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Esmeralda was placed on the dukes right, and his grace exerted himself to entertain the two ladies as he had not done for years; but after awhile he devoted himself to Esmeralda. He could see her loveliness more distinctly in the soft candle-light, and the Belfayres were quick to appreciate feminine beauty. He noticed, as Lilias had done, the sweetness and clearness of her voice, and her unconventional frankness and candor charmed him. She was not awed for a moment by her surroundingsas it must be confessed Lady Wyndover wasand she talked freely. Trafford heard his fathers rare laugh more than once, and once he saw his grace bend forward, and lay his hand upon Esmeraldas.[Pg 298]
Yes, yes! cried Esmeralda, stretching out her hand to them, half laughing, half crying.
She spoke almost fiercely, and Norman was filled with remorse.
The duke lay in a great bed with hangings of white velvet. The furniture of the room was whitea fancy of the old mans. She went softly up to the bed, and looked down on him. He lay sleeping as peacefully as a child, his face as placid as that of a marble mask. She could scarcely hear him breathe as she bent lower and lower until her lips touched the wrinkled forehead. As she kissed him, a tear, the existence of which she was ignorant, fell upon his face.