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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

' said Esther a little timidly


'Beg

pardon for not knowin'. Wall, cunnel, I'm sure you're tired and hungry,--you and your darter, is it?--and I've got a hot supper for you over to my house. I allays think there's nothin' like hevin' things hot,--cold comfort ain't no comfort, for me,--and I've got everythin' hot for you--hot and nice; and now, will you come over and eat it? You see, you kin't do nothin' here to-night. I don't see how ever you're to sleep, in this world; there ain't nothin' here but the floor and the boxes, and if you'll take beds with me, I'm sure you're welcome.'

'I thank you, madam; you are very kind; but I do not think we need trouble you,' the colonel said, with civil formality. Esther was amused, but also a little eager that her father should accept the invitation. What else would become of him? she thought. The prospect was desolation. Truly they had some cooked provisions; but that was only cold comfort, as their visitor had said; doubtful if the term could be applied at all.

'Now you'd jes' best come right over!' the fluent but kind voice said persuasively. 'It's all spilin' to be eat. An' what kin you do? There ain't no fire here to warm you, and it'll take a bit of a while before you kin get one; an' you're all tired out. Jes' come over and hev a cup o' hot coffee, and get heartened up a bit, and then you'll know what to do next. I allays think, one thing at a time.'

'Papa,' said Esther

a little timidly, 'hadn't you better do it? There's nothing but confusion here; it will be a long time before we can get you even a cup of tea.'

'It's all ready,' their visitor went on,--'ready and spilin'; an' I got it for you o' purpose. Now don't stan' thinkin' about it, but jes' come right over; I'll be as glad to hev you as if you was new apples.'

'How far is it, ma'am?' Esther asked.

'Jes' two steps--down the other side o' the field; it's the very next house to your'n. Oh, I've lived there a matter o' ten year; and I was main glad to hear there was somebody comin' in here agin; it's so sort o' lonesome to see the winders allays shut up; and your light looks real cheery, if it is only a lantern light. I knowed when you was a comin', and says I, they'll be real tired out when they gits there, says I; and I'll hev a hot supper ready for 'em, it's all I kin du; but I'm sure, if you'll sleep, you're welcome.'

'If you please, sir,' put in Mrs. Barker, 'it would be the most advisedest thing you could do; for there ain't no prospect here, and if you and Miss Esther was away for a bit, mebbe me and Christopher would come to see daylight after a while; which it is what I don't do at present.'

The good woman's voice sounded so thoroughly perturbed, and expressed such an undoubted earnest desire, that the colonel, contrary to all his traditions, gave in. He and Esther followed their new friend, ''cross the field,' as she said, but they hardly knew where, till the light and warmth of her hospitable house received them.

How strange it was! The short walk in the starlight; then the homely hospitable room, with its spread table--the pumpkin pie, and the sausage, and the pickles, and the cheese, and the cake! The very coarse tablecloth; the little two-pronged forks, and knives which might have been cut out of sheet iron, and singular ware which did service for china. The extreme homeliness of it all would almost have hindered Esther from eating, though she was very hungry. But there was good bread and butter; and coffee that was hot, and not bad otherwise, although assuredly it never saw the land of Arabia; certainly it seemed very good to Esther that night, even taken from a pewter spoon. And the tablecloth was clean, and everything upon it. So, with doubtful hesitation at first, Esther found the supper good, and learned her first lesson in the broadness of humanity and the wide variety in the ways of human life.


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