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THE STRANGE CLAIMANT; OR, TWICE WED. --+- CHAPTER VIII—(Continued). g •'■he sound of a voice, singing the evening hymn, came j?atin £ up on the still, evening air, from below. I 0 was nothing remarkable in the performance; tones were clear and sweet, but plaintive, and Hfti any effort at intonation or expression; but J111(i the surroundings, at that hour, it was very pre- tin1*8 ^l9 senses. Even the women did not speak had ceased. t. It is her," said Me?; "they always go down beach as far as the Chine of evenings when it's j e* It's the little thing's fancy for her to sing. I t think poor Nelly would, of her own will, ever i/up her voice even that much; but the poor mite 2Sdf»r ifc BO hard it's the funniest thing you ever jJ'Ay, that child's been God's own gift to her, I ™icted as it is, poor innocent!" said the dame. Did she never Patty began, when the sound Voices approaching caused her to stop. P the broadest pathway that led from the beach, u*Oss the downs, towards the Bullocks' cottage, came young widow and her child. £ he mother had carried her little girl up the but the moment the top was reached it evi- JJtiy begged to be set down, and ran towards Meg, advanced to meet them, ^elly came with her up to the cottage door, and J?? greeted affectionately by the others; but they Hot ask her in, nor invite her to share the meal preparing. Ifc had been done so often, and invan^blv declined, that it had ceased to be Rented. i, Your eyes look tired, my child," said the dame you work too hard by candle-light—you should give J^rself some rest." I rest all to-morrow," said the widow, in a low which was strange, at first, to those who had Own Nelly Hartsom, but had long ceased to be so. •b Sunday ? yes, of coarse, so we all do," said atty, quickly. I shall come and see TOU to-morrow, mind," said tojle Meg. but thanked her, and said she would be glad, j5\Qo change of the countenance marked any one which they touched, as she stood and She had kissed the dame, as she would a mother, little Ida had stolen to the knee of the ol!d 0tnan, and stood holding her hand and looking jrjlttiringly up into the face of Patty, who was a "^nger to her. Mother and child were dressed in deep mourning, of the cheapest material, but made and put on with ^e and neatness. that brief time what a change had come upon ?~-once the beauty of Sandcombe village I i fier face was of a changeless, unvaried pallor; tM 86emed larger from that contrast, their fixed and solemn look, gazing, as it were, space, and the dark shadows under them, gave 4948 of long and painful vigils and solitary weeping. Iler hair, of which the pretty girl had been so PtOud, was drawn back under the widow's cap she ."I(! wore, and the black shawl, thrown hoodwise ,*er her head, added to the strange, unworldly look of face. The child, tall of her age, and unusually forward its feet and in speech, had its mother's eyes, with *"1 their former beauty, but not the sprightly glance arch attractions which in children are so winning, shadow of the great stroke which had sent the Poor babe fall soon upon the world still rested on her; fid little Ida would be passed by in the crowd as a and unprepossessing child. What does she say ?" ask ed Patty, when the little 5*1» unmindful of the advances made by the other ?kild, had timidly approached her, and, touching her ^nd, lisped out some infantine request. ( She is asking you to sing," said Nelly, without a V^*nge of voice or countenance. She always does *ny one she sees for the first time." •Mother as she was, Patty was somewhat taken i &ck by this odd request, and at a loss how to reply; Meg, more accustomed, lifted the child in her 4ttas. Shall I sing to Idy ? I can't sing like mammy, H I'll sing about the robin, shall I ?" 3?he child clapped its little hands, and a faint blush "jole out upon its cheek. Evidently the robin was an favourite. The song was sung; Nelly the while looking on hatefully at the good-hearted performer. The child r*t rapt in silence, evidently drinking in the sounds hea4 hr turned aside, one small arm laid round singer' neck. There was no need te bid her H^nk the {rood friend when the song was ended. The j.'Sses on the lips of the kind woman came from the J^tle affectionate heart; then she was set lightly on ground, and ran to her mother, neither repeating request to Patty, nor noticing the child, which itched ab her curls as she passed. With quiet thanks some kind service her good neighbours had ^ndered, Nelly took her leave, and went slewlyaway, .^Wn the winding path among the rocks which led 10Wards her home. cc Ay, how sorely she is changed! exclaimed atty, as they disappeared from sight. Think of oqat being merry Nelly Hartsem But she's very beautiful still," said Meg, 'Ugh! I don't know; she made me shiver like ?^DS nisrh a graveyard—and that poor child how did you notice ?" i Yes—mother, did you see ?—just coming as it was year this time." j, Ay, it be a mystery, aurely; it wants but ten "ays to the child's birthday." •h 'And it's two years since he was lost?" asked atty. cc Yes, to-morrow." "Well," said Patty, "it seems a pity she eouldn't settled again, and made herself and that poor a comfortable home. It would have been better *ban pining their lives out yonder all alone." The dame sighed. Ay, I wish she could ha.' fancied my lad, poor Dan! he was right set upon her; and she'd have made him a good wife, and he 1toulEl have stayed among us; but the Lord's will ^ust, be done!" She'll never marry now, I suppose ? said Patty. Nelly isn't the girl to take a man for his money Or there's one, if I'm not mistaken, has been long Bet on having her, and would make a lady of her, Itrid not a bad man neither." I( Him that lives down at Decpgang ? said Patty, What is his name ? Meghorn." Mercy me! if she refused our Dan, she wouldn't lurely take up with that dark, stern-looking fellow." The dame shook her head. One mus'n't judge J looks, Patty; Saul Meghorn did the part of a christian man by them poor souls as run upon the 8bark's Teeth last fall: and when the brig went to on the rocks under the fog bank—when the Jfcnals wur blown over—you mind it, Meg—he went J* himself to help them: ay, he be a good, Christian filan t" 1 It's a pity Ohrist'n men can't look it," responded daughter. n Mother, the dew is falling; Bhall we go in now ?" 4kid Meg. CHAPTER IX. rj. HUND AHD IDA. weeks passed. Spring deepened into summer. Q-ood Dame Bullocks had became the grandmother r, a young Tom, and her time was now fully occupied the cares so congenial to her kindly nature. She small leisure now to tbink much of the J^ttpants of the solitary cottage, and, indeed, the jJ^terious loss of the husband of Nelly, and the no mysterious affliction of her child had grown to be gossip now; more recent topics had taken their tlace, and the widow went her solitary way, little ^ed, apparently,by any. Pn the fine summer evenings Nelly might be seen »h i S **er wtL7 to the beach, often along the path we have spoken of, which led to the j/une ln uncertain weather, somewhat nearer and taking her seat in some sheltered nook Wo 8an^ hillock, with her ever-busy fingers em- on weary seam or mazy net work, she would Wt °n /n(^efat,&a')'y» till the waning light forced tQ ° desist. Now and again she would, in answer So&i 6 Petitioning of little Ida, lift up her voice in J?atf 8^eet strain, always of the solemn kind to which had so irreverently objected. on y,neeJiD& at her mother's feet, her one hand resting 1^ «p, the child wirald listen breathless, till the iigg »te Passed away; then, with the never-failing (payment, would again stray off to pick the shells and pebbles from the beach; or, with wonderful dexterity, climbing from jutting-point to point, till above her mother's head, she would, ia her childish way, proclaim her triumph, and laughing gently at Mrs. Franklen's affected alarm, make a hasty descent, to throw herself into her arms, and show that she was safe. These were Poor Nelly's sole moments of relaxa- tion from a life of hard toil, and stern, self-denying endurance. So they sat one evening when the sun had set, and the shadows were lengthening along the beach. The widow had lain down, after a last vain attempt to thread her needle once more, the fine piece of work on which she was employed, and sat looking far out, as if with her earnest gaze she would pierce the cur- tain of sunset and see beyond, and what next. Little Ida sat some way farther down the beach, her lap filled with the treasures she had col- lected and on a piece of cotton was busily threading such of them as possessed the necessary property of a hole. Suddenly she sprang up, the scattered wealth of the sea-shore new far and wide, and with a cry, unusual, indeed, for the quiet child, a shout almost, of U Hun! Hun!" she flew up thp beach towards the Ohine, whence an enormous shaggy, dun Newfoundland dog came leaping, with apparently equal joy, to meet her. The greeting was vociferous and energetic. The shaggy brute, in all his wild demonstrations, seemed mindful of his companion's weakness, and carefully avoided knocking her down, as by one touch of his paw must else have been inevitable; and the little girl, while she hugged her brute friend by one arm tightly round hiB neck, refrained from quite choking him, as she lavished caresses on his huge head, and in her dialect (doubtless intelligible to the animal), called him by a thousand endearing names, and inquired where he had been so Ion' away ? The widow had started to her feet, and was looking with anxiety around, along the beach, and to the cliffs above. To her, the appearance of the animal was evidently the precursor of a presence less welcome than was that of shaggy Hund to little Ida. But no one was in sight, and though she looked towards the couple disporting themselves along the beach, as with the intention of calling back her child, she apparently changed her mind, and again seating herself, was falling into her old musing attitude, when a footstep crushed the sands beside her, and from a jutting cliff, down which the pathway wound, Saul Meghorn stood before her. She glanced hastily round, as for some chance yet to escape, but her little girl was at some distance; she could not have recalled her in time to avoid hear- ing him and quick as light came the thoughts which prompted her, with forced calmness, to remain, and stand, to listen, as he spoke. At last, then, you will hear me, and answer." He spoke hurriedly, and with his hat in his hand, as he had removed it before she saw him, even before he turned the rock whence, ere descending, he had marked the little group. It was the firet time—we know since when—she had heard his voice, though she had seen him, and by other means had been made aware of his existence near her, and its object. The throng of memories that the voice awoke suddenly to life held her some momenta silent, but it was with a calmer voice than this that she answered: What can my answer bo ? I can have but one answer to any man who asks that: I shall never be any man's wife in this world, while I live, never-and leaøt-" He interrupted her. Do not say it! least of all mine, you would have aaid; butwAy ? Mrs. Franklen (he gave her a title seldom used to those of her station, and in those parts), I would not speak of the past: if I made a mistake then, if all was but girlish frolic, of which I made too much—at least do me iustice; I took no advantage of it, I held aloof from the way of your married life, though God knows how bitter it was to me to know it! Oircumstances compelled me to remain in the neighbourhood; but if you heard of me, it was at least in no way unworthily, or to make you regret you had ever known me as other than a neighbour." "It was a wicked cruel folly," she-said coldly; "but I was to blame, I was wrong-Yei;, and God knows I have been punished heavily. But for that— only that foolish trifling as it was in me, I know, no worse was in me at the time—but it came from that, all my trouble—but for that he would have been with me now my husband——" The words died in her throat, and she stopped, but no change came in the fixed, pale features. You know, you must have heard-all the village could tell what was in that dreadful letter, the last words he wrote. I never forget them, night nor day —' I know all your deceit and falseness.' God knows you know what was the all, and how far it went,, and how little the truth came to." Again she stopped. "Do not speak of it now," he said, hastily; "it was a sad mistake—the tongues of gossips magnify these things." If I had but told him! it I had but told him all, at ilrst she said, bitterly, but never raising her voice above its chill, even tones-" this is what I say to myself night and day, night and day—all would have been well; even my foolish tongue and hasty words would not have drove him to madness." She paused, then yet more coldly added— And this is why I say that least of all can I bear to think of you. I say to myself—but for him, but for him——" "Yet I did not- II No, no, I know it; you were not to blame," said the woman, a shade of softness mitigating her harsh tone; no, and I am, maybe, unjust that I cannot bear even that my child should be thankful to you, that I cannot accept even as from a friend-" Yes why will you be so cruel to yourself why slave as you do by night, I know, to send back money ?" Ah! I knew it was you," she said, half turning her head towards him, for as yet her gaze had never wandered from the open sea before them. II I knew it could be none of my poorer friends. God knows I would never have let it be-would rather have died, but to keep that roof over my head and hers—the home he took me to. I could not leave it; and when the man cime and told me it was paid, well, I knew it must be." And why bring back the money in portions to my house? I do not need it. Why deny me the pleasure of serving you, even as a neighbour, knowing of your trials and toil? See, now"—and he made a step nearer, she moved two away from him-u let the past be past; forget you ever knew me, till, wandering about the world, a solitary man, I met you and your child, and heard your history, and learned to love you both." She uttered an exclamation, and lifting her hands hurriedly, with the old gesture of clasping one wrist, let them drop, and againmoved a step away. Your child-" he began. Yes, yes, she has told me j she has oomo fall of her prattle of how kind you were, and it pained me to have to She stopped, suddenly looking round', for the child and dog had disappeared. Where is she ?" exclaimed the mother, and she again looked wildly round, uncertain which way to start in search, when the faint cry of a baby voice fell upon their ears, and they simultaneously turned their eyes upwards. Far above their heads, dwindling into the grey twilight, save where a faint reflection from the horizon touched its beetle brow with gold, loomed the peak of Deepgang cliff, as we have described, out beyond the face of rock beneath. And there, poised like a cherub about to take wing, stood the child. She, fearless, and led on by her four-footed playmate, had clambered, toying from spray to spray, and height to height, of the Chine; thence, seeking possibly a sight of her mother, had arrived at the edge of the precipice, whence but a step forward, an inclination of the body—a caress even of the rough brute at her side—mlbst send her hurling to their feet, a lacerated and bleeding corpse! One glance upward, and Nelly, without a word or cry, buried her face in her hands. Rescue and hope seemed out of question. The child was evidently ter- rified at her position, and extending her little hands, seemed about to spring forward, while Hund stood patiently at her side, and detecting his master below, doubtless was whining impatient of return, and only awaited the pleasure of his playmate. From the mother's heart a prayer went out for the soul of her child, whom she felt was lost to life: half insensible, she tottered forward to make some effort, she knew not what. But quick as thought, which showed him the only chance, was the action of the strong man. He gently thrust the mother out of sight behind the jutting rock, as with stentorian voice he hailed the brute, and in a few words was understood. Sagacious Hund gripped gentlv in his teeth the little dress, and gradually drew her back from the edge of the rock. Ida, losing sight of her mother, would expect her to appear by the path behind, and thus her attention would be withdrawn from the hor- rible fascination of the vast space below. But the crags where the child could stand would not bear the man to ascend from the Chine, or the still more tortuous path, would consume more time than could be risked. But one way—he saw it, and in the cause dared it. Swifter than I can describe, or you can read-his more cumbrous garments flung aside-he darted to the foot of the black rocks, and with giant efforts-straining every nerve, testing the powers of those limbs of iron—he toiled up the rugged and perpendicular height. From crag to crag, from seared and gnarled root to tough fern knot, he swung himself, his course marked with the blood that flowed from his flesh, cat and gashed-wounds he never felt _I I; J r-as, by the most perilous feat of 'all, he flung him- self across the gap from the rock to the Chine, and, gaining the summit, drew his body over along the plain, solid surface. In another moment the child was in his arms, close pressed to the breast of the strange man and he, with giant strides, hurrying down the not too accessible pathway through the Chine; good Hund, who had bravely done his part, following close after. The mother, half distraught, sprang forward to meet him, hardly daring to believe it was other than the lifeless body of her child. But when the little voice cried out to her, when she saw the bright eyes and the sweet face she had given over for lost, when she felt her child's arms about her, she sank down against the rock, overcome with excess of joy and gratitude; her trembling limbs refused to support her; and in silence, and with all speed, Meghorn bore the child, and supported her to their cottage, where, unrebuked, be so entered for the first time. Then, as she clasped her child in her arms, the whole sense of her wonderful preservation came full upon her, and nature overcame her. As her tears fell ovor the head of her darling, she turned her eyes to the preserver who stood by, and, falling on her knees, she clasped his hand to her breast, and cried- God bless you ( To be continued.)


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