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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Then almost started as Pitt gave her a chair


The

rest of the party were gathered in the library, and this room finished Betty's enchantment. It was a well-sized room, the largest in the house, on the second floor; and all the properties that made the house generally interesting were gathered and culminated here. Dark wainscotting, dark bookcases, and dark books, gave it an aspect that might have been gloomy, yet was not so; perhaps because of the many other objects in the room, which gave points of light or bits of colour. What they were, Betty could only find out by degrees; she saw at once, in general, that this must have been a favourite place of the late owner, and that here he had collected a special assemblage of the things that pleased him best. A table at one side must have been made, she thought, about the same time with her chamber furniture, and by the same hand. The floor was dark and polished, and on it lay here and there bits of soft carpeting, which were well worn. Betty advanced slowly to the corner where the party were siting, taking in the effect of all this; then almost started as Pitt gave her a chair, to see in the corner just beyond the group a stuffed bear showing his teeth at her.

The father and mother had been talking about various matters at home, and the talk went on. Betty presently left them, and began to examine the sides of the room. She studied the bear, which was in an upright position, resting one paw on a stick, while the other supported a lamp. From the bear

her eyes passed on to a fire-screen, which stood before the empty chimney, and then she went to look at it nearer by. It was a most exquisite thing. Two great panes of plate glass were so set in a frame that a space of some three or four inches separated them. In this space, in every variety of position, were suspended on invisible wires some twenty humming birds, of different kinds; and whether the light fell upon this screen in front or came through it from behind, the display was in either case most beautiful and novel. Betty at last wandered to the chimney-piece, and went no farther for a good while; studying the rich carving and the coat of arms which was both sculptured and painted in the midst of it. By and by she found that Pitt was beside her.

'Mr. Strahan's?' she asked.

'No; they belonged to a former possessor of the house. It came into my uncle's family by the marriage of his father.'

'It is very old?'

'Pretty old; that is, what in America we would call so. It reaches back to the time of the Stuarts. Really that is not so long ago as it seems.'

'It is worth while to be old, if it gives one such a chimney-piece as that. But I should not like another man's arms in it, if I were you.'

'Why not?'

'I don't know--I believe it diminishes the sense of possession.'

'A good thing, then,' said Pitt. 'Do you remember that "they that have" are told to be "as though they possessed not"?'

'How can they?' answered Betty, looking at him.

'You know the words?'

'I seem to have read them--I suppose I have.'

'Then there must be some way of making them true.'


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