Maurice, however, arrived early in the day. He had established himself at a neighbouring hotel, and came in quite with the old air of being at home. He made a little grimace when he heard of the others who were expected, but contented himself by making the most of the hours before their train was due. He found an opportunity also of conveying to Mrs. Costello his conviction that Hunsdon was very much in want of a lady to make it comfortable, and that Lucia would be much better there than shut up in London. The fact that London was in its glory at that moment made no impression on him.
“That is just it,” he said, when this was suggested to him. “I want to get it settled and bring her back to enjoy herself here a little before the season is over.”
It seemed, indeed, pretty evident that the present state of things could not last long; there was no reason why it should, and nothing but the bride’s preparations to delay the long-desired wedding.
The Wynters came about nine o’clock. Mrs. Wynter instantly recognized Maurice. Her daughters had speculated enough about her mysterious visitor that winter night, to have prevented her forgetting him, if she would otherwise have done so, and the state of affairs at present was very soon evident as an explanation of the mystery. When the party separated for the night, Mrs. Costello and Mr. Wynter remained in the drawing-room for that consultation for which he had come, while his wife and daughter stayed together upstairs to talk over their new relations before going to bed.
Mrs. Costello, as briefly as possible, made her cousin comprehend that she had been compelled to leave France, and had fled to England because it was the most accessible refuge.
“I never meant to have come back,” she said. “I have never allowed myself to think of it, because I could not disobey my father again.”
“I am glad you have come, to tell you the truth;” he answered. “I do not at all imagine that, in your present circumstances, my uncle would have wished to keep you away.”
Mrs. Costello looked relieved.
“I am almost inclined to go further,” he continued, “and to say that he must have anticipated your return.”
“Because in his will he gives you your income unconditionally, and only expresses a wish that you should not come back.”
“Is it so really?”
“Certainly. But you have a copy of the will.”
“It has not been unpacked since we came from Canada. I had made it so much my duty to obey the request that I had forgotten it had no condition attached to it.”
“It has none.”
“I am very glad; and you think he would have changed his mind now?”
“I think so. Especially as it seems to me Lucia is likely to settle in England.”
“Yes, indeed. That was the second thing I wanted to speak to you about.”
“They are engaged, I suppose?”