“But, indeed, I don’t know how it was,” she said; “only it was after the Indian went away.”
Mrs. Costello started. “What Indian?” she asked.
And then the story came out, vivid enough, but broken up as it were by the newer, sweeter excitement of that other story which she could only tell in broken words and blushes. As she spoke her eyes were still raised to her mother’s face, looking only for the reflection of her own terror and thankfulness; but she saw such deadly paleness and rigidity steal over it, that she started up in dismay.
Mrs. Costello signed to her to wait, and in a moment was again so far mistress of herself as to be able to say,
“Sit down again. Finish your story, and then describe this man if you can.”
Her voice was forced and husky, but Lucia dared not disobey. She had only a few words to add, but her description had nothing characteristic in it, except the utterly degraded and brutal expression of the countenance, which had so vividly impressed her.
When she ceased speaking, both remained for some minutes silent and without moving. Then Mrs. Costello rose, and began to walk slowly up and down the room. She felt that she had made a mistake in the affair nearest to her heart. She knew that Lucia had a girl’s fancy for Mr. Percy; he had done all he could to awaken it, and it was not likely that the poor child would have been entirely untouched by his efforts; but she had believed that it was only for the amusement of his leisure that he had been so perseveringly blind to her own coldness, and that he was too thoroughly selfish to be guilty of such an imprudence as she now saw had been committed. That Lucia could ever be his wife, she knew was utterly impossible. She had thought that the worst which could happen, was that when he had left Cacouna his memory would have to be slowly and painfully eradicated from her heart, but now it had become needful to cause this beloved child a double share of the trouble, which she had so dreaded for her. All these thoughts, and with them the idea of an added horror overhanging herself, seemed to press upon her brain with unendurable weight. Yet, suffer as she might, time must not be suffered to pass. Night was advancing, and before morning Lucia must know all the story, which once told, would shadow her life, and throw her new-born happiness out of her very recollection.
She stopped at last in her restless walk. She went up to the chair where Lucia sat, and putting her arms round her, kissed her forehead.
“You are very happy, my child?” she said tenderly.
“Mamma, I don’t know. I was happy.”
“You will be again—not yet, but later. Try to believe that, for it is time you should share my secret and my burden, and they are terrible for you now.”