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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Colonel Gainsborough missed nobody any more

the facts of the case; only

many girls at seventeen would not have found it out. She was in school and in the midst of numbers for five and a half days in the week; yet even there, as has been explained, she was in a degree solitary; and both in school and at home Esther knew the fact. At home the loneliness was intensified. Colonel Gainsborough was always busy with his books; even at meal times he hardly came out of them; and never, either at Seaforth or here, had he made himself the companion of his daughter. He desired to know how she stood in her school, and kept himself informed of what she was doing; what she might be _feeling_ he never inquired. It was all right, he thought; everything was going right, except that he was such an invalid and so left to himself. If asked by _whom_ he was left to himself, he would have said, by his family and his country and the world generally. His family and his country might probably have charged that the neglect was mutual, and the world at large could hardly be blamed for not taking up the old soldier whom it did not know, and making much of him. The care which was failing from all three he got from his daughter in full measure, but she got little from him. It was not strange that her thoughts went fondly to Pitt, who _had_ taken care of her and helped her and been good to her. Was it all over? and no more such kindly ministry and delightful sympathy to be ever hoped for any more? Had Pitt forgotten her? It gave Esther pain, that nobody guessed, to be obliged to
moot this question; and it busied her a good deal. Sometimes her thoughts went longingly back beyond Pitt Dallas to another face that had always been loving to her; soft eyes and a tender hand that were ever sure to bring sympathy and help. She could not much bear to think of it. _That_ was all gone, and could not be called back again; was her one other earthly friend gone too? Pitt had been so good to her! and such a delightful teacher and helper and confidant. She thought it strange that her father did not miss him; but after the one great loss of his life, Colonel Gainsborough missed nobody any more.



One afternoon in the end of October, Esther, who had just come home from school was laid hold of by Mrs. Barker with a face of grave calculation.

'Miss Esther, will ye approve that I send Christopher over to that market woman's to get a head o' lettuce for the colonel's supper? There's nought in the house but a bit o' cold green tongue, savin', of course, the morrow's dinner. I thought he might fancy a salad.'

'Tongue?' said Esther. 'Haven't you a quail, or a sweetbread, or something of that sort?'

'I haven't it, Miss Esther; and that's the truth.'

'Forgotten?' said Esther, smiling.

'Mum, I couldn't forget the likes o' that,' Barker said solemnly. 'Which I mean, as I haven't that to own up to. No, mum, I didn't forget.'

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