“Lady Mabel,” said L’Isle, eagerly, (she had pressed close up beside him,) “Pray ride back a little way, and take the ladies with you.”
“I will, but what is the matter?”
“The road seems to be occupied. But go at once, and take them with you.”
“I wish it were daylight!” said she, trying to laugh off her trepidation. “Adventures by night are more than I bargained for. Come ladies, follow me.”
“Tom,” said L’Isle to his groom, without turning his head, but gazing steadily at the dark object across the water, “Follow Lady Mabel.”
“Better send the Doctor, sir,” said Tom, doggedly. “He has not sword or pistol.”
“Whoever they are,” said L’Isle to Cranfield, “they have posted themselves badly for surprise or attack. Let us form here on the slope of the bank, and if they attempt to cross, fall on them as they come out of the water.”
Officers and servants fell into line—a badly armed troop, with infantry swords, and some without pistols. Meanwhile, L’Isle sent Hatton’s down to the edge of the river to challenge the opposite party.
Now, Hatton’s knowledge of foreign tongues was pretty much limited to those vituperative epithets which are first and oftenest heard in every language. He rode down to the edge of the water, and proceeded loudly to anathamatize his opponents in Portuguese, Spanish and French successively. Having exhausted his foreign vocabulary, he hurled at them some well shotted English phrases—but the heretics did not heed the damnatory clauses, even in plain English. Not a word could he get in reply from them. L’Isle literally and figuratively in the dark, grew impatient, and announced his intention to commence a pistol practice on them that would draw out some demonstration. He rode down to the water’s edge, and was leveling a long pistol at the middle of the dark mass, when some epithet of Hatton’s more stinging than any he had yet invented, proved too much for Goring’s gravity. He began to laugh, and the contagion seized every dragoon of the party. The mask of hostility fell off, and they were instantly recognized as friends, to the great relief of those on the other bank.
Provoked as they were at this practical joke, their position had been too ridiculous not to be amusing. After a hearty laugh, they hastened to bring back the ladies, who were not found close at hand, for Dona Carlotta and her friends had been posting back to Badajoz, and Lady Mabel had only succeeded in stopping them by the assurance that the road was doubtless beset, both before and behind them. When the two parties, now united, had taken their way back to Elvas, Lieutenant Goring found an opportunity of putting himself alongside of Lady Mabel.
She reproached him with the boyish trick he had just perpetrated. It might so easily have had fatal consequences. Goring, himself began to think it not so witty as he had fancied it.