The great house, like a city in itself, with its wide passages and halls, and groups of strangers passing constantly to and fro, had something dismal and desert like about it. Even the drawing-room was so large and so destitute of anything like a snug corner where people could be comfortable, that there was little chance of forgetting that they were mere wayfarers. When the gong had sounded, and everybody assembled for breakfast, the vast dining-room, coldly magnificent in white and gold, and all astir with white jacketed waiters, seemed stranger and more unhomelike still. Everything was novel, but for once novelty only wearied instead of charming.
By noon they were on board the steamer. Mr. Strafford went on board with them and stayed till the last minute. But that soon came. The final good-bye was said; the last link to Canada and Canadian life was broken. They stood on deck and strained their eyes to watch the fast disappearing figure till it was gone, and they felt themselves alone. Then the vessel began to move out of the harbour, and night seemed to come on all at once.
They went down together to their cabin, and seated themselves side by side in a desolate companionship. After a minute Lucia put her arms tightly round her mother, and laying her head upon her shoulder, cried, not passionately, but with a complete abandonment of all self-restraint. Mrs. Costello did not try to check those natural and restoring tears. She soothed her child by fond motherly touches, kissed her cheek or smoothed her hair, but said not a word until the whole dull weight that had been pressing on her had melted away. There was something strangely forlorn in their circumstances which both felt, and neither liked to speak of to the other. Leaving behind all the friends, all the associations of so many years, they were going alone—a feeble and perhaps dying woman, and a young girl—into a strange world, where every face would be new, and even their own language would grow unfamiliar to their ears. Even the hope which had brightened this prospect to Lucia’s eyes, looked very dim, now that the time for proving it was at hand; and of all others, the person who occupied her tenderest if not her most frequent thoughts was the one who best deserved that she should think of him—Maurice Leigh.
Two days of their voyage passed without events. They began to feel accustomed to their ship-life, and to make some little acquaintance with other passengers. In spite of the cold, Lucia spent a good many hours on deck. She used to go with Mrs. Costello every morning for a few quick turns up and down, and then, when her mother was tired, she would wrap herself up in the warmest cloaks and shawls that she could find, and take her seat in a quiet corner, where she could lose sight of all that went on about her and, with her face turned towards Canada, see nothing but the boundless sea and sky. On the third day she was sitting in this manner. There were a good many persons on deck but she was left tolerably undisturbed. Occasionally a lady would stop and speak to her—the men, who were not altogether blind to her beauty, would have liked perhaps to do the same, if her preoccupied air had not made a kind of barrier about her, too great to be broken through without more warrant than a two days’ chance association; but she was thinking or dreaming, and never troubled herself about them.