Chapter 162697635

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Chapter NumberVI
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Full Date1878-12-28
Page Number1006
Word Count8754
Last Corrected2018-03-09
Newspaper TitleThe Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912)
Trove TitleHester's Christmas Gift
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Hester's Christmas Gift.

By C. H. SPENCE. Author of 'Clara Marion,' 'Tender and True,' 'Mr. Hogarth'e Will,' ' The Author's Daughter,' &c.

?Written for the Christmas Number of the Sydney Mail.


Frank Kelly certainly had seen no signs of helpless prostration on the part of his fiiend's Jlaucte, but now here was a pause. lie was so full of his own sur mises tha,t he had nothing to say, and then he observed a shadow of sadness and a restlessness about the face- ae if there vras somethine that she wished to sav. but

c ould not. In some things he felt P aul Severn had been ?wrong, in wooing a girl for his wife when his health had been hopelessly broken. The only apology bo had been able to make for him had been that the girl had fallen in love first, that pity for her weakness, and her need of help had carried her away on a great wave of self-sacrificing devotion. And it appeared that he had kept back from her his illness in England altogether, and his early unfortunate marriage, till things could no longer be concealed. 'This revelation must have been very painful to you,' paid he gently She did not answer, she felt she could not speak, but her eyes tilled with tears. Frank saw that she had feeling. ' Nothing could have comforted my poor friend's . lost moments like the generous manner in which you have taken on yourself the charge of which he had been cheated by that unworthy woman. You showed your forgiveness of his unwise concealment in the noblest manner.' 41 You think it was unwise 'r ' ' Not only unwise, but wrong. Had it not been for his failing health making him unfit for much effort, I could find no excuse for it. But we, who are strong, should not judge him too hardly.' 'I hope I do not judge him hardly,' said Hester ; '?but btill, Mr. Kelly, it is not always necessary to tell all ' the truth to everybody . ' ' 'No certainly,' said he smiling. ' It was because you were not everybody nor anybody, but the one woman in the world for him, that I am disposed to blame him ; while, on the contrary, I think your reti cence to the world about your connection through him with this boy Is the wisest course you can pursue.' ' And you will say nothing to the contrary,' said Hester eagerly, *' only that there is a child who is absolutely friendless and helpless, and my woman's heart felt drawn to him.' ' Here in a child with utter need of you.' ' You feel yourself queen here,' said Frank Kelly, quoting from a poet Hester had never heard of. 'A queen with very feeble powers, but with good will ; but when I need help I shall ask it. Paul was very anxious to see you before he died, that he might have explained some matters to vou — but it was not to he.' ' I left Quartzville before this woman settled down here, and was detained, as I say, for weeks.' ' You knew there was such a woman, however.' ' Yes, in a general way. He told me he had made a fatal mistake at the outset of life ; he had rid himself . of the burden at great cost. Of course he believed - that the child was dead. By-the-by, I fanccd it was ? a girl, which would have been easier 'for you to manage. And there is some story about him* wearing girls c'.othes going round the township too, but it appears I '- wbs mistaken, for Paul would tell you the whole story correctly.' Hester's face was turned from Mr. Kelly, ' so he could not see how she changed colour. ' What 16 the little fellow's name :' ' Theodore.' ' Theodore — the gift of God — ah ! a strange sort of gift to come to such a pair of parents ; but to you Miss Raynor he appearsto be sent afresh.' 'Is that the real meaning of the name:' said Hester, eagerly. ' Yes, truly it is. It is formed from wo Greek ?words.' 'Then pray with me that I may find him really the gift of God,'* said Hester, earnestly. 'My precious Christmas gift.' Mr. Kelly then left Hester, thinking he had said enough ; and though she could not but feel troubled at hiB mistaken idea, that she was carrying out her ? betrothed' s last wishes, instead of directly contraven ing them, she could not help feeling that this was a man to be depended on. It was a great comfort to find that she was understood and appreciated; not condescended to by a man of so much ability, and education as* she knew Frank Kelly to be, through Paul's description of him. As he was the principal creditor on the books, bis , interests were bound up with the prosperity of the - concern, and she had a sort of right to his help, but it was reassuring to see that their relations were likely to be pleasant. He was three or four years younger than bis friend, and had all the advantages of better health and an evener temper, a fairer past, and a more ? promising future ; but still his prosperity had not diminished his powers of sympathy, and the pleasant ring of hex voice carried cheer and comfort with it. . Paul had not done half justice to his friend in his description of his personal appearance, for though his features were not so line as those of the delicate Severn, they had far more play and animation. Theo.'s powers of admiration were limited, but he thought Sir. Kelly was altogether a superior being to Mr. Law, although the latter gave him lollies, and the ' former only a smile and a kind word. Hester felt that, in her difficult task, she needed all the support *)f such a man, and could not help congratulating her ' self a little on the mistake wluch seemed to entitle ' her to it. 'When Hester llaynor announced to the public tha ' she meant to continue the business, and get the Post office authorities to transfer the branch to her, the neighbours calculated how long it would be before Tom. Law, whom she retained ass her assistant, would je^t, round, this unprotected young woman and make a matrimonial partnership of it. He had lost his . heart at once to her ; he would be constantly with her, - constantly serviceable to her, and would have ^Innumerable opportunities of winning his way with .Jier. .'True, he was younger than she was, but that was no drawback— and she would need somebody /strong enough to give that little rascal a whacking now -and then to keep him in something like decent order. .They -did not think of Mr. Kelly, who was on an altogether higher level in society, and who had been .given, to. one or other of the three grown-up daughters of the wealthiest squatter in the neighbourhood for -the last two jeans, by public rumour ; so, though he ;lbo¥edmrtW©r three Imes a 'week, and had an eye 1 to. the books, and advised as to purchases, and the giving©* withholding ; of credit, like an oracle, they

did r.ot think of his throwing himself away on a little -dressmaker who was advanced to keeping a country ktore. And the style of her beauty and of her dress was not striking enough to impress the rural mind with her powers of charming a roan who could have his choice of more showy and accomplished women. And of course that brat she had picked up, and clung to, was a drawback to a gentleman, though it would be none to Tom Law, who would make him fly round and be useful, wheu he had got the upper hand. Theo. was sent to school, and at first liked it much, but he soon got tired of it™ He was backward, for his boasted knowledge of reading and writing turned out to be of the most elementary description, and he wa6 put into a class of little boys whom he could thrash, and he had a very uncivil tongue, and very ready fists. His appeal to blows was severely punished, and then he said he would not go back to school. He would like much better to leant at home, and he could get on far better with auntie, as he called Hester, than with that brute of a schoolmaster. But Hester was firm. She knew that the discipline which he disliked was the very tiling he needed, and for herself she needed the rest* to her mind of knowing that for so many hours a day he was under restraint, and out of mischief — for the boy got into a good deal of trouble in various ways, unless he was kept con stantly occupied, and it was not easy to find constant work for him, and he was so unaccustomed to such methodical sustained effort, that he often said he was tired, and she believed him. He liked the store always, and best on Saturday's, for he liked to see people coming in and out, and idling at the door, and there were chance sweets to be got at, and pieces of news to be heard ; but he liked still better when the people came really to buy, and especially when they paid ready money. Backward in everything else, he had the sharpness of a London-bred poor child for prices and value, and profitable exchange, and never ?was known to part with anything for less than its worth. Only he thought that the soul of business was to get the better of customers ; and though his sharpness diverted Tom Law, it often shocked Hester, and even made Frank Kelly uneasy, as showing how the evil nature and example of his mother had affected the boy's character. There was a curious mixture of sharpness and obtuseness in the boy ; though slow to catch the moral tone of his auntie and Mr. Kelly, he very soon learned to discriminate between their pure English and that of the common people about, and would even criticise Mr. Law's faulty aspirates by the time he had been six months in his society ; and though apparently hopeless about spelling, and not fond of slate arithmetic, he had great readiness and accuracy about figures in his head. Now and then there* were gleams of better things, in which Mr. Kelly thought Theodore showed that he inherited his father's good points, and Hester listened to his theories of hereditary transmission with a little amused smile of incredulity. Theo.'s good points to her came direct from God, as he himself had done. And the verse in the Bible, which she con sidered symbolized the relations in which she stood to God in regard to him, was, 'Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.' Not that she wanted wages ; only if she would save the child, and make him a good and useful, and con sequently a happy boy and man, her wages would be large enough. ? If there was any place Theo. liked better than the store, it was the quartz-crushing establishment which Mr. Kelly managed. He had fortunately a sort of. horror or the public-house, though he had been familiar with drunkenness in his father and in his mother ; except in the fact that there were crowds assembled at the Diggers' Arms, close by, and occa sionally a 'row,' and a 'row 'to him had inde scribable fascination, or he would never have been attracted to it. He liked to hear loud words and bad language, and hasty blows, and stand-up fights. All his ideas of the romantic and the heroic had been formed on a low level, and 'pluck' was still to him the grandest word in the expanding vocabulary of the English language. The tender heartedness of his auntie he somehow despised as womanish, though still he loved her as much as he could love any one. He could not altogether forget her first kind* office. When he went through the daily ordeal of washing, which was one of the hardships* of his new life, the little scar on his left arm reminded him of the first touch of her gentle hands ; and when he went to his comfortable little bed at night, and she had heard him say the prayers she had taught him, and left him with the kiss and the blessing she never omitted, there was a dim sensation in his heart that there was goodness in her that was something like the good ness of the God she spoke of, and of the Saviour she tried to lead him to. And Mr. Kelly strengthened the girl's influence with her wayward charge; the tone of reverend admiration with which he spoke of her to Iheo. ; the way in which he insisted that all her orders must be obeyed ; all her wishes, respected, had their effect on a child who had hitherto only acted on compulsion, who had despised weakness, and was somewhat impervious to appeals to his feelings. Mr. Kelly was so universally respected and looked up to in Quartzville that Theo. felt him to be a power, and he was proud of the notice M-hich such a gentle man bestowed on him. When he went to the crush ing-mill he delighted to listen to the harsh grating noise, and to see the loads of quartz brought in, and to guess how much to the ton, and to triumph if he had guessed right, or nearly right. Mr. Kelly would explain the machinery to him, and the principle on which it acted, and his greatest ambition, even beyond that of taking Mr. Law's place in the shop, was that he might rise to such a management as Mr. Kelly's?. . Hester had thought at first of getting Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd to live with her, but the invalid husband objected to leaving bis favourite doctor, and Mrs. Lloyd liked Sydney too well to ieave it, unless her girl' really needed her. She had now fewer to provide tor, and her business wa6 prospering ; besides, to tell the tiuth, she thought this waif whom Hester had picked up would be a nuisance. So our little store keeper was much alone. Her mornings were pretty lively, but the busiest time of the day, as at all coun' try shops, was when the day was over. Then Theo. was- in W element talking to . idlers and customers. His unskilful hands were soon trained to tie up par cels, his nimble feet were sent on errands carefully timed by the clock. It was some time before he could be trusted to weigh and measure, owing to his inveter ate desire to give too little for the money, and the cuiiouf natural instinct to touch the scale, and to shorten the yard-stick by his little thumb. After the shop was closed for the night she helped him with his simple lessons,, if they had not been attended to before ; then she read to him from an interesting story-book, and put him to bed ; and as Tom Law was sent to live out of the house after Mr. Severn's death, she sat alone till her own bed-time. She could not have believed that she could have been so happy in this lif e, among utter strangers in a strange place. She had made no friends, except Mr. Kelly, for though she was civil and obliging to everybody, she was familiar with none. Mrs: Betts had wanted to presume on her having been with poor dear Mr. Severn at the time of his .death,, but Hester disliked the woman, and kept her at her distance, and that irritated the longest tongue in Quarteville, and made J her wish to see the proud madam taken down. But

the buMr.efcs prospered under Hester as it had not dene before. Paul had not understood it, and had felt above it ; his health had been bad and his temper irritable, especially after he had been worried by Barbara's arrival in the colony, and her persecution of him. 'We often see, too, that a woman can manage any retail business better than any man, and Hester's quickness, cleverness, and obligingness made her store take the lead above all in the township. The stipen diary magistrate's wife would come in and give orders for trifles in a large way, and thought Miss Raynor was rather a superior person for her position in life, and certainly pretty. The wife and daughters of Mr. Nelson,' the wealthy squatter before alluded to, gave large orders, but could not acknowledge that she had any pretensions to beauty, and certainly was wanting in 'style. Mr. Bowen got her to 6ing in the choir, and hoped to enlist Theo. by-and-by, and the somewhat dissipated medical man who had' attended Paul Severn, when he was a little elevated, used to swear that Miss Raynor Mas the finest woman in New South Wales — fifty times too good for a poor fellow like Severn, and would drop hints that she mght do better in her next low-affair. But when quite sober, Dr Flint never presumed further than the most respect ful civilities. Theo. when bained by his auntie's determination to keep him at school,' thought he would get the better of her by. behaving badly there, and by playing truant whenever he could manage it. There were some idle boys in the township who were always open for a lark, and Theo. could always, on pretext of being very hungry, manage to stow away as much lunch as would serve two or three, and there was a creek not far off, where a few very little fish could be caught Avith a great deal of patience, and to this creek, after an unusual outburst of bad conduct, they took their way. The schoohnaster found Theo. so troublesome that he did not disturb himself much about his absence, and this had gone on some time. Hester heard of it on several occasions, but not of all, and she spoke very strongly to Theo. without effect. About six months after Hester had taken up her charge, after an unusual outburst of bad conduct, and a beating, and a task set to be done at home, Theo. did not reappear at school for three days. The master gent a note to Miss Raynor, telling 'how badly the child had behaved, and that, as. he had not gone back to school with the punishment lesson, he supposed that he would in future be taught at home, and that he was very glad of it, for it would be his painful duty to expel him if he continued to behave in this insubordinate and altogether intolerable manner. He was, of course, sorry to do anything to distress Miss Raynor, for whom he felt the greatest respect, but for the sake of example, &c, &c, no other course was left to liim consistant with his duties to the public. For three days Theo. had fortified himself with a large luncheon, and had stayed out till the usual hour for coming home, and had appeared to learn his lessons as usual. Hester put on her hat and cloak, and went to pay her first visit to Frank Kelly. He looked pleased to see her at first, took her into his sitting room, where she had a first look at the books from which he supplied her, and the curious scientific instruments of which he had told her. But he soon saw she was troubled and came for help, and not for pleasure, and when she told of her perplexity, and showed Mr. Mason' s (the schoolmaster) note, he saw he was needed to step in as he never had been before. ' Send him to me as soon as he comes home ' ' He is always delighted to be sent on an errand here,' said Hester ; ' but what will you do ' ' I shall be guided by circumstances, and bv what the boys says. I think Mr. Mason is a little too hard upon him, and he has no right to expel hun for insubor dination from a Government school. There is no school nearer than Thrall, from which you walked once, but it would be hard to make Theo. take such a journey every day. ' I daresay Mr. Mason thinks I could hue a teacher or instruct him myself ; the money difficulty does not touch me, as it does the poor diggers and reapers, but I do not think it would be nice to have him taught at home, and it is all I can do to keep up my authority with him for a part of the day, without having to watch over him and myself every day and all day long. It would not be good for him or for me. It is because I am a change, that he is growing to like me, and though he has been so naughty lately, I believe he really begins to love me less selfishly than at first.' ' Well, whatever I do to Paul Severn's son, though you may think it severe, you will acquiese in, I hope. He needs a sharp lesson, and you are not strong enough to give it.' ' That is why I came to you now. And please, Mr. Kelly, do not send him back till eight o'clock. I do not want him home till I am free from business cares, and am able to give my whole attention to him.' ' I may not send him back for days, Miss Raynor. Don't expect him till you see him f don't set tea for him. If he is obstinate and impertinent, he must get not only a sharp, but perhaps a long lesson,' said Mr. Kelly. 'This appears to me to be a crisis iu his life,' said Hester, ' and if you conquer him I will be for ever grateful.' Hester was puzzled a little by the look which Frank Kelly cast on her ; but her heart was at the moment so anxious about Theo. that she could not think of much else. In all her intercourse with Mr. Kelly there had been no fear, and, except about Theo.'s parentage, no reserve. There had been pleasure, but no trouble ; it had been' so different with her old relations to Paul Severn. He never misunderstood her, never conde scended to her, never over-explained matters to her. He took it for granted that she could comprehend his ordinary talk and appreciate his favourite books.- He had enjoyed the freshness of her criticisms and the keenness of her perception. Paul Severn had called her a ' moonlight little woman ;' but to Frank there was sunlight as well as moonlight in Hester sufficient for a man's complete happiness. He knew the state of his own heart, but she did not guess at it, nor sus pect the state of her own, although all she did and read, and thought, had his image and his opinions, and lecoliectious of what he had said even, and ex pectations of what he was to say by-and-by, at the back of them. She set him up to Theo. as an ex ample, but to herself she never thought of him but as a friend. Her ideas of friendship were, however, expanding rapidly^ nothing .in her Svhole life had so powerfully affected her development as this open and fearless intercourse with a strong, good man. ? When Theo. returned with a look of perfect sim plicity on his face, as if he had just come from school, with his usual keen appetite, and his lessons to prepare for next day, Hester gave him a hunch of bread and butter, and sent him with a note to Mr. Kelly, which he took in perfect good faith. Mr. Kelly read the letter, and then put it carefully in his pocket. It was the first letter he had ever, received from Hester, and it was precious, though it contained only these words,—' I send him to vou, and will trust that you will do the best that you can do for my boy, and I will acquiesce in it whether you succeed or fail. Yours sincerely, Hester Raynor.' Frank Kelly felt the magnitude of the rrust, and turned gravely to -Theo. ' I hear from your auntie that Mr- Mason 2r * written to her that you have not been at school -^ three days. Do you tliink yon can carry on i .

game without being found out, and do you not know that you deserve to be most severely punished ?' ' I hate the school, and I won't go back,' said Theo., doggedly. ' Then you 'must go to work, my fine fellow ; either one thing or another.'' ' I like helping in the store best.' 'Yes, you like work that's like play. You can never be of use in a store without some learning. No, if you won't go to school to please your auntie, you shan't stop with her to please yourself. I've got work for you here, that needs no schooling.' Theo. looked pleased. ' What will you give me a week:' ' Six shillings a week. I think you may be worth that if you do your best.' Theo's eyes glistened, ' But mind, you must keep vourself out of it,' said Mr. Kelly. ' Oh ! ''' said Theo., and his countenance fell. ' Your auntie turns you over to me. She will have nothing more to do with you when you will not obey her. She is not strong enough to punish you as you deserve, and she sees that you want a more powerful, hand over you. I thought you were a more grateful boy than you are showing yourself. She has spoken to you over and over again about playjuig truant, and now she leaves me to act, and tbi6 is what I have settled on- Mrs. Batts, who lives close by, will feed you for your 6s. a week, I dare say. It will not be such good ' tucker ' as you got from your auntie, but it is as much as you can pay for. You will have to . wash your own clothes at night, I can let you sleep in the engine room, which is the warmest place. Your hours will be the same as the men's.' Theo. stared somewhat aghast. Mr. Kelly called Mat O'Hare, the strongest and the roughest of the men in his employ. ' O'Hare, did you not say you wanted a boy to help you a bit.: Here's Theo. Stone, who has tired of school, and thinks he would like work better. I pay him his wages and he obeys your orders. You are doing more overtime, are you not to-day ? Keep him till you leave off ; and then he goes to Mrs. Batts for his supper, and he can ask at the house for a pair of blankets, for he is to sleep in the engine-room.' And Mr. Kelly turned on his heel, and left Theo. to the new life, with the new master. Whether it was a joke or not — whether it was only for this afternoon or for a permanency, Mat O'Hare did not know, but to him, for the time, it was the best jokehe^ever had heard of. He ordered the little spoiled 'whipper- snapper about like a slave- driver ; he made him. carry heavy burdens, and sent him to the public-house twice for beer before he knocked off work; and then,, with a curse, dismissed him for the night. Theo.'s heart was full ; he would not go to Mrs. Batts, — he could not bring himself to tell her of his downfal and humiliation ; he went to Mr. Kelly's house, and knocked humbly at the back door. The servant opened it, and recognizing Theo. offered hinna pair of . old red blankets, which she said the master had told her to give him. ' Is Mr. Kelly in r' he asked in a mournful tone. 'Yes, he's just had his tea,, and he's having a smoke.' 'Do you think he would speak to me ?.' said Theo. with an unsteady voice. ' I don't know. I'll ask him.' It seemed a long time before the old woman came back with the message that Mr. Kelly would speak to ? him. He was led into the roora into, which he had been several times before, when he was iin favour — but it all seemed so different now. ' Mr. Kelly,' said the boy with a sob. ' I want to» go to my auntie, and not to that horrid old Batts~ Do youthink she will let me be kicked about by that beas'tly O'Hare ?'. ' She will dispute nothing that I do. You may read her letter for yourself. You axe not to go. home without my pel-mission.' ' You're telling me lies, she cannot be so eruel,' said' Theo. indignantly. ' I want to live in my own house, . and sleep in my own bed, and have my' own auntie to look after me, and lot old Batts. She promised mother she would be always a mother to me-'' ' And what did you promise Theo, ? There is not another woman in the world who would have been so patient with you. You must learn for yourself the : consequence bf taking your own way. It is- a thou sand pities you were so'old before she got you, and that you had such bad habits to fight against. But you have surely sense enough to .understand that, if you break your promise, she need not keep hers.' ' She never said 119 such word as that jshe would send me away. No, Mr. Kelly, she never said nothing of the kind.' said Theo. relapsing into his double negatives to give his assertions due emphasis. ' No, because she never would say what she will not carry out. If she once says it, you are done for. - Even her patience gets worn put at last. You deserve- . a severe punishment, for you have not only-dwobeyfed her, but told no end of lies about your playing;, truant.' ? ' Mother never expected me to speak the truth. . You are all so mighty particular.' ' So we are, and we must be.' 'And it's all nonsense that folks say about liars ; being struck down dead, for I told a thunderer yester day, and I watched to see if anything happened like Ananias and Sapphira, that they spoke about at Sunday school, and there was never nothing happened' to me. What do you say to that ? ' ' Just that I hate a lie all the more because it is often - not seen to be punished, and so does your auntie. ? Did she say anything would happen if you told a b'e r' ' 'No.' 'Then why did she sav you were to speak the ? truth.' . Theo. fidgetted a little, and then said, ' She said that God would not be pleased, and that nobody, not even you and her, would be able to trust what I say.'' 'And. if your auntie took to telling you lies,, promised you things she did not give you, told things ; . against you that were not true, how would you like that r ' * ' She could not do that,' said Theo., ' not to save her life.' ' I think you like her all the better because you can 1 depend on 'her being always true. I believe that, though you are naughtv, that you do love her a little.' * . . Theo. fidgetted a good deal, and said, ' I can't palaver like some .folks.' 'I think if you take a month's work under O'Hare, - and stay with Mrs. Batts, you will find that you miss something more than the easy life and comfortable quarters. You'll miss the kind and the pleasant M»i)j, the pretty story told or read at night, and the tukL-ngln bed after you have said your prayers, and the ' Gd^blass you, nif bo3',' which I don't think either O'Haie or Mrs. Ba'tts will trouble you with.' Theo.'s eyes wanted attending to a little. He no longerlyperated on; them with his knuckles, as in the day's before he knew Hester's kindness—he pulled out a poekethandkerchief which he had selected for himself vith a funny picture of Punch and Judy on it, '^'jyj he had watched her hemming in the niachine, aT-£ ? r^i sne ^^ mai'ked in indelible ink with his vjf8 !*? Stone- He wiped his eyes, and said ^|^*ibout the dust from the machinery getting XrJ.. /onvardi vy :( ast be taught the value of all the loving 5 / five met with by losing it for a while. Yo11

have soon forgotten the misery Miss ltaynor took you from. How different your life would have been at Haiidwick, or any sort of industrial school. Lessons ?without your auntie's help ; discipline without her gentle wisdom. No, you must come hack to work to-morrow. You need a good month's lesson. ' Mr. Kelly,' jsaid Theo. ' Will you please give me the biggest thrashing I ever got in my life, and let me go back to auntie.' 'And to school ':' 'Yes; and to school,' said Theo., with a great gulp, ' if the master will take me ; but he says he'll send me away, and I thought I might as well keep out of the school of my own accord.' And the thrashing was administered. Mr. Kelly thought it was a pretty severe one, for he meant it to be the first and the last, but perhaps Theo. had had tsome floggings from his own father and from his mother in their drunken orgies ; but as he had never been beaten since he had found a home with Hester, and as this was inflicted severely and sadly, it had wonderful effect. He felt it painful and humiliating, and yet he felt it satisfactory, for he had chosen it, instead of far worse evils. ' Now, there is something still to be done, Theo.,' »aid Mr. Kelly, when this wanted task was over. ' You must do your punishment lesson, and make up for the three days schooling you have lost. And the first thing you have to do is to get your auntie's for giveness, by telling her the whole truth about your conduct and your punishment. Tell her what is true —that you are sorry — and that you preferred a severe flogging to being separated from her. -You will find her, as well as me, ready to forgive you your faults, and to believe you mean to try to be better. I do not expect ever to have this to do again. If I have, I shall be bitterly disappointed. You understand fully now what is expected of you. Theo. walked home slowly. He reached the store when Tom Law was putting up the shutters and taking leave. He went softly into the little parlour at the back of the shop, where Hester was sitting at her solitary meal. His china mug was not set for him. He felt as if there had been awful truth in Mr. Kelly's views of the situation. ' Auntie, auntie,' he sobbed out ' I am sorry — I am very sorr y, take me back ; don't let me have to go to work with O'Hare. It is very hard for me to be good and to keep good — you can't think how hard it is. Mr. Kelly said I was to work with O'Hare, and to have tea with Mrs. Batts. I worked till seven, but I said to him ' give me a tremendous thrashing, and let me go back to my auntie's.' And I got the thrashing. I want to be good, but I forgot, just like that burn you tied up,' and he pulled up his sleeve. ' I forget it now, it's healed ; but I really don't mean to worrit you, auntie.' And the boy threw his arm round Hester's neck, and she cried over his repentance like a real mother. 41 And nobody knows ; Mr. Kelly himself does not know how good you are, for you have never told him that Mr. Severn did not want me, and that you did not dare to take me till he was dead. But he says I'm never to need no more thrashings, and I hope lie speaks the truth then.' Hester felt a stronger hope in her heart for the boy's future than she had ever dared to cherish before. ' And do you think that if I mind my book, and learn and get on, that I could ever grow to be a gentleman like Mr. Kelly.' ' There is nothing to prevent you, except your own laziness and naughtiness.' 'And I'm a stupid to begin ; but I'm going to try, and you will help me.' And for once the spur was from within. The boy's natural cleverness was turned in a right direc tion. Hester felt that he gained ground week by week. He was not invariably good after this episode, but he was generally good, and when he went wrong, he was more easily ied right. He soon got out of the baby class, which, had been distasteful to him, and ? made ?wonderful progress, not so much in reading as in writing and calculating. The desire to get into the store business, and to be able to put down an add up the takings and the credit sales, was a great spur in that direction. Chatter VII.— A Triple Alliance. Time has passed away tolerably swiftly since Hester's journey to Quartzville ; it was near the anni versary of Paul Severn's death, and she was nowj after the business of the day was over, sitting at tea with Theo. rather sad and thoughtful at what was generally a cheerful meal. Two or three things had troubled her. In the first place, 'lorn Law had summoned courage to propose to her, and had been refused, and thereupon he had given notice to leave at Christmas, and she knew she would have some difficulty in filling his place with a suitable person ; and in the second place, she had heard rumours that Mr. Kelly was about to leave the neighbourhood ; that an influential gentleman from Deepleads, the place ?where he had talked of going before, had arrived by the mail, and was negotiating to remove Kelly to the more important place, and send an inferior officer to Quartzville. These two disturbing things were com bined with her memories of the sad and troubled days twelve months before. Theo. was hungry, and not un happy. He had no sad memories of times that had brought .such- a pleasant revolution in his life. And he had a consciousness of triumph, because all his school-fellows had said that Miss Raynor would niarry Tom Law, and then that he would be ordered about by him in a very different way from what he dared to do now ; and that when his auntie had children of her own, she would send him to the right about. Now ?when he heard that Mr. Law was to leave at Christ mas, he felt that he had escaped that danger, and besides been proved in the right, for he had been sure she ?would never marry him ; so, though he somewhat regretted the approaching parting, pleasure was pre dominant in his mind. ' I wish I was big enough to take the counter my self,' said Theo. ' Is that for the lollies and raisins, Theo. r' ' No, auntie, I'm not a baby now, but I suppose I'm to stop, at school for Years.' 'Yes; and if you do well here, to go to a better ?school in some big town — perhaps in Sydney itself. I could trust you with Mrs. Lloyd to go to the Grammar ?School by-and-by.' ' So Mr. Kelly says ; but yet I'd like to come back to the store. It is so nice to be selling things, and taking money, or putting it down in the book to the people that's good pay. I put down something against Mr. Mason to-day, auntie, and yesterday for Mr.Bowen. My writing' is big, but it is easier read. Are you not going to take anything to eat, auntie : ' I'm not hungry, Theo.' ' And the hot cake is so good I could eat it all. Susan is a stunner at cakes. It is nearly a year since you came here. Yes, I'll be eleven the day after Christmas. Susan says she'll make me an iced cake for my birthday ; that will be jolly. Do you think Mr. Kelly will be here? He gave me a present last birthday, what will he give me this one?' ' I cannot tell,' said Hester, and she subsided into silent thought. How she would miss him if he really went away! She tried to fix her mind on a book; she taied to give the help with his lessons which Theo. required; but her inind was troubled. At last Theo. s bed-time, came, and she was left quite alone. She was

not sure that she was in love with Frank Kelly, but she was quite sure she was never in love with Paul Severn . It seemed altogether such a series of mistakes and misapprehensions. That she should be supposed by Mr. Kelly to be living in Paul's house and carry ing on her ' business on the strength of a passion which had never existed on either side, and taking care of a child which was not his, and contrary to his expressed wi^h, seemed curious enough ; — but yet, with all this, she could not blame herself. It was ignorance of her own heart, and the womanly longing to be helpful to a man who needed help, that had led her to the engagement, and she had thought his love very much stronger than it was ; — while as for Theo. she would act exactly as she had done, for it had to be gone over again. His good night kiss had been more affectionate than usual, on the strength of Mr. Law being removed to another sphere of usefulness. Theo. really loved her, and she felt she had her reward. There was only one winter he ever came late, and whe'n Susan answered the tap at the door, and announced Mr. Kelly, Hester thought that now she could hear the truth as to the departure. After a few hurried commonplaces, in which both parties seemed to speak without fully knowing what they were about, Hester said, ' I hear you are likely to leave Quartzville for Deepleads.' ' Not certainly ; it will depend a little en circum stances.' ' You have had a good offer r ' ' Yes, a very good offer, in fact, a much liiglier bid for my services than was made last year.' 'Theo. and I will miss yoU,' said Hester with as steady a voice as she could command. ' He is now so much more hopeful than when I needed your help so sorely, that you need not hesitate on my account. I can still write and consult you about the business. Perhaps you will help me to get a successor to Mr. Law, who leaves at Christmas. But I think I shall be able to pay you off at the end of the year, the store has done splendidly to enable me to clear off this, my heaviest liability, in one year. Our expenses have been small, and the place has gone forward. You will have the satisfaction of leaving us in a fair way for prosperity.' ' I can never have any satisfaction in leaving you, Hester,' said Frank, with an earnestness she could not mistake. 'The only thing that could reconcile me to leaving Quartzville would be taking you with me.' Hester gave no reply. She had to make up her mind to tell the truth, the whole truth, about Theo., before she could accept the love she hungered for. ' I am in solemn earnest,' he pleaded, 'you hold my fate, my happiness or misery, in your hands. I would not speak till a reasonable time had elapsed after the death of Paul Severn, but I feel sure that, although you behaved like an angel of mercy to him ; though you had been faithful to his memory ; and have taken up his burdens, you never loved him as I hope to make you love me.' Still silence. Had he mistaken her heart ? ' And as for Theo., who could feel to that child as I can do ? My friend's son, and my darling's darling.' 'Mr. Kelly,' said Hester, with difficulty. 'It's very good of you.' ' Good,' interrupted Frank, ' what goodness can I claim for losing the best woman in the world. The most generous. The most truthful — ' 'Stop,' said Hester, 'I think you mistake me a little. I love you far better than Paul Severn would let me love him. Perfect love casteth out fear, and all fear is cast out of my heart but one,' and she sighed deeply. 'And what is that, Hester?' asked Frank tenderly. 'You said once, that you thotight with me; that we need not tell all the* truth to everybody ; only I feel I must tell all the truth to you. We can never hope to be happy if we deceive each other ni any way. Better to part now — friends — surely friends.' Frank saw the difficulty and the hesitation, but he felt sure Hester had no real cause for fear. ' You can tell me nothing of your past that will make me think other than well of you now. Sp?ak without doubt or fear.' ' 'Well, it is about Theo. When I went after his mother's death to fetch the child home, I found instead of the girl, Mary Severn, Paul's daughter, which I supposed her to be, that it was a boy, the child of Barbara Stone and her seducer, whom she afterwards married. She had dressed Theo. in poor girl's clothes, and, in order to extort money from Mr. Severn, she pretended that his child was still alive. I knew that the child had not any claim upon Paul or on anybody, but if you had heard how he wept and prayed that I would remember my promise made to his mother, you would have felt that I could not harden my heart against him. But Paul was very angry with me for thinking of such a thing, and he only rejoiced at the idea that I would be left with no drag on me, and was, I thought, cruelly glad that the child would be turned adrift upon public charity. He tried to make me promise to do as he required. He wished me to marry him at the last, so that he might have a right to command my obedience. But I would make no promise, and I would consent to no formality of marriage that would hamper my future action; and besides I did not feel love enough in my heart to take the vows at that time.' Frank folded the confessor of other sins than his own in his arms. He would have welcomed a far more untoward child than Theo. for the delicious assurance that he had really awakened the first and best love of Hester's heart. ' You have always being trying to find out where Theo. resembles Mr. Severn, and sometimes think vou have succeeded ; but I always recollect what you said about his being the gift of God, and I feel sure that, whatever he may or may not inherit from his miserable parents, he* has enough of our Heavenly Father's spirit in him for his complete redemption. You have helped me with him al^ along, because you thought he was Mr. Severn's boy.' 'And I will help you with him because he is yours, my Hester, and because I love him for himself. Ever since he requested that flogging, I have had a respect for Theo.' 'And I do not need to have to choose between him and you,' said Hester, smiling through her 'Bv no means. If I had been mean and base enough to ask it, I should have been thrown over board, and I should have deserved it. No, it is a triple alliance. And you must make up your mind to leave Quartzville at Christmas. I am not going any where without you.' ' So soon?' said Hester astonished. 'No later. We can arrange for Tom Law carrying on the business, and buying it by degrees. That will soothe his disappointment wonderfully.' ' But your family, your friends ?' ' Have nothing to* say in this matter. Come now, Hester, surely you must understand that such love as I feel for you is altogether out of the sway or influence of any lesser consideration.' It was not hard to persuade Hester that she was all he needed. She felt perfect trust in his sincerity, and although at first it seemed altogether too wonder ful to be true that he accepted her explanation as a positive pleasure, she believed him when he said so. Their plans for the future were talked over, their memories of little things and great things, during th«-

a&t year, discussed and compared. Susan thought he visitor would never go away, and formed a shrewd ;ucss at the business in hand. To while away the ime, she went intoTheo.'s room for a story-book, and inding him awake, she dropped a hint of her sus jicionp. When Hester passed the door, in showing \\r. Kelly out. she thought she heard the sound of wing. ''Stop,' said she, and Frank was only too willing to stop, 'till I see what is the matter with ; LJieo. He went to bed well and happy enough. They both went into the little room with the candle, ind there the child was awake, and undoubtedly ?rviiig. Hester stoops over him and kisses him. 'What's the matter ? Have you toothache, rheo.' ' No. nothing's the matter.' ?? Surely you would not cry for nothing, said Frank. ' I'm not crying— much,' said Theo. ' It's a year* since you came here. I'm sure it has been a very happy year,' said Hester's lover. ' Yes,' sighed Theo. ',And next year you are going with your auntie and me to Deeplead.' ' I thought so,' said Theo., and he cried softly but uiimistakably. 'There .is nothing to distress yourself about, surely,' said Hester. 'B*ut there is; everybody says that if auntie marries anybody it will make all the difference to me.' ' But I am your friend, you know,' said Frank. ' Yes, but she cannot help telling you the truth, and Then.' I ' She has told me the truth, and it only shows how good she is, and how good you ought to be to her.' 'Ah! but they all say— Susan says, that when you have children of your own, then,' and here came another burst of tears. 'Then you will be our eldest, that is all, said Frank Kelly. 'Nothing but death can part us three.' _^^ ?