"I'll change the phrase," he said; and in slow, deliberate tones he went on, "_Sam duvida um Patagao_" (A Patagonian, undoubtedly).
No response still.
"DIZEIME!" said Paganel (Answer me).
But no answer came.
"_Vos compriendeis?_" (Do you understand?) shouted Paganel, at the very top of his voice, as if he would burst his throat.
Evidently the Indian did not understand, for he replied in Spanish,
"_No comprendo_" (I do not understand).
It was Paganel's turn now to be amazed. He pushed his spectacles right down over his nose, as if greatly irritated, and said,
"I'll be hanged if I can make out one word of his infernal patois. It is Araucanian, that's certain!"
"Not a bit of it!" said Glenarvan. "It was Spanish he spoke."
And addressing the Patagonian, he repeated the word, "ESPANOL?" (Spanish?).
"_Si, si_" (yes, yes) replied the Indian.
Paganel's surprise became absolute stupefaction. The Major and his cousin exchanged sly glances, and McNabbs said, mischievously, with a look of fun on his face, "Ah, ah, my worthy friend; is this another of your misadventures? You seem to have quite a monopoly of them."
"What!" said Paganel, pricking up his ear.
"Yes, it's clear enough the man speaks Spanish."
"Yes, he certainly speaks Spanish. Perhaps it is some other language you have been studying all this time instead of--"
But Paganel would not allow him to proceed. He shrugged his shoulders, and said stiffly,
"You go a little too far, Major."
"Well, how is it that you don't understand him then?"
"Why, of course, because the man speaks badly," replied the learned geographer, getting impatient.
"He speaks badly; that is to say, because you can't understand him," returned the Major coolly.
"Come, come, McNabbs," put in Glenarvan, "your supposition is quite inadmissable. However DISTRAIT our friend Paganel is, it is hardly likely he would study one language for another."
"Well, Edward--or rather you, my good Paganel--explain it then."
"I explain nothing. I give proof. Here is the book I use daily, to practice myself in the difficulties of the Spanish language. Examine it for yourself, Major," he said, handing him a volume in a very ragged condition, which he had brought up, after a long rummage, from the depths of one of his numerous pockets. "Now you can see whether I am imposing on you," he continued, indignantly.
"And what's the name of this book?" asked the Major, as he took it from his hand.
"The LUSIADES, an admirable epic, which--"
"The LUSIADES!" exclaimed Glenarvan.
"Yes, my friend, the LUSIADES of the great Camoens, neither more nor less."
"Camoens!" repeated Glenarvan; "but Paganel, my unfortunate fellow, Camoens was a Portuguese! It is Portuguese you have been learning for the last six weeks!"
"Camoens! LUISADES! Portuguese!" Paganel could not say more. He looked vexed, while his companions, who had all gathered round, broke out in a furious burst of laughter.
The Indian never moved a muscle of his face. He quietly awaited the explanation of this incomprehensible mirth.
"Fool, idiot, that I am!" at last uttered Paganel. "Is it really a fact? You are not joking with me? It is what I have actually been doing? Why, it is a second confusion of tongues, like Babel. Ah me! alack-a-day! my friends, what is to become of me? To start for India and arrive at Chili! To learn Spanish and talk Portuguese! Why, if I go on like this, some day I shall be throwing myself out of the window instead of my cigar!"
To hear Paganel bemoan his misadventures and see his comical discomfiture, would have upset anyone's gravity. Besides, he set the example himself, and said:
"Laugh away, my friends, laugh as loud as you like; you can't laugh at me half as much as I laugh at myself!"
"But, I say," said the Major, after a minute, "this doesn't alter the fact that we have no interpreter."
"Oh, don't distress yourself about that," replied Paganel, "Portuguese and Spanish are so much alike that I made a mistake; but this very resemblance will be a great help toward rectifying it. In a very short time I shall be able to thank the Patagonian in the language he speaks so well."
Paganel was right.