But when he came to that point in his meditation, he sprang up impatiently, and the uncomfortable irritating feeling that he had been unfairly dealt with, tricked, in fact, began to take possession of him again. However, it only acted as a stimulant. He began to feel that he had entered into the lists with Mrs. Costello, and, regarding her as a faithless ally, was not a little disposed to do battle with her a l’outrance, and carry off Lucia for revenge as well as for love.
Directly after breakfast he had out the little red sleigh in which last winter he had so often driven his old playfellow to and from Cacouna, and started alone. He had many visits of friendship or business to pay, but he could not resist going first to Mrs. Bellairs.
After all, now that the first sharpness of his disappointment was over, it was pleasant to be at home and to meet friendly faces at every turn. He had to stop again and again to exchange greetings with people on the road, and even sometimes to receive congratulations on being a “rich man now,” “a lucky fellow”—congratulations which were both spoken and listened to as much as if the lands of Hunsdon were a fairy penny, in the virtues of which neither speaker nor hearer had any very serious belief. In fact, there was something odd and incredible in the idea that this was no longer plain Maurice Leigh, the most popular and one of the poorest members of this small Backwoods world, but Maurice Leigh Beresford, of Hunsdon, an English country gentleman rich enough, if he chose, to buy up the whole settlement.
Maurice went on his way, however, little troubled by his new dignity, and found Mrs. Bellairs and Bella expecting him. They had guessed that he would not delay coming for the promised address, and Mr. Strafford’s note containing it lay ready on the table; but when he came into the room their visitor did actually for the moment forget his errand in seeing the sombre black-robed figure which had taken the place of the gay Bella Latour. He had gone away just before her wedding, he had left her happy, bright, mischievous,—a girl whom sorrow had never touched, who seemed incapable of understanding what trouble meant; he came back, full of his own perplexities and disappointments, and found her one so seized upon by grief that it had grown into her nature, and clothed and crowned her with its sad pre-eminence. There was no ostentation of mourning about the young widow, it is true, but none the less Maurice in looking at her first forgot himself utterly, and then remembered his impatience and ill-humour with more shame than was at all agreeable.