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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

That Esther knew what she meant was evident


Esther knew what she meant was evident; it was equally plain that the colonel did not. He was puzzled, and did not like to show it too fully. The one face was shining with clearness and gladness; the other was dissatisfied and perplexed.

'My dear, I do not understand you,' the colonel said, after a pause. 'Have you been reading mystical books? I did not know there were any in the house.'

'I have been reading only the Bible, papa; and _that_ is not mystical.'

'Your language sounds so.'

'Why, no, papa! I do not mean anything mystical.'

'Will you explain yourself?'

Esther paused, thinking how she should do this. When one has used the simplest words in one's vocabulary, and is called upon to expound them by the use of others less simple, the task is somewhat critical. The colonel watched with a sort of disturbed pleasure the thoughtful, clear brow, the grave eyes which had become so sweet. The intelligence at work there, he saw, was no longer that of a child; the sweetness was no longer the blank of unconscious ignorance, but the wisdom of some blessed knowledge. What did she know that was hidden from his experience?

'Papa, it is very difficult to tell you,' Esther began. 'I used to know about the things in the Bible, and I had learned whole

chapters by heart; but that was all. I did not know much more than the name of Christ,--and His history, of course, and His words.'

'What more could you know?' inquired the colonel, in increasing astonishment.

'That's just it, papa; I did not know Himself. You know what you mean when you say you don't know somebody. I mean just that.'

'But, Esther, that sounds to me very like--very like--an improper use of language,' said the colonel, stammering. 'How can you _know Him_, as you speak?'

'I can't tell you, papa. I think He showed Himself to me.'

'Showed Himself! Do you mean in a vision?'

'Oh no, papa!' said Esther, smiling. 'I have not seen His face, not literally. But He has somehow showed me how good He is, and how glorious; and has made me understand how He loves me, and how He is with me; so that I do not feel alone any more. I don't think I ever shall feel alone again.'

Was this extravagance? The colonel pondered. It seemed to him a thing to be rebuked or repressed; he knew nothing of this kind in his own religious experience; he feared it was visionary and fanciful. But when he looked at Esther's face, the words died on his tongue which he would have spoken. Those happy eyes were so strong in their wistfulness, so grave in their happiness, that they forbade the charge of folly or fancifulness; nay, they were looking at something which the colonel wished he could himself see, if the sight brought such contentment. They stopped his mouth. He could not say what he thought to say, and his own eyes oddly fell before them.

'What does William Dallas know about all this?' he asked.

'Nothing, papa. I don't think he knows it at all.'

'Why did you write about it to him, then?'

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