’It sets an ill example to my quiet house if the ladies therein go anights to the gentlemen’s chambers.’
‘My lord, you are cruel,’ said Dorothy.
‘Not a soul in the house knows it but myself, my lord,’ said mistress Watson.
’Hold there, my good woman! Whose hand was it turned the key upon her? More than thou must know thereof. Hear me, mistress Dorothy: I would be heart-loath to quarrel with thee, and in all honesty I am glad thy lover—’
‘He is no lover of mine, my lord! At least—’
’Be he what he may, he is a fine fellow, and I am glad he hath escaped. Do thou but find out for my lord Charles here the cursed rat-hole by which he goes and comes, and I will gladly forgive thee all the trouble thou hast brought into my sober house. For truly never hath been in my day such confusion and uproar therein as since thou earnest hither, and thy dog and thy lover and thy lover’s mare followed thee.’
’Alas, my lord! if I were fortunate enough to find it, what would you but say I found it where I knew well to look for it?’
’Find it, and I promise thee I will never say word on the matter again. Thou art a good girl, and thou do venture a hair too far for a lover. The still ones are always the worst, mistress Watson.’
‘My lord! my lord!’ cried Dorothy, but ended not, for his lordship gave a louder cry. His face was contorted with anguish, and he writhed under the tiger fangs of the gout.
‘Go away,’ he shouted, ’or I shall disgrace my manhood before women, God help me!’
‘I trust thee will bear me no malice,’ said the housekeeper, as they walked in the direction of Dorothy’s chamber.
‘You did but your duty,’ said Dorothy quietly.
‘I will do all I can for thee,’ continued mistress Watson, mounted again, if not on her high horse then on her palfrey, by her master’s behaviour to the poor girl—’if thou but confess to me how thou didst contrive the young gentleman’s escape, and wherefore he locked the door upon thee.’
At the moment they were close to Dorothy’s room; her answer to the impertinence was to walk in and shut the door; and mistress Watson was thenceforward entirely satisfied of her guilt.
An evil time.
And now was an evil time for Dorothy. She retired to her chamber more than disheartened by lord Worcester’s behaviour to her, vexed with herself for doing what she would have been more vexed with herself for having left undone, feeling wronged, lonely, and disgraced, conscious of honesty, yet ashamed to show herself—and all for the sake of a presumptuous boy, whose opinions were a disgust to her and his actions a horror! Yet not only did she not repent of what she had done, but, fact as strange as natural, began, with mingled pleasure and annoyance, to feel her heart drawn towards