Grace’s description of Mr. Kinnear, his house, and his lifestyle paints a portrait of a wealthy gentleman who feels licensed to live outside the usual expectations of society. Although Grace finds Mr. Kinnear kind upon first meeting him, there is also something about him that strikes her as detached from social norms. For instance, Grace describes how when they arrived at his estate, Mr. Kinnear jumped down from the carriage and ran over to Nancy, seeming to forget that Grace was there and had no easy way to step down from the carriage’s height. Though not deliberately cruel, his forgetfulness showed a lack of awareness. Grace also makes note of the paintings in Mr. Kinnear’s bedroom. These paintings portrayed naked women, and even though Grace didn’t consider them offensive, she indicates their inappropriateness when she remarks that the decor at the Alderman Parkinson household consisted mainly of landscapes and still-lifes. Grace’s description indicates how Mr. Kinnear did not live by the usual social standards, and it also subtly recalls for the reader Mary Whitney’s critique of wealthy gentleman as ultimately selfish and aloof to the plight of women. Though Mr. Kinnear may have been kind, his lifestyle raised suspicions about his character and his relationships with women.
The account Grace gives of her relationship with James McDermott has an ambiguous quality. Her first impressions of Mr. Kinnear’s stable hand are clearly negative. He has a gruff appearance and an ill-tempered demeanor. She also suspects that he is a liar. He claimed that he was twenty-one, but when he told her about his life, the details of his story suggested that he must have been several years older. Despite these reservations, Grace clearly also found in McDermott a certain rough charm. When she ran into him in the chicken coop on her first morning working for Mr. Kinnear, he made a joke and laughed. Though unsettled by his sudden appearance, she nonetheless thought McDermott looked better when smiling. Later, when the servants all gathered outside to relax and listen to Jamie Walsh play his flute, McDermott danced along the top of the fence. Although Nancy warned Grace not to pay attention to him, since he was just showing off, Grace nonetheless watches him out of the corner of her eye. These details suggest that Grace may have found something attractive in the otherwise gruff McDermott, which might complicate her repeated claims to have despised the man.