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  A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

In which Sir John Oxon finds again a trophy he had lost

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His Grace of Osmonde went back to France to complete his business, and all the world knew that when he returned to England 'twould be to make his preparations for his marriage with my Lady Dunstanwolde. It was a marriage not long to be postponed, and her ladyship herself was known already to be engaged with lacemen, linen-drapers, toyshop women, and goldsmiths. Mercers awaited upon her at her house, accompanied by their attendants, bearing burdens of brocades and silks, and splendid stuffs of all sorts. Her chariot was to be seen standing before their shops, and the interest in her purchases was so great that fashionable beauties would contrive to visit the counters at the same hours as herself, so that they might catch glimpses of what she chose. In her own great house all was repressed excitement; her women were enraptured at being allowed the mere handling and laying away of the glories of her wardrobe; the lacqueys held themselves with greater state, knowing that they were soon to be a duke's servants; her little black Nero strutted about, his turban set upon his pate with a majestic cock, and disdained to enter into battle with such pages of his own colour as wore only silver collars, he feeling assured that his own would soon be of gold.

The World of Fashion said when her ladyship's equipage drove by, that her beauty was like that of the god of day at morning, and that 'twas plain that no man or woman had ever beheld her as his Grace of Osmonde would.

"She loves at last," a wit said. "Until the time that such a woman loves, however great her splendour, she is as the sun behind a cloud."

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"And now this one hath come forth, and shines so that she warms us in mere passing," said another. "What eyes, and what a mouth, with that strange smile upon it. Whoever saw such before? and when she came to town with my Lord Dunstanwolde, who, beholding her, would have believed that she could wear such a look?"

In sooth, there was that in her face and in her voice when she spoke which almost made Anne weep, through its strange sweetness and radiance. 'Twas as if the flood of her joy had swept away all hardness and disdain. Her eyes, which had seemed to mock at all they rested on, mocked no more, but ever seemed to smile at some dear inward thought.

One night when she went forth to a Court ball, being all attired in brocade of white and silver, and glittering with the Dunstanwolde diamonds, which starred her as with great sparkling dewdrops, and yet had not the radiance of her eyes and smile, she was so purely wonderful a vision that Anne, who had been watching her through all the time when she had been under the hands of her tirewoman, and beholding her now so dazzling and white a shining creature, fell upon her knees to kiss her hand almost as one who worships.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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