Summer came very early that year, and the narrow streets of Bourg-Cailloux were full of the glare and heat of the season. The pavements of white stones, always rough and painful to the feet, were burning hot in the middle of the day, and outside the walls, especially towards the sea, the light coloured, sandy roads were more scorching still. The Hotel des Bains, just waking up after its winter repose, had proved but a comfortless dwelling. After two or three days, therefore, Mrs. Costello had left it, and she and Lucia were now settled in a lodging in the city itself. Their windows looked out on the “Place,” where a brave sea-captain, the hero of Bourg-Cailloux, stood in effigy, and still seemed to keep watch over the place he had once defended, and where, twice a week, the market-women came in their long black cloaks and dazzling caps, and brought heaps of fragrant flowers and early fruit. In the very early morning, the shadow of a quaint old tower fell transversely upon the pavement of the square, and reached almost to their door; and in the evening Lucia grew fond of watching for the fire which was nightly lighted on the same tower that it might be a guide to sailors far out at sea. The town was quiet and dull—there was no theatre, no concerts, at present even no balls—the only public amusement of the population seemed to be listening in the still evenings to the band which played in front of the guard-house in the Place. There they came in throngs, and promenaded slowly over the sharp-edged stones, with a keen and visible enjoyment of the fresh air, the music, and each other’s company, which was in itself a pleasant thing to see.
The journey, the discomforts of the first few days, and the second moving, had tried Mrs. Costello extremely. She spent most of her time on the sofa now, and had as yet only been able once or twice to go down and sit for a while on the sunny beach, where children were playing and building sand castles, and where the sea breeze was sweet and reviving.
There was a small colony of English people settled in the town, mostly people with small incomes and many children, or widows of poor gentlemen; but there was also a large floating population of English sailors, and for their benefit an English consul and chaplain, who supplied a temporal and spiritual leader to the community. But the mother and daughter kept much apart from their country people, who were inclined to be sociable and friendly towards them. Mrs. Costello’s illness, and Lucia’s preoccupation, made them receive with indifference the visits of those who, after seeing them at the little English church, and by the sea, thought it “only neighbourly to call.”