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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

For Pitt was evidently in earnest


'What

for,' said Pitt, stopping her.

'I want to see if Mrs. Barker has anything in the house for lunch.'

'Sit down again. She certainly will. She always does.'

'But I want to let her know that there will be one more at table to-day.'

'Never mind. If the supplies fall short, I will go out and get some oysters. I know the colonel likes oysters. Sit still, and let us talk while we can.'

Esther sat down, a little wondering, for Pitt was evidently in earnest; too much in earnest to be denied. But when she had sat down he did not begin to talk. He was thinking; and words were not ready. It was Esther who spoke first.

'And you, Pitt? what are you going to do?'

It was the first time she had called him by his name in the old fashion. He acknowledged it with a pleased glance.

'Don't you know all about me?' he said.

'I know nothing, but what you have told me. And hearsay,' added Esther, colouring a little.

'Did your father not tell you?'

'Papa told me nothing.' And therewith it occurred to Esther how odd it was that her father should have been so reticent; that he should not have so much as informed her who his visitor

had been. And then it also occurred to her how he had desired not to be called down to see anybody that morning. Then it must be that he did not want to see Pitt? Had he taken a dislike to him? disapproved of his marriage, perhaps? And how would luncheon be under these circumstances? One thought succeeded another in growing confusion, but then Pitt began to talk, and she was obliged to attend to him.

'Then your father did not tell you that I have become a householder too?'

'I--no--yes! I heard something said about it,' Esther answered, stammering.

'He told you of my old uncle's death and gift to me?'

'No, nothing of that. What is it?'

Then Pitt began and gave her the whole story: of his life with his uncle, of Mr. Strahan's excellences and peculiarities, of his favour, his illness and death, and the property he had bequeathed intact to his grand-nephew. He described the house at Kensington, finding a singular pleasure in talking about it; for, as his imagination recalled the old chambers and halls, it constantly brought into them the sweet figure of the girl he was speaking to, and there was a play of light often, or a warm glow, or a sudden sparkle in his eyes, which Esther could not help noticing. Woman-like, she was acute enough also to interpret it rightly; only, to be sure, she never put _herself_ in the place of the person concerned, but gave all that secret homage to another. 'It is like Pitt!' she thought, with a suppressed sigh which she could not stop to criticize,--'it is like him; as much in earnest in love as in other things; always in earnest! It must be something to be loved so.' However, carrying on such aside reflections, she kept all the while her calm, sweet, dignified manner, which was bewitching Pitt, and entered with generous interest into all he told her; supplying in her own way what he did not tell, and on her part also peopling the halls and chambers at Kensington with two figures, neither of which was her own. Her imagination flew back to the party, a year ago, at which she had seen Betty Frere, and mixed up things recklessly. How would _she_ fit into this new life of Pitt, of which he had been speaking a little while ago? Had she changed too, perhaps? It was to be hoped!


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