“Sirs, take your places, and be vigilant.”
The succeeding day was one in which the weather had a fixed character. The wind was east, and, though light, not fluctuating. The air had that thick and hazy appearance, which properly belongs to the Autumn in this climate, but which is sometimes seen at midsummer, when a dry wind blows from the ocean. The roll of the surf, on the shore, was regular and monotonous, and the currents of the air were so steady as to remove every apprehension of a change. The moment to which the action of the tale is transferred, was in the earlier hours of the afternoon.
At that time the Coquette lay again at her anchors, just within the shelter of the cape. There were a few small sails to be seen passing up the bay; but the scene, as was common at that distant day, presented little of the activity of our own times, to the eye. The windows of the Lust in Rust were again open, and the movement of the slaves, in and about the villa, announced the presence of its master.
The Alderman was in truth, at the hour named, passing the little lawn in front of la Cour des Fees, accompanied by Oloff Van Staats and the commander of the cruiser. It was evident, by the frequent glances which the latter threw in the direction of the pavilion, that he still thought of her who was absent; while the faculties of the two others were either in better subjection, or less stimulated by anxiety. One who understood the character of the individual, and who was acquainted with the past, might have suspected, by this indifference on the part of the Patroon, placed as it was in such a singular contrast to a sort of mysterious animation which enlivened a countenance whose ordinary expression was placid content, that the young suitor thought less than formerly of the assets of old Etienne, and more of the secret pleasure he found in the singular incidents of which he had been a witness.
“Propriety and discretion!” observed the burgher, in reply to a remark of one of the young men—“I say again, for the twentieth time, that we shall have Alida Barberie back among us, as handsome, as innocent, ay, and as rich, as ever!—perhaps I should also say, as wilful. A baggage, to worry her old uncle, and two honorable suitors, in so thoughtless a manner! Circumstances, gentlemen,” continued the wary merchant, who saw that the value of the hand of which he had to dispose, was somewhat reduced in the market, “have placed you on a footing, in my esteem. Should my niece, after all, prefer Captain Ludlow for a partner in her worldly affairs, why it should not weaken friendship between the son of old Stephanus Van Staats and Myndert Van Beverout. Our grandmothers were cousins, and there should be charities in the same blood.”
“I could not wish to press my suit,” returned the Patroon, “when the lady has given so direct a hint that it is disagreeable—”