“’Twas the morris dancers and the May-pole; ’tis the first of May, as you know, madam,” said Mary in her sweet voice, made clear and loud to reach her grandmother’s ear; then up she went to kiss her, and the old woman eyed her with pride, which she was fain to conceal by chiding. “You will ruin your complexion if you go out in such a wind without your mask,” she said, and looked at the maiden’s roses and lilies with that rapture of admiration occasioned half by memory of her own charms which had faded, and half by understanding of the value of them in coin of love, which one woman can waken only in another.
For Catherine, Madam Cavendish had no glance of admiration nor word, though she had tended her faithfully all the day before and half the night, rubbing her with an effusion of herbs and oil for her rheumatic pains. Yet for her, Madam Cavendish had no love, and treated her with a stately toleration and no more. Mary understood no cause for it, and often looked, as she did then, with a distressful wonder at her grandmother when she seemed to hold her sister so slightingly.
“Here is Catherine, grandmother,” said she, “and she has had a narrow escape from being pressed as Maid Marion by the morris dancers.” Madam Cavendish made a slight motion, and looked not at Catherine, but turned to me with that face of anxious kindness which she wore for me alone. “Saw you aught of the Golden Horn this morning, Master Wingfield?” asked she, and I replied truthfully enough that I had not.
Then, to my dismay, she turned to Mary and inquired what were the goods which she had ordered from England, and to my greater dismay the maid, with such a light of daring and mischief in her blue eyes as I never saw, rattled off, the while Catherine and I stared aghast at her, such a list of women’s folderols as I never heard, and most of them quite beyond my masculine comprehension.
Madam Cavendish nodded approvingly when she had done. “’Tis a wise choice,” said she, “and as soon as the ship comes in have the goods brought here and unpacked that I may see them.” With that she rose stiffly, and, beckoning Catherine, who looked as if she could scarcely stand herself, much less serve as prop for another, she went out, tapping her stick heavily on one side, on the other leaning on her granddaughter’s shoulder.
I looked at Mistress Mary and she at me. We had withdrawn to the deepness of a window, while the black slaves moved in and out, bearing the breakfast dishes, as reasonably unheeded by us as the cup-bearers in a picture of a Roman banquet in the time of the Caesars which I saw once. Mistress Mary was pale with dismay, and yet her mouth twitched with laughter at the notion of displaying, before the horrified eyes of Madam Cavendish, those grim adornments which had arrived in the Golden Horn.
“La,” said she, “when they come a-trundling in a powder-cask and I courtesy and say, ’Madam, here is my furbelowed and gold-flowered sacque,’ I wonder what will come to pass.” Then she laughed.