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They Looked and Loved By Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller Characters: 6376

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

When Nita had left him, Dorian Mountcastle lay with half-shut eyes in a delicious reverie. Believing himself proof against all the darts of Cupid, he had yet gone down helplessly before the fire of a girl's dark eyes, and the charm of her sweet, sad smile. Upon his life's horizon had dawned the radiant star of Love.

He forgot his weakness and illness in the intoxication of the moment. He was too well versed in the signs of love not to interpret aright Nita's looks and blushes. It only brought a smile to his lips when he recalled her strange pallor and sudden flight.

"Sweet girl, she was frightened and agitated at the sudden discovery mutually made that our hearts had leaped to meet each other. She will return when she recovers her composure," he thought happily.

A light tap at the door, then it opened softly, and his heart leaped at the thought that it might be Nita already returning. But it was only Azalea Courtney, radiant as the morning, carrying a little silver pitcher full of iced lemonade.

"Alone, Dorian? I thought Miss Farnham was with you?" she cooed, in silvery tones.

"You were mistaken," he replied coldly, vexed that she had disturbed his sweet love-reverie, and out of mere perversity he refused to drink the draft she proffered, declaring that he was not thirsty.

But if he thought to freeze out his dainty visitor by his indifference he was mistaken. She slipped into the arm-chair by his bed, and began with pretty raillery:

"Miss Farnham made you but a short visit. I fear you did not make a good impression."

"I should be sorry to think so, for in that case I should feel compelled to leave Gray Gables immediately, and be jolted five miles to the nearest hotel," he rejoined maliciously.

"Leave us, Dorian? Indeed, you should not. It would kill you to be moved. Besides, what does it matter what that girl thinks, so long as mama and I are delighted to have you, and to be of service to you?"

"It matters everything, Azalea, since Miss Farnham is the real mistress here. Remember your mama is only her salaried chaperon, and you, like myself, but a transient guest."

Azalea pouted prettily at this rebuke.

"You take pleasure in reminding me of my poverty-you forget the past," she half-sobbed, and he answered impatiently:

"I choose to ignore it, and, pardon me, but it is bad taste in you to recur to it."

"Ah, Dorian, will you never forgive?-never permit me to atone?" she sighed.

The young man made a gesture of impatient scorn, as though dismissing an unwelcome subject, and half-buried his face in the roses that still lay beside his pillow.

Azalea Courtney knew that Nita had sent the roses. A spasm of mingled pain and bitterness crossed the pretty, pink-and-white face, and she cried out sharply:

"Well, how do you like Miss Farnham?"

He knew well how to stab this dainty beauty-perhaps he knew, too, that she deserved it. He looked straight into her curious blue eyes, and answered enthusiastically:

"She is charming!"

"Ah!" breathed Azalea, with her little white hand pressed against her side to still her heart's jealous throbs.

"She is charming," repeated Dorian Mountcastle, qu

ite oblivious to her pain, and, furious with anger, Azalea darted from her seat and left the room as precipitately as Nita had done a while ago-left the room to hurry to her mother and sob out her jealous longing for vengeance upon dark-eyed Nita, her beautiful rival.

Without the least compunction over the stab he had given his visitor, Dorian Mountcastle dismissed all thoughts of her, and again fell to dreaming of the girl who had bewitched him.

Beautiful women he had seen in plenty, but hovering about this one there was something more than beauty. With closed eyes he lay silent, breathing the fragrance of the roses by his pillow, and going over in his enraptured mind all her separate, distinctive charms.

Suddenly, he started broad-awake, his brow beaded with dews of terror, his heart throbbing painfully. What was the sound that had awakened him? Ah, a timid tapping over and over again upon the door.

"Enter!" he called out in a strangled voice, and the door opened and closed again, admitting-Nita!

Nita, pale and gasping, with wild eyes and disheveled tresses, her white gown soiled with soot and cobwebs, her slender hands grimy with dust, outstretched before her like a sleep-walker's, as she staggered across to him, gasping, it seemed, with mortal terror, vainly essaying to speak.

"My dream, my dream!" he cried, in a voice of agony, as she sank with a long, quivering sigh into the arm-chair close to the bed.

Putting out his hand he touched hers. It was icy cold, and he saw on it a ring that he had not noticed before, a serpent, with eyes and scales of quivering greenish fire. It was so lifelike in its malignant semblance that he shuddered through all his frame.

At his gentle touch, Nita started, and lifted her dazed dark eyes to his face. Their expression was piteous, and so was her voice, as she murmured incoherently:

"I-I-went out at the wrong door-and-was lost-oh, I was so frightened!"

Her eyes closed, her head drooped heavily. Drawing her hastily toward him, her pale face sank upon the roses by his pillow. She was unconscious.

It was a mean advantage to take of the helpless girl, but Dorian could not resist the temptation. The dark curls on her white brow mingled with his own fairer ones, and the lovely lips were close.

He turned his face slightly, and his eager mouth brushed hers.

The pressure of his lips recalled her ebbing senses. She stirred slightly, opened her eyes in a dreamy fashion, realized everything, and started back from him in sweet and strange dismay.

"Nita, Nita, I love you!" Dorian murmured, as she looked at him with bewildered eyes, but ere she could reply the door opened, and Mrs. Hill, her faithful nurse, entered the room. The girl sprang up and clasped her around the neck, sobbing hysterically.

"Do not look at me so angrily, Mrs. Hill, indeed I have done nothing. Miss Farnham went out at that door yonder, got lost in the winding corridors, and found her way back here almost frightened out of her senses," explained Dorian.

"Oh, take me to my room," pleaded the girl, drawing the kindly housekeeper toward the door without a backward glance at her lover.

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