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

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; The soul that rises with us, our life's star, Hath elsewhere had its setting, And cometh from afar.”

IS that true? Have we existed in other states of being as many poets and many non‐poets dimly conjecture? Is this life our beginning though we know it not to be our ending? or is it only one of a series of existences through which we pass? Now and then flashing reminiscences—reminiscences of things we know positively not to have happened in this life—dart,across our minds, recognition in a smell or a sound of something we have met with, something we have had to do with, somehow, somewhere, somewhen. Whence can such page: 2 reminiscences, such recognitions come, but from some pre‐existence? Our draught of Lethe has not been quite deep enough.

But even without those dim hintings at recollections of a former state, our utter forgetfulness of ever having been in life, under any form before our present one, is no argument against the existence of such a previous life, for what faintest remembrance have we of our first year? Does any glimmering of memory illumine those days when we lay on our nurse's lap, sprawling, making faces, sucking?

Are there only a certain number of old souls which continually go in and out of an ever new succession of bodies? And if we did exist in some former state, was it a higher or a lower one? Were we beasts or angels? Have we fallen or risen?

There is no light whatever on the past. Thank God there is in the Future enough to enable us to walk soberly, heedfully, warily, on towards the fuller light, which will dawn on us on that— “Marge beyond the tomb.” page: 3 Southey, in his “Doctor,” makes his hero maintain, half in jest and half in earnest, that he was able to recognize, in the personal appearance, habits and dispositions of many of those around him, the different animals which, in a former state, their spirits had inhabited.

Truly there is none of us who cannot point out a pig or two, a sheep or a mule, among his acquaintance. If Dolly had ever pre‐existed, it must have been in the shape of one of the feline tribe; not a comfortable old tabby sitting staid beside the hearth, and putting up her head to be tickled, but a tigress or a panther, sleek, lithe, beautiful, stealthy. There lacked to her but the eyed skin, the outward beast form; her spirit had remained the pard‐spirit of her former life, when she lived in jungles; tangled, torrid swamps, and lay in wait to pounce on deer, and kid, and man.

Turning day into night, I slept on, till the afternoon, till the sun came round to my side of the house, and woke me, blazing down hot and full on the bed whereon I lay through the uncurtained, unshuttered page: 4 windows. When I did wake, it was to the consciousness of a sufficiently bad headache. For some little time I lay motionless, on the border land between sleeping and waking; feeling nothing much, wishing nothing much, thinking of nothing much except myself as a mere animal; my headache, my vertigo, and my heat. I was fully roused at length by the door handle turning softly, the door opening, and some one coming in. Some one came over to the bed, and bent over me; some one was Dolly.

“Awake, are you? have you quite recovered your adventure?” she says, in a key so sweet and low, that it does not jar on my aching cranium, as almost any other sound would. She would make the divinest sick nurse, would Dolly. My senses come back to me, full and strong. Dolly has treated me despitefully; there shall be no peace with her; war to the knife with Dolly. I fixed my eyes steadily upon her, from among my tumbled pillows.

“I don't want to speak to you,” I said, “you tell lies!”

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“Do I?” said Dolly, unruffled. “I daresay; I never yet met a person who did not, and I hope I never shall, for they would necessarily be very disagreeable; a certain amount of fibs is essential to the existence of society; did you never hear that?”

I refuse to be led from the concrete to the abstract.

“You made mischief between me and Dick. You prevented him from driving me to Wilton,” I cry, with raised voice, knives running through my head under my exertions.

“If Dick, as you call him, has forgiven me, don't you think you might?” she says, gently.

If Dick had forgiven her! How that quiet implication stung me! I roll my head restlessly from side to side.

“What object could you have had in doing it? Had you any object at all, or was it only pure malice?”

Dolly smiles and sits down on the side of the bed; she perceives we are going to have a squabble, and she does not see why page: 6 we should not have it out comfortably.

“What a foolish child you were not to get into bed,” she says with affability; “lying down in one's clothes does not rest one in the least; now, you know, to‐night you'll look quite green.”

“Was it pure malice?” I reiterate, disregarding this digression.

“Nobody but a fiend would think of doing anything out of pure malice, I should say,” returns my sister, sedately, “and I'm not a fiend yet, that I know of; malice had neither part nor lot in the matter.”

“Did you want to ride with him yourself?” I ask, vehemently; “are you fond of him too?”

Dolly smiles again; a little amused, compassionate smile, and shrugs her shoulders.

“Am I given to being fond of men, merely for being long‐legged and poor, which I confess seem to me the most salient points in your dear Dick's character?”

“Any one would have said you thought page: 7 he had a good many good points in his character, who saw the way you looked at him yesterday,” I cry, choking with indignation.

“My dear, did I make my own eyes? Can I help it, if they have any peculiar way of exercising themselves; Providence made them, and Providence must answer for their vagaries.”

“If you have such a contempt for poverty, why did you waste so much time and trouble; why did you tell lies, and make me perfectly miserable, merely to get that which, when you had got it, you thought worthless?” I asked bitterly.

“My good child, for once I was unselfish; cannot you believe that?” asks Dolly, playfully, and laying her cool slim hand on my burning forehead.

“I had no plans for myself whatever; certainly no designs on our mutual friend, with the crack‐jaw Scotch name; it rather bored me than otherwise ambling along beside him, for heaven knows how many hours, in the broiling sun!”

I am dumbfoundered, and lie staring at page: 8 her with boundless wonder in my wide‐open eyes.

“What upon earth did you do it for, then?” I gasp, slowly; “once for all, tell me what object you had, or whether you had any?”

“Will you have some Eau de Cologne on your head?” she asks; and as she is sprinkling scented drops over me, “An object?” says she, “yes, to be sure; who but an idiot ever does anything without an object? I have no objection whatever to tell you mine either, if you'll listen to it like a sensible woman, and not scream at the top of your voice, as you have been doing for the last quarter of an hour; if you must know the truth, I intended you to drive with Sir Hugh. Was not it charitable of me? he looked so disconsolate, poor little wretch!”

“Why did you want me to drive with him?” I ask in blank astonishment.

“Because, my dear, I wish and intend that you should drive through life with him; because I hope, before I die, to see you Lady Lancaster.”

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That you never will,” I cry, with flaming cheeks, starting up in bed, and fumbling with the counterpane.

“Ah! perhaps not; at present you prefer the idea of riding in the baggage‐waggon after Daddy Longlegs, with several little M'Gregors, male and female, clinging about your skirts!”

So Dolly, softly inhaling Eau de Cologne as she speaks. I fling myself back among the pillows, and am thankful for the shade afforded by my loosened hair—a shade which partially veils the blush that I feel creeping all over my body.

“How coarse you are!” I murmur.

“Very likely,” says Dolly, “common sense always is coarse; but my being ever so coarse won't make the baggage‐waggon an easier mode of conveyance, nor will it pay Romeo and Juliet's butcher's bills.”

“What is it to you whether they are ever paid?” I am emboldened by the protection of my tangled locks to ask; “why cannot you let us be happy in our own way?”

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Us be happy, indeed!” says Dolly, a little contemptuously. “Are you so sure about Romeo? because I'm not; Romeo likes coats from Poole; he likes billiards and Château Lafitte, and actresses; of course he does; he keeps them in the background now, but you are even a greater ninny than I take you for, if you cannot believe that they are there, out of sight somewhere. Will he be content, do you suppose, with poky lodgings and a dirty parlour maid, and shoulder of mutton and rice pudding, even with you to sweeten them?”

I writhe in silent anguish; but her logic is unanswerable. What equivalent am I for billiards and Château Lafitte, and actresses?

“It's something quite new your taking such an interest in my concerns,” I say presently. “I cannot see what it would matter to you if I were to run away with a tinker.”

“I don't think a tinker's arms would quarter well with the Lestranges',” says she, laughing, “and I should not like to page: 11 have to allude to my sister Madame la Chaudronnière.” Then falling into gravity again, “I don't pretend to any great disinterestedness in the matter; my motive for endeavouring to prevent your marrying Major M'Gregor, is no particularly tender regard for your interests; it is simply this, that by marrying a pauper, as, from all I can make out, I believe our worthy dragoon to be, you will drag down our family, and me of course with it, even lower than it has already fallen, though it seems pretty nearly at the bottom of the ladder as it is.”

I toss about restlessly. I feel that there is a flaw somewhere in her worldly wisdom, but I cannot detect it.

“Whereas,” pursues Dolly, rising and pacing up the room, “if you marry Sir Hugh—”

“Never,” I cry, interrupting her; “I'd rather be flayed alive! Ugh! married to Hugh! I should be dead of disgust in a week! Faugh!”

Dolly pauses before a cheval‐glass, and considers herself—not with vanity—for page: 12 vanity in her was not, but reflectively, appraisingly; looked at her small snaky head; at her coiled cables of ink‐black hair; at her tall, svelte figure.

“Don't you see, you stupid child, that I'm only giving you the advice that I always give and take myself?” she says. “Am I more in love with Hugh's attractions than you are? not I; as I see him, he's a good‐natured, wooden‐headed old booby; but for all that, if he were to come in here this minute (don't be alarmed, he'd hardly be so ill‐mannered) and say to me, ‘Miss Lestrange, will you marry me?’ or, ‘Dolly, will you be mine?’ wouldn't I respond, ‘Yes, dear Hugh, that I will, and thank you kindly;’ I'd swear to love, honour, and obey, not him, not him; (with a gesture of contempt), but his £12,000 a year, his French cook, and his opera‐box, and I'd keep my vow, too!”

“I wish to goodness he would ask you!” I groan.

“Is there,” pursues Dolly, warming with her theme (it's not often she thinks it worth while wasting so much breath on page: 13 anything female) “is there any old lord between the three seas, so old, so mumbling, so wicked, that I would not joyfully throw myself into his horrid palsied old arms, if he had but money; money! money! money is power; money is a god!”

I sit with my legs dangling over the side of the bed listening.

“It may be yours,” I say; “it is not mine. What do women want with power? What would they do with it when they had got it? Love is worth all the power in the world!”

“Pooh! I did not know that any one after sixteen or before sixty, believed in that venerable old imposture now‐a‐days; love is another name for selfishness!” says Dolly, recommencing her walk, and sweeping up and down.

“It cannot be selfishness to live altogether in and for another person,” object I, thinking that I have nailed her there.

“Worldly wisdom and sordid common sense,” continues she, “would make you marry Hugh, sacrifice your own passions, give a lift to the poor old family, the de‐ depression page: 14 pression of which is breaking papa's heart—it's a pity you've always made such a fuss about your devotion to him, isn't it—and relieve him of more than half his cares; on the other hand, Love, noble, beautiful, be‐poetized Love, will make you hurl yourself at the not particularly delighted head of that big Scotchman—you will have no money, no position, no power for good or evil, but your passion will be gratified; you will be put in possession of that very luxuriant moustache, and those very broad shoulders, and having them, you can afford to let papa's ‘grey hairs go down with sorrow to the grave,’ as somebody's in the Bible did; cannot you, dear?”

She opens the door and passes out; I call after her, “Dolly, Dolly, come back!” but she either does not or will not hear.

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