Lady Helen, as her health continued to decline, felt conscience becoming more and more upbraiding, its voice would not be stilled. She had known her duty as a mother; she had seen it beautifully portrayed before her in Mrs. Hamilton, but she had neglected its performance, and her chastisement she felt had come. Annie’s conduct she had borne, she had forgiven her, scarcely appearing conscious of the danger her daughter had escaped; but Cecil was her darling, and his disgrace came upon her as a thunderbolt, drawing the veil from her eyes, with startling and bewildering light. She had concealed his childish faults, she had petted him in every whim, encouraged him in every folly in his youth; to hide his faults from a severe but not too harsh a judge, she had lowered herself in the eyes of her husband, and achieved no good. Cecil was expelled, disgracefully expelled, and the wretched mother, as she contrasted his college life with that of the young Hamiltons, felt she had been the cause; she had led him on by the flowery paths of indulgence to shame and ruin. He came not near her; he joined his regiment, and left England, without bidding her farewell, and she felt she should never see him more. From that hour she sunk; disease increased, and though she still lingered, and months passed, and there was no change for the worse, yet still both Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton felt that death was written on her brow, that, however he might loiter on his way, his destined victim would never again feel the blessedness of health; and all their efforts were now directed in soothing the affliction of Grahame, and lead him to console by tenderness the remaining period of his unhappy wife’s existence. They imparted not to him their fears, but they rested not till their desire was obtained, and Lady Helen could feel she was not only forgiven but still beloved, and would be sincerely mourned, both by her husband and Lilla, in whom she had allowed herself at one time to be so deceived.
Having now brought the affairs of Oakwood, and all intimately connected with it, to a point, from which no subject of interest took place for above a year, at that period we resume our narrative.
It was a fine summer morning. The windows of a pretty little sitting-room were thrown wide open, and the light breeze, loaded with the perfume of a thousand flowers, played refreshingly on the pale cheek of our young friend Emmeline, who, reclining on a sofa, looked forth on beautiful nature with mingled sadness and delight. More than a year had elapsed since we last beheld her, and she was changed, painfully changed. She still retained her childish expression of countenance, which ever made her appear younger than in reality she was, but its ever-varying light, its beautiful glow were gone; yet she complained not. The smile ever rested on her lips in the presence of her parents; her voice was ever joyous, and no sigh,