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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Betty went up the beautiful staircase


Betty could not refuse to look and be interested a little. How little, she did not show. The beauty of the old church, its venerable age, and the strange relics of the past in its monuments, did command some attention. Yet Betty grudged it; and went over the Halls and the Courts afterward with a half reluctant foot, hearing as if against her will all that Pitt was telling her and his mother about them. Oh, what did it matter, that one of Shakspeare's plays had been performed in the Middle Temple Hall during its author's lifetime? and what did it signify whether a given piece of architecture were Early English or Perpendicular Gothic? What did interest her, was to see how lively and warm was Pitt's knowledge and liking of all these things. Evidently he delighted in them and was full of information concerning them; and his interest did move Betty a little. It moved her to speculation also. Could this man be so earnest in his enjoyment of Norman arches and polished shafts and the effigies of old knights, and still hold to the views and principles he had avowed and advocated last year? Could he, who took such pleasure in the doings and records of the past, really mean to attach himself to another sort of life, with which the honours and dignities and delights of this common world have nothing to do?

The question recurred again afresh on their return home. As Betty entered the house, she was struck by the beauty of the carved oak staircase, and exclaimed

upon it.

'Yes,' said Pitt; 'that is the prettiest part of the house. It is said to be by Inigo Jones; but perhaps that cannot be proved.'

'Does it matter?' said Betty, laughing.

'Not to any real lover of it; but to the rest, you know, the name is the thing.'

'"Lover of it"!' said Betty. 'Can you love a staircase?'

Pitt laughed out; then he answered seriously.

'Don't you know that all that is good and true is in a way bound up together? it is one whole; and I take it to be certain that in proportion to anyone's love for spiritual and moral beauty will be, _coeteris paribus_, his appreciation of all expression of it, in nature or art.'

'_But_', said Betty, '"spiritual and moral beauty"! You do not mean that this oak staircase is an expression of either?'

'Of both, perhaps. At any rate, the things are very closely connected.'

'You are an enigma!' said Betty.

'I hope not always to remain so,' he answered.

Betty went up the beautiful staircase, noting as she went its beauties, from storey to storey. She had not noticed it before, although it really took up more room than was proportionate to the size of the house. What did Pitt mean by those last words? she was querying. And could it be possible that the owner of a house like this, with a property corresponding, would not be of the world and live in the world like other men? He must, Betty thought. It is all very well for people who have not the means to make a figure in society, to talk of isolating themselves from society. A man may give up a little; but when he has much, he holds on to it. But how was it with Pitt? She must try and find out.

She accordingly made an attempt that same evening, beginning with the staircase again.

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