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Chapter 25

The curtain rose upon the ballet of The Ondine at about the same time as it rose upon a greater scene, played on a greater stage—a tragedy known to history as the Second Empire. In Lina's mind the first wild success of her new ballet would always be associated with the presence at her theater of such fantastic, fairy-tale figures as Monsieur de Morny, Saint-Arnaud, Persigny and Magnan. Once more there were to be seen officers in gay uniforms, and very often the Ondine danced before an audience blue and silver with the magnificence of the Cent-Gardes' new Imperial dress.

"Really, how agreeable it is to have an Emperor once more!" commented, with every demonstration of satisfaction, Lina's acquaintances of the demi-monde. What they actually meant was that they themselves derived a certain importance from supping at the Maison-d'Or or the Café Anglais in the company of these superb operabouffe males in their gaudy uniforms that were reminiscent of nothing so much as the remote days of Murat's prime. Braided dolmans, busbies, helmets, shakoes, green epaulettes, wasp waists and ferocious mustaches seethed everywhere in Paris; champagne flowed, music tinkled, every one danced, and the cafés of Paris were filled night and day with the echoes of an almost hysterical laughter. Had ever a city been so gay?

As for Lina and her ballet, they had both become fashionable, and the Ondine was to achieve for this ballerina during the earlier part of her career what the Sylphide had achieved for Taglioni; the Gipsy for Elssler, and what, many, many years later, the Swan was to