Katrine had just said good-night to the Countess, and was standing in the doorway, candle in hand, with the light shining full on her face, as Madame de Nemours spoke; but she received the news with no change of face, no tremor of an eyelid. She felt it a loyalty to old love that the Countess should be forever unable to recognize in Frank the man whom they had discussed so often, namelessly; and of whom Madame de Nemours had such a slighting opinion. The strangest thing of all was that she had for this man’s coming; this man for whose presence she had longed day and night for two years; the remembrance of whose words could thrill her and bring tears to her eyes or a smile to her lips; that for this man’s coming, she had no thought save regret that he was to come, and determination not to meet him.
“I want to be sent away, Illustrious Master,” she said, the following afternoon, to Josef, when the lesson was over, and they stood together looking at the sun going down over the gray mist of the Paris roofs. “I am not well, and there is some one coming to Madame de Nemours’ on Friday whom I do not wish to meet.”
Josef looked at her quickly.
“Mademoiselle Silence,” he said, “I, who read voices as others read a printed page, understand. You had better see him.”
Katrine flushed crimson, but changed suddenly to such a whiteness that Josef thought she would have fallen.
“Forgive me,” he said, tenderly, putting his hand on her shoulder. “I am the surgeon with the knife, but my work is almost done. Let me tell you something. You have worked as I have never seen any one work before. I have not praised much, but I have seen. Ah, I know! Tones, little, big, staccato, breath, breath, breath! Over, and yet again over. And the thinking a tone, which is the hardest of all. And the acting—to conceive what a character’s voice should be; to understand that the timbre of Carmen’s voice would not be that of Marguerite’s; that the soul of the voice must change for each character. To slave, to slave, to slave, and suffer as you have done into the third year, is it not? None other can know the value of it all as I know it, and at the end what has the master done for you? Meet this man and you will find out. It is for my reward I am asking, for I, too, have done something.”
Katrine took the hand of the great teacher and kissed it lovingly.
“Something?” she said. “You have done all.”
“Not all; a part, a very little part,” he returned. “But meet the man, my child, and you will see how much has been done by both of us. On Saturday morning you will come to me. You will say, ’Prophetic man, I am ashamed through all my being to have loved so slight a thing.’ You will find you have outgrown him, and he will have only the weight of the Santa Claus, which children painlessly outgrow. And ever after you will have toward him a kindly mother-feeling, for that is woman’s way toward their first loves.”