Mrs. Bellairs had long ago got over her displeasure with Lucia. She had watched her narrowly at the time of Percy’s leaving, and became satisfied that there was some trouble of a sterner kind than regret for him now weighing heavily upon her heart.
Although Mrs. Bellairs told her sister of the intended journey of Mrs. Costello and Lucia, the preparations for that journey were being made with as little stir as possible, and except herself, her husband, and Mr. Leigh, few persons dreamed of such an improbable event. Bella even received a hint to speak of it to no one but her husband, for Mrs. Costello was anxious to avoid gossip, and had taken much thought how to attain the juste milieu between secrecy and publicity. In the meantime there was much to be done in prospect of a long, an indefinitely long, absence, and the needful exertion both of mind and body was good for Lucia. Under no circumstances, perhaps, could she have sat quietly down to bewail her misfortunes, or have allowed herself to sink under them, but, as it was, there was no temptation to indolent indulgence of any kind. Bitter hours came still—came especially with the silence and darkness of night, when her thoughts would go back to the sweet days of the past summer and linger over them, till some word, or look, or trifling incident coming to her memory more distinctly, would bring with it the sudden recollection of the barren, dreary present,—of the irreparable loss.
In all her thoughts of Percy there was comfort. He had loved her honestly and sincerely, and if his nature was really lower than her own, she was not likely to guess it. She had acted, in dismissing him, on a kind of distrust, she would have said, of human nature; more truly, of him; but even this distrust was so vague and so disguised that it never shadowed his character in her eyes. So, though she had parted from him, she took comfort in the thought of his love, and kept it in her heart to save herself from the overwhelming sense of degradation, which took possession of her in remembering why she had sent him away from her.
It was this feeling which, in spite of her courage and her pride, had brought to her face that look of real trouble of which Mrs. Bellairs had spoken. It was a look of which she was herself entirely unconscious, more like the effect of years of care, than like that of a sudden sorrow. With this change of expression on her face, and sobered, but cheerful and capable as ever in her ways and doings, Lucia made her preparations for leaving the place which was so dear and familiar to her.