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0105_001E A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

"I give to him the thing he craves with all his soul-- myself"

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In these days of her union with him, he was, indeed, almost humbly amazed at the grace and kindness she showed him every hour they passed in each other's company. He knew that there were men, younger and handsomer than himself, who, being wedded to beauties far less triumphant than she, found that their wives had but little time to spare them from the world, which knelt at their feet, and that in some fashion they themselves seemed to fall into the background. But 'twas not so with this woman, powerful and worshipped though she might be. She bore herself with the high dignity of her rank, but rendered to him the gracious respect and deference due both to his position and his merit. She stood by his side and not before him, and her smiles and wit were bestowed upon him as generously as to others. If she had once been a vixen, she was surely so no longer, for he never heard a sharp or harsh word pass her lips, though it is true her manner was always somewhat imperial, and her lacqueys and waiting women stood in greatest awe of her. There was that in her presence and in her eye before which all commoner or weaker creatures quailed. The men of the world who flocked to pay their court to her, and the popinjays who followed them, all knew this look, and a tone in her rich voice which could cut like a knife when she chose that it should do so. But to my Lord of Dunstanwolde she was all that a worshipped lady could be.

"Your ladyship has made of me a happier man than I ever dared to dream of being, even when I was but thirty," he would say to her, with reverent devotion. "I know not what I have done to deserve this late summer which hath been given me."

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"When I consented to be your wife," she answered once, "I swore to myself that I would make one for you;" and she crossed the hearth to where he sat--she was attired in all her splendour for a Court ball, and starred with jewels--bent over his chair and placed a kiss upon his grizzled hair.

Upon the night before her wedding with him, her sister, Mistress Anne, had stolen to her chamber at a late hour. When she had knocked upon the door, and had been commanded to enter, she had come in, and closing the door behind her, had stood leaning against it, looking before her, with her eyes wide with agitation and her poor face almost grey.

All the tapers for which places could be found had been gathered together, and the room was a blaze of light. In the midst of it, before her mirror, Clorinda stood attired in her bridal splendour of white satin and flowing rich lace, a diamond crescent on her head, sparks of light flaming from every point of her raiment. When she caught sight of Anne's reflection in the glass before her, she turned and stood staring at her in wonder.

"What--nay, what is this?" she cried. "What do you come for? On my soul, you come for something--or you have gone mad."

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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