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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Dallas stroking unmoveably his long whiskers


'A

dissenter!' echoed Pitt in unfeigned astonishment. 'What is a "dissenter," here in the new country?'

'Very much the same thing that he is in the old country, I suspect.'

'And what is that, sir?'

'Humph!--well, don't you know? Narrow, underbred, and pig-headed, and with that, disgustingly radical. That is what it means to be a dissenter; always did mean.'

'Underbred! You cannot find, old country or new country, a better-bred man than Colonel Gainsborough; and Esther is perfect in her manners.'

'I haven't tried _her_,' said the other; 'but isn't he pig-headed? And isn't he radical, think you? They all are; they always were, from the days of Cromwell and Ireton.'

'But the child?--Esther knows nothing of politics.'

'It's in the blood,' said Mr. Dallas stroking unmoveably his long whiskers. 'It's in the blood. I'll have no dissenters in my house. It is fixed in the blood, and will not wash out.'

'I don't believe she knows what a dissenter means.'

'Your father is quite right,' put in Mrs. Dallas. 'I should not like a dissenter in my family. I should not know how to get on with her. In chance social intercourse it does not so much matter--though I feel the difference even there;

but in the family-- It is always best for like to keep to like.'

'But these are only differences of form, mother.'

'Do you think so?' said Mrs. Dallas, drawing up her handsome person. 'I believe in form, Pitt, for my part; and when you get to England you will find that it is only the nobodies who dispense with it. But the Church is more than form, I should think. You'll find the Archbishop of Canterbury is something besides a form. And is our Liturgy a form?'

Pitt escaped from the discussion, half angry and half amused, but seriously concerned about Esther. And meanwhile Esther was having her own thoughts. She had come home from her blackberrying late, after Pitt had gone home; and a little further on in the afternoon she had followed him, to get her daily lesson. As the weather was warm all windows were standing open; and the talkers within the house, being somewhat eager and preoccupied in their minds, did not moderate their voices nor pay any attention to what might be going on outside; and so it happened that Esther's light step was not heard as it came past the windows; and it followed very easily that one or two half sentences came to her ear. She heard her own name, which drew her attention, and then Mr. Dallas's declaration that he would have no dissenters in his house. Esther paused, not certainly to listen, but with a sudden check arising from something in the tone of the words. As she stood still in doubt whether to go forward or not, a word or two more were spoken and also heard; and with that Esther turned short about, left all thought of her lesson, and made her way home; walking rather faster than she had come.

She laid off her hat, went into the room where her father was, and sat down in the window with a book.

'Home again, Esther?' said he. 'You have not been long away.'


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