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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

There's no tellin' what men don't expect o' their wives


you been to see your new sister, Barker?'

'Me? That yellow-haired woman? No, mum; and have no desire.'

'It would be right to go, and to be very kind to her.'

'She's that independent, mum, she don't want no kindness. She's got her man, and I wish her joy.'

'I am sure you may,' said Esther, half laughing. 'Christopher will certainly make her a good husband. Hasn't he been a good brother?'

'Miss Esther,' said the housekeeper solemnly, 'the things is different. It's my belief there ain't half a dozen men on the face o' the earth that is fit to have wives, and one o' the half dozen I never see yet. Christopher's a good brother, mum, as you say; as good as you'll find, maybe,--I've nought against him as sich; but then, I ain't his wife, and that makes all the differ. There's no tellin' what men don't expect o' their wives, when once they've got 'em.'

'Expectations ought to be mutual, I should think,' said Esther, amused. 'But it would be the right thing for you to go and see Mrs. Bounder at any rate, and to be very good to her; and you know, Barker, you always like to do what is right.'

There was a sweet persuasiveness in the tone of the last words, which at least silenced Mrs. Barker; and Esther went away to think what she should say to her

father. The time had come to speak in earnest, and she must not let herself be silenced. Getting into debt on one hand, and receiving charity on the other! Esther's pulses made a bound whenever she thought of it. She must not put it _so_ to Colonel Gainsborough. How should she put it? She knelt down and prayed for wisdom, and then she went to the parlour. It was one Saturday afternoon in the winter; school business in full course, and Esther's head and hands very much taken up with her studies. The question of ways and means had been crowded out of her very memory for weeks past; it came with so much the sharper incisiveness now. She went in where her father was reading, poked the fire, brushed up the hearth, finally faced the business in hand.

'Papa, are you particularly busy? Might I interrupt you?'

'You _have_ interrupted me,' said the colonel, letting his hand with the book sink to his side, and turning his face towards the speaker. But he said it with a smile, and looked with pleased attention for what was coming. His fair, graceful, dignified daughter was a constant source of pride and satisfaction to him, though he gave little account of the fact to himself, and made scarce any demonstration of it to her. He saw that she was fair beyond most women, and that she had that refined grace of carriage and manner which he valued as belonging to the highest breeding. There was never anything careless about Esther's appearance, or hasty about her movements, or anything that was not sweet as balm in her words and looks. As she stood there now before him, serious and purposeful, her head, which was set well back on her shoulders, carried so daintily, and the beautiful eyes intent with grave meaning amid their softness, Colonel Gainsborough's heart swelled in his bosom, for the delight he had in her.

'What is it?' he asked. 'What do you want to say to me? All goes well at school?'

'Oh yes, papa, as well as possible. It isn't that. But I am in a great puzzle about things at home.'

'Ah! What things?'

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