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4. Arabella Bishop
One sunny morning in January, about a month after the arrival of the Jamaica Merchant
at Bridgetown, Miss Arabella Bishop rode out from her uncle's fine house on the heights
to the northwest of the city. She was attended by two negroes who trotted after her at a
respectful distance, and her destination was Government House, whither she went to
visit the Governor's lady, who had lately been ailing. Reaching the summit of a gentle,
grassy slope, she met a tall, lean man dressed in a sober, gentlemanly fashion, who
was walking in the opposite direction. He was a stranger to her, and strangers were rare
enough in the island. And yet in some vague way he did not seem quite a stranger.
Miss Arabella drew rein, affecting to pause that she might admire the prospect, which
was fair enough to warrant it. Yet out of the corner of those hazel eyes she scanned this
fellow very attentively as he came nearer. She corrected her first impression of his
dress. It was sober enough, but hardly gentlemanly. Coat and breeches were of plain
homespun; and if the former sat so well upon him it was more by virtue of his natural
grace than by that of tailoring. His stockings were of cotton, harsh and plain, and the
broad castor, which he respectfully doffed as he came up with her, was an old one
unadorned by band or feather. What had seemed to be a periwig at a little distance was
now revealed for the man's own lustrous coiling black hair.
Out of a brown, shaven, saturnine face two eyes that were startlingly blue considered
her gravely. The man would have passed on but that she detained him.
"I think I know you, sir," said she.
Her voice was crisp and boyish, and there was something of boyishness in her manner -
if one can apply the term to so dainty a lady. It arose perhaps from an ease, a
directness, which disdained the artifices of her sex, and set her on good terms with all
the world. To this it may be due that Miss Arabella had reached the age of five and
twenty not merely unmarried but unwooed. She used with all men a sisterly frankness
which in itself contains a quality of aloofness, rendering it difficult for any man to
become her lover.
Her negroes had halted at some distance in the rear, and they squatted now upon the
short grass until it should be her pleasure to proceed upon her way.
The stranger came to a standstill upon being addressed.
"A lady should know her own property," said he.
"My property?"