Lord Worcester had taken such a liking to Dorothy, partly at first because of the good store of merriment with which she and her mastiff had provided him, that he was disappointed when he found her place was not to be at his table but the housekeeper’s. As he said himself, however, he did not meddle with women’s matters, and indeed it would not do for lady Margaret to show her so much favour above her other women, of whom at least one was her superior in rank, and all were relatives as well as herself.
Dorothy did not much relish their society, but she had not much of it except at meals, when, however, they always treated her as an interloper. Every day she saw more or less of lady Margaret, and found in her such sweetness, if not quite evenness of temper, as well as gaiety of disposition, that she learned to admire as well as love her. Sometimes she had her to read to her, sometimes to work with her, and almost every day she made her practise a little on the harpsichord. Hence she not only improved rapidly in performance, but grew capable of receiving more and more delight from music. There was a fine little organ in the chapel, on which blind young Delaware, the son of the marquis’s master of the horse, used to play delightfully; and although she never entered the place, she would stand outside listening to his music for an hour at a time in the twilight, or sometimes even after dark. For as yet she indulged without question all the habits of her hitherto free life, as far as was possible within the castle walls, and the outermost of these were of great circuit, enclosing lawns, shrubberies, wildernesses, flower and kitchen gardens, orchards, great fish-ponds, little lakes with fountains, islands, and summer-houses—not to mention the farmyard, and indeed a little park, in which were some of the finest trees upon the estate.
The gentlewomen with whom Dorothy was, by her position in the household, associated, were three in number. One was a rather elderly, rather plain, rather pious lady, who did not insist on her pretensions to either of the epithets. The second was a short, plump, round-faced, good-natured, smiling woman of sixty,—excelling in fasts and mortifications, which somehow seemed to agree with her body as well as her soul. The third was only two or three years older than Dorothy, and was pretty, except when she began to speak, and then for a moment there was a strange discord in her features. She took a dislike to Dorothy, as she said herself, the instant she cast her eyes upon her. She could not bear that prim, set face, she said. The country-bred heifer evidently thought herself superior to every one in the castle. She was persuaded the minx was a sly one, and would carry tales. So judged mistress Amanda Serafina Fuller, after her kind. Nor was it wonderful that, being such as she was, she should recoil with antipathy from one whose nature had a tendency to ripen over soon, and stunt its slow orbicular expansion to the premature and false completeness of a narrow and self-sufficing conscientiousness.