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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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"And I--and I," she cried--"have I not built a temple on his grave? Have I not tried to live a fair life, and be as Christ bade me? Have I not loved, and pitied, and succoured those in pain? Have I not filled a great man's days with bliss, and love, and wifely worship? Have I not given him noble children, bred in high lovingness, and taught to love all things God made, even the very beasts that perish, since they, too, suffer as all do? Have I left aught undone? Oh, sister, I have so prayed that I left naught. Even though I could not believe that there was One who, ruling all, could yet be pitiless as He is to some, I have prayed That--which sure it seems must be, though we comprehend it not--to teach me faith in something greater than my poor self, and not of earth. Say this to Christ's self when you are face to face--say this to Him, I pray you! Anne, Anne, look not so strangely through the window at the blueness of the sky, sweet soul, but look at me."

For Anne lay upon her pillow so smiling that 'twas a strange thing to behold. It seemed as she were smiling at the whiteness of the doves against the blue. A moment her sister stood up watching her, and then she stirred, meaning to go to call one of the servants waiting outside; but though she moved not her gaze from the tower window, Mistress Anne faintly spoke.

"Nay--stay," she breathed. "I go--softly--stay."

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Clorinda fell upon her knees again and bent her lips close to her ear. This was death, and yet she feared it not--this was the passing of a soul, and while it went it seemed so fair and loving a thing that she could ask it her last question--her greatest--knowing it was so near to God that its answer must be rest.

"Anne, Anne," she whispered, "must he know--my Gerald? Must I--must I tell him all? If so I must, I will--upon my knees."

The doves came flying downward from the blue, and lighted on the window stone and cooed--Anne's answer was as low as her soft breath and her still eyes were filled with joy at that she saw but which another could not.

"Nay," she breathed. "Tell him not. What need? Wait, and let God tell him--who understands."

Then did her soft breath stop, and she lay still, her eyes yet open and smiling at the blossoms, and the doves who sate upon the window-ledge and lowly cooed and cooed.

* * *

'Twas her duchess sister who clad her for her last sleeping, and made her chamber fair--the hand of no other touched her; and while 'twas done the tower chamber was full of the golden sunshine, and the doves ceased not to flutter about the window, and coo as if they spoke lovingly to each other of what lay within the room.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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