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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

Two meet in the deserted rose garden, and the old Earl of Dunstanwolde is made a happy man

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"If she were another lady," she said, "I should swear some gallant had robbed her of it; but, forsooth, she does not allow them to come near enough for such sport, and with five feet of hair wound up in coronals, how could a man unwind a lock, even if 'twas permitted him to stand at her very side."

Two years passed, and the beauty had no greater fields to conquer than those she found in the country, since her father, Sir Jeoffry, had not the money to take her to town, he becoming more and more involved and so fallen into debt that it was even whispered that at times it went hard with him to keep even the poor household he had.

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Mistress Clorinda's fortunes the gentry of the neighbourhood discussed with growing interest and curiosity. What was like to become of her great gifts and powers in the end, if she could never show them to the great world, and have the chance to carry her splendid wares to the fashionable market where there were men of quality and wealth who would be like to bid for them. She had not chosen to accept any of those who had offered themselves so far, and it was believed that for some reason she had held off my lord of Dunstanwolde in his suit. 'Twas evident that he admired her greatly, and why he had not already made her his countess was a sort of mystery which was productive of many discussions and bore much talking over. Some said that, with all her beauty and his admiration, he was wary and waited, and some were pleased to say that the reason he waited was because the young lady herself contrived that he should, it being her desire to make an open conquest of Sir John Oxon, and show him to the world as her slave, before she made up her mind to make even a much greater match. Some hinted that for all her disdainfulness and haughty pride she would marry Sir John if he asked her, but that he being as brilliant a beau as she a beauty, he was too fond of his pleasures and his gay town life to give them up even to a goddess who had no fortune. His own had not been a great one, and he had squandered it magnificently, his extravagances being renowned in the world of fashion, and having indeed founded for him his reputation.

It was, however, still his way to accept frequent hospitalities from his kinsman Eldershawe, and Sir Jeoffry was always rejoiced enough to secure him as his companion for a few days when he could lure him from the dissipation of the town. At such times it never failed that Mistress Wimpole and poor Anne kept their guard. Clorinda never allowed them to relax their vigilance, and Mistress Wimpole ceased to feel afraid, and became accustomed to her duties, but Anne never did so. She looked always her palest and ugliest when Sir John was in the house, and she would glance with sad wonder and timid adoration from him to Clorinda; but sometimes when she looked at Sir John her plain face would grow crimson, and once or twice he caught her at the folly, and when she dropped her eyes overwhelmed with shame, he faintly smiled to himself, seeing in her a new though humble conquest.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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