Norina turned round when she heard a knock on the door.
“Come in,” she said.
The door opened and a footman appeared carrying a tray.
He did not say anything, but thumped it down on the table and walked out of the room.
She gave a little sigh. Her mother would never have allowed anyone to be served in such a manner or by so surly a servant.
Her stepmother chose footmen by their appearance and had filled the house with servants Norina had never seen before. They were obviously not impressed that she was Lord Sedgewyn’s daughter.
It would have been unheard of in the past for her to eat in her bedroom instead of one of the other rooms downstairs, even if she had not been allowed into the dining room.
It was her stepmother who, whenever she could, barred her now from attending the dinner parties frequently given at the house.
Norina knew it was because of her appearance.
‘There is nothing I can do about it,’ she said to herself when she looked at her reflection in the mirror.
It was because she was so lovely that from the moment her stepmother set eyes on her, she hated her. It was with a ferociousness that vibrated, Norina thought, across a room.
She was even conscious of it behind locked doors.
When her mother had died two years before, her father had been distraught.
Lord Sedgewyn had adored his wife. She was a sweet, gentle, loving person who wanted everybody around her to be happy.
At sixteen it was very difficult for Norina to know what to do about her father or how to comfort him.
They lived in the country and he therefore went off by himself on long rides – only to return more despondent and depressed than he had been when he left.
Finally, as if he could bear the house no longer without his wife, he decided he would go to London.
He actually also had an appointment with his Solicitors to discuss the money his wife had left and he told Norina that he would be back in two days.
To her surprise, the two days had lengthened into two months and she had become very worried about him when finally he reappeared.
He certainly seemed more cheerful than he had been before.
At the same time she knew that he shuddered every time he passed his wife’s bedroom.
But it was less than a week before he said he had once more to go to London.
She realised later that because she was so young, she had never anticipated for one moment that her father would marry again.
But, five months after her mother’s funeral, he told her that he had asked a very attractive woman to take her mother’s place.
Norina could hardly believe what she was hearing. Yet, because her father seemed happier or rather less miserable, she said as little as possible.
She hoped that he would find some happiness with his ne