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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Dallas neither feared nor had need to fear criticism


This

second person was a younger lady. Indeed a _young_ lady, not by comparison, but absolutely. A very attractive person too. She had an exceedingly good figure, which the trying dress of those times showed in its full beauty. Woe to the lady then whose shoulders were not straight, or the lines of her figure not flowing, or the proportions of it not satisfactory. Every ungracefulness must have shown its full deformity, with no possibility of disguise; every angle must have been aggravated, and every untoward movement made doubly fatal. But the dress only set off and developed the beauty that could bear it. And the lady sitting with Mrs. Dallas neither feared nor had need to fear criticism. Something of that fact appeared in her graceful posture and in the brow of habitual superiority, and in the look of the eyes that were now and then lifted from her work to her companion. The eyes were beautiful, and they were also queenly; at least their calm fearlessness was not due to absence of self-consciousness. She was a pretty picture to see. The low-cut dress and fearfully short waist revealed a white skin and a finely-moulded bust and shoulders. The very scant and clinging robe was of fine white muslin, with a narrow dainty border of embroidery at the bottom; and a scarf of the same was thrown round her shoulders. The round white arms were bare, the little tufty white sleeves making a pretty break between them and the soft shoulders; and the little hands were busy with a strip of embroidery,
which looked as if it might be destined for the ornamentation of another similar dress. The lady's face was delicate, intelligent, and attractive, rather than beautiful; her eyes, however, as I said, were fine; and over her head and upon her neck curled ringlets of black, lustrous hair.

'You think he will be here to-day?' she said, breaking the familiar silence that had reigned for a while. She had caught one of Mrs. Dallas's glances towards the window.

'He may be here any day. It is impossible to tell. He would come before his letter.'

'You are very fond of him, I can see. What made you send him away from you? England is so far off!'

Mrs. Dallas hesitated; put up the end of her knitting-needle under her cap, and gently moved it up and down in meditative fashion.

'We wanted him to be an Englishman, Betty.'

'Why, Mrs. Dallas? Is he not going to live in America?'

'Probably.'

'Then why make an Englishman of him? That will make him discontented with things here.'

'I hope not. He was not changed enough for that when he was here last. Pitt does not change.'

'He must be an extraordinary character!' said the young lady, with a glance at Pitt's mother. 'Dear Mrs. Dallas, how am I to understand that?'

'Pitt does not change,' repeated the other.

'But one _ought_ to change. That is a dreadful sort of people, that go on straight over the heads of circumstances, just because they laid out the road there before the circumstances arose. I have seen such people. They tread down everything in their way.'

'Pitt does not change,' Mrs. Dallas said again. Her companion thought she said it with a certain satisfied confidence. And perhaps it was true; but the moment after Mrs. Dallas remembered that if the proposition were universal it might be inconvenient.

'At least he is hard to change,' she went on; 'therefore his father and I wished him to be educated in the old country, and to form his notions according to the standard of things there. I think a republic is very demoralizing.'


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