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but sat silently brooding, till he could no longer keep back the bitter tears.
A few days after Datya's death, such a dazzling ray of light had penetrated his disordered brain that he rushed down to the sea with the intention of burying his remorse beneath its
He had almost carried out his purpose, when Walmot came to his rescue, and snatched him, almost with force, from the inrolling waves, and led him back to their dwelling. She then inquired what he had intended to do, and why. It was some time before she could get from him any answer. At last he tried to stammer forth some words, scarcely intelligible amidst his piteous cries. Then she gained some glimpses of a soul wrapped in a mental cloud, but yet torn by the agony of keen remorse, and she shuddered at the thought that she could have been the means of causing a fellow creature to pass such a cruel sentence upon himself.
Walmot heeded not the bitter pain in her own heart, but, full of compassion, tried to speak words of comfort to the unhappy man, now writhing under the first stings of an awakened conscience. Taking him by the hand once more—it was the first time since his return she reminded him that, like many a one before, he had been led astray by pretty women, that she had no right to reproach him-she who, lacking beauty, ought never to have sought to bind him to her side. She tried to soothe him as if he were a child, to infuse into him fresh energy. Pity made her stoop to raise him up from his deep prostration. She even suggested that he must still have remained true to her at heart, or he would never have come back to seek her on the island. She had to repress a shudder, but she gently stroked his seared, disfigured face, and, like the gardener, who, by unwearied care, nurses into fresh life and growth the precious plant that had been torn out of the ground and its roots left to wither, Walmot strove with persevering effort to raise up Roeluf Hemmen to a sense of honour and proper self-esteem.
He was, and he remained, a broken-hearted man, but, still, in the course of time she succeeded in partially restoring his mental powers ; his health, too, improved, and in outward appearance he came to differ very little from the rest of the men. He helped Walmot unweariedly in her fishing and various other labours, but he was even more reticent and sparing of his words than the other islanders. He never left Walmot, but followed her every step, like a child that dreads to be left alone. His eyes did not dare to meet hers, but when she turned away from him, they were ever fixed upon her with a mingled expression of incredulous wonder, gratitude, and timid respect.
Walmot was at this time more than forty years of age, and Time had not failed to leave his marks upon her frame. Her face was prematurely furrowed, and the light hair over her forehead was even thus early mixed with gray. She never had been pretty, and now, with her rugged features, and her skin blurred by wind and waves, she differed very little from the other fisherwomen of her own age. Only in her bright-blue, star-like eyes there was a something strikingly peculiar. It was an expression warm and tender, softly beaming like the sky of spring ; it was very evident that she had shed many yet she looked cheerily on the world about her. Joy and sorrow might have dwelt in her heart by turn, but age had no lodging there. Just so long as she could find both joy and grief mingling in the life of which they form a part, she would retain the same youthful feeling of sympathy with both the grief and the joy of this fleeting mortal life.
HUMAN FLOTSAM AND JETSAM.
And now the night of the shipwreck, which had brought a new life into the world at the parsonage, had brought into the hands of Walmot Tyamen the strangest of waifs. Many a stray plank of the shattered schooner had been drifted on to the downs before her house, and, with the silent aid of Roeluf Hemmen, she had been busily engaged looking out for them and dragging to shore whatever she could seize. In this way she secured a plentiful supply of wood for hearth and oven, besides some bales of the cargo that floated about here and there. Suddenly an object came in sight that differed from all the rest ; it was of a white colour, and the waves seemed to be playing at ball with it in the clear moonlight. At one moment it was dancing on the crest of the waves, and in the next it had sunk back into the yawning trough below, only to be thrown aloft again. In this way it came nearer, until it could be distinguished as a basket made of stout withes. Like a big cork, it was tossed by the surging wave against Walmot's face, and she stretched out her hand to seize it. The light toy would have been borne back into the deep on the wave's white crest, had not Walmot run stoutly against the current. For a moment she was felled by her mighty adversary; but she firmly clutched her prize, and was washed with it ashore. It was no unusual thing for her to be drenched to the skin, so she quickly drew in her booty to a safe distance on the downs, whilst she went once again to try her luck at salvage.
A strange sound, however, made her all at once look back; it was like the peeping of a sand-bird when just out of the egg. But it was February, and brooding days were a long way off; and, besides, the white downs were so brightly lighted up that any nest would have been seen for twenty paces round. Again she heard the sound; it was quite close at hand. Looking around her, there was no room for doubt ; it could come only from the basket. Did it contain young birds, ducks, fowls, or pigeons, intended as provisions for the ship's company? In any case there must be some animal within, and Walmot was glad to think she had snatched some living thing from death.
She drew from her pocket a clasp-knife, and cut the cord that firmly tied the lid on the basket. Inside was a lining of waterproof, over which was carefully stretched a soft quilt of down. These coverings were somewhat damp, but not soaked with the water, which, as well as the air, the waterproof had all but excluded.
Walmot stood speechless, almost breathless with surprise. On the cushion, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lay a little babe, scarcely eight days old. It lived, it breathed, it whined. A frail little living mite, it had defied the rage and fury of the hurricane; the very lightness of its strange barque had been a protection, and, safe as in a cradle, it had been rocked ashore. But whence and how had it thus arrived ?
No answer came, and none was needed, for all spoke to Walmot in a language which, though without words, she well understood. The basket, tied, protected, arranged like this, could have come from no hands but those of a loving mother, guided by tenderest solicitude in the midst of her own despair. Some young wife must have been on board, and had given birth to the child but a few days before ; her last hope of saving it with herself was gone, and, in her maternal anguish, grasping at a straw, she strove at least to save her infant's life. The thought was suggested by wild despair, but it shed a ray of hope through that stormy night, and amid the howling tempest she had carried out her purpose with all the care and foresight of her last reasoning powers. Then the mother's love gave her strength for the final sacrifice; she parted with her treasure, giving it herself, as it were, a prey to the waves. How she must have stood, her eyes wildly fixed upon the basket, to which her last thoughts clung, as she watched it tossing like a plaything up and down on the surging sea, until at last it vanished in the glittering moonshine ! She herself now lay down below, cold, insensible, and never would she hear that her heroic courage had won its reward; that the greedy waves, which had swallowed up the ship and every living thing aboard, had borne her babe, still breathing, safely to the land. No messenger ever brought the tale, yet it must have been
it could not have been otherwise. And Walmot gasped for breath as the thought of the despair of the unknown young mother rent her own heart. A human being must have gone through torture inconceivable. Walmot gazed at the rolling waves, and read therefrom how indifferent, how pitiless, is Nature for the sufferings of man.
It was but a moment of swiftly-passing thought, for before her in the basket lay a fragment of this same human life appealing to her in its helplessness and need. The babe uttered a louder wail, for it was cold and hungry. Walmot ran with it home. For the first time for many years she lost her self-possession ; she wanted to do so many things at
Her trembling fingers darted here and there as she tried to light at the embers a brimstone match. The child might die of cold and hunger, and yet she must first light the fire. Her nature was transformed ; every limb trembled with impatience. The people on the other island side would for the time have been almost in the right, for she really did not quite know what she was about. Before her imagination the drowned woman was still standing alive; she could see her beckon, and hear the words that accompanied her dying look : “This is a
legacy that I bequeath to you who find it. But no, she was not dead, only she could not get away from the raging sea to land ; but her eye would always follow her child, watch over it, and demand an account of all that happened to it. And Walmot's fingers could scarcely hold the match to the embers, they trenibled so with fear, lest the life entrusted to her care might cease before she could supply its need.
But at last the stove was lighted, and each duty was fulfilled in turn. First she would free the infant from its cold, danıp wrappings and give it warmth. Her hand, but not her thoughts, had now gained control. She hastily unwound the garments, and wrapped in a blanket the little form they had enclosed. It was a baby-girl. Walmot dared not lay the little creature down for a moment; she still kept it closely pressed to her bosom, while with one hand she contrived to procure some milk from a goat, which was kept in a pen near the kitchen. This was no easy task, but at last a few warm drops were obtained, with which to moisten the infant's mouth. Then instinct led the untrained lips to open and to swallow the milk from a little wooden spoon. The infant, with eyes fast closed, sucked down the food ; its wail ceased, and its features gradually assumed a look of content. Again a shudder passed through Walmot's frame. When last the babe had taken its nourishment, it had been from its mother's breast; doubtless she had thus soothed it in the very moment of separation, with death menacing her own life, in order to supply her child, on its fearful voyage, with what was immediately needed to sustain for a few hours the spark of life.
The babe lay now lulled to sleep, and Walmot stood watching over it. It was the kind, gentle look of a human eye that rested on the child, but to-night it wore a still more significant expression. No man could wear a look like this; such a light could kindle only in a woman's eyes. The vastness of the universe was as nothing to Walmot in comparison with this feeble atom of life, breathing on the small rough wooden table.
With anxious care, Walmot had supplied to her wee nursling all that duty and sympathy prescribed ; and now, at last, the woman in her might somewhat indulge her own feelings. Her own life passed before her like a dream: she felt no trace of age, her heart beat within her bosom, young, strong, and happy, as