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LENA'S SEVEN BIRTH-DAYS.
ANOTHER birth-day-my twentieth ; the day we had once hoped would have been our wedding-day. I am very sad to-day, very sad indeed though all my days now seem more or less sad; the last six months have been so full of sorrow. Yet to-day is not without its gleam of hope, its cause for thankfulness; for Herbert returned home with my father and mother from London yesterday, and he is certainly much better than when he went away ten weeks ago. I can see a great change in him. One eye is nearly right, the other, alas! still dark, and I fear hopelessly so. Then his hair, which was kept quite short till he left home, has been allowed to grow again, and is thick and glossy and waving as it ever was; and his whiskers are growing too, and hiding the scar on his cheek, which is a great comfort; he is fatter also, and looks better altogether. He no longer keeps his arm in a sling, though as yet he can't use it freely; but the doctors have told him that it will become quite strong again in time, and by submitting to the necessary
So for all this I, especially, ought to be and am thankful. Then I am so glad to have my dearest mother home again. I had never been away from her before, and missed her sweet, kind, loving presence 80 much. It was the prettiest thing to see the meeting between her and little Agnes. The child was wild with joy, and danced about, and hung round Mother's neck, kissing her, and calling her by such a torrent of dear names, and pouring out as fast as words would let her, all that she had been doing during the long absence; and Mother kept looking at the little creature with tears in her eyes, and kissing her, and making comments on her growth, and long hair, and pretty pink dress new for the occasion, and evidently full of a great content to be home again and with her darling. Papa greeted me quite warmly, which gave me an unwonted feeling of gladness; but he has not asked once after Charley. Herbert, on the contrary, made me come and sit by him, and read him all I would of Charley's letters. Oh! how this great trial has altered Herbert, or developed him, I don't know whichbut perhaps it has acted in both ways; he is a noble fellow now. No one has ever heard a complaining word from him; and as for his thoughts of my Charley, they seem to be, how can we make up to him for the grief which the accident caused by him has given him. Herbert has had a crayon sketch taken of himself just as he is now, to send out to Charley, that Charley may see that he is not so entirely disfigured as he was at first. We were looking at it together to-day, and he said to me with somewhat of his old fun and jaunty manner, ‘Not 80 bad a face and figure, after all ; good enough for a baronet's daughter, though maybe I must relinquish the earl's, which I once meant to have.' Poor Herbert! I do so love and admire him. Edith will stay another fortnight with us, and then she returns to Uncle Trevor, who comes home next week; but what Herbert will do without her I can't imagine. She seems entirely devoted to him-not as Charley and I are devoted, but just as a friend or cousin. She reads to him, she writes for him, she sings with him, she cheers him and amuses him; and he told me to-day-'I think Edith quite lovely now I have only got one eye, and I never did when I had two; so you see some good has come out of a bad sight.'
I have written nothing in this book since my birth-day, now month ago. A slow pacing month, and one of great anxiety to me; for Charley told me in his last letter that his regiment had been ordered to that part of the country where there is a dangerous and desultory warfare going on; he bade me keep up a good heart and a brave spirit, and not anticipate evil which may never come; but his saying all this only convinces me that he knew he was going to meet danger; and he is not one to shrink from danger, or to hold back when others are pressing on. I may perhaps hear again in a day or two, or I may have yet some time to wait. Throbs of anguish and anxiety roll over me, wave after wave presses me down-thoughts of past happy days, thoughts of hopes now perhaps never to be realized; and then there steals over me a calm—a dead calın—through which I go with no feeling but that of waiting. But is all this wrong! oh, I don't know. I have Jost so much out of my life of hope, and joy, and bliss. I have gained such knowledge of anxiety, of bitter grief, of sad sympathy, that I feel myself changed. I am not what I was. But I must not go on writing in this strain. One thing ought to rejoice memand does rejoice me-which is that Herbert is daily progressing; and another thing too, there is to gladden me, namely, my father's returned love and kindness.-What can my mother and Herbert be reading with such earnest looks out on the terrace? I can see it is a letter. Oh, me! can it be from Charley, or of Charley, and not for me?
That letter was of my Charley—not from him, for he could not write. Ten days have past since that letter-days that have gone by I hardly know how; but the letter was this to my mother, from Captain Forbes, Charley's friend—that Charley was wounded severely, but not dangerously—that he could not write himself, and therefore Captain Forbes was writing for him-that we should hear again soon; but we have not heard yet. How long will this continue ? What will come next?
Another letter-it came yesterday-not from my Charley, but from Captain Forbes. Charley dictated it in part : his right arm has been disabled for the present by a sword-cut, and his leg wounded by a VOL. 7.
musket-ball; he says he is doing well ; and as he can be of no more use for the present, he is ordered home by the next ship. Every feeling is awake again within me-joy and anguish, hope and despair, uncertainty and anticipation. I am going to him-Mother has promised to take me to meet the ship; and Herbert has sent a special messenger to wait till the ship is within sight, and then to let us know, so that we may start at once. Papa has kept entire silence. Herbert's kindness is beyond all words. I am terribly restless.
It is now August. I have not written in this book since the end of June. It was on the first of July that we left home-my mother and me —and went to London to meet my Charley there. Captain Forbes came home with him, and he it was who made us come to London to meet Charley, and not go as we had intended to Portsmouth. He thought the journey to London, for Charley, had better be over before the agitation of meeting us took place ; for Charley had been very near death. I saw that at once. I read it in his eye, his manner, his looks, his words ; but it was not at once that I knew he was a crippled man for life, and that one leg had been amputated below the knee. But so it is—the strong man's strength is cut down. But I cannot write about this. I cannot bring myself to record feelings such as I have gone through. The bare fact is this, that the bone of the leg had been injured by the musket-ball, and it was absolutely necessary to take the leg off. He had several other wounds besides the one on the leg—but in time, I am assured, they will all heal; but he has suffered a great deal, and must do so yet for many months. I need not say no impatient or murmuring word ever comes from him. No-nor must it from me. My mother stayed a week in London, and then returned home, and Edith and Uncle Trevor took her place. We nursed him, we cheered him, we were his willing and devoted slaves. Two or three times Herbert came up to see him. The first time that they met they were both of them completely upset. Charley told me that it was not half so trying to him seeing Herbert now as it had been, because he was himself a wounded, lame, and maimed man, (though I hope he will not always be maimed ;) still he is so for the presentpoor fellow! In fact, I believe he has a kind of satisfaction in the thought that he has but one leg; he weighs this against Herbert's eye. Oh what grief and pain one moment's work has brought to all of us! About a fortnight ago I returned home; the heat of London made me feel ill, and look pale and wretched, and Charley fretted about this, and could not rest till he sent me home; and now he and Edith return to Uncle Trevor's house to-morrow; where I can see my Charley daily. Since I came home I have fancied that Herbert misses Edith more than he chooses to say, and that his affection for her is not that only of a cousin; but I may be wrong, though I would gladly be right.
September 1st.-To-day Edith, Charley, and Uncle Trevor, go to Harrowgate for some weeks—the doctors say that the waters of that place are the very thing for Charley in his present state; and so we are severed again, for Papa absolutely refused to let me go with them. He has never seen Charley all this last month, though ten minutes walk would have taken him to Uncle Trevor's house; and Charley has not crossed this threshold. Still one point is gained, and that is this, that he knows we are engaged still, and that we have never deemed our engagement broken ; and Herbert even dares to speak of our marriage in my father's presence. So perhaps the clouds are breaking. We leave home to-morrow, and go to Scotland for some weeks. None of us could bear to be at liome when the anniversary of last year's tragedy comes round. I am shrinking from the day even in thought, and it is barely three weeks off ; but I must not be a coward, nor must I feed my soul with gloomy fears.
Christmas Day.—My father is very ill—so ill that it seems doubtful whether he can live another four-and-twenty hours ; he has been gradually sinking for the last fortnight, but not till yesterday did he seem to think himself in danger ; then he sent for Mr. Lee, (our clergyman,) and they were together for more than an hour. Afterwards Mamma and Herbert were with him. Later in the day Mamma came to me, and said Papa was asking for me, and I must come at once. We went into his room together ; he lay back on his pillow, looking deadly pale, and very much exhausted; but he raised himself up when we drew near to the bed, and told me to kiss him; and then he said, Tell Charley I forgive him, and you have my full consent to your marriage; and may God bless both him and you, my child.' He could not say more, but sunk back on his pillow; and very soon the doctors arrived, and we were all obliged to leave the room, nor were we allowed to see him again that day. Oh, no one can tell what a blessing those words of his have been to me, and the way in which they were said, coming so straight from his heart! I think they caused me more tears than any bitter words have ever caused me—but such different tears. I wrote instantly to Charley, and I asked him, by Mamma's and Herbert's desire, to come to us at once if he could, as they both think it would be a comfort to my dear father to see him and give him his blessing himself before he dies; and therefore this very evening he may come. Oh, I hope he will! It would take such a load off his mind, to have my father's forgiveness and blessing from his own lips. It is a clear cold frosty day, and the bells are ringing out merrily for church; but much as I wish to go to church, I dare not leave the house nor be out of the way, in case I may be allowed to see my father again, or lest my mother should want me There is so much stupor connected with my dear father's illness, that he rarely wants any of us; he seems to like quiet and stillness, so Nurse keeps us all out of his room as much as she can.
Charley came about five o'clock yesterday. Papa heard the door-bell ring, and heard the sound of wheels, and asked who was come. Herbert told him, and said, “He is come on purpose to see you, my dearest father, and to ask your blessing.' He may come up,' was the reply; and he came up at once. I stole into the room, and hid myself behind the curtain; and I saw my Charley take my father's outstretched hand, and cover it with kisses and with tears. “Can you forgive me?' he said in a low trembling voice. •Charles,' said my dear father, with a startling energy, ‘not only do I forgive you, but I give you my blessing; and I implore you to forgive me.' To this Charley only took the poor weak hand, and covered it again with kisses and tears. • Call Lena,' said my father. I came forward: he saw me, and pointed to me to stand by Charley. My mother took both our hands and joined them, and my father laid his trembling hand on ours, and said, Charles, she is yours; and may God bless you both, my children.' Dear Papa was so exhausted by this effort, that he fell back almost lifeless on the pillow, and Nurse made us all leave the room. She gave him some brandy, and he revived again; but it is very evident that life is ebbing away fast.
New Year's Day.-My dear father lingered on till this morning, and then sunk quietly to sleep-a sleep from which he never woke. But this week has been one full of comfort to all of us. bitterness of feeling which at one time took such hold of him, all passed away; he was gentle, patient, loving, and even seemed to take pleasure in having Charley with him, and in hearing him read. We shall miss him exceedingly—more and more each day. Herbert is very much overcome by his grief; and surely never had son so loving a father. I can't write more, but must go and rest, for I was up with him whom we have lost the greater part of the night. It is a strange sad New Year's Day.
I am twenty-one to-day. It is nearly five months since I wrote in this book-five months which have passed on very quietly-five months which have brought back some of the colour to my dear mother's cheek, chased away by anxiety and nursing-five months which have done much for Herbert's health and good looks—five months of almost entire separation from Charley and Edith, for about the middle of January they went together to the south of France. Charley was then suffering so acutely from neuralgia in consequence of all he had gone through i body and mind, that the doctors said this step was an absolutely incessary one; and to-day—even to-day—I shall see him again, and
dith too. They came back to England two days ago, and come here 40-day. Oh, the joy of my heart, it is indescribable.
Such waves of hope and bright glad feelings are rolling over me. I am more restless in my happiness than I ever was in those past years of gloom. The day is exquisite—a brighter day I never saw, nor did little birdie ever sing so sweetly as one is singing to me now, perched on a rose branch