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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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"If 'twere not love," she cried--"if 'twere but ambition, I could defy it to the last; but 'tis love--love--love, and it will kill me to forego it."

Even as she moaned the words she heard hoof beats near her, and a horseman leaped the hedge and was at her side. She set her teeth, and turning, stared into John Oxon's face.

"Did you think I would not follow you?" he asked.

"No," she answered.

"I have followed you at a distance hitherto," he said; "now I shall follow close."

She did not speak, but galloped on.

"Think you you can outride me?" he said grimly, quickening his steed's pace. "I go with your ladyship to your own house. For fear of scandal you have not openly rebuffed me previous to this time; for a like reason you will not order your lacqueys to shut your door when I enter it with you."

My Lady Dunstanwolde turned to gaze at him again. The sun shone on his bright falling locks and his blue eyes as she had seen it shine in days which seemed so strangely long passed by, though they were not five years agone.

"'Tis strange," she said, with a measure of wonder, "to live and be so black a devil."

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"Bah! my lady," he said, "these are fine words--and fine words do not hold between us. Let us leave them. I would escort you home, and speak to you in private." There was that in his mocking that was madness to her, and made her sick and dizzy with the boiling of the blood which surged to her brain. The fury of passion which had been a terror to all about her when she had been a child was upon her once more, and though she had thought herself freed from its dominion, she knew it again and all it meant. She felt the thundering beat in her side, the hot flood leaping to her cheek, the flame burning her eyes themselves as if fire was within them. Had he been other than he was, her face itself would have been a warning. But he pressed her hard. As he would have slunk away a beaten cur if she had held the victory in her hands, so feeling that the power was his, he exulted over the despairing frenzy which was in her look.

"I pay back old scores," he said. "There are many to pay. When you crowned yourself with roses and set your foot upon my face, your ladyship thought not of this! When you gave yourself to Dunstanwolde and spat at me, you did not dream that there could come a time when I might goad as you did."

She struck Devil with her whip, who leaped forward; but Sir John followed hard behind her. He had a swift horse too, and urged him fiercely, so that between these two there was a race as if for life or death. The beasts bounded forward, spurning the earth beneath their feet. My lady's face was set, her eyes were burning flame, her breath came short and pantingly between her teeth. Oxon's fair face was white with passion; he panted also, but strained every nerve to keep at her side, and kept there.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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