“You will be happy again!” Did any one of us in the first dull pain of a new, inexplicable suffering, ever believe such words as those? Lucia read her mother’s face, tone, gestures too well to doubt that she regarded this long-kept secret as something which must separate her from Percy—must separate her, she therefore fancied, from all that was best and sweetest in life. It was hard that she should have been suffered to taste happiness, if it was instantly to be snatched from her. She felt this half resentfully, shrinking into herself, and cowering before the unknown trial, which, when fully understood, her natural courage would enable to meet with energy. She sat with her head resting on her hands, while Mrs. Costello left the room, and came back carrying a small, old-fashioned desk, which she placed upon the table. This desk, which she knew had been her mother’s when a girl, and which contained many little treasures, attracted Lucia’s attention. Obeying a sign from Mrs. Costello, she came forward, and watched while it was opened, and the many familiar objects taken out. Underneath all, where she had always thought the desk remained empty, the pressure of a spring opened another compartment, in which lay a few papers and a likeness.
“You have often asked me to show you your father’s likeness, Lucia,” Mrs. Costello said with slow painful utterance. “There it is. Take it, and you will know my secret.”
Lucia put out her hand, but as it touched the portrait lying there face downwards, she involuntarily drew it back, and glanced at her mother.
“Must I see it? Must I know?” she whispered tremblingly.
She lifted the picture and looked, but the lines swam before her eyes. As they steadied and came out clearly she saw a tall figure with black hair, dressed in a gaily striped shirt and blanket, and leaning on a spear—an Indian. She threw the likeness from her with a cry, “Impossible! It is not true,” and with clasped hands tried to shut out the hateful sight.
Shudder after shudder swept over her, and still she cried in her heart, “I will not believe it,” but she said no more aloud. Her father! All her lifelong terror of his race, all that she had known of them up to the encounter of that very evening, which now seemed years ago, surged through her mind; and, as if mocking her, came above all, her own face with the dark traits which she had believed to be Spanish, but which she could now trace to such a different origin. In a moment, and for ever, her girlish vanity fell from her. She felt as if her beauty were but the badge of degradation and misery. And then there came the keen instinct of resentment—it was to her mother, whom she loved, that she owed this intolerable suffering. Crouching down and shivering, as if with cold, she yielded to the storm of thought which swept over her, yielded to it in a kind of blind despair, from which she had neither wish nor power to rouse herself.