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century ago, and grew up a wild, wilful-
tempered girl, impatient of all restraint, and
eager for change and excitement. At
sixteen she married, and very shortly afterwards
her husband found it expedient to
leave the dales, and to enlist in a regiment
which was ordered on foreign service. Hester
followed him to India, and led the life of
camps for several years. During this
interval her family lost sight of her completely;
for, having parted in anger, no correspondence
was kept up between them. This silence
and separation lasted full nine years, during
which time, Death dealt hardly with those left
at home. Of all the large family of sons and
daughters whom the old people had seen
grow up to man's and woman's estate, not
one survived. Their hearts began to soften
towards the offending child, and they made
efforts to learn if the regiment to which her
husband belonged had returned to England.
It had not.

One bleak and wintry night, while the
solitary and bereaved couple were sitting by
their silent hearthit was a very lonely and
retired spot where the house stooda heavy
step came up the little garden path. Neither
of them stirred. They thought it was one of
the farm-servants returning from the village,
whither he had been sent on some errand.
The curtains had not been closed over the
window, and all the room, filled with the
shine of a yule-tide fire, was visible to the
wayfarer without. The mother sat facing
the window; lifting her slow, dull gaze from
the white wood-ashes on the hearth, she
looked across towards it, and uttered a low,
frightened cry. She saw a dark face peering
in at the glass, which wore the traits of
her daughter Hester. She thought it was
her wraith, and said so to the old man, who,
taking a lantern, went out to see if anybody
was lurking about. It was a very boisterous
night: loud with wind, and black with clouds
of sleety rain. At the threshold he stumbled
over a dark form, which had crouched there
for the slight shelter afforded by the porch.
He lowered the lantern, and threw the light
on the face of a woman.

"Dame! dame! It is our bairn: it is lile
Hester!"

The mother appeared, and, with a great,
gasping cry, recognised her daughter.

They led her into the house, towards the
glowing heat of the fire, and set her down by
the hearth; for her limbs would scarcely
support her. Hester wore a thin and ragged
cloak, beneath the folds of which she had
hidden her child from the storm. He had
fallen asleep in her bosom; but as her mother
removed the dripping garment from her
shoulders, he woke up with a laugh of
childish surprise and pleasure. He was a
fine, well-grown boy, of from six to seven
years old, and showed none of those signs of
want and suffering which had graven premature
age upon the wasted features and gaunt
frame of his mother. It was some time
before Hester recovered from her frozen
exhaustion, and then her first and eager
demand was for food for the child.

"O Heaven, pity me!" cried the old woman,
who was weeping over the pair. "Hester
and her lad starving, while there was to spare
at home!"

She supplied their wants soon, and would
have taken the boy; but Hester held him to
her with a close and jealous grasp, chafing
his limbs, warming his little hands in her
bosom, and covering his hand with passionate
kisses.

He fell asleep in her arms at last; and
then she told her brief story. She was
widowed; her husband had died in India
from wound-fever, and she had been sent
home to England; on her arrival there she
found herself destitute, and had traversed
the country on foot, subsisting by the casual
charity of strangers. Thus much she said,
and no more. She indulged in no details of
her own exquisite sufferings; perhaps they
were forgotten, when she ended by saying,
"Thank the Lord, the lad is saved!"

Hester lived on at the farm with her
parents; and, as the old man failed more and
more daily, she took the vigorous management
of it upon herself, and things throve
with them. By degrees, her beauty was
restored, and then she had repeated offers of
marriage; for, the inheritance which would
be hers at her father's death was by no
means despicable. But, she kept herself
single, for the lad's sake. Wilfred grew
strong, handsome, and high-spiritedlike
his mother, indeed, with whom, much as
they loved each other, he had many a
fierce contention. He never could bear
to be thwarted or checked by her, and
often Hester, in the bitterness of her
unbridled anger, would cry, " O Wilfred! it
would have been better for thee and thy
mother if we had died on the door-stone in
the snow, that night we came home."

Still, she had an intense pride in him; and
always, after their quarrels, she allowed his
extravagance to have freer scope, though
that was what usually led to their disputes.
As might have been expected, Wilfred, under
such uncertain training, became reckless,
wild, and domineering, though he preserved
a certain rough generosity and frankness of
character which redeemed his faults, and
made him a favourite with the country folks,
and a sort of king amongst his companions,
whose superior in all rustic sports he was.

His grandfather died when he was nineteen;
his grandmother, eighteen months
later. Then Hester was sole mistress of the
little farm. Wilfred soon began to urge his
mother to sell the property and leave the
dales, whose uneventful quiet fretted his
restless disposition. This she absolutely
refused to do; and was on one occasion so
deeply irritated at his persistence as to say:

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