“I thank you, mistress, not to-day,” replied Master Skyffington somewhat dryly. The lady’s promises had not roused his enthusiasm. He would have preferred to see more definite reward for his labors, for he had worked faithfully and was substantially out of pocket in this quest after the two missing young men.
But he was imbued with that deep respect for the family he had served all his life, which no conflict between privilege and people would ever eradicate, and though Mistress de Chavasse’s origin was of the humblest, she was nevertheless herself now within the magic circle into which Master Skyffington never gazed save with the deepest reverence.
He thought it quite natural that she should dismiss him with a curt and condescending nod, and when she had swept majestically out of the room, he made his way humbly across the hall, then by the garden door out towards the tumble-down barn where he had tethered his old mare.
Master Courage helped him to mount, and he rode away in the direction of the Dover Road, his head bent, his thoughts dwelling in puzzlement and wonder on the strange doings of those whom he still reverently called his betters.
UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE ELMS
Her head full of romantic nonsense! Well! perhaps that was the true keynote of Sue’s character; perhaps, too, it was that same romantic temperament which gave such peculiar charm to her personality. It was not mere beauty—of which she had a plentiful share—nor yet altogether her wealth which attracted so many courtiers to her feet. Men who knew her in those days at Acol and subsequently at Court said that Lady Sue was magnetic.
She compelled attention, she commanded admiration, through that very romanticism of hers which caused her eyes to glow at the recital of valor, or sorrow, or talent, which caused her to see beauty of thought and mind and character there where it lay most deeply hidden, there—sometimes—where it scarce existed.
The dark figure of her guardian’s secretary had attracted her attention from the moment when she first saw him moving silently about the house and park: the first words she spoke to him were words of sympathy. His life-story—brief and simple as it had been—had interested her. He seemed so different from these young and old country squires who frequented Acol Court. He neither wooed nor flattered her, yet seemed to find great joy in her company. His voice at times was harsh, his manner abrupt and even rebellious, but at others it fell to infinite gentleness when he talked to her of Nature and the stars, both of which he had studied deeply.
He never spoke of religion. That subject which was on everybody’s tongue, together with the free use of the most sacred names, he rigorously avoided, also politics, and my Lord Protector’s government, his dictatorship and ever-growing tyranny: but he knew the name of every flower that grew in meadow or woodland, the note of every bird as it trilled its song.