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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

An heir is born

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"Sweet love," he cried, drawing her by the hand that he might meet the radiance of her look--"heart's dearest!"

She did not withhold her lovely eyes from him, but withdrew them from the sunset's mist of gold, and the clouds piled as it were at the gates of heaven, and they seemed to bring back some of the far-off glory with them. Indeed, neither her smile nor she seemed at that moment to be things of earth. She held out her fair, noble arms, and he sprang to her, and so they stood, side beating against side.

"Yes, love," she said--"yes, love--and I have prayed, my Gerald, that I may give you sons who shall be men like you. But when I give you women children, I shall pray with all my soul for them--that they may be just and strong and noble, and life begin for them as it began not for me."

* * *

In the morning of a spring day when the cuckoos cried in the woods, and May blossomed thick, white and pink, in all the hedges, the bells in the grey church-steeple at Camylott rang out a joyous, jangling peal, telling all the village that the heir had been born at the Tower. Children stopped in their play to listen, men at their work in field and barn; good gossips ran out of their cottage door, wiping their arms dry, from their tubs and scrubbing-buckets, their honest red faces broadening into maternal grins.

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"Ay, 'tis well over, that means surely," one said to the other; "and a happy day has begun for the poor lady--though God knows she bore herself queenly to the very last, as if she could have carried her burden for another year, and blenched not a bit as other women do. Bless mother and child, say I."

"And 'tis an heir," said another. "She promised us that we should know almost as quick as she did, and commanded old Rowe to ring a peal, and then strike one bell loud between if 'twere a boy, and two if 'twere a girl child. 'Tis a boy, heard you, and 'twas like her wit to invent such a way to tell us."

In four other villages the chimes rang just as loud and merrily, and the women talked, and blessed her Grace and her young child, and casks of ale were broached, and oxen roasted, and work stopped, and dancers footed it upon the green.

"Surely the new-born thing comes here to happiness," 'twas said everywhere, "for never yet was woman loved as is his mother."

In her stately bed her Grace the duchess lay, with the face of the Mother Mary, and her man-child drinking from her breast. The duke walked softly up and down, so full of joy that he could not sit still. When he had entered first, it was his wife's self who had sate upright in her bed, and herself laid his son within his arms.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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