“Awake and watching!” exclaimed L’Isle.
“Yes—awake and watching,” Lady Mabel answered. “If you could stay we would not insist on your sitting up with us. I could have Papa’s room made ready for you; and if I knew that you were asleep in Papa’s bed, with your drawn sword on one side, and a pair of his pistols, cocked, on the other, I would not be in the least afraid.”
“Afraid of what?” asked L’Isle in astonishment.
“Of these robbers, who go plundering and murdering all over the country by night!” said Lady Mabel, her large blue eyes opening wide in well-feigned terror.
“Oh, don’t talk of them, my lady!” said Jenny, with a stifled scream, and an affected shudder.
“Have you not heard of them?” Lady Mabel asked in a tone of surprise.
“I cannot say I have—at least of any depredations here at Elvas.”
“But we are outside of Elvas—to our sorrow; and the monks, great engineers as they have elsewhere proved themselves, have constructed but a very weak fortress in this building. Our garrison is weaker still. Papa carried off his two most efficient servants. William is a simpleton, Tomkins a craven, and Moodie, though bold as a lion, is an old man, already bound hand and foot, and gagged by his strong enemy.”
“But where is the Portuguese part of your household?” L’Isle asked.
“Being thieves in a small way,” said Lady Mabel, “we always, at night, lock them out of this part of the building. While the robbers were cutting our throats up-stairs, they might be stealing our silver below. We have an anxious time here, I assure you. It is as much as I can do to keep poor Jenny from going off into hysterics; she will not go to bed lest she should be robbed and murdered in her sleep. It is lucky that I, being a soldier’s daughter, have a little courage.”
“Courage!” exclaimed L’Isle, “I am astonished at your sudden timidity. Why, there is a sentinel day and night here at headquarters.”
“But out of sight and hearing at the other end of this old rambling monk’s roost,” said Lady Mabel, “mounting guard over papa’s musty despatches.”
“And the fellow now there,” said Jenny, “told me he could not quit them—no, not if we were robbed and murdered twice over. I could scream now, only that I’m afraid the villains might hear me!”
While L’Isle looked suspiciously at the maid, not so good an actress as her mistress, Lady Mabel glanced her eye at the clock. Apparent time called it one, real time said it was two hours after midnight. She felt sure of her game, and need wear the mask no longer. She had been acting a long and trying part, and began to feel tired, and now showed it by letting her terror subside into one or two little yawns, which became her so well, that L’Isle never thought her more lovely than now when she was getting tired of his company.