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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

And at least appearing unmoved


The

third one kneeling there was moved differently. The fountain of her tears was not touched at all, neither had she any share in the passion of displeasure which filled the father and mother. Yet she was in a disturbance almost as complete as theirs. It was a bitter and secret trouble, which as a woman she had to keep to herself, over which her head bowed as she knelt there. Just for that minute she might bow her head and confess to her trouble, while no one could see; and her head, poor girl, went low. She did not in the least approve of Pitt's proceedings; she did not sympathize with his motives; at the same time they did not make her like him the less. On the contrary, and Betty felt it was on the contrary, she could not help admiring his bravery, and she was almost ready to worship his strength. Somebody brave enough to avow truth that is unwelcome, and strong enough to do what goes against the grain with himself; such a person is not to be met with every day, and usually excites the profound respect of his fellows, even when they do not like him. But Betty liked this one, and liked him the more for doing the things she disliked, and it drove her to the bounds of desperation to feel that in the engrossment of his new principles he was carried away from her, and out of her power. Added to all this was the extreme strangeness of the present experience. Absolutely kneeling round the dinner-table!--kneeling to pray! Betty had never known such a thing, nor conceived the possibility
of such a thing. In an unconsecrated place, led by unconsecrated lips, in words nowhere set down; what could equal the irregularity and the impropriety? The two women, in their weakness, kneeling, and the master of the house showing by his unmoved posture that he disallowed the whole thing! Incongruous! unfortunate! I am bound to say that Betty understood little of the words she so disapproved; the sea under a stormy wind is not more uneasy than was her spirit; and towards the end her one special thought and effort was bent upon quieting the commotion, and at least appearing unmoved. She was pretty safe, for the other members of the family had each enough to busy him without taking much note of her.

Pitt had but a day or two more to stay; and Miss Frere felt an irresistible impulse to force him into at least one talk more. She hardly knew what she expected, or what she wished from it; only, to let him go so, without one more word, was unbearable. She wanted to get nearer to him, if she could, if she might not bring him nearer to her; and at any rate she wanted the bitter-sweet pleasure of arguing with him. Nothing might come of it, but she must have the talk if she could. So she took the first chance that offered.

The family atmosphere was a little oppressive the next morning; and after breakfast Mr. and Mrs. Dallas both disappeared. Betty seized her opportunity, and reminded Pitt that he had never showed her his particular room, his old workshop and play place. 'It was not much to see,' he said; however, he took her through the house, and up the open flight of steps, where long ago Esther had been used to go for her lessons. The room looked much as it had done at that time; for during Pitt's stay at home he had pulled out one thing after another from its packing or hiding place; and now, mounted birds and animals, coins, shells, minerals, presses, engravings, drawings, and curiosities, made a delightful litter; delightful, for it was not disorderly; only gave one the feeling of a wealth of tastes and pursuits, every one of them pursued to enjoyment. Betty studied the place and the several objects in it with great and serious attention.

'And you understand all these things!' said she.

'So little, that I am ashamed to speak of it.'


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