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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

And for a while she forgot Esther


will you do then?'

'Then? I don't know. Look after you, at any rate. Let us see. How old will you be in two years?'

'Almost fourteen.'

'Fourteen. Well, you see you will have a great deal to do before you can afford to be fourteen years old; so much that you will not have time to miss me.'

Esther made no answer.

'I'll be back at Christmas anyhow, you know; and that's only three months away, or a little more.'

'For how long?'

'Never mind; we will make a little do the work of a great deal. It will seem a long time, it will be so good.'

'No,' said Esther; 'that will make it only the shorter.'

'Why, Esther,' said he, half laughing, 'I didn't know you cared so much about me. I don't deserve all that.'

'I am not crying,' said the girl, rising with a sort of childish dignity; 'but I shall be alone.'

They had been sitting on a rock, resting and talking, and now set out again to go home. Esther spoke no more; and Pitt was silent, not knowing what to say; but he watched her, and saw that if she had not been crying at the time she had made that declaration, the tears had taken their revenge and were coming now.

Yet only in a calm, repressed way; now and then he saw a drop fall, or caught a motion of Esther's hand which could only have been made to prevent a drop from falling. She walked along steadily, turning neither to the right hand nor the left; she who ordinarily watched every hedgerow and ran to explore every group of plants in the corner of a field, and was keen to see everything that was to be seen in earth or heaven. Pitt walked along silently too. He was at a careless age, but he was a generous-minded fellow; and to a mind of that sort there is something exceedingly attractive and an influence exceedingly powerful in the fact of being trusted and depended on.

'Mother,' he said when he got home, 'I wish you would look after that little girl now and then.'

'What little girl?'

'You must know whom I mean; the colonel's daughter.'

'The colonel is sufficient for that, I should say.'

'But you know what sort of a man he is. And she has no mother, nor anybody else, except servants.'

'Isn't he fond of her?'

'Very fond; but then he isn't well, and he is a reserved, silent man; the child is left to herself in a way that is bad for her.'

'What do you suppose I can do?'

'A great deal; if you once knew her and got fond of her, mother.'

Mrs. Dallas made no promise; however, she did go to see Esther. It was about a week after Pitt's departure. She found father and daughter very much as her son had found them the day he was introduced to the box of coins. Esther was on the floor, beside the same box, and the colonel was on his sofa. Mrs. Dallas did take the effect of the picture for that moment before the colonel sprang up to receive her. Then she had to do with a somewhat formal but courtly host, and the picture was lost. The lady sat there, stately in her silks and laces, carrying on a stiff conversation; for she and Colonel Gainsborough had few points of sympathy or mutual understanding; and for a while she forgot Esther. Then her eye again fell upon the child in her corner, sitting by her box with a sad, uninterested air.

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