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   Chapter 19 TREACHERY.

They Looked and Loved By Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller Characters: 9756

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Lizette could scarcely repress a cry of surprise, she was so startled by the sudden appearance of the sailor whose bronzed face and glittering eyes shone weirdly in the dim light outside the strong iron bars at the window. But at his warning she clapped her hand over her open mouth.

"Be quiet, please, miss," said the sailor. And as Lizette bent nearer, he continued in a low voice: "I am here to save you and your mistress, but if the people in the house should hear us we are lost. I have brought tools to wrench off these bars, and if your mistress will only come quietly with me all will be well."

"But who are you?" whispered the maid. "How did you know about us? Did you come from the yacht? Is it possible Mr. Mountcastle knows we are here?"

"Yes; he has found out everything, but he could not come himself. He is very ill, so he sent me. But excuse me, miss; we mustn't stop to talk. You must prepare your mistress to go while I wrench off these bars. Don't let her make any outcry, or the game will be up, for Rhodus and Kayne will be down upon us at the first sound."

Lizette knew that it was true, and she saw no cause to distrust the sailor, who seemed to be honest. With a heart full of joy she returned to her mistress, who was now stirring restlessly. Lizette bent over her and whispered:

"Wake, dearie, wake. We are going to escape from our prison."

But the influence of the opiate she had taken had dulled Nita's tortured brain. At Lizette's loving efforts to arouse her she only stared in a dull, uncomprehending way.

"It does not matter, for if she was fully awake she might be frightened," thought Lizette, and hurriedly dressed her mistress in the serge boating-suit she had worn on her wedding-night-the only gown she now possessed. She was simply quiescent and passive, like a little child only half-awake.

The sailor had now succeeded in removing the heavy iron bars with but slight noise, and he was leaning on the window-sill waiting with impatience.

"Do not wake her if you can avoid it. I can carry her in my arms," he called softly to Lizette.

Lizette gathered the passive form to her breast and bore it to the window. The man held out eager arms, and the dark head dropped unresistingly upon his shoulder. Lizette did not notice the keen thrill of joy that shook the sailor from head to foot as he clasped the precious burden.

"I will carry her down, and you must follow," he said gently. "Do not attempt to descend until I am safe at the bottom. The ladder is not very strong."

Slowly and carefully he bore his burden down the ladder, clasping her close to a heart that was throbbing quick and fast with triumph, while Lizette looked on with trembling suspense.

He reached the ground safely, then-was it accident or design?-a movement of his arm caused the ladder to slide from the window-sill, and fall with a dull thud to the ground!

Lizette, who had climbed upon the sill ready to step out, gave a stifled cry of dismay as she saw the ladder fall, and the sailor striding away with Nita, while a low laugh came back to her on the night wind. The deserted maid threw up her hands with a moan of despair.

An awful suspicion had rushed over her mind at the sound of the sailor's taunting laugh-a suspicion of treachery dark and dire. She had been duped, deceived! The sailor had not come from Dorian Mountcastle as he had falsely pretended.

Doubtless he was the paid tool of Donald Kayne, who, wishing to separate Nita from her only friend, had laid this cunning trap to carry out his purpose. And, thanks to her simple credulity, he had succeeded even more easily than he could have hoped. Here she was locked securely in this second-story room, for Mrs. Rhodus always turned the key on her prisoners at night, and yonder her young mistress was being borne away by the sailor into another cruel captivity uncheered by the sight of a friendly face.

Lizette was wild with fear and grief for her lovely mistress. It seemed to her she had betrayed Nita to some fearful fate. She hated herself for her dreadful mistake, and, frantic with grief, she exclaimed:

"I will follow or die!"

Springing upon the broad window-sill, she let herself down first by her hands, then dropped as gently as she could to the ground.

Then a shriek of uncontrollable pain rent the air. In her heavy fall she had twisted or broken one of her ankles.

The pain was so excruciating that after one moment of supreme agony, she trembled all over, then relapsed into unconsciousness.

* * *

It was, indeed, Dorian Mountcastle's yacht that had come into harbor at Fortune's Bay. The Reverend Mr. Irwin had been put ashore more than a week previous and sent back to New York with a full purse of gold and a new stock of experience. Captain Van Hise and the doctor had remained by Dorian, and helped him pull thro

ugh his tedious illness.

He was now slowly convalescing, but there were two things that greatly retarded his recovery. One was a deep and silent remorse over the death of Donald Kayne, whom he had last seen stretched apparently dead upon the sands at Pirate Beach. The other cause was anxiety over Nita, about whom the surgeon still kept up the little fiction of sea-sickness.

One of Dorian's first conscious requests on hearing the story of his bride's illness was that they should put into land so that Nita might get well.

"And then we will continue our journey on land, for although I enjoy yachting very much myself, I do not wish for my poor little wife to suffer from the agonies of sea-sickness," he said tenderly.

So by one of the accidents of fate that we call blind chance the Nita was steered into Fortune's Bay.

"And what the deuce shall we do now? He's asking for her all the time, and mad with impatience for a sight of her face," groaned Van Hise to the doctor that night when they were smoking together upon deck. The hour was late, nearing midnight, and the surgeon yawned sleepily.

"I shall keep up the fiction till to-morrow," he said; "then I shall have to invent something else, for this one will not serve my purpose any longer. But only Heaven knows how I am going to get out of this trouble. Tell him that his bride is drowned I cannot, dare not, for he would either die or go mad from the shock in his present weak condition. Well, I will go and have a good-night look at him and turn in and sleep on it."

"Think I'll go to bed, too," said the captain.

But he lingered a moment with his weed, silently drinking in the beauty of the summer night, then suddenly concluded to have a stroll upon the shore before he retired.

"Just to stretch my legs, for, by Jove! I prefer the land to the deck," he muttered, as he strode up the gang-plank and felt his feet on terra firma.

The doctor found Dorian awake and restless, tormented by the yearning desire for Nita's presence.

"Doc, you must let her come to me to-morrow. I cannot bear this separation any longer!" he cried with impatient pain.

"Didn't I tell you that Mrs. Mountcastle was too weak to leave her berth?"

"Then I will go to her!" cried Dorian.

"You are also too weak to walk," replied his friend.

"Then I will be carried to her berth. I must see her for myself. I fear that she is worse than you tell me."

"You are exciting yourself, Dorian, in a manner that I fear may bring on a relapse of your sickness. And your wound is barely healed, remember. Come, curb this impatience, and to-morrow things may be more to your liking. But now I must give you a sedative, or you will not sleep to-night, and that will be very bad for you."

Dorian was glad to take the sedative that promised oblivion from vexing thoughts. He swallowed it meekly, and bade the surgeon good night. He was well enough now so that they did not have to watch him at night.

The dim flame of the lowered lamp cast a pale gleam on the wan face, as he lay, with half-shut eyes, trying vainly to sleep, for the thought of his young bride, the intense, overpowering yearning to see her again, banished repose.

Was it the sound of the lapping waves that drowned a light, quick footstep? He heard nothing, but suddenly there was a flutter as of woman's robes beside him-some one falling on her knees, stretching out tender arms to clasp his neck.

His thoughts had taken embodied shape-Nita's self was here, her head on his breast, her kisses burning on his lips! Dorian clasped his love with passionate tenderness, and kissed her lips over and over in the mad joy of seeing her again. Low murmurs of love escaped their lips, between sweet caresses. He comprehended that her yearning for him had matched his for her. Weak and ill as she was, she had eluded her watchers and sought his side.

"Oh, my love, my darling, how pale and thin you are! You have suffered greatly," he whispered.

"And you, too, love," she murmured. "You have suffered also, have you not? But you will get well, now that I have come back to you, my husband! Oh, how thankful I am I did not perish in the gloomy sea that dark night when I was swept into the water with Lizette. Now I will stay by you and nurse you while you get strong again. Oh, Dorian, how I love you! Hold me tight, darling; do not let any one take me away from you!"

They were wild with joy over their reunion, and to neither one came the slightest presentiment of the cruel truth-that these were parting as well as greeting kisses.

Something put out the dim flame of the lamp, and there was the sound of a heavy, creaking footstep in the room. The next moment Nita was torn rudely from her husband's arms, and her head and face muffled in something dark and heavy, and she was borne swiftly away from the yacht.

* * *

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