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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

An heir is born

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"Since 'twas I who killed him," said her Grace to her inward soul, "'tis I must live his life which I took from him, and making it better I may be forgiven--if there is One who dares to say to the poor thing He made, 'I will not forgive.'"

Surely it was said there had never been lives so beautiful and noble as those the Duke of Osmonde and his lady lived as time went by. The Tower of Camylott, where they had spent the first months of their wedded life, they loved better than any other of their seats, and there they spent as much time as their duties of Court and State allowed them. It was indeed a splendid and beautiful estate, the stately tower being built upon an eminence, and there rolling out before it the most lovely land in England, moorland and hills, thick woods and broad meadows, the edge of the heather dipping to show the soft silver of the sea.

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Here was this beauteous woman chatelaine and queen, wife of her husband as never before, he thought, had wife blessed and glorified the existence of mortal man. All her great beauty she gave to him in tender, joyous tribute; all her great gifts of mind and wit and grace it seemed she valued but as they were joys to him; in his stately households in town and country she reigned a lovely empress, adored and obeyed with reverence by every man or woman who served her and her lord. Among the people on his various estates she came and went a tender goddess of benevolence. When she appeared amid them in the first months of her wedded life, the humble souls regarded her with awe not unmixed with fear, having heard such wild stories of her youth at her father's house, and of her proud state and bitter wit in the great London world when she had been my Lady Dunstanwolde; but when she came among them all else was forgotten in their wonder at her graciousness and noble way.

"To see her come into a poor body's cottage, so tall and grand a lady, and with such a carriage as she hath," they said, hobnobbing together in their talk of her, "looking as if a crown of gold should sit on her high black head, and then to hear her gentle speech and see the look in her eyes as if she was but a simple new-married girl, full of her joy, and her heart big with the wish that all other women should be as happy as herself, it is, forsooth, a beauteous sight to see."

"Ay, and no hovel too poor for her, and no man or woman too sinful," was said again.

"Heard ye how she found that poor wench of Haylits lying sobbing among the fern in the Tower woods, and stayed and knelt beside her to hear her trouble? The poor soul has gone to ruin at fourteen, and her father, finding her out, beat her and thrust her from his door, and her Grace coming through the wood at sunset--it being her way to walk about for mere pleasure as though she had no coach to ride in--the girl says she came through the golden glow as if she had been one of God's angels--and she kneeled and took the poor wench in her arms--as strong as a man, Betty says, but as soft as a young mother--and she said to her things surely no mortal lady ever said before--that she knew naught of a surety of what God's true will might be, or if His laws were those that have been made by man concerning marriage by priests saying common words, but that she surely knew of a man whose name was Christ, and He had taught love and helpfulness and pity, and for His sake, He having earned our trust in Him, whether He was God or man, because He hung and died in awful torture on the Cross--for His sake all of us must love and help and pity--'I you, poor Betty,' were her very words, 'and you me.' And then she went to the girl's father and mother, and so talked to them that she brought them to weeping, and begging Betty to come home; and also she went to her sweetheart, Tom Beck, and made so tender a story to him of the poor pretty wench whose love for him had brought her to such trouble, that she stirred him up to falling in love again, which is not man's way at such times, and in a week's time he and Betty went to church together, her Grace setting them up in a cottage on the estate."

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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