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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Dallas reported on one of their evening visits


'Miss Esther's got a head,' put in Mrs. Barker.

''Twon't be solid and that, if it ain't looked after,' retorted her brother. 'I don't s'pose you understand the natural world, though. What's the colonel thinkin' about?'

'That ain't your and my business, Christopher. But I do worrit myself about Miss Esther's face, the way I sees it sometimes.'

The colonel, it is true, did not see it as Mrs. Barker saw it. Not but that he might, if he had ever watched her. But he did not watch. It never occurred to him but that everything went right with Esther. When she made him his tea, she was attentive and womanly; when she read aloud to him, she read intelligently; and in the reciting of the few lessons she did with her father, there was always no fault to find. How could the colonel suppose anything was wrong? Life had become a dull, sad story to him; why should it be different to anybody else? Nay, the colonel would not have said that in words; it was rather the supine condition into which he had lapsed, than any conclusion of his intelligence; but the fact was, he had no realization of the fact that a child's life ought to be bright and gay. He accepted Esther's sedate unvarying tone and manner as quite the right thing, and found it suit him perfectly. Nobody else saw the girl, except at church. The family had not cultivated the society of their neighbours in the place, and Esther had no friends among them.

There was a long succession of months during which things went on after this fashion. Very weary months to Esther; indeed, months covered by so thick a gloom that part of the child's life consisted in the struggle to break it. Letters did not come frequently from Pitt, even to his father and mother; he wrote that it was difficult to get a vessel to take American letters at all, and that the chances were ten to one, if accepted, that they would never get to the hands they were intended for. American letters or American passengers were sometimes held to vitiate the neutrality of a vessel; and if chased she would be likely to throw them, that is, the former, overboard. Pitt was detained still in Lisbon by the difficulty of getting passports, as late as the middle of March, but expected then soon to sail for England. His passage was taken. So Mr. and Mrs. Dallas reported on one of their evening visits. They talked a great deal of politics at these visits, which sometimes interested Esther and sometimes bored her excessively; but this last bit of private news was brought one evening about the end of April.

'He has not gained much by his winter's work,' remarked the colonel. 'He might as well have studied this term at Yale.'

'He will not have lost his time,' said Mr. Dallas comfortably. 'He is there, that is one thing; and he is looking about him; and now he will have time to feel a little at home in England and make all his arrangements before his studies begin. It is very well as it is.'

'If you think so, it is,' said the colonel drily.

The next news was that Pitt had landed at Falmouth, and was going by post-chaise to London in a day or two. He reported having just got Lord Byron's two last poems,--'The Corsair' and 'The Bride of Abydos'; wished he could send them home, but that was not so easy.

'He had better send them home, or send them anywhere,' said the colonel; 'and give his attention to Sophocles and Euclid. Light poetry does not amount to anything; it is worse than waste of time.'

'I don't want a man to be made of Greek and Latin,' said Mrs. Dallas. 'Do you think, only the Ancients wrote what is worthy to be read, colonel?'


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