Maurice felt his cheek grow red as he recalled the picture. He moved impatiently, and in doing so, displaced some loose papers, which slipped to the ground. In stooping to gather them up, his hand touched a dead flower, which had fallen with them. It was Lucia’s rose. He was just about to throw it down again, when his hand stopped. “She spoke of something different,” he muttered; “are the old times coming to an end, I wonder? Times must change, I suppose.” He sighed, and instead of throwing the rose away, he slipped it into an envelope and locked it into his desk.
The Honourable Edward Percy was the younger son of the Earl of Lastingham, and might therefore be readily excused if he considered himself a person of some importance in a country where a baronetcy is the highest hereditary dignity, and where many of the existing “honourables” began life as country storekeepers or schoolmasters. It is true that in his own proper orbit, this luminary appeared but a star of small magnitude, his handsome person and agreeable qualities making slight compensation for a want of fortune which he had always considered a special hardship in his own case; regarding himself as admirably fitted by nature for spending money, and knowing by experience that his abilities were totally inadequate to saving it. His family was not rich; so far from it, indeed, that the great object of the Earl had been to marry his daughters like Harpagon’s “sans dot,” a task which was not yet satisfactorily accomplished; and all he had been able to do for his younger son, had been to use the very small political influence he possessed, to start him in life as an attache.
So the young man had seen various Courts, and improved his French and German; and at nearly thirty years of age he had begun to think that it was time to take another step in life.