"Kessel, how old do you think 1 am?"
Kessel, who enjoyed making scenes more than he enjoyed anything else in life except perhaps the dancing of Varsovina, feit, at the moment, after so much persistent nausea, in no condition whatsoever to make one. He therefore asked helplessly:
"I have no idea. How old are you?"
"Ah-ha! At last you have asked me a simple question, and you shall have a simple answer!"
She snuggled beneath her rose-colored shawl, lighted a cigarette, and said:
"I am thirty-seven. That, as God is my judge, is the truth. You are wrong. I am not ageless. I have an age. And I am still, comparatively speaking, a young woman."
Directly she had spoken, she knew that she had made a mistake. He did not believe, nor ever would believe, that she had for once told him the truth; it was certain, now, that he thought her over forty. She looked at him defiantly.
"You see me tired," she said, "and sick, and lonely, and discouraged. But you know that I am not always so. And I repeat—I am thirty-seven. Paul was born when I was a young girl. That, however, is not the point. The point is that I am thirty-seven, and that I can dance as brilliantly as ever for another seven years, if I take care of myself."
"Why," Kessel inquired, "are you telling me all this, Lina?"
"Because," she said dryly, "I know very well, as I said before, exactly what is at the back of your mind. You are thinking that I am finished, that there is nothing left of me, only the name of Varsovina. You are thinking that when I appear in Italy, in two months' time, it would be as well to engage some young ballerina from