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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Esther looked a little sorrowful


doesn't matter!' said the colonel, giving his plate an unloving shove. 'A man lives and dies, all the same, whether his bacon is burnt or not. I suppose nothing matters! Are you going to that party, at Mrs.-- I forget her name?'

'I think not, papa.'

'Why not?'

Esther hesitated.

'Why not? Don't you like to go?'

'Yes, sir. I like it very well.'

'Then why don't you go? At least you can give a reason.'

'There are more reasons than one,' said Esther. She was extremely unwilling to reveal either of them.

'Well, go on. If you know them, you can tell them to me. What are they?'

'Papa, it is really of no consequence, and I do not mind in the least; but in truth my old silk dress has been worn till it is hardly fit to go anywhere in.'

'Can't you get another?'

'I should not think it right, papa. We want the money for other things.'

'What things?'

Did he not know! Esther drew breath to answer.

'Papa, there are the taxes, which I agreed with Mrs. Bounder I would pay, you know, as part of the rent. The money is

ready, and that is a great deal more pleasure than a dress and a party would be to me. And then, winter is coming on, and we must lay in our fuel. I think to do it now, while it is cheaper.'

'And so, for that, you are to stay at home and see nobody!'

'Isn't it right, papa? and whatever is right is always pleasant in the end.'

'Deucedly pleasant!' said the colonel grimly, and rising from the table. 'I am going to my room, Esther, and I do not wish to be called to see any body. If business comes, you must attend to it.'

'Called to see anybody'! Who ever came to that house, on business or otherwise, but at the most rare intervals! And now one business visit had just come yesterday, there might not be another in months. Esther looked a little sorrowful, for her father's expression, most unwonted from his mouth, showed his irritation to be extreme; but what had irritated him? However, she was somewhat accustomed to this sort of demonstration, which nevertheless always grieved her; and she was glad that she had escaped telling her father her second reason. The truth was, Esther's way of life was so restricted and monotonous outwardly--she lived so by herself and to herself--that the stimulus and refreshment of a social occasion like that one when she had met Miss Frere a year ago was almost too pleasant. It made Esther feel a little too sensibly how alone and shut out from human intercourse was the nobler part of herself. A little real intellectual converse and contact was almost too enjoyable; it was a mental breath of fresh air, in which life seemed to change and become a different thing; and then--we all know how close air seems after fresh--the routine of school teaching, and the stillness and uniformity of her home existence, seemed to press upon her painfully, till after a time she became wonted to it again. So, on the whole, she thought it not amiss that her old party dress had done all the service it decently could, and that she had no means to get another. And now, after a few moments' grave shadow on her face, all shadows cleared away, as they usually did, and she set herself to the doing of what this holiday at home gave her to do. There was mending, making up accounts, a drawing to finish for a model; after that, if she could get it all done in time, there might be a bit of blessed reading in a new book that her old friend Miss Fairbairn had lent her. Esther set her face bravely to her day's work.

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