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   Chapter 22 PEPITA!

They Looked and Loved By Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller Characters: 5731

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Donald Kayne did not hear the old woman's shriek of joy, nor see Jack Dineheart's craft. He flung along the sands with a long, striding step, his heart seething with rage and pain, and, entering the grounds at Gray Gables, sought a seat among the thick shrubberies to muse undisturbed over his troubles.

The startling disappearance of Nita from the Rhodus house had filled him with vague alarm and unowned remorse. He knew that she was not with Dorian, and also knew that the bereaved young husband had been told that his young bride was dead.

He had heard, too, while in hiding on the island, that grave fears were entertained for Dorian's reason. He had been terribly shocked the morning after Nita's disappearance when poor Lizette had been found moaning upon the ground, where she had fallen from the window. The maid's ankle had sustained a dreadful sprain, and she had several bruises of a very painful character. She was carried into the house and carefully attended, but it was several hours before she could tell how her accident had happened.

Donald Kayne believed at first that it must have been an emissary from Dorian who had carried Nita away, but the careful inquiries made afterward revealed the fact that she was not upon the yacht.

The guilty man who, in imprisoning Nita, had not intended that any harm should come to her, was confronted by the terrible mystery of Nita's betrayal into some unknown and awful fate. Cruelly disappointed and angry as he had been over Nita's refusal to gratify his curiosity, he could not rid himself of the impression that it was not mere girlish perversity on her part.

He was haunted by the look in Nita's eyes the night when he had knelt at her feet, begging her to confess the truth. He had told the girl he was her enemy, and that he would persecute her, but he had not dreamed of anything like this.

He had promised Azalea to return and report his luck with old Meg, but he felt averse to seeking the pretty girl yet, so he remained in the old garden-chair, with his head bowed despondingly on his hand, while darkness fell round him, and up at the old stone house the windows began to glow with lights, while from the open windows of the parlor Azalea Courtney's voice broke upon the air in a song.

Azalea's voice was clear, sweet, and well-trained, and she had chosen a sweet and melancholy strain that blended fittingly with the pensive twilight hour:

"'There never was a love like mine,

For since my darling went away

There has not been a night or day,

Through winter's snow or summer's shine,

But he is with me

Constantly!'"

The pathetic words sank deep into the tortured heart of the man, listening out in the dusk and dew, with the murmur of the sea in his ears and the heavy perfume of flowers all around. He pressed his heavy brow against the back of his sea

t, murmuring over the words:

"'There never was a love like mine!'"

Azalea stopped singing, but played on in dreamy mood a low, sad nocturne.

Suddenly, through the stillness of the garden, a faint sound reached his ear-a sound like a human sigh, then:

"Donald!"

With a start and a cry he lifted his head.

"Donald," was breathed tremulously upon the air again.

But there was no one near. Thrilling with awe, he glared into the darkness. The night was dark, and there in the shade of the tall firs and shrubberies, the shadows were dense. He could barely distinguish the outlines of his own hand. And yet as he gazed the voice called him again, softly, tenderly, beseechingly:

"Donald!"

"Who is there? Who calls?" he asked eagerly, and no voice replied, but out of the darkness there began to form before him at a little distance a faint, silvery something like a cloud taking shape and form. It grew more and more dense until it assumed the form of a woman-a mist-woman, shadowy, faint, yet luminous with a soft, unearthly glow, and beautiful as an angel with spiritual face, and slender, beckoning hands.

A strange spell came over the gazer, a spell of tender awe and ineffable peace. He spoke, and his voice was low and soft, like a sigh of love:

"Pepita."

For a moment the silvery mist wavered there in its wondrous beauty before him; then, all at once, it began to move backward from him with a floating movement of ineffable grace, the dark, solemn eyes still fixed on his, while the beckoning hand and etherial voice both breathed:

"Come!"

Donald Kayne arose like one in a dream, and followed the floating mist on and on through winding paths overgrown here and there with grass and weeds, toward the house, blundering on in a dazed way like a drunken man, tearing his hands upon thorny, outstretched branches of roses, shaking down splatters of dew that wet his face and hair.

The radiant shape was leading him on and on toward the house, and the nearer they came the more faint and indistinct it grew.

At last-when close to the old gray stone wall, and when his outstretched hands almost touched it-the phantom shape moved straight against the wall and melted into thin air like a bubble.

Donald Kayne, with a cry of agony, clutched at the fading form, and fell forward heavily against the wall, striking his temple with resounding force. The blow stunned him and flung him backward, half-unconscious upon the grass. He did not know that he lay there for an hour ere he struggled back to thought and memory.

He struggled up to his feet and gazed at the blank wall, so chill and dark, where the spirit-form had disappeared.

"I have seen a ghost," he shuddered. "It was Pepita in all her beauty. Yet I saw through and beyond her the trees and flowers. She is dead, my Pepita, I know it at last!"

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