“Yes, thank you, Aunt Camilla.”
“I fear you were not strong enough to venture out in such heat, glad as I am to see you, dear. Had you not better let ’Liza bring you a pillow, and then you can lie down on the sofa and perhaps have a little nap?”
“No, thank you, Aunt Camilla, I am not sleepy. I am quite well. I am going to sit by the window and read.”
With that Lucina rose, got a book bound in red and gold from the stately mahogany table, and seated herself by the one window whose shutters were not tightly closed. It was a north window, and only one leaf of the upper half of the shutter was open. The aperture disclosed, instead of burning sky, a thick screen of horse-chestnut boughs. The great fan-like leaves almost touched the window-glass, and tinted all the dim parallelogram of light.
Even Lucina’s golden head and fair face acquired somewhat of this prevailing tone of green, being transposed into another key of color. All her golden lights, and her roses, were lost in a delicate green pallor, which might have beseemed a sea-nymph. Her aunt, sitting aloof in that same green shaft of day filtered through horse-chestnut leaves, and also changed thereby, kept glancing at her uneasily. She knew that her brother and his wife had been anxious lately about Lucina. She ventured a few more gently solicitous remarks, which Lucina met sweetly, still with a little impatience of weariness, scarcely lifting her face from her book; then she ventured no more.
“The child does not like to have us so anxious over her,” she thought, with that unfailing courtesy and consideration which would spare others though she torment herself thereby. She longed exceedingly to offer Lucina a wineglass of a home-brewed cordial, compounded from the rich juice of the blackberry, the finest of French brandy, and sundry spices, which was her panacea, but she abstained, lest it disturb her. Miss Camilla set a greater value upon peace of mind than upon aught else.
Lucina bent her face over her book, and turned the leaves quickly, as if she were reading with absorption. Presently Miss Camilla thought she looked better. The soft lapping as of waves, of the Sabbath calm, began again to oversteal her body and spirit. Visions of her peaceful past seemed to confuse themselves with the present. “You—must stay to tea, and—not—go home until—after sunset, when it is cooler,” she murmured, drowsily, and with a dim conviction that this was a Sabbath of long ago, that Lucina was a little girl in a short frock and pantalettes; then in a few minutes her head drooped limply towards her shoulder, and all her thoughts relaxed into soft slumberous breaths.
When her aunt fell asleep, Lucina looked up, with that quick, startled sense of loneliness which sometimes, in such case, comes to a sensitive consciousness. “Aunt Camilla is asleep,” she thought; she turned to her book again. It was a copy of Mrs. Hemans’s poems. Somehow the vivid sentiment of the lines failed to please her, though she, like her young lady friends, had heretofore loved them well. Lucina read the first stanza of “The warrior bowed his crested head” with no thrill of her maiden breast; then she turned to “The Bride of the Greek Isles,” and that was no better.