She bent and placed it within the shadow of the valance again, and as she felt it touch the hard oak of the polished floor her bosom rose with a soft sigh.
"It is an unseemly thing to do," she said; "'tis as though one were uncivil; but I dare not--I dare not do otherwise."
She would have turned to leave the apartment, being much overcome by the incident, but just as she would have done so she heard the sound of horses' feet through the window by which she must pass, and looked out to see if it was Clorinda who was returning from her ride. Mistress Clorinda was a matchless horsewoman, and a marvel of loveliness and spirit she looked when she rode, sitting upon a horse such as no other woman dared to mount--always an animal of the greatest beauty, but of so dangerous a spirit that her riding-whip was loaded like a man's.
This time it was not she; and when Mistress Anne beheld the young gentleman who had drawn rein in the court she started backward and put her hand to her heart, the blood mantling her pale cheek again in a flood. But having started back, the next instant she started forward to gaze again, all her timid soul in her eyes.
"'Tis he!" she panted; "'tis he himself! He hath come in hope to speak with my sister, and she is abroad. Poor gentleman, he hath come in such high spirit, and must ride back heavy of heart. How comely, and how finely clad he is!"
He was, in sooth, with his rich riding-habit, his handsome face, his plumed hat, and the sun shining on the fair luxuriant locks which fell beneath it. It was Sir John Oxon, and he was habited as when he rode in the park in town and the court was there. Not so were attired the country gentry whom Anne had been wont to see, though many of them were well mounted, knowing horseflesh and naught else, as they did.
She pressed her cheek against the side of the oriel window, over which the ivy grew thickly. She was so intent that she could not withdraw her gaze. She watched him as he turned away, having received his dismissal, and she pressed her face closer that she might follow him as he rode down the long avenue of oak-trees, his servant riding behind.
Thus she bent forward gazing, until he turned and the oaks hid him from her sight; and even then the spell was not dissolved, and she still regarded the place where he had passed, until a sound behind her made her start violently. It was a peal of laughter, high and rich, and when she so started and turned to see whom it might be, she beheld her sister Clorinda, who was standing just within the threshold, as if movement had been arrested by what had met her eye as she came in. Poor Anne put her hand to her side again.