“You shall have a guinea for yourself, if you prove a man of your word, and send my letter in time.”
“If I fail you, may your guinea choke me, for I mean to melt it down into good liquor,” said the groom.
“And I’ll help him to drink your health in it, Mr. Moodie,” said the other man. “For a guinea’s worth of liquor might choke a better man than Tom.”
With hope renewed, Moodie rode on after his mistress. On coming up with them, he heard L’Isle and Lady Mabel talking Portuguese. To while away an idle hour, she was taking a lesson in that tongue. This annoyed Moodie, who suspected some plot, when they thus kept him in the dark. But he consoled himself with the hope that his important dispatch would yet be in time to prevent mischief, and he once more refreshed himself with his bottle, being now well convinced of its medicinal virtue.
Lady Mabel was in high spirits, talking and laughing, and occasionally looking round at Moodie, enjoying the deception she had put upon him. Her success in bewildering him, now tempted her to quiz L’Isle, and she abruptly said: “It must have been a violent fit of patriotism and martial ardor that made you abandon the thought of taking orders, and quit Oxford for the camp.”
“I never had any thought of taking orders,” answered L’Isle, surprised and annoyed, he knew not exactly why. “I only lived with those who had.”
“You lived with them to some purpose, then, and have, too, a great aptitude for the church.”
“It is not my vocation,” said L’Isle, laconically.
“You have only not yet found it out. But it is not too late,” she persisted. “Your case, my good man-slaying Christian, is not like Gonsalvo’s of Cordova, who had but a remnant of his days in which to play the penitent monk. These wars will soon be over, and you are still young. If you cannot make a general, you may be a bishop in time. Indeed, I already see in you a pillar of our church.”
It was not flattering to an ambitious young soldier to hint that he had so mistaken his calling. L’Isle was almost angry, at which Lady Mabel felt a mischievous delight; and Mrs. Shortridge was highly amused.
“It is but a small inducement I can offer you, among so many higher motives,” Lady Mabel continued. “But I promise you, that, whenever you preach your first sermon, I will travel even to Land’s-end to hear it.”
“Lady Mabel shall offer a greater bribe,” said Mrs. Shortridge, with an arch look. “If you will only exchange the sword for the surplice, Colonel L’Isle, whenever she commits matrimony, no one but you shall solemnize the rite.”
Far from being tempted, L’Isle seemed utterly disgusted at the inducement.
Lady Mabel blushed to the crown of her head, and exclaimed, “I am too fond of my liberty to offer that bribe. That is a high and bare hill,” she said, seeking to divert their attention. “Let us ride to the top of it, and survey the country around.”