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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

You do not mean Is Christopher really married


'But

I think papa does not like to go without his fish.'

'Then he must have it, mum, to be sure; but I'm sure I don't just rightly know how to procure it. It must be done, however.'

The housekeeper's face looked doubtful, notwithstanding her words of assurance, and a vague fear seized her young mistress.

'Do not get anything you have not money to pay for, at any rate!' she said impressively.

'Well, mum, and there it is!' cried the housekeeper. 'There is things as cannot be dispensed with, in no gentleman's house. I thought maybe fish needn't be counted among them things, but now it seems it must. I may as well confess, Miss Esther; that last barrel o' flour ain't been paid for yet.'

'Not paid for!' cried Esther in horror. 'How came that?'

'Well, mum, just that I hadn't the money. And bread must be had.'

'Not if it cannot be paid for! I would rather starve, if it comes to that. You might have got a lesser quantity.'

'No, mum,' replied the housekeeper; 'you have to have the whole barrel in the end; and if you get it by bits you pay every time for the privilege. No, mum, that ain't no economy. It's one o' the things which kills poor people; they has to pay for havin' every quart of onions measured out to 'em.

I'm afeard Christopher hain't had no money for his hay and his oats that he's got latterly.'

'Hay and oats!' cried Esther. 'Would he get them without orders and means?'

'I s'pose he thinks he has his orders from natur'. The horse can't be let to go without his victuals, mum. And means Christopher hadn't, more'n a quarter enough. What was he to do?'

Esther stood silent and pale, making no demonstration, but the more profoundly moved and dismayed.

'An' what's harder on _my_ stomach than all the rest,' the housekeeper went on, 'is that woman sendin' us milk.'

'That woman? Mrs. Blumenfeld?'

'Which it _was_ her name, mum.'

'_Was!_ You do not mean-- Is Christopher really married?'

'He says that, mum, and I suppose he knows. He's back and forth, and don't live nowheres, as I tells him. And the milk comes plentiful, and to be sure the colonel likes his glass of a mornin'; and curds, and blancmange, and the like, I see he's no objection to; but thinks I to myself, if he knowed, it wouldn't go down quite so easy.'

'If he knew what? Don't you pay for it?'

'I'd pay that, Miss Esther, if I paid nothin' else; but Christopher's beyond my management and won't hear of no money, nor his wife neither, he says. It's uncommon impudence, mum, that's what I think it is. Set her up! to give us milk, and onions, and celery; and she would send apples, only I dursn't put 'em on the table, being forbidden, and so I tells Christopher.'

Esther was penetrated through and through with several feelings while the housekeeper spoke; touched with the kindness manifested, but terribly humbled that it should be needed, and that it should be accepted. This must not go on; but, in the meantime, there was another thing that needed mending.


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