One evening in May 1887, Paul André took his wife to a performance at the Opéra Comique. Paul and Adrienne André often attended on their evenings off from employment in Philo's household. They occupied choice seats in the loge nearest the stage. During Act One of Georges Bizet's Carmen, an actress lighting a cigarette in the factory scene carelessly tossed a still-burning match against a sheer scrim which flared up and almost instantaneously consumed the stage with flames. The audience dissolved in terror.
Amid screams of "Fire! Fire!," Paul and Adrienne leapt from their seats, but before they could escape, a tongue of fire sprang from the stage like a savage beast, devouring Paul in a dreadful flash. His blazing form toppled over the railing of the loge and fell into the orchestra below. Adrienne's screams went unheard in the cacophony of horror.
More at the heed of self-preservation than of anything in the conscious mind, her body propelled itself backward through the door of the loge, then through a window that gave on to an alley seven feet down. She felt no consequences from the fall. She simply rose to her feet and, guided by instinct, ran blindly through the streets of Paris until she reached the Place Dauphine.
Annie had retired, but Beth was reading in the third-floor parlor at the front of the house. Through the window, she heard Adrienne's voice screaming, "Run, Paul, run!"
In his seventh-floor study, Philo heard her, too, and clattered down the stairs without waiting for the lift. He threw open the street door and flew outside with Beth and Pepper at his heels.
Adrienne ran from them, dodging among the chestnut trees in the center of the Place. Still screaming for Paul to run, she tried desperately to hide behind the slender trunk of a tree.
Philo recognized at once her mindless state of shock. She had reverted to the past, to the fateful night when she and Paul fled for their lives from the Communards.
All the hair was singed from her head. Her back was torn and bleeding, with pieces of glass from the window still protruding. Her half-burnt gown clung to her body in charred shreds. She appeared to have broken an arm.
As gently as he could, Philo tried to soothe her as he crept nearer. She screamed and ran from tree to tree. He kept moving, calling words of comfort, but she yelled louder as her feet churned and picked up speed.
She dashed out of the park and burst on to the Pont Neuf, the bridge which spanned the Île de la Cité. Reaching a bench at the stone railing, she whirled about and pled, "I beg you, don't shoot!
Frenzy consumed her. She turned again to the river, stepped on the bench, and cleared the railing in one leap. She vanished from sight into the Seine.
Philo leapt after her, and Pepper after him. Beth stopped at the railing. She looked down into the murky waters and saw arms flailing as Adrienne struggled insanely against Philo's attempt at rescue.
At that moment, Bart was crossing the Pont Neuf on foot, returning home late from the laboratory after an evening with Dash and Pasteur. He saw the whole scene when the trio burst from the Place Dauphine.
Tearing off his jacket, he ran toward Beth and brushed against her as he, too, jumped into the Seine.
Beth gasped as the Gypsy queen's throaty voice echoed in her brain: Beware the water! Beware the fire!
She fell to her knees, arms stretched to Heaven.
"Dear God, spare them!" she cried aloud. "The prophecy was meant for me!"
She was facing the equestrian statue of King Henry the Fourth that stood opposite the entry of the Place Dauphine. In the flickering shadows cast by the street lamps lining the bridge, Beth looked up to his face and caught her breath.
It seemed to her that it was not Henry's, but the countenance of the Prince Imperial.
The bronze figure made no movement of lips, or other sign of life, but she distinctly heard a voice.
"They are spared," it said. "God has answered your prayer."
Strong arms lifted her up. They, and the voice, belonged to a stranger passing by.
"See there, in the little Vert Galant park at the tip of the island," he pointed out, "this young man has saved both their lives. Here, Madame, take his coat."
The stranger offered her Bart's jacket.
She took it and glanced quickly at the statue. It looked again like Henry the Fourth.
She saw now that Bart was carrying the unconscious Adrienne up the steps leading to the bridge from the park. Philo climbed wearily behind, Pepper at his side.
Two hundred people lost their lives that night in the fire at the Opera Comique, but Adrienne André survived. Her arm mended, her hair and eyebrows grew again, her back healed, even her mind.
But Paul's frightful death left an open wound that would gape forever in her heart.