“What is the burden of Sir Rowland’s verses?” she asked, addressing him.
“Very true!” exclaimed L’Isle; “I had forgotten to read it.” And breaking the seal, he ran his eye hastily over the letter. “I must leave Elvas at once, and be away some days,” he said, with a look of dissatisfaction.
“Sir Rowland is very fond of sending you on his errands,” remarked Lord Strathern. “And, hitherto you seemed to like the extra work he gave you.”
“I would be gladly excused from it just now,” answered L’Isle, and in spite of himself, his eye wandered toward Lady Mabel. Lord Strathern did not observe this, but said, jestingly: “I believe you have contrived to convince Sir Rowland that none of us can do any thing so well as you can,” but there was a little tone of pique in the way this was said.
“I have made no attempt to do so,” L’Isle answered. “But he has given me some thing to do now, and I must set about it at once.” Taking leave of Lady Mabel, he held a short private conference with his lordship, and, when he went out to mount his horse, found Colonel Bradshawe already in the saddle, waiting for him. This annoyed him, for he instinctively knew Bradshawe’s object, and looked to be ingeniously cross-questioned as to the verses which Lady Mabel had recited, and then criticised so unsparingly. Unwilling to let Bradshawe stretch him on the rack for his amusement, L’Isle assumed the offensive, and at once broached another matter which he had much at heart.
“I wonder when we will leave Elvas,” he exclaimed, abruptly. “If we stay here much longer, we will be at war with the people around us. I never knew my lord so negligent of discipline. It evidently grows upon him.”
“The old gentleman,” said Bradshawe, carelessly, “certainly holds the reins with a slack hand.”
“He is content with preserving order in Elvas,” said L’Isle; “but turns a deaf ear to almost every complaint the peasantry make against our people.”
“Many of them are lies,” said Bradshawe, coolly.
“And many of them are too well founded,” answered L’Isle. “You are the senior officer in the brigade, and a man of no little tact. Could you not stir my lord up to looking more closely into this matter.”
“I will think of it,” said Bradshawe, anxious to open a more interesting subject.
“Pray think of it speedily,” said L’Isle. “There is no time to be lost, and I must lose no time now. The sun has set, and I must be in Olivenca by midnight.”
“What will you do there?” asked Bradshawe.
“Bait my horses on my way into Andalusia,” answered L’Isle, riding off at full gallop, leaving Bradshawe much provoked at his slipping out of his hands before he could put him to the question.
Who cannot be crushed with a plot?
All is Well that Ends Well.