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. to be even more than ufually attentive to his
humour, and indulgent to his follies.

But though Fitzofborne was thus compelled
to leave Monteith out of his counfel, and Lucy
refufcd to read a wifh for her removal in the
fickly funfhine of her Geraldine's languid
fmiles, he refolved, that other means fhould
expedite her departure. A projedt was there-
fore contrived. The evening before its com-
pletion, lord Monteith had devoted to his in-
creafing love for Bacchanalian indulgences.
The hour was late, but madeira and burgundy
preferved their attraftions. The joyous party
had fent excufes to the countefs for not joining
her in the faloon ; and Geraldine, after fup-
porting a languid evening with her two friends,
(for Fitzofborne had early pleaded indifpofitiou
as a reafon for leaving the noify Anacreontics,)
retired to her own apartment.

She was here encountered by her favourite
attendant, who with much relu£lance, and
many affurances that fhe would not have taken
fuch a liberty, but that (he really had already
advanced all her own money to the diftreffed
parties, prefented a petition from the work-
men who had been employed in laying the
foundation of the amphitheatre which was
begun in the park. They weie now reduced

to



A TALE OF THE TIMES. 147

to the laH: dlftrefs, not only by an unexpected
difmlifion from their employment, but by the
non-payment of wages already due. Maria
declared, that her father and brothers were of
the number ; and the many anecdotes of au-
thentic fuffering which (lie recited, and traced
to this culpable remiflriefs, fwelled the feeling
heart of Geraldine with indignation and pity.

< My lord,' faid Tne, * promifed to pay all the

< bills immediately, as fome compenfation for

* the dlfappointment I caufed the workmen, by

* giving up the defign before they had fmillied

* the work they had contrafted to execute. It

< mufi: be the lleward's fault. Is he up ? I will

< fpeak to him immediately/

* There was a light in his office when vour

< ladyfnip rang the bell.'

< DeJire him to come up ftairs. But no j

< he is very old and inhrm j I will go to him.'

The refult of the converfation was not at all
to the countefs's fatisfaclion. She found that
the dwlay was whoily attributable to her lord,
who had infiiled that the appropriated fums
(liould be tranfmitted where the claims were
lefs juft, but more clamorous. The (leward
mentioned many other circumdances which
jncreafed her agitation, and he anfwered her
earnejl follcitations that thefe bills might be
immediately difcharged, by pleading that it
was totally impoifible to advance what was ndt
in his poiTeflion.

Geraldine returned towards her own apart-
ment, ruminating on what meafures (he could
purfae, and determining privately to difpofe of
fome of her mother's jewels, rather than that
the helplefs babes or i\\c labourer fhould want
bread. While flie was cruiung the gallery

G 2 leading



\



148 A TALE OF THE TIMES.

leading from the ftair-cafc, the loud but Indif-
tin6l noife of catches and glees inarticulately
fung, and interrupted by applauding clamours,
or reproving oaths, ifl'ued from the banquetting
room. She (topped for a moment, and fancied
that fhe heard Monteith's voice. ' Has he

< then,' faid fhe, < loft all the feelings of hu-

< manity, as well as all fenfe of refined plea-

* fare ? CompafTion, n?.y juflice demands, that
-* the vvafte of riot fhould have been appropri-

-• ated to nobler ends.'

Her eye then glanced towards the library,
■which was at the end of a fuite of rooms oppo-
(ite to where fhe flood. The door was open,
and (he faw Fitzofborne fit with a book in his
hand in a ooflure of fixed attention. She never
felt the power of contraft fo ftrong before ; and
a momentary impulfe almoft tempted her to
tear from her finger the witnefs of that bond
which had fealed her mifery.

Still Fitzofborne continued to read, and Ge-
raldine, leaning over the baluftrade, (till aker-
nately looked and liftened. * O fplendid wretch-
' ednefs I' faid (he, gazing on the marble
figures which decorated the ftair-c:ife, and the
richly carved roof, now rendered more confpi-
cuous by the coloured lamps which hung from
every pediment ; * the lonely villager, whom

< wc abridge in his fcanty enjoyments, curfes

* this parade of luxury •, and the curfes of the

* injured will one day come into judgment

* againft their proud opprelTors."

Still indulging her melancholy feelings, the
countefs contemplated the compofure of Fitz-
pfborne's looks. * All muft be right,' faid (lie,

< in his bofom. He is neither tortured by re-

* morfe nor fear j and can what I have heard

♦of



A TALE OF THE TIIV4ES. 1 49

< of the fceptic's wretched date be juft ? Per-

< haps at this moment I (hould feel feme con-
« fohnion in thinking, that the great Author of

* the univerfe is too much engrofled by his own

< perfedions to take cognizance of things be-
« low ; (or then I need not fear his avenging

< the wrongs of indigence." At that inltant
the cries of her httle fon in the nurfery threw-
her tlioughts into a different train. < Ah ! my

* poor babes,' refumed fiie, * whatever is my

* own lot, a mother mud, for your fakes, hope

< that there is a fpecial Providence to protect

* your helplefs infancy.*-

Fitzoiborne now rofe, and, advancing to-
wards her, interrupted her mufings. ' For

* Heaven's fake, deareft lady Monteith ! wliat
'keeps you up at'this late hour V — * My for-

< rows,' replied the countefs, burfting into
tears.

* I hoped,' returned Edward, afTectionately
prefhng her hand, < that they were huihed in

* oblivion. Permit me to lead you from the

* hearing of thefe ofJenfive revellers. It is too

* fhocking to refined delicacy like yours.'

Geraldine inquired where they fhould go .^ '
3nd FitzoilDorne propofed tlie garden. « 1 he
Comns of this place will not lead his band o^
v/afl'ailers there,' faid he. * The meaner or=
gans of thefe fatyrs are only capable of en-
joying the grofictt animal gratifications. Par=
don my ailufion. I have jull been enraptured
by the fublime bard's de'cription of revel jol-
lity. How dilTerent is the brutal vociferation
which we hear from thefe rapturous ideas :

* Eraid your !o:ks with rofy twlse,

* JLropping odours, dropping wine,

*" Rigour



150 A TALE CF THE TIMES.

* Rigour now is gone to bed,

* And Advice with fcjr.p'lons head.

* By dimpkd brook, and fountain brim,

* The Wood-Nymphs deckt with daifies trim,

* Their merry wakes and paflirres keep ;
' What h'ith night to do with fleep ?'

His further quotation was here interrupted by
the appearance of Mifs Evans, who, declaring,
the evening was much too beautiful to think of
going to bed, propofed joining them in their
excursion into the garden. They took a fliort
and fiknt turn under the colonade, and then
retired to their apartments.

The countefs very fooa after perceived that.
^Ilfs Evans was at her chamber- door. * I am

* haunted, my dear Geraldine,'' faid (he, * by

* fome very difagreeable company; my own

* thoughts I mean. Will you allow me to lofe
« them for one hour by converfing with you ?'
Lady Monteith defired her maid to retire, and
the two friends fat for a few moments gazing
iit each other in expreffive filence.

JMifs Evans fird fpoke : * There was a time,.

* my Geraldine, when our full-fraught hearts

* never warned a fubject for converfation. That

< confidence is paft, I fee ; yet I will neither

* lament nor complain. But for your own,

* for ycur dear children's fake, let not any re-
« centlv-difcovered fault in me induce vou to
' flight the important difcoveries that I can re-

< veal. My anxiety for your little boy, who is

< not quite well, brought me this night to wit -
« ncfs a fuller confirmation of Fitzolborne's-

* villany.'

* What viiiany j' inquired Geraldine with
an unaltered countcnsuce=

* He



A TALE OF THr. TIMES. I5I '

« He placed himfelf purpofely in the library,

* that you might fee him.'

< What then ?'

< I firmly believe too, that the banqueting-

* roam door was fet open by his order, that

* you might hear the confufion "

* And was not lord Monteith moft to blame

* to caufe that confufion ?'

* I do not vindicate my lord. O, my fainted

* nvother I if I could but breathe the energy

< of thy difcerning fpirit into my dear uniuf-

* picious friend ^ '

* I never knew that Mrs. Evans thought fuf-

* picioii a virtue.'

< She never would have fufFered an audacious
« man to have offended her ears with reflec-
« tions on my father's condu6l. Though mildg

< and patient of reproofs to herfelf, her quick

* fufceptibility of his honour '

< You furely do not recollefl,' Interrupted
lady Monteith, « that the comparifon you ha\'e

* ftarted is mofl exquifitely painful to me. I

< will only fay, that the regularity of your fa-

* ther's condu(ft difproved {lender. Do you

< draw the inference.' The tears which at thvit
inftant dreamed from her eyes avowed her tor-
tured heart.

< My fweeteft Geraldine ! can I witnefs thofe
« tears, and not wiih to relieve thy forrows ?'

< Then feek not to deprive me of my only

< friend.'

« Your ow/^'frier5d I How is your flyle of

< of expreffion changed ! What then am I I
^ what is Henry Powerfcourt ?'

* Both Itrangely altered by unjuft fufpicl-

< oils*'

* Our



152 A TALE OF THE TIMES.

< Our fufpicions are not pointed at you. We
know that you are pure, and guiltlefs of the
fnialkit ifitetitional fault. We grieve to fee
your candour betrayed, your unfufpeif^ing in-
nocence infnared, your reputation blafted."

< My reputation blafted, Mifs Evans ? Are
you not cruel in referring to a flanderous
tale, invented by envy and falfehood, which
ycu once told me my conduct fufHciently dif-
proved ?'

< No \ no ' my heart is a ilrfinger to defigned
rruelry to any one, and leaft of all to you.
It is not to the attacks of malignity, it is to
the conclufions of guilelefs iimplicity, that I
refer/ She then repeated the obfervations

which were addrefTed to Mr. Powerfcourt at
the public dinner.

< Mud I then,' aid the countefs, < clear my
character to the world by throwing treWe
odium upon my lord's ? or, mud I renounce
the only companion who feems ftudious to
fweeten the bitter cup of anguifli which I
now drain to the dregs ? Am I to publifli the
obligations which I owe to Fitzofborne ? obli-
gations which would juftify me in every one's
opinion ; or fit a lone, folitary, flighted being
in this magnificent prifon ?'
Xucy now melted into tears, * Does your
palace, your bower of blifs, as you once ftyled
it, now receive that appellation I O ! what
has wrought this dreadful change ? It is not
quite a twelvemonth fince your own dear
hand-v/riting to me traced thefe ftrong ex-
prefTions. * I enjoy as much happinefs as
experience teaches us to expert in this un-'
certain world. I poflefs my hufband's aflec-
tionate confidence, the eileem of my friends,

« the



A TALE OF THE TIMES. I53

' the love of my depentlanfs. With what heart-
' felt tranfport, my Lucvj do I tt.Il you, that
' lord iVIonteith fcems every hour more firmly at-
' tached to me and his children. You know his
' manner is fuigular. It once gave me pnin, but
' refleci:ion has reconciled me to it, and I difcover,
' even in his eccenL'"icities, indubitable marks of
« an excellcnr heart/ Do not wring your hands,
' my love ! I do not recite this padage to awakea
' your poignant feelings, but to convince your
' iudo-ment.'

Mifs Evans paufed ; the countefs was unaole.to
fpeak, and (lie proceeded. ^

' Can all this ruin originate from chance ?
Can your lord withdraw iiis atfection, his con-
fidence, nay even treat vou with fcveritv, vvith-
ont forne tempter ? Tiuft me, my Geraldine,
if FivZofDorne were indeed your friend, thein-
noence which he fo en-inent!y pojltlics over
ynur impetuous lord n'-ud be apparent and-
produce the. mod oppofite behaviour.'

* In Vv'hat,' faid Gerakiine, rcci)veiinf; herfelf,
do you perceive this ini^ue^nce ? does lord Alon—
teith ev/r Cijincide v.-idi Fi;z ■'fborne's fenii -
ments ?'

* Racher f^y, does he ever opp;)fc them ? Fitz-
ofl:)orne is too fubrle to ler me ever hear hhreal
fenti.;entSi but I read ihem reflected in the
undifiT;u;ied countenance of your h)rd. His eye
coniinual'y watches his artful favourite, a,
proof that he feels his induet.ce. He is not on-
ly warm and uViiiorm in his approbation of
Firzcfborne, but his behaviour is marked by a
degree ot reipecl: and deferei-,te which I never
obfcrved him to iliew to at;y one elfe, except to
you In thofe happy days when you reigned the
uiidifputed fcvercign of his heart. You,

G 3 who



54 A TALE OF THE TIMES.

who knew the gentle clue hy which he was
imperceptibly led to comply with your wifhes,
muft know, thnt the delicate management
which his temper requires can orily be vifible
to others bv its ctFedl.'

' For what purpofe {houlci lidward vvifli for
this arcendnriCv over lord Monteith ?" inquired
the ccuntefs.

' In my opinion for the moft diabolical pur-
pofe — to alienate his heart from you, and to in-
duce him to treat you with fuch unkindnef^, as
may fubvert, in your mind, thofe fcnciments of
aftecSlion and efteem which, next to_ the princi-
ples of duty and honour, fDrm the Orongeft-
guards of female purity. Nay, hear me one
moment more, r very aud:.cious vvhifper uhicli
he utters againll: your huiband, every look of
anjficial tcrndcrrnefs by which he darts to re-
commend himC'if^ are employ-d to batter down
the fame defence, while his athciftical innnua-
tions tend to reprefs the compuniftions of con-
fcience, aud to weaken that p:inciple of reli-
gion upon which your faf.ty principally de-
pends. '*

* Before you draw fuch h^rfh concluficns,
Mifs Evans,' faid the offended countefs, ' you
fnould defcnbe \^hat parts of my conduct v\iil,
in yo'jr opinion, expofe m.e to the indignity of a
licejitious aodrefs. 1 mufl a'.fo add, that as your
iudfrment of Mr. Fitzofoorne f^erns to be too
decided to be the mere refult of fufpicion, I
have a right to bid you prove^ that he feels for
me a bolder fentimerit than pity or e4leem. If
he is v\hat you defcribc, inftead of being the
ornament of fccjcty, he is its difgrace.*
' Do recoiled^,' replied Lucy, ' that I give
^ him credit for the deepell coiurivance, the moft

' profound



A TALE OF THE TIMES. I55

profound artifice.. I am not in his confidence.
The only pofitive pi oofs which 1 can bring
againft him are, your prefent wretchednefs, his
influence both over lord Monteith and yourfelf,
and his avowed infidelity.'
' You and Mr. Powerfcourt have ever given '
that harfh tiame to a fingularity of opinion
which your candid father oii\y fufpe^ed of lean-
ing to deifm. All doubt with you appears to
be a cHme, and a diflent from your notions on
fome important but myflerious point fubjecSts
your ill-fated opponent to the moft confirmed
imputation of the bhckeft guilt, even though
his whole previous conduct evinces a courfe of
•almoft unlinning re£litude and exemplary vir-
tue.

' O my Geraldine ! I will urge you but this
once more. Is is from himfelf that you hear of
this unfinning rectitude and fhin ng virtue ?
His character is compaiatively unknown in his •
country. Abroad it was eAeemed to be far
from immaculate. HisconfHnt iill'ociates were
men of loofe principles and profligate man-
ners,'

' It is fr(jni Henry Powerfcourt that you learned •
this catalogue of vices?" inquired Geraldine
ith a r'-femful air.

' It is,' relumed Lucy. ' It is from that
Henry Powcrfcf)url whom we both fo tenderly
elleem ; the dear companion of our early happy
years, thofe years of confideive, tranquillity,
and mutual affection. O lady Monteith 1 how
exquifitely painful is fhatreflecStion now. Hear
me yet on nw bended knees; hear my folemn
requeft. Mine is no difplay of officious z::a',
no falfe colouring of a hollow heart. \{ I have
erred, it is from a rv^iftakea judgment j ar^d

* punifli



156 A TALE OF TH£ TIMES.

* puniHi me as that crime dc-ferves. Yet, my
' ever beloved friend ! do not let your confidence
' in your own difcernment lead you into danger,

. * It is not becaufe I fufpecl: your virtue that I

* thus impreffively warn you ; but it is becaufe I
^ confider you to be furrounded with fnares which,
^ without divine protection, no mortal can ef-
' cape; and to that protedtion I commend you ia

- ' my ni6f}- earned prayers "

Vanquifhed by this afFe6li on ate appeal, Ge-
rnldine railed her Lucy, and folded her in her
arms. The reconciliation was as fincere as it
was affecting. The countefs protefled, that
though fhe could not adopt her opinions of a man

- whom fhe had fludied with unremitting attention,
fhe vet gave entire credit to the ilncerity of her
motives ; and Mifs Evans hoped, that the com-
municati< n, which had fomewhat relieved her
hurdened mind, would not be entirely forgotten
in fhe hours of calm, reflection. They then part-
t!d, after mutually engaging to name this aiFedt-
jng fubjeCt no more.

Mifs Evans's thoughts were diverted the next
morning to a fubjedt yet more poignantly diftref-
^ns:, and which, as the mafter-forrow, fwal-
lowed up every other care. A letter fiom her
father's houfe-keeper announced, that h^ was
alarmingly ill, and requeued her immediate pre-
. fence at Powerfcourt. This letter flung her into
fuch violent emotions, that {he had not felf-com-
mai^.d fufficient/to reflect upon fome very extra-
ordinary circumftances which accompanied it.
The ftyle and the vyriting were greatly fuperior
to Mrs. Mary's ufual perforniances. This was,
indeed, accounted for in the poftfcript, which
itated, that being afhamed of her poor/crawly fhe
had got the clerk to copy it, and to rectify th«

fpelling.



A TALE OF THE TIMES. I 57

fpelling. The excufe was more confpicuoijs than
the writing; for Mrs. Mary and the clerk were
not upon good terms, and it feemed extraordinary,
that a faithful conftdentiar fervant fhould think of
fuch minute explanations when a beloved mafter
Jay in the utmoft danger, and requiring all her
a6tive fervices. Where too was Henry ? Was
it not natural for him to write to his Lucy ? and
how improbable, that he (hould permit- another
pen to tranfcribe his mefTage that he wifhed her
to return inftantly ! The alarm which the letter
excited prevented the confideration of thefe con-
tradictory particulars. Mifs Evans was in the
chaife on her return to Caernarvonfnire in half
an hour after it arrived ; nor was it till her anx-
iety for her father was relieved by find i'.-' 2; that the
whole narrative w^as an infamous impofition, that
fhe began to be furprifed at her own want of pe-
netration in not immediately difcovering it to be
(o, A ftatement of this fact, which feemed to
convey fome frefh indications of FitzofL^orne's
guilt, was immediately difpatched to Monteith,
and Henry Powerfcourt undertook to be the
courier. His generous heart braved everv indig-
nity and every danger; nor could even his Lucy's
apprehenfive terrors dilTuade him from defyino
the refentment of a man whom ihe believed to
be capable of adding murder to his other crime?^
The prefervation of his once-fondly loved, and
ftill-tenderly efteemed Geraldine, overpowered
all regard for his own perfonal fafety. But his
generous intentions wer^ fruftrated by the events
which had happened at Monteith previous to his
arrival.



CHAP,



I£8 A TALE OF THE TIMES,



GHA'P. xni.



O much deceiVd, much failing, haplefs Ere f "
Of thy prefum'd return ! event p^ervcrfe !
Thou never -from that hour in paradffe
Found'ft either fweet repaft or found repofe ;
Such ambufh, laid among^ fweet flowers and ihadeay-
Waited with heilifh rancour imn^iinent
To intercept thy way, or fend thee back :
DefpoilM of innocence, of faith, of blifs !

MiLTOW.



T



HE diftiefs of Mifs Evans for her father's
fuppofed ilhiefs had given a temporary diverfion
to lady Monteith's ideas ; but they foon recurred
to the contemplation of her own forrows. The
affecting fcene of the preceding evenino-, by re-
viving all her former tenderncfs, gave that im-
portance to her friend's judgment of vvh-ch it had
bten for fome time deprived ; and while (he recoi-
lecied the in^.preflive earneftnefs and indifputable
nncerity with which it was delivered, (he deemed
it at leaft entitled to attention ; and fhe deterr
mined to fcrutinize the principles on which fhe
had founded her opinion of Fitzofborre.
. She firft reverted to th^ high eftimation in
which his character was held by tne world. Eve-
ry one fpoke of him as a moil extraordinary man ;
and his inviolable integrity was confirmed by
his behaviour on the difcovery of lady Arabella's
attachment to him. Nay, ftrange as it might
feem, fhe often thought that he (liH cherifhed her
idea in his heart. She knew that he had prcferved

her



A TALE OF THE TIMES. I59

her picture, and he had jufl rejcCled the propo
fal of an advantagcou*; alliance with the rich'
hcirefsof an Iflandic chiefiain. This conftancv^
^h^uf h from the difcordance of their charadler
fcarcclyattribufaljletrjthc caprices of love, proved
the folidity of his virtue, and fecured hcrfeU from
fcven a po/IibiHty of being the obje6tof hi« licen-
tious paffion. His fpc( ulative notions on fotlie
point5 were indeed reprehcf)fihlc ; but then they
were merely fpeculations •, and fhe ftill thoufj^ht
Mr. Evans's notions, which tended to confine
opinion, were def.cient in liberality, and founded
on a tyrannical defire of fubjugatmg the free in-
dtpcndent mind, All her ov/n obfervations
tended to convince her, that Henry and Lucy
cxaor&erated his error*. No dire6t charge W2S
brought agiinfl hinij even fupponng his conipa-
nions to have been as profligate as they were de-
fcribed. A twelvemonth's intimacy was fome
ground whereon to judge of characters j and fl.e
could not help afHrming, that the innocence of
his condu6t was a proof -of the inoffenfivenefs of.
his principles.

The change in lord M^^jntcith could rot, even
by Lucy's own confeffion, be clearly traced to his
influence. The fufpicion that he was acceflaiy
to his lordfFjip's faults only arofe from the proba-
bility of his having fome fee ret feduccr, and the
influence which Fiizofborne feemed to have over
him. For her omu part fhc was doubtful of ihQ
exiftcncc of a feducer, and could not perceive any
certain proc^f of that fuppofed influence.

His marked attentions to herPif formed the
next accufation. but Lucy knew riothing of
the manners of the great v/ofld, or the free-
doms which cuftom had rendered general. Tne
viniverfdl homage, which even appropriated beoii"



l60 A TALE OF THE TIMES.

ty required, 2nd the familiar Intcrcoiirfc to which
the cenforious did not affix the leaft (hadow of
impropriety, would fhock her friend's notions,
formed in the depth of retiremeni-j. and rather
founded on the idea of what was prudent, than
on the coniiJeraiion of what is prailicable.

Her thouahts then fell into a train o^refleClioa
upon the Incidents of her early year?, the pe'ice-
ful (hades of PowerfcoHrtv the joyous hours of
playful gaiety, the endearing recolietSlion of ten^-
der confidence, and intereiling^ fimplicity, all
rendered Itiil more exquifite by the vivid glow of
youthful hop?, which fpreatl a more fafcinating
Iplcndour round the prefent fcene, by the promife
of more bi illiant future enjoyments. Fallacious
promife ! fairiued predttiion ! " Is there," faid
file, cafling her eyes from the proud heights of
Monteith ci.iWe on the fuhjedl" vale ; " is there in
' all this wide domaijia wretch more mifcrable
' than me ?"

She frarted at that recollc61icn. * Yes^ there

* are. There exifts pining penury ; there defti-
' tute ficknefs futTers, and wafting infancy de-
' clines \ not only deprived of t.'ie affiftance
' which former experience prompted them to ex-

* pe6t from their lord, but even -refufed what juf-
' tice determines to be their own. O Fitzoi'borne !
' how llrongly do fuch fituations demonihate the

* truth of y<^ur opinion, that xhs prefent order of
» things requires the bold hand of k-me intelli-
' gent refornier !"

Leaving lady Monteith's conclufvon to dif-
prove itfelf, I proceed with my narrative. She
walked to the cabinet which ftootl inherdreffing-
room, and, opening the cafket which contained
her mother's jewels, {he determined to divert


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Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestA tale of the times (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 18)