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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Esther never forgot that home coming


'He's

that simple,' Mrs. Barker confided to her brother, 'he expects to find a fire made and a room ready for him! It's like all the gentlemen. They never takes no a 'Thinks the furniture 'll hop out o' the boxes, like, 'count of how things is done, if it ain't _their_ things.' and stan' round,' echoed Christopher. 'I'm afeard they won't be so obligin'.'

The drive was somewhat slower in the dark than it would have been otherwise, and the stars were out and looking down brilliantly upon the little party as they finally dismounted at their door. The shadow of the house rising before them, a cool air from the river, the sparkling stars above, the vague darkness around; Esther never forgot that home-coming.

They had stopped at a neighbour's house to get the key; and now, the front door being unlocked, made their way in, one after another. Esther was confronted first by a great packing-case in the narrow hall, which blocked up the way. Going carefully round this, which there was just room to do, she stumbled over a smaller box on the floor.

'Oh, papa, take care!' she cried to her father, who was following her; 'the house is all full of things, and it is so dark. Oh, Barker, can't you open the back door and let in a gleam of light?'

This was done, and also in due time a lantern was brought upon the scene. It revealed a state of things almost as hopeless

as the world appeared to Noah's dove the first time she was sent out of the ark. If there was rest for the soles of their feet, it was all that could be said. There was no promise of a place to sit down; and as for _lying_ down and getting their natural rest, the idea was Utopian.

'Now look here,' said a voice suddenly out of the darkness outside: 'you're all fagged out, ain't ye? and there ain't nothin' on arth ye kin du to-night; there's no use o' your tryin'. Jes' come over to my house and hev some supper. Ye must want it bad. Ben travellin' all day, ain't ye? Jes' come over to me; I've got some hot supper for ye. Lands sakes! ye kin't do nothin' here to-night. It _is_ a kind of a turn-up, ain't it? La, a movin's wuss'n a weddin', for puttin' everybody out.'

The voice, sounding at first from the outside, had been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, till with the last words the speaker also entered the back room, where Esther and her father were standing. They were standing in the midst of packing-cases, of every size and shape, between which the shadows lay dark, while the faint lantern light just served to show the rough edges and angles of the boxes and the hopeless condition of things generally. It served also now to let the new-comer be dimly seen. Esther and her father, looking towards the door, perceived a stout little figure, with her two hands rolled up in her shawl, head bare, and with hair in neat order, for it glanced in the lantern shine as only smooth things can. The features of the face were not discernible.

'It's the cunnel himself, ain't it?' she said. 'They said he was a tall man, and I see _this_ is a tall un. Is it the cunnel himself? I couldn't somehow make out the name--I never kin; and I kin't _see_ nothin', as the light is.'

'At your service, madam,' said the person addressed. 'Colonel Gainsborough.'

The visitor dropped a little dot of a curtsey, which seemed to Esther inexpressibly funny, and went on.


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