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Title: The Castle of Wolfenbach
Author: Eliza Parsons
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Language: English
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Title: The Castle of Wolfenbach
Author: Eliza Parsons




Volume One

The clock from the old castle had just gone eight when the peaceful
inhabitants of a neighbouring cottage, on the skirts of the wood, were
about to seek that repose which labour had rendered necessary, and
minds blessed  with innocence and tranquillity assured them the enjoyment
of. The evening was cold and tempestuous, the rain poured in torrents,
and the distant thunders rolled with tremendous noise round the
adjacent mountains, whilst the pale lightning added horrors to the
scene.

Pierre was already in bed, and Jaqueline preparing to follow, when the
trampling of horses was heard, and immediately a loud knocking at the
door; they were both alarmed; Pierre listened, Jaqueline trembled; the
knocking was repeated with more violence; the peasant threw on his
humble garment, and, advancing to the door, demanded who was there?
'Two travellers,' answered a gentle voice, 'overtaken by the storm;
pray, friend, afford us shelter.' 'O!' cried Jaqueline, 'perhaps they
may be robbers, and we shall be murdered.' 'Pho! simpleton,' said
Pierre, 'what can they expect to rob us of.' He opened the door, and
discovered a man supporting a lady who appeared almost fainting.
'Pray, friend,' said the man, permit this lady to enter your cottage,
I fear she has suffered much from the storm.' 'Poor soul, I am sorry
for her; enter and welcome,' cried Pierre. Jaqueline placed her wooden
arm-chair by the chimney, ran for some wood, and kindled a blaze in a
moment, whilst 'Pierre put the horse into a little out-house which
held their firing and his working implements, and returned with a
portmantua to the lady. They had only some bread and milk to her, but
they made it warm, and prevailed on their guest to take some. The man,
who appeared an attendant, did the same. The lady soon got her clothes
dry, but she wanted rest, and they had no bed to offer. One single
room answered all their purposes of life; their humble bed was on the
floor, in a corner of it, but though mean it was whole and clean.
Jaqueline entreated the lady to lie down; she refused for some time,
but growing faint from exhausted spirits and fatigue, she was
compelled to accept the offer; the others sat silently round the fire:
but, alas! horror and affliction precluded sleep, and the fair
traveller, after lying about two hours, returned again to the fire-
side, weary and unrefreshed. 'Is there any house near this?' demanded
she. 'No, madam,' replied Jaqueline, 'there is no house, but there is
a fine old castle just by, where there is room enough, for only one
old man and his wife live in it, and, Lord help us, I would not be in
their place for all the fine things there.' 'Why so?' said the lady.
'O! dear madam, why it is haunted; there are bloody floors, prison
rooms, and scriptions, they say, on the windows to make a body's hair
stand on end.' 'And how far from your cottage is this castle?' 'A
little step, madam, farther up the wood.' 'And do you think we could
obtain entrance there?' 'O, Lord! yes, madam and thank you too: why
the poor old souls rejoice to see a body call there now and then; I go
sometimes in the middle of the day, but I take good care to keep from
the fine rooms and never to be out after dark.' 'I wish,' said the
lady, 'it was possible to get there.' Pierre instantly offered his
service to conduct her as soon as it was light, and notwithstanding
some very horrible stories recounted by Jacqueline she determined to
visit this proscribed place.

When the morning came, the inhabitants of the cottage set out for the
castle. The lady was so much enfeebled, from fatigue and want of rest,
that she was obliged to be placed on the horse, and they found it very
difficult to lead him through the thickets. They at length espied a
fine old building, with two wings, and a turret on the top, where a
large clock stood, a high wall surrounded the house, a pair of great
gates gave entrance into a spacious court, surrounded with flowering
shrubs, which lay broken and neglected on the ground intermixed with
the weeds which were above a foot high in every part.

Whilst the lady's attendant lifted her from the horse, Pierre repaired
to the kitchen door where the old couple lived, which stood in one of
the wings, and knocking pretty loudly, the old woman opened it, and,
with a look of astonishment, fixed her eyes on the lady and her
servant. 'Good neighbour,' said Pierre, 'here is a great gentlewoman
cruel ill; she wants food and sleep, we have brought her here, she is
not afeared of your ghosts, and so therefore you can give her a good
bed, I suppose.' 'To be sure I can,' answered Bertha, which was the
woman's name: 'to be sure I can make a bed fit for the emperor, when
the linen is aired: walk in, madam; you look very weak.' Indeed the
want of rest the preceding night had so much added to her former
feeble state, that it was with difficulty they conveyed her into the
kitchen. Bertha warmed a little wine, toasted a bit of bread, and
leaving Jaqueline to attend the lady, she made a fire in a handsome
bed-room that was in that wing, took some fine linen out of a chest
and brought it down to air. 'Dear, my lady,' cried she, 'make yourself
easy, I'll take care of you, and if you ar'nt afeared, you will have
rooms for a princess.' Pierre and Jaqueline being about to return to
their daily labour, found their kindness amply rewarded by the
generosity of the stranger, who gave them money enough, they said, to
serve them for six months. With a thousand blessings they retired,
promising however to call daily on the lady whilst she staid at the
castle, though their hearts misgave them that they should never see
her more, from their apprehensions of the ghosts that inhabited the
rooms above stairs. When the apartment was arranged, the lady was
assisted by Bertha and laid comfortably to rest; she gave her some
money to procure food and necessaries, and desired her servant might
have a bed also.

This the good woman promised, and, wishing her a good sleep, returned
to the kitchen. 'God bless the poor lady,' said she, 'why she is as
weak as a child; sure you must have come a great way from home.'
'Yes,' answered Albert, the servant's name, 'we have indeed, and my
poor lady is worn down by sorrow and fatigue; I fear she must rest
some time before she can pursue her journey.' 'Well,' said Bertha,
'she may stay as long as she likes here, nobody will disturb her in
the day time, I am sure.' 'And what will disturb her at night?' asked
Albert. 'O, my good friend,' answered she, 'nobody will sleep in the
rooms up stairs; the gentlefolks who were in it last could not rest,
such strange noises, and groans, and screams, and such like terrible
things are heard; then at t'other end of the house the rooms are never
opened; they say bloody work has been carried on there.' 'How comes
it, then,' said Albert, 'that you and your husband have courage to
live here?' 'Dear me,' replied she, 'why the ghosts never come down
stairs, and I take care never to go up o'nights; so that if madam
stays here I fear she must sleep by day, or else have a ground room,
for they never comes down; they were some of your high gentry, I
warrant, who never went into kitchens.' Albert smiled at the idea,
but, resuming his discourse, asked the woman to whom the castle
belonged? 'To a great Baron,' said she, 'but I forget his name.' 'And
how long have you lived here?' 'Many a long year, friend; we have a
small matter allowed us to live upon, a good garden that gives us
plenty of vegetables, for my husband, you must know, is a bit of a
gardener, and works in it when he is able.' 'And where is he now?'
said Albert. 'Gone to the village six leagues off to get a little
meat, bread and wine.' 'What! does he walk?' 'Lord help him, poor
soul, he walk! no, bless your heart, he rides upon our faithful little
ass, and takes care never to overload her, as we don't want much meat,
thank God. But where will you like to sleep?' added she; 'will you go
up stairs, or shall I bring some bedding in the next room?' Albert
hesitated, but, ashamed to have less courage than his mistress, asked
if there was any room near the lady's? 'Aye, sure,' answered Bertha,
'close to her there is one as good as hers.' 'Then I will sleep
there,' said he. His good hostess now nimbly as she could, bestirred
herself to put his room in order, and was very careful not to disturb
the lady. Albert was soon accommodated and retired to rest.

In the evening the lady came down into the kitchen, much refreshed,
and expressed her thanks to the good woman for her kindness. 'Heavens
bless your sweet face,' cries Bertha. 'I am glad to my heart you be so
well. Ah! as I live, here's my Joseph and the ass.' She ran out into
the court to acquaint her good man with what had befallen her in his
absence. 'As sure as you be alive, Joseph, she is some great lady
under trouble, poor soul, for she does sigh so piteously but she has
given me plenty of money to get things for her, so you know it's
nothing to us, if she likes to stay here, so much the better.' 'I
hope,' said the old man, 'she is no bad body.' No that she an't, I'll
swear,' cries Bertha; 'she looks as mild as the flowers in May.' They
had now unloaded their faithful ass, and entered the kitchen with
their provender. Joseph was confounded at the appearance of the lady;
he made his humble bow, but was very silent. Bertha prepared some eggs
and fruit for her supper; she ate but little, and that little was to
oblige the old couple; she then asked for a candle, and said she would
retire to her room. Joseph and Bertha looked at each other with
terror, both were silent; at length Joseph, with much hesitation of
voice and manner, said, 'I fear, madam, you will not be quiet there,
it will be better, to my thinking, if a fire was made in one of the
parlours and the bedding brought down'. 'There is no occasion for
fire,' answered the lady, ‘but merely to air the room; however I am not
in any apprehension of sleeping in the room above, at least I will try
it this night.' It was with great reluctance the honest couple
permitted her to retire; Bertha had not even the courage to accompany
her, but Albert and Joseph offering to go, she ventured up to make the
bed, and her work finished, flew down like one escaped from great
danger.

The men having withdrawn, the lady seated herself at the dressing
table, and having opened her portmantua to take out some linen for the
ensuing day, she burst into tears on viewing the small quantity of
necessaries she possessed; she cast a retrospection on her past
calamities, they made her shudder; she looked forward to the future,
all was dark and gloomy; she wrung her hands, 'What will become of me,
unhappy as I am, where can I fly? who will receive a poor unfortunate,
without family or friends? The little money I have will be soon
exhausted, and what is to be the fate of poor Albert, who has left all
to follow me!' Overcome with sorrow, she wept aloud. When, turning her
eyes to the window, she saw a light glide by from the opposite wing,
which her room fronted, and which Bertha had informed her was
particularly haunted. At first she thought it was imagination; she
arose and placed her candle in the chimney; curiosity suspended
sorrow--she returned and seated herself at the window, and very soon
after she saw a faint glimmering light pass a second time; exceedingly
surprised, but not terrified, she continued in her situation: she saw
nothing further. She at length determined to go to rest, but with an
intention to visit every part of the house the following day. She got
into bed, but could not sleep. About twelve o'clock she heard plainly
a clanking of chains, which was followed by two or three heavy groans;
she started up and listened, it was presently repeated, and seemed to
die away by gentle degrees; soon after she heard a violent noise, like
two or three doors clapping to with great force. Though unaccustomed
to fear she could not help trembling. She felt some inclination to
call Joseph, she then recollected Albert was in the next room; she
knocked at the wainscot and called Albert! No answer was made. She got
out of bed, and throwing on a loose gown, took her candle, and,
opening the door of the next apartment, went up to the bed; she saw he
was buried under the clothes. 'Albert,' said she, 'do not be afraid,
'tis your mistress with a light;' he then ventured to raise himself
and though but little inclined to mirth, she could not refrain from
smiling at the fright he was in; the drops of perspiration run down
his face, his eyes were starting, and he was incapable of speaking for
some time. 'Pray, Albert,' said his lady, 'have you heard any
particular noise?' 'Noise,' repeated he. 'O Lord! all the ghosts have
been here together to frighten me.' 'Here--where,' asked she, 'in this
room' 'I believe so,' he replied; 'in this or the next I am sure they
were; there was a score or two in chains, then there was groans and
cries: but pray, madam, leave the candle a minute at the door, I will
throw on my clothes and get down into kitchen and never come up stairs
again.' 'Well, but, Albert,' she, 'I must stay in my room, have you
more cause for fear than I have?' 'No, madam, thank God, I never did
harm to man, woman, child.' 'Then take courage, Albert, I will light
your candle, and, I shall be in the next apartment, and will leave my
door open, you may either call to me or go down stairs, if you are a
second time alarmed.' It was with reluctance he obeyed, and repeatedly
desired doors might remain open.

The lady retired to her room, for some time hesitating whether should
dress herself or go into bed, she at length threw herself down in her
night gown, but could not sleep. Strange and various were her
conjectures respecting the lights she had seen, and the accountable
noises she had heard; she was not surprised that the weak minds of the
old people should be terrified, or that Albert, who was likewise far
advanced in years, above sixty, should shrink from alarms which had
given her a momentary terror; but as she did not suffer her mind to
dwell on the causes being supernatural, she conceived there must be
some mystery which, on the following day, if her health permitted, she
resolved, if possible, to explore. Towards morning she fell into a
profound sleep, undisturbed by groans or noises of any sort.

Albert, who, by his terror and apprehensions of seeing those ghosts
that had so greatly frightened him, was prevented from sleeping, got
up the moment day appeared and crept down stairs, here he was soon
after joined by Joseph. 'How have you slept, my good friend?' asked
he. 'Slept!' replied the other; 'why, who could sleep d'ye think, when
chains were rattling, ghosts roaring and groaning doors banging with
violence enough to shake the foundation of the walls? Lord help me, I
would not live in such a place no, not to be master of the whole
estate.' 'Aye, I knew how it would be,' said Joseph; 'it's always the
same business when any body comes here to sleep; we never hear any
noise else.' 'Why, then your ghosts are very rude unsociable folks,'
answered Albert, 'for strangers can do them no hurt, and there's room
enough, me thinks, in this great house for them to have their
merriments, without coming to frighten honest travellers, that never
desire to interrupt them.' 'I don't know how it is,' replied Joseph,
'but as to merriment, sure there can be none in groans and cries, and
they do say that cruel wicked deeds have been done in this castle, and
I suppose the poor souls can't lie quiet.' 'Dear me,' cries Albert, 'I
wish my mistress may be well enough to go farther, though poor soul,
she doesn't know where to go to, that's true.' 'Poor lady, that's bad
indeed; has she no parents, nor husband, nor uncles, nor aunts, nor--'
'Yes, yes,' said Albert, interrupting him, 'she has some relations,
but what of that, better she had none, I believe for her--O, here
comes Bertha.' On her entrance the good morrows and enquiries were
repeated; Bertha expressed her sorrow for the lady and immediately
ascended the stairs to see if she was not frightened out of her wits
by such a cruel disturbance.

She soon returned with the lady, and breakfast being quickly set
before her, she endeavoured to eat, but her appetite was so
indifferent as to cause great pain to the friendly Bertha.

Joseph mounted his favourite beast and repaired to the town that he
might procure necessaries for his family, superior to what he had
bought the day before. After his departure, and that Albert was gone
to look after his horse, the fair stranger demanded of Bertha if she
could give her any account of the owners of the castle. 'Why, madam,'
answered she, 'the present lord of this estate is--aye, his name is
Count Wolfenbach; he married a very handsome lady at Vienna, and
brought her here; it was then a beautiful place very unlike such as it
be now; but howsomever they say he was very jealous, and behaved very
ill to the poor lady, and locked her up, and there she was brought to
bed, and the child was taken from her, and so she died, and 'twas said
the child died, and so every body believes 'tis their ghosts that make
such dismal noises in the castle, for soon after my Lord the Count
went away, Joseph who worked under the gardener, was ordered to take
care of the house; and I lived then under the cook, so we married: all
the other servants were discharged, and so we have lived here ever
since. My Lord came here once or twice, but the ghosts made such a
noise he could not stay. Several gentry have slept here at times, but
nobody would stay a second night, and so we have all to ourselves by
day, and the ghosts, or what they be, have got all the rooms by night
and then they be quiet enough.' 'Pray,' interrogated the lady, 'can I
walk through the rooms and examine the opposite wing?' 'To be sure,
madam, you can, if you be so bold, but neither I nor Joseph ever goes
there, because that's the part where the poor Countess died.' 'How
many years ago was it?' 'Near eighteen, my Lady for next Christmas we
have been married so many years, and I was fifty-three and Joseph
fifty-two when we came together; not very young to be sure, what of
that, we live very comfortable, only a little lonely or so.' 'Well,'
said her guest, 'I shall be glad to walk through all the apartments.'
'I will attend you, madam, except to the other side, there I never
goes.'

After breakfast was over, the lady and Bertha walked up stairs; they
went through several fine apartments, the furniture rich though old
fashioned; one hung with family portraits she was particularly pleased
with; two attracted her attention greatly, which Bertha told her, she
had heard say, were the present Count and his late lady.

After going through the body of the house they came to the doors that
led to the other wing: 'Now, for goodness sake, dear madam, don't go
no farther, for as sure as you are alive, here the ghosts live, for
Joseph says he often sees lights and hears strange things.' 'My good
friend,' replied the lady, 'you may return, but I certainly will look
into those rooms.' 'O, pray good, your ladyship, don't go now.' She
persisted however in her determination, and on Bertha's leaving her
she opened the door which led to a gallery, and a handsome stair-case,
on the right hand she saw a suite of four rooms, all well furnished,
two as bed-rooms, one handsome sitting room, the other a library, well
filled with books, in handsome cases; these two last rooms, she
observed, exactly fronted the one on the opposite side, where she had
slept. Having examined those apartments, she saw, on the other side of
the gallery, two other doors; these, on trial, she found locked. She
then returned and went down the stair-case; after the first landing
place the windows were shut, and when she came to the bottom she
entered a hall, in which were three doors; one she attempted to open,
immediately a murmuring noise was heard, and the instant she opened
the door, another at the end of the room was shut to with great
violence. The lady for a moment stood suspended; she trembled, and
deliberated whether she should return or not; but recovering
resolution, she entered; a candle was burning on a table, the windows
were closed up, there were books and implements for drawing on the
table; this convinced her the inhabitants were alive, however, and
going to the door, she said aloud, 'Whoever resides in this apartment
need not be under any apprehensions from the intrusion of an
unfortunate woman, whom distress has driven to this castle, and only a
melancholy kind of curiosity has induced her to explore a part of it
proscribed by every one.'

She had scarcely uttered these words when the door opened, and a lady,
attended by an elderly woman, appeared. Both started; but the visitor,
in a confused manner, apologized for her intrusion. The other taking
her hand, placed her in a chair. 'Perhaps, madam,' said she, 'this may
prove the happiest day of my life, and I may rejoice that your
curiosity and courage is superior to those terrors by which others
have been intimidated.' 'At least, madam, you will do me the justice
to believe,' answered the lady, 'that I would not have been guilty of
this intrusion, had I known these apartments were really inhabited,
but be assured, madam, your secret is perfectly safe with me.' 'I do
not doubt it,' replied the other, ‘your countenance is a letter of
recommendation to every heart.' She then ordered her attendant to
bring some refreshments, which consisted of biscuits and fruits.

The woman being withdrawn, the lady of the house said, 'However,
madam, I may rejoice in seeing a female of your appearance, I cannot
help lamenting that one so young should know sorrow, or be driven to
seek an asylum in such a melancholy place as this castle.' 'I am
indeed, madam, an object of pity,' replied the other, 'without
friends, a home, or one acquaintance to sooth my sorrows. I have fled
from oppression and infamy, unknowing where to direct my steps, or
what will become of me.' 'Surely,' said the former lady, 'heaven
directed your steps here, that we might communicate comfort to each
other: griefs, when divided become less poignant; I have known years
of sorrow, yet I still support life in a feeble hope of one day being
restored to happiness.' 'Alas!' replied the other, 'not one shadow of
hope can I derive from either past or future prospects; and as I have
intruded thus upon you, madam, it is but fit you should know who and
what I am. I was born, as I have been told, at Fribourg, and lost both
my parents in my infancy. My birth was noble, but my fortune very
trifling. The first thing I can remember was a gentleman who I was
taught to call uncle, an elderly woman his housekeeper, and a young
girl attendant on me; we lived in the country, about three miles from
any town or village. As I grew up masters were hired to attend me, and
by their skill and my own attention, having nothing to divert my mind
from my studies, I became tolerably accomplished at twelve years of
age, when my masters were discharged. We received no company; a few
gentlemen called now and then, but those I never saw. My uncle was
exceedingly fond of me; his name was Mr Weimar, mine Matilda Weimar.
Our ancestors, he said, had been Counts, and persons of high rank and
fortunes, but by war and prodigality, they had been reduced to
comparative poverty; therefore it was fortunate for me he had never
been married. I think I am naturally affectionate and grateful, yet I
never felt any degree of either for my uncle; and, young as I was,
have frequently taken myself to task when I found a repugnance to
return his caresses. I devoted my whole time to my studies; my uncle,
when I was about fifteen having some property in France, was
compelled, by the failure of a house, to go there in person; at first
he talked of taking me with him, but changed his mind, and gave me in
charge to his housekeeper and an old servant called Albert, with
strict orders I should never go beyond the walks belonging to his
castle. Nothing could exceed the tenderness of his behaviour at
parting, and for the first me in my life I was affected I returned his
embraces and shed me tears. "Ah! Matilda," said he, "are you indeed
sorry I should leave you?" "I am, indeed," I replied. "Then you shall
go with me," cried he, eagerly; but striking his forehead, he
exclaimed, "No! that will not do; dear Matilda, my sweet niece, keep
yourself retired, apply to your studies, I shall soon return, and, I
hope, make you the happiest of women." I felt at that moment real
gratitude and affection; I promised strictly to obey his commands, and
by my endeavours to improve my mind, deserve his love and esteem. He
quitted me with extreme reluctance, and for several days I found the
want of his company and conversation, but by degrees I grew
reconciled, and as Agatha and Albert were respectable and intelligent
persons, for their stations in life; I made them both my friends and
companions. This was really the happiest period of my life I was
capable of amusing myself with music and drawing, in the evenings I
walked in the garden and adjoining wood with Agatha, returned with a
good appetite, and slept quietly. My uncle remained in France near
nine months, he constantly wrote to me, and I was punctual in my
answers; at the end of that period he returned; I was overjoyed to see
him, but the pleasure I felt and expressed fell very short of the
rapture and transport with which he embraced and praised me; he dwelt
on the improvement in my person with such delight, that I felt
confused and uneasy; the attention which used to give me pleasure now
was painful, and I repulsed his caresses involuntarily. He told me he
had brought me a present of some books and drawings, both of which he
knew would be acceptable to me; I acknowledged his kindness with an
apparent gratitude, yet I was in reality but little thankful, though I
could not account for the increasing coldness of my behaviour. After a
hasty supper I retired to bed, notwithstanding his wishes to detain
me, and after I was alone I began to reflect on my conduct so cold and
thankless, towards so kind an uncle, whose affection for me seemed
greatly increased. I was displeased with my own reflections, and
resolved to behave better to him the following day.

'The next morning I rose early; my uncle was not up, Agatha met me
going into the garden. "My dear Miss," said she, "you were very shy
and unkind to your uncle last night; the good man loves you dearly,
and 'tis not your business to be shewing him such slights, I can tell
you." Though conscious I was wrong I was amazed at the freedom of her
observations, as she was not much in the room with us; I therefore made
some trifling answer and pursued my walk.

'It was plain my uncle had taken notice of my coldness, and complained
to her: I was mortified and vexed; after taking two or three turns I
went into the house, and met my uncle in the breakfast room; I assumed
the kindest manner possible in my salutations to him and I saw he was
highly gratified by it. He produced his books and drawings, the latter
were very beautiful, but the attitudes and want of decent drapery
confused and hurt me, for although I had never received any particular
lessons on delicacy or modesty, yet there is that innate virtuous
principle within us, that shrinks involuntarily from any thing tending
to violate that sense of decency we are all, I believe, born with; I
therefore could not examine them with the accuracy I wished, much less
praise them, as I saw he expected. "Are they not exquisite pieces?"
demanded he. "They are very fine drawings, I believe, Sir, but I think
the subjects of them are exceptionable." "My dear girl," he replied,
laughing, "you know nothing of the world; whoever excepts against the
subjects of drawings, or the attitudes of statues? 'tis the execution
and proportions that attract our notice, and I assure you, my little
prude, there is nothing objectionable in any point of view, in those
drawings before you, nor in the books, which are now most in repute
among the fashionable circles in France."

'Though my reason was not convinced I made no further scruples, but
thanked him for his attention to my amusement, and, breakfast over,
retired to my own apartment, having my presents carried there, that I
might examine them at my leisure.

'From this time my uncle's behaviour was to me unaccountable he was
for ever seeking opportunities to caress me, his language was
expressive of the utmost fondness, he praised my person in such
glowing colours as sometimes filled me with confusion. In short,
madam, not to tire you, within three months after his return I began
to be extremely uneasy at freedoms I scarce knew how to repulse. One
morning after dressing I went into the garden, a thing unusual with me
at that hour, and going round a serpentine walk, which led to a summer
house, I thought I heard voices there; I stopt at the back of it,
which, as well as the front, had a door that opened into the garden,
and plainly heard Agatha's voice, saying, "I tell you, Sir, there is
no other way, send Albert off for a few days, or turn him off at once,
for he loves Miss Matilda as if she were his own child, and therefore
we must get rid of him; but you are so long settling your mind--get
into her room at night when she's asleep, I'll take care nobody comes
there, or tell her roundly at once you are not an uncle to her--I
would not longer stand upon ceremony." "Well, Agatha, I'll take your
advice, and dispatch Albert to-morrow, and the next night I will be
happy." You may suppose, madam, I was scarcely able to support myself.
Having heard thus far I tottered from the summer-house, and got into
the shrubbery, where I threw myself on the ground, and preserved
myself from fainting by a copious flood of tears.

'Overwhelmed by my own reflections, without a friend or habitation to
fly to for protection, uncertain whether this man was really my uncle
or not, yet convinced he had the most diabolical designs against me,
and that in his house I could not be safe: it is impossible to
describe my feelings and distress; at length I arose and recollected
what the horrid woman had said of Albert, it was my only resource. I
walked from the garden towards the stables; most fortunately I met him
coming from them. "Albert," said I, hastily, "I wish to speak with
you, follow me into the park." The man looked surprised--"Me, Miss--I
follow you?" "Yes, immediately," I replied. I walked quickly to the
park, he came after me; when out of sight of the house I turned to
him--"Albert, do you love me? are you willing to serve me?" "Aye, that
I will, dear Miss, to the last drop of my blood." I then, without
losing time, told him the plot designed against me, and what was
determined with respect to himself. The good creature was struck dumb
with surprise, but recovering himself, "By my soul," cried he, "I will
save and serve you whilst I have breath, from such devils. My dear
young lady be easy, I have a sister who lives at Lucerne, she will be
proud to serve you; 'tis a long journey, but never fear, you can ride
behind me, as you have often done in sport: I'll manage the business
to-night, never fear--get up a little early in the morning and meet me
here." We then concerted our whole plan, and I returned to the house
with a lighter heart, and got to my apartment unobserved. I was soon
after summoned to dinner; when I saw my uncle I turned faint, he flew
to me with tenderness--"My dear Matilda, are you ill?" "Only a sick
head-ache," I replied, disengaging myself from him, and sitting down.
"I fear you have been reading too much." "Very likely, Sir; I shall be
better by and bye," was my answer. I could eat but little, yet I tried
to do it, and also to rally my spirits to avoid suspicion. When Albert
was removing the cloth, "I have a great favour to ask your Honour."
"What is it Albert?" said my uncle. "Why, Sir, I have got a sister
married at a village near Lausanne, and the poor soul does so long to
see me, that if you could spare me for a week, I should be mightily
obliged to you?" "For a week!" replied his master, pleasure dancing in
his eyes, "you may set off to-morrow and stay a fortnight, it cannot
be less time, to give you any comfort with your friends." The poor
fellow bowed his thanks and withdrew.

'I now exulted in our prospect of success in my deliverance: I grew
more cheerful, my uncle was tender and affectionate; I bore his
caresses without any repulses, but left the room soon as possible I
employed myself in packing up a few necessaries in a small portmantua,
with what little valuables I had, and was tolerably supplied with
money, as I thought, knowing little of the expences of a journey. I
did not go to bed, and about four in the morning, when the whole house
was buried in sleep, I took my portmantua, and with some difficulty
carried it down stairs, opened the doors with the greatest precaution,
and, to my no small joy, found Albert walking upon the green; he took
my load from me, and, without speaking, led the way to the stables,
fastened on the portmantua, and getting me behind him, we rode off as
fast as possible. Previous to my quitting the room the preceding
evening, I desired my uncle not to wait breakfast for me, as I
believed I should scarcely rise sooner than ten, as I had not slept
well the night before; I therefore thought we should have some hours
start of any pursuit, and we proceeded on to Lucerne the very opposite
road from Lausanne, where Albert had asked permission to go to. After
a tedious and painful journey we got safe to Lucerne. Alas! how great
was our disappointment; this sister, on whose protection I relied, had
been dead three weeks, and her little shop and stock given to a young
woman who lived with her, and only a small legacy left to Albert. What
now was to be done? The mistress of the house humanely offered me a
bed for a night or two; vexation and fatigue compelled me to accept
the offer: my poor fellow traveller was more affected than myself. We
consulted what was next to be done; he then recollected he had a
relation at Zurich, and proposed my going on there. He said it was a
good city, and some way or other, doubtless, I might procure a living
by my talents. Small as this hope was I had no alternative but to
embrace it, and the next morning we pursued our journey; the day
before yesterday was the second day of our travelling from Zurich. The
storm came on just before our entrance into the wood, we took shelter
for some time, but the trees getting thoroughly wet, and the night
setting in, we rode through it, in the hope of meeting some friendly
cottage; we were fortunate to our wishes, and by the inhabitants of
that cottage we were conducted to this castle.'

She then proceeded to relate the conversation she had heard, relative
to its being haunted, with her terror of the preceding night, and
determination to explore every apartment in the castle. 'I hope,
madam,' added Matilda, 'the relation I have given, though tedious and
little interesting to you, will apologize for my abrupt intrusion
here.' 'Dearest madam,' answered the Lady of the Castle, 'can you
think it possible I should be uninterested for a situation like yours?
Young, new to the world, with uncommon attractions, without friends or
protectors, surely misfortunes have taken an early hold in your
destiny; but do not despair, my good young lady, Providence never
forsakes the virtuous, but in its own good time will relieve us from
every difficulty; an assurance of that truth has supported me under
the bitterest calamities, and though I am at present dead to the
world, I flatter myself I may be of some service to you, but do not
think of quitting this castle yet; happy should I think myself if I
could enjoy your society always, but 'tis a selfish wish and shall not
be indulged, however our confidence ought to be reciprocal, and you
shall know, in part, the peculiar distresses which have driven me to
this asylum, though my confidence must be limited from restrictions I
dare not break through.' 'I fear, madam,' answered Matilda, 'however
eager my curiosity and anxiety may be awakened by your uncommon
situation, I must for the present postpone the gratification of it; my
long absense will, I am sure, cause much trouble to my hospitable
entertainers, and therefore 'tis time I should return.' 'Well then,'
said the lady 'when may I hope to see you again?' 'After dinner, madam,
I will attend you.' 'I shall think every minute an hour ’till then
replied the lady. They parted with mutual regret. Matilda carefully
shut the doors, and returned to Bertha's apartments, with a lighter
heart and a dawn of hope.

On her entrance into the kitchen the good creature clasped her hands
and shouted for joy; 'O good God be thanked,' said she, 'that I see
you once again; my dear lady, where have you been and what have you
seen?' 'An excellent library of books,' replied Matilda. 'And did you
see no ghosts, nor hear no noises?' 'I saw no ghosts, but I certainly
did hear noises.' 'Lord have mercy upon us! and so, had you courage to
stay?' 'Yes, I stayed to view the apartments, but I was a little
frightened I must confess.' 'O, dear heart, but I hope you won't go
again.’`Indeed I shall,' said Matilda, 'I intend to sit there very
often, and shall borrow some books to bring home with me.' 'O, madam,
don't be so hardy, who knows what mischief may come of it one day,' 'I
have no fears, good Bertha; if we perform our duties towards God and
man, Providence will always preserve us from evil.' Ah! Lord, madam,
you talk so good; I am sure I never did hurt to any body, nor Joseph
neither, and when no company comes here we be as quiet as lambs, and
yet methinks I do wish for folks sometimes, because you know 'tis very
lonely--but will you have your bed made below stairs to night?' 'No,'
replied Matilda, 'I will sleep in the same room, I have no
apprehensions at all now.' Bertha wondered at the lady's courage, but
said nothing.

Albert had before this requested to sleep below, for as they were
ghosts of quality, who never condescended to visit kitchens, he
thought himself perfectly safe, on the ground floor.

When dinner was over, Matilda said she should go to the library and
fetch some books. Bertha looked quite woe begone, but was silent: not
so Albert, who had been informed of the perilous adventure his young
mistress had undergone in the morning; he besought her, with tears in
his eyes, not to trust herself again in the haunted rooms. 'If any
harm betides you, madam, I shall be a poor miserable fellow for the
short remnant of my days.' 'Be not uneasy, my friend Albert, no ghosts
can hurt me; 'tis the living only I fear, not the dead; assure
yourself I shall return in perfect safety.'

Saying this she went up stairs, leaving Bertha and Albert under great
consternation. 'Well, the Lord love her,' said the former, 'she must
be a pure good creature to have so much courage--I hope no harm will
come on't.' 'I hope so too,' cried Albert, wiping his eyes. 'She is
the best sweetest-tempered young lady that ever lived;--ah! I little
thought to have seen such a day as this for her.'

Whilst these two worthy creatures were expatiating upon her praise,
Matilda pursued her way to the Lady of the Castle, who was expecting
her with impatience, and warmly embraced her upon her entrance. 'How
mortifying the reflection,' said the lady, leading her visitant to a
chair, 'that the unexpected happiness I enjoy must be purchased so
dearly as by your peace of mind; what delight should I feel in your
society, if distress and misfortune had not driven you here!' 'Believe
me, madam,' answered Matilda, 'your presence and conversation has
greatly alleviated those sorrows which oppress my heart; and if my
company should be productive of pleasure to you, I shall feel much
less regret for the causes which compelled me to seek this castle as
an asylum for an unhappy orphan, though but a temporary one only.'
'Ah! my dear young lady,' replied the other, 'you are but young in the
school of affliction; you can look forward with hope, you can feel
only for yourself, and, God forbid, you should ever know the sorrows
of a wife and mother, who knows not but that she is childless and cut
off for ever from those endearing ties.' 'O, madam,' cried Matilda,
interrupting her, 'forgive me that I have revived such terrible images
to your mind; let not my curiosity occasion such painful ideas, at
least we will enjoy the present hour with mutual satisfaction, and
defer your painful recital '‘till another day.' 'Charming girl,' said
the lady, 'I accept the delay you offer me, and am happy that I can
assure you of an asylum whenever you grow tired of this castle. I have
a sister in France, married to the Marquis de Melfort, she is one of
the best of women; she is no stranger to my situation and has
repeatedly wished me to come into the world and reside with her, but I
have powerful reasons for refusing, though she is the dearest friend I
have on earth, and I am certain will rejoice to offer you an
accommodation in her house, and a place in her heart, as she has no
children to engage her attention.' Matilda made the warmest
acknowledgements for this kind offer, but said, unaccustomed as she
was to the busy world, she was apprehensive Paris would be the last
place she ought to reside in, particularly as her uncle might go
there, having property and friends in that city, and she might run the
hazard of being discovered.

Whilst she was speaking, the lady's attendant entered with a letter,
'Joseph has just brought this, my lady.' 'Joseph!' repeated Matilda,
involuntarily 'Yes,' said the lady, smiling, 'your friend Joseph is my
friend also; this letter is from my sister--but bid our old friend
step in.' Joseph entered but started back with surprise when he beheld
Matilda seated quietly in the room,--'Good Lord!' cried he, 'how came
young madam here?' 'This lady's courage, you see, has penetrated
through our secret and now we have no occasion for any reserve before
her, she will as carefully guard it from your wife as you do.' 'Lord!
I am sure,' answered Joseph, 'it goes to my heart to keep any thing
from poor Bertha, she is such a good creature, but women's tongues
will blab sometimes, to be sure, and as I have sworn to your ladyship,
God forbid I should break my oath, though often and often I have
longed to tell my wife.' 'However, Joseph,' said the lady, gravely, 'I
depend upon your honesty and oath.' 'You have nothing to fear, my
lady, eighteen years practice has learnt me to hold my tongue; have
you any further commands?' The lady replying in the negative, he made
his bow and retired.

'That man is a faithful good creature, I owe my life to him; I know
nothing of his wife, though I am told she is a worthy woman; but as a
secret should never, if possible, be trusted to chance or accident, I
made him swear not to reveal mine, without permission from me.'
Matilda expressed  her satisfaction that the lady had such a faithful
servant, and taking a book from the table, requested she would open
her letter.

This being complied with, she presently exclaimed, 'Alas! my brother
and sister are going within a month to England, perhaps to stay some
time; yet why should I grieve at that, they cannot come to me.' Then
reading on, she again cried out, 'My dear Miss Weimar, if you will
accept of my sister's protection, it is now at your service: hear what
she says, after expressing her regret that I cannot be of her party,
"I wish I could meet with some amiable female companion, to take the
tour of England with me, there are so few of one's acquaintance that
are desirable as intimate friends, that nothing can be more difficult
than to obtain such a one as I am anxious to have: young ones we
cannot meet with, and I cannot bear the idea of being plagued with the
ridiculous fopperies of an old coquet; for I am not yet so much of a
French woman as to think there is no difference in ages, and that a
fine dressed and high coloured lady, though near to her grand
climacteric, shall be indulged in all the expectations of youth and
beauty."

'Now, my dear Miss, you are exactly the lady that will suit my sister;
it is not proper, at your age that you should be buried here,
otherwise it would be the greatest felicity in the world for me to
enjoy your conversation.' 'I certainly, madam,' answered Matilda,
'should think myself most fortunate in attending the Marchioness but
indeed my finances are so slender, and the necessaries I have are so
trifling that I am unable to take a journey of consequence. When I
left my uncle's house I was so entirely ignorant of travelling
expences, that I conceived I had plenty of money to last a
considerable time, but I find myself much mistaken; my little stock is
considerably diminished, and I must try, by my industry, soon to
support poor Albert as well as myself.' 'I am happy,' returned the
lady, 'that I can obviate some of your objections. I have a large
store of linen I never can wear in this place; I have a good deal of
money by me, for I do not spend half the income allowed me; you must--
you shall do me the favour to accept my little assistance, as from a
mother to her child, I will not be denied.' 'Your goodness, madam,'
said Matilda, 'overpowers me, but, alas! poor Albert, I cannot forsake
him.' 'Nor shall you, my dear young lady; a faithful servant like him
is an acquisition to any family: my sister, I am persuaded, will
rejoice to receive him; tell me, therefore, you accept of my proposal,
and I will write instantly: we shall then know when it will be
absolutely necessary you should join her, that I may not be too soon
deprived of the pleasure I now enjoy. I shall leave it to yourself to
acquaint her, or not, as you please, with your story, 'tis sufficient
I recommend you as a friend of mine.' Matilda could form no objection
to this kind offer in her desperate circumstances and whilst she
amused herself with a book, the lady wrote her letter, and having read
it previous to its delivery to Joseph, her young friend expressed her
warmest acknowledgements for the favourable manner in which she was
mentioned in it. This business settled, the lady took her into the
next apartment, the windows of which were also closed. 'This room,'
said she, 'opens into the garden, where I walk occasionally of an
evening, when not liable to observation. In these drawers, my dear
Miss, there are plenty of necessaries all at your service; to-morrow
we will examine them.' 'I cannot find language, madam, to express my
gratitude.' 'Do not attempt it, be assured your acceptance of my
little assistance is a sufficient return for what you consider as an
obligation. But pray tell me how you came to venture visiting these
apartments, which are generally believed to be haunted?' 'As I never
had my mind occupied by any ideas of ghosts,' answered Matilda, 'and
could not conceive any actions of my life had subjected me to the
terror of supernatural visitations, I believed there must be some
other cause for the appearance of lights which I traced in the windows
above, and for the noise I heard in the night, though I confess the
latter did terrify me; I resolved therefore to visit these rooms,
although I was told in one of them there was blood on the floor and
horrid inscriptions on the windows.' 'Your information was true,'
answered the lady, with a sigh she could not suppress, 'it is the room
above which answers the description you have heard; another day, when
I have related my melancholy story, you shall see it. I am much
pleased with your courage, which proceeded from a right principle:
when the mind is conscious of no evil actions, nor any deviations from
rectitude, there is no cause for fear or apprehensions in a thinking
sensible person, and I hope, my dear Miss Weimar, you will never want
resolution on similar occasions; judge always for yourself, and never
be guided by the opinions of weak minds.' 'You are very good, madam,'
replied Matilda, 'in favouring me with your approbation; I shall think
myself particularly fortunate if you will condescend to instruct me,
for it is with shame I confess, more attention has been paid to
external accomplishments than to the cultivation of my mind, or any
information respecting those principles of virtue a young woman ought
early to be acquainted with.' 'You are truly good and amiable,' said
the lady; 'born with sentiments of virtue, and natural understanding
pointed out the right path to happiness, pursue it through life, ever
remember it is better to suffer from the follies or vices of others
than to feel self-condemnation from a sense of your own: the one, time
and patience may subdue, or at least blunt the sharp edge that wounds
you; but, for the other there is no consolation, self-reproach admits
no healing balm, that can enable us to stem the torrent of oppression,
or the evils which arise from our own misconduct. You will pardon the
freedom you have invited, my good young lady; when you know my story,
you will find I am qualified to speak on the subject from very painful
lessons, which I pray heaven you may ever be a stranger to.' She now
took her hand and led her to the other room, where refreshments and
pleasing conversation made the two hours Matilda passed there the most
pleasing she had ever known. When she took leave they parted with
regret, and proposed meeting at an early hour the following day; when
the lady promised to relate the events that had compelled her to a
seclusion from the world, and the motives which induced her to alarm
every stranger that came to the castle.

Matilda stept into the library, and selecting two or three books,
returned to her friendly hostess, whose surprise and pleasure seemed
equally gratified by seeing her in safety. Joseph came in soon after;
he looked with increased respect and kindness, but was entirely silent
as to their meeting in the lady's apartment. When the hour of retiring
came, Matilda repaired to her room with great cheerfulness, and when
Albert, with tears, entreated her to sleep below, she replied, 'You
may, my good Albert, if you chuse; but I shall sleep perfectly quiet
above stairs; be under no apprehensions for me,' added she, smiling,
'I am no longer a stranger, and have not the smallest apprehensions of
being molested this night.' She took up her candle and left them.
'Well,' cried Bertha, 'the Lord be good unto her, for sure she is the
best and most courageous lady I ever saw in my life; I believe it
would kill me if any harm was to happen to such a sweet creature.'

All now retired to rest, and Albert thought himself quite safe on the
ground floor from the quality ghosts. In the morning they met with
great satisfaction; every one eagerly demanded of Matilda if she had
slept undisturbed she assured them she had, and was greatly refreshed.
This account pleased them all. Albert went out to assist Joseph in the
garden; and his mistress was preparing to visit her friend, when
Jaqueline made her appearance from the kitchen with Bertha. Matilda
was extremely glad to see the good woman, enquired after Pierre, and
thanked her for the good accommodations she had procured for her in
the castle. 'Dear me,' said Jaqueline, 'you cannot think how glad I am
to see you, my lady; I was a-coming yesterday, but I was busy washing,
and, Lord help me, this morning before day I was afrightened out of my
wits, for I heard some horses galloping by the door, and I thought I
heard this lady screaming most piteously; so, says I, dear heart,
Pierre, I am afraid some mischief has happened to young madam, so I'll
be sure to go to the castle when I have hung out my clothes; so Pierre
he went to fell wood, and I made all haste here, and glad to my heart
I am to see you all safe.' Matilda thanked the friendly woman for her
attention, and after a little chat left the two gossips together, and
hastened to the lady, telling them she was going to sit in the
library. She crossed the apartment and descended the stairs, saw the
lady's room open, and walked in; no one was there, but a great
appearance of disorder in the room, one of the stools thrown down, a
candle on the floor, another burning on the table, and several things
scattered about: she was surprised--she knocked, she called, she had
no answer. Terrified beyond expression, she ventured into the other
room, where the bed was; it was empty, but had the appearance of being
lain on; a little cabinet, which stood on the drawers, was open and
emptied of its contents. She returned; she went through the several
rooms that were open, all were desolate; she once more went back to
the ground floor. The candle was nearly extinguished, she took up and
lighted the other, and, on looking round, she saw the door that opened
from the bed-room into the garden was ajar, and on trial it opened;
she then readily conceived the lady must have been carried away
through the garden, but by whom it was impossible to guess; robbers
would never have incommoded themselves with females. She came in and
was about to shut the garden door, when she thought the sound of
footsteps reached her ears---she trembled and stopped, presently a door,
the opposite side of the bed, opened, and Joseph appeared: she was
overjoyed--he looked surprised; 'O, Joseph,' cried she, 'what is
become of your lady?' Astonished at the question, the poor fellow
repeated her words, and added, 'Good Lord, madam, has not your
ladyship seen her?' 'No,' replied she; 'I have searched every room in
vain, and found this garden door open.' 'O, she is carried off then,'
cried he, 'and we are all undone--O, my dear, dear lady, you are
betrayed at last.' Tears burst from his aged eyes; Matilda sunk into a
chair, overcome with sorrow, 'But,' said she, when able to speak, 'how
could any one enter, there is no door forced?' 'Yes, madam, there is,'
answered Joseph, 'I found the kitchen door burst off its hinges, and
came in trembling for fear of what had happened.' 'From whence could
any one come into the kitchen?' 'Why, madam, there is a private
passage underground, from the garden to the under apartments, which is
unknown to every body, as I thought, but to the lady and myself; but
it must be discovered by somebody, and we are all undone. Hasten,
madam, out of this place, I will fasten up the doors and follow you.'
'Joseph.' said Matilda, 'can you meet me in the garden by and bye, I
wish to speak with you.' 'Directly after dinner, madam, I will wait
upon your ladyship; I will look about a little, I think no one will
come here in the open day.' Matilda retired, with trembling limbs and
a beating heart, to her own apartment; here she ruminated on what had
happened to her friend so recently gained, and so irrecoverably lost--
'Alas! poor lady,' said she, 'who knows what evils she may have to
encounter with; a stranger as I am to her story, I have no clue to
guide me who may have carried her off, or by whom the cruel action was
committed; doubtless it must have been her cries that alarmed
Jaqueline--What will become of me? How are all my flattering prospects
vanished?' With these bitter reflections she passed the hours '‘till
dinner time came; she then went down, but with a countenance so
altered, that Bertha started back and cried out, 'O, for a certain
young madam has seen something and been frightened!' Albert looked
with anxious curiosity, 'Be not uneasy, my good friends,' said she: I
assure you neither ghosts nor noises have terrified me, but I am not
very well; after dinner perhaps I may be better,' 'Heaven send it,'
cried Bertha. Albert joined in the wish and Matilda, affected by their
kindness, went into the parlour, where her dinner was served up, not
in state or profusion indeed, but good wild fowls, eggs, salads, and
fruit. She waited impatiently until she thought Joseph had nearly
dined, and then walked towards the garden; in a little time Joseph
joined her, and walking before, conducted her to a distant part of it,
where a small arbour in a shrubbery appeared almost choaked with
weeds; he led her into it, she sat down--'Now, Joseph, for heaven's
sake, tell me every thing about the dear lady.' 'That I cannot do,'
replied Joseph shaking his head: 'my oath will not permit me; but
underneath this stone,' said he, stamping his foot, 'is an underground
passage, one end of which goes to that part of the castle, and opens
into a private place behind the kitchen; the other end goes through to
the end of the wood, I believe, for I never had courage to go so far
on, but this morning, when I went down the passage, and came round, I
found both doors forced off their hinges below, and was much afraid to
come up, where I found you, madam: who it is that has been so wicked,
I can only guess, and Lord have mercy on the poor lady, I fear no good
will come to her.' 'But how come the garden door open; could they
convey her through that into the road?' 'Yes,' replied Joseph, 'that
was the way, for after you went up stairs I went into the garden, and
the great gate, at the end, was unbolted just at the end of the wood,
and I do suppose they had horses waiting there, or a carriage. The few
jewels my poor lady had is taken from her little chest, but there are
no locks broke on the drawers, and her pockets are left behind, on a
stool, with every thing in them; 'twas no robbers, my lady, I fear.'
'I fear so too,' answered Matilda, with a deep sigh; 'I dread that she
is fallen into worse hands--' 'Into worse than I fear has got her,'
said Joseph, 'she cannot be fallen--Lord how I rejoiced she had got
your ladyship with her.' 'Aye, Joseph,' resumed Matilda, 'I grieve for
her and feel my own loss;--Do you know her sister the Marchioness?' 'I
saw her once after my lady was married; they say she is very happy--
God help us, 'twasn't so here.' 'Your lady has wrote to the
Marchioness relative to me; did not you take a letter yesterday?'
'Yes, my lady, and if there be any answer to it I shall be sure to
have it, and you may open it, you know, because the good lady never
wrote to any one else.' Poor Matilda knew not what to do; she was
desirous of staying '‘till this answer arrived. She was anxious to
explore those apartments that were locked, and after some hesitation
asked Joseph if he would meet her there, to morrow morning. 'Aye,
sure, that I will,' returned he, 'and as I left the lamps burning in
the passage, if you like, I will go down this way with you now.' 'No,'
said she, 'not now; I will meet you to-morrow in the library, and we
may return this way, for I own I should like to see it, though 'tis
plain the passage must be known.'

They now separated, and Matilda found no possibility of gratifying her
curiosity, Joseph's oath being against her, and she too much respected
her friend to urge a violation of it on any grounds.

She returned to her apartment and amused herself for a short time with
a book; but the agitation of her mind would not admit of
entertainment; she threw it aside and called for Albert; he instantly
attended her. 'My good friend,' said she, 'I propose remaining here a
week or ten days, perhaps not so long, to refresh myself; how far are
we from Zurich?' 'About a day and a half's journey, not much more.'
'Well then, Albert, we will wait a few days until I am more in health
unless you are very anxious to get there.' 'Me, my dear young lady,
Lord bless you, I want to go only on your account, it's all one to me
where I am, if you are safe.' Matilda was pleased at his answer and
expressed her gratitude for his kindness in such terms as brought tears
into his eyes. 'God bless you, madam, I'll go with you all the world
over.' He bowed and retired. 'Good creature!' exclaimed Matilda,
'heaven has blessed you with an honest feeling heart; how much superior
are thy sentiments to those of better understanding and cultivated
talents, when their minds are depraved by the indulgence of irregular
passions!'

She sought to compose her spirits, and wait with patience for the
expected letter, which she thought must determine her future destiny.
She had recommended to Albert not to stir from the house, lest he
might be seen by any one that knew him in passing the road, which
caution she observed herself.

The following morning after breakfast she repaired to the library; ah!
thought she, what transport, if I should find the dear lady returned!
but no such happiness awaited her; she entered the apartments with a
beating heart, and remained near ten minutes in the library before
Joseph made his appearance. 'Well, Joseph,' said she, hastily, on his
entering the room, 'how are things below stairs?' 'All the same as
they were yesterday, madam; the doors were fast, and every thing as I
left them.' 'I have a very great desire,' said she, 'to see that room
where the inscriptions are, and which I find is locked up, can you
open it?' 'Yes, I can; the key is below, but if I may speak my mind, I
think you had better not go.' 'Why so,' demanded she. 'Why, because,
to my thinking, it's a dismal place, and will put me in mind of sad
doings.' 'You make me more curious--pray indulge me, Joseph?' 'Well,
madam, I'll go with you, but 'tis sore against my mind.' He went down,
and soon returned with two keys, but with evident reluctance in his
countenance; 'I believe one of these is the key,' said he; 'there used
to hang three upon the peg the other is gone, or left in the closet
door perhaps yet: I don't think my lady ever came up to open these
rooms.' Whilst he was talking he was trying the keys; neither of them
would open the first door, the second he unlocked presently; they
entered, it was a dressing-room, handsomely furnished; they tried the
door which opened into the other room, it was fastened on the inside.
'This is very strange,' said Joseph; 'I will go down again and see if
I can find the other key, if you are not afraid to stay alone.' 'Not
in the least,' said Matilda, who was examining the room very
carefully. The windows were very high and grated with bars of iron,
the hangings were dark green damask, every thing was handsome, yet the
grated windows made it appear gloomy.

Joseph now returned with a countenance of horror and dismay, 'O, my
lady, I can find no key, but looking about the kitchen, behind the
door I found a large knife, all over blood.' 'Gracious heaven!' cried
Matilda, 'what is it you tell me; I tremble with apprehension; let us
force that door, at all events.' 'I intend it,' answered Joseph, 'and
have brought a bar with me for the purpose.' The door in the dressing-
room being the slightest, after a good deal of labour, the old man
burst it open. What a scene presented itself! a woman on the bed
weltring in blood! Both uttered a cry of horror, and ran to the bed;
it was the elderly attendant of the lady dead, by a wound in her
throat.

The sight was too much for poor Matilda, she sunk fainting into a
chair; Joseph was frightened out of his wits; he flew down as fast as
possible, and returned with water, he bathed her face and hands and
she revived.

'O, Joseph!' cried she, 'the lady--the dear lady! what is become of
her in such bloody hands?' 'The Lord only knows,' answered he, looking
with terror towards the closet. Directed by his eye Matilda arose and
walked to the door; the key was in it; she unlocked it, and was about
to enter, when casting her eyes on the floor, she saw it was all over
stained with blood, dried into the floor--she started, and
involuntarily retreated, but Joseph, who had looked round said, 'You
may enter, madam, nothing is here.' With trembling steps, she entered
the closet, her heart beating with terror; it was a large light
closet, with a very high window, grated like the other, hung with dark
green stuff; two stools covered with the same, and a large wardrobe in
it. On the floor was plainly mark'd the shape of a hand and fingers
traced in blood, which seemed to have flowed in great quantities.
'Good heavens!' cried she, 'some person was doubtless murdered here
too.' 'Intended to have been murdered,' answered Joseph, wiping his
eyes, 'but thank God she escaped then.' He said no more. Matilda,
extremely terrified, hastened out of the closet, when the poor
creature on the bed met her eyes. 'O, Joseph!' exclaimed she, turning
with horror from the scene, 'what is to be done with this unfortunate
woman?' 'Dear, my lady, I can't tell; I have neither strength to dig a
grave, nor can I carry her down.' 'It is plain,' said Matilda, 'the
wretches who have carried of the lady, murdered the servant to prevent
discovery.' 'I fear,' cried Joseph, 'my turn will be next--my mouth
will be stopped from the same fear.' 'God forbid,' said Matilda; 'but as
I have now no hopes of finding the lady, and it will be dangerous to
entrust another person with the secret, I think, Joseph, if we can
find a small trunk or chest, to fill it with the linen and necessaries
your lady offered me, and convey it to one of the rooms in the other
wing; I will write a line and leave it on the table: yet, on second
thought, it will be useless, should she escape, she can never think of
coming here again: we will therefore lock and bolt up every door; you
can take the keys of the places below to your own kitchen, and now and
then come through the passage to see if all is safe.' Poor Joseph,
with a heavy heart, agreed to this.

They had now stayed some time, and thought it best to separate and
meet again after dinner: they gladly left these horrid rooms, and
returned by different ways to their own habitation.

When Matilda came to her apartment, the terror of her mind was
unspeakable; all she had seen, all she had heard crowded upon her
remembrance, and gave her the most horrible ideas. She could not think
Joseph's fears unreasonable if he was supposed to be in the secret,
his life was not safe, and in his fate the whole family might be
involved: 'What can I--what ought I to do?' cried she, shedding a
torrent of tears, 'no friend to advise me, no certainty of a place to
receive me, if I go from hence, and a probability, that, if I stay, I
may be murdered;--what a dreadful alternative is mine!' After giving
free vent to her tears, she endeavoured to compose her mind, by
addressing the Almighty Power to protect her.

Sweet are the consolations which religion affords! In all our
difficulties and distresses, when supplicating the Supreme Being with
fervor and a perfect reliance on his goodness, we feel a resignation
and confidence, that enable us to support present evils, and look
forward with hope to happier days. Such were the feelings of Matilda:
she rose from her knees with serenity; she recovered resolution and
firmness; 'I will not despair,' said she, 'the Almighty will preserve
a friendless orphan, unconscious of guilt, that relies on his
protection.' She dried up her tears, and met the family as usual.

When dinner was over, she returned to the library; Joseph soon joined
her, they went down to the deserted parlour, Matilda could not help
shuddering: Joseph found a trunk, the drawers were opened, and she
took out such necessaries of every kind as she thought she must want,
yet left plenty behind. In one drawer she found a purse, with a good
deal of money in it; here she hesitated; the lady had told her she
would supply her, yet she knew not to what amount: Joseph persuaded
her to take the whole, 'Be assured, madam, my dear lady will never
return,' cried he. After much hesitation and reluctance, she at length
divided it, and then taking a pen and ink, she took an inventory of
the clothes and money, with an acknowledgement to repay it when able,
and locked it in the drawer with the purse.

Having packed up those few things she had selected, and requested
Joseph would take it, by and bye, to a room near hers, she said, 'I
cannot be easy under the idea, that the poor woman above should lie
there to decay; is there no way to place her in a decent manner?'
After some pause Joseph said, 'there is a large chest in the back-
kitchen, with old trumpery in it, if I take them out, perhaps we might
get the body there, but I fear I have not strength to bring it down.'
'Let us see the chest first,' replied Matilda, 'and then we will
consider of the other.' She followed him into the back-kitchen, saw
the chest, and its contents were soon tumbled into one corner. 'Now,
Joseph,' said she, 'I will assist you to bring the body down.' 'You,
my lady!' cried he, staring at her. 'Yes,' rejoined she; 'let us go
up.' She led the way and he followed; having unlocked and entered the
room she could not help shuddering; yet took more observation of the
gloomy apartment than she had been enabled to do in the morning; and
recollecting what she had heard about inscriptions; she got upon a
chair, and from thence to a kind of window seat very high from the
ground: standing on this she examined the window; it looked out
towards a sort of battlement, which surrounded the back part of the
castle, the north wind blew full upon it, the only prospects were the
walls and distant mountains. On the window she saw several lines
apparently cut with a diamond; in one place she read.

I am dumb, as solemn sorrow ought to be;
Could my griefs speak, my tale I'd tell to thee.



In another place these lines were written;

A wife, a mother--sweet endearing ties!
Torn from my arms, and heedless of my cries;
Here I am doomed to waste my wretched life.
No more a mother--a discarded wife.
And again, in another place.
Would you be happy, fly this hated room.
For here the lost Victoria meets her doom
O sweet oblivion calm my tortur'd mind
To grief, to sorrow, to despair consigned.
Let gentle sleep my heavy eye-lids close.
Or friendly death, the cure for all our woes.
By one kind stroke, give lasting sure repose.

Several other lines, expressive of misery though not of poetical
talents, were written in different places, that proved the unhappy
writer sought to amuse her painful ideas by her melancholy employment.

Poor Matilda, concluded the wretched victim to some merciless man was
sacrificed in that closet where the hand was deeply imprinted in blood
on the floor; she viewed it with horror, and getting down from the
window; as Joseph had wrapt the body in the counterpane which lay on
one side; he tried to lift it, and found the weight less than he
expected, 'I can carry it myself, my lady,' and crept out of the room
with it. Matilda, shutting the door hastily, followed him. They
deposited the unfortunate woman in the chest, which was fastened down,
and without speaking a single word returned to the parlour: here
Matilda burst into tears, her resolution and spirits began to fail;
the scenes she had witnessed, added to her own distresses, were indeed
sufficient to wound and terrify a stouter heart than this young
creature's; little acquainted with the calamities of life, she had
flown from approaching danger, without the least idea of the miseries
she might encounter in her journey! Joseph sympathized in her sorrow,
and waited without speaking '‘till she grew more composed: 'Come, dear
lady, let us leave this sorrowful place; I will take some oil and trim
the lamps, for I shall come here every day, though, God knows, with
very little hope of ever seeing my dear mistress again.' Matilda,
oppressed  and languid, rose from her chair; he followed her with the box
to the apartment next hers, and having deposited it, returned to lock
up the doors and trim the lamps in the passage, assuring her he would
call daily at the post to seek for letters, as all came directed to
him.

She threw herself on the bed after his departure, and gave her mind up
to the most melancholy reflections; 'Good heavens!' cried she, 'what
scenes of murder and atrocious crimes must have been perpetrated in
this castle; how great is my curiosity to know more of the unhappy
Victoria so recently the cause of joy and sorrow, and her unfortunate
attendant, but their fate is enveloped in mystery and horror, what
mine may be, heaven only knows.'

When it grew near dark she went upstairs, but so altered by the
agitations of her mind, that Bertha started and exclaimed, 'Dear, my
lady, are you ill.' 'I am not very well,' replied Matilda; 'I shall
take an early supper, and retire to bed.' The poor women, with great
nimbleness prepared her supper, of which her guest ate but sparingly,
and after sending for Albert, who appeared very sorrowful for her
indisposition; she comforted him by an assurance of its being very
trifling, and that she should be better after a night's rest; which
was indeed verified; for having commended herself to the protection of
the Father to the fatherless, she dropped into a soft slumber, and
arose the following morning quite refreshed and composed.

For several days nothing particular occurred; her friends at the
cottage called often to see her; Joseph visited the deserted
apartments every day, all remained quiet; the uncertainty of the
lady's fate gave them great disquietude, but there was no hope of
obtaining any information of an event which seemed buried in
obscurity. One day when Joseph returned from town, he whispered the
lady to go into the garden; she walked thither it directly, he soon
followed, and delivered to her the expected letter from the
Marchioness; she made no scruple of opening it. After lamenting the
unhappy situation of her sister, and expressing her wishes that she
would quit her gloomy abode, she thanks her most cordially for her
recommendation of the young lady, whose company will be highly
acceptable to her, and assures her sister she will endeavour, by every
kindness and attention in her power, to make the young lady's
situation agreeable, and shall esteem her acceptance of their
protection as a very particular favour. She admires her resolution in
visiting the apartments in the castle, and is only sorry her sister
cannot participate in the pleasures of society. She concludes with
requesting the young lady may join them at Paris, soon as possible,
within a fortnight; and assure herself that her old and faithful
servant will be received and retained in the family with kindness and
ease to himself. This letter, so gratifying to the wishes of Matilda,
was read with transport; she determined to set forwards on her journey
within two or three days. Joseph undertook to procure her a carriage
from the next town, and she intended leaving the horse for his use,
and take Albert in the chaise with her. The next consideration was in
what manner to account to the latter for her sudden intention of going
to Paris, and his reception in the family of the Marquis: after some
deliberation, she returned to the kitchen, and calling Albert aside,
told him, by the most fortunate and unexpected intelligence she had
heard of an asylum for herself and him, at Paris, in the house of a
worthy family, where she hoped they should both meet rest and
happiness; and that it was her design to proceed on her journey the
third day from that. Albert stared with wonder, but never interrupted
her '‘till she stopped speaking, then, in a hesitating manner, 'Paris is
a long journey--I have no friends there; are you sure, madam?' 'Yes,
Albert,' said she, 'I am very sure we shall find friends there to
receive us; I cannot explain every thing to you now, some time hence
perhaps you shall be informed of every thing.' 'God bless you, my dear
young lady!' cried he, 'if you are satisfied I am sure I ought to be
so, and will go with you when and wherever you please.' She was
affected by his love and confidence; she assured him, she never should
forget the obligations she owed to him, and that his ease and
tranquillity would ever be her first care. The old man hurried from
her with tears in his eyes. Bertha was next informed of her intended
departure, and was truly sorry, because, as she said, 'twas
comfortable to have some kind body in that lonely place, and because
the lady having plenty of money, they had very good living now, which,
to say truth, she was sorry to lose. The day previous to her departure
she sent for Pierre and Jaqueline: the honest couple were vexed to
hear she was about to leave them. She gave them some money, and
assured both families, whenever she had it in her power, she would
remember their kindness and reward it in a more ample manner than she
now could do They bestowed a thousand blessings on her, and declared
she had made them rich for life.

After they had left her Joseph acquainted Bertha, that a chaise would
be there early the next morning, and desired she might have breakfast
ready for the lady.

Matilda had but little rest; her journey, the circumstance of such an
awkward situation, as a self-introduction amongst entire strangers, to
one so little accustomed to company as she was, gave her much pain;
yet on the other hand, she ought to consider that in her unfriended,
unprotected state, an asylum, such as was now offered to her, must be
desirable and advantageous; and that as in this life we seldom meet
with pleasure or happiness, without some alloy, she ought to be
thankful for the good, and submit to temporary inconveniences without
murmuring. She arose early; her heart was depressed when she reflected
on the uncertain fate of the lady to whose kindness she was indebted
for her present hopes and expectations: 'Ah!' cried she, 'heaven bless
you, dearest lady, wherever you are, and may Providence one day
restore you to felicity and your friends.' She quitted the apartment
with a flood of tears, and coming, found the breakfast ready, and soon
after a chaise at the gate; Joseph conveyed her portmantua and box to
the carriage; Albert stared a little at the latter, but said nothing.

She shook hands with the worthy couple, tears running down their
cheeks at parting with so gentle a lady, she having liberally rewarded
their kindness, and previously concerted a correspondence with Joseph,
if any thing new occurred at the castle, and receiving advice from him
how to manage at the post-houses about carriages and horses.

A few days after her departure, Joseph went to the neighbouring town,
to procure a few necessaries, and, proud of his present, went upon the
horse, instead of his old friend the ass. Whilst he was there, a
gentleman came up to him, and, viewing the beast very attentively,
asked him if the horse was his. Joseph answered in the affirmative.
'Will you sell it?' demanded he. 'No, Sir,' replied the other, 'I
cannot sell it.' 'How long have you had it?' 'Some time,' said Joseph,
roughly, and rode off, not liking the stranger's curiosity. He was
however followed at a distance, and had scarcely put the horse into
the stable, and entered the kitchen, before a knocking at the door was
heard, and Joseph saw the same gentleman who was so inquisitive, with
another, who had the appearance of a servant, enter the room. 'Do not
be alarmed,' said the stranger, 'I want to ask you a few questions,
which, if you answer truly, no harm shall happen to you, else you must
look to the consequence; tell me from whom you had the horse I saw you
ride, and how long it has been in your possession? At your peril
answer me with truth.' Before Joseph could recollect himself to answer
this demand Bertha fell on her knees, 'O, Sir, do not hurt my poor
husband, and I will tell you all.' 'Be quiet, wife,' said Joseph, 'I
will answer for myself. I had the horse from a man, a friend of mine.'
'What was his name?' 'Sir, I humbly think that is no concern of
yours.' 'Villain!' cried the gentleman, 'tell me this instant, or I
will send you and your wife to prison, for the horse was stolen from
me.' 'O, the Lord be gracious unto us,' exclaimed Bertha, 'the man's
name was Albert, Sir; we are innocent indeed we are.' 'I believe it,'
said the other, very mildly; 'you look like an honest woman, and I
will reward you handsomely, if you speak truth. William, take care of
the man, I will go into another room with this good woman.' 'Bertha!'
cried Joseph, the stranger led her away into the parlour, she crying
and begging no harm might happen to Joseph. He quieted her fears on
that head, and then asked if Albert was in the house. 'No, indeed,
Sir,' answered she; 'he went away four days ago, in a chaise with the
young lady.' 'Ah!' cried he, 'that is the very thing I wished to know;
and where are they gone, my friend?' 'Alack, Sir, I believe they be
gone to Parish, or some place like that.' 'The devil!' exclaimed he,
'to Paris. Well, and are they to return here?' 'O, no, Sir,' returned
Bertha; 'no such good luck to us, for to be sure she was as generous
as an empress.'

He then returned to the kitchen, where Joseph sat very sullen; 'I tell
you what, friend, I believe you may be innocent; but the lady you have
had here is my niece, who has eloped from my care, and seduced my
servant to steal the horse you rode today, and go off with her; I am
now in search of her, and if I can find her, and she will return, I
shall receive her with kindness and joy, and forgive every thing;
therefore, if you can tell me where she is, you will do her a great
piece of service, I assure you; some wicked person has persuaded her
to run away.' 'Sir,' said Joseph, firmly, 'I heard the lady say she
was going to travel,--it was not my business to be impertinent and ask
questions.' 'But you know where she is.' 'I do not, Sir,' answered he,
'I cannot tell where she is, nor the places she is going to travel
through.' 'You know she is gone to Paris?' 'Yes, Sir; but I heard her
say she should not stay there, but travel further; and this is all I
know. As to the horse, if you can prove it yours, give me a receipt,
and you may take it.' 'No, my friend,' replied the gentleman, 'keep it
for your use, but if you should ever hear from, or see Albert or the
lady, and will let me know, I will give you a hundred crowns.' 'O, the
goodness,' cried Bertha, 'bless your honour, you shall surely know.'
'What say you,' said he, turning to Joseph. 'I say, Sir, money would
not tempt me to do a wrong thing, but as you say it will be for the
young lady's advantage, to do her service I will obey you.'

The gentleman appeared satisfied, and writing his address, whilst he
desired Joseph to get a little wine and water for him, he whispered to
Bertha, 'Get every thing you can out of your husband, and I will make
your fortune; my man shall call again to-morrow.' Having drunk his
wine, he took a civil leave, and, giving Bertha two crowns, rode off.

'Lord!' cried she, when he was gone, ‘what luck attends us! what a kind
gentleman; how sorry I am he didn't come before the poor lady went
away.' 'So am not I,' answered Joseph; 'I don't like him at all; he
has a smooth speech to be sure, but if he was good, neither madam nor
Albert would have run away I dare say: however I shan't ride the horse
any more, '‘till I know to whom he does belong.' Bertha tried every way
to find if he knew where the lady was gone, but he evaded all her
questions, and though he loved his old woman dearly, yet he knew shecould not be entrusted with a secret; not that she would discover from
ill-nature, but from a garrulity natural to old age, and a desire of
obliging any one who wanted information from her.

Joseph, in the early part of his life, had obtained a tolerable
education, and had better expectations, but the wars had carried off
his friends and little possessions; he was glad therefore, in a humble
state, to earn his bread, and be contented with the situation
Providence had ordained for him; but his sentiments were above his
condition, and he prized his word, and kept it when pledged with much
more exactness than a fine gentleman does his honour, when given to a
favourite lady, or a humble tradesman: Joseph therefore persevered in
his integrity, but thought there would be no harm in writing what had
passed that day to the young lady, and take her directions how to
conduct himself, for he had a perfect reliance on her truth, and
thought only ill treatment could have induced her to quit an uncle's
house, without a friend to help her.

The following day the gentleman's servant made his appearance, but to
little purpose for though Joseph was in the garden, Bertha had gained
no information; but she told all she did know of the lady's coming
there, the ghosts disturbing her the first night, her subsequent
courage, her kindness and sudden resolution to leave them, and that
she heard her say something about going to travel to Parish, but she
knew no more, and she was sure Joseph knew no more than she--how
should he? he never spoke twenty words to the lady. He asked who was
the owner of the castle, she told his name, and with a present of
another crown he took leave. Bertha looked at the money, 'Ah!' said
she, ‘what a pity now I can't tell where she is; a hundred of these
would make one happy for life.'

A very few days after this the old couple were at dinner, when they
heard the trampling of horses; they hastily opened the door, and
beheld, to their great astonishment a carriage with three attendants,
and in the carriage Joseph saw his master, Count Wolfenbach: struck
with wonder, he forgot to tender his services, but stood staring at
him until he alighted. Being conducted into the parlour, one of the
horsemen with him, 'Friend Joseph,' said he, 'I have sold this estate,
and next month another family will take possession of it.' 'Good
Lord!' cried Joseph, 'what will become of me and Bertha?' 'Don't be
uneasy, friend Joseph, I shall take care of you; I have another estate
in Suabia, a fine house and gardens, in perfect order Bertha and you
shall have the care of it, with a servant under her to keep it clean,
and a man under you to work in the gardens--what say you to that?' 'I
am much obliged to your Lordship' answered the honest man; ‘‘tis rather
late in life for me to travel, but I must obey your pleasure, and if
you have not already got a man and woman there, I know a very
industrious couple hard by, the only friends we have, who will be glad
to go with us' 'By all means,' said the Count, eagerly, 'but pray are
you pretty quiet now; do the ghosts trouble you, as has been foolishly
talked of?' 'I am seldom disturbed, my Lord,' answered Joseph; 'I
never saw nor heard any ghosts.' 'I believe not,' said the Count; 'the
silly imagination of some people conjure up frightful fancies, and
endeavor to impose them upon others as realities; but pray Joseph how
soon can you leave this house? my man Peter will go with you to the
other; you will find a much better habitation, and can take your
friends with you.' 'In about a week, my Lord, I shall be ready.' 'Not
sooner?' 'I must speak to my friends; we must get our little domestic
business put in order, and then we shall be fit to go comfortably,
though 'tis a long journey for old folks, my Lord.' 'Nothing at all
nothing at all,' said his Lordship; 'Peter will see you safe. We shall
be with you next week use all the dispatch you can, for I have
alterations to make in the house, before I give it up.'

The Count and his attendants mounted their horses and rode off,
leaving Joseph in great perplexity. Bertha, ignorant of the events
which caused his uneasiness, was well pleased to change her abode for
a better one, and was in a violent hurry to call on Pierre and
Jaqueline, but Joseph requested she would wait another day, '‘till he
had considered the matter. He well knew, that if the Count visited the
other wing, he must be sensible that it had been lately inhabited. If
he was innocent of his conjectures, and unconcerned in the late
transactions he would judge unfavourably of Joseph; if, on the
contrary, he had any hand in carrying off the lady and murdering her
attendant, the removal of the body would convince him some person must
have been there; his suspicions would naturally fall on himself, and
perhaps he might be sacrificed also. These considerations greatly
distressed Joseph; every way he saw perplexity and vexation, and was
afraid to throw himself into the Count's power, though he saw no
chance of avoiding it. He had been every day to the other apartments,
except the preceding one, and found every thing tranquil; but now that
the Count was in the neighbourhood, he was afraid to go: yet he
thought the only way to avoid suspicion, or impending evils, would be
to replace the body on the bed, at all events.

Endeavouring to derive courage from necessity, he trembling ventured
to the private passage, but, to his surprise and horror, the lamps
were all extinguished; he knew they must have been put out, otherwise
they would have lasted that day; he therefore hastily turned back, and
regained the house. After a little deliberation he went up the
staircase, and opening every apartment very softly ‘till he came to the
door which led to the gallery of the other wing, he found it fastened
on the other side. This circumstance confirmed his fears: he listened
some time, and plainly heard voices, but could distinguish nothing; he
then retreated with the same care, locking up all the doors on the
outside, for whether it was the Count and his servant, or a set of
banditti, he thought his situation equally dangerous.

Poor Joseph could not communicate his fears to Bertha, and therefore
his uneasiness passed off for indisposition, but he had a sleepless
night.

The next morning he went to the post town, and, to his great joy,
received a letter from Matilda. She was safe at Paris; and the Marquis
and his Lady, under the greatest apprehensions for their sister;
convinced she would never return to the castle, should she be alive,
and grateful to their old friend Joseph, offered him and his wife an
asylum at their house, thinking they might one day or other be
sacrificed to the Count's revenge.

Scarcely had he read this letter, when he saw Peter, the Count's
servant, coming towards him; he had the paper still in his hand, 'So,
Joseph, you have been at the post, I see.' 'Yes,' answered he, with as
much ease as he could assume; 'I hear now and then from a sister of
mine, who is in service at Paris: but is my Lord here in this town,
Peter?' 'Yes,' replied he, 'his Lordship is settling some business
with his tenants.' 'Well,' said Joseph, 'next week we shall be ready
to go, Peter.' 'Very well,' cried the other, with a smile, and they
parted.

On Joseph's return to his house, he began to consider of his removal;
he was sure he could not depend on the Count, but how to get away
without his knowledge was the difficulty; after much deliberation, he
took his resolution and going to Bertha, told her the Lady Matilda was
in Paris, and had sent for them to live with her. She was out of her
wits with joy: 'O,' cried she, 'that will be a thousand times better
than living in the Count's house; yes, yes, let's go, the sooner the
better, say I.' 'But,' said Joseph, 'you must not say a word to the
Count, or any body, for the world.' She promised secrecy, and they
began to contrive about taking away their little matters, and setting
off in a day or two. That night Joseph thought to get some rest,
though his fears still remained, and kept him waking for some hours:
about midnight he dropped asleep, but was soon awakened by a great
smoke and a terrible smell of fire. He hastily got up, and opening the
door, the flames burst in upon him; he ran to the bed and called
Bertha to follow him; she jumped out, as he thought, for that purpose:
he got into the court, and saw the other wing also on fire, and
presently the building he came out of fell in. He called Bertha; alas!
she was smothered in the ruins. The whole building was now in flames.
He ran to the stable, got the horse, and riding through the wood as
fast as possible, a contrary way from the town, he stopped not ‘till he
came to the foot of a mountain; with difficulty he crept off his
horse, and threw himself on the ground. 'Bertha! my dear Bertha, I
have lost thee for ever; I am now a poor forlorn creature, without a
friend in the world: why did I fly,--why did I not perish in the fire
with my wife? What a coward I am! O, that cursed Count, this is all
his doings; I expected he would seek my death, but poor Bertha, she
was unconscious of offence to the barbarian, yet she is gone, and I am
left desolate who ought to have been the sufferer.' Exhausted by grief
and lassitude the wretched old man lay almost motionless for some
hours when Providence conducted a carriage that way, with a lady and
gentleman in it, and two attendants on horseback. Seeing the horse
grasing and an elderly man lying on the ground, the gentleman stopped
the carriage, and sent a servant to him: he explained his situation in
a brief manner, which when the domestic informed his master of, he
ordered he should be brought and put into the carriage, and the horse
led on by the servant to their seat.

We will now return to Matilda, who with her faithful Albert, arrived
at Paris without meeting any accident. They soon found the Hotel de
Melfont, and Matilda writing a short billet to the Marchioness,
reposed herself a little after the fatigue of her journey.

In less than three hours the Marchioness arrived in her carriage, and
entered the room with that delight in her countenance which plainly
testified the pleasure she expected to receive in the company of her
young friend; she flew towards her, and embraced her with a warmth
that affected the grateful heart of Matilda to tears. 'Welcome, a
thousand times welcome, my dear Miss Weimar; the friend of my poor
sister must be the friend of my heart! Charming girl!' said she,
gazing on her, 'that countenance needs no recommendation; what do I
not owe my Victoria. Matilda, in returning her caresses, involuntarily
started and repeated Victoria! 'Yes, my love, that is my sister's
name; you know her only as the unhappy Countess of Wolfenbach, I
suppose: but let me see your faithful Albert, to whom I hear you are
greatly indebted.' 'I am indeed madam,' replied Matilda, 'my whole
life at present is and must be a state of obligation.' 'Dismiss that
idea, my dear Miss Weimar, and feel that you have the power of
obliging in your society those whose study it will be to convince you
how grateful they are for the favour you confer on them.' Matilda
bowed and kissed the hand of the Marchioness, with an expression in
her eyes that spoke volumes to the heart. Albert now entered the room;
‘My good friend, said the Lady, 'I hope you are well; I wished to see
you, to thank you for your services to this young lady.’ ‘I humbly thank
your ladyship,’ cried Albert, 'but I have only done my duty, and when
you know my mistress you will think so, for she deserves all the world
should serve her.' 'I doubt it not,' replied the Lady, 'and after my
first care to render your mistress happy, my second shall be to make
the remainder of your days comfortable.' Neither Matilda nor Albert
could refrain from tears. ‘Come, come,' said the Marchioness, 'let us
be gone; my carriage waits; the Marquis is impatient to see you, and I
have a thousand questions to ask about my dear sister.' Ah!! thought
Matilda, how shall I unfold the dismal tale--how must I wound a bosom
so tender and affectionate! This reflection threw her into a
melancholy reverie, as the carriage drove off the Marchioness observed
it, and taking her hand, 'We are not strangers, my dear Miss Weimar; I
have only been to meet my younger sister and introduce her to my
husband, already prepared to love her.' Matilda, overcome by a
reception so kind, cried out, whilst sobs spoke the genuine feelings
of her heart, 'Dear madam, you oppress me with your generosity and
goodness: O that I may be found, on further knowledge, to deserve your
good opinion.' 'I am persuaded of it,' replied the other, 'and if you
please,' added she, with a smile, 'here ends the chapter of favours,
obligations, and such kind of stuff, as I have an utter aversion to.'
By this time they were arrived at the hotel, and the Marchioness led
her young friend to the saloon, where the Marquis sat expecting them.
'Here, my Lord, permit me to introduce to you my younger sister; I
bespeak your affection for her, and think you will find no difficulty
in bestowing it.' 'You judge right, my beloved Charlotte: your sister
claims a double share of my esteem from her own merit, legible in her
countenance and your introduction.' Having saluted and led her to a
chair: 'I am charmed,' added he, 'that our dear Victoria has procured
us such a delightful companion; she must have sacrificed a great deal
to give us pleasure, in losing your society.' Matilda unable any
longer to repress her feelings, burst into tears. Both were alarmed by
the Marchioness, taking her hand, ‘Dear Miss Weimar, you have something
in your spirits; tell me, pray tell me, did you leave my sister well?
you have, I think, avoided mentioning her' 'Ah! madam,' she replied,
'I am very unfortunate that my introduction to you must occasion pain
and sorrow; yet I trust the dear lady will be the care of Providence,
though alas! I know not where she is.’ ‘Not know where she is?'
exclaimed the Marchioness, 'good heavens! has she then left the
castle?' Matilda then entered into a detail of every event that had
happened at the castle, the death of the attendant, and the absence of
the Countess. Perceiving the agitation and distress of her auditors,
she added, 'I have little doubt of the poor Lady's safety, from a
persuasion that if any ill was intended towards her, they would have
destroyed her, as well as the servant.' 'You judge very properly, my
dear Miss Weimar: be comforted, my Charlotte; your friend's
observation is founded on truth and reason; I hope, e'er long we shall
hear from the injured sufferer, or else,' said he, raising his voice,
'by heavens! neither oaths nor promises shall prevent me from publicly
calling on the Count to produce her.' This threat alarmed his Lady,
and suspended her grief. 'Tell me, my sweet girl, are you in her
confidence--do you know my sister's story?' 'Indeed, madam, I do not;
Joseph, whom I have mentioned, is the only one acquainted with her
woes, and he is bound by oath not to reveal them without her leave;
unfortunately I postponed a recital which otherwise might have been a
clue to trace her now.' 'Dear unhappy sister!' cried the Marchioness,
'how severe has been your punishment! Another time, my beloved Miss
Weimar, I will acquaint you with all I know relative to her situation:
I trust heaven will protect her, and therefore I will not sadden your
heart now, nor give you only sighs and tears for your reception, when
we wish to make you cheerful and happy.' With a deep sigh, which she
endeavoured, though in vain, to repress, she conducted Matilda to the
apartments appropriated for her, and embracing her, 'You are dearer to
me than ever; the child of misfortune, as you just now styled
yourself, and the friend of my sister, has entire possession of my
heart; love me but half as well as I feel inclined to do you, and I
shall be very happy.' Matilda replied in the most affectionate and
grateful terms. The Marchioness insisted upon her taking a few hours’
rest, previous to their meeting at supper.

When she was alone she began to reflect on her situation; a
recollection of past distresses impeded the satisfaction she must
otherwise have felt for the fervent reception she had met with. An
unhappy orphan, thought she, without a single claim on the world, from
affinity or natural affection--a dependent on the bounty of friends,
even for my daily subsistance, and of which I am liable to be deprived
by a hundred accidents; is it possible any one can be more
unfortunately circumstanced than myself? Yet, when I left my uncle's
house, could I have hoped for such a protection as I am now under? O,
I will not despair, heaven will preserve me, if I persevere in virtue
and integrity; if I can acquit myself of wilful error, and dare appeal
to the rectitude of my sentiments, when misfortunes and distresses
befall me, I will kiss the rod of correction, and submit with
resignation to the Almighty will.

Composed a little in her mind, she dropped  asleep for above three hours,
and then rose, refreshed and with recruited spirits. She was received888
by her good friends with the greatest and most flattering marks of
kindness, and her grateful heart impelled her to return them by every
attention in her power. The Marquis said, it was time, from Albert's
age, that he should be laid up to rest; his honesty and affection to
Miss Weimar deserves reward, I shall therefore allow him something
above the wages he has had, and only request he will superintend my
stables, and see that they take proper care of my horses, but on no
account to take an active part in the business. Matilda most
gratefully acknowledged this kindness to her old friend, whose
wellfare was very near her heart. The Marchioness told her they had
intended leaving Paris in about ten days, now, said she, 'I shall feel
great reluctance to quit France without obtaining some knowledge of my
poor sister's destiny; but as you expect to hear from Joseph, I will
still try to flatter myself he will give you some information
concerning her.' Matilda encouraged the hope as it appeared to compose
her, but she thought it a very slender one.

Two days passed swiftly away. The Marchioness carried her young friend
round the city, pointed out every place worth observation, or that
could afford amusement. Matilda was in a new world: the polite and
sensible conversation she now enjoyed was so different from every
thing of the kind to which she had been accustomed, that she was
mortified at her own deficiencies, and most assiduously endeavoured to
profit by the good sense and elegant manners of her protectoress.

The third day after her arrival the Marchioness was to have an
assembly. Matilda requested that she might not appear, as the clothes
she had were by no means suitable to such an occasion. 'Indeed my
love, I cannot excuse you; that objection shall soon be done away,'
said her friend. And presently some elegant silks, laces, linen, &
co., were produced for her acceptance. 'These things are for my younger
sister; she must not presume to refuse a small testimony of affection
from her elder one.' Before Matilda could reply several trades people
came in, and the Marchioness gave orders everything must be ready that
evening; which was promised. When they were alone she kissed the hand
of her benefactress, ‘O, madam, in what a gracious manner do you confer
favours, without wounding the feelings of the person obliged.' 'A
truce, if you please,' said her friend, 'to your--Oh! and Ah! the
favour, if any, is conferred on me by your acceptance; but once for
all, I beg it may be understood I acknowledge you as my sister by
adoption; I have no children, therefore, in the rights of a sister,
you have a claim to participate with me in every thing; you must only
bring yourself to submit to the commands of eldership, and let the
words favour and obligation be blotted from your vocabulary.' Saying
this, she hastened from her, and left Matilda overwhelmed with
grateful emotions. Before she had recovered Albert appeared, 'Pardon
me, madam, for coming up, but I longed to tell you what a blessed
family we are got into; such kindness as I am treated with! such good
servants, all doating on their Lord and Lady! O, it was a happy day
when we entered the gates of Paris! I hope, my dear young lady, you
think so too?' 'I do indeed, my friend; I have a thousand obligations
to this noble family; and 'tis not the least of them, that they have
provided for you, to whom I shall always think myself indebted for
every good I enjoy.' Albert, overcome by this acknowledgement, hurried
from her, tears of joy running down his cheeks.

In the evening Matilda's clothes were brought home: the servant, who
was ordered particularly to wait on her, dressed her in the most
fashionable style. When the Marchioness came into the room, she was
charmed with her appearance. 'My love,' said she, 'you will cause
variety of emotions this evening; I foresee an abundance of admiration
and envy, when I introduce my lovely relation, for such you are
remember; but there are two families I wish you to like; the Countess
De Bouville and her daughter, and Madame De Nancy and her sister
Mademoiselle De Bancre. You will receive a hundred professions of
admiration and esteem from every one, but these ladies will speak from
their hearts, and I trust they will thank me for the acquisition of a
friend for their select parties.' 'You leave me nothing to say, my
dear madam, but a repetition of the same words, and the same feelings
for your uncommon goodness; I will study to deserve your
recommendation, and to render myself agreeable to the ladies, as the
only proof I can give of my sensibility.'

The Marchioness conducted her to the saloon, and soon after a croud of
ladies and gentlemen made their appearance; to whom she was severally
introduced, and a buz of admiration, with a hundred audible
compliments circulated through the room: at length two ladies
addressed the Lady of the house with an affectionate freedom that told
Matilda they were the persons she was bid to love; nor was she
mistaken. 'My dear Countess,' said the Marchioness 'for this young
lady I bespeak your friendship; not only because she is a relation of
mine, but because I am persuaded Miss Weimar has merit of her own to
recommend her to your esteem, and that of your charming daughter.'
'You could not have paid us a greater compliment,' answered the
Countess, saluting Matilda; 'this young lady's mind is legible in her
countenance. Adelaide,' said she, turning to her daughter, 'I present
you an amiable companion, whose esteem you must endeavour to merit.'
She joined their hands. 'You could not, my dear madam,' replied the
young Lady, 'have given me a command more agreeable to my
inclinations.' 'You do me great honour, ladies,' said Matilda, 'in
your approbation, it must be my care to merit the distinction which I
already perceive will be necessary to my happiness.’ The young ladies
were indeed mutually struck with each other. Mademoiselle De Bouville
was an only daughter, and, contrary to the general fashion in France,
had been educated at home, under the eye of a respectable mother, who,
though she submitted to the frivolities, the gaities, and round of
trifling amusements which engage the attention of that lively nation,
yet found time to superintend and direct the education of her child,
by which she avoided the stiff monastic air of a convent, and was
equally unacquainted with the follies and vices which too generally
prevail in those seminaries of education; for though they do not
always incur general censure, yet it is extremely difficult to
discriminate, as too often it is the punishment of profligacy to be
confined in a cloyster; and what injury a person of that description
may do amongst a number of young people, some with weak heads, and
others with bad hearts, cannot be expressed nor thought of without
horror.

Adelaide De Bouville had a very pleasing person, great sweetness of
temper, and a cultivated understanding; she was near twenty, and had
been for some time addressed by Monsieur De Clermont, son to the
Marquis of that name, an amiable and accomplished young man; and it
was expected by their friends the union would take place when the
young Count De Bouville returned from his travels: Adelaide being
particularly fond of her brother, made a point of waiting ’till she
could have his presence at an affair on which her happiness must
entirely depend. She was charmed with the introduction of Miss Weimar
to her acquaintance, and sought, by the most polite attention, to
obtain her esteem. Matilda was equally delighted with her companion,
and they soon after had an additional charm to their party by the
arrival of Madame De Nancy and Mademoiselle De Bancre; the latter was
near two and twenty, very handsome, a great share of good humour, and
a most enchanting vivacity; her sister being sacrificed very early in
life to an elderly man, every way unworthy of her, except by his
immense fortune; he used her extremely ill, always out of humour and
suspicious: she suffered under his tyranny five or six years; he then
died, and left her mistress of a large independence, the expenditure
of which did her great honour. Her sister, who had witnessed her bad
treatment from an unworthy husband, determined never to marry; they
resided together, equally beloved and respected.

Matilda was charmed with her new acquaintance; a swarm of beaus
surrounded them, but she thought their conversation, their fopperies,
and fulsome compliments truly disgusting, on a comparison with the
sensible and elegant manners of her newly-acquired female friends.

When the company separated, Matilda received numerous invitations,
every one professing themselves delighted with the charming Miss
Weimar; but those professions were not equally sincere. A Mademoiselle
De Fontelle beheld her with envy and dislike: she was a young woman of
family and large fortune, had been taken about two years from a
convent, where she was placed on the death of her mother; and soon
after that period her father also died suddenly, and left her solely
to the care of an aunt, an old gay coquet, whom every body despised,
yet every body visited, because she had large parties, elegant
entertainments, and high play. Under the care, if it can be so called,
of this ridiculous old woman, Mademoiselle De Fontelle had acquired
all the follies and vanities incident to youth and beauty, when under
no restrictions no proper precepts or example. She detested handsome
women, was desirous of engrossing universal admiration to herself, had
a malignant heart, yet as far as a coquet's affections could be
engaged, hers were devoted to the young Count De Bouville; but as her
attractions were not powerful enough to detain him from pursuing his
travels, she flirted with every one that came in her way, to the
utmost extent that French manners and customs would allow among young
persons, where there is certainly more reserve than in any other
country (Spain excepted.) Therefore 'tis no uncommon thing for girls
gladly to marry the man pointed out by the parents, if he is ever so
old, ugly, or little known; the restraint laid upon them is so strict,
and their conduct so narrowly observed, that to enjoy liberty they
marry; from hence proceeds that levity for which the married ladies in
France are so remarkable, and which has given rise to an almost
general censure, which they do not always deserve: for those who have
studied the characters and manners of the French ladies declare, there
is more the semblance than reality of vice in them; and though many
are profligate, like some of their neighbouring kingdom, who
apparently carry more modesty and reserve in their outward
deportments; yet there are very many amiable French women, who, under
their national gaiety of heart and freedom of manners, are most truly
respectable in every situation in life. But the old aunt of
Mademoiselle De Fontelle was not one of these, nor had she instilled
any such sentiments of respectability in her niece, consequently the
young lady ventured to the utmost bounds custom or courtesy would
allow: she no sooner saw Miss Weimar than she dreaded and hated her;
being a stranger, beautiful and engaging, she obtained universal
admiration; but when she observed the decided preference and selection
of Mademoiselle De Bouville for her companion, she was outrageous. The
Count was soon expected home; he would doubtless be attracted by this
hateful stranger--the idea was dreadful, and from that moment she was
the declared enemy of Miss Weimar, though resolved to cultivate the
most violent intimacy with her; consequently when the party broke up,
she advanced and solicited the young lady's acquaintance, in the
politest manner possible.

When the company had left the rooms Matilda thanked the Marchioness
for the pleasure she had procured her, in the introduction to such
charming young women as Mesdemoiselles De Bouville and De Bancre.
'There was another lady, said she, 'who paid me much attention, and
invited my acquaintance.' 'Yes,' answered the Marchioness,
'Mademoiselle de Fontelle; but beware of her, my dear Matilda, she is
far from being a desirable intimate--I neither like her nor her aunt,
Madame de Roch; but I know not how it is, one meets with them every
where, and cannot avoid seeing them sometimes in public, but they are
never of my private parties, therefore let common civility only pass
between you.'

The young lady promised to observe her advice, and they separated to
their respective apartments.

On Matilda's table lay a letter, which the servant placed there, not
to disturb her whilst in company. She hastily broke it open; it was
from Joseph: he related the incident respecting the horse, mentioned
the gentleman's enquiries, and described his person. It was her uncle.
She was terrified and shocked beyond measure, she sunk into a chair,
and burst into a flood of tears: 'Good heavens!' said she, 'if he
should trace me here yet so many days before him, I think I may be
safe; Bertha was not in the secret, and Joseph I can, I know, depend
upon not to betray me.' Under the most painful reflections, she
retired to rest, but sleep forsook her pillow; the dread of falling
again into the power of a man so abandoned gave her the most poignant
affliction 'O, that we were in England,' said she, 'I should then, I
think, be safe from his pursuit.'

She passed a restless night, and in the morning met her friends, with a
pale countenance and uneasy mind.

'My dear child,' exclaimed the Marchioness, 'what is the matter, are
you ill?' Matilda gave her Joseph's letter, and expressed her fears of
being found in Paris by her uncle. Her friends requested she would
compose her mind. The Marquis assured her of his protection. 'You are
not well enough, my love, to go out or see company this morning; we
will retire to my dressing-room, and to amuse you from thinking of
your own troubles, I will enter upon the story of my unfortunate
sister, as far as I know it, for great part is involved in mystery,
and she has taken, she says, the most sacred oaths never to divulge
the rest, without permission of another person. My father, Baron
Stielberg, inherited from his ancestors, a respectable name, a great
share of family pride, and very small possessions, which by wars, and
a struggle to keep up the family consequence, had been diminished
greatly within the last fifty years. He had no son, a source of
eternal regret to him, and two daughters, whom he determined should
marry advantageously or not at all. Our mother died when I was about
ten, and my sister eight years of age. We were placed in a convent for
six years, at the expiration of which time we were sent for home. Our
father seemed satisfied with our improvements. We had the good fortune
to please, and it was the fashion to admire us. In a few months after
our return to the world the Marquis De Melfort, who was on his
travels, stopped at Vienna; we met at an assembly, and a mutual
approbation took place; he was introduced to my father; and, in short,
not to be tedious, his addresses were allowed, for though my father
would have prefered a German nobleman; yet the amiable character of
the Marquis, his very large fortune, and an earnest desire to see me
settled in his life time, prevailed on him to accede to the
advantageous proposals made for me, and in a short time I became the
happy wife of one of the best of men. We remained near six months at
Vienna, but the Marquis beginning to express a wish of returning to
Paris, having been absent above two years. I requested my father would
permit my sister to accompany me; but to this he peremptorily
objected. I took leave of my friends and my country with tears and
reluctance. The dear Victoria was ready to expire--it was our first
separation, and we had lived in the most perfect harmony with each
other: she was my father's favourite and therefore he did not feel
that grief on my leaving him, which might have been expected. I had a
consolation--I accompanied a beloved husband, and was received by his
friends with the most flattering attention. My sister and I constantly
corresponded. In about eight months after my residence at Paris she
wrote me, that at an assembly she had met with one of the most amiable
men in the world, a Chevalier De Montreville, a gentleman of a noble
family, but small fortune, secretary to the French ambassador. The
manner in which she described this young man, convinced me she liked
him: I was sorry for it, I knew he never would be countenanced by my
father. She also added, that Count Wolfenbach was her very shadow--
that she detested him, notwithstanding his immense fortune and
prodigious stock of love. In my answer, I cautioned her against
indulging a partiality for the Chevalier, as I well knew my father
never would approve of it. A short time after I received a very
melancholy letter. "Pity me, my dear sister, for I am miserable--I
cannot deny my attachment to the most deserving of men: he has been
rejected with contempt by my father, and yesterday I was commanded to
receive Count Wolfenbach as my destined husband! I hate, I detest
him--he is morose, savage, sneering, revengeful--Alas! what am I
saying? this man may be my husband O, my dear sister, death is far
preferable to that situation."

'These expressions filled me with extreme grief; my generous husband
wrote my father immediately; he besought him not to sacrifice his
child,--that if the want of fortune was his only objection to the
Chevalier, he would gladly remove that deficiency, and he had both
interest and inclination to procure him a handsome establishment: that
from the affection he bore me and my sister, it was his earnest desire
to see her happy, if at the expence of one third of his fortune.'

'To this letter we received no answer within the expected time. I grew
very uneasy, I wrote again to my sister. It was more than a month
before I received any return. I have it now in my pocket book': the
Marchioness took it out, and read as follows.

'COUNTESS OF WOLFENBACH, TO THE MARCHIONESS

'MY DEAREST SISTER.

'Just recovered from the jaws of death, the lost unhappy Victoria
acknowledges the receipt of your kind letter: alas! the contents have
almost broken a heart already exhausted by grief and despair. I have
been a wife five weeks, near a month I was confined to my bed; but if
I can, I will be methodical in the relation of what has befallen me.
The letter your generous and respectable husband wrote, unfortunately
was delivered by the servant in the same moment with one from the
Chevalier. My father believed you acted in concert. Never shall I
forget the fury of his countenance. "This insolent Frenchman wants to
degrade me into a dependence on him, and marry my daughter to his
beggarly countryman." "Ah! my father," cried I, "do not judge so
unkindly of my excellent brother, his views are for our general
happiness." "And that," said he, interrupting me furiously, "can be
accomplished without his interference; the Count has a noble fortune,
high birth, a title, and is a German--not another word," added he,
seeing me about to speak, "not a single objection; on Monday next you
become his wife--see that you obey without the least reluctance."
Saying this, he left the room, and in a few minutes afterwards I fell
senseless from my seat. How long I continued thus, I know not, but on
my recovery I found myself on my bed, and Therese with me; she was
bathing me with her tears. "Thank heaven, my dear young lady, you are
alive still! O, what a dismal day for me to see you thus.' I thanked
the poor creature, her kindness was of service,--I shed a copious
flood of tears. Soon after my father sent to know how I did, and to
tell me I was expected in the library. I obeyed the summons with
trembling steps. The odious Count, I must call him so, was with him.
My father advanced, and rudely snatching my hand, "There, my Lord, I
give her to you, your day shall be ours." "This day, this hour," cried
he, eagerly, kissing my hand, "do not delay my happiness." A sickness
came over my heart--I sunk into a chair. "Victoria!" cried my father,
in an angry voice. I endeavoured to reply, but burst into tears.
"Foolish girl," said he, "receive the honour my Lord does you, in a
manner more worthy of yourself and me." He left the room. The Count
approached me with a malicious air, "Charming Victoria, am I so very
hateful; has the Chevalier so many advantages over me, as to engross
all your affection?" I started, but indignation rouzed my spirits,--
"Whatever are his advantages, my lord, or whether he has any real
superiority or not, for I make no invidious comparisons; yet if you
suppose he is the object of my affections, surely I am unworthy the
honour of being your wife; no man of spirit could bear a divided heart
but if he engrosses all, which I neither affirm nor deny, your
Lordship will do well, both for your own sake and mine, to renounce
all thoughts of me." "No, madam," said he, in the highest rage, "your
father has given me your hand, and you shall be mine, let the
consequence be what it may." He flung out of the room with a look of
vengeance. You may conceive, I cannot describe my situation. In the
evening my father told me the Chevalier was gone to Switzerland. From
the hour my father rejected him, I gave him up to outward appearance:
I wrote and conjured him, if he valued my peace, to think of me no
more. His answer almost broke my heart, "but my commands were sacred,
my peace all the good he sought for in this life." When I heard he had
quitted Vienna a momentary pleasure seized hold of my heart; he would
not be here when I was sacrificed to his rival, nor until I had left
the city. Not to tire you, my dear sister, the Monday following I
became a wife--spare me the repetition of the dreadful circumstances
The following day I was in a high fever and continued ill for a month;
I received but little attention from the Count--there was more of
resentment than tenderness in his manner when he came into my
apartment, and involuntarily I used to shrink from his view. However
it pleased heaven to restore me to health. I am gaining strength
daily, but as yet keep my own apartment;--to-morrow I have engaged to
meet our father down stairs to dinner. Pray for me, advise me, dearest
sister; depend upon my honour, I will deserve your love whatever
becomes of me. Heavens bless you and my dear generous brother.

VICTORIA WOLFENBACH'

'You must suppose, my dear Miss Weimar,' said the Marchioness, 'that
this letter made us extremely unhappy; I wrote however, and, fearful
the Count might have meanness enough to insist upon seeing her
letters, I took little notice of her complaints, but congratulated her
on the recovery of her health, desired she would pay attention to it,
for the sake of her husband and friends; in short, it was an equivocal
kind of a letter, and I thought could give no offence. After this I
heard from her but seldom, and then there was an evident restraint in
her style, which hurt me, but which I dared not take notice of. She
had been married about eight months, when the Marquis received a
letter from the Count, acquainting us that my father was dead, after
only three days’ illness, giving an account of his effects, and
inviting the Marquis over to see a proper division of them. I
persuaded him to comply. He would not go without me, and I was not
sorry for the opportunity offered me to see my sister. We got safe to
Vienna. We met the Count and his lady, who had come from their country
seat, about seven leagues from Vienna, for that purpose. We flew into
each others arms, with tears of mingled joy and sorrow. Alas! it was
but the shadow of the once blooming Victoria. I surveyed her with
surprise and distress: she took no notice, but introduced me to her
husband; the cause of the alteration I observed was then explained.
Never surely was there a man with a more ferocious countenance, he
inspired me with horror the moment I examined him: I felt for my
sister, but tried to receive his cold civilities with politeness for
her sake. After dinner we were glad to leave the gentlemen to
business, and retire to ourselves. "My dearest Victoria," cried I,
embracing her, "tell me--tell me all: you are not happy, your fragile
form too plainly speaks it." "I endeavor to be contented," she
replied: "my dear father thought happiness must be connected with
splendour and riches, he sought to aggrandize his children; I respect
the motive, however he has been deceived." "The Count, I must own,"
said I, "is a disagreeable object." "My dear Charlotte," she cried,
"do not think so meanly of me, as to suppose his want of personal
attractions weighs any thing with me--I should despise myself in that
case; neither is it now any preference for another: I have never seen
or heard from the Chevalier since my marriage. I will strictly fulfil
every duty I have sworn to observe, perhaps time may do much for me;
it will either soften the severity of the Count's disposition, or
habit will enable me to bear with less feeling, evils I cannot
prevent. Ask me no questions, my dear sister, I am not at liberty to
answer them; but if you regard my peace, meet my husband with good
humour and complaisance: and now tell me," said she, "of your
comforts, your pleasures and mutual happiness--in your felicity I will
find my own." I was drowned in tears, her manner was so solemn, so
touching, so resigned, that my heart was wrung with sorrow, and I
could not speak. "Dear Charlotte," continued she, wiping my eyes,
"spare me those tears, I cannot bear them: remember what I have told
you, be cheerful when you return to company, or I shall be the
sufferer. I met you with tears of joy, 'tis long since they were shed
for grief. Here" (putting her hand on her heart), "here my sorrows are
buried, too deep for that relief but I have done, dear sister let me
enjoy pleasure now in your society." She attempted to smile, it was a
smile of woe; I tried however to suppress my emotions, and to divert
her attention; asked a few questions relative to our old acquaintance,
and in about an hour we returned tolerably composed. The Count
examined my looks; I approached him with smiles, chatted about our
journey, and I observed his features grew relaxed, and he behaved with
great civility. We continued at Vienna a fortnight; he never asked us
to his seat. Victoria conducted herself like an angel; she was
attentive to every word and wish of his; her deportment was grave but
perfectly obliging so that it appeared more a natural disposition than
arising from any particular cause. When all our business was finished,
the Count one morning took occasion to observe his presence was much
wanted in the country; that he had lately purchased an estate in
Switzerland, and should go there soon, consequently had many affairs
which required his inspection, We took the hint, and finding I must
part with my sister, I was very ready to leave Vienna. The day
previous to our departure an old friend of my father's paid me a
visit; after chatting some time, "My dear Marchioness," said he, "I
sincerely lament the unhappy fate of your charming sister; she has
certainly the worst husband in the world; she is shut up, denied all
society; he is jealous, cruel, and revengeful: I am sorry to grieve
you, but I tremble for her life--she cannot long support such
wretchedness. The poor Chevalier," added he, "has been absent from
hence ever since her marriage I am told he is now daily expected; he
will hear most afflictive news, for her happiness is the chief wish of
his heart." I answered this worthy man, and told him my sister's
reserve, as to her husband's treatment of her: he praised her
prudence, and added, "your father had two motives in obliging her to
marry the Count; he was disappointed in both, for he was no stranger
to her situation before he died." "And what, Sir, was his other
motive?" "An intention to marry a relation of the Count's, but she
absolutely refused him, and married another two months ago. You know,
I suppose," added he, "that the Count was a widower?" "No, Sir, I
never heard that circumstance." "Why, it is a black story, as it is
reported: 'tis said about three years ago he married a young lady, an
orphan, of good family, but small fortune, at Bern, in Switzerland;
that he treated her so ill as to cause her death, and left two
children, who were put to nurse, afterwards taken from thence, without
any one's knowing what became of them; however your father told me the
Count informed him they were both dead. Almost every person believes
his wife and children came to an untimely end; but he is a man of such
rank and large possessions, nobody chuses to say much. I hinted the
affair to your father, but fortune and love was too powerful to be
given up, he affected not to believe it; but after his own
disappointment, he thought more of his daughter, and had he not been
so suddenly cut off, I believe would have interfered; at least, I am
sure, would have made some separate provision for her, independent of
that bad man her husband.

'You may conceive, my dear Miss Weimar, how much I was shocked at this
relation. I trembled for my Victoria, in the hands of such a monster,
but alas! we could do nothing. I entreated my good friend to watch the
Count narrowly, and to give me information, from time to time,
concerning her, who I considered a victim to a villain.

'The following day we took a heart-breaking leave. The Marquis
entreated the Count to pay us a visit. "In another year perhaps he
might." My sister, dear unhappy creature, never shed a tear. "My
Charlotte, my beloved sister, think no more of me," said she, an hour
before we parted; "my pilgrimage will be short; the hour which gives
birth to an unfortunate being (I had forgot to tell you she was with
child) will, in all probability, give me everlasting peace: fortunate
if the dear infant accompanies me to the grave, if not, O, my sister,
consider it as the only remains of the wretched Victoria, who has,
does, and ever will love you to her last hour." I will not wound your
heart, my dear Matilda, by any further recital of our conversation.
When we parted, in presence of her husband, I could have struck a
dagger to his heart. She embraced me with fervor, "Heavens bless you,
my dear and happy sister! and you, my generous my noble brother, may
you both live to enjoy years of uninterrupted happiness." "Doubtless
they will," said the Count, with a malicious smile; "surely you forget
we are to meet again at Paris next year, and not taking leave for
life." "True," returned the Marquis; "I thank you for the remembrance,
Sir,--a few months hence, my valued friends, I hope to see you at
Paris." She tore herself from my arms, and I got into the carriage,
more dead than alive. Not to enter into an unnecessary detail, we
returned safe to Paris, and in a short time after I received a few
lines from my sister, dated from their castle in Switzerland, telling
me she was tolerably well, both in health and spirits, but hourly in
expectation of an event which might affect both.

'Near three weeks after this letter we received two; one from the
Count, informing the Marquis, that, to his inexpressible grief, he had
lost both wife and child; the other from the medical gentleman who
attended her, informing me of the same event, and that my sister, in
her last moments, requested he would write to express her affection
and wishes for my happiness with her departing breath. 'Though I had
always apprehended this event, yet it caused me inexpressible misery;
and there being no longer any ties to bind us to that detested Count,
we never answered or took any further notice of him.

'About six weeks after the dreadful information we had received, a
letter came to me, directed in an unknown hand; I opened it--judge
what were my emotions in reading these words, deeply impressed upon my
memory.

'"Your sister lives, though dead to all the world but you; a solemn
vow has passed her lips, never to disclose preceding events without
permission--ask no questions, and you shall soon hear more, but more
than one life depends upon your secresy.

VICTORIA"

'I flew to the Marquis with this billet; he was equally surprised and
overjoyed, but naturally concluded we might have spies upon us, and
that therefore we had better continue our mourning the usual time.

'It was upwards of a fortnight before I heard again, and I grew very
impatient; at length I had another letter: this informed me she was
confined, that she had reason to hope her child (a boy) was alive.
Under that hope she lived, and, notwithstanding her confinement, was
better in health than when I saw her last. I might write a few lines
now and then, under cover to Joseph Kierman, in a vulgar disguised
hand; that she perhaps might never see me more, and meet certain death
if her secret was discovered.

'This letter, like the former, was in a different hand from hers. I
answered it, and from that time, near eighteen years, we have
corresponded about once in two months, never oftener, ‘till our last
epistles concerning you.

'The whole affair is certainly very strange: often has the Marquis
vowed to apply either to the Count or courts of justice; but the
letters we received were never written by her, we could adduce no
actual proofs of his guilt, and she continually warned us to take no
steps without her permission. Thus, in a most unaccountable manner we
are prohibited from doing her justice, whilst all the world believes
her dead: he lives chiefly at Vienna, a dissipated life; though from
my friend I hear he is at times gloomy, and apparently unhappy: this
gentleman however believes my sister and her child dead, nor dare I
undeceive him.

'Thus, my dear Miss Weimar, you have before you all I know of this
melancholy affair; what now is become of this hapless victim heaven
only knows,--I cannot think of leaving Paris yet; the Marquis can
scarcely be restrained from exerting himself, and, indeed, in a short
time, if we gain no further information, I shall feel disposed to
coincide with his wishes.'

Matilda returned the Marchioness thanks for the trouble she had taken
in giving this painful relation: she felt deeply for the poor
suffering Countess, and could not help joining in opinion, that some
step ought to be taken, if she was not heard of soon.

They both waited with impatience to have another letter from Joseph,
as he promised to write again about the gentleman and his horse; and
the Marquis and Marchioness requested Matilda to offer him and Bertha,
in their name, an asylum at Paris, if they had any fears of remaining
at the castle.

Three or four days passed, and nothing new occurred. Mademoiselles De
Bouville and De Bancre had frequently called on Miss Weimar, also
Madame Le Brune and her niece.

On the fifth morning the first mentioned young lady entered the house,
accompanied by a very elegant young man, whom she introduced to
Matilda as her brother. The Marquis and his lady were rejoiced to see
him and gave him the most cordial welcome.

Matilda was uncommonly struck by his appearance; she thought him (and
with justice), the most amiable man she had ever seen. The Count De
Bouville was indeed deserving of approbation: he had all the elegance
of French manners, without their frivolities, an excellent
understanding, and a desire of improving it induced him to visit
England, after his tour through Italy and Germany; he had gained
knowledge from the different manners and customs of each nation, and
returned a truly accomplished young man, with much good sense and
polished manners, a strict integrity of heart, and the highest sense
of duty and love for his mother and sister. He had always entertained
great respect for the Marquis and Marchioness De Melfort, and that,
added to his sister's warm eulogiums on Miss Weimar's perfections,
brought him the morning after his return to make his compliments. He
had never seen a young woman like Matilda; she was in truth the child
of nature; for, though accomplished and well informed, having been
bred up in obscurity, never visiting nor being visited, a stranger to
young men, to flattery, or even the praises of a chamber-maid, with a
most beautiful face, and elegant shape, and many natural if not
acquired graces; she was unconscious of her perfections--she knew not
the art of displaying them to advantage--she had no vanity to
gratify---thought but humbly of herself, and received every mark of
admiration and respect as favours to which she had no pretensions. A
character so new to the world, which was easily understood in a short
visit, from the frankness and naivete of her manners, could not fail
of engaging the attention and esteem of the Count. Her person was
charming; her conversation and unaffected sweetness insensibly gained
upon the heart, and rendered it impossible to avoid bestowing that
homage to which she made no claims. When the visit was over and an
engagement made for the Melfort family to dine the following day at
the Bouvilles', Matilda, with her usual candour, warmly praised the
young Count: her friends smiled, but co-incided with her sentiments,
and expatiated on his good qualities with all the warmth of friendship
and esteem. They were yet on the same subject, when a servant entered
and delivered a letter to Matilda. 'From Joseph,' said she, looking at
the address. 'O, pray open it,' cried the Marchioness. She did so, and
perusing it hastily to herself was struck with horror at the contents.
He was now at the seat of Baron Wolmar, from whence he writes an
account of all the proceedings at the castle. He concludes with
telling her the Baron and his niece have given him an asylum, but that
the Count's story was still unknown; is desirous of receiving her
commands, and bitterly regrets the loss of poor Bertha.

When she had looked it over, without a single comment she gave it to
the Marchioness, but her looks prepared her friend for some dreadful
intelligence. 'Good heavens!' cried she, 'what a villain! every thing
now is past a doubt--most certainly he has destroyed my sister, and by
burning the castle, sought to make away with the person privy to his
transactions.'

When the Marquis had read it, 'By all means,' said he, 'let Joseph be
sent for immediately, he will prove a material witness, and I am
determined, if no news arrives from her shortly, to enter a process
against the Count, and oblige him to produce her.'

A servant was ordered to set off the following morning to bring
Joseph, and the Marquis wrote to thank the Baron for protecting him.

Various and melancholy were their conjectures relative to the
Countess, whose strange fate they all deplored. 'I shall never forgive
myself,' cried the Marquis, 'for not interfering in this business
years ago. When I knew she was first confined, though we never
understood so clearly the nature of that confinement ‘till she wrote to
us of the courage and resolution a young lady, driven by accident to
the castle, had shewn in exploring the way to her gloomy apartments.
At the same time she was cautious in withholding any particular
information as to the nature of her situation. Maria, her attendant,
always wrote for her, nor was any name signed on either side.'

'Every circumstance,' returned Matilda, ‘convinces me her life is not
in danger, for had that been determined on so many years would never
have passed, and left her in possession of it.' 'I hope and wish your
observation may be verified, said the Marchioness. 'But pray, madam,'
cried Matilda, 'what became of the poor Chevalier after her marriage
and the subsequent report of her death?'

'My friend at Vienna,' replied the Lady, 'informed me, he returned
there soon after the Count carried my sister into Switzerland, and in
a short time quitted the ambassador, and talked of visiting Asia, and
remaining abroad some years; since which we have never heard of him,
whether he is living or not.'

Some company now broke in upon them; and an engagement in the evening
prevented any particular conversation.

The following day they were to dine with the Countess De Bouville.
Matilda, for the first time in her life, took some pains with her
dress, and felt an anxiety about her appearance; yet, unconscious of
her motives, she attributed them solely to a desire of pleasing the
Marchioness. When they arrived at their hotel, the Count was ready to
conduct and introduce them. The Countess received them with pleasure.
'I know,' said she, 'my good friends, you rejoice with me on the
return of my son. We are a family of love,' added she, turning to
Matilda, 'therefore you must not be surprised to see us a little
intoxicated with joy on meeting again after so long an absence.'
'Indeed, madam, such affectionate feelings do you great honour.'

Adelaide was all transport, which was soon after rather checked by the
introduction of the Marquis de Clermont and his son: the young men ran
into each other's arms. 'A thousand welcomes, my dear De Bouville, I
impatiently longed to see you.' 'I believe it,' returned the other,
with a smile; 'you had powerful reasons, and I have shortened my stay
in England considerably on your account.' 'Apropos,' said the Marquis;
'how do you like England, my young friend?' 'So well, Sir,' replied
the Count, 'that I could be contented to pass my life there in the
bosom of my friends. I consider the English as the happiest people
under the sun: they are naturally brave, friendly, and benevolent;
they enjoy the blessings of a mild and free government; their personal
safety is secured by the laws; no man can be punished for an imaginary
crime, they have fair trials, confront their accusers, can even object
to a partial jury; in short, as far as human judgement admits can be
deemed infallible. Very few, if any, suffer but for actual crimes,
adduced from the clearest proofs. Their merchants are rich and
respectable, the first nobility do not disdain an alliance with them,
they are considered as the supporters of the kingdom: 'tis incredible
to think of the liberal sums subscribed by these opulent, respectable,
generous people, on any popular occasion, or private benefaction,
without astonishment. The men of fashion are many of them admirable
orators, great politicians, and perfectly acquainted with the
government of different nations, as much as of their own. The young
men, I believe, are the same every where--fond of pleasure, expence,
and intrigue; but the rock on which they most generally split is that
spirit of gambling which pervades through almost all ranks of people,
dissipates fortunes, distresses families, hardens the heart, depraves
the mind, and renders useless all the good qualities they receive from
nature and education. There are very strict laws against play, but
those laws only awe the middling or poorer kind of people, the great
infringe them with impunity.

'But I beg pardon,' added the Count, 'for falling into the common mode
of travellers, engrossing the attention of the company to myself.' 'I
desire you will go on,' said the Marquis; 'I am pleased with your
observations.' 'And the ladies, dear brother,' cried Mademoiselle De
Bouville, 'pray tell us something of the ladies.' 'I shall punish your
curiosity,' replied he, smiling, 'by and bye. What I most admire in
the English, is the great encouragement given to all manufactories,
and to all useful discoveries; there ought not to be any poor, that
is, I mean beggars, in England, such immense sums are raised for their
support, such resources for industry, and so many hospitals for the
sick and aged, that, if proper management was observed, none need
complain of cold or hunger; yet in my life I never saw so many painful
and disgusting objects as there are in the streets and environs of
London. I admire the public buildings, the places of entertainment,
and the performers at them; but sometimes, as will ever be the case,
liberty degenerates into licentiousness, and the mob will rudely
interrupt the performers, and carry their applause or censure in
opposition to every effort of their betters: this certainly is an
abuse of their freedom, but 'tis an evil they know not how to remedy
in a land of liberty.

'As for the ladies, my dear sister.' 'Aye, brother, now for it;--I
hate your English belles, they are such monopolizers when they make
their appearance at Paris.' 'And yet, Adelaide, I assure you, it is
not often you see the most beautiful of them here, doubtless there are
very many charming women among the first circles of fashion, who may
dispute the palm of beauty with any court in the known world; but
generally speaking, the middling ranks of people are by far the
handsomest of both sexes, and I account for it in this manner. In
fashionable circles they keep very late hours, play deep, enter into
every scheme for amusement and dissipation, without regard to their
health or complexions; hence they injure one, and destroy the other:
no artificial resources can give brilliancy to the eyes, or health and
vivacity to the figure; acquired bloom can never deceive, and the
natural beautiful complexions of the English ladies are so delicate
and transparent, that art may disguise, but never can improve them.
Their ill hours, and deforming their lovely faces by the anxiety of
avarice, envy, and passion, when at their midnight orgies, adorning
and watching the effects of chance in their favour, destroys their
beauty many years before age would have lessened their attractions;
for I must confess,' added he, smiling at his sister, 'the English
women, take them all in all, are more fascinating than any other
nation I ever saw.' 'And yet,' said she, 'you are returned heart-
whole, brother?' 'That is begging the question, my curious sister; but
where there are so many charmers, men's eyes involuntarily wander, and
must consider it almost an insult upon the rest to select one, when
there are such equal pretensions.'

'The English ladies are much obliged to you, Count,' said the Marquis
de Melfort, 'and we shall soon have an opportunity of judging if your
picture is over-charged, as we design visiting England within this
month.'

This declaration conveyed no pleasure to any of the party. The De
Bouvilles were already so much prejudiced in favour of Miss Weimar,
that they were hurt at the idea of parting: the Count particularly
felt uneasy, though he could not express it upon so short an
acquaintance.

Matilda was highly pleased with Monsieur De Clermont, her friend's
lover; he was polite, sensible, and intelligent; the Marquis, his
father, lively, chatty, and attentive to the ladies.

The dinner hours passed very agreeably, and they regretted that an
assembly in the evening must break in upon their party.

The young folks had an hour to themselves: the Count paid Matilda the
most marked attention; congratulated his sister on the acquisition of
such a friend, and hoped some event, favourable to his wishes, might
prevent their tour to England, though he acknowledged the hope a
selfish one. After chatting on various subjects, the Count
accidentally enquired of Matilda, if she liked Paris as well as she
did Vienna? The question confused her, and she replied, with some
hesitation, she had never seen Vienna. 'I beg your pardon, madam,'
said he, 'I understood you came from thence.' 'No, brother, Miss
Weimar resided in Switzerland.' 'At Berne, madam?' asked he. 'No,
Sir,' answered she, still more confused. 'I chiefly resided in the
country.' The Count saw by her manner he had been guilty of some
impropriety, though he hardly knew of what nature; he was therefore
silent, and she recovered from her embarrassment. In the evening the
company began to assemble; amongst the rest that eternal gadabout
Madame le Brune, and her niece, Mademoiselle De Fontelle. The Count
was obliged to pay his compliments, and receive their congratulations
on his return; which done, he hastily returned to the side of Matilda.

The envious De Fontelle could not bear this; she made her way to them,
took the hand of Matilda, called her her sweet friend, assured her
they must be violently intimate, she was quite charmed with her; with
a hundred such delusive compliments, as meant nothing, and to which
the other only replied with a cold civility. All at once, turning
quickly to her, 'Bless me, Miss Weimar, I forgot to ask if you have a
relation of your name now in Paris?' The roses forsook Matilda's
cheek, she trembled, and could scarce stand; every one observed her
confusion; the Count caught her arm. 'Bless me!' cried Mademoiselle De
Fontelle, 'has my question disordered you; I only asked because I was
in company yesterday with a gentleman of your name, just arrived from
Germany.'

This was enough for the unhappy girl--down she dropped, and had not the
Count been attentive to her motions, and caught her in his arms, she
must have fallen to the ground. Every body was alarmed, and crowded
round her, the Marchioness particularly so; she was carried into
another room, the Count still supporting her, and followed by his
sister. It was some time before she returned to life. The first
objects that struck her, was the Count holding her in his arms, the
Marchioness on her knees, applying salts, and Mademoiselle De Bouville
pressing her hand. 'O, madam!' cried she, eagerly and trembling, 'he
is come he is come.' 'Compose yourself, my love,' said the
Marchioness, 'no one is come that can hurt you.' 'Yes, yes,' answered
she, hardly knowing what she said, ‘’tis he, he will carry me off, he
will take me from you.'

Her friend still endeavoured to sooth and calm her spirits. The Count
and his sister were surprised; they saw there was some mystery, but
forbore any enquiries.

It was some time before she was perfectly restored: they urged her to
return to the company--she felt a repugnance, 'I fear that Miss--'
'Fear nothing, madam,' interrupted the Count; 'you have friends who
will protect you with their lives.' She looked at him with an
expression of gratitude, but said nothing. She arose, and with feeble
steps attended her friends into the saloon.

Mademoiselle De Fontelle officiously came to congratulate her return.
The amiable De Bancre felt real concern, and expressed it with
feeling, and without exaggeration.

Matilda, sensible of the kindness of her friends, and ashamed of the
observation she had attracted, tried to acquire new spirits; but it
was an endeavour only; her eyes were incessantly turned towards the
door, she dreaded every moment she should see her uncle enter, and
nothing could exceed her joy when the evening closed and they were
seated in the Marquis's carriage.

'O, madam! O, Sir! 'tis assuredly my uncle--he will know where I am,
and tear me from you.' 'Do not afflict yourself, my dear Miss Weimar,'
answered the Marquis; 'if it should be him, he shall prove his
pretensions before he gets any footing here, much less take you from
our protection.'

Poor Matilda thanked him with a grateful heart, and retired to her
bed, but not to sleep: her mind was greatly disturbed, 'What a poor
creature I am,' cried she; 'no father, brother, or protector, not even
the clothes I wear my own property; if this man, this uncle claims,
who can dare detain me? What are the evils which may befall me--
whatever becomes of me, I will not embroil my friends. Happy, happy
Miss De Bouville!' said she, 'you have a mother, a brother to protect
you! Such a brother! what an amiable man! O, I never knew my
wretchedness ‘till now, that I am humbled to the dust!' Under these
melancholy impressions she passed the night, and when morning came was
in a high fever.

The servant who came to attend her was alarmed at her indisposition,
and flew to inform the Marchioness, who instantly went to her
apartment. She found her very ill. A physician was sent for, who
ordered her to be bled and kept very quiet. About noon the Marchioness
left her asleep, and had scarcely entered the parlour, when she was
informed a gentleman requested to speak with her; she ordered his
admittance.

A middle aged man, of respectable appearance, politely entered the
room. 'I must apologize to your Ladyship for my intrusion, without
sending in my name, which I now avow to be Weimar, and I am uncle, I
may say father, to a young lady of that name now in your house. I
fear, madam, you have been strangely imposed upon to afford her
protection; it is painful to a person so nearly connected as I am to
that unhappy girl.' 'I beg your pardon, Sir, for interrupting you, but
I have no person under my roof that answers to your description; you
are therefore, I presume, in all error as to the lady you allude to.'
'I believe not, madam,' answered he rather haughtily; 'I come here to
demand my niece, Matilda Weimar, and through her to discover a servant
with whom she went off, after robbing me.' 'Robbing you, Sir! take
care what you say; you shall bring proofs of your assertions, and then
we will answer you: at present Miss Weimar is safe in our protection,
and you will find, Sir, she has powerful friends to guard her, and
expose those who are her enemies.' ‘’Tis well, madam,' replied he, 'you
will hear from me in another manner.' He bowed and quitted the house.

She was glad he did not see the Marquis, at the same time she felt
they were in an awkward predicament.

Soon after the Count De Bouville and his sister called on her. 'My
dear madam,' said the latter, 'how does our charming young friend? we
have been quite unhappy for her indisposition.' 'You are very
obliging, my dear Adelaide; she well deserves your solicitude and I am
sorry to say she is really very ill this morning.' 'Ill!' cried the
Count, eagerly; 'O, madam, has she any advice--has she a physician?'
'Yes,' replied the Marchioness; 'I hope there is no danger,--her
spirits are hurried and she is a little feverish.'

The Count walked about the room. His sister said, 'Will you pardon me,
madam, if I tell you the strange reports we have heard this morning?'
'I shall thank you for the communication,' replied the other. 'This
morning early Mademoiselle De Fontelle called on us, O heavens!' said
she, eagerly, 'no wonder Miss Weimar fainted last night; why she turns
out to be an imposter, and a shocking creature.' 'Who, Miss Weimar,'
cried my brother, 'impossible, madam; go and circulate that envious
tale some where else, there will be no credit given to it here.' 'You
are very ready, Sir, to insult your friends, and take the part of
strangers; but I assure you,' added she, haughtily, 'I have no cause to
envy Miss Weimar, and should be extremely unhappy to be thought like
her.' Seeing my brother smile contemptuously. 'Well,' said she, ’tis
of little consequence to me if her uncle is come in search of her; if
she run away from his house with a servant, and jointly robbed him of
his property, and now has contrived to impose herself upon the
Marchioness for a different person; perhaps she may elope with one of
her servants next, the thing is nothing to me, only people ought to be
careful how they introduce improper persons into a circle, though they
are beauties and objects of envy--envy indeed! I shall never forget
the pretty idea.' She flung out of the room, leaving us almost
petrified with astonishment. When my brother recovered, he said, 'What
I say now,' cried the Count interrupting her, 'that I will stake my
life upon the honour and integrity of the young lady--that ingenuous
countenance speaks a heart which never knew deception.'

'You judge rightly, my dear Count,’ said the Marchioness: 'I have not
time to explain things now, but be assured she is truth and virtue
itself; the servant, a worthy and very old man, who knew her from her
infancy, is now in my house; he fled with her to save her from
dishonour, from the wretch who now pursues her.' 'Heaven and earth!'
cried the Count, 'where is the miscreant, I will haunt him through the
world for daring to asperse her character.' 'Softly, my good friend,'
returned she, smiling, 'your interference will do no good; the Marquis
and myself take upon us to do her justice; mean time you may pay him a
visit, and your sister shall just step up and see my patient, provided
she is very silent.' 'My best respects, Adelaide,' said he. 'O,
doubtless,' returned the Marchioness, 'we shall make abundance of
compliments and fine speeches, but it will be by dumb show, for I
prohibit talking.'

Being let blood, had checked the fever, and Matilda lay tolerably
composed when her friends entered; she rejoiced to see them, and held
out her hand. 'Yes,' said the Marchioness, 'we can take hands, but you
are only to tell us how you are.' 'Much better, my dearest, best--'
'Enough, enough,' said the Lady, 'that's all we wanted to know, so now
kiss and part--by and bye you may meet again. My brother, dear Miss
Weimar, sends his best respects.' 'Very well that is sufficient.'
'Heaven bless you, my love, go to sleep and compose your mind.'

The ladies returned to the parlour; the Marquis and Count were there,
and expressed great joy to hear so favourable an account of Matilda's
health. The Marquis entered into a little detail of her story, and
strongly engaged the affection and compassion of the Count and his
sister. 'I tell you this in secret,' said the Marquis, 'remember it
goes no farther; we have powerful reasons not to extend our
confidence, nor withdraw our protection from a friendless orphan
recommended to us by a valued relation.' 'I admire, I honour you,'
cried the Count, with earnestness; 'do not give her up to this
pretended uncle: but how shall we silence calumny, how stop the tongue
of that malignant girl? ‘We must act as circumstances shall require; I
will call at Madame Le Brun's myself, and assure them there is a
mistake in the affair, and warn them not to speak ill of my protégée,
for I will defend her with my life and fortune.'

They now separated; Mademoiselle De Bouville promised to return in the
evening, and the Marchioness went out to pay a few visits, and see if
the scandal was extended among her acquaintance; to her great
mortification she was told of it every where, some condoled with her
on being so greatly imposed upon, others affected to resent such a
creature should have the assurance to get herself introduced into
company, but all agreed, 'They saw what she was, nothing but a little
pretender, who was a stranger to good breeding; nobody was deceived
but the Marchioness, for every one could see art and duplicity in her
face.'

Thus she, who the preceding evening was the most delightful, most
engaging, most elegant girl in the world, by one stroke of slander,
was deprived of every perfection, and admiration turned into contempt;
so prone is the world to believe ill, and so little dependence is
there to be placed on the breath of praise.

The Marchioness was exceedingly exasperated; she defended her young
friend with warmth;--she congratulated the ladies on their ingenuity,
in finding every virtue and every vice, every charm and deformity in
the same person, within the space of eight and forty hours. 'Their
candour and good nature was highly commendable,' she said, 'and the
compliments they paid her judgement were certainly very flattering.'

In this ironical manner she treated the tittle-tattle of the envious
and malicious; but, driving to Madame Le Brun's, she met her niece,
just arrived before her, from circulating her scandalous tale: a
malignant joy danced in her eyes, though she was a little confused
when she saw the Marchioness. 'I beg the favour of speaking to you
Mademoiselle,' said the Lady; and taking her seat, 'I find I am to
thank you for presuming to propagate reports to the disadvantage of my
relation: you would do well to recollect, Mademoiselle, there is no
character so truly despicable as the slanderer and tale bearer; you
should also be well informed of the facts you relate, and of their
origin in truth, before you asperse characters, or subject yourself to
the mortification of being disappointed in your views, and of having
the calumny retorted on yourself.' 'What views do you mean, madam,--
what is it to me whether Miss Weimar is the runway niece of Mr Weimar,
or not?' 'Your views,' answered the Marchioness, 'are pretty evident;
but permit me to observe the Count De Bouville's esteem will never be
obtained at the expence of veracity and generosity, and it would have
been more becoming a young lady of liberal sentiments, in at least a
doubtful case, to have suspended her judgement and have inclined to
the good-natured side of the question; but I am now to inform you the
whole tale you have, with so much avidity, related, is false; that
Miss Weimar is as irreproachable as she is beautiful, and in a short
time the Marquis will severely punish and expose those who dare assert
any thing to the prejudice of that young lady you will do well,
Mademoiselle, to profit by the information.' Saying this, she arose,
with a look of contempt, and returned to her carriage.

When she met the Marquis at dinner she repeated what she had heard,
and her behaviour in consequence. The Marquis applauded her
proceedings.

'When I left you this morning,' said he, 'crossing the street St
Honore, I met Monsieur Du Versac, with another gentleman. "This is the
Marquis De Melfort," said he, and immediately added, "permit me to
introduce to your Lordship, Mr Weimar; we were going to your hotel."
"Has Mr Weimar any business, Sir, with me." "I have, Sir," he replied,
in a very calm tone of voice; "I had the pleasure to wait on the
Marchioness, but there was a misunderstanding took place." "Suppose we
step home to my house," said Du Versac. We agreed so to do. When
seated, "Now, Sir," addressing Mr Weimar, "I am prepared to hear
whatever you please to say." He then began a long story of taking
Matilda from her infancy, after the death of her father and mother;
the tenderness he had treated her with, the education he had given
her, his design of giving her his moderate fortune; mentioned a
variety of circumstances to prove his affection, and her subsequent
flight with Albert, taking a horse from his stable, and deceiving him
with false pretences. As her uncle, he had a right to claim her: her
behaviour to him made her undeserving protection, but duty to his
deceased brother called upon him to protect his child; and he would
therefore forgive the error she had been drawn into, and receive her
as kindly as ever. When he stopped, I replied, "Sir, there is much
plausibility, also, I believe, great truth in what you have related:
you must not be offended if I also state facts exactly as Miss Weimar
has related them to us." I repeated her story; when I came to the
circumstance of the conversation between him and Agatha in the summer-
house, he started and turned pale, but quickly recovered. I added,
that meeting accidentally with a relation of mine, she was recommended
to our house as an asylum, which it was my determination to afford
her, and I should suppose no uncle of hers could object to her
situation with the Marchioness, who was desirous of considering her as
an adopted daughter. "I am no longer at a loss to account for her
conduct," replied he; "and so far from blaming, I must applaud her
adherence to those ideas of virtue and propriety I had always
inculcated in her mind; but she ought not to have taken up things
lightly, nor have proceeded to such lengths upon hearing imperfectly a
desultory conversation which, if she had heard the whole, and its true
meaning, she would have formed a very different judgement of;
therefore, at the same time I applaud her discretion, I blame her
precipitant decision: however, my Lord, I beg the favour of seeing my
niece alone for an hour in your house, before I take any steps equally
as disagreeable to myself as to her and your family.” I told him I
would consult Miss Weimar, without the least interference on my part,
and transmit to him this evening her answer.'

'This is indeed a very complex piece of business,' replied the
Marchioness, 'but I really think she ought to see him, and I shall
conceive it no breach of honour to be within hearing of their
conversation; for although not a shadow of a doubt remains with me
concerning her truth and innocence, yet I wish to have an
investigation of the affair, that I may openly assert both, from a
thorough conviction of it.'

When dinner was over she went to Matilda's apartment. She was
infinitely better, and proposed getting up in the evening. After a
thousand expressions of kindness and assurances of protection, she
mentioned the meeting between Mr Weimar and the Marquis, related the
conversation that took place, and his wish to see her.

Matilda clasped her hands, 'Oh! I cannot, cannot see him! I could not
be mistaken. His words,--his actions previous to the scene I overheard
in the summer-house, leaves no doubts upon my mind; yet I ought not, I
cannot involve my benefactors in trouble: instruct me, tell me,
dearest madam, what I ought to do, and that I will do,--your opinion
shall decide for me.' 'Why then, my dear Miss Weimar, I think you had
best hear what he has to say.' 'Not alone, madam.' 'Mr Weimar is
desirous of being alone with you.' 'No, my dearest lady, that cannot
be; let me entreat the favour of your supporting presence.' 'Since you
are so desirous of it,' said the Marchioness, 'and think you can see
him to-morrow, I will appoint him to attend you in the library, the
closet adjoining having a very thin partition, I can distinctly hear
your conversation, and he will then have no restraint on his words or
behaviour.'

This plan being adopted, a note was dispatched by the Marquis to Mr
Weimar, signifying that the young lady would be glad to see him the
next day, at twelve, if her health would permit.

Poor Matilda dreaded the interview, and the power he might exert over
her, yet it was a justice due to her character and friends, that she
should confront him; she therefore endeavoured to reconcile herself to
the meeting, though she knew it would be extremely painful to her.

Mademoiselle De Bouville payed her a visit in the evening: she was
sitting up, and, from the quantity of blood taken from her in the
morning, and the little hectic which the fever occasioned, she looked
uncommonly delicate and beautiful. After saluting her in the most
affectionate manner, she said, 'I am charged with a thousand
compliments from my brother; he has been extremely uneasy but if he
was to see you this evening, I think he would have but little cause
for it;--without any flattery, my dear Miss Weimar, you look quite
enchanting.'

Matilda smiled, but it was not a smile of pleasure. Ah! thought she,
if the Count, if Mademoiselle De Bouville knew me, for what I am, a
poor dependant, without friends of family--I should have few
pretensions to their notice.

Adelaide took notice of her dejection,--'Come, my sweet friend,
recover your spirits. My brother will be anxious for my return; you
must enable me to give a good report, if you are desirous he should
have rest to-night.' 'If I am desirous,' replied poor Matilda; 'is
there any thing I more sincerely wish than happiness to you and your
amiable brother?' 'Well then,' answered Adelaide, 'you must make haste
to be well.' 'You are very obliging,' returned Matilda; 'I am much
better, and should be very ungrateful to my friends if I did not exert
myself against trifling indispositions.'

Adelaide surveyed her with admiration and compassion, her generosity
felt an increase of affection from the knowledge of her misfortunes,
though she was cautious not to drop a word that might give the other
any suspicion that she was acquainted with them.

They parted at night with mutual reluctance, and Matilda endeavoured
to compose her spirits for the dreaded interview that was to take
place the following day.

When the Marchioness entered her apartment next morning she found her
dressing, and much better, which gave her great satisfaction: she
encouraged and applauded the resolution she had assumed; but when the
time came, and the name of Mr Weimar was brought in, she could
scarcely keep from fainting. The Marchioness retired to the closet,
and he entered; Matilda rose to receive him, he hastily advanced and
embraced her, 'My dearest child, I rejoice to see you, cruelly as you
have used me, miserable as I have been from apprehensions of your
safety, I am happy to see you under such respectable protection.' He
seated her and himself. 'The Marquis De Melfort,' said he, ‘has
explained to me the cause of your absenting yourself from my house,
therefore I am neither surprised nor angry; but surely you acted
precipitantly, and on very slight grounds, the conversation you only
partially heard and little understood.' 'I heard enough, Sir,' said
Matilda, with some spirit, 'to inform me I was not in safety in a
house with a woman of Agatha's principles.' 'You entirely mistook the
affair,' interrupted he, 'but before I explain myself farther, tell
me, Matilda, is there no gratitude, no affection due to the man who
has supported you from childhood, who took you, a helpless infant,
without a friend to protect you from every evil incident to deserted
infancy? Did I not treat you, love you, as a blessing sent from
heaven?'

Matilda was drowned in tears at this representation of her forlorn
state; with a deep sigh she answered, 'Yes, Sir, all this I
acknowledge, and heaven can witness for me how grateful I was for your
kindness, until my delicacy was alarmed by freedoms I thought improper
from our near connexion.'

'One question more,' said he; ‘should you have been offended at those
freedoms (as you call very innocent attentions), had they been offered
by a man who designed to make you his wife?'

Matilda started, 'His wife! 'tis a strange question, but I answer,
yes, Sir, I should; for confined as my knowledge of mankind was,
nature and decency had taught me the impropriety of such behaviour.’

'Perhaps,' said he, 'you carried your ideas of propriety too far; but
doubtless you erred on the right side. But now, Matilda, I am going to
disclose a secret, known only to Agatha, and which occasioned the
conversation you misunderstood and misrepresented--I am not your
uncle.' 'Good God! cried Matilda, 'who, or what am I then?' 'That,'
replied he, 'is a question I cannot resolve, I wish for your ease I
could do so; but what I do know, I will repeat. One day I was in the
garden, when Agatha came running to me with a bundle in her arms,
"Lord, Sir, the strangest thing; I am sure I am as innocent as the
babe itself, where it came from, or to whom it belongs, but Lord, Sir,
here is a child sent you from God." Very much surprised, I uncovered a
cloth, and beheld the most beautiful infant I ever saw. I asked her
how she came by it: this was her account: she heard a knocking at the
door, and going to open it, saw a man at a distance, running very fast
and a bundle at the gate; the man was soon out of sight; she took up
the parcel, and found the child, wrapped in a dimity petticoat, and
two or three cambrick handkerchiefs, but no cloaths, and apparently
just born; a bit of paper was pinned to the petticoat, on which was
wrote, with a pencil, "Look on this child as committed to your care by
the hand of Providence; be careful of it, and you will not repent it."
I was very much struck,' continued Mr Weimar, 'by such an
extraordinary circumstance, but resolved to do my duty: a nurse was
provided in the house; I had it baptized and named it Matilda. I said
it was my niece; having then no other servant but Agatha, and she
being faithful to my wishes, as my niece the beloved adopted child was
brought up, and had masters of every kind to instruct her. Years
rolled away, no enquiry was ever made, and I began to see a thousand
graces in this young creature, which insensibly warmed my heart, and
taught it what it was to love, a lesson I had never learnt ‘till then.
When I returned from France my protégée was improved in beauty and
state: she knew little of men and she was less known by them; I
determined to acquaint her with the secret I have related, and to
offer her my hand. I deliberated some time in what manner to disclose
it, and was consulting with Agatha how to make the discovery when you
overheard the conversation, mistook the purport of it, and in
consequence of that mistake gave me inexpressible misery.'

Here Mr Weimar stopped. Matilda, who sat almost breathless and
stupified, fetched a deep sigh, 'Then I am an outcast, a forsaken
orphan, without friends or protectors! Gracious heaven! the offspring
of guilt perhaps, for who but guilty wretches would give up their
child to strangers?' A friendly burst of tears relieved her beating
heart.

'Take comfort, my dearest Matilda, permit me to offer you my hand, my
heart, I will be your protector through life; I consent that you shall
consult the Marquis and Marchioness; you shall make your own terms for
Albert, whom I shall value for his fidelity to you. If I have
mentioned you in Paris as my niece, it was to avoid disagreeable
questions, and keep your secret. The marriage may be private or
public, as you like, no one will dare interfere with my wife. Think of
every thing; I will return to-morrow for your determination.' He
arose, he kissed her hand, and left her motionless in the chair.

The moment he quitted the room the Marchioness entered, and, embracing
the warm statue, as she called her. 'I have heard all, my dear
Matilda, and am equally astonished with yourself: his tale is
plausible, perhaps true. Whoever were your parents, I should suppose
them dead, from their not making enquiries during so many years after
their child. Some praise is doubtless due to Mr Weimar, for his care
of you; his first motives were certainly benevolent ones; whether he
latterly intended you honourable, or not, cannot be known; he offers
to marry you now, in the face of your friends; 'tis possible you might
mistake the tenor of the conversation you overheard--at any rate he
seems now ready to act with honour. All this I say for Mr Weimar,
justice demands I should be impartial; now, on the other hand, if your
heart is repugnant to his offers; if you cannot be reconciled in your
own mind to the account he has given you; if the gratitude due to his
care of you in early life is effaced from your heart by his subsequent
conduct, and you cannot overcome the disgust it inspired, never think
of accepting his hand, to render both wretched. I have adopted you, I
love you as a child, and will protect you; in me you shall find the
mother you have lost: fear not therefore, my dearest Matilda, to
decide as your heart and judgement shall direct; do nothing hastily,
take this day and night to reflect and determine with your whole heart
to-morrow. I shall, with your permission, inform the Marquis of this
extraordinary story, and I am sure his affection for you will coincide
with mine.'

Whilst the Marchioness was speaking Matilda had time to recover
herself from the astonishment she had been thrown into, and still more
from the humiliating idea, that she was indeed a friendless orphan,
and owed unbounded obligations to a man she had for some time past
looked on with detestation.

When the Marchioness was silent the unhappy girl took her hand, and
kissing it, with a flood of tears, 'My dear, my generous benefactress,
do you and the Marquis decide for me, I am incapable of judging for
myself; I feel what I owe to Mr Weimar's humanity--I honour him for
his benevolence and charity to a poor deserted infant; he is a good
master, and beloved, as I have heard, by his tenants; I may have
erred, I may have condemned him wrongfully, yet my heart, my judgement
is not on his side. Condescend, dear madam, to direct me; I will take
this day and night to reflect on every thing I have heard; have the
goodness to inform me in the morning of your own and the Marquis's
opinion, and I hope I shall act so as not to forfeit the friendship
you have honoured me with.' The Marchioness embraced her with
expressions of tenderness, and repaired to the Marquis, to whom she
repeated the preceding conversation

He was very much surprised and puzzled. 'We cannot controvert any of
the circumstances he has related, and his behaviour to her, from the
moment she was thrown on his protection, deserves the greatest praise;
one would scarcely believe a mind capable of such good actions could
entertain designs so contrary to honour and the tenor of his former
conduct; his offers now certainly prove his affection, but I own I
should be sorry to see such a lovely young creature compelled to be
sacrificed to a man older perhaps than her father: If there is a
mystery in her birth, time yet may bring it to light; however she must
determine for herself, but let it be free from the idea of necessity,
for on our protection she may rely.'

The Count De Bouville, anxious for Matilda's health, and the result of
the expected conference, made the Marchioness an early visit; as he
had been informed of the preceding circumstances, they made no scruple
to relate every particular that had taken place that morning. The
Count was very much shocked; he scarcely knew the nature of the
sentiments he entertained for Matilda; 'tis true, he admired and
esteemed her, from the little observations he had found an opportunity
of making on her character, but he possessed too much good sense to be
violently attached on so slender an acquaintance; yet he could still
less bear the idea, that she should marry Mr Weimar. A man of quality
in France to marry an obscure young woman without even knowing the
authors of her being, would, he knew, incur everlasting contempt; yet,
were the Germans less proud? but then Mr Weimar was an elderly man,
accountable to no one, lived in the country, detached from the world,
and could do as he pleased. In short, he saw insuperable difficulties
attending an attachment to Matilda from himself, and the certainty of
it gave him more pain than in prudence he ought to have indulged. He
had forgot himself, his long reverie surprised his friends, the
Marquis interrupted it by asking his sentiments on the story he had
heard? He said it was impossible for him to form an opinion; the
account, with respect to her birth, was uncommon, yet nevertheless it
might be true, such things had happened, and were not impossible; but
if Mr Weimar was just in every particular, although he had a claim
upon her gratitude, he could not see he had any to her person,
contrary to her inclinations. The Marquis said, 'Your sentiments
exactly coincide with mine, therefore the young lady must determine
for herself; for my own part I have little doubt but her birth is
noble; her person, her figure, the extraordinary natural understanding
she possesses confirms my opinion that so many graces seldom belong to
a mean birth or dishonest connexions.' 'There may be some truth in
your observation,' said the Marchioness, 'but we have seen and heard
of many instances where a noble soul has been inclosed within a vulgar
body, and honour, fidelity, integrity, and attachment are seen in a
thousand examples among people of the lowest class, though I grant not
in common to be met with; but then every one has not had the
cultivation nor accomplishments of Matilda.' 'Ah!' cried the Count,
'your remarks are undoubtedly very just; but there are so many natural
graces in this lady, that I think with the Marquis, they never could
spring from a mean or improper connexion.' 'I think so too,' replied
she, 'but be that as it may, she shall always command our friendship
and protection.'

She had scarcely said this before a servant entered with a letter, she
looked with surprise at the post-mark, and withdrew to the window, she
had no sooner opened it and perused two or three lines, than she
exclaimed, 'Gracious Heaven! in England, O, my Lord, the Countess is
safe in England?' The Count De Bouville instantly took leave, nor did
they attempt to detain him, but engaged his return in the evening,
with his mother and sister, if they were disengaged. He had no sooner
left the room, than she eagerly read the contents of her letter as
follows:

My dearest sister will, I know, rejoice when I tell her I have escaped
from the worst of evils, perhaps from death, and am safe in the
protection of a charming English Lady, Mrs Courtney, at her villa
about three miles from London. The uncertainty whether you have left
France, or on your journey to England, prevents me from being more
explicit; if you have not left France, write under cover to Mrs
Courtney, Harley-street, Cavendish-square. If this letter is sent
after you, hasten to me, dearest sister,--O, what happiness I promise
myself in embracing my dearest friends. I hope Miss Weimar is with
you; the uncertainty has given me great concern. Do not delay an hour
to satisfy your affectionate sister and friend.

VICTORIA

'Good God! I thank thee,' cried the Marchioness, 'this is blessed news
indeed.' 'I rejoice with you, my dearest love,' said the Marquis, 'but
pray communicate the news to your lovely protégée.' She hastened to
Matilda; she was reclining on her arms, thrown across the table, and
weeping bitterly. 'My charming girl do not give way to sorrow, heaven,
in its own good time, will send you relief; here is an instance to
prove it,' (giving her the letter.) Poor Matilda raised her drooping
head, and hastily looked it over, clasped her hand with joy, 'O, my
dearest madam, this is happiness indeed--let me not be so selfish to
mourn on a day of joy like this.' 'Let this, my dear young friend, be
a lesson to yourself, never despair; to misfortunes and contradictions
to our best wishes, we are all liable, and all must expect; none are
exempt from the calamities incident to human nature; to bear those
inevitable evils with patience, to acquire resolution and fortitude
under them, and to look forward with hope, that you may one day be
delivered from them, will blunt the arrows of affliction, and enable
you to support them with resignation.'

'My beloved, my charming monitress,' cried Matilda, 'I will try to
profit by your advice; the Countess and yourself shall be my great
examples--dear lady, how kind to think of the poor Matilda; I wish I
could see her, but alas!--' 'No sighs,' said the Marchioness, 'you
must and shall be cheerful this day; hope, my dear girl, and all may
be well yet.'

They descended to the parlour, and in the afternoon had the pleasure
of hearing Joseph was just arrived with the servant. 'Let him come
in,' they all cried, as with one breath. He entered; poor fellow, he
fell on his knees and wept, it was difficult to say whether with joy
or sorrow--he felt both; the sight of Miss Weimar remembered him of
Bertha's dreadful fate, though he rejoiced to see her safe. The
Marchioness and Matilda ran to raise him. 'Welcome, my good Joseph,'
said the former, 'you are come on a happy day.' 'My dear friend,' said
the latter, pressing his hand, 'do not give way to grief; we have all
our sorrows, but we have our pleasures too, and I have news for you,
Joseph. Our good lady is alive, and safe from the power of her
enemies.' 'Heaven be thanked,' said the old man, wiping his eyes,
'this is blessed news indeed; and to see you safe too, my dear young
madam, makes me happy, though I can't forget poor Bertha: alas, your
ladyship, she was a good and faithful wife; she knew nothing about my
lady--poor soul, she kept no secrets from me.' He seemed to feel a
reproach for his secrecy.

‘My honest friend,' said the Marquis, 'your kindness and fidelity to
our dear sister deserves reward; in this house you may rest free from
care the remainder of your days, and I will settle two hundred livres
on you yearly besides.'

Joseph again dropped on his knees, 'God bless your honour! God bless the
dear ladies!' And he hurried out of the room, tears of thankfulness
running down his cheeks.

'Good creature!' cried Matilda, wiping her eyes, 'may the rest of your
life be peaceful and happy.'

They now again recurred to the subject of the Countess and her letter.
The Marchioness expressed her wishes to set off with all possible
expedition to England, and within ten days it was fixed they should
depart. Matilda heard this determination with a sigh, which did not
pass unobserved, though they forbore to notice it; they concluded
however she should be left to herself until the next morning, that
their opinions might not appear to influence her. For herself, the
idea of her obscure birth was a severe mortification; she considered
her friends De Bouville and De Bancre as so much her superiors that
she could no longer treat them with that easy familiarity she had been
accustomed, though she little thought the former was acquainted with
her whole story.

In the evening came the Countess of Bouville and her family, with
Madame De Nancy and her sister. After the first compliments, 'Bless
me!' cried Mademoiselle De Bancre, 'what in the world, ladies, have
you done to Mademoiselle De Fontelle; I met her this morning, and
pleading an engagement here as a reason for refusing her invitation,
she flew into a violent rage, accused the Marchioness of treating her
with rudeness unpardonable; and for Miss Weimar, she lavished such a
torrent of abuse on her, that had I not known her fixed aversion to
all handsome women, and a small predilection in favour of a certain
person, whose attentions she is fearful of losing, I should have been
at a loss to account for her acrimony.'

'If the lady has any dislike, or fears respecting me,' answered
Matilda, with evident confusion, 'she does me great injustice: 'tis
impossible I should ever injure her, or clash with any views she has
formed.' ‘There is no saying what her views may be,' said the Count,
'but I will venture to assert, there can be no divided opinion
concerning the merits of Miss Weimar and Mademoiselle De Fontelle; and
the jealousy of a mean mind, when conscious of its deficiencies, is
natural enough.' 'Come, come,' said the Marchioness, 'no scandal, my
good friends: we cannot be hurt by malice, any more than we can be
gratified by undue praises at the expence of others.'

The uncommon spirits of the Marquis and Marchioness attracted
observation, as well as the dejection of Matilda, which she attributed
to ill health. The Count and his sister sympathized with her, and the
former was so agitated for the event of the following day, that he did
not dare ask himself why he was so much interested.

Matilda rejoiced when the evening concluded and she could retire to
herself: she was far from well; her anxiety in what manner she should
answer Mr Weimar distracted her mind; she felt the strongest
repugnance to become his wife--she was sure she could not be happy
with him; if she had wronged him, he never could, she thought,
cordially forgive, nor should she ever look up to him with confidence.
She passed  a restless night, and arose ill and unrefreshed. She
entreated her friends to be present; they at first objected, but she
was so extremely unhappy at their refusal, that they at length
consented to come in after his appearance, if she sent for them.

His name was at length announced, and he absolutely started at the
alteration in her countenance. 'The solemnity of your air, my charming
Matilda, gives me great uneasiness; how great will be my transport to
remove every cause of sorrow from your heart, and see cheerfulness
restored to your features. Have you acquainted your friends here with
my communications?' 'I have, Sir,' replied she, endeavouring to
collect some firmness, 'but they decline giving any opinion; have you
any objection to their being present now?' He hesitated; 'I see no
necessity for it--but as you please.' She then rung the bell, and
requested the Marquis and his lady would do them the favour of their
company. They entered, and after mutual compliments, and they were
seated, Matilda addressed herself to Mr Weimar. 'At the time, Sir,
when you permitted me to believe I had the honour of being your niece,
although sensible of your kindness, and conscious of my obligations to
you, for the care of my infancy, I have often taken my heart to task,
and upbraided its want of gratitude; what must I accuse myself of now,
when I am informed that to your charity alone I am indebted for the
advantages I possess. O, Sir, never, never can I return what I owe
you--least of all, by becoming your wife; 'tis an honour I do not
deserve--' 'Pardon me for interrupting you, my dear Matilda: I
disclaim the name of obligation; you owe me no gratitude but for my
affection; consider how many years you have been the delight, the
darling of my heart, and now, when my love is stronger than ever, am I
to be thrown off at once; have you no feeling for the wretchedness you
doom me to for the remainder of my life?' 'Oh! Sir, what can I say,'
answered Matilda; 'impressions once strongly conceived are difficult
to eradicate; the conversation I overheard is ever present to my mind,
and could I forget that, then my reverence for my uncle would return,
and I should shudder at the idea of a nearer connexion. When I think
of it, and indeed, Sir, I have endeavoured to think of it, an
unaccountable repugnance makes the idea horrible to me; yet after all,
if you persist in wishing me to become your wife, I do not think
myself at liberty absolutely to refuse, but I tell you candidly, I
never can love you, that though I will obey you, and do my duty, I
know I shall be miserable, and in that persuasion surely 'tis
impossible I can make you happy.' 'I am sensible,' said he, 'that my
age is against me, I cannot expect to be loved like a young fellow,
but my unremitting attentions to please will make me deserving your
esteem.' 'Well, Sir,' said Matilda, hastily, 'it is fit you should
prefer your own happiness to mine, I have no right to refuse, nor any
way of discharging the obligations I owe you for the care of my early
life, but by the sacrifice of the maturer part of it.'

Unable any longer to struggle with the grief and horror that oppressed
her, she burst into tears. Her friends felt for her, but were as yet
silent. Mr Weimar took her hand and kissed it, 'Cruel Matilda, is this
the return for all my tenderness; but I do not prefer my own happiness
to yours; consider, pardon me if I say, consider your situation; with
all the charms you possess, such is the cruel prejudice against those
who have neither friends nor family to protect and provide for them,
that in France you could not hope or expect any proper establishment.'
'Hold, Sir,' said she, with indignation, 'do not insult me; I know
what I am, and since I am unworthy of an establishment in France, I
never will have one in Germany. No, Sir, you have now convinced me, if
I cannot honour you I ought not to degrade you. I will retire to a
convent: I will become a lay sister, 'tis perhaps the line Providence
intended for me; be that as it may, you have convinced me I ought not,
nor I solemnly declare I never will be your wife.' She spoke with a
force and spirit as surprised them all. 'Do not be rash, Matilda; I
offer you a handsome fortune; you shall no longer be confined in the
country, as my wife, you shall have a house at Berne, at Lausanne, or
where you please; every pleasure shall attend you; the Marquis himself
shall secure your future fortune: do not be offended for trifles, and
what never was intended as an insult; trust to my love to create an
interest in your heart.' 'No, Sir,' answered she, 'the die is cast; a
little while since I thought, if you desired it, I ought to be yours;
but if you can stoop to degrade yourself by a connexion with a
friendless deserted orphan, I never will owe the obligation to any
man, nor have the chance of being upbraided, that I belong to nobody.
Pardon me, my good friends, the trouble I have given you, a few days
hence I will hide myself for ever.' She arose to leave the room.
'Stop, madam,' said Mr Weimar; 'since nothing can prevail on you to
accept my hand, at least permit me to tell you, you have no right to
dispose of yourself without my permission; you were committed to my
care, doubtless by your parents; you may one day be reclaimed; I am
answerable for the trust reposed in me, and with me I shall insist
upon your remaining ‘till those to whom you belong appear to claim
you.'

Matilda sunk back in her chair, overwhelmed with horror; he looked
furious with passion; the Marquis and his lady were perplexed and
chagrined, at length the former said, 'Without the smallest intent of
contesting your rights, Sir, I have patiently attended to what has
passed between this young lady and yourself; the Marchioness and I
have been scrupulously exact not to give our opinion, much less advice
on the subject; but now, since she has resolutely made up her mind,
you certainly have too just a sense of what is owing to yourself, to
persist in addressing her; taking that for granted, and that you think
it improper she should become a Nun, I request it as a favour, that
Miss Matilda may be permitted to spend a few months with us; should
any person appear to claim her, I trust it will be no dishonour to
have her found in my protection; and I pledge my honour she shall form
no marriage or engagement under our care, but return to you as she now
is.' 'My Lord,' returned Mr Weimar, 'I must consider of this request,
and she will do well to consider and repent her rash determination; if
she does, I will receive her with open arms. I trust her to your
honour, and shall to-morrow wait on you with my decided opinion.' With
a polite, but general bow, he left the room.

The Marchioness was supporting Matilda's head upon her shoulder.
'Look up, my dear girl, be composed, he is gone.' 'Thank heaven!'
said she, 'but my head is very bad, and with your leave I will lie
down an hour or two.' 'Do so, my dear,' replied her friend; and
calling the servant to attend her, she was conducted to her apartment.

When she left the room the Marchioness said, 'Mr Weimar's conduct
appears very strange, and unbecoming a man of his years; I know not
what to think; had he not injudiciously mentioned her birth she would
certainly have accepted his hand, though I own it would have given me
pain had she done so.'

'For my part,' answered the Marquis, 'I marked him well during the
whole scene; that he is excessively fond of her, I believe, but I am
not perfectly satisfied, although I know not what part to blame of
his conduct; nevertheless she has now taken her resolution, and only
force shall compel me to withdraw my protection from a friendless
orphan, whose situation is really deplorable. If the circumstances he
related of her birth are true, I have no doubt but one time or other a
discovery will take place to her advantage; all I wish at present is,
that she may accompany you to England.' 'Do you not think, said the
Marchioness, 'the Count De Bouville is very fond of her? 'I fear so,'
replied he; 'but you know Mr Weimar's observations with respect to the
obscurity of her birth are founded on truth, I would by no means
encourage a dangerous intimacy between them, which might be productive
of misery to both; 'tis for that reason I should wish her to leave
Paris whilst the liking, which I think mutual, is in its infancy.'
During the conversation of her generous friends the unhappy Matilda
gave herself up to extreme sorrow. If Mr Weimar chose to exert his
right over her, she saw no one to whom she could appeal for redress;
but determined as she now was never to become his wife, she was
sensible she had little chance of becoming the wife of any other man;
to engage her benefactors in disputes and controversies with him was
equally repugnant to her inclinations, and without his consent it
would be in vain to think of accompanying her friends, as he might
pursue her every where. She knew she had many obligations to him, but
she could not return them in the way he was desirous of, which must
make her miserable, and of course give no happiness to him. 'What
then,' cried she, weeping, 'am I to do? there is no alternative but Mr
Weimar or a convent; the latter is my preferable choice, and if he
persists to-morrow in exerting the authority he claims over me, I will
fly to that for protection.'

Having now made up her mind, she dropped asleep, but her slumbers were
broken and disturbed; and in about three hours she returned to her
friends, very little refreshed, but was much gratified by their
peculiar tenderness and attention, and an increased respect in their
manner proved they wished to restore her self consequence, and make
her at ease with herself.

This is true benevolence; 'tis the mode of confering favours that
either obliges or wounds a feeling heart. Many people are generous,
but they forget how painful it is to ask favours, and think it quite
sufficient if they give, let the manner of giving be ever so
ungracious, and their superiority ever so ostentatiously displayed.
Not so the Marquis and his lady--they endeavoured to persuade her,
they were the persons obliged by her acceptance of their little
civilities, and entered into all her concerns with the affection and
anxiety of her nearest relatives.

Matilda's grateful heart overflowed; speech indeed was not lent her,
but her tears, her expressive looks forcibly conveyed the language she
could not utter.

In the meantime Mademoiselle De Fontelle was not idle; scarce a person
the Marchioness was acquainted with, but knew she had taken a girl
under her protection, who had robbed and run away from her uncle, with
a young handsome footman; and during two days’ circulation of the story
Miss Weimar was detected by her uncle in several low intrigues, which
he kindly forgave, ’till quite abandoned and incorrigible, she had
taken away all his gold and jewels, and came to Paris with this
fellow, whom the Marchioness herself had taken into the house.

'Ciel,' cries one, shrugging her shoulders, 'a pretty story indeed;
this is the discreet, the admirable Marchioness De Melfort, held up as
a pattern to all the women in Paris.' 'Yes, I thought she was a
wonder,' said another; 'abundance of art, to be sure she has; for I'll
answer for it, this intrigue with a footman is not the first by many;
but, poor woman, her charms are in their wane now, so the man is a
substitute for the master.' 'What,' cries a third, 'has the
Marchioness herself an intrigue?’ ‘Lord, didn't you hear that? why this
girl is only a cover to her own amusements.' 'Well,' said a fourth, 'I
saw both the other night at Madame De Bouville's, and I am sure they
are both ugly enough, notwithstanding the men made such a fuss about
them.'

'Twas thus the scandal of Mademoiselle's fabricating was increased and
magnified among their generous and charitable acquaintance: like Sir
Peter Teale's wound, it was in all parts of his body, and by a variety
of murderous weapons, when the poor man was unconscious of having
received any himself, and could scarce obtain credit when he appeared
in perfect health: so unwilling is the good-natured world to give up a
story that is to the disadvantage of others. It was in vain the
Countess De Bouville, her son and daughter, Madame De Nancy and her
sister, attempted to stop the scandalous tales; like lightning it flew
from house to house, and every one who had no character to lose, and
others of suspected reputation only rejoiced to level an amiable
respectable woman with themselves.

The Count De Bouville was distracted; he flew from a set of envious
wretches to the Marquis De Melfort's; when he entered the room he met
the eyes of the lovely dejected Matilda, with such an expression of
grief and softness in them, that it pierced his heart: she blushed,
and withdrew them, with a sigh she could not suppress. The Marquis had
left the room, the Marchioness was holding her young friend's hand
with an affectionate tender air.

After the usual compliments he enquired particularly after Matilda's
health; she could not trust her voice just then to speak, the
Marchioness answered, 'She is better, only a dejection on her spirits,
which you must assist in removing: I was trying to persuade her to
accompany me in a carriage to pay a few visits.' The Count, alarmed at
the intention, replied, 'Paying visits might possibly be too
fatiguing, but an airing would surely be of service.' 'Well then,'
said the Marchioness, forgetful of her Lord's caution, 'you shall
accompany us.' The carriage, which was in waiting, drawing up, he
gladly escorted the two ladies to it, and took his seat very quietly
opposite to Matilda, who had hitherto observed a profound silence. He
contrived however to draw her into a little conversation, and was
charmed with her good sense and sweetness of manners. The languor that
pervaded her fine features, powerfully engaged the heart, and the
Count could not help thinking how happy that man must be who was
destined to possess so great a treasure! This reflection caused a
sudden alteration in his countenance; he grew thoughtful and uneasy,
when he was disturbed in his reverie by an exclamation from the
Marchioness, 'Good heavens! what insolence.' 'What's the matter,
madam?' 'Bless me, didn't you observe the two carriages that passed, in
one was Madame Remini and her two daughters, in the other Madame Le
Brun, her niece, and two others of my acquaintance. As the carriage
passed, I bowed and kissed my hand; they one and all returned a slight
bow, and laughed in each other's faces: upon my word I never saw such
rudeness.' The Count who could too well account for this behaviour,
was however very much vexed. 'Dear madam,' said he, 'such impertinent
women are scarce worth your notice, and only deserving contempt.'
'That's true, Count,' replied she, 'and henceforth I shall treat them
as they deserve.'

As neither of the parties were in high spirits, their airing was not a
long one, and they returned to the house as the Marquis entered it.

After they were seated the Marchioness was expressing her wishes to be
in England. 'Does Miss Weimar accompany you?' asked the Count. 'I hope
so,' replied the Marchioness. The Marquis giving the Count a glance,
they retired to the library, where the conversation of the morning,
between Mr Weimar and Matilda, was repeated. The Count felt
indignation, pity, and resentment; he was delighted with Matilda's
spirit, yet most sincerely felt for her unhappy situation. 'Good God,
my dear Marquis, what is to be done for this amiable girl?' 'I hope,'
he replied, 'we shall prevail on him to leave her with us,--to-morrow
will determine; but take it how he will, I have this day made several
persons acquainted with his being the guardian of Matilda, and his
offers of marriage in my presence: the circumstance of a young lady's
flying from her guardian is nothing extraordinary, and will, I hope,
do away the scandal that has been propagated at her expence.' 'You are
very good,' returned the Count, 'and I am sure she merits the esteem
of all the world.' He took his leave under such a contrariety of
sentiments, and so much real concern for the unfortunate Matilda, that
when he returned to his sister she was quite alarmed, and asked a
thousand questions relative to her friend. When he had explained every
thing, the gentle Adelaide felt equal concern, and lamented that her
troubles were of a kind that placed it out of the power of their
friendship to afford her any consolation or relief.

Whilst they were expressing mutual regret, Mademoiselle De Fontelle was
announced; she was received with a coldness that would have mortified
any other person, but putting on a gay air, 'Ah! Count, so soon
returned from your party; I did not expect to find you here.'
'Perhaps, madam, had I known your intended visit, I might have been
elsewhere.' 'Very polite, upon my word,' said she, colouring deeply;
'your brother, my dear Bouville, has acquired the English roughness of
manners, by his tour to that country.' 'I hope, madam,' replied he,
significantly, 'I have acquired the sincerity of that nation, at
least, to speak as I think; and as a proof of it, were you not my
sister's guest, I should be free enough to say, I so much detest the
fabricators of scandal, that I heartily rejoice when they are
mortified by being obliged to hear the object of their envy is as much
superior to them in every amiable quality of the mind, as she is in
the beauty of her person, and that it will be her own fault only if
she is not established in a more brilliant situation than her enemies
can boast of.'

With these words he left the room, with a look of scorn she could not
support, but burst into tears. 'Your brother has cruelly insulted me,'
said she. 'I am sorry for it, and for the occasion,' answered
Mademoiselle De Bouville; 'but indeed you have been too unguarded in
your reports to the disadvantage of Miss Weimar.' 'Name her not,'
cried she, 'I hate her.' 'That may be,' returned the other,
'nevertheless I hold it my duty to do her justice.' She then briefly
mentioned Mr Weimar was only her guardian, and that he was come after
her to solicit her hand, the only thing for which she left him. His
offers before the Marquis and his lady, and the very great justice he
did her character. The malicious girl was ready to burst with spleen,
but carried it off with an air. 'Upon my word,' said she, 'Mr Weimar
was himself the person who first mentioned the affair to her
disadvantage; and I suppose there is some point to carry, or some
mystery in an affair where there are such contradictions, which I do
not comprehend, and which, I dare say, will deceive nobody, though I
would venture to swear, hardly any person will concern themselves
about the Marchioness's little protégée, or whether the German is
uncle or not to one whom nobody knows.' She arose, and desiring her
respects to her very polite brother, flounced out of the room.

Neither her resentment nor absence was a subject of regret to
Adelaide, who only visited her in compliance with the fashion of the
times, which is to go every where with the rest of the world, and
assist in forming a crowd, without knowing or caring for three fourths
of the company.

Meantime the remainder of the day was spent at the Marquis's in the
most affectionate endeavours to console Matilda, and the warmest
assurances of love and attention to her interests. They all anxiously
expected the return of Mr Weimar next morning, as the crisis on which
her future destiny appeared to depend.

At the appointed hour Mr Weimar sent in his name; her friends had
persuaded Matilda to receive him alone, and send for them when she
thought it necessary. She had tried all the morning to reconcile
herself to his displeasure, but she was resolved to persevere in the
resolution she had formed of retiring to a convent, if he made it
necessary.

He entered the room with an air of kindness and complacency took her
hand and kissed it. 'Let me flatter myself, dearest Matilda,' said he,
'that you are in better health and disposition than when I left you
yesterday. I have passed many uneasy hours lately, indeed I may say
truly, from the day you was committed to my care, every hour of my
life has been spent in anxiety on your account.' 'Do not, Sir,' said
she, 'for heaven's sake, do not crush me with the weight of
obligations I owe you: a poor forlorn being, without family or
friends, as you have justly told me, is entitled to no one's
consideration; I am therefore beyond all possibility of return at
present; indebted to you for every thing, for the life I enjoy, hard
is the task upon me to refuse any thing you request, but as this
meeting is to decide once for all, pardon me if I say I cannot marry
you, but this deference I owe to your fatherly care of me, I solemnly
declare, that unless the authors of my being claim my first reverence,
I never will encourage any man without your permission; this, Sir, is
all I can, or ever will promise in your favour.' 'Ungrateful girl!'
cried he, raising his voice, 'and is this all, this all you owe to a
man who preserved your life, and bestowed his time and fortune to make
you what you are?' 'Oh! that I had died,' cried Matilda, in an agony,
'rather than to live and be thus upbraided for favours I never can
return; but my mind tells me you will one day be repaid for all;--yes,
I have a pre-sentiment I am no base-born unworthy offspring; one day,
Sir, I may yet have the power to prove my sense of the obligations you
reproach me with, and it will be the happiest moment of my life.' She
had spoken with such vehemence as precluded interruption; he was
surprised; 'You are warm, Matilda,' said he, very calmly. 'I cannot
help it, Sir, you have made me desperate; I will seek peace and
quietness in a convent. You will not permit me to accompany the
Marchioness,' said she, softening, and tears running down her cheeks,
'and I think I owe you that respect not to go without your leave;
therefore I have no other asylum but a convent to hope for.' 'Have I
not a house, Matilda?' 'Yes, Sir; I might have resided in my uncle's
house, but I cannot, with propriety, in yours, when I have no such
claim to boast of.' She arose and rang the bell; 'Desire the Marquis
and his lady to favour me with their company.' When the servant
retired, 'You are then determined, madam?' 'I am, Sir.' 'Then so am I,
and you may take the consequence.'

Her friends now entered; after they were seated Matilda spoke, 'I took
the liberty to request your presence, that you might be witness to my
declaration for the last time, That I never will be the wife of Mr
Weimar, nor without his consent, unless commanded by my parents,
(alas! how unlikely at present that hope) never to marry any other
man. It would be the joy of my heart to have been permitted to accept
the honour of the protection you have offered me, but as I fear that
cannot be, I will retire into a convent, 'tis the only place of refuge
for a poor unfortunate, friendless being, without family, friends, or
even a name.' She wept aloud, pronouncing those last words. The
Marchioness sympathized with her, and addressing Mr Weimar, 'Come,
Sir,' said she, 'let me prevail on you to accede to our request, we
ask it as a favour; permit Miss Matilda to be in our care for six
months; I engage my honour she shall return by that time free from
every engagement.' He made no answer.

'Shall I entreat the favour of a few words in private, Sir,' said the
Marquis. They arose and left the room. Within a short time they
returned. Mr Weimar, advancing to Matilda, 'I have consented to oblige
you, too ungrateful girl; I permit you to remain with the Marchioness,
but conditionally, that you write me constantly every occurrence, nor
presume to enter into any engagement without my acquiescence.' 'To
these conditions,' cried she, her eyes sparkling with joy, 'I most
cheerfully subscribe.' He looked full of resentment at her, but taking
a polite leave, declined an invitation to stay to dinner, and hastily
withdrew. The moment he left the room Matilda arose, and throwing her
arms round the Marchioness, her grateful heart overflowing into tears,
'Oh! my dearest, my generous protectress, how shall I ever return your
goodness?' 'By loving me, my precious girl, as affectionately as I do
you,' answered she, embracing her. Observing the Marquis seeming
musing, 'May I ask, my Lord, what occupies your thoughts?' 'Yes,'
replied he; 'it is fit you should know; to be plain then, I don't like
Mr Weimar; I suspect he means to deceive us.' 'Good God,' cried
Matilda, alarmed, 'how is that possible?' 'Be it as it may,' answered
the Marquis, 'we will guard against any sinister design; let our young
friend retire this night to some place of safety.' 'You do not surely
apprehend he will apply for a lettre de cachet?' said the Marchioness.
'I should not be surprised at it,' returned he. 'Then,' said she, 'we
will set off instantly on our journey; Louison and Antoine can attend
us; Marianne shall take care of all our baggage here, and follow us,
with Pierre, in a day or two, or come with you.' ‘’Tis a hasty, and
rather an inconvenient scheme,' said he, 'but I have no other to offer
at present.' 'O, what trouble I occasion to my friends,' cried
Matilda. 'Go to your apartment, set about packing, my dear girl; we
must take a few necessaries with us, and set off immediately after
dinner.' She obeyed. The Marquis set about the arrangements for their
journey, and promised to follow in four or five days.

Poor Joseph and Albert deplored their fate, in being too old to
accompany the ladies, and were the only domestics left in the house,
who knew to what place they were going.

Every thing being settled in a few hours, it was given out in the
family, they were going into the country for a short time; even
Marianne and Pierre knew no more for the present; and the ladies,
attended by Louison and Antoine, set off, with all expedition:
fortunately, Antoine had been in England once before, with a former
master; he was therefore acquainted with the roads and accommodations,
and consequently extremely useful.

The Marquis found the following day he had been right in his
conjectures. Two men came to his hotel, armed with authority, to
demand a lady commonly known by the name of Matilda Weimar, with a
description of her person, then under the protection of the Marquis De
Melfort. The Marquis was not at home; the men were informed the young
lady was gone, with their mistress, into the country. They searched
the house, and being disappointed, waited ‘till the Marquis returned;
he gave them the same information, and drew up a paper, signifying,
that having taken the young lady under his protection, by the consent
of Mr Weimar, who called himself her guardian, she had accompanied the
Marchioness on a visit to some friends; that he pledged his honour for
her safety, also to answer any charges that could be brought against
her. With this declaration the men departed and returned no more; but
a person was observed to watch the house for some days after.

The Marquis made no secret to the Bouville family of the past
transactions, and though they felt great regret for the loss of their
friends, they acknowledged the event had justified their prudence in
the steps they had taken.

The Count felt more than he dared express, yet tried to subdue his
feelings, from a consciousness of their impropriety to be indulged.
His sister was to be married the following week to Monsieur De
Clermont, and her establishment engrossed much of his time and
attention.

The Marquis very soon arranged all his affairs, and within five days
after the ladies left Paris, he followed them.

The Marchioness and her friend pursued their route, arrived at Calais,
and crossed over to Dover, without meeting a single accident; here
they determined to rest, and wait for the Marquis. They were
exceedingly fatigued with the expedition they had used, and were glad
to sit down comfortably.

The Marchioness understood the English language perfectly well, and
spoke enough to make herself comprehended in common matters; Antoine
did the same, but as to Matilda and Louison, they knew not a single
word ‘till the Marchioness taught them to name a few necessary
articles, and write down common words.

Much sooner than they expected, they had the pleasure of embracing the
Marquis, and then learned the danger Matilda had escaped, and the
duplicity of Mr Weimar. She shuddered to think how near she had been
to misery, and her affection and gratitude to the worthy pair, who
protected her, was proportionably increased.

The following morning they left Dover, and by easy journies arrived at
the Royal Hotel in Jermyn-street. A card was instantly sent off to
Harley-street. The messenger returned, with a line only, from the
Countess, that they should follow the bearer with all speed and within
ten minutes after the coach drew up. The Marquis hastened down to
receive and conduct the ladies. The Countess was almost breathless
with joy; she flew up stairs, and in a moment was in her sister's
arms. Their mutual joy, their tears of affection and transport excited
sympathy in every one. The Countess, recovering, led her sister to Mrs
Courtney, 'The two dearest friends I have on earth,' said she, 'love
each other for my sake now, you have congenial hearts.' She then
warmly embraced Matilda. 'This is the first day of my life,' cried
she, putting her hand to her heart; 'I have all that I love in the
world about me, at least, all that I know,' added she, with a
suppressed sigh.

Matilda, whose grateful heart expanded with delight, to see all her
friends happy, expressed her feelings with such a warmth of
satisfaction as engaged all their affections. She was introduced also
to Mrs Courtney: and when the first tumults of joy were over, the
Countess, taking that lady's hand, said, 'Behold, my dear sister and
brother, the preserver of Victoria's life; to her goodness I am
indebted for all the happiness I now enjoy, a vast debt of gratitude,
never to be repaid.' 'You neither do me nor yourself justice,'
answered Mrs Courtney; 'if you do not think I am a thousand times
overpaid for any little services, I have been so happy to render you,
by the pleasure of your company, and the honour you have procured me,
of knowing your respectable friends.' They all gratefully bowed to
this compliment, and then began to talk of their future residence. The
Marquis wished to have a ready furnished house, in the neighbourhood
of Mrs Courtney. She contended for the pleasure of accommodating them
in hers; but this, for several reasons, they declined; and after a
long and friendly contest it was decided, a house should be procured
for them in her neighbourhood, but that they should spend every other
week at Mrs Courtney's villa, and until a habitation was fixed on they
would remain at the hotel, where they all supped together that
evening.

'I know,' said the Countess, 'you must all be very anxious to
understand by what means I obtained my present happy situation, and I
am equally curious to know how my dear Miss Weimar conducted herself
from the time we last met; but we will suspend curiosity for the
present, nor cloud our happy meeting with a recital of painful
events.' 'You are right, my dear Countess,' said Mrs Courtney; 'we are
now all happily met, and 'tis of little consequence by what means it
came about at present.'

They passed a most delightful evening, and parted with reluctance,
after engaging to spend the following day in Harley-street, and Mrs
Courtney promising to search the neighbourhood for a house to
accommodate them.

'What a charming woman is Mrs Courtney,' said the Marchioness. 'Ah!'
cried Matilda. 'I wish I understood English. I should like to speak to
that lady in her own language.' 'You shall learn it, my love, when we
are settled; but as the lady speaks French remarkably well, you have
no cause for regret.'

They retired to rest, and the following morning had some trades people
with them, who are always on the watch to attend foreigners at the
hotels. They purchased a few trifles, but chose to have Mrs Courtney's
judgement before they bought any thing of consequence.

The Marquis, who had letters of credit on the house of Sir Thomas
Herries, attended by the master of the hotel, went out to get cash,
whilst the ladies attended to the business of the toilet, as they had
engaged to be with their friends at a very early hour.

Soon after his return they drove to Harley-street, and were received
with that affectionate cordiality, a thousand times more desirable
than distant civility and respect: they met like old friends, with
congenial minds, to enjoy the pleasures of society. Mrs Courtney told
them, she hoped she had already succeeded in her endeavours to procure
a residence for them; 'and, fortunately,' said she, 'only three doors
from hence; if you are inclined, we can now look at it.' The proposal
was accepted. The house and furniture, which had been all new within
the twelvemonth, and belonged to Lord G--, who found it convenient to
go abroad for his health; was now to be let for a year certain, at
400£. per annum. They were extremely well pleased with the house, and
readily agreed to the terms. Within two or three days it would be
ready for their reception.

This being settled, they returned in high spirits, and spent a most
delightful day in a quiet family party.

The next day was appropriated to shopping and excursions round the
town; and indeed, except sleeping hours, they passed their time solely
together; Mrs Courtney having shut her doors to all company ‘till they
were settled in their new abode for the same reason the Marquis
deferred sending all his letters of recommendation or waiting on the
French Ambassador.

The fourth day after their arrival in England they took possession of
their house; and having been fortunate enough to obtain a respectable
woman, who was perfectly conversant in the French language, as
housekeeper, they agreed to spend the following week in the country,
previous to their being publicly announced in town.

Nothing particular occured until their arrival at Bellvue, Mrs
Courtney's little paradise: they were quite delighted with its
situation, and charmed with its polite and friendly owner. The second
morning after their residence here, the Countess entered the
Marchioness's dressing-room, Matilda was with her; 'Mrs Courtney has
just got two or three neighbours with her; my presence not being
necessary, I have seized the opportunity, to make our respective
communications: I am sensible you must be very curious, but I wish to
hear my dear Miss Weimar's story taken up from the visit she promised
me, and I suppose intended paying me.' Matilda very readily gave an
account of every event at the castle. The Countess shuddered, and
heaved a sigh to the fate of poor Margarite, but did not interrupt
‘till she came to the letter received from Joseph, of the fire in the
castle, Bertha's miserable fate and his escape. 'Good heavens!' cried
she, 'of what atrocious wickedness is that man capable! Poor wretch,
what a long account has he one day to make--God grant him repentance!'
Matilda proceeded, and related every circumstance until their safe
arrival in London. The Countess embraced the lovely girl, who had
betrayed a sense of mortification in recounting the particulars of her
birth. 'I thank, my beloved sister,' said she, 'for the attention she
paid to my request, and I am persuaded your charming society has amply
recompensed her for the favour she did me.' 'You judge right, my dear
Victoria; I am indeed the obliged person: but come, pray begin your
narration, and take it up from the time you married that brute whose
name you bear--' 'But which I do not assume here,' answered the
Countess; 'I pass for a Madame Le Roche, and as we neither go to court
nor attend any public galas, I have never been particularly
introduced, and am known among my dear Mrs Courtney's friends, as a
widow of some fashion, but small fortune, on a visit to her, and not
very desirous of much company; therefore you must get your lesson by
heart against we return to town. Now, as to your request, you may
possibly think I am too observant of my word towards an inhuman
monster, when I declare that the sacred vows he drew from me still
bind me to secrecy, as to what occasioned my being shut up in the
castle, and permitting the general belief of my death.' 'Good God!
sister,' cried the Marchioness, 'vows forced upon you, under such
circumstances, have no power to bind; and you have sufficiently proved
your truth and honour, by preserving them so many years from your
dearest friends;--I am sure our confessor will absolve you.' 'May be
so,' replied Madame Le Roche, 'and on our return to town I will
consult him, ‘till when I shall take up my story from the day Matilda
left me. Charmed that I was likely to procure an asylum for her, as I
doubted not of your acceding to my request, I retired to bed at an
early hour, but could not sleep; about midnight I thought I heard an
uncommon noise at the outward doors; I listened, and, convinced it was
not fancy, I called on Margarite; the noise had alarmed her, she ran
to me in the same instant that we heard the door in the kitchen burst
open, and the Count appeared with an ill-looking fellow. I was out of
bed, and had thrown on a wrapping gown about me; I trembled from head
to foot; he came up to me furiously; "Wretch," cried he, "you have
broken your oath with me, and therefore mine is no longer binding--
prepare to die." Despair had given me courage--I was no longer the
poor weak creature he had entangled some years before; my spirits
returned, "Strike, barbarian, and complete your crimes, I fear not
death, it will free me from all the miseries you have heaped upon me;
but I will not suffer under imputed guilt--I have broke no vows, I
have kept the fatal oath you extorted from me in the hour of terror."
"How dare you persist in falsehoods," cried he; "you have had a woman
here--you see and converse with Joseph daily; dare you deny those
charges?" "I do not," answered I, "but still I have preserved my
faith; the woman came here by accident, unawed by the terrors Joseph
and I endeavoured to inspire, but she knew not who I was, nor any
thing relative to my situation, and goes from hence in a few days: as
to Joseph, the poor fellow, when he brings my provisions, enters into
a little chat with Margarite, and sometimes I speak to him, and where
is the mighty crime? You must know your diabolical secret is too well
kept, or I need not be here in your power." He paused a few minutes,
then withdrew to the window, and spoke to the man in a low tone; they
came again towards me, and I expected instant death, but they locked
the doors, and stopping the mouth of poor Margarite, dragged her out
of the room, still locking the door after them. The apprehensions I
was under for that poor creature, overcame the courage I assumed, and
I swooned; how long I was deprived of my senses, I know not, but I
recovered by cold water they threw in my face. "O, what have you done
with my poor nurse?" "She is safe from betraying secrets," replied he:
"come, madam, put on your clothes, and I shall bestow you safely too."
"If you design my death," said I, "let me die here." "Do as I
command," cried he, furiously, "or I shall carry you off as you are."
I threw on my clothes, as well as my terror would permit; meantime he
broke the locks of my cabinet, although he could have had the keys,
took out what valuables belonged to me; and then taking me between
them, they led me through a long subterraneous passage, ‘till we came
out through a thicket to the skirts of the wood; it was but faint star
light; I saw two horses fastened; I was immediately put upon one,
though I made some resistance expecting they intended carrying me into
the thick part of the wood, and murder me there,--and I still think it
was so designed. The man held me fast; we passed a small cottage, but
all was quiet, and soon after entered another part of the wood, when
suddenly the Count's horse fell and threw him over his head; he lay
motionless; the man who held me rode up to him; he did not move. "I
must see what hurt he has," cried he; and jumping off, left me on the
horse; at the same instant I gave him a kick, and the animal set off
full speed through the wood. I must inevitably have been killed, had
it pursued its way through the thickets, but providentially he made
towards the road, and being tired, slackened his pace. Unable any
longer to support the fatigue; my head giddy, and dreadfully galled
with the saddle, I slipped off on a small hillock, on one side, and
lay quite exhausted, expecting every moment to be overtaken and
murdered. I had been there but a few minutes before a carriage
appeared, with two or three horsemen; I uttered a cry; the carriage
stopped --a servant came up, "Who are you--what is the matter?" said he.
I replied, feebly, "An unfortunate woman, escaped from being murdered,
for God sake save me." The man went to the carriage, it drew up, the
door was opened, and I was put in. The sudden joy added to the terror
and fatigue I had gone through overpowered my senses, and I fainted; I
was soon restored by the help of the lady's salts; I was able to look
up, by my side sat the charming Mrs Courtney, supporting me; opposite
was a middle aged gentleman, and a young one about seventeen or
eighteen; I tried to speak, and kissed her hand. "Be composed, dear
lady," said she, "your spirits are already too much exhausted";
(seeing me look with terror then on one side and then another) "you
fear being pursued," she continued; "we shall stop very soon, but as
the day appears the blinds shall be drawn up." This was accordingly
done: 'tis needless to tell you our conversation. My heart expanded
with gratitude to heaven for my deliverance. I was unable to give a
satisfactory account of myself, only so far as related to my escape
from the wood; I mentioned you, my sister, and your intended journey
to England, and the uncertainty how soon you might depart, and
therefore my wishes to join you. Mrs Courtney told me she was
immediately going there, and as I was apprehensive of being known, it
would be much better to accompany her, and write my sister from
England. Before I could reply to this obliging proposal, we stopped at
the posthouse, changed horses, and pursued our journey with rapidity
‘till about noon, when we drew up to a very fine old castle, which I
found belonged to a friend of theirs, and where they proposed passing
the night. I was shocked at my appearance; my clothes thrown on in a
hurry, discomposed by the flight of the horse, and not one article
about me calculated for travelling. My amiable preserver requested I
would make myself easy; "Fortunately," said she, "we are nearly of a
size; I have another habit in my trunk, with which I can accommodate
you, and my woman will soon make your appearance decent, and reconcile
your feelings, which I see are much oppressed." The moment we
alighted, "My friend has been ill," said she, "and is in dishabille,
will you shew her an apartment, that she may alter her dress?" The
lady's woman instantly attended me to an elegant room, whilst Mrs
Courtney's got the trunk opened and procured me necessaries. I was
soon equipped; my charming friend came to conduct me to the company; I
was received with kindness and attention by an elderly gentleman and
lady, the owners of the castle, and passed a comfortable night. The
next day we pursued our journey, though much pressed to stay, and
arrived at Lausanne. I found the gentleman with us was uncle to Mrs
Courtney, and was come over to place his son at Lausanne, to finish
his education; but having formerly resided some years in Switzerland,
he had been paying a few visits to his friends, and was returning from
one of them, when I was so fortunate to obtain their protection. We
stayed a week at Lausanne. I kept very close in my apartment, in a
constant dread of being discovered; I was heartily rejoiced when we
pursued our journey, much more so when we arrived in England. Mrs
Courtney's kindness cannot be described; she treats me like her
dearest sister, and her uncle, who lives not far from us in Cavendish-
square, appears to make no difference between us; he is a nobleman, a
widower, about forty; has an only son, and is one of the most amiable
men I ever knew. Judge how much happiness is now my lot with such
friends, and blessed with the company of my dearest relations.
Sometimes,' continued she, 'I thought it possible the Count might have
been killed by his fall; at other times, that he might be only
senseless; in short, I had a hundred conjectures about him, but 'tis
plain he was not much hurt, since he could return to the castle and
contrive more mischief. Now, in this land of liberty should he ever
appear to persecute me again, I shall make no scruple to open the
whole scenes of wickedness he has been guilty of;--there is one
corroding care that hangs about my heart, but of that hereafter.' She
arose in visible emotion, 'Come let us take a ramble in the garden
after my tedious narrative.' They accompanied her.

'I think, my dear sister,' said the Marquis, ‘’tis a justice you owe
yourself and friends to institute a process against this monster.' 'I
shall think of it,' said she, 'but I have many objections; at present
let us drop the subject.' They acquiesced.

Mrs Courtney joined them in the garden; 'Lord bless me!' said she,
laughing, 'how eager and persevering is curiosity; here I have had
three ladies dying to see the French family with me; asking ten
thousand questions about their dress and their persons, their
fashions, and many other matters equally important. They made a most
tedious visit, and as I discovered the motive, I was at length obliged
to inform them my Parisian friends saw no company until they had been
introduced in town: this effectually did the business,--they rose all
together, made their congeés, and put an end to their tiresome
enquiries.'

A week was spent at Bellvue, in all the delights of love and
friendship, in little excursions round the neighbourhood, and in
viewing the delightful prospects the Surrey hills afforded them.

Persons of good sense, like the present party were never at a loss for
rational amusement when at home, and on their return to the metropolis
they separated with reluctance, though so near to each other.

Two days after their arrival the Marquis received a letter from the
Count De Bouville, informing him of his sister's marriage, and that
three days subsequent to an event which had given them so much joy,
they had been exceedingly alarmed by the sudden illness of their
respectable mother, who continued in a dangerous way, which was the
reason Madame De Clermont had not written to Matilda, whose health
they were extremely anxious to hear of: he further said, he had made
some secret enquiries about Mr Weimar, and learnt, that after
remaining in Paris near a week, he had disappeared, but whether
returned to Germany or not, they could not tell; that great prejudice
was still entertained against Matilda, in consequence of which their
family had declined seeing Madame Le Brun and her envious niece.

The Marquis communicated this letter to his friends, but as Matilda
was ignorant of the scandal circulated at her expence, what related to
Mademoiselle De Fontelle was omitted. She shuddered at the name of Mr
Weimar, and dreaded lest he might have pursued her to England. But
this, (the Marchioness said) was by no means to be apprehended, as it
could answer no purpose.

The Marquis and his lady now prepared for their presentation at court,
and had sent their friend's introductory letters to several persons of
fashion.

On Thursday they were at the drawing-room with the French Ambassador,
and returned highly gratified with the politeness and affability of
the king and queen, and equally charmed with the princesses. The
following day they received abundance of visits from the nobility,
both English and foreign, and very readily coincided with the
sentiments of the Count De Bouville, as to the attention and charms of
the English ladies.

They were now obliged to be in public, and both pay and receive a
number of visits, consequently Matilda spent most of her time with
Madame Le Roche and Mrs Courtney; both ladies were extremely fond of
her; they sometimes accompanied her to the play, and as she studied
the language with care, she hoped in time to have her ears equally
gratified with her eyes.

Lord Delby, Mrs Courtney's uncle, was always of their parties, and his
great partiality and admiration of Madame Le Roche was evident to the
whole family; she was sometimes rallied about it; the subject gave her
pain. 'Compassion is the only claim I can have to his Lordship's
notice,' said she, one day; 'do not, my dear friends, suggest an idea
which would make me very miserable.' 'I see not,’ answered the Marquis,
'why you are to give up every pleasure in life, and compel yourself to
refuse the blessings of love and friendship, through any dread of a
villain who deserves the severest punishments; but I will send another
person talk with you to-morrow, for I really will not permit you to
live in a situation so unworthy of yourself and friends.'

The following day Doctor Demouriez, the Ambassador's Chaplain, called
at Mrs Courtney's, and had above three hours’ conversation with her. He
returned to the Marquis. 'I have heard a tale of horror,' said he;
'and having subdued all your sister's scruples respecting her
compulsatory vows, she has confessed every thing to me, and will this
evening, she says, repeat each circumstance to you, after which we
must consult what steps will be necessary to pursue.'

They all anxiously expected the hour of meeting in the evening and
after they had dined, and retired to the drawing-room, the Marchioness
eagerly claimed her sister's promise. 'I will obey you, my dear
sister, though you little think what it costs me to make such a
painful relation.

'You well know the reluctance with which I married the Count, my
subsequent illness and recovery. When my health was restored I began
seriously to consider my situation, and the sacrament I had vowed to
observe: I determined to do my duty; and if I could not love the
Count, at least, to esteem and oblige him, I was then a stranger to
his real disposition; I thought him severe and stern, but I soon found
he was gloomy, suspicious, and revengeful. Whilst my father lived he
observed some little decency towards me, but after his death, and you
had quitted Vienna, my sufferings, from his causeless ill-humour,
cannot be described. I was now far advanced in my pregnancy, an event
I looked forward to as the end of all my troubles; for I had lost my
spirits, my strength, and appetite. One day he went to Vienna, he
returned at night in a most horrid temper. "Prepare yourself," said
he, "for a journey to Switzerland, the day after to-morrow." "Good
God, to Switzerland, in my situation?" "Yes," he replied, "you can
bear the journey very well, and Margarite, who is to be your nurse,
shall attend you." "Indeed I am very unable to travel so far," said I.
"I know better," he replied; "but the reasons you have for declining,
madam, make me the more anxious for it." "Well, Sir, I have no more to
say, but to obey you." "You do well, madam; for any thing you could
urge will have no effect upon me." I was silent; I withdrew, and
passed a wretched night. The next day poor Margarite and I were
employed in packing our clothes and other necessaries, and the
following day, soon as it was light, we set off on our journey. We at
length arrived at the old castle which Matilda has described to you.
My blood chilled when I entered the gates. I was conducted to the
right hand wing, which had then a door into the court, though it was
afterwards bricked up. The furniture was handsome, but antique even
then. "This, madam, is your apartment, and I think the Chevalier will
have good luck to obtain entrance here." "Chevalier! what Chevalier?"
repeated I. "Your Chevalier, madam; don't suppose I was ignorant of
his return to Vienna, and sauntering about my grounds." "I don't know,
Sir, what you mean; there is no Chevalier belongs to me, nor do I know
of any man sauntering, as you call it, in your grounds. My heart
justifies me, that ever since I became your wife, I have strictly
fulfilled the duties of that situation." "Your conscience, madam, is
mighty convenient to your wishes, I don't doubt; but I am not to be
duped by either. This is your habitation; the other parts of the house
are not so good, but with them you need have no communications; they
are occupied by the gardener." My bed-room was the horrid one where
Miss Weimar saw poor Margarite murdered, and very gloomy it was then,
though without iron bars. I wept almost incessantly; my nurse was
still more miserable, but she had been brought up from a child in the
Count's family, and was obsequious to his will.

'I had been in the castle about three weeks, when, one evening, as I
was sitting in my room, at the close of the day I heard a little noise
at the window. I was startled, but recovering myself, I took a chair
and got upon the window seat; I saw the figure of a man, I shrunk
down; again the window rattled, I recovered and looked up; presently I
distinctly perceived a man, who, with a diamond, was cutting a small
strip out of a pane of glass; he accomplished his work, thrust a
letter in, and disappeared behind the battlements in a moment; I
secured the letter, with a beating heart, and on opening it, found it
came from the Chevalier De Montreville. I was surprised and agitated;
I perused this fatal letter; it was filled with the tenderest
expressions of regret at my unhappy fate. His own misery he could have
borne, he said, had I been happy; but to see the woman he adored
treated so unworthily, was more pain than he had philosophy to
support; he entreated I would write a few lines, to tell him in what
manner my husband behaved to me, and if there was a possibility of his
doing me either service or pleasure. I shed floods of tears over this
epistle: I found, though I had suppressed, I had not subdued my
affection for him; yet what would it avail to encourage a
correspondence I felt was improper: I hesitated,--I considered for
some time whether I should write or not; at length I took up my pen. I
acknowledged myself obliged for the interest he took in my happiness,
but at the same time assured him any attentions of his never could do
me service; on the contrary, I had reason to believe the Marquis was
very jealous of him, and that possibly all his motions might be
watched, I therefore besought him to return to Vienna, and leave me to
my destiny. The following day, nearly at the same hour, I heard the
noise at the window repeated; trembling for fear of interruption, I
hastily got up, and slid my answer through, resolved at the same time
to run no such risks, nor receive any more letters,--happy had it
been could I have kept my resolution. The next evening I did not go to
my room ‘till accompanied by Margarite I trembled every moment, lest
the signal should be repeated, but I heard nothing. The next day I was
peevish and dissatisfied; the Count gloomy and sullen. After dinner,
as usual, he went out among the people he had at work in the wood:
involuntarily I hastened to my apartment; I will own the truth, I
wished, though I dreaded hearing the signal. Towards the close of the
day the sounds at the window were repeated: scarce knowing what I did,
I got on the window-seat, and secured the letter: fancying I heard
footsteps coming up stairs, I too hastily stept back on the chair,
which gave way, and I came with violence to the ground; at the same
instant my door opened: I had received a dreadful blow on the side of
my head, though it did not altogether deprive me of life, yet I was
unable to speak. The Count ran to me, he snatched the fatal paper from
my hand, and then rang for assistance; Margarite came up. With his
help I was placed on the bed; she bathed my head, gave me drops and
water, and I was soon restored to sense and misery. He ordered the
nurse out of the room, and then coming up to me, "Wretch!" cried he,
furiously, "behold a proof of thy guilt and falsehood: I could
sacrifice thee to my vengeance, but I will have more exquisite
satisfaction, and complete revenge, such as shall strike thee with
remorse and endless sorrow." I besought him to hear me; I repeated
what I have told you, and added it was the last I ever intended to
receive. He smiled with disdain, "Doubtless it was, and I take upon me
to say it will be the last you shall ever receive from him." He never
left me the whole evening, but used every cruel malicious expression
it was possible to conceive. I continued very ill and agitated that
night and great part of the day. In the afternoon my persecutor left
me, but Margarite remained; I got up, and was under the most dreadful
apprehensions of what might happen; my eyes were continually turned to
the window; I suffered the most agonizing terrors, when in a moment
they were realized beyond whatever I could conceive of horror. A
violent noise was heard on the stairs, like persons struggling, and in
a moment the door was burst open; the Count and his man appeared,
dragging in the Chevalier, with his mouth bound, his hands tied, and
every mark of cruel treatment; I screamed, and clasped my hands, but
could not speak; he made several desperate efforts to free himself--
alas! to little purpose. Let me hasten over the dreadful catastrophe.
"Now," said the cruel Count, "you have your minion where you wished
him to be, in your bed-chamber, nor shall he ever quit it alive." I
tried to speak, I threw myself on my knees, "Spare, O spare!" was all
I could say, and fell senseless, but I was soon recovered by the
officious Margarite, to still greater horror. "We have waited your
recovery," said the barbarian; "I would not deprive you of so great a
pleasure as seeing your lover's last breath expire for you." He was
then dragged into the closet opposite to where I sat, and immediately
repeated stabs were given with a short dagger, by the Count, through
several parts of his body; his blood flowed in torrents, and with
groans he fell on his face and expired. Great God! cried she, here the
scene never will be absent from my remembrance. I sat like one
petrified; I neither spoke, shrieked, or groaned, but with my eyes
fixed on the closet I appeared insensible to every thing. The inhuman
Count was not satisfied; he came and dragged me to the closet, and
seated me by the side of the body, the blood flowing round me. "Now,"
said he, "clasp your beloved Chevalier--now despise the old and cross
looking Count,"--words I had once said in his hearing, long before I
was married--"and now enjoy the company of him for whom you despised
your husband." Saying this, he ordered Margarite and Peter to leave
the room; and finding I was still unable to speak or move, he pushed
me farther into the closet, locked the door, and left me. How long I
continued in this state, I know not; I believe I swooned, for it was
day-light when I found myself on the floor, my clothes covered with
blood, and the unhappy murdered Chevalier dead before me. 'Tis
impossible to describe the horror of that moment; I found myself
seized with violent pains; I began to think the monster had poisoned
me--the idea gave me pleasure, and I endeavoured to bear my pangs
without a groan; nature however asserted its claims; I became so very
ill, I could be silent no longer, I groaned, I cried aloud. Presently
the door was unlocked,--the Count and Margarite appeared; they saw me
in agonies; "I am dying, barbarian; you will be satisfied, you have
murdered a worthy man who never injured you--you have killed an
innocent wife." I could say no more. Margarite cried out, "My Lord, my
dear mistress is in labour, for God's sake assist her to her
apartment." He seemed to hesitate, but she urging her request, between
them I was conveyed to the bed, and without any other assistance than
hers delivered of a boy. When a little recovered, the Count entered
the room, Peter with him. "I do not design to destroy you; no, you may
live a life of horror, but dead to all the world; yet your infant
shall be sacrificed." I screamed, I cried for mercy to my child and
instant death to me. He paused and I expected the welcome stroke at
last; "On one condition you child may live." "Oh! name it," I said;
"any conditions." "Remember what you say: you shall join with these
two persons, in taking a solemn oath, with the sacrament, that without
my permission, you will never reveal the transactions of this night
and day--never mention the Chevalier's name, nor ever presume to
contradict the report I shall make of your death to the world." I
shuddered, but alas! there was no alternative; he fetched a prayer-
book, and making the two poor creatures kneel, we all joined in the
solemn oath, and received the sacrament from his polluted hands.
Methinks at this moment I tremble at the impiety of that horrid
wretch. My child was delivered to me; Peter was ordered to assist
Margarite in making a fire and getting necessaries for me. How I
survived such horrors is astonishing! The curtains were drawn, and
that night the body was removed, but where it was carried to, heaven
only knows, for Margarite never was informed. A coffin and every
necessary for a funeral was bespoke and brought home. It was given out
I had died in child-bed, and therefore in decency my own women only
could attend me. A figure or bundle, wrapt in a sheet, was placed in
the coffin (Margarite used to think it was the Chevalier's body) and
the whole ceremony took place without any one's presuming to doubt the
truth. Judge what must have been my feelings, and what an excellent
constitution I must have had, to bear such dreadful scenes without
dying of distraction. In a few days I was removed to another room,
and, as I heard, the fatal closet was cleaned out by Peter; the rooms
locked up, and orders given no one should enter them. The Count never
appeared before me until I was up, and able to walk about the room;
one morning he entered, just as I had done breakfast. I forgot to tell
you I had no sustenance for my poor babe, consequently it was brought
up by hand. The dear infant was lying on my lap; I started with
surprise and terror. "Come, madam," said he, with a look that made me
tremble, "come and view your former apartment." "God God!" I cried,
"why must I return there?" “’Tis my pleasure," answered he; then
bidding Margarite take the child, he ordered me to follow him. I
tottered across the gallery, and on entering the room saw the windows
barricaded with iron bars, the pictures and toilet taken away, and the
whole appearance gloomy to excess. "This is once more your bed-
chamber; no more Chevaliers," said he, with horrid grin, "can convey
letters here--here you are to reside for ever." "Oh! kill me!" I
cried, "rather than shut me up here--death is far more desirable."
"That is the reason I chuse you shall live, to repent every hour of
your life the wrongs you have done me: and now hear me--your child you
will see no more." At these words, overcome with the unexpected shock,
I dropped senseless on the floor; I was soon recalled to life. "Your
oath," I cried; "O, spare my child!" "I do not mean to hurt its life;
I will have it properly taken care of, but the indulgence is too great
for you to enjoy. I here swear, that as long as you remain confined in
this castle, and observe your oath, never to reveal the Chevalier's
murder, nor undeceive the world respecting your fate, so long your
boy's life is safe; I will take care of him, and one day or other,
there is a possibility, you may see him again; but if you ever escape
from hence, or divulge these particulars, without my permission,
instant death awaits you both, for I shall have a constant spy." To
these conditions, dreadful as they were, I was compelled to subscribe.
Margarite was ordered into confinement with me, for he found she was
my friend. That night the child was conveyed away: dear and precious
boy! alas, heaven only knows whether I shall ever see him more;
unconscious he has a mother, if he lives, we may remain strangers to
each other! We were locked in, and for three days the Count himself
brought our scanty fare; the fourth, he entered with Joseph, who was
the under gardener. I was startled to see a stranger,--he appeared
equally shocked at seeing me. "Here you both are, remember your oath,
madam, for on it more than one life depends. And you," said he,
turning to Joseph, "tremble, if you dare break your solemn vow, never
to let any person know this woman is alive, never to suffer her to
pass from these apartments, without my permission, to hold no
conversation with her, but when you bring her food, and in fine, to
obey every command of mine and not hers." "I will obey your Lordship,"
cried the man, trembling. "'Tis well, then you will preserve her life,
and gain my favour. No strangers must be permitted to remain here,
should chance or inclination engage any one to visit this castle.
Remember this side of it must never be seen, 'tis haunted--do you
understand me?" "I do, my Lord," answered Joseph, "and I promise you,
these apartments shall never be looked into." "On that depends her
existence and yours." They now quitted my room, and left me scarcely
able to breathe. The following day the Count and Peter left the
castle. Every other day Joseph came with necessaries, and Margarite
was permitted to go down, accompanied by Joseph, to carry up and down
water and other conveniences. In this state I lived two years, if
living it could be called, having no other consolation than now and
then hearing from my sister; for I had so far gained upon Joseph to
permit Margarite's letters, after shewing them to him, to pass under
cover to him, and as he found I carefully preserved my secret from
others, the poor fellow granted me that indulgence. At the expiration
of two years, the Count unexpectedly made his appearance. I shrunk
from his sight; he viewed me some time with great emotion; "I am
satisfied with your conduct," said he, "and am come to extend my
indulgence to you." "O, my child!" I cried out. "No," answered he,
"that cannot be granted; but you shall have permission to live in the
rooms below, and if you swear to enter the garden only at night, the
door into it shall be opened." I joyfully agreed to this, and was once
more led to the rooms below. Peter was still with him; a bed was
brought from another room, and placed in a small parlour, also one for
Margarite. The apartments above were again locked up. I tried to
soften the Count; he sometimes appeared moved and affected, then again
stern and cruel; he staid near a week--the day he left the castle he
came to visit me. "Once more I leave you, but as there is some danger
that strangers may come here, I charge you, by every thing that is
sacred, by your child's life and your own, should any person sleep in
this castle, that you go to the gallery or next apartments, rattle a
chain I shall leave for that purpose, groan, and make such kind of
noises as may appal those who come here, and drive them hence, under
an idea of the castle's being haunted: I have already sworn Joseph, do
you promise the same" "Ah! Sir," cried I, "why all these oaths. why
all these persecutions, which must give you a world of pains, to
punish an innocent woman?" "Because," said he, furiously, "because I
prefer revenge to my own quiet; because I will be feared, and make
your destiny hang on my pleasure." I could say no more, I wept
bitterly, but nothing could soften his heart; he made me renew my
vows, still threatening the life of my child, if I failed--he told me
it was well, and carefully attended. I was compelled to acquiesce with
his request, or rather command, and he once more left me. He regularly
came once in two years, for some time, but latterly it was above four
years since I had seen him, ‘till the fatal night he carried me off.
'Tis plain he was well informed of every thing, and knew of Matilda's
being at the castle.

'I dragged on a wretched existence, in a daily hope, that from his own
words, "There might be a possibility I should see my child again"; and
that time might soften his heart, or death deprive him of all power
over me. Margarite, who at first hardly brooked her confinement, grew
more reconciled, and awed by the dreadful oaths we had taken, we
submitted to what we could not prevent, being always in terror of
being watched, and that nothing in the castle passed unnoticed. This
was our situation when Matilda came. Joseph came to me late in the
evening, the day she arrived at the castle, acquainting me with the
circumstance, and in consequence of our vows we were obliged to
conform to our orders,--he to give hints of what might happen, and
myself and Margarite try to frighten her from thence--you know the
consequence. Had Joseph been at home, probably she would hardly have
obtained permission to sleep in the castle, but Bertha knew nothing of
me, and was prevented by her fears from ever venturing through the
apartments. The rest you know. I intended to have placed a confidence
in Matilda, as far as being brought to the castle, but beyond that I
dared not violate my oath. At your request, my dear brother, I
consulted our good Dr Demoureiz, and he absolved me from my vows,
which were compulsatory, and made under such horrid circumstances; I
have therefore complied with your wishes, and now pray tell me what I
can do, or what I ought to do? I cannot disclose to the world what I
have related, without bringing the Count to condign punishment, for
the death of the unfortunate and ever-lamented Chevalier, and perhaps
may irritate him never to inform me whether my child exists or not--
Alas! every way I turn is replete with difficulties and horror.'

Here the Countess stopped, leaving her auditors overcome with
astonishment and terror.

'Good heavens!' said the Marquis. 'I never could have supposed it
possible a man should carry jealousy and revenge to such frightful
guilty lengths, and the whole story appears incredible and almost
impossible, that he should proceed so far, trust so many with his
secret, and that you should remain such a number of years a victim to
his diabolical passions, when there was always, open to you the means
for escaping and appealing to your friends.'

'Consider, my good brother,' said she, 'the difficulties, the oaths I
had taken never to leave the castle without his permission, the fate
of my child, the certainty that every step I took was known, otherwise
I could have offered Matilda an asylum with me, but he assured me I
was constantly watched, and therefore any attempts I might make to
free myself, would, too probably, accelerate the events I dreaded, and
my life (as I doubt not was intended, when he carried me to the wood)
would have been the sacrifice. If you look back, you will observe his
cunning: when he afterwards came to the castle and saw Joseph, he did
not mention my name, and to be sure expected that he would have told
him of my being carried away by some banditti, as he doubtless
intended Joseph should believe, but the old man being silent, he
supposed he was suspected as the author of the outrage, and therefore
determined to put that witness out of the way--'

'What a villain!' cried Mrs Courtney, 'and what a wretched life that
man must have endured, with such fears of detection, and conscious of
such complicated wickedness.'

'It is ever the fate of villainy,' said the Marchioness, 'to plunge
deeper into vice, and suffer tenfold the miseries they inflict, from
the apprehensions of a discovery, which they know seldom fails at some
time or other to overtake them, and Providence has so ordered it, that
we generally see the very means they take to hide their crimes from a
knowledge of the world, are productive of such events as lead to their
detection. I sincerely lament the fate of the poor Chevalier--'

'Ah! sister,' cried the Countess, 'never shall I cease reproaching
myself on that account; had I with firmness refused to receive his
second letter, and avoided going to that room alone, perhaps his life,
and all my subsequent miseries would have been spared: I failed in the
duty I owed my husband and myself, in permitting a clandestine
correspondence, although I did not intend to continue it; and one
false step, you see, brought on irreparable evils and eternal
remorse!'

'I will not pretend, my dear Victoria,' answered the Marchioness, 'to
exculpate you, as entirely free from blame, but if we consider the
ill-treatment you received from the Count, previous to the Chevalier's
attempts to see you, and the sudden surprise of the moment, when the
first letter was conveyed to you, doubtless some allowance ought to be
made in your favour; and had you positively refused to receive a
second, you would, 'tis possible, have escaped much bitter reflection;
but the worst that can be said of you, in my opinion, is, that, in
your difficult and unpleasant situation, it was an error in judgement,
for I am well assured in you there was no depravity of heart.'

The poor Countess was drowned in tears. 'Be comforted, my dearest
sister,' said the Marquis, kissing her hand, whilst the ladies
tenderly embraced her, 'you are, thank heaven, and that good lady,
restored to your friends; I will consult Dr Demouriez, as to our
future proceedings, for I will do nothing rashly, and for your sake,
would avoid dragging your husband's crimes into public view.'



Volume Two

The ladies proposed an airing to divert the Countess from dwelling on
past events, and Matilda from apprehensions of future ones. The
carriage was ordered, and they drove as far as Hampstead. The evening
was uncommonly beautiful, and when they returned, the moon, which was
in its meridian, shone with all its splendour. Just as the carriage
stopped in Harley-street, Matilda, who sat next the door, saw two
gentlemen pass slowly and look into the coach; she plainly perceived
one of them was Mr Weimar: she met his eyes, and he turned his hastily
from her; she gave a faint shriek, and hid her head behind Mrs
Courtney. Her friends were alarmed, but hastened her into the house;
she ran into the dining-parlour, and, in inconceivable terror, cried
out, 'He is come--he is come!' 'Who, who?' exclaimed the Countess. 'Mr
Weimar,' answered she; 'did you not see him' 'No,' replied the
Marchioness, 'and I hope your fears deceived you.' 'Too sure they did
not,' said Matilda, 'and I am convinced also that he knew me.' 'Fear
nothing,' said Mrs Courtney; ‘you are in the power of your friends; he
must prove his right to you before he can take you from us: here are
no lettres de cachet, the laws will protect you from injury; compose
yourself, therefore, my dear girl--in England no violence can be
offered to you in any shape.'

This kind and seasonable assurance calmed the terrors of the trembling
Matilda; but when she retired to rest, and reflected on her cruel
destiny, she shed floods of tears, and passed a sleepless night.

The following day was appointed for their return to Mrs Courtney's
villa, to spend a week or two, previous to the preparations for the
birth-day, after which the whole party, with Lord Delby, proposed
going to Scarborough.

The Countess and Matilda bore evident marks in their features and pale
looks, of the uneasy state of their minds; their amiable friends
fought to raise their spirits, and they felt too much gratitude to
their kindness not to make the effort, though their smiles were
clouded with sorrow.

They had a pleasant excursion to Mrs Courtney's house, and its
delightful situation, with the cheerful hospitality of its charming
owner, could not fail of making those happy who had the honour of her
friendship.

The Countess, who was known in public only as Madame Le Roche, and by
which name her friends always called her in company, found in the
sympathy of Matilda more consolation than the conversation of
strangers or any amusements could afford her; they generally contrived
to steal from company and ramble in the gardens, relating past
sorrows, and mutually endeavoring to inspire each other with hopes of
happier days, though despairing of any to themselves.

A few days after they had been in the country, the Marquis received
another packet from the Count De Bouville, enclosing a letter from
Madame de Clermont, to Matilda. They learnt, with much sorrow, that
the Countess died three days after the Count's first letter; that
their affliction had been very great, and preyed much on the spirits
of her affectionate daughter, in consequence of which she had been
advised to visit Aix, and from thence to the Spa; their departure was
fixed for the end of that week--Madame De Nancy and her amiable sister
De Bancre were going with them. Madame De Clermont requested the
correspondence of Matilda, and charged her to take great care of her
brother. This charge Matilda did not comprehend, until the Marquis
congratulated the party on the agreeable addition they might daily
expect from the company of the Count De Bouville, who had written to
him, that his sister having a party of her own going to Aix, he had no
inclination to visit that place, and therefore should gratify his
wishes, by returning to England for a few months, and hoped to enjoy
additional satisfaction by the pleasures of the society.

Every one appeared gratified by this information, except Matilda. She
felt her heart flutter at his name; she was convinced he was more
interesting to her than any other man, and that in her circumstances
she ought not to indulge a preference which never could be returned.
Ah thought she, where is the sorrows that can equal mine? Scarce a
wretch that breaths but has some connexion, some relation to own them
and sympathise in their troubles, I alone am destitute of family, or
fortune; I can carry only disgrace to the arms of a husband, and am
therefore an outcast--a being without any natural ties, and must
despair of procuring any other protection but what charity and
benevolence affords me! She felt the full force of these melancholy
reflections, and it threw such a sad impression on her features that
every one was touched with compassion, though they knew not the cause,
and sought by kindness and attention to render her more cheerful.

Within three days after this letter, which had occasioned so much
pleasure and pain to different parties, the Marquis, by a note, was
informed of the Count's arrival in London. Mrs Courtney entreated the
honour of his company, and Lord Delby offered to accompany the Marquis
and escort him to their friends. This offer was too obliging to be
declined; they set off that evening, and the following morning
returned with the Count.

Matilda spent the intermediate time in laying down rules for her
behaviour. She still suffered under the apprehensions that Mr Weimar
had pursued, and would occasion more trouble to her; she therefore
resolved to avail herself of that fear, keep as much in her apartment
as possible, and avoid mixing in all the little pleasurable parties
where the Count might make one.

The company received the Count with the politest attention. His
amiable person, his polished manners, and enchanting vivacity, could
not fail of engaging the esteem of every one who had taste and
discernment. After he had been introduced to the lady of the mansion,
to the Marchioness, and to Madame Le Roche, whom he knew not, he
advanced to Matilda; she trembled; he took her hand, and bowing on it,
'I am charged,' said he, 'with a thousand expressions of kindness and
friendship from my sister and Mademoiselle De Bancre, to the charming
Miss Matilda; but you must take them upon trust now, and permit me to
express my own happiness in seeing my lovely friend well, and situated
in the midst of a society so delightful as this.' She attempted to
speak, her voice, her powers failed her; 'Your Lordship does me
honour,' was all she could utter. The conversation became general and
sprightly, but she had no share in it; the day appeared uncommonly
long, and she rejoiced when night came, that she could escape to her
apartment and enjoy her own reflections.

The Count, who had observed her emotions, her silence and melancholy
air, felt himself much concerned for the unfortunate girl; he thought
her more lovely, more interesting than ever: the soft melancholy which
pervaded her fine features could not fail of touching a susceptible
heart; and the Count soon found the tender interest he had formerly
taken in Matilda's misfortunes, revive with more solicitude than ever.
He seized an opportunity the following morning, to enquire some
particulars respecting the cause of her distress. The Marquis told him
of her alarm on seeing a gentleman she believed to be, and possibly,
said he, might be, Mr Weimar. 'I am really,' added he, 'unhappy about
this charming young woman; we all love her exceedingly; beauty is her
least merit; she has every amiable quality, joined to an excellent
understanding, that can adorn a human being; I could not love my own
child better; but she has too much sensibility to be happy--she feels
her dependent and unprotected state too keenly,--it preys upon her
mind and injures her health. Consulting with the Marchioness on this
subject last night, I intend this day to write, and order a deed to be
drawn, agreeable to our design of making her independent, at the same
time, I wish not to burthen her feelings with too high a sense of
obligation, by settling any very large sum on her: four hundred a
year, English money, paid her quarterly, will enable her to live
genteelly, should she ever wish to seperate from us, and will be a
handsome provision for pocket expences, if she does us the favour of
continuing under our protection.'

'Will you permit me,' said the Count, eagerly, 'to add another two
hundred to her income?' 'Indeed I will not,' replied the Marquis; ‘I
think myself as much the guardian of Matilda's honour and delicacy as
of her person: no young man shall boast any claims upon her, nor shall
she be humbled by receiving favours, which, if known, might subject her
to censure--say no more, my dear Count,' added he, observing he was
about to reply, 'the Marchioness will not have her protégée under any
obligations but to herself.' 'Shall I be sincere with you, Marquis?'
demanded the Count. 'Doubtless, my Lord, you may, and assure yourself
of my secrecy, if necessary.' 'Well then,' resumed the Count, 'I
confess to you, that with the Marchioness's protégée, as you call her,
I should be the happiest of men: I feel, and acknowledge, that she has
more than beauty--she has a soul; she has those virtues, those amiable
qualities, which must render any man happy: but, my dear Marquis, her
birth--the scandalous stories promulgated of her in Paris: ah! what
can do away these objections which rise hourly before me, and bar me
from happiness and Matilda?' 'Since you do me the honour of your
confidence, my Lord, 'tis my duty to be candid and explicit. That I
entertain the highest opinion of Matilda, is most certain that I think
whoever the man is, who is honored with her hand, will be a happy one,
I also acknowledge; but, my Lord, family and society have great claims
upon us; we ought not to injure the one, nor disregard the other.
Could you bear to see your wife treated with contempt, as one whom
nobody knew, as one who had no claims to distinction, but what your
very great friends might allow her? Could you support the idea, that
she whose genuine merit might entitle her to the first society, should
be refused admittance among such, as in real worth she very far
surpassed? No; I know you would feel such a degradation most
painfully; and, though young men, in the moment of passion, think they
could sacrifice every thing to the object of it; yet, believe me,
passion is but short-lived, and though your wife may yet retain your
love and esteem, you will regret the loss of society--you will feel
the insults offered to your wife, and you will both be unhappy.'

'Ah! my dear Marquis,' cried the Count, ‘say no more. How happy are
Englishmen! free from all those false prejudices, they can confer
honour on whom they please, and the want of noble birth is no
degradation where merit and character deserve esteem; but we are the
victims to false notions, and from thence originates all that levity
and vice for which we are censured by other nations.' He walked away
with a melancholy air: the Marquis felt for him, but national honour
was in his opinion of more consequence than the gratification of a
private individual, how great soever the merit of the object.

The Count walked into the garden, his arms folded, his mind distrest,
unknowing what he should, what he ought to do. Turning into a small
alcove, he beheld Matilda, her head reclining on one hand, whilst with
the other she dried the tears which fell on her face: they both
started; she rose from her seat; he advanced, prevented her going and
seated himself by her. Both were silent for moment, at length Matilda,
making a second effort to rise, exclaimed in a faint voice, 'Bless me!
I dare say I have made the family wait breakfast,' and attempted to
pass him. 'Stay, Miss Weimar, I beseech you; tell me why I behold you
a prey to sorrow and grief?' 'Because, Sir,' said she, withdrawing her
hand, 'I am the child of sorrow; I never knew another parent; poor,
forlorn, proscribed, and dependant, I never can belong to any one.'
She snatched her hand, which he endeavoured to retain, from him, and
flew like lightning towards the house; the Count followed, full of
admiration and grief. He entered the breakfast-room; every one was
seated, and rallied him on his passion for morning rambles: his
natural vivacity returned, and he tried to make himself agreeable and
pleasant.

They had scarce finished breakfast when the Marquis received a letter
from the French Ambassador, requesting he might see him in town
immediately, on an important affair. The Marquis was surprised, but
gave orders for his horses to be ready. The Countess trembled, Matilda
was terrified; each thought herself concerned, and when the Marquis
quitted the house, retired together.

'Ah!' cried the Countess, ‘the Count has discovered me!' 'No, no,
madam,' replied Matilda, ‘’tis, I am discovered and shall be torn from
you.' Both burst into tears, equally for herself and friend.

The Marchioness, who saw him depart, now entered the room; 'As I
supposed,' said she, ‘you retired to frighten each other, but that I
shall not allow, so ladies, if you please, throw on your cloaks; I
have made up two parties this morning for an airing: in my coach goes
Lord Delby, the Count, my sister, and Miss Matilda; I accompany Mrs
Courtney, in her chariot; so pray hasten directly, the carriages
wait.'

She withdrew on saying these words, and left them no power to frame
excuses, and consequently they were obliged to follow, though with
aching hearts.

They were disposed of according to the Marchioness's arrangements, but
for some minutes after the carriage proceeded all were silent. Lord
Delby first spoke, and regretted the party did not seem to accord with
the wishes of the ladies, if he might judge from their averted looks.
'Indeed, my Lord,' replied the Countess, 'you do me particular
injustice; I entertain the highest respect for every person here; to
your Lordship I owe obligations never to be forgotten; I infinitely
esteem the Count, as a friend, and this young lady I love with the
affection of a sister. I have been a little agitated by the sudden
departure of the Marquis, and my uneasiness has communicated itself to
my friend; we beg your pardon, and will endeavor to be better
company.' After this the conversation became more general and amusing.

The Marquis proceeded to town, and instantly waited on the Ambassador.
'I am sorry, my dear Lord,' said his Excellency 'to have broken in
upon your retirement, and must mention the visit I received yesterday
as my apology. A German gentleman, who sent in his name as Mr Weimar,
requested permission to wait on me; he was consequently admitted: he
entered upon a long story of an orphan he had preserved from
perishing, of a paper fastened to the child, deputing him the guardian
of it ‘till claimed by its parents; and in short, that despairing,
from the number of years past, that those parents had any existence,
he resolved to marry the young lady, that he might provide for her
without injury to her reputation; that, from what motives he knew not,
she had been induced to fly from his house, seducing a servant of his
to go with her; and she was now detained from him by you,
notwithstanding he had a lettre de cachet, which he produced,
commanding you to give her up; consequently, by virtue of that order,
he requested I would compel you to deliver the young lady to his care.
Now, my dear Marquis, I am prepared to hear you on the subject, for it
is a delicate affair, and I am convinced you would be sorry it should
be noised abroad.' 'No otherwise, Sir,' replied the Marquis, 'than as
it might wound the young lady's delicacy to be publicly talked of. I
am obliged to your Excellency for your communications, and must
trespass on your patience to elucidate the affair properly.' He then
recapitulated the whole of Matilda's story, concealing every thing
relative to the Countess at that time; and having deduced it down to
the present period, he besought his Excellency to protect an amiable
young woman, under the most unfortunate circumstances.

'I am really,' he replied, 'much interested for her, and perfectly
disposed to comply with your wishes, but the whole affair is replete
with so many extraordinary circumstances, that I think we had best
consult the German Ambassador before any thing can be determined on.'

The carriage was ordered, and his Excellency took the Marquis with
him. They most fortunately found the German Minister at home, and
after some deliberation it was settled Matilda should remain under the
protection of the Marquis for one year, he to be answerable for her;
during that interval advertisements should be sent to the different
kingdoms, in quest of her parents; and if in the course of one
twelvemonth no such persons appeared, Mr Weimar was the natural
protector of the young lady, but could not oblige her to marry him--
neither could he prevent her retiring to a convent, though she might
be accountable to him for her choice of such a retirement.

The Marquis was obliged to be contented with this decision, and
returning with the Ambassador, he said, 'I shall in all probability
have to trouble you again soon, on a still more extraordinary affair,
and relative to one more dear and nearer to me than this young lady.'
'Upon my word, Marquis,' replied the Minister, smiling, 'you are quite
a knight-errant, to protect distressed damsels.' 'A very honourable
employment,' answered the other, in the same tone; 'but though these
are not the days of romance, yet I have met with such extraordinary
incidents lately as carry much the face of the wonderful stories we
have heard of former times but as the development of this business
will be attended with serious consequences I must consider a few days
before I make the discovery.' 'Very well,’ said his Excellency; 'you
have excited my curiosity, and, if I am not too old to join in a
Quixote like expedition, behold me ready to assist in the defence of
the fair.’ The Marquis smiled, thanked him, and declining an invitation
to dine at his house, got into his own carriage, and drove back with
all speed, rightly conceiving every one would entertain uneasy
conjectures.

The party were but just returned from a long morning's drive when the
Marquis arrived; every one met him with anxiety in their looks--he
accosted them with a smiling countenance; 'A truce to interrogatories
at present,' said he, ‘I have good news for all, but I am really faint
for want of refreshment; order something for me; and then I shall give
an account of my proceedings.'

Every one flew to the bells, and in a moment he had chocolate,
jellies, wine, and biscuits set before him.

'Ah!' said he, laughing, 'nothing like giving a little spur to
curiosity, I see; this is an excellent lesson for me how to be well
served.'

When he had taken his repast, which he maliciously prolonged ‘till the
Marchioness in a pet rang the bell, and declared he should eat no
more, the things taken away, and the servants withdrawn. 'Now listen,
ladies, and thank me for having procured, in the person of our gallant
Ambassador, a Don Quixote, ready to fight in your defence.’ He then, in
a more serious tone, repeated the particulars which have been already
related.

Poor Matilda felt but a gleam of satisfaction; 'A twelvemonth,' cried
she. 'A twelvemonth,' repeated Mrs Courtney; 'why, do you consider, my
dear girl, how many strange events may happen in that time?' 'Yes,'
answered she, sighing, 'I consider and hope death will free me from
his power long before that period expires.'

The Count de Bouville rose and left the room to conceal his emotions.

'I will not forgive you, my dear child,' said the Marchioness 'if you
indulge such desponding ideas; depend upon it happier days await you--
trust in Providence, and rejoice you are now free from anxiety:
equally under the protection of the Ambassadors and the Marquis, Mr
Weimar will not dare to molest you.'

The ladies all congratulated Matilda; and, the Marchioness taking her
hand, 'Come with me into the garden, I must chide you, but I will not
do it publicly, though you deserve it.' She led her to a little
temple, at one end of the garden, and when seated she said to the
still silent Matilda, 'You do not consider the advantages we have
gained.' 'O, my dear madam,' cried the other, interrupting her, 'how
sensible I am of that kind we have gained!' 'Well, well,' resumed the
Marchioness, 'hear me out. We can now take public methods to enquire,
if there yet exists a being who has any claim to you, without fear of
Mr Weimar; a twelvemonth may make great alterations in his sentiments;
should it appear you have no particular relations, he has no legal
claim upon you, but from his expenditure for your maintenance and
clothes--let him bring in his bill, he shall be paid to the uttermost
farthing; you are my adopted child; consider yourself as such, and
dare not refuse that trifle for your future expences;--if you utter
any ohs! or ahs! if you ever talk of obligations, I will never pardon
you: to be cheerful and happy is the only return you can make or I
accept.' She then placed the deed mentioned by the Marquis, with a
fifty-pound note, upon the lap of the astonished Matilda, and hastened
away to the house.

It was some moments before she recovered herself enough to examine the
papers. The contents overwhelmed her with gratitude; she burst into a
flood of tears, the papers in her hand, when unexpectedly the Count
stood before her. 'Good heavens!' he cried, 'what means this distress,
these tears?' 'O, my Lord,' answered she, 'they are tears of
sensibility and gratitude.' 'I rejoice to hear it,' replied the Count,
'heaven forbid they should ever flow from any other cause.' He seated
himself by her, she dried her eyes, and put the papers in her pocket.
'I congratulate you, madam,' resumed he, 'on the happy turn in your
affairs, which the Marquis has informed me of.' 'You know me then for
an unhappy deserted orphan?' said she, blushing and mortified. 'I know
you,' replied he, eagerly, 'for the most amiable of your sex; no
adventitious advantages of birth or fortune can add to those claims
your own merit gives you to universal esteem.' 'Ah, my Lord,' said
she, 'to generous spirits like yours and this family's, misfortunes
are a recommendation to kindness and attention, but with the
generality of mankind I have not to learn it must be otherwise.
Stranger as I am to the manners and customs of the world, I am
sensible birth and fortune have superior advantages, and that without
them, though with liberal minds we may obtain compassion, we can never
hope for consideration or respect.' 'Pardon me, madam,' replied the
Count, ‘if I presume to say you judge erroneously; she who with
merit, with good sense, delicacy, and refined sentiments can command
respect, is a thousand times superior to those whose inferiority of
mind disgraces a rank which the other would ennoble.' 'You are very
kind, Sir,' said Matilda, rising, and unable to support a conversation
which she feared might grow too interesting for her peace: 'you are
truly friendly, in endeavouring to reconcile me to myself; and I have
no way of deserving your favourable judgement, but by constantly
remembering what I am, that I may at least preserve my humility.' She
courtesied and walked fast towards the house, and to the apartment of
the Countess. That lady was alone, her head resting on her hand, and
seemed buried in thought. Matilda would have withdrawn, the other
entreated her return; 'Come in, my dear girl,' said she, 'my own
thoughts are the worst company you could leave me in at present.' 'I
come to tell you, my dear madam,' cried her young friend, 'that my
heart is bursting with gratitude: the Marchioness will not hear me,
but I must have vent for my feelings, or I shall be oppressed to death.'
She burst into tears. 'My dear April girl,' said the Countess, 'no
more of those showers,--you have too much sensibility; I know what you
want to tell me, therefore spare yourself the trouble, and let me
acquaint you, that I am indebted to my generous brother, for a
settlement of treble the value of what he has given you, yet I make no
fuss about the matter.' 'But, dear madam,' cried Matilda, 'sure there
is great difference in our situations, you have a natural claim--' 'A
natural claim,' repeated the Countess; 'the best claim to a generous
mind, is being unfortunate with merit that deserves a better fate. I
think little of those favours which are bestowed from claims of
affinity only; since family pride, the censure of the world, and many
causes, may unlock a heart to support their own consequence in their
connexions, but the truly benificent mind looks upon every child of
sorrow as their relation, and entitled to their assistance; but when
beauty and virtue suffer, from whatsoever cause, believe me, dear
Matilda, they receive a superior gratification that have the power of
relieving sorrows, than the receiver can in accepting the favours.' 'I
believe, my dear madam,’ replied Matilda, her heart warmed by the idea,
'I believe you are right; for if there is a human being I could envy,
it would be the one who can raise the desponding heart to hope and
peace.' 'With that conviction,' resumed the Countess, 'feel as if you
conferred a favour, without the oppressive notion of having received
one; and now pray listen to me. My brother and sister hourly importune
me to prosecute the Count: you know my objections,--God only knows
whether I have a child living or not--the doubt gives me a thousand
pangs; as to the murder of the poor Chevalier, Peter only was a
witness beside myself, and he is a creature of the Count's; then to
accuse one's husband, what an indelible reproach! I never can submit
to it: tell me, advise me, dear girl, what I must do?' 'Impossible
madam,' replied she; 'I am incompetent to advise,--your own good
sense, and the opinion of your friends, are more capable of it than
one so little conversant in the world as I am.' 'Well,' resumed the
Countess, 'I will be guided by Lord Delby and Mrs Courtney; my own
relations are too warmly interested in my favour to give an impartial
opinion:--but pray, my dear, what do you think of our Count, is not he
a charming youth?'

A question so mal-a-propos, when poor Matilda's heart bore testimony
to his merit, threw her into the greatest confusion, she was unable to
speak.

The Countess observed her emotion, but was too delicate to notice it;
she therefore added, ‘’Tis a needless question; I see your sentiments
correspond with mine; but your spirits are low, child--in truth mine
are not high, so let us seek for better company.' She arose, and
taking Matilda’s passive hand, led her to the drawing-room, where the
company was assembled.

Matilda could not see her benefactors without being visibly affected,
which the Marchioness observing, 'Come, ladies,' said she, 'give me
your votes, I am collecting them for a party to Windsor to-morrow.'
'O, doubtless you may command ours,' replied the Countess; 'novelty
has always its charms for us females.' 'Very well,' said the Marquis,
'then it's a settled business.'

The excursion to Windsor, and several other places, in the fortnight
they staid at Mrs Courtney's jumbled the Count and Matilda so
frequently together, and he had so many opportunities of admiring her
strong understanding and polished manners, that his affection was
insensibly engaged beyond all power of resistance, and he determined
to brave the censures of the world, and marry her, if he could obtain
her heart. From the moment this resolution took place, he treated her
with that insinuating tenderness in his voice and manners, which
seldom fails of communicating the infection to a susceptible mind.
Matilda's feelings alarmed her; she was conscious of the impropriety
of indulging them, and felt the necessity of avoiding the Count as
much as possible. He quickly observed the alteration in her behaviour,
and was determined to come to an immediate explanation; justly
conceiving nothing could be more wounding to a delicate mind than
suspense under such circumstances.

She so carefully shunned him, that it was not easy to find her alone;
but the morning, when it was intended to return in the evening to
London, chance afforded him an opportunity. The Marchioness, Matilda,
and the Count were in the garden; the Marquis came to them and
requested to speak a few words to his Lady; She disengaged her arm
from her companion, and went with him to the house. Matilda turned
with an intention to follow; the Count took her hand, 'Let me entreat
you, madam, to pursue your walk; I wish to speak a few words, on an
affair of consequence, that will not detain you long from your
friends.' She trembled, and without speaking, suffered him to conduct
her to an alcove at the bottom of the garden. They were both seated
for a minute before he could assume courage to speak, at length, 'I
believe from the first hour I had the happiness of being introduced to
you, my admiration was very visible, but it was that admiration which
a beautiful person naturally inspires, I knew not then it was your
least perfection. Your story, which the Marquis related, convinced me
you had every virtue which should adorn your sex, joined with a
courage and perseverance, through difficulties which might do honour
even to ours. Since I have been admitted a visitor in this house, I
have been confirmed in the exalted opinion I entertained of your
superiority to most women, and under this conviction I may justly fear
you will condemn my presumption, in offering myself and fortune to
your disposal.' 'How, my Lord,' cried Matilda, recovering from her
confusion, and interrupting him, 'do you consider who and what I am?’
'Yes, madam,' replied he, 'I have already told you, I think you one of
the most perfect of your sex, and as to any other consideration 'tis
beneath my notice: if you will deign to accept of me, it shall be the
study of my life to make you amends for the injustice of fortune, who
blindly bestows her favours on the unworthy.' 'You will pardon me, my
Lord,' said she, 'for interrupting you a second time, but I cannot
suffer you to proceed in error; I entreat you, therefore to hear me
with patience, and believe that the sentiments I express are the
genuine feelings of my heart, from which no persuasions, no
temptations shall ever make me depart. I acknowledge, with a grateful
mind, the honour you offer me is far beyond any expectations I can ever
form in life, and such as affords me both pride and pleasure, that I
am not deemed unworthy your esteem. At the same time, although you can
generously resolve to forego the respect you owe to yourself and
family, my duty to myself obliges me to remember it: without family
and connexions, without even a name--perhaps the offspring of poor, or
still worse, of infamous parents, brought up and supported by charity;
shall I intrude myself into a noble family, contaminate its lustre,
reflect indelible disgrace on the author of my undeserved elevation,
and live despised and reproached, as the artful creature who had taken
advantage of your generosity and compassion? No, my Lord, permit me to
say on such terms I never would condescend to be the wife of a prince.
I shrink at my own littleness; I am in a state of obligation for my
support, but I never will incur my own contempt, by deserving it from
others. My mind is indeed, I hope, superior to my situation: I will
preserve a rectitude of principles under every evil that may befall
me; those principles impel me to avow, with the greatest solemnity in
the face of heaven, that under the disgraceful circumstances in which
my fate seems enveloped, I never will be yours.' 'Hold, hold, madam,'
cried the Count, endeavouring to interrupt her, 'great God! what have
you vowed!' 'What duty to myself and you required of me,' said she;
'and now, my Lord, let this subject never be renewed. If it can afford
you any consolation,' added she, softened by the disorder and distress
of his appearance, 'be assured, my Lord, that as I never can be yours,
I never will be another's; and if my happiness is as dear to you as
yours will ever be to me, you will from this moment cease to think of
me but as an unfortunate girl, deprived of all power to return
obligations, and therefore with too much pride and spirit to receive
them, but from this worthy family, where I conceive it no disgrace to
hold myself dependent.'

As she ended these words she rose. 'Stop one moment, madam,' exclaimed
the Count; 'unless you would drive me to madness, afford me one gleam
of hope, distant as it may be: your cruel vow precludes me from bliss,
yet tell me, too lovely Matilda, that you do not hate me, that if--'

'Ah! Sir,' said she, involuntarily, 'hate you! Heaven is my witness,
that did my birth and rank equal yours, it would be my glory, to
accept your hand; but as there exists not a possibility of that, I
beseech you to spare me and yourself unnecessary pain; from this
instant determine to avoid me, and I will esteem you as the most
exalted of men.'

Without giving him time to reply, she darted like lightning towards
the house, leaving him overwhelmed with admiration, grief, and
despair.

'What are the advantages of birth and rank,' cried he, 'which this
sweet girl does not possess? A dignity of sentiment, a rectitude of
heart;--how greatly superior to that wretch Fontelle, whose malicious
stories have so much injured her reputation, and whose birth and
fortune only render her the more despicable; as mine must be to me of
no value, when considered as bars to happiness and Matilda.'

He walked slowly to the house and met the Marquis. 'Dear Count,' said
he, 'what have you done or said to my amiable protégée; I met her
running up stairs, out of breath, and tears trembling in her eyes?'
The Count, without the least reserve, repeated the preceding
conversation. 'And did you really make such an offer,' cried he, 'and
did she refuse it?' ‘’Tis very true,' replied the Count. 'Why then,'
said the Marquis, 'you are two of the noblest creatures under heaven;
that you, my worthy friend, should step beyond the prejudices of your
country--that you should resolve to brave the censure, the malevolent
whispers and contemptuous neglect of your equals, and support the
insolent derision of your inferiors, in favour of a young woman under
such peculiarly distressing circumstances, excites my wonder and
admiration but I scarce know any words that can do justice to my
sentiments, when I reflect that this very young woman, without friends
or fortune, from a sense of rectitude, and a loftiness of sentiment
which would do honour to the highest rank, could peremptorily refuse a
situation and prospects so brilliant--do violence to her own heart,
and prefer a dependence her soul is much superior to, rather than
incur self-reproach for your degradation. Indeed, my Lord, I know not
any language sufficiently expressive of my feelings: you must admire
her more than ever.' 'Doubt not,' answered the Count, in a melancholy
tone, 'of my more than admiration--my adoration; but, alas! she is
inflexible--she has sworn never to be mine--she has charged me to see
her, to think of her, no more.' 'Do her justice my Lord and obey her;
prove your esteem for such an extraordinary exertion of virtue and
prudence, imitate an example so deserving praise, and be assured the
trial, however severe at present, will afford you satisfaction
hereafter, in subduing love, though your highest esteem she has a
right to challenge.' 'Say no more, Marquis,' cried the Count; 'I must
cease to think of her before I can cease to love, for this day has
riveted my chains more firmly than ever. I will not however be an
inmate of your house; though I cannot relinquish the charms of her
society altogether, yet I promise you I will indulge in no more
dangerous tête-à têtes but I must see her sometimes.' 'Ah! Count,'
said the Marquis shaking his head. 'Trust my honour and discretion,'
replied he, to his significant looks; 'you may, for that angelic girl
will never put them to the proof.'

They proceeded to the house, and the carriages drawing up, the party
was collected together. Matilda contrived to accompany the Marquis,
his Lady, and Mrs Courtney. The two latter kept up a sprightly
conversation with the Marquis, and but once or twice broke in upon her
reveries; yet she appeared easy and cheerful; in truth, the delight of
being dear to the amiable Count, and a consciousness of having
performed her duty, gave that peace and serenity to her mind which
never fails of communicating itself to the countenance.

On their arrival in Harley-street the party separated, and the Count
was compelled to accept an invitation from Lord Delby, to reside with
him. 'The Marquis,' said his Lordship, 'has his family party, but I am
alone, and therefore you will do me particular honour and pleasure in
complying with my wishes.'

As the Count could not reside with the Marquis, this was certainly the
next best situation, for his Lordship was himself too fond of the
'family party' to be long absent from them; he therefore gladly
accompanied him to Cavendish-square.

They had been now near a fortnight in town, enjoying its variety of
amusements, and preparing for their journey to Scarborough, which was
now to take place in four days. The birth-day being arrived, the
Marquis, his Lady, and the Count proposed paying their compliments at
court, with Lord Delby: the Count had been previously presented. The
Countess (still known even by the Count only as Madame Le Roche) Mrs
Courtney, and Matilda, contented themselves with attending the ball,
at night, in the Lord Chamberlain's box. They were accordingly
accommodated with an excellent situation, and were extremely charmed
with the beauty and splendor of the British court.

Matilda's eyes were so intently fixed on the Royal Family, she had
scarce thought of looking round her, until some audible whispers in
French reached her ear; turning her head quickly, her eyes met those
of Mademoiselle De Fontelle. A stranger to the malice of that young
lady, she bowed with a smile, being rather too distant to speak; the
lady gave her a look of contempt, and speaking low to the person next
her; before Matilda could recover from her surprise and confusion, she
observed three or four persons look full at her, with scorn and
disdain strongly marked in their features. Shocked beyond measure at
this to her unaccountable behaviour, she turned sick and faint, was
obliged to have recourse to her salts, and heard a laughing whisper on
one side of her, whilst the Countess on the other was eagerly
enquiring the cause of her illness. Her salts, and natural dignity of
mind soon enabled her to recover. She evaded the curiosity of her
friend, by complaining of the heat, and declaring herself better. She
then turned her head towards Fontelle and her companions; she viewed
them with a steady air of the highest contempt and indifference, ‘till
even the eyes of that malicious girl fell under hers, and she was
evidently confused. Matilda then returned to the amusements below her,
and, though her mind was not easy, she appeared to enjoy uncommon
satisfaction.

When the Royal Family had withdrawn, and they were about to quit their
seats, they perceived Lord Delby and the Count making way to assist
them in getting out. The latter had no eyes but for Matilda, ‘till a
sudden exclamation, and his name, caught his ear in the moment he had
presented his hand to her; quickly turning, he saw Mademoiselle De
Fontelle and her aunt, Madame Le Brune. Surprised and vexed, he darted
at them a look of scorn, and with an air of the highest respect and
attention, assisted Matilda into the room, joined her friends, and
they were safely conveyed through the crowd to their carriage,--Lord
Delby and himself following in theirs.

When they alighted in Harley-street, Matilda, who had suppressed her
feelings in the ball-room, and had been likewise deeply affected by
the Count's attentions, scarcely entered the drawing-room before she
fainted: every one was alarmed, but the Count was distracted; his
behaviour discovered the secrets of his heart to all the company, and
when she recovered, she saw him on his knees, holding one of her
hands, whilst his air of distraction was but too expressive of his
feelings; she withdrew her hand, and he arose; she apologized to the
company, and imputed her disorder to the heat of the room, and the
sudden chill she felt in getting out of the carriage. Her friends,
glad to see her recovered, enquired no further, but the Count drew the
Marquis out of the room, and in much agitation, cried out, 'That
persecuting fiend, in a female form, is the cause of her illness.'
'Who do you mean?' demanded the Marquis. 'Who should I mean,' answered
he, warmly, 'but that malicious Fontelle; I saw her not far from
Matilda, and I dare say she insulted her; but, by heavens! if she
propagates her infamous falsehoods here, she shall repent it, however
she may trust to my honour.'

The Marquis was a little surprised at this sally, but without
appearing to observe it, said, 'You know, Count, we shall leave town
three days hence, and consequently be out of her malice. I wonder what
brought her to England.' 'Spite and envy,' replied he; 'but does the
amiable girl know how much Mademoiselle De Fontelle is her enemy?' 'No
certainly,' answered the Marquis; 'you do not suppose we would wound
her feelings, by repeating the disagreeable reports spread among our
acquaintance at Paris.' 'I am glad of it,' said the Count, 'yet I
cannot but think the other affronted her.' 'We shall know to-morrow,
but let us return and eat our supper now.'

They went down to the supper-room, and were much pleased in beholding
Matilda cheerful and perfectly well.

When the company separated, and she was retired to her apartment, she
gave way to her own reflections; she could not otherwise account for
the impertinence of Mademoiselle De Fontelle, but by supposing she was
acquainted with her birth; 'Ah!' said she, 'I doubt not but Mr Weimar
published it at Paris, from motives of revenge and she, who as a
relation to the Marchioness, received a thousand civilities, is now
despised as an imposter; an orphan, and a dependent on charity; nay,
even my benefactors may suffer in the opinion of their friends for
introducing me! Good heavens!' cried she, 'why should I continue in
the world--why assume a character and appearance I have no pretensions
to? What blameable pride, what meanness, in accepting gifts which draw
upon me contempt and derision--I will no longer support it.'

Tormented all night by the distress of her situation, she arose
unrefreshed, pale, feeble and agitated.

The Marchioness, alarmed at her appearance, insisted upon sending for
a physician; the Marquis was going to pull the bell. 'Stay, my dear
friends,' cried she, 'I beseech you; 'tis my mind, not my body, that
is disordered, and you only have the power to heal it.' 'Speak your
wishes, my dear child,' said the Marchioness; 'be assured, if in our
power, you may command the grant of them.' 'On that promise, my
dearest benefactress, your poor Matilda founds her hopes of peace.'
She then repeated the affronts of the preceding evening, and her own
conjectures upon it. 'I am humbled, my dearest madam, as all false
pretenders ought to be,' added she: 'I can no longer support the
upbraidings of my heart; a false pride, a despicable vanity induced me
to lay hold of your sentiments in my favour, which, after the
discovery of my original meanness, I ought to have blushed at your
condescension, and sought some humble situation, or retired to a
convent, where, unknowing and unknown, I might have pursued the lowly
path Providence seems to have pointed out for me. I have been punished
for my presumption and duplicity--it has made me look into myself;
doubtless, out of this family, every one beholds me with the scorn and
contempt I have justly incurred from Mademoiselle De Fontelle, and all
who know my doubtful origin. O, my beloved friends,' cried she,
wringing her hands, tears running down her cheeks, 'save me from
future insults, save me from self-reproach! complete your generosity
and goodness, and let me retire to a convent. My poor endeavours to
amuse you as a companion are no longer necessary; the Countess is
restored to you, and I have only been a source of vexation and trouble
ever since the hour you first condescended to receive me;--a convent
is the only asylum I ought to wish for, and there only I can find
rest.' Here she stopped, overwhelmed with the most painful emotions.

The Marquis was affected, the Marchioness drowned in tears. 'My dear,
but too susceptible girl,' said she, when able to speak, 'why will you
thus unnecessarily torment yourself; what is Fontelle and her opinions
to us? We are going to Scarborough; you have friends who will protect
you from every insult,--who will treat you with increased respect,
from a conviction that your mind is superior to all the advantages
which birth and fortune has given to Mademoiselle De Fontelle, or a
thousand such: besides, depend upon my assertions,--you sprung not
from humble or dishonest parents, the virtues you possess are
hereditary ones, doubt it not, my dear Matilda; if nobleness of birth
can add any lustre to qualities like yours, you will one day possess
that advantage.'

'Tis impossible to express the agitations of Matilda, on hearing such
kind and consoling sentiments; but her resolution to retire from the
world was unconquerable; she found her heart too tenderly attached to
the Count she knew the impossibility that she should ever be his; she
was convinced her story was known, her friends had not attempted to
deny it; in whatever public place she might visit, it was very
possible to meet persons who had heard it, and she might be exposed to
similar insults, which her spirit could not brook.

The Marquis and his Lady made use of persuasions, arguments, and even
reproaches, but she had so much resolution and fortitude, when once
she had formed a design, approved by her judgement, as could not be
easily shaken; and though her heart was wounded with sorrow, and her
mind impressed with grief, in being obliged to resist the kindness of
her friends, yet she still persevered.

‘Well, Matilda,' said the Marchioness, in a reproachful tone, 'since
you are inflexible to our wishes, I must insist upon your going with
me to Mrs Courtney's: what will she, what will my sister think, but
that I have treated you ill, and you can no longer remain with one you
have ceased to love.'

'Kill me not,' cried she, in an agony, 'with such reproaches; let me
fly to the Countess and disclose my reasons--ah! surely she will do
more justice to my heart: oh! madam, that you could see it--that you
could read the love, the admiration, and respect indelibly imprinted
there, with your image, never, never to be erased whilst it beats
within my bosom.'

Overcome with these sensations, she wept aloud; the Marchioness
embraced and soothed her.

The carriage was ordered, and they drove to Mrs Courtney's. The
Marquis setting them down, and going on to Lord Delby's.

It is needless to repeat what passed at Mrs Courtney's, since it was
only a repetition of every argument and persuasion which her
protectors had before used in vain. Nothing could shake her
resolution; and all the favour they could obtain, was to permit
Louison and Antoine to accompany her to Boulogne, and remain in a
convent there, ‘till her friends returned to France, and the
twelvemonth expired Mr Weimar had allowed her to remain under the care
of the Marquis.

Whilst every countenance spoke pity, grief, and admiration, the
gentlemen suddenly entered the room, the Count with an air of wildness
and distress. The moment Matilda saw him she trembled violently, and
could with difficulty keep her seat. 'Ah! madam,' said he, 'what is it
I hear--is it possible you mean to abandon your friends, to distress
the most affectionate hearts in the world, to give up society, and,
from romantic notions, bury yourself in a convent? Hear me thus
publicly,' cried he, throwing himself at her feet, With a frantic
look, 'hear me avow myself your lover, your protector, and if you will
condescend to accept of me, your husband; yes, that is the enviable
distinction I aspire to; plead for me, my friends,--soften the
obdurate heart that would consign me to everlasting misery. Oh!
Matilda, cruel, unfeeling girl, has a proud and unrelenting spirit
subdued every tender and compassionate sentiment.--has neither love
nor friendship any claims upon your heart.' His emotions were violent.

The ladies, ‘till now, strangers to his sentiments, sat mute with
wonder.

Matilda had covered her face with her handkerchief; when he stopped she
withdrew it; it was wet with tears: he snatched it from her trembling
hand, kissed it, and thrust it into his bosom. 'I beseech you, Sir, to
rise,' said she, when able to speak, 'this posture is unbecoming of
yourself and me. The resolution I have formed is such as my reason
approves, and my particular circumstances call upon me to adopt; I
ought to have done it long ago, and blush at my own folly in delaying
it.' 'But, good God! madam,' interrupted the Count, 'can the
ridiculous behaviour, or unjust prejudices of one worthless woman
weigh against the affections, the esteem of so many respectable
friends? What have we done to deserve being rendered miserable through
her envy and malice?' 'Could the warmest love, gratitude and respect,
which I owe to every one here,' answered she; 'could the arguments of
the most condescending kindness, deeply imprinted here'--putting her
hand to her heart--'could these avail to alter my purpose, I might not
be able to withstand your persuasions; but, my Lord, when I have had
fortitude sufficient to deny those who are dearer to me than life, you
cannot be offended, that 'tis impossible for me to oblige you; and
here, in the presence of those who have been witnesses to the honors
you have offered me, I release you from every vow, every obligation
your too ardent love has conferred on me, and from this hour beseech
you to think of me as a friend, zealous for your honour and happiness,
for your fame, and the respect you owe to your family; but equally
jealous of every duty I owe myself, and therefore determined to see
you no more.' She rose quickly from her chair, and ran into Mrs
Courtney's dressing-room, giving way to a violent burst of tears. The
astonished Count, who had not the power to prevent her departure,
threw himself into a chair, without speaking. The Countess had
followed Matilda.

'This is really,' said Mrs Courtney, 'the most extraordinary young
woman I ever met with; I wonder not at your attachment, my dear Count,
but after this public declaration, you have nothing to hope for:
imitate her example of fortitude and self-denial, and suffer not your
mind to be depressed, when it is necessary you should exert man's
boasted superiority of reason and firmness.' The Count replied not.

The Marchioness looked with a little surprise at Mrs Courtney, who she
thought appeared less affected than she ought for her young friend.

Lord Delby was warm in her praise, and offered to be her escort to
Boulogne, as he thought it highly improper she should be accompanied
by servants only.

This offer was thankfully accepted by the Marchioness. 'She has
absolutely prohibited the Marquis and myself,' said she, 'but I hope
will make no objections to the honour you intend her.'

The Count, making a slight apology, withdrew, and every one joined in
pitying the necessity for a separation of two persons so worthy of
each other. 'Was fortune the only obstacle her delicacy could raise,'
said the Marquis, ‘there are those who would rejoice to remove it; but
when we consider the particular disadvantages of her situation--the
disgrace and insults which would attend the Count, from her want of
birth, however great her merit: unjust as I know those prejudices are,
yet I confess it would have given me pain, had she acted otherwise. I
applaud, I admire, I love her more than ever, but I do not wish to see
her the Count's wife, unless those bars could be removed, which now
appear next to an impossibility.' 'No!' cried the Marchioness,
briskly, 'no! I will not believe merit like Matilda's is born to
wither in the shade; I will hope to see her one day in a conspicuous
point of view, that may reflect honour on all who are connected with
her, either by blood or friendship.'

'You are romantic, my dear madam,' said Mrs Courtney, with a smile;
'but suppose we go to your young favourite, and see how the poor thing
does after her heroics.'

This was said with so little feeling, that the Marchioness was
surprised; and a sudden idea darting into the mind of the Marquis, he
could not suppress a smile, whilst Lord Delby looked offended with his
sister's light manner of speaking.

Under these different impressions they entered the dressing-room, and
found poor Matilda reclining her head on the Countess, and both
weeping. 'Fie, fie, my good friend,' said Mrs Courtney, 'is this the
way to comfort the young lady for the sacrifices she has made to honour
and principle.' 'I adore your sensibility, madam,' cried Lord Delby,
hastily; 'in my opinion, who ever loves Miss Matilda does honour to
their own heart.'

Both ladies bowed to his lordship, though unable to speak; but
endeavouring to recover themselves, the Countess said, 'This dear
obstinate girl proposes setting off the day after to-morrow.’ 'Well,
and if she is so determined, what hinders us from all taking a trip to
Dover, previous to our Scarborough journey?' said Lord Delby.

Every one agreed to the proposal, after which they sought to amuse
their minds, by talking on different subjects.

The Countess and Mrs Courtney accompanied the Marchioness home to
dinner, but Lord Delby excused himself, that he might attend to the
Count. On his return to Cavendish-square he was informed his guest was
in the library. He found him writing, and would have retired; the
Count requested he would sit down: the conversation naturally turned
on the recent occurrences in Harley-street. 'Don't think meanly of me,
my dear Lord,' said the Count, ‘if I cannot help gratifying a little
malice and revenge; I have just finished a few lines to Mademoiselle
De Fontelle; I will, at least, make her remember she is in my power,
and tremble every moment, lest I should put my threats in execution; I
will plant a thorn in her bosom, if she is capable of feeling, though,
alas! I can never draw the one from my breast she has been the cause
of transfixing there for life! I shall send to the Ambassadors, to
procure her address, as doubtless from old acquaintance Madame Le
Brune has been to pay her respects to his lady, and that is the only
clue at present, I have to find her.'

When Lord Delby acquainted him the day was fixed for Matilda's
departure, and their intended jaunt with her, 'Ah!' said he, 'how
hard, that the person most interested in that event should be
precluded from being a witness of it, though I know I could not stand
the shock.' 'If my sister does not accompany us, which I rather doubt,
as one coach cannot hold them, and I intend going on horseback, there
being no necessity for great expedition I shall consign her to your
care, my dear Count, in our absence.' 'If Mrs Courtney will accept the
attendance of such a spiritless being as myself,' answered he, 'I
shall be honoured by permission to wait upon her.'

Not to dwell on the melancholy circumstances of parting, when nothing
new or particular occurred, 'tis sufficient to say both parties were
overwhelmed with grief, and Matilda submitted, with much reluctance,
to Lord Delby's going in the packet with her; but her friends all
protesting, if she refused, every one would go, she was obliged to
acquiesce; and embracing the two ladies a thousand times, with
streaming eyes, she tore herself from them and embarked.

The wind was fair; they reached Boulogne in seven hours; and whilst
they partook of some refreshment at the hotel, Louison and Antoine
walked to the Ursuline Convent, in the high town, and having
acquainted the porteress with their errand, found, to their great
mortification, they took no ladies in chamber, or high pensioners.
They were directed to the Annunciate Covent, and there soon procured
admission, and accommodations for Matilda, and Louison, who gladly
attended her, thinking it would be only for a short time, ’till her
lady came from England.

Within a few hours Matilda was received and settled. She took leave of
Lord Delby, with tears of gratitude. 'Ah!' said he, much moved, 'not
one word of remembrance to my worthy guest?' 'Yes, Sir,' said she,
raising her voice, 'tell him I admire, I esteem him--that his
happiness is the first wish of my heart. Take care, my dear Lord, of
the worthy Count; teach him to forget me, and if ever he should be
united to an amiable woman, deserving and possessing his affection, I
will then boldly claim his esteem--‘till then we must be for ever
separated.'

She entered the gates, unable to say more, and when they were shut
upon her, Lord Delby, overcome with pity and admiration, returned to
the hotel; that same evening re-embarked for Dover, and joined his
friends before nine the next morning.

Spiritless and unhappy, they arrived in Harley-street the following
evening, and sending a messenger to Mrs Courtney, that lady shortly
after entered the house, the Count with her; she cheerful and lively,
he looking pale and dejected. She enquired, with an air of
indifference, the particulars of their journey, but seemed little
interested in it; not so the Count, he asked a thousand questions. 'I
have a message to you from the amiable Matilda,' said Lord Delby. 'For
me,' said the Count, eagerly; 'O! why have you delayed it?' His
Lordship repeated her last words. 'Sweet angelic girl!' cried he, 'is
my happiness dear to her! but why should I doubt it? she is truth and
goodness itself; my esteem, my love, must ever be hers, for no other
woman shall ever possess that heart she condescended to prize, and
never will I marry, if Matilda cannot be my wife.' 'Lord bless me!'
exclaimed Mrs Courtney, 'let's have no more dismals; I declare these
last five days have vapoured me to death: I hope our journey to
Scarborough will teem with more pleasant incidents than yours to Dover
seems to have produced.' 'I am sure so,' answered the Count; 'the
world does not abound with characters like Matilda's to lament.'

No more was said; supper was announced, and more general conversation
introduced during the remainder of the evening, though every one
appeared absent and uneasy.

After the company had left them the Marchioness took notice of Mrs
Courtney's behaviour. Surely she has taken some pique against
Matilda,' said she. 'Yes,’ replied the Marquis, 'the pique natural to a
jealous woman.' 'Jealous! repeated the Marchioness, 'why, surely you
do not think she is fond of the Count' 'Indeed, but I do,' replied he;
'nay, I am certain of it, from many observations I lately made on her
conduct.' 'Bless me!' returned she, 'why Mrs Courtney is seven or
eight and thirty, the Count only two and twenty.' 'That's true,' said
he, smiling, ‘but, my love, ladies have various ways of concealing their
age, and the depredations of time; besides, vanity never forsakes
them; and to do Mrs Courtney justice, she is an agreeable woman.'
'Yes, and a sensible woman,' returned she; 'I never can suppose her
guilty of such a weakness; I rather think her prejudiced against
Matilda, by some falsehoods or other.' 'Very well,' replied the
Marquis, 'be it so: I am always more gratified by your favourable
opinion of your own sex, than a readiness to condemn them; the one
shews a generous mind, free from guile itself--the other, a malignant
spirit, desirous of acquiring merit from the deficiencies of others.'
'But, pray,' said the Marchioness, 'how will you account to Mr Weimar
for the retirement of Matilda, should he hear of it, and apply to you?’
By the simplest truth,' replied he, 'except what relates to Bouville.
He must thank himself for all the stories Mademoiselle De Fontelle has
repeated to her disadvantage, and from whence originated her sudden
determination. She is now safe; the letter I procured from the
Ambassador, addressed to any convent, at least, the superior of it,
will always protect her, since mine is the only claim she is subject
to.'

Tranquillised by this, the Marchioness recommended her young friend to
the care of Providence, and retired to rest with a virtuous heart, and
an easy mind, which could not fail of producing quiet and refreshing
slumbers.

The Count, Lord Delby, and Mrs Courtney were not equally happy. The
former, more sensible every hour of Matilda's worth, cursed the pride
of birth, which stood between him and happiness, and determined to
live only for her. Lord Delby had been many years a widower; he had
only one son, whom he carried to Switzerland, at the time the Countess
so fortunately obtained his protection: he was then extremely struck
with her appearance; beauty in distress has a thousand claims upon a
susceptible mind; but the Countess had good sense, sweetness of
temper, and delicacy of manners to recommend her; and though the first
bloom of beauty was worn off, she had sufficient charms both of mind
and body to procure for her the admiration of any man. Lord Delby
conceived a very warm affection for her, though he knew it was
entirely hopeless, unless death should rid her of her persecutor; he
was therefore condemned to silence on a subject nearest his heart, and
felt the restraint very painfully. Mrs Courtney, from the first moment
she beheld the Count, was charmed with his person and manners. She had
been a widow four years: when about three and twenty, at the request
of her father, Lord Delby, and the temptations of a very capital
fortune, superb carriages, fine jewels, and those other avenues to the
heart of a young and fashionable female, she gave her hand to Mr
Courtney, who was struck with her person, and thinking it right to
have an heir to his immense possessions, suspended for a time the
delights of Newmarket, and his favourite sprightly, to attend the laws
of Hymen; but in a very few weeks his former propensity returned; his
young bride was forsaken for the pleasures of the turf, Newmarket, its
jockies, its tumultuous pursuits, deep bets, and jovial companions,
engrossed all his time and attention. His lady, happily for her, was
not doatingly fond of her husband; she was possessed of every
appendage proper for a female in fashionable life, and outshone two thirds of her acquaintance in jewels, plate, carriages, and dress; she
was therefore extremely easy about the absence of her husband, and
whilst he neither contracted her expences, nor deprived her of the
amusements she liked, she was perfectly disposed to shew him the same
complaisance. This very modish pair lived some years together, without
feeling either pleasure or pain, from their different engagements. Mr
Courtney was at first much disappointed by not having an heir, but
time reconciled him to an event he could not remove; and having
determined to make a distant relation, who was to inherit his estate,
take his name by Act of Parliament, he ceased giving himself any
further concern about the matter. They had been married upwards of ten
years, when unfortunately taking cold, after very hard riding, a
violent fever terminated his life in six days, and his disconsolate
widow was left to undergo all the forms and ceremonies of deep
mourning, and to wear odious black for three months. This state of
mortification being rubbed through, she found herself mistress of all
her former finery, and a very noble jointure, to live as she pleased.
Mrs Courtney was good-natured, not from principle but constitution;
she hated trouble of any sort, therefore bore any thing, rather than
have the fatigue of being out of humour; she was polite and friendly,
where she had no temptation to be otherwise; in short, she had many
negative virtues, without any active ones. Such was Mrs Courtney, when
she appeared in this book first. All men were indifferent alike, ‘till
she saw the engaging Count; a few interviews decided her fate; she
found she loved to excess, and hated Matilda in proportion; she
discovered his partiality in her favour, long before it was publicly
known, and fought to recommend herself to his notice, by paying
attention to his favourite; but finding all her endeavours ineffectual,
she began to dislike the innocent object of her jealousy, and was
casting about in her mind how to get rid of her, when Matilda
unexpectedly declared her intention of going into a convent. The
Count's subsequent behaviour, his public declaration and
protestations, were mortifying circumstances, 'tis true, but she
depended upon time, absence, and her own endeavours, to conquer a
passion he could not but look upon as hopeless. The Countess, so many
years secluded from the world, at first felt only the warmest
gratitude to Mrs Courtney and her brother, for their generous
protection; but the polite attention, the mark'd kindness of Lord
Delby, inspired her with the most perfect esteem for him,--and though,
from the melancholy circumstances which attended her early
prepossession, her heart was dead to love, she yet experienced all
that partiality in his Lordship's favour which her heart was capable of
feeling.

Such was the state and sentiments of the party, now about to set off
for Scarborough. The day previous to which, after a consultation
between the Marquis, his Lady, and the Countess, on the entrance of
the Count, to pay his morning compliments, the Marquis led him to the
Countess, 'My dear friend, you have hitherto known this lady only as
Madame Le Roche, the name she bears in England; I now introduce you to
her as our dearest sister, the Countess of Wolfenbach, whose death you
have heard us often lament.'

The Count started with surprise; 'Good heavens!' said he, after
saluting her, 'how is this possible?'

The Marquis gave him a brief recital of her confinement, and promised
him the particulars another day. 'I could no longer keep our secret
from you, but she must still retain her former name, until the whole
affair is brought forward. The Ambassador was made acquainted with it
yesterday; he will take some private steps, at first, if possible, to
do us justice; and when we return to London for the winter, we shall
use decisive measures; mean time, I have written to a friend, as has
likewise my sister, to procure Joseph's testimony, as far as his
knowledge extends, lest, as he is old, we should lose a witness of
some consequence.'

The Count entered warmly into the business; his life and fortune was
at the service of his friends: they embraced and thanked him The
following day they left town, after writing the most affectionate
letters to their beloved Matilda, whose absence they most sincerely
regretted.

Matilda, on her first residence in the convent, found it replete with
many inconveniences she did not expect. For the first week she cried
incessantly, and poor Louison, not happier, continually pressed  her to
return. 'Ah, mon Dieu!' cried she, 'if my good master and lady, if the
dear charming Count de Bouville knew how miserable you are, they would
fly to bring you out again. Ah! the good Count, the morning before we
came away, gave me ten English guineas; the tears were in his eyes;
"Take care of your charming mistress, Louison," said he, "and I will
always be your friend":--Dear, dear gentleman! O, that he was but
here!'

This little anecdote, which one might have supposed would have added
to Matilda's grief, proved a most salutary remedy for it: she
instantly dried her eyes. 'Amiable, generous man!' said she, 'shall I
repine, that I have devoted myself to retirement to preserve a mind
like his from repentance and self-reproach, and from the disdain of
those low-minded people, incapable of the nobleness of heart which
would prompt him to forget his own dignity, to raise a friendless
orphan. No; I will at least prove deserving of his esteem, by my own
self-denial; I will support every inconvenience, every trial with
resignation--happy, if, in sacrificing the trifling amusements the
world affords, I can promote his peace, and secure his future
happiness.'

Fortified by these generous sentiments, she no longer wept or sighed;
she sought consolation in the practice of her religious duties, which
strengthened her mind and composed her spirits: she found in the
uniform observance of piety, charity, and compassion towards the sick
and unfortunate, that peace which the world could not give, and that
serenity of mind which no recollection of misfortunes could deprive
her of.

She became the admiration of the whole community; every one was
desirous of her favour, but Matilda, blessed with uncommon penetration,
and capable of the nicest discrimination, was at no loss to
distinguish the selfish and fulsome attentions of the officious, from
the approbation of the worthy and humble few who looked on her with
eyes of kindness, but never intruded; from these few, to whom she
payed particular civility, her heart selected mother St Magdalene; she
was about eight and twenty, and had been a nun nearly ten years; she
was one of those very elegant forms you cannot behold without
admiration; her face was more expressive than beautiful, yet more
engaging than a lifeless set of features without animation, however
perfect or blooming, could possibly be; she was pious without
ostentation, kind and affectionate to her sisterhood, and courteous,
without design or meanness, to the pensioners.

This charming woman soon attracted the notice of Matilda,--she sought
her company and conversation--she received her attentions with
particular complacency.

Mother Magdalene was sensible of her civilities--she plainly
comprehended the value of them, but from peculiar notions of delicacy,
and to avoid giving umbrage to the sisterhood, she rather repressed
than encouraged her particular kindness. Matilda, however, would not
be repulsed, and Magdalene was at length compelled to be her 'Dear
Mother'.

They were frequently together, and by her example Matilda was
encouraged to the perseverance in every moral and religious duty.
Letters from her two friends, the Marchioness and Countess, were the
only things she permitted to break in upon them, and those letters
were a continual stimulation to a sense of gratitude and generosity,
which she found herself called upon to exert. Whilst Matilda had thus
happily reconciled her mind to her situation, her friends were
enjoying the amusements that Scarborough afforded.

The Count was always the attendant on Mrs Courtney; and though his
passion was as fervent as ever, and his regrets as powerful for the
loss of Matilda, he could not be always in company with an amiable
woman, who paid him such particular attention, without being gratified
by it, and sometimes shewing those little marks of gallantry which all
women expect.

The Count, though he had a more than common share of solidity and
stability, with the most refined understanding and integrity of heart,
yet he was still a Frenchman--still possessed a natural gaiety of
heart, the greatest politeness and attention to the fair sex, and
sometimes fell into the hyperbolical compliments so natural to his
countrymen, when addressing the ladies. Mrs Courtney, too ready to
believe every thing to be as she wished, gave him every encouragement,
and contrived frequently to draw him into situations and expressions
which were rather equivocal, but by which he meant nothing, though the
lady thought otherwise.

They had been near three weeks at Scarborough; the ladies had heard
twice from Matilda, but as she requested her name might never be
mentioned to the Count, but from necessity, they only answered his
eager enquiries, by saying she was well, and appeared to be much
pleased with her situation. He saw there was a reserve in their
manner, and justly supposed it owing to her restrictions: he did
justice to her greatness of mind, which only served to increase his
love and regrets.

One morning Mrs Courtney, entering the Marchioness's dressing-room,
flung herself into a chair, 'Bless me! said she, 'what shall I do with
your friend, the Count? he has drawn me into a pretty scrape,--I never
intended marrying again, but he is so pressing, so irresistible--'
'Who,' cried the Marchioness, surprised, 'the Count? he pressing?'
'Why, yes,' answered she; 'surely you must have observed his
particular devoirs for some time past.' 'Not I, upon my honour,'
answered the Marchioness; ‘I never supposed his attentions to you wore
the face of particularity.' 'Then you can have observed nothing,' said
she, peevishly. 'Pray, what think you, my dear madam?' turning to the
Countess. 'Upon my word, I am equally surprised,' replied she; 'but if
you can settle the matter agreeably between yourselves, I shall
certainly rejoice at it, because I am very sure Matilda will keep her
resolution, in refusing his addresses.'

Those last words, which were spoken undesignedly, piqued Mrs Courtney
a good deal. 'I do not think 'tis of much consequence,' said she,
haughtily, 'whether she keeps her resolution or not;--I believe by
this time he is very sensible of the impropriety of his offer--but I
forget, I appointed him to meet me at a friend's, in the next
street,--bon jour, ladies,' said she, with a forced gaiety, and ran
out of the room, leaving them looking at each other with astonishment.

'Can this be Mrs Courtney?' cried the Countess, 'my God, what a
change!' 'But is there, can there, be any truth,' said the
Marchioness, 'in the Count's attentions?' 'Heaven knows,' said she,
'but if it is so, I shall never depend upon man again.'

Some company coming in, prevented further conversation; but at dinner,
when they all met, the ladies observed the Count appeared to be
thoughtful and uneasy, Mrs Courtney gay and lively, Lord Delby rather
attentive to both; in short, it was the first dinner in which the
party seemed collected within themselves, and forgot their friends,
except Mrs Courtney, who behaved with remarkable politeness and
sweetness to all.

When the ladies retired to the drawing-room, the Count addressed the
Marquis in the following manner. 'I believe, my dear Sir, you are
sufficiently acquainted with me, to know that I am equally incapable
of a dishonourable thought or action to any one, much less towards a
lady for whom I entertain the highest respect, and the sister of my
hospitable entertainer.' 'For heaven's sake,' cried the Marquis, 'what
is all this,--who dares accuse you?' 'A misapprehension only, I hope,’
said the Count, in a calm tone, 'not an accusation. Both you and all
our friends are perfectly acquainted with my attachment to the amiable
Matilda,--an attachment,’ added he, raising his voice, 'that will be as
lasting as my life, for I never shall love any other woman.But
unhappily the respect and attentions I have paid to the merits of Mrs
Courtney, have been misconceived; I have been upbraided with seeking
to gain her affections, and with having given colour to suppose mine
were also devoted to her: the highest respect, nay, even admiration of
her many amiable qualities, I have undoubtedly expressed, but not one
word beyond what friendship would warrant, from a man who made no
scruple to own his love for another, though perhaps that other never
can be his. My heart, my honour, does not reproach me with the least
duplicity or mean design. Can you, my dear Marquis, from the whole
tenor of my conduct, suppose I could be a trifling coxcomb, much less
a deliberate villain, for I must hold any man as such who could seek
to gain the affections of an amiable woman, to gratify his vanity
only?’ ‘I am equally surprised and concerned,' said the Marquis, 'that
such misapprehensions should have taken place--' 'And I,' interrupted
Lord Delby, 'equally displeased and mortified, at being made a party
in the business; but there is no accounting for the vanity of women,
and how very readily they entertain ideas they wish to indulge. I am
very sorry, Count, I have been drawn into this foolish affair, for I
observed at first it was very unaccountable, that a man should make
his court to one woman, and avowedly profess his admiration of
another; I shall however talk to my sister, and I beg the subject may
drop and go no further.’ 'I feel myself extremely at a loss how to
behave,' said the Count; 'I think I had better leave Scarborough.' 'By
no means,' said his Lordship, hastily; 'behave as usual to Mrs
Courtney, in public, but avoid tête-à-têtes;--if she is wise, she will
herself approve this method, to escape observation.'

The Count reluctantly submitted, knowing after what had passed, he
must appear very awkward in his civilities, which had been so
misconceived.

They attended the ladies in the drawing-room, and it being proposed to
go to the theatre, the Count, as usual, offered his hand to Mrs
Courtney, though with a look of confusion and reserve; she accepted it
with a polite and tender air.

Lord Delby, not knowing she had exposed herself to the ladies,
requested the Marquis would not mention the affair to them.

The evening passed off very well, and at supper they were more cheerful
and talkative than usual. The following day however Mrs Courtney
appeared with a new face; she looked pensive and unhappy, complained
of a pain in her breast, ate little, sighed frequently, and in short,
engaged that particular attention we naturally pay to those we love,
and see indisposed. The Count looked the image of despair; he
addressed her one moment, with an air of tenderness, the next he
studiously seemed to avoid her; his behaviour was unequal, confused,
and evidently perplexed. Things continued in this state for some
days,--Mrs Courtney more melancholy, the Count more distressed; when
one day, as they were at table, the Marquis received an express from
London. Every one was alarmed; it came from the German Ambassador,
requesting the Marquis would instantly come to town, the Count of
Wolfenbach being there dangerously ill, and desirous of making all
possible reparation to the Countess.

This news suspended all the new schemes. The Countess could scarcely
be kept alive; she was apprehensive of some fresh plots, and dreaded
the idea of being again within his power. 'Fear not, madam,' cried
Lord Delby; 'the monster shall never see you without your friends to
protect you.' 'Besides, sister,' urged the Marchioness, 'the
Ambassador is himself a pledge of your safety, and tells us he is
dangerously ill,--perhaps the poor wretch cannot die in peace without
your pardon.' 'O, my God!' said she, starting up, 'let me go this
instant!--alas! he has need of forgiveness; his crimes are great, yet
if they were the consequence of his love for me, 'tis my duty to speak
peace and pardon; grant heaven!' cried she, lifting up her hands, 'I
may not come too late! I will set off this very hour.' 'Be composed,
my dear sister,' said the Marquis, 'we will go this evening; the
Marchioness and I will attend you.' 'And I,' exclaimed the Count. 'We
will all accompany you,' said Lord Delby. 'Ah! my Lord,' answered the
Countess, 'why should I so suddenly call you from the amusements of
this place: you proposed staying three months, we have only been here
a little better than one.' 'Wherever my friends are,' replied Lord
Delby, 'is to me the desirable place; I have no local attachments
without their presence; and I dare answer for my sister, she has no
objections, as I think the air of Scarborough has been of little use
to her health.' 'You judge very right, my Lord, I shall certainly
accompany our friends,' said she, in a languid tone, adding, 'their
happiness must constitute mine.'

The Count, who took every thing literally which betrayed generosity of
sentiment, could not help saying, ‘’Tis impossible to doubt Mrs
Courtney's concurrence in every scheme productive of pleasure to those
she honors with her esteem.' This compliment made her eyes dance with
pleasure.

Their women were called and desired to set about packing immediately.
Every thing was hurried on, and at five the next morning they were all
on their return to London.

About a week previous to this Matilda received a letter from an
unknown hand, and without a name, signifying that the Count De
Bouville was paying his addresses to Mrs Courtney; that he was
extremely fond of her, but that she hesitated on account of his vows
to Matilda, which made him very unhappy.

She read this letter with composure,--she felt some pangs at her
heart, she tried to overcome them: 'Why should I be uneasy,' said she,
'have not I wished the Count might make a suitable alliance?--did I
not release him from his vows? Alas! I have neither claims nor
expectations,--let him marry, I can then renounce the world, and
settle here for life,--when lost to him I have only this asylum to
bury myself in for ever.' The tears would flow, but she quickly dried
them. 'From whence this sorrow,' said she again, 'had I any hopes? O,
no! all is despair and bitterness on my side, but I will rejoice in
the happiness of the amiable Count, whatever befalls myself.'

Within three days after this, she received a letter from Mrs Courtney;
these were the contents:

MY DEAR MISS MATILDA.

Honour, sentiment, and generosity impel me to address you; I am well
acquainted with the nobleness of your heart, and can confide in its
integrity. You have refused the Count De Bouville, publicly refused
him: was there a shadow of hope you ever could be his, I would have
been silent; but as I deem that impossible, I trust to your generosity
and fortitude, when I tell you, he has for some time past paid his
addresses to me, with the warm approbation of all our friends. I at
first made objections on your account; he pleaded, you had publicly
rejected him; and, as I did not feel satisfied, he offered to write
you, and procure his release but knowing men have great duplicity,
when they wish to carry a point, I declined his offer and chose to
write myself; and I conjure you, my dear Matilda, to believe I will
not consent to what he calls his happiness, without your permission.
If you have any hopes or expectations; if you think his love may ever
return to you, and that different situations may give a countenance to
his addresses, and admit of your claims upon him, depend upon it I
will dismiss him, however unhappy he may be; for I would not wound
your peace, by acceding to his wishes, be the consequence what it may.
Your friends, who are mine also, choose to be entirely silent on the
subject; nor will they take notice of it, until settled between you
and me. Look on me as your friend, dear Matilda,--be explicit--do not
consider the Count or myself; speak your wishes, your hopes, and be
assured that your felicity is my first wish, whatever it may cost me.
I am my dear Matilda's sincere friend And obedient servant.

MARIA COURTNEY

Prepared as Matilda had been, by the anonymous letter, to expect such
intelligence, no words can express her feelings at receiving this
letter; overcome with grief, she retired to her apartment and gave
loose to the painful emotions that oppressed her. After a little time
she grew more composed: 'Is a heart like his worth regretting?' cried
she. 'Could he, if his love had been founded on esteem, so soon have
offered his addresses to another? O, no! it was only a transient
affection, not imprinted on the heart, but vanished with my person:
how fortunate then our hands were not joined; how miserable should I
have found myself, if united for life to so fickle a disposition.'

Whilst this impression was strong upon her, she took up her pen and
wrote the following answer: DEAR MADAM, Accept, I beseech you, my
warmest acknowledgements for your very friendly and obliging letter:
your candid communications and consideration for my peace, I feel in
the most sensible manner; but I beg leave to assure you, madam,
neither my happiness nor peace depend now upon the Count De Bouville.
I shall always think myself obliged for the affection he offered me,
but as it is impossible we should ever meet on those terms, I hope
reason has entirely subdued an improper sentiment, and if we ever
should meet again, which is not likely, we shall behold each other
with the indifference of common acquaintances. I am exceedingly happy
here, and, if at the expiration of the twelvemonth Mr Weimar allowed
me, my friends will accede to my wishes, and permit my stay in this
convent, I trust I shall be happy for the remainder of my life. I hope
this will prove satisfactory to your very friendly offers respecting
the Count, who has my sincerest wishes for his happiness, with any
other woman but her who is, my dear madam, Your much obliged humble
servant, MATILDA .

After she had sealed and sent off this letter her spirits grew more
tranquillised; she tried to conquer her feelings, and consider only
the fickleness of men's dispositions. 'Yet why should I upbraid him,'
thought she; 'he has a family, a name to support, and ought to marry:
Mrs Courtney is amiable, has a large independent fortune, respectable
friends, and a noble origin to boast of;--what am I in a comparative
view with her? Ah!' cried she, bursting into tears, 'the retrospection
humbles and subdues both my pride and regret: what have I to do but to
submit to the lowly state I am placed in, and bless at a distance
those generous spirits that have enabled me to procure such an asylum
as this.'

Mother Magdalene entered as she was wiping the tears from her cheeks;
taking her hand affectionately between hers, 'My dear young lady, why
those tears? spare me the pain of seeing you unhappy; remember this is
but a short and transitory life; our pilgrimage through it is painful,
no doubt thorns are strewed in our paths, sorrows planted in our
bosoms; but if planted and strewed by others, where is the sting to
afflict our own hearts? Believe me, dear lady, reason can subdue every
affliction but what arises from a condemnation within; with a self-
approving conscience we can look forward with hope; and if turbulent
and ungracious spirits are too powerful for us to contend with here,
we can trust to our Heavenly Father, that our sufferings and patience
will meet with a recompence hereafter, far superior to the brightest
expectations that can be formed in this life.' 'My dear friend and
comforter,’ said Matilda, kissing her hand, 'be you my monitress if I
grieve for temporal evils; yet, alas! my misfortunes are not common
ones.' 'You think so,' answered Mother Magdalene; 'we are all apt to
magnify our own troubles, and think them superior to what others feel;
but, my dear child, you are yet a novice in affliction; when you know
more of the world you will know also that there are varieties of
misery which assail the human frame,--and 'tis our own feelings that
constitute great part of our distress.'

Matilda sighed, and after a little pause, 'That I may not appear
impatient, nor grieved at trifles, I will unbosom myself to you, and
perhaps from you obtain that consolation I have hitherto sought in
vain.'

She then related every part of her story, except the name of the
Countess and situation of the castle.

Her gentle friend sympathized with her, and confessed, for so young a
woman, her trials were very great. 'But still, my dear lady,' said
she, 'I bid you hope; you have a Father and Protector, trust in him,
and you will one day assuredly be happy. Another time you shall know
my sad story, and will then confess, of the two, I have been most
wretched; and, though I cannot entirely exclude a painful remembrance
sometimes, yet I am now comparatively happy--my troubles no longer
exist, and religion has restored peace to my mind. Adieu, my dear
child,--take hope to your bosom and compose your spirit.' 'Yes,' cried
Matilda, 'I will at least try to conquer one cause of my distress, and
in destroying this fatal letter of Mrs Courtney's, lose all
remembrance of the Count: surely after having so solemnly renounced
him, I have no right either to complain of him or grieve for myself,--
’tis an unpardonable folly, for every way he is dead to me.' She threw
the letter into the fire and walked into the garden.

In the evening she received another visit from her good mother, who
was much pleased to see her so tranquil. Matilda reminded her of her
promise to relate her history.

'My story, my dear child, is not a long one, but replete with many
melancholy circumstances. My father was a merchant at Dunkirk; he
married a very amiable woman, and had a numerous family--five girls
and four boys; few people lived more respectable than they did, but
they were not rich; a large family, liberal minds, and hearts always
disposed to relieve the wants of others, precluded affluence, though
they had a decent competence. The failure of a very capital house in
England, with whom my father was materially connected, obliged him to
go over, without loss of time; he embarked from Dunkirk. Alas! My dear
child, we saw him no more! A storm overtook them, as 'tis supposed,
and all on board perished, for the packet was never but once seen or
heard of after. When this dreadful news arrived, my mother was weeping
over a letter just received from a friend in London, with the
intelligence, that the house which had failed could not pay a shilling
in the pound, and from some particular connexions between them and my
father, all his effects would be seized, and he was likewise declared,
or included in the bankruptcy. One of those unhappy gossiping persons,
fond of telling every thing, without considering the consequences,
called upon my mother, as she was in an agony over the contents of
this letter; “Ah! My dear madam," cried she, "I see you have received
the fatal news?" "Yes," answered my mother, wringing her hands, "we
are all undone for ever!" "But who," said she again, "could write you
about it, for only the boat that is just come in saw the packet go
down." "What packet?" cried my mother, starting. "Why the packet your
good husband was in."

'She heard no more, but fell senseless on the floor. I had been out
upon business, and entered the room just as this officious newsmonger
and the servants were trying to raise and recover my wretched parent.
A stranger to all the circumstances I was frightened to death almost,
and teased every one to know what had happened; no one answered. It
was some time before she was brought to life. With a look of horror I
shall never forget, she cried, "Hermine, you have no longer a father,
a friend, nor a home!" "Great God!" I exclaimed, "what is all this?"
"'Tis misery in extreme," said she, still with a fixed look and a dry
eye; "your father is drowned, and I hourly expect every thing to be
seized.Well," cried she, rather wildly, "let it be complete! Ruin
should not come by degrees." Two or three of the younger children came
into the room; the moment she saw them she gave a violent shriek and
fell into convulsions. Scarce in my senses, I flew about the house,
and by my screams drew several persons to me. We got my mother up to
her apartment, a physician was sent for, but it was many hours before
she was restored; she lay three days at the point of death, the fourth
the fever abated, and hopes were entertained of her life. This day a
person came and took possession of the house and all our effects. By
the interposition of a friend we were allowed to remain in it ten
days. Judge, my dear young friend, what must have been my situation; a
father dead, a mother scarcely alive, our whole property seized,--
eight children younger than myself, I only fifteen, and all unprovided
for--obliged to be the comforter, the supporter of all.

'Out of the numerous set of acquaintances we had, two only appeared as
friends in our distress; one an old gentleman of small fortune, the
other a young merchant, who had for some months paid particular
attention to me, young as I was. These two persons interested
themselves a good deal for us. My mother grew better, but her nerves
were so shattered, that a kind of partial palsy took effect upon her
speech, she spoke thick and scarcely intelligible; a sort of
convulsive cry succeeded every attempt to talk; in short, her
situation was most truly deplorable. Within a few days we were removed
to the house of the old gentleman, without any one thing we could call
our own, but clothes. This good and worthy man placed out my sisters
in a convent, put my brothers to school, raised a subscription for
their support, his own fortune being insufficient to maintain us all,
and in fine, did every thing a father and friend could do, for the
whole family. Not one of my mother's former gay acquaintance ever
concerned themselves about her; she was poor and afflicted with
sickness, "they could not bear to see a woman they esteemed in so
miserable a situation, and therefore were obliged to give her up". Oh!
My dear lady, of all the worldly evils that can befall us, surely
there is nothing so painful to support as the ingratitude and
contumely of those who once thought themselves honoured in your
acquaintance: mere butterflies of the day! They bask in the sunshine
of your prosperity, but when night shuts in and sorrows assail you,
they fly elsewhere, in search of those sweets you can no longer afford
them, and despise what they once coveted and admired. Young, at that
time, almost a stranger to mankind, I felt indignation and
astonishment when I met any of our former friends--friends! Let me not
profane the name of friendship! I mean intimates and companions; my
civilities were repressed with scorn; my appearance glanced over with
a look of contempt, and "poor souls, they are supported by charity, I
pity them to my heart", said aloud in my hearing, with features
expressive of every thing but pity.

'I will not dwell on things so common as ingratitude and hardness of
heart; stings which you, my young friend, have never yet
experienced,--heaven grant you never may, for 'tis a bitter cup to
taste of. We lived in the manner I have described for near eight
months, my poor mother so ill and helpless I could not leave her. The
young gentleman I have mentioned payed me the same attention, and
scrupled not to acquaint our good friend, it was his design, in a
short time, to make me his wife. "If you do," said he, one day, "you
shall have a father's blessing with her when I die; whilst I live I
will support the children: but Hermine is a good girl--she who can, at
her time of life, give herself up to the care of a sick parent, and
find delight in her duty, will make a good wife."

'One morning, when the old gentleman was in my mother's room, he was
suddenly seized with an apoplexy and dropped senseless from his chair:
my screams soon brought assistance--a surgeon was sent for;--alas! he
was gone for ever. My mother was, in consequence of her fright, taken
in a shivering fit, which in a few moments turned to a stroke of the
palsy, and deprived her entirely of speech and the use of her limbs on
the left side. That I preserved my senses at such a time, was
wonderful. I sent for my lover, in an agony no words can describe; the
news flew through the town, and two or three of our late friend's
relations hastened to the house; they were rich and wanted nothing,
however they began to assume an air of authority, when my lover
interfered, told them he was convinced there was a will, and that I
was the appointed heir. This enraged them greatly; the will was
eagerly called for, and by all parties earnestly sought for: alas! no
such thing was to be found. The unfeeling women ordered me to remove
my mother and my trumpery the following morning. My lover was almost
beside himself with vexation and disappointment: I was stupid with
sorrow; I hung over my almost lifeless parent, without speaking, and
unable to shed a tear. After some time, those women quitted the room,
leaving orders with a woman servant, to watch me, that I took nothing
but my own, and to take care I quitted their house next day. When they
were gone, this poor woman in circumstances, but rich (oh! how much
richer than her employers!) in goodness of heart, approached the bed,
and, gently raising me, she gave me some drops and water that rouzed
me from the stupor which had seized upon my faculties, when, looking
round the room for my departed friend, and then on my helpless parent,
I burst into a flood of tears. "Thank God!" said the good creature,
"that you can weep: don't be unhappy, my dear Miss, Providence will
provide for you: I have a sister, who lives in a very humble style
indeed, and keeps a little shop; her husband was formerly an under
clerk to your father; he loves the whole family dearly, and I dare
say, if you will condescend to stay under their mean roof  ‘till you
are better suited, they will wait upon you with joy." "Ah! where is
Mr.--?" meaning my lover. "I know not, madam," answered she, "but I
think he followed the ladies." "Good heavens!" I cried, "could he
leave me under such a complication of horrid circumstances; this is
bitterness indeed, if deserted by him,--but it cannot be,--he is
doubtless gone to fetch a physician." In this vain hope I passed
several hours, no lover, no physician appeared; I was in a state of
distraction: the servant sent for her sister and brother; they came,
and offered me their services with a heartiness which spoke their
sincerity. I was incapable of determining; I sent to my lover, "he was
particularly engaged, but would see me some time to-morrow". "O, let
me begone!" cried I, in a frenzy, "I will take my dear mother in my
arms--we will die together." With difficulty they separated me from
her: the dear saint was sensible, though incapable of speaking; her
eyes told me all she felt--O! the expression in them can never be
forgotten,--what a night was that! In the morning my dear mother was
put into a kind of litter, and we were conveyed to the humble dwelling
of this charitable pair. She was laid in a decent bed and dropped a
sleep: I was kneeling at the side of it when the door opened, and the
man who called himself my lover appeared before me. I felt
undescribeable emotions; he took my hand, and placing me in a chair,
still unable to speak, he said, "I came to you, my love, the first
moment of leisure; last night I was engaged; but you shall not stay in
this poor place, I will take a decent lodging for you and your mother,
and will be answerable for all expences; I will daily be your
visitor, and I hope in a little time you will recover your spirits."
At first my heart bounded with joy at his kindness; then again I
thought there was a something wrong, though I hardly knew what; at
last, "I think," replied I, 'that I ought not to put you to such great
expences, nor would it be proper you should maintain me, unless--"
There I stopped. "Unless what?" said he, earnestly. "Unless I had a
claim to your protection," said I, blushing. "I will be very sincere
with you, my dear Hermine: had your old friend performed his promise,
and left you his fortune, though but a small one, I would have married
you; but I am young, and only entering into life; a wife without a
fortune, a mother in such a situation, and a family of young relations
would soon ruin me, and of course you: I must prove my love another
way; an old rich widow has been recommended to me; I will marry her; I
shall then be enabled to support you all in affluence, and have no ill
consequences to dread. What say you, my dearest Hermine, may I hope
your sentiments concur with mine?" You will wonder, my dear child, at
my patience and silence during this proposal; in truth I wondered at
myself; heaven, no doubt, supported me, and gave me, at that trying
moment, superior resolution. "Of my opinion, Sir, and of the
sentiments you have avowed, you must collect my thoughts, when I tell
you, that so far from living a life of obligation with such a man,
were you this moment possessed of millions, and would offer to marry
me, I would prefer poverty and want--I would starve, with this dear
insulted woman, before I could condescend to marry a man of such
infamous principles!--Leave me, Sir, for ever; presume not to enter
the habitation of virtuous poverty, and blush at your own littleness,
when you enjoy the house of wealth and magnificence." He attempted to
speak. "I hear you no longer, Sir; you are more mean and contemptible
in my eyes than the poorest reptile that crawls upon the earth.” I
stampt with my foot, and Mrs Bouté came up. I never saw a countenance
so expressive of wonder and disappointment when she entered. "I am
sorry to say, madam, you do not know your best friends; but should
your mind alter upon consideration, you know where to find me, and I
shall be always happy to attend your commands." I gave him no answer,
but a look of contempt, and he left the room.

'The spirit and indignation which had supported me through this scene,
now subsided; I shed a flood of tears. I saw no one being to whom I
could look up with any hope or prospect of comfort. Mrs Bouté, who
sympathized with me, said, "Ah! madam, if Madame De Raikfort, if
Madame De Creponier were acquainted with your sorrows, I am sure you
would find friends; they always assist the unfortunate, and
particularly persons like you, born to higher expectations." I took my
resolution immediately; I wrote to both, describing my past and
present situation. From the latter lady I received an almost immediate
visit: she condoled with me; she entered into my concerns with a
kindness and delicacy peculiar to herself, as I then thought; I knew
not that the principles of charity and benevolence were the same in
every well informed mind and good heart. I received the same kind
attentions from the other family: Madame De Raikfort sent me every
comfort and convenience I could want for my poor mother. In short, to
those good ladies I was indebted for my chief support during her
existence. A fortnight, exactly, from the death of our good old
friend, she expired. There was no apparent alteration ‘till within a
few hours of her death; and she went off without a sigh or groan.
Though the shock was dreadful, yet I had so long expected it, and in
her melancholy situation it was rather to be wished for, that I found
myself, though grieved at my irreparable loss, yet rejoiced that she
escaped from the evils of this life, to awake in a blessed
immortality. The benevolent ladies I have mentioned, did not forsake
me; they paid the last sad duties to my parent; they undertook to
educate and place my younger brothers and sisters to get their living
decently; they asked what were my views and wishes? I frankly
answered, "To be a nun." Had I any choice of a convent? I named this;
a young lady, a friend of my juvenile days, previous to my
misfortunes, had professed here. The ladies told me I should enter
upon my noviciate, but on no terms to be persuaded to assume the veil;
it was by no means their wish; and the first summons from me they
would take me out and provide for me in the world: that they rather
complied with my wishes than their own inclinations--which would be
more gratified in my residence with them. I thanked my generous
benefactresses, but persisted in my desire of quitting the world. The
day before I intended leaving Dunkirk, I received a letter from my
quondam lover, expressing regret for his behaviour, and an unequivocal
offer of marriage. I put his letter under a cover, with these lines:
"The man who presumes to insult the feelings of a virtuous female, and
when he fails in his purpose, condescends to solicit pardon, and
offers to raise that ill-treated woman to a level with himself, lowers
her more, by such an offer, than the bitterest poverty can inflict:
but the person to whom this letter is addressed is fortunately beyond
the reach of insult or indigence; she therefore rejects the proposal
with her whole heart, and with the highest contempt."

'Having seen my brothers and sisters safe under the protection of
those worthy ladies, and received from them every pecuniary assistance
I could want, with letters of warm recommendation I arrived here; and
here, in a short time, recovered tranquillity and ease: leaving
nothing in the world to regret, I studied the duties of my situation,
and, at the expiration of the time allowed to consider, I gave my
decided choice of a monastic life, and took the veil. I hear often
from my generous friends. Two of my sisters are well married; the rest
of my family have every prospect of success. Now, my dear young lady,
I have related my history, tell me candidly, have your troubles ever
equalled mine?'

'Oh! no,' cried Matilda; ‘I am ashamed of my own impatience and
inquietude. Good heavens! if such are the evils to be expected in
life; if misfortunes are so frequent, ingratitude and malignancy so
prevalent, men so abandoned, and the good and benevolent alloted so
small a share in the proportion of the world, the only asylum for the
unfortunate is a convent.’‘Not always,’ answered Mother Magdalene;‘there are situations and difficulties in life, from which even the
unfortunate may extract hope and comfort: yours is such: 'tis possible
you have parents still living, who may one day fold you to their
bosoms; 'tis likewise not impossible you may one day be united to the
man you prefer. In short, your situation is not hopeless, like mine: I
saw the downfall of every expectation I could form, and had no one
hope or engagement to the world; you have many: you have no right to
dispose of your future destiny, whilst there is the least probable
chance you may be reclaimed. Reside here as a boarder, my dear child;
but under your doubtful circumstances, never take the veil, for the
mind should be entirely disengaged from all worldly hopes, before it
can renounce it properly.’

From this day Matilda grew entirely resigned; she derived wisdom and
comfort from her good mother's conversation, nor suffered anticipation
of evils to disturb her serenity.

The Scarborough party were now arrived in London. The Marquis
immediately waited on the Ambassador. His Excellency told him the
Count Wolfenbach was alive, but past all hopes of recovery. ‘He knows
you are hourly expected, and is anxious to see you.'

The Marquis, taking his address in Dover-street, hastened thither and
sent up his name. He waited some time for the servant's return, at
length he was desired to walk up, and on entering the room, scarce
could he trace any recollection of the object in the bed before him.
It was some years since he had seen the Count; he was not then young;
but age, anxiety, and conscious guilt, with the disorder that now
oppressed him, had indeed greatly altered him. When the Marquis drew
near, he was for a moment silent; then, addressing him, 'I am told, my
Lord, you requested my presence.' 'I did,' replied the Count. 'Pray,
is your sister with you?' 'Not in the house,' answered the Marquis,
'but she is in town, and will soon attend, if it is your wish to see
her.' 'Yes,' said the Count, 'let her come; I can tell my story but
once, 'tis fit she should be present.' The Marquis instantly
dispatched a messenger for his wife and sister. In the interim the
Count desired to be informed in what manner the Countess effected her
escape through the wood and got to England. The Marquis recounted
every particular. 'There was a fate in it, no doubt,' said the Count;
'Providence intervened, to prevent me from the commission of crime I
intended, and preserved her life.'

Word was brought up that the Countess and Marchioness were below. They
were desired to enter. When they came into the room the Countess
involuntarily shrunk back. 'Approach, madam, do not fear; the
discovery is now made, and in a very short time I shall have nothing
to hope for, nor you any thing to dread.' The Countess advanced,
trembling, and seated herself by the bed. 'I now,' said he, 'entreat
your forgiveness of all the wrongs my cruel jealousy heaped upon you;
say, speak, can you pardon me? tell me that, before I begin my
narrative, lest I should be cut off e'er I have finished.' 'I do
indeed,' replied the Countess; 'I pardon you from my soul, and may the
God of mercy pardon you likewise.' 'I am satisfied,' said he, 'and now
attend to my confessions.--I was well aware, before I married, of the
affection subsisting between Victoria and the Chevalier; I was not
blind to the difference in our persons and ages, and hated him in
proportion to the advantages in his favour. I was resolved to carry my
point, to gratify both passions; her father seconded my wishes, and
she became mine. From that hour I never knew a peaceful moment. I
doated on her to distraction; jealousy kept pace with love. Her
conduct gave me no right to complain; yet she loved me not, and I
feared the Chevalier was the object of her partiality and regret. My
temper, naturally impetuous and furious, grew daily worse; for what
hell can give torments equal to what a jealous man feels? One day I
had been at Vienna, and was informed of the Chevalier's return:
desperate and alarmed, I came home. In the Park I met Peter. He had
lived some years with me; was blindly devoted to my service, and had
been employed by me to watch the Countess. He told me a gentleman had
been walking round the park, examining the house, and on his going to
him, and enquiring who he wanted, he only asked if the Count and
Countess of Wolfenbach were there; and Peter answering, yes, he walked
hastily away. This information was a dagger to my soul: I resolved to
carry her to my castle in Switzerland, secretly. I pursued my design.
I had been there but a short time before I heard a man, disguised, had
been about the grounds, who made off when any person came near him; I
concluded 'twas the Chevalier, and resolved to have him watched,
determined he should die; at the same time that I thought it
impossible he should come at the Countess in her apartment. One day
going to her room, I heard a sudden noise, found her on the floor,
with a paper in her hand, and saw a figure glance from the window. I
was struck with rage and astonishment. After confining and upbraiding
her, as she may inform you, I closeted Peter, and by promises of
present reward and future prospects, he took a solemn oath to assist
in my revenge, and to be secret. We took our stand the following night
by the wall, and saw him advance to climb up the battlements; we
sallied out, knocked him down, bound and gagged him, and, determined
to have complete revenge, we dragged him to the Countess's apartment.
‘Spare the repetition of what passed there,’ cried she; ‘it was a
scene of horror; repeat only what were your transactions out of my
sight.‘ ‘You shall be obeyed,’ answered he. ‘It was in vain she
protested innocence I gave no credit. My first intention was to murder
both; and when I locked her in the closet with the dead body, I hoped
terror and fright would have done my business. In the morning we heard
her groans; we entered; the sight of her agonies for a moment disarmed
my rage, and I consented Margarite should assist her. After she was
delivered, and the curtains fastened, Peter and myself took the body
and carried it to one end of the subterraneous passage, dug a hole in
the earth, on one side, and threw it in. I now grew irresolute with
respect to my wife’s death; my revenge cooled, but I knew it was
impossible but she must hate and detest me. One day I went to her,
uncertain whether to destroy her and the child or not, to prevent a
discovery. She knows what followed. I felt a thousand soft emotions at
the sight of the child, and both loved and hated her to madness. I
resolved at last to confine her for life, and to preserve the child.
Joseph, the under gardener, the only man who lived in the castle, I
was obliged to confide in. I told him my wife had been detected in an
intrigue, and I had intended to murder her, but she recovered of her
wounds, and now I should only confine her for life. I swore him to
secrecy, and vowed, if ever he betrayed her place of residence, or
life, to any one, I would murder both. The poor fellow swore
faithfully to obey me. The rest she can inform you.'

'But my child! my child!' cried the Countess, eagerly. 'Is alive, and
an officer now in the Emperor's service.' 'Great God! I thank thee!'
said she, falling on her knees; 'and in this posture, when I return
thanks to my Heavenly Father, for his preservation, I also forgive and
bless you, for the care of my child; may every evil deed be forgiven,
and may you enjoy peace in your last moments, and everlasting
happiness hereafter!'

The hard heart of the Count was softened into tears by the warmth of
her expressions: he held out his hand; she kissed it, in token of
peace. 'May your prayers be heard,' said he; 'but I have more vices
yet to confess. I took the child to Vienna, brought it up, as the son
of a friend, very privately. At a certain age he was placed in the
military school, and about six months ago I procured for him a
commission. But to return. Once in two years I generally visited the
castle. Her resignation and obedience to my orders sometimes moved me
in her favour, and every visit my heart grew more and more softened;
yet I dared not liberate her, her death had been so universally
believed for many years; how could I account for my conduct, or her
appearance, without incurring suspicions against myself? Distracted in
my mind, I neither enjoyed peace nor rest;--alas! there is neither for
the wicked, however we may disguise our crimes to the world however we
meet with respect and approbation from mankind, the man conscious of
his wickedness, with doubt and terror gnawing at his heart, is the
most miserable of human beings: we may swear to secrecy, we may
silence every thing but conscience--there is the sting that for ever
wounds--there the monitor no bribes can suppress. Life became a
burthen to me, yet I feared to die; I feared daily a discovery of my
crimes; I resolved to forbear my visits, but to send Peter every six
months, to gain intelligence and see all was safe. On his return from
his last errand of that kind he informed me, that, calling at a
woodcutter's cottage near the castle, who knew him not, from a
curiosity to hear if they were acquainted with Joseph (of whose
fidelity he was always doubtful) the woman told him a story of a young
lady's coming there, being recommended to the castle; and that she had
so much courage as to go to the haunted rooms, (for I had taken care
to have it supposed that wing was haunted) and that very day was there
several hours. Alarmed at this intelligence, Peter flew to me, then on
a visit about seven leagues from the castle, frightened out of his
senses. After a little consultation we resolved to go in the night,
break open the doors, if locked, and murder both Victoria and
Margarite, and after that fall upon some method to silence the young
lady and Joseph in the same manner. We succeeded in our attempt: we
dispatched Margarite, and came down to do the same by her mistress,
but Providence, who counteracts the designs of wicked men, and turns
those very measures we take to secure ourselves to our destruction,
suggested to me to take her into the wood and destroy her, that
Joseph, if he came in the morning, might think it was a gang of
banditti who had carried them off; for which reason, I thought my
being concerned would never be suspected. This foolish concerted
scheme we pursued; the Countess remembers I was thrown from my horse,
and she took that opportunity to escape. When I recovered my senses I
found I had some bruises on my head and shoulder. I looked round,
"Where, where is the Countess?" "Ah!" cried Peter, "I fear we are
undone; the horse flew away with her as I alighted, and your horse
also run off." "Villain!" I cried, "find her this moment, or I will
murder you." "'Tis impossible to pursue her on foot; 'tis most likely
she may be dashed to pieces in the wood; mean time, Sir, creep, if
possible, to the town, have some assistance; I will borrow another
horse and make all possible search." I had no alternative; distracted
with pain and horror, I got with difficulty to the town, and was put
to bed very ill. Peter rode off immediately; he was wanting a day and
a night: I suffered a thousand tortures: I began to think he had
betrayed me. 'Tis the curse attendent on villains always to be
suspicious of each other: for what vows or ties can bind a man you
know would commit the most atrocious crimes for money. In my
conjectures, however, I wronged Peter; he returned. He had searched
the wood, and every part of the adjacent neighbourhood, without
gaining any intelligence, but that two or three persons had seen a
horse saddled, galloping furiously in the wood: he had called at the
cottage--nothing had transpired there. In short, we began to hope, as
our only security, that she was killed some where in the road, and the
body carried away by passengers. In a few days I got well, determined
to visit the castle, and either destroy Joseph, or decoy him away to
some remote place. In short, my schemes were so many and unsettled by
fear that I fixed on no positive plan. We arrived at the castle; we
saw no appearance of any lady; but Peter, taking an opportunity to
speak to Bertha, was informed there had been a lady, but she had left
them three or four days. This was another stroke: the lady, we knew,
had seen the Countess; she might betray the secret, where could she be
gone, or who was she? Peter enquired again, Bertha knew only that she
talked of going to Paris. We were now distracted; the sword seemed
suspended over our heads, and we every moment feared detection. That
night we met in the Countess's apartments and searched thoroughly; in
a drawer we found a purse with some money, and a paper signed Matilda,
giving an account of sundry articles taken from the drawers. This
convinced us we had reasons for our apprehensions: the death of Joseph
would rid us of one witness--I secretly determined to destroy another.
We went to the town the following morning--I procured from the
different medical persons some laudanum. We agreed the best way would
be to get Joseph and his wife to my other castle, and destroy them
there, where they were unknown. I deceived Peter by this foolish
scheme, having taken a different resolution. I told him we would
return that night to the castle, take the remaining valuables, money,
& co., which should all be his, previous to our departure. He joyfully
consented. I took an opportunity to give him the opium in the evening;
by the time we got to the apartment he grew very heavy, and during his
search among the drawers, dropped down in a heavy sleep; I put him upon
the bed, fastened every window and door, set fire to the curtains and
counterpane, and went out, locking the door after me; I then hastily
proceeded to the wood-house which joined Joseph's kitchen, and soon
had that in a blaze; bringing some dry stubble, I lighted it against
the door and window shutters, and seeing the whole take fire in both
wings, I went to the stable, took my own horse, which was there
fastened up, ready saddled, as we left them, and riding off to the
town, went to the inn I had been ill at, and waited patiently for
news. Within a few hours I was called up: my castle was discovered by
some wood-cutters to be in flames, and before assistance could be
procured was entirely destroyed. I pretended great vexation and
distress; rode to the spot; it was a dreadful sight; my soul
shuddered--I was in agony. The people imputed it to a different cause.
I asked, had nobody seen Joseph nor his wife. No, was the general
answer, and the fire imputed to their carelessness. Some of the
neighbouring gentlemen rode over; every one condoled with me, and
offered me accommodations; I returned with the gentleman to whom I had
first been on a visit. When retired to my apartment, a retrospection
of all my crimes forced themselves on my remembrance. I tried to
sleep, alas! there was no sleep befriended me; ten thousand horrid
images swam before my sight; I threw myself out of bed; it was
moonlight; my room commanded a view of the distant wood, I shrunk at
the sight--there lies my wretched wife! then the Chevalier, Joseph,
Bertha, and Peter, all seemed to walk before me; great God! what were
my sufferings that night, never to be effaced from my memory. When
day-light came, I went down stairs to the garden; here I first thought
of destroying myself--my boy shot across my mind--I took my resolution
at once. I set off that day for Vienna. On my arrival I sent for
Frederic, and after some preparation acknowledged him as my son,
acquainted him his mother died in child-bed, and I had particular
reasons, immaterial to him, for not owning him sooner; I made my will,
secured my whole fortune to him, by proper testimonials, that I
acknowledged him my son, and then resolved to retire from the world,
repent of my sins, and try to make my peace with heaven. All Vienna
was astonished at my resolution; my son sought every argument to
divert me from my purpose, his tenderness, goodness, and virtue were
daggers to my heart; I fell very ill, and earnestly prayed for the
hour of death; heaven thought fit to spare me, that I might receive
some comfort before the fatal hour arrived. I began to get better,
though weak and declining, when, to my inexpressible surprise, I
received a letter from our Minister in England, with a brief account
of the Countess, the deposition of the Marquis, and requesting I would
acknowledge the lady, and not permit such black transactions to appear
before the public as the Countess said she had the power of
disclosing. At first I thought this letter was all illusion; but when
I considered the possibility of her escape from death, and the
application of the Marquis to the Ambassador, I was convinced the
whole was founded on truth. What a mountain was taken from my bosom! I
wrote immediately, I would follow the letter. In three days my
strength mended greatly, yet I was obliged to take very easy journies,
and by the time I arrived in England fatigue had quite exhausted me.
His Excellency sent off an express to you. I now thank heaven that
both you and Joseph are alive, and adore the ways of Providence, who
extracts good out of evil, and made the very crimes I intended to
perpetrate the means of deliverance to you both. The death of the
unfortunate Chevalier I bitterly repent, and can only observe here,
that when a man gives himself up to unrestrained passions of what
nature soever, one vicious indulgence leads to another, crimes succeed
each other, and to veil one, and avoid discoveries, we are drawn
insensibly to the commission of such detestable actions as once we
most abhorred the idea of: for, although my temper was not good, and
my passions always violent, had not love and jealousy urged me to
desperation, and deprived me of reason, my soul would have shrunk at
the thoughts of murders, which grew at last necessary for my
preservation.’

Here the Count stopped, exhausted and fatigued; indeed he had made
several pauses in his relation, from weakness, and it was very visible
he had not many days to live.

The Countess could not restrain her tears. 'Ah!' said she, 'I have
been the unhappy cause of all--' 'Do not reproach yourself,' cried he,
hastily; 'I am now convinced of your innocence; indeed I long believed
it, even when I designed your death the second time; only innocence
could have supported you to bear my cruelties, and your horrid
confinement with resignation: I knew too well the terrors of guilt;
for let not the unhappy wretch, who forgets his duties towards God and
man, who gives himself up to the indulgence of his passions, and
wrongs the innocent, think, if he escapes detection, he can be happy:
alas! remorse and sorrow will one day assail him; he will find he
cannot hide his crimes from himself, and his own conscience will prove
his bitterest punishment.'

The Countess extremely rejoiced to find him so sensible of his guilt,
said every thing in her power to ease and calm his mind.

After he had a little recovered, he turned to the Marquis. 'I sent for
you, my Lord, not only to hear my confession, but to direct me in what
manner I must do my wife justice; if it be your pleasure, I will
repeat my story, or at least assent to a drawn up confession before
witnesses.' 'By no means,' answered the Marquis; 'it will be perfectly
sufficient if one part of the story, nearly what relates to her
confinement, so as to authenticate her person, is related.' After some
consultation the Marquis attended the German Minister. A paper was
drawn up, signifying the jealousy of the Count, without naming any
particular object, in consequence of which he shut up his lady in the
castle, after her delivery, and gave out a report of her death; that
he had brought up her son, now an officer, who was lately acquainted
with his real birth, and to whom his estates were secured: that the
lady, after many years confinement, had found means to escape to her
brother and sister, with whom she resided. The Count having
accidentally heard of her residence, was come to England, with a view
to obtain her pardon and do her justice; that he acknowledged her
innocence in the strongest terms, and desired, in case of his death,
she might enjoy every advantage settled on her, when married to him,
in the fullest extent.

This paper was signed in presence of the Ambassador, his Chaplain, and
all the friends of the Countess,--Lord Delby among the rest.

Not a word was said relative to the Chevalier, Margarite, or Peter:
the former had been so many years given up, as dead by his relations,
though they never guessed in what manner he died, that it would have
been the height of cruelty to have awakened sorrow so long dormant,
had it ever been necessary, but as no such occasion appeared to demand
an investigation, every thing relative to him and the other victims
was buried in oblivion.

The Count survived nearly a week after their arrival in town, and then
expired with more resignation and composure than could have been hoped
for. Two days previous to his death he wrote to his son a few lines,
referring him to the testimony he had given the Countess, and
requesting he would, by his duty and tenderness, atone for the
cruelties of his father; bid him remember the awful lesson placed
before him, and restrain those passions, the indulgence of which had
brought sorrow and shame on his guilty parent, whom, nevertheless, he
had the comfort to tell him was a truly penitent one. The Marquis,
taking upon him to direct every thing for preserving the body, and
having it carried into Germany within a fortnight, a few days after
the necessary orders were completed, told the Countess he thought it
highly proper she should go in person to make her claim. She, who was
impatient to see and embrace her son, received the proposition with
joy. The Marchioness, Lord Delby, and Mrs Courtney accepted an
invitation to accompany her with pleasure. The former had written to
Matilda the late unexpected and agreeable turn in the affairs of the
Countess, and again pressed her return to them. The latter, Mrs
Courtney, still persevered in her soft melancholy, her tender looks,
and attentions to the Count, who, when he found the party fixed for
Vienna, excused himself from attending them, but promised, if the
Marquis and his family did not return to France before Christmas, he
would join them early in the spring.

This declaration was a thunderbolt to Mrs Courtney. She seized an
opportunity of speaking to him alone. 'How, my Lord,' cried she, 'is
it possible you can think of separating yourself from your friends,--
will you not go to Germany?' 'It is not in my power, madam,' answered
he. 'Say rather not your inclination,' said she, warmly: 'you pique
yourself on speaking truth, you know.' 'I wish to do so always,'
replied he, 'but the ladies will not always permit me.' 'I beg your
pardon, Sir, for contradicting you; I, at least, gave you credit for
truth and sincerity, when you unpardonably fought to gain those
affections you have since cruelly trifled with.' 'Such a charge from
Mrs Courtney,' said he, 'has too much severity in it, not to call for
a serious answer; I therefore protest, madam, I never sought--I never
wished to gain the affections of any woman but Matilda: my love for
her is no secret to my friends,--I glory in it. For you, madam. I
entertained the highest respect; I thought it my duty to shew you
every possible attention, a man of politeness was bound to offer to an
amiable woman; more I never intended--I never could be thought to
intend, with a heart avowedly devoted to another.' 'And do you call
this politeness?' cried she, highly enraged. 'I must tell you, Sir,
you have (if you please to call it so) trifled too much with my peace,
by your gallantry; and was I not completely revenged by the entire
indifference of your idol, I should resent it in a very different
manner. There, Sir,' tossing Matilda's letter to him, 'there see how
much you are beloved or regretted by an insensible paltry girl.' The
Count had caught up the letter, and in his eagerness to read, scarcely
heard her last words. He devoured every line with his eager eyes; and
when he came to the conclusion, 'happier with another woman'. 'O,
Matilda! never, never! You may indeed forget me; mine is a common
character, but there are few like yours in the world.' Then looking at
it again, and turning to Mrs Courtney who looked full of fury and
malice, 'May I be permitted to ask, madam, on what occasion you wrote
this young lady, and of what nature those offers of service were, made
in my name by you.' Mrs Courtney blushed, and was in the highest
confusion. 'Shall I interpret your looks, madam?' asked he again. ‘No,
Sir, I can speak their language myself. I wrote to know her
sentiments, at the time you were amusing yourself at the expence of my
folly, as I had too much honour to give you encouragement, if she had
any hopes of you.' 'So then,' said he, in a rage, 'she believes I was
paying my addresses to you, madam.' She smiled contemptuously. 'No
wonder she renounces me; if such ideas took possession of her mind,
she must think me the most contemptible of men.' 'And of what
signification are her thoughts to you? are there not insuperable
difficulties to a connexion with her?' asked she. 'Not on my side,
madam; this hour, this instant, I would receive her hand with
gratitude and transport; her dignity of sentiment, her true greatness
of mind are the bars to my happiness.' 'Well, but if there are bars--'
'I beg pardon for interrupting you, madam; I know what you would say;
and it is far from my design to be rude to any lady, but you must
permit me to declare, I am resolved to wait weeks, months, or years,
to have a chance for the removal of those impediments; and if I do not
succeed at last, in all probability I shall never marry at all.' As he
ended this speech he withdrew, with a respectful, but reserved air.
'Heavens! said she, peevishly, 'is this the gallant, polite Frenchman!
I see 'tis all over; I can make nothing of him, and I will gratify his
vanity no longer; on the contrary, treat him with levity and
contempt.' Pride stepped in to her aid, and produced that change of
sentiment which reason, honour, and good sense had failed to do: so
true is the poet's observation.

Pride saves men oft, and women too, from falling. She determined,
however, not to accompany her friends; being so lately returned from
the Continent, she had no inclination to revisit it, without a
powerful inducement, such as she had no chance of.

The Count's motives for refusing were of a similar nature.

The Marchioness had heard from Matilda. She declined being of their
party, and entreated to remain in the Convent ‘till that lady returned
to France. She wrote a letter of congratulation to her dear Countess,
on the great change in her situation, but gave, what she thought, very
satisfactory reasons for not going into Germany. Lord Delby, however,
could not resist his desire of attending the Countess, though so
recently returned from thence. He entreated the Count to accept his
house, but he had previously accepted a similar offer from the
Marquis.

In a few days the party separated: the Marquis, his Lady, the
Countess, and Lord Delby for Germany: the Count, to avoid attendance
on Mrs Courtney, went to Bath, and that lady soon after accompanied a
party of friends to Tunbridge.

From the time that Mr Weimar had agreed, before the Ambassador, to
permit Matilda's residence twelve months with the Marquis, her friends
had sent advertisements to all the different courts in Europe,
describing the particular circumstances attending her birth, without
mentioning names. No intelligence arrived, nor enquiries had yet been
made on the subject, though they still entertained hopes of one day
meeting with success. As to the young lady herself, she had none;
resigned to her misfortunes, her only wish was to remain in the
convent, free from the persecutions, and exempt from the temptations,
of the world. She heard of her friend's unexpected restoration to her
family and fortune, with real delight; and no mention being made of
the Count or Mrs Courtney, in the letter she received from the
Marchioness, she concluded they were either married, or soon to be;
and though a few sighs would follow the idea, she supported herself
with fortitude and resolution.

She was one day sitting in her apartment, and ruminating on past
events, when the superior of the convent came in, and with a look of
regret, 'Ah! madam,' said she, 'I am grieved to be the messenger of
ill news to you, and sorrow to the whole community.' 'Bless me!' cried
Matilda, 'what is the matter?' Alas! my dear child, I have received an
order from the king to deliver you to a Mr Weimar, and another
gentleman, waiting to receive you.'

The unhappy girl repeated faintly the name of Weimar, and fell back,
almost senseless in her chair. The good mother ran to her assistance;
she soon recovered. ‘Oh! madam,' said she, 'save me, keep me here; I
wish to be a nun--I will not go into the world again. 'Would it were
possible for me to protect you,' answered she, shrugging her shoulders
'but we have no power to retain you from the king's order; you must
go, we dare not keep you.'

At this moment entered St Magdalene, all in tears.

'Well, madam,' said Matilda, endeavouring to collect fortitude from
despair, 'have the goodness to inform the gentlemen I will presently
wait on them.' The superior appeared rather unwilling to leave her
with her favourite, but however she withdrew.

Her good mother advised her instantly to write a few lines to the
Marquis, and likewise to the Countess at Vienna. 'Give me the first
letter,' said she, 'I will endeavour to have it conveyed; take the
chance of leaving the other at some inn on the road: but make haste,
for we have no time.'

Poor Matilda, more dead than alive, soon executed her task, and the
other assisting in packing, she was just ready when a messenger came
to hasten her. With a resolution that astonished her friend, she
followed the persons who came for her trunks, and went down to take
leave of the community. Every one was affected, for she was generally
beloved; but when she kissed the hand of her good mother both burst
into a flood of tears. 'Farewell, my dear, my amiable friend,' said
she; 'farewell, my good mother: if my wishes were gratified, and I
have ever any power over my own actions, I will return to reside with
you for ever.' 'To the protection of heaven I leave you,' said mother
Magdalene; 'persevere in virtue and goodness, truth in God, and doubt
not of being the object of his care; for he is a Father to the
fatherless, and will never forsake the virtuous.’

With streaming eyes Matilda followed her conductor. The porteress
opened the gates; there stood Mr Weimar and his friend. He seemed at
first to shrink from her view; but recovering himself, advanced and
took her hand. 'Well, ungrateful run-away,' said he, ‘you are once more
in the custody of your true and natural protector.' She made no
answer, nor any resistance; she was placed in the carriage between
them. Mr Weimar was hurt at her silence, 'You are sullen, you are
ungrateful, Matilda.' 'No, Sir, I am neither: I am grateful for past
benefits, and if I do not speak, 'tis because my sincerity or
sentiments cannot be pleasing.' 'You are mistaken,' said he; 'I wish
you to speak with sincerity; to tell me why you forsook the friend of
your youth, the man who offered to make you his by every holy tie, to
fly with an acquaintance of a day, and who, after all his professions,
at last placed you in a convent?' 'It was my own voluntary choice,
Sir, and very distressing to my friends, that I persisted in choosing
a retirement from the world. To the first part of your question 'tis
not necessary for me to answer: you know my motives for quitting your
house, and for the subsequent offer of your hand, if you really were
sincere, I must confess I think circumstances more than inclination
prompted you to it. How you mean to dispose of me, or by what right
you assume to yourself to be master of my destiny, I know not; but of
this you may be assured, no force shall prevail upon me to act
contrary to my own inclinations and judgement; and since I am not your
niece, you have no legal authority over me.'

Weimar looked confounded at her spirit, the other stared with
surprise; all were mute for some time, at length he said, 'You have
taken up unjust prejudices, Matilda; but you will find I am still your
best friend.' 'Then,' replied she, 'I shall truly rejoice, for it is
grievous to me to think ill of any one, much more of him, whom, for
many years, I was accustomed to think my nearest relation and
protector. If you are sincere, permit me to write to the Marchioness
that I am in your care, to dispel the anxiety she will naturally feel
on my account.' 'We will think of that,’ said he, 'when we are
settled.'

This evasion proved to her, she had not much favour to expect.

She was entirely ignorant of the road they took; she knew it was
different from the Paris route, and had no opportunity of asking a
single question, much less of dropping her letter, as the chaise being
their own, they sat in it whilst they procured horses at the different
posthouses, and at night stopped at a miserable hut, where they got
only a few eggs and a little milk, no beds were to be had, and they
were obliged to remain four hours in the chaise, until they could
enter the next town. The distress of mind, with fatigue and want of
rest, overpowered Matilda; as they were changing horses, she fainted.
Weimar was frightened; he had her taken out of the carriage, laid upon
a bed, and every method used to restore her. It was a long time before
she recovered, and then she was so weak and exhausted, that he was at
a loss how to get her on. Some wine and toasted bread was given to
her, and he quitted the room a moment, to order refreshments into the
chaise: she seized the opportunity; taking the letter and a louis d'or
out of her pocket, 'If you have charity,' said she, 'let that letter
be sent to the post.' The woman, surprised, took the letter and money,
and going to speak, Matilda heard his footsteps; she put her finger to
her lips; the other understood, and thrust both into her bosom. Joy
and hope gave her spirits, and when he told her she must pursue her
journey, she arose with difficulty, but without speaking, and was
rather carried than walked to the chaise. When they drove off she
recollected she had forgot to ask the name of the town; she put the
question to him. 'Faith I have forgot,' was his answer. She said no
more.

The two gentlemen talked of indifferent matters, which afforded her no
information; she therefore resigned herself to her own contemplations
until they arrived at a sea-port town.

She was astonished when he told her they were to embark on board a
vessel. 'Where are you going to carry me to,' said she, trembling. 'To
Germany doubtless,' replied he. 'By water?' 'Yes, by water: but ask no
questions, Matilda; I am once more your uncle during this voyage, to
preserve your character.' 'And do you think, Sir,' said she, assuming
courage under a palpitating heart, 'do you think I will give a
sanction to your falsehoods, and permit myself to be made a slave of?’
'You will find,' answered he, 'you can have no voice to alter my
determinations; but I will now make you a fair proposal, If you will
consent to marry me, I will, in this very town, receive your hand, and
without scruple then carry you to join your friends: if you refuse I
will not part with you, but where I propose carrying you, shall be
entire master of your destiny. The old story is propagated by my
servant, that you are my niece, and I am saving you from a shameful
marriage with a footman.' 'Good God!' cried she, 'is my character thus
traduced? And do you suppose such methods will oblige me to become
your wife? No! Sir; I will die first.' 'Very well,' answered he,
calmly, 'you have had your choice--I shall pursue mine.'

Presently they were informed the vessel was ready. She was lifted out
of the chaise, and notwithstanding her resistance, and cries for help,
she was carried on board and down to the room below.

'You are now safe in my possession,' said he. 'I am sorry you made
force necessary; but you must be convinced 'tis now in vain to contend
with me.' Matilda sat stupidly gazing at him; but the vessel beginning
to move, she turned very sick: without any female on board to assist
her, she was compelled to let him place her on the bed; and then
requesting to be alone, he retired, and left her to her own very
painful reflections.

All hope of assistance from the Marquis was now at an end; she knew
not the place of her destination; she saw no probability of escaping
from Mr Weimar; yet she felt an unconquerable repugnance to become his
wife--a man capable of such duplicity and cruelty; 'O, no!' cried she,
weeping, 'sooner will I plunge into a watery grave than unite myself
for life to a man I must hate and despise.' She continued extremely
sick and ill. They had been two days at sea, when she was alarmed by
an uncommon noise over her head; voices very loud, and every thing in
much agitation: soon after she heard the firing of guns, and Mr Weimar
entered with an air of distraction. 'I am undone,' cried he,
'unfortunate girl; you have been my ruin and your own, but I will
prevent both.' He instantly drew a large case knife, stabbed her and
then himself. At the same instant a number of strange men burst into
the cabin, Weimar's friend with them. The Turks, (for they were taken
by a Barbary Corsair) highly enraged with the bloody scene before
them, were about to dispatch Weimar, who lay on the floor, when
Matilda faintly cried, 'Spare him, spare him.' One of them who
understood French, stopped their hands: he ordered him to be taken
care of, and approached Matilda, who, growing faint with loss of
blood, could with difficulty say, 'My arm.' The clothes being stript
off, it was found the wound was indeed through her arm, which being
laid across her breast, received the blow which he was in too much
confusion to direct as he intended. The humane Turk soon staunched the
blood; and having with him necessaries for dressing wounds, he sent on
board his own ship for them, and a person who could apply them. He
requested the lady to make herself easy, no insult should be offered
to her person. Meantime Weimar was carried on board the Turkish
vessel, and carefully guarded. His wound was a dangerous one, and the
person who drest it gave but little hopes of his life; it continued
however in a fluctuating state ‘till their arrival at Tunis.

Matilda was out of all danger, but a prey to the most dismal
apprehensions of what might befall her.

On their arrival she was taken on shore to the captain's house, where
a very amiable woman received her with complacency, though they could
not understand each other. Weimar was likewise brought on shore; and
his situation growing more desperate, he requested to know if there
was any hopes of his recovery, and being answered in the negative, the
poor wretch, after many apparent convulsive struggles, asked if there
was any French or German priest in the city? and being informed there
was none, he requested to see Matilda, in presence of the captain and
his friend, but that friend had been carried to a country house, to
work in the gardens; the captain and lady however attended him. When
he saw her he groaned most bitterly, nor could she behold the man to
whom she had owed so many obligations in her juvenile days, reduced to
a situation so wretched, without being inexpressibly shocked. He saw
her emotions, and keenly felt how little he deserved them. 'Matilda,'
he cried, 'I shall soon be past the power of persecuting you myself,
but when I think where and in whose hands I leave you, I suffer
torments worse than death can inflict.' 'Let not the situation of the
lady grieve you,' said the generous Turk; 'though I pursue an
employment I am weary of, I never injure women; if she has friends,
they may recover her.' 'O, Matilda!' said the dying man, 'I will not
deceive you, your death would to me have been the greatest comfort; I
cannot bear the idea, another should possess you. Swear to me,' added
he, eagerly, 'that you will become a nun--that you will take the
veil.' She was terrified by his vehemence; and though she both wished
and designed it, hesitated. The captain said, 'How dare you, so near
death, compel an oath foreign to her heart; no such vow shall pass in
my hearing, be your affinity to her what it may.' 'No, Mr Weimar'
answered she, 'I will not swear, though it is at present my intention
so to do.' 'Then I am dumb,' said he; 'I will not be the victim to
procure happiness for others.

It was in vain Matilda and the captain urged him to speak, he was
resolutely silent. The Turk whispered her to withdraw; she obeyed; and
in about half an hour was desired to return. 'I am conquered,’ said Mr
Weimar; 'this man, this generous enemy has prevailed. Prepare to hear
a story will pierce you to the heart. I am your uncle, but not a
German, nor is my name Weimar.' 'O, tell me,' cried Matilda, 'have I a
father, have I a mother living?' 'Not a father,' answered he, sighing,
'perhaps a mother you may have, but I have not heard for many years.'
She clasped her hands and burst into tears. 'O, tell me--tell me all,
for I am prepared to hear a tale of horror,' 'Horror, indeed!'
repeated he, 'but I will confess all. Your father, the Count Berniti--
' 'My father a Count!' cried she, in all accent of joy. 'Yes; but do
not interrupt me. Your father was a Neapolitan nobleman, I was his
younger brother; he had every good mild amiable quality that could
dignify human nature. From my earliest remembrance I hated him; his
virtue procured him the love of our parents and the esteem of our
friends; I was envious, malicious, crafty, and dissipated. My parents
saw my early propensity to wickedness, but entirely taken up with
their darling boy, I must say that they neglected to eradicate those
seeds of vice in my nature, which an early and proper attention might
have done; but given up to the care of profligate servants, never
received but with frowns and scorn; my learning, my dress, my company,
all left to myself, and treated in general as a disgrace to the
family: I soon grew hardened in wickedness, and hated my relations in
proportion to their neglect of me. Parents would do well to consider
this lesson: unjust, or even deserved partialities, visibly bestowed
on one child, whilst others are neglected, too generally creates
hatred to that child, and a carelessness in performing their duties,
which they see are little attended to. It lays a foundation for much
future misery in the family; creates every vice which envy and malice
can give birth to, and the darling object is generally the victim. But
here I will do my brother justice; the only kindness I ever received
was from him, and often with tears he has supplicated favours for me,
which was the only ones that ever met with a refusal, all others he
could command. I grew at last so desperate that I formed an
association with the most abandoned youth of the city, and was
universally despised. About this time my father died, leaving his
whole fortune to my brother. Except a very trifling pittance, weekly,
to me, disgrace affected me beyond all bounds of patience. My brother
sent for me; with a heart bursting with rage, I went. The moment I
appeared, he rose and embraced me, with tears. "My dear brother," said
he, "I have now the power to make your life more comfortable; evil
minded persons set my father against you, nor could I ever remove the
prejudice: henceforth we are brothers, more than ever; use this house
as your own; give up your idle acquaintance--I will introduce you to
the good and worthy, and those only shall be my friends that are my
brother's also." A reception so unexpected for a few moments warmed my
heart to virtue, but the impression soon wore off; I accepted his
offer, nevertheless, and for some time endeavoured to keep within
bounds, and to be as private in my vices as possible. I found it easy
to deceive my brother; whilst I preserved a semblance of goodness
before him, no suspicion entered his breast. I had so long accustomed
myself to behold him with hatred and envy, that every proof of his
kindness, which carried with it an obligation, I could not support;
rendered him more hateful in my eyes, because I knew it was
undeserved. One morning the Count asked what I thought of the Count
Morlini's daughter? (at that time esteemed the most beautiful woman in
Naples, and whom I had long looked at with desiring eyes.) I spoke my
opinion freely. "I am glad," returned my brother, "your sentiments
correspond with mine; she is good as well as beautiful, and I hope in
a short time will become my wife." This was a dagger to my heart: I
knew she never could be mine, and therefore had suppressed my wishes,
but the idea of her being my brother's wife threw me into a rage
little short of madness; I hastened from him to vent my passion alone.
Every plan which malice could suggest, I thought on, to prevent the
marriage, but my plots proved abortive, and the union took place. The
day previous to the marriage, my noble brother presented me with a
deed, which secured a handsome annuity to me for life; assuring me his
house was still my home, his country seat the same, but he chose to
make me independent. From that day I was truly miserable: I adored the
Countess, I hated my brother. She treated me with sweetness and
civility, which increased my passion. In short, I grew so fond of her,
that I neglected my old associates, and lived almost at home for ever.
The deluded pair were delighted with my reformation, and behaved with
redoubled kindness. Here I must pause,' said Mr Weimar, ‘for I am much
fatigued.'

Matilda, whose eager curiosity could ill support any interruption of
the narrative, hastened to give him a cordial, and some drops to
recruit his spirits.

'Before I proceed any further,' said Mr Weimar, ‘’tis fit an instrument
should be drawn and signed by me and proper witnesses, proving that I
acknowledge Matilda to be the only child and heiress to the late Count
Berniti's estates, which I have unjustly withheld; let this be done,
lest the hand of death should cut me off, as I every hour expect.'

The generous captain lost no time in procuring the instrument to be
drawn and properly attested. Matilda withdrew mean time to reflect on
what she had already heard, and in trembling expectation of what was
to follow. A painful thought obtruded itself. 'Ah! had I known,' cried
she, 'some time ago, that my birth was noble, happiness might have
been my portion--it is now too late!' She was soon recalled to the
sick room; and every thing being settled as the unhappy repentant
Weimar desired, he lay a short time composed and then resumed his
narrative.

‘For some months I lived in the house, a torment to myself, and
concerting schemes to ruin the happiness of others. The Countess
advanced in her pregnancy: my brother was overjoyed--I affected to be
the same. There was at this time a young woman in the city whom I had
seduced and who was likewise with child; I knew I could bring her to
any terms I pleased; I laid my plan accordingly: she went to live near
my brother's country house, and passed for a young widow, greatly
distressed. We contrived my sister should hear of her; the consequence
was, as we expected, she was sent for, and told a plausible tale; was
relieved, and engaged as a nurse for the Countess's child. She was
brought to bed three weeks before that lady, of a girl. The Countess
was delivered of Matilda. Agatha, for it was she, Matilda, whom you
well remember, attended her and received the child. As soon as the
Countess could be moved with safety, we all went to the house in the
country. It was close to the sea, and at the back a beautiful wood,
where my brother frequently amused himself by having little vistas
cut. It was in this place I designed to execute the horrid plan I had
long concerted. I had privately procured a disguise, which lay
concealed at one part of the wood. I knew he generally walked in the
evening, and proceeded accordingly. Taking a horse one morning, I
pretended to go into the city: I did so; and returned about the hour I
supposed my brother in the wood: I fastened my horse at the entrance
of it, changed my dress, put a mask on my face, and crept on towards
the lower part; I distinguished him through trees--let me hasten from
the remembrance!--I suddenly came upon him, and by repeated stabs,
laid him dead at my feet.' Matilda uttered a cry of horror. 'I do not
wonder at your emotion,' said he, 'since at this moment I tremble at
my own crimes! I rifled his pockets of every thing valuable, to make
it believed he had been dispatched by robbers. I returned and dug a
hole at a distant part, where my horse was, hid the clothes, mounted
the beast, returned to the public road, and came on horseback to the
door; previous to which I had thrown his watch and money into the sea.
I had executed a few little commissions for my sister, in the city,
and appeared before her in good spirits, with the trifles she had sent
for. We waited for my brother's return, at the usual time, to supper;
the hour elapsed--she grew alarmed. I made light of her fears for some
time; at length I joined in her apprehensions, and calling the two men
servants, proposed to search for him. She thankfully accepted the
offer. We went to the wood, calling on him aloud, and for some time I
pursued a contrary path to the one I knew he laid in; at last we came
to the dreadful spot, where we all stood aghast; I made most moving
lamentations. We found he had been robbed and murdered. The poor
fellows took up the body, and we proceeded to the house. I bid them go
the back way, whilst I prepared my sister. Villain, and hardened as I
was in wickedness, I trembled at this talk, and the agitations of my
mind, on entering her room, told the dreadful tale for me. "O,
heavens!" cried she, "what is become of the Count? He is dead! he is
dead!" she repeated, as I was silent to the question. I drew out my
handkerchief, and turned from her. She gave two or three heavy groans
and fell to the ground.'

Poor Matilda again gave way to the most lively emotions of grief
Weimar seemed much affected, and was some moments before he could
proceed.

'I will not dwell on a scene so horrid. An express was sent into the
city, search made for the murderer, but no traces appeared that could
lead to a discovery. My sister continued very ill for many days, and
my brother was universally regretted. My melancholy was observed by
every one, and kindly noticed by the Countess who desired I would act
for her without reserve: this proof of her confidence gave me great
credit, and not one suspicion, I believe, ever glanced on me. It was
my first intention to have destroyed the child, but the deed I had
done filled my mind with such horror, I could not imbrue my hands a
second time in blood. I was some time unresolved in what manner to
act. The Countess still kept her bed, in a very languid state. One
morning, going to Agatha's room, I found her in tears; her child had
died that night, in convulsions; it was in the cradle, and the
features much distorted. A thought darted instantly into my head, to
change the children: I proposed it to Agatha, and promised her great
rewards; she readily agreed to every thing I proposed; the dresses
were changed in a moment, and the children being only six weeks old,
had been little seen. I left the room. Soon after, a servant came to
the Countess's apartment, (where I then was, to pay my morning
respects, a custom I always observed) and requested me to step out on
business. "O, Sir!" cried she, “we are all undone--the poor nurse is
frantic--the sweet child, the young Countess, is dead! expired an hour
ago, in convulsions, whilst poor Agatha thought it in a sweet sleep."
I pretended to be most exceedingly shocked; exclaimed against the
nurse, sent for a physician--would have the body examined, I did so; I
ran to Agatha's apartment the other end of the house, abused her for
her carelessness; she, who was really grieved for the loss of her own
child, shed torrents of tears. The physician came; he examined the
child; he said, it was really sudden convulsions had carried it off
and no fault in the nurse, the disorder being common among infants.
This satisfied every one; nobody troubled themselves about Agatha's
child. I sent off to the Count Morlini's, who had left us the day
before, intending to return the following one. He came immediately; I
detained the physician. The Count made very minute enquiries, and was,
or appeared to be contented with the physician's deposition. "Alas! my
Lord," cried I, "who shall break this melancholy accident to the
Countess I cannot, I dare not do it. Unhappy lady!" I exclaimed, "how
great are your sorrows! my own share in them is lost, when I consider
yours." The Count shook my hand in a friendly manner but spoke not. He
went from me to his daughter; I retired to my own apartment. I was now
my brother's heir to his title and estates; every thing promised to
give me an undisputed right; and I enjoyed, by anticipation, the
pleasures which fortune and rank would bestow.' Here Mr Weimar stopped.
'I cannot proceed now I am fatigued and exhausted.' He was quite
faint, and they were obliged to give him a respite for the present,
and administer cordials. He promised to proceed and finish his story
in the evening. Matilda withdrew overwhelmed with grief, horror, and a
painful curiosity for the subsequent events which might have befallen
her unhappy mother. Some time after she was in her apartment, the
captain came in. 'The surgeon,' said he, 'has just examined Mr Weimar’s wound, and makes a much better report of it than in the morning.
This last dressing has abated the inflammation, and the fever is not
so violent.' 'If his repentance is sincere, heaven grant he may
recover,' said she.

In the evening, at Mr Weimar's request, Matilda and the captain went
to his apartment: he appeared much more easy and composed after
recollecting himself a little, he went on as follows:

'The Count took upon him to acquaint the Countess with the loss of the
child; but notwithstanding all his precautions, it had a dreadful
effect upon her. She was for some weeks deprived of reason, and when
recovered, the disorder turned to a settled melancholy nothing could
remove. Having some relations at Florence, the Count proposed taking
her there to change the scene. What had been secured to her by
marriage, was of course hers. From an affected generosity, I presented
her with the house and furniture in the city; and under a pretence I
could not longer stay where such melancholy accidents had taken place,
and having no relations living, I disposed of my estates, and said I
should travel into Turkey and Egypt, without assuming any title. In
truth, I was ever in fear some unforeseen events might bring my evil
deeds to light: for 'tis the fate of villainy never to be secure; and
the constant apprehension of detection embitters every hour of their
lives who once plunge into guilt. I had persuaded Agatha, with the
child, to embark on board a French vessel, bound to Dieppe, and there
wait for me; having engaged the captain to take care of her, though I
secretly wished the waves might swallow them up; at the same time I
had not resolution to destroy them. After the vessel sailed, I set off
from Naples, glad to escape from a place I could not behold without
shuddering. Whether any suspicions were entertained of me, I know not;
for I kept up no correspondence there. I travelled into France, and
arrived at Dieppe, where I found Agatha and the infant. I had a great
inclination to settle in Switzerland, and determined to go through the
country, and find a habitation. Leaving the woman at Dieppe, I went
first to Paris, invested great part of my property there, in the name
of Weimar; and from thence I went through Germany and Switzerland.
Between Lausanne and Lucerne, I heard of an estate to be sold. I saw
and liked it; the purchase was soon made, and every thing quickly
settled. I sent for Agatha: she came part of the way by water, the
rest, to Lausanne, by land; there I met her, and conducted her to my
house. We now resumed our former intimacy, but she had no more
children. I endeavoured by my care of Matilda, to atone for the crimes
I had been guilty of, in destroying her father, and robbing her of her
fortune--a fortune I was afraid to enjoy, and a rank I dared not
assume, always apprehensive my villainy would be discovered. I kept
but little company. Agatha, who was my housekeeper, and directed every
thing, many times I was tempted to destroy, but fear preserved her
life. As Matilda grew up, I became passionately fond of her; my love
increased with her years, and I determined to possess her. Agatha had
too much cunning not to perceive my inclination; and having long
ceased having any particular attachment to me, she blindly fell in
with my desires, and encouraged me to proceed. The conversation you
overheard, Matilda, was such as you apprehended; she persuaded me to
say I was not your uncle, and the story I told you in Paris, was the
one we had fabricated to deceive you. I did not at first intend
marrying; I had an aversion to that tie, and therefore a different
plan was proposed, which, overhearing, drove you from my house. 'Tis
needless to tell you what ensued on discovering you had left me: I
resolved to find you, if possible, and traced you to Paris. I thought
to have deceived the Marquis; he was too cunning for me: but I
obtained knowledge of your being in England through the means of
Mademoiselle De Fontelle; a servant of hers having met the Marchioness
and you at Calais. I still followed you. You know the concession I
made to the Ambassador, which I never intended to observe, having
intelligence the Count De Bouville was your lover. I had every step
watched, and no sooner found you were at a convent than I repaired to
Paris, told my own story, and obtained an order for your delivery. I
found letters at Paris, from my steward, informing me of the death of
Agatha, almost suddenly. This was a most agreeable piece of news;
there was now no one living that could accuse me. Blind, infatuated
mortals! we forget there is an all-seeing eye, that sooner or later
brings us to justice, when most we think ourselves secure! I went to
Brest, I hired a vessel to carry me to Venice, determined to reside
there with you. With the order in my pocket, and a person who had
attended me, more like a confidential friend than a servant, I came to
Boulogne, and obtained your delivery to me. The rest you know. It was
my intention to have married you, unless you rejected me--in that case
you must take the consequence. When I saw the Turkish vessel I gave
all up for lost; and when they boarded us, expecting you would be
sacrificed to their desires, and myself made a slave, I resolved to
prevent both: Providence preserved you--what I have suffered, and the
near prospect of death, determined me to confess all my crimes--crimes
that have embittered every hour of my life, and which have led me into
a thousand inconsistences, from fears and terrors, only created by
guilt. Thus it is with the wicked; early plunged into vice, they
proceed from one bad action to another; afraid to look back, unable to
repent, they go on to fill up the measure of their crimes, ‘till their
best concerted schemes prove their ruin. Had not the hand of death
overtaken me, this confession never would have been made; yet even at
this moment I adore Matilda. Pardon me, dear unhappy girl, the evils I
have caused you; let me die forgiven by you, and join in supplicating
that mercy I have so little room to hope for, but from Divine goodness
to the truly penitent.'

Matilda assured him of her forgiveness, and implored heaven's mercy on
him. 'But tell me, Sir,' said she, 'did you never hear of my mother?'
'Only once, and by accident, eight years ago; she was then at Naples,
with her family.' 'Grant heaven!' said Matilda, 'she may be there
still; O, what happiness, if I should ever embrace a mother!' Tears
stopped her utterance; her uncle was affected. 'O, Matilda! leave me; I
cannot bear your tears, they reproach me too deeply; and I have much
to repent of before I leave you for ever.'

She quitted the room, oppressed with the most painful sensations: the
tragical end of her father, the melancholy situation of her mother,
the crimes of her uncle, and her own present distressed and forlorn
state, altogether gave her unutterable pangs: yet a gleam of joy
darted through the gloom that pervaded her fate--she was of noble
birth; no unlawful offspring, no child of poverty: then she thought of
the Count--'Ah!' cried she, 'he is now the husband of Mrs Courtney; in
all probability I shall never see him more.' A sigh followed the
reflection, which she strove to place on another score.

She was soon after joined by the captain. 'The surgeon came in as you
left the room, madam; and notwithstanding the sick man's agitation, in
telling his story, he says, he is undoubtedly better, and he begins to
entertain hopes, if no change happens for the worse.' 'I am glad to
hear it,' replied she, 'may he live to repent.' 'Meantime, madam,'
said he, 'if you wish to write your friends, I will take care your
letters shall be conveyed by the quickest dispatch possible.'

She accepted his generous offer, and retired to write the Marchioness
and Countess what had befallen her; but recollecting that she could
not wish to be in France until she had visited Naples, she left her
letters unfinished, to consult the captain the following morning. She
retired to rest, but the agitations of her mind precluded sleep:
alternate joy and sorrow, hopes and fears, created such different
ideas, that she passed the night without closing her eyes, and arose,
at break of day, resolved to write and address a letter to her
grandfather with her story. 'If he lives,' said she, 'he will be
overjoyed; if not, if I have no such relation, no dear mother alive,
some one of the family will doubtless write and inform me.'

When the captain came to breakfast, she imparted her different
thoughts to him. She had no way of paying court to his amiable wife,
but by kissing her hand, whilst the other pressed hers to her bosom,
with tender affection, her husband having related the lady's story to
her.

The captain, after some deliberation, said, 'I told you once, madam,
the employment I am, or rather was engaged in, by no means suited me.
I was not originally accustomed to this kind of life; my wife's father
always was; he persuaded me to follow it. I sailed with him three
years; we made a good deal of money. He died six months ago. This last
voyage was the first I ever made for myself. I am disgusted at the
service, and mean to quit it: my wife wishes me to do so; she is a
good woman; we have enough; I do not want a plurality of wives--I am
content with her. My mother was an English woman--I imbibe her
sentiments. I have not disposed of my vessel; I will take you to
Naples, or even to France, if you wish it, under neutral colours,
which I can procure. This will be better than engaging your friends to
come here. I have no enemy but the Russians to fear, and those I can
provide against.' 'You are very kind, Sir,' said she; 'I really am at
a loss how to proceed, and will consult Mr Weimar' (she could not
reconcile herself to call him uncle). She did so: he approved of the
captain's advice, but thought she had best write her friends of her
safety and situation, also of her intention to go to Naples, from
whence they might expect to hear her decisive plan; previous to which
the captain could write to some persons, to know if any of her
relations were living. This being agreed upon, as the best methods to
be taken, Matilda resigned herself to patience ‘till answers could be
obtained, which must necessarily take up some time.

We must now return to the Countess and her friends, who arrived at
Vienna without meeting any accident.

Their first step was to deliver the German Minister's letters to the
English Ambassador; his Excellency having sent dispatches to his own
court of this extraordinary affair.

The Countess found but little difficulty in being acknowledged, and
put in possession of her rights. Her story engrossed the public
attention at Vienna, and she received a thousand visits and
congratulations from every person of distinction. Though abundantly
gratified by their civilities, she was too anxious to see her son for
her mind to be at ease. A messenger had been sent to his quarters, by
the Marquis, with leave from the Emperor for his return, and preparing
him, by degrees, for the agreeable surprise of finding some near and
dear relations. The youth had been apprised of his father’s death, but
not having read the Count's letter, was a stranger to all the
circumstances relative to it. He made no difficulty of obeying the
order, and set off for his father's seat directly.

One day, when every heart beat high with expectation, a travelling
carriage was seen driving through the park. 'My son, my son!' cried
the Countess starting up. The Marquis ran out to meet him. In a moment
a tall elegant youth, about sixteen, entered the room, with looks of
eager expectation. The Countess flew towards him, threw her arms round
him; attempted to speak, but overpowered by tender emotions ‘till then
a stranger to her breast, she fainted in his arms. The young
gentleman, alarmed, and equally agitated, assisted, in silence, to
convey her to a seat; and whilst the Marchioness was busy in her
endeavours to restore her sister, he kissed her hand eagerly and cried
to the Marquis, 'Tell me, Sir, who is this dear lady?' 'It is--' said
the other, with a little pause, 'she is your mother, Sir.' 'Mother!'
repeated he, dropping on his knees. 'Great God! have I a mother? my
own mother!' 'Yes,' replied the Marquis, 'she is indeed your parent,
for very many years believed to be dead.' Young Frederic was now in a
state very little better than the Countess: surprise, joy, the soft
emotions that at once assailed him, rendered him speechless and
immoveable.

It was some time before they were both sufficiently recovered to be
sensible of their felicity. The Countess embraced him with tears of
expressive tenderness; he, on his knees, kissing her hands with
ardour. 'My mother! my dear mother!' was all he could utter for a long
time. The Marchioness at length separated them. 'My dear Frederic,'
said she, 'you have other duties to pay, besides your present
delightful one--I claim you as my nephew; this gentleman is my
husband, consequently your uncle.' He flew and embraced both.
'Gracious heaven!' cried he, 'what happiness. A few months ago I
supposed myself without family or friends, dependent on the Count's
bounty; then I was agreeably surprised with being acknowledged as his
son, then suddenly separated, and only ten days since informed of his
death--again I was an orphan, and knew not what claims I could or
ought to make; but now this unexpected tide of joy and happiness--to
find a mother! O, the blessed sound! to find a mother, uncle, aunt,
all dear and honoured relations! Great God, I adore thy bounty, make
me deserving of thy favours.' He again threw himself at the feet of
the Countess, who had hung with rapture on his words, and now embraced
him with the highest delight.

After this tumult of pleasure was a little subsided, he eagerly
enquired the particulars of her story; which the Marquis repeated, as
had been agreed upon, glossing over the Count's crimes, as much as
possibly could be done, to exculpate the Countess. No mention was made
of the Chevalier's death; but the youth heard sufficient to comprehend
his mother had been cruelly used, and his features bore testimony of
his emotions. 'Dearest madam,' cried he, 'how great have been your
sufferings! henceforth it shall be the study of my life to make you
forget them in your future happiness.'

Lord Delby, who had been rambling in the park, now entered the room.
Young Frederic was introduced to him, and the foregoing scene slightly
described by the Marchioness. 'I am glad,' said his Lordship, 'I was
not present; for though I adore sensibility, such a meeting would have
been too much for me.'

Growing more rational together, his relations were delighted with the
young officer. 'It must be confessed,' said the Marquis, 'the Count
paid particular attention to Frederic's education.' 'Yes, my Lord,'
answered the youth, 'it would have been my fault, if I had not
profited by the instructions I received; but I thought my debt of
gratitude so great for such uncommon kindness from a stranger, on whom
I had no claims, that I strove to exert my small abilities, and by
diligence and application, evince my sense of his favours, as the only
return in my power.' 'The deception, as far as related to you,' said
the Marchioness, 'proved a happy one; it laid the foundation for
virtue, humility, and gratitude, which perhaps happier circumstances
and legal claims might never have called forth. Thus sometimes good
springs out of evil.'

The following day, when the happy party was assembled, and projecting
pleasurable schemes, the Marquis received the letter which the good
Mother Magdalene had found means to send off from Matilda. He started,
with an exclamation of surprise. All were eager to know the contents.
Prepare yourselves for some regret, on account of your young friend,'
said he. 'What! Matilda?' cried both in a breath. 'Yes, I am sorry to
tell you she is again in her uncle's power; he has again claimed her
as his niece.' He then read the letter, and all were equally grieved
at the unfortunate destiny of this deserving young woman.

Frederic, with the warm enthusiasm of youth, cried out, 'Is there no
clue to trace them--I will myself pursue them.' 'Alas! my son,
answered the Countess, ‘’tis impossible to say where he may have
carried her to; but let us hope, as she found means to send this
letter, she will find an opportunity to write again; at all events,
she has a protector, to whose care we must trust her, until we can
obtain further intelligence.'

This letter threw a damp on the general joy.

Her story was repeated to Frederic, whose ardour was again raised to
deliver the unhappy girl from her persecutor.

The Marquis, who was that day writing to the Count the happy event of
their journey and meeting with his nephew, could not resist throwing
in a postscript. 'My dear Bouville,' added he, 'we are thrown into the
greatest consternation, by a letter from Matilda. She is again in the
power of that villain, Weimar; who, contrary to his engagements has
procured an order from the king, and carried her off, we know not
where. We wait with impatience to hear further.'

This letter from the Marquis found the Count De Bouville at Bath;
where he vainly sought amusement, to remove the anguish which preyed
upon his mind, arising from the impossibility of ever calling Matilda
his. He viewed the gay females of fashion, with birth, beauty, and
accomplishments to boast of, with perfect indifference. Ah! thought
he, where is the modest retiring sweetness of Matilda? Where those
unaffected charms--those natural graces of her deportment? Never shall
I meet with a woman that I can admire or love, after knowing that
lovely girl, whose very virtues preclude my happiness. He was in one
of these reveries when the letter from the Marquis was delivered to
him. The happiness of his friends gave him infinite delight; but how
changed were his emotions on reading the postscript: his rage exceeded
all bounds; he determined to leave Bath instantly. 'I will hunt the
villain through the world,' cried he; 'I will find her, if she is on
earth, and no power shall ever take her from me again. O, Matilda! too
scrupulous girl, you have undone us both, and ruined my peace for
ever.' He called his servants, and ordered the necessary arrangements
for leaving Bath that night. He went out to call on some friends he
had formed an engagement with, and to whom he thought more than a card
was due. Crossing the parade, he saw, coming towards him, Madame Le
Brune, Mademoiselle De Fontelle, and Mrs Courtney, who had arrived
from Tunbridge together the preceding evening. Nothing could have
happened more unfortunate than this meeting. His temper irritated
before, at the sight of the two ladies together, both of whom he
considered as enemies to Matilda, his passion increased beyond the
bounds of politeness to restrain. ‘I congratulate you, ladies, on an
intimacy, minds like yours naturally create. For you, madam'--turning
to Mademoiselle De Fontelle, who was pale with fear, observing his
violence--'you were never an object of my esteem, and long since of my
aversion and contempt: your diabolical falsehoods have deprived me of
happiness for ever; but vengeance will one day overtake you--I promise
you it shall,' said he, in a voice that made her tremble and unable to
go on. 'For you, madam,' turning to Mrs Courtney--'I have still some
respect: you have many good qualities; but your malice and dislike of
an unoffending and excellent young woman, is inexcusable, and very
evidently pursued, by attaching yourself to one you know all your and
her friends despise; malice only is the cement of your intimacy. Take
my advice, madam,--break it off, and entitle yourself to the respect
and esteem of those who are the friends of yourself and Lord Delby.'

He was going to leave them, but Mrs Courtney, struck by his manner and
words, still partial to him, cried out, 'Stop, my Lord,--tell me how
long you remain in Bath?' 'This night I leave it,' said he, 'and a day
or two hence I shall quit England.' 'For heaven's sake!' cried she,
'let me see you for five minutes, an hour hence;--do not deny me, 'tis
the last favour I will ever ask.' Seeing he hesitated, 'At No. 11, on
the South Parade--I will expect you.'

She hastily followed her companions, who had gladly removed a few
paces from them, and left the Count irresolute, whether he should
oblige her or not: but recollecting the civilities he had received at
her house and Lord Delby's, he thought gratitude and honour required
his obedience.

He called on his friends, and at the appointed hour attended Mrs
Courtney. When introduced, she was alone, and very melancholy, but
rose to receive him with evident pleasure. 'I thank you for this
visit,' said she, 'which I scarcely dared flatter myself with
receiving, from your abrupt behaviour to me this morning.' 'You saw
me, madam, very much ruffled; and the company I saw you in was not
calculated to put me in better humour. You will pardon me, if I
behaved any way rudely; but I really have too much respect for Mrs
Courtney, to whose hospitality and kindness I am under so many
obligations, to see her in company with a dissolute woman, whose want
of chastity is perhaps her least crime; she is unprincipled, in every
respect, with a base and malignant heart.' 'Good God! Count,’ cried Mrs
Courtney 'I did not know Mademoiselle De Fontelle, was charged with
any other faults than a dislike to Matilda.' 'That of itself,' replied
he, 'would to me be a sufficient proof of a bad mind; for only those
who dislike virtue and goodness can be enemies to her: but independent
of that, Fontelle is a profligate young woman, and by no means a fit
companion for a lady of your respectability, though, being unknown,
she may be received into company. I hope, madam, you will deem this an
apology for my abrupt behaviour; and now favour me with your
commands.' 'Commands!' repeated she, ‘dear Count, are you obliged to
leave Bath so very soon?' 'I am, madam; and I will frankly tell you
the cause.' He repeated the Marquis’s letter. 'The amiable Matilda
ever was, and ever will be dear to me; tho' her superior greatness of
mind will not permit her to accept my hand, I neither can nor will
marry any other woman, nor shall she, if I can help it, be subject to
the power of any man earth.' 'But,' said she, 'without knowledge even
of the road they travelled how can you pursue them' 'It matters not,'
answered he, 'I will not rest ‘till I do obtain information.' 'This is
really a Quixote expedition,' said she; ‘travelling the world through
to deliver distressed damsels.' 'It may appear so,' replied he,
gravely, ‘but don't let me think Mrs Courtney possessed of so little
feeling, as to be indifferent about the fate of an amiable girl, who
esteemed and respected her. But have you any commands for me, madam--I
am really hurried at present. ‘Well, Sir,' answered she, ‘if you are
determined to go, I must own I wish to preserve your esteem, at least,
and therefore I promise you I will profit by your advice, and give up
the French ladies.' 'You will entitle yourself to respect, madam, by so
doing. Every French woman is not a Marchioness De Melfort, nor, I
hope, a Mademoiselle De Fontelle; but 'tis necessary ladies should
discriminate in their acquaintance.' Then rising and kissing her hand,
'Accept, madam, my grateful thanks for the favours you have honored me
with. If I ever return to England, I shall again pay my respects to
you, if you will permit me; and, if I am ever happily settled in
France, I shall think myself highly honoured by a visit from Mrs
Courtney, and her worthy uncle, Lord Delby.’ Mrs Courtney's pride
forsook her at this polite address, she burst into tears, 'Adieu, my
dear Count; may happiness attend you, though you leave me a prey to
regret and sorrow.' He hastened from her with some emotion. That
woman, thought he, has many amiable qualities, but she wants
steadiness and respect for herself: an imbecility of mind makes her
resign herself up to her passions, from the want of resolution or
fortitude to subdue them; she has naturally a good and generous heart,
but she is easily led aside by others more artful than herself. He
thought however he had done his duty by warning her against
Mademoiselle De Fontelle; and returned to his lodging with
satisfaction to himself.

Every thing being ready, the Count quitted Bath that night; slept a
few hours on the road, and arrived in town the next day.

He pursued his route to Dover, and from thence to Boulogne. He went to
the convent, to gain intelligence; the porteress very readily answered
his questions, but that afforded him not the least clue to guide his
search, as she knew nothing of the road taken. She told him that
Matilda had left money to convey Louison to Paris, who had been gone
upwards of a fortnight.

Although the Count scarcely supposed Weimar would carry her to his own
house, yet he determined to go there. He wrote the Marquis, and
proposed being at Vienna, should he prove unsuccessful in Switzerland.

It would be tedious to follow the Count thro' his journey. He made all
possible enquiries through the different towns, without obtaining any
information. He arrived at Mr Weimar's; they had not heard from him
since he left England. Disappointed and mortified, he went from
Switzerland to Vienna, and from thence to the villa of the Countess.
He was received with transport. The Countess eagerly exclaimed, 'She
is found, we have a letter--O, such good news!'

The Count had hardly patience to go through the ceremony of
introduction, before he begged to know the good news!

The Marchioness had two days before received the letter Matilda had
written from Tunis--she gave it him to read.

Matilda had briefly given an account of her voyage and arrival at
Tunis, the civilities of the captain, and dangerous state of Mr
Weimar. She mentioned, that she had reason to suppose she was
descended from a noble family, in Naples; that a short time would
relieve her doubts; and, at any rate, she would write again, if not
join them, in a very little while.

Lovers, who are ever industrious to torment themselves, would perhaps,
like the Count, have conjured up a thousand fears to distract their
minds. 'Is this all your good news?' cried he, 'alas! I see little to
depend upon here; "she has hopes" she belongs to some noble family,--a
scheme of that villain Weimar's, to keep her easy ‘till he recovers;
besides, what dependence can be placed on a corsair? Ah! if these are
all your hopes of safety, they are small indeed.' 'Upon my word,
Count,' said the Marchioness, 'you are very cruel, to destroy the
pleasing illusion we entertained of her safety; for my own part, I see
no cause to doubt the kindness of the captain, who, 'tis plain, must
have permitted her to write; and for the other, he can have no power,
in his circumstances, whether ill or well.’ ‘I hope, madam,' replied
the Count, 'your conjectures are founded on truth and reason,--I shall
rejoice to find my fears are groundless; but, be that as it may, I am
determined to go immediately to Tunis.' 'You are right, my dear Sir,'
cried the young Count, Frederic; 'could I disengage my mind from
superior duties, I would, with pleasure, accompany you.' 'Ah! the
knight errantry of youthful folks!' said the Marquis, smiling, 'but I
assure you, my good friend, we are all here equally interested in the
fate of Matilda, and equally desirous of promoting any plan conducive
to her safety.' 'I am sure of it,' answered the Count, 'and therefore
hope you will not take it ill, if I leave you to-morrow, for I am
resolved to go to Tunis, if a vessel can be hired.'

They saw it was in vain to oppose his resolution, and were therefore
silent.

He was delighted with the warmth of the young Count, and praised his
spirit in the most lively terms.

He took leave of them the following morning, to pursue his plan, with
the earnest good wishes of the whole family.

Meantime every thing succeeded at Tunis, to Matilda's wishes. Mr
Weimar daily grew better. At first his recovery seemed rather a matter
of regret to him; but when she assured him of her entire forgiveness,
that she never would betray the secret of her father's death, and that
the restitution of her estates would sufficiently prove his penitence
for the intended wrong done to her, he grew more reconciled, and by
degrees, her sensible and pious observations wrought such a change in
him, that he determined, when he got well, the captain giving him his
liberty, he would enter into a monastery for the rest of his days.
Matilda encouraged him in the design.

The captain, who was present at many of their conversations, said, one
night, that his dislike to the cruel business he had been engaged in
was considerably strengthened by Matilda's dissertations on virtue and
vice; he was resolved never to make another voyage; and, though he
could not but think the faith of Mahomet the true faith, yet, for her
sake, he would always respect Christians; because the two best women
he knew, exclusive of his wife, were both Europeans and Christians.

Matilda impatiently expected an answer from Naples. The captain at
last received one. The good Count Morlini had been dead three years;
the Countess, his daughter, was alive, though in a languid state of
health, and was gone, with another family to Nice, to stay two or
three months.

This intelligence was delightful to Matilda: she was anxious to set
off as soon as possible.

Mr Weimar was now well enough to bear the voyage. He made a deed of
gift to his niece, of all he possessed; having greatly improved the
original fortune, from a fear of exciting too much notice and enquiry
if he had lived otherwise; and told her, his intention was to enter
into the order of poverty, as the proper retribution for his
inordinate desire of wealth, which had induced him to commit such
horrid crimes. She would have persuaded him to have chosen an order of
less severity; but nothing could alter his resolutions.

The captain having hastened his preparations, the day was appointed
for sailing.

Matilda could not take leave of the captain's amiable wife without
feeling a very sincere regret; for, though they did not understand
each other's language, yet the expression, of the heart was
comprehended by both, and engaged mutual esteem and tenderness. The
friend, or rather confidant of Mr Weimar, was sent for from the
country, his liberty given him, and Matilda, at her uncle's request,
promised to pay him the sum agreed upon in France, for his assistance
to carry her off.

They set sail with a prosperous gale, but with hearts very differently
agitated.

Much about the same time the Count De Bouville had taken leave of his
friends; and having hired a vessel at the first sea-port, he proceeded
on his voyage to Tunis, and, without any accident or interruption,
safely arrived there six days after Matilda had left it. He was soon
on shore, procured an interpreter, and hastened to the captain's
house. His heart beat fast with hope, fear, and expectation; but who
can describe his emotions when informed of their departure for Nice.
He asked a thousand questions could scarcely be persuaded but some
sinister design was again practised against her, and it was with much
difficulty he at length grew more reconciled and satisfied with the
account he received.

He had nothing now to do but to follow her to Nice; but as water and
some provisions were wanting for the vessel, he was obliged to bridle
in his impatience, and remain there three or four days, which were
ages in his calculation.

Matilda, meantime, safely arrived at Nice. Mr Weimar instantly left
the place, promising to write his niece, under cover to the Marquis De
Melfort, soon as he was settled in a monastery.

The captain conducted Matilda to a hotel, and they consulted how to
act. It must be confessed her situation was a very distressing one; no
female companion, no one to introduce her, she might be supposed an
impostor, notwithstanding the testimony of Mr Weimar, signed before
the captain. In short, they found themselves at a loss how to proceed.
The first step was to know if the Countess Berniti was there; of this
they were soon informed she was, accompanied by the Count and Countess
Marcellini. After much deliberation the captain proposed waiting on
the Count, telling him a lady just arrived from Tunis, requested the
favour of seeing him, to enquire after some very particular friends
and relations she had at Naples. This scheme was adopted and put into
execution. The Count was surprised at the message, but curiosity
carried him immediately to the hotel, and he was introduced to
Matilda. He was extremely struck with her figure and appearance. She
trembled, and for some moments was incapable of speaking; but
endeavouring to collect fortitude from necessity she thus addressed
him, 'The liberty I have taken in requesting the honour of seeing your
Lordship here requires many apologies, but I am in a very singular and
distressing situation. Will your Lordship permit me to ask you how
long you have known the Countess Berniti.' The Count started at the
question. Almost from a child, madam; we were brought up in an
intimacy from our youth.' 'You knew her unfortunate husband then, and
his brother,' said she, ‘and possibly may recollect it was supposed the
infant daughter of the Countess died in convulsions?' 'Supposed!'
repeated he, 'good God! What can you mean, madam?' 'To recall to your
mind, Sir, those circumstances on the developing of which my future
happiness depends. Save your surprise, my Lord, and to elucidate my
meaning, I must entreat the favour of you to peruse these papers, the
confession of a dying man once brother to the late Count Berniti.' The
Count took the papers with the most eager curiosity.

Matilda, affected with hopes, doubts, and fears, could not suppress
her tears: on this important moment her fate seemed suspended .

The Count made two or three exclamations, but when he came to the
murder of his friend, he smote his breast, 'Unparalleled wickedness
and ingratitude!' cried he. Hastily proceeding in the narrative, he no
sooner came to the exchange of the children, than throwing his eyes on
Matilda, 'My heart, and your striking resemblance to the charming
Countess, tell me, you are her child.'

'I am! I am!' replied Matilda, weeping, and strongly agitated, 'if she
will vouchsafe to own me!' He folded her to his bosom, 'Own you! O,
what transport to recover such a daughter! Compose yourself, my dear
young lady; I am little less affected than you are,--but let me finish
this interesting confession of a miserable wretch.' He went through
the whole without any further interruption.

At the conclusion, the captain related the events at Tunis, and the
result of their enquiries at Naples, which had brought them to Nice.

'Doubt not, my dear lady, but all your troubles are over: behold the
hand of Providence in every event; had not your wretched uncle taken
you from France; had you not fallen into the power, perhaps of the
only man who would have treated his captives with honour and
compassion, unknown in general to people of his profession,--forgive
me, Sir, the observation'--the captain bowed--'had not the dread of
death and everlasting punishments terrified the guilty wretch; had not
all these singular events happened, through Divine permission, you
might, to this hour, have been ignorant of your birth, and my amiable
friend deprived of the joy and transport that await her in your arms.'

The Count again warmly embraced her. He paid a thousand polite
compliments to the captain; and though he regretted leaving them, he
was anxious to consult his lady in what manner to convey this
delightful intelligence to the Countess.

When he returned to his lady she saw he was greatly agitated, and
knowing the message he had received, was very curious to hear the
result of his visit. She fortunately happened to be alone; he
therefore related the whole story, read the papers, and spoke in
raptures of Matilda's person, and engaging manners. Nothing could
equal the astonishment of the Lady Marcellini. She anticipated the joy
of her friends, yet was at a loss how to inform her of an event so
entirely unexpected. They knew it must recall to her mind the horrid
circumstances of her husband's murder, which neither time nor reason
had ever reconciled her to support with any fortitude. 'Yet,' said the
Count, 'to recover such a child; to have a hold, a connexion in life
so desirable and so unlooked for, must surely greatly overbalance the
affliction of a painful remembrance, at least weakened, though not
subdued.'

They went to the apartment of the Countess. She was at her toilet. Her
woman, being dismissed, 'Well, Count,' asked she, 'have you seen the
lady from Tunis,--is she a Turkish woman?' 'No, madam, she was brought
up in Germany; she is a charming young creature, and you may be proud
of the compliment,' added he, smiling, 'when I assure you she very
strongly resembles your Ladyship.' 'You are very polite, my good
friend,' answered she, in the same tone, 'but I am neither young nor
handsome, and you say this lady is both; but, pray, is she acquainted
with any of our friends?' 'Yes, but by name only; she has no personal
knowledge of any one in Naples; she was very particular in her
enquiries after you.' 'Of me!' said the Countess, surprised; 'how
could she know any thing of me?' ‘You remember the Chevalier N--, who
went abroad so many years since?' 'Ah!' said she, with a sigh, ‘I do
indeed remember him; is he alive,--does this lady belong to him?' 'He
is not living,' answered the Count, for Matilda permitted him to
suppose he was dead, without asserting it; 'this young lady was in
some degree related to him, but I think more nearly so to your
Ladyship.' 'Heavens! my dear Count, you surprise me! I know not of any
female relation I can possibly have.' 'She is certainly a near
relation, however,' replied the Count, 'and you must prepare yourself
for a most agreeable surprise, as I am convinced you will love her
dearly.' 'Indeed, my good Count,' exclaimed the Countess, 'you have
given me violent emotions; my heart palpitates, and my whole frame
trembles; for God’s sake, do not keep me in suspense--who can this
lady be?' 'Before we answer you, my dear friend,' said the Count's
Lady, 'let me persuade you to take a few drops, in water, the
agreeable flutter of your spirits will require them.' 'All this
preparation terrifies me; I will take any thing, but pray be explicit
at once.' 'Then, my dear lady, bear the joyful recital, I am about to
give you with resolution.'

He took up the story, at a French vessel, captured by the Corsair, and
a gentleman on board, attempting to destroy himself and a lady,
described the subsequent events, and then began the narrative. When in
his address to Matilda, he said, 'The Count Berniti was your father,'
the Countess started from her chair, 'Gracious God! what do I hear;
but no,--I can have no interest in it.' She was silent. He proceeded,
whilst she hung her head, drowned in tears at the mention of her
husband whose death he slightly passed over, ‘till he came to the
circumstance of the children. She gave a shriek, and throwing her arms
around her friend, 'If this is true, great God! if this is true, I may
yet have a child. O! say,' cried she looking wildly at him, 'tell me
at once, have I child?' 'You have,' said the Count, approaching her,
'you have a daughter, my dear Countess, whom heaven has preserved to
bless the remainder of your days.' ‘’Tis too much, too much,’ said she,
putting her hand to her bosom and instantly fainted in the arms of her
friend. Having drops and water at hand, she was soon recovered; and
after a few sighs, that removed the oppression from her heart, she
said, 'Tell me, if it is the illusion of my senses only, or if indeed
I have a child?' 'No, my dear lady, you are not deceived--we have told
you truth.' 'Then, where is she?' cried the Countess, eagerly, 'let me
see her--I die with impatience!' 'Recover your spirits,' answered the
Count; 'collect your fortitude, and I will immediately fetch her to
your arms.’ ‘O, hasten! hasten!' cried she, dissolving in tears, which
they were glad to see. And the Count, with joy, flew to the hotel,
where poor Matilda waited in all the agonies of suspense. 'The
discovery is made, my dear young lady; your mother is impatient to
receive and bless you.'

This intelligence, though so anxiously wished for, gave her
inexpressible agitations; she got up and sat down, two or three times,
without speaking, or being able to move; and at length, with trembling
knees, was conveyed to the carriage, the captain, at the request of
the Count, accompanying them. When arrived at the house, and conducted
to a room, she had a glass of wine to raise her spirits, whilst the
Count announced her arrival. In a few minutes he returned, and took
her hand. The Captain wished not to be present at the first interview.
With a tremor through her whole frame she gave her hand; the door
opened; she saw a lady, at the top of the room, who appeared to be in
tears. Matilda saw no more, she sprung from the Count, threw herself
on her knees before her, and without uttering one word, sunk into
insensibility. The friends hastened to her relief. The Countess sat
stupid, gazing wildly on her, without moving. When Matilda's senses
were a little restored she looked up, she exclaimed, 'My mother! O,
have I a mother' That word recalled the Countess to sense and feeling;
she clasped her in her arms, 'Blessed! blessed sound!' she cried, 'my
child, my dearest daughter! heaven be thanked.' She dropped on her
knees and lifted her hands and eyes to heaven, then again embraced her
child, whose soft and tender emotions were too powerful to admit of
speech, nor is it possible to describe the tumultuous joy of both for
many minutes. The unhappy widow, the childless parent, dead to every
hope of comfort, to embrace a child, adorned with every grace, to feel
those delightful sensations to which her breast had been a stranger,
and which mothers only can conceive,--a blessing so great, so
unexpected, no language can describe. What then must be the feelings
of Matilda, after suffering such a variety of sorrows, to find herself
in the arms of a parent? O, sweet and undefinable emotions! when
reciprocal between a mother and a child! who can speak the rapture of
each tender bosom, when parental and filial love unites!

After the first transports were a little abated, the captain was
introduced. The Countess welcomed him as the preserver of her child.
He was struck with the perfect resemblance between the mother and
daughter, and extremely gratified by the affectionate attention of
every one present.

In the evening Matilda promised to relate the particulars of her whole
story, and the following day to write to her friends.

The Count now pursued his voyage to Nice, still doubtful of Matilda's
safety, and the sincerity of Mr Weimar's repentance.

The wind was not favourable to his impatience, and the passage was a
tedious one; at last, however, he was landed at Nice, and, after many
enquiries, learnt there was a Turkish vessel on the point of sailing.
He flew to the ship; the captain was on board; without reserve the
Count acquainted him with his errand, and search after Matilda.
'Indeed, Sir,' said the captain, 'I pity you; ’tis peculiarly
unfortunate, that they have quitted Nice three days, on their way to
Vienna.'

The poor Count was struck dumb with vexation and disappointment; the
captain, however, related to him the whole story, as he recollected,
in Matilda's narrative, he was mentioned as a particular friend.
'When,' added he, 'the Countess was acquainted with the extent of her
daughter’s obligations to the ladies in Germany, she instantly proposed
going to Vienna, which being correspondent to Matilda's wishes, their
friends consented to accompany them, and the happy party set off three
days ago. Me,' said the captain, 'they have rewarded with unbounded
generosity much beyond my wishes or deserts; I shall now return, to
live in the bosom of my family, and give up the sea for ever.'

The Count applauded his resolution; and taking a ring from his finger,
of value, 'Wear this, my dear Sir, as a testimony of my esteem for the
friend of Matilda, and remember, that in the Count de Bouville you
will ever find one, upon any future occasion.'

The captain could not refuse so polite a compliment, though he was
already amply gratified for the services he had done.

Thus we see a just and generous action scarcely ever fails of being
properly recompensed.

The Count had now nothing to do but follow his mistress. He remembered
Mrs Courtney telling him he was going on a Quixote expedition. What
would she say now, thought he, how exult at my disappointed knight
errantry? Then, when he thought of the discovery of Matilda's birth,
'Ah!' said he, 'should I no longer be dear to her, of what use is my
pursuit? she will now be introduced to the great world, and my
pretensions may be distanced by a thousand pretenders of more merit
and superior fortune! Nevertheless, I will not give her up until from
herself I receive my doom.' Accordingly the following morning, a
little recovered from his fatigue, he set of for Vienna.

Meantime the Countess, her daughter, the Count and Countess
Marcellini, with their attendants, were safely arrived at Vienna, from
whence Matilda wrote to her beloved friends, and earnestly requested
the favour of seeing them.

'Tis impossible to describe the transports which her letter
occasioned. They lost no time in setting off, and that very same
evening their names were announced, Lord Delby and the young Count
restraining their impatience ‘till the following day.

The mutual joy, congratulations, and expressions of obligation which
took place on their meeting may be easier conceived than described.
The Countess Berniti was never weary of pouring forth her
acknowledgements to the friends and preservers of her child, whilst
they, on the other hand, could not help admiring the wonderful chain
of events which had gradually led the way to such a happy discovery
both for her and the Countess of Wolfenbach.

'To-morrow,’ said the Marquis, 'we shall beg leave to introduce our
friend Lord Delby, and the young Count, my sister's son. I assure
you,' said he, addressing Matilda, 'when we first heard of your being
forced from the convent, our young Frederic, though only sixteen years
old, had the gallantry to offer himself as your champion to pursue and
deliver you.' 'Can I wonder at his generosity and heroism, my dear
Sir,' answered she, 'born of such a mother, and possessing doubtless
the virtues of his family? No; I am already prepossessed in his favour;
I know he must resemble my charming Countess.'

She forebore speaking of Lord Delby, that she might not be obliged to
ask for the Countess, his sister, as she concluded the marriage must
have taken place long ago.

They spent a most delightful evening together, and engaged to
accompany the Countess of Wolfenbach to her seat, in three days from
the present; that lady next day sending orders to prepare for the
reception of her noble guests.

Matilda longed to see young Frederic, and her ideas of him were all
confirmed when she beheld him: his elegant form and polished manners,
in some measure, reconciled her to his late father, for having done
his son so much justice in his education. Every one was charmed with
him; and Lord Delby was received with all the respect due to his rank
and merit.

As both the Countess Berniti and her daughter were silent respecting
the Count, the others were equally cautious not to name him, lest they
might say more than Matilda chose to have known; and there being no
opportunities for private conversation, the Marchioness earnestly
wished to be in the country, that they might enjoy a few uninterrupted
têtê-à-têtes.

At the appointed time they all quitted Vienna, and arrived at the
Countess's villa.

They were just seated at the dinner-table when the Count De Bouville's
name was announced. The Marchioness gave a cry of joy; the knife and
fork dropped from Matilda's hand, and it was with difficulty she kept
her seat when he entered the room. The Marquis introduced him to the
strangers as his particular friend: as they had never heard his name
mentioned, they received him with the politeness due to that
recommendation only: but when he advanced to Matilda she changed
colour, and trembled so violently as to attract her mother's
observation, although she was too attentive just then to speak, for
the Count's agitations were visibly greater than hers; he bowed upon
her hand and said a few words, but they were not intelligible. The
Marquis hurried him through the rest of the company, and then placed
him between Lord Delby and himself, saying, 'Now, if you please, let
us have our dinner; I put a negative to all compliments and question
for this hour to come--'tis plain we are all very glad to see each
other.'

In consequence of this seasonable order the conversation became
general, and the Count and Matilda had time to recover themselves. She
wondered indeed no one asked for his lady, nor that she appeared to be
of the party. He cannot help being a little confused, thought she, and
did not expect to find me here, I suppose: well, I must try to exert
my fortitude, and, amidst so many blessings, I ought not to repine
that one is withheld from my possession. Occupied by these
reflections, she ate very little, nor attended to the conversation.

The Countess, her mother, who had been an attentive observer both of
the Count and her daughter, said, 'My love, Matilda, you eat nothing.'
She almost started, but replied, 'I beg your pardon, madam, I am doing
extremely well.'

Bouville, who had been at no loss to discover Matilda's mother, as
well from the likeness as the tender looks of the latter, now paid
that lady particular attention.

When the dinner and servants were removed, the Marchioness complained
of a trifling head-ache, and said she would go for a few minutes into
the air. 'Will you step out with me, Matilda?' 'With pleasure, my dear
madam,' answered she, rising quickly from her chair, and glad to
escape.

The two friends walked to the garden. 'My dear Matilda,' cried the
Marchioness, 'I could rein in my impatience no longer; I was eager to
congratulate you on the arrival of the Count, and on your happiness,
in having now all your friends about you.' 'You are ever good and kind
to me, my dear madam. I have indeed met with so many great and
undeserved blessings, that my heart bounds in gratitude to heaven for
its goodness towards one who, a short time since, thought herself the
most unhappy of her sex.' 'You will remember, my dear,' said the
Marchioness, 'it was my constant lesson to you, never to despair.
Providence has now brought you out of all your troubles; a reliance on
its justice and mercy, and an humble and grateful heart for the
blessings you enjoy, will henceforth make your happiness permanent.
But, my dear Matilda, I can perceive your confidence in your charming
mother has not been quite unreserved; I plainly see she is a stranger
even to the name of the Count De Bouville; how comes that to be the
case?' 'As all possibility of any connexion between the Count and
myself was at an end, I conceived there would be an indelicacy in
mentioning his former offers to my mother; yet perhaps I was wrong,
and ought to have done justice to the sentiments he then honoured me
with, as they proved his generosity and nobleness of mind. If I have
been wrong,' said she, with a sigh, ‘’tis not too late to repair the
fault, though it can be of no consequence to him now.' 'Your words
astonish me,' cried the Marchioness; what has the Count De Bouville
done to have forfeited your esteem?' 'Nothing, madam,' replied she,
confused; 'he has done nothing to lessen his merit or virtues in my
estimation.’ I think indeed,' resumed her friend, 'you must be
strangely altered. If it should be so, for I thought you always an
enthusiast in gratitude, and surely the man who made you an unreserved
offer of his hand, and though rejected, still preserved his affection
through many temptations--who has traversed lands and seas in search
of you.' 'Of me, madam!' exclaimed Matilda, surprised; 'pardon my
interruption, but did you say the Count had been in search of me?'
'Doubtless I did,' replied her friend; 'can that surprise you; could
you suppose we did not inform him, you were in the power of Weimar? or
that he knowing it, would not range through the world to find you? I
am sorry you do him so little justice, Matilda, for certainly he is
entitled to your warmest gratitude, if your heart no longer speaks in
his favour.' Astonishment overpowered the senses of Matilda for a
moment. 'He is not then married to Mrs Courtney' said she, faintly.
'To Mrs Courtney! good God! no; how came you to entertain such a
ridiculous idea?'

Joy, transport, and unexpected relief from the painful thoughts she
long had entertained were now too powerful for her feelings: with
difficulty she tottered to a seat, and leaning her head on her
friend's shoulder, burst into a flood of tears, which preserved her
from fainting.

'My dear Matilda,' cried the Marchioness, 'I now clearly comprehend
the whole; but, at the same time that I give you joy of your doubts
being removed, I could beat you for presuming to wrong my amiable
friend by entertaining them; see that you excuse yourself well, or
depend upon my displeasure.'

Matilda, after taking some time to recover her spirits, mentioned the
anonymous letter; also, nearly as she could recollect, the contents of
Mrs Courtney's, written to her whilst she was in the convent; she
repeated her answer. 'After which,' added Matilda, 'your journey
taking place, when you kindly sent to invite me of your party, the
Count was not mentioned; I therefore naturally concluded he was
married, and remained with his lady, and that, from considerate
motives you declined giving me the information.' 'How industrious some
spirits are to torment themselves,' exclaimed the Marchioness, 'yet I
own you had some little cause for your conclusions; but I am most
inconceivably surprised Mrs Courtney should have taken such a step;
that she was very partial to him, I believe, and might wish for a
return from him, is also very probable, but I am convinced the Count
never did make, nor ever thought of making the smallest pretensions to
her favour, any more than common politeness required; and so, my
little credulous, jealous friend, I desire you will return to the
company, make the Count one of your best courtesies, and pay him the
highest attention otherwise I will certainly put him out of the pain
that now oppresses him, by telling the whole story.'

Matilda, who felt her heart uncommonly light, readily promised to
behave very well, and requested the Marchioness would take an
opportunity to acquaint her mother with the Count's generosity and
affection for her.

This being agreed on, the ladies returned to the dessert, with so much
satisfaction in their countenances as excited the attention of their
friends.

'I do not ask after the head-ache,' said the Marquis, smiling, 'a
têtê-à-tête seems to have driven it away.' 'You are right,' answered
his lady, in the same tone; 'it sometimes cures both the head and the
heart; but come, give us some fruit, it must be confessed you have
done pretty well in our absence.'

The Countess Berniti was delighted to see her daughter look cheerful;
and as the Count De Bouville had engaged her in conversation, Matilda
joined in it now and then with great complaisance towards him, which
elevated his spirits to the highest pitch; and every thing relative to
her being full in his mind, he observed what an uncommon generous Turk
the captain of the corsair was.

'Why, do you know him, my Lord?' asked the Countess.

He was struck mute; Matilda hung her head, evidently confused. 'Ah!
Count, Count,' said the Marquis, 'when men get tipsy, whether with
wine or joy, out pops all their secrets; but I see you are dumb--I
will answer for you. Yes, madam,' added he, addressing the Countess,
'I believe the Count does know the captain, for he has been taken a
prisoner too.' 'Indeed !' cried she, 'what, at the same time my
daughter was?' 'I will not take upon me to say,' answered he, smiling
archly at Matilda, 'that it was exactly at the same time, but I
believe it was pretty nearly so.'

The Marchioness and her sister could not help laughing at this
equivoque which added to the confusion of Matilda.

'Come, come,' cried the Countess, her friend, 'none of your pleasantry
my Lord; the Count shall tell his own story to the ladies another
time, and I will assist him where he fails to do himself justice.'

The Count bowed; 'You are very good to me, madam; I am only afraid I
shall have occasion for troubling you and the Marchioness to prove
your partiality for me, at the expence of your judgement.' 'Very well,
Count,' said the Marquis, 'I am thrown out, I see. Faith, you are in
the right; a young handsome fellow seldom fails of engaging the
ladies, whilst no such dust is thrown in our eyes, to blind our
judgement, or obtain a partial testimony.' 'Be quiet, Marquis,' said
his sister; 'you are really malicious.'

The company arose soon after, and going into the garden, divided into
little parties. The Marchioness and the two Countesses went towards an
alcove; the lady of the house, with Matilda, the Count, Lord Delby,
and Frederic took another path; the Marquis and Count Marcellini
strolled into a different one.

Matilda now took an opportunity to atone for the omission she had been
guilty of, by asking Lord Delby after Mrs Courtney and his son.
Meantime the Marchioness explained to the Countess the sentiments of
the Count De Bouville; his early affection for Matilda, his repeated
offers of marriage, and her noble refusal openly, grounded on the
uncertainty of her birth, since she did not deny a preferable esteem
for him. She also repeated his long and tedious searches after her, as
far as she knew of them, and concluded with observing, his rank and
fortune, elevated as both were, fell far short of his merit and
amiable disposition. When she had finished, 'I own to you, madam,'
said the Countess, 'your relation has broke in upon my favourite plan.
I hoped to have carried my daughter to Naples, and to have seen her
married and settled there for life. Ah!' said she, 'to what purpose
did I find her, if we are to be separated again?' 'But where is the
necessity for a separation?' said the Countess Marcellini, 'cannot you
alternately visit each other every year?' 'No,' replied she; 'when she
marries there will be many things to prevent it. Indeed,' added she,
in tears, 'good and amiable as the Count is, I wish Matilda had never
known him.' 'Possibly, madam,' answered the Marchioness, very gravely,
‘she might then never have seen the convent, never have been carried
off, and you still ignorant you had such a daughter living, whose
generous self-denial deserves some praise as the Count's disinterested
and uncommon passion is entitled to some consideration: but I beg your
Ladyship's pardon; I have only done my duty in making this
communication; the Lady Matilda, will doubtless conform herself to
your wishes.'

The Countess struck with her words and manner of speaking them, caught
her hand, and kissing it, 'Pardon me, dearest madam,' said she, 'if I
have appeared petulant and ungrateful, my heart is not so, but
consider how natural it is for a mother, just in possession of a
treasure so long and painfully regretted as entirely lost, to be
jealous of a superior attachment, and unhappy at the idea of parting
from an object so entwined about her heart.' 'It is natural, my dear
madam,' answered the Marchioness, 'and if I did not hope some method
might be found out to obviate the objection, I believe the Count would
have little chance of succeeding with--' 'Your and my Matilda,' said
the Countess, eagerly. 'That "Lady Matilda" struck me to the heart.'
'She is indeed mine,' replied the Marchioness, 'my adopted child; and
had the want of fortune only prevented her union with the Count, we
offered largely to remove it; but her objections proceeded from an
elevation of soul, a greatness of mind, that would not disgrace the
man she married, whilst the Count thought she would dignify any rank,
and honour any man to whom she gave her hand.' 'Amiable, good young
people!' said the Lady Marcellini. 'O! my dear Countess they ought not
be separated.' 'Nor shall they,' answered she, 'if I find their
affection is still mutual: I will have a private conversation with
Matilda to-morrow, and you, madam, shall immediately know the result.'
They now walked towards the house, and were soon joined by the rest of
their party.

Notwithstanding every one wished to appear pleasing, the evening was
not a gay one. The Countess Berniti seemed collected within herself
Matilda was confused and apprehensive; the Count De Bouville
distracted with doubts, drew unfavourable omens from the looks of the
mother and daughter, and therefore was very silent. They separated at
an early hour, and sought in sleep a forgetfulness of care.

The following morning, the Countess and Matilda being alone in their
dressing-room the former said, 'How comes it, my dear child, that, in
relating your story to me, you never mentioned the particular
obligations you owed to the Count De Bouville, for his generous
offers?' 'Because, madam,' answered Matilda, blushing, 'I thought it
would appear to give myself a consequence I did not wish to arrogate,
for merely doing my duty in declining them. Another reason was, I had
been misled into a belief, that the Count had married an English lady,
a sister of Lord Delby's; and therefore supposing he never could be
any thing to me, I judged it of no consequence, for the present, at
least, to say any thing about him.' 'You have answered with candour
and sincerity,' said the Countess 'and I expect the same to the
following question: Do you love the Count De Bouville?' 'If, madam,'
replied she, hesitating a little, 'to prefer him to any other man I
ever saw; if to confess that I think him deserving of the highest
esteem from every one he honours with his acquaintance; if this is to
be called love, I must answer in the affirmative.' 'You are not quite
so ready and explicit in this answer,' said the Countess, with a
smile, 'nevertheless I believe your sentiments in his favour are
pretty decisive; and if my conjectures are right what part am I to
act, and how be expected to give a sanction to your union, which, in
all probability will part us for ever.' 'Never, my dear mother,'
answered she, in a firm tone, 'never; no power on earth shall part us
again: how great soever my affection for the Count may be, be assured
my duty, my love for you will greatly over-balance it; and if the
alternative must be to part with one, behold me ready to give him up,
without the least degree of hesitation.' 'Now, my dear Matilda,' said
the Countess, extremely moved by the firmness of her voice, and the
expression in her eyes, ‘now you have found the way to subdue me at
once: you shall make no such sacrifices for me, my child; and I will
think of some method to reconcile your duty and inclination to my
wishes.' Matilda kissed her mother's hand with the warmest affection,
and some of their friends coming into the room precluded further
conversation. She went in search of the Marchioness. She was told that
lady was in the garden, and thither she repaired, when, coming to an
alcove, she saw her seated in earnest conversation with the Count De
Bouville. She would have turned back, but the Count ran, caught her
hand, and led her to the Marchioness. 'I am rejoiced to see you,' said
she, 'my dear child; do, pray, take this troublesome young man off my
hands, for I declare he has been making down right love to me.' 'Who,
I?' said the Count. 'Yes,' answered she, 'you know you have--as a
proxy; and, as I am quite tired of being only a substitute, I leave
Matilda to supply my place for the present.' She got up and walked
away, Matilda being too much confused to have the resolution to
prevent her.

The Count seized this moment to know his doom. He besought her
attention for a few moments, briefly ran over the affair between Mrs
Courtney and him, as a mere Bagatelle, without wounding the lady's
consequence. His distress and pursuit of her through France,
Switzerland, Germany, from thence to Tunis and back again. He
described the fervency of his love and the tortures of suspence;
called upon her in the tenderest manner, to remember the time when she
had said, 'If her rank and fortune equalled his, she would, with
pleasure, give him her hand.' 'And now, madam,' added he, 'that hour so
much wished for by you, though of little consequence in my estimation,
when thrown into the scale with unequaled merit and dignity of mind;
that hour is arrived, deign, my beloved Matilda, to tell me, if I
still can boast a share in your esteem; tell me, if I may presume to
hope, that, however changed your situation, your heart, faithful to
your other friends, has not withdrawn itself from him who lives only
for you, and depends on you for happiness or misery in extreme?'

Matilda endeavoured to assume a composure she did not feel, for after
the conversation with her mother she thought she was not at liberty to
act for herself. Being silent a few moments she replied, 'Believe me,
Sir, my heart is still unchanged, still the same grateful and
affectionate sentiments predominate in my mind: the Count De Bouville
possesses my esteem, if possible, more than ever, for my obligations
to him are increased; but--I have a mother; no longer mistress of my
own destiny, she must determine for me. I will not scruple to confess,
that it will be to me the happiest moment of my life, if my duty and
affection to her coincide with your wishes.'

The Count, transported with joy, kissed her hand in expressive
silence, whilst Matilda rose from her seat and hurried to the house,
rejoiced that this interview was over. She returned to her mother's
apartment. The ladies were with her. The Marchioness smiled a little
maliciously at her, but observing she looked rather agitated, she
asked, 'What is become of the gentlemen this morning? have you seen
the Marquis and his friends, my love?' 'No, madam,' replied she, 'I
suppose they are rambling in the grounds.'

Just then the Marquis entered. 'Ah! ladies,' said he, 'I am happy to
see you together: I have undertaken to bring a cause before your
tribunal to-day, against one of your coterie, and I expect an
impartial judgement. What say you, ladies, dare you promise to be just
and sincere?' 'Your impertinent question is so affronting to us,'
replied the Countess, 'that I think we ought to decline hearing your
cause.' 'Conscience, conscience, my dear sister,' cried he, smiling,
'nevertheless, I will open my brief. A gentleman of rank, fortune, and
unquestionable merit'--here Matilda trembled--'has, for some time,
entertained the warmest affection and respect for an amiable woman.
When first he knew and admired her she was in a situation that
precluded hope, he was therefore condemned to silence; that situation
is changed; he has no obstacles to combat but the lady's over-strained
delicacy: she owns a preferable esteem, but--she cannot approve of a
second marriage.' Here all eyes were glanced at the Countess, who was
confused. Matilda began to respire. 'Tell me, ladies,' resumed the
Marquis, ingenuously, 'should so futile an objection preclude her from
making a worthy man happy, gratifying her own partiality in his
favour, and giving a dear and valuable additional relation to her
friends? You see I put the case simply and plainly. Will you, madam'--
addressing the Countess Berniti--have the goodness to speak first?' 'I
am not an advocate, Sir,' she answered 'for second marriages; on the
contrary, I think there are but very few cases that can justify them.
If a woman is left with a family she is anxious to provide for, and
has an eligible offer, that will enable her to do so, duty to them
should make her accept it; gratitude to the generous man, should
render her a good and affectionate wife. If a woman has had a bad
husband, who has used her ill, and unworthy of her merit, I conceive
she owes no respect to his memory, but may, without any imputation
whatever, reward the affection of a deserving object, and find her own
happiness in so doing.' The Countess Marcellini, said, 'My sentiments
exactly correspond with my amiable friend's.' 'And mine, also,' cried
the Marchioness, 'only I must be permitted to add, that if a woman so
situated declines the offer, from over-delicacy, which is no delicacy
at all, and by so doing renders a worthy man wretched, and refines
away her own happiness at the same time, I think her quite
inexcusable, and deserving reproach from her friends.' 'Thank you, my
love,' said the Marquis; 'and now, sister, your opinion, if you
please.' 'Mine,' answered she, in some confusion, 'you are no stranger
to, otherwise whence this appeal? but to convince you I am neither
obstinate nor perverse, but open to conviction and the advice of my
best friends, I will frankly subscribe to the opinion and judgement of
these ladies.' 'Now,' said the Marquis, 'you have redeemed my love and
esteem. I will not apply to our sweet Matilda here; she is
unqualified, at present to judge; and I fear her trial is not far off
from an accusation something similar, though not on account of a
second marriage; however I shall now rejoice my client with
intelligence, that he has gained his cause.' He bowed with a smiling
air, and left the room.

'My dear sister,' said the Marchioness, 'accept my congratulations:
Lord Delby is a most worthy nobleman, and offers to reside in whatever
country you please; wherever you are will be his home.'

The ladies all congratulated the Countess.

'I own,' said she, 'I have a very preferable regard for Lord Delby,
and am, in all probability, indebted to him for my life and present
happiness: it shall henceforth be my study to return those
obligations.'

This matter being settled, the ladies retired to dress; and, after a
little hesitation in her voice, Matilda informed her mother of the
preceding conversation, between herself and the Count. 'I have
referred him to you, madam, and I beg previously to observe, I will
implicitly, and without a murmur, abide by your decision. I never will
be separated from you; and if my union with the Count must be attended
with so great a sacrifice, no consideration whatever shall induce me
to marry him. I have already shewn I can resign him, when I think it
my duty to do so.' 'You are an extraordinary good girl,' answered the
Countess, 'but I will make no promises; when I have heard the Count, I
shall be the better able to determine what I ought to do.'

This day a cheerfulness pervaded through the whole party. Young
Frederic, extremely attached to Lord Delby, was delighted with the
prospect of a nearer connexion. He was charmed with the Count De
Bouville; but his young heart felt a little degree of envy when he
considered him as the favoured lover of Matilda, whom he admired so
exceedingly, that his extreme youth only prevented him from being a
formidable rival.

In the evening, when they took their usual walk, the Count requested
the honour of a quarter of an hour's conversation with the Countess
Berniti, and they retired to an alcove.

Matilda, who was leaning on the Lady Marcellini's arm, trembled so
exceedingly, that she pressed her hand, and said, 'Fear nothing, my
good girl, and hope every thing.' This a little re-assured her, and
they pursued their walk.

The Marquis suddenly joined them, and observing her companion engaged
in chat, drew her gently aside, 'There is a letter for you, under my
cover, and I suspect, from Weimar.' They walked aside, and Matilda,
hastily opening it, found it was really from him. He had entered among
the Carthusians, at Paris. He pathetically laments all his past
crimes, and acknowledges the justice and mercy of God: calls upon her
to forgive and pray for him; cautions her against the allurements of
the world, and takes an everlasting leave of her; meaning, from the
hour he receives one line from her, to inform him, that she has
recovered a mother, and is happy in her present prospects, to shut up
his correspondence and connexion with the world for ever.

This letter affected Matilda greatly; she remembered the care he had
taken of her youth, though she shuddered when she considered him as
the murderer of her father. 'Unhappy man,' cried she, 'may God afford
him penitence and peace in this life, and endless happiness in the
world to come!' She promised the Marquis to write an answer the
following morning, and he undertook to enclose it.

She joined her friends; but the letter had given so melancholy a turn
to her thoughts, that every one took notice of her dejection; and
judging it to arise from another cause, every one was anxious to
dispel it, and raise her spirits.

At supper they all met. Matilda glanced her eyes once towards the
Count, and observed joy seemed to animate his whole frame; from thence
she derived hope, that he was not very displeasing to her mother.

When they retired for the night, the Countess was silent; Matilda of
course asked no questions.

The next morning the Countess held a long conversation with her two
Neapolitan friends; at the conclusion of which, the Count and her
daughter was sent for. They attended, both visibly agitated. After
they were seated, the Countess addressed herself to her child: 'My
dear Matilda, the Count has done you the honour to express a warm
attachment to you, and has requested me to authorize his addresses,
without which permission you have refused to listen to him. I expect
you answer me with sincerity; will my consent, my sanction to his
addresses meet your wishes? or, can you renounce him, and follow me to
Naples, if I desire it?' 'Certainly I will, madam, there, or any where
you command; at the same time, I should make a very poor return for
the obligations I owe the Count De Bouville, if I hesitated to own,
that had his addresses been favoured with the approbation of my
mother, I could have preferred him to all men living; but no
preference whatever shall militate against the superior obligations I
am under to a parent.' 'Come to my arms, my dear children,' cried the
Countess, extending them, 'I know not which is most dear to me.'

They threw themselves at her feet: she blessed them with tears of joy
and joined their hands. Both were speechless, but language was not
necessary to prove their mutual transports. She raised them, and
presented them to her friends, 'Love my children,' said she, 'I think
they deserve it.'

When a little recovered from their joy, and seated by her, 'Now listen
to me,' said the Countess; 'I will not repeat the conversation I had
with the Count last evening, 'tis sufficient to say his offers were
beyond my hopes or expectations: he frankly of himself requested my
daughter and self should never be separated, for he would settle in
Naples. That intention of his did away the only objection I could
make. I consented to his wishes, but reserved to myself the pleasure
of telling Matilda so. Last night, when I came to reflect on the
sacrifice the Count was about to make, of his country, his friends,
the injury his fortune must sustain, and the uncommon affection he
manifested for my daughter, in paying me so great a compliment, I felt
myself little in my own eyes for my acceptance of his generous offer.
Dissatisfied and uneasy I said nothing to you, my love, of our
conversation. This morning I consulted my friends; they were equally
struck with myself at the Count's attention to my happiness; their
opinion coincided with my own--that it became my character not to
accept such a resignation.' 'My dear mother!' exclaimed Matilda.
'Patience, my love; those generous friends, I presume to flatter
myself, decided against their own inclinations. In one word, they
approved that I should renounce Naples; that your country,'--turning
to the Count--'should be my country; and that the satisfaction of
entertaining the friends of my youth, who offer to pay me a triennial
visit, should be the only favour I ought to ask, or you consistently
can grant. Yes, my dear children,' added she, 'I will accompany you to
France, and end my days under your roof.'

Never was delight equal to what the Count felt at this unexpected turn
in his favour; for it could not be supposed he could renounce his
country and friends without a pang; on the contrary, only his superior
love for Matilda, and respect for the feelings of her mother, could
have induced him to offer so great a sacrifice. He thanked her, in
transports of joy. He embraced the Count and Countess. 'Complete your
goodness,' cried he, 'and add to my obligations, by making this your
first visit,--go with us to France, and let there be no drawback on my
happiness.'

The Countess and Matilda, urging the same request, they conscented to
spend three months with them.

'Now, young folks,' said the Countess, smiling, 'you may take a walk
and congratulate each other, conscious that you deserve the happiness
that awaits you, from nobleness of mind, and a generous self-denial,
which prefered the satisfaction of others to your own gratification.'

The Count availed himself of this permission, and led Matilda to the
garden, whilst the delighted mother sent for the rest of the family
and repeated the preceding scene.

Pleasure shone on every face--all were equally happy; and even
Frederic, with a repressed sigh, said, 'They were deserving of each
other.'

Within a week from that day the Countess of Wolfenbach gave her hand
to Lord Delby at Vienna, after a mutual agreement, that they should
divide their time equally between Germany and England, with sometimes
a visit to their friends in Paris, which was promised on all sides,
should be reciprocal.

The Count De Bouville wrote to his sister, Madame De Clermont, who was
returned to Paris, with restored health, on the happy turn of his
affairs, and requested she would make every magnificent preparation
for the reception of his guests, the Count and Countess Marcellini;
the Countess Berniti and Matilda accompanying the Marchioness until
proper arrangements should take place for their marriage, which all
were desirous should be publicly performed at Paris, to confute the
odium Mademoiselle De Fontelle had thrown upon Matilda's character.

Lord Delby and his lady had written to Mrs Courtney, of the different
events which had taken place, and requested a visit from her to
Germany; the Marchioness and Matilda wrote, also, and entreated the
same favour.

These letters a little discomposed her at first; but as she had given
up all hopes of the Count, and was not of a disposition to fret
herself long on any subject, being naturally of an easy temper, she
answered their letters with perfect good-humour, congratulated them on
the happiness before them, and promised to visit all parties the
following Spring.

The parting of the friends from the Countess and Lord Delby was very
painful: they were strongly entreated to accompany them, but Frederic
having only another month's leave of absence, to remain with his
mother, the time was too short to admit of his going to Paris, and the
Countess could not be persuaded to leave him; they were therefore
obliged to be contented with the assurance of an early visit to the
Count De Bouville, in the Spring, when they would come to meet Mrs
Courtney.

The Paris travellers, though much affected by taking leave, as they
proceeded on their journey, recovered their spirits, and arrived
without meeting any accident at Paris.

Madame De Clermont, her husband, Madame De Nancy, and Mademoiselle De
Bancre waited to receive them. Great was the joy of all parties: a
thousand embraces and felicitations passed between the Count's sister,
Mademoiselle De Bancre and Matilda; and when the latter called to her
remembrance the difference of her feelings now, and when before she
had felt herself humbled by their caresses, as passing upon them in a
false light, she bent herself, with a grateful adoration, to the
Divine Being, who had protected her, and by such unforeseen, and
apparently untoward accidents, brought her to such unexpected
happiness.

The Count Marcellini waited on the Neapolitan Minister, who came and
payed his compliments to the ladies, congratulating the Countess on
the recovery of such a daughter, and requesting he might have the
honour of introducing them at court.

Three days after the Marchioness gave a superb entertainment: all the
foreign ministers were invited, an extensive circle of friends, and
among the rest, Madame Le Brun and her niece, who were just returned
from England. Conscious as they were of their ill conduct, they had
not the resolution to refuse being present at an entertainment where
all the great world was invited, and appeared with much effrontery.
When they entered, the Marchioness led them to the Countess Berniti,
'The Countess Berniti, ladies, mother to the Lady Matilda, whom you
had the honour of seeing with me a few months ago, as my relation.'
They bowed, paid their compliments, in a confused manner, and hurried
on; but the Marchioness had not done with them; she observed the
Imperial and Neapolitan Ambassadors were conversing with Matilda; they
rather shrunk back; "Nay, ladies,' said she, 'you must pay your
respects to the queen of the day.' Mademoiselle felt extremely
confused, yet resolved to put a good face on the matter; she assumed a
gay and affectionate air as she advanced. The Marchioness having
introduced Madame Le Brun, 'And now,' said she, to Fontelle, 'let me
present you to Lady Matilda Berniti, one of the first families in
Naples, as his Excellency can bear witness; and to your Ladyship I beg
leave to say, this is Mademoiselle De Fontelle, the envious traducer
of your character; the despicable young woman, who, incapable of
practising virtue, from the depravity of her own mind, naturally hates
the good and exalted characters of those who entitle themselves to the
respect and admiration of the world, and who now meets with that
contempt and mortification worthless and censorious characters like
hers deserve.'

The struggles of Fontelle, to free her hand from the Marchioness, and
the elevated voice of that lady, had drawn a large circle round her.
'Go, Mademoiselle,' added she, 'leave the presence of those you can
never see without self-accusation; and may your example teach others
how cautious they ought to be in judging of persons and appearances
from the malignancy of their own hearts. Candour and good nature,'
said she, smiling, 'will give beauty to the most indifferent faces,
whilst envy and malice will render the most beautiful persons truly
contemptible.'

Matilda, who had not expected this denouement, was extremely confused,
and felt for the mortified Fontelle, but the numbers who crowded round
her, and expressed their satisfaction, though it in some degree abated
her regret, induced her to think there was little dependence on the
applauses of the multitude: these very people, thought she, a few
months ago encouraged the persons they now reprobate; let me not be
vain of respect which only circumstances create!

Matilda thought justly; since every day's experience must convince
her, fortuitous circumstance will engage the shew of esteem and
respect, which the next moment of misfortune will as assuredly deprive
us of, among those who are not capable of discriminating, and attach
themselves only to persons gifted by fortune, and are incapable of
giving merit, if in obscurity, the praise it deserves.

The two ladies having left the room, boiling with rage and
indignation, and leaving a useful lesson to the envious and ill-
natured, harmony was restored; every one exerted themselves for the
entertainment of others, and every one agreed it was the most
delightful evening they had ever spent; though many of them called on
Mademoiselle De Fontelle the following morning, expressed their sorrow
for the ill-treatment she suffered, and assured her it was the most
horrid entertainment; the Lady Matilda, the idol of the evening, the
most vain, impertinent, conceited creature they had ever seen.

Such is the progress of envy, such the hatred of virtue, in bad minds,
and such you meet with in all public circles.

In less than a fortnight after their arrival in Paris, the Count De
Bouville, who had been indefatigable in his endeavours to hasten all
the elegant arrangements he had projected for the reception of his
bride, had the pleasure of seeing every thing in proper order, and by
the approbation of all their joint relations and friends, received the
hand and heart of his Matilda, who all acknowledged was the only one
deserving the entire affection of the accomplished and respectable
Count De Bouville.

Thus, after a variety of strange and melancholy incidents, Matilda
received the reward of her steadiness, fortitude, and virtuous self-
denial. A consciousness of performing her several duties ensured her
happiness; and when she wrote her beloved Mother St Magdalene the
happy conclusion of her adventures, 'From you,' said she, 'I learned
resignation, and a dependence on that Being who never forsakes the
virtuous; from you I learned never to despair; to your precepts and
prevention I am indebted for not taking the veil; and I trust, called
into an elevated situation, I shall ever remember the unfortunate have
claims upon the hearts of those whom God has blessed with affluence;
and that, through your means, reserved to experience every blessing of
life, I shall feel it my duty, by active virtues, to extend, to the
utmost of my abilities, those blessings to others less fortunate than
myself.'



THE END




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