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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

And Esther almost counted the hours


rest of the time they had him wholly to themselves, for Miss Frere was hindered by some domestic event from keeping her promise to Mrs. Dallas. She did not come. Pitt was glad of it; and, seeing they were now free from the danger of Esther, his father and mother were glad of it too. The days were untroubled by either fear or anxiety, while their son made the sunshine of the house for them; and when he went away he left them without a wish concerning him, but that they were going too. For it was to be another two years before he would come again.

The record of those same summer months in the house on the bank of the Hudson was somewhat different. Esther had her vacation too, which gave her opportunity to finish everything in the arrangements at home for which time had hitherto been lacking. The girl went softly round the house, putting a touch of grace and prettiness upon every room. It excited Mrs. Barker's honest admiration. Here it was a curtain; there it was a set of toilet furniture; in another place a fresh chintz cover; in a fourth, a rug that matched the carpet and hid an ugly darn in it. Esther made all these things and did all these things herself; they cost her father nothing, or next to nothing, and they did not even ask for Mrs. Barker's time, and they were little things, but the effect of them was not so. They gave the house that finished, comfortable, home-like air, which nothing does give but the graceful touch of a woman's fingers.

Mrs. Barker admired; the colonel did not see what was done; but Esther did not work for admiration. She was satisfying the demand of her own nature, which in all things she had to do with called for finish, fitness, and grace; her fingers were charmed fingers, because the soul that governed them had itself such a charm, and worked by its own standard, as a honey bee makes her cell. Indeed, the simile of the honey bee would fit in more points than one; for the cell of the little winged worker is not fuller of sweetness than the girl made all her own particular domicile. If the whole truth must be told, however, there was another thought stirring in her, as she hung her curtains and laid her rugs; a half recognised thought, which gave a zest to every additional touch of comfort or prettiness which she bestowed on the house. She thought Pitt would be there, and she wanted the impression made upon him to be the pleasantest possible. He would surely be there; he was coming home; he would never let the vacation go by without trying to find his old friends. It was a constant spring of pleasure to Esther, that secret hope. She said nothing about it; her father, she knew, did not care so much for Pitt Dallas as she did; but privately she counted the days and measured the time, and went into countless calculations for which she possessed no sufficient data. She knew that, yet she could not help calculating. The whole summer was sweetened and enlivened by these calculations, although indeed they were a little like some of those sweets which bite the tongue.

But the summer went by, as we know, and nothing was seen of the expected visitor. September came, and Esther almost counted the hours, waking up in the morning with a beat of the heart, thinking, to-day he may come! and lying down at night with a despairing sense that the time was slipping away, and her only consolation that there was some yet left. She said nothing about it; she watched the days of the vacation all out, and went to school again towards the end of the month with a heart very disappointed, and troubled besides by that feeling of unknown and therefore unreachable hindrances, which is so tormenting. Something the matter, and you do not know what and therefore you cannot act to mend matters. Esther was sadly disappointed. Three years now, and she had grown and he had changed,--must have changed,--and if the old friendship were at all to be preserved, the friends ought to see each other before the gap grew too wide, and before too many things rushed in to fill it which might work separation and not union. Esther's feelings were of the most innocent and childlike, but very warm. Pitt had been very good to her; he had been like an elder brother, and in that light she remembered him and wished for him. The fact that she was a child no longer did not change all this. Esther had lived alone with her father, and kept her simplicity.

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