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 γ with Gascon force, "quand je vous dis que vous êtes un lâche. Monsieur Pendennis -- un lâche, 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 the window, you -- impudent scoundrel," bawled out Mr. Pen; and darting upon the Frenchman, he wou 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 a 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.
"Il m'a appelé -- Cuisinier," 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 the 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