“Done,” said Lord Strathern; “and now, Mabel, use your wits to keep the fellow here, and make a fool of him; and I will expose and laugh at him, as he deserves, at Alcantara.”
“But this is a regular plot against poor L’Isle,” objected Conway.
“Plot or no plot, it is understood that you give him no hint,” said Lord Strathern.
“Certainly not,” exclaimed Bradshawe, rubbing his hands together. “Conway, you must not blab.”
“I suppose I must not,” said Conway, with a very grave face, chiefly for L’Isle, but partly for his fifty guineas. “But this is a serious matter. It may be of vital importance for Sir Rowland to know at once if the Andalusian reserve”—
“The Andalusian reserve,” said Lord Strathern, interrupting him, “will never let themselves be food for powder.”
Lady Mabel now slipped out of the room, to hide her confusion and anxiety; and Major Conway, finding my lord not in a mood to please or be pleased, soon took leave, followed by Bradshawe in high glee, though he suppressed the outward signs of it until he had turned his back upon the hospitable mansion.
“Here on the clear, cold Ezla’s breezy side,
My hand amidst her ringlets wont to rove;
She proffered now the lock, and now denied—
With all the baby playfulness of love.
“Here the false maid, with many an artful tear,
Made me each rising thought of doubt discover;
And vowed and wept till hope had ceased to fear—
Ah me! beguiling, like a child, her lover.”
Southey, from the Spanish.
Lord Strathern’s anger was not unlike a thunderstorm, violent and loud, but not very lasting. It had spent its worst fury last night; but Lady Mabel still heard the occasional rumbling of the thunder in the morning, while seated, with her father, at an unusually early breakfast; for he had before him no short day’s journey over the rough country between Elvas and Alcantara. Sleep may have dulled the edge of his anger against L’Isle, but he had not yet forgotten or forgiven him. As he kissed his daughter before he mounted his horse—for she had followed him into the court—he said: “Do not forget that fellow L’Isle, Mabel; keep him here, and make a fool of him, and I will expose and laugh at him to-morrow in Alcantara.”
Now, Lady Mabel had forgotten neither L’Isle, nor his offences. She was indignant at his presumptuous censure of her father, as unjust and disrespectful to him, and showing too little consideration for herself. In short, it was, as Colonel Bradshawe had insinuated, an indignity to the whole house of Stewart of Strathern. It must be resented. Yet she could not resolve to turn her back upon him, and discard him altogether, as she was pledged to do, as one alternative. She thought it a far fitter punishment to compel him to keep his appointment with her, and make Sir Rowland wait, fretting and fuming for the intelligence he longed for, and which L’Isle alone could give him. She reveled in the idea of making L’Isle turn his back on military duty to obey her behest: