That year the opera came to San Francisco, and Vandover hired a messenger boy to stand in line all night at the door of the music store where the tickets were to be sold. Vandover could still love music. In the wreckage of all that was good that had been going on in him his love for all art was yet intact. It was the strongest side of his nature and it would be the last to go.
The house was crowded to the doors; there was no longer any standing room and many were even sitting on the steps of the aisles. In the boxes the gentlemen were standing up behind the chairs of large plain ladies in showy toilets and diamonds. The atmosphere was heavy with the smell of gas, of plush upholstery, of wilting bouquets and of sachet. A fine vapour as of the visible exhalation of many breaths pervaded the house, blurring the lowered lights and dimming the splendour of the great glass chandelier.
It was warm to suffocation, a dry, irritating warmth that perspiration did not relieve, while the air itself was stale and close as though fouled by being breathed over and over again. In the topmost galleries, banked with tiers of watching faces, the heat must have been unbearable.
The only movement perceptible throughout the audience was the little swaying of gay-coloured fans like the balancing of butterflies about to light. Occasionally there would be a vast rustling like the sound of wind in a forest, as the holders of librettos turned the leaves simultaneously.
The orchestra thundered; the French horns snarling, the first violins wailing in unison, while all the bows went up and down together like parts of a well-regulated machine; the kettle-drums rolled sonorously at exact intervals, and now and then one heard the tinkling of the harp like the pattering of raindrops between peals of thunder. The leader swayed from side to side in his place, beating time with his baton, his hand, and his head.