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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

And Barker will do her part faithfully


'I

hope you are mistaken, colonel.'

'I am not mistaken.'

There was silence a few minutes. Pitt did not place unqualified trust in this judgment, even although, as he could not deny, the colonel might be supposed to know best. He doubted the truth of the prognostication; yet, on the other hand, he could not be sure that it was false. What if it were not false?

'I hope you are mistaken, colonel,' he said again; 'but if you are right--if it should be so as you fear'--

'I do not fear it,' put in the colonel, interrupting him.

'Not for yourself; but if it should be so,--what will become of Esther?'

'It was of her I wished to speak. She will be here.'

'Here in this house? She would be alone.'

'I should be away. But Mrs. Barker would look after her.'

'Barker!' Pitt echoed. 'Yes, Mrs. Barker could take care of the house and of the cooking, as she does now; but Esther would be entirely alone, colonel.'

'I have no one else to leave her with,' said the colonel gloomily.

'Let my mother take charge of her, in such a case. My mother would take care of her, as if Esther were her own. Let her come to my mother, colonel!'

style="text-align: justify;">'No,' said the colonel quietly, 'that would not be best. I am sure of Mrs. Dallas's kindness; but I shall leave Esther under the care of Barker and her brother. Christopher will manage the place, and keep everything right outside; and Barker will do her part faithfully. Esther will be safe enough so, for a while. She is a child yet. But then, William, I'll take a promise from you, if you will give it.'

'I will give any promise you like, sir. What is it?' said Pitt, who had never been in a less pleasant mood towards his friend. In fact he was entirely out of patience with him. 'What promise do you want, colonel?' he repeated.

'When you come back from England, Will, if I am no longer here, I want you to ask Esther for a sealed package of papers, which I shall leave with her. Then open the package; and the promise I want from you is that you will do according to the wishes you will find there expressed.'

Pitt looked at the colonel in much astonishment. 'May I not know what those wishes regard, sir?'

'They will regard all I leave behind me.'

There was in the tone of the colonel's voice, and the manner of utterance of his words, something which showed Pitt that further explanations were not to be had from him. He hesitated, not liking to bind himself to anything in the dark; but finally he gave the promise as required. He went home, however, in a doubtful mood as regarded himself, and a very impatient one as concerned the colonel. What ridiculous, precise notion was this that had got possession of him? How little was he able to comprehend the nature or the needs of his little daughter; and what disagreeable office might he have laid upon Pitt in that connection? Pitt revolved these things in a fever of impatience with the colonel, who had demanded such a pledge from him, and with himself, who had given it. 'I have been a fool for once in my life!' thought he.

Mr. and Mrs. Dallas were in the sitting-room, where Pitt went in. They had been watching for his return, though they took care not to tell him so.


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