“Your ladyship will do your pleasure,” answered Varney; “but methinks it were as well, since nothing calls for so frank a disclosure, to spare yourself this pain, and my noble lord the disquiet, and Master Tressilian, since belike he must be thought of in the matter, the danger which is like to ensue.”
“I can see nought of all these terrible consequences,” said the lady composedly, “unless by imputing to my noble lord unworthy thoughts, which I am sure never harboured in his generous heart.”
“Far be it from me to do so,” said Varney. And then, after a moment’s silence, he added, with a real or affected plainness of manner, very different from his usual smooth courtesy, “Come, madam, I will show you that a courtier dare speak truth as well as another, when it concerns the weal of those whom he honours and regards, ay, and although it may infer his own danger.” He waited as if to receive commands, or at least permission, to go on; but as the lady remained silent, he proceeded, but obviously with caution. “Look around you,” he said, “noble lady, and observe the barriers with which this place is surrounded, the studious mystery with which the brightest jewel that England possesses is secluded from the admiring gaze. See with what rigour your walks are circumscribed, and your movement restrained at the beck of yonder churlish Foster. Consider all this, and judge for yourself what can be the cause.
“My lord’s pleasure,” answered the Countess; “and I am bound to seek no other motive.”
“His pleasure it is indeed,” said Varney; “and his pleasure arises out of a love worthy of the object which inspires it. But he who possesses a treasure, and who values it, is oft anxious, in proportion to the value he puts upon it, to secure it from the depredations of others.”
“What needs all this talk, Master Varney?” said the lady, in reply. “You would have me believe that my noble lord is jealous. Suppose it true, I know a cure for jealousy.”
“Indeed, madam?” said Varney.
“It is,” replied the lady, “to speak the truth to my lord at all times—to hold up my mind and my thoughts before him as pure as that polished mirror—so that when he looks into my heart, he shall only see his own features reflected there.”
“I am mute, madam,” answered Varney; “and as I have no reason to grieve for Tressilian, who would have my heart’s blood were he able, I shall reconcile myself easily to what may befall the gentleman in consequence of your frank disclosure of his having presumed to intrude upon your solitude. You, who know my lord so much better than I, will judge if he be likely to bear the insult unavenged.”
“Nay, if I could think myself the cause of Tressilian’s ruin,” said the Countess, “I who have already occasioned him so much distress, I might be brought to be silent. And yet what will it avail, since he was seen by Foster, and I think by some one else? No, no, Varney, urge it no more. I will tell the whole matter to my lord; and with such pleading for Tressilian’s folly, as shall dispose my lord’s generous heart rather to serve than to punish him.”