Few salons in Paris have so imposing an air as the foyer of the dramatic artists of the Comedie Francaise, a rectangular room of fine proportions, whose walls are adorned with portraits of great actors, representing the principal illustrations of the plays that have been the glory of the house Mademoiselle Duclos, by Largilliere; Fleury, by Gerard; Moliere crowned, by Mignard; Baron, by De Troy, and many others.
At the left of the entrance, separated by a large, high mirror which faced the fireplace, two other canvases, signed by Geffroy, represent the foyer itself, in costumes of the classic repertoire, the greater part of the eminent modern ‘societaires’, colleagues and contemporaries of the great painter.
Between the windows, two pedestals, surmounted by busts of Mademoiselle Clairon and Mademoiselle Dangeville, stood, one on each side of the great regulator—made by Robin, clockmaker to the king—which dominated the bust of Moliere—after Houdon—seeming to keep guard over all this gathering of artistic glory.
Opposite this group, hanging above a large table of finely chiselled iron, were two precious autographs under glass: a brevet of pension, dated 1682, signed Louis and countersigned Colbert; an act of notary, dated 1670, bearing the signature of Moliere, the master of the house.
Disposed about the room were sofas, armchairs, and tete-a-tete seats in oak, covered with stamped green velvet.
Here, at the first representations of new plays, or at important revivals of old ones, flocked literary notables and the regular frequenters of the theatre, eager to compliment the performers; here, those favored strangers who have the proper introduction, and who wish to see the place at close range, are graciously conducted by the administrator-general or by the officer for the week.
Here it was that the Marquis de Prerolles appeared in the evening after his experience at the skating-pond. He had dressed, and had dined in great haste at a restaurant near the theatre.
The posters announced a revival of ‘Adrienne Lecouvreur’, with Mademoiselle Gontier in the principal role, in which she was to appear for the first time.
Eugenie Gontier was, it was said, the natural daughter of a great foreign lord, who had bequeathed to her a certain amount of money. Therefore, she had chosen the theatrical life less from necessity than from inclination.
She was distinguished in presence, a great favorite with the public, and had a wide circle of friends, among whom a rich banker, the Baron de Samoreau, greatly devoted to her, had made for her investments sufficiently profitable to enable her to occupy a mansion of her own, and to open a salon which became a favorite rendezvous with many persons distinguished in artistic, financial, and even political circles. Talent being the guaranty of good companionship, this salon became much frequented, and General de Prerolles had become one of its most assiduous visitors.