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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Esther would not lose anything by not seeing Pitt any more


Gainsborough, you talk riddles.'

'I am sorry,' said Esther; 'I do not mean to do that. I am speaking the simplest truth. We were made to be happy in the love of God; and as we were made for that, nothing less will do.'

'Are you happy? My dear, I need not ask; your face speaks for you. I believe that pricked me on to ask the question with which we began, in pure envy. I see you are happy. But confess honestly now, honestly, and quite between ourselves, confess there is some delightful lover somewhere, who provokes those smiles, with which no doubt you reward him?'

Esther's grey eyes opened unmistakeably at her hostess while she was speaking, and then a light colour rose on her cheek, and then she laughed.

'I neither have, nor ever expect to have, anything of the kind,' she said. And then she was no longer to be detained, but took leave, and went away.

'She is a little too certain about the lover,' remarked Miss Frere. 'That looks as if there were already one, _in petto_.'

'She is poor,' said Mrs. Chatsworth. 'She has not much chance. I believe she supports herself and her father--he is old or invalid or something--by teaching; perhaps they have a little something to help her out. But I fancy she sees very little society. I never meet her anywhere. The lady in whose house

she was educated is a very warm friend of hers, and she introduced her to me. So I get her to come here sometimes for a little change.'

Betty went home with a great many thoughts in her mind, which kept her half the night awake. Jealousy perhaps pricked her the most. Not that Pitt loved this girl; about that Betty was not sure; but how he would love her if he could see her! How anybody would, especially a man of refined nature and truth of character, who requires the same in those connected with him. What a pure creature this was! and then, she was not only tender, but strong. The look on her face, the lines of her lips, told surely of self-control, self-denial, and habitual patience. People do not look so, who have all they need of this world's goods, and have always dipped their hands into full money bags. No; Esther had something to bear, and something to do, both of which called for and called out that strength and sweetness; and yet she was so happy!--happy after Pitt's fashion. And this was the girl he had been looking to find. Betty could deserve well of him by letting him know where to find her! But then, all would be lost, and Betty's life a failure indeed. She could not face it. And besides, as things were, they were quite safe for the other two. The childish friendship had faded out; would start up again, no doubt, if it had a chance; but there was no need that it should. Pitt was at least heart-whole, if not memory-free; and as for Esther, she had just declared a lover to be a possibility nowhere within the range of her horizon. Esther would not lose anything by not seeing Pitt any more. But then, _would_ she lose nothing? The girl teaching to support herself and her father, alone and poor, what would it be to her life if Pitt suddenly came into it, with his strong hand and genial temper and plenty of means? What would it be to Betty's life, if he went out of it? She turned and tossed, she battled and struggled with thoughts; but the end was, she went on to Washington without ever paying Esther a visit, or letting her know that her old friend was looking for her.

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