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"Mrs. M'Alister," said the Colonel, "this is a moment when I may truly say that I am proud to command the Strathbungos; proud that any officer in my regiment should have been able to conquer so beautiful, so accomplished, so-a-a-pardon me-a partner, and in so doing to enlist so eligible a recruit. Honour me, as he suggests, by looking on me as a father. My age and my misfortunes preclude the hope that any one can ever have a legal claim to do so. Be, then, the child of my old age, the consoler of my deprived existence. Let us seal the compact by a-a-—." He advanced, spread-eagle fashion; but I had no mind to sustain an embrace from my friend M'Diarmid, 30 I extended a large No. 10 kid-gloved hand, which he reverentially mumbled.
"Take a father's blessing," he said, "and a father's caution. This is a libertine age. The Strathbungos are brave fellows and stout, but hey are libertine to the core; keep them at arm's length, mum!"
All this time the Viscount had been ogling me in the most extravagant manner, furtively kissing the tips of his fingers, and doing everything to excite the jealousy of my supposed husband. I could see that the eyes of the novice were upon him, and indeed he took good care that they should be.
"Now, Mrs. M'Alister," continued the Colonel, "let me present Viscount Peaugout, the eminent leonicide, whose reputation is indeed European. Seventy-eight lions, sixteen ostriches, nineteen alligators, and several thousand wild boar, are, you will admit, no trifling bag for a month's work-hein! hein! Ha! ha! ha!-Let me present him.”
The Viscount shot into the air like a jack-in-the-box, airily lighting again, like a ballet-girl, on one knee, and seizing my hand, proceeded to operate on the No. 10 kids in the most rapturous manner.
"Madame," he said, "I hav' no warts."
("I wuss oor Kirsty could say the same," muttered the Snorter.) "I hav' no warts for say en Eengleash ow mauch I am at your serrveece. Ef you could heer zees harrt speak, it voad perhaps be faund to say vaat I can-not. I am domb. Veal you laaf to your
I certainly complied with his request, and went into fits of laughter, which I could no longer repress; and all the rest seized the opportunity of giving vent to their long pent-up mirth.
The Viscount rose from his knees indignant, and gazed ruefully around.
"Een Frrance," he said, "ven Angleesh mack bêtise vee laugh not;
vee say, 'goot, goot, vell sed! bettayre zan ze ole way!' Heer eet ees aal, 'Haw, haw, haw! how absaurd.' Sauvages!"
I tried to explain to the Viscount that he had committed no bêtise, and that my mirth had been caused by the appearance of the Snorter. He (the S.) was then presented, and conducted himself after his kind. Ma wumman, yer're jist the verra eamage o' auld Hookey Doodle, yer faither; yer're a bonnie lass, tho', and ye hae flesh on yer banes, whereas the laird, honest man, had nane o' that to spare. 'Fricht-thedoos,' the callants aye gied him. Ye'll tak' the flesh frae yer mither, I jalouse"
The Snorter was getting well away into one of his yarns, which it became expedient to stop, so M'Alister, in a loud voice, introduced the rest. "Selina, the officers-the officers, my wife." General prostra
tion and genuflexions ensued.
"Keep them at arm's length," murmured the Colonel-" libertines all of them."
Refreshments were now handed round; and they being disposed of, M'Alister asked the Colonel what he would like to do. "Well, suppose we have a little singing and dancing," was the reply.
"But there is only one lady," objected our host.
"That is immaterial," said the Colonel; "the gentlemen can dance with her one by one, and we shall have thus all an opportunity of studying your wife's appearance in action as well as in repose. Waltzing is scarcely comme il faut in a young married lady; but as there are at least twenty pair of eyes on her, she is not likely to commit herself on this occasion, and I think I may sanction it."
"Then the music," cried M'Alister.
“Oh, M‘Duff can play anything," said the Colonel.
Before I knew where I was, I was surrounded by candidates for partnership, and in a moment after was being hauled round the room at the rate of twenty miles an hour by the Viscount. This nobleman behaved most obstreperously, throwing, from time to time, a sidelong leg into the air, and enlivening the proceedings by the emission of those cries which in the hippodrome are supposed to exhilarate the performing horse.
The guests meanwhile crowded round, and audibly criticised me and my paces, like a horse being trotted out at Tattersalls'. "Goes a little short, I think," said one. "Groggy on the off-hind," said another. "Overreaches, too," growled a third. "Don't like the forehand," said a fourth. "Detestable quarters," urged a fifth. "But,"
wound up an apologist, "a spanking, knowing-looking, varmint old screw, brought forward in great form, considering her stable."
Notwithstanding those disparaging remarks, I was surrounded the moment we stopped by eager claimants, and away I went with another, and another, and another, till I nearly dropped with fatigue and laughter at the remarks of the bystanders. With these M'Nish was infinitely disgusted; and I heard him confiding his ideas to a neighbour.
"Disgusting!" he said; so low, you know. But she can't be a lady. All the same; the officers behave like blackguards, for she is at least a woman. Her husband must be a low fellow to submit to this."
"Quite low!" was the reply. "Sneaks to the Colonel and thatand, as you say, the whole thing is very beastly, and the Frenchman particularly is too abominable; but I think Jack M'Alister's back is beginning to get up, and I heard the Colonel this moment send M'Lean for his pistols, so I expect we shall have a shindy ere long."
All this time my part had been an easy one. The Viscount, however, had begun to be very compromising, and had taken, when not dancing with me, to expressing, in short bulletins, the latest state of his affections. These were written on little scraps of paper, and pressed into my hand as I whirled past him round the They contained such thrilling, if laconic, expressions as “L'Amour,” “Desespoir," " La Mort," etc., etc. I dropped them after perusal, when they were immediately picked up by the bystanders, and commented upon with Iago-like shrugs and whispers.
At last one inscribed "Floy wees me to ozare cloimes,” was picked up by a guest, who considered it his duty to lay the guilty fragment before the Colonel and M'Alister.
"Thank you," said the Colonel, "I felt there was something wrong; I have my eye on him, though, and will seize the fitting moment for my swoop; it has not generally been found ineffective."
I had now danced with every one but M'Nish, and said so. The Colonel immediately brought him up to me, holding him between his finger and thumb at arm's length by the collar of his jacket. M'Nish approached bashfully. I grappled him like a Cornish wrestler, and started off with a bound and a buck jump; then I took him two rounds of the room at racing pace, and in the middle of a severe demivolt contrived to fall and drag him down with me.
What a row there was! In a moment twenty pair of hands had
raised me up. I had fainted. Tea, hot water, wine, cream, sugar, cakes-anything that came handy, in fact-was thrust between my lips. So, to avoid suffocation, I came round at once. The Viscount was, it is needless to say, most demonstrative, tearing his hair, describing me as his "pauvre petite ange" (which was a boldish flight, considering my five feet eleven and a half), and breathing vengeance against M'Nish. The Colonel, however, relieved him of the latter responsibility; and suddenly turning upon the hapless novice, "As for you, Mr. M'Nish," he said, "I can only say that a more disgusting exhibition than you have made of yourself this evening it has seldom been my lot to witness. This last outrage I may forget-I can certainly never forgive it.
"I trust, Colonel, for my sake, you will forgive him," said I.
"Mrs. M'Alister," replied the veteran, who seemed to transfer the outrage entirely to himself, "you shall never sue in vain to me, ma'am, and I cheerfully make the sacrifice. We shall consider the outrage condoned."
Poor M'Nish slunk into a corner, followed by a special reporter.
"And now," said the Colonel, "let us forget these unseemly barbarisms. We have done full honour to Terpsichore, I think; let us make an appeal to a sister muse. Mrs. M'Alister, if your nerves have sufficiently recovered this unmanly assault, might we request a little music ?"
Fortunately I was a tolerable pianist, and could comply so far.
"I cannot sing, Colonel M'Alpine, but I shall be delighted to accompany you."
"Misfortunes, madam," he rejoined, "have deprived me of an organ which was once not unproductive cf melody. At the Duchess of Richmond's party, in Brussels, the night before Waterloo, I was in the very act of interpreting Beethoven's magnificent- Butpshaw let us forget. I cannot sing, Mrs. M'Alister; but I may find a substitute ?"
"I can seeng-I can seeng," shouted Peaugout, and I was glad of it; for he was hanging over me in an unpleasant proximity, pinching my shoulders, and whispering the old l'Amour bulletins into my ear.
"Brava! brava !" cried the Colonel. "The Viscount's song by all manner of means. I remember a beautiful French song-a gem of Beranger's, I think; the refrain of which was very remarkable. It — Tra-la-la tra-la-la tra-la-la tra-la-la!' Can you favour us with that, Viscount ?"
"I knaw eet, I knaw eet; but I veel not seeng zat won. Angleesk song alaun I veel.”
He had a capital voice, and struck up, in broken English, "The Last Rose of Summer," in which I did my best to accompany him. He rendered it with intense pathos, and everything went well-too well, in fact, till he came to the passage-"Ill not leave thee, thou lone one, to pine on the stem," when he took a penknife from his pocket and deliberately cut from my wreath a huge cabbage-rose, which bobbed rampant and solitary on the back of it; no doubt the pride of Miss M'Whirter's heart. When it was severed he held it up to the light, smelt it, pressed it thrice to his lips, and then plunged it into the recesses of his padded bosom. He was proceeding then with his song, when the Colonel stepped forward: he was about to make his
"Viscount Peaugout," he shouted, in a voice of thunder, "I have had my eyes upon you, sir!"
“Ha! you ave oyes, zen? I saut zese black lunettes zay, 'Naut at hoam.'"
“I have had, sir, my eyes upon you; and dim though they be, they have not failed to detect insult deliberately offered to a lady, and that under my own roof-tree."
"Piff, paff," said the Viscount; "est-ce qu'il rêve, zees goot shorteelman ?"
'No, sir, I do not rave," was the reply. "I have observed your poltrooneries, sir, and now I call you to account. Restore that bauble, sir, on the instant."
"Vere eet ees I daunot knaw," said the Viscount, with immense innocence, shrugging his shoulders, and extending his palms.
"Restore it, sir," thundered the Colonel, unless you would have me tear it from the breast of the ridiculous tunic which you disgrace!"
"Ma teere Caurnel, you jock; you air een fou. I deed but put my hand to keel von leetel-I daunot knaw how you call-veech did incommode madame."
Here came in the pacific Snorter.
Weel, Caurnel, and he could dae nae less; he seed the flea on the leddy's neck, ye ken, and he bude to flit it."
"Snorter of Tynabruich! your interference is well meant, but it is ill-timed. Viscount of Peaugout, if it was not for the presence of a lady, I would spit upon your clothes, sir; as it is-M'Lean, a spittoon."