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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Which touched Pitt again curiously


'_Why_

should you not see much more of me?' Pitt demanded energetically.

'You would be going away.'

'And coming back again!'

'But going to England, perhaps.'

'Who said that?'

'I don't know. I think Mrs. Dallas told papa.'

'Well, now look here, Queen Esther,' Pitt said, more moderately: 'I told you, in the first place, you are not to judge by appearances. Do you see that you have been mistaken in judging me?'

She looked at him, a look that moved him a good deal, there was so much wistfulness in it; so much desire revealed to find him what she had found him in times past, along with the dawning hope that she might.

'Yes,' said he, nodding, 'you have been mistaken, and I did not expect it of you, Queen Esther. I don't think I am changeable; but anyhow, I haven't changed towards you. I have but just got home this evening; and I ran away from home and my mother as soon as we had done supper, that I might come and see you.'

Esther smiled: she was pleased, he saw.

'And in the next place, as to that crotchet of your not seeing much more of me, I can't imagine how it ever got up; but it isn't true, anyhow. I expect you'll see an immense deal of me.

I may go some time to England; about that I can't tell; but if I go, I shall come back again, supposing I am alive. And now, do you see that it would be very foolish of you to try to get accustomed to doing without me? for I shall not let you do it.'

'I don't want to do it,' said Esther confidingly; 'for you know I have nobody else except you and papa.'

'What put such an absurd notion in your head! You a Stoic, Queen Esther! You look like it!'

'What is a Stoic?'

'The sort of people that bite a nail in two, and smile as if it were a stick of peppermint candy.'

'I didn't know there were any such people.'

'No, naturally. So it won't do for you to try to imitate them.'

'But I was not trying anything like that.'

'What were you trying to do, then?'

Esther hesitated.

'I thought--I must do without you; and so--I thought I had better not think about you.'

'Did you succeed?'

'Not very well. But--I suppose I could, in time.'

'See you don't! What do you think in that case _I_ should do?'

'Oh, you!' said Esther; 'that is different. I thought you would not care.'

'Did you! You did me honour. Now, Queen Esther, let us understand this matter. I do care, and I am going to care, and I shall always care. Do you believe it?'

'I always believe what you say,' said the girl, with a happy change in her face, which touched Pitt again curiously. Somehow, the contrast between his own strong, varied, rich, and active life, with its abundance of resources and enjoyments, careless and satisfied,--and this little girl alone at home with her cranky father, and no variety or change or outlook or help, struck him painfully. It would hardly have struck most young men; but Pitt, with all his rollicking waywardness and self-pleasing, had a fine fibre in him which could feel things. Then Esther's nature, he knew, was one rich in possibilities; to which life was likely to bring great joy or great sorrow; more probably both.


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