As the girl quitted the eating-house, three men plainly and comfortably dressed, were watching before it, and talking in a low voice. Soon after, they were joined by a fourth person, who rapidly descended the stairs of the tavern.
“Well?” said the three first, with anxiety.
“He is there.”
“Are you sure of it?”
“Are there two Sleepers-in-buff on earth?” replied the other. “I have just seen him; he is togged out like one of the swell mob. They will be at table for three hours at least.”
“Then wait for me, you others. Keep as quiet as possible. I will go and fetch the captain, and the game is bagged.” So saying, one of the three men walked off quickly, and disappeared in a street leading from the square.
At this same instant the Bacchanal Queen entered the banqueting-room, accompanied by Jacques, and was received with the most frenzied acclamations from all sides.
“Now then,” cried Cephyse, with a sort of feverish excitement, as if she wished to stun herself; “now then, friends—noise and tumult, hurricane and tempest, thunder and earthquake—as much as you please!” Then, holding out her glass to Ninny Moulin, she added: “Pour out! pour out!”
“Long live the Queen!” cried they all, with one voice.
The Bacchanal Queen, having Sleepinbuff and Rose-Pompon opposite her, and Ninny Moulin on her right hand, presided at the repast, called a reveille-matin (wake-morning), generously offered by Jacques to his companions in pleasure.
Both young men and girls seemed to have forgotten the fatigues of a ball, begun at eleven o’clock in the evening, and finished at six in the morning; and all these couples, joyous as they were amorous and indefatigable, laughed, ate, and drank, with youthful and Pantagruelian ardor, so that, during the first part of the feast, there was less chatter than clatter of plates and glasses.
The Bacchanal Queen’s countenance was less gay, but much more animated than usual; her flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes announced a feverish excitement; she wished to drown reflection, cost what it might. Her conversation with her sister often recurred to her, and she tried to escape from such sad remembrances.
Jacques regarded Cephyse from time to time with passionate adoration; for, thanks to the singular conformity of character, mind, and taste between him and the Bacchanal Queen, their attachment had deeper and stronger roots than generally belong to ephemeral connections founded upon pleasure. Cephyse and Jacques were themselves not aware of all the power of a passion which till now had been surrounded only by joys and festivities, and not yet been tried by any untoward event.
Little Rose-Pompon, left a widow a few days before by a student, who, in order to end the carnival in style, had gone into the country to raise supplies from his family, under one of those fabulous pretences which tradition carefully preserves in colleges of law and medicine—Rose Pompon, we repeat, an example of rare fidelity, determined not to compromise herself, had taken for a chaperon the inoffensive Ninny Moulin.