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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Pitt was half aware of all this


'But why should a Government wish to rule people's consciences, papa?'

'Power, my dear. As long as men's minds are free, there is something where power does not reach.'

'I should think everybody would _like_ Dissenters, papa?' was Esther's simple conclusion.

'Mrs. Dallas doesn't,' said the colonel grimly.

CHAPTER XII.

_THE VACATION_.

The days went too fast, as the last half of Pitt's vacation passed away. Ay, there was no holding them, much as Esther tried to make each one as long as possible. I think Pitt tried too; for he certainly gave his little friend and playmate all he could of pleasure, and all he could of himself. Esther shared everything he did, very nearly, that was not done within his own home. Nothing could have been more delightful than those days of August and September, if only the vision of the end of them had not been so near. That vision did not hinder the enjoyment; it intensified it; every taste of summer and social delight was made keen with that spice of coming pain; even towards the very last, nothing could prevent Esther's enjoyment of every moment she and Pitt spent together. Only to be together was such pleasure. Every word he spoke was good in her ears; and to her eyes, every feature of his appearance, and every movement of his person was comely and admirable. She gave him, in fact, a kind of grave worship, which perhaps nobody suspected in its degree, because it was not displayed in the manner of childish effusiveness. Esther was never effusive; her manner was always quiet, delicate, and dignified, such as a child's can well be. And so even Pitt himself did not fully know how his little friend regarded him, though he had sometimes a queer approach to apprehension. It struck him now and then, the grave, absorbed look of Esther's beautiful eyes; occasionally he caught a flash of light in them, such as in nature only comes from heavily-charged clouds. Always she liked to do what he liked, and gave quick regard to any expressed wish of his; always listened to him, and watched his doings, and admired his successes, with the unconditional devotion of an unquestioning faith. Pitt was half-aware of all this; yet he was at an age when speculation is apt to be more busy with matters of the head than of the heart; and besides, he was tolerably well accustomed to the same sort of thing at home, and took it probably as very natural and quite in order. And he knew well, and did not forget, that to the little lonely child his going away would be, even more than it might be to his mother, the loss of a great deal of brightness out of her daily life. He did even dread it a little. And as the time drew near, he saw that his fears were going to be justified.

Esther did not lament or complain; she never, indeed, spoke of his going at all; but what was much more serious, she grew pale. And when the last week came, the smile died out of her eyes and from her lips. No tears were visible; Pitt would almost rather have seen her cry, like a child, much as with all other men he hated tears; it would have been better than this preternatural gravity with which the large eyes opened at him, and the soft mouth refused to give way. She seemed to enter into everything they were doing with no less interest than usual; she was not abstracted; rather, Pitt got the impression that she carried about with her, and brought into everything, the perfect recollection that he was going away. It began to oppress him.


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