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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Barker met the look in Esther's eyes


'I

am sure and I don't know, Miss Esther; if it wouldn't be little children,--which is, them that is too young to know what the world is like. I do suppose they are happy.'

'Don't you know, the Bible says some other people are happy?'

'The Bible!'

Mrs. Barker stared, open-mouthed, at the face before her. Esther had sat down by the window, where the glow from the west was upon it, like a glory round the head of a young saint; and the evening sky was not more serene, nor reflected more surely a hidden light than did the beautiful eyes. Mrs. Barker gazed, and could not bring out another word.

'You read your Bible, don't you?'

'Yes 'm, in course; which it isn't very often; but in course I reads it.'

'Don't you know what it says about happy people?'

'In Paradise,' gasped the housekeeper.

'No, not in Paradise. Listen; let me tell you. "Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered."'

Mrs. Barker met the look in Esther's eyes, and was absolutely dumb.

'Don't you know that?'

'I've heerd it, mum.'

'Well, you understand it?'

'If

you please, Miss Esther, I think a body could be that knowed it; that same, I mean.'

'How can anybody be happy that does _not_ know it?'

'True enough, mum; but how is anybody to know it for sure, Miss Esther?'

'_I_ know it, Barker.'

'_You_, Miss Esther! Yes, mum, that's easy, when you never did nothin' wrong in your life. 'Tain't the way with the likes o' us.'

'It is not the way with anybody. Nothing but the blood of Christ can make any one clean. But that will. And don't you see, Barker, _that_ is being happy?'

There was indeed no dissent in the good woman's eyes, but she said nothing. Esther presently went on.

'Now I will tell you another word. Listen. "Blessed is the man whose strength the Lord is." Don't you think so, Barker? Don't you see? He _can never be weak_.'

'Miss Esther, you do speak beautiful!' came out at last the housekeeper.

'Don't you think that is being happy?'

'It do sound so, mum.'

'I can tell you it feels so, Barker. "Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him." And that is, they are happy. And I trust in Him; and I love Him; and I know my sins are forgiven and covered; and my strength is in Him--all my strength. But that makes me strong.'

She went away with that from the window and the room, leaving the housekeeper exceedingly confounded; much as if a passing angel's wings had thrown down a white light upon her brown pathway. And from this time, it may be said Mrs. Barker regarded her young lady with something like secret worship. She had always been careful and tender of her charge; now in spirit she bowed down before her to the ground. For a while after Esther had left the room she stood very still, like one upon whom a spell had fallen. She was comparing things; remembering the look Mrs. Gainsborough had used to wear--sweet, dignified, but shadowed; then the face that at one time was Esther's face, also sweet and dignified, but uneasy and troubled and dark; and now--what was her countenance like? The housekeeper was no poet, nor in any way fanciful; otherwise she might have likened it to some of the fairest things in nature; and still the comparison would have fallen short. Sweet as a white rose; untroubled as the stars; full of hope as the flush of the morning. Only, in the human creature there was the added element of _life_, which in all these dead things was wanting. Mrs. Barker probably thought of none of these images for her young mistress; nevertheless, the truth that is in them came down upon her very heart; and from that time she was Esther's devoted slave. There was no open demonstration of feeling; but Esther's wishes were laws to her, and Esther's welfare lay nearest her heart of all things in the world.


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