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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

There was something about Esther that perplexed him


were getting a very good education when I was there!'

'When _you_ were there,' repeated Esther, smiling; but then she went on quickly: 'Papa thought he could not give me all the advantages he wished, if we stayed in Seaforth. So we came to New York. And now, you see, I am able to provide for him. The education is turning to account.'

'How?' asked Pitt suddenly.

'I help out his small income by giving lessons.'

'_You_, giving lessons? Not that, Esther!'

'Why not?' she said quietly. 'The thing given one to do is the thing to do, you know; and this certainly was given me. And by means of that we get along nicely.'

Again Pitt's eye glanced over the scanty little apartment. What sort of 'getting along' was it which kept them here?

'What do you teach?' he asked, speaking out of a confusion of thoughts the one thing that occurred which it was safe to say.

'Drawing, and music, and some English branches.'

'Do you _like_ it?'

She hesitated. 'I am very thankful to have it to do. I do not fancy that teaching for money is just the same as teaching for pleasure. But I am very glad to be able to do it. Before that, there was a time when I did not know

just what was going to become of us. Now I am very happy.'

Pitt could not at the moment speak all his thoughts. Moreover, there was something about Esther that perplexed him. She was so unmovedly quiet in her manner. It was kind, no doubt, and pleasant, and pleased; and yet, there was a smooth distance between him and her that troubled him. He did not know how to get rid of it. It was so smooth, there was nothing to take hold of; while it was so distant, or put her rather at such a distance, that all Pitt's newly aroused feelings were stimulated to the utmost, both by the charm and by the difficulty. How exquisite was this soft dignity and calm! but to the man who was longing to be permitted to clasp his arms round her it was somewhat aggravating.

'What has become of Christopher?' he asked after a pause.

'Oh, Christopher is happy!' said Esther, with a smile that was only too frank and free. Pitt wished she would have shown a little embarrassment or consciousness. 'Christopher is happy. He has become a householder and a market-gardener, and, above all, a married man. Married a market-gardener's widow, and set up for himself.'

'What do you do without him?'

'Oh, we could not afford him now,' said Esther, with another smile. 'It was very good for us, almost as good for us as for him. Christopher has become a man of substance. We hire this house of him, or rather of his wife.'

'Are the two not one, then?'

Esther laughed. 'Yes,' she said; 'but you know, _which_ one it is depends on circumstances.'

And she went on to tell about her first meeting with the present Mrs. Bounder, and of all the subsequent intercourse and long chain of kindnesses, to which Pitt listened eagerly though with a some what distracted mind. At the end of her story Esther rose.



'Will you excuse me, if I leave you for one moment to go down into the kitchen?'

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