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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.
Doubtless if Dorothy had shown any marked acknowledgment of the precedency of their rights--any eagerness to conciliate the aborigines of the circle, the ladies would have been more friendly inclined; but while capable of endless love and veneration, there was little of the conciliatory in her nature. Hence Mrs. Doughty looked upon her with a rather stately, indifference, my lady Broughton with a mild wish to save her poor, proud, protestant soul, and mistress Amanda Serafina said she hated her; but then ever since the Fall there has been a disproportion betwixt the feelings of young ladies and the language in which they represent them. Mrs. Doughty neglected her, and Dorothy did not know it; lady Broughton said solemn things to her, and she never saw the point of them; but when mistress Amanda half closed her eyes and looked at her in snake-Geraldine fashion, she met her with a full, wide-orbed, questioning gaze, before which Amanda's eyes dropped, and she sank full fathom five towards the abyss of real hatred.
During the dinner hour, the three generally talked together in an impregnable manner--not that they were by any means bosom-friends, for two of them had never before united in anything except despising good, soft lady Broughton. When they were altogether in their mistress's presence, they behaved to Dorothy and to each other with studious politeness.
The ladies Elizabeth and Anne, had their gentlewomen also, in all only three, however, who also ate at the housekeeper's table, but kept somewhat apart from the rest--yet were, in a distant way, friendly to Dorothy.
But hers, as we have seen, was a nature far more capable of attaching itself to a few than of pleasing many; and her heart went out to lady Margaret, whom she would have come ere long to regard as a mother, had she not behaved to her more like an elder sister. Lady Margaret's own genuine behaviour had indeed little of the matronly in it; when her husband came into the room, she seemed to grow instantly younger, and her manner changed almost to that of a playful girl. It is true, Dorothy had been struck with the dignity of her manner amid all the frankness of her reception, but she soon found that, although her nature was full of all real dignities, that which belonged to her carriage never appeared in the society of those she loved, and was assumed only, like the thin shelter of a veil, in the presence of those whom she either knew or trusted less. Before her ladies, she never appeared without some restraint--manifest in a certain measuredness of movement, slowness of speech, and choice of phrase; but before a month was over, Dorothy was delighted to find that the reserve instantly vanished when she happened to be left alone with her.
She took an early opportunity of informing her mistress of the relationship between herself and Scudamore, stating that she knew little or nothing of him, having seen him only once before she came to the castle. The youth on his part took the first fitting opportunity of addressing her in lady Margaret's presence, and soon they were known to be cousins all over the castle.
With lady Margaret's help, Dorothy came to a tolerable understanding of Scudamore. Indeed her ladyship's judgment seemed but a development of her own feeling concerning him.
'Rowland is not a bad fellow,' she said, 'but I cannot fully understand whence he comes in such grace with my lord Worcester. If it were my husband now, I should not marvel: he is so much occupied with things and engines, that he has as little time as natural inclination to doubt any one who will only speak largely enough to satisfy his idea. But my lord of Worcester knows well enough that seldom are two things more unlike than men and their words. Yet that is not what I mean to say of your cousin: he is no hypocrite--means not to be false, but has no rule of right in him so far as I can find. He is pleasant company; his gaiety, his quips, his readiness of retort, his courtesy and what not, make him a favourite; and my lord hath in a manner reared him, which goes to explain much. He is quick yet indolent, good-natured but selfish, generous but counting enjoyment the first thing,--though, to speak truth of him, I have never known him do a dishonourable action. But, in a word, the star of duty has not yet appeared above his horizon. Pardon me, Dorothy, if I am severe upon him. More or less I may misjudge him, but this is how I read him; and if you wonder that I should be able so to divide him, I have but to tell you that I should be unapt indeed if I had not yet learned of my husband to look into the heart of both men and things.'
'But, madam,' Dorothy ventured to say, 'have you not even now told me that from very goodness my lord is easily betrayed?'
'Well replied, my child! It is true, but only while he has had no reason to mistrust. Let him once perceive ground for dissatisfaction or suspicion, and his eye is keen as light itself to penetrate and unravel.'
Such good qualities as lady Margaret accorded her cousin were of a sort more fitted to please a less sedate and sober-minded damsel than Dorothy, who was fashioned rather after the model of a puritan than a royalist maiden. Pleased with his address and his behaviour to herself as she could hardly fail to be, she yet felt a lingering mistrust of him, which sprang quite as much from the immediate impression as from her mistress's judgment of him, for it always gave her a sense of not coming near the real man in him. There is one thing a hypocrite even can never do, and that is, hide the natural signs of his hypocrisy; and Rowland, who was no hypocrite, only a man not half so honourable as he chose to take himself for, could not conceal his unreality from the eyes of his simple country cousin. Little, however, did Dorothy herself suspect whence she had the idea,--that it was her girlhood's converse with real, sturdy, honest, straight-forward, simple manhood, in the person of the youth of fiery temper, and obstinate, opinionated, sometimes even rude behaviour, whom she had chastised with terms of contemptuous rebuke, which had rendered her so soon capable of distinguishing between a profound and a shallow, a genuine and an unreal nature, even when the latter comprehended a certain power of fascination, active enough to be recognisable by most of the women in the castle.
Concerning this matter, it will suffice to say that lord Worcester--who ruled his household with such authoritative wisdom that honest Dr. Bayly avers he never saw a better-ordered family--never saw a man drunk or heard an oath amongst his servants, all the time he was chaplain in the castle,--would have been scandalized to know the freedoms his favourite indulged himself in, and regarded as privileged familiarities.
There was much coming and going of visitors--more now upon state business than matters of friendship or ceremony; and occasional solemn conferences were held in the marquis's private room, at which sometimes lord John, who was a personal friend of the king's, and sometimes lord Charles, the governor of the castle, with perhaps this or that officer of dignity in the household, would be present; but whoever was or was not present, lord Herbert when at home was always there, sometimes alone with his father and commissioners from the king. His absences, however, had grown frequent now that his majesty had appointed him general of South Wales, and he had considerable forces under his command--mostly raised by himself, and maintained at his own and his father's expense.
It was some time after Dorothy had twice in one day met him darkling, before she saw him in the light, and was able to peruse his countenance, which she did carefully, with the mingled instinct and insight of curious and thoughtful girlhood. He had come home from a journey, changed his clothes, and had some food; and now he appeared in his wife's parlour--to sun himself a little, he said. When he entered, Dorothy, who was seated at her mistress's embroidery frame, while she was herself busy mending some Flanders lace, rose to leave the room. But he prayed her to be seated, saying gayly,
'I would have you see, cousin, that I am no beast of prey that loves the darkness. I can endure the daylight. Come, my lady, have you nothing to amuse your soldier with? No good news to tell him? How is my little Molly?'
During the conjugal talk that followed, his cousin had good opportunity of making her observations. First she saw a fair, well-proportioned forehead, with eyes whose remarkable clearness looked as if it owed itself to the mingling of manly confidence with feminine trustfulness. They were dark, not very large, but rather prominent, and full of light. His nose was a little aquiline, and perfectly formed. A soft obedient moustache, brushed thoroughly aside, revealed right generous lips, about which hovered a certain sweetness ever ready to break into the blossom of a smile. That and a small tuft below was all the hair he wore upon his face. Rare conjunction, the whole of the countenance was remarkable both for symmetry and expression--the latter mainly a bright intelligence; and if, strangely enough, the predominant sweetness and delicacy at first suggested genius unsupported by practical faculty, there was a plentifulness and strength in the chin which helped to correct the suggestion, and with the brightness and prominence of the eyes and the radiance of the whole, to give a brave, almost bold look to a face which could hardly fail to remind those who knew them of the lovely verses of Matthew Raydon, describing that of sir Philip Sidney:
A sweet attractive kinde of grace, A full assurance given by lookes, Continuall comfort in a face, The lineaments of Gospell-bookes; I trowe that countenance cannot lie Whose thoughts are legible in the eie.
Notwithstanding the disadvantages of the fashion, in the mechanical pursuits to which he had hitherto devoted his life, he wore, like Milton's Adam, his wavy hair down to his shoulders. In his youth, it had been thick and curling; now it was thinner and straighter, yet curled where it lay. His hands were small, with the taper fingers that indicate the artist, while his thumb was that of the artizan, square at the tip, with the first joint curved a good deal back. That they were hard and something discoloured was not for Dorothy to wonder at, when she remembered what she had both heard and seen of his occupations.
I may here mention that what aided Dorothy much in the interpretation of lord Herbert's countenance and the understanding of his character--for it was not on this first observation of him that she could discover all I have now set down--and tended largely to the development of the immense reverence she conceived for him, was what she saw of his behaviour to his father one evening not long after, when, having been invited to the marquis's table, she sat nearly opposite him at supper. With a willing ear and ready smile for every one who addressed him, notably courteous where all were courteous, he gave chief observance, amounting to an almost tender homage, to his father. His thoughts seemed to wait upon him with a fearless devotion. He listened intently to all his jokes, and laughed at them heartily, evidently enjoying them even when they were not very good; spoke to him with profound though easy respect; made haste to hand him whatever he seemed to want, preventing Scudamore; and indeed conducted himself like a dutiful youth, rather than a man over forty. Their confident behaviour, wherein the authority of the one and the submission of the other were acknowledged with co-relative love, was beautiful to behold.
When husband and wife had conferred for a while, the former stretched on a settee embroidered by the skilful hands of the latest-vanished countess, his mother, and the latter seated near him on a narrow tall-backed chair, mending her lace, there came a pause in their low-toned conversation, and his lordship looking up seemed anew to become aware of the presence of Dorothy.
'Well, cousin,' he said, 'how have you fared since we half-saw each other a fortnight ago?'
'I have fared well indeed, my lord, I thank you,' said Dorothy, 'as your lordship may judge, knowing whom I serve. In two short weeks my lady loads me with kindness enough to requite the loyalty of a life.'
'Look you, cousin, that I should believe such laudation of any less than an angel?' said his lordship with mock gravity.
'No, my lord,' answered Dorothy.
There was a moment's pause; then lord Herbert laughed aloud.
'Excellent well, mistress Dorothy!' he cried. 'Thank your cousin, my lady, for a compliment worthy of an Irishwoman.'
'I thank you, Dorothy,' said her mistress; 'although, Irishwoman as I am, my lord hath put me out of love with compliments.'
'When they are true and come unbidden, my lady,' said Dorothy.
'What! are there such compliments, cousin?' said lord Herbert.
'There are birds of Paradise, my lord, though rarely encountered.'
'Birds of Paradise indeed! they alight not in this world. Birds of Paradise have no legs, they say.
'They need them not, my lord. Once alighted, they fly no more.'
'How is it then they alight so seldom?'
'Because men shoo them away. One flew now from my heart to seek my lady's, but your lordship frighted it.'
'And so it flew back to Paradise--eh, mistress Dorothy?' said lord Herbert, smiling archly.
The supper bell rang, and instead of replying, Dorothy looked up for her dismissal.
'Go to supper, my lady,' said lord Herbert. 'I have but just dined, and will see what Caspar is about.'
'I want no supper but my Herbert,' returned lady Margaret. 'Thou wilt not go to that hateful workshop?'
'I have so little time at home now--'
'That you must spend it from your lady?--Go to supper, Dorothy.'
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