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C hapt er 33

It was in the autumn of 1865 that a young man, Ivan Borek by name, left Russia, where he had been accustomed to partner such famous ballerinas as Muravieva and Bogdanova, in consequence, it was said, of some dispute with the directors of the Imperial Ballet. He wandered, of course, to Milan, danced for a season at the Scala, and eventually drifted to Paris, having heard that Varsovina wished to engage a first-class male dancer for her troupe.

Varsovina, he learned, was away on a six weeks' English tour, and would not return for a fortnight. Borek was undecided; he was by no means a youth remarkable for any particular intelligence, and he really could not make up his mind whether to stay on in Paris or to seek employment elsewhere. He hung for some days about the Opera, smoking innumerable cigarettes and exchanging casual confidences with various members of the corps de ballet.

Finally he embarked upon a sentimental friendship with a young dancer named Pier re VĂ©ron, who, in exchange for numerous cigarettes, cups of black coffee, and insincere compliments, finally seemed willing to give him sensible advice as to his artistic future.

"Return to Russia, my dear Borek! Return immediately! What good will you do yourself over here?"

"That, unfortunately, is for the moment impossible."

"Then return to Milan."

Borek did not wish to say that he had not been invited to do so. Instead he lighted another cigarette, and remarked: