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They Looked and Loved By Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller Characters: 9831

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Through Azalea Courtney's revelations the elopement of Dorian Mountcastle and Nita Farnham had become the sensation of the hour, and innumerable newspaper paragraphs had chronicled the facts of the duel, the death of Donald Kayne, the elopement of the young lovers on the yacht. And then Irwin returned with the story of the tragedy of Nita's loss at sea with her maid Lizette.

It was a tragedy so full of woe that it thrilled every heart that read it with sympathy and sorrow. Even the Courtneys, who hated the girl, grew pale as they realized how soon Nita's happiness had come to an end, and that Dorian was so terribly bereft of his love.

But into the ward of Bellevue, where Miser Farnham lay barely alive, so terribly had he been hurt in the railway accident, and so slight were his chances for life, penetrated no tidings from the outer world. None there knew anything of the beautiful ward who had eloped with her lover the very night of the accident. Charles Farnham was supposed to be friendless and poor, save for some miserly savings of whose hiding-place none had any knowledge. No one took any interest in his fate except the doctors and nurses at Bellevue, and they all believed that it was impossible that he should recover from his internal injuries. He was alive and little more. He had never uttered a conscious word since the accident.

As for the Courtneys, they were still at Gray Gables, carrying out their policy of masterly inaction. The flight of Nita and the condition of the miser made no difference to them. A lawyer, acting under instructions received from Farnham previous to the accident, was entrusted with the conduct of expenses incident to the housekeeping at Gray Gables. Everything went on like clock-work, except that the good housekeeper, Mrs. Hill, who had grown to love her young mistress so dearly, carried always a sad face and aching heart for poor Nita's tragic fate.

Weeks flew past, and it would have been very lonely at Gray Gables but that the Courtneys invited some city friends for a few weeks, and got through the July days with some bathing, dressing, boating, and dancing, not keeping up any pretense of mourning over Nita's supposed death.

Meg Dineheart, the old fortune-teller, still prowled about the beach like a bird of evil omen, and had twice been driven ignominiously out of Gray Gables with threats of arrest if she ever showed her face there again.

To tell the truth, Meg was slyly seeking for Nita's chest of gold that Lizette had carefully hidden in the closet of her mistress, but she found such lynx eyes watching her whenever she ventured into the old stone mansion that she almost despaired of success.

During the summer, Meg had made two trips to New York to see Miser Farnham at the hospital, but she got no good out of these visits. He still lingered in that strange, comatose condition, taking no notice of anything, and yet improving slowly but appreciably, so the nurses said, until they began to believe that he would really get well again.

"The old wretch! I wish he would die, then maybe Jack and me would get the handling of all that money if only we knew where it was hid," muttered Meg angrily, and she was in no wise pleased to learn that he was likely to recover.

She was very anxious for her son Jack to return from his last trip to sea, for he had been away several months, and she was eager to know what he would say to the happenings at Pirate Beach since he went away, the return and death of Nita, whom he had wished to marry, and the accident to the miser, whose gold both mother and son greedily coveted.

New York had another sensation the middle of August when Donald Kayne, the millionaire, who was believed to have been killed in the duel with Dorian Mountcastle returned, alive and well, to the city in his own yacht.

"It was all a mistake, the report of my death. My antagonist was much more seriously wounded than myself, and I have heard had a hard tussle for life," he told his friends carelessly.

Yet a strange change had come over Donald Kayne. Always nervous and restless, his friends observed that he was now more so than ever before. He veered from place to place. He could hardly be seen at his club any more. And no one had any news of Dorian Mountcastle's whereabouts until received through him.

"My yacht stayed a few days at Fortune's Bay," he said. "While there I heard that Dorian Mountcastle's yacht had been there before me. Dorian had been recovering slowly from the wound I gave him, and he had not been told of the tragic death of his wife. When it could be kept from him no longer the truth was broken to him gently, but it almost bereft him of reason. The last I heard of him was that his friends had taken him abroad for a year to recuperate his health."

He went down to Pirate Beach to see the Courtneys, who were very gracious. Azalea had almost given

up all hope of ever winning Dorian, and she tried all her fascinations on Donald Kayne.

But he was cold, taciturn and moody, and had no interest in anything except the mystery that had brought him to Pirate Beach-the mystery of Nita Farnham's possession of the serpent ring. But in spite of Azalea's efforts she had nothing to tell him, beyond what she had written him before the duel.

"And yet, I believe," she said, "that the old fortune-teller, who lives in an old boat-cabin down the beach, knows more about Nita than the most of us. I have talked with her, and she is very mysterious. She would neither admit nor deny any knowledge of Nita, but if I had not been too poor to bribe her I believe she would have given me some information."

Donald Kayne sought Meg Dineheart at sunset, and found her standing alone in the strange purple glow by the sea, a weird, witchlike figure, with elf-locks streaming on the breeze, while she shaded her eyes with her hand and strained her gaze across the darkening waters, watching, as she was always watching now, for her son's bark to come sailing home.

She turned upon the intruder with a curse, but Azalea had been right in believing that gold would loosen the old harpy's tongue.

Kayne soon learned that Nita had been reared at Pirate Beach by the old fortune-teller, until at the age of fifteen she had run away to make her own living at the metropolis.

"What is the girl to you?" asked Donald Kayne, but she leered and refused to reply.

"And the serpent ring she wore? I will make your fortune, old woman, if you will tell me how Nita Farnham came by that ring," he exclaimed eagerly.

Bitterly did Meg regret that she could not gratify his curiosity.

"I know nothing of the ring, except that I saw it on Nita's hand before she went away on Mountcastle's yacht. Stay-you say there is but one ring like it in the world? Then I saw the same ring more than fourteen years ago on another woman's hand."

"You saw her? Where? Where, woman?" he cried in fierce excitement.

The old witch peered curiously into the face of her interlocutor. Donald Kayne's face was wild and haggard. Unconsciously to himself, in his wild excitement, he stretched out his hand and clutched the woman's shoulder in a grasp that was painful.

"Speak!" he uttered hoarsely; "speak this instant, and tell me when and where you saw the woman with the serpent ring. Why are you so dumb when you see how impatient I am! Answer before I throttle you!"

But with a ghastly grin Meg writhed herself out of his grasp and sneered:

"That secret is worth gold to me!"

"Harpy," he cried, and thrust his hands into his pockets, but withdrew them disappointed. He had already given her all the money about him. He tore the watch from his pocket, the ring from his hand, and flung them at her feet.

"Take these, and speak!" he cried, but Meg spurned them with her foot.

"It is not enough! Besides, I do not want jewels, but money!"

"You shall have money to-morrow. But do not keep me waiting, I implore you! I am mad, mad for the clue you can give me. Speak now, for sweet pity's sake! Tell me all you know, and if it is worth anything to me, I will reward you richly."

But the woman began to realize that her knowledge was valuable, and decided to sell it dearly.

"The gold first!" she cried. "You are a stranger to me, and if I told you the secret first you might go away and never pay me!"

Vainly he entreated and implored, promising money upon the morrow, but Meg was immovable. She was insensible to the pitiful anxiety of his haggard face. She obstinately refused his prayer, mocking at his impatience.

Donald Kayne, mad with impatient wrath, lifted his hand and struck her lightly across the mouth.

"Take that, you devil!" he cried hoarsely, and with a shriek of rage Meg sprung at him with a knife drawn.

"I will kill you!" she hissed, with savage fury.

But Donald Kayne was more than a match for the tigress, and soon disarmed her, although in the struggle he received a wound in the hand.

He flung the knife into the sea, and wrapped his handkerchief about the wound, while she stood at a little distance watching him with glowering eyes.

But his heart sank as he realized that his imprudence had defeated his own object, and that he might never be able to wrest from her the longed-for secret. But there was no present help for it, and he hurried from her along the beach toward Gray Gables.

Meg shook her fist after him, and muttered anathemas upon him until he was almost out of sight; then turned her eyes again upon the sea, where the last fading rays of sunset lingered in radiant light.

A sudden cry of joy shrilled over her lips. Across the water, in clear sight, was riding a trimly built little sailing craft, that had a very familiar look to her old eyes.

"My son's bark!" she shrieked joyfully.

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