Ester Ried Part 2

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"Pet, don't cry. We didn't drown after all."

"_Well_! Miss Sadie," Mr. Hammond said, as he met them in the hall.

"What have you been up to now?"

"Why, Mr. Hammond, there's been another deluge; this time of dish-water, and Birdie and I are escaping for our lives."

"If there is one cla.s.s of people in this world more disagreeable than all the rest, it is people who call themselves Christians."

This remark Mr. Harry Arnett made that same Sat.u.r.day evening, as he stood on the piazza waiting for Mrs. Holland's letters. And he made it to Sadie Ried.

"Why, Harry!" she answered, in a shocked tone.

"It's a _fact_, Sadie. You just think a bit, and you'll see it is.

They're no better nor pleasanter than other people, and all the while they think they're about right."

"What has put you into that state of mind, Harry?"

"O, some things which happened at the store to-day suggested this matter to me. Never mind that part. Isn't it so?"

"There's my mother," Sadie said thoughtfully. "She is good."

"Not because she's a Christian though; it's because she's your mother.

You'd have to look till you were gray to find a better mother than I've got, and she isn't a Christian either."

"Well, I'm sure Mr. Hammond is a good man."

"Not a whit better or pleasanter than Mr. Holland, as far as I can see. _I_ don't like him half so well. And Holland don't pretend to be any better than the rest of us."

"Well," said Sadie, gleefully, "_I_ dont know many good people.

Miss Molton is a Christian, but I guess she is no better than Mrs.

Brookley, and _she_ isn't. There's Ester; she's a member of the church."

"And do you see as she gets on any better with her religion, than you do without it? For _my_ part, I think you are considerably pleasanter to deal with."

Sadie laughed. "We're no more alike than a bee and a b.u.t.terfly, or any other useless little thing," she said, brightly. "But you're very much mistaken if you think I'm the best. Mother would lie down in despair and die, and this house would come to naught at once, if it were not for Ester."

Mr. Arnett shrugged his shoulders. "I _always_ liked b.u.t.terflies better than bees," he said. "Bees _sting_."

"Harry," said Sadie, speaking more gravely, "I'm afraid you're almost an infidel."

"If I'm not, I can tell you one thing--it's not the fault of Christians."

Mrs. Holland tossed her letters down to him from the piazza above, and Mr. Arnett went away.

Florence Vane came over from the cottage across the way--came with slow, feeble steps, and sat down in the door beside her friend.

Presently Ester came out to them:

"Sadie, can't you go to the office for me? I forgot to send this letter with the rest."

"Yes," said Sadie. "That is if you think you can go that little bit, Florence."

"I shall think for her," Dr. Van Anden said, coming down the stairs.

"Florence out here to-night, with the dew falling, and not even any thing to protect your head. I am surprised!"

"Oh, Doctor, do let me enjoy this soft air for a few minutes."

"_Positively_, no. Either come in the house, or go home _directly_.

You are very imprudent. Miss Ester, _I'll_ mail your letters for you."

"What does Dr. Van Anden want to act like a simpleton about Florence Vane for?" Ester asked this question late in the evening, when the sisters were alone in their room.

Sadie paused in her merry chatter. "Why, Ester, what do you mean?

About her being out to-night? Why, you know, she ought to be very careful; and I'm afraid she isn't. The doctor told her father this morning he was afraid she would not live through the season, unless she was more careful."

"Fudge!" said Ester. "He thinks he is a wise man; he wants to make her out very sick, so that he may have the honor of helping her. I don't see as she looks any worse than she did a year ago."

Sadie turned slowly around toward her sister. "Ester, I don't know what is the matter with you to-night. You know that Florence Vane has the consumption, and you know that she is my _dear_ friend."

Ester did not know what was the matter with herself, save that this had been the hardest day, from first to last, that she had ever known, and she was rasped until there was no good feeling left in her heart to touch. Little Minnie had given her the last hardening touch of the day, by exclaiming, as she was being hugged and kissed with eager, pa.s.sionate kisses:

"Oh, Auntie Essie! You've cried tears on my white ap.r.o.n, and put out all the starch."

Ester set her down hastily, and went away.

Certainly Ester was cross and miserable. Dr. Van Anden was one of her thorns. He crossed her path quite often, either with close, searching words about self-control, or grave silence. She disliked him.

Sadie, as from her pillow she watched her sister in the moonlight kneel down hastily, and knew that she was repeating a few words of prayer, thought of Mr. Arnett's words spoken that evening, and, with her heart throbbing still under the sharp tones concerning Florence, sighed a little, and said within herself:

"I should not wonder if Harry were right." And Ester was so much asleep, that she did not know, at least did not realize, that she had dishonored her Master all that day.

CHAPTER III.

FLORENCE VANE.

Of the same opinion concerning Florence was Ester, a few weeks later, when, one evening as she was hurrying past him, Dr. Van Anden detained her:

"I want to see you a moment, Miss Ester."

During these weeks Ester had been roused. Sadie was sick; had been sick enough to awaken many anxious fears; sick enough for Ester to discover what a desolate house theirs would have been, supposing her merry music had been hushed forever. She discovered, too, how very much she loved her bright young sister.

She had been very kind and attentive; but the fever was gone now, and Sadie was well enough to rove around the house again; and Ester began to think that it couldn't be so very hard to have loving hands ministering to one's simplest want, to be cared for, and watched over, and petted every hour in the day. She was returning to her impatient, irritable life. She forgot how high the fever had been at night, and how the young head had ached; and only remembered how thoroughly tired she was, watching and ministering day and night. So, when she followed Dr. Van Anden to the sitting-room, in answer to his "I want to see you, Miss Ester," it was a very sober, not altogether pleasant face which listened to his words.

"Florence Vane is very sick to-night. Some one should be with her besides the housekeeper. I thought of you. Will you watch with her?"

If any reasonable excuse could have been found, Ester would surely have said "No," so foolish did this seem to her. Why, only yesterday she had seen Florence sitting beside the open window, looking very well; but then, she was Sadie's friend, and it had been more than two weeks since Sadie had needed watching with at night. So Ester could not plead fatigue.

Ester Ried Part 2

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Ester Ried Part 2 summary

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