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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

And Esther sat and looked at the Mecranthon


'Oh,

no, sir; they are only put here to dry. I put a weight on the book. They will be dry soon.'

'And what then?'

'Then I will take them out, papa. It's an old book.'

'And what will you do with them?'

'I will keep them, sir.'

'What is the use of keeping the flowers after their beauty is gone? I do not think that is worth while.'

'_Some_ of their beauty is gone,' said Esther, with a certain tenderness for the plants manifested in her manner,--'but I love them yet, papa.'

'That is not wise, my child. Why should you love a parcel of dry leaves? Love what is worthy to be loved. I think I would throw them all in the fire.'

'Oh, papa!'

'That's the best, my dear. They are only rubbish. I object to the hoarding of rubbish. It is a poor habit.'

The colonel turned his attention again to his book, and perhaps did not even remark how Esther sat with a disconsolate face on the floor, looking at her condemned treasures. He would not have understood it if he had seen. In his nature there was no key to the feeling which now was driving the tears into Esther's eyes and making her heart swell. Like many men, and many women, for the matter of that, Colonel

Gainsborough had very little power of association. He would indeed have regarded with sacred reverence anything that had once belonged to his wife, down to her shoe; in that one instance the tension of feeling was strong enough to make the chords tremble under the lightest touch. In other relations, what did it matter? They were nothing to him; and if Colonel Gainsborough made his own estimate the standard of the worth of things, he only did what I am afraid we all do, more or less. At any rate, his was not one of those finer strung natures which recognise the possibility of worlds of knowledge and feeling not open to themselves. It is also just possible that he divined his daughter's sentiment in regard to the flowers enough to be jealous of it.

But Esther did not immediately move to obey his order. She sat on the floor with the big book before her, the open page showing a half dry blossom of the Mecranthon geranium which was still to her eyes very beautiful. And all the associations of that pleasant Christmas afternoon when Pitt had brought it and told her what its name was, rose up before her. She was exceedingly unwilling to burn it. The colonel perhaps had a guess that he had given a hard command; for he did not look again at Esther or speak to her, or take any notice of her delay of obedience. That she would obey he knew; and he let her take her time. So he did not see the big tears that filled her eyes, nor the quiet way in which she got rid of them; while the hurt, sorrowful, regretful look on her face would have certainly moved Pitt to indignation if he had been where he could see it. I am afraid, if the colonel had seen it, _he_ would have been moved quite in a different way. Not to anger, indeed; Colonel Gainsborough was never angry with his child, as truly she never gave him cause; but I think he would privately have applauded the wisdom of his regulation, which removed such objects of misplaced sentiment out of the way of doing further harm. And Esther sat and looked at the Mecranthon, brushed away her tears softly, swallowed her regrets and unwillingness, and finally rose up, carried her book to the fire, and one by one, turning the leaves, took out her drying favourites and threw them into the glowing grate. It was done; and she carried the book away and put it in its old place.


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