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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

Containing the history of the breaking of the horse Devil, and relates the returning of his Grace of Osmonde from France

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She did not think this as a romantic girl would have thought it; it was revealed to her by a sudden tempestuous leap of her heart, and by a shock like terror. Here was the man who was of her own build, whose thews and sinews of mind and body was as powerful as her own-- here was he who, had she met him one short year before, would have revolutionised her world.

In the days of her wifehood when she had read in his noble face something of that which he endeavoured to command and which to no other was apparent, the dignity of his self-restraint had but filled her with tenderness more passionate and grateful.

"Had he been a villain and a coward," was her thought, "he would have made my life a bitter battle; but 'tis me he loves, not himself only, and as I honour him so does he honour me."

Now she beheld the same passion in his eyes, but no more held in leash: his look met hers, hiding from her nothing of what his high soul burned with; and she was free--free to answer when he spoke, and only feeling one bitterness in her heart--if he had but come in time--God! why had he not been sent in time?

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But, late or early, he had come; and what they had to give each other should not be mocked at and lost. The night she had ended by going to Anne's chamber, she had paced her room saying this again and again, all the strength of her being rising in revolt. She had been then a caged tigress of a verity; she had wrung her hands; she had held her palm hard against her leaping heart; she had walked madly to and fro, battling in thought with what seemed awful fate; she had flung herself upon her knees and wept bitter scalding tears.

"He is so noble," she had cried--"he is so noble--and I so worship his nobleness--and I have been so base!"

And in her suffering her woman's nerves had for a moment betrayed her. Heretofore she had known no weakness of her sex, but the woman soul in her so being moved, she had been broken and conquered for a space, and had gone to Anne's chamber, scarcely knowing what refuge she so sought. It had been a feminine act, and she had realised all it signified when Anne sank weeping by her. Women who wept and prated together at midnight in their chambers ended by telling their secrets. So it was that it fell out that Anne saw not again the changed face to the sight of which she had that night awakened. It seemed as if my lady from that time made plans which should never for a moment leave her alone. The next day she was busied arranging a brilliant rout, the next a rich banquet, the next a great assembly; she drove in the Mall in her stateliest equipages; she walked upon its promenade, surrounded by her crowd of courtiers, smiling upon them, and answering them with shafts of graceful wit-- the charm of her gaiety had never been so remarked upon, her air never so enchanting. At every notable gathering in the World of Fashion she was to be seen. Being bidden to the Court, which was at Hampton, her brilliant beauty and spirit so enlivened the royal dulness that 'twas said the Queen herself was scarce resigned to part with her, and that the ladies and gentlemen in waiting all suffered from the spleen when she withdrew. She bought at this time the fiercest but most beautiful beast of a horse she had ever mounted. The creature was superbly handsome, but apparently so unconquerable and so savage that her grooms were afraid to approach it, and indeed it could not be saddled and bitted unless she herself stood near. Even the horse-dealer, rogue though he was, had sold it to her with some approach to a qualm of conscience, having confessed to her that it had killed two grooms, and been sentenced to be shot by its first owner, and was still living only because its great beauty had led him to hesitate for a few days. It was by chance that during these few days Lady Dunstanwolde heard of it, and going to see it, desired and bought it at once.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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