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Behind the audience came the restless Promenade, where was the reality which the stage reflected. There it was, multitudinous, obtainable, seizable, dumbly imploring to be carried off. The stage, very daring, yet dared no more than hint at the existence of the bright and joyous reality. But there it was, under the same roof.
Christine entered with Madame Larivaudiere. Between shoulders and broad hats, as through a telescope, she glimpsed in the far distance the illusive, glowing oblong of the stage; then the silhouetted conductor and the tops of instruments; then the dark, curved concentric rows of spectators. Lastly she took in the Promenade, in which she stood. She surveyed the Promenade with a professional eye. It instantly shocked her, not as it might have shocked one ignorant of human nature and history, but by reason of its frigidity, its constraint, its solemnity, its pretence. In one glance she embraced all the figures, moving or stationary, against the hedge of shoulders in front and against the mirrors behind--all of them: the programme girls, the cigarette girls, the chocolate girls, the cloak-room girls, the waiters, the overseers, as well as the vivid courtesans and their clientele in black, tweed, or khaki. With scarcely an exception they all had the same strange look, the same absence of gesture. They were northern, blond, self-contained, terribly impassive. Christine impulsively exclaimed--and the faint cry was dragged out of her, out of the bottom of her heart, by what she saw:
"My god! How mournful it is!"
Lise Larivaudiere, a stout and benevolent Bruxelloise, agreed with uncomprehending indulgence. The two chatted together for a few moments, each ceremoniously addressing the other as "Madame," "Madame," and then they parted, insinuating themselves separately into the slow, confused traffic of the Promenade.