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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

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

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"He wants none of me--nor I of him," she said, with strange sternness. "We have done with one another. Get up upon your feet if you would not have me thrust you out into the corridor."

She turned from her, and walking back to her dressing-table, stood there steadying the diadem on her hair, which had loosed a fastening when Anne tried to writhe away from her. Anne half sat, half knelt upon the floor, staring at her with wet, wild eyes of misery and fear.

"Leave your kneeling," commanded her sister again, "and come here."

Anne staggered to her feet and obeyed her behest. In the glass she could see the resplendent reflection; but Clorinda did not deign to turn towards her while she addressed her, changing the while the brilliants in her hair.

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"Hark you, sister Anne," she said. "I read you better than you think. You are a poor thing, but you love me and--in my fashion--I think I love you somewhat too. You think I should not marry a gentleman whom you fancy I do not love as I might a younger, handsomer man. You are full of love, and spinster dreams of it which make you flighty. I love my Lord of Dunstanwolde as well as any other man, and better than some, for I do not hate him. He has a fine estate, and is a gentleman--and worships me. Since I have been promised to him, I own I have for a moment seen another gentleman who MIGHT--but 'twas but for a moment, and 'tis done with. 'Twas too late then. If we had met two years agone 'twould not have been so. My Lord Dunstanwolde gives to me wealth, and rank, and life at Court. I give to him the thing he craves with all his soul- -myself. It is an honest bargain, and I shall bear my part of it with honesty. I have no virtues--where should I have got them from, forsooth, in a life like mine? I mean I have no women's virtues; but I have one that is sometimes--not always--a man's. 'Tis that I am not a coward and a trickster, and keep my word when 'tis given. You fear that I shall lead my lord a bitter life of it. 'Twill not be so. He shall live smoothly, and not suffer from me. What he has paid for he shall honestly have. I will not cheat him as weaker women do their husbands; for he pays--poor gentleman--he pays."

And then, still looking at the glass, she pointed to the doorway through which her sister had come, and in obedience to her gesture of command, Mistress Anne stole silently away.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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