A Red Wallflower

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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It is now a good many years ago that an English family came over from the old country and established itself in one of the small villages that are scattered along the shore of Connecticut. Why they came was not clearly understood, neither was it at all to be gathered from their way of life or business. Business properly they had none; and their way of life seemed one of placid contentment and unenterprising domestic pleasure. The head of the family was a retired army officer, now past the prime of his years; tall, thin, grey, and grave; but a gentleman through and through. Everybody liked Colonel Gainsborough, although nobody could account for a man of his age leading what seemed such a profitless life. He was doing really nothing; staying at home with his wife and his books. Why had he come to Connecticut at all? If he lived for pleasure, surely his own country would have been a better place to seek it. Nobody could solve this riddle. That Colonel Gainsborough had anything to be ashamed of, or anything to be afraid of, entered nobody's head for a moment. Fear or shame were unknown to that grave, calm, refined face. The whisper got about, how, it is impossible to say, that his leaving home had been occasioned by a disagreement with his relations. It might be so. No one could ask him, and the colonel never volunteered to still curiosity on the subject.

The family was small. Only a wife and one little girl came with the colonel to America; and they were attended by only two old retainers, a man and a woman. They hired no other servants after their arrival, which, however, struck nobody as an admission of scantness of means. According to the views and habits of the countryside, two people were quite enough to look after three; the man outside and the woman inside the house. Christopher Bounder took care of the garden and the cow, and cut and made the hay from one or two little fields. And Mrs. Barker, his sister, was a very capable woman indeed, and quite equal to the combined duties of housekeeper, cook, lady's maid, and housemaid, which she fulfilled to everybody's satisfaction, including her own. However, after two or three years in Seaforth these duties were somewhat lessened; the duties of Mrs. Barker's hands, that is, for her head had more to do. Mrs. Gainsborough, who had been delicate and failing for some time, at last died, leaving an almost inconsolable husband and daughter behind her. I might with truth say quite inconsolable; for at the time I speak of, a year later than Mrs. Gainsborough's death, certainly comfort had come to neither father nor daughter.

It was one morning in spring-time. Mrs. Barker stood at the door of her kitchen, and called to her brother to come in to breakfast. Christopher slowly obeyed the summons, leaving his spade stuck upright in the bed he was digging, and casting loving looks as he came at the budding gooseberry bushes. He was a typical Englishman; ruddy, fair-skinned, blue-eyed, of very solid build, and showing the national tendency to flesh....