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ͣĪɣȿ˾2020-09-20 22:17:43

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Shots were fired, knives gleamed in the light of the hanging paraffine-lamp, two or three men were carried out, several others leaned against the wall stanching more or less serious wounds; Dan MacGrath himself stood behind the bar, revolver in one hand, a bottle of his famous—some called it “infamous”—whisky in the other. Every now and then, as a stray bullet came his way, he ducked his head, but always clung to the revolver and the bottle, as if they were the emblems of defense and conciliation: if the fight continued he might want the one, if it continued, or ended, his customers would certainly want the other.

The duke sat and sipped his thin claret with an air of perfect felicity. He had not noticed anything wrong in Esmeralda’s expression or manner, and that he was thinking of her beauty and queenliness was evident from the remark which he made to Trafford.

She was growing weary under the strain, and she leaned against the window, and for a moment let her head rest against it, but for a moment only.“Oh! if you make a favor of it, Varley, all right—although I don’t see the use of it.”

“May I?” said Esmeralda, delightedly. Then her face fell. “But I’m afraid he would not come. He—he said he would not.This was evidently the signal for the Dog’s Ear attack; for, as the metal of the horses’ shoes rang upon the timber, there was a rush from the Gulch beneath, and a body of horsemen surrounded the coach, while one man, mounted on an appropriately black horse, rode up alongside the coachman and covered him.

“Leave me alone for a little while,” she said. “I am too tired to undress. Will you give me some water before you go?”

Esmeralda trembled, and gripped the small, tightly corseted figure almost painfully. She could not speak for the lump that rose in her throat and threatened to choke her. She kissed the painted and powdered face twice, thrice, and Lady Wyndover did not shrink or avoid the art-destroying kiss.He took a glass of whisky from MacGrath’s hand and raised it aloft.A few days ago she would have told Esmeralda that ladies do not remove their hats in the train, but she felt that the future Duchess of Belfayre could commit any solecism with impunity. Trafford took up a book and tried to read, but his eyes were drawn from a rather dull page to the lovely face in front of him, and he caught himself asking, of course, inaudibly, whether she would come to care for him.

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“Are you hurt? Are you hurt?” he queried, still anxiously.“‘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?”“Eh, what? I beg your pardon?

Norman stared still harder. “Good heavens!” he exclaimed. “Do you really mean it? Going to be married! Well! Well, of all the— Going to be married! and to-morrow! No; how should I hear of it? They don’t get the society papers where I’ve been. Who is she? Not Ada?Esmeralda took no notice of the chair, but still kept her eyes upon him. Varley Howard leaned against the side of the hut, and blew the smoke from his lips into the delicate rings[45] which had been Esmeralda’s delight in her childhood, and were her delight still.“Yes, sir,” said Trafford again. His quietude and lack of enthusiasm seemed to strike the old man; and he looked at him with a faint surprise, then he smiled.

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