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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Miss Frere bore it for a while patiently


'Your

mother,' began Miss Betty, stitching away, 'has given me a commission concerning you. She desires me to see to it that _ennui_ does not creep upon you during your vacation in this unexciting place. How do I know but it is creeping upon you already? and you give me no chance to drive it away.'

Pitt laughed a little. 'I was never attacked by _ennui_ in my life,' he said.

'So you do not want my services!'

'Not to fight an enemy that is nowhere in sight. Perhaps he is your enemy, and I might be helpful in another way.'

It occurred to him that _he_ had been charged to make Miss Frere's sojourn in Seaforth pleasant; and some vague sense of what this mutual charge might mean dawned upon him, with a rising light of amusement.

'I don't know!' said the young lady. 'You did once propose a drive. If you would propose it again, perhaps I would go. We cannot help its being hot?'

So they went for a drive. The roads were capital, the evening was lovely, the horses went well, and the phaeton was comfortable; if that were not enough, it was all. Miss Frere bore it for a while patiently.

'Do you dislike talking?' she asked at length meekly, when a soft bit of road and the slow movement of the horses gave her a good opportunity.

'I?

Not at all!' said Pitt, rousing himself as out of a muse.

'Then I wish you would talk. Mrs. Dallas desires that I should entertain you; and how am I to do that unless I know you better?'

'So you think people's characters come out in talking?'

'If not their characters, at least something of what is in their heads--what they know--and don't know; what they can talk about, in short.'

'I do not know anything--to talk about.'

'Oh, fie, Mr. Dallas! you who have been to Oxford and London. Tell me, what is London like? An overgrown New York, I suppose.'

'No, neither. "Overgrown" means grown beyond strength or usefulness. London is large, but not overgrown, in any sense.'

'Well, like New York, only larger?'

'No more than a mushroom is like a great old oak. London is like that; an old oak, gnarled and twisted and weather-worn, with plenty of hale life and young vigour springing out of its rugged old roots.'

'That sounds--poetical.'

'If you mean, not true, you are under a mistake.'

'Then it seems you know London?'

'I suppose I do; better than many of those who live in it. When I am there, Miss Frere, I am with an old uncle, who is an antiquary and an enthusiast on the subject of his native city. From the first it has been his pleasure to go with me all over London, and tell me the secrets of its old streets, and show me what was worth looking at. London was my picture-book, my theatre, where I saw tragedy and comedy together; my museum of antiquities. I never tire of it, and my Uncle Strahan is never tired of showing it to me.'

'Why, what is it to see?' asked Miss Frere, with some real curiosity.

'For one thing, it is an epitome of English history, strikingly illustrated.'

'Oh, you mean Westminster Abbey! Yes, I have heard of that, of course. But I should think _that_ was not interminable.'


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