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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Whether Colonel Gainsborough is still living


style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER XXXIV.

_HOLIDAYS_.

She did not see her new acquaintance again till they met at the supper-table. She behaved herself then in an extremely well-bred way; was dignified and reserved and quiet; hardly said anything, as with a nice recognition that her words were not wanted; scarce ever seemed to look at the new arrival, of whom, nevertheless, not a word nor a look escaped her; and was simply an elegant quiet figure at the table, so lovely to look at that words from her seemed to be superfluous. Whether the stranger saw it, or whether he missed anything, there was no sign. He seemed to be provokingly and exclusively occupied with his father and mother; hardly, she thought, giving to herself all the attention which is due from a gentleman to a lady. Yet he fulfilled his duties in that regard, albeit only as one does it to whom they are a matter of course. Betty listened attentively to everything that was said, while she was to all appearance indifferently busied with her supper.

But the conversation ran, as it is wont to run at such times, when hearts long absent have found each other again, and fling trifles about, knowing that their stores of treasure must wait for a quieter time to be unpacked. They talked of weather and crops and Pitt's voyage, and the neighbours, and the changes in the village, and the improvements about the place; not

as if any of these things were much cared for; they were bubbles floating on their cups of joy. Questions asked and questions answered, as if in the pleasure of speaking to one another again the subject of their words did not matter; or as if the supreme content of the moment could spare a little benevolence even for these outside things. At last a question was asked which made Betty prick up her ears; this must have been due to something indefinable in the tone of the speakers, for the words were nothing.

'Have you heard anything of the Gainsboroughs?'

'No.'

It was the elder Dallas who answered.

'What has become of them?'

'I am not in condition to tell.'

'Have you written to them?'

'No, not since the last time; and that was a good while ago.'

'Then you do not know how things are with them, of course. I do not see how you have let them drop out of knowledge so. They were not exactly people to lose sight of.'

'Why not, when they went out of sight?'

'You do not even know, sir, whether Colonel Gainsborough is still living?'

'How should I? But he was as likely to live as any other man.'

'He did not think so.'

'For which very reason he would probably live longer than many other men. There is nothing like a hypochondriack for tough holding out.'

'Well, I must search New York for them this time, until I find them.'


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