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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

A noble marriage

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To Anne she went with curious humility, questioning her as to her religious duties and beliefs, asking her what books she read, and what services she attended.

"All your life you have been a religious woman," she said. "I used to think it folly, but now--"

"But now--" said Anne.

"I know not what to think," she answered. "I would learn."

But when she listened to Anne's simple homilies, and read her weighty sermons, they but made her restless and unsatisfied.

"Nay, 'tis not that," she said one day, with a deep sigh. "'Tis more than that; 'tis deeper, and greater, and your sermons do not hold it. They but set my brain to questioning and rebellion."

But a short time elapsed before the marriage was solemnised, and such a wedding the world of fashion had not taken part in for years, 'twas said. Royalty honoured it; the greatest of the land were proud to count themselves among the guests; the retainers, messengers, and company of the two great houses were so numerous that in the west end of the town the streets wore indeed quite a festal air, with the passing to and fro of servants and gentlefolk with favours upon their arms.

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'Twas to the Tower of Camylott, the most beautiful and remote of the bridegroom's several notable seats, that they removed their household, when the irksomeness of the extended ceremonies and entertainments were over--for these they were of too distinguished rank to curtail as lesser personages might have done. But when all things were over, the stately town houses closed, and their equipages rolled out beyond the sight of town into the country roads, the great duke and his great duchess sat hand in hand, gazing into each other's eyes with as simple and ardent a joy as they had been but young 'prentice and country maid, flying to hide from the world their love.

"There is no other woman who is so like a queen," Osmonde said, with tenderest smiling. "And yet your eyes wear a look so young in these days that they are like a child's. In all their beauty, I have never seen them so before."

"It is because I am a new created thing, as I have told you, love," she answered, and leaned towards him. "Do you not know I never was a child. I bring myself to you new born. Make of me then what a woman should be--to be beloved of husband and of God. Teach me, my Gerald. I am your child and servant."

'Twas ever thus, that her words when they were such as these were ended upon his breast as she was swept there by his impassioned arm. She was so goddess-like and beautiful a being, her life one strangely dominant and brilliant series of triumphs, and yet she came to him with such softness and humility of passion, that scarcely could he think himself a waking man.

"Surely," he said, "it is a thing too wondrous and too full of joy's splendour to be true."

In the golden afternoon, when the sun was deepening and mellowing towards its setting, they and their retinue entered Camylott. The bells pealed from the grey belfry of the old church; the villagers came forth in clean smocks and Sunday cloaks of scarlet, and stood in the street and by the roadside curtseying and baring their heads with rustic cheers; little country girls with red cheeks threw posies before the horses' feet, and into the equipage itself when they were of the bolder sort. Their chariot passed beneath archways of flowers and boughs, and from the battlements of the Tower of Camylott there floated a flag in the soft wind.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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