“By all means,” said Sir Rowland. “L’Isle, take a seat, and learn to stand fire. You must not dodge from a volley of laughter, that happens to be aimed at yourself.”
L’Isle reluctantly sat down, while Lord Strathern said: “Have you ever discovered, Sir Rowland, that L’Isle is a monomaniac?”
“No! On what point?”
“Discipline! He is a little touched here,” said my lord, laying his finger on his temple, “on the subject of discipline. He never eats heartily, nor sleeps quietly, but after detecting the breach of a dozen of the rules and regulations made for the government of his Majesty’s troops. He fancies that they were made expressly to afford him the pleasure of detecting the breach of them.”
“Is this disease prevalent in your brigade, my lord?” Sir Rowland inquired in a sarcastic tone.
“By no means; I have kept it down; for my method, looking to the spirit, not the letter of the law, discourages it greatly.”
“I have seen something of your method, my lord,” said Sir Rowland, smiling; “but cannot say that I have mastered its peculiar merits.”
“That is very likely,” said Lord Strathern, complacently. “As every art has its mysteries—so each man may have some peculiar gift in the application of his art; even though taught by the same master, no two men’s handwriting are exactly alike; so each of us may have some inimitable peculiarity in his soldiership. It is certain that L’Isle, not understanding my more enlarged and liberal system, wished to force me into his own narrow notions, and when I would not yield to him, he intimated to me that I was training up banditti. I had to recommend to him the study of one of the articles of war, which he had overlooked. It treats of subordination, and of each man’s minding his own business. Neither of us was very successful in keeping his temper; and, indeed, being a good deal ruffled, I afterward spoke pretty freely of L’Isle’s conduct to these gentlemen, who dined with me. Mabel shared my feelings, and, with my consent, set a trap for him, hoping to teach him that he himself might be caught tripping. How he escaped in time to get here you must learn from himself.”
“Come, L’Isle, we have heard the prologue,” said Sir Rowland; “be not bashful, but give us the comedy.”
What was L’Isle to do? It was evidently something more than curiosity that made Sir Rowland so earnest to sift this matter. He could hardly refuse all explanation to him—and he felt that it would never do to give an account of Lady Mabel’s behavior, to himself, as he had construed it. Lord Strathern, too, did not exactly know what he was urging him to do. Suddenly recollecting Lady Mabel’s note, L’Isle drew it from his pocket, and handed it to her father, for his private reading. To L’Isle’s astonishment, Lord Strathern read it out with great gusto, and commented on it.
This was capital bait for the trap. “And pray, Mr. Interpreter, how did you and your principal get through the evening?”