“I must tell you plainly that I am writing without my son’s knowledge. I would very much rather he should never know I have written; but I have been urged to do it by some things that have happened lately.
“Some time ago Maurice, speaking to me of Mr. Beresford’s will, told me that there had been a little difficulty in tracing one of the persons named as legatees. This was a cousin of Mr. Beresford’s, with whom he seems to have had very little acquaintance, and no recent intercourse whatever; although, except Lady Dighton, she was the nearest relative he had. The lawyers discovered, while Maurice was in Canada, that this lady herself was dead. Her marriage had been unfortunate, and she had a spendthrift son, to whom, as his mother’s heir, the money left by Mr. Beresford passed; but it appeared that she had also a daughter, who was in unhappy circumstances, being dependent on some relation of her father. Maurice, very naturally and properly, thought that, as head of the family, it was his duty to arrange something for this lady’s comfort; and accordingly, being in London, where she lives, he called on her. She has since then been in this neighbourhood, and I have seen her several times. She is a young lady of agreeable appearance and manners, and seems qualified to become popular, if she were in a position to do so. I should not have thought of this, however, if it had not been for a few words Maurice said to me one day. I asked him some question about marrying, hoping to hear some allusion to Lucia, but he said very gravely that he should certainly marry some time; he had promised his grandfather to do so. Then he said suddenly, ’What would you think of Emma Landor for a daughter-in-law?’ ‘Emma Landor?’ I answered; ’what has put her into your head?’ ‘Just this, sir,’ he said; ’if I am to marry as a duty, I had better find somebody to whom I shall do some good, and not all evil, by marrying them. Emma would enjoy being mistress here; she would do it well, too; and having Hunsdon, she would not miss anything else that might be wanting.’ With that he went out of the room; and after awhile I persuaded myself that he meant nothing serious by what he had said. However, Lady Dighton has spoken to me of the same thing since. Both she and I are convinced now that Maurice thinks—you may be, better then we are, able to understand why—that he has lost Lucia, and that, therefore, a marriage of convenience is all that he can hope for. Perhaps I am mistaken, or, at all events, too soon alarmed; but the mere idea of his proposing to this young lady throws me into a panic. If she should accept him (and Lady Dighton thinks she probably would), it would be a life-long misery. I am old-fashioned enough to think it would be a sin. He will not do it yet; perhaps he may see you again before he does. Do, I entreat of you, use the great influence you have always had with him to set things right. I have written a very long letter, because I could not ask your help without explaining; but I trust to your kindness to sympathize with my anxiety. Kindest regards to Lucia.”