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Cometh Up as a Flower: an Autobiography, Vol. 1. Broughton, Rhoda, 1840–1920.
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page: 86

CHAPTER VII.

THIRTY‐FOUR pounds, five shillings, and fourpence halfpenny is a large sum for a person without present income or future prospects, to procure within three days. So I thought as I sat through that long forenoon, racking my brains to find out ways and means for obtaining that sum, or even a part of it. But I racked my brains in vain; no inspiration came to them; nothing turned up. I had nobody that I could borrow or hope to borrow from. I was, it is true, possessed of two well‐to‐do aunts, but they were vestals of the stingiest, who, as long as I could remember anything, had never given me or Dolly a farthing's worth, with the exception of two bone brooches, coloured crimson, and representing fruit and flowers; brooches vast in size, but infinitesimal in value, and which they had borne all the way, across sea and land, from Rome for us, as characteristic mementoes page: 87 of the Eternal City. I felt that I had rather die than be beholden to their niggard charity.

I ran over in my mind all my few poor worldly possessions, to find something vendible among them; but to no purpose, I had no jewels, Dolly having appropriated all our mother's ornaments, before I was of an age to care much whether she appropriated them or not. The sole thing which I possessed, that could by any possibility be worth more than a few shillings, was a large unwieldy old watch, which had belonged to my maternal grandmother—a watch with a jewelled case with queer figures chased in gold upon it, and which I wore every day for want of a better, though it kept a time of its own, or, as often as not, no time at all. The idea of selling this ancient timepiece did occur to me. but I dismissed it as impossible. Who would buy such an old warming‐pan? and, moreover, whom should I see to offer it to?

As the hours stole on I grew very down‐hearted. Tuesday morning would be here directly, and with it the Furies, in the shape of that accursed butcher in his blue blouse. page: 88 Despite all my anxious precautions, he would get access to my dear old father, and would dun and torment him, and make him even more miserable than he was now, though, God knows, there was no need for that.

My father and I had by this time quite made up our little differences; we never could be at war with one another for more than an hour; and we had taken our diurnal stroll about the premises, to inspect the stock, and say what we had said yesterday, and what we should say to‐morrow about it. We had thought the red cow looking invalidish, and had ordered her a bran mash; we had, in imagination, sold five or six of our best porkers, and got fabulous prices for them; we had doomed the black pullets to an untimely death, and had administered his daily carrot to the old gray cob. And now my father had gone back to his books, and there would be no tearing him away from them for the rest of that day.

We dined at one, and did not have tea till eight; so that the afternoon spread in rather dreary perspective before my page: 89 mind's eye; rather an inconveniently long period of time for a young lady who had no more pleasing occupation than that of meditating on her own and her father's liabilities.

It was an oppressive, sultry sort of day, rather depressing to the spirits. The sun had gone out of sight somewhere, though there did not appear to be any particular cloud to hide him; and a dim, dull haze, which might be prophetic of either thunder, blight, or increased heat, enveloped all except the nearest objects. It was stifling in the house, and I betook myself to the garden, and strolled rather disconsolately between the luxuriant borders. But the garden did not please me to‐day, I seemed to know every twig in it so intimately. I had not energy for gardening, and moreover, had memories connected with my last essay in that line which I did not care to dwell upon.

A low fence divided our grounds from a field of green corn, and over this fence I climbed, and sauntered through the young barley to a small fir wood at the other side of it. Ordinarily, I was not page: 90 fond of taking solitary walks, having a wholesome fear of beggarmen, loose horses, &c.; but I did not dread an encounter with any such alarming objects among those tall quiet pines. It was very cool and shady there, and I enjoyed looking through the long vista of tree aisles and arches, without any brambles or brushwood to obstruct my view; while the fallen pine needles made a pleasant carpet for my feet.

Beyond the wood, was a meadow all a‐blaze with buttercups, and beyond it a garrulous brook, which was the bound of my walk. Arrived here, I sat down in the grass on the hither side, and thought of the butcher. A little rude handbridge led over the hurrying, clattering stream, and on the other side of it, right opposite to me, rose a mill, and an old farmhouse, with a range of straw beehives and a plat of blue borage under the diamond‐paned windows, beside it. The mill was at work, and the water came plunging and dashing and sparkling over the big wheel, as it turned round, dripping. I love a millwheel, and could watch it for ever; page: 91 my eyes followed it nosy with a sort of fascination, as it moved round and round interminably, with a noise, though loud, yet eminently soothing.

My attention was distracted by a little flock of yellow velvet chickens, coming pecketting down to the water's edge, with the old hen clucking fussily in the midst of them. Then the miller's wife came out with a bowl of something in her hand, and threw handfuls to them, and I wondered whether she fed her chickens on the same thing that we did ours; and then three large white ducks came swimming down the stream, paddling and quacking, and diving their sleek heads under water. But after a while the chickens wandered, scratching and picking, out of sight; the miller's wife went indoors, and I got tired of watching the ducks stand upon their heads. I yawned, and took one last glance down stream, before rising to go home.

Some way down, on the other side, I spied a man making his way through the thick alders—a man in brown velveteen, with a fishing‐rod in his hand. During page: 92 the last few days my heart had taken to thumping loudly whenever I saw a man in the distance, opining that it might be my new friend; and consequently I had to submit to severe disappointment as often as my hero turned out to be a gamekeeper, a day labourer, or even a cowman. It gave its usual blow against my ribs now, and this time it was justified in so doing; the man was Major M'Gregor. Presently he emerged from the alders, looking rather hot. Then he came over the ricketty bridge, smiling. He looked very goodly, and I thought so. To this day I think he was “The goodliest man that ever among ladies ate in hall;” and most assuredly I thought so that day, when “I lifted up mine eyes, And loved him with that love that was my doom;” for love him I did, though I have not said much about it, as it is no use dwelling on unpleasant truths.

Like a little fool as I was, I pretended not to see him, and turned my head, surmounted by its ragged brown hat, perse‐ perseveringly page: 93 veringly down stream, and tried to appear immersed in the contemplation of the trout leaping half their own length out of the water, after the flies under the dipping alders, and then flopping back again. But all the same; I need hardly say that I heard his feet coming through the long sweet grass, as plainly as ever I heard cannonball or thunderclap.

“De do, Miss Lestrange?” said a jolly voice beside me, abbreviating the Briton's customary greeting to his fellow, after the manner of the young.

The brown hat and the reddened face it shaded veered round from the study of the trout, and two youthful and embarrassed lips responded, “How do you do?” in return, it and a ladylike hand, in a most unladylike glove, perforated with many holes, went out to meet Major M'Gregor's large one—went out shyly, but gladly.

“I hope you did not intend to cut me,” said he, laughing. “You looked away so perseveringly when I took off my hat to you on the other side, that I felt almost afraid of coming near you.”

“I did not see you,” I began, hastily; page: 94 “at least—at least,” and there I stopped, having expressed myself with my usual lucid coherency, and being fully aware of it.

“Well, never mind!” said he, good‐naturedly, trying to put me at my ease. “I'll forgive you, if you did mean to cut me, on condition that you won't send me away now;” and a pair of dark honest gray eyes looked at me in a beseeching and insinuating manner, to which at Lestrange Hall I had not been accustomed, and which I thought pleasant, though extremely odd. I plucked up my spirits, and determined to revolt against the dominion of gawkiness, and be sprightly.

“I could not send you away, if I had wished ever so much,” said I. “This meadow is not mine, nor yet the grass nor the buttercups: you have as much right to be here, I suppose, as I have.”

“But do you wish to send me away?” Silence. “Do you, Miss Lestrange?” Silence still. “Do you?” rather impatiently, bending down to look at my face.

I perceived his eagerness, and was page: 95 elated by it. He wished me to say “No,” so I would say “Yes.” A spirit of graceful contradiction entered into me. Why should I not be agaçante, and espiègle, and two or three other nice French adjectives whose exact meaning I should have been puzzled to define. So I looked up into his anxious countenance, and said, laughingly,

“Yes, I do wish to send you away.”

“All right,” said he, calmly; “then I'll go,” and he picked up the fishing‐rod he had tossed down on the grass, took off his hat, and went.

I have experienced a good many moments of mortification in my life—of course we all have—but I doubt whether I ever felt one more bitter, or more completely undiluted by any dash of sweetness. This was the result of my archness then. Why, oh why had not I kept to my native stupidity? I had got on much better then. When I attempted to be funny, it was like a cow standing on her hind legs—nobody could understand what she would be after.

In the impulse of the moment I sprang to my feet, intending to run after him, page: 96 but I was held back by the remembrance of my mature age, and of what the best of fathers would say, were he to see me coursing round the big field after the “Brummagem young man,” to whom he had so strong an objection. So I sank down on the grass again, and the silly tears stole into my eyes as I watched Richard walking huffily off, without looking once back at me. He did not walk particularly well, but much as dismounted dragoons usually do; but to me his gait seemed that of an offended angel.

The trout might have leaped up into the trees above them, and sat there singing, for all the notice I should have taken of them now. A faint hope lingered in my breast that he might relent—might come back—that I might see him pushing through the alders and the wych‐elms again; and in this hope I stayed there disconsolate till the dew fell, and the flowers went to sleep, and the June moon came up behind the fir wood. There I sat, thinking of dear, dear Richard, and of the butcher, and weeping over them both.

That was Saturday; need I say that page: 97 next day was Sunday—a day on which most people dine early, and many people have roast beef for dinner. Morning service at Lestrange Church began at eleven, and commenced with a hymn, which I led. My voice, as I said once before, was my strongest points—my strongest but one, perhaps. On mature deliberation, I think that my eyes were my strongest. Anyhow, it was a rich, full contralto, and some of the low notes were, I flattered myself, almost as deep as a man's.

Our choir was not a large one; it consisted of myself, two or three of our servants, who laboured under a fear of making too much noise, and consequently did not make enough; the clerk, and a young carpenter, who was too ambitious of introducing turns and trills and flourishes of his own composition into the simple old tunes. Often and often had I seen fit to skirmish with that too enterprising artificer. The church had two doors; a big and a little one; a big one, by which the bulk of the congregation came in; and a small one, by which we and two or three farmers' families made our dignified entrance. In this hot page: 98 weather both doors stood wide open, and the doorways made frames for pretty little pictures of waving tree‐boughs, of weatherworn stone crosses, and of daisies opening their pink fringes upon the “Grassy barrows of the happier dead.” Exactly opposite the little door was our square pew, with its faded red moreen, which the morning sun was trying to fade still more; with Sir Lovelace Lestrange's black and white marble monument glooming above it, and with many Sir Lovelaces, Sir Adrians, and Sir Brians sleeping beneath it. I had stood up, had cleared my throat, and had struck up the first line of “Jerusalem the golden.” I loved that tune, it was so sweet, and so triumphant. “I know not; oh, I know not,” sang I loud and clear, while the birds outside tried to rival me; and as I sang, a tall fair‐haired stranger stooped his head, and came in at the low door, close to me. For a moment I felt as if I must give up “Jerusalem the golden” altogether—abandon it to the tender mercies of the trilling rou‐ roulading page: 99 lading carpenter; but I mastered myself; I must go on, though twenty yellow‐haired majors came trooping through the church portals. When one feel that a thing must be done, one generally does it. “What radiancy of glory; What bliss beyond compare,” sang I, stronger and clearer than ever. I poured my whole soul into my voice. Love and excitement supplied the place of devotion. He should hear how I could sing, thought I, remembering that objectionable brunette at the Coxe's party, and her pretty little treble squeak.

As I laid down my hymn‐book at the conclusion of the hymn, I felt that a casual observer would find some little difficulty in distinguishing which were my cheeks and which were the red roses in my bonnet. I did not yield to the temptation of taking one look, long or short, at the lion‐hearted Richard (lion‐hearted in is thus a second time braving my revered papa), but I knew by instinct that he was in a pew over against me, in which Mr. Harris of the Home Farm had charitably given him a corner. page: 100 I did not look at or towards him, and I tried honestly not to think of him—tried hard to be as sorry for my sins as I said I was—tried to implore from that God who was to me then but a dim awful abstraction, those good things for my soul, without which that soul would be so cold, so naked, so famishing—tried to remember of how infinitesimally little account Richard M'Gregor and his beauty would be to me at the Judgment Day.

Often and often had I terrified myself with two vivid pictures of Death and Judgment as I lay wakeful on my bed, in my dark room at night; but here in the full blaze of the summer sun, I could summon but faint shadows, indistinct reflections of such pictures before my mind's eye; here youth and joy and love seemed dominant, and to keep all darker powers, baffled and worsted, in the background. So I buried my head in my big old prayer‐book, which had a dried pansy between two of its leaves, and a squashed fly between the other two, and caught myself praying earnestly, seriously, devoutly, for Queen Charlotte, the Prince Regent, and page: 101 all the royal family. I had mentally resolved that morning to abstain during the day of rest from all harassing thoughts of Mr. Jenkins the butcher. Monday should be dedicated to the consideration of ways and means, to the begging, borrowing, or stealing that obnoxious sum of £34 5 s. shilling 4½ d. pence But to‐day I would be free from sordid cares; I would try to keep my mind clear and clean from worldly thoughts. And I was moderately successful, as far as regards the butcher. But it was a very different matter when I endeavoured to close the doors of my mind against Richard; to observe the Sabbath strictly in my heart: his image pushed the door of that sanctuary sans façon, and dwelt there, defying expulsion, during the long morning service.

All through the sermon I looked forward with childish impatience to the meeting in the churchyard, which seemed to me almost unavoidable. I pictured to myself how we three should stand in the church path under the ash tree. Papa rather grim at first, but thawing fast into his usual natural, dear old hearty manner; I, bashful and page: 102 somewhat gawky, I feared, but in the seventh heaven; and Richard!!!

“Perhaps,” thought I, exultantly, “papa 'll ask him to luncheon, and if he does,” subjoined cold reflection, “there's nothing but that old mutton bone.” This last dismal idea lasted me through one whole head (the last one) of papa's brief and simple discourse.

“In conclusion,” said my father—“in conclusion,” echoed my heart, “there's nothing but the cold mutton.” At the end of his usual twenty minutes, my father released us, and having pronounced the benediction, remained standing in the pulpit, putting his spectacles into their case, and eyeing somewhat hostilely the wolf in sheep's clothing that had stolen into his fold. Poor, naughty, handsome wolf! One lamb longed to go and put out a friendly paw to him; but lambs do not always know what is good for them. And then the little congregation trickled out by the two doors, and the farmers' farmer's wives shook hands among themselves, and the old women in black poke bonnets by themselves, and John Barlow slouched over to page: 103 his mother's new tombstone, and read the inscription admiringly, having composed it himself; and then they all toddled decorously down the sunny road to the village. Behind them dawdled a disconsolate dragoon, casting, ever and anon, baffled and disconsolate looks behind him.

Meanwhile I stood just within the church porch, tapping with my foot on the flags, above the buried head of another Eleanor Lestrange, chafing and fuming. It was my invariable custom to wait for my father while he took off his gown, and usually, I had only about two seconds to wait. To‐day the process of disrobing seemed a lengthier one. Perhaps it was only my angry imagination, but I could not help fancying that papa loitered purposely over his ungowning; purposely seduced old Iken into one of his long maunders.

“Toothless old nuisance,” said I, stamping on Eleanor Lestrange's head harder than ever. But stamping and malediction, did not hasten the flow of old Iken's eloquence nor diminish my father's interest in it. When at length it came to a sort of stop; and my father, cheerful and chatty, and I, page: 104 disappointed and choking, sauntered down the path. The figure of Richard, diminished by distance to the height of a few inches, was slowly disappearing round the corner.

“What brought that fine fellow here to‐day, I wonder?” said my father, affably, looking after him. I made no response, but gnawed the ivory top of my parasol in a silent frenzy. There came no wolf to afternoon service at Lestrange church, and old Iken beginning another long rigamarole, was summarily repressed.

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