“Wonderful, according to rumor,” answered L’Isle, “But I never had time to come from the trenches to prove them. It is said to have brought Badajoz so near, that you saw how the French soldiers made their soup, and even smell the garlic they put into it. Once, when my Lord saw Philipon leaning against the parapet of the castle, sneering at the besieger’s clumsy approaches, he so far forgot himself, as to call for his holsters, that he might pistol the contemptuous Frenchmen on the spot.”
“Did he, indeed?” exclaimed Mrs. Shortridge; then laughing at herself for being quizzed for the moment, begged L’Isle to tell this to the Portuguese ladies, and see if they would not believe it.
Meanwhile, Lady Mabel was gazing thoughtfully over the winding valley, which running toward them from the East, turned abruptly to the South, indicating the course of the Guadiana, and on the wide plains of Estremadura baja, or the lower, to the blue sierras that walled it round. “This, then, is Spain,” said she; “the land I have read of, dreamed of, and for the last four years, thought of more even than of my own.”
“And yet,” said L’Isle, “you calling yourself a traveler, have been for months within sight of it, and have never set your foot on Spanish ground.”
“I blush to own it. But you, my self-appointed guide, should blush, too, at never having led me thither. Come, Mrs. Shortridge: these soldiers are too slow for us; let us take horse to-morrow, and make an inroad into Spain.”
“Willingly,” said Mrs. Shortridge. “But let us take a strong party with us. We do not know how we might be received, should the Spaniards mistake us for Portuguese!”
“If a visit to Badajoz is your object,” said Cranfield, “I offer myself as a guide. As I have been lately engaged in repairing its shattered walls, I may be useful in showing you how to get in. Knowing, too, some of the Spanish officers there, I may in a parley induce them to come to terms.”
They now descended from the tower, and on leaving the fort, Lady Mabel led the party to head-quarters, to take their luncheon there, while they planned their measure for to-morrow’s expedition to Badajoz.
“Where Lusitania and her sister
Deem ye what bounds the rival realms divide?
Or ere the jealous queens of nations greet,
Doth Tayo interpose his mighty tide?
Or dark Sierras rise in craggy pride?
Or fence of art, like China’s vasty wall?
No barrier wall, no river deep and wide,
No horrid crags, nor mountains dark and tall,
Rise like the rocks that part Hispania’s land from Gaul.
But these between, a silver streamlet glides,
And scarce a name distinguisheth the brook;
Though rival kingdoms press its verdant sides,
Here leans the idle shepherd on his crook,
And vacant on the rippling waves doth look,
That peaceful still ’twixt bitterest foemen flow,
For proud each peasant as the noblest duke;
Well doth the Spanish hind the difference know
’Twixt him and Lusian slave, the lowest of the low.”