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THE STRANGE CLAIMANT; OR, TWICE WED. CHAPTER VI. MOTHER. ■^AME RULLOCHS stood at the door of her cottage, patching the pale dawn as it peeped sadly above the p^rizem, stealing up with drenched face, as the bois- kfous night fled away, like a timid child watches the departure of the cruel stepmother who has caused its tears. The dame had not closed her eyes that night; her j>0y8 were all at sea; and what she and htr good man had suffered through those storoiy hours was known •lly where their prayers were heard. As she stood straining her eyesight far out her only where their prayers were heard. As she stood straining her eyesight far out her was already away to the was aware of some object swiftly hurrying up the craggy Pathway from below, becoming every instant more visible in the increasing light. All her attention was soon fixed upon this object, as she first made it out to be a woman—then that she Was bareheaded, her long, dark hair flying behind her with the haste she made, for the wind had fallen at daybreak. The figure stumbled, fell more than once, then climbed upon hands and knees; then, looking up, ■pied the dame, who had gone nearer in her wonder: 'We was a cry then, and the arms were thrown Upward. "Gracious mercy!" cried the old woman—"it can't be—yes, it is—it is—why, my Nelly, my dear girl 1" and with a step forwards, 8he caught in her arms the unhappy creature, panting, white as death, and as cold. She uttered no sound, but grasped the dame with hands that were bleeding from the cruel rocks, and hurried her into the cottage. s. — Shaking all over, holding by the table to steady her limbs, with clenched hands and chattering teeth, she stood before the horrified dame. She opened her lips, but the power of speech was Evidently gone, as she put into the old woman's hand scrap of paper, then stood with fixed eyes glaring at her as she read by the light of the lamp— Nelly, you wia never see me again in this world I I know aU your deceit and wickedness. I can bear no more. When you get this I shall be gone for ever The good soul dropped the paper, as she clasped her hands, and the tears started from her eyes. "Tell me, dear Nelly—come, come to me, dear!" and she turned to the wretched creature who stood as if turned to stone beside her. But the other never moved, never shed a tear; her teeth were now locked firmly together, her hands Clenched, her eyes fixed. Speak to me, my dear J" cried the kindly old body; don't take on so, don'tee, dear! he'll come back—he Will, my pet! don't, my own child, don't/" At the words, He'll come back," the unhappy wife slowly shook her head, then suddenly uttered a cry so piercing, the house rang with the sound. She shook off the old dame, who would have held her back, and, with another shriek, darted out of the cottage. She is out of her mind Oh! Lord, have mercy lipon her—she will be killed 1" cried the old woman, as she ran out, but Nelly had already disappeared. But the cries had been heard already from the cottages up and down in the rocks and on the beach scared forms appeared; happily for the distraught creature, she was intercepted, and brought back, with bleeding feet and garments torn, to the poor dame, Who met them on the way, and had her carried into her own cottage. Strong convulsions seized upon her; and while one fan for the doctor, a long half mile away, the rest helped the dame, or, for the most part, stood terrified in dutab amazement. What is it ?'' What ails her?" "Where be Franklen?" "Who's been to their place t How came she here ?" These were but a few of the questions put, and Which none could answer. The damo had thoughtfully put away the scrap of Writing; but, alas! Nelly's remorseful ravings soon made concealment impossible. I have been wicked I killed him Oh come back, Aaron—husband dear, come back, and 111 Dover, never say such things again! Oome back! comeback—I'll tell you everything, dear—everything, if you'll forgive your poor Nelly!" Such was the substance of her exclamation, varied by shrill cries and fearful struggles, which they with difficulty overcame. I must go," she cried; let me go, and bring him back-he will not say me nay; he will come for me. Oh! you cruel, cruel men-you will let him drown. Leave me go, I say "Poor lamb! poor dear soul cried the good dame, While the tears fell fast over her wrinkled cheeks; "see, sir, her dear pretty feet all cut with the stones —-eh! if he could but see this now, he'd give his heart's blood to heal them, so he would, for he loved her, sir, if ever a man loved a woman." Alas: they were already speaking of the absent husband in the past tense. "Where is this paper you speak of?" asked the Burgeon, when he had administered an opiate, and dressed the wounds of the miserable girl. "Is it her husband's writing? Do any of you know it ?" A crowd of heads bent over the paper the doctor held. But three were competent te judge; two of the men had been at school with Franklen, and de- cided at a glance that it was his writing. The third, a woman whose letters Nelly used to write to her husband at sea, and which Aaron usually directed, could swear tp it. The mftm of medicine moved towards the dame. "Are you acquainted with Franklen's handwriting ?" lie asked. The dame took from a shelf a large Bible much yised, and opened it. On the blank page was written: ''Jessica E. Bullocks, from her loving godson, Aaron Franklen." That was his, sir," she said in a choked voice. The surgeon laid the paper beside the writing in the ~ook. Again the heads clustered round, and a sorrow- fulmurmur went through the little crowd. The gentleman shook his head, and, returning the P^Per to the mistress of the house, passed in to the ^daide of his patient.. Even in that forced sleep she was starting, con- "^ulsive throes agitating her every limb. The dame Prayed the doctor not to quit the cottage. "I fear she'll not get over it, sir; you see at this time The good man made a sorrowful assent. He, too, had his fears. A slight bustle outside announced the safe return of 8ix young fishermen with their father.. But the joyful shout that would have greeted their Providential escape from the perils of the storm was **shed. The universal interest was centered on a ore painful and mysterious subject. As soon as heard all, ere they had tasted a mouthful or taken a garment, the young men ware off again, accom- panied by others, to the cottage of the Franklens-to beach—-to the cliffs. The hollows, the bay, the lo»npe<^ and Deepgang were searched; high and seal' ,i r and near, the hardy young fellows climbed, h0i, rocks, and penetrated caves, chinks, and fej. °W8 in vain. The day passed, the tides rose and 7"~watched with a melancholy eagerness by the ^oienUS Bearchers. They awoke the echoes, but no ^ade answer; they set a watch through the seen morning dawned and nothing had been mhada pCa.r^u' conviction was borne in upon the other n° ranklen's boat was gone—the nets and had^f-ir';en&nces.1'emained in the little stone hut Were **or their shelter but the boat and oars He the eldet^6 in a passion like, maybe," said the nearoK i young Bullocks—who kept up Wards, longest—as they slowly returned home- Ay, and that awful night needed all a man's cool- ness and thought," added the younger. Neither spoke of that which was the inevitable conclusion; they paused as they came to the dear of the cottage, and heard the plaintive voice within, in that incessant wail, which, since her violence had abated, the bereaved creature never ceased. How is she, mother ?" Oh, lads, it breaks my heart to hear her, poor child, it just do. She thinks she's going to be married, and keeps talking about her things, and tells me how it's all to be, just as if he was to come to fetch her in the morning-oh! dear, dear heart, that such things should come to pass! Thee'll have to go sleep again at the cottage, for the doctor says it's the only chance to save her sense at all, and maybe her life; to keep her from a sight of things at home." Ay, ay, mother, that's all right, don't be troubling about us." They all vied who should show her most kindness, and each lent his or her mite towards the easing of that terrible burden which had fallen upon her. Struggling against probability, Dame Bullocks and her husband still held to the belief that Aaron would yet return but at the end of ten days-ere yet Nelly had spoken a rational word—some boys came running to the cottages with the tidings that Franklen's boat was below the point, among the Shark's Teeth (a low reef, of broken, dangerous rocks so called). It was true enough—they brought it off at high water-a large hole was stove in its side; it must have filled at once, and gone down. But as if to leave no ray, even the faintest, of hope or possibility, some days later Aaron's coat and a hoot were picked up among the, sedges on the Point. These the dame took charge of, and imposed the most solemn promises on those who found them, that they would in no way, by sign or look, let the uncon- scious wife know of their discovery. The time was at hand when life would succumb to the new trial, or the faculties be restored by the now im- petus given. On a bleak, ungenial morning in May, Nelly Franklen became a mother-still unconscious of her loss, un- awakened from that mysterious swoon into which reason had fallen though the few words she had uttered gave more token of coherency. A girl." The same tender hands waited on her as had done in her first agony of grief-the good doctor and the dame, with a gossip or two, without whom such events are not duly honoured. "Good-" The medical man checked himself in the exclamation, as he handed the child to the dame, who, in her turn, gave but one glance at the newly-born, and turned her eyes upwards with a ges- ture of horror and dismay. The gossips approached; one busied herself about the young mother, the others had turned to the child Merciful- Heaven save us!" > "Hush!" uttered the dame, in an authoritative whisper, indicating the bed and its occupant by a sign. The gossips drew near, and, with vehement gesticu- lations and dumb show of terrified wonder, compen- sated for their checked utterance. The doctor approached and attentively examined the child. "Poor lamb! poor innocent!" said the nurse, and she held a whispered conference with the surgeon. A clear calm voice spoke from the bed, rational as any in the room. Is it dead ?" she said. A faint cry seemed to answer the mother's question. Bring me my baby." Dame Bullocks hesitated, as she looked at the medi- cal man. He signed- that she should comply. The newly-made mother clasped it in her arms, turned her languid eyes upon its infant face, then uttering the words— My husband!" a glance round told her he was absent-she burst into tears. The first she had shed since that terrible night. CHAPTER VII. AFTER THE STORM. YES, she was saved to life, and from worse than death; those blessed tears seemed to lift from her heart the icy numbness of despair, which had op- pressed it; and though she now wept and bemoaned his loss—whom she felt must be gone for ever, since he came not at such a moment—it was less terrible to behold her natural grief than the stolid apathy of despair, which had, till now, wrapt her in oblivion of all their tender consolation. At first, she took but little notice of the new little claimant on her love; she seemed rather to mourn that any inducement should have been sent her to prolong the life which could no longer have any charm for her; but her good attendants, with a sensible ap- preciation-humble as they were-of her feelings, let her weep her fill, and by-and-by she grew more calm, and turned, as for consolation, to all that was now left of him; as dearer than any hoarded memorial of love -for was it not himself, in some sort, come again ?- and a shade of regret passed over her face as she learned her child was a girl; had it been a boy, she might more fully even have realised her fond fancy. In a while, her violent fits of weeping had given way to quieter grief, and as they stood aloof, those about her would anxiously watch, while she half raised herself to bend over the sleeping infant—evidently seeking, feature by feature, to trace some resemblance to the beloved husband she had lost; and when some infant trait or mimic turn in the small, waxen face struck upon her memory, she would sink back, weeping softly, then turn again to her babe; and, gently encircling it with her arm, draw yet closer, as if to guard the precious legacy of his love. So she would fall asleep, most frequently a wandering tear glittering upon the unconscious little cheek beside her, as if the babe, too, wept in slumber for the uncertain fate of the father whose heart it could not make glad. In her yet uncertain state, they carefully guarded from her knowledge the strange visitation entailed upon thA hapless innocent: it was not difficult, for the hild was quiet to a miracle—sleeping for hours at a time, and, when it awoke, would lie with its eyes wide open, fixed on vacancy, but seldom making any sign till some one came to take it up. It be a uncommon child, for certain," said one of the gossips, making one of the usual levee attending the morning toilette of the little stranger, presided over by good Dame Bullocks. It beant natural-like for a babe to be so quiet at all times, and that strange look in its eyes-" Ay, that's what I say, Kitty," put in another; why, mine, I'll wager. you'd ha' heard 'em two mile off-my man's many a time said he heard their squall soon as he come round the Point——" It beant right no-hew-I'd wonder if it was all right in its head like," whispered the fint, touching her own forehead. Dame Bullocks shook her head. "Poor larnb," she said, softly, it be right enough, never fear—it be right enough; it's just the weight of her trouble like, poor soul; and no wonder, is't, Xitty ? the wonder be, I think, how she come thro' at all. But look at the sense in them dear, pretty eyes, bless 'em! Why, one might a'most think she heard you, and understood what you was saying of her, pretty creatur'l" And the dame fondly kissed the child, as, in answer to her kindly chirrup, it looked up to her motherly face with something more nearly approaching a smile than the spasmodic symptom usually visible at that early period of existence. (To be continued.)

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