Their road was winding round the side of the hill, and they presently got a glimpse of a cultivated valley before them. The spirit of mischief suddenly revived in Lady Mabel’s bosom. She fell back alongside of Moodie, and said: “This way seems much traveled. It is no longer a by-path; we may call it a high road in this country. We must be drawing near to the city of Mauropolis. I wonder we have yet met none of these turbaned Moors.”
Moodie roused himself, and looked anxiously ahead. The mountain shadows already fell upon the valley; but the evening sun still shone upon a city opposite to them. It was seated high above the valley, and flanked by two fortresses of unequal elevation, which partly hid it. The Serra de Portalagre rising behind, overhung it, and the city seemed nestled in a nook in the steep mountain side. Moodie from this point did not recognize the place, but gazed on it steadfastly, with no kindly feeling. “Edom is exalted. He hath made his habitation in the clefts of the rock. He sayeth in his heart, who shall bring me down?” But presently he distinguished the peculiar aqueduct, and his eye roving westward, was struck by the familiar outline of Serra D’Ossa.
“We have lost our road,” said Lady Mabel, “and found our way back to Elvas;” and, laughing merrily, she shot ahead, leaving Moodie too much angered and mortified to enjoy the relief of his anxieties.
On reaching his quarters he went straight to his bed, to sleep off his fatigue, his chagrin, and the good wine which had befriended yet beguiled him.
It snowed in his house of meat and drink,
Of all dainties that men could of think;
After the sundry seasons of the year,
So changed he his meat and soupere.
Full many a fat patriarch had he in mew,
And many a breme and many a luce in stew;
Wo was his cook, but if his sauce were
Poignant and sharp, and ready all his gere,
His table dormant in his hall alway,
Stood ready covered all the long day.
Prologue to Canterbury Tales.
Three days had gone by since the return of the party from Evora. The ladies had gotten over their fatigue, talked over their travels, and wondered at seeing nothing of L’Isle. He had merely sent to inquire after their health, instead of coming himself, as in duty bound. Lady Mabel had confidently looked for him the first day, asked about him the next, and on the third, feeling hurt at this continued neglect, concluded that she had had enough of his company of late, and it did not matter should she not see him for a month.
Meanwhile, what was L’Isle doing? He was busy reforming himself and his regiment. On his return to Elvas he had met with several little indications of relaxed discipline, and somewhat suddenly remembered that he had not come out to Portugal to ride about the country, escorting young ladies in search of botanical specimens, picturesque scenes, and fragments of antiquity. He, the most punctilious of martinets, had been sadly neglecting his duties, and had used the invalid’s plea until it was worn threadbare long ago. He was dissatisfied with himself, and, of course, more dissatisfied with other people.