Mary Jane Mackenzie.

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

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were regulated.

He was particularly touched by her con-
duct whenever letters arrived from Eng-
land. She expressed no curiosity, made
no comment ; but the liv^eliest alarm was
painted on her countenance, and she clung
to him with a trembling fondness, wliich
betrayed all her fears and feelings.

It was not in Mr. Beresford's nature to
resist such tenderness, and he carefully
avoided all allusion to England, and to the


ties which might oblige him to return

Laura's claim to his affectionate atten-
tions acquired every day new force. She
was likely to become a mother, and this
circumstance appeared to have a most de-
pressing effect upon her spirits. Mr. Be-
resford, frequently surprised her in tears,
at his approach she wiped them hastily
away, and endeavoured to smile ; but,
* grief seemed heavy at her lieart.' In
vain did he conjure her to disclose the
cause of her disquietude ; she continued to
preserve a mournful silence.

As the period of her expected confine-
ment drew near, this gloom, amounted to
despondency. She secluded herself en-
tirely from company, receiving only the
visits of her spiritual director, a catholic
priest, with whom she frequently remained
closeted for hours. After these interviews,
she usually appeared in a state of absolute
despair : amidst all this, the most passionate
tenderness for Mr. Beresford, was still dis-


coverable. Trembling for her health, he
again and again entreated her to open her
heart unreservedly ; but this request wa5
always answered by a flood of tears. At
length she entreated his permission to pass
a few days with an old friend, at a short
distance from Florence ; and he consented,
in the hope that the change might be be-

This short separation, though made at
her own request, appeared agonising to
Laura : and Mr. Beresford, surprised at
the extreme agitation of her spirits, placed
her in the carriage, with a thousand tender
injunctions and assurances. The day suc-
ceeding that of her departure he received
the following letter :

" To Mr. Beresford,

riii "Yhe moment 1 have so long dreaded
is past; the terrible struggle is over, and I
have parted for ever with the generous
friend and protector, for whom I would


with transport have laid down my life.
Oh ! with what terror have I contemplated
this fearful separation : so much do I love
you, that deaf, to the voice of religion, and
the clamorous reproaches of conscience,
I w^ould still cling to a life of sin and
shame for the dear privilege of passing it
with you. Let me not dwell upon the hap-
piness I relinquish, but let me lay before
you the reasons which have been suffi-
ciently powerful to produce this sacrifice ;
though, alas ! reason cannot reconcile, nor
will time console me under it.

" When first I discovered the probability
of my becoming a mother, the idea filled
my heart with joy. I thought only of the
endearing tie it would form between us ;
of the new claim that it would give me, on
such a heart as yours : but too soon did
reflection chase away these hopes.

" No fallacy can conceal from me, that
weak and fraU as I have proved myself, I
must, as a mother, be the most wretched of
human beings. With the love of virtue


glowing in my heart, with its precepts on
my lips, I shall be a mark for the finger of
scorn ; and the tale of my dishonour will
reach the ear and heart of my child. Let
me then, by one great sacrifice, save my-
self from the shame and misery which must
be- the portion of a mother who owns not
the sacred title of wife.

" My plans are decided. If it be the
will of God that I should become the mo-
ther of a living child, it shall be placed
under your care soon after its birth ; and
if your wretched Laura survives, she will
pass the remnant of her miserable life
within the walls of a convent, in penitence
for her past sins, and in prayers for your
future happiness. Oh 1 let it not be dis-
turbed by too tender a recollection of me.
So well am I acquainted with the generosity
of your nature, that I know you will be
strongly tempted to offer me a legal claim
to your name. Had I listened to the ad-
vice of my friends, and the commands of
my confessor, I should long ago have


availed myself of the common artifices of
my sex, and with prayers and tears urged
this request ; but I have too high a sense of
your excellence and dignity, even to form
such a wish. No ! the woman who is thus
honoured should unite a spotless and un-
polluted name, to the unspeakable ten-
derness of your unfortunate, but devoted

" Laura.
" P. S. I conjure you not to follow me
to my retreat. Do not, by kind but fruit-
less opposition, render my sad task impos-
sible instead of difficult.'*

Though Laura conjured Mr. Beresford
not to follow her to the retreat she had
chosen, she had taken no pains to prevent
his discovering it ; and in less than half an
hour after the perusal of this letter, he
was proceeding towards it with all imagin-
able speed. Louis the Fourteenth did not
travel with more lover-like dispatch to re-
call his gentle mistress, than Mr. Beresford
in the pursuit of this fair fugitive. He de-


clared, that he who could be insensible to
such fervid affection, such matchless disin-
terestedness, must be more or less than
man ; and claiming his right to an in-
terview with her, he pleaded his cause and
her own so successfully, that the lady, not-
withstanding her high sense of his dignity^
consented, though with the most delicate
reluctance, to become his wife.

The ceremony was performed by her own
confessor in the chapel of the convent,
whither she had retired ; and a few days
after, according to the forms of the Pro-
testant church, by an English clergyman
at that time residing at Florence.



Tranquillity being thus purchased, Mr.
Beresford was rewarded by the returning
sunshine of Laura's smiles ; and in less than
a month she presented him with an heir.

The scene and circumstances awakened
recollections of a mournful nature, and he
could not cordially sympathise in the proud
and triumphant feelings of Laura. He
thought of his daughter with pity and re-
gret, and recoiled from the idea of dis-
closing to her a marriage contracted under
such auspices.

During the temporary separation occa-
sioned by Laura's confinement, he had leisure
to reconsider the past, and to anticipat-
the future.

The obstacles that opposed her introduce


tion to English society presented them-
selves in formidable array. To delay the
evil day, was the natural suggestion of a
mind deficient in energy ; and with a vain
hope that time would render that practi-
<;able, which at present appeared impossi-
ble, he resolved to remain in Italy, and
defer the disclosure of his marriage to
some happier moment.

Laura's health was speedily re-esta-
blished, and Mr. Beresford hoped that her
society would charm away his newly
awakened regrets ; but no hope could be
more fallacious. Laura, as Mr. Beresford's
wife, and the mother of an heir to bis
estate, was no longer the gentle, winning,
attractive being, who appeared so lovely,
in her day of probation and dependence y
she felt her own increased importance, and
was anxious that it should be felt and ac-
knowledged by others.

The modest simplicity of her establish-
ment was exchanged for excessive splen-
dour ; and the arrangements of her house-


hold and her personal appearance were in
a style of magnificence, which Mr. Beresu
ford beheld with concern and astonish-
ment. To hints of disapprobation, howevei*,
the lady was insensible -, and to open and
formal remonstrance, she opposed either
tender reproaches, playful blandishments,
or undisguised indifference.

Mr. Beresford involuntaiily compared the
present with the past, and contrasting the
expensive and luxurious taste of Laura,
with the refined and chaste simplicity of her
whose place she filled, felt daily more re-
hictant to avow his marriage. Too de-
ficient in firmness effectually to restrain the
extravagance of his wife, his feeble oppo-
sition served only to embitter their do-
mestic life.

In a few months after his marriage, he
found himself encumbered with debts ; and
passed day after day in lacsenting his own
infatuation, and forming schemes of eco-
nomy, which he had not courage to realise.

A suspicion that Laura, during the pe-


riod of their first acquaintance, was merely
acting a part, now and then glanced across
his mind ; but it was too mortifying to his
vanity, as a man and a lover, to be easily
admitted: many circumstances, however,
combined to corroborate the idea.

In an accidental meeting between his
lady and Signor Morelli, he observed an
interchange of playful and triumphant
glances, which at once confirmed his sus-
picions, and excited his just indignation.
To acknowledge, however, that he had
been the dupe of a well-tutored actress,
was too humiliating ; and he devoured his
chagrin in silence and secresy. This irri-
tating discovery, and the certainty that the
time approached when his marriage must
be divulged, incessantly harassed his mind.
Every letter, he received from England,
became a source of inexpressible torture.
The affectionate enquiries of Geraldine,
and the light raillery of Mrs. Mowbray,
were equally insupportable ; he had no
plausible excuse to offer for his protracted


Stay in Italy, but dreaded alike a meeting
with the daughter whom he still tenderly
loved, and had so materially injured, and
introducing as a wife, the woman by whom
he now felt himself disgraced.

His health suffered from constant de-
pression of mind, and the very little sym-
pathy expressed by Laura at its visible
decline, added to the bitterness of his self-

With feelings of despondency and irri-
tation, he examined minutely into the state
of his affairs ; and finding that the purchase
money of the Devonshire estate, which he
had just received, would be nearly con-
sumed in liquidating the debts incurred by
the thoughtless profusion of Laura, a scene
of explanation and remonstrance with that
lady ensued.

Mr. Beresford proposed a plan of eco-
nomy, to which she positively refused to
submit; he persisted with unusual ear-
nestness, and Laura, provoked by this un-
expected firmness, and intent only upon


retaliating the mortifications she was en*
during, declared that her sole object in
marrying, had been to recover the station
in society which she had forfeited : that no
consideration should induce her to live in
the retirement which he proposed, with a
man whom she never had, nor ever could
love, and who was old enough to be her

Mr. Beresford, irritated beyond en-
durance, struggled in vain to repress the
indignant feelings by which he was agitated*
Every moment increased their violence,
and rising almost in a frenzy of passion to
leave the apartment, he suddenly stopped,
put his hand to his forehead, and with a
groan of agony fell senseless on the floor.

Laura's screams brought the servants to
his assistance ; he was instantly conveyed
to bed, and the physicians, who were sum-
moned, though they succeeded in adminis-
tering temporary relief, pronounced the
ease to be hopeless.

Precisely at this critical moment Mrs.


Mowbray and Geraldine arrived in Florence
and witnessed the melancholy scene which
has already been described.

Laura could not contemplate this dis-
tressing event, and revert to its immediate
cause, without terror, compunction, and re-
morse 5 but the vicinity of Mrs. Mowbray
and Geraldine roused her to exertion.

She thought it possible that they might
question her claims, and prepared to
assert and defend them with dauntless
spirit. In this she was mistaken, the le-
gality of these claims being once admitted,
all useless disputes were wisely avoided.
Deeply mortified, however, by the civil con-
tempt of Mrs. Mowbray's manner, and the
silent reserve of Geraldine's, she assumed an
air of haughty and insolent defiance, and
after a cold and brief interview, they parted
to meet no more.





When Geraldine's first feelings of horror
and distress had in some degree subsided,
the sudden change which had taken place
in her situation and prospects presented
itself more distinctly to her mind.

Without any sordid love or undue esti-
mation of wealth, she felt it to be a keen
aggravation of the loss she had sustained.
In every point of view, it was afflictive and

The anticipation of a renewed engage-
ment with Montague no longer excited a
feeling of unmingled transport ; for she was
aware, that, with Mrs. Mowbray, wealth was
an object of first-rate importance, and that
whatever might be the disinterestedness of
Montague, her want of fortune would be.


eveti to him, a source of disappointment.
She reverted with deep regret, to the idle,
and comparatively useless purposes to whicli
the liberal allowance she had been ac-
customed to receive from her father, had
hitherto been devoted. At the very mo-
ment when she felt it to be a duty, a pri-
vilege, to liv^e for others rather than herself;
when she was revolving a thousand bene-
volent schemes, the means of realising them
were no longer in her power.

But amidst the depressing reflections and
natural fears that crowded into her mind,
amidst all the sadness and disquietude of
this moment, Geraldine felt that there was
still a city of refuge, in which she might
take shelter. Human ties might be torn
asunder by time, by accident, and death.
Mortal hopes might fade and die ; but there
were ties, and hopes, and affections, over
which time and chance had no power.;
which depended not upon the frail and
feeble children of mortality, but upon Him,
in whom there is * no variableness, neither

shadow of turning.'

G 2


Whilst mourning over the loss of her
earthly parent, she clung with fonder hope,
and more entire confidence to the promises
of a heavenly one ; and the words * I will
never leave thee nor forsake thee,' seemed
to acquire a precious and peculiar force.

Mr. Maitland's kind sympathy and judi-
cious counsel had considerably assisted in
restoring Geraldine's mind to composure.
He had successfully impressed upon her
the conviction, that the duties of patience,
resignation, and submission, though less
easy and delightful than those of benevo-
lence and joyful gratitude, were not less
the appointment of that unerring hand
which doeth all things w^ell. Mrs. Mow-
bray had no consolation to suggest; she
declared, that altogether it was a heart-
breaking affair: to be metamorphosed
from an heiress into nobody, was a most
distressing transformation ; that Mr. Mait-
land's reasoning and philosophy were all
very fine; but Zeno the stoic, would as
easily have convinced her that pain was not



an evil. Lamentations, indeed, were useless,
but who could forbear to lament,

Geraldine could not help contrasting the
rich resource furnished by christian princi-
ple in the time of adversity, with the total
insufficiency of worldly wisdom. Mrs.
Mowbray, whose playful wit could give ad-
ditional brightness to the hour of joy, was
a stranger to the art of cheering the hour
of woe 5 she was unacquainted with that
charm which can hush the perturbed spirit
into peace, — with the balm which can alone
soothe and quiet an aching heart.

It .was refreshing to Geraldine to turn
from her vain regrets to Mr. Maitland's
more cheering and consoling views ; and
every day increased his claims to her esteem
and gratitude.

To him the task of supporting her spirits,
had gradually become so dear and inter-
esting that all other occupations appeared
comparatively unimportant. He studied
her looks and words with a devotedness of
which he was scarcely conscious, and in
G 3


soothing the feelings ami auctions of her
heart, forgot that he was^ endangering the
safety of his own.

' Geraldine, looking up to him as her
* guide, philosopher, and friend/ was in-
deed singularly attractive. Her admiration
of his talents, and reverence of his piinci-
ples, her artless gratitude, her unhmited
confidence in his judgiiient, were all ex-
pressed by that gentle deference of manner
so peculiarly winning to a mam of pirre and
refined taste. Perfectly unconscious of the
feelings she excited, she listened to him
with the docility and earnestness of a dis-
ciple ; and the powerful tie of soft de-
pendence on one side, and protecting ten-
derness on the other, was insensibly formed
between them.

Mrs. Mowbray, whom long acquaintance
with the world and its ways, had rendered
particularly skilful in detecting love through
his various and multiplied disguises, was by
no me^ns dissatisfied to see him thus steal-
ing imdef the form of friendship into Mr.


Maitland's heart ; and, under the guise of
gratitude, into that of Geraldine.

From the moment she had ascertained
that her niece was no longer an heiress, it
had been her incessant aim to devise some
stratagem by which she might be com-
pletely detached from Montague ; and the
present discovery facilitated this scheme
even beyond her hopes. She silenced the
very few scruples of conscience which oc-
casionally rose, by the reflection, that witli
Geraldine's small income and methodistkal
propensities, she was upon the whole a
more suitable wife for a country curate
than for a man of family and fortune ; that
in fact, she would be a great deal happier
in such a station : for, notwithstanding all
the pains that had been taken to counteract
her old-fashioned notions, there was no
doing the thing completely : the prejudices
of early education might be checked and
crushed for a season ; but there was no pos-
sibility of rooting them out ; they were con-
stantly putting forth troublesome shoots. To
G 4


get rid of them entirely, defied the strength
of man, and baffled the ingenuity of woman.

She contrived by various pretexts to pro-
tract their stay in Italy ; planned little ex-
cursions in the neighbourhood of Florence
for the benefit of Geraldine's health and
spirits ; was frequently attacked by con-
venient head-aches, which she would not
allow to interfere with their plans, insisting
upon confiding her niecp to Mr. Maitland's

Thus perpetually thrown together at a
time when Geraldine's spirits were in a
state which naturally called forth the most
soothing tenderness of manner, they became
mutually dependent upon eacli other's
society. He dehghted to console, and she
to be consoled. Still they were both equally
unconscious of the silent progress of love-

Geraldine was not aware that she now
thought as much of Mr. Maitland as of Mon-
tague ; and it would have been difficult to
convince Mr. Maitland that he thought of
little except Geraldine. She, indeed, de-


tected herself in forming comparisons be-
tween her friend and her lover, — in wishing
that Montague's conduct might be marked
by the same stability, and regulated by the
same lofty principles which distinguished
Mr. Maitland's ; but this was only admir-
ation of excellence. He was incessantly
occupied in diverting or soothing her mind ;
but this was only sympathy in afflictions the
most trying.



As the winter approached, Mrs. Mowbray
thought it necessary to return to England ;
and the weather being unfavourable for
travelling, notwithstanding her aversion to
the sea, she decided on embarking at

Mr. Maitland's watchful care and tender
anxiety for Geraldine became every day
more obvious ; but it was not till the
evening preceding that on which they
landed in England, that a suspicion of the
truth flashed across his own mind.

The night was clear, cold, and still j and
Geraldine, wrapped in a thick cloak, and
leaning upon his arm, stood upon deck, al-
ternately contemplating the sky, brilliant
with a thousand stars, and the lights gleam-


ing from the shore, which they were rapidly
approaching. From some general observ-
ations on the magnificence of nature, they
passed to reflections on the blessings and
trials which mingle in the path of life 5 and
Geraldine naturally reverted to the change
which had taken place in her own destiny
since they bade farewell to England.
There was so much humility and submis-
sion in her sentiments, such a spirit of un-
repining gentleness in her manner, that
Mr, Maitland Hstened with approving de-

'* Much rather," observed he, with energy,
" would I see you thus exercising and im-
proving in every christian grace, than be-
hold you in possession of an empire. Let
us no longer lament your trials in the school
of affliction, since its discipline only tends
to purify, exalt, and perfect your character."

" If, indeed, it has produced such an ef-
fect," said Geraldine, '* can I forget how
much I am indebted to your sympathy and
counsel. 1 might have trembled and sunk
G 6


beneath the storm, had you not pointed
out the hand by which it was guided and

** Oh ! may that hand be your perpetual
guard and shield," exclaimed Mr. Mait-
land, with emotion. " The moment will
soon arrive when I must resign the de-
lightful privilege I have lately enjoyed ; —
when I shall cease to be your constant
companion. — **

** But you will never cease to be my
dear and valued friend," said Geraldine*
<* Ain I too presumptuous in hoping that
your friendship is a blessing, which I shall
enjoy through time and eternity?"

Mr. Maitland was silent. The glow of
delight with which he listened to these
words, the excessive agitation they pro-
duced, the deep regret excited by the
anticipated parting, combined to reveal to
him the state of his heart. He felt a
sudden conviction, that little of the calm-
ness of friendship was to be found there }
and a pang of self-reproach increased the


perturbation of the moment. In a voice
somewhat low and constrained, he re-

** Yes ; it is one of the peculiar privileges
of a Christian to feel, that those who are
united in one hope on earth will meet in
heaven, to part no more. It is possible
that I may never again enjoy the gratifi-
cation of daily intercourse with you ; but,
though circumstances may separate us,
your happiness will always be near my
heart. I shall be constantly and warmly
anxious to promote your best interests."

This was said with a degree of effort
which did not escape Geraldine's attention j
and she ruminated with some anxiety on
the circumstances which might separate
her from Mr. Maitland. It was impossible
to disguise from herself, that such a separ-
ation would be extremely painfull and,
for the first time, she compared her present
feelings with those of w^hich Montague had
been the object. The enquiry terminated
in the conviction that they were totally


dissimilar. The devoted tenderness which
Montague had inspired, the delight with
which she had received his vows, did not,
in any degree, resemble the grateful,
respectful admiration, the high esteem,
which she felt for Mr. Maitland 5 nothing
could be less like love : but if Geraldine's
meditations led her to conclude that no-
thing could be less like love than her senti-
ments for Mr. Maitland, Mr. Maitland's
reflections ended in the conviction that
nothing could be inore like love than his
sentiments for Geraldine : and, with severe
self-upbraidings he prepared rigidly to
regulate every look and word, lest his
secret should transpire. He acknowledged
wuth a sigh, that Montague was fickle and
unstable ; yet, as his intimate and confi-
dential friend, he ought, if possible, to be his
advocate, - - certainly not his rival. Would
Geraldine's happiness be secured in a union
with Montague ? he felt it unsafe to discuss
this question. It was not for him to decide
so delicate a point j he only knew, that


henceforth, she must be as a vestal priestess
in his sight, whom to love, even in idea,
would be profanation.

It was w^ell, perhaps, that this resolution
was formed the night preceding that on
which they reached England. Three days
afterwards, having conducted them safely
to Woodlands, he took his leave, and re-

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Online LibraryMary Jane MackenzieGeraldine; or, Modes of faith and practice. : A tale, in three volumes. (Volume 3) → online text (page 5 of 11)