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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

' Esther stood in delighted admiration before it

Esther's face had all changed since he came in. The premature gravity and sadness was entirely dispersed; the eyes were full of beautiful light, the mouth taking a great many curves corresponding to as many alternations and shades of sympathy, and a slight colour of interest and pleasure had risen in the cheeks. If Pitt had vanity to gratify, it was gratified; but he had something better, he had a genuine kindness and liking for the little girl, which had suffered absolute pain, when he saw how his absence and silence had worked. Now the two were in full enjoyment of the old relations and the old intercourse, when the door opened, and Mrs. Barker's head appeared.

'Miss Esther, it's your time.'

'Time for what?' asked Pitt.

'It's my time for going to bed,' said Esther, rising. 'I'll come, Mrs. Barker.'

'Queen Esther, does that woman say what you are to do and not do?' said Pitt, in some indignation.

'Oh no; but papa. He likes me not to be up later than nine o'clock.'

'What has Barker to do with it? I think she wants putting in her place.'

'She always goes with me and attends to me. Yes, I must go,' said Esther.

'But the colonel is not here to be disturbed.'

'He would be disturbed, if I didn't go at the right time. Good-night, Pitt.'

'Well, till to-morrow,' said the young man, taking Esther's hand and kissing it. 'But this is what I call a very summary proceeding. Queen Esther, does your majesty always do what you are expected to do, and take orders from everybody!'

'No; only from papa and you. Good-night, Pitt. Yes, I'll be ready to-morrow.'



Pitt walked home, half amused at himself that he should take so much pains about this little girl, at the same time very firmly resolved that nothing should hinder him. Perhaps his liking for her was deeper than he knew; it was certainly real; while his kindly and generous temper responded promptly to every appeal that her affection and confidence made upon him. Affection and confidence are very winning things, even if not given by a beautiful girl who will soon be a beautiful woman; but looking out from Esther's innocent eyes, they went down into the bottom of young Dallas's heart. And besides, his nature was not only kind and noble; it was obstinate. Opposition, to him, in a thing he thought good to pursue, was like blows of a hammer on a nail; drove the purpose farther in.

So he made himself, it is true, very pleasant indeed to his parents at home, that night and the next morning; but then he went with Esther after cedar and hemlock branches. It may be asked, what opposition had he hitherto found to his intercourse with the colonel's daughter? And it must be answered, none. Nevertheless, Pitt felt it in the air, and it had the effect on him that the north wind and cold are said to have upon timber.

It was a day of days for Esther. First the delightful roving walk, and cutting the greens, which were bestowed in a cart that attended them; then the wonderful novelty of dressing the house. Esther had never seen anything of the kind before, which did not hinder her, however, from giving very good help. The hall, the sitting-room, the drawing-room, and even Pitt's particular, out-of-the-way work-room, all were wreathed and adorned and dressed up, each after its manner. For Pitt would not have one place a repetition of another. The bright berries of the winterberry and bittersweet were mingled with the dark shade of the evergreens in many ingenious ways; but the crowning triumph of art, perhaps, to Esther's eyes, was a motto in green letters, picked out with brilliant partridge berries, over the end of the sitting-room,--'Peace on earth.' Esther stood in delighted admiration before it, also pondering.

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