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   Chapter 7 FORGOT SHE WAS A WIFE.

They Looked and Loved By Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller Characters: 8141

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


And so Dorian Mountcastle, saved from death by Nita's brave efforts, lay ill beneath the roof of Gray Gables-the house of all others that the murderous old sibyl had warned him to avoid.

And very pale he looked that morning when the housekeeper entered, bearing a fancy basket, heaped high with dew-wet roses of all colors, whose fragrance filled the air of the sick-room with the perfumed breath of rosy June.

"From Miss Farnham, with her best wishes for your recovery," she said graciously.

She saw his eyes light up with eager pleasure as he placed the flowers close to his pillow, and inhaled their spicy fragrance.

"My mistress gathered them for you herself," continued Mrs. Hill, and he looked at her in surprise.

"Impossible! Why, I was told that she was too ill to leave her bed for weeks!" he exclaimed.

Mrs. Hill tossed her head with a knowing air, and answered:

"Them that told you that, Mr. Mountcastle, wished it might be the case, no doubt, but Miss Farnham is up and dressed, and took breakfast with the family this morning."

"Happy, happy news!" murmured the young man, gladly. "She is better, thank Heaven! Oh, Mrs. Hill, will she be kind enough to come to me and let me thank her for so nobly saving my life?"

"The same ones that were so anxious to keep her abed so long have busied themselves this morning to persuade her that it would be highly improper for her to visit you in your sick-room," replied the worthy housekeeper, swelling with indignation.

"Pshaw! Why, Azalea has been in here a dozen times."

"They told her that was quite different. You see, sir-old friends, and all that."

She saw his lips curl in angry contempt under his mustache, and he exclaimed angrily:

"Mrs. Hill, I will not submit to this hectoring by the Courtneys. Go at once to Miss Farnham, say distinctly that I demand an interview. If she refuses I shall consider myself an unwelcome guest, and depart from Gray Gables within the hour."

"Oh, sir, it would kill you to be moved!"

"No matter. I will not remain."

Mrs. Hill chuckled to herself, and departed on her errand without more ado.

"Do come, Miss Nita, please. He's that cranky he thinks you don't want him here, and if you don't go and pacify him he'll go away sure, and that will be the death of him, for the wound would get to bleeding again, and the doctor said it mustn't on no account," she pleaded anxiously.

"He has no right to demand," Nita said haughtily, but she followed Mrs. Hill to the sick-room, somehow glad in her secret heart of that imperious message.

Mrs. Hill pushed her gently over the threshold, shut the door on the outside, and-trembling with a new timidity, her face burning, her heart beating wildly, Nita was alone with Dorian Mountcastle. His eager blue eyes turned to her, dwelling on her beauty in wondering delight.

"Miss Farnham," he cried, and his musical voice thrilled her. Involuntarily, she moved nearer to him till she stood by his side.

"How can I ever thank you enough for your goodness?" he said, holding out an eager hand. She laid hers gently in it, and as he clasped it their eyes met.

When love is young and new there is something wonderful in the spell of a glance. This pair, looking into each other's eyes, wore pale, serious faces, and felt their hearts leap and their breath flutter unevenly over their parted lips. They seemed looking not alone in each other's eyes, but into each other's hearts. The veil of conventionality had unconsciously fallen, and Nita stood with her lips trembling, her eyes wide, solemn, half-questioning as they met and held his devouring gaze.

Suddenly, she recovered her self-consciousness. She started back, flushed vividly, and let her eyes falter shyly from his gaze, while she murmured in a low voice:

"Do not try to thank me. Only live, that is all I ask!"

In tones of tenderness he answered:

"Now that you are well I hope that I shall live. But when they told me you were so very, very ill I did not care if I died," and impulsively he kissed the han

d he held, adding, "you know me, Miss Farnham. They have told you my name?"

She drew away the hand he had kissed, her whole frame thrilling, and with a struggle for calmness, answered smilingly:

"Mrs. Courtney has told me your name and position, and that your sojourn at Gray Gables is an honor to us."

"Nonsense! Mrs. Courtney knows that I am simply a lazy young vagabond who has inherited a fine old name and plenty of money, and that Azalea is making a dead set at me to get it," he rejoined, almost curtly in his vexation. "How I wish no one had recognized me here," he added, "then I should have palmed myself off on you as a poor young man, and tried to win your friendship on my personal merits."

"Is not that the only way, anyhow?" she queried ingenuously.

His blue eyes began to twinkle with the merry light of laughter.

"Mercy, no, Miss Farnham, I've never had a true friend in all my life! People value me solely for the length of my purse. Ask Miss Courtney if that is not true," and he smiled with sarcasm that puzzled Nita, but that also recalled to her mind Mrs. Courtney's displeasure if she should find her here with Dorian Mountcastle.

"I must go now. Mrs. Courtney did not wish me to come in here at all," she faltered, turning toward the door.

"Please stay a little while with me, won't you? There is not the least impropriety in it, I'm sure. That old cat is only trying to keep you in the background because you are so-beautiful-pardon my frankness, won't you? And do say you're not going yet. I want to thank you for these sweet roses-and, one minute, please-I'd like you to read to me every day to cheer me up. Will you? It would be so good of you to come to my rescue."

With a merry smile she answered:

"Perhaps-perhaps-you might think the same of me."

"Never! I only wish you would! It would make me the happiest vagabond on earth if you only-beg pardon, Miss Farnham, indeed I did not mean to offend," for she had suddenly drawn back from him, her eyes startled, her cheeks pale, her pose haughty.

Nita, who for a few brief moments had been wandering with bounding pulses and dreamy bliss through an earthly paradise, had suddenly remembered.

Remembered that she was not free.

And Dorian Mountcastle, such a short while ago a cynical scoffer at woman's love, gazed in alarm and surprise at the cold white change that had come over that lovely face that but a moment ago blushed with love beneath his eyes.

"Your pardon-I spoke lightly-but I meant no offense," he repeated anxiously.

She turned on him the full gaze of her large eyes, somber now and grave with secret pain, and their sadness pierced his heart.

"Oh, no, no, Mr. Mountcastle, I am not offended. Do not fancy such a thing, but-I-I have forgotten something. I must go-this moment," she answered gently, but incoherently, and almost staggering to the door, half-blinded by starting tears, she tore it open and hastened out.

In the strange confusion of her abrupt departure Nita did not notice that she had left Dorian Mountcastle's room by a door exactly opposite to the one she had entered.

But in a moment she realized that she had blundered. She found herself in a dark, narrow, carpetless corridor, with closed doors frowning grimly upon her from either side of the moldy-smelling hall.

"It must be the servant's quarters, but I will try to escape this way. I cannot possibly go back through his room," she murmured, and pursued her way timorously along the hall, soon losing herself in an intricacy of abrupt turnings and obscure passages seeming to have no outlet.

"How strange," she murmured uneasily; "I do not seem to be finding my way out at all, and perhaps I could not find it back to Mr. Mountcastle's room. Ah! there is a narrow door and a dark little stairway. I suppose it will lead me out-doors into the garden," and Nita began to descend the dark, rickety old stairway, all unconscious of the startling discovery she was on the eve of making, or she would have fled back in an agony of terror.

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