Mrs. (Jane) West.

A tale of the times (Volume 2) online

. (page 14 of 18)
Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestA tale of the times (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

terror. Sne grafped the girl's hand, and entreat-
ed her to fave her, v/hile her eyes roiled with
frightful wildnefs. The terrified maid add-
ed, that his name was Powerfcourt ; but that
he (hould not come in unlefs Ihe pleafed. The
countefs relaxed her convulfive grafp, and funk
fainting upon the couch.

Henry, who at that moment entered, contem-
plated, in mournful aiiguifh, the change fo fud-
denly wrought in the loveliell: of female forms.
While the rerirjmbrance of his youthful attach-
ment gave a livelier impuife to his fufceptibility,
he rejoiced in the firm integrity which had pre-
ferved him from the infinuating enticements of an
illicit pailion, and clafping his hands in an ecftafy
of piety, gratitude, and regret, he exclaimed,
' Thank God I I have not this toanfwer.'



Geraldine mlfinterpreted his tirrotion. ' I
'* am a murderer then ? — A parricide ? Hz is
* dead.'

' No ! he is ftlll alive/ faid Henry, in a faul-
tering tone.

' And has he,' exclaimed (lie with impaffioned
-frenzy, ' lent me any token of forgivenefs •"

' lam come,' continued Henrv, wetting with
his tears the feverifh hand which {he held to-
wards him, ' to conduct you home.'

'Bleiied, angelic, peaceful found ! — Aly heme I

* —I never thought to have a home again. — X)

' raife me up,' let us go this inftant.'
' Are you equal to the journey ?'
' Yes. 1 can vo home. O Heavenly found !
■^ —My father's houfe ! And have I indeed yet a
' father f '

Unable to judge of her real ftrength during
this paroxyfm of jov, Mr. Powerfcourt propofed
waiting till the horCes were refreflied. The uni-
form humanity of Gerald ine ihone through her
diforder. ' My heart is furely grown hard with
*■ my misfortunes. Are they my father's old
' horfes that ufed to take me out when I was a
■< girl? I talk fooliflily, Henry. 1 did know it
' was vou.~ I thought you was lord Monteith

* coHiC back again — or I thought you — 1 know
•' not whom — I was fo terrified."

' Have you (e^n lord Monteith ?' ■
' Yes. Don't blame me : — 1 hope for the laft
' tirr.e. He ufed fuch horrid exprefnons. He

* would not allow rne to fpeak to him. He will

* never let me fee my children more. — Not once

* more, Henry. — 1 only afked for once, before I
' die. Is hot this too hard even to fuch a wicked
^ wretch as 1 am ?'



Henry contirmed to bathe her hand with tears.
They afForded fome relief to his full-frauglvt

' Shall I ever,' refumed the plaintive mourner,

* fee vour Lucy ? — You don't anfwer. Will

* file fpeak to me ? Don't let her fee me if ihc

* will not fpeak to -me. Yet how fhould I re-
' joice to hear her voice once more !'

' She waits your arrival at Pow^rfcourt, there

* to join with all your friends in the pious talk of

* foothing your affli(fiions.'

I pafs over the remainder of this diftrcfling con-
verfation. No perfiiafions could prevent lady
Monteith from fetting off that night for what (lie
termed her haven of red:. She bore her journey
better than Adr. Po'^erfcourt expeiSted ; and he
perceived with pleafure that the wanderings of
her converfation were more the effedt of weari-
ncfs, forrow, and indifpofition, than of deranged
intellects. She feemed to ftruggle for fortitude,
but hir efforts failtd her, when the carriage
flopped. ' 1 he prodigal returns,' faidfhe, 'but
' where is the welcoming father ?"

Henry now inquired after fir William, and
heard that he continued in the fame (late. Mr,
Powerfcouit fupponed, or rather carried, GeraJ-
dine into the b-eakfafl parlour; but no previous
refolution could reftrain Mifs Evans's tranfporton
feeing her. ' My more than fifter 1 — dearer
than friend ! my love ! — My Geraldine ! Open
thofe fweet eyes — (peak to thy faithful Lucy.
— Come, broken bly, reft upon my bofom.—
Ever dear ! ever lovely ! — Dearer than in thy
hours of happinels ! — Give me but fign that
thou doft hear me. Only prcfs rny hand if thou
can'ftnot fpeak.' The languid countefs feebly
returned her friend's ardent preffure, and dropped



her llftlefs head on Lucy's throbbing bofom ;
'while Henry, gazing on his deilined partner
with looks of affe>flionate admiration, gently-
blamed the overflowing tendernefs which charmed
him to the foul.

Gerakline gradually revived. ' And this,*
faid fhe, ' is my father's houfe ? And thou art
' Lucy ? — And I hear no reproaches— -no hir-
*' terly-remembered warnings. — -O kind fiiends 1

* — O ftill kinder Providence, thus to follow
' guilt Vvith bleffngs I — But when fhali I feemv
' father?'

It had been previouily determined that this aw-
ful intervieiv fnould be delayed till the next
morning; and Geraldirre at laft reluctantly coii-
fented totrv to obtain fon^.e repofe. 'It has been,*
faid (he, ' a ftranger to me 1 know not how

* long.'

Her delirium feemed to return upon going in-
to her apartment. ' Be fure,' faid fhe^ ' you
*■ bar the doors and windows, and let fomcbody
' fit up to guard me.'

•Early the next morning, fir "William altered (o
coRliderabiv as to indicate immediate dlllblutiofi.
His daughter had juil dropped into a broken
flumber. Mr. Kvans lamented the necellity of
awakening her, but obf^rvcd, that as her father
was itill ieniibie, his forgivenefs would be a laft-
ing conloiation. Prep.-ired by the couaiels of
this truly Chriftian pallor, Geraidine fupported
herfeif through :ne trying fcene with meeknefs,
piet}'- and fortiiude. Kneeling by his bed-fide,
ihe felt the prcflure of his coavulfed hand upon
her hei.d, received from his quivering lips the
kifs of reconciliation and peace, and watched the
laft ftruggle of his parting ioul, as it winged its
flight tojoin in Hcavcii ihofe benevolent fpirits

Vol. 11. 1 \vhom


whom it had imitated on earth. Univerfal de-
je6Hon accompanied the news of his death, ard
_the ttars of a grateful neighbourhood fpoke. his
unequivocal eulugium.


— — One r^ilfe ftep for ever damns her fame ;
In vain with tears the rriay her lofs depk)re ; ^

In vain look back to what fne was before ; ^-

jShe fets, like itavs that fail, to life sgain no more. )


X HE obfervation of Solon, repeat-^d by the
ce'ebrated Crcefus at the nioit interelting period
of his life, ' that we never fliould pronour.ce a
*• man happy until we have fecii his end/ was
flrikingly verilied in my heroine's niifory. H;2:r
morn of exiffeiice roO; with peculiar fpiendour;
and even the contemplative philofopher, who is
accuilomed to look bevond the furface, and to ba-
lance hope wifh experience, when he confidered
the rare advantages of judicious educatioji, amia-
VJe temper, diicreet nabit?^, ample w;aiih, ami
L'xemplaiy connections, united in the perlon of
the lovely Gcraldine, njuif have concluded that
no common viciHicude of fortune could demoiilh
this goodly fabric.

'liic commencement of her married life was,
in tlie opi.'iion or the generahry of ohfisrvers,



trqually aufpicinus. United to the man of her
heart, her fuperior in rank, and correfponding to
hcrfelf in fortune, perfonal grace, and natural
advantages, what * a pity if aught" had inter-
vened to prevent the Hymeneal bond from infur-
in"- the happinefs of ^ this matchlefs pair/ T^he
latent fpark of vanity, lurking in her bofom, was
undefcried ; and no one could calculate how long
it would he before the carelefs Monteith would
drop the chara6ler of a lover. No one afKed,
where is the firm judgirienr, the manly tender-
refs, which (hould guide and direcfi: this attracling
■woman through the thorny ma7.e of public life ?
Every admirer of equipage, vivacity, fplendour,
and beauty, pronounced the perpetual happinefs
of the earl and his bride.

Five years had elapfed fmce Powerfcourt-houfe
exhibitedthefceneoffeilivity with which lufhered
in this narrative ; and the fun of Geraldine*s
peace is fet for ever. The Oiadows lengthei^ing,
as the bright luminary defcends, point at laft to
the tomb. The death of a revered father, full of
ao-e and honour, is not of itfelF an event to cait
a fable hue over the fcarcely mature life of a du-
tiful afF£6lionate daughter j but the circamffances
attending fir William Powerfcouri's demifc were;
fuch as lady Monteith could never overcome.
She felt convinced that file had (hortened his ex-
iilence; and though his parting fpirit, uniformly
benignant, bieQed and forgave his involuntary
murderer, a thoufand fatal indifcretions rofe to
her remembrance, and, feen through the medium
of their eiFedts, they no longer appeared pardon-
able levities. She who had afpired to give de-
light and comfort to all around her, had brought
difgrace on her hufoand, infamy on her children
and deatli to her father. The piou&confolatiorij^

I 2 ^f


of ATr. Evans alleviated the h( no:s of lier fnft de-
'fpaii ; hvjt mining grief confirmed the ravages
v/hich fatiii-uc .u-.d terror had made in her delicate
frnmc. Each riniig niorniiie fcemcd to announce
fDme faded chnrni. Unifcirm deje6lion ufurped
the place cf her faf.inaiing fniile. l^'eeblenefs
and melancholy alike reilrained her fportivcly
graceful movement? j and inficad of the corufca-
tions of her fprightly wit, ' foirovv unfeigned and
humiliation derp' fpoke in all her accents.

Yet the heirefs of lir William Povi^erfcourt's
fortunes miift ftill pojlefs fufficieiit charms to al-
lure a mercenary heart; and Fiizofborne (whom
cowardice and chicane had preferved from the
vengeance which lord Monteith's pardonable fury
firft prompfcd him to require for his injured ho-
nour) enccui'aged the audacious hope, tKat the
hgal procefs which the frantic hufband imme-
diately commenced to vindicate his wrono-s would
terminate in the accon-^^piiCiment of all his vVifhes,
"by jiutting him in poireiiK.-n of a wealthy and ad-
mired wife. Miiled bv liis own taKe maxims,
which had taught him to believe that ' a woman
' pardons eve'ry infult when ihs loves the infult-
' er,' he ventured on the atrociciis ciirnes which
r.;ade hirji maiter of lady Monttith's perfon,
vrhile he linew her uncontaminated foul revolted
zi the idea cf C(K.jugal infidelity. He was now
periuaded, that fbe n.uft feel anxious to rejiair
hertarniihed honour : and beinc; convinced that
grief and fhame never pioved fc.thl to youth ai d
beauty, when its return to rcpuracion and haj^pi-
nefs feemed not only polnble, but certain, he de-
teimiued to make my drc^oping Heroine, what he
called, an hG}i<jurablc otter, in the letter which
he addrelTed to her upon this occafion, he ex-
i^iained his fentiments with more explicit freedom



tlian he had dared to do while Geraldinc, proud
in confcious innocence, felt no necefTity of ap-
plying for confoiation to the fubrertugcs of fo -
phifm. But he now thought her predominant
love of fiime and honor of reproach would in-
duce her to extricate herfelf from the difgrace in
which his infamous artifices and her own credu-
lity had plunged her, by adopting thole excufes
which were invented to enfeeble virtue, and to
fanctify vice. He Icneu^ indeed, that (he had a
tale to tell, which would harrow up the hearer's
foul ; but he well underflood the laws by which
public opinion is regulated, and the delicacy of
her fentiments. Thefe reafons convinced him,
that (he would never expofe her defence to a
doubtful belief. I (hsU now fubjoin his letter
written about two months after fir William's
death, with her reply.

• 'iTo the Countess of Monteith,

' Madam,

' When I refie£l upon the melancholy event
' which has recently happened at Poweii'courc, I
' feel that an adcUiional odinm devolves upon me,
' which refieclion and candour muft ov/n I have
' jiot deferved. Could I poifibly have forefeen,
' that when I felt the power of your irrefilhble
'• charms, I was preparing the grave of your

* worthy father ! No, lovelieft, and mod-adored

* of women ! whatever of impeifecl:ion and frailty
' may be attached to my charailrr, it is pure from
^ the reproach of deliberate cruelty.

' I hear, with inexprelTible concern, that your
*-■ too fufceptible mind finks under the incouve-

* niences of your prefent fituacion. Suffer me,

' madam.


' madam, to remove the veil of forrow which no'^
' clouds your reafon, and permit me to dire»f£
' your view to future profpedls. Inconfideration
' like mine (for I, in juftice, claim that the
' blnmie fhould be folely confined to myfelf) is too

* frequent in this a2;e to excite indignation ; and
' the known unworthinefsof lord Monteith forms
' an excufe v. hich all ladies who have diflblved
' their firft marriage connecSiion cannot plead.
•• Someconverfation will indeed beexcited, while

* his iordfhip purfues the legal revenge which his
' vindidtive temper will prompt him to adopt.
' But it will ceafe with the adventures of the
' day. Your prefent exemplary behaviour will
' ref^ore you to the efteem of the world; and
*• permit me, Madam, to indulge a hope, (it is

* tne only one which, fmce I nave heard of your

* extreme diflrefs, makes my exiflence fupporta-

* ble,^ tiiat you wiJI deign to accept th? repara-
tion which it is in my power to make you, by
allowing me to lead you to the altar the moment
you are free from your prefent difaftrous tie.
There, Ivrufl wiih the inoit aufplcious omeiis,
will i dedicate to you a heart penetrated with
your merits, and a mind capable of revering all
the dazzling fuperiority of tafle, information,
and difcernment, which you poiTefs.

' I muft hope, that the happy moment will ar-
rive, when we fhall look back upon our paft for-
rows with complacency, and confider them as
the progenitors of prefent blifs. But why
fhould exceflive forrow now prey upon your
heart ? It is but to fee y©u, adorned as you are
with all that art and nature can bellow of lovely
and excellent ; it is but to contraft your cha-
ra£ler with that of the imperious infenfible be-
ing to whom a juvenile inclination unhappily



eng^get] you -, and lie muft be loft to the moft
amiable feelings of humanity who does not ex-
cufe and pity me. The moft enlightened lite-
rati of the age have proved, that chaftity con-
ftfts in the Individuality of affection ; and when
lord Alonteith's conducl has forfeited vour af-
fec^ion, the transfer of your perfon to another
is equally delicate and juft. Marriage, being
merelv a civil engagement, cannot invalidate
the great laws of Nature ; and the man muft be
a prey to the moft narrow prejudices, who would
deny a woman the right of flying to the protec-
tion of a kindred mind, when her revolting
foul fpurns the tyrannical power of a huil)and
whom ftie can neither refpe6l nor love.
' O my beloved Geraldine 1 fuft'er me to drop
the hateful title of your former thraldom, and
to call you mine. 1 have been contented to
fupprefs the keen indignation of v.ounded ho-
nour, and have forborne to interrupt your filial
forrows by an explanation ot what muft appear
to you a bafe defertion when 1 left you at the

inn at . Alas ! I only propofed aii ab-

fence of a few hours to procure you an honour-
able afylum in my fifter's family ; and during
that interval Monteith, with the capricious cru-
elty natural to his difpofition, bereft me of the
trealure I had rifked fo much to obtain, and
then abandoned it to an unfeeling world. What
anguifti have 1 not fuff^ered fmce that moment !
Yet, ftiil more to convince you of the refpe6lful
delicacy of my unaltered love,l v/ill not afls. per-
million to ihrov>7 myfelf at your feet till the
joyful moment of your emancipation. Then
will I lead you back to the world, nine-tenths
of whom will not onlyjuftify but applaud your
condu6t. That fyftem of univerfal beaevo-



lencc, which fuperfedes all written; precept,,
gains ground. To that do we appeal, and
not to the infane morality of fpceific injunc-
tions, which foolifiily and even wickedly at-
tempt to bring individual actions under the
limitation of one general rule. Man in fo-
ciety mull: retain all his natural rights j and
the reltraints that circurr.fcribe thofe rights
(if founded upon falfe principles) mult foon
fubmit to the rehftlefs voice of public opinion.
Nor does this fyfteni tend to encourage gene-
ral profligacy of manners. No ! it can only
apply to thofe more intelligsnt charac^lers,.
whofe refmement is a fecurity againll licen-

* So acute is my own confcioufnefs of error,
that my heart ftarts from the remorfeful re-
collection of fome indire€l means, not wholly
confifltnt with the lovely fmcerity of truth,
which my refifllefs paffion for you urged me
to adopt. For the deceptions which only love
can excufe, I humbly entreat your pardon, and
I faithfully promife you, that as they were the
firfl, fo they fiiall be the lad inftances of mo-
ral turpitude which you (hall ever difcover in
the conduct of,

' Madam,

* Your entirely devoted

* Edwabd Fitzosborne.


< DOES Mr. Fitzofborne fuppofe the unhap-

* py vidtim of his treachery as meanjy bafe as

* he has proved her to be weakly credulous,

« that


that he affronts her with a a propofal, which
atrocious guih alone empowers him to make ;
and from the indignity of which Ihe was once
happily fecured by infurmountable barriers,
till he reduced her to the dire necefTity of fur- -
rendering the facred name of wife, and ming-
ling her blufhes with her tears, when Ihe hears
the once-joyful honourable appellation o£
mother ?

* You feem, fir, to difown the charge of dell- -
berate cruelty. Account, if you can, for your
conducfi: by any other motive. You know
what I was when I had firft the misfortune of
feeing you. You know how focn you formed
a plan for my deftruOion, and by what arts
you have made me what I am. You know
too, how your infidious friendlhip feduced
lord INIonteith, and made him unconfcioufly
acceiTary to my undoing. To you he owes
the contamination of his once unfullied ho-
■nour. From you, my innocent, dlfgraced,
deferted children, require their mother,
their inftruftor, tlie guardian of their in- -
fant years. From you I demand my ruined
peace, my- unfullied fame, my lod health, and
ever blrtded prorpe<Slj which, while they ren-

* 'd-ere-d life valuable, taught me to look on death

* with ferenity. I net only require of you the

* life of rr.y dear venerable father, tln> 1 alfo,

* charge you with having given inconc^ivahl.i

* anguirri to the lail hours of one -who lived but
\ to make others happy; wyiofc oenevolence

* would not have hurt a worm I — He is at red. —

* Would I were fo too ' — O that I were now

< joined to his pure beatified fpirit ' — But I muft

< firft pafs through many a purifying fea of for-
*~-row. How excruciatingly refined ha& yjur

I 3 cruj-ltv


cruelty been ! Life Is infupportable, but I dare
not afk to die.

* I fcorn to reply to the arguments urged in
your infamous letter. Addrefs them, lir, to
thofe who, while they lead a life of guilt, wifh
cheaply to purchafe the reputation of virtue.
Yet beware how you confide in them, when
the awful fummons of death calls you to an
invifible world. For me, all my temporal
views have terminated. I feek no fubterfuges.
I will endure the cenfures of the world ; they
are mv juft portion. Its vindications I would
rejeft'with difdain. I fubmit to whatever
punifhment lord Monteith's lawful refentment
inflidls. It does not belong to imprudence
like mine either to juftify its actions, or to
complain of fuftering. In repentance is all
my hope.

< I will enumerate the offences which claim
my conftant tears. You will then fee what
portion of guilt falls to your (hare — Your
artful adulation pleafed my vanity, and vi-hile
I fuppofed myfelf merely amufed by your con-
verfation, vou excited a growing intereft in
my regard. To you, by imperceptible degrees,
I transferred the eileem of which I thought
my lord undeferving ; and I foothed my re-
proving confcience by fuppofing, that in ad-
miring you, I honoured virtue. Blindly per-
tinacious, I perfifted in rejefting the councils
of my more difcerning friends, and purfued
my own fallacious judgment, which taught
me, that immoral adions were not the natu-
ral confequence of relaxed principle. You
know that you concealed the full tendency of
thofe principles from me. You know that I'
always darted at wh^it I thought feemed to

* militate


militate agalnft religion and virtue. You
often aflailed me, but I was your admirer and
apologift, not your convert.
* Thus far have I contributed to my undoing ;
and may my llory be an awful momento to all
who, trufting in the fuppofed fecurity of their
own virtue, negle£l the fuggeftions of pru-
dence ; and, under the perverted name of
friendlhip, admit a finilier gueft to difpute the
pofleflion of their affections with the lawful
claims of connubial duty ! May it alfo warn
thofe wives, who, availing themfelves of the
indulgence of faihlon, permit the marked at-
tentions of an agreeable man of unknown or
fufpicious charaCler, however they may think
themfelves fandliioned by cuftom, protcdled by
the rules of decorum, or fecured, as you taught
me to think, by the bond of pre-attachment. -■
I {hall not then die in vain,
* Let me, though fhame and horror' alike
agitate my trembling frame, this once allude
to thofe particulars of my misfortunes, v/hich
you alone can illudrate. You feerri to allow,,
that it was to vour artifices 'that I owed the
fatal abfence of my friend and my huiband on
the day I left Monteith. You know the ar-
guments by which you influenced my elope-
ment ; may your repentance enable ycu to
efcape the terrible maledicl:ion with v.'hich ycu
clofed them. You know how I hoped to over-
take my lord at every ftage \ but your heart,
rendered callous by guilt, cannot canceive the
agonies of mine when I firlt fufpeCled your
nefarious purpofe. My confufed recollection
can trace no more. I only know, that re-
turning reafon taught me, that I wa& a \v retch
* for ever,

- < And.



* And can you — who know that your life is
in my hands, who are confcious that, by tell-
ing my fad tale in a court of juftice, I could
convid: you of a crime more foul than mur-
der — fuppofe me capable of plighting my faith
to a monfler ? No ! Fitzolborne ; enjoy the
fecurity which my own feelings, and not
compalfion for you, allows you to poffefs j.but
infult me no more. Know, that the moment
v.'hich revealed your bafenefs tore from my
heart every veltige of efteem, and taught me,
by my detcilation of the offence, to hate and
to defpife the offender.

« From a wilh of roufing in your bread the
torpid feelings of compunction, 1 honour your
letter v.'ith a copious reply. The compliments
you pay to beauty ^re ill addrefed to the fad-
ed form which pens this epiille ; and the
praile of fuperior talents are equally inappli-
cable to her whom you have proved guilty of
the weakelt vanity, and the blindcft credu-

* 1 have forfeited the name with which lorrl^
Monteith once honoured me, and I will not
dif^race the unfullied purity of my father's.

< Geraldine.'^

An interefling converfation took place be-
tween njy heroine and her friend upon the fub-
jt<^ of thefe letters. The countefs had (hewn
them to Mifs Evans, and requciled her opinion
ol the tendency of her lepjy. * Worthy of

* yourfclf,' v/as the anfwer. * But there is one

* part,' continued Lucy, * wliich fcems to aik

* for explanation : Some particulars of your

* Itory are unknown to me, nor do I wiOi to

* h^ar


hear wliat it will be agony for you to repeat.
But why, my deareft ! do you hentate to do
ludice to your wounded fame, perhaps too to
preferve fome other vi<fiim from meditated
ruin, by giving up a villain to that punifhment
which the offended laws of his country would
infl!<fl: upon his atrocious crimes ?'
* My relolution,' faid the countefs, is fixed ^
but you fliall hear thereai'ons on which it is
founded. You know the fabricated tale
which drew me from Monteith. My recol-
lection, then not clear,, foon grew more con-
fufed ; and it is only by comparing circum-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18

Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestA tale of the times (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 18)