“The steamer calls at Southampton,” she said. “I intend to write to George, and tell him the time of our sailing, so that, if he wishes, he can meet us there. We will go from Havre to Paris, and stay there for awhile; afterwards, I think we should be more comfortable in a country town, if we can find one not too inaccessible.”
There was something in this sentence peculiarly reassuring. Lucia instinctively reasoned that, since her mother could make plans for their future so far in advance, the danger of which she had just spoken must be remote. What is remote, we readily believe uncertain; and thus, after a few minutes of absolute hopelessness, she began to hope again, tremblingly and fearfully, but still with more ardour than if the previous alarm had been less complete.
“Dear mamma,” she said, “Doctor Hardy may be very clever, but I am not going to put any faith in him. When we get to Paris you must have the very best advice that is to be had, and you will have nothing to do but take care of yourself.”
“Very well,” and Mrs. Costello smiled, reading the hope clearly enough, though she had not fully read the despair. “And in the meantime you may hear what I want to say to you about my cousin.”
“Yes, mamma. But you know I don’t like him, all the same. I know I should have hated him just as you did when you were a girl.”
“I hope not. At any rate, you must not hate him now, for I have asked him to be your guardian, and he has consented.”
Lucia shuddered at that word “guardian,” and the thought implied in it, but she determined to say no more about her prejudice against Mr. Wynter.
“You know,” Mrs. Costello said, “that it would be much more comfortable for me to know that you were left in the care of my own people than with any one else. It will be three years before you are of age. To suppose that you may need a guardian, therefore, is neither improbable nor alarming; and my reason for proposing to settle in France is, that you may be within a short distance of him.”
Lucia could only assent.
“I shall try,” her mother continued, “to persuade him to pay us a visit there, and to bring his wife, who is a good woman, and I am sure would be kind to my child. I long very much, Lucia, sometimes, to know that, though I can never see the dear old home again, you may do so.”
“Have they any children?” Lucia asked, her thoughts dwelling on the Wynters.
“They have lost several, George told me. There are three living, and the eldest, I think, is about your age.”
They had talked themselves quite calm now. The idea of her own death had only troubled Mrs. Costello with regard to Lucia; and now that she was in some measure prepared for it, it seemed even less terrible than before. Lucia, for her part, had put by all consideration of the subject for the present; to think of it without agonies of distress was impossible, and at present to agitate herself would be to agitate her mother—a thing at any cost of after-suffering to be avoided.