“What do you mean? Does not he know you?”
“I can scarcely tell. I do not know why I should not tell you plainly the truth, which you will have to hear before you see him. His mind is either completely gone, or terror and imprisonment have deadened it for the time. The other men who have been working with him say that he was sane enough when he was sober up to the time of the murder. Certainly he is not sane now. But that may well be a temporary thing caused by his illness and the confinement.”
Mrs. Costello had covered her face with her hands.
“And you think,” she said, looking up, “that the sight of me might bring back his recollection. But is there anything to be gained by doing so if we succeed? Is not his insanity the best thing that could happen?”
“I think not in this case. People seem to have made up their minds that he was sane enough, on that day, to be accountable for what he did; and if we could only recall him to himself, he might be able to give us some clue to the truth.”
“I will go then,” she answered; and Lucia saw that it would be only inflicting useless pain, to make any further objections. But she was not satisfied.
Mr. Strafford saw her concerned and uneasy look, and said,
“It is an experiment worth trying, Lucia. If it does not succeed, I promise that I will not recommend it to be repeated.”
“But, Mr. Strafford, all Cacouna will know of my mother’s going to the jail—she who never goes anywhere.”
“That has been the great difficulty in the way, certainly, but I think we can manage it. The jailer, Elton, is a good man, and truly concerned about the condition of his prisoner. He talked to me to-day about him so compassionately, that I asked whether it would be possible for any one residing in the town to be allowed to visit him. He said any one I chose to bring with me should see him, and therefore there need be no gossip or surprise at your mother going, first of all.”
There was no more to be said; and each of the three was glad to let the conversation drop and try to turn their thoughts to other and less painfully absorbing subjects. But to mother and daughter all other subjects were but empty words; memory in the former, and imagination in the latter were busy perpetually with that one who, by the laws of God and man, ought to have been the third at their fireside—who had been for years a vagrant and an outcast, and was now the inmate of a murderer’s cell. Innocent perhaps—and it was strange how that possibility seemed slowly but surely to grow in both their minds; shadowing over, and promising by-and-by to dim in their remembrance the hideous recollections of the past.