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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Esther had worked every hour of those days


'Miss

Esther, I can't do nothing till I get the kitchen free. There'll be the dinner.'

'Christopher will manage the kitchen.'

'He can't, mum. He don't know one thing that's to be done, no more'n one of his spades. It's just not possible, Miss Esther.'

'I will oversee what he does. Trust me. I will not make any bad mistakes, Barker. You put papa's room in order. He wishes it.'

What the colonel desired had to be done, Barker knew; so with a wondering look at Esther's sweet, determined face, she gave in. And that day and the next day, and the third, were days very full of business, and in which a vast deal was accomplished. The house was really very pretty, as Esther soon saw; and before Saturday night closed in, those parts of it at least which the colonel had most to do with were stroked into order, and afforded him all his wonted ease and luxury. Esther had worked every hour of those days, to the admiration of her subordinates; the informing spirit and regulating will of every step that was taken. She never lost her head, or her patience, or her sweet quiet; though she was herself as busy as a bee and at the same time constantly directing the activity of the others. Wise, and quick-witted, and quick to remember, her presence of mind and readiness of resource seemed unfailing. So, as I said, before Saturday night came, an immense deal of work was

accomplished, and done in a style that needed not to be done over again. All which, however, was not finished without some trace of the strain to which the human instrument had been put.

The sun had just set, and Esther was standing at the window of her father's room, looking out to the west. She had been unpacking his clothes and laying them in the drawers of his bureau and press.

'Miss Esther, you're tired, bad!' said the housekeeper wistfully, coming up beside her. 'There's all black rings under your eyes; and your cheeks is pale. You have worked too hard, indeed.'

'Never mind,' said Esther cheerfully; 'that will pass. How pretty it is, Barker! Look out at that sky.'

'Yes 'm, it's just the colour from that sky that keeps your cheeks from showin' how white they be. Miss Esther, you've just done too much.'

'Never mind,' said the girl again. 'I wanted to have papa comfortable before I went to school. I am going to school Monday morning, Barker. Now I think he'll do very nicely.' She looked round the room, which was a pattern of neatness and of comfort that was both simple and elegant. But the housekeeper's face was grave with disapproval and puckered with lines of care. The wistful expression of anxiety upon it touched Esther.

'Barker,' she said kindly, 'you do not look happy.'

'Me! No, Miss Esther, it is which I do not expect to look.'

'Why not?'

'Mum, things is not accordin' in this world.'

'I think you are mistaken. Do you know who the happy people are?'

'Indeed, Miss Esther, I think they're the blessed ones that has gone clean away from the earth.'

'Oh no! I mean, people that are happy now and happy here, Barker.'


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