“Ah! ah!” said Puymartin, “there she is, the little golden nugget!”
“She is perfectly dazzling this evening, this little golden nugget,” continued Martillet. “Look at her, at the line of her neck, the fall of her shoulders—still a young girl, and already a woman.”
“Yes, she is charming, and tolerably well off into the bargain.”
“Fifteen millions of her own, and the silver mine is still productive.”
“Berulle told me twenty-five millions, and he is very well up in American affairs.”
“Twenty-five millions! A pretty haul for Romanelli!”
“Report says that that will be a match; that it is already settled.”
“A match may be arranged, but with Montessan, not with Romanelli. Ah! at last! Here is the ballet.”
They ceased to talk. The ballet in Aida lasts only five minutes, and for those five minutes they had come. Consequently they must be enjoyed respectfully, religiously, for there is that peculiarity among a number of the habitues of the opera, that they chatter like magpies when they ought to be silent, to listen, and that they observe the most absolute silence when they might be allowed to speak, while looking on.
The trumpets of Aida had given their last heroic ‘fanfare’ in honor of Rhadames before the great sphinxes under the green foliage of the palm-trees, the dancers advanced, the light trembling on their spangled robes, and took possession of the stage.
With much attention and pleasure Mrs. Scott followed the evolutions of the ballet, but Bettina had suddenly become thoughtful, on perceiving in a box, on the other side of the house, a tall, dark young man. Miss Percival talked to herself, and said:
“What shall I do? What shall I decide on? Must I marry him, that handsome, tall fellow over there, who is watching me, for it is I that he is looking at? He will come into our box directly this act is over, and then I have only to say, ’I have decided; there is my hand; I will be your wife,’ and then all would be settled! I should be Princess! Princess Romanelli! Princess Bettina! Bettina Romanelli! The names go well together; they sound very pretty. Would it amuse me to be a princess? Yes—and no! Among all the young men in Paris, who, during the last year, have run after my money, this Prince Romanelli is the one who pleases me best. One of these days I must make up my mind to marry. I think he loves me. Yes, but the question is, do I love him? No, I don’t think I do, and I should so much like to love—so much, so much!”
At the precise moment when these reflections were passing through Bettina’s pretty head, Jean, alone in his study, seated before his desk with a great book under the shade of his lamp, looked through, and took notes of, the campaigns of Turenne. He had been directed to give a course of instruction to the non-commissioned officers of the regiment, and was prudently preparing his lesson for the next day.