So you thought I was asleep, did you, Mistress Nan? I suppose after all these years you will not be ready to box my ears for having heard? It was no feigning; I really was so worn and wearied out that I lay back on the cushions they had arranged for me in a sort of assoupissement, only at first able to feel that I was safe, and that Annora was with me. She says that I dropped her hand. Well, perhaps I may have dozed for a moment, but it seems to me that I never lost the knowledge of the sound of the wheels, nor of the murmuring voices, though I could not stir, nor move hand nor foot, and though I heard it all, it was not till I was lying in bed the next morning that I recollected any part of it, and then it was more as if I had dreamt it than as a reality.
Moreover, Annora was hovering over me, looking perfectly innocent, and intent on making me rest, and feeding me upon possets, and burning to hear my story. Then came my mother from St. Germain, having received a courier who had been dispatched at dawn. She embraced me and wept over me, and yet—and yet I think there mingled with her feeling something of vexation and annoyance. If I were to be carried off at all by a man of rank and station, it would have been almost better if he had succeeded in marrying me than that the affair should be a mere matter of gossip. Certainly, that my rescue should be owing to one of the factious lawyers, and to that mischievous party leader the Coadjutor, was an unmixed grievance. After all my follies at Nid de Merle, I was quite sufficiently in ill odour with the Court to make it needful to be very careful. If I had only waited till morning, the Queen would have taken care to deliver me without my having given a triumph which the Frondeurs would not fail to make the most of.
‘Where should I have been in the morning?’ I said. ’Did she not know that the horrible wager related to midnight?’
She supposed any woman could take care of herself. At any rate I had contrived to offend everybody. The Prince was paramount at Court, and carried all before him. Mademoiselle, in her devotion to him, and the Queen-Regent would never forgive my trafficking with the Frondeurs. On the whole, my mother really thought that the best way to regain my favour or even toleration, would be to accept M. de Lamont with a good grace, since he was certainly distractedly in love with me, and if I fell into disgrace with the authorities, I might have my son and the administration of his property taken away from me in a still more distressing manner, whereas it would only depend on myself to rule M. de Lamont.
‘I have only to say,’ observed Annora, ’that if she were to do such a thing I should never speak to her again.’
Whereupon my mother severely reproved my sister, declaring that it was all her fault, and that she had gone beyond all bounds when left to herself, and would be a disgrace to the family.