When this pleasant life had lasted about ten days, Maurice came in one morning and said,
“What do you say to a visitor to-day, Lucia?”
Lucia looked up eagerly with clasped hands,
“Who?” she cried. “Not your cousin?”
“Oh, Maurice! I am afraid of her—I am indeed. I am sure she is a grande dame, and will annihilate me.”
“Silly child! She is a tiny woman, with a fair little face and not a bit of grandeur about her. You yourself will look like a queen beside her.”
“She is your very good friend, is not she?”
“Indeed she is. Promise me to try to like her.”
“Of course, I will try. Is she really coming here?”
“She wishes to call this afternoon.”
Lucia looked round the room. It was nice enough, and pretty in its way with its mirrors, gilt ornaments, and imposing clock on the mantelpiece; but it was so small! Three people quite filled it up. But she finished her survey with a laugh.
“If they would only let us have less furniture!” she said. “It was all very well as long as we had nothing better than tables and chairs to fill up the room with; but at present—”
She finished her sentence with a little shrug, in imitation of Claudine, which made Maurice laugh also. He proceeded, however, to warn her that worse was in reserve.
“Louisa will come alone, to-day,” he said, “because I told her Mrs. Costello was an invalid, but you must expect that next time she will bring her husband, and Sir John is no small person I assure you.”
“When did they arrive?”
“How long will they stay, do you think?”
“Two or three weeks I imagine, but I know nothing positively of their plans.”
“And Maurice, tell me when you must go back to England? I do not want our pleasant life to end just as suddenly as it began.”
“Nor do I. I am not going just yet.”
“But have not you quantities of affairs to attend to, you important person?”
“My most serious affair at present is in Paris. Don’t be afraid, I am not forgetting my duties.”
“Then we cannot go out to-day?”
“Put on your bonnet and come now for a walk.”
“I must ask mamma, and tell her your news. She is late this morning.”
Mrs. Costello had risen late since she came to Paris. Lucia found her dressed and discussing some household affair with Claudine.
“Only think, mamma,” she began. “Lady Dighton came over yesterday and is coming to see you to-day.”
But the news was no surprise to Mrs. Costello, who had received a hint from Maurice that he wished to see his cousin and Lucia friends, before he ventured on that decisive question to which they all, except Lucia, were looking forward so anxiously. But she was keenly alive to the desire that her child should make a favourable impression on this lady, who had evidently some influence with Maurice, and who, if the wished-for marriage took place, would become Lucia’s near relative and neighbour. She said nothing at all about this, however, and was perfectly content that the young people should take one of those long walks which brought such a lovely colour into her daughter’s pale cheeks, and so gave the last perfecting touch to her beauty.