As the curtain fell on this act the spectators turned their backs to the footlights, and Lenaieff, indicating Zibeline to his friend, said in his slightly Slavonic accent:
“Who is that pretty woman, my dear Henri?”
“One of Jules Verne’s personages, a product of the land of furs.”
“Do you know her?”
“Not at all. I have a prejudice against girls that are too rich. Why do you ask?”
“Because it seems to me that she looks at you very attentively.”
“Indeed! I had not noticed it.”
In saying this, the General—exaggerated! He had been perfectly well aware of the gaze of Mademoiselle de Vermont, but whether he still cherished a slight resentment against the lady, or whether her appearance really displeased him, he cut the conversation short and went to pay his respects to the occupants of several boxes.
Evidently Zibeline knew few persons in society, for no visitor appeared in her box. However, after the next act she made a sign to M. Durand. That gentleman rejoined the Baron de Samoreau in the corridor and took him to meet Zibeline, and a sort of council appeared to be going on in the rear of her box.
“What the deuce can she be talking about to them?” said Desvanneaux to his wife.
“A new offer of marriage, probably. They say she declares she will marry no one of lower rank than a prince, in order to complete our chagrin! Perhaps they have succeeded in finding one for her!”
The instructions that Mademoiselle de Vermont gave to the two men must have been easy to execute, for neither the notary nor the banker seemed to raise the least objection. The conversation was finished, and both gentlemen saluted her, preparing to take leave, when she said to M. Durand:
“You understand that the meeting is for tomorrow?”
“At five o’clock,” he replied.
“Very well. I will stop for you at your door at a quarter of an hour before that time.”
The fourth act had begun, that scene in which Adrienne accomplishes her generous sacrifice in furnishing herself the ransom which must deliver her unfaithful lover. The rapt attention that Zibeline paid to this scene, and the slight movements of her head, showed her approval of this disinterested act. Very touching in her invocation to her “old Corneille,” Mademoiselle Gontier was superb at the moment when the comedienne, knowing at last who is her rival, quotes from Racine that passage in ‘Phedre’ which she throws, so to speak, in the face of the patrician woman:
. . . . Je sais ses perfidies, OEnone! et ne suis point de ces femmes hardies Qui, goutant dans la crime une honteuse paix, Ont su se faire un front qui ne rougit jamais.
From the place she was to obliged to take in the arrangement of the scene, the apostrophe and the gestures of the actress appeared to be unconsciously directed toward Mademoiselle de Vermont, who could not restrain a startled movement.