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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

What were the Gainsboroughs to Miss Betty Frere


'What

possible occasion, Pitt?' said his mother, with a tone of uneasiness which Betty noted.

'Duty, mamma, and also pleasure. But duty is imperative.'

'I do not see the duty. You tried to look them up the last time you were here, and failed.'

'I shall not fail this time.'

'If it depended on your will,' remarked his father coolly. 'But I think the probability is that they have gone back to England, and are consequently no longer in New York.'

'What are the grounds of that probability?'

'When last I heard from the colonel, he was proposing the question of reconciliation with his family. And as I have heard no more from him since then, I think the likeliest thing is that he has made up his quarrel and gone home.'

'I can easily determine that question by looking over the shipping lists.'

'Perhaps not,' said Mr. Dallas, rubbing his chin. 'If he has gone, I think it will have been under another name. The one he bore here was, I suspect, assumed.'

'What for?' demanded Pitt somewhat sharply.

'Reasons of family pride, no doubt. That is enough to make men do foolisher things.'

'It would be difficult to find a foolisher

thing to do,' replied his son. But then the conversation turned. It had given Miss Betty something to think of. She drew her own conclusions without asking anybody. And in some indefinite, inscrutable way it stimulated and confirmed her desire for the game Mrs. Dallas had begged her to play. Human hearts are certainly strange things. What were the Gainsboroughs to Miss Betty Frere? Nothing in the world, half an hour before; now? Now there was a vague suspicion of an enemy somewhere; a scent of rivalry in the air; an immediate rising of partisanship. Were these the people of whom Mrs. Dallas was afraid? against whom she craved help? She should have help. Was it not even a meritorious thing, to withdraw a young man from untoward influences, and keep him in the path marked out by his mother?

Miss Frere scented a battle like Job's war-horse. In spirit, that is; outwardly, nothing could show less signs of war. She was equal to Pitt, in her seeming careless apartness; the difference was, that with her it _was_ seeming, and with him reality. She lost not a word; she failed not to observe and regard every movement; she knew, without being seen to look, just what his play of feature and various expressions were; all the while she was calmly embroidering, or idly gazing out of the window, or skilfully playing chess with Mr. Dallas, whom she inevitably beat.

Pitt, the while, his mother thought (and so thought the young lady herself), was provokingly careless of her attractions. He was going hither and thither; over the farm with his father; about the village, to see the changes and look up his old acquaintances; often, too, busy in his room where he had been wont to spend so many hours in the old time. He was graver than he used to be; with the manner of a man, and a thoughtful one; he showed not the least inclination to amuse himself with his mother's elegant visitor. Mrs. Dallas became as nearly fidgety as it was in her nature to be.

'What do you think of my young friend?' she asked Pitt when he had been a day or two at home.

'The lady? She is a very satisfactory person, to the eye.'

'To the eye!'

'It is only my eyes, you will remember, mother, that know anything about her.'


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