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A Child of the Glens by Edward Newenham Hoare

Elsie stood alone with the dead


"We

can't leave her alone, Jim," responded the girl, now pale and grave as she had never been before, and looking from the body to the line of foaming water but a few feet beyond; "the tide might turn and take her away again."

"I wish it had not brought her!" gasped Jim, through his chattering teeth.

"Hush," said Elsie; and then, after a pause, "if you go fetch some one, I'll stay here."

"Aren't you afraid? I am."

"Go," said Elsie, "go quick; it's getting dark."

Hesitatingly the boy left her, and walked almost backwards till he reached the top of the beach; then, with a short cry of fear, he turned his hack on the sea, and ran up the path towards his home.

Elsie stood alone with the dead. She looked on the heaps of sea-weeds, and then along the line of breakers, that seemed even now gathering strength for a return movement. It was a trying ordeal for a child of ten, but the terrible novelty of the situation seemed to give her courage. She advanced towards the body, which she now saw was that of a woman dressed in black. She lay upon her back, the face only hidden by the tangled hair and sea-weed. Elsie noticed as she gazed, for what seemed hours, on the still form, that there was a gold chain round the neck, and two rings on the finger of the hand that rested upon the

beach. As the gloom of the afternoon deepened, a sense of pity and yearning quite new to her, and which destroyed all fear, crept over the child. An irresistible longing urged her to draw back the tangled hair from the face. For a moment she turned away terrified, but then knelt down, and with trembling hands began to draw out the weeds, and to smooth back the heavy brown hair from the cold face. She grew absorbed in her task, and almost fancied the worn, yet beautiful and gentle features looked pleased and grateful. She even ventured to lift the heavy arm from the sand, but it fell back so stiffly that the child was terrified, and stood a little apart, wondering where the poor lady had come from. She knew not how long she had waited, when she was aroused by the sound of a voice. Looking up, she beheld Michael McAravey by her side.

"Well, Elsie, lass, what's all this? There 's that wee fool Jim crying himself into fits, and raving about dead bodies in the sea-weed. Blessed mother! so it is a dead body," he added, excitedly, as he caught sight of the object of Elsie's regard. The old man was only unnerved for a moment; then turning his back to the sea and putting his hands to his mouth, he gave a loud "halloa," which echoed across the silent bay, but brought no other response.

"Now, lass, look sharp and run up the brae, and call some of the men, or the tide will be in upon us. And we 'll lose the wrack, too, for the matter of that. Away you go in a moment," he added, sternly, as the child seemed reluctant to abandon what she held to be her peculiar charge.

Elsie obeyed, and was fortunate enough, just as she was turning into the by-road that led to the shore, to run against George Hendrick.


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