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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

And he found Esther sitting in the verandah


sweet, in the old-fashioned

flower garden in front of the house; and the smell of the hay came from the fields where mowers were busy, and the trill of a bob-o'-link sounded in the meadow. It was evening when Pitt made his way from his father's house over to the colonel's; and he found Esther sitting in the verandah, with all this sweetness about her. The house was old and country fashioned; the verandah was raised but a step above the ground,--low, and with slim little pillars to support its roof; and those pillars were all there was between Esther and the flowers. At one side of the house there was a lawn; in front, the space devoted to the flowers was only a small strip of ground, bordered by the paling fence and the road. Pitt opened a small gate, and came up to the house, through an army of balsams, hollyhocks, roses, and honeysuckles, and balm and southernwood. Esther had risen to her feet, and with her book in her hand, stood awaiting him. Her appearance struck him as in some sense new. She looked pale, he thought, and the mental tension of the moment probably made it true, but it was not merely that. There was a refined, ethereal gravity and beauty, which it is very unusual to see in a girl of thirteen; an expression too spiritual for years which ought to be full of joyous and careless animal life. Nevertheless it was there, and it struck Pitt not only with a sense of admiration, but almost with compassion; for what sort of apart and introverted life could it be which had called forth such a look
upon so young a face? No child living among children could ever be like that; nor any child living among grown people who took proper care of her; unless indeed it were an exceptional case of disease, which sets apart from the whole world; but Esther was perfectly well.

'I've been watching for you,' she said as she gave him her hand, and a very lovely smile of welcome. 'I have been looking for you ever so long.'

I don't know what made Pitt do it, and I do not think he knew; he had never done it before; but as he took the hand, and met the smile, he bent down and pressed his lips to those innocent, smiling ones. I suppose it was a very genuine expression of feeling; the fact that he might not know _what_ feeling is nothing to the matter.

Esther coloured high, and looked at him in astonishment. It was a flush that meant pleasure quite as much as surprise.

'I came as soon as I could,' he said.

'Oh, I knew you would! Sit down here, Pitt. Papa is sleeping; he had a headache. I am so glad you have come!'

'How is the colonel?'

'He says he's not well. I don't know.'

'And, Queen Esther, how are you?'

'Oh, I'm well.'

'Are you sure?'

'Why, certainly, Pitt. What should be the matter with me? There is never anything the matter with me.'

'I should say, a little too much thinking,' said Pitt, regarding her.

'Oh, but I have to think,' said Esther soberly.

'Not at all necessary, nor in my opinion advisable. There are other people in the world whose business it is to do the thinking. Leave it to them. You cannot do it, besides.'


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