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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Though Pitt was not within hearing


She

came upon Betty one day in the verandah, just after Pitt had left her. The young lady was sitting with her hand between the leaves of a Bible, and a disturbed, far-away look in her eyes, which might have been the questioning of a troubled conscience, or--of a very different feeling. She roused up as Mrs. Dallas came to her, and put on a somewhat wan smile.

'Where is Pitt?'

'Going to ride somewhere, I believe.'

'What have you got there? the Bible again? I don't believe in all this Bible reading! Can't you get him off it?'

'It is the only thing to do now.'

'But cannot you get him off it?'

'Not immediately. Mr. Dallas takes a fancy hard.'

'So unlike him!' the mother went on. 'So unlike all he used to be. He always took things "hard," as you say; but then it used to be science and study of history, and collecting of natural curiosities, and drawing. Have you seen any of Pitt's drawings? He has a genius for that. Indeed, I think he has a genius for everything,' Mrs. Dallas said with a sigh; 'and he used to be keen for distinguishing himself, and he did distinguish himself everywhere, always; here at school and at college, and then at Oxford. My dear, he distinguished himself at _Oxford_. He was always a good boy, but not in the least foolish,

or superstitious, or the least inclined to be fanatical. And now, as far as I can make out, he is for giving up everything!'

'He does nothing by halves.'

'No; but it is very hard, now when he is just reading law and getting ready to take his place in the world--and he would take no mean place in the world, Betty--it is hard! Why, he talks as if he would throw everything up. I never would have thought it of Pitt, of all people. It is due, I am convinced, to the influence of those dissenting friends of his!'

'Who are they?' Miss Betty asked curiously.

'You have heard the name,' said Mrs. Dallas, lowering her voice, though Pitt was not within hearing. 'They used to live here. It was a Colonel Gainsborough--English, but of a dissenting persuasion. That kind of thing seems to be infectious.'

'He must have been a remarkable man, if his influence could begin so early and last so long.'

'Well, it was not just that only. There was a daughter'--

'And a love affair?' asked Miss Betty, with a slight laugh which covered a sudden down-sinking of her heart.

'Oh dear no! she was a child; there was no thought of such a thing. But Pitt was fond of her, and used to go roaming about the fields with her after flowers. My son is a botanist; I don't know if you have found it out.'

'And those were the people he went to New York to seek?'

'Yes, and could not find--most happily.'


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