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      "Ah! you know I haven't the ghost of a chance! She's not for po' little Hil'ry. I never did like small women, anyhow!"

      He leaned with his back against the rail, and looked at her thoughtfully. Now, the lovely face was as pensive as that of a child. The charm of her utter self-unconsciousness, and ignorance of pose, and absence of straining after effect, was stealing over him; and when she said, Now well go in, he started slightly, and, with something like reluctance, took her hand upon his arm and led her back to the ball-room. As they entered they found themselves face to face with Lady Ada. She was with her partner in the last dance. The two couples stopped, and Trafford found himself, perhaps for the first time in his life, bereft of the power of speech. Lady Ada was very pale, and there were faint shadows under the blue eyes. He saw her lips tighten and the lids droop, as if she were wincing; then she recovered herself almost instantly, and, with a smile, as she returned his bow, said:"Oh, you go right along, Mr. Kincaid. We'll be at the depot to-morrow ourselves, and to-night we'll see that they don't touch neither one of you."

      He started and gazed at her with wild eyes.

      You have every right to ask me that question, Mr. Howard. It is my duty to answer. I have come in search of my wife.Lord Selvaine smoked leisurely, and eyed, through his half-closed eyes, his nephew.

      She did not know, too, that they were all, excepting the duke, watching her and the progress of the marquiss courting.

      She sighed as she spoke, and Esmeralda quickly divined that[303] the woman was an unwilling participant in her capture and detention. Out of pity for her she refrained from asking any more questions, but finished her tea and sat silent, with her head upon her hand.


      The last parting was with Mandeville, at the levee-road gate, just below which he lived in what, during the indigo-planter's life, had been the overseer's cottage. At a fine stride our artillerist started townward, his horse being stabled near by in that direction. But presently he halted, harkened after the Creole's receding step, thought long, softly called himself names, and then did a small thing which, although it resulted in nothing tragic at the time, marked a turning point in his life. He leapt the grove fence, returned to the shadows of the garden, and silently made his way to its eastern, down-river side. Already the dwelling's lower lights were going out while none yet shone above, and he paused in deep shade far enough away to see, over its upper veranda's edge, the tops of its chamber windows.He extended his hand with profound humility.


      The long arm of coincidence, as the novelists say, he said. And now, what brings you here, Esmeralda?There is nothing to forgive, she said. He could only just hear her voice. I have known all along how it must be; that the day, the hour, would come when you would have to leave me. It has not kept me fromfrom loving you,[100] Trafford, but it has helped me to bear the parting as I bear it now.


      On a quarter of the deck where they stood alone, what a striking pair were Flora and Irby as side by side they faced the ruffling air, softly discussing matters alien to the gliding scene and giving it only a dissimulative show of attention. Now with her parasol he pointed to the sunlight in the tree tops of a river grove where it gilded the windows of the Ursulines' Convent.