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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

If Colonel Gainsborough should die


'How's

your friend the colonel to-day?' his father asked, willing to make sure where his son had been.

'He thinks he is dying,' Pitt answered, in no very good humour.

'He has been thinking that for the last two years.'

'Do you suppose there is anything in it?'

'Nothing but megrims. He's hipped, that's all. If he had some work to do--that he _must_ do, I mean--it's my belief he would be a well man to-day; and know it, too.'

'He honestly thinks he's dying. Slowly, of course, but surely.'

'Pity he ever left the army,' said Mrs. Dallas. 'He is one of those men who don't bear to be idle.'

'That's all humankind!' said her husband. 'Nobody bears to be idle. Can't do it without running down.'

'Still,' said Pitt thoughtfully, 'you cannot tell. A man ought to be the best judge of his own feelings; and perhaps Colonel Gainsborough is ill, as he says.'

'What are you going to do about it?' said his father with a half sneer.

'Nothing; only, _if_ he should turn out to be right,--if he should die within a year or two, what would become of his little daughter?'

Mr. and Mrs. Dallas exchanged a scarcely perceptible glance.

style="text-align: justify;">'Send her home to his family,' answered the former.

'Has he a family in England?'

'So he says. I judge, not a small one.'

'Not parents living, has he?'

'I believe not; but there are Gainsboroughs enough without that.'

'What ever made him come over here?'

'Some property quarrel, I gather, though the colonel never told me in so many words.'

'Then he might not like to send Esther to them. Property quarrels are embittering.'

'Do you know any sort of quarrel that isn't? It is impossible to say beforehand what Colonel Gainsborough might like to do. He's a fidgety man. If there's a thing I hate, in the human line, it's a fidget. You can't reason with 'em.'

'Then what would become of that child, mother, if her father were really to die?'

Pitt spoke now with a little anxiety; but Mrs. Dallas answered coolly.

'He would make the necessary arrangements.'

'But they have no friends here, and no relations. It would be dreadfully forlorn for her. Mother, if Colonel Gainsborough _should_ die, wouldn't it be kind if you were to take her?'

'Too kind,' said Mr. Dallas. 'There is such a thing as being too kind, Pitt. Did you never hear of it?'

'I do not comprehend, sir. What objection could there be? The child is not a common child; she is one that anybody might like to have in the house. I should think you and my mother might enjoy it very much, especially with me away.'

'Especially,' said the elder man drily. 'Well, Pitt, perhaps you are right; but for me there is this serious objection, that she is a dissenter.'


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