Oh, no! Very much alive, on the contrary. Delighted, made young again by the triumph of her goddaughter, who had made what is decidedly the success of the exhibition, she passes about among the crowd of artists and fashionable people, who, wedged together and stifling themselves in order to get a look at the two points where the works sent by Felicia are exhibited, form as it were two solid masses of black backs and jumbled dresses. Constance, ordinarily so timid, edges her way into the front rank, listens to the discussions, catches, as they fly, disjointed phrases, formulas which she takes care to remember, approves with a nod, smiles, raises her shoulders when she hears a stupid remark made, inclined to murder the first person who should not admire.
Whether it be the good Crenmitz or another, you will always see it at every opening of the Salon, that furtive silhouette, prowling near wherever a conversation is going on, with an anxious manner and alert ear; sometimes a simple old fellow, some father, whose glance thanks you for any kind word said in passing, or assumes a grieved expression by reason of some epigram, flung at the work of art, that may wound some heart behind you. A figure not to be forgotten, certainly, if ever it should occur to any painter with a passion for modernity to fix on canvas that very typical manifestation of Parisian life, the opening of an exhibition in that vast conservatory of sculpture, with its paths of yellow sand, and its immense glass roof beneath which, half-way up, stand out the galleries of the first floor, lined by heads bent over to look down, and decorated with improvised flowing draperies.
In a rather cold light, made pallid by those green curtains that hang all around, in which one would fancy that the light-rays become rarefied, in order to give to the vision of the people walking about the room a certain contemplative justice, the slow crowd goes and comes, pauses, disperses itself over the seats in serried groups, and yet mixing up different sections of society more thoroughly than any other assembly, just as the weather, uncertain and changeable at this time of the year, produces a confusion in the world of clothes, causes to brush each other as they pass, the black laces, the imperious train of the great lady come to see how her portrait looks, and the Siberian furs of the actress just back from Russia and anxious that everybody should know it.
Here, no boxes, no stalls, no reserved seats, and it is this that gives to this premiere in full daylight so great a charm of curiosity. Genuine ladies of fashion are able to form an opinion of those painted beauties who receive so much commendation in an artificial light; the little hat, following a new mode of the Marquise de Bois l’Hery, confronts the more than modest toilette of some artist’s wife or daughter; while the model who posed for that beautiful Andromeda at the entrance, goes by victoriously,