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Chapter 35

Borek went down to the theater for a rehearsal called at ten o'clock to find that although he was early, there was one who had arrived before him,—Lina. She was already at work on the stage,—a tiny curious figure in the dim gloom of this empty, shrouded theater. She did not see him, and he waited for a moment, standing motionless in the stalls, watching her with a strange feeling of detachment that was mingled with a feeling of guilt, as though he were spying upon something.

She was absorbed, tremendously in earnest. She had never worn, nor would ever wear, the ugly black practising-dress of the ballet; she was dressed in a misty tulle skirt, once white, now almost lavender, and her shoulders were draped in a little bright pink Venetian shawl. She was working at the bar, concentrated, biting her lip, and her movements were brisk, precise, staccato, like those of a clockwork soldier. Then, as he continued to watch, she turned away from the bar, stretched out both arms—it was as though she spread her wings—and sprang into the air with an ease so effortless that it seemed as if she remained for a moment birdlike, poised exquisitely in mid-flight, and when she descended to earth once more, lighter than a feather, she was obviously enchanted with her own skill, for she spun round on one toe, clapped her hands gleefully and laughed aloud. Her laughter, eerie, silvery as a bubble, rang out queerly in the darkness of the empty theater.

Borek, still unable to rid himself of the feeling that he had been spying, called to her, waved his hand and ran through the pass-door on to the stage.