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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

It pleased him to share it with Esther


'Who

will do my thinking for me?' asked Esther, with a look and a smile which would have better fitted twice her years; a look of wistful inquiry, a smile of soft derision.

'I will,' said Pitt boldly.

'Will you? Oh, Pitt, I would like to ask you something! But not now,' she added immediately. 'Another time. Now, tell me about college.'

He did tell her. He gave her details of things he told no one else. He allowed her to know of his successes, which Pitt was too genuinely modest and manly to enlarge upon even to his father and mother; but to these childish eyes and this implicit trusting, loving, innocent spirit, he gave the infinite pleasure of knowing what he had secretly enjoyed alone, in the depths of his own mind. It pleased him to share it with Esther. As for her, her interest and sympathy knew no bounds.

Pitt, however, while he was talking about his own doings and affairs, was thinking about Esther. She had changed, somehow. That wonderful stage of life, 'where the brook and river meet,' she had hardly yet reached; she was really a little girl still, or certainly ought to be. What was then this delicate, grave, spiritual look in the face, the thoughtful intelligence, the refinement of perception, so beyond her years? No doubt it was due to her living alone, with a somewhat gloomy father, and being prematurely thrown upon a woman's needs and

a woman's resources. Pitt recognised the fact that his own absence might have had something to do with it. So long as he had been with her, teaching her and making a daily breeze in her still life, Esther had been in a measure drawn out of herself, and kept from brooding. And then, beyond all, the natural organization of this fine creature was of the rarest; strong and delicate at once, of large capacities and with correspondingly large requirements; able for great enjoyment, and open also to keen suffering. He could see it in every glance of the big, thoughtful eyes, and every play of the sensitive lips, which had, however, a trait of steadfastness and grave character along with their sensitiveness. Pitt looked, and wondered, and admired. This child's face was taking on already a fascinating power of expression, quite beyond her years; and that was because the inner life was developing too soon into thoughtfulness and tenderness, and too early realizing the meaning of life. Nothing could be more innocent of self-consciousness than Esther; she did not even know that Pitt was regarding her with more attention than ordinary, or, if she knew, she took it as quite natural. He saw that, and so indulged himself. What a creature this would be, by and by! But in the meantime, what was to become of her? Without a mother, or a sister, or a brother; all alone; with nobody near who even knew what she needed. What would become of her? It was not stagnation that was to be feared, but too vivid life; not that she would be mentally stunted, but that the growth would be to exhaustion, or lack the right hardening processes, and so be unhealthy.

The colonel awoke after a while, and welcomed his visitor as truly, if not as warmly, as Esther had done. He always had liked young Dallas; and now, after so long living alone, the sight of him was specially grateful. Pitt must stay and have tea; and the talk between him and the colonel went on unflaggingly. Esther said nothing now; but Pitt watched her, and saw how she listened; saw how her eyes accompanied him, and her lips gave their silent tokens of understanding. Meanwhile she poured out tea for the gentlemen; did it with quiet grace and neatness, and was quick to see and attend to any little occasion for hospitable care.


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