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      Major Bergan was on the bed, but he was only held there by the main strength of two stout negroes. A frightful spasm contorted his face and twisted his limbs. Great drops of perspiration stood on his brow; and from his mouth flowed a mingled stream of oaths, curses, shrieks of horror, threats of defiance, and groans of agony. His bodily anguish was only less than his mental torture. His eyes started from his head at the phantom-creations of his delirious imagination. The furniture was alive, watching him with fiery eyes, and threatening him with envenomed teeth and claws; the shadows took mocking shapes and gibed and jeered at him; and the pictures were demons setting them all on. The very hairs of his head turned to slimy snakes, and the bed-clothes were now damp winding-sheets, and now devouring flames.


      To-day, as she lay supine in the afternoon silencelying as Tabitha had left her, in a fevered sleepthe vision of that past came back upon her in all its vivid colouring, almost as distinctly as it had re-acted itself in her hours of delirium, when she had lived that tragic chapter of her life over again, and had felt the fury of the waves and breathed the chill, salt air of the tempest-driven sea, and had seen the moon riding high amidst the cloud-chaosnow appearing, now vanishing, as if she too were a storm-driven bark in a raging sea.


      Martin Disney was ready to obey. He and Allegra took counsel together, and thenin the lightest strain, one evening after dinnerthey discussed the notion of a change.They bragged about her at neighboring camps; and if any outsider ventured to receive with incredulity the assertion of a Three Star man that our Esmeralda was the finest and prettiest child in the whole world, the incredulous one was promptly knocked down or shot.

      Good heavens, child! what is the matter? Barker, thethe watersome brandy! Are you illdo you feel faint? Oh, dear, dear!


      Is it romantic? said Esmeralda. You mean, like a story? Well, I should have thought there wasnt anything very curious about it. Yes, people do stare, and Ive seen things people print about me in the paper. It seems a lot of[110] fuss about one girl, when there are such heaps here. But if it amuses them, I dont mind; I suppose theyll get tired of it before long, and find some one else to make a fuss about.

      "And there always shall be," answered Martin Disney. "We won't take any violent measures to-day, my friends[Pg 164]first because it is Sunday, and next because one should always try fair means before one tries foul. I shall write to Mr. Crowther to-morrow, asking him civilly to open that gate. If he refuses, I'll have it opened for him, and I'll take the consequences of the act. Now, my good friends, you'd better go to church by the road. You'll get there after the service has begun. Wait till the congregation are standing up, and then go into church all together, so that everybody may understand why and by whose fault it is that you are late."Why? said Esmeralda, innocently.

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      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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      CHAPTER XXII.


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