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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

Lord Twemlow's chaplain visits his patron's kinsman, and Mistress Clorinda shines on her birthday night

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But the young gallant introduced to-night into the world she lived in was no bumpkin, and was a dandy of the town. His name was Sir John Oxon, and he had just come into his title and a pretty property. His hands were as white and bejewelled as her own, his habit was of the latest fashionable cut, and his fair flowing locks scattered a delicate French perfume she did not even know the name of.

But though she observed all these attractions and found them powerful, young Sir John remarked, with a slight sinking qualm, that her great eye did not fall before his amorous glances, but met them with high smiling readiness, and her colour never blanched or heightened a whit for all their masterly skilfulness. But he had sworn to himself that he would approach close enough to her to fire off some fine speech before the night was ended, and he endeavoured to bear himself with at least an outward air of patience until he beheld his opportunity.

When the last dish was removed and bottles and bumpers stood upon the board, she sprang up on her chair and stood before them all, smiling down the long table with eyes like flashing jewels. Her hands were thrust in her pockets--with her pretty young fop's air, and she drew herself to her full comely height, her beauteous lithe limbs and slender feet set smartly together. Twenty pairs of masculine eyes were turned upon her beauty, but none so ardently as the young one's across the table.

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"Look your last on my fine shape," she proclaimed in her high, rich voice. "You will see but little of the lower part of it when it is hid in farthingales and petticoats. Look your last before I go to don my fine lady's furbelows."

And when they filled their glasses and lifted them and shouted admiring jests to her, she broke into one of her stable-boy songs, and sang it in the voice of a skylark.

No man among them was used to showing her the courtesies of polite breeding. She had been too long a boy to them for that to have entered any mind, and when she finished her song, sprang down, and made for the door, Sir John beheld his long-looked-for chance, and was there before her to open it with a great bow, made with his hand upon his heart and his fair locks falling.

"You rob us of the rapture of beholding great beauties, Madam," he said in a low, impassioned voice. "But there should be indeed but ONE happy man whose bliss it is to gaze upon such perfections."

"I am fifteen years old to-night," she answered; "and as yet I have not set eyes upon him."

"How do you know that, madam?" he said, bowing lower still.

She laughed her great rich laugh.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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