“Is she, then, as rich as they say?” inquired one of the guests.
“I can answer for that,” said the Baron de Samoreau. “She has a letter of credit upon me from my correspondent in New York. Last night, during an entr’acte, she gave me an order to hold a million francs at her disposal before the end of the week.”
“I know the reason why,” added Henri.
“But,” Lenaieff exclaimed, “you told me that you did not know her!”
“I have made her acquaintance since then.”
“Ah! Where?” Eugenie inquired, with interest.
“At my sister’s house, during the meeting of a charitable society.”
“Had it anything to do with the society for which Monsieur Desvanneaux asked me to appear in a kermess?”
“Well, yes. In fact, he has gone so far as to announce that he is assured of your cooperation.”
“I could not refuse him,” said Eugenie. “Under the mantle of charity, the holy man paid court to me!”
“I knew well enough that he had not yet laid down his arms forever,” said the General.
“Oh, he is not the only one. His son-in-law also honored me with an attack.”
“What, Monsieur de Thomery? Well, that is a good joke!”
“But what is funnier yet,” continued the actress, “is the fact that the first-named gentleman was on his knees, just about to make me a declaration, apparently, when the second was announced! Immediately the father-in-law jumped to his feet, entreating me not to allow them to meet. I was compelled to open for him the door leading to the servants’ stairway—”
“And what did you do with the other man?” asked Lenaieff, laughing loudly.
“I rid myself of him in the same way. At a sign from me, my maid announced the name of the father-in-law, and the alarmed son-in-law escaped by the same road! Oh, but I know them! They will come back!”
“Under some other pretext, however,” said the General. “Because Mademoiselle de Vermont’s million francs have destroyed their amorous designs.”
“So now we see Zibeline fairly launched,” remarked the banker. “Since the Duchesse de Montgeron has taken her up, all the naughty tales that have been fabricated about her will go to pieces like a house of cards.”
“That is very probable,” the General concluded, “for she has made a complete conquest of my sister.”
At these words a slight cloud passed over the actress’s face. The imagination of a jealous mistress sees rivals everywhere; especially that of an actress.
After dinner, while her other guests went into the smoking-room, Eugenic made a sign to her lover to remain with her, and seated herself beside him.
“I wish to ask you a question, Henri,” said she.
“What is it?”
“Do you still love me?”
“What reason have you to doubt it?”
“None that warrants me in reproaching you for anything. But so many things separate us! Your career, to which you owe everything! Your social standing, so different from mine! Oh, I know that you are sincere, and that if you ever have a scruple regarding our liaison, you will not be able to hide it from me. It is this possibility of which I think.”