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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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There came a day when in the hunting-field there passed from mouth to mouth a rumour, and Sir Jeoffry, hearing it, came pounding over on his big black horse to his daughter and told it to her in great spirits.

"He is a sly dog, John Oxon," he said, a broad grin on his rubicund face. "This very week he comes to us, and he and I are cronies, yet he has blabbed nothing of what is being buzzed about by all the world."

"He has learned how to keep a closed mouth," said Mistress Clorinda, without asking a question.

"But 'tis marriage he is so mum about, bless ye!" said Sir Jeoffry. "And that is not a thing to be hid long. He is to be shortly married, they say. My lady, his mother, has found him a great fortune in a new beauty but just come to town. She hath great estates in the West Indies, as well as a fine fortune in England-- and all the world is besieging her; but Jack hath come and bowed sighing before her, and writ some verses, and borne her off from them all."

"'Tis time," said Clorinda, "that he should marry some woman who can pay his debts and keep him out of the spunging house, for to that he will come if he does not play his cards with skill."

Sir Jeoffry looked at her askance and rubbed his red chin.

"I wish thou hadst liked him, Clo," he said, "and ye had both had fortunes to match. I love the fellow, and ye would have made a handsome pair."

Mistress Clorinda laughed, sitting straight in her saddle, her fine eyes unblenching, though the sun struck them.

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"We had fortunes to match," she said--"I was a beggar and he was a spendthrift. Here comes Lord Dunstanwolde."

And as the gentleman rode near, it seemed to his dazzled eyes that the sun so shone down upon her because she was a goddess and drew it from the heavens.

In the west wing of the Hall 'twas talked of between Mistress Wimpole and her charges, that a rumour of Sir John Oxon's marriage was afloat.

"Yet can I not believe it," said Mistress Margery; "for if ever a gentleman was deep in love, though he bitterly strove to hide it, 'twas Sir John, and with Mistress Clorinda."

"But she," faltered Anne, looking pale and even agitated--"she was always disdainful to him and held him at arm's length. I--I wished she would have treated him more kindly."

"'Tis not her way to treat men kindly," said Mistress Wimpole.

But whether the rumour was true or false--and there were those who bestowed no credit upon it, and said it was mere town talk, and that the same things had been bruited abroad before--it so chanced that Sir John paid no visit to his relative or to Sir Jeoffry for several months. 'Twas heard once that he had gone to France, and at the French Court was making as great a figure as he had made at the English one, but of this even his kinsman Lord Eldershawe could speak no more certainly than he could of the first matter.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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