“I am quite warm, thank you. How long the road seems to-night! Shall we ever be at home?”
“We are almost there. See, that is your own acacia-tree.”
“I am so glad. Don’t turn up the lane. I can run up there perfectly well by myself.”
“Indeed you will not. Sit still, if you please.”
“How tiresome you are, Maurice! You treat me just as if I were a baby.”
“Do I? A bad habit, I suppose. I will try to cure myself.”
His tone was so quiet, so free from either ridicule or anger, that she grew more impatient still.
“Now pray do let me get out. I can see Mr. Leigh’s light burning still, as well as mamma’s. They must both be tired of waiting. Why does your father always sit up for you, Maurice? Is he afraid to trust you?”
“Lucia!” His tone was angry now, and silenced her. In another minute they stopped at the gate of the cottage.
Mrs. Costello had heard the sound of their wheels, and instantly opened the door. Lucia’s half-formed intention of making some kind of apology for her petulance, had no time to ripen. Maurice helped her down without speaking, bade her good night, exchanged a word or two with her mother, and drove slowly away again.
Mother and daughter went in together to Lucia’s room; but Mrs. Costello, noticing that her child looked pale and weary, left her almost immediately. Lucia instantly flew to the window. The farmhouse where Mr. Leigh and Maurice lived was so near that the lights in its different windows could be plainly distinguished. After a moment, the one which had been burning steadily as they passed the house, flickered suddenly, disappeared, and then, shone more brightly through the opening door.
“He is at home,” said Lucia to herself. “Poor Maurice, how good he is! What on earth made me so cross?”
She continued to watch. Presently the light which had returned to the sitting-room vanished altogether, and a fainter gleam stole out from what she knew to be the window of Maurice’s room. She said “Good-night” softly, as if he could hear her, dropped her curtain, and was soon fast asleep.
That night Mrs. Costello’s lamp was extinguished long before Maurice’s. Tired and dispirited, he had seated himself before his little writing-table, and given himself up to a dream of no pleasant kind. It was so completely the habit of his life to think of Lucia that it would have been strange if her image had not been prominent in his meditations; but to-night for the first time he tried to get rid of this image. He was used to her whims and changing moods, to her waywardness and occasional tyranny. When he was a boy they had often quarrelled, and taxed the efforts of his sister Alice, Lucia’s inseparable friend, to reconcile them; but since his long absence at college, and, above all, since Alice’s death, they had ceased to torment each other. The relations of master and pupil had been added to those of playfellows,