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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

He was there at Charing Cross with me

'They didn't write nonsense, my dear madam; and Byron does.'


'Worse than nonsense.'

'Won't do to enquire too strictly into what the old Greeks and Romans wrote, if folks say true,' remarked Mr. Dallas slyly.

'In the dead languages it won't do a young man so much harm,' said the colonel. 'I hope William will give himself now to his Greek, since you have afforded him such opportunity.'

Mrs. Dallas's air, as she rose to take leave, was inimitably expressive of proud confidence and rejection of the question. Mr. Dallas laughed carelessly and said, as he shook the colonel's hand, 'No fear!'

The next news they had came direct. Another letter from Pitt to the colonel; and, as before, it enclosed one for Esther. Esther ran away again to have the first reading and indulge herself in the first impressions of it alone and free from question or observation. She even locked her door. This letter was written from London, and dated May 1814.

'MY DEAR QUEEN ESTHER,--I wish you were here, for we certainly would have some famous walks together. Do you know, I am in London? and that means, in one of the most wonderful places in the world. You can have no idea what sort of a place it is, and no words I can write will tell you. I have not got over my own sense of astonishment and admiration yet; indeed it is growing, not lessening; and every time I go out I come home more bewildered with what I have seen. Do you ask me why? In the first place, because it is so big. Next, because of the unimaginable throng of human beings of every grade and variety. Such a multitude of human lives crossing each other in an intraceable and interminable network; intraceable to the human eye, but what a sight it must be to the eye that sees all! All these people, so many hundreds of thousands, acting and reacting upon one another's happiness, prosperity, goodness, and badness. Now at such a place as Seaforth people are left a good deal to their individuality, and are comparatively independent of one another; but here I feel what a pressure and bondage men's lives draw round each other. It makes me catch my breath. You will not care about this, however, nor be able to understand me.

'But another thing you would care for, and delight in; and that is the historical associations of London. Queen Esther, it is delightful! You and I have looked at coins and read books together, and looked at history so; but here I seem to touch it. I have been to-day to Charing Cross, standing and wandering about, and wondering at the things that have happened there. Ask your father to tell you about Charing Cross. I could hardly come away. If you ask me how _I_ know so well what happened there, I will tell you. I have found an old uncle here. You knew I had one? He lives just a little out of London, or out of the thick of London, in a place that is called Kensington; in a queer old house, which, however, I like very much, and that is filled with curiosities. It is in a pleasant situation, not far from one of the public parks,--though it is not called a park, but "Garden,"--and with one or two palaces and a number of noble mansions about it. My uncle received me very hospitably, and would have me come and make my home with him while I am in London. That is nice for me, and in many ways. He is a character, this old uncle of mine; something of an antiquary, a good deal of a hermit, a little eccentric, but stuffed with local knowledge, and indeed with knowledge of many sorts. I think he has taken a fancy to me somehow, Queen Esther; at any rate, he is very kind. He seems to like to go about with me and show me London, and explain to me what London is. He was there at Charing Cross with me, holding forth on history and politics--he's a great Tory; ask the colonel what that is; and really I seemed to see the ages rolling before me as he talked, and I looked at Northumberland House and at the brazen statue of Charles I. If I had time I would tell you about them, as Mr. Strahan told me. And yesterday I was in the House of Commons, and heard some great talking; and to-morrow we are going to the Tower. I think, if you were only here to go too, we should have a first-rate sort of a time. But I will try and tell you about it.

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