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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Esther said to herself with rapid calculation


'Decent?

What do you mean by decent?'

'Papa, I mean not disorderly people; not disreputable. And is not that enough for us, papa? Oh, papa, does it matter what the people are, so long as our house is nice and pretty and warm, and the low rent just relieves us from all our difficulties? Papa, do be pleased with it! I think it is the very best thing we could have done.'

'Esther, there are certain things that one owes to oneself.'

'Yes, sir; but must we not pay our debts to other people first?'

'Debts? We were not in debt to anybody!'

'Yes, papa, to more than one; and I saw no way out of the difficulty till I heard of this house. And I am so relieved now--you cannot think with what a relief;--if only _you_ are pleased, dear papa.'

He must know so much of the truth, Esther said to herself with rapid calculation. The colonel did not look pleased, it must be confessed. All the prettiness and pleasantness on which Esther had counted to produce a favourable impression seemed to fail of its effect; indeed, seemed not to be seen. The colonel leaned his head on his hand and uttered something very like a groan.

'So this is what we have come to!' he said. 'You do not know what you have done, Esther.'

Esther said nothing to

that. Her throat seemed to be choked. She looked at her beautiful little fire, and had some trouble to keep tears from starting.

'My dear, you did it for the best, I do not doubt,' her father added presently. 'I only regret that I was not consulted before an irrevocable step was taken.'

Esther could find nothing to answer.

'It is quite true that a man remains himself, whatever he does that is not morally wrong; it is true that our real dignity is not changed; nevertheless, people pass in the world not for what they are, but for what they seem to be.'

'Oh, papa, do you think that!' Esther cried. But the colonel went on, not heeding her.

'So, if you take to making shoes, it will be supposed that you are no better than a cobbler; and if you choose your abode among washerwomen, you will be credited with tastes and associations that fit you for your surroundings. Have we _that_ sort of a neighbourhood?' he asked suddenly.

'I do not know, papa,' Esther said meekly. The colonel fairly groaned again. It was getting to be more than she could stand.

'Papa,' she said gently, 'we have done the best we knew,--at least I have; and the necessity is not one of our own making. Let us take what the Lord gives. I think He has given us a great deal. And I would rather, for my part, that people thought anything of us, rather than that we should miss our own good opinion. I do not know just what the inhabitants are, round about here; but the street is at least clean and decent, and within our own walls we need not think about it. Inside it is _very_ comfortable, papa.'


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