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HELEN LES TER.

by

THE AUTHORS OF " GARESTONE HALL."

“ Hope well to have, hate not past thought,
For cruel storms fair calms have brought,
After sharp showers the sun shines fair,
Hope comes likewise after despair.”

RICHARD ALISON,

London:

Saunders, Otley, and Co., Conduit Street.

1 859

The right of Translation is reserved.

24G.W.18631.

LONDON: F. SHOBERL, PRINTER, 37, DEAN STREET, Sono, W.

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HELEN LESTER,

CHAPTER I.

“What the leaves are to the fruit,

With light and air for food,
Ere their sweet and tender juices

Have been hardened into wood,
“ That to the world are children;

Through them it feels the glow
Of a brighter and sunnier climate
Than
reaches"thë trunks below."

LONGFELLOW.

In a long, low, old-fashioned house, called the Grange, about a mile from the town of Stenham, in one direction, and little more than a quarter of that distance from the village of Radbrooke, on the other, lived Mrs. Lawrence. The house was built of brick, now dark with age; before it was a court, with a lawn and sweep, and at the back an extensive garden. Roses and jasmine half covered the walls, and the clustering ivy clambered to the very top of some of the old

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twisted chimneys; according to their several tastes, people called it very picturesque, or thought rather of the spiders and other insects which might infest the climbers.

Now for the inhabitants : Mrs. Lawrence was a widow lady with two daughters; her husband had been dead some years; her only son for the last four years had been travelling on the Continent with his family, but was now expected soon to return to England. She had lost a daughter about three years before the time at which our story commences: the two elder sisters, Edith and Maria had shared the same room, and been constant companions, for their tastes and pursuits were similar. Maria almost sank under the stroke which parted them; by slow degrees she returned to her usual occupations, but she went about them listlessly, and without interest.

For some months her mother and her younger sister Harriet tried in vain to rouse her from her apathy, till Mrs. Lawrence, recollecting her fondness for children, one day brought the little Helen Lester to see her, the child of an attached servant who had married from her family, and was now living at Stenham, where her husband kept a small grocer's shop. At the time Miss Lawrence took but little notice of Helen, and her mother feared the attempt to interest her had failed; but to her great satisfaction, a day or two after, she introduced the subject herself by asking, “How old is Helen Lester ?

“ Just four years old, her mother told me on Monday,” answered Mrs. Lawrence.

“What a pretty little creature she is, with those bright blue laughing eyes. I have thought of her so often since, would you mind having her here for a week, mamma? she would be such an amusement.”

“ Not at all, if you wish it, but her mother had better come with her; I am going to Stenham, and I will call upon her, and hear if her husband can spare her for a few days; she can help on some of the needle-work that Morris was lamenting over this morning.”

Mrs. Lester was much obliged by the invitation, and very willing to make herself useful, she brought her little girl with her the next morning to pay her visit. Helen was an engaging child, not uncomfortably shy, for she had been used to seeing strangers in her father's shop, and was often noticed by the customers, when her mother seated her on the counter by her side to keep her out of mischief.

At first she did not like to be left with Miss Lawrence, but that was no great grievance, for Mrs. Lester had been a favourite with all her young ladies, and Maria liked very well to have à chat with her, while the little Helen amused herself with the playthings she had provided for her. The heart of the child was not long in opening to the kindness that was lavished upon

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