“The Spaniard has a treasury of wisdom locked up in his proverbs,” said L’Isle. “What a pity it is he will not take some of it out to meet the current demands on him.”
They soon again crossed the bridge, and entered the tete du point—but the dancers had vanished; their music was hushed; nor was its place supplied by the song of the morning. The chorus of “Guadiana—Guadiana,” no longer arose from its banks. All was still, dark and desolate before them.
Meanwhile, Lord Strathern, though not given to over caution, was seized, as night drew on, with a sudden nervousness, at Ma Belle’s taking a night ride across the borders of two such unsettled countries, infested with patriotic guerilleros, who sometimes mistook friends for foes. He entertained—in fact, cultivated—an unfavorable opinion of his neighbors, the Spanish garrison of Badajoz. He laid at their door every outrage perpetrated in the country around.—The party from Elvas would afford a rich booty in purses, watches, and jewelry; and he thought it quite possible that after some of their allies had entertained them in Badajoz, with ostentatious hospitality, others might waylay, rob and murder them before, or soon after they crossed the frontier. So, he hastily ordered Major Conway to send out a patrol of dragoons to meet them; and the Major sent off Lieut. Goring in a hurry on this service.
Now, Goring had passed the day chafing with indignation at hearing of the pleasant party, which he had not been asked to join; and his anger was not soothed by being despatched to meet it, at a late hour, when all the pleasure was over. Galloping on in this mood, with a dozen and more dragoons, behind him, he came to the Cayo, and after taking a look at the dark current, was about to cross, when he heard the sound of horses’ feet, and the clattering of tongues drawing near on the other side. In the spirit of mischief, he followed the impulse of the moment. He ordered his men to form on the edge of the water, fronting the ford, to unbuckle their cloaks, and throw them over their helmets, and not to move or speak a word. The men took the joke instantly. The crescent moon, already distanced by the sun, was sinking below the horizon; the bank of the river threw its shade over them, and they stood below, a dark, undistinguishable mass.
Presently the party came straggling up, Dona Carlotta and her cavalier leading them, and feeling their way down to the water.
“This cannot be the ford,” said he; “the bank looks too steep on the other side.”
“What is that black object across the water?” asked Cranfield, from behind. “Can the river have risen and the bank caved in?”
“It has too regular an outline for that,” said L’Isle, who had now come up, and was trying to peer through the darkness. “Do you not hear the stamping of a horse across the water?”
“And a clattering sound?” said Cranfield, as a dragoon’s sword struck against a neighboring stirrup.