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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Miss Betty stitched away busily

round her and he was bending

to her and talking to her as they went. Miss Betty stitched away busily, thoughts keeping time with her needle, for some time thereafter. Yet she did not quite know what she was thinking of. There was a little stir in her mind, which was so unaccustomed that it was delightful; it was also vague, and its provoking elements were not clearly discernible. The young lady was conscious of a certain pleasant thrill in the view of the task to which she had been invited. It promised her possible difficulty, for even in the few short minutes just passed she had gained an inkling that Mrs. Dallas's words might be true, and Pitt not precisely a man that you could turn over your finger. It threatened her possible danger, which she did not admit; nevertheless the stinging sense of it made itself felt and pricked the pleasure into livelier existence. This was something out of the ordinary. This was a man not just cut after the common work-a-day pattern. Miss Betty recalled involuntarily one trait after another that had fastened on her memory. Eyes of bright intelligence and hidden power, a very frank smile, and especially with all that, the great tenderness which had been shown in every word and look to his mother. The good breeding and ease of manner Miss Betty had seen before; this other trait was something new; and perhaps she was conscious of a little pull it gave at her heartstrings. This was not the manner she had seen at home, where her father had treated her mother as a sort of queen-consort
certainly,--co-regent of the house; but where they had lived upon terms of mutual diplomatic respect; and her brothers, if they cared much for anybody but Number One, gave small proof of the fact. What a brother this man would be! what a--something else! Miss Betty sheered off a little from just this idea; not that she was averse to it, or that she had not often entertained it; indeed, she had entertained it not two hours ago about Pitt himself; but the presence of the man and the recognition of what was in him had stirred in her a kindred delicacy which was innate, as in every true woman, although her way of life and some of her associates had not fostered it. Betty Frere was a true woman, originally; alas, she was also now a woman of the world; also, she was poor, and to make a good marriage she had known for some years was very desirable for her. What a very good marriage this would be! Poor girl, she could not help the thought now, and she must not be judged hardly for it. It was in the air she breathed, and that all her associates breathed. Betty had not been in a hurry to get married, having small doubt of her power to do it in any case that pleased her; now, somehow, she was suddenly confronted by a doubt of her power.

I am pulling out the threads of what was to Betty only a web of very confused pattern; _she_ did not try to unravel it. Her consciousness of just two things was clear: the pleasant stimulus of the task set before her, and a little sharp premonition of its danger. She dismissed that. She could perform the task and detach Pitt from any imaginary ties that his mother was afraid of, without herself thereby becoming entangled. It would be a game of uncommon interest and entertainment, and a piece of benevolence too. But Betty's pulses, as I said, were quickened a little.

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