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I WOULD begin by telling how it came that
little Hester once lived in Fairyland and was
banished; and in order to do so I would open
this history into the midst of July sunshine, and
all the summer glory of the gardens at Hampton
Court. Not on a public holiday, that I may
ask a reader to watch with me the city children
casting bread to the swans, and stare over the
heads of the crowd at the noble cartoons, and
Elizabeth's wan face and ruff. But because
there be people who have their homes in the
heart of this fairyland of history, who eat their
daily bread, and dream their nightly dreams
under the palace roof. And because there be
days when the birds make all the sound in the
dreamy alleys, the flowers are sweet only for
the bees, the swans doze undisturbed among the
lilies, and the pictured company upon the walls
in the show chambers have neither student
nor admirer from sunrise till sunset; nothing
moving amongst them but shadows and
sunbeams throughout the long lonely day.

On such a day about eighty years ago, a
lady was sitting at an open window looking out
on the great court-yard, and a little girl was
playing all by herself up and down the king's
staircase, and in and out those long pictured
chambers, where an old woman was going
slowly from room to room, on her knees, scrubbing
the boards. When tired of chasing the
sunbeams up and down the stair, "climbing the
gold ladders" she called her game, this child
would come and sit down in the middle of the
floor, and, clasping her knees, talk up to the
pictures, to Mary and Darnley and the rest,
asking them why they looked so grave, and
staid up there, so silent, on the prim walls;
assuring them that they should find the world
outside very delightful with flowers and trees,
if they would only step forth and try it. These
painted people were so real and familiar to this
child, and those of sad stern faces and stiff
bearing touched her pity so much, that she
talked quite aloud to them for sympathy.
The old charwoman, catching the murmuring
treble of the little voice, would come grumbling
to the door now and again, and looking askance
uneasily at the yellow head shining solitary in
the middle of the great chamber, would listen
in amazement to the small eager tongue that
discoursed so nimbly and fantastically in the

The lady at the window not far away was
Judith, Lady Humphrey, widow of Sir John
Humphrey, a distinguished naval officer. She
was a middle-aged lady, tall and narrow in
figure, with shapely features, and light hair, like
braids of buff-coloured satin. She might have
been considered handsome but for her mouth,
which was ugly; chiefly, perhaps, because
sweetness was unknown to it. There was also
a drawback to beauty in the cold yet restless
expression of her colourless eyes, whose pale
sharp light was unsoftened by even the lightest
pencilling of shadow. People who knew her
well could have told that her manners would
have been attractive but for occasional tones in
her voice. And probably it was owing to these
three characteristicsthe curious light in her
eyes, the corners of her mouth, and those odd
tones turning up now and again when she was
speakingthat no child, not even the little
orphan who clung to her perforce, and who
made idols of dim faces upon canvas for want
of something warmer to love, could ever get its
arms around her neck, or have courage to lift
its face to her lips.

This lady was writing to her son, Pierce, at
his military college. An open letter, in a careless
dashing hand, lay spread on the desk before her,
and she turned back a page, and read.

"I am glad," said the writing, "that you got
the pearl necklace and the buckles for little
Hester. I know how much amusement it gives
you to see the little monkey looking pretty and
picturesque. I will do without the money if I

The lady here turned from this letter to her
own, and began writing with a bold, impatient

"You speak," she said on the paper, "as if
you had forgotten that your father was a
gentleman, and that you also are expected to be
the same. You talk about doing without
money, as if that were possible, and allude to
Hester's necklace as if its purchase must
prevent your debts being paid. I only mentioned
that item to show you how difficult it is to find
money for everything. I have pawned the
diamonds which your grandfather gave me before
you were born, and though they were never a