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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Barker received her almost silently


Barker received her almost silently, but with gladness in every feature, and with a quantity of careful, tender ministrations, every one of which had the effect of a caress.

'How is papa? Has he missed me much?'

'The colonel is quite as usual, mum; and he didn't say to me as his feelin's were, but in course he's missed you. The house itself has missed you, Miss Esther.'

'Well, I am glad to be home for a bit, Barker,' said Esther, laughing.

'Surely, I know it must be fine for you to go to school, mum; but a holiday's a holiday; and I've got a nice pheasant for your supper, Miss Esther, and I hope as you'll enjoy it.'

'Thank you, Barker. Oh, anything will be good;' and she ran into the sitting-room to see her father.

The greetings here were quiet, too; the colonel was never otherwise, in manner. And then Esther gave a quick look round the room to see if all were as she wanted it to be.

'My dear,' said the colonel, gazing at her, 'I had no idea you were so tall!'

Esther laughed. I seem to have grown, oh, inches, in feeling, this week, papa. I don't wonder I look tall.'

'Never "wonder," my dear, at anything. Are you satisfied with your new position?'

justify;">'Very much, papa. Have you missed me?--badly, I mean?'

'There is no way of missing a person pleasantly, that I know,' said her father; 'unless it is a disagreeable person. Yes, I have missed you, Esther; but I am willing to miss you.'

This was not quite satisfactory to Esther's feeling; but her father's wonted way was somewhat dry and self-contained. The fact that this was an unwonted occasion might have made a difference, she thought; and was a little disappointed that it did not; but then, as the colonel went back to his book, she put off further discussions till supper-time, and ran away to see to some of the house arrangements which she had upon her heart. In these she was soon gaily busy; finding the work delightful after the long interval of purely mental action. She had done a good many things, she felt with pleasure, before she was called to tea. Then it was with new enjoyment that she found herself ministering to her father again; making his toast just as he liked it, pouring out his tea, and watching over his wants. The colonel seemed to take up things simply where she had left them; and was almost as silent as ever.

'Who has made your toast while I have been away, papa?' Esther asked, unable to-night to endure this silence.

'My toast? Oh, Barker, of course.'

'Did she make it right?'

'Right? My dear, I have given up expecting to have servants do somethings as they ought to be done. Toast is one of the things. They are outside of the limitations of the menial mind.'

'What is the reason, papa? Can't they be taught?'

'I don't know, my dear. I never have been able to teach them. They always think toast is done when it is brown, and the browner the better, I should say. Also it is beyond their comprehension that thickness makes a difference. There was an old soldier once I had under me in India; he was my servant; he was the only man I ever saw who could make a piece of toast.'

'What are some of the other things that cannot be taught, papa?'

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