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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

No happiness short of being married


There

was a little hesitation. Miss Jennings said she did not know. Miss Lawton was appealed to.

'Is there no happiness that is lasting, Miss Lawton?'

'Well, Miss Fairbairn, what we call happiness. One can't be married but once,' the young lady hazarded.

That called forth a storm of laughter. Laughter well modulated and kept within bounds, be it understood; no other was tolerated in Miss Fairbairn's presence.

'I have _heard_ of people who had that happiness two or three times,' the lady said demurely. 'Is there, then, no happiness short of being married?'

'Oh, Miss Fairbairn! you know I do not mean that, but all the things you read to us of: the diamonds, and the beautiful dresses, and the lace, and the presents; and then the travelling, and doing whatever she liked.'

'Very few people do whatever they like,' murmured Miss Fairbairn.

'I mean all that. And that does not last--only for a while. The diamonds last, of course'--

'But the pleasure of wearing them might not. True. Quite right, Miss Lawton. But I come back to my question. Is there _no_ happiness on earth that lasts?'

There was silence.

'We are in a bad way, if that is our case. Miss

Gainsborough, what do you say? I come back to you again. Is there any such thing on earth as happiness, according to your terms?--something that lasts?'

Esther was in doubt again how to answer.

'I think there is, ma'am,' she said, with a look up at her questioner.

'Pray what is it?'

Did she know? or did she not know? Esther was not certain; was not certain that her words would find either understanding or sympathy in all that tableful. Nevertheless, the time had come when they must be spoken. Which words? for several Bible sayings were in her mind.

'"Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord: that walketh in His ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt them be, and it shall be well with thee."'

The most profound silence followed this utterance. It had been made in a steady and clear voice, heard well throughout the rooms, and then there was silence. Esther fancied she discerned a little sympathetic moisture in the eyes of Miss Fairbairn, but also that lady at first said nothing. At last one voice in the distance was understood to declare that its owner 'did not care about eating the labour of her hands.'

'No, my dear, you would surely starve,' replied Miss Fairbairn. 'Is that what the words mean, do you think, Miss Gainsborough?'

'I think not, ma'am.'

'What then? won't you explain?'

'There is a reference, ma'am, which I thought explained it. "Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings." And another word perhaps explains it. "Oh fear the Lord, ye His saints; for there is no want to them that fear Him."'


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