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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

' said Barker still more constrainedly

'What's the matter, then? some carelessness of Christopher's. Yes, have a salad; that will do very well.'

'Then, mum,' said Barker still more constrainedly, 'could you perhaps let me have a sixpence? I don't like to send and ask a stranger like that to wait for what's no more'n twopence at home.'

'Wait?' repeated Esther. 'Didn't papa give you money for the housekeeping this week?'

'Miss Esther, he did; but--I haven't a cent.'

'Why? He did not give you as much as usual?'

The housekeeper hesitated, with a troubled face.

'Miss Esther, he did give me as much as usual,--I would say, as much as he uses to give me nowadays; but that ain't the old sum, and it ain't possible to do the same things wi' it.' And Mrs. Barker looked anxiously and doubtfully at her young mistress. 'I wouldn't like to tell ye, mum; but in course ye must know, or ye'd maybe be doubtful o' _me_.'

'Of course I should know!' repeated Esther. 'Papa must have forgotten. I will see about it. Give me a basket, Barker, and I will go over to the garden myself and get a head of lettuce,--now, before I take my things off. I would like to go.'

Seeing that she spoke truth, Mrs. Barker's scruples gave way. She furnished the basket, and Esther set forth. There was but a field or two to cross, intervening between her own ground and the slopes where the beds of the market garden lay trim and neat in the sun. Or, rather, to-day, in the warm, hazy, soft October light; the sun's rays could not rightly get through the haze. It was one of the delicious times of October weather, which the unlearned are wont to call Indian summer, but which is not that, and differs from it essentially. The glory of the Indian summer is wholly ethereal; it belongs to the light and the air; and is a striking image and eloquent testimony of how far spirit can overmaster matter. The earth is brown, the trees are bare; the drapery and the colours of summer are all gone; and then comes the Indian summer, and makes one forget that the foregoing summer had its glories at all, so much greater is the glory now. There is no sense of bareness any longer, and no missing of gay tints, nor of the song of birds, nor of anything else in which June revelled and August showed its rich maturity; only the light and the air, filling the world with such unearthly loveliness that the looker-on holds his breath, and the splendour of June is forgotten. This October day was not after such a fashion; it was steeped in colour. Trees near at hand showed yellow and purple and red; the distant Jersey shore was a strip of warm, sunburnt tints, merged into one; over the river lay a sunny haze that was, as it were, threaded with gold; as if the sun had gone to sleep there and was in a dream; and mosses, and bushes, and lingering asters and golden-rod, on rocks or at the edges of the fields near at hand, gave the eye a welcome wherever it turned. Not a breath of air was stirring; the landscape rested under a spell of peace.

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