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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

It struck Esther rather painfully


Mrs.

Dallas's eye fell coldly upon Esther. 'I do not think the Church knows of any such time,' she answered, as she turned away. Pitt whistled for some time thereafter in silence.

The decorations were finished, and most lovely to Esther's eyes; then, when they were all done, she went home to tea. For getting the greens and putting them up had taken both the morning and the afternoon to accomplish. She went home gaily, with a brisk step and a merry heart, at the same time thinking busily.

Home, in its dull uniformity and stillness, was a contrast after the stir and freshness and prettiness of life in the Dallases's house. It struck Esther rather painfully. The room where she and her father took their supper was pleasant and homely indeed; a bright fire burned on the hearth, or in the grate, rather, and a bright lamp shone on the table; Barker had brought in the tea urn, and the business of preparing tea for her father was one that Esther always liked. But, nevertheless, the place approached too nearly a picture of still life. The urn hissed and bubbled, a comfortable sound; and now and then there was a falling coal or a jet of gas flame in the fire; but I think these things perhaps made the stillness more intense and more noticeable. The colonel sat on his sofa, breaking dry toast into his tea and thoughtfully swallowing it; he said nothing, unless to demand another cup; and Esther, though she had a healthy young

appetite, could not quite stay the mental longing with the material supply. Besides, she was pondering something curiously.

'Papa,' she said at last, 'are you busy? May I ask you something?'

'Yes, my dear. What is it?'

'Papa, what is Christmas?'

The colonel looked up.

'What is Christmas?' he repeated. 'It is nothing, Esther; nothing at all. A name--nothing more.'

'Then, why do people think so much of Christmas?'

'They do not. Sensible people do not think anything of it. Christmas is nothing to me.'

'But, papa, why then does anybody make much of it? Mrs. Dallas has her house all dressed up with greens.'

'You had better keep away from Mrs. Dallas's.'

'But it looks so pretty, papa! Is there any harm in it?'

'Harm in what?'

'Dressing the house so? It is all hemlock wreaths, and cedar branches, and bright red berries here and there; and Pitt has put them up so beautifully! You can't think how pretty it all is. Is there any harm in that, papa?'

'Decidedly; in my judgment.'

'Why do they do it then, papa?'


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