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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Dallas comes along pretty often


was one morning in spring-time. Mrs. Barker stood at the door of her kitchen, and called to her brother to come in to breakfast. Christopher slowly obeyed the summons, leaving his spade stuck upright in the bed he was digging, and casting loving looks as he came at the budding gooseberry bushes. He was a typical Englishman; ruddy, fair-skinned, blue-eyed, of very solid build, and showing the national tendency to flesh. He was a handsome man, and not without a sufficiency of self-consciousness, both as regarding that and other things. Mrs. Barker was a contrast; for she was very plain, some years older than her brother, and of rather spare habit though large frame. Both faces showed sense, and the manner of both indicated that they knew their own minds.

'Season's late,' observed Mrs. Barker, as she stepped back from the door and lifted her coffee-pot on the table.

'Uncommon late,' answered her brother. 'Buds on them gooseberry bushes only just showin' green. Now everything will be coming all together in a heap in two weeks more. That's the way o' this blessed climate! And then when everything's started, maybe a frost will come and slap down on us.'

'Peas in?'

'Peas in a fortnight ago. They'll be showin' their heads just now.'

'Christopher, can you get me some greens to day?'


for what?'

'Why, for dinner. Master likes a bit o' boiled beef now and again, which he used to, anyway; and I thought greens is kind o' seasonable at this time o' year, and I'd try him with 'em. But la! he don't care no more what he eats.'

'How is the old gentleman?'

'Doin' his best to kill hisself, I should say.'

'Looks like it,' said Christopher, going on with a good breakfast the while in a business manner. 'When a man don't care no more what he eats, the next thing'll be that he'll stop it; and then there's only one thing more he will do.'

'What's that?'

'Die, to be sure!'

'He ain't dyin' yet,' said Mrs. Barker thoughtfully, 'but he ain't doin' the best he can wi's life, for certain. Can ye get me some greens, Christopher?'

'Nothing in _my_ department. I can take a knife and a basket and find you some dandelions.'

'Will ye go fur to find 'em?'

'No furder'n I can help, you may make your affidavit, with all there is to do in the garden yet. What's about it?'

'If you're goin' a walk, I'd let Missie go along. She don't get no chance for no diversion whatsomever when young Mr. Dallas don't come along. She just mopes, she do; and it's on my mind, and master he don't see it. I wish he would.'

'The little one does wear an uncommon solemn countenance,' said the gardener, who was in his way quite an educated man, and used language above his station.

'It do vex me,' repeated the housekeeper.

'But young Mr. Dallas comes along pretty often. If Miss Esther was a little older, now, we should see no more of her solemnity. What 'ud master say to that?'

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