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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

'We have done with Christopher

'But what has he done?'

'Didn't I tell you, Miss Esther? That yellow-haired woman has got holt of him.'

'Yellow-haired woman?'

'Yes, mum,--the gardener woman down here.'

'Is Christopher going to take service with _her?_'

'He don't call it that, mum. He speaks gay about bein' his own master. I reckon he'll find two ain't as easy to manage as one! She knows what she's about, that woman does, or my name ain't Sarah Barker.'

'Do you mean,' cried Esther,--'do you mean that he is going to _marry_ her?'

'That's what I've been tellin' you, mum, all along. He's goin' to many her, that he is; and for as old as he is, that should know better.'

'Oh, but Christopher is not _old;_ that is nothing; he is young enough. I did not think, though, he would have left us.'

'An' that, mum, is just what he's above all sure and certain he won't do. I tell him, a man can't walk two ways to once; nor he can't serve two masters, even if one of 'em is himself, which that yellow-haired woman won't let come about. No, mum, he's certain sure he'll never leave the colonel, mum; that ain't his meaning.'

Esther went silently away, thinking many things. She was more amused than anything else, with the lightheartedness of youth; yet she recognised the fact that this change might introduce other changes. At any rate, it furnished an occasion for discussing several things with her father. As usual, when she wanted a serious talk with the colonel, she waited till the time when his attention would be turned from his book to his cup of tea.

'Papa,' she began, after the second cup was on its way, 'have you heard anything lately of Christopher's plans?'

'Christopher's plans? I did not know he had any plans,' said the colonel drily.

'He has, papa,' said Esther, divided between a desire to laugh and a feeling that after all there was something serious about the matter. 'Papa, Christopher has fallen in love.'

'Fallen in _what?_' shouted the colonel.

'Papa! please take it softly. Yes, papa, really; Christopher is going to be married.'

'He has not asked my consent.'

'No, sir, but you know--Christopher is of age,' said Esther, unable to maintain a gravity in any way corresponding to that on her father's face.

'Don't talk folly! What do you mean?'

'He has arranged to marry Mrs. Blumenfeld, the woman who keeps the market garden over here. He does not mean to leave us, papa; the places are so near, you know. He thinks, I believe, he can manage both.'

'He is a fool!'

'Barker is very angry with him. But that does not help anything.'

'He is an ass!' repeated the colonel hotly. 'Well, that settles one question.'

'What question, papa?

'We have done with Christopher. I want no half service. I suppose he thinks he will make more money; and I am quite willing he should try.'

Esther could see that her father was much more seriously annoyed than he chose to show; his tone indicated a very unusual amount of disturbance. He turned from the table and took up his book.

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