Then he remembered, as if the reminder had been whispered in his ear, a promise he had made. It was one day during Mr. Beresford’s illness, when his mind was a little clearer than usual. He had been trying feebly to return to his old interests, and speaking in his weak broken tones, about the future. He grew very tired after awhile, and Maurice persuaded him to try to sleep, but there was yet another thing to be said.
“You must marry soon, Maurice.”
“I am young, sir, there is no hurry.”
“No—only let it be soon.”
“I must first find the lady.”
“I thought I could have helped you—but it is too late.” Maurice was silent.
“You will marry?” and the old man tried to raise himself in his earnestness.
“I hope to do so.”
“Don’t talk of hoping—it is a duty, positive duty.”
“I mean to do so, then, grandfather.”
“Say ’I will’—promise me.”
“If I both hope and intend it, sir, is that not enough?”
“No, no. Promise.”
“Well then, I promise.”
The invalid was satisfied, and in a few minutes dropped asleep, and the conversation almost passed from his grandson’s mind.
Now, however, he remembered it, as having bound him to something which might be a lifelong misery. He was young still; as he had said, there was time enough. But would any time make Lucia other than the first with him?
At last he got up and began to pace up and down the room, pushing first one, and then another article of furniture aside to make room for his walk.
“There is at least no further reason why she should not know all” he meditated. “Since my chance is gone, I cannot make matters worse by speaking, and it will be a relief to tell her.” He paused, dwelling on the idea of his speaking and her listening—how differently from what he had thought of before—and then went on—“To-morrow is as good as any other time. To-morrow I will ask her to go out with me again—our last walk together.”
He stopped again. At last he grew tired even of his own thoughts. He lighted his candles again, and sat down to write letters. First to his father, to say that he was coming home, to give him all the news, to speak just as usual of the Costellos—even specially of Lucia; then to his agent, and to other people, till the streets began to grow noisy and the candles to burn dim in the dawn.
Then he lay down, and fell into a deep, heavy sleep.
Maurice was scarcely awake next morning when a little note was brought him from his cousin. It was only two or three lines written late the night before, when she found that he did not come to their common sitting-room. It said, “What has come to all the world? I go to Mrs. Costello’s, and find Lucia with a violent headache, and with her ideas apparently much confused. I come home, and hear and see nothing of you till night, when I am told you have gone to your room without stopping for a moment to satisfy my curiosity. You will be at breakfast? I want to see you. LOUISA.”