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   Chapter 12 ALL FOR A WOMAN'S SAKE.

They Looked and Loved By Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller Characters: 6912

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Donald Kayne's usual calm demeanor had given place to the wildest agitation. His dark-gray eyes were black with excitement, his brow was corrugated with wrinkles, his chin quivered nervously, and his glance seemed to pierce Nita through and through, it was so keen and fierce. His outburst had been so sudden that at first no one moved or spoke, only gazed in speechless astonishment at the strange scene enacting before their eyes.

With a pale face, full of dread and dismay, Nita stared up into the man's half-stern, half-entreating countenance, but her beautiful lips were dumb.

"Speak," Donald Kayne cried out to her, hoarsely. "Speak!"

The dry, parched lips of the girl unclosed, and she gasped:

"Oh, forgive me, sir; I cannot, dare not, answer you!"

"Cannot-dare not! By Heaven, you shall! Tell me, how came you by that ring, girl?"

He gripped her delicate wrist with unconscious violence, and she shrank and moaned. Instantly the spell of wonder that had held Dorian Mountcastle relaxed, and the young man, springing up, caught Donald Kayne's arm in a grasp of steel.

"Release Miss Farnham's wrist this moment. Beg her pardon for this outrage, or you shall answer to me for this violence to my promised wife!"

The deep, angry words thrilled through every one like an electric shock. A startled murmur came from every lip, and Donald Kayne's grasp fell inertly from Nita's wrist. That instant Dorian bent and whispered hoarsely in her ear:

"Do not deny it. Let me claim you, if only for a little while, that I may protect you. You have not a friend in the room but myself."

She knew that it was true. In her forlorn state it was sweet to have this true heart for her shield. She bowed in silent acquiescence, and he turned proudly to his friend.

"You have forgotten yourself in your strange curiosity, Kayne. You must apologize to Miss Farnham for your offense," he said sternly.

A devil was aroused in the man before him. He stood erect, pale as death, his eyes wild with wrath and pain, and gazed defiantly at Dorian.

"What if I refuse?" he sneered.

"You shall answer to me for your folly," was the instant reply, and a little shriek from Azalea followed the words.

Donald Kayne stood silent a moment. He was a man of strong passions, but he was striving now to master himself.

"Listen to me, Dorian, my old friend," he said hoarsely. "You do not understand this affair, or you would not interfere. This young lady ought to explain to me how she came by this ring. It is only humanity to do so. I crave your patience while I explain."

Under the stern control he was putting upon face and voice every one saw that there was absolute agony. No one spoke, and he went on:

"Fourteen years ago a beautiful, rich, and happy woman disappeared from her home in New York, leaving absolutely no trace behind her to guide her friends in their search. Upon her hand she wore that emerald serpent-ring, and it is the first clue to her fate I have stumbled over. She was dear to me, this woman, and there are times when I have almost gone mad over the mystery of her fate!

"Bear with me a little longer. This has come upon me like a blow. Listen, my friends, listen you, Miss Farnham: For fourteen years a cloud of mystery has hung over Pepita's fate, and the hissing voice of calumny has assailed her fair fame. Some believe that she fled with a lover-she, Pepita, who was a wedded wife. Others believe s

he met with foul play. But the veil of blackest mystery has never been lifted. We know not if she be alive or dead, although thousands upon thousands of dollars have been spent in following uncertain clues.

"At last I am startled at the sight of her ring upon another woman's hand. I am betrayed into harshness most excusable when you consider the cause. Only think, if Miss Farnham will but tell me how she came by the serpent-ring, she will put into my hands a new clue to work upon that will lead most surely to-Pepita and vengeance! If she has a woman's tender heart in her breast, how can she refuse to speak and tell me?"

He looked at Nita with imploring eyes. He saw agony upon her face, and thought it was relenting. He fell down upon his knees before the beautiful girl as though she had been a queen and he a slave. He held out his hands imploringly.

"See! I kneel to you," he said prayerfully. "I sue to you for that which seems so simple a favor that you should have granted it at the first word. Ah! Miss Farnham, what fair reason can you have for this obstinate silence?"

The unhappy girl shuddered as she recalled the oath of silence sworn upon the dead hand of Pepita, whose ring she wore-Pepita, whose awful fate was so much to this man kneeling at her feet, yet must remain forever a secret in her breast.

In her heart swelled up a wave of pity and regret for hapless Donald Kayne. She felt no anger that he reviled her; she could only sympathize with him in his great despair-despair that matched her own. Appalled by her silence, he cried:

"Still silent? Why, then, you have no woman's heart in your breast. Your beauty is cold and soulless like a marble statue. What can I say to you? Will gold move you? A million shall be poured at your feet! Would you shed my heart's blood? It shall flow. Only one word to take my heart off the rack-one word! Will you not speak it?"

It was breaking her heart to blast all his hopes, to refuse his prayer. She held out her clasped hands to him and the serpent-ring on her finger seemed to mock him with its uncanny glitter. She cried out, in a solemn voice like one praying:

"Oh, pity me, pardon me! My heart breaks for you, but-I can tell you nothing, nothing."

"You refuse!" he exclaimed, like one stunned.

"I refuse," she answered, her arms falling, her voice a low moan of the most utter despair.

Instantly a change came over Donald Kayne. He sprang to his feet, trembling with rage, his eyes blazing.

"You have the most cruel heart the world ever knew," he cried bitterly. "God pity my friend there who loves you. You will ruin his life, you heartless beauty. You will part us two, for you have made an enemy of me, and he will be my friend no more. But, mark you, Miss Farnham, you have baffled me now, but yet I feel I have a clue to Pepita. I will find out yet how you came by the serpent-ring. If there is anything you have to fear in the knowledge, beware, for your past life shall become an unsealed book to me, and--" but his ravings were interrupted by an angry voice in his ear:

"Not another word. Be she right or wrong I stand by her as my own. Your violence has destroyed our friendship. Go now, and for those words you have spoken, remember you will hear from me soon."

Donald Kayne bowed with a sneering smile that included all the occupants of the room, then walked proudly out of the open door to which Dorian's finger pointed.

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