Ina Klosking smiled for the first time. Ashmead, too, chuckled at his own wit, but turned suddenly grave the next moment, and moralized. He pronounced it desirable, for the interests of mankind, that a great and rising singer should not love out of the business; outsiders were wrong-headed and absurd, and did not understand the true artist. However, having discoursed for some time in this strain, he began to fear it might be unpalatable to her; so he stopped abruptly, and said, "But there--what is done is done. We must make the best of it; and you mustn't think I meant to run _him_ down. He loves you, in his way. He must be a noble fellow, or he never could have won such a heart as yours. He won't be jealous of an old fellow like me, though I love you, too, in my humdrum way, and always did. You must do me the honor to present me to him at once."
Ina stared at him, but said nothing.
"Oh," continued Ashmead, "I shall be busy till evening; but I will ask him and you to dine with me at the Kursaal, and then adjourn to the Royal Box. You are a queen of song, and that is where you and he shall sit, and nowhere else."
Ina Klosking was changing color all this time, and cast a grateful but troubled look on him. "My kind, old faithful friend!" said she, then shook her head. "No, we are not to dine with you; nor sit together at the opera, in Homburg."
Ashmead looked a little chagrined. "So be it," he said dryly. "But at least introduce me to him. I'll try and overcome his prejudices."
"It is not even in my power to do that."
"Oh, I see. I'm not good enough for him," said Ashmead, bitterly.
"You do yourself injustice, and him too," said Ina, courteously.
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