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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Esther kept well at a distance


so Esther suffered in a way and to a degree that was not good for her. Her old dull spiritless condition was creeping upon her again. She realized, more than it is the way of thirteen years old to realize, that something more than an ocean of waters--an ocean of circumstances--had rolled itself between her and the one friend and companion she had ever had. Pitt said he would return; but four or five years, for all present purposes, is a sort of eternity at her age; hope could not leap over it, and expectation died at the brink. Her want of comfort came back in full force; but where was the girl to get it?

The sight of Mr. and Mrs. Dallas used to put her in a fever. Once in a while the two would come to make an evening call upon her father; and then Esther used to withdraw as far as possible into a corner of the room and watch and listen; watch the looks of the pair with a kind of irritated fascination, and listen to their talk with her heart jumping and throbbing in pain and anxiety and passionate longing. For they were Pitt's father and mother, and only the ocean of waters lay between him and them, which they could cross at any time; he belonged to them, and could not be separated from them. All which would have drawn Esther very near to them and made them delightful to her, but that she knew very well they desired no such approach. Whether it were simply because she and her father were 'dissenters' Esther could not tell; whatever the reason,

her sensitive nature and discerning vision saw the fact. They made visits of neighbourly politeness to the one English family that was within reach; but more than politeness they desired neither to give nor receive. I suppose it was this perception which made the sight of the pair so irritating to Esther. _They_ were near Pitt, but they did not wish that _she_ should be. Esther kept well at a distance. But with all this they talked of their son perpetually: of his voyage, of his prospects, of his grand-uncle at Kensington, of his career in college, or at the University rather, and of his possible permanent remaining in the old country; at any rate, of his studying there for a profession. The colonel was only faintly interested, and would take up his book with a sigh of relief when they were gone; but Esther would sit in passionate misery, not shedding any tears; only staring with her big eyes at the lire in a sort of fixed gravity most unfit for her years.

The months went heavily. Winters were rather severe and very long at Seaforth; Esther was much shut up to the house. It made things all the harder for her. To the colonel it made no difference. He lay upon his couch, summer or winter, and went on with his half-hearted reading,--half a heart was all he brought to it; while Esther would stand at the window, watching the snow drive past, or the beating down of the rain, or the glitter of the sunbeams upon a wide white world, and almost wonder at the thought that warm lights and soft airs and flowers and walks and botanizing had ever been out there, where now the glint of the sunbeams on the snow-crystals was as sharp as diamonds, and all vegetable life seemed to be gone for ever.

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