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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

And Esther did not press that he should


'If

you please, Miss Esther, would you speak to the master about the blacksmith's bill? I don't hardly never see the colonel, these days.'

Esther faced round upon him. The word 'bill' always came to her now like a sort of stab. She repeated his words. 'The blacksmith's bill?'

'Yes, mum; that is, Creasy, the blacksmith; just on the edge o' the town. It's been runnin' along, 'cause I never could get sight o' the colonel to speak to him about it.'

'Bill for what?'

'Shoes, mum.'

'_Shoes?_' repeated Esther. 'The blacksmith? What do you mean?'

'Shoes for Buonaparty, mum. He does kick off his shoes as fast as any horse ever I see; and they does wear, mum, on the stones.'

'How much is the bill?'

'Well, mum,' said Christopher uneasily, 'it's been runnin' along--and it's astonishin' how things does mount up. It's quite a good bit, mum; it's nigh on to fifty dollars.'

It took away Esther's breath. She turned away, that Christopher might not see her face, and began to look at the house as if a sudden new light had fallen upon it. Small and mean, and unfit for Colonel Gainsborough and his daughter,--that had been her judgment concerning it five minutes before; but now it suddenly presented

itself as a refuge from distress. If they took it, the relief to their finances would be immediate and effectual. There was a little bit of struggle in Esther's mind; to give up their present home for this would involve a loss of all the prettiness in which she had found such refreshment; there would be here no river and no opposite shore, and no pleasant country around with grass and trees and a flower garden. There would be no garden at all, and no view, except of a very humdrum little street, built up and inhabited by mechanics and tradespeople of a humble grade. But then--no debt! And Esther remembered that in her daily prayer for daily bread she had also asked to be enabled to 'owe no man anything.' Was here the answer? And if this were the Lord's way for supplying her necessities, should she refuse to accept it and to be thankful for it?

'It is getting late,' was Esther's conclusion as she turned away. 'We had better get home, Christopher; but I think we will take the house. I must speak to papa; but I think we will take it. You may tell Mrs. Bounder so, with my thanks.'

It cost a little trouble, yet not much, to talk the colonel over. He did not go to see the house, and Esther did not press that he should; he took her report of it, which was an unvarnished one, and submitted himself to what seemed the inevitable. But his daughter knew that her task would have been harder if the colonel's imagination had had the assistance of his eyesight. She was sure that the move must be made, and if it were once effected she was almost sure she could make her father comfortable. To combat his objections beforehand might have been a more difficult matter. Esther found Mrs. Barker's dismay quite enough to deal with. Indeed, the good woman was at first overwhelmed; and sat down, the first time she was taken to the house, in a sort of despair, with a face wan in its anxiety.


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