Paris lay sparkling under a
cold, clear sky. The brilliant streets lay coiled along the Seine and stretched
glittering from bank to bank, from boulevard to boulevard; cafés,
brasseries, concert halls and theaters in the yellow blaze of gas and the
white and violet of electricity.
It was not late, but people who entered the lobby of the Theater Fauvette
turned away before the placard "Standing room only."
Somewhere in the city a bell sounded the hour, and with the last stroke
the drop curtain fell on the first act of "La Belle Hélène."
It fell amidst a whirlwind of applause, in which the orchestra led.
The old leader of the violins shook his head, however. He had been there
twenty years, and he had never before heard of such singing in comic opera.
"No, no," he said, "she can't stay here. Dame! she sings!"
Madame Bordier was pale and happy; her good husband was weak with joy.
The members of the troupe had not yet had time to be jealous and they,
As for the house, it was not only conquered, it was wild with enthusiasm.
The lobbies were thronged.
Braith ran up against Rowden and Elliott.
"By Jove!" they cried, with one voice, "who'd have thought the little girl
had all that in her? I say, Braith, does Rex know about her? When is he
"Rex doesn't know and doesn't care. Rex is cured," said Braith. "And he's
coming next week. Where's Clifford?" he added, to make a diversion.
"Clifford promised to meet us here. He'll be along soon."
The pair went out for refreshments and Braith returned to his seat.
The wait between the acts proved longer than was agreeable, and people
grumbled. The machinery would not work, and two heavy scenes had to be
shifted by hand. Good Monsieur Bordier flew about the stage in a delirium
of excitement. No one would have recognized him for the eminently reasonable
being he appeared in private life. He called the stage hands "Prussian
pigs!" and "Spanish cattle!" and expressed his intention to dismiss the
whole force tomorrow.
Yvonne, already dressed, stood at the door of her room, looking along the
alley of dusty scenery to where a warm glow revealed the close proximity
of the footlights. There was considerable unprofessional confusion, and
not a little skylarking going on among the company, who took advantage
of the temporary interruption.
Yvonne stood in the door of her dressing room and dreamed, seeing nothing.
Her pretty figure was draped in a Grecian tunic of creamy white, bordered
with gold; her soft, dark hair was gathered in a simple knot.
Presently she turned and entered her dressing room, closing the door. Then
she sat down before the mirror, her chin resting on her hands, her eyes
fixed on her reflected eyes, a faint smile curving her lips.
"Oh! you happy girl!" she thought. "You happy, happy girl! And just a little
frightened, for tomorrow he will come. And when he says -- for he will
say it -- `Yvonne must we wait?' I shall tell him, No! take me now if you
Without a knock the door burst open. A rush of music from the orchestra
came in. Yvonne thought "So they have begun at last!" The same moment she
rose with a faint, heartsick cry. Her sister closed the door and fastened
it, shutting out all sound but that of her terrible voice. Yvonne blanched
as she looked on that malignant face. With a sudden faintness she leaned
back, pressing one hand to her heart.
"You received my letter?" said the woman.
Yvonne did not answer. Her sister stamped and came nearer. "Speak!" she
Yvonne shrank and trembled, but kept her resolute eyes on the cruel eyes
"Shall I tear an answer from you?" said the woman, always coming nearer.
"Do you think I will wait your pleasure, now?"
"He is here -- Mr Blumenthal; he is waiting for you. You dare not refuse
him again! You will come with us now, after the opera. Do you hear? You
will come. There is no more time. It must be now. I told you there would
be time, but there is none -- none!"
Yvonne's maid knocked at the door and called:
"Mademoiselle, c'est l'heuer!"
"Answer!" hissed the woman.
Yvonne, speechless, holding both hands to her heart, kept her eyes on her
sister's face. That face grew ashen; the eyes had the blank glare of a
tiger's; she sprang up to Yvonne and grasped her by the wrists.
"Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle! c'est l'heure!" called the maid, shaking the
"Fool!" hissed her sister, "you think you will marry the American!"
"Mademoiselle Descartes! mais Mademoiselle Descartes!" cried Monsieur's
"Let me go!" panted Yvonne, struggling wildly.
"Go!" screamed the woman, "go, and sing! You cannot marry him! He is dead!"
and she struck the girl with her clenched fist.
The door, torn open, crashed behind her and immediately swung back again
to admit Madame.
"My child! my child! What is it? What ails you? Quick, or it will be too
late! Ah! try, try, my child!"
She was in tears of despair.
Taking her beseeching hand, Yvonne moved toward the stage.
"Oui, chère Madame!" she said.
The chorus swelled around her.
Oh! reine en ce jour!
rose, fell, ebbed away, and left her standing alone.
She heard a voice -- "Tell me, Venus -- " but she hardly knew it for her
own. It was all dark before her eyes -- while the mad chorus of Kings went
on, "For us, what joy!" -- thundering away along the wings.
"Let Calchas fear!"
And then she began to sing -- to sing as she had never sung before. Sweet,
thrilling, her voice poured forth into the crowded auditorium. The people
sat spellbound. There was a moment of silence; no one offered to applaud.
And then she began again.
Oui c'est un réve,
Un réve doux d'amour --
She faltered --
La nuit lui préte son mystère,
Il doit finir avec le jour --
the voice broke. Men were standing
up in the audience. One cried out:
"Il -- doit -- finir -- "
The music clashed in one great discord.
Why did the stage reel under her? What was the shouting?
Her heavy, dark hair fell down about her little white face as she sank
on her knees, and covered her as she lay her slender length along the stage.
The orchestra and the audience sprang to their feet. The great blank curtain
rattled to the ground. A whirlwind swept over the house. Monsieur Bordier
stepped before the curtain.
"My friends!" he began, but his voice failed, and he only added, "C'est
With hardly a word the audience moved to the exits. But Braith, turning
to the right, made his way through a long, low passage and strode toward
a little stage door. It was flung open and a man hurried past him.
"Monsieur!" called Braith. "Monsieur!"
But Monsieur Bordier was crying like a child, and kept on his way, without
The narrow corridor was now filled with hurrying, excited figures in gauze
and tinsel, sham armor, and painted faces. They pressed Braith back, but
he struggled and fought his way to the door.
A Sergeant de Ville shouldered through the crowd. He was dragging a woman
along by the arm. Another policeman came behind, urging her forward.
Somehow she slipped from them and sank, cowering against the wall. Braith's
eyes met hers. She cowered still lower.
A slender, sallow man had been quietly slipping through the throng. A red-faced
fellow touched him on the shoulder.
"Pardon! I think this is Mr Emanuel Pick."
"No!" stammered the man, and started to run.
Braith blocked his way. The red-faced detective was at his side.
"So, you are Mr Emanuel Pick!"
"No!" gasped the other.
"He lies! He lies!" yelled the woman, from the floor.
The Jew reeled back and, with a piercing scream, tore at his handcuffed
wrists. Braith whispered to the detective:
"What has the woman done? What is the charge?"
"Charge? There are a dozen. The last is murder."
The woman had fainted and they carried her away. The light fell a moment
on the Jew's livid face, the next Braith stood under the dark porch of
the empty theater. The confusion was all at the stage entrance. Here, in
front, the deserted street was white and black and silent under the electric
lamps. All the lonelier for two wretched gamins, counting their dirty sous
and draggled newspapers.
When they saw Braith they started for him; one was ahead in the race, but
the other gained on him, reached him, dealt him a merciless blow, and panted
up to Braith.
The defeated one, crying bitterly, gathered up his scattered papers from
"Curse you, Rigaud! you hound!" he cried, in a passion of tears. "Curse
you, son of a murderer!"
The first gamin whipped out a paper and thrust it toward Braith.
"Buy it, Monsieur!" he whined, "the last edition, full account of the Boulangist
riot this morning; burning of the Prussian flags; explosion on a warship;
murder in Germany, discovered by an English Milord -- "
Braith was walking fast; the gamin ran by his side for a moment, but soon
gave it up. Braith walked faster and faster; he was almost running when
he reached his own door. There was a light in his window. He rushed up
the stairs and into his room.
Clifford was sitting there, his head in his hands. Braith touched him,
trying to speak lightly.
"Are you asleep, old man?"
Clifford raised a colorless face to his.
"What is it? Can't you speak?"
But Clifford only pointed to a crumpled telegram lying on the table, and
hid his face again as Braith raised the paper to the light.