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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Miss Fairbairn received her paper


It

was at dinner one day. There was a long table set, which reached nearly from the front of the house to the back, through two rooms, leaving just comfortable space for the servants to move about around it. Dinner was half through. Miss Fairbairn was speaking of something in the newspaper of that morning which had interested her, and she thought would interest the girls.

'I will read it to you,' she said. 'Miss Gainsborough, may I ask you to do me a favour? Go and fetch me the paper, my dear; it lies on my table in the schoolroom; the paper, and the book that is with it.'

There went a covert smile round the room, which Esther did not see; indeed, it was too covert to be plain even to the keen eyes of Miss Fairbairn, and glances were exchanged; and perhaps it was as well for Esther that she did not know how everybody's attention for the moment was concentrated on her movements. She went and came in happy ignorance.

Miss Fairbairn received her paper, thanked her, and went on then to read to the girls an elaborate account of a wonderful wedding which had lately been celebrated in Washington. The bride's dress was detailed, her trousseau described, and the subsequent movements of the bridal party chronicled. All was listened to with eager attention.

'What do you think of it, Miss Dyckman?' the lady asked after she had finished reading.

justify;">'I think she was a happy girl, Miss Fairbairn.'

'Humph! What do you say, Miss Delavan?'

'Uncommonly happy, I should say, ma'am.'

'Is that your opinion, Miss Essing?'

'Certainly, ma'am. There could be but one opinion, I should think.'

'What could make a girl happy, if all that would not?' asked another.

'Humph! Miss Gainsborough, you are the next; what are your views on the subject?'

Esther's mouth opened, and closed. The answer that came first to her lips was sent back. She had a fine feeling that it was not fit for the company, a feeling that is expressed in the admonition not to cast pearls before swine, though that admonition did not occur to her at the time. She had been about to appeal to the Bible; but her answer as it was given referred only to herself.

'I believe I should not call "happiness" anything that would not last,' she said.

There was a moment's silence. What Miss Fairbairn thought was not to be read from her face; in other faces Esther read distaste or disapprobation.

'Why, Miss Fairbairn, nothing lasts, if you come to that,' cried a young lady from near the other end of the table.

'Some things more than others,' the mistress of the house opined.

'Not what you call "happiness," ma'am.'

'That's a very sober view of things to take at your age, Miss Disbrow.'

'Yes, ma'am,' said the young lady, tittering. 'It is true.'

'Do you think it is true, Miss Jennings?'


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