Mrs. (Jane) West.

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" O 1 not for the univerfe," exclaimed Ara-
bella. I would die a thoufand deaths rather thaa
« be rude."

The countefs advanced with an air of eafy dig-
nity, which the inquifitive looks of the other
ladies foon difcompofed. " Blefs me^" filler,'*
faid the candid Arabella, " I really did notthink^
" it was vou." — ''- And Edward too," continued
the fignificant lady Fitzofborne j " how do you
" do? There is no fuch thing as catching your
" attention for one moment this evening. Ko^v
** came your aufterity to condefcend to vil'.t thtie
** tinfel amufements ?"

" Pardon me, madam," faiJ Edward, bowing
rofpeclfuUy to lady Arabelln, " thofe amut'emencs
" cannot be tinfel which have the power of ac-
" trakftms: fterlini meiir." Her ladviliio did not
deign to take the lead notice of his {ubmillion,
but coatinued whifpering the countefs ! '' So you
" have one conflant cec:fo^o\ fee, and Monteiih
" ftays at home. Very fingular, I vov/. BitC
" was you not afraid of taking cold during this
" long c«nverf ition ?'*

" " No,*' replied Geraldine with recovered
coinpofure jour converfation was too intereiling
*' for me to think of cold. Wiiat if I fhould tell
" you, Arabella, that fome {Mft of it related tf>
" yburfelf. " But you really treat your faithful
" fwain's advances in too contemptuous a (lile
*• for me to begin m.y requelled interceiTion, or
" even to deliver to you a medlige from your
" brother on the fame fubjedl." "*

The party had now re-entered the houfe, whert
the countefs, turnino;, faid to Fitzofborne, " You
" forget Mifs Parker."—'' Where is Mifs Par-
ker T'



V ker ^" v/as the general inquiry. " In the
" orangery," faid lady iMonteiih. " No, ma-
" dam, 1 am here," echoed a ihriil voice, which
ilTued from one of the hdies who accompanied
hoy Arabella.

*' Mifs Parker could not have been left in the
*' orangery," obi'erved the vifcouatefs. " Your
" ladyihip was certainly miftaken. SJie came
" (lowji iiairs with u«."

" And fbe was the firft who fupported me
*'- when I fainted," faid lady Arabella, who, in
h'-yr t:a(;erners to detect a fu^)pofed criminal, for-
go:, .that friiiuing pgopl^ do not always kjiovv
what Dalies.

'' She accordingly accompanied me into the
orangery," repeated lady Monteith. '
Mifs Parker, who was no other than the " an-
^'^ tiqiiated •belle" at th-e opera, now came for-^
%vard, and with a refpeClful curtefy begged leave
to explain : " I accompanied your lady-
' (hip and Mr. pitxofborne down flairs, when
you did me the honour to alk me ; .but- v/hile
your ladyfhip was engaged with him in look-
" ing at the fiars, 1 found ic was v-ery cold, and I
^ was afraid of my old at-tack in my Shoulder;
*' fo I thought I would ffep and fetch my pellice;
" and I believe your ladyihip and the gentleman
*' were too much occupied to perceive that I was
^' gone."

A farcaftic fmile, which lady Fillagree's polite-
nefs could fcarcely reiirain her from joining, fol-
lowed this narrative, when Edward, like Jofeph
Surface, promifed to give a full and fatibtactory
account of the matter. He faid, that on his men-
tioning that he had obfer ved a beautit"ul Jacobea
lily in full blow as they entered, lady IVdonteith
and Mifs Parker had exprefled a v/iili to pay it:




more attention ; that he had the honour to efcort
them ; and that, after admiring the flower, her
ladylliip was faddenly ftruck by the fplendor ot
fome particular conftellations, when lady Arabella

Another general frnile eniued, ajid Geraldine,
no longer able to raliy her fpirits, ordered her
chariot j and, telling Aliis Parker (lie would fet
her dovvn at her own door, ihz relieved the la-
dies from the pain- of fupprcfled merrimei)t, by
tak-ifiii leave.


Confciencc, vv'nst art thou ? Thou tremendous power
Who dofl inhabit us without our leave ;—-
How doit thou ligh.t a torclrto di'iant deed;: !
Make the pail, prefeat, and the future, fjovvu !
How, ever and anon, awake the fculj
As V, ita a pchl of thiindtr !


X KE fuppofed fecrct, mentlonc(r in my iait
Chapter, was of too much importarjce to be con-
fined to the difcoverers. Bv means of the haoi»u
art of innuendoes, the initiated foon diiTcminat-id
it throi.igh the whole circle,- in the politeiJ: man-
ner in)aginab!e. Onv? lady obferved, that the
adventures of the third Eloila would foorfbe pub -
Jifhed: another affirmed, that it would b; calied
Werter the Second, u irii a different Gatafhophe :
a third wifhed to read tne Chapter on Hot-Jnv :
a fourth thought that that on atbo?)cmy would

ontaiirthj mu'l allcnifning difcuvcrv : a fifth

3 allowed,


allowed, that aflronomy and botany were both
very fuitab'le fludies for (hepherds and fhepherd-
edes ; and every body hoped that the adventures
of the poor little lady, who had loft her pelllce,
and got the rheumatifm, would be inferted. The
farcaTms of the vifcountefs were peculiarly pi- ,
quant; for hers was the mod fufpefted charac-
ter in company i and it is an invariable rule v.'ith
ladies of her caft, that the odium with which you
hefpatter a neighbour's reputation has a retro-
ai^live effetSt in fuibifhing your own. Her in-
dignation was chiefly pointed at lord Alonteith,
who, fhe faid, was certainly anxious to obtain
the honour of being a cornuto ; and her idea was
thought to be the more judicious, as it was
knoAii to correspond v/ith [he fentiments of the
noble vifccvint her hufband. Envy, idlenefs, the
Icve of faying good thing?, and a dearth cf con-
verfation, aiTiited her to propagate the ftory. For
t-A'o days the town talked of nothing elfe, and
every rdater could add circumfrances of frelh.
atrocity. In two days more, the truth of thefe
adventitious circuniftances became douhtful, and,
being proved unfounded, the whole fabric fell
with them to the ground. At the end of the
week, every bodywas heartily forry for the dear
iiiifreprefented countefs ; and every body, forget-
ting the part they had thernfelves taken, heartily
wiihed that fame law might be invented to pre-
vent defamation. — But to return to the obje^ of
thefe inquifitorial proceedings.

The lovely Geraldine plainly perceived the
malicious explanation that had been given to aa
incident which Fitzofborne had faithfully explain-
ed. The love of diftincSlion was, as 1 have be-
fore obferved, one of her ruling foibles ; but file
fought to gratify it by the nobleil means. Her



fpotlefs fame added luflre to the fjDlendor of her
talents nnd the attraftions of her beauty. She
had ever been named as one of thofe few^ who,
in a degenerate age, afforded a happv inH-ance of
the pofTible union of propriety and fnOiion. To
have the goodly edifice which flie had reared with
fuch arduous care at once deAroyed ; to have
her unfullied name become the ieft of witlinfrs
and the afibciate of vvillul depravity, was infup-
portable. Even uippo fin g that the candid hearer
would rejc6l the calumnious airertion, fhe could
not endur<i the very idea of having her chara6ler
expofed to fiifpicious GMfcufTion. She fat filentiM
the chariot, the tear of anguilh flean'ng down her
cheek, incapable of a;tendin-g to Mifs Pai ker's
narrative, whofe regret about the p^ilice furnifh-
cd her v/Ith a fubjedt of lamentation till they ar-
lived m town.

FitzoPoornc read lady Monteith's fentiments.
He rightly judged that this keen fen ilbility would
prove injurious to his'audacious dellgns j and he
determined to exert his inndious arts to.fubdue ir.
The earl was not returned from the Hoiifc. The
countefs v.ilhed him good night, and paiied on to
her dreffing-room. ^''itzofborne followed h?r to
the door. " Excu'fe my anxiety," faid he;
'^ your look does noi indicate a wi'ih for renoL-.
" Will you allow me to fit with you till .Mon'tcit!!
"■returns ?" She replied, tha^: the was not in
fpirits for company ; and after a pauje, '^ It is in
" vain," faid ihe, '^ todifguife my feelijigs Fit/-
" ofborne j and you know the cauf.i cfmy dil-
•' trefs." ^

" I knov7 nothing that can judlfv, or at leaii
« dcferve, thofs tear?. DearefMad/ Mcnteitij^.
*^ tor Heaven's fake, conquer that emotion, whicl}
'' HKTeales the milan;hi(.pv I lonf^ have iVir at



" the ncirrow prejudice and iliiberality cf the
« world."

" You are always tihing againft thofe wind-
*' mill giants,*' returned (jeraldine with a languid
fmile. " It is of the fpirit of detraction and in-
" confideratenefs that 1 tomplaiii ; of that cruel
" k^vitVj which fports with whr.L is dearer than
" life/'

'' Nay, now vou urge your fenfibility too far»
" Jt is weaknefs, not delicacy, to put our hoD-
*•' pinefs fo much in the power of others. Have
*' you forgotten that beautiful fentiment, * The
" confcious min^i is its own awful world r'

" I grant its propriety only with reipeft to the
" tortures of guilt ; for can innocence be iiifen-'
" iible of the vahie of repulatiori V'

" It mav difprove flajuler byderpifing it, and
" by aciing with marked contempt ot its petty
" machinations. Tlie tale you f.-em. to appre-
hend is too poor, uxy contemprible for belief..
I have but one fear refpciling its public cx-
'' pofurc.'*

" What fear?'*

" If lord Mcnteith fhould hear it.*^

" If he fhould, what have I to dread r"

" The warmth of his chaiacler ; his irritable

" impetuofity; his fufpicious ''

''^ Sufpicicus, did you fay ? How mufl I be
*' degraded, Ivlr. Fitzofboriie, in. his opinion !
" To fufped^ me after four years experienced
" confidence ! And what muxl the world thijik
" of me, if even my fuit, my deareit friend
** doubts my re£litude :"

" 1 know that angels are net purer ; and whca
" Monteuh recollects tiimfelf, his judgment will
« tell him the fame. He is now a little v^arped ;.
" an unhi'ppy ill-grounded apprehenuon — a fmo-
" ihaed fpark nearly extinguiihed by reafon,

'^^ which


« wiiicli this ridiculous -ftory may revive ; — and
" fuipicion in a charadkr like his mufl: be terri-

" ble/'

Geraldine leaned almoft fainting afrainft the
wainlcor. A deadly palentTs was diifufed .•:^^'cr
her intelligent face, and her heart panted with
apprehenfive terror. None, except a Domitian
or' a Fitzofborre, who delight in torture, buc
muft have pitied her agonies.

The traitor did indeed affedl to pity. He
dropped upon his knew, and uttered every rhap-
ibdi'cal expreffion which the moil guileful art
could dic'late. " Deareil lady Montsith, for
«^ Heaven's fake be compoi^d — my tortured heart
<^ bleeds to ke vour anguifh — mofl injured—
" mod lovely fufferer — Oh richly worthy of a
" better fate' — Impart voiir anguUh to the faith-
" ful friend who would die to relieve it."

The lail words recalled her rccollx!6lion.
« Rife, Wvy' faid (lie with becoming cHgnity.
" Mv fituation does not call for the aclive cffices
« of friendlhip. You fay I am itijured. In
" what ? From what motive do you torture me
« with fufpenfe ? You^feem to poiiefs fome fatal
" fecrec refpecting me If I ought to know^ the
^ evil you allude to, tell me at once, that I may
« arm my foul with fortitude to fuftain my tri^
*' alsj or'dete6tths calumny which fports with
" my peace.*'

Edward was difconcerted. He had hoped that
f) much friendfhip might have furprifed her into
a little acknowledgment. And he perceived with
recrret that manv a fummer's fun muil ftill rife
to mature his viiiany. He had never yet en-
countered the refinance of "a firm fuperior mind,
or fo llrongiy feen the " lovelinefs of virtue in
" hfr own form," or " felt how awful goodnefs



is." Yet, more remorfelefs than the Prince of-
Darlcnefs, " he pined not at his own lofs."

The fophifts, who in thefe evil days are falfely.
called enlightened, afFe6t not to palliate their own
vices by pleas of necefiity and frailty, whatever,
difoiuife they may afi'ume to expedite their fuc-
eefs v.'ith others. Afpiring to a pre-eminence
in impiety, which former feared to arro-
gate, they fin upon principle, promulgate fyftems
to jullify iniquity, and profcribe repentance by a -
morality v.'hich overturns every reftraint, and a-
religion that prohibits nothing but devotion^
Combining Pagan fuperftitions with the explod-
ed reveries of irrational theories, they place at
the head of their vvorld of chance a fupine ma-
terial God, whom they recognife by the name,
of Nature, and pretends that its worfliip fuper-
(edes all other laws human and divine. By tha-
fide of this circmnfcribed Deity they ere6t the
idol ihrine of its vicegerent, Intereft; by the.
monftrous dcdlrines, that " whatever is profit-
" able is right," that " the end fandihes the,
*^ means," and that *^ human alliens ought to-
" be free," they diifolve the bonds of focietyj^.
and, after condu6ling their bewildered followers
through the mazes of folly and guilt, in fearch-
of an unattainable perfedHon, their views termi-
nate at laft in that fallacious opiate which infi~-
delity prefents, " the eternal fieep of death."

When pofterity fhall know that thefe princi-
ples characSlerife the clofe of the eighteenth cen^
ruiy, it will ceafe to wonder at the calamities,
which hiflory will then have recorded. Such
engines are fufficiently powerful to overturn o^o-
vernments, and to Ihake the deep-founded bafe.
cf the firmeft empires. Should it therefore be
told to future ages, that the capricious aillblLibi—



lity (if not the abfolute nullity) of the nuptial
tie and the annihilation of parental authority are
among the blafphemies uttered by the mcral in-
rtrudors of thefe times : fnould they hear, that
law VV3S branded as a vain and even unjuft at-
tempt to bring individual actions under the re-
flrictions of general rule; that cha-ftity was de-
fined to mean only individuality of afFeclion ;.
that religion was degraded into a fentimcntal ct-
fufion ', and that thefe doctrines do not proceed
from the pen of avowed- profligates, but from,,
perfons apparetitly aduated by the cefii^ of im-
proving the happinefs of t^^.e v^orld ; flxyuU^, I fay,,
generatio!is yet unborn hear this, they will not
aicribe the annihilation of thrones and altars to
the fuccefsful arms of France, but to thofe prin-
y^ci pies which, by diflolving domelVic confidence
and undermining private worth, paved the way
for univerfal confufion.

Stimulated by that zeal for making profclytes,
^s■hich marics the millionaries of thefe do6i:rines,
Fitzofb-orne had hoped to goad his vidlim into the
fnares of infidelity by the corroding pangs of
previous 2,udt. Her unaifeeted agony at the idea
of her hufband's doubting the propriety of her
conduct and the redlitucie of her heart, could
only be infpired by connubial tendernefs and real
delicacy. The bluQi of generous indignation
which kindled upon her cheek at the fuppohticn
that Edward's infinuations might proceed from
fmifter views, and thec^^m contempt with which
fhe treated the little arts of feduction to which
female vanity has fometimes yielded, convinced
him that all his attempts to overturn her high-
feated honour would be inefiedlual, iinlefs he
could weaken the bonds of conjugal attachment,
or remove the ftron'^ bulwark of confcious im-



mortaliiy, which gave energy to her principles
and fl:abi{lty to her virtue. Her native fagacity
afilired him, that all thefe attempts muft be made
with caution ; hut his poifonous noflrums, once
introtiuced, would work with fdent vigour. If
the conflicl of the pafTions (hould not be fuffici —
ently (lormy in her temperate mind to erafe the
behef of future retribution, her third after know-
legc mi2;ht entangle her in metaphvfical fubtil-
ties. The !ove of diftir.dlion and the allurements
of example might induce her to add one more to
fhofe coura2;eous females who conceive that the
chara6ler ^f a woman is not entirely diverted of
weaknefs till (he defies Omnipotence ; while
unrequited tendernefs and unrewarded dt^ert muft
cfirangc an exquifitely fufceptible heart from its
unworthy mafter, and dire6t its afFections to the
fpecious blandifiiments of an unprincipled im-

Fiizofborne's anfwer to Geraldine's fpirited
appeal was dictated by the moil: confaminate art.
tie protefted that he had no fccret to divulge but
what llie already knev/j namely, that lord Monf
teith had unwarily imbibed fome fufpicious ap-
prehenfions from the marked admiration which
fir Richard Vernon had paid to her at the opera,
and to which the incidental civcumftance of her
being in remarkably good fpirits that evening
might contribute. He fcarcely v/ondercd at his
friend's alarm, when he confidered the free no^
tions of the age, the baronet's libertine principles,
the i.iipetuohty of lord Monteith's temiper, and
his extreme iufceptibility in a point of honour,
wnich in his opinion probaby proceeded from
the warmth of hia conjugal attachment. He'
begged pardon for too deeply fymparhifing in hep
uneafmefsj but owned that? his feelings were ne-


ver proof againft the magic influence of female
tears. The term " injured," which he perceiv-
ed had alarmed her, was heedlefsly uttered, with-
out any reference, at leaft any defigned one, un-
lefs it alluded to thofe illiberal ilanderers who
attempted to afperfe a charader which he verily
believed was the only exception to that general
careleilnefs of reputation too llrongly charac-
teriftic of the manners of the prefent race of
married Indies.

« Calumny, my dear lady Monteith," con-
tinued he, *^ is now confidered as the teft of
'* fafl]iion ; and, inftead of fhrinki-ng from its pef-
** tilential attack, even women of virtue conceive
" a fianderous paragraph in a morning paper to
** he a kind of pafTport to celebrity; and, pleaf-
■*^ ed with becoming an olijedl of general atten-
" tion, they wait very patiently for time to con-
" fute Vv'hat was untrue in the report. Your
" extreme delicacy (for now that you are a little
" recovered 1 cannot help remarking that it is too
" exqnifuely fufceptible) and the peculiarity of
" your lord's difpollrion make me fee the confe-
" (juences of this affair in a more ferious light
" than I Ihould otherwife do : lut aj; I am afraid
'* that neither of you will ever pra6tife the philo-
" fophy which I fi:ioi]ld afTume on this ridiculous
" occafion, I can only fay, that I fiiail be ready
" to purfue any plan you fhall fuggeft for my
*•' condu6K Come, clear that penfive brow ;
" and be convinced, that Monreith may fee other
" men admire you without fuppofmg that you
" encourage their addreiTes."

This i'peech had the defired effecl. It con-
vinced the countefs that the oueht to conceal
from her lord every circumftaiice in her own
behaviour which €5vj:ited the* animadverilons of

others |


Others : and while her agitated fpiritj were fome-i
what confoled by the hope that his diipJeafure
was now wholly coniined to Vernon, (he Taw the
neceirity of exneme caution, left it fhould ulti-
mattly point at her. Her apprehenfions of fome
criminal intention in Fiizofborne's paflionate
addrefs were tranfient. The extreme audacity
and guilt annexed to the bare idea of his having
formed an illicit attachment, and the abfolute
impofTibility of his even hopitig for fuccefs, per-
fuaded her, that his paflionate language was only,
as he affirmed it to be, the unpremeditated fym-
pathy of fmcere fiiendfhip ; and fhe now blulhed
at her ov/n indelicacy in doubting, though but
for a moment, the r^^litude of his heart.

Efteem and confidence arc never fo powerful
as at the moment of removed fufpicion. She
wanted an advifer and confidant. "Who could
feem lo proper to perform that office as the fa-
gacious, fentimental Edward ? The firll: fcheme
which lady Monteith propofed to flop the cir-
culation of the flanderous tale was, that Fitz-
cfborne (hculd immediately leave the family.
The arch-tempter immediately fignified his per-
fect acquiefcence j but with deference flated,
that in his opinion fuch an apparent coincidence
with the prejudice of malevolence would tend
to confirm its cenfure ;• and to his repeated ad-
vice to treat the whole flory with indifterence
and bravado, lady Monteith cppcfed her own
poignant feelings, which would never permit her
to go into company while conl'cious that a whif-
per was circulated to her difadvantage. At length
a compromife was agreed to between theoppoiite
opinions, and Geraldine determined to take leave
of \he gay world with more than philofophic dlf-
tafte cf its levity and un^charitable afperity.



Forgetting that retirement had fonietimes fng-
jrcfted the wiih of introducinnr her brllh'ant ta-
lents to the notice of more accurate oblervers,
tne envy, hatred, and detra6lion which impeded
her career, made her again wiQi to take (belter
in the quiet undifputed fupei iority which Powerf-
court or Monteith prefcnted. The prefence of
caprice and afFecftation renewed her Lucy's re-
membrance, rendered the recollected fweetnefs
and ingenuoufnefs of her character ft ill more
pleafing, and {Simulated her impatience to pour
her forrows into the bofom of foothirig friend-
ihip ; or to heal her corroded heart by the gentle
balm of parental tendernefs. The propofed al-
liance v/hich hadoccafioned her journey to Lon-
don being to all appearance ertirely fruftrated,
fhe wiihed to return to the pleafmg occupations
of domellic life; and the claims of filial duty
determined her to take Powerfcourt in her way to-
Scotland. To prevent any fufpicion, that her:
retreat was in confequence of a breach between^
the earl and Fitzofborne, it was propofed, that
the latter fhould continue at Portland place till,
lord Monteith's parliamentary engagements ter-
minated : and Geraldine entertained a private-
hop?, that her lord's interefl with minifiry might
procure fome poft which would tend to recon-.
cile Edward to the fevere blow which his for-
tunes had received by the rejedtion of lady Ara-
bella ; and at the fame time convince the v/orld^
that caprice was not the diftinguiQiing charac-
teriftic of all the Macdonald family.

Fitzoiborne now recurred to the converfation-
which Had really been begun in lady Fillagree's
oranecrv ; and he debated the probable event of
his renewing his addrefi'es with fo.much feeming-
anxiety, and a6lsd the parx of the mortified^



fwain Vvith (o much adrojtnefV, as entire])' re-
moved every ffjadow of fufpiclon from lady iVlon-
teit-h's maid, engaged her anew in the office of a
confoler, aiid even roufed a degree of felf-accu-*
fation at her hiaviog dared to fufpecl that the mo-
rals of the virtjjous Edward fell fnort of the per-
fection to which they pretended. She lamented
v/ith pathetic fweetnefs the depraved (late of fe-
male talle, which gave a coxcomb infinite advan-
tage over a man of fenfe with the diflipated
belles of the day ; and Fitzofborne, refigning all
his hopes of conjugal felicity, with a profound
fjgh declaj'ed, that in future he muft tranquillife'
his troubled foul with the endearing fympathy of
female friendOiio. He proceeded with platonic
delicacy to draw the mental portrait of fuch a
fn^nd as he v^iilied to find : carefully including
in the enchanting compofition every grace which
Geraldine feemed confcious of pofiefling. Su-
perior refinement, and an apprehenfivenefs of
even juft praife, was mentioned with emphafis ;
and while the orator ftated the peculiar difficulty
in which this elevated faftidioufnefs would place
a fufceptible mind, impelled by warm efteem to
exprefs its adaiin tion, yet reftrained from fpealc-
ing by the certainty of ofi-*endi ng, the countefs
liftened with unfufped^ing delight: fo true is the

And while he tells her be hates flattery,

She fays fiie does fo, being then moll flattered*-

Lord Monteith interrupted the converfation
at a late hour. He leturned in very high fpirits,
not only elated by the triumph of his party, hut
with his own particular fuccefs ; having made a
n?at and appropriate fpeech, confiftiug of three
or four well-turned periods, which was honoured



with profound attention. His lordfnip was lefs
tjuick in difcovering improprieties than in refent-
in<T them when pointed out by other*;. Ficzof-
barne's litting alone with his ladj; at five o'clock

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Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestA tale of the times (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 18)