Mr. Strafford’s words had thus already begun to bear fruit. As for himself, the doubt he had expressed was merely a doubt—a matter of speculation, not of feeling. Still, while it remained in his mind, it was a sufficient reason for using every possible means of discovering the truth, and scarcely needed the additional impulse given by his warm regard for Mrs. Costello and Lucia, to induce him to devote himself, as far as his other duties would allow, to the unfortunate Christian. He was anxious to bring the long separated husband and wife together, not merely for the reason he had spoken of, but because he thought that if their meetings promised comfort or benefit to the prisoner, it would be his wife’s duty to continue them; while if they proved useless, she might be released from all obligation to remain at Cacouna.
The change which had taken place in the fortunes of Maurice Leigh was one that might have dazzled him a little, if he had not had a strong counteracting influence in the thought of all he had left in Canada. He found himself, without hesitation or difficulty, but with a suddenness which was like the transformations in a fairy tale, changed from a Backwoods farmer’s son into an important member of an old and wealthy family. Only the other day he had been working hard and holding up to himself as the reward of his work, the hope of becoming a successful provincial lawyer; now he was the heir, and all but the actual possessor, of a splendid fortune and an estate which gave him a foremost place among English country gentlemen.
His arrival at Hunsdon, his grandfather’s house, had been a moment of some embarrassment both to him and to Mr. Beresford. Each had some feeling of prejudice against the other, yet each felt that it was only by having a mutual liking and regard that they could get on comfortably together. Happily their very first meeting cleared up all doubts on the subject. Mr. Beresford instantly decided that a grandson who so strongly resembled his own family, and who even in the backwoods had managed to grow up with the air and manner of a gentleman, would be, in a year or two, quite qualified to become Squire of Hunsdon, and that in the meantime he would be a pleasant companion.
Maurice, on the other hand, forgot his grandfather’s former harshness, and reproached himself for his unwillingness to come to England, when he saw how solitary the great house was, and how utterly the feeble and paralytic old man was left to the care and companionship of servants. He wondered at first that this should be so, for the rich generally have no want of friends; but the puzzle soon explained itself as he began to know his grandfather better. Mr. Beresford had been a powerful and very active man; he had been proud of his strength and retained it to old age. Then, suddenly, paralysis came, and he was all at once utterly helpless. His son was dead, his granddaughter married, and away from him; his pride shrank from showing his infirmity to other relatives. So he shut the world out altogether, and by-and-by the loneliness he thus brought upon himself, growing too oppressive, he began to long for his daughter’s children.