There had been a little flutter of expectation in Lucia’s mind for the last half-hour, in which she wondered her mother did not express more sympathy; and when, at last, the door opened, she was seized with a sudden tremor, and for an instant felt herself deaf and blind. The moment passed, however, and there came sweeping softly into the room a little figure with golden hair and widely flowing draperies; a fair face with a pleasant smile, and a clear musical voice; these were the things that first impressed her as belonging to Maurice’s formidable cousin.
Lady Dighton’s first words were of course addressed to Mrs. Costello—they seemed to Lucia to be a plea for a welcome, as Maurice’s near relation—and then the two young women stood face to face and exchanged one quick glance. Lady Dighton held out her hand.
“Miss Costello,” she said, “you and I are so totally unlike each other, that I am certain we were meant to be friends—will you try?”
The suddenness and oddity of the address struck Lucia dumb. She gave her hand, however, to her new friend with a smile, and as she did so, her eye caught the reflection of their two figures in a glass opposite.
Truly, they were unlike each other—very opposites—but either because, or in spite of the difference, they seemed to suit each other.
Half an hour spent in calling upon or receiving a call from an entire stranger, is generally a very heavy tax on one’s good humour; but occasionally, when the visit is clearly the beginning of a pleasant acquaintance—perhaps a valuable friendship—things are entirely different. Lady Dighton had come with the intention of making herself agreeable, and few people knew better how to do it; but she found no effort necessary, and time slipped away more quickly than she thought possible. She stayed, in fact, until she felt quite sure her husband would have been waiting so long as to be growing uneasy, and when she did get up to go away, she begged Mrs. Costello and Lucia to dine with her next day.
“And Maurice,” she said, “you must persuade Miss Costello to join us in an excursion somewhere. It is quite the weather for long drives, and our holiday will not be very long, you know.”
“I am entirely at your command,” Maurice said, “and Lucia must do as she is bid, so pray settle your plans with Mrs. Costello.”
But Mrs. Costello said decidedly that to dine out for herself was out of the question—she had not done so for years.
“Oh! I am so sorry,” Lady Dighton said. “But of course we must not ask you in that case—Miss Costello may come to us, may she not? I will take good care of her.”
Lucia had many scruples about leaving her mother; but, however, it was finally settled that the Dightons should call for her next day—that they should have a long drive to some place not yet fixed upon—and that she should afterwards spend the evening with them.