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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

Mother Anne

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Clorinda caught him up and set him on Anne's lap.

"Know you what he calls you?" she said. "'Tis but a mumble, his little tongue is not nimble enough for clearness, but he says it his pretty best. 'Tis Mother Anne, he says--'tis Mother Anne."

And then they were in each other's arms, the child between them, he kissing both and clasping both, with little laughs of joy as if they were but one creature.

Each child born they clasped and kissed so, and were so clasped and kissed by; each one calling the tender unwed woman "Mother Anne," and having a special lovingness for her, she being the creature each one seemed to hover about with innocent protection and companionship.

The wonder of Anne's life grew deeper to her hour by hour, and where she had before loved, she learned to worship, for 'twas indeed worship that her soul was filled with. She could not look back and believe that she had not dreamed a dream of all the fears gone by and that they held. This--this was true--the beauty of these days, the love of them, the generous deeds, the sweet courtesies, and gentle words spoken. This beauteous woman dwelling in her husband's heart, giving him all joy of life and love, ruling queenly and gracious in his house, bearing him noble children, and tending them with the very genius of tenderness and wisdom.

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But in Mistress Anne herself life had never been strong; she was of the fibre of her mother, who had died in youth, crushed by its cruel weight, and to her, living had been so great and terrible a thing. There had not been given to her the will to battle with the Fate that fell to her, the brain to reason and disentangle problems, or the power to set them aside. So while her Grace of Osmonde seemed but to gain greater state and beauty in her ripening, her sister's frail body grew more frail, and seemed to shrink and age. Yet her face put on a strange worn sweetness, and her soft, dull eyes had a look almost like a saint's who looks at heaven. She prayed much, and did many charitable works both in town and country. She read her books of devotion, and went much to church, sitting with a reverend face through many a dull and lengthy sermon she would have felt it sacrilegious to think of with aught but pious admiration. In the middle of the night it was her custom to rise and offer up prayers through the dark hours. She was an humble soul who greatly feared and trembled before her God.

"I waken in the night sometimes," the fair, tall child Daphne said once to her mother, "and Mother Anne is there--she kneels and prays beside my bed. She kneels and prays so by each one of us many a night."

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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