« AnkstesnisTęsti »
No might nor greatnefs in mortality
Can Cenfure 'scape; back-wounding Calumny
VICE always appears to be most alluring
when its machinations are crowned with fuccefs. During the dangerous period of youth, while the paffions are warm, the imagination lively, and the judgment weak, the fpectator feels a bias in favour of that adventurer whofe courfe (marked by ingenuity) leads to a speedy attainment of his defires. But could Inexperience reflect, and Impetuofity pause, the couch of even the most profperous villain would prefent no alluring fpectacle. Fitzofborne's plans had hitherto answered his wishes. His fpecious
manners had acquired the esteem of the countefs, and the unbounded confidence of her lord. He had obtained a firm footing in the family; had fown the baleful germ of fufpicion, fo fatal to domeftic peace; and the difpleasure and gloom which occafionally pervaded lord Monteith's countenance convinced him that it had taken root. Calumny was prepared to doubt the ftability of Geraldine's honour; and Calumny, like a peftilential blaft, can taint the innocence it affails. To these engines of feduction might be added the fophiftical principles of falfe philofophy; which, though cautiously administered and often rejected, ftill, like the delved mine, poffefs a power capable of fubverting the firmest moral virtue, if not founded on the rock of religion.
Yet Fitzofborne was wretched. The atrocity of his defigns haunted his pillow,
not with a sense of remorse, but with the apprehenfion of danger. The fituation of the lady was exalted; her character was exemplary; her connexions were respectable; her husband, as he had lately discovered, was not only tenacious of her reputation, and vain of her attractions, but also confcious of her merits, and fincerely attached to her perfon. Though the earl's apprehenfion was peculiarly flow, his paffions were as remarkably vehement; and his skill at the various offenfive weapons was fo great, that his opponent could have very little chance of escaping with life, if called to make the amende honorable. Fitzofborne's fortunes were almoft defperate. Worldly prudence feemed, therefore, to point out the neceffity of applying his ingenuity in devifing fome plan of improving his circumstances, instead of wafting his talents in a pursuit
which only promifed danger, or, to fpeak according to his ideas, " barren honour."
Notwithstanding the appearance of open hoftility, he held a private correfpondence with the viscount's family; and his intelligence from thence confirmed his own opinion, that the breach with lady Arabella was not totally irreparable. Her vexation at his attention to lady Monteith was too lively to be concealed, and too fincere to yield to the hopes which the noble duke's increafing admiration infpired. In vain did she recollect detecting him incognito at the theatre, looking at her through his opera-glass. In vain did she remember her more fplendid triumph, when he prefented her with a ticket for lady Fillagree's fancied ball, infcribed "To the faireft." Fitzofborne faw his affiduities without emotion. The noble
duke's fentiments were known to be inaufpicious to marriage; and no lady, who had not abfolutely determined to be a duchefs, could even affect to find fatisfaction in his converfation.
Fitzosborne poised the chance of lucrative advantage with precifion; and, as he had no inclination for fleeping in the bed of honour, he bestowed fome forethought on the hazards he ran by purfuing his illicit defigns against the lovely countess. Since he deemed his fuccefs certain, it was unneceffary to examine the effect of a disappointment. Great prudence, great caution, and great morality, might prevent a rencontre. He might be unwilling to lift his arm against the life of his friend; he might refpect the laws of his country; or his health might impofe the neceffity of a tour for its restoration. The last step would be the most convenient, in cafe