Four Short Stories HTML version

Chapter I
At nine o'clock in the evening the body of the house at the Theatres des Varietes was still
all but empty. A few individuals, it is true, were sitting quietly waiting in the balcony and
stalls, but these were lost, as it were, among the ranges of seats whose coverings of
cardinal velvet loomed in the subdued light of the dimly burning luster. A shadow
enveloped the great red splash of the curtain, and not a sound came from the stage, the
unlit footlights, the scattered desks of the orchestra. It was only high overhead in the third
gallery, round the domed ceiling where nude females and children flew in heavens which
had turned green in the gaslight, that calls and laughter were audible above a continuous
hubbub of voices, and heads in women's and workmen's caps were ranged, row above
row, under the wide-vaulted bays with their gilt-surrounding adornments. Every few
seconds an attendant would make her appearance, bustling along with tickets in her hand
and piloting in front of her a gentleman and a lady, who took their seats, he in his evening
dress, she sitting slim and undulant beside him while her eyes wandered slowly round the
Two young men appeared in the stalls; they kept standing and looked about them.
"Didn't I say so, Hector?" cried the elder of the two, a tall fellow with little black
mustaches. "We're too early! You might quite well have allowed me to finish my cigar."
An attendant was passing.
"Oh, Monsieur Fauchery," she said familiarly, "it won't begin for half an hour yet!"
"Then why do they advertise for nine o'clock?" muttered Hector, whose long thin face
assumed an expression of vexation. "Only this morning Clarisse, who's in the piece,
swore that they'd begin at nine o'clock punctually."
For a moment they remained silent and, looking upward, scanned the shadowy boxes. But
the green paper with which these were hung rendered them more shadowy still. Down
below, under the dress circle, the lower boxes were buried in utter night. In those on the
second tier there was only one stout lady, who was stranded, as it were, on the velvet-
covered balustrade in front of her. On the right hand and on the left, between lofty
pilasters, the stage boxes, bedraped with long-fringed scalloped hangings, remained
untenanted. The house with its white and gold, relieved by soft green tones, lay only half
disclosed to view, as though full of a fine dust shed from the little jets of flame in the
great glass luster.
"Did you get your stage box for Lucy?" asked Hector.