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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

"Yes--I have marked him"

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Through the brilliant, happy year succeeding to his marriage my Lord of Dunstanwolde lived like a man who dreams a blissful dream and knows it is one.

"I feel," he said to his lady, "as if 'twere too great rapture to last, and yet what end could come, unless you ceased to be kind to me; and, in truth, I feel that you are too noble above all other women to change, unless I were more unworthy than I could ever be since you are mine."

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Both in the town and in the country, which last place heard many things of his condition and estate through rumour, he was the man most wondered at and envied of his time--envied because of his strange happiness; wondered at because having, when long past youth, borne off this arrogant beauty from all other aspirants she showed no arrogance to him, and was as perfect a wife as could have been some woman without gifts whom he had lifted from low estate and endowed with rank and fortune. She seemed both to respect himself and her position as his lady and spouse. Her manner of reigning in his household was among his many delights the greatest. It was a great house, and an old one, built long before by a Dunstanwolde whose lavish feasts and riotous banquets had been the notable feature of his life. It was curiously rambling in its structure. The rooms of entertainment were large and splendid, the halls and staircases stately; below stairs there was space for an army of servants to be disposed of; and its network of cellars and wine-vaults was so beyond all need that more than one long arched stone passage was shut up as being without use, and but letting cold, damp air into corridors leading to the servants' quarters. It was, indeed, my Lady Dunstanwolde who had ordered the closing of this part when it had been her pleasure to be shown her domain by her housekeeper, the which had greatly awed and impressed her household as signifying that, exalted lady as she was, her wit was practical as well as brilliant, and that her eyes being open to her surroundings, she meant not that her lacqueys should rob her and her scullions filch, thinking that she was so high that she was ignorant of common things and blind.

"You will be well housed and fed and paid your dues," she said to them; "but the first man or woman who does a task ill or dishonestly will be turned from his place that hour. I deal justice--not mercy."

"Such a mistress they have never had before," said my lord when she related this to him. "Nay, they have never dreamed of such a lady-- one who can be at once so severe and so kind. But there is none other such, my dearest one. They will fear and worship you."

She gave him one of her sweet, splendid smiles. It was the sweetness she at rare times gave her splendid smile which was her marvellous power.

"I would not be too grand a lady to be a good housewife," she said. "I may not order your dinners, my dear lord, or sweep your corridors, but they shall know I rule your household and would rule it well."

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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