And when the curtain fell on the opening act, the intoxicating human quality of an operatic success was equally revealed to me for the first time. How cold and distant the success of a novelist compared to this! The auditorium was suddenly bathed in bright light, and every listening face awoke to life as from an enchantment, and flushed and smiled, and the delicatest hands in France clapped to swell the mighty uproar that filled the theatre with praise. Paris, upstanding on its feet, and leaning over balconies and cheering, was charmed and delighted by the fable and the music, in which it found nothing but the sober and pretty elegance that it loves. And Paris applauded feverishly, and yet with a full sense of the value of its applause—given there in the only French theatre where the claque has been suppressed. And then the curtain rose, and La Valliere and Louis tripped mincingly forward to prove that after all they were Morenita and Montferiot, the darlings of their dear Paris, and utterly content with their exclusively Parisian reputation. Three times they came forward. And then the applause ceased, for Paris is not Naples, and it is not Madrid, and the red curtain definitely hid the stage, and the theatre hummed with animated chatter as elegant as Diaz’ music, and my ear, that loves the chaste vivacity of the French tongue, was caressed on every side by its cadences.
‘This is the very heart of civilization,’ I said to myself. ’And even in the forest I could not breathe more freely.’
I stared up absently at Benjamin Constant’s blue ceiling, meretricious and still adorable, expressive of the delicious decadence of Paris, and my eyes moistened because the world is so beautiful in such various ways.
Then the door of the baignoire opened. It was Diaz himself who appeared. He had not forgotten me in the excitements of the stage and the dressing-rooms. He put his hand lightly on my shoulder, and I glanced at him.
‘Well?’ he murmured, and gave me a box of bonbons elaborately tied with rich ribbons.
And I murmured, ‘Well?’
The glory of his triumph was upon him. But he understood why my eyes were wet, and his fingers moved soothingly on my shoulder.
‘You won’t come round?’ he asked. ’Both Villedo and Morenita are dying to meet you.’