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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

Relating how Mistress Anne discovered a miniature

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Her dull, poor face dropped a little as she spoke the words, and her eyes fell upon the beauteous tiny shoes, which seemed to trample even when no foot was within them. She stooped to take one in her hand, but as she was about to lift it something which seemed to have been dropped upon the floor, and to have rolled beneath the valance of the bed, touched her hand. It was a thing to which a riband was attached--an ivory miniature--and she picked it up wondering. She stood up gazing at it, in such bewilderment to find her eyes upon it that she scarce knew what she did. She did not mean to pry; she would not have had the daring so to do if she had possessed the inclination. But the instant her eyes told her what they saw, she started and blushed as she had never blushed before in her tame life. The warm rose mantled her cheeks, and even suffused the neck her chaste kerchief hid. Her eye kindled with admiration and an emotion new to her indeed.

"How beautiful!" she said. "He is like a young Adonis, and has the bearing of a royal prince! How can it--by what strange chance hath it come here?"

She had not regarded it more than long enough to have uttered these words, when a fear came upon her, and she felt that she had fallen into misfortune.

"What must I do with it?" she trembled. "What will she say, whether she knows of its being within the chamber or not? She will be angry with me that I have dared to touch it. What shall I do?"

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She regarded it again with eyes almost suffused. Her blush and the sensibility of her emotion gave to her plain countenance a new liveliness of tint and expression.

"I will put it back where I found it," she said, "and the one who knows it will find it later. It cannot be she--it cannot be she! If I laid it on her table she would rate me bitterly--and she can be bitter when she will."

She bent and placed it within the shadow of the valance again, and as she felt it touch the hard oak of the polished floor her bosom rose with a soft sigh.

"It is an unseemly thing to do," she said; "'tis as though one were uncivil; but I dare not--I dare not do otherwise."

She would have turned to leave the apartment, being much overcome by the incident, but just as she would have done so she heard the sound of horses' feet through the window by which she must pass, and looked out to see if it was Clorinda who was returning from her ride. Mistress Clorinda was a matchless horsewoman, and a marvel of loveliness and spirit she looked when she rode, sitting upon a horse such as no other woman dared to mount--always an animal of the greatest beauty, but of so dangerous a spirit that her riding-whip was loaded like a man's.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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