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The Heart of an Artist

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Love has no place in the life of an artist. As he said to Grischa: the dancer who relies on the doubtful comforts of human love will never be a great dancer. Never.

Victoria Page was a great dancer once, and what is she now? A housewife, burying her gifts in service to her husband’s second-rate talent: impossible.

Why do you want to dance?, he had challenged her, that first night at Lady Neston’s, and Vicky had flung it back at him: Why do you want to live?

His hand is long since healed now, but sometimes when he is very tired he thinks he sees the blood on it still from the looking-glass he smashed, the night of the telegram announcing her marriage to Craster. His doctor babbles about rest. What does he understand of the life of Boris Lermontov?

Boronskaya calls him heartless. His heart is in his work, as a true artist’s must be.

The letter is on his desk, half-begun. He would not humble himself to any other dancer in the world, but no-one else dances like Vicky, like a flower, like a flame. No-one else has ever danced The Red Shoes. No-one ever shall. The company needs her. She must come back to them.

At first he can hardly take in what Dimitri is telling him: Lady Neston is back in Monte Carlo, and Miss Page is joining her aunt next week “for a short holiday”. There is a roaring in his ears as if he might be about to faint. But then the triumph reasserts itself: he should have known Vicky couldn’t stay away. There could never be any other choice than this. Not for her.

He tears the unfinished letter in two, then in two again. When he thinks how close he had come to humiliating himself, he can hardly breathe.

That’s all over now. Their future is assured. He will meet her on the train at Cannes, and by the time they reach Monte Carlo it will all be settled. Vicky will put on the red shoes and dance for them again.