As the soldier’s wife was sick in her berth, Mabel Dunham was the only person in the outer cabin when Jasper returned to it; for, by an act of grace in the Sergeant, he had been permitted to resume his proper place in this part of the vessel. We should be ascribing too much simplicity of character to our heroine, if we said that she had felt no distrust of the young man in consequence of his arrest; but we should also be doing injustice to her warmth of feeling and generosity of disposition, if we did not add, that this distrust was insignificant and transient. As he now took his seat near her, his whole countenance clouded with the uneasiness he felt concerning the situation of the cutter, everything like suspicion was banished from her mind, and she saw in him only an injured man.
“You let this affair weigh too heavily on your mind, Jasper,” said she eagerly, or with that forgetfulness of self with which the youthful of her sex are wont to betray their feelings when a strong and generous interest has attained the ascendency; “no one who knows you can, or does, believe you guilty. Pathfinder says he will pledge his life for you.”
“Then you, Mabel,” returned the youth, his eyes flashing fire, “do not look upon me as the traitor your father seems to believe me to be?”
“My dear father is a soldier, and is obliged to act as one. My father’s daughter is not, and will think of you as she ought to think of a man who has done so much to serve her already.”
“Mabel, I’m not used to talking with one like you, or saying all I think and feel with any. I never had a sister, and my mother died when I was a child, so that I know little what your sex most likes to hear — "
Mabel would have given the world to know what lay behind the teeming word at which Jasper hesitated; but the indefinable and controlling sense of womanly diffidence made her suppress her curiosity. She waited in silence for him to explain his own meaning.
“I wish to say, Mabel,” the young man continued, after a pause which he found sufficiently embarrassing, “that I am unused to the ways and opinions of one like you, and that you must imagine all I would add.”
Mabel had imagination enough to fancy anything, but there are ideas and feelings that her sex prefer to have expressed before they yield them all their own sympathies, and she had a vague consciousness that these of Jasper might properly be enumerated in the class. With a readiness that belonged to her sex, therefore, she preferred changing the discourse to permitting it to proceed any further in a manner so awkward and so unsatisfactory.
“Tell me one thing, Jasper, and I shall be content,” said she, speaking now with a firmness which denoted confidence, not only in herself, but in her companion: “you do not deserve this cruel suspicion which rests upon you?”
“I do not, Mabel!” answered Jasper, looking into her full blue eyes with an openness and simplicity that might have shaken stronger distrust. “As I hope for mercy hereafter, I do not!”