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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

' said Miss Frere in her bewilderment


Mr. Dallas,' said the young lady, throwing up her head, 'it is worth a great deal--all it costs. To be noble, to be distinguished, to be great and remembered in the world,--what is a worthy ambition, if that is not?'

'That is the general opinion; but what is it _worth_, when all is done? Name any great man you think of as specially great'--

'Napoleon Buonaparte,' said the young lady immediately.

'Do not name _him_,' said Pitt. 'He wore a brilliant crown, but he got it out of the dirt of low passions and cold-hearted selfishness. His name will be remembered, but as a splendid example of wickedness. Name some other.'

'Name one yourself,' said Betty. 'I have succeeded so ill.'

'Name them all,' said Pitt. 'Take all the conquerors, from Rameses the Great down to our time; take all the statesmen, from Moses and onward. Take Apelles, at the head of a long list of wonderful painters; philosophers, from Socrates to Francis Bacon; discoverers and inventors, from the man who first made musical instruments, in the lifetime of Adam our forefather, to Watt and the steam engine. Take any or all of them; _we_ are very glad they lived and worked, _we_ are the better for remembering them; but I ask you, what are they the better for it?'

This appeal, which was evidently meant in deep earnest,

moved the mind of the young lady with so great astonishment that she looked at Pitt as at a _lusus naturae_. But he was quite serious and simply matter of fact in his way of putting things. He looked at her, waiting for an answer, but got none.

'We speak of Alexander, and praise him to the skies, him of Macedon, I mean. What is that, do you think, to Alexander now?'

'If it is nothing to him, then what is the use of being great?' said Miss Frere in her bewilderment.

'You are coming back to my question.'

There ensued a pause, during which the stitches of embroidery were taken slowly.

'What do you intend to do with _your_ life, Mr. Dallas, since pleasure and fame are ruled out?' the young lady asked.

'You see, that decision waits on the previous question,' he answered.

'But it has got to be decided,' said Miss Frere, 'or you will be'--

'Nothing. Yes, I am aware of that.'

There was again a pause.

'Miss Frere,' Pitt then began again, 'did you ever see a person whose happiness rested on a lasting foundation?'

The young lady looked at her companion anew as if he were to her a very odd character.

'What do you mean?' she said.

'I mean, a person who was thoroughly happy, not because of circumstances, but in spite of them?'

'To begin with, I never saw anybody that was "thoroughly happy." I do not believe in the experience.'

'I am obliged to believe in it. I have known a person who seemed to be clean lifted up out of the mud and mire of troublesome circumstances, and to have got up to a region of permanent clear air and sunshine. I have been envying that person ever since.'

'May I ask, was it a man or a woman?'

'Neither; it was a young girl.'

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