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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Now the blood of the Papaveraceae has a taint also


'No it isn't; it is easier and easier. See, these belong to one family; so you learn to know them as relations, and then you can remember them.'

'How do you know they are of the same family?'

'Well, they have the family features. They all have an acrid sap or juice, exogenous plants, with many stamens. These are the stamens, do you know? They have calyx and corolla both, and the corolla has separate petals, see; and the Ranunculaceae have the petals and sepals deciduous, and the leaves generally cut, as you see these are. They are what you may call a bitter family; it runs in the blood, that is to say, in the juice of them; and a good many of the members of the family are downright wicked, that is, poisonous.'

'Pitt, you talk very queerly?'

'Not a bit more queer than the things are I am talking of. Now this _Sanguinaria_ belongs to the Papaveraceae--the poppy family.'

'Does it! But it does not look like them, like poppies.'

'This coloured juice that you see when you break the stem, is one of the family marks of this family. I won't trouble you with the others. But you must learn to know them, Queen Esther. King Solomon knew every plant from the royal cedar to the hyssop on the wall; and I am sure a queen ought to know as much. Now the blood of the Papaveraceae has a taint also; it is apt to have a narcotic quality.'

'What is narcotic?'

'Putting to sleep.'

'That's a good quality.'

'Hm!' said Dallas; 'that's as you take it. It isn't healthy to go so fast asleep that you never can wake up again.'

'Can people do that?' asked Esther in astonishment.

'Yes. Did you never hear of people killing themselves with laudanum, or opium?'

'I wonder why the poppy family was made so?'

'Why not?'

'So mischievous.'

'That's when people take too much of them. They are very good for medicine sometimes, Queen Esther.'

The girl's appearance by this time had totally changed. All the dull, weary, depressed air and expression were gone; she was alert and erect, the beautiful eyes filled with life and eagerness, a dawning of colour in the cheeks, the brow busy with stirring thoughts. Esther's face was a grave face still, for a child of her years; but now it was a noble gravity, showing intelligence and power and purpose; indicating capacity, and also an eager sympathy with whatever is great and worthy to take and hold the attention. Whether it were history that Dallas touched upon, or natural science; the divisions of nations or the harmonies of plants; Esther was ready, with her thoughtful, intent eyes, taking in all he could give her; and not merely as a snatch-bite of curiosity, but as the satisfaction of a good healthy mental appetite for mental food.

Until to-day the young man had never concerned himself much about Esther. Good nature had moved him to-day, when he saw the dullness that had come over the child and recognised her forlorn solitude; and now he began to be interested in the development of a nature he had never known before. Young Dallas was a student of everything natural that came in his way, but this was the first bit of human nature that had consciously interested him. He thought it quite worth investigating a little more.

CHAPTER IV.


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