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   Chapter 20 A GHOST ON BOARD SHIP.

They Looked and Loved By Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller Characters: 6292

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Quite close to the yacht Nita was moored a trimly built, compact little sailing vessel of which Jack Dineheart, the sailor, was master. It was toward this little bark that he bore Nita after his daring exploit in kidnaping her from the Rhodus house.

He had lain at anchor near the island two days, and was getting ready to sail that night when, upon starting on an errand to the house of Fisherman Rhodus, he had been startled by seeing Nita's face behind the barred window as she watched her husband's yacht in the bay with sorrowful eyes of love and longing.

After his brief, angry conversation with the girl, Jack Dineheart had forgotten all about his errand, and rushed away toward the yacht with murder in his heart toward Dorian Mountcastle.

Upon nearing it, and seeing several men upon her deck, his wrath became tempered with prudence, and he retreated toward his own vessel, where, after fortifying himself with several glasses of liquor, he concocted the scheme of kidnaping the imprisoned girl and carrying her to sea with him, and perhaps back to Pirate Beach to the grim guardianship of his mother, old Meg Dineheart, the fortune-teller.

Laughing in fiendish glee at the discomfiture of the deceived Lizette, the sailor bore Nita away in his strong arms, his heart leaping with joy.

In the old cabin by the seaside at Pirate Beach, Jack Dineheart had watched a lovely, somber-eyed little child budding into exquisite girlhood, and when she was barely fourteen had sought her for his bride. Her proud refusal had been followed by a year of such bitter persecution on the part of himself and his witchlike mother, that at fifteen Nita had fled from them to the great metropolis where her valiant struggle to earn her bread had ended three years later in Central Park, and she had given her hand in marriage to the old miser for the means of saving herself from starvation or suicide.

And now she had fallen once more into the hands of her sailor-lover, who, loving her for her beauty, and hating her for her scorn, had vowed to punish her by parting her forever from her husband.

But as he hurried on in the clear moonlight with his burden the slight form of Nita began to weigh heavily in his arms.

So he laid Nita, who still seemed fast asleep, down upon the ground a few moments, and, turning his gaze from her, began to scrutinize the sky and the sea for auguries of a successful voyage.

And lying there alone in the cool night air, Nita suddenly recovered full consciousness of herself and her surroundings, although she could not remember how she had come to be there.

Lifting her head and gazing about her in surprise, she saw before her the ocean, and near at hand the yacht of her husband. Behind her, absorbed for the moment in his scrutiny of the sky, was Jack Dineheart.

Fear and hope combined lent her a new, strange power. Struggling to her feet, Nita darted noiselessly forward toward the yacht.

Jack Dineheart, however, discovered her flight just before she reached the yacht. Furious with rage, he followed, and, finding every one asleep, audaciously penetrated to Dorian's cabin an

d dragged the hapless girl from the arms of her husband.

Unheeding the loud cry that burst from Dorian's lips, he escaped safely to his own vessel, and a few minutes later it left its moorings in the harbor, and set sail for Pirate Beach.

Dorian Mountcastle was again bereft of his bride, and Nita was in the power of a relentless lover whose love was even more dangerous than his enmity.

Captain Van Hise, returning from his moonlight stroll upon the land, saw the graceful little bark gliding out upon the ocean, with no thought that she bore Nita away. He believed that Nita was dead, and in his manly, honest heart there was a ceaseless sorrow over her untimely death.

He stepped on the deserted deck, where all was so still and calm, and his vigorous walk having driven away all his sleepy feelings, he stole softly to Dorian's berth, fancying he might be awake and restless and glad of company. All was dark and still, but at the sound of his footstep Dorian spoke:

"Is that you Van Hise? Make a light, please."

The captain obeyed; then asked who had put his light out.

Dorian answered in a strangely excited voice:

"Nita was here with me a few moments, and I fancy she must have stolen away from Lizette, for suddenly, as I held her to my heart and kissed her, the light went out and some one dragged her away from my arms, and in spite of my outcry carried her off in dead silence. It must have been Lizette, of course, but her behavior was very rude, and so I shall tell her to-morrow."

"My God!" exclaimed Van Hise, his face white, his eyes staring. A shudder shook him from head to foot; then he exclaimed uneasily:

"My friend, you have been dreaming!"

"A very blissful dream, although, alas! too brief," Dorian answered, with a smile of languid rapture. "My wife was here, kissed me, and talked to me for a few happy moments before the maid dragged her away. To-morrow I must see her again. Oh, Van Hise, I am so happy that I have seen my darling again I do not think I shall sleep a wink to-night!"

Van Hise sat down, trembling, his face dead white.

"You must have been asleep," he said decidedly.

"No, I have not slept to-night. Doc was down and gave me a sedative, but it seemed only a few minutes later that Nita came to me, and since Lizette took her away I've been lying here in a happy waking dream."

The soldier repressed a groan, and thought:

"He has dreamed the whole thing, or he has seen poor Nita's wraith. I should not like the seamen to know it, for only last night they were talking together, and I heard them say that to see a ghost on board ship was a sign of shipwreck. Decidedly they must not know of this, not even the good captain, or they might desert the yacht in a body!"

He waited until Dorian seemed to fall into a light doze; then went and woke up the surgeon to tell him the strange happening.

"Oh, pooh! it was no ghost-only a vision evoked by his morphine pill. He can be told to-morrow, if he persists in his fancy, that Nita's imprudence to-night has given her a relapse, and that will afford us a new excuse," replied the clever surgeon.

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