“A gentleman, ma’am, who says he has come a long way to see master, and would you speak to him for a moment?”
Mrs. Wynter took up the card, and her daughter read it over her shoulder.
“Leigh Beresford?” she said. “I do not know the name at all. You said Mr. Wynter was from home?”
“Yes, ma’am. The gentleman seemed very much put out, and then said could he see you?”
“I suppose he must;” and Mrs. Wynter began, rather reluctantly, to put aside her embroidery, and draw up her lace shawl around her shoulders.
“But what a pretty name! Mamma, who can he be?”
“And, mamma, if he is nice bring him in and let us all see him.”
“No, don’t; we don’t want any strangers. What do people come after dinner for?”
Mrs. Wynter paid no attention to her daughters, but having made up her mind to it, walked composedly out of the room, and into the one where Maurice waited. She came in, a fair motherly woman, in satin and lace, with a certain soft comfortableness about her aspect which seemed an odd contrast to his impatience. He took pains to speak without hurry or excitement, but did not, perhaps, altogether succeed.
“I must beg you to pardon me this intrusion,” he said. “I hoped to have found Mr. Wynter at home, and I wished to ask him a question which I have no doubt you can answer equally well if you will be so good.”
“If it relates to business,” Mrs. Wynter began, but Maurice interrupted,
“It is only about an address. I have just arrived in England from Canada; I am an old friend and neighbour of Mrs. Costello, and have something of importance to communicate to her, will you tell me where she is?”
Poor Maurice! he had been getting his little speech ready beforehand, and had made up his mind to speak quite coolly, but somehow the last few words seemed very much in earnest, and struck Mrs. Wynter as being so. She looked more closely at her guest.
“Mrs. Costello is in France. Did I understand that you had known her in Canada?”
“I have known her all my life. I spent the last summer and autumn in England, and did not return to Canada until after she had left, but she knew that I should have occasion to see her, or write to her as soon as I could reach home again, and I am anxious to do so now.”
“You are aware that Mrs. Costello wishes to live very quietly? Her health is much broken.”
“I know all. Mrs. Costello has herself told me. Pray trust me—you may, indeed.”
“You will excuse my hesitation if you do know all; but, certainly, I have no authority to refuse their address.”
She got up and opened a desk which stood on a table in the room. She had considered the matter while they were talking, and come to the conclusion that the address ought to be given, while at the same time she wished to know more of the person to whom she gave it.