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Cometh Up as a Flower: an Autobiography, Vol. 1. Broughton, Rhoda, 1840–1920.
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“WHEN I die, I'll be buried under that big old ash tree over yonder—the one that Dolly and I cut our names on with my jagged old penknife nine, ten years ago now. I utterly reject and abdicate my reserved seat in the family mausoleum. I don't see the fun of undergoing one's dusty transformation between a mouldering grandpapa and a mouldered great‐grandpapa. Every English gentleman or lady likes to have a room to themselves when they are alive. Why not when they are dead? Yes, when my time to make a decent ending has come, I'll have a snug hole grubbed for me right under my old friend the ash (the near one, isn't it?) page: 2 and there I'll make myself as comfortable as circumstances will permit amongst the lobbies, and the woodlice, &c., &c. And Dolly (if she survives me, as I hope she won't, and as I am sure she will) shall plant a rose at my head, and a gillyflower at my feet, and daffydowndillies on each side of me, and there I'll sleep as sound as a top, and not dream a bit, whatever Hamlet says to the contrary.”

These remarks I made to no other audience than myself, consequently they were received without any marks of dissent. I did not say them aloud; for, within my experience, people do not soliloquise at the top of their voices, save at Drury Lane and Covent‐garden, but, as it were, to my Philon Hetor, or dear heart. And as I soliloquised I leaned the rather frayed elbows of my venerable holland frock on the top of the low stone wall that parted our big hay meadow (the largest of the fields belonging to the Grange) from the churchyard. It was the pleasantest hour, videlicet 9 P.M., of one of the pleasantest days of the pleasantest month in the page: 3 whole year, videlicet—May. There had not been a breath of wind all day, but at sundown a little whiff had arisen from no one knew where, except that from its fragrance and velvet softness, one felt sure that its original home must have been heaven. Rejoicing in it, the elms were waving their topmost crowns, and talking to one another, low and stately, in their own language, which none but themselves and the wind can comprehend. I think they were telling each other how strong the spring sap was running through their leafy veins, and how grateful was the touch of the dew‐freshened flowers about their gnarled feet. And the grass, not green now, but clad by twilight in dim silver gray, was talking too, as any one might see, who watched its blades and spears bowing and swaying to catch each other's confidences.

Ours was a churchyard that it would have been a real luxury to be buried in. It inspired one with no horrible, hardly even melancholy ideas. One never thought of skulls or cross‐bones, or greedy worms, when one looked at those turfy mounds page: 4 sloping so softly; those mounds that the westering sun always gave his last good‐night kiss to before he went to bed behind the craggy purple hill. Were one really dead, stowed away in one's appointed oak box, it would concern one, no doubt, not a whit whether one were huddled with other oak boxes into some ghastly pit, among the dark be‐nettled grass of some city charnel, or laid down reverently in the fragrant earth, shadowed by some peaceable little gray church tower, such as ours was. But while one is yet alive, and one's oak box is as yet not a box at all, but the trunk of some branchy tree, one cannot realize this. Unconsciously we fancy that we shall smell the odorous mignonette and carnations that are revelling in the summer sunshine above our heads, that we shall hear the birds preaching our funeral sermons, and singing their own epithalamiums, when spring comes back, that we shall shiver in the snow, and be chilled by the wintry rains.

During my meditations, my elbows had grown quite numb with resting so long on the cold stone, and of this I at length page: 5 became aware. I raised them from their uneasy position, and rubbed them slowly and affectionately.

“I wish I were in the churchyard,” said I (to myself, as before). “I could sit so comfortably on old Mrs. Barlow's big flat tombstone, and perhaps I might be inspired to compose an elegy that would make Gray's hide its diminished head. If Dolly were here she would say it was indelicate and unladylike for a grown‐up woman to be scrambling over walls. But as Dolly is not here, to the winds with gentility! There's nobody to see me except a few bats, and perhaps a ghost or two.”

And so I clambered over, and got coated with lichens in the process, and made for Mrs. Barlow's tomb, sat down upon it, and fell into a reverie. I had read all the inscriptions scores of time; they were of the usual type.

“Affliction sore long time I bore,” &c., decidedly bearing away the palm of popularity. Just opposite to me was an upright stone, with the somewhat halting, but highly impressive poetic effort, which page: 6 is to be found in every graveyard over England, inscribed upon it— “When the Archangel's trump shall sound, And souls to bodies join, Thousands shall wish their stay on earth Had been as short as mine.”

For the twentieth time I was perusing this gloomy prophecy, supposed to be spoken by an infant of tender years, and was marvelling whether the gifted but unknown author intended the rhyme to be “join and mooine,” or “jine and mine,” when I was startled by hearing the lych gate behind me swing on its hinges. I turned my head round with a jerk, and the archangel and the prophetic baby went out of my head together. In the waning light I saw the figure of a man. If he were a ghost he was a very substantial one, besides a ghost would not have banged the gate, and oh! I never heard of a ghost that whistled Meyerbeer's “Shadow Air!” It could not be the sexton, for he was a humpbacked sexagenarian, who would as soon have thought of burying himself in one of his own page: 7 graves as of courting rheumatism, amid the damp dews of a May evening. It could not be any one of the John Smiths or Robert Browns of the parish; for besides that the bumpkins in our parts are not given to indulging in the sentimental melancholy of pilgrimages to the tombs of their respective Betsys, and Anns, and Marthas, one glance, even though the light was waning, sufficed to show me that the new comer was a gentleman. He did not appear to have seen me at first, as he stood there in the church‐path, with his hands in his pockets, and a meerschaum in his mouth, “viewing the landscape o'er.”

I cannot bear being in the company of a person who is not aware of my proximity. I always experience something of the guilty feeling of a spy or eavesdropper; so I coughed gently, to hint to him that there was a young woman perched, ghoul‐like, on a gravestone in his vicinity. Having so coughed, I was overcome with shyness, and durst not look round again, to watch the result of my manœuvre. I suppose it succeeded, page: 8 for he certainly manifested no signs of surprise, as he came close by me, in his deliberate saunter towards the church.

“What is he like?” asked the inquisitiveness of nineteen within my breast. “What's that to you?” said Decorum. “Everything,” returned Inquisitiveness. I must have one peep. I had one peep. As he passed I looked up at him, and he looked down at me, and our eyes met. There was nothing impudent in his gaze, none of the fervent admiration with which, at a first introduction, the hero in a novel regards the young lady, who at a later period of the story is to make a great fool of, or be made a great fool by him. It simply expressed the moderate amount of curiosity with which a young Englishman regards a young Englishwoman whom he sees for the first time. “Are you pretty, I wonder? It's almost impossible to tell by this light.” So said those dark, gray eyes, and that was all they said. Why I did it I do not know, and cannot explain to this day, but with my usual stupidity I blushed crimson; forehead and throat and ears all shared the crimson page: 9 glow. I became a lobster. Perhaps it was only my guilty imagination, but I fancied I detected a slight smile dawning under a great yellow moustache—a smile which good manners and gentlemanlike feeling strangled in the birth.

However that might be, he made no pause in his walk, but strolled on, and sat down on another tombstone somewhat similar to mine, a few yards further on, where he puffed away solemnly at his pipe, and kept his eyes to himself. I could have scratched my cheeks till they bled, in my righteous anger against them. “So missish!” said I, internally with much severity. “So school girlish, as if you had never seen a man before!” The ridiculousness of the situation tickled my fancy irresistibly; two people seated, each on their several tombstone, within bow‐shot of one another, silent, solemn, and unsociable. I felt that I should disgrace myself by laughing outright if I stayed much longer, and besides, the hour was growing late, so I rose from my seat and dawdled towards the gate. As I reached it I heard a deep voice behind me page: 10 say, “Allow me,” and as he spoke, the stranger unlatched the gate, and politely opened it for my benefit. Then he took off his hat, displaying a head of curly yellow hair, and smiled. I was taken by surprise and covered with confusion. “Thank you.” I mumbled, ungraciously enough, and made a somewhat gawky inclination, the effect of which was still further marred by the fact that in the very act of making it I trod on my own dress, nearly tripping myself up, and all but measuring my length on the ground in a profounder salaam than I had any intention of executing.

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