L’Isle had ridden out in the morning to a place on the borders, equi-distant between Elvas and Badajoz, the scene of a serious outrage by a party of marauders two nights before. A peasant, guilty of being richer than his neighbors, had been punished by having his house forced, his head broken, his premises sacked, and his family ill-treated. Though there had been but little blood shed, there had been much wine spilt, besides several plump goat-skins carried off with the rest of the plunder. The English in Elvas laid this achievement at the door of the irregular Spanish force at Badajoz. Tie Spanish officers were quite as sure that it was the exploit of volunteer foragers from the English cantonments. L’Isle, seeing nobody disposed to inquire into the matter, went and made an examination on the spot, which inclined him to believe that the Spanish version was the true history of this little military operation. After a hot ride he returned in time to make his bow to Lady Mabel among the latest of her guests.
Mrs. Shortridge was very glad to see him, but reproached him with his late neglect of his friends; and turned toward Lady Mabel, expecting her concurrence in this censure. But my lady said, with sublime indifference: “What matters Colonel L’Isle’s absence hitherto, since he has now come in time to interpret between us and our Portuguese friends? I have exhausted my stock of Portuguese,” she continued, addressing L’Isle; “and find that they do not always comprehend my Spanish. Major Warren, indeed, has been lending me his aid; but I think the interpreter the harder to be understood of the two. Is it not strange these ladies do not understand me better; for their language is but bad Spanish, and mine is surely bad enough.”
“Do not say that to the Portuguese,” said L’Isle. “They will be justly offended; for their tongue is rather the elder sister of the Spanish than a corruption of it.”
“Pray, lend me your tongue, Colonel L’Isle,” said Mrs. Shortridge. “Here Dona Carlotta Sequiera has been jabbering at me in what I now find out to be French, but I am ashamed to say, I do not know thirty words of the language.”
“Better to be ignorant of it,” said L’Isle with a sneer, “than learn it as Dona Carlotta did.”
“I know not how she acquired it,” said Mrs. Shortridge, “but I am told that here on the continent every educated person speaks French. We English are far behind them in that.”
“Be proud rather than ashamed of that,” said L’Isle. “Monsieur has taught all Europe his language except ourselves. Flagellation is a necessary part of schooling. As he has never been able to thrash us, we are the worst French scholars in Europe, and those he has thrashed oftenest, are the best. They should blush at their knowledge; we plume ourselves on our ignorance. Thank God you have an English tongue in your head, and never mar a better language with a Gallic phrase. There is in every country a class who are prone to denationalize