“Child of my heart, my hopes, my care, as she is, I must yet speak it, forget her, Eugene; let not the thought of a deceiver, a coquette, debar you from the possession of that peace which should ever be the portion of one so truly honourable, so wholly estimable as yourself. You are disappointed, pained; but you know not—cannot guess the agony it is to find the integrity in which I so fondly trusted is as naught; that my child, my own child, whom I had hoped to lead through life without a stain, is capable of such conduct.”
Emotion choked her voice. She had been carried on by the violence of her feelings, and perhaps said more in that moment of excitement than she either wished or intended.
St. Eval gazed on the noble woman before him with unfeigned admiration. He saw the indignation, the displeasure which she felt; it heightened the dignity of her character in his estimation; but he now began to tremble for its effects upon her child.
“Do not, my dear Mrs. Hamilton,” he said, with some hesitation, “permit Miss Hamilton’s rejection of me to excite your displeasure towards her. If with me she could not be happy, she was right to refuse my hand. Let me not have the misery of feeling I have caused dissension in a family whose beautiful unity has ever bound me to it. Surely you would not urge the affections of your child.”
“Never,” replied Mrs. Hamilton, earnestly. “I understand your fears, but let them pass away. I shall urge nothing, but my duty I must do. Much as I admire the exalted sentiments you express, I must equally deplore the mistaken conduct of my child. She has wilfully sported with the most sacred of human feelings. Once more I say, she is not worthy to be yours.”
The indignation and strong emotion still lingering in her voice convinced St. Eval that he might urge no more. Respectfully he took his leave.
Mrs. Hamilton sat silently revolving in her mind all Caroline’s late conduct, but vainly endeavouring to discover one single good reason to justify her rejection of St. Eval. In vain striving to believe all must have been mistaken, she had not given him encouragement. That her affections could have become secretly engaged was a thing so unlikely, that even when Mrs. Hamilton suggested it, both she and her husband banished the idea as impossible; for St. Eval alone had she evinced any marked preference.
“You must speak to her, Emmeline, I dare not; for I feel too angry and disappointed to argue calmly. She has deceived us; all your cares appear to have been of no avail; all the watchful tenderness with which she had been treated thus returned! I could have forgiven it, I would not have said another word, if she had conducted herself towards him with propriety; but to give him encouragement, such as all who have seen them together must have remarked; to attract him by every winning art, to chain him to her side, and then reject him with scorn. What could have caused her conduct, but the wish to display her power, her triumph over one so superior? Well might he say she had sunk in his estimation. Why did we not question her, instead of thus fondly trusting in her integrity? Emmeline, we have trusted our child too confidently, and thus our reliance is rewarded.”