Lucia sighed heavily. She had now got over the difficulty of speaking on the subject to Maurice. She knew so well that he was trustworthy, and for the rest, was he not just the same as a brother?
“He might have waited a year,” she murmured. “You cannot imagine how happy I have been lately, thinking I must see him soon!”
“Cannot I?” Maurice cried desperately. “Listen to me, Lucia! I, too, have been happy lately. I have been living on a false hope. I have been deceived, and placed all my trust in a shadow. Don’t you think we ought to be able to feel for each other?”
His vehemence and the bitterness of his tone terrified her. She laid her little trembling hand on his appealingly.
“What do you mean?” she whispered.
But he had controlled himself instantly. He took hold of her hand and put it to his lips.
“I mean nothing,” he said, “at least nothing I can tell you about at present. Are you feeling strong enough to meet Mrs. Costello? You must not frighten her, you know, as you did me.”
“Did I frighten you? I am so sorry and ashamed—only, you know—Yes, I can behave well now.”
He saw that she could. Her self-command had entirely returned now. Her grieving would be silent or kept for solitude henceforward. They had already passed the barrier, and in a minute would stop at the door.
“I am not coming in with you,” Maurice said, “I must go on now; but I shall see you this evening.”
He saw her inside the house and then drove away, while she little guessed how sore a heart he took with him.
As Lucia went up the staircase, the slight stimulus of excitement which Maurice’s presence had supplied, died out, and she began to be conscious of a horrible depression and sense of vacancy. She went up with a step that grew more tired and languid at every movement, till she reached the door where Claudine was having a little gossip with the concierge.
She was glad even to be saved the trouble of ringing, and glided past the two “like a ghaist,” and came into her mother’s presence with that same weary gait and white face. It was not even until Mrs. Costello rose in alarm and surprise with anxious questions on her lips that the poor child became aware of the change in herself.
“I am tired,” she said. “I have such a headache, mamma,” and she tried to wake herself out of her bewilderment and look natural.
“Where is Maurice?”
“He is gone—he is coming back this evening, I think he said.”
Mrs. Costello guessed instantly that Maurice was the cause of Lucia’s disturbance.
“Poor child!” she thought; “it could not help but be a surprise to her. I wonder if all is going well?” But she dared not speak of that subject just yet.
“You must have walked much too far,” she said aloud. “Go and lie down, darling—I will come with you.”