But this was too severe a contrast to his late mode of life, and the prospect soon disgusted him utterly. Having strong influence to back him, he now thought of getting a seat in Parliament, and for a moment the prophetic cries of ‘Hear! hear!’ arose from both sides of a full House of Commons. But he knew that the occasion, even more than the man, makes the orator; and in ‘this weak piping time of peace,’ these cost-counting, debt-paying days, he foresaw no occasion that could call forth the thunders of Demosthenes or Burke.—But although a new light shines in upon him, and he suddenly makes up his mind that, since he can no longer take the field, because all the world is tired of fighting, and yet more of paying the bills run up in that expensive diversion, he will write the narrative of the campaigns in which he had taken part, without letting the ‘quorum pars magna fui’ fill too large a place in the picture.—Where can he find so much of the materials needed in the construction of his work as in London? So to London he went.
The season was at its height, and the town was full. L’Isle’s object required that he should not only examine many musty papers, but see many persons; as some of his gayer friends soon found him out, and induced him to look in upon the inner circles of London fashionable life, to which his early and long absence from England had kept him a stranger.
It so happened that Lord Strathern had come up from his moors, where the winter had got too cold for him (the climate had changed much since he was a boy), to visit the clubs and meet old comrades. But these proved too much for the old veteran, who soon had to shut himself up, in order to stave off an attack of his old enemy, the gout. He would not, however, permit Lady Mabel to stand the siege with him. The consequence was, that not long after L’Isle had come up to London, he found himself in one of Lady D——’s thronged rooms, within four steps of Lady Mabel.
In three years she had become, if we may be pardoned the bull, more like herself than ever, for she was now all that she had promised to be. She shone out in a richer and riper beauty, and a more sedate and womanly deportment set it off, retaining not the least trace of that somewhat cavalier manner she had picked up in the brigade. She was more than three years wiser, and certainly more dangerous than ever.
L’Isle had long and studiously schooled himself to the conviction that his fair and fascinating companion in Elvas was, after all, but a heartless woman. Yet his vanity, to say nothing of any other feeling, had never quite gotten over the rude shock it had received on Mrs. Shortridge’s great night there. His first thought was to withdraw from the dangerous neighborhood. But he blushed at his own cowardice; and the moment after, having caught her eye, he, self-confident, made his way through the crowd, and greeted her politely as an old acquaintance. It was plain that she