“Why do I say so? Are you such a child still, that you cannot understand a man like Maurice, always so tender towards women—Quixotically so, indeed—making himself believe that he is doing quite right in marrying a poor girl in Miss Landor’s position, when, in fact, he is doing a great wrong? It is a double wrong to her and to himself; and one for which he would be certain to suffer, whether she did or not. And, Lucia I must say it, whatever evil may come of it, now or in the future, is our fault.”
“Oh, mamma! mamma, don’t say ’our’—say ’your’—if it is mine—for certainly it is not yours.”
“I will say your fault, then; I believe you feel it so.”
“But, mamma, really and truly, is it anybody’s fault? Don’t people often love those who can’t care for them in return?”
“Really and truly, quite honestly and frankly, Lucia, was that the case with you?”
Lucia’s eyes fell. She could not say yes.
“I will tell you,” Mrs. Costello went on, “what I believe to be the truth, and you can set me right if I am wrong. You knew that Maurice had always been fond of you—devoted to you, in a way that had come by use to seem natural; and it had never entered your mind to think either how much of your regard he deserved, or how much he really had. I will not say anything about Percy; but I do believe,” and she spoke very deliberately, laying her hand on Lucia’s, “that since Maurice went away, you have been finding out that you had made a mistake, and that your heart had not been wrong nearly so much as your imagination.”
Lucia was still silent. If she had spoken at all, it must have been to confess that her mother was right, and that was not easy to do. Whatever suspicions she might have in her own heart, it was a mortifying thing to be told plainly that her love for Percy was a mistake—a mere counterfeit—instead of the enduring devotion which it ought to have been. But she was very much humbled now, and patiently waited for what her mother might say next.
“Well!” Mrs. Costello began again, “it is no use now to go on talking of the past. The question is rather whether anything can be done for the future. What do you say?”
“What can I say, mamma? What can I do?”
“I don’t know. Maurice used to tell me of his plans, but he is not likely to do that now. I would write and ask him to come over, but it is more than doubtful whether he would come.”
“He promised that if ever I wanted him he would come,” Lucia said, hesitating.
“If you were in need of him I am sure he would, but it would be a kind of impertinence to send for him on that plea when it was not really for that.”
“But it is. Mamma, don’t be angry with me again! Don’t be disgusted with me; but I want, so badly, to see him and tell him I behaved wrongly. I was so cross, so ungrateful, so horrid, mamma, that it was enough to make him think all girls bad. I should like to tell him how sorry I am; I feel as if I should never be happy till I did.”