Lucia was silent a moment, thinking.
“Are you frightened?” he asked her. “You did not know things were quite so bad?”
“I am not frightened,” she answered. “But I was considering. Mamma has some money; she would give me what she could, but I am not like Bella, you know. I have not any fortune at all.”
Mr. Percy laughed, “Do not puzzle yourself over such difficulties to-night, at any rate. Leave me to think of those. I will tell you what you must do. Make up your mind to be as charming as possible when you see my father, and fascinate him in spite of himself; for, I assure you he will not very readily forgive us for deranging his plans. Good-night now, I shall be here early to-morrow.”
He went away up the lane, while she lingered yet for a moment, looking after him, trying to understand clearly what had happened—to realize this wonderful happiness which was yet only like a dream. How could she go out of the soft summer darkness into the bright light of the parlour and its every day associations? But as she retraced every word and look of the past hour, she came back at last to the horrible recollection of the Indian who had alarmed her. That hideous besotted face seemed to stare at her again through the obscurity, and, trembling with fright, she hurried through the garden and up the verandah steps.
Mrs. Costello was sitting at work by the table where the light fell brightly, but Lucia was glad that the lamp-shade threw most of the room into comparative darkness. Even as it was, she came with shy lingering steps to her mother’s side, and was in no hurry to answer her question, “Where have you been loitering so long?”
“I have been at the gate some time,” she said. “It is so pleasant out of doors.”
“I went to the top of the lane to look for you a long time ago, and saw you coming with, I thought, Mr. Percy.”
“Yes. He met me. Mamma, I want to tell you something about—”
Mrs. Costello laid down her work.
“What?” she said almost sharply, as something in her child’s soft caressing attitude, and broken words struck her with a new terror.
Lucia slid down to the floor, half kneeling at her mother’s feet. “About myself—and him,” she murmured.
Mrs. Costello raised her daughter’s face to the light, and looked at it closely with an almost bitter scrutiny.
“Child,” she said, “I thought you would have been safe from this. I did him injustice, it seems.”
A new instinct in Lucia’s mind roused her against her mother. She let her clinging arms fall, and raised her head.
“I do not understand you, mother,” she answered, and half rose from where she had been kneeling.
“Stay, Lucia,” and her mother’s hand detained her. “I have tried to save you from suffering. I see now that I have been wrong. But tell me all.”
Awed and startled out of the sweet dreams of a few minutes ago, Lucia tried to obey. She said a few almost unintelligible words, then came to a sudden pause. She had slipped back again to her old place after her little burst of anger, and now looked up pleadingly to her mother.