Lucia went into the kitchen and sat down. She was feeling tired after the heat of the day, and the excitement of her alarm, and expected only to hear some tale of household matters. But to her surprise Margery began, “There’ve been a squaw here to-day, and, you know, they don’t come much about Cacouna, thank goodness, nasty brown things—but this one, she came with her mats and rubbish, in a canoe, to be sure. Your ma, she was out, and I caught sight of something coming up the bank towards the house, so I went out on the verandah to see. As soon as she saw me, she held up her mats and says, ‘Buy, buy, buy,’ making believe she knew no more English than that, but I told her we wanted none of her goods, and then she said, ‘Missis at home?’ I told her no, and she said ‘Where?’ as impudent as possible. I told her that was none of her business, and she’d better go; but instead of that, she took hold of my gown, and she said “Lucia” as plain as possible. I do declare, Miss Lucia, I did not know what to make of her, for how she should come to know your name was queer anyhow; but I just said, Mrs. Costello is not in, nor Miss Lucia neither, so you’d better be off; and she nodded her head a lot of times, and seemed as if she were considering whether to go or not. I asked her what she wanted, but she would not tell me, and after awhile she went off again in her canoe as fast as if she was going express.”
Lucia was thoroughly startled by this story. Mr. Strafford’s letter came to her mind, and connected itself with the singular look and manner of the squaw, at the farm. This could not certainly be the mysterious “C.” of the letter, for Mr. Strafford said “he is in the neighbourhood,” but it might be Mary Wanita, who had apparently given the first friendly warning, and might possibly have come to Cacouna for the purpose of giving a second, and more urgent one.
“Where was mamma?” she asked.
“Gone in to see Mr. Leigh,” Margery answered; “he is quite sick to-day, and Mr. Maurice came to ask your mamma to go and sit with him awhile.”
“Did you tell her about this squaw?”
“Well, no, Miss Lucia, I had a kind of guess it was better not. You see she is not very strong, and I thought you could tell her when you came if you thought it was any use.”
“Thank you, Margery, you were quite right.”
Lucia went in slowly, thinking the matter over. It did not, however, appear to her advisable to conceal from her mother the squaw’s visit—it might have greater significance than she, knowing so little, could imagine—but she wished extremely that she possessed some gauge by which to measure beforehand the degree of agitation her news was likely to produce. She had none, however, and could devise no better plan than that of telling Mrs. Costello, quite simply, what she had just heard from Margery.
As she opened the door of the parlour, Mrs. Costello half rose from the sofa, where she was lying.