With which declaration of his views, Kergenven lapsed into immutable silence and slumberous apathy, from whose shelter nothing could tempt him afresh; and the Colonel, with all the rest, lounged into the anteroom, where the tables were set, and began “plunging” in earnest at sums that might sound fabulous, were they written here. The players staked heavily; but it was the gallery who watched around, making their bets, and backing their favorites, that lost on the whole the most.
“Horse Guards have heard of the plunging; think we’re going too fast,” murmured the Chief to Kergenven, his Major, who lifted his brows, and murmured back with the demureness of a maiden:
“Tell ’em it’s our only vice; we’re models of propriety.”
Which possibly would not have been received with the belief desirable by the skeptics of Pall Mall.
So the De Profundis was said over Bertie Cecil; and “Beauty of the Brigades” ceased to be named in the service, and soon ceased to be even remembered. In the steeple-chase of life there is no time to look back at the failures, who have gone down over a “double and drop,” and fallen out of the pace.
“L’AMIE du Drapeau.”
“Did I not say he would eat fire?”
“Pardieu! C’est un brave.”
“Rides like an Arab.”
“Smokes like a Zouave.”
“Cuts off a head with that back circular sweep—ah—h——h! magnificent!”
“And dances like an Aristocrat; not like a tipsy Spahi!”
The last crown to the chorus of applause, and insult to the circle of applauders, was launched with all the piquance of inimitable canteen-slang and camp-assurance, from a speaker who had perched astride on a broken fragment of wall, with her barrel of wine set up on end on the stones in front of her, and her six soldiers, her gros bebees, as she was given maternally to calling them, lounging at their ease on the arid, dusty turf below. She was very pretty, audaciously pretty, though her skin was burned to a bright sunny brown, and her hair was cut as short as a boy’s, and her face had not one regular feature in it. But then—regularity! who wanted it, who would have thought the most pure classic type a change for the better, with those dark, dancing, challenging eyes; with that arch, brilliant, kitten-like face, so sunny, so mignon, and those scarlet lips like a bud of camellia that were never so handsome as when a cigarette was between them, or sooth to say, not seldom a short pipe itself?