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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Meantime Christopher went and came about the house


to be earning money; yet these

visions now and again would come over her mind, bringing a kind of distant sunshiny glow with them, different from the light that fell on that particular bit of life's pathway she was treading just then. They came and went; what came and did not go was Esther's consciousness that she was earning only a little money, and that with that little she could not clear off all the debts that had accrued and were constantly accruing. When she had paid the butcher, the grocer's bill presented itself, and when she had after some delay got rid of that, then came the need for a fresh supply of coal. Esther spent nothing on her own dress that she could help, but her father's was another matter, and tailors' charges she found were heavy. She went bravely on; she was young and full of spirit, and she was a Christian and full of confidence; nevertheless she did begin to feel the worry of these petty, gnawing, money cares, which have broken the heart of so many a woman before her. Moreover, another thing demanded consideration. It was necessary, now that she had no longer a home with Miss Fairbairn, that she should go into town and come back every day, and, furthermore, as she was giving lessons in a school, no circumstance of weather or anything else must hinder her being absolutely punctual. Yet Esther foresaw that as the winter came on again it would be very difficult sometimes to maintain this punctuality; and it became clear to her that it would be almost indispensable for them to move into
town. If only a house could be found!

Meantime Christopher went and came about the house, cultivated the garden and took care of the horse and drove Esther to school, all just as usual; his whilome master never having as yet said one word to him on the subject of his marriage and consequent departure. Whether his wages were paid him, Esther was anxiously doubtful; but she dared not ask. I say 'whilome' master, for there is no doubt that Mr. Bounder in these days felt that nobody was his master but himself. He did all his duties faithfully, but then he took leave to cross the little field which lay between his old home and his new, and to disappear for whole spaces of time from the view of the colonel's family.

It was one evening in November. Mrs. Barker was just sitting down to her tea, and Christopher was preparing himself to leave her. I should remark that Mrs. Barker had called on the former Mrs. Blumenfeld, and established civil relations between the houses.

'Won't you stay, Christopher?' asked his sister.

'No, thank ye. I've got a little woman over there, who's expecting me.'

'Does she set as good a table for you as I used to do? in those days when I could?' the housekeeper added, with a sigh.

'Well, she ain't just up to some o' your arts,' said Christopher, with a contented face, in which his blue eye twinkled with a little slyness; 'but I'll tell you what, she can cook a dish o' pot-pie that you can't beat, nor nobody else; and her rye bread is just uncommon!'

'Rye bread!' said the housekeeper, with an utterance of disdain.

'I'll bring a loaf over,' said Christopher, nodding his head; 'and you can give some to Miss Esther if you like. Good-night!'

He made few steps of it through the dark cold evening to the house that had become his home. The room that received him might have pleased a more difficult man. It was as clean as hands could make it; bright with cleanliness, lighted and warmed with a glowing fire, and hopeful with a most savoury scent of supper. The mistress of the house was busy about her hearth, looking neat and comfortable enough to match her room. As Christopher came in she lit a candle that stood on the supper-table. Christopher hugged himself at this instance of his wife's thrift, and sat down.


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