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2ges had gathered in the hall, were drefied in
the v/eeds of woe, and their countenances were
as mournful ai their gJirb.

To the quick interrogatory of, * Is fhe alive?'
a faint riffirm;\uve was the only reply ; and
Monteith, galping for breath, was rulhing for-
ward, when tlie venerable figure of Mr.
Evans arrefted his fteps. « I am fummoned,'
faid the good m^n, waving his hand. * Let
« me perform my awful duty, and then you

* fliall be admitted. The countefs has fent to
^" requeft my prayers. Join, fir, and recom.-

<-mend



236 A TALE OF THE TlM^S.

mend her parting fplrit to the Father of mer-



cies.'



* Pray for us both,' raved Monteith ; < and
if there be efficacy in prayer, entreat that
my burning brain may be numbed by infen-
fibiHty. If you have any mercy,' continued

le, raifing his voice after Mr. Evans, vho had

made a fign to the fervants to detain him, * let

me fee my wedded love. Do not you know, that

it is my feverity which has broken her heart,

and my forgivenefs will yet reftore her?

Think you that I can be patient when one

lofl moment may plunge me into perpetual

anguifh ?' Mr. Evans promifed that he would

mmediately announce his arrival •, and he

leaned againft one of the pillars, panting with

fufpence, expe6^ing his fearful fummons.

It was to the death-bed of withering youth
and faded beauty, to the couch on which great-
nefs, difrobed of its diltinguifhing ornaments,
confefled its defcent from the common ftock of
humanity, that Mr. Evans approached. " Is

* it my extreme weaknefs, or fuperior intelli-
' gence," faid the countefs in a hollow voice,

* that makes me now attribute fuch powerful
< efficacy to a good man's prayers ?'

' A fellow finner,' replied Mr^ Evans, * re-

* commends you to Heaven.'

< Your hand, fir ! I fhall not long be able

* to thank you. — My fituation is very awful. —

* How my poor heart throbs with pain and

* terror ! — Any news from lord Pvfonteith ?'

* He forgives you.'

* And are my children well }*

* They are waiting to be admitted.'

f I fe^r



A TALE OF THE TiMiES. 237

< I fear my Gght is now too dim to fee them.

< But I would blefs them, if I dare. — Would

< it be prefumptuous in me to blefs them ?'

A loud giOL-n at this iftant ifTued from the
door. It was Monteith's voice, and the dying
countefs caught the well-known found. The
bed fliook with her convalfive tremblings. * I

< thought,' faid (he, * that nothing mortal

< would have affe^led me. But that voice —

< oh that I could proftrate myfelf before him.'

* My wife !' exclaimed the earl, who Lad
by this time broke from thofe who attempted
to reftrain him, and approached the bed ; when, '
fhocked by the emaciated face where beauty
cnce refided, he (huddering drew back his ex-
tended arms. * Infernal villain, who hath
brought thee to this ! Curfed traitor ! wiio
iirft feduced me from thee ; — plunged me in
vice, then (tole my treafure ; and now laughs
at my m.ifery I — may his guilty foul for
ever writhe in tortures fuch as I now endure •
Awake, awake, my love ! my Geraldine ''
(for, over-powered by his appearance, flie

< had fainted ) — < I forgive thee. Oh live,

* my love ! but I know all thy fad (lory. Do

* live, do but fmile upon me. Once more

* blefs me with thy tender fmile. Nothing,

< nothing then Ihall part us.' The earl conti-

* nued raving ttU he was forced out of the

* apartment.'

The laft moments of lady Monteith's life
were marked by humble confidence and digni-
fied compofure. She called for her daughters,
folded them in her arms, and then placed them
in her Lucy's. • Be you,' faid (he, < their
« future mother, and transfer to them that
« love I once j^njoyed, Wafte not your preci-

* ous



238 A TALE OF THE TIMES.

« ous tears upon my unconfcious corpfe. My

< exiftcnce is multlplietl in thefe lielplefs

* orphans ; and they (hall llourifii under the

* care of the (iftcr of my foul. Infinite mercy

* may perhaps permit my feparated fpirit to

* witnefs your pious performance of this in-

* trufted charge.*

She again caught lady Arabella to her bofom.

* My eldeft darling/ faid fhe, < you will not^

* forget me. Give your aunt this ring, the

* pledge of reconciftation and peace. Keep-

* this miniature till James can underftand that

* it is his mother's likenefs. Ye guardian
« angels, watch over thefe innocents ! — All

< gracious Parent of the friendlefs, in mercy

* protedl my babes from my faults and my

* forrows !'

* Watch,' faid fhe, addreffing Henry Povv-
erfcourt, < vny unhappy lord. Do nor abandon
him to his lirft forrous. Time will foften
his defpair. Tell him that his repentant wife
blefl'es his goodnefs, and dies in hopes of
meeting him in a better world. I would
have told him fo ; but the fight of liin-^
awakes infupportable anguifh. Urge him to
comply with my laft requeft, and receive my
children into your hofpitabJe dwelling. And
you, my Chriilian monitor ! (looking at INlr^
Evans), early inftill into their minds thofq
principles which repel temptation ai.d fupporl
diftrefs. O that lord Monteith Mould feeJv
confolation at the healing fountain of falva-
tion P

Her once-radiant eyes gradually aflumed a
glalTy dimnefF, yet, though no longer able to
diftinguifh obje(fls, they continued fxed ori
that part of the room where her children flood.

Her



A TALE OF THE TIMES. 239

Her clammy hands grafped Mr. Powerfcourt's
with convulfivc eagernefs, and the laft founds
that quivered on her lips were fuppUcation') for
mercy.

So terminated the fnort exigence of the
lovely and amiable Geraldine, to whcm nature,
art, and fortune feemed prodigal of their fa-
vours j the faithful friend, the dutiml daugliter,
the obfervant wife, the tender mother. One
fatal weaknefs, combining with the arts of a
bafe feducer, annihilates all this excellence,
blafts the fair promife of many happy years,
and drives hei^ to the refuge of a premature
grave.

Does no folemn truth fpeak from her early
bier? Does no warning voice repel the flutter
of the heart which throbs for adulation, or
arreft the career of thofe who, madly purfuing
fame or pleafure, expofe domeitic happinefs,
the only * blifs of paradife which has furvived
< the fall,' to the cafual attacks of ignorance,
the fubrle malignity of fyi'tematic depravity,
and the certain ruin of iuuifference and negle<^ ?
In vain does perverfe human nature create ^^
fitlitlous bleflint{s, and svafte its refticfs hours
in the purfu't of vifioiiary delights, difdaining
the pure and peaceful comforts which God and
nature allow to all, a guiltlefs confcience,
focial enjoyment, fcIf-polIli|ion and content.



CHAP.



240 A TALE OF THE TIMES.



CHAP, xviir.



Vain man ! 'tis Heaven's prerogative
To take, what firft it deign'd to give,

Thy tributary breath :
In awful expedlation plac'd,
Await thy doom, nor impious hafte
To pluck from God's right hand his inftrumentt ©f
death.

Warton.



M



RS. POWERSCOURT, ^hofe reftrained
forrow had forborne to interrupt the parting
foul, funk upon the lifelefs corpfe of her friend,
and preffed the yet-warm lips with a fervid kifs.
Then receiving the terrified children into her
arms, * Ever dear and facred trufl,' flie ex-
claimed, * living images of your an^el mother :
dear lojt companion ' pleafing friend f faith-
ful partaker of all my youthfui joys ! — By all
the anguifti of this excruciating ieparation^ —
by all ?he endearing remembrances which my
impaffioned memory (hall ever preferve, — by
all my hopes of meeting thy approving fpirit
in a happier world, I will difcharge my truft
to thefe fweet innocents, and for their fakes
fubdu:: the keen regret which would make life
appear a barren defert, bereft of thy endear-
ing k>velineiV.'
To the raving defp^r^ation of lord Montcith
no pen can do juftice. Uuufed to calamity, and
indignant of felf- reproach, his Itubborn heart

refufed



A TALE OF THE TIMES. 24. 1

refufed to fubmit to the righteous but Ctvere
puniihment ; and his galled confcience ftarted
from the terrifyin-i; accufation, that he, * like

* the bafe Judean, had flung a pearl away riclier
< than all his tribe.'

He fought to filence the horrors of remorfc
by the moil extravagant affe^l:ion to his lady's
memory. Her funeral was condu(51ed in the
higheii flyle of pageant decoration ; and lie
wearied himfelf with examining defigns for a
monument which he propofcd to have execu-
ted in Parian marble, and that its magnificence
Tnould rival the proudeft ftru6lures which
forrow, tade, or vanity have erecfted over * fallen

* m.ortality.' He teazed his children with his
frantic careffes ; vov/ed that he only exifted for
their fakes ; determined never to be feparated
from them ; and traced, with mingled ecdacy
and anguifh, the various refemblanccs which
thev bore to their mother.

♦ My little GeraMine/ he would Hiy, < is
her perfecl image. Juft fuch a fm'le as that
of my beloved, before I knew that accurfed
Firzciborne. Lucy has her beautiful hair,
and Arabella lier nielodicus voice. Poor
James too — but I have never feen him fince
he was three months old. They will, all for-
get her, except Arabelja. Yet the murderer
ilili lives. — But may I perifh, Fitzofborne, if
I do not purfue tliee to the remoteil corners
of the globe.'
While the heart glows with fentiments of
juft indignation, it is natural o ir.quire tlie
iate of the author of tlitfe caiainitous fcenes.
The laft hours of Fitzclborne'ii life were not
fufficlently fplendid to allure inexperience to
defert the plain prith of rc6liiudcj from i\\z
Vol. II L hope



242 A TAI,E OF THE Tl.MES.

hope of acquiring fame or fortune by indlreft
.iiieans. He liad indeed plucked the forbidden
fruit, but he had found it, like the bitter apples
of Sodom, xiidatteful and delufive, the origin
of miferv and re':T;ret.

IXifdainfully rcjecied by the vicllm of his arti-
fices ; compelled to fly his native country, or
to Janguifh in hopelefs captivity; abandoned
even by the licentious part of the wor^d, \tho,
.'though they enthufiaflically applaud triumphant
vice, are ever firfl: to Ihun indigent guilt;
Titzofborne was now left to meditate on the
abuTe of diftingullhed talents, the walte of
perverted induflry, and the folly, as well as the
wickedncfs, of that knowledge which only
afpires to organife depravity.

Thefe infupportable reflefiions were, how-
ever, foon interrupted; and his miferable ex-
iflence brought to a period by other means
than the fword of an injured hufband and be-
trayed friend. Retributive juftice not only
willed his fall in that country where he had
imbibed his peftilent notions; it alfo decreed,
that thofe very opinions fhould be the immedi-
ate occafion of his death. Jt is well known,
,that the mercilefs tyranny which Robefpierre
erecied on the tomb of the murdered Louis
fpared neither friends nor enemies. Fitzof-
, borne, as an Englifhman and a gentleman,
became an obje(ft of fufpicion. In vain did he
plead that he had difgraced his anceftors, and
abjured his country; in vain boaft his contempt
of fuperftition and abhorrence (^f prefcnbed
forms ; in vain bend with mock adoration at
the idol fhrine of liberty, or with fervile adu-
lation load the new Romans with the falfified
epithets of magnanimous and illuitrious : they,

who



A TALE OF THE TIMES. 24^'

who. rpared not a Roland or a Condorcet, could
not be expeRed to regard Ungu'imry prir.ciplcsy
unlefs attefted by the repeated perpetration of
fang ui nary deeds.

In the gloom of the Abbaye prifon, expofed to
all the various vvretchednefsof want, difturbed by
the groans of fellow-fufferers, and furrounded by
the Inflruments of deipotifm, the wretched
FitzofDirne might have feea the refutation of that
falf;i philofophy which, founded upon the vifion-
ary perfe(5tibility of the human fpecies, rejed^s-
tiie wife reilrich'ons which Infinite WifJcm has
contrived as a barrier againfi: the extrem'e atrocity'
of a fallible creature. But Fitzofborne could nei-
ther commune with his own heart, nor feek for-
givenefs at that throne of mercy which he had *
often prefumptuouily blafphemed. Amongd the
effei5^s. of thefe alarming do6trines, it is not the
lead lamentable that they fteel the heart againft-
contrition. The unhappy finner, whom paffion
betrays into guilt, trembles at the recolledtion of
thofe crimes which the fyftematic villain juftifie?.
But the forrows of penitence lead to hope, while
the pangs of impiety end in defpair.

Shrinkinor vvith horror from the difsrrace of i
public execution, Fitzofborne applied to the un-
believer's laft refource, and with his own hand;
anticipated the ilroke of the guillotine. He died
amongil men brutalized by guilt, or petrified by
iufftring. He could not, therefore, expert the
poor confolation of pity ; but his laft moments
were unexpectedly rendered more agonizing by
the intelligence (which the keeper of the prifon
communicated with all the unfeeling cruelty of
hisprofeilion) that the Didtatcr, having received
a very favourable account of his talents, had not
only determined to liberate him from prifon, but

L z aUi*-



244- ^^ TALE OF THE TIMES.

alfo to advance him to fome confidential employ-
menr. Shuddering at the idea ot that eternal
fleep, the reality of which he yet wifhed to be-
lieve; clinging to life wirn greater earneftnef?^
in proportion as the; p'/fiibility of living dimi-
Trifbed -, curfing his 07/n impatience, which had
irretrievably deftroyed rhe fair profpecls which
he might have r<^^aiized ; i\ung by remorfe and
felf-accufation, without one ray of hope ; Fitz-
Oiborne's tdriblc unlameiited exit appeared to
antici[)are the horrors of futurity. But here let
me drop the L;v;ful veil ; and while judice refufes
the commiferatine tear, Itc human nature, con-
fcious of its. own infirmities, humb'y folicit the
protedlion of Omnipotence againft the magic of
riovelty, the delufions of fophjllry, and the arro-
gance of hum.an Reafon, whenever, proud of her
own fupremacy, (he prefumes to pafs the inter-
dicled bounds prefcribcd to her fiiute powers.

The hiftory of my remaining characl:ers will,
be comprifed in a few pages. Mr. Powerfcourt
prudently determined to let the firft efFervefcence
of lord Monteith's grief fubfide before he requeft-
ed to be intruifed with the care of thofe children
whofe fociety the unhappy father fancied would
alleviate his aiBidlion. But the cheek of infancy
is not always dimpled with fmiles. ' Its little foi-
bles require calm corre6tion ; and though it is
delightful ' to teach the young idea how to
* flioot,' its wild luxuriuice mult be tenderly re-
preffed. Calamity did not increafe tlie number
of the earl's virtues, and pacience and application
were never wanted in thelifb. He therefore fooii
fouiid the prattle of childhood too mild an opiate
to lull the tortures of corroding refle6lion. Lady
Arabella too, who, on hearing that fkill in edu-
cation v/»is the very higheft ton, had de.ermined

to



A T'ALfi OF THE TIMES, 245

to be g.overnefs to her fvveet little nieces herfelf,
perceived that verbs and propofltions were very
(lull reading, and that the engagements of the
fchool-rooni were abfoluteiy incompatible with
mixing in the world, li^ lefs than three months
after the death of their mother, the children were
fixed at Powerfcourt to the mucual fatisfa<5lton of
all parties.

Love is faid to be the only paflion which caa
conquer death. But friendfhip, as belonging to
the fame family, claims the like honour. Long
after the lamented death of Lady Monteith, ths
folio wing fonnst flowed from her Lucy's pen :

To FRIENDSHIP.

O Friendfhip ! folacer of grief ! whofe fmile

Can calm the terrors of life's ruthlcfs Uorms,
CoiTie, with thy daugliler's memory, and beguile

My penfrve hours. Recall the fairy forms
Of early pleafures. Bid them trip along

Gay as fhe fanfruine hope which youth infpires.
Renew my Gerakline's enchanting fong :

That foBg which warbles now 'mid ange!
choirs.

O be her petdefs excellence diTplayM,
True to the likenefs in my bofom worn i

Cor weeping error caft that lenient fnade,.

Which Icreens repentance from opprobrious
fcorn.

Gild with thy lamp the cold fepulchral gloom.

And Iwine ihy rofes round the mouldering tomb.

But it was not to the expreflions of vain regret.
or elegint fufcepiibility that this amiable woman
appealed for the attertation of her inviolable af-
fedtion. Ker exemplary difcharge of the awful

L 3 triUl



J^O A TALE OF TK£ TIMES.

truil which fhe had urdertaken, unque^ftionably
confirmed the fincerity of her rerard. The
opening prices of the lovely children promife to
rew:ard her pious care, but who that recolle6^s.
iheir rriOth-^r's fate will dare to predict the event ?
. Though the neighbourhood round Powerf-
court-hoLife will long retain an affe6lionate vene-
ration for the memory of their late benefadlor, yet.
they confefs with gratitude, thut the prefent re-
prefentative of that ill u ft rious houfe is the true
beir of the good Jir William's virtues. The
exertions of an intelligent cukivured mind fupply
the deficiencies of a lefs ample fortune ; and the
de/ires of Henry Pov/erfcourt to confer happi-
iiefs are only limited by his power of beftowing
k. .

Though, happy In his union with a woman,,
whofe talle and chara(5i:er is moft happily adapted
to liis own, he has not entirely forgotten the at-
t2chn)er*t of his early years ; and he views the
adopted children of his once adored Geraldine
.with all the tondnefs of paternal affeiftion. He
traces with tender anxiety their refem.blance to
their mother; and he fymparhif^s with poignant
fenfibility in all his Lucy's regrets and cares.
Often as he wanders throui^h the fhades which
derive a greater beauty from the interefting re-
membrance of youthful pleafures,. he contemplates
the ptrpLxed maze of pail events, and raiius his
eyes in grateful veneration of thr.t Being who
kept him ftedfaft in the path of duty, and ulti-
mately led him to tranquillity and content.

Mr. Evans continues to enjoy a ferene old age,
dignified by the exalted virtues which are com-
prized In the general term of chriftian philanthro-
py. He occafionally vifits at the manor-houfe,
and 15 gratified by the company of his children

and



A TALE OF THE TIMES. 247

and their young charge. But hJs time is gene-
rally fpent at the re6lory, meditating on the per-
plexities of the world he is about to leave, and the '
perpetuity of that to which he is journeying.
His refpef^ful gratitude to his late patron is ex-
emplified by the care he takes to preferve among
his parifhioners the remembrance of thofe mild;
virtues confpicuous in fir William's charavSler,
which were ennobled bv the fong of angels, and
are happily adapted to univerfal practice, ' Peace
' on earth and good- will toward men.'

Lord Monteith continues to drag a miferable
exiftence. His intemperate habits have entirely
obliterated all the graces cf his perfon and the
amiable qualities of his mind. He is norw the af-
fociate of boon companions, and the dupe of
iharpers-; fought only by fervile. fycophants and
ufurers, and avoided b^/ all who preferve any de-
cent refpedl for charadler^ His health rapidly
declines. Prevented by Jegal reftriclions fiom
ultimately injuring his children's property, he has
been driven by his thoughtlel^ extravagance to
the defperate refource of life annuities, which
have been multiplied, till they fo nearly reach the
value of his rent-roll, that it is now become a;
favourite fpeculatlon whether his life or, his for - -
tune will hold out the longeit.

Repeated matrimonial difappoiritrnents hav'^e"
given lady Arabella Macdonald fornething of a
cynical calt of mind. Not that it appears in her
cbnducl:, for fhe ftill glitters in the firft circle^i,
and is always the. b^it drefled and noifieft vro-
man of fafhion in the room. But (be h^«^ been
heard to expr.-fs feveral mifanthropic '/cntiments;
and her diflike to the male part of ','ae fpecies has
arifen to fuch a degree of acrimony, that (he af-.
firms (he will never part with her liberty, ' which
*■ is the zeft of life/ tc oblige any of jthofe odious

mercenary



24§ A TALE OF THE TIMES.

mercenary creatures. There are people who
think that fhe will perfevere in her refolution, not
on account of her having lately become a belle ef^
prit of the firft c!afs, but from the knowledge of
fome private events vyhich have lately happened
at the pharo ial)le kept by the right honourable
lady vifcountefs Fitzofborne, wife of a Britifh
fenator^ andiadv Araliella's mo^ particular friend.

The Author's intention cf enforcing fome mo-
ral truths by an appropriate narrative is now
complete. Whatever difregard of spplaufe fhe may
aftcdl: in her aflumcd character, or whatever indif-
ference fhe may really feel for the fiat of the feif-
conilituted guardia-ns of liteiatuie, if theyfhould
pervert their impoitant ajid highly rei'pon^tble of-
fice, by exerting the infivierice v\h'ch learning an-d-
Vv'it give them over the public taffe in recom-
mendino; works injurious lo public morals, (he
ftill recolec^«^, that found fenfe, accurate difcri-
n'rination, and cfjrr-ei^t judgment, forma part of
that pul'lic bv which her merit muil be tried j and
ihe cannot but fe^f anxious, that the rectitude of
her intention fhould be admitted bv fuch a- tribu—
iial.

If her apprehenflon of the dangerous terdency
of fome popular productions fhould be deemed
ill-founded, the r^*^/ friends of morality and re-
ligion will ilill fay, *' God fpeed !" to theenihu-
fiaftic chanipion wiio failles forth to refsft even.-
the delving mole that exerts its puny powers lo
undermine the facred edihce. I'^or will her acri-
monious cenfure of thofe falfe lights which lead
^^ unwary aftray, induce the reflecting reader
'to'fu'ipi..c\ that fhe is hoftile to the caufe of real-
candour, tr.je philofophy, and judicious liberality.
In common with every well-vvifher tothehappi-
iiefs and improvement of the woild, fhe deeply

mourns



A TALE OF THE TIME5. 249

mvourns the irreparable injuries which they have
received from the hlafphemous pretenfions of
thofe hypocritical furies who have ufurped their
hallowed chara£>eis.

She feels it neceflary to add an apology to the
lovers of propriety and decorum, for her frequent
allufions to religious fubje6is, and her intermix-
ture of ferioas truths with fictitious events. It is
not from any vain defire of throwing her feeble
gage in the crowded fields of controverfy, much
Jefs from a want of heart-felt reverence for lacred
themes, that fhe adventured to make thefedic-ref-
fions ; but as the moft falhionable, and perhaps
moft fuccefsful, way of vending pernicious fenti-
ments has been through the medium of books of"
entertainment, flie conceives it not only allowa-
ble, but necelTary, to repel the enemy's infldious
attacks v^ith fimilar weapons.

One. of the misfortunes under which literature
now labours is, that the title of a work no longer
announces its intention : booksof travels arc con-
verted into vehicles of politics and fyftems of le-
piflation. Female letter-writers teach us the ar-
cana of government, and obliquely vindicate, or
even recommend, manners and adlions at which
female delicacy fhould blulh, and feniale tender-
jnefs mourn. Traits on education fubvert every
principle of filial rev crence : Writers on morality
jay the axe to the root of domeftic harmony:
Compilers of natural hiilory debafe their pages
with defcriptions which modef^y cannot perufe :
Philologifts difpute the revealed will of God :
Philofophers and antiquarians deny its hiflorical
credibility : and Mathematicians define the non-
entity of Him in whom we live, and move, and
have our being. The mufe chaunts the yell of:
difccrd. and, under the preterxe of univerfal ci-

tixenfaip



2$&> A TALE OF THE TIiMES.

tizenflilp, founds the dirge of that amsr patrlc^
which her claflic predeceiTor fought to inTpire.
And laft, though not leaf! \i\ it^ efFe6l, the no-
vel, calculated, .by its infmuating narrative and
intereftingdefcription to fnfcinate the imagination
without roufing the flronger energies of the mlndy-
is converted into an offenfive weapon, directed
againft our religion, our morals, or our govern-
ment, as the humour of the writer may determine
his particular warfare. Theegotifm of infidelity,
which guides the wandering pen^ may be the un-
deHgncd caufe of feme of thefe effects ; hut re^.


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Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestA tale of the times (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 18)