“Never did I—or any other man—meet with such a head upon a woman’s shoulders,” her attorney said. And the head steward of Dunstanwolde and Helversly learned to quake at the sight of her bold handwriting upon the outside of a letter.
“Such a lady!” he said—“such a lady! Lie to her if you can; palter if you know how; try upon her the smallest honest shrewd trick, and see how it fares with you. Were it not that she is generous as she is piercing of eye, no man could serve her and make an honest living.”
She went to her chamber and was attired again sumptuously for dinner. Before she descended she dismissed her woman for a space on some errand, and when she was alone, drawing near to her mirror, gazed steadfastly within it at her face. When she had read Osmonde’s letter her cheeks had glowed; but when she had come back to earth, and as she had sat under her woman’s hands at her toilette, bit by bit the crimson had died out as she had thought of what was behind her and of what lay before. The thing was so stiffly rigid by this time, and its eyes still stared so. Never had she needed to put red upon her cheeks before, Nature having stained them with such richness of hue; but as no lady of the day was unprovided with her crimson, there was a little pot among her toilette ornaments which contained all that any emergency might require. She opened this small receptacle and took from it the red she for the first time was in want of.
“I must not wear a pale face, God knows,” she said, and rubbed the colour on her cheeks with boldness.
It would have seemed that she wore her finest crimson when she went forth full dressed from her apartment; little Nero grinned to see her, the lacqueys saying among themselves that his Grace’s courier had surely brought good news, and that they might expect his master soon. At the dinner-table ’twas Anne who was pale and ate but little, she having put no red upon her cheeks, and having no appetite for what was spread before her. She looked strangely as though she were withered and shrunken, and her face seemed even wrinkled. My lady had small leaning towards food, but she sent no food away untouched, forcing herself to eat, and letting not the talk flag—though it was indeed true that ’twas she herself who talked, Mistress Anne speaking rarely; but as it was always her way to be silent, and a listener rather than one who conversed, this was not greatly noticeable.
Her Ladyship of Dunstanwolde talked of her guests of the afternoon, and was charming and witty in her speech of them; she repeated the mots of the wits, and told some brilliant stories of certain modish ladies and gentlemen of fashion; she had things to say of statesmen and politics, and was sparkling indeed in speaking of the lovely languisher whose little wrist was too delicate and slender to support the loaded whip. While she talked, Mistress Anne’s soft, dull eyes were fixed upon her with a sort of wonder which had some of the quality of bewilderment; but this was no new thing either, for to the one woman the other was ever something to marvel at.