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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

Which treats of the obsequies of my Lord of Dunstanwolde, of his lady's widowhood, and of her return to town

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Mistress Anne paused within the doorway, her eyes dazzled by the tall radiant shape and blot of scarlet colour as if by the shining of the sun. She knew in that moment that all was changed, and that the world of darkness they had been living in for the past months was swept from existence. When her sister had worn her mourning weeds she had seemed somehow almost pale; but now she stood in the sunlight with the rich scarlet on her cheek and lip, and the stars in her great eyes.

"Come in, sister Anne," she said. "I lay aside my weeds, and my woman is folding them away for me. Dost know of any poor creature newly left a widow whom some of them would be a help to? 'Tis a pity that so much sombreness should lie in chests when there are perhaps poor souls to whom it would be a godsend."

Before the day was over, there was not a shred of black stuff left in sight; such as had not been sent out of the house to be distributed, being packed away in coffers in the garrets under the leads.

"You will wear it no more, sister?" Anne asked once. "You will wear gay colours--as if it had never been?"

"It IS as if it had never been," Clorinda answered. "Ere now her lord is happy with her, and he is so happy that I am forgot. I had a fancy that--perhaps at first--well, if he had looked down on earth--remembering--he would have seen I was faithful in my honouring of him. But now, I am sure--"

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She stopped with a half laugh. "'Twas but a fancy," she said. "Perchance he has known naught since that night he fell at my feet-- and even so, poor gentleman, he hath a happy fate. Yes, I will wear gay colours," flinging up her arms as if she dropped fetters, and stretched her beauteous limbs for ease--"gay colours--and roses and rich jewels--and all things--ALL that will make me beautiful!"

The next day there came a chest from London, packed close with splendid raiment; when she drove out again in her chariot her servants' sad-coloured liveries had been laid by, and she was attired in rich hues, amidst which she glowed like some flower new bloomed.

Her house in town was thrown open again, and set in order for her coming. She made her journey back in state, Mistress Anne accompanying her in her travelling-coach. As she passed over the highroad with her equipage and her retinue, or spent the night for rest at the best inns in the towns and villages, all seemed to know her name and state.

"'Tis the young widow of the Earl of Dunstanwolde," people said to each other--"she that is the great beauty, and of such a wit and spirit that she is scarce like a mere young lady. 'Twas said she wed him for his rank; but afterwards 'twas known she made him a happy gentleman, though she gave him no heir. She wore weeds for him beyond the accustomed time, and is but now issuing from her retirement."

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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