Mrs. (Jane) West.

A tale of the times (Volume 2) online

. (page 12 of 18)
Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestA tale of the times (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

• them from the fervicc of cilentation and vanity to



the nobler purpofes of benevolence and integrity*
She looked over, without a figh, the various ar-
ticles of ornament; but her mother's piflure, fet
round with diamonds, excited a ftrong repug-
nance. It had been prefented to one of her fif-
ters, and reftored to the Powerfcourt family, on
thedeathof its owner. Lady Monteith attentive-
ly contemplated the features. ' Thou art at

* refl-,' faid fhe ; ' would I were fo too. Thou
' didfl: endure fevere bodily fufFering ; mine are

* the (harper tortures of the mind. The negle6t
' of an eftranged hufband never rived thy heart!'

She then began a letter to a friend at Edin-
burgh, whom (he wiflied to employ as an agent
in this bufinefs. The difficulty of aligning a
motive for this a6^ion, and the fufpicious fecrefy
that (he was forced to require, made her inca-
pable of executiiig it to her fatisfadlion, though
{he made repeated attempts. ' It will certainly

* be difcovered,' faid (he. ' If it (hould come to

* my father's knowledge, it might difpleafe, it
' muft diftrefs him. To whom but him (hould
' 1 apply for affiftance ? Ah ! hard neceflity ! that

* I alone cannot folicit the bounty of his ever
' liberal hand !"

Tear after tear flowed dov/n her cheek, when
the found of Fiizofborne's foot upon the flairs
roufed her from the Itupor of grief, ' He fhall
' not fee me in this difoider. Lucy (hall not rc-

* proach me with having a male confidant.' She
halHly fnatched up her papers, and retiicd to her
own chambL^r. Hc^r expedition was too much
the efFeCl of agitation to admit of exad^nefs, and
(he left behind her a pa'-t of a letter which, with
her jewels lying upon the crble, were fufficient to
inform Fitzofborne of the nature of her recent oc-
cupation. He iir.raediately inckfed bank-notes for



four hundred pounds, whkh feenned to be ths
required fum, and addrefled to iady Monteith a
few refpecStrul lines, in \\ hich he entreated her to
permit him to enjov a luxury feldom annexed to
Ivumble fortunes, by a]>propriating what was to
him an incumbrance to ihofis noble offices, to
which he durll: affirm file had dtftined the value
of her jewels. Ke then ftaled the note and re-

Lady Monteith only waited to hear him quit
the room to leave her retreat. She read the pi-
per, which was zddrQffi^d to her, and though Ch^
fteadily determined to rejedl the inciofcd prefent,
fhe felr enraptured at the generofiiy which- prof-
fered the gift, and at the delicacy vvhich fo InCi-^
nuatir.gly (u^d for its acceptance. The reader
will not partake in her feeling?, when informed,
that juilice would have ordered ihe. refHtution of
this property to the Monteith family, it being
only a part of a large*^ fum which had been tranf-
mitted to Fitzofborne by a right honourable rook
of his acquaintance, as a douceur for the favour
of being permitted to have the principal plucking
of the finefl: pigeon that had been for many years
brought to market.

ignorant of the nature of the ' accurfed fpoil,'
the countefs remained fteady in her refolution of
returning it. In vain did Edward attempt to re-
lift her determination. ' My pecuniary difficul-
' ties,' faid fhe, * are not fo diftr^fTing as to per-
^ mit me to fequefter the fiender portion of a
' younger brother/

' Recolleci,' replied Fitzofborne, ' that the-
' influence of lord Monteith has permitted me to
^ extend my hopes beyond the narrow fphere of
' a younger brother's enjoymejits, and do not
^ check the impulfe of gratitude.*

< Then



< Then to lord Monteith be the recompenfe

* made.'

' And why not to his charming wife? I fhould

* admire this lovely pride, did 1 not fufpedl that
' it was united to a degree of fufpicion, unworthy
' of your purity J^nd my own honour. Can I no
' way convince you of my fincere difmtereftecl

< friendfliio ? Can I make no offers which will
*" not be difdainfully refufed r'

* Ye":, certainly you may/ replied the coun-
tefs ', ' and I will depute you, inftead of my
« Edinburgh friend, 10 difpofe of thefe jewels.

* Fafhion varies fo much, and people in the
' country drefs fo plain, that I fcarcely ever want

* fuch ornamcnte, Befide, lord Monteith was
'* remarkably liberal onii^y marriage. They re-
' ally are not cf the fmalleft ufe to me.'

' i willingly undertake the commiffion,' re-
turned Fitzofborne; *but it maybe fome timebe-

* fore I can find apurchafer ; and why fhould this
^ money lie ufelefsinmy Secretary ? Aretheobje6ls
*^ of your bounty (fori know it is not extrava-

* gance, but generofity, which limits your re-

< lources) to languiih to an uncertain period ?

* Why may 1 not advance it by way of loan ?

* Indeed, lady Monteith ! you are too fcrupu-

* lous.'

' I belieye,* faid (he recollecting herfelf, ' I

< am. I will accept your offer. The jevi^els
^ will, 1 am confident, difchargc the debt; and

* pray never expeCt me to redeem them-.'

This bufmefs bemg adjufted, a momentary

paufe enfued. 'We exceedingly regret," ob-

' ferved Fitzofborne, the lofs of our cheerful

' companion Mifs Evans. I hope fne will find

' her father better.' The countefs fincerely

joined in that wifh»

^ « She


* She was the life of our party,' continued
Edward. ' My lord is quite miferable at her go^

* ing. He declares that he never met with a

* uoman whofe manner (o much entertained
' him ; ail vivacity and fpirit; and certainly (he

* was alliduoufly attentive aad obliging to his
< lordfhip.

* She is generally obliging to every one,* re-
plied the countefs. ' But! think you

* experienced rather a fevere bon mot.^

' O, I don't doubt that my impertinence de-

* ferved it ; and it was of no confequence to
' me, fo fne kept lord Monteith in good hu-
' mour.'

Fitzolborne's remarks were never without
meaning; and the molt candid tempers, when
roufed to fufpicion, are ever the moft watchfoK
' Does he', thought the perplexed Geraldiiiei
' mean to infinuate that fhe was improperly at-

* tentive to my lord t She is d^ftitute of vanity,
' and infinitely fuperior to every finifter defign.

* If fhe was more pointed in her civilities, it
' muft have been from her convi(51ion that I
' failed in paying him due obfervance ; and (he
-* ftrove to fuppiy my deficiency. Alas ! evea
' my bofom- friend condemns me. Even my
^ Lucy will not allow how difficult it is for an in-
' jured heart to be' at once affectionate and fin-
' cere, to difguife the biitcr feeling which wr.*.
' kindnefs calls forth, under a forced fmiletiiat
' has lolt the power of pleafing.'

This inference vras. exactly what Edward
wiflied her to draw. He had for fome time at-
tempted to revive the iiame of jealoufy in lady
IVlonteiih's bofom ; but it was not in the chait;;
fmiplicity of rvlifs Evans's manner chat he hoped
to find materials to kcd the fire. It was fuiScient



for him, that GeralJine (hould think her friend
cenforious and partial j another object had long
fince been fixed upon to e(tc€i the confummatl-
on of Fttzofborne's treacherous devices.

Among lord Monteith's tenants was a young
voman, the daughter of a farmer, highly gra-
ced by the charms of natural beauty, and not
JeTs diltinguiflied by a levity of manner, and a
fafliionable arrangement of drefs, extremely dif-
fimilar to the plain attire and fober demeanour
of the neighbours in her rank of life. Thefe
circumftances, though perhaps only the refult of
folly and inconfideration, or at the word unfuf-
picious vanity, the uncommon beauty of the girl
forced into attention ; and even ar the calUe,
when better fubjedis were exhaufted, the perfon,
the finery, and the flirtations of Pattie Thomp-
fon formed an occafional theme for converfation.
Geraldine had been frequently diverted by her
:^vi'kward, yet not difgufting imitation of her
own diefs and manners ; and on Fitzofborne's
firft arrival at Monteith, (lie pointed her out as
a figure very likely to attraft general attention
if feen in Grofvenor-fquare or Hyde-park. Ed-
vard gazed a few moments, gave an exclamation
of fiirprize, and then whifpered her, that (he
was the exa£l: likeneis of Mrs. Harley.

From that moment the countefs turned her
eyes from the blooming Pattie with an involun-
tary {hudder of horror ; and when (he invited
the rural lafles to a dance in the caftle in honour
of one of her daughter's birth-days, flie was
fecretly pleafed that Farmer Thompson's daugh-
ter could not be of the party. Even her vifits
at the old man's houfe were lefs frequent than
thofe which (he made to her other neighbours.
She felt herfeli wrong, and (he determined to



make a painful effort to be right. She {<it out
accordingly, and had nearly reached the dwel-
ling, when (lie faw lord Monteith walking haf-
tily towards it by another road. The difcovery
was of itfelf fufficiently agitating, but Fitzof-
borne, as ufual, pointed the dart more dire^Iy to
her peace of mind by the fudden exclamation of
• Good Heaven !' He left her inftantly, flew to
the earl, and, feizing him by the arm, with a de-
gree of violent gefticulation, walked back with
him to the caftle.

The vifit of the countefs was fhort, and her
manner was ungracious. She returned home,
and, pleading that the walk had overcome her,
{he continued confined to her chamber the re-
mainder of the day. However poignant her
feelings, {he never difclofed them ev.en to het
Lucy, who was then at Monteith. But fhe had
continued to brood over this really accidental
circumftance in fecret till the tLvie of which I
am now treating. It it {hould here be objected
to my narrative, that chance had too confidera*
ble a {liare in the fuccefs of Fitzofborne to give
probability to the fimilar defigns of another vil-
lain, let inexperience and feif coufidence remem-
ber, that a determined feducer, admitted to an
equal degree of intimacy, will always find in
thedomeltic events of every family equal oppor-
tunities of expediting his views. The molt fub-
tile genius cannot preconcert every operation.
It is in the directing (kill by v.'hich incidental
circumftances are made to conduce to one great
defign, that the power of fupcrior ability is mod
eminently vifible.

Fitzofborne, now conceiving the mine to be
fully delved, determ.ined on the immediate ex-
plofion. He was confcious that a difcovery was



impending ; and when he confidered the magni-
tude and the intricacy of his plots, he felt allo-
iiiihed at his own good fortune in having fo long
efcaped deteclion. To trifle with danger was
now folly.

My readers have doubtlefs afcribed to him the
letter which hurried Mifs Evans to Caernarvon-
fliire, as they will eafily conceive that her pre-
fence was an infuperable obftacle to the com-
pletion of his iniquity. 1 muft now inform
them, that by repeated bribes he had feduced
the fidelity of lord Monteith's butler, and the
groom who generally accompanied him on
horfeback. They regularly gave him informa-
tion of every event that happened in the family.
His appearance in the library, and the cpenmg of
the banqueting- room door on the night ladyMon-
teith went down (lairs to fpeak to the fteward,
were not accidental. The watchfulnefs of Mifs
Evans checked the audacious hopes which he
had that evening dared to form from the extreme
diftrefs which refentment had enkindled in lady
Monteith's mind againll the degrading conduft
of her lord. But Mifs Evans was now far dif-
tant ; the faithful confcientious Reward had fet
out for Edinburgh to tranfa£t fome money af-
fairs ; and lord Monteiih was w holly engroiurd
by the ihooling feafon, which had juft com-

The third morning after Mifs Evans's depar-
ture, my lord was ablent at breakfait ; but that
was not uncommon. Fitzofborne read fome of
Wieland's works to the countefs, commented
on the beautiful defcriptions, and then propofed
a walk. They went through the plantations to
the lake. On the road ilie enlarged, with^af-
feding fimplicity, on the pleafure which (lie

• once


once enjoyed in adding a finifhlng grace to the
richnefs of that (Iriking fcenery ; and a tear ftole
down her cheek, as fhe pointed out parts which
her lord had ufed to commend. Fitzofborne's
replies were calculated to confirm her apprehen-
fion that (he muft now turn her mind to differ-
ent objefts ; for that the pleafures of connubial
cfteem and confidence were loft for ever. On
their way home they pafied near Farmer Thomp-
fon's. Fitzofborne propofed calling, but the
countefs, pleading wearinefs, declined going out
of her way, and relied upon a ftile, while Edward
went, as he faid, to pleafe himfelf with the
fight of a pretty girl. He returned thoughtful
and difconcerted, and obferved gravely that fiie
was not at home.

Dinner Vi^as ferved foon after their return, but
no one could find lord Monteith. * This is ve-

* ry extraordinary,' faid the countefs. * He

* ufed to be remarkably pundlual. Who went

* with him ?'

* My lord took no fervant,* was the butler's

Geraldine felt alarmed : < Sure no accident

* has happened. Call my lord's groom.* He
was queftioned refpe^ing the fafety of his horfe,
and the countefs was now informed that he was
not gone out upon any of his own horfes.

' Search the woods immediately. Some

* dreadful event muft have detained him. He

* never would go far from home on foot, and

* unattended. Had he a gun with him V The
groom now owned in fome confufion, that his
mafter had fet off early that morning in a hired
chaife and four.

< Do none of you know which road he took V
The fervants were divided in their opinions.



The greater part faid, he went towards the
moors, but the butler and the groom declared
that they faw the chaife turn round by the lodges
in the park, as if it was going to Farmer
Thompfon's, and then, after having Itopped
-for a moment, proceeded towards Edinburgh.

Geraldine now trembled with undefined dlf-
trefs. < Did you,' faid fiie to Fitzofborne,
* know nothing of this journey ?'

He ordered the iervants to retire, and then
faid, < He confides none of thefe fecrets to me.
5 1 only know that his affiiirs are defperate ; but

< before I mention my further fufpicions, altow
-* me to afcertain their validity. I will juft run
« to Farmer Thompfon's. For heaven's fake !

< be compofed, i will foon be back. Shall I
« fend your children to you ?"

< No ! no ! fly ! fly I' was all fhe could ar-

He foon returned, and the tale he told cor-
roborated in every particular tlie butler's ac-
count. Pattie Thompfon was feen in a chaife
with a gentleman, wrapped in a ridmg-coat,
at fix o'clock that morning. The countefs

The tiger who fports with the victim that he
holds in his fangs, is not fufpecfted to feel com-
paflion ; nor d^i the tender epithets which Fitz-
ofborne aildrefl^jd to the objedl of his more fa-
vage cruelty indicate a relenting heart. H-^-^
wifhed, indeed, to recal her fenfes ; but it was
only that the might feel the torments of guilt
added to thofe of mifery.

No fooner did he perceive returning life

faintly flufh upon her cheek, and her fcarcciy-

opened eyes fixed upon him with a look at once

expreffive of confidence and defp^ir, than he de-

VoL. II. H . ' termined


termlned to (fonfiim that defpair, and to abufe
that confidence.

< Where fl.aH I go ? What fnall I do .?' in-
quired the dilhelkd Geraldine.

< J know not wh-Jt to advife. You cannot

< Hay at Monttith. The creditors will certainly

< hear of the earl's departure '

< Cannot (lay ! — wliy ?'

- « An execution will be iminediately ferved.'

< O my helplefs, houfekfs babes ! — where

< (hall I fl-ielter t/^em ?"

* Surely your propereH; ^fylum will be v/ith
« vour father.'
'« True. O ' let me fly to Powerfcourt.'
« Yet conlider his years and infirmities. Will

< there not be fome danger in pouring upon

< him, while unprepared, the vrhole weight of
.« your calamities •, of aftiiiiing him with yoiir
« diftrefs before you have learnt fortitude .to
« endure it. Cannot you be for a iittle time at

< the Evans's ?

< My Lucy is already fmking with her own

< forrow. Ought I to increafe it ?'

* Permit me then, ever loved and refpecled
« lady jNIontelthj to propofe another afylum. I

< have a filler^ a wom=an of the moll unblemifli-

< ed character, who will eileem it an honour to

< protect you. Allow me to condu£l you and

< your children to her,. She lives in Lanca-
« fl»ire.'

< No ! Fitzcfoorne. I muil not take refuge
» with ycur friends.'

* I can name no other fanfluary, unlcfs it .be

< lady Arabella Macdonald's houfe. And furely
« calumny itfelf muil approve of your taking
« refuge there.*

' I can-


"^ 1 caimot apply for protedllon to lady Ara-
•< bella. She will be fevere, and make me leel
"* the pang of dependance.'

< You are then unacquainted with the influ-

* ence wliich I have happily regained over her

< fentiments. But I recolledl, that, engrofled

< by your furrows I have omitted to announce

* my own brightening profpefts.'

He then drew from his pocket a letter which
flrongly refembled the writing, and itill more
the Oyle, x)f lady Arabella. It was addreffed to
the Honourable Edward Fitzoiborne.

« SIR,

* I really do feel fo exceiTively difconcerted,
■< that I hardly know in what ftyle to begin. For

* one hates to own onefelf wrong, and yet I

< think I ought to tell you that I have been un-

* der fome little miftake : and not chufing to

< be upon bad terms with a gentleman fo vaftly

< well fpoken of, and received, every where, I

< juft add, that I (hall be very glad to fee you at

* my parties when you come to London. I

* hope this concefiion will fatisfy lord Mon-

* teith, to whom and his fweet Geraldine I beg

* my tender regards, and remain, fir, with fin-
' cere eileern,

< Your very obedient fervant,

< Arabella Macdonald.'

' Shall I then throw myfelf at her feet ? and
^ alk her to protect nie and my children ; to

* fave us from want ; to foften the pangs of

* perfidy at lead, till I can gently prepare my

* father i' inquired the afHiQcd Geraldine.

H' 2 * I would


* I would advife, tiiat voii fhonld not only do
fo, but that you fhould let off immediately. A
thought has jull Rruek me. You may over-
talce lord JMor.tclth. lie has certainly taken
the road to London.'

* Whcit ? with that unfortunate girl ? O,
Fiizofborne ! a wife is bound by indiiToIuble
ties, and muft fulTer with him •, but haw could
he be fo cruel, fo fcitiih, to involve a ftranger
in his calamities .'^ She was innocent., happy^
bleilcd with humble comnetence.'

* Your candour-has milled you. I have cer-
tain prool that a criminal connecflion has fub-
hded fome time between them. She proba-
bly propofes to accompany lord Monteith

* Abro'id ! Is Kc going abroad ? What I ab-
folutely defeit me and my little ones without
one preparatory wonl ? Leave me too in all
thefe complicated circumliances of grief a?id
didrefs ? Oa ! h(Lhl my brain, cr let me
loie reflection in indant mudnefs. Unparal-
klled ! unpardonable cruelty T

< It is indeed unpardonable. Monteith^ rfie
execrable Monteith, is unworthy of you.'

< May the an^uilli which 1 fuller , Fitzo/borne,
warn you of tiie danger of a p-ecipita';e choice'
Let not your eye millead your judgn-tent, nor
your fancy cheat you with the femblance of
non-exiiliniJ virtues.'

* My heart, moft charming moraliil", is for
ever fixed wdiere my judgment has difcovered
the molt unqueflionahle excellence. Yet do
not droop beneath your forrow. The tyrant
laws of cullom will not for ever bind you to
the mean defpicable fcduccr of a fimpie ruitic,



the depraved afToclate of a hireling profti-

* True. But my children. O ! for their fakes
what would I not fubmit to ? I would (till en-
dure his contempt. I would kneel, and hum-
bly fupplicate to be the partner in all their
father's fortunes.'

Fitzofborne paufed. * No injaries, I fee, can
compel her to a willing elopement. It is v/ell ;
I have a refource. I know tliat I polTefs her
afFeclions ; and women always pardon where
they love.*
< If fuch be your refokition,' faid he to the

half-frantic Gcraldine, " let me inftantly or/'er
your carriage, that you may fet oft in purfuit
of him. Every moment's delay increafcs the
difficulty of overtaking him.'
' True. I will be gone. You are my better
angel, Fitzofborne. Order my carriage, while .
I fetch my little ones. They (hall kneel with

« me to their faithlefs father/

* Dearefl lady Monteith,' returned Fitzof-
borne, infernal triumph fparkiing in his eyes,

* how diflrefs affecfts your ftrong intellefls !. At

* this late hour, their feafon of reil, would you

* expofe their delicate frames to the danger of a ,
« rapid purfuit ? Confider, that all your hopes

< of overtaking lord Monteith depend upon your

* fpeed. If you are fuccefsful, your own
« charms, and your deep diftrefs, muft pofTefs

< fufficient eloquence *, and if you are fo unfor-

< tunate as to mifs him, will it be ailing with
« proper decorum to lady Arabella to obtrude

* your family upon her without previous prepa-

< ration ?'

* Am I then to leave them here, the fport of

< mercilefs creditors r'

« Reft


* Red afiured, madam, that however barbar-

* ous our laws may be, in that particular, the

* execution of them is happily conducted with

* urbanity, at lead to people of your rank. But,
' to foften my apprt^hcnnon on their account,

* I will take care to efcort them wherever you

* pleafe to order, when you are placed in ho-

* jiorable protefiion. Their nurfes are very

* careful of them ; they are too young to know

* forrow by anticipation ; and any tale will ac-

* count for your abfence.*

* Is the carriage ready ? where Is Maria r*

* She and my fervanc are packing up a few

* necefTary changes of linen. They can follow

< us in another chaife.' -

< Usy Fitzofborne ? You do not mean to go

< with me ?'

* On that head I mud be firm. Humanity

* v.'iil not fuffer me to let you undertake fuch a

* journey by yourfelf in circumdances of fuch

* peculiar didrefs. Befide, if you n;)ould over-

* take Monteith upon the road, who knows but

* that his violence, aggravated by dete<f^ed guilt,

* may m.ake you want a prote^^or.*

* What bloodv fcenes are you revolving: ?
^ Lod, unhappy Geraldine ' Better perifh here

* than want a protec^lor againd thy hud>3nd.'

* He has abjured the feelings annexed to that

* title. Though I renounce the name of his

* friend, and cancel all ties of gratitude, yet for

* your fake you Qiall fee me calm and difpadio-

* nate, nay even patient of infult. But you forget

* how we walte thefe precious moments.'

« Ai), true/ She dept towards the door ;
and then, fuddenly dopping, exclaimed, < Where
^ are my children ? 1 mud fee them once more ?'

« Would


' Would vou wake them from their ilecp r

* cried Fitzolliorne, who dreaded the event of
fuch an interview. * Would you fill their inno-

< cent minds with forrow at fteing your dii-
« trefs ?'

' Sleep on, my innocent, peaceful children •,

< and never may ye know what your mother

< fuff/rs !' She then turned her eyes upon
Fitzcfborne. The exprcfiion in ins countenance
excited a momentary alarm. She withdrew
her hand from his impaflioned grafp, and fear-
fully uttered : < Something dill whifpers me,

< that I ought not to go : at leaft, not with you.'

« Whence this cruel diibull of your adopted

< brother, the contracfled hufband of your Ar.i-
« bella .?' returned tlie re-col le<fled diilembhr'-,

* Dear lady Monteith ! Will thefe (larta of too

* fufceptible delicacy never ceafe, even if you

< fiiould fee that engagv*ment fulfilled i'

< Then remember,' replied (lie, in an imprci-
five voice, * that my difbvaflion en!ecble^ nv/
*- judgment. My brain fecms on fire. IF v.\i

* ilep you advifc fliould widen the breach b.-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestA tale of the times (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 18)