Ball of Fat 34
Loiseau, fairly in his element, rose to his feet, holding aloft a glass of
"I drink to our deliverance!" he shouted.
All stood up, and greeted the toast with acclamation. Even the two good sisters yielded to the solicitations of the ladies, and consented to moisten their lips with the foaming wine, which they had never before tasted. They declared it was like effervescent lemonade, but with a pleasanter flavor.
"It is a pity," said Loiseau, "that we have no piano; we might have had a quadrille."
Cornudet had not spoken a word or made a movement; he seemed plunged in serious thought, and now and then tugged furiously at his great beard, as if trying to add still further to its length. At last, toward midnight, when they were about to separate, Loiseau, whose gait was far from steady, suddenly slapped him on the back, saying thickly:
"You're not jolly to-night; why are you so silent, old man?"
Cornudet threw back his head, cast one swift and scornful glance over the assemblage, and answered:
"I tell you all, you have done an infamous thing!"
He rose, reached the door, and repeating: "Infamous!" disappeared.
A chill fell on all. Loiseau himself looked foolish and disconcerted for a moment, but soon recovered his aplomb, and, writhing with laughter, exclaimed:
"Really, you are all too green for anything!"
Pressed for an explanation, he related the "mysteries of the corridor," whereat his listeners were hugely amused. The ladies could hardly contain their delight. The count and Monsieur Carre-Lamadon laughed till they cried. They could scarcely believe their ears.
"What! you are sure? He wanted——"
"I tell you I saw it with my own eyes."
"And she refused?"
"Because the Prussian was in the next room!"
"Surely you are mistaken?"
"I swear I'm telling you the truth."
The count was choking with laughter. The manufacturer held his sides. Loiseau continued:
"So you may well imagine he doesn't think this evening's business at all amusing."
And all three began to laugh again, choking, coughing, almost ill with merriment.
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