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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

These are Lobelia erinus and Lobelia gracilis


'Oh, Pitt! Oh, Pitt!' was all Esther with bated breath could say. The colonel eyed the bouquet a moment and then turned to his book. He was on his sofa, and seemingly gave no further heed to the young people.

'Oh, Pitt, where _could_ you get these?' The girl's breath was almost taken away.

'Only one place where I could get them. Don't you know old Macpherson's greenhouse?'

'But he don't let people in, I thought, in winter?'

'He let _me_ in.'

'Oh, Pitt, how wonderful! What is this? Now you must tell me all the names. This beautiful white geranium with purple lines?'

'It's a _Pelargonium;_ belongs to the Geraniaceae; this one they call Mecranthon. It's a beauty, isn't it? This little white blossom is myrtle; don't you know myrtle?'

'And this geranium--this purple one?'

'That is Napoleon, and this Louise, and this Belle. This red magnificence is a _Metrosideros;_ this white flower, is--I forget its name; but _this_, this sweet one, is Daphne. Then here are two heaths; then this thick leaf is _Laurustinus_, and this other, with the red bud, _Camellia japonica_.'

'Oh, how perfectly beautiful!' exclaimed the delighted child. 'Oh, how perfectly beautiful! And this yellow flower?'

'_Coronilla_.'

'And this, is it a _red_ wallflower?'

'A red wallflower; you are right.'

'How lovely! and how sweet! And these blue?'

'These little blue flowers are _Lobelia;_ they are cousins of the cardinal flower; _that_ is _Lobelia cardinalis;_ these are _Lobelia erinus_ and _Lobelia gracilis_.'

He watched the girl, for under the surprise and pleasure of his gift her face was itself but a nobler flower, all glowing and flashing and fragrant. With eyes dewy with delight she hung over the bouquet, almost trembling in her eagerness of joy. She set the flowers carefully in a vase, with tender circumspection, lest a leaf might be wronged by chance crowding or inadvertent handling. Pitt watched and read it all. He felt a great compassion for Esther. This creature, full of life and sensibility, receptive to every influence, at twelve years old shut up to the company of a taciturn and melancholy father and an empty house! What would ever become of her? There was the colonel now, on the sofa, attending only to his book; caring nothing for what was so moving his child. Nobody cared, or was anywhere to sympathize with her. And if she grew up so, shut up to herself, every feeling and desire repressed for want of expression or of somebody to express it to, how would her nature ever develop? would it not grow stunted and poor, compared with what it might be? He was sorry for his little playmate and friend; and it did the young fellow credit, I think, for at his age boys are not wont to be tenderly sympathetic towards anything, unless it be a beloved mother or sister. Pitt silently watched the putting the flowers in water, speculating upon the very unhopeful condition of this little human plant, and revolving schemes in his mind.


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