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Cometh Up as a Flower: an Autobiography, Vol. 2. Broughton, Rhoda, 1840–1920.
page: 15


“MACBETH has murdered sleep!” and Dolly had murdered mine. Much good to shake up the pillows, to smooth the coverlet, and turning round compose oneself resolutely to the continuation of one's unfinished snooze; much good to think of a key, or the wards of a lock, or the legs of a chair, or anything else as intensely unexciting.

I am Orestes, and Dolly has hounded on the Erinnyes on my track. My Furies are—like the original ones that pursued Orestes,—three in number, viz.: Dick's poverty, as impeding our union, and docking his luxuries, (of which I grudged him but one item), not as affecting myself, for from my youth up I had been hard page: 16 up, and should not have known what it felt like to be otherwise: Dick's jealousy of Hugh, and Dick's flirtation with Dolly.

I had not sense enough to see that I need not worry myself about all three at once; since any two of them were exclusive of the third, as for example, that if Dick was going to jilt me, his want of money would in nowise prejudice me: be rather a matter of rejoicing,—or, that if Dick was jealous of Hugh, he was the less likely to be in love with Dolly.

All three of them, Megæra, Tisiphone, and Alecto, crowd their ugly faces round, and grin at me, and I have not strength to combat them.

After about a quarter of an hour, which seems to me about two full hours, I jump up. I have no watch, as you know, but I hear a clock ticking on the landing outside. I open the door, and peep out. Only five o'clock! An hour and a half till dressing time! I will go down. Fortune favours the brave, and I suppose also the fair, as they are mostly put in the same category, and I might meet Dick in the passages, or page: 17 the stairs, in the billiard‐room; as Christabel says, “All may yet be well!” (though that is rather an ill‐omened quotation, for all was not well in her case), and at the worst, the society of my fellow‐creatures, even though they are not Dicks, is pleasanter than my own.

At the morning‐room door I stop and listen; not with any eaves‐dropping intention, but simply to try and detect those tones that I foolishly imagine would wake me “Had lain for a century dead!” Lain for a century dead indeed! It is all very well, and a pretty conceit to say so in a love song, but it will require a louder than human voice to re‐form those scattered dust particles into the marvellous image, of which the great God Himself condescended to be the model.

The tones I seek are not detectable; I hear instead ever so many women's voices; young and old, croaky and mellow. Nearly all the women, half of the Wentworth party, is scattered about the many cornered room, in groups of twos and threes. Each is provided with a cup of tea, and all page: 18 have apparently just come in from walking; judging by the large show of Mrs. Heaths' and Mrs. Browns' hats that are lying about, and by the display of a great many pairs of trimmest Balmorals. Lady Capel (the fat Viscountess) stands by the table, in a charming little point‐lace bonnet, chatting with Miss Seymour. I think it makes her feel comfortable to look at anything so thin.

She has had the post of honour this afternoon; and has been out driving with Lady Lancaster in the sociable. Honour and pleasure are not Siamese twins in this world. Our hostess also bonneted (in the literal and not metaphorical sense), is button‐holeing another philanthropic old woman, on the subject of the Shoe Black Brigade. As I come in, she turns round and utters an exclamation of surprise, “Come down after all! So glad! Your sister gave us such a sad account of you, that we were afraid we were going to lose you for all the evening; there does not seem much the matter now, does there?” patting my cheek as she would have patted page: 19 the cheek of the Hottentot Venus, if Sir Hugh had seen fit to throw his Sultanic Majesty's pocket‐handkerchief to her.

“You are quite a heroine, my dear!” says Lady Capel kindly, “we are all dying to hear your version of this unlucky contretemps!”

“Men are so stupid!” cries the sharp young lady, whose name is Miss Gifford, coming over from the other side of the room, “they never know how to tell a story; they always leave out all the details, which are the most important parts.”

“It must have been a great shock, and—very embarrassing,” says Miss Seymour, in that whiny‐piny voice, with which an inscrutable Providence has seen fit to visit her.

“I should have put on my seven‐league boots, and set off walking home!” says Miss Gifford smartly. She would have done nothing of the kind, as indeed she would have given all her back hair, and two or three of her fingers for a six or seven hours' nocturnal tête‐à‐tête with Sir Hugh.

page: 20

“It was very fortunate that it was not one of the other young men,” says Lady Lancaster, stiffly; “it certainly was a trying position for a young woman to be placed in; and you could not have found yourself in better hands than my son's.”

I receive this assurance in silence, and bite my lips. Perceiving that I am pro. tem. a small lion, and am expected to roar in my humble way, I execute a slight mugissement. “I don't know much about it, except that the horses were frightened at the train—they had been rather frisky all along, I thought—and then they ran away, and upset me into the hedge bank. I don't know where they upset anybody else, and then I suppose I fainted, for I don't recollect anything else, until I woke up in that inn‐parlour. Ugh!” (with a shiver of aversion at the remembrance.)

“Poor child, it must have been very disagreeable!” Lady Capel says good‐naturedly, fat women mostly are good‐natured, whether it is a cause or an effect I cannot say.

“Dreadful!” I answer emphatically, page: 21 “I never was so miserable in my life!” Lady Lancaster takes my emphasized remark as a personal affront.

“You should have been very thankful, my dear, that your life was spared,” she says rather rebukingly, “and that you were with a person Who would be sure to take such excellent care of you!”

“What on earth did you do all those hours?” puts in Miss Gifford, rather quickly, to save us a sermon, “talk, or go to sleep, or play picquet! oh, I suppose they had not such a thing as a pack of cards in the house, had they?”

“I looked at Sir Hugh's watch half the time, and read an awful book about the End of the World, and the Third Vial the other half,” I answer rather grimly.

They all laugh except Lady Lancaster.

“What a picture!” “How wretched!” “I cannot imagine anything more dreary!” “And what did Sir Hugh read? Drelincourt on Death?” (this is from Miss Gifford).

“He read nothing!”

page: 22

“Poor man! he was worse off than you even; how did he amuse himself then? smoked? took a nap?”

“He did nothing, he sat quiet.”

“You don't seem to have been very sociable,” remarks Miss Gifford, with sprightliness, “nor to have taken much pains to entertain one another.”

My thoughts fly back to poor Hugh's well meant efforts to entertain me, and I feel myself blushing.

“Did nobody miss us?” I ask hastily, fiddling with my tea cup, “was no one ever coming to look for us?”

“Oh, I believe there were people hunting for you all over the country half the night, only they did not manage to find you somehow; weren't there Lady Lancaster?”

“They went the wrong road,” replies our hostess, sitting very upright, and looking over her spectacles, “that was how the mistake arose. Hugh never was known to come by that lower road in his life before; it is three miles longer too; I cannot imagine what possessed him.”

page: 23

I can imagine, and I dive under the table after an imaginary pocket‐handkerchief.

“Aren't you very much shaken and bruised?” asks Miss Seymour, making up her face into a sympathetic shape.

“Oh, yes! I'm black and blue from top to toe.”

“My dear child! why did not you say so before?” says Lady Lancaster, very kindly, though fussily, as 'tis her nature to, “and I would have sent my maid with some arnica for you; it's the best thing in the world for contusions and sprains, and anything of that sort. I'm afraid, dear, that if you are so stiff and sore, you will not be equal to much dancing to‐night to night .”

“Dancing!” repeat I, pricking up my ears, as a horse does, when in the distance he hears the horn and the hounds giving tongue.

“Haven't you heard of it?” says Lady Capel, “why, we have all been on the qui vive all day about it; we have been making decorations, and hanging up flags page: 24 and standing on step‐ladders ever since breakfast, haven't we?”

My thoughts revert to my one ball, and Captain Dashwood, who has become a very hazy mist figure of late. He was a ‘heavy’ too. I seem fated to be the prey of the Cavalry.

“We are not very dancing people generally,” Lady Lancaster says in her stately slow way, “it is many years since there was a ball in this house; it was quite a sudden thought, but my son thought perhaps it would amuse the young people.”

“How very kind of him,” I say very gratefully, while my eyes begin to shine like carriage lamps.

“It is quite a small affair! only nine or ten couples, but everybody is in town.”

Lady Capel sighs. Fain, fain would she be there too, but the Newmarket Stud, and a long course of point‐lace bonnets have necessitated the letting of the Capellian mansion in Park Lane this season.

“Small impromptu dances are always the pleasantest,” she says politely, “the page: 25 only thing is that in the country gentlemen are not to be had for love or money.”

“It is indeed very true!” says Lady Lancaster, shaking her head, and her marabout feathers with it, as solemnly as if it had been question of the famine in India. “The young men of the present day cannot be content to stay at home and look after their properties; they must be running about to Egypt and Palestine, and half a dozen other places that they never thought of in my younger days,” (very likely not, for it took eighteen months to get to India in her younger days.) “I consider that it's quite one of the greatest evils of this generation; one of the signs of the latter days!”

“A very unpleasant sign!” think I, if it is to entail a Spurgeonic dance on me this evening. Lady Capel sees my countenance falling.

“You need not be afraid of lacking partners,” she says, nodding to me; “for I heard Sir Hugh saying that he had invited a number of the Scots Greys over from Nantford.”

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“My son is a host in himself,” says Lady Lancaster; “he is a very energetic dancer!”

There is nothing, from the writing a book on the Differential Calculus to making cabbage nets, that ‘my son’ cannot do in his mother's opinion.

“How many are we in the house?” says Miss Gifford counting. “Sir Hugh, one, Lord Capel, two. Does he dance, Lady Capel?”

“When he is wanted; he does not think it fair to stand in the young men's light!”

The dressing bell rings.

“Dear me! I had no idea that it was so late!”

“We dine at seven to‐day,” says Lady Lancaster, explanatorily, and then we all separate to make ourselves beautiful for the Scots Greys.