Josephine looked down with the fixed gravity of a Red Indian, immovable, inscrutable. It was not till the scene was ended that she lifted her head as if breaking a spell, sent the point of her tongue rapidly over her dried lips, and looked round into the box. Her brown eyes expressed shame, fear, and disgust. A curious grimace went over her face—a grimace only to be expressed by the exclamation Merde! But she was mortally afraid of society, and its fixed institutions. Rapidly she scanned the eyes of her friends in the box. She rested on the eyes of Lilly, a dark, ugly man.
“Isn’t it nasty?” she said.
“You shouldn’t look so closely,” he said. But he took it calmly, easily, whilst she felt floods of burning disgust, a longing to destroy it all.
“Oh-ho-ho!” laughed Julia. “It’s so fu-nny—so funny!”
“Of course we are too near,” said Robert.
“Say you admire that pink fondant over there,” said Struthers, indicating with his eyebrows a blond large woman in white satin with pink edging, who sat in a box opposite, on the upper tier.
“Oh, the fondant—exactly—the fondant! Yes, I admire her immensely! Isn’t she exactly IT!” sang Julia.
Josephine was scanning the auditorium. So many myriads of faces—like beads on a bead-work pattern—all bead-work, in different layers. She bowed to various acquaintances—mostly Americans in uniform, whom she had known in Paris. She smiled to Lady Cochrane, two boxes off—Lady Cochrane had given her the box. But she felt rather coldly towards her.
The curtain rose, the opera wound its slow length along. The audience loved it. They cheered with mad enthusiasm. Josephine looked down on the choppy sea of applause, white gloves clapping, heads shaking. The noise was strange and rattling. What a curious multiple object a theatre-audience was! It seemed to have a million heads, a million hands, and one monstrous, unnatural consciousness. The singers appeared before the curtain—the applause rose up like clouds of dust.
“Oh, isn’t it too wonderful!” cried Julia. “I am wild with excitement. Are you all of you?”
“Absolutely wild,” said Lilly laconically.
“Where is Scott to-night?” asked Struthers.
Julia turned to him and gave him a long, queer look from her dark blue eyes.
“He’s in the country,” she said, rather enigmatic.
“Don’t you know, he’s got a house down in Dorset,” said Robert, verbally rushing in. “He wants Julia to go down and stay.”
“Is she going?” said Lilly.
“She hasn’t decided,” replied Robert.
“Oh! What’s the objection?” asked Struthers.
“Well, none whatsoever, as far as can be seen, except that she can’t make up her mind,” replied Robert.
“Julia’s got no mind,” said Jim rudely.
“Oh! Hear the brotherly verdict!” laughed Julia hurriedly.