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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Pitt was still sitting at her feet


'One

day I was wandering in one of the busy parts of the city, and turned aside out of the roar and the bustle into a little chapel, lying close to the roar but separate from it. I had been there before, and knew there were some fine marbles in the place; one especially, that I wanted to see again. I was alone that day, and could take my time; and I went in. It is the tomb of some old dignitary who lived several centuries ago. I do not know what he was in life; but in death, as this effigy represents him, it is something beautiful to look upon. I forget at this minute the name of the sculptor; his work I shall never forget. It is wonderfully fine. The gravity, and the sweetness, and the ineffable repose of the figure, are beyond praise. I stood looking, studying, thinking, I cannot tell for how long--or rather feeling than thinking, at the moment. When I left the chapel and came out again into the glare and the rush and the confusion, then I began to think, mother. I went off to another quiet place, by the bank of the river, and sat down and thought. I can hardly tell you how. The image of that infinite repose I carried with me, and the rush of human life filled the streets I had just come through behind me, and I looked at the contrast of things. There, for ages already, that quiet; here, for a day or two, this driving and struggling. Even suppose it be successful struggling, what does it amount to?'

'It amounts to a good deal while you live,' said

Mrs. Dallas.

'And after?'--

'And after too. A man's name, if he has struggled successfully, is held in remembrance--in honour.'

'What is that to him after he is gone?'

'My dear, you would not advocate a lazy life?--a life without effort?'

'No, mother. The question is, what shall the effort be for?'

Mrs. Dallas was in the greatest perplexity how to carry on this conversation. She looked down on the figure before her,--Pitt was still sitting at her feet, holding her two hands on either side of his head; and she could admire at her leisure the well-knit, energetic frame, every line of which showed power and life, and every motion of which indicated also the life and vigour of the spirit moving it. He was the very man to fight the battle of life with distinguished success--she had looked forward to his doing it, counted upon it, built her pride upon it; what did he mean now? Was all that power and energy and ability to be thrown away? Would he decline to fill the place in the world which she had hoped to see him fill, and which he could so well fill? Young people do have foolish fancies, and they pass over; but a fancy of this sort, just at Pitt's age, might be fatal. She was glad it was _herself_ and not his father who was his confidant, for Pitt, she well knew, was one neither to be bullied nor cajoled. But what should she say to him?

'My dear, I think it is duty,' she ventured at last. 'Everybody must be put here to do something.'

'What is he put here to do, mamma? That is the very question.'

Pitt was not excited, he showed no heat; he spoke in the quiet, calm tones of a person long familiar with the thoughts to which he gave utterance; indeed, alarmingly suggestive that he had made up his mind about them.

'Pitt, why do you not speak to a clergyman? He could set you right better than I can.'

'I have, mamma.'

'To what clergyman?'


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