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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

'Take my lace mender for an example


'But

those contrasts must be, Mr. Dallas.'

'Must they? Is not something wrong, do you think, when the Duke of Trefoil eats strawberries all the year long, and my lace-mender, in the height of the season, perhaps never sees one?--when the duchess sits in her bower of beauty, with the violets under her feet and the palms over her head, and the poor in her husband's houses cannot get a flower to remind them that all the world is not like a London alley? Does not something within you say that the scales of the social balance might be a little more evenly adjusted?'

'How are you going to do it?'

'If you do not feel that,' Pitt went on, 'I am afraid that some of the lower classes do. I said I did not know whether the contrast struck the people that night, but I do know it did. I heard words and saw looks that betrayed it. And when the day comes that the poor will know more and begin to think about these things, I am afraid there will be trouble.'

'But what can you do?'

'That is exactly what I was going to ask you,' said Pitt, changing his tone and with a genial smile. 'Take my lace-mender for an example. These things must be handled in detail, if at all. She is bitter in the feeling of wrong done her somewhere, bitter to hatred; what can, not you, but I, do for her, to help her out of it?'

'I

should say that is the Duke of Trefoil's business.'

'I leave his business to him. What is mine?'

'You have done something already, I can see, for she makes an exception of you.'

'I have not done much,' said Pitt gravely. 'What do you think it was? Her boy was ill; he had met with an accident, and was a thin, pale, wasted-looking child when I first saw them. I took him a rosebush, in full flower.'

'Were they so glad of it?'

Pitt was silent a minute.

'It was about as much as I could stand, to see it. Then I got the child some things that he could eat. He is well now; as well as he ever will be.'

'I did not see the rosebush.'

'Ah, it did not live. Nothing could there.'

'Well, Mr. Pitt, haven't you done your part, as far as this case is concerned?'

'Have I? Would _you_ stop with that?'

Betty sat very quiet, but internally fidgeted. What did Pitt ask her these questions for? Why had he taken her on this expedition? She wished she had not gone; she wished she had not come to England; and yet she would not be anywhere else at this moment but where she was, for any possible consideration. She wished Pitt would be different, and not fill his head with lace-menders and London alleys; and yet--even so--things might be worse. Suppose Pitt had devoted his energies to gambling, and absorbed all his interests in hunters and racers. Betty had known that sort of thing; and now summarily concluded that men must make themselves troublesome in one way or another. But this particular turn this man had taken did seem to set him so far off from her!

'What would you do, Mr. Pitt?' she said, with a somewhat weary cadence in her voice which he could not interpret.

'Look at it, and tell me, from your standpoint.'

'If you took that woman out of those lodgings, there would come somebody else into them, and you might begin the whole thing over again. In that way the Duke of Trefoil might give you enough to do for a lifetime.'


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