“Your judgment, madam,” said Varney, “is far superior to mine, especially as you may, if you will, prove the ice before you step on it, by mentioning Tressilian’s name to my lord, and observing how he endures it. For Foster and his attendant, they know not Tressilian by sight, and I can easily give them some reasonable excuse for the appearance of an unknown stranger.”
The lady paused for an instant, and then replied, “If, Varney, it be indeed true that Foster knows not as yet that the man he saw was Tressilian, I own I were unwilling he should learn what nowise concerns him. He bears himself already with austerity enough, and I wish him not to be judge or privy-councillor in my affairs.”
“Tush,” said Varney, “what has the surly groom to do with your ladyship’s concerns?—no more, surely, than the ban-dog which watches his courtyard. If he is in aught distasteful to your ladyship, I have interest enough to have him exchanged for a seneschal that shall be more agreeable to you.”
“Master Varney,” said the Countess, “let us drop this theme. When I complain of the attendants whom my lord has placed around me, it must be to my lord himself.—Hark! I hear the trampling of horse. He comes! he comes!” she exclaimed, jumping up in ecstasy.
“I cannot think it is he,” said Varney; “or that you can hear the tread of his horse through the closely-mantled casements.”
“Stop me not, Varney—my ears are keener than thine. It is he!”
“But, madam!—but, madam!” exclaimed Varney anxiously, and still placing himself in her way, “I trust that what I have spoken in humble duty and service will not be turned to my ruin? I hope that my faithful advice will not be bewrayed to my prejudice? I implore that—”
“Content thee, man—content thee!” said the Countess, “and quit my skirt—you are too bold to detain me. Content thyself, I think not of thee.”
At this moment the folding-doors flew wide open, and a man of majestic mien, muffled in the folds of a long dark riding-cloak, entered the apartment.
“This is he
Who rides on the court-gale; controls its tides;
Knows all their secret shoals and fatal eddies;
Whose frown abases, and whose smile exalts.
He shines like any rainbow—and, perchance,
His colours are as transient.”—Old play.
There was some little displeasure and confusion on the Countess’s brow, owing to her struggle with Varney’s pertinacity; but it was exchanged for an expression of the purest joy and affection, as she threw herself into the arms of the noble stranger who entered, and clasping him to her bosom, exclaimed, “At length—at length thou art come!”
Varney discreetly withdrew as his lord entered, and Janet was about to do the same, when her mistress signed to her to remain. She took her place at the farther end of the apartment, and continued standing, as if ready for attendance.