Camille ALEXANDRE DUMAS FILS
However (continued Armand after a pause), while I knew myself to be still in
love with her, I felt more sure of myself, and part of my desire to speak to
Marguerite again was a wish to make her see that I was stronger than she.
How many ways does the heart take, how many reasons does it invent for itself,
in order to arrive at what it wants!
I could not remain in the corridor, and I returned to my place in the stalls,
looking hastily around to see what box she was in. She was in a ground-floor
box, quite alone. She had changed, as I have told you, and no longer wore an
indifferent smile on her lips. She had suffered; she was still suffering. Though it
was April, she was still wearing a winter costume, all wrapped up in furs.
I gazed at her so fixedly that my eyes attracted hers. She looked at me for a few
seconds, put up her opera-glass to see me better, and seemed to think she
recognised me, without being quite sure who I was, for when she put down her
glasses, a smile, that charming, feminine salutation, flitted across her lips, as if
to answer the bow which she seemed to expect; but I did not respond, so as to
have an advantage over her, as if I had forgotten, while she remembered.
Supposing herself mistaken, she looked away.
The curtain went up. I have often seen Marguerite at the theatre. I never saw her
pay the slightest attention to what was being acted. As for me, the performance
interested me equally little, and I paid no attention to anything but her, though
doing my utmost to keep her from noticing it.
Presently I saw her glancing across at the person who was in the opposite box;
on looking, I saw a woman with whom I was quite familiar. She had once been
a kept woman, and had tried to go on the stage, had failed, and, relying on her
acquaintance with fashionable people in Paris, had gone into business and taken
a milliner`s shop. I saw in her a means of meeting with Marguerite, and profited
by a moment in which she looked my way to wave my hand to her. As I
expected, she beckoned to me to come to her box.
Prudence Duvernoy (that was the milliner`s auspicious name) was one of those
fat women of forty with whom one requires very little diplomacy to make them
understand what one wants to know, especially when what one wants to know is
as simple as what I had to ask of her.
I took advantage of a moment when she was smiling across at Marguerite to ask
her, "Whom are you looking at?"
"You know her?"
"Yes, I am her milliner, and she is a neighbour of mine."
"Do you live in the Rue d`Antin?"
"No. 7. The window of her dressing-room looks on to the window of mine."
"They say she is a charming girl."
"Don`t you know her?"
"No, but I should like to."
"Shall I ask her to come over to our box?"
"No, I would rather for you to introduce me to her."
"At her own house?"
"That is more difficult."
"Because she is under the protection of a jealous old duke."
"`Protection` is charming."
"Yes, protection," replied Prudence. "Poor old man, he would be greatly
embarrassed to offer her anything else."
Prudence then told me how Marguerite had made the acquaintance of the duke
"That, then," I continued, "is why she is alone here?"
"But who will see her home?"
"He will come for her?"
"In a moment."
"And you, who is seeing you home?"
"May I offer myself?"
"But you are with a friend, are you not?"
"May we offer, then?"
"Who is your friend?"
"A charming fellow, very amusing. He will be delighted to make your
"Well, all right; we will go after this piece is over, for I know the last piece."
"With pleasure; I will go and tell my friend."
"Go, then. Ah," added Prudence, as I was going, "there is the duke just coming
into Marguerite`s box."
I looked at him. A man of about seventy had sat down behind her, and was
giving her a bag of sweets, into which she dipped at once, smiling. Then she
held it out toward Prudence, with a gesture which seemed to say, "Will you
"No," signalled Prudence.
Marguerite drew back the bag, and, turning, began to talk with the duke.
It may sound childish to tell you all these details, but everything relating to
Marguerite is so fresh in my memory that I can not help recalling them now.
I went back to Gaston and told him of the arrangement I had made for him and
for me. He agreed, and we left our stalls to go round to Mme. Duvernoy`s box.
We had scarcely opened the door leading into the stalls when we had to stand
aside to allow Marguerite and the duke to pass. I would have given ten years of
my life to have been in the old man`s place.
When they were on the street he handed her into a phaeton, which he drove
himself, and they were whirled away by two superb horses.
We returned to Prudence`s box, and when the play was over we took a cab and
drove to 7, Rue d`Antin. At the door, Prudence asked us to come up and see her
showrooms, which we had never seen, and of which she seemed very proud.
You can imagine how eagerly I accepted. It seemed to me as if I was coming
nearer and nearer to Marguerite. I soon turned the conversation in her direction.
"The old duke is at your neighbours," I said to Prudence.
"Oh, no; she is probably alone."
"But she must be dreadfully bored," said Gaston.
"We spend most of our evening together, or she calls to me when she comes in.
She never goes to bed before two in the morning. She can`t sleep before that."
"Because she suffers in the chest, and is almost always feverish."
"Hasn`t she any lovers?" I asked.
"I never see any one remain after I leave; I don`t say no one ever comes when I
am gone. Often in the evening I meet there a certain Comte de N., who thinks he
is making some headway by calling on her at eleven in the evening, and by