Meanwhile the Earl, for he was of no inferior rank, returned his lady’s caress with the most affectionate ardour, but affected to resist when she strove to take his cloak from him.
“Nay,” she said, “but I will unmantle you. I must see if you have kept your word to me, and come as the great Earl men call thee, and not as heretofore like a private cavalier.”
“Thou art like the rest of the world, Amy,” said the Earl, suffering her to prevail in the playful contest; “the jewels, and feathers, and silk are more to them than the man whom they adorn—many a poor blade looks gay in a velvet scabbard.”
“But so cannot men say of thee, thou noble Earl,” said his lady, as the cloak dropped on the floor, and showed him dressed as princes when they ride abroad; “thou art the good and well-tried steel, whose inly worth deserves, yet disdains, its outward ornaments. Do not think Amy can love thee better in this glorious garb than she did when she gave her heart to him who wore the russet-brown cloak in the woods of Devon.”
“And thou too,” said the Earl, as gracefully and majestically he led his beautiful Countess towards the chair of state which was prepared for them both—“thou too, my love, hast donned a dress which becomes thy rank, though it cannot improve thy beauty. What think’st thou of our court taste?”
The lady cast a sidelong glance upon the great mirror as they passed it by, and then said, “I know not how it is, but I think not of my own person while I look at the reflection of thine. Sit thou there,” she said, as they approached the chair of state, “like a thing for men to worship and to wonder at.”
“Ay, love,” said the Earl, “if thou wilt share my state with me.”
“Not so,” said the Countess; “I will sit on this footstool at thy feet, that I may spell over thy splendour, and learn, for the first time, how princes are attired.”
And with a childish wonder, which her youth and rustic education rendered not only excusable but becoming, mixed as it was with a delicate show of the most tender conjugal affection, she examined and admired from head to foot the noble form and princely attire of him who formed the proudest ornament of the court of England’s Maiden Queen, renowned as it was for splendid courtiers, as well as for wise counsellors. Regarding affectionately his lovely bride, and gratified by her unrepressed admiration, the dark eye and noble features of the Earl expressed passions more gentle than the commanding and aspiring look which usually sat upon his broad forehead, and in the piercing brilliancy of his dark eye; and he smiled at the simplicity which dictated the questions she put to him concerning the various ornaments with which he was decorated.
“The embroidered strap, as thou callest it, around my knee,” he said, “is the English Garter, an ornament which kings are proud to wear. See, here is the star which belongs to it, and here the Diamond George, the jewel of the order. You have heard how King Edward and the Countess of Salisbury—”