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- Esther - 1/43 -






CHAPTER I. The Last Day at Redmayne House.

CHAPTER II. The Arrival at Combe Manor.


CHAPTER IV. Uncle Geoffrey.

CHAPTER V. The Old House at Milnthorpe.

CHAPTER VI. The Flitting.

CHAPTER VII. Over the Way.

CHAPTER VIII. Flurry and Flossy.

CHAPTER IX. The Cedars.

CHAPTER X. "I Wish I Had a Dot of My Own."

CHAPTER XI. Miss Ruth's Nurse.

CHAPTER XII. I Was Not Like Other Girls.

CHAPTER XIII. "We Have Missed Dame Bustle."

CHAPTER XIV. Playing in Tom Tidler's Ground.

CHAPTER XV. Life at the Brambles.

CHAPTER XVI. The Smugglers' Cave.


CHAPTER XVIII. "You Brave Girl!"

CHAPTER XIX. A Letter from Home.

CHAPTER XX. "You Were Right, Esther."

CHAPTER XXI. Santa Claus.

CHAPTER XXII. Allan and I Walk to Eltham Green.

CHAPTER XXIII. Told in the Sunset.

CHAPTER XXIV. Ringing the Changes.




What trifles vex one!

I was always sorry that my name was Esther; not that I found fault with the name itself, but it was too grave, too full of meaning for such an insignificant person. Some one who was learned in such matters--I think it was Allan--told me once that it meant a star, or good fortune.

It may be so, but the real meaning lay for me in the marginal note of my Bible: Esther, fair of form and good in countenance, that Hadassah, who was brought to the palace of Shushan, the beautiful Jewish queen who loved and succored her suffering people; truly a bright particular star among them.

Girls, even the best of them, have their whims and fancies, and I never looked at myself in the glass on high days and holidays, when a festive garb was desirable, without a scornful protest, dumbly uttered, against so shining a name. There was such a choice, and I would rather have been Deborah or Leah, or even plain Susan, or Molly; anything homely, that would have suited my dark, low-browed face. Tall and angular, and hard-featured--what business had I with such a name?

"My dear, beauty is only skin-deep, and common sense is worth its weight in gold; and you are my good sensible Esther," my mother said once, when I had hinted rather too strongly at my plainness. Dear soul, she was anxious to appease the pangs of injured vanity, and was full of such sweet, balmy speeches; but girls in the ugly duckling stage are not alive to moral compliments; and, well--perhaps I hoped my mother might find contradiction possible.

Well, I am older and wiser now, less troublesomely introspective, and by no means so addicted to taking my internal structure to pieces, to find out how the motives and feelings work; but all the same, I hold strongly to diversity of gifts. I believe beauty is a gift, one of the good things of God; a very special talent, for which the owner must give account. But enough of this moralizing, for I want to speak of a certain fine afternoon in the year of our Lord, 18--well, never mind the date.

It was one of our red-letter days at Redmayne House--in other words, a whole holiday; we always had a whole holiday on Miss Majoribanks' birthday. The French governess had made a grand toilette, and had gone out for the day. Fraulein had retired to her own room, and was writing a long sentimental effusion to a certain "liebe Anna," who lived at Heidelberg. As Fraulein had taken several of us into confidence, we had heard a great deal of this Anna von Hummel, a little round-faced German, with flaxen plaits and china-blue eyes, like a doll; and Jessie and I had often wondered at this strong Teutonic attachment. Most of the girls were playing croquet--they played croquet then--on the square lawn before the drawing-room windows; the younger ones were swinging in the lime-walk. Jessie and I had betaken ourselves with our books to a corner we much affected, where there was a bench under a may-tree.

Jessie was my school friend--chum, I think we called it; she was a fair, pretty girl, with a thoroughly English face, a neat compact figure, and manners which every one pronounced charming and lady-like; her mind was lady-like too, which was the best of all.

Jessie read industriously--her book seemed to rivet her attention; but I was restless and distrait. The sun was shining on the limes, and the fresh green leaves seemed to thrill and shiver with life: a lazy breeze kept up a faint soughing, a white butterfly was hovering over the pink may, the girls' shrill voices sounded everywhere; a thousand undeveloped thoughts, vague and unsubstantial as the sunshine above us, seemed to blend with the sunshine and voices.

"Jessie, do put down your book--I want to talk." Jessie raised her eyebrows a little quizzically but she was always amiable; she had that rare unselfishness of giving up her own will ungrudgingly; I think this was why I loved her so. Her story was interesting, but she put down her book without a sigh.

"You are always talking, Esther," she said, with a provoking little smile; "but then," she added, quickly, as though she were afraid that I should think her unkind, "I never heard other girls talk so well."

"Nonsense," was my hasty response: "don't put me out of temper with myself. I was indulging in a little bit of philosophy while you were deep in the 'Daisy Chain.' I was thinking what constituted a great mind."

Jessie opened her eyes widely, but she did not at once reply; she was not, strictly speaking, a clever girl, and did not at once grasp any new idea; our conversations were generally rather one-sided. Emma Hardy, who was our school wag, once observed that I used Jessie's brains as an airing-place for my ideas. Certainly Jessie listened more than she talked, but then, she listened so sweetly.

"Of course, Alfred the Great, and Sir Philip Sidney, and Princess Elizabeth of France, and all the heroes and heroines of old time--all the people who did such great things and lived such wonderful lives --may be said to have had great minds; but I am not thinking about them. I want to know what makes a great mind, and how one is to get it. There is Carrie, now, you know how good she is; I think she may be said to have one."

"Carrie--your sister?"

Esther - 1/43

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