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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

'A good deal of aplomb there


The

music ceased and the singer rose. Nobody proposed that she should sing again.

'What do you think of the good taste of that?' one of Betty's cavaliers asked her softly.

'Oh, don't talk about good taste! Who is she?'

'I--really, I don't know--I believe somebody said she was a teacher somewhere. She has tried her hand on us, hasn't she?'

'A teacher!' Betty repeated the word, but gave no attention to the question. She was looking across the room at the musician, who was standing by the piano talking with a gentleman. The apartment was not so large but that she could see plainly, while it was large enough to save her from the charge of ill-bred staring. She saw a moderately tall figure, as straight as an Indian, with the head exquisitely set on the shoulders, the head itself covered with an abundance of pale brown hair, disposed at the back in a manner of careless grace which reminded Betty of a head of Sappho on an old gem in her possession. The face she could not see quite so well, for it was partly turned from her; Betty's attention centred on the figure and carriage. A pang of jealous rivalry shot through her as she looked. There was not a person in the room that carried her head so nobly, nor whose pose was so stately and graceful; yet, stately as it was, it had no air of proud self-consciousness, nor of pride at all; it was not that; it was

simple, maidenly dignity, not dignity aped. Betty read so much, and rapidly read what else she could see. She saw that the figure she was admiring was dressed but indifferently; the black silk had certainly seen its best days, if it was not exactly shabby; no ornaments whatever were worn with it. The fashion of garments at that day was, as I have remarked, very trying to any but a good figure, while it certainly showed such a one to advantage. Betty knew her own figure could bear comparison with most; the one she was looking at would bear comparison with any. Miss Gainsborough was standing in the most absolute quiet, the arms crossed over one another, with no ornament but their whiteness.

'A good deal of _aplomb_ there?' whispered one of Betty's attendants, who saw whither her eyes had gone.

'_Aplomb!_' repeated Betty. 'That is not _aplomb!_'

'Isn't it? Why not?'

'It is something else,' said Betty, eyeing still the figure she was commenting on. 'You don't speak of _balance_ unless--how shall I put it? Don't you know what I mean?'

'No!' laughed her companion.

'You might save me the trouble of telling you, if you were clever. You know you do not speak of "balance," except--well, except where either the footing or the feet are somehow doubtful. You would not think of "balance" as belonging to a mountain.'

'A mountain!' said the other, looking over at Esther, and still laughing.

'Yes; I grant you there is not much in common between the two things; only that element of undisturbableness. Do you know Miss Gainsborough?'

'I have not the honour. I have never met her before.'

'I must know her. Who can introduce me?' And finding her hostess at this moment near her, Betty went on: 'Dear Mrs. Chatsworth, do take me over and introduce me to Miss Gainsborough! I am filled with admiration and curiosity. But first, who is she?'


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