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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Dallas saw the two heads bent over it


'And

don't you go to the British Museum, and to the Tower, and to Hyde Park?'

'I have been there hundreds of times.'

'And like these old corners still?'

'I am very fond of the Museum.'

'There is nothing like that is this country,' said Mrs. Dallas, with an accent of satisfaction.

CHAPTER XXXVI.

_INTERPRETATIONS_.

Miss Betty hereupon begged to be told more distinctly what was in the British Museum, that anybody should go there 'hundreds of times.' Pitt presently got warm in his subject, and talked long and well; as many people will do when they are full of their theme, even when they can talk upon nothing else. Pitt was not one of those people; he could talk well upon anything, and now he made himself certainly very entertaining. His mother thought so, who cared nothing for the British Museum except in so far that it was a great institution of an old country, which a young country could not rival. She listened to Pitt. Miss Betty gave him even more profound interest and unflagging attention; whether she too were not studying the speaker full as much as the things spoken, I will not say. They had a very pleasant morning of it; conversation diverging sometimes to Assyria and Egypt, and ancient civilizations

and arts, and civilization in general. Mrs. Dallas gradually drew back from mingling in the talk, and watched, well pleased, to see how eager the two other speakers became, and how they were lost in their subject and in each other.

In the afternoon there was another drive, to which Pitt did not need to be stimulated; and all the evening the two young people were busy with something which engaged them both. Mrs. Dallas breathed freer.

'I _think_ he is smitten,' she said privately to her husband. 'How could he help it? He has seen nobody else to be smitten with.'

But Betty Frere was not sure of any such thing; and the very fact of Pitt's disengagedness made him more ensnaring to her. There was nobody else in the village to divert his attention, and the two young people were thrown very much together. They went driving, they rode, and they talked, continually. The map of London was often out, and Mrs. Dallas saw the two heads bent over it, and interested faces looking into each other; and she thought things were going on very fairly. If only the vacation were not so short! For only a little time more, and Pitt must be back at his chambers in London. The mother sighed to herself. She was paying rather a heavy price to keep her son from Dissenters!

Betty Frere too remembered that the vacation was coming to an end, and drew her breath rather short. She was depending on Pitt too much for her amusement, she told herself, and to be sure there were other young men in the world that could talk; but she felt a sort of disgust at the thought of them all. They were not near so interesting. They all flattered her, and some of them were supposed to be brilliant; but Betty turned from the thought of them to the one whose lips never condescended to say pretty things, nor made any effort to say witty things. They behaved towards her with a sort of obsequious reverence, which was the fashion of that day much more than of this; and Betty liked far better a manner which never made pretence of anything, was thoroughly natural and perfectly well-bred, but which frankly paid more honour to his mother than to herself. She admired Pitt's behaviour to his mother. Even to his mother it had less formality than was the custom of the day; while it gave her every delicate little attention and every possible graceful observance. The young beauty had sense enough to see that this promised more for Pitt's future wife than any amount of civil subserviency to herself. Perhaps there is not a quality which women value more in a man, or miss more sorely, than what we express by the term manliness. And she saw that Pitt, while he was enthusiastic and eager, and what she called fanciful, always was true, honest, and firm in what he thought right. From that no fancy carried him away.


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