“Ah! mamma, has not a miracle been worked already?”
“Only a little while ago remember how we thought and spoke of him—and now—”
“You are right, my child; but the agencies which have worked this miracle are very earthly ones—pain and sorrow, and false accusation.”
“Mamma, I think this is better than the old life of terror, and perhaps hatred.”
“Far better, far better. Yes, through dark and painful means a better end is coming. But it is hard to think that you must live through all your life under the shadow of a supposed crime. For us who have sinned life is nearly over, our punishment was just, and it will soon be ended. It is you, my child, whom I have so tried to shield, who must bear the heaviest penalty.”
“No, mother, do not think so. When all this is over we shall go away, you and I, and be very happy together again; and the happiness will be more equally balanced than it was in the old days when you had so much care and I none. And then, if ever I am left alone, I shall go and be a Sister of Charity or one of Miss Nightingale’s nurses, and be too busy and useful to be unhappy.”
Mrs. Costello stooped down and kissed her child’s forehead.
“I thought you might have had a brighter fate than that, darling. Perhaps I thought more of seeing you a happy woman than a good one; but if you are never to have the home I wished for you, you will find, at any rate, that a single woman’s life may be full of usefulness and honour.”
Ah! that brighter fate! Mrs. Costello thought of Maurice, and sighed for the loss to two lives. Lucia’s heart still turned loyally to the one lover who had claimed it, but both knew that the “brighter fate” was no longer a possibility now.
Lucia walked with her mother to the gates of the jail, but she could not obtain permission to go any further. Although the proposal to send her to England was, in fact, abandoned, there seemed no reason why she should be brought sooner than was needful into contact with what could not but be painful; and she was obliged to yield in this matter to her mother’s judgment.
They parted, therefore, at the gates; and Mrs. Costello was admitted without delay to the cell where Christian was confined. A cell, properly speaking, it was not; for they had removed him since her former visit, and he now occupied a good-sized room on the upper floor, which was nearly as bare and as glaringly white as the other, but more airy. His low wooden bedstead was drawn near to the window, which, cold as it was, stood open, while a small box-stove, heated almost red hot, kept the temperature of the room tolerably high. On the bed, partly dressed, and wrapped in a blanket, lay the prisoner. He neither moved nor paid any attention when his visitor came in, and she had time to see all the change confinement and