The Ruby of Kishmoor by Howard Pyle
I. Jonathan Rugg
You may never know what romantic aspirations may lie hidden beneath the most sedate and sober demeanor.
To have observed Jonathan Rugg, who was a tall, lean, loose-jointed young Quaker of a somewhat forbidding aspect, with straight, dark hair and a bony, overhanging forehead set into a frown, a pair of small, deep-set eyes, and a square jaw, no one would for a moment have suspected that he concealed beneath so serious an exterior any appetite for romantic adventure.
Nevertheless, finding himself suddenly transported, as it were, from the quiet of so sober a town as that of Philadelphia to the tropical enchantment of Kingston, in the island of Jamaica, the night brilliant with a full moon that swung in an opal sky, the warm and luminous darkness replete with the mysteries of a tropical night, and burdened with the odors of a land breeze, he suddenly discovered himself to be overtaken with so vehement a desire for some unwonted excitement that, had the opportunity presented itself, he felt himself ready to embrace any adventure with the utmost eagerness, no matter whither it would have conducted him.
At home (where he was a clerk in the counting-house of a leading merchant, by name Jeremiah Doolittle), should such idle fancies have come to him, he would have looked upon himself as little better than a fool, but now that he found himself for the first time in a foreign country, surrounded by such strange and unusual sights and sounds, all conducive to extravagant imaginations, the wish for some extraordinary and altogether unusual experience took possession of him with a singular vehemence to which he had heretofore been altogether a stranger.
In the street where he stood, which was of a shining whiteness and which reflected the effulgence of the moonlight with an incredible distinction, he observed, stretching before him, long lines of white garden walls, overtopped by a prodigious luxuriance of tropical foliage.
In these gardens, and set close to the street, stood several pretentious villas and mansions, the slatted blinds and curtains of the windows of which were raised to admit of the freer entrance of the cool and balmy air of the night. From within there issued forth bright lights, together with the exhilarating sound of merry voices laughing and talking, or perhaps a song accompanied by the tinkling music of a spinet or of a guitar. An occasional group of figures, clad in light and summer-like garments, and adorned with gay and startling colors, passed him through the moonlight; so that what with the brightness and warmth of the night, together with all these unusual sights and sounds, it appeared to Jonathan Rugg that he was rather the inhabitant of some extraordinary land of enchantment and unreality than a dweller upon that sober and solid world in which he had heretofore passed his entire existence.
Before continuing this narrative the reader may here be informed that our hero had come into this enchanted world as the supercargo of the ship Susanna Hayes, of Philadelphia; that he had for several years proved himself so honest and industrious a servant to the merchant house of the worthy Jeremiah Doolittle that that benevolent man had given to his well-deserving clerk this opportunity at once of gratifying an inclination for foreign travel and of filling a position of trust that should redound to his individual profit. The Susanna Hayes had entered Kingston Harbor that afternoon, and this was Jonathan's first night spent in those tropical latitudes, whither his fancy and his imagination had so often carried him while he stood over the desk filing the accounts of invoices from foreign parts.
It might be finally added that, had he at all conceived how soon and to what a degree his sudden inclination for adventure was to be gratified, his romantic aspirations might have been somewhat dashed at the prospect that lay before him.