Mrs. (Jane) West.

The refusal (Volume 2) online

. (page 17 of 19)
Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestThe refusal (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

canery equally obvious, and on the just retribution
which made that credulity the means of involving him
in difficulties and dangers.

The servants were soon summoned by Paulina's hys-
terical vociferations, and Villars among the number.
The lady was conveyed to her chamber, and the as-
tonished secretary interrogated the earl (whose atten-
tion seemed scarcely attracted by the farce) as to the
cause of this sudden disorder.

208 'i'»^E REFUSAL.

" She will best explain it," answered he, " my visit
this morning was to General Monthermer, and I know
not by what mistake I have been suffered to intrude
upon his lady."

" My lord," said Villars, significantly, " the gene-
ral must be informed of Lady Paulina's indisposition."

The earl replied emphatically, he had no motive
for wishing it to be concealed, and retii*ed with more
self-satisfaction than he had for some time felt, rejoic-
ing that he hgd repulsed the blandishments of the sy-
ren, and persuaded that her duplicity was too apparent
to be dangerous.

But though the lion treads disdainfully on the snake,
the lordly beast often falls a victim to its poison. Pau-
lina knew exactly Vt'hen she ought to recover, and sum-
moning Villars to her couch, on which she reclined in
all the pomp of languishment, she ordered her women
to retire. She then asked him if the traitor was gone ?
if he shev/ed any signs of remorse ? or had affected to
account for the disorder into which his insuperable ef-
frontery had thrown her? Finding that Avondel had
preserved that disdainful silence which her knowledge
of his lofty integrity might have assured her would
conceal her guilt, she informed Villars that Monther-
mer must be informed of his designs, since the return
of her legal protector and her own lenient offer of for-
giving the past, had only so far hardened him in his
resolution of making her either guilty or miserable,
that she found he had actually whispered away her re-
putation, and had the boldness to assure her, th U as
no woman of virtue would now visit her on account ol
his assiduities, her situation could not be rendered any

The reluctance which Villars felt to involve his
master in a bloody contest with a man of Lord Avon-
del's skill and eminence, and this too immediately on
his return to England , where he hoped to enjoy for
many years the hard-earned affluence for which he had
sacrificed his youth and health, induced the secretary
to pause before he took any irretrievable step, and he


expressed his wonder that Lord Avondel should thus
openly avow his designs. Paulina assured him that this
fearless audacity was a peculiar mark of the earl's vil-
lainy, who ever strove to intimidate when he could not
allure. That he was even capable of attempting to
carry her oflF by force, she inferred from a most sin-
gular adventure which had befallen her on her attempt
to meet the general, when he returned to England.
Her carriage was surrounded by armed banditti, call-
ing themselves officers of justice, who preferred a most
ridiculous charge against her of having been guilty of
a felony, and but for the accidental interposition of a
superintendant of police, who arrived in time to libe-
rate her, she was convinced she should have been con-
veyed to some remote fortress, entirely in the power
of a brutal t}rant till she would have consented to pur-
chase liberty by the forfeiture of honour.

A tale so romantic, so dissimilar to the usual course
of events in England, staggered Villars stiil more, in-
stead of inducing him to place implicit confidence in
his lady's veracity. He had not however the slightest
suspicion of the malignity of her intentions, and only
supposed that her fanciful enthusiasm had given a
marvellous air to some ordinury occurrence, vrhich her
limited knowledge of English manners did not allow
her to comprehend. But when on questioning the
servants who accompanied her, h.e found that there had
been a real arrest, and detention for several hours, by
whose contrivance they knew not, though they suspect-
ed by Lord Avondel's, as he certainly was privy to her
intention of going out of town that evening. Villars
fell into the usual error of candid people, who think
the} have been guilty of cherishing a false suspicion,
and with unbounded confidence surrendering his mind
to the guidance of a detestable woman, he became the
blind minister of her revenge.

Paulina now resolved to alarm Monthermer by the
afiectation of languor, seclusion, and grief. She de-
nied that she had any p.i.rticular indisposition in a man-
ner which convinced him that she concealed somethine


which would cause him real distress. His intreatics
to be informed of the truth were redoubled. Her de-
nials grew fainter. She complained that he would
teaze her out of her prudent resolves, and at last pro-
tested Villai's must have betrayed her, or he would not
be so importunate. Monthermer took the hint, and
boldly taxed Villars with breach of duty in neglecting
to tell him the cause of that sorrow which preyed
upon his lady's mind. Villars stammered, excused
himself by his desire to avoid disagreeable conse-
quences, and believing Paulina had anticipated his
communications, expressed his hopes that Lord Avon-
del vv^ould give up his designs from a conviction of
their impracticability, without the general's interfer-
ence. Monthermer coloured, bit his lip, and replied,
that Avondel never abandoned any plan, since what-
ever his prudence undertook his genius rendered suc-
cessful. " In this instance he must," answered Villars,
" for I am persuaded Lady Paulina's virtue v;ill prove
alike impregnable whether he assail it by slander or by

" Right," replied the general, " yet there will be
no harm in whispering in his ear that such is my opi-

" Will you, Sir, permit me to be the bearer of this
intelligence ?"

" I wish to avoid mistakes," said Monthermer cool-
ly, " and I conceive a business of this nature is best
adjusted by the principals."

Villars with affectionate terror expressed his dread
of the consequences of this rencontre. " The man is
mad," exclaimed the general, " what rencontre do you
apprehend ? Am I to stand to be shot at by every let-
cher who likes my wife :" Whistling a tune wth af-
fected gaiety, while his eye flashed fire, he returned
to Paulina whose penetration soon discovered, that the
prologue had been performed which was to usher in
the tragedy she had so long meditated.

"Ah!" said she with a shriek of tenor, "you
know all."


'^' I know," replied Montht rmer, with passionate ten-
derness, " that I have the best wife in the world."

" And I fear you also know, the most perfidious
friend ?"

No," said the general, " when he attempted to rob
me of the treasure I entrusted to his care, he ceased
to be my friend."

Paulina replied, that his calmness removed a load of
terror from her mind.

" I feared," said she, " that the fatal maxims of
false honour, and that pride which distinguishes your
nation as the ' lords of human kind,' would have com-
pelled 3'ou to hazard your precious life, and thus plaiige
me in irremediable despair."

Monthermer mingled his affectionate thanks with as-
surances that he heartily despised the villain, and Pau-
lina, affecting to believe that composure to be real,
which she plainly perceived was a thm disguise to im-
placable resentment, consented to gratify him with that
full confidence which she had long studiously with-held.
She proceeded to describe Lord Avondel's solicitations,
insidious artifices, and daring machinations, and her
own at first unsuspecting friendship, and, when, his
purposes were unveiled, resolute prudence, in such co-
lours, that the indignant flesh of her husband's cheek
died away to the deadly pale of revenge : and though
he affected to listen to her narrative with careless ease
he muttered curses through his clenched teeth, while
his hand involuntary grasped his sword.

*' My life, my lord," said Paulina, again, " you alarm
me. You promised not to put pour own safety on a par
with that most infamous and insidious of friends, — of
seducers I mean ?"

" True," replied Monthermer, " I know I have
promised. My sword was entangled. Sweet appre-
hensive tenderness, why these terrors ?"

" O ever wise and kind," exclaimed Paulina, " the
air of your moody climate has damped my native fire.
But since even your return does not intnnicUite him let
us fly to Italy, there we shall be safe. Surrounded by



powerful friends he dare not there attempt to force me
from you."

" It would be a desperate attempt in England," ob-
served Monthermer.

Paulina replied, that there was no knowing to what
crimes the indulgence of impetuous desires would lead
a powerful criminal. Like many other iniquitous mo-
ralizers, conscience compelled her to feel the justice of
the observation she made with a design to deceive.

Monthermer's eye again glanced upon his sword.
*' It would not be inexpedient," said he, "just to tell
Avondel that there is danger in impetuous desires."

"If you could do it very calmly it might recall the
lost wretch to the path of honour. In particular, I
should rejoice if he were compelled to retract the gross
aspersions which he has cast upon my reputation, and
which have so far succeeded that I am now exiled from
the respectable society in which I formerly moved. He
hoped, bv describing me as the partner of his guilty plea-
sures, to remove the most efl'ea<:ual barrier to actual
criminality. But though an unprotected stranger, ig-
norant of English manners, and for a length of time
confiding in this serpent, thus on my bended knees
I swear by the chaste powers who preside over mar-

" Spare your assertions," interrupted Monthermer,
*' till I doubt your truth and honour. Go on with your
story. You were 50U say a stranger, a foreigner, a
beautiful woman, without one frit- nd or relation, in an
unknown country. — I commended you to the protec-
tion of Avondel — Curses blast the villain — Why are
you silent ? — He shall retract or die."

" He knows his own superior skill at the sword,"
resumed the fiUse Italian. " At least avoid that wea-
pon. I heard him say there is not a man in
England who could meet him in the fi,eld on equal

" He said so before I arrived," said Monthermer,
with a sardonic grin, piqued at having a superiority
on which he prided himself called in question.


' " No," replied Paulina, truth obliges me to own that
it was at our last interview." INTonthermer reiterated
the words " last interview," and Paulina confessed
that she had been thus unguarded from an expectation
that Villars had told him all. She then owned that the
base earl had affronted her with a visit a few days ago,
that he chose the known hour of the general's absence,
and owing to her unwillingness to cause a rupture, she
had once more endured his hateful presence, and had
urged every motive to induce him to desist from his
designs. But the horrid oaths which he swore, to
brave death in this world, and perdition in the next,
rather than relinquish her, added to his passionate as-
surances that her reputation was overwhelmed with
cureless opprobrium, had so agitated her, that she fell
into fits, a circumstance well known to her servants,
who indeed, by incidental evidence could confirm all
her testimony.

She now cast her eyes on her credulous dupe with
ineffable fondness, and affecting to be alarmed at his
undisguised frenzy, she pretended to believe that
Avondel might be persuaded by mild measures to re-
tract his slanders, and desist from his lawless pursuit.
Her own prudence and virtue would, she said, soon
rid her of this intruder without any dangerous risk.
The general agreed it would, and folding her in what
she hoped and believed was intended for a farewell
embrace, complained that the house was hotter than
liencoolen, and he must walkout for air. Paulina ac-
companied him to the door, as well to prevent the
attendance of Villars as to fan his rage by those mock
alleviations and warnings of danger, which she knew
would whet his courage to desperation.

On returning to her own apartment with somewhat
of the delight which oMedea might be supposed to feel
Avhen she had immolated her children on the shrine of
revenge, she was met by Villars, who, in the terror of
real affection, inquired where his master was gone ?
Paulina upbraided him severely for having violated
the confidence she had reposed in him, by discovering


the baseness of Lord Avondel, and by an affectation
of extreme displeasure at haviiig the general tlsus ex-
posed to di'.nger, she contrived to withdraw the well
disposed young man from his first design of following
his master, by engaging him in a vindication of his
own conduct. She tlien assured him that she trusted
her prudence had warded off the evils his want of se-
crecy might have occasioned ; that she had reasoned
with Monthermer till he was quite calm, and laughing
at the earl's effrontery was gone out to dinner. Hav-
inp thus detained him till it was improbable his inter-
ference could prevent her hopes, she pardoned and dis-
niissid him, giving him as a sign oi restored grace a
collection of canzonets and sonnets to be transcribed in-
to her common-place book.

She now ruminated alone on the alternatives v/^hich
her sanguinary views presented. Both the gendemen
Were men of determined courage, it was therefore
highly probable one would fall. Suppose it was Lord
Avondel ? her revenge would then be gratified. i3ut
conr-idering his superior skill and calmness, the more
likely, and far more cherished, expectation was, that
his arm would reh ase her from the disgusting fond-
ness of a husband for whom her hatred and contempt
was increased, even by the facility with which he tell
into her snares. Thus, though slighted, rejected, re-
proved, and as she believed, insulted, by Lord Avon-
del, his virtue and dignity commanded her admiration,
and the recollection of his graceful manners, superior
conversation, and elegant tenderness, while she held
him in her chains, was so dear to her susceptibility,
and so flattering to her vanity, that she still considered
him as the first of mankind, and even while she fram-
ed a scheme for his destruction, wished success to his

[ 215 ]


Tlie soul no more on mortal g'ood relies,

Eut nobler objects urge her hopes and cares.

And sick of folly views no tempting' prize
Beneath the radiant circle of the stars.

Mrs. Carter.

WHILE these scenes passed in London, Lady Se-
lina Delamore, reflecting on those traits of settled ma-
lice and deep design which were so apparent in Pauli-
na's character, entertained painful apprehensions for
Lord Avondel's safety. By way of convincing her,
that there was no reason to apprehend he should be as-
saulted from that quarter, the earl, in his letters to
Lime Grove, stated the affectionate welcome which
General Monthermer had received from his wife, the
perfect cordiality which subsisted between them, her
retirement from company, and every circumstance
which indicated real reformation. I need not add, that
this account was despatched previously to the interview
described in the last chapter ; and till then he really
hoped that disappointment had taught Paulina contri-
tion. A clearer insight into the disposition of this en-
terprising and unprincipled woman, induced Selina
from the first to doubt the reality of this instantaneous
conversion, this entire change of opinions, affections,
and habits, which might indeed he useful to carry on
a design, but which a proud unconvinced offender ne-
ver sincerely adopts. That she designed to blind the
general, and to shut his ears against every report to her
disadvantage, was obvious. But Selina also suspected
another purpose, and feared the great and generous
Avondel was the premeditated victim intended to ce-
ment with his blood the discordant union of credulity
and falsehood. Her anxiety to expedite the intended



removal of the Avondels from London now became
extreme ; but as she knew that by strongly insisting on
the danger of the earl's stay she should rather retard
than accelerate her purpose, she urged him to recollect,
that, after having devoted so large a portion of his
life to the service of the public, the rich inheritance
which his wife possessed called upon him to change
the statesman and the legislator into the country gen-
tleman, the beneficient nobleman, the enlightened con-
siderate landlord, the friend and feudal benefac:;or of
the fair domain, which claimed his presence and need-
ed a superintending understanding liberal and discri-
minating as his, to repair the injuries which waste,
neglect, and good intentions, unassisted by vigorous
intellect, had caused. She spoke of the repose his
mird required after the painful conflicts it had sus-
tained. She mentioned various plans of improve-
ment and schemes of beneficence which Emily wish-
ed to establish at the seat of her ancestors, and that
her health and that of his son would be improved
by the balsamic air of Devonshire. Lastly, she re-
minded him, that though she had no doubt of the sin-
cerity of his intentions, yet the same command which,
founded on a knowledge of human weakness, taught
us to pray for supernatural aid against temptation
enjoined us to flee Irom it : that our prayers were
also precepts, and it was a solemn mockery to contra-
dict our requests by our actions. " The history of our
unhappy parents," said she, " is a dreadful warning
to teach us not to trust in our own strength, and as I
am convinced Paulina's aflection for you has been most
violent, I know your generous mind will feel it to be
a duty to leave her to cherish her returning sense of
fidelity to her husband, without exposing her virtue,
while unconfirmed by habit, to the danger of contrast-
ing the man she has loved with the inferior qualities of
him to whom she \- i.-ound, and to who n you tell me
she is now heroically devoting her undivided atten-


To arguments so cogent Lord Avondel could only
oppose one reason for delay. A motion was expected
to !)e made in the house of lords in which he thought
the honour of his sovereign and the national prosperity
were deeply involved. It was a scheme of the oppo-
sition to gain popularity. He had detected its mis-
chievous tendency, and he resolved to oppose it with
all the power of tiis eloquence, and the weight of his
name. In unravelling the sophistry of these pseudo
patriots, he had often lost sight of those painful im-
pressions of degradation which were inseparablv united
with Paulina's image, and with this great effort to de-
fend his country he determined to close his public ca-
reer, to bid adieu to cities, courts, and camps, and to
pursue the plan Selina prescribed. In the enjoyment
of her pure and instructive friendship, in the gentle
tenderness of his amiable wife, in the delightful em-
ployment of forming the mind and manners of his son,
and in all those generous and social offices which sim-
ple wealth permits a liberal heart and enlightened mind
to perform, he promised himself no common por-
tion of happiness, and fancied his sun would de-
scend in mild glory. So probably it might have done,
had he never submitted to that malign influence which
blasts with repercussive destruction after it has ceased
to be lord of the ascendant.

On the day the motion was brought forward, Avon-
del went down to the house at an early hour. In pass-
ing through the avenues he was assailed by JMonther-
mer, with an abrupt inquiry if he was alarmed at see-
ing him? Avondei replied, the sight of an old friend
was more calculated to give pleasure than alarm. " 'Tis
strange then," returned the general, " that I should
have been some weeks in England without seeing you."

" I have called," said Avondel, " and you were ab-

" You have called!" exclaimed Monthermer, and
then added with emphasis, " This to my face ? Thou
villain !


Avondel retreated as if struck by the charge of a
culverin. His blood boiled at the opprobious epithet,
but he recollected rage was as delirious as insanity,
and determining to be calm, he asked the reason why
he was assaulted with such language ?

" Ask your own conscience, cursfd dissembler,"
was the reply of the infuriated husband. He stamped
with his foot, and added, " my wife, my wife ! I will
have satisfaction."

" Your wife," returned Avondel, " is spotless for

Monthermer continued to rave, called her an inju-
red vestal, and demanded a recompense for intended
wrongs in a still louder tone.

" This is no place," said the earl, " to discuss our
dispute. I am summoned into the house by import-
ant duties. You are a brave man, general, as such sus-
pend this fury."

" You will meet me then?" inquired Monthermer.

" As a friend, and as the vindicator of my own ho-
nour, I will meet you any where," was Lord Avon-
del's reply.

" To-morrow at six in the morning without seconds
in the Green Park."

" I will meet you without witnesses," answered
Avondel, " and with no other weapons than truth and

At this mpment Lord Glenvorne joined them, at-
tracted by the loud tones and violent gestures of the
general. ' " I trust," said the marquis, " I am not an
impertinent intruder."

Avondel answered this was his first interview with
General Monthermer since his return from India, " but
not our last," muttered Monthermer as he retired. " I
trust," replied the earl, in a firm but conciliatory tone,
" we shall meet often in amity and esteem."

" You must not call my friendship officiousness,"
said Lord Glenvorne to Lord Avondel, " if I anxiously
ask, what has been the nature of your conversation
with Paulina's husband r"

rilE REFUSAL. 219

"' The denomination you have used," replied the
earl, " points it out. He has heard something respect-
ing my intimacy with that lady, which he is disposed
to resent. Common report is very busy with charac-
ters, but I am convinced it will be easy for me to clear
my own conduct. Though violent, Monthermer is a
man of honour."

" The less likely" observed the marquis, " to be
soon appeased, especially if, as is probable, he has been
wrought up to resentment by one whose influencs over
his passions is well known."

" We will postpone this subject," answered the ge-
nerous earl, who could not for a moment believe Pau-
lina had turned his accuser. " A more important bu-
siness requires immediate attention. My Lord Glen-
vorne, I ask your support this evening, but it is in the
persuasion that you will feel yourself acting as a loyal
subject and steady patriot, by ranging yourself on the
side of your friend. Firmness and wisdom, my lord,
united with courage, will repel public as well as pri-
vate enemies."

Never did the abilities of Lord Avondel appear to
greater advantage than on this evening. With mas-
terly precision he followed the popular orators through
the whole range of their sophistical arguments, and by
the power of reason, combined with historical know-
ledge, exposed the fallacy of their statements, and then
appealed to the wisdom, loyalty, and honour, of 'the
house, with a glow of language, a sweetness of intona-
tion, and a gracefulness of action, which warmed every
heart. The " wondering senate hung on all he spoke,"
and the feebleness with which his opponents attempt-
ed to reply indicated the secret conviction which the
strong fetters of party would not permit them to ac-
knowledge. The motion was negatived by a triumph-
ant majority. Avondel saw himself surrounded by
numerous friends, all vying with each other who shouFd
give most emphasis and variety to their congratula-
tions. It was known he had fixed the ensuing day to
set off for Castle Mandeville. The Premier pressed


his band with an air of fervent gratitude, and wished
him every enjoyment in his rural retreat. '' You emu-
late Cincinnatus, my lord," said he, ••' you do not re-
tire to your plough till you have saved your country."
Yet at this perhaps proudest moment of Lord Avon-
del's life, his soul as depressed with conscious degra-
dation. The arguments of his enemies had been like
the green withes which held Sampson, and he had dis-
dainfully snapped them with his touch, but in one point
his strength failed him, and Lord Norbury, the Ther-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19

Online LibraryMrs. (Jane) WestThe refusal (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 19)