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ROMANTIC STORIES OF FAMOUS FAMILIES., Star, Issue 9137, 18 January 1908
ROMANTIC STORIES OF FAMOUS FAMILIES.
An Irish Beauty Imprisoned, in & Lonely Castle. ("Ti^Bits.") '• How beautiful she is (" The exclamation came from the lips of many of that brilliant assembly gathered together to see the play that evening in the hall reserved for private theatricals in Dublin Castle. The LordLieutenant of Ireland, his lady, and a company of distinguished personages were gathered together to witness the performance. The play was " The Distressed Mother," and it was the appearance upon the stage of the girl acting the chief that caused that exclamation to break from the spectators tips. DAUGHTER OF AN IRISH PEER. The actress was beautiful — wonderfully beautiful 1 Had she been otherwise, the company might have recognised how absurd it was for her to undertake such a role as that she was called upon to J>lay. But much would be overlooked in the performance of that lovely girl, sixteen years of age, tall, with dark hair and large, flashing eyes, and a figure ©very movement of which revealed its grace. She was Miss Mary Molesworth, daughter of Lord Molesworth, an Irish peer — the daughter upon whom Lord Molesworth had set his hopes that she would marry a person of fortune. Mary Molesworth was " worthy of the best." The efforts of the young actress were received with loud applause. At the end of each act she was called befoTe the curtain, and admiring eyes followed her as she disappeared from their gaze. That evening was to decide the fortune of Mary Molesworth. ADMIRATION OF COLONEL ROCHFORT. "Tour daughter is an angel. The man will be happy who gains her as his wife," exclaimed one of the spectators to her father. The speaker was a tall, military-look-ing man, with a stern, handsome face, which, however, bore upon it traces of dissipation. He was a certain Colonel ! Rochfort, a colonel in the Army, a man who had seen service, and who had given promise of attaining distinction, but he was also known as a man of wild, uncontrollable temper — a temper which was a sore trial to his delicate wife. From that night of the theatricals he was enthusiastic in his praises of Mary Molesworth. He paid her attentions that were most marked. If he had not been married, people declared that Colonel Rochfort would have become the lover of Mary Molesworth. When a short time later it was announced that his wife had died of smallpox people looked forward in confidence to Colonel Roohfort proposing to pretty Mary Molesworth. He had in the interval become Earl of Belvedere. He •could offer her title and wealth ! THE COUNTESS OF BELVEDERE. "I don't like him. I am afraid of him," she exclaimed to a friend whose offices she sought to persuade her father from urging the Earl's claims upon her " She is only a child. She does not know her own mind," replied her father angrily. "If she will not marry him, she must take the tjonsequences." And the consequences, it was cviIdent, would be her father's severest displeasure. " A magnificent ceremony, but I hare 6een many brides who have looked unhappy at such. If the Countess's face is to be an augury of the happiness she expects to find in that union, it will prove a .sad one," wrote one of those present at the ceremony. • With bis young bride the Earl retreated to his mansion at Gaulstown, on his Westmeath estate. Soon a rumour spread in the surrounding country that the union did not, indeed, promise to be happy. Gaulstown was an old, gloomy mansion, standing in the midst of a large park. Residents on the estate whispered stories of strange happenings in that gloomy castle. She was about to become v a mother", and the Earl had set his heart upon a son and heir. When his wife gave birth to a daughter he gave vent, in his disappointment, to a wild burst of passion. ARTHUR ROCHFORT EXPOSTULATES. Among all the visitors to Gaulstown there was one who strove his best to lighten the Countess's lot, and to interpose between her and her husband's cruelty — Arthur Rochfort, the brother of the Earl, a gentleman married and with a large family, and living in a mansion in the neighbourhood. Handsome as the Earl, he was a man peculiarly different in disposition — gentle and almost timorous. Yet now he plucked up courage to expostulate with ! his brother upon the treatment of his young and beautiful wife. It seemed as if all would be well when the Countess, a year later, presented her husband with a second child, a boy. There were festivities, bonfires, and rejoicings upon the occasion such as that part of the country had never known before. THEN THE THUNDERBOLT FELL. What took place at the interview between the Earl and the strange woman who called to see him there was no one to witness. But she left with him a packet of papers — a packet of papers that was to prove disastrous' to two lives. In that packet were letters written the woman asserted, by the Countess j to the Earl's brother, Arthur Rochfort, of Rochfort House, and with them were the answers, she declared, he had written to her. The letters were signed in assumed names. Those in the handwriting of the woman were signed " Sylvia," and those in the writing of the man '*' Philander." Were they resdly the letters of the Coantesa and the Earl's brother? Were they cleverlyconcocted forgeries, fabricated by some deadly enemy for the purpose of exciting the passion of an easily infuriated man P It was not the nature of the Earl of Belvedere to reason calmly over such a matter He assailed the Countess with the bitterest accusations and reproaches, I and avowed his intention of taking his brother's life. At the end of that interview he rushed from the room to niount the horse that he had ordered to be got ready for him, to make his way to Roohfort House in search of the man whose blood he was seeking. But a message had already preceded him. When the Earl arrived there, he found his brother Arthur had fled. The Earl pursued hot upon his track to England. But Arthur escaped to the Continent, whence he wrote unavailing letters to the Earl protesting his innocence. LIVE AND DIE IN SOLITUDE. From that time the beautiful Countess of Belvedere became the prisoner of
Gaulstown. The Earl announced his intention of never setting eyes upon her •again. Her letters to him, protesting her innocence and pleading for an interview, were disregarded. In that gloomy old mansion she was kept a prisoner, surrounded by servants chosen by the Earl and instructed to keep a vigilant watch over her, and to prevent her, by force if necessary, from ever passing' beyond the bounds of the park. "You are cruel. I am innocent; I have done nothing to offend you," the Countess protested in one of her letters to him. But the Earl made no response. Upon one occasion, with the aid of a confederate, the Countess managed to escape from the park. She. eluded the pursuit of her watchers, who quickly discovered her absence, and at length arrived in Dublin at lier father's house. But her father refused to see her. He was full of wrath as her husband himself, and when the servants of the Earl came to the house, judging that she would have sought refuge there, her father handed her to them. SixteenAfyears had passed when the sensation of the Earl's rupture with his wite was recalled to people, who had by then nearly forgotten that the unforunate lady lived. » RETURN OF ARTHUR ROCHFORT. "I am coming bapk to Ireland. I am innocent of wrong done you, but, if your rage will pursue me, I must take the consequences." So wrote Arthur Rochfort to his brother. He could endure no longer that banishment from his native land, and though his wife and family had joined him abroad he determined once more to seek his native country. " I will not kill you, but you may otherwise expect the worst I can do to you," the Earl replied to that appeal. He would seek the law, and see what ruin it might wreak on the man against whom his indignation, in spite of the long intervening years, waxed as hot as ever. The result was the case of " The Earl of Belvedere v. Rochfort," in which the Earl sought for damages against his brother for alienating the affections of his. wife from him. Arthur Rochfort made what struggle he could against the Earl's proceedings, but his flight had seriously compromised, him in the eyes of many who would otherwise have been convinced of his innocence. The jury returned a verdict in the Earl's favour, and Arthur Rochfort, almost penniless as he was, was adjudged to pay no less than £20,000 damages 1 In default he wae carried to prison, to linger there till death released him. It was sixteen years later that his pitiless brother followed him to the grave. His death threw open the prison doors of the once beautiful Mary Molesworth, and put an end to her thirty-two years' captivity. Her father — who had married her to the man she dreaded, and who had repulsed her from his house when she sought his protection — was dead. But the Countess's children were alive and married, and were ready to receive her and lavish their affection upon her. " Who would believe she was the woman of the beauty of which we had heard so much?" wrote one who met her later. " She is a wreck, weak and haggard! Her hair is white as snow, and in her eyes there is a wild, scared look, as of one who has received some terrible shock, the memory of which is ever with her. fc>ne speaks in a trembling voice which hardly rises above a whisper, and the dresses she wears are of a fashion in vogue over thirty years ago !" It was thirty-two years since the time when Mary Molesworth became the prisoner of Gaulstown ! Had those two lives — the life of the beauteous joyous girl, Mary Molesworth, and the life of the gentle, timid •Arthur Rochfort — been a sacrifice to the unreasoning suspicion of a jealous and wrathful man? i A sad, broken-hearted woman — a woman who seemed unable, even amidst all the tender love and respect lavished on her, to forget those long years of sorrow and disgrace — the Countess lived only a short time after her return to the world. With her dying breath she protested her innocence, even as Arthur Rochfort, dying in the prison cell into whish his brother had cast him, had declared his.
ROMANTIC STORIES OF FAMOUS FAMILIES., Star, Issue 9137, 18 January 1908
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