“Women and vagaries!” muttered the burgher, after his study was ended. “Their conceits are as uncertain as the profits of a whaling voyage, or the luck of a sportsman. Captain Ludlow, your assistance will be needed in this affair; and, as it may not be too late, since there are few priests in the brigantine—always supposing her character to be what you affirm—my niece may yet see her error, and be disposed to reward so much assiduity and attachment.”
“My services shall always be ready, so long as they can be useful to Alida Barberie,” returned the young officer with haste, and yet a little coldly. “It will be time enough to speak of the reward, when we shall have succeeded.”
“The less noise that is made about a little domestic inconvenience like this, the better; and I would therefore suggest the propriety of keeping our suspicions of the character of the vessel a secret, until we shall be better informed.”
The captain bowed his assent to the proposal.
“And now that we are of the same mind in the preliminaries, we will seek the Patroon of Kinderhook, who has a claim to participate in our confidence.”
Myndert then led the way from the empty and melancholy Cour des Fees, with a step that had regained its busy and firm tread, and a countenance that expressed far more of vexation and weariness, than of real sorrow.
“—I ’ll give thee a wind. “—Thou art kind. “—And I another “—I myself have all the other.”
The cloud above the mouth of the Raritan had not risen. On the contrary, the breeze still came from off the sea; and the brigantine in the Cove, with the cruiser of the Queen, still lay at their anchors, like two floating habitations that were not intended to be removed. The hour was that at which the character of the day becomes fixed; and there was no longer any expectation that a landwind would enable the vessel of the free-trader to repass the inlet, before the turn of the tide, which was again running swiftly on the flood.
The windows of the Lust in Rust were open, as when its owner was present; and the menials were employed, in and about the villa, in their customary occupations; though it was evident, by the manner in which they stopped to converse, and by the frequent conferences which had place in secret corners, that they wondered none the less at the unaccountable disappearance of their young mistress. In all other respects, the villa and its grounds were, as usual, quiet and seemingly deserted.
But there was a group collected beneath the shade of an oak on the margin of the Cove, and at a point where it was rare for man to be seen. This little party appeared to be in waiting for some expected communication from the brigantine; since they had taken post on the side of the inlet, next the cape, and in a situation so retired, as to be entirely hid from any passing observation of those who might enter or leave the mouth of the Shrewsbury. In short, they were on the long, low, and narrow barrier of sand, that now forms the projection of the Hook, and which, by the temporary breach that the Cove had made between its own waters and that of the ocean, was then an island.