“If you could see Phil’s office, mother, I think you would weep. It’s very dirty, and he likes it. It’s the dust of his great-grandfathers.”
“Well, dearest,” Mrs. Ravenel said, “if it amuses you, I’m glad you thought of doing it,” and she folded up her work and put it into her bag. “Life’s a rather dreary affair at best,” she concluded, “and anything that interests one is a positive boon.”
There is in the Faubourg St. Honore, not far from the Hotel of the Silver Scissors, an old house set far back in a court-yard of its own. A gray stone wall, the height of the first two stories, protects both garden and house from the eyes of the passer-by; and, save for the sound of singing, the place seems uninhabited most of the time.
On a misty morning in late November Katrine clapped the knocker of this old house with fear in her heart, for her future hung on the word of the great teacher who lived here, Josef, whose genius, generosity, and brutal frankness were the talk of the musical world. A Brittany peasant woman opened the door with no salutation whatever, for the huge Brigitte, in her white coiffe and blue flannel frock, spoke in awed whispers only, when the master was at home.
“Mademoiselle Dulany?” she asked.
Katrine nodded an affirmative.
“The master is expecting you,” Brigitte said, leading the way up a wide oak staircase to the second floor, which had been made into one great room. It was a bare place, with no draperies and little furniture. Two grand pianos stood at one end near a small platform, like a model-stand. There were photographs of some great singers on the walls, and a few chairs huddled together.
In the corner at a desk a woman was writing from the dictation of a man who stood gazing out of the window. He turned at Katrine’s entrance. She has seen his picture frequently, and knew on the instant that it was Josef, the greatest teacher in Europe—in the world.
“You may go, Zelie,” he said to the woman. “I shall not need you till to-morrow.” And the dismissal over, he came forward toward Katrine as she stood by the entrance, uncertain what to do.
He was a man about fifty years of age, below the medium height, heavily built, and dressed in black, with a waistcoat buttoned to the collar like a priest’s. His hair was iron-gray, his eyes brown, and the pupils of them widened and contracted when he spoke. He had a clean-shaven face of ivory paleness, a sensuous mouth and chin, and when he looked at Katrine she understood his power, for it seemed to her as though he could see backward to her past and forward to all of her future.
Being alone with her, he motioned her to a seat by the window, near which he remained standing.
“I have been hearing that you have a voice. I have heard great things concerning it. I hope they are true.” His tone implied that he had small belief that they were. “You have a serious drawback. You are too rich.” She started at this. “The management of your income, however, is given to me, as I suppose you know. Will you be so good as to remove your jacket and hat, and walk up and down the room several times?”