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Title: Home Influence - A Tale for Mothers and Daughters
Author: Aguilar, Grace, 1816-1847
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            HOME INFLUENCE:

                                A Tale

                       FOR MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS

                           BY GRACE AGUILAR.


    NEW EDITION.

    NEW YORK:
    HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
    NOS. 329 AND 331 PEARL STREET,
    (FRANKLIN SQUARE.)
    1856.



TO MRS. HERBERT TOWNSHEND BOWEN.

MY DEAR FRIEND,

Independent of the personal feelings which urged the dedication of this
unpretending volume to you, I know few to whom a story illustrative of a
mother's solemn responsibilities, intense anxiety to fulfill them, and
deep sense of the Influence of Home could, with more justice, be
tendered. Simple as is the actual narrative, the sentiments it seeks to
illustrate, are so associated with you--have been so strengthened from
the happy hours of unrestrained intercourse I have enjoyed with
you--that, though I ought, perhaps, to have waited until I could have
offered a work of far superior merit to a mind like yours, I felt as if
no story of mine could more completely belong to you. Will you, then,
pardon the _unintentional_ errors which I fear you, as an earnest
Protestant, _may_ discern, and accept this little work as a slight
tribute of the warm affection and sincere esteem with which you have
been so long regarded by

Your truly attached Friend,

GRACE AGUILAR.



PREFACE.


The following story will, the author trusts, sufficiently illustrate its
title to require but few words in the way of preface. She is only
anxious to impress two facts on the minds of her readers. The one--that
having been brought before the public principally as the author of
Jewish works, and as an explainer of the Hebrew Faith, some Christian
mothers might fear that the present Work has the same tendency, and
hesitate to place it in the hands of their children. She, therefore,
begs to assure them, that as a simple domestic story, the characters in
which are all Christians, believing in and practicing that religion, all
_doctrinal_ points have been most carefully avoided, the author seeking
only to illustrate the spirit of true piety, and the virtues always
designated as the Christian virtues thence proceeding. Her sole aim,
with regard to Religion, has been to incite a train of serious and
loving thought toward God and man, especially toward those with whom He
has linked us in the precious ties of parent and child, brother and
sister, master and pupil.

The second point she is desirous to bring forward is her belief, that
in childhood and youth the _spoken_ sentiment is one of the safest
guides to individual character; and that if, therefore, she have written
more conversation than may appear absolutely necessary for the
elucidation of "Home Influence," or the interest of the narrative, it is
from no wish to be diffuse, but merely to illustrate her own belief.
SENTIMENT is the vehicle of THOUGHT, and THOUGHT the origin of ACTION.
Children and youth have very seldom the power to evince character by
action, and scarcely if ever understand the mystery of thought; and
therefore their unrestrained conversation may often greatly aid parents
and teachers in acquiring a correct idea of their natural disposition,
and in giving hints for the mode of education each may demand.

Leaving the beaten track of works written for the young, the author's
aim has been to assist in the education of the HEART, believing that of
infinitely greater importance than the mere instruction of the MIND, for
the bright awakening of the latter, depends far more on the happy
influences of the former than is generally supposed.

The _moral_ of the following story the author acknowledges is addressed
to mothers only, for on them so much of the responsibility of Home
Influence devolves. On them, more than on any other, depends the
well-doing and happiness, or the error and grief, not of childhood
alone, but of the far more dangerous period of youth. A Preface is not
the place to enter on their mission. The author's only wish is to _aid_
by the thoughts, which in some young mothers, anxious and eager to
perform their office, her story _may_ excite. To daughters also, she
hopes it may not be found entirely useless, for on them rests so much of
the happiness of home, in the simple thought of, and attention to those
little things which so bless and invigorate domestic life. Opportunities
to evince the more striking virtues woman may never have, but for the
cultivation and performance of the lesser, they are called upon each
day.

CLAPTON, _January, 1847_.



MEMOIR OF GRACE AGUILAR.


Grace Aguilar was born at Hackney, June 2d, 1816. She was the eldest
child and only daughter of Emanuel Aguilar, one of those merchants
descended from the Jews of Spain, who, almost within the memory of man,
fled from persecution in that country, and sought and found an asylum in
England.

The delicate frame and feeble health observable in Grace Aguilar
throughout her life displayed itself from infancy; from the age of three
years, she was almost constantly under the care of some physician, and,
by their advice, annually spending the summer months by the sea, in the
hope of rousing and strengthening a naturally fragile constitution. This
want of physical energy was, however, in direct contrast to her mental
powers, which developed early and readily. She learned to read with
scarcely any trouble, and, when once that knowledge was gained, her
answer, when asked what she would like for a present, was, invariably,
"A book," which was read, re-read, and preserved with a care remarkable
in so young a child. With the exception of eighteen months passed at
school, her mother was her sole instructress, and both parents took
equal delight in directing her studies and facilitating her personal
inspection of all that was curious and interesting in the various
counties of England to which they resorted for her health.

From the early age of seven she commenced keeping a journal, which was
continued with scarce any intermission throughout her life. In 1825 she
visited Oxford, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Worcester, Ross, and Bath, and
though at that time but nine years old, her father took her to
Gloucester and Worcester cathedrals, and also to see a porcelain and pin
manufactory, &c., the attention and interest she displayed on these
occasions affording convincing proof that her mind was alive to
appreciate and enjoy what was thus presented to her observation. Before
she had completed her twelfth year, she ventured to try her powers in
composition, and wrote a little drama, called Gustavus Vasa, never
published, and only here recorded as being the first germ of what was
afterward to become the ruling passion.

In September, 1828, the family went to reside in Devonshire for the
health of Mr. Aguilar, and there a strong admiration for the beauties
and wonders of nature manifested itself: she constantly collected
shells, stones, sea-weed, mosses, &c., in her daily rambles; and, not
satisfied with admiring their beauty, sedulously procured whatever
little catechisms or other books on those subjects she could purchase or
borrow, eagerly endeavoring, by their study, to increase her knowledge
of their nature and properties.

When she had attained the age of fourteen, her father commenced a
regular course of instruction for his child, by reading aloud while she
was employed in drawing, needle-work, &c. History was selected, that
being the study which now most interested her, and the first work chosen
was Josephus.

It was while spending a short time at Tavistock, in 1830, that the
beauty of the surrounding scenery led her to express her thoughts in
verse. Several small pieces soon followed her first essay, and she
became extremely fond of this new exercise and enjoyment of her opening
powers, yet her mind was so well regulated that she never permitted
herself to indulge in original composition until her duties and her
studies were all performed.

Grace Aguilar was extremely fond of music; she had learned the piano
from infancy, and in 1831 commenced the harp. She sang pleasingly,
preferring English songs, and invariably selecting them for the beauty
or sentiment of the words; she was also passionately fond of dancing,
and her cheerful, lively manners in the society of her young friends
would scarcely have led any to imagine how deeply she felt and pondered
upon the serious and solemn subjects which afterward formed the labor of
her life. She seemed to enjoy all, to enter into all, but a keen
observer would detect the hold that sacred and holy principle ever
exercised over her lightest act and gayest hour. A sense of duty was
apparent in the merest trifle, and her following out of the divine
command of obedience to parents was only equaled by the unbounded
affection she felt for them. A wish was once expressed by her mother
that she should not waltz, and no solicitation could afterward tempt
her. Her mother also required her to read sermons, and study religion
and the Bible regularly; this was readily submitted to, first as a task,
but afterward with much delight; for evidence of which we can not do
better than quote her own words, in one of her religious works:

"This formed into a habit, and persevered in for a life, would in time,
and without labor or weariness, give the comfort and the knowledge that
we seek; each year it would become lighter and more blessed; each year
we should discover something we knew not before, and, in the valley of
the shadow of death, feel to our heart's core that the Lord our God is
Truth."--_Women of Israel_, vol. ii., p. 43.

Nor did Grace Aguilar only study religion for her own personal
observance and profit. She embraced its _principles_ (the principles of
all creeds) in a widely-extended and truly liberal sense. She carried
her practice of its holy and benevolent precepts into every minutiæ of
her daily life, doing all the good her limited means would allow,
finding time in the midst of her own studies, and most varied and
continual occupations, to work for and instruct her poor neighbors in
the country, and, while steadily venerating and adhering to her own
faith, neither inquiring nor heeding the religious opinions of the needy
whom she succored or consoled. To be permitted to help and comfort she
considered a privilege and a pleasure; she left the rest to God; and
thus, bestowing and receiving blessings and smiles from all who had the
opportunity of knowing her, her young life flowed on in an almost
uninterrupted stream of enjoyment, until she had completed her
nineteenth year.

Alas! the scene was soon to change, and trials awaited that spirit
which, in the midst of sunshine, had so beautifully striven to prepare
itself a shelter from the storm. The two brothers of Miss Aguilar, whom
she tenderly loved, left the paternal roof to be placed far from their
family at school. Her mother's health necessitated a painful and
dangerous operation; and from that time, for several years, alternate
hopes and fears, through long and dreary watchings beside the sick-bed
of that beloved mother, became the portion of her gifted child. But even
this depressing and arduous change in the duties of her existence did
not suspend her literary pursuits and labors. She profited by all the
intervals she could command, and wrote the tale of the "Martyr," the
"Spirit of Judaism," and "Israel Defended;" the latter translated from
the French at the earnest request of a friend, and printed only for
private circulation. The "Magic Wreath," a little poetical work, and the
first our authoress ever published, dedicated to the Right Honorable the
Countess of Munster, also appeared about this time.

In the spring of 1835, Grace Aguilar was attacked with measles, and
never afterward recovered her previous state of health, suffering at
intervals with such exhausting feelings of weakness as to become,
without any visible disease, really alarming.

The medical attendants recommended entire rest of mind and body; she
visited the sea, and seemed a little revived, but anxieties were
gathering around her horizon, to which it became evidently impossible
her ardent and active mind could remain passive or indifferent, and
which recalled every feeling, every energy of her impressible nature
into action. Her elder brother, who had long chosen music as his
profession, was sent to Germany to pursue his studies; the younger
determined upon entering the sea-service. The excitement of these
changes, and the parting with both, was highly injurious to their
affectionate sister; and her delight, a few months after, at welcoming
the sailor boy returned from his first voyage, with all his tales of
danger and adventure, and his keen enjoyment of the path of life he had
chosen, together with her struggles to do her utmost to share his walks
and companionship, contributed yet more to impair her inadequate
strength.

The second parting was scarcely over ere her father, who had long shown
symptoms of failing health, became the victim of consumption. He
breathed his last in her arms; and the daughter, while sorrowing over
all she had lost, roused herself once more to the utmost, feeling that
she was the sole comforter beside her remaining parent. Soon after, when
her brother again returned finding the death of his father he resolved
not to make his third voyage as a midshipman, but endeavor to procure
some employment sufficiently lucrative to prevent his remaining a burden
upon his widowed mother. Long and anxiously did he pursue this object,
his sister, whose acquaintance with literary and talented persons had
greatly increased, using all her energy and influence in his behalf, and
concentrating all the enthusiastic feelings of her nature in inspiring
him with patience, comfort, and hope, as often as they failed him under
his repeated disappointments. At length his application was taken up by
a powerful friend, for her sake; she had the happiness of succeeding,
and saw him depart at the very summit of his wishes. Repose, which had
been so long necessary, seemed now at hand; but her nerves had been too
long and too repeatedly overstrung, and when this task was done the worn
and weary spirit could sustain no more, and sank under the labor that
had been imposed upon it.

Severe illness followed; and though it yielded, after a time, to
skillful remedies and tender care, her excessive languor and severe
headaches continued to give her family and friends great uneasiness.

During all these demands upon her time, her thoughts, and her health,
however, the ruling passion neither slumbered nor slept. She completed
the Jewish Faith, and also prepared Home Influence for the press, though
very unfit to have taxed her powers so far. Her medical attendant became
urgent for total change of air and scene, and again strongly interdicted
_all_ mental exertion; a trip to Frankfort, to visit her elder brother,
was therefore decided on. In June, 1847, she set out, and bore the
journey without suffering nearly so much as might have been expected.
Her hopes were high, her spirits raised; the novelty and interest of her
first travels on the Continent gave her, for a very transient period, a
gleam, as it were, of strength. For a week or two she appeared to rally;
then, again, every exertion became too much for her, every stimulating
remedy seemed to exhaust her. She was ordered from Frankfort to try the
baths and mineral waters of Schwalbach, but without success. After a
stay of six weeks, and persevering with exemplary patience in the
treatment prescribed, she was one night seized with alarming convulsive
spasms, so terrible that her family removed her the next morning with
all speed back to Frankfort, to the house of a family of most kind
friends, where every attention and care was lavishly bestowed.

In vain. She took to her bed the very day of her arrival, and never rose
from it again; she became daily weaker, and in three weeks from that
time her sufferings ceased forever. She was perfectly conscious to
within less than two hours before her death, and took an affectionate
leave of her mother and brother. Speech had been a matter of difficulty
for some time previous, her throat being greatly affected by her malady;
but she had, in consequence, learned to use her fingers in the manner of
the deaf and dumb, and almost the last time they moved it was to spell
upon them, feebly, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."

She was buried in the cemetery of Frankfort, one side of which is set
apart for the people of her faith. The stone which marks the spot bears
upon it a butterfly and five stars, emblematic of the soul in heaven,
and beneath appears the inscription,

     "Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works
     praise her in the gates."--Prov., ch. xxxi., v. 31.

And thus, 16th of September, 1847, at the early age of thirty-one, Grace
Aguilar was laid to rest; the bowl was broken, the silver cord was
loosed. Her life was short, and checkered with pain and anxiety, but she
strove hard to make it useful and valuable, by employing diligently and
faithfully the talents with which she had been endowed. Nor did the
serious view with which she ever regarded earthly existence induce her
to neglect or despise any occasion of enjoyment, advantage, or sociality
which presented itself. Her heart was ever open to receive, her hand to
give.

Inasmuch as she succeeded to the satisfaction of her fellow-beings, let
them be grateful; inasmuch as she failed, let those who perceive it deny
her not the meed of praise for her endeavor to open the path she
believed would lead mankind to practical virtue and happiness, and
strive to carry out the pure philanthropic principles by which she was
actuated, and which she so earnestly endeavored to diffuse.

_October, 1849._



CONTENTS.


PART I.

THE SISTERS.

I.--A Launch--A Promise--A new Relation

II.--Glimpses into a Child's Heart--A Death-bed

III.--Retrospection--The Lowly sought--The Haughty foiled

IV.--Retrospective--Effects of Coquetry--Obedience and Disobedience

V.--A Heart and Home in England--A Heart and Home in India

VI.--Domestic Discord, and its End


PART II.

TRAITS OF CHARACTER.

I.--Youthful Colloquy--Introducing Character

II.--Three English Homes, and their Inmates

III.--Home Scene--Visitors--Childish Meditations

IV.--Varieties

V.--A Young Gentleman in a Passion--A Walk--A Scene of Distress

VI.--Cecil Grahame's Philosophy--An Error, and its Consequences--A
Mystery and a Confidence

VII.--Mr. Morton's Story--A Confession--A young Pleader--Generosity not
always Justice

VIII.--An unpleasant Proposal--The Mystery Solved--A Father's Grief from
a Mother's Weakness--A Father's Joy from a Mother's Influence

IX.--Temptation and Disobedience--Fear--Falsehood and Punishment

X.--Pain and Penitence--Truth Impressed, and Reconciliation--The
Family-tree

XI.--The Children's Ball

XII.--Effects of Pleasure--The young Midshipman--Ill-temper, Origin and
Consequences

XIII.--Suspicion--A Parting, a double Grief--Innocence proved--Wrong
done and Evil confirmed by Doubt


PART III.

SIN AND SUFFERING.

I.--Advance and Retrospect

II.--A Letter, and its Consequences

III.--A Summons and a Loss

IV.--The broken Desk

V.--The Culprit and the Judge

VI.--The Sentence, and its Execution

VII.--The Light glimmers

VIII.--The Struggle

IX.--Illness and Remorse

X.--Mistaken Impressions eradicated

XI.--The Loss of the Siren

XII.--Forebodings

XIII.--Forgiveness

XIV.--The Rich and the Poor

XV.--A Home Scene, and a Parting

XVI.--The Birthday Gift



HOME INFLUENCE.



PART I.

THE SISTERS.



CHAPTER I.

A LAUNCH.--A PROMISE.--A NEW RELATION.


In a very beautiful part of Wales, between the northern boundaries of
Glamorgan and the southeastern of Carmarthenshire, there stood, some
twenty or thirty years ago, a small straggling village. Its locality was
so completely concealed that the appearance of a gentleman's carriage,
or, in fact, any vehicle superior to a light spring-cart, was of such
extremely rare occurence as to be dated, in the annals of Llangwillan,
as a remarkable event, providing the simple villagers with amusing
wonderment for weeks.

The village was scattered over the side of a steep and rugged hill; and
on the east, emerging from a thick hedge of yews and larches, peeped
forth the picturesque old church, whose tin-coated spire, glittering in
the faintest sunshine, removed all appearance of gloom from the thick
trees, and seemed to whisper, whatever darkness lingered round, light
was always shining there. The churchyard, which the yews and larches
screened, was a complete natural garden, from the lowly cottage flowers,
planted by loving hands over many a grassy grave, and so hallowed that
not a child would pluck them, however tempted by their luxuriance and
beauty. A pretty cottage, whose white walls were covered with jasmine,
roses, and honeysuckle, marked the humble residence of the village
minister, who though in worldly rank only a poor curate, from his
spiritual gifts deserved a much higher grade.

A gurgling stream ran leaping and sparkling over the craggy hill till it
formed a deep, wide bed for itself along the road leading to the nearest
town, embanked on one side by a tall leafy hedge, and on the other by
rich grass and meadow flowers. By the side of this stream groups of
village children were continually found, sometimes reaching for some
particular flower or insect, or floating pieces of wood with a twig
stuck upright within them as tiny fleets; but this amusement had given
place the last ten days to the greater excitement of watching the
progress of a miniature frigate, the workmanship of a young lad who had
only very lately become an inmate of the village. All had been at length
completed, sails, ropes, and masts, with a degree of neatness and
beauty, showing not only ingenuity but observation; and one lovely
summer evening the ceremony of launching took place. For a few minutes
she tottered and reeled amid the tiny breakers, then suddenly regained
her equilibrium and dashed gallantly along. A loud shout burst from the
group, from all save the owner, a beautiful boy of some twelve years,
who contented himself with raising his slight figure to its full height,
and looking proudly and triumphantly round him. One glance would suffice
to satisfy that his rank in life was far superior to that of his
companions, and that he condescended from circumstances, not from
choice, to mingle with them. So absorbed was the general attention that
the very unusual sound of carriage-wheels was unremarked until close
beside them, and then so astounding was the sight of a private carriage
and the coachman's very simple question if that road led to the village,
that all hung back confused. The owner of the little vessel, however,
answered proudly and briefly in the affirmative. "And can you direct me,
my good boy," inquired a lady, looking from the window, and smiling
kindly at the abashed group "to the residence of Mrs. Fortescue, it is
out of the village, is it not?"

"Mrs. Fortescue!" repeated the boy eagerly and gladly, and his cap was
off his head in a moment, and the bright sunshine streamed on a face of
such remarkable beauty, and withal so familiar, that though the lady
bent eagerly forward to address him, emotion so choked her voice that
the lad was enabled to reply to her inquiry, and direct the coachman to
the only inn of the village, and they had driven off before words
returned.

The boy looked eagerly after them, then desiring one of his companions
to meet the lady at the inn, and guide her to the cottage, caught up his
little vessel, and darted off across some fields which led by a shorter
cut to the same place.

It was a very humble dwelling, so surrounded by hills that their shadow
always seemed to overhang it: yet within, the happy temper of a poor
widow and her daughter kept up a perpetual sunshine. Three weeks
previous to the evening we have mentioned, a lady and two children had
arrived at Llangwillan, unable to proceed farther from the severe
indisposition of the former. They were unattended, and the driver only
knew that their destination was Swansea; he believed they had been
shipwrecked off Pembroke, and that the poor lady was very ill when she
commenced her journey, but the curious inquiries of the villagers could
elicit nothing more. Mr. Myrvin, with characteristic benevolence,
devoted himself to insuring, as far as he could, the comfort of the
invalid; had her removed from the inn to Widow Morgan's cottage,
confident that there she would at least be nursed with tenderness and
care, and so near him as to permit his constant watchfulness. But a very
few days too sadly convinced him, not only that her disease was mortal,
but that his presence and gentle accents irritated instead of soothed.
Ill-temper and self-will seemed to increase with the weakness, which
every day rendered her longing to continue her journey more and more
futile. It was some days before she could even be persuaded to write to
the relative she was about to seek, so determined was she that she would
get well; and when the letter was forwarded, and long before an answer
could have been received (for twenty years ago there were no railroads
to carry on epistolary communication as now), fretfulness and
despondency increased physical suffering, by the determined conviction
that she was abandoned, her children would be left uncared for. In vain
Mr. Myrvin assured her of the impossibility yet to receive a reply, that
the direction might not even have been distinct enough, for her memory
had failed her in dictating it; she knew she was deserted, she might
have deserved it, but her Edward was innocent, and it was very hard on
him. As self-will subsided in physical exhaustion, misery increased. A
restless torturing remembrance seemed to have taken possession of her,
which all the efforts of the earnest clergyman were utterly ineffectual
to remove. She would not listen to the peace he proffered, and so
painfully did his gentle eloquence appear to irritate instead of calm,
that he desisted, earnestly praying, that her sister might answer the
letter in person, and by removing anxiety prepare the mind for better
thoughts.

One object alone had power to bring something like a smile to that
altered but still most beautiful countenance, conquer even irritation,
and still create intervals of pleasure--it was her son, the same
beautiful boy we have already noticed, and whose likeness to herself was
so extraordinary that it would have been almost too feminine a beauty,
had it not been for the sparkling animated expression of every feature,
and the manly self-possession which characterized his every movement.
That he should be his mother's idol was not very surprising, for the
indiscreet and lavish indulgence which had been his from birth, had not
yet had power to shake his doating fondness for his mother, or interfere
with her happiness by the visible display of the faults which her
weakness had engendered. Caressingly affectionate, open-hearted,
generous, and ever making her his first object, perhaps even a more
penetrating mother would have seen nothing to dread but all to love. His
uncontrolled passion at the slightest cross, his haughty pride and
indomitable will toward all save her, but increased her affection. And
when he was with her, which he was very often, considering that a sick
close room would have been utterly repugnant to him had it not contained
his mother, Mrs. Fortescue was actually happy. But it was a happiness
only increasing her intensity of suffering when her son was absent. Hide
it from herself as she might, the truth would press upon her that she
was dying, and her darling must be left to the care of relations indeed,
but utter strangers to him, and unlikely to treat him as she had done.
She knew that he had, what strict disciplinarians, as she chose to
regard her sister and her husband, would term and treat as serious
faults, while she felt them actually virtues; and agony for him in the
dread of what he might be called upon to endure, would deluge her pillow
with passionate tears, and shake her slight frame as with convulsion.

The day we have mentioned, Edward had been absent longer than usual, and
toward evening Mrs. Fortescue awoke from a troubled sleep to brood over
these thoughts, till they had produced their usual effect in tears and
sobs, the more painful to witness from the increasing physical
incapacity to struggle with them.

A little girl, between ten and eleven years old, was seated on a low
wooden stool, half concealed by the coarse curtain of the bed, employed
in sewing some bright gilt buttons on a blue jacket. It seemed hard work
for those small, delicate hands; but she did not look up from her task
till roused by the too familiar sound of her mother's suffering, and
then, as she raised her head, and flung back the heavy and somewhat
disordered ringlets, the impulse seemed to be to spring up and try to
soothe, but a mournful expression quickly succeeded, and she sat several
minutes without moving. At length, as Mrs. Fortescue's sobs seemed
almost to suffocate her, the child gently bent over her, saying, very
timidly, "Dear mamma, shall I call widow Morgan, or can I get any thing
for you?" and, without waiting for a reply, save the angry negative to
the first question, she held a glass of water to her mother's lips and
bathed her forehead. After a few minutes Mrs. Fortescue revived
sufficiently to inquire where Edward was.

"He has gone down to the stream to launch his little frigate, mamma, and
asked me to fasten these buttons on his jacket, to make it look like a
sailor's meanwhile; I do not think he will be very long now."

Mrs. Fortescue made no rejoinder, except to utter aloud those thoughts
which had caused her previous paroxysm, and her little girl, after a
very evident struggle with her own painful timidity, ventured to say:

"But why should you fear so much for Edward, dear mamma? Every body
loves him and admires him, so I am sure my aunt and uncle will."

"Your aunt may for my sake, but she will not love or bear with his
childish faults as I have done; and your uncle is such a harsh, stern
man, that there is little hope for his forbearance with my poor Edward.
And he is so frank and bold, he will not know how even to conceal his
boyish errors, and he will be punished, and his fine spirit broken, and
who will be there to shield and soothe him!"

"I may be able sometimes, mamma, and indeed, indeed, I will whenever I
can," replied her child, with affecting earnestness. "I love him so
very, very much, and I know he is so much better than I am, that it will
be very easy to help him whenever I can."

"Will you promise me, Ellen, will you really promise me to shield him,
and save him from harshness whenever it is in your power," exclaimed
Mrs. Fortescue, so eagerly, that she half raised herself, and pressed
Ellen to her with an appearance of affection so unusual, and a kiss so
warm, that that moment never passed from the child's mind, and the
promise she gave was registered in her own heart, with a solemnity and
firmness of purpose little imagined by her mother, who when she demanded
it, conceived neither its actual purport nor extent; she only felt
relieved that Edward would have some one by him, to love him and enable
him to conceal his errors, if he should commit any.

Had she studied and known the character of Ellen as she did that of her
son, that promise would perhaps never have been asked; nor would she so
incautiously and mistakenly have laid so great a stress upon
_concealment_, as the only sure means of guarding from blame. From her
childhood Mrs. Fortescue had been a creature of passion and impulse, and
maternity had unhappily not altered one tittle of her character. In what
manner, or at what cost, Ellen might be enabled to keep that promise,
never entered her mind. It had never been her wont, even in days of
health, to examine or reflect, and present weakness permitted only the
morbid indulgence of one exaggerated thought.

For several minutes she lay quite silent, and Ellen resumed her seat and
work, her temples throbbing, she knew not why, and a vain longing to
throw her arms round her mother's neck, and entreat her only for one
more kiss, one other word of love; and the consciousness that she dared
not, caused the hot tears to rush into her eyes, and almost blind her,
but she would not let them fall, for she had learned long ago, that
while Edward's tears only excited soothing and caresses, hers always
called forth irritation and reproof.

"Joy, joy! Mother, darling!" exclaimed an eager voice, some minutes
afterward, and Edward bounded into the room, and throwing himself by his
mother's side, kissed her pale cheek again and again. "Such joy! My ship
sailed so beautifully, I quite longed for you to see it, and you will
one day when you get well and strong again; and I know you will soon
now, for I am sure aunt Emmeline will very soon come, and then, then,
you will be so happy, and we shall all be happy again!"

Mrs. Fortescue pressed him closer and closer to her, returning his
kisses with such passionate fondness, that tears mingled with them, and
fell upon his cheek.

"Don't cry, mamma, dear! indeed, indeed, my aunt will soon come. Do you
know I think I have seen her and spoken to her, too?"

"Seen her, Edward? You mean you have dreamed about her, and so fancy you
have seen her;" but the eager, anxious look she fixed upon him evinced
more hope than her words.

"No, no, mamma; as we were watching my ship, a carriage passed us, and a
lady spoke to me, and asked me the way to the cottage where you lived,
and I am sure it is aunt Emmeline from her smile."

"It can not be," murmured his mother, sadly; "unless--" and her
countenance brightened. "Did she speak to you, Edward, as if she knew
you, recognized you, from your likeness to me?"

"No, mamma, there was no time, the carriage drove off again so quickly;
but, hush! I am sure I hear her voice down stairs," and he sprung up
from the bed and listened eagerly. "Yes, yes, I am right, and she is
coming up; no, it's only widow Morgan, but I am sure it is my aunt by
your face," he added, impatiently, as Mrs. Morgan tried by signs to beg
him to be more cautious, and not to agitate his mother. "Why don't you
let her come up?" and springing down the whole flight of stairs in two
bounds, he rushed into the little parlor, caught hold of the lady's
dress, and exclaimed, "You are my aunt, my own dear aunt; do come up to
mamma, she has been wanting you so long, so very long, and you will make
her well, dear aunt, will you not?"

"Oh, that I may be allowed to do so, dear boy!" was the painfully
agitated reply, and she hastened up the stairs.

But to Edward's grief and astonishment, so little was he conscious of
his mother's exhausted state, the sight of his aunt, prepared in some
measure as she was, seemed to bring increase of suffering instead of
joy. There was a convulsive effort for speech, a passionate return of
her sister's embrace, and she fainted. Edward in terror flung himself
beside her, entreating her not to look so pale, but to wake and speak to
him. Ellen, with a quickness and decision, which even at that moment
caused her aunt to look at her with astonishment, applied the usual
restoratives, evincing no unusual alarm, and a careless observer might
have said, no feeling; but it was only a momentary thought which Mrs.
Hamilton could give to Ellen, every feeling was engrossed in the deep
emotion with which she gazed on the faded form and altered face of that
still beloved though erring one: who, when she had last beheld her,
thirteen years previous, was bright, buoyant, lovely as the boy beside
them. Her voice yet, more than the proffered remedies, seemed to recall
life, and after a brief interval the choking thought found words.

"My father! my father! Oh, Emmeline I know that he is dead! My
disobedience, my ingratitude for all his too indulgent love, killed
him--I know it did. But did he curse me, Emmeline? did all his love turn
to wrath, as it ought to have done? did--"

"Dearest Eleanor," replied Mrs. Hamilton, with earnest tenderness,
"dismiss such painful thoughts at once; our poor father did feel your
conduct deeply, but he forgave it, would have received your husband,
caressed, loved you as before, had you but returned to him; and so loved
you to the last moment, that your name was the last word upon his lips.
But this is no subject for such youthful auditors," she continued,
interrupting herself, as she met Edward's bright eyes fixed wonderingly
upon her face, and noticed the excessive paleness of Ellen's cheek. "You
look weary, my love," she said, kindly, drawing her niece to her, and
affectionately kissing her. "Edward has made his own acquaintance with
me, why did you not do so too? But go now into the garden for a little
while, I am sure you want fresh air, and I will take your place as nurse
mean while. Will you trust me?"

And the kind smile which accompanied her words gave Ellen courage to
return her kiss, but she left the room without speaking. Edward required
more persuasion; and the moment he was permitted he returned, seated
himself on a stool at his aunt's feet, laid his head on her lap, and
remained for nearly an hour quite silent, watching with her the calm
slumbers which had followed the agitating conversation between them.
Mrs. Hamilton was irresistibly attracted toward him, and rather wondered
that Ellen should stay away so long. She did not know that Edward had
spent almost the whole of that day in the joyous sports natural to his
age, and that it had been many weary days and nights since Ellen had
quitted her mother's room.



CHAPTER II.

GLIMPSES INTO A CHILD'S HEART.--A DEATHBED.


On leaving the cottage, Ellen hastily traversed the little garden, and
entered a narrow lane, leading to Mr. Myrvin's dwelling. Her little
heart was swelling high within her, and the confinement she had endured,
the constant control she exercised for fear she should add to her
mother's irritation, combined with the extreme delicacy of natural
constitution, had so weakened her, as to render the slightest exertion
painful. She had been so often reproved as fretful and ill-tempered,
whenever in tears, that she always checked and concealed them. She had
been so frequently told that she did not know what affection was, that
she was so inanimate and cold, that though she did not understand the
actual meaning of the words, she believed she was different to any one
else, and was unhappy without knowing why. Compared with her brother,
she certainly was neither a pretty nor an engaging child. Weakly from
her birth, her residence in India had increased constitutional delicacy,
and while to a watchful eye the expression of her countenance denoted
constant suffering, the heedless and superficial observer would
condemn it as peevishness, and so unnatural to a young child, that
nothing but confirmed ill-temper could have produced it. The soft,
beautifully-formed black eye was too large for her other features, and
the sallowness of her complexion, the heavy tresses of very dark hair,
caused her to be remarked as a very plain child, which in reality she
was not. Accustomed to hear beauty extolled above every thing else,
beholding it in her mother and brother, and imagining it was Edward's
great beauty that always made him so beloved and petted, an
evil-disposed child would have felt nothing but envy and dislike toward
him. But Ellen felt neither. She loved him devotedly; but that any one
could love her, now that the only one who ever had--her idolized
father--was dead, she thought impossible.

Why her heart and temples beat so quickly as she left her mother's
room--why the promise she had so lately made should so cling to her
mind, that even her aunt's arrival could not remove it--why she felt so
giddy and weak as to render walking painful, the poor child could not
have told, but, unable at length to go farther, she sat down on a grassy
bank, and believing herself quite alone, cried bitterly. Several minutes
passed and she did not look up, till a well-known voice inquired:--

"Dear Ellen, what is the matter? What has happened to grieve you so
to-day? won't you tell me?"

"Indeed, indeed, I do not know, dear Arthur; I only feel--feel--as if I
had not so much strength as I had a few days ago--and, and I could not
help crying."

"You are not well, Ellen," replied her companion, a fine lad of sixteen,
and Mr. Myrvin's only son. "You are looking paler than I ever saw you
before; let me call my father. You know he is always pleased when he
sees you, and he hoped you would have been to us before to-day; come
with me to him now."

"No, Arthur, indeed I can not; he will think I have forgotten all he
said to me the last time I saw him, and, indeed, I have not--but I--I do
not know what is the matter with me to-day."

And, in spite of all her efforts to restrain them, the tears would burst
forth afresh; and Arthur, finding all his efforts at consolation
ineffectual, contented himself with putting his arm round her and
kissing them away. A few minutes afterward his father appeared.

"In tears, my dear Ellen!" he said, kindly; "your mother is not worse, I
hope?"

"I do not know, sir," replied the child, as well as her tears would
permit; "she has been very ill just now, for her faint was longer than
usual."

"Did any thing particular occasion it?"

"I think it was seeing my aunt. Mamma was very much agitated before and
afterward."

"Mrs. Hamilton has arrived then! I am rejoiced to hear it," replied Mr.
Myrvin, gladly. Then sitting down by Ellen, he took one of her hands in
his, and said, kindly, "Something has grieved my little girl this
evening; I will not ask what it is, because you may not like to tell me;
but you must not imagine evils, Ellen. I know you have done, and are
doing, the duty of a good, affectionate child, nursing your suffering
mother, bearing with intervals of impatience, which her invalid state
occasions, and giving up all your own wishes to sit quietly by her. I
have not seen you, my child, but I know those who have, and this has
pleased me, and, what is of much more consequence, it proves you have
not forgotten all I told you of your Father in Heaven, that even a
little child can try to love and serve Him."

"But have you not told me those who are good are always happy?" inquired
Ellen; "then I can not be good, though indeed I try to be so, for I do
not think I am happy, for I can never laugh and sing and talk as Edward
does."

"You are not in such strong health as your brother, my dear little girl,
and you have had many things to make you unhappy, which Edward has not.
But you must try and remember that even if it please God that sometimes
you should be more sorrowful than other children, He loves you
notwithstanding. I am sure you have not forgotten the story of Joseph
that I told you a few Sundays ago. God so loved him, as to give him the
power of foretelling future events, and enabling him to do a great deal
of good, but when he was taken away from his father and sold as a slave
and cast into prison among cruel strangers, he could not have been very
happy, Ellen. Yet still, young as he was, little more than a child in
those days, and thrown among those who did not know right from wrong, he
remembered all that his father had taught him, and prayed to God, and
tried to love and obey Him; and God was pleased with him, and gave him
grace to continue good, and at last so blessed him, as to permit him to
see his dear father and darling brother again."

"But Joseph was his father's favorite child," was Ellen's sole
rejoinder; and the tears which were checked in the eagerness with which
she had listened, seemed again ready to burst forth. "He must have been
happy when he thought of that."

"I do not think so, my dear Ellen," replied Mr. Myrvin, more moved than
he chose to betray, "for being his father's favorite first excited the
dislike and envy of his brothers, and caused them to wish to send him
away. There was no excuse indeed for their conduct; but perhaps if
Joseph had always remained near his father he might have been spoiled by
too great indulgence, and never become as good as he afterward was.
Perhaps in his solitary prison he might even have regretted that his
father had not treated them all alike, as then the angry feelings of his
brothers would not have been called forth. So you see, being a favorite
will not always make us happy, Ellen. It is indeed very delightful to be
loved and caressed, and if we try to do our duty and love as much as we
can, even if we are not sure of being loved at first, we may be quite
certain that we shall be loved and happy at last. Do you understand me,
my child?"

The question was almost needless, for Ellen's large eyes had never moved
from his face, and their expression was so full of intelligence and
meaning, that the whole countenance seemed lighted up. "Then do you
think mamma will recover?" she eagerly exclaimed; "will she ever love
me?--oh, if I thought so, I could never, never be naughty again!"

"She will love you, my dear Ellen," replied Mr. Myrvin, now visibly
affected, "I can not, I dare not tell you that she will recover to love
you on earth, but if indeed it be God's will that she should go to Him,
she will look down on you from Heaven and love you far more than she has
done yet, for she will know then how much you love her."

"And will she know if I do all she wishes--if I love and help Edward?"
asked Ellen, in a low, half-frightened voice; and little did Mr. Myrvin
imagine how vividly and how indelibly his reply was registered in the
child's memory.

"It is a question none can answer positively, Ellen, but it is my own
firm belief, that the beloved ones we have lost are permitted to watch
over and love us still, and that they see us, and are often near us,
though we can not see them. But even to help Edward," he continued
somewhat anxiously, "you must not be tempted--"

He was interrupted by the appearance of a stranger, who addressing him
courteously, apologized for his intrusion, and noticing the children,
inquired if both were his.

Mr. Myrvin replied that he could only lay claim to one; the little girl
was Miss Fortescue.

"And my name is Hamilton, so I think I have an uncle's privilege," was
the reply; and Ellen, to her astonishment, received an affectionate
embrace from the unknown relative, whom her mother's ill-judged words
had taught her actually to dread. Mr. Myrvin gladly welcomed him, and,
in the interest of the conversation which followed, forgot the lesson he
had been so anxious to impress upon Ellen. Arthur accompanied her to the
garden gate, and the gentlemen soon afterward entered the cottage
together.

Days merged into weeks, and still Mrs. Fortescue lingered; but her
weakness increasing so painfully from alternate fever and exhaustion
that to remove her was impossible. It was the first time that Mrs.
Hamilton had ever been separated from her children, and there were many
disagreeables attendant on nursing a beloved invalid in that confined
cottage; and with only those little luxuries and comforts that could be
procured (and even these were obtained with difficulty, for the nearest
town was twenty miles distant), but not a selfish or repining thought
entered Mrs. Hamilton's mind. It was filled with thankfulness, not only
that she was permitted thus to tend a sister, whom neither error, nor
absence, nor silence could estrange from her heart, but that she was
spared long enough for her gentle influence and enduring love to have
some effect in changing her train of thought, calming that fearful
irritability, and by slow degrees permitting her to look with
resignation and penitent hope to that hour which no human effort could
avert. That Mr. Myrvin should seek Mrs. Hamilton's society and delight
in conversing with her, Mrs. Fortescue considered so perfectly natural,
that the conversations which took place in her sick room, whenever she
was strong enough to bear them, excited neither surprise nor impatience.
Different as she was, willfully as she had always neglected the mild
counsels and example of her sister, the years of separation and but too
often excited self-reproach had fully awakened her to Mrs. Hamilton's
superiority. She had never found any one at all like her--so good and
holy, yet so utterly unassuming; and the strong affection, even the deep
emotion in one usually so controlled, with which her sister had met her,
naturally increased these feelings.

"Ah, you and Emmeline will find much to converse about," had been her
address to Mr. Myrvin, on his first introduction to Mrs. Hamilton. "Talk
as much as you please, and do not mind me. With Emmeline near me, I can
restrain irritability which must have frightened you away. I know she is
right. Oh, would to God I had always been like her!" and the suffering
betrayed in the last words was a painful contrast with the lightness of
her previous tone.

Mr. Myrvin answered soothingly, and for the first time his words were
patiently received. From listening listlessly, Mrs. Fortescue, by slow
degrees, became interested in the conversations between him and Mr. and
Mrs. Hamilton, and so a change in sentiments was gradually wrought,
which by any other and harsher method of proceeding would have been
sought for in vain.

One evening as Mrs. Hamilton sat watching the faded countenance of her
patient, and recalling those days of youth and buoyancy, when it seemed
as if neither death nor care could ever have assailed one so bright and
lovely, Edward, before he sought his favorite stream, threw his arms
round her neck, and pressed his rosy lips on her cheek, as thus to wish
her good-by.

"He will repay you for all your care, dearest Emmeline," his mother
said, with a heavy sigh, as he left the room; "I know he has what you
and your husband will think faults, but, oh, for my sake, do not treat
him harshly; his noble spirit will be broken if you do!"

"Dearest Eleanor, dismiss all such fears. Am I not a mother equally with
yourself? and do you think when your children become mine I shall show
any difference between them and my own? You would trust me even in
former years, surely you will trust me now?"

"Indeed, indeed, I do; you were always kind and forbearing with me, when
I little deserved it. But my poor Edward, it is so hard to part with
him, and he loves me so fondly!" and a few natural tears stole down her
cheek.

"And he shall continue to love you dearest Eleanor; and oh, believe me,
all that you have been to him I will be. I have won the devoted
affection of all my own darlings, and I do not fear to gain the love of
yours; and then it will be an easy task to make them happy as my own."

"Edward's love you will very quickly obtain, if it be not yours already;
but Ellen you will have more trouble with. She is a strange, cold,
unlovable child."

"Are the dispositions of your children so unlike? I should not have
fancied Ellen cold; she is timid, but that I thought would wear off when
she knew me better."

"It is not timidity; I never knew her otherwise than cold and reserved
from her birth. I never could feel the same toward her as I did toward
Edward, and therefore there must be something in Ellen to prevent it."

Mrs. Hamilton did not think so, but she answered gently, "Are you quite
sure, my dear Eleanor, that you have equally studied the characters of
both your children? because you know there are some cases which require
more study and carefulness than others."

"I never was fond of studying any thing, Emmeline, as you may remember,"
replied Mrs. Fortescue, painfully trying to smile, "and therefore I dare
say I have not studied my children as you have yours. Besides, you know
I always thought, and still think, the doctrine of mothers forming the
characters of their children, and all that good people say about the
importance of early impressions, perfectly ridiculous. The disposition
for good or bad, loving or unloving, is theirs from the moment of their
birth, and what human efforts can alter that? Why, the very infancy of
my children was different; Edward was always laughing, and animated, and
happy; Ellen fretful and peevish, and so heavy that she never seemed
even to know when I entered the room, while Edward would spring into my
arms, and shout and laugh only to see me. Now what conduct on my part
could have done this? Surely I was justified in feeling differently
toward such opposite dispositions; and I know I never made more
difference between them than--than papa did between us, Emmeline, and I
have had greater reason to be partial; you were always better than I
was."

She ceased, from exhaustion, but the flush which had risen to her
temples, and the trembling hands evinced the agitation always called for
by the mention of her father, which Mrs. Hamilton, with earnest
tenderness, endeavored to soothe.

"I must speak, Emmeline," she continued, natural impetuosity for the
moment regaining ascendency; "how did I repay my fond father's
partiality? his too great indulgence? Did I not bring down his gray
hairs with sorrow to the grave? Did I not throw shame and misery upon
him by my conduct to the ill-fated one he had chosen for my husband? Did
I not?--oh, my God, my God! Death may indeed be merciful!--my Edward
might do the same by me!" and, shuddering violently, she hid her face on
her sister's bosom.

It was long before Mrs. Hamilton could calm that fearful agitation, long
before her whispered words of heavenly hope, and peace, and pardon--if
indeed she believed--could bring comfort; but they did at length, and
such fearful paroxysms returned at longer and longer intervals, and at
length ceased, in the deep submission and clinging trust to which she
was at last permitted to attain. Though Mrs. Hamilton was detained six
weeks at Llangwillan, her devoted attendance on her sister prevented any
thing more than occasional observation of the children so soon about to
be committed to her care. That Edward was most engaging, and riveted her
affection at once, and that Ellen was unlike any child she had ever
known or seen, she could not but feel, but she was not one to decide on
a mere feeling. Her present mournful task prevented all actual
interference with them, except the endeavor by kindly notice to win
their confidence and love. His mother's illness and his uncle's
presence, besides, for the present, his perfect freedom with regard to
employment, had deprived Edward of all inclination to rebel or exert his
self-will, and Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton both felt that he certainly had
fewer faults, than was generally the consequence of unlimited
indulgence. Whether Ellen's extreme attention to her mother, her silent
but ever ready help when her aunt required it, proceeded from mere cold
duty, or really had its origin in affection, Mrs. Hamilton could not
satisfactorily decide. Her sister had avowed partiality, but that
neglect and unkindness could have been shown to such an extent by a
mother as to create the cold exterior she beheld, was so utterly
incomprehensible, so opposed to every dictate of maternal love, which
she knew so well, that she actually could not even imagine it. She could
believe in the possibility of a preference for one child more than
another, but not in utter neglect and actual dislike. She could imagine
that Ellen's love for her mother might be less warm than Edward's,
believing, as she did, that a parent must call for a child's affection,
not be satisfied with leaving all to Nature; but if it were not love
that dictated Ellen's conduct, it was strange and almost unnatural, and
so unpleasing, that so young a child should have such an idea of duty.
But these were only passing thoughts; cost what trouble it might, Mrs.
Hamilton determined she would understand her niece as she did her own
children.

But though to her Ellen was a riddle, to her sister Nature was resuming
her sway, too late, alas! for all, save the mother's own reproaches. Her
weakness had become such that days would pass when speech, save a few
whispered words, was impossible; but she would gaze upon her child, as
hour after hour she would sit by the bed, resisting all Edward's
entreaties, and sometimes even her aunt's to go and play, and long to
fold her to her heart, and confess she had been cruelly unjust, and that
she did love her now almost as much as Edward, but she was much too weak
to do more than feel. And Ellen remained unconscious of the change,
except that now and then, as she would bring her nourishment or bend
over to bathe her forehead, her mother would, as if involuntarily, kiss
her cheek and murmur some caressing word. And Ellen longed to cling to
her neck and say how much she loved her, but she did not dare and she
would hurry out of the room to conceal her tears, instead of returning
the caress, thus unhappily confirming the idea of natural coldness.

Even the comfort of sitting by her mother was at length denied her. Mrs.
Fortescue became so alarmingly and painfully ill, that Mrs. Hamilton
felt it an unnecessary trial for her children to witness it, especially
as they could be no comfort to her, for she did not know them. The
evening of the fourth day she recovered sufficiently to partake of the
sacrament with her sister and Mr. Hamilton, and then entreat that her
children might be brought to her. She felt herself, what the physician
had imparted to her sister, that the recovery of her senses would in all
human probability be followed in a few hours by death, and her last
thoughts were on them.

Edward, full of glee at being permitted to see her again, bounded
joyfully into the room, but the fearful change in that beloved face so
startled and terrified him, that he uttered a loud cry, and throwing
himself beside her, sobbed upon her bosom. Mrs. Fortescue was fearfully
agitated, but she conjured her sister not to take him from her, and her
heavy eyes wandered painfully round the room in search of Ellen.

"Come to me, Ellen, I have done you injustice, my sweet child," she
murmured in a voice that Ellen never in her life forgot, and she clung
to her in silent agony. "I have not done my duty to you, I know--I feel
I have not, and it is too late now to atone. I can only pray God to
bless you, and raise you up a kinder parent than I have been! Bless,
bless you both." Faintness overpowered her, and she lay for several
minutes powerless, in Mrs. Hamilton's arms. Edward, in passionate grief,
refused to stir from the bed; and Ellen, almost unconsciously, sunk on
her knees by Mr. Myrvin.

"My own sister, bless you--for all you have been to me--all you will be
to my children--may they repay you better than I have done, Emmeline!
You are right, there is but one hope, our Saviour, for the sinner--it is
mine--" were the broken sentences that, in a voice which was scarcely
audible, and uttered at long intervals, escaped Mrs. Fortescue's lips,
and then her head sunk lower on Mrs. Hamilton's bosom, and there was a
long, long silence, broken only by Edward's low and half-suffocated
sobs. And he knew not, guessed not, the grief that was impending. He
only felt that his mother was worse, not better, as he had believed she
would and must be, when his aunt arrived. He had never seen death,
though Ellen had and he had passionately and willfully refused either to
listen or to believe in his uncle's and Mr. Myrvin's gentle attempts to
prepare him for his loss. Terrified at the continued silence, at the
cold heavy feel of his mother's hand, as, when Mr. Myrvin and the widow
gently removed her from the still-supporting arm of Mrs. Hamilton, it
fell against his, he started up, and clinging to his aunt, implored her
to speak to him, to tell him why his mother looked so strange and white,
her hand felt so cold, and why she would not speak to and kiss him, as
she always did, when he was grieved.

Mrs. Hamilton raised her head from her husband's shoulder, and
struggling with her own deep sorrow, she drew her orphan nephew closer
to her, and said, in a low, earnest voice, "My Edward, did you not hear
your mother pray God to bless you?"

The child looked at her inquiringly.

"That good God has taken her to Himself, my love; He has thought it
better to remove her from us, and take her where she will never know
pain nor illness more."

"But she is lying there," whispered Edward, in a frightened voice, and
half hiding his face in his aunt's dress, "she is not taken away. Why
will she not speak to me?"

"She can not speak, my sweet boy! the soul which enabled her to speak,
and smile, and live, was God's gift, and it has pleased Him to recall
it."

"And will she never, never speak to me again? will she never kiss
me--never call me her own darling, beautiful Edward again?" he almost
screamed in passionate grief, as the truth at length forced itself upon
him. "Mamma, mamma, my own dear, pretty, good mamma, oh! do not go away
from me--or let me go with you--let me die too; no one will love me and
kiss me as you have done." And even the natural awe and terror of death
gave way before his grief; he clung to the body of his mother so
passionately, so convulsively, that it required actual force to remove
him. And for hours his aunt and sister watched over and tried to soothe
and comfort him in vain; he would only rouse himself angrily to ask
Ellen how she could know what he felt; she had never loved their mother
as he had--she did not know what he had lost--she could not feel as he
did, and then relapse into tears and sobs. Ellen did not attempt reply.
She thought, if it were such pain to her to lose her mother, who had
only the last few weeks evinced affection for her, it must indeed be
still more suffering to him; and though his angry words grieved and hurt
her (for she knew she did love her mother most fondly, her idea of her
own extreme inferiority acquitted her unconsciously of all injustice
toward her, and made her believe that she had loved Edward best only
because he was so much better than herself), his very grief caused her
to love and admire him still more, and to believe that she really did
not feel as much as he did. And yet before they quitted Llangwillan,
which they did the second day after Mrs. Fortescue's funeral, Edward
could laugh and talk as usual--except when any object recalled his
mother; and poor Ellen felt that though she had fancied she was not
happy before, she was much more unhappy now. Her fancy naturally vivid,
and rendered more so from her having been left so much to herself, dwelt
morbidly on all that had passed in her mother's illness, on every
caress, every unusual word of affection, and on Mr. Myrvin's assurance
that she would love her in Heaven; the promise she had made to love and
help Edward returned to her memory again and again, and each time with
the increased determination to keep it solemnly. It was not for her
mother's sake alone, and connected only with her; perhaps, had it not
been for the careful instructions of her father, whom, as we shall
presently see, she had cause almost to idolize, Ellen might have become
indifferent to her mother and envious of Edward. But his repeated
instructions, under all circumstances to love, cherish, and obey her
mother had been indelibly engraved, and heightened natural feeling. She
believed that to keep the promise, which had so evidently pleased her
mother, would be also obeying her father, and this double incentive gave
it a weight and consequence, which, could Mrs. Hamilton have known it,
would have caused her great anxiety, and urged its removal. But Ellen
had been too long accustomed to hide every thought and feeling to betray
that which, child as she was, she believed sacred between herself and
her mother. Mrs. Hamilton watched her in silence, and trusted to time
and care to do their work; and by enabling her to understand her
character, permit her to guide it rightly.

The morning of their intended departure was bright and sunny, and before
even widow Morgan was moving, Ellen had quitted her little bed and was
in the churchyard by her mother's grave. She sat there thinking so
intently, that she did not know how time passed, till she was roused by
her favorite Arthur Myrvin's voice.

"Up so early, Ellen, why, I thought I should have been first, to show
you I had not forgotten my promise." And he displayed some choice
flower-roots, which he commenced planting round the grave.

"Dear Arthur, how very kind you are; but you look so sad--what is the
matter? Does not Mr. Myrvin like you to do this--pray don't, then."

"No, no, Ellen, my father said I was right, and that he would take care
of the flowers also himself. I am only sorry you are going away, and to
live so differently to what we do--you will quite forget me."

"Indeed, indeed I shall not, dear Arthur; I can never forget those who
have been so kind to me as you and dear Mr. Myrvin. I would much rather
stay here always with you, than go among strangers again, but I heard my
aunt say last night, that perhaps Mr. Myrvin would let you come and see
us sometimes--and you will like that, will you not?" Arthur did not seem
quite sure whether he would like it or not; but they continued talking
till his task was completed, and Arthur, at Ellen's earnest request, for
she suddenly feared her aunt would be displeased at her having staid out
so long, returned with her to the cottage; the silent kiss, however,
which she received, when Arthur explained what had detained them,
reassured her, and bound her yet closer to the kind relative, whom, if
timidity had permitted, she would already have so loved.

The novelty of his situation, the rapid and pleasant movement of his
uncle's carriage, the idea of the new relations he was about to meet,
and an unconfessed but powerful feeling of his own increased consequence
in being so nearly connected with wealth and distinction, all had their
effect upon Edward, and his eye sparkled and his cheek glowed, as if all
sorrow had entirely passed away; not that he had ceased to think of his
mother, for the least reference to her would fill his eyes with tears
and completely check his joy--but still delight predominated. Ellen felt
more and more the wish to shrink into her self, for the farther they
left Llangwillan, the more painfully she missed Mr. Myrvin and his son,
and the more she shrunk from encountering strangers. Edward she knew
would speedily find companions to love, and to be loved by, and he would
think still less of her. Her aunt would soon be surrounded by her own
children, and then how could she expect to win her love? And Ellen
looked intently and silently out from the carriage-window--her uncle
believed on the many-flowered hedge and other objects of interest by
which they passed--his wife imagined to hide a tear that trembled in her
eyes, but which she had determined should not fall.



CHAPTER III.

RETROSPECTION.--THE LOWLY SOUGHT.--THE HAUGHTY FOILED.


In order clearly to understand the allusions of the previous chapters,
and the circumstances which had formed the different characters of Mrs.
Hamilton and Mrs. Fortescue, it will be necessary to take a
retrospective glance on their early lives. Should it be uninteresting to
the more youthful of our readers, we will beg them to proceed at once to
"Traits of Character," but to their elder relatives, we hope the matter
will prove of sufficient interest to obtain perusal.

Emmeline and Eleanor Manvers were the daughters of Lord Delmont, a
nobleman whose title and rank were rather burdensome than otherwise,
from the want of sufficient means to keep them up as inclination and
position warranted. Lady Delmont, whose energetic yet gentle character
would have greatly ameliorated the petty vexations of her husband, died
when Emmeline was only seven, Eleanor five, and Charles, her only boy an
infant of but three years old. A widow lady, Mrs. Harcourt by name, had
been selected by Lady Delmont, in her last illness, as instructress and
guardian of her daughters. Her wishes, always laws to her doating
husband, were promptly fulfilled, and Mrs. Harcourt, two months after
her friend's death, assumed the arduous and responsible duties for which
her high character well fitted her.

With Emmeline, though there were naturally some faults to correct, an
indolence and weakness to overcome, and apparently no remarkable natural
aptitude for acquirement, her task was comparatively easy, for her pupil
had the capabilities, not only of affection but of reverence, to a very
great extent, and once loving and respecting Mrs. Harcourt, not a
command was neglected nor a wish unfulfilled. Eleanor, on the contrary,
though so gifted that teaching might have been a complete labor of
love--by self-will, violent passions, and a most determined want of
veneration, even, of common respect, a resolute opposition from her
earliest years to the wishes of Mrs. Harcourt, because she was merely a
governess, so much her inferior in rank, rendered the task of education
one of the most difficult and painful that can be conceived--increased
from the injudicious partiality of Lord Delmont. It was not indeed the
culpable negligence and dislike which Eleanor afterward displayed toward
her own, but originating in the fancy that Mrs. Harcourt was unjust, and
Emmeline was her favorite. Lord Delmont was one of those unfortunately
weak, irresolute characters, that only behold the surface of things, and
are therefore utterly incapable of acting either with vigor or judgment.
When he did venture into the precincts of his daughters' apartments, he
generally found Eleanor in sobs and tears, and Emmeline quietly pursuing
her daily duties. That Mrs. Harcourt often entreated his influence with
her younger pupil, to change her course of conduct, he never remembered
longer than the time her expostulations lasted. Once or twice indeed he
did begin to speak seriously, but Eleanor would throw her arms round his
neck and kiss him, call him every endearing name, and beg him not to
look so much like grave, cross Mrs. Harcourt, or she should think she
had indeed no one to love her; and her beautiful eyes would swell with
tears, and her voice quiver, so that her gratified father would forget
all his reproof, and give her some indulgence to make up for the
injustice and harshness she encountered in the school-room. Her power
once thus experienced, of course, was never resigned. Her father's
appearance in their study was always the signal for her tears, which she
knew would confirm all his ideas of Mrs. Harcourt's unjust partiality.

And this idea was strengthened as they grew older, and masters for
various accomplishments somewhat lightened Mrs. Harcourt's actual
labors. Emmeline's steady application, and moderate abilities were lost
sight of in the applause always elicited by her younger sister; whose
natural gifts alike in music, languages, and drawing had full play,
directly she was released, even in part, from the hated thralldom of her
governess.--Lord Delmont had been accustomed to hear Eleanor's beauty
extolled, and now the extraordinary versatility and brilliancy of her
talents became the theme of every tongue. Professors are naturally
proud of a pupil who does them more than justice, and Miss Eleanor
Manvers was in consequence held up in very many families, whom Lord
Delmont only casually knew, and spoken of by very many again to him,
knowing his weak point, and thus seeking to curry favor. Mrs. Harcourt
was the only one from whom he never heard Eleanor's praises, and the
only one, who spoke in praise of Emmeline. It must then be willful
blindness on her part; and the father felt indignant, but in spite of
himself had too much real respect for her, individually, to do more than
redouble his indulgence to Eleanor. Emmeline could not complain of her
father's neglect, for he was both kind and affectionate to her; but she
did sometimes wish she could be quite sure that he loved her as much as
her sister; and her deep affections, unsuspected by her father, rejected
and laughed at by Eleanor, twined themselves closer and closer round
Mrs. Harcourt, and her brother Charles, on whom she actually doted, and
who returned her affection with one quite as fond and warm as a happy,
laughter-loving, frank-hearted boy had it in his power to bestow; yet
even his holidays were times of as much suffering as joy to his sister,
from the violent quarrels which were continually taking place between
him and Eleanor. Emmeline, happy in herself and Mrs. Harcourt's
companionship, could endure Eleanor's determined supremacy, and, except
where her conscience disapproved, yielded to her. But this could not be
expected from Charles, who, despite his elder sister's gentle
entreaties, would stand up for what he called her rights, and declare
that, when he was at home, Miss Eleanor should not lord it over the
whole family. Eleanor would of course quarrel first with him and then
appeal to her father, who without hearing the case would give her right,
and harshly condemn Charles, whose high spirit revolted; and unable to
bear with his father's weakness of character, as he ought to have done,
would answer disrespectfully; and words succeeded words till Charles in
a desperate passion would seek Emmeline's chamber, and his father,
though he actually deeply loved and was very proud of his son, wished
that the holidays were over, and Charles safe again at school.

Trifling as domestic disputes may seem in description, they never fail
in their painful reality to banish all lasting happiness. Emmeline could
bear that her father should prefer Eleanor to herself, but that he
should be unjust to her darling Charles, and that Charles should
increase this evil by dispute and self-will, tried her severely, and
obliged her often and often to fly to the solitude of her own chamber,
lest her temper also should fail, and, to defend her brother, she should
forget her duty to her father. But with her, Mrs. Harcourt's lessons had
indeed been blessed. The spirit of true, heartfelt piety, which she had
sought to instill into her youthful charge, even more by the example of
her daily life than by precepts, had become Emmeline's, young as she
still was, and enabled her not only to bear up against the constant
petty annoyances of her home, but the heavy trial sustained in the death
of Mrs. Harcourt, just as she was looking forward to her entrance into
the gay world, under her maternal guardianship, and her parting with her
brother, who, not two months afterward, left her to fulfill his darling
wish of going to sea.

At eighteen, then, Emmeline Manvers became the mistress of her father's
establishment, and had to encounter alone, not only the suffering of
bereavement--in which, though Lord Delmont sincerely respected Mrs.
Harcourt, he could not sympathize, and at which, after the first shock
and momentary remorse for her own conduct to so true a friend, Eleanor,
if she did not actually rejoice, felt so very greatly relieved as to be
irritated and angry at Emmeline's quiet sorrow--but the separation from
her brother and all the cares and disagreeables of such strict economy
at home, as would permit the sustaining a proper position in society, so
that the necessity of economy should not even be suspected. It was this
regard of appearances which so chafed and pained Emmeline's upright and
independent spirit. Not that Lord Delmont, even for appearances, would
go beyond his income; but still there were obliged concealments and
other petty things which his daughter could not bear. Mrs. Harcourt's
trial--a widow, compelled not only to teach for a subsistence, but to
part with her only child, who had been adopted by a married sister,
living in Italy--appeared to Emmeline's ideas of truth and honor
preferable to appearing richer than they really were. But on this
subject, even less than on any other, she knew there was no chance of
sympathy, and so she devoted all the energies of her matured and
well-regulated mind to correcting the evil as much as it lay in her
individual power; and in the year which her earnest entreaties prevailed
on her father to permit her remaining in quiet retirement, before she
entered the world, Lord Delmont was astonished at the greater comfort
and increase of dignity which pervaded his establishment. He never had
chosen Mrs. Harcourt to interfere with his household concerns,
believing that he conducted them himself, when in reality he was
completely governed by his housekeeper and steward. Mrs. Harcourt's
penetration had seen and regretted this, and had endeavored so to guide
and instruct Emmeline, that when she became old enough to claim her
right as mistress, the evil should be remedied. Could she have looked
down on the child of her love, she would indeed have rejoiced at the
beautiful fruition of her labors. Lord Delmont was not astonished and
delighted only, a feeling of respect toward his gentle, his truthful
child entered his heart, such as he had experienced toward none, save
her mother. Emmeline would indeed have thought all her toils repaid,
could she have known this, but the very feeling prevented the display of
that caressing affection he still lavished on Eleanor, and the tears of
his elder girl often fell thick and fast from the painful longing for
one similar caress, one evidence on his part, that, though neither so
beautiful, nor talented, nor engaging as Eleanor, she could yet minister
to his comfort and increase his happiness.

But Emmeline's strong feeling of religion, while it enabled her to bear
up against care and the constant and most painful feeling of loneliness,
rendered the trial of beholding her sister's willful course of error, if
possible, still more severe. She knew that all her affectionate counsels
were worse than useless, that though Eleanor could be even caressingly
affectionate when it served her purpose, would even listen to her at the
moment of suffering from some too hasty impulse, she had no lasting
influence. And this became more and more evident as Eleanor became the
almost constant companion of the Marchioness Lascelles, their only
female relative. It was the evil influence of this lady which had so
increased Eleanor's natural repugnance to Mrs. Harcourt's gentle sway,
that for full two years before the latter's death the flattery of Lady
Lascelles and Eleanor's passionate entreaties had prevailed on Lord
Delmont to permit his daughter being more with her than with her sister
and governess. Lady Lascelles was a woman of the world, utterly
heartless, highly distinguished, and supremely fashionable. At her house
all the ton of the beau monde congregated, and scandal, frivolity, and
_esprît_ were the prevailing topics, diversified with superficial
opinions of the literature, arts, and politics of the day, and various
sentimental episodes, which the lady of the house endured for the sake
of variety. Here Eleanor, even at fourteen, was made a popular idol; her
extreme beauty, her vivacity, her talents, her sharpness of repartee,
all were admired, extolled, and encouraged. At seventeen she was
introduced and initiated into all the mysteries of an ultra-fashionable
life, and very speedily added to her other accomplishments all the arts
of a finished and heartless coquette.

With Lady Lascelles for her chaperon, it was not very surprising that
Emmeline Manvers shrunk in pain and dread from her introduction into
society; but yet she knew her social duties too well to refuse, and, by
an affectation of superior sanctity, which of course would have been the
charge leveled against her, throw a sneer upon those holy feelings and
spiritual principles which had become part of her very being. She
entered into society, but the isolation to a heart like hers of the
coteries of Lady Lascelles and her friends, was indeed most painful, and
aggravated by the constant dread which the contemplation of Eleanor's
reckless career could not but occasion.

But Emmeline's trial of loneliness was happily not of very long
duration. At a ball, which was less exclusive than the assemblages of
Lady Lascelles, the attention of both sisters was attracted to a young
nan, by name Arthur Hamilton--Eleanor, from his distinguished appearance
and extreme reserve, Emmeline, by the story attached to his name. His
father had so distinguished himself in the amelioration of the peasantry
and working classes in various parts of England, in addition to various
services of a private and confidential nature from the home government
to the courts abroad, that a viscountcy was offered to his acceptance.
The message from royalty reached him on his death-bed, and though, from
the faint and flickering accents with which he replied to the intended
honor, it seemed as if he declined it, it was attributed to the natural
feelings of a dying man, seeing the utter nothingness of earthly honors,
and the title was generously proposed to his son. But Arthur Hamilton
had not been the pupil and friend of his father in vain. With a calm
dignity and uncompromising independence, he declared that he had neither
claim nor heirship to the reward of his father's services; that he
believed his parent would himself have refused it, preferring the
honorable distinction of being an untitled English gentleman, to the
unvalued honor of a newly-created lordship. He respectfully thanked the
government for the honor they intended, but decisively refused it--that
his dearest inheritance was his father's name.

Of course this most extraordinary decision was canvassed again and
again in the fashionable world, meeting there with very little
appreciation, because it sprang from much higher feelings than the world
could comprehend. By many he was imagined very little removed from
insane--by others as actuated by some ulterior motive, which would be
sure to display itself some day--by all regarded with curiosity--by some
few with earnest, quiet, heartfelt admiration: and of this number was
not only Emmeline Manvers, but her father; who, though weak and
yielding, was not worldly, and could admire honorable independence, even
while some of his friends succeeded in persuading him that in this case
it nearly reached romance.

Arthur Hamilton was a star creating a sensation; it signified little to
Eleanor Manvers why or wherefore, but she fully resolved to conquer him
and chain him, as she had already done innumerable others, victim to her
charms. His very reserve deepened her ardent longing, and the difficulty
only strengthened her resolution, but she tried in vain; for the first
time she was completely and entirely foiled, and she disliked him
accordingly--a dislike increasing to actual abhorrence--when the truth
at length forced itself upon her, that he admired, conversed with,
evidently sought the society of her sister, whom she chose to charge
with deceit and underhand dealing, with all the violence of angry
passion and mortified defeat.

Emmeline bore the storm calmly, for her conscience perfectly acquitted
her. She was not indeed indifferent to Arthur Hamilton, but she had
tried hard to prevent the ascendency of affection, for she had heard
that he still mourned the loss of a beloved one to whom he had been for
many years engaged. And deep was her thankful joy, and unexpected indeed
the intensity of her happiness, when six months after their first
introduction he related to her the heavy trial of his early life, and
concluded by asking her if she could indeed accept a heart which had so
loved another, but which was now entirely her own, and happier than he
had once believed it ever could be. The very frankness of his avowal
increased the feelings of reverence and regard he had already inspired,
and to the great delight, and no little pride of Lord Delmont, his elder
daughter, who had been by Lady Lascelles' coterie so overlooked and
neglected, who had been by many for years considered a mere foil to the
beauty and talent of her younger sister, was united before she was
twenty, to a man who--however his high principles might have excited
laughter as high-flown romance, his unbending integrity and dislike of
the pleasures and amusements, but too often the sole pursuit of the
wealthy, exposed him to the charge of severity and eccentricity--was yet
sought, and his connection deemed a most desirable _partie_ by all and
every family who had marriageable daughters.



CHAPTER IV.

RETROSPECTIVE.--EFFECTS OF COQUETRY.--OBEDIENCE AND DISOBEDIENCE.


Eleanor's unfounded dislike toward Arthur Hamilton did not decrease when
he became her brother-in-law; she chose to believe that he had injured
her by being the only one who had remained proof against all the
fascinations she had thrown in his way. Even in her childhood, if any
one chanced to notice Emmeline more than herself, it was considered a
mortal offense, and the person who had so offended was scarcely spoken
to again. Therefore that Emmeline should be married before herself, and
to the man she intended to captivate, but _not to love_, or wed, was an
offense visited upon her sister by the withdrawal of her speech for six
months, and on Mr. Hamilton by an insulting haughtiness of demeanor
toward him, at which he only smiled; and, to her extreme annoyance, she
found that even as she had failed to fascinate, she equally failed to
offend. He _would_ speak to her, _would_ treat her with courtesy, and
the quiet familiarity of an older relative--and more, actually
remonstrate with her conduct whenever he thought it wrong. It was the
recollection of this time, yet more than actual present feeling, which
had occasioned the mistaken impressions she had infused into both her
children, of the extreme severity and harshness of their uncle,
thoughtlessly indeed, for the present was always all to her, and if she
did think that they might one day be under his charge, she little
imagined the unhappiness and mischief which their supposition of his
unbending sternness might engender.

To Emmeline, the change in her young life was so marvelous, so
complete--care, anxiety, loneliness, that sinking of the whole frame and
heart, from the absence of appreciation and social kindness, had so
departed, leaving in their stead such an intensity of quiet domestic
happiness, that it was long before her full heart could believe it
reality, and rest secure. She had always longed for one to reverence, to
cling to, and her husband gave her room for both. As his betrothed, even
before their marriage, she had been introduced to very different society
to that of the marchioness; she beheld him reverenced, loved, appealed
to by the wisest and the best men, often older than himself. That this
man should so love, cherish, and actually reverence her--no wonder that
under the magic of such feelings her character matured, displaying such
engaging and unsuspected qualities, that even her husband often looked
at her with astonishment, playfully asking her if she could be the same
calm, almost too quiet, and seemingly too cold Emmeline Manvers whom he
had first seen. Her very talents, which had seemed worthless, compared
to her sister's, were called forth by her husband. She found that her
voice and her touch on either piano or harp, could give him exquisite
pleasure, and this once discovered, she made such improvement as almost
to surprise herself. She found the sketches taken from the various
lovely spots in the vicinity of their noble seat, and in which
Devonshire abounds, delighted him, and when Eleanor did visit Oakwood,
she was astounded at the various beautiful drawings, which evinced the
employment of that leisure which she had declared must be even to the
quiet Emmeline a horrid bore.

To Lord Delmont the change in his daughter was much more astonishing
than to her husband. He was very often at Oakwood (particularly when a
little grandson was added to the happy party), for his home under
Eleanor's extravagant and heedless management had lost all the comfort
that Emmeline had bestowed. He had begun, too, to discover that his
darling, his still favorite Eleanor, was not faultless. Emmeline's
generous assistance and determination to spare her father all discomfort
had concealed Eleanor's personal extravagance from him; but after her
marriage, as Eleanor's fashionable amusements increased, so did the
quantity and amount of her bills, which, as the young lady did not seem
inclined to settle them, were sent to her father. Lord Delmont was
painfully startled, and with his usual want of judgment spoke to Eleanor
at the very moment that he felt most angry; unaccustomed to reproof from
him, she retorted with equal passion, and a violent altercation ensued,
which ended in Eleanor ordering the carriage and driving to Lady
Lascelles, declaring she could not think of returning home, till her
father had sufficiently recovered his senses for her to do so in safety.

The interference of Emmeline at length succeeded in restoring peace, but
Lord Delmont's eyes had been rudely opened, and, as is unhappily too
often the case with those weak characters where over-indulgence of
childhood, has occasioned those annoyances of ungoverned youth, he
became irritable and sometimes even harsh with Eleanor, which conduct
threw her still more with Lady Lascelles. As to joining society with Mr.
and Mrs. Hamilton, when they were in London, Eleanor would not hear of
it. But to her sister's great joy, and some surprise, she accepted an
invitation to Oakwood a short time after little Percy's birth; and,
still more surprising, condescended to make herself agreeable. The
London season had tired her, and she thought she might just as well be
dull on the banks of the Dart in August and September as in some stupid
watering-place. Mr. Hamilton, despite her dislike, which she cared not
to avow, she found could be at least very entertaining; her father was
more like his former self, her sister far more delightful and lovely
than she ever thought she could be, and her nephew certainly a pretty
little plague. Then Mr. Hamilton had a beautiful horse entirely for her
use, and she rode exceedingly well, and was greatly admired. She was
seized with an exploring mania, and dragged Emmeline to every old ruin
and dark wood within ten miles of Oakwood. Altogether the impression she
left behind her, after a two months' visit, was such as to ease Mrs.
Hamilton's great anxiety, more especially as it appeared from certain
private conversations, that her affections were for the first time
really engaged, and Emmeline had always fondly hoped that when that
should be the case, Eleanor would become a very different person. Alas!
penetrative as she was, she had not yet learned her sister's character;
simply because utter heartlessness in any woman she could not
comprehend.

Her visit to her father in London, in the winter, removed all their
rising hopes, and caused such increased and intense anxiety, as so to
injure her already delicate health that her husband bore her back to
Oakwood a full month before they had originally intended. Whether or not
Eleanor loved Lord Fitzclair, it was impossible to determine; but that
he devotedly, passionately loved her, was only too evident, not only to
the world, but to herself; and this once confirmed, she left no method
untried to torment, and so, as she declared, to try if his affections
were worth having. He was half an Italian, and had inherited all the
strong, fierce passions of that country, without one atom of
self-control. Mr. Hamilton knew him well, far better than he knew
himself, and conjured him to withdraw from the society of one who could
never make him happy, and whose capricious conduct was so likely to
render him desperate and miserable: he reasoned, entreated in vain. "She
only wants to try the strength of my love," was his sole reply; "and
were she to torment health and life away, it will never change--she will
be mine yet."

And to the astonishment of Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, two months afterward
he proposed in form, and actually was accepted, with the sole condition
that their engagement should be kept secret till it should please
Eleanor to name the wedding day, which could not be at least for six or
eight months.

This engagement might have eased anxiety, but the condition increased
it, especially, as instead of coming to Oakwood, as Emmeline had asked
and hoped, the latter part of the summer and autumn was to be spent in
Cheltenham with a very gay party, in which Eleanor was still of course
the star. Mrs. Hamilton entered the nursery one morning earlier than
usual, for her infant had not been well the night before, and she had
already experienced the care as well as the joy of a mother. Her babe
was better, and as he lay smilingly and happily in her lap, and watched
the eager movements of his brother, she was only sensible of pleasure.
The nurse had arranged the chairs in a long line, that Master Percy
might, with their help, walk the whole length of the large and airy
room. The feat mightily pleased the little gentleman, who, having
acquired the venerable age of fifteen months, liked better to feel his
feet than crawl on the floor, or be carried about on any limbs but his
own. Every two or three paces he stood nearly alone, and burst into a
loud merry laugh, which was always echoed by a crow of joy from his
little brother.

"Take care, Percy, love, don't fall and frighten mamma," said his young
mother, who was watching him with such pleasure as to send for his
father to share it. When her son, to prove how well he obeyed her
commands to take care, stood for a second without any support, and then
ran quite alone across the room, and with a yet louder laugh hid his
rosy face in her lap. Mrs. Hamilton fondly kissed the little nestling
head, and at that moment her husband entered the room. "Dearest
Arthur," she eagerly exclaimed, "I was actually foolish enough to send
for you. Herbert seems quite well; I was, it seems, needlessly alarmed,
and Percy has this moment--" She stopped in sudden terror, for there was
an expression on her husband's countenance of such unusual agitation,
that though he tried to smile when he heard her words, she could not
conquer her alarm, more than to say, in a caressing voice to her little
boy--

"Will not Percy run to papa, and ask him why he looks so sad?"

The child looked up in her face, and then, as his father held out his
arms to him, let go his mother's dress, and obeyed her. Mr. Hamilton
caught him to his heart, held him for above a minute, kissed him fondly,
and left the nursery without uttering a single word.

"Let me take Master Herbert, ma'am," said the head nurse respectfully,
for she saw that her mistress's unexpressed alarm had nearly overpowered
her; and in a few minutes Emmeline was with her husband, whose agitation
was so excessive, that even his wife's presence, for the moment, had
scarcely power to calm him.

The tale was soon told. Eleanor's conduct since her engagement had been
such as to excite the displeasure, not of her father alone, but actually
of the marchioness; who, though a weak and worldly woman, had yet some
idea of propriety. As a near relation of Lord Delmont, Eleanor's
engagement with Lord Fitzclair was of course told to her, and again and
again she warned her that she was going too far, and might lose her
lover before she was aware of it; but Eleanor only laughed at her, and
at last won her over to the belief that it was certainly better to cure
Fitzclair of his jealous tendency _before_ marriage than afterward. Lord
Delmont's reproofs she was wont to silence, by invariably making them
the signal of mortifying and annoying Lord Fitzclair still more than
usual. Yet still at times she relented, and so strengthened the love she
had excited, so enhanced her own fascinations, that all the agony he had
endured and was still, he knew, to endure, by an incomprehensible
contradiction, riveted her power and hastened his own doom. Weak in all
things but his love, he could not demand as his actual right the
publication of their engagement. Eleanor vowed if he did till she
permitted him, she would have nothing more to say to him. She knew,
though she did not say it, that once made known, a chain would be
thrown round her actions, which she did not choose to endure. And
father, lover, and friend, all feeling she was wrong, and the first and
last repeatedly telling her so, had yet neither of them the resolution
to contend with her, and compel the proper course.

A month of their visit to Cheltenham so passed, when Eleanor's attention
was arrested by a new actor on the scene. She had begun to tire of her
present satellites, and a young military captain, whose furlough from
India had just expired, and whose pale face, somewhat melancholy
expression, and very elegant figure, presented a new subject for
conquest impossible to be resisted; and it was unhappily, only too
easily achieved. She made no secret of her admiration, speaking of him
in such terms to her intended husband as to excite anew every jealous
feeling. It was easy for Captain Fortescue to discover Fitzclair was his
rival; but believing himself decidedly the object of Eleanor's
preference, he increased his attentions, little imagining the storm he
was exciting, the more fearful from its determined suppression. Lord
Delmont interfered several times, not only by reproaches to Eleanor, but
by determined coldness to her new suitor. Finding at length that her
encouragement actually neared a criminal extent, and after a desperately
stormy interview, he solemnly declared that if she did not dismiss
Captain Fortescue at once, he would shame her in the face of the whole
world, by proclaiming her engagement with the young marquis. Eleanor in
equal anger, declared that if he threatened, so too could she; and if he
tormented her any more she would prevent all publication of her
engagement, by herself snapping it asunder, and pledging her faith to
Captain Fortescue. This was too much even for Lord Delmont. Declaring if
she did so, a father's heaviest malediction should fall on her head, he
hastily left her; and Eleanor very composedly went to prepare for an
excursion on horseback with Fortescue, Fitzclair and others.

When Lord Delmont's passions were once roused, even his ordinarily
slender judgment entirely forsook him, and he did that which at another
time, knowing Fitzclair as he did, he would have shrunk from. He sought
him, while still exasperated, upbraided him for his weakness in
permitting Eleanor's unprincipled conduct, and warned him that, if he
did not adopt some strong measures to prevent it, he would certainly
lose her entirely.

The young man heard him without reply; but his face grew livid, and he
clenched his hand till the blood started from the nails, and in this
mood of concentrated passion joined the riding party. The exercise
itself is, to some temperaments, unusually exciting, and the determined
coldness of Eleanor to himself, and the eagerly-received devotion of
Fortescue, maddened him. He demanded an interview with her on their
return home, struggled to speak calmly, expostulated, and, finally,
reproached. Eleanor, already irritated; and, beyond all, that her lover,
in general so obsequious and humble, should dare to call her to account
for mere amusement, combined with the recollection of Captain
Fortescue's flattering vows and willing homage, excited her to an extent
of which she was herself unconscious, inasmuch as she firmly believed,
whatever she might say then, a few soft words would speedily obliterate.
She told him that really his jealous temperament was beyond all
endurance; that he certainly must intend her to despise and abhor him;
and that the contrast he presented to Captain Fortescue was such as to
make her most heartily wish to put an end to their engagement, as she
felt quite sure it must only end in misery for both; and, without
waiting for a reply, she haughtily brushed by him, and disappeared.

Of the extent of Fitzclair's passion Eleanor had not the least idea, and
this is saying a great deal, for she generally exaggerated her own
power. She believed she had inflicted pain, but not as much as he
deserved; and determined that she would torment him yet more at the ball
that evening. But to her extreme mortification, he did not appear, and
there was a vague dread on her spirits as she retired for the night,
which prevented any thing like rest. His absence had excited surprise in
all, especially Lady Lascelles, who knew that to leave Eleanor entirely
to the attentions of young Fortescue was so unprecedented as to bode no
good. But the wildest conjectures were far from reality. The very next
morning all Cheltenham was thrown into the most painful excitement by
the incomprehensible and most extraordinary fact of the suicide of Lord
Fitzclair; by what occasioned, plunged into such mystery that nothing
but sudden aberration of mind was imagined, a belief justified by the
very peculiar temperament and manners of the young nobleman during his
sojourn with them. His will, a valuable present, with a few lines of
regard to his faithful attendant, and a letter addressed to Arthur
Hamilton, Esq., were the sole evidences that the awful deed had not been
committed without some preparation; but as that was often the case with
madness itself, it excited no remark.

The state of Eleanor's mind when these awful tidings were communicated
to her, which they were by her father, in his agitation and anger,
without the least preparation, we leave our readers to imagine.
Hardened, heartless, willful as she was, she was still a woman, and a
very young one, and till Captain Fortescue appeared, had loved, as far
as it was in her nature, Lord Fitzclair. To believe that she had nothing
to do with his miserable end was an attempt so vain and hollow, that
even she shrunk from the hopeless struggle to realize it; remorse in all
its torturing, unmitigated anguish took possession of her, but instead
of leading her to penitence, and thence the hope of peace, it urged her
to a course of action from which she imagined there was no withdrawing;
and which must in time, by removing her from all painful associations,
lessen her present misery.

For three days and nights she never quitted her own apartment, and then
joined her usual circles without the smallest evidence of the internal
agony which was still hers. It was very easy to displace paleness by
artificial roses, and her gay smiles and joyous sallies were tempered
only by a judiciously-expressed horror when the late event was discussed
before her, supposed natural to one who had known him so intimately; but
the hours of loneliness which followed this conduct in society were
terrible indeed. By a strange contrariety of feeling, her better nature
longed for Emmeline, and her artificial, which had, alas! only too
forcibly become her natural self, felt as if she would leave the kingdom
rather than encounter the mild, sorrowful glance of those penetrating
eyes.

Lord Delmont was himself in a most pitiable condition; even minor evils
had always been great to him, and the effect of this, the wish to take
Eleanor away from Captain Fortescue's increased and annoying attentions,
and yet the dread that doing so would connect her with Fitzclair's
death, so distracted him as to render him really ill--information which
instantly brought Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton to Cheltenham.

Some young wives and mothers might have felt it hard that their domestic
enjoyment should so continually have been disturbed and annoyed from the
faults of others; but Emmeline had been accustomed to trace every thing
that created personal suffering to the highest source, and feel that it
was good for her, or it would not be; a conviction that enabled her to
bear with and still to love the erring one that was the visible cause of
pain.

Eleanor was at a gay ball the night of her arrival, and Mrs. Hamilton
requested she might not be informed of it till the following day. About
half an hour before her usual hour of rising after such scenes, she
entered her sister's room. All around her lay the ornaments of the
previous evening, looking so strange, gaudy, and faded in the darkened
room, and judged by the calmer feelings of the morning. A sensation of
intense depression crept over Emmeline as she gazed, increasing as she
looked on the face of the sleeper, which, divested of its unnatural
bloom, looked so fearfully wan and haggard. Her beautiful hair lay in
tangled masses on her damp brow, and as Emmeline gently tried to remove
it, Eleanor started and awoke.

"Is it already time to get up?" she said languidly, and only half
unclosing her eyes; "I feel as if I had not slept at all. Am I
dreaming?" she added, starting up, "or have I slept in one place, and
awoke in another? Am I at Oakwood?"

"No, dearest Eleanor; will you not welcome me to Malvern House?"

The voice, the look, seemed to thrill through her; her temples were
throbbing, her heart weighed down, as it always was when she first
awoke, with an undefinable sense of guilt and pain; she tried to be
cold, proud, reserved, but it would not do, and she suddenly flung her
arms round her sister's neck, and burst into agonized tears.

It was a most unexpected greeting, and Mrs. Hamilton argued hopefully
from it. Alas! the unwonted softening only lasted one brief half hour.
She left her at Eleanor's entreaty while dressing, and when she
returned, though the reckless girl told her with a half smile that she
was ready for her lecture, for she could only have come from Oakwood to
give her one; and that however severe her words might be, she could not
alter her tone, that must be kind, in spite of herself. Yet Emmeline
could not succeed in convincing her how wrongly, how cruelly she had
acted. Eleanor would persist that she was not in the least to blame, and
that poor Fitzclair's fearful end was only owing to his own violent
passions; in fact, that he must have been out of his mind, and that,
though it was certainly very dreadful, she had perhaps escaped a very
terrible doom; but speak as she might, Emmeline was not deceived as to
the agony she was actually enduring. Finding, however, that all her
gentle efforts were useless, that even the perusal of Fitzclair's brief
lines to her husband--which Eleanor insisted on seeing, and in which he
deplored his madness in not having followed his advice, and flown from
her presence, and bade him take his forgiveness to her, and say, that
the means he had adopted would, he trusted, dissolve their engagement to
her satisfaction--had no effect, save in causing her to turn so deadly
pale, that her sister was convinced nothing but an almost supernatural
effort of pride preserved her from fainting. She desisted; hoping
against hope that Eleanor would yet repent and become a different being.
She knew harshness would only harden, and so she tried to prevail on her
father to treat her as usual, but this Lord Delmont could not do. It is
strange how often we find those parents who have been over-indulgent to
childhood, unusually harsh to the faults of youth. Weak characters,
also, when driven to anger, are always more violent than firmer ones;
and, certainly, Eleanor's continued haughtiness and coldness, as if she
were the injured one, did not tend to calm him.

And his angry feelings were unfortunately but too soon aggravated by a
proposal in form from Captain Fortescue for the hand of Eleanor. Without
a moment's delay he dispatched a decided and almost insulting refusal to
the young soldier, and then sought his daughter, and vented on her the
anger and vexation which overpowered him, upbraiding her not only with
the death of Fitzclair, but for having dared so to encourage young
Fortescue as to give him courage for his audacious proposal. To his
astonishment, he was heard without any attempt at reply; but he would
have been startled, could he have seen the pallid cheek, compressed lip,
and clenched hand with which, when he had left her, Eleanor muttered--

"Father, if it be sin to leave you, be it on your own head. I would have
wedded with your consent, had you permitted it; but now my destiny is
fixed. There is no peace in England: at least let me be spared the agony
of breaking another loving heart."

Nearly three weeks rolled on, and Eleanor's extraordinary submission,
and even in some degree withdrawal from society (for which Mrs.
Hamilton's arrival was a good excuse), caused her father's irritation
against her almost entirely to subside. That she passed several hours
each day apart from her sister, excited no surprise. Emmeline was
thankful even for her change of deportment, but nothing confidential
ever again passed between them. That reports were floating about,
connecting the names of Miss Manvers and the late Lord Fitzclair, seemed
little heeded by Eleanor, though they caused natural vexation to her
family. About this time an invitation arrived for Eleanor from a lady of
rank, slightly known to her father, and living ten miles from Cheltenham
in a beautiful villa, at which she expected a select party of
fashionables to ruralize for a week or two. There was nothing in the
note to excite the dread that weighed on Mrs. Hamilton's spirits, as
Eleanor carelessly threw it to her for her perusal, but she would not
express it, as Lord Delmont seemed inclined that Eleanor should accept
it, knowing that the lady was much too exclusive for Captain Fortescue
to join her guests, and believing that Eleanor's apparent indifference
to the visit originated from that cause. Telling her he was so gratified
by her having devoted so many evenings to her sister, he added, she had
his full consent to go if she liked, as he could better spare her than
when Emmeline returned to Oakwood. She quietly thanked him, but evinced
no particular pleasure.

The day before her intended departure, the sisters were sitting
together, and little Percy, who now ran firmly without any falls, was
playing about the room. He had already displayed a high spirit and
passionate temper, with their general accompaniment, self-will, even in
trifles, that Mrs. Hamilton felt would render her task a trying one; but
she was as firm as she was gentle, and faced the pain of contradicting
her darling bravely:--

"Do not touch that, Percy, love," she said, as her little boy stretched
out his hand toward a beautiful but fragile toy, that stood with other
nick-nacks on a low table. The child looked laughingly and archly toward
her, and withdrew his hand, but did not move from the table.

"Come here, Percy, you have not played with these pretty things for a
long time;" and she took from her work-box some gayly colored ivory
balls, which had been his favorite playthings, but just at present they
had lost their charm, and the young gentleman did not move.

Mrs. Hamilton knelt down by him, and said quietly:

"My Percy will not disobey mamma, will he?"

"Me want that;" he replied, in the pretty coaxing tone of infancy; and
he twined his little round arms caressingly round her neck.

Mrs. Hamilton felt very much tempted to indulge him, but she resisted
it.

"But that is not a fit plaything for you, love; besides, it is not mine,
and we must not touch what is not ours. Come and see if we can not find
something just as pretty, that you may have."

And after some minutes' merry play in her lap his mother hoped he had
forgotten it; but the little gentleman was not, he thought, to be so
governed. The forbidden plaything was quietly grasped, and he seated
himself on the ground, in silent but triumphant glee.

Surprised at his sudden silence, Mrs. Hamilton looked toward him. It was
his first act of decided disobedience, and she knew she must not waver.
Young as he was, he had already learned to know when she was displeased,
and when she desired him very gravely to give her the toy, he
passionately threw it down, and burst into a violent fit of crying. His
nurse took him struggling from the room, and Mrs. Hamilton quietly
resumed her work; but there was such an expression of pain in her
countenance, that Eleanor exclaimed,

"Emmeline! I have been watching you for the last half hour, and I can
not comprehend you. Do explain yourself."

"I will if I can;" and Mrs. Hamilton looked up, and smiled.

"Why would you not let that poor little Percy have that toy?"

"Because it would have been encouraging his touching or taking every
thing he sees, whether proper for him or not."

"But he could not understand that."

"Not now, perhaps; but I wish him to know that when I speak, he must
obey me. It is, I think, a mistaken doctrine, that we ought to give
children a _reason_ for all we desire them to do. Obedience can then
never be prompt, as it ought to be. And, in fact, if we wait until they
are old enough to understand the reasons for a command, the task will be
much more difficult, from the ascendency which willfulness may already
have obtained."

"But then why were you so cruel as to send the poor child up-stairs? Was
it not enough to take the toy from him?"

"Not quite; for him to remember that he must not touch it again."

"And do you really think he will not?"

"I can only hope so, Eleanor; but I must not be disheartened if he do.
He is an infant still, and I can not expect him to learn such a
difficult lesson as obedience in one, two, or six lessons."

"And will he love you as much as if you had given it to him?"

"Not at the moment, perhaps, but when he is older he will love me more.
And it is that hope which reconciles me to the pain which refusing to
indulge him costs me now."

"And voluntarily you will bear the pain which had almost brought tears
into the eyes of the severe and stoical Mrs. Hamilton!" exclaimed
Eleanor.

"It was a foolish weakness, my dear Eleanor, for which my husband would
have chidden me; but there must be pain to a mother if called upon to
exert authority, when inclination so strongly points to indulgence."

"Well, if ever I have any thing to do with children, I certainly shall
not be half as particular as you are, Emmeline. I really can not imagine
what harm gratifying myself and Percy could possibly have done."

"If ever you have children, my dear Eleanor, may you have strength of
mind and self-control sufficient to forget self, and refuse the
gratification of the present moment for the welfare of future years!"

Mrs. Hamilton spoke impressively, and something, either in her words or
tone, caused the blood to rush into Eleanor's cheeks, and she hastily
walked to the window; then, as abruptly returning, she kissed her
sister, a very rare token of affection, and declaring she was much too
good for her to understand, quitted the room.

The following day, dressed for her visit, and only waiting for the
carriage, Eleanor, accompanied by Mrs. Hamilton and her little boys,
entered the same apartment. Though not in general fond of nursing,
Eleanor had taken Herbert in her arms, and was playing with him with
unusual fondness; Percy, who had not seen the tempting plaything since
his banishment the preceding day, the moment his eye caught it, to the
astonishment of Eleanor, ran up to his mother, and lisping, "Me no touch
that--Percy good boy now," held up his little face lovingly to hers, and
with a very pardonable feeling of delight, Mrs. Hamilton lifted him up
and covered him with kisses. The feelings which thrilled through Eleanor
at that moment she might indeed have found it difficult to explain, but
she was so conscious of a change of countenance as to hide her face on
Herbert's head. It might have been obedience and disobedience brought so
suddenly and strangely in contrast--and who were the actors? an infant
and herself. For a minute she recovered, stricken with sudden and
agonized remorse; but it was too late, she had gone too far, and the
announcement of the carriage was a relief from that bitter moment of
painful indecision. Placing her baby nephew in his nurse's arms, she
said, caressingly, "Will not Percy give Lina some of those kisses as
well as mamma?" The child threw one little arm round her neck, and the
other round that of his mother, and then burst into a merry laugh at
thus seeing himself as it were a link between them. Never had it seemed
to Eleanor that she had loved and admired her sister as she did at that
moment; all the neglect, unkindness, she had shown her, all the sarcasm
and satire, of which, either before or behind her, she had so often made
her the victim, combined with an intense, but how painfully vain longing
to have resembled her in the remotest degree, rather than be the
character which had never before appeared so degraded, so
hateful--almost overpowered her--a convulsive sob escaped her as she
clasped Emmeline in a close embrace, and almost choked her hurried
good-by! Lord Delmont and Mr. Hamilton were in the hall, and the former
was surprised and delighted at the warmth with which his usually
reckless child returned his kiss and farewell; the carriage drove off
leaving unusual hope and cheerfulness behind it. Alas! in one short
fortnight every rising hope was blighted, Emmeline's momentary dread
fulfilled, and Lord Delmont experiencing, in all its agony,

    "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is,
    To have a thankless child"



CHAPTER V.

A HEART AND HOME IN ENGLAND.--A HEART AND HOME IN INDIA.


From the moment Arthur Hamilton returned to Cheltenham with the painful
intelligence that he had arrived at Leith only in time to witness the
departure of the beautiful vessel which contained Captain Fortescue and
the exquisitely lovely bride who had, it seemed, turned the heads of all
the usually quiet Scotsmen who had seen her, Lord Delmont gradually
sunk. The agony of losing her forever--for so he regarded her departure
for, and residence in India for an indeterminate time--conquered every
other feeling. Her conduct had caused emotions of anguish far too deep
for the relieving sensation of anger. The name of the lady from whose
house and by whose connivance she had eloped, he was never heard to
breathe; but, if ever casually mentioned before him, every feature would
become convulsed, and he would instantly leave the room. Often and often
he accused his own harshness as the cause of driving her from him, and
then came, with overwhelming bitterness, the thought that if he lately
had been harsh, surely the recollection of all the indulgent fondness he
had shown demanded some gratitude in return. If she had but written, had
but expressed one wish for his continued love, one regret for his
present pain! But no letter came, and the contending but all-depressing
emotions so completely undermined a constitution never very strong, and
already worn by care, that when another and still heavier trial came, he
sunk at once beneath it.

Though Eleanor had been his favorite, his feelings of pride and hope had
greatly centered in his son, whose career, in five years' active service
on board a man-of-war, had been such as to raise him already to a
lieutenancy, and excite every gratifying emotion, not only in his
immediate family, but in a large circle of admiring friends. Mrs.
Hamilton's love for her brother had naturally increased, strong as it
always had been, even in childhood--and the visits which Charles had
been enabled to make to Oakwood, brief in duration as they were
compelled to be, had always been fraught with heartfelt, joyous
happiness, not only to herself but to her husband. The pain and anxiety
attendant on Eleanor's elopement, and the dread of its effects on Lord
Delmont, had for two or three months been the sole subject of thought;
but at length, and, like a fearful flash bringing a new sorrow to light,
it pressed upon them that it was long after the period that intelligence
of Charles ought to have been received. Still hoping against hope, not
only the Delmont family, but all who had friends and relatives on board
the Leander, imagined that she might have drifted from her course, or
been engaged on some secret and distant expedition, but that
intelligence concerning her would and must soon come. Alas! after months
of agonizing suspense, information was received that several planks and
masts, bearing evidence of fire as well as water, and some sea-chests,
bearing names, only too soon recognized as those of some of the
Leander's crew, had been cast off the coast of Barbary, and there could
be no more doubt that death or slavery--that fearful slavery which the
bombardment of Algiers had so displayed to European eyes--was the
portion of all those beloved ones, for whom so many aching hearts and
eyes had watched and wept in vain. It was a trial so terrible that Mrs.
Hamilton felt at first as if even submission had departed from her; and
she could almost have rebelled in spirit against the inscrutable decree,
that had consigned one so free from vice and evil, so full of happiness
and worth, to a doom so terrible. Much as she had loved and reverenced
her husband before, she seemed never to have felt his worth and
tenderness till then. It was his sympathy, his strength, that recalled
her to a sense of her duty, and gave her power to endure, by a
realization once more of that submissiveness to a Father's will, which
had never before failed her. But time, though it softened the first
anguish, had no power over the memories of this brother, not even when
the increasing cares and joys of maternity so fully engrossed her, that
the present and the future of her children appeared to have banished all
of her own past.

Lord Delmont did not survive the mournful tidings of the certain wreck
of the Leander above two months; but his released spirit did not meet
that of his son. Charles was not dead. He toiled as a slave long years
in living death, before there was even a partial amelioration of his
sufferings. But no tidings of him ever came, a young child of three
years old, a distant branch of the Manvers family, became Lord Delmont.

Years rolled on, and Mrs. Hamilton's lot was so full of tranquil
happiness, so fraught with the innumerable daily joys of a loving wife
and devoted mother, that her prayer was ever rising for guidance, and
gratitude, that prosperity might not unfit her for the dark days of
trial and adversity, when they should come. That she had cares as well
as joys could not be otherwise, when so intensely anxious to bring up
her children with more regard to their spiritual and moral welfare, than
even the cultivation of their intellect. She was one of those who
thought still more of the training of the heart than of the mind,
believing that were the first properly awakened, the latter would need
little incitement to exertion. Two girls had been the sole addition to
her family.

One other wish, and one of many years' standing, Mrs. Hamilton had it in
her power to fulfill. From childhood she had been accustomed to think of
Lucy Harcourt as one, to whom it might one day be in her power to return
the heavy debt of gratitude she owed her mother; she had been accustomed
to correspond with her from very early years; Mrs. Harcourt delighting
in creating a mutual interest between her pupil and the child from whom
circumstances had so sadly separated her. When therefore an event of a
very painful nature to Miss Harcourt's individual feelings compelled
her--as the only hope of regaining peace, and strengthening her for the
arduous duty of instruction, which she knew, as a single woman, was her
sole source of independent subsistence--she had no scruple in accepting
that friendship which Mrs. Hamilton had so warmly proffered. A very few
days of personal intercourse sufficed for mutual conviction, that
correspondence had not deceived in the favorable impressions of either.
Miss Harcourt found, indeed, the friend her aching spirit needed; and
Mrs. Hamilton, long before the months of repose which she had insisted
should forestall the commencement of exertion were over, rejoiced in the
conviction that the daughter of her beloved and regretted friend was
indeed well-fitted for that position in her family--her helper in the
moral and intellectual training of her daughters--which her vivid fancy
had often pictured as so filled. They were indeed but infants when Miss
Harcourt arrived; but Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton found means to overrule the
honorable scruples which, on the part of Lucy, seemed at first against
their plan, and in her gradually returning health and peace, Mrs.
Hamilton not only rejoiced, but felt gratefully thankful that the wish
of so many years' standing, and which had seemed so little likely to be
fulfilled, was absolutely accomplished, and she could prove how deeply
she had loved and mourned her truly maternal friend. It is astonishing
how often, if an earnest, heartfelt desire for the gratification of some
good feeling or for the performance of some good deed be steadily and
unvaryingly held before us, without any regard to its apparent
impossibility, its accomplishment is at length obtained. It is supposed
to be only done so in books, but this is a mistaken supposition, arising
from the simple fact of individuals so often forgetting their own past,
and failing steadily to pursue one object, regardless of the lapse of
years. If they looked into themselves more often and more carefully, if
they sought consistency in desire and pursuit, they would often be
startled at their connection, and that it is not so useless to _wish_
and _seek_, when both are of such a nature as can be based on and
strengthened by prayer, as it may seem. Human life presents as many
startling connections and contingencies as romance--only, as the
_actors_ not the _observers_ of this world's busy scene, we can not
trace them as we do in books.

The thought of Eleanor was the only dark shade in Mrs. Hamilton's life.
She had written to her often, but communication with India was not then
what it is now, and her letters might not have reached their
destination; especially as being in active service, Captain Fortescue
was himself constantly changing his quarters. Whatever the cause (for
Eleanor's letters, Mrs. Hamilton thought, might also have miscarried),
she heard nothing of her till the hurried epistle commenced by her
sister, and finished by Mr. Myrvin, brought the startling intelligence
that she was a widow and dying, unable to reach Oakwood, where she had
hoped at least to have sufficient strength to bring her children, and
implore for them protection and love and conjuring Mrs. Hamilton to come
to her without delay. The letter, imperfectly directed, had been days on
its journey, and it was with the most melancholy forebodings Mr. and
Mrs. Hamilton had started for Llangwillan.

But though it was not till many years after Edward and Ellen Fortescue
became inmates of her family that Mrs. Hamilton became acquainted with
all the particulars of their childhood, it is necessary that our readers
should be rather more enlightened; otherwise the character of Ellen may
be to them as unnatural and as incomprehensible as it was to her aunt.

That Eleanor could realize true happiness in a marriage entered into
only because she could not bear the torture of her own thoughts, and her
constant dread of the world's contumely, was not likely. At first,
indeed, it was a very delightful thing to find herself the object not
only of devotion to her husband (whom, could she entirely have forgotten
Fitzclair, she might have really loved), but a still more brilliant star
in India than she had even been in England. Though Captain Fortescue was
often engaged in marches and countermarches, where Eleanor sometimes,
though very rarely, accompanied him, still there were intervals of rest
for him in the larger cities, where his wife ever shone pre-eminent. For
the first three or four years, the pride he felt in seeing her so
universally admired, in the greater attention he received for her sake,
compensated for, or concealed the qualities, which, as a soldier's wife,
he had fondly believed she would possess. But as his health, always
delicate, became more and more undermined, and compelled him to
relinquish society, at least in a great measure, and to look for the
quiet pleasures of domestic life, he found, and bitter was that first
awakening, that his wishes, his comfort, were of no importance. She
could not resign the pleasures of society--of still being enabled to
pursue the dangerous amusement of her girlhood (though so guardedly that
not a rumor against her ever found breath), for the dullness of her
home. Yet still he loved her; and when Eleanor, with all the fascinating
playfulness of her former self, would caress and try to persuade him to
go out with her, and not sit moping at home, and that if he would, she
would behave just as he liked, and if he did not care to see her
surrounded, as she knew she was, by red coats, she would dismiss them
all, and devote herself to him--but indeed she could not stay at
home--he would feel that it would be cruel indeed to chain such a being
to his side, and sometimes make the exertion (for which he was little
fitted) to accompany her; at others, with kind words and indulgent love,
permit her to follow her own wishes, and remain alone. But little did he
think the real reason that Eleanor could not rest in quiet at home. The
recollection of Lord Fitzclair was at such times so fearfully vivid,
that the very agony she had endured when first told of his fearful end
would return in all its intensity; the thought: Had her father really
cursed her for her disobedience, and was it that forever hovering round
her, preventing any thing like lasting happiness. And yet, by a strange
contradiction, while the idea of her father's curse shook her whole
frame at times with convulsive sobs, pride, that most fatal ingredient
of her character, utterly prevented all attempt on her part to
communicate with her relations. She said, as they had made no effort to
conciliate, she would not; and yet the longing for Emmeline sometimes
became actually painful.

Eleanor was never intended for the heartless, reckless being she had
tried to become. It was a constant and most terrible struggle between
the good and evil parts of her nature, and though the evil triumphed--in
the determination that nothing should change her course of action,
nothing compel her to acknowledge she had ever been in the wrong, and
was really not the perfect creature which flattery was ever ready to
pour into her ear--the good had yet so much power as to make her
miserable, by the conviction, that she was not what she might have
been--that she never could be happy--that every pleasure was hollow,
every amusement vain. Again and again the memories of Emmeline's gentle,
sustaining, ever active piety would come before her, as if beseeching
her to seek the only fount of peace; but so terrible was the
self-reproach, the anguish which the thought called up, that she always
turned from it with a shudder, resolved that religion was never meant
for such as herself, and that its restrictions should never enter her
mind, or its dictates pass her lips.

With the awakening intelligence of her son, however, there seemed one
pleasure not wholly hollow--one enjoyment without the shadow of alloy;
and she grasped it with an avidity and a constancy, that in a character
generally so wavering and inconsistent was almost incredible. That her
son was from his earliest infancy the image of herself, might have added
strength to the feeling; but the intense love, almost idolatry, she felt
toward him, increasing with his growth, did much toward banishing the
unpleasant feelings of remorse and home-sickness. She devoted herself to
her boy, not judiciously indeed, for she was not one to practice
self-denial in education; and as Edward's disposition was not one to
cause her annoyance, even from over-indulgence, there was not even the
check of his ill-temper or rudeness toward herself, to whisper the
fearful evil she was engendering.

What was the emotion which had so riveted her to her son, it might have
been difficult to ascertain; it could scarcely have been the mere
instinct of maternity, for then it would have extended to her daughter;
but as complete as was her indulgence to Edward, so was her neglect of
Ellen.

Colonel Fortescue (for he had gradually attained that rank) had borne,
without complaint, neglect of himself; nay, it had not had power in the
least degree to diminish his love, though it might have awakened him to
the consciousness that his wife was indeed not perfect. Her devotion to
Edward, even undertaking the toilsome task of instruction, had delighted
him; for, at first, having been much from home, he was not conscious of
the lonely fate of his little girl; but when the truth became evident,
that she was an object almost of dislike--that she was left entirely to
the tender mercies of a hireling, and Eleanor only alluded to her, to
contrast her peevishness and stupidity with Edward's happiness and
intellect, all the father was roused within him, and, for the first
time, he felt and expressed serious displeasure. He acknowledged that
his son might, indeed, be superior in beauty and talent, but he would
not allow that Ellen's affections were less warm, or her temper less
capable of guidance. To him, and to all who had in the least attended to
childhood, Ellen's face, even from infancy, expressed not ill-temper,
but suffering. Continually ill, for she inherited her father's
constitution, the poor little infant was constantly crying or fretful;
which Eleanor; never having known what illness was, attributed at once
to a naturally evil temper which annoyed her. The nurse, as ignorant as
she was obsequious, adopted the same opinion; and, before she was even
three years old, harshness, both by nurse and mother, had been
constantly used, to make Ellen as good a child as her brother.

In vain did the colonel, when he became aware of this treatment,
remonstrate that it was the illness of the poor child--neither obstinacy
nor ill-temper: his wife would not understand him, and at length he
sternly and peremptorily declared, that as she had her will with Edward,
he would have his with Ellen, and that no chastisement should be
inflicted. If she did wrong, he was to be told of it, and if necessary
he would reprove her, but he would allow no other interference. Mrs.
Fortescue made not the least objection, believing that as her husband
had thus taken her in charge, she was exonerated from all blame if she
left her entirely to him.

Only too quickly did the poor child discover that the lovely being whom
she called mother, and whom she loved so fondly, had no love, no caress
for her. Repeated punishment, though it had only extended to her fifth
year, had completely crushed the gentle, tender spirit, that had
required such judicious nursing; and combined with physical suffering,
instead of deadening the feelings, as in some dispositions it would
have done, had rendered them morbidly acute--an effect which constant
loneliness naturally deepened. Her father's love and caresses had caused
her to cling to him so passionately, that every word he said, every
request he made her, was treasured and thought upon, when he was away
from her, with a tenacity many would have fancied unnatural in a child.
He taught her, though his heart often bled as he did so (for what claim
had her mother upon the feelings he sought to inculcate), to love,
honor, and obey her mother in all things; that if she did so, she would
be as happy as Edward in time, and Ellen, though she did not understand
him, obeyed; but Colonel Fortescue little imagined the evil which was
accruing from these very natural lessons.

Ellen learned to believe that, as her mother never noticed her, except
in accounts of anger or irritation, it must be her own fault. She longed
to be beautiful and buoyant as Edward; and that she was neither, marked
her in her own young mind as so inferior, it was no wonder her mother
could not caress or love her. Had Edward presumed on his favoritism, and
been unkind or neglectful, she might, perhaps, have envied more than she
loved him; but his disposition was naturally so noble, so open-hearted,
so generous, that he always treated her with affection, and would share
with her his playthings and sweets, even while he could not but believe
her in all things his inferior; and that as such, of course, her wishes
could never cross with his. Poor child, she scarcely knew what it was to
wish, except that she might cling to her mother as she did to her
father, and that she could but be good and beautiful enough to win her
love! The lesson of concealment of every feeling is but too easily and
too early learned. Tears do not flow even from childhood, when always
rudely checked, and angrily reproved. Affection can not display itself
unless called forth; and so the very outward seeming of children is more
in a parent's hand than mere superficial observers may believe: and Mrs.
Fortescue blamed and disliked the cold inanimate exterior which she had
never tried to warm.

Ellen's extreme difficulty in acquiring knowledge, compared with
Edward's extraordinary quickness, only confirmed her painful conviction
of her great inferiority, the impossibility of her ever winning
love--and the consequent increased intensity of her affection for her
father and brother, who loved her notwithstanding. That the child
herself could not have defined these sensations is true, but that they
had existence, even before she was nine years old, and that they
influenced many years of her after-life, causing error and suffering,
and rendering Mrs. Hamilton's task one of pain and difficulty, before
these mistaken influences could be eradicated, is equally so. The power
over early years is so immense, its responsibility so extensive, its
neglect or abuse may indeed make the earnest thinker tremble; less,
perhaps, for the actual amount of general evil, for that circumstances
in after life are sometimes graciously permitted to avert, but for
individual suffering and individual joy--and especially is this the case
in the training of girls. More enduring in their very fragility than
boys, they may be compared to those precious metals which fire and water
and pressure have no power to break, but simply to draw out to a thinner
and thinner thread, dwindling more and more, but to its last
spider-woven fineness capable of tenuity and vitality. While boys, like
men, are often crushed at once--the frame of the one and the spirit of
the other equally unable to endure.



CHAPTER VI.

DOMESTIC DISCORD AND ITS END.


The displeasure of her husband, his reproaches for her conduct to Ellen,
by causing some degree of annoyance, increased Mrs. Fortescue's feelings
of dislike toward the object who had caused it, and this was soon
afterward heightened by self-reproach.

A malignant fever broke out in the British settlement where Colonel
Fortescue was stationed; his wife and children were with him, and,
dreadfully alarmed, Eleanor determined to remove with her children to
some less unhealthy spot. The colonel willingly consented; but before
their hasty preparations were concluded Ellen sickened. Alarm for
Edward, however, so engrossed the mother, that she appeared incapable of
any other thought. In vain Colonel Fortescue urged that his son would be
safe with the friends who had promised to take charge of him, and who
were on the point of leaving the city; that there were none on whom he
could depend so to tend the little sufferer as not to require a guiding
head, and she knew how impossible it was for him to be with his child
as his heart prompted. He urged, entreated, commanded in vain, Mrs.
Fortescue was inexorable. She declared that the idea of her son being
away from her at such a time would drive her mad; and as for duty, one
child demanded her care as much as another; that her husband might not
care about thus exposing her to infection, but she really thought, for
Edward's sake, it was her duty to take care of herself. It might be
nothing to the colonel or Ellen whether she lived or died, but to Edward
it was a great deal; and so as she must choose between them, she would
go with him who loved her best, and who would be miserable without her.
The haughty, angry tone with which she spoke, the unjust taunt, roused
every indignant feeling, and Colonel Fortescue said more in that moment
of irritation than he could have believed possible. But it only awakened
the cold, sustaining pride which Eleanor always called to her aid when
conscience smote her, and she departed with her son, hardening every
better feeling, and rousing anger against her husband and child to
conquer the suffering of self-reproach. But when many miles from the
city of death, and there were no fears for Edward, anxiety and
wretchedness so assailed her, that pride itself gave way. To communicate
with the infected city was difficult, and very infrequent, and again and
again did she wish that she had remained.

During the continuance of Ellen's illness her father's anguish was
indeed terrible. Every leisure moment he spent by her side, moistening
her parched lips, bathing her burning forehead, and listening to the
plaintive accents of delirium with an acuteness of suffering, that
injured his own health more than he had the least idea of. The
attendants were really both kind and skillful, but the colonel fancied,
when he was not with her, she was neglected, and in still greater
suffering; and the struggle between his duties and his child was almost
more than he could bear. He had never been a religious man--never known
what it was to pray, except in the public services of his regiment, but
now prayer, earnest, heartfelt, poured from him, and the thankfulness to
God, which so overpowered him, when she was pronounced out of danger, as
to compel him to weep like a child, planted a sense of a Father's
infinite love and infinite compassion within him, which was his sole
sustainer the short remainder of his life.

Eleanor's letters, few as they were, had in some degree softened his
anger toward her; but as he beheld the ravages of disease on his poor
child's face and form, rendering her still less attractive than she had
been, and perceived that bodily weakness had extended to her mind, and
often and often forced tears from her eyes and momentary complainings,
he trembled lest Eleanor should find still more to dislike and reprove;
and often his heart bled as Ellen would ask with tears, for her dear
mamma, adding, plaintively, "Mamma never kisses me or loves me as she
does Edward; but I like to be near her, and look at her dear beautiful
face, and wish I was good and pretty enough for her to love me. Why does
she never come to me?--and why may I not go to her?"

And what could the colonel reply, except that her mother feared Edward
would take the infection, and therefore she was obliged to go with him
to some place of safety? And his child was satisfied, repeating so
fondly her delight that her dear, dear Edward had been saved from being
as ill as she was, that her father clasped her closer and closer to his
heart, feeling the intrinsic beauty of a disposition that, instead of
repining that she was left alone to suffer, could rejoice that her
brother had been spared.

Colonel Fortescue obtained a few weeks' leave, that he might take his
child to the sea-side as recommended, ere she joined her mother. And
alone with him, gradually regaining a moderate degree of strength, Ellen
was very happy; but such bright intervals were indeed few and far
between. There was no change in her mother's conduct toward her, when
reunited. Her heart had, indeed, risen to her lips as she again beheld
the child so nearly lost; and had she followed impulse, she would have
clasped her in her arms and wept over her, but that would have seemed
tacitly to acknowledge that she had been wrong, and had suffered from
it; and so she refrained, causing suffering to herself, anguish to her
child, and pain to her husband, all from that fell demon, pride. She
only chose to remember that it was Ellen who had been the cause of her
husband's anger--Ellen, the constant subject of contention between
them--Ellen, always causing the pang of self-reproach: and so how was it
possible that she could love her?

About a year after Ellen's dangerous illness, when she was nearly ten,
and Edward just eleven, Colonel Fortescue was ordered to take command of
some troops to be stationed at a fort, whose vicinity to some hostile
natives rendered it rather a post of danger. The wives and children of
the officers were permitted to accompany them, if they wished it, and,
except in the colonel's own family, there had been no hesitation in
their choice. The colonel was strangely and painfully depressed as with
some vague dread, and all his affection for his wife had returned with
such force as to make him shrink in unusual suffering from the idea of
leaving her; and conquering reluctance, for he felt as if she would not
accede, he implored her to accompany him, confessing he felt ill and
unhappy, and shrank from a separation. His wife looked at him with
astonishment; he had never asked nor thought of such a thing before, she
said, in their many brief partings, and she really could not understand
him. The place was decidedly unhealthy, and Edward must not be exposed
to its malaria; besides which, she had promised him to go to a juvenile
ball, which was given by an English family of rank, in a fortnight's
time, and she could not possibly disappoint him; and why her husband
should wish for her in such a place she could not imagine, but she knew
she should die of terror before she had been there a week. Not a word
did the colonel utter in reply, but he felt as if an ice-bolt had struck
his heart and frozen it at once. He fixed his eyes upon her, with a
strange, sad, reproaching look, which haunted her till her death, and
turning from her, sought the room where Ellen was preparing her lessons
for the joyful hour when he could attend to her. As she sprung toward
him with a cry of glee, he clasped her to his bosom, without the power
of uttering a sound, save a groan so deep and hollow, that the child's
unusual glee was checked, and she clung to him in terror; and when he
could tell her that he was about to leave her, and for an indefinite
time, her passionate grief seemed almost to comfort him, by its strong
evidence of her childish love.

"Let me go with you, papa, dear papa! oh! I will be so good--I will not
give you any trouble, indeed, indeed I will not. Pray, pray, take me
with you, dear, dear papa?" And she looked in his face so beseechingly,
that the colonel had no strength to resist, and fondly kissing her, he
promised that if Mrs. Cameron would permit her to join her little
family, she should go with him: and, to Ellen's intense thankfulness,
the permission was willingly accorded.

Mrs. Fortescue had indeed replied, when her husband briefly imparted his
intention, that he certainly must intend Ellen to be ill again, by
exposing her to such an unhealthy climate; and that if she were, he
must not be angry if she refused to go and nurse her, as it would be all
his weak indulgence, and no fault of hers. The colonel made no answer,
and irritated beyond measure at his manner, Eleanor parted from her
husband in coldness and in pride.

The fortnight passed, and Mrs. Fortescue felt as if her own youth were
indeed renewed, the longings for universal admiration again her own; but
now it was only for her son, and her triumph was complete; many and
lovely were the youthful beings called together on that festive night,
seeming as if England had concentrated her fairest and purest offspring
in that far distant land; but Edward, and his still lovely mother,
outshone them all. That she was herself admired as much, if not more,
than she had ever been in her palmy days of triumph, Eleanor scarcely
knew; her every feeling was centered in her boy, and consequently the
supercilious haughtiness which had so often marred her beauty in former
days was entirely laid aside, and maternal pride and pleasure gratified
to the utmost, added a new charm to her every movement and every word.
She heard the universal burst of admiration which greeted her, as to
oblige Edward she went through a quadrille with him, and never in her
whole career had she felt so triumphant, so proud, so joyous. During the
past fortnight she had often been tormented by self-reproach, and her
husband's look had disagreeably haunted her; but this night not a
fleeting thought of either the colonel or Ellen entered her mind, and
her pleasure was complete.

Tired with dancing, and rather oppressed with the heat, Eleanor quitted
the crowded ball-room, and stood for a few minutes quite alone in a
solitary part of the verandah, which, covered with lovely flowers, ran
round the house. The music in the ball-room sounded in the distance as
if borne by the night breeze in softened harmony over the distant hills.
The moon was at the full, and lit up nearly the whole garden with the
refulgence of a milder day. At that moment a cold chill crept over the
heart and frame of Eleanor, causing her breath to come thick and
gaspingly. Why, she knew not, for there was nothing visible to cause it,
save that, in one part of the garden, a cluster of dark shrubs, only
partly illuminated by the rays of the moon, seemed suddenly to have
assumed the shape of a funeral bier, covered with a military pall. At
the same moment the music in the ball-room seemed changed to the low
wailing plaint and muffled drums, the military homage to some mighty
dead. And if it were indeed but excited fancy, it had a strange effect,
for Eleanor fainted on the marble floor.

That same afternoon Colonel Fortescue, with some picked men, had set off
to discover the track of some marauding natives, who for some days had
been observed hovering about the neighborhood. Military ardor carried
him farther than he intended, and it was nearly night, when entering a
narrow defile, a large body of the enemy burst upon them, and a
desperate contest ensued. The defile was so hemmed in with rock and
mountain, that though not very distant from the fort, the noise of the
engagement had not been distinguished. Captain Cameron was quietly
sitting with his wife and elder children, awaiting without any
forebodings the return of the colonel. Though it was late, Ellen's fears
had been so visible, that Mrs. Cameron could not send her to bed; the
child seemed so restless and uneasy that the captain had tried to laugh
her out of her cowardice, as he called it, declaring that her father
would disown her if she could not be more brave. Hasty footsteps were at
length heard approaching, and Ellen started from her seat and sprung
forward, as the door opened; but it was not the colonel, only a
sergeant, who had accompanied him, and whose face caused Captain Cameron
to exclaim, in alarm, "How now, Sergeant Allen, returned, and alone;
what has chanced?"

"The worst those brown devils could have done!" was the energetic reply.
"We've beaten them, and we will beat them again, the villains! but that
will not bring _him_ back--captain--captain--the colonel's down!"

The captain started from his chair, but before he could frame another
word, Ellen had caught hold of the old man's arm, and wildly exclaimed,
"Do you mean--do you mean, pray tell me, Sergeant Allen!--Have the
natives met papa's troop, and have they fought?--and--is he hurt--is he
killed?" The man could not answer her--for her look and tone, he
afterward declared to his comrades, went through his heart, just for all
the world like a saber cut; and for the moment neither Captain nor Mrs.
Cameron could address her. The shock seemed to have banished voice from
all, save from the poor child principally concerned.

"Stay with me, my dear Ellen!" Mrs. Cameron at length said, advancing to
her, as she stood still clinging to the sergeant's arm: "the captain
will go and meet your father, and if he be wounded, we will nurse him
together, dearest! Stay with me."

"No, no, no!" was the agonized reply; "let me go to him, he may die
before they bring him here, and I shall never feel his kiss or hear him
bless me again. He told me he should fall in battle--oh! Mrs. Cameron,
pray let me go to him?"

And they who knew all which that father was to his poor Ellen, could not
resist that appeal. The sergeant said the colonel was not dead, but so
mortally wounded they feared to move him. It was a fearful scene. Death
in its most horrid form was all around her; her little feet were
literally deluged in blood, and she frequently stumbled over the dusky
forms and mangled and severed limbs that lay on the grass, but neither
sob nor cry escaped her till she beheld her father. His men had removed
him from the immediate scene of slaughter, and tried to form a rough
pallet of military cloaks, but the ghastly countenance, which the moon's
light rendered still more fixed and pallid, the rigidity of his limbs,
all seemed to denote they had indeed arrived too late, and that terrible
stillness was broken by the convulsed and passionate sobs of the poor
child, who, flinging herself beside him, besought him only to open his
eyes, to look upon her once more, to call her his darling, and kiss her
once, only once again: and it seemed as if her voice had indeed power to
recall the fluttering soul. The heavy eyes did unclose, the clenched
hand relaxed to try and clasp his child, and he murmured feebly--

"How came you here, my poor darling Ellen? are friends here?--is that
Cameron's voice?" The captain knelt down by him and convulsively pressed
his hand, but he could not speak.

"God bless you, Cameron! Take my poor child to her mother--implore
her--to--and it is to-night, this very night--she and my boy are
happy--and I--and my poor Ellen--" A fearful convulsion choked his
voice, but after a little while he tried to speak again--

"My poor child, I have prepared you for this; but I know you must grieve
for me. Take my blessing to your brother, tell him to protect--love your
mother, darling! she must love you at last--a ring--my left hand--take
it to her--oh! how I have loved her--God have mercy on her--on my poor
children!" He tried to press his lips again on Ellen's cheek and brow,
but the effort was vain--and at the very moment Mrs. Fortescue had
stood transfixed by some unknown terror, her husband ceased to breathe.

It was long before Ellen rallied from that terrible scene. Even when the
fever which followed subsided, and she had been taken, apparently
perfectly restored to health, once more to her mother and brother, its
recollection so haunted her, that her many lonely hours became fraught
with intense suffering. Her imagination, already only too morbid, dwelt
again and again upon the minutest particular of that field of horror;
not only her father, but the objects which, when her whole heart was
wrapped in him, she seemed not even to have seen. The ghastly heaps of
dead, the severed limbs, the mangled trunks, the gleaming faces all
fixed in the distorted expressions with which they died--the very hollow
groans and louder cry of pain which, as she passed through the field,
had fallen on her ear unheeded, returned to the poor child's too early
awakened fancy so vividly, that often and often it was only a powerful
though almost unconscious effort that prevented the scream of fear. Her
father's last words were never forgotten; she would not only continue to
love her mother because he had desired her to do so, but because _he had
so loved her_, and on her first return home this seemed easier than ever
to accomplish. Mrs. Fortescue, tortured by remorse and grief, had
somewhat softened toward the child who had received the last breath of
her husband; and could Ellen have overcome the reserve and fear which so
many years of estrangement had engendered, and given vent to the warmth
of her nature, Mrs. Fortescue might have learned to know, and knowing,
to love her--but it was then too late.

So torturing were Mrs. Fortescue's feelings when she recalled the last
request of her husband, and her cruel and haughty refusal; when that
which had seemed so important, a juvenile ball--because not to go would
disappoint Edward--became associated with his fearful death, and sunk
into worse than nothing--she had parted with him in anger, and it proved
forever;--that even as England had become odious to her, twelve years
before, so did India now; and she suddenly resolved to quit it, and
return to the relatives she had neglected so long, but toward whom she
now yearned more than ever. She thought and believed such a complete
change would and must bring peace. Alas! what change will remove the
torture of remorse?

Though incapable of real love, from her studied heartlessness, it was
impossible for her to have lived twelve years with one so indulgent and
fond as Colonel Fortescue, without realizing some degree of affection,
and his unexpected and awful death roused every previously dormant
feeling so powerfully, that she was astonished at herself, and in her
misery believed that the feeling had only come, to add to her
burden--for what was the use of loving now? and determined to rouse
herself, she made every preparation for immediate departure, but she was
painfully arrested. The selfish mother had fled from the couch of her
suffering child, and now a variation of the same complaint laid her on a
bed of pain. It was a desperate struggle between life and death; but she
rallied, and insisted on taking her passage for England some weeks
before her medical attendant thought it advisable. The constant struggle
between the whisperings of good and the dominion of evil, which her
whole life had been, had unconsciously undermined a constitution
naturally good; and when to this was added a malignant disease, though
brief in itself, the seeds of a mortal complaint were planted, which,
ere the long voyage was concluded, had obtained fatal and irremediable
ascendency, and occasioned those sufferings and death which in our first
chapters we described.

To Edward, though the death of his father had caused him much childish
grief, still more perhaps from sympathy with the deep suffering of his
mother, than a perfect consciousness of his own heavy loss, the _manner_
in which he died was to him a source of actual pride. He had always
loved the histories of heroes, military and naval, and gloried in the
idea that his father had been one of them, and died as they did, bravely
fighting against superior numbers, and in the moment of a glorious
victory. He had never seen death, and imagined not all the attendant
horrors of such a one; and how that Ellen could never even hear the word
without shuddering he could not understand, nor why she should always so
painfully shrink from the remotest reference to that night, which was
only associated in his mind with emotions of pleasure. In the tedious
voyage of nearly six months (for five-and-twenty years ago the voyage
from India to England was not what it is now), the character of Edward
shone forth in such noble coloring as almost to excuse his mother's
idolatry, and win for him the regard of passengers and crew. Captain
Cameron had impressed on his mind that he now stood in his father's
place to his mother and sister; and as the idea of protecting is always
a strong incentive to manliness in a boy, however youthful, Edward well
redeemed the charge, so devoting himself not only to his mother, but to
Ellen, that her affection for him redoubled, as did her mistaken idea of
his vast superiority.

His taste had always pointed to the naval in preference to the military
profession, and the voyage confirmed it. Before he had been a month on
board he had become practically an expert sailor--had learned all the
technical names of the various parts of a ship, and evinced the most
eager desire for the acquirement of navigation. Nor did he fail in the
true sailor spirit, when, almost within sight of England, a tremendous
storm arose, reducing the vessel almost to a wreck, carrying her far
from her destined moorings, and compelling her, after ten days' doubt
whether or not she would reach land in safety, to anchor in Milford
Haven, there to repair her injuries, ere she could be again seaworthy.

The passengers here left her, and Mrs. Fortescue, whose illness the
terrors of the storm had most alarmingly increased, was conveyed to
Pembroke in an almost exhausted state; but once on land she rallied,
resolved on instantly proceeding to Swansea, then cross to Devonshire,
and travel direct to Oakwood, where she had no doubt her sister was. But
her temper was destined to be tried still more. The servant who had
accompanied her from India, an Englishwoman, tired out with the fretful
impatience of Mrs. Fortescue during the voyage, and disappointed that
she did not at once proceed to London, demanded her instant discharge,
as she could not stay any longer from her friends. The visible illness
of her mistress might have spared this unfeeling act, but Eleanor had
never shown feeling or kindness to her inferiors, and therefore,
perhaps, had no right to expect them. Her suppressed anger and annoyance
so increased physical suffering, that had it not been for her children
she must have sunk at once; but for their sakes she struggled with that
deadly exhaustion, and set off the very next morning, without any
attendant, for Swansea. They were not above thirty miles from this town
when, despite her every effort, Mrs. Fortescue became too ill to
proceed. There was no appearance of a town or village, but the owners of
a half-way house, pitying the desolate condition of the travelers,
directed the postboy to the village of Llangwillan; which, though out of
the direct road and four or five miles distant, was yet the nearest
place of shelter. And never in her whole life had Mrs. Fortescue
experienced such a blessed sensation of physical relief, as when the
benevolent exertions of Mr. Myrvin had installed her in widow Morgan's
humble dwelling, and by means of soothing medicine and deep repose in
some degree relieved the torture of a burning brain and aching frame.
Still she hoped to rally, and obtain strength sufficient to proceed; and
bitter was the anguish when the hope was compelled to be
relinquished.--With all that followed, our readers are already
acquainted, and we will, therefore, at once seek the acquaintance of
Mrs. Hamilton's own family, whose "Traits of Character" will, we hope,
illustrate other and happier home influences than those of indiscreet
indulgence and culpable neglect.



PART II.

TRAITS OF CHARACTER.



CHAPTER I.

YOUTHFUL COLLOQUY--INTRODUCING CHARACTER


The curtains were drawn close, the large lamp was on the table, and a
cheerful fire blazing in the grate; for though only September, the room
was sufficiently large, and the evenings sufficiently chill, for a fire
to add greatly to its aspect of true English comfort. There were many
admirable pictures suspended on the walls, and well-filled book-cases,
desks, and maps, stands of beautiful flowers, and some ingenious toys,
all seeming to proclaim the apartment as the especial possession of the
young party who were this evening busily engaged at the large round
table which occupied the centre of the room. They were only four in
number, but what with a large desk piled with books and some most
alarming-sized dictionaries, which occupied the elder of the two lads,
the embroidery frame of the elder girl, the dissected map before her
sister, and two or three books scattered round the younger boy, the
table seemed so well filled that Miss Harcourt had quietly ensconced
herself in her own private little corner, sufficiently near to take an
interest, and sometimes join in the conversation of her youthful charge;
but so apart as to be no restraint upon them, and to enable her to
pursue her own occupations of either reading, writing, or working
uninterruptedly. Could poor Mrs. Fortescue have glanced on the happy
group, she certainly might have told her sister, with some show of
justice, that there was such an equal distribution of interesting and
animated expression (which is the great beauty of youth), that she could
not have known the trial of having such a heavy, dull, unhappy child as
Ellen. Mrs. Hamilton, indeed, we rather think, would not have considered
such a trial, except as it proved ill-health and physical pain in the
little sufferer; and, perhaps her increased care and tenderness (for
such with her would have been the consequence of the same cause which
had created her sister's neglect) might have removed both the depression
of constant but impalpable illness, and the expression of heaviness and
gloom. Certain it is, that her own Herbert had, with regard to delicate
health, given her more real and constant anxiety than Eleanor had ever
allowed herself to experience with Ellen; but there was nothing in the
boy's peculiarly interesting countenance to denote the physical
suffering he very often endured. Care and love had so surrounded his
path with blessings, that he was often heard to declare, that he never
even wished to be as strong as his brother, or to share his active
pleasures, he had so many others equally delightful. Whether it was his
physical temperament, inducing a habitude of reflection and studious
thought much beyond his years, or whether the unusually gifted mind
worked on the frame, or the one combined to form the other, it would be
as impossible to decide with regard to him as with hundreds of others
like him; but he certainly seemed, not only to his parents, but to their
whole household, and to every one who casually associated with him, to
have more in him of heaven than earth; as if indeed he were only lent,
not given. And often, and often his mother's heart ached with its very
intensity of love, causing the unspoken dread--how might she hope to
retain one so faultless, and yet so full of every human sympathy and
love! The delicate complexion, beautiful color of his cheeks and lips,
and large soft, very dark blue eye, with its long black lash, high,
arched brow, shaded by glossy chestnut hair, were all so lit up with the
rays of mind, that though his face returned again and again to the fancy
of those who had only once beheld it, they could scarcely have recalled
a single feature, feeling only the almost angelic expression of the
whole.

His brother, as full of mirth and mischief, and as noisy and
laughter-loving as Herbert was quiet and thoughtful, made his way at
once, winning regard by storm, and retaining it by his frank and
generous qualities, which made him a favorite with young and old. Even
in his hours of study, there was not the least evidence of reflection or
soberness. As a child he had had much to contend with, in the way of
passion, pride, and self-will; but his home influence had been such a
judicious blending of indulgence and firmness on the part of both his
parents, such a persevering inculcation of a strong sense of duty,
religious and moral, that at fifteen his difficulties had been all
nearly overcome; and, except when occasional acts of thoughtlessness and
hasty impulse lured him into error and its painful consequences, he was
as happy and as good a lad as even his anxious mother could desire.

The elder of his two sisters resembled him in the bright, dark, flashing
eye, the straight intellectual brow, the rich dark brown hair and
well-formed mouth; but the expression was so different at present, that
it was often difficult to trace the likeness that actually existed.
Haughtiness, and but too often ill-temper, threw a shade over a
countenance, which when happy and animated was not only attractive then,
but gave a fair promise of great beauty in after years. The disposition
of Caroline Hamilton was in fact naturally so similar to that of her
aunt, Mrs. Fortescue, that Mrs. Hamilton's task with her was not only
more difficult and painful in the present than with any of the others,
but her dread of the future at times so overpowering, that it required
all her husband's influence to calm her, by returning trust in Him, who
had promised to answer all who called upon Him, and would bless that
mother's toils which were based on, and looked up alone, to His
influence on her child, and guidance for herself.

The blue-eyed, fair-haired, graceful, little Emmeline, not only the
youngest of the family, but, from her slight figure, delicate, small
features, and childish manner, appearing even much younger than she was,
was indeed a source of joy and love to all, seeming as if sorrow, except
for others, could not approach her. She had indeed much that required a
carefully guiding hand, in a yielding weakness of disposition, indolent
habit in learning, an unrestrained fancy, and its general accompaniment,
over-sensitiveness of feeling, but so easily guided by affection, and
with a disposition so sweet and gentle, that a word from her mother was
always enough. Mrs. Hamilton had little fears for her, except, indeed,
as for the vast capability of individual suffering which such a
disposition engendered, in those trials which it was scarcely possible
she might hope to pass through life without. There was only one
safeguard, one unfailing comfort, for a character like hers, and that
was a deep ever-present sense of religion, which untiringly, and yet
more by example than by precept, her parents endeavored to instill.
Greatly, indeed, would both Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton have been astonished,
had they been told that the little girl, Ellen Fortescue, who to both
was such an enigma, and who was seemingly in all things so utterly
unlike their Emmeline, was in natural disposition _exactly the same_;
and that the vast difference in present and future character simply
arose from the fact, that the early influences of the one were sorrow
and neglect, and of the other, happiness and love.

"I wonder whether mamma and papa will really come home to-night;"
observed Caroline, after several minutes of unbroken silence, all
seemingly so engrossed in their own occupations as to have no
inclination to speak. "And if they do, I wish we could know the exact
time, I do so hate expecting and being disappointed."

"Then neither wonder nor expect, my sage sister," replied Percy,
without, however, raising his head or interrupting his writing; "and I
will give you two capital reasons for my advice. Firstly, wonder is the
offspring of ignorance, and has two opposite effects on my sex and on
yours. With us it is closely connected with philosophy, for we are told
in 'wonder all philosophy begins, in wonder it ends, and adoration fills
up the interspace;' but with you, poor weak creatures, the only effect
it produces is increased curiosity, of which you have naturally a more
than adequate supply. Secondly, if you begin to wonder and expect, and
speculate as to the ayes and noes of a contingency to-night, you will
not cease talking till mamma really does appear; and then good-by to my
theme, for to write while your tongue is running, is impossible. So
pray, take my advice, on consideration that you have had as good a
sermon from me as my reverend brother Herbert can ever hope to give."

"I do not think mamma and papa will be quite satisfied if he do not give
us a much better one, even the very first time he attempts it;" rejoined
Emmeline, with a very arch look at her brother.

"What, you against me, Miss Emmy! and beginning to talk too. You forget
what an important personage I am, during papa's absence especially; and
that as such, I am not to be insulted with impunity. So here goes--as a
fresh exercise for your patience!" And he mingled all the fixed and
unfixed parts of her map in most bewildering confusion, regardless of
her laughing entreaty to let them alone.

"You have tried a very bad way to keep me quiet, Percy," continued
Caroline; "you must either explain why wonder may not equally have the
same good effect on us as on you, or retract your words entirely. You
know you would not have expressed such a contemptuous opinion, if mamma
had been present."

"My mother is such a very superior person, that when she is present her
superiority extends over her whole sex, Caroline; even you are safe,
because, as her child, it is to be hoped that one of these days you may
be something like her: exactly, I do not expect--two such woman as my
mother can not exist."

"As if your opinion were of such importance, Percy," replied Caroline
haughtily; "it really is very little consequence to me whether you think
me like mamma or not."

"It is to me, though," rejoined Emmeline, earnestly; "I would rather be
like mamma than like any body else, and I should like Percy to think I
was, because then he would love me still more."

"Bravo, my little Em.; spoken almost as well as I could myself, and, as
a reward, as soon as this most annoying piece of erudition is
accomplished, I will help you with your map why, you silly little thing,
you have put Kamschatka as the terra firma of South America; no doubt
that ice and snow would be very welcome there, but how the Americans
would stare to see the fur-clad Kamschatkans such near neighbors. That's
it, go on, puzzle away till I can help you. And you Miss Caroline,
retain your contempt of my opinion, and may you never repent it."

"I thought you told me not to talk, Percy," replied his sister; "and I
should like to know who is talking the most, you or I? You will not
finish what you are doing before the bell rings for prayers, if you go
on in this way."

"That proves how little you know the extent of my powers. I have only to
make a clean copy of these learned reflections. Why, in the name of all
the gods, were there such provokingly clever people as Seneca, Cicero,
Pliny, and a host of others! or, if they must be wise, why did they not
burn all the written wisdom, instead of leaving it as a means of torture
in the hands of learned pedagogues, yclept schoolmasters, and as a curse
on those poor unfortunates whose noddles are not wise enough to contain
it."

"I should be very sorry if all the ancient authors were thus
annihilated," observed Herbert, looking up from his book with a bright
smile. "I should lose a great deal of enjoyment even now, and still more
by-and-by, when I know more."

"Ay, but my dear fellow, your head is not quite so like a sieve as mine.
Yours receives, contains, digests, and sends forth the matter improved
by your own ideas; but as for mine, the matter undoubtedly enters, but
runs out again, and only leaves behind that which is too large and gross
to pass through. No, no, Bertie, your head and mine are not related even
in the twentieth degree of consanguinity, however nearly connected their
masters may be. Hush! not a word; I have only one line more; what a wise
man that was to be sure, who said 'Otiosum esse quam nihil
agere'--better to be idle than doing nothing. Don't shake your head and
laugh, Emmy. Vale: never did I say good-by so willingly. Hurrah! mamma
and papa may come home when they like now. Cast your eyes over it
Herbert; just tell me if it look correct, and then vale books--vale
pens--vale desk for to-night!" He placed his writing on his brother's
open bunk, threw his dictionary and grammar high in air, and dexterously
caught them as they fell, piled up his books, closed his desk, and then,
with a comical sigh of relief, flung himself full length on a sofa.

"Now that you have finished your task, Percy, perhaps you will have the
kindness to inform us why at this time of the evening you have been
writing Latin?" inquired Caroline.

"And open my wound afresh! However, it is quite right that Miss Harcourt
should know that, if I am ill from over-study to-morrow, it is her
doing."

"Mine!" answered Miss Harcourt, laughing; "pray explain yourself, young
man, for I am so perfectly innocent as not even to understand you."

"Did you not this morning give me a message to Lady Helen Grahame?"

"I did; you passed her house on your way to Mr. Howard's."

"Well, then, if you had not given me the message, much as I felt
disinclined to pore over musty books and foolscap paper, from the
extreme loveliness of the morning, I should have nerved myself to go
straight on to the Rectory. Lady Helen was not visible, so I tarried,
believing your message of vital importance, and Annie came to
me--by-the-by, what a little woman that child is; Emmeline, you are a
baby to her. I wonder she condescends to associate with you."

"I do not think she is at all fond of me--Caroline is her friend,"
replied Emmeline; "but what can Annie have to do with your Latin?"

"A great deal--for she talked and we walked, and time walked too, and by
the time I had seen Lady Helen, it was two hours later than I ought to
have been with Mr. Howard. On I went, feeling not particularly
comfortable; but though it is clear logic that if Miss Harcourt had not
sent me to Lady Helen's I should not have been led into temptation, I
was magnanimous enough not to mention her, but to lay the whole blame of
my non-appearance, on my own disinclination for any study but that of
nature. Mr. Howard looked grave and sorrowful--I wish to heaven he was
more like any other schoolmaster; that look and tone of his are worse
than any rod!--and to redeem my lost time in the morning, I was desired
to write a Latin theme on a letter of Pliny's this evening. And now that
I have satisfied all your inquiries, please satisfy mine. Is there any
chance of mamma's coming home to-night?"

"Every probability," replied Miss Harcourt. "It only depends on your
cousin, who is so very delicate, that if she were too fatigued, Mr.
Hamilton would remain at Exeter to-night, and proceed here early
to-morrow."

"Well, my little cousin, though I have not the pleasure of knowing you,
I hope you will be so kind as to let mamma come on to-night, for we have
been too long without her, and I long to resign to papa his robes of
office, for they sit mightily like borrowed plumes upon me. Mamma writes
of Ellen and Edward--I wonder what they are like! Come, Tiny, paint them
for me--your fertile fancy generally fills up the shadow of a name."

"I can not, Percy, for I am afraid my pictures would not be agreeable."

"Not agreeable!" repeated Percy and Miss Harcourt together. "Why not?"

Emmeline hesitated, then answered ingenuously, "We are so very, very
happy together, that I do not feel quite sure that I am glad my cousins
are going to live with us."

"What! are you afraid I shall love Ellen more than you, Emmy?" exclaimed
her brother, starting up and sitting on her chair; "do not be alarmed,
Tiny; no cousin shall take your place."

"Indeed I am not afraid of that, Percy, dear," she replied, looking so
fondly in his face, that he gave her a hearty kiss. "I can not tell why
I should feel half sorry that they are coming, but I am quite sure I
will do all I can to make them happy."

"You could not do otherwise if you were to try, Tiny. Come, Caroline,
what say you? We have all been thinking about them, so we may as well
give each other the benefit of our thoughts."

"Suppose I do not feel inclined to do so?"

"Why we must all believe you are ashamed of them," replied Percy
quickly, "and if you are, I know who has made you so. I would lay any
wager, the whole time you have been with Lady Helen Grahame, since mamma
has been away, she has been talking of nothing else--look, look, she is
blushing--I am right."

"And if she did," replied Caroline, very much provoked, "she said
nothing that I am ashamed of repeating. She knew my aunt before she went
to India, and I am sure if her children are like her, they will be no
agreeable additions to our family."

"Bravo, Caroline! you really are an apt pupil; Lady Helen's words and
manner completely! but you may have one comfort; children are not always
like their parents, and if they are as unlike Lady Helen's description
of my poor aunt (which by the way she had no right to give, nor you to
listen to) as you are at this moment unlike mamma, we shall get on
capitally, and need have no fears about them."

"Percy you are intolerably disagreeable!"

"Because I speak the sad, sober truth? Caroline, do pray, get rid of
that dawning ill temper, before mamma comes; it will not be a pleasant
welcome home."

"I am not ill-tempered, Percy: I suppose I may have my own opinion of
Ellen and Edward, as well as all of you," replied his sister angrily.

"But do not let it be an unkind one, without knowing them, dear
Caroline," observed Herbert gently; "it is so very difficult to get rid
of a prejudice when once it has entered our minds, even when we know and
feel that it is a wrong one. I am sure if we only thought how sad it is
that they have neither father nor mother to love them, and are coming
all among strangers--born in a strange land too--we should find quite
enough to think kindly about, and leave all wonder as to what they will
be like, till we know them. I dare say we shall often have to bear and
forbear, but that we have to do with each other, and it will only be one
brother and sister more."

"Brother and sister! I am sure I shall not think of them so, Herbert,
however you may. My father might have been a nobleman, and who knows any
thing of theirs?"

"Caroline, how can you be so ridiculous!" exclaimed Percy, with a most
provoking fit of laughter. "Their father served and died for his
king--as our grandfather did; and had he lived might have been offered a
title too--and their mother--really I think you are very insulting to
mamma: her sister's children I should imagine quite as high in rank as
ourselves!"

"And even if they were not--what would it signify?" rejoined Herbert.
"Dear Caroline, pray do not talk or think so; it makes me feel so sorry,
for I know how wrong it is--we might have been in their place."

"I really can not fancy any thing so utterly impossible," interrupted
Caroline, "so you may spare the supposition, Herbert."

"It is no use, Bertie; you must bring the antipodes together, before you
and Caroline will think alike," interposed Percy, perceiving with regret
the expression of pain on his brother's face, and always ready to guard
him either from physical or mental suffering, feeling instinctively
that, from his extraordinary mind and vivid sense of duty, he was liable
to the latter, from many causes which other natures would pass
unnoticed.

Miss Harcourt did not join the conversation. It had always been Mrs.
Hamilton's wish that in their intercourse with each other, her children
should be as unrestrained as if they had been alone. Had Caroline's
sentiments received encouragement, she would have interfered; but the
raillery of Percy and the earnestness of Herbert, she knew were more
likely to produce an effect than any thing like a rebuke from herself,
which would only have caused restraint before her in future. It was
through this perfect unrestraint that Mrs. Hamilton had become so
thoroughly acquainted with the several characters of her children. That
Caroline's sentiments caused her often real pain was true, but it was
far better to know them, and endeavor to correct and remove them, by
causing education to bear upon the faults they revealed, than to find
them concealed from her by the constant fear of words of reproof.

To remove Herbert's unusual seriousness, Percy continued, laughingly--

"Miss Harcourt, what are your thoughts on this momentous subject? It is
no use asking Herbert's, we all know them without his telling us; but
you are almost the principally concerned of the present party, for Ellen
will bring you the trouble of another pupil."

"I shall not regret it, Percy; but only shall rejoice if I can in any
way lessen your mother's increased charge. As for what your cousins will
be like, I candidly tell you, I have scarcely thought about it. I have
no doubt we shall find them strange and shy at first; but we must do all
we can to make them feel they are no strangers."

"And now, then, it only remains for the right honorable me to speak; and
really Emmy and Herbert and you have told my story, and left me nothing.
I do not know whether I am pleased or not, but I am very sorry for them;
and it will be capital if this Master Edward turns out a lad of spirit
and mischief, and not over-learned or too fond of study--one, in fact,
that I can associate with, without feeling such a painful sensation of
inferiority as I do when in company with my right reverend brother."

"Dear Percy, do not call me reverend," said Herbert, appealingly: "I
feel it almost a mockery now, when I am so very far from being worthy to
become a clergyman."

"You are a good fellow, Bertie; and I will not tease you, if I can help
it--but really I do not mean it for mockery; you know, or ought to know,
that you are better now than half the clergymen who have taken orders,
and as much superior to me in goodness as in talent."

"Indeed I know no such thing, Percy; I am not nearly so strong in health
as you are, and am therefore, naturally more fond of quiet pleasures:
and as for talent, if you were as fond of application as of frolic, you
would leave me far behind."

"Wrong, Bertie, quite wrong! but think of yourself as you please, I know
what every body thinks of you. Hush! is that the sound of a carriage, or
only the wind making love to the old oaks?"

"The wind making love, Percy!" repeated Emmeline, laughing; "I neither
hear that, nor the carriage wheels kissing the ground."

"Well done, Tiny! my poetry is beaten hollow; but there--there--I am
sure it is a carriage!" and Percy bounded from the table so impetuously
as nearly to upset it, flung back the curtain, and looked eagerly from
the window.

Herbert closed his book to listen; Emmeline left her nearly-completed
map, and joined Percy; Caroline evidently tried to resume serenity, but,
too proud to evince it, industriously pursued her work, breaking the
thread almost every time that she drew out the needle.

"It is nothing, Percy; how could you disappoint us so?" said Herbert, in
a tone of regret.

"My good fellow, you must be deaf--listen! nearer and louder--and, look
there, Emmeline, through those trees, don't you see something
glimmering? that must be the lamp of the carriage."

"Nonsense, Percy, it is a glowworm."

"A glowworm! why, Em., the thought of seeing mamma has blinded you. What
glowworm ever came so steadily forward? No! there is no mistake now.
Hurrah, it is the carriage; here Robert, Morris, Ellis, all of you to
the hall! to the hall! The carriage is coming down the avenue." And with
noisy impatience, the young gentleman ran into the hall, assembled all
the servants he had named, and others too, all eager to welcome the
travelers; flung wide back the massive door, and he and Herbert both
were on the steps several minutes before the carriage came in sight.



CHAPTER II.

THREE ENGLISH HOMES, AND THEIR INMATES.


If more than the preceding conversation were needed to reveal the
confidence and love with which Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton were regarded by
their children, the delight, the unrestrained expressions of affection,
with which by every one of the young party they were received, would
have evinced it still more clearly. Herbert was very speedily on his
favorite seat, a low stool at his mother's feet. Emmeline, for that one
half hour at least, assumed her still unresigned privilege, as the
youngest and tiniest, to quietly slip in her lap; Percy was talking to
his father, making Edward perfectly at home, saying many kind words to
Ellen, and caressing his mother, all almost at the same moment. Caroline
was close to her father, with her arm round his neck; and Miss Harcourt
was kindly disrobing Ellen from her many wraps, and making her lie
quietly on a sofa near her aunt; who, even in that moment of delightful
reunion with her own, had yet time and thought, by a few judicious
words, to remove the undefinable, but painful sensation of loneliness,
which was creeping over the poor child as she gazed on her bright,
happy-looking cousins; and thought if to her own mother Edward's beauty
and happiness had made him so much more beloved than herself, what claim
could she have on her aunt? Ellen could not have said that such were the
thoughts that filled her eyes with tears, and made her heart so heavy;
she only knew that much as she had loved her aunt during the journey,
her kiss and kind words at that moment made her love her more than ever.

Never had there been a happier meal at Oakwood than the substantial tea
which was speedily ready for the travelers. So much was there to hear
and tell: Percy's wild sallies; Caroline's animated replies (she had now
quite recovered her temper); Herbert's gentle care of Ellen, by whom he
had stationed himself (even giving up to her his usual seat by his
mother); Emmeline's half shy, half eager, efforts to talk to her
cousins; Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton's earnest interest, all combined, long
before the meal was concluded, to make Edward feel perfectly at his
ease, and very happy, and greatly to remove Ellen's unacknowledged
dread. The time passed so quickly, that there was a general start when
the prayer bell sounded, though it was nearly two hours after the usual
time.

"Are you prepared for to-night, my boy?" Mr. Hamilton asked of Herbert,
as they rose to adjourn to the library, where, morning and evening, it
had been the custom of the Hamilton family for many generations, to
assemble their whole household for family devotion.

"Yes, papa; I was not quite sure whether you would arrive to-night."

"Then I will not resume my office till to-morrow, Herbert, that I may
have the gratification of hearing you officiate," replied his father,
linking his son's arm in his, and affectionately glancing on the bright
blush that rose to the boy's cheek.

There was a peculiar sweetness in Herbert Hamilton's voice, even in
speaking; and as he read the service of the lessons for the evening,
adding one or two brief explanations when necessary, and more especially
when reading, or rather praying, the beautiful petitions appropriated
to family worship, there was an earnest solemnity of tone and manner,
presenting a strange contrast, yet beautiful, combining with the boyish
form and youthful face, on which the lamp, suspended over the
reading-desk shed such a soft and holy light. The occasional prayer
which was added to the usual evening service, was always chosen by the
reader; and Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton were surprised and affected at the
earnestness with which their almost angel boy selected and read over one
peculiarly bearing on the events of that evening; the introduction of
their orphan relatives, for compassion and blessing on them, and grace
for increased kindness and forbearance in their intercourse with one
another--Miss Harcourt, his brother and sisters, knew well to what he
alluded, and all but one responded with earnestness and truth. Caroline
could not enter into Herbert's feelings even at that moment: it was a
great effort to prevent a feeling of irritation, believing that he
directly pointed at her, and determining that as neither he nor any one
else had any right to interfere with her private thoughts, and that they
could do harm to none while confined to her own breast, she resolved not
to overcome them, and so could not join with any fervor in the prayer.

To Edward all was strange. While the graces of his body and mind had
been most sedulously cultivated, he had never been taught even the
public ordinances of religion, much less its inward spirit. His mother
had often and often felt a pang of reproach, at thus neglecting that
which an inward voice would whisper was most essential; but she was wont
to silence the pang by the determined idea, that she was neither worthy
nor able to give him such solemn lessons, and that it would come by
instinct to him in after years. There was time enough for him to think
of such things. He had been now and then to church, but it was a mere
form, regarded as a weary duty, from which he escaped whenever he could.
The present scene, then, completely bewildered him. He had always
fancied himself superior to any of the boys he had associated with; but
as he looked at and listened to Herbert, who seemed at most only two
years older than himself, he became sensible of a very strange and
disagreeable, but a very decided feeling of inferiority: and then, too,
it was so incomprehensible the servants all joining them, a class of
people whom in India he had been taught so to consider his inferiors,
that even to speak with them was a species of degradation; and he was
destined to be still more surprised, for before they left the library,
he heard his aunt and uncle address them all, and say a few kind words,
and make inquiries after their families to each.

To Ellen that evening service recalled some of Mr. Myrvin's
instructions, and seemed to help her to realize those new thoughts and
feelings, which she had learned, for the first time, in Wales. Her
father had, indeed, the last year of his life tried to give her some
ideas of religion; but having only so very lately begun to think
seriously himself, he felt diffident and uncertain of his own powers,
and so left an impression more of awe toward the subject than of love,
which to a disposition such as Ellen's was unfortunate.

A very short time sufficed for Percy and Emmeline to introduce their
cousins to all the delights and mysteries of their dear old home: and
Oakwood Hall was really a place for imagination to revel in. It was a
large castelated mansion, fraught with both the associations of the
past, and the comforts of the present. The injuries which the original
mansion had received during the civil war of Charles I., had, when the
family returned at the Restoration, caused much of the old house to be
pulled down, and replaced with larger rooms, and greater conveniences
for a modern dwelling-house, retaining, however, quite sufficient of the
past to throw interest around it.

The wings were still flanked with turrets, which were Percy's and
Emmeline's delight; and the many stair-cases, leading into all sorts of
nooks and corners--and the small and most uncomfortable rooms, because
some of them happened to be hung with tapestry, and had those small
narrow windows sunk in deep recesses--were pronounced by both far more
enjoyable than the beautiful suite of rooms forming the center of the
mansion, and the dwelling of the family. These were only saved from
being disagreeably modern--Percy would declare--by their beautiful
richly-polished oaken panels, and by the recesses which the large
windows still formed, making almost a room by themselves. The hall, too,
with its superb sweep of staircase and broad carved oaken balustrade,
leading to a gallery above, which opened on the several sleeping
apartments, and thus permitting the full height of the mansion, from
base to roof, to be visible from the hall. Tho doors visible in the
gallery opened mostly on dressing-rooms, or private sitting-rooms, which
led to the large, airy sleeping-rooms, to which the servants had access
by back stair-cases leading from their hall; and so leaving the oaken
staircase and gallery entirely to the use of the family, and of many a
game of noisy play had that gallery been the scene. There had been a
beautiful little chapel adjoining the mansion, but it was mercilessly
burned to the ground by the infatuated Puritans, and never restored; the
venerable old church of the village henceforth serving the family of the
hall.

Situated on the banks of the Dart, whose serpentine windings gave it the
appearance of a succession of most lovely lakes, Nature had been so
lavish of her beauties in the garden and park, especially in the
magnificent growth of the superb oaks, from which the estate took its
name, that it was not much wonder Mrs. Hamilton, always an intense lover
of nature, should have become so attached to her home, as never to feel
the least inclination to leave it. She did not wish her girls to visit
London till a few months before Caroline was old enough to be
introduced, to give them then finishing masters; and to that time she of
course always looked, as demanding from her part of the year to be spent
in town. The career of Eleanor, the recollections of the frivolity and
error into which her own early youth had been thrown, had given her not
only a distaste, but an actual dread of London for her girls, till such
principles and associations had been instilled which would enable them
to pass through the ordeal of successive seasons without any change of
character or feeling. Her sons, since their tenth year, had more than
once accompanied their father to the metropolis; but though these visits
were always sources of enjoyment, especially to Percy, they never failed
to return with unabated affection to their home, and to declare there
was no place in England like it.

Mr. Hamilton, though in neither profession nor business, was far from
being an idle man. His own estate was sufficiently large, and contained
a sufficient number of dependents, for whose mortal and immortal welfare
he was responsible, to give him much employment; and in addition to
this, the home interests and various aspects of his country were so
strongly entwined with his very being--that, though always refusing to
enter Parliament, he was the prompter and encourager of many a political
movement, having for its object amelioration of the poor, and
improvement of the whole social system; closely connected with which, as
he was, they gave him neither public fame nor private emolument. He
acted in all things from the same single-hearted integrity and high
honor which caused him to refuse the title proffered to his father. Her
husband's connection with many celebrated characters, and her own
correspondence, and occasional visits from her friends to Oakwood,
prevented Mrs. Hamilton's interest from too complete concentration in
her home, as, in her first retirement, many feared. She had, too, some
friends near her, whose society gave her both pleasure and interest; and
many acquaintances who would have visited more than she felt any
inclination for, had she not had the happy power of quietly pursuing her
own path, and yet conciliating all.

The Rev. William Howard had accepted Mr. Hamilton's eagerly-proffered
invitation to become his rector, and undertake the education of his
boys, from very peculiar circumstances. He had been minister of a
favorite church in one of the southern towns, and master of an
establishment for youths of high rank, in both which capacities he had
given universal satisfaction. The reprehensible conduct of some of his
pupils, carried on at first so secretly as to elude his knowledge, at
length became so notorious as to demand examination. He had at first
refused all credence, but when proved, by the confused replies of all,
and half confession of some, he briefly and emphatically laid before
them the enormity of their conduct, and declared that, as confidence was
entirely broken between them, he would resign the honor of their
education, refusing to admit them any longer as members of his
establishment. In vain the young men implored him to spare them the
disgrace of such an expulsion; he was inexorable.

This conduct, in itself so upright, was painted by the smarting
offenders in such colors, that Mr. Howard gradually but surely found his
school abandoned, and himself so misrepresented, that a spirit less
self-possessed and secure in its own integrity must have sunk beneath
it. But he had some true friends, and none more active and earnest than
Mr. Hamilton. A very brief residence at Oakwood Rectory removed even the
recollection of the injustice he had experienced; and he himself, as
pastor and friend, proved a treasure to high and low. Ten other youths,
sons of the neighboring gentry, became his pupils, their fathers gladly
following in Mr. Hamilton's lead.

About a mile and a half across the park was Moorlands, the residence of
Lady Helen Grahame, whose name had been so often mentioned by the young
Hamiltons. Her husband Montrose Grahame, had been Arthur Hamilton's
earliest friend, at home, at college, and in manhood. Lady Helen the
youngest daughter of a marquis, had been intimate with Emmeline and
Eleanor Manvers from childhood, and had always admired and wished to
resemble the former, but always failed, she believed, from being
constituted so differently; others might have thought from her utter
want of energy and mental strength. The marriage at first appeared
likely to be a happy one, but it was too soon proved the contrary.
Grahame was a man of strict, perhaps severe principles; his wife, though
she never did any thing morally wrong, scarcely knew the meaning of the
word. Provoked with himself for his want of discrimination, in imagining
Lady Helen so different to the being she really was; more than once
discovering she did not speak the exact truth, or act with the steady
uprightness he demanded, his manner became almost austere; and, in
consequence, becoming more and more afraid of him, Lady Helen sunk lower
and lower in his esteem.

Two girls and a boy were the fruits of this union. Lady Helen had made a
great many excellent resolutions with regard to their rearing and
education, which she eagerly confided to Mrs. Hamilton, but when the
time of trial came, weakness and false indulgence so predominated, that
Grahame, to counteract these evil influences, adopted a contrary
extreme, and, by a system of constant reserve and severity, became an
object of as much terror to his children as he was to his wife. But he
did not pursue this conduct without pain, and never did he visit Oakwood
without bitter regret that his home was not the same.

Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton had often tried to alter the aspect of affairs at
Moorlands; the former, by entreating Grahame to be less severe; the
latter, by urging Lady Helen to a firmer mode of conduct. But those
friendly efforts were as yet entirely useless. Grahame became a member
of Parliament, which took his family to London for five or six months in
the year--a particularly agreeable change to Lady Helen, who then
associated with her sisters, whose families were conducted much on the
same fashion as her own, but unfortunately only increasing the
discomfort of Moorlands when they returned to it. And this was the more
to be regretted, from the fact that both Grahame and his wife were full
of good intentions, and had the one been more yielding, and the other
more firm, there might have been no small share of happiness for both.

But heavy as Lady Helen thought her trial in the want of her husband's
confidence and love, and which she had greatly brought upon herself, it
was light in comparison with that of Mrs. Greville, another near
neighbor and valued friend of Mrs. Hamilton. She had loved and married a
man whose winning manners and appearance, and an ever-varying flow of
intelligent conversation, had completely concealed, till too late, his
real character. Left at a very early age his own master, with a capital
estate and large fortune; educated at a very large public school, at
which he learned literally nothing but vice, and how effectually to
conceal it; courted and flattered wherever he went, he became vain,
overbearing, and extravagant; with no pursuit but that of gambling in
all its varieties, even hunting and shooting could not be thoroughly
enjoyed without some large bets depending on the day's sport: his
thoughts from boyhood were so completely centered in self, that he had
affection for nothing else. He had indeed fancied he loved Jessie
Summers, when he had so successfully wooed her; but the illusion was
speedily dispelled, and repeatedly he cursed his folly for plaguing
himself with a wife. His first child, too, was a girl and that annoyed
him still more; and when, the next year, a boy was granted, he certainly
rejoiced, but it was such rejoicing as to fill his wife's heart with an
agony of dread; for he swore he would make his boy as jovial a spirit as
himself, and that her namby-pamby ideas should have nothing to do with
him.

It was indeed a difficult and painful task Mrs. Greville had to perform.
Though her husband would spend weeks and even months at a time away, the
impressions she so earnestly and prayerfully sought to instill into her
son's heart were, or appeared to be, completely destroyed by her
husband's interference the whole time of his sojourn at his home. It was
his pleasure to thwart her every plan, laugh at her fine notions, make a
mockery of all that was good, and holy, and self denying; and all in the
presence of his children; succeeding in making Alfred frequently guilty
of disrespect and unkindness, but failing entirely with Mary, who,
though of such a fragile frame and gentle spirit that her father's
visits almost always caused her a fit of illness, so idolized her
suffering but never murmuring mother, that she only redoubled her
attention and respect whenever she saw her more tried than usual. This
conduct, of course, only made her an object, equally with her mother, of
her father's sneers and taunts, but she bore it with the true spirit of
a martyr. Suffering was doing for her what Herbert Hamilton was
naturally--making her spiritual and thoughtful far beyond her years, and
drawing her and Herbert together with such a bond of mutual reverence
and sympathy, that to talk to him was her greatest consolation, and to
endeavor to lessen her sorrows one of his dearest pleasures.

Alfred was not naturally an evil-disposed boy, and when his father was
from home seldom failed either in respect or obedience. Mrs. Greville
possessed the rather rare combination of extreme submissiveness with a
natural dignity and firmness, which enabled her to retain the reverence
and sympathy of her friends and her household, without once stooping to
receive their pity. It was generally supposed by those who did not know
her personally, that she was one of those too soft and self-denying
characters who bring on themselves the evils they deplore; but this in
Mrs. Greville's case was a very great mistake. It was impossible to
associate even casually with her, without feeling intuitively that she
suffered deeply, but the emotion such conviction called was respect
alone.

As anxious and as earnest a parent as Mrs. Hamilton herself, Mrs.
Greville failed not to inculcate the good in both her children, and
still more forcibly, when they became old enough to observe, by example
than by precept. But with Alfred there must have been an utter
hopelessness as to the fruit of her anxious labors, had she not
possessed that clinging, single-hearted trust which taught her that no
difficulty should deter from a simple duty, and that nothing was too
hard for Him who--if He saw that she shrunk not from the charge and
responsibility which, in permitting her to become a mother, he had
given, and did all she could to counteract those evil influences, for
the removal of which she had no power--would, in His own good time,
reward, if not on earth--with Him in Heaven; and so untiringly, as
unmurmuringly, she struggled on.



CHAPTER III.

HOME SCENE.--VISITORS.--CHILDISH MEDITATIONS.


The part of the day which to Emmeline Hamilton was the happiest of all,
was that in which she and Caroline, and now, of course, Ellen, were with
their mother alone. Not that she particularly liked the very quiet
employment of plain work, which was then their usual occupation, but
that she could talk without the least restraint, either about her
lessons, or her pleasures, or her thoughts, and the stories or histories
she had been reading, and if she thought wrong no one ever corrected her
so delightfully so impressively as "mamma." The mornings, from three to
four hours, according as their age and studies required, were always
under the control of Miss Harcourt, with such visits from Mrs. Hamilton
as gave an increased interest to exertion, and such interruption only as
permitted their practice and lessons in music, which three times a week
Mrs. Hamilton had as yet herself bestowed. The dressing-bell always rung
at half-past three, and dinner was at four, to allow the lads return
from Mr. Howard's, whose daily lessons commenced at nine and concluded
at three. From half-past one to half-past three, in the very short days,
was devoted to recreation, walking, or driving, and in the longer, to
Emmeline's favorite time--an hour at work with her mother, and the
remainder to the preparation of lessons and exercises for the next day,
which in the winter occupied from five to six. From six to seven in the
same generally gloomy season they read aloud some entertaining book with
their mother and Miss Harcourt, and seven was the delightful hour of a
general reunion at tea, and signal for such recreation till nine as they
felt inclined for; their brothers having been employed for Mr. Howard
part of the time between dinner and tea, with sufficient earnestness to
enjoy the rest and recreation afterward, quite as buoyantly and gladly
as their sisters; and many a merry dance enlivened their winter
evenings.

In the summer, of course, this daily routine was frequently varied by
most delightful excursions in the country. Mrs. Hamilton earnestly
longing to implant a love of Nature and all its fresh, pure associations
in the minds of her children while yet young, knowing that once
obtained, the pleasures of the world would be far less likely to obtain
too powerful dominion. That which the world often terms romance, she
felt to be a high, pure sense of poetry in the Universe and in Man,
which she was quite as anxious to instill as many mothers to root out.
She did not believe that to cultivate the spiritual needed the
banishment of the matter of fact; but she believed, that to infuse the
latter with the former would be their best and surest preventive against
all that was low and mean; their best help in the realization of a
constant unfailing piety. For the same reason she cultivated a taste for
the beautiful, not only in her girls, but in her boys--and beauty, not
in arts and nature alone, but in character. She did not allude to beauty
of merely the high and striking kind, but to the lowly virtues,
struggles, faith, and heroism in the poor--their forbearance and
kindness to one another--marking something to admire, even in the most
rugged and surly, that at first sight would seem so little worthy of
notice. It was gradually, and almost unconsciously, to accustom her
daughters to such a train of thought and sentiment, that she so
particularly laid aside one part of the day to have them with her alone;
ostensibly, it was to give part of their day to working for the many
poor, to whom gifts of ready-made clothing are sometimes much more
valuable than money; but the _education_ of that one hour she knew
might, for the right cultivation of the heart, do more than the mere
_teaching_ of five or six, and that education, much as she loved and
valued Miss Harcourt, she had from the first resolved should come from
her alone.

To Emmeline this mode of life was so happy, she could not imagine any
thing happier. But Caroline often and often envied her great friend
Annie Grahame, and believed that occasional visits to London would make
her much happier than remaining all the year round at Oakwood, and only
with her own family. She knew the expression of such sentiments would
meet no sympathy at home, and certainly not obtain their gratification,
so she tried to check them, except when in company with Annie and Lady
Helen; but her mother knew them, and, from the discontent and
unhappiness they so often engendered in her child, caused her both pain
and uneasiness. But she did not waver in her plans, because only in
Emmeline they seemed to succeed: nor did she, as perhaps some
over-scrupulous mothers would have done, check Caroline's association
with Miss Grahame. She knew that those principles must be indeed of
little worth, which could only actuate in retirement, and when free from
temptation. That to prevent intimacy with all, except with those of whom
she exactly approved, would be impossible, if she ever meant her
daughters to enter the world; and therefore she endeavored so to obtain
their unrestrained confidence and affection, as to be regarded, both now
and when they were young women, as their first, best, and truest friend;
and that end obtained, intimacies with their young companions, however
varied their character, she felt would do no permanent harm.

"Dear, dear mamma!" exclaimed Emmeline, one morning about a week after
her parents' return, and dropping her work to speak more eagerly, "you
can not think how delightful it does seem to have you at home again; I
missed this hour of the day so very much; I did not know how much I
loved it when I always had it, but when you were away, every time the
hour came I missed you, and longed for you so much that--I am afraid you
will think me very silly--I could not help crying."

"Why, how Percy must have laughed at you, Emmy!"

"Indeed, he did not, mamma; I think he felt half inclined to cry too,
the first day or two that he came home from Mr. Howard's, and could not
rush up into your dressing-room, as he always does. He said it was a
very different thing for you to go from home, than for him to go to
London, and he did not like it at all; nor Herbert, nor Caroline,
neither; though they did not say so much about it."

"I did not miss mamma after the first, quite so much as you did,
Emmeline," replied her sister, ingenuously; "because when Lady Helen
returned from London, she made me go there so often, and as I know you
never refuse me that indulgence, mamma, and Miss Harcourt did not
object, I was glad to do so."

"I have only one objection my dear Caroline, and I think you know what
that is."

"That whenever I am with Annie I think and wish more about going to
London, mamma; I am afraid I do; but indeed I try to think that you must
know what is better for me, and try not to be discontented, though
sometimes I know I do not succeed," and her eyes filled with tears.

"I am satisfied that you endeavor to trust my experience, my love; I am
quite aware of all the difficulties you have to encounter in doing so,
and therefore your most trifling conquest of self is a great source of
comfort to me. I myself should feel that the pain of increased
discontent, and so of course increased difficulty in conquering its
constant accompaniment, ill temper, would more than balance the pleasure
of Annie's society, and so not indulge in the one so often at the
expense of the other; but of that you are yourself the best judge, and
you know in such a case I always permit you to be a free agent. But what
has become of Mary, Emmeline? I begged Mrs. Greville to let you be as
much together as possible during my absence; did not her society afford
you some pleasure?"

"Oh, yes, mamma, a great deal; but unfortunately Mr. Greville was at
home almost all the time you were away, and poor Mary could not often
leave her mother, and I don't feel as if it were quite right for me to
go so often there, when he is at home. I am sure Mrs. Greville and Mary
must both feel still more uncomfortable when any one is there to see how
unkind he is, and hear the cruel things he says. Oh, how I do wish I
could make poor Mary more happy!"

"She would tell you that affection is a great comfort to her, Emmy."

"Yours and Herbert's may be, mamma, because you are both so much better
and wiser than I am; but I can do so little, so very little."

"You can be and are a great source of interest to her, my dear; and when
we wish very much to make another person happy, you may be quite sure
that the most trifling act gives pleasure; but Ellen looks very much as
if she would like to know who this Mary is, that is so tried--suppose
you tell her."

Emmeline eagerly obeyed, painting her friend in such glowing colors,
that Ellen felt, however tried she might be, a person so good and holy
must be happy, notwithstanding; besides, to be loved so by Mrs. Hamilton
and Herbert, discovered to her mind such superior qualities, that she
almost wondered how Emmeline could speak of her so familiarly, and think
of her as her own particular friend. But the conversation on her, and
then on other topics, so interested her, that she was almost as sorry as
her cousin, when it was interrupted by a visit from Lady Helen Grahame
and her daughter.

"Returned at length, dearest Emmeline!" was the former's lively
greeting, and evincing far more warmth of manner than was usual to her.
"Do you know, the banks of the Dart have seemed so desolate without
their guardian spirit, that the very flowers have hung their heads, and
the trees are withered?"

"I rather think the change of season, and not my absence, has been the
cause of these melancholy facts," replied Mrs. Hamilton, in the same
tone; "but even London will not change your kind thoughts for me,
Helen."

"Nay, I must follow the example of my neighbors, rich and poor, whom you
may appeal to as to the fact of your absence causing terrible
lamentation; ask this naughty little girl too, who scarcely ever came to
see me, because she had so many things to do to please mamma; but
forgive me," she added, more seriously, as she glanced on the deep
mourning of her friend, and indeed of all the group; "what a cold,
heartless being you must believe me to run on in this way, when there
has been so sad a cause for your absence--poor Eleanor!"

"I trust we may say happy Eleanor, my dear Helen; mercy has indeed been
shown to her and to me--but we will talk of this another time. Annie,"
she continued, addressing Miss Grahame, who was already deep in
conversation with Caroline, "I have another little girl to introduce to
you, whom I hope you will be as friendly with as with Caroline and
Emmeline."

The young lady turned round at the words, but her sole notice of Ellen,
who had come timidly forward, was a haughty stare, a fashionable
courtesy, and a few unintelligible words, which caused Emmeline to feel
so indignant, that it was with difficulty she kept silence, and made
Ellen so uncomfortable, that it was with even more than her usual
shyness, she received Lady Helen's proffered hand.

"And why not introduce her to me too, Emmeline? I knew your mother when
she was little older than you are, my dear; so I hope you will learn to
know and to like me as fast as you can."

Ellen might have found courage to reply for there was an interest
attached to all who had known her mother; but as she raised her eyes to
speak, she again encountered Annie's rude and disagreeable stare, and
the words died on her lips. The young party were, however, soon all in
the garden, for Mrs. Hamilton never made any scruple in dismissing her
children, when she wished to speak on subjects she did not choose them
to hear; and she was anxious so to relate Eleanor's illness and change
of sentiment, as to remove the impressions which her early career had
left on Lady Helen's memory.

"It must be nearly time for my brothers to be returning; shall we go and
look for them, Ellen? I dare say Edward will have a great deal to tell
you," was Emmeline's affectionate address, as Annie and Caroline turned
in a different direction; and generally judging others by herself, she
thought that being Edward's first day of regular attendance on Mr.
Howard, Ellen would like to know all about it as soon as possible, and
they proceeded accordingly.

"Well, how do you like your new cousins, what are they like?" inquired
Miss Grahame, the moment she had Caroline entirely to herself.

"Edward I think I may like very much; he is so affectionate and so
good-natured, and as merry and full of fun as Percy. And he is so
handsome, Annie, I think even you would admire him."

"Then altogether he must be very unlike his sister. I never saw a girl
so plain, and I am sure she looks as if no fun could exist near her."

"Mamma says we must remember how short a time has elapsed since poor
aunt's death, and also that Ellen is not strong enough to be very
lively."

"That does not at all account for her looking cross. I am sure she has
nothing to be ill-tempered about; there are few girls in her situation
who would have made one of your family, as she will be. Mamma said it
would be a very anxious thing for Mrs. Hamilton."

"Mamma did seem to think so," replied Caroline, thoughtfully; "but I
fancy you are wrong, Annie. Ellen has not yet given any proof of
ill-temper."

"She has had no time, my dear; but no one can be deceived by such a
face. My cousin, Lady Adelaide Maldon, told me she could always judge
people by their faces. But do you like her as well as her brother,
Caroline?"

"Ask me that question this day month, my dear Annie; I can not answer
you now, for I really do not know. I certainly do not see any thing
particularly striking in her yet--I do not understand her; she is so
dreadfully shy or timid, and so very inanimate, one can not tell whether
she is pleased or sorry. To tell you the real truth, I am afraid I shall
not like her."

"Why afraid?"

"Because mamma would be so sorry were she to know it. I know she wishes
us to love one another."

"Nonsense, Caroline. Mrs. Hamilton can not be so unreasonable as to
expect you to love every body alike."

"Mamma is never unreasonable," replied Caroline, with spirit; "and I do
wish, Annie, you would treat Ellen exactly as you do us."

"Indeed, I shall not. What is Colonel Fortescue's daughter to me? Now
don't be angry, Caroline, you and I are too old friends to quarrel for
nothing: I shall certainly hate Ellen altogether, if she is to be a
subject of dispute. Come, look kind again;" and the caress with which
she concluded restored Caroline's serenity, and other subjects were
discussed between them.

Annie Grahame was a few months younger than Caroline Hamilton (who was
nearly thirteen,) but from having been emancipated from the nursery and
school-room at a very early age, and made her mother's companion and
confidant in all her home vexations--very pretty and engaging--she was
very much noticed, and her visits to her titled relations in London, by
causing her to imitate their fashionable manners, terms of speech,
thoughts on dress, and rank, &c., made her a woman many years before her
time; and though to Lady Helen's family and to Lady Helen herself this
made her still more agreeable, from becoming so very companionable; to
Mrs. Hamilton, and to all, in fact, who loved childhood for childhood's
sake, it was a source of real regret, as banishing all the freshness and
artlessness and warmth which ought to have been the characteristics of
her age. Her father was the only one of her own family who did not
admire--and so tried to check--this assumption of fine ladyism, on the
part of his daughter; but it was not likely he could succeed, and he
only estranged from him the affections of his child.

Annie Grahame had a great many fashionable acquaintances in London, but
she still regarded Caroline Hamilton as her favorite friend. Why, she
could not exactly tell, except that it was so very, very delightful to
have some one in the country to whom she could dilate on all the
pleasures of London, display her new dresses, new music, drawings, work,
&c. (not however considering it at all necessary to mention that her
work and drawings were only _half_ her own, and Caroline was much too
truthful herself to imagine it, and her mother too anxious to retain
that guileless simplicity to enlighten her, as she was well capable of
doing). Annie's quick eye discovered that at such times Caroline
certainly envied her, and she imagined she must be a person of infinite
consequence to excite such a feeling, and this was such a pleasant
sensation, that she sought Caroline as much as possible during their
stay at Moorlands. Of Mrs. Hamilton, indeed, she stood in such
uncomfortable awe, though that lady never addressed her except in
kindness, that as she grew older, it actually became dislike; but this
only increased her intimacy with Caroline, whom she had determined
should be as unlike her mother as possible; and as this friendship was
the only one of his daughter's sentiments which gave Mr. Grahame unmixed
satisfaction, he encouraged it by bringing them together as often as he
could.

Emmeline and Ellen, meanwhile, had pursued their walk in silence, both
engrossed with their own thoughts (for that children of eleven years,
indeed, of any age, do not think, because when asked what they are
thinking about, their answer is invariably "Nothing," is one of those
mistaken notions which modern education is, we hope, exploding).
Emmeline was so indignant with Annie that she felt more sure than ever
that she did not and could never like her. "She is always talking of
things mamma says are of such little consequence, and is so proud and
contemptuous, and I am afraid she does not always tell the exact truth.
I wonder if it is wrong to feel so toward her; one day when I am quite
alone with mamma, I will ask her," was the tenor of her meditations.

But Ellen, though Annie's greeting had caused her to shrink still more
into herself, and so produced pain, was not thinking only of her. The
whole of that hour's intimate association with Mrs. Hamilton had puzzled
her; she had doted on her father--she was sure she loved her aunt almost
as dearly, but could she ever have given words to that affection as
Emmeline had done, and as Edward always did? and so, perhaps, after all,
she did not feel as they did, though the wish was so strong to caress
her aunt, and sit as close and lovingly by her as Herbert and Emmeline
and even Edward did, that its very indulgence seemed to give her pain.
Then Caroline's confession too--could she ever have had courage to
confess the indulgence of a feeling which she knew to be wrong--and all
her aunt had said both to Caroline and Emmeline so fastened on her mind
as to make her head ache, and she quite started when a loud shout
sounded near them.

"It is only Percy," said Emmeline laughing; "I dare say he and Edward
are running a race or having some sort of fun." And so they were;
laughing, shouting, panting, they came full speed, darting in and out
the trees in every variety of mathematical figures their ingenuity could
frame; but as soon as Percy's restless eye discovered Emmeline, he
directed his course toward her, exclaiming, "Holla, Edward, stop running
for to-day: come here, and let us be sober. Why, Tiny, what brings you
and Ellen out now? It is not your usual time."

"Ellen, Ellen, I have had such a happy day; I like Mr. Howard more than
ever (he had only seen him twice before.) I am sure I shall get on with
him, and he will teach me astronomy and navigation too, so I shall not
be ashamed to go to sea next year; I shall learn so much first."

"Let me walk home with you, dear Edward, and do tell me every thing you
have done and are going to do," asked Ellen, clinging to his arm, and
looking in his face with such an expression that there was little trace
of ill-temper. Emmeline meanwhile had made her brother a party in her
indignation against Annie's pride, which he termed insolence, vowing he
would make her feel it. And as they came in sight of her and Caroline,
he called out to Ellen, who, all her timidity returning, tried to draw
Edward into another walk.

"Not there, not there, Miss Nelly, you are not going to cut me in that
fashion. You have talked quite enough to Edward and must now come to me.
Edward, there's mamma; off with you to tell your tale of delight to
her." And Edward did not wait a second bidding, leaving Ellen to Percy,
who threw his arm affectionately round her, and began talking to her so
amusingly that she could not help laughing, and so devoted did he appear
to her, that he had only time to greet Miss Grahame, with a very marked
and polite bow, and passed on. He wished to provoke, and he succeeded,
for Annie was always particularly pleased when the handsome, spirited
Percy Hamilton paid her any attention, and that he should be so devoted
to his little pale, disagreeable-looking cousin, as not even to give her
a word, annoyed her as much as he desired.

Edward's hasty progress to his aunt was slightly checked at seeing a
stranger with her, but when he was introduced he made his bow with so
much of his mother's grace, that, combined with the extraordinary
likeness, and her feelings already interested in Mrs. Hamilton's account
of her sister's sufferings and death, Lady Helen could not for the
moment speak except to exclaim, "Oh, how that look recalls the past! I
could almost fancy poor Eleanor herself stood before me."

"Did you--did you know my mother madam?" said Edward, with so much
eagerness that his cheeks crimsoned and his voice trembled.--"Were you
one of mamma's"--but he could not finish the sentence, and leaning his
head against his aunt, he burst into tears.

"Poor child!" said Lady Helen pityingly, as Mrs. Hamilton pressed him
closer to her, and stooped down to kiss his forehead without speaking;
and that sudden and unexpected display of feeling contrasted with
Ellen's painful shyness, stamped at once and indelibly Lady Helen's
opinion of the two orphans.



CHAPTER IV.

VARIETIES.


A few days more brought Mrs. Greville and Mary to welcome their friends,
and Ellen had again the pain of being introduced to strangers; but this
time it was only the pain of her own shyness, for could she have
overcome that feeling, she might have felt even pleasure. As it was, the
gentle voice and manner with which Mrs. Greville addressed her, and the
timid yet expressive glance of Mary, told of such sympathy and kindness,
that she felt attracted toward both, and could quite enter into
Emmeline's enthusiastic admiration of her friend; not, however,
believing it possible that she herself could ever be worthy to win
Mary's regard. Taught from such a very early age to believe herself so
far inferior to Edward, such characters as Herbert and Mary appeared to
her so exalted, that it was quite impossible they could ever think of
her; the constant little acts of unobtrusive kindness that her cousin
showed her, she attributed to his extreme goodness, not from the most
trifling merit in herself. She did indeed love him very dearly, the best
next to her aunt; but so much of reverence mingled with it, that she was
almost more reserved with him than with the others. But Herbert was
naturally reserved himself in words, and so he did not think any thing
about it, except to wish and endeavor to make his little cousin happier
than she seemed.

When contrasting Mary Greville with Annie Grahame, as she was rather
fond of doing, Emmeline became so afraid she was disliking the latter
more than she ought to do, that she never rested till she made an
opportunity to confess all her feelings to her mother, and beg her to
tell her if they were very wrong, and if she ought to like her.

"I am not so unconscionable as to expect you to like every one with whom
you associate, my dear little girl," replied her mother, fondly, for
there was something in Emmeline's guileless confidence irresistibly
claiming love. "All we have to do when we find nothing that exactly
sympathizes with our own feelings, or our own ideas of right and wrong,
is to try and find out some reason for their being so different; some
circumstance that may have exposed them to greater temptations and
trials, for you know I have often told you pleasure and amusements, if
too much indulged in, are a much greater trial to some than sorrow and
pain. Now Annie has had a great many more temptations of this kind than
you or Mary, and we can not expect one so very young entirely to resist
them."

"Do you mean, mamma, her going out so much in London?"

"Yes, love; she is very much noticed, and so perhaps thinks a little
more of appearance and dress and pleasure than is quite necessary."

"But Lady Helen need not take her out so much, if she did not like. Do
you think she is quite right to do so?" asked Emmeline, very
thoughtfully.

"We must never pronounce judgment on other people's actions, my little
girl. I think it better not to interrupt your present quiet and I hope
happy life, and therefore I do not take you or Caroline to London; but
Mr. Grahame is obliged to be there for several months, and Lady Helen
very naturally would not like to be separated either from him or her
children. And then she has such a large family, and Annie so many young
relations, that you see Lady Helen could not keep her children quite as
free from temptation as I do mine, and we should be more sorry for Annie
than blame her individually, however we may not like her faults. Do you
understand me, my dear?"

"Oh, yes, mamma, and I am so glad I took courage to tell you all I felt.
I am afraid I have encouraged many unkind thoughts about her, and I am
quite sorry now, for I see she can not help them as much as I thought
she could. I do not think I could ever make her my friend, but I will
try very much not to dislike and avoid her."

"And that is all that is required of you, my love. When I tell you that
our Father in Heaven commands us to love one another, and to avoid all
unkindness in thought and deed, I do not mean that He desires us to love
all alike, because He knew it would be neither for our happiness nor
good that it should be so, but only to prevent the too great influence
of prejudice and dislike. We might think such feelings can do no harm,
because only confined to our own minds, but they would be sure gradually
to lead us to taking pleasure in listening to their dispraise, and
joining in it, and to seeing and talking only of their faults,
forgetting that if we had been circumstanced exactly as they are, we
might have been just the same: and this is the feeling David condemns in
one of the Psalms we read this morning. Are you tired of listening to
me, dearest, or shall we read it over again together?"

Emmeline's only answer was to run eagerly for her little Bible, and with
glowing cheeks and sparkling eyes listen to her mother, as she turned to
the fifteenth Psalm, and reading it through, particularly pointed out
the third verse, and so explained it, as easily and happily to satisfy
her child as to the Divine authority for all that she had said, and to
stamp them still more forcibly on her memory.

"And now I do not mean to talk to you any more, my darling," she said,
kissing the little earnest face upturned to hers. "You have heard quite
enough to think about, and I am sure you will not forget it, so go and
play; Ellen must be wondering what has become of you." And again full of
glee, the happy child bounded away, exclaiming, as she did so, "Poor
Annie, I am glad I am not exposed to such temptations, for I am sure I
should not be able to resist them either."

But though any one who had seen her the next half hour might have
fancied that a serious thought or sober task could not approach her,
neither the conversation nor the Psalm was forgotten; with Herbert's
explanatory assistance, she not only found the Psalm, but committed it
to memory; and the second Sunday after her conversation with her mother,
repeated it so correctly and prettily to her father, as to give her the
delight of his caressing approbation. Learning correctly by rote was
always her greatest trial, for her vivid fancy and very versatile powers
occasioned her actual lessons to be considered such drudgery, as to
require a great effort on her part to retain them. The sense, indeed, if
she understood it, she learned quickly enough; but she preferred her own
language to any one's else, and Mrs. Hamilton had some difficulty in
making her understand that in time of study she required _correctness_,
and not fancy; and that the attention which was necessary to conquer the
words as well as the sense of the lesson, was much more important and
valuable, however disagreeable it might seem, than the facility of
changing the language to something prettier than the original.

When, therefore, as in the present case, she voluntarily undertook, and
conquered really a difficult task for a little lively girl, her parents
had no scruple in giving the only reward she cared for--their
approbation. It was in the bestowal of praise Mrs. Hamilton was
compelled to be almost painfully guarded. She found that the least
expression of unusual approbation caused Caroline to relax in her
efforts, thinking she had done quite enough, and perniciously increasing
her already too exalted ideas of herself. While to Emmeline it was the
most powerful incentive to a continuance in improvement, and determined
conquest of her faults. There was constantly a dread on the mother's
heart, that Caroline would one day accuse her of partiality, from the
different measure of her approbation which she was compelled to bestow;
and yet painful as it was to persevere under such an impression, the
future welfare of both was too precious to be risked for the
gratification of the present.

She was watching with delight Emmeline's unrestrained enjoyment of her
father's caresses and lively conversation, in which Percy as usual
joined--for Tiny, as he chose to call her, was his especial pet and
plaything--when she was startled by a low and evidently suppressed sob
near her; Ellen was bending over a book of Bible-stories which Herbert
had lent her, and her long ringlets completely concealed her face; Miss
Harcourt and Caroline both looked up surprised, but a rapid sign from
Mrs. Hamilton prevented their making any remark. Herbert fixed his eyes
pityingly on his little cousin as if wishing but not liking to address
her. Edward was the only one of the party who moved. He was busily
engaged in examining a large Noah's ark, and speculating as to its
resemblance to a ship, and its powers of floating, but after a few
minutes' apparent thought he left it, and sitting down on Ellen's chair,
put his arm round her, and begged her to find a picture of Noah's ark,
and see if it were at all like the toy. Cheered by his affection, she
conquered with a strong effort the choking in her throat, and turned to
the page, and tried to sympathize in his wonder if it really were like
the vessel in which Noah was saved, and where he could have put all the
animals. Mrs. Hamilton joined them, and without taking more notice of
Ellen's very pale cheeks and heavy eyes, than gently to put back the
thick tresses that seemed to annoy her by their weight, gave them so
much interesting information on the subject, and so delighted Edward
with allowing him to drag down several books from the library to find
out all they said about it, that two hours slipped away quite
unconsciously; and Ellen's very painful feeling had been so soothed,
that she could smile, and join Emmeline in making all the animals walk
in grand procession to their temporary dwelling.

But Mrs. Hamilton did not forget the child's involuntary evidence of
suffering, and vainly tried to imagine what at that moment could have
caused it. Herbert seemed to think about it, too, for the next day she
heard him ask Edward--

"If he knew why his sister always looked so sad? if he thought it was
because she was not yet reconciled to Oakwood?"

"It is not that," was Edward's reply: "she has always looked and seemed
sad, as long as I can remember her. One reason may be, she was always
ill in India, and papa was often telling me how very much she suffered,
and how patiently she bore it; and then, too, she knew I was poor
mamma's favorite, (his voice trembled), and that used to make her very
unhappy; but I do not know why she is so very sad now, unless she is ill
again, and that no one can tell, for she never will complain."

"Was your sister such a constant sufferer then?" inquired his aunt.
"Come here, and tell me all you can about her Edward. I wish I could
know more about both your lives in India."

Edward, with eager willingness, communicated all he knew, though, from
his being so constantly with his mother, and Ellen so much left with her
father and herself, that all was little enough; adding, however, that
after her very dangerous illness, when she was eight years old, he
perfectly well remembered hearing some celebrated physician say to his
father she would probably feel the effects of it all her life.

"It was a very long time before mamma permitted me to see her," added
Edward, "and when I did, I remember being almost frightened, she was so
altered, so pale, and thin, and weak; and then she was very ill after
poor papa's death; but since then she has never complained, and never
kept her bed; but I know she is often in pain, for when I have touched
her forehead sometimes, it has burnt my hand like fire."

This childish explanation certainly told Mrs. Hamilton more than she had
known before; but that Ellen had witnessed the fearful scene of her
father's death was still concealed. Edward, as he grew older, though he
did not know why, seemed to shrink from the subject, particularly that
he had been at a ball the same awful night.

A few days afterward, as Mrs. Hamilton was crossing the large hall on
her way to the school-room--for so, spite of Percy's determination that
it should receive the more learned and refined appellation of studio, it
was still called--she overheard Caroline's voice, exclaiming in angry
impatience--

"Indeed, I shall not, I have enough to do with my own lessons, without
attending to other people's. It is your idleness, Ellen, not the
difficulty of your lesson; for I am sure it is easy enough."

"For shame, Caroline!" was Emmeline's indignant reply "She is not idle,
and I am sure her lesson is not so easy; I wish I could explain it
properly."

"You know Miss Harcourt herself said she was careless or idle to-day,
and she must know. I am not going to lose my hour of recreation to help
those who won't help themselves."

"How can you be so ill-natured, so unkind!" began Emmeline; but Ellen's
beseeching voice interrupted her--

"Do not quarrel with your sister on my account, dearest Emmeline; I dare
say I am very stupid, but my head does feel confused to-day; pray do not
mind me, dear Emmy; go with Caroline, aunt Emmeline will not like your
remaining in."

Caroline had already quitted the room, and in her haste ran against her
mother, who she instantly perceived had heard all she said. With a deep
blush, she turned as to re-enter the school-room, but Mrs. Hamilton
stopped her--

"No," she said, gravely, "if you are only to act kindly for fear of my
reproof, it will do no good either to yourself or Ellen. I could
scarcely have believed it possible you should so have spoken, had I not
heard it. Go and amuse yourself as you intended; I rather think had you
given up a little of your time to help your cousin, you would have
experienced more real pleasure than you will now feel all day."

"Dear mamma, will _you_ help Ellen?" asked Emmeline, very timidly, for
though at Ellen's reiterated entreaty she had left her, she felt it
almost disrespect to run across the hall while her mother was speaking;
and the thought suddenly crossed her that, as she was quite sure Ellen
was not idle though Miss Harcourt thought she was, her mother, by
assisting her, might save her from increased displeasure.

"Yes, dearest, if necessary; I have heard enough to satisfy me that you
would if you could; and so I will, for your sake." And Emmeline ran
away, quite happy, to try all she could to soothe Caroline, whose
self-reproach had as usual terminated in a fit of ill-temper and anger
against Ellen, instead of against herself.

Mrs. Hamilton entered the school-room, and stood by Ellen so quietly
that the child did not perceive her. Her attention was completely
absorbed in her book; but after a few minutes she suddenly pushed it
from her, and exclaiming almost passionately:

"I _can not_ learn it, try all I can! and Miss Harcourt will be so very,
very angry"--and she gave way, for the first time since her arrival at
Oakwood, to a violent burst of tears.

"What is this very, _very_ difficult lesson, my little Ellen!" inquired
her aunt, kindly taking one hand from her face. "Tell me, and we shall
be able to learn it together, perhaps."

"Oh, no, no! it is because I am so very stupid; Miss Harcourt has
explained it to me twice, and I know, I know, I ought to understand
it--but--"

"Well, then, never mind it to-day. We can all learn much better some
days than others, you know; and I dare say to-morrow you will be able to
conquer it."

"But Miss Harcourt is already displeased, and she will be still more so,
if I leave it without her permission," replied the sobbing girl,
longing, but not daring, to throw her arms round her aunt's neck, and
lean her aching head against her bosom.

"Not if I beg a reprieve," replied her aunt, smiling; "but you must not
let it make you so very unhappy, Ellen. I am afraid it is not only your
lesson, but that you are ill, or unhappy about something else. Tell me,
dearest, what can I do to make you more happy, more at home?"

"Oh, nothing, nothing!" replied Ellen, struggling with her tears.
"Indeed I am happier than I ever thought I could be; I must be very
ungrateful to make you think I am unhappy, when you are so good and so
kind. My head ached to-day, and that always makes me feel a wish to cry;
but indeed I am not unhappy, and never when you kiss me and call me your
Ellen, whatever I may feel when you are not by;" and, as if frightened
at her own confession, she hid her face in her aunt's dress.

Mrs. Hamilton lifted her into her lap, and kissed her without speaking.

"You must learn to love me more and more then, my Ellen," she said,
after a pause, "and when you are feeling ill or in pain, you must not be
afraid to tell me, or I shall think that you only fancy you love me."

"Oh, no, it is not fancy; I never loved any one as I do you--except
papa--my own darling, good papa!" the word was almost choked with sobs.
"He used to fondle me and praise me, and call me his darling Ellen, as
uncle Hamilton did Emmeline last Sunday; and when I was ill, so ill they
said I should die, he never left me, except when his military duties
called him away; and he used to nurse me, and try to amuse me, that I
might forget pain and weakness. Oh, I shall never, never forget that
dreadful night!" and she closed her eyes and shuddered, as the horrid
scene of blood and death flashed before her.

"What dreadful night my poor child?" inquired Mrs. Hamilton, soothingly,
after doubting whether or not it would be better for Ellen to pursue
such an evidently painful theme, and no longer requiring an explanation
of her emotion the previous Sabbath.

"The night poor papa was killed;--oh, there were so many horrid forms on
the grass, the natives and poor papa's own men, and they looked so
ghastly in the moonlight, and the grass was covered with blood and limbs
and heads that had been shot off; and there were such cries and groans
of pain--I see it, I hear it all again so often before I go to sleep,
and when my head feels as it does to-day, and fancy I hear poor papa's
last words and feel his kiss as he lay bleeding, bleeding slowly to
death and his voice was so strange, and his lips so cold!"

"But how came you in such a dreadful scene, my poor Ellen? who could
have permitted such a little child to be there?"

"Because I wished it so very much; I knew he would die before they
could bring him to me, and I did so want to feel his kiss and hear his
voice once more. Oh, aunt Emmeline! shall I never see him again? I know
he can not come to me; but shall I, oh, shall I ever be good enough to
go to him?" And she looked up in her aunt's face with such a countenance
of beseeching entreaty, that Mrs. Hamilton's eyes filled with tears, and
it was a full minute before she could speak; but when she did, Ellen
felt more relieved and comforted, than on the subject of her father's
death she had ever felt before. From her mother not being able to bear
the subject even partially alluded to, and from having no one to whom
she could speak of it, it had taken a still stronger hold of her
imagination; and whenever she was unusually weak, and her head aching
and confused, it became still more vivid. The very visible sympathy and
interest of her aunt, and the gentle words in which she tried to turn
the child's thoughts from that scene of horror to the happiness of her
father in Heaven, and an assurance that, if she tried to do her duty,
and to love and serve God, and trust in His mercy to render her efforts
acceptable, she would rejoin him, seemed to remove the mass of tangled
thought within her young mind. Her head, indeed, still ached very
painfully, and her eyes seemed as if they would close, notwithstanding
all her efforts to keep them open; but when she awoke from a long quiet
sleep, on the sofa in Mrs. Hamilton's dressing-room, where her aunt had
laid her, and found that kind friend still watching over her, the little
heart and temples had ceased to throb so quickly, and she felt better
and happier.

Mr. Maitland, the medical friend of the family, confirmed the opinion
which Edward had said their physician in India had given of his sister's
state of health. He did not, he said, consider her liable to serious
illness, or of a constitution that would not endure; but that he feared
it would be some years before she knew the blessing of really good
health, and be constantly subject to that lassitude, severe headache,
and the depression of the whole system thence proceeding, which must
prevent the liveliness and quickness of acquirement natural to most
children. He thought the evil had been very greatly increased by want of
sufficient care in early years, and the unwholesome climate in which she
had so long lived, that he wondered her mother had not been advised to
send her over to England, adding, with a smile, he was quite sure Mrs.
Hamilton would not have refused the charge, anxious as it might have
been. And earnestly, not only on account of the child's physical but
mental health, did Mrs. Hamilton wish that such had been the case, and
that she had had the care of her niece from earliest infancy; and how
much more would she have wished this, had she known that Mrs. Fortescue
had really been advised to do with Ellen as Mr. Maitland had said, but
that believing it merely an idle fancy, and persisting, too, in her own
headstrong idea, that it was ill-temper, not illness, which rendered
Ellen so disagreeable, she would not stoop so to conquer her unfortunate
pride as to ask such a favor of her relatives, and to whom else could
she appeal? Colonel Fortescue had none but distant cousins. She did
satisfy a qualm of conscience by once suggesting to her husband--as her
own idea, however, not as that of an experienced physician--that as he
fancied Ellen was always ill, she might be better in England; but, as
she expected, not only his intense love for his little girl rose up
against the idea of separation, but his pride revolted from sending her
to claim the pity of relatives who had so completely cast off her
parents: yet had he been told it was absolutely necessary for her health
and so greatly for her happiness, he would not have hesitated to
sacrifice every thought of self. But Eleanor, satisfied that she had
done her duty, and delighted that in one respect he was quite as proud
as she was, never again referred to the subject, and the physician who
had thus advised, from his constant removals, he never chanced to meet.

Great, indeed, was the amount of childish suffering which this selfish
decision, on the part of her mother, occasioned Ellen. We do not mean
the pain of constant languor itself, though that in its full amount our
happy healthful young readers can not have the least idea of: they,
perhaps, think it almost a pleasant change, the care, and petting, and
presents so often lavished on a brief decided illness: but that is a
very different thing to that kind of suffering which only so affects
them as to be dull and heavy, they do not know why, and to make it such
a very difficult task to learn the lessons others find so easy; and such
a pain sometimes to move, that they are thought slow and unwilling, and
perhaps even idle, when they would gladly run, and help, and work as
others; and so weak sometimes, that tears start at the first harsh or
unkind word, and they are thought cross, when they do not in the least
feel so; and this, not for a few weeks, but, with few exceptions, the
trial of months and even years.

And this was Ellen's--which not even the tenderest and most unfailing
care of her aunt could entirely guard her from. It is a most difficult
thing for those who are strong and healthy themselves to understand and
always bear with physical suffering in others. Miss Harcourt, though in
general free from any thing like prejudice, and ardently desirous to
follow up her own and Mrs. Hamilton's ideas of right and wrong, could
not so govern her affections as to feel the same toward Ellen as she did
toward Edward and the children she had lived with and taught so long.
Her task with Ellen required more patience and forbearance and care than
with either of the others, and sometimes she could not help believing
and acting toward her as if it were willful idleness and carelessness,
not the languor of disease.

With the recollection and evidence of Herbert, who had been delicate
from his birth, and who was yet of such a remarkably gifted mind, and so
bright in aspect, so sweet in temper, that illness seemed to have
spiritualized instead of deadened every faculty, she could not
understand, as Mrs. Hamilton did, the force of circumstances in
producing from nearly the same cause two much different effects, nor how
it was that complete neglect had engendered more evils than indiscreet
indulgence; but that it appeared to have done so, was unhappily only too
evident not only to Miss Harcourt but to Mrs. Hamilton. It seemed almost
surprising, and certainly a proof of a remarkably good disposition, that
Edward appeared so free from great faults, and of such a warm, generous,
frank, and _seemingly_ unselfish nature, so open to conviction and to
all good impressions, that, except occasional fits of violent passion,
there really was, as far as his aunt and uncle could perceive, nothing
to complain of. They did not know that he stood in such awe of Mr.
Hamilton, from his mother's lessons of his exceeding sternness, that he
exercised the greatest control over himself; and he was so excessively
fond of Mr. Howard, and his days glided by in such varied and delightful
employment, that there was no temptation to do wrong, except certain
acts of trifling disobedience, of more consequence from the self-will
they betrayed than the acts themselves, but which might have been
sources of anxiety to his aunt, and lessened her confidence in him had
she known them; but she did not, for Ellen not only constantly
concealed, but she was the sufferer for him, and so brought reproof and
suspicion on herself, which, could the truth have been known, might have
been averted. But truth of act as well as word had never been impressed
on Edward; and, therefore, though he was constitutionally too brave to
utter a falsehood, too honorable to shield himself at the expense of
another, if he knew that other suffered, he had been too long taught to
believe that Ellen was his inferior, and must always give up to him, to
imagine that he was even acting deceitfully or unmanfully in permitting
her to conceal his acts of disobedience.

There was so much to love and admire in Edward, that neither Mr. nor
Mrs. Hamilton imagined the real weakness of his character--that those
lovable qualities all sprung from natural impulse, unsustained by any
thing like principle. The quickness and apparent fervor with which he
received the religious impressions they and Mr. Howard sought so
earnestly to instill in the short time that was allowed them before he
entered the navy, they augured so hopefully from, that not only his
preceptor and uncle, but his ever anxious aunt, looked forward to his
career with scarcely a doubt as to its probity and honor.

Ellen caused her infinitely more anxiety. There was a disregard to
truth, a want of openness and candor, which, though Mrs. Hamilton
believed the effects of neglect and extreme timidity, both her husband
and Miss Harcourt feared were natural. Much, indeed, sprung from the
poor child's mistaken idea of the nature and solemnity of the promise
she had made her mother, and her constant watchfulness and determination
to shield Edward. For the disregard to truth, her mother had, indeed,
alone been answerable. Ellen's naturally very timid character required
the inculcation of a high, firm principle, to enable her so to conquer
herself as to speak the truth, even if she suffered from it. It was
only, indeed, in extreme cases of fear--and never to her father that she
had ever spoken falsely; but to Mrs. Hamilton's high principles, which
by extreme diligence and care she had so successfully imparted to her
own children, even concealment was often an acted untruth, and of this
fault and equivocation Ellen was but too often guilty; exciting Miss
Harcourt's and Caroline's prejudices yet more against her. The latter,
with all her faults, never swerved from the rigid truth, and had a
strong contempt and dislike toward all those who did--except her friend
Annie, who, as she always took care to speak the truth to her, she did
not suspect of being less careful than herself. Emmeline, who had had
some difficulty in restraining her love of exaggeration, and also in so
conquering her own timidity and fear as always to speak the truth, only
pitied Ellen, but did not love her the less.

Of course, it was not till some months had passed that these lights and
shadows of character in the orphans, and in the opinions they culled
forth in those around them, could be discovered; but notwithstanding she
stood almost alone in her opinion, notwithstanding there was very little
outward evidence that she was correct, Mrs. Hamilton believed there was
a great deal more in her niece than was discernible. She seemed to
possess a strength, almost an intensity, of feeling and warmth of
affection, which, if properly guided, would effectually aid in removing
the childish errors engendered by neglect; and it was this belief which
not only enabled her to bear calmly the anxiety and care, and often
pain, which those faults and their compelled correction occasioned, but
actually to love her niece, if possible, still more than Edward, and
very nearly with the same amount of quiet but intense affection which
she felt for her own children.



CHAPTER V.

A YOUNG GENTLEMAN IN A PASSION.--A WALK.--A SCENE OF DISTRESS.


One very fine morning in May, Mrs. Hamilton invited Edward to join her
in a walk, intending also to call at Moorlands and Greville Manor on
their way. The lads were released for a few days from their attendance
on Mr. Howard, that gentleman having been summoned on some clerical
business to Exeter. Percy was to accompany his father on an equestrian
excursion; Herbert had been commissioned by Emmeline some days before to
take some books to Mary Greville, and had looked forward himself to
spending a morning with her. Edward, delighted at being selected as his
aunt's companion, prepared with haste and glee for his excursion. Robert
was, however, unfortunately not at hand to give him a clean pair of
shoes (he had already spoiled two pair that morning by going into the
stream which ran through the park to sail a newly-rigged frigate), and
angry at the delay, fearing that his aunt would not wait for him, he
worked himself into such a violent passion, that when Robert did appear
he gave vent to more abusive language than he had ever yet ventured to
use, concluding by hurling both his discarded shoes at the domestic,
who only escaped a severe blow by starting aside, and permitting them to
go through the window.

"Robert, leave the room: I desire that you will not again give your
assistance to Master Fortescue till he knows how to ask it," was Mrs.
Hamilton's most unexpected interference, and Edward so started at her
voice and look, that his passion was suddenly calmed.

"Finish your toilet, and when you have found your shoes and put them
away, you may join me in the breakfast-room, Edward. I only wait your
pleasure."

And never did Edward leave her presence more gladly. Shame had suddenly
conquered anger; and though his chest still heaved and his cheeks were
still flushed, he did not utter another word till nearly a quarter of a
mile on their walk. Twice he had looked up in his aunt's face as if
about to speak, but the expression was so very grave, that he felt
strangely afraid to proceed. At length he exclaimed--

"You are displeased with me, dear aunt; but indeed I could not help
feeling angry."

"I am still more sorry than displeased, Edward; I had hoped you were
learning more control, and to know your duty to a domestic better. Your
uncle--"

"Oh, pray do not tell him!" implored Edward, "and I will ask Robert's
pardon the moment I go home."

"I certainly shall not complain of you to him, Edward, if my arguments
can convince you of your error; but if you are only to ask Robert's
pardon for fear of your uncle, I would rather you should not do so. Tell
me the truth; if you were quite sure your uncle would know nothing about
it, would you still ask Robert's pardon?"

Edward unhesitatingly answered "No!"

"And why not?"

"Because I think he ought to ask mine for keeping me waiting as he did,
and for being insolent first to me."

"He did not keep you waiting above five minutes, and that was my fault
not his, as I was employing him; and as for insolence, can you tell me
what he said?" Edward hesitated.

"I do not remember the exact words, but I know he called me impatient,
and if I were, he had no right to tell me so."

"Nor did he. I heard all that passed, and I could not help thinking how
very far superior was Robert, a poor country youth, to the young
gentleman who abused him."

The color rose to Edward's temples, but he set his teeth and clenched
his hand, to prevent any farther display of anger; and his aunt, after
attentively observing him, continued--

"He said that his young master Percy never required impossibilities, and
though often impatient never abused him. You heard the word, and feeling
you had been so, believed he applied it to yourself."

"But in what can he be my superior?" asked Edward, in a low voice, as if
still afraid his passion would regain ascendency.

"I will answer your question by another, Edward. Suppose any one had
used abusive terms toward you, and contemptuously desired you to get out
of their sight, how would you have answered?"

"I would have struck him to the earth," replied Edward, passionately,
and quite forgetting his wished for control. "Neither equal nor superior
should dare speak so to me again."

"And what prevented Robert acting in the same manner? Do you think he
has no feeling?--that he is incapable of such emotions as pain or
anger?"

Edward stood for a minute quite still and silent.

"I did not think any thing about it," he said, at length; "but I
certainly supposed I had a right to say what I pleased to one so far
beneath me."

"And in what is Robert so far beneath you?"

"He is a servant, and I am a gentleman in birth, rank--"

"Stop, Edward! did you make yourself a gentleman? Is it any credit to
you, individually, to be higher in the world, and receive a better
education than Robert?"

Edward was again silent, and his aunt continued to talk to him so kindly
yet so earnestly, that at length he exclaimed--

"I feel I have indeed been wrong, dear aunt; but what can I do to prove
to Robert I am really sorry for having treated him so ill?"

"Are you really sorry, Edward, or do you only say this for fear of your
uncle's displeasure?"

"Indeed, I had quite forgotten him," replied Edward, earnestly; "I
deserve his anger, and would willingly expose myself to it, if it would
redeem my fault."

"I would rather see you endeavor earnestly to restrain your passions my
dear boy, than inflict any such pain upon you. It will be a great
pleasure to me if you can really so conquer yourself as to apologize to
Robert; and I think the pain of so doing will enable you more easily to
remember all we have been saying, than if you weakly shrink from it. The
life you have chosen makes me even more anxious that you should become
less passionate--than were you to remain longer with me; I fear you will
so often suffer seriously from it."

"I very often make resolutions never to be in a passion again," returned
Edward, sorrowfully; "but whenever any thing provokes me, something
seems to come in my throat, and I am compelled to give way."

"You will not be able to conquer your fault, my dear Edward, without
great perseverance; but remember, the more difficult the task, the
greater the reward; and that you _can_ control anger I have, even during
our walk, had a proof."

Edward looked up surprised.

"Did you not feel very angry when I said Robert was your superior?"

"Yes," replied Edward, blushing deeply.

"And yet you successfully checked your rising passion, for fear of
offending me. I can not be always near you; but, my dear boy, you must
endeavor to remember that lesson I have tried to teach you so
often--that you are never _alone_. You can not even think an angry
thought, much less speak an abusive word and commit the most trifling
act of passion, without offending God. If you would but ask for His
help, and recollect that to offend Him is far more terrible than to
incur the displeasure of either your uncle or myself, I think you would
find your task much easier, than if you attempted it, trusting in your
own strength alone, and only for fear of man."

Edward did not make any reply, but his countenance expressed such
earnest thought and softened feeling, that Mrs. Hamilton determined on
not interrupting it by calling at Moorlands as she had intended, and so
turned in the direction of Greville Manor. They walked on for some
little time in silence, gradually ascending one of those steep and
narrow but green and flowery lanes peculiar to Devonshire; and on
reaching the summit of the hill, and pausing a moment by the little gate
that opened on a rich meadow, through which their path lay, an
exclamation of "How beautiful!" burst from Edward.

Fields of alternate red and green sloped down to the river's edge, the
green bearing the glistening color peculiar to May, the red from the
full rich soil betraying that the plow had but lately been there, and
both contrasting beautifully with the limpid waters, whose deep azure
seemed to mock the very heavens. The Dart from that point seemed no
longer a meandering river: it was so encompassed by thick woods and
fertile hills that it resembled a lake, to which there was neither
outlet nor inlet, save from the land. The trees all presented that
exquisite variety of green peculiar to May, and so lofty was the slope
on which they grew, that some seemed to touch the very sky, while others
bent gracefully over the water, which their thick branches nearly
touched. The hills themselves presented a complete mosaic of red and
green; the fields divided by high hedges, from which the oak and elm and
beech and ash would start up, of growth so superb as to have the
semblance of a cultivated park, not of natural woodland.

Greville Manor, an Elizabethan building, stood on their right,
surrounded by its ancient woods, which, though lovely still, Mr.
Greville's excesses had already shorn off some of their finest timber.
Some parts of the river were in complete shade from the overhanging
branches, while beyond them would stretch the bright blue of heaven: in
other parts, a stray sunbeam would dart through an opening in the thick
branches, and shine like a bright spot in the surrounding darkness; and
farther on, the cloudless sun so flung down his full refulgence, that
the moving waters flashed and sparkled like burning gems.

"Is it not beautiful, dear aunt? Sometimes I feel as if I were not half
so passionate in the open air as in the house; can you tell me why?"

"Not exactly, Edward," she replied, smiling; "but I am very pleased to
hear you say so, and to find that you can admire such a lovely scene as
this. To my feelings, the presence of a loving God is so impressed upon
his works--we can so distinctly trace goodness, and love, and power, in
the gift of such a bountiful world, that I feel still more how wrong it
is to indulge in vexation, or care, or anxiety, when in the midst of a
beautiful country, than when at home; and perhaps it is something of the
same feeling working in you, though you do not know how to define it."

"But _you_ can never do or feel any thing wrong, dear aunt," said
Edward, looking with surprised inquiry in her face.

"Indeed, my dear boy, I know that I very often have wrong thoughts and
feelings; and that only my Father in Heaven's infinite mercy enables me
to overcome them. It would be very sad, if I were as faulty, and as
easily led into error, as you and your cousins may be, when I have had
so many more years to think and try to improve in; but just in the same
way as you have duties to perform and feelings to overcome, so have I;
and if I fail in the endeavor to lead you all in the better and happier
path--or feel too much anxiety, or shrink from giving myself pain, when
compelled to correct a fault in either of you, I am just as likely to
incur the displeasure of our Father in Heaven, as you are when you are
passionate or angry; and perhaps still more so, for the more capable we
are of knowing and doing our duty, the more wrong we are when we fail in
it, even in thought."

There was so much in this reply to surprise Edward, it seemed so to fill
his mind with new ideas, that he continued his walk in absolute silence.
That his aunt could ever fail, as she seemed to say she had and did, and
even still at times found it difficult to do right, was very strange;
but yet somehow it seemed to comfort him, and to inspire him with a sort
of courage to emulate her, and conquer his difficulties. He had fancied
that she could not possibly understand how difficult it was for him
always to be good; but when he found that she could do so even from her
own experience, her words appeared endowed with double force, and he
loved her, and looked up to her more than ever.

Ten minutes more brought them to the Gothic lodge of the Manor, and
instead of seeking the front entrance, Mrs. Hamilton led the way to the
flower-garden, on which Mrs. Greville's usual morning-room opened by a
glass door.

"Herbert was to tell Mary of our intended visit; I wonder she is not
watching for me as usual," observed Mrs. Hamilton, somewhat anxiously;
and her anxiety increased, as on nearing the half open door she saw poor
Mary, her head leaning against Herbert, deluged in tears. Mrs. Greville
was not there, though the books, work, and maps upon the table told of
their morning's employment having been the same as usual. Herbert was
earnestly endeavoring to speak comfort, but evidently without success;
and Mary was in general so controlled, that her present grief betrayed
some very much heavier trial than usual.

"Is your mother ill, my dear Mary? What can have happened to agitate you
so painfully?" she inquired, as at the first sound of her voice the poor
girl sprung toward her, and tried to say how very glad she was that she
had come just then; but the words were inarticulate from sobs; and Mrs.
Hamilton, desiring Edward to amuse himself in the garden, made her sit
down by her, and told her not to attempt to check her tears, but to let
them have free vent a few minutes, and then to try and tell her what had
occurred. It was a very sad tale for a child to tell, and as Mrs.
Hamilton's previous knowledge enabled her to gather more from it than
Mary's broken narrative permitted, we will give it in our own words.

Mr. Greville had been at home for a month, a quarter of which time the
good humor which some unusually successful bets had excited, lasted; but
no longer. His amusement then consisted, as usual, in trying every
method to annoy and irritate his wife, and in endeavoring to make his
son exactly like himself. Young as the boy was--scarcely twelve--he took
him to scenes of riot and feasting, which the society of some boon
companions, unhappily near neighbors, permitted; and though Alfred's
cheek became pale, his eye haggard, and his temper uneven, his
initiation was fraught with such a new species of excitement and
pleasure, that it rejoiced and encouraged his father in the same measure
as it agonized his mother, and, for her sake, poor Mary.

That morning Alfred had declared his intention of visiting a large fair,
which, with some races of but ill repute, from the bad company they
collected, was to be held at a neighboring town, and told his father to
prepare for a large demand on his cash, as he meant to try his hand at
all the varieties of gaming which the scene presented. Mr. Greville
laughed heartily at what he called the boy's right spirit, and promised
him all he required; but there was a quivering on her mother's lip, a
deadly paleness on her cheek, that spoke volumes of suffering to the
heart of the observant Mary, who sat trembling beside her. Still Mrs.
Greville did not speak till her husband left the room; but then, as
Alfred was about to follow him, she caught hold of his hand, and
implored him, with such a tone and look of agony, only to listen to her,
for her sake to give up his intended pleasure; that, almost frightened
by an emotion which in his gentle mother he had scarcely ever seen, and
suddenly remembering that he had lately been indeed most unkind and
neglectful to her, he threw his arms round her neck, and promised with
tears that if it gave her so much pain, he would not go; and so sincere
was his feeling at the moment that, had there been no tempter near, he
would, in all probability, have kept his word. But the moment Mr.
Greville heard from his son his change of intention and its cause, he
so laughed at his ridiculous folly, so sneered at his want of spirit in
preferring his mother's whims to his father's pleasures, that, as could
not fail to be the case, every better feeling fled. This ought to have
been enough; but it was too good an opportunity to vent his ill-temper
on his wife, to be neglected. He sought her, where she was
superintending Mary's lessons, and for nearly an hour poured upon her
the most fearful abuse and cutting taunts, ending by declaring that all
the good she had done by her saintly eloquence was to banish her son
from her presence, whenever he left home, as in future Alfred should be
his companion; and that he should begin that very day. Mrs. Greville
neither moved nor spoke in reply; and the expression of her countenance
was so sternly calm, that poor Mary felt as if she dared not give way to
the emotion with which her heart was bursting.

Mr. Greville left the room, and they heard him peremptorily desire the
housekeeper to put up some of Master Alfred's clothes. In a perfectly
composed voice Mrs. Greville desired Mary to proceed with the exercise
she was writing, and emulating her firmness, she tried to obey.
Fortunately her task was writing, for to have spoken or read aloud
would, she felt, have been impossible. So full half an hour passed, and
then hasty footsteps were heard in the hall, and the joyous voice of
Alfred exclaiming--

"Let me wish mamma and Mary good-by, papa."

"I have not another moment to spare," was the reply. "You have kept me
long enough, and must be quicker next time; come along, my boy."

The rapid tread of horses' hoofs speedily followed the sullen clang with
which the hall-door closed, and as rapidly faded away in the distance.
With an irresistible impulse, Mary raised her eyes to her mother's face;
a bright red flush had risen to her temples, but her lips were perfectly
colorless, and her hand tightly pressed her heart; but this only lasted
a minute, for the next she had fallen quite senseless on the floor. Her
poor child hung over her almost paralyzed with terror, and so long did
the faint last, that she was conveyed to her own room, partially
undressed, and laid on her bed before she at all recovered. A brief
while she had clasped Mary to her bosom, as if in her was indeed her
only earthly comfort, and then in a faint voice desired to be left quite
alone. Mary had flung herself on the neck of the sympathizing Herbert
Hamilton (who had arrived just in the confusion attendant on Mrs.
Greville's unusual illness), and wept there in all the uncontrolled
violence of early sorrow.

Mrs. Hamilton remained some time with her afflicted friend, for so truly
could she sympathize with her, that her society brought with it the only
solace Mrs. Greville was capable of realizing from human companionship.

"It is not for myself I murmur," were the only words that in that
painful interview might have even seemed like complaint; "but for my
poor child. How is her fragile frame and gentle spirit to endure through
trials such as these; oh, Emmeline, to lose both, and through their
father!"

And difficult indeed did it seem to realize the cause of such a terrible
dispensation; but happily for Mrs. Greville, she could still look up in
love and trust, even when below all of comfort as of joy seemed
departed; and in a few days she was enabled to resume her usual
avocations, and, by an assumption of cheerfulness and constant
employment, to restore some degree of peace and happiness to her child.

Neither Herbert nor Edward seemed inclined to converse on their walk
home, and Mrs. Hamilton was so engrossed in thought for Mrs. Greville,
that she did not feel disposed to speak either. Herbert was contrasting
his father with Mary's, and with such a vivid sense of his own happier
lot, that he felt almost oppressed with the thought, he was not, he
never could be, grateful enough; for, what had he done to be so much
more blessed? And when Mr. Hamilton, who, wondering at their long
absence, had come out to meet them, put his arm affectionately round
him, and asked him what could possibly make him look so pale and
pensive, the boy's excited feelings completely overpowered him. He
buried his face on his father's shoulder, and burst into tears; and then
leaving his mother to explain it, for he felt quite sure she could,
without his telling her, darted away and never stopped till he found
himself in the sanctuary of his own room; and there he remained, trying
to calm himself by earnest thought and almost unconscious prayer, till
the dinner-bell summoned him to rejoin his family, which he did, quiet
and gentle, but cheerful, as usual.

Edward did not forget the thoughts of the morning, but the struggles so
to subdue his pride as to apologize to Robert, seemed very much more
difficult when he was no longer hearing his aunt's earnest words; but he
_did_ conquer himself, and the fond approving look, with which he was
rewarded, gave him such a glowing feeling of pleasure, as almost to
lessen the pain of his humiliation.



CHAPTER VI.

CECIL GRAHAME'S PHILOSOPHY.--AN ERROR AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.--A MYSTERY
AND A CONFIDENCE.


A few days after the events of the last chapter, Mrs. Hamilton,
accompanied by Percy, called at Moorlands. Cecil Grahame was playing in
the garden, and Percy remained with him, his good-nature often making
him a companion, though there was nearly six years' difference in their
age.

"Are you going to T-- on Thursday, Percy? There will be such fine
doings. Races and the county fair, and wild beasts and shows, and every
thing delightful; of course, you will go?"

"I do not think it at all likely," replied young Hamilton.

"No!" repeated Cecil, much astonished. "Why, I was only saying the other
day how much I should like to be as old as you are; it must be so
delightful to be one's own master."

"I do not consider myself my own master yet, Cecil. Sometimes I wish I
were; at others, I think I am much better as I am. And, as for this
fair, Mr. Howard will be back to-morrow, so there is no chance of my
going."

"Why is there no such thing as the possibility of a holiday, Percy?"
replied Cecil, with great glee; "or perhaps," he added, laughing, "your
papa is like mine, and does not allow such freaks; thinks it wrong to go
to such places, acting against morality, and such out of the way ideas."

"Are these Mr. Grahame's opinions?" inquired Percy, almost sternly.

"Why ye--yes--why do you look at me so, Percy? I am sure I said no harm;
I only repeated what I have heard mamma say continually."

"That is not the very least excuse for your disrespect to your father;
and if he think thus, I wonder you should talk of going to the races;
you can not have his permission."

"Oh, but mamma has promised if I am a good boy till then and she can
manage it, I shall go; for she can not see any harm in it. And as for
waiting for papa's permission--if I did, I should never go any where. He
is so unkind, that I am always afraid of speaking or even playing, when
he is in the room."

"You are a silly boy, Cecil," replied young Hamilton; "Believe me, you
do not know your best friend. I should be very sorry to feel thus toward
my father."

"Oh! but yours and mine are very different sort of people. Your papa
never punishes you, or refuses you his permission, when you wish
particularly to do any thing, or go any where."

"If papa thinks my wishes foolish, or liable to lead me into error, he
does refuse me without scruple, Cecil. And though I am old enough now, I
hope, so to conduct myself as to avoid actual punishment: when I was as
young as you are, papa very frequently punished me, both for my violence
and pride."

"But then he was kind to you afterward. Now I should not so much mind
papa's severity when I am naughty, if he would only be kind, or take
some notice of me when I am good. But has Mr. Hamilton told you not to
go to the races?"

"Not exactly: he has merely said he thinks it a day most unprofitably
wasted; and that the gambling and excesses, always the attendant of
races, are not fit scenes for young persons. Were I to take my horse and
go, he would not, perhaps, be actually displeased, as I am old enough
now, he says, in some things, to judge for myself; but I should be
acting against his principles, which, just now, I am not inclined to do,
for I am sure to suffer from it afterward."

"Well, all I can say, is, that when I am as old as you are, Percy, I
shall certainly consider myself under no one. I hope I shall be at Eton
by that time, and then we shall see if Cecil Grahame has not some spirit
in him. I would not be tied down to Oakwood, and to Mr. Howard's humdrum
lessons, as you are, Percy, for worlds."

"Take care that Cecil Grahame's spirit does not effervesce so much, as
to make him, when at Eton, wish himself back at Moorlands," replied
Percy, laughing heartily at his young companion's grotesque attempts at
self-consequence, by placing his cap dandily on his head, flourishing
his cane, and trying to make himself look taller. Cecil took his laugh,
however, in good part, and they continued in amicable conversation till
Mrs. Hamilton summoned Percy to attend her home.

Our readers have, perhaps, discovered that Percy, this day was not quite
as lively as usual. If they have not his mother did; for, strange to
say, he walked by her side silent and dispirited. His thoughtlessness
very often led him into error and its disagreeable consequences; and,
fearing this had again been the case, she playfully inquired the cause
of his most unusual abstraction. He colored, but evaded the question,
and successfully roused himself to talk. His mother was not anxious, for
she had such perfect confidence in him, that she know if he had
committed error, he would redeem it, and that his own good feelings and
high principles would prevent its recurrence.

It so happened, however, that young Hamilton, by a series of rather
imprudent actions, had plunged himself into such a very unusual and
disagreeable position, as not very well to know how to extricate himself
from it, without a full confession to his father; which, daringly brave
as in general he was, he felt almost as if he really had not the courage
to make. One of Mr. Hamilton's most imperative commands was, that his
sons should never incur a debt, and, to prevent the temptation, their
monthly allowance was an ample one, and fully permitted any recreative
indulgences they might desire.

Now Percy was rather inclined to extravagance, from thoughtlessness and
a profuse generosity, which had often caused him such annoyance as to
make him resolve again and again to follow his father's advice, and keep
some accounts of his expenditure, as a slight check on himself. The
admiration for beauty in the fine arts, which his mother had so
sedulously cultivated, had had only one bad effect; and that was that
his passion for prints and paintings, and illustrated and richly-bound
volumes, sometimes carried him beyond bounds, and very often occasioned
regret, that he had not examined the letter-press of such works, as well
as their engravings and bindings. He had given orders to Mr. Harris, a
large fancy stationer, librarian, and publisher of T--, to procure for
him a set of engravings, whose very interesting subjects and beautiful
workmanship, Mr. Grahame had so vividly described to him, that young
Hamilton felt to do without them till his father or he himself should
visit the metropolis, and so judge of their worth themselves, was quite
impossible. The order was given without the least regard to price. They
arrived at the end of the month, and the young gentleman, to his extreme
astonishment, discovered that his month's allowance had been so
expended, as not to leave him a half-quarter of the necessary sum. What
to do he did not very well know. Mr. Harris had had great difficulty in
procuring the prints, and of course he was bound in honor to take them.
If he waited till he could pay for them, he must sacrifice the whole of
one month's allowance, and then how could he keep free from debt till
the next? As for applying to his father, he shrank from it with actual
pain. How could he ask his ever kind and indulgent parent to discharge a
debt incurred by such a thoughtless act of unnecessary extravagance? Mr.
Harris made very light of it, declaring that, if Mr. Percy did not pay
him for a twelvemonth, it was of no consequence; he would trust him for
any sum or any time he liked. But to make no attempt to liquidate his
debt was as impossible as to speak to his father. No, after a violent
struggle with his pride, which did not at all like the idea of betraying
his inability to pay the whole, or of asking a favor of Mr. Harris, he
agreed to pay his debt by installments, and so in two or three months,
at the very latest, discharge the whole.

One week afterward he received his month's allowance, and riding over
directly to the town relieved his conscience of half its load. To have
only half his usual sum, however, for monthly expenditure caused him so
many checks and annoyances as to make him hate the very sight of the
prints whose possession he had so coveted, but he looked forward to the
next month to be free at least of Mr. Harris. The idea of disobedience
to his father in incurring a debt at all, causing him more annoyance
than all the rest.

Again the first day of the month came round, and putting the full sum
required in his purse, he set off, but on his way encountered such a
scene of distress, that every thought fled from his mind, except how to
relieve it. He accompanied the miserable half-famished man to a hut in
which lay a seemingly dying woman with a new-born babe, and two or three
small half-starved, half-naked children--listened to their story, which
was really one of truth and misfortune, not of whining deceit, poured
the whole contents of his purse into their laps, and rode off to T--, to
find not Mr. Harris but Mr. Maitland, and implore him to see what his
skill would do for the poor woman. He encountered that gentleman at the
outskirts of the town, told his story, and was so delighted at Mr.
Maitland's willing promise to go directly, and also to report the case
to those who would relieve it, that he never thought of any thing else
till he found himself directly opposite Mr. Harris's shop, and his
bounding heart sunk suddenly down, as impelled by a weight of lead. The
conviction flashed upon him that he had been giving away money which was
actually not his own; and the deed which had been productive of so much
internal happiness, now seemed to reproach and condemn him. He rode back
without even seeking Mr. Harris, for what could he tell him as the
reason of his non-payment? Certainly not his having given it away.

The first of May, which was his birthday, he had been long engaged to
spend with some young men and lads who were to have a grand game of
cricket, a jovial dinner, an adjournment to some evening amusement, and,
to conclude the day, a gay supper, with glees and songs. Mr. Hamilton
had rather wished Percy to leave the party after dinner, and had told
him so, merely, however, as a preference, not a command, but giving him
permission to use his own discretion. Percy knew there would be several
expenses attendant on the day, but still he had promised so long to be
one of the party, which all had declared would be nothing without him,
and his own inclinations so urged him to join it, that it seemed to him
utterly impossible to draw back, especially as he could give no excuse
for doing so. How could he say that he could not afford it? when he was,
or ought to have been, nearly the richest of the party; and what would
his father think?

He went. The day was thoroughly delightful, and so exciting, that though
he had started from home with the intention of leaving them after
dinner, he could not resist the pleadings of his companions and his own
wishes, and remained. At supper alone excitement and revelry seemed to
have gained the upper hand, and Percy, though steady in entirely
abstaining from all excess, was not quite so guarded as usual. A
clergyman had lately appeared at T--, whose appearance, manners, and
opinions had given more than usual food for gossip, and much
uncharitableness. His cloth indeed ought to have protected him, but it
rather increased the satire, sarcasm, and laughter which he excited. He
was brought forward by the thoughtless youths of Percy's party, quizzed
unmercifully, made the object of some clever caricatures and satires,
and though young Hamilton at first kept aloof, he could not resist the
contagion. He dashed off about half-a-dozen verses of such remarkably
witty and clever point, that they were received with roars of applause,
and an unanimous request for distribution; but this he positively
refused, and put them up with one or two other poems of more innocent
wit, in which he was fond of indulging, into his pocket.

The day closed, and the next morning brought with it so many regrets,
and such a confused recollection of the very unusual excitement of the
previous evening, that he was glad to dismiss the subject from his mind,
and threw his satire, as he believed, into the fire. In fact, he was so
absorbed with the disagreeable conviction that he could only pay Mr.
Harris a third of his remaining debt, trifling as in reality it was,
that he thought of nothing else. Now Mr. Harris was the editor and
publisher of rather a clever weekly paper, and Percy happened to be in
his parlor waiting to speak to him, while he was paying a contribution.

"I wish my head were clever enough to get out of your debt in that
comfortable way," he said, half laughing, as the gentleman left them
together.

"I wish all my customers were as desirous of paying their large debts as
you are your small ones," was Mr. Harris's reply. "But I have heard
something of your clever verses, Mr. Percy; if you will let me see some,
I really may be able to oblige you, as you seem so very anxious to have
nothing more to do with me--"

"In the way of debt, not of purchases, Mr. Harris; and I assure you, I
am not thinking so much about you, as of my own disobedience. I will
lend you my papers, only you must give me your word not to publish them
with my name."

"They will not be worth so much," replied Mr. Harris, smiling.

"Only let me feel they have helped to discharge my debt, or at least let
me know how much more is wanted to do so, and I will worship the muses
henceforth," replied Percy, with almost his natural gayety, for he felt
he wrote better verses than those Mr. Harris had been so liberally
paying for; and the idea of feeling free again was so very delightful,
that, after receiving Mr. Harris's solemn promise not to betray his
authorship, he galloped home, more happy than he had been for some days.

Mr. Harris had said he must have them that evening, and Robert was
leaving for the town, as his young master entered the house. He hastily
put up his portfolio, and sent it off. His conscience was so perfectly
free from keeping any thing that he afterward had cause to regret, that
he did not think of looking them over, and great was his delight, when a
few lines arrived from Mr. Harris, speaking in the highest terms of his
talent, and saying, that the set of verses he had selected, even without
the attraction of his name, would entirely liquidate his trifling debt.

For the next few days Percy trod on air. He had resolved on waiting till
the poem appeared, and then, as he really had discharged his debt, take
courage and confess the whole to his father, for his idea of truth made
him shrink from any farther concealment. He hoped and believed that his
father would regard the pain and constant annoyance he had been enduring
so long, as sufficient penalty for his disobedience, and after a time
give him back the confidence, which he feared must at his first
confession be withdrawn.

What, then, was his grief, his vexation, almost his despair, when he
recognized in the poem selected, the verses he thought and believed he
had burned the morning after they were written; and which in print, and
read by his sober self, seemed such a heartless, glaring, cruel insult,
not only on a fellow-creature, but a minister of God, that he felt
almost overwhelmed. What could he do? Mr. Harris was not to blame, for
he had made no reservation as to the contents of his portfolio. His
name, indeed, was not to them, and only having been read lightly once to
his companions of that hateful supper--for so he now felt it--almost all
of whom were not perfectly sober, there was a chance of their never
being recognized as his, and as their subject did not live near any town
where the paper was likely to circulate, might never meet his eye. But
all this was poor comfort. The paper was very seldom seen at Oakwood,
but its contents were often spoken of before his parents, and how could
he endure a reference to those verses, how bear this accumulation of
concealment, and, as he felt, deceit, and all sprung from the one
thoughtless act of ordering an expensive and unnecessary indulgence,
without sufficient consideration how it was to be paid. To tell his
father, avow himself the author of such a satire, and on such a subject,
he could not. Could he tell his mother, and implore her intercession?
that seemed like a want of confidence in his father--no--if he ever
could gain courage to confess it, it should be to Mr. Hamilton alone;
but the more he thought, the more, for the first time, his courage
failed. It was only the day before his visit to Lady Helen's that he
had discovered this accumulation of misfortune, and therefore it was not
much wonder he was so dispirited. Two days afterward Herbert, with a
blushing cheek and very timid voice, asked his father to grant him a
great favor. He was almost afraid to ask it, he said, but he hoped and
believed his parent would trust his assurance that it was for nothing
improper. It was that he might be from home next day unattended for
several hours. He should go on horseback, but he was so accustomed to
ride, and his horse was so steady, he hoped he might be allowed to go
alone. Mr. Hamilton looked very much surprised, as did all present. That
the quiet, studious Herbert should wish to give up his favorite
pursuits, so soon too after Mr. Howard's return, and go on what appeared
such a mysterious excursion, was something so extraordinary, that
various expressions of surprise broke from his sisters and Edward. Percy
did look up but made no observation. Mr. Hamilton only paused, however,
to consult his wife's face and then replied--

"You certainly have mystified us, my dear boy; but I freely grant you my
consent, and if I can read your mother's face aright, hers is not far
distant. You are now nearly fifteen, and never once from your birth has
your conduct given me an hour's pain or uneasiness; I have therefore
quite sufficient confidence in your integrity and steadiness to trust
you, as you wish, alone. I will not even ask your intentions, for I am
sure they will not lead you into wrong."

"Thank you, again and again, my own dear father. I hope I shall never do
any thing to forfeit your confidence," replied Herbert, so eagerly that
his cheeks flushed still deeper, and his eyes glistened; then throwing
himself on the stool at his mother's feet, he said, pleadingly, "Will
you, too, trust me, dearest mother, and promise me not to be anxious, if
I do not appear till after our dinner-hour?--promise me this, or I shall
have no pleasure in my expedition."

"Most faithfully," replied Mrs. Hamilton, fondly. "I trust my Herbert
almost as I would his father; I do not say as much for this young man,
nor for that," she added, playfully laying her hand on Percy's shoulder,
and laughing at Edward, who was so excessively amused at the sage
Herbert's turning truant, that he was giving vent to a variety of most
grotesque antics of surprise. Percy sighed so heavily that his mother
was startled.

"I did not intend to call such a very heavy sigh, my boy," she said.
"In an emergency I would trust you quite as implicitly as Herbert; but
you have often yourself wished you had his steadiness."

"Indeed I do, mother; I wish I were more like him in every thing,"
exclaimed Percy, far more despondingly than usual.

"You will be steady all in time, my boy, I have not the very slightest
fear; and as I like variety, even in my sons, I would rather retain my
Percy, with all his boyish errors, than have even another Herbert. So
pray do not look so sad, or I shall fancy I have given you pain, when I
only spoke in jest."

Percy threw his arm round her waist, and kissed her two or three times,
without saying a word, and when he started up and, said, in his usual
gay tone, that as he was not going to turn truant the next day, he must
go and finish some work, she saw tears in his eyes. That something was
wrong, she felt certain, but still she trusted in his candor and
integrity, and did not express her fears even to her husband.

The morrow came. Percy and Edward went to Mr. Howard's, and Herbert at
half-past nine mounted his quiet horse, and after affectionately
embracing his mother, and again promising care and steadiness, departed.
He had risen at five this morning, and studied till breakfast so
earnestly that a double portion was prepared for the next day. He had
said, as he was starting, that, if he might remain out so long, he
should like to call at Greville Manor on his way back, take tea there,
and return home in the cool of the evening.

"Your next request, my very modest son, will be, I suppose, to stay out
all night," replied Mrs. Hamilton; "and that certainly will be refused.
This is the last to which I shall consent--off with you, my boy, and
enjoy yourself."

But Herbert did not expect to enjoy himself half as much as if he had
gone to Mr. Howard's as usual. He did not like to mention his real
object, for it appeared as if the chances were so much against its
attainment, and if it were fulfilled, to speak about it would be equally
painful, from its having been an act of kindness.

The day passed quietly, and a full hour before prayers, Herbert was seen
riding through the grounds, and when he entered the usual sitting-room,
he looked so happy, so animated that, if his parents had felt any
anxiety--which they had not--it would have vanished at once. But though
they were contented not to ask him any questions, the young party were
not, and, except by Percy (who seemed intently engaged with a drawing),
he was attacked on all sides, and, to add to their mirth, Mr. Hamilton
took the part of the curious, his wife that of her son.

"Ah, mamma may well take Herbert's part," exclaimed the little joyous
Emmeline; "for of course she knows all about it; Herbert would never
keep it from her."

"Indeed I do not!" and "Indeed I have not even told mamma!" was the
reply from both at the same moment, but the denial was useless; and the
prayer-bell rung, before any satisfaction for the curious could be
obtained, except that from half-past six Herbert had been very quietly
at Mrs. Greville's.

That night, as Percy sat in gloomy meditation in his own room, before he
retired to bed, he felt a hand laid gently on his shoulder, and looking
up, beheld his brother--

"Have you lost all interest in me, Percy?" asked Herbert, with almost
melancholy reproach. "If you had expressed one word of inquiry as to my
proceedings, I should have told you all without the slightest reserve.
You have never before been so little concerned for me, and indeed I do
not like it."

"I could not ask your confidence, my dear Herbert, when for the last
three months I have been wanting in openness to you. Indeed, annoyed as
I am with my own folly, I was as deeply interested as all the rest in
your expedition, though I guessed its object could be nothing but
kindness; but how could I ask your secret when I was so reserved with
you."

"Then do not let us have secrets from each other any longer, dearest
Percy," pleaded Herbert, twining his arm round his neck, and looking
with affectionate confidence in his face. "I do not at all see why my
secret must comprise more worth and kindness than yours. You talk of
folly, and I have fancied for some days that you are not quite happy;
but you often blame yourself so much more than you deserve, that you do
not frighten me in the least. You said, last night, you wished you were
more like me; but, indeed, if you were, I should be very sorry. What
would become of me without your mirth and liveliness, and your strength
and ever-working care to protect me from any thing like pain, either
mentally or bodily? I should not like my own self for my brother at
all."

"Nor I myself for mine," replied Percy, so strangely cheered, that he
almost laughed at Herbert's very novel idea, and after listening with
earnest interest to his story, took courage and told his own. Herbert in
this instance, however, could not comfort him as successfully as usual.
The satire was the terrible thing; every thing else but that, even the
disobedience of the debt, he thought might be easily remedied by an open
confession to his father; but that unfortunate oversight in not looking
over his papers before he sent them to Mr. Harris, the seeming utter
impossibility to stop their circulation, was to both these
single-hearted, high-principled lads something almost overwhelming. It
did not in the least signify to either that Percy might never be known
as their author. Herbert could not tell him what to do, except that, if
he could but get sufficient courage to tell their father, even if he
could not help them, he was sure it would be a great weight off his
mind, and then he gently reproached him for not coming to him to help
him discharge his debt; it was surely much better to owe a trifle to his
brother than to Mr. Harris.

"And, to gratify my extravagance, deprive you of some much purer and
better pleasure!" replied Percy, indignantly. "No, no, Bertie; never
expect me to do any such thing; I would rather suffer the penalty of my
own faults fifty times over! I wish to heaven I were a child again," he
added with almost comic ruefulness, "and had mamma to come to me every
night, as she used to do, before I went to sleep. It was so easy then to
tell her all I had done wrong in the course of the day, and then one
error never grew into so many: but now--it must be out before Sunday, I
suppose--I never can talk to my father as I do on that day, unless it
is;--but go to bed, dear Herbert; I shall have your pale cheeks upon my
conscience to-morrow, too!"



CHAPTER VII.

MR. MORTON'S STORY.--A CONFESSION.--A YOUNG PLEADER.--GENEROSITY NOT
ALWAYS JUSTICE.


"Do you remember, Emmeline, a Mr. Morton, who officiated for Mr. Howard
at Aveling, five or six weeks ago?" asked Mr. Hamilton of his wife, on
the Saturday morning after Herbert's mysterious excursion. The family
had not yet left the breakfast-table.

"Perfectly well," was the reply; "poor young man! his appearance and
painful weakness of voice called for commiseration too deeply not to be
remembered."

"Is he not deformed?" inquired Miss Harcourt; "there was something
particularly painful about his manner as he stood in the pulpit."

"He is slightly deformed now; but not five years ago he had a graceful,
almost elegant figure, though always apparently too delicate for the
fatiguing mental duties in which he indulged. He was of good family, but
his parents were suddenly much reduced, and compelled to undergo many
privations to enable him to go to Oxford. There he allowed himself
neither relaxation nor pleasure of the most trifling and most harmless
kind; his only wish seemed to be to repay his parents in some degree the
heavy debt of gratitude which he felt he owed them. His persevering
study, great talent, and remarkable conduct, won him some valuable
friends, one of whom, as soon as he was ordained, presented him with a
rich living in the North. For nine months he enjoyed the most unalloyed
happiness. His pretty vicarage presented a happy, comfortable home for
his parents, and the comforts they now enjoyed, earned by the worth of
their son, amply repaid them for former privations.--One cold snowy
night he was summoned to a poor parishioner, living about ten miles
distant. The road was rugged, and in some parts dangerous; but he was
not a man to shrink from his duty for such reasons. He was detained
eight hours, during which time the snow had fallen incessantly, and it
was pitchy dark. Still believing he knew his road, he proceeded, and the
next morning was found lying apparently dead at the foot of a
precipice, and almost crushed under the mangled and distorted carcass of
his horse."

An exclamation of horror burst from all the little group, except from
Percy and Herbert; the face of the former was covered with his hands,
and his brother seemed so watching and feeling for him, as to be unable
to join the general sympathy. All, however, were so engrossed with Mr.
Hamilton's tale, that neither was observed.

"He was so severely injured, that for months his very life was despaired
of. Symptoms of decline followed, and the inability to resume his
ministerial duties for years, if ever again, compelled him to resign his
rich and beautiful living in Yorkshire; and he felt himself once more a
burden on his parents, with scarcely any hope of supporting them again.
Nor was this all; his figure, once so slight and supple, had become so
shrunk and maimed, that at first he seemed actually to loathe the sight
of his fellows. His voice, once so rich and almost thrilling, became
wiry, and almost painfully monotonous; and for some months the conflict
for submission to this inscrutable and most awful trial was so terrible
that he nearly sunk beneath it. This was, of course, still more physical
than mental, and gradually subsided, as, after eighteen months'
residence in Madeira, where he was sent by a benevolent friend, some
portion of health returned. The same benefactor established his father
in some humble but most welcome business in London; and earnestly, on
his return, did his parents persuade him to remain quietly with them,
and not undertake the ministry again; but this he could not do, and
gratefully accepted a poor and most miserable parish on the moor, not
eight miles from here."

"But when did you become acquainted with him, papa?" asked Caroline;
"you have never mentioned him before."

"No, my dear; I never saw him till the Sunday he officiated for Mr.
Howard; but his appearance so deeply interested me, I did not rest till
I had learned his whole history, which Mr. Howard had already
discovered. He has been nearly a year in Devonshire, but so kept aloof
from all but his own poor parishioners, dreading the ridicule and sneers
of the more worldly and wealthy, that it was mere accident which made
Mr. Howard acquainted with him. Our good minister's friendship and
earnest exhortations have so far overcome his too great sensitiveness,
as sometimes to prevail on him to visit the Vicarage, and I trust in
time equally to succeed in bringing him here."

"But what is he so afraid of, dear papa?" innocently asked Emmeline.
"Surely nobody could be so cruel as to ridicule him because he is
deformed?"

"Unfortunately, my dear child, there are too many who only enter church
for the sake of the sermon and the preacher, and to criticise severely
and uncharitably all that differs from their preconceived ideas; to such
persons Mr. Morton must be an object of derision. And now I come to the
real reason of my asking your mother if she remembered him."

"Then you had a reason," answered Mrs. Hamilton, smiling; "your story
has made me wonder whether you had or not."

"I must tax your memory once more, Emmeline, before my cause is told. Do
you recollect, for a fortnight after the Sunday we heard him, he
preached twice a week at Torrington, to oblige a very particular
friend?"

"Yes, and that you feared the increased number of the congregation
proceeded far more from curiosity than kindliness or devotion."

"I did say so, and my fears are confirmed: some affairs brought Morton
to Torrington for two or three days this week, and yesterday I called on
him, and had some hours' interesting conversation. He was evidently even
more than usually depressed and self-shrinking, if I may use the word,
and at length touched, it seemed, by my sympathy, he drew my attention
to a poem in Harris's 'Weekly Magazine.'"

"'It is not enough that it has pleased my God to afflict me,' he said,
'but my fellow-creatures must unkindly make me the subject of attacks
such as these. There is indeed no name, but to none else but me will it
apply.' I could not reply, for I really felt too deeply for him. It was
such a cruel, wanton insult, the very talent of the writer, for the
verses though few in number were remarkably clever, adding to their
gall."

"I wonder Harris should have published them," observed Miss Harcourt;
"his paper is not in general of a personal kind."

"It is never sufficiently guarded; and it would require a person of
higher principles than I fear Harris has, to resist the temptation of
inserting a satire likely to sell a double or treble number of his
papers. I spoke to him at once, and bought up every one that remained;
but though he expressed regret, it was not in a tone that at all
satisfied me as to his feeling it, and of course, as the paper has been
published since last Saturday evening, the circulation had nearly
ceased. If I could but know the author, I think I could make him feel
the excessive cruelty, if not the actual guilt, of his wanton deed."

"But, dear papa, the person who wrote it might not have known his
story," interposed Caroline, to Edward's and Ellen's astonishment, that
she had courage to speak at all; for their uncle's unusual tone and look
brought back almost more vividly than it had ever done before their
mother's lessons of his exceeding and terrible sternness.

"That does not excuse the ridicule, my dear child; it only confirms the
lesson I have so often tried to teach you all, that any thing tending by
word or deed to hurt the feelings of a fellow-creature, is absolutely
wrong--wrong in the thing itself, not according to the greater or less
amount of pain it may excite."

"But, my dear husband, the writer may not have been so taught. Satire
and ridicule are unhappily so popular, that these verses may have been
penned without any thought of their evil tendency, merely as to the
_éclat_ they would bring their author. We must not be too severe, for we
do not know--"

"Mother! mother! do not--do not speak so, if you have ever loved me!" at
length exclaimed poor Percy, so choked with his emotion, that he could
only throw himself by her side, bury his face in her lap, and sob for a
few minutes like a child. But he recovered himself with a strong effort,
before either of his family could conquer their anxiety and alarm, and,
standing erect, though pale as marble, without in the least degree
attempting excuse or extenuation, acknowledged the poem as his, and
poured out his whole story, with the sole exception of how he had
disposed of the money, with which the second time of receiving his
allowance he had intended to discharge his debt; and the manner in which
he told that part of his tale, from the fear that it would seem like an
excuse or a boast, was certainly more calculated to call for doubt than
belief. Herbert was about to speak, but an imploring glance from Percy
checked him.

Mr. Hamilton was silent several minutes after his son had concluded,
before he could reply. Percy was so evidently distressed--had suffered
so much from the consequence of his own errors--felt so intensely the
unintentional publication of his poem--for his father knew his truth far
too well to doubt his tale, and there was something so intrinsically
noble in his brave confession, that to condemn him severely he felt as
if he could not.

"Of willful cruelty toward Mr. Morton, your story has certainly
exculpated you," he said, as sternly as he could; "but otherwise you
must be yourself aware that it has given me both grief and pain, and the
more so, because you evidently shrink from telling me in what manner you
squandered away that money which would have been sufficient to have
fully discharged your debt six weeks ago; I must therefore believe there
is still some deed of folly unrevealed. I condemn you to no
punishment--you are old enough now to know right from wrong, and your
own feelings must condemn or applaud you. Had you been firm, as I had
hoped you were, example would not so have worked upon you, as to tempt
even the composition of your satire; as it is, you must reap the
consequences of your weakness, in the painful consciousness that you
have deeply wounded one, who it would seem had been already sufficiently
afflicted, and that confidence must for the time be broken between us.
Go, sir, the hour of your attendance on Mr. Howard is passed."

Mr. Hamilton rose with the last words, and somewhat hastily quitted the
room. Percy only ventured one look at his mother, she seemed so
grieved--so sad--that he could not bear it; and darting out of the room,
was seen in less than a minute traversing the grounds in the direction
of the vicarage, at such a rate that Edward, fleet as in general he was,
could not overtake him. Herbert lingered; he could not bear that any
part of Percy's story should remain concealed, and so told at once how
his second allowance had been expended.

Mrs. Hamilton's eyes glistened. Percy's incoherence on that one point
had given her more anxiety than any thing else, and the relief the truth
bestowed was inexpressible. Imprudent it was; but there was something so
lovable in such a disposition, that she could not resist going directly
to her husband to impart it.

"You always bring me comfort, dearest!" was his fond rejoinder; "anxious
as that boy's thoughtlessness must make me (for what are his temptations
now to what they will be?) still I must imbibe your fond belief, that
with such an open, generous, truthful heart, he can not go far wrong.
But what _are_ we to do about that unfortunate poem? I can not associate
with Morton, knowing the truth, and yet permit him to believe I am as
ignorant of the author as himself."

"Let me speak to Percy before we decide on anything, my dear Arthur. Is
Mr. Morton still at Torrington?"

"No; he was to return to Heathmore this morning."

Mrs. Hamilton looked very thoughtful, but she did not make any
rejoinder.

In the hour of recreation Emmeline, declaring it was much too hot for
the garden, sought her mother's private sitting-room, with the intention
of asking where she could find her father. To her great delight, the
question was arrested on her lips, for he was there. She seated herself
on his knee, and remained there for some minutes without speaking--only
looking up in his face with the most coaxing expression imaginable.

"Well, Emmeline, what great favor are you going to ask me?" said Mr.
Hamilton, smiling; "some weighty boon, I am quite sure."

"Indeed, papa, and how do you know that?"

"I can read it in your eyes."

"My eyes are treacherous tell-tales then, and you shall not see them any
more," she replied, laughing, and shaking her head till her long bright
ringlets completely hid her eyes and blushing cheeks. "But have they
told you the favor I am going to ask?"

"No," replied her father, joining in her laugh; "they leave that to your
tongue."

"I can read more, I think," said Mrs. Hamilton; "I am very much
mistaken, if I do not know what Emmeline is going to ask."

"Only that--that--" still she hesitated, as if afraid to continue, and
her mother added--

"That papa will not be very angry with Percy; Emmeline, is not that the
boon you have no courage to ask?"

A still deeper glow mounted to the child's fair cheek, and throwing her
arms round her father's neck, she said, coaxingly and fondly--

"Mamma has guessed it, dear papa! you must, indeed, you must forgive
him--poor fellow! he is so _very_ sorry, and he has suffered so much
already--and he did not throw away his money foolishly, as you thought;
he gave it to some very poor people--and you are always pleased when we
are charitable; pray forget every thing else but that, and treat him as
you always do, dear papa--will you not?"

"I wonder which is most certain--that mamma must be a witch, or Emmeline
a most eloquent little pleader," said Mr. Hamilton, caressingly stroking
the ringlets she had disordered, "and suppose, after to-day, I do grant
your request--what then?"

"Oh, you will be such a dear, darling, good papa!" exclaimed Emmeline,
almost suffocating him with kisses, and then starting from his knee, she
danced about the room in a perfect ecstasy of delight; "and Percy will
be happy again, and we shall all be so happy. Mamma, dear mamma, I am
sure you will be glad too."

"And now, Emmeline, when you have danced yourself sober again, come back
to your seat, for as I have listened to and answered you, you must
listen to and answer me."

In an instant she was on his knee again, quite quiet and attentive.

"In the first place, do you think Percy was justified making Mr. Morton
an object of satire at all, even if it should never have left his own
portfolio?"

"No, papa, and I am quite sure, if he had not been rather more
excited--and--and heedless than usual--which was very likely he should
be, you know, papa, after such a day of nothing but pleasure--he would
never have done such a thing: I am sure he did not think of hurting Mr.
Morton's feelings; he only wanted to prove that he was quite as clever
as his companions, and that was very natural, you know, when he is so
clever at such things. But my brother Percy willingly ridicule a
clergyman! no, no, dear papa, pray do not believe it."

"Well defended, my little girl; but how do you justify his disobeying my
commands, and incurring a debt?"

Emmeline was silent. "He was very wrong to do that, papa; but I am sure,
when he ordered the engravings, he did not intend to disobey you, and
you know he is naturally very--I mean a little impatient."

"Still on the defensive, Emmeline, even against your better judgment.
Well, well, I must not make you condemn your brother; does he know what
an eloquent pleader he has in his sister?"

"No, papa; and pray do not tell him."

"And why not?"

"Because he might think it was only for my sake you forgave him, and not
for his own; and I know I should not like that, if I were in his place."

"He shall know nothing more than you desire, my dear little girl,"
replied her father, drawing her closer to him, with almost involuntary
tenderness. "And now will you try and remember what I am going to say.
You wish me only to think of Percy's kind act in giving his money to the
poor people; but I should have been better pleased in this case, had he
been more _just_, and not so generous. I know it is not unfrequently
said by young persons, when they think they are doing a charitable act,
and can only do it by postponing the payment of their debts--'Oh, Mr. So
and so has plenty of business, he can afford to wait for his money, but
these poor creatures are starving.' Now this is not generosity or
charity, but actual injustice, and giving away money which is literally
not their own. I do not believe Percy thought so, because I have no
doubt he forgot Mr. Harris, at the time, entirely; but still, as it was
a mere impulse of kindness, it does not please me quite so much as it
does you."

"But it was charity, papa, was it not? You have said that whenever we
are kind and good to the poor, God is pleased with us; and if Percy did
not intend to wrong Mr. Harris, and only thought about relieving the
poor family, was it not a good feeling?"

"It was; but it might have been still worthier. Suppose Percy had
encountered this case of distress when on his way to order his
engravings, and to enable him to relieve it as he wished, he had given
up the purchasing them. That he found he could not afford the _two_, and
so gave up the one mere _individual_ gratification, to succor some
unhappy fellow-creatures: would not that have been still worthier? and
by the conquest of his own inclinations rendered his charity still more
acceptable to God? Do you quite understand me, Emmy?"

"I think I do, dear papa; you mean that, though God is so good, He is
pleased whenever we are charitable, He is still better pleased when to
be so gives us a little pain."

"Very well explained, my little girl; so you see in this instance, if
Percy had been just before he was generous, and then to be generous, had
denied himself some pleasure, his conduct would not have given us or
himself any pain, but have been quite as worthy of all the praise you
could bestow. And now I wonder how mamma could have discovered so
exactly what favor you had to ask?"

"Oh, mamma always knows all my feelings and wishes, almost before I know
them myself, though I never can find out how."

"Shall I tell you, Emmeline? Your mother has devoted hours, weeks,
months, and years to studying the characters of all her children; so to
know them, that she may not only be able to guide you in the path of
good, but to share all your little joys and sorrows, to heighten the one
and guard you from the other. Ought you not to be very grateful to your
Father in Heaven for giving you such a mother?"

His child made no answer in words, but she slipped from his knee, and
darting to her mother, clasped her little arms tight round her neck, and
hid her glowing cheeks and tearful eyes in her bosom. And from that
hour, as she felt her mother's fond return of that passionate embrace,
her love became religion, though she knew it not. Her thoughts flew to
her cousins and many others, who had no mother, and to others whose
mothers left them to nurses and governesses, and seemed always to keep
them at a distance. And she felt, How could she thank and love God
enough? Nor was it the mere feeling of the moment, it became part of her
being, for the right moment had been seized to impress it.



CHAPTER VIII.

AN UNPLEASANT PROPOSAL.--THE MYSTERY SOLVED.--A FATHER'S GRIEF FROM A
MOTHER'S WEAKNESS.--A FATHER'S JOY FROM A MOTHER'S INFLUENCE.


Meanwhile the young heir of Oakwood had passed no very pleasant day. His
thoughts since Mr. Howard's return had been so pre-occupied, that his
studies had been unusually neglected; so much so, as rather to excite
the displeasure of his gentle and forbearing preceptor. The emotion of
the morning had not tended to steady his ideas, and a severe reproof and
long imposition was the consequence. Not one word did he deign to
address Herbert and Edward, who, perceiving him leave the Vicarage with
every mark of irritation, endeavored, during their walk home, to soothe
him. His step was even more rapid than that in which he had left home,
and he neither stopped nor spoke till he had reached his father's
library, which, fortunately for the indulgence of his ire in words, was
untenanted. He dashed his cap from his brow, flung his books with
violence on the ground, and burst forth--

"Am I not a fool--an idiot, thus to torment myself, and for one act of
folly, when hundreds of boys, at my age, are entirely their own masters?
do what they please--spend what they please--neither questioned nor
reproved--and that poem--how many would glory in its authorship, and not
care a whit whom it might wound. Why am I such a fool, as to reproach
myself about it, and then be punished, like a school-boy, with an
imposition to occupy me at home, because I did not choose to learn in
the hours of study?--Not choose! I wish Mr. Howard could feel as I have
done to-day, nay, all this week; and I challenge him to bore his head
with Greek and Latin! But why am I so cowed as to feel so? Why can not I
have the same spirit as others--instead of being such a slave--such a--"

"Percy!" exclaimed Mrs. Hamilton, who, having sought him the moment she
heard the hall-door close, had heard nearly the whole of his violent
speech, and was almost alarmed at the unusual passion it evinced. Her
voice of astonished expostulation checked his words, but not his
agitation; he threw himself on a chair, leaning his arms upon the table,
buried his face upon them, while his whole frame shook. His mother sat
down by him, and laying her hand on his arm, said gently--

"What is it that has so irritated you, my dear Percy? What has made you
return home in such a very different mood to that in which you left it?
Tell me, my boy."

Percy tried to keep silence, for he knew if he spoke he should, as he
expressed it, be a child again, and his pride tried hard for victory.
Even his father or Herbert at that moment would have chafed him into
increased anger, but the almost passionate love and reverence which he
felt for his mother triumphed over his wrath, and told him he was much
more unhappy than angry; and that he longed for her to comfort him, as
she always had done in his childish griefs; and so he put his arms round
her, and laid his head on her shoulder and said, in a half-choked
voice:--

"I am very unhappy, mother; I feel as if I had been every thing that was
bad, and cruel, and foolish, and so it was a relief to be in a passion;
but I did not mean you to hear it, and cause you more grief than I have
done already."

"You have been very thoughtless, very foolish, and not quite so firm as
we could have wished, my own dear boy, but I will not have you accuse
yourself of any graver faults," replied Mrs. Hamilton, as she lightly
pushed back the clustering hair from his heated forehead, and the
gentle touch of her cool hand seemed as restorative as her soothing
words; and Percy, as he listened to her, as she continued speaking to
him in the same strain for some little time, felt more relieved than
five minutes before he thought possible, and more than ever determined
that he would never act so thoughtlessly; or, if he were tempted to do
so, never keep it concealed so long again. Mrs. Hamilton's anxious
desire with him was, always to do justice to his better qualities, at
the same time that she blamed and convinced him of his faults. It was a
very delicate thing, and very difficult to succeed in, perhaps
impossible to minds less peculiarly refined, and hearts less intensely
anxious than Mrs. Hamilton's; but no difficulty, no failure, had ever
deterred her--and in Percy she was already rewarded. He was of that
high, fine spirit, that any unjust harshness would have actually
confirmed in error--any unguarded word bring argument on argument, and
so, for the mere sake of opposition, cause him to abide in his opinions,
when the acknowledgment of his being right in some things, produced the
voluntary confession of his error in others.

"And now about these unfortunate verses, my dear boy; I am not quite
clear as to their fate, how it happened that you did not destroy them
directly you returned home."

"I fully intended, and believed I had done so, mother, but the whirl of
that night seemed to extend to the morning, and I dressed and prepared
for Mr. Howard in such a hurry (I had overslept myself, too), that
though I had quite resolved they should not pollute my pocket-book any
longer, I had no time to look over my papers--thought I could not be
mistaken in their outside--burnt those I really wished to keep, and
threw those which have caused me all this pain into my portfolio. If I
had but been firm enough to have followed my father's advice, and left
my companions before supper!--or, if I did join them, had not been so
weak, so mad, as to yield to the temptation, but adhered to my
principles, notwithstanding they might have been laughed at, I might
have been spared it all; but I was so excited, so heated, with a more
than sufficient quantity of wine, that I did not know what I was
about--not its extent of wrong, at least."

"And you have suffered enough for an evening's excitement, my poor boy;
but I am sure you would atone for it, if you could."

"Atone for it, mother! I would give all I possess to cancel that odious
poem, and blot it from Mr. Morton's memory, as from my own."

"And I think you can do both, Percy."

He looked at her in utter bewilderment.

"Do both, mother!" he repeated.

"Yes, my boy! it is a painful remedy, but it would be an effectual one.
Seek Mr. Morton, and tell him yourself your whole story."

Percy crimsoned to the very temples.

"Do not ask me such a thing, mother," he answered very hurriedly; "I can
not do it."

"You think so at this moment, my dear boy; I am not at all astonished
that you should, for it will be very humiliating, and very painful; and
if I could spare you either the humiliation or the pain, yet produce the
same good effects, I need not tell you how gladly I would; but no one
can remove the sting of that poem from Mr. Morton's sensitive feelings
but yourself; and I am quite sure if you will allow yourself a little
time for quiet thought, you will agree with me."

"But why should I inflict such pain upon myself, granting I deserve it?"
answered Percy, still much heated; "when, though my poem is the only one
that has unfortunately met his eye, the others were quite as galling,
and my companions quite as much to blame--why should I be the sufferer?"

"Because, by many errors, you have brought it on yourself. Your
companions did indeed act very wrongly, but are we quite sure that the
principles which your father and Mr. Howard have so carefully impressed
upon you, have been as carefully impressed upon them? and in such a case
are not you the more responsible? They had evidently no inward check to
keep them from such an amusement; you had, for you have acknowledged
that you kept aloof at first, _knowing it was wrong_, and only yielded
from want of sufficient firmness. Inflict the pain of an avowal upon
yourself, my boy, and its memory will help you in future from yielding
to too great weakness--and the act prove to us that, though for a moment
led into great error, you are still as brave and honest as we believe
you."

Percy did not reply, but his countenance denoted an inward struggle, and
his mother added--

"Suppose, as is very likely, Mr. Morton becomes intimate here, how can
you, with your open, truthful heart, associate with him, with any
comfort or confidence even though perfectly satisfied that we would not
betray you, and that he would never know the truth? You may fancy now
that you could, but I know my Percy better; but I must not talk to you
any more, for the dressing-bell rang some minutes ago. Remember, my dear
boy, that I lay no command on you to seek Mr. Morton; I have only told
you that which I believe would restore you to happiness and atone for
your faults, more effectually than any thing else; but you are quite at
liberty to act as you think proper."

She left the room as she spoke, but Percy remained for some few minutes
longer in deep thought, and when he prepared for dinner, and joined his
family, it was still in the same unbroken silence. Mr. Hamilton took no
notice of him, and two or three times the little affectionate Emmeline
felt the tears rising to her eyes, for she could not bear to see that
brother, who was in general the life of the family group, so silent and
abstracted.

Sliding after him, as he quitted the room after dinner, she took his
hand, and looked coaxingly in his face, longing, but not daring to tell
him her father's promise, for fear he should discover her share in the
transaction.

"Well, dear Emmy?"

"Are you going to take a walk, Percy?--let me go with you."

"I do not think I am, love. I may be going to ride."

"To ride!" repeated the little girl; "will it be worth while?"

"You forget, Emmy, it is summer now, I have full four hours before
prayers; but do not say any thing about my intentions, Emmeline, for I
do not know them myself yet."

He kissed her forehead and left her, and a few minutes afterward she was
summoned to join her mother, Caroline, and Ellen, in a walk. They
sauntered through the grounds in the direction of the northern lodge,
which opened on the road leading to Dartmoor; when, not a quarter of an
hour after they had left the house, they were overtaken by Percy, riding
at what seemed almost a hand gallop, but he had time as he passed his
mother to gracefully doff his cap, and her fond heart throbbed, as she
caught the expression of his flushed, but earnest face. He was out of
sight in another moment, followed by Robert, who was the lads' constant
attendant.

Before they had concluded their walk, they met Mrs. Greville and Mary,
and returned with them to the house. Emmeline, who had not seen Mary
for nearly a fortnight, was in an ecstasy of enjoyment, and Ellen always
felt it a real pleasure quietly to walk by Mary's side, and answer the
many questions with which she always contrived to interest her. On
entering the house, Mr. Hamilton, Herbert, and Edward joined them, and
Mrs. Hamilton was somewhat surprised at the even more than ordinary
warmth with which her son was greeted by her friends, and at the flush
which stained his cheek at Mrs. Greville's first words--

"You were not too much fatigued last Thursday, I hope, my dear Herbert?"
she inquired, and as she looked at him, her eyes glistened in tears.

"Oh, not in the least," he replied instantly, and as if he would
exceedingly like to change the subject; but Mrs. Greville, turning to
Mrs. Hamilton, continued--

"Will you forgive me, Emmeline, if I confess that my visit this evening
was more to inquire after your son, than even to see you. I was so
anxious to know that he had suffered no inconvenience from his unusual,
and I am sure fatiguing, exertion."

"I suppose I must not be jealous, as you are so candid," replied Mrs.
Hamilton, smiling; "but I feel very much inclined to be so, finding that
you are more in my son's confidence than I am myself. I know Herbert was
from home on Thursday, but I was not aware of any particular exertion on
his part."

"Did you not know then where he went?" exclaimed Mary and her mother at
the same moment; and the former continued, with unusual eagerness, "Did
you not know that he went to the races, to try and hear something of
Alfred? and that by hunting about both the fair and the
race-ground--scenes which I know he so much dislikes--he actually found
him, and amused him so successfully, that he kept him with him all day.
Papa was so engaged that he had no time to look after Alfred, who, from
being left entirely to himself, might have sought the worst companions;
I can not think what charm Herbert used, but Alfred was quite contented
to be with him; they dined together, and--"

"He brought me what, next to my boy himself, was the greatest
consolation I could have," interposed Mrs. Greville, her voice so
faltering, that tears almost escaped,--"a few lines which, he assures
me, Alfred thought of writing himself, telling me, he could not bear to
think he had left home without kissing me, and that, though he was so
happy with his father, that he could not wish to return home, he still
loved me and Mary very, very much, and would continue to love us, and
come and see us, whenever he could. Oh, Emmeline, can you not imagine
the relief of such a letter, of hearing of him at all? and it was all
through the kindness, the goodness of your boy!"

When Mrs. Greville and Mary had first begun to speak, Herbert tried to
retreat; but Edward placing himself against the door, so that to open it
was impossible, and Caroline and Emmeline, both at once catching hold of
him, to keep him prisoner, egress was not to be thought of; so, in
laughing despair, he broke from his sisters, flung himself on his usual
seat, his mother's stool, and almost hid himself in her dress.

"It must have been a relief, indeed," answered Mr. Hamilton; "and
rejoiced am I that my quiet Herbert thought of such a plan. Look up,
Master Shamefaced, and tell us the reason of your most extraordinary
mystery on this occasion. Why did you so carefully conceal your
intentions from your mother and myself?"

"Because, papa, I feared you might not approve of them; I hardly dared
think about it myself, for it seemed as if I were doing actually wrong
in disregarding your principles, for only the _chance_ of effecting
good. I know, if I had mentioned my wish to find Alfred, or hear
something about him, you would not have refused my going; but then mamma
must have known it, and she would have been anxious and uncomfortable,
if I had not appeared the very moment I had named; would you not?" he
continued, looking up in her face with that expression of affection,
which very few, even comparative strangers, had power to remit.

"I should indeed, my dear boy; I fear I should have condemned your
scheme as a very wild one, and really am glad you thought so much of my
comfort, as not to tell me more than you did. So I must not even be
jealous, Jessie, but rather propose a vote of thanks to you and Mary for
solving the mystery. I do not think Herbert ever excited so much
curiosity and speculation, in his life, before."

The entrance of Mr. Grahame changed the current of the conversation,
greatly to Herbert's relief, for he did not at all like being thus
brought forward. Austere as Grahame was at home, he was always welcomed
with pleasure by the young Hamiltons, who never could understand why
Annie and Cecil should so fear him. That something unusual had annoyed
him, Mr. Hamilton perceived at the first glance; but he took no notice,
for Grahame seemed to find relief in talking gayly to the young people.

"And where is my friend Percy?" he inquired, as he joined the happy
group at tea, and Percy was still absent. Mr. Hamilton repeated the
question in some surprise; but his wife replying that he had gone to
ride, and might not be back yet, the subject dropped.

After tea, Mrs. Greville and Mary, attended by Herbert and Edward,
returned to the Manor; and the little girls went to finish some business
for the next day, and amuse themselves as they liked. Grahame remained
alone with his friends, who at length drew from him the cause of his
solicitude. He had that morning discovered, that, notwithstanding his
positive commands, Cecil had gone to the prohibited places of amusement.
His wife had prevaricated when he questioned her; at one moment almost
denying her connivance at the boy's disobedience, at another
unconsciously acknowledging it, by insisting that there was no harm in
it; and if Grahame would persist in so interfering with his children's
amusements, he must expect to be disobeyed. If such were his home, where
was he to look for truth, honor, and affection? What would be his son's
after career, if such were the lessons of his childhood? He had punished
him severely, but there was little hope of its producing any good
effect, when his wife was yet more to blame than his child. It would
only alienate the boy's affections still more from him. Yet what could
he do? Could he let such disobedience and untruthfulness--for Cecil had
denied his having been at the races--pass unnoticed? He had shut himself
up in his library the remainder of the day; but at length, unable to
bear his own thoughts, had walked over to Oakwood, feeling sure, if
peace were to be found, he should find it there.

Their sympathy it was easy for Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton to give--for they
felt it sincerely--but to advise was both delicate and difficult. To
interfere in a household is not the part even of the most intimate
friends. And when Lady Helen herself encouraged the boy in his
disobedience, and showed him an example of equivocation, what could be
said? Grahame could not bear the idea of a public school for a boy
scarcely eleven, and whose home-influence was so injurious, and Mr.
Hamilton could not advise it. He tried, therefore, merely to raise the
depressed spirits of his friend, bringing forward many instances, when
even the best training failed; and others where the faults of childhood
were subdued by circumstances, and became fair promising youth. Grahame
shook his head despondingly.

"You can scarcely be a fit judge of my trial, Hamilton," he said; "you
have known nothing but the blessing of hand-in-hand companionship, in
the training of your children, as in every thing else. There must be
_unity_ between father and mother, or there is little hope of joy in
their offspring for either; were my wife only in some things like
yours--but I see I must not speak so," he added hurriedly, as he met a
glance of reproach from Mrs. Hamilton, and he turned to address the two
lads, who at that instant entered from their walk. The bell for prayers
rung soon afterward, and Grahame rose to say good night.

"Nay, stay with us," said Mr. Hamilton, earnestly. "Why should the call
for devotion be the signal for separation? join us, Grahame. It is not
the first time by very many that we have prayed together."

Grahame yielded without an instant's hesitation. Still Percy had not
returned, and his mother became dreadfully anxious. Her husband, at her
request, waited a quarter of an hour, but reluctantly; for he was more
particular that every member of his household should assemble at the
stated hour of prayer, than in any other point relating to his
establishment. Scarcely, however, had the first word been said, when
Percy and Robert entered, and the former, with a very rapid, but
noiseless step, traversed the large room, and kneeled in his accustomed
place. In vain did Mrs. Hamilton try to keep her thoughts fixed on the
service. Had he really been to Mr. Morton, and if he had, how had he
been received? had his fine spirit been soothed or irritated? and a
thousand other nameless but natural fears thronged her heart. But one
look on her son as he rose reassured her; his cheek was flushed with
rapid riding, but his dark eye sparkled, and he looked more bright and
joyous than he had done for weeks. He advanced without hesitation to Mr.
Hamilton the moment the domestics had quitted the library and said,
eagerly, but still respectfully--

"Will you, too, forgive me, my dear father? Mr. Morton knows the whole
truth, and has not only pardoned my cruel folly, but assured me, that I
have more than atoned for the pain my hateful verses inflicted; that he
will laugh at them himself and declare he knows their author as a most
particular friend--which he hopes you will permit me to become--whenever
he has the opportunity; for that such notice of them will be the surest
way to consign them to oblivion. I have endured so much pain the last
few weeks that I do not think I shall be so thoughtless and weak in a
hurry again. Will you try me once more?"

Astonished and touched, far more than he was ever in the habit of
allowing himself to feel, much less to display, Mr. Hamilton had some
difficulty in replying; but his words were even more than satisfactory
to his son's eager heart, for he answered earnestly--

"Pray, do not give me any praise for my courage, papa; I am quite sure,
if it had not been for mamma's suggestion, I never could have done it.
It might have crossed my mind, but I fear pride would not have permitted
me to listen to it; but when mamma put the case before me as she did, I
could not prevent my conscience from feeling the truth of all she said,
and if I had not followed her advice, I should have been more miserable
still. Dearest mother," he continued, as he turned with even more than
his usual affection to receive her nightly embrace, "you have made me so
happy! how can I thank you?"

If she made him happy, he certainly had returned the blessing, for Mrs.
Hamilton had seldom felt more exquisite pleasure than she did at that
moment; and her little Emmeline, though she could not quite understand
all her mother's feelings, felt, in her way, almost as glad.

"Well, Mrs. Hamilton will not your son's words confirm mine?" said Mr.
Grahame trying to speak cheerfully, when the young party had retired,
and he was again alone with his friends. "Can he go far wrong with such
a friend?"

"Indeed, he has done me more than justice, and himself not enough. When
I left him, I had scarcely a hope that my very disagreeable advice would
be followed; besides, Mr. Grahame," she added, more playfully, "it was
not from disagreeing with you on a mother's influence that my look
reproached you, you know well enough what it meant; and I still say,
that even now, if you would but be less reserved and stern, would but
see Helen's many better qualities, as clearly as you do her faults, you
might still win her to your will even with regard to your children."

"Not now, Mrs. Hamilton, it is too late; but you have no idea how your
look transported me back to years past," he added, evidently resolved to
change the subject, "when I actually almost feared to approach you. Do
you remember, Hamilton, when I told you, if Miss Manvers had a fault,
she was too cold?"

"I shall not easily forget the incidents of that night," replied Mr.
Hamilton, with a fond glance toward his wife. "Poor Eleanor, when her
conduct that evening fell under my lash, I little thought her orphan
children would be living under my roof, and to me almost like my own."

"And one her very image," observed Grahame. "Does either resemble her in
mind or disposition?"

"Edward almost as much in mind as in personal beauty," replied Mrs.
Hamilton; "But not in all points of his disposition. Ellen does not
resemble her poor mother in any thing."

"Is she like her father?"

"I did not know him sufficiently to judge, but I fancy not.--In fact, I
hardly yet understand Ellen."

"Indeed!" answered Grahame, smiling; "is your penetrative genius here at
fault?"

"I fear it is," she answered, in the same tone; "Ellen is my youngest
child--and that which has been my successful help five times, has become
blunted at the sixth, and refuses to aid me further."

"Grahame, do not heed her," interposed her husband, laughing; "she
fancies there is something extraordinary about Ellen, which she can not
comprehend; and I feel certain that imagination has been playing with my
wife's sober judgment, and that our little niece is a very ordinary
child, only rather more sad and quiet than is usual at her age, which
may be easily accounted for by her early trials and constant ill-health.
So I solve what my wife pronounces a mystery. She has so few fancies,
however, that I do not quarrel with this, for it has all the charm of
novelty."

There were more than usual subjects of thought on the minds of all the
young inmates of Oakwood, before they went to sleep that night. Percy's,
Herbert's, and Emmeline's were all peculiarly happy and peaceful.
Caroline's were not so agreeable. Praise lavished on others never gave
her pleasure: the question would always come, Why did she not receive it
too? It was very hard that she so seldom received it, and self-love was
always ready to accuse her parents of some degree of partiality rather
than herself of unworthiness. But these thoughts only came when she was
alone; the moment she heard her father's voice, or met her mother's
smile, they fled from her till they were pertinaciously recalled.

Ellen thought mostly of Herbert. She had been as curious as the rest to
know where he had been, though she had not said so much about it. But
that it was for some good, kind deed she had never doubted.

"No wonder Mary loves him so much," she said internally; "but how can I
ever hope he will love one so often naughty as I am. If Edward be so
much superior, what must Herbert be? How I wish I were his sister, and
then he would love me, deserving or not."

That poor Ellen was often thought, as she expressed it, "naughty" was
true; and it was this mingling of many apparent faults, especially
disregard to her aunt's commands, and but too often endeavor to conceal
and equivocate, instead of an open confession, with a sorrow and
repentance too deep and painful for her years, that so fairly bewildered
Mrs. Hamilton, and really, as she had told Mr. Grahame, prevented her
from understanding Ellen. If she could but have known of that
unfortunate promise, and the strong hold it had taken of the child's
vivid imagination; that by dwelling on it she had actually made herself
believe that, by always shielding Edward from blame or punishment, she
was obeying and making her mother love her from Heaven, and so, still
more deepening her father's affection for her; and that this idea
enabled her to bear the suffering of that most painful of all
punishments, her aunt's displeasure, Mrs. Hamilton would have left no
means untried to remove such a mistaken impression, and no doubt would
have succeeded; but she had not the slightest conception of the real
origin of her niece's incomprehensible contradictions. She had believed
and hoped the influences of her earlier life would disappear before the
quiet, wholesome routine of the present, and often and often she found
herself fearing that it could not be only maternal neglect, but actual
disposition, at fault. When convinced of the great importance of truth,
Ellen frequently, instead of attempting to conceal what Edward might
have heedlessly done, actually took it upon herself, not being able to
define that in such self-sacrifice she was also forfeiting truth; or, if
she did believe so, it was also clear, that to tell the real truth to
her aunt and betray Edward, was breaking her solemn promise to her
mother; and, either way, she was doing wrong. To describe or define the
chaos in the poor child's mind, from these contending feelings, would be
almost as impossible to us as it was to herself. She only knew that she
was often naughty when she most wished to be good; that her aunt must
think she did not care for her displeasure; when it made her so very
unhappy, that she was scarcely ever in disgrace without being ill. That
she never could feel happy, for even when "good" there always seemed a
weight hanging over her, and therefore she must be different to, and
worse than any body else. Little do mere superficial observers know the
capabilities for joy or suffering in a young child's heart, the
exquisitely tender germ which is committed to us; the awful
responsibility which lies in the hands of adults, for the joy or grief,
good or evil, as the portion of a child! Happily for Ellen, Mrs.
Hamilton's love was as inexhaustible as her patience, or her niece might
have been still more unhappy, for few would have so understood and
practiced the delicate and difficult task of constantly being called
upon to correct, and yet to love.

Our young readers must not think Edward very cowardly and very
dishonorable, always to let his sister bear the penalty of his faults.
He had never been taught, and therefore could not understand, the
imperative necessity, when guilty of heedlessness or disobedience,
boldly to step forward, whether others were injured or not, and avow it.
He did not understand how not to say any thing about it, unless he was
asked, could be a want of truth.

It was also Mrs. Hamilton's constant custom never to mention to the
members of her family, who might have been absent at the time, any thing
of fault or disgrace which had fallen under her own immediate
jurisdiction, unless their nature absolutely demanded it; and the
absence of the young offenders from the happy family circle, either at
meals or hours of recreation, when such an unusual proceeding was
necessary, in consequence, never excited any remark, but a very general
feeling of regret. Edward, therefore, scarcely ever heard the actual
cause of his sister's disgrace, and sometimes did not even know she had
incurred it. He did, indeed, when she was sometimes absent, feel very
uncomfortable; but his immovable awe of his really indulgent uncle (an
impression of his mother's creating, quite as strong as Ellen's idea of
the sanctity of her promise) caused him to adopt every means of
removing the uncomfortable consciousness that he was far more to blame
than Ellen, but the right one, a fearless inquiry as to why she was
punished, and an open avowal that it was he who had either led her into
error, or was the real offender. His thoughts on Percy's conduct were
very different to those of his cousins.

"No!" he exclaimed, almost aloud, in the energy of his feelings, "no! I
would have suffered any thing, every thing, rather than have done
this--seek Mr. Morton, humble myself by avowing the truth to him, and
ask his pardon for a mere clever joke, that Percy ought to have been
proud of, instead of regretting! If I did not know him well, I should
believe him a craven milk-and-water lad, without a particle of the right
spirit within him. What could have possessed him?--my uncle's look must
have frightened him out of his sober senses: to be sure it was very
terrible; poor mamma was, indeed, right as to his unbending sternness;
but I think I could have dared even his anger, rather than beg Mr.
Morton's pardon, when there really was no necessity." And sleep overtook
him, with the firm conviction resting on his mind, that though in some
things Percy might be his equal, yet in manliness and spirit, he
(Edward) was decidedly the superior.



CHAPTER IX.

TEMPTATION AND DISOBEDIENCE.--FEAR.--FALSEHOOD AND PUNISHMENT.


It was the Christmas vacation--always a happy season in the halls of
Oakwood. The previous year, the general juvenile party with which Mr.
and Mrs. Hamilton indulged their children on the first or sixth of
January, as circumstances permitted, had not taken place on account of
Mrs. Fortescue's death, and was therefore this year anticipated with
even more than usual joy. Caroline and Emmeline were never permitted to
go to indiscriminate parties. Two or three, really confined to children,
their mother allowed their joining, with Miss Harcourt, in the course of
the year, but their own ball was always considered the acme of
enjoyment, especially now that Caroline began to fancy herself very much
too old for only children's parties. Annie went almost every where with
Lady Helen, and quite laughed at the idea of joining children; and
Caroline this year began to wish most intensely that her mother would
take her out to grown-up parties too, and lost all relish for the
pleasant parties she had enjoyed. Mrs. Hamilton never obliged her to go
out with Emmeline and Ellen, if she really did not wish it; but Caroline
could not get any farther in considering herself a woman.

The week before Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton did not allow to be all
holiday and amusement. The season was to their feelings of religion one
of earnest, intense thankfulness, and they wished to make it equally so
to their children--a source of joy and hope indeed, but the joy and hope
of Heaven, not the mere amusements and pleasures of earth. They had
thought long and tried earnestly to make their children so to love
serious things, as never to associate them with gloom or sadness--never
to fancy that to be truly and spiritually religious demanded a
relinquishment of the joys and pleasures and innocent happiness of their
age, and admirably had they succeeded. Christmas week was always
anticipated with quiet gladness, for they were still more with their
father and mother; and the few serious readings and lessons they had,
were from and with them alone; Miss Harcourt's time was then entirely
her own. As soon as Christmas-day was passed, the young party, with the
sole exception of two hours' work by themselves, in the morning or some
part of the day if the mornings were wanted--(for Mrs. Hamilton never
permitted _all_ duty to be suspended, believing--and her children had
experienced the wisdom of the belief--that pleasure and recreation were
infinitely more enjoyable after the performance of some duty, however
brief and easy, than had they nothing to do but to amuse themselves all
day)--were allowed to be just as free, happy, and noisy as they pleased;
and the exuberance of their innocent happiness would have been envied by
many, who might have thought the quiet routine of their usual life
irksome indeed.

Edward Fortescue was looking forward with the greatest delight to
becoming a midshipman in the course of the following year. He hoped,
indeed, it would be in a very few months; but his uncle and Mr. Howard
had only told him to work on as hard as he could, for the summons might
come for him to join at a very short notice, and it would be very
dreadful, if the commission should be refused because his guardians did
not think him forward enough in his various studies to leave them. They
had looked very mischievous when they had told him this, and Edward had
enjoyed the joke, and resolved they should not have any such amusement.
He would go to sea, if he worked night and day for the privilege; and he
really did so well, that his uncle gave him great praise, which was as
unexpected and delightful as his anger was terrible.

It happened that on the morning after Christmas-day, Edward and Ellen
were quite alone in the school room; the former was in one of his most
impatient moods, for at his own request, his uncle was to examine him in
a favorite study, and one of the necessary books was wanting. He had
read it a few evenings previous, but something had crossed him, and in a
desperate passion he had flung the book from him, and where it fell he
neither knew nor cared. Caroline and Emmeline had already gone on an
expedition to some poor people, with their mother; Ellen had asked and
received permission to put some seeds in her little garden, Percy having
kindly promised to show her where, and to do some harder work in it for
her. He was, however, still engaged with his father, and would be, he
had told her, for perhaps an hour longer, but he would be sure to come
to her then; and, to employ the interval, she had intended to work hard
at a purse she was making for him. Edward, however, entirely engrossed
her, and for nearly half an hour they hunted in every nook and corner of
the room, at length--

"I see it! I see it! Edward," Ellen exclaimed, adding, however, in a
very desponding tone, "but what shall we do? we can not get it."

"Why not?" answered Edward, impatiently; "where is it, Ellen?"

"Behind that stand of flowers," she replied, pointing to one that filled
a corner of the room and which, though it was winter, was filled with
some beautiful flowering geraniums of all colors, and some few rare
myrtles in full flower.

"There!" said Edward joyfully; "Oh, that is very easily moved--I shall
get it in a minute."

"But you know aunt Emmeline desired us not to touch it," implored Ellen,
clinging to his arm; "and the flowers are almost all Caroline's. Dear
Edward--pray do not move it."

"Stuff and nonsense, Ellen! How is aunt to know any thing about it? and
what do I care about the flowers being Caroline's; they may be whose
they like, but they shall not prevent my getting my book."

"But it will be disobeying aunt. Edward--pray, pray, don't; you know how
displeased she was with Emmeline last week for a much more trifling
disobedience than this will be. And if any thing should happen to the
flowers, Caroline will be so angry."

"And what do I care for Caroline's anger," retorted Edward impatiently;
"My uncle's indeed is something to care about, and if I don't get my
book and go to him directly, I shall have it. I don't like to disobey
aunt, but in this case there is no help for it. I am sure I can reach it
without doing any harm; besides, I _must_ get my book--I can not do
without it."

"Then only wait till aunt comes home, or at least let me ask uncle if we
may move it, dear Edward; do let me go--I will not be a minute."

"And so betray my being in a passion the other day, and get me a reproof
for that, and for my carelessness into the bargain! Nonsense, Ellen; I
will get it, and, you must help me, for I have not a moment to lose."

"No, Edward! indeed, indeed, I can not touch it," she replied
imploringly, and shrinking back.

"Say, rather, you wish to get me into disgrace, and perhaps prevented
from going out this evening, and to-morrow, and Friday too!" exclaimed
Edward, irritated beyond all forbearance; "and the other day you were so
very sorry I was going from home so soon--much you must care about me,
that you can not do such a trifling thing as this to oblige me! I hate
deceit."

Ellen made no reply, though the tears started to her eyes; but as usual
her firmness deserted her. The heavy stand was carefully moved a little
forward, without injuring any of the plants; the book was obtained, and
at that moment the voice of Percy was heard exclaiming--

"Edward! Edward! what are you about? papa has been expecting you the
last half-hour; he says if you do not come directly, you will not have
time to do all you wish--what can you be about?"

Edward did not wait to hear much more than his name, but darted off,
leaving his sister to push back the stand. Ellen felt almost sure she
could not do it by herself; but how was she to act? To ask assistance
would not only be confessing her own disobedience, but inculpating her
brother, and really, perhaps, deprive him of the enjoyments he
anticipated, and so confirm his unkind words. She tried to replace it,
and thought she had quite succeeded; but as she moved it, one of the
myrtles fell to the ground, and its beautiful blossom hung on the stalk,
preserved from being quite broken off only by three or four delicate
fibers. It was Caroline's favorite plant; one she so cherished and
tended, that Percy called it her petted child; and poor Ellen stood
paralyzed; she raised the pot mechanically, and rested the broken head
of the flower against the still uninjured sprig, and it looked so well
and natural, that the thought for a moment darted across her mind that
after all it might not be discovered. Then came all her aunt's lessons
of the many ways of acting an untruth without words, and, therefore,
even if it should not be discovered, it was no comfort; but could she,
dared she, voluntarily confess what must appear a willful disobedience?
If her aunt had been at home, she might in that first moment have gained
the necessary courage; but she was not expected back for two or three
hours, and Ellen sat with her face buried in her hands, only conscious
of misery, till her cousin's joyous voice called out from the hall--

"Come along, Nelly, I have kept you long enough; Tiny would never have
left me quiet so long; but there is no tiring your patience. However, I
will make up for it now."

And glad to escape from her own thoughts, she hastily collected the
various seeds, and ran after him. And Percy was so active, so obliging,
so amusing in his queer ways of working and talking, that she almost
forgot the impending trial, till she met her aunt and cousins at
luncheon. Edward had been so intent, so happy at his business with his
uncle, that he had never cast a thought as to how the stand got back;
and after lunch he had to go for a row on the river, and after dinner to
attend a lecture on astronomy, which, that night and the one following,
was to be given in the town-hall in T--. His uncle and Percy and Herbert
were to accompany him, and so, that he should give a thought to any
thing disagreeable, was not likely.

The day wore on; Ellen's little courage had all gone, and she almost
unconsciously hoped that nothing would be discovered. Mr. Hamilton and
the lads departed at six, and Mrs. Hamilton proposed adjourning to her
daughters' room, to finish an entertaining book that they were reading
aloud. She had noticed, with her usual penetration, that all day Ellen
evidently shrunk from her eye, and felt quite sure something was wrong
again; but she asked no questions, fearing again to tempt equivocation.
Caroline's passionate exclamation that somebody had broken her beautiful
flower, drew the attention of all to the stand, and one glance sufficed
to tell Mrs. Hamilton that it had been moved. Her anxious suspicions at
once connected this with Ellen's shrinking manner, and she turned to ask
her if she knew any thing about it. But Ellen had disappeared; and she
rang the bell, and inquired of the only domestics whose department ever
led them into the room, if they could explain the accident. But neither
of them could; all uniting in declaring, that in the morning the myrtle
was quite perfect.

"Ellen was at home, mamma; she must know something about it. Percy said
they did not begin gardening till more than an hour after we were gone,"
exclaimed Caroline, whose temper was sorely tried by this downfall of
all her cares. "I dare say she did it herself--spiteful thing!--and has
gone to hide herself rather than confess it--it is just like her!"

"Stop, Caroline, do not condemn till you are quite certain; and do not
in your anger say what is not true. Ellen has given no evidence as yet
of being spiteful or mischievous. Emmeline, go and tell your cousin that
I want her."

The child obeyed. Miss Harcourt had continued working most industriously
at the table, without uttering a word, though Mrs. Hamilton's
countenance expressed such unusual perplexity and pain, that it would
have seemed kinder to have spoken. One look at Ellen convinced her aunt,
and she actually paused before she spoke, dreading the reply almost as
much as the child did the question. It was scarcely audible; it might
have been denial, it certainly was not affirmative, for Miss Harcourt
instantly exclaimed--

"Ellen, how can you tell such a deliberate falsehood? I would not tell
your aunt, for I really wished you to have the opportunity of in some
degree redeeming your disobedience; but I saw you move back the stand,
and your sinful attempt at concealment by replacing the broken
flower--and now you dare deny it?"

"I did not replace the flower with the intention of concealing it,"
exclaimed Ellen, bursting into tears; for that one unjust charge seemed
to give back the power of speech, though the violent reproach and
invective which burst from Caroline prevented any thing further.

"I must beg you to be silent, Caroline, or to leave the room, till I
have done speaking to your cousin," said her mother, quietly; "the fate
of your flower seems to make you forget that I have never yet permitted
disrespect or any display of temper in my presence."

"But what right had Ellen to touch the stand?"

"None--she has both disobeyed and again tried to deceive me; faults
which it is my duty to chastise, but not yours to upbraid. Answer me,
Ellen, at once and briefly; your fault is known, and, therefore, all
further equivocation is useless. Did you move that flower-stand?"

"Yes," replied the child, almost choked with sobs, called forth the more
from the contrast which her aunt's mildness presented to Miss Harcourt's
harshness, and Caroline's violent anger, and from the painful longing to
say that her first disobedience was not entirely her own fault.

"Did you remember that I had expressly forbidden either of you to
attempt to move it?"

"Yes," replied Ellen again, and an exclamation at the apparent hardihood
of her conduct escaped from both Miss Harcourt and Caroline.

"And yet you persisted, Ellen: this is indeed a strange contradiction to
your seemingly sincere sorrow for a similar fault a few months back.
What did you move it for?"

For full a minute Ellen hesitated, thus unhappily confirming the
suspicion that when she did reply it was another equivocation.

"To get a book which had fallen behind."

"I do not know how a book could have fallen behind, unless it had been
put or thrown there, Ellen; you said, too, that you did not replace the
broken flower for the purpose of concealment. I hardly know how to
believe either of these assertions. Why did you leave the room just
now?"

"Because--because--I knew you would question me, and--and--I felt I
should not have courage to speak the truth--and I knew--you would be
so--so displeased." The words were scarcely articulate.

"I should have been better satisfied, Ellen, if your fear of my
displeasure had prevented the committal of your first fault, not to
aggravate it so sinfully by both acted and spoken untruths. Painful as
it is to me in this season of festivity and enjoyment to inflict
suffering, I should share your sin if I did not adopt some measures to
endeavor at least to make you remember and so avoid it in future. I have
told you so very often that it is not me you mostly offend when you
speak or act falsely but God himself--who is Truth--that I fear words
alone will be of no avail. Go to your own room, Ellen; perhaps solitude
and thought, when your brother and cousins are so happy and
unrestrained, may bring you to a sense of your aggravated misconduct
better than any thing else. You will not leave your apartment, except
for the hours of devotion and exercise--which you will take with Ellis,
not with me--till I think you have had sufficient time to reflect on all
I have said to you on this subject."

Ellen quitted the room without answering; but it was several minutes
before Mrs. Hamilton could sufficiently conquer the very painful
feelings which her niece's conduct and her own compelled severity
excited, to enter into her daughters' amusements; but she would not
punish them for the misconduct of another; and, by her exertions, temper
to Caroline and cheerfulness to Emmeline (whose tears of sympathy had
almost kept pace with Ellen's of sorrow), gradually returned, and their
book became as delightful a recreation as it had been before.

Great was Edward's grief and consternation when he found the effects of
what was actually in the first instance his fault; but he had not
sufficient boldness to say so. His aunt had expressly said it was the
untruth that had occasioned her greatest displeasure, that if the
disobedience had been confessed at once, she would, in consideration of
the season, have forgiven it with a very slight rebuke. "Now," he
thought, "it is only the disobedience in which I am concerned, and if I
confess it was mostly my fault, it won't help Ellen in the least--so
what is the use of my acknowledging it? Of course, if she wishes it, I
will; but how could she tell such a deliberate story?"

That he was acting one of equal deliberation, and of far more
culpability, if possible--for he was permitting her to bear the whole
weight of his fault--never struck him; if it did, he did not at all
understand or believe it. He went to his sister, and offered to confess
his share in her fault, and when--as he fully expected--she begged him
not, that it could do her no good, and perhaps only get him punished
too, his conscience was so perfectly satisfied, that he actually took
upon himself to ask her how she could be so foolish and wrong as, when
she was asked, not to allow that she had moved it at once--

"It would have been all right, then," he said; and added, almost with
irritation, "and I should not have been teased with the thought of your
being in disgrace just now, when I wanted so much to enjoy myself."

"Do not think about me, then, Edward," was his sister's reply; "I know
the untruth is entirely my own fault, so why should it torment you; if I
could but always tell and act the truth, and not be so very, very
frightened--oh, how I wonder if I ever shall!" and she leaned her head
on her arms, which rested on the table, so despondingly, so sorrowfully,
that Edward felt too uncomfortable to remain with her. He was satisfied
that he could not help her; but the disagreeable thought would come,
that if he had not tempted her to disobey, she would have had no
temptation to tell an untruth, and so he sought a variety of active
amusements to get rid of the feeling. The continuation of the
entertaining astronomical lecture, too, was so very delightful, and
Thursday and Friday morning brought so many enjoyments, that he almost
forgot her, till startled back into self-reproach by finding that she
was not to accompany them on Friday evening to Mr. Howard's, whose great
pleasure was to collect young people around him, and whose soirée in the
Christmas holidays, and whose day in the country at midsummer, were
anticipated by girls and boys, great and small, with such delight as to
pervade the whole year round. Caroline never refused to join Mr.
Howard's parties though they were "juvenile;" and Percy always declared
they were as unlike any other person's as Mr. Howard was unlike a
schoolmaster. Ellen had so enjoyed the day in the country, that, timid
as she was, she had looked forward to Friday with almost as much delight
as Emmeline.

In vain Emmeline, Edward, Percy, Herbert, and even Mr. Hamilton
entreated, that she might be permitted to go. Mrs. Hamilton's own kind
heart pleaded quite as strongly, but she remained firm.

"Do not ask me, my dear children," she said, almost as beseechingly as
they had implored; "I do assure you it is quite as much, if not more
pain to me on this occasion to refuse, as it is for you all to be
refused. If it were the first, second, or even third time that Ellen had
disregarded truth, I would yield for your sakes; and in the hope that
the indulgence would produce as good an effect as continued severity;
but I can not hope this now. The habit, is, I fear, so deeply rooted,
that nothing but firmness in inflicting pain, whenever it is committed,
will succeed in eradicating it. God grant I may remove it at last."

The tone and words were so earnest, so sad, that not only did her
children cease in their intercession, but all felt still more forcibly
the solemn importance of the virtue, in which Ellen had so failed, from
the effect of her conduct upon their mother. She was always grieved when
they had done wrong, but they never remembered seeing her so very sad as
now. Edward, indeed, could scarcely understand this as his cousins did;
but as his aunt still only alluded to the untruth, the qualm of
conscience was again silenced, for he had only caused the disobedience.
Emmeline asked timidly if she might remain with Ellen, and Edward
followed her example, thinking himself very magnanimous in so doing; but
both were refused--and surely he had done enough!

All went--Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton and Miss Harcourt, as well as the young
people; and it was such a happy evening! First, there was the orrery,
that Mr. Howard had prevailed on the lecturer to display first at his
house, and Edward was almost wild in his delight; and then there were
some games and intellectual puzzles, that made them all think, as well
as enjoy; and then there were some music and singing and dancing, and
every thing was so quiet and orderly, and yet so full of youthful
enjoyment, that it was not much wonder there was no longer any room for
a sorrowful thought, in any of the young party from Oakwood. Mrs.
Hamilton alone thought of Ellen, and again and again accused herself of
too great harshness; for, perhaps, after all, it might have no better
effect than kindness; but what could she do? She almost envied the
quiet, unruffled unconcern of less anxious guardians; but for her to
feel indifferent to her responsibility was impossible. Ellen was so
often unwell that her absence did not occasion so much remark as her
brother's or either of her cousins' would. "Mamma did not wish her to
come," was the answer she had desired the children to give to any
inquiries, and her character for indulgence was so generally known, that
no one suspected any thing more than indisposition. Annie Grahame's
dislike to Ellen might have made her more suspicious, but she was not
there. Cecil and Lilla were, with their father, but Miss Grahame did not
condescend to attend Mr. Howard's "juvenile" parties; and Caroline,
though she would not have allowed it, even to herself, was both happier,
and much more inclined to enjoy herself, with the amusements and society
offered to her when Annie was not at a party, than when she was.

The next night, to Ellen's disposition, was a greater trial than the
Friday. She neither expected, nor hardly wished to be allowed to go to
Mr. Howard's, though, as the affectionate Emmeline had come to wish her
good night, and with tears in her eyes repeated the regrets that she was
not to go, she felt the bitter disappointment more than in the morning
she had thought possible; but Saturday night it had been her aunt's
custom, from the time she had been at Oakwood, to visit her daughters
and niece before they went to sleep, and prepare them for the Sabbath's
rest and enjoyment, by an examination of their conduct during the past
week, and full forgiveness of any thing that had been wrong. When
younger, Mrs. Hamilton had attended to this duty every night; but
wishing to give them a habit of private prayer and self-examination,
independent of her, she had, after Emmeline was twelve years old, set
apart the Saturday night, until they were fifteen--old enough for her to
relinquish it altogether. It had been such a habit with her own
children, that they felt it perfectly natural; but with Ellen and
Edward, from their never having been accustomed to it as young children,
she had never felt the duty understood by them, or as satisfactorily
performed by herself as with her own. Still, Ellen looked forward to
this night as the termination of her banishment; for great indeed was
the offense whose correction extended over the Sabbath. Ellen could not
remember one instance since she had been at Oakwood, and when she heard
the doors of her cousins' rooms successively close, and her aunt's step
retreating without approaching hers, she did, indeed, believe herself
irreclaimably wicked, or her kind, good aunt, would, at least, have come
to her. Mrs. Hamilton had purposely refrained from indulging her own
inclinations, as well as comforting Ellen, hoping still more to impress
upon her how greatly she had sinned. The impossibility of her perfectly
comprehending her niece's character, while the poor child felt it such a
sacred duty to victimize herself, made her far more severe than she
would have been, could she have known her real disposition; but how was
it possible she could believe Ellen's grief as deep and remorseful as it
seemed, when a short time afterward she would commit the same faults?
Her task was infinitely more difficult and perplexing than less anxious
mothers can have the least idea of.



CHAPTER X.

PAIN AND PENITENCE.--TRUTH IMPRESSED, AND RECONCILIATION.--THE FAMILY
TREE.


In feverish dreams of her parents, recalling both their deaths, and with
alternate wakefulness, fraught with those deadly incomprehensible
terrors which some poor children of strong imagination know so well,
Ellen's night passed; and the next morning she rose, with that painful
throbbing in her throat and temples, which always ended with one of
those intense and exhausting headaches to which which she had been so
subject, but which her aunt's care and Mr. Maitland's remedies had much
decreased, both in frequency and violence. She went to church, however
with the family, as usual.

"Remain out, Edward!" Percy exclaimed, as they neared the house; "the
old year is taking leave of us in such a glorious mood, that Tiny and I
are going to ruralize and poetize till dinner--will you come with
us?--and you, Ellen?"

Ellen withdrew her arm from her brother's, saying, as she did so--

"Go, dear Edward, I am very tired, and would rather not."

"Tired, and with this short walk; and you really do look as if you
were--what is the matter, Ellen? you are not well."

His sister did not reply, but shrinking from the look which Mrs.
Hamilton, who was passing at the moment, fixed earnestly upon her, she
ran into the house.

Edward again felt uncomfortable; in fact, he had done so, so often since
the Tuesday morning, that his temper was not half so good as usual. He
did not choose to acknowledge, even to himself, that the uncomfortable
feeling was self-reproach, and so he vented it more than once in
irritation against Ellen, declaring it was so disagreeable she should be
in disgrace just then.

It was Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton's custom always to dine on Sundays at
half-past one, to allow those of their household who were unable to
attend divine service in the morning to go in the afternoon. With regard
to themselves and their children they pursued a plan, which many rigid
religionists might, perhaps, have condemned, and yet its fruits were
very promising. Their great wish was to make the Sabbath a day of love,
divine and domestic; to make their children look to it with joy and
anticipation throughout the week as a day quite distinct in its
enjoyment from any other; and for this reason, while their children were
young, they only went to church in the morning, the afternoons were
devoted to teaching them to know and to love God in His works as well as
word, and their evenings to such quiet but happy amusements and
literature, as would fill their young hearts with increased thankfulness
for their very happy lot. As they grew older, they were perfectly at
liberty to do as they pleased with regard to the afternoon church.
Herbert, whose ardent desire to enter the ministry increased with his
years, generally spent the greater part of Sunday with Mr. Howard, with
his parents' glad and full consent. The contemplation of serious things
was his greatest happiness, but Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton did not expect
that all their other children were to be like him. They were contented,
and intensely thankful also, to perceive that diverse as were their
characters, still the constant sense of God's presence and of His
infinite love was active and earnest in them all, inciting love and
reverence for Herbert, even though they could not sympathize with him
entirely. Another peculiarity of Mr. Hamilton consisted in his
permitting no _Sunday_ schools at Aveling and his other villages. The
Saturday afternoons were set apart instead of the Sunday. He wished his
wife, and daughters when they were old enough, to superintend them, and
help the children in preparing for the Sunday services and Sunday
enjoyments; but he particularly disliked the system of overwork on a day
of rest, which could not fail to be the case, if there were schools to
attend to twice or three times a day, as well as church.

It being the last day of the old year, Mr. Howard had expressed a wish
that Percy and Edward as well as Herbert should attend church that
afternoon, and the lads, without the least reluctance, consented; Mr.
Hamilton and Miss Harcourt were going too, and Caroline and Emmeline, of
their own accord, asked permission to accompany them. Ellen's pale,
suffering face had so haunted her aunt, that she could not think of any
thing else, and remained for a very much longer time than was usual to
her character in a state of indecision. The next night was her
children's ball, and it was too, the first day of the new year--always
in her happy circle a festival of joy and thankfulness. Ellen's face
certainly looked as if she had suffered quite enough to prevent the
recurrence of her fault, but so it had always done, and yet, before she
could possibly have forgotten its consequences, she failed again. Mrs.
Hamilton sat for some time, after her children had left her, in
meditation, trying to silence the pleadings of affection, and listen
only to reason, as to whether continued severity or returning kindness
would be the more effective, and save both Ellen and herself any further
pain.

To the child herself physical suffering was so increasing as gradually
to deaden mental, till at last it became so severe, that she felt sick
and faint. She knew the medicine she was in the habit of taking when
similarly suffering, and the lotion which her aunt applied to her
forehead, and which always succeeded in removing the excessive
throbbing, were both in Mrs. Hamilton's dressing-room; but it seemed
quite impossible that she could get at them, for she did not like to
leave her room without permission, nor did she feel as if she could walk
so far, her head throbbing with increased violence with every step she
took. At length she summoned sufficient courage to ring the bell, and
beg Fanny to ask Ellis to come to her. The girl, who had been already
dreadfully concerned that Miss Ellen had eaten no dinner, and on Sunday
too! gave such an account of her, that the housekeeper hastened to her
directly, and begged her to let her go for her mistress--it was so lucky
she had not gone to church--but Ellen clung to her, imploring her not.

"Dear, dear Ellis, get me the medicine, and bathe my forehead yourself;
I shall get well then in an hour or two, without giving my aunt any
trouble; pray, pray, don't tell her. I scarcely feel the pain when she
is nursing and soothing me; but I do not deserve that now, and I am
afraid I never shall."

"But indeed, Miss Ellen, she will be displeased if I do not. Why, only
the other morning she was quite concerned that I had not told her Jane
was ill directly, and went herself two or three times every day to see
she had every thing proper and comfortable."

"But that is quite different, dear Ellis; do get the lotion; I feel as
if I could not bear this pain much longer without crying; you can tell
her afterward, if you think you ought."

And seeing that farther argument only increased the poor child's
sufferings, Ellis promised, and left her. Ellen leaned her forehead
against the side of her little bed, and held the curtain tightly
clasped, as if so to prevent the utterance of the hysteric sob that
would rise in her throat, though she did not know what it was. But the
wholly unexpected sound of Mrs. Hamilton's voice saying, close by her,
"I am afraid you have one of your very bad headaches, Ellen," so
startled her, as to make her raise her head suddenly; and the movement
caused such agony, that, spite of all her efforts, she could not prevent
an almost convulsive cry of pain.

"My dear child! I had no idea of pain like this; why did you not send
for me? We have always prevented its becoming so very violent by taking
it in time, my Ellen."

"Miss Ellen would not let me go for you, madam," rejoined Ellis, who, to
her mistress's inexpressible relief, was close at hand with the remedies
she wanted, and she repeated what the child had said.

"Again your old mistake, Ellen. I would so much, so very much rather
hear you say you were _resolved_ to deserve my love, than that you did
not merit it. Why should you not deserve it as well as your brother and
cousins, if you determined with all your heart to try and not do any
thing to lessen it? Nothing is so likely to prevent your even
endeavoring to deserve it, as the mistaken fancy that you never shall;
but you are too unwell to listen to me now; we must try all we can to
remove this terrible pain, and then see if we can bring back happiness
too."

And for above an hour did Mrs. Hamilton, with the most patient
tenderness, apply the usual remedies, cheered by finding that, though
much more slowly than usual, still by degrees the violence of the pain
did subside, and the hysterical affection give way to natural and quiet
tears. Exhaustion produced a deep though not very long sleep, and after
watching her some few minutes very anxiously, Mrs. Hamilton sat down by
her bed, and half unconsciously drew toward her Ellen's little Bible,
which lay open on the table, as if it had been only lately used. Several
loose papers were between the leaves; her eyes filled with tears as she
read on one of them a little prayer, touching from the very childishness
of the language and imperfect writing, beseeching her Father in Heaven
in His great mercy to forgive her sin, and give her courage to speak the
truth, to help her not to be so frightened, but to guide her in her
difficult path. Mrs. Hamilton little guessed how difficult it was, but
she hoped more from the effects of her present penitence than she had
done yet. She had copied, too, several verses from the various parts of
the Old and New Testament which were condemnatory of falsehood, and her
aunt felt no longer undecided as to her course of action.

"You have employed your solitary hours so well, my dear Ellen," she
said, as, when the child awoke and looked anxiously toward her--she
kissed her cheek with even more than her usual fondness--"that I
scarcely require your assurance of repentance or promises of amendment.
When you have taken some coffee, and think you are well enough to listen
to me, I will read you an illustration of the fearful sin of falsehood
from the Old Testament, which I do not think I have yet pointed out to
you. Ananias and Sapphira, I see you remember."

And when Ellen had taken the delicious cup of coffee, which her aunt had
ordered should be ready for her directly she awoke, and sat up, though
her head was still so weak it required the support of a pillow, yet she
seemed so revived, so almost happy, from the mesmeric effect of that
warm, fond kiss, that her aunt did not hesitate to continue the lesson
she was so anxious to impress, while the mind and heart were softened to
receive it. She turned to the fourth chapter of the second book of
Kings, and after briefly relating the story of Naaman--for she did not
wish to divert Ellen's attention from the one important subject, by
giving any new ideas--she read from the 20th verse to the end, and so
brought the nature of Gehazi's sin and its awful punishment, at the hand
of God himself (for the prophet was merely an instrument of the Eternal,
he had no power in himself to call the disease of leprosy on his
servant) to Ellen's mind, that she never forgot it.

"Do you think Elisha knew where he had been, and what he had done,
before he asked him?" she ventured timidly to inquire, as her aunt
ceased; "Gehazi had told a falsehood already to Naaman. Do you think God
punished that or his falsehood to Elisha?"

"Most probably he punished both, my love. Elisha no doubt knew how his
servant had been employed in his absence, in fact he tells him so"--and
she read the 26th verse again--"but he asked him whence he had come, to
give him an opportunity for a full confession of his first sin, which
then, no doubt would, after some slight rebuke, have been pardoned. It
was a very great fault at first, but the mercy of God was then, as it is
now, so infinite so forgiving, that, had Elisha's question recalled
Gehazi to a sense of his great guilt and excited real repentance, his
punishment would have been averted. But his aggravated and repeated
falsehood called down on him a chastisement most terrible even to think
about. Leprosy was not merely a dreadful disease in itself, but it cut
him off, from all the blessings and joys not only of social life but of
domestic; because, as God had said it should cleave to his seed as well
as to himself, he could never find any one who would dare to love him,
and he must have been compelled to lonely misery all his life."

"It was a very dreadful punishment," repeated Ellen, fearfully.

"It was, dearest; but it was merciful, notwithstanding. If, God had
passed it by, and permitted Gehazi to continue his sinful course,
without any check or chastisement that would recall him to a sense of
better things, and a wish to pursue them, he might have continued
apparently very happy in this life, to be miserable forever in the next;
to be banished forever from God and His good angels; and would not that
have been still more dreadful than the heaviest suffering here? In those
times God manifested his judgments through His prophets directly. That
is not the case now, but He has given us His word to tell us, by history
as well as precept, those things that are pleasing to Him, and those
which excite His anger; and which, if not corrected while we are in this
world, will cause our condemnation when our souls appear before Him in
judgment, and when we can not correct them if we would. Now children,
and even young people, can not know those things as well as their
parents and guardians can, and if we neglect to teach them right and
wrong, God is more angry with us than with them, as He tells Ezekiel."
She read from the 18th to the 22d verse of the third chapter, and
explained it, so that Ellen could clearly understand it, and then said.
"And now, my dear Ellen, can you quite understand and quite feel why I
have caused you so much pain, and been, as I dare say you have felt, so
very, very severe?"

Ellen's arms were round her neck in a moment, and her head cradled on
her bosom, as her sole reply, for she felt she could not speak at first,
without crying again.

"I wish I could remember that God sees me wherever I am," she said after
a short pause, and very sadly. "I am so frightened when I think of any
body's anger, even Caroline's, that I can not remember any thing else."

"Did you notice the Psalm we read the day before yesterday, my dear
Ellen, in the morning lesson?"

The child had not; and her aunt turning to the 129th, read the first
twelve and the two last verses carefully with her, adding--

"Suppose you learn one verse for me every morning, till you can repeat
the whole fourteen perfectly, and I think that will help you to remember
it, my Ellen, and prove to me that you really are anxious to correct
yourself; and now one word more, and I think I shall have talked to you
quite enough."

"Indeed, indeed I am not tired, dear aunt," replied Ellen, very
earnestly; "I feel when you are talking to me as if I never could be
naughty again. Oh! how I wish I never were."

"I am not so unconscionable as to expect you to have no faults, my dear
child; all I wish you to attend to, is more obedience to my commands. I
have not said any thing about your disobedience, because your untruth
was of still more consequence, but that grieved me too, for disobedience
to me is also disobedience to God, for He has commanded you to obey your
parents and guardians; as you said you remembered I had told you not to
move the flower-stand, I can not imagine what could have induced you so
willfully to disobey me."

Ellen looked up in her face with such earnest, wistful eyes that Mrs.
Hamilton felt puzzled; but as she did not speak, and laid her head again
on its resting place, to hide the tears that rose, her aunt merely
added--

"But as I do not wish to inflict any further pain, I will not say any
thing more about it; only remember, that though I may be displeased if
you disobey me again, an instant and full confession will soon gain my
forgiveness; and that though I will never doubt your word, still, if I
discover another untruth, it will and must oblige me to adopt still
severer measures, painful as it will be to myself. Do not tremble so, my
Ellen, you know you can prevent it; and remember too that whenever you
fail in truth, you punish me as well as yourself;" and Mrs. Hamilton
fondly kissed her as she spoke.

Light steps and a ringing laugh at that moment sounded in the passage,
and Emmeline, though she certainly did ask if she might enter, scarcely
waited for an answer, before she bounded in, the very personification of
health and joy.

"Mamma, papa wants to know if we may not have tea to-night, and if we
may not have Ellen's company too?"

"It is New Year's Eve," pleaded another joyous voice, and Percy's brown
head just intruded itself through the half-opened door; "and our tree
will not be half enjoyable unless we are all there."

"I had really forgotten your tree, my dear children, but I am glad papa
and you all have remembered it. Come in, Percy; Ellen will, I dare say,
admit you into her room."

"He raced me all round the gallery, mamma, declaring he would give you
papa's message, or so take away my breath, that even if I outstripped
him, I should not be able; but I have, you see, sir."

"Only because I did not know whether it was quite proper to enter a
young lady's room. But do come, mamma; Mr. Howard is with us as usual,
and we are all _au desespoir_ for you and our little Ellen--she _may_
come, I can read it in your eyes."

"Are you well enough, my love? Do you think this poor little head will
permit you to join us?" asked Mrs. Hamilton, anxiously, for the sudden
joy that gleamed in Ellen's eyes at the idea of joining the family, told
what the disappointment would be if she could not.

"It does not hurt me at all if I can rest it, aunt; but I am afraid it
will not let me walk," she added, sorrowfully, as the attempt to walk
caused it to throb again.

"Never mind, Nelly, even if you can not walk; you shall make use of my
pedestrian powers," replied Percy, joyously; "rest your head on my
shoulder--that's it--I should make a capital nurse I declare; should I
not, mamma?"

And gayly answering in the affirmative, his mother could scarcely
prevent a throb of pride, as she looked on his fine manly face, beaming
with benevolent kindness on his little cousin, whom he had tenderly
lifted in his arms, and checked his boisterous mirth and rapid stride to
accommodate her.

"You are not quite so light as Tiny, but she is all air; I expect she
will evaporate some day: never mind your hair, it does very well."

"Stop, I will smooth it in a moment," exclaimed Emmeline, eagerly; "it
is Sunday, Percy, she shall look well."

"You had better let me do it, Emmy," said her mother, smiling; "your
cousin's head can only bear very tender handling to-night. There, that
will do--and I am quite ready to attend you."

The lights, the joyous voices, even her uncle's kind greeting, almost
overpowered poor Ellen; as Percy, still preserving his character of an
admirable nurse, laid her carefully on a couch in the sitting-room,
where not only tea was waiting, but the celebrated family tree, which
Mrs. Hamilton's anxiety and Ellen's sorrow had caused them both to
forget, was displayed with even more than usual taste and beauty.

Mr. Hamilton, when young, had been a great deal with his father in
Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, and brought from the first and latter
country certain domestic observances which had especially pleased him,
as so greatly enhancing the enjoyments of home, and helping to a right
understanding between parents and children, by increasing their mutual
love and confidence. The family tree, or Christmas Tree, as it was
called, was one of these, and from their earliest years it had been one
of the children's greatest delights on New Year's Eve. Of course, as
they grew older, and their taste improved, the tree itself, its
suspended presents, and its surrounding decorations increased in beauty,
and it had never been prettier than it was this year. The whole of the
preceding afternoon had the young artists labored in preparing it, for
of course, as the next day was Sunday, it was obliged to be all finished
by the Saturday night; the servants, eager in all things to enhance the
happiness of those whose parents made them so happy, did not care what
trouble they took to help them. They always selected the room in which
there was a very lofty and very deep oriel window, in the center of
which recess (which was almost as large as a moderately sized room) they
placed _the_ tree, which was a very large, gracefully-cut spruce fir; it
was placed in a tub filled with the same soil as that in which the tree
grew, so that by watering and care it remained fresh for some time. The
tub which contained it, was completely hidden by the flowering shrubs
that were placed round it, rising in an expanding pyramid, by means of
several flower-stands, till the recess seemed one mass of leaf and
flower; among which the superb scarlet geranium, that in Devonshire
grows so luxuriantly all through the winter, shining against its own
beautiful leaf, the brilliant berries of the holly, with their dark
glistening branches, the snow-berry and flowering myrtle, shone
pre-eminent. Small lamps glittered through the flowers, and were
suspended in sufficient profusion from the pendent branches of the tree
to half reveal and half hide the various gifts and treasures that were
there deposited; and altogether the effect, from every part of the room,
was really striking.

The tree always remained till after their ball, but, the interchange of
gifts which took place on New Year's Eve, causing so many peculiarly
happy and home feelings, was confined to the family group; Mr. Howard
always included. Many weeks before had each individual worked at his own
secret undertaking. If it could not all be done in private, no questions
were ever asked, and each helped the other to keep it at least from
their parents till the eventful night itself. They formed so large a
party altogether, as little tokens of affection between the brothers and
sisters were also exchanged, that the tree was quite loaded, and many a
time had Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton discovered some trait of character or
some ruling fancy, even in such a simple thing as the manufacture and
presentation of home gifts. Their own idea of family ties was so strong
and so holy, that one great aim in the education of their children was
to make them not only _love_ each other, but have thought and attention
for individual feelings and wishes, and so heighten feeling by action,
not depend entirely on natural ties. Mrs. Hamilton had known many young
persons who were lavish in attentions and even presents to friends, but
never imagined that their own home circle had the first and strongest
claim to kindness, whether of word or deed. She knew that affections and
thought lavished on comparative strangers never radiated on home, but
that when given to home _first_, they shed light and kindliness far and
near.

Their tea was indeed a mirthful one; Ellen had been very fearful of
meeting Mr. Howard, for she thought he must have been told how naughty
she had been; but if he had, there was nothing in his manner to say so;
for he shook hands with her, and even kissed her most kindly, and told
her, laughingly, that she must be quite well by the next night, or how
was she to dance? That he thought it would be a good thing if Emmeline
could give her a little of her dancing mania, as she hardly ever only
walked, even when she called herself quite sober. Edward, every passing
thought of self-reproach banished by his sister's return to favor, was
in the wildest spirits; Percy and Emmeline seemed to have laid a wager
who could say the wittiest things and laugh the most. Herbert was very
quiet, but looking as happy as the rest, and quite entering into their
mirth, and showing all sorts of little gentle attentions to Ellen, who
had seemed to shrink from his eye, more than from all the others.
Caroline fully entered into the spirit of the evening, but neither she
nor Miss Harcourt took the same notice of Ellen as the rest. The person
who was to act the Wizard's part, and by means of a long wand detach the
various treasures from the tree, and carry them to the owners whose
names they bore, was always chosen by lot; and great was the delight of
the young party, when this night the office fell on Mr. Howard. No one
seemed more pleased than himself, performing it with such a spirit of
enjoyment and originality, that a general vote declared him the very
choicest wizard they had ever had. To enumerate all the contents of that
marvelous tree would be impossible. Their parents' gifts to each of them
were not in the tree, but always given afterward; but great was the
delight, when, after a terrible tussle to detach a large roll of cloth,
down it came, right on Mr. Howard's head, and almost enveloped him with
its folds, and proved to be a beautiful cover, which he had long desired
for a favorite table in his drawing-room at the embroidered border of
which, not only the three girls, but Mrs. Hamilton and Miss Harcourt had
all worked, as a joint offering of love and respect. This good man was
so charmed, that he declared he would not use his wand again till he had
full five minutes to admire it. Then there was a very pretty,
comfortable pair of slippers, worked by Caroline and Emmeline for their
father, and a pair of braces worked by Ellen, all accompanied by some
most ludicrous, but very clever verses from Percy. Edward, who was very
ingenious, had turned a very pretty stand for his uncle to put his watch
in at night; and manufactured two little vessels out of cork for his
aunt, so delicately, and neatly, that she promised him they should stand
on the mantelpiece of her dressing-room, as long as they would last.
Caroline had knitted her mother a very pretty bag, and Emmeline and
Ellen had collected for her a variety of leaves throughout the year, and
arranged them with great taste, both as to grouping and tinting, in a
sort of small herbal, with two or three lines of poetry, selected and
carefully written by each alternately, attached to each page. Mrs.
Hamilton was excessively pleased, as she was also with a portfolio
formed by drawings from both her boys, and tastefully made up by Miss
Harcourt; and with their gifts to their father, a correct and most
beautifully written out Greek poem, which Mr. Hamilton had several
months, if not more than a year before, expressed a wish to possess, but
the volume which contained it was so scarce, and so expensive from the
quantity of uninteresting matter in which the gem was buried, that he
had given up all thought of it. Herbert, however, had not, and never
rested from the time his father spoke, till he had found and copied
it--a task of no small difficulty, for the original was in many parts
almost entirely effaced, and, if Herbert had not been an admirable Greek
scholar, and a quick imaginator as to what it ought to be, Mr. Howard
himself had said he could not have succeeded. The writing of the Greek
character was most beautiful, and Percy, in imitation of the ancient
missals, had designed and painted an elegant illuminated border round
it, and a beautiful cover, forming a thin volume, so valuable, their
father delighted them by saying, that he would not exchange it for
twenty of the most precious volumes in his library. Such evidences of
the home influence they had given, in permitting leisure for the
cultivation of taste and imagination, teaching them the beautiful, and
opening innumerable resources of enjoyment within themselves, and thence
allowing them to enhance the pleasures of others, were indeed most
gratifying to those earnest and affectionate guardians. From their
earliest years they had been taught, that to give the greatest amount of
pleasure to their parents, their gifts must be all, or at least have
something in them, of their own workmanship, and to enable them to do
this, the lads had been taught in their hours of recreation to use all
sorts of tools, visiting and knowing something of a variety of
handicrafts; and the girls to work and draw, and even bring the stores
of Nature to their aid when needed, as in the present case, with
Emmeline and Ellen's tasteful gift.

Our young readers must call upon their own imagination as to the other
treasures of this valuable tree; for, as they would, no doubt, like to
know what sort of New Year's gifts Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton had in store
for their children (for Miss Harcourt too, for they never omitted her),
we really must not linger round it any longer. Poor Ellen, indeed, had
the pain of feeling that her fault and its consequences had prevented
the completion of her purse for Percy, and a chain for Edward, and her
cheek burned very painfully, when Mr. Howard, after exhausting the tree,
exclaimed--

"Nothing from Ellen for Percy and Edward. Young gentlemen, have you been
receiving any gifts in secret?--out with them if you have--it is against
all law and propriety."

"We shall receive them next week, most potent conjuror, as you ought to
have known without inquiring," answered Percy, directly; and bending
over Ellen, by whom he chanced to be standing, he said, kindly, "Never
mind, Nelly, you will have time to finish them both next week."

"Do not say 'never mind,' my dear boy, though I admire and sympathize in
your kind care of your cousin's feelings," said his mother, in the same
low tone, as only to be heard by him and Ellen. (Mr. Howard was very
quick-sighted, and he took Percy's jest and turned off all farther
notice of his words.) "Even such a little thing as this in Ellen's case
is pain, and can only be felt as such; we do not lessen it by denying
it, my Ellen, do we?"

"I would rather feel it, if it would help me to remember," was Ellen's
earnest and humble reply; adding, "but I thank you, dear Percy--you are
so kind."

"Not a bit," was his laughing answer. "Why, what in the world is this?"
he added; "I thought the tree was exhausted."

"So it is, but this was hid at its root," replied Mr. Howard, "and
though it is directed to Caroline, it is somewhat too heavy for my wand,
and must reach her in a more natural way."

"Why, it is my flower, my own beautiful flower, or one exactly like it,
at least," exclaimed Caroline, joyfully, as, removing a hollow pyramid
of green and white paper, a myrtle was discovered of the same rare kind,
and almost in as beautiful flower as the one whose death had caused such
increased coldness in her feelings toward Ellen. "How did it come? who
could have procured it for me?"

"Ellis sent for it at my request, dear Caroline," answered Ellen. "She
said they were to be purchased from the gardener at Powderham, and if it
were possible to send any one so far, she would endeavor to get one for
me; she told me yesterday she had succeeded, and I thought she gave it
you, as I begged her, directly; I had no opportunity to tell you before,
but I was so very, very sorry I had hurt your flower."

"Ellis was very wise to put it among the pretty things of this evening,
instead of obeying you," said her uncle, kindly; "and I really am glad
that your great desire to replace it made her think of sending for it,
for though I meant to have given Caroline another, I had so many things
on my mind this week that it escaped me; and I know they are so much
sought for, Wilson has scarcely ever one on hand."

"Indeed, papa, you were much too kind to think about it at all," said
Caroline, very earnestly. "I am afraid, if you knew how very cross and
unkind the loss of the other made me, you would have withdrawn your idea
of such indulgence. I am very much obliged to you, Ellen," she continued
much more cordially than she had yet spoken to her cousin; "I did not
deserve it even from you, for I worked myself into such an ill-temper,
as almost to believe you did it purposely, and I had no right to think
that."

It did indeed bear out its language, that pretty flower, for, with this
one coldness removed--though Mrs. Hamilton's trembling heart dared not
hope it would be lasting--love now reigned pre-eminent. Every happy
feeling increased when in the presents from their parents each
recognized something that had been wished for, though they never
remembered expressing it. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton were always united in
these New Year's gifts, though tokens of approval or occasional
indulgences were often given separately. There were a set of most
beautiful engravings for Percy, which for the last three or four months
he had been most anxious to possess; but with the recollection of former
folly very fresh in his memory, he had actually succeeded in driving
them from his mind, and gave them up as unattainable, till he was
richer, at least. For Herbert there was a fine edition of the Greek
tragedians in their original, as beautiful a work of art, in its
"getting up," as Percy called it, as its letter-press, which to Herbert
was beyond all price. Edward was almost wild, as his uncle and aunt
telling him he was fourteen next March, and might not be with them next
New Year's eve, presented him with a treasure coveted beyond all other,
a gold watch. (His father's had been given by his mother as a parting
gift to Captain Cameron.) Mr. Howard declared that it was much too good
for a sailor, and would be lost his first voyage; he had much better
hand it over to the Rectory, promising to take every care of it; but
looking so mischievous, Edward vowed it should not get near his hand.
For Caroline was a most complete and elegantly fitted-up embroidery-box,
which quite charmed her, for it was exactly like, if not more tasteful
and complete, than one Annie Grahame had brought from London, and which
she had wondered, Caroline could "exist" without. As Mr. and Mrs.
Hamilton found that she could not only comfortably "exist," but much as
she admired and had at first so coveted it, as to have a hard battle
with discontent, she had never even hinted that it might be useful. As
they perceived that her mind was so happily engrossed by the idea of the
pleasure her gifts would bestow, as not to cast a thought upon Annie's
superior box, they indulged themselves and their child, and were more
than repaid by the beaming look of delight with which it was received.
For Emmeline was a parcel almost as large as herself, Percy declared. "A
drawing-box all to yourself, Tiny! Thank goodness! My chalks and pencils
have some chance of being let alone; I really ought to thank mamma and
papa quite as much, if not more, than you, considering that in giving
you a new possession they have preserved me an old one, which I began to
suspect would desert me piece by piece. What, more?" he continued,
laughing at his sister's almost scream of delight, as she undid the
covering of a book, and found it to be the complete poem of the "Lady of
the Lake," extracts of which she had read in the reviews, and so reveled
in them, child as she was, as to commit them all to memory, with scarce
an effort, only longing to know the whole story.

"And now, Nelly, what is your secret? still larger than Tiny's; what can
it be? Come, guess; I have you in my power, for you are not strong
enough to race me as Em. would, and so I will be more merciful. What of
all things would you like the best?--one, two, three guesses, and then
I'll relieve you; I want to know if papa and mamma have looked into your
secret chamber of wishes, as they have done in all of ours."

"Do not be afraid of guessing, Ellen; you are so very quiet, that your
secret chamber of wishes, as Percy calls it, is more concealed than any
of the others," said her uncle, smiling; "I am always obliged to refer
to your aunt."

"Come, Nell, speak or I will indict you as unworthy of any thing. What
did you say? a desk! Hurrah! then, there it is; and what a
beauty--rosewood and mother-of-pearl--just fitted for an elegant young
lady. How could mamma have found out so exactly? You have used the old
shabby thing Herbert lent you, as quietly and contentedly as if there
could not be a better. Do let us examine it!" and he dragged a table to
her sofa, and displayed to the delighted child all its fittings-up, and
its conveniences, and the pretty pen-holder and pencil-case, and fancy
wafers, and sealing-wax, and a little gold seal with her own name, and
every thing that could possibly be thought of. "And even a secret
drawer," exclaimed Percy, quite proud of the discovery. "Do look,
Ellen; why, you can keep all sorts of secrets there, for no one would be
as clever as I am to find out the spring without being told, and of
course I should not betray it:" and he laughingly sent away every body
while he explained to Ellen the spring. For some little while longer did
the young party examine and re-examine and talk of their own and each
other's treasures. And then Mr. Hamilton bade them remember, that,
though it was New Year's Eve, it was Sunday evening, too,[1] and that he
had deferred the hour of evening prayer till ten, that they might have
time to keep both, and so not lose the sacred music which was always
part of their Sunday recreation, to put away their things, and adjourn
to their music-room. And he was obeyed in a very few minutes; for though
they might have preferred lingering and talking where they were, what
exertion could be too great for those who so thought of, so cared for
them?

[Footnote 1: While passing through the press, the scene of the Family
Tree has been strongly objected to by a valued Christian Friend, as
being enacted on the Sunday evening. It was too late then to repair the
error. The author can only express her sincere regret for a fault
originating in an insufficient knowledge of the Christian feeling toward
the Sabbath, and most earnestly trusts the error may be pardoned.]

Returning happiness had had such a beneficial effect, that, though Ellen
still looked pale enough for her aunt not to feel quite comfortable
about her, she could walk without any return of pain, and in one or two
hymns even join her voice with her cousins', though it was weaker than
usual. However small in appearance the talent for music, still Mrs.
Hamilton cultivated it, in her boys as well as her girls, simply for the
sake of giving them home resources and amusements that could be pursued
together; she thought it such a mistaken notion in education to imagine
that only perfection was worth attaining in the fine arts, and that, if
there were not talent enough for that, it was better not attempted. Many
a home might have envied the feelings with which old and young, to the
lowest domestics, sought their pillows that night; for Mr. and Mrs.
Hamilton, so lavish in their indulgence to their children, never forgot
that for their domestics and retainers there were also claims on New
Year's Eve; and the servants' hall, and every cottage which called Mr.
Hamilton landlord, had vied in happiness with his own.

Mrs. Hamilton had visited Ellen the last thing, to see that she was
quite comfortable, and that there was no return of pain; and she was
almost startled, and certainly still more bewildered as to how such a
depth of feeling could exist with such a real childish liability to
error, and why it should be so carefully concealed, by the way in which
Ellen clung to her, as she bent over her to wish her good night, with
the same unrestrained affection as her own Emmeline did so often, with
the only difference, that with the latter it seemed always to spring
from the very exuberance of happiness, which could only be thus
displayed. With Ellen, this night, it appeared like some deep, quiet
feeling, almost of devotion, and as if--though Mrs. Hamilton's sober
reason tried to persuade her imagination that it was too much meaning to
attach to a mere embrace--she would thus tell her how intensely she
felt, not only the indulgence of that evening, but the true kindness and
watchful love which had caused the preceding sorrow. She might have
thought, as no doubt many of our readers will, that Ellen was much too
young and too childish, to contrast her system of treatment with her
poor mother's; that she felt her soothing care in her hours of physical
suffering--her indulgent love making no distinction between her and her
cousins--still the more keenly and gratefully, from the recollection of
her own mother's constant preference of Edward, and utter neglect of
her; and that this contrast so deepened the love she bore her aunt, that
it exceeded in intensity even that borne toward her by her own
children.--Adults will think this all very fanciful, and perhaps
interesting, but wholly improbable. Mrs. Hamilton herself would have
banished the idea, as too imaginary to be entertained seriously for a
moment, as any guide for her conduct. Ellen herself could not have
explained or told herself that so she felt; and yet, notwithstanding,
all we have written was there, and _was_ the real prompter of that
almost passionate embrace.

"Bless you, my darling!" was Mrs. Hamilton's fond reply, instead of
permitting the child to perceive the surprise it excited in herself; and
Ellen sunk to sleep, almost more happy than ever, in her little life,
she had felt before.



CHAPTER XI.

THE CHILDREN'S BALL.


If the thought of their promised ball were the first that entered the
minds of the young party at Oakwood, as they opened their eyes on New
Year's day, it was not very unnatural. Percy gloried in the anticipation
of being master of the ceremonies, and in conducting the whole affair
with such inimitable grace and gallantry, that every one should declare
it was far superior to any party, old or young, of the season, except
Mr. Howard's; that was beyond him, he said, for he could not put Mr.
Howard's head on his shoulders. Herbert anticipated the enjoyment of
Mary Greville's society, talking to and dancing with her undisturbed,
and to hearing the almost universal remark, what a sweet girl she was.
Edward did not exactly know what he expected, but he was in such a mood
of hilarity and mischief, that the servants all declared Master
Fortescue was "_mazed_." To Caroline their ball was almost always
(though unconfessedly) the happiest evening in the year. She knew she
was handsome--Annie Grahame had told her how very much she would be
admired in London, and that if she were not her very dearest friend, she
should envy her beauty terribly. She often in secret longed painfully
for admiration and homage; and child as she still was in years, yet at
her own house, and as Mr. Hamilton's eldest daughter, in addition to her
real attractions, she always received both in sufficient measure, as to
satisfy even herself. She delighted in those evenings when it so chanced
that her brothers had young friends with them, making no hesitation in
confessing that she very much preferred conversing with boys than with
girls, there was so much more variety, more spirit; and though her
mother's heart would actually tremble at the fearful ordeal which an
introduction to the pleasures of the world would be to such a character,
still she would not check the open expression of such sentiments by
reproving them as wrong, and not to be encouraged. She knew that though
education might do much, very much, it could not make natural characters
all alike; nor, in fact, did she wish it. She did not grieve and
complain that, with all her efforts she could not make Caroline give
her as little trouble and anxiety as Emmeline, nor did she imagine that
she should see the effect of her earnest prayers and cares all at once,
or without constant relapses in the cherished object of her care. She
did all she could to counteract a tendency which, situated as she would
be when she entered life, must, without some strong, high principle,
lead to suffering, and, perhaps, to sin--for what is coquetry? But she
indulged in no idea of security, never believed that because she had so
tried, so striven to sow the good seed, it could not fail to bring forth
good fruit. She knew many trials might be in store for her; for how
might she hope to pass through life blessed as she was then? It might
please her Father in Heaven to try her faith and duty through those she
loved so intensely; but if she failed not in her task, he would bring
her joy at last.

To Emmeline the idea of dancing was quite enough to be the acme of
enjoyment. The only drawback was, that in the intervals of rest, there
was to be a little music, and though her mother had excused her at Mr.
Howard's, she knew that if anybody expressed a wish to hear her at her
own house, play she must; and at those times she was half sorry she had
chosen to learn the harp instead of the piano, as Caroline played so
well on the latter instrument nobody would care to hear her; but the
harp was rather a novelty, and no little girl who was coming played it,
and so she was sadly afraid there was no escape for her, and that was
very disagreeable, but she would not think about it till the time came;
the dancing to such music as that which Mr. Hamilton had ordered from
Plymouth was joy enough.

Ellen though rather afraid of so many strangers, could not resist the
general contagion of anticipated enjoyment. She did not indeed wake with
the thought of the ball, but with the determination to learn the verse
of the Psalm her aunt had pointed out, and go and say it to her in her
dressing-room before she went down. And as the first verse was very
short she learned two, and repeated them without missing a word, and so
as if she quite understood them, that her aunt was very much pleased;
and then Ellen could think of and join her brother's and cousins'
delight, even though Mrs. Hamilton was obliged to be what she called
very cruel, but what Ellen knew was very kind, though it did seem a
restraint, and keep her very quiet all day, instead of letting her run
about from room to room, as Emmeline and Edward, and even Percy did, for
fear of another headache; and so well did quietness succeed, that she
looked and was unusually well, and so was almost lively by the evening.

Just before dinner, Percy, who had gone to ride, because he said he was
sure he should get into some scrape if he did not give a natural vent to
his spirits, galloped back in company with a gentleman, whose presence
seemed to occasion him still greater excitement.

"Where is my mother? and is my father at home?" he asked impatiently,
flinging his horse's rein to Robert, desiring him to take every care of
the gentleman's horse, as he should not let him leave Oakwood that
night; and rushing across the hall threw open the door of their common
sitting-room, and exclaimed--

"Mother, give me a vote of thanks and praise for my invincible
eloquence!--Here is this anchorite, this monk of the moor, who, when I
first encountered him, seemed so doughty a denier of my wishes, actually
conquered--led a slave to your feet; reward me by throwing all the
fascinations you possibly can in his way, that he may only dream of his
cold ride and desolate cottage on Dartmoor to-night."

"Be quiet, madcap!" replied Mrs. Hamilton, rising with very evident
pleasure, and coming forward with extended hand; "your noisy welcome
will not permit mine to be heard. This is indeed, a pleasure, Mr.
Morton," she added, addressing the young clergyman with that earnest
kindness, which always goes to the heart, "and one that Mr. Hamilton
will most highly appreciate--if, as I trust, the chains my son has
thrown over you, are not so heavy as to become painful."

"I should rather fear the pain will be in casting them off, Mrs.
Hamilton, not in the wearing them," replied Mr. Morton, almost sadly;
"it is the knowledge, that mingling as often in your home circle as Mr.
Hamilton and my friend Percy desire, would wholly unfit me for the
endurance of my loneliness, that keeps me so aloof, believe me.
Inclination would act a very different part, but there was no resisting
such eloquence and such happiness as his to-day," he continued, more
gayly.

And Mr. Hamilton and Herbert entering as he spoke, their greeting was
quite as warm and eager as Percy's and his mother's, and Mr. Morton gave
himself up, for the evening at least, to enjoyment. His own generous
nature had been particularly struck by Percy's manly conduct with regard
to his satire, and different as were their characters, a warm friendship
from that moment commenced between them. It was impossible to resist
Percy's warm-heartedness of word and deed; and that he would sometimes
leave his luxurious home, and stay two or three days with Mr. Morton,
seeming actually to enjoy the rude cottage and its desolate localities,
and spread such a spirit of mirth within and around, that it was no
wonder the afflicted young man looked to his society as almost his
greatest pleasure, especially as he felt he dared not too often accept
Mr. Hamilton's continually-proffered invitation. Oakwood was the home
which had been his _beau idéal_ for long years, but which now seemed
wholly unattainable. He felt himself doomed to solitude and suffering,
and the struggle for content and cheerfulness was always more painful
after he had been with his friends.

When all preparations for the evening were concluded, even the
respective toilets completed, Percy and Emmeline found it impossible to
resist trying the spring, as they called it, of the oaken floors (whence
the carpets had been removed), and amused themselves by waltzing in the
largest circle they could make. The beautiful suite of rooms were all
thrown open, and perceiving Caroline standing by the piano in an
adjoining apartment, Percy called out--

"Play us a waltz, Caroline, there's a love; the very liveliest you can
find. Tiny and I want to try the boards while we can enjoy them to
perfection, that is, when we are the only persons in the room."

"You must excuse me, Percy," she replied somewhat pettishly. "I should
think you would have dancing enough in the course of the evening; and
what will our friends think, if they come and find me playing?"

"Think? why, that you are very obliging, which at present you are not,"
answered Percy, laughing; "never mind, Emmy; let us try what our united
lungs will do."

"You may if you like, Percy, but really I am not clever enough to dance
and sing at the same time--I should have no breath left," was her as
joyous rejoinder.

"Come and dance, Caroline, if you will not play;" exclaimed Edward, who
after decorating his button-hole with a sprig of holly, seemed seized
with Percy's dancing-mania. "Do give me an opportunity of practicing the
graces before I am called upon to display them."

"My love of dancing is not so great as to attempt it without music, so
practice by yourself, Edward," was Caroline's quick reply.

"Without spectators, you mean, Lina," observed her brother, very dryly;
and as Emmeline begged him not to tease her, he asked--

"What has put her in this ill-humor, Emmy?"

"Oh, I don't know exactly; but if you let her alone, she will soon
recover it."

"Well, to please you, I will; for you look so pretty to-night, I can not
resist you."

"Take care, Percy, if you try to turn my head with such speeches, I
shall go to Edward, and punish you by not waltzing with you," said his
little sister, shaking her head at him with a comic species of reproach.

"That's right, Emmy; do not take flattery even from a brother," said her
father, coming forward with a smile; "but will you not tire yourself by
dancing already?"

"Oh, no, papa; I feel as if I could dance all night without stopping."

"Not with me, Emmeline," rejoined Percy, shrugging his shoulders with
horror at the idea; "I should cry you mercy, before one half the time
had elapsed."

"But if you are not to be tired, will you not spoil your dress, and
disorder all these flowing curls," continued Mr. Hamilton, "and surely
that will be a great misfortune."

"Indeed it will not, papa; Percy has surely too much regard for me, to
willfully hurt my frock, and if my hair should be so troublesome as to
get out of order, Fanny will re-arrange it in a few minutes."

"If you wish to cause alarm on that score, my dear father," said Percy,
with marked emphasis, "You must go to Caroline, not to Emmeline. Thank
goodness, I have one sister above such petty misfortunes."

"Are you not too hard upon Caroline, Percy?"

"Yes, papa, he is indeed; do not mind what he says," answered Emmeline,
very eagerly; but Percy said impetuously--

"I am not, Emmeline. I would lay any wager that some thing has gone
wrong with her dressing, to-night, and so made her pettish. Her frock is
not smart enough, or she does not wear the ornaments she wished, or some
such thing."

Caroline had fortunately quitted the music-room, or this speech would
not have tended to restore her serenity; but before Mr. Hamilton could
reply, Edward, who had been to seek Ellen, burst into the room
exclaiming--

"Now, Percy, we may have a proper waltz; aunt Emmeline says we may have
just one before any one comes, and here she is to play for us, and Ellen
for my partner," and they enjoyed it in earnest. Mr. Hamilton watched
them for a few minutes, and then went to seek his elder girl.

She was alone in a little room prepared for refreshments, tastefully
arranging some beautiful flowers in a bouquet. She looked up as he
entered, and so smiled that her fond father thought Percy must be wrong,
for there certainly seemed no trace of ill-temper.

"Why are you not with your brothers and sister in the drawing-room, my
dear? and why did you just now refuse your brother such a trifling favor
as playing a waltz?" he asked, but so kindly, that Caroline, though she
blushed deeply, instantly replied--

"Because, papa, my temper was not quite restored; I went into the
music-room to try mamma's remedy of solitude for a few minutes, but
Percy spoke to me before I had succeeded. I know I answered him
pettishly, but indeed, papa," she added, looking up earnestly in his
face, "indeed he is very provoking sometimes."

"I know he is, my love; he does not always know how to time his jokes,
or to make sufficient allowance for dispositions not exactly like his
own; but tell me, what first occasioned temper so to fail that solitude
was necessary."

Caroline's blush became still deeper, and she turned away her head
saying, very hesitatingly--

"For such a very, _very_ silly reason, papa, that I do not like to tell
you."

"Nay, my dear, do not fear that I shall either laugh at or reproach you.
If you feel yourself how very silly it was, I am not afraid of its
gaining too great ascendency, even if you fail again."

"It was only--only--that I was not quite satisfied with the dress mamma
desired me to wear to-night, papa; that was all, indeed."

"You wished, perhaps, to wear a smarter one, my love," replied her
father, kissing her glowing cheek so affectionately, that the pain of
her confession was instantly soothed; "but, indeed, I think mamma has
shown a much better taste. It requires more care than you are yet
perhaps aware of to dress so exactly according to our age and station,
as to do ourselves justice, and yet excite no unpleasant feelings in
those of a lower, and no contempt in those of a higher grade. Many of
our friends who are coming to-night could not afford to dress their
children as we might ours, and do you not think it would be both
inhospitable and unkind, by being over-dressed, to excite any unpleasant
feeling of inferiority in their minds, when actually none exists? for
difference of fortune alone can never constitute inferiority. I am
wizard enough to guess that was mamma's reason for your being attired so
simply and yet so prettily to-night, and equally wizard enough to guess
your reason for wishing to be smarter--shall I tell it you?" he added,
playfully. "Because you fancy Miss Grahame will be attired in such a
very fashionable London costume, that yours will appear so very plain
and so childish. I see by that conscious smile, I have guessed
correctly; but, indeed, I would not exchange my dear ingenuous Caroline,
even were she attired in the cottager's stuff frock for Annie Grahame,
did she bring worlds as her dowry. And as you like ornaments, wear
this," he added, tastefully twining a superb sprig of scarlet geranium
in the rich dark hair that shaded Caroline's noble brow; "and if mamma
inquires, tell her your father placed it there, as a token of his
approbation, for temper conquered and truth unhesitatingly spoken--spite
of pain."

Caroline's brilliant eye sparkled with a more delightful sense of
pleasure than any triumph of dress could have bestowed, and in answer to
her father's inquiry, for whom she had arranged such a beautiful
bouquet, she said--

"It is for mamma, dear papa--Emmeline is always before me; but I think
the idea of to-night's enjoyment has so bewildered her, that she has
forgotten it, so I may just have time to present it before any one
comes," and she hastened with her father to the drawing-room, where she
found Mrs. Greville and her two children (for Alfred was at home for a
few months), in addition to Mr. Morton and their own family group; and
the young clergyman could not but admire the natural grace with which
Caroline, after warmly welcoming her guests, presented her flowers to
her mother. It was a very little thing, but the joys and griefs of home
are almost all made up of little things, and Mrs. Hamilton was pleased,
not from the attention alone, but that it proved, trifling as it was,
that the annoyance and discontent which her command had occasioned in
her child had left no unkind feeling behind them; and the manner with
which she received it made Caroline very happy, for she had inwardly
feared her ill-temper not only deserved, but had excited her mother's
displeasure.

Emmeline's look of disappointment and self-reproach at her own unusual
forgetfulness was so irresistibly comic, that Percy and Edward burst
into an immoderate fit of laughter, which the former only checked to ask
Caroline where she had been, and what she had done, to produce such an
extraordinary change for the better in her appearance in so short a
time.

"Oh, you have no right to my secrets, Percy," was her perfectly
good-humored reply; "I do not think I shall answer you, except by having
the charity to refer you to papa, who has produced the change."

"By means of this pretty flower then, I imagine," said Mrs. Hamilton;
"its power I do not pretend to know, but the taste with which it is
placed might vie with that of the most fashionable artiste of the
metropolis. Mrs. Greville, do unite with me in congratulating Mr.
Hamilton on his new accomplishment."

The rapid succession of arrivals prevented any further remark, and very
speedily the inspiring sound of the beautiful music, which was stationed
in a sort of ante-chamber between the drawing-room and ball-room,
removed any thing like stiffness or reserve which the younger guests
might have at first experienced among themselves. After two or three
quadrilles, the spirit of enjoyment seemed to reign alone, not only
among the dancers themselves, but even those who sat out and talked,
either from preference or because the sets were full. Percy, his
brother, and cousin, were so active, so universal in their attention and
politeness, that all had the same measure of enjoyment; there was no
sitting down four or five times consecutively for any one, and therefore
neither weariness nor dissatisfaction. Where there is a great desire in
the givers of a party to make every one as happy as themselves, and
thoroughly to enjoy it, they seldom fail to succeed. And there was such
a variety of amusements in the various rooms that were thrown open,
suitable for all ages--from the mammas and papas to the youngest child,
that it was scarcely possible to feel any thing but pleasure. Very many
sets had been formed and danced before the Grahame family appeared, and
as Caroline glanced at her friend and even at her little sister, it
required a very vivid recollection of her father's words to prevent a
feeling of false shame, while Annie looked at Emmeline and even her
favorite Caroline for a few minutes with almost contempt.

"People talk so very much of Mrs. Hamilton's taste," she thought, "but
she can have none in dress, that's certain--why no one could distinguish
her daughters from the poorest gentleman's here!--But no one can mistake
my rank. Thank goodness, there is not a dress like mine--how it will be
envied!"

If looks were evidence of envy, Annie had them to her heart's content,
but how would she have been mortified, could she have read the secret
meaning of those looks, the contrast drawn between the manners and
appearance of Lady Helen's daughters and those of the Honorable Mrs.
Hamilton. Lady Helen herself, indeed, when she saw Caroline and
Emmeline, was quite provoked that she had been so weak as to permit, and
even encourage Annie, to select her own and her sister's costume.

"You are so late," said Mrs. Hamilton, as she came forward to greet
them, "that I almost gave you up, fearing I don't exactly know what. I
do hope nothing unpleasant has occasioned it."

"Oh, no," was Mr. Grahame's reply, and it was almost bitter; "only Miss
Grahame was so dreadfully afraid of being unfashionably early, that her
mother did not choose to come before--indeed, my patience and my little
Lilla's was so exhausted, that we thought of leaving Cecil to be their
beau, and coming alone an hour ago." Lady Helen's look of entreaty at
Mrs. Hamilton was answered by her saying directly--

"I suppose Annie was thinking of her London parties, and forgot how
completely Gothic we are as to hours and every thing else in Devonshire.
But you must try and forget such superior pleasures to-night, my dear
girl," she added, jestingly, though the young lady felt it rather
uncomfortably as earnest, "or I fear you will find but little
amusement." Alfred Greville at that moment came to claim Annie as his
partner, and she gladly joined him, for though Mrs. Hamilton had
"certainly no taste in dress," she never felt quite at her ease in her
presence. Cecil and Lilla were soon provided with little partners, and
dancing with much more real delight than their sister.

It was scarcely possible for any one, much less a parent, to look at
Caroline that night without admiration. She was so animated, so
graceful, so pleasing, and as such completely the center of attraction
(and really without any effort on her part) to all the gentlemen, young
or old in the room. The lads congregated round her, and it was rather a
difficult task to keep clear of offense, when so very many more
entreated her to dance than the length of the evening permitted; but she
managed to talk to all, and yet not to neglect any of her own sex, for
she always refused to dance, if she fancied her being in a quadrille
prevented any couple who had not danced so much, and at those times
contrived to conciliate five or six instead of only one. Emmeline took
charge of the younger children, often refusing to dance with older boys,
who would have made her much pleasanter partners, that she might join
the little quadrille and set them all right.

"I am really glad to see Ellen among us to-night, and seeming truly to
enjoy herself," said Mrs. Greville, addressing Mrs. Hamilton, who was
standing rather apart at the moment, watching Caroline with such mingled
feelings of pride and dread, that she was quite glad when her friend's
voice disturbed her train of thought. "She looked so ill in church
yesterday, that I half feared we should not see her. I told her I was
quite grieved that she was too unwell to be at Mr. Howard's last Friday,
and--"

"What did she say?" inquired Mrs. Hamilton, anxiously.

"That it was not illness which prevented her; but she looked so confused
and pained that I changed the subject directly, and the smile soon came
back."

"You touched on a very painful theme," replied Mrs. Hamilton, with real
relief; "Ellen and I were not quite as good friends as we usually are,
last week, and my poor little girl felt my severity more than I imagined
or meant. I gave her to your dear Mary's especial care to-night, for she
is so timid, that left quite to herself, I was afraid it would be more
pain than pleasure. Mary has taken my hint most admirably, for Ellen
seems quite happy."

"It would be rather hard, if your little niece's were the only sad face
in this scene of enjoyment; surely, if ever there were happiness without
alloy, it is here."

"If you think so Mrs. Greville, you will agree with my friend Morton,
who has just been half poetizing half philosophizing on this scene,"
said Mr. Hamilton joining them, with the young clergyman leaning on his
arm. "He says there is something singularly interesting in watching the
countenances and movements of children, and in tracing the dawnings of
respective characters."

"You are not one of those, then, who think childhood a mere negative
species of existence," rejoined Mrs. Greville.

"Indeed I do not; there is much more pleasure to me in watching such a
scene, than a similar one of adults. It is full of that kind of poetry,
which, from the beauty and freshness of the present, creates a future of
happiness or sorrow, good or evil, as something in each countenance
seems dimly to foretell. How many will be the longing thoughts thrown
back in after years upon to-night!"

"Do you think then childhood the happiest season of life?"

He answered in the affirmative, but Mr. Hamilton shook his head.

"I differ from you, my good friend," he said. "Childhood feels its
griefs as bitterly as those of maturer years. We are apt to think it was
all joy in the retrospect, perhaps because it has not the anxiety and
cares of riper years, but sorrow itself is felt as keenly. From reason
not being perfectly formed, the difficulty to control self-will, to
acquiesce in the, to them, incomprehensible wishes of parents or
guardians, the restraint they are often compelled to use, must be all
trials even to well-regulated children, and to those subject to the
caprices of weakness, indolence, neglect, indulgence at one time, and
tyranny at another, feelings disbelieved in, and therefore never studied
or soothed--the little heart thrown back upon itself--Morton, believe
me, these are trials as full of suffering, and as hard to be endured, as
those which belong to manhood."

"You may be right," replied Morton; "but do you not think there is an
elasticity in childhood which flings off sorrow, and can realize
happiness sooner than older years?"

"Undoubtedly, and most happy it is that they are so constituted, else
what would become of them if their susceptibilities for either joy or
sorrow are equally quick. If the former did not balance the latter, how
would their tender frames and quick affections bear their burden? The
idea that childhood is in itself the happiest season in life is so far
mischievous, that it prevents the necessary care and watchfulness, which
alone can make it so. But we must not philosophize any more, for it has
made us all grave. I see my wife is addressing Miss Grahame, and I think
it is for music. Come, Morton, take Mrs. Greville to the music-room, and
woo melody instead of poetry for the next half hour. Miss Grahame
promises to be a very fair musician, so you will be charmed."

They adjourned to the music-room, where Percy had already gallantly
conducted Annie, and several of the guests, young and old, seconded the
move: Annie Grahame really played remarkably well, so far as execution
and brilliancy were concerned, and Mrs. Hamilton was delighted at the
expression of Grahame's face as he listened to his child and the
applause she excited. "Why will he not try to win his home-affections,"
she thought, "when he is so formed to enjoy them? and why, why has Helen
so indolently, so foolishly cast away her happiness?" was the thought
that followed at the contrast which Lady Helen's face presented to her
husband's; she knew Annie played well, she had heard it from very
superior judges, and how could it concern her what the present company
thought?

A very pretty vocal duet from the two sisters followed, and soon
afterward Caroline approached the music-stand, near which Percy and Mr.
Morton were talking, and Percy, with his usual love of provoking,
exclaimed--

"You surely are not going to play after Miss Grahame, Caroline. If your
powers deserted you a few hours ago, and prevented the execution of a
waltz, they would certainly do you a charity in deserting you completely
now."

Caroline's cheek burned, but she answered, with spirit--

"Mamma desired me to oblige my friends, Percy; and she would not do so,
if she thought I should disgrace myself or her."

"Do not heed your brother, Miss Hamilton," interposed Mr. Morton, taking
the music from her, and offering her his arm to lead her to the piano.
"I have had the pleasure of hearing you often, and those who can not
find an equal, if not superior charm in your playing to Miss Grahame's
do not deserve to listen."

"Nay, you must be flattering, Mr. Morton; think of Annie's advantages."

"Indeed, my dear Miss Hamilton, yours exceed hers; no master's heart is
in his pupil's progress, as a mother's in her child's, even should she
not teach, but merely superintend."

Caroline was seated at the instrument as he spoke, and there was
something in his few words touching a right chord; for as she began to
play she certainly thought more of her mother than any one else; and
determined, if possible, that others should think with Mr. Morton,
forgetting at the moment that very few, except their own immediate
circle, knew whose pupil she was, not imagining that the mistress of
Oakwood and its large possessions could have time or inclination for
any part of the education of her daughters. Morton was certainly right
as to the amount of admiration, equaling, if not surpassing, that
bestowed on Miss Grahame; there was a soul, a depth of expression and
feeling, in Caroline's far simpler piece, that won its way to the heart
at once, and if it did not surprise as much, it pleased more, and
excited an earnest wish to listen to her again.

"Does not your younger daughter play?" inquired a lady, who had been
much attracted with Emmeline.

"Very little, compared with her sister," replied Mrs. Hamilton; "she is
not nearly so fond of it, and therefore does not devote so much time to
its acquirement just yet."

"Do you think it right to permit children to follow their own
inclinations with regard to their education?" asked another rather
stern-looking lady, with much surprise.

"Only with regard to their accomplishments; my Emmeline is as fond of
drawing as Caroline is of music, and therefore I indulge her by
permitting her to give more time to the one, than to the other."

"But do you think natural taste can be traced so early? that it can be
distinguished from idleness or perverseness?"

"Indeed, I do," replied Mrs. Hamilton, earnestly. "If a child be allowed
leisure to choose its own pursuits, and not always confined to the
routine of a school-room, natural taste for some employment in
preference to another will, I think, always display itself. Not that I
would depend entirely on that, because I think it right and useful to
cultivate a taste for all the fine arts, only giving more time to that
which is the favorite. My niece has shown no decided taste for any
particular pursuit yet; but I do not neglect the cultivation of
accomplishments on that account; if, in a few years, a preference
manifests itself, it will be quite time enough to work hard at that
particular branch."

"Is that pretty little harp used by either of your daughters?" inquired
the first speaker. "It looks very much as if it were the especial
property of my engaging little friend."

"Your guess is correct," replied Mrs. Hamilton, smiling "Emmeline was
quite sure she should hate music, if she must learn the great ugly
piano. If she might only have a harp, she would do all she could to
learn, and she really has."

"And may we not hear her?"

"When the room is not quite so full: she has not half her sister's
confidence, and so large an audience would frighten away all her little
powers; but I will promise you a very sweet song instead," she added, as
Herbert approached, and eagerly whispered some request. "That is, if my
persuasions can prevail on my young friend; Mrs. Greville, must I ask
your influence, or will mine be enough?"

"What, with Mary? I rather think, your request in this case will be of
more weight than mine;" and a few minutes afterward Mrs. Hamilton led
the blushing, timid girl in triumph to the piano. Her voice, which was
peculiarly sweet and thrilling, though not strong, trembled audibly as
she commenced; but Herbert was turning over the leaves of her music, his
mother was standing close beside her, and after the first few bars her
enthusiastic spirit forgot the presence of all, save those she loved,
and the spirit of her song.

Mrs. Hamilton never listened to and looked at her at such moments
without a trembling foreboding she vainly struggled to overcome. There
was something in those deep blue, earnest eyes, the hectic color that
with the least exertion rose to her cheek, the transparency of
complexion, the warm and elevated spirit, the almost angel temper and
endurance in her peculiarly tried lot, that scarcely seemed of earth;
and never was that sad foreboding stronger than at that moment, as she
looked round the crowd of young and happy faces, and none seemed to
express the same as Mary's. She could scarcely command her voice and
smile sufficiently to warmly thank her young favorite as she ceased; but
Mary was more than satisfied by the fond pressure of her hand.

This little interruption to the actual business of the evening only
increased the zest and enjoyment, when dancing recommenced. Even the
call to supper was obeyed with reluctance, and speedily accomplished,
that they might return the sooner to the ball-room. The hours had worn
away, it seemed, on gossamer-wings, and as each happy child felt assured
that the delight could not last much longer, the longing to dance to the
very last moment seemed to increase. Emmeline's excitable spirit had
thrown off all alloy, for it was quite impossible any one would think of
asking her to play now; she had arranged all the remaining couples--for
the room had begun very much to thin--for the favorite haymaker's
country dance,[2] and accepting Edward as her own partner, and being
unanimously desired to take the top, led off her young friends with such
spirit and grace, and so little semblance of fatigue, that it certainly
appeared as if she would verify her own words, and dance all night.

[Footnote 2: A country dance, the author believes, peculiar to
Devonshire, for she has never seen it danced elsewhere.]

Miss Grahame had declared it was much too great a romp, and declined
joining it. Caroline, who would have enjoyed it, more out of politeness
to her friend than inclination, sat down with her, and a cheerful group
of some of the older lads, and one or two young ladies, joined them.
Herbert and Mary finding the quadrille for which they were engaged,
changed to a dance for which, though they had quite the spirit, they had
not the physical strength, enjoyed a quiet chat instead, and Ellen
seated herself by her favorite Mary, declining, from fatigue, Alfred
Greville's entreaty that she would second Emmeline.

"I declare I could dance myself with that merry group," exclaimed Mr.
Grahame, after watching them some time, and all his austerity banished
by the kindly spirit of the evening. "Mrs. Hamilton, Mrs. Greville, do
one of you take pity on me, and indulge my fancy."

Both ladies laughingly begged to be excused, offering, however, to
introduce him to a partner.

"No; it must be one of you or none at all. That little sylph of yours,
Mrs. Hamilton, seems inclined to dance for you and herself too. What a
pretty couple she and that handsome cousin of hers make! And there goes
my little Lilla--I do hope I may have one really happy child. What,
tired, Percy--compelled to give up--absolutely exhausted?"

"Indeed I am," answered Percy, who had waltzed his partner very cleverly
out of the line, and, after giving her a seat, threw himself on a large
ottoman.

"Mother, if you do not put a stop to Emmeline's proceedings, her
strength will entirely fail, and down she and Edward will go, and the
rest follow, just like a pack of cards. Do, pray, prevent such a
catastrophe, for I assure you it is not in the least unlikely."

The gravity with which he spoke caused a general laugh; but Mrs.
Hamilton, feeling by the length of time the fatiguing dance had lasted,
there was really some truth in his words, desired the musicians to stop;
causing an exclamation of regret and disappointment from many youthful
lips, and Emmeline and Edward ran up to her, to entreat that they might
go on little longer. Mrs. Hamilton, however, refused; and Edward
yielded directly, but Emmeline was so much excited, that obedience was
most unusually difficult; and when her mother desired her to sit down
quietly for ten minutes, and then come to the music-room, as Mrs. Allan
most particularly wished to hear her play before she left, she answered,
with more petulance than she was at all aware of--

"I am sure I can not play a note now--it will be no use trying."

"Emmeline!" exclaimed her mother, adding, gravely, "I am afraid you have
danced too much, instead of not enough."

The tone, still more than the words, was enough; poor Emmeline was just
in that mood when tears are quite as near as smiles; her own petulance
seemed to reproach her too, and she suddenly burst into tears. Many
exclamations of sympathy and condolence burst from her mother's
friends:--"Poor child!" "She has over-tired herself!" "We cannot expect
her to play now!"--but Mrs. Greville saying, with a smile, that her
little friend's tears were always the very lightest April showers,
successfully turned the attention of many from her; while Mrs. Hamilton
taking her hand from her face, merely said, in a low voice--

"Do not make me more ashamed of you, Emmeline. What would papa think if
he were to see you now?" Her little girl's only answer was to bury her
face still more closely in her mother's dress, very much as if she would
like to hide herself entirely; but on Mrs. Allan saying, very kindly--

"Do not distress yourself, my dear. I would not have asked to hear you
play, if I had thought you would dislike it so much. I dare say you are
very tired, and so think you will not succeed."

She raised her head directly, shook back the fair ringlets that had
fallen over her face, and though the tears were still on her cheeks and
filling her eyes, she said, with a blending of childish shyness and yet
courageous truth, impossible to be described--

"No, ma'am, I am not too tired to play--I did not cry from fatigue,
but because I was angry with mamma for not letting me dance any
more, and angry with myself for answering her so pettishly; and
because--because--I thought she was displeased, and that I deserved it."

"Then come and redeem your character," was Mrs. Hamilton's only notice
of a reply that actually made her heart throb with thankfulness, that
her lessons of truth were so fully understood and practiced by one
naturally so gentle and timid as her Emmeline: while Mrs. Allan knew not
what to answer, from a feeling of involuntary respect. It would have
been so easy to escape a disagreeable task by tacitly allowing that she
was too tired to play; and what careful training must it have been to
have so taught truth.

"Mrs. Allan would not ask you before, because she knew you did not like
to play while the room was so very full; therefore, ought you not to do
your very best to oblige her?"

Emmeline looked timidly up in her mother's face to be quite sure that
her displeasure had subsided, as her words seemed to denote; and quite
satisfied, her tears were all checked, and taking Mrs. Allan's offered
hand, she went directly to the music-room.

Mrs. Hamilton lingered to desire Herbert (who had come up to know the
cause of his sister's sudden tears) to form the last quadrille, and
reserve a place, if he possibly could, for Emmeline, as they would not
begin till she had done. Her little girl was playing as she rejoined
her, and it really was a pretty picture, her fairy figure with her tiny
harp, and her sweet face seeming to express the real feeling with which
she played. There was no execution in the simple Highland air, but her
vivid imagination lent it a meaning, and so, when fairly playing, she
did not mind it. Mrs. Allan had lost a little girl just at Emmeline's
age, who had also played the harp, and there was something in her caress
and thanks, after she had done, that made Emmeline stand quietly at her
side, without heeding the praises that were lavished round her. Herbert
at that moment appeared with one of the young Allans.

"Come, Emmy, we are only waiting for you; Mr. Allan says you have not
favored him to-night, and he hopes you will now."

"Pray, do," added Mrs. Allan, as her son gayly pleaded his own cause;
Emmeline only waited to read her mother's consent in her eyes, for she
thought that she ought not to dance any more; and in another minute the
joyous music had resounded, and she was dancing and chatting as gayly
and happily as if there had been no interruption to her joy.

"And you will leave all these delights to imprison yourself in a
man-of-war?" asked Mr. Grahame, jestingly of Edward while waiting for
his wife and daughters, who were the last departures (much to Annie's
horror, for it was so unfashionable to be quite the last), to be cloaked
and shawled.

"Imprison!" was his very indignant reply, "and on the wide, free,
glorious ocean! flying on the wings of the wind wherever we please, and
compelling the flag of every land to acknowledge ours! No, Mr. Grahame;
you landsmen don't know what liberty is, if you talk of imprisonment in
a ship! We take our home wherever we go, which you landsmen can not do,
though you do so poetize on the maternal properties of Old Mother
Earth."

"Only hear him, Hamilton," exclaimed Grahame, laughing heartily; "any
one would think he had been a sailor all his little life. You talk
boldly now, my boy, but you may change your tone when you have once
tried the cockpit."

"I do not think I shall," answered Edward, earnestly; "I know there are
many hardships, and I dare say I shall find them more disagreeable than
I can possibly imagine; but I shall get used to them; it is so cowardly
to care for hardships."

"And is it no grief to give up all the pleasures of land?"

"I exchange them for others more delightful still."

"And the sea is to be your sister, uncle, aunt, and
cousins--altogether?"

"Yes all," replied Edward, laughing; adding, as he put his arm
affectionately round Ellen, "my sister has so many kind friends that she
will be able to spare me till I am old enough to do all a brother
ought."

"You are a good fellow, Edward, and I see I must not talk of parting, if
I would preserve this evening's pleasure unalloyed," Grahame said, as he
laid his hand kindly on Ellen's head, and then turned to obey the
summons of his wife.

The young party, no doubt, felt that it would be infinitely more
agreeable to sit up all night, and talk of the only too quickly
concluded enjoyment, than to retire to their respective pillows; but the
habits of Oakwood were somewhat too well regulated for such dissipation,
though, no doubt, their _dream-land_ that night, was peopled with the
pleasant shadows of reality, and, according to their respective sources
of enjoyment, brought back their evening's happiness again and again.



CHAPTER XII.

EFFECTS OF PLEASURE.--THE YOUNG MIDSHIPMAN.--ILL-TEMPER, ITS ORIGIN AND
CONSEQUENCES.


The return to the quiet routine of work, and less exciting recreation
after the Christmas pleasures, was of course a trial to all our young
friends. Not so much to the boys, as to their sisters; Percy's elastic
spirits found pleasure in every thing, being somewhat too old to care
for his studies, or feel them now as a restraint. Herbert only exchanged
one kind of happiness for another. Edward looked to every month that
passed, as bringing nearer the attainment of his wishes; and he was so
fond of Mr. Howard, and so quick at learning, and such a favorite with
all his schoolfellows, that he did not care at all when the time of work
came again. Ellen and Emmeline both found it very difficult to like
their lessons again; especially the latter, who felt as if work and
regularity were most particularly disagreeable things, and sometimes was
almost in despair as to her ever enjoying them again; but she tried very
hard to overcome indolence, and never give way to petulance, and
succeeded, so as to win her the delight of both her parents'
approbation. Indulgence always made her feel as if no effort on her part
was too great to prove how much she felt it; and when any one, old or
young, experiences this sort of feeling, they need never be afraid but
that they will succeed in their efforts, painful and hard as they may at
first seem. It was not so difficult for Ellen as for Emmeline, because
she was less able to realize such an intensity of pleasure. She seemed
safer when regularly employed; and besides, to work hard at her
respective studies, was one of the very few things which she could do to
prove how much she loved her aunt; and accustomed from such early
childhood to conquer inclination, and, in fact, never to fancy pleasure
and indulgence were her due, there was happiness enough for her even in
their more regular life: but to Caroline the change was actually
unbearable. While admiration and praise only incited Emmeline to greater
exertions, they caused Caroline completely to relax in hers, and to
give, in consequence, as much trouble and annoyance as she had received
pleasure. The perseverance in her various studies, especially in music,
the unceasing control over her temper, which _before_ the holidays she
had so striven for, had now entirely given way. It was much less trouble
for her to learn than Emmeline, therefore her studies with Miss Harcourt
were generally well performed; but the admiration she had excited made
her long for more, and believe herself a person deserving much more
consideration and respect than she received from her own family. These
thoughts persisted in, of course, produced and retained ill-temper;
which, as there was no longer any fear of her being debarred by its
indulgence from any pleasure, she made no attempt to overcome. The
praise bestowed on her music, made her fancy herself a much greater
proficient than she really was, and though her love of music was great,
her love of praise was greater; and so she not only relaxed in her
practice, but inwardly murmured at the very little praise she received
from her mother.

"How can you give mamma so much trouble, Caroline, when you know you can
do so much better?" Herbert exclaimed, one day, when an attack of
weakness, to which he was liable, had confined him to a sofa.

Mrs. Hamilton, after giving her usual hour's lesson, in which Caroline
had chosen to do nothing, had left her in very evident displeasure, and
even Herbert was roused to most unusual indignation.

"What is the use of practicing day after day?" was her angry reply; "I
am sure I should play just as well if I practiced less."

"You did not think so a month ago, Caroline."

"No, because then I had something to practice for."

"And have you nothing now?--Is mamma's approbation nothing?--Is the
pleasure you give all of us, by your talent for music, nothing?--Oh,
Caroline, why will you throw away so much real gratification, for the
vain desire of universal admiration?"

"There surely can be no harm, Herbert, in wishing to be universally
loved and admired."

"There is, when it makes you discontented and unhappy, and blind to the
love and admiration of your home. What is the praise of strangers worth,
compared to that of those who love you best?"

"There is not much chance of my receiving either at present," was the
cold reply.

"Because you will not try for the one most easily and happily obtained;
and even without thinking of praise, how can you be so ungrateful, as to
repay all mamma's care and trouble by the indolence, coldness, and
almost insolence, you have shown to-day? How few mothers of her rank
would--"

"You may spare your sermon, Herbert; for at this moment I am not
disposed either to listen to or profit by it," interrupted Caroline, and
she left the room in anger. A faint flush rose to the pale cheek of her
brother, but he quickly conquered the natural irritation, and sought his
mother, by every fond attention on his part, to remove the pain of
Caroline's conduct.

This continued for about a fortnight, at the end of which time, Caroline
suddenly resumed her music with assiduity, and there were no more
ebullitions of ill-temper. Herbert hoped his expostulations were taking
effect; Mrs. Hamilton trusted that her child was becoming sensible of
her past folly, and trying to conquer it, and banish its memory herself:
both, however, were mistaken. Annie Grahame had imparted to her friend,
in strict confidence, that her mother intended giving a grand ball about
the end of February, and meant to entreat Mrs. Hamilton, as a personal
favor, to let Caroline be present. Caroline little knew the very slight
foundation Annie had for this assertion. Lady Helen had merely said,
_perhaps_ she would ask; and this was only said, because she was too
indolent and weak to say "No" at once. Not that she had any unkind
feeling toward Caroline, but simply because she was perfectly certain
Mrs. Hamilton would not consent, and to persuade as earnestly as Annie
wished was really too much trouble.

Caroline's wishes in this instance triumphed over her better judgment,
for had she allowed herself to think soberly, she ought to have known
her mother's principles of action sufficiently, not to entertain the
slightest hope of going.

The invitations (three weeks' notice) for her parents and brothers came.
In them she did not expect to be included, but when above a week passed,
and still not a word was said, disappointment took the place of hope,
and it was only the still lingering belief that she might go, even at
the last moment, that prevented the return of ill-temper.

Now Lady Helen really had asked, though she did not persuade; and Mrs.
Hamilton thanked her, but, as she expected, decidedly refused. "Caroline
was much too young," she said, "for such a party. Did she know any thing
about being asked?" Lady Helen said, with truth, that she had not
mentioned the subject to her, and had desired Annie to be equally
silent.

Mrs. Hamilton quite forgot that Miss Grahame was not famous for
obedience, and, relying on her friend's assurance, determined on not
saying any thing to Caroline about it; wishing to spare her the pain
which she knew her refusal would inflict. As it happened, it would have
been better if she had spoken. The weather had prevented Caroline from
seeing Annie, but she was quite sure she would not deceive her; and her
proud heart rebelled against her mother, not only for refusing Lady
Helen's request, but for treating her so much like a child, as to hide
that refusal from her. Under the influence of such thoughts, of course,
her temper became more and more difficult to control and as a natural
consequence, anger and irritation against her mother, and self-reproach
for the indulgence of such feelings increased, till she became actually
miserable.

It happened that about this time Miss Harcourt left Oakwood for a week
on a visit to an invalid friend at Dartmouth. Mrs. Hamilton had given
her full liberty, promising that her pupils should lose nothing by her
absence. She left on the Saturday, and the Thursday was Lady Helen's
ball. On the Monday, Mr. Hamilton, detained Edward as he was leaving the
library, after morning prayers, and told him that he had received a
letter, which he thought might chance to interest him. Ten minutes
afterward, Edward rushed into the breakfast-room, in a state of such
joyous excitement that he could scarcely speak.

"Wish me five, ten, twenty thousand joys!" he exclaimed, springing from
chair to chair, as if velocity of movement should bring back speech. "In
one month the Prince William sails, and I am to meet her at Portsmouth,
and be a sailor, a real sailor; and to-morrow fortnight uncle says we
are to start for London, and have ten days there to see all the fine
sights, and then go to Portsmouth, and see all that is to be seen there,
and then--and then--"

"Take care you do not lose your wits before you leave Oakwood,"
interposed Percy laughing heartily. "I should not at all wonder, before
you go, that you will be fancying the river Dart the Atlantic, and set
sail in a basket, touch at all the islets you may pass, imagining them
various cities, and finally land at Dartmouth, believing it Halifax,
your destined port--that will be the end of your sailorship, Edward,
depend upon it."

"I rather think I should stand a chance of being ducked into my sober
senses again, Percy, unless wicker be waterproof, which I never heard it
was."

"But I have, though," eagerly interrupted Emmeline; "the Scots and Picts
invaded England in wicker boats, and to have held so many men, they must
have been strong and waterproof too. So you see, Percy's basket is only
an ancient boat, Edward. You are much better off than you thought you
were."

"Give me Alfred's wooden walls instead, Emmy; your Picts and Scots were
very little better than savages--Alfred is my man; he deserves to be
called great, if it were only for forming the first English navy. But
neither my aunt nor Ellen have wished me joy. I think I shall be
offended."

Mrs. Hamilton could not speak at the first moment, for the joy, the
animation of her nephew so recalled the day when her own much-loved
brother, her darling Charles, had rushed into her room, to tell her all
his glee, for no one ever listened to and shared in his joys and
troubles as she did. He was then scarcely older than Edward, as full of
hope and joy and buoyancy--where was he? Would his fate be that of the
bright, beautiful boy before her? And as Edward threw his arms round her
neck, and kissed her again and again, telling her he could not be quite
sure it was not all a dream, unless she wished him joy too it was the
utmost effort to prevent the fast gathering tears, and so command her
voice, that he should not hear her tremble. Poor Ellen looked and felt
bewildered. She had always tried to realize that Edward, to be a sailor,
must leave her; and in fact aware that his summons would soon come, her
aunt and uncle had often alluded to his departure before her, but still
she had never thought it near; and now the news was so sudden, and
Edward was so wild with joy she fancied she ought to rejoice too, but
she could not; and Percy was obliged to ask her merrily, what ailed her,
and if she could not trust to his being a much more worthy brother than
such a water-rat, who had no business whatever on land, before she could
take her place at the breakfast table and try to smile. But her eyes
would rest on Edward even then, and she felt as if there were something
across her throat and she could not swallow the nice roll which Herbert,
had so kindly buttered and cut, and so quietly placed in her plate; and
when Edward said something very funny, as he was in the habit of doing,
and made them all laugh, she tried to laugh too, but instead of a laugh
it was a sob that startled herself, for she was quite sure she did not
mean to be so foolish: but instead of being reproved, as she was afraid
she should be, she felt her aunt's arm thrown gently round her, till she
could hide her face on her shoulder, and cry quite quietly for a few
minutes, for they went on talking and laughing round the
breakfast-table, and nobody took any notice of her, which she was quite
glad of, for she could not bear Edward to think she was unhappy when he
was so pleased. And after breakfast, though he was in such a desperate
hurry to tell Mr. Howard the good news, that when he did set off, he
left even Percy far behind him, he found time to give her a hearty kiss,
and to tell her that he loved her very much, though he could not help
being so glad he was going to sea; and that he was quite proud of her,
because though he knew she was very sorry he was going, she did not cry
and make a fuss as some selfish people would; and then she really did
smile.

"It is Monday morning, my dears, and I find Ellis and Morris require my
attention for a longer time than I expected," Mrs. Hamilton said, as she
entered the school-room, and found the three girls preparing their
books, "so I must set you all to work, and see how well you can get on
without me till eleven, when I will rejoin you. I shall order the
carriage at half-past twelve, and if all I require is completed, we will
pay your favorite old ruin a visit, Emmy; the morning is so lovely, that
I think we may venture to take our sketch-books, and see what other part
of Berry Pomeroy we can take pencil possession of."

Such an anticipation was quite enough for Emmeline. Her dance about the
room was only checked by the idea that her lessons would never be ready,
nor her exercises and sums done, unless she sat quietly down, and so,
with a great effort, she gave all her attention to her various tasks,
and mastered them even before her mother returned. Ellen, though she
tried quite as much, was not so successful. The Prince William would
sail in miniature on her slate, over all her figures. The recollection
of the awful storm they had encountered on their voyage to England would
return so vividly, that the very room seemed to heave. And then--but she
could not make out why she should think about that then--her mother's
death-bed came before her and her promise, and it seemed harder still to
part with Edward, from a vague dread that came over her, but still she
tried to attend to what she had to do, and congratulated herself on its
completion before her aunt appeared.

Caroline, alone, was determined not to work. Because she had not made
herself miserable enough already, the most unfounded jealousy entered
her head from seeing her mother's caressing kindness toward Ellen at
breakfast; why was not her manner as kind to her! She was quite as
unhappy, and her mother must see it, but she took no notice of her--only
of Ellen. She might be cross sometimes, but she never told stories or
tried to hide her faults, and it was very hard and unjust that she
should be treated so like a child, and Ellen made so much of; and so she
thought and thought, not attempting to do a single thing till she
actually made herself believe, for the time, that her kind, indulgent
mother had no love for her; and every thing looked blacker than before.

She made no effort to rouse herself even in Mrs. Hamilton's presence,
but listened to her remonstrances with such extreme carelessness, almost
insolence, that her mother felt her patience failing. The self-control,
however, for which she had successfully striven, enabled her so to
overcome the irritation, as to retain her own quiet dignity, and simply
to desire Caroline to give her attention at once to her studies, and
conquer her ill-temper, or not to think of accompanying them on their
excursion, as idleness and peevishness were better left to themselves.
An insolent and haughty reply rose to Caroline's lips; but with an
effort she remained silent, her flushed forehead alone denoting the
internal agitation. Emmeline's diligence and the approbation she
received irritated her still more; but she rejoiced when she heard her
mother tell Ellen there was not a correct line in her French exercise,
and her sum, a compound long division, wrong from the very first figure.
But the pleasure soon gave place to indignant anger, when, instead of
the reproof which she believed would follow, Mrs. Hamilton said very
kindly--

"I should very much like these done correctly, Ellen, before we go out;
suppose you ensconce yourself in that bay window, there are a table and
chair all ready for you, and we shall not interrupt you as we should if
you remain at this table. I know they are both very difficult, to-day
especially, but the more merit in their accomplishment, you know the
more pleased I shall be."

Ellen obeyed directly; a little care, and with the assistance of her
grammar, which her aunt permitted her to refer to, instead of depending
entirely on her memory that morning, enabled her to succeed with her
French; but four times was that tormenting sum returned to, till at last
her tears effaced the figures as fast as they were written. Still,
patience and resolution in both teacher and pupil conquered, and the
fifth time there was not a figure wrong; and Mrs. Hamilton, fondly
putting back the heavy ringlets which in Ellen's absorbed attention had
fallen over her tearful cheeks, said, playfully--

"Shall I tell you a secret, my little Ellen? I was quite as disinclined
to be firm this morning as you were to be patient; so you see we have
both gained a grand victory. My conjuring propensities, as Emmy thinks
them, told me that you had real cause for some little inattention, and,
therefore that it was very cruel in me to be so determined; but my
_judgment_ would tell me that my _feeling_ was wrong, and that to
conquer disinclination and overcome a difficulty, was a much better way
of lessening even natural sorrow than to give up. I do not expect you to
think so just now, but I fancy you are not very sorry this disagreeable,
terribly tiresome sum has not to be done to-morrow, which it must have
been, had you left it to-day."

Ellen was so glad, that she felt almost happy, and her few other duties
were done quite briskly, for Mrs. Hamilton had been so kind as to
countermand the carriage till one, that she and Caroline might have time
to finish. But Caroline, if she had not tried before, was now still less
capable of doing so. Every word of kindness addressed to Ellen increased
the storm raging within, and the difficulty of restraining it in Mrs.
Hamilton's presence caused it to burst forth with unmitigated violence
the moment she quitted the apartment, desiring Emmeline and Ellen to
make haste, and put away their books, but still without taking the least
notice of her. Invective, reproach, almost abuse, were poured against
Ellen, who stood actually frightened at the violence she had so very
innocently excited, and at the fearful and deforming passion which
inflamed her cousin's every feature. Caroline's anger had miscounted
time, or she must have known that her mother could not have gone far
enough, for such unusual tones of excitement to escape her quick
hearing. Mrs. Hamilton, startled and alarmed, returned directly, and so
vividly did her child's appearance and words recall her own misguided
sister in those uncontrolled fits of fury, under which she had so often
trembled, that present disappointment and dread for the future, took
possession of her, and for the moment rendered her powerless. Caroline
was too much engrossed to perceive her at first, and she had, therefore
time to rally from the momentary weakness.

"What does this mean?" she exclaimed, fixing her eyes on Caroline, with
that expression of quiet but stern reproof, which when she did use
it--and it was very seldom--had the power of subduing even the wildest
excitement. "What has Ellen done, that you should abuse her with this
unjust and cruel and most unfeminine violence? You have indulged your
ill-temper till you do not know what you say or do, and you are venting
on another the anger which my displeasure has caused you to feel toward
me and toward yourself. I desire that you will control it directly, or
retire to your own room, till you can behave with some degree of
propriety, and not disturb the comfort and happiness of others in this
most uncalled-for manner."

"I will not go," answered Caroline, bursting into violent tears, and
scarcely aware of what she was saying, "I know I dislike Ellen, and I
have reason to dislike her, for before she came, you were never so often
displeased with me; you are always kind and indulgent to her, always
treat her as a reasonable being, not as the child, the infant you think
me. I know you have lost all love for me, or you must have seen I was
unhappy, and spoken kindly to me, as you did to Ellen; I have every
reason to dislike her, stealing your affection from me as she has, and I
do with all my heart!"

"Go, and prepare for our drive, my dear children," Mrs. Hamilton said,
as she calmly turned for a moment to Emmeline and Ellen, who both stood
bewildered, the former from actual terror that her sister should dare so
to address her mother, and the latter from pain at the violent avowal of
a dislike which she had intuitively felt, but had always tried to
disbelieve. "The beauty of the day will be gone if we linger much
longer, and I do not intend to be disappointed of our promised ramble.
Do not think any thing of what this unhappy girl is saying; at present
she scarcely knows herself, and will by-and-by wish it recalled, far
more intensely than ever we can."

Emmeline longed to throw her arms round her mother, and with tears
beseech her to forget what Caroline had said; but, though Mrs. Hamilton
had spoken cheerfully, and in quite her usual tone of voice to them,
there was something in her countenance, that checked any display of
softness even in her affectionate child; something that almost awed her,
and she left the room with Ellen to prepare for the promised excursion,
which had, however, lost all its anticipated enjoyment from the
uncontrolled temper of another.

"Now, Caroline, I will answer you," said Mrs. Hamilton, as soon as they
were alone, and again regarding Caroline, who was sobbing violently,
with that same searching look. "Your charges are such very heavy ones,
that I really must request you during my absence to arrange and define
them in some order. I am so perfectly ignorant of having given you any
foundation for them, that, before I can attempt defense, you must inform
me exactly and definitely of what you complain. That this morning my
manner was kinder to Ellen than to you I quite acknowledge. Her
inattention and depression had a cause, yours had none; for if you were
unhappy, it was from your own fearful temper, which by encouragement has
blackened every thing around you. You may employ your time till dinner
as you choose; but at five o'clock come to me in my dressing-room,
prepared to define and inform me of every charge you can bring against
me. You will consider this a command, Caroline, disregard or evasion of
which will be disobedience."

She left the room, and in a very short time afterward Caroline heard the
carriage drive off; but for nearly three long hours she never moved from
her seat, so utterly miserable, as scarcely even to change her position.
Never in her life before, not in her most angry moments, had she so
spoken to her mother, and her remorse was almost intolerable. Again and
again she remembered what Mrs. Hamilton had told her so often, that, if
she did not strive and pray against the dominion of ill-temper while
young, it would become more and more uncontrollable, and the older she
became, the more difficult to subdue, even in a moderate degree; and her
words were indeed true. It had been many months since temper had gained
such an ascendency, and its effects were far, far more violent, and its
power over her more determined, and if, as she grew older, it should be
still worse, what would become of her? how insufferably wretched? what
would she not have given to have recalled her words? The jealousy which
had arisen, now she knew not how, had sunk into air before those few
calm inquiring sentences from her mother, and in her excessive misery
every kind deed and word and look, every fond indulgence and
forbearance, in fact, all the love her mother had so lavished on her
from her infancy, rushed back upon her, till she actually hated herself,
and longed the more intensely for the comfort of that soothing
affection, which, in real pain or childish sorrow, had never been
refused her.

"Why, why did Annie tell me any thing about that hateful ball?" she
exclaimed, at length, as the sound of many joyous voices and the
dressing-bell proclaimed the return of the various members of her family
only in time to prepare for dinner. "It was all, all from that; I know
now, only from that one thought--one wish. Why was I such a fool, as not
to tell mamma at once that I knew I was to be asked, and wished so much
to go?--if she had refused me, it would not have been half the pain I
have made for myself. And how can I meet papa's eye and Percy's unkind
jokes with eyes like these?" she added, as on rising to go to her own
room, she caught sight of her own face in a mirror, and actually started
at the disfigurement which the violence of her emotion had wrought. "Oh,
how I wish mamma had not desired me to go to her; that I could but hide
myself from every body--or get rid of this horrible black cloud."

From every eye but her mother's she could and did hide herself; for
saying that her head ached, which was the truth, and she did not wish
any thing to take, she refused to go down to dinner. Mrs. Hamilton had
successfully exerted herself during their excursion, and Emmeline and
Ellen enjoyed themselves so thoroughly as almost to forget the alloy of
the morning; and even when Caroline's message recalled it, the boys were
all so merry, that it did not disturb them. Percy always declared that
Caroline's headache was only another term for temper-ache, and he would
certainly have sent her some message of mock pity, if his quick eye had
not discovered or fancied that his mother did not look quite as well as
usual, and so he contented himself by trying still more to be the life
of the dinner-table. Mr. Hamilton had seen at a single glance that all
was not quite right, and Caroline's non-appearance and message explained
it, to his extreme regret, for he had begun to hope and believe that his
wife's extreme solicitude, on her account, was beginning to decrease.

Mrs. Hamilton had not much doubt that silence and solitude had so far
had effect on Caroline as to subdue passion, and bring her to a sense of
her misconduct; but that had scarcely power to lessen the anxiety and
the pain which Caroline's words had so wantonly inflicted. Had she
indeed evinced any thing like undue partiality? the idea alone almost
brought a smile; fondly, and almost as her own child, as she loved her
little niece. The very anxiety Caroline occasioned her, deepened her
affection; the very control she was obliged to exercise in her mode of
guiding her, strengthened every feeling toward her. She was so enwrapped
in these painfully engrossing thoughts, in the strict examination of her
own own heart, that she was not aware the time she had appointed had
passed by full ten minutes, till she was roused by the handle of her
door being softly turned, and left again, as if some one had wished to
enter, but hesitated. The very hesitation gave her hope, for she really
did not know that the utmost penalty she could have inflicted on
Caroline, in the moment of natural indignation, would have failed in
producing such an effect as the simple command to seek her, and define
her charges against her, when that angry excitement had so calmed, that
Caroline would have given worlds, if she might but have not referred to
it again. She knew she dared not disobey, but her daring had left her so
powerless that she had stood at her mother's door full ten minutes
before she could command courage sufficient to open it and enter.

Mrs. Hamilton looked at her changed aspect, the bitter humiliation
expressed in every feature, with such pity, that it required even more
than her usual exercise of control, to retain the grave, and apparently
unmoved tone with which she said--

"You have had a long time in which to reflect on your charges against
me, Caroline. I hope they are now sufficiently defined for me to
understand and answer them. You may sit down, for you do not seem very
capable of standing."

Caroline gladly obeyed, by sitting down on a low ottoman, some little
distance from her mother, on whose neck she absolutely longed to throw
herself and beseech forgiveness; but Mrs. Hamilton's tone was not such
as to give her courage to do so. She remained silent, burying her face
in her hands.

"I am waiting your pleasure, Caroline; I should have thought that you
had had plenty of time to think during my absence. Of what do you accuse
me?"

"Oh, nothing, nothing! mamma, dear mamma, do not speak to me in that
tone, I can not bear it; indeed, indeed, I am miserable enough already;
condemn me to any punishment, the severest you can, I know I deserve
it--but do not, do not speak so."

"No, Caroline; were I to condemn you to any punishment, it would seem
more like vengeance for the pain you have inflicted on me by your
accusation of partiality and injustice, than from the hope of producing
any good end. You are no longer a child, who must be taught the line of
duty to a parent. You know it now as well as I can teach it, and if you
fail, must be answerable only to yourself. I can not help you any
further, than by requesting you to explain clearly the origin of your
complaint against me. Its main ground of offense is, I believe, that
since Ellen has become an inmate of my family I have treated you with
more harshness and unkindness than I ever did before. Can you look back
on the last eighteen months and recall one instance in which this has
been the case? I must have an answer, Caroline; you may now think
explanation is not necessary, and that you meant nothing when you spoke,
but that will not satisfy me nor you, when ill-temper regains
ascendency. You need not refrain from answering for fear of wounding me.
You can scarcely do that more than you have done already."

Caroline tried to speak, but she could only sob forth, that she could
not recall one instance, in which her mother had been more displeased
with her than her conduct merited. Acknowledging, but almost
inarticulately, that she had sometimes fancied that she had remained
longer cold with her than with Ellen, after the committal of a
fault--and that--(she stopped).

"Go on, Caroline."

"I could not feel my faults such heavy ones as Ellen's."

"They are of equal, if not greater weight than your cousin's, Caroline.
You have been, from your earliest infancy, the object of the most tender
and devoted care to your father and myself. Miss Harcourt has followed
out our plans; you have never been exposed to any temptation, not even
that of casual bad example. Ellen, till she became mine, encountered
neglect, harshness, all that could not fail in such a character to
engender the faults she has. You can not compare yourself with her, for,
had you been situated as she was, I fear you would have had still
heavier failings."

"I should never have told untruths," exclaimed Caroline with returning
temper.

"Perhaps not, for some persons are so physically constituted that they
do not know what fear is; and harshness would harden, not terrify and
crush, as with such dispositions as Ellen's. But Caroline, when temper
gains dominion over you, as it has done to-day, do you always think and
utter nothing but the truth?"

Caroline turned from that penetrating look and burst into tears. Few as
the words were, they seemed to flash light into the very inmost recesses
of her heart, and tell her that in moments of uncontrolled temper, in
her brooding fancies, she really did forfeit the truth, on adherence to
which she so prided herself; and that there was no excuse for her in the
idea that she did not know what she said or did--for why had religion
and reason been so carefully implanted within her, but to enable her to
subdue the evil temper, ere it acquired such fearful dominion.

"Perhaps you have never thought of this before, Caroline," resumed Mrs.
Hamilton, and her tone was not quite so cold; "but think of it in
future, and it may help you to conquer yourself. Remember, words can
never be recalled, and that, though you may have lost such command over
yourself, as scarcely to know the exact sense of what you say, yet those
to whom they are addressed, or those who may have only heard them, must
believe, and so receive, and perhaps act on false impressions, which no
after effort will remove. Now to your next charge, that I treat Ellen as
a reasonable being, and you as a child:--if you have the least
foundation for this supposition, speak it without hesitation--whence has
it arisen?"

For one minute Caroline hesitated, but then resolved she would atone for
her fault at least by a full confession. She told all the wishes, the
hopes Annie's information of Lady Helen's promise had imparted, and the
pain it was to feel that her mother thought her such a child as not to
speak to her on the subject.

"And if you did think so, Caroline, why did you not from the first
moment that Annie told you of it, come to me, and tell me how very much
you wished it? I could not, indeed, have granted your wishes, but your
confidence would have been met with such indulgence as would at least
have saved you some degree of pain. Believing, as I did, and as Lady
Helen assured me I might with safety, that you knew nothing about
it--would you have thought it kind or judicious in me, had I said, 'Lady
Helen has persuaded me to take you to her ball, but I have refused her.'
I was silent to spare you pain, as, had you permitted yourself calmly to
think, you would have believed. However, as appearances were, I grant
that I have not treated you, in this instance, with the consideration
that your age might perhaps have demanded; and from Annie not obeying
Lady Helen's desire, that she should not mention the subject to you,
have failed in sparing you the pain of disappointment, as I had hoped.
But another time, instead of brooding over that which seems want of
consideration on my part, come to me at once, and spare yourself and me
the pain you have caused me to-day. I do not think you can accuse me of
ever meeting your confidence with so much harshness as to check such
openness on your part."

Caroline looked hastily up; her mother's tone was almost as fond as
usual, and, unable to restrain the impulse any longer, she started from
her low seat, and kneeling down close by her, clung round her,
passionately exclaiming--

"Mamma! mamma! pray, forgive me; I am so very miserable--I can not bear
myself--I do not know when I shall be happy again; for even if you
forgive me, I know--I know--I never can forgive myself."

"I do not wish you to forgive yourself just yet, my dear child," replied
her mother, not refusing the kiss Caroline's eyes so earnestly besought.
"Your fault has been such an aggravated one, that I fear it must cause
you many days of remorse, the most painful kind of suffering which error
can bring; but do not try to shake it off; I would rather see you endure
it, and not expect happiness for a few days. You know where to seek the
only source which can bring peace and comfort, and you must endeavor by
earnest prayer to strengthen yourself for the conflict you have so often
to encounter. You have a very difficult task, my poor child, that I
know; and, therefore, do I so try to provide you with a guard and help."

"If I could but conquer it at first," answered Caroline, whose violent
excitement had given way to tears of real repentance; "but at first it
seems almost a pleasure to me to be cross to every body, and answer
pettishly, and as if it were pleasanter to encourage disagreeable
thoughts than to read or do any thing that would remove them. And then,
when I would give any thing to escape from them, it seems every body's
fault but my own, and I can not."

"If you accustomed yourself constantly to pray against this great fault,
my dear child, you would find, that its very first approach would so
startle you, that you would use every energy to subdue it. But I fear,
it is only when temper has made you miserable, as it has to-day, that
you are quite aware of its enormity. You do not think the fault great
enough to demand the watchfulness and care without which it never will
be subdued."

"I am afraid I do not indeed, mamma. I know I do not make it a subject
of prayer, as you have so often advised me, except when every thing
looks so black, and I am so miserable; and then, I fear, I ask more to
be happy again, than for forgiveness of my sin, and for grace and
strength to overcome it. I never felt this to be the case so strongly as
to-day, but your coldness seems to have shown me my whole self, and I
never thought I was so wicked, and so I must be miserable."

Mrs. Hamilton involuntarily drew her child more closely to her. The
humility, the bitterness of self-reproach, was so unlike Caroline's
usual haughtiness--so very much deeper than they had ever been before,
that she hoped, in spite of her anxiety, and her voice audibly trembled
as she answered--

"If you really feel this, my Caroline, you will not hesitate to follow
my advice, and really pray and watch against this unhappy temper, even
when every thing is so smooth and happy, that you can not imagine why
you need. Sin always gains ascendency by using pleasure as his covering.
Do not let a single cross word, or momentary unkind thought, pass
unnoticed; never cease in your petition for grace and strength, but do
not be content with only prayer; you must use effort as well, and if
your thoughts will be black, and you feel as if you could not conquer
them by yourself, nor banish them even by your favorite employments,
come to me, confess them without fear or hesitation to me, and let us
try if we can not conquer them together. Will you promise me to try this
plan, Caroline?"

Caroline could not reply, for every kind word her mother spoke, seemed
to heighten self-reproach, and make her still more wretched. Mrs.
Hamilton felt that there was no refusal in her silence, and continued
talking to her in that same gentle strain a little while longer, and
then rose to leave her--but Caroline looked so sorrowful that she
hesitated.

"No, mamma, I do not deserve that you should stay with me, and so
deprive Emmeline and Ellen, and the boys of their favorite hour," she
said, though the tears started again to her eyes, for she felt as if it
would be an indescribable comfort still to be alone with her mother. "I
am too unhappy and too ashamed to join them, if I may remain away?" Mrs.
Hamilton answered in the affirmative. "I have not a thing prepared for
to-morrow, and--and I do not--indeed, I do not mean to give you any more
trouble with my studies. I hate myself for that, too."

"Do not attempt to study to-night, my dear Caroline; get up a little
earlier to-morrow, to be ready for me, if you like; but though it will
be much more painful to you to remain idle the remainder of this evening
than to employ yourself, even with the most disagreeable task, I would
much rather you should do so. Once let temper be quite subdued, and your
heart receive its necessary government, and I have no fear but that you
will very quickly make up for lost time; and even if you did not,
believe me, my dear child, the graces of the mind, precious as in
general they are considered, and as they are, still are to me actually
nothing worth, if unaccompanied by a gentle temper and womanly heart. Do
not shrink from the suffering which it will be to sit alone and think on
all that has passed to-day; but let your remorse be accompanied by a
resolution (which you are quite capable of not only forming, but of
keeping) not to rest till by prayer and effort you have sought God's
blessing on your difficult task, and so feel strengthened for its
fulfillment; and also for persevering in it, for you must not hope to
succeed in subduing yourself all at once. Do this, and I shall be better
pleased than if to-morrow morning you brought me a treble quantity of
mental work."

She embraced and left her--to meditations, from whose bitter, though
salutary pain, Caroline made no attempt to escape; though, had it not
been for her mother's advice, she would gladly have flown to her
studies, and worked with double assiduity, believing that she was, by
doing so, atoning for her fault, instead of merely shrinking from its
remembrance. It was a trial to join her family even for prayers; for she
felt so self-convicted, so humbled, that she fancied every one must
despise her; and when, after the service, Percy approached, and, with
mock sympathy, inquired how her headache was, and if she had recovered
her appetite, and begged her not to be ill at such a critical time, as
he most particularly wished to go to Lady Helen's ball, and he could not
be so cruel, if she were not well, her spirit was so broken that the
large tears rolled down her cheeks, and she turned away without uttering
a single word.

"If you had taken the trouble to look in your sister's face, Percy, you
would not have spoken so unkindly," said Mrs. Hamilton, more hastily
than she was in the habit of interfering; and as Caroline came to her,
she whispered some few fond words, that enabled her to wish her father
good-night and leave the room, without any farther display of emotion.

"Do you wish your sister to dislike you, Percy?" she said gently
detaining him, as he was following Caroline.

"Dislike me, mother? No! how can you think so?"

"Because you act as if you wished it; you never see her uncomfortable,
without trying to make her more so, and is that kind? How can she ever
look up to and love you, while such is the case?"

"I only mean it for fun, mother. It is such glorious enjoyment to me to
torment, when I see people cross and miserable for nothing."

"And in the enjoyment of your fun, my dear boy, you forget other
people's feelings. I must beg you as an especial favor to myself, that
you will do all you can to soothe rather than irritate Caroline, in the
short time that intervenes before you go to London. She will have a hard
struggle with herself, so do not you make her trial more difficult."

"Do you wish it, mother, dear? you know I would refrain from teasing
even for a whole year, if it would please you, and give me the privilege
of a kiss whenever I like," he laughingly answered, looking up in her
face so archly and yet so fondly, that his mother could not help
smiling; promising she would not sentence him to any thing so terrible
as not to tease for a whole year, as she was quite sure he would fall
into his old propensities before a quarter of the time had expired.



CHAPTER XIII.

SUSPICION.--A PARTING, A DOUBLE GRIEF.--INNOCENCE PROVED.--WRONG DONE
AND EVIL CONFIRMED BY DOUBT.


Lady Helen's ball took place; and Caroline had so conquered herself,
that she could listen to Percy's flowing account of its delights with
actual cheerfulness. It was so associated with self-reproach, that she
could scarcely think of it without pain; but she was so convinced of her
folly in permitting such a very little thing so to affect her temper as
to cause all the misery she had endured, that she had resolved to punish
herself, not only by listening to Percy, but by herself inquiring the
details. She was a girl of really a strong mind, and once convinced of
error, once released from the fell dominion of temper, she did not care
what pain she endured, or what difficulty she encountered, so that she
could but convince her mother how truly she regretted, and tried to
atone for past misconduct. It was very easy, as Mrs. Hamilton had told
her, to regain lost time in her studies, but not quite so easy to check
the cross word or unkind thought, and to break from the black cloud that
still at times would envelop her. But she did not give way, constantly
even making opportunities for self-denial, and doing little kindnesses
for Ellen, though she was too truthful to profess an affection which as
yet she could not feel.

Early in the following week Mr. Grahame came over to Oakwood with a
petition. Annie having taken cold at the party, had been obliged to
enact the invalid, much against her inclination, and so entreated her
mother to invite Caroline to spend a few days with her; and to her
astonishment, her cold, harsh father volunteered to go himself for her.
Mr. Hamilton at once acceded; his wife hesitated; but she went at once
to Caroline, who chanced to be reading alone in the school-room, for it
was the time of recreation, and told her. For a moment her countenance
was actually radiant with delight, the next it clouded over.

"You would like it very much, but you are afraid I shall not permit you
to go--is that the meaning of your change of countenance?" asked her
mother, half smiling.

"I am afraid of myself, mamma; for I fear I am always more ill-tempered
and proud after any such pleasure as going to Moorlands would be."

"Would you rather not go, then?"

"I can not say quite that, mamma; I should like it very much, if I could
but be sure of myself afterward."

"Did you ever feel such a doubt of yourself before, Caroline, when going
to stay with Annie?"

"No, mamma; I seem to have thought a great deal more the last few days,
and not to feel half so sure of myself."

"Then I think there is less danger for you, that is, of course, if you
are willing to risk the temptation of Lady Helen's too kind
consideration and lavish praises, which make mine so very tame."

"Oh, mamma, pray do not say so," interrupted Caroline, very eagerly.
"Indeed, I would rather hear you speak and see you smile as you do now,
than listen to all that Lady Helen is so kind as to say. I know I did
like it very much, and that it did sometimes make me fancy when I came
home, that you were almost cold. But, indeed, indeed, I hope I am
learning to know you better."

"I hope so, too, dearest. But Mr. Grahame is waiting for you; and,
by-the-by, begged me to ask you for some lines you promised to copy out
for a print in Lady Helen's album. You may do just as you like about
going, because you are quite old and wise enough to decide for yourself.
Ill-temper always brings such suffering with it, that if pleasure must
recall it, you will be wiser not to go; but if you can resist it--if you
think you can return to your quiet daily routine as forbearing and
gentle and happy as you are now, go, my love, and enjoy yourself as much
as you can."

"I will try and remember all you said about prayer when we think we are
most secure, dear mamma," answered Caroline, in a very earnest and
somewhat lowered voice. "I know, whenever I have been to Moorlands
before, I have felt so elated, so sure I should never be in an
ill-temper, so proud from being made so much of, that I fear I have very
often relaxed even in my daily prayers, and never thought it necessary
to pray against ill-temper. Do you think if I watch myself, and still
pray against it, it will save me from being cross and unkind on my
return?"

"It will undoubtedly help you, my dear child, very considerably, and
render your trial very much easier, but I can not promise you that it
will entirely prevent the _inclination_ to feel pettish and unhappy. I
have no doubt that in time it will prevent even that; but now, you know,
it is very early days, and you have not yet forgotten the bitter pain of
last week; still I think you may venture to go, love, and if I do see
you happy and gentle on your return, it will do much toward convincing
me you are striving in earnest. Make haste and get ready, and do not
forget the poem. I will send over your things. Tell Lady Helen I shall
expect all her family next Monday evening, to join Edward's little
farewell-party, and you can return with them."

With the most delighted alacrity Caroline hastened to get ready, and in
her hurry forgot the poem till she re-entered the school-room, which was
still untenanted.

"What shall I do for some writing-paper?" she thought; "the desks are
all put away, and it will detain me so long to go up again for the
keys, and the volume is too large to carry--oh, I will tear out a blank
page from this book, it will not be very elegant, but I can recopy it at
Moorlands."

And she hastily tore out a page from an exercise-book which lay open on
the table; not perceiving that by doing so, a fellow-leaf, which was
written on, was loosened, and fell to the ground, mingling with some
torn papers which had been put in a heap to be cleared away. She had
just finished it, when Fanny came to tell her Mr. Grahame could not wait
any longer, and asking if all the papers on the ground were to be
removed, Caroline hastily answered in the affirmative, without looking
at them, and the girl bore them off in her apron, the written leaf among
them.

Now it so happened that this written leaf had already occasioned
trouble. Miss Harcourt had been so displeased with Ellen's careless
performance of a French exercise that morning, that she had desired her
to write it again. It was very difficult, and had materially shortened
the time which she had promised to devote to Edward, who was this week
released from his attendance on Mr. Howard, to permit him and Ellen to
be as much together as possible. Hurried by him, she left her book open
on the table to dry, and, finding it closed on her return, put it away,
without looking at it. The following day Miss Harcourt, of course,
requested to see it, and, to Ellen's utter astonishment, her exercise
was not there; only the faulty and blotted theme, with no sign to
explain its disappearance. Now we know Miss Harcourt was rather
prejudiced against Ellen, and, as she had unhappily failed in truth more
than once (perhaps she was not so unjust and harsh as poor Ellen felt
her to be), she refused to believe her assurance that she had written
it. No one had been in the school-room at the time to whom she could
refer: if Ellen had never disobeyed or deceived, of course her word
would be sufficient, as her brother's and cousins' would.

"That you have failed again, both in obedience and truth, Ellen, I can
not for a moment doubt, and it certainly would be my duty to inform your
aunt directly; but as I know it would cause her real suffering to be
compelled to punish you just this last week that Edward will be with us
for some time, I shall say nothing about it to her, nor inflict any
penalty on you to attract her notice, but it is entirely for her sake I
forbear. One so hardened in falsehood as you must be, so soon to forget
her kind indulgence after your fault only a few weeks ago, can deserve
nothing but harshness and contempt. I shall certainly, after this week,
warn her not to trust too implicitly in your artful professions of
repentance."

Poor Ellen felt too bewildered and too miserable even to cry. That she
had written her exercise, she was as positive as that she had been told
to do so; but if she had--what had become of it? Harsh as Miss Harcourt
seemed, appearances were certainly very much against her. She had not a
single proof that she had obeyed, and her word was nothing; even
Emmeline looked at her doubtingly, and as if she could scarcely even
pity her. It was very little comfort to think her aunt was not to be
told. Her own impulse was to go to her, and tell her at once; but how
could she be believed? and Mrs. Hamilton's words--"If I ever discover
another untruth, you will compel me to adopt still severer measures,
pain as it will be to myself," the remembrance of all she had suffered,
the disappointment it would be to her aunt to think all she had said and
read to her were forgotten, when in reality she was constantly thinking
of and trying to act on them, all checked the impulse, and terrified her
into silence.

Miss Harcourt was not an acute physiognomist; she could only read in
Ellen's face hardihood and recklessness. We rather think Mrs. Hamilton
would have read something very different; but she was very much engaged
with Edward, and if she did think Ellen looked much more out of spirits,
she attributed it to natural feeling at the rapid approach of the day of
separation. For her brother's sake, to prove to him she could enter into
his joy, she tried very hard not to evince the least symptom of
depression, and never to cry before him at least; though every night,
that told her another day had gone, and brought before her all sorts of
vague feelings and fancies of dread, she either cried herself to sleep,
or laid awake, still more unhappy. The suspicion attached to her seemed
to double the severity of the trial of parting. Edward was her own;
Edward must love her, with all her faults; but even her aunt, her kind,
dear, good aunt, must cease to have any affection for her, if so
constantly believed guilty of a sin so terrible as falsehood. And she
seemed to love her brother still more than ever, every day that brought
the hour of parting nearer--sometimes as if she _could not_ bear the
pain of not being able to look at his bright face, and listen to his
glad laugh and dear voice for three, perhaps six long years. Her aunt's
gentle kindness seemed to increase her unhappiness, for though she knew
she was innocent, still she felt, if Miss Harcourt had told Mrs.
Hamilton, she could not be so caressed and cared for and she was
receiving that which she was believed to have forfeited. Miss Harcourt's
face certainly seemed to ask her as distinctly as words, how she could
be so artful--so deceitful--as to permit her aunt to take such notice of
her; and so she often shrunk away, when she most longed to sit by and
listen to her.

Edward's spirits never sobered, except now and then, when he thought of
leaving Mrs. Hamilton, to whom he had given the same love he had
lavished on his mother, perhaps to a still greater extent, for reverence
was largely mingled with it. Mr Howard, too, was another whom he grieved
to leave, and Mrs. Hamilton so trusted in these apparently strong
affections and his good disposition, as to feel but little anxiety;
merely sorrow that she was to lose him for a profession of danger. She
did not know, nor did Mr. Howard, nor Edward himself, that he was one
who would be guided more by the influence of those with whom he was
intimately thrown, than by any memory of the absent, or judgment of his
own.

Ellen's manner on Monday evening annoyed and prejudiced Miss Harcourt
still more; Mrs. Greville and Mary, Lady Helen and all her family,
bringing Caroline home with them, Mr. Howard, and some of Edward's
favorite companions, all assembled at Oakwood, and every one was
determined to be gay and cheerful, and Edward's voice was the merriest,
and his laugh the happiest there; and Ellen, though her head ached with
the effort, and the constant struggle of the preceding week, was quite
cheerful too, and talked to Mary Greville, and Lilla and Cecil Grahame,
and even to Mr. Howard, as Miss Harcourt felt she had no right to do;
and as must prove her to be that which she had always fancied her. Mrs.
Hamilton, on the contrary, saw that in the very midst of a laugh, or of
speaking, her niece's eye would rest upon Edward, and the lip quite
quiver, and her smile become for the moment so strained, that she was
satisfied Ellen's cheerfulness proceeded from no want of feeling; she
wondered, indeed, at so much control at such an early age, but she loved
her for it, notwithstanding. Once only Ellen was nearly conquered. Mary
had begged her to sing a little Hindoo air, of which she was
particularly fond, and Edward, hearing the request, said eagerly--

"Do sing it, dear Ellen; I am quite as fond of it as Mary is, for it
seems to make me think of India and poor mamma, and it will be such a
long time before I hear it again."

She had never in her whole life felt so disinclined to sing, so as if it
were quite impossible--as if she must cry if she did; but Edward would
think it so unkind if she refused, for she did not know herself why his
very words should have increased the difficulty, and what reason could
she give him? Mary went and asked Mrs. Hamilton to accompany her; and
Ellen did her very best, but her voice would tremble, and just before
the end of the second verse it failed entirely; but still she was glad
she had tried, for on Mrs. Hamilton saying, very kindly, and in a voice
that only she and Mary could hear, "I was half afraid you would not
succeed to-night, my dear Ellen, but you were quite right to try," Mary
seemed to understand at once why it had been so difficult for her to
oblige her, and to be quite sorry she had pressed it so much, and Edward
had thanked her, and told her he should sing it in idea very often. She
tried to be merry again, but she could not succeed as before, and so she
kept as near her aunt as she could, all the remainder of the evening, as
if she were only safe there.

Edward, too, had a hard battle with himself, as one by one his favorite
companions took leave of him with a hearty shake of the hand, and
eager--but in some, half-choked wishes for his health and prosperity;
and when all had gone, and Mr. Howard, who had remained for prayers,
took him in his arms, and solemnly prayed God to bless him, and save him
from danger and temptation, and permit him to return to his family,
improved in all things that would make him an affectionate guardian to
his orphan sister, and repay all the love and care of his aunt and
uncle, it was a desperate effort that prevented him from sobbing like a
child; but he had his midshipman's uniform on for the first time, and he
was quite resolved he would not disgrace it; therefore he only returned
Mr. Howard's embrace very warmly, and ran out of the room. But when his
aunt went into his room an hour afterward, it appeared as if he had put
off his pride and his uniform together, for, though he was fast asleep,
his pillow was quite wet with tears.

The next morning was a very sad one, though Percy and his father did all
they could to make it cheerful (we ought to have said before that Percy
and Herbert were both going with Mr. Hamilton and Edward). No one liked
the idea of losing Edward for so long a time. He had made himself a
favorite with all, even with every one of the servants, who, when the
carriage was ready at eleven o'clock, thronged into the hall to take a
last look at him. He was so altered, that he had that morning, actually
of his own accord, shaken hands with every one of them who had ever done
any thing for him, especially Ellis and Morris, and Robert, to whom he
had given a very handsome present, and thanked him for all his
attention.

He kept up very manfully till he came to his aunt, whose emotion, as she
held him in a close embrace, was so unusually visible, and for the
moment he seemed so to love her, that the idea of the sea lost half its
delight, and he felt as if he could almost have liked to remain with
her. But Percy's joyous voice--

"Come, Master Edward, I thought you were a sailor, not a school-boy. Off
with you; you will not give me time or room for one kiss from mamma
before we go," roused him, and he tried to laugh in the midst of his
tears, gave Ellen another kiss, and ran into the carriage, where he was
quickly followed by his uncle and cousins, and in a very few minutes
Oakwood, dear, happy Oakwood, as his whole heart felt it at that moment,
was hidden from his sight.

Ellen remained by the window, looking after the carriage, long after it
was impossible to see or hear it, very pale, and her eyes very heavy,
but not in tears; and as her aunt went to her, and put her arm round
her, and began talking to her very cheerfully of all Edward would have
to write to her about, and how soon they might hear from him, and that
Ellen should answer him as often and as fully as she liked, and that she
would not even ask to see her letters to him, or all his to her, as they
might have many little affectionate things to say to each other, that
they might not care about any one else seeing, and she would trust them
both--Ellen seemed as if one pain was soothed, and if indeed she heard
often from him, she might bear his departure. But there was still the
other source of unhappiness, recalled every time she met Miss Harcourt's
cold suspicious look, which had not changed even then. Still she tried
to join her cousins, and get her work, for there were no studies that
morning, and so some little time passed, by Mrs. Hamilton's exertions,
almost cheerfully; but then Ellen left the room to get something she
wanted, and, in seeking her own, passed Edward's room, the door of which
stood half open. She could not resist entering, and every thing spoke of
him so vividly, and yet seemed so to tell her he had gone, really gone,
and she was quite alone, that all the pain came back again worse than
ever, and she laid her head on his pillow, and her long-checked tears
flowed with almost passionate violence.

"My dear Ellen, I have been looking for you every where," said her
aunt's kind voice, full an hour afterward; "Emmeline went into your room
and could not find you, and I could not imagine what had become of you.
It was not wise of you to come here just this morning, love. You have
been so brave, so unselfish all this week, that I must not let you give
way now. Try and think only that Edward will be happier as a sailor than
he would be remaining with you; and though I know you must miss him
very, very painfully, you will be able to bear it better. Poor Alice
Seaton, of whom you have heard me speak, has no such comfort; her
brother could not bear the idea of a sea life, and is scarcely strong
enough for it; and yet, poor fellow, it is the only opening his uncle
has for him, and his poor sister had not only that pain to bear--for you
can fancy how dreadful it would be, if Edward had left us for a life in
which he thought he should be miserable--but is obliged to leave the
aunt she loves, as much, I think, as you love me, Ellen, and go as a
teacher in a school, to bear her accumulated sorrow quite alone. Sad as
your trial is, you have still many things to bless God for, dearest, as
I am sure you will acknowledge, if, when the pain of the present moment
has subsided, you think of Alice, and try to put yourself in her place."

"It is not only parting from Edward," answered Ellen, trying to check
her tears, but clasping her arms still closer round her aunt, as if
dreading that her own words should send her from her.

"Not only parting from Edward, Ellen, love! what is it then? tell me,"
replied Mrs. Hamilton, surprised and almost alarmed. But Ellen could not
go on, much as she wished it, for her momentary courage had deserted
her, and she could only cry more bitterly than before. "Have you done
any thing wrong, Ellen? and have you forgotten my promise?" inquired her
aunt, after waiting several minutes, and speaking very sorrowfully.

"Miss Harcourt thinks I have, aunt; but indeed, indeed, I have not; I
have not been so very wicked as to tell another falsehood. I know no one
can believe me, but I would rather you should know it, even if--if you
punish me again."

"You must try to be more calm, my dear Ellen, and tell me clearly what
is causing you so much additional suffering; for I can not quite
understand you. I certainly shall not punish you, unless _quite_
convinced you have failed in truth again, which I do not think you have.
Tell me exactly what it is, and look at me while you are speaking."

Ellen tried to obey, but her grief had gained such an ascendency, that
it was very difficult. Mrs. Hamilton looked very thoughtful when she
ceased, for she really was more perplexed than she allowed Ellen to
perceive; and the poor child, fancying her silence could only mean
disbelief and condemnation, remained quiet and trembling by her side.

"I promised you that I would not doubt you, Ellen, and I will not now,
though appearances are so strong against you," she said, after several
minutes' thought. "Come with me to the school-room, and show me your
exercise-book; I may find some clew to explain this mystery."

Ellen thought that was quite impossible; but, inexpressibly comforted by
her aunt's trust, she went with her directly.

"Ellen has been telling me that you have been very much displeased with
her, my dear Lucy," Mrs. Hamilton said, directly she entered, addressing
Miss Harcourt, who was sitting reading with Caroline and Emmeline, "and
certainly with great apparent justice; but she is so unhappy about it,
that I can scarcely believe that she has forgotten all which passed
between us a short time ago, and I am going, therefore, with your
permission, to try if I can not discover something that may throw a
light on the subject."

"I am afraid that will scarcely be possible," replied Miss Harcourt;
"however, I am glad she has had the candor to tell you, instead of
continuing to receive your notice, as she has done the last week." Ellen
had brought her book while Miss Harcourt was speaking, and Mrs. Hamilton
attentively examined it.

"Did you not begin one like this the same day, Caroline?"

"Yes, mamma; don't you remember we were obliged to send to Harris for
them? as the parcel with the stationery did not come from Exeter as soon
as we expected. And we noticed how much thinner they were, though they
were the same sized books."

"And did I not hear you say something about their having the same number
of leaves, and therefore it must have been only the quality of the paper
which made the difference?"

"What a memory you have, mamma," answered Caroline, smiling. "I did not
think you were taking the least notice of us, but I do remember saying
so now, and, indeed, I very often wish the quality had been the same,
for our writing looks horrid."

"Do you happen to remember the number of leaves they contained, and if
they were both alike?"

"I know they had both the same number, and I think it was
two-and-twenty, but I can tell you in a moment." And with her usual
quickness of movement, Caroline unlocked her desk, drew forth her book,
and ran over the leaves.

"I am right--two-and-twenty."

"And you are quite sure they had both the same number?"

"Perfectly certain, mamma."

"Then, by some incomprehensible means, two leaves have disappeared from
Ellen's--here are only twenty. Have you ever torn a leaf out, Ellen?"

"No, aunt, indeed I have not."

"When did Miss Harcourt tell you to write this missing exercise?"

"Last Monday week--I mean yesterday week."

"Where did you write it, and what did you do with your book afterward?"

"I wrote it at this table, aunt: I was so sorry I had to do it, when
Edward depended so much on my going out with him, that I thought it
would save time not to get my desk; and as soon as it was done, I left
it open to dry. When I came home it was closed, and I put it away
without looking at it, and the next morning the exercise was not there."

"Who was in this room after you left it? by-the-by, it was the morning
you went to Lady Helen's, Caroline; did you notice Ellen's book open, as
she said? Why, what is the matter, my dear?" she added, observing that
Caroline looked as if some sudden light had flashed upon her, and then,
really grieved.

"I am so very, _very_ sorry, mamma; I do believe it has been all my
haste and carelessness that has caused Ellen all this unhappiness. I was
in such a hurry to copy the poem for Lady Helen, that I tore a blank
leaf out of an open book on the table, without thinking whose it was. In
my haste the book fell to the ground, I picked it up to write on it, but
never noticed if the fellow-leaf fell out, which it must have done, and
no doubt Fanny carried it away with some other torn papers, which she
asked me if she were to destroy. I am more sorry than I can tell you,
Ellen; pray believe that I did not do it purposely."

"I am sure she will, if it be only for the comfort of our knowing the
truth," said Mrs. Hamilton, truly relieved, not only from the
explanation, but perceiving Caroline's voluntarily offered kiss was
willingly and heartily returned by Ellen. It was almost the first she
had ever seen exchanged between them.

"I must believe you, dear Caroline, for you never say what you do not
mean," said Ellen, earnestly; "but I do so wish Miss Harcourt could see
my exercise; she would quite believe me then."

"And we should all be more satisfied," replied Mrs. Hamilton, perceiving
in a moment that Miss Harcourt still doubted, and ringing the bell, she
desired the footman to send Fanny to her.

"Do you remember taking some torn papers from this room the morning you
went to tell Miss Hamilton that Mr. Grahame was waiting?" she asked.

"Yes, madam."

"And were they all torn up in small pieces?"

"No, madam; there was one like the page out of a book, which made me ask
Miss Hamilton if they were all to be destroyed. It was such a nice clean
piece, only being written on one side, that I wrapped up some lace in
it--Mrs. Ellis having only half an hour before scolded me for not
keeping it more carefully."

"Bring me the leaf, my good girl, and Miss Ellen will give you a still
better piece for the purpose," replied her mistress, quite unable to
suppress a smile, and Ellen hastily took out a large sheet of writing
paper, and the moment Fanny returned (she seemed gone an age) gave it to
her, and seized her own, which she placed in her aunt's hand, without
being able to speak a single word.

"I think that is the very theme, and certainly Ellen's writing, my dear
Lucy; we can have no more doubt now," said Mrs. Hamilton, the moment
Fanny had left the room, delighted with the exchange, and drawing Ellen
close to her, for the poor child could really scarcely stand.

"I have done you injustice, Ellen, and I beg your pardon," replied Miss
Harcourt directly, and Mrs. Hamilton would have been better pleased had
she stopped there, but she could not help adding, "You know I should
never have doubted you, if you had not so often forfeited truth."

Ellen's first impulse had been to go to her, but her last words caused
her to bury her face on her aunt's shoulder.

"I really think, Ellen, you ought to thank Ellis for giving Fanny a
scolding, as it has done you such excellent service," resumed Mrs.
Hamilton, playfully; "and what fee are you going to give me for taking
upon myself to prove your innocence in open court? I think myself so
very clever, that I shall tell Percy I am a better lawyer without study,
than he can hope to be with. You don't seem very capable of doing any
thing but kissing me now, and so I will not be very exacting. You have
cried yourself almost ill, and so must bear the penalty. Go and lie down
in my dressing-room for an hour or two; Emmeline, go with your cousin,
and see what a kind, affectionate nurse you can be till I come. It is
never too early to practice such a complete woman's office."

Emmeline, quite proud of the charge, and more grieved than she very well
knew how to express, till she was quite alone with Ellen, that she, too,
had suspected and been cold to her the last week, left the room with her
cousin. Caroline seemed to hesitate for a moment, but she was quite
certain by her mother's face that she wished to speak with Miss
Harcourt, and so, without being told, took up her book, and went into
the library.

"And now, Lucy, I am going to ask you a personal favor," began Mrs.
Hamilton, the moment they were alone.

"That I will try and not judge Ellen so harshly again," was her instant
reply; "you have every right to _desire_ it, my dear friend, not to ask
it as a favor; I _was_ too prejudiced and too hasty; but your own dear
children are so truthful, so open, that I fear they have quite spoiled
me for the necessary patience and forbearance with others."

"You have not quite guessed it, Lucy. Appearances were so very strongly
against that poor child, that I am not at all astonished you should have
disbelieved her assertion. In the moment of irritation, it is not
unlikely I should have done so myself; but the favor I am going to ask
you, is merely that you will try and _never show_ that you doubt her
word, or refer to her past failures. I am quite convinced that untruth
is not Ellen's natural disposition, but that it has been caused by the
same circumstances which have made her such a painfully timid, too
humble character. If, with all her efforts to conquer herself, she still
finds her word doubted, and the past brought forward, she never will be
able to succeed. Examine as strictly and carefully as you please, and as
I am sure she will desire, if necessary--as she did to-day--but oblige
me, and _never doubt her_. If she finds we never do, it will raise her
self-esteem, and give her a still further incentive to adhere as
strictly to the truth, as she sees we believe she does. I am certain the
habit of falsehood has often been strengthened by the injudicious and
cruel references to one or two childish failures. If I am never to be
believed, what is the use of trying to tell the truth? is the very
natural question; and the present pain of carefulness being greater than
the visible amount of evil, the habit is confirmed. Will you oblige me?"

"Of course I will, dearest Mrs. Hamilton; how can you talk so! Have you
not a right to desire what you think proper, in my guidance of your
children, instead of so appealing to me as an equal?"

"And are you not? My dear Lucy, have I ever, in act or word, considered
you otherwise? In the very intrusting my children to your care, do I not
prove that I must think you so? Have you lived with me all these years,
and not yet discovered that I have some few notions peculiar perhaps to
myself, but that one among them is, that we can never consider too much,
or be too grateful to those invaluable friends who help us in the
training of our children?"

"I have lived long enough with you to know that there never was, never
can be, any woman like you, either as wife, mother, mistress, or
friend!" exclaimed Miss Harcourt, with most unusual fervor.

"You did not know your own mother, dearest Lucy, as how I wish you had,
or you would not think so. Every firm, truthful, estimable quality I may
possess, under God's blessing, I owe to her. As a young child, before
she came to me, and some years afterward, I was more like Ellen than
either of my own darlings; and that perhaps explains the secret of my
love for, and forbearance with her."

"Like Ellen!" repeated Miss Harcourt, much surprised; "forgive me, but,
indeed, I can scarcely believe it."

"It is truth, notwithstanding; my poor father's great preference for
Eleanor, when we were children, her very superior beauty and quickness,
threw me back into myself; and I am quite certain if it had not been for
your excellent mother, who came to live with us when I was only seven,
my character would have suffered as much from neglect on the one side,
and too painful humility on my own, as Ellen's has done. I can
understand her feelings of loneliness, misappreciation, shrinking into
herself, better even than she does herself."

"But your affection and kindness ought to have altered her character by
this time."

"Hardly--eighteen months is not long enough to remove the painful
impressions and influences of eleven sorrowful years. Besides, I
scarcely know all these influences; I fear sometimes that she has
endured more than I am aware of. So you must think charitably of my
fancy, dearest Lucy," she added, smiling, "and help me to make Ellen as
much like me as a woman, as I believe she is to me as a child; and to do
so, try and think a little, a very little, more kindly and hopefully of
her than you do."

"I really do wish you were not quite so penetrating, dearest Mrs.
Hamilton; there is no hiding a single feeling or fancy from you,"
answered Miss Harcourt, slightly confused, but laughing at the same
time. "What with your memory, and your quick observation, and your
determined notice of little things, you really are a most dangerous
person to live with; and if you were not more kind, and indulgent, and
true than any body else, we should all be frightened to come near you."

"I am glad I have some saving qualities," replied Mrs. Hamilton,
laughing also; "it would be rather hard to be isolated because I can
read other people's thoughts. However, we have entered into a compact,"
she continued, rather more seriously; "you will never show that you
doubt Ellen, and in any difficult matter, come at once to me," and Miss
Harcourt willingly assented.

The day passed much more happily than the morning could have
anticipated. Emmeline's nursing was so affectionate and successful, that
Ellen was quite able to join them at dinner, and her aunt had selected
such a very interesting story to read aloud, in which one character was
a young sailor, that the hours seemed to fly; and then they had a long
talk about poor Alice Seaton and her brother, whether it would be
possible for Mr. Hamilton to place young Seaton in a situation that he
liked better, and that his health was more fitted for. Ellen said she
should like to see and know Alice so much, for her trial must be such a
very hard one, that her aunt promised her she should in the midsummer
holidays, for Alice should then come and spend a week with them. It
seemed as if not to be able to wish Edward good-night, and kiss him,
brought back some of the pain again; but she found that thinking about
poor Alice, and fancying how miserable she must be, if she loved her
aunt as dearly as she did Mrs. Hamilton, to be obliged to part from her
as well as her brother, and live at a school, made her pain seem less
absorbing; as if to help Alice would do more toward curing it than any
thing. And though, of course, every day, for a little while, she seemed
to miss Edward more and more, still her aunt's affection and her own
efforts, prepared her to see her uncle and cousins return, and listen to
all they could tell her about him, without any increase of pain.



PART III.

SIN AND SUFFERING.



CHAPTER I.

ADVANCE AND RETROSPECT.


Our readers must imagine that two years and four months have elapsed
since our last visit to the inmates of Oakwood. It was the first week in
March that Edward Fortescue (only wanting ten days for the completion of
his fourteenth year) quitted a home, which was happier than any he had
ever known, to enter the world as a sailor; and it is the 7th of June,
two years later, the day on which Ellen Fortescue completes her
fifteenth year, that we recommence our narrative.

Over this interval, however, much as we are anxious to proceed, we must
take a brief glance, clearly to understand the aspect of the Oakwood
home affairs, which, from the increasing age of the younger members, had
undergone some slight change. The greatest and most keenly felt was the
departure of Percy and Herbert for college, the October twelvemonth
after Edward had gone; the house seemed actually desolate without them.
Percy's wild jokes and inexhaustible spirits, and Herbert's quiet,
unobtrusive kindness, much as they had always been truly appreciated by
their home circle, still scarcely seemed to have been fully felt till
the young men were gone; and the old house actually seemed enwrapped in
a silence, which it required very determined effort on the part of all
who remained in the least degree to dispel.

Our readers who are mothers, and earnest ones, will easily understand
the anxious tremblings of Mrs. Hamilton's heart, when she parted from
her boys for the world: for such, to spirits fresh, boyish,
unsophisticated, as they still were, Oxford could not fail to be. For
Herbert, indeed, she had neither fear nor doubt: no sneer, no
temptation, no bad example, would affect him, in whom every passing
year seemed to increase and deepen those exalted feelings which, in his
earliest childhood, had "less in them of earth than heaven." His piety
was so real, his faith so fervent, his affections so concentrated in his
home and in one other individual, his love and pursuit of study so
ardent and unceasing, his one aim, to become worthy in heart and mind to
serve God as his minister, so ever present, that he was effectually
guarded even from the world. Percy had none of these feelings to the
same extent, save his ardent love for home and its inmates--his mother,
above all. He did, indeed, give every promise that the principles so
carefully instilled had taken firm root, and would guide his conduct in
the world; but Mrs. Hamilton was too humble-minded--too convinced that
every human effort is imperfect, without the sustaining and vitalizing
grace of God, to rest in security, as many might have done, that
_because_ she had so worked, so prayed, she _must_ succeed. She was
hopeful, indeed, very hopeful--how could she be otherwise when she
beheld his deep, though silent, reverence for sacred things--his
constant and increasing respect and love for his father--his devoted
affection for herself--his attachment to Herbert, which seemed so
strangely yet so beautifully to combine almost reverence for his
superior mind and holier spirit, with the caressing protectiveness of an
older for a younger--a stronger for a weaker? There was much in all this
to banish anxiety altogether, but not from such a heart as Mrs.
Hamilton's, whose very multiplicity of blessings made her often tremble,
and led her to the footstool of her God, with a piety as humble, as
constant, as fervent, as many believe is the fruit of adversity alone.

Caroline had sufficiently improved as greatly to decrease solicitude on
her account: though there was still a want of sufficient humility, a too
great proneness to trust implicitly in her own strength, an inclination
to prejudice, and a love of admiration, which all made Mrs. Hamilton
fear would expose her to some personal sorrow ere they were entirely
overcome. To produce eternal good, she might not murmur at temporal
suffering; but her fond heart, though it could anticipate it calmly for
herself, so shrunk from it, as touching her child, that the nearer
approached the period of Caroline's introduction to the gay world, the
more painfully anxious she became, and the more gladly would she have
retained her in the retirement of Oakwood, where all her better and
higher qualities alone had play. But she knew this could not be; and
she could only _trust_ that her anxiety would be proved as groundless
with Caroline, as every letter from Oxford proved it to be with Percy,
and _endeavor_ to avert it by never wavering in her watchful and guiding
love.

Emmeline, at fifteen, was just the same sportive, happy, innocent child
as she had been at twelve. Her feelings were, indeed, still deeper, her
imagination more vivid, her religion more fervid. To her every thing was
touched with poetry--it mattered not how dull and commonplace it might
seem to other people; but Mrs. Hamilton's judicious care had so taught
that _Truth_ alone was poetry and beauty--the Ideal only lovable when
its basis was the Real--that she was neither romantic nor visionary.
Keen as her sensibilities were, even over a work of fiction, they
prompted the _deed_ and _act_ of kindness, not the tear alone. For miles
round her father's large domain she was known, loved, so felt as a
guardian spirit, that the very sound of her step seemed to promise joy.
She actually seemed to live for others--making their pleasures hers;
and, withal, so joyous, especially in her own home and at Greville
Manor, that even anxiety seemed exorcised when she was near. Before
strangers, indeed, she would be as shy as a young fawn; though even then
natural kindliness of heart prompted such kindness of word and manner,
as always to excite the wish to see her again.

Edward, in the two years and a quarter which he had been away, had only
once occasioned anxiety. Two or three months after he had sailed, he
wrote home in the highest terms of a certain Gilbert Harding, one of the
senior midshipmen of his ship, from whom he had received kindness upon
kindness; and who, being six or seven years older than himself, he
jestingly wrote to his aunt and uncle, must certainly be the very best
friend he could have chosen, as he was much too old to lead him into
mischief. Why he (Harding) had taken such a fancy to him, Edward could
not tell; but he was so excessively kind, so taught him his duty, and
smoothed all the difficulties and disagreeables which, he owned, had at
first seemed overwhelming, that he never could be grateful enough. He
added, that, though not a general favorite with his immediate messmates,
he was very highly esteemed by Sir Edward Manly and his other superior
officers, and that the former had much commended him for his kindness to
the youngest boy on board, which Edward was. It was very easy to
perceive that young Fortescue's susceptible affections had all been not
only attracted, but already riveted by this new friend. All the young
party at Oakwood rejoiced at it; Mrs. Hamilton would have done so also,
had she not perceived an anxious expression on her husband's face, which
alarmed her. He did not, however, make any remark till he had spoken to
Mr. Howard, and then imparted to his wife alone (not choosing to create
suspicion in the open hearts of his children) that this Gilbert Harding,
though very young at the time had been one of the principal actors in
the affair which had caused Mr. Howard to dismiss his pupils, as we
related in a former page; that his very youth, for he could scarcely
have been more than eleven or twelve, and determined hardihood, so
marked natural depravity, that Mr. Howard had had less hope for him than
for any of the others. This opinion had been borne out by his after
conduct at home; but the affair had been successfully hushed up by his
family; and by immense interest he been permitted to enter the navy,
where, it was said, his youthful errors had been so redeemed, and his
courage and conduct altogether had so won him applause, that no farther
fears were entertained for him. Mr. Howard alone retained his opinion,
that the disposition was naturally bad, and doubted the _internal_
response to the seeming _outward good_; and he was grieved and anxious
beyond measure, when he heard that he was not only on board the same
ship as Edward, but already his favorite companion and most trusted
friend. His anxiety, of course, extended itself to Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton
to such a degree, that at the first moment they would gladly have
endeavored to exchange his ship; but this would have seemed very strange
to Sir Edward Manly, who was one of Mr. Hamilton's most valued friends.
He had, in fact, actually delayed Edward's becoming a midshipman till
Sir Edward could take him in his own ship and now to place him elsewhere
was really impossible; and, after all, though he might be removed from
Harding's influence, how could his anxious guardians know all with whom
he might be thrown? They were obliged to content themselves with writing
earnestly and affectionately to Edward; and, painful as it was, to throw
a doubt and shade over such youthful confidence and affection, implored
him not to trust too implicitly in Harding; that his character had not
always been free from stain; that he (Edward) was still so young and so
susceptible, he might find that he had imbibed principles, and been
tempted to wrong almost unconsciously, and suffer from its effects when
too late to escape. They wrote as affectionately and indulgently as they
could--Mr. Howard, as well as his aunt and uncle; but still they felt
that it certainly did appear cruel to warn a young, warm heart to break
off the first friendship it had formed; especially as he beheld that
friend approved of by his captain, and looked up to by the crew. And
that Edward's reply was somewhat cold, though he did promise caution,
and assure them he had not so forgotten the influences and principles of
Oakwood as to allow any one to lead him into error, did not surprise
them. He never referred to Harding again, except sometimes casually to
mention his companionship, or some act which had won him approval; and
they really hoped their letters had had at least the effect of putting
him on his guard. Sir Edward Manly's own reply to Mr. Hamilton's anxious
appeal to him, however, succeeded in quieting their fears; he assured
them he had seen nothing in Harding's conduct, since he had been at sea,
to render him an unfit companion for any boy: that he had heard of some
boyish faults, but it was rather hard he was to suffer from them as a
man; and he assured his friends that he would keep a strict look-out
after young Fortescue, and the first appearance of a change in a
character which, young as he was, he could not help loving, should be
inquired into, and the friendship ended by sending Harding to some other
ship. So wrote Sir Edward Manly, with the fullest possible intention to
perform; and Edward's anxious friends were happy, more especially as
letter after letter brought praises of the young sailor from captain,
officers, and crew, and his own epistles, though brief, were
affectionate and satisfactory.

It was happy for Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, and Mr. Howard, too, that they
were ignorant of the multiplicity of great and little things which could
not fail to engross the mind of Sir Edward Manly, who was not only
captain of the Prince William, a gallant seventy-four, but commander of
the little flotilla which accompanied him, or they could not have rested
so secure. Happy for them too, during those years of separation, that
they were not perfectly acquainted with Edward's real weakness of
character, or of the fearful extent of mischief which the influences of
his first twelve years had engendered. Had he remained at Oakwood till
nineteen or twenty, it _is_ probable they would have been insensibly
conquered, and the impressions of good, which he had appeared so
readily to receive, really taken root and guided his after life, but
eighteen months could not do this, as Mrs. Hamilton would have felt, had
she known _all_ the effect of her sister's ill-judged partiality and
indulgence; but this, as we have already mentioned, was concealed from
her by the bright, lovable, winning qualities, which alone were
uppermost. Our readers, in fact, know more of Edward (if they have at
all thought of his conduct in so frequently allowing his sister to
suffer for him) than his aunt, penetrative as she was; and, therefore,
in the events we shall have occasion to relate, we trust that Mrs.
Hamilton will not appear an inconsistent character, inasmuch that one in
general so successfully observant, should fail in penetration when most
needed.

Edward's life at Oakwood had been so very happy, its pleasures and
indulgences so innocent, so numerous, that he did not himself know his
liability to temptation, from the excessive love of pleasure which his
mother's indiscreet indulgence had originally infused. The control which
his uncle and Mr. Howard exercised over him had been so very gentle and
forbearing, that he had scarcely ever felt the inclination to exert
self-will, and when it so chanced that he had, Ellen had covered his
fault, or borne its penalty for him. He thought he had guided himself,
when, in fact, he was guided; but this could no longer be the case when
one of the little world which thronged a first-rate man-of-war. Outward
actions were, indeed, under control; but what captain, the most earnest,
most able in the world, could look into and guide the _hearts_ of all
those committed to his care? And almost the first action of Edward's
unbiased will was indignantly to tear into shreds, and scatter to the
winds and the waves, those affectionate and warning letters, and cling
the more closely to, rest the more confidingly on Harding, for the wrong
that he thought he had done him, by allowing his eye even to rest for a
moment on such base, unfounded aspersions on his name.

When Mrs. Hamilton told Ellen that her letters to her brother, and his
to her, should never be subjected to any scrutiny but their own, she
acted on a principle which many parents and guardians would consider as
high-flown and romantic, and which she herself had most painful reason
to regret--the effects, at least, but not the principle itself, for that
was based on too refined a feeling to waver, even though she suffered
from it. She could not bear, nor could her husband, the system which
prevailed in some families of their acquaintance, that their children
could neither receive nor write letters to each other, or their intimate
friends, without being shown to their seniors. As for opening and
reading a letter directed to one of them, before its possessor saw it,
as they had seen done, it was, in their estimation, as much dishonor and
as mean, as if such a thing had been done to an adult. Perfect
confidence in their home they had indeed instilled, and that confidence
was never withheld. There was a degree of suspicion attached to a demand
always to see what a child had written or received, from which Mrs.
Hamilton's pure mind actually shrunk in loathing. In the many months the
Grahame family passed in London, Annie and Caroline corresponded without
the least restraint: no doubt many would pronounce Mrs. Hamilton very
unwise, knowing Annie so well, and trembling for Caroline as she did;
but, as she told Miss Harcourt, she had some notions peculiar to herself
(they always had the sanction and sympathy of her husband, however), and
this was one of them. She was always pleased and interested in all that
her children read to her, either from their own epistles or those they
received, and if they wished it, read them herself, but she never asked
to do so, and the consequence was, that the most perfect confidence was
given.

When Ellen and Edward parted, they were both so young, that Mr. Hamilton
had hesitated as to whether his wife was quite justified in the perfect
trust with which she treated them, and whether it would not be wiser to
overlook their correspondence; but Mrs. Hamilton so argued that their
very youth was their safeguard, that they were all in all to each other,
and as such she wished them to feel they were bound by even a closer and
a fonder tie than that of brother and sister under other circumstances,
so won over her husband that he yielded; and from the long extracts that
Ellen would read of Edward's letters to the family in general, and of
her own to her aunt, he was quite satisfied as to the wisdom of his
wife's judgment.

For full a year after Edward's departure, Ellen's conduct and general
improvement had given her aunt nothing but pleasure; even Miss
Harcourt's and Caroline's prejudice was nearly removed, though, at
times, the fancy would steal over both that she was not exactly what she
seemed, and that that which was hidden was not exactly that which Mrs.
Hamilton believed it; and this fancy strengthened by a certain
indefinable yet _felt_ change in Ellen, commencing about thirteen months
after she had parted from her brother. Mrs. Hamilton herself, for some
time strove against belief, but at length she could no longer conceal
from herself that Ellen _was_ becoming reserved again, and fearful, at
times almost shrinking, and sad, as in her childhood. The openness, and
almost light-heartedness, which for one brief year had so characterized
her, seemed completely but so insensibly to have gone, that Mrs.
Hamilton could not satisfy herself as to the time of the commencement,
or reason of the change. Her temper, too, became fitful, and altogether
her aunt's anxiety and bewilderment as to her real character returned in
full force. Once, when gently questioned as to why her temper was so
altered, Ellen confessed with tears, that she knew it was, but she could
not help it, she believed she was not well; and Mrs. Hamilton called in
Mr. Maitland, who said that she really was in a highly nervous state,
and required care and quietness, and the less notice that was taken of
her momentary irritability or depression the better. Little did the
worthy man imagine how his young patient blessed him for these words;
giving a reason for and so allowing the trepidation which paled her
cheek, parched her lips, and made her hand so tremble, when she received
a letter from her brother, to pass unnoticed.

But change in manner was not all; almost every second or third month
Ellen's allowance of pocket-money (which was unusually liberal, as Mrs.
Hamilton wished to accustom her girls, from an early age, to purchase
some few articles of dress for themselves, and so learn the value of
money) most strangely and mysteriously disappeared. Ellen either could
not or would not give any account of it; and, of course, it not only
exposed her to her aunt's most serious displeasure, but inexpressibly
heightened not only Mrs. Hamilton's bewilderment and anxiety, but Miss
Harcourt's and Caroline's unspoken prejudice. From the time of Edward's
departure, Ellen had never been discovered in or suspected of either
uttering or acting an untruth; but her silence, her apparent determined
ignorance of, or resolution not to confess the cause of the
incomprehensible disappearance of her allowance, naturally compelled
Mrs. Hamilton to revert to the propensity of her childhood, and fear
that truthfulness was again deserting her. Her displeasure lasting of
course, the longer from Ellen's want of openness, and the air of what
almost appeared to her anxious yet still affectionate aunt like sullen
defiance (in reality, it was almost despair), when spoken to, caused a
painful degree of estrangement between them, always, however, giving
place to Mrs. Hamilton's usual caressing manner, the moment Ellen seemed
really repentant, and her month's expenditure could be properly
explained.

For six or eight months before the day on which we recommence our
narrative, there had been, however, nothing to complain of in Ellen,
except still that unnatural reserve and frequent depression, as if
dreading something she knew not what, which, as every other part of her
conduct was satisfactory, Mrs. Hamilton tried to comfort herself was
physical alone. No reference to the past was ever made: her manner to
her niece became the same as usual; but she could not feel secure as to
her character, and, what was most painful, there were times when she was
compelled to doubt even Ellen's affection for herself, a thing she had
never had the slightest cause to do even when she was a little inanimate
child.

But very few changes had taken place in the Greville and Grahame
families. Mrs. Greville's trial continued in unmitigated, if not
heightened bitterness: the example, the companionship of his father had
appeared to have blighted every good seed which she had strenuously
endeavored to plant in the bosom of her son. At sixteen he was already
an accomplished man of the world, in its most painful sense: he had his
own companions, his own haunts; scarcely ever visiting his home, for a
reason which, could his poor mother have known it, would have given her
some slight gleam of comfort. He could not associate either with her or
his sister, without feeling a sort of loathing of himself, a longing to
be to them as Percy and Herbert Hamilton were at Oakwood; and not having
the moral courage sufficient to break from the control of his father,
and the exciting pleasures in which that control initiated him, he
shrunk more and more from the only spot in which better feelings were so
awakened within him as to give him pain. To deaden this unacknowledged
remorse, his manner was rude and unfeeling, so that his very visits,
though inexpressibly longed for by his mother, brought only increase of
grief.

Mrs. Greville seemed herself so inured to suffering, that she bore up
against it without any visible failing of health; struggling against its
enervating effects, more, perhaps, than she was aware of herself, for
the sake of one treasure still granted her--her own almost angel
Mary--who, she knew, without her love and constant cheerfulness, must
sink beneath such a constant aggravated trial. Yet that very love
brought increase of anxiety from more than one cause. As yet there was
no change in their manner of living, but Mrs. Greville knew that, from
the excesses of her husband and son, there very soon must be. Ruin,
poverty, all its fearful ills, stood before her in perspective, and how
could Mary's fragile frame and gentle spirit bear up against them? Again
and again the question pressed upon her--Did Herbert Hamilton indeed
love her child, as every passing year seemed to confirm? and if he did,
would--could his parents consent to his union with the child of such a
father, the sister of such a brother? There were always long messages to
Mary in Herbert's letters to his mother, which Mrs. Hamilton not only
delivered herself, but sometimes even put the whole letter into Mary's
hand, and at last laughingly said, she really thought they had much
better write to each other, as then she should chance to get a letter
all to herself, not merely be the medium of a communication between
them; and Mary, though she did slightly blush, which she was in the
habit of doing for scarcely any thing, seemed to think it so perfectly
natural, that she merely said, if Herbert had time to write to her, she
should like it very much, and would certainly answer him.

"My dear Emmeline, what are you about?" was Mrs. Greville's anxious
appeal, the moment they were alone.

"Giving pleasure to two young folks, of whom I am most excessively
fond," was Mrs. Hamilton's laughing reply. "Don't look so terrified, my
dear Jessie. They love each other as boy and girl now, and if the love
should deepen into that of man and woman, why, all I can say is--I would
rather have your Mary for my Herbert than any one else I know."

"She is not only _my_ Mary!" answered the poor mother, with such a
quivering of the eye and lip, that it checked Mrs. Hamilton's joyousness
at once.

"She is _your_ Mary, in all that can make such a character as my Herbert
happy," was her instant reply, with a pressure of Mrs. Greville's hand,
that said far more than her words. "I am not one of those who like to
make matches in anticipation, for man's best laid schemes are so often
overthrown by the most trifling but unforeseen chances, that display a
much wiser providence than our greatest wisdom, that I should consider
it almost sinful so to do; but never let a thought of suffering cross
your mind, dearest Jessie, as to what my husband's and my own answer
will be, if our Herbert should indeed ever wish to choose your Mary as
his wife, and, certainly a most important addition, should she wish it
too. Our best plan now is to let them follow their own inclinations
regarding correspondence. We can, I am sure, trust them both, for what
can be a greater proof of my boy's perfect confidence in my sympathy
with his feelings toward her, than to make me his messenger, as he has
done, and as he, no doubt, will continue to do, even if he write. I have
not the smallest doubt, that he will inclose me his letters to her
unsealed, and I rather think your Mary will send me her replies in the
same unreserved manner."

And she was right. Nor, we think, did the purity and innocence of those
letters, so intensely interesting to each other, give place to any other
style, even when they chanced to discover that Mrs. Hamilton was utterly
ignorant of their contents, except that which they chose to read or
impart to her themselves.

But even this assurance on the part of one so loved and trusted as Mrs.
Hamilton, could not entirely remove Mrs. Greville's vague anticipations
of evil. Mr. Greville always shunned, and declared he hated the Hamilton
family; but as he seemed to entertain the same feeling toward herself
and her poor Mary, she tried to comfort herself by the idea that he
would never trouble his head about his daughter; or be glad to get her
out of his way, especially if she married well. Still anxiety for the
future would press upon her; only calmed by her firm, unchanging faith
in that gracious, ever-watchful Providence, who, if in spite of her
heavy troubles she still tried to trust and serve, would order all
things for the best; and it was this, this faith alone, which so
supported her, as to permit her to make her child's home and heart
almost as happy as if her path had all been smooth.

In the Grahame family a change had taken place, in Master Cecil's being
sent to Eton some time before his father had intended; but so many cases
of Lady Helen's faulty indolence and ruinous indulgence had come under
his notice, that he felt to remove the boy from her influence must be
accomplished at any cost. Cecil was quite delighted, but his mother was
so indignant, that she overcame her habitual awe of her husband
sufficiently to vow that she would not live so far from her son, and if
he must go to school, she must leave Moorlands. Grahame, with equal
positiveness, declared that he would not give up a home endeared to him
so long, nor to entirely break off his companionship with his dearest
friends. A very stormy dialogue of course took place, and ended by both
parties being more resolved to entertain their own opinion. The
interposition of Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, however, obtained some
concession on Grahame's part, and he promised that if Lady Helen would
make Moorlands her home from the middle of July till the end of October,
November and December should be spent in the vicinity of Eton, and she
should then have six months for London and its attractions. This
concession brought back all Lady Helen's smiles, and charmed Annie,
though it was a source of real regret to Caroline, who could not help
feeling a little pained at her friend's small concern at this long
separation from her. But still she loved her; and, as Annie wrote
frequently, and when she was at Moorlands never tired of her society
(the eight months of absence giving her so much interesting matter to
impart), Caroline was not only satisfied, but insensible to the utter
want of sympathy which Annie manifested in _her_ pursuits, _her_
pleasures. Mrs. Hamilton often wished that Caroline had chosen one more
deserving of her friendship, but she trusted that time and experience
would teach her Annie's real character, and so did not feel any anxiety
on that score.

There was only one member in Grahame's family, that Mr. and Mrs.
Hamilton hoped might bring joy and comfort to their friend, and that was
his little Lilla. She was five years younger than Annie, and being much
less attractive, seemed almost forgotten, and so was spared the
dangerous ordeal of flattery and indulgence to which Annie had been
subject; and from being more violent and less agreeable than Cecil, was
not so frequently spoiled by her mother. They feared the poor child
would have much to endure from her own temper, Annie's overbearing
insolence, and Lady Helen's culpable indolence; but Mrs. Hamilton hoped,
when she resided part of the year in London, as she felt she would very
soon be called upon to do, to be enabled to rouse Grahame's attention
toward his youngest child, and prevail on him to relax in his sternness
toward her; and by taking notice of her continually herself, instill
such feelings in her as would attract her toward her father, and so
increase the happiness of both. Every visit of the Grahame family to
Moorlands, she resolved to study Lilla well, and try all she could to
make one in reality so estimable, as her husband's friend, happy, in one
child at least.

It had been Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton's intention to go to London the
January after Caroline was seventeen, and give her the advantage of
finishing masters, and a partial introduction to the world, by having
the best society at home, before she launched into all its exciting
pleasures; to return to Oakwood in July or August, and revisit the
metropolis the following February or March, for the season, when, as she
would be eighteen and a half, she should be fully introduced. Caroline,
of course, anticipated this period with intense delight. She was quite
satisfied that in her first visit she should study as much as, if not
more than before; and content and thankful that her mother would allow
her to enter so far into society, as always to join dinner or evening
parties at home, and go to some of her most intimate friends, when their
coteries were very small and friendly; and, another eagerly anticipated
delight, sometimes go to the opera and the best concerts, and visit all
the galleries of art.

To poor Emmeline these anticipations gave no pleasure whatever; she
hated the very thought of leaving Oakwood, firmly convinced that not the
most highly intellectual, nor the most delightful social enjoyment in
London, could equal the pure delights of Devonshire and home. Ellen
seemed too engrossed with her own thoughts to evince a feeling either
way, much to her aunt's regret, as her constant quietness and seeming
determined repression of her sentiments, rendered her character still
more difficult to read.

But a heavy disappointment was preparing for Caroline, in the compelled
postponement of her bright anticipations; to understand the causes of
which, we must glance back on an event in the Hamilton family, which had
occurred some years before its present head was born. In the early part
of the reign of George the Third, Arthur Hamilton, the grandfather of
our friend of the same name, had been sent by government to the coast of
Denmark: his estimable character so won him the regard of the reigning
sovereign, Christian VII., that, on his departure, the royal wish was
expressed for his speedy return.--On his voyage home, he was wrecked off
the Feroe Islands, and rescued from danger and death by the strenuous
exertions of the islanders, who entertained him and the crew with the
utmost hospitality, till their ship was again seaworthy. During his
involuntary detention, Mr. Hamilton became deeply interested in the
Feroese, a people living, it seemed, in the midst of desolation, a
cluster of small rocky islets, divided by some hundred miles of stormy
sea from their fellows. He made the tour of the islands, and found
almost all their inhabitants possessing the same characteristics as
those of Samboe, the island off which he had been wrecked; kind,
hospitable, honest, temperate, inclined to natural piety, but so
perfectly indifferent to the various privations and annoyances of their
lot, as to make no effort toward removing them. Traveling either by land
or sea was so dangerous and difficult, that in some parishes the
clergyman could only perform service twice a year,[3] or once every one,
two, or three months. The islands in which the clergyman resided were,
Mr. Hamilton observed, in a much higher state of civilization and
morality than Samboe and some others, and an earnest desire took
possession of him, to do some real service for those who had saved him
from danger and treated him so hospitably. He very speedily acquired
their language, which gave him still more influence. He found, also,
that if their ancient customs and traditions were left undisturbed, they
were very easily led, and this discovery strengthened his purpose.--His
departure was universally regretted; and his promise to return imagined
too great a privilege to be believed.

[Footnote 3: For this account of Feroe and the Feroese the author is
indebted to a "History of the Islands, by a Resident."]

As soon as his political duties in England permitted, Mr. Hamilton
revisited Denmark, and was received with such cordiality as to encourage
him to make his petition for the improvement of his majesty's poor
subjects of Samboe. It was granted directly; the little island so far
made over to him, that he was at liberty to introduce and erect whatever
he pleased within it; and Mr. Hamilton, all eagerness for the perfection
of his plans, returned with speed to England; obtained the valuable aid
of a poor though worthy clergyman, who, with his wife, voluntarily
offered to make Samboe their home, and assist their benefactor (for such
Mr. Hamilton had long been), to the very best of their ability. A
strong-built vessel was easily procured, and a favorable voyage soon
transported them to Feroe. The delight of the Samboese at beholding
their former guest again, prepossessed Mr. and Mrs. Wilson in their
favor, and Mr. Hamilton, before his six months' sojourn with them was
over, beheld the island in a fair way of religious and moral
improvement.--Schools were formed and masters appointed--houses were
made more comfortable--women and young children more cared for, and
employments found, and sufficiently rewarded to encourage persevering
labor. Three or four times Mr. Hamilton visited the island again before
his death, and each time he had more reason to be satisfied with the
effect of his schemes. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson were perfectly happy. Their
son was united to the pretty and excellent daughter of one of the Danish
clergymen, and a young family was blooming round them, so that there
seemed a fair promise of the ministry of Samboe continuing long in
charge of the same family.

Mr. Hamilton, on his death-bed, exacted a promise from his son that he
would not permit the island to fall back into its old habits; but that,
if required, he would visit it himself. The visit was not required, but
Percy Hamilton (the father of the present possessor of Oakwood), from
respect to his father's memory, made a voyage to Samboe on the demise of
the elder Wilson. He found every thing flourishing and happy; Frederic
Wilson had been received as their pastor and head, with as much joy as
their regret for his father would permit; and Mr. Hamilton returned to
England, satisfied with himself, and inexpressibly touched by the
veneration still entertained in that distant island for his father. The
same promise was demanded by him from his son, and Arthur Hamilton had
visited Feroe directly after the loss of his parent, and before his
engagement with Miss Manvers. He found it in the same satisfactory
condition as his predecessors had done, and the letters he regularly
received confirmed it; but for the last year and a half he had received
no tidings. Frederic Wilson, he knew, was dead, but his last account had
told him his eldest son, who had been educated in Denmark, had been
gladly received by the simple people, and promised fair to be as much
loved, and do the same good as his father and grandfather. The silence
then was incomprehensible, and Mr. Hamilton had resolved, if another
year passed without intelligence, it would be a positive duty to visit
it himself.



CHAPTER II.

A LETTER, AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.


It was the seventh of June, and one of those glorious mornings, when
Nature looks lovelier than ever. The windows of the breakfast-room were
thrown widely open, and never did the superb trees of Oakwood Park look
richer or display a greater variety of green. The flower-garden, on part
of which the breakfast-room opened, was actually dazzling with its
profusion of brilliant flowers, on which the sun looked down so
gloriously; a smooth lawn whose green was a perfect emerald, stretched
down from the parterre, till it was lost in woody openings, which
disclosed the winding river, that, lying as a lake on one side, appeared
to sweep round some exquisite scenery on the opposite side, and form
another lake, about a mile further. It was Emmeline's favorite view, and
she always declared, that it so varied its aspects of loveliness, she
was sure it never looked two mornings exactly alike, and so long would
she stand and admire, that her mother often threatened to send her her
breakfast in her own room, where the view, though picturesque, would not
so completely turn her attention from the dull realities of life. There
were some letters on the table this morning, so she had a longer time to
drink in poetry than usual.

"Who can offer Ellen a more precious birthday-gift than mine?" exclaimed
Mrs. Hamilton, playfully holding up a letter, as her niece entered. "I
wonder if Edward remembered how near his sister was to fifteen, and so
wrote on the chance of your receiving it on the day itself!"

"Why, Ellen, what a queer effect pleasure has on you! I always notice
you turn quite pale whenever Edward's letters are given to you,"
interposed Emmeline, looking at her cousin, and laughing. "I am sure,
the very hurry I am in to open Percy's and Herbert's, must give me a
color, and you are as deliberate as if you did not care about it. I do
wish you would not be so cold and quiet."

"One giddy brain is quite enough in a house," rejoined her father, in
the same mirthful tone, and looking up from his letter he called Ellen
to him, and kissed her. "I forgot the day of the month, my little girl,
but I am not too late, I hope, to say, God bless you, and wish that
every year may pass more happily, more usefully, and more prepared for
eternity than the last!"

"I do not think you have forgotten it, my dear uncle," replied Ellen,
gratefully (she had not yet opened her brother's letter); "for my aunt
says, I am to thank you as well as her for this beautiful birthday
gift," and she displayed an elegant little gold watch; "indeed, I do not
know how to thank you for all your kindness!" she added, so earnestly
that tears came to her eyes.

"I will say, as I have heard your aunt often say--by trying to be a
little more lively, and unreserved, my dear Ellen; that would prove our
kindness and affection made you happy, better than any thing; but I am
not going to lecture you on your birthday, and with a letter from Edward
in your hand," he continued, smiling. "Open it, my dear, I want to know
its date; I rather think my friend Manly's must be written later."

"Nothing in it for me, Ellen?" asked her aunt. "What a lazy boy he has
grown!"

"An inclosure for you, Ellen; why, that is as queer as your paleness!"
said Emmeline.

"Do let your cousin's paleness alone," interposed Mrs. Hamilton, gayly.
"I really can not perceive she has any less color than usual, and as for
the inclosure, Edward often has something to add at the last moment, and
no room to insert it, and so there is nothing remarkable in his using
another half sheet."

"Emmeline always creates wonders out of shadows," said Caroline, dryly.

"And you never see any thing but dull, coarse, heavy realities," laughed
her sister in reply. "Come, Ellen, tell us something of this idle
brother of yours, who promised to write to me every packet, and never
does."

Ellen read nearly the whole letter aloud, and it was unusually
entertaining, for the ship had been cruising about the last month and
Edward described the various scenes and new places he had visited more
lengthily than usual. He anticipated with great glee an engagement with
some desperate pirates, whose track they were pursuing.

"Does he mention an engagement?" inquired Mr. Hamilton.

"No, uncle; he concludes quite abruptly, saying they have just piped
all hands, and he must be off. The direction does not seem his writing."

"Nor is it; Sir Edward sealed, directed, and put it up for him in his
own to me. They had piped all hands, as he calls it, because the pirate
ship was in sight, and an engagement did take place."

"And Edward--oh, uncle, is he hurt? I am sure, he is, by your face,"
exclaimed Ellen; trembling and all the little circle looked alarmed.

"Then my face is a deceiver," replied Mr. Hamilton, quite cheerfully.
"He only received a slight flesh wound in his right arm, which prevented
his using it to complete his letter, and I rather think, he would have
willingly been hurt still more, to receive such praises as Sir Edward
lavishes on him. Listen to what he says--'Not a boy or man on board
distinguished himself more than your nephew: in fact, I am only
astonished he escaped as he did, for those pirates are desperate
fighters, and when we boarded them, Fortescue was in the midst of them,
fighting like a young lion. Courage and gallantry are such dazzling
qualities in a young lad, that we think more of them perhaps than we
ought, but I can not say too much for your nephew; I have not a lad more
devoted to his duty. I was glad to show him my approbation by giving him
some days' liberty, when we were off New York; but I have since told
him, the air of land certainly did not agree with him, for he has looked
paler and thinner ever since. He is growing very fast; and altogether,
if I have occasion to send another prize schooner home, I think it not
improbable I shall nominate him as one of the officers, that he may have
the benefit of the healthful breezes of Old England, to bring back his
full strength.' There Ellen, I think that is a still better
birthday-present than even Edward's own letter. I am as proud of my
nephew as Sir Edward is."

"And do you think he really will come?" asked Ellen, trying to conquer
her emotion.

"We will hope it, dearest," replied her aunt, kindly. "But do not think
too much about it, even if Sir Edward be not able to do as he says. His
own ship will be coming home in a year or two, and you owned to me
yourself this morning, it did not seem as long as it really is, since
our dear sailor left us; so the remaining time will soon pass. Finish
your breakfast, and go, love, and enjoy his letter again to yourself."

And Ellen gladly obeyed; for it was from no imaginary cause that the
receipt of Edward's letters so often paled her cheek, and parched her
lip with terror. She knew that concerning him which none else but
Harding did; and even when those letters imparted nothing but that which
she could read to her family, the dread was quite enough to banish any
thing like the elastic happiness, natural to her age, and called for by
the kindness of those she loved. His letter this time, however, had not
a word to call for that sickness of the heart, with which she had
received it, and she read it again and again; with a thankfulness, too
intense for words.

"You dropped this, Ellen dear," said the voice of her cousin Emmeline at
her door, ten minutes after she left the breakfast-room. "It was under
the table, and I do not think you have read it; it is the inclosure I
was so amused at."

"I dare say it is a letter written for some other opportunity, and
forgotten to be sent; it is only a few words," replied Ellen as she
looked at its length, not at its meaning, for the fearful lesson of
quiet unconcern when the heart is bursting had been too early learned.

"Then I will leave you in peace: by-the-by, cousin mine, papa told me to
tell you, that as the Prince William is soon going to cruise again, your
answer to Edward must be ready this day week, the latest, and mamma
says, if you like to write part of it now that all Edward's little
love-speeches are fresh in your mind, you can do so; it is your
birthday, and you may spend it as you like. How I shall enjoy making a
lion of my cousin, when he comes!"--and away tripped the happy girl,
singing some wild snatch of an old ballad about sailors.

Ellen shut the door, secured it, and with a lip and cheek colorless as
her robe, an eye strained and bloodshot, read the following words--few
indeed!

"Ellen! I am again in that villain's power, and for a sum so trifling,
that it maddens me to think I can not discharge it without again
appealing to you. I had resolved never to play again--and again some
demon lured me to those Hells! If I do not pay him by my next receipts
from home, he will expose me, and what then--disgrace, expulsion,
_death_! for I will not survive it; there are easy means of
self-destruction to a sailor, and who shall know but that he is
accidentally drowned? You promised me to save part of every allowance,
in case I needed it. If you would indeed save me, send me
five-and-thirty pounds! Ellen! by some means, I _must_ have it; but
breathe it to my uncle or aunt--for if _she_ knows it, _he_ will--and
you will never see me more!"

For one long hour Ellen never moved. Her brain felt scorched, her limbs
utterly powerless. Every word seemed to write itself in letters of fire
on her heart and brain, till she could almost have screamed, from the
dread agony; and then came the heavy weight, so often felt before, but
never crushing every thought and energy as now, the seeming utter
impossibility to comply with that fearfully urged demand. _He_ called it
a sum so trifling, and _she_ felt a hundred, ay, a thousand pounds were
not more difficult to obtain. She had saved, indeed, denying herself
every little indulgence, every personal gratification, spending only
what she was obliged, and yet compelled to let her aunt believe she had
properly expended all, that she might have the means of sending him
money when he demanded it, without exposing herself to doubt and
displeasure as before; but in the eight months since his last call, she
had only been enabled to put by fifteen pounds, not half the sum he
needed. How was she to get the rest? and she had so buoyed herself with
the fond hope, that even if he did write for help again, she could send
it to him so easily--and now--her mind seemed actually to reel beneath
the intense agony of these desperate words. She was too young, too
believing, and too terror-stricken to doubt for a moment the alternative
he placed before her, with a vividness, a desperation, of which he was
unconscious himself. Those words spoken, would have been terrible,
almost awful in one so young--though a brief interval would have
sufficiently calmed both the hearer and the speaker, to satisfy that
they were _but words_, and that self-destruction is never breathed, if
really intended: but _written_, the writer at a distance, imagination at
liberty, to heighten every terror, every reality; their reader a young
loving girl, utterly ignorant of the world's ways and temptations, and
the many errors to which youth is subject, but from which manhood may
spring up unsullied; and so believing, almost crushed by the belief,
that her brother, the only one, her own--respected, beloved, as he was
said to be--had yet committed such faults, as would hurl him from his
present position to the lowest depth of degradation, for what else could
tempt him, to swear not to survive it? Was it marvel, that poor Ellen
was only conscious that she must save him?--Again did her dying mother
stand before her--again did her well-remembered voice beseech her to
save him her darling, beautiful Edward, from disgrace and
punishment--reiterate that her word was pledged, and she _must_ do it,
and if she suffered--had she not done so from infancy--and what was her
happiness to his? Define why it should be of less moment, indeed, she
could not. It was the fatal influences of her childhood working alone.

How that day passed, Ellen never knew. She had been too long accustomed
to control, to betray her internal suffering (terror for Edward seemed
to endow her with additional self command), except by a deadly paleness,
which even her aunt at length remarked. It was quite evening, and the
party were all scattered, when Mrs. Hamilton discovered Ellen sitting in
one of the deep recesses of the windows: her work in her lap, her hands
clasped tightly together, and her eyes fixed on the beautiful scenery of
the park, but not seeing a single object.

"My dear Ellen, I am going to scold you, so prepare," was her aunt's
lively address, as she approached and stood by her. "You need not start
so guiltily and look so very terrified, but confess that you are
thinking about Edward, and worrying yourself that he is not quite so
strong as he was, and magnifying his wound, till you fancy it something
very dreadful, when, I dare say, if the truth were told, he himself is
quite proud of it; come confess, and I will only give you a very little
lecture, for your excessive silliness."

Ellen looked up in her face; that kind voice, that affectionate smile,
that caressing, constantly-forgiving love, would they again all be
forfeited, again give way to coldness, loss of confidence, heightened
displeasure? How indeed she was to act, she knew not; she only knew
there must be concealment, the very anticipation of which, seemed too
terrible to bear, and she burst into an agony of tears.

"Why, Ellen--my dear child--you can not be well, to let either the
accounts of your brother, or my threatened scolding, so affect you, and
on your birthday, too! Why, all the old women would say it was such a
bad omen, that you would be unhappy all the year round. Come, this will
never do, I must lecture, in earnest, if you do not try to conquer this
unusual weakness. We have much more to be thankful for, in Sir Edward's
account of our dear sailor, than to cry about; he might have been
seriously wounded or maimed, and what would you have felt then? I wonder
if he will find as much change in you as we shall in him. If you are not
quite strong and quite well, and quite happy to greet him when he comes,
I shall consider my care insulted, and punish you accordingly. Still no
smile. What is the matter, dearest? Are you really not well again?"

Ellen made a desperate effort, conquered her tears, and tried to
converse cheerfully. It was absolute agony to hear Edward's name, but
she nerved herself to do so, to acknowledge she was thinking of him; and
that it _was_ very silly to worry about such a slight wound: and when
Mrs. Hamilton proposed that they should walk over to Greville Manor, and
tell the good news to Mrs. Greville and Mary, acquiesced with apparent
pleasure.

"Ah, do, mamma: you have not asked me, but I shall go notwithstanding,"
exclaimed Emmeline, springing through the open window, with her usual
airy step.

"Why, Emmeline, I thought you were going to the village with your
sister!"

"No; she and Miss Harcourt were talking much too soberly to suit me this
evening. Then I went to tease papa but he let me do just what I pleased,
being too engrossed with some disagreeable farmers, to notice me, so in
despair I came here. Why, Ellen, you look as if this were any day but
what it is; unless you cry because you are getting old, which I am very
often inclined to do; only think, I am sixteen next December--how
dreadful! I do wish my birthday were in June."

"And what difference would that make?"

"A great deal, mamma; only look how lovely every thing is now; nature is
quite juvenile, and has dressed herself in so many colors, and seems to
promise so many more beauties, that, whether we will or no, we must feel
gay and young; but in December, though it is very delightful in the
house, it is so drear and withered, without, that if born in such a
season, one must feel withered too."

"When do you intend to speak in prose, Emmeline?"

"Never, if I can help it mamma; but I must learn the lesson before I go
to London, I suppose; that horrid London! that is one reason why I
regret the years going so fast; I know I shall leave all my happiness
here."

"You will be more ungrateful, than I believe you, if you do," replied
her mother. "So pray banish such foolish fancies as fast as you can; for
if you encourage them, I shall certainly suppose that it is only Oakwood
you love; and that neither your father nor myself, nor any member of
your family, has any part in your affections, for we shall be with you,
wherever you are."

"Dear mamma, I spoke at random, forgive me," replied Emmeline, instantly
self-reproached. "I am indeed the giddy brain papa calls me; but you can
not tell how I love this dear old home."

"Indeed I think I can, my dear child, loving it as I do myself; but
come, we shall have no time for our visit, if we do not go at once."

Days passed, and were each followed by such sleepless feverish nights,
that Ellen felt it almost a miracle, that she could so seem, so act, as
to excite no notice. The image of her dying mother never left her, night
or day, mingled with the horrid scene of her father's death, and Edward
disgraced, expelled, and seeking death by his own hand. There was only
one plan that seemed in the least feasible, and that was to send to him,
or sell herself the watch she had received on her birthday, and if that
was not enough, some few trinkets, which had been her mother's, and
which the last six months her aunt had given into her own care. She
ventured casually to inquire if there were any opportunity of sending a
parcel to Edward, but the answer was in the negative, and increased her
difficulty. The only person she dared even to think of so far intrusting
with her deep distress and anxiety for money, but not its cause, was
widow Langford, the mother of Robert (the young gentlemen's attendant,
whom we have had occasion more than once to mention, and the former
nurse of all Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton's children). She occupied a cottage
on the outskirts of the park, and was not only a favorite with all the
young party, Ellen included (for she generally came to nurse her in her
many illnesses), but was regarded with the greatest confidence and
affection by Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton themselves. They had endeavored to
return her unwavering fidelity and active service, by taking her only
child Robert into their family, when only seven; placing him under the
immediate charge of Morris, the steward, and of course living in the
same house, of his mother also; and when fifteen, making him personal
attendant to Percy and Herbert, who were then about ten and eleven years
old. An older and more experienced domestic had, however, accompanied
the young men to college, and Robert remained employed in many little
confidential services for his master at Oakwood.

To widow Langford, Ellen tried to resolve that she would apply, but her
fearful state of mental agony had not marked the lapse of time, or had
caused her to forget that her letter must be ready in a week. The party
were all going a delightful excursion, and to drink tea at Greville
Manor, so that they would not be home till quite late; but in the
morning, Ellen, though she had dressed for going out, appeared to have
every symptom of such a violent headache, that her aunt advised her
remaining quietly at home, and she assented with eagerness, refusing
every offer of companionship, saying if the pain went off, she could
quite amuse herself, and if it continued, quietness and Ellis's nursing
were the best things for her.

"But give me your letter before we go out, Ellen, I am only waiting for
it, to close mine to Sir Edward. Why, my dear, have you forgotten I told
you it must be ready by to-day?" her uncle added, surprised at her
exclamation that she had not finished it. "It must be done and sent to
T--, before four to-day, so I do hope your head will allow you to write,
for Edward will be woefully disappointed if there be not a line from
you, especially as, from his ship cruising about, it may be several
weeks before he can hear again. I must leave my letter with you, to
inclose Edward's and seal up, and pray see that it goes in time."

Ellen tried to promise that it should, but her tongue actually clove to
the roof of her mouth; but all the party dispersing at the moment, her
silence was unnoticed. Mr. Hamilton gave her his letter, and in half an
hour afterward she was alone. She sat for nearly an hour in her own
room, with her desk before her, her face buried in her hands, and her
whole frame shaking as with an ague.

"It must be," she said at length, and unlocking a drawer, took thence a
small cross, and one or two other trinkets, put them up, and taking off
her watch, looked at it with such an expression of suffering, that it
seemed as if she could not go on, carefully folded it up with the other
trinkets, and murmuring, "If nurse Langford will but take these, and
lend me the twenty pounds till she can dispose of them, I may save him
yet--and if she betray me--if she tell my aunt afterward, at least only
I shall suffer; they will not suspect him. But oh--to lose--to be
doubted, hated, which I must be at last. Oh, mother! mother! Why may I
not tell my aunt? she would not disgrace him." And again she crouched
down, cowed by that fearful struggle to the very earth. After a few
minutes, it passed, and deliberately putting on her bonnet and shawl,
she took up her trinkets, and set off to the widow's cottage, her limbs
so trembling, that she knew not how she should accomplish even that
short walk.

The wind was unusually high, although the day was otherwise lovely, and
she was scarcely able to stand against the strong breeze, especially as
every breath seemed to increase the pain in her temples; but she
persisted. The nearest path lay through a thick shrubbery, almost a
wood, which the family never used, and, in fact, the younger members
were prohibited from taking, but secrecy and haste were all which at
that moment entered Ellen's mind. She felt so exhausted by the wind
blowing the branches and leaves noisily and confusedly around, that on
reaching a sort of grassy glade, more open than her previous path, she
sat down a minute on a mossy stone. The wind blew some withered sticks
and leaves toward her, and, among them, two or three soiled pieces of
thin paper, stained with damp, one of which she raised mechanically, and
started up with a wild cry, and seized the others almost unconsciously.
She pressed her hands over her eyes, and her lips moved in the utterance
of thanksgiving. "Saved!--Edward and myself, too!--some guardian angel
must have sent them!" if not actually spoken, were so distinctly uttered
in her heart, that she thought she heard them; and she retraced her
steps, so swiftly--so gladly, the very pain and exhaustion were unfelt.
She wrote for half an hour intently--eagerly; though that which she
wrote she knew not herself, and never could recall. She took from the
secret drawer of her desk (that secret drawer which, when Percy had so
laughingly showed her the secret of its spring, telling her nobody but
himself knew it, she little thought she should have occasion so to use),
some bank notes, of two, three, and five pounds each, making the fifteen
she had so carefully hoarded, and placed with them the two she had
found. As she did so, she discovered that two had clung so closely
together that the sum was five pounds more than she wanted. Still, as
acting under the influence of some spell, she carelessly put one aside,
sealed up the packet to Edward, inclosed it in her uncle's to Sir Edward
Manly, and dispatched it full four hours before the hour Mr. Hamilton
had named. It was gone; and she sat down to breathe. Some impulse, never
experienced before, urged her, instead of destroying Edward's desperate
letter, as she had done similar appeals, to retain it in a blank envelop
in that same secret drawer. As she tried to rouse herself from a sort
of stupor which was strangely creeping over her, her eye caught the five
pound note which she had not had occasion to use, and a thought of such
overwhelming wretchedness rushed upon her, as effectually, for the
moment, to disperse that stupor, and prostrate her in an agony of
supplication before her God.

"What have I done?"--if her almost maddening thoughts could have found
words, such they would have been--"How dared I appropriate that money,
without one question--one thought--as to whom it could belong? Sent me?
No, no! Who could have sent it? Great God of Mercy! Oh, if Thy wrath
must fall on a guilty one, pour it on me, but spare, spare my brother! I
have sinned, but I meant it not--thought not of it--knew not what I did!
Thou knowest, Thou alone canst know, the only thought of that
moment--the agony of this. No suffering, no wrath, can be too great for
me; but, oh! spare him!"

How long that withering agony lasted, Ellen knew not, nor whether her
tears fell, or lay scorching her eyes and heart. The note lay before her
like some hideous specter, from which she vainly tried to turn. What
could she do with it? Take it back to the spot where the others had been
blown to her? She tried to rise to do so; but, to her own terror, she
found she was so powerless, that she actually could not walk. With
desperate calmness she placed it in the little secret drawer, put up the
remainder of her papers, closed and locked her desk, and laid down upon
her bed, for she could sit up no longer. Ellis came to her with an
inquiry after her head, and if she could take her dinner. Ellen asked
for a cup of coffee, and to be left quite quiet instead, as writing had
not decreased the pain; and the housekeeper, accustomed to such casual
attacks, did as she was requested, and came frequently to see her in the
course of the afternoon and evening; still without perceiving any thing
unusual, and, therefore, not tormenting her with any expression of
surprise or anxiety.

Thought after thought congregated in the poor girl's mind, as she thus
lay; so fraught with agony that the physical suffering, which was far
more than usual, was unfelt, save in its paralyzing effect on every
limb. Her impulse was to confess exactly what she had done to her aunt,
the moment she should see her, and conjure her to sentence her to some
heavy chastisement, that must deaden her present agony; but this was
impossible without betraying Edward, and nullifying for him the relief
she had sent. How could she confess the sin, without the full confession
of the use to which that money had been applied? Whose were the notes?
They were stained with damp, as if they must have lain among those
withered leaves some time; and yet she had heard no inquiry made about
them, as the loss of so large a sum would surely have demanded. The only
plan she could think of, as bringing the least hope of returning peace,
was still to beseech Mrs. Langford to dispose of her watch and trinkets,
and the very first mention she heard made of the loss to return the full
sum to the real possessor, if possible, so secretly as for it not to be
traced to herself. She thought, too, that if she gave her trinkets, one
by one, not all together, to Mrs. Langford, it would be less suspicious,
and, perhaps, more easily prevail on her to grant her secrecy and
assistance; and if she positively refused, unless Ellen revealed the
reason of her desiring their disposal, and would solemnly promise
secrecy, she would tell her so much of her intense misery, as might
perhaps induce her to give her aid. If she did not demand the reason and
betrayed her, she must endure the doubt and serious displeasure such a
course of acting on her part would inevitably produce; but two things
alone stood clear before her: she _must_ replace that money--she _must_
keep Edward's secret. She would have gone that very day to Mrs.
Langford, but she could not move, and Ellis, at seven o'clock, prevailed
on her to undress and go to bed.

"Not better, my Ellen? I hoped to-day's perfect quietness would have
removed your headache, and am quite disappointed," was Mrs. Hamilton's
affectionate address, as she softly entered her niece's room, on the
return of the happy party at eleven at night, and placing the lamp so
that the bed remained in shade she could not see any expression in
Ellen's face, except that of suffering, which she naturally attributed
to physical pain. "How hot your hands and face are, love; I wish you had
not left Edward's letter to write to-day. I am afraid we shall be
obliged to see Mr. Maitland's face again to-morrow; if he were not as
kind a friend as he is a skillful doctor, I am sure you would get quite
tired of him, Ellen. Shall I stay with you? I can not bear leaving you
in pain and alone!" But Ellen would not hear of it; the pain was not
more than she was often accustomed to, she said, and, indeed, she did
not mind being alone--though the unusual, almost passionate, warmth with
which she returned Mrs. Hamilton's fond kiss betrayed it was no
indifference to the affectionate offer which dictated her refusal. It
was well Mrs. Hamilton, though anxious enough to feel the inclination to
do so, did not visit her niece again, or the convulsive agony she would
have witnessed, the choking sobs which burst forth, a few minutes after
she disappeared from Ellen's sight, would have bewildered and terrified
her yet more.



CHAPTER III.

A SUMMONS AND A LOSS.


Mr. Maitland declared Ellen to be ill of a nervous fever which for three
days confined her to her bed, and left her very weak for some little
time, and so nervous that the least thing seemed to startle her; but, as
he said it was no consequence, and she would soon recover, Mrs. Hamilton
adopted his advice, took no notice of it, and only endeavored to make
her niece's daily routine as varied in employment, though regular in
hours and undisturbed in quiet, as she could. Perhaps she would have
felt more anxious, and discovered something not quite usual in Ellen's
manner, if her thoughts had not been painfully pre-occupied. About a
week after their excursion she entered the library earlier than usual,
and found her husband intently engaged with some dispatches just
received. She saw he was more than ordinarily disturbed, and hesitated a
moment whether to address him; but he was seldom so engrossed as to be
unconscious of the presence of his wife.

"I am really glad you are here at this moment, Emmeline, for I actually
was weak enough to shrink from seeking you with unpleasant news. Letters
from Feroe have at length arrived, and my personal presence is so
imperatively needed, that I am self-reproached at not going before; the
long silence ought to have convinced me that all was not as it should
be."

"But what has occurred, Arthur? I had no idea you contemplated the
necessity of going," replied his wife very quietly, as she sat down
close by him; but the fiat of separation, the thoughts of a perilous
voyage, a visit to an almost desolate island, and the impossibility of
receiving regular letters, so crowded upon her all at once, that it was
a strong effort to speak at all.

"No, dearest; for what was the use of tormenting you with disagreeable
anticipations, when there really might have been no foundation for them.
The last accounts from Samboe, were, as you know, received nearly two
years ago, telling me that Frederic Wilson was dead, but that his son
had been received as his successor in the ministry, and as civil
guardian of the island, with if possible, a still greater degree of
popularity than his predecessors, from his having been educated in
Denmark. His parents had lived on straitened means to give him superior
advantages, which, as it proves, he would have been much better without.
The vices he has acquired have far outrun the advantages. His example,
and that of a band of idle, irregular spirits who have joined him, has
not only scandalized the simple people but disturbed their homesteads,
brought contention and misery, and in some cases, bloodshed; so that in
point of social and domestic position, I fear they have sunk lower than
when my grandfather first sought the island. The mother of this unhappy
young man has, naturally, perhaps, but weakly, shrunk from informing
against him; but her brother, the clergyman of Osteroe, has at length
taken upon himself to do so, clearly stating that nothing but personal
interference and some months' residence among them will effect a
reformation; and that the ruin is more to be regretted, as the little
island has been for more than half a century the admiration not only of
its immediate neighbors, but of all who have chanced to harbor off its
coast. He states, too, that if properly directed and not exposed to the
contagion of large cities, as his brother has been, poor Wilson's
younger son, now a boy of eleven, may become us worthy and judicious a
pastor as his father and grandfather, and so keep the office in his
family, as my grandfather was so desirous of doing. The question is, how
is this boy to be educated on the island, and whom can I find to take
the ministry meanwhile."

"And must your own residence there be very long?" inquired Mrs.
Hamilton, still in that quiet tone, but her lip quivered.

"It depends entirely on whom I can get to accompany me, dearest. I must
set Mr. Howard and Morton to work to find me some simple-minded,
single-hearted individual, who will regard this undertaking in the same
missionary spirit as the elder Wilson did. If I am happy enough to
succeed in this, I hope a year, or somewhat less, will be the farthest
limit of our separation."

"A year! a whole long year--dearest Arthur, must it be so very, very
long?"

"Who tried to persuade Ellen, a fortnight ago, that a year, even two
years, would pass so very quickly?" replied Mr. Hamilton trying to
smile, and folding his arm fondly round his wife, he kissed the cheek
which had become pale from the effort to restrain her feelings. "It is
indeed an unexpected and a painful trial, and, as is generally the case
with our rebellious spirits, I feel as if it would have been better
borne at any other period than the present. We had so portioned out this
year, had so anticipated gratifying Caroline by introducing her to the
so long and so eagerly anticipated pleasures of London next January,
that I can not bear to think of her disappointment."

"And our boys, too, they say it is so strange to be without their
father, even in college term; what will it be when they come home for
the long vacation, to which we have all so looked forward? But this is
all weakness, my own dear husband; forgive me, I am only rendering your
duty more difficult," she added, raising her head from his shoulder, and
smiling cheerfully, even while the tears glistened in her eyes. "I must
try and practice my own lesson, and believe the term of separation will
really pass quickly, interminable as it now seems. We have been so
blessed, so guarded from the bitter pang of even partial separation for
twenty years, that how dare I murmur now the trial has come? It is God's
pleasure, dearest Arthur, though it seems like the work of man, and as
HIS we can endure it."

"Bless you, my beloved! you have indeed put a new spirit in me by those
words," replied her husband, with a fondness, the more intense from the
actual veneration that so largely mingled with it. "And bitter
disappointment as it is to me to be from home when our sons return, it
is better so, perhaps, for their company will wile away at least nearly
three months of my absence."

Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton remained some hours together that morning in
earnest conversation. All of individual regret was conquered for the
sake of the other: its expression, at least, not its feeling; but they
understood each other too well, too fondly, to need words or complaints
to prove to either how intensely painful was the very thought of
separation. To elude the performance of a duty which many persons,
unable to enter into the hope of effecting good, would, no doubt,
pronounce Quixotic--for what could the poor inhabitants of Samboe be to
him?--never entered either Mr. or Mrs. Hamilton's mind. He was not one
to neglect his immediate duties for distant ones; but believed and acted
on the belief, that both could be united. His own large estate, its
various farms, parishes, and villages, were so admirably ordered, that
he could leave it without the smallest scruple in the hands of his wife
and steward. Though interested in, and actually assisting in the
political movements of his country, he was still, as from his youth he
had firmly resolved to be, a free, independent Englishman; bound to no
party, but respected by all; retaining his own principles unshaken as a
rock, though often and often his integrity had been tried by court
bribes and dazzling offers. And yet, rare blending with such individual
feelings, Arthur Hamilton looked with candor and kindness on the conduct
and principles of others, however they might differ from his own, and
found excuses for them, which none others could. That he should give up
all the comforts, the luxuries, the delights of his peculiarly happy
home, to encounter several months' sojourn in a bleak, half-civilized
island, only in the hope of restoring and insuring moral and religious
improvement to a small colony of human beings, whose sole claim upon him
was, that they were immortal as himself, and that they had done a
kindness to his grandfather more than half a century back, was likely
to, and no doubt did, excite the utmost astonishment in very many
circles; but not a sneer, not a word seeming to whisper good should be
done at home before sought abroad, could find a moment's resting-place
near Arthur Hamilton's name.

For half an hour after Mrs. Hamilton quitted her husband she remained
alone, and when she rejoined her family, though she might have been a
shade paler than her wont, she was as cheerful in conversation and
earnest in manner as usual. That evening Mr. Hamilton informed his
children and Miss Harcourt of his intended departure, and consequent
compelled change of plan. Emmeline's burst of sorrow was violent and
uncontrolled. Caroline looked for a minute quite bewildered, and then
hastening to her father threw one arm round his neck, exclaiming, in a
voice of the most affectionate sincerity, "Dear papa, what shall we do
without you for such a long time?"

"My dear child! I thank you for such an affectionate thought; believe
me, the idea of your wishes being postponed has pained me as much as any
thing else in this unpleasant duty."

"My wishes postponed, papa--what do you mean?"

"Have you quite forgotten our intended plans for next January, my love?
My absence must alter them."

For a moment an expression of bitter disappointment clouded Caroline's
open countenance.

"Indeed, papa, I had forgotten it; I only thought of your going away for
so many months. It is a great disappointment, I own, and I dare say I
shall feel it still more when January comes; but I am sure parting from
you must be a still greater trial to mamma, than any such disappointment
ought to be to me; and, indeed, I will try and bear it as
uncomplainingly and cheerfully as she does."

Her father almost involuntarily drew her to his heart, and kissed her
two or three times, without speaking; and Caroline was very glad he did
so, for when she looked up again, the tears that would come at the first
thought of her disappointment were bravely sent back again; and she
tried to cheer Emmeline, by assuring her she never could be like her
favorite heroines of romance, if she behaved so very much like a child;
taking the opportunity when they retired for the night, to say more
seriously--

"Dear Emmeline, do try and be as lively as you always are. I am sure
poor mamma is suffering very much at the idea of papa's leaving us,
though she will not let us see that she does, and if you give way so, it
will make her more uncomfortable still."

Emmeline promised to try; but her disposition, quite as susceptible to
sorrow as to joy, and not nearly as firm as her sister's, rendered the
promise very difficult to fulfill. It was her first sorrow; and Mrs.
Hamilton watched her with some anxiety, half fearful that she had been
wrong to shield her so carefully from any thing like grief, if, when it
came, she should prove unequal to its firm and uncomplaining endurance.
Ellen had been out of the room when Mr. Hamilton had first spoken; and
engaged in soothing Emmeline; when she re-entered and the news was
communicated to her, he did not observe any thing particular in mode of
receiving it. But Mrs. Hamilton was so struck with "the expression of
her countenance, which, as she tried somewhat incoherently to utter
regrets, took the place of its usual calm, that she looked at her
several minutes in bewilderment; but it passed again, so completely,
that she was angry with herself for fancying any thing uncommon.
Caroline, however, had remarked it too, and she could not help observing
to Miss Harcourt, the first time they were alone--

"You will say I am always fancying something extraordinary, Miss
Harcourt; but Ellen certainly did look pleased last night, when mamma
told her of papa's intended departure."

"The expression must have been something extraordinary for you to remark
it at all," replied Miss Harcourt; "nobody but Mrs. Hamilton, whose
penetration is out of the common, can ever read any thing on Ellen's
face."

"And it was for that very reason I looked again; and mamma noticed it
too, and was surprised, though she did not say any thing. If she really
be pleased, she is most ungrateful, and all her profession of feeling
mamma and papa's constant kindness sheer deceit. I never shall
understand Ellen, I believe; but I do hope mamma will never discover
that she is not exactly that which her affection believes her."

"Pray do not talk so, my dear Caroline, or I shall be tempted to confess
that you are giving words to my own feelings. Her conduct with regard to
the disappearance of her allowance, the wholly unsatisfactory account of
its expenditure, even every month, for she seems to me to mention many
things she has never had, banish every hopeful feeling, and I dread more
than I can tell you, the very thing you have expressed. But all this is
very wrong; we have relieved each other by a mutual acknowledgment, and
now let us never revert, even in thought, if possible, to the subject."

Caroline willingly acquiesced, for it was far from agreeable. Mr.
Hamilton's preparations, meanwhile, rapidly progressed. He imparted his
wishes for a companion willing to remain in the island, till young
Wilson should be prepared for the ministry, both to Mr. Howard and Mr.
Morton (the latter still remained in his desolate parish, still more
isolated in feeling from the loss of both his parents, and Percy's
absence), and both, especially Morton, gave him every hope of obtaining
the character he wanted. His next inquiry was at Dartmouth for a strong,
well-built vessel, fitted to encounter the stormy seas between Scotland
and Feroe, determining to do all in his power to provide some means of
regular communication between himself and the beloved inmates of his
home. Wick, in Caithness, was the farthest post town to which letters
could be addressed. Every ten days or fortnight communications were to
be sent there, and the Siren, after conveying him to Feroe, was
regularly to ply between Samboe and Wick, bringing from the latter place
to Mr. Hamilton the various letters that had accumulated there, should
unfavorable winds have lengthened the voyage, and forwarding his through
that post to his home. By this means, he hoped to hear and be heard of
regularly; an intense relief, if it really could be so accomplished, to
his wife.

As soon as a ship, a competent captain, mate, and crew were obtained,
Mr. Hamilton set off for Oxford and London, wishing in the latter place
to see his friend Grahame, and in the former to pass a few days with his
sons, who, knowing nothing of his summons, received him with unbounded
delight. Their regret, when they heard the cause of his visit, was as
great as their joy had been. Percy, in a desperate fit of impatience,
wished the little island and all its concerns at the bottom of the sea,
the best place for such unruly, disagreeable people; and he was only
sobered when his father put before him that, though it must be a very
heightened individual disappointment, it was the greatest comfort to
him, to think that they would both be with their mother and sisters the
first few months of his absence. Percy instantly altered his tone.

"You are quite right, my dear father; I was very selfish not to think of
it. Trust me for making my dearest mother as cheerful and as happy as I
can. You don't know what a guardian angel the thought of her love has
been to me in temptation; and as for Bertie, if ever I thought he was
studying himself ill, and not taking the care of himself he ought, or
wanted him to take exercise and recreation, when he thought me a great
bore, the word mother, made him yield at once."

And Herbert's kindling eye and cheek bore testimony to the truth of his
brother's words. His only feeling and exclamation had been, if he might
but accompany his father, and save him all the trouble he could;
allowing, however, its impossibility, when the circumstances of his
still delicate health and the necessity for uninterrupted study, were
placed before him.

That visit to Oxford was a proud one for Mr. Hamilton. His sons held
that place in the estimation of the professors, superiors, and their
fellow-collegians, which their early influences had promised, and which,
as the sons of Arthur Hamilton, seemed naturally their own. Percy could
so combine firmness in principle, unbending rectitude in conduct, with
such a spirit of fun and enjoyment, as rendered him the prime mover of
all sports at Oxford, as he had been at Oakwood; and Herbert, though so
gentle and retiring as (until Percy's spirit was roused to shield him),
gained him many nick-names and many petty annoyances, silently and
insensibly won his way, and so bore with the thoughtless, the mirthful,
and even the faulty, as at length to gain him the privilege of being
allowed to do just as he liked, and win by his extraordinary talents the
admiration and love of all the professors with whom he was thrown.

Morton had promised to introduce a person to Mr. Hamilton on his return
from Oxford, who, if approved of, would be his willing, his eager
assistant, and gladly remain in the island, attending to all that was
required in its superintendence, and in the education of young Wilson,
till he was old enough and properly fitted to take his father's place.
Great, then, was Mr. Hamilton's disappointment, when Morton entered his
library according to appointment, but quite alone. Still greater was his
astonishment, when he found it was Morton himself, thus eagerly desirous
to become his companion, urging his wishes, his motives, Mr. Howard's
sanction, with such earnestness, such single-mindedness of purpose, that
every objection which, for Morton's own sake, Mr. Hamilton so
strenuously brought forward, was overruled; and after a lengthened
interview, matters were arranged to the entire satisfaction of both
parties. The idea of the companionship and aid of such a friend as
Morton bringing as great a relief to both Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, as
their acquiescence filled the whole heart of the young missionary with
the most unbounded gratitude and joy. He suggested many little things,
which, in the agitation of his hasty summons, had escaped his friends,
and his whole being seemed transformed from despondency and listlessness
to energy and hope. Engrossed as he was, Mr. Hamilton's usual thought
for others had not deserted him, and he remarked that one of his
household, Robert Langford, so often mentioned, appeared to linger in
the library after morning and evening service, as if anxious to speak to
him, but failing in courage so to do. He thought, too, that the young
man seemed quite altered, dispirited, gloomy, almost wretched at times,
instead of the mirthful, happy being he had been before. Determining to
give him an opportunity of speaking before his departure, if he wished
it, Mr. Hamilton summoned him to arrange, write a list, and pack some
books, which Morton had selected to take with him. For some time Robert
pursued his work in persevering silence, but at length fixed his eyes on
his master with such beseeching earnestness, that Mr. Hamilton inquired
the matter at once. It was some time before the young man could
sufficiently compose himself to speak with any coherency, but at last
Mr. Hamilton gathered the following details.

About five weeks previous (the first day of June) he had been
introduced, as he had very often before been, by his master, with
certain papers and law articles to convey to Plymouth, and with a pocket
book containing thirty pounds, in two ten and two five pound notes,
which he had orders to leave at some poor though respectable families,
whom Mr. Hamilton was in the habit of occasionally assisting, though
they were out of his own domains. The morning he was to have started on
this expedition a cousin, whom he had always regarded as a brother, came
unexpectedly to see him. He had just arrived at Plymouth from a four
years' residence with his regiment in Ireland: and Robert's glee was so
great as to require reiterated commands from the steward to take care of
the papers, and not stay at his mother's cottage, where he was to take
his cousin, later than the afternoon. He lingered so long before he set
off from Oakwood, that he gathered up all the papers as quickly as he
could, forgot his principal charge, so far at least as not to look to
the secure fastening of the pocket-book, and hastened with his cousin
through the brushwood and glade we have before mentioned, to his
mother's cottage. It was very hot, and the young men, heated and in
eager conversation, took off their coats, threw them loosely over their
arms, and proceeded on their walk without them, much too engrossed with
each other to be aware that, as they carried their coats, it was the
easiest and most natural thing possible for all the smaller contents of
their pockets to fall out, and if not missed directly, from the winding
and rugged wood path, not likely to be found again.

A draught of cider and half an hour's rest at Mrs. Langford's cottage
sufficiently revived Robert to resume his coat; he satisfied himself
that his packet of papers was secure, and, as he imagined from the feel
of another pocket, the pocket-book also.

What, then, was his consternation, when he approached the first house at
which he was to leave ten pounds of the money, about twenty miles from
Oakwood to discover that the pocket book was gone! and that which, by
its feel, he believed to have been it, an old card-case, that his young
master Percy had laughingly thrown at him one day after failing in his
endeavor to emblazon it, the sticky materials he had used causing it to
adhere to whatever it touched, and so preserving it in Robert's pocket,
when almost all the other things had fallen out. He racked his memory in
vain as to what could have become of it, convinced that he had not left
it at Oakwood, as he first sincerely wished that he had. Two or three
other things had also disappeared, and it suddenly flashed upon him,
that when carrying his coat over his arm they must have fallen out. He
cursed his thoughtlessness again and again, and would have retraced his
steps immediately, but the papers with which he was intrusted had to be
delivered at Plymouth by a certain hour, and he could not do it. The
intense heat of the day gave place in the evening to a tremendous storm
of thunder and lightning, wind and very heavy rain, which last continued
unabated through the night. He returned home, or rather to his mother's
cottage, the next day, in a state of mind little removed from
distraction; searching the path he had traversed with his cousin in
every direction, but only succeeded in finding some worthless trifles,
and the pocket-book itself but open and empty; but at a little distance
from it one five pound note. In an instant he remembered that in his
hurry he had failed to see to its proper fastening: if he had, all would
have been right, for the wind and rain would hardly have had power to
open it, and disperse its contents. Hour after hour he passed in the
vain search for the remainder; the storm had rendered the path more
intricate; the ground was slimy, and quantities of dried sticks and
broken branches and leaves almost covered it. He told his tale to his
mother in the deepest distress; what was he to do? She advised him to
tell the steward the whole story, and to request him to keep back the
sum she was in the habit of receiving quarterly, till the whole amount
could be repaid. Robert obeyed her, but with most painful reluctance,
though even then he did not imagine all the misery his carelessness
would entail upon him. Morris, as was natural, was exceedingly
displeased, and not only reproved him very severely, but let fall
suspicions as to the truth of his story: he knew nothing of his cousin,
he said, and could not say what company he might have been led into. If
the notes had fallen out of his pocket during his walk, they must be
found; it was all nonsense that the wind and rain could so have
scattered and annihilated them, as to remove all trace of them. He would
not say any thing to his master, because it would only annoy him, and
the charities he would give himself, not from Mrs. Langford's allowance,
but from Robert's own wages, which he should certainly stop till the
whole sum was paid; he should take care how he intrusted such a
responsible office to him again.

Robert was at first indignant, and violent in his protestations of the
truth of his story; but as it got wind in the servants' hall as he found
himself suspected and shunned by almost all, as days merged into weeks,
and there was no trace of the notes, and Morris and Ellis both united in
declaring that, as no strangers passed through that part of the park, if
found they must have been heard of, the young man sunk into a state of
the most gloomy despondency, longing to tell his kind master the whole
tale, and yet, naturally enough, shrinking from the dread of his
suspicion of his honesty, as more terrible than all the rest.

But Mr. Hamilton did not suspect him, and so assured him of his firm
belief in his truth and innocence, that it was with great difficulty
poor Robert refrained from throwing himself at his feet to pour forth
his gratitude. He was so severely punished from his heedlessness, that
his master would not say much about it, and soon after dismissing him,
summoned Morris, and talked with him some time on the subject, declaring
he would as soon suspect his own son of dishonesty as the boy who had
grown up under his own eye from infancy, and the son of such a mother.
It was very distressing for Mrs. Langford certainly, the old steward
allowed, and she looked sad enough; but it was no use, he had tried hard
enough to prevent his suspicions, but they would come. None but the
servants and the woodmen and gardeners went that path, and if the notes
had been dropped there, they must have been found; and it was a very
hard thing for the other servants, as none knew who might be suspected
of appropriating them. His master was much too kind in his opinions, but
he must forgive him if he continued to keep a sharp look out after the
young man. Morris was very old, and somewhat opinionated; so all that
his master could succeed in, was to insist that he should only keep back
half of Robert's wages, till the sum was paid.

"Take away the whole, and if he have been unfortunately led into
temptation, which I do not believe he has, you expose him to it again,"
was his judicious command. "It is all right he should return it, even
though lost only by carelessness; but I will not have him put to such
straits for want of a little money, as must be the case if you deprive
him of all his wages; and now, my good Morris, if you can not in
conscience repeat my firm opinion of this lad's innocence to the
servants, I must do it myself."

And that very evening after prayers, when the whole household were
assembled in the library, Mr. Hamilton addressed them simply and
briefly, mentioning that Robert Langford had himself told his tale to
him, and that it was his own opinion, and that of their mistress, that
he did not deserve the suspicions attached to him, and that his
fellow-servants would all be acting more charitably and religiously if
they believed his story, until they had had some strong proof to the
contrary; he could not of course, interfere with private opinion; he
could only tell them his own and their lady's. He acknowledged it was a
very unpleasant occurrence, but he begged them all to dismiss the idea
that suspicion could be attached to either of them; he felt too
convinced that had any one of his household chanced to find the missing
notes, they would at once have mentioned it to the steward or
housekeeper, more especially, since Robert's loss had been known among
them only a few days after it had occurred. Appropriation, he need not
tell them, in such a case was theft, and of that sin, he was perfectly
certain, not one present would be guilty. He allowed that it would be
much more satisfactory to have the tangible proof of Robert's innocence
by discovering some trace of them but it was not unlikely the heavy wind
and rain had destroyed the thin material of the notes or borne them into
the brambly brushwood, where it was scarcely possible they could be
found.

If the attention of Mrs. Hamilton, her daughters, and Miss Harcourt had
not been naturally riveted on Mr. Hamilton's address, and its effect on
the servants, especially Robert, whose emotion was almost overpowering,
they must have remarked that Ellen had shrunk into the shade of the
heavy curtains falling by one of the windows, and had unconsciously
grasped the oaken back of one of the massive chairs; lips, cheek, and
brow, white and rigid as sculptured marble. An almost supernatural
effort alone enabled her to master the crushing agony, sending the blood
up to her cheeks with such returning violence, that when she wished her
aunt and uncle good night, she might have been thought more flushed than
pale; but it passed unnoticed Mrs. Hamilton too much annoyed on Mrs.
Langford's account, to think at that moment of any thing but how she
could best set the poor mother's heart at rest. It was very evident that
though some of the domestics after their master's address came up to
Robert, shook hands with him and begged his pardon, the greater number
still sided with Morris, and retained their own less favorable opinion,
and she could well imagine what Mrs. Langford's sufferings must be. It
only wanted five days to that fixed for Mr. Hamilton's departure, wind
permitting; and there were so many things to think of and do for him,
that his family could have little thought of any thing else; but Mrs.
Hamilton, assured her husband she would leave no means untried to prove
Robert's innocence.

For nearly an hour that same night did Ellen, after her attendant had
left her, sit crouched by the side of her bed as if some bolt had struck
and withered her as she sat. One word alone sounded and resounded in her
ears; she had known it, pronounced it to be such to herself numbers of
times, but it had never mocked and maddened her as when spoken in her
uncle's voice, and in his deepest, most expressive tone--"theft!" And
she was the guilty one--and she must see the innocent bearing the
penalty of her crime, suspicion, dislike, avoidance, for she dared not
breathe the truth. Again came the wild, almost desperate, resolve to
seek Mrs. Hamilton that very moment, avow herself the criminal, implore
her to take back every trinket belonging to her, to replace it, and do
with her what she would. But if she did confess, and so draw attention
to her, how could she keep her brother's secret? Could she have firmness
to bear all, rather than betray it? What proof of her inward
wretchedness and remorse could there be in the mere confession of
appropriation, when the use to which she had applied that money and all
concerning it, even to the day it was found, must be withheld, lest it
should in any way be connected with her letter to her brother. She must
be silent; and the only prayer which, night and morning, ay, almost
every hour, rose, from that young heart, was for death, ere it was too
late for God's forgiveness.



CHAPTER IV.

THE BROKEN DESK


The many secret wishes for an unfavorable wind, that Mr. Hamilton might
stay at Oakwood still a little longer, were not granted, and he left his
family the very day he had fixed, the 14th of July, just three weeks
after his summons, and about ten days before his sons were expected
home. Without him Oakwood was strange indeed, but with the exception of
Emmeline, all seemed determined to conquer the sadness and anxiety,
which the departure of one so beloved, naturally occasioned. Emmeline
was so unused to any thing like personal sorrow, that she rather seemed
to luxuriate in its indulgence.

"Do you wish to both disappoint and displease me, my dear Emmeline?" her
mother said, one day, about a week after her husband had gone, as she
entered the music-room, expecting to find her daughter at the harp, but
perceiving her instead, listless and dispirited, on the sofa. "Indeed,
you will do both, if you give way to this most uncalled-for gloom."

"Uncalled for," replied Emmeline, almost pettishly.

"Quite uncalled for, to the extent in which you are indulging it; and
even if called for, do you not think you would be acting more correctly,
if you thought more of others than yourself, and tried to become your
own cheerful self for their sakes? It is the first time you have ever
given me cause to suspect you of selfishness; and I am disappointed."

"Selfishness, mamma; and I do hate the thought of it so! Am I selfish?"
she repeated, her voice faltering, and her eyes filling fast with tears.

"I hope not, my love; but if you do not try to shake off this
depression, we must believe you to be so. Your father's absence is a
still greater trial to Caroline than it is to you, for it compels a very
bitter disappointment, as well as the loss of his society; and yet,
though she feels both deeply, she has exerted herself more than I ever
saw her do before, and so proves, more than any words or tears could do,
how much she loves both him and me."

"And do you think I love you both, less than she does?" replied
Emmeline, now fairly sobbing.

"No, dearest; but I want you to prove it in the same admirable manner.
Do you think I do not feel your father's absence, Emmeline? but would
you like to see me as sad and changed as you are?"

Emmeline looked up in her face, for there was something in the tone that
appealed to her better feelings at once. Throwing her arms round her,
she sobbed--

"Dear mamma, do forgive me. I see now I have been very selfish and very
weak, but I never, never can be as firm and self-controlled as you and
Caroline are."

"Do not say never, love, or you will never try to be so. I am quite sure
you would not like to be one of those weak, selfish characters, who lay
all their faults, and all the mischief their faults produce, on a
supposed impossibility to become like others. I know your disposition is
naturally less strong and firm than your sister's, but it is more
elastic, and still more joyous; and so had you not too weakly encouraged
your very natural sorrow, you would have been enabled to throw it off,
and in the comfort such an exertion would have brought to us, fully
recompensed yourself."

"And if I do try now?"

"I shall be quite satisfied, dearest; though I fear you will find it
more difficult than had you tried a few days ago. Confess that I am
right. Did you not, after the first two or three days, feel that you
could have been cheerful again, at least at times, but that you fancied
you had not felt sorry enough, and so increased both sorrow and anxiety
by determinedly dwelling on them, instead of seeking some pursuit?"

"Dear mamma, shall I never be able to hide a feeling from you?" answered
Emmeline, so astonished, that her tears half dried. "I did not know I
felt so myself till you put it before me, and now I know that I really
did. Was it very wrong?"

"I will answer your question by another, love. Did you find such
pertinacious indulgence of gloom, help you to bring the object of your
regret and anxiety, and of your own grief before your Heavenly Father?"

Emmeline hesitated, but only for a minute, then answered, with a crimson
blush--

"No, mamma; I could not pray to God to protect dear papa, or to give me
His blessing, half as earnestly and believingly as when I was happier;
the more I indulged in gloomy thoughts, the more difficulty I had to
turn them to prayer, and the last few days, I fear I have not even
tried."

"Then, dearest, is it necessary for me to answer your former question? I
see by that conscious look that it is not. You have always trusted my
experience and affection, my Emmeline, trust them now, and try my plan.
Think of your dear father, whom you can not love too well, or whose
compelled absence really regret too much; but so think of him, as to
pray continually in spirit to your gracious God, to have him always in
His holy keeping, either on sea or land, in storm or calm, and so
prosper his undertaking, as to permit his return to us still sooner than
we at present expect. The very constant prayer for this, will make you
rest secure and happy in the belief, that our God is with him wherever
he is, as He is with us, and so give you cheerfulness and courage to
attend to your daily duties, and conquer any thing like too selfish
sorrow. Will you try this, love, even if it be more difficult now, than
it would have been a few days ago?"

"I will indeed, mamma," and she raised her head from her mother's
shoulder, and tried to smile. "When you first addressed me to-day, I
thought you were almost harsh, and so cold--so you see even there I was
thinking wrong--and now I am glad, oh, so glad, you did speak to me!"

"And I know who will be glad too, if I have prevented his having a Niobe
for his Tiny, instead of the Euphrosyne, which I believe he sometimes
calls you. I thought there was one particular duet that Percy is to be
so charmed with, Emmy. Suppose you try it now." And, her tears all
checked, her most unusual gloom dispersed, Emmeline obeyed with
alacrity, and finding, when she had once begun, so many things to get
perfect for the gratification of her brothers, that nearly three hours
slipped away quite unconsciously; and when Caroline returned from a
walk, she was astonished at the change in her sister, and touched by the
affectionate self-reproach with which Emmeline, looking up in her face,
exclaimed--

"Dear Caroline, I have been so pettish and so cross to you since papa
left, that I am sure you must be quite tired of me; but I am going to be
really a heroine now, and not a shy sentimental one; and bear the pain
of papa's absence as bravely as you do."

And she did so; though at first it was, as her mother had warned her,
very difficult to compel the requisite exertion, which for employment
and cheerfulness, was now needed; but when the _will_ is right, there is
little fear of failure.

As each day passed, so quickly merging into weeks, that five had now
slipped away since that fatal letter had been sent to Edward, the
difficulty to do as she had intended, entreat Mrs. Langford to dispose
of her trinkets and watch, became to Ellen, either in reality or
seeming, more and more difficult. Her illness had confined her to her
room for nearly a week, and when she was allowed to take the air, the
state of nervous debility to which it had reduced her, of course
prevented her ever being left alone. The day after Mr. Hamilton's appeal
to his domestics, she had made a desperate attempt, by asking permission
to be the bearer of a message from her aunt to the widow; and as the
girls were often allowed and encouraged to visit their nurse, the
request was granted without any surprise, though to the very last moment
she feared one of her cousins or Miss Harcourt would offer to accompany
her. They were all, however, too occupied with and for Mr. Hamilton, and
she sought the cottage, and there, with such very evident mental agony,
besought Mrs. Langford to promise her secrecy and aid, that the widow,
very much against her conscience, was won over to accede. She was in
most pressing want of money, she urged, and dared not appeal to her
aunt. Not daring to say the whole amount which she so urgently required
at once, she had only brought with her the antique gold cross and two or
three smaller ornaments, which had been among her mother's trinkets, and
a gold locket Percy had given her. Mrs. Langford was painfully startled.
She had no idea her promise comprised acquiescence and assistance in any
matter so very wrong and mysterious as this; and she tried every
argument, every persuasion, to prevail on Ellen to confide all her
difficulties to Mrs. Hamilton, urging that if even she had done wrong,
it could only call for temporary displeasure, whereas the mischief of
her present proceeding might never come to an end, and must be
discovered at last; but Ellen was inexorable, though evidently quite as
miserable as she was firm, and Mrs. Langford had too high an idea of the
solemn nature of a pledged word to draw back, or think of betraying her.
She said that, of course, it might be some weeks before she could
succeed in disposing of them all; as to offer them all together, or even
at one place, would be exposing herself to the most unpleasant
suspicions.

One step was thus gained, but nearly a fortnight had passed, and she
heard nothing from the widow.

"Will they never come?" exclaimed Emmeline, in mirthful impatience, one
evening, about four days after her conversation with her mother; "it
_must be_ past the hour Percy named."

"It still wants half an hour," replied Mrs. Hamilton; adding, "that
unfortunate drawing, when will it succeed in obtaining your undivided
attention?"

"Certainly not this evening, mamma; the only drawing I feel inclined
for, is a sketch of my two brothers, if they would only have the
kindness to sit by me."

"Poor Percy," observed Caroline, dryly; "if you are to be as restless as
you have been the last hour, Emmeline, he would not be very much
flattered by his portrait."

"Now that is very spiteful of you, Caroline, and all because I do not
happen to be so quiet and sober as you are; though I am sure all this
morning, that mamma thought by your unusually long absence that you were
having a most persevering practice, you were only collecting all Percy's
and Herbert's favorite songs and pieces, and playing them over, instead
of your new music."

"And what if I did, Emmeline?"

"Why, it only proves that your thoughts are quite as much occupied by
them as mine are, though you have so disagreeably read, studied, worked,
just as usual, to make one believe you neither thought nor cared any
thing about them."

"And so, because Caroline can control even joyous anticipation, she is
to be thought void of feeling, Emmy. I really can pronounce no such
judgment; so, though she may have settled to her usual pursuits, and you
have literally done nothing at all to-day, I will not condemn her as
loving her brothers less."

"But you will condemn me as an idle, unsteady, hair-brained girl,"
replied Emmeline, kneeling on the ottoman at her mother's feet, and
looking archly and fondly in her face. "Then do let me have a
fellow-sufferer, for I can not stand condemnation alone. Ellen, do put
away that everlasting sketch, and be idle and unsteady, too!"

"It won't do, Emmy; Ellen has been so perseveringly industrious since
her illness, that I should rather condemn her for too much application
than too great idleness. But you really have been stooping too long this
warm evening, my love," she added, observing, as Ellen, it seemed almost
involuntarily, looked up at her cousin's words, that her cheeks were
flushed almost painfully. "Oblige Emmeline this once, and be as idle as
she is: come and talk to me, I have scarcely heard a word from you
to-day; you have been more silent than ever, I think, since your uncle
left us; but I must have no gloom to greet your cousins, Ellen."

There was no rejoinder to these kind and playful words. Ellen did indeed
put aside her drawing, but instead of taking a seat near her aunt, which
in former days she would have been only too happy to do, she walked to
the farthest window, and ensconcing herself in its deep recess, seemed
determined to hold communion with no one. Miss Harcourt was so indignant
as scarcely to be able to contain its expression. Caroline looked
astonished and provoked. Emmeline was much too busy in flying from
window to window, to think of any thing else but her brothers. Mrs.
Hamilton was more grieved and hurt than Ellen had scarcely ever made her
feel. Several times before, in the last month, she had fancied there was
something unusual in her manner; but the many anxieties and thoughts
which had engrossed her since her husband's summons and his departure,
had prevented any thing, till that evening, but momentary surprise.
Emmeline's exclamation that she was quite sure she heard the trampling
of horses, and that it must be Percy, by the headlong way he rode,
prevented any remark, and brought them all to the window; and she was
right, for in a few minutes a horseman emerged from some distant trees,
urging his horse to its utmost speed, waving his cap in all sorts of
mirthful gesticulations over his head, long before he could be quite
sure that there was any body to see him. Another minute, and he had
flung the reins to Robert, with a laughing greeting, and springing up
the long flight of steps in two bounds, was in the sitting-room and in
the arms of his mother, before either of his family imagined he could
have had even time to dismount.

"Herbert?" was the first word Mrs. Hamilton's quivering lip could speak.

"Is quite well, my dearest mother, and not five minutes' ride behind me.
The villagers would flock round us, with such an hurrah, I thought you
must have heard it here; so I left Bertie to play the agreeable, and
promised to see them to-morrow, and galloped on here, for you know the
day we left, I vowed that the firstborn of my mother should have her
first kiss."

"Still the same, Percy--not sobered yet, my boy?" said his mother,
looking at him with a proud smile; for while the tone and manner were
still the eager, fresh-feeling boy, the face and figure were that of the
fine-growing, noble-looking man.

"Sobered! why, mother, I never intend to be," he answered, joyously, as
he alternately embraced his sisters, Miss Harcourt, and Ellen, who,
fearing to attract notice, had emerged from her hiding-place; "if the
venerable towers of that most wise and learned town, Oxford, and all the
grave lectures and long faces of sage professors have failed to tame me,
there can be no hope for my sobriety; but here comes Herbert, actually
going it almost as fast as I did. Well done, my boy! Mother, that is all
your doing; he feels your influence at this distance. Why, all the
Oxonians would fancy the colleges must be tumbling about their ears, if
they saw the gentle, studious, steady Herbert Hamilton riding at such a
rate." He entered almost as his brother spoke; and though less
boisterous, the intense delight it was to him to look in his mother's
face again, to be surrounded by all he loved, was as visible as Percy's;
and deep was the thankfulness of Mrs. Hamilton's ever anxious heart, as
she saw him looking so well--so much stronger than in his boyhood. The
joy of that evening, and of very many succeeding days, was, indeed,
great; though many to whom the sanctity and bliss of domestic affection
are unknown, might fancy there was little to call for it; but to the
inmates of Oakwood it was real happiness to hear Percy's wild laugh and
his inexhaustible stories, calling forth the same mirth from his
hearers--the very sound of his ever-bounding step, and his boisterous
career from room to room, to visit, he declared, and rouse all the
bogies and spirits that must have slept while he was away: Herbert's
quieter but equal interest in all that had been done, studied, read,
even thought and felt, in his absence: the pride and delight of both in
the accounts of Edward, Percy insisting that to have such a gallant
fellow of a brother, ought to make Ellen as lively and happy as
Emmeline, who was blessed nearly in the same measure--looking so
excessively mischievous as he spoke, that, though his sister did not at
first understand the inference, it was speedily discovered, and called
for a laughing attack on his outrageous self-conceit. Herbert more
earnestly regretted to see Ellen looking as sad and pale as when she was
quite a little girl, and took upon himself gently to reproach her for
not being, or, at least, trying to make herself more cheerful, when she
had so many blessings around her, and was so superlatively happy in
having such a brave and noble-hearted brother. If he did not understand
her manner as he spoke, both he and the less observant Percy were
destined to be still more puzzled and grieved as a few weeks passed, and
they at first fancied and then were quite sure that she was completely
altered, even in her manner to their mother. Instead of being so gentle,
so submissive, so quietly happy to deserve the smallest sign of approval
from Mrs. Hamilton, she now seemed completely to shrink from her, either
in fear, or that she no longer cared either to please or to obey her. By
imperceptible, but sure degrees, this painful conviction pressed itself
on the minds of the whole party, even to the light-hearted, unsuspicious
Emmeline, to whom it was so utterly incomprehensible, that she declared
it must be all fancy, and that they were all so happy that their heads
must be a little turned.

"Even mamma's!" observed Caroline, dryly.

"No; but she is the only sensible person among us, for she has not said
any thing about it, and, therefore, I dare say does not even see that
which we are making such a wonder about."

"I do not agree with you, for I rather think she has both seen and felt
it before either of us, and that because it so grieves and perplexes
her, she can not speculate or even speak about it as we do. Time will
explain it, I suppose, but it is very disagreeable."

It was, indeed, no fancy; but little could these young observers or even
Mrs. Hamilton suspect that which was matter of speculation or grief to
them, was almost madness in its agony of torture to Ellen; who, as weeks
passed, and but very trifling returns for her trinkets were made her by
Mrs. Langford, felt as if her brain must fail before she could indeed
accomplish her still ardently desired plan, and give back the missing
sum to Robert, without calling suspicion on herself. She felt to herself
as changed as she appeared to those that observed her; a black
impenetrable pall seemed to have enveloped her heart and mind, closing
up both, even from those affections, those pursuits, so dear to her
before. She longed for some change from the dense impenetrable fog, even
if it were some heavy blow--tangible suffering of the fiercest kind was
prayed for, rather than the stagnation which caused her to move, act,
and speak as if under some fatal spell, and look with such terror on the
relation she had so loved, that even to be banished from her presence
she imagined would be less agony, than to associate with her, as the
miserable, guilty being she had become.

Mrs. Hamilton watched and was anxious, but she kept both her
observations and anxiety to herself, for she would not throw even a
temporary cloud over the happiness of her children. A fortnight after
the young men's arrival, letters came most unexpectedly from Mr.
Hamilton, dated twelve days after he had left, and brought by a Scottish
trader whom they had encountered near the Shetland Isles, and who had
faithfully forwarded them from Edinburgh, as he had promised. The voyage
had been most delightful, and they hoped to reach Feroe in another week.
He wrote in the highest terms of Morton; the comfort of such
companionship, and the intrinsic worth of his character, which could
never be known, until so closely thrown together.

"I may thank our Percy for this excellent friend," he wrote. "He tells
me his brave and honest avowal of those verses, which had given him so
much pain, attracted him more toward me and mine, than even my own
efforts to obtain his friendship. Percy little thought when he so
conquered himself the help he would give his father--so little do we
know to what hidden good, the straightforward, honest performance of a
duty, however painful, may lead."

"My father should thank you, mother, not me," was Percy's rejoinder,
with a flushed cheek and eye sparkling with animation, as his mother
read the passage to him.

"No such thing, Percy; I will not have you give me all the merit of your
good deeds. I did but try to guide you, my boy; neither the disposition
to receive, nor the fruit springing from the seeds I planted, is from
me."

"They are, mother, more than you are in the least aware of!" replied he,
with even more than his usual impetuosity, for they happened to be quite
alone; "I thought I knew all your worth before I went to Oxford, but I
have mingled with the world now; I have been a silent listener and
observer of such sentiments, such actions, as I know would naturally
have been mine, and though in themselves perhaps of little moment, saw
they led to irregularity, laxity of principle and conduct, which now I
can not feel as other than actual guilt; and what saved me from the
same? The _principle_ which from my infancy you taught. I have
questioned, led on in conversation, these young men to speak of their
boyhood and their homes, and there were none guided, loved as I was;
none whose parents had so blended firmness with indulgence, as while my
wild, free spirits were unchecked, prevented the ascendency of evil. _I
could not do_ as they did. Mother! love you more, perhaps, I can not,
but every time I join the world, fresh from this home sanctuary, I must
bless and venerate you more! To walk through this world with any degree
of security, man _must_ have principle based on the highest source; and
that principle can only be instilled by the constant example of a mother
and the association of a home!" Mrs. Hamilton could not answer, but--a
very unusual sign of weakness with her--tears of the most intense
happiness poured down on the cheek of her son, as in his impetuosity he
knelt before her, and ended his very unusually grave appeal by the same
loving caresses he was wont to lavish on her, in his infancy and
boyhood.

The letters from Mr. Hamilton, of course, greatly increased the general
hilarity, and the arrival of Mr. Grahame's family about the same time,
added fresh zest to youthful enjoyment. In the few months she spent at
Moorlands, Annie actually condescended to be agreeable. Percy, and some
of Percy's boyish friends, now young men, as himself, were quite
different to her usual society, and as she very well knew the only way
to win Percy's even casual notice was to throw off her affectation and
superciliousness as much as possible, she would do so, and be pleasing
to an extent that surprised Mrs. Hamilton, who, always inclined to judge
kindly, hoped more regarding Annie than she had done yet. Little could
her pure mind conceive that, in addition to the pleasure of flirting
with Percy, Annie acted in this manner actually to throw her off her
guard, and so give her a wider field for her machinations when Caroline
should enter the London world; a time to which, from her thirteenth
year, she had secretly looked as the opportunity to make Caroline so
conduct herself, as to cover her mother with shame and misery, and bring
her fine plans of education to failure and contempt.

Mrs. Greville and Mary were also constantly at the Hall, or having their
friends with them; Herbert and Mary advancing in words or feelings not
much farther than they had ever done as boy and girl, but still feeling
and acknowledging to their mutual mothers that, next to them, they loved
each other better than all the world, and enjoyed each other's society
more than any other pleasure which life could offer. Excursions by land
or water, sometimes on horseback, sometimes in the carriages, constant
little family reunions, either at Oakwood, Moorlands, or Greville Manor,
passed days and evenings most delightfully, to all but Ellen, who did
not dare stay at home as often as inclination prompted, and whose
forced gayety, when in society, did but increase the inward torture when
alone. Mrs. Hamilton had as yet refrained from speaking to her--still
trying to believe she must be mistaken, and there really was nothing
strange about her. One morning, however, about a month after the young
men had been at home, her attention was unavoidably arrested by hearing
Percy gayly ask his cousin--

"Nelly, Tiny wrote me such a description of your birthday watch, that I
quite forgot, I have been dying to see it all the time I have been at
home; show it me now, there's a dear; it can not be much use to you,
that's certain, for I have never seen you take it from its
hiding-place."

Ellen answered, almost inarticulately, it was not in her power to show
it him.

"Not in your power! You must be dreaming, Nell, as I think you are very
often now. Why, what do you wear that chain, and seal and key for, if
you have not your watch on too?"

"Where is your watch, Ellen? and why, if you are not wearing it, do you
make us suppose you are?" interrupted Mrs. Hamilton, startled out of all
idea that Ellen was changed only in fancy.

Ellen was silent, and to Percy's imagination, so sullenly and insolently
so, that he became indignant.

"Did you hear my mother speak to you, Ellen? Why don't you answer?"

"Because I thought my watch was my own to do what I liked with, to wear
or to put away," was the reply; over neither words nor tone of which,
had she at that moment any control, for in her agonized terror, she did
not in the least know what she said.

"How dare you answer so, Ellen? Leave the room, or ask my mother's
pardon at once," replied Percy, his eyes flashing with such unusual
anger that it terrified her still more, and under the same kind of spell
she was turning to obey him, without attempting the apology he demanded.

"Stay, Ellen; this extraordinary conduct must not go on any longer
without notice on my part. I have borne with it, I fear, too long
already. Leave us, my dear Percy; I would rather speak with your cousin
alone."

"I fear it will be useless, mother; what has come over Ellen I _can not_
imagine, but I never saw such an incomprehensible change in my life."

He departed, unconscious that Ellen, who was near the door transfixed at
her aunt's words, made a rapid movement as to catch hold of his arm, and
that the words, "Do not go, Percy, for pity's sake!" trembled on her
pale lips, but they emitted no sound.

What passed in the interview, which lasted more than an hour, no one
knew; but to the watchful eyes of her affectionate children, there were
traces of very unusual disturbance on Mrs. Hamilton's expressive
countenance when she rejoined them; and the dark rim round Ellen's eyes,
the deadly pallor of her cheeks and lips seemed to denote that it had
not been deficient in suffering to her; though not one sign of
penitence, one word of acknowledgment that she was, and had been for
some weeks in error, by her extraordinary conduct--not even a softening
tear could her aunt elicit. She had never before so failed--never, not
even when the disappearance of her allowance had caused extreme
displeasure, had Ellen evinced such an apparently sullen spirit of
determined hardihood. She would not attempt defense or reply to the
acted falsehood with which she was charged, of appearing to wear her
watch when she did not, or to say what she had done with it. Mrs.
Hamilton spoke to her till she was almost exhausted, for her own
disappointment was most painful, and she had not a gleam of hope to urge
her on. Her concluding words were these--

"That you are under the evil influence of some unconfessed and most
heinous fault, Ellen, I am perfectly convinced; what it is time will
reveal. I give you one month to decide on your course of action; subdue
this sullen spirit, confess whatever error you may have been led into,
and so change your conduct as to be again the child I so loved, spite of
occasional faults and errors, and I will pardon all that is past. If, at
the end of a month, I find you persisting in the same course of
rebellion and defiance, regardless alike of your duty to your God and to
me, I shall adopt some measures to compel submission. I had hoped to
bring up all my children under my own eye, and by my own efforts; but if
I am not permitted so to do, I know my duty too well to shrink from the
alternative. You will no longer remain under my care; some severer
guardian and more rigid discipline may bring you to a sense of your
duty. I advise you to think well on this subject, Ellen; you know me too
well, I think, to imagine that I speak in mere jest."

She had left the room as she spoke, so, that if Ellen had intended
reply, there was no time for it. But she could not have spoken. Go from
Oakwood, and in anger! Yet it was but just; it was better, perhaps, than
the lingering torture she was then enduring--better to hide her shame
and misery among strangers, than remain among the good, the happy--the
guilty wretch she was. She sat and thought till feeling itself became
utterly exhausted, and again the spell, the stupor of indifference,
crept over her. She would have confessed, but she knew that it could
never satisfy, as the half confession she would have been compelled to
make it; and the dread of herself, that she should betray her brother,
sealed her lips.

Robert's story, and the strange disappearance of the notes, had of
course been imparted to Percy and Herbert. In fact, the change in the
young man, from being as light-hearted as his young master himself, to
gravity and almost gloom--for the conviction of his master and mistress,
as to his innocence could not cheer him, while suspicion against him
still actuated Morris, and many of the other servants--would have called
the young men's attention toward him at once. The various paths and
glades between the Hall and Mrs. Langford's cottage had been so
searched, that unless the storm had destroyed them or blown the notes
very far away, it seemed next to impossible, that they could not be
found. Mr. Hamilton knew the number of each note, had told them to his
wife, and gave notice at his banker's that though he did not wish them
stopped, he should like to know, if possible, when they had passed. No
notice of such a thing had been sent to Oakwood, and it seemed curious
that, if found and appropriated, they should not yet have been used, for
ten weeks had now slipped away since their loss, and nearly nine since
the letters had been sent to Edward and his captain, answers to which
had not yet been received; but that was nothing remarkable, for Edward
seldom wrote above once in three or four months.

It was nearing the end of August, when one afternoon Mrs. Hamilton was
prevented joining her children in a sail up the Dart, though it had been
a long promise, and Percy was, in consequence, excessively indignant;
but certain matters relative to the steward's province demanded a
reference to his mistress, and Morris was compelled to request a longer
interview than usual. Ellen had chosen to join the aquatic party, a
decision now so contrary to her usual habits, that Mrs. Hamilton could
not help fancying it was to prevent the chance of being any time alone
with her. There had been no change in her manner, except a degree more
care to control the disrespectful or pettish answer; but nothing to give
hope that the spirit was changing, and that the hidden error, whatever
it might be, would be acknowledged and atoned. Mrs. Hamilton was nerving
her own mind for the performance of the alternative she had placed
before her niece; passing many a sleepless night in painful meditations.
If to send her from Oakwood were necessary, would it produce the effect
she wished? with whom could she place her? and what satisfactory reason
could she assign for doing so? She knew there would be a hundred tongues
to cry shame on her for sending her orphan niece from her roof, but that
was but one scarcely-tasted bitter drop in the many other sources of
anxiety. But still these were but her nightly sorrows; she might have
been paler when she rose, but though her children felt quite sure that
Ellen was grieving her exceedingly, her cheerful sympathy in their
enjoyments and pursuits never waned for a moment.

Morris left her at six o'clock, all his business so satisfactorily
accomplished, that the old man was quite happy, declaring to Ellis, he
had always thought his mistress unlike any one else before; but such a
clear head for reducing difficult accounts and tangled affairs to order,
he had never imagined could either be possessed by, or was any business
of a woman. Not in the least aware of the wondering admiration she had
excited, Mrs. Hamilton had called Robert and proceeded to the
school-room to get a pattern of embroidery and a note, which Caroline
had requested might be sent to Annie Grahame that evening; the note was
on the table, but the pattern and some silks she had neglected to put up
till her brothers were ready, and they so hurried her, that her mother
had promised she would see to it for her. The embroidery box was in a
paneled closet of the school-room, rather high up, and in taking
especial care to bring it safely down, Robert loosened a desk from its
equilibrium, and it fell to the ground with such force as to break into
several pieces, and scatter all its contents over the floor. It was
Ellen's! the pretty rosewood desk which had been her gift, that
memorable New Year's Eve, and was now the repository of her dread
secret. It was actually in fragments, especially where the ink-stands
and pens had been, and the spring broken, the secret drawer burst open,
and all its contents were disclosed. Robert was much too concerned to
think of any thing but his own extreme carelessness, and his mistress's
reprimand; and he busied himself in hastily picking up the contents, and
placing them carefully on the table, preparatory to their arrangement by
Mrs. Hamilton in a drawer of the table which she was emptying for the
purpose. She laid them carefully in, and was looking over a book of very
nicely written French themes, glad there was at least one thing for
which she might be satisfied with Ellen, when an exclamation--

"Why, there is one of them! I am so glad," and as sudden, a stop and
half-checked groan from Robert startled her. She looked inquiringly at
him, but he only covered his face with one hand, while the other
remained quite unconsciously covering the secret drawer out of which the
contents had not fallen, but were merely disclosed.

"What _is_ the matter, Robert? what have you found to cause such
contradictory exclamations? Speak, for God's sake!" escaped from Mrs.
Hamilton's lips, for by that lightning touch of association, memory,
thought, whatever it may be, which joins events together, and unites
present with past, so that almost a life seems crowded in a moment, such
a suspicion flashed upon her as to make her feel sick and giddy, and
turn so unusually pale, as effectually to rouse Robert, and make him
spring up to get her a chair.

"Nothing, madam, indeed it can be nothing--I must be mistaken--I am
acting like a fool this afternoon, doing the most unheard-of mischief,
and then frightening you and myself at shadows."

"This evasion will not do, Robert; give me the papers at which you were
so startled."

He hesitated, and Mrs. Hamilton extended her hand to take them herself;
but her hand and arm so shook, that to hide it from her domestic, she
let it quietly drop by her side, and repeated her command in a tone that
brooked no farther delay. He placed the little drawer and its contents
in her hand, and, without a word, withdrew into the farthest window. For
full five, it might have been ten minutes, there was silence so deep, a
pin-fall might have been loudly heard. It was broken by Mrs. Hamilton.

"Robert!"

There was neither change nor tremor in the voice, but the fearful
expression of forcibly-controlled suffering on her deathlike countenance
so awed and terrified him, he besought her, almost inarticulately, to
let him fetch a glass of water--wine--something--

"It is not at all necessary, my good boy; I am perfectly well. This is,
I believe, the only note that can be identified as one of those you
lost; these smaller ones (she pointed to three, of one, two, and four
pounds each, which Ellen had received at long intervals from Mrs.
Langford) have nothing to do with it?"

"No, madam, and that--that may not--"

"We can not doubt it, Robert, I have its number; I need not detain you,
however, any longer. Take care of these broken fragments, and if they
can be repaired, see that it is done. Here is Miss Hamilton's note and
parcel. I believe you are to wait for an answer, at all events inquire.
I need not ask you to be silent on this discovery, till I have spoken to
Miss Fortescue, or to trust my promise to make your innocence fully
known."

"Not by the exposure of Miss Ellen! Oh, madam, this is but one of them,
the smallest one--it may have come to her by the merest chance--see how
stained it is with damp--for the sake of mercy, oh, madam, spare her and
yourself too!" and in the earnestness of his supplication Robert caught
hold of her dress, hardly knowing himself how he had found courage so to
speak. His mistress's lips quivered.

"It is a kind thought, Robert, and if justice to you and mercy to the
guilty can, by any extenuating clause unknown to me now, be united,
trust me, they shall. Now go."

He obeyed in silence, and still Mrs. Hamilton changed not that outward
seeming of rigid calm. She continued to put every paper and letter away
(merely retaining the notes), locked the drawer, took possession of the
key, and then retired to her own room, where for half an hour she
remained alone.

It is not ours to lift the vail from that brief interval. We must have
performed our task badly indeed, if our readers can not so enter into
the lofty character, the inward strivings and outward conduct of Mrs.
Hamilton, as not to imagine more satisfactorily to themselves than we
could write it, the heart-crushing agony of that one half hour; and
anguish as it was, it did but herald deeper. There was not even partial
escape for her, as there would have been had her husband been at home.
Examination of the culprit, whose mysterious conduct was so fatally
explained, that she did not even dare hope this was the only missing
note she had appropriated--compelled confession of the use to which it
had been applied--public acknowledgment of Robert's perfect truth and
innocence, all crowded on her mind like fearful specters of pain and
misery, from which there could be no escape; and from whom did they
spring? Ellen! the child of her adoption, of her love, whose character
she had so tried to mold to good--whose young life she had so sought to
make happier than its earliest years--for whom she had so hoped, so
prayed--so trusted--had borne with anxiety and care; tended in physical
suffering with such untiring gentleness, such exhaustless love: and now!



CHAPTER V.

THE CULPRIT AND THE JUDGE.


It was nearly seven when the young party returned, delighted as usual
with their afternoon's amusement; and Percy, shouting loudly for his
mother, giving vent to an exclamation of impatience at finding she was
still invisible.

"I shall wish Morris and all his concerns at the bottom of the Dart, if
he is so to engross my mother when I want her," he said, as he flung
himself full length on a couch in the music-room, desiring Emmeline to
make haste and disrobe, as he must have an air on the harp to soothe his
troubled spirit.

Herbert, to look for a poem, the beauty of which he had been discussing
with Miss Harcourt during their sail, entered the library, but
perceiving his mother, would have retreated, thinking her still engaged;
but she looked up as the door opened, and perceiving him, smiled, and
asked him if they had had a pleasant afternoon. He looked at her
earnestly, without making any reply; then approaching her, took one of
her hands in his, and said, fondly--

"Forgive me, dearest mother; I ought not, perhaps, to ask, but I am sure
something is wrong. You are ill--anxious--may I not share it? Can I do
nothing?"

"Nothing, my Herbert; bless you for your watchful love--it is such
comfort." And the long pressure of the hand which so warmly clasped
hers, the involuntary tenderness with which these few words were said,
betrayed how much she needed such comfort at that moment, but she
rallied instantly. "Do not look so anxious, dear boy, I am not ill--not
quite happy, perhaps, but we know where to look for strength to bear
trial, Herbert. Wait tea for me till eight o'clock; it is probable I may
be engaged till then;" and, satisfied that she did not wish to be more
explicit, Herbert took his book, and somewhat sorrowfully left her.

Ten minutes more, and the massive door unclosed again, but no step
advanced, for the intruder remained rooted where the door had closed. It
was a very large and lofty room, with an arched and Gothic roof, of
black and fretted oak, the walls and chimney-piece of the same material
and most elaborate workmanship. A sort of dais, remnant of olden times,
divided the upper part of the room, by two or three steps, from the
lower. On this dais was the raised reading-desk of superbly carved oak,
at which Mr. Hamilton officiated morning and evening, and two library
tables of more modern workmanship stood on each side, but rather lower
down. Except the massive oaken chairs and couches, and three or four
curious tables scattered about, and the well-filled book-cases, forming,
to the height of five feet, the border, as it were, of the fretted
wood-work of the walls, and filling up the niches formed by the windows;
the lower part of the hall, two-thirds of the length, was comparatively
unoccupied, showing its vast space and superb roof to still greater
advantage. The magnificently stained windows, one on the dais--a deep
oriel--threw such subdued light into the room, as accorded well with its
other appointments; but as evening advanced, gave it that sort of soft,
holy light, which always impresses the spirit with a species of awe.

We do not think it was that feeling alone which so overpowered the
second intruder, as to arrest her spell-bound on the threshold. Mrs.
Hamilton was seated at one of the tables on the dais nearest the oriel
window, the light from which fell full on her, giving her figure, though
she was seated naturally enough in one of the large, maroon velvet,
oaken chairs, an unusual effect of dignity and command, and impressing
the terrified beholder with such a sensation of awe, that had her life
depended on it, she could not for that one minute have gone forward; and
even when desired to do so by the words--

"I desired your presence, Ellen, because I wished to speak to you; come
here without any more delay,"--how she walked the whole length of that
interminable room, and stood facing her aunt, she never knew.

Mrs. Hamilton for a full minute did not speak, but she fixed that
searching look, to which we have once before alluded, upon Ellen's face;
and then said, in a tone which, though very low and calm, expressed as
much as that earnest look--

"Ellen! is it necessary for me to tell you why you are here--necessary
to produce the proof that my words are right, and that you _have_ been
influenced by the fearful effects of some unconfessed and most heinous
sin? Little did I dream its nature."

For a moment Ellen stood as turned to stone, as white and rigid--the
next she had sunk down, with a wild, bitter cry at Mrs. Hamilton's feet,
and buried her face in her hands.

"Is it true--can it be true--that you, offspring of my own sister, dear
to me, cherished by me as my own child--you have been the guilty one to
appropriate, and conceal the appropriation of money, which has been a
source of distress by its loss, and the suspicion thence proceeding, for
the last seven weeks?--that you could listen to your uncle's words,
absolving his whole household as incapable of a deed which was actual
theft, and yet, by neither word nor sign, betray remorse or
guilt?--could behold the innocent suffering, the fearful misery of
suspicion, loss of character, without the power of clearing himself, and
stand calmly, heedlessly by--only proving by your hardened and
rebellious temper that all was not right within--Ellen, can this be
true?"

"Yes!" was the reply, but with such a fearful effort, that her slight
frame shook as with an ague; "thank God, that it is known! I dared not
bring down the punishment on myself; but I can bear it."

"This is mere mockery, Ellen; how dare I believe even this poor evidence
of repentance, with the recollection of your past conduct? What were the
notes you found?"

Ellen named them.

"Where are they?--This is but one, and the smallest."

Ellen's answer was scarcely audible.

"Used them--and for what?"

There was no answer, neither then, nor when Mrs. Hamilton sternly
reiterated the question. She then demanded--

"How long have they been in your possession?"

"Five or six weeks;" but the reply was so tremulous, it carried no
conviction with it.

"Since Robert told his story to your uncle, or before?"

"Before."

"Then your last answer was a falsehood, Ellen; it is full seven weeks
since my husband addressed the household on the subject. You could not
have so miscounted time, with such a deed to date by. Where did you find
them?"

Ellen described the spot.

"And what business had you there? You know that neither you nor your
cousins are ever allowed to go that way to Mrs. Langford's cottage, and
more especially alone. If you wanted to see her, why did you not go the
usual way? And when was this?--you must remember the exact day. Your
memory is not in general so treacherous."

Again Ellen was silent.

"Have you forgotten it?"

She crouched lower at her aunt's feet, but the answer was audible--

"No."

"Then answer me, Ellen, this moment, and distinctly; for what purpose
were you seeking Mrs. Langford's cottage by that forbidden path, and
when?"

"I wanted money, and I went to ask her to take my trinkets--my watch, if
it must be--and dispose of them as I had read of others doing, as
miserable as I was; and the wind blew the notes to my very hand, and I
used them. I was mad then--I have been mad since, I believe; but I would
have returned the whole amount to Robert, if I could but have parted
with my trinkets in time."

To describe the tone of utter despair, the recklessness as to the effect
her words would produce, is impossible. Every word increased Mrs.
Hamilton's bewilderment and misery. To suppose that Ellen did not feel
was folly. It was the very depth of wretchedness which was crushing her
to the earth, but every answered and unanswered question but deepened
the mystery, and rendered her judge's task more difficult.

"And when was this, Ellen? I will have no more evasion--tell me the
exact day."

But she asked in vain. Ellen remained moveless, and silent as the dead.

After several minutes, Mrs. Hamilton removed her hands from her face,
and compelling her to lift up her head; gazed searchingly on her
deathlike countenance for some moments in utter silence, and then said,
in a tone that Ellen never in her life forgot--

"You can not imagine, Ellen, that this half-confession will either
satisfy me, or in the smallest degree redeem your sin. One and one only
path is open to you; for all that you have said and left unsaid but
deepens your apparent guilt, and so blackens your conduct, that I can
scarcely believe I am addressing the child I so loved--and could still
so love, if but one real sign be given of remorse and penitence--one
hope of returning truth. But that sign, that hope, can only be a full
confession. Terrible as is the guilt of appropriating so large a sum,
granted it came by the merest chance into your hand; dark as is the
additional sin of concealment when an innocent person was
suffering--something still darker, more terrible, must lie concealed
behind it, or you would not, could not, continue thus obdurately silent.
I can believe that under some heavy pressure of misery, some strong
excitement, the sum might have been used without thought, and that fear
might have prevented the confession of any thing so dreadful; but what
was this heavy necessity for money, this strong excitement? What fearful
and mysterious difficulties have you been led into to call for either?
Tell me the truth, Ellen, the whole truth; let me have some hope of
saving you and myself the misery of publicly declaring you the guilty
one, and so proving Robert's innocence. Tell me what difficulty, what
misery so maddened you, as to demand the disposal of your trinkets. If
there be the least excuse, the smallest possibility of your obtaining in
time forgiveness, I will grant it. I will not believe you so utterly
fallen. I will do all I can to remove error, and yet to prevent
suffering; but to win this, I must have a full confession--every
question that I put to you must be clearly and satisfactorily answered,
and so bring back the only comfort to yourself, and hope to me. Will you
do this, Ellen?"

"Oh, that I could!" was the reply in such bitter anguish, Mrs. Hamilton
actually shuddered. "But I can not--must not--dare not. Aunt Emmeline,
hate me, condemn me to the severest, sharpest suffering; I wish for it,
pine for it: you can not loathe me more than I do myself, but do not--do
not speak to me in these kind tones--I can not bear them. It was because
I knew what a wretch I am, that I have so shunned you, I was not worthy
to be with you; oh, sentence me at once! I dare not answer as you
wish."

"Dare not!" repeated Mrs. Hamilton, more and more bewildered, and, to
conceal the emotion Ellen's wild words and agonized manner had produced,
adopting greater sternness. "You dare commit a sin, from which the
lowest of my household would shrink in horror, and yet tell me you dare
not make the only atonement, give me the only proof of real penitence I
demand. This is a weak and wicked subterfuge, Ellen, and will not pass
with me. There can be no reason for this fearful obduracy, not even the
consciousness of greater guilt, for I promise forgiveness, if it be
possible, on the sole condition of a full confession. Once more, will
you speak? Your hardihood will be utterly useless, for you can not hope
to conquer me; and if you permit me to leave you with your conduct still
clothed in this impenetrable mystery, you will compel me to adopt
measures to subdue that defying spirit, which will expose you and myself
to intense suffering, but which must force submission at last."

"You can not inflict more than I have endured the last seven weeks,"
murmured Ellen, almost inarticulately. "I have borne that, I can bear
the rest."

"Then you will not answer? You are resolved not to tell me the day on
which you found that money, the use to which it was applied, the reason
of your choosing that forbidden path, permitting me to believe you
guilty of heavier sins than may be the case in reality. Listen to me,
Ellen; it is more than time this interview should cease, but I will give
you one chance more. It is now half-past seven,"--she took the watch
from her neck, and laid it on the table--"I will remain here one
half-hour longer: by that time this sinful temper may have passed away,
and you will consent to give me the confession I demand. I can not
believe you so altered in two months as to choose obduracy and misery,
when pardon, and in time confidence and love, are offered in their
stead. Get up from that crouching posture, it can be but mock humility,
and so only aggravates your sin."

Ellen rose slowly and painfully, and seating herself at the table, some
distance from her aunt, leaned her arms upon it, and buried her face
within them. Never before, and never after did half an hour appear so
interminable to either Mrs. Hamilton or Ellen. It was well for the
firmness of the former, perhaps, that she could not read the heart of
that young girl, even if the cause of its anguish had been still
concealed. Again and again did the wild longing, turning her actually
faint and sick with its agony, come over her to reveal the whole, to ask
but rest and mercy for herself, pardon and security for Edward; but then
clear as held before her in letters of fire she read every word of her
brother's desperate letter, particularly "Breathe it to my uncle or
aunt, for if she knows it he will, and you will never see me more." Her
mother, pallid as death, seemed to stand before her, freezing confession
on her heart and lips, looking at her threateningly, as she had so often
seen her, as if the very thought were guilt. The rapidly advancing
twilight, the large and lonely room, all added to that fearful illusion,
and if Ellen did succeed in praying, it was with desperate fervor, for
strength not to betray her brother. If ever there were a martyr spirit,
it was enshrined in that young, frail form.

But how could Mrs. Hamilton imagine this? How could her wildest fancy
bring Edward--the brave, happy, eager Edward, of whom captain, officers,
and crew wrote in such terms of praise and admiration, who had never
given cause for anxiety, and who was so far distant--as the uniting link
to this terrible mystery? Was it not more natural that he should not
enter the incongruous and painful thoughts floating through her brain,
save as her last resource, by his influence, to obtain the truth from
Ellen? The more she thought, the more agonizing her thoughts became;
what could induce this determined silence, but a conviction of deeper
guilt, and what could that guilt be? The most terrible suspicions
crossed her mind; she had heard, though she had scarcely believed in
them, of entanglements, even where the guardianship had been most rigid.
Could one so young, seemingly so innocent, have fallen into the power of
some desperate character, who was working on her thus? How could she be
sure she intended to take her trinkets to Mrs. Langford? Her choosing
that forbidden path which was never by any chance trodden by the family
or their friends, her constant desire lately not to join them in their
excursions, preferring, and often finding some excuse to remain
alone--all came to Mrs. Hamilton's mind, with such an overpowering
sensation of dread and misery, that the worst guilt Ellen could have
avowed would scarcely have been worse than anticipation pictured; and
yet every thought was so vague, every fancy so undefined--there was
nothing she could grasp at as a saving hope, or in the remotest degree
excusing cause; such obdurate silence in one so young, generally so
yielding, could and must conceal nothing but still more fearful sin.
The darkness which had gathered round them, save the brightening light
of the harvest moon, suddenly awakened her to the lapse of time. The
moonlight fell full on the face of the watch, which was a repeater. It
wanted but three minutes more, and Mrs. Hamilton watched the progress of
the hand with such sickening dread, that when it reached the hour, she
had scarcely strength to strike it, and so give notice--for words she
had none--that the hour of grace had passed. But she conquered the
powerlessness, and those soft chimes, which, when Ellen first came to
Oakwood, had been such a constant source of childish wonder and delight,
now rang in her ears louder, hoarser, more fearfully distinct, than even
those of the ancient time-piece in the hall, which at the same moment
rang out the hour of eight.

The sound ceased, and with heightened dignity, but in perfect silence,
Mrs. Hamilton rose, passed her niece, and had nearly reached the door,
when she paused, and turned toward Ellen, as if irresolute. Ellen's eyes
had watched her as in fascination, and the pause endowed her with just
sufficient power to spring forward, fling herself at her aunt's feet,
and clasping her knees with all her little remaining strength,
passionately implore--

"Aunt Emmeline, aunt Emmeline, speak to me but one word, only one word
of kindness before you go. I do not ask for mercy, there can be none for
such a wretch as I am; I will bear without one complaint, one murmur,
all you may inflict--you can not be too severe. Nothing can be such
agony as the utter loss of your affection; I thought, the last two
months, that I feared you so much that it was all fear, no love, but
now, now that you know my sin, it has all, all come back to make me
still more wretched." And before Mrs. Hamilton could prevent, or was in
the least aware of her intention, Ellen had obtained possession of one
of her hands, and was covering it with kisses, while her whole frame
shook with those convulsed, but completely tearless sobs.

"Will you confess, Ellen, if I stay? Will you give me the proof that it
_is_ such agony to lose my affection, that you _do_ love me as you
profess, and that it is only one sin which has so changed you? One word,
and, tardy as it is, I will listen, and, if I can, forgive."

Ellen made no answer, and Mrs. Hamilton's newly-raised hopes vanished;
she waited full two or three minutes, then gently disengaged her hand
and dress from Ellen's still convulsive grasp; the door closed, with a
sullen, seemingly unwilling sound, and Ellen was alone. She remained in
the same posture, the same spot, till a vague, cold terror so took
possession of her, that the room seemed filled with ghostly shapes, and
all the articles of furniture suddenly transformed to things of life!
and springing up, with the wild, fleet step of fear, she paused not till
she found herself in her own room, where flinging herself on her bed,
she buried her face on her pillow, to shut out every object--oh, how she
longed to shut out thought!

It was such a different scene, such a fullness of innocent joy, on which
Mrs. Hamilton entered, that though she thought herself nerved to control
all visible emotion, the contrast almost overpowered her; knowing, too,
that the fatal effects of one person's sin must banish that innocent
enjoyment, and would fall on them all as some fearful, joy-destroying
blow. The room, one of the least spacious, was cheerfully lighted, the
urn hissing upon the table, at which Caroline, us usual, was presiding,
only waiting for her mother's appearance, to satisfy Percy, who was
loudly declaring he was famished in two senses--for want of his mother's
company, and of some restorative for his craving appetite. He was
lounging on the sofa, playing with Emmeline's flowing ringlets, as she
sat on a low stool by his side, chatting with him, in as discursive a
strain as his fancy willed. Herbert and Miss Harcourt were still in
earnest discussion on their poem, from which Herbert was occasionally
reading aloud such beautiful passages, and with such richness of
intonation, and variety of expression, that Caroline, and even Percy and
Emmeline, would pause involuntarily to listen.

"At length!" exclaimed Percy, springing up, as did Herbert at the same
moment, to get their mother a chair, and place her comfortably as usual
in the midst of them. "Mother, I really did begin to think you intended
to punish my impatience by not joining us at all to-night."

"I did not know you were impatient, my dear boy, or perhaps I might have
done so!" was her quiet, and even smiling reply. "I fear, indeed,
waiting for me so long after a water-excursion, must have caused you to
be impatient in another sense."

"What! that we must be all famished? I assure you, we are, and the loss
of your society sharpened the pangs of hunger I owe Morris a grudge,
and will certainly serve him out one day, for detaining you so long when
I wanted you."

"It was not Morris that detained me," answered Mrs. Hamilton, somewhat
hurriedly. "I had done with him by six o'clock; but come, tell me
something about your excursion," she added, evidently anxious to elude
farther remark, and perceiving at once that Miss Harcourt and Herbert
both looked at her very anxiously. "How did your boat go, and how did
Caroline's voice and your flute sound on the water, Percy? Herbert, I
see, has found poetry, as usual, and made Miss Harcourt his companion;
you must tell me what verses our beautiful river recalled this
afternoon; and you, Emmy, have you any more sketches to fill up?"

Her children eagerly entered on their day's enjoyment--Herbert
conquering his anxiety, to emulate his mother's calmness, but Miss
Harcourt had been too painfully startled by the unusual expression of
forcibly-controlled suffering on her friend's face, to do so with any
success. Nearly an hour, however, passed animatedly as usual; each found
so much to tell, and Percy was in such wild spirits, that it was utterly
impossible for there to be any thing like a pause. Tea had always been a
favorite meal at Oakwood, as bringing all the family together after the
various business of the day, and it continued to be so. They had
lingered over it as usual, when Caroline suddenly exclaimed--

"What has become of Ellen? I had quite forgotten her till this moment;
how neglectful she will think us! Do ring the bell, Percy, that we may
send and let her know."

"If she has no recollection of meal-time, I really think we need not
trouble ourselves about her," was Percy's half-jesting, half-earnest
reply, for Ellen's changed manner to his mother had made him more angry
with her, and for a longer time together, than he had ever been with any
body, especially a woman, in his life. He stretched out his hand,
however, to ring the bell, but Mrs. Hamilton stopped him.

"You need not, Percy; your cousin will not wish to join us," she said;
and her tone was now so expressive of almost anguish, that every one of
that happy party startled and looked at her with the most unfeigned
alarm, and Percy, every thought of jest and joyousness checked, threw
his arms round her, exclaiming--

"Mother dearest! what _has_ happened?--that unhappy girl again! I am
sure it is. Why do you not cast her off from your heart at once; she
will bring you nothing but sorrow for all your love."

"Percy, how can you be so harsh?--how unlike you!" exclaimed Emmeline,
indignantly, as Mrs. Hamilton's head, for a few minutes of natural
weakness, sunk on her son's encircling arm. "We have all given mamma
trouble and pain enough one time or other, and what would have become of
us if she had cast us off? and Ellen has no mother, too--for shame!"

"Hush!" answered Percy, almost sternly, for there were times when he
could quite throw off the boy. "This is no light or common matter, to
affect my mother thus. Shall we send for Mr. Howard, mother?" he
continued, fondly; "in my father's absence he is your ablest friend--we
can only feel, not counsel."

But there are times when feeling can aid in bringing back control and
strength, when counsel alone would seem so harsh and cold, we can only
weep before it; and the fond affection of her children, the unusual
assumption of protecting manliness in Percy, so touchingly united with
the deep respect that prevented the least intrusive question as to the
cause of her distress till she chose to reveal it, gave her power to
send back the tears that had escaped at first so hot and fast, and
though still holding his hand, as if its very pressure was support, she
was enabled calmly to relate the fatal discovery of that evening. Its
effect was, in truth, as if a thunderbolt had fallen in the midst of
them. An execration, forcibly checked, but passionate as his nature,
burst from the lips of Percy, as he clamped his arm close round his
mother, as thus to protect her from the misery he felt himself. Herbert,
with a low cry of pain, buried his face in his hands. Caroline, shocked
and bewildered, but her first thought for her mother, could only look
at, and feel for her, quite forgetting that her every prejudice against
Ellen did indeed seem fulfilled. Emmeline at first looked stunned, then
sinking down at Mrs. Hamilton's feet, hid her face on her lap, and
sobbed with such uncontrolled violence, that it might have seemed as if
she herself, not Ellen, were the guilty cause of all this misery. Miss
Harcourt, like Caroline, could only think and feel for Mrs. Hamilton;
for she knew so well all the hope, interest, and love which Ellen had
excited, and what must be the bitter suffering of this fearful
disappointment.

"Do not weep thus, love," Mrs. Hamilton said, addressing Emmeline,
after nearly a quarter of an hour had passed, and the various emotions
of each individual had found vent in words well illustrative of their
respective characters; all but Emmeline who continued to sob so
painfully, that her mother successfully forgot her own sorrow to comfort
her. "Ellen is still very young, and though she is giving us all this
misery and disappointment now, she may become all we can wish her,
by-and-by. We must not give up all hope, because now all my cares seem
so blighted. There is some fatal mystery attached to her conduct; for I
am indeed deceived if she is not very wretched and there is some hope in
that."

"Then why does she not speak?" rejoined Percy, impetuously; for when he
found his mother resuming control and firmness, he had given vent to his
indignation by striding hastily up and down the room. "What but the most
determined hardihood and wickedness can keep her silent, when you
promise forgiveness if she will but speak? What mystery can there, or
ought there, to be about her, when she has such an indulgent friend as
yourself to bring all her troubles to? Wretched! I hope she is, for she
deserves to be, if it were only for her base ingratitude."

"Percy! dear Percy! do not speak and judge so very harshly," interposed
Herbert, with deep feeling; "there does, indeed, seem no excuse for her
conduct, but if we ever should find that there is some extenuating
cause, how unhappy we shall be for having judged her still more harshly
than she deserved."

"It is impossible we can do that," muttered Percy, continuing his angry
walk. "Nothing but guilt can be the cause of her keeping any thing from
my mother. Ellen knows, as we all know, that even error when confessed,
has always been forgiven, sorrow always soothed, and every difficulty
removed. What can her silence spring from, then, but either defying
obstinacy or some blacker sin?"

"It does seem like it, unhappily," rejoined Caroline, but very
sorrowfully, not at all as if she triumphed in her own previous
penetration; "but she can not persevere in it long. Dear mamma, do not
look so distressed: it is impossible she can resist you for any length
of time."

"She has resisted every offer of kindness, my dear child, and it is the
difficulty as to what course to pursue, to compel submission and
confession, that so grieves and perplexes me."

"Let me seek Mr. Howard, dearest mother," answered Herbert; "he is so
good, so kind, even in his severest judgments, that I really think Ellen
will scarcely be able to persevere in her mistaken silence, if he speak
to her."

Mrs. Hamilton paused for some moments in thought.

"I believe you are right, Herbert. If I must have counsel out of my own
family, I can not go to a kinder, wiser, or more silent friend. If the
fearful shame which I must inflict on Ellen to-night of proving Robert's
innocence before my whole household, by the denouncement of her guilt,
have no effect in softening her, I will appeal to him."

"Oh, mamma, must this be--can you not, will you not spare her this?"
implored Emmeline, clinging to her mother, in passionate entreaty; "it
would kill me, I know it would. Do not--do not expose her to such
shame."

"Do you think it is no suffering to my mother to be called upon to do
this, Emmeline, that you add to it by this weak interference?" replied
Percy, sternly, before his mother could reply. "Shame! she has shamed us
all enough. There wants little more to add to it."

But Emmeline's blue eyes never moved from her mother's face, and Miss
Harcourt, longing to spare Mrs. Hamilton the suffering of such a
proceeding, tried to persuade her to evade it, but she did not succeed.

"One word of confession--one evidence that her sin originated in a
momentary temptation, that it conceals nothing darker--one real proof of
penitence, and God knows how gladly I would have spared myself and her;
but as it is, Lucy, Emmeline, do not make my duty harder."

Few as those words were, the tone that spoke them was enough. No more
was said, and Mrs. Hamilton tried, but with very little success, to turn
her children's thoughts to other and pleasanter things. Time seemed to
lag heavily, and yet when the prayer bell sounded, it fell on every
heart as some fearful knell which must have been struck too soon.

All were assembled in the library, and in their respective places, all
but one, and Herbert waited her appearance.

"Tell Miss Fortescue that we are only waiting for her to commence
prayers;" and Fanny, the young ladies' attendant, departed to obey,
wondering at Miss Ellen's non-appearance, but hearing nothing unusual in
her mistress's voice. She returned, but still they waited; again the
door unclosed, and Emmeline bent forward in an attitude of agony and
shame unable even to look at her cousin, whose place was close beside
her; but the words she dreaded came not then--Herbert, at his mother's
sign, commenced the service, and it proceeded as usual. The fearful
struggle in Mrs. Hamilton's gentle bosom, who might read, save the
all-pitying God, whom she so fervently addressed for strength and
guidance? The voice of her son ceased, and the struggle was over.

"Before we part for the night," she said, when all but one had arisen,
"it is necessary that the innocent should be so justified before you
all, that he should no longer be injured by suspicion and avoidance. It
is nearly two months since your master assured you of his own and of my
perfect conviction that Robert Langford had told the truth, and that the
missing notes had been unfortunately lost by him; not appropriated, as I
fear most of you have believed, and are still inclined to do. The
complete failure of every search for them has induced a very
uncomfortable feeling among you all as to the person on whom suspicion
of finding and appropriating them might fall, none but the household
frequenting that particular path, and none being able to suppose that
the storm could have so dispersed as to lose all trace of them. I
acknowledge it was unlikely, but not so unlikely as that Robert Langford
should have failed in honesty, or that any of my household should have
appropriated or concealed them. All mystery is now, however, at an end;
the missing notes have been traced and found; and that all suspicion and
discomfort may be removed from among you, it becomes my duty to
designate the individual who has thus transgressed every duty to God and
man, not by the sin alone, but by so long permitting the innocent to
suffer for the guilty, more especially as that individual is one of my
own family"--for one moment she paused, whether to gain strength, or to
give more force to her concluding words, no one could tell--"ELLEN
FORTESCUE!"



CHAPTER VI.

THE SENTENCE, AND ITS EXECUTION.


The excitement which reigned in the servants' hall, after they had
withdrawn, in the most respectful silence, from the library, was
extreme. Robert, utterly unable to realize relief in this proof of his
own innocence, could only pace the hall in agony, deploring his mad
carelessness, which, by exposing to temptation, had caused it all; and
Morris and Ellis deepened the remorse by perfectly agreeing with him.
Before they separated, the old steward called them all together; and,
his voice trembling with agitation, the tears actually running down his
furrowed cheeks, told them that even as their mistress had done her duty
to the utmost, ay, more than the utmost by them--for it must have
well-nigh broken her heart to do it--a solemn duty was demanded from
them to her, and that if either man, woman, or child failed in it, he
should know that they had neither feeling, honor, nor gratitude in their
hearts, and deserved and should be scouted by them all; and that duty
was never to let the event of that night pass their lips, even to each
other. It was enough that all mystery and suspicion had been taken from
them, and that time would clear up the remainder; he never would believe
the grandchild of his mistress's father, one she had so loved and cared
for, could willfully act as appearances seemed to say; that he was sure,
one day or other, they would all find there was much more to pity than
to blame; and till then, if they had the least spark of generous or
grateful feeling, they would forget the whole affair, and only evince
their sense of their mistress's conduct, by yet greater respect and
attention to their respective duties.

The old man's speech was garrulous, and perhaps often faulty in grammar,
but it came from the heart, and so went to the heart at once, and not
one held back from the pledge of silence he demanded. There are some who
imagine that the refinement of feeling which alone could actuate
Morris's speech, and its warm and immediate response, is only to be
found among the educated and the rich: how little those who thus suppose
understand the human heart! Kindness begets kindness; and if superiors
will but think of, and seek the happiness, temporal and eternal, of
their inferiors--will but prove that they are considered us children of
one common Father--there needs no equality of rank to create equality of
happiness, or equality of refined, because _true_ feeling.

The next morning, when Mrs. Hamilton had occasion to speak to Morris
about some farm receipts, which had not been forthcoming the preceding
day, she recalled him as he was departing; but the words she had to say
seemed unusually difficult, for her voice audibly faltered, and her face
was completely shaded by her hand. It was simply to ask that which
Morris's loving reverence had already done; and when the old man, in
those earnest accents of heartfelt respect and kindness which never can
be mistaken, related what had passed, his mistress hastily extended her
hand to him, saying, in a tone he never forgot--

"God bless you, Morris! I ought to have known your love for your
master's house would have urged this, without any request from me. I can
not thank you enough." The kiss he ventured to press upon the delicate
hand which pressed his rough palm, was not unaccompanied, though he did
force back the tear, and most respectfully, yet very earnestly, beseech
his mistress not to take on too much. There must be some cause, some
mystery; no one belonging to her could so have acted without some very
fearful temptation, some very powerful reason, and it would all come
straight one day.

But whatever the future, the present was only suffering; for, to obtain
a full confession from Ellen, Mrs. Hamilton felt so absolutely incumbent
on her, that she steadily refused to listen to either pity or affection,
which could shake her firmness; and the opinion and advice of Mr. Howard
strengthened the determination. He had a private interview with Ellen,
but it was attended with so very little success, that he left her far
more bewildered and grieved than he had sought her; but fully convinced
it was mere hardihood and obstinacy, which caused her incomprehensible
and most guilty silence. Not even allowing, as Mrs. Hamilton had, that
there was any evidence of misery and remorse; perhaps she had been more
quiet, more resolutely calm, and if it had not been for the strong
appearances against her, he surely must have seen it was the strength
and quiet of despair, not the defiance he believed.

"This rebellious spirit must be conquered," he said, on rejoining Mrs.
Hamilton, who, with her children and Miss Harcourt, had most anxiously
and yet hopefully awaited the result of his interference. "We should
actually be sharing her sin, if we permit her to conquer us by obduracy
and self-will. Solitary confinement and complete idleness may bring her
to a better temper, and, in fact, should be persisted in, till a full
confession be made. If that fail, my dear Mrs. Hamilton, your niece
should be banished from Oakwood. She must not remain here, a continual
source of anxiety and misery to you, and of successful hardihood to
herself; but of that there will be time enough to think when you have an
answer from Mr. Hamilton; his judgment from a distance may be wiser than
ours on the spot, and irritated as we are by such unaccountable
obstinacy in one we have always thought almost too yielding."

And it was this incomprehensible change of character, in seeming, that
still more perplexed Mrs. Hamilton, and so made her believe there must
be some worse fault, or dangerous entanglement, demanding such resolute
pertinacity in concealment.

Closely connected with Ellis's private apartments, and having neither
inlet nor outlet, save through the short passage opening from her
sitting-room, were two small but not uncomfortable apartments, opening
one into the other, and looking out on a very pretty but quite
unfrequented part of the park. They had often been used when any of
Ellis's children or grandchildren came to see her, and were in
consequence almost sufficiently habitable, without any further
preparation, except the turning one into a sitting-room, which Ellis's
active care speedily accomplished. Her mistress inspected them, at her
desire, suggested one or two additional comforts, and then held a long
confidential conversation with her. She had such perfect confidence in
her (for Ellis had been from a child--married, and become mother and
widow, and married her children--all as an inmate of the Hamilton
family, and had held the confidential post of housekeeper for sixteen
years), that she did not hesitate one moment to commit Ellen entirely to
her care, at least till she could receive an answer about her from her
husband. She depended on her to watch over her health, to see that she
took daily exercise with her, in those parts of the park where she was
not likely to attract notice, as being with her instead of with any
member of her family, and that she took her regular meals; to be with
her whenever she took them, and at casual times in the day, not so as
to remove the impression of solitude and disgrace, but to be enabled to
watch her closely, and the least symptom of a softening spirit to report
instantly to her.

"She will, of course, join us in the hours of devotion, though not
occupying her usual place, for she who has lowered herself, in the sight
of God and man, beneath the humblest of my domestics, may no longer
kneel above them," she said in conclusion. "But of my determination on
that point she is already aware; and she will go with us as usual to
church; I will have no remark made, further than I can avoid. Be as kind
to her as you can, Ellis, consistent with your character as a wise and
watchful guardian. God in mercy grant that her heart may be so softened,
that you will not fill that painful position long. And now to see her."

But Percy's watchful care had so quietly interposed, that his mother
found herself in their usual sitting-room, and in the midst of them all,
before she could seek Ellen; and when, with half reproach, she told him,
that she had still a most painful duty to accomplish, therefore he ought
not to have prevented it, he answered impetuously--

"Mother, you shall not see Ellen any more alone! she has made you
miserable enough already, and each time that she sees you, her deceitful
appearance of remorse and suffering, for they _can not_ be real, or she
would speak, but add to it; send for her here, and tell her your
decision before us all."

And Mrs. Hamilton complied, for she felt as if her firmness would be
less likely to fail, than if Ellen attempted any thing like supplication
with her alone. But not a word of supplication came. Ellen had answered
the summons, by quietly accompanying Ellis, who had been sent for her,
to her aunt's presence, pale, indeed, as marble, but so tearless and
still, as to seem unmoved. An expression of actual relief stole over her
features as she heard her sentence, undisturbed even when told that this
would only be, till Mr. Hamilton's sentence came; as, if she continued
silent until then, of course whatever severer measures he might dictate
would be instantly obeyed. But when Mrs. Hamilton proceeded to say that
she intended writing the whole affair to Edward, that his influence
might awaken her to a sense of the fearfully aggravated guilt she was
incurring by her silence, an expression of the most intense agony
succeeded the previous calm, and sinking down before her, Ellen wildly
implored--

"Oh, aunt Emmeline, in mercy spare him! do not, oh, do not throw such
shame upon him, he who is so brave, admired, honored! do not, oh, if you
have any pity left, do not make him hate me, loathe me too, my own only
brother! he must throw me off. How can he bear such shame upon his name!
Oh, do with me more than you have said, any thing, every thing, but
that. Spare him!"

"Spare him yourself," interposed Percy, sternly.--(He was standing, with
his arms crossed, by a window; Herbert was leaning at the back of Mrs.
Hamilton's chair; Caroline and Miss Harcourt trying very steadily to
work, and Emmeline bending over a drawing, which her tears were utterly
spoiling).--"If the knowledge of your sin make him miserable, as it
must, be yourself the one to save him--you alone can. Speak--break this
determined and most guilty silence, and his influence will not be
needed, and my mother will be silent to him concerning what has passed,
now and forever, as we will all. If you so love him, spare him the shame
you have brought on all of us; if not, it is mere words, as must be the
love you have professed all these years for my mother."

Ellen turned her face toward him for a single minute, with such an
expression of unutterable misery, that he turned hastily away, even his
anger in part subdued, and Mrs. Hamilton could scarcely reply.

"I can not grant your request, Ellen, for to refuse it, appears to me
the only means of softening you. It may be a full fortnight before I can
write to Edward, for we must receive letters first. If during that
interval you choose to give me the only proof of repentance that can
satisfy me, or bring the least hope of returning happiness to yourself,
I shall now know how to act. I would indeed spare your brother this
bitter shame, but if you continue thus obdurate, no entreaties will move
me. Rise, and go with Ellis. Punishment and misery, repentance and
pardon, are all before you; you alone can choose. I shall interfere no
more, till your uncle's sentence comes." And longing to end this painful
scene, for her mistress's sake, Ellis led Ellen from the room, and
conducted her to the apartments assigned her. She felt much too angry
and annoyed at the pain and trouble Ellen, was giving her mistress, to
evince any thing like kindness toward her at first, but she had not been
under her care above a week before her feelings underwent a complete
change.

Suffering as she was enduring, more especially from the conviction,
that to every one of those she loved (for affection for each one of the
family had now returned with almost passionate violence) she must be an
object of hate and loathing, yet that her sin was known, was a relief so
inexpressibly blessed, she felt strengthened to endure every thing else.
She knew, and her God knew, the agonized temptation to the momentary
act, and the cause of her determined silence. She felt there was strange
comfort in that; though she knew no punishment could be too severe for
the sin itself, and she prayed constantly to be enabled to bear it, and
still not to betray her brother; and the consequence of these petitions
was a calm, gentle, deeply submissive demeanor. Not a murmur ever passed
her lips, and Ellis scarcely ever saw the signs of tears, which she
longed for; for the quiet, but fearfully intense suffering, Ellen's very
evident daily portion, alarmed her for its effect upon her always
delicate health. As yet, however, there was no outward appearance of its
failing, it rather bore up, from the cessation of the nervous dread and
constant terror, which she had endured before; and before Mr. Hamilton's
letter arrived, a month after the fatal discovery, Ellis had drawn her
own conclusions, and her manner, instead of being distant and cold, had
become so excessively kind and feeling, that the poor girl felt some
heavy change must be impending, she dared not look to the continuance of
such comfort.

But Mrs. Hamilton never saw her niece, save when no words could pass
between them; and she could not judge as Ellis did. She could only feel,
as each day passed, without bringing the desired proof of sorrow and
amendment, more and more bewildered, and very wretched. Though, for her
children's sake, she so conquered the feeling as, after the first week,
to restore cheerfulness, and promote the various amusements they had all
so enjoyed. Ellen's disappearance had of course to be accounted for, to
the intimate friends with whom they so constantly were; but her
acknowledgment that she had been disappointed in her, and that her
conduct would not allow her any social or domestic indulgence, at least
for a time, satisfied the elder members. Annie, for the first time,
discovered that Caroline was her match in cleverness, merely from her
excessive truth and simplicity, and that, manoeuvre as she might, she
could not discover the smallest clew to this sudden mystery. And Mary,
for the first time, and on this one subject alone, found Herbert and
Emmeline impenetrably reserved.

As soon as Mrs. Langford had been informed by her son, at his mistress's
desire, of the unanswerable proof of his innocence, she hastened to the
Hall, and requesting a private interview with Mrs. Hamilton, placed at
once in her hands all the trinkets and watch, with which she had been at
different times intrusted; related all that had passed between her and
Miss Fortescue, the excessive misery she seemed to be enduring; and
confessed that the few pounds she had given her, as the sums obtained by
the sale of the trinkets, she had advanced herself, having resolved that
nothing should induce her to dispose of them; and that of course it was
the difficulty she had in advancing their right value, which had
occasioned the length of time that had elapsed since Ellen had first
sought her.

"Would it not go far to prove she really did wish to return the money?"
Mrs. Hamilton thought, long after the widow had left her, and the sums
she had advanced returned with interest. "Was it to return the fatally
appropriated sum, or because she needed more? Ellen had so positively,
and with such agony asserted the first, that it was scarcely possible to
disbelieve her; but what was this fearful difficulty, this pressing
demand by one so young for so much money? Why, if it were comparatively
innocent, would she not speak?" The more she thought, the more perplexed
and anxious she seemed to become. The act itself of endeavoring to
dispose of the trinkets, especially those that had been given and
received, as doubly valuable because they had been worn by her mother,
would have been sufficiently faulty to have occasioned natural
displeasure, but compared with other known and unknown faults, it sunk
into almost nothing. Mrs. Hamilton collected them all together, those
Mrs. Langford had returned, and the few remaining in her niece's drawer,
and carefully put them away, till circumstances might authorize her
returning them to Ellen, and determined on saying nothing more on the
subject either to Ellen or her own family.

One thing Ellis reported to her regarding Ellen, which certainly seemed
like a consciousness of the wrong she had done Robert, and a wish to
atone for it. She begged Ellis so earnestly that she might see him, if
it were only for five minutes, that she could not resist her; and when
he came, she implored him so touchingly, so pleadingly to forgive her
long silence himself, and entreat his mother to do so too; assuring him,
that it was the hope of being able to restore the notes to him, without
revealing her identity, which had caused the silence, that it was
scarcely possible to listen to her unmoved. It was no false humility,
but the deepest, most unfeigned contrition for having been the cause of
injury.

Ten days after Ellen's imprisonment, the letter arrived from Sir Edward
Manly, which Mrs. Hamilton had alluded to as necessary to be received,
before she could write to her nephew, and the news it brought, though
somewhat alloyed, would at another time have been received with the
greatest delight. Edward was returning. In three weeks, or a month at
the utmost, after the receipt of his commander's letter, he might be
with them all; invalided home for a three or four months' leave. There
had been another, and rather severe engagement, in which young Fortescue
had still more distinguished himself; but from his headlong courage had
been severely, but not at all seriously, hurt. Sir Edward intended
sending the pirate frigate which they had taken to England, as she was a
tight-built, well looking craft enough, he wrote, if manned with
honorable men instead of desperate villians; and had nominated Harding
and Fortescue to accompany the second lieutenant, as her officers.

The name of Harding produced no disagreeable reminiscences in Mrs.
Hamilton's mind. It had been so very long since Edward had even
mentioned him, that she had almost forgotten his early fancy for him.
Her only thought now was thankfulness that her gallant nephew had been
preserved, and that he was coming home. It could scarcely be pleasure
she felt, though all the young party did, for there was such an
excitement in Edward's courage, and in his having been in two desperate
engagements, and seen so much, that, with the buoyancy happily natural
to well-disposed youth, they could only think and talk of his return,
forgetting the alloy that must cloud it. Percy and Herbert hoped he
would arrive within the three weeks, as then they should be with him at
least a week or ten days. If delayed, he would very provokingly just
arrive as they would be returning to college.

After much painful deliberation, Mrs. Hamilton determined on making
Herbert her messenger with these unexpected tidings to Ellen; hoping
more than she expressed that his gentle eloquence in bringing before her
the misery to which she must condemn her brother if she would persist in
this silence, and so compel an appeal to him, would have some effect;
especially as she charged him to impress upon her that even now
confession should bring pardon, and concealment of all from Edward.
Herbert gladly undertook the mission, and so feelingly, so earnestly
discharged it, that poor Ellen felt more heart-broken than she had done
yet, and almost incapable of retaining her firmness. But she did; for
danger to Edward seemed more imminent now that he was coming home, to
the very vicinity of his dreaded uncle, than when he was at a distance.
She could only feel thankful--if concealment were indeed so absolutely
necessary as he had declared it to be--that Mr. Hamilton was still from
home, and might continue to be so during Edward's visit. It was
difficult to repress the sickening shudder, when Herbert chanced to
mention that Harding was her brother's companion in his voyage home, and
difficult, not to express more disappointment than the occasion
warranted, that Edward had not answered her last letter. He must have
received it, Herbert said, for Sir Edward acknowledged his father's in
which hers to Edward had been inclosed. He left her after a very long
interview, deeply grieved at the failure of all his persuasions, all his
remonstrances, but compelled, he could not satisfactorily explain why,
either to himself or to his family, to pity far more than to blame.
Percy declared, as did Caroline and Miss Harcourt, that it must be only
his own too kind and gentle disposition, which never could blame anybody
or any thing. Mrs. Hamilton was bitterly disappointed; Mr. Howard
insisted that such obduracy demanded nothing but the sternest treatment,
and he only wished Mr. Hamilton's letter could arrive at once. He saw
Ellen again himself twice in the five weeks, which elapsed between the
discovery of her sin and the arrival of Mr. Hamilton's answer; but if
kindness had so failed, it was comparatively easy to resist his
well-intentioned, but in this case utterly mistaken sternness. He was in
general so kind even in his judgments, that Mrs. Hamilton thought he
must have some reason to believe Ellen so thoroughly hardened, and from
his report of her was enabled to impart her husband's sentence with more
firmness, than had she listened to her own kind, still loving heart.

It was as she and Mr. Howard had both expected. Ellen was no longer to
remain at Oakwood, but to be placed under the care of a maiden lady,
living in Yorkshire, a relation of Mr. Hamilton, and one who had
occasionally visited Oakwood, and was, therefore, well known to Mrs.
Hamilton, and to Ellis too, and regarded with such dislike by the
latter, as to make her actually venture to entreat her mistress not to
send Miss Ellen to her; she was sure it would break her heart. Now Miss
Seldon was one of the worthiest women that ever breathed--honest,
straightforward, truth-speaking literally to a fault, but as hard as she
was true. Whether she ever had any feelings or not, Mrs. Hamilton, with
all her penetration, never could discover; but the good she did was
immense in practical benevolence, though the quick sympathy, the kindly
word, the indulgent thought, seemed utterly unknown. She had no pity for
faults or failings, always declaring forbearance and love were all
folly; "if a branch were in the slightest degree decayed, cut it off; if
the blight extend to the root, destroy it," she was fond of saying. As
for youthful follies or errors, she had no patience with them, for never
having been, or rather felt young herself, she could not understand the
age in others. Ellis had not discrimination enough to discern the good
which lay under this very disagreeable exterior; Mrs. Hamilton had; and
suffering as she knew a residence with her must be to Ellen, if indeed
she were really the character she had seemed in childhood--though the
last few months had so contradicted it--she felt her husband had decided
wisely, spite of the misery which still even the very thought of sending
her orphan niece so completely from her, was to herself. Mr. Hamilton's
letter read harshly, but his wife knew his high, almost stern
principles; he had not seen Ellen's evident anguish; he could only judge
from the relation which had been sent him, and all which that told was
indeed against her. Of course he said, if she had confessed, and her
confession in any degree, pleaded for her, his wife would use her own
judgment as to the period of her banishment; but he could not imagine
any cause for her conduct sufficiently excusing, as to demand the
avoidance of his sentence altogether.

Miss Seldon's last visit to Oakwood was sufficiently well remembered by
the young Hamiltons (though, it was before their cousins had arrived
from India), for them all--even Percy and Caroline, the most indignant
against Ellen--to think of their father's sentence with the deepest
regret, and with almost dread for its effect on Ellen.

"If she did but know her, she must speak," was Emmeline's exclamation.
"I did not feel quite sure that I was my own happy self, all the time
she was with us."

"The atmosphere was frozen twenty degrees below zero in all the rooms
she frequented, though it was otherwise a hot summer," rejoined Percy;
"and in Yorkshire--"

"Pray do not joke, dear Percy; I can not bear to think of Ellen going
away from us at all, much less to such a guardian, though I know she is
very good," answered Herbert.

"Now, my good fellow, do not attempt to say a word for Nancy Seldon; she
was the only person in the world I ever heard you acknowledge you
disliked; so what must she be? Worthy! no doubt, or my father would not
have trusted Ellen to her, but for any thing else--"

"Poor Ellen! she little knows to what her obstinacy is condemning her,"
rejoined Caroline; "I wish she did and then she might spare herself and
mamma, too; though I fear even confession would not help her much now."

Mrs. Hamilton might and did think with them all, but she could not
swerve from her duty. She wrote at once to Miss Seldon, not entering
into particulars, but merely asking if she would consent to take charge
of a relative, whose conduct demanded more rigid watchfulness and care,
and an entire cessation of indulgence, than could be the case in the
family circle at Oakwood. She and her husband had such perfect
confidence in her, she said, that if she could oblige them by
undertaking the duty, they knew, without any assurance on her part, that
she would discharge it faithfully. The yearly sum they offered was
large, because they wished their young relative to have all the comforts
and appurtenances of a gentlewoman, and the advantages of the best
education, the city near which she resided, could afford. Mrs. Hamilton
had no doubt of the affirmative nature of the reply, for Miss Seldon
owed the recovery of her fortune and position entirely to the exertions
of Mr. Hamilton; and she had told him, once for all, that if she could
but serve or oblige him in any way, great or small, it would make her
far happier than she had ever been, or was likely to be in her solitary
life. The letter written and dispatched, Mrs. Hamilton summoned Ellen
once more to her presence.

The scene was again the library, where she had been writing, and the
time nearing the short twilight of October. It was three weeks, rather
more, since Sir Edward Manly's letter had been received, and Edward was,
therefore, almost daily expected. The feelings with which his unhappy
sister looked to his return it would be a vain attempt to define. At
times the intense longing to see him again, caused a wild, almost sick
feeling of pleasure, that she might, perhaps, so soon do so; then came
all that had passed, and she pictured his anger, his loathing--true it
had been for him, but he had not thought of such a deed. He would, he
must hate and spurn her, too; and the idea of meeting him became
absolute agony. Then--and she shuddered in dread--would he think that he
must acknowledge it was for him she had thus acted? and, if so, had she
not betrayed instead of saving him? Incident after incident in their
childhood rose before her, to give her hope that he would be silent now
as then, and not betray himself; but these contending terrors, united
with the constant though silent suffering of her banishment from all she
loved, the utter hopelessness as to the end of this trial, had not been
without their effect on the outward frame. Ellis did not see it, from so
constantly watching her, and from Ellen never refusing to take the
exercise she desired her, and not making a single complaint as to the
pain it was sometimes to walk, and always to swallow her meals; but as
she stood opposite to her aunt, in the full light of the oriel
window--her approach had been so noiseless, Mrs. Hamilton, who was
bending over some papers, did not see her till she chanced to look
up--the attenuation of form and feature was so very visible, that her
aunt could not prevent herself from starting painfully, and the words
with which she had intended to address her froze on her lips. It was
with the utmost difficulty she refrained from folding her to her heart,
and trying, by every means affection could devise, to soothe or remove
that anguish, whatever its nature, far too deep and constant for one so
very young; but how dared she do this, when, by this determined silence,
Ellen so defied her authority, and seemed so resolved that neither
severity nor kindness, nor her own sufferings should humble her spirit,
though they had even affected her frame?

Conquering with a powerful effort the pleadings of affection, Mrs.
Hamilton calmly entered on the subject for which she had summoned her,
reading to her a greater part of her uncle's letter, hoping that its
severity would spare her the pain of any additional remarks. Every word
seemed to burn itself on Ellen's brain. What she had hoped she knew not,
for she thought she had never hoped at all, but the words, "No cause can
be excusing enough to justify the entire setting aside this sentence,"
seemed by its agony to tell her that the thought _had_ entered her mind,
if the real cause were by any chance discovered would she be forgiven,
and in time restored to confidence and love? And now it was over, even
that hope was gone.

Mrs. Hamilton paused for a reply or an observation, but none came, and
she continued, impressively--"I can scarcely hope, Ellen, that as even
the idea of sparing your only brother shame and misery, on his return
home, expecting nothing but joy, after nearly three years' separation
and exposure to danger, has had no effect in softening you, that your
uncle's sentence will. Once I should have believed that only the thought
of leaving me, and going to the care of a stranger, would have urged you
to speak directly. I can believe this no longer; but as I wish you to be
with Edward, at least part of his stay with us, I shall postpone your
leaving us, one month from to-day. If, indeed, Edward's influence be
such that, for his sake, you will make me a full confession and answer
clearly and distinctly every question I put to you, your residence with
Miss Seldon shall be limited to three, six, ten, or twelve months,
according to the nature of the motive of this incomprehensible and,
apparently most sinful conduct. If you leave us still obdurate, years
will, in all probability, pass before we can feel sufficiently confident
in the restored integrity and openness of your character to permit your
return to us. The pain you are inflicting upon me it is useless to dwell
upon. As the child of my only and most dearly loved sister, I have loved
you, hoped for you, with little less intensity of affection than that I
have borne toward my own; for I felt that, with the sole exception of
your brother, I was the only being you had on earth united to you by
ties of blood. How this conduct repays my love and care you must answer
to yourself; I can only be sensible of bitter disappointment."

Again she stopped, evidently expecting a reply, but Ellen still remained
silent. The short twilight of autumn had set in so suddenly, that Mrs.
Hamilton was not aware her niece's cheek had become still paler, and
that her white lips quivered repeatedly, as if she several times tried
to speak, but could not. After a silence of some minutes, she said--

"If you are determined not to speak, Ellen, you may retire. I have told
you all I wished to say, except that till you leave us though you will
still occupy your present rooms, and be still under Ellis's care, you
are at liberty to employ yourself, and go about the house and grounds as
usual."

Ellen turned to go, still in that unbroken silence; she had reached the
low step dividing the upper part from the lower part of the room, and
whether she did not see it, or from some other cause, the room suddenly
reeled before her, and she fell heavily forward. To spring toward her,
raise her tenderly, bear her to the nearest couch, though she so
trembled herself at finding Ellen quite insensible, as to render the
task unusually difficult, and to ring hastily for Ellis, was the work of
a minute, but it was many minutes before their united efforts could
bring back consciousness.

"I knew it would break her heart, poor lamb!" was Ellis's exclamation,
in a tone of most unusual excitement; "thank God, thank God! Master
Edward's coming home, and that she is not to go till he does."

"Have you so much confidence in his influence?" asked her mistress, as,
unable to resist the impulse, she bent down and repeatedly kissed the
cold brow and cheek, to which she was so earnestly striving to restore
warmth, "God in mercy grant you may be right!"

"Right? Dear my lady!" (whenever Ellis was strongly moved, she always so
addressed her mistress;) "I would stake your confidence in me, which is
all my life's worth, if Master Edward is not at the bottom of it all,
and that this poor child is sacrificing herself for some fancied danger
to him! I saw enough of that work when they were young children, and I
have noticed enough since she has been under my care."

"Edward!" repeated Mrs. Hamilton, so bewildered, as to stop for the
moment chafing Ellen's cold hand; "Edward! bearing the high character he
does; what can he have to do with it?"

"I don't know, my lady, but I am sure he has. Young men, ay, some of the
finest and bravest among us, get into difficulties sometimes, and it
don't touch their characters as their officers see them, and Master
Edward was always so terrified at the mere thought of my master knowing
any of his faults; but--hush! we must not let her know we suspect any
thing, poor lamb; it will make her still more miserable. You are better
now, dear Miss Ellen, are you not?" she added, soothingly, as Ellen
feebly raised her hand to her forehead, and then slowly unclosed her
eyes, and beheld her aunt leaning over her, with that same expression of
anxious affection, which her illness had so often caused in her
childhood. Sense, or rather memory, had not quite returned, and her
first words were, with a faint but happy smile--

"I am better, dear aunt, much better; I dare say I shall soon be well."
But it was only a momentary forgetfulness; swift as thought came the
whole of what had so lately passed--her uncle's letter, her aunt's
words, and murmuring, in a tone how painfully changed! "I
forgot--forgive me," she buried her face in the pillow.

"Ellen, my dear Ellen! why will you persist in making yourself and me so
miserable, when a few words would make us happier?" exclaimed Mrs.
Hamilton, almost imploringly, as she bent over her.

"Do not urge her now, dear my lady, she is not well enough; give her
till Master Edward comes; I am sure she will not resist him," answered
Ellis, very respectfully, though meaningly, as her look drew her
mistress's attention to the shudder which convulsed Ellen's slight
frame, at the mention of her brother.

Pained and bewildered more than ever, Mrs. Hamilton, after waiting till
the faintness seemed quite gone, and thinking that if the restraint of
her presence were removed, Ellen might be relieved by tears, left her,
desiring Ellis to let her know in a short time how she was. The moment
the door closed, Ellen threw her arms round Ellis's neck, exclaiming
passionately--

"Take me away--take me away, dear Ellis; I can not bear this room--it
seems all full of misery! and I loved it so once, and I shall love it
again, when I am miles and miles away, and can not see it--nor any one
belonging to it. Oh, Ellis, Ellis! I knew you were too kind. I was too
glad and contented to be with you; it was not punishment enough for my
sin--and I must go away--and I shall never, never see my aunt again--I
know I shall not. Oh! if I might but die first! but I am too wicked for
that; it is only the good that die."

And almost for the first time since her sin had been discovered, she
gave way to a long and violent fit of weeping, which, though terrible
while it lasted, as the anguish of the young always is, greatly relieved
her, and enabled her after that day not to revert in words (the thought
never left her till a still more fearful anxiety deadened it) to her
uncle's sentence again.

Mrs. Hamilton sat for a very long time alone after she had left Ellen.
Ellis's words returned to her again and again so pertinaciously, that
she could not break from them. Edward! the cause of it all--could it be
possible?--could it be, that he had plunged himself into difficulties,
and afraid to appeal to his uncle or her, had so worked on Ellen as not
only to make her send relief, but actually so to keep his secret, as to
endure every thing rather than betray it? Circumstance after
circumstance, thought after thought, so congregated upon her, so seemed
to burst into being, and flash light one from the other, that her mind
ached beneath their pressure. Ellen's unhappiness the day his last
letter had been received, her sudden illness--had it taken place before
or after Robert had lost the money? She could not satisfy herself, for
her husband's sudden summons to Feroe, hasty preparations, and
departure, had rendered all the month confused and unsatisfactory in its
recollections. So intense was the relief of the idea, that Mrs. Hamilton
feared to encourage it, lest it should prove a mere fancy, and urge
softer feelings toward her niece than ought to be. Even the supposition
made her heart yearn toward her with such a feeling of love, almost of
veneration, for the determined self-devotion, so essentially woman's
characteristic, that she resolutely checked its ascendency. All her
previous fancies, that Ellen was no ordinary child, that early suffering
and neglect had, while they produced some childish faults, matured and
deepened the capabilities of endurance and control, from the
consciousness (or rather existence, for it was not the consciousness to
the child herself) of strong feeling, returned to her, as if determined
to confirm Ellis's supposition. The disappearance of her allowance; her
assertion, that she was seeking Mrs. Langford's cottage, by that shorter
but forbidden path, to try and get her to dispose of her trinkets, when
the wind blew the notes to her hand--all now seemed connected one with
the other, and confirmed. She could well understand, how in a moment of
almost madness they might have been used without thought, and the
after-effect upon so delicate a mind and conscience. Then, in
contradiction to all this (a mere hypothesis raised on nothing firmer
than Ellis's supposition), came the constantly favorable accounts of
Edward; his captain's pride and confidence in him; the seeming
impossibility that he could get into such difficulties, and what were
they? The name of Harding rushed on her mind, she knew not why or
how--but it made her tremble, by its probable explanation of the whole.
A coarse or even less refined mind, would have either appealed at once
to Ellen, as to the truth of this suspicion, or thought herself
justified in looking over all Edward's letters to his sister, as thus
to discover the truth; but in Mrs. Hamilton's pure mind the idea never
even entered, though all her niece's papers and letters were in her
actual possession. She could only feel to her heart's core with Ellis,
"Thank God, Master Edward's coming home!" and pray earnestly that he
might be with them, as they hoped and anticipated, in a few, a very few
days.



CHAPTER VII.

THE LIGHT GLIMMERS.


The earnest wishes and prayers of Mrs. Hamilton and her faithful Ellis
were disappointed. The latter part of the month of September had been
exceedingly stormy, and though there was a lull from about the 3d to the
9th of October, the equinoctial gales then set in with the utmost fury;
continuing day after day, night after night, till the ear seemed almost
to tire of the sound, and the mind, anxious for friends at sea, despair
of their cessation. During the few calm days, the young party at Oakwood
had scarcely been absent from the windows, or from that part of the park
leading to the Plymouth road, above an hour at a time. Percy and Herbert
rode over to Plymouth, but were told the frigate could not be in for a
full week. The late storms must have detained her, though she was a
fast-sailing craft. It was a great disappointment to them, for on the
10th of October college term began, and they were compelled to return to
Oxford. The cause of their mother's intense desire for Edward's return,
indeed, they did not know; but they were most impatient to see him, and
they hoped, they did not exactly know what, with regard to his influence
with Ellen. However, the day of their departure came, and still he had
not arrived, and the storms had recommenced. Percy had gone to say
good-by to Ellis, with whom Ellen chanced at that moment to be. Full of
spirits and jokes, he determinately looked away from his cousin, took
both Ellis's hands, and shook them with his usual heartiness.

"Good-by, dear Ellis. I wonder if I shall ever feel myself a man when
talking to you. How many tricks I have played you in this room, and you
were always so good-natured, even when one of my seat-crackers set your
best gown on fire, and quite spoiled it; do you remember it? I do think
you were nearly angry then, and quite enough to make you; and papa made
me save up my money to buy you a new dress. I did not play such a
practical joke in a hurry again."

Ellis laughed and perfectly remembered it, and with another hearty
good-by he turned away.

"You have forgotten your cousin, Mr. Percy," she said, disregarding
Ellen's imploring look.

"When she remembers her duty to my mother, I will remember that she is
my cousin," was his hasty answer, and he hurried from the room as
Herbert entered. His good-by to Ellis was quite as warm as Percy's, and
then turning to Ellen, he put his arm round her, kissed her cheek, and
said, with impressive earnestness--

"God bless you, dear Ellen! I hope you will be happier when we meet
again, and that it will not be so long before we do, as we fancy now;"
and, affected almost to tears at the grateful, humble look she raised to
his, he left her.

Overcome as much by the harshness of the generous, warm-hearted Percy,
whom she so dearly loved, as by the gentle kindness of Herbert, Ellen
remained for several minutes with her arms on the table, her face hid
upon them. She thought she was quite alone, for Ellis had gone about
some of her business, when she was startled by Percy's voice.

"I am a brute, Ellen, nothing less; forgive me, and say good-by. I can't
understand it at all, but angry as I am with you, your pale face haunts
me like a specter, so we must part friends;" and as she looked hastily
up, he kissed her warmly twice, and ran away without another word.

Days passed heavily, the gales seeming to increase in violence, and
causing Mrs. Hamilton more terrible anxiety and vague dread than she
allowed to be visible. The damage among the shipping was fearful, and
the very supposed vicinity of the frigate to the Channel increased the
danger. The papers every morning presented long lists of ships wrecked,
or fatally dismantled, loss of crews or part of them, mails and cargoes
due but missing: and the vivid recollection of the supposed fate of her
own brother, the wretchedness of the suspense before the fate of his
vessel was ascertained, returned to heighten the fears that would gain
ascendency for her nephew, and for the effect of this terrible suspense
on Ellen, more especially--if indeed she had endured all these weeks,
nay, months, of misery for him.

At first Ellen seemed unconscious that there was any thing remarkable in
the delay, the thought of her own departure being uppermost; but when
the thought did press upon her, how it came she knew not--that of the
given month the weeks were passing, and Edward had not arrived, and that
there must be some reason for the long delay--storm, shipwreck, death,
all flashed upon her at once, and almost maddened her. The quiet calm of
endurance gave way. She could not sleep at night from the tremendous
winds; not even when Ellis had a bed put up in her room, and remained
with her all night herself; she never complained indeed, but hour after
hour she would pace her room and the passage leading to Ellis's, till
compelled to cease from exhaustion; she would try steadily to employ
herself with some difficult study, and succeed, perhaps, for half an
hour, but then remain powerless, or recommence her restless walk. Mrs.
Hamilton made several attempts without any apparent interference on her
part, to get her to sit occasionally with her and Miss Harcourt, and her
cousins, but she seemed to shrink from them all. Emmeline, indeed, when
once aware of the terrible trial she was enduring, would sit with her,
drawing or working as if nothing had occurred to estrange them, and try
to cheer her by talking on many topics of interest. Caroline would speak
to her kindly whenever she saw her. Miss Harcourt alone retained her
indignation, for no suspicion of the real cause of her silence ever
entered her mind.

Poor Ellen felt that she dared not indulge in the comfort this change in
her aunt's and cousins' manner produced. She wanted to wean herself
quite from them, that the pang of separation might be less severe, but
she only seemed to succeed in loving them more. One thought, indeed, at
length took such entire possession of her mind, as to deaden every
other:--it was the horrible idea that as she had sinned to save Edward,
perhaps, from merited disgrace, he would be taken from her; she never
breathed it, but it haunted her night and day. Mr. Maitland saw her
continually, but he plainly told Mrs. Hamilton, while the cause of
anxiety and mental suffering lasted he could do her no good. It was a
constant alternation of fearful excitement and complete depression,
exhausting the whole system. Repose and kindness--alas! the latter
might be given, but the former, in the present position of affairs, how
could it be insured?

The month of grace was waning; only two days remained, and Edward had
not arrived, and how could Mrs. Hamilton obey her husband--whose every
letter reiterated his hope that she had not been prevailed on to alter
his sentence, if Ellen still remained silent--and send her niece from
her? She came at length to the determination, that if another week
passed and still there were no tidings, not to let this fearful
self-sacrifice, if it really were such, last any longer, but gently,
cautiously, tenderly as she could, prevail on Ellen to confide all to
her, and promise, if Edward really had been erring and in difficulties,
all should be forgiven for her sake, and even his uncle's anger averted.
Once her determination taken, she felt better enabled to endure an
anxiety which was injuring her almost as much as Ellen; and she turned
to Ellis's room, which she had lately very often frequented, for she
scarcely felt comfortable when Ellen was out of her sight, though she
had full confidence in Ellis's care.

Ellen was asleep on a sofa, looking so wan, so haggard--so altered from
the Ellen of five short months back, that Mrs. Hamilton sat down by her
side, pondering whether she was doing right to wait even another week,
before she should try to bring relief by avowing her suspicions--but
would it bring relief? and, after all, was it for Edward? or, had she
been allowing affection and imagination to mislead and soften, when
sternness might still be needed?

Ellen woke with a start as from some fearful dream, and gazed at Mrs.
Hamilton for a full minute, as if she did not know her.

"My dear Ellen, what is it? You have been sleeping uncomfortably--surely
you know me?"

"I thought I was at--at--Seldon Grange--are you sure I am not? Dear aunt
Emmeline, do tell me I am at Oakwood, I know I am to go, and very soon;
but I am not there now, am I?" and she put one hand to her forehead, and
gazed hurriedly and fearfully round her, while, with the other, she held
tightly Mrs. Hamilton's dress. There was something alarming both in her
look and tone.

"No, love, you are with me still at Oakwood, and you will not go from me
till you have been with Edward some little time. You can not think I
would send you away now, Ellen?"

The soothing tone, her brother's name, seemed to disperse the cloud, and
bursting into tears, she exclaimed--

"He will never come--I know he will never come--my sin has killed him!"

"Your sin, Ellen, what can that have to do with Edward?"

"Because," the words "it was for him" were actually on her
lips; but they were checked, and, in increasing excitement, she
continued--"Nothing, nothing, indeed, with him--what could it have? But
if he knows it--oh, it will so grieve him; perhaps it would be better I
should go before he comes--and then, then, he need not know it; if,
indeed, he ever comes."

"I do not think you quite know what you are saying, my dear Ellen; your
uncomfortable dream has unsettled you. Try and keep quiet for an hour,
and you will be better. Remember, suffering as this dreadful suspense
is, your brother is still in a Father's gracious keeping; and that He
will listen to your prayers for his safety, and if it be His good
pleasure, still restore him to you."

"My prayers," answered Ellen, fearfully. "Mr. Howard said, there was a
barrier between Him and me, while I would not confess; I had refused His
mercy."

"Can you confess before God, Ellen? Can you lay your whole heart open
before Him, and ask Him in his infinite mercy, and for your Saviour's
sake, to forgive you?"

"I could, and did do so," answered Ellen, returning Mrs. Hamilton's
earnestly inquiring look, by raising her large, expressive eyes,
steadily and fearlessly, to her face; "but Mr. Howard told me it was a
mockery and sin to suppose God would hear me or forgive me while I
refused to obey Him, by being silent and obdurate to you. That if I
wished His forgiveness, I must prove it by telling the whole to you,
whom His commandments desired me to obey, and--and--as I dared not do
that, I have been afraid to pray." And the shudder with which she laid
her head again upon the pillow, betrayed the misery of the fear.

"And is it impossible, quite impossible that you can confide the source
of your grief and difficulty to me, Ellen? Will you not do so, even if I
promise forgiveness, not merely to you, but to _all_ who may have erred?
Answer me, my sweet child; your silence is fearfully injuring your mind
and body. Why do you fancy you dare not tell me?"

"Because, because I have promised!" answered Ellen, in a fearful tone
of returning excitement, and, sitting upright, she clasped her hands
convulsively together, while her cheek burned with painful brilliancy.
"Aunt Emmeline--oh, do not, pray do not speak to me in that kind tone!
be harsh and cold again, I can bear it better. If you did but know how
my heart and brain ache--how they long to tell you and so rest--but I
can not--I dare not--I have promised."

"And you may not tell me whom you have promised?" replied Mrs. Hamilton,
every former thought rendered apparently null and vain by these words,
and painfully disappointing her; but the answer terrified her.

"Mamma--I promised her, and she stands by me so pale, so grieved,
whenever I think of telling you," answered Ellen, clinging to Mrs.
Hamilton, but looking with a strained gaze of terror on vacancy. "I
thought I must have told you, when you said I was to go--to go to Seldon
Grange--but she stood by me and laid her hand on my head, and it was so
cold, so heavy, I don't remember any thing more till I found you and
Ellis leaning over me; but I ought not to tell you even this. I know I
ought not--for look--look, aunt Emmeline!--don't you see
mamma--there--quite close to me; oh, tell her to forgive me--I will keep
my promise," and shuddering convulsively, she hid her face in her aunt's
dress.

Mrs. Hamilton was dreadfully alarmed. Whatever the foundation, and she
had no doubt that there was some, and that it really had to do with
Edward and his poor mother's mistaken partiality, Ellen's imagination
was evidently disordered. To attempt obtaining the truth, while she was
in this fearful state of excitement, was as impossible as cruel, and she
tried only to soothe her to composure; speaking of her mother as happy
and in Heaven and that Ellen had thought of her so much, as was quite
natural in her sorrow, that she fancied she saw her.

"It is not reality, love; if she could see and speak to you, I am sure
it would be to tell you to confide all your sorrow to me, if it would
make you happier."

"Oh, no, no--I should be very wicked if it made me happier; I ought not
even to wish to tell you. But Mr. Myrvin told me, even when mamma went
to Heaven, she would still see me, and know if I kept my promise, and
tried to win her love, by doing what I know she wished, even after she
was dead; and it was almost a pleasure to do so till now, even if it
gave me pain and made me unhappy; but now, now, aunt Emmeline, I know
you must hate me; you never, never can love me again--and that--that is
so hard to bear."

"Have you forgotten, my dear Ellen, the blessed assurance, there is more
joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety-and-nine
who have not sinned? and if our Father in Heaven can so feel, so act,
are His creatures to do less? Do you think, because you have given me
pain, and trouble and disappointment, and compelled me to use such
extreme severity, and cause you so much suffering, that it will be quite
impossible for me to love you again, if I see you do all you can to win
back that love?"

Ellen made no answer; but the alarming excitement had so far subsided,
as to raise the hope that quietness would subdue it altogether. Mrs.
Hamilton remained with her till she seemed quite calm, and would not
have left her then, but he had promised Caroline to drive with her into
T---- that afternoon, to make some purchases; Emmeline and Miss Harcourt
were spending the day at Greville Manor, and her daughter depending on
her, she did not like to disappoint her. But the difficulty to think of
other things, and cheerfully converse on comparatively indifferent
topics, was greater than she had ever found it. That Ellis's surmise was
correct, she had no longer the smallest doubt. Ellen was sacrificing
herself, not merely for the love she bore her brother, but from some
real or imaginary promise to her poor mother. What its exact nature was,
she could not indeed satisfy herself, but that it had something to do
with concealing Edward's faults seemed to flash upon her, she hardly
knew how. Ellis's words "that she had seen enough of that work when they
were children," returned to her, and various incongruities in Ellen's
character and conduct which she had been unable to reconcile at the
time, all seemed connected with it. But to arrive at the truth was much
more difficult than ever; still, how could she send Ellen away? and yet,
if still silent, would mere surmise satisfy her husband? There was but
one hope, one ray of light--Edward's own honor, if indeed he were
permitted to return; and even while driving and talking with Caroline,
her heart was one fervent prayer that this might be, and the fearful
struggle of her devoted Ellen cease.

Her aunt's gentle and unexpected kindness had had such a beneficial
effect on Ellen, that, after her early dinner, about three o'clock, she
told Ellis she would go in the school-room, and try and read there for
an hour; she knew all the family were out, and therefore would be quite
undisturbed. Ellis willingly acquiesced, rejoicing that she should seek
any change herself, and advised her, as it was such a mild, soft
afternoon, after the late storms, to take a turn on the terrace, on
which a glass-door from the school-room opened; it would do her good.
Ellen meant to take her advice, but as she looked out from a window over
a well-remembered landscape, so many painful thoughts and recollections
crowded on her, that she lost all inclination to move. She had not stood
there for many weeks, and it seemed to her that the view had never
looked so very lovely. The trees all had the last glories of autumn--for
it was early in November--the grass was of that beautiful humid emerald
which always follows heavy rain, and though the summer-flowers had all
gone, the sheltered beds of the garden, lying beneath the terrace,
presented many very beautiful still. The end of the terrace, a flight of
stone steps, overlooked the avenue, leading from the principal lodge to
the main entrance, and where Ellen stood, she could distinguish a few
yards of the path where it issued from some distant trees. She gazed at
first, conscious only that she was banished from it all, and that,
however long her departure might be deferred, she must go at last, for
her uncle's mandate could not be disobeyed; but gradually her eye became
fixed as in fascination. A single figure was emerging from the trees,
and dressed in the uniform of a midshipman--she was sure it was! but it
was a figure so tall, so slim, his step so lingering, it could not be
Edward, most likely some one of his messmates come to tell his fate. He
was taller even than Percy, but so much slighter, so different to the
boy from whom she had parted, that, though her heart bounded and sunk
till faintness seemed to overpower her, she could not convince herself
it was he. With an almost unconscious effort she ran out, through the
glass-door, to the steps of the terrace; she could now see him
distinctly, but not his face, for his cap was low over his forehead; but
as he approached, he paused, as if doubting whether to go up to the hall
door, or the well-known terrace, by which he had always rushed into the
school-room, on his daily return from Mr. Howard's; and as he looked
hastily up, his cap fell back, and his eyes met Ellen's. A wild but
checked scream broke from her lips, and all was an impenetrable mist
till she found herself in her brother's arms, in the room she had
quitted, his lips repeatedly pressing her cheek and forehead, and his
voice, which sounded so strange--it did not seem like Edward's, it was
so much more deep and manly--entreating her to speak to him, and tell
him why she looked so ill; but still her heart so throbbed she could not
speak. She could only cling close to him and look intently in his face,
which was so altered from the happy, laughing boy, that had he not been,
from his extreme paleness and attenuation of feature, still more like
their mother when she was ill, his sister would scarcely have known him.

"Dearest Ellen, do speak to me; what has been the matter, that you look
so pale and sad? Are you not glad to see me?"

"Glad! oh, Edward, you can not know how glad; I thought you would never,
never come, the storms have been so terrible; I have been ill, and your
sudden appearance startled me, for I had thought of such dreadful
things, and that was the reason I could not speak at first; but I am
sure you are as pale as I am, dear, dear Edward; you have been
wounded--have you not recovered them yet?"

"My wounds, Ellen! oh, they were slight enough; I wished and tried for
them to be severer, to have done for me at once, but they would not,
they only bought me praise, praise which maddened me!"

"Sir Edward," murmured Ellen, in a low, fearful voice, "how did he part
with you?"

"As he has always treated me, a kind, too kind father! oh, Ellen, Ellen,
if he did but know the deceiving villain that I am!"

"Would he indeed not forgive, Edward, if he so loves you? not if he knew
all, the temptation, the--"

"Temptation, Ellen! what excuse ought there to be in temptation? Why was
I such a fool, such a madman, to allow myself to be lured into error
again and again by that villain, after I had discovered his double face,
and I had been warned against him, too? Why did I so madly disregard Mr.
Howard's and my uncle's warning letters, trusting my self-will and
folly, instead of their experience? Brave! I am the veriest coward that
ever trod the deck, because I could not bear a sneer!"

"And he? are you still within his power?" inquired Ellen, shrinking in
terror from the expression of her brother's face.

"No, Ellen, no; God forgive me--I have tried not to rejoice; the death
was so terrible, so nearly my own, that I stood appalled, and, for the
first time these two years, knelt down to my God for pardon, mercy to
repent. The lightning struck him where he stood, struck him beside me,
leaving the withering smile of derisive mockery, with which he had that
moment been regarding me, still on his lips. Why, and where had he gone?
he, who denied God and his holy Word, turned the solemn service into
mockery, and made me like himself--and why was I spared? Oh, Ellen, I
have no words to describe the sensation of that moment!" He stopped, and
shuddered, then continued, hurriedly, "Changed as I am in appearance, it
is nothing to the change within. I did not know its extent till now that
I am here again, and all my happy boyhood comes before me; aunt
Emmeline's gentle lessons of piety and goodness--oh, Ellen, Ellen, what
have been their fruits? For two years I have given myself up to passion,
unrestrained by one word, one thought of prayer; I dared, sinful madman
as I was, to make a compact with my own conscience, and vow, that if I
received the relief I expected from you, and was free from Harding, I
would reform, would pray for the strength to resist temptation, which I
had not in myself; and when, when the man that was dispatched by Sir
Edward from the shore, with the letters for the crew, sunk beneath the
waves, bearing every dispatch along with him, I cursed him, and the
Fate, which had ordained his death. Ellen, Ellen! why was I saved, and
Harding killed!"

"And you never received my letter, Edward? Never knew if I had tried to
relieve you from Harding's power?" answered Ellen, becoming so deadly
pale, that Edward forced himself to regain composure; the nature of his
information causing such a revulsion of feeling in his sister as to
deaden her to the horror of his words. For what had all this suffering
been?

"I was sure you had, Ellen, for you always did, and I could trust you as
I could myself. A sudden squall had upset the boat, and the man was so
encumbered by a large great-coat, every pocket filled with letters and
papers, that he sunk at once though every help was offered. I threw
myself into the sea to save him, and Lieutenant Morley praised my
courage and benevolence--little did he know my motive! Besides, Sir
Edward told me there was an inclosure for me in my uncle's to him, and
regretted he had not kept it to give it me himself--would to Heaven he
had! Till Harding's death I was in his power; and he had so used it,
that I had vowed, on our arrival in England, to abscond, hide myself
forever, go I cared not where, nor in what character! But he is dead,
and I am free: my tale need be told to none, and if I can I will break
from this fatal spell, and redeem the past; but it seems, as if fiends
urged me still to the path of evil! Would that I had but courage to tell
all to Mr. Howard, I should be safer then; but I can not--can not--the
risk is too great. Carriage wheels!" he added, starting up--"my aunt and
Caroline; oh, how I rejoiced when they told me at the lodge that my
uncle was not here!" And in his extreme agitation at the thought of
meeting his aunt, he forgot his sister, or he might have been startled
at the effect of his words.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE STRUGGLE.


Mrs. Hamilton had been told at the lodge of her nephew's arrival, and so
powerful was her emotion, that she leaned back in the carriage, as it
drove rapidly from the lodge to the Hall, without the power of uttering
a word. Caroline was surprised, for his return seemed to her only a
cause of rejoicing; she had no idea of the mingled dread and joy, the
trembling, lest Edward had indeed deceived them all, and, if he had not,
the redoubled mystery of Ellen's conduct. While he was absent she could
think calmly on him as the cause of all, but now that he was returned,
her heart seemed to turn sick with apprehension, and she had hardly
strength to inquire where he was, and great was her surprise when she
found his arrival was still unknown. Caroline's joyful exclamation as
she ran into the school-room to put away some of her purchases, drew her
there at once; and for the first five minutes the intense thankfulness
that he was indeed safe and comparatively well--that whatever might be
the secret change, his affection for her, to judge by the warmth, and
agitation of his embrace, was unchanged, and she had that to work on,
alone occupied her mind and enabled her to regain her calmness.

"You do indeed look as if you wanted English air and home nursing, my
dear boy," she said, after some little time had elapsed, and Edward had
seated himself by her, his hand still clasped in hers; "Sir Edward was
quite right to invalid you. Emmeline does nothing but talk of your
wounds as making you a complete hero; I am unromantic enough to wish
that you had brought me home more color and more flesh, and less glory;
but, I suppose from being so pale, you are more like your poor mother
than ever;" and she looked at him so earnestly, that Edward's eyes,
spite of all his efforts, sunk beneath hers. He answered gayly, however,
and, in reply to Caroline's numerous queries, entered into an animated
description of their voyage home and the causes of their detention, in
their being so often compelled to put into port from the fearful storms
they had encountered, and time slipped away so fast that the dinner-bell
rung before any one was prepared.

That Ellen should look paler than even when she had left her in the
morning, and be still more silent, did not astonish Mrs. Hamilton; the
agitation of meeting her brother was quite enough to occasion it; and
she advised her to remain quiet while they were at dinner, that she
might rejoin them afterward. She looked as if she had been so very
lately ill, that Edward was not surprised at her having dined already;
but many little things that occured during the evening--her excessive
quietness, the evident restraint between her and Caroline, and, he at
first fancied, and then was quite certain, between her and his aunt,
startled and perplexed him. She seemed restrained and shy, too, with
him, as if in constant terror. Poor child! her aunt had advised
quietness while alone, and her brother's words rung in her ears, till
repose seemed farther off than ever. After all she had suffered before,
and after the sending that fatal letter, it had never reached him: she
had utterly failed in her attempt to save him. If she had, indeed,
confided at first in Mrs. Hamilton, measures would have been taken, she
was sure, to have secured him the necessary relief, for whenever her
uncle had sent him his allowance it was through Sir Edward, not
encountering the risk of the loss of the letter. There had been times
when, in the midst of her sufferings, Ellen could realize a sort of
comfort in the idea that she had saved Edward and kept his secret; but
where was this comfort now? All she had endured all she was still to
endure, was for nothing, worse than nothing; for if Edward knew her sin,
feeling that it had brought him no good, and given up, as she felt he
must be, to unrestrained passion, or he could not have given vent to
such fearful sentiments, she actually trembled for its effect upon him
and his anger on herself. She had sometimes fancied that, perhaps, his
errors were not so great as he believed them, that he would confess
them when he found only his kind, indulgent aunt at home, and so peace
and hope gradually dawn for both him and her. All her wish, her hope now
was that Mrs. Hamilton could be prevailed upon not to tell him what she
had done, for whether it made him think he ought to confess himself its
cause or not, its effect on him would be so terrible, that she felt any
additional suffering to herself could be better borne.

With these thoughts, no wonder she was silent, utterly unable to subdue
them as she wished, and evince natural interest in all that had occurred
to Edward; and tell him all that had happened to herself during their
long separation. Caroline, however, was so animated; and when Emmeline
and Miss Harcourt returned, unable to comprehend what they could
possibly be sent for, a full hour earlier than usual, the astonishment
and delight at seeing Edward, prevented any thing like a pause in
conversation, or unnatural restraint. His cousins found so much to tell
as well as to listen to, about Percy and Herbert, as well as themselves;
and Emmeline made Edward tell her such minute particulars of their
engagements with the pirates, and how he was wounded, and what Sir
Edward said to him, that Mrs. Hamilton, anxious as she was--for the
longer she was with her nephew, the more convinced she was that he could
not meet her eye, and that his gayety was not natural--could not help
being amused in spite of herself.

Engrossed with thought how to arrive at the truth, for which she
ardently longed, she entered the library, when the prayer-bell rung,
with her children; quite forgetting, till she had taken the place at the
reading-desk, which, in the absence of her husband and sons, she always
occupied herself, that she had intended to desire Ellen to resume her
usual place by Emmeline, wishing to spare her any additional suffering
the first night of Edward's return, and to prevent any painful feeling
on his part. It was an oversight, but it vexed her exceedingly. She
looked hastily round, in the hope of being in time, but Ellen was
already in her place, though she had evidently shrunk still more into
the recess of the lower window, as if longing for its massive curtains
to hide her, and her face was buried in her hands. Mrs. Hamilton would
have been still more grieved, if she had seen, as Ellis did, the
beseeching, humble look, which, as they entered, Ellen had fixed upon
her, and that her pale lips had quivered with the half-uttered
supplication, which she failed in courage to fully pronounce. Edward
appeared too wrapped in his own thoughts to notice it then; and as his
aunt's gentle but impressive voice fell on his fear, the words, the
room, the whole scene so recalled the happy, and comparatively innocent
past, that it was with difficulty he could restrain his feelings, till
the attitude of kneeling permitted them full vent in tears, actual
tears, when he had thought he could never weep again. The contrast of
his past and present self, rendered the one more brightly happy, the
other more intensely dark than the actual reality. The unchecked faults
and passions of his early childhood had been the sole cause of his
present errors; but, while under the gentle control of his aunt and
uncle, and Mr. Howard, he had not known these faults, and, therefore,
believed they had all come since. He longed intensely to confide all his
errors, all his remorse, to Mr. Howard, whom he still so dearly loved;
but he knew he had not courage to confess, and yet hated himself for his
cowardice.

Only too well accustomed to control, he banished every trace of tears
(from all save the eye rendered even more than usually penetrating from
anxiety), as he arose, and became aware, for the first time, that Ellen
was not where he was accustomed to see her. He kissed her fondly as she
hurriedly approached him; but perceiving she left the room with merely a
faint good-night to the rest of the family, and no embrace, as usual,
from Mrs. Hamilton, he darted forward, seized his aunt's hand, and
exclaimed--

"What is the matter with Ellen, aunt Emmeline? Why is she so changed,
and why is your manner to her so cold and distant? and why did she kneel
apart, as if unworthy to join us even in prayers? Tell me, for pity's
sake!"

"Not to-night, my dear Edward. It is a long tale, and a painful one, and
I rely on _you_ to help me, that Ellen and myself may be again as we
have been. It is as much pain to me as to her that we are not.
To-morrow, I promise you, you shall know all. You have had excitement
enough for to-day, and after your exhausting voyage must need rest. Do
not fancy this an evasion of your request; I have longed for your return
to influence Ellen, almost as much as for the happiness of seeing you
again."

Edward was compelled to be satisfied and retire; but though he did feel
sufficient physical exhaustion, for the comfort of his room to be
unusually luxurious, his sleep was restless and disturbed by frightful
dreams, in which, however varied the position, it always seemed that he
was in danger, and Ellen sacrificing herself to save him.

On retiring for the night, Mrs. Hamilton discovered a note on her
dressing-table. She thought she knew the writing, but from tremulousness
it was so nearly illegible, that it was with great difficulty she
deciphered the following words:

     "I am so conscious I ought not to address you, know so well
     that I have no right to ask any favor from you, when I have
     given you so much trouble and pain, that I could not have asked
     it, if you had not been so very, very kind this morning. Oh!
     aunt Emmeline, if indeed you can feel any pity for me, do not,
     pray, do not tell Edward the real reason of my banishment from
     Oakwood; tell him I have been very wicked--have refused to
     evince any real repentance--but do not tell him what I have
     done. He is ill, unhappy at having to resign his profession
     even for a few months. Oh! spare him the misery of knowing my
     sin. I know I deserve nothing but severity from you--I have no
     right to ask this--but, oh! if you have ever loved me, do not
     refuse it. If you would but grant it, would but say, before I
     go, that in time you will forgive me, it would be such comfort
     to the miserable--ELLEN."

Mrs. Hamilton's eyes filled with tears; the word "_your_" had evidently
been written originally, but partially erased, and "_the_" substituted
in its stead, and she could not read the utter desolation of one so
young, which that simple incident betrayed, without increase of pain;
yet to grant her request was impossible. It puzzled her--for why should
she so persist in the wish expressed from the beginning, that Edward
should not know it? unless, indeed--and her heart bounded with the
hope--that she feared it would urge him to confess himself the cause,
and her sacrifice be useless. She locked up the note, which she would
not read again, fearing its deep humility, its earnest supplication,
would turn her from her purpose, and in praying fervently for guidance
and fitful sleep her night passed.

For some time after breakfast the following morning, Edward and his aunt
were alone together in the library. It was with the utmost difficulty,
he suppressed, sufficiently to conceal, the fearful agitation which
thrilled through every nerve as he listened to the tale he had demanded.
He could not doubt the use to which that money had been applied. His
sister's silence alone would have confirmed it; but in that hour of
madness--for what else is passion unrestrained by principle or
feeling?--he was only conscious of anger, fierce anger against the
unhappy girl who had borne so much for him. He had utterly forgotten the
desperate words he had written. He had never received the intended
relief. Till within a week, a short week of his return, he had been in
Harding's power, and as Ellen's devotion had saved him nothing, what
could it weigh against the maddening conviction, that if he had one
spark of honor remaining, he _must_ confess that he had caused her sin?
Instead of saving, she had betrayed him; and he left his aunt to seek
Ellen, so evidently disturbed and heated, and the interview itself had
been so little satisfactory in softening him, as, she had hoped to win
him to confession at once, for she had purposely spoken as indulgently
of error and difficulty as she could, without betraying her strengthened
suspicions, that if she had known how to do so, she would have forbidden
his seeing Ellen till he was more calm.

Unhappily, too, it was that part of the day when Ellis was always most
engaged, and she was not even in her own room, so that there was no
check on Edward's violence. The control he had exercised while with his
aunt but increased passion when it was removed. He poured forth the
bitterest reproaches--asked how she could dare hope relief so obtained,
would ever have been allowed to reach him?--what had she done but
betrayed him? for how could he be such a dishonored coward as to let her
leave Oakwood because she would not speak? and why had she not
spoken?--why not betrayed him at once, and not decoyed him home to
disgrace and misery? Passion had so maddened him that he neither knew
what he said himself, nor heard her imploring entreaties not to betray
himself and she never would. She clung to his knees as she kneeled
before him, for she was too powerless to stand, reiterating her
supplication in a tone that ought to have recalled him to his better
self, but that better self had been too long silenced, and infuriated at
her convulsive efforts to detain him, he struck her with sufficient
force to make her, more by the agony of a blow from him, than the pain
itself, loose her hold at once, and darted from the room.

The hall door was open, and he rushed through it unseen into the park,
flying he neither knew where nor cared, but plunging into the wildest
parts. How he arrived at one particular spot he knew not, for it was one
which of all others, in that moment of excitement, he would gladly have
avoided. It was a small glade in the midst of the wood, shelving down to
the water's edge, where he and Percy, with the assistance of Robert, had
been permitted to erect a miniature boat-house, and where Edward had
kept a complete flotilla of tiny vessels. There were the trees, the
glade, the boat-house still, aye, and the vessels, in such beautiful
repair and keeping, that it brought back the past so vividly, so
overpoweringly, from the voiceless proof which it was of the
affectionate remembrance with which he and his favorite tastes had been
regarded, even in his absence, that he could not bear it. He flung
himself full length on the greensward, and as thought after thought came
back upon him, bringing Ellen before him, self-sacrificing, devoted,
always interposing between him and anger, as she had done from the first
hour they had been inmates of Oakwood, the thought of that craven blow,
those mad reproaches, was insupportable; and he sobbed for nearly an
hour in that one spot, longing that some chance would but bring Mr.
Howard to him, that he might relieve that fearful remorse at once; but
utterly unable to seek him of himself.

Edward's disposition, like his mother's, was naturally much too good for
the determined pursuit of evil. His errors had actually been much less
grave, than from Harding's artful representations he imagined them. He
never indulged in passion without its being followed by the most
agonized remorse; but from having pertinaciously banished the religion
which his aunt had so tried to instill, and been taught by Harding to
scoff at the only safe guide for youth, as for every age, God's holy
word, he had nothing whereon to lean, either as a comfort in his
remorse, a hope for amendment, or strength for self-conquest; and
terrible indeed might have been the consequences of Harding's fatal
influence, if the influence of a home of love had not been still
stronger.

Two hours after he had quitted his aunt, he rejoined the family,
tranquil, but bearing such evident traces of a mental struggle, at least
so Mrs. Hamilton fancied, for no one else noticed it, that she still
hoped she did not exactly know what, for she failed in courage to ask
the issue of his interview with Ellen. She contented herself with
desiring Emmeline to tell her cousin to bring her work or drawing, and
join them, and she was so surprised, when Emmeline brought back word
that Ellen had said she had much rather not, that she sought her
herself.

Ellen's cheeks, in general so pale, were crimson, her eyes in
consequence unnaturally brilliant, and she looked altogether so unlike
herself, that her aunt was more anxious than ever; nor did her manner
when asked why she refused to join them, when Edward had so lately
returned, tend to decrease the feeling.

"Emmeline did not say _you_ desired it, or I should have known better
than disobey," was her reply, and it was scarcely disrespectful; the
tone seemed that of a spirit, crushed and goaded to the utmost, and so
utterly unable to contend more, though every nerve was quivering with
pain. Mrs. Hamilton felt bitter pain that Ellen at length did indeed
shrink from her; that the disregard of her entreaty concerning her
brother appeared so to have wounded, that it had shaken the affection
which no other suffering had had power to move.

"I do not _desire_ it, Ellen, though I wish it," she replied, mildly;
"you are of course at liberty to act as you please, though I should have
thought it most natural that, not having been with Edward so long, you
should wish to be with him as much as possible now he is at home."

"He will not wish it; he hates me, spurns me, as I knew he would, if he
knew my sin! To-day I was to have gone to Seldon Grange; let me go at
once! then neither he, nor you, nor any one need be tormented with me
any more, and you will all be happy again; let me go, aunt Emmeline;
what should I stay for?"

"If you wish it, Ellen, you shall go next week. I did not imagine that
under any circumstances, you could have expressed a desire to leave me,
or suppose that it would make me particularly happy to send you away."

"Why should it not? you must hate me, too, or--or you would not have
refused the only--only favor I asked you before I went," answered poor
Ellen, and the voice, which had been unnaturally clear, was choked for
the moment with sobs, which she resolutely forced back. Mrs. Hamilton
could scarcely bear it; taking her ice-cold hands in both hers, she
said, almost tenderly--

"You have reason to condemn me as harsh and cruel Ellen; but time will
perhaps explain the motives of my conduct, as I trust and pray it will
solve the mystery of yours; you are not well enough to be left long
alone, and Ellis is so much engaged to-day that I do wish you to be with
me, independent of your brother's society. If you so much prefer
remaining here, I will stay with you, though of course, as Edward has
been away from us so long, I should wish to be with him also."

It was almost the first time Mrs. Hamilton had ever had recourse in the
management of her family to any thing that was not perfectly
straightforward; and though her present motives would have hallowed much
deeper stratagems, her pure mind shrunk from her own words. She wished
Ellen to be constantly in Edward's presence, that he might not be able
to evade the impulse of feeling and honor, which the sight of such
suffering, she thought, must call forth; she could not bear to enforce
this wish as a command, when she had already been, as she felt--if
Ellen's silence were indeed self-devotion, not guilt--so cruelly and so
unnecessarily severe. Ellen made neither reply nor resistance, but,
taking up her work, accompanied her aunt to the usual morning-room, from
which many a burst of happy laughter, and joyous tones were echoing.
Caroline and Emmeline were so full of enjoyment at Edward's return, had
so many things to ask and tell, were so perfectly unsuspicious as to his
having any concern with his sister's fault, that if they did once or
twice think him less lively and joyous, than when he left home, they
attributed it simply, to his not having yet recovered the exhausting
voyage and his wounds. Miss Harcourt, just as unsuspicious, secretly
accused Ellen as the cause of his occasional abstraction: her conduct
was not likely to pass unfelt by one so upright, so honorable, and if he
had been harsh with her, as from Ellen's fearfully shrinking manner, and
complete silence when they were together, she fancied, she thought it
was so deserved, that she had no pity for her whatever.

The day passed briskly and happily enough, in _seeming_ to Mrs. Hamilton
and Edward, in reality to all the other members of the party--but one.
The great subject of regret was Mr. Howard's absence, he might be back
at the rectory that evening, and Emmeline was sure he would come to see
Edward directly. As the hours waned, Ellen became sensible of a sharp
and most unusual pain darting through her temples, and gradually
extending over her forehead and head, till she could scarcely move her
eyes. It had come at first so suddenly, and lasting so short a time,
that she could scarcely define what it was, or why she should have felt
so suddenly sick and faint; but it increased, till there was no
difficulty in tracing it, and before prayer-time, had become such
fearful agony, that, if she had not been inured to pain of all kinds,
and endowed with extraordinary fortitude and control, she must more than
once have betrayed it by either giving way to faintness, or screaming
aloud. She had overheard Mrs. Hamilton desire Robert to request Mr.
Maitland to come to Oakwood as soon as he could, and not hearing the
reply that he was not expected home till late at night, expected him
every moment, and thought he would give her something to relieve it,
without her complaining.

Edward had asked his cousins for some music, and then to please
Emmeline, had sketched the order of their engagement with the pirates,
and no one noticed her, for Mrs. Hamilton's heart was sinking with
disappointed hope, as the hours passed, and there was no sign to prove
that her surmise was correct, and if it were, that the truth would be
obtained.

The prayer-bell rang, and as they rose, Edward's eyes, for the first
time since she had joined them, sought and fixed themselves on his
sister's face. The paroxysm of pain had for a few minutes subsided, as
it had done alternately with violence all day, but it had left her so
ghastly pale, that he started in actual terror. It might have been
fancy, but he thought there was the trace of his cowardly blow on her
pale forehead, raised, and black, and such a feeling of agony and
remorse rushed over him, that it was with difficulty he restrained
himself from catching her in his arms, and beseeching her forgiveness
before them all; but there was no time then, and they proceeded to the
library. Every step Ellen took appeared to bring back that fearful pain,
till as she sat down, and then knelt in her place, she was sensible of
nothing else.

The service was over; and as Mrs. Hamilton rose from the private prayer,
with which each individual concluded his devotions, her nephew stood
before her, white as marble, but with an expression of fixed resolution,
which made her heart bound up with hope, at the very moment it turned
sick and faint with terror.

Several of the lower domestics had quitted the library before Edward
regained voice, and his first word, or rather action, was to desire
those that remained to stay.

"My sister has been disgraced, exposed before you all" he exclaimed, in
a tone of misery and determination, that so startled Miss Harcourt and
his cousins, they gazed at him bewildered, "and before you all must be
her exculpation. It was less for her sin than her silence, and for the
increased guilt which that appeared to conceal, you tell me, she has
been so severely treated. Aunt Emmeline, I am the cause of her
silence--I was the tempter to her sin--I have deceived my commander,
deceived my officers, deceived you all--and instead of being what you
believe me, am a gambler and a villain. She has saved me again and again
from discovery and disgrace, and but for her sin and its consequences
would have saved me now. But what has sin ever done but to betray and
render wretched? Take Ellen back to your love and care, aunt Emmeline,
and tell my uncle, tell Sir Edward the wretch I am!"

For a full minute after these unexpected, startling words there was
silence, for none could speak, not even Emmeline, whose first thought
was only joy, that Ellen's silence was not so guilty as it seemed.
Edward had crossed his arms on the reading-desk, and buried his face
upon them. The instantaneous change of sentiment which his confession
excited toward Ellen in those most prejudiced can scarcely be described;
but Mrs. Hamilton, now that the words she had longed for, prayed for,
had been spoken, had scarcely strength to move. Address Edward she could
not, though she felt far more pity toward him than anger; she looked
toward Ellen, who still remained kneeling, though Ellis stood close by
her, evidently trying to rouse her, and with a step far more hurried,
more agitated than her children or household had ever seen, she
traversed the long room, and stood beside her niece.

"Ellen," she said, as she tried to remove the hands which clasped the
burning forehead, as if their rooted pressure could alone still that
agonizing pain, "my own darling, devoted Ellen! look up, and forgive me
all the misery I have caused you. Speak to me, my child! there is
nothing to conceal now, all shall be forgiven--Edward's errors,
difficulties, all for your sake, and he will not, I know he will not,
cause you wretchedness again; look up, my poor child; speak to me, tell
me you forgive me."

Ellen unclasped her hands from her forehead, and looked up in Mrs.
Hamilton's face. Her lips moved as if to speak, but in a moment an
expression of agony flitted over her face, a cry broke from her of such
fearful physical pain, that it thrilled through the hearts of all who
heard, and consciousness deserted her at the same moment that Mr.
Maitland and Mr. Howard, entered the room together.



CHAPTER IX.

ILLNESS AND REMORSE.


It was indeed a fearful night which followed the close of our last
chapter. Illness, sufficient to occasion anxiety, both in Herbert and
Ellen, had been often an inmate of Oakwood, but it had merely called for
care, and all those kindly sympathies, which render indisposition
sometimes an actual blessing, both to those who suffer and those who
tend. But illness, appearing to be but the ghastly vehicle of death,
clothed in such fearful pain that no control, even of reason and strong
will, can check its agonized expression, till at last, reason itself
succumbs beneath it, and bears the mind from the tortured frame, this is
a trial of no ordinary suffering, even when such illness has been
brought about by what may be termed natural causes. But when it follows,
nay, springs from mental anguish, when the sad watchers feel that it
might have been averted, that it is the consequence of mistaken
treatment, and it comes to the young, to whom such sorrow ought to be a
thing unknown, was it marvel that Mrs. Hamilton, as she stood by Ellen's
bed, watching the alternations of deathlike insensibility with paroxysms
of pain, which nothing could relieve (for it was only the commencement
of brain fever), felt as if she had indeed never known grief or anxiety
before. She had looked forward to Edward's confession bringing hope and
rest to all; that the aching head and strained nerves of her poor Ellen,
only needed returning love, and the quietness of assured forgiveness for
herself and Edward, for health and happiness gradually to return; and
the shock of such sudden and terrible illness, betraying, as it did, an
extent of previous mental suffering, which she had not conceived as
possible in one so young, almost unnerved her. But hers was not a
character to give way; the anguish she experienced might be read in the
almost stern quiet of her face, in her gentle but firm resistance to
every persuasion to move from Ellen's bed, not only through that
dreadful night, but for the week which followed. The idea of death was
absolute agony; none but her God knew the struggle, day after day, night
after night, which she endured, to compel her rebellious spirit to
submission to His will, whatever it might be. She knew earth's dearest,
most unalloyed happiness could not compare with that of Heaven, if
indeed it should be His pleasure to recall her; but the thought _would
not_ bring peace. She had no reason to reproach herself, for she had
acted only as imperative duty demanded, and it had caused her almost as
much misery as Ellen. But yet the thought would not leave her, that her
harshness and cruelty had caused all the suffering she beheld. She did
not utter those thoughts aloud, she did not dare give words to that deep
wretchedness, for she felt her only sustaining strength was in her God.
The only one who would have read her heart, and given sympathy,
strength, comfort, without a word from her, her husband, was far away,
and she dared not sink; though there were times when heart and frame
felt so utterly exhausted, it seemed at if she must.

Mr. Howard's presence had been an inexpressible relief. "Go to Edward,
my dear friend," she had said, as he lingered beside the bed where Ellen
had been laid, longing to comfort, but feeling at such a moment it was
impossible; "he wants you more than any one else; win him to confide in
you, soothe, comfort him; do not let him be out of your sight."

Not understanding her, except that Edward must be naturally grieved at
his sister's illness, Mr. Howard sought him, and found him still in the
library, almost in the same spot.

"This is a sad welcome for you, Edward," he said, kindly laying his hand
on his shoulder, "but do not be too much cut down. Ellen is very young,
her constitution, Mr. Maitland assures us is good, and she may be spared
us yet. I came over on purpose to see you, for late as it was when I
returned from Exeter, and found you had arrived, I would not defer it
till to-morrow."

"You thought you came to see the pupil you so loved," answered Edward,
raising his head, and startling Mr. Howard, both by his tone and
countenance. "You do not know that I am the cause of my poor sister's
suffering, that if she dies, I am her murderer. Oh, Mr. Howard," he
continued, suddenly throwing himself in his arms, and bursting into
passionate tears, "why did I ever leave you? why did I forgot your
counsels, your goodness, throw your warning letter to the winds? Hate
me if you will, but listen to me--pity me, save me from myself."

Startled as he was, Mr. Howard, well acquainted with the human heart,
its errors, as well as its better impulses, knew how to answer this
passionate appeal, so as to invite its full confidence and soothe at the
same time. Edward poured out his whole tale. It is needless to enter
upon it here in detail; suffice it, that the artful influence of
Harding, by gradually undermining the good impressions of the home he
had left, had prepared his pupil for an unlimited indulgence in
pleasure, and excitement, at every opportunity which offered. And as the
Prince William was cruising off the coast of British America, and
constantly touching at one or other of her ports, where Harding, from
his seniority and usefulness, and Edward, from his invariable good
conduct, were often permitted to go ashore, these opportunities,
especially when they were looked for and used by one practiced in deceit
and wickedness, were often found. It does not require a long period to
initiate in gambling. The very compelled restraint, in the intervals of
its indulgence, but increased its maddening excitement, and once given
up to its blind pursuit, Harding became more than ever necessary to
Edward, and of course his power over him increased. But when he tried to
make him a sharer and conniver in his own low pleasures, to teach him
vice, cautiously as he thought he had worked, he failed; Edward started
back appalled, and though unhappily he could not break from him, from
that hour he misdoubted and shrunk away. But he had given an advantage
to his fell tutor, the extent of which he knew not himself. Harding was
too well versed in art to betray disappointment. He knew when to bring
wine to the billiard-table, so to create such a delirium of excitement,
that Edward was wholly unconscious of his own actions; and once or twice
he led him into scenes, and made him sharer of such vicious pleasures,
that secured him as his slave; for when the excitement was over, the
agony of remorse, the misery, lest his confiding captain should suspect
him other than he seemed, made him cling to Harding's promises of
secrecy, as his only refuge, even while he loathed the man himself. It
was easy to make such a disposition believe that he had, in some moment
of excitement, done something which, if known, would expel him the Navy;
Edward could never recall what, but he believed him, and became
desperate. Harding told him it was downright folly to think about it so
seriously. It was only known to him, and he would not betray him. But
Edward writhed beneath his power; perpetually he called on him for
pecuniary help, and when he had none, told him he must write home for
it, or win it at the billiard-table, or he knew the consequences; and
Edward, though again and again he had resolved he would not touch a ball
or cue (and the remorse had been such, that he would no doubt have kept
the resolve, had it not been for dread of betrayal), rather than write
home, would madly seek the first opportunity, and play, and win perhaps
enough, all but a few pounds, to satisfy his tormentor, and for these he
would appeal to his sister, and receive them, as we know; never asking,
and so never hearing, the heavy price of individual suffering at which
they were obtained.

The seven or eight months which had elapsed before his last fatal
appeal, had been occasioned by the ship being out at sea. Sir Edward had
mentioned to Mr. Hamilton, that Edward's excellent conduct on board had
given him a longer holiday on shore, when they were off New-York, to
which place he had been dispatched on business to the President, than
most of his companions. Edward thought himself safe, for Harding had
been unusually quiet; but the very day they neared land, he told him he
must have some cash, sneered at the trifling sum Edward had by him, told
him if he chose to let him try for it fairly, they should have a chance
at billiards for it; but if that failed, he must pump his rich relations
for it, for have it he must. Trusting to his luck, for he had often won,
even with Harding, he rushed to the table, played, and as might be
expected, left off, owing his tormentor fifty pounds. Harding's fiendish
triumph, and his declaration that he must trouble him for a check to
that amount, signed by the great millionaire, Arthur Hamilton, Esq.,
goaded him to madness. He drank down a large draught of brandy, and
deliberately sought another table and another opponent, and won back
fifteen; but it was the last day of his stay on shore, as his enslaver
knew, and it was the wretchedness, the misery of this heavy debt to the
crafty, merciless betrayer of his youthful freshness and innocence, who
had solemnly sworn if he did not pay it by the next letters from his
home, he would inform against him, and he knew the consequences, which
had urged that fearful letter to Ellen, from which all her suffering had
sprung. Edward was much too young and ignorant of the world's ways to
know that Harding no more dared execute his threat against him, than he
could put his own head in the lion's mouth. His remorse was too deep,
his loathing of his changed self too unfeigned, to believe that his
errors were not of the heinous, fatal nature which Harding taught him to
suppose them; and the anguish of a naturally fine, noble, independent
spirit may be imagined. All his poor mother's lessons of his uncle's
excessive sternness, and determined pitilessness, toward the faults of
those less firm and worthy than himself, returned to him, completely
banishing his own experience of that same uncle's excessive kindness.
The one feeling had been insensibly instilled in his boyhood, from as
long as he could remember, till the age of twelve; the other was but the
experience of eighteen short months. Oh, if parents would but think and
tremble at the vast importance of the first lessons which reach the
understanding of the young beings committed to their care! Let them
impress TRUTH, not prejudice, and they are safe. Once fix a false
impression, and they know not, and it is well, perhaps, they do not, the
misery that tiny seed may sow.

Mr. Howard listened with such earnest, heartfelt sympathy, such deep
commiseration, that his young penitent told him every error, every
feeling, without the smallest reserve; and in the long conversation
which followed, he felt more comforted, more hopeful of himself, than he
had done for long, long months. He told with such a burst of remorseful
agony, his cruelty to his devoted sister, that Mr. Howard could scarcely
hear it unmoved, for on that subject there seemed indeed no comfort; and
he himself, though he would not add to Edward's misery by confessing it,
felt more painfully self-reproached for his severity toward her than his
conduct as a minister had ever excited before.

"Be with me, or rather let me be with you, as much as you can," was
Edward's mournful appeal, as their long interview closed; "I have no
dependence on myself--a weak, miserable coward! longing to forsake the
path of evil, and having neither power nor energy to do so. I know you
will tell me, pray--trust. If I had not prayed, I could not have
confessed--but it will not, I know it will not last."

"It will, while enduring this heavy trial of your poor sister's terrible
illness, and God's infinite mercy may so strengthen you in the furnace
of affliction, as to last in returning joy! Despair, and you must fall;
trust, and you will hope and struggle--despite of pain or occasional
relapses. Your faults are great, but not so great as Harding
represented them--not so heavy but that you can conquer and redeem them,
and be yet all we have believed you, all that you hoped for in
yourself."

"And my uncle--" said Edward, hesitatingly.

"Must be told; but I will answer for him that he will be neither harsh
nor unjust, nor even severe. I will write to him myself, and trust to
convince him that your repentance, and resolution are sufficiently
sincere, to permit you a second trial, without referring to Sir Edward.
You have done nothing to expel you from your profession; but it depends
on yourself to become truly worthy of its noble service."

There was much in the sad tale he had heard to give hope, and Mr. Howard
longed to impart its comfort to Mrs. Hamilton; but he felt she could not
listen. While day after day passed, and the poor sufferer for another's
errors lay hovering between life and death, reason so utterly suspended,
that even when the violent agony of the first seven days and nights had
subsided into lethargic stupors, alternating with such quiet submission
and gentle words, that, had it not been for their wandering sense, one
might have fancied intellect returning; still reason was absent--and,
though none said it aloud, the fear would gain dominion, that health
might return, but not the mind. The first advice had been procured--what
was distance, even then, to wealth?--every remedy resorted to. Her
luxuriant hair cut close, and ice itself applied to cool that burning,
throbbing pain; but all had seemed vain, till its cessation, at the end
of seven days, somewhat renewed Mr. Maitland's hope.

Not one tear had Mrs. Hamilton shed, and so excessive had been her
fatigue, that Miss Harcourt and her children trembled for her; conjuring
her, for their sakes, for her husband's, to take repose. Mr. Maitland's
argument, that when Ellen recovered her senses (which he assured her now
he had little doubt she would eventually), she would need the soothing
comfort of her presence still more than she could then, and her strength
must fail before that--if she so exhausted it--carried more weight than
all the rest; and her daughters had the inexpressible relief of finding
that when, in compliance with their tearful entreaties, she did lie
down, she slept, and slept refreshingly, for nature was exhausted. There
was much of comfort in those days of trial, which Mrs. Hamilton fully
realized, when Ellen's convalescence permitted her to recall it, though
at the time it seemed unnoticed. That Caroline's strong mind and good
heart should urge her to do every thing in her power to save her mother
trouble, even to entreat Ellis and Morris to show her, and let her
attend to the weekly duties with them, and accomplish them so earnestly
and well, that both these faithful domestics were astonished and
delighted, was not surprising; for hers was a character to display its
better qualities in such emergencies. But that Emmeline should so
effectually rouse herself from the overwhelming grief, which had at
first assailed her at Ellen's fearful sufferings and great danger, as to
be a comfort alike to her mother and Edward, and assist Caroline
whenever she could, even trying to be hopeful and cheerful for others'
sakes, till she actually became so, _was_ so unexpected, from the grief
she had indulged in when she parted from her father, that it did
surprise. To be in the room with Ellen had so affected her at first,
that she became pale, and so evidently terrified, that Mrs. Hamilton
half desired her not to come, especially as she could do no good; and
Mrs. Greville and Mary had tried to prevail on her to stay with them,
but she would not hear of it.

"If I can do no good, can neither help mamma in nursing Ellen, nor do as
Caroline does, I can, at least, try to comfort poor Edward, and I will
not leave him. If I am so weak as not to be able to endure anxiety and
sorrow without showing it, it shall not conquer me. No, no, dear Mary;
come and see me as often as you like, but I can not leave home till
mamma and Ellen and we are all happy again!"

And she did devote herself to Edward, and so successfully--with her
gentle sympathy with his grief, her tender feeling toward his faults,
her conviction of her father's forgiveness, her unassuming but
heart-breathing piety, which, without one word unduly introduced of a
subject so holy, for she felt herself much too lowly and ignorant to
approach it--yet always led up his thoughts to God, and from one so
young, so humble, and, in general, so joyous, had still greater effect
in confirming his returning religious hope, than had his teachers been
only those who were older and wiser than himself. However miserable he
might be before she came, he looked to her society, her eloquence, as
comfort and hope; and soon perceiving this, she was encouraged to go on,
though quite astonished--for she could not imagine what she had done to
deserve such commendation--when Mr. Howard, one day meeting her alone,
took both her hands in his, and with even unusual fervor bade God bless
her!--for young, lowly as she was, she not only comforted the erring,
but raised and strengthened the penitent's trembling faith and hope.

Poor Edward! harder than all seemed to him his aunt's silence. He knew
his sister entirely engrossed her--ill as Ellen was, it could not be
otherwise; but he passionately longed only for one word from her: that
she forgave him the misery she was enduring. Not aware that such was his
feeling, conscious herself that her sole feeling toward him was pity,
not anger, and looking to herself alone as the cause of her poor child's
sufferings, she did not think for a moment that he could imagine her
never referring to his confession originated in displeasure.

Ten or twelve days had so passed, when one afternoon, completely
exhausted with two nights' watchfulness--for though nurse Langford and
Fanny were in constant attendance on Ellen, she could not rest if she
heard that harrowing cry for her, even though her presence brought no
comfort--she went to lie down for a few hours on a couch in her
dressing-room. Caroline had taken a book, though with not much
inclination to read, to sit by her, and watch that her sleep should not
be disturbed. How in those moments of quiet did she long for her father!
feeling intuitively how much heavier was her mother's trial without his
loved support. He had been written to by them all since Edward's
confession. Mrs. Hamilton had done so in Ellen's room, only to beseech
him to write forgivingly, forbearingly, to the unhappy cause of all. She
did not dare breathe her feelings, even on paper, to him, convinced that
if she did so, control must give way, and she was powerless at once; but
her husband knew her so well that every suppression of individual
emotion betrayed more forcibly than the most earnest words, all she was
enduring.

Caroline had kept her affectionate vigil nearly two hours, when Edward's
voice whispered, "Miss Harcourt wants you, dear Caroline; let me take
your place, I will be quite as watchful as yourself; only let me stay
here, you do not know the comfort it will be."

To resist his look of pleading wretchedness was impossible. She left
him, and Edward drawing a low stool to the foot of the couch, as if not
daring to occupy his cousin's seat, which was close by the pillow, gazed
on the mild, gentle features of his aunt, as in their deep repose they
showed still clearer the traces of anxiety and sorrow, and felt more
keenly than ever the full amount of misery, which his errors and their
fatal concealment had created. "Why is it," he thought, "that man can
not bear the punishment of his faults without causing the innocent, the
good, to suffer also?" And his heart seemed to answer, "Because by those
very social ties, the strong impulses of love for one another, which
would save others from woe, we may be preserved and redeemed from vice
again, and yet again, when, were man alone the sufferer, vice would be
stronger than remorse, and never be redeemed."

Mrs. Hamilton woke with that painful start which long watchfulness
always occasions, and missing Caroline, yet feeling as if she were not
alone, her eyes speedily fixed themselves in some surprise on the figure
of her nephew, who, unable to bear the thoughts the sight of her
exhaustion produced, had bent his head upon the couch. Inexpressibly
touched, and glad of the opportunity to speak to him alone, she called
him to her, and there was something in the tone that encouraged him to
fling himself on his knees by her side, and sob like an infant, saying,
almost inarticulately--

"Can you, will you, ever forgive me, aunt Emmeline? Your silence has
almost broken my heart, for it seemed to say you never could; and when I
look at my poor Ellen, and see how I have changed this happy home into
sorrow and gloom and sin, for it is all my work--mine, whom you have
loved, treated, trusted, as a son--I feel you can not forgive me; I
ought to go from you; I have no right to pollute your home."

"Hush, Edward! do not give utterance or indulgence to any such thoughts.
My poor unhappy boy! your errors have brought such fearful chastisement
from the hand of God himself, it is not for me to treat you harshly. May
His mercy avert yet severer trial! I will not hear your story now; you
are too agitated to tell it, and I am not at this moment strong enough
to hear it. I am satisfied that you have confided all to Mr. Howard, and
will be guided by him. Only tell me how came you first to apply to
Ellen? Did the thought never strike you, that in sending relief to you,
she might be exposing herself to inconvenience or displeasure? Was there
no consideration due to her?"

"I never seemed to think of her, except as glad and willing to help me,
at whatever cost to herself," was his reply. "I feel now the cruel
selfishness of the belief--but, oh, aunt Emmeline, it was fostered in me
from my earliest childhood, grew with my growth, increased with my
years, received strength and meaning from my poor mother's utter
neglect of her, and too indulgent thought for me. I never thought so
till now, now that I know all my poor sister's meek and gentle worth,
and it makes me still more miserable. I never could think her my equal;
never could fancy she could have a will or wish apart from mine, and I
can not trace the commencement of the feeling. Oh! if we had been but
treated alike! but taught to so love each other, as to think of each
other's happiness above our own, as you taught my cousins!"

"Do you know any thing of the promise to which poor Ellen so constantly
refers?" inquired Mrs. Hamilton, after gently soothing his painful
agitation.

He did not; but acknowledged that from the time they had become inmates
of Oakwood, Ellen had constantly saved him from punishment by bearing
the penalty of his faults; recalling numerous incidents, trifling in
themselves, but which had always perplexed Mrs. Hamilton, as evincing
such strange contradictions in Ellen's childish character, and none more
so than the disobedience which we related in our second part, and which
Edward's avowal of having himself moved the flower-stand, now so clearly
explained. He said, too, that Mr. Howard had thought it necessary, for
Ellen's perfect justification, to examine her letters and papers, but
that all his appeals to her had been destroyed but one--his last fatal
inclosure, the exact contents of which he had so utterly forgotten,
written, as they were, in a moment of madness, that he shuddered himself
as he read it. He placed the paper in Mrs. Hamilton's hand, conjuring
her not to recall her forgiveness when she read it; but she must see it,
it was the only amends he could make his poor Ellen, to exculpate her
fully. Was it any wonder it had almost driven her wild? or that she
should have scarcely known the means she adopted to send him the relief,
which, as he deserved, had never reached him.

Mrs. Hamilton read the letter, and as thought after thought rose to her
mind, connecting, defining, explaining Ellen's conduct from her
fifteenth birthday, the day she received it, to the discovery of her
sin, and her devoted silence afterward, trifling incidents which she had
forgotten returned to add their weight of evidence, and increase almost
to agony her self-reproach, for not seeing the whole before, and acting
differently. She remembered now Ellen's procrastination in writing to
Edward, the illness which followed, and could well understand her dread
lest the finding the notes should be traced to that day, and so throw a
suspicion on her brother, and her consequent firmness in refusing to
state the day she had found them.

That long interview was one of inexpressible comfort to Edward; but
though his unfeigned repentance and full confession gave his aunt hope
for him, it did but increase her individual trial, as she returned to
Ellen's couch, and listened to wanderings only too painfully explained
by the tale she had heard.



CHAPTER X.

MISTAKEN IMPRESSIONS ERADICATED.


It was the seventeenth day of Ellen's illness, and for six-and-thirty
hours she had slept profoundly, waking only at very long intervals, just
sufficiently to swallow a few drops of port wine, which Mr. Maitland had
ordered to be administered if she woke, and sunk to sleep again. It was
that deep, still, almost fearful repose, for it is so like death, which
we can scarcely satisfy ourselves is life, except by holding a glass at
intervals to the lips, to trace if indeed it receive the moisture of the
breath. And nurse Langford, Mrs. Hamilton, and Edward had, through these
long hours, watched and scarcely stirred. For they knew that on her
waking hung hope or misery, return of intellect, or its confirmed
suspension. Mr. Maitland had particularly wished Edward to be with her
when she recovered her senses, that his presence might seem as natural
as either of her cousins; but he warned him that the least display of
agitation on his part, or reference to the past, in her exhausted state,
might be fatal to her. It was quite the evening. Widow Langford had
lighted the lamp, and sat down by the fire, scarcely able to breathe
freely, from the intensity of her hope that Ellen would recover. And if
such were her feelings, what were Edward's and Mrs. Hamilton's? The
former was kneeling on the right of the bed, his eyes alternately fixed
on his sister, and buried in the coverlid. Mrs. Hamilton was on the
opposite side, close to Ellen's pillow, the curtain drawn so far back,
that the least change on the patient's countenance was discernible. Hour
after hour had so passed, the chimes that told their flight were
scarcely heard by those anxious watchers. It was about eight o'clock,
when a slight movement in Ellen made her aunt's heart so throb, as
almost to deprive her of breath; her eyes unclosed, and a smile, such as
Mrs. Hamilton had not seen for weeks, nay, months, circled her lips.

"Dear aunt, have I been ill? It seems such a long, long time since I
have seen you, and my head feels so strange, so light; and this room, it
is my own, I know, but I feel as if it did not belong to me, somehow. Do
make my head clear, I can not think at all."

"Do not try to think yet, darling. You have been very, very ill, and to
endeavor to think might hurt you. Strength will soon return now, I hope,
and then your head will be quite clear again," returned Mrs. Hamilton,
quietly and caressingly, though she so trembled with the change from
sickening dread to certain hope, that she herself scarcely knew how she
spoke at all.

"But what made me so ill, aunt? I feel as if it were some great pain; I
can not remember any thing clearly, but yet it seems as if I had been
very unhappy--and that--that you did not love me any more. Did any thing
make me ill? Was it really so?"

"That I did not love you, my Ellen! Indeed, that was only fancy. You
were very unhappy, as we were all, for Edward did not come as soon as we
expected him, and the storms were very dreadful, and we feared his ship
might have been wrecked, or cast ashore, somewhere very far off, where
we could not hear of him; and when you saw him, and knew he was safe,
the anxiety and pain you had undergone, made you ill; you know a little
thing will do that, dearest."

"But is he really safe, aunt Emmeline? Where is he?"

"Close by you, love. He has been as watchful and anxious a nurse as I
have been. Poor fellow, you have given him a sad welcome, but you must
make up for it, by-and-by."

Ellen looked languidly, yet eagerly round, as her aunt spoke, and her
gaze fixed itself on her brother, who was struggling violently to
suppress the emotion which, at the sound of her voice, in connected
words, nearly overpowered him; and still more so, when Ellen said, more
eagerly than she had yet spoken--

"Dear Edward! come and kiss me, and do not look so sad. I shall soon get
well."

He bent over her, and kissed her repeatedly, trying in vain to say
something, but he felt so choked, he could not; and Ellen held his hand,
and looked earnestly, searchingly in his face, as if trying painfully to
define the vague thoughts and memories which seemed all connected with
him and with pain, but which would not take a distinct form. Her eye
wandered from him for a moment to nurse Langford, who had come to the
foot of the bed, and that seemed another face connected with the blank
past, and then it fixed itself again on Edward, and her pale face so
worked with the effort of thought, that Mrs. Hamilton became alarmed.
She saw, too, that Edward was growing paler and paler, and trembled for
the continuance of his control. Taking Ellen's hand gently from his, and
arranging her pillow at the same time, so as to turn her face rather
from him, she said, playfully--

"You have looked at Edward long enough, Ellen, to be quite sure he is
safe at home. So now I shall be jealous if you give him any more of your
attention and neglect me; you must take some nourishment, and try to go
to sleep again, for I must not have you try your strength too much."

"If I could but remember clearly," answered Ellen, sadly; "it is all so
vague--so dark--but I do not think it was only because he did not come,
that made me so unhappy."

"You are not going to be disobedient, dearest," replied Mrs. Hamilton,
firmly, though fondly, as she hastily signed to Edward to leave the
room, which he most thankfully did, never stopping till he reached his
own, and tried to thank God for His great mercy, but could only sob. "I
told you not to think, because to do so might retard return of strength,
and indeed you must try and obey me; you know I am very peremptory
sometimes." And the fond kiss with which she enforced the command seemed
to satisfy Ellen, whose natural submissiveness, combined with excessive
physical weakness, caused her to obey at once, and not attempt to think
any more. She took the required nourishment with returning appetite, and
soon afterward fell quietly and happily to sleep again, her aunt's hand
closely clasped in hers.

From that day, all fear of disordered intellect departed, and,
gradually, the extreme exhaustion gave way before Mr. Maitland's
judicious treatment. Strength, indeed, returned so slowly and almost
imperceptibly, that it was necessary to count improvement by weeks, not
days. And when, six weeks after her first seizure, she was thought well
enough to be carried to Mrs. Hamilton's dressing-room, and laid on a
couch there, it was a source of gratitude and rejoicing to all. But Mr.
Maitland and Mrs. Hamilton soon saw, with intense anxiety, that with
physical strength, memory and thought had both fully returned, and that
their consequence was a depression so deep, as effectually to retard her
perfect recovery. She seemed to shrink from all attention, all kindness,
as utterly undeserved, even from her cousins. She would look at Edward
for half an hour together, with an expression of suffering that made the
heart actually ache. At times she would receive Mrs. Hamilton's
caressing and judicious tenderness as if it were her only comfort, at
others, shrink from it, as if she had no right to it.

"This will never do," Mr. Maitland said, about ten days after Ellen's
removal into her daily quarters, and finding she was losing ground;
"there is something on her mind, which must be removed, even if to do
so, you refer to the past. She remembers it all too clearly, I fear, so
our not alluding to it does no good. You must be the physician in this
case, my dear Mrs. Hamilton, for I am powerless."

But though she quite agreed with him, how to approach such a very
painful subject required no little consideration; but, as is very often
the case, chance does that on which we have expended so much thought.

One afternoon Ellen lay so still, so pale, on her couch, that Mrs.
Hamilton bent over her to listen if she breathed, saying as she did so,
almost unconsciously--

"My poor Ellen, when shall I have the comfort of seeing you well and
happy again?"

Ellen hastily unclosed her eyes, for she was not asleep--it had been
only the stupor of painfully-engrossing thought, rendering her
insensible to all outward things, but her aunt's voice aroused her, and
it seemed an inexpressible relief to feel they were quite alone. Trying
to rise, and clasping her hands, she said, in a tone of strong
excitement--

"Oh, aunt Emmeline, how can I be happy--how can I be well--when I
think--think--that if it had not been for my sin, and the misery it
brought on me, Edward might be safe still? no one need have known his
errors. I tried to save--and--and I have only betrayed, and made him
wretched. All I suffered was for nothing, worse than nothing!"

"Thank God, you have spoken, my dear child! I felt as if I dared not
introduce the subject; but now that you have yourself, I think I shall
be able, if indeed you will listen to me patiently, Ellen, to disperse
the painful mists, that are still pressing so heavily on this poor
little heart and brain," she said, fondly, though seriously, as she put
her arm round Ellen, to support her as she sat up. "I do not tell you it
is not a natural feeling, my love, but it is a wrong one. Had your sin,
in consideration of its being, as I am now convinced it was, wholly
involuntary--for in the fearful state of mind Edward's desperate letter
occasioned, you could not have known or thought of any thing, but that
relief seemed sent to your hand--had it on that account been permitted
so far to succeed, as to give him the aid he demanded, and never have
been traced to you, it would have confirmed him in the path of guilt and
error, and poisoned your happiness forever. When you recall the agony,
almost madness you felt, while burdened with the consciousness of such
an act, how could you have borne it, if it had continued through months,
perhaps years? You shudder; yet this must have been the case, and Edward
would have persisted in error, if your sin had been permitted to
succeed. Its detection, and the sufferings thence springing, terrible as
they have been to you, my poor child, have saved him; and will, I trust,
only bring securer happiness to you."

"Saved him!" repeated Ellen, half starting up, and scarcely hearing the
last words--"saved Edward!"

"Yes, dearest, by leading him to a full confession, and giving him not
only the inexpressible comfort of such a proceeding, but permitting him
to see, that great and disappointing as his errors are, they can be
conquered. They are not of the irremediable, guilt-confirming nature,
that he was taught to suppose them for Harding's own most guilty ends,
and so giving him hope and resolution to amend, which a belief that
amendment is impossible, entirely frustrates. Do not fear for Edward, my
own love; he will give you as much pride and comfort as he has anxiety
and grief; and you, under God's mercy, will have been the cause. It is a
hard lesson to learn, and yet, Ellen, I think one day, when you can look
back more calmly on the last few months, you will acknowledge with me,
that great as your sufferings have been, they were sent in love both to
him and to you."

"If they have saved him--saved him from a continuance in error, and so
made him happy!--Oh, aunt Emmeline, I can think so now, and I will try
to bear the rest? but why," she added, growing more excited, "oh, why
have you been so good, so kind? Why did you not continue cold and
distant? I could bear it better, then."

"Bear what, love? What have you more to bear? Tell me all without
reserve. Why should I be cold, when you deserve all my love and
kindness?"

"Because--because, am I not to go to Seldon Grange, as soon as I am
strong enough? Uncle Hamilton said, there could be no excusing cause
demanding a complete avoidance of his sentence. I thought it was pain
enough when you first told me; but now, now every time I think about it,
it seems as if I could not bear it."

"And you are not called upon to bear it, my dear child. Is it possible
you could think for a moment that I could send you away from me, when
you have borne so much, and been treated with far too much severity
already? Did I not tell you that the term of your banishment depended
entirely on the motive of your silence, and do you think there was no
excuse in your motive, my Ellen, mistaken as it was? Is self-devotion to
be of no more account to me, than it seemed to you? Come, smile,
dearest; I promise you, in your uncle's name and my own, you shall never
leave us, unless it be of your own free will and pleasure, a few years
hence."

Ellen did try to smile, but she was too weak to bear this complete
removal of a double burden without an emotion that seemed more like pain
than joy. She laid her head on her aunt's shoulder, and wept without
restraint. They were the first tears she had shed since her illness, and
Mrs. Hamilton thanked God for them. She did not attempt to check them,
but the few words she did speak, told such affectionate sympathy, such
perfect comprehension of that young heart, that Ellen felt as if a
mountain of lead were dissolving from her.

"And now, my Ellen, that I have relieved you of a painful dread, will
you ease my mind of a great anxiety?" inquired Mrs. Hamilton, nearly an
hour afterward, when Ellen seemed so relieved and calmed, that she could
talk to her without fear. "You look surprised; but it is a subject you
alone can explain, and till it is solved, I shall never feel that your
happiness is secure. What is this promise, to which in your illness you
so constantly referred, and which, I fear, has strengthened you in the
system of self-sacrifice for Edward's sake, in addition to your love for
him?"

A deep flush rose to Ellen's transparent cheek and brow, as she
answered, falteringly--

"Ought I to tell you, dear aunt? You do not know how often, how very
often I have longed to ask you, if to keep it made me do wrong--whether
I ought to break it? And yet it seemed so sacred, and it gave poor mamma
such comfort!"

"When did you make it, love? Its import I need not ask you, for you
betrayed it, when you knew not what you said, and it was confirmed by
your whole conduct. To shield Edward from blame or punishment, by never
revealing his faults?"

"Was it wrong?" murmured Ellen, hiding her conscious face.

"Wrong in you! no dearest; for you were too young to know all the pain
and evil it was likely to bring. Tell me when, and how, it was taken;
and I think I can prove to you that your poor mother would have recalled
it, had she had the least idea of the solemn hold it had taken upon
you."

Thus encouraged, Ellen narrated the scene that had taken place in widow
Morgan's cottage just before Mrs. Hamilton arrived; and her mother's
fears for Edward, and dread of Mr. Hamilton, which it was very evident,
and now more than ever, had extended to both her children. She said that
Mr. Myrvin's assurance, that her mother could see, and would love her in
Heaven, directly following the promise, had given it still more weight
and solemnity. That at first she thought it would be very easy to keep,
because she loved Edward so dearly; but she had not been long at Oakwood
before it made her very unhappy, from its constant interference with,
and prevention of, her obedience and duty to her aunt; that it had often
caused her violent head aches, only from her vain attempts to satisfy
herself as to that which she ought to do. When Edward first went to sea,
and all seemed so right and happy with him, of course she became happier
than she had ever been before. Then came his difficulties, and her
conviction that she must save him and keep his secret. That her reason
and her affection often urged her to confide all to her aunt, certain
that she would not harshly condemn Edward, but would forgive and help
him far more effectually than she could; but she dared not, for whenever
she thought thus, the figure of her mother rose before her, seeming to
reproach and threaten her for exposing the child she so dearly loved to
disgrace and ruin; and this was so vivid--so constant during his last
appeal, that she thought she must be going mad; that nothing but the
dread of not being firm enough to keep Edward's secret, had withheld her
from confessing her sin at once to her aunt, especially when her uncle
had so solemnly denounced it as theft, and that when it was discovered
it seemed actual relief, though it brought such severe punishment, for
she knew no suffering for her could be too severe.

The tale, as Ellen told it, was brief and simple enough, and that there
was any merit in such a system of self-devotion never seemed to enter
her mind for a moment; but to Mrs. Hamilton it revealed such an amount
of suffering and trial, such a quiet, systematic, heroic endurance, that
she unconsciously drew that young delicate being closer and closer to
her, as if her love should protect her in future from any such trial;
and from what had it all sprung?--the misery of years, at a period when
life should be so joyous and so free, that care and sorrow flee it as
purely and too briefly happy to approach? From a few thoughtless words,
from a thoughtless, partial mother, whose neglect and dislike had
pronounced that disposition cold, unloving and inanimate whose nature
was so fervid, so imaginative, that the utmost care should have been
taken to prevent the entrance of a single thought or feeling too
precocious, too solemn for her years. It may be urged, and with truth,
that to an ordinary child the promise might have been forgotten, or
heedlessly laid aside, without any harm accruing from it, but it was
from not caring to know the real character of the little being, for
whose happiness and virtue she was responsible, that the whole mischief
sprung; and it is this neglect of maternal duty against which we would
so earnestly warn those who may not have thought about it. It is _not
enough_ to educate the mind, to provide bodily necessaries, to be
indulgent in the gift of pleasure and amusement, the _heart_ must be won
and taught; and to do so with any hope of success, the character must be
transparent as the day: and what difficulty, what hinderance, can there,
or ought there to be, in obtaining this important knowledge to a mother,
from whose breast the babe has received its nourishment, from whose arms
it has gradually slipped away to feel its own independence, from whose
lips it has received its first lessons, at whose knee lisped its first
prayer? How comparatively trifling the care, how easy the task to learn
the opening disposition and natural character, so as to guide with
gentleness and love, and create happiness, not for childhood alone,
though that is much, but for youth and maturity.

All these thoughts passed though Mrs. Hamilton's mind as she listened
to her niece, and looked at the pale, sweet face lifted up to hers in
the earnestness of her simple tale, as if unconsciously appealing for
her protection against the bewildering and contending feelings of her
own young heart. How she was effectually to remove these impressions of
years indeed she knew not; her heart seemed to pray for guidance that
peace might at length be Ellen's portion, even as she heard.

"You could scarcely have acted otherwise than you have always done
toward Edward, my dear Ellen, under the influence of such a promise,"
she said; "your extreme youth, naturally enough, could not permit you to
distinguish, whether it was called for by a mere impulse of feeling in
your poor mother, or really intended. But tell me, do you think it would
give me any comfort or happiness if I could see Emmeline act by Percy as
you have done by Edward? To see her suffer pain and sorrow, and be led
into error, too, sometimes, to conceal Percy's faults, and prevent their
removal, when, by the infliction of some trifling pain, it would save
his exposing himself to greater?"

"But it seems so different with my cousins, aunt; they are all such
equals. I can not fancy Emmeline in my place. You have always loved them
all alike."

"And do you not think a mother ought to do to, dearest?"

"But how can she, if they are not all equally deserving? I was so
different to Edward: he was so handsome and good, and so animated and
happy; and I was always fretful and ill, and they said so often naughty;
and he used to fondle poor mamma, and show his love, which I was afraid
to do, though I did love her so _very_ much (the tears started to her
eyes), so I could not help feeling he must be much better than I was,
just as I always feel all my cousins are, and so it was no wonder poor
mamma loved him so much the best."

"Have I ever made any difference between Edward and you, Ellen?" asked
Mrs. Hamilton, conquering, with no small effort, the emotion called
forth by Ellen's simple words.

"Oh, no, no!" and she clung to her in almost painful emotion. "But you
are so good, so kind to every body; you would love me, and be kind to me
as poor papa was, because nobody else could.

"My dear Ellen, what can I do to remove these mistaken impressions? I
love you, and your father loved you, because you have qualities claiming
our love quite as powerfully as your brother. You must not imagine
because you may be less personally and mentally favored, that you are
_inferior_ to him, either in the sight of your Heavenly Father, or of
the friends and guardians He has given you. And even if such were the
case, and you were as undeserving as you so wrongly imagine yourself, my
duty, as that of your mother, would be just the same. A parent does not
love and guide her children according to their individual merits, my
dear Ellen, but according to the fountain of love which, to enable her
to do her duty, God has so mercifully placed in her heart; and therefore
those who have the least attractions and the most faults, demand the
greater cherishing to supply the place of the one, and more careful
guiding to overcome the other. Do you quite understand me, love."

Ellen's earnest face, on which joy and hope seemed struggling with
doubt, was sufficient answer.

"All mothers do not think of their solemn responsibility in the same
light; and many causes--sad recollections and self-reproaches for her
early life, and separation in coldness from her father and myself, might
all have tended to weaken your mother's consciousness of her duty, and
so, without any fault in yourself, my Ellen, have occasioned her too
great partiality for Edward. But do you remember her last words?"

Ellen did remember them, and acknowledged they had so increased her
affection for her mother, as to render the promise still more sacred to
her.

"I feared so, dearest; but it is just the contrary effect which they
should have had. When she called you to her, and blessed and kissed you
as fondly as she did Edward, she said she had done you injustice, had
failed in her duty to you, and it so grieved her, for it was too late to
atone for it then; she could only pray to God to raise you up a kinder
parent. I have tried to be that, for her sake, as well as your own; and
will you not acknowledge, that if she had been spared to love and know
your affection for her, she could no more have borne to see you suffer
as you have done for Edward, than I could my Emmeline for Percy? Do you
not think, when she had learned to feel as I do, which she had already
begun to do, that she would have recalled that fatal promise, and
entreated you not to act upon it? What has it ever done but to make you
to painfully suffer, lead you often into error, and confirm, by
concealment, Edward's faults?"

Ellen's tears were falling fast and freely, but they were hardly tears
of pain. Her aunt's words seemed to disperse a thick mist from her brain
and heart, and for the first time, to satisfy her that she might dismiss
the painful memory of her promise, and dismiss it without blame or
disobedience to her mother.

Mrs. Hamilton had begun the conversation in trembling, for it seemed so
difficult to accomplish her object without undue condemnation of her
sister; but as Ellen, clasping her arms about her neck, tried to thank
her again and again, for taking such a heavy load from her heart, saying
that she would still help Edward just the same, and she would try to
guard him and herself from doing wrong, that her mother should love her
still, she felt she had succeeded, and silently, but how fervently,
thanked God.

"But will you tell me one thing, aunt Emmeline? Why, if the promise were
mistaken, and poor mamma would have wished it recalled, did I always
seem to see her so distinctly, and fancy she so desired me to save
Edward from my uncle's displeasure?"

"Because you have a very strong imagination, my love, increased by
dwelling on this subject; and in your last trial your mind was in such a
fearful and unnatural state of excitement, that your imagination became
actually diseased. It was not at all surprising; for much older and
stronger, and wiser persons would have experienced the same, under the
same pressure of grief, and terror, and remorse. But what can I do to
cure this morbid imagination, Ellen?" she continued playfully; "sentence
you, as soon as you get well, to a course of mathematics, six hours each
day?"

"I am afraid my poor head will be more stupid at figures than ever,"
replied Ellen, trying to smile, too.

"Then I suppose I must think of something else. Will you follow
Emmeline's example, and tell me every thing, however foolish or
unfounded it may seem, that comes into this little head--whether it
worries or pleases you? You have nothing, and you will have nothing ever
again, I trust, to conceal from me, my dear Ellen; and if you will do
this, you will give me more comfort individually, and more security for
the furtherance of your happiness, as far as my love can promote it,
than any other plan."

Her playfulness had given place to renewed earnestness, and Ellen, as if
in the very thought of such perfect confidence dwelt security and
peace, so long unknown to her, gave the required assurance so eagerly
and gratefully, that Mrs. Hamilton was satisfied and happy.



CHAPTER XI.

THE LOSS OF THE SIREN.


From that day, Ellen's recovery, though a sad trial of patience both to
the young invalid and her affectionate nurses, was surely progressive,
without any of those painful relapses which had so tried Mr. Maitland's
skill before. She no longer shrunk from the society of her relations,
receiving Caroline's and Miss Harcourt's many kind attentions with
surprise indeed, for she could not imagine what could so have altered
their feelings toward her, but with that evident gratitude and pleasure,
which encourages a continuance of kindness. Emmeline was always kind,
but it was indeed happiness to feel she might talk with and share her
amusements, as in former days; and that, instead of thinking she ought
not to receive her aunt's affection, the only thing she asked in return
was her full confidence. The inexpressible rest to poor Ellen which that
conversation gave is not to be described. It was so blessed, so
soothing, that it seemed too unnatural to last, and the secret dread
that her uncle would not feel toward her and Edward as her aunt did was
its only alloy. Edward, too, was cheerful, and almost happy when with
her; and a long conversation with Mr. Howard, which that worthy man
insisted upon having as soon as she was strong enough, to remove the
false impressions which his severity had given, and which never ceased
to grieve and reproach him, caused his almost daily visits to be
anticipated by her with as much gladness as they had before brought
dread.

"And now that anxiety for Ellen is at end, I must have you take more
care of yourself, Mrs. Hamilton. Your husband's last injunctions, were,
that I should never pass a week without calling once or twice at Oakwood
to know how all was going on, and what would he say to me if he could
see you now?"

"He little thought how my strength would be tried, my good friend, and
so will quite acquit you. I assure you that, physically, I am perfectly
well"--(the worthy doctor shook his head most unbelievingly)--"but even
with one great anxiety calmed, there remains another, which every week
increases. It is more than double the usual time of hearing from my
husband. We have never had any answer to the letters detailing Ellen's
danger and Edward's return, and the answers have been due a full month."

"But the weather has been so unusually tempestuous, it may have been
impossible for the Siren to ply to and fro from Feroe to Scotland, as
Hamilton wished, and no ships are likely to touch at those islands in
the winter. I really think you need not be anxious on that score; none
but Arthur Hamilton's head could have contrived your hearing as
regularly from such an outlandish place as you have done. No news is
good news, depend upon it. He may be anxious on your account, and
returning himself."

"God forbid!" answered Mrs. Hamilton, turning very pale; "better the
anxiety of not hearing from him than the thought of his being at sea in
this season."

Oakwood had resumed its regular happy aspect, though Ellen was still
up-stairs. Morris and Ellis had once more the happiness of their beloved
mistress's superintendence, and proud were they both, as if Caroline had
been their own child, to show all she had done, and so unostentatiously,
to save her mother trouble when she had been too anxious to think of any
thing but Ellen; and the mother's heart swelled with a delicious feeling
of gratitude to Him who, if in making her so acutely sensible of her
solemn responsibility had deepened and extended _anxiety_, had yet in
the same measure heightened and spiritualized _joy_. The fruit was
indeed worth the nurture, though it might have been often washed with
tears. Intensely anxious as she felt herself, as did also Mr. Howard and
Mr. Maitland, and, in fact, all Arthur Hamilton's friends, she yet tried
to sustain the spirits of her children, for the young men had evidently
grown anxious on the subject too. It was not unlikely that the seas
round Feroe, always stormy, should prevent any ship leaving the island,
and the young people eagerly grasped the idea: so painful is it to youth
to realize a cause for anxiety; but even they, at times, grew
unconsciously sad and meditating, as the usually joyous season of
Christmas and New Year passed, and still there was no letter. Ellen and
Edward both in secret dreaded the arrival of the answer to the latter's
confession; but still their affection for Mrs. Hamilton was too
powerful to permit any thought of self interfering with the wish that
her anxiety might be calmed.

In January the weather changed; the tremendous winds gave place to an
almost unnatural calm, and to such excessive mildness and closeness of
atmosphere, that it affected the health of many who were strong, and not
only made Ellen very languid, but frequently recalled those dreadful
headaches which were in themselves an illness. Business called Mr.
Howard to Dartmouth near the end of the month, and he prevailed on
Edward to accompany him, for whenever his sister was more than usually
suffering his gloom redoubled. The first few days were so fine that the
change renovated him; Mr. Howard declared it was the sight of old ocean,
and Edward did not deny it; for though it was good for the permanence of
his repentance and resolution to amend, to have the influence of his
home sufficiently long, his spirit inwardly chafed at his detention, and
yearned to be at sea again, and giving proof of his determination to
become indeed a British sailor.

The third day of their visit, the lull and heaviness of the air
increased so strangely and closely, for January, as to seem almost
portentous. Edward and Mr. Howard lingered on the beach; the
well-practiced eye of the former tracing in many little things unseen to
landsmen, the slow, but sure approach of a fearful storm.

"It is strange for the season, but there is certainly electricity in the
air," he said, directing Mr. Howard's attention to ridges of
white-fringed clouds floating under the heavens, whose murky hue was
becoming denser and denser; and ever and anon, as lashed by some as yet
silent and invisible blast, the ocean heaved and foamed, and gave sure
evidence of approaching fury; "there will be, I fear, a terrible storm
to-night; and look at those birds" (several sea-gulls were skimming
along the waves almost bathing their white plumage in the blackened
waters) "strange how they always herald tempest! Emmeline would call
them spirits of the blast, reveling in the destruction it foretells!"

"It is approaching already," rejoined Mr. Howard, as a long hollow blast
moaned and shivered round them, followed by the roar of a mountainous
wave bursting on the beach. "God have mercy on all exposed to its fury!"
and he gladly turned more inland, while Edward remained watching its
progress with an almost pleasurable feeling of excitement, only wishing
he could but be on the sea, to enjoy it as such a storm deserved to be.

As the day drew to a close it increased, and as darkness set in, its
fury became appalling. Blasts, long and loud as the reverberation of
artillery, succeeded one another with awful rapidity, tearing up huge
trees by the roots, and tiles from the roofs. Now and then, at distant
intervals, blue lightning played through the black heavens, betraying
that thunder had mingled with the wind, though it was impossible to
distinguish the one sound from the other; and as the gusts passed
onward, streaks of white and spots of strange unnatural blue gleamed
through the gloom for a moment's space, leaving deeper darkness as they
disappeared. The ocean, lashed to wildest fury, rolled in huge mountains
of troubled waters, throwing up showers of snowy foam, contrasting
strangely with the darkness of earth and heaven, and bursting with a
sound that deadened for the time even the wild roar of the blast. To
read or even to converse, in their comfortable quarters in the hotel,
which overlooked the sea, became as impossible to Mr. Howard as to
Edward. About eleven o'clock, however, the wind suddenly veered and
lulled, only sending forth now and then a long sobbing wail, as if
regretful that its work of destruction was even checked; but the sea
raged with equal fury, presenting a spectacle as magnificent, as awful,
and giving no appearance of a calm. A sharp report sounded suddenly from
the sea--whether it was the first, or that others might have been lost
in the tumult of the winds and waves, who might answer? Another, and
another, at such rapid intervals, that the danger was evidently
imminent, and Edward started to his feet. Again--and he could bear it no
longer. Hurriedly exclaiming, "They are signals of distress and close at
hand! Something must be done; no sailor can sit still, and see sailors
perish!" he rushed to the beach, closely followed by Mr. Howard, who was
resolved on preventing any mad attempt. Crowds of fishermen and townsmen
had congregated on the beach, drawn by that fearful sound, which, by the
light from the guns seemed scarcely half a mile distant; and yet so
perilous was the present appearance of the ocean, that to go to their
assistance seemed impossible. Suddenly, however, Edward's voice
exclaimed, with the glad and eager tone of perfect confidence, "They can
be saved!--a strong boat and two willing rowers, and I will undertake to
reach the vessel, and bring the crew safe to shore. Who among you," he
continued turning eagerly to the group of hardy fishermen, "will be my
assistants in this act of common humanity? who possesses willing hearts
and able hands, and will lend them?"

"No one who cares for his life!" was the sullen answer from one of those
he addressed, and the rest stood silent, eyeing, half disdainfully half
admiringly, the slight figure of the young sailor, revealed as it was,
in the fitful light of the many torches scattered by the various groups
along the beach. "It is well for boys to talk, we can not expect old
heads on young shoulders; but not a boat with my consent leaves the
harbor to-night; it would be willful murder."

"I tell you I will stake my life on the venture," answered Edward, his
passion rising high. "Am I speaking to sailors, and can they hesitate
when they hear such sounds? Give me but a boat, and I will go by myself:
and when you need aid, may you find those to give it! you will scarce
dare ask it, if that vessel perish before your eyes. Lend me a boat, I
say, fitted for such a sea, and the lender shall be rewarded handsomely.
If there be such risk, I ask none to share it; my life is my own, and I
will peril it."

It would have made a fine scene for a painter, that young, slight form
and boyish face, surrounded by those weather-beaten men, every
countenance expressing some different emotion, yet almost all unwilling
admiration; the torches' glare, so lurid on the pitchy darkness; the
sheets of foam, rising and falling like showers of dazzling snow; the
craggy background; and, out at sea, the unfortunate vessel, a perfect
wreck, struggling still with the fast-rising waters. Mr. Howard saw all,
but with no thought of the picturesque, his mind was far otherwise
engaged.

"By Neptune! but your honor shall not go alone! I have neither parent,
nor sister, nor wife to pipe for me, if I go; so my life must be of less
moment than yours, and if you can so peril it, why should not I?"
exclaimed a stalwart young fisherman, advancing, and Edward eagerly
grasped his rough hand, conjuring him to get his boat at once, there was
not a moment to lose; but the example was infectious, and an old man
hastily stepped forward, declaring the youngsters had taught him his
duty, and he would do it.

"Great God! what do they say?" exclaimed Edward, as his younger
companion hastened down the beach to bring his boat to the leeward of
the cliff, to launch it more securely, and a rumor ran through the
crowds, whence arising it was impossible to discover. "The
Siren--Captain Harvey--my uncle's ship!--and he must be in her--she
would never leave Feroe without him. What foundation is there for this
rumor? let me know, for God's sake!"

But none could tell more than that a vessel, entering the harbor just
before the gale, had hailed the Siren, about twenty miles distant, and
she seemed laboring heavily, and in such a distressed state that a very
little would finish her. Not a word escaped Edward's lips which grew for
the moment blanched as marble. Mr. Howard to whom the rumor had brought
the most intense agony, for not a doubt of its truth would come to
relieve him, was at his side, grasping his hand, and murmuring,
hoarsely--

"Edward, my poor boy, must your life be periled too?--both--both--this
is awful!"

"Let me but save _him_, and if I perish it will be in a good cause. Tell
aunt Emmeline, I know she will comfort my poor Ellen; and that the boy
she has saved from worse misery than death, did all he could to save her
husband! and if I fail"--he stopped, in strong emotion, then
added--"give Ellen this, and this," he cut off a lock of his hair with
his dirk, and placed it and his watch in Mr. Howard's trembling
hand.--"And now, my friend, God bless you and reward you, too!" He threw
himself a moment in Mr. Howard's arms, kissed his cheek, and, darting
down the beach, leaped into the boat, which was dancing like a nutshell
on the water. It was several minutes, ere they could succeed in getting
her off, the waves seeming determined to cast her back; but they were
fairly launched at length, and then they heeded not that one minute they
rode high on a mountain wave, seeming as if nothing could save them from
being dashed in the abyss below; the next were buried in a deep valley,
surrounded by huge walls of water, threatening to burst and overwhelm
them. For a boat to live in such a sea at all seemed miraculous; and old
Collins always declared that unless some angel sat at the helm with
Edward, no human arm could have taken them in safety. If it were an
angel, it was the pure thought, the faith-winged prayer, that he might
be the instrument in the Eternal's hand, of turning aside death and
misery from that beloved home, in which even his errors had been met
with _love_, and conquered by _forgiveness_.

With every effort, and they were such as to bid the perspiration stream
down the face and arms of those strong men, and almost exhaust Edward,
for he took an oar in turn, it was full an hour from their leaving the
shore before they reached the ship. She had ceased firing, for by the
lights on shore they had discovered the boat's departure, and watched
her progress by the lantern at her head, as only those can watch who
feel, one short hour more, and their ship will float no longer!

Collins was spokesman, for Edward, as they grappled the boat alongside,
had sunk down for the moment powerless by the helm; roused, however,
effectually by the answer--

"The Siren--bound to Dartmouth--from Feroe--owner Arthur Hamilton,
passenger--now on board--nine in crew."

"In with you all then--that is Captain Harvey's voice, I'll be sworn;
the rumor was only too true."

"Ay, old Collins!" returned the captain; "we thought to perish in sight
of our own homes; now, Mr. Hamilton, not a man will stir till you are
safe!"

His companion leaped into the boat without reply, and, sinking on one of
the benches, drew his cloak closely round his face. Peril was indeed
still around him, but compared with the--even to that Heaven-directed
heart--terrible struggle of beholding death, rising slowly but surely
round him in the water-filling ship, almost within sight and sound of
his home, his beloved ones, the mere _hope_ of life seemed almost
overpowering. The crew of the hapless Siren quickly deserted her.
Captain Harvey was the last to descend, and, as he did so, a block of
iron, loosened from its place, fell cornerwise, and struck sharply on
Edward's forehead, almost stunning him for the moment, as he watched the
captain's descent. He felt the blood slowly trickling down his temple
and cheek; but he was not one to be daunted by pain: he resumed his
station at the helm in unbroken silence, only speaking when directions
were absolutely necessary, and then only in a few brief sailor-terms.
They had scarcely proceeded a third of their way, when the waters boiled
and foamed as tossed by some strange whirlpool, and it required all
Edward's address and skill as steersman to prevent the frail boat from
being drawn into the vortex. The cause was soon displayed, and every
heart shuddered, for ten minutes later, and help would indeed have been
in vain. The unfortunate vessel had sunk--been swallowed up in those
rushing waters; the suction of so large a mass, producing for a brief
interval the effect of a whirlpool. The silence of awe and of intense
thankfulness, fell on the heart of every man, and more than all on his,
who had so far recovered his first emotion as to gaze wonderingly and
admiringly on the boyish figure at the helm, whose voice was utterly
unknown, and whose features the fitful light, and the youth's steadfast
gaze on his rowers, prevented his tracing with any certainty.

The crowds had increased on the shore, watching with intense eagerness
the return of the boat; but the expectation was too deep for sound,
silence almost portentous reigned. A huge sea had concealed her for
several minutes, and Mr. Howard, who during these two long hours had
remained spell-bound on the beach, groaned aloud in his agony; again she
was visible, driven on with fearful velocity by the tide, nearer, nearer
still. He thought he could distinguish the figure of his friend: he was
sure he could hear the voice of Edward, urging, commanding, directing a
landing somewhere, in contradiction to the opinion of others. They were
within a dozen yards of the shore, but still not a sound of gratulation
was heard. Every eye was fixed, as in the fascination of terror, on a
wave in the distance, increasing in size and fury as it rapidly
approached. It neared the boat--it stood impending over the frail thing
as a mighty avalanche of waters--it burst; the boat was seen no longer,
and a wild and terrible cry sounded far and near along the beach!



CHAPTER XII.

FOREBODINGS.


The whole of the day Mrs. Hamilton had vainly tried to shake off a most
unwonted gloom. Convinced herself that it was greatly physical, from the
unusual oppressiveness of the weather relaxing the nerves, which had so
many months been overstrained, yet her thoughts would cling to Mr.
Maitland's words, that her husband might be coming home himself; but if
the accounts of Ellen's danger and Edward's confession had recalled him,
he ought to have arrived full two or three weeks previous. The gale that
swept round her--the awful and unnatural darkness--the remarkable
phenomena, at that season, of lightning--and the long, loud
thunder-claps[4] which inland could be fearfully distinguished from the
gale, appalled the whole household; and therefore it was not much wonder
that the vague idea of her husband's having left Feroe, and exposure to
such a tempest, should become in that fearful anxiety almost a certainty
of agony. It was well, perhaps, that her unselfish nature had an object
to draw her in some slight degree out of herself, for her firmness, her
trust beyond the accidents of earth, all seemed about to fail her, and
make her for the time being most wretched. As the storm and closeness
increased, so did Ellen's feverish restlessness; her nerves, not yet
fully restored, felt strung almost to torture with every flash, and
clap, and blast. She tried to laugh at her own folly; for, though often
terrified, when a little child, at the storms in India, those of England
had never affected her at all, and she could not understand why she
should feel this so childishly. But argument is of little moment in such
cases; and Mrs. Hamilton, satisfying her that she could no more help her
present sensation than her physical weakness, tried to soothe and amuse
her, and in so doing partially cheered herself. She did not leave her
till past midnight; and then desiring Mrs. Langford to sit up with her
till she was comfortably asleep, retired to her own bed-room. Never
since her husband's absence had its solitude felt so vast--so heavily
oppressive; thought after thought of him thronged her mind till she
fairly gave up the effort to struggle with them. "Will his voice ever
sound here again, his heart give me the support I need?" rose to her
lips, as she gazed round her, and the deep stillness, the gloom only
broken by a small silver lamp, and the fitful light of the fire, seemed
but a solemn answer. She buried her face in her clasped hands, and the
clock struck two before that inward conflict permitted her once more to
lift up heart and brow in meek, trusting faith to Him who still watched
over her and her beloved ones; and after an earnest, voiceless prayer,
she drew her little table, with its books of devotion, to the fire, and
read thoughtfully, prayerfully, for another hour, and then sought her
couch. But she could not sleep; the wind had again arisen, and fearing
to lie awake and listen to it would only renew her unusual agitation,
she rose at four, dressed herself, and throwing on a large shawl,
softly traversed the passage, and entered her niece's room; finding her,
as she fully expected, as wakeful and restless as herself, with the
addition of an intense headache. She had persuaded nurse Langford to go
to bed, but the pain had come on since then, and made her more restless
and feverish than before. She could not lie in any posture to get ease,
till at last, about six o'clock, completely exhausted, she fell asleep,
sitting almost upright in her aunt's arms, her head leaning against her,
as she stood by the bedside. Fearing to disturb her, Mrs. Hamilton would
not move, desiring the morning prayers to be said without her, and Miss
Harcourt and her daughters not to wait breakfast, as she would have it
with Ellen when she awoke. That she was stiff and exhausted with three
hours' standing in one position, she did not heed, perhaps scarcely
felt, for woman's loveliest attribute, that of a tender and utterly
unselfish nurse, was hers to perfection. But she did not refuse the cup
of chocolate Caroline brought her herself, and with affectionate
earnestness entreated her to take.

[Footnote 4: These storms, as occurring in Devonshire, in both January
and February, are no creation of the imagination; the author has heard
them herself, and more than one officer in the Preventive Service has
mentioned them as occurring during the night-watches, and of awful
violence.]

"You look so fatigued and so pale, dearest mother, I wish you would let
me take your place; I would be so quiet, so gentle, Ellen would not even
know her change of nurses."

"I do not doubt your care, love, but I fear the least movement will
disturb this poor child, and she has had such a restless night, I want
her to sleep as long as she can. Your thoughtful care has so refreshed
me, that I feel quite strong again, so go and finish your breakfast in
comfort, dearest."

Caroline very unwillingly obeyed, and about a quarter of an hour
afterward, Mrs. Hamilton was startled by the sound of a carriage
advancing with unusual velocity to the house. It stopped at the main
entrance, and she had scarcely time to wonder who could be such very
early visitors, when a loud scream, in the voice of Emmeline, rung in
her ears; whether of joy or grief she could not distinguish, but it was
the voice of her child, and the already tortured nerves of the wife and
mother could not bear it without a sensation of terror, amounting to
absolute agony. She laid Ellen's head tenderly on the pillow, watched
over her, though her limbs so trembled she could scarcely support
herself, saw with intense relief that the movement had not disturbed her
quiet sleep, and calling Mrs. Langford from an adjoining room, hastily
descended the stairs, though how she did so, and entered the
breakfast-room, she always said she never knew. Many and eager and glad
voices were speaking at once; the very servants thronged the hall and
threshold of the room, but all made way for her.

"Arthur!--my husband!" she did find voice to exclaim, but every object
but his figure reeled before her, and she fainted in his arms.

It was some time before she recovered, for mind and frame had been too
long overtasked; and Mr. Hamilton, as he clasped her in his arms,
beseeching her only to speak to him, and gazed on her deathlike
countenance, felt in a moment that great as his anxiety had been for
her, he had not imagined one-half she had endured. His voice--his
kiss--seemed to rouse the scattered senses, even more effectually than
Miss Harcourt's anxiously proffered remedies; but she could not speak,
she only looked up in his face, as if to be quite, quite sure he had
indeed returned; that her vague fancies of danger, even if they had
foundation, had merged in the most blissful reality, that she was no
longer _alone_; and leaning her head on his bosom, was only conscious of
a thankfulness too deep for words; a repose that, since his departure,
she had not known for a single day. Neither she nor her husband could
believe that it was only six months since they had been separated. It
seemed, and to Mrs. Hamilton especially, as if she must have lived
through years in that time, it had been so fraught with sorrow.

"Not one word, my own dearest! and only these pallid cheeks and heavy
eyes to greet me. Must I reproach you directly I come home, for, as
usual, not thinking enough of yourself; forgetting how precious is that
self to so many, your husband above all?"

"Nay, papa, you shall not scold mamma," said Emmeline, eagerly, as her
mother tried to smile and speak in answer. "She ought to scold you, for
not sending us one line to prepare us for your unexpected presence, and
frightening us all by coming so suddenly upon us, and making mamma
faint, as I never saw her do before. Indeed I do not like it, mother
darling!" continued the affectionate girl, kneeling down by her mother,
and clinging to her, adding, in a suppressed, terrified voice, "It was
so like death."

Mrs. Hamilton read in a moment that Emmeline's playfulness was only
assumed to hide strong emotion; that she was trying very hard for
complete control, but so trembling, that she knelt down, literally
because she could not stand. It was such a proof of her endeavor to
profit by her mother's gentle lessons, that even at that moment it not
only gave her the sweetest gratification, but helped her to rouse
herself.

"Indeed, I think you are perfectly right, Emmy," she said, quite in her
usual voice, as she pressed her child a moment to her, and kissed her
cheek, which was almost as pale as her own. "I will not submit to any
scolding, when papa himself is answerable for my unusual weakness; but
as we wanted him so _very_ much, why, we will be lenient with him, and
only keep him prisoner with us for some time to come. But get him
breakfast quickly, Caroline, love; such an early visitor must want it.
When did you arrive, dearest Arthur?" she added, looking earnestly in
his face, and half wondering at the expression upon it, it seemed to
speak so many things; "surely not this morning? You were not at sea in
yesterday's awful storm?"

"I was indeed, my Emmeline; can you bear to hear it, or have you been
agitated enough already? I have been in danger, great danger, but our
Father's infinite mercy has preserved me to you all, making the
instrument of my preservation so young a lad and slight a frame, I know
not how sufficiently to bless God, or to thank my preserver."

Mrs. Hamilton's hand closed convulsively on her husband's; her eyes
riveted on his countenance as if she would grasp his whole meaning at
once, but little did she guess the whole.

"I did not come alone," he added, striving for composure, and even
playfulness, "though it seems I was such an important personage, as to
be the only one seen or thought about."

"By-the-by, I did see, or fancied I saw, Edward," rejoined Caroline,
who, at the news of her father having been in danger, had left the
breakfast-table, unable to keep away from him, even that short distance,
but neither she, nor either of the others, connecting her cousin with
Mr. Hamilton's words, and not quite understanding why he should have so
interrupted the most interesting subject. "He has gone to see Ellen, I
suppose, and so we have missed him. Was he your companion, papa? How and
where did you meet him?"

"Let him answer for himself!" replied Mr. Hamilton, still determinately
hiding his feelings under a tone and manner of jest, and leaving his
wife's side for a moment, he drew Edward from the recess of the window,
where all this time he had been standing quite unobserved, and led him
forward.

"Good heavens! Edward, what have you been about?" exclaimed Miss
Harcourt, and her exclamation was echoed by Caroline and Emmeline, while
Mrs. Hamilton gazed at him in bewildered alarm. He was deadly pale, with
every appearance of exhaustion, and a most disfiguring patch on his left
brow, which he had tried in vain to hide with his hair.

"You have been fighting."

"Only with the elements, Miss Harcourt, and they have rather tired me,
that is all; I shall be well in a day or two. Don't look so terrified,
dear aunt," he answered, with the same attempt at jest as his uncle, and
throwing himself lightly on an ottoman by Mrs. Hamilton, he laid his
head very quietly on her lap.

"Fighting--and with the elements? Arthur, dearest Arthur, for pity's
sake tell me the whole truth at once; it can not be--"

"And why should it not, my beloved?" (there was no attempt at jest now).
"He to whom your care has preserved a sister--whom your indulgent love
has given courage to resolve that error shall be conquered, and he will
become all we can wish him--whom you took to your heart and home when
motherless--God has mercifully made the instrument of saving your
husband from a watery grave, and giving back their father to your
children!"

"To be associated in your heart with other thoughts than those of
ingratitude, and cruelty, and sin! Oh, aunt Emmeline, I can not thank
God enough for permitting me this great mercy," were the only words poor
Edward could speak, when the first intensity of his aunt's emotion was
in some degree conquered, and she could look in his young face, though
her eyes were almost blinded with tears, and putting back the bright
hair which the rain and spray had so uncurled, as to lay heavy and damp
upon his pale forehead, she imprinted a long, silent kiss upon it, and
looking alternately at him and her husband, seemed powerless to realize
any other thought.

Mr. Hamilton briefly, but most eloquently, narrated the events of the
previous night, dwelling only sufficiently on his imminent peril, to
evince the real importance of Edward's extraordinary exertions, not to
harrow the feelings of his listeners more than need be. That the young
officer's determined opposition to the almost angrily expressed opinions
of Captain Harvey and old Collins as to the better landing-place, had
saved them from the effects of the huge wave, which had burst like a
water-spout a minute after they had all leaped in safety on shore,
almost overwhelming the projecting sand to which Collins had wished to
direct the boat, and so proving at once Edward's far superior nautical
knowledge, for had they steered there, the frail bark must inevitably
have been upset, and its crew washed by the receding torrent back to
sea. Harvey and Collins acknowledged their error at once, and looked
eagerly for Edward to say so to him, but he had vanished the moment they
had achieved a safe landing, to Mr. Hamilton's annoyance, for he had not
the least suspicion who he was, and only longed to express, if he could
not otherwise evince his gratitude, Collins and Grey refusing the
smallest credit, declaring that if it had not been for this young
stranger officer, of whom they knew nothing, not even his name, not a
man would have stirred; that for any fisherman or mere ordinary sailor
to have guided the boat to and from the sinking vessel, in such a sea,
was so impossible, that no one would have attempted it; old Collins
ending, with the superstition of his class, by a declaration, that his
disappearance convinced his already more than suspicion, that it was
some good angel in a boy's likeness; for Arthur Hamilton would never
have been permitted so to perish: an explanation, Mr. Hamilton added,
laughingly, that might suit his Emmy, but was rather too fanciful for
him. However, his young preserver was nowhere to be found, but, to his
extreme astonishment, and no little relief (for now that he was so near
home, his anxiety to hear of all, especially Ellen, whom he scarcely
dared hope to find alive, became insupportable), Mr. Howard suddenly
stood before him, grasping both his hands, without the power, for a
minute or two, to speak. Mr. Hamilton overwhelmed him with questions,
scarcely giving him time to answer one before he asked another. They had
nearly reached the hotel, when Captain Harvey's bluff voice was heard
exclaiming--

"Here he is, Mr. Hamilton; he is too exhausted to escape our thanks and
blessings now. What could the youngster have tried to hide himself for?"

But before Mr. Hamilton could make any rejoinder, save to grasp the
young man's hands strongly in his own, Mr. Howard said, eagerly--

"Oblige me, Captain Harvey; take that boy into our hotel, it is only
just round the corner; make him take off his dripping jacket, and give
him some of your sailor's stuff. He is not quite strong enough for his
exertions to-night, and should rest at once."

Captain Harvey bore him off, almost carrying him, for exertion and a
variety of emotions had rendered him faint and powerless.

"Do you know him, Howard? who and what is he?" But Mr. Howard did not,
perhaps could not reply, but hurried his friend on to the hotel; and
entered the room, where, having called for lights, and all the
ingredients of grog-punch, which he vowed the boy should have instead of
the brandy and water he had called for, they found Edward trying to
laugh, and protesting against all coddling; he was perfectly well, and
he would not go to bed, and could not imagine what right Captain Harvey
had to be a sailor, if he thought so much of a storm, and a blow, and a
wetting.

"Nor should I, if you were sailor-rigged; but what business have you
with this overgrown mast of a figure, and a face pale and delicate as a
woman's?"

And so like his dying mother it was, that Mr. Hamilton stood for a
moment on the threshold, completely stupefied. We leave our readers to
imagine the rest; and how Captain Harvey carried the seemingly marvelous
news that the brave young officer was Mr. Hamilton's own nephew, over
the town, and in every fisherman's hut, in a miraculously short space of
time.

We may as well state here at once, to save farther retrospection, that
Mr. Hamilton, by the active and admirable assistance of Morton, had,
after a three months' residence at Feroe, perceived that he might return
to England much sooner than he had at first anticipated; still he did
not like to mention even the probability of such a thing to his family,
till perfectly certain himself. Morton never ceased persuading him to
name a period for his return, knowing the comfort it would be to his
home; but Mr. Hamilton could not bear the idea of leaving his friend in
his voluntary banishment so many months sooner than they had reckoned
on. When, however, the letters came from Oakwood, detailing Edward's
return, and the discoveries thence proceeding, his anxiety and, let it
be owned, his extreme displeasure against his nephew, prompted his
return at once. Morton not only conquered every objection to his
immediate departure, but tried, and in some measure succeeded, to soften
his anger, by bringing before him many points in Mr. Howard's letter,
showing real, good, and true repentance in the offender, which a first
perusal of a narrative of error had naturally overlooked. The seas,
however, were so fearfully tempestuous and the winds so adverse, that
it was impossible either to leave Feroe, or get a letter conveyed to
Scotland, for a full fortnight after the Siren's last voyage. Nothing
but the extreme urgency of the case, increased by the fact that the
detention of the Siren at Wick had given Mr. Hamilton a double packet of
letters, but the second, though dated ten days later, gave the same
hopeless account of Ellen, could have made him attempt a voyage home in
such weather; yet he felt he could not rest, knowing intuitively the
misery his wife must be enduring, and scarcely able to bear even the
thought of what seemed most probable, that Ellen would be taken from
her, and the aggravated trial it would be. The voyage was a terrible
one, for length and heavy gales. More than once they wished to put into
port, that Mr. Hamilton might continue his journey by land, but their
only safety seemed keeping out at sea, the storm threatening to dash
them on rock or shoal, whenever in sight of land.

By the time they reached the Land's End--they had come westward of
England, instead of eastward, as they went--the vessel was in such a
shattered and leaky condition, that Captain Harvey felt and
acknowledged, she could not weather out another storm. The calm that had
followed the heavy gales, gave hope to all; even though the constant
shiftings of the wind, which was now not more than what, in sailor's
parlance, is called a cat's-paw, prevented their making as much way as
they desired. At length they were within twenty miles of Dartmouth, and
not a doubt of their safety disturbed them, until the darkening
atmosphere, the sullen rise and suppressed roar of the billows, the wind
sobbing and wailing at first, and then bursting into that awful gale,
which we have before described, banished every human hope at once. The
rudder snapped; every half-hour the water gained upon the hold, though
every man worked the pumps. There was not a shred of canvas, but the
masts, and yards, and stays bent and snapped like reeds before the
blast. To guide her was impossible; she was driven on--on--till she
struck on a reef of rock about a mile, or less, perhaps from Dartmouth.
Then came their signals of distress, as a last lone hope, for the crew
of the Siren were all too good seamen to dare believe a boat could
either be pushed off, or live in such a sea. Their wonder, their hope,
their intense thankfulness, when it was discovered, may be imagined. The
rest is known.

"And how did you get this disfiguring blow, my dear Edward?" inquired
his aunt, whose eyes, it seemed, would turn upon him, as if impossible
to connect that slight figure with such immense exertions--though some
time had passed, and a social, happy breakfast, round which all still
lingered, had enabled them to subdue too painful emotion, and only to be
conscious of the most deep and grateful joy.

"Pray do not call it disfiguring, aunt; I am quite proud of it. Last
night I could have dispensed with such a striking mark of affection from
the poor Siren, though I really hardly felt it, except that the blood
would trickle in my eye, and almost blind me, when I wanted all my sight
and senses too. But this morning Mr. Howard has made such a kind fuss
about it, that I think it must be something grand."

"But what did you hide yourself for, Ned?" demanded Emmeline, all her
high spirits recalled. Her cousin hesitated and a flush mounted to his
forehead.

"It was fear, Emmeline; absolute fear!"

"Fear!" she repeated, laughing; "of what? of all the bogies and spirits
of the winds and waves, whose wrath you dared, by venturing to oppose
them? Nonsense, Edward! you will never make me believe that."

"Because you do not know me," he answered, with startling earnestness.
"How can your gentle nature understand the incongruities of mine? or
loving your father as you do, and as he deserves, comprehend the dread,
belief in his unpitying sternness to youthful error, which from my
childhood he held--he holds--my fate, forgiveness or exposure, and how
could I meet him calmly? Emmeline, Emmeline, if I had been but as
morally brave as I may be physically, I should have had nothing to
dread, nothing to hide. As it is, uncle Hamilton, judge, act, decide as
you would, if I had not been the undeserved means of saving you--it will
be the best for me;" and, rising hurriedly, he left the room before any
one could reply.

"But you will forgive him, papa; you will try him again; and I am sure
he will be morally brave, too," pleaded Emmeline; her sister and Miss
Harcourt joining in the entreaty and belief, and Mrs. Hamilton looking
in his face without uttering a word. Mr. Hamilton's answer seemed to
satisfy all parties.

Ellen meanwhile had awoke, quite refreshed, and all pain gone, been
dressed and conveyed to her daily quarters, the events of the morning
entirely unknown to her; for though the joyful news, spreading like
wildfire through the house, had reached Mrs. Langford's ears, and made
her very happy, she had quite judgment enough, even without a message to
the effect from her mistress, to keep it from Ellen till carefully
prepared.

"What can I say to my little Ellen for deserting her so long?" inquired
Mrs. Hamilton, playfully, as she entered her room, about twelve o'clock,
after a long private conversation with her husband.

"I wish you would tell me you had been lying down, dear aunt; it would
satisfy me better than any other reason."

"Because you think it would do me the most good, dearest. But look at
me, and tell me if you do not think I must have been trying some equally
efficacious remedy." Ellen did look, and so radiant was that kind face
with happiness, that she was startled.

"What _has_ happened, aunt Emmeline? You have heard from my uncle," she
added, her voice trembling. "What does he say?--will he--"

"He says, you must summon all your smiles to greet him, love; for he
hopes to be with us very, _very_ shortly, so you will not wonder at my
joy?"

Ellen tried to sympathize in it; but Mrs. Hamilton soon saw that her
perhaps near dread of what should be her uncle's judgment on her brother
and herself, prevented all pleasurable anticipation of his arrival, and
that the only effectual way of removing it was to let them meet as soon
as possible.



CHAPTER XIII.

FORGIVENESS.


Three days after Mr. Hamilton's arrival, a cheerful party assembled in
his wife's dressing-room, which, in its elegant appurtenances--signs as
they were, of a most refined and beautiful taste--certainly deserved a
higher appellation; but boudoir, Percy had always declared, did not
harmonize at all with the old English comforts of Oakwood, and he would
not have a French word to designate his mother's room especially. Ellen
was on her sofa working; Edward, who she thought had only returned that
morning, at her side, reading; Caroline and Emmeline, drawing, the one
with some degree of perseverance, the other with none at all. It seemed
as if she could not sit still, and her wild sallies, and snatches of old
songs, repeatedly made Miss Harcourt look up from her book, and Mrs.
Hamilton from her work, surprised.

"Emmeline, I _can not_ draw," exclaimed Caroline, at length; "you are
making the table as restless as yourself."

"Why can you not say it was moved by an irresistible sympathy? It is
most extraordinary that you will still speak plain matter-of-fact, when
I am doing all I can to make you poetical."

"But what am I to poetize on now, Emmeline?--the table, or yourself?
because, at present, they are the only subjects under consideration, and
I really can not see any thing very poetical in either."

"Not even in _me_, Lina?" archly replied Emmeline, bending down so that
her face should come before her sister, instead of her copy, which was a
very pretty, small marble figure. "Now, if you were not the most
determined piece of prose in the world, you would find poetry even in my
face.

    "For, lo! the artist no more gazed
      On features still and cold;
    He stood, bewilder'd and amazed,
      As living charms unfold.

    "As if touch'd by yon orient ray,
      The stone to life had warm'd;
    For round the lip such bright smiles play,
      As never sculptor form'd.

There, Caroline, that is what you ought to have _felt_. If I can make
poetry on my own face--"

"Poetry on yourself! Why, Emmeline, I thought you were repeating a verse
of some old poet, with which I am unacquainted. I really beg your
pardon. I did not know your favorite Muse had dubbed you follower as
well as worshiper."

"Nor did I till this moment. She feared for her reputation near such a
love of prose as you are, and so touched me with inspiration. I am
exceedingly obliged to her; but even if I failed to make you poetical,
Caroline, you might have emulated Cowper, and instead of singing the
'Sofa,' sung the 'Table.' Indeed I think a very pretty poem might be
made of it. Look at the variety of tasteful and useful things laid on a
table--and there it stands in the midst of them, immovable, cold,
insensible just like one on whom we heap favors upon favors, and who
remains so wrapped in self, as to be utterly indifferent to all. Now,
Caroline, put that into rhyme, or blank verse, if you prefer it; it is a
new idea, at least."

"So new," replied her sister, laughing, "that I think I will send it to
Percy, and request him to turn it into a Greek or Latin ode; it will be
so much grander than my English version. You have so astonished mamma,
Emmeline, by your mad mood, that she has actually put down her work."

"I am so glad!" replied Emmeline, springing to her mother's side; "I
like other people to be as idle as myself."

"But there is a medium in all things, young lady," answered her mother,
half-gravely, half in Emmeline's own tone; "and I rather think your
conscience is telling you, that it is not quite right to desert one Muse
for another, as you are doing now."

"Oh, but my drawing must wait till her Muse inspires me again. Poetry
does not always come, and her visits are so delightful!"

"Then I am afraid you will think me very harsh, Emmeline; but delightful
as they are, I must not have them always encouraged. If you encourage
the idea of only working when the fit of inspiration comes upon you--in
plain words, only when you feel inclined--you will fritter life away
without one solid thought or acquirement. You think now, perhaps,
habituated as you are to employment, that this is impossible; but you
are just of an age to demand very strict watchfulness over yourself to
prevent it. Now that you are emerging from the routine of childhood's
lessons, and too old to be compelled to do that which is right,
and--rendering your task of control more difficult--more susceptible to
poetry, and what you term inspiration, than ever, you must try and
infuse a little of Caroline's steady, matter-of-fact into your poetry,
instead of almost despising it, as so cold and disagreeable. Now, do not
look so very sad, and so very serious, love, and jump at the conclusion
that I am displeased, because I speak seriously. I love your joyousness
far too dearly to check it, or wish you to do so, especially in your own
family; but just as you have learned the necessity of, and evinced so
well and so feelingly, control in emotions of sorrow, my Emmeline, so I
am quite sure you will trust my experience, and practice control, even
in the pleasant inspiration of poetry and joy."

Emmeline sat very quiet for several minutes; she was just in that mood
of extreme hilarity which renders control excessively difficult, and
causes the least check upon it to be felt as harsh and unkind, and
almost to bring tears. She was not too perfect to escape from feeling
all this, even though the person who had caused it was the mother she so
dearly loved; but she did not give way to it. A few minutes' hard
struggle, and the momentary temper was so conquered, that, with an even
more than usually warm kiss, she promised to think quite seriously on
all her mother said; and, an effort far more difficult, was just as
joyous as before.

"I have made so many mistakes in my drawing, mamma, I really do not
think I can go on with it to-day; do let me help you, I will take such
pains with my work, it shall be almost as neat as yours; and then,
though my fingers are employed, at least I may go on talking."

Mrs. Hamilton assented, telling her she might talk as much as she
pleased, with one of those peculiar smiles of approval which ever made
Emmeline's heart throb, for they always told her, that the thoughts and
feelings, and secret struggle with temper, which she imagined must be
known only to herself, her mother by some mysterious power had
discovered, and rewarded.

"Edward what are you so deep in?--'Fragments of Voyages and Travels'--I
thought it was something much _deeper_ than that by the deep attention
you are giving it. You should dip in oceans, not in fragments of water,
Ned."

"I did not feel inclined for the exertion," he replied, smiling.

"Do you know," she continued, "when I first read that book, which I did
merely because I had a lurking sort of affection for a handsome cousin
of mine who was a sailor, I was so charmed with the tricks you all
played in the cockpit, that I was seized with a violent desire to don a
middy's dress, and come after you; it would have made such a pretty
story, too; but I did not think mamma and papa would quite approve of
it, so I desisted. Should I not make a very handsome boy, Edward?"

"So handsome," he replied, again smiling, "that I fear you would not
have preserved your incognita half an hour, especially with those
flowing curls."

"My dear Emmeline, do tell me, what has made you in this mood?" asked
Ellen; "last week you were so sad, and the last three days you have
been--"

"Wild enough to frighten you, Ellen; ah, if you did but know the
reason."

"You had better satisfy her curiosity, Emmy," said Mrs. Hamilton, so
meaningly, that Emmeline's ready mind instantly understood her. "Tell
her all that did occur in that awful storm three days ago, as poetically
and lengthily as you like; no one shall interrupt you, if you will only
be very careful not to exaggerate or alarm."

Edward gave up his seat to his cousin, and Emmeline launched at once
into a most animated description of the storm and the shipwreck, and the
rescue; cleverly contriving so to hide all names, as to elude the least
suspicion of either the preserved or the preserver having any thing to
do with herself, Ellen becoming so exceedingly interested, as to lose
sight of the question which at first had struck her, what this could
have to do with Emmeline's wild spirits.

"You do not mean to say it was his own father he saved?" she said, as
her cousin paused a minute to take breath; "your tale is becoming so
like a romance, Emmy, I hardly know how to believe it."

"I assure you it is quite true; only imagine what my young hero's
feelings must have been, and those of the family, to whom he gave back a
husband and a father!"

"I should think them so intense, so sacred, as to be hardly joy at
first, and scarcely possible to be imagined, even by your vivid fancy,
Emmy."

"I don't know, Ellen, but I think I _can_ imagine them; you may shake
your head, and look wise, but I will prove that I can by-and-by. But
what do you think of my hero?"

"That I should like to know him, and admire him quite as much as you can
desire--and who told you all this?"

"One of the principal actors in the scene?"

"What, has your _penchant_ for any thing out of the common way reached
Dartmouth, and old Collins brought you the tale?"

"No," replied Emmeline, laughing; "guess again."

"William Grey?"

"No."

"One of the rescued crew who may know my aunt?"

"Wrong again, Ellen."

"Then I can not guess, Emmeline; so pray tell me."

"You are very silly, Ellen; were not Mr. Howard and Edward both at
Dartmouth at the time? why did you not guess them? Not that I had it
from either."

"Edward!" repeated Ellen, "did he know any thing about it?"

"More than any one else dearest," answered Mrs. Hamilton, cautiously,
but fondly; "put all Emmeline's strange tale together, and connect it
with my happiness the other morning, and I think your own heart will
explain the rest."

"More especially with this speaking witness," continued Emmeline
playfully putting back Edward's hair, that Ellen might see the scar. She
understood it in a moment, and clasping her arms round her brother's
neck, as he knelt by her, tried hard to prevent emotion, but could not,
and burst into tears.

"Tears, my little Ellen; I said I would only be greeted with smiles,"
exclaimed a rich, deep voice close beside her, and before she had time
to fear his presence, she felt herself clasped with all a father's
fondness in her uncle's arms; her head resting on his shoulder, and his
warm kiss on her cheek.

"Edward!" was the only word she could speak.

"Do not fear for him, my dear Ellen; true repentance and a firm
resolution to amend are all I ask, and if his future conduct really
prove them, the errors of his youth shall be forgotten, as if they had
never been."

"And--and--"

"I know all you would say, my dear child. I did think there could be no
excuse, no palliation, for your sin; but even if I still wish the
temptation had been resisted, you have indeed suffered for it, more than
the harshest judgment could desire; let it be forgotten as entirely and
as fully as it is forgiven."

In a very few minutes Ellen's composure was so fully restored, and her
heavy dread so subsided, that the relief seemed to her almost a dream.
Could it be possible that it was the relative she had pictured as so
harsh and stern, and pitiless to youthful error, who had drawn a chair
close by her sofa, and caressingly holding her hand in his, and looking
so kindly, so earnestly, in her altered face, was trying to amuse her by
telling her so many entertaining things about Feroe and Mr. Morton, and
his voyage home, and alluding to her brother's courage, and prudence,
and skill, in such terms as almost brought the tears again? Mr.
Hamilton was inexpressibly shocked at the change which mental and bodily
suffering had wrought in his niece. There is always something peculiarly
touching, and appealing to the best emotions, in youthful sorrow or
suffering of any kind; and her trial had been such an aggravated
one--combining such agonized remorse, for an act, which the harshest
judgment, knowing all points of the case, could scarcely pronounce as
other than involuntary, with the most heroic, but perfectly unconscious
self-sacrifice, and not only terror for her brother's fate, but an
almost crushing sense of misery for his faults, that the pallid face,
and frame so delicately fragile, had still deeper claims for sympathy
and cherishing than even when caused by ordinary illness. The loss of
her unusually luxuriant hair, except the soft bands which shaded her
face, visible under the pretty little lace cap, made her look much
younger than she really was, and so delicately transparent had become
her complexion, that the blue veins were clearly traceable on her
forehead, and throat, and hands; the dark, soft lash seemed longer than
before, as it swept the pale cheek, the brow more penciled, and the eye,
whether in imagination, from her friends knowing all she had endured, or
in reality, was so expressive of such deep, quiet feeling, that the
whole countenance was so altered and so improved, that it seemed as if
the heavy, sallow child was rapidly changing into one of those sweet,
lovable, heart-attracting girls, who, without any actual beauty, can
never be passed unnoticed.

At Ellen's request, Mrs. Hamilton had, as soon as she was strong enough,
read with her, morning and evening, the devotional exercises which were
read below to the assembled family. Mrs. Hamilton soon perceived, and
with no little pain, that Ellen shrunk from the idea of being well
enough to rejoin them, in actual suffering. Here again was an effect of
that same vivid imagination, of whose existence, until the late events,
in one so quiet, seemingly so cold, Mrs. Hamilton had not the least idea
of. Ellen had been so long accustomed to be silent as to her feelings,
in fact, carefully to conceal them, that much as she might wish and
intend to be unreserved, her aunt feared it would cause her some
difficulty to be so, and she could not hope to succeed in controlling
imagination, unless she were. That night, however, Ellen's unreserved
confidence gave her hope. When the devotional exercises, in which she
had joined with even more than usual earnestness and fervor, were
concluded, she said, with almost Emmeline's confidence, as she laid her
hand on her aunt's--

"I am so very, very happy to-night, dear aunt, that I am afraid I do not
think enough of what is past. I did so dread my uncle's return--so
tremble at what his sentence would be on Edward and myself, that even
your kindness would not remove the weight; and now, that I have found it
all so groundless, and he is so kind--so indulgent, I am so relieved,
that I fear I must have thought more of his anger than the anger of God.
My sin remains the same in His sight, though you and uncle Hamilton have
so fully forgiven it, and--and--I do not think I ought to feel so
happy."

"Indeed, my dear Ellen, I think you may. Our Heavenly Father is still
more merciful than man, as Mr. Howard so clearly proved to you, in the
long conversation you had with him. We know, by His Holy Word, that all
he asks is sincere repentance for sin, and a firm conviction that in Him
only we are made sufficiently righteous for our penitence to be
accepted. I believe, Ellen, that His forgiveness was yours, long before
I could give you mine, for He could read your heart, and saw the reason
of your silence, and all the remorse and suffering, which, from the
appearances, against you, I might not even guess; and that, in His
compassionating love and pity, He permitted your increased trial;
ordaining even the failure of the relief to Edward, to convince you,
that, not even in such a fearful case as yours, might error, however
involuntary, prosper. I can trace His loving providence even in the fact
of your finding one more note than you wanted, that discovery might
thence come, which, without such a seeming chance, was, humanly
speaking, impossible. He has shown compassion and love for you and
Edward, in the very sufferings He ordained. So do not check your
returning happiness, fearing it must be unacceptable to Him. Try to
trace all things, either of joy or sorrow, to Him. Associate Him with
your every thought, and believe me, my own Ellen, your very happiness
will both draw you nearer to Him, and be an acceptable offering in his
sight."

Ellen listened eagerly, gratefully; she felt as if, with every word Mrs.
Hamilton said, the film of doubt and vague fancies was dissolving from
her mind, and, after a short pause, she said--

"Then you do not think, aunt Emmeline, my inability to pray for so long
a time, was a proof that God had utterly forsaken me? It made me still
more wretched, for I thought it was a sure sign that I was so
irredeemably wicked, He had left me to the devices of my own heart, and
would never love or have mercy on me again. Even after you had quite
forgiven me, and proved to me my promise was a mistaken one and not
binding, I still felt the difficulty to pray, and it was so painful."

"Such inability is very often so entirely physical, my dear Ellen, that
we must not think too much about it. Our simple duty is to persevere,
however little satisfactory our devotions; and put our firm trust in our
heavenly Father, that He will heal us, and permit His countenance so to
shine upon us again, as to derive _comfort_ from our prayers. Your
inability before your illness was the natural consequence of Mr.
Howard's severe representations, which he has since assured me, he never
would have used, if he could have had the least idea of the cause of
your silence. You, my poor child, were suffering too much, from a
complete chaos of conflicting feelings and duties, to be able to realize
this, and I am not at all astonished, that when you most yearned for the
comfort of prayer and trust, the thought that by your silence you were
failing in your duty to me and so disobeying God, should utterly have
prevented it. Since your severe illness the inability has been entirely
physical. As strength and peace return, you will regain the power, and
realize all its comfort. Try, and under all feelings trust in and love
God, and do not be too much elated, when you can think seriously and
pray joyfully, nor too desponding when both fail you. In our present
state, _physical_ causes alone, so often occasion these differences of
feeling in hours of devotion, that if we thought too much about them, we
should constantly think wrong, and be very miserable. Try and prove your
desire to love and serve God, in your _daily conduct_ and _secret
thoughts_, my Ellen, and you will be able to judge of your spiritual
improvement by _action_ and _feeling_, far more truly and justly than by
the mood in which you pray."

The earnestness of truth and feeling was always so impressed on Mrs.
Hamilton's manner, whenever she addressed her youthful charge, that her
simplest word had weight. Happy indeed is it when youth--that season of
bewildering doubt and question, and vivid, often mistaken fancies, and
too impetuous feeling--has the rich blessing of such affectionate
counsels, such a friend. Why will not woman rise superior to the petty
employments and feelings too often alone attributed to her, and endeavor
to fit herself for such a thrice blessed mission; and by sympathy with
young enjoyments--young hopes--young feelings, so attract young
affections, that similar counsels, similar experiences, may so help and
guide, that the restless mind and eager heart quiesce into all the calm,
deep, beautiful characteristics, which so shine forth in the true
English wife--the true English mother!

A fortnight after Mr. Hamilton's arrival, Ellen was well enough to go
down stairs for part of the day, and even to read and write a little.
She was so very anxious to recommence her studies, which for many months
had been so painfully neglected, that it was a great trial to her, to
find her head was not yet strong enough for the necessary application.
There were many, very many privations and trials, attendant on
convalescence after so severe an illness, known only to Ellen's own
heart, and to her aunt's quick sympathy; and she very quickly learned in
them the meaning of Mrs. Hamilton's words regarding religion in conduct
and feeling, as well as in prayer. She tried never to murmur, or dwell
on the wish for pleasures which were denied her, but to think only on
the many blessings which surrounded her. It was not an easy task so to
conquer natural feeling, especially as the trial and its conquest was
often known only to herself; but the earnest wish, indeed, to become
holy in daily conduct, as well as in daily prayer, never left her mind,
and so enabled her at length fully to obtain it.

If Mrs. Hamilton had wanted evidence of her husband's public as well as
domestic worth, she would have had it fully now. His danger and his
preservation once known, letters of regard and congratulation poured
upon him, and Montrose Grahame made a journey down to Oakwood expressly
to welcome back, and express his individual gratitude for his friend's
safety to his youthful preserver. But Edward so shrunk from praise or
admiration, that his uncle, rejoicing at the feeling, would not press
him, as he had first intended, to accompany him to Oxford, where he went
to see his sons. Percy rated him soundly in a letter for not coming.
Herbert seemed, as if he could only think of his father's danger, and
thank God for his safety, and for permitting Edward to be the means. So
great was the desire of Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton to re-assemble all their
happy family once more, before Edward left them, that the young men
made an exception to their general rule, and promised to spend Easter
week at home. It was early in March, and anticipated by the home party
with the greatest delight.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE RICH AND THE POOR.


"We have had such a delightful excursion, mamma. Ellen, how I do wish
you could have been with us!" joyously exclaimed Emmeline, as she ran
into the usual sitting room, one of those lovely afternoons, that the
first days of March so often bring, promising spring long before she
really comes. "It is such a picturesque cottage, and Dame Collins, and
Susan, and a host of little ones, look so nice, and so clean, and so
pretty, and happy; it does one's heart good to look at them."

"Are you sure you can not find another adjective to apply to them, Emmy?
You have heaped so many together, that it is a pity you can not find a
few more."

"But they really do look so comfortable, and are so grateful for all you
and papa have done for them: Emmeline's description for once, is not too
flowing," rejoined the quieter Caroline, who had followed her sister
into the room.

"And were they pleased with your visit?" asked Ellen.

"Oh, delighted! particularly at our making their pretty little parlor
our dining-room, and remaining so long with them, that they could show
us all their comforts and conveniences, without any bustle."

"Mrs. Collins is really a sensible woman. Do you not think so, mamma?"
inquired Caroline.

"Yes, my dear. She has brought up her own large family and her poor
orphan grandchildren so admirably, in the midst of their extreme
poverty, and bears such a name for kindness among her still poorer
neighbors, that I truly respect and admire her. She is quite one of
those in whom I have often told you some of the very loftiest virtues
are to be found; and yet to see her, as she trudges about in her homely,
humble fashion, never dreaming she is doing or has done any thing
remarkable in her hard-working life, who would suspect it?"

"Only look, Ellen, how beautifully our collection will be increased,"
continued Emmeline, who just at that moment was only alive to pleasure,
not to contemplation, even of goodness, in which she much delighted, and
pouring into her cousin's lap a basket of beautiful shells and other
marine treasures. "Papa has just given us a new cabinet in time, though
he only thought of it as a place for his Feroe curiosities. To think of
his remembering our tastes even there!"

"But where did you get these from?"

"Why, the children were playing with some, which were so perfect, I
could not help admiring them, and Mrs. Collins was in a bustle of
pleasure that I liked any thing so trifling, because she could gratify
me, and she made me take all these, adding, that her good man would be
sure to look out for some more for us; for when I told her they not only
pleased me, but my poor invalid cousin, who was Edward's sister, you
should have seen how her eyes sparkled."

"Oh, you have quite won the dame's heart, Emmy!" said Miss Harcourt.
"What with talking to her, and to Susan, and playing with every one of
the children, and making them tell you all their plays and their
schooling, and then gathering you a nosegay, telling them it should
adorn your room at home!"

"And so it shall," gayly interrupted Emmeline; "I desired Robert to put
them in water directly, for they were very pretty, and I like them
better than the best bouquet from our greenhouse."

"I do not quite agree with you, Emmeline," said Caroline, smiling.

"Not you, Lina, who ever thought you would? by-the-by, I never saw you
so agreeable and natural in a poor man's cottage in my life. What were
you saying to Dame Collins? actually holding her hand, and something
very bright shining in your eye."

"Dear Emmy, do not run on so," whispered Ellen, as she noticed
Caroline's cheek crimson. Emmeline was at her side in a moment, with an
arm round her neck.

"Caroline, dear, forgive me. I did not mean to tease you; only it was
unusual, was it not?"

"I was trying to tell Mrs. Collins all I thought of her husband's share
in saving our dear father, Emmy. I forgot all of folly and pride then."

"You are very seldom proud now, dearest Lina, and I was the foolish one
not to have guessed what you were saying, with out tormenting you.
Mamma, do you know I have such an admirable plan in my head?"

"First tell mamma," interrupted Caroline, "that William Grey has chosen
to be a partner with Collins in the more extended fishing and boating
business, which papa has secured them, instead of entering into business
by himself; this has been settled since you were there, I think."

"Yes, my dear, I did not know it; but Mrs. Collins must like it, for she
regretted very much that her sons were all scattered in different
trades, and her little grandson, whose taste pointed to the sea, was not
old enough to go out with his grandfather."

"But only listen to my plan, mamma, dear! William Grey and Susan Collins
can not possibly see much of each other, without falling in love; and
they will make such an industrious, pretty couple, and papa will give
them a cottage to themselves, and I will go to their wedding!"

"Just such a plan as I should expect from your giddy brain, Emmy. But
how do you know that Grey has any desire for a wife?"

"Oh, because Edward said he could not help remarking, even in the midst
of that awful scene, how mournfully he said he would bear a hand, for he
had neither mother, sister, nor wife to pipe for him; now, if he married
Susan, he would have a very pretty wife to lament him."

"Poor Susan, I fancy she would rather not become his wife, if it be only
to mourn for him, Emmy; rather a novel reason for a marriage,
certainly."

"Oh, but mamma, dear! you know that I don't mean exactly and only that;
somebody to be interested for, and love him. No one can be happy without
that."

"Susan was telling me, mamma, how thankful she is to you, for finding
her and her sister employment, that they might be able to help the
family," rejoined Caroline. "I was quite pleased with her manner of
speaking, and she blushed so prettily when Miss Harcourt praised the
extreme neatness of her work."

"Ah, mamma, if you could but hear all they say of you!" again burst
forth Emmeline, who it seemed could not be quiet, going from one subject
to another with the same eager zest; "if you had but heard the old dame
tell her astonishment and her pride, when she saw you enter their
former miserable hut, and sitting down on an old sea-chest, invite her
to tell, and listened to all her troubles, just as if you had been her
equal, and left such comfort and such hope behind you, as had not been
theirs for many a long day. She actually cried when she spoke, and so
did I, because she spoke so of _my_ mother. Oh, mother, darling, how
proud your children ought to be, to belong to one so beloved, so revered
by the poor and the rich too, as you are!"

"Flatterer!" playfully answered Mrs. Hamilton, laying her hand
caressingly on her child's mouth, as she knelt in sport before her. "I
will not bear such praise, even from you. Believe me, darling, to win
love and respect is so easy, so delightful, that there is no merit in
obtaining it. We ought only to be thankful, when granted such a station
and such influence as will permit extended usefulness and thought for
others, without wronging our own."

"Yes; but, mamma, many people do a great deal of good, but somehow or
other they are not beloved."

"Because, perhaps, in their earnest desire to accomplish a great deal of
good, they may not think quite enough of _little_ things, and of the
quick sympathy with other persons' feelings, which is the real secret of
winning love, and without which, sometimes even the greatest benefit is
not valued as it ought to be. But did you see old Collins himself?"

"He came in just before we left, and was so delighted to see papa
sitting in his ingle-nook, and only wished Edward had been there too."

"And where is your father?" asked Mrs. Hamilton. "Did he not return with
you?"

"Yes, but Edward wanted him, and they are in the library. I am quite
certain there is some conspiracy between them; these long private
interviews bode no good. I shall scold papa for being so mysterious,"
said Emmeline.

"I rather think he will return the benefit, by scolding you for being so
curious, Emmy. But here is Edward, so the interview to-day has not been
very long."

"Has papa been telling you old Collins' naval news, Ned?" And, without
waiting for an answer, she continued, "that there is a fine
seventy-four, the Sea Queen, preparing at Plymouth, to take the place of
your old ship, and send back Sir Edward Manly and the Prince William.
Now do not tell me you know this, Edward, and so disappoint me of the
rare pleasure of telling news."

"I am sorry, Emmy, but I have known it for some weeks."

"And why did you not tell us?"

"Because I did not think it would particularly interest you until I
could add other intelligence to it." He stopped, and looked alternately
at Mrs. Hamilton and Ellen, as if asking the former whether he might
proceed.

"And can you do so now, my dear Edward?" she replied understanding him
at once. "Ellen is too anxious for your advancement to expect, or wish
you always to remain with her. Have you your appointment?"

"Yes aunt. My uncle's letter to the admiralty brought an answer at last.
It came while he was out, and has been tantalizing me on the
library-table for four hours. But it is all right. As the Prince William
is returning, and I am so anxious to be still in active service, I am
permitted, though somewhat against rule, to have a berth in the Sea
Queen. I am sure it is all uncle Hamilton's representations, and I am so
thankful, so glad!"

"To leave us all, again, you unfeeling savage!" exclaimed Emmeline,
trying to laugh off the universal regret at this announcement. Ellen had
looked earnestly at her brother all the time he spoke, and then turned
her face away, and a few quiet tears trickled down her cheek. Edward's
arm was very quickly round her, and he whispered so many fond words and
earnest assurances, united with his conviction that it would still be a
whole month, perhaps more, before he should be summoned, as he had leave
to remain with his family till the Sea Queen was ready to sail, that she
rallied her spirits, and, after remaining very quiet for an hour, which
was always her custom when she had had any struggle with herself, for
the frame felt it--though neither word nor sign betrayed it--she was
enabled fully to enjoy the grand delight of the evening--Percy's and
Herbert's arrival.

Easter week was indeed one of family joy and thankfulness not only that
they were all permitted once more to be together but that the heavy
clouds of sin and suffering had rolled away from their roof, and
pleasure of the sweetest and most enduring because most domestic kind,
reigned triumphant. Percy's astonishment at Edward's growth, and the
alteration from the handsome, joyous, rosy boy, to the pale, almost
care-worn looking youth (for as long as Ellen bore such vivid traces of
all she had endured for his sake, and was, as it were, the constant
presence of his errors, Edward tried in vain to recover his former
spirits), was most amusing.

"You are all deceived," he would declare; "one of these days you will
discover you have been receiving a spurious Edward Fortescue, and that
he is as much a pretender as his namesake, Charles Edward."

"Then he is no pretender, Percy. He is as truly the son of Colonel
Fortescue, as _Prince_ Charles was the grandson of James. Now don't
begin a civil contest directly you come home; you know you and I never
do agree on historical subjects, and we never shall; you hate Mary the
great, great, great grandmother of Prince Charles, and I love her, so we
must be always at war."

"Stuart-mad, as usual, Tiny! but if that really be Edward, I wish he
would just look a boy again, I don't like the change at all; poor
fellow!" he added, to himself, "it is not much wonder."

The days passed much too quickly. Emmeline wished a dozen times that the
days would be twenty-four, instead of twelve hours long. The weather was
so genial that it added to enjoyment, and allowed Ellen the delight,
known only to such prisoners to sickness as she had been, of driving out
for an hour or two at a time, and taking gentle walks on the terrace,
and in the garden. The young men were to return on the Monday, and of
the Saturday previous, a little excursion had been planned, to which the
only drawback was that Ellen was not quite strong enough to accompany
them: it was to visit Alice Seaton, whom we mentioned in a former
chapter. Mr. Hamilton had succeeded in finding her brother a lucrative
employment with a lawyer in one of the neighboring towns, a few miles
from where she and her aunt now lived, enabling young Seaton to spend
every Sabbath with them; and Alice now kept a girls' school on her own
account, and conducted herself so well as never to want scholars. It had
been a long promise to go and see her, the drive from Oakwood being also
most beautiful; and as she and her brother were both at home and at
leisure the last day in Easter, it had been fixed upon for the visit.
Percy was reveling in the idea of driving his mother and Miss Harcourt
in a new barouche, and the rest of the party were to go on horse back.
But a dispute had arisen who should stay with Ellen and Edward insisted
upon it, it was his right; and, so they thought it was agreed.

"I wish, dear Percy you would prevail on Edward to accompany you,"
pleaded Ellen, fancying herself alone with him, not seeing Herbert, who
was reading at a distant table.

"I wish, dear Ellen, you were going with us," he answered, mimicking her
tone.

"But as I can not, make him go. It always makes him more unhappy when I
am prevented any pleasure, than it does myself; and I can not bear to
keep him by me four or five hours, when this lovely day, and the
exercise of riding, and, above all, your company, Percy, would make him,
at least for the time, almost his own merry self, again."

"Thanks for the implied compliment, cousin mine," replied Percy, with a
low bow.

"Reward me for it, and make him go."

"How can I be so ungallant, as to make him leave you alone?"

"Oh, I do not mind it, I assure you! I am well enough to amuse myself
now; I can not bear you all giving up so many pleasures as you have done
for me; I am so afraid of getting selfish."

"You selfish, Ellen? I wish you were a little more so; you are the most
patient, devoted little creature that ever took woman's form. You have
made me reproach myself enough, I can tell you, and I owe you a grudge
for doing so."

"Dear Percy, what can you mean? If you knew how hard I find it to be
patient, sometimes, you would not praise me."

"I mean that the last time I was at home, I was blind and cruel, and
added to your sufferings by my uncalled-for harshness, and never had an
opportunity till this moment, to say how grieved I was--when the truth
was known."

"Pray do not say any thing about it, dear Percy," entreated his cousin,
the tears starting to her eyes, as he kissed her warmly; "it was only
just and natural that you should have felt indignant with me, for
causing aunt Emmeline so much misery, and alloying all the enjoyment of
your holidays. I am sure you need not reproach yourself; but will you
make Edward go?"

"If it really will oblige you, Ellen; but I do not half like it." And he
was going very reluctantly, when he met Herbert.

"You need not go, Percy," he said, smiling; "my ungracious cousin would
not depute me as her messenger, but I made myself such, and so
successfully that Edward will go, Ellen."

"Dear Herbert, how can I thank you enough! he will be so much happier
with you all."

"Not with me," said Herbert, archly, "for I remain in his place."

"You!" repeated Ellen, surprised; "indeed, dear Herbert, it must not be.
I shall do very well alone."

"Ungracious still, Ellen! what if I have been looking all the morning
for some excuse to stay at home, without owning to my mother the
truth--that I do not feel to-day quite equal to riding? If your looks
were as ungracious as your words, I would run away from you into my own
room; but as they are rather more gratifying to my self-love, we will
send them all away, and enjoy our own quiet pleasures and your little
drive together, Nell."

Whatever Ellen might have said to convince him she could be happy alone,
the beaming look of pleasure on her countenance, satisfied all parties
as to the excellence of this arrangement; and happy, indeed, the day
was. Herbert seemed to understand her unexpressed feelings so fully; and
that always makes the charm of conversation, whatever its subject. We do
not require the _expression in words_ of sympathy--it is an
indescribable something that betrays its existence. Favorite
authors--and Herbert was almost surprised at Ellen's dawning taste and
judgment in literature--the delights of nature after a long confinement,
as if every flower were more sweet, every bit of landscape, or wood, or
water more beautiful, and the many holy thoughts and pure joys springing
from such feelings, were all discussed, either cosily in their
sitting-room, or in their ramble in the garden; and after Ellen's early
dinner, which Herbert shared with her as lunch, she proposed, what she
knew he would like, that her drive should be to Greville Manor, and they
might spend a full hour with their friends, and yet be back in time.
Herbert assented gladly; and the warm welcome they received, Mrs.
Greville's kind care of Ellen, and Mary's eager chat with her and
Herbert, and the number of things they seemed to find to talk about,
made the hour literally fly; but Herbert, enjoyable as it was, did not
forget his charge, and drove her back to Oakwood while the sun still
shone bright and warmly: and when the party returned, which they did
only just in time to dress for dinner, and in the wildest spirits, the
balance of pleasure at home and abroad, would certainly have been found
quite equal.

Ellen still continued quietly to lie down in her own room while the
family were at dinner, for she was then sufficiently refreshed to join
them for a few hours in the evening. Percy and Emmeline, at dinner that
day, kept up such a fire of wit and mirth, that it was somewhat
difficult for any one else to edge in a word, though Edward and Caroline
did sometimes contrive to bring a whole battery against themselves. Just
as the dessert was placed on the table, however, sounds of rural music
in the distance, advancing nearer and nearer, caused Percy to pause in
his wild sallies, and spring with Edward to the window, and their
exclamations soon compelled all the party to follow their example, and
send for Ellen to see the unexpected sight too. Banners and pennons
floated in the sunshine, and the greater part of the nautical
inhabitants of Dartmouth were marshaled in goodly array beside them,
headed by Captain Harvey and his crew, with old Collins in the midst of
them; they were all attired in the new clothing which Mr. Hamilton had
presented to them; and a fine picture Percy declared old Collins's head
would make, with his weather-beaten, honest-speaking face, the very
peculiar curls in which his really yellow hair was twisted, and the quid
of tobacco, from which, even on this grand occasion, he could not
relieve his mouth and cheek. A band of young men and girls surrounded
the first banner, which, adorned with large bunches of primroses and
violets up the staff, bore the words, "Hamilton and benevolence;" and
among them Emmeline speedily recognized William Grey and Susan Collins,
walking side by side, she looking down and smiling, and he so earnestly
talking, that she whispered to her mother with the greatest glee, that
her plan would take place after all. Then came a band of sturdy
fishermen, chums and messmates of Collins, and then a band of boys and
girls, from all Mr. Hamilton's own village schools, decked in their
holiday attire, and holding in their hands tasteful garlands of all the
spring flowers they could muster, and bearing two large banners, one
with the words, "Fortescue forever! All hail to British sailors!" and
the other a representation of the scene on the beach that eventful
night, and the sinking vessel in the distance. The workmanship was rude
indeed, but the effect so strikingly descriptive, that Mrs. Hamilton
actually shuddered as she gazed, and grasped, almost unconsciously, the
arm of her nephew as he stood by her, as if the magnitude of the danger,
both to him and her husband, had never seemed so vivid before.

The windows of the dining-room had been thrown widely open, and as the
rustic procession came in sight of those to whom their whole hearts
tendered homage, they halted; the music ceased, and cheer on cheer
resounded, till the very echoes of the old park were startled out of
their sleep, and sent the shout back again. Percy was among them in a
moment, singling out old Collins, whom he had tried repeatedly to see
since his visit home, but never found him, and grasped and shook both
his hands with the full vehemence of his character, pouring out the
first words that chose to come, which better expressed his grateful
feelings to the old man than the most studied speech. William Grey had
already received substantial proofs of his gratitude, and so he had then
only a kind nod, and a joke and look at the pretty, blushing Susan,
which said a vast deal to both, and seemed as if he quite seconded
Emmeline's plan. Mingling joyously with all, he had bluff words, after
their own hearts, for the men, smiles for the maidens, and such wild
jokes for the children, as lost them all decorum, and made them shout
aloud in their glee. Herbert seconded him quite as well as his quieter
nature would allow. Edward had hung back, even when his name was called
out lustily, as if he could not bear such homage.

"Join them, my boy; their humble pleasure will not be half complete
without you," whispered Mrs. Hamilton, earnestly, for she guessed his
thoughts. "Remember only at this moment the large amount of happiness
you have been permitted to call forth. Do not underrate a deed which all
must admire, because of some sad thoughts; rather resolve--as you can
and have resolved--that the alloy shall be burned away, and the true
metal alone remain, for my sake, to whom you have given such happiness,
dear Edward."

The cloud dispersed from brow and heart in a moment; and he was in the
midst of them, glad and buoyant almost as Percy; while the cheer which
greeted him was almost overpowering to his sister, so much humble, yet
earnest feeling did it speak.

"You really should have given us timely notice of your intentions, my
good friend," said Mr. Hamilton, warmly grasping Captain Harvey's hand.
"At least we might have provided some substantial refreshment after
your long march, as I fear we have but slender fare to offer you, though
Ellis and Morris are busy already, I am happy to see."

And urged on by their own delight at this homage both to their master
and his young preserver, who had become a complete idol among them, a
long table was speedily laid in the servants' hall, covered with a
variety of cold meats, and bread and cheese in abundance, and horns of
cider sparkling brightly beside each trencher. Fruit and cakes eagerly
sought for by Emmeline, were by her distributed largely to the children,
who remained variously grouped on the lawn, their glee at the treat
heightened by the sweet and gentle manner of its bestowal.

Captain Harvey and his mate, Mr. Hamilton entertained himself,
introducing them to his family, and especially Ellen, who, as the sister
of Edward, found herself regarded with an interest that surprised her.
Percy brought in old Collins and Grey, both of whom had expressed such a
wish to see any one so nearly belonging to the brave young sailor; and
her manner of receiving and returning their greeting, thanking them for
the help they had so efficiently given her brother, made them still
prouder and happier than before. After an hour and a half of thorough
enjoyment--for their humble homage to worth and goodness had been
received in the same spirit as it had been tendered--the procession
marshaled itself in the same order as it had come; and rude as the music
was, it sounded, as Emmeline declared, really beautiful, becoming
fainter and fainter in the distance, and quite picturesque the effect of
the banners and pennons, as they gleamed in and out the woody windings
of the park, both music and procession softened in the mild, lovely
twilight of the season.



CHAPTER XV.

A HOME SCENE, AND A PARTING.


"Caroline! Emmeline! come to the music-room, for pity's sake, and give
me some delicious harmony," exclaimed Percy, as soon as lights came, and
the excitement of the last two hours had a little subsided. "Sit
quiet--unless I have some amusement for my ears--I neither can nor
will. I will have some music to lull my tired senses, and a waltz to
excite my wearied frame."

"And rest your limbs," said Edward, dryly.

"Don't you know, master sailor, that when fatigued with one kind of
exercise, the best rest is to take another? Now I have been standing up,
playing the agreeable, for two mortal hours, and I mean to have a waltz
to bring back the stagnant circulation, and to be pleased for the
fatigue of pleasing. Caroline and Emmeline, away with you both. Ellen,
love, I will only ask you to come with us, and be pleased, too. Be off,
Edward, no one shall be my cousin's cavalier but myself; Herbert has had
her all day. Take my mother, if you like. Father, escort Miss Harcourt.
That's all right, as it always is, when I have my own way!"

His own way, this time, gave universal satisfaction. The talents of his
sisters has been so cultivated, as a means of enhancing home-happiness,
and increasing their own resources, that their musical evenings were
always perfect enjoyment. Caroline, indeed, improved as she was, still
retained her love of admiration sufficiently, to find still greater
enjoyment in playing and singing when there were more to listen to her,
than merely her own family, but the feeling, in the security and pure
atmosphere of Oakwood, was kept under control, and she could find real
pleasure in gratifying her brothers, though not quite to the same extent
as Emmeline.

Percy after comfortably settling Ellen, threw himself on the most
luxurious chair that he could find, stretched out his legs, placed his
head in what he called the best position for listening and enjoying, and
then called for duets on the harp and piano, single pieces on both, and
song after song with the most merciless rapidity.

"Your sisters shall neither play nor sing to you any more," his mother,
at length, laughingly said, "unless you rouse yourself from this
disgracefully idle fit, and take your flute, and join them."

"Mother, you are lost to every sensation of mercy! after all my
exertions, where am I to find breath?"

"You have had plenty of time to rest, you lazy fellow; letting your
sisters fatigue themselves without remorse, and refusing your share,"
expostulated Edward. "Caroline, Emmeline take my advice, and strike!
don't play another note."

"You young rebel! teaching my sisters to revolt against the authority of
such an important person as myself. However, I will be condescending for
once; Tiny, there's a love, fetch me my flute."

It was so very close to him as he approached the piano, that his sister
comically took his hand, and placed it on it, and two or three very
pretty trios were performed, Percy declared with professional _éclat_.

"Now don't go, Percy we want your voice in a song. Emmy, sing that
pretty one to your harp, that we wish papa so much to hear; Percy and I
will join when wanted."

"Caroline, I have not the genius to sing at sight."

"Oh, you have often! and the words will inspire you. Come, Herbert, we
want you, too; Edward's singing voice, has deserted him, or I should
enlist him also. Emmeline, what are you waiting for?"

"I can not sing it, dear Caroline; do not ask me," answered Emmeline,
with a confusion and timidity, which, at home, were perfectly
incomprehensible.

"Why, my little Emmy, I am quite curious to hear this new song; do not
disappoint me!" said her father encouragingly.

"But after Caroline I can not sing worth hearing," still pleaded
Emmeline.

"My dear child, I never heard you make such a foolish excuse before;
your mother and myself never find any difference in the pleasure that
listening to your music bestows, however one performer may be more
naturally gifted than the other."

"I declare I must sing it if it be only for the mystery of Tiny's
refusing," said Percy, laughing. "Come, Bertie--a MS. too--what a trial
for one's nerves!"

The words, however, seemed sufficiently satisfactory for them readily to
join in it. Emmeline still hesitated, almost painfully; but then
gathering courage, she sat down to her harp, and, without any notes
before her, played a few bars of one of those sweet, thrilling Irish
melodies so suited to her instrument, and then commenced her song, the
sweetness of her voice, and clearness of articulation atoning well for
her deficiency in the power and brilliancy which characterized her
sister. The words were exceedingly simple, but sung with deep feeling,
and heart-appealing as they were, from the subject, we hope our readers
will judge them as leniently as Emmeline's hearers.


                EMMELINE'S SONG.

    "Joy! joy! No more shall sorrow cloud
      The home by Love enshrined:
    The hearts, in Care's cold fetters bow'd,
      Now loveliest flowers have twined;
    And dove-eyed Peace, with brooding wing,
      Hath made her dwelling here;
    And Hope and Love sweet incense fling,
      To welcome and endear.

    "He has return'd!--and starless night
      No longer o'er us lowers.
    Joy! joy! The future is all bright
      With rosy-blossom'd hours.
    What gladness with our Father fled!
      What gladness He'll restore!
    He has return'd, through perils dread,
      To bless his own once more!

    "Joy' joy! Oh! let our voices raise
      Their glad and grateful lay,
    And pour forth thanksgiving and praise
      That grief hath passed away!
    That he was snatched from storm and wave,
      To dry pale Sorrow's tear;
    Restored! his home from woe to save--
      Oh! welcome, Father dear!"

Emmeline's voice had at first trembled audibly, but seeming to derive
courage from her sister and brother's accompaniment, which, from their
knowledge of music, was so beautifully modulated as to permit her sweet
voice to be heard above all, and every word clearly distinguished, it
became firmer and more earnest as she continued, till she forgot every
thing but the subject of her song. For full a minute there was silence
as she ceased, but with an irresistible impulse Mr. Hamilton rose from
his seat, and, as Emmeline left her harp, he clasped her in his arms.

"How can I thank you, my Emmeline, and all my children, for this fond
greeting?" he exclaimed, with more emotion than he generally permitted
to be visible. "Where could you find such appropriate words? What!
tears, my little girl," he added, as, completely overcome by the
excitement of her song and her father's praise, Emmeline most
unexpectedly burst into tears. "What business have they to come when you
have given your parents nothing but pleasure? Drive them away, love;
what! still no smile? We must appeal to mamma's influence, then, to
explain and soothe them."

"Where did you get them, Tiny? explain, for I am positively faint from
curiosity," comically demanded Percy, as Emmeline, breaking from her
father, sat down on her favorite stool at her mother's feet, and hid her
face in her lap. Mrs. Hamilton laid her hand caressingly on those soft
curls, but, though she smiled, she did not speak.

"She will not tell, and you will none of you guess," said Caroline,
laughing.

"You are in the secret, so out with it," said Edward.

"Not I; I am pledged to silence."

"Mother, dear, tell us for pity," pleaded Herbert.

"I can only guess, for I am not in her confidence, I assure you," she
replied, in the same playful tone, and raising Emmeline's lowered head,
she looked a moment in those conscious eyes. "Dictated by my Emmeline's
affectionate little heart, they were found in this pretty shape, in the
recesses of her own fanciful brain--is not that it, dearest?"

"There, Emmy, I knew mamma would find it out, however we might be
silent," said Caroline, triumphantly, as her sister's face was again
concealed.

"Emmeline turned poet! Angels and ministers of grace defend me! I must
hide my diminished head!" spouted Percy. "I thought at least I might
retain my crown as the poet of the family, and to be rivaled by you--a
light-footed fawn--wild gazelle--airy sprite--my especial Tiny! it is
unbearable!"

"But we must all thank you, notwithstanding, Emmy," continued Herbert.

"Ah, but I have very little to do with it; the arrangement of the words
to the air, and the accompaniment, are Caroline's; I could not have done
that," said Emmeline; her tears changed to her most joyous smiles.

Percy and his father turned directly to Caroline, the former with a Sir
Charles Grandison's bow, the other with a most affectionate kiss; and
her mother looked at her with such an expression of gratified pleasure,
that she could not help acknowledging to herself, such pure enjoyment
was not to be found in the praise and admiration of strangers.

"Now, Emmeline, you have still a mystery to explain," said Edward. "Why
did you not own your offspring, instead of, by silence, almost denying
them?"

"And here I really can not help you," answered Mrs. Hamilton; "I can not
imagine why my Emmy should conceal a fact that could only give pleasure
to us all."

"I think I know," said Ellen, timidly; "Emmeline was thinking of all you
said about controlling an impulse, and not always encouraging that which
she termed inspiration, and perhaps she thought you did not quite
approve of her writing, and so wished to conceal it."

"How could you guess so exactly, Ellen?" hastily answered Emmeline,
forgetting, in her surprise at her cousin's penetration, that she
betrayed herself.

"Because I should have felt the same," said Ellen, simply.

"Then I must have explained myself very badly, my dear children, or you
must have both misunderstood me. I did not mean you to neglect such on
enjoyment as poetry, but only to keep it in its proper sphere, and not
allow it to take the place of resources, equally intellectual, but which
have and may still cost you more patience and labor. Poetry is a
dangerous gift, my dear child; but as long as you bring it to the common
treasury of Home, and regard it merely as a recreation, only to be
enjoyed when less attractive duties and studies are completed, you have
my full permission to cultivate--and try, by the study of our best
authors, and whatever other help I can obtain for you, to improve
yourself in it. No talent that is lent us should be thrown aside, my
Emmeline; our only care must be, not--by loving and pursuing it too
intensely--to _abuse_ it; but I must not lecture you any longer, or
Percy's patience will fail; I see he has placed Miss Harcourt already at
the piano, and Edward and Caroline are ready for their waltz."

"And so I transform one Muse into another," exclaimed Percy, who, in his
sister's absorbed attention, had neared her unobserved, and catching her
round the waist, bore her to the upper end of the room, and a minute
afterward she was enjoying her waltz, with as much childish glee, as if
neither poetry nor reflection could have any thing to do with her.

"Why is poetry a dangerous gift, dear aunt?" inquired Ellen, who had
listened earnestly to all Mrs. Hamilton had said.

"Because, my love, it is very apt to excite and encourage an over-excess
of feeling; gives a habit of seeing things other than they really are,
and engenders a species of romantic enthusiasm, most dangerous to the
young, especially of our sex, whose feelings generally require control
and repression, even when not joined to poetry. To a well-regulated mind
and temper, the danger is not of the same serious kind as to the
irregulated, but merely consists in the powerful temptation it too often
presents to neglect duties and employments of more consequence, for its
indulgence. There is a species of fascination in the composition of even
the most inferior poetry, which urges its pursuit, as giving so little
trouble, compared to the perseverance necessary for music and drawing,
and such a vast amount of pleasure, that it is difficult to withdraw
from it. This is still more strongly the case when the young first
become conscious of the gift, as Emmeline is now. As she gets older, and
her taste improves, she will not be satisfied with her efforts, unless
they are very superior to the present, and the trouble she will take in
correcting and improving, will remove a great deal of the too dangerous
fascination attending it now; still I am not anxious, while she retains
her confidence in my affection and experience, and will so control the
enjoyment, as not to permit its interference with her other more serious
employments."

Ellen listened eagerly, and they continued conversing on many similar
topics of interest and improvement, till the prayer bell rang, and
startled her into the recollection that she had always retired nearly an
hour before, and so had avoided entering the library, which she still
quite shrunk from. Percy stopped his dance, which he had converted from
a waltz into a most inspiring gallopade, the last importation, he
declared, from Almack's; Miss Harcourt closed the piano; and Herbert
paused in his conversation with his father. Nothing like gloom ever
marked the signal for the hour of devotion, but lighter pleasures always
ceased a few minutes before, that they might better realize the more
serious thought and service.

Mrs. Hamilton had never ceased to regret the disgrace she had inflicted
on Ellen, in not permitting her to retain her own place with the family,
at least in the hours of devotion, for it seemed more difficult to
remove that impression than any of her other trials. Returning her
niece's startled look with one of the sincerest affection, she said--

"You will remain with us to-night, my dear Ellen, will you not?"

"If you wish it, aunt."

"I do wish it, dearest, most earnestly. It is so long since I have had
the happiness of seeing all my children round me in this solemn hour,
and till you join us, I can not feel quite sure that you have indeed
forgiven an act of severity, which, could I but have suspected the
truth, I should never have inflicted."

"Forgiven!--you!" repeated Ellen, in utter astonishment, but rising
instantly. "Aunt Emmeline, dear aunt Emmeline, pray, do not speak so;
why did you not tell me your wish before? I would have conquered my own
disinclination to enter the library, weeks ago; indeed, indeed, it only
seemed associated with my own guilt and misery."

Mrs. Hamilton drew her arm fondly in hers, refusing for her the aid of
either of the young men, who had all hastened toward her, and led her
herself to the library, and to her usual place beside Emmeline. Many an
eager but respectful look of affectionate admiration was directed toward
her by the assembled household, the greater part of whom had not seen
her since the night of Edward's confession; and the alteration in her
appearance, the universal sympathy which her dangerous illness and its
cause had called forth, even in the humblest and most ignorant--for it
is the _heart_, not the _mind_, which is required for the comprehension
of self-devotion--her very youth seeming to increase its magnitude, had
inspired such a feeling of love, that could she have known it, would
have prevented that painful sensation of shyness.

Many, many thoughts thronged her mind, as her uncle's impressive voice
fell on her ear; thoughts which, though they prevented her following the
words of the prayers, and caused the tears, spite of every effort, to
stream through her slender fingers, yet turned into thankfulness and
praise, ere the service ceased, that, fiery as the ordeal had been, she
could still recognize a hand of love, and bless God, not only for the
detection of her involuntary sin, but for every pang she had endured.

The next day was Sunday, bringing with it all sorts of quiet, sober
pleasures of its own, only alloyed by the thought that it was the last
day of Percy's and Herbert's visit. The following morning they started
for Oxford, Mr. Hamilton and Edward intending to accompany them part of
the way, and then to proceed to Ashburton, where the former had
business, and then make a little tour through Plymouth home. The next
day was so beautifully fine and genial, that Emmeline declared it would
do Ellen the greatest possible good to go with her a few miles out of
the park, to see a waterfall she had lately discovered, and which she
had been longing for Ellen to see, as Caroline would not admire it as
much as it deserved. Miss Harcourt accompanied them, and on their
return, its beauties were described to Mrs. Hamilton in the most
animating strain; Emmeline declaring the air was more deliciously fresh,
the trees more green, the sky more brilliantly blue, than they had ever
been before; and that the very sound of the water, as it dashed down a
black rock, and threw up spray, which the rays of the sun rendered so
beautifully iridescent, as to seem like a succession of rainbows, was a
whole volume of poetry in itself.

"And what extraordinary vision do you think that silly cousin of mine
chose to fancy she saw coming down the Ashburton road, mamma? Actually
the apparitions of papa and Edward. She will persist in the fancy. Miss
Harcourt and I could only see two men on horseback, at too great a
distance for any identity to be recognized--but it must be their
wraiths, if it be, for they had no idea of coming home to-day."

"I am sure I was not mistaken, Emmeline," said Ellen (whom her aunt now
observed looked agitated and flushed); "and they were riding so fast,
something very pressing must have recalled them."

"And you are frightening yourself at shadows, my dear! but indeed I
think you must be mistaken, for your uncle told me, he should be
particularly engaged to-day," said Mrs. Hamilton.

"She is not mistaken, though," exclaimed Caroline, who was standing at
one of the windows; "for here they both are, true enough, and riding
quite fast down the avenue. However, the mystery will soon be solved."

Mr. Hamilton and Edward entered almost immediately afterward, the latter
evidently very much agitated, the former so tranquil and cheerful that
the momentary anxiety of his wife was calmed directly. He laughed at
their bewilderment, and said that an important letter had reached him at
Ashburton, summoning him to Plymouth, and so he thought he would just
see how all was going on at Oakwood first. This was not at all a
satisfactory reason from Mr. Hamilton. Edward evidently tried to answer
Ellen's inquiries quietly, but he could not, and exclaiming, "You tell
her, my dear uncle! I can not," ran out of the room. Mr. Hamilton
instantly changed his jesting manner, so far as quietly and
affectionately to seat his niece beside him, and tell her, cautiously
and kindly, the real cause of their unexpected return. Orders had been
sent to the Sea Queen, to sail much sooner than was expected, and
therefore he had deferred his business, and returned with Edward
directly.

"It is a trial, my dear Ellen, a very hard one just now, under all
circumstances; but I am sure you will bear it with fortitude, for
Edward's sake. The only drawback to his happiness in being again
permitted to follow his profession, is the thought of the trial, it will
be to you."

"But when must we part? When must he leave Oakwood?" was all poor Ellen
could ask; but in such a tone of quiet sorrow, her uncle could not for
the moment reply.

"The Sea Queen leaves Plymouth, wind permitting, the end of the week,
but--Edward must be on board to-morrow."

A low cry escaped involuntarily from Ellen's lips, as she buried her
face on the cushion of the couch where she was sitting, and an
exclamation of surprise and regret broke from all. Mrs. Hamilton felt it
almost as much as Ellen, from not only her own unspoken anxiety, as to
whether indeed his home influence would save him from temptation in
future, but that she could enter into every thought and feeling which in
Ellen must so aggravate the actual parting--always a sorrow in itself.
After a few minutes Ellen raised her head, and, though her cheek was
perfectly colorless, every tear was checked.

"Tell Edward he need not fear my weakness, dear Emmeline," she said,
trying hard to speak quite calmly. "Only beg him to come to me, that we
may spend the little time we have together; I will be as cheerful as
himself." And, effort as it was, she kept her word; so controlling
sorrow, to enter into his naturally glad anticipations, that her brother
felt as if he could not love, nor venerate her enough.

He was obliged to leave Oakwood (accompanied by his uncle) so early the
next morning, that all his preparations had to be completed by that
night. Ellis's activity, though she could not endure the idea of his
going, speedily and satisfactorily settled that matter. Robert Langford,
who had only regained his natural light-heartedness since Ellen had
taken her usual place in the family, always declaring his carelessness
had been the origin of all her misery, was another so active in his
service, that Edward had only to give a hint of any thing he wanted,
even if it could only be procured at some distance, and it was instantly
obtained.

The hours wore on, the evening devotions were concluded, but still the
family lingered in the library: so many things there seemed to say, for
Mr. Hamilton and Miss Harcourt would not let the conversation flag, and
Edward would talk and laugh, as if he were only going from home for a
few days. Midnight chimed, but still Mrs. Hamilton felt as if she could
not give the signal for separation: but when one struck, there was a
general start, and an unanimous declaration it could not be so late.

"I assure you it is," Mrs. Hamilton cheerfully said; "and poor Edward
will get no sleep, if we do not separate at once. He must certainly send
you a box of artificial roses, for this unusual dissipation will bear
all the natural ones away. Ellen, love, I must be cruel enough to resist
that pleading look; remember, your full strength has not yet returned."

She spoke kindly, but firmly, and there was a general move. Edward
laughingly promised to send his cousins the very best box of rouge he
could procure at Plymouth, and wished them good night as gayly as if
they should meet as usual the next morning. Once only his voice
faltered--"Ellen, love, good night! My own sister, God in Heaven bless
you!" were all he said, the last sentence escaping as if involuntarily,
as if he had merely meant to say good night; and for more than a minute
the brother and sister were clasped in each other's arms. There were
tears in Mrs. Hamilton's eyes, and her husband's were most unwontedly
dim, for words were not needed to reveal to them the trial of that
moment to those two young hearts. To Ellen's especially, for her lot was
woman's--to _endure_ until time should prove the reality of Edward's
resolution, and mark him indeed the noble character his disposition so
fondly promised. His was active service, the banishment of _thought_ by
_deed_. Breaking from her brother, and not daring to address either her
aunt or uncle, lest her control should fail her too soon, Ellen hastened
from the room.

"Go to her, aunt Emmeline; oh, tell her I will never, never cause her to
suffer again!" implored Edward, as soon as he could speak, and clasping
his aunt's hand. "She has been struggling with herself the whole evening
for my sake, and she will suffer for it to-morrow, unless she give it
vent, and she will weep less painfully if you speak of comfort."

"She will be better alone a little while, my dear boy; young as she is,
she knows where to seek and find comfort, and her tears would flow more
freely, conscious only of the presence and healing of her God. I shall
not part from you now. Ellis wanted me for some directions about your
things, and I will come to you in your room afterward."

Mrs. Hamilton knew the human heart well. When she went to Ellen, the
paroxysm of natural sorrow had had vent, and her sympathy, her earnestly
expressed conviction that the trial of beholding error and remorse in
one so beloved would not occur again, could bring comfort. The tears
indeed might still have flowed the faster, perhaps, at the voice of
kindness, but there was healing in them; and when her aunt left her to
go to Edward, she sent him a fond message that she was better, and in a
few days would be happy, quite happy, for his sake.

It was late before Mrs. Hamilton quitted her nephew. We will not repeat
all that passed between them, all that that fond watchful relative so
earnestly, so appealingly said. Not much in actual words of counsel had
she ever before addressed to him, feeling that that duty was better
performed by Mr. Howard and his uncle. She had simply tried to influence
him by the power of love, of forbearance, of sympathy with his remorse,
and pity for his errors. In the wretchedness, the fearful anxiety,
Ellen's danger and painful illness had occasioned herself individually,
she had never spoken, or even let fall a sentence which could reproach
him as the cause of all; and therefore, now that she did give her
anxious affection words, they were so spoken, that her nephew never
forgot them.

"I feel now," he had said, near the conclusion of their interview, "as
if nothing could tempt me to err again; but oh, aunt Emmeline, so I
thought when I left home before; and its influences all left me as if
they had never been. It may be so again and--and--are there not such
doomed wretches, making all they love best most miserable?"

"Not, indeed, if they will take their home influences with them, my
beloved boy. They deserted you before because, by the insidious
sentiments of a most unhappy man, your religion was shaken, and you
flung aside with scorn and misbelief the _only safety_ for the
young--God's most Holy Word. The influences of your home are based on
that alone, my Edward. They appear perhaps to the casual observer as
only love, indulgence, peace, and the joy springing from innocent and
happy hearts; but these are mere flowers springing from one immortal
root. In God's Word alone is our safety, there alone our strength and
our joy; and that may be yours still, my boy, though far away from us,
and in a little world with interests and temptations of its own. Take
this little Bible; it has been my constant companion for eighteen years,
and to none but to yourself would I part with it. If you fear your
better feelings failing, read it, be guided by it, if at first only for
the sake of those you love; I do not fear, but that very soon you will
do so for its own sake. It bears a name within it which I think will
ever keep it sacred in your care, as it has been in mine."

Edward opened it eagerly, "Charles Manvers!" he exclaimed; "My own
sailor-uncle, whose memory you have so taught me to love. It is indeed a
spell, dear aunt, and you shall never regret a gift so precious. But how
came it yours?"

"He came to me just before starting for his last trip, entreating me to
exchange Bibles with him, that in our most serious moments we might
think of each other. It was such an unusually serious speech for him,
that it seemed to thrill me with a vague forboding, which was only too
soon realized. I never saw him again; and that little book indeed
increased in value."

Her voice faltered, for even yet the memory of her brother was so dear
to her that she could never speak of him without emotion. Edward
reiterated his eager assurance that it should be equally valuable to
him, adding--

"I have often had strange fancies about uncle Charles, aunt, and longed
for the command of a ship, to scour the coast of Algiers, and learn
something more about the Leander. Somehow or other, I never can believe
he was drowned, and yet to think of him as a slave is terrible."

"And not likely, my dear boy; think of the lapse of years. But painful
as it is, we must separate, Edward: I must not detain you from rest and
sleep any longer. Only give me one promise--if ever you are led into
temptation and error again, and it may be--for our strongest resolutions
sometimes fail us--write to me without the smallest hesitation, openly,
freely; tell me all, and if you need aid, ask it, and I will give it;
and, if it be possible, avert your uncle's displeasure. I have no fear
that, in telling you this, I am weakening your resolution, but only to
prevent one fault becoming many by concealment--from dread of anger, and
therein the supposed impossibility of amendment. Remember, my beloved
boy, you have a claim on me which no error nor fault can remove; as,
under providence, the preserver of my husband, I can _never_ change the
anxious love I bear you. You may indeed make me very miserable, but I
know you will not: you _will_ let me look on your noble deed with all
the love, the admiration, it deserves. Promise me that, under any
difficulty or error, small or great, you will write to me as you would
have done to your own beloved mother, and I shall have no fear
remaining."

Edward did promise, but his heart was so full he could not restrain
himself any longer, and as Mrs. Hamilton folded him to her heart, in a
silent but tearful embrace, he wept on her shoulder like a child.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE BIRTHDAY GIFT.


Brightly and placidly, as the course of their own beautiful river, did
the days now pass to the inmates of Oakwood. Letters came from Edward so
frequently, so happily, that hope would rest calmly, joyously, even on
the thought of him. He never let an opportunity pass, writing always to
Mrs. Hamilton (which he had scarcely ever done before), and inclosing
his letters to Ellen open in hers. The tone, the frequency, were so
changed from his last, that his family now wondered they had been so
blind before in not perceiving that his very seeming liveliness was
unnatural and overstrained.

With Ellen, too, Mrs. Hamilton's anxious care was bringing in fair
promise of success--the mistaken influences of her childhood, and their
increased effect from a morbid imagination, produced from constant
suffering, appearing, indeed, about to be wholly eradicated. Anxious to
remove all sad associations connected with the library, Mrs. Hamilton
having determined herself to superintend Ellen's studies, passed long
mornings in that ancient room with her, so delightfully, that it became
associated only with the noble authors whose works, or extracts from
whom, she read and reveled in, and which filled her mind with such new
thoughts, such expansive ideas, such calming and earnest truths, that
she felt becoming to herself a new being. Lively and thoughtless as
Emmeline she could not now indeed become--alike as their dispositions
naturally were; but she was more quietly, enduringly happy than she had
ever remembered her self.

There was only one alloy, one sad thought, that would intrude causing a
resolution, which none suspected; for, open as she had become, she could
breathe it to none but Ellis, for she alone could assist her, though it
required many persuasions and many assurances, that she never could be
quite happy, unless it was accomplished, which could prevail on her to
grant it. Ellen knew, felt, more and more each week, that she could not
rest till she had labored for and obtained, and returned into her aunt's
hands the full sum she had so involuntarily appropriated. The only means
she could adopt demanded such a seemingly interminable period of
self-denial, patience, and perseverance, that at first as Ellis
represented and magnified all connected with it, she felt as if, indeed,
she could not nerve herself for the task, much as she desired to perform
it; but prayer enabled her to face the idea, till it lost its most
painful aspect, and three months after Edward's departure she commenced
the undertaking, resolved that neither time nor difficulty should deter
her from its accomplishment. What her plan was, and whether it
succeeded, we may not here inform our readers. Should we be permitted to
resume our History of the Hamilton Family, both will be revealed.

Greatly to Caroline's delight, the following October was fixed for them
to leave Oakwood, and, after a pleasant tour, to make the long
anticipated visit to London. There would then be three or four months'
quiet for her to have the benefit of masters, before she was introduced,
and Mrs. Hamilton fondly hoped, that the last year's residence at home,
fraught as it had been with so much of domestic trial, and displaying so
many hopeful and admirable traits in Caroline's disposition, would have
lessened the danger of the ordeal of admiration and gayety which she so
dreaded for her child--whether it had or not, a future page will
disclose.

To Emmeline this arrangement was a source of extreme regret,
individually, in which Ellen now quite sympathized. But Emmeline had
never forgotten her mother's gentle hint, that too great indulgence of
regret or sorrow becomes selfishness, and she tried very hard to create
some anticipation of pleasure, even in London. Ellen would not look to
pleasure, but merely tried to think about--and so, when called upon,
cheerfully to resign that which was now so intensely enjoyable--her
studies with her aunt--and so benefit by them as to give Miss Harcourt
no trouble when she was again under her care; as she knew she and
Emmeline must be, more than they had been yet, when Caroline's
introduction, and their residence in London, would take Mr. and Mrs.
Hamilton so much from domestic pursuits and pleasures, and, even when at
home, compel them to be so frequently engrossed with a large circle of
friends, and all the variety of claims on their attention and time,
which a season in London includes.

It was again the 7th of June, and Ellen's birthday. Accustomed from the
time she became an inmate of Oakwood to regard the anniversary of her
birth in the same serious light as Mrs. Hamilton had taught her
cousins--as a day of quiet reflection, as well as of thankfulness and
joy, as one that, closing and recommencing another year of their
individual lives, taught them that they were becoming more and more
responsible beings--it was not much wonder that Ellen, the whole of that
day, should seem somewhat less cheerful than usual. She had indeed had
many sources of thankfulness and joy during the past year, but a heart
and mind like hers could not recall its principal event without a return
of sorrow. Mrs. Hamilton would not notice her now unusual sadness until
the evening, when perceiving her standing engrossed in thought beside
one of the widely-opened windows, near which Caroline was watering some
lovely flowers on the terrace, she gently approached her, and, putting
her arm round her, said, fondly--

"You have thought quite seriously and quite long enough for to-day, my
dear Ellen; I must not have any more such very silent meditations. That
there is something to regret in the retrospect of the last year, I
acknowledge, but you must not let it poison all the sources of
thankfulness which it brings likewise."

"It was not of my past conduct, I was thinking at this moment, aunt
Emmeline--it was--"

"What, love? tell me without reserve."

"That I never, never can return in the smallest degree all I owe to
you," replied Ellen, with a sudden burst of emotion, most unusual to her
controlled and gentle character; "I never can do any thing to evince how
gratefully, how intensely I feel all the kindness, the goodness you have
shown me from the first moment you took me to your home--an unhappy,
neglected, ailing child, and this year more, more than ever. My own poor
mother left me in my dangerous illness, and what have you not done to
give me back not merely physical, but mental health? Day and night you
watched beside me, forgetting all the care, the misery, my conduct had
caused you, only thinking, only seeking, to give me back to health and
happiness. Oh, aunt Emmeline, your very household can evince gratitude
and love, in the performance of their respective duties--I can do
nothing, never can. If I only could."

"Do you remember the fable of the lion and the mouse, my dear Ellen, and
Miss Edgeworth's still prettier story on the same subject?" replied Mrs.
Hamilton, more affected than she chose to betray, though she drew her
niece closer to her, and kissed her fondly. "I hope I shall never be
caught in a net, nor exposed to such horrors and danger as poor Madame
de Fleury in the French Revolution; but for all that, and unlikely as it
seems now, my dear child, you may have many an opportunity to return all
that you so gratefully feel you owe me. Do not let any such thought
worry you; but believe me, when I assure you that affection and
confidence are the only return I require, united, as they are in you,
with such an earnest desire, and such persevering efforts to become all
your best friends can wish you."

She was interrupted by the entrance of Emmeline, with a small parcel in
her hand.

"Mamma, this has just arrived from Exeter for you; with an apologizing
message from Mr. Bennet, saying, it should have been here last night, as
he promised, but he could not get the articles from London in time. I am
so very curious as to what it possibly can be, that I would bring it to
you myself."

"Any other time I would punish your constant curiosity, Emmeline, by
refusing to gratify it. I can not do so now, however, for I should
punish myself as well. I did want it most particularly this morning; but
I am glad it was not delayed till the day was quite over. Your uncle and
I did not forget your birthday, my dear Ellen, though it seemed so." And
opening the parcel as she spoke, a very pretty jewel-case appeared,
containing the watch, cross, and all the other trinkets Ellen had placed
in Mrs. Langford's hand, and never had had the courage to inquire for,
and the few her aunt had kept for her, but so prettily arranged and
beautifully burnished, that she would scarcely have known them again.

"Did you never feel any curiosity as to the fate of your trinkets, my
love, that you have never asked about them?"

"I knew they were in better hands than my own," replied Ellen, with a
quivering lip. "I felt I had no further right to them, after attempting
to part with them."

"I know there are some very painful associations connected with these
trinkets, my dear Ellen, and, therefore, I would not return them to your
own care, till I could add to them a birthday-gift," and, lifting the
upper tray, she took out a gold chain, and a pair of bracelets of chaste
and beautiful workmanship--"that the sad memories of the one may be
forgotten in the pleasant thoughts of the other. I have only one
condition to make," she added, in an earnest lower tone, as Ellen tried
to speak her thanks, but could only cling to her aunt's neck and weep.
"If ever again you are tempted to dispose of them, dearest, promise me
to bring them to me, for my valuation first."

"You shall be put into fetters at once, Ellen," said Emmeline joyously,
as her cousin gave the required promise, so eagerly, that it was
evident, she felt how much security dwelt in it. "Mamma, make her put
them on; I want to see if she looks as interesting as Zenobia did in her
golden chains."

"I think you might find a prettier simile, Emmeline," replied Mrs.
Hamilton, smiling, as she granted her request, by throwing the chain
round Ellen's neck, and fastening the bracelets on her wrists.

"So I can, and so I will," replied the lively girl, altering, without
the smallest hesitation, the lines to suit her fancy--

    "For thee, _rash girl_, no suppliant sues;
    For thee may vengeance claim her dues;
    Who, nurtured underneath our smile,
    Repaid our cares with treacherous wile.

    Dishonoring thus thy loyal name,
    Fetters and warders _thou must claim_.
    The chain of gold was quick unstrung,
    Its links on that _fair neck were_ flung;
    Then gently drew the glittering band,
    And laid the clasp on Ellen's hand."


THE END





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