Mrs. Costello had regained nearly her usual health. One day, shortly after the Dightons left, she asked Lucia to bring her desk, saying that she must write to Mr. Wynter, and that it was time they should make some different arrangement, since, as they had long ago agreed, Paris was too expensive for them to stay there all the year.
Lucia remembered what Maurice had said to her about her mother returning to England, but the consciousness of what had really been in his mind at the moment stopped her just as she was about to speak. She brought the desk, and said only,
“Have you thought of any place, mamma?”
“I have thought of two or three, but none please me,” Mrs. Costello answered. “We want a cheap place—one within easy reach of England, and one not too much visited by tourists. It is not very easy to find a place with all the requisites.”
“No, indeed. But you are not able to travel yet.”
“Yes I am. Indeed, it is necessary we should go soon, if not immediately.”
Lucia sighed. She would be sorry to leave Paris. Meantime her mother had opened the desk, but before beginning to write she took out a small packet of letters, and handed them to Lucia. “I will give these to you,” she said, “for you have the greatest concern with them, though they were not meant for your eyes.”
Lucia looked at the packet and recognized Maurice’s hand.
“Ought I to read them, then?” she said.
“Certainly. Nay, I desire that you will read them carefully. Yes, Lucia,” she went on in a softer tone, “I wish you to know all that has been hidden from you. Take those notes and keep them. When you are an old woman you may be glad to remember that they were ever written.”
Lucia could not answer. She carried the packet away to her own chair, and sitting down, opened it and began to read. It was only Maurice’s notes, written to Mrs. Costello from England, and they were many of them very hasty, impetuous, and not particularly well-expressed missives. But if they had been eloquence itself, they could not have stirred the reader’s heart as they did. It was the simple bare fact of a great love—so much greater than she could ever have deserved, and yet passed by, disregarded, unperceived in her arrogant ignorance; this was what she seemed to see in them, and it wrung her heart with vain repentance and regret. And, as she bent over them there suddenly arose in her mind a doubt—a question which seemed to have very little to do with those letters, yet which they certainly helped to raise—had she ever loved Percy? Lucia was romantic. Like other romantic girls, she would formerly have said—indeed, she had said to herself many times—“I shall love him all my life—even if he forgets me I shall still love him.” And yet now she was conscious—dimly, unwillingly conscious, that she thought very little of him, and that even that little was not at all in the strain she would