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   Chapter 31 LIZETTE A PRISONER.

They Looked and Loved By Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller Characters: 7898

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Donald Kayne had told Nita the simple truth when he said that Lizette's sprained ankle was so severe that she had been obliged to remain for long months at Fortune's Bay. But, to do him justice, he had made every possible arrangement for her comfort and happiness during her long stay at the Rhodus house.

He had provided liberally for every luxury she might desire, sent her a stock of books to read, and of materials for fancy-work, and, having thus provided for her comfort, he made one private stipulation with Fisherman Rhodus and his wife. This condition was that any letters Lizette might write should not be posted, although when she became well enough no embargo was to be placed on her liberty. She was to be permitted to leave the island and return home.

But long and weary were the months before the poor maid could walk, or even stand, upon her foot again. And harrowing was her anxiety over the fate of her young mistress, whom she had last seen borne away in the arms of the sailor. She loaded herself with reproaches for her own credulity that had betrayed Nita into the power of her enemy.

But soon there came to her a letter from Pirate Beach that set her mind at rest. Donald Kayne, after meeting Nita, had thought kindly of poor Lizette's anxiety, and himself wrote her a short letter informing her that the dreaded sailor had indeed kept his promise of returning her mistress to her friends, and that Nita had now gone abroad with the Courtneys, to be absent for an indefinite period.

Lizette's mind thus happily set at rest, she became more cheerful under her great affliction, and within the next three months Jack Dineheart made his appearance at the Rhodus house and humbly begged her pardon for the accident he had caused.

Jack was a good-looking specimen of a sailor, and could be very ingratiating when he chose. He was an intimate friend of the Rhodus family, and it pleased him to make a friend of the pretty, plaintive maid in the lonely old prisonlike house.

He swore to her solemnly that the fall of the ladder had been an accident, but fearing it had made enough noise to awaken the family, he had decided not to risk returning for her lest he should imperil the safety of her mistress. His story was so plausible that Lizette could not refuse to believe it, especially as Donald Kayne corroborated Jack's story that Nita had been returned to her friends.

So pretty Lizette readily forgave the smooth-tongued sailor who, in common with his craft, had the knack of winning his way to a woman's heart.

Jack was often at the island that winter, and when he could overcome the gruffness he often affected, and leave liquor alone, he was always a welcome guest at the Rhodus house.

He even tried to make love in a rough way to the pretty creature who sat so helplessly in the great arm-chair with her wool-knitting in her lap, and had to be waited on by everybody.

Lizette was not averse to his attentions. They lent a little spiciness to the dull days, and so she let a little coquetry creep into her looks and words, just a little kittenish mischief that amused them both, and made old Rhodus and his wife wag their gray heads knowingly, as if to say:

"That will be a match."

In the spring days, when Lizette's sprain began to mend, she promised Jack that on his next trip she would go home with him to Pirate Beach.

"For I took your mistress safely back there, and I sha'n't feel right until I deliver you safe, too," he said.

So it happened that Lizette sailed with him in that golden June time back to Pirate Beach, her heart full of joy at the thought of a reunion with her beloved Miss Nita.

"But somehow, Lizette, I feel like you may be disappointed. I don't believe she has ever come home from Europe yet," Jack said to her, as they sat together on deck that twilight hour of the tenth of June, as they were nearing the familiar shores of New Jersey. "Tell you what,

old girl, suppose we don't land at home unless she is up at Gray Gables. We'll drop anchor near the beach and I'll go over to mom and see if the folks are back. If they are not we can go on up to New York and have a lark. You said there was some one there you wanted to see, didn't you?"

"Yes, if they're not dead, for I've written and written and got no answer," returned Lizette, with an anxious look in her soft-blue eyes. So it happened that Jack's bark came to anchor near the shore, and Jack rowed over alone in the twilight to seek his mother.

Lizette waited a while on deck, but as the wind freshened and the waves began to put on white-caps, she grew nervous and went into the tiny cabin to talk to the woman who did the cooking and mending for the very small crew.

Presently the woman went off to attend to some small duty, and then the maid sat down by the light with a book and began to read to pass the time away.

She had just reached a very thrilling point in her novel when a stumbling step made her look up, and-Jack Dineheart was by her side.

"Oh, Jack, what is it?" cried the young woman, in dismay, for as he sank into a seat by her side she saw that his face was ashy white, his eyes wild, his frame trembling.

"It is nothing, you foolish girl, nothing. Go get me a drink of whisky," he answered hoarsely, and put up his hand to shield his face from her inquisitive gaze.

Then, indeed, a shudder ran through all her frame, and she cried in sickening terror:

"Oh, Jack, what have you been doing? There is blood on your hand-wet blood-and blood on your sleeve!"

With a frightened oath the man looked, and found her words were true. His hand was red with blood, and so was his light coat-sleeve.

For a minute they gazed at each other in startled silence. His eyes were wolfish-hers frightened, questioning. A moment, and he broke through the spell that held him, with an uneasy laugh.

"Good Lud! don't look so scared," he cried roughly. "I'll tell you the truth, Lizette. My arm's hurt-a shark bit at me in the little boat, and I had a tussle to get away. I didn't mean to tell, only you saw the blood. Now don't tell any one, will you? See here, Lizette, I won't allow any tattling"-roughly. "I'll go wash the blood off and get a drink; and you'll hold your tongue, you hear?"

"Very well, Jack," Lizette answered, with dignity, offended by his rough, menacing manner; then she caught at his coat as he was turning to go, and asked eagerly:

"But, Miss Nita, Jack? Is she up there at Gray Gables, or not?"

"No, she has never come back from Europe, so we will go on to New York, as we planned, and have a jolly good time; but, mind, Lizette, not a word about the shark and the blood, or I'll cut off the end of your tongue!" and Jack wrenched himself free, and disappeared.

Lizette wept with disappointment because she should not see her mistress yet.

"But I'll spend a few hours in New York, then go back to Pirate Beach and see Mrs. Hill, and find out all about Miss Nita," she thought, as she threw herself on her bunk, and sobbed herself to sleep.

When she awoke again she found herself a prisoner in a low den by the river-side in New York, guarded by a fiendish-looking old woman, who thrust some coarse food inside the door, and disappeared without answering a word to her imploring questions. Jack Dineheart was nowhere to be seen, but in a few days Lizette was horrified to find that his mother had taken the place of the mute attendant.

"Meg Dineheart, what does this mean?" she demanded angrily, but with a jeering laugh Meg vanished, and she heard the key grate harshly in the lock of the door.

"Oh, what is the mystery of this strange persecution?" wondered the half-maddened prisoner, forebodingly, but all her fears for the future did not approach the reality of the awful fate that hung suspended over her head ready to fall and destroy her very life.

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