Perhaps the strong elasticity of youth and hope in Lucia’s nature had only waited for some chance touch to set it free, and make it spring up vigorously after its repression. At any rate she found a fanciful omen in the visit of the snow-white bird; and began to believe that in the new country and the new life, there might be as much that was good and happy as in the old one. The last hours, full of excitement and impatience as the voyage drew to a close, were not unpleasant ones. Very early one morning a great commotion and a babel of unusual sounds on deck awoke the travellers, and the stewardess going from room to room brought the welcome news,
“We are at Havre.”
Lucia was up in a moment. The stillness of the vessel, after its perpetual motion, gave her an odd sensation, not unlike what she had felt when it first began to move; but she was quickly dressed and on deck. There were a good many people there, and the water all round was alive with boats and shipping of every description, but Lucia’s eyes naturally turned from the more familiar objects to the unfamiliar and welcome sight of land.
A strange land, truly! The solid quays, the masses of building, older than anything (except forest-trees) which she had ever seen, the quaint dresses of the peasants already moving about in the early morning, all struck her with pleased and vivid interest. For the wider features of the scene she had at first no thought. Nature is everywhere the same, through all her changes. To those who love her she is never wholly unrecognizable, and when we meet her in company with new phases of human life, we are apt to treat her as the older friend, and let her wait until we have greeted the stranger. At least, Lucia did so. She had indeed only time for a hurried survey, for their packing had to be completed by her hands; and she knew that the arrival of the ship would soon be known, and that if Mr. Wynter had kept his promise of meeting them, he might appear at any moment. She went down, therefore, and found Mrs. Costello dressing with hurried and trembling fingers, too much agitated by the prospect of meeting her cousin, after so long and strange a separation, to be capable of attending to anything.
All was done, however, before they were interrupted. They wrapped themselves up warmly, for the morning was intensely cold through all its brightness, and went up on deck together. Lucia found a seat in a sheltered place for Mrs. Costello, and stood near her watching the constant stream of coming and going between the ship and the shore. They had nothing to do for the present but wait, and when they had satisfied themselves that, as yet, there was no sign of Mr. Wynter’s arrival, they had plenty of time to grow better acquainted with the view around them.
The long low point of land beside which they lay; the town in front, with a flood of cold sunlight resting on its low round tower, and the white sugar-loaf shaped monument, which was once the sailor’s landmark—the lofty chapel piously dedicated to Notre Dame de Bons Secours now superseding it—the broad mouth of the Seine and the Norman shore, bending away to the right—all these photographed themselves on Lucia’s memory as the first-seen features of that new world where her life was henceforth to be passed.