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ͣĪɣȿ˾2020-09-23 08:35:38




“Did—was Lord Druce alone? Was he accompanied by a lady?” Trafford asked in a thick voice.“What makes you think that?” she said.

“And I am very fond of him,” said Esmeralda. “I would do anything to please him.”“Ah!” Taffy drew a long breath of disappointment. “Nothing—nothing from Ralda, I s’pose?” he added in an off-hand way.“No,” assented Trafford. “What place is this?”

“It wasn’t awful rot—all of it,” said Esmeralda, looking down at the pattern she was tracing in the sand with her foot. “You didn’t offend me.”“‘Lord Trafford!’” he said, raising his brows. “Why do you call me by my title, Esmeralda? For God’s sake, let us get to the bottom of this mystery at once, for it is a mystery to me. Of course I will answer you, and frankly and truthfully. I am not in the habit—” He checked himself and spoke more gently. “What is it, dear one?”

“I must go in now, dearest! Help me out of the hammock.”“See here,” he said. “It’s my deal; you hold on till all the cards are out. I’ve looked forward to this day; somehow I always felt it would come, though I didn’t think you’d turn out such a golden heiress. The old game’s played out, Ralda, and we must take a fresh pack, and begin a new deal. It was all very well for me to be your guardian while you were just Esmeralda of Three Star, but the situation’s altered. You are now Miss Chetwynde, and the owner of a pile of dollars mountains high. You’ve got to take those dollars and live up to them; in short, you’ve got to be a swell. You’ll go to England to this Lady—whatever her name is—and learn how to play your part.

A box of books had been sent down from Mudie’s, and Esmeralda sat in the drawing-room with one of them in her hand. It was a love story, in which the love ran roughly through two volumes and a half, and then glided smoothly through the concluding chapters. She read it with a kind of bitterness. Her love had run smoothly enough through its first chapters, and now only in the concluding ones had the roughness come in. She could hear Trafford pacing up and down outside with his cigarette. Once he paused at the open French window and looked at her. She could feel his eyes upon her, though she did not look up from the book.“I do not know.”

CHAPTER IX.“Better come down with me to-morrow,” said Lord Selvaine. “There is a kind of conference on. Things are very bad, you know.”

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“What you see,” she said. “Barker, get Lady Ada what she wants. I am going down now.All this would have broken down Esmeralda’s pride and resolution, but for her memory of his parting with Lady Ada. Never for a moment did she forget it. She saw him grow more pale and haggard day by day, but she thought that he was pining for the love and sympathy of the woman he had not been able to marry.He did not smile at her innocence.

He glanced at Esmeralda, but she did not blush or look overwhelmed.

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