Skip to Content
Indiana University

Search Options

View Options

Cometh Up as a Flower: an Autobiography, Vol. 2. Broughton, Rhoda, 1840–1920.
page: 260


IT is the twentieth day of February, in the year of our Lord 186—. The violets, like Noah's dove, are poking their noses out of doors, to see what sort of weather it is. They are beginning to quit their wintry lodgment. “Where they together All the hard weather Dead to the world, keep house unknown.” White ones—plenty of them—are peeping out modestly, from among freshest green leaves, on the sunny south side of Lestrange churchyard, above the prone heads of the human flowers, to whom the spring time of Resurrection is long in coming. Sir Adrian Lestrange loved them so dearly; every spring he used to come with page: 261 his little daughter Nell to look for them, and smile his friendly welcome to them and the celandines that carpet goldenly the space beneath the old black‐budded ashes.

Sir Adrian does not come this spring; he is ‘away’ good man! He has travelled to a land where there are better flowers than his pretty violets, and where he and his little Nell can walk about together in peace, without any ‘cloaked shadow’ coming between to part them, as they have been parted for just a little space—a little bitter minute—here below.

The celandines are spreading their gaudy carpet also beneath the elms and sycamores in Sir Hugh Lancaster's garden at Wentworth. They are flaring and flaunting away with such confident pertness; just for all the world as if they were real garden flowers, and did not deserve to be extirpated every bit as much as the poor daisies that were always being ruthlessly spudded up.

The first breath of spring is blowing about the land; she is raising herself a page: 262 little out of winter's snowy lap, waking up and rubbing her fair eyes. I have been late for prayers again, and have received a mild jobation in consequence.

Breakfast is over now, and Lady Lancaster and I are standing at the Hall door, watching our Hugh mount his hack to ride to a rather distant meet. Hugh looks his best acock horse; one does not see how short he is, and he has the best seat in —shire.

“How well Hugh looks on horseback!” exclaims the Dowager, never weary of admiring her son, though the spectacle is anything but a novel one to her.

“He does not look amiss in pink,” I respond, less rapturously, but still with commendation in my tone; for to give myself my due, I am growing to love Hugh with all love “——— except the love Of man and woman, when they love their best Closest and sweetest———”

The last vestige of my lord's red coat having disappeared round a bend in the page: 263 drive, I turn away and stroll up and down the terrace by myself. The sun is getting a little power; he beats quite warmly on my uncovered head, and I saunter and potter about slowly, and watch the crocuses, yellow, and purple, and striped forcing their way up through the rich red earth. A small fat cock robin is sitting on the stone balustrades, singing his little heart out. I stand pensively listening to him.

“I wish I was as happy as you!” I say to myself; “I do indeed! it would be so pleasant!”

There is a little sound of pebbles being swept along, and looking up, I see Dolly coming along to meet me; Dolly in a tight fitting black dress, which shows every curve and turn of her exquisite figure, and relieved about neck and wrists by the nattiest of white linen collar and cuffs. It is not every one that can blend the afflictive and the becoming as our Dolly can. Dolly looks lovelier in the early morning, in her every day gown, than when dressed, or page: 264 undressed—as the mode now has it—for ball or opera.

“Delicious morning, isn't it?” says my sister stopping beside me, and sniffing the sweet fresh air, with her little Greek nose.


“What a pretty place it is!” surveying admiringly the wide formal gardens, where terraces, gravel walks, Deodaras, urns recur with almost as tedious a monotony as the knops and flowers in the Tabernacle decorations.

“Not particularly, I don't think!”

“If people only knew what was for their own good!” with a gentle sigh, “you ought to be a very happy woman, Nell!”

“You have done your best to make me so, at all events!”

“I did evil that good might come, as I told you yesterday, when that exemplary old tabby interrupted us—by‐the‐by I hope she had not been eaves‐dropping—and good has come,” says Dolly steadily; “apropos of that, I have some‐ something page: 265 thing to tell you; Stockport comes to‐day.”


“Oh nothing particular, of course; only I thought I had better tell you, so that you might have your weapon ready to stab the poor soul with, as soon as he arrives.”

Dolly is not agitated, she never is; “wise men never wonder,” and “with the wisdom of the children of this world” none can deny that Dorothea is dowered. Perhaps it is my fancy that there is rather an anxious light in the great dreamy sensuous eyes, that the flush on the oval cheeks is deeper than what the soft south wind has brought there.

“Thanks,” I say, very coldly; and then I go and lean my arms on the balustrade—our talking has scared away the robin—and look wistfully off over the landscape, winking in the morning sun, to the East, whither my heart has gone. One would have thought, wouldn't one, that Dolly having told her errand, would straightway have returned again page: 266 whence she came, but such does not seem to be her intention. She comes, on the contrary, and leans on the rough cold stone beside me.

“Let us understand one another, Nell,” she says, with some slight hesitation, “are you really bent on exhibiting that unlucky document, or is it only a bogy that you are keeping to frighten me into good behaviour with?”

“I thought we had understood each other perfectly the other night, and that there was no need for fresh explanations,” I say icily, “I imagined that I had made my meaning tolerably clear then.”

“And about yourself?” she says quickly; “have you considered what awkward inquiries it will entail, inquiries too from a person who has the best right in the world to make them, and who cannot be put off, as you have put off me with, ‘it is enough for you that I have got it.’ Hugh must be more or less than human if he is not a little curious to know how you came by it. Lords with £80,000 a year don't grow on every hedge; it is page: 267 worth while eating a little dirt for one of them, isn't it?”

I turn round and face her.

“Do you think,” I say eagerly, “that if it entailed the loss of my life, I should very much care; thanks to you, I may say, with Agag ‘surely the bitterness of death is past.’”

Dolly looks down and draws geometrical patterns with her slender pointed foot.

“I know you won't wont believe me, so it's rather wasting breath asseverating,” she says slowly, “but I give you my word of honour I did it for the best; I thought that it was a childish besotment you had for that man; a sort of calf love, that it would be a real kindness to help you out of.”

“Without an arrière pensée for your own advantage of course; it would have been truer kindness to have cut my throat for my own good!” I end passionately. My voice shakes and wavers in my intense self‐pity; I am afraid of breaking down into weeping before her, into “howling,” page: 268 “blubbering,” “snivelling,” as she in her dry‐eyed contemptuousness would graphically phrase it; so I rush away, away to the house, and up to my chamber, like Joseph, to weep there. For an hour or more I sit with my two hands holding my head, buried in thought. Woe is me if my mamma‐in‐law catches me; small opinion has she of thought as an employment for the female sex, and then I rise, unlock the drawer of my writing table, take out the ‘unlucky document,’ as its parent leniently calls it, and go downstairs with it.

I find Dolly sitting by the library fire, her small white left hand on which Lord Stockport's great diamond betrothal ring is flashing and sparkling in the firelight—bitter, bitter will be the parting between Dolly and that jewel of price—is pushed in amongst the black wealth of her scented hair; she is staring with her great dark velvet eyes at the shining bars; her cheeks and small round ears are getting burnt a dull red, but she does not seem to heed that. I go up close to her, and stoop over her.

page: 269

“Dolly!” I say with solemnity, “I have thought a great deal about my revenge upon you; I have lain awake at night planning it; it has seemed meat and drink to me for the last week. I have finished planning it out now, look!”

As I speak I toss the letter into the fire's innermost heart, and watch the flames catch hold of it, and then shoot up high; watch it turn brown; then writhe like a thing in pain; then shrivel away utterly. Dolly jumps up and throws her arms about my neck.

“Don't,” I say, gently disengaging myself; “keep your blandishments for the lover you have saved; I think he would appreciate them more.”

So you see I gave up my revenge; I did not carry the stone in my pocket for seven years; then turn it, and carry it for seven years more. I yielded up my injuries unto Him, who claims the redressing of all the injustices that have been wrought since the world was. I had been clamouring for justice, bare justice. Alas, if bare justice is all I myself get, in that page: 270 day when the world's long tangled accounts are made up, where shall I be?

“What shall I, frail man be pleading? Who for me be interceding When the Just is Mercy needing?”

“A very worthy young man, my dear, I don't doubt,” says Lady Lancaster to me, a morning or two afterwards, apropos of my brother‐in‐law elect, as we sit pecketting at our work in the morning room—Hugh's waistcoat is making rapid strides towards completion—looking at me over the top of her spectacles, “very worthy, indeed! does not seem to have very much to say for himself perhaps, but that is a fault on the right side in these days, when all young people seem to think that they cannot have too much of the sound of their own voices!”

“He is rather silent!” I say, which is certainly putting it in a very mild form, seeing that I could count with ease on the fingers of one hand the remarks he has made since he entered our hospitable portals.

page: 271

“Dear me!” pursues the old lady, wandering off into reminiscences, “how well I remember his grandfather's shop to be sure! He was a hosier, you know, my dear, in Bond Street, a very civil old man with a bald head, I recollect—this young man has a look of him now and then—he used to come out to one's carriage door to take orders, and that sort of thing, my dear!”

“It is a very up‐py and down‐y world!” I say sententiously.

“If he had told me then,” continues my companion, making her speech more emphatic by uplifted and out‐spread right hand, “that forty years from that time, my son and his grandson would be marrying two sisters, I should have withdrawn my custom from his shop for his impertinence.”

I laugh.

“It is a rise, whose suddenness is only paralleled by Dick Whittington's and his cat; in fact, it beats them, for Dick was only Lord Mayor after all, and Stockport is Lord, without the Mayor!”

page: 272

Meanwhile, the ‘worthy young man’ and Dolly are strolling up and down the terrace. Dolly seems to like to keep within view of the windows. I fancy that the young Viscount's amenities become ponderous, when freed from the restraint of the public eye.

So Dolly is to be wed; she is to be made a Viscountess of; to be elevated to a throne among the Gods. King Cophetna has given his hand to the Beggar Maid, and she is tripping daintily up to seat herself beside that august and condescending monarch.

But when is it to be? When are the festive poles to be run up, and the “healths to the houses of Stockport and Lestrange” to float in the breeze?

At first, Dolly stoutly maintained that no earthly power should induce her to allow her marriage to be celebrated till a full year had elapsed, since “poor dear Papa's” death.

“O, impossible! quite out of the question! so disrespectful to his memory! Did he suppose she had no natural affection?” page: 273 &c., &c. When first the subject was hinted, she retreated from the room with her handkerchief to her eyes; not angry, but so hurt.

This I hear from Hugh.

“Completely upset, poor girl!” he says, pulling his thick moustache, and staring at his boots, which are stuck out straight before him; “so Stockport tells me. He thought he had put his foot into it with a vengeance, and that she was not going to speak to him again for a month of Sundays.”

The text about polishing the sepulchres of the Righteous occurs to me, but I keep it to myself.

“If ever I have any daughters,” says Hugh—I look down—“I hope they'll be as fond of me as you two were of him.”

(You two! classing us together! My God! that is hard to bear!)

“I'm sure I wish she would marry him, and have done with it,” continues Hugh, yawning. “Great Sawney! I'm getting dog‐tired of seeing his ugly mug about the house; seems to be in every room at once page: 274 too, like a bird; he's a thundering lout, that's what he is!”

“If you will be so Quixotically generous as to bring all your wife's relations, like a hornet's nest, about your ears, you must take the consequences,” I say, a little maliciously.

Time does wonders, and time and Lord Stockport succeeded in softening our Dolly's tender scruples.

“One cannot always consult one's own feelings in this world,” I overheard her saying one day to Hugh, “else, (with a gentle sigh) things would be very different, but for poor Stockport's sake—he really is getting so miserably unsettled and fretful—ah, I know some one who can feel for him; some one who was not too patient himself once, a hundred years ago—that I am afraid it will tell upon his health; that would not be fair, would it? and so”—(with down dropped eyes and a blush.) And so a judicious compromise has been effected between the bridegroom's eagerness, and the bride's filial devotion. He had clamoured page: 275 for April, and she had stickled for December. June is a happy mean between the two, and June it is to be.

I had begged that the wedding might be a very quiet one; the idea of a great gathering, of all the onerous duties of mistress of a great house coming upon me for the first time, of feasting and merry making in the midst of my deep mourning was utterly repellant to me. But I am overruled by my mamma, as I have been on many other occasions.

“Life is too short to be spent in vain repinings, my dear,” she says to me one morning, after we have been indulging in a mild wrangle on the subject; “there are duties owing to the living as well as to the dead, and we should not selfishly neglect the former for the latter.”

I make no answer, but bend my head in silence over my work. “It seems to me,” pursues the old lady, rather exasperated by my silence, “that there is something unchristian in such exaggerated grief; it is a sure argument of an ill‐regulated mind; you seem to forget that there is such a page: 276 virtue as Resignation, one of the most beautiful of Christian graces, or that our Heavenly Father knows what is best for us!” Lady Lancaster has none of her son's shyness in mentioning the Deity. On the contrary, her Heavenly Father plays a large part in her conversation, particularly when she is angry.

“It's very easy to be resigned to one's Heavenly Father, when he does nothing to vex one,” I cry passionately, ignoring the fifth commandment, or perhaps imagining that it does not apply to parents‐in‐law. The Dowager rises very stiffly, and makes her flat back flatter than ever.

“If you are going to be blasphemous, my dear,” she says “I have nothing more to say; we must drop the subject, if you please!” and she sweeps out of the room with dignity. Dropping the subject means that I apologize, and that the old lady gets her own way. And so March, and April, and May—blowiest, tearfullest and sweetest of the daughters of the year—steal past us; march quickly page: 277 by to join the other dead months and years; go over to the majority as the Romans have it. And there comes a sultry day in early June—day when my sister's life began to open, and mine, I think, to close.

“‘Happy the bride that the sun shines on,’ the proverb says, doesn't it?” asks Hugh that morning, lying staring lazily out of window at the pale blue sky, and the Scotch firs, and the rooks cawing and flapping about their windy homes; “if that's the case, I'm afraid you have not a chance of coming in for much luck, have you, Nell? You had not a ha'porth of sun from ‘Dearly Beloved,’ to ‘Amazement.’”

I am up and dressed already.

“Proverbs often tell lies,” I say carelessly. “Honesty is the best policy; It is better to be good than pretty; Early birds pick the worm; what can be greater fiction than those three?”

“We shall have the house to ourselves to night, Nell!” says Hugh cheerfully, “that'll be a comfort, won't it?”

page: 278

“Ye‐es,” I say rather doubtfully, “at least do you know, Hugh, I sometimes wish that somebody would take it into their head to marry your mother; some meek‐minded old gentleman that she could rule with a rod of iron, and make muffetees for, and read ‘A Voice from the Pit,’ or ‘A few plain words about sinners,’ to.”

Hugh bursts out into a loud haw! haw!

“Oh! I say, Nell! too bad! what's the Mater been doing now? slanging you, or giving you good little books to read?”

“A little of both, perhaps!” I say, laughing.

Wentworth Church is a mile from Wentworth House; just outside the park it stands; ugly, square‐windowed, ivy‐less. Sir Hugh's work people and tenants have been as zealous in doing honour to his sister‐in‐law, as if she were a real Lancaster. There is a big arch at the first gate; a bigger at the second, and a biggest at the church gate.

page: 279

June has such a wealth of roses that she can spare a good many to scatter under Dolly's feet, without missing them. The deer raise their slender smoky heads to look surprisedly at these monstrosities that have sprung up like mushrooms after rain, and then go leaping lightly away through the deep bracken.

The churchyard is full of people; there is quite a struggle for the vantage ground of the high flat tombstones, that give one always an idea of grim ghastly boxes. The children have had their faces washed as if it were Sunday; the women are bobbing curtseys, and the men pulling shaggy forelocks, as we float and rustle up the scarlet cloth put to the chancel door. There are twelve bridesmaids, six innocents in blue, and six in pink; it has been a work of some labour and thought to get that spinster dozen together.

Female friends Dolly has none, holding—was it Cowper's opinion—that women's friendships were leagues of folly and interest; and it has been difficult to collect, at least in a country neighbourhood, twelve page: 280 young ladies of fit standing, to walk behind Lady Stockport to the altar. It rather a scratch team after all; we have been obliged to eke it out with an old maid and a child.

Little De Laney is best man; not that has any peculiar affection or admiration for the bridegroom, as indeed he told me afterwards that he was ‘the biggest fool out,’ but because Lord Stockport once shed the radiance of his presence over the corps of which De Laney is a member.

A bishop in very clear lawn sleeves and painfully thin legs, with two High Church rectors, officiate. They all read very fast, and leave out as much as they possibly can, so that whatever else it is, at least the service cannot be said to be tedious. And so the ‘august ceremony,’ as the county newspapers said next day, is consummated, and Dolly draws a sigh of relief. I think he is glad that the costly brittle cup has reached her red lips in safety at last. And then we all get into our carriages and bowl home, with the ‘ugly duck‐ duckling page: 281 ling’ transformed within the last quarter of an hour into a swan leading the way.

“This is the room we danced in last year, isn't it?” Lord Capel says to me, at breakfast.

“Yes,” I say, “it looks so different without its furniture, doesn't it?”

Lady Lancaster like the fisherman's wife, Ilsabil, has had her own will, and the gathering is as large as even she could wish.

Looking down the long table, on either side of the forest of ferns and flowers and pyramidal fruit, I see happy people—these in Elise‐ian bonnets—those in Poole‐ian coats laughing and talking nonsense.

The bridegroom is doing neither; he is eating ‘poulet au truffes’ and looking solemnly amorous, and amorously solemn. I fancy that his impending speech is weighing on his mind, and he is wishing that a fellow might be allowed to get married without having to jaw about it. Happiest, noisiest, gorgeousest of apparel, fre‐ frequentest page: 282 quentest of laugh among the guests are the Coxes; all except Mortimer Spencer de Lacy, behind whose barnacles the bitter tear of disappointment keeps swelling.

The Coxes are not presentable certainly, but I insisted on their being asked. I have a kindness for them; they were good to my poor Dick.

“There have been a good many changes since then,” says Lord Capel, pleasantly thinking of my marriage.

“Indeed, there have!” I say, with a slight shudder.

“Everyone that was here last year is here now!” he continues, looking round n the assembled faces; “with one exception.”

“Who is the exception, Capel?” asks De Laney, who is on the other side of me, “proves the rule, doesn't it, eh?”

“No, nonsense! M'Gregor, don't you recollect poor M'Gregor?”

“Why poor?” I ask, trying to smile; “for not being here?”

“Havn't you heard? oh, I thought you page: 283 were sure to; I'm sorry I mentioned the subject.”

“Why?” I ask, hoarsely.

“Oh, because it's a shame to introduce melancholy subjects on an occasion like this; bad omen, you know. Stockport would not thank me.”

“You had better go on, now you have begun,” says De Laney, “or we shall think it something worse than it is.”

“Well then, poor fellow! he is dead! I heard of it a day or two ago, from a man who was quartered on the same station with him; died of fever and ague at Lahore! very sad thing! nobody he cared a straw about near him.”

“Dead!” cries Violet Coxe, overhearing, in her hard loud voice; “poor M'Gregor! Lord! how sorry I am!”

The bride suddenly rises from her seat, and comes rushing over to me.

“For God's sake, don't expose yourself!”

I hear her whispering very eagerly, and then there sounds a loud buzzing in my ears; a deadly sickness comes over me, and I faint away, as I fainted away five page: 284 months ago, in those strong arms that will never more embrace any bride but corruption. “The knight's bones are dust, And his good sword rust, His soul is with the saints, I trust.”