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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Or how Miss Fairbairn could help it either


Going

to school might have damaged the simplicity, but somehow it did not. Several reasons prevented. For one thing, she made no intimate friends. She was kind to everybody, nobody was taken into her confidence. Her nature was apart from theirs; one of those rare and few whose fate it is for the most part to stand alone in the world; too fine for the coarseness, too delicate for the rudeness, too noble for the pettiness of those around them, even though they be not more coarse or rude or small-minded than the generality of mankind. Sympathy is broken, and full communion impossible. It is the penalty of eminence to put its possessor apart. I have seen a lily stand so in a bed of other flowers; a perfect specimen; in form and colouring and grace of carriage distinguished by a faultless beauty; carrying its elegant head a little bent, modest, but yet lofty above all the rest of the flower bed. Not with the loftiness of inches, however, for it was of lower stature than many around it; the elevation of which I speak was moral and spiritual. And so it was alone. The rest of the flowers were more or less fellows; this one in its apart elegance owned no social communion with them. Esther was a little like that among her school friends; and though invariably gracious and pleasant in her manners, she was instinctively felt to be different from the rest. Only Esther was a white lily; the one I tried to describe, or did not try to describe, was a red one.

Besides

this element of separateness, Esther was very much absorbed in her work. Not seeking, like most of the others, to pass a good examination, but studying in the love of learning, and with a far-off ideal of attainment in her mind with which she hoped one day to meet Pitt, and satisfy if not equal him. I think she hardly knew this motive at work; however, it _was_ at work, and a powerful motive too.

And lastly, Esther was a 'favourite.' No help for it; she was certainly a favourite, the girls pronounced, and some of them had the candour to add that they did not see how she could help it, or how Miss Fairbairn could help it either.

'Girls, she has every right to be a favourite,' one of them set forth.

'Nobody has a right to be a favourite!' was the counter cry.

'But think, she never does anything wrong.'

'Stupid!'

'Well, she never breaks rules, does she?'

'No.'

'And she always has her lessons perfect as perfect can be.'

'So do some other people.'

'And her drawings are capital.'

'That's her nature; she has a talent for drawing; she cannot help it. She just _cannot help_ it, Sarah Simpson. That's no credit.'

'Then she is the best Bible scholar in the house, except Miss Fairbairn herself.'

'Ah! There you've got it. That's just it. She is one of Miss Fairbairn's kind. But everybody can't be like that!' cried the objector. 'I, for instance. I don't care so much for the Bible, you see; and _you_ don't if you'll tell the truth; and most of us don't. It's an awful bore, that's what it is, all this eternal Bible work! and I don't think it's fair. It isn't what _I_ came here for, I know. My father didn't think he was sending me to a Sunday school.'


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