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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

A noble marriage

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"God save your Graces," the simple people cried. "God give your Graces joy and long life! Lord, what a beautiful pair they be. And though her Grace was said to be a proud lady, how sweetly she smiles at a poor body. God love ye, madam! Madam, God love ye!"

Her Grace of Osmonde leaned forward in her equipage and smiled at the people with the face of an angel.

"I will teach them to love me, Gerald," she said. "I have not had love enough."

"Has not all the world loved you?" he said.

"Nay," she answered, "only you, and Dunstanwolde and Anne."

Late at night they walked together on the broad terrace before the Tower. The blue-black vault of heaven above them was studded with myriads of God's brilliants; below them was spread out the beauty of the land, the rolling plains, the soft low hills, the forests and moors folded and hidden in the swathing robe of the night; from the park and gardens floated upward the freshness of acres of thick sward and deep fern thicket, the fragrance of roses and a thousand flowers, the tender sighing of the wind through the huge oaks and beeches bordering the avenues, and reigning like kings over the seeming boundless grassy spaces.

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As lovers have walked since the days of Eden they walked together, no longer duke and duchess, but man and woman--near to Paradise as human beings may draw until God breaks the chain binding them to earth; and, indeed, it would seem that such hours are given to the straining human soul that it may know that somewhere perfect joy must be, since sometimes the gates are for a moment opened that Heaven's light may shine through, so that human eyes may catch glimpses of the white and golden glories within.

His arm held her, she leaned against him, their slow steps so harmonising the one with the other that they accorded with the harmony of music; the nightingales trilling and bubbling in the rose trees were not affrighted by the low murmur of their voices; perchance, this night they were so near to Nature that the barriers were o'erpassed, and they and the singers were akin.

"Oh! to be a woman," Clorinda murmured. "To be a woman at last. All other things I have been, and have been called 'Huntress,' 'Goddess,' 'Beauty,' 'Empress,' 'Conqueror,'--but never 'Woman.' And had our paths not crossed, I think I never could have known what 'twas to be one, for to be a woman one must close with the man who is one's mate. It must not be that one looks down, or only pities or protects and guides; and only to a few a mate seems given. And I--Gerald, how dare I walk thus at your side and feel your heart so beat near mine, and know you love me, and so worship you--so worship you--"

She turned and threw herself upon his breast, which was so near.

"Oh, woman! woman!" he breathed, straining her close. "Oh, woman who is mine, though I am but man."

"We are but one," she said; "one breath, one soul, one thought, and one desire. Were it not so, I were not woman and your wife, nor you man and my soul's lover as you are. If it were not so, we were still apart, though we were wedded a thousand times. Apart, what are we but like lopped-off limbs; welded together, we are--THIS." And for a moment they spoke not, and a nightingale on the rose vine, clambering o'er the terrace's balustrade, threw up its little head and sang as if to the myriads of golden stars. They stood and listened, hand in hand, her sweet breast rose and fell, her lovely face was lifted to the bespangled sky.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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