You are a gentleman of excellent
breeding, admirable discourse, of
great admittance; authentic in your place and person, and generally
allowed for your many warlike, courtlike, and learned
preparations.—Merry Wives of Windsor.
So time ran merrily on in Elvas, and most merrily at headquarters; thanks to Lord Strathern’s hospitality, and to the elegance, variety and life Lady Mabel gave to the brilliant circle she attracted thither.
Entering her father’s sitting-room one morning, she found him in conference with a gentleman whom she had never seen before. They were so much engrossed in conversation, that she had time to remark, unobserved, that he was young, handsome, and an officer of rank, but thin and pallid, as if just released from long confinement in a sick room. She was about to withdraw, when the stranger, turning to take a paper from the table, saw her. After an abstracted look of admiring curiosity, as if gazing on a fine picture, unexpectedly placed before him, he recollected himself, and rose from his chair.
“This must be Lady Mabel Stewart. Pray, my lord, present me to your daughter.”
“What, Ma Belle, are you here? L’Isle, let me make you known to my daughter. Like yourself, she occupies a distinguished post in the brigade, though not quite so well defined as yours.”
Lady Mabel acknowledged this addition to her acquaintance; then said, “but I see you are busy, papa.”
“Not at all,” said he, thrusting some papers into his portfolio, “sit with us here;” and he drew a chair for her. “L’Isle has been so long in his sick room, that a little of our pleasant company will do him good. You must have suffered much from solitude, L’Isle, as well as from your wounds.”
“Surgeons and servants were my sole companions. Their rude hands, too, convinced me that our sex were never meant for nurses. A sister of mercy would have been an angel of light; and if young and good-looking, she might have made a convert of me to her church.”
Lady Mabel could perceive that her father treated his companion with unusual consideration, and L’Isle was induced to prolong his visit for an hour and more. He was certainly well-bred and well-informed, and seemed disposed to make himself agreeable; yet there was something in his manner that puzzled and annoyed her. It was not the little reserve which he exhibited toward her father, yet more than to herself. It was not that he was out of spirits; for he was quite animated at times. It seemed to be a feeling of—Lady Mabel’s self-satisfaction did not permit her immediately to perceive what this feeling was.