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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

'Pitt got out of his greatcoat and gloves


'What

now?'

'Just what I told you. He's off to see that child. Off like the North wind!--and no more to be held.'

'That's nothing new. He never could be held. Pity we didn't name him Boreas.'

'But do you see what he is doing?'

'No.'

'He is off to see that child.'

'That child to-day, and another to-morrow. He's a boy yet.'

'Hildebrand, I tell you there is danger.'

'Danger of what?'

'Of what you would not like.'

'My dear, young men do not fall dangerously in love with children. And that little girl is a child yet.'

'You forget how soon she will be not a child. And she is going to be a very remarkable-looking girl, I can tell you. And you must not forget another thing, husband; that Pitt is as persistent as he is wilful.'

'He's got a head, I think,' said Mr. Dallas, stroking his whiskers thoughtfully.

'_That_ won't save him. It never saved anybody. Men with heads are just as much fools, in certain circumstances, as men without them.'

'He might fancy some other child in England, if we sent him there, you know.'

style="text-align: justify;">'Yes; but at least she would be a Churchwoman,' said Mrs. Dallas, with her handsome face all cloudy and disturbed.

Meanwhile her son had rushed along the village street, or road rather, through the cold and darkness, the quarter of a mile to Colonel Gainsborough's house. There he was told that the colonel had a bad headache and was already gone to his room.

'Is Miss Esther up?'

'Oh yes, sir,' said Mrs. Barker doubtfully, but she did not invite the visitor in.

'Can I see her for a moment?'

'I haven't no orders, but I suppose you can come in, Mr. Dallas. It is Mr. Dallas, ain't it?'

'Yes, it's I, Mrs. Barker,' said Pitt, coming in and beginning at once to throw off his greatcoat. 'In the usual room? Is the colonel less well than common?'

'Well, no, sir, not to call less well, as I knows on. It's the time o' year, sir, I make bold to imagine. He has a headache bad, that he has, and he's gone off to bed; but Miss Esther's well--so as she can be.'

Pitt got out of his greatcoat and gloves, and waited for no more. He had a certain vague expectation of the delight his appearance would give, and was a little eager to see it. So he went in with a bright face to surprise Esther.

The girl was sitting by the table reading a book she had laid close under the lamp; reading with a very grave face, Pitt saw too, and it a little sobered the brightness of his own. It was not the dulness of stagnation or of sorrow this time; at least Esther was certainly busily reading; but it was sober, steady business, not the absorption of happy interest or excitement. She looked up carelessly as the door opened, then half incredulously as she saw the entering figure, then she shut her book and rose to meet him. But then she did not show the lively pleasure he had expected; her face flushed a little, she hardly smiled, she met him as if he were more or less a stranger,--with much more dignity and less eagerness than he was accustomed to from her. Pitt was astonished, and piqued, and curious. However, he followed her lead, in a measure.


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