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A Child of the Glens by Edward Newenham Hoare

Towering above its predecessors


The

afternoon was now far advanced, and the children were growing weary of their work. Several heaps of brown, wet, shining weed stood at intervals along the sands, as monuments of their zeal. They began to look wistfully towards the hill for "father," who had promised to meet them at the conclusion of the day's work; but again and again they had looked in vain. It was now growing almost dusk. They had thought of desisting from their task, when a succession of gigantic rollers, like the fierce rear-guard of the great army that for so many hours had been broken to pieces on the sands, was seen approaching.

With a solemn reverberation the first giant toppled over, and swept a mass of mingled foam and sea-weed up the sands, far past where the wet and weary little toilers were standing. Knee-deep in the rapidly returning body of water, they strove with their rakes to arrest some fragments of the whirling and tangled mass of weeds. But the second giant was at hand. Checked in its advance by the retreating fragments of its predecessors, the monster hesitated. And then the two masses of water clashing together rose up in fierce embrace, while the foam and spray of their contention was blown by the keen east wind into the children's faces. But the force of the tide was spent, and the second wave, though victorious in the wrestle, scarce survived the conflict, and did not even flow over the children's feet. Elsie, therefore, sprang forward almost

to the spot where the wave had broken, and brought down her rake into the midst of a huge and tangled mass. The retiring wave struggled hard to retain its own, so that the child was fairly drawn out by its force.

"Let go, let go!" cried Jim, as he caught the girl's dress to help her resistance; "the rake will float in again."

But Elsie was fascinated. She felt at once that the body she held was solid, though soft and yielding, and so she clung to the long rake-handle with all her might. The conflict was over in a few moments. The waters retired defeated, and left upon the sands a dark, limp, saturated body.

"Come away, come away!" shrieked the boy, as Elsie was cautiously advancing towards the mysterious object. The girl stood still, and hesitated a moment, while a vague dread crept over her. What was it that lay there in the bleak, cold twilight, so still and shapeless, and yet with such an awful suggestion of life about it? She was lost in bewilderment when the boy's voice recalled her--

"Elsie, Elsie, mind the wave!"

She had but a moment in which to spring back, as the third giant, towering above its predecessors, lifted the inert body on its crest, and flung it contemptuously high up upon the shore. Then the waters swept back and left the two children shivering alone on the strand: behind them were the dull, dead heaps of sea-weed, and at their feet a black mass of clothing. The children clung together in silent awe. Neither of them had ever seen a dead body. Hitherto death had been an abstraction, but now they felt themselves face to face with the reality.

[Illustration: A strange waif of the sea.]

"Let's run and look for father," suggested Jim, in a frightened whisper.


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