“So,” said she to herself, when L’Isle had taken his leave, her father accompanying him out of the room, “So this is the veritable Lieutenant-Colonel L’Isle! After hearing of him daily for three weeks, I have now seen him in real life, or rather, half alive; for the cadaverous gentleman seems to have had at least half his life let out of him in that last affair. This is the glass in which the young lieutenants and ensigns of the brigade dress themselves. As Colonel Bradshawe says, there is no need to distribute copies of the articles of war among them. They may all be condensed into one injunction: ’Be just like Lieutenant-Colonel L’Isle, and you will rise like him; and deserve to rise—if you have as strong family interest to back you.’ But he seems to have suffered much from his wounds, poor fellow, and in spite of family interest, to have been very near leaving his regiment vacant for another aspirant.”
“By-the-bye,” said Lady Mabel, as a new light flashed upon her, “he seemed to pity me all the time he was talking to me. That was it! A condescending commiseration in every look, and in every word he uttered. I am very much indebted to him for his sympathy.” Here she assumed a haughty air. “But we certainly do not know ourselves; for I cannot, for the life of me, discover what he sees so pitiable about me. He is, doubtless, a very over-weening fellow—I do not like him at all!” And, with a haughty wave of the hand, she dismissed an imaginary personage from her presence, and moved off with dignity to her own room. Now, be it remembered, that Lady Mabel, walking in “maiden meditation, fancy free,” among the officers of the brigade, had never, until this moment, thought it worth while to ask herself, as to any of them, whether she liked him or not.
While she was thus meditating and soliloquizing, L’Isle had mounted his horse, and was riding slowly back to his quarters, meditating and soliloquizing, too.
“What on earth was Lord Strathern dreaming of, when he brought his daughter out here—and such a daughter—to preside over his house and his table? She might as well take her seat at the head of a regimental mess-table. We know his habits of life. He cannot dine comfortably without half a dozen fast fellows about him. To make it worse, has a new set every day. And with his notions of hospitality, all are made free of the house. Of course, they become her companions, and to such a degree of freedom, that she can only get out of their way by shutting herself up in her chamber. She can scarcely have a female companion an hour in the week; for the few of our ladies here have no leisure to be trotting out of Elvas, down to headquarters, to play chaperon to a young girl who ought to be in England.”
“Here is a man,” continued L’Isle to himself, in an indignant tone, and so loud that his servant spurred up from behind him to see if he was wanted. “Here is a man who has been near forty years in the service, and has not yet found out what kind of women are made out of these garrison girls. Bold, flippant creatures, light infantry in petticoats, destitute of the delicacy and modesty, without which a woman may be honest by good luck, but can never be a lady deserving the name.