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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Miss Fairbairn did not expect that


'It

is quite likely she enjoys her meals more than you do yours. But granting she does not, are you the physician to know what is good for her?'

'She does not want any physician, ma'am.'

A laugh ran round the table, and Miss Fairbairn let the subject drop. When dinner was nearly over, however, she remarked:

'You want light for your practising. I will excuse you, Miss Gainsborough, if you wish to go.'

Esther went, very willingly. Then Miss Fairbairn held one of her little discourses, with which now and then she endeavoured to edify her pupils.

'Young ladies, I am going to ask you to take pattern by Miss Gainsborough. Did you notice her movements when she went to do that little errand for me?'

Silence. Then murmurs of assent were heard, not very loud, nor enthusiastic. Miss Fairbairn did not expect that, nor care. What she wanted was to give her lesson.

'Did you observe how she moved? She went like a swan'--

'On land' her keen ears heard somebody say under breath.

'No, not on the land; like a swan on the water; with that smooth, gliding, noiseless movement which is the very way a true lady goes. There was the cat lying directly in her way; Miss Gainsborough went round her gracefully,

without stopping or stumbling. The servant came right against her with a tray full; Miss Gainsborough stood still and waited composedly till the obstacle was removed. You could not hear her open or shut the door; you could not hear her foot on the stairs, and yet she went quick. And when she came back, she did not rustle and bustle with her newspaper, but laid it nicely folded beside me, and went back to her seat as quietly as she had left it. Young ladies, that is good breeding in motion.'

CHAPTER XXI.

_THE COLONEL'S TOAST_.

It is just possible that the foregoing experiences did not tend to increase Esther's popularity among her companions. She got forthwith the name of _favourite_, the giving of which title is the consolatory excuse to themselves of those who have done nothing to deserve favour. However, whether she were popular or not was a matter that did not concern Esther. She was full of the delight of learning, and bent upon making the utmost of her new advantages. Study swallowed her up, so to speak; at least, swallowed up all lesser considerations and attendant circumstances. Not so far but that Esther got pleasure also from these; she enjoyed the novelty, she enjoyed the society, even she enjoyed the sight of so many in the large family; to the solitary girl, who had all her life lived and worked alone, the stir and breeze and bustle of a boarding-school were like fresh air to the lungs, or fresh soil to the plant. Whether her new companions liked her, she did not so much as question; in the sweetness of her own happy spirit she liked _them_, which was the more material consideration. She liked every teacher that had to do with her; after which, it is needless to add, that Miss Gainsborough had none but favourers and friends in that part of her new world. And it was so delicious to be learning; and in such a mood one learns fast. Esther felt, when she went home at the end of the week, that she was already a different person from the one who had left it on Monday morning.


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