Mrs. (Jane) West.

A tale of the times (Volume 2) online

. (page 6 of 18)
Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestA tale of the times (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

,VoL. II. D *« are


" are confecrated partakes not of our c'epra-
« vity."

<* Perhaps not In minds endued with (Irong
«^ powers of reflection," returned Fitzofborne :
" but, as the chriftian fyftem feen.s belt adr^pt-
" ed for the lower orders of fociety, it is much
** to be lamented, that any thing firould ini-
** pede its progrefs where it has the belt chance
<« of fuccefs. Perhaps the rules by which I
^' would eflimate the condu6l of its minifters
** are too {lri(fl, and though, unhappily, my
<* own principles have inclined to deifm, [
** have candour enough to regret, that while
' law and phyfic are permitted to efcape un-
** contaminated by the knavery of pettifoggers
** or the ignorance of empirics, divinity im-
** pofes perfedlion upon its ftudents. But our
** converfation is likely to be interrupted. Per-
** mit me to fay that I iliall renew it with plea-
** fure. I am a novice at compliment, and
** fhall therefore only obferve in my abrupt
manner, that if the caufe you fupport w^re
always as ably defended both in the pulpit
and in fociety, infidelity would be deprived
" of one of its rnoft powerful weapons."

.Every one has his weak fide. Though the
cup of undifguifed flattery would have been re-
jeifled with difdain, yet when tempered by ap-
parent moderation, and a wifli for convicftion,
it became tolerably palatable. Mr. Evans, in-
deed, ftill felt the propritty of hinting the dan-
gerous tendency of Fitzofborne's principles to
lady Monteith ; but he thought it juft to qua-
lify his cenfures with m.any expreflions of re-
fpe<fb for his chara£ler, and admiration of his
abilities. " I grieve for his perverted talents,"
faid he j " and yet they encourage mc to hope,

" that



" that tlie happy time will come, when they
<< will be inftruments of reHoring him to a
«< comfortable ftate of mind. Many people
** arc driven into infidelity by the (tings of a
*< burdened coiifcience ; but I fiiould thifik that
** is not Mr. Fitzoiborne's excufe for fcepticifm.
" Yet the manners of the clergy can be no
*< more than an ofbenfible reafon."

Geraldine was not in a difpofition to doubt
Edward's virtues. Though (he had been that
very m.orning the unhappy dupe of his cruel
duplicity, her agonized foul clung to him as
to the guardian angel who was to refcue her "
out of an abyfs of forrow. She had difcovered
a letter from Mrs. Harley to her lord. It lay
open upon his dreffing-table, and the hated
name was fo confpicuouily placed as neceflarily
to attra£l her eye. She could not refill her
defire to perufe it, and the fatal contents foon
convinced her, that the bufinefs which lord
Monteith had hinted would foon recal him to
London was nothing more than a wifh to re-
new that degrading connection. The difcovery
feemed to be perfectly accidental. She perceived
no preconcerted plan in the circumftance of her
having been fent into the room by Fitzofborne
to fetch a volume of RouiTeau, from which he
had jud mifquoted a well-known palTage. She
never confidered that he had free acccfs to her
lord's apartments ; and fhe could not know
that he had not only purloined the letter from
Monteith, but that he atlually inftlgated him
to the propofed journey, by thofe indirecft
means of oppofitlon which he had found to be
the mod fuitable way cf governing a ^head-
(Irong impetuous chara^^er.

D 2 Fitzofborne


Fitzoiborns allowed her time to perufe the
letter, and then followed her to the drefline-
room. She was leaning in a kind of ftupor
over a chair, her eyes fixed on the portrait of
"her lord which hung over the chimney, with a
fort of complaining fweetnefs in their expref-
f,on which language could ill defcribe. Ed-
ward addrefled her with rhapfodical confudon.
He faid the letter was a millake. FJe aflured
her that Monteith's afFetlions were ftill unquef-
tionably her's. He execrated his condurt, and
then befought her to b>? calm for her children's
^fake. At that intereRing adjuration the ref-
trained tears ftole in filence down her cheek ;
and her tears again elevated Fitzofborne's fym-
pathifing tendernefs to frenfy. He called her
*' dear lovely excellence !" He wilhed ten
thoufand plagues to overwhelm the narrow foul
of the traitor who wanted difcernment to be
juft to her merits ; and he vowed that he could
not look at fuch a ftriking imperfonification of
fafFering meeknefs without wifhing to avenge
Jier wrongs.

The countefs anfwered in a faint tone : << Mv
« wrongs require no avenger. My loril fhould
<« be more careful of his correfpondence. Let
« me entreat you to conceal the weaknefs into
•< which mycuriofity has betrayed me."

«' And is that the only proof I can give you
<* of my inviolable regard ?" |

« What other proofs can a wife receive, con-
« fiilent with her duties ?" \

« The ftriifteft delicacy, the moft rigid pru-1
" dence, would allow an adopted brother to
« take a more aclive part. Remember too, it
« is ftill polTible, that the ties of efteem may]
" be f;an^ioned by thofe of kindred. Can l!
"~ « feek


« feek the recovery of lady Arabella's favour
« by worthier means than by trying to difen-
" g3ge her brother from a criminal auach-
<« ment ?"

<« O ! name the means that may produce
«< that blcfTed end," fxclaimed the impaffioned
Geraldine, with clafped hands, and wild em-
phatic looks : *' refcue my Monteith from this
«« dreadful thraldom ; reftore to me his valua-
<< bk but ellrawged heart, and I will pray for
** you, Fitzofborne — I will entreat of Heaven,
<< that all your future days may be as happy as '
" thofe 1 once enjoy'd."

Edward had no defire to be included in Ge-
raldine's prayers. He v/as equally averfe to-
hear of lier attachment to her hufiDand, and of-
her depend an ce on Heaven. The advice he
gave w'as of a fatiric nature. It was, to charge
her lord with his infidelity ; to humble him by
her fuperiority ; and to convince him by her
eloquence. Vice, he aiBrmed, muft (brink from
the prefence of virtue. The funbeam of her*
eye mull diihpate the clouds by which Mon-
teith's reafon was enveloped. His recovered*
judgment would compare innocence, grace,
and beauty, with proilitution, vanity, and ca-
price ; and a repentant hufband, awakened by
her reproofs to a fenfe of honour, would at her
feet abjure the infamous Harley, and all her-
flvigitious fifterhood.

Lady Monteitli's perturbed mind flill pofTefTcd
fufhcient clearnefs to refifl" the adoption of fuch
a dangerous expedient, which, by iiifiaming
tl-e violent pafTions of her lord, was more likely
to make him ca(l off all the decorum which a
dread of difcovery impofed, than to check the
career of his vicious indulgence; and her deli-


cacy pointed out the imprudence of arming Lis
pride in the caufe of a courtezan, when die
hoped it might be made the happy inilrument
ot releafing him from a degrading connecl:ion.
" I have," faid fhe, " prefcribed to myfelf but
** two rules for myconducl: in this unfortunate
*' affair ; and to thefe I will rigidly adhere. I
'* will never reproach lord Mcnteith, nor will I
*' ever divulge his indifcretions. Even my Lucy,
" the partner of my foul, dees not know that
" the dejection which (l.e muft obferve in me
*^ proceeds from any other caufe than latent
*' iiidifpofition."

" '1 here are certainly many reafons for
" withliolding fuch confidence from Mifs
<* Evans •, and when I confider your father's
** age and increafing infirmities, I renounce a

plan which the refpe(flability of his chara(ner

once fuggefted to me, of acquainting him
** with his fcn-in-lav/'s conducfl, and urging
** him to afi'ume the tone highly becom»ing an
" injured and afFeCiionate parent."

«< O ! for Heaven's fake ! reje<£]: that idea,*'
exclaimed tlie terrified countefs. " Let not
*' tlie liulcvon calm of his declining vears be
** clouded with a doubt of his child's happinefs.
** How ungrateful, how impious fhculd I be,
** to draw from repofing age the pillow on
»* which it Hnks to refl, cheered by approving
** confcience, and holding fweet con^imunion
*^ with th'.K peaceful world for which it has
'- been long preparing."

<' And are you net afraid that his paternal
" folicitude will pervade your pious conceal-
*' ment ?" inquired Fitzofborne. *' I have feen
*< him watch vour varvin«T lochs, and caft JZ^^"-



*' ces on lord Montelth flrongly indicative of
** lufpicion."

" You alarm me. Surely I had better leave
*' Povverfcourt immediately, -before thofe fuf-
«' plcions iliall be confirmed."

<' Tiiat propofa!, madam, indicates your cuf-
<' tomary prudence, though it is hard at fuch a
<' time to deprive yourfelf of the comforts of
<• his tender afFe<i;~tion, and the foothings of
*' Mifs Evans's friendlhip. Whither will you
*' dire(fi: your penfive fleps ?"

*' Not to that cruel world, Fitzofoorne,
<* which has tarnimed my reputation, and
" robbed me of my hufband's heart. I will go
<* to Monteith, and embrace mv dear little
** girls, from whom I have been ten months
<« feparnted. Their playful prattle will perhaps
<* amufc me •, at lead their undifcerning (im-
<' plicity will not impofe upon me a painful
" reftraint, In order to efcape yet more infup-
*< portable obfervations ; I fiiall be allowed the
" free indulgence of tsars, and my mind may
« poffibly recover ftrength from folitude."

<* And is this the lot of the nobleft orna-
** ment of her age and country ?" exclaimed
Edward." " O lady INIonteith ! are you ano-
-' tlier victim to the blind caprices of For-
•• tune V^

" I was the carver of mv own fortune, and
" muft not complain of her caprices. I was
*' ju[l to the impulfe of an early attachment,
*' and I have no one to condemn. Even at
»•' this initant complaint is filenced by pity.
** Lord INIonteith cannot be happy. The re-
'' coUeclion of me mull obtrude upon his guilty
'•* dalliance. The imprudent woman, by whom
** he is fatally entangled, c^n urge no claim to

<^ his


*< his afFe£lIons, to invalidate my prior right.
*' I am the mother of his children, the faithful
'' repofitory of his fecrets, the partner of his
" forrows. I have foothed his anxieties, com-
•* pofed his ruffied temper, watched him in

** ficknefs. O Fitzofborne ! words cannot

•* exprefs how mnch this agonifing heart pre-
*^ fetred his intereft and his happinefs to tny
<« own."

Edward grafped her unconfcious hand, and
tremuloufly articulated, " Mult corroding for-
'* row wafte the fairefl pattern of all that is
<* good and attractive ? Surely, Monteith !
'* thou art the only man who could be unjuft to
** fuch excellence."

*< My good friend," faid the countefs, roufed
to recolle£lion by the ready tears which bathed
her hands, " fupprefs this keen fenfibility of
** my forrows. Yon fhall fee that I will en-
** dure them. For my children's fake, for the
*' fake of all who love me, I will endeavour to
<* exert myfelf: and to be amufed, I will vifit
'* the good cottagers whom I once made happy ;
** I will retrace the groves I planted, and re-
** fume my accuftomed occupations; though
*< every employment, every purfuit, even life
<< itfelf, is taftelefs novr."

' Fitzofborne dried his tears, and took a turn
p.crofs the room to recover the philofophy which
he proteded had never before been fo feverely
tried. Could nothing be done, nothing be
thought of, to reflore the charming futrerer to
the peace which (lie fo. highly merited ? Agaui
he addrcflcd the trembling mourner, who,
gazing on the portrait of her lord, feemed to
apoflrophize the beloved remembrance, and to
implore not merely compaffion but juMice, inat-


tentive to the blandlfhments of her feducer, un-
coardous of the impropriety of that confidence
which her agitated foul bc{l';\ved, and only fuf-
ceptible of the fenfe of angu'fh, or the feeble
hope of regaining- an aHenated heart.

"At length," fiiid Fitzofborne, after two or
three ineiTcdual endeavours to fpeak, " I have
<' thought of two plans. They will, indeed, in-
*' elude a little oblique condufl ; but the end is
<' too pure, too defirable to render objedlionable
" t\\c means of obtaining it. I know a young
»= nobleman who wifiiss to rival your lord in-
*' Mrs. Harley's favour. He is rich and extra-
<f vacant, and 1 have fome influence over his
<< mind. Ic is but fplritin;^ him to outbid your
** hufband, and the venal fair will foon forbid
** the vifits of her lefs liberal keeper. Or, I
*' couUl feign a letter as from Mrs. Harley to
" this gentleman, wltich would awaken Mon-
^^ teith's jealoufy, and probably mighc have the
'^ fame eiFi^:i of dilVolving the connection. You
'* (lart, madam. 'Confider that the infamy of
" the woman is confirmed, and how forcible
<' are the chims which your innocent children
** have upon your exertions !"

" I muft not preferve their innocence by the
*< forfeiture of mv own. What ri^rht have I to
" aijgravate the guilt of an unhappy woman, or
<« to transfer to another family the calamity
** which weighs me dovv'n ? Nor can I yield to
" fully my integrity by bafely framing a forged
" accufation, or to taint my reputation by ex-
** pofmg it to the difgrace of a diihonourable
•* difcovery."

'* 1 lament when generofity becomes roman-
** tic, and I mud beg permiffion to urge my
" fchemes with what I think irrefiilible argii-

D 3 «' nnents,

Sz A tal:l of the times,

" ments, i:' tlie faint hope which I have found-
*< eel upon my iiifluence over lord Monteith's
'•' mind ihoald fail me. Unfortunately, he is
** fo bent upon {::0Trg to town, that it will be
*' ufjlcfs lo oppofe his plan •, but I wi!l accom-
" pnnv him, and exert all mv limited abilities
** to diil'o'fe this enchantment. No matter
** tliough I lofe his friendOiip; his vicious pur-
^' luits have annihilated, my efleem, and I fcorn
** to receive future favours from a man unjult
«' to you/'

^* Ah !" thouglu Geraldine, " what can break
'f th.e adamantine chain which links him to my
** heart I Should the hour ever arrive when af-
*' feciion ceafes to throb, will not duty continue
** to urge lis rcfiniefs claims? But I cannot
f' wonder, "a mind fo refined as Fitzof-
*' home's f!)ould call v/eaknefs vice, and difdain
** conunur.ion with one who gives licence to
*' ih.ofe reOLl pafiions, v/hicli liis firmer fpirlt
** hold's in calm fubj^cftion. (), that Monteith
^' poflciltd his virtues I But earth nuiR not re-
** fembie heaven/'

" You paufe, madam," fald Fitzofborne, in-
terrupting her iiain of thought. " A in I flill fo
*' unfortunate as not to be able to fuggeft any
*' thing deferving of your approbation ?"•

" My e>:cc]lent friend !"' refumed the Count-
cfs, " foilou' the diiftates of your own good
** heart. V/hatever fcheme vour knovvled;i;e of
*« the world fuggells, whatever diiTuafrve argu-
" ments your fuperior talents diredl you to ufe,
« exert them in my caufe. But be careful to
<* reftrain your zeal to re (lore my ruined peace,
" left it iTiould urge you to purfue thofe indire£l
** paths which, even if fuccefsful; my principles
•* muft conftantly difapprovc."


" I think," returned tlie fopliifter, the code
« of laws which you dignily by your obedience
*« permits the ferptrnt to be blended withthedove.
«' Your innocence and your reputation cannot
*« be injured by actions in which you do not
*' participate; ajrd if rPiy confcience judifies
** my proceedings, what have you to oppofe ? Be
«* allured, that not even your intereft would
<» prompt me to any ftep which I did not think
<« highly warrantable •, and here a^^ain I am
" cc^untenanced by thofe do(firines which teach
" me that the motive conftitutes che acl."

<< Be fure," faid the countefs, «' to examine
" your motives with fcrnpu-ous care, left you
" (iKUid be deceived by a fpecious good."

" IMy motives," Taid Fitzo{l)ori;e, "have un-
" deri^one the dc fired fcrutiny, and I will abide
«<" bv the refuitof my inquiry- But I have two
« favours to rccpiei\ of you. Do not, while with
«* unremirtiiT2: afliduity I (lake aU my hopes,
<f and brave every peril to reftore to you the
"■ hTppinefs you have loPc — do not, deareft lady
*« Monteirh ' "while i' am far diftant from ycu,
<< Unen to any uncharitable fuggCiTions that
*' miglU tend to prejudice me in youp eileem..
<* Should anr reH^Ctions be call upon me for
^' ch^rifiiinci fome DecuUar notions, xall to mind
<« that noble candour which teaches us, that
«« thofe principles cannot be wrong which •
" prompt right aftions. Permit me too the
**■ honour of your correfpondence ; and if fac-
'f cefs (hould crown my hopes, if my once va-
'< lued friend tliould return to Monteith wor-
*'< thy of you, allow me to partake your
«< tranfports ; and let the cloud of forrow and
<' difappointment which now obfcures my
•'« youth, be brightened by the gladdering ray


** of your fociety. For it Is only your unre-
*^ ferved frlencKhip that can tioiu render life de-
*« firable."

The countefs promifed the required favours
with penetrating fincerity. She confirmed the
afliirances of her peraianent efteem by giving
Jiim a nainiature portrait of herfelf, which had
been drawn with a vievi'of being dt-corated witli
brilhants, and prefented to hdy Arabella on her
intended nuptials. Her opinion of l^itzofborne's
merits was wrought up to admiration ; and the
refult of this interview convinced him, that he
had gained ?.ll the ground In her affections which
probabihty allowed him to expeiff. Ker deli-
cacy was no longer ftartltd by his pafiionate
juanner : the v/arm interefl which he took in
her caufe no longer awakened the apprehenfioii
of unwarrantable defigns. She had all tlie con-
fidence in his integrity which he wilhed to in-
fpire •, and he relied upon her gratitude and
her generoGty to divert every inference, and
fdence every fuggellion, that might be urged to
his disfavour.

The moment, therefore, was unpropltlous
which Mr. Evans had chofen to alarm her fears,
by ftating his conviction, that \ht fingidarity of
her friend's fentiments were more nearly allied
to deifm than their apparent moderation and
candour made her fufpecl. I have already
mentioned tiie motives which induced Mr.
Evans to fcften his intended cenfure ; but Ge-
raldine lidened with impatience even to the ex-
tenuated accufation. Not that fhe thought the
charge of deifm a light reproach, or that her
own convlflion of the truth of revealed religion
was enfeebled ; on the contrary, her prefent
dejected fpirits more Itrongly impelled her to



draw water from the refrefhlng fountain of
eternal truth. But her prepofTeflion m Ed-
ward's favour made her alio-.v for a litile clerical
zeal for orthodoxy, which might, (lie thoughtj
confound charai:fers feparated by many difcri-
rr.inating tenets : and, granting that Mr. Evans's
fufpicions even in their wideft latitude were
(lijl well-founded, no danger could refult from
her intimacy with a peribn to whom he allowed
the poffefTion of (o much talent and fo much.,
moral principle.

Her reply, therefore, to Mr. Evans's obfer-
vations commenced with a popular fentimeut^

< that the faith could not be wrong, when the

< life was right.* < I am afraid,* faid fhe,

* many people, who profefs themfelves warm

* advocates for the doctrines of our religion,

* would be unwilling to have the reality of

< their own belief afcertained by this fimple

< and compendious maxim. Vv'e cannot juds^e

* of another perfon's heart but through the

< medium of his actions ; and even calumny

< Itfelf cafls no cenfure on Mr. Fitzofborne.

* Let us not then condemn him on account of
« {omzftfigulariiy 'of opinion ; for opinion, my
« dear fir, you know, is free. We can only be
« affe(?l:ed by the a(flions of others, not by their

* fentiments.*

" Beware, my deareft lady Monteith," re-
<* fumed Mr. Evans, " how- you extend the
" apologies which may be urged in behalf of
<« harmlefs fmgularity, to the vindication of
" of thofe perilous dodlrines which not only
" corrupt the foil where they are fuffered to
« fpring, but alfo threaten the general deftruc-
« tion of all that is dear and valuable to focietv.
" Do the virtues of even the moral deift ftaiid



<' upon any firm ground ? P-eafon is his god ;
*• and he may to-day difcover the footlteps of
" his deity in the paradoxes of Epicurus, and
" to-morrow in the fables of the Koran. The
*f credulity of the infidel Is proverbial, and his
" notions of right are as varying as his creed.
*' He, my dear h^.dy, is the corrupt tree from
« which, infallibility itfelf tells us, good fruit
*' cannot fpring. He is tlie polluted fountain
« whofe waters mud be bitter. As the mind
«' thinks, tlie tongue fpeaks, and the man acts.
** The battery which he ereOs againll: the rock cf
" faith is built on fand, liable to be undermined
** by every tide, and overtlirovvn by every wind;
" yet with reitlefs malevolence he perfiils in
" his attack. Obfervc, madam, the fydem ever
«< purfued by fcepncs is offuifive warfare; the
*' liberty of private judgment does not content
«* them. Preffing their peftiferous doctrines at
«' every cpportuniiVj^ they deny us the freedom
»* which thev claim for themfelves, and never
«< rcfort to the plea of moderatioi^, but when
«' ciofely prtfred by arguments v;hich they can-
'< not orherwife avoid. But let them remem-
" ber, when either vanity or the defire of m.ik-
<' ing converts induces them to unfettle the
*< minds of others, opinion then becomes a6li-
" on, and tliey are as anfwerable at the audit
«' of God and their country for the priiiciples-
«« which they promulgate, as for the deeds they
'f commit.

<< Have you not rather exaggerated Mr.
«< Fitzofborne's errors ?" faid the countcfs, in"
a more decided tone than fhe was accuftomed
to ufe to her reverend inftruflor. " I have
<« often heard him expatiate upon ferious fub-
<^< je£ls, but mull own that I never difcovered

- «' anv


*<• any tendency to delfm. If I thought hinm an
". infidel, it viould give n^ie the liveliefl con-
<* cern ; for, befide the eRcem which his vir-
**' tues infpire in my mind, I owe him indcli-
«' ble gratitude far many uncommon marks of
<< friendfliip,"

" I have repeated the very words he ufedy
*< madam. Be you the judge. Why he^iliould
*' affecfl referve to vou, and choofe to be un-
" neceflarily explicit to me, is fomewhat myf-
«' terious. What you tell me of this young
«' gentleman, and what I have myfelf obferved,
" flrongly awakens my compairion. He has
<* defired to renew the fubject of our late con=
<' verfation. I fiiall return to it with pleafure,
** and efteem myfelf happy if my efforts can
" direct his abilities to their priftine intent,
" and reflore to his bofom that tranquillity
*^ which he cannot now enjoy." _

" You are always in charafler, my dear
" Mr. Evans, companionate and benevolent
« even to thofe whofe ccndudl you difapprove,-
" I will endeavour to be a fellow-labourer in
*' the fame good work j and thougli my know-
*< ledge is too limited to convince Mr. Fitz-
** ofborne's judgment, T may expedite the con—
** viclion the defires by pointing fome perfua-
** five paiTages to his heart."

" Ever-amiable lady Monteirh !" returned

< the good man with pious earneftnefs, " be-

* w^are how you enter the thorny paths of
' theological controverfy. I refpe£\ your fex

< too much to wifh them to hazard the mild

* luftre of benigniiry with which the god of
^ nature has adorned them, to purfue that
' uncongenial fplendor which they can never

* obtain. Metaphyfical deductions; and philo-

^< logical


" logical learning, by which we defend our
" fairh again ft its afTailants, require a fevere
'* courfe of ftudy, and more inten'"e thought
*' than your habits, or perhaps the peculiar
'' tendency of your intellectual powers, will
*' afford. You will be entrapped into conclu-

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestA tale of the times (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 18)