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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

And it was no mirage that hovered before Esther


necessity which brought the Dallases often to Colonel Gainsborough's was the political situation. They could hardly discuss it with anybody else in Seaforth, and what is the use of a political situation if you cannot discuss it? All the rest of the families in the neighbourhood were strong Americans; and even Pitt, in his letters, was more of an American than anything else. Indeed, so much more, that it gave his mother sad annoyance. He told of the temper of the English people at this juncture; of the demands to be made by the English government before they would hear of peace; of a strong force sent to Canada, and the general indignant and belligerent tone of feeling and speech among members of Parliament; but Pitt did not write as if he sympathized with it. 'He has lived here too long already!' sighed his mother.

'Not if he is destined to live here the rest of his life, my dear madam,' said the colonel.

'He will not do that. He will end by settling in England.'

'Will may have his own views, on that as on some other things.'

'By the time he has gone through the University and studied for his profession, he will be more of an Englishman than of an American,' Mr. Dallas observed contentedly. 'He will choose for himself.'

'What profession? Have you fixed upon one? or has he?'


enough yet for that.'

'But your property lies here.'

'I am here to take care of it,' said Mr. Dallas, laughing a little.

All this sort of talk, which Esther heard often, with variations, made one thing clear to her, namely, that if it depended on his father and mother, Pitt's return to his native country would be long delayed or finally prevented. It did not entirely depend on them, everybody knew who knew him; nevertheless it seemed to Esther that the fascinations of the old world must be great, and the feeling of the distance between her and Pitt grew with every letter. It was not the fault of the letters or of the writer in any way, nor was it the effect the latter were intended to produce; but Esther grew more and more despondent about him. And then, after a few months, the letters became short and rare. Pitt had gone to Oxford; and, from the time of his entering the University, plunged head and ears into business, so eagerly that time and disposition failed for writing home. Letters did come, from time to time, but there was much less in them; and those for Colonel Gainsborough were at long intervals. So, when the second winter of Pitt's absence began to set in, Esther reckoned him, to all intents and purposes, lost to her life.

The girl went with increased eagerness and intentness to the one resource she had--her Bible. The cry for happiness is so natural to the human heart, that it takes long oppression to stifle it. The cry was strong in Esther's young nature--strong and imperative; and in all the world around her she saw no promise of help or supply. The spring at which she had slaked her thirst was dried up; the desert was as barren to her eye as it had been to Hagar's; but, unlike Hagar, she sought with a sort of desperate eagerness in one quarter where she believed water might be found. When people search in _that_ way, unless they get discouraged, their search is apt to come to something; unless, indeed, they are going after a mirage, and it was no mirage that hovered before Esther,--no vision of anything, indeed; she was searching into the meaning of a promise.

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