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arrangements; but they did not seem to
touch her heart.

When tea was ended,—it was merely the
form of tea that had been gone through,—Will
moved the things away to the dresser. His
mother leant back languidly in her chair.

' Mother, shall Tom read you a chapter?
He's a better scholar than I.'

' Aye, lad! ' said she, almost eagerly.
' That's it. Read me the Prodigal Son. Aye,
aye, lad. Thank thee.'

Tom found the chapter, and read it in the
high-pitched voice which is customary in
village-schools. His mother bent forward,
her lips parted, her eyes dilated; her whole
body instinct with eager attention. Will sat
with his head depressed, and hung down.
He knew why that chapter had been chosen;
and to him it recalled the family's disgrace.
When the reading was ended, he still hung
down his head in gloomy silence. But her
face was brighter than it had been before for
the day. Her eyes looked dreamy, as if she
saw a vision; and by and by she pulled the
bible towards her, and putting her finger
underneath each word, began to read them
aloud in a low voice to herself; she read again
the words of bitter sorrow and deep humiliation;
but most of all she paused and brightened
over the father's tender reception of the
repentant prodigal.

So passed the Christmas evening in the
Upclose Farm.

The snow had fallen heavily over the dark
waving moorland, before the day of the
funeral. The black storm-laden dome of
heaven lay very still and close upon the white
earth, as they carried the body forth out of
the house which had known his presence so
long as its ruling power. Two and two the
mourners followed, making a black procession,
in their winding march over the unbeaten
snow, to Milne-Row Churchnow lost in some
hollow of the bleak moors, now slowly climbing
the heaving ascents. There was no long
tarrying after the funeral, for many of the
neighbours who accompanied the body to the
grave had far to go, and the great white
flakes which came slowly down, were the
boding fore-runners of a heavy storm. One
old friend alone accompanied the widow and
her sons to their home.

The Upclose Farm had belonged for
generations to the Leighs; and yet its possession
hardly raised them above the rank of
labourers. There was the house and
outbuildings, all of an old-fashioned kind, and
about seven acres of barren unproductive
land, which they had never possessed
capital enough to improve; indeed they could
hardly rely upon it for subsistence; and it
had been customary to bring up the sons to
some tradesuch as a wheelwright's, or

James Leigh had left a will, in the possession
of the old man who accompanied them
home. He read it aloud. James had bequeathed
the farm to his faithful wife, Anne
Leigh, for her life-time; and afterwards, to
his son William. The hundred and odd
pounds in the savings'-bank was to accumulate
for Thomas.

After the reading was ended, Anne Leigh
sat silent for a time; and then she asked to
speak to Samuel Orme alone. The sons went
into the back-kitchen, and thence strolled out
into the fields regardless of the driving snow.
The brothers were dearly fond of each other,
although they were very different in
character. Will, the elder, was like his father,
stern, reserved, and scrupulously upright.
Tom (who was ten years younger) was gentle
and delicate as a girl, both in appearance and
character. He had always clung to his
mother, and dreaded his father. They did
not speak as they walked, for they were only
in the habit of talking about facts, and
hardly knew the more sophisticated language
applied to the description of feelings.

Meanwhile their mother had taken hold of
Samuel Orme's arm with her trembling hand.

' Samuel, I must let the farmI must.'

' Let the farm! What's come o'er the
woman? '

' Oh, Samuel! ' said she, her eyes swimming
in tears, ' I'm just fain to go and live in
Manchester. I mun let the farm.'

Samuel looked, and pondered, but did not
speak for some time. At last he said

' If thou hast made up thy mind, there's
no speaking again it; and thou must e'en go.
Thou'lt be sadly pottered wi' Manchester
ways; but that's not my look out. Why,
thou'lt have to buy potatoes, a thing thou
hast never done afore in all thy born life.
Well! it's not my look out. It's rather
for me than again me. Our Jenny is
going to be married to Tom Higginbotham,
and he was speaking of wanting a bit
of land to begin upon. His father will be
dying sometime, I reckon, and then he'll
step into the Croft Farm. But meanwhile '

' Then, thou'lt let the farm,' said she, still
as eagerly as ever.

' Aye, aye, he'll take it fast enough, I've a
notion. But I'll not drive a bargain with
thee just now; it would not be right; we 'll
wait a bit.'

' No; I cannot wait, settle it out at once.'

' Well, well; I'll speak to Will about it. I
see him out yonder. I'll step to him, and
talk it over.'

Accordingly he went and joined the two
lads, and without more ado, began the subject
to them.

' Will, thy mother is fain to go live in
Manchester, and covets to let the farm. Now,
I'm willing to take it for Tom Higginbotham;
but I like to drive a keen bargain, and there
would be no fun chaffering with thy mother
just now. Let thee and me buckle to, my
lad! and try and cheat each other; it will
warm us this cold day.'

' Let the farm! ' said both the lads at once,