Meanwhile, Katrine, in her little white room at the Countess de Nemours’, had just written:
DEAR UNKNOWN,—I have shut every one out of my room and shall see them no more until afterward. Can I do it? I have prayed God, who knows how I have suffered and worked and despaired and desired, to help me now. I have asked Him to remember what I have tried to do, to remember my self-denials, my surrender, my lonesome life, my broken heart, and give it me to do this one thing well.
They will all be there, all those people who have heard of me, and Josef. Ah, for his sake, too, I have prayed to do greatly, inspiredly, the thing he would have me do! And he will be there, too, I am told. He has crossed the ocean to hear me sing. Oh, dear God, just once, if never again, let him know me through my voice, know that I forgive and forget and understand!
The carriage is ready.
Good-bye, dear, dear room, dear old books,
dear old scores! Good-bye, Dear Unknown!
It is the last time I can write you of my hopes to be great. To-morrow you will know what I have done. But whether I go to success or failure, I kiss you with my heart full of love and gratitude, and so-good-bye!
* * * * *
“There is Josef now; look, Mrs. Ravenel!” Mrs. Lennox cried, pointing to a man who had just entered the stage box. “The man with the iron-gray hair. And the eyes! Did you ever see such eyes? And who is that with him? Great Heavens,” she exclaimed, “it is that pervasive Irishman who was down in North Carolina, Dermott McDermott!”
Josef, pale as a statue, had taken a place in the shadow of the box, back from the reach of opera-glasses. His hands trembled, and at times his lips twitched backward, as one who has lost control through too long a strain.
“Do look out for him,” Katrine had said to Dermott, the night before, between tears and a smile. “I can get through it all right, but I am fearful it may kill Josef. He takes me very seriously, you know.”
A heavy knocking came. The leader took his place. The overture began, and when the curtain rose Campanali received the genuine ovation which was his due. At the conclusion of that great duet, “Be Mine the Delight,” there was the vision of Marguerite at the spinning-wheel, and, after three years, Francis Ravenel saw Katrine, but in a blurred vision with fold upon fold of gauze between them. Finally the soldiers and maidens disappeared, and there came an expectant hush. One heard now! The pause was marked, intentional, before there came toward the footlights, in their most relentless glare, a girl with gladness and joy in her very walk. Neither a heavy German peasant girl nor a French soubrette. No dreary, timid, maedchen, but a glad young soul conscious of nothing save joy, with the beauty