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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

George's Church was in Beekman Street


Pitt had been walking the streets for days, and was weary of watching the various feminine craft which sailed up and down in them. None of them were like the one he was looking for, neither could he see anything that looked like the colonel's straight slim figure and soldierly bearing. He was weary, but he persevered. A man in his position was not open to the charge of looking for a needle in a haystack, such as would now be justly brought to him. New York was not quite so large then as it is now. It is astonishing to think what a little place it was in those days; when Walker Street was not yet built on its north side, and there was a pond at the corner of Canal Street, and Chelsea was in the country; when the 'West End' was at State Street, and St. George's Church was in Beekman Street, and Beekman Street was a place of fashion. The city was neither so dingy nor so splendid as it is now, and the bright sun of our climate was pouring all the gold it could upon its roofs and pavements, those September days when Pitt was trying to be everywhere and to see everything.

One of those sunny, golden days he was sauntering as usual down Broadway, enjoying the clear aether which was troubled by neither smoke nor cloud. Sauntering along carelessly, yet never for a moment forgetting his aim, when his eye was caught by a figure which came up out of a side street and turned into Broadway just before him. Pitt had but a cursory glance at the face, but it was enough to make him follow the owner of it. He walked behind her at a little distance, scrutinizing the figure. It was not like what he remembered Esther. He had said to himself, of course, that Esther must be grown up before now; nevertheless, the image in his mind was of Esther as he had known her, a well-grown girl of thirteen or fourteen. This was no such figure. It was of fair medium height, or rather more. The dress was as plain as possible, yet evidently that of a lady, and as unmistakeable was the carriage. Perhaps it was that more than anything which fixed Pitt's attention; the erect, supple figure, the easy, gliding motion, and the set of the head. For among all the multitude that walk, a truly beautiful walk is a very rare thing, and so is a truly fine carriage. Pitt could not take his eye from this figure. A few swift strides brought him near her, and he followed, watching; balancing hopes and doubts. That was not Esther as he remembered her; but then years had gone by; and was not that set of the head on the shoulders precisely Esther's? He was meditating how he could get another sight of her face, when she suddenly turned and ran up a flight of steps and went in at a door, without ever giving him the chance he wanted. She had a little portfolio under her arm, like a teacher, and she paused to speak to the servant who opened the door to her; Pitt judged that it was not her own house. The lady was probably a teacher. Esther could not be a teacher. But at any rate he would wait and get another sight of her. If she went in, she would probably come out again.

But Pitt had a tiresome waiting of an hour. He strolled up and down or stood still leaning against a railing, never losing that door out of his range of vision. The hour seemed three; however, at the end of it the lady did come out again, but just when he was at his farthest, and she turned and went up the street again the way she had come, walking with a quick step. Pitt followed. Where she had turned into Broadway she turned out of it, and went down an unattractive side street; passing from that into another and another, less and less promising with every corner she turned, till she entered the one which we know was not at all eligible where Colonel Gainsborough lived. Pitt's hopes had been gradually falling, and now when the quarry disappeared from his sight in one of the little humble houses which filled the street, he for a moment stood still. Could she be living here? He would have thought she had come merely to visit some poor protege, but that she had certainly seemed to take a latch-key from her pocket and let herself in with it. Pitt reviewed the place, waited a few minutes, and then went up himself the few steps which led to that door, and knocked. Bell there was none. People who had bells to their doors did not live in that street.


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