“You are afraid of something?”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know. I merely fear.... There is Carlotta Deschamps.”
“Miss Rosa, a few minutes ago you called me your friend.” My voice was emotional; I felt it.
“I did, because you are. I have no claim on you, but you have been very good to me.”
“You have the best claim on me. Will you rely on me?”
We looked at each other.
“I will,” she said. I stood before her, and she took my hand.
“You say you fear. I hope your fears are groundless—candidly, I can’t see how they can be otherwise. But suppose anything should happen. Well, I shall be at your service.”
At that moment some one knocked and entered. It was Yvette. She avoided my glance.
“Madame will take her egg-and-milk before going to rehearsal?”
“Yes, Yvette. Bring it to me here, please.”
“You have a rehearsal to-day?” I asked. “I hope I’m not detaining you.”
“Not at all. The call is for three o’clock. This is the second one, and they fixed the hour to suit me. It is really my first rehearsal, because at the previous one I was too hoarse to sing a note.”
I rose to go.
“Wouldn’t you like to come with me to the theatre?” she said with an adorable accent of invitation.
My good fortune staggered me.
After she had taken her egg-and-milk we set out.
I was intensely conscious of her beauty as I sat by her side in the swiftly rolling victoria. And I was conscious of other qualities in her too—of her homeliness, her good-fellowship, her trustfulness. The fact that she was one of the most famous personalities in Europe did not, after our talk, in the least disturb my pleasing dreams of a possible future. It was, nevertheless, specially forced upon me, for as we drove along the Rue de Rivoli, past the interminable facades of the Louvre, and the big shops, and so into the meaner quarter of the markets—the Opera Comique was then situated in its temporary home in the Place du Chatelet—numberless wayfarers showed by their demeanor of curiosity that Rosetta Rosa was known to them. They were much more polite than English people would have been, but they did not hide their interest in us.
The jewels had been locked away in a safe, except one gorgeous emerald brooch which she was wearing at her neck.
“It appears,” I said, “that in Paris one must not even attend rehearsals without jewels.”
“You think I have a passion for jewels, and you despise me for it.”
“By no means. Nobody has a better right to wear precious stones than yourself.”
“Can you guess why I wear them?”
“Not because they make you look prettier, for that’s impossible.”