It is astonishing how soon after this a young man, dressed in a brown suit, and very pleasant to look upon, came rapidly walking along the river bank. This was Master Martin Newcombe, a young Englishman, not two years from his native land, and now a prosperous farmer on the other side of the river.
It often happened that Master Newcombe, at the close of his agricultural labours, would put on a good suit of clothes and ride over the bridge to the town, to attend to business or to social duties, as the case might be. But, sometimes, not willing to encumber himself with a horse, he walked over the bridge and strolled or hurried along the river bank. This was one of the times in which he hurried. He had been caught by the vision of the bunch of white flowers in the hat of the girl who was seated on the rock in the shade.
As Master Newcombe stepped near, his spirits rose, as they had not always risen, as he approached Mistress Kate, for he perceived that, although she held the handle of her rod in her hand, the other end of it was lying on the ground, not very far away from the bait and the hook which, it was very plain, had not been in the water at all. She must have been thinking of something else besides fishing, he thought. But he did not dare to go on with that sort of thinking in the way he would have liked to do it. He had not too great a belief in himself, though he was very much in love with Kate Bonnet.
“Is this the best time of day for fishing, Master Newcombe?” she said, without rising or offering him her hand. “For my part, I don’t believe it is.”
He smiled as he threw his hat upon the ground. “Let me put your line a little farther out.” And so saying, he took the rod from her hand and stepped between her and the bait, which must have been now quite hot from lying so long in a bit of sunshine. He rearranged the bait and threw the line far out into the river. Then he gave her the rod again. He seated himself on the ground near-by.
“This is the second time I have been over the bridge to-day,” he said, “and this morning, very early, I saw, for the first time, your father’s ship, which was lying below the town. It is a fine vessel, so far as I can judge, being a landsman.”
“Yes,” said she, “and I have been on board of her and have gone all over her, and have seen many things which are queer and strange to me. But the strangest thing about her, to my mind, being a landswoman, is, that she should belong to my father. There are many things which he has not, which it would be easy to believe he would like to have, but that a ship, with sails and anchors and hatchways, should be one of these things, it is hard to imagine.”
Young Newcombe thought it was impossible to imagine, but he expressed himself discreetly.
“It must be that he is going to engage in trade,” he said; “has he not told you of his intentions?”
“Not much,” said she. “He says he is going to cruise about among the islands, and when I asked him if he would take me, he laughed, and answered that he might do so, but that I must never say a word of it to Madam Bonnet, for if she heard of it she might change his plans.”