The painter, more struck than all the rest by this effect of color, exclaimed: “Look! at this end of the table, we might fancy ourselves feasting with cholera-patients, we are such fine blues and greens.”
This jest was not much relished. Fortunately, the loud voice of Ninny Moulin demanded attention, and for a moment turned the thoughts of the company.
“The lists are open,” cried the religious writer, really more frightened than he chose to appear. “Are you ready, brave champions?” he added.
“We are ready,” said Morok and Jacques.
“Present! fire!” cried Ninny Moulin, clapping his hands. And the two drinkers each emptied a tumbler full of brandy at a draught.
Morok did not even knit his brow; his marble face remained impassible; with a steady hand he replaced his glass upon the table. But Jacques, as he put down his glass, could not conceal a slight convulsive trembling, caused by internal suffering.
“Bravely done!” cried Ninny Moulin. “The quarter of a bottle of brandy at a draught—it is glorious! No one else here would be capable of such prowess. And now, worthy champions, if you believe me, you will stop where you are.”
“Give the word!” answered Jacques, intrepidly. And, with feverish and shaking hand, he seized the bottle; then suddenly, instead of filling his glass, he said to Morok: “Bah! we want no glasses. It is braver to drink from the bottle. I dare you to it!”
Morok’s only answer was to shrug his shoulders, and raise the neck of the bottle to his lips. Jacques hastened to imitate him. The thin, yellowish, transparent glass gave a perfect view of the progressive diminution of the liquor. The stony countenance of Morok, and the pale thin face of Jacques, on which already stood large drops of cold sweat, were now, as well as the features of the other guests, illuminated by the bluish light of the punch; every eye was fixed upon Morok and Jacques, with that barbarous curiosity which cruel spectacles seem involuntarily to inspire.