“Just what I was going to speak about, my dear boy. We have had number one, but before half an hour, we shall be seated at number two. When your sergeant has relieved his sentries, come over and you will find a piping hot breakfast.”
“Will it be quite consistent with military prudence to leave my guard so soon, after the lecture I have had?” remarked the ensign, with a smile—“but, ah! I had nearly forgotten. Elmsley, I must say a few words to you before I go in, and a better opportunity cannot be afforded than while we are walking from this to your place. Just go then, and order the breakfast as you propose, and return here. I shall have completed the arrangements of the guard by that time, and all that I have to ask of you, can be answered as we go along.”
“I hope it is no great secret you have to impart,” returned the lieutenant, “for I am a sad hand at the mysterious, and shall be sure to tell my wife, if I do not tell Maria.”
“Not you—you will tell neither, but au revoir.”
At the moment when Ensign Ronayne removed his sword, with the intention of handing it to his commanding officer, in anticipation of the arrest which he expected, Maria Heywood, little conversant with those military formalities, and apprehending from the previous high tone of her lover, that something fearful was about to occur, had not absolutely fainted, but become so agitated, that Mrs. Elmsley was induced to take her back to the sofa, on which she had previously been reclining. As she was leaving her chair, Mrs. Headley, whose attention had also been arrested by the loud and angry voice of her husband, came from her own door and joined the little group, anxiously inquiring the cause of the disturbance without.
In a few brief sentences, and as correctly as she was able, Mrs. Elmsley explained to her the circumstances, and although her attentive auditor offered no very pointed remark, it was evident from her manner that she deeply deplored that strict military punctilio, which had led the husband whom she both loved and esteemed, to place himself in a false position with his own force—for that it was a false position in some degree, to provoke insubordination, and yet be without the power to punish it, she had too much good sense not to perceive. She felt the more annoyed, because she had on more than one occasion, observed that there was not that unanimity between her husband and Lieutenant Elmsley, which she conceived ought to exist between parties so circumstanced —a commander of a remote post, and his second in command, on whose mutual good understanding, not only the personal security of all might depend, but the existence of those social relations, without which, their isolated position involved all the unpleasantness of a voluntary banishment. This had ever been to her a source of regret, and she had on several occasions, although in the most delicate and unobtrusive manner, hinted at the fact; but the man who doated upon her, and to whom, in all other respects, her desire was law, evinced so much inflexibility in all that appertained to military etiquette, that she had never ventured to carry her allusions beyond the light commentary induced by casual reference to the subject.