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Oakcliffe Hall is the home of the Lord and Lady Bellonmore and their children, Walter and Ellinor. The family is happy and generous to all until the Lord and Lady spend six weeks at court to present their son Walter, now twenty years old, and acknowledge the new queen. Upon returning home, they find that Ellinor has not fared well in their absence. Her caregivers, chaplain Lemuel Percy and governess Allicia are unable to explain the cause of her paleness and sadness, but report it began two weeks after her parents had left for court. Eventually, Lady Bellonmore notices that Ellinor sneaks out of the house each morning to meet a young gentleman. A servingwoman spies on Ellinor and finds that her rendezvous is with Lord Arthur, son of the Duke of Belgrave. Unfortunately, the houses of Belgrave and Bellonmore have been feuding, and Lady Bellonmore is terrified that if her husband were to learn of Arthur’s courtship, the feud could escalate into violence. She confronts Ellinor with her knowledge of Arthur’s courtship, and forces Ellinor to swear a holy oath never again to see him.
A short time later, on her deathbed, Lady Bellonmore reminds Ellinor to uphold her vow, threatening to return from death to haunt her daughter if the vow is broken. Distraught, Arthur swears he can never love another woman, and begins to work on a plot to see Ellinor again. He infiltrates Oakcliffe Hall’s chapel and spies on her as she is praying, then makes a sound that startles her to shrieking in terror. As she tries to flee, she doesn’t recognize Arthur in the dark, and faints. Arthur takes this opportunity to abduct her, hiding the unconscious Ellinor in the grotto, returning with horses and his henchman Arnold to flee the area and wed Ellinor. Upon awakening, Ellinor cries out for help and tries to escape. Her brother Walter arrives just in time and draws his sword in her defense. At the end of the sword fight, Arthur and Walter are both mortally wounded, and Walter’s death causes Lord Bellonmore to die of grief. Ellinor, the sole survivor, joins a nunnery and eventually becomes an Abbess. Before departing for the nunnery, Ellinor reads her parents’ papers and discovers the origins of her family’s feud with the Belgraves. Arthur’s father had disguised himself to seduce Lord Bellonmore’s sister Angeline. Angeline died in childbirth as a result of that ill-fated union, and her baby Ellinor was raised by Lady Bellonmore as her own. Ellinor then realizes that by feuding, the families were attempting to prevent her from unwittingly committing an act of incest with Arthur, who turns out to be her own half-brother.
Literature in English, British Isles
Genealogy (Secret and Revealed)
OAKCLIFFE HALL OR THE FATAL EFFECTS OF FEUDAL QUARRELS. A Tale of the Fifteenth Century. London: William Cole, c. 1805.