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Chapt er 24

When her season at the Opera was finished she retired, with Marie, to a little villa she had taken down at Fontainebleau. Here she rusticated. Her only visitors, and the only people who knew her secret, were her professional associates, Heinrich and Weiss. Heinrich, cancelling her contracts, had proclaimed to the world that Varsovina must rest for several months, to nurse an injured knee. It would never do, said Heinrich, for a dancer of her ethereal appeal in any way to be associated with maternity.

"How shameful," Lina told him, "you make my condition appear. Even more shameful than it actually is."

But the visits of these two comrades did her more good than anything else, for they insisted upon planning a new ballet in which she was to make a triumphant reappearance after the birth of her child.

"Listen, Lina. This is the famous story of the Ondine, the Water-Spirit, with fresh choreography specially adapted to your own personality. As it stands, the ballet is in six tableaux, the first one of which is called the Shell. Other scenes take place under the sea. And, Lina, the Ondine, the Naiad, might have been especially created for you to dance! She's unearthly, treacherous, fascinating. Now listen "

And so they talked and talked and talked, while outside, in the forest, mist washed against the dank silver of the great beech sterns, and the autumn sky, darker than steel, hung low and brooding over the roof of this toy villa, nestling, like the fairy cottage of Hansel and Gretel, against the boles of huge and ancient trees.