Maurice had telegraphed from Liverpool, and the old-fashioned carriage from Hunsdon met them at the last railway station. It was near sunset, and under a clear sky the soft rich green of the grass gleamed out with the brightness of spring. They soon turned into the park, and the house itself began to be visible through the budding, but still leafless, trees. Both father and son were silent. To the one, every foot of the road they traversed was haunted by the memories of thirty years ago; to the other, this coming home was a step towards the fulfilment of his hopes. They followed their own meditations, glad or sorrowful, until the last curve was turned, and they stopped before the great white pillars of the portico. Then Maurice remembered that this was his first coming home as master, and felt a momentary shyness take possession of him before his own new importance. He had been able during his absence to keep Hunsdon so much in the background, and to be so thoroughly the natural, portionless, Maurice Leigh. He jumped out of the carriage, however, and was too much occupied in helping his father, to think, for the next few minutes, of his own sensations at all. Then he discovered what he had not before thought about—that there were still two or three of the old servants who remembered his mother and her marriage, and who were eager to be recognised by “the Captain.”
And so the coming home was got over, and Mr. Leigh was fairly settled in the house from which so long ago he had stolen away his wife. After he had once taken possession of his rooms—the very ones which had been hers,—he seemed to think no more about Canada, but to be quite content with the new link to the past which supplied the place of his accustomed associations. And, perhaps, he felt the change all the less because of that inclination to return to the recollections of youth rather than of middle age, which seems so universal with the old.
Maurice sent over a messenger to Dighton to announce their arrival, and to tell his cousin that he intended leaving home again after one day’s interval. That one day was fully occupied, but, as he had half expected, in the afternoon Lady Dighton came over.
She knew already of his disappointment, and had sympathised with it. She came now with the kind intention of establishing such friendly relations with Mr. Leigh as would make Maurice more comfortable in leaving his father alone. She even proposed to carry the old man off to Dighton, but that was decided against.
“And you really start to-morrow?” she asked Maurice.
“Early to-morrow morning. I cannot imagine what the railway-makers have been thinking about; it will take me the whole day to get to Chester.”
“How is that?”
“Oh! there are about a dozen changes of line, and, of course, an hour to wait each time.”
“Cut off the exaggeration, and it is provoking enough. Is it in Chester this gentleman lives?”