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•Credit them not,' said Esclairmonde. He never crosses her but when he would open her eyes to his brother's failing health.'
“Yes,' interrupted Marguerite ; my lord brother swears that this king will not live a year; and if Catherine have no better luck with her child than poor Michelle, then there will be another good Queen Anne in England.'
'If so,' said Esclairmonde, looking at' her friend with swimming eyes, she will have the best of husbands—as good as even she deserves !
Anne held her hand fast, and would have said many tender words on Esclairmonde's own troubles; but the other ladies were arrayed, and Esclairmonde would not for worlds have been left behind in the Hotel de Bourgogne.
Privacy was not an attainable luxury; and Esclairmonde could not commune with her throbbing heart, or find peace for her aching head, till night. This must be a matter unconfided to any, even Alice Montagu. And while the maiden lay smiling in her quiet sleep, after having fondly told her friend that Sir Richard Nevil had really noticed her new silken kirtle, she knelt on beneath the crucifix, mechanically reciting her prayers, and, as the beads dropped from her fingers, fighting out the fight with her own heart.
Her mind was made up; but her sense of the loss, her craving for the worthy affection which lay within her grasp——these dismayed her. The life she had sighed for had become a blank; and she passionately detested the obligation that held her back from affection, usefulness, joy, and excellence. Not ambition, for the greatest help to her lay in Bedford's position, his exalted rank, and nearness to the crown ; but she really dreaded and loathed worldly pomp so much, that the temptation would have been greater had he not been a prince.
It was this sense of renunciation that came to her aid. She had at least a real sacrifice to offer; till now, as she became aware, she had made
She folded her hands, and laid her offering to be hallowed by the One all-sufficient Sacrifice. She offered all those capacities for love that had been newly revealed to her ; she offered up the bliss, whose golden dawn she had seen; she tried to tear out the earthliness of her heart and affections by the roots, and lay them on the altar, entreating that, come what might, her spirit might never stray from the Heavenly Spouse of her betrothal.
Therewith came a sense of His perfect sufficiency-of rest, peace, support, ineffable love, that kept her kneeling in a calm, almost ecstatic state, in which common hopes, fears, and affections had melted away.
(To be continued.)
LENA'S SEVEN BIRTH-DAYS.
I am eighteen to-day. Am I different to what I was when I first began to write in this book, four years ago? Perhaps others would say that I am; but I don't feel so. I am myself, the same that I ever was, only a little older, with a little more knowledge of this life, and of men and manners; and I hope, with a little deeper insight into the wonders of the world unseen and eternal.
I rather shrink from the idea of coming out; and yet I am standing on the very edge of the precipice now; for to-night, this very night, Edith and I make our débût. Papa-in honour of us two girls, and to please Herbert, who had planned and set his heart upon the plan-gives a ball to-night, and Herbert and I are to open it. So the torch will be fired; the first step taken. And the second step succeeds very very quickly ; for the day after to-morrow Lord Baynard gives another ball, in honour of his eldest son's, Lord Bandon's, coming of age. Charley and Herbert both come to-day, to be present at these two balls ; for Lord Baynard and Lord Bandon were here yesterday, and made Papa promise that he would come, and bring us four, that is to say, Edith and me, Herbert and Charley.
Papa talks of going up to London for six weeks almost immediately, before the weather gets too hot, for this is the 26th of May, and surely never never was there a more lovely day. One can hardly enjoy it enough; the trees with their new leaves dressed, and the sky one cloudless lake of blue;' and then the birds—the sweet chorus of birds, and just now the scent from the flowering shrubs, and from the grass which they are mowing under my window-in fact, the altogether. There is a wonderful feeling of happiness over me-a feeling that won't let me write quietly on here much longer. I must be out-out into that sweet fresh free air. And hark! there is Edith singing as merrily as a birdie under the great beech tree. My dressing-table is strewn over with cases of jewelry, all given me to-day; and in some of them I am to array myself this evening. My sweet little Agnes came tripping in quite early this morning, and in her hand was a basket of the loveliest flowers, and in the midst of the flowers lay concealed a gold pencil-case-her gift ; though, as she said whilst giving me her hundred kisses, 'It is all my own present, only bought with Mamma's money; because I have only got three pennies, and Mamma said I must keep them for a poor man.' Darling little thing—she and her flowers and her pencil-case were all lovely together. She is so pleased with the preparations for to-night, and has been walking up and down the great empty rooms, like a tiny princess.
One line I must write to-day-one line to note down my great happiness—my crowning joy-my life's great hope-for I am engaged to my cousin Charley Grey. Yes, I am his chosen wife, his own beloved one. Last evening-the evening of my eighteenth birth-day-he told me of his love, and that it had been the wish of his heart for years that I should be his wife. But how could I write all he said to me, and all he drew forth from me? No, impossible ; I neither can nor will. There was a something in his manner which struck me on his arrival yesterday; an indefinable change seemed to me to have come over him, I soon explained this to myself when I heard he had received the order to join his regiment at Gibraltar. Yes, and he is going too! and poor me! I shall have to be left, and to be parted from him so soon! four more days, and then--blank. He came determined to ascertain what hope he had before he left England, otherwise he would not have spoken out yet—not till I was older; but last evening, as we walked up and down the terrace watching the sunlight die out, he told me all. Dearest Mother saw us walking, and guessed what he was talking to me about; (it seems that she had long known of his attachment, otherwise than as a cousin, to me ;) and when I went up to her room, after we two parted, she folded me in her arms, and told me she knew all, and that there was no, one on earth she would rather give me to than to Charley. That evening, between the dances, he put on my finger a most beautiful ring, one deep blue sapphire stone, embedded in thick gold-my engagement, ring
Papa was told this morning. I am not so sure whether he is equally pleased. Not that he does not like Charley, for that would be impossible; but he
says I am over young to be engaged—that I don't know my own mind—that he fancies I might do much better-just as though I could. Have I not got the best? And can there be anything better than the best? Dearest Mother said, had we been first cousins she would never have consented; but we are second cousins, and so she can see no objection. However, nothing can part us now, though we are not to be married till I am twenty; and then not except Charley has enough (what Papa considers enough) for us to marry on. I did not know till this morning, that when I am of age, three years to come, I shall have some money of my own-a thousand a-year-left me by my grandmother; and eventually, Charley will have much about the same, so we shall have enough; though Papa says we shall be beggars; but then, before he was three-and-twenty he came into a property worth twenty thousand a year. No wonder he talks in this way, I feel changed already; having had all this said to me, and having been obliged to look at my happiness in this business point of view; and to hear it all discussed; and to see how much importance Papa—and even Mamma and Herbert, boy as he is attach to the money question. Well, I don't care; and I will write no more, but go down to him who is waiting for me, and whose love is mine-my own, And am I not happy?
Charley is gone. When we may meet again I don't know-nor does he. I am sad, and feel as though I could settle to nothing, and think of nothing but him. He says I am to read and study and practise, especially singing, as busily as I can, and not fret, nor waste my time. Once a-week we shall write to each other. Mamma made us promise not to write oftener : it seems cruel; but she made such a point of it, that we yielded.
We go to London next week. Papa says it will do Mamma good, and me too; though he calls me a great goose for having bound myself so early in life to my Charley. But would I be free? No, no, no. Of one thing I am very glad, which is, he has asked Edith to come to London with us. He has taken a house in Park Lane for six weeks. Aunt Trevor is very anxious to have Edith back again with her, now that masters and lessons are at an end. I suppose we must let her go, as Aunt Trevor really does want her. She has been so weak and delicate of late; and she has been like a mother to Charley and Edith since their own mother died. So when we return from London, Edith goes to Aunt Trevor, and I shall miss her dreadfully; for though she will only be two miles off, it won't be the same thing as having her in the house.
What a wonderful place London is! and how much there is to see, and how much there is to interest one; and how gay and bright and pleasant the Parks are! I did not expect to enjoy London nearly as much as I have been enjoying it. Though I am not sorry that we are nearly come to the end of our individual season, and are to return home next week. Dearest Mother has gone out a great deal, for her, and done her best to make it pleasant for us two girls; and Papa too has been very kind and very generous, for he has taken us to the opera every week, and to many concerts, and flower-shows, and breakfasts, &c. I wrote and told Charley of all our gay doings; and he seemed pleased to think that we have been so much amused, and had a peep into London life; but I am sure I should grow dreadfully weary of it if it were to go on for ever. Edith says that she has just the same feeling about it, and has no wish that her lot should be cast in London.
Sometimes I think that Lord Bandon likes Edith; he comes to our house very often. I don't wonder at his liking her ; but I hope she won't like him ; he is so namby-pamby, and so meagre. I have never mentioned his name to her, because I have a sort of fear lest Papa and Aunt Trevor should urge her to think of him if my suspicions are right. I know one day Herbert said to me, that I had been a down-right fool to engage myself to Charley, when there was Lord Bandon to be had. I know when I was quite a young girl, Lord Bandon used to say all sorts of foolish things to me, but that was merely because he was a boy; and I never liked him, and always kept away from him when I could. And now, woman as I am, and feel myself to be, 1 dislike him; but Edith may not do so, and therefore I must be silent. She is fit for any position, and would be a grand creature to be rich, she is so generous and good. But what is money and position without love? Charley is my wealth ; and I wish for no other.
Last Saturday we went to the Zoological Gardens, and Agnes went with us, and another little child, a Willie Stoner; he and Agnes are great friends, and about the same age. When we went into the serpent room, Mr. Stoner, Willie's papa, who went with us, lifted the two little ones up to see the boa-constrictor coiled in its flannel; and Willie looked so terrified at the dreadful animal, and said in a low voice to his papa, 'O Papa, is that the devil ?' We could not help laughing; and Mr. Stoner could scarcely keep his countenance; the child's look was one of such horror, and the question so real and earnest. His mother had been shewing him some Bible pictures last Sunday, and amongst others, one, namely, Satan as a serpent tempting Eve; and it was this picture which was in his thoughts when he asked if the boa-constrictor was the devil. But children certainly do make most extraordinary remarks. I know little Agnes often astonishes me by her keen observations, and her quick perceptions of matters one would think quite above her ken.
Home again! Yes, we are once more in the fresh and beautiful country, and with such roses to greet us, and such strawberries to refresh us, as London never sees, or tastes, or imagines.
I had some singing lessons whilst I was in London ; and Mamma has engaged a very nice young Italian lady to come and stay here for two or three months, on purpose to sing with me and with Edith, who will come here as often as Aunt Trevor can spare her, to practise with the Signorina and me.
Charley sends me a list of books he wants me to read; and he is anxious that I should try and sketch from nature; and I think that I may perhaps do something in this way, for I have a natural love for itand anything to please Charley. It seems so long since I have seen him, and yet it is only two months ago that he left England. He says that probably his regiment will be ordered home next year; but he does not know when, or whether it will be before September.
The twenty-ninth day of September in next year Herbert comes of age; and Papa begins already to talk about the great rejoicings and feastings then to come off, and there are fourteen months yet to run before that time. I don't quite like it; perhaps I am superstitious; but it always rather frightens me to hear people say what they will and intend to do this time next year, or this time two years: I mean, that I don't think people should speak too certainly of the future; it is better to leave it, or to qualify it by a reference to a higher will and a higher power than our own. My book won't call me old-fashioned and moody and ridiculous, for writing these things, as Herbert would if I were foolish enough (as I sometimes am) to say them in his hearing. And I have no Charley to talk to now.
September is come, and the summer is passing away; and before it