At these joyous cries, which burst suddenly, like shell, Jacques started; then gazing with astonishment at his guests, he drew his hand across his brow, as if to chase away the painful ideas that oppressed him, and exclaimed: “You are right. Forward the first couple! Let us be merry!”
In a moment, the table, lifted by vigorous arms, was removed to the extremity of the banqueting-room; the spectators, mounted upon chairs, benches, and window-ledges, began to sing in chorus the well-known air of les Etudiants, so as to serve instead of orchestra, and accompany the quadrille formed by Sleepinbuff, the Queen, Ninny Moulin, and Rose Pompon.
Dumoulin, having entrusted his rattle to one of the guests, resumed his extravagant Roman helmet and plume; he had taken off his great-coat at the commencement of the feast, so that he now appeared in all the splendor of his costume. His cuirass of bright scales ended in a tunic of feathers, not unlike those worn by the savages, who form the oxen’s escort on Mardi Gras. Ninny Moulin had a huge paunch and thin legs, so that the latter moved about at pleasure in the gaping mouths of his large top boots.
Little Rose-Pompon, with her pinched-up cocked-hat stuck on one side, her hands in the pockets of her trousers, her bust a little inclined forward, and undulating from right to left, advanced to meet Ninny-Moulin; the latter danced, or rather leaped towards her, his left leg bent under him, his right leg stretched forward, with the toe raised, and the heel gliding on the floor; moreover, he struck his neck with his left hand, and by a simultaneous movement, stretched forth his right, as if he would have thrown dust in the eyes of his opposite partner.
This first figure met with great success, and the applause was vociferous, though it was only the innocent prelude to the step of the Storm-blown Tulip—when suddenly the door opened, and one of the waiters, after looking about for an instant, in search of Sleepinbuff, ran to him, and whispered some words in his ear.
“Me!” cried Jacques, laughing; “here’s a go!”
The waiter added a few more words, when Sleepinbuff’s face assumed an expression of uneasiness, as he answered. “Very well! I come directly,”—and he made a step towards the door.
“What’s the matter, Jacques?” asked the Bacchanal Queen, in some surprise.
“I’ll be back immediately. Some one take my place. Go on with the dance,” said Sleepinbuff, as he hastily left the room.
“Something, that was not put down in the bill,” said Dumoulin; “he will soon be back.”
“That’s it,” said Cephyse. “Now cavalier suel!” she added, as she took Jacques’s place, and the dance continued.
Ninny Moulin had just taken hold of Rose Pompon with his right hand, and of the Queen with his left, in order to advance between the two, in which figure he showed off his buffoonery to the utmost extent, when the door again opened, and the same waiter, who had called out Jacques, approached Cephyse with an air of consternation, and whispered in her ear, as he had before done to Sleepinbuff.