But, of course, although they could not keep their thoughts prisoners, these mourners, who were genuine mourners after their different degrees, were constrained to observe the decorous, quiet, and interregnum of all ordinary occupation, which custom demands after a death. Lady Dighton returned home next day, hidden in her carriage, and went to shut herself up in her own house until the funeral. Maurice remained at Hunsdon, where he was now master, and spent his days in the library writing letters, or trying to make plans for his future, and it was then that the letter with his lost message to Mrs. Costello was sent off.
Yet the space between Mr. Beresford’s death and his funeral was to his heir a tedious and profitless blank. He had till now been kept here by living powers, gratitude and reverence; death came, and handed his custody over to cold but tyrannous propriety. Now he rebelled with all his heart, and spent hours of each solitary day in pacing backwards and forwards the whole space of the great dim room which seemed a prison to him.
The day before the funeral broke this stillness, two or three gentlemen, distant relations or old friends of his grandfather, came to Hunsdon, and towards evening there arrived the family solicitor, Mr. Payne. At dinner that day Maurice had to take his new position as host. It was, as suited the circumstances, a grave quiet party, but still there was something about the manner of the guests, and even in the fact of their being his guests, which was unconsciously consoling to Maurice as being a guarantee of his freedom and independence. Next morning the house was all sombre bustle and preparation. Lady Dighton and her husband arrived. She, to have one last look at the dead, he to join Maurice in the office of mourner; and at twelve o’clock, the long procession wound slowly away through the park, and the great house stood emptied of the old life and ready for the commencement of the new one.
The new one began, indeed, after those who had followed Mr. Beresford to the grave had come back, and assembled in the great unused drawing-room to hear the will read. Lady Dighton shivered as she sat by one of the newly-lighted fires, and bending over to Maurice whispered to him, “For heaven’s sake keep the house warmer than poor grandpapa used to do.”
“Used” already! The new life had begun.
There was nothing in the will but what was pretty generally known. Mr. Beresford had made no secret of his intentions even with regard to legacies. There was one to his granddaughter, with certain jewels and articles which had peculiar value for her; some to old friends, some to servants, and the whole remainder of his possessions real and personal to Maurice Leigh, on the one condition of his assuming the name and arms of Beresford.
It was a very satisfactory will. Maurice, in his impatience, thought its chief virtue was that it contained nothing which could hinder him from starting at once for Canada. He told Mr. Payne that he wished to see him for a short time that evening; and after the other guests had gone to bed, the two sat down together by the library fire to settle, as he fancied, whatever small arrangements must be made before his going.