The Nest of the Sparrowhawk HTML version

XI. A Woman's Heart
It is difficult, perhaps, to analyze rightly the feelings and sensations of a young
girl, when she is literally being swept off her feet in a whirlpool of passion and
Some few years later when Lady Sue wrote those charming memoirs which are
such an interesting record of her early life, she tried to note with faithful accuracy
what was the exact state of her mind when three months after her first meeting
with Prince Amédé d'Orléans, she plighted her troth to him and promised to
marry him in secret and in defiance of her guardian's more than probable
Her sentiments with regard to her mysterious lover were somewhat complex, and
undoubtedly she was too young, too inexperienced then to differentiate between
enthusiastic interest in a romantic personality, and real, lasting, passionate love
for a man, as apart from any halo of romance which might be attached to him.
When she was a few years older she averred that she could never have really
loved her prince, because she always feared him. Hers, therefore, was not the
perfect love that casteth out fear. She was afraid of him in his ardent moods,
almost as much as when he allowed his unbridled temper free rein. Whenever
she walked through the dark bosquets of the park, on her way to a meeting with
her lover, she was invariably conscious of a certain trepidation of all her nerves,
a wonderment as to what he would say when she saw him, how he would act;
whether chide, or rave, or merely reproach.
It was the gentle and pathetic terror of a child before a stern yet much-loved
parent. Yet she never mistrusted him ... perhaps because she had never really
seen him--only in outline, half wrapped in shadows, or merely silhouetted against
a weirdly lighted background. His appearance had no tangible reality for her. She
was in love with an ideal, not with a man ... he was merely the mouthpiece of an
individuality which was of her own creation.
Added to all this there was the sense of isolation. She had lost her mother when
she was a baby; her father fell at Naseby. She herself had been an only child, left
helplessly stranded when the civil war dispersed her relations and friends, some
into exile, others in splendid revolt within the fastnesses of their own homes,
impoverished by pillage and sequestration, rebellious, surrounded by spies,
watching that opportunity for retaliation which was so slow in coming.
Tossed hither and thither by Fate in spite of--or perhaps because of--her great
wealth, she had found a refuge, though not a home, at Acol Court; she had been
of course too young at the time to understand rightly the great conflict between
the King's party and the Puritans, but had naturally embraced the cause--for
which her father's life had been sacrificed--blindly, like a child of instinct, not like
a woman of thought.
Her guardian and Mistress de Chavasse stood for that faction of Roundheads at
which her father and all her relatives had sneered even while they were being