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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

''How could it be inadvertence


Barker

came in with the tea-kettle, and the cold tongue and the salad made the supper-table look very comfortable. She made the tea, and the colonel put down his book.

'Do you never get tired of reading, papa?'

'Yes, my dear. One gets tired of everything!'

This was said with a discouraging half breath of a sigh.

'Then you might talk a little, for a change, papa.'

'Humph! Whom should I talk to?'

'Me, papa, for want of somebody else.'

This suggestion fell dead. The colonel took his toast and tried the salad.

'Is it good, papa?' Esther asked, in despair at the silence.

'Yes, my dear, it is good. Vegetable salads are a little cold at this time of year.'

'Papa, we were driven to it. Barker had not money enough this week to get you a partridge. And she says it has happened several times lately that you have forgotten to give her the usual amount for the week's housekeeping.'

'Then she says wrong.'

'She told me, several times she has not had enough, sir.'

'In that she may be right.'

Esther paused, questioning

what this might mean. She must know.

'Papa, do you mean you gave her insufficient money and knew it at the time?'

'I knew it at the time.'

There was another interval, of greater length. Esther felt a little chill creeping over her. Yet she must come to an understanding with her father; that was quite indispensable.

'Papa, do you mean that it was inadvertence? Or was it necessity?'

'How could it be inadvertence, when I tell you I knew what I did?'

'But, papa'-- Esther's breath almost failed her. 'Papa, we are living just as we always have lived?'

'Are we?'--somewhat drily.

'There is my schooling, of course'--

'And rent, and a horse to keep, and a different scale of market prices from that which we had in Seaforth. Everything costs more here.'

'There was the money for the sale of the place,' said Esther vaguely.

'That was not a great deal, after all. It was a fair price, perhaps, but less than the house and ground were worth. The interest of that does not cover the greater outlay here.'

This was very dismayful, all the more because Colonel Gainsborough did not come out frankly with the whole truth. Esther was left to guess it,--to fear it,--to fancy it more than it was, perhaps. She felt that she could not have things left in this in indeterminate way.


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