At last, when nearly all their fellow-passengers had bidden them good-bye and left the ship, they saw a gentleman coming on board whom they both felt by some instinct to be Mr. Wynter. He was a portly, white-bearded man, as strange to Mrs. Costello as to Lucia, for the last twenty years had totally changed him from the aspect she remembered and had described to her daughter. Perhaps his nature as well as his looks had grown more genial; at any rate, he had a warm and affectionate greeting for the strangers, and if he had any painful or embarrassing recollection such as agitated his cousin, he knew how perfectly to conceal them. He had arrived the day before, but on arriving had heard that the ‘Atalanta’ was not expected for twenty-four hours, so that the news of her being in port came to him quite unexpectedly. He explained all this as they stood on deck, and then hurried to see their luggage brought up, and to transfer them to the carriage he had brought from his hotel.
Lucia felt herself happily released from her cares. She had no inclination to like, or depend upon, her future guardian; but without thinking about it, she allowed him to take the management of their affairs, and to fall into the same place as Mr. Strafford had occupied during their American journey.
Only there was a difference; she was awake now, and hopeful, naturally pleased with all that was new and curious, and only kept from thorough light-heartedness by her mother’s feeble and fatigued condition.
Mrs. Costello seemed to grow stronger from the moment of their landing. Mr. Wynter decided without any hesitation that they should remain at Havre, at least until the next day. In the evening, therefore, they were sitting quietly together when the important question of a future residence for the mother and daughter came to be discussed.
“I should like Lucia to see something of Paris,” Mrs. Costello said, “and to do that we should be obliged to stay a considerable time; for, as you perceive, I am not strong enough to do much sight-seeing at present.”
“I see,” Mr. Wynter answered, nodding gravely. “We might get you a nice little apartment there, and settle you for the winter; that would be the best plan. I suppose you don’t mind cold?”
“That depends entirely on the sort of cold. Yes; I think we should settle in Paris for a time, and then move into the country. Only I have a great fancy not to be more than a day’s journey from England.”
“In which I sympathize with you. It will be very much more satisfactory to me to know that you are within a reasonable distance of us.”
Lucia sat and listened very contentedly to the talk of the elder people. To her, whose only experience of relationship, beyond her mother, was painful and mortifying, there was something she had not anticipated of novelty and comfort in this new state of affairs. Her cousin’s tone of kinsmanship and friendliness was so genuine and unforced that she and her mother both accepted it naturally, and forgot for the moment that, to a little-minded man, such friendliness might have been difficult and perhaps impossible.