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mud near the hole. Bush homesteads have usually fowls pecking about the sheds and yards: but not this homestead. So quiet was it, so lifeless, that it seemed as though it had driven the boy out as far as possible—to the gate beyond which he might not go.

He was a slender-limbed boy of nine, with well-cut features and dark, anxious eyes beneath a erop of yellow curls. The curls badly needed cutting, and their owner hated them heartily. They had earned him many nicknames, only less repugnant to him than the admiring epithets bestowed on him by effusive ladies. Most of the fights in which Hugh Russell had taken part—and they were many—had been connected with his curls. He regarded them, not without good reason, as unseemly growths for a boy. It was some offset to such a handicap in life that his father had taught him a good deal about using his fists and developing his muscles.

Father did not, Hugh knew, care for curls. It was Mother who had been proud of them. Hugh remembered that, among many other things; although he was only six when Mother had died. He knew—somehow, for they did not talk about it—that it was because of Mother that Father did not cut them as close to the scalp as Hugh wished. And lately Father had not bothered to cut them at all. He was too busy thinking.

There had been a great deal to think about since they came to live at the house in the orchard, more than a year ago. At that time they had been very hopeful. There was more money then, and Hugh had had his pony to