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Four Short Stories

Chapter V
At the Varietes they were giving the thirty-fourth performance of the Blonde Venus. The
first act had just finished, and in the greenroom Simonne, dressed as the little laundress,
was standing in front of a console table, surmounted by a looking glass and situated
between the two corner doors which opened obliquely on the end of the dressing-room
passage. No one was with her, and she was scrutinizing her face and rubbing her finger
up and down below her eyes with a view to putting the finishing touches to her make-up.
The gas jets on either side of the mirror flooded her with warm, crude light.
"Has he arrived?" asked Prulliere, entering the room in his Alpine admiral's costume,
which was set off by a big sword, enormous top boots and a vast tuft of plumes.
"Who d'you mean?" said Simonne, taking no notice of him and laughing into the mirror
in order to see how her lips looked.
"The prince."
"I don't know; I've just come down. Oh, he's certainly due here tonight; he comes every
time!"
Prulliere had drawn near the hearth opposite the console table, where a coke fire was
blazing and two more gas jets were flaring brightly. He lifted his eyes and looked at the
clock and the barometer on his right hand and on his left. They had gilded sphinxes by
way of adornment in the style of the First Empire. Then he stretched himself out in a
huge armchair with ears, the green velvet of which had been so worn by four generations
of comedians that it looked yellow in places, and there he stayed, with moveless limbs
and vacant eyes, in that weary and resigned attitude peculiar to actors who are used to
long waits before their turn for going on the stage.
Old Bosc, too, had just made his appearance. He came in dragging one foot behind the
other and coughing. He was wrapped in an old box coat, part of which had slipped from
his shoulder in such a way as to uncover the gold-laced cloak of King Dagobert. He put
his crown on the piano and for a moment or two stood moodily stamping his feet. His
hands were trembling slightly with the first beginnings of alcoholism, but he looked a
sterling old fellow for all that, and a long white beard lent that fiery tippler's face of his a
truly venerable appearance. Then in the silence of the room, while the shower of hail was
whipping the panes of the great window that looked out on the courtyard, he shook
himself disgustedly.
"What filthy weather!" he growled.
Simonne and Prulliere did not move. Four or five pictures—a landscape, a portrait of the
actor Vernet—hung yellowing in the hot glare of the gas, and a bust of Potier, one of the
 
 
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