Mr. Strafford came up to Cacouna twice during Christian’s imprisonment. The first time he found no particular change. A low fever still seemed to hang about the prisoner, and his passionate longing for the free air to be his strongest feeling. There was no improvement mentally. His brain, once cultivated and active, far beyond the standard of his race, seemed quite dead; it was impossible to make him understand either the past or future, his crime (if he were guilty), or his probable punishment. In spite of the feeling against him, there were charitable men in Cacouna who would gladly have done what they could to befriend him, but literally nothing could be done. Mr. Strafford left him, without anything new to tell the anxious women at the Cottage.
But the second time there was an evident alteration in the physical condition of the prisoner. He scarcely ever moved from his bed; and when he was with difficulty persuaded to do so, he tottered like a very old and feeble man. Even to breathe the air which he still perpetually asked for, he would hardly walk to the window; and there were such signs of exhaustion and utter weakness, that it seemed very doubtful whether, before the time of the Assizes, he would not be beyond the reach of human justice. Mr. Strafford went back to the Cottage with a new page in her sorrowful life to tell to Mrs. Costello. To say that she heard with great grief of the probable nearness of that widowhood which, for years past, would have been a welcome release, would be to say an absurdity; but, nevertheless, it is true that a deep and tender feeling of pity, which was, indeed, akin to love, seemed to sweep over and obliterate all the bitterness which belonged to her thoughts of her husband. She wished at once to avow their relationship; and it was only Mr. Strafford’s decided opinion that to do so would be hurtful to Lucia and useless to Christian, which withheld her. Clearly the one thing which he, unused to any restraint, needed and longed for, was liberty; and even that, if it were attainable, he seemed already too weak to enjoy. His ideas and powers of recollection were growing still weaker with every week of imprisonment, but nothing could be done—nothing but wait, with dreary patience, for the time of the trial.
The time of the Assizes drew near, and Mrs. Costello looked forward to it with feelings of mixed, but almost wholly painful, anticipation. She was now in daily expectation of receiving a letter from her cousin, which should authorize her to send Lucia at once to England, and she had not yet dared to speak on the subject. She thought, with reluctance, of sending her child to the neighbourhood of Chester, where her own youth and unfortunate marriage might still be remembered, or, if almost forgotten, would be readily called to mind by the singular beauty of the half-Indian girl; and she doubted how far the only other arrangement