Thursday, January 01, 2009

27Oct1863, Charles Turns 21

HAGLEY, Tuesday, October 27th, 1863.
—A red-letter day, adding to the many that shine out at intervals through my life. Not that it was by any means a day of unmixed enjoyment ; on the contrary, I don't think I began really to enjoy myself (such was one's anxiety) till after midnight ! But it was a day of deep thankfulness, and awakened bright hopes for the future. The events that happened to mark dear old Charles' birthday were guns fired early in the morning ; a procession of the school with garlands and flags to the back of the house, where they sung, and an address to Papa was read by Stephens ; wine and cake were given to all the children at the school ; and finally a ball given to all the county (about 500), including the Duc and Duchesse d'Aumale and the Prince de Condé. We received in the hall and the billiard-room : danced in the gallery and drawing-room : supper in the dining-room, tea in the library, Papa's two rooms cloakrooms. There arrived to-day Wenlocks, Braybrookes, Neville Grenvilles, Mrs. Charles Robartes, and, to sleep in the village, Lord John Manners, Ld. John Hervey, Messrs. C. and H. Wynne, Ross (the gt rifle shot), Stopford Selfe and Stewart. Also C. Robartes slept out. At the school was Charles's first speech, my first time of hearing him : his opening sentence was enough to relieve one's fright as to how he wd do it. It was really perfect : simple and to the point, forgetting no one, and just the right length. One word about Papa my wretched head has managed to retain. After saying something of desire to be like him, "not that I can hope to emulate him, for who could?" The simplicity of this made it so much better than a long compliment. After this had ended with tremendous cheers from all the children, some of us went to church, where the Psalms for the day spoke to one's feelings at the time, as they always do in every marked circumstance of life. The 126th, 127th, and 128th psalms put into words all that could come into one's heart about Papa, and left one with a happy trust that the blessings there spoken of would long be his. "Blessed are all they that fear the Lord, and walk in His ways."

The monster dinner of 38 people came off at six : we had to sit round the room at a horseshoe table ! In the middle of it arrived the Wenlocks ; about 9½ the guests began to arrive ; old Meriel helped me to receive them, and looked so handsome in her lace. The Royal people came early, and were established on a little dais opposite the fireplace in the gallery. The Duc was exceedingly gracious and pleasant : in the first Quadrille he and I danced, Charles with the Duchesse vis-à-vis ; the Prince de Conde proved to be very pleasant and conversible too ; talked a good deal about his dislike of having to go for his "stoodees to ze continent," and so missing the season ; and announced that he was quite an Englishman, except as to politics. "How should I be elsewise ?" I couldn't help thinking his English might have been a little less unmistakably French, therefore ! Till supper, I was a little unhappy : the room grew terribly hot and the crowd certainly was ; but everybody seemed exceedingly jovial. We went in state to supper at 12 ; the Royalties had a round table apart under the middle window, where was a small platform. Papa, At. Yaddy, Granny, Atie. P. , and I sat down with them and I suppose about 200 people squeezed into the room, the rest remaining in the drawing-room, and as many as possible in the doorway. In progress of time, the Duke mounted the platform and made an excellent speech proposing Charles's health, very fluent and graceful, in spite of the strongest French accent ; and then dear old Charles got up, and stood for some minutes while everybody cheered him. He did look grand, with his face softened by feeling, and a little paler than usual. He spoke slowly, especially when what he said moved them, and there was a manly modesty about his manner that went straight to one's heart. He thanked them all most heartily, and then dwelt really beautifully on how he felt that he owed their kindness entirely to their love for Papa, reserving nothing for himself, and how he knew he cd say nothing stronger than that he hoped to follow his example. Spoke of hoping soon to know them all, and of always remembering their kindness. Oh dear ! if I cd but remember it all ! It was such real happiness to hear him give expression to such deep and true feeling : I always instinctively felt that he had it in his heart, but his reserve is so great that he has hardly ever spoken out anything of the sort, and now to hear him say he rejoiced to be able "thus publically and emphatically" to express his sense of all Papa's example was to him, and his hope that he should prove himself not altogether unworthy of it, was an overpowering joy to me. . . . I went out of the room with a light heart indeed ! but had a blow in missing Papa's speech, which was unexpected, Ld. Dudley giving his health after we had marched out. It was beautiful, all say who heard it. The last guests got away about 1/4 4, and the happy, successful end of everything rubbed out all the previous anxieties, and I can only repeat that it was a red-letter day.

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