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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

''Said he must see Esther Gainsborough first


'_I_

think Pitt was taken with her,' she said to her husband, as one seeks to strengthen a faint belief by putting it into words.

'He is taken with nothing but his own obstinacy!' growled Mr. Dallas.

'His obstinacy never troubled you,' said the mother. 'Pitt was always like that, but never for anything bad.'

'It's for something foolish, then; and that will do as well.'

'Did you sound him?'

'Yes!'

'And what did he say?'

'Said he must see Esther Gainsborough first, confound him!'

'Esther Gainsborough! But he tried and could not find them.'

'He will try on the other side now. He'll waste his time running all over England to discover the family place; and then he will know that there is more looking to be done in America.'

'And he talked of coming over next year! Husband, he must not come. We must go over there.'

'Next summer. Yes, that is the only thing to do.'

'And we will take Betty Frere along with us.'

Mrs. Dallas said nothing of this scheme at present to the young lady, though it comforted herself. Perhaps it would have comforted Betty

too, whose hopes rested on the very faint possibility of another summer's gathering at Seaforth. That was a very doubtful possibility; the hope built upon it was vaporously unsubstantial. She debated with herself whether the best thing were not to take the first passable offer that should present itself, marry and settle down, and so deprive herself of the power of thinking about Pitt, and him of the fancy that she ever had thought about him. Poor girl, she had verified the truth of the word which speaks about going on hot coals; she had burned her feet. She had never done it before; she had played with a dozen men at different times, allowed them to come near enough to be looked at; dallied with them, discussed, and rejected, successively, without her own heart ever even coming in danger; as to danger to their's, that indeed had not been taken into consideration, or had not excited any scruple. Now, now, the fire bit her, and she could not stifle it; and a grave doubt came over her whether even that expedient of marriage might be found able to stifle it. She went away from Seaforth a few days after Pitt's departure, a sadder woman than she had come to it, though, I fear, scarce a wiser.

On her way to Washington she tarried a few days in New York; and there it chanced that she had a meeting which, in the young lady's then state of mind, had a tremendous interest for her.

Society in New York at that day was very little like society there now. Even granting that the same principles of human nature underlay its developments, the developments were different. Small companies, even of fashionable people, could come together for an evening; dancing, although loved and practised, did not quite exclude conversation; supper was a far less magnificent affair; and fashion itself was much more necessarily and universally dependent on the accessories of birth, breeding, and education, than is the case at present. It was known who everybody was; parvenus were few; and there was still a flavour left of old-world traditions and colonial antecedents. So, when Miss Frere was invited to one of the best houses in the city to spend the evening, she was not surprised to find only a moderate little company assembled, and dresses and appointments on an easy and unostentatious footing, which now is nearly unheard of. There was elegance enough, however, both in the dresses and persons of many of those present; and Betty was quite in her element, finding herself as usual surrounded by attentive and admiring eyes, and able to indulge her love of conversation; for this young lady liked talking better than dancing. Indeed, there was no dancing in the early part of the evening; it was rather a musical company, and Betty's favourite amusement was often interrupted; for the music was too good, and the people present too well-bred, to allow of that jumble of sounds musical and unmusical which is so distressing, and alas! not so rare.


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