Lucia tried to hide the traces of her tears, but the attempt was not particularly successful. Mrs. Costello saw at once that something was wrong; she asked whether Maurice had been there, and was told briefly yes, but she delayed any other questions for two reasons. One was, that merely saying that “Yes” had brought a quiver over Lucia’s face, and the other, that she herself was tired and had got into a habit of dreading any kind of excitement. She felt a presentiment that there was nothing pleasant to hear, and at the same time was quite sure that whatever there was, her daughter would be unable to keep long from her.
She allowed Lucia to carry away her bonnet and shawl, and arrange her comfortably on the sofa for a rest. Then she began to describe her drive, and the shops at which Lady Dighton had been making various purchases. Lucia listened, and tried to be interested, and to lose the sense of shame and mortification mixed with real compunction, which was making her wretched. But her heart ached, and besides, she had cried, sitting all alone on her bedroom floor, till she was exhausted and half blind. All the while her mother talked, she kept thinking of Maurice—she neither called him “Poor Maurice,” in her thoughts, nor “Dear Maurice”—but only “Maurice, Maurice,” over and over again—her friend who was gone from her, whom she had justly lost.
But when she was growing more and more absorbed in her own regrets, and her mother’s voice was beginning to sound to her like one in a dream, there came a sudden sharp ring at the door-bell. Could it be Maurice? She grew red as fire while she listened—but the door opened and shut, and there were no steps but Claudine’s in the hall.
The maid came in. “A letter for madame, and a packet for mademoiselle,”—both directed by Maurice.
Lucia took hers to the window. She scarcely dared to open it, but she feared to appear to hesitate. Slowly she broke the seals, and found a tiny morocco case and a note. She hardly looked at the case, the note would be Maurice’s farewell, and she did not know whether it would bring reproach or forgiveness with it. It was not long—even with her dazzled eyes, she was not more than a minute reading it.
“My dear old playfellow and pupil”—it began—“I cannot leave Paris without saying ‘Good-bye,’ and asking you to forgive me, not for what I said this morning, but for the way in which I said it. If you cannot love me (and I understand now that you cannot) it is not your fault; and I ought to have remembered that, even when it seemed hardest. I cannot stay here now; but you will recollect that if ever you want me—as a friend or brother, you know—a single line will be enough to bring me to your help. Finally, I beg of you, for the sake of old times, to wear the ring I send. I bought it for you—you ought to have no scruple in accepting a keepsake from your oldest friend, MAURICE LEIGH.”