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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

And here and there Esther found a wild flower


to-day,' said Esther gleefully. 'How nice it is!'

She might say so, for if the spring is rough in New England, and there is no denying it, there do nevertheless come days of bewitching, entrancing, delicious beauty, in the midst of the rest. Days when the air and sky and sunlight are in a kind of poise of delight, and earth beneath them, is, as it were, still with pleasure. I suppose the spring may be more glorious in other lands,--more positively glorious; whether relatively, I do not know. With such contrasts before and behind them,--contrasts of raw, chill air, and rough, cutting winds, with skies of grey and gloom,--one of these perfect days of a lost Paradise stands in a singular setting. It was such a day when Esther and Christopher went after dandelions. Still, balmy air, a tender sky slightly veiled with spring mistiness, light and warmth so gentle that they were a blessing to a weary brain, yet so abundant that every bud and leaf and plant and flower was unfolding and out-springing and stretching upward and dispensing abroad all it had of sweetness. The air was filled with sweetness; not the heavy odours of the blossoms of summer, or the South, but a more delicate and searching fragrance from resinous buds and freshly-opened tree flowers and the young green of the shooting leaf. I don't know where spring gets it all, but she does fling abroad her handfuls of perfume such as summer has no skill to concoct, or perhaps she lacks the material.

Esther drew in deep breaths for the mere pleasure of breathing, and looked on all the world of nature before her with an eye of quiet but intense content.

Christopher had been quite right in his hint about Esther's eyes. They were of uncommon character. Thoughtful, grave, beautiful eyes; large, and fine in contour and colour; too grave for the girl's years. But Esther had lived all her life so far almost exclusively with grown people, and very sober grown people too; for her mother's last years had been dulled with sickness, and her father's with care, even if he had not been--which he was--of a taciturn and sombre deportment in the best of times. And this last year past had been one heavy with mourning. So it was no wonder if the little girl's face showed undue thoughtfulness, and a shade of melancholy all premature. And Christopher was honestly glad to see the melancholy at least vanish under the influence of the open earth and sky. The thoughtfulness, he hoped, would go too some day.

The walk in itself offered nothing remarkable. Fields where the grass was very green and fast growing; other fields that were rocky and broken, and good for little except the sheep, and sometimes rose into bare ridges and heights where spare savins were mingled with a variety of deciduous trees; such was the ground the two went over this morning. This morning, however, glorified everything; the fields looked soft, the moss and lichens on the rocks were moist and fresh coloured, grey and green and brown; the buds and young leafage of the trees were of every lovely hue and shade that young vegetation can take; and here and there Esther found a wild flower. When she found one, it was very apt to be taken up by the roots with her little trowel, and bestowed in her basket for careful transport home; and on the so endangered beauties in her basket Esther looked down from time to time with fond and delighted eyes.

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