Long ago, Lucia had clasped her hands before her face. She sat trembling and cowering before this accuser. Involuntarily she said in her heart, “This is the true love. I have been blind—blind!”—but her words were frozen up—she bent forward as if under a blow—but made no sound.
Maurice himself remained silent for a few minutes. He had spoken under a strong impulse of excitement, he hardly knew how. He, too, leaned his head upon his hand, but from under it he still watched the trembling girlish figure, which was the dearest thing in the world to him. Presently he saw a tear steal out from between her small fingers and fall glittering upon the black dress she wore. He moved uneasily—he had been surely very harsh. Another tear fell—tear of bitter humiliation, good for her to shed—then a third. He could not endure it. She might not love him, but that was no reason why he should turn her sisterly affection into hate. So he went to her, and laid his hand softly on one of hers, trying to draw it away. She let him do so after a moment, but her face remained just as much hidden.
“Lucia!” he said, full of distress, “Lucia! speak to me.”
She could not—all her efforts were needed to keep down the painful swelling in her throat. She was fighting for power to say humbly, “Try to forgive me,” but he did not give her time.
“If you would only say good-bye—only one word;” and he almost knelt beside her, raising her cold hand half-unconsciously to his lips.
She drew it away suddenly. His tenderness was the worst reproach of all. Her sobs burst out without control. She rose. “No; rather forgive me,” she tried to say, but her voice was choked and hardly audible; and she fled from the room, hurrying into her own, and fell down on the floor at the bedside.
Maurice waited for awhile, thinking she might come back. He sat down near where her chair stood, and leaning both elbows on the table, tried to calm himself after the terrible excitement. Lucia’s tears and her silence had utterly disarmed him—he called himself a brute for having distressed her. But as time went on, and she did not return, he remembered that he could not just then meet Mrs. Costello, and he got up and began to walk about the room uneasily. Still, time went on, and there was no sign of Lucia. He wished to knock at her door, but dared not. He must go then without one good-bye!
“That is my own fault at any rate,” he said, and went away softly, without even seeing Claudine.
But, as it happened, Mrs. Costello was long coming back. Lady Dighton had confided to her Maurice’s wish to see Lucia alone, and the two ladies, very happy and confidential over their schemes, both supposing that nothing but good could come of a long talk between the young people—prolonged their absence till more than two hours after Maurice had returned to the hotel. So that his preparations for leaving Paris were almost completed by the time that Lucia, hearing her mother’s entrance, came out of the solitude where she had hidden her tears and her repentance.