Now he turned, smiling, a really superb creature in his blue and gold. “I had another message from the Queen—”
“George,” Cynthia said, with fond concern, “it frightens me to see you thus foolhardy, in tempting alike the Queen’s anger and the Plague.”
“Eh, as goes the Plague, it spares nine out of ten,” he answered, lightly. “The Queen, I grant you, is another pair of sleeves, for an irritated Tudor spares nobody.”
But Cynthia Allonby kept silence, and did not exactly smile, while she appraised her famous young kinsman. She was flattered by, and a little afraid of, the gay self-confidence which led anybody to take such chances. Two weeks ago it was that the painted terrible old Queen had named Lord Pevensey to go straightway into France, where rumour had it, King Henri was preparing to renounce the Reformed Religion, and making his peace with the Pope: and for two weeks Pevensey had lingered, on one pretence or another, at his house in London, with the Plague creeping about the city like an invisible incalculable flame, and the Queen asking questions at Windsor. Of all the monarchs that had ever reigned in England, Elizabeth was the least used to having her orders disregarded. Meanwhile Lord Pevensey came every day to the Marquis of Falmouth’s lodgings at Deptford; and every day Lord Pevensey pointed out to the marquis’s daughter that Pevensey, whose wife had died in childbirth a year back, did not intend to go into France, for nobody could foretell how long a stay, as a widower. Certainly it was all very flattering ...
“Yes, and you would be an excellent match,” said Cynthia, aloud, “if that were all. And yet, what must I reasonably expect in marrying, sir, the famous Earl of Pevensey?”
“A great deal of love and petting, my dear. And if there were anything else to which you had a fancy, I would get it for you.”
Her glance went to those lovely cups and lingered fondly. “Yes, dear Master Generosity, if it could be purchased or manufactured, you would get it for me—”
“If it exists I will get it for you,” he declared.
“I think that it exists. But I am not learned enough to know what it is. George, if I married you I would have money and fine clothes and soft hours and many lackeys to wait on me, and honour from all men. And you would be kind to me, I know when you returned from the day’s work at Windsor—or Holyrood or the Louvre. But do you not see that I would always be to you only a rather costly luxury, like those cups, which the Queen’s minister could afford to keep for his hours of leisure?”
He answered: “You are all in all to me. You know it. Oh, very well do you know and abuse your power, you adorable and lovely baggage, who have kept me dancing attendance for a fortnight, without ever giving me an honest yes or no.” He gesticulated. “Well, but life is very dull in Deptford village, and it amuses you to twist a Queen’s adviser around your finger! I see it plainly, you minx, and I acquiesce because, it delights me to give you pleasure, even at the cost of some dignity. Yet I may no longer shirk the Queen’s business,—no, not even to amuse you, my dear.”