Antony Foster was still engaged in debate with his fair guest, who treated with scorn every entreaty and request that she would retire to her own apartment, when a whistle was heard at the entrance-door of the mansion.
“We are fairly sped now,” said Foster; “yonder is thy lord’s signal, and what to say about the disorder which has happened in this household, by my conscience, I know not. Some evil fortune dogs the heels of that unhanged rogue Lambourne, and he has ’scaped the gallows against every chance, to come back and be the ruin of me!”
“Peace, sir,” said the lady, “and undo the gate to your master.—My lord! my dear lord!” she then exclaimed, hastening to the entrance of the apartment; then added, with a voice expressive of disappointment, “Pooh! it is but Richard Varney.”
“Ay, madam,” said Varney, entering and saluting the lady with a respectful obeisance, which she returned with a careless mixture of negligence and of displeasure, “it is but Richard Varney; but even the first grey cloud should be acceptable, when it lightens in the east, because it announces the approach of the blessed sun.”
“How! comes my lord hither to-night?” said the lady, in joyful yet startled agitation; and Anthony Foster caught up the word, and echoed the question. Varney replied to the lady, that his lord purposed to attend her; and would have proceeded with some compliment, when, running to the door of the parlour, she called aloud, “Janet—Janet! come to my tiring-room instantly.” Then returning to Varney, she asked if her lord sent any further commendations to her.
“This letter, honoured madam,” said he, taking from his bosom a small parcel wrapped in scarlet silk, “and with it a token to the Queen of his Affections.” With eager speed the lady hastened to undo the silken string which surrounded the little packet, and failing to unloose readily the knot with which it was secured, she again called loudly on Janet, “Bring me a knife—scissors—aught that may undo this envious knot!”
“May not my poor poniard serve, honoured madam?” said Varney, presenting a small dagger of exquisite workmanship, which hung in his Turkey-leather sword-belt.
“No, sir,” replied the lady, rejecting the instrument which he offered—“steel poniard shall cut no true-love knot of mine.”
“It has cut many, however,” said Anthony Foster, half aside, and looking at Varney. By this time the knot was disentangled without any other help than the neat and nimble fingers of Janet, a simply-attired pretty maiden, the daughter of Anthony Foster, who came running at the repeated call of her mistress. A necklace of orient pearl, the companion of a perfumed billet, was now hastily produced from the packet. The lady gave the one, after a slight glance, to the charge of her attendant, while she read, or rather devoured, the contents of the other.
“Surely, lady,” said Janet, gazing with admiration at the neck-string of pearls, “the daughters of Tyre wore no fairer neck-jewels than these. And then the posy, ’For a neck that is fairer’—each pearl is worth a freehold.”