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Kessel began placatingly, but there came a knock at the door and Marie came back with a gigantic basket of crimson and white carnations.

"More flowers! I shall take them all to the hospital tomorrow. Who sent these?"

"There's no card, Madame."

"Really, people are too stupid! Get me some more coffee."

"I am now going to encourage Rosa," Kessel informed her suavely, heaving himself out of his chair.

But Rosa, already dressed for Paquerette, showed no signs of requiring any encouragement.

"This is a great occasion for you, my dear mademoiselle," Kessel began pompously, for he was by no means sure that he approved of so much self-possession on first nights.

"Non e vero?" said Rosa happily. She began to polish her nails.

"Such responsibility," continued Kessel, eying her round white throat.

"Non e vero? But, after the Scala, one really minds nothing."

"Madame," pronounced Kessel ponderously, "is as nervous to-night as she was on the occasion of her d├ębut."

"La Poverina," commented Rosa, "and after so many years!"

In Lina's dressing-room Marie was inquiring anxiously whether her mistress intended watching Paquerette from the wings.

"No," said Lina.

"But, Madame "

"I shall leave the door open. Then I shall know how it goes."

"I am really sorry," Marie ventured, "for the poor Carlotta Rosa."