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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

And Colonel Gainsborough was a chilly man


I don't see what _is_ a weed, Christopher.'



Upon reaching home Esther sought to place her bloodroot in safety, giving it a soft and well-dug corner in her little plot of garden ground. She planted it with all care in the shadow of a rose-bush; and then went in to put her other flowers in water.

The sitting-room, whither she went, was a large, low, pleasant place; very simply furnished, yet having a cheerful, cosy look, as places do where people live who know how to live. The room, and the house, no doubt, owed its character to the rule and influence of Mrs. Gainsborough, who was there no longer, and to a family life that had passed away. The traces abode still. The chintz hangings and the carpet were of soft colours and in good harmony; chairs and lounges were comfortable; a great many books lined the walls, so many indeed that the room might have been styled the library. A portfolio with engravings was in one place; Mrs. Gainsborough's work-table in another; some excellent bronzes on the bookcases; one or two family portraits, by good hands; and an embroidery frame. A fine English mastiff was sleeping on the rug before the fire; for the weather was still cold enough within doors to make a fire pleasant, and Colonel Gainsborough was a chilly man.


lay on the couch when Esther came in with her flowers; a book in his hand, but not held before his eyes. He was a handsome man, of a severe, grave type; though less well-looking at this time because of the spiritless, weary, depressed air which had become his habit; there was a want of spring and life and hope in the features and in the manner also of the occupant of the sofa. He looked at Esther languidly, as she came in and busied herself with arranging her maple blossoms, her Hepatica and one or two delicate stems of the bloodroot in a little vase. Her father looked at the flowers and at her, in silence.

'Papa, aren't those _beautiful?_' she asked with emphasis, bringing the vase, when she had finished, to his side.

'What have you got there, Esther?'

'Just some anemones, and liverleaf, and bloodroot, and maple blossoms, papa; but Christopher calls them all sorts of big names.'

'They are very fragile blossoms,' the colonel remarked.

'Are they? They won't do in the garden, Christopher says, but they grow nicely out there in the wood. Papa, what is the difference between a weed and a flower?'

'I should think you were old enough to know.'

'I know them by sight--sometimes. But what is the _difference?_'

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