Lucia put down the paper. The whole letter, slowly and painfully deciphered, seemed to make no impression on her brain. She lay still, with a sort of stunned feeling, till the sense of what she had read came to her fully.
“Oh, Maurice!” she cried under her breath, “I want you! Come back to me! She shall never have you! You belong to me!” She covered her face with her hands, ashamed of even hearing her own words; then she got up and went across to her window, and looked out at the light burning on the tower—the light which shone far across the sea towards England. But presently she came back, and reached her little desk—Maurice’s gift long ago—and knelt down on the floor, and wrote, kneeling,—
“Dear Maurice, you promised
that if ever I wanted you, you would
come. I want you now more than ever I did in my life. Please, please
Then she leaned her head down till it almost touched the paper, and stayed so for a few minutes before she got up from her knees and extinguished her candle.
In the morning, when Lucia woke, her note to Maurice lay on the open desk, where she had left it, and was the first thing to remind her of what she had heard and done. She went and took it up to destroy it, but laid it down again irresolutely.
“I do want him,” she said to herself. “Without any nonsense, I ought to see him again before he does anything. I ought to tell him I am sorry for being so cross and ungrateful; and if he were married, or even engaged, I could not do it; it would be like confessing to a stranger.”
There was something very like a sob, making her throat swell as she considered. He would perhaps see them again, Mr. Leigh said. Ought she to trust to that chance? But then her courage might fail if he came over just like any ordinary visitor; and her young cousins from Chester were coming; and if they should be there, it would be another hindrance. “And, oh! I must see him again,” she said, “and find out whether we are not to be brother and sister any more.”
She said “brother and sister” still, as she had done long ago; but she knew very well in her heart now, that that had never been the relationship Maurice desired. And so she tore her note into little bits, and remained helpless, but rebelling against her helplessness. In this humour she went to her mother’s room.
Mrs. Costello was not yet up. Lucia knelt down by the bedside, and laid Mr. Leigh’s letter beside her.
“Mamma, I am very sorry,” she said; “I think Mr. Leigh must have been very unhappy before he would write to you so.”
“I agree with you. He is not a man to take fright without cause, either.”
“Why do you say, ‘to take fright?’”