“—Well, Jessica, go in; Perhaps, I will return immediately; Do as I bid you, Shut doors after you: Fast bind, fast find; A proverb never stale, in thrifty mind.”
Merchant of Venice.
The decision, with which la demoiselle Barberie had dismissed her suitor, was owing to some consciousness that she had need of opportunity to reflect on the singular nature of the events which had just happened, no less than to a sense of the impropriety of his visiting her at that hour, and in a manner so equivocal. But, like others who act from feverish impulses, when alone the maiden repented of her precipitation; and she remembered fifty questions which might aid in clearing the affair of its mystery, that she would now gladly put. It was too late, however, for she had heard Ludlow take his leave, and had listened, in breathless silence, to his footstep, as he passed the shrubbery of her little lawn. Francois reappeared at the door, to repeat his wishes for her rest and happiness, and then she believed she was finally alone for the night, since the ladies of that age and country, were little apt to require the assistance of their attendants, in assuming, or in divesting themselves of, their ordinary attire.
It was still early, and the recent interview had deprived Alida of all inclination for sleep. She placed the lights in a distant corner of the apartment, and approached a window. The moon had so far changed its position, as to cast a different light upon the water. The hollow washing of the surf, the dull but heavy breathing of the air from the sea, and the soft shadows of the trees and mountain, were much the same. The Coquette lay, as before, at her anchor near the cape, and the Shrewsbury glittered towards the south, until its surface was concealed by the projection of a high and nearly perpendicular bluff.
The stillness was profound, for, with the exception of the dwelling of the family who occupied the estate nearest the villa, there was no other habitation within some miles of the place. Still the solitude of the situation was undisturbed by any apprehension of danger, or any tradition of violence from rude and lawless men. The peaceable character of the colonists, who dwelt in the interior country, was proverbial, and their habits simple; while the ocean was never entered by those barbarians, who then rendered some of the seas of the other hemisphere as fearful as they were pleasant.
Notwithstanding this known and customary character of tranquillity, and the lateness of the hour, Alida had not been many moments in her balcony, before she heard the sound of oars. The stroke was measured, and the noise low and distant, but it was too familiar to be mistaken. She wondered at the expedition of Ludlow, who was not accustomed to show such haste in quitting her presence, and leaned over the railing to catch a glimpse of his departing boat. Each moment she expected to see the little bark issue from out of the shadows of the land, into the sheet of brightness which stretched nearly to the cruiser. She gazed long, and in vain, for no barge appeared, and yet the sound had become inaudible. A light still hung at the peak of the Coquette, a sign that the commander was out of his vessel.