplating the lady,
and felt more inclined to soothe than to
condemn her. There was an air of mo-
desty diffused over her whole person ; a
downcast, timid, retiring manner, which
seemed incompatible with the state of mo-
ral degradation in which she lived. Invo-
luntarily, Mr. Beresford treated her with
a degree of respect, which she appeared
to receive as an unmerited kindness, claim-
ing the deepest gratitude. Any allusion,
however remote, that could be applied to
her situation, seemed to rive her heart with

This suffering consciousness, this shrink-
ing sensibility, united with exquisite beau-
ty, awakened a powerful interest in the
heart of Mr. Beresford. He compas-
sionated the early fall of a being so richly


gifted by nature : daily intercourse was
gradually established between them, and
hour after hour, and day after day, glided
away in her society.

The tale of her early life was unfolded
with a modesty so bewitching, an air of
penitence so exquisitely becoming, that
Mr. Beresford gazed, with the blended
pity and admiration which is felt on con-
templating the fine portrait of a Mag-

Her mother, an English lady, had died
when she was only in her twelfth year j and
at the early age of fifteen, she had been in-
duced, by the seductive blandishments of
Signor Morelli, to take refuge in his house
from poverty and privation. She hinted,
that the tyranny of a harsh and unprinci-
pled father had urged her to the rash step
which now filled her mind with the bitterest
regret. She had for ever forfeited her
place in society, and must wear away her
life a prey to secret remorse and anguish.
Her beautiful eyes were turned upon Mr.
F 4


Beresford, at the conclusion of this little
history ; and he endeavoured, with all the
eloquence he possessed, to reconcile the
lady to herself. She seemed fully sensible
of his kindness, and tenderly grateful for
it ; but he had great difficulty in convinc-
ing her, that he was not actuated by mere
compassion ; and she alluded, with a pathos
the most touching, to the time when she
might have won his admiration, instead of
exciting his pity.

This was a point not easily settled : Mr,
Beresford's assurances became more elo-
quent and tender. The fair Laura listened
with downcast looks, and fervent expres-
sions of gratitude ; she shuddered when-
ever his return to England was mentioned ;
and though apparently too humble to ex-
postulate, Mr. Beresford found the lan-
guage of her pleading eyes absolutely re-

It has been said, that * the words of love
sleep in the ear that is too dull to compre-
hend its silence.* ; uj^mu ;: >ft > ^ xi&


Mr. Beresford was not thus dull ; he per-
fectly comprehended the silence of his fair
friend, and he had attained precisely the
sober age, at which it is not a little flattering
to the vanity of man, to excite an interest
in the heart of a young and lovely woman.

He did not, however, yield \\dthout a
struggle : to restore Laura to the privileges
she had forfeited, he felt to be impossible ;
and reasoning wisely upon the cruelty of
entangling her in a hopeless attachment,
he resolved to pay her a farewell visit, and
announce his intention of retiurning imme-
diately to England.

On entering the room where she usually
sat, he found that he could not have chosen
a more inauspicious moment for the ac-
compUshment of his purpose.

The lady was in a state of agitation,
which his presence appeared to increase
almost to distraction. Imagining that she
had divined his intentions, and flattered by
this excess of tenderness, he addressed her
in the most sootliing language. Laura
I" 5


covered her face with both hands, and for
some time her sobs alone were audible. As
her agitation subsided, the most delicate
embarrassment was visible on her counte-
nance ; her mind seemed labouring with
some terrible secret which she could not
conceal, and feared to unfold. Mr. Beres-
ford tenderly conjured her to confide in him
without hesitation j and after a struggle of
feeling, apparently amounting to torture,
she placed in his hand a letter, which had
just been delivered to her from Signor

In terms the most harsh and insulting,
he declared it to be his fixed resolution
never to see her more, and commanded her
to leave his house at the expiration of three
days. He alluded with barbarous irony to
her attachment to Mr. Beresford, avowing
that he willingly left the worthless prize to
his rival : that he was already on his road
to Rome, whither he meant to remove ;
and that he had let the villa she occupied
to a friend, who would take possession of
it in three days.


The result of this confidential communi-
cation may be easily conceived. Mr. Beres •
ford believed himself bound by every tie
of honour and compassion to protect the
deserted Laura; and after a few hours
passed in combating the delicate scruples of
the lady, which were, however, mingled
with many a tender and gratifying acknow-
ledgement, she was prevailed upon to ac-
cept his protection.

F 6



Several months elapsed, marked only by
devoted gratitude on the part of Laura,
and increasing affection on that of Mr.
Beresford. She appeared to live only for
him, and his taste and feelings were the
standard by which every look and word

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Online LibraryMary Jane MackenzieGeraldine; or, Modes of faith and practice. : A tale, in three volumes. (Volume 3) → online text (page 4 of 11)