The Nest of the Sparrowhawk HTML version

V. Under The Shadow Of The Elms
Her head full of romantic nonsense! Well! perhaps that was the true keynote of
Sue's character; perhaps, too, it was that same romantic temperament which
gave such peculiar charm to her personality. It was not mere beauty--of which
she had a plentiful share--nor yet altogether her wealth which attracted so many
courtiers to her feet. Men who knew her in those days at Acol and subsequently
at Court said that Lady Sue was magnetic.
She compelled attention, she commanded admiration, through that very
romanticism of hers which caused her eyes to glow at the recital of valor, or
sorrow, or talent, which caused her to see beauty of thought and mind and
character there where it lay most deeply hidden, there--sometimes--where it
scarce existed.
The dark figure of her guardian's secretary had attracted her attention from the
moment when she first saw him moving silently about the house and park: the
first words she spoke to him were words of sympathy. His life-story--brief and
simple as it had been--had interested her. He seemed so different from these
young and old country squires who frequented Acol Court. He neither wooed nor
flattered her, yet seemed to find great joy in her company. His voice at times was
harsh, his manner abrupt and even rebellious, but at others it fell to infinite
gentleness when he talked to her of Nature and the stars, both of which he had
studied deeply.
He never spoke of religion. That subject which was on everybody's tongue,
together with the free use of the most sacred names, he rigorously avoided, also
politics, and my Lord Protector's government, his dictatorship and ever-growing
tyranny: but he knew the name of every flower that grew in meadow or woodland,
the note of every bird as it trilled its song.
There is no doubt that but for the advent of that mysterious personality into Acol
village, the deep friendship which had grown in Sue's heart for Richard Lambert
would have warmed into a more passionate attachment.
But she was too young to reflect, too impulsive to analyze her feelings. The
mystery which surrounded the foreigner who lodged at the Quakeress's cottage
had made strong appeal to her idealism.
His first introduction to her notice, in the woods beyond the park gate on that cold
January evening, with the moon gleaming weirdly through the branches of the
elms, his solitary figure leaning against a tree, had fired her imagination and set it
wildly galloping after mad fantasies.
He had scarcely spoken on that first occasion, but his silence was strangely
impressive. She made up her mind that he was singularly handsome, although
she could not judge of that very clearly for he wore a heavy mustache, and a
shade over one eye; but he was tall, above the average, and carried the
elaborate habiliments which the Cavaliers still affected, with consummate grace