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THE STRANGE CLAIMANT; OR, TWICE WED. CHAPTER XIII.-( Continued). y^GHoitN stood for a few minutes, his eyes fixed upon broad sheet of undulating silver that stretched before hfik' but m*nd far away, reverting to the time when had hnde farewell, as he believed, for ever, to those Urades his word bad now summoned from far and ofd** T0used t° ol(i memories and fresh anticipations Voi a"tl £ outlawj7 an^ hardihood by the sound of his Even in that perverted and reckless nature there was something sadly softening, in the thoughts that ifred within him—perhaps for the last time—as he t°od EO motionless, rapt, gazing out upon the sound- 6b8 sea. He called to mind when, on just such a night, he ^d awoke, as it were, to a belief in an especial inter- vention for his good. How boyish memories, youthful and hopes long buried, had been roused jjto being by the associations of that woman's image! 0 v he had shrunk from, and finally rejected his Career of crime; hew he had believed his very nature hanged, and that henceforth to win her leve should his glory-the frown of his victory her smile! of ?.e ^ad ^a^ed> and in proportion to the freightage his venture was the ruin its wreck had made. In the world of to -day pirates are becoming rare /with them, alas! will not cease the originals of tteh miscalculations, nor w the freebooter's the only J^ck flag under which many a man charters anew the °f life from out the treacherous haven of an un- blessed union. j.If Saul's good angel had indeed hovered near 7?131 so far, she dropped a tear, as with averted head fre spread her wings for flight, scared by the Jl*&thful scowl and bitter curse that almost convulsed the face of the man, as he roused himself from his Ruinations. an apparently trifling effort, he closed the mouth I 1 the cave with the masses of rock that lay near, the enormous ferns, which had been held forcibly if001 the gap, were allowed to close again over whole, thus hiding even the smallest interstices; he took his way slowly up the path which led flwell^h ^ine in an opposite direction to his own At intervals the intensity of his thoughts burnt out to exclamations, or in detached words and pbraseB "ve token of the subject which occupied him. Yes, that will do—a new life her—eh, mia- 688 •—no pining over old matters then! A few steps further on his road, then a pause- Mother long gaze over the silver sea. » No I the child must not go. No, no; no places *°F your pet, my dame!—she will rave, cry, be gentle to me—b&h! but when she has no other near to play the fool-Yes, the brat stays here! Forward regain, but on the brow of the Chine another pause, and his eyes this time were turned upwards to the spot whencs he had rescued little Ida. On the level downs he took breath, and, as he did 80, there came upon the still night air the strains of a sweet, childish voice, singing a simple air that was Popular just then in the neighbourhood. He knew the voice, but was at a loss to discover whence it could come, for the house where, at such an hour, Ida and her mother would surely be, was full half a mile from there. Struck by a sudden thought, Meghorn crossed the owns at an angle, descended a rocky path for some ttle distance, and thus came in sight of the little cot- Nelly's old home, nestled snugly apart in its Weltering nook. A light was visible from the window, the half-open oor shed a broad gloom upon the path of the small Burden. • ° 8W?^ bounds brought him to the spot, and to .he side window of the cottage, through which he gazed lnto the interior. The sor.r was still continued, the unconscious J^tle song.ress moving lightly to and fro, placing r"Out the colt >ge shelves the flowers she had gathered 111 the day arranging them in bunches; pausing now then, re-commencing her song, or taking up the bUrthen of some other strain, as we hear a bird lose Itself in mdody, now breaking off abruptly, now dying &Way, now loudly trilling; in the wealth of untutored 8Weetness, toung with its own strength. Apart, at an opposite corner of the cottage, sat the mother, her head bent down, her hands clasped over 80rae object upon her lap, on which her eyes were set, from which she seemed vainly trying to tear her- as she several times lifted it, and inclined towards open chest before her, yet lingered again, and gazed and clasped her hands. And while he looked, her husband saw her at last, ™*th one effort, rise, press to her lips, her breast, the I^or old coat—for it was that—lay it reverently in the then kneel beside, and, burying her face in her r^ds, she wept, and prayed, perhaps—for her lips !rtOved-" for what?" No wonder the wretched man clenched his fists, 44d swore a bitter oath to himself at that sight; wonder that in the black desolation of his erring, P&ssionate heart, the cruel design found a place which else even he might have shrunk from. With mighty strides the man took his homeward ?fay > woe to any living thing which had crossed it in Jhat moment! Rough old Hund, even, who had fol- owed him from the cottage door, seemed instinctively *0 know that a respectful distance was the most pru- companionship. A blank, cheerless hearth would, perhaps, in his ~jood, have been more congenial than the cheering ? °w which had evidently been made up before the °?fe was quitted. She had not anticipated his return, so there was no especial provision made but the most scrupulous servant could not have left things in better order. I am well served," he sneered, as he flung off his Outer clothing; she is worth her hire, truly." Mother and child came in soon after. The latter went to her bed, and Nelly waited upon hua'oand as usual—silent, emotionless, calm. He COuld almost have doubted the evidence of his own which told him this was the same woman he f**d seen but now to shed tears, to wring her hands, lavish caresses and endearments upon the inani- relics of a deceased love. j 'Don't you sit here," he said, "unless you wish i do it. I am going out again, and shall not be *ck aw hile." She obeyed him—placing all to his that he needed for his nightly dram, and etook herself to bed first looking in at her little attghter, sleeping soundly in a small room off her ^other's. Nelly lay long awake she heard her husband ,aye the house—and soon after sank into a light lumber. It could not have been long-it seemed but a few y 0Qi3nls when she awakened suddenly, and in a li^f,^5 i was it bv a noise, or by that broad red ght which fchone in at the window and filled the *oom? She started up-then sprang from the bed. J- 'ie house was on fire and her child! a* ? ruBhed to the door, but, ere she reached it, sei^'y again8t her husband, who, in a firm grasp, her arm and led her to the window. P from the lower cliffs they now looked down n' catne the bright, lurid column of fire, casting a 8*?.w uPei* the rocks, down to the beach stain- Qe silver-sheeted sea blood red. kfeani p UP hung the wreathed smoke like the -houan °f.some inhabiting guardian of the doomed At tl IJen °ut' yetl°th to depart too hastily. On. 6 glance, she knew what it was she looked j inan £ &ze<^IQlany timps she had crept to that win.'ow to nfU bome, and counted it Ler one small belovPri corr'f°rt that she could thence mark all its th«UrruUndings- ^~with a j *ts own destruction now she did eo then woufJi"u ^at he rejoiced at the accident; thei-o f ave burst from him to call for helD, to '10 ^ve something, at least. But he held her fast. Look your last, mistress; look your fill. You were always over-fond of the plate and what it held. Ha! ha but it makes a rare blaze-a jolly blaze My fellows will be looking out, thinking it's a beacon- fire I'vt sent them." She struggled in his grasp faintly, but he held her tightly. For God's sake let me go, Saul!" she gasped. Go where ? What for ? Oould you put it out, think you? Nay, stay here, I say." For mercy, Saul, call for help. I will not stir; but ob, do not let it burn! My poor home Oh, Meg- horn, husband!" Husband he repeated, through his clenched teeth, and gripped her arm more fiercely. It is husband, is it ? and I shall put out the flames I took such pains to light up! shall I ?" She uttered one cry h, r heart sickened as he spoke, at the knowledge of the fiendish spirit that could con- ceive such a deed. She turned her eyes up to his, and her lips parted to curse him, but at the moment little Ida crept to her side, affrighted by the noise, and touched her mother's hand. He saved her life. The mother's lips closed in silence, and, shutting her eyes, ahe averted her face, but he still held her prisoner. Unhappy man! even as he bad caught the fixed gaze of her eyes, he could have clasped her in his arms have vowed his life to her, have yielded his soul up at her feet; yet his next words were such as a fiend might utter- It was long kindling, woman! mayhap, it was the tears you wetted yon old coats with they are dry enough now. Come, look up, girl! look up His grasp upon her arm was agony, but she never moved, nor spoke, nor struggled any more. She bowed her head to this new stroke, and drew her trembling darling closer to her side. A glorious blaze! and we will watch it together," said Saul. The flame rose higher and more clear, brought into strong relief the dark outline of the frowning cliffs, while every gnarled and stunted tree started into sudden life, and the knotted ferns and heather seemed waked up to welcome daylight. CHAPTER XIV. AT STAKE. A DüJt, grey heap, a weird circle of ashes-this was all remaining of her once cherished home; the altar where in secret she had worshipped the lest sun of her existence, which h%d set so soon in storms and night. Drifting, drifting, with every light puff of the inconstant breeze, down to the beach, out upon the ocean, to be scattered up and down, to mingle, perhaps with his dust—gone, lost to her for ever She stood looking down, some such thoughts stirring within her; little Ida holding by her hand, awe- struck, and wondering at the terrible gap so suddenly produced in a familiar scene. Her eyes turned to the child beside her, and quickly she stooped to kiss and clasp her to her breast, and muttered- God forgive me!" Let us go away, mother dear," said Ida, uneasily; we'll never come here any more, shall we ?" No, dear, never any more-never any more, pet," said the woman, mournfully, in her still, doep voice, that always seemed saying," Wait J" So they turned away, and for the last time Nelly's foot touched the spot where young Aaron had led her, a blushing and loving bride, to their wedded home. It was the first week in the month: the Dare-devil, manned, stored, appointed to the full in every tittle, rode at anchor in the sequestered bay at a considerable distance from Sandcombe, seeming to fret impatient of her bonds, and eager, like a high-mettled steed, to be set free. The absences of Saul Meghorn had been of greater frequency, and more prolonged, since the night of the fire. Apart from his suddenly-stirred jealousy, he had probably believed that, by his last act of tyranny, he had loosened one of the ties which held his miserable wife to the spot he now designed she should quit, in all probability, for ever; and when he ascer- tained, as a very slight observation soon assured him, that she had given up her visit even to the long familiar scene, he did not fail to congratulate himself upon success so far. Still, in their very brief interviews, there was in her solemn, pale, unspoken grief, a tacit avenger, an un- dying witness, as it were, against him, that he, neither obtuse nor dull of perception, did not fail to accept and to feel most keenly. He was the torturer of the woman whose love-as he had said-he would have perilled his soul to gain; and to purchase whose hap- piness-had she but vouchsafed to ask it—he would have dared worse than death, have attempted impos- sibilities. Then the fit passed-he would debate whether she might not yet be moved by contrast of the fate she doomed him to. "Ay, with even all this in my grasp, with that vessel yonder, ready at my bidding, and hands and hearts that will follow me through the world—I'd give it all—cast it up, turn my back upon the sea and its triumphs for ever, and lead the life of a plough- man-only to hear her say she loves me, only to win one of those looks she casts upon that child! Oh! my God, that I should come to this!" In the madness of such an hour he would rush homewards, and, weapon in hand, determine on kill- ing her child before her—in his frenzy he could see the life-blood flow around the mother's feet-hear her shriek for mercy, gloat over her agonies, or revel like a demon in the anticipation of the caresses he would purchase by concession to her prayers. Yes, there were moments when he e iuld even contemplate plung- ing his dagger into the cold breast he vainly sought to warm, and from her dying throes wresting a fearful sweetness of revenge ere he mingled his own blood with that of one who held her life so apart. But ever, ere he reached that dwelling, which by her presence held such a bitter-sweet attraction for him, the weapon was sheathed, and with it all blood- thirsty delirium. Some gentler fiend would whisper hope—even yet in the eleventh hour—and the wretched man, seeking, perhaps, in his desolation even pity, would be met with the frozen word, the stony look, which entered sharper than poisoned arrow to the flaming soul of Meghorn. Though all was in readiness, and the men panted for action — though arrangements had been made for the due care of the little girl, who was to be parted from her mother-and though all was ad- jasted with such exactness, that an hour might have seen Nelly conveyed aboard the vessel, anchor weighed, and Deepgang deserted — yet still they lingered—still, under some unaccountable impulse, Saul delayed his final order, and found some new occasion for hindrance. But at length it was done. The second day from this, the captain was to come on board—Yawmans had all instructions, and already was he made familiar with the usual haunts of the mother and chdd, during the lengthening evenings and pleasant twilight-most convenient hour for deeds not adapted to the search- ing eyes of day. CHAPTER XV. AMONG THE FERN. Tax burning of the cottage had, of course, been the cause of some excitement among the neighbours; and in the space of the ensuing twenty-four hours the spot had been visited by most of them; the accident discussed and viewed from every imaginable point; but all came very quickly to one conclusion-namely, that the fire had arisen from some indiscretion on the part of those who were the only visitors to the cottage. A lamp had been left burning, or a spark dropped into a chest, or on the bed so they settled it in their own minds: it was so very evident; how could it be otherwise ? The only one who could have undeceived them, besides the perpetrator of the deed, had no motive to do so. She did not seek 18 punish him, at whose hands she had resigned herself to receive chastise- ment. More than ever she was alone with her own thoughts and the companionship of her little daughter. As the days lengthened, they betook themselves more frequently to the pleasant shades of the woods, or the fresh, calm recesses of the rocks and bays, shunning, with mutual dislike, the sombre gloom of the dwelling of which they seemed now almost sole inmates, and gladly exchanging its sunless, low-ceiled rooms, and echoing passages, for the welcoming sights and sounds of Nature without; the whispering of the breeze among the tree tops, the plash of the cool waves, the sparkling of the sands, the leaping into glad life of a thousand nameless creatures, which the breath of spring calls into existence. So they strolled forth one beautiful evening, and betook themselves after much pleading on the part of the younger, to a favourite spot at the base of the Chine. It was Ida's chosen resort, for here she might climb and wander at will; here abounded in profusion her dear flowers, and here, too, the best seat for her mother was to be found, with what she cn-se to call a table beside, for all the appliances of her work, which Nelly never failed to bring with her, but which, indeed, made little advance in those hours, when, left to herself, it would drop from her hands, and she would fall into the old train of bitter, unprofitable thought, self-accu- sation, and regret. She was roused from her attitude of meditation by the touch of her child's hand upon her own. She started, for the small fingers were chill, and she had not heard Ida approach. I Looking down, Nelly saw her child's face turned up to her very pale and with a scared expression; she was trembling too, while she was evidently scarcely able to command her speech. "What is the matter?" she exclaimed. "Ida, darling, what has hurt you ? Not hurt iue, mother," the little girl said slowly and with some difficulty, but it's something drefful up there, mother," she pointed to the cliff far above, where the Chine's summit bordered on the barren crag of the Deepgang I was gathering the blue flowers, there is lots there, and I saw a beauty down a little bit, and was just getting it; and in among the ferns I saw something—oh! mother, I touched it, it's drefful! like dead, mother, so drefful." She put her hand nervously to her head, and laid it on her mother's bosom, as she finished speaking. "You shouldn't have gone so far, my darling," said her mother, while she soothed and lifted Ida to her lap. It was the blue flowers; I wanted them 150 for you," said the little girl, plaintively; but I never will any more, mother." But, dear child, what was it to frighten you ? a poor little bird, I suppose, fallen from its nest ? Ida shook her head—" Oh, no! no, it wasn't, dear mother, it was drtIful-it was like tkiB." As she spoke, she held up the little buttoned sleeve a moment, and shuddered. Tdo. what de you mean?" exclaimed NJiy, as she set the child upon her feet and started up. It was, mother, only worse—it was bones Oh, mother, don't go, please." Ida, I must see! I must go; my child, stay here. I will not be long—I must go, Ida. Do as I bid you -sit there! mother will come back." (To be continued.)


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