It was high time to get rid of him. But now a real fear come over her, and she shrunk from his searching glance with unfeigned timidity. Still the thing had to be done; so nerving herself to the task, she stepped close up beside him, and looking confidingly in his face, said: “I am truly sorry to have kept you here so long, and hope you will not find Sir Rowland fretting and fuming at the delay of your news; but I was so anxious to have your protection, having just learned that these horrid ruffians are not guerilleros from the Spanish band at Badajoz, but some of your own regiment disguised as banditti.”
L’Isle started back one step. In an instant, from the fairy land of hope and love, his Eden of delights, with every soothing and intoxicating influence around him, he found himself transported to a bleak common, stripped of his dreamy joys, exposed to the ridicule of the enchantress, and soon to be pelted with the pitiless jests of all who might hear of his adventure. He looked at Lady Mabel, almost expecting to see her undergo some magic transformation. But there she stood unchanged, except that there was a little sneer on her lip, a glance of triumph from her eye, an expression of intense but mischievous enjoyment in her whole air, and, what he had never observed before, a strong likeness to her father.
Striving quickly and proudly to recover himself, L’Isle said, with admirable gravity, “You have convinced me, Lady Mabel, that it is my especial duty to protect you from my own banditti. I will not leave you, not close an eye in sleep, while a shadow of danger hangs over you. But,” he added, slowly drawing near to a window, and gently opening it, “I have observed that house-breakers always choose the darkest hours to hide their deeds of darkness. For to-night the danger is over. The moon is overhead, and not a cloud obscures the sky. We English may envy these Southern nations their nights, though not their days.” Half a dozen nightingales were now pouring out their rival melodies in the grove. Looking out on the landscape before him, its features softened rather than concealed by the sober silvery light, he repeated:
“How sweet the moonlight sleeps on yonder bank, * * * * In such a night as this, When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees, And they did make no noise—in such a night Troilus, methinks, mounted the Trojan walls, And sighed his soul toward the Grecian tents, Where Cressid lay that night.”
While repeating these lines, he measured with his eye the distance to the ground. The comfort-loving monks had provided lofty ceilings and abundant air for their apartments under the scorching sun of Alemtejo. But in L’Isle’s angry, defiant mood, he would have leapt from the top of Pompey’s Pillar, rather than stay to be laughed at by Lady Mabel. Seating himself on the window-sill, he turned and threw his legs out of the window.
“For Heaven’s sake, Colonel L’Isle, what are you dreaming of?”