And being led into the loving boldness by her gratitude, she bent forward and touched with her lips the fair hand resting on the chair’s arm.
Mistress Clorinda fixed her fine eyes upon her in a new way.
“I’ faith, it doth not seem fair, Anne,” she said. “I should not like to change lives with thee. Thou hast eyes like a shot pheasant—soft, and with the bright hid beneath the dull. Some man might love them, even if thou art no beauty. Stay,” suddenly; “methinks—”
She uprose from her chair and went to the oaken wardrobe, and threw the door of it open wide while she looked within.
“There is a gown and tippet or so here, and a hood and some ribands I might do without,” she said. “My woman shall bear them to your chamber, and show you how to set them to rights. She is a nimble-fingered creature, and a gown of mine would give almost stuff enough to make you two. Then some days, when I am not going abroad and Mistress Margery frets me too much, I will send for you to sit with me, and you shall listen to the gossip when a visitor drops in to have a dish of tea.”
Anne would have kissed her feet then, if she had dared to do so. She blushed red all over, and adored her with a more worshipping gaze than before.
“I should not have dared to hope so much,” she stammered. “I could not—perhaps it is not fitting—perhaps I could not bear myself as I should. I would try to show myself a gentlewoman and seemly. I—I am a gentlewoman, though I have learned so little. I could not be aught but a gentlewoman, could I, sister, being of your own blood and my parents’ child?” half afraid to presume even this much.
“No,” said Clorinda. “Do not be a fool, Anne, and carry yourself too humbly before the world. You can be as humble as you like to me.”
“I shall—I shall be your servant and worship you, sister,” cried the poor soul, and she drew near and kissed again the white hand which had bestowed with such royal bounty all this joy. It would not have occurred to her that a cast-off robe and riband were but small largesse.
It was not a minute after this grateful caress that Clorinda made a sharp movement—a movement which was so sharp that it seemed to be one of dismay. At first, as if involuntarily, she had raised her hand to her tucker, and after doing so she started—though ’twas but for a second’s space, after which her face was as it had been before.
“What is it?” exclaimed Anne. “Have you lost anything?”
“No,” quoth Mistress Clorinda quite carelessly, as she once more turned to the contents of the oaken wardrobe; “but I thought I missed a trinket I was wearing for a wager, and I would not lose it before the bet is won.”
“Sister,” ventured Anne before she left her and went away to her own dull world in the west wing, “there is a thing I can do if you will allow me. I can mend your tapestry hangings which have holes in them. I am quick at my needle, and should love to serve you in such poor ways as I can; and it is not seemly that they should be so worn. All things about you should be beautiful and well kept.”