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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 297 pages of information about The Actress in High Life.

Prologue to Canterbury Tales.

“Why, Ma belle, you are an indomitable excursionist!” exclaimed Lord Strathern one evening, when the botanical party, after a hard day’s work in pleasure-hunting, returned to a late dinner at headquarters.  “I wonder Mrs. Shortridge is not worn out in accompanying you.”

“I take it easily, my Lord,” said Mrs. Shortridge, “keeping the broadest and smoothest path I can find, like the wicked in Scripture, while Lady Mabel rambles about on either hand, having, I think, a liking for rough ground.  Like the mountain goat, if she will forgive the comparison, she prefers the crag to the plain.  If your Lordship saw the hardihood with which she puts herself into all sorts of perilous situations, until, at times, it needs all the aid Colonel L’Isle can give to extricate her, I fear you would put a stop to our jaunts.”

“As yet my wardrobe has been the only sufferer,” said Lady Mabel.  “I have just taken off the third dress I have damaged past remedy.”

“If you had been a boy, Ma belle, instead of a girl, you would have made a rare sportsman!”

“A sportsman, indeed!  By this time I would have held a commission in his Majesty’s service.  Why, papa, I am a year older than ensign Wade, have almost as much beard to my chin, and, but for my sex, would make quite as good a soldier.”

“I am content, however, to have you as you are, and would not exchange you for a regiment of the best boys in England.”

“Better one daughter than a thousand sons,” said Lady Mabel, “for they would make a cumbersome family.”

“You are a cumbersome baggage yourself,” said Lord Strathern.  “Just see the endless litter of flowers, leaves, yea, branches of trees, with which you cumber the house.  We will have to apply to the quartermaster for the use of a returning supply-train to convey your botanical treasures to Lisbon, and we will have to charter a vessel there to carry them home.  Dr. Graham’s study will not contain all you collect for him.  You must have exhausted the neighborhood.”

“In one sense I am afraid we have.  Colonel L’Isle tells me that we have explored almost every part of the country immediately around Elvas.”

“I am sorry we are tied down to this one spot,” said her father.  “As you have never been from home before, I would wish you to see as much as possible of this country.  But I must stick close to the brigade, at hand for orders at any moment.”

“I must be content,” said Lady Mabel.  “And, after all, it is better to see one place thoroughly, than to take a hasty glance at a dozen in the style of common-place travelers.”

“I confess I am but a common-place traveler,” said Mrs. Shortridge, “and would like to see a new place every day; though I have, I own, found more variety and amusement in exploring the neighborhood than I expected.”

“You will shortly have an opportunity, Mrs. Shortridge,” said L’Isle, “of visiting a very striking place by merely accompanying the commissary.  He thinks of going to Evora to purchase cattle and grain for the troops, and Evora is well worth seeing, as well as the country you pass through in going thither.”

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