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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Esther brushed them hastily away


'How

do you do, Queen Esther?' he said, holding out his hand.

'How do you do, Pitt?' she answered, taking it; but with the oddest mingling of reserve and doubt in her manner; and the great grave eyes were lifted to his face for a moment, with, it seemed to him, something of inquiry or questioning in them.

'Are you not glad to see me?'

'Yes,' she said, with another glance.

'Then _why_ are you not glad to see me?' he asked impetuously.

'I am glad to see you, of course,' she said. 'Won't you sit down?'

'This won't do, you know,' said the young man, half-vexed and half-laughing, but wholly determined not to be kept at a distance in this manner. 'I am not going to sit down, if you are going to treat me like that.'

'Treat you how?'

'Why, as if I were a stranger, that you didn't care a pin about. What's the matter, Queen Esther?'

Esther was silent. Pitt was half-indignant; and then he caught the shimmer of something like moisture in the eyes, which were looking away from him to the fire, and his mood changed.

'What is it, Esther?' he said kindly. 'Take a seat, your majesty, and I'll do the same. I see there is some talking to be done here.'

style="text-align: justify;">He took the girl's hand and put her in her chair, and himself drew up another near. 'Now what's the matter, Esther? Have you forgotten me?'

'No,' she said. 'But I thought--perhaps--you had forgotten me.'

'What made you think that?'

'You were gone away,' she said, hesitating; 'you were busy; papa said'--

'What did he say?'

'He said, probably I would never see you much more.'

But here the tears came to view undeniably; welled up, and filled the eyes, and rolled over. Esther brushed them hastily away.

'And I hadn't the decency to write to you? Had that something to do with it?'

'I thought--if you _had_ remembered me, you would perhaps have written, just a little word,' Esther confessed, with some hesitation and difficulty. Pitt was more touched and sorry than he would have supposed before that such a matter could make him.

'Look here, Esther,' he said. 'There are two or three things I want you to take note of. The first is, that you must never judge by appearances.'

'Why not?' asked Esther, considering him and this statement together.

'Because they are deceptive. They mislead.'

'Do they?'

'Very frequently.'

'What is one to judge by, then?'

'Depends. In this case, by your knowledge of the person concerned.'

Esther looked at him, and a warmer shine came into her eye.

'Yes,' she said, 'I thought it was not like you to forget. But then, papa said I would not be likely to see much more of you--ever'--(Esther got the words out with some difficulty, without, however, breaking down)--'and I thought, I had to get accustomed to doing without you--and I had better do it.'


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