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   Chapter 17 SHALL I NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN

They Looked and Loved By Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller Characters: 11884

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


"Lizette, Lizette! Oh, where am I?"

A weak, languid voice asked the question, while a dark, graceful head raised itself wearily from the pillow, and dark, solemn eyes, shining out of a waxen-white face, stared wonderingly over at a trim figure knitting lace at an open window. The figure gave a start, dropped the needles and some stitches together, gave a bound across the room and knelt down by the couch.

"Oh, you little darling-you little darling, you are better, you know me," cooed Lizette, lovingly patting the pale, delicate cheek.

"Lizette, of course I know you," her mistress answered with wondering impatience. "But where am I?"

"In your own room, of course, Miss Nita," answered the maid, with a certain air of evasiveness.

"In my own room? Why, it all looks very strange to me! Oh, Lizette, was it all a dream? The yacht-Dorian?" cried the girl eagerly, a warm, pink flush creeping over the pallor of her waxen cheek.

"Dearie, you have been ill and your dreams were wild," soothed Lizette. "But you must not talk now. Wait till you take some food."

She went out of the little bedroom, and presently stood face to face with a tall, dark, anxious-looking man, who exclaimed:

"She has recovered consciousness-I see it in your face!"

"She knows me, sir, but I have omitted nothing yet. And you, sir, must be cautious. One sight of your face would frighten her, I think, almost to death."

"I shall not intrude upon her yet, Lizette, but as soon as she can bear it, she must know the truth," he answered grimly.

Meanwhile, Nita lay with wide-open, wondering eyes. For days everything had been a blank, but now memory was returning with startling rapidity.

Lizette entered with a tray of delicate food.

"After you have eaten something you may talk a little," she said, and Nita ate with the relish of returning health.

"Lizette, do let me talk, for I am so much better," she coaxed. "You say I have been dreaming, but," blushing deeply, "was I not on the yacht? Was I not-married-to-Dorian?"

Lizette smiled a gracious assent, and then Nita said quickly:

"Why, then, did you call it all a dream?"

"Tell me your dreams, dearie," replied the maid taking the little hand and holding it gently in both her own.

"It was terrible, Lizette, if it was a dream. I thought there was a storm at night. You were frightened, and ran out of the cabin. You fell down, and I followed to catch you. But a great wave like a mountain rushed over the deck and swept us both into the sea. Lizette, how you tremble. It is terrible even to hear of such a dream, is it not?

"Oh, Lizette, how vivid it was for a dream! There we were struggling for life in the dark, tempestuous waves. When you fell you had caught at the rungs of a steamer-chair, and while you clutched it, I clung to your waist. Although I am a good swimmer, I could not help myself in so rough a sea, and it seemed as if death must soon be our portion-death, and it was so cruel to die like that when I had just been wedded to my lover. But we clung to hope, and the great waves tossed us hither and thither like feathers away from the yacht and toward our death, for we knew that no one had witnessed our accident, and even had that happened we could not have been saved in such a terrific storm."

"Oh, Miss Nita, you will make yourself worse talking so much!" cried Lizette nervously.

"But," continued Nita smilingly, "now I come to the best part of my dream. Very suddenly-and, oh! the gladness of that moment-the wild storm lulled, the thunder, lightning, and rain ceased, the black clouds parted overhead and silvery moonrays glimmered through. I seemed to hear your voice cry out in joy; then my nerves relaxed, my senses reeled, I seemed to fall from a dizzy height into the darkness of death. Oh, Lizette, how real and vivid it seems to me-those moments or hours of deadly peril in the dark sea, yet you say it was only a dream."

Lizette smoothed the wavy tresses back from the girl's brow with a trembling hand and answered gently:

"My dear young mistress, you seem so much better that I will not deceive you. It was no dream-it was terrible reality."

"How, Lizette? No dream? Then we were rescued by the people on the yacht after all. Thank Heaven! But Dorian, my Dorian, why does he not come to me?"

"Yes, we were rescued, Miss Nita, the moment you became unconscious. Just as the moon's ray pierced the gloom some yachtsmen near by saw us struggling in the water. They quickly rescued us, but the doctor on the yacht worked over you an hour before you showed any signs of life. Since then you have been ill and knew no one till now."

"How long, Lizette?"

"Oh, several days, miss," evasively.

"And I did not even recognize Dorian! How very, very strange. Why, Lizette, was he so ill they could not let him come to me? And is he better now?"

"Oh, of course he is better now."

"Lizette, how strange your voice sounds. Is it possible-- But no, no! do not tell me my-husband-died of his wound, or I shall go mad with grief!"

"He did not die, Miss Nita."

"Then why does he not come to me?"

And Nita made a movement as if to rise, but fell back upon the pillow exhausted.

"Oh, my dear young lady, please calm yourself, please try to bear what I have to tell you. Mr. Mountcastle is all right-yes, indeed, I hope and believe he is all right, but it is impossible for him to come to you just now because--"

She paused timorously.

"Because--" the young bride echoed with piercing anxiety, and then the maid blurted out with a bitter, stifled sob:

"Because it wasn't your husband's yacht that rescued us, but another man's. Oh, my dear, don't take it so to heart, please don't. Let us be thankful we are alive, and that some day you will be reunited to your dear husband again."

There was a blank silence of such terrible despair that it could find no outlet. Then Nita asked in

a low, sad voice:

"Then, Lizette, where are we now?"

"Oh, Miss Nita, can you bear it? The yacht that saved us brought us to a lonely island way up here in Fortune's Bay, hundreds of miles from New York."

Again there was a blank silence of sorrow and disappointment. Nita's heart ached with the pain of this strange separation from her husband.

They looked at each other, she and the faithful maid, and Lizette tried to smile, but it was a wretched failure. Her poor lips trembled with the effort to restrain a bursting sob, and Nita felt instinctively that she was keeping something back.

"Lizette, have you written to my husband?" Nita asked faintly.

"Yes, my dear lady."

"Then he will soon come for us, will he not?"

"I hope so."

"Lizette, how evasively you speak. You are hiding something dreadful from me, is it not so?"

"A mere trifle, my dearie, and you must be brave and bear it calmly when I tell you, for, of course, all will soon come right."

"Go on, for Heaven's sweet sake, Lizette. I think I can bear anything better than this awful suspense."

"Miss Nita, you know the gentleman that fought the duel with your husband, and they said was mortally wounded? It was on his yacht we came to Fortune's Bay. His men saved us."

"And he is dead, poor fellow!" Nita murmured, in a tone of profound pity and awe.

"No, but I wish he was," Lizette returned, with surprising vehemence. "Oh, my dearie, they thought at first he was killed, but, bless you, his wound was no more than a scratch hardly, only he fainted away so dead at first from the shock they thought he was gone. The worst is, that he lived at all, the wicked wretch!"

"Oh, Lizette, how can you be so unkind? I pity Donald Kayne."

"Pity Donald Kayne, Miss Nita-the worst enemy you have on earth unless it be that little cat, Azalea Courtney!"

"Yes, he called himself my enemy, Lizette, and yet I pity him."

"You're wasting your kind feelings, Miss Nita. Now where do you suppose you are this blessed moment?"

"On an island in Fortune's Bay, you said, Lizette."

"Yes, on the loneliest island in the bay, and shut up in a lonely old stone house far away from any but fishermen's huts, for nobody lives here only the roughest, poorest sort of people, and mighty few even of that sort!"

"But what does it matter, Lizette, since my husband will come soon and take us away?"

"Not while he thinks we are both drowned and dead."

"But you have written to tell him we are rescued."

"Yes, I have written, but I have not been able to bribe any one to post my letter yet. Oh, my poor little darling, don't you understand? We are prisoners!"

"Prisoners!" gasped the girl, horrified.

"Yes, Miss Nita, or perhaps I ought to say Mrs. Mountcastle. Would you like it better?"

"Yes, for it seems to bring me nearer to my darling husband," cried Nita, blushing warmly. Then her lip quivered. "Oh, why does Donald Kayne hold us prisoners?" she cried.

"That is very easy to answer, Mrs. Mountcastle. It is all about that emerald ring you are wearing. He says he will never let us go free from this house until you confess how you come to be wearing that serpent ring."

Nita groaned, and looked down with loathing eyes at the baleful jewel that hung loosely on her wasted hand.

"Lizette, how thin I have grown! I must have been ill some time."

"It is two weeks since your wedding-night, and we landed here nine or ten days ago."

"And Donald Kayne?"

"He is here with two people-an old fisherman and his wife-our jailers. We are closely watched and guarded, for the old people believe you are crazy. He has told them so. But, dearie, don't lose heart. Now that you are getting well we will watch our chances to escape."

"And you know, Lizette, my husband will be searching for us. He will be sure to come here. Love will show him the way."

"You forget that he thinks you were drowned that night, when the great waves washed us off the deck of his yacht."

"Yes, I forgot," sobbed Nita, with raining tears. "Oh, my darling, I shall never see you again!"

And for a few moments she wept in uncontrollable despair. Lizette, although almost heart-broken herself, tried to soothe her, and she began to catch at little straws of hope.

"Cannot we bribe those old people to let us escape? Oh, Lizette, I would give them my whole chest of gold for liberty!" she cried.

"Alas! I have already tried them, and failed. Kayne has them completely under his control. You will never get free unless you tell him that secret he wants to know. Oh, my dear young lady, do tell him-do tell him! for he wants to know so badly, and surely it cannot matter to you."

"Oh, Lizette, Lizette, you do not know-you cannot dream--"

Suddenly there came to her a wild temptation. Miser Farnham was dead. Captain Van Hise had told her so. What if she broke the oath of silence whose keeping was about to wreck her life? She need not fear his vengeance.

While these frenzied thoughts ran through Nita's mind Lizette walked restlessly over to the window, and leaning against the iron bars that ran across it, stared restlessly out over the blue bay dotted with fishing-boats and green islands.

Suddenly Lizette's pretty blue eyes grew bright and alert, and she strained them eagerly over the water. A few minutes of silence; then she bounded across the room to Nita, who, with her face bowed down, was lost in troubled thought. Stooping over the young girl, she lifted her up in both arms.

"Can you walk across to the window if I lead you, dear? I want to show you such a pretty sight."

She half-led, half-carried the weak girl, and pointed with a shaking finger out over the blue bay.

"God be praised, we shall escape!" she panted joyfully. "Look, darling, at that pretty yacht riding into harbor at this very island. Do you see her name?-Nita. Heaven has sent your husband to Fortune's Bay!"

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