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THE STRANGE CLAIMANT; OR,…

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THE STRANGE CLAIMANT; OR, TWICE WED. --+- OHAPTER XV.-( Oontinued). "0 the words had passed Nelly's lips she was rushing P the rocky causeway, moved by she knew not what ^pulses, what dread anticipations—she reached the iQimit of the flowery Ohine, she paused and darted a een glance around. Be! ore her were the black rocks, 'Host destitute of vegetation hurriedlv she ad- duced, till, close to the edge, where tho cliff fell sud- ealy to tjje precipe siie espied a thick fern whose hardy russet foliage grew far over the and down the face of the rock. As sheap- Proachcd, she saw the scattered handful of blue 101Vers which poor Ida, in her alarm, had let fall; the thick tuft which sheltered luxuriantly be- the broad leaves of the fern, showed this to be one she had indicated. Nelly shuddered as she 7^* the dangerous locality to which the child had Matured; but with a quick, firm step she approached and, stooping, removed the flowers, and parted the Ofergrown and stubborn leaves of the mountain fern. With a cry of horror she started up; her hand had her eyes had fullrn upon, the object which alarmed the little girl. A skeleton hand 1 There i lay, the rigid, bony fingers clutched as in death agony—there it had lain, who could say *Ow lorg ?—the winds and the rains, the tempest and sunshine, had passed over that silent relic of "Uinanity, beneath the covering ferns. But she recovered herself; again that impulse 1trred her to seek further-was there no more ? or was this the terrible index to a tale yet untold ? She stooped again; hurriedly she plucked away fern leaves, scattering them around, peering •^ow into the sunless depths of the dried-up earth beneath. Suddenly a glitter as of metal caught her eye, and ^Jfing down, with hasty clutch, she grasped at the •"ject, and, amidst a handful of dust and withered leaves, she brought it into daylight. A ring I She sprang to her feet, and, with dis- tended eyes, gazed upon it. _An exclamation of dismay broke from her lips. next moment she had caught up the gaunt ■keleton hand and was pressing it to her bosom, as J^e sank to her knees, and gasped, in a broken voice, My husband! he was murdered—and, oh! God, for- life tile She had no utterance for the dread truth which toihed upon her mind with a certainty that mocked fAt the possibility of doubt. The ring was one that had been her JDother's-a *8aive, uncouth jewel, of ancient and most peculiar fashion and device.. It had been handed down from the grandfather of 5** parent, who bad found it on the beach after a of which this was the sole vestige that ever came OIl shore. At her mother's death she had left it in charge of daughter; and at their betrothal Nelly had given J* to Aaron, whose finger it had never left. Ay, she ^Binembered now, how on that last sad night, as he ~J**hed his hand upon the table, the had even then ?j*rked the glitter of the ring, and it had half recalled to herself, in the thought of the tender words with Which she had put the treasure on his finger. And J"* was how, after sorrowful yews, she found it! £ these—these decaying, unsepulohered bones were This the brave, loyal hand which in life had been 8tay and protection! As by a pudden light, all seemed made clear to her. lague suspicions, half-uttered words and looks, unex- plained till now-all were recalled, and swift as •bought, summed up the terrible conviction. Her husband bad been foully dealt by; but one toan could have motive for the deed! That man now wanned her for his wife—she shared his pillow, and the had bet n the mother of his son! Flight was all that remained. As she clasped once II10re her darling to her breast, she hurriedly hid away the ghastly treasure-trove, and strove to calm her Plating heart and trembling limbs, while she planned lQalllediate night. CHAPTER XVI. FLIGHT. Bib: never felt the ground over which her feet speed JJfrrftly once more to the terrible dwelling—only once, to leave it for ever! Where to flee, entered not -to her mind—only to be away, away, from sight hearing of the fearful man she called husband— the touch of the murderous hand which had deprived her beloved of his life. Away from the shelter of his detested roof, which J\4»ht yet cover she knew not what silent witnesses to guilt. Away, and with her child, for ever, from the atmosphere of bloodshed and treachery they had ^consciously breathed—away, too, from the horrible "Bttptatiou Which she felt would assail her. I could not see him again I I could not hear him but I should tax him with it!" she cried, ■j,"If he denied it, if he confessed it! all one! either of mercies, save me from the commission of a crime! save me from murder, too! If he but laid hand upon me— Hush, child, hush!" Poor Ida, terrified at her mother's mood, was "UPPlicating to be set down, saying she could run. "You can't, Ida: you can't, my child! quick, I i?u»t be quick—if he should be there before us—oh "od, help me!" It was yet early, when, panting and exhausted, she the house. All was as she had left it. Meg-1 was still absent, but she knew that any moment might return. It was needful that by no sign should he be apprised at her night. She must take with her nothing that be missed—moreover, she turned with loathing *Ojjtt any of his gifts, of clothes or jewels. Her stock of money was small indeed; she hastily this in her bosom, put on over her ordinary jr688 & dark stuff gown of her first stock, and clothed child warmly. She would have urged her to eat, 2*t the poor little girl had not ceased to tremble, and, *»ough she dared not give utterance to her fear, she W crouched in subdued terror on the bed, watching e hurried movements of her parent. "I can't mother! I can't, she replied, and put **OJn her the food. we are going away! quick, Ida, and we must "M* all night—you will be hungry." The obedient child made the effort, but her parent her mo *nut^'ty. an^» pitying her, refrained to press ^,1waa re&dj; with an excusable deception, bhe wnoothed the chests and drawers, placed ordinary dresses and work, as if but quitted for a brief absence, the supper and the grog to hand, that her hts- might, on his return, be led te dispose of some before he would even seek her. But she worked in the dark, as it were, for Saul's movements were so uncertain; he might not return or they might encounter him on the 'tet she could dare anything save the passing pother night under the same roof with Meghorn, pressing the same pillow. She lifted her soul in prayer, as she nerved herself to the desperate rt. » then, lifting her bewildered child in her arms, v?Pped out from the unblessed home of the pirate Leghorn. inhere was no moon, but the stars were shining y in a cloudless sky. ohe paused as she drew to the door, and listened, th J*8,8 » the subdued plash of the waves upon e beacb came faintly from below. had quitted the house by the back door opening it k*1 the waste, a stream of light fell brightly across Some distance from a lamp she had placed in the chamber, so that Saul, seeing it as he entered, thn 1 Relieve that she had retired for the night, and •be lulled to security. tk. *ide downs lay dark before her, beyond these Sol w.o°ds skirting the foot of the hills inland. The *he ok wki°h presented itself to her now was that h()"l take the path he would be least likely to egP ct her of following, and, as she could not hope to £ ei^urauera hy swiftness, she must elude them by Raiment. Swiff)16 W00^.8' then, at the outset, Up0„ jJJ crossing the barren ground, Bhe entered ^er fenf\wide.down"' where, setting little Ida upon sne j8 briefly urged upon her the necessity of a aJ'-f' an^» taking her by the hand, they proceeded the deft Pace* The stars gave little light, and beneath l'iak P bwell of the undulating plain they ran little them. beiog seen, even had any been abroad to watch Jj^ob'WA°IJ?'d heart beating as though every the last. Her feet seemed to weigh •oifte hoivvi gPted she made. She felt as one in nightmare, from which she must awake at last, and new and again she paused, as if to ask herself why this was ? But to lay her hand upon her bosom, to touch the fearful relics there hid, was the answer; and, with a word to the Door little companion of her night, she hurried on. She knew that the real moment of danger had not yet come. It would be, in all probability, some hours before Meghcrn returned-more ere he would discover her absence, and the morrow, most probably, before he would actually suspect it to be flight. That he would pursue them to the uttermost, she never doubted the more determinedly, if he could gain but a suspicion of the cause. Time was indeed precious, and the child's pace was so slow. One moment it seemed so hopeless, Nelly was almost on the point of turning back, but as she asked herself—to face what ? even the forlorn hope of escape became precious, and she hurried forward. But, alas! the Door little girl began to cry, and hung heavily upon the hand of her mother. Nelly had thought it best to let her walk now— by-and-by, she would sleep, yet still they must be moving. A little further, dear pet, only a little way, then we shall sit down see, there is the wood where Ida gathered the nuts." My leg ache so bad," said the weakly child, in a plaintive tone, that went to the heart of the poor mother. She stooped to take her in her arms, slinging the bundle she carried to her waist; she had lifted her up, and, in a cheering tone, had begun to comfort her, when voices fell upon her ear. She stood still, and her breath stopped; they came nearer, and from the wood she was approaching, two tall figures emerged, and came across the downs towards them. The taller one was speaking, and she recognised the voice of Saul Meghorn. It was well fright deprived her of the power to cry out. With one effort at self-preservation, she sprang aside, and crouched beneath the slight elevation of the plain, unconscious even which course they might take. As she did so, her bundle, ill-secured, gave way, slipped, and fell. She bent breathlessly over her child, grasping her to her breast-her head swam, she feared she was going to faint, but her eyes, wide open, were fixed upon the men. They came nearer, nearer-she heard the very words of the shorter, in earnest reply, but hey failed to convey any sense to her brain-she watched them as they came—she felt she could scream, so intensely wrought were her feelings—and, as they passed on, unconscious, she blessed God with her voice, as in her heart. A few paces on the shorter man stumbled, and, with an oath, kicked from his path the stone which had tripped him up, by the same action sending her bundle within a foot of where the trembling fugitives lav concealed. Not till the two were well out of sight, till they must have got within sight of the gleam from the house window, did the woman rise from her knees and resume her flight, with now an added fear upon her. What was the purpose of these companions ? whence did they come and might they not return ? She doubted now whether even the woods would afford them safe shelter, but at least she needed a few minutes of repose, and to think over, even though hastily, the best way of proceeding. Again taking her child in her arms, and resuming her bundle, she hurriedly fled into the wood, whose paths had been well known to her in happier days; and, seeking out a spot where the undergrowth was most luxuriant, and the trees standing close, afforded some shelter, even in their scanty spring dress, she laid little Ida on the heaped leaves of last autumn, which here accumulated undisturbed and while she gathered new strength for further flight, set herself to plan out some consistent method of escape from her dreaded tyrant, whose image in her mind gained every moment fresh terrors. CHAPTER XVIL PURSUIT. THE light is burning yonder in her room, so she has gone up for the night," said Siul to his com- panion, as they came within sight of the dwelling. That's well; you'll have the less trouble with the child." That's her berth-the small window over the lean-to ? observed Yawmans, pointing in the direc- tion. Yes. I'll go upstairs for some small matter, and, in leaving the room, shut-to the door between the rooms. You say you've already tried the reof of the shed; the window opens easily, and the girl sleeps sound." Ay, ay, capt'n, it's as good as done," returned the other, confidently. No hurt to the brat, mind," said his superior; do as I have already told you. Old Dorcas is pre- pared she'll be well cared for; I don't want to hurt the girl, once she's out of the way." Trust me, capt'n—trust Mat Yawmans to do your bidding," rejoined the other. They will scarcely be asleep yet," observed Meg- horn; "better wait awhile. Meantime, Yawmans, you shall drink success to our first engagement in a glass of the old sort." Ay, yer honour; rm with you there, with all my heart," said the mate; and he followed his com- mander into the house, both treading softly, opening and closing the heavy doors with caution. All laid," muttered Saul, as he entered first the ordinary room where supper was set; and, as I said, Nelly had taken care things should wear as inviting an aspect as possible. She might have known that I was to have com- pany," he murmured, half aloud. "Sit down-make yourself at home," he continued, flinging aside his cloak and hat, and, lighting the lamp, he set it on the table. It's many a long day, yer honour, since I broke bread at your table." said the mate, rubbing his hands, and placing himself at his ease. It's the old times, and no mistake; I'm twenty years younger this night," he added, with a mild oath. "Fall to, my lad-fall to," said Saul, when he had stirred up the fire, and completed the general arrangements for their comfort. "It's fitting my trusty mate should sup with me the last time I shall ever break bread under this infernal roof." He had tossed off a bumper of spirit at the com- mencement of his speech, and was preparing another to follow. I If Ay, ay, yer honour may well say that. Nothing on earth so slews a man up as this —— long-shore life! It took five years' use out of my arm that —— eighteen months that I lay by." "We'll make it up in double quick time; trust me, my iad, we'll make it up!" exclaimed Meghorn, with an oath as grace to a full glass of rum. Out away and never spare," he cried, as he passed the several dishes to his worthy subordinate. Who comes after may fare as he can. And who will that be ?—ha!—ha!—here's to the empty nest." Yawmans echoed the boisterous laugh of his chief, and pledged him. The latter was evidently bent on washing out in the potent liquor every tinge of remorse that may have lingered about his resolution — his reckless humour was fast increasing. As for Yawmans, he needed no screwing to the point-his conscience and his brain were alike proof against the promptings of ( mercy or the fumes of alcohol. "Then you'll take the other craft in tow, capt'n, yourself ? said Mat, as he warmed with liquor and companionship to something of the free communion of old times. My wife, sir!" and Meghorn turned on the other the fiery gase of those dark commanding eyes. ( Beg pardon, capt'n. wishing the lady all success and a pleasant voyage in the Daredevil." Let any aboard breathe so much as her name out of place," said Saul, haughtily, still holding the other beneath his glance, and hit post won't be worth much." As he spoke, his hand had wandered to the cutlass he always wore beneath his coat, and lingered there a minute after he had gradually withdrawn his eyes 1 from his guest to the glass he was filling. 1 Fore George, yer honour, not a trustier servant I shall the lady have aboard than Mat Yawmans," said the mate, when a minute had elapsed, and IUswear, when the lads know as much il There is no need they should know," interrupted Meghorn, haughtily. At least, they will bide my informing them; you, Yawmans, I trust as my shadow." Well, now, capt'n, and aren't I proud of your con- fidence, and have I deserved it ? You will give a fellow your good word, so far." I can't say you have not," said Saul, relapsing into his former mood of forced recklessness. He evidently stove off the hour of action as far as possible, Yawmans nothing loth, good liquor being alwavs acceptable and the pair drank and talked of old times, or smoked and drank in silence, till long past midnight. Little dreamed he, whose wily plans were laid with such certainty, of the value of those hours to the poor fugitives; and Nelly, as she, with trembling hands, had laid her poor homely baits, scarce had dared to hope for them such success, nor suspected the fate which she unknowingly eluded. At length Saul rose, laid down his pipe, and took off some of his upper slothing. It's about time," he said, gloomily enough keep you still, I'll go above and see the coast clear. Don t you stir till I come down." Yawmans signified acquiescence, and the othm quitted the room. ) The lamp in the upper chamber had burnefl low, i and the shadows fell thickly in the apartment. Saul entered in his usual manner, and but glanced carelessly towards the bed, where be supposed his wife to be sleeping. 1 He could just distinguish the usual outline beneath the coverlet on the pillow, and, bad he been called upon for his evidence to the fact, could have taken his oath, with perfect assurance, that he heard her breath- ing in her slumber as he crossed the room, hum- ming an air after his reckless fashion: such traitors do our own senses play us at times, misled by a firm con- viction. He re-crossed the room, closed the door of communication between that and the closet where little Ida slept, and then, as if suddenly remembering something, took up the lamp and quitted the chamber, leaving the outer door wide open to impress his wife, should she be awake, with the idea of his speedy re- turn. The very shadows that dogged his tall form from the bedroom down the staircase, seemed to gibber derisively at all his ostentation of pretence to de- ceive the woman who, hours before, had left his threshold. He entered the room where he had left Yawmans. That worthy had already divested himself of all superfluous incumbrance in the shape of upper gar ments, and stood forth ready for action. He spoke first. All right, capt'n ? Wrap her in the blankets," was all Meghorn said, hoarsely. The other strode off. (To be continued.)

THE INVALID ARTIST.

DOLLY ASLEEP.

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