The liaison of Eugenie Gontier with the Marquis de Prerolles was not a mystery; from the moment of her entrance upon the scene, it was evident that she “played to him,” to use a phrase in theatrical parlance. Thus, after the recital of the combat undertaken in behalf of Adrienne by her defender—a recital which she concluded in paraphrasing these two lines:
Navarrois, Maures et Castilians,
Et tout ce que l’Espagne a produit de vaillants,’
many opera-glasses were directed toward the spectator to whom the actress appeared to address herself, when suddenly a new object of interest changed the circuit of observation. The door of the large, right-hand box opened, and Zibeline appeared, accompanied by the Chevalier de Sainte-Foy, an elderly gallant, carefully dressed and wearing many decorations, and whose respectable tale of years could give no occasion for malicious comment on his appearance in the role of ’cavalier servente’. Having assisted his companion to remove her mantle, he profited by the instant of time she took to settle her slightly ruffled plumage before the mirror, to lay upon the railing of the box her bouquet and her lorgnette. Then he took up a position behind the chair she would occupy, ready to assist her when she might deign to sit down. His whole manner suggested a chamberlain of the ancient court in the service of a princess.
Mademoiselle de Vermont disliked bright colors, and wore on this occasion a robe of black velvet, of which the ‘decolletee’ bodice set off the whiteness of her shoulders and her neck, the latter ornamented with a simple band of cherry-colored velvet, without jewels, as was suitable for a young girl. Long suede gloves, buttoned to the elbow, outlined her well-modelled arms, of which the upper part emerged, without sleeves, from lace ruffles gathered in the form of epaulets.
The men admired her; the women sought some point to criticise, and had the eyes of Madame Desvanneaux been able to throw deadly projectiles, her powerful lorgnette would have become an instrument of death for the object of her resentment.
“This morning,” said the irreconcilable matron, “she showed us her ankles; this evening she allows us to see the remainder.”
“I should have been very well pleased, however—” murmured young Desvanneaux, with regret.
“If you had married her, Victor,” said his mother, “I should have taken full charge of her wardrobe, and should have made some decided changes, I assure you.”
Perfectly indifferent to the general curiosity, Zibeline in her turn calmly reviewed the audience. After exploring the boxes with her opera-glass, she lowered it to examine the orchestra stalls, and, perceiving the Marquis, she fixed her gaze upon him. Undoubtedly she knew the reason for the particular attention which he paid to the stage, because, until the end of the act, her glance was divided alternately between the General and the actress.