“How she would make him fawn, and
beg and seek,
And wait the season and observe the times,
And spend his prodigal wit in bootless rhymes.”
But then L’Isle was so punctilious on points of duty, and Major Conway had been so confident that she could not detain him in Elvas, that she begun to doubt it herself, and resolved to spare no pains to gain her end. So she at once sat down and penned an artful note; then calling for her fine footman, dispatched him with it to L’Isle’s quarters, after schooling him well that he was to give it to the colonel’s own man, with strict injunctions to put it in his master’s hand on his return—if possible—before his foot was out of the stirrup; certainly, before he got any other letter awaiting him.
Meanwhile, L’Isle was zealously fulfilling his mission at Badajoz. He had made such good speed the evening before, that though the sun had set on him in Elvas, some lingering rays of twilight still fell on the round Moorish tower of white marble, on either hand, as he entered the bridge-gate of Badajoz.
No sooner had he alighted at the posada, than he wrote a note, and sent it to the governor of the place, saying, that having just come back from Andalusia, whither he had been sent on an important mission by Sir Rowland Hill, and not doubting that the Spanish dignitary would be glad of news from that province, he would wait on him at breakfast next morning. This done, and learning that many of the Spanish officers were to be found at another posada, he hastened thither, soon meeting acquaintances—and making more—among them. He knew well how to approach the Spaniard, mingling the utmost consideration with his frank address, and taking pains to make himself agreeable, even to that puppy, Don Alonso Melendez, whom he found among them. Many of them were at cards, and the dice were not idle. L’Isle soon found a place among the gamesters, and took care to lose a few pieces to more than one of his new friends; a thing easily done, they being in high practice, and he little skilled in these arts. Having thus made himself one of them, he, like a true Englishman, set to drinking, contrived to get about him some of the graver and less busy of the gentlemen present, and, while discussing with them the best wine the house afforded, he adroitly turned the conversation to the topics on which he sought information. He did not go to bed, at a late hour, without having learned much as to the garrison of Badajoz, and of the few precautions taken for the safety of this important fortress.
Early in the morning, L’Isle called on the governor, and found him in his dressing-gown, just ready for his chocolate. The Don was well pleased to hear L’Isle’s account of the force coming up from Andalusia, of his interviews with officers high in command in it, and his comments on the spirit, activity, and endurance of the Spanish soldier. This led to further conversation, in which L’Isle, while sipping chocolate with the Spaniard, took occasion to abuse the French roundly, which was agreeable enough to his host; but he quite won his heart by the unfeigned contempt and abhorrence he expressed for the Afrancesados.