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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Making the village look green and bowery


'But

Pitt is so persistent!'

'In other things. You will see it will not be so with this.'

'He's very persistent,' repeated the mother. 'He always did stick to anything he once resolved upon.'

'He is not resolved upon this yet. Distraction is the best thing, not talk. Where's Betty Frere? I thought she was coming.'

'She is coming. She will be here in a few days. I cannot imagine what has set Pitt upon this strange way of thinking. He has got hold of some Methodist or some other dreadful person; but where? It couldn't be at Oxford; and I am certain it was never in Uncle Strahan's house; where could it be?'

'Methodism began at Oxford, my dear.'

'It is one mercy that the Gainsboroughs are gone.'

'Yes,' said her husband; 'that was well done. Does he know?'

'I have never told him. He will be asking about them directly.'

'Say as little as you can, and get Betty Frere here.'

Pitt meanwhile had gone to his old room, his work-room, the scene of many a pleasant hour, and where those aforetime lessons to Esther Gainsborough had been given. He stood and looked about him. All was severe order and emptiness, telling that the master had been away; his treasures

were safe packed up, under lock and key, or stowed away upon cupboard shelves; there was no pleasant litter on tables and floor, alluring to work or play. Was that old life, of work and play which mixed and mingled, light-hearted and sweet, gone for ever? Pitt stood in the middle of the floor looking about him, gathering up many a broken thread of association; and then, obeying an impulse which had been on him all the morning, he turned, caught up his hat, and went out.

He loitered down the village street. It was mid-morning now, the summer sun beating down on the wide space and making every big tree shadow grateful. Great overarching elms, sometimes an oak or a maple, ranged along in straight course and near neighbourhood, making the village look green and bowery, and giving the impression of an easy-going thrift and habit of pleasant conditions, which perhaps was not untrue to the character of the people. The capital order in which everything was kept confirmed the impression. Pitt, however, was not thinking of this, though he noticed it; the village was familiar to him from his childhood, and looked just as it had always done, only that the elms and maples had grown a little more bowery with every year. He walked along, not thinking of that, nor seeing the roses and syringa blossoms which gave him a sweet breath out of some of the gardens. He was not in a hurry. He was going back in mind to that which furnished the real answer to his mother's wondering query,--whence Pitt could have got his new ideas? It was nobody at Oxford or in London, neither conventicle nor discourse; but a girl's letter. He went on and on, thinking of it and of the writer. What would _she_ say to his disclosures, which his father and mother could do nothing with? Would she be in condition to give him the help he knew he must not expect from them? She, a girl? who did not know the world? Yet she was the goal of Pitt's present thoughts, and her house the point his footsteps were seeking, slowly and thoughtfully.

He was not in a hurry. Indeed, he was too absorbedly busy with his own cogitations and questions to give full place to the thought of Esther and the visit he was about to make. Besides, it was not as in the old time. He had no image before him now of a forlorn, lonely child, awaiting his coming as the flowers look for the sun. Things were rather turned about; he thought of Esther as the one in the sunlight, and himself as in need of illumination. He thought of her as needing no comfort that he could give; he half hoped to find the way to peace through her leading. But yes, she would be glad to see him; she would not have forgotten him nor lost her old affection for her old playfellow, though the entire cessation of letters from either her or her father had certainly been inexplicable. Probably it might be explained by some crankiness of the colonel. Esther would certainly be glad to see him. He quickened his steps to reach the house.


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