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   Chapter 18 THEATRE FRANCAIS.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 9934

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


They found the theatre crowded from pit to dome. And the advent of our little party, as they took possession of their box, caused no little sensation even in that galaxy of beauty and fashion.

"By the lilies of France," said a Parisian, putting up his glass; "though not the three graces, one of them is there."

"Yes, by the memory of Bonaparte, she is worth a long look," said his companion, gazing at Vaura.

And two of the occupants of Mr. Bertram's box were indulging much the same thought. Lionel's handsome face wore a warmer look than ordinarily, as he chatted to Vaura, leaning on the back of her chair.

"She has the vivacity of the French woman, with a beauty all her own," he thought. "Her voice holds me, and my love of the beautiful is satisfied, as I look on her sweet mouth and warm eyes; but, pshaw, she is a flirt, and I am almost in her toils! what is coming over me?" and he gave a start as he almost spoke the last thought aloud.

"Why, what is the matter Capt, Trevalyon?" asked Vaura; "you started just now as though you had seen a ghost of the departed; a moment ago you seemed to be enjoying the play, but now you look melancholy; go over to Mrs. Wingfield. You see, cher ami, you do not credit to my powers of pleasing; so avaunt. But," she added, "you may come back some other time."

"You deserve better company than I, just now, ma belle, and Everly is aching to be with you." And rising, he took the chair Everly vacated, near Mrs. Wingfield.

"What have you done to Trevalyon? Miss Vernon," said Everly, as he seated himself beside her. "In five minutes his expression changed from unclouded happiness to the blackness of despair; queer fellow to wear such a look beside you."

"What a flattering tongue is yours, Sir Tilton; but I shall not be astonished at any outpourings of that sort from you; considering you have come from Haughton Hall, and the practice you have had in soft nothings while there."

"Had you been there I should have been inspired to say something original."

"It would be a treat, for compliments do grow so hackneyed; I sometimes agree with the poet," she added gaily, "'that there is nothing original in us, excepting original sin.'"

"Your uncle wished for your presence often."

"I take it quiet as a compliment, and his bride so new."

"And many others wished to sun themselves in your presence."

"I am glad they remember me, and if Old Sol will give England plenty of his gleams, and we have a mild winter to suit Lady Esmondet, we shall be at Haughton Hall for the Christmas festivities."

"If the clerk of the weather be a decent fellow, who will take a bribe, Tilton's the boy to stuff him, and my reward will be a waltz at the ball, and do please let me make sure of it now." Taking out his tablets, "just write your name and the date here; oh, thanks abundantly, and I'm sure, the weather fellow will be all square."

"And now I incur the jealousy of woman; cruel man to bring upon me such punishment, but I forgive you as you know nothing of womanly sweetness to woman, so here is my name for number four waltz. But regardez, we have missed a point, every eye is turned to the stage, Mlle. Croizette looks for the moment as though transformed into one of the Furies. So fierce her looks, such terrors from her eyes."

"Poor thing, so she does," said Sir Tilton laughing.

"But really Sir Tilton, I wish we could guess what its about. Another riddle from the Sphynx, you must be a second Oedipus and guess for me; or go over and ask some of the others, they look as though they have been feeding ravenously of the tree of knowledge."

"Draw your chair a little this way, Vaura, ma chere," said Lady Esmondet, who came over as Sir Tilton arose. "We shall all form one little group then, and it will be more pleasant."

Here Sir Tilton coming up, decidedly objected to the move, wishing to monopolise Vaura.

"You are cruel, Lady Esmondet; ask Miss Vernon, if I have not been more amusing than the Sphynx. You know," he said audaciously, "we actually did not see the little by-play between the rivals Mlle. Croizette and Sara Bernhardt, which is a proof we were not doing badly in the way of entertaining each other."

"Fie! Sir Tilton," said Vaura merrily, "acknowledge the compliment paid you, though our gay friends have had the Sphynx, they also have had time to long for our society," and as she drew near a few paces, Everly had time to say softly:

"One thing to be thankful for, we did not miss them."

"Small men make large boasts," thought Vaura amusedly.

"Miss Vernon," said Bertram, "you missed the best thing of the evening, or I suppose so by the fact of Everly having come over with his finger in his mouth to ask what the house came down for."

"You will relieve my woman curiosity," she answered smiling, "of course Sir Tilton will not own to the being curious, save on my account."

"No man could refuse a request of yours, else

you deserve a punishment for," he added in a low tone, "making game of small hearts."

"Vaura dear, you have missed such a passage-at-arms, between Croszette

And Bernhardt," said Lady Esmondet.

"Oh, such fun," exclaimed Mrs. Wingfield, "in the middle of a telling speech by Mlle. Croizette, the wicked little Bernhardt, came coolly up and asked her 'where she lived?' or something of that sort; Croizette, livid with rage, forgot her part-something we never saw her do before, but answered Sara in words that told, for though triumphant she trembled."

"Her sister Fury trembled and retired," said Trevalyon, "strange freaks rivalry leads its victims into-"

"I could almost imagine," said Vaura, "you all to be mistaken for the Croizette has immense influence at the Conservatory, where they both studied, and is a complete child of the stage, but if your ears have played you no tricks, if I mistake not, Sara has had her fun."

"Not a doubt of it," said Bertram.

"Oh, that is too real," said Lady Esmondet, turning pale and looking from the stage, referring to the death-scene by poison of the wicked heroine of the play.

"Yes, her struggles are so natural as to be anything but pleasant to witness," said Vaura.

"If it were good form for a woman to retire for a stimulant," said Mrs. Wingfield, "then would I make my exit, for I feel quite overcome at the sight."

"What inestimable privileges lordly man enjoys," said Vaura.

"What a talented little morceau is Sara," said Trevalyon.

"She is smaller since la Croizette looked to kill," said Lady

Esmondet.

"The fire from the eyes of Croizette was too much for her; she has gone to hide within herself," said Vaura.

"No wonder she doesn't show even through a glass," said the little baronet.

"Else," continued Vaura, "the role of 'Forgiving Virtue' is too much for her; she shrinks from it."

"She might be more expansive in the other role," laughed Bertram.

"She is a handful of the essence of talent," said Trevalyon, "and always good form whether the form of a Venus or no."

"True," said Lady Esmondet, though she cannot quote in a personal sense of the "heavy cloak of the body still as weighed against a cultivated intellect, roundness of form is a mere bagatelle."

"I humbly appeal to you all," said Bertram in seriocomic tone, "is my rotundity a mere bagatelle?"

"Lady Esmondet says so, and it must be true," said Trevalyon laughingly.

"Of course it is; anyone to look at you would say the same," said

Everly.

"My advice, Bertram," said Trevalyon, "is, on your return to England, to retire to the cool shades of oblivion and try the 'Bantam' system: that is if Owen Cunliffe does not send you there, for having while in Paris been attentive to the fair sex instead of to the interests of our Isle."

"Don't follow any such advice, Mr. Bertram!" exclaimed Mrs. Wingfield.

"Your fat makes you so jolly."

"Fat! did you call me fat, Mrs. Wingfield? If the play was not opportunely over I should be obliged to tear myself away from your fascinating presence, in grief, at such an epithet hurled at my devoted head, I-I mean body. I may well exclaim, 'save me from my friends' when these are the unctuous compliments they pay me," the victim exclaimed with averted face and uplifted hands.

On our friends rising to leave the theatre, Sir Tilton, making sure of escorting Vaura to the carriage, was in the act of putting her cloak over her shoulders, when Lionel offered his arm; Vaura taking it turned her head smiling her sweetest, with a word of thanks to small Everly, who returned it with a look of half-comical disappointment, and with one long step was at Mrs. Wingfield's side, saying:

"Never mind your cloak, Mrs. Wingfield; cool and easy does it; take my arm, Mr. Bertram will probably come up at an opportune moment and robe you, this is the latest and most successful manner of escorting a lady to her carriage."

"There is many a slip 'twixt cup and lip," said Mrs. Wingfield, laughingly; "you had your innings the early part of the evening, it is only fair her preux chevalier should have his revenge."

"Yes, I've been bowled out this time, but Don Juan isn't going to have any more innings if Tilton knows anything."

"What courage the atom has," thought Mrs. Wingfield, but she said,

"Don Juan, indeed, 'Satan reproving sin,' what about a certain Mrs.

H., that you sigh to the inconstant moon for. But we are nearing the

others and the carriage; so a truce to confidentials. Adieu."

On the ladies entering the carrosse, the gentlemen bidding adieu pour le present, saying they would walk, Sir Tilton stepping back a pace enquired of Vaura "If he should have the pleasure of seeing her on that night week at the de Hauteville ball?"

"Yes, we are due there, and make an exception of their ball, we are such friends, but go to no more crushes presided over by Terpsichore while a Paris. Au revoir."

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