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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Yet Colonel Gainsborough was a good man


for the change was his work.

He read indications of strong capacity; he saw the tokens of rare sensitiveness and delicacy; he saw there was a power of feeling as well as a capacity for suffering covered by the quiet composure and reserve of manner and habit which, he knew, were rather signs of the depth of that which they covered. Esther interested him. And then, she was so simply upright and honest, and so noble in all her thoughts, so high-bred by nature as well as education, that her young teacher's estimation constantly grew, and to interest was soon added liking. He had half expected that when the novelty was off the pleasure of study would be found to falter; but it was no such matter. Esther studied as honestly as if she had been a fifth form boy at a good school; with a delight in it which boys at school, in any form, rarely bring to their work. She studied absorbedly, eagerly, persistently; whatever pleasure she might get by the way, she was plainly bent on learning; and she learned of course fast. And in the botanical studies they carried on together, and in the historical studies which had the coins for an illumination, the child showed as keen enjoyment as other girls of her age are wont to feel in a story-book or in games and plays. Of games and plays Esther knew nothing; she had no young companions, and never had known any; her intercourse had been almost solely with father and mother, and now only the father was left to her. She would have been in danger of growing morbid in her sorrow and
loneliness, and her whole nature might have been permanently and without remedy dwarfed, if at this time of her life she had been left to grow like the wild things in the woods, without sympathy or care. For some human plants need a good deal of both to develop them to their full richness and fragrance; and Esther was one of these. The loss of her mother had threatened to be an irreparable injury to her. Colonel Gainsborough was a tenderly affectionate father: still, like a good many men, he did not understand child nature, could not adapt himself to it, had no sort of notion of its wants, and no comprehension that it either needed or could receive and return his sympathy. So he did not give sympathy to his child, nor dreamed that she was in danger of starving for want of it. Indeed, he had never in his life given much sympathy to anybody, except his wife; and in the loss of his wife, Colonel Gainsborough thought so much of himself was lost that the remainder probably would not last long. He thought himself wounded to death. That it might be desirable, and that it might be duty to live for his daughter's sake, was an idea that had never entered his very masculine heart. Yet Colonel Gainsborough was a good man, and even had the power of being a tender one; he had been that towards his wife; but when she died he felt that life had gone from him.

All this, more or less, young Dallas came to discern and understand in the course of his associations with the father and daughter. And now it was with a little pardonable pride and a good deal of growing tenderness for the child, that he saw the change going on in Esther. She was always, now as before, quiet as a mouse in her father's presence; truly she was quiet as a mouse everywhere; but under the outward quiet Dallas could see now the impulse and throb of the strong and sensitive life within; the stir of interest and purpose and hope; the waking up of the whole nature; and he saw that it was a nature of great power and beauty. It was no wonder that the face through which this nature shone was one of rare power and beauty too. Others could see that, besides him.


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