“The next day,” Henri interrupted, “it was my turn to applaud you. I had been deprived a long time of the pleasures of the theatre, of which I am very fond, and I began by going to the Comedie Francaise, where you played, that night, the role of Helene in ‘Mademoiselle de la Seigliere.’ Do you remember?”
“Do I remember! I recognized you instantly, sitting in the third row in the orchestra.”
“I had never seen you until then,” Henri continued, “but that sympathetic current was soon established, from the moment you appeared until the end of the second piece. As it is my opinion that any officer is sufficiently a gentleman to have the right to love a girl of noble birth, I fell readily under the spell in which she whom you represented echoed my own sentiments. Bernard Stamply also had just returned from captivity, and the more enamored of you he became the more I pleased myself with fancying my own personality an incarnation of his, with less presumption than would be necessary for me to imagine myself the hero of which you spoke a moment ago. After the play, a friend brought me here, presented me to you—”
“And the sympathetic current did the rest!” added Eugenie Gontier, looking at him tenderly. “Since then you have consecrated to me a part of whatever time is at your disposal, and I assure you that I never have been so happy, nor have felt so flattered, in my life.”
“Second act!” came the voice of the call-boy from the corridor.
“Will you return here after the fourth act?” said the actress, rising. “I shall wish to know how you find me in the great scene, and whether there is another princess de Bouillon among the audience—beware of her!”
“You know very well that there is not.”
“Not yet, perhaps, but military men are so inconstant! By and by, Maurice!” she murmured, with a smile.
“By and by, Adrienne!” Henri replied, kissing her hand.
He accompanied her to the steps that led to the stage, and, lounging along the passage that ends at the head of the grand stairway, he entered the theatre and hastened to his usual seat in the third row of the orchestra.
It was Tuesday, the subscription night; the auditorium was as much the more brilliant as the play was more interesting than on other nights. In one of the proscenium boxes sat the Duchesse de Montgeron with the Comtesse de Lisieux; in another the Vicomtesse de Nointel and Madame Thomery. In the first box on the left Madame Desvanneaux was to be seen, with her husband and her son, the youthful and recently rejected pretender to the hand of Mademoiselle de Vermont.
Among the subscription seats in the orchestra sat the Baron de Samoreau, the notary Durand, treasurer of the Industrial Orphan Asylum; the aide-de-camp of General Lenaieff, beside his friend the Marquis de Prerolles. One large box, the first proscenium loge on the right, was still unoccupied when the curtain rose on the second act.