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Produced by Joel Erickson, Lisa Zeug and PG Distributed Proofreaders




[Transcriber's note: The spelling inconsistencies of the original have
been retained in this etext.]




[Illustration: SADIE HAD A GLIMMERING OF SOME STRANGE CHANGE AS SHE
EYED HER SISTER CURIOUSLY. - _Page 263_.]




ESTER RIED

BY

PANSY

AUTHOR OF "JULIA RIED," "THE KING'S DAUGHTER," "WISE AND OTHERWISE,"
"ESTER RIED YET SPEAKING," "ESTER RIED'S NAMESAKE," ETC.

_ILLUSTRATED BY ELIZABETH WITHINGTON_


BOSTON LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.

PANSY TRADE-MARK Registered in U.S. Patent Office.

Norwood Press: Berwick & Smith Co., Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.


CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I. ESTER'S HOME

CHAPTER II. WHAT SADIE THOUGHT

CHAPTER III. FLORENCE VANE

CHAPTER IV. THE SUNDAY LESSON

CHAPTER V. THE POOR LITTLE FISH

CHAPTER VI. SOMETHING HAPPENS

CHAPTER VII. JOURNEYING

CHAPTER VIII. JOURNEY'S END

CHAPTER IX. COUSIN ABBIE

CHAPTER X. ESTER'S MINISTER

CHAPTER XI. THE NEW BOARDER

CHAPTER XII. THREE PEOPLE

CHAPTER XIII. THE STRANGE CHRISTIAN

CHAPTER XIV. THE LITTLE CARD

CHAPTER XV. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

CHAPTER XVI. A VICTORY

CHAPTER XVII. STEPPING BETWEEN

CHAPTER XVIII. LIGHT OUT OF DARKNESS

CHAPTER XIX. SUNDRIES

CHAPTER XX. AT HOME

CHAPTER XXI. TESTED

CHAPTER XXII. "LITTLE PLUM PIES"

CHAPTER XXIII. CROSSES

CHAPTER XXIV. GOD'S WAY

CHAPTER XXV. SADIE SURROUNDED

CHAPTER XXVI. CONFUSION - CROSS-BEARING - CONSEQUENCE

CHAPTER XXVII. THE TIME TO SLEEP

CHAPTER XXVIII. AT LAST




Ester Ried

ASLEEP AND AWAKE




CHAPTER I.

ESTER'S HOME.


She did not look very much as if she were asleep, nor acted as though
she expected to get a chance to be very soon. There was no end to the
things which she had to do, for the kitchen was long and wide, and
took many steps to set it in order, and it was drawing toward tea-time
of a Tuesday evening, and there were fifteen boarders who were, most
of them, punctual to a minute.

Sadie, the next oldest sister, was still at the academy, as also
were Alfred and Julia, while little Minnie, the pet and darling, most
certainly was _not_. She was around in the way, putting little fingers
into every possible place where little fingers ought not to be. It
was well for her that, no matter how warm, and vexed, and out of order
Ester might be, she never reached the point in which her voice could
take other than a loving tone in speaking to Minnie; for Minnie,
besides being a precious little blessing in herself, was the child of
Ester's oldest sister, whose home was far away in a Western graveyard,
and the little girl had been with them since her early babyhood, three
years before.

So Ester hurried to and from the pantry, with quick, nervous
movements, as the sun went toward the west, saying to Maggie who was
ironing with all possible speed:

"Maggie, do _hurry_, and get ready to help me, or I shall never have
tea ready:" Saying it in a sharp fretful tone. Then: "No, no, Birdie,
don't touch!" in quite a different tone to Minnie, who laid loving
hands on a box of raisins.

"I _am_ hurrying as fast as I _can_!" Maggie made answer. "But such an
ironing as I have every week can't be finished in a minute."

"Well, well! Don't talk; that won't hurry matters any."

Sadie Ried opened the door that led from the dining-room to the
kitchen, and peeped in a thoughtless young head, covered with bright
brown curls:

"How are you, Ester?"

And she emerged fully into the great warm kitchen, looking like a
bright flower picked from the garden, and put out of place. Her pink
gingham dress, and white, ruffled apron - yes, and the very school
books which she swung by their strap, waking a smothered sigh in
Ester's heart.

"O, my patience!" was her greeting.

"Are _you_ home? Then school is out".

"I guess it _is_," said Sadie. "We've been down to the river since
school."

"Sadie, won't you come and cut the beef and cake, and make the tea? I
did not know it was so late, and I'm nearly tired to death."

Sadie looked sober. "I would in a minute, Ester, only I've brought
Florence Vane home with me, and I should not know what to do with her
in the meantime. Besides, Mr. Hammond said he would show me about my
algebra if I'd go out on the piazza this minute."

"Well, _go_ then, and tell Mr. Hammond to wait for his tea until he
gets it!" Ester answered, crossly.

"Here, Julia" - to the ten-year old newcomer - "Go away from that
raisin-box, this minute. Go up stairs out of my way, and Alfred too.
Sadie, take Minnie with you; I can't have her here another instant.
You can afford to do that much, perhaps."

"O, Ester, you're cross!" said Sadie, in a good-humored tone, coming
forward after the little girl.

"Come, Birdie, Auntie Essie's cross, isn't she? Come with Aunt Sadie.
We'll go to the piazza and make Mr. Hammond tell us a story."

And Minnie - Ester's darling, who never received other than loving
words from her - went gleefully off, leaving another heartburn to the
weary girl. They _stung_ her, those words: "Auntie Essie's cross,
isn't she?"

Back and forth, from dining-room to pantry, from pantry to
dining-room, went the quick feet At last she spoke:

"Maggie, leave the ironing and help me; it is time tea was ready."

"I'm just ironing Mr. Holland's shirt," objected Maggie.

"Well, I don't care if Mr. Holland _never_ has another shirt ironed.
I want you to go to the spring for water and fill the table-pitchers,
and do a dozen other things."

The tall clock in the dining-room struck five, and the dining-bell
pealed out its prompt summons through the house. The family gathered
promptly and noisily - school-girls, half a dozen or more, Mr. Hammond,
the principal of the academy, Miss Molten, the preceptress, Mrs.
Brookley, the music-teacher, Dr. Van Anden, the new physician, Mr.
and Mrs. Holland, and Mr. Arnett, Mr. Holland's clerk. There was a
moment's hush while Mr. Hammond asked a blessing on the food; then the
merry talk went on. For them all Maggie poured cups of tea, and
Ester passed bread and butter, and beef and cheese, and Sadie gave
overflowing dishes of blackberries, and chattered like a magpie, which
last she did everywhere and always.

"This has been one of the scorching days," Mr. Holland said. "It was
as much as I could do to keep cool in the store, and we generally ARE
well off for a breeze there."

"It has been more than _I_ could do to keep cool anywhere," Mrs.
Holland answered. "I gave it up long ago in despair."

Ester's lip curled a little. Mrs. Holland had nothing in the world to
do, from morning until night, but to keep herself cool. She wondered
what the lady would have said to the glowing kitchen, where _she_ had
passed most of the day.

"Miss Ester looks as though the heat had been too much for her
cheeks," Mrs. Brookley said, laughing. "What _have_ you been doing?"

"Something besides keeping cool," Ester answered soberly.

"Which is a difficult thing to do, however," Dr. Van Anden said,
speaking soberly too.

"I don't know, sir; if I had nothing to do but that, I think I could
manage it."

"I have found trouble sometimes in keeping myself at the right
temperature even in January."

Ester's cheeks glowed yet more. She understood Dr. Van Anden, and she
knew her face did not look very self-controlled. No one knows what
prompted Minnie to speak just then.

"Aunt Sadie said Auntie Essie was cross. Were you, Auntie Essie?"

The household laughed, and Sadie came to the rescue.

"Why, Minnie! you must not tell what Aunt Sadie says. It is just as
sure to be nonsense as it is that you are a chatter-box."

Ester thought that they would _never_ all finish their supper and
depart; but the latest comer strolled away at last, and she hurried to
toast a slice of bread, make a fresh cup of tea, and send Julia after
Mrs. Ried.

Sadie hovered around the pale, sad-faced woman while she ate.

"Are you _truly_ better, mother? I've been worried half to pieces
about you all day."

"O, yes; I'm better. Ester, you look dreadfully tired. Have you much
more to do?"

"Only to trim the lamps, and make three beds that I had not time for
this morning, and get things ready for breakfast, and finish Sadie's
dress."

"Can't Maggie do any of these things?"

"Maggie is ironing."

Mrs. Ried sighed. "It is a good thing that I don't have the sick
headache very often," she said sadly; "or you would soon wear yourself
out. Sadie, are you going to the lyceum tonight?"

"Yes, ma'am. Your worthy daughter has the honor of being editress, you
know, to-night. Ester, can't you go down? Never mind that dress; let
it go to Guinea."

"You wouldn't think so by to-morrow evening," Ester said, shortly.
"No, I can't go."

The work was all done at last, and Ester betook herself to her room.
How tired she was! Every nerve seemed to quiver with weariness.

It was a pleasant little room, this one which she entered, with its
low windows looking out toward the river, and its cosy furniture all
neatly arranged by Sadie's tasteful fingers.

Ester seated herself by the open window, and looked down on the group
who lingered on the piazza below - looked _down_ on them with her eyes
and with her heart; yet envied while she looked, envied their free
and easy life, without a care to harass them, so _she_ thought; envied
Sadie her daily attendance at the academy, a matter which she _so_
early in life had been obliged to have done with; envied Mrs. Holland
the very ribbons and laces which fluttered in the evening air. It had
grown cooler now, a strong breeze blew up from the river and freshened
the air; and, as they sat below there enjoying it, the sound of their
gay voices came up to her.

"What do they know about heat, or care, or trouble?" she said
scornfully, thinking over all the weight of _her_ eighteen years of
life; she hated it, this life of hers, _just_ hated it - the sweeping,
dusting, making beds, trimming lamps, _working_ from morning till
night; no time for reading, or study, or pleasure. Sadie had said she
was cross, and Sadie had told the truth; she _was_ cross most of the
time, fretted with her every-day petty cares and fatigues.

"O!" she said, over and over, "if something would _only_ happen; if I
could have one day, just _one_ day, different from the others; but
no, it's the same old thing - sweep and dust, and clear up, and eat and
sleep. I _hate_ it all."

Yet, had Ester nothing for which to be thankful that the group on the
piazza had not?

If she had but thought, she had a robe, and a crown, and a harp, and
a place waiting for her, up before the throne of God; and all they had
_not_.

Ester did not think of this; so much asleep was she, that she did not
even know that none of those gay hearts down there below her had been
given up to Christ. Not one of them; for the academy teachers and Dr.
Van Anden were not among them. O, Ester was asleep! She went to church
on the Sabbath, and to preparatory lecture on a week day; she read a
few verses in her Bible, _frequently_, not every day; she knelt at her
bedside every night, and said a few words of prayer - and this was all!

She lay at night side by side with a young sister, who had no claim
to a home in heaven, and never spoke to her of Jesus. She worked
daily side by side with a mother who, through many trials and
discouragements, was living a Christian life, and never talked with
her of their future rest. She met daily, sometimes almost hourly, a
large household, and never so much as thought of asking them if they,
too, were going, some day, home to God. She helped her young brother
and sister with their geography lessons, and never mentioned to them
the heavenly country whither they themselves might journey. She took
the darling of the family often in her arms, and told her stories of
"Bo Peep," and the "Babes in the Wood," and "Robin Redbreast," and
never one of Jesus and his call for the tender lambs!

This was Ester, and this was Ester's home.




CHAPTER II.

WHAT SADIE THOUGHT.


Sadie Ried was the merriest, most thoughtless young creature of
sixteen years that ever brightened and bothered a home. Merry from
morning until night, with scarcely ever a pause in her constant flow
of fun; thoughtless, nearly always selfish too, as the constantly
thoughtless always are. Not sullenly and crossly selfish by any means,
only so used to think of self, so taught to consider herself utterly
useless as regarded home, and home cares and duties, that she opened
her bright brown eyes in wonder whenever she was called upon for help.

It was a very bright and very busy Saturday morning.

"Sadie!" Mrs. Ried called, "can't you come and wash up these baking
dishes? Maggie is mopping, and Ester has her hands full with the
cake."

"Yes, ma'am," said Sadie, appearing promptly from the dining-room,
with Minnie perched triumphantly on her shoulder. "Here I am, at your
service. Where are they?"

Ester glanced up. "I'd go and put on my white dress first, if I were
you," she said significantly.

And Sadie looked down on her pink gingham, ruffled apron, shining
cuffs, and laughed.

"O, I'll take off my cuffs, and put on this distressingly big apron of
yours, which hangs behind the door; then I'll do."

"That's my clean apron; I don't wash dishes in it."

"O, bless your careful heart! I won't hurt it the least speck in the
world. Will I, Birdie?"

And she proceeded to wrap her tiny self in the long, wide apron.

"Not _that_ pan, child!" exclaimed her mother "That's a milk-pan."

"O," said Sadie, "I thought it was pretty shiny. My! what a great pan.
Don't you come near me, Birdie, or you'll tumble in and drown yourself
before I could fish you out with the dish-cloth. Where is that
article? Ester, it needs a patch on it; there's a great hole in the
middle, and it twists every way."

"Patch it, then," said Ester, dryly.

"Well, now I'm ready, here goes. Do you want _these_ washed?" And she
seized upon a stack of tins which stood on Ester's table.

"_Do_ let things alone!" said Ester. "Those are my baking-tins, ready
for use; now you've got them wet, and I shall have to go all over them
again."

"How will you go, Ester? On foot? They look pretty greasy; you'll
slip."

"I wish you would go up stairs. I'd rather wash dishes all the
forenoon than have you in the way."

"Birdie," said Sadie gravely, "you and I musn't go near Auntie Essie
again. She's a 'bowwow,' and I'm afraid she'll bite."

Mrs. Ried laughed. She had no idea how sharply Ester had been tried
with petty vexations all that morning, nor how bitter those words
sounded to her.

"Come, Sadie," she said; "what a silly child you are. Can't you do
_any thing_ soberly?"

"I should think I might, ma'am, when I have such a sober and solemn
employment on hand as dish-washing. Does it require a great deal
of gravity, mother? Here, Robin Redbreast, keep your beak out of my
dish-pan."

Minnie, in the mean time, had been seated on the table, directly in
front of the dish-pan.

Mrs. Ried looked around. "O Sadie! what _possessed_ you to put her up
there?"

"To keep her out of mischief, mother. She's Jack Horner's little
sister, and would have had every plum in your pie down her throat,
by this time, if she could have got to them. See here, pussy, if you
don't keep your feet still, I'll tie them fast to the pan with this
long towel, when you'll have to go around all the days of your life
with a dish-pan clattering after you."

But Minnie was bent on a frolic. This time the tiny feet kicked a
little too hard; and the pan being drawn too near the edge, in order
to be out of her reach, lost its balance - over it went.

"O, my patience!" screamed Sadie, as the water splashed over her, even
down to the white stockings and daintily slippered feet.

Minnie lifted up her voice, and added to the general uproar. Ester
left the eggs she was beating, and picked up broken dishes. Mrs.
Ried's voice arose above the din:

"Sadie, take Minnie and go up stairs. You're too full of play to be in
the kitchen."

"Mother, I'm _real_ sorry," said Sadie, shaking herself out of the
great wet apron, laughing even then at the plight she was in.

"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 class 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 Saturday 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 butterfly, 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 butterflies
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,
passionate kisses:

"Oh, Auntie Essie! You've cried tears on my white apron, 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.

"I suppose so," she answered, slowly, to the waiting doctor, hearing
which, he wheeled and left her, turning back, though, to say:

"Do not mention this to Sadie in her present state of body. I don't
care to have her excited."

"Very careful you are of everybody," muttered Ester, as he hastened
away. "Tell her what, I wonder? That you are making much ado about
nothing, for the sake of showing your astonishing skill?"

In precisely this state of mind she went, a few hours later, over to
the cottage, into the quiet room where Florence lay asleep - and, for
aught she could see, sleeping as quietly as young, fresh life ever
did.

"What do you think of her?" whispered the old lady who acted as
housekeeper, nurse and mother to the orphaned Florence.

"I think I haven't seen her look better this great while," Ester
answered, abruptly.

"Well, I can't say as she looks any worse to _me_ either; but Dr. Van
Anden is in a fidget, and I suppose he knows what he's about."

The doctor came in at eleven o'clock, stood for a moment by the
bedside, glanced at the old lady, who was dozing in her rocking-chair,
then came over to Ester and spoke low:

"I can't trust the nurse. She has been broken of her rest, and is
weary. I want _you_ to keep awake. If she" (nodding toward Florence)
"stirs, give her a spoonful from that tumbler on the stand. I shall be
back at twelve. If she wakens, you may call her father, and send


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