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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

Relating how Mistress Anne discovered a miniature

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Suddenly she crossed the room to where her sister stood drooping, and seized her by the shoulder, so that she could look her well in the face.

"What," she said, with a mocking not quite harsh--"What is this? Does a glance at a fine gallant, even taken from behind an oriel window, make such change indeed? I never before saw this look, nor this colour, forsooth; it hath improved thee wondrously, Anne-- wondrously."

"Sister," faltered Anne, "I so desired to see your birth-night ballgown, of which Mistress Margery hath much spoken--I so desired--I thought it would not matter if, the door being open and it spread forth upon the bed--I--I stole a look at it. And then I was tempted--and came in."

"And then was tempted more," Clorinda laughed, still regarding her downcast countenance shrewdly, "by a thing far less to be resisted-- a fine gentleman from town, with love-locks falling on his shoulders and ladies' hearts strung at his saddle-bow by scores. Which found you the most beautiful?"

"Your gown is splendid, sister," said Anne, with modest shyness. "There will be no beauty who will wear another like it; or should there be one, she will not carry it as you will."

"But the man--the man, Anne," Clorinda laughed again. "What of the man?"

Anne plucked up just enough of her poor spirit to raise her eyes to the brilliant ones that mocked at her.

"With such gentlemen, sister," she said, "is it like that I have aught to do?"

Mistress Clorinda dropped her hand and left laughing.

"'Tis true," she said, "it is not; but for this one time, Anne, thou lookest almost a woman."

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"'Tis not beauty alone that makes womanhood," said Anne, her head on her breast again. "In some book I have read that--that it is mostly pain. I am woman enough for that."

"You have read--you have read," quoted Clorinda. "You are the bookworm, I remember, and filch romances and poems from the shelves. And you have read that it is mostly pain that makes a woman? 'Tis not true. 'Tis a poor lie. I am a woman and I do not suffer--for I WILL not, that I swear! And when I take an oath I keep it, mark you! It is men women suffer for; that was what your scholar meant-- for such fine gentlemen as the one you have just watched while he rode away. More fools they! No man shall make ME womanly in such a fashion, I promise you! Let THEM wince and kneel; I will not."

"Sister," Anne faltered, "I thought you were not within. The gentleman who rode away--did the servants know?"

"That did they," quoth Clorinda, mocking again. "They knew that I would not receive him to-day, and so sent him away. He might have known as much himself, but he is an arrant popinjay, and thinks all women wish to look at his fine shape, and hear him flatter them when he is in the mood."

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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