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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Pitt beleaguered the post office


'Why

do you want to know, Pitt?' his mother imprudently asked.

'Because I have got to look them up, mother; and knowing whereabouts they are would be rather a help, you see.'

'You have not got to look them up!' said his father gruffly. 'What business is it of yours? If they were here, it would be all very well for you to pay your respects to the colonel; it would be due; but as it is, there is no obligation.'

'No obligation of civility. There is another, however.'

'What, then?'

'Of friendship, sir.'

'Nonsense. Friendship ought to keep you at home. There is no friendship like that of a man's father and mother. Do you know what a piece of time it would take for you to go to New York to look up a man who lives you do not know where?--what a piece of your vacation?'

'More than I like to think of,' said Pitt; 'but it will have to be done.'

'It will take you two days to get there, and two more days to get back, merely for the journey; and how many do you want to spend in New York?'

'Must have two or three, at least. It will swallow up a week.'

'Out of your little vacation!' said his mother reproachfully. She was angry and hurt, as near tears as

she often came; but Mrs. Dallas was not wont to show her discomfiture in that way.

'Yes, mother; I am very sorry.'

'Why do you care about seeing them?--care so much, I mean,' his father inquired, with a keen side-glance at his son.

'I have made a promise, sir. I am bound to keep it.'

'What promise?' both parents demanded at once.

'To look after the daughter, in case of the father's death.'

'But he is not dead. He is well enough; as likely to live as I am.'

'How can I be sure of that? You have not heard from him for months, you say.'

'I should have heard, if anything had happened to him.'

'That is not certain, either,' said Pitt, thinking that Esther's applying to his father and mother in case of distress was more than doubtful.

'How can you look after the daughter in the event of her father's death? _You_ are not the person to do it,' said his mother.

'I am the person who have promised to do it,' said Pitt quietly. 'Never mind, mother; you see I must go, and the sooner the better. I will take the stage to-morrow morning.'

'You might wait and try first what a letter might do,' suggested his father.

'Yes, sir; but you remember Colonel Gainsborough had very little to do with the post office. He never received letters, and he had ceased taking the London _Times_. My letter might lie weeks unclaimed. I must go myself.'

And he went, and stayed a week away. It was a busy week; at least the days in the city were busily filled. Pitt inquired at the post office; but, as he more than half expected, nobody knew anything of Colonel Gainsborough's address. One official had an impression he had heard the name; that was all. Pitt beleaguered the post office, that is, he sat down before it, figuratively, for really he sat down in it, and let nobody go out or come in without his knowledge. It availed nothing. Either Christopher did not at all make his appearance at the post office during those days, or he came at some moment when Pitt was gone to get a bit of luncheon; if he came, a stupid clerk did not heed him, or a busy clerk overlooked him; all that is certain is, that Pitt saw and heard nothing which led to the object of his quest. He made inquiries elsewhere, wherever he could think it might be useful; but the end was, he heard nothing. He stayed three days; he could stay no longer, for his holiday was very exactly and narrowly measured out, and he felt it not right to take any more of it from his father and mother.


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