Part 3 out of 6
scarcely conceal her impatience, and did venture to beg her mother to
tell her what she required.
"Your attention, Caroline, for a time," she replied, so coldly, that her
daughter felt instantly something was wrong, though what she guessed
not, for she knew not that St. Eval had obtained the sanction of her
parents for his addresses; and she little imagined he could have
anything to do with the displeasure she saw so clearly marked.
"You will wait, if you please, till I have finished writing, as this
cannot be delayed. Lord St. Eval leaves town in a very short time, and I
send this by him."
"Lord St. Eval," thought Caroline, suddenly becoming alarmed, "surely
mamma and papa know nothing of his offer."
A few minutes passed in silence, which was broken by the sound of
carriage-wheels stopping at the door, and Robert almost instantly after
entered with Miss Grahame's love, saying she could not wait a minute,
and hoped Miss Hamilton was ready.
"Miss Grahame!" repeated Mrs. Hamilton, in an accent of surprise, before
Caroline had time to make any answer; "Caroline, why have you not
mentioned this engagement? You do not generally make appointments
without at least consulting me, if you no longer think it necessary to
request my permission. Where are you going with Annie?"
"To Oxford Street, I believe," she answered carelessly, to conceal her
rising indignation at this interference of her mother.
"If you require anything there, you can go with me by and bye. Robert,
give my compliments to Miss Grahame, and say from me, Miss Hamilton is
particularly engaged with me at present, and therefore cannot keep her
engagement to-day. Return here as soon as you have delivered my
"Mother!" burst from Caroline's lips, in an accent of uncontrollable
anger, as soon as the servant had left the room; but with a strong
effort she checked herself, and hastily walked to the window.
An expression of extreme pain passed across her mother's features as she
looked towards her, but she took no notice till Robert had returned, and
had been dismissed with her note to be given to Emmeline to transmit
"Caroline," she then said, with dignity, yet perhaps less coldly than
before, "if you will give me your attention for a short time, you will
learn the cause of my displeasure, which is perhaps at present
incomprehensible, unless, indeed, your own conscience has already
reproached you; but before I commence on any other subject, I must
request that you will make no more appointments with Miss Grahame
without my permission. This is not the first time you have done so; I
have not noticed it previously, because I thought your own good sense
would have told you that you were acting wrong, and contrary to those
principles of candour I believed you to possess."
"You were always prejudiced against Annie," answered Caroline, with
rising anger, for she had quite determined not to sit silent while her
mother spoke, cost what it might.
"I am not speaking of Annie, Caroline, but to you. The change in your
conduct since you have become thus intimate with her, might indeed
justify my prejudice, but on that I am not now dwelling. I do not
consider Miss Malison a fit chaperon for my daughter, and therefore I
desire you will not again join her in her drives."
"Every other girl of my station has the privilege of at least choosing
her own companions without animadversion," replied Caroline,
indignantly, "and in the simple thing of making appointments without
interference it is hard that I alone am to be an exception."
"If you look around the circle in which I visit intimately, Caroline,
you will find that did you act according to your own wishes, you would
stand more alone than were you to regard mine. I have done wrong in ever
allowing you to be as intimate with Miss Grahame as you are. You looked
surprised and angry when I mentioned the change that had taken place in
"I had sufficient reason for surprise," replied Caroline, impatiently,
"I was not aware that my character was so weak, as to turn and change
with every new acquaintance."
"Are you then the same girl you were at Oakwood?" demanded Mrs.
Hamilton, gravely yet sadly.
A sudden pang of conscience smote the heart of the mistaken girl at
these words, a sob rose choking in her throat, and she longed to have
given vent to the tears which pride, anger, and remorse were summoning,
but she would not, and answered according to those evil whisperings,
which before she had only indulged in secret.
"If I am changed," she answered passionately, "it is because neither you
nor papa are the same. At Oakwood I was free, I had full liberty to act,
speak, think as I pleased, while here a chain is thrown around my
simplest action; my very words are turned into weapons against me; my
friendship disapproved of, and in that at least surely I may have
liberty to choose for myself."
"You have," replied Mrs. Hamilton mildly. "I complain not, Caroline, of
the pain you have inflicted upon me, in so completely withdrawing your
confidence and friendship, to bestow them upon a young girl. I control
not your affection, but it is my duty, and I will obey it, to warn you
when I see your favourite companion likely to lead you wrong. Had your
every thought and feeling been open to my inspection as at Oakwood,
would you have trifled as you have with the most sacred feelings of a
fellow-creature? would you have called forth love by every winning art,
by marked preference to reject it, when acknowledged, with scorn, with
triumph ill concealed? would you have sported thus with a heart whose
affections would do honour to the favoured one on whom they were
bestowed? would you have cast aside in this manner all that integrity
and honour I hoped and believed were your own? Caroline, you have
disappointed and deceived your parents; you have blighted their fondest
hopes, and destroyed, sinfully destroyed, the peace of a noble,
virtuous, excellent young man, who loved you with all the deep fervour
of an enthusiastic soul. To have beheld him your husband would have
fulfilled every wish, every hope entertained by your father and myself.
I would have intrusted your happiness to his care without one doubt
arising within me; and you have spurned his offer, rejected him without
reason, without regret, without sympathy for his wounded and
disappointed feelings, without giving him one hope that in time his
affection might be returned. Caroline, why have you thus decidedly
rejected him? what is there in the young man you see to bid you tremble
for your future happiness?"
Caroline answered not; she had leaned her arms on the cushion of the
couch, and buried her face upon them, while her mother spoke, and Mrs.
Hamilton in vain waited for her reply.
"Caroline," she continued, in a tone of such appealing affection, it
seemed strange that it touched not the heart of her child, "Caroline, I
will not intrude on your confidence, but one question I must ask, and I
implore you to answer me truly--do you love another?"
Still Caroline spoke not, moved not. Her mother continued, "If you do,
why should you hide it from me, your own mother, Caroline? You believe
my conduct changed towards you, but you have condemned me without proof.
You have abandoned my sympathy--shrunk from my love. Try me now, my
sweet child; if you love another, confess it, and we will do what we can
to make that love happy; if it be returned, why should you conceal it?
and if it be not, Caroline, my child, will you refuse even the poor
comfort your mother can bestow?"
She spoke in vain; but could she have read her daughter's heart at that
moment, maternal affection might not have been so deeply pained as it
was by this strange silence. Regret, deep, though unavailing, had been
Caroline's portion, from the moment she had reflected soberly on her
rejection of St. Eval. She recalled his every word, his looks of
respectful yet ardent admiration, and she wept at that infatuation which
had bade her act as she had done; and then his look of controlled
contempt stung her to the quick. He meant not, perhaps, that his glance
should have so clearly denoted that she had sunk in his estimation, it
did not at the moment, but it did when in solitude she recalled it, and
she felt that she deserved it. In vain in those moments did she struggle
to call up the vision of Lord Alphingham, his words of love, his looks
of even more fervid passion, his image would not rise to banish that of
St. Eval; and if Caroline had not still been blinded by the influence
and arguments of Annie, had she given her own good sense one half-hour's
uncontrolled dominion, she would have discovered, that if love had
secretly and unsuspiciously entered her heart, it was not for Lord
Alphingham. Had she really loved him, she could not have resisted the
fond appeal of her mother; but to express in words all the confused and
indefinable emotions then filling her heart was impossible. She
continued for several minutes silent, and Mrs. Hamilton felt too deeply
pained and disappointed to speak again. Her daughter had spoken to her
that morning as she had seldom done even in her childhood. Then her
mother could look forward to years of reason and maturity for the
improvement of those errors; now others had arisen, and if her control
were once so entirely thrown aside, could she ever regain sufficient
influence to lead her right. Seldom had Caroline's conduct given her so
much pain as in the disclosures and events of that morning.
"Is it absolutely necessary," Caroline at length said, summoning, as her
aunt Eleanor had often done, pride to drown the whisperings of
conscience, "that I must love another, because I rejected Lord St. Eval?
In such an important step as marriage, I should imagine my own
inclinations were the first to be consulted. It would be strange indeed,
if, after all I have heard you say on the evil of forcing young women to
marry, that you should compel your own child to accept the first offer
"You do me injustice, Caroline," replied her mother, controlling with an
effort natural displeasure; "St. Eval would not accept an unwilling
bride, nor after what has passed would your father and myself deem you
worthy to become his wife."
"Then long may this paragon of excellence remain away," replied
Caroline, with indignant haughtiness kindling in every feature. "I have
no wish ever to associate again with one by whose side I am deemed so
unworthy, even by my parents."
"Those who love you best, Caroline, are ever the first to behold and
deplore your faults. Have you acted honourably? have you done worthily
in exciting love merely to give pain, to amuse and gratify your own love
"I have done no more than other girls do with impunity, without even
notice; and surely that which is so generally practised cannot demand
such severe censure as you bestow on it."
"And therefore you would make custom an excuse for sin, Caroline. Would
you have spoken thus a few months since? would you have questioned the
justice of your mother's sentences? and yet you say you are not changed.
Is it any excuse for a wrong action, because others do it? Had you been
differently instructed it might be, but not when from your earliest
years I have endeavoured to reason with, and to convince you of the sin
of coquetry, to which from a child you have been inclined. You have
acted more sinfully than many whose coquetry has been more general. You
devoted yourself to one alone, encouraged, flattered, because you saw he
was already attracted, instead of adhering to that distant behaviour
which would have at once told him you could feel no more for him than as
a friend. You would have prevented future suffering, by banishing from
the first all secret hopes; but no, you wished to prove you could
accomplish more than others, by captivating one so reserved and superior
as St. Eval. Do not interrupt me by a denial, Caroline, for you dare not
deliberately say such was not your motive. That noble integrity which I
have so long believed your own, you have exiled from your heart. Your
entire conduct towards St. Eval has been one continued falsehood, and
are you then worthy to be united to one who is truth, honour, nobleness
itself? Had you loved another, your rejection of this young man might
have been excused, but not your behaviour towards him; for that not one
good reason can be brought forward in excuse. I am speaking severely,
Caroline, and perhaps my every word may alienate your confidence and
affection still farther from me; but my duty shall be done, painful as
it may be both to yourself and me. I cannot speak tamely on a subject in
which the future character and welfare of my child are concerned. I can
no longer trust in your integrity. Spite of your change in manner and in
feeling towards me, I still confided in your unsullied honour; that I
can no longer do, you have forfeited my confidence, Caroline, and not
until I see a total change of conduct can you ever hope to regain it.
That perhaps will not grieve you, as it would once have done; but unless
you redeem your character," she continued "the serious displeasure of
both your father and myself will be yours, and we shall, in all
probability, find some means of withdrawing you from the society which
has been so injurious to the purity of your character. Whatever others
may do, it is your duty to act according to the principles of your
parents, and not to those of others; and therefore, for the future, I
desire you will abide by my criterion of right and wrong, and not by the
misleading laws of custom. When you have conquered the irritation and
anger which my words have occasioned, you may perhaps agree to the
justice of what I have said, till then I do not expect it; but whether
your reason approves of it or not, I desire your implicit obedience. If
you have anything you desire to do, you may leave me, Caroline, I do not
wish to detain you any longer."
In silence, too sullen to give any hope of a repentant feeling or
judgment, convinced, Caroline had listened to her mother's words. They
were indeed unusually severe; but her manner from the beginning of that
interview could not have lessened the displeasure which she already
felt. We have known Mrs. Hamilton from the commencement of her career,
when as a girl not older than Caroline herself, she mingled with the
world, and we cannot fail to have perceived her detestation of the
fashionable sin of coquetry. The remembrance of Eleanor and all the
evils she entailed upon herself by the indulgence of that sinful fault,
were still vividly acute, and cost what it might, both to herself and,
who was dearer still, her child, she would do her duty, and endeavour to
turn her from the evil path. She saw that Caroline was in no mood for
gentle words and tenderness to have any effect, and therefore, though at
variance as it was to her nature, she spoke with some severity and her
usual unwavering decision. She could read no promise of amendment or
contrition in those haughty and sullen features, but she urged no more,
for it might only exasperate and lead her farther from conviction.
For some few minutes Caroline remained in that same posture. Evil
passions of varied nature suddenly appeared to gain ascendancy in that
innately noble heart, and prevented all expressions that might have
soothed her mother's solicitude. Hastily rising, without a word, she
abruptly left the room, and retired to her own, where she gave vent to a
brief but passionate flood of tears, but they cooled not the fever of
her brain; her haughty spirit revolted from her mother's just severity.
"To be scolded, threatened, desired to obey, like a child, an infant;
what girl of my age would bear it tamely? Well might Annie say I was a
slave, not permitted to act or even think according to my own
discretion; well might she say no other mother behaved to her daughters
as mine; to be kept in complete thraldom; to be threatened, if I do not
behave better, to be removed from the scenes I so much love, buried
again at home I suppose; is it a wonder I am changed? Is it strange that
I should no longer feel for mamma as formerly? and even Emmeline must
condemn me, call me to account for my actions, and my intimacy with
Annie is made a subject of reproach; but if I do not see her as often as
before, I can write, thank heaven, and at least her sympathy and
affection will be mine."
Such was the tenor of her secret thoughts, and she followed them up by
writing to her friend a lengthened and heightened description of all
that had occurred that morning, dwelling long and indignantly on what
she termed the cruel and unjust severity of her mother, and imploring,
as such confidential letters generally did, Annie's secrecy and
sympathy. The epistle was despatched, and quickly answered, in a style
which, as might be imagined, increased all Caroline's feelings of
indignation towards her parents, and bade her rely still more
confidingly on her false friend, who, she taught herself to believe, was
almost the only person who really cared for her best interests.
Days passed, but neither Mr. nor Mrs. Hamilton changed in the coldness
of their manner towards their child. Perhaps such conduct added fire to
the already resentful girl; but surely they might be pardoned for acting
as they did. Caroline's irritability increased, and Annie's secret
letters were ever at hand to soothe while they excited. She ever
endeavoured to turn her friend's attention from what she termed her
severe trials to the devotion felt towards her by Lord Alphingham,
declaring that each interview confirmed more and more her belief in his
passionate admiration. The evil influence which Miss Grahame's letters
had upon the mind of Caroline in her private hours, was apparent in her
manner to Lord Alphingham, when they chanced to meet, but even more
guarded than she had hitherto been, did Caroline become in her behaviour
towards him when her parents were present. Their conduct had confirmed,
to her heated and mistaken fancy, Annie's representation of their
unjustifiable severity, and that, indignant at her rejection of St.
Eval, they would unhesitatingly refuse their consent to her acceptance
of the Viscount. Caroline thought not to ask herself how then is my
intimacy with him to end? She only enjoyed the present as much as she
could, while the coldness of her parents, amidst all her pride and
boasted stoicism, still tortured her; and to the future Annie as yet
completely prevented her looking. Miss Grahame's plans appeared indeed
to thrive, and many were the confidential and triumphant conversations
she held upon the subject with Miss Malison, who became more and more
indignant at Mrs. Hamilton's intrusive conduct in taking so much notice
of Lilla, notwithstanding the tales industriously circulated against
her. Her own severity and malevolence, however, appeared about to become
her foes; for about this time a slight change with regard to the
happiness of her injured pupil took place, which threatened to banish
her from Mr. Grahame's family.
One morning Mrs. Hamilton, accompanied by Ellen, called on Lady Helen
rather earlier than usual, but found their friend not yet visible, an
attack of indisposition confining her to her couch later than usual,
but Lady Helen sending to entreat her friend not to leave her house
without seeing her, Mrs. Hamilton determined on waiting. Annie had gone
out with Miss Malison.
"No wonder our poor Lilla proceeds but slowly in her education,"
remarked Mrs. Hamilton, when the footman gave her this information. "If
she be so much neglected, her father has no right to expect much
progress. I wish from my heart that I could think of some plan that
would tend not only to the happiness of this poor girl, but in the end
to that of her father also. Were those faults now apparent in her
character judiciously removed, I feel confident Mr. Grahame would have
more comfort in her than in either of his other children."
"She is always very different when she is with us," observed Ellen. "I
can never discover those evil passions of which so many accuse her;
passionate she is, but that might be controlled."
"It never can he while Miss Malison remains with her, for her treatment
is such that each year but increases the evil." A sound as of some one
sobbing violently in the adjoining room interrupted their conversation.
Fancying it came from the object of their conversation, Mrs. Hamilton
opened the folding-doors, and discovered her young friend weeping
violently, almost convulsively, on the sofa. Ever alive to sorrow, of
whatever nature or at whatever age, Mrs. Hamilton, followed by Ellen,
hastened towards her.
"What has happened, Lilla?" she said, soothingly. "What has chanced to
call forth this violent grief? tell me, my love. You know you need not
hesitate to trust me with your sorrows."
Unused, save from that one dear friend, to hear the voice of sympathy
and kindness, Lilla flung her arms passionately round her neck, and
clung to her for some few minutes till her choking sobs permitted her to
"Aunt Augusta says I am so wicked, so very wicked, that mamma ought not
to keep me at home, that I am not at all too old to go to school, and
mamma says that I shall go--and--and"--
"But what occasioned your aunt to advise such an alternative?" demanded
Mrs. Hamilton, gently.
"Oh, because--because I know I was very wicked, but I could not help it.
Miss Malison had been tormenting me all the morning, and exciting my
anger; and then Annie chose to do all she could to call it forth before
mamma, and so I just told her what I thought of both her and her amiable
confidant. I hate them both," she continued, with a vehemence even the
presence of Mrs. Hamilton could not restrain, "and I wish from my heart
I could never see them more."
"If you gave vent to such sinful words before your mother," replied Mrs.
Hamilton, gravely, "I do not wonder at your aunt's suggesting what she
did. How often have I entreated you to leave the room when your sister
commences her unkind endeavours to excite your anger, and thus give your
mother a proof of your consideration for her present state of health,
and evince to your sister, that if you cannot calmly listen to her
words, you can at least avoid them."
"Mamma never takes any notice, however much I may endeavour to please
her; if she would only caress me, and praise me sometimes, I know I
should be a very different girl. Then I could bear all Annie's cruel
words; but I will not, I will never put up with them, and permit either
her or Miss Malison to govern me and chain down my spirit, as they try
all they can to do. No one can ever know the constant ill-treatment
which I receive from both; everything I do, every word I speak, is
altered to suit their purpose, and mamma believes all they say. They
shall feel my power one day when they least expect it. I will not be
made so constantly miserable unrevenged."
"Lilla, dear Lilla," exclaimed Ellen, imploringly, "do not speak thus;
you do not know what you say. You would not return evil for evil, and on
your sister. Do not, pray do not let your anger, however just, obtain so
"Annie never treats me as a sister, and I do not see why I should
practise such forbearance towards her; but I will do all I can, indeed I
will, if you will persuade papa not to send me from home. Oh, do not
look at me so gravely and sadly, dearest, dearest Mrs. Hamilton,"
continued the impetuous and misguided but naturally right feeling child.
"I can bear any one's displeasure but yours; but when you look
displeased with me I feel so very, very wretched. I know I deserve to
lose all your kindness, for I never follow your advice; I deserve that
you should hate me, as every one else does; but you do not know all I
have to endure. Oh! do not let me go from home."
"I cannot persuade your father to let you remain at home, my dear girl,"
replied Mrs. Hamilton, drawing her young companion closer to her, and
speaking with soothing tenderness, "because I agree with your aunt in
thinking it would be really the best thing for you."
"Then I have lost every hope," exclaimed the impatient girl, clasping
her hands despairingly. "Papa would never have consented, if you had
advised him not, and you, you must think me as wicked as aunt Augusta
does;" and the tears she had checked now burst violently forth anew.
"You mistake me, my love, quite mistake me; it is not because I believe
you are not fitted to associate with your domestic circle. I believe if
she were but properly encouraged, my little Lilla would add much to the
comfort of both her parents; and I do not at all despair of seeing that
the case. But at present I must advise your leaving home for a few
years, because I really do think it would add much to your happiness."
"Happiness!" repeated Lilla, in an accent of extreme surprise. "School
"Are you happy at home, my love? is not your life at present one
continued scene of wretchedness? What is it that you so much dislike in
the idea of school?"
"The control, the subordination, the irksome formula of lessons, prim
governesses, satirical scholars." Neither Mrs. Hamilton nor Ellen could
prevent a smile.
"If such things are all you dread, my dear, I have no fear of soon
overcoming them," the former said, playfully. "I will do all I can to
persuade your father not to send you to a large fashionable seminary,
where such things may be the case; but I know a lady who lives at
Hampstead, and under whose kind guidance I am sure you will be happy,
much more so than you are now. If you would only think calmly on the
subject, I am sure you would agree in all I urge."
"But no one treats me as a reasonable person at home. If mamma sends me
to school, it will not be for my happiness, but because everybody thinks
me so wicked, there is no managing me at home; and then in the holidays
I shall hear nothing but the wonderful improvement school discipline has
made, it will be no credit to my own efforts, and so there will be no
pleasure in making any."
"Will there be no pleasure in making your father happy, Lilla? Will his
approbation be nothing?"
"But he never praises me; I am too much afraid of him to go and caress
him, as I often wish to do, and tell him if he will only call me his
dear Lilla, I would be good and gentle, and learn all he desires. If he
would but let me love him I should be much happier than I am."
Mrs. Hamilton thought so too; and deeply she regretted that mistaken
sternness which had so completely alienated the affections of his child.
Soothingly she answered--
"But your father dearly loves you, Lilla, though, perhaps your violent
conduct has of late prevented his showing it. If you were, for his sake,
to become gentle and amiable, and overcome your fears of his sternness,
believe me, my dear Lilla, you would be rendering him and yourself much
happier. You always tell me you believe everything I say. Suppose you
trust in my assertion, and try the experiment; and if you want a second
voice on my side, I appear to your friend Ellen for her vote as to the
truth of what I say."
Mrs. Hamilton spoke playfully, and Ellen answered in the same spirit.
Lilla's passionate tears had been checked by the kind treatment she
received, and in a softened mood she answered--
"But I cannot become so while Miss Malison has anything to do with me.
I cannot bear her treatment gently. Papa does not know all I have to
endure with her."
"And therefore do I so earnestly wish you would consent to my persuading
your father to let you go to Hampstead," answered Mrs. Hamilton, gently.
"But then papa will not think it is for his sake I endeavour to correct
my faults; he will say it is the school, and not my own efforts; and if
I go, I shall never, never see you, nor go to dear Moorlands, for I
shall be away while papa and mamma are there; away from everybody I
love. Oh, that would not make me happy!" and clinging to Mrs. Hamilton,
the really affectionate girl again burst into tears.
"What am I to urge in reply to these very weighty objections, my dear
Lilla?" replied Mrs. Hamilton. "In the first place, your father shall
know that every conquest you make is for his sake; he shall not think
you were forced to submission. In the next, compulsion is not in my
friend's system, and as I am very intimate with Mrs. Douglas, I shall
very often come and see you when I am in town, your midsummer holidays
will also occur during that time: and, lastly, if your papa and mamma
will consent, you shall see Moorlands every year; for I shall ask Mr.
Grahame to bring you with him in his annual Christmas visit to his
estate, and petition that he will leave you behind him to spend the
whole of your winter vacation with me and Ellen at Oakwood. Now, are all
objections waived, or has my very determined opponent any more to bring
Lilla did not answer, but she raised her head from her kind friend's
shoulder, and pushing back the disordered locks of her bright hair,
looked up in her face as if no more sorrow could be her portion.
"Oh, I would remain at school a whole year together, if I might spend my
vacation at Oakwood with you, and Ellen, and Emmeline, and all!" she
exclaimed, with a glee as wild and childish as all her former emotion
had been. Lady Helen at that instant entered, and after languidly
greeting Mrs. Hamilton and Ellen, exclaimed--
"For heaven's sake, Lilla, go away! your appearance is enough to
frighten any one. I should be absolutely ashamed of you, if any friend
were to come in unexpectedly. Perhaps you may choose to obey me now that
Mrs. Hamilton is present; she little knows what a trouble you are at
home," she continued, languidly.
The flush of passion again mounted to Lilla's cheek, but Ellen, taking
her arm, entreated to go with her, and they left the room together,
while Lady Helen amused her friend by a long account of her domestic
misfortunes, the insolence of her upper domestics, the heedlessness of
her elder, and the fearful passions of her younger daughter, even the
carelessness of her husband's manner towards her, notwithstanding her
evidently declining health, all these and similar sorrows were poured
into the sympathising ear of Mrs. Hamilton, and giving clearer and
clearer evidence of Lady Helen's extreme and increasing weakness of mind
Great, indeed, was the astonishment of this indolent mother when Mrs.
Hamilton urged the necessity of sending Lilla to school. Without
accusing Miss Malison of any want of judgment, she was yet enabled to
work on Lady Augusta Denhain's words, and prove the good effects that a
removal from home for a few years might produce on Lilla's character.
Lady Augusta's advice had been merely remembered during that lady's
presence, but seconded as it now was by the earnest pleadings of Mrs.
Hamilton, she determined on rousing herself sufficiently to put it in
force, if her husband consented; but to obtain his approbation was a
task too terrible for her nerves, and she entreated Mrs. Hamilton to
speak with him on the subject. Willingly she consented, only requesting
that Lady Helen would not mention her intentions either to Annie or Miss
Malison till her husband had been consulted, and to this Lady Helen
willingly consented, for in secret she dreaded Miss Malison's
lamentations and reproaches, when this arrangement should be known.
When Mr. Grahame, in compliance with Mrs. Hamilton's message, called on
her the following morning, and heard the cause of his summons, his
surprise almost equalled that of his wife. He knew her dislike to the
plan of sending girls to school, however it might be in vogue; and
almost in terror he asked if she proposed this scheme because the evil
character of his child required some such desperate expedient. It was
easy to prove to him such was very far from her meaning. She spoke more
openly on the character of Lilla than she had yet done, for she thought
their long years of intimacy demanded candour on her part; and each
year, while it increased the evil of Lilla's present situation
heightened her earnest desire to draw the father and child more closely
together. She did not palliate her faults, but she proved that they were
increased by the constant contradiction and irritation which she had to
encounter. She repeated all that had passed between them the preceding
day, unconsciously and cautiously condemning Grahame's excessive
sternness, by relating, almost verbatim, Lilla's simply expressed wish
that her father would let her love him.
She gained her point. The softened and agitated father felt
self-condemned as she proceeded; and earnestly implored her to give him
one more proof of her friendship, by recommending him some lady under
whose care he could with safety place his erring, yet naturally
noble-minded and warm-hearted child. A fashionable seminary, he was
sure, would do her more harm than good, and he listened with eagerness
to Mrs. Hamilton's description of Mrs. Douglas. The widow of a naval
officer, who had for several years been in the habit of educating ten
young ladies of the highest rank, and she mentioned one or two who had
been her pupils, whose worth and mental endowments were well known to
"Do not be guided entirely by me on a subject so important," she said,
after recalling those families to his mind, whose daughters had been
placed there; "make inquiries of all who know Mrs. Douglas, and see her
yourself before you quite decide. That I have a very high opinion of her
is certain; but I should be sorry if you were to place Lilla with her
upon my advice alone, when, in all probability," she added, with a
smile, "you will find all Lady Helen's family opposed to the
"As they have never guided me right when they have interfered with my
children, their approbation or disapproval will have little weight in my
determination," answered Grahame. "You have awakened me to a sense of
my duty, Mrs. Hamilton, for which I cannot sufficiently express my
gratitude. With too much reliance upon the opinions of others I have
regarded the many tales brought against my poor child, and now I see how
greatly her faults have been occasioned by mistaken treatment. I thought
once I could never have parted with a daughter for school, but now I see
it will be a kindness to do so; and pain me as it will, now I know that
I may in time win her affections, your advice shall be followed."
"You must consent to part with her for one vacation also," replied Mrs.
Hamilton, playfully. "I have promised, in answer to her weighty
objection that she shall never see Moorlands again, to persuade you to
let her spend Christmas at Oakwood. You must consent, or I shall teach
Lilla a lesson of rebellion, and carry her off from Mrs. Douglas by
"Willingly, gratefully," exclaimed Mr. Grahame.
"And you will promise me to permit her to love you, to use her own
simple affectionate words before she leaves you; you will not terrify
her by the cold sternness you frequently manifest towards her, and prove
that you take sufficient interest in her, to love her more for every
conquest she makes."
"Faithfully, faithfully I promise, my kind friend."
"Then I am satisfied," replied Mrs. Hamilton, her countenance glowing
with benevolent pleasure. "I shall, I trust, one day succeed in making
my little Lilla happy, and thus add to the comfort of her parents. We
are old friends, Mr. Grahame," she added, "and therefore I do not
hesitate to express the pleasure you have given me by thus promising to
think upon my advice. I began to fear that you would be displeased at
my interference, deeming my advice impertinent and needless. I have
endeavoured to impress upon Lilla the necessity of a temporary absence
from home, and have in part succeeded; and having Lady Helen's sanction
to speak with you, I could hesitate no longer."
"Nor do I hesitate one moment to act upon your disinterested advice, my
dear friend. Your word is enough; but as you so earnestly wish it, I
will this very hour seek those of my friends who are acquainted with
Mrs. Douglas. I must leave Lilla to express her gratitude for her father
Mrs. Hamilton was soon placed at rest regarding the destination of her
young friend. There was not a dissenting voice as to Mrs. Douglas's
worth, one general opinion of satisfaction prevailed; but the most
gratifying tribute Grahame felt, was the affection and esteem which her
former pupils still fondly encouraged towards her. Thus prepossessed,
her appearance and manners did much to strengthen his resolve, and
Grahame now felt armed for all encounters with those who, presuming on
their near relationship to his wife, would bring forward numberless
objections to his plans; but he was agreeably mistaken. Lilla was looked
upon by them all as such an evil-minded, ill-informed girl, that it
signified little where she was placed, as she generally brought
discredit on all who had anything to do with her. Miss Malison, however,
excited their sympathy, and Annie declared it was a shameful and
dishonourable thing to dismiss her without notice, after so many years
of devoted service to their family. Poor Lady Helen had to encounter the
storm of upbraiding from her daughter, and the tears and sobs of the
governess, at the ill-treatment she received. In vain Lady Helen
accepted her protestations that she had done her duty; that she was sure
all that could be done for Miss Lilla had been done. Annie declared
that, though her services were no longer required for her ungrateful
sister, she could not do without Miss Malison, for her mother's health
seldom permitted her to walk or drive out. She should absolutely die of
_ennui_ without some one to act in those cases as her chaperon. In this
she was ably seconded by all her mother's family, whose _protegee_ Miss
Malison had long been, and, against his better judgment, Grahame at
length consented that Miss Malison should remain in his family till she
should get another situation as finishing governess. This, of course,
Miss Grahame had determined should not be for some little time.
Mrs. Hamilton had been particularly cautious, in her interview with Mr.
Grahame, not to speak any word for or against Miss Malison; perhaps had
she said what she really thought, even this concession would not have
Mr. Grahame's fixed and sudden determination to send Lilla to school
was, of course, laid by Annie and her confidant to Mrs. Hamilton's
charge, and increased not a little their prejudice against her, adding
fresh incentive to their schemes for the destruction of her peace, which
Caroline's self-willed conduct now rendered even more easy than it had
When all was arranged, when it was decidedly settled that Lilla should
join Mrs. Douglas's establishment at the conclusion of the midsummer
vacation, her father quietly entered the study where she was alone, to
give her this information, and his really fond heart could not gaze on
her without admiration. She was now nearly fifteen, though in looks,
manners, and conversation, from being kept under such continual
restraint, she always appeared at first sight very much younger.
Childlike in every movement, even her impetuosity might have aided the
deception; and Lady Helen herself had so often indolently answered
questions concerning her daughter's age, she believed she was about
twelve or thirteen, that at length she really believed it was so. It was
Annie and Miss Malison's interest to preserve this illusion; for were
she recognised as fifteen, many privileges might have been acceded to
her, very much at variance with their interest. Annie had no desire for
a rival to present herself, which, had her sister appeared in public,
would undoubtedly have been the case; Lilla gave promise of beauty,
which, though not perhaps really so perfect as Annie's, would certainly
have attracted fully as much notice. She was drawing a tiny wreath of
brilliant flowers on a small portfolio, which she was regarding with a
complacency that added brilliancy to her animated features. At her
father's well-known step she looked up in some little terror, and rose,
as was her custom whenever she first saw him in the morning; her fear
could not check the sparkling lustre of her eye, and Grahame, taking her
hand, said kindly--
"I have some news for my little girl, which I trust will prove as
agreeable as I have every reason to hope they may. Mrs. Douglas will
gladly consent to receive my Lilla as an inmate of her happy family."
The flush of animation, the sparkling lustre of her eye faded on the
instant, and she turned away.
"Why, our kind friend, Mrs. Hamilton, bade me hope this would be
pleasing intelligence; has she deceived me, love?" continued her father,
drawing her with such unwonted tenderness to him, that, after a glance
of bewilderment, she flung her arms round his neck, and for the first
time in her life wept passionately on her father's shoulder.
"Can it be pleasure to hear I am to go from you and mamma?" she
exclaimed, clinging to him with all the passionate warmth of her nature,
and forgetting all her terror in that one moment of uncontrolled
feeling. Her simple words confirmed at once all that Mrs. Hamilton had
said in her favour, and the now gratified father seated her, as he would
a little child, on his knee, and with affectionate caresses gradually
soothed her to composure. Long did they converse together, and from that
moment Lilla's happiness commenced. She could not at once lose her dread
of her father's sternness, but the slightest hint from him was enough;
and frequently, as Grahame felt her affectionate manner, would he wonder
he had been blind to her character so long. The idea of school lost its
repugnance. Her father's kindness enabled her to keep her determination,
to prove, by the indulgence of the highest spirits, that going to
school, instead of being a punishment, as her aunt Augusta intended it
to be, was a privilege and a pleasure. That she was accused of want of
feeling she little heeded, now that her father invited and encouraged
her affection. Lady Helen wondered at her change of manner, but
indolence and the prejudice constantly instilled by Annie and Miss
Malison, prevented all indulgence of more kindly feelings. As things
remained in this state for some weeks in Mr. Grahame's establishment, we
will now return to Mr. Hamilton's family.
It was about this time, some three or four weeks before the end of the
Oxford term, that letters arrived from Percy and Herbert, containing
matters of interesting information, and others which caused some anxiety
in the breast of Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton. On the first subject both the
brothers wrote, so deeply interested had they become in it. Among the
servitors or free scholars of their college was a young man, whom they
had frequently noticed the last year, but never recollected having seen
before. He shrunk, as it appeared in sensitiveness from every eye, kept
aloof from all companions, as if he felt himself above those who held
the same rank in the University. Herbert's gentle and quickly
sympathising heart had ever felt pained, when he first went to college,
to see the broad distinction made between the servitors and other
collegians. He felt it pain to see them, as, in their plain gowns and
caps, they stood or sat apart from their brother students at their
meals, but perceiving by degrees they were all happy in their rank,
being, in general, sons of the poorer and less elevated classes of
society, happy to obtain an excellent education free of expense, he had
conquered these feelings, and imagined justly that they were, in all
probability, indifferent to the distinction of rank. But one amongst
them had recalled all these kindly sentiments, not only in the heart of
Herbert but in that of Percy, who was in general too reckless to regard
matters so minutely as his brother. The subject of their notice was a
young man, perhaps some two or three years older than the heir of
Oakwood, but with an expression of melancholy, which frequently amounted
almost to anguish, ever stamped on his high and thoughtful brow, and his
large, searching, dark grey eye. He was pale, but it appeared more from
mental suffering than disease, and at times there was a proud even a
haughty curl on his lip, that might have whispered he had seen better
days. He was never observed to be familiar with his brother servitors,
and shrunk with proud humility from the notice of his superiors. The
servile offices exacted from those of his degree were performed with
scrupulous exactness, but Herbert frequently beheld at such times a
flush of suffering mount into his cheek, and when his task was done, he
would fold his arms in his gown, and drop his head upon them, as if his
spirit revolted in agony from its employment. The other servitors were
fond of aping their superiors, by a studied affectation of similar dress
and manner, but this young man was never once seen to alter his plain
even coarse costume, and kept aloof from all appearance that would
assimilate him with those above him; and yet he was their
laughing-stock, the butt against which the pointed arrows of scorn,
contumely, ridicule, and censure were ever hurled, with a malevolence
that appeared strange to the benevolent hearts of the young Hamiltons,
who vainly endeavoured to check the public torrent. "He was not always
as he is now, and then, poor Welshman as he _is_, he always lorded it
over us, and we will requite him now," was the only reply they obtained;
but the first sentence touched a chord in Herbert's heart. Misfortune
might have reduced him to the rank he now held, and perhaps he struggled
vainly to teach his spirit submission; but how could he obtain his
friendship, in what manner succeed in introducing himself. Herbert was
naturally too reserved to make advances, however inclination prompted,
and some months passed in inactivity, though the wish to know him, and
by kindness remove his despondency, became more and more powerful to the
A side attack one day on the young Welshman, made with unwonted and
bitter sarcasm by an effeminate and luxurious scion of nobility, roused
the indignation of Percy. Retorting haughtily on the defensive, a
regular war of tongues took place. The masterly eloquence of Percy
carried the day, and he hoped young Myrvin was free from all further
attacks. He was mistaken: another party, headed by the defeated but
enraged Lord, who had been roused to a state of fury by young Hamilton's
appearance, surrounded the unhappy young man in the college court, and
preventing all egress, heaped every sarcastic insult upon him, words
that could not fail to sting his haughty spirit to the quick. Myrvin's
eye flashed with sudden and unwonted lustre, and ere Herbert, who with
his brother had hastily joined the throng, could prevent it, he had
raised his arm and felled his insulting opponent to the ground. A wild
uproar ensued, the civil officers appeared, and young Myrvin was
committed, under the charge of wilfully, and without provocation,
attacking the person of the right honourable Marquis of --.
The indignation of Percy and Herbert was now at its height; and without
hesitation the former sought the principal of his college, and in a few
brief but emphatic sentences placed the whole affair before him in its
true light, condemning with much feeling the cowardly and cruel conduct
of the true aggressors, and so convinced the worthy man of the injustice
done towards the person of young Myrvin, that he was instantly
released, with every honour that could soothe his troubled feelings,
and a severe reprimand bestowed on the real authors of the affray.
Percy pursued his advantage; the noble heart of the young Welshman was
touched by this generous interference in his behalf, and when the
brothers followed him in his solitary walk the following day, he
resisted them not. Gratefully he acknowledged the debt he owed them,
confessed he would rather have received such a benefit from them than
from any others in the college, and at length, unable to resist the
frankly proffered friendship of Percy, the silent entreaty of Herbert,
he grasped with convulsive pressure their offered hands, and promised
faithfully he would avoid them no more. From that hour the weight of his
reverses was less difficult to bear. In the society, the conversation of
Herbert, he forgot his cares; innate nobleness was visible in Myrvin's
every thought, act, and word, and he became dear indeed to the soul of
Herbert Hamilton, even as a brother he loved him. Warm, equally warm
perhaps, was the mutual regard of Myrvin and Percy, though the latter
was not formed for such deep unchanging emotion evinced in the character
of his brother. But it was not until some time after the commencement of
their friendship that Herbert could elicit from his companion the
history of his former life.
It was simply this:--Arthur Myrvin was the only child of the rector of
Llangwillan, a small village in Wales, about ten or twelve miles from
Swansea. The living was not a rich one, but its emoluments enabled Mr.
Myrvin to live in comparative affluence and comfort; beloved, revered by
his parishioners, enabled to do good, to bestow happiness, to impart
the knowledge of the Christian faith, he beheld his flock indeed walking
in the paths of their Heavenly Shepherd. He had been enabled by the
economy of years to save sufficient to place his son respectably and
comfortably at college, and it was with no little pride he looked
forward to the time when those savings would be used for their
long-destined purpose. Arthur had grown beneath his eye; he had never
left his father's roof, and Mr. Myrvin trusted had imbibed principles
that would preserve him from the temptations of college life, and so
strong was this hope, that he parted from his son without one throb of
The sudden change in his life was, however, too tempting an ordeal for
the young man. He associated with those above him both in rank and
fortune, who leading him into their extravagant follies, quickly
dissipated his allowance, which, though ample, permitted not
extravagance. About this time the noble proprietor of the Llangwillan
parish died, and its patronage fell to the disposal of a gay and
dissipated young man, who succeeded to the large estates. Inordinately
selfish, surrounded by ready flatterers, eager of gain, he was a
complete tyrant in his domains.
The excessive beauty and fertility of Llangwillan, the industry and
simple habits of the inhabitants, excited the desire of possessing it in
the mind of one of these humble sycophants, and his point was very
speedily gained. Justice and humanity were alike banished from the code
of laws now in action, and, without preparation or excuse, Mr. Myrvin
was desired to quit that parish which had been his so long. His
incumbency expired with the death of the proprietor, and it had been
already disposed of. The grief of the old man and his humble friends was
long and deep; it was not openly displayed, the lessons of their beloved
pastor had too well instructed them in the duty of resignation; but aged
cheeks were wet with unwonted tears, and mingled with the sobs of
childhood. Men, women, youth, and little children alike wept, when their
pastor departed from the village. He who had been the shepherd of his
flock so long, was now cast aside as a worthless thing, and the old
man's heart was wellnigh broken. In a rude cot, forced on his acceptance
by a wealthy parishioner, situated some eight or ten miles from the
scene of his happiness, he took up his abode, and to him would the
villagers still throng each Sabbath, as formerly to the humble church,
and old Myrvin, in the midst of his own misfortunes, found time to pray
for that misguided and evil-directed man who had succeeded him in his
ministry, and brought down shame on his profession, and utterly
destroyed the peace which Llangwillan had enjoyed so long.
Resignation by degrees spread over Myrvin's mind, but the conduct of his
son caused him fresh anxiety. The news of the change in his father's
life awakened Arthur from his lethargy; he saw the folly, the imprudence
of which he had been guilty; his father could no longer support him at
college. In three years he had squandered away that which, with economy,
would have served as maintenance for ten, and now he must leave the
college, or do that from which at first his very soul revolted; but the
image of his father, his injured father, rose before him. He could not
inflict upon him a disappointment so severe as his departure from
college would be. He would yet atone for his folly, and fulfil his
father's long-cherished hopes, and without consulting him, in a moment
of desperation, he sought the resident head of the University, and
imparted his wishes. The preliminaries were quickly settled, and the
next letter from Oxford which Mr. Myrvin received, contained the
intelligence that his son had reconciled his mind to the change, and
become a servitor.
A glow of thanksgiving suffused the old man's heart, but he knew all the
inward and outward trials with which his son had to contend. Had he at
the first joined the college in the rank which he now held, he might not
have felt the change so keenly; but as it was, the pride and haughtiness
which had characterised him before, were now, as we have seen, returned
tenfold upon himself. He clothed himself outwardly in an invulnerable
armour of self-control and cold reserve, but inwardly his blood was in
one continued fever, until the friendship of Percy and Herbert soothed
his troubled feelings. The name of Hamilton, Herbert continued to state,
for it was he who wrote particularly of Arthur, the young man had
declared he knew well; but where he had heard it, or how, appeared like
a dream. He thought he had even seen Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton once, not
very many years ago; but so many changes in his life had occurred since
then, that the particulars of that meeting he could not remember.
"Myrvin and Llangwillan appear equally familiar to me," wrote Herbert;
"but even more than to Arthur they seem as the remembrances of an
indistinct dream. It has sometimes occurred to me that they are combined
with the recollection of my aunt, Mrs. Fortescue, and Arthur, to whom I
mentioned her death, suddenly recalled a dying lady and her two
children, in whom his father was very much interested. Fortescue he does
not well remember, but the little girl's name was Ellen, a pale,
dark-eyed and dark-haired, melancholy child, whom he used to call his
wife, and my cousin certainly answers this description. If it be indeed
the same, it is strange we should thus come together; and oh! my dearest
father, the benefit our family received from this venerable and injured
man, bids me long more intently that we could do something for him, and
that Arthur should be restored to his former position. He is of full
age, and quite capable of taking orders, and I have often thought, could
he reside with Mr. Howard the year previous to his ordination, it would
tend much more to his happiness and welfare than remaining here, even if
he was released from that grade, the oppression of which now hangs so
heavily upon him. Follies have been his, but they have been nobly
repented; and something within me whispers that the knowledge he is my
dearest and most intimate friend, that we mutually feel we are of
service to each other, will plead his cause and my request to my kind
and indulgent father, with even more force than the mere relation of
facts, interesting as that alone would be."
He was right. The friend, the chosen and most intimate friend of their
younger son would ever have been an object of interest to Mr. and Mrs.
Hamilton. That he was the son of the same good man who had acted so
benevolently towards Eleanor and her orphan children, who had soothed
her dying bed, and reconciled the parting sinner to her Maker, added
weight to the simple yet pathetic eloquence with which Herbert had
related his story. The injury he had sustained excited their just
indignation, and if the benevolence of their kind hearts had required
fresh incentives, the unfeigned grief of Ellen, as the tale of the old
man was related to her, would have given it.
"Oh, that I had it in my power to offer a sufficient sum to tempt the
sordid and selfish being in whose possession Llangwillan now is," she
was heard one day to exclaim, when she imagined herself alone, "that I
might but restore it to Mr. Myrvin; that I might feel that good old man
was passing his latter years in the spot and amongst all those he so
much loved; that Arthur could break the chain that now so bitterly and
painfully distresses him. Dear, dear Mr. Myrvin, oh, how little did I
imagine, when my thoughts have wandered to you and Arthur, who was such
a dear consoling friend in my childish sorrow, that misery such as this
had been your portion; and I can do nothing, nothing to prove how often
I have thought of and loved you both--and my dear mother's grave, in the
midst of strangers," and she wept bitterly, little imagining her
soliloquy had been overheard by her aunt and uncle, who were almost
surprised at her vivid remembrance of those whom for the last seven
years she had scarcely seen, and of whom she so seldom heard; but it
heightened their desire to be of service to him who had once been so
kind a friend to their family.
The contents of Percy's letter, to the rather alarming and mysterious
nature of which we have already alluded, will be found in the next
"Malison, dear Malison, congratulate me; the game is in my own hands!"
exclaimed Miss Grahame one morning as she entered the private room of
her confidant, about a week after the receipt of the letters we have
mentioned, with every feature expressing triumphant yet malignant glee.
"That has been the case some weeks, has it not?" replied Miss Malison.
"Yes; but not so completely as at present. Caroline has just left me;
she was afraid of imparting in writing the important intelligence she
had to give me, important indeed, for it saves me a world of trouble:
though did I allow myself to think on her present situation of
suffering, I believe that I should repent her perfect and innocent
confidence in me. Her defence of my character, whenever it is attacked,
almost touches my heart; but her mother, her intrusive mother, that
would-be paragon of her sex, rises before me and continually urges me
on; she shall learn, to her cost, that her carefully-trained children
are not better than others."
"She has learned it partly already, by your account," remarked Miss
Malison, concealing under a calm exterior her detestation of Mrs.
"She has. That rejection of St. Eval assisted me most agreeably; I did
not expect that Caroline's own spirit and self-will would have aided me
so effectually. That disappointment with St. Eval has affected Mrs.
Hamilton more deeply than she chooses to make visible. Her coldness and
severity towards her child spring from her own angry and mortified
feelings; however, she lays it to the score of Caroline's faulty
conduct, and my friendly letters have happily convinced Caroline such
is the case. In my most sanguine expectations of triumph, I never
imagined I should succeed so well in severing the link between Mrs.
Hamilton and her daughter. Confidence is utterly at an end between them,
and that would be sufficient to gratify any one but myself; but my
vengeance for the prejudice and dislike with which this perfect creature
regards me must be more fully satisfied, at present it is only soothed.
Now you know, _chere_ Malison, you are dying with curiosity to hear what
new assistance has started up; a little more patience and you shall know
all. You are aware with what bitter and resentful feelings Caroline
regards the treatment she receives from her parents, and also from
Emmeline, child as she is."
"Perfectly; nor do I wonder at it. In this case the immaculate Mrs.
Hamilton does not appear to practise what she preaches. It is rather
wonderful, that one who says so much about gentle treatment doing more
good than harshness, should now make her own child suffer beneath her
"As I said before, Malison, her severity is but a disguise for
mortification and annoyance. Lord St. Eval, the heir of the Malvern
peerage, was too good a chance to be thrown away without vexation.
Caroline was a silly fool to act as she did, I must say that for her,
grateful as I ought to be for the assistance that foolish act has given
me. As for rejecting him merely for love of Alphingham, it is a complete
farce. She no more loves the Viscount than I do; perhaps not so much. I
make her believe she does, and so I intend to do till my plan is fully
accomplished; but love him as she would have done, as in all
probability, at the present moment, she loves Lord St. Eval, she does
not and never will. I shall make a fashionable pair, but not a love
match, Malison, believe me."
"That Mrs. Hamilton may have the exquisite pleasure of seeing her
daughter like other people, however different she may choose to be
herself; you will rather do her a kindness than an injury, my dear Miss
"Fortunately for my purpose, she will not think so. I shall, through
Caroline, inflict a deeper wound than I ever thought to have done. No
other injury would have touched her; she prides herself on Christian
forbearance and patience, and such like, which, simply translated, would
be found to be nothing but haughtiness and pride, and utter
insensibility to human feelings; but if Caroline goes wrong, elopes,
perhaps, as her aunt did, disregards parental commands, and acts in the
weighty affair of matrimony for herself, why that will be something like
a triumph for my diplomatic schemes."
"You must work well on Caroline's mind to produce such a consummation,"
observed Miss Malison. "I doubt much whether she would ever act in a
manner that she would believe so contrary to her duty. I would advise
you never to give her time to reflect."
"I never mean to do so. If the silly girl had ever reflected at all, she
would at once have known that she loved St. Eval and not Lord
Alphingham; that her mother is her truest friend, and not Annie Grahame;
but as she chooses to remain so stupidly blind and trusting, why I see
no harm in playing my part, and as for her consenting, let her but hear
the honourable Viscount's sweet persuasive eloquence and look on his
handsome and pleading features, and consent will quickly be obtained."
"But why should he not demand her at once of her father? Mr. Hamilton is
always friendly with him when they meet."
"You have just hit the mark, _ma chere_. That very truth was always a
stumbling block in my machinations, for I almost feared, by Mr.
Hamilton's manner towards him, that the interesting tales concerning his
youth, which I had intended should be poured into his wife's ear, might
be disregarded; such from the first had been my intention, but I have
felt puzzled in a degree how to set about it."
"Nay, you do yourself injury, my dearest Miss Grahame," observed the
ex-governess, officiously. "From your earliest years you were never
puzzled at anything."
"My wits deserted me then for the moment," replied Annie, laughing, "and
would perhaps have returned when my plot was ripe for execution; but I
am happy to say I can dispense with their assistance, as I have received
it most effectually from a member of Mr. Hamilton's own family."
"How!" exclaimed Miss Malison, much astonished.
"Even so, _ma chere_; and now we come to the important intelligence
Caroline brought me this morning. It appears, that last week Mr.
Hamilton received a letter from Percy, which by her account must have
contained some mysterious warning against this very Lord Alphingham,
that his attentions to Caroline had been not only remarked, but reported
to him, and conjuring his father, as he valued Caroline's future peace,
to dismiss him at once and peremptorily. Thus much Mr. Hamilton imparted
to his daughter, a few days after the receipt of this letter, and after
bestowing some little approbation on her conduct towards him, which you
know before her parents is always particularly cold and guarded, he
requested, or rather desired, that she would gradually withdraw herself
entirely from his society, as he had received quite sufficient
confirmation of that letter to render him anxious to break off all
further communication and acquaintance with him. Caroline is such a
simpleton, I wonder she could prevent her countenance from betraying her
as he spoke; but I suppose she did, for Mr. Hamilton expressed himself
satisfied by her assurance that his wishes should not be forgotten.
Whether this letter contains other and more explicit matter she does not
know, but her state of mind at present is miserable enough to touch any
heart that is not quite so steeled as mine. I could almost smile at her
fond belief that she really loves him, for I see my own work, no tender
passion as she imagines; and to break off all intercourse with him
appears comparative torture. I have already convinced her of her
father's injustice and cruelty in acting thus capriciously towards one
so well known and so universally honoured, and merely from a mysterious
and unsatisfactory letter from a boy who knows nothing about the matter.
I hinted very broadly that it was only because her parents were provoked
at her rejection of St. Eval; and as they still had a lingering hope he
would return, they did not choose her to receive attentions from any one
else. I saw her eyes flash and her cheek crimson with indignation
against all who had thus injured her; and she declared with more
vehemence than I expected, that neither father nor mother, nor Percy,
should prevent her choosing a husband for herself. A violent burst of
tears succeeded this speech; but I continued to soothe and console her,
and she left me with a spirit vowed and determined to free herself from
such galling tyranny. And what do you think had been her mood when she
first came to me?"
Miss Malison, as expected, expressed ignorance.
"Why, the weak simpleton thought of confessing her whole tale of love to
her mother, and imploring comfort and assistance."
"Take care she does not do so still," remarked Miss Malison.
"Not she. I have proved too clearly how ridiculous and miserable she
would make herself by such a _denouement_. Her mother, I said, instead
of pitying, would assuredly condemn her for all the past, and most
probably convey her at once to Oakwood, and immure her there till Lord
St. Eval came to release her. She was both terrified and indignant at
"No wonder she should be; but do you know if she or her father have seen
Lord Alphingham since the arrival of this letter?"
"But once, last night; and it was the fancied anguish felt for his
distress, which she was unable, as usual, to soothe, in consequence of
the keen _surveillance_ of her mother, that brought her here this
morning to tell me all. Mr. Hamilton was still courteous, but more
distant. I have convinced her, that as her parents no longer treat her
with confidence, she has no right to treat them with any; and as every
one knows the worthy character of the Viscount, she can be doing nothing
wrong in proving to him that her feelings in his favour are unchanged.
She has hinted to me to explain the situation in which she is placed,
but _entre nous_, I mean to do no such thing, for I have a plan of my
own to follow up. She is not aware how very intimate I am with the
Viscount, and how much he confides in me; all my persuasions will tend
to urge him to ask her of her father, and I am sure nothing can be more
honourable than that course of action."
"Nothing, I am sure," echoed the conscientious confidant; "but how will
that assist your former scheme?"
"Most admirably. Mr. Hamilton will, of course, decidedly refuse his
consent, without even consulting his daughter; the anger of Lord
Alphingham will be overpowering; rage against the father, and love for
the daughter will urge him to any and every means to obtain her hand.
Caroline's indignation against her father for acting in this way and
treating her so much like a child, feelings which I shall take care to
create and foster, will second his eloquence, and I feel quite certain
that next season Caroline Hamilton mingles in the most fashionable
circles as the Viscountess Alphingham; and to obtain such a triumphant
end, in my opinion, no means are faulty."
"Most assuredly not. Not only the young lady herself, but her whole
family ought to be eternally grateful, for without such manoeuvring I
doubt much whether the perfect daughter or the self-satisfied mother
would obtain an establishment in all things so desirable. Enraged as she
will be at first at such unexpected conduct in the child she has so
ill-treated, she will thank you in the end, Miss Grahame, depend upon
"If I thought so, Malison, on my honour, I should feel disinclined to
proceed one step further in the business. Give her cause to thank me,
feel that I have unwittingly been of service to her whom of her whole
sex I hate the most, to one who from my earliest years I know regarded
me with aversion and contempt; Malison, I would draw back on the instant
did I think so. But no, it will not, it shall not be; the life of her
child as Countess of Alphingham will not be such as to bring peace to
Mrs. Hamilton's heart: to some mothers it might, but not to hers. She
shall behold in this marriage the complete failure of her plans, the
utter wreck of all her exclusive notions; she shall see that her
pretended goodness and Christian example are not exemplified in Caroline
at least. She shall feel my power--aye, bitterly. Thus will I
triumph--in Caroline's disobedience will I be avenged for the contempt
and dislike her mother has ever shown to me."
She suddenly raised her slight figure to its full height, and looked on
her companion with a countenance expressive of such malignant triumph,
that all, save her companion in iniquity, must have shuddered as they
beheld such youthful features so deformed. Some other conversation
passed between her and her able confidant, but as little more was said
on the subject most interesting to us, we will not follow them further.
Annie's evil schemes are already too clearly displayed; her mind unable,
as Miss Malison's, to comprehend the exalted nature of Mrs. Hamilton's
character, looked upon it with detestation; the more so, as feeling she
was ever _acting_--she believed it hypocrisy; that the worth for which
even those who visited her not gave her credit, was not her real
character, but an artful veil to conceal evil qualities. The quick
penetration of Miss Grahame had even in childhood discovered that she
was no favourite, and accustomed to be spoiled and flattered by all with
whom she associated, her indignation and dislike towards the only one
who would dare treat her differently, look on her as a mere child,
rendered ridiculous by affectation, increased with her years. She soon
discovered the influence she possessed over Caroline, and on that,
knowing also her faults, she determined to work, and thus effectually
destroy the peace of a mother devoted to her children, and prove to the
world that the eccentric seclusion of Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton for their
children's benefit was productive of no more good, if as much as the
plain and in her eyes only useful plan of fashionable education.
In her first scheme she had already succeeded more than she was perhaps
conscious. The affair of St. Eval had clearly and painfully proved to
Mr. Hamilton that the fears of his wife the night of Caroline's
introduction--those anxious fears, were indeed well founded. She had
sunk beneath temptation; integrity and honour, and every better feeling
had been overcome by that inordinate love of power which her mother from
the first had seen and dreaded. The father's heart was pained and
disappointed, not only in this, but that his Caroline now was not the
same as she had been at Oakwood. A change had come over her, and
darkening her spirit, rendered her conduct at home gloomy, distrustful,
and uneasy; the irritability of her childhood had returned, her very
conversation appeared restrained, and since the departure of Lord St.
Eval, her cheek had become pale, and her eye no longer sparkling; and
only in the excitement of society her parents beheld her as formerly.
Mr. Hamilton was deeply grieved, but he knew not, guessed not the extent
of his wife's anguish. She saw every foreboding fear fulfilled; the
confidence of her child was entirely withheld from her; the coldness
with which she felt compelled to treat her disregard of her wishes had,
she felt assured, completely alienated her affection. Caroline could no
longer love her; every week, every day proved, by a hundred minute
circumstances, her affection was fleeting, and her mother despairingly
felt, never to return; and yet she had but done her duty, exercised her
natural authority to lead her erring child in the better way. Her firm
unshrinking discipline in childhood had only bound the cords of
affection between herself and her offspring more firmly together; but
now in the case of Caroline it appeared about to snap them asunder. Her
fond heart yearned constantly towards her daughter, but she would not
give way, for the sake of Emmeline and Ellen, whose efforts vied with
each other to increase the comfort and happiness of her they so dearly
loved. Their affection, their confidence would not change--no, however
her authority might interfere with their wishes; and should she become
repining and gloomy, because there was one source of sorrow amidst so
many blessings? her pious heart struggled for submission, and obtained
it. But Caroline guessed not the deep pang she had inflicted; she knew
not the many tears shed in secret, the many inward prayers offered up
for her, that however severe was her chastening, it might be blessed,
and bring her back to the deserted fold, to the bosom of her mother. She
knew not this, nor was Annie conscious how fearfully her plans had
succeeded in inflicting pain.
The very cheerfulness of Mrs. Hamilton, striven for as it was, the
unwavering kindness of her manner towards Emmeline and Ellen, increased
the irritability of Caroline, and with it her indignation at her
mother's coldness and severity towards herself. She felt she was indeed
a slave, and longed to throw aside that galling bondage. What right had
her mother to treat her thus? Why must her every action be controlled,
her very friendship disapproved of? She felt she was the injured one,
and therefore allowed herself no thought for her whom she in truth had
injured. For the same reason she clung yet closer to Annie; in her
alone, in her present state of mind, she found full sympathy, and yet
even with her she was not happy; there was a strange indefinable
sensation in her heart that even to her friend she could not express.
There was a void within, a deep yearning void, which tortured her in her
solitary moments, which even the society of Lord Alphingham could not
wholly remove. In solitude she blindly taught herself to believe that
void must be for him. How far she erred a future page must tell.
Her conduct in society meanwhile, since the departure of St. Eval, had
been guarded and reserved, and her parents, fondly trusting their
displeasure had been of service, relaxed after the first fortnight in
their coldness and mistrustful manner towards her. Mrs. Hamilton had
hoped the pale cheek and dim eye proceeded from remorse; and had not
Caroline been so pointedly distant and reserved when in her society, she
would have lavished on her all the tenderness of former years.
When that mysterious letter from Percy came, although it caused his
parents considerable anxiety, yet it never once occurred that any
coldness on their part towards Lord Alphingham could occasion Caroline
any pain. Percy wrote with a degree of eloquent earnestness that could
not be resisted, and guarded as his information and caution was, Mr.
Hamilton determined implicitly to abide by it. The young man wrote what
Annie had informed Miss Malison; that he had heard from more than one
quarter of Lord Alphingham's marked attentions to his sister, that he
had even been congratulated on the brilliant alliance Caroline was about
to make. He did not, he could not believe that such was the case, he
said, for he should then have heard it from his parents, but he conjured
his father, however casual the Viscount's attentions might be, to
withdraw Caroline entirely from them.
"I know well," he wrote. "Father, as you value my sister's future peace,
expose her not to his many fascinations. If he has endeavoured to win
her heart, if he has paid her marked attentions, he is a villain! I dare
not be more explicit, I am pledged to silence, and only to you, my dear
father, and on such an emergency, am I privileged to write thus much.
Desire Caroline to give him no more encouragement, however slight; but
do not tell even this, it may not only alarm her, but be imparted
perhaps to her friend, as young ladies are fond of doing. You have once
said I never deceived you; father, trust me now, this is no jest; my
sister's happiness is too dear to me. Break off all connection with Lord
Alphingham. I give no credit to the rumours I have heard, for your
letters this season bade me hope Lord St. Eval would have been my
sister's choice. His departure from England has dispelled these visions;
but yet Caroline's affections cannot have been given to Lord Alphingham
without your or my mother's knowledge. Again I implore you, associate no
more with him, he is not worthy of my father's friendship."
Mysterious as this was, yet both Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton knew Percy too
well to imagine he would write thus without strong cause. The suspicions
and almost unconscious prejudice entertained towards him by Mrs.
Hamilton received confirmation by this letter, and she was pleased that
her husband determined no longer to encourage his intimacy. Percy wrote,
if he had paid Caroline marked attentions, or endeavoured to win her
heart, he was a villain, and he had done so, and Mrs. Hamilton could not
but feel sufficiently rejoiced at Caroline's apparent manner towards
him. Deceived as she had been, yet that her once honourable child should
so entirely forget the principles of her childhood, as to give him
secret encouragement, while her conduct in society rather bespoke
indifference and pride than pleasure, that Caroline could have been led
to act thus was a thing so morally impossible to Mrs. Hamilton, that she
had no hesitation whatever in complying with Percy's request, little
imagining that in doing so she placed an inseparable bar to her
regaining the confidence of her child, and widened more painfully the
breach between them.
Caroline's heart, on receiving her father's command to withdraw herself
by degrees entirely from Lord Alphingham, was wrung with many bitter and
contending feelings. At first she reproached herself for having thus
completely concealed her feelings, and, had she followed the impulse of
nature, she would at once have thrown herself on her mother's neck, and
there confessed all, that she loved him; that she had long done so, and
implore her not to check their intercourse without some more explicit
reason: but Annie's evil influence had been too powerful. She dreaded
her reproaches on this want of confidence in herself, or what was still
worse, her satirical smile at her ridiculous weakness, and then she
remembered her mother's displeasure at her former conduct, and dreaded a
renewal of the same coldness, perhaps even increased control. She
determined, therefore, to wait till she had seen Annie; and that
interview rendered her more miserable, excited still more her
indignation against her parents and brother, and strengthened the
feelings of devoted affection with which she fancied she regarded Lord
Alphingham. Annie's continued notes confirmed these feelings; under the
specious intention of soothing Caroline's wounded pride, it was very
easy for her to disguise her repeated insinuations of Mr. and Mrs.
Hamilton's injustice and caprice towards the Viscount, and tyranny
towards herself. The veil she had thrown over Caroline's sober judgment
became thicker and more blinding, and Caroline could sometimes scarcely
restrain even before her parents the indignation which so continually
filled her heart.
Mrs. Hamilton was ignorant of the communications that were so constantly
passing between Annie and her daughter, or she might perhaps have put a
stop to them. Caroline's own maid, Fanny, had been persuaded to become
the means of receiving and sending their intelligence in secret. The
conscience of the girl reproached her more than once, but the idea was
so improbable that Miss Caroline could act improperly, that she
continued faithful to her wishes, even against her better judgment.
Lord Alphingham's ready penetration was puzzled at the change of manner
in both Mr. Hamilton and his daughter. The latter, he could easily
perceive, was constrained to act thus, and his determination to release
her from such thraldom became more strongly fixed within him. He became
as cold and reserved to her father as Mr. Hamilton had been to him; but
his silent yet despairing glances ever turned towards Caroline, were, he
felt assured, quite enough to rivet his influence more closely around
her. The following morning, as Annie had expected, the Viscount sought
her to give vent to his fears about Caroline; his indignation against
the unaccountable alteration in Mr. Hamilton's manner. What could have
caused it? He had ever acted honourably and nobly, openly marked his
preference, and he had talked himself into a passion, before his
companion offered to give him any advice or speak any comfort.
"They are either determined their daughter shall not marry whom she
likes, in revenge for her not accepting whom they selected, or they are
resolved, by this studied display of coldness, to bring you to a point,
so I advise you to speak to this stern capricious father at once."
"And what good will that do?"
"A great deal, if you manoeuvre properly, on which quality you
fortunately require no lessons from me. You will, at least, discover Mr.
Hamilton's intentions. If he receive you, well and good, you should be
flattered at his condescension; if the contrary, you will, at least,
know on what ground you stand, and the situation in which my poor friend
must be placed. She is worried to death with the continual caprices of
mamma and papa. It would be a charity in any one to break the chains in
which she is held. She came to me yesterday in the deepest distress, and
all from caprice; for what else can it be that has changed Mr.
Lord Alphingham's fancy became more and more warmed as she spoke; vanity
and self-love were alike gratified, and he answered eagerly--
"I may depend, then, on her affections; she will not, for fear of mamma,
play me false."
"Not she; that is to say, if you do not betray her in your eagerness to
ask her of her father. You have never yet asked the question, though you
have discovered she loves you; but if, in demanding her of her father,
you say you have gained her affections, the consequence will be, if Mr.
Hamilton refuse her, she will be borne instantly to Oakwood, and there
imprisoned, till the poor girl pines and droops like a chained bird
without hope of freedom. Whereas, if you will only govern your impetuous
temper, and trust to her affections and my friendship, your every wish
may be gratified, with or without Mr. Hamilton's advice."
"And you will assist us;--adorable girl! how can we ever repay you?" he
exclaimed, raising her hand passionately to his lips. The cheek of Annie
suddenly blanched, but a cold, proud smile curled her lip. She answered
him in his own spirit, and after a prolonged interview, the Viscount
departed to act on her advice.
Ere that day closed, Lord Alphingham had sought, Mr. Hamilton, and with
every demonstration of respectful yet passionate affection, solicited
his consent to address his daughter. The warning of his son, the strong
term he had used, were engraved on Mr. Hamilton's mind, and scarcely
could he answer the Viscount with his accustomed calmness. Politely but
decidedly he refused, adding, that he had hoped the constant reserve of
Caroline's manner would at once have convinced him of her feelings, and
spared him the pain of refusing for her the honourable alliance Lord
Alphingham proposed. A haughty and somewhat triumphant smile played for
a second on the Viscount's lips, but Mr. Hamilton understood not its
import; and his companion, with many expressions of wounded feeling and
injured honour, departed, leaving Mr. Hamilton rather pleased than
otherwise at this affair, as it gave him a plausible excuse for
withdrawing entirely from his society. He imparted what had passed to
his wife, and both agreed it was better for Caroline to say nothing of
his proposals; and this determination, for once, was not thwarted by
Annie, who thought it better for Lord Alphingham to plead his own cause
at some future time when the idea of his having been refused without
consulting her, the person principally concerned, would excite yet
greater indignation toward her parents, and assist effectually the cause
of her lover, who, leaving town for a week or two to prove to Mr.
Hamilton his wounded feelings were no pretence, or for some other
reason, left to Annie the charge of preparing Caroline's mind for the
alternative he might propose.
A circumstance happened about this time, which appeared greatly to
favour the schemes of Annie and Lord Alphingham, and expose Caroline
more powerfully to temptation. The Duchess of Rothbury had invited a
select number of friends to while away the remaining weeks of the London
season at her elegant seat, which was situated in a lovely spot, about
twenty miles from the metropolis. Amongst the number she, of course,
included Mrs. Hamilton, and expressed herself very much disappointed
when that lady tendered excuses. Mr. Hamilton could not leave town; he
had put Mr. Myrvin's case into the hands of an able solicitor, and
wished to remain on the spot himself to urge on the business, that it
might be completed before he returned to Oakwood. It was not likely, he
said, that the affair would occupy much time, the whole circumstance
being directly illegal. It had only been the age and poverty, combined
with the shrinking sensitiveness from public gaze, which had prevented
Mr. Myrvin from coming forward at the very first against his persecutor.
A specious tale had been brought forward to excuse the illegality, and
impose on the bishop in whose diocese Llangwillan was situated, and
Myrvin, though he could meet trials with resignation, was too
broken-hearted to resist them. Thus much Mr. Hamilton had learned from
Arthur, to whom he wrote himself, requesting him to give a minute
account of the whole circumstance. His earnestness, seconded by the
entreaties of both his sons, succeeded in banishing Arthur's proud
reserve, and Mr. Hamilton was now engaged heart and soul in his
benevolent scheme of exposing iniquity, and restoring the injured
clergyman to his grieving flock. He could not, therefore, leave London,
and Mrs. Hamilton who, for mere amusement, could not bear to part from
her children, for only Caroline was to accompany her, steadily resisted
the entreaties of her friend. For herself she was firm, but she
hesitated when the Duchess, seconded by her daughters, requested most
persuadingly, that if she would not come herself, she would, at least,
permit Caroline to join them.
"You have known me so long, that I have the vanity to believe, that if I
promise to guard your child as if she were my own, you will trust her
with me," her grace urged, with a pertinacity that could not fail to be
flattering. "She will be as safe under my care as were she under the
observance of her mother."
"That I do not doubt one moment," replied Mrs. Hamilton, earnestly; "if
I hesitated, it was from no doubt of either your grace's care or
kindness. If Caroline be willing to accept your invitation, and her
father consent, she has my permission."
"Thank you, my good friend; I trusted in my eloquence to prevail," the
Duchess said, smiling with an air of sincerity that gratified Mrs.
Hamilton; and she quickly imparted to Caroline the accepted invitation,
but in vain endeavoured to read on the face of her child whether she
were pleased or otherwise. Circumstances which caused Mrs. Hamilton
rather to rejoice at Caroline's absence from London for a time, were to
the latter great preventives to the enjoyment to which, in such elegant
society, she might otherwise have looked forward. Annie Grahame was,
much to her own vexation, excluded from this select circle. The Duchess
had penetrated her designing character, and regarded her with a
prejudice, as violent as was her nature. She was only invited to those
large assemblies which included all her acquaintances, not merely her
friends. Amazed at this slight, Miss Grahame at once determined that
there the catastrophe for which she had so long planned should take
place, and her detestation of Mrs. Hamilton be gratified to the
Would Lord Alphingham be there, was a question that crossed Caroline's
mind repeatedly, and was as often demanded of her friend. Annie either
would not or could not tell; and she would add, perhaps she ought to
congratulate Caroline on her separation from him, as such a dread
mandate had gone from her parent, and she surely would not wish to
encourage his society; and then she would implore her forgiveness, and
sympathise so well in her fancied distress, and describe that of Lord
Alphingham in such heightened colours, that Caroline, unsophisticated as
in some things she still was, felt truly miserable. The Viscount's
sudden departure from town would have been unaccountable, had not Annie
succeeded in persuading her that she was sure it was entirely owing to
her (Caroline's) coldness and Mr. Hamilton's unaccountable conduct.
Mr. Hamilton did not at first approve of his daughter leaving home
without her mother, even to visit the Duchess of Rothbury, but he
yielded to the solicitations of his wife. They knew that Lord Alphingham
was somewhat of a favourite with the Duke, but felt so assured that the
heart of their child was entirely disengaged, at least to him, that on
his account they did not hesitate. Caroline's conduct with regard to St.
Eval had, they were convinced, proceeded from the pure love of coquetry;
they could not believe she had rejected him because she fancied she
loved another, they had had no cause to do so: and since Mrs. Hamilton
had spoken so seriously on the subject, Caroline's behaviour in public
had been such as to excite their approbation, and renew, in some
measure, their confidence in her integrity. She was more reserved, and
her manner to the Viscount, when they chanced to meet, had led them
trustingly to believe their commands on this head would be implicitly
obeyed. Perhaps Mrs. Hamilton's penetration had played her false; it was
strange that a mother so long accustomed to divine the thoughts and
feelings of her children, should have been thus blind to the emotions
with which Caroline believed she regarded Lord Alphingham. But, surely,
no farther proof than this was wanting to clearly demonstrate it was not
true love she felt; had it been that real, pure, fervid passion, could
one so unused to art have concealed the flushing cheek, the sparkling
eye, the trembling voice, which would invariably have betrayed her? No;
it was infatuation,--blind, maddening infatuation,--strengthened by
indignation towards her parents; by the wish to prove she could throw
off their control, and choose for herself, and love whom and where and
how she liked, without their choice and sympathy; and it was thus she
completely veiled her feelings. Can we condemn her mother for refusing
to believe the child she had trained and watched, and prayed for so
long, such an adept in deceit? Can we blame her want of penetration in
this instance, and think it unnatural in her character, when we remember
how completely the character of her child was changed? Surely not. It
would have been stranger had she, without proof, believed Caroline the
girl she had really become.
The reflection that she could still write to Annie and hear from her,
consoled her for the temporary separation; and she joined the Duchess
with some degree of pleasure, which had, however, been slightly alloyed
by a conversation with her mother before she left home. Her spirit was
in too excitable a state to hear advice calmly. Every word Mrs. Hamilton
so gently said on her conduct being more guarded now than when under her
eye, her mild entreaties that for her sake Caroline would behave with
reserve, all fell on a poisoned ear. Sullenly she listened, and when her
mother bade her farewell, it was with a heart grieving bitterly. While
smarting under supposed injuries, how little did Caroline imagine the
real agony she inflicted on her mother. If the gentle heart of Mrs.
Hamilton had been wrung by the wayward conduct of her sister, how much
more so must it have been wounded, when she saw so many of those evil
qualities reflected in her child.
At Airslie, so the residence of the Duchess of Rothbury was called,
Caroline found herself universally courted. She knew she was admired,
and she was flattered; but there was a ceaseless gnawing at her heart,
which not even gratified vanity could still. She knew not, would not
know, it was remorse. She believed it was the conduct of her parents;
the chain that was thrown round her actions, her disappointment with
regard to Lord Alphingham; for he was not, as in secret she hoped, he
would be, one of the invited guests. It was a task, a painful task, to
write home, but she forced herself to speak of the scenes around, and
sketch, with a masterly hand, some of the characters with whom she
mingled; and her parents strove to be satisfied, though there was
somewhat wanting in those letters which, when Caroline had been from
home, they had never missed before.
"So that man of learning, that marvellous prodigy, that walking
cyclopaedia, Lord St. Eval, has absolutely deserted us, to bury himself
in Italy or Switzerland. Miss Hamilton, can you explain so wonderful and
puzzling an enigma?" mischievously demanded Lord Henry D'Este, one day,
as he found himself alone near Caroline. His friend's departure had
indeed been to him a riddle, and believing at length that it must have
originated in her caprice, he determined, whenever he had an
opportunity, to revenge St. Eval by doing all in his power to torment
her. A deep blush overspread Caroline's cheeks as he spoke, for except
that Mary Greville's letters had mentioned him, he was never spoken of
"It ought not to appear a very puzzling riddle to you," she answered
quickly. "He has gone, I should imagine, to collect fresh matters for
reflection, that he may better deserve the title you have bestowed upon
"Nay, nay, surely he has enough of such matters to form four and twenty
good folio volumes," answered Lord Henry, laughing. "The art of
politeness he certainly has failed to retain, for you can have no idea
what a _brusque_ philosopher he is. I assure you, he terrified me the
last time I saw him. What your honourable father had done to him I know
not, but I met him just coming from Berkeley Square, and all the charms
he had lately invited around him had suddenly departed, he was a
different man, and that day, in a fit, I suppose, of spleen, he quits
London, and the next time I hear of him he is in Geneva: that noble Lord
is one of the strangest creatures I ever had the honour to know.
However, perhaps he has visited the Continent to learn politeness, and I
think he may chance to learn a lesson of love also. Not at all unlikely,
by the praises he bestows in his letters on a certain Louisa Manvers."
In vain Caroline struggled to prevent a start, or her cheek from
suddenly paling. "Louisa Manvers," she repeated, almost unconsciously.
"Yes, do you know her? by the bye, she must be some distant connection
of yours, I fancy; her brother is Lord Delmont, he inherited the title
from your maternal grandfather. St. Eval and Delmont were college chums,
and, though they are parted, retain all the romantic enthusiasm of
friendship. After spending some little time with your friends I believe,
at Geneva, the lone pilgrim bent his steps to Lago Guardia, and there he
has remained, wooing nature with his friend, and in all probability
playing the _devoue_ to Miss Manvers. We shall find Lord St. Eval
bringing home a fair Italian bride, before we are aware of it; that is
to say, if she will have the courage to pore through the deep and hidden
treasures of this volume, till she comes to the magic word heart."
He might have continued, for Caroline, buried in her own miserable
thoughts, interrupted him not. Had she encountered the eyes of Lord
Henry, as they were fixed full of mischief upon her, she might have made
some effort to rouse herself, but as it was, she felt relieved and glad
when their _tete-a-tete_ was interrupted by the entrance of a merry
group, just returned in the highest spirits from exploring a thick and
mazy wood in the vicinity of the extensive grounds.
"Good news for you all," exclaimed the Duke of Rothbury, entering
directly after; "we are to have another guest to-day, to keep us all
"Who--who?" was reiterated by many voices, with somewhat of the noisy
mirth of children.
"No less a person than Viscount Alphingham." An exclamation of pleasure
passed through the giddy crowd, but there was an expression in the
countenance of the Duchess, who had also entered from a drive, which, to
Caroline's quickly awakened fancy, appeared contrary to the general
emotion. "He is engaged as Sir Walter Courtenay's guest, so I cannot
claim him as mine," the Duke continued; "but that does not much signify.
Sir Walter is here every day, and Alphingham will of course accompany
him. He is the best fellow I know."
"And this is the man papa, for no reason whatever, save from Percy's
ill-natured opinion, has desired me to slight, to behave in a manner
that, contrasted with former notice, must be madness itself; cruelty to
him, after what has passed between us, and misery to me. Surely, in such
a case as this I am not compelled to obey. When the general voice
proclaims him other than they believe, am I to regard what is in itself
a mystery? If Percy had good reasons for writing against him to papa,
for I am sure he must have done so, why did he not explain them, instead
of treating me thus like a child, and standing forward as his accuser,
when the whole world extols him? Why are the dearest wishes of my heart
to be destroyed merely by caprice? Percy ever tried, even in childhood,
to bid me to look up to him, and acknowledge his power, and thus he
would prove it; but he will find himself mistaken. When papa permits his
judgment to be blinded by the insinuations of a mere boy, I no longer
consider myself bound to obey him."
Such was the tenor of Caroline's thoughts when alone, in the short
interval, ere she descended to dinner--there was no ray of happiness;
her heart had that day received a wound, nor could she derive comfort
even from the knowledge that Lord Alphingham was expected. She would not
permit herself to think on Lord Henry's conversation. What was it to her
if St. Eval married Louisa Manvers? then studiously she thought only on
the Viscount, and the situation with regard to him in which she was
placed, till her head ached with the intensity of its reflections.
On entering the drawing-room she found, as she had anticipated, Lord
Alphingham the centre of a brilliant coterie, and for the space of a
minute her heart throbbed and her cheek flushed. He bowed respectfully
as she appeared, but with distant courtesy; yet she fancied the flow of
his eloquence was for a moment arrested, and his glance, subdued yet so
mournfully beseeching, spoke volumes. Neither at dinner nor during the
whole of that evening did he pay her more than ordinary attention;
scarcely that. But those silent signals of intelligence had even greater
power than words; for they nattered her self-love, by clearly proving,
that courted, admired, as he could not but feel he was by all around
him, his noble hostess perhaps excepted, yet all was as nothing, now
that her favour had been so strangely and suddenly withdrawn. His tone,
his manner, as he presented to her a note from Annie, of which he had
been the bearer, strengthened this illusion; and Caroline, as she
retired to rest, felt more and more convinced they were indeed mutually
and devotedly attached, and that her obedience to her parents could not
weigh against the duty she owed herself, the love he had evinced for
her. Annie's note strengthened this determination.
"I give you joy, my dear Caroline," she wrote, "on the opportunity you
will now enjoy of receiving Lord Alphingham's attentions, undisturbed by
any of those wayward fancies which have lately so destroyed your peace.
Do not, for heaven's sake, by squeamish notions of filial obedience and
dutiful conduct--which I do assure you have been very long out of
date--destroy your own happiness. When parents cease to care for the
true welfare and felicity of their children, it becomes our positive
duty to care for them ourselves. Mr. Hamilton has given you no reason
for his command to withdraw yourself from the attentions of Lord
Alphingham; and surely that is the clearest imaginable proof that he
really has none to give, and that it is merely to gratify his own unjust
displeasure at your rejection of St. Eval, as if in such matters you had
not an undoubted right to decide for yourself. He cannot suppose that
you will now be contented with that which completely crosses your own
wishes, merely because he desires it. That was all very well in your
childhood, but at present, when your own reason must be satisfied, he
has no right to expect obedience. The whole conduct of your parents, you
have owned to me yourself, has been lately such as to alienate your
affection and confidence. They hold your will enchained, my poor friend;
and if you have not the spirit to break it, now a fair opportunity
occurs, forgive me, if I say I can no longer offer you consolation. Lord
Alphingham loves you, and long ere this, had it not been for your
mother's extraordinary conduct, would have proposed, and you might have
been now a plighted bride, or still happier wife. I much doubt, by a
few hints he dropped, if his late departure from town was not occasioned
by Mr. Hamilton's positive refusal to sanction his addresses to you. If
he has demanded your hand, and been rejected without your knowledge,
your father and mother have treated you with much confidence and
affection, have they not? Can they, dare they expect to receive yours,
when such is the case? Is it not a clear proof your happiness is not to
be consulted in any marriage you may form? It is ridiculous to imagine
that your mother has penetrated, in some degree, your feelings for
Alphingham, though perhaps not to their extent; and not approving of it,
for no reason whatever, she desires you to shun his society. Your father
refuses a most honourable offer, without even consulting the person
principally concerned. Caroline, my dearest friend, do not permit your
noble spirit to be thus bowed down. Whatever alternative Lord Alphingham
may propose becomes lawful, when you are thus cruelly persecuted. Many
secret marriages are happier, very much happier, than those for which
the consent of parents have been obtained. They think only of ambition,
interest; how can we expect them to enter into the warmth of youthful
feelings? Do not be frightened at my words, but give them a calm, just
deliberation. You have permitted your love for him to be discovered; it
becomes your duty to prove it still more clearly."
Such were the principal contents of Annie's letter, more than sufficient
to confirm Caroline's already half-adopted resolution, and convince her
wavering judgment that obedience to her parents was now no longer a
duty; their unjust harshness had alienated her from them, and she must
stand forth and act alone. Conscience loudly called on her to desist;
that she was deserting the plain path, and entering the labyrinth of
deceit, but the words of Annie were before her. Again and again they
were read, till every word became engraved within her, and the spirit
they breathed thickened the film before her eyes, and deafened her ear
to every loudly-whispered reproach. Yet in silence and solitude that
still small voice, conscience, arose and left its pang, although on the
A few days passed, and the conduct of the Viscount to Caroline continued
the same as it had been the first night. Publicly distant, secretly and
silently beseeching, with an eloquence few could have resisted. There
was a grand _fete_ and _dejeuner_ at Airslie, which was pronounced by
the connoisseurs in such things to be the most _recherche_ of the
season. But few, comparatively speaking, were the guests, though some
had ventured to travel twenty miles for the purpose; yet all was
elegant. The day was lovely, and with the bright sunshine and cloudless
sky, added new charms to this fairy land; for so, by the tasteful
arrangement of gorgeous tents, sparkling fountains, exotic shrubs, and
flowers of every form and shade, the _coup d'oeil_ might have been
termed. Musicians were stationed in various parts of the grounds. The
dance was enjoyed with spirit on the greensward, when the heat of the
sun had subsided into the advancing twilight, and the picturesque
groups, the chaste and elegant costumes scattered about, intermixed with
the beauties of inanimate nature, added life and spirit to the picture.
It was an exciting and yet a soothing scene. Some minds, untouched by
care, would here have revelled in unchecked gladness. In others, it
might have been productive of that soothing melancholy, which, from its
very sweetness, we encourage till it becomes pain: such was the case
with Caroline. Her spirits, buoyed up at first with the hope and
expectation that here at least Lord Alphingham might resume his
attentions unremarked, she had been excited to unwonted gaiety; but as
the hours wore on, and he approached her not, that excitement faded into
melancholy and doubt. Not even had the usual signals of intelligence
passed between them, for he had been sedulously devoting himself to
almost every beautiful girl in the gardens. Jealousy for a moment took
possession of her mind, but that very quickly gave way to indignation
against her father.
"If he has been treated as Annie tells me, if his proposals for me have
been rejected," she thought, "how can I expect or hope that he will
continue his addresses? He knows not but that I have been consulted, and
is my happiness to be overthrown, rudely cast aside, by the insinuations
of a boy?" and covering her face with her hands, she burst into tears:
the scene, the time, the faint sound of the distant music, encouraged
these feelings, and heightened despondency. Day was darkening around
her, aided by the sombre shade of the gigantic trees, which formed a
grove where she sat, and the music borne along at intervals sounded
unusually mournful. A heavy sigh near her aroused her from her painful
trance, and starting, she beheld the object of her thoughts standing by
her side. His speaking eyes were fixed on her with a glance not the most
obtuse imagination could have misinterpreted, and the whole expression
of his peculiarly handsome features betrayed the most eloquent and
"Oh, that it might be mine, the blessed privilege of endeavouring to
soothe or to relieve this grief!" he passionately exclaimed, as with an
air of the utmost respect he ventured to take her hand. "I had indulged
in presumptuous hopes. I had ventured to read the flattering notice
which I ever received from you as a confirmation of my wishes, and I
indulged in fondly-cherished visions that ere this I should indeed have
had a right, a holy right, to soothe your every grief and share in every
joy. I thought wrong; your flattering notice must have been but the
impulse of your kind heart, pitying what you could not fail to behold;
and yet, oh, Miss Hamilton, that very demonstration of your gentle
nature has increased my misery; it has bade me love, nay, adore you. I
blame you not. I have been presumptuous--mad. I had no right to expect
so much happiness. My proposals were refused. I was told your conduct
must have made it evident that I was not pleasing to you. I fled from
your presence, but I could not rest alone. Again, like a mad fool, I
have plunged myself in the centre of fascination. I could not exist
without the sound of your voice, though me it might never more address.
I could not live without glancing on your expressive eyes, your eloquent
smile, though on me neither more might beam. I am here, I feel my folly,
but I cannot tear myself away. Caroline, adorable Caroline!" he
continued, with well-practised passion, "only speak, command me; in what
way can I relieve the grief in which I see you plunged? Give me at least
the gratification of feeling I have been of service to you; that I have
done somewhat for your happiness, though by you mine has fled for ever."
Rapidly yet eloquently had he spoken, and Caroline vainly struggled
with herself to interrupt him. He believed she had rejected him, and in
that moment she contrasted his present conduct with that of Lord St.
Eval, under the same circumstances, and surely she could doubt no longer
which loved her best. She had not seen the secret agony of the one--his
proud and noble heart concealed it; but Alphingham--when such devoted
love was offered her, would she condemn it to misery, and herself to
everlasting reproach, if not to equal woe?
"You are mistaken, my lord," she said, proudly, after a severe struggle
with herself. "Lay not to my charge the loss of your happiness. I was
not aware till this instant that it depended--" She stopped abruptly,
for the natural modesty of her disposition prevented more, indignant as
she was at the confirmation of Annie's suspicions.
Lord Alphingham saw his advantage, and pursued it.
"How!" he exclaimed, in an accent of astonishment and ecstasy well
combined. "Have you too been deceived, and my proposals rejected without
having been laid before you? Can it be possible? Oh, speak again, my
beloved Caroline! tell me I have not been too presuming--that I may hope
that my long-cherished visions are not false. You will not, oh, you will
not condemn me to misery--you will not reject my heart, and send me
despairing from your feet. Caroline, my beloved, my beautiful! say that
you will be merciful--say that you love me--that I love not alone; oh,
say, promise me you will be mine, and come what will we shall be happy."
She heard, and her heart throbbed and her brain reeled; in the
infatuation of that moment, all, all was forgotten, save the persuasions
of Annie, his pleading eloquence, the wild impulse of her own blinded
fancy; the fatal promise passed her lips--she was pledged to be his own.
A few minutes she listened to his impassioned thanks, his words of
devoted love, then suddenly starting back--
"My father!" she exclaimed, and burst into a passionate flood of tears.
"Nay, weep not, my beloved, my own! let not a mere shadow, for such in
this instance is duty, alloy the felicity that will be ours. His consent
will in time be given; fear not, when he sees you happy, when he sees my
only care, my every thought is for your welfare, that his forgiveness
for involuntary disobedience will be granted, and his unjust and cruel
prejudices against me will pass away, for he will find they were indeed
but fancy; and if he continues obdurate, oh, how rejoiced I shall be to
have withdrawn my Caroline from his stern guardianship. Already has he
deceived you; and can he then expect implicit obedience to unjust and
unfounded commands on your part? Cheer up, my best love, fear not; trust
to my affection, and all will be well."
But still she wept, even though Lord Alphingham continued this strain of
consolation for some little time longer. Fearing at length to attract
notice by her prolonged absence, she roused herself, and breaking from
her triumphant lover, remained for a few minutes alone, endeavouring,
but vainly, to recover that happiness which, when she had looked to an
union with the Viscount, had promised to dawn around her. She saw it
not; there was a dark, heavy, threatening cloud overhanging her mind,
which no efforts could dispel. She felt, as she rejoined the glittering
circle, the eye of the Duchess was fixed with startling earnestness upon
her, and she shrunk from that severe look, as if indeed it could
penetrate her soul and condemn the past. Why did not enjoyment return?
Why was she not happy when in the centre of a scene like this? She knew
not, and struggled to be gay and animated as usual; but she felt as if
each effort failed, and drew upon her the attention of those near her,
and rejoiced was she indeed when the festive hours had fled, and she was
alone. She strove to compose her troubled thoughts to prayer, but no
words came to her aid, and throwing herself on her bed, she wept for
many weary hours. She could not have told why she thus wept; she only
knew that she was wretched, that the light-heartedness once so
peculiarly her own had fled, it seemed, for ever, and she shrunk almost
in loathing from the hour when she should meet Lord Alphingham again;
and when it came, even his presence cheered her not. He soothed, even
gently reproached, but as he did so there was somewhat in his eye she
had never seen before, and which struck terror. Subdued as it was it
told of passions from which she had believed him exempt, and added
additional pain to her distress. Noticing what she termed the
indisposition of her young friend, the Duchess kindly advised her to
remain quiet, nor join the gay party, till it had passed away; but as
she spoke, Caroline observed the severe and scrutinizing glance of the
Duchess again fixed upon her, and, contrary to her advice, appeared as
usual at dinner.
Days passed, and Lord Alphingham's plan was matured, and submitted to
Caroline's sanction. A _fete_, similar to that given by the Duchess,
only commencing at a later hour, to permit a superb display of fireworks
on the grounds, was to be given by a neighbouring nobleman, to which all
the members of the Duchess's party were invited. The villa was some few
miles off, and they were to leave Airslie at half-past eight. That day
Caroline was to feign indisposition, and remain undisturbed at home; at
ten Lord Alphingham would dispatch a trusty servant, well disguised,
with a note, apparently from Mrs. Hamilton, requesting her daughter's
immediate return, as she had been taken suddenly and dangerously ill.
This note was, of course, designed to impose upon any member of the
party who might, by some mischance, remain at home, and be circulated
among the servants to account for her sudden departure. The carriage,
said to be Mr. Hamilton's, waited for her; Lord Alphingham was to meet
it at some five miles off; but once within it, once safe from Airslie,
the rest was easy.
Caroline heard, and an inward shuddering crept chilly through her frame.
Faintly and briefly she agreed to all he so eloquently and persuasively
pleaded, and instantly left him.
"Will she be weak enough now to waver?" thought Alphingham. "Perhaps,
after all, she is not worthy of all this trouble, there is no spirit in
her; yet she is so beautiful, it will suit me well to introduce such a
lovely creature as my bride next season, and gratify my vengeance on Mr.
Hamilton for his unceremonious refusal, and if I get tired of her, if
then tears and pale cheeks continue, why, thank heaven, no chains with
me are binding. That early folly of mine was not so useless as it
seemed; I may act as I please, and if your daughter sickens or offends
me, Mr. Hamilton, as you have done, you may well dread my vengeance, it
will fall upon you both, and I unscathed will seek other lands and
fairer beauties, as I have already done." His countenance had darkened
during this speech, but at its close it became clear again, and, with a
careless whistle of unconcern, he sauntered away.
And was it to this man that the cherished child of so much anxiety was
about to sacrifice herself--with him and for him, she, who had once been
the soul of truth and honour, had consented to leave the guardianship of
her father, and break the sacred links of nature? Alas! though her very
spirit now revolted, she had gone too far. How could she, how dared she
draw back? and yet one effort she would make. She would implore him to
permit her to confess all to her parents; she was convinced, did they
know how much her happiness depended on her union with him, they would
consent, and with their blessing hallow their marriage.
Happiness--Caroline shuddered; the wild excitement of secret love had
departed. She knew she was beloved, she had given her promise, yet she
was not happy; and could she then expect to be when irrevocably his own?
Her brain reeled beneath the bewildering chaos of her thoughts; but she
followed up her resolution, and implored him as she had intended. Lord
Alphingham heard with a dark and frowning brow.
"And what becomes of your kind brother's just accusations?" demanded the
Viscount, with a very evident and contemptuous sneer.
"Defend yourself, and papa will be convinced they are unfounded," was
her reply. But she gazed on his countenance, and terrified at its
expression, for the first time the thought flashed across her mind,
could there indeed be any real cause for Percy's warning; and more and
more earnestly did she beseech him to say she might implore her father's
sanction. "Only let me confide in papa and mamma, let me try and
convince them they are mistaken, and Percy too must be in error."
The Viscount for some little time endeavoured mildly to confute her
arguments, and convince her that in doing so, she was only forming her
own misery; but still she pleaded, and ungoverned fury at length burst
forth. He had been too long the victim of passions always to keep them
in bounds, even when most required; and for a few minutes they spurned
restraint, and Caroline beheld him as he was, and saw in dim perspective
the blackened future. She would have broken from him, but he detained
her, and with a rapid transition of mood humbled himself before her, and
with impassioned fervour and deep contrition besought her forgiveness,
her pity. It was his fervid love, his fear of losing her, that bade him
thus forget himself, and he conjured her not to condemn him to
everlasting misery; that he was wretched enough already at having caused
her one moment's pain. He spoke, and his softened voice, his imploring
eyes, his protestations of unalterable love and gratitude, if she would
but trust to his affections, and be his own as he proposed, had in a
degree their effect. She was convinced it would only bring forth misery
now to implore the sanction and blessing of her parents, and promised to
resign all idea of so doing. But vainly she strove to forget that burst
of ungoverned passion she had witnessed; it haunted her sleeping and
waking thoughts, and his protestations of devoted love were dimmed
beside it, they shared its blackened hue.
The appointed day came, and the Duchess, without question or remark,
accepted Caroline's excuse for not accompanying her and her friends to
the expected _fete_. The heavy eyes and pale cheeks of the misguided
girl were more than sufficient excuse; she even seconded Caroline in
refusing the kind offer of Lady Annie and Lady Lucy Melville to remain
with her. She said she preferred being quite alone, as she was no
companion for any one, and it appeared as if not even that obstacle
would arise to prevent her flight.
The hours wore on; the noble guests could speak of nothing but the