Alex. McVeigh Miller
They Looked and Loved; Or, Won by Faith


But although she was strong and wiry, her lean frame soon weakened under the vigorous onslaught of her young and agile foe, and the struggle soon ended, for Lizette adroitly tripped her up, and she fell heavily, her head striking the corner of the iron-bound chest with a loud thud.

Then the maid turned to kneel down by her unconscious mistress. Nita lay motionless, but when Lizette put her ear against the girl's heart she was rejoiced to find that it was still throbbing faintly.

"Poor darling, that old fiend didn't quite kill her!" she cried joyfully, and set to work to revive her hapless mistress.

But Nita came back to life very slowly, and it was not until her wet garments were all removed and she was laid in her bed, that she opened a pair of languid dark eyes and met the affectionate gaze of the anxious maid.

"What has happened?" she breathed faintly, and Lizette explained, softening the whole affair as much as she could, not to excite the patient.

"You saved my life, Lizette," cried Nita gratefully. Then she shuddered at perceiving the unconscious form of the old fortune-teller.

"I'll see how much she's hurt now; I have been tending to you all this time," said the maid. "I don't suppose she's dead, but there's an awful cut on the side of her head. She will go to prison for this if she lives—oh, Lordy!" as the apparently dead woman suddenly opened her dazed eyes and lifted up her grizzled head. Lizette sprang to the door, and locked it.

"You don't get out of here except to go to prison, old woman," she observed, then brought water and sponges and bathed and bandaged the wounded head. Then she gave Meg a drink of cordial, and said:

"You're all right now. The cut ain't as bad as I thought at first. Well, now I'm going to send for an officer and hand you over on a charge of attempted robbery and murder."

The hag sprang to her feet, her sullen face ghastly in the dim light, her eyes lurid with hate.

"You shall not send me to prison," she hissed savagely.

"You will see!" cried the maid, stretching out her hand to the bell.

Meg's skinny, upraised arm arrested the movement.

"Wait. See what your mistress will say," she snarled, and, moving to the side of the bed, she bent down and whispered sharply for several minutes in Nita's ear.

A low cry of horror came from the bed, and the old harpy moved aside, muttering significantly:

"I knew when I told you that, you would let me go free. Indeed, I did not mean to touch you if I could get the gold without—but you took me by surprise."

Lizette looked at her mistress for orders.

"Miss Nita, you surely won't let the old hag escape?" she cried.

"Yes, open the door," Nita cried faintly, shudderingly.

"But, Miss Nita–"

"Let the woman go!" Nita repeated, and the maid reluctantly obeyed. Then Nita said faintly:

"Lizette, I am already your debtor for my life, and indeed you will find me grateful. Do me one more kindness. Keep the secret of this terrible adventure locked forever in your breast unless I give you leave to speak."

"Oh, Miss Nita, is it best to shield that old wretch from justice? She may come back again and carry off all your gold, and kill you, too."

"No, Lizette, she has sworn never to attempt it again, and you must keep it a secret. Gather up the gold, put it back in the chest, and lock it carefully away. But first take some for yourself."

"Oh, Miss Nita, I don't want any reward for saving your life."

"But I insist," murmured Nita sweetly. "Take five hundred dollars."

She saw the young woman's eyes grow suddenly eager.

"God bless you, Miss Nita. It means so much to me—oh, you can't think the good I can do with just two hundred dollars. I will take that much, no more, if you please, and, dear Miss Nita, I'll love you with every drop of my heart's blood to the end of my life for this. Oh, I will tell you all some day, my lady," and Lizette, sobbing like a little child, kissed Nita's white hand. Then she locked and carefully put away the chest of gold.

"For no one else must find out that you have such a treasure in this room," she said cautiously.

Then Nita sighed wearily:

"Oh, Lizette, I feel so tired and ill. My arms ache with pain, my whole body is stiff and sore. I should like to go to sleep, but first you must go down-stairs and bring me news of Dorian Mountcastle—if he is dead or alive, for surely the doctor must have come by this time."

CHAPTER V.

A PLOT TO WIN A LOVER

Mrs. Courtney, sitting at a desk in her own room the morning after the arrival at Pirate Beach, was busy writing a letter to her daughter, who had been absent from New York when Miser Farnham had called at her lodgings and electrified her with the welcome offer to become the chaperon of his beautiful ward.

After acquainting her daughter with these facts and the later ones of the night's happenings, Mrs. Courtney added:

"Now, prepare for a joyful surprise, my dear Azalea. A happy fate has thrown Dorian Mountcastle across your path again. It is he whom Miss Farnham so romantically saved, and although he has a mysterious wound in the side which will cause several weeks of confinement, the doctor thinks he can pull him safely through. Of course, I shall nurse him assiduously, and I want you to drop everything and come home. That girl is quite ill to-day, feverish and delirious from her exposure last night. Before she is well enough to come down and see Dorian Mountcastle, you will have a chance to cut her out with him. Our former acquaintance will be to your advantage, too, for there is some secrecy about Miss Farnham's antecedents that I don't at all approve. Well, if you can only secure the prize, we can soon drop this other affair; so come quickly, my dear daughter, for I know your heart seconds my wishes in this matter."

It was barely twenty-four hours later that Nita's maid said to her mistress, who was still too ill to leave her bed:

"Mrs. Courtney's daughter, Miss Azalea, came to-day."

"Is she pretty?" asked Nita—always a girl's first question about another one.

"She is a little thing with blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and golden hair. The housekeeper was just telling me that these Courtneys used to be grand rich people, and that they are old friends of this Mr. Dorian Mountcastle."

"Old friends," murmured the invalid, and her heart gave an inexplicable throb of pain.

"And," continued Lizette, "Mrs. Hill says Mrs. Courtney is perfectly devoted to the young man, and just takes the nursing right out of her hands."

Nita smiled a little contemptuously, for Mrs. Courtney had made her but two formal visits, into both of which she had infused a sarcastic disapproval of the girl's nocturnal wandering.

"Oh, Mrs. Courtney, it was an irresistible impulse stronger than myself that led me out. Indeed, I think God sent me to save Mr. Mountcastle's life," the girl had cried reverently.

Mrs. Courtney had smiled in a sort of cold derision.

"Never go out alone like that again. I would never forgive my daughter, Azalea, for doing anything so highly improper," she had replied stiffly.

And now Azalea had arrived upon the scene, and the housekeeper had bluntly told Lizette that the lady was preparing to throw her pretty daughter at the young man's head.

"But it won't work, for he's always talking about Miss Farnham, and begging to see her to thank her for her bravery. He told me he took her for a real angel when he first opened his eyes down there by the water and saw her face!" cried Mrs. Hill, and Lizette returned:

"And when Miss Nita was delirious last night, she kept calling his name: 'Dorian, Dorian, Dorian,' like they were old acquaintances. I think myself, it's a case of love at first sight on both sides."

"And so do I, Lizette."
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