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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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"It is the very beast I want," she said, with a gleam in her eye. "It will please me to teach it that there is one stronger than itself."

She had much use for her loaded riding-whip; and indeed, not finding it heavy enough, ordered one made which was heavier. When she rode the beast in Hyde Park, her first battles with him were the town talk; and there were those who bribed her footmen to inform them beforehand, when my lady was to take out Devil, that they might know in time to be in the Park to see her. Fops and hunting-men laid wagers as to whether her ladyship would kill the horse or be killed by him, and followed her training of the creature with an excitement and delight quite wild.

"Well may the beast's name be Devil," said more than one looker-on; "for he is not so much horse as demon. And when he plunges and rears and shows his teeth, there is a look in his eye which flames like her own, and 'tis as if a male and female demon fought together, for surely such a woman never lived before. She will not let him conquer her, God knows; and it would seem that he was swearing in horse fashion that she should not conquer him."

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When he was first bought and brought home, Mistress Anne turned ashy at the sight of him, and in her heart of hearts grieved bitterly that it had so fallen out that his Grace of Osmonde had been called away from town by high and important matters; for she knew full well, that if he had been in the neighbourhood, he would have said some discreet and tender word of warning to which her ladyship would have listened, though she would have treated with disdain the caution of any other man or woman. When she herself ventured to speak, Clorinda looked only stern.

"I have ridden only ill-tempered beasts all my life, and that for the mere pleasure of subduing them," she said. "I have no liking for a horse like a bell-wether; and if this one should break my neck, I need battle with neither men nor horses again, and I shall die at the high tide of life and power; and those who think of me afterwards will only remember that they loved me--that they loved me."

But the horse did not kill her, nor she it. Day after day she stood by while it was taken from its stall, many a time dealing with it herself, because no groom dare approach; and then she would ride it forth, and in Hyde Park force it to obey her; the wondrous strength of her will, her wrist of steel, and the fierce, pitiless punishment she inflicted, actually daunting the devilish creature's courage. She would ride from the encounter, through two lines of people who had been watching her--and some of them found themselves following after her, even to the Park gate--almost awed as they looked at her, sitting erect and splendid on the fretted, anguished beast, whose shining skin was covered with lather, whose mouth tossed blood-flecked foam, and whose great eye was so strangely like her own, but that hers glowed with the light of triumph, and his burned with the agonised protest of the vanquished. At such times there was somewhat of fear in the glances that followed her beauty, which almost seemed to blaze--her colour was so rich, the curve of her red mouth so imperial, the poise of her head, with its loosening coils of velvet black hair, so high.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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