St. Petersburg, when I partnered Istomina, appearing time after time before the Tsar."
"I never knew," she told him, her tears now arrested, "that you had ever been a dancer."
Rosing said bitterly, forgetting his present difficulties: "That does not surprise me. Look, I seem old now, and look old, and yet I am only fifty-eight. Twenty years ago I retired; a dancer's life is short. Years of training, years of discipline, years of privation, all for a few brief years of triumph and fame. And, after that, so many more years of oblivion. Who remembers me now? No one. It is all over and done with. And yet you say you want to be a dancer. In God's name, why?"
She was silent. He continued, speaking more to himself than to her:
"You are better off in your circus. I did wrong ever to teil you the contrary. If I were a clown, I could still be a clown at fifty-eight. If I were an actor, I could still be acting. But because I am a dancer, my day is finished, and has been for twenty years. Once, it is true, I taught, but that was poor consolation. And then my sister died. She was a widow; her husband had been comfortably situated. She left me her money, and I settled down here. I have been here for ten years. I shall die here, a lonely, disappointed, forgotten old man. Such are dancers."
He blew his nose.
But Paulina, still kneeling on the hearth-rug, looked at him with so much joy upon her face that he thought his English must have grown so rusty that she had misunderstood him.
She said eagerly, stretching out her hands: "Teach me! Oh, please teach me!"
Afterward, when he looked back upon that morning, he admitted to himself that with those first impulsive words