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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

But it's just growin' slimmer and slimmer


so went weeks and months: winter passed and spring carne; spring ran its course, and the school year at last was at an end. Esther came home for the long vacation. And then one day, Mrs. Barker confided to her reluctantly that the difficulties of her position were increasing.

'You ask me, why don't I get more strawberries, Miss Esther. My dear, I can't do it.'

'Cannot get strawberries? But they are in great plenty now, and cheap.'

'Yes, mum, but there's so many other things, Miss Esther.' The housekeeper looked distressed. Esther was startled, and hesitated.

'You mean you have not money, Barker? Papa does not give you enough?'

'He gives me the proper sum, Miss Esther, I'm certain; but I can't make it do all it should do, to have things right and comfortable.'

'Do you have less than you used at the beginning of winter?'

'Yes, mum. I didn't want to trouble you, Miss Esther, for to be sure you can't do nothin' to help it; but it's just growin' slimmer and slimmer.'

'Never mind; I think I know how to mend matters by and by; if we can only get along for a little further. We must have some things, and my father likes fruit, you can get strawberries from Mrs. Blumenfeld down here, can you not?'

justify;">'No, mum,' said the housekeeper, looking embarrassed. 'She won't sell us nothin', that woman won't.'

'Will not sell us anything? I thought she was so kind. What is the matter? Is there not a good understanding between her and us?'

'There's too good an understanding, mum, and that's the truth. We don't want no favours from the likes o' her; and now Christopher'--

'What of Christopher?'

'Hain't he said nothin' to the colonel?'

'To papa? No. About what?'

'He's gone and made an ass o' himself, has Christopher,' said the housekeeper, colouring with displeasure.

'Why? How? What has he done?'

'He hain't done nothin' yet, mum, but he's bound he will, do the foolishest thing a man o' his years can do. An' he wants me to stan' by and see him! I do lose my patience whiles where I can't find it. As if Christopher hadn't enough to think of without that! Men is all just creatures without the power o' thought and foresight.'

'Thought?--why, that is precisely what is supposed to be their distinguishing privilege,' said Esther, a little inclined to laugh. 'And Christopher was always very foresighted.'

'He ain't now, then,' muttered his sister.

'What is he doing?'

'Miss Esther, that yellow-haired woman has got holt o' him.'

This was said with a certain solemnity, so that Esther was very much bewildered, and most incoherent visions flew past her brain. She waited dumbly for more.

'She has, mum,' the housekeeper repeated; 'and Christopher ain't a babby no more, but he's took--that's what he is. I wish, Miss Esther--as if that would do any good!--that we'd stayed in Seaforth, where we was. I'm that provoked, I don't rightly know myself. Christopher ain't a babby no more; but it seems that don't keep a man from bein' wuss'n a fool.'

'Do you mean'--

'Yes 'm, that's what he has done; just that; and I might as well talk to my spoons. I've knowed it a while, but I was purely ashamed to tell you about it. I allays gave Christopher the respect belongin' to a man o' sense, if he warn't in high places.'

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