Having made this matter clear to his own mind, Moodie cursed in his heart Lord Strathern’s fatuity and the facile disposition Lady Mabel had so unexpectedly betrayed. But, though sorely troubled, he was not a man to despair. He resolved to watch L’Isle closely, and to rack his own invention for some way to foil his schemes, while taking care not to betray the least suspicion of them.
Meanwhile, Lady Mabel, as she could not herself visit Algarve, was extracting from L’Isle a full account of that delightful region. And he described well the picturesque and lofty mountains that cut off its narrow strip of maritime territory from the rest of Portugal; its tropical vegetation and its animal life, its perpetual summer, tempered alternately by the ocean and the mountain breeze. When he mentioned any fact which Lady Mabel thought might liken this region to Africa in Moodie’s imagination, she would turn and repeat it for his benefit. Thus, the wolves and the wild boars abounding in the mountains, became to him nameless monsters infesting the country; the serpents were magnified in bulk, and the poisonous lizard redoubled its venom. The fevers common there grew more malignant; the plague broke out occasionally, and a few earthquakes were thrown in to enliven the narrative. She garbled it too, sadly, suppressing the fact that Algarve had furnished a large proportion of the adventurers who had discovered and conquered India and Brazil, and its mariners of this day, the best in Portugal, she converted into Barbary corsairs. She said nothing about Algarve having been the first province to rise against the French, or about the half-dozen adventurous seamen who had sailed boldly in a fishing-boat to Brazil, to inform the regent that Portugal still dared to struggle and to hope.
L’Isle overheard and wondered at her perversion of his account of Algarve, without detecting her motive, and Moodie thought her evident desire to visit this region proved her little less than mad, for only her version of select portions of L’Isle’s remarks reached his ears.
“It is singular,” said L’Isle, “that the Moors should have been more thoroughly driven out of Algarve, the most southern province, than out of others north of it. Its maritime position perhaps made it easy for them to escape to Morocco. But the people are not so dark as in Alemtejo, and many of the women are beautifully fair. In fact, I have seen as lovely faces there as in any country but our own.”
Lady Mabel took care not to enlighten Moodie by repeating to him this observation, and he remained convinced that L’Isle had been describing beforehand to the ladies the country he was leading them to.
“The heat, fatigue, and discomfort of the last four days had almost worn out Mrs. Shortridge’s strength, and now suggested to Lady Mabel some sage reflections on travel in general, as the result of her experience.