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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

' Neither would Esther mention Mr


felt all this in a breath, which I have taken so many words clumsily to set forth. He, as I said, took no words, and only gave such expression to his thoughts as he could at the moment by bowing very low over Esther's hand and kissing it. Something about the action hurt Esther; she drew her hand away.

'It is a great surprise,' she said quietly. 'Won't you sit down?'

'The surprise ought to have been, that you did not see me before; not that I am here now.'

'I got over _that_ surprise a great while ago,' said Esther. 'At least I thought I did; but it comes back to me now that I see you. How was it? How could it be?'

In answer to which, Pitt gave her a detailed account of his various efforts in past years to discover the retreat of his old friends. This was useful to him; he got his breath, as it were, which the sight of Esther had taken away; was himself again.

Esther listened silently, with perfect faith in the speaker and his statements, with a little undefined sort of regretfulness. So, then, Pitt need not have been lost to them, if only they could have been found! Just what that thought meant she had no time then to inquire. She hardly interrupted him at all.

'What do you suppose became of your letters?' she asked when he had done. For Pitt had not said that they went

to his father's hands.

'I suppose they shared the fate of all letters uncalled for; if not the dead-letter office, the fire.'

'It was not very strange that you could not find us when you came to New York. We really troubled the post office very little, having after a while nothing to expect from it, and that was the only place where you could hope to get a clue.' Neither would Esther mention Mr. Dallas. With a woman's curious fine discernment, she had seen that all was not right in that quarter; indeed, had suspected it long ago.

'But you got some letters from me?' Pitt went on, 'while you were in Seaforth? One or two, I know.'

'Yes, several. Oh yes! while we were in Seaforth.'

'And I got answers. Do you remember one long letter you wrote me, the second year after I went?'

'Yes,' she said, without looking at him.

'Esther, that letter was worth everything to me. It was like a sunbeam coming out between misty clouds and showing things for a moment in their true colours. I never forgot it. I never could forget it, though I fought for some years with the truth it revealed to me. I believed what you told me, and so I knew what I ought to do; but I struggled against my convictions. I knew from that time that it was the happiest thing and the worthiest thing to be a saint; all the same, I wanted to be a sinner. I wanted to follow my own way and be my own master. I wanted to distinguish myself in my profession, and rise in the world, and tower over other men; and I liked all the delights of life as well as other people do, and was unwilling to give up a life of self-indulgence, which I had means to gratify. Esther, I fought hard! I fought for years--can you believe it?--before I could make up my mind.'

'And now?' she said, looking at him.

'Now? Now,' said he, lowering his voice a little,--'now I have come to know the truth of what you told me; I have learned to know Christ; and I know, as you know, that all things that may be desired are not to be compared with that knowledge. I understand what Paul meant when he said he had suffered the loss of all things for it and counted them less than nothing. So do I; so would I; so have I, as far as the giving up of myself and them to their right owner goes. _That_ is done.'

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