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grew an unfrequent sound, and her bright cheek lost its rich colour. The neighbours said that Mrs. Malpas was worrying her niece to death. This was not true. Mrs. Malpas was both fond of and kind to her niece in her way, and, had she noted the alteration, would have been the first to be anxious about her ; but Hester's increasing silence and gravity were rather recommendations, and as to her looking pale, why she never had had any colour herself, and she did not see why her niece should have any-colour was all very well in the country,
A year passed away unmarked by any occurrence, when, one summer afternoon, as Hester was taking her accustomed walk, she heard her name suddenly pronounced. She turned, and saw Frank Horton.
“ I have been watching for you,” said he, hastily drawing her arm within his, and hurrying her along, “ these two hours. I was afraid you would not come out; but here you are, prettier than ever !”
Hester walked on, flurried, confused, surprised, but delighted. It was not only Frank Horton that she was glad to see, but he brought with him a whole host of all her dearest remembrances—all her happiest hours came too-she faltered half a dozen hurried questions, and all about home. Frank Horton seemed, however, more desirous to talk about herself: he was eager in his expressions, and Hester was too little accustomed to flattery not to find it sweet. She prolonged her walk to the utmost, and when they separated, she had promised, first, that she would not mention their meeting to her aunt, and, secondly, that she would meet him the following day. It was with a heavy heart Hester bent over her work that evening. One, two, three days went by, and each day she met Frank Horton; the fourth, as she entered the parlour with her bonnet on, to ask, as was her custom, if her aunt wanted anything out, “No," said Mrs. Malpas, her harsh voice raised to its highest and harshest key," you ungrateful, deceitful girl! I know what you want to go out for ; take off your bonnet this moment, for out of the
house you don't stir. Your young spark won't see you for one while, I - can tell him.”
Mechanically Hester obeyed : she took off her bonnet, and sat down. She knew she had done wrong, and she was far too unpractised in it to attempt a defence. Pale and trembling, she only attempted to conceal her tears. A few kind words, a tone of gentle remonstrance, and Mrs. Malpas might have moulded her to her will; but she was too angry, and reproach after reproach was showered upon the unhappy girl, till she could bear it no longer, and she left the room. Her aunt called her back, but she did not return. This was Hester's first act of open disobedience, and the indignation it excited was proportioned to the offence. Three more miserable days made up the week ;-taunts, reproaches of. every kind were lavished upon her--and what she felt most keenly was, that every person who came near the house was treated with an account of her falşehood and ingratitude, till at last Mr. Lowndes, the very person who gave the information, could not help exclaiming, “ Lord, Mrs. Hester! she is not the first girl who did not tell every time she went out to meet her sweetheart.”
If Hester was not the first girl, it would not be her aunt's fault if she was not the last- for not one moment in the twelve hours was there a cessation from the perpetual descant on the heinousness of her offence. On the Saturday night, after she had gone into her own room, the ser
vant girl came up softly, and, giving her a letter, said, “Come, miss, don't take on so I am sure no good will come of mistress's parting two true lovers; but dear, she never had one of her own--and such a handsome young man—but, Lord ! is that her calling ?” and the girl darted off, leaving Hester the letter.
A thrill of delight lighted up her pale face as she opened the precious epistle. Under any circumstances, what happiness, what an epoch in existence is the first love-letter !—and to Hester, who would have been thankful to a stranger for one word of kindness, what must not the page have seemed whose every word was tenderness ? Frank wrote to say that he knew how she had been confined to the house—that he had kept purposely out of the way—and that he entreated her to meet him as she went to church the following Sunday—that he had something very important to tell her—and that he would never ask her to meet him again. Hester wondered in her own mind whether she should be allowed to go to church-trembled at the idea of thus profaning the sabbath-half resolved to confess all to her aunt—then found her courage sink at the idea of that aunt's severity-read the letter over again—and determined to meet him. She was late the ensuing morning, when Mrs. Hester came into her room, and exclaimed angrily, “ So I suppose, as your spark has taken himself off, you do not want to go out? Please to make haste and get ready for church-I am sure you have need to pray for your sins.”
Hester had not courage to reply. She dressed; and, after telling her she ought to be ashamed of making herself such a figure with crying, Mrs. Malpas dismissed both her and the servant to church. Very infirm, she herself rarely left the house, but used to read the service in the parlour, which was her sitting-room.
Trembling and miserable, Hester proceeded in the direction indicated by her lover; he was there before her,-and, with scarcely a word, she followed him hurriedly till they reached a more remote street, where, at least, neither were known. As they walked along, half Hester's attention had been given to the bell tolling for church; suddenly it ceased, and the silence smote upon her heart. Never before had she heard that bell cease but within the walls of the sacred edifice.
“Oh pray make haste-what can you have to say ?-I shall be so late in church !” exclaimed she, breathless with haste and agitation.'
“I shall not detain you again,” replied he, in a low and broken voice. “ Hester, I could not leave England without bidding you farewell, perhaps for ever!” She clung to his arm. To one who had never made but a single journey in all her life—whose idea of the world was composed of a small secluded village, and a few streets in a dull and unfrequented part of London-leaving England seemed like leaving life itself. “ Yes, Hester,” said her companion, gazing earnestly and sadly on her pale and anxious face, “ I go on board to-day-I cannot stay here--I am off to America-I have done very wrong in renewing my acquaintance with you-but, with all my faults, I do love you, Hester, very truly and dearly. It was hard to leave my native country, and not leave one behind who would say God bless you ! when I left-or give me one kind thought when far, far away. I ask for no promise, Hester; but when I return, altered I hope for the better in every way, you will find Hester Malpas has been my hope and my object."
She could say nothing, the surprise of this departure overwhelmed every other feeling. She walked with him in silence-she listened to his words, and felt a vague sort of satisfaction in his expressions of attachment and fidelity; but she answered only by tears. Frank was the first to see the necessity of their parting. He accompanied her back to her aunt's, and Hester let herself in, as she had the key of the backdoor. He followed her into the passage-he clasped her to his heart, and turned hastily away. Hester was not aware that he was gone till she heard the door close after him; she wanted consolation-it-would have been a relief to have spoken to any one-she felt half inclined to seek her aunt and confess the meeting, but her courage failed, and she hurried into her own little room, where she was soon lost in a confused reverie which blended her aunt's anger and Frank's departure together. s Leaving her to the enjoyment (as people are said to enjoy a bad state of health), of her solitary and melancholy reverie, we will follow the worthy, Mr. Lowndes out of church, who, leaving his wife to hurry home about dinner, declared his intention of paying Mrs. Hester Malpas a visit. The fact was, he had missed Hester from her accustomed place in church-thought that she was still kept prisoner to the house and considering her to have been punished quite long enough, resolved to speak a word in her favour to her aunt. He knocked at the door, but instead of being let in with that promptitude which characterized all the movements of Mrs. Hester's household, he was kept waiting; he knocked again-still no answer. At this moment, just as Mr. Lowndes' temper was giving more way than the door, the servant girl came up, who had loitered longer on her way from church, arrived, and let them in together. She threw open the parlour door, but instantly sprung back with a scream. Mr. Lowndes advanced, but he, too, started back with an exclamation of horror. The girl caught hold of his arm, and both stood trembling for a moment, ere they mustered courage to enter that fated and fearful room. The presence of death is always awful, but death, the sudden and the violent, has a terror far beyond common and natural fear. The poor old lady was lying with her face on the floor, and the manner of her death was instantly obvious-a violent blow on the back of the head had fractured the skull, and a dark red stain marked the clean white cap, whence the blood was slowly trickling. They raised the body, and placed it in the large arm-chair, the customary seat of the deceased. " Good God! where is Miss Hester ?” exclaimed Mr. Lowndes. The servant girl ran into the passage, and called at the foot of the stairs --+she had not courage to ascend them. There was at first no answershe called again the door of Hester's apartment was opened slowly, and a light but hesitating step was heard. “Miss Hester, oh! Miss Hester, come down to your aụnt.” Hester's faint and broken voice answered, ::: Not yet, not yet I cannot bear it.”
Fatally were these words remembered against her. That evening saw the unfortunate girl confined in a solitary cell in Newgate. We shall only give the brief outline of the evidence that first threw, and then fixed the imputation of guilt upon her. It was evident that the murderer, whoever he was, had entered by the door : true, the window was open, but, had any one entered through it there must have been the trace of footsteps on the little flower-bed of the small garden in front. The house, too, had been rifled by one who appeared to know it well, while
nothing but the most portable articles were taken the few spoons, the old lady's watch, and whatever money there might have been, for not a shilling even was to be found anywhere. A letter, however, was found from Mr. Malpas to his sister, mentioning that Frank Horton, who had long been very wild, had been forced to quit the neighbourhood in consequence of having been engaged in an affray with some gamekeepers, and it was supposed that poaching was the least crime of the gang with whom he had been connected. The epistle concluded by a hope very earnestly expressed, that if, as common report went, Frank had gone up to London, he might not meet with Hester, and begging if he attempted to renew the acquaintance, a stop should be put to it at once. It was proved that Hester had met this young man several times in secret, the last in defiance of her aunt's express prohibition ; that instead of going to church she had met him, and he had been seen leaving the house with all possible haste about the very time the murder had been committed, and he was traced to the river side. Two vessels had that morning sailed for America, but it was impossible to learn whether he was a passenger in either. Hester's own exclamation, too, seemed to confirm every suspicion, so did her terror, her confusion, and her bewildered manner. Every body said that she looked so guilty, and the coroner's inquest brought in a verdict for her committal.
It was a fine summer evening when Mr. Malpas and his family were seated, some in the porch of the cottage, while the younger children were scattered about the garden. There was an expression of cheerfulness in the face of the parents very different to the harsh, hard despondency of a twelvemonth since; and Hester, as her mother always prognosticated she would, had indeed brought a blessing on her family. Many an anxious glance was cast down the road, for to-day the post came in, and one of the boys had been dispatched to the village to see if there was a letter from Hester. The child was soon discovered running at full speed, and a letter was in his hand. “ It is not my sister's handwriting," said he, with the blank look of disappointment. Mr. Malpas opened the epistle, which was from Mr. Lowndes, and broke kindly, though abruptly, his daughter's dreadful situation. The unhappy father sunk back senseless in his seat, and in care for his recovery Mrs. Malpas had a brief respite --but she, too, had to learn the wretched truth. How that miserable day passed no words may tell. Early next morning Mr. Malpas woke from the brief but heavy sleep of complete exhaustion; the cold grey light glared in from the window-he started from his seat, for he had never gone to bed it was but a moment's oblivion, for the whole truth rose terrible and distinct. In such a state solitude was no relief, and he, sought his wife to consult with her on the necessity of his going to London. He found only his other daughter, who had scarcely courage to tell him that her mother had already departed for town, and to give him the few scarcely legible lines which his wife had left."
The next evening, and Mrs. Malpas had found her way to the cell of her unhappy child. All was over--she had been tried and found guilty, not of the actual murder, but of abetting and concealing it, and the following morning was the one appointed when the sentence of the law was to be carried into effect. “This is not Hester !” exclaimed Mrs. Malpas, when she entered the cell : and even from a mother's lips the ejaculation might be excused, so little resemblance was there between
the pale emaciated creature before her, and the bright and blooming girl with whom she had parted. Hester was seated on the side of the iron bedstead -her hands clasping her knees, rocking herself to and fro, with a low monotonous moan, which would rather have seemed to indicate bodily pain than mental anguish. Her long hair-that long and beautiful brown hair of which her mother had been so proud-hung dishevelled over her shoulders, but more than half of it was grey. Her eyes were dim and sunk in her head, and looked straight forward, with a blank stupid expression. Her mother whispered her name—Hester made no answer; she took one of her hands-the prisoner drew it pettishly away. That live-long night the mother watched by her child—but that child never knew her again. After some time she seemed soothed by those kind and gentle caresses, but she never gave the slightest token of knowing from whom they came.
Morning arrived at last. With what loathing horror did Mrs. Malpas watch the dim grey light mark the dull outline of the grated window ! The morning reddened, and as the first crimson touched Hester's face as it rested sleeping on her mother's shoulder, somewhat of its former beauty came back to that fair young face. She slept long, though it was a disturbed and convulsive slumber. She was roused by a noise in the passage-bolt and bar fell heavily; there was the sound of many steps strange dark faces appeared at the door. They came to take the prisoner to the place of execution! The men approached Hester—they raised her from her seat-they bound her round childish arms behind her, The mother clung to her child, but that child clung not in return. Mrs. Malpas sunk, though still retaining her hold, on the floor. With what humanity such an office permitted, they disengaged her grasp—they bore away the unresisting prisoner—the door closed, and the wretched mother had looked upon her child for the last time.
It was about a twelvemonth after the execution of Hester Malpas that the family were seated again, on a fine summer evening, round the door of their cottage ; but a dreadful alteration had taken place in all. The father and mother looked bowed to the very earth-the very children shrunk away if a stranger passed by Mr. Malpas had inherited his sister's property, much more considerable than had ever been supposed; but though necessity forced its use, he loathed it like a curse. An unusual sight now—the postman was seen approaching--he brought Mr. Malpas a newspaper. He shuddered as he took it, for he knew Mr. Lowndes's handwriting again. He opened it mechanically, and a large “ read this” directed his attention to a particular paragraph. It was the confession of a Jew watchmaker, who had just been executed for burglary; and, among other crimes, he stated that he was the real murderer of Mrs. Hester Malpas, for which a young woman, her niece, had been executed. He had entered the window by means of a plank thrown from the garden railing to the casement, when with one blow he stunned the old lady, who was reading. Mr. Malpas went no further--the thick and blinding tears fell heavily on the paper-he could not read it aloud, but he put it into his wife's hand, with a broken ejaculation, " Thank God, she was innocent!” ** The facts of the Jew committing the murder, and the old lady's
niece being hanged, are perfectly true. It happened in Wapping some forty years since.