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yond the gilded scales the world's superficial gloss lent him, the poisoned sting of sin and shame in all its unblunted depravity. But he was a consummate impostor-he sheathed every thought in guileless expressions, and put the mask of hypocrisy on his face, and passed for a miracle of goodness and virtue.
“O Nature! what hadst thou to do in hell,
When thou didst bower the spirit of a fiend
In such a gorgeous palace !"
“ To make the cunning artless, tame the rude,
Subdue the haughty, shake th' undaunted soul-
These are the triumphs of all-powerful beauty!" And so, indeed, Lord Ashmore felt-for never had he experienced such emotions as those, which mastered his very soul as he gazed on that artless and innocent girl. She was the first really retiring modest woman he had ever known, and he looked on her fair angelic countenance, in a bewilderment of entrancing delight, blended with a species of timid adoration, as if she were a visitant from a purer world.
To win her love was now his only aim-no very difficult task; her affections were entirely disengaged; she knew nothing of the world, and he was the first fashionable young man she had ever been on any terms of intimacy with ; and every one knows how fascinating are the refined and insinuating manners of a man of the birth and fashion of Lord Ashmore, to an unsophisticated girl, when united to all the charnis of person and polished education; she instantly endows the common-place attentions of politeness, with the attributes of benevolence and goodness, and every accomplishment is exalted into a virtue. How, indeed, could it be otherwise, for as such they are represented to her imagination by the designing and artful possessor himself?
Yes-man, to obtain the love of the virtuous, must assume virtue: innocence would shrink in horror from him who unscrupulously displayed the vices inherent to his nature, and loathe his proffered affection, were he gifted with the face and figure of a divinity.
Too artless to conceal any emotion of her guileless heart, he soon learned from the blushing Lady Annie the absolute ascendancy which he had obtained over hers; and in the first intoxication of a pure and virtuous passion, Lord Ashmore felt it was no sacrifice to abandon all those vicious associates, who had so powerfully and disgracefully enthralled
“Annie! his fond, beautiful Annie, was, and would be for ever, sufficient for his heart! Now, indeed, for the first time in his life, he should know and taste that felicity he had heard so often vaunted of, but which he had hitherto treated as a dream !"
Thus it is ever, when under the influence of any new and absorbing excitement-particularly with one already satiated with the gross and sensual pleasures of life. At that moment, he really and sincerely felt as if the love of a virtuous wife would suffice, and leave no wish ungratified; but man's nature does not change so suddenly; the light of goodness illuming the soul of the libertine, is but too often a transient, meteoric glare, which leaves it in greater darkness, from the vividness of its sudden flash.
Nothing could exceed the sweet and fervent joy, which beamed in the soft blue eyes of the lovely Annie, at the assurance that her affection was more than returned by him, who every day grew more amiable, and more deserving of it.
But, alas ! how seldom is it, that we can secure our own happiness, without plunging the dagger of disappointment into some devoted heart!
While her eyes sparkled with the anticipation of supreme and enduring felicity, there was one, whose tears of hopeless, unavailing regret, watered his lonely and sleepless pillow nightly, at the prospect of that happiness.
The Honourable Donald Lindsie, a cousin, in the third degree, to Lady Annie, was the last scion of a noble but ruined house, possessing nothing but a high-sounding name, the useless remnant of departed greatness. They had been brought up together from childhood, and although entirely dependent on her father's liberality for every comfort in life, he felt it not, was never made to feel it, in a country, where it is almost a necessary appendage to wealth to have retainers—where the rich never, never scorn the poorer branches of their family, so long as they do nothing to disgrace the name they bear-where “a Campbell is a Campbell still,” whether the proud possessor of thousands, or “ Master Willie,” looking after the guns, dogs, and fishing-tacklewhere, in fact, the warm and genuine hospitality of the heart alone governs every action; dependence is not, as with us, a state of galling mortification and wounded pride, where you are made to feel, every bour, “the state of beggary and degradation our bounty alone rescued you from.” No-it is merely the practising that divine injunction, so strongly enforced upon us, that, “ He who giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord, and he will repay him thereof.” So that Donald's youth had glided away, calm and unruffled as a summer stream.
Handsome, accomplished, and intelligent, he was a universal favourite; but the world's applause was nothing to him, his sole ambition was to obtain his lovely cousin's approving smile on his exploits, to make him supremely blessed. Never, for one moment, did his thoughts stray beyond that narrow and circumscribed valley; - why should they? it contained his all, his cousin Annie !
“Might I but through my prison once a day
Behold this maid : all comers else o' the earth
Have I in such a prison.” Judge, then, of the anguish of his soul, when he was made to understand, that she could gladly, willingly, leave her own beautiful home, and all dear to her, for a stranger !
“O my God, I never thought that possible! I thought to see her,
ge, then, she comer, for a Sthat po
to hear her, for ever! What a dream have I indulged! I love her, then, the fair, lovely, the wealthy Annie Mentieth ? 1, a beggar-I, a houseless wanderer-an outcast! but she knows it not-she returns it not !” and that thought wrung his soul bitterly. “Oh, no! no! she would scorn to love the poor, the despised Donald Lindsie; she never even pitied me! O Annie, Annie! will you be happy? O, my God! grant she may; but I fear and tremble for her!"
Lord Ashmore, with the careless arrogance of wealth, had not thought it necessary to keep up the farce of assumed virtue before the humble dependant, and Donald, quick-sighted, and jealous for his cousin's happiness, marked every unguarded word; and soon, too soon, discovered his lordship's real character,-yet, from a feeling of false delicacy, knowing the state of his own heart, he forbore to give her that timely caution which would have saved her from such misery. Nay, with the enthusiasm of an ardent, generous lover, he hoped, and imagined her gentle virtues might perhaps reclaim him,-“for who could resist their sweet and winning influence ?” Suffice it to say, in a few weeks, she became Lady Ashmore" the happy, the fortunate Lady Ashmore !”—for never did hand and heart accompany each other so closely as that willing, that delighted girl's. She saw not the tear in Donald's eye, for he had stolen away to shed it in secret; nor could he be found to bid her farewell. He heard the inquiries after him; he heard the impatient exclamation of “ The carriage is ready ; Lady Ashmore cannot wait !” he heard that carriage drive gaily off, amid the acclamations of the assembled tenantry, for “ blessings on the fair and beautiful young bride;"-prostrate on his knees, his head buried in his hands, and the tears gushing in uncontrollable anguish through every finger, he heard all this, and he thought he should never live to hear anything more, yet, from the bottom of his riven soul did he mingle his blessing for his beloved Annie, with that heedless throng!
But she knew nought of this; her hand locked fast in her new-made husband's—her eyes longing, yet hardly daring, to meet his—and her cheek glowing with the blush of bashful happiness,- she was revelling in those pictures of the imagination, which promise to the young bride" and thus will it ever be!"
“How should she ever be able to show the grateful love she felt for her adored Henry, for conferring such bliss on her ? Oh! that life were not so short, then could I hope to have time to convince him of my boundless love !"
Alas! for her dream of joy-heavy and sad was its waking! For one year, Lord Ashmore's love and admiration appeared daily to increase. He studied every look, and anticipated every wish, of his beautiful Annie, and the birth of a son seemed to complete their felicity; but although she loved him with that deep, that enduring love, of which woman is alone capable-her affection was of too retiring and unobtrusive a nature, to satisfy for any length of time a man who had been accustomed to the excitements of passion, and the meretricious allurements of vice and depravity. He soon grew wearied with what he termed her “coldness and indifference ;” absented himself for weeks together; and at last set decency at defiance, and plunged into all his old excesses, with even greater zest, from his temporary abstinence from them.
For two years did his wretched, unoffending wife endure this estrangement, praying for him, and endeavouring, by kind persuasion, and forgiving love, to lure him from his follies—consoling herself in the smiles and endearments of her lovely babe : but when at last he openly defied opinion, and outraged decency, by bringing under the same roof with her, an abandoned creature, (with whom he had eloped and paid enormous damages in a trial instituted by her husband,) then was the heart-broken Lady Annie driven to seek once more the shelter of her father's arms. Lord Ashmore, however, insisting, with a cruelty unparalleled, that she should leave the child behind.
During these events, great and unexpected changes had taken place in Donald's situation. He had, through the death of a near relation, come into the Earldom of Somerville, with an immense fortune attached ; had married an amiable, accomplished girl, who only lived to present him with a daughter, when she sank under a latent consumption; and his own constitution never having recovered his early disappointment, (augmented by the sufferings of his still cherished Annie,) she had the additional anguish, on reaching Scotland, of finding him on the bed of death, attended by her aged and sorrowing father,-for he had come to his early home to die !
Then did she learn from his fading lips the long-cherished secret of his love for her, and his hope that she would prove a mother to his little orphan Emily. How fondly, how religiously she obeyed that dying request of her now too-regretted Donald's, is shown in the letter of Emily, who found in her a mother, in every sense of the word; and it was to recover from the shock that idolized mother's death caused her, that she was advised to travel abroad, when, by one of those extraordinary coincidences which look like romance, did not daily experience convince us to the contrary, she encountered Henry Ashmore, travelling, either from necessity or frolic, under an assumed name. Mistress of herself, she soon gave the love he sought with such sweet importunity, and only deferred their marriage until their return to England, when, learning his real name, she declined, from dread of his father's character, to risk a union with him. Henry, loving to distraction, and finding her inflexible, mistakenly sought to forget his disappointment in dissipation, and fell a victim to it.
Lord Ashmore's wretched partner in guilt dying soon after of remorse and regret, he was left entirely alone in the close of life, when it is so precious to have our children and our "children's children” around us, like bright, sweet flowers, shedding gladness and perfume on our hearts, reviving a grateful memory of our long-gone youth.
In looking over some papers she left behind, he was inexpressibly shocked and affected to find the following heart-rending letter from his wife to her:
“ Shame almost restrains the hand affection urges to address you. Never, until this moment, did outraged modesty burn in blushes on my cheek, or my abashed thoughts struggle to conceal themselves in the silent recesses of my own bosom. Oh! never, never have I had to sue before, save to the purest—the holiest in Heaven, or the chastestthe most uupolluted on earth! But now must I implore favour from you-you, who have robbed me of my husband !-You, who are
branded with the plague-spot of the adulteress!—whose reputation is for ever darkened by the fearful shade of that guilt, whose night the morning-star of virtue never more illumes.
“ You! who have openly violated the holiest vows ever breathed before God's sacred altar, — provoking His wrath and indignation' to visit your enormities. You ! who have set a mark of disgrace upon the very name of woman! You !-Oh, horror !-who could, for the gratification of a forbidden passion, forsake your babes in their helpless infancy, never, never to know them more. Those endearing, innocent little creatures, committed to our care by a Gracious Power, and sent by Him to us, freighted with such a mighty store of love and tender claim on our dearest pity, that our hearts are flooded with joy ineffable, indescribable, unfading, inexhaustible; but to yours, the name of mother is a word forbidden their artless lips-a ban on their spotless hearts. Oh! when the cold, relentless hand of Death nips the early bud of promise, and withers with it the blooming gladness of a mother's heart, how often does Nature yield to the ruthless blow, and speed the bereaved mother to share the silence of her infant's early grave? Yet you, whom the Tyrant mercifully spared those agonizing pangs, could wantonly and barbarously anticipate its dread separation voluntarily become an exile from your children—willingly expatriate yourself from the home of love, honour, virtue, and religion : and it is to you I am now writing : it is to you I now appeal! It is to plead for a child, I now speak to your heart-it is to save mine from breaking that I now implore your mercy. But I am a mother !-O my God! thou only knowest what a tender, anxious, prayerful mother!
“My strong sense of religion-my sorrow and compassion for those enslaved by passion—the certainty of the impossibility of virtuous affection making the happiness of that heart totally under the dominion of vice and sensuality-and, more than all, the deep, the awful consciousness, that ere long it will, it must, pay, with keen and bitter repentance, its own turpitude,- would have taught me resignation to submit to the loss of my husband. Or even had it pleased the Almighty to recal my treasure again to the shelter of His heavenly bosom, I would have prayed for submission to His will. But, oh! to be robbed of my boy so cruelly-so barbarously !-For him to be reared in the hot-bed of vice and immorality to witness every hour the crimes of a parent-to be familiarized to every species of dissipation from his very childhood !-Oh! perhaps, be tutored by his own father to imitate his guilt, without one moral precept to lend its benign influence to counteract the hellish example. Oh! where, where can I find fortitude, or apathy, to submit to that?
“Oh! if you have one spark of woman's nature yet glowing in your bosom-if you have not quite forgotten what it is to be a mother-if you are not totally lost to every pure and precious memory of the holy transport that name first awakened in your soul,- let me adjure you to conceal, as much as possible, from my innocent child, your vices--the vices of his father!
“Let him only witness your tears of remorse, (those tears you must shed,)- let him only hear your groans of repentance-let him join his