One more thing I noticed about Kari, namely, that he shrank from women and indeed seemed to hate them. The maids who had remained with me since my uncle’s death noticed this, by nature as it were, and in revenge would not serve him. The end of it was that, fearing lest they should do him some evil turn with the priests or otherwise, I sent them away and hired men to take their place. This distaste of Kari for women I set down to all that he had suffered at the hands of his false and beautiful wife not wrongly as I think.
THE COMING OF BLANCHE
One day, it was the last of the year, the anniversary of the death of my uncle whose goodness and wisdom I pondered on more and more as time went by, having a little time to spare from larger affairs, I chanced to be in the shop in the front of the house, which, as John Grimmer had said, he kept as a trap to “snare the ladybirds,” and I continued, because I knew that he would not wish that anything should be changed. Here I was pleasing myself by looking over such pieces as we had to sell which the head craftsman was showing to me, since myself I knew little of them, except as a matter of account.
Whilst I was thus engaged there entered the shop a very fine lady accompanied by a still finer lordling arrayed so similarly that, at first sight, in their hooded ermine cloaks it was difficult to know which was man and which was woman. When they threw these aside, however, for the shop was warm after the open air, I knew more than that, since with a sudden stoppage of the heart I saw before me none other than the lady Blanche Aleys and her relative, the lord Deleroy.
She, who in the old days of the Hastings burnings had been but a lily bud, was now an open flower and beautiful exceedingly; indeed in her own fashion the most beautiful woman that ever I beheld. Tall she was and stately as a lily bloom, white as a lily also, save for those wondrous blue eyes over which curled the dark lashes. In shape, too, she was perfect, full-breasted, yet not too full, small-waisted, and with delicate limbs, a very Venus, such an one as I had seen in ancient marble brought in a ship from Italy and given, as I believe, to the King, who loved such things, to be set up in his palace.
My lord also was yet handsomer than he had been, more set and manly, though still he affected his coxcomb party-coloured dress with the turned-up shoes of which the points were fastened by little golden chains beneath the knee. Still he was a fine man with his roving black eyes, his loose mouth and little pointed beard from which, as from his hair, came an odour of scents. Seeing me in my merchant’s gown, for I remained mindful of my uncle’s advice as regards attire, he spoke to me as great men do to shop-keepers.
“Well met, Goldsmith,” he said in his round, well-trained voice, “I would make a new-year gift to the lady here, and I am told that you have plate-wares of the best; gold cups and jewels of rich and rare design, stamped all of them with the image of the sun which one would wish to remember on such a day as this. But hearken, let John Grimmer himself come to serve me for I would treat with no underlings, or take me to him where he is.”