Wonderful alchemy of the imagination, which can draw from a nature ignoble, and altogether earthly, nourishment for dreams so sweet and so sunny! Lucia’s fancy had made for her a picture, such as most girls make for themselves once in their lives, and the portrait was as unfaithful as the original himself could have desired. Mr. Percy had become almost a daily visitor at the Cottage. Attracted by Lucia’s beauty, he came, as he would have said, had he spoken frankly, to amuse himself during a dull visit, with no thought but that of entertaining himself and her for the moment. But, in fact, the magnet had more power over him than he knew; he came, because, without a much stronger effort of self-denial than was possible to him, he could not stay away. And though he thought himself free, Lucia had in her heart an unacknowledged sense of power over him; the old ability to torment, which she had so often exercised on Maurice in mere girlish playfulness. Once or twice she had purposely exerted this power over her new acquaintance, but not with her old carelessness; too deeply interested in the question of how far it extended, she used it with trembling as a dangerous instrument which might fail, and wound her in its recoil. But as days passed on, and each one brought him to the Cottage, or found Lucia with Mrs. Bellairs, and therefore in his society, it began to seem incredible that his coming was an event of only a few weeks ago; the past seemed to have receded, and this present, so bright and perfect, to be all her life. Yet, in truth, she had no notion of anatomizing her thoughts or feelings. They had come to be largely, almost wholly occupied by a new inmate, but she was simply content that it should be so, without once considering the subject.
One person, however, spent many bitter thoughts upon this recent change. To Maurice Leigh every day had brought a more thorough knowledge of Lucia’s infatuation and of his own loss. He had loved her almost all his life, and would love her faithfully now, and always; but he began to be aware now, that he required more of her than the affection which he could still claim; that he wanted her daily companionship; her sympathy in all that interested him; her confidence with regard to all that concerned herself. He wanted all this; but he could do without it: he could love her and wait, if that were all. But what was hardest, nay, almost unendurable, was the anticipation of her day of disenchantment, when she must see the truth as he saw it now, and find herself thrown aside to learn, in solitude and suffering, how blindly she had suffered herself to be duped by a fair appearance. For, of course, Maurice was unjust. Seeing Lucia daily as she grew up, he had no idea how much the charm of her grace and beauty had influenced even him, and failed utterly to estimate their effect upon others. He said to himself that Mr. Percy was a mere selfish fop, who, tired of the amusements of Europe and too effeminate for the hardier enjoyments of a new country, was driven by mere emptiness of head to occupy himself with the pursuit of the prettiest woman he met with.