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The Lost Dahlia   By: (1787-1855)

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By Mary Russell Mitford

If to have "had losses" be, as affirmed by Dogberry in one of Shakspeare's most charming plays, and corroborated by Sir Walter Scott in one of his most charming romances (those two names do well in juxtaposition, the great Englishman! the great Scotsman!) If to have "had losses" be a main proof of credit and respectability, then am I one of the most responsible persons in the whole county of Berks. To say nothing of the graver matters which figure in a banker's book, and make, in these days of pounds, shillings, and pence, so large a part of the domestic tragedy of life putting wholly aside all the grander transitions of property in house and land, of money on mortgage, and money in the funds (and yet I might put in my claim to no trifling amount of ill luck in that way also, if I had a mind to try my hand at a dismal story) counting for nought all weightier grievances, there is not a lady within twenty miles who can produce so large a list of small losses as my unfortunate self.

From the day when, a tiny damsel of some four years old, I first had a pocket handkerchief to lose, down to this very night I will not say how many years after when, as I have just discovered, I have most certainly lost from my pocket the new cambric kerchief which I deposited therein a little before dinner, scarcely a week has passed without some part of my goods and chattels being returned missing. Gloves, muffs, parasols, reticules, have each of them a provoking knack of falling from my hands; boas glide from my neck, rings slip from my fingers, the bow has vanished from my cap, the veil from my bonnet, the sandal from my foot, the brooch from my collar, and the collar from my brooch. The trinket which I liked best, a jewelled pin, the first gift of a dear friend, (luckily the friendship is not necessarily appended to the token,) dropped from my shawl in the midst of the high road; and of shawls themselves, there is no end to the loss. The two prettiest that ever I had in my life, one a splendid specimen of Glasgow manufacture a scarlet hardly to be distinguished from Cashmere the other a lighter and cheaper fabric, white in the centre, with a delicate sprig, and a border harmoniously compounded of the deepest blue, the brightest orange, and the richest brown, disappeared in two successive summers and winters, in the very bloom of their novelty, from the folds of the phaeton, in which they had been deposited for safety fairly blown overboard! If I left things about, they were lost. If I put them away, they were lost. They were lost in the drawers they were lost out And if for a miracle I had them safe under lock and key, why, then, I lost my keys! I was certainly the most unlucky person under the sun. If there was nothing else to lose, I was fain to lose myself I mean my way; bewildered in these Aberleigh lanes of ours, or in the woodland recesses of the Penge, as if haunted by that fairy, Robin Good fellow, who led Hermia and Helena such a dance in the Midsummer Night's Dream. Alas! that there should be no Fairies now a days, or rather no true believers in Fairies, to help us to bear the burthen of our own mortal carelessness.

It was not quite all carelessness, though! Some ill luck did mingle with a great deal of mismanagement, as the "one poor happ'orth of bread" with the huge gallon of sack in the bill of which Poins picked Falstaff's pocket when he was asleep behind the arras. Things belonging to me, or things that I cared for, did contrive to get lost, without my having any hand in the matter. For instance, if out of the variety of "talking birds," starlings, jackdaws, and magpies, which my father delights to entertain, any one particularly diverting or accomplished, more than usually coaxing and mischievous, happened to attract my attention, and to pay me the compliment of following at my heels, or perching upon my shoulder, the gentleman was sure to hop off. My favourite mare, Pearl, the pretty docile creature which draws my little phaeton, has such a talent for leaping, that she is no sooner turned out in either of our meadows, than she disappears... Continue reading book >>

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