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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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They rode homeward together, the great beauty and the great duke, and all the town beheld; and after they had passed him where he stood, John Oxon mounted his own horse and galloped away, white-lipped and with mad eyes.

"Let me escort you home," the duke had said, "that I may kneel to you there, and pour forth my heart as I have so dreamed of doing. Tomorrow I must go back to France, because I left my errand incomplete. I stole from duty the time to come to you, and I must return as quickly as I came." So he took her home; and as they entered the wide hall together, side by side, the attendant lacqueys bowed to the ground in deep, welcoming obeisance, knowing it was their future lord and master they received.

Together they went to her own sitting-room, called the Panelled Parlour, a beautiful great room hung with rare pictures, warm with floods of the bright summer sunshine, and perfumed with bowls of summer flowers; and as the lacquey departed, bowing, and closed the door behind him, they turned and were enfolded close in each other's arms, and stood so, with their hearts beating as surely it seemed to them human hearts had never beat before.

"Oh! my dear love, my heavenly love!" he cried. "It has been so long--I have lived in prison and in fetters--and it has been so long!"

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Even as my Lord Dunstanwolde had found cause to wonder at her gentle ways, so was this man amazed at her great sweetness, now that he might cross the threshold of her heart. She gave of herself as an empress might give of her store of imperial jewels, with sumptuous lavishness, knowing that the store could not fail. In truth, it seemed that it must be a dream that she so stood before him in all her great, rich loveliness, leaning against his heaving breast, her arms as tender as his own, her regal head thrown backward that they might gaze into the depths of each other's eyes.

"From that first hour that I looked up at you," she said, "I knew you were my lord--my lord! And a fierce pain stabbed my heart, knowing you had come too late by but one hour; for had it not been that Dunstanwolde had led me to you, I knew--ah! how well I knew-- that our hearts would have beaten together not as two hearts but as one."

"As they do now," he cried.

"As they do now," she answered--"as they do now!"

"And from the moment that your rose fell at my feet and I raised it in my hand," he said, "I knew I held some rapture which was my own. And when you stood before me at Dunstanwolde's side and our eyes met, I could not understand--nay, I could scarce believe that it had been taken from me."

There, in her arms, among the flowers and in the sweetness of the sun, he lived again the past, telling her of the days when, knowing his danger, he had held himself aloof, declining to come to her lord's house with the familiarity of a kinsman, because the pang of seeing her often was too great to bear; and relating to her also the story of the hours when he had watched her and she had not known his nearness or guessed his pain, when she had passed in her equipage, not seeing him, or giving him but a gracious smile. He had walked outside her window at midnight sometimes, too, coming because he was a despairing man, and could not sleep, and returning homeward, having found no rest, but only increase of anguish. "Sometimes," he said, "I dared not look into your eyes, fearing my own would betray me; but now I can gaze into your soul itself, for the midnight is over--and joy cometh with the morning."

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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