“You need not be surprised at that: she does nothing that any one else does.”
“These things are not done to displease you.”
“I may agree as to that; but what conclusion do you draw?”
“That she is trying to turn your head.”
“My head! You jest! I might be her father.”
“That is not always a reason—”
Nevertheless, Henri’s exclamation had been so frank that Eugenie felt somewhat reassured.
“Are you going so soon?” she said, seeing him take his hat.
“I promised my sister to join her at the opera. Besides, this is your reception night, and I leave you to your duties as hostess. To-morrow, at the usual hour-and we will talk of something else, shall we not?”
“Ah, dearest, that is all I ask!” said Eugenie.
He attempted to kiss her hand, but she held up her lips. He pressed his own upon them in a long kiss, and left her.
DEFIANCE OF MRS. GRUNDY
For more than fifty years the first proscenium box on the ground floor, to the left, at the Opera, had belonged exclusively to ten members of the jockey Club, in the name of the oldest member of which the box is taken. When a place becomes vacant through any cause, the nine remaining subscribers vote on the admission of a new candidate for the vacant chair; it is a sort of academy within the national Academy of Music.
When this plan was originated, that particular corner was called “the infernal box,” but the name has fallen into desuetude since the dedication of the fine monument of M. Gamier. Nevertheless, as it is counted a high privilege to be numbered among these select subscribers, changes are rare among them; besides, the members are not, as a rule, men in their first youth. They have seen, within those walls, the blooming and the renewal of several generations of pretty women; and the number of singers and dancers to whom they have paid court in the coulisses is still greater.
From their post of observation nothing that occurs either before or behind the curtain escapes their analysis—an analysis undoubtedly benevolent on the part of men who have seen much of life, and who accord willingly, to their younger fellow-members, a little of that indulgence of which they stand in need themselves.
An event so unexpected as the enthronement of Zibeline in one of the two large boxes between the columns, in company with the Duchesse de Montgeron, Madame de Lisieux, and Madame de Nointel, did not escape their observation and comment.
“The Duchess is never thoughtless in her choice of associates,” said one of the ten. “There must be some very powerful motive to induce her to shield with her patronage a foreigner who sets so completely at defiance anything that people may say about her.”
“Nonsense! What is it, after all, that they say about this young woman?” demanded the senior member of the party. “That she rides alone on horseback. If she were to ride with a groom, some one would be sure to say that he was her lover. They say that she drives out without any female chaperon beside her in the carriage. Well, if she had one, they would probably find some other malicious thing to say. Paris has become like a little country town in its gossip.”