In this way the day of Mr. Strafford’s arrival and the next one, that of his first visit to the jail, passed with Lucia. It was not until quite evening that she could leave the closed-up house and its mistress; and never had a road seemed so long to her as that from Cacouna to the Cottage. Her mind, roused into feverish activity, recurred to the night when she had met Percy on that very road; she saw again, in imagination, the figure of the Indian—of her father, as she now believed—rising up from the green bank. She saw Percy, and heard his words, and then remembered with bitter shame and anger that the brutal creature from whom he had saved her, had nevertheless had power to separate them for ever. And to this creature her mother thought herself still bound! She grew wild with impatience to know the result of Mr. Strafford’s mission.
Lucia came with flushed cheeks and beating heart into the presence of her mother and Mr. Strafford. She longed to have her question answered at once, yet dreaded to ask it. They were waiting tea for her; and the bright cheerful room, with its peaceful home-look, the table and familiar tea-service, the perfectly settled and calm aspect of everything about, struck upon her disturbed fancy with a jarring sense of unfitness. But in a very little while the calm began to have a more reasonable effect; and by the time tea was over, she was ready to hear what had been done, without such an exaggerated idea of its importance, as she had been entertaining during her long hours of suspense.
Yet still she did not ask; and after a little while, Mrs. Costello said,
“Mr. Strafford has been all the afternoon in Cacouna. I have scarcely had time yet to hear all he had to tell me.”
Lucia glanced at her mother and then at their friend; she was glad the subject had been commenced without her, and only expressed by her eyes the anxiety she felt regarding it.
Mr. Strafford looked troubled. He felt, with a delicacy of perception which was almost womanly, the many sided perplexities increasing the already heavy trial of Mrs. Costello’s life. He grieved for the child whom he had known from her birth now plunged so young into a sea of troubles, and as he saw how bravely and steadily she met them, his desire to help and spare her grew painfully strong. If he could have said to them both, “Go, leave the miserable wretch to his fate, and find a home where you will never need to fear him again,” he would have done it with most genuine relief and satisfaction; but he could not do so—at least, not yet; and duty was far from easy at that moment.
“Yes,” he said as cheerfully as he could, in answer to Lucia’s glance. “I have been in Cacouna for some hours to-day and I shall be there again to-morrow. I own, Lucia, I have not unlimited faith in circumstantial evidence.”