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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Esther carried everything back again


colonel was silent now, not, however, seeming to see the comfort. There was a little interval, during which Esther struggled for calmness and a clear voice. When she spoke, her voice was very clear.

'Barker has tea ready, papa, I see. I hope that will be as good as ever, and better, for we have got something you like. Shall we go in? It is in the other room.'

'Why is it not here, as usual, in my room? I do not see any reason for the change.'

'It saves the mess of crumbs on the floor in this room. And then it saves Barker a good deal of trouble to have the table there.'

'Why should Barker be saved trouble here more than where we have come from? I do not understand.'

'We had Christopher there, papa. Here Barker has no one to help her--except what I can do.'

'It must be the same thing, to have tea in one room or in another, I should think.'

Esther could have represented that the other room was just at the head of the kitchen stairs, while to serve the tea on the colonel's table would cost a good many more steps. But she had no heart for any further representations. With her own hands, and with her own feet, which were by this time wearily tired, she patiently went back and forth between the two rooms, bringing plates and cups and knives and

forks, and tea-tray, and bread and butter and honey and partridge, and salt and pepper, from the one table to the other, which, by the way, had first to be cleared of its own load of books and writing materials. Esther deposited these on the floor and on chairs, and arranged the table for tea, and pushed it into the position her father was accustomed to like. The tea-kettle she left on its trivet before the grate in the other room; and now made journeys uncounted between that room and this, to take and fetch the tea-pot. Talk languished meanwhile, for the spirit of talk was gone from Esther, and the colonel, in spite of his discomfiture, developed a remarkably good appetite. When he had done, Esther carried everything back again.

'Why do you do that? Where is Barker?' her father demanded at last.

'Barker has been exceedingly busy all day, putting down carpets and arranging her storeroom. I am sure she is tired.'

'I suppose you are tired too, are you not?'

'Yes, papa.'

He said no more, however, and Esther finished her work, and then sat down on a cushion at the corner of the fireplace, in one of those moods belonging to tired mind and body, in which one does not seem at the moment to care any longer about anything. The lively, blazing coal fire shone on a warm, cosy little room, and on two somewhat despondent figures. For his supper had not brightened the colonel up a bit. He sat brooding. Perhaps his thoughts took the road that Esther's had often followed lately, for he suddenly came out with a name now rarely spoken between them.

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