In some degree his arrival was sudden. He had been looked for so long, that Lucy had almost given over looking for him. She did believe he was on his road home, by the sea passage, but precisely when he might be expected, she did not know.
Since the marriage of Decima, Lucy had lived on alone with Lady Verner. Alone, and very quietly; quite uneventfully. She and Lionel met occasionally, but nothing further had passed between them. Lionel was silent; possibly he deemed it too soon after his wife’s death to speak of love to another, although the speaking of it would have been news to neither. Lucy was a great deal at Lady Hautley’s. Decima would have had her there permanently; but Lady Verner negatived it.
They were sitting at breakfast one morning, Lady Verner and Lucy, when the letter arrived. It was the only one by the post that morning. Catherine laid it by Lady Verner’s side, to whom it was addressed; but the quick eyes of Lucy caught the superscription.
“Lady Verner! It is papa’s handwriting.”
Lady Verner turned her head to look at it. “It is not an Indian letter,” she remarked.
“No. Papa must have landed.”
Opening the letter, they found it to be so. Sir Henry had arrived at Southampton, Lucy turned pale with agitation. It seemed a formidable thing, now it had come so close, to meet her father, whom she had not seen for so many years.
“When is he coming here?” she breathlessly asked.
“To-morrow,” replied Lady Verner; not speaking until she had glanced over the whole contents of the letter. “He purposes to remain a day and a night with us, and then he will take you with him to London.”
“But a day and a night! Go away then to London! Shall I never come back?” reiterated Lucy, more breathlessly than before.
Lady Verner looked at her with calm surprise. “One would think, child, you wanted to remain in Deerham. Were I a young lady, I should be glad to get away from it. The London season is at its height.”
Lucy laughed and blushed somewhat consciously. She thought she should not care about the London season; but she did not say so to Lady Verner. Lady Verner resumed.
“Sir Henry wishes me to accompany you, Lucy. I suppose I must do so. What a vast deal we shall have to think of to-day! We shall be able to do nothing to-morrow when Sir Henry is here.”
Lucy toyed with her tea-spoon, toyed with her breakfast; but the capability of eating more had left her. The suddenness of the announcement had taken away her appetite, and a hundred doubts were tormenting her. Should she never again return to Deerham?—never again see Li——
“We must make a call or two to-day, Lucy.”
The interruption, breaking in upon her busy thoughts, caused her to start. Lady Verner resumed.
“This morning must be devoted to business; to the giving directions as to clothes, packing, and such like. I can tell you, Lucy, that you will have a great deal of it to do yourself; Catherine’s so incapable since she got that rheumatism in her hand. Therese will have enough to see to with my things.”