But the elderly gentleman, who was watching her gravely, took no notice of this remark. Instead he asked her a question:
"You have been trained as a dancer, I see?"
"Yes." She drank another draft of coffee, and explained: "In London. At the school of an old Italian lady who was once herself a ballerina. I was there for about eight years."
"But, Mademoiselle, you ought really to be scolded! What are you doing dans cette galère-ci?"
"In the circus? But I told you—I am here with my partner."
"But it is no place for you!" Here the gentleman leaned forward and spoke so emphatically that Paulina began to feel quite guilty, although she had no idea whatsoever whether his objection to her present occupation was based on moral or esthetic grounds.
There was nothing else to do, she explained defensively, but he would have none of this.
"At fifteen you teil me that! Do you know it is really shameful? At your age you should be working, slaving, training rigorously every day for your début as a ballerina! You should be at the bar two, three, four hours every morning. You should have no other aim in life, no other idea in your head. But to posture as you are doing in a circus-ring, straining your muscles, distorting your joints, by performing vulgar acrobatics for a gaping crowd, that, I assure you, my child, is a melancholy spectacle, and one that indeed brings tears to my eyes!"
And as if to emphasize the truth of this last remark he blew his nose violently. He added, shaking his head: "And so many faults! Could they ever be corrected,
one asks oneself?"
Paulina, to whom this conversation brought back all too vivid memories of Madame Vanessi, here stared at