Now the girl who had to go closer and closer to the alien figure was Anne herself, and the distant sounds of metal and squeaking leather that the real men seemed to emit grew closer and closer. Anne could not raise her eyes from the smooth stone of the floor over which Sister Marie led her toward the boots at the other end of the convent’s entrance hall, from which Anne could see that legs rose, but no more unless it were the hint of a red silk surcoat.
“My lord,” said Sister Marie. “I bring you Anne of Mowton.”
“I thank you, sister,” said a deep voice—much deeper than Father Boaz’. “Anne of Mowton,” the voice said, and now Anne could not help looking up at its owner, because in the words—in the very pronunciation of Anne’s own name, there seemed to be a world opening up before her. This new realm seemed so strange as to make her heart beat very fast, but it seemed also the first new thing to happen to her in twelve years.
Anne didn’t count as new the unpleasant realities of the monthly blood that had come upon her late, at fifteen, and the scarcely less troubling, if more gradual, blossoming of her body under the voluminous pupil’s dress that was closer to a sister’s habit than it was to the court traveling gown she now wore. All the older pupils, many of them Anne’s friends, had gone through those same changes before her, and thus they could hardly have seemed very new, even if to have them occur to Anne herself could be said at least to have been different.
Still less did she count the news of the deaths of her father and brother. Nearly all the pupils had lost relations, very many of them relations as near and dear as the ones Anne had lost.
No, what happened to Anne then was new.
Anne saw a face of astonishing beauty—of a beauty astonishing above all because it felt wrong to think of the face’s appearance as beautiful. The long fair hair that fell to the man’s shoulders, which would have seemed lovely or adorable on a girl, seemed in the company of the precise, strong angles of the slightly ruddy face that peered into Anne’s eyes with its own sky-blue ones, to call up in her mind not words like lovely and adorable, but rather words like strong and brave.
How could it be thus? It could only appear so to her, Anne supposed, because she knew that this was a real man, and the other girls and even the sisters defined what it meant to be a virtuous maiden by reference to what men did to keep virtuous maidens safe and sound, managing their households well and seeing to the pleasant things of life.
So the effect of the man’s beauty on Anne was to make her blush, as she could not imagine blushing in the presence of something she would have called ‘beautiful,’ like an altar-piece or a statue of a saint, or a pretty friend. She cast her eyes down again just as quickly as she had raised them, and even before he had said, “I am so well pleased to meet you that I can scarcely express it.”Buy it on Amazon by clicking here!