Ere long her worn look, thin cheek, and weary eye began to work on the heart of lady Margaret, and she relented in spirit towards the favourite of her husband, whose anticipated disappointment in her had sharpened the arrows of her resentment. But to the watery dawn of favour which followed, the poor girl could not throw wide her windows, knowing it arose from no change in lady Margaret’s judgment concerning her: she could not as a culprit accept what had been as a culprit withdrawn from her. The conviction burned in her heart like cold fire, that, but for compassion upon the desolate state of an orphan, she would have been at once dismissed from the castle. Sometimes she ventured to think that if lord Herbert had been at home, all this would not have happened; but now what could she expect other than that on his return he would regard her and treat her in the same way as his wife and father and brother?
But she found some relief in applying her mind to the task which lord Worcester had set her; and many a night as she tossed sleepless on her bed, would she turn from the thoughts that tortured her, to brood upon the castle, and invent if she might some new possible way, however difficult, of getting out of it unseen: and many a morning after the night thus spent, would she hasten, ere the household was astir, to examine some spot which had occurred to her as perhaps containing the secret she sought. One time it was a chimney that might have door and stair concealed within it; another, the stables, where she examined every stall in the hope of finding a trap to an underground way. Had any one else been in question but Richard, the traitor, the roundhead, she might have imagined an associate within the walls, in which case farther solution would not have been for her; but somehow, she did not make it clear to herself how, she could not entertain the idea in connection with Richard. Besides, in brooding over everything, it had grown plain to her that both Richard and Marquis had that night been through the moat.
Some who caught sight of her in the early dawn, wandering about and peering here and there, thought that she was losing her senses; others more ingenious in the thinking of evil, imagined she sought to impress the household with a notion of her innocence by pretending a search for the concealed flaw in the defences.
Ever since she had been put in charge of the water-works, she had been in the habit of lingering a little on the roof of the keep as often as occasion took her thither, for she delighted in the far outlook on the open country which it afforded; and perhaps it was a proof of the general healthiness of her nature that now in her misery, instead of shutting herself up in her own chamber, she oftener sought the walk around the reservoir, looking abroad in shadowy hope of some lurking deliverance, like captive lady in the stronghold of evil knight. On one of these occasions, in the first of the twilight, she was leaning over one of the battlements looking down upon the moat and its white and yellow blossoms and great green leaves, and feeling very desolate. Her young life seemed to have crumbled down upon her and crushed her heart, and all for one gentle imprudence.