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MAY AND I.

THE STRANGE CLAIMANT; OR,…

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THE STRANGE CLAIMANT; OR, TWICE WED. -+- CHAPTER VII.-( (Jontinued). Many were the consultations, attended by due head- Bhaking and consuming of snuff, held over the singular disfigurement of the child, by the doctor who had attended the mother; and a brother medico, whose greater experience and allowed skill yet failed to devise any remedy. The wise women of the village and the adjacent town came and saw, but did not eonquet". Many were the theories put forth-the strange and awful precedents quoted, but none of which seemed to throw the least glimmer of light upon the mystery of this case. The mother alone, they finally agreed, was the only person who could do so satisfactorily, and they awaited the explanation with a degree of feminine anxiety which was, at least, creditable from its genuineness. But Dame Rullocks studiously kept the poor young Mother from the shock she knew the sight could not fail to inflict. The state of Nelly's health had pre- sented her feeding the infant during the first few days, and she took little heed of her small companion, save as we have said, and the chill air afforded so good a Pretext for the many wrappings of the delicate little form, that weeks passed ere the gossips' thirst for information seemed at all likely to be quenched. But the storm had passed over the soul of the poor young wife; ana Nature does not willingly permit, to anything she has formed, stagnation. The drenched flower, as the patter of the shower ceases, lifts up its head to bless the sunshine and the light; the tempest-tossed branches subside into peace, and, gently rocking to and fro, with rustling whispers, tell of the past night's terrors, and bless the coming and man, though, in the desolation of his heart, he cry, Enough.' no more can I bear!" and "atreat death to aid and deliver him, yet revives, to find new blossoms and green shelter in the storm-swept *ftnd of his hopes. She had spoken little, though she was quite National in all she said. No observation had escaped jjer as to the change in her abode, though her eyes speedily told her where she was, and by whom tended. The evening of the day the babe was born she had 'wntly called to the dame, who harried to her bed- lIde. Pitifully looking up into her friend's face, out of •nose deep, sunken, almost rayless eyes, Nelly faintly *hiapered, He wiJl never come back!" shaking her o"n head slowly to and fro, as if in hopeless belief, let desiring to be contradicted. The good soul beside her would have given much to BO, but she dared not. Words would not come; could only shake her head sorrowfully, while the te*rs blinded her eyes; and, with an effort, she recently added some sentences of pious comfort and But the broken-hearted wife turned away—jost now *re Was past even that consolation. She never men- tioned her husband to them again but often, in the ■uent night, the kind watcher at her side would hear her moan, Never! never!" as if thus she were fixing jn her mind the hopelessness of all expectation, the *°t of her loneliness. She never would have got over it but for the said the good nurse, as she detailed the of her observation to that gentleman. And he '^Uy agreed with her. Like the dove to the wanderers on the waste of Waters came that small messenger of peace; its sinless bore the olive-branch, which bade hope re-visit the desolate,d heart of the erring woman. -bey had propped her in the bed with pillows one ternoon, and the curtains were drawn back from windows, that she might fed the warmth of the T^ing sunshine, which was making everything bright triad without, when she said— w 'me my baby. Please take off that shawl; it her so heavy for me." „ The dame hesitated but for a moment. She saw time was come; longer concealment was impos- w. 8^e was only they were alone. j. With more of animation in her pale face than she yet displayed, the young mother took her child her arms, and laid it tenderly before her; the dame left a corner of the covering unremoved. v* Nelly, dear!" she began but the yeung waman ?* thrown the Bhawl aside, and, as she did so, cfre^ a cy— v 'My baby, oh! my child, my darling! what have done to it ? « '^elly, ]ass> she'll grow oat of it; doan't thee, my doan't thee vex; the doctor says *he mother heard her not. Clasping the wrist of hand tightly in the fingers of the other, she JJJyed to and fro above her infant, and cried and ~j>ed vehemently. I know, I know!" she said, in broken accents: -jPn, baby dear! baby dear! what shall I do for you— 'what shall1 do ? evening Bhe would part with her child to none. JjJ^Bted by the dame, and with many intervals of rest, dressed it, and, laid close at her side, she ^tehed slumber steal over it, ere she would be per- Jj^ed to lie down herself. Firmly clasped in her she held it through the night; and when, *eatiP8' a ^tle uneasy at the close embrace, the creature whined a little and awoke,' she was a*ert» and looked, and spoke, and replied, as U?ad never done before, since that day. ht?* shall we pretend to reason, or say this or thab t^wiral, or contrary to it ? The very thing which *0n feared to shock her with, studiously had t^led, lest,suddenly beheld, it mighteven unseat her wholly, was to restore her suddenly to action, tj^^oncile her to life, endear to her the one whom ^te*s *^c^on would alleniate from the regard of of Y a mother's love is not to be estimated by any I tio **ws which regulate other passions and affec- <■ -^Peculiar to humanity. *ou *et "aTe her while you get your mydear lass," said the dame, when, on the Wing morning, Nelly adhered as closely to her l-_?8 the object of the good old woman had been «idnap the little mortal. me? Burely you'll let me have her, Nelly, It' Meg Stratton, Nell's former bridesmaid, who Hej not the least attentive and sympathising of an^ whose fondness for the cnild almost the dame's. elly, with all her old wilfulness, refused to J°*«t J small companion; ate her thin bit of el* • ^rank her tea, but not till she had satisfied U"v?* ker little daughter, the doctor's veto ■4ft which had been withdrawn some time since. reftkfa8t Nelly announced her intention of k? Ve>)U^' M decidedly as though she anticipated opposition which was immediately X heart, not for the world!" cried the dame. am quite strong!" was the firm reply. J 1^ear, better wait a bit," suggested Meg. °u'dn't for the world help you to such a the dame. 6 death of her!"—like the chorus in a Greek med in the matrons who had stepped in > inyalid. Ml i'8" ^anklen was obstinate. I have tried tiuie i* eil0HS>h," she said; I am strong, and into my °wn place." She stopped a At uT .n< there's my child to see to." Xr wa^ the doctor comes; he will look So f e so, and hear what he says," urged fh.^th fu* ^n^id yielded; but sh6 would not doi6 mfanfc ^anwhile. BoJ?' °f F Carne> an(^ heard without astenish- ofr 19 extjpi.f resolve. Perhaps he had »o ftK6-ncf- in the moods of the sex. He yrort*011 tuNellj'8re9olTe,rightly judging *10*. *t occii^ i-wo '"ore harm than compliancy fe.av»il hfir 'm was the only balm which could Wnding th.r0^ 8Pirit- he «rJ!u w?8. aware of her child's mis- hints tenderly but to all his ^aaiKM3, °r bar^6riea ly Franklen only shook on lUty of n f^,anawered him. He suggested the tifchf)fatlon>" tho U Ure remedy; but at the word her breas7°Un5 mo^her clasped the child dear! pi, t have her hurt, my poor Wh^f fj^'n't feel it of her, and work for heo the surtto,, < her hor* 86011 had departed she arose, Meg helping her to dress. How different to the toilette at which she had last assisted! Perhaps Meg thought of it, for more than once her eyes were dim, and there was a choking in her voice, as she chirupped to the baby that lay with its large, blue eyes, apparently gravely taking note of the various items of its mother's attire. Very faint and weak the invalid found herself when upon her feet, more so than she would confess, as she tottered to the arm-chair that half-a-dozen kindly hands had helped to arrange near the fire. But she would herself dress her child, and she did, with many little officious offices from the gossips, who were on thorns the while, quite expecting now that they should receive some enlightenment on the point which so interested them. But Nelly said nought upon the subject, though now and again her tears dropped, as she handled the slight limbs of her crippled child. Poor lamb! it is a sad affliction," murmured one. She will likely grew out on it. Nelly Frdaklen, don't thee take on, lass I" It'll not pain her, rm thinking, and that's a mercy, any way. One, so venturesome as to touch tht deformed limb, Nelly rebuked with the words, "Please don't!" gently removing her hand. The words were mildly uttered, but the woman felt them somehow, and did not repeat the offence, nor indeed did the others venture any further to trespass upon what they felt was in some way a forbidden subject. Did she tell you nought about it ? asked they of the dame. She had heard Nelly's first exclamation, and won- dered; but she kept knowledge and wonder to herself, and the gossips profited nothing. She's greatly changed from what she was," said one; "as gay and open a lass as Nelly Hartsom wasn't in these parts." Ay, woman but she wur always that wilful, look ye, there wur no gainsayin' of her. I'll swear Debby Bullocks be main glad to get shut on her." "I'm afraid there's more to be told than we've heerd yet," put in another—she whom Nelly had rebuked. They do say poor Franklen led a sorry life, and that she carried on more'n was becomin' wi' other men." Ay, poor lass! well, 'twill be but a sorry look-out for her now. Lord help her!" It is not the first time that the sufferer who, in the moment of affliction or sickness, found sympathy and kindness, has had to bear the turn of the tide which -once the excitement past, and sentiment exhausted -has set dead against him, and disclosed as error and weakness what was reckoned as misfortune. It was a bitter trial for the stricken woman, the return to her desolate cottage, into which the living hand of a beloved huBband had inducted her, and which now she entered widowed and a mother. God Meg and the dame had been busy through the day, cleaning it throughout, and putting all in order. A cheerful fire was burning; its light danced over the face of the sober little Dutchman, on the polished handles of the drawers, and on the rows of pewter and delf that filled the shelves. Through the open door the neat white bed could be seen, with the pretty little table she ued to set out so daintily. All was the same as of old. The thoughtful hands had removed all tokens of him, that could come upon her too suddenly. Alas! was it that which struck her ? which said so plainly what was missing there ? Poor Nelly: she tightly grasped the arm of Meg, on which she leaned and trembled so, Meg almost lifted her across the threshold. Up to the hearth she walked, her friend support- ing her she dropped into the chair by the fireside, one look at the empty seat opposite, and the grief so long restrained broke forth. She burst into tears anl wept bitterly. Meg wept for company; the good dame, even, could give no con- solation. It was the feeble voice of the babe that made itself heard then with most avail. She caught it to her bosom, and, while she smothered it with caresses, her sobs subsided, her tears gradually were stayed. Meg stopped that night, and for many days was Nelly's chief helper, till her strength slowly returned, and the sweet face, though pale as a drenched Aower, showed more signs of life and spirit. Then she would not hear of keeping her good friends frem their own home duties, and with earnest thanks and blessings for all they had done, she begged them leave her to what must come at last. When a little time had passed, and she could trust herself to speak of it, she told them how, in the pale dawn of that morning, the fatal note had been brought to her by a boy (his face she could not dis- tinguish in the uncertain light), who said it had been given him by a man in the dress of a fisher- man, who was going down towards the beach from towards the Peep o'Day public-bouse, and told him to take it in the early morning to the cottage he described. And when her friends saw that her grief was settling down to passive endurance, they judged it right to let her know the worst, lest she should be building up futile hopes of his return. But she took the tidings calmly she seemed to have come to the conclusion long ago that he was lost for ever in this life. She locked away reverently those torn and sea-stained clothes in the chest that held all of her loved husband-but she said little. Whatever tears she shed were known only to Him who takes note of all griefs, and to such as it pleaseth Him, in His own time, gives peace. OHAPTEB VIII. WIDOW. Two years have passed. A group stood at the cottage door of Dame Bul- locks just as in past times there had often stood such a group, in bright summer and golden autumn evenings. But one was gone, who had many a time so stood, and the dame, beside deeper furrows and a paler cheek, wore a widow's cap. At her side stood the young woman we have known as Meg Stratton; she was Tom Rullecks' wife of a year past, and, judging by appearances, even should his brothers decide on celibacy, the noble name of Bullocks would not fail of representatives. Patty, the dames handsome daughter, stood just within the door, an infant of some months in her arms; a small urchin, just beginning to walk, clinging to her gown. The dame was speaking, but she had hardly finished before her impetuous daughter broke in- "Well, mother, I can't see it. I am as fond of Nelly Franklen as any of you though, of course, living away in town, I couldn t do for her as you and the rest did. But I can't see it. It's like a flying in the face of Providence, I call it—shutting herself up, and moaning and pining away to a ghost, and making that poor child no better. st sy, Patty, I think she's cheerful enough with Ida," said Meg, gently. I found her the other even- ing singing to her as she laid on her lap, and the dear little thing imitating of her, in her sweet, quiet way; they didn't seem pining." Well, what do she sing, when all's done ? just hymns and such like; it's all very well in church and Sundays, but there's a time for eyerything, and everything in its place, as my good old missis used to say. Ah! Patty, my child," said the good dame," you don't know what it is to have a sore heart—yes, yes, I know, my girl, you loved your poor old father; but, child, even that loss is not like hers, poor lass I You've a good husband, God he thanked, Patty, and one that lets you want for nothing: you can't under- stand what it is." And so sudden, too, as it was said quiet Meg. It was strange," she added, after a pause, that we never made out who the boy was, mother, that brought that dreadful note." Well, Meg, I've always believed that it was a I stranger lad, belonging to some of the foreign craft, maybe, that put into the harbour yonder that night, and had come to the Peep o' Day. You know, child, that poor Franklen was down there, they said; and that he drank bard and seemed badly. It has always been in my mind that he wur the worse for the liquor afore ever he come to write that way. Ah! poor thing, poor lau I she may well have a heavy heart, Martha, and it's a warning to us all." "Well, mother," the daughter replied, in somewhat humbler tones, for her conscience appropriated the implied admonition (Patty's tongue was none of the gentlest, though she made a thrifty and true wife), I don't mean to say anything, hard, goodness knows, of the poor thing; but does it do any good, after all ? and you know yourself she's half killing herself, slaving and toiling to keep to that place, when she might have one at half the price, and do just as well." Poor thing! she won't keep it over her head, work as she may," said Meg. No," said Dame Bullocks, sadly, since the place has become like fashionable, the rent has been raised of all down along yonder, and, when the new houses they're building are finished, it'll be worse still." s How does she manage at all ?" asked Patty. She works day and night, I believe," said Meg many a time before daybreak, Tom says he's seen a light in her window. She does a deal of work for the shops in town, you know, Patty, the men's things, and then she knits and nets, too, so fast and well; the best she gets is the ladies' work, baby things, and that." Hard enough it must be." "Ay, Patty, child, you would not have much heart, in such like straits, to sing a love song, or hum a jig." Patty was silent; it is 80 difficult for the prosperous and happy to sympathise with those in the opposite state. I don't myself say it's over-wise in Nelly Franklen keeping on there; but, poor child, I can well feel for her. Having nothing, as you may say, to look to in this world but her child, she just clings to the old place, where she was as happy as the day is long, poor dear! It's hard to know what to say but I'm fearful she can't keep it on long-her little girl's illness was a great drawback to her. The poor babe would lie nowhere but in her arms, and not a stiich could she do, let alone the expense of doctor's stuff. But she seemed to think nothing of that, only so that it was saved." Poor thing!" and Patty pressed hers to her bosom. She dwelt at a considerable distance inland, and was but on a visit to her mother, who lived with her married son and his wife in the old home cot. You see," continued Meg, Nelly is so indepen- dent; if any one does help her a turn, she rests neither night nor day till she's paid it oK—so it's as broad as long. Tom sent her in half of the good things that Dan sent us in the hamper. We thought she wouldn't know who it came from, but she found out, and she set to and knitted him a whole set 0' socks-" Hark!" exclaimed Patty, interrupting her. (To be continued.)

"I LOVED ONCE."

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LADIES' COLUMN.

USEFUL HINTS.

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VARIETIES.