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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

At thirteen Esther was looking into life


dear, you stay too long in the cold. Is William gone?'

'Oh yes, papa.'

'This is not the right paper I want; this is an August paper. I want the one for the last week in July.'

Esther went and rummaged again among the pile of newspapers, mechanically, finding it hard to command her attention to such an indifferent business. She brought the July paper at last.

'Papa, do you think he will ever come back?' she asked, trembling with pain and the effort not to show it.

'Come back? Who? William Dallas? Why shouldn't he come back? His parents are here; if he lives, he will return to them, no doubt.'

Esther sat down and said no more. The earth seemed to her dreadfully empty.



And so life seemed for many days to the child. She could not shake off the feeling, nor regain any brightness of spirit. Dull, dull, everything in earth and heaven seemed to be. The taste and savour had gone out of all her pleasures and occupations. She could not read, without the image of Pitt coming between her and the page; she could not study, without an unendurable sense that he was no longer there nor going to be there to hear her lessons.

She had no heart for walks, where every place recalled some memory of Pitt, and what they had done or said there together; she shunned the box of coins, and hardly cared to gather one of the few lingering fall flowers. And the last of them were soon gone, for the pleasant season was ended. Then came rains and clouds and winds, and Esther was shut up to the house.

I can never tell how desolate she was. Truly she was only a girl of thirteen; she ought not to have been desolate, perhaps, for any no greater matter. She had her father, and her books, and her youth. Bat Esther had also a nature delicate and deep far beyond what is common; and then she was unduly matured by her peculiar life. Intercourse with light-hearted children like herself had not kept her thoughtless and careless. At thirteen Esther was looking into life, and finding it already confused and dark. At thirteen also she was learning and practising self-command. Her father, not much of an observer unless in the field of military operations, had no perception that she was suffering; it never occurred to him that she might be solitary; he never knew that she needed his tenderest care and society and guidance. He might have replaced everything to Esther, so that she would have found no want at all. He did nothing of the kind. He was a good man; just and upright and highly honourable; but he was selfish, like most men. He lived to himself in his own deprivation and sorrow, and never thought but that Esther would in a few days get over the loss of her young teacher and companion. He hardly thought about it at all. The idea of filling Pitt's place, of giving her in his own person what left her when Pitt went away, did not enter his head. Indeed, he had no knowledge of what Pitt had done for her. If he had known it, there is little doubt it would have excited his jealousy. For it is quite in some people's nature to be jealous of another's having what they do not want themselves.

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