Mrs. (Jane) West.

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Itances that I eaa connecl: my narrative. I
think I muft have been firfl: taken to an obfcure.
houfe in a lonely lituation j for 1 recolledl on
the horfes flopping I faw only trees and a^
mean building, and I thought how foolilli it
was to ftop there, as my lord would never put-
up at fuch a place as that. — I fuppofe that I -
was detained there till my piirfuers had pafled
upon the road. I remember travelling' very/
faft -, but my head was too bad for me to guefs
where. It was on a Thurfday that I lert the
caftle. My lord found me in a fmall inn in
Lancadiire on Tuefday. I was fitting in a
room by myfelf, and weeping bitterly, when
he burft in. He reviled me in the fevered
terms, and allied me for Fitzofborne. I told
him that I did not know where he was, and
wilhed I never mi^ht fee him more. — Indeed,
Lucy,. I fpoke the truth; but my lord redou-
bled his ravings. — I know that I faid I was
not fo wicked as he fuppofed ; and I made an
effort to kneel •, but whether he fpurned me
from him, or I fell through giddinefs, I can-
not tell.~^I hurt myfelf in my fall ; and, re-

* covering,


covering, found myfelf covered with blood.
But my head was relieved, and I was treatec?
with companion. I kept aficing for my lord.
They told me, that he was gone after the*
gentleman who came with me. O what a
found was that for me ! The people at the inn-
were worthy characters. They believed mer
to be penitent, and afTilled me to efcape from
my feducer. I knew not where to go ; but I
thought you would advife me. I travelled
« rapidly towards Powerfcourt till I heard of my
< father's illnefs. You know the reft.'

The trembling Geraldine faltered as (he re-
peated this melancholy tale, and then funk weep-
ing on the bofom of her friend.

* Suppofe me now,' continued fhe, as foon as
fhe could recover compofure enough to proceed,
repeating this narrative in a court of juftice ;-
every eye fixed upon me with offenfive curi-
ofity ; infulted (at lead in my own opinion)
bv that crofs-examination, which impartial
juflice will require to difcover whether I was-
not the willing partner of the crime. The
powers of eloquence will be exerted againft me.
Confuricn my make me prevaricate ; and
when life is at llake, mercy pleads for the cri-
minal whofe guilt appears doubtful. None'
of my own fcrvants were with me. I can
brincr no corroborating evidence. It will be
proved, that I was feea with him on the road,
and at feveral inns, atid made no efFort to ef-
cape. My appearance may have caufed con-
tradictory opinions ; and art like his would
certainly take care that the general imprelTioa
{hould be unfavourable. To thofe who know
not my ufual manner, I might feem pafTive,
or acquiefccnt, as well as infenfible.

« But^


« But fuppofe my chara6ler receives all the
« juftificatioii it can by his condemnation, of
' what advantage vi^ill his death be to me, or to

* the world '' The vain beauty, who is not de-

* terred by my misfortunes from liftening to the

< adulations of a Fitzofborne, will not be dif^
*• fu.'.ded from encouraging the firen fong of

* flattery by hearing that- a determined feducer
' can call in arts more unwarranted than illicit

* perfuafion. Lord Monteith can never be re*

* united to me. His honour and my delicacy
' demonftrate the impoffibility of oblivious for-

* givenefs. Wherever my children appeared^,

< the fad tale of their mother would (fill be
' whifpered, and the blufh of fhame muft dye

* their cheeks.

« Nor,* continued fhe, wiping the tear which
maternal feelings called forth, < can the mortal
wound in my reputation ever be healed. I
am confcious of a thoufand indifcretions, pro-
ceeding indeed from the erroneous idea, that
every virtue, as well as every accompliffiment,
united in Fitzofborne's mind. Not an ac-
quaintance have I in Scotland, or in London,
who cannot relate thofe indifcretions, and tell
with what marked preference I received his
attentions •, and when thefe corroborating tales
are confidered,^ will candour fay, * Perhaps
the vain trifler ftopped at atfbual guilt ?' A
thoufand incidental circumflances concur to
overwhelm me. My^mother's jewels are now
in his poffeflion. They were not given with
a culpable defign ; but who will acquit me ?
who knows that lord Monteith's affairs were
embarraffed ? Or fuppofe I flate my motives :
there again I am fole witnefs in my own
caufe j and ihe who beftowed on a ftranger tl e

* confidence


confidence which (he withheld from her huf-
band, can fcarcely expedl belief. I gave him
my picture too. — Good heaven, what blind
delufion ! No • Lucy ; I muil be filent. I
have been too culpable to talk of innocence.
Tlie licentious would fay, poor Fitzofborne
was very hardly ufed at laft by the woman who-
invited his attack •, and the cenforious would-
accufe me of taking a cruel method to redeem^
an irretrievable reputation.'
< Still,* faid Mifs Evans, « there are advanta-
ges which you have not confidered. Your*
daughters would certainly be reftored to your
care.' A flood of tcirs buift from the eyes

of Geraldine, and fliC faintly uttered : < Sweet,
lovely, helplefs girls '' Then, after a paufe,

(he added, * Could I flatter myfelf with the ex-
pe<5lation that my protracted life would be-
advantageous to them, this fuggeftion would
have weight; but a trarjieni fel f-indulgence
may be bought too dear.'
« At lead,' urged Lucy, * let Monteith knov/-
your (lory. Convinced of your comparative •
inr.ocence, (you will not, I know, allow me
to ufe a more favourable word,) Henry has
been for feme time employed in colleOmg
the clrcumUances in your favour. The chief
are the teAimony and the confefhon of your
fervants at Monteith. Suffer him to add to it
your narrative, before he tranfmits it to your

* By no means : ufe your influence with your
geneious Henry to abandon his propofed juf-
tification. I know the difpofition of him who
nvas my hulband. While he confiders me as
an adultercfs, contempt preferves my gallant

< from


from his vengeance ; and he can wait the flow
proceedings of the law now his firft fury has
fubfided. But if he knows the wrongs his
once-beloved Geraldine has endured, not the
united world could difluade from taking a
more fummary vengeance. He would pur-
fue the ravrflier of his wife to the remote ft
corner of the globe, and only value his own
life as it was the means of alfiiiling his adver-
fary. Chance, or (kill, my Lucy, and notjuf-
tice, determines thefe bhnd and audacious ap-
peals to prefumptuous vengeance. And (hall
my heiplefs babes lofe their only parent ? No 1
let every document in my favour be fupprelT-
ed, at leaft till lord Monteith is fecure from
the fword of my feducer.'

< Confider yet once more. Your lord hai
commenced proceedings in a court of juftice.*

-< I have deferved difgrace^ and muft endure

< The legitimacy of your little fon, I fear, is

Geraldine ihrank with horror. < O wide ex-
tended evil ! faid (he. Three generations,.,
blafted by me, may curfe the hour when I was
born. Yet, my murdered father I thy benig-
nant fpirit, even in the pangs of death, for-
gave me. Will my fiandered babes be inexo-
rable ? But I fhall not hear their reproaches.
The time is not far diftant when I may fpeak
with an expeOation of being believed. I will
juftify to lord Monteith the fufpedted, becaufe
premature, birth of his fon. O infupportable
anguifh ? that fuch juftification fliould be re-
quired of me.'



MIfs Evans repeated this converfatlon to her
father and Henry. The latter pralfed the great-
nefs of foul which did'tated thefe fentiments. .

* Your interelting friend, my dear child, does

* indeed repent,' faid Mr. Evans. * No vindic-

* tive rage, no felf-acquitting accufations of
*^ others, mingles with her true reniorfe. She
< properly appreciates the degree of her own

* culpability ; iwr does any remaining affcflion-

* for her feducer lurk in her palRonate reproach-

* es. She feems, like the penitent defcribed by

* our immortal bard,-

-* To repent her, as it is an evil.

* And takes the fhame with joy I'

« To fuch contrition we are warranted to hope
« that the golden gates of mercy will be un^
* clofed,'



CHAP. xvr.

Hall wedded love ! by thee,

Founded in reafon, loyal, juft, and pure>,

Relations dear, and all the charities

Of father, fon, and brother, firfl were known.


vTRIEF, the fwlft anticipator of time, conti-
nued to prey on Geraldine's youthful cheek.
Her decay was vifible to every beholder. But
Lucy Evans, ftill liftening to the flattery of hope,
believed that another and another day would
bring the defired amendment. Paffionately ad-
miring the beauties of nature, flie wooed the
tardy fpring to approach, and continued to re-
peat the well-known defcription 5

—Airs, vernal airs,

Able to cure all fadnefs bvit defpalr.

Defpair was, however, the mortal difeafe, under
which her friend laboured.^ Like Shenflone's
interefting JefTy, fhe faw in every object fome
reproach of her folly, or fome memento of her
former happinefs. * What have I,' fhe would
fay to herfelf, * to do with hope ; and what

* without hope is life ?*

EngrofTed wholly by her friend's diftrefs,
Lucy dedicated all her time and thoughts to her
fervice and amufement. ' If I could fee that

* faded cheek blufh again !' fhe would fay.

« Surely


* Surely her appetite leaves her, ITwatch her

* fleeplefs couch till I fink with wearinefs. X

* wake, and the firft objeft which the lamp

* fliews me is her uncloled eyes. 1 offend my

* own feelings to affume cheerfulnefs. She

* fometimes fmiles, but it is fuch a fickly fmik,

* fo unlike its former exhilarating brilliancy,

* it fpeaks fo plainly, I will even feem diverted

* to footh my apprehenfive Lucy/

Henry Powerfcourt often reproved this ex-
treme folicitude ; blamed her for being en-
groffed by one obje<fl ; and pleaded his prior
right to her attention, and her promife of mak-
ing him happy. * O, talk not to me of feftal
« days and happy vows,' (he would reply,

* when every hour prefents to me the affe^lfng

* fpeftacle of declining lovelinefs ! Surely,

* Henry, you never loved our Geraldine, if you
< can now think of any one but her.'

It was one lovely fpring-day, that Lucy pre-
vailed upon her friend to accompany her into
the parfonage-garden, to look at the burfting-
germs of the lilac, and the honey-fuckle's tender
green. They had proceeded to Nerina's bower
before the trembUng knees of Geraldine re-
quired reft. When a little recovered, flie yead
with pleafure the infcription v^^hich Henry had
placed there, while Lucy energetically repeated
the lafl lines j and not in fen fible to the charm
of praife, when offered by one (he loved, fhe
exclaimed, * There's a happy compliment for
« you. You ufed to fay, coufm Hal would

* never learn to make fine fpeeches.'

The fmile which Lucy's fprightly fally in-
vited foon yielded to the bitter recoilef^ion oh
former days. * Happy blamelefs delight I' faid
the countefs gazing on her friend ; * long may

« it:


^ it be youis ! May my fweet Lucy continue to
* receive the incenfe due to her v/orth, nor fear
^ that a latent poifon lurks in the grateful fra-
grance ! All, that I had never welcomed
praife but from a hufband's tongue !
< Let me,' continued (he, * herej in this
your favoured retreat, difclofe ^o you the hif-
tory of my errors. You need no warning ;
but the time will probably foon arrive, when
the remembered confidence will ilill more
endear this fpot.

* I had not been long a wife before I difco-
-vered that my eye had betrayed my judgment
fo far as tc fruftrate my expeflation of ever
finding in marriage that communion of well-
paired minds, that feaft of reafon and that
flow of foul which I had looked up to as the
perfeclion of felicity. Every attempt to give
lord Monteith a tafte for inteileftual pleafures
was unfucccfsful. But I was not unhappy*
I rememb-ir your exceilent mother's precepts,
and reconciled myfelf to the limited enjoy-
n^.ents which this world affords. In every
eccentricity I beheld myfelf the undifputed
miilrefs of my huiband's heart. In many
initances I faw my power over his determina-
tions ; and often a genuine trait of nativa
goodnefs appeared in fomething apparently
inconfiftent and irregular. I compared my
fituation with that of many married ladies
whom I knew, and 1 found abundant reafon
to be contended with my lot.
* I then firlt faw Fitzofborne, and unhappily
poffefled fufficicnt confequence to attract his
notice. He (trove to pleafe, and foon grew
interefting. Yet, weak as I have proved
myfelf to be, I think I lliould not have been

* the


the vi6llm of his arts, had not my lord's be*
havio'jr to me been perceptibly changed. He
was no longer the man who engaged my
youthful love, or the hufband who claimed
my refpedl and gratitude. Then, and not
till then, did I feel the power of contrafk
which I had hitherto indignantly avoided.
The elegant commendations of Fitzofborne
taught me, that I wsis not a being of a vulgar
mould. His graceful attentions indicated the
homage which merit like mine ought to re*
ceive. His glowing defcriptions, though de-
licate as the ear of purity itfelf could defire,
pointed out a fairy region of felicity, the abode
of congenial minds, where human foibles and
human forrovi^s never intrude. Infatuated by
this unreal vifion, the blamelefs occupations
by which I had pveviouily diverted painful
reflefticns became infipid. Wrongs were
converted into unpardonable Injuries, and in-
attentions grew into wrongs. I no longer re-
collefted thofe who were lefs happy than
myielf. The pang of vvcunded love loft its
tendernefs, while it alTumed the indignant
fpirit of o {tended pride ; and my rebel heart,
imperceptibly alienated from its lawful pof-
feffor, admitted an ufurpcd claim.
< O, Lucy ! if my tale were told, it would
not only ferve as a war»iing to our weak fex,
whom vanity or fufceptibility generally betrays,
but alfo to thofe hulbands who are anxious
to guard their horr&ur from reproach. I
would bid them not entireTy Trepend upon the
ftability of our principles or the ^^onilancy of
bur attachments, but to aflift >6ur virtue by
that almoR invincible deience'vvhich their be-
haviour to us wciild fupply. Might they not,

* without


■^ without derogating from their own fuperl-
oriry, treat our foibles with generous lenitv,
and make even our faults conducive to our
fecurity ? Praife is never fo grateful as from
thofe we love. Attentions are never fo pleaf-
ing as from our dearell friends. Let them
not, when they neglecft us, fuppofe, that the
afliduity of an agreeable follower is only
welcome to the determined wanton. The. de-
hcate mind, that iljrinks abhorrent from the
thought of guilt, may divert the pangs of
unrequited affecftion by indulging the unfuf-
pe<fl:ed feelings of cfteem and gratitude for
an amiable obfervant frienrl. Modern man-
lUfrs juiiify thefe connexions, and modern
hiltoiy defcribes their refult. But let me not
recriminate. My hopes of pardon are founded
on my own penitence, not on the aggravation
of my huiiand's errors. The fuperior ad-
vantages of my education, my habits of re-
fle<fi:ioD, my fenfe of fj-jame, the acutenefs of
my- feiifibility, were all entruRed talents j
and I recollfcCl with terror the awful nfTur-
ance, that where much is given much will be

< 8till, my Geraldine !' cried Lucy, * ftill art
thcu the ailbciate of the pure in heart.'

* I might Ivavti been, had I liltened to your
counfeis.' Have you forgiven me, Lucy .'' I
fear you have not.'

* Forgiven you ^. O ! when did you offend .'"
« Ti f n will you undertake to pay a debt

*■ which has long burdened m.y confcience ? I
« mull hope to live to fee it difchurged.'

Lucy's finances were not very abundant. She
could fcarcejy underitand her friend's inten-

< Reward




< Reward Henry Powerfcourt,' continued
the countefs ; ' for you alone can. And let
my fetting fun contemplate the only obje<3:

* on which it can now look with pleafure. My

< contagious mifery has extended to all I love.
Be you and your generous noble Henry ex-

* ceptions.'

Lucy could not refift this afFedl:lonate appeal.
She only pleaded, that the death of their revered
benefactor was too recent.

* His daughter,' refumed the mourner,

* wiflies to perform the office which he would

< gladly have executed : I mean, beftow^ing

< you on a deferving partner. Look, Lucy, is

< there much time to lofe ? Will this hand be

* long equal to the pleafnig talk ?*

Geraldine, as fhe fpoke, held up her hand
-againft the fun. Its fymmetry was formerly
one of her diiiinguifhed charadls. It now ex-
hibited a bare anatomy, loofely covered by a
(hrivelled il:in. Each meandering vein and liga-
ture was vifibie. it fcarcely obitrudl:ed the ])e-
netrating beam. Lucy flung herfelf into her
friend's arms, and mingled compliance with
her tears.

On the day of celebration, lady Montelth,
in compliment to the bride, changed her fable
drefs for the tadeful elegance of her former
Ijabit. She never looked more lovely. A hec-
tic bloom was fpread over her check, and the
accomplifhment of a favourite wifh gave to her
eyes the radiant emanation which they ufed to
poflefs. She was compofed, and almoll cheer-
ful. She feemed to forbid the intrufive forrow
which preyed upon her own heart, and to drive
the remembrance of her woes from others. A
plain refpettable neighbour of the Evans's, and



his wife, were the only company. They were
(truck with her appearance, and almoil feemed
to Inquire, * V/as that Mifs Powerfcourt that

* was, or was it fome angel in her form ?' la
the overflowing of their hearts they talked of
the manor-houfe, the happy fcenes of feftivity
it exhibited when fhe lived there ; and then re-
peated the:'- blunt wiflies, that it nnghtfoon be
as gay again. The countefs accepted the well-
intentioned compliment, and added, that fhe
hoped it would. Her eyes glanced upon the
bride's, who met them with an expreffion of
pleafure. « She hopes to live,' whifpered (he
to Henry. « O furely that hope will be grati-
« iied !'

The morning after thefe aufpiclous nuptials
was marked by a converfation peculiarly inter-
efting. Lady Monteith had prepared the necef-
fary forms, and flie took this opportunity of
delivering to Mr. Powerfcourt what (lie called a
pledge of her elleem. He faw with furprif?
and regret, that it was a gift of that part of th^
Powerfcourt eftate which was by her marriage
fertlement ref^^rved for her unlimited difpofal.
Henry exclaimed againlt the profufe generofity
of her intentions ; affirmed, that her father's
bounty had gratified all his wlfn^s ; and pointed
out the propriety of prefenting it to lord Mon-
tei h.

< What,' faid the countefs, « to purchafe
« forgivenefs for me } My lord would difdain

* to receive what T (liould blufh to offer."

< For your children then,' faid Powerfcourt.
« My daughter's fortunes are fuificiently am-

« pie, ^nd lord Monteith's mufl revert to his
< fon. Do not, Henry, reject this gift, if you

* would not add to my prefent forrows. ' I
Vol. II. K * have

2l8 A TALE OF ruv. TIMES.

^ have been unjuft to your :r.erlts, even from

■« my girllfh days. But though I may confefs

' my undifctfVning caprice, 1 do not lament

* what has fccured your happinefs by uniting

< you to a mind fo much better adapted to the

< firm integrity of your own. Mme is not a
^ difinterefted bequeil. How richly may you
' repay this fordid boon by the communication
' of unperifhing advantages ! I have no right

^ to the difpofal of my children. I gave them

< being, but I have forfeited all pretenfions to

< dire^l: their education, or to difpofe of their

< perfons. Every requell which 1 could make

< would but inflame lord Monteltli's juft refent-

< ment. You have never wronged him : on

< the contrary, your difcrimination and inte-

< grity would have preferved me from the abyfs

< into which I have plunged. Perhaps a proper

* reprefentation might induce him to commit to

< your care thofe unhappy objects, whom

< wounded honour muft refufe to their wretched

* mother. They no longer can give him plea-
' fure, and he muft willi to remove from him
« fuch lively mementos, of former happinefs.*

Mr. Powerfcourt and his Lucy both promifed
to folicit the facred truft, and to difcharge it
with pun(ftual fidelity.

< And you too will continue to refide with
us ?* inquired the bride.

The countefs (liook her head.
« Where do you mean to go ?' repeated Mrs.

< There is but one afylum,' anfwered Geral-
dine. * If I could but be received there." —
< Can we afTi'.l you in procuring it :' refumed
her afFe<Slionate friend.

* I firmly


« I firmly believe, that you all have an in-
* terefl there,' continued the countefs, looking
round her. * Remember nie in your prayers.'
Lucy, no longer able to miltake her meaning,
burit: into tears *, while Powerfcourt, too much
agitated even to notice the diftrefs of his be-
loved wiFe, attempted to relieve the gloom
which deprefled lady Monteith's profpec^s. He
talked ot the claims which fociety had upon
her, and of the power of time in foftening

* What claims has fociety,' returned flie,
upon a wretch whom every one that is tena-
cious of reputation muft abjure ? iMy huf-
band muil caft me off, or be degraded by the
reproach of fubmltting to wilful infamy. My
children muft be eftranged from my fight, or
be fufpecled cf being infected by my conta-
miinating criminality. Time, Mr. Powerf-
court, will heal the wounds of common for-
rovvs ; it may redrcfs the wrongs of inno-
cence, or recruit the fiiattered fortunes of
poverty. But what can time do for me .'' Can
it obviate the fatal elTecfls cf my errors -, recall
my father from his grave ; give to my chil-
dren that unfullied honour wliich my condudl:
has tarnilLcd ; or reftore to myfelf that peace
of mind which I feel to be for evtr forfeited ?
If time can accompliih thefe wonders, wel-
come years of fuft'ering ; welcome the ago-
nies which lead to hopes fo dear; welcome
the poign?.!U regret which teaches the value
of blcllings tliat may be again enjoyed. But
neither time nor foi row can rein ft ate me in
thefe loft bit fill 'V^s, or r-Mlore to me the good
opinion- of tue world. My fccluded remorfe
has no wimeffes •, and if it were oftentatious,

K 2 « it


« it would be fufpiclous. Part of my ftory re-
« mains untold ; but, judging of what is known,

< the world is right in its renunciation of me.

< No rules are prefcribed for my future con-

< du(51:, except feclunon, repentance, and
<- death.'

Mu Evans interrupted the pathetic p?ufe
which fuccteded the countefs's atfecftir.g con-
clufion with all the folemn earned refs which
fhould ever charafterize the Chriftian prieft-
hood. * One dut)', lady Monteith, ftill lemains,
,. • which you mull difcharge. Cheerfully fub-
, * mit to vour prefent calamities till Heaven fees
« fit to liberate you from them/

« I do,' faid Geraldine, meekly bending her
head. < I feel them to be the confequences of

< crimes. Betrayed by a vain confidence in my

< own ftrength, I fhut my eyes againft the

< cleared difcoveries, and rejeded the warning
* voice of Heaven, which fpake in the language

< of a faithful friend. I not only fubmit to live,

< I even cling to life, to that hopelefs life, which

< has no other aim but by recolle<ftion and pati-

< ence to atone for my youthful follies, and to
fmooth with meek refignation the painful
couch of death.'

< Remifficn of fins,' replied Mr. Evans,
wiping away a ftarting tear, * is ever prcmifed

< to fi'ncere contiition. Examine your heart,
« my dear lady ! feparate the regret of paft plea-

< fures from the forrow for pall offences Try,

< by a fevere fcrutiny, how far the lofs of fanne

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Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestA tale of the times (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 18)