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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

And Napoleon fleeing and Lord Wellington chasing


'Well,

my dear,' said he, after a while observing her, 'what does he say?'

'I suppose he told you, papa, what happened to him?'

'No, he did not; he only told me what is happening to the world. He has gone to Europe at a grand time!'

'What is happening to the world, papa?'

'My dear, that arch-usurper and mischief-maker, Napoleon Buonaparte, has been beaten by the allied armies at Leipzig--driven back over the Rhine. It's glorious news! I wish I was with Lord Wellington.'

'To fight, papa?'

'Certainly. I would like to have a hand in what is going on. If I could,' he added with a sigh.

'But papa, I should think fighting was not pleasant work?'

'Women's fighting is not.'

'Is men's fighting, papa? _Pleasant?_'

'It is pleasant to have a blow at a rascal. Ah, well! my fighting days are over. What does Pitt tell you?'

'About his voyage, papa; nothing else.'

'Are you going to let me hear it?'

Esther would a little rather have kept it to herself, simply because it was so precious to her. However, this question was a command, and she read the letter

aloud to her father. With that the matter was disposed of, in all but her own mind. For the final result of the letter was to stir up all the pain the writer's absence had caused, and to add to it some new elements of aggravation. Esther had not realized, till those letters came, how entirely the writer of them had gone out of her world. In love and memory she had in a sort still kept him near; without vision she had yet been not fully separated from him. Now these pictures of the other world and of Pitt's life in it came like a bright, sheer blade severing the connection which had until then subsisted between her life and his. Yes, he was in another world! and there was no connection any longer. He had not forgotten her yet, but he would forget; how should he not? how could he help it? In the rich sweep of variety and change and eager action which filled his experience, what thought could he have any more for that quiet figure on the sofa, or this lonely little child, whose life contained no interest whatever! or how could his thoughts return at all to this dull room, where everything remained with no change from morning to night and from one week to another? Always Colonel Gainsborough there on the sofa; always that same green cloth covering the table in the middle of the floor, and the view of the snow-covered garden and road and fields outside the windows, with those everlasting pollard poplars along the fence. While Europe was in commotion, and armies rolling their masses over it, and Napoleon fleeing and Lord Wellington chasing, and every breath was full of eagerness and hope and triumph and purpose in that world without.

Esther fell back into a kind of despair. Pitt was gone from her; now she realized that fact thoroughly; not only gone in person, but moved far off in mind. Maybe he might write again, once or twice; very likely he would, for he was kind; but his life was henceforth separated from Seaforth and from all the other life that had its home there. The old cry for comfort began to sound in Esther's heart with a terrible urgency. Where was it to come from? And as the child had only one possible outlook for comfort, she began to set her face that way in a kind of resolute determination. That is, she began to shut herself up with her Bible and search it as a man who is poor searches for a hid treasure, or as one who is starving looks for something to eat. Nobody knew. She shut herself up and carried on her search alone, and troubled nobody with questions. Nobody ever noticed the air of the child; the grave, far-away look of her eyes; the pale face; the unnaturally quiet demeanour. At least nobody noticed it to any purpose. Mrs. Barker did communicate to Christopher her belief that that child was 'mopin' herself into ninety years old;' and they were both agreed that she ought to be sent to school. 'A girl don't grow just like one o' my cabbages,' said Mr. Bounder; '_that_'ll make a head for itself.'


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