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WHICH IS BOTH QUARRELSOME AND SENTIMENTAL.
IVIL war was raging, high words passing, people pushing and squeezing together in an unseemly manner, round a window in the corner of the ball-room, close by the door through which the Chevalier Strong shouldered his way. Through the opened window, the crowd in the street below was sending up sarcastic remarks, such as
"Pitch into him!" "Where's the police?" and the like; and a ring of individuals, among whom Madame Fribsby was conspicuous, was gathered round Monsieur Alcide Mirobolant on the one side; whilst several gentlemen and ladies surrounded our friend Arthur Pendennis on the other. Strong penetrated into this assembly, elbowing by Madame Fribsby, who was charmed at the Chevalier's appearance, and cried, "Save him, save him !" in frantic and pathetic accents.
The cause of the disturbance, it appeared, was the angry little chef of Sir Francis Clavering's culinary establishment. Shortly after Strong had quitted the room, and whilst Mr. Pen, greatly irate at his downfall in the waltz, which had made him look ridiculous in the eyes of the nation, and by Miss Amory's behaviour to him, which had still further insulted his dignity, was.eHdeavouring to get some coolness of body and temper, by looking out of window towards the sea, which was sparkling in the distance, and murmuring in a wonderful calm—whilst he was really trying to compose himself, and owning to himself, perhaps, that he had acted in a very absurd and peevish manner during the night—he felt a hand upon his shoulder; and, on looking round, beheld, to his utter surprise and horror, that the hand in question belonged to Monsieur Mirobolant, whose eyes were glaring out of his pale face and ringlets at Mr. Pen. To be tapped on the shoulder by a French cook was a piece of familiarity which made the blood of the Pendennises to boil up in the veins of their descendant, and he was astounded, almost more than enraged, at such an indignity.
"You speak French?" Mirobolant said in his own language, to Pen.
"What is that to you, pray?" said Pen, in English."At any rate, you understand it?" continued the other, with a bow."Yes, sir," said Pen, with a stamp of his foot; "I understand it pretty well."
"Vous me comprendrez alors, Monsieur Pendennis," replied the other, rolling out his r with Gascon force, "quand je vous dis que vous etes un lache. Monsieur Pendennis—un lache, entendez-vous?"
"What?" said Pen, starting round on him.
"You understand the meaning of the word and its consequences among men of honour?" the artist said, putting his hand on his hip, and staring at Pen.
"The consequences are, that I will fling you out of window, you—impudent scoundrel," bawled out Mr. Pen; and darting upon the Frenchman, he would very likely have put his threat into execution, for the window was at hand, and the artist by no means a match for the young gentleman—had not Captain Broadfoot and another heavy officer flung themselves between the combatants,—had not the ladies begun to scream,—had not the fiddles stopped,—had not the crowd of people come running in that direction,—had not Laura, with a face of great alarm, looked over their heads and asked for Heaven's sake what was wrong—had not the opportune Strong made his appearance from the refreshment-room, and found Alcide grinding his teeth and jabbering oaths in his Gascon French, and Pen looking uncommonly wicked, although trying to appear as calm as possible, when the ladies and the crowd came up.
"What has happened?" Strong asked of the chef, in Spanish.
"I am Chevalier de Juillet," said the other, slapping his breast, "and he has insulted me."
"What has he said to you?" asked Strong.
"II m'a appele—CuUinier," hissed out the little Frenchman.
Strong could hardly help laughing. "Come away with me, my poor Chevalier," he said. "We must not quarrel before ladies. Come away; I will carry your message to Mr. Pendennis.—The poor fellow is not right in his head," he whispered to one or two people about him;—and others, and anxious Laura's face visible amongst these, gathered round Pen and asked the cause of the disturbance.
Pen did not know. "The man was going to give his arm to a young lady, on which I said that he was a cook, and the man called me a coward and challenged me to fight. I own I was so surprised and indignant, that if you gentlemen had not stopped me, I should have thrown him out of window," Pen said.
"D him, serve him right, too,—the d impudent foreign scoundrel," the gentlemen said.
"I—I'm very sorry if I hurt his feelings, though," Pen added: and Laura was glad to hear him say that; although some of the young bucks said, "No, hang the fellow,—hang those impudent foreigners—little thrashing would do them good."
"You will go and shake hands with him before you go to sleep— won't you, Pen?" said Laura, coming up to him. "Foreigners may be more susceptible than we are, and have different manners. If you hurt a poor man's feelings, I am sure you would be the first to ask his pardon. Wouldn't you, dear Pen?"
She looked all forgiveness and gentleness, like an angel, as she spoke, and Pen took both her hands, and looked into her kind face, and said indeed he would.
"How fond that girl is of me!" he thought, as she stood gazing at him. "Shall I speak to her now? No—not now. I must have this absurd business with the Frenchman over."
Laura asked—Wouldn't he stop and dance with her? She was as anxious to keep him in the room as he to quit it. "Won't you stop and waltz with me, Pen? I'm not afraid to waltz with you."
This was an affectionate but an unlucky speech. Pen saw himself prostrate on the ground, having tumbled over Miss Roundle and the dragoon, and flung Blanche up against the wall—saw himself on the ground, and all the people laughing at him, Laura and Pynsent amongst them.
"I shall never dance again," he replied, with a dark and determined face. "Never. I'm surprised you should ask me."
"Is it because you can't get Blanche for a partner?" asked Laura, with a wicked, unlucky captiousness.
"Because I don't wish to make a fool of myself, for other people to laugh at me," Pen answered—" for you to laugh at me, Laura. I saw you and Pynsent. By Jove! no man shall laugh at me."
"Pen, Pen, don't be so wicked!" cried out the poor girl, hurt at the morbid perverseness and savage vanity of Pen. He was glaring round in the direction of Mr. Pynsent as if he would have liked to engage that gentleman as he had done the cook. "Who thinks the worse of you for stumbling in a waltz?" If Blanche does, we don't. "Why are you so sensitive, and ready to think evil?"
Here again, by ill luck, Mr. Pynsent came up to Laura, and said, "I have it in command from Lady Rockminster to ask whether I may take you in to supper?"
"I—I was going in with my cousin," Laura said.
"O—pray, no!" said Pen. "You are in such good hands, that I can't do better than leave you: and I'm going home."
"Good night, Mr. Pendennis," Pynsent said, drily, to which speech (which in fact meant, "Go to the deuce for an insolent, jealous, impertinent jackanapes, whose ears I should like to box") Mr. Pendennis did not vouchsafe any reply, except a bow: and, in spite of Laura's imploring looks, he left the room.
"How beautifully calm and bright the night outside is!" said Mr. Pynsent; "and what a murmur the sea is making! It would be pleasanter to be walking on the beach, than in this hot room."
"Very," said Laura.
"What a strange congregation of people!" continued Pynsent. "I have had to go up and perform the agreeable to most of them—the attorney's daughters—the apothecary's wife—I scarcely know whom. There was a man in the refreshment-room, who insisted upon treating me to champagne—a seafaring-looking man—extraordinarily dressed, and seeming half tipsy. As a public man, one is bound to conciliate all these people, but it is a hard task— especially when one would so very much like to be elsewhere"—and he blushed rather as he spoke.
"I beg your pardon," said Laura—" I—I was not listening. Indeed—I was frightened about that quarrel between my cousin and that—that—French person."
"Your cousin has been rather unlucky to-night," Pynsent said. "There are three or four persons whom he has not succeeded in pleasing—Captain Broadwood; what is his name—the officer—and the young lady in red with whom he danced—and Miss Blanche—and the poor chef—and I don't think he seemed to be particularly pleased with me."
"Didn't he leave me in charge to you?" Laura said, looking up into Mr. Pynsent's face, and dropping her eyes instantly, like a guilty little story-telling coquette.
"Indeed, I can forgive him a good deal for that," Pynsent eagerly cried out, and she took his arm, and he led off his little prize in the direction of the supper-room.
She had no great desire for that repast, though it was served in Rincer's well-known style, as the county paper said, giving an account of the entertainment afterwards; indeed, she was very distraite; and exceedingly pained and unhappy about Pen. Captious and quarrelsome; jealous and selfish; fickle and violent and unjust when his anger led him astray; how could