"It is!" cried Ashmead. "It is!"
"Yes, Mr. Ashmead," said the lady, coloring a little, but in pure English, and with a composure not easily disturbed; "it is Ina Klosking."
"What a pleasure," cried Ashmead; and what a surprise! Ah, madam, I never hoped to see you again. When I heard you had left the Munich Opera so sudden, I said, 'There goes one more bright star quenched forever.' And you to desert us--you, the risingest singer in Germany!"
"You can't deny it. You know you were."
The lady, thus made her own judge, seemed to reflect a moment, and said, "I was a well-grounded musician, thanks to my parents; I was a very hard-working singer; and I had the advantage of being supported, in my early career, by a gentleman of judgment and spirit, who was a manager at first, and brought me forward, afterward a popular agent, and talked managers into a good opinion of me."
"Ah, madam," said Ashmead, tenderly, "it is a great pleasure to hear this from you, and spoken with that mellow voice which would charm a rattlesnake; but what would my zeal and devotion have availed if you had not been a born singer?"
"Why--yes," said Ina, thoughtfully; "I was a singer." But she seemed to say this not as a thing to be proud of, but only because it happened to be true; and, indeed, it was a peculiarity of this woman that she appeared nearly always to think--if but for half a moment--before she spoke, and to say things, whether about herself or others, only because they were the truth. The reader who shall condescend to bear this in mind will possess some little clew to the color and effect of her words as spoken. Often, where they seem simple and commonplace--on paper, they were weighty by their extraordinary air of truthfulness as well as by the deep music of her mellow, bell-like voice.
"Oh, you do admit that," said Mr. Ashmead, with a chuckle; "then why jump off the ladder so near the top? Oh, of course I know--the old story--but you might give twenty-two hours to love, and still spare a couple to music."
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