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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

The doves sate upon the window-ledge and lowly cooed and cooed

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When they had had ten years of happiness, Anne died. 'Twas of no violent illness, it seemed but that through these years of joy she had been gradually losing life. She had grown thinner and whiter, and her soft eyes bigger and more prayerful. 'Twas in the summer, and they were at Camylott, when one sweet day she came from the flower-garden with her hands full of roses, and sitting down by her sister in her morning-room, swooned away, scattering her blossoms on her lap and at her feet.

When she came back to consciousness she looked up at the duchess with a strange, far look, as if her soul had wandered back from some great distance.

"Let me be borne to bed, sister," she said. "I would lie still. I shall not get up again."

The look in her face was so unearthly and a thing so full of mystery, that her Grace's heart stood still, for in some strange way she knew the end had come.

They bore her to her tower and laid her in her bed, when she looked once round the room and then at her sister.

"'Tis a fair, peaceful room," she said. "And the prayers I have prayed in it have been answered. To-day I saw my mother, and she told me so."

"Anne! Anne!" cried her Grace, leaning over her and gazing fearfully into her face; for though her words sounded like delirium, her look had no wildness in it. And yet--"Anne, Anne! you wander, love," the duchess cried.

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Anne smiled a strange, sweet smile. "Perchance I do," she said. "I know not truly, but I am very happy. She said that all was over, and that I had not done wrong. She had a fair, young face, with eyes that seemed to have looked always at the stars of heaven. She said I had done no wrong."

The duchess's face laid itself down upon the pillow, a river of clear tears running down her cheeks.

"Wrong!" she said--"you! dear one--woman of Christ's heart, if ever lived one. You were so weak and I so strong, and yet as I look back it seems that all of good that made me worthy to be wife and mother I learned from your simplicity."

Through the tower window and the ivy closing round it, the blueness of the summer sky was heavenly fair; soft, and light white clouds floated across the clearness of its sapphire. On this Anne's eyes were fixed with an uplifted tenderness until she broke her silence.

"Soon I shall be away," she said. "Soon all will be left behind. And I would tell you that my prayers were answered--and so, sure, yours will be."

No man could tell what made the duchess then fall on her knees, but she herself knew. 'Twas that she saw in the exalted dying face that turned to hers concealing nothing more.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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