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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

The cunnel warn't never to hum in Seaforth


'More

than I deserve,' said Pitt. 'But I seem not to find some of my old friends. Do you know where is the family that used to live here?'

'Gone away, I guess.'

'I see they have gone away; but where have they gone?'

'Dunno, no more'n the dead,' said the man, beginning to mow again.

'You know whom I am speaking of?--Colonel Gainsborough.'

'I know. He's gone--that's all I kin tell ye.'

'Who takes care of the place?'

'The place? If you mean the house, nobody takes keer of it, I guess. There ain't nobody in it. The land hez as good keer as it ever hed. The squoire, he sees to that.'

'My father, do you mean?'

'Who else? It belongs to the squoire now, and he takes good keer o' all _he_ sees to. He bought it, ye know, when the cunnel went away,' said the man, stopping work and resting on his scythe to look at Pitt again. 'He'd ha' let it, I guess, ef he could; but you see there ain't nobody that wants it. The folks in Seaforth all hez their own houses, and don't want nobody else's. There _is_ folks, they say, as 'd like to live in two houses to once, _ef_ they could manage it; but I never heerd o' no one that could.'

'Do you know at all why the colonel

went away?'

'Hain't an idee. Never knowed him particular, ye see, and so never heerd tell. The cunnel he warn't a sociable man by no means, and kep' himself mostly shut up. I think it's a man's loss; but there's different opinions, I suppose, on that p'int. As on every other! Folks du say, the cunnel warn't never to hum in Seaforth. Anyway, he ain't now.'

With which utterance he went to mowing again, and Pitt, after a courteous 'Good day,' left him.

Where could they be gone? And why should they have gone? And how was it that his mother in her many letters had never said a word about it? Nay, had let him go out this very morning to look for what she knew he would not find? And his father had bought the ground! There was something here to be inquired into. Meanwhile, for the present, he must do his thinking without Esther.

He walked on and on, slowly, under the shade of the great trees, along the empty, grassy street. He had plucked one or two shoots from the honeysuckles, long shoots full of sweetness; and as he went on and thought, they seemed to put in a word now and then. A word of reminder, not distinct nor logical, but with a blended meaning of Esther and sweetness and truth. Not _her_ sweetness and truth, but that which she testified to, and which an inner voice in Pitt's heart kept declaring to be genuine. That lured him and beckoned him one way; and the other way sounded voices as if of a thousand sirens. Pleasure, pride, distinction, dominion, applause, achievement, power, and ease. Various forms of them, various colours, started up before his mind's eye; vaguely discerned, as to individual form, but every one of them, like the picadors in a bull-fight, shaking its little banner of distraction and allurement. Pitt felt the confusion of them, and at the same time was more than vaguely conscious on the other side of a certain steady white light which attracted towards another goal. He walked on in meditative musing, slowly and carelessly, not knowing where he was going nor what he passed on the way; till he had walked far. And then he suddenly stopped, turned, and set out to go back the road he had come, but now with a quick, measured, steady footfall which gave no indication of a vacillating mind or a laboured question.


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