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an individual should have any feeling of honour at all, did not much enter into the mind of this lofty young aristocrat, the apothecary’s son.
It had never entered that poor artist’s head, that he as a man was not equal to any other mortal, or that there was anything in his position so degrading as to prevent him from giving his arm to a lady who asked for it. He had seen in the fétes in his own country fine ladies, not certainly demoiselles (but the demoiselle Anglaise he knew was a great deal more free than the spinster in France) join in the dance with Blaise or Pierre; and he would have taken Blanche up to Lady Clavering, and possibly have asked her to dance too, but he heard Pen’s exclamation, which struck him as if it had shot him, and cruelly humiliated and angered him. She did not know what caused him to start, and to grind a Gascon oath between his teeth. ‘
But Strong, who was acquainted with the poor fellow’s state of mind, having had the interesting information from our friend Madame Fribsby, was luckily in the way when wanted, and saying something rapidly in Spanish, which the other understood, the Chevalier begged Miss Amory to come and take an ice before she went back to Lady Clavering. Upon which the unhappy Mirobolant relinquished the arm which he had held for a minute, and with a most profound and piteous bow, fell back. “ Don’t you know who it is ? ” Strong asked of Miss Amory, as he led her away. “ It is the chef Mirobolant.”
“How should I know?” asked Blanche. “He has a croix; he is very distingué ; he has beautiful eyes.”
“ The poor fellow is mad for your beam: year, I believe,” Strong said. “He is a very good cook, but he is not quite right in the head.”
“What did you say to him in the unknown tongue ?” asked Miss Blanche.
“ He is a Gascon, and comes from the borders of Spain,” Strong answered. “ I told him he would lose his place if he walked with you.” ‘
“ Poor Monsieur Mirobolant ! ” said Blanche.
“ Did you see the look he gave Pendennis? ”—Strong
asked, enjoying the idea of the mischief—“ I think he would like to run little Pen through with one of his spits.”
“He is an odious, conceited, clumsy creature, that Mr. Pen,” said Blanche.
“Broadfoot looked as if he would like to kill him too, so did Pynsent,” Strong said. “What ice will you have— water ice or cream ice ? ”
“ Water ice. Who is that odd man staring at me—he is décoré too.”
“That is my friend Colonel Altamont, a very queer character, in the service of the Nawaub of Lucknow. Hallo! what’s that noise? I’ll be back in an instant,” said the Chevalier, and sprang out of the room to the ball-room, where a scuffle and a noise of high voices was heard.
The refreshment-room, in which Miss Amory now found herself, was a room set apart for the purposes of supper, which Mr. Rincer, the landlord, had provided for those who chose to partake, at the rate of five shillings per head. Also, refreshments of a superior class were here ready for the ladies and gentlemen of the county families who came to the ball ; but the commoner sort of persons were kept out of the room by a waiter who stood at the portal, and who said that was a select room for Lady Clavering and Lady Rockminster’s parties, and not to be opened to the public till supper-time, which was not to be until past midnight. Pynsent, who danced with his constituents’ daughters, took them and their mammas in for their refreshment there. Strong, who was manager and master of the revels wherever he went, had of course the entree—and the only person who was now occupying the room, was the gentleman with the black wig and the orders in his buttonhole: the officer in the service of his Highness the Nawaub of Lucknow.
This gentleman had established himself very early in the evening in this apartment, where, saying he was confoundedly thirsty, he called for a bottle of champagne. At this order, the waiter instantly supposed that he had to do with a grandee, and the Colonel sate down and began to eat his supper and absorb his drink, and enter afiably into conversation with anybody who entered the room.
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Sir Francis Clavering and Mr. Wagg found him there; when they left the ball-room, which they did pretty early— Sir Francis to go and smoke a cigar, and look at the people gathered outside the ball-room on the shore, which he declared was much better fun than to remain within; Mr. Wagg to hang on to a Baronet’s arm, as he was always pleased to do on the arm of the greatest man in the company. Colonel Altamont had stared at these gentlemen in so odd a manner, as they passed through the “ Select” room, that Clavering made inquiries of the landlord who he was, and hinted a strong opinion that the officer of the Nawaub’s service was drunk.
Mr. Pynsent, too, had had the honour of a conversation with the servant of the Indian potentate. It was Pynsent’s cue to speak to everybody; (which he did, to do him justice, in the most gracious manner ;) and he took the gentleman in the black wig for some constituent, some merchant captain, or other outlandish man of the place. Mr. Pynsent, then, coming into the refreshment-room with a lady, the wife of a constituent, on his arm, the Colonel asked him if he would try a glass of Sham ? Pynsent took it with great gravity, bowed, tasted the wine, and pronounced it excellent, and with the utmost politeness retreated before Colonel Altamont. This gravity and decorum routed and surprised the Colonel more than any other kind of behaviour probably would: he stared after Pynsent stupidly, and pronounced to the landlord over the counter that he was a rum one. Mr. -Bincer blushed, and hardly knew what to say. Mr. Pynsent was a county Earl’s grandson, going to set up as a Parliament man. Colonel Altamont, on the other hand, wore orders and diamonds, jingled sovereigns constantly in his pocket, and paid his way like a man; so, not knowing what to say, Mr. Rincer said, “ Yes, Colonel—yes, ma’am, did you say tea? Cup a tea for Mrs. Jones, Mrs. It,” and so got off that discussion regarding Mr. Pynsent’s qualities, into which the Nizam’s officer appeared inclined to enter.
In fact, if the truth must be told, Mr. Altamont, having remained at the buffet almost all night, and employed himself very actively whilst there, had considerably flushed his brain by drinking, and he was still going on drinking when Mr. Strong and Miss Amory entered the room.
When the Chevalier ran out of the apartment, attracted by the noise in the dancing-room, the Colonel rose from his chair with his little red eyes glowing like coals, and, with
rather an unsteady gait, advanced towards Blanche, who was
sipping her ice. She was absorbed in absorbing it, for it was
very fresh and good; or she was not curious to know what
was going on in the adjoining room, although the waiters were,
who ran after Chevalier Strong. So that when she looked up
from her glass, she beheld this strange man staring at her out of his little red eyes. “Who was he ? It was quite exciting.”