The moment Maurice came, and he was satisfied that he should like him, he became perfectly content. His property was entirely in his own power, and one of his first proceedings was, rather ostentatiously, to make a will which was to relieve him of all future trouble about its disposal; his next to begin a regular course of instruction, intended to fit his grandson perfectly for the succession which was now settled upon him.
In this way, two or three weeks passed on, and Maurice grew accustomed to Hunsdon and to the sober routine of an invalid’s life. It was not a bright existence, certainly. The large empty house looked dreary and deserted; and the library to which Mr. Beresford was carried every morning, and where he lay all day immovable on his sofa, had the quiet dulness of aspect which belongs to an invalid’s room. There had been some few visitors since Maurice’s arrival, and what neighbours there were within a reasonable distance seemed disposed to be as friendly as possible; but still the monotony of this new life left him enough, and more than enough, leisure for speculations on the past and future, which had a large mixture of disturbing and uneasy thoughts to qualify their brightness. He waited, too, with considerable curiosity for the return of his cousin, who, with her husband, was away from home when he arrived. She had married a neighbouring baronet, and when at home was a frequent visitor at Hunsdon; and this was all that Maurice could learn about her.
But one morning, as he sat with Mr. Beresford, and the usual daily conversation, or rather lecture, about some affairs connected with the management of the estate was in full progress, a pony-carriage swept past the windows and stopped at the door.
“It is Louisa,” said Mr. Beresford, and the next minute the door of the room opened, and a little woman came in. She was so very little, that if she had chosen, she might have passed for a child; but she had no such idea. On the contrary, she had a way of enveloping herself in sweeping draperies and flowing robes that gave her a look of being much taller and infinitely more dignified than Nature had intended. She came in, in a kind of cloud, through which Maurice only distinguished an exceedingly pretty bright face, and a quantity of fair hair, together with a sort of soft feminine atmosphere which seemed all at once to brighten the dull room as she went straight up to her grandfather’s sofa, and bent down to give him a kiss.
“So you are come back?” Mr. Beresford said. “But you see, I have somebody else now. Here is your cousin Maurice.”
Lady Dighton turned round and held out her hand. “I am very glad to see my cousin,” she said. “It was quite time you had somebody to take care of you.”