“The want of that must be a sad privation to you.”
“My only resource now is to get old Moodie and Jennie Aiken, my maid, together, and have a good home talk with them, which, for the time, may blot out the map of Portugal, and carry us back to Scotland.”
“After that avowal,” said L’Isle, rising from his chair, “I had better not trespass on you longer, lest I should have the door slammed in my face the next time I visit you.” And he bowed and put an end to his visit.
As he rode homeward, he again brought Lord Strathern to trial, and soon found a verdict against him, of utter incapacity to take charge of such a daughter as heaven had blessed him with. L’Isle felt strongly tempted to take the vacant guardianship upon himself—but did not see just then how it was to be brought about.
He was buried in these thoughts when the sound of horses’ feet aroused him; and looking up he saw Lord Strathern riding down toward him from the city gate, followed by a party of young officers. His lordship drew up as he approached, and said: “L’Isle, I am glad to see you look so much like taking the field again. Why, your ride has actually brought a color into your cheeks.” In truth, L’Isle had turned somewhat red on seeing suddenly before him the very man he had just been condemning in secret tribunal. “We cannot let you play invalid much longer,” his lordship continued. “We begin to miss you sadly. By the by, I have just been inspecting the troops. Their condition is not exactly what I would wish. But the less we say about the matter—only—I am glad the French are not just now in the neighborhood.”
“But they have not told us how long they meant to stay away,” suggested L’Isle.
“We won’t see them soon, however,” said his lordship carelessly. “Well, L’Isle, I will begin to put you on duty by having you to dine with me to-morrow. These noisy fellows I have with me to-day would be too much for your nerves. We will have a quieter party, and I will not insist on your doing your full turn of duty at the bottle.”
“I will obey you, my lord, with the greatest pleasure, particularly as you are so considerate as to the bottle. I have just been paying my respects, for the first time, to Lady Mabel.”
“Well, if you did not bore her by the length of your visit—a thing she sometimes complains of—she will be glad to see you again to-morrow.” And Lord Strathern rode off—with a merry party at his heels.
Celia.—Here comes Monsieur Le Beau. Rosalind.—With his mouth full of news. Celia.—Which he will put on us as pigeons feed their young. Rosalind.—Then shall we be news-crammed.
As You Like It.
The next morning Colonel L’Isle was seated in his room, wrapped in his cloak, with a brasero filled with wood embers at his feet; for it was one of those windy, chilly days, not uncommon in this fluctuating climate, and he was still invalid enough to be keenly sensitive to these sudden changes of temperature. He was, too, so completely wrapped up in his meditations, that his servant had twice to announce that the adjutant was in the next room.