“Dear,” Dermott said, “I’ve loved you—always—ever since I’ve known you. When you were just a wee bit girl in New York, six years ago, and ye stood off the mob of boys who were baiting the old Jew—since then I’ve taken every thought for you I could. And I’m asking you to believe me when I tell you that I want your happiness more than my own. I’ve felt always that you’ll never succeed as a public singer, and here of late, since I’ve known the St. Petersburg contracts were signed, I’ve suffered in my thoughts of you. We’ll just leave another suitor out of the question. It’s these public appearances of yours I dread at the present. If stage life could be as it seems from the right side of the footlights; if you knew nothing of the people or their lives, except as Valentine or Siegfried, it would be different. But the meanness of it; the little jealousies; the ignorant egotisms; I am afraid you can never do it, you will despise it so.”
He waited a little as though recalling stage life, in which he had taken some active part, before he continued with a noble selfishness.
“And I dread this St. Petersburg experience! You, just a bit of a girl alone, with nobody but an old Irishwoman and that Josef, who has a rainbow in his soul but no common-sense in his head. So, whether you care or not, I want you to know, to remember, if trouble comes, that there’s a man here in New York thinking always of you, one who would give his life to save you from pain.”
“You who were ever alert
to befriend a man,
You who were ever the first to defend a man,
You who had always the money to lend a man
Down on his luck and hard up for a V.
Sure you’ll be playing a harp in beatitude
(And a quare sight you will be in that attitude)
Some day, where gratitude seems but a platitude,
You’ll find your latitude.”
About Christmas-time the Metropolitan managers offered Katrine an engagement for next season. In a lengthy interview with their extremely courteous representative she explained her inability to accept the very flattering terms by reason of the already signed St. Petersburg contracts. Although there seemed no definite outcome from the interview, the gentleman with whom it was held left her, as all did, charmed by her sincerity, her enthusiasm, and her great generosity.
The following week Melba was indisposed, and the much-impressed gentleman of the Metropolitan wrote to Katrine, asking if she would sing for them in the great prima-donna’s place.
She accepted the offer with small hesitation, asking no one’s advice about an unheralded debut. She was too great an artist to desire anything but stern criticism, and if she could sing greatly, she reasoned, the public would be quick enough to discover it. The opera to be given was “Faust.” Her costumes were quite ready by reason of her Paris debut, and she went to the morning rehearsals with the same joy in her work that she had known when studying with Josef.