Sandra Belloni by George Meredith, complete
Part 8 out of 11
But Emilia's worst crime before the arraigning lady was that Wilfrid had
cast her off. Female justice, therefore, said: "You must be unworthy of
my brother;" and female delicacy thought: "You have been soiled by a
previous history." She had pitied Wilfrid: now she held him partially
blameless: and while love was throbbing in many pulses all round her.
The man she had seen besieged by passionate love, touched her cold
imagination with a hue of fire, as Winter dawn lies on a frosty field.
She almost conceived what this other, not sisterly, love might be; though
not as its victim, by any means. She became, as she had never before
been, spiritually tormented and restless. The thought framed itself that
Charlotte and Wilfrid were not, by any law of selection, to match. What
mattered it? Simply that it in some way seemed to increase the merits of
one of the two. The task, moreover, of avoiding to tease her brother was
made easier to her by flying to this new refuge of mysterious reflection.
At times she poured back the whole flood of her heart upon Merthyr, and
then in alarm at the host of little passions that grew cravingly alive in
her, she turned her thoughts to Wilfrid again; and so, till they turned
wittingly to him. That this host of little passions will invariably
surround a false great one, she learnt by degrees, by having to quell
them and rise out of them. She knew that now she occasionally forced her
passion for Merthyr; but what nothing could teach her was, that she did
so to eject another's image. On the contrary, her confession would have
been: "Voluntarily I dwell upon that other, that my love for Merthyr may
avoid excess." To such a state of clearness much self-questioning
brought her: but her blood was as yet unwarmed; and that is a condition
fostering self-deception as much as when it rages.
Madame Marini wrote to ask whether Emilia might receive the visits of a
Sir Purcell Barrett, whom they had met, and whom Emilia called her
friend; adding: "The other gentleman has called at our old lodgings three
times. The last time our landlady says, he wept. Is it an Englishman,
Merthyr laughed at this, remarking: "Charlotte is not so vigilant, after
"He wept." Georgiana thought and remembered the cold self-command that
his face had shown when Emilia claimed him, and his sole reply was, "I am
engaged to this lady," designating Lady Charlotte. Now, too, some of
Emilia's phrases took life in her memory. She studied them, thinking
over them, as if a voice of nature had spoken. Less and less it seemed
to her that a woman need feel shame to utter them. She interpreted this
as her growth of charity for a girl so violently stricken with love. "In
such a case, the more she says the more is she to be excused; for nothing
but a frenzy of passion could move her to speak so," thought Georgiana.
Accepting the words, and sanctioning the passion, the person of him who
had inspired it stood magnified in its light. She believed that if he
had played with the girl, he repented, and the idea of a man shedding
tears burnt to her heart.
Merthyr and Georgiana remained in Devonshire till a letter from Madame
Marini one morning told them that Emilia had disappeared.
"You delayed too long to go to her, Merthyr," said his sister,
astonishing him. "I understand why; but you may trust to time and scorn
chance too much. Let us go now and find her, if it is not too late."
Marini met them at the station in London, and they heard that Wilfrid had
discovered Marini's new abode, and had called there that morning. "I had
my eye on him. It was not a piece of love-play," said Marini: "and today
she should have seen my Chief, which would have cured her of sis
pestilence of a love, to give her sublime thoughts. Do you love her,
Miss Ford? Aha! it will be Christian names in Italy again."
"I like her very much," said Georgiana; "but I confess it mystifies me to
see you all so excited about her. It must be some attraction possessed
by her--what, I cannot say. I like her, certainly."
"Figlia mia! she is an element--she is fire!" said Marini. "My sought,
when our Mertyr brought her, was, it is Italy he sees in her face--her
voice--name--anysing! And a day passed, and I could not lose her for my
own sake, and felt a somesing, too! She is half man."
"A singular reason for an attraction." Georgiana smiled.
"She is not," Marini put out his fingers like claws to explain, while his
eyelashes met over his eyes--"she is not what man has made of your sex;
and she is brave of heart."
"Can you possibly tell what such a child can be?" questioned Georgiana,
Marini did not reply to her.
"A face to find a home in!--eh, Mertyr?"
"Let's discover where that face has found a home," said Merthyr. "She is
a very plain and unpretending person, if people will not insist upon her
being more. This morbid admiration of heroines puts a trifle too much
weight upon their shoulders, does it not?"
Georgiana knew that to call Emilia 'child' was to wound the most
sensitive nerve in Merthyr's system, if he loved her, and she had
determined to try harshly whether he did. Nevertheless, though the
expression succeeded, and was designedly cruel, she could not forgive the
insincerity of his last speech; craving in truth for confidence as her
smallest claim on him now. So, at all the consultations, she acquiesced
in any scheme that was proposed; the advertizings and the use of
detectives; the communication with Emilia's mother and father; and the
callings at suburban concert-rooms. Sir Purcell Barrett frequently
called to assist in the discovery. At first he led them to suspect Mr.
Pericles; but a trusty Italian playing spy upon that gentleman soon
cleared him, and they were more in the dark than ever. It was only when
at last Georgiana heard Merthyr, the picture of polished self-possession,
giving way to a burst of disappointment in the room before them all: "Are
we sure that she lives?" he cried:--then Georgiana, looking at the
firelight over her joined fingers, said:--
"But, have you forgotten the serviceable brigade you have in your organ-
boys, Marini? If Emilia sees one, be sure she will speak to him."
"Have I not said she is a General?" Marini pointed at Georgiana with a
gleam of his dark eyes, and Merthyr squeezed his sister's hand, thanking
her; by which he gave her one whole night of remorse, because she had not
"My voice! I have my voice!"
Emilia had cried it out to herself almost aloud, on the journey from
Devon to London. The landscape slipping under her eyes, with flashing
grey pools and light silver freshets, little glades, little copses,
farms, and meadows rounding away to spires of village churches under blue
hills, would not let her sink, heavy as was the spirit within her, and
dead to everything as she desired to be. Here, a great strange old oak
spread out its arms and seemed to hold the hurrying train a minute. When
gone by, Emilia thought of it as a friend, and that there, there, was the
shelter and thick darkness she had hoped she might be flying to. Or the
reach of a stream was seen, and in the middle of it one fair group of
clouds, showing distance beyond distance in colour. Emilia shut her
sight, and tried painfully to believe that there were no distances for
her. This was an easy task when the train stopped. It was surprising to
her then why the people moved. The whistle of the engine and rush of the
scenery set her imagination anew upon the horror of being motionless.
"My voice! I have my voice!" The exclamation recurred at intervals, as
a quick fear, that bubbled up from blind sensation, of her being utterly
abandoned, and a stray thing carrying no light, startled her. Darkness
she still had her desire for; but not to be dark in the darkness. She
looked back on the recent night as a lake of fire, through which she had
plunged; and of all the faculties about her, memory had suffered most, so
that it could recall no images of what had happened, but lay against its
black corner a shuddering bundle of nerves. The varying fields and woods
and waters offering themselves to her in the swiftness, were as wine
dashed to her lips, which could not be dead to it. The wish to be of
some worth began a painful quickening movement. At first she could have
sobbed with the keen anguish that instantaneously beset her. For--"If I
am of worth, who looks on me?" was her outcry, and the darkness she had
previously coveted fell with the strength of a mace on her forehead; but
the creature's heart struggled further, and by-and-by in despite of her
the pulses sprang a clear outlook on hope. It struck through her like
the first throb of a sword-cut. She tried to blind herself to it; the
face of hope was hateful.
This conflict of the baffled spirit of youth with its forceful flood of
being continued until it seemed that Emilia was lifted through the fiery
circles into daylight; her last cry being as her first: "I have my
Of that which her voice was to achieve for her she never thought. She
had no thought of value, but only an eagerness to feel herself possessor
of something. Wilfrid had appeared to her to have taken all from her,
until the recollection of her voice made her breathe suddenly quick and
deep, as one recovering the taste of life.
Despair, I have said before, is a wilful business, common to corrupt
blood, and to weak woeful minds: native to the sentimentalist of the
better order. The only touch of it that came to Emilia was when she
attempted to penetrate to Wilfrid's reason for calling her down to Devon
that he might renounce and abandon her. She wanted a reason to make him
in harmony with his acts, and she could get none. This made the world
look black to her. But, "I have my voice!" she said, exhausted by the
passion of the night, tearless, and only sensible to pain when the keen
swift wind, and the flying squares of field and meadow prompted her
nature mysteriously to press for healthy action.
A man opposite to her ventured a remark: "We're going at a pretty good
pace now, miss."
She turned her eyes to him, and the sense of speed was reduced in her at
once, she could not comprehend how. Remembering presently that she had
not answered him, she said: "It is because you are going home, perhaps,
that you think it fast."
"No, miss," he replied, "I'm going to market. They can't put on steam
too stiff for me when I'm bound on business."
Emilia found it impossible to fathom the sensations of the man, and their
common desire for speed bewildered her more. She was relieved when the
train was lightened of him. Soon the skirts of red vapour were visible,
and when the guard took poor Braintop's return-ticket from her petulant
hand, all of the journey that she bore in mind was the sight of a
butcher-boy in blue, with a red cap, mounted on a white horse, who rode
gallantly along a broad highroad, and for whom she had struck out some
tune to suit the measure of his gallop.
She accepted her capture by the Marinis more calmly than Merthyr had been
led to suppose. The butcher-boy's gallop kept her senses in motion for
many hours, and that reckless equestrian embodied the idea of the
vivifying pace from which she had dropped. He went slower and slower.
By degrees the tune grew dull, and jarred; and then Emilia looked out on
the cold grey skies of our autumn, the rain and the fogs, and roaring
London filled her ears. So had ended a dream, she thought. She would
stand at the window listening to street-organs, whose hideous discord and
clippings and drawls did not madden her, and whose suggestion of a lovely
tune rolled out no golden land to her. That treasure of her voice, to
which no one in the house made allusion, became indeed a buried treasure.
In the South-western suburb where the Marinis lived, plots of foliage
were to be seen, and there were lanes not so black but that they showed
the hues of the season. These led to the parks and to noble gardens.
Emilia daily went out to keep the dying colours of the year in view, and
walked to get among the trees, where, with Madame attendant on her, she
sat counting the leaves as each one curved, and slid, and spun to earth,
or on a gust of air hosts went aloft; but it always ended in their coming
down; Emilia verified that fact repeatedly. However high they flew, the
ground awaited them. Madame entertained her with talk of Italy, and
Tuscan wine, and Lombard bread, and Turin chocolate. Marini never
alluded to his sufferings for the loss of these cruelly interdicted
dainties, never! But Madame knew how his exile affected him. And in
England the sums one paid for everything! "One fancies one pays for
breath," said Madame, shivering.
One day the ex-organist of Hillford Church passed before them. Emilia
let him go. The day following he passed again, but turned at the end of
the alley and simulated astonishment at the appearance of Emilia, as he
neared her. They shook hands and talked, while Madame zealously eyed any
chance person promenading the neighbourhood. She wrote for instructions
concerning this gentleman calling himself Sir Purcell Barrett, and
receiving them, she permitted Emilia to invite him to their house. "He
is an Englishman under a rope, ready for heaven," Madame described him to
her husband, who, though more at heart with Englishmen, could not but
admit that this one wore a look that appeared as a prognostication of
Sir Purcell informed Emilia of his accession to title; and in reply to
her "Are you not glad?" smiled and said that a mockery could scarcely
make him glad; indicating nevertheless how feeble the note of poverty was
in his grand scale of sorrow. He came to the house and met them in the
gardens frequently. With some perversity he would analyze to herself
Emilia's spirit of hope, partly perhaps for the sake of probing to what
sort of thing it might be in its nature and defences; and, as against an
accomplished disputant she made but a poor battle, he injured what was
precious to her without himself gaining any good whatever.
"Why, what do you look forward to?" she said wondering, at the end of one
of their arguments, as he courteously termed this play of logical foils
with a baby.
"Death," answered the grave gentleman, striding on.
Emilia pitied him, thinking: "I might feel as he does, if I had not my
voice." Seeing that calamity very remote, she added: "I should!"
She knew of his position toward Cornelia: that is, she knew as much as he
did: for the want of a woman's heart over which to simmer his troubles
was urgent within him and Emilia's, though it lacked experience, was a
woman's regarding love. And moreover, she did not weep, but practically
suggested his favourable chances, which it was a sad satisfaction to him
to prove baseless, and to knock utterly over. The grief in which the
soul of a human creature is persistently seeking (since it cannot be
thrown off) to clothe itself comfortably, finds in tears an irritating
expression of sympathy. Hints of a brighter future are its nourishment.
Such embryos are not tenacious of existence, and when destroyed they are
succulent food for a space to the moody grief I am describing.
The melancholy gentleman did Emilia this good, that, never appearing to
imagine others to know misery save himself, he gave her full occupation
apart from the workings of her own mind. As to her case, he might have
offered the excuse that she really had nothing of the aspect of a
lovesick young lady, and was not a bit sea-green to view, or lamentable
in tone. He was sufficiently humane to have felt for anyone suffering,
and the proof of it is, that the only creature he saw under such an
influence he pitied so deplorably, as to make melancholy a habit with
him. He fretted her because he would do nothing, and this spectacle of a
lover beloved, but consenting to be mystified, consentingly paralyzed:--
of a lover beloved!--
"Does she love you?" said Emilia, beseechingly.
"If the truth is in her, she does," he returned.
"She has told you she loves you?--that she loves no one else?"
"Of this I am certain."
"Then, why are you downcast? my goodness! I would take her by the
hand 'Woman; do you know yourself? you belong to me!'--I would say that;
and never let go her hand. That would decide everything. She must come
to you then, or you know what it is that means to separate you. My
goodness! I see it so plain!"
But he declined to look thus low, and stood pitifully smiling:--This
spectacle, together with some subtle spur from the talk of love, roused
Emilia from her lethargy. The warmth of a new desire struck around her
heart. The old belief in her power over Wilfrid joined to a distinct
admission that she had for the moment lost him; and she said, "Yes; now,
as I am now, he can abandon me:" but how if he should see her and hear
her in that hushed hour when she was to stand as a star before men?
Emilia flushed and trembled. She lived vividly though her far-projected
sensations, until truly pity for Wilfrid was active in her bosom, she
feeling how he would yearn for her. The vengeance seemed to her so keen
that pity could not fail to come. Thus, to her contemplation, their
positions became reversed: it was Wilfrid now who stood in the darkness,
unselected. Her fiery fancy, unchained from the despotic heart,
illumined her under the golden future.
"Come to us this evening, I will sing to you," she said, and the
'Englishman under a rope' bowed assentingly.
"Sad songs, if you like," she added.
"I have always thought sadness more musical than mirth," said he.
"Surely there is more grace in sadness!"
Poetry, sculpture, and songs, and all the Arts, were brought forward in
mournful array to demonstrate the truth of his theory.
When Emilia understood him, she cited dogs and cats, and birds, and all
things of nature that rejoiced and revelled, in support of the opposite
"Nay, if animals are to be your illustration!" he protested. He had been
perhaps half under the delusion that he spoke with Cornelia, and with a
sense of infinite misery, he compressed the apt distinction that he had
in his mind; which was to show where humanity and simple nature drew a
line, and wherein humanity claimed the loftier seat.
"But such talk must be uttered to a soul," he phrased internally, and
Emilia was denied what belonged to Cornelia.
Hitherto Emilia had refused to sing, and Madame Marini, faithful to her
instructions, had never allowed her to be pressed to sing. Emilia would
brood over notes, thinking: "I can take that; and that; and dwell on such
and such a note for any length of time;" but she would not call up her
voice; she would not look at her treasure. It seemed more to her,
untouched; and went on doubling its worth, until doubtless her idea of
capacity greatly relieved her of the burden on her breast, and the
reflection that she held a charm for all, and held it from all, flattered
one who had been cruelly robbed.
On their way homeward, among the chrysanthemums in the long garden-walk,
they met Tracy Runningbrook, between whose shouts of delight and Emilia's
reserve there was so marked a contrast that one would have deemed Tracy
an offender in her sight. She had said to him entreatingly, "Do not
come," when he volunteered to call on the Marinis in the evening; and she
got away from him as quickly as she could, promising to be pleased if he
called the day following. Tracy flew leaping to one of the great houses
where he was tame cat. When Sir Purcell as they passed on spoke a
contemptuous word of his soft habits and idleness, Emilia said: "He is
one of my true friends."
"And why is he interdicted the visit this evening?"
"Because," she answered, and grew pale, "he--he does not care for music.
I wish I had not met him."
She recollected how Tracy's flaming head had sprung up before her--he who
had always prophesied that she would be famous for arts unknown to her,
and not for song just when she was having a vision of triumph and
caressing the idea of her imprisoned voice bursting its captivity, and
soaring into its old heavens.
"He does not care for music!" interjected Sir Purcell, with something
like a frown. "I have nothing in common with him. But that I might have
known. I can have nothing in common with a man who is not to be
impressed by music."
"I love him quite as well," said Emilia. "He is a quick friend. I am
always certain of him."
"And I imagine also that you are quits with your quick friend," added
Sir Purcell. "You do not care for verse, or he for voices!"
"Poetry?" said Emilia; "no, not much. It seems like talking on tiptoe;
like animals in cages, always going to one end and back again...."
"And making the same noise when they get at the end--like the bears!" Sir
Purcell slightly laughed. "You don't approve of the rhymes?"
"Yes, I like the rhymes; but when you use words--I mean, if you are in
earnest--how can you count and have stops, and--no, I do not care
anything for poetry."
Sir Purcell's opinion of Emilia, though he liked her, was, that if a
genius, she was an incomplete one; and his positive judgement (which I
set down in phrase that would have startled him) ranked both her and
Tracy as a pair of partial humbugs, entertaining enough. They were both
too real for him.
Haply at that moment the girl was intensely susceptible, for she chilled
by his side; and when he left her she begged Madame to walk fast. "I
wonder whether I have a cold!" she said.
Madame explained all the signs of it with tragic minuteness, deciding
that Emilia was free at present, and by miracle, from this English
scourge; but Emilia kept her hands at her mouth. Over the hornbeam hedge
of the lane that ran through the market-gardens, she could see a murky
sunset spreading its deep-coloured lines, that seemed to her really like
a great sorrowing over earth. It had never seemed so till now; and,
entering the house, the roar of vehicles in a neighbouring road sounded
like something implacable in the order of things among us, and clung
about her ears pitilessly. Running upstairs, she tried a scale of notes
that broke on a cough. "Did I cough purposely?" she asked herself; but
she had not the courage to try the notes again. While dressing she
hummed a passage, and sought stealthily to pass the barrier of her own
watchfulness by dwelling on a deep note, from which she was to rise
bursting with full bravura energy, and so forth on a tide of song. But
her breath failed. She stared into the glass and forced the note. A
panic caught at her heart when she heard the sound that issued. "Am I
ill? I must be hungry!" she exclaimed. "It is a cough! But I don't
cough! What is the matter with me?"
Under these auspices she forced her voice again, and subsequently
loosened her dress, complaining of the dressmaker's affection for
tightness. "Now," she said, having fallen upon an attempt at simple "do,
re, me, fa," and laughed at herself. Was it the laugh, that stopping her
at "si," made that "si" so husky, asthmatic, like the wheezing of a
crooked old witch? "I am unlucky, to-night," said Emilia. Or, rather,
so said her surface-self. The submerged self--self in the depths--rarely
speaks to the occasions, but lies under calamity quietly apprehending
all; willing that the talker overhead should deceive others, and herself
likewise, if possible. Emilia found her hands acting daintily and
critically in the attirement of her person; and then surprised herself
murmuring: "I forgot that Tracy won't be here to-night." By which she
betrayed that she had divined those arts she was to shine in, according
to Tracy; and betrayed that she had a terrible fear of a loss of all
else. It pained her now that Tracy should not be coming. "Can I send
for him?" she thought, as she looked winningly into the glass, trying to
feel what sort of a feeling it was to be in love with a face like that
one fronting her, so familiar in its aspects, so strange when scrutinized
studiously! She drew a chair, and laying her elbow on the toilet-table,
gazed hard, until the thought: "What face did Wilfrid see last?"
(meaning, "when he saw me last") drove her away.
Not only did she know herself now a face of many faces; but the life
within her likewise as a soul of many souls. The one Emilia, so
unquestioning, so sure, lay dead; and a dozen new spirits, with but a dim
likeness to her, were fighting for possession of her frame, now occupying
it alone, now in couples; and each casting grim reflections on the other.
Which is only a way of telling you that the great result of mortal
suffering--consciousness--had fully set in; to ripen; perhaps to debase;
at any rate, to prove her.
To be of worth was still her fixed idea--all that was clear in the
thickening mist. "I cannot be ugly," she said, and reproved herself for
simulating a childish tone. "Why do I talk in that way? I know I am not
ugly. But if a fire scorched my face? There is nothing that seems
safe!" The love of friends was suggested to her as something to rely on;
and the loving them. "But if I have nothing to give!" said Emilia, and
opened both her empty hands. She had diverted her mind from the pressure
upon it, by this colloquy with a looking-glass, and gave herself a great
rapture by running up notes to this theme:--
"No, no, no, no, no!--nothing! nothing!"
Clear, full, sonant notes; the notes of her true voice. She did not
attempt them a second time; nor, when Sir Purcell requested her to sing
in the course of the evening, did she comply. "The Signora thinks I have
a cold," she said. Madame Marini protested that she hoped not, she even
thought not, though none could avoid it at this season in this climate,
and she turned to Sir Purcell to petition for any receipts he might have
in his possession, specifics for warding off the frightful affliction of
households in England.
"I have now twenty," said Madame, and throwing up her eyes; "I have tried
all! oh! so many lozenge!"
Marini and Emilia laughed. While Sir Purcell was maintaining the fact of
his total ignorance of the subject against Madame's incredulity, Emilia
left the room. When she came back Madame was pressing her visitor to be
explicit with regard to a certain process of cure conducted by an
application of cold water. The Neapolitan gave several shudders as she
marked him attentively. "Water cold!" she murmured with the deepest
pathos, and dropped her face in her hands with narrowed shoulders.
Emilia held a letter over to Sir Purcell. He took it, first assuring
himself that Marini was in complicity with them. To Marini Emilia
addressed a Momus forefinger, and Marini shrugged, smiling. "Water
cold!" ejaculated Madame, showing her countenance again. "In winter!
Luigi, they are mad!" Marini poked the fire briskly, for his sensations
entirely sided with his wife.
The letter Sir Purcell held contained these words:
"Be kind, and meet me to-morrow at ten in the morning, at that place
where you first saw me sitting. I want you to take me to one who
will help me. I cannot lose time any more. I must work. I have
been dead for I cannot say how long. I know you will come.
"I am, for ever,
"Your thankful friend,
The pride of punctuality brought Sir Purcell to that appointed seat in
the gardens about a minute in advance of Emilia. She came hurrying up to
him with three fingers over her lips. The morning was cold; frost edged
the flat brown chestnut and beech leaves lying about on rimy grass; so at
first he made no remark on her evident unwillingness to open her mouth,
but a feverish look of her eyes touched him with some kindly alarm for
"You should not have come out, if you think you are in any danger," he
"Not if we walk fast," she replied, in a visibly-controlled excitement.
"It will be over in an hour. This way."
She led the marvelling gentleman toward the row, and across it under the
big black elms, begging him to walk faster. To accommodate her, he
suggested, that if they had any distance to go, they might ride, and
after a short calculating hesitation, she consented, letting him know
that she would tell him on what expedition she was bound whilst they were
riding. The accompaniment of the wheels, however, necessitated a higher
pitch of her voice, which apparently caused her to suffer from a
contraction of the throat, for she remained silent, with a discouraged
aspect, her full brown eyes showing as in a sombre meditation beneath the
thick brows. The direction had been given to the City. On they went
with the torrent, and were presently engulfed in fog. The roar grew
muffled, phantoms poured along the pavement, yellow beamless lights were
in the shop-windows, all the vehicles went at a slow march.
"It looks as if Business were attending its own obsequies," said Sir
Purcell, whose spirits were enlivened by an atmosphere that confirmed his
impression of things.
Emilia cried twice: "Oh! what cruel weather!" Her eyelids blinked,
either with anger or in misery.
They were set down a little beyond the Bank, and when they turned from
the cabman, Sir Purcell was warm in his offer of his arm to her, for he
had seen her wistfully touching what money she had in her pocket, and
approved her natural good breeding in allowing it to pass unmentioned.
"Now," he said, "I must know what you want to do."
"A quiet place! there is no quiet place in this City," said Emilia
A gentleman passing took off his hat, saying, with City politeness,
"Pardon me: you are close to a quiet place. Through that door, and the
hall, you will find a garden, where you will hear London as if it sounded
fifty miles off."
He bowed and retired, and the two (Emilia thankful, Sir Purcell tending
to anger), following his indication, soon found themselves in a most
perfect retreat, the solitude of which they had the misfortune, however,
of destroying for another, and a scared, couple.
Here Emilia said: "I have determined to go to Italy at once. Mr.
Pericles has offered to pay for me. It's my father's wish. And--and I
cannot wait and feel like a beggar. I must go. I shall always love
England--don't fear that!"
Sir Purcell smiled at the simplicity of her pleading look.
"Now, I want to know where to find Mr. Pericles," she pursued. "And if
you will come to him with me! He is sure to be very angry--I thought you
might protect me from that. But when he hears that I am really going at
last--at once!--he can laugh sometimes! you will see him rub his hands."
"I must enquire where his chambers are to be found," said Sir Purcell.
"Oh! anybody in the City must know him, because he is so rich." Emilia
coughed. "This fog kills me. Pray make haste. Dear friend, I trouble
you very much, but I want to get away from this. I can hardly breathe.
I shall have no heart for my task, if I don't see him soon."
"Wait for me, then," said Sir Purcell; "you cannot wait in a better
place. And I must entreat you to be careful." He half alluded to the
adjustment of her shawl, and to anything else, as far as she might choose
to apprehend him. Her dexterity in tossing him the letter, unseen by
Madame Marini, might have frightened him and given him a dread, that
albeit woman, there was germ of wickedness in her.
This pained him acutely, for he never forgot that she had been the means
of his introduction to Cornelia, from whom he could not wholly dissociate
her: and the idea that any prospective shred of impurity hung about one
who had even looked on his beloved, was utter anguish to the keen
sentimentalist. "Be very careful," he would have repeated, but that he
had a warning sense of the ludicrous, and Emilia's large eyes when they
fixed calmly on a face were not of a flighty east She stood, too, with
the "dignity of sadness," as he was pleased to phrase it.
"She must be safe here," he said to himself. And yet, upon reflection,
he decided not to leave her, peremptorily informing her to that effect.
Emilia took his arm, and as they were passing through the hall of
entrance they met the same gentleman who had directed them to the spot of
quiet. Both she and Sir Purcell heard him say to a companion: "There she
is." A deep glow covered Emilia's face. "Do they know you?" asked Sir
Purcell. "No," she said: and then he turned, but the couple had gone on.
"That deserves chastisement," he muttered. Briefly telling her to wait,
he pursued them. Emilia was standing in the gateway, not at all
comprehending why she was alone. "Sandra Belloni!" struck her ear.
Looking forward she perceived a hand and a head gesticulating from a cab-
window. She sprang out into the street, and instantly the hand clenched
and the head glared savagely. It was Mr. Pericles himself, in travelling
"I am your fool?" he began, overbearing Emilia's most irritating "How are
you?" and "Are you quite well?
"I am your fool? hein? You send me to Paris! to Geneve! I go over Lago
Maggiore, and aha! it is your joke, meess! I juste return. Oh capital!
At Milano I wait--I enquire--till a letter from old Belloni, and I learn
I am your fool--of you all! Jomp in."
"A gentleman is coming," said Emilia, by no means intimidated, though the
forehead of Mr. Pericles looked portentous. "He was bringing me to you."
"Zen, jomp in!" cried Mr. Pericles.
Here Sir Purcell came up.
Emilia said softly: "Mr. Pericles."
There was the form of a bow of moderate recognition between them, but
other hats were off to Emilia. The two gentlemen who had offended Sir
Purcell had insisted, on learning the nature of their offence, that they
had a right to present their regrets to the lady in person, and beg an
excuse from her lips. Sir Purcell stood white with a futile effort at
self-control, as one of them, preluding "Pardon me," said: "I had the
misfortune to remark to my friend, as I passed you, 'There she is.' May
I, indeed, ask your pardon? My friend is an artist. I met him after I
had first seen you. He, at least, does not think foolish my
recommendation to him that he should look on you at all hazards. Let me
petition you to overlook the impertinence."
"I think, gentlemen, you have now made the most of the advantage my
folly, in supposing you would regret or apologize fittingly for an
impropriety, has given you," interposed Sir Purcell.
His new and superior tone (for he had previously lost his temper and
spoken with a silly vehemence) caused them to hesitate. One begged the
word of pardon from Emilia to cover his retreat. She gave it with an air
of thorough-bred repose, saying, "I willingly pardon you," and looking at
them no more, whereupon they vanished. Ten minutes later, Emilia and Sir
Purcell were in the chambers of Mr. Pericles.
The Greek had done nothing but grin obnoxiously to every word spoken on
the way, drawing his hand down across his jaw, to efface the hard pale
wrinkles, and eyeing Emilia's cavalier with his shrewdest suspicious
"You will excuse,"--he pointed to the confusion of the room they were in,
and the heap of unopened letters,--"I am from ze Continent; I do not
expect ze pleasure. A seat?"
Mr. Pericles handed chairs to his visitors.
"It is a climate, is it not," he resumed.
Emilia said a word, and he snapped at her, immediately adding, "Hein?
Ah! so!" with a charming urbanity.
"How lucky that we should meet you," exclaimed Emilia. "We were just
coming to you--to find out, I mean, where you were, and call on you."
"Ough! do not tell me lies," said Mr. Pericles, clasping the hollow of
his cheeks between thumb and forefinger.
"Allow me to assure you that what Miss Belloni has said is perfectly
correct," Sir Purcell remarked.
Mr. Pericles gave a short bow. "It is ze same; I am much obliged."
"And you have just come from Italy?" said Emilia.
"Where you did me ze favour to send me, it is true. Sanks!"
"Oh, what a difference between Italy and this!" Emilia turned her face
to the mottled yellow windows.
"Many sanks," repeated Mr. Pericles, after which the three continued
silent for a time.
At last Emilia said, bluntly, "I have come to ask you to take me to
Mr. Pericles made no sign, but Sir Purcell leaned forward to her with a
gaze of astonishment, almost of horror.
"Will you take me?" persisted Emilia.
Still the sullen Greek refused either to look at her or to answer.
"Because I am ready to go," she went on. "I want to go at once; to-day,
if you like. I am getting too old to waste an hour."
Mr. Pericles uncrossed his legs, ejaculating, "What a fog! Ah!" and that
was all. He rose, and went to a cupboard.
Sir Purcell murmured hurriedly in Emilia's ear, "Have you considered what
you've been saying?"
"Yes, yes. It is only a journey," Emilia replied, in a like tone.
"My father wishes it."
"Hush! I intend to make him take the Madre with me."
She designated Mr. Pericles, who had poured into a small liqueur glass
some green Chartreuse, smelling strong of pines. His visitors declined
to eject the London fog by this aid of the mountain monks, and Mr.
Pericles warmed himself alone.
"You are wiz old Belloni," he called out.
"I am not staying with my father," said Emilia.
"Where?" Mr. Pericles shed a baleful glance on Sir Purcell.
"I am staying with Signor Marini."
"Servente!" Mr. Pericles ducked his head quite low, while his hand swept
the floor with an imaginary cap. Malice had lighted up his features, and
finding, after the first burst of sarcasm, that it was vain to indulge it
toward an absent person, he altered his style. "Look," he cried to
Emilia, "it is Marini stops you and old Belloni--a conspirator, aha! Is
it for an artist to conspire, and be carbonaro, and kiss books, and, mon
Dieu! bon! it is Marini plays me zis trick. I mark him. I mark him, I
say! He is paid by young Pole. I hold zat family in my hand, I say! So
I go to be met by you, and on I go to Italy. I get a letter at Milano,--
"Marini stop me at Dover," signed "Giuseppe Belloni." Ze letter have
been spied into by ze Austrians. I am watched--I am dogged--I am
imprisoned--I am examined. 'You know zis Giuseppe Belloni? 'Meine
Herrn! he was to come. I leave word at Paris for him, at Geneve, at
Stresa, to bring his daughter to ze Conservatoire, for which I pay. She
has a voice--or she had.'"
"Has!" exclaimed Emilia.
"Had!" Mr. Pericles repeated.
"Zen sing!" with which thunder of command, Mr. Pericles gave up his
vindictive narration of the points of his injuries sustained, and,
pitching into a chair, pressed his fingers to his temples, frowning
attention. His eyes were on the floor. Presently he glanced up, and saw
Emilia's chest rising quickly. No voice issued.
"It is to commence," cried Mr. Pericles. "Hein! now sing."
Emilia laid her hand under her throat. "Not now! Oh, not now! When you
have told me what those Austrians did to you. I want to hear; I am very
anxious to hear. And what they said of my father. How could he have
come to Milan without a passport? He had only a passport to Paris."
"And at Paris I leave instructions for ze procuration of a passport over
Lombardy. Am I not Antonio Pericles Agriolopoulos? Sing, I say!"
"Ah, but what voices you must have heard in Italy," said Emilia softly.
"I am afraid to sing after them. Si: I dare not."
She panted, little in keeping with the cajolery of her tones, but she had
got Mr. Pericles upon a theme serious to his mind.
"Not a voice! not one!" he cried, stamping his foot. "All is French. I
go twice wizin six monz, and if I go to a goose-yard I hear better. Oh,
yes! it is tune--"ta-ta-ta--ti-ti-ti--to!" and of ze heart--where is zat?
Mon Dieu! I despair. I see music go dead. Let me hear you, Sandra."
His enthusiasm had always affected Emilia, and painfully since her love
had given her a consciousness of infidelity to her Art, but now the
pathetic appeal to her took away her strength, and tears rose in her eyes
at the thought of his faith in her. His repetition of her name--the
'Sandra' being uttered with unwonted softness--plunged her into a fit of
"Ah!" Mr. Pericles shouted. "See what she has come to!" and he walked
two or three paces off to turn upon her spitefully. "she will be
vapeurs, nerfs, I know not! when it wants a physique of a saint! Sandra
Belloni," he added, gravely, "lift up ze head! Sing, 'Sempre al tuo
Emilia checked her tears. His hand being raised to beat time, she could
not withstand the signal. "Sempre;"--there came two struggling notes, to
which another clung, shuddering like two creatures on the deeps.
She stopped; herself oddly calling out "Stop."
"Stop who, donc?" Mr. Pericles postured an indignant interrogation.
"I mean, I must stop," Emilia faltered. "It's the fog. I cannot sing in
this fog. It chokes me."
Apparently Mr. Pericles was about to say something frightfully savage,
which was restrained by the presence of Sir Purcell. He went to the door
in answer to a knock, while Emilia drew breath as calmly as she might;
her head moving a little backward with her breathing, in a sad mechanical
way painful to witness. Sir Purcell stretched his hand out to her, but
she did not take it. She was listening to voices at the door. Was it
really Mr. Pole who was there? Quite unaware of the effect the sight of
her would produce on him, Emilia rose and walked to the doorway. She
heard Mr. Pole abusing Mr. Pericles half banteringly for his absence
while business was urgent, saying that they must lay their heads together
and consult, otherwise--a significant indication appeared to close the
"But if you've just come off your journey, and have got a lady in there,
we must postpone, I suppose. Say, this afternoon. I'll keep up to the
mark, if nothing happens...."
Emilia pushed the door from the hand of Mr. Pericles, and was advancing
toward the old man on the landing; but no sooner did the latter verify to
his startled understanding that he had seen her, than with an exclamation
of "All right! good-bye!" he began a rapid descent, of the stairs. A
distance below, he bade Mr. Pericles take care of her, and as an excuse
for his abrupt retreat, the word "busy" sounded up.
"Does my face frighten him?" Emilia thought. It made her look on herself
with a foreign eye. This is a dreadful but instructive piece of
contemplation; acting as if the rich warm blood of self should have
ceased to hug about us, and we stand forth to be dissected unresistingly.
All Emilia's vital strength now seemed to vanish. At the renewal of Mr.
Pericles' peremptory mandate for her to sing, she could neither appeal to
him, nor resist; but, raising her chest, she made her best effort, and
then covered her face. This was done less for concealment of her shame-
stricken features than to avoid sight of the stupefaction imprinted upon
"Again, zat A flat!" he called sternly.
She tried it.
Again she did her utmost to accomplish the task. If you have seen a girl
in a fit of sobs elevate her head, with hard-shut eyelids, while her
nostrils convulsively take in a long breath, as if for speech, but it is
expended in one quick vacant sigh, you know how Emilia looked. And it
requires a humane nature to pardon such an aspect in a person from whom
we have expected triumphing glances and strong thrilling tones.
"What is zis?" Mr. Pericles came nearer to her.
He would listen to no charges against the atmosphere. Commanding her to
give one simple run of notes, a contralto octave, he stood over her with
keenly watchful eyes. Sir Purcell bade him observe her distress.
"I am much obliged," Mr. Pericles bowed. "she is ruined. I have
suspected. Ha! But I ask for a note! One!"
This imperious signal drew her to another attempt. The deplorable sound
that came sent Emilia sinking down with a groan.
"Basta, basta! So, it is zis tale," said Mr. Pericles, after
an observation of her huddled shape. "Did I not say--"
His voice was so menacingly loud and harsh that Sir Purcell remarked:
"This is not the time to repeat it--pardon me--whatever you said."
"Ze fool--she play ze fool! Sir, I forget ze Christian--ah! Purcell!--I
say she play ze fool, and look at her! Why is it she comes to me now? A
dozen times I warn her. To Italy! to Italy! all is ready: you will have
a place at ze Conservatorio. No: she refuse. I say 'Go, and you are a
queen. You are a Prima at twenty, and Europe is beneas you.' No: she
refuse, and she is ruined. 'What,' I say, 'what zat dam silly smile
mean?' Oh, no! I am not lazy!' 'But you area fool!' 'Oh, no!' 'And
what are you, zen? And what shall you do?' Nussing! nussing! nussing!
And, dam! zere is an end."
Emilia had caught blindly at Sir Purcell's hand, by which she raised
herself, and then uncovering her face, looked furtively at the malign
furnace-white face of Mr. Pericles.
"It cannot have gone,"--she spoke, as if mentally balancing the
"It has gone, I say; and you know why, Mademoiselle ze Fool!" Mr.
"No, no; it can't be gone. Gone? voices never go!"
The reiteration of the "You know why," from Mr. Pericles, and all the
wretchedness of loss it suggested, robbed her of the little spark of
nervous fire by which she felt half-reviving in courage and confidence.
"Let me try once more," she appealed to him, in a frenzy.
Mr. Pericles, though fully believing in his heart that it might only be a
temporary deprivation of voice, affected to scout the notion of another
trial, but finally extended his forefinger: "Well, now; start! 'Sempre
al tuo Santo!' Commence: Sem--" and Mr. Pericles hummed the opening bar,
not as an unhopeful man would do. The next moment he was laughing
horribly. Emilia, to make sure of the thing she dreaded, forced the
note, and would not be denied. What voice there was in her came to the
summons. It issued, if I may so express it, ragged, as if it had torn
through a briar-hedge: then there was a whimper of tones, and the effect
was like the lamentation of a hardly-used urchin, lacking a certain music
that there is in his undoubted heartfelt earnestness. No single note
poised firmly for the instant, but swayed, trembling on its neighbour to
right and to left when pressed for articulate sound, it went into a
ghastly whisper. The laughter of Mr. Pericles was pleasing discord in
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Am I ill? I must be hungry!
Depreciating it after the fashion of chartered hypocrites.
Fine Shades were still too dominant at Brookfield
He thinks that the country must be saved by its women as well
I know that your father has been hearing tales told of me
My voice! I have my voice! Emilia had cried it out to herself
She had great awe of the word 'business'
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XL. SHE TASTES DESPAIR
XLI. SHE IS FOUND
XLII. DEFECTION OF MR. PERICLES FROM THE BROOKFIELD CIRCLE
XLIII. IN WHICH WE SEE WILFRID KINDLING
XLIV. ON THE HIPPOGRIFF IN AIR: IN WHICH THE PHILOSOPHER
HAS A SHORT SPELL.
XLV. ON THE HIPPOGRIFF ON EARTH.
XLVI. RAPE OF THE BLACK-BRIONY WREATH
XLVII. THE CALL TO ACTION
XLVIII. CONTAINS A FURTHER VIEW OF SENTIMENT
XLIX. BETWEEN EMILIA AND GEORGIANA
Emilia stretched out her hand and said, "Good-bye." Seeing that the
hardened girl, with her dead eyelids, did not appear to feel herself at
his mercy, and also that Sir Purcell's forehead looked threatening, Mr.
Pericles stopped his sardonic noise. He went straight to the door, which
he opened with alacrity, and mimicking very wretchedly her words of
adieu, stood prepared to bow her out. She astonished him by passing
without another word. Before he could point a phrase bitter enough for
expression, Sir Purcell had likewise passed, and in going had given him a
quietly admonishing look.
"Zose Poles are beggars!" Mr. Pericles roared after them over the stairs,
and slammed his door for emphasis. Almost immediately there was a knock
at it. Mr. Pericles stood bent and cat-like as Sir Purcell reappeared.
The latter, avoiding all preliminaries, demanded of the Greek that he
should promise not to use the names of his friends publicly in such a
"I require a promise for the future. An apology will be needless from
"I shall not give it," said Mr. Pericles, with a sharp lift of his upper
"But you will give me the promise I have returned for."
In answer Mr. Pericles announced that he had spoken what was simply true:
that the prosperity of the Poles was fictitious: that he, or any
unfavourable chance, could ruin them: and that their friends might do
better to protect their interests than by menacing one who had them in
Sir Purcell merely reiterated his demand for the promise, which was
ultimately snarled to him; whereupon he retired, joy on his features.
For, Cornelia poor, she might be claimed by him fearlessly: that is to
say, without the fear of people whispering that the penniless baronet had
sued for gold, and without the fear of her father rejecting his suit. At
least he might, with this knowledge that he had gained, appoint to meet
her now! All the morning Sir Purcell had been combative, owing to that
subordinate or secondary post he occupied in a situation of some
excitement;--which combativeness is one method whereby men thus placed,
imagining that they are acting devotedly for their friends, contrive
still to assert themselves. He descended to the foot of the stairs,
where he had told Emilia to wait for him, full of kind feelings and ready
cheerful counsels; as thus: "Nothing that we possess belongs to us;--All
will come round rightly in the end; Be patient, look about for amusement,
and improve your mind." And more of this copper coinage of wisdom in the
way of proverbs. But Emilia was nowhere visible to receive the
administration of comfort. Outside the house the fog appeared to have
swallowed her. With some chagrin on her behalf (partly a sense of duty
unfulfilled) Sir Purcell made his way to the residence of the Marinis, to
report of her there, if she should not have arrived. The punishment he
inflicted on himself in keeping his hand an hour from that letter to be
written to Cornelia, was almost pleasing; and he was rewarded by it, for
the projected sentences grew mellow and rich, condensed and throbbed
eloquently. What wonder, that with such a mental occupation, he should
pass Emilia and not notice her? She let him go.
But when he was out of sight, all seemed gone. The dismally-lighted city
wore a look of Judgement terrible to see. Her brain was slave to her
senses: she fancied she had dropped into an underground kingdom, among a
mysterious people. The anguish through which action had just hurried
her, now fell with a conscious weight upon her heart. She stood a
moment, seeing her desolation stretch outwardly into endless labyrinths;
and then it narrowed and took hold of her as a force within: changing
thus, almost with each breathing of her body.
The fog had thickened. Up and down the groping city went muffled men,
few women. Emilia looked for one of her sex who might have a tender
face. Desire to be kissed and loved by a creature strange to her, and to
lay her head upon a woman's bosom, moved her to gaze around with a
longing once or twice; but no eyes met hers, and the fancy recurred
vividly that she was not in the world she had known. Otherwise, what had
robbed her of her voice? She played with her fancy for comfort, long
after any real vitality in it had oozed out. Her having strength to play
at fancies showed that a spark of hope was alive. In truth, firm of
flesh as she was, to believe that all worth had departed from her was
impossible, and when she reposed simply on her sensations, very little
trouble beset her: only when she looked abroad did the aspect of numerous
indifferent faces, and the harsh flowing of the world its own way, tell
her she had lost her power. Could it be lost? The prospect of her
desolation grew so wide to her that she shut her eyes, abandoning herself
to feeling; and this by degrees moved her to turn back and throw herself
at the feet of Mr. Pericles. For, if he said, "Wait, my child, and all
will come round well," she was prepared blindly to think so. The
projection of the words in her mind made her ready to weep: but as she
neared the house of his office the wish to hear him speak that, became
passionate; she counted all that depended on it, and discovered the size
of the fabric she had built on so thin a plank. After a while, her steps
were mechanically swift. Before she reached the chambers of Mr. Pericles
she had walked, she knew not why, once round the little quiet enclosed
city-garden, and a cold memory of those men who had looked at her face
gave her some wonder, to be quickly kindled into fuller comprehension.
Beholding Emilia once more, Mr. Pericles enjoyed a revival of his taste
for vengeance; but, unhappily for her, he found it languid, and when he
had rubbed his hands, stared, and by sundry sharp utterances brought her
to his feet, his satisfaction was less poignant than he had expected. As
a consequence, instead of speaking outrageously, according to his habit,
in wrath, he was now frigidly considerate, informing Emilia that it would
be good for her if she were dead, seeing that she was of no use whatever;
but, as she was alive, she had better go to her father and mother, and
learn knitting, or some such industrial employment. "Unless zat man for
whom you play fool!--" Mr. Pericles shrugged the rest of his meaning.
"But my voice may not be gone," urged Emilia. "I may sing to you to-
morrow--this evening. It must be the fog. Why do you think it lost? It
"Cracked!" cried Mr. Pericles.
"It is not! No; do not think it. I may stay here. Don't tell me to go
yet. The streets make me wish to die. And I feel I may, perhaps, sing
presently. Wait. Will you wait?"
A hideous imitation of her lamentable tones burst from Mr. Pericles.
"Cracked!" he cried again.
Emilia lifted her eyes, and looked at him steadily. She saw the idea
grow in the eyes fronting her that she had a pleasant face, and she at
once staked this little bit of newly-conceived worth on an immediate
chance. Remember; that she was as near despair as a creature constituted
so healthily could go. Speaking no longer in a girlish style, but with
the grave pleading manner of a woman, she begged Mr. Pericles to take her
to Italy, and have faith in the recovery of her voice. He, however, far
from being softened, as he grew aware of her sweetness of feature, waxed
violent and insulting.
"Take me," she said. "My voice will reward you. I feel that you can
"For zat man! to go to him again!" Mr. Pericles sneered.
"I never shall do that." There sprang a glitter as of steel in Emilia's
eyes. "I will make myself yours for life, if you like. Take my hand,
and let me swear. I do not break my word. I will swear, that if I
recover my voice to become what you expected,--I will marry you whenever
you ask me, and then--"
More she was saying, but Mr. Pericles, sputtering a laugh of "Sanks!"
presented a postured supplication for silence.
"I am not a man who marries."
He plainly stated the relations that the woman whom he had distinguished
by the honours of selection must hold toward him.
Emilia's cheeks did not redden; but, without any notion of shame at the
words she listened to, she felt herself falling lower and lower the more
her spirit clung to Mr. Pericles: yet he alone was her visible
personification of hope, and she could not turn from him. If he cast her
off, it seemed to her that her voice was condemned. She stood there
still, and the cold-eyed Greek formed his opinion.
He was evidently undecided as regards his own course of proceeding, for
his chin was pressed by thumb and forefinger hard into his throat, while
his eyebrows were wrinkled up to their highest elevation. From this
attitude, expressive of the accurate balancing of the claims of an
internal debate, he emerged into the posture of a cock crowing, and
Emilia heard again his bitter mimicry of her miserable broken tones,
followed by Ha! dam! Basta! basta!"
"Sit here," cried Mr. Pericles. He had thrown himself into a chair, and
pointed to his knee.
Emilia remained where she was standing.
He caught at her hand, but she plucked that from him. Mr. Pericles rose,
sounding a cynical "Hein!"
"Don't touch me," said Emilia.
Nothing exasperates certain natures so much as the effort of the visibly
weak to intimidate them.
"I shall not touch you?" Mr. Pericles sneered. "Zen, why are you here?"
"I came to my friend," was Emilia's reply.
"Your friend! He is not ze friend of a couac-couac. Once, if you
please: but now" (Mr. Pericles shrugged), "now you are like ze rest of
women. You are game. Come to me."
He caught once more at her hand, which she lifted; then at her elbow.
"Will you touch me when I tell you not to?"
There was the soft line of an involuntary frown over her white face, and
as he held her arm from the doubled elbow, with her clenched hand aloft,
she appeared ready to strike a tragic blow.
Anger and every other sentiment vanished from Mr. Pericles in the
rapturous contemplation of her admirable artistic pose.
"Mon Dieu! and wiz a voice!" he exclaimed, dashing his fist in a delirium
of forgetfulness against the one plastered lock of hair on his shining
head. "Little fool! little dam fool!--zat might have been"--(Mr.
Pericles figured in air with his fingers to signify the exaltation she
was to have attained)--"Mon Dieu! and look at you! Did I not warn you?
non a vero? Did I not say 'Ruin, ruin, if you go so? For a man!--a
voice! You will not come to me? Zen, hear! you shall go to old
Belloni. I do not want you, my pretty dear. Woman is a trouble, a drug.
You shall go to old Belloni; and, crack! if ze voice will come back to a
whip,--bravo, old Belloni!"
Mr. Pericles turned to reach down his hat from a peg. At the same
instant Emilia quitted the room.
Dusk was deepening the yellow atmosphere, and the crowd was now steadily
flowing in one direction. The bereaved creature went with the stream,
glad to be surrounded and unseen, till it struck her, at last, that she
was moving homeward. She stopped with a pang of grief, turned, and met
all those people to whom the fireside was a beacon. For some time she
bore against the pressure, but her loneliness overwhelmed her. None
seemed to go her way. For a refuge, she turned into one of the city side
streets, where she was quite alone. Unhappily, the street was of no
length, and she soon came to the end of it. There was the choice of
retracing her steps, or entering a strange street; and while she
hesitated a troop of sheep went by, that made a piteous noise. She
followed them, thinking curiously of the something broken that appeared
to be in their throats. By-and-by, the thought flashed in her that they
were going to be slaughtered. She held her step, looking at them, but
without any tender movement of the heart. They came to a butcher's yard,
and went in.
When she had passed along a certain distance, a shiver seized her, and
her instinct pushed her toward the lighted shops, where there were
pictures. In one she saw the portrait of that Queen of Song whom she had
heard at Besworth. Two young men, glancing as they walked by arm in arm,
pronounced the name of the great enchantress, and hummed one of her
triumphant airs. The features expressed health, humour, power, every
fine animal faculty. Genius was on the forehead and the plastic mouth;
the forehead being well projected, fair, and very shapely, showing clear
balance, as well as capacity to grasp flame, and fling it. The line
reaching to a dimple from the upper lip was saved from scornfulness by
the lovely gleam, half-challenging, half-consoling, regal, roguish--what
you would--that sat between her dark eyelashes, like white sunlight on
the fringed smooth roll of water by a weir. Such a dimple, and such a
gleam of eyes, would have been keys to the face of a weakling, and it was
the more fascinating from the disregard of any minor charm notable upon
this grand visage, which could not suffer a betrayal. You saw, and there
was no effort to conceal, that the spirit animating it was intensely
human; but it was human of the highest chords of humanity, indifferent to
finesse and despising subtleties; gifted to speak, to inspire, and to
command all great emotions. In fact, it was the masque of a dramatic
artist in repose. Tempered by beauty, the robust frame showed that she
possessed a royal nature, and could, as a foremost qualification for Art,
feel harmoniously. She might have many of the littlenesses of which
women are accused; for Art she promised unspotted excellence; and,
adorable as she was by attraction of her sex, she was artist over all.
Emilia found herself on one of the bridges, thinking of this aspect.
Beneath her was the stealing river, with its red intervals, and the fog
had got a wider circle. She could not disengage that face from her mind.
It seemed to say to her, boldly, "I live because success is mine;" and to
hint, as with a paler voice, "Death the fruit of failure." Could she,
Emilia, ever be looked on again by her friends? The dread of it gave her
shudders. Then, death was certainly easy! But death took no form in her
imagination, as it does to one seeking it. She desired to forget and to
hide her intolerable losses; to have the impostor she felt herself to be
buried. As she walked along she held out her hands, murmuring,
"Helpless! useless!" It came upon her as a surprise that one like
herself should be allowed to live. "I don't want to," she said; and the
neat moment, "I wonder what a drowned woman is like?" She hurried back
to the streets and the shops. The shops failed now to give her
distraction, for a stiff and dripping image floated across all the
windows, and she was glad to see the shutters being closed; though, when
the streets were dark, some friendliness seemed to have gone. When the
streets were quits dark, save for the row of lamps, she walked fast,
fearing she knew not what.
A little Italian boy sat doubled over his organ on a doorstep, while a
yet smaller girl at his elbow plied him with questions in English.
Emilia stopped before them, and the girl complained to her that the
perverse little foreigner would not answer. Two or three words in his
native tongue soon brought his face to view. Emilia sat down between
them, and listened to the prattle of two languages. The girl said that
she never had supper, which was also the case with the boy; so Emilia
felt for her purse, and sent the girl with sixpence in search of a shop
that sold cafes. The girl came back with her apron full. As they were
all about to eat, a policeman commanded them to quit the spot, informing
them that he knew both them and their dodges. Emilia stood up, and was
taking her little people away, when the policeman, having suddenly
changed his accurate opinion of her, said, "You're giving 'em some
supper, miss? Oh, they must sit down to their suppers, you know!" and
walked away, not to be a witness of this infraction of the law. So, they
sat down and ate, and the boy and girl tried to say intelligible things
to one another, and laughed. Emilia could not help joining in their
laughter. The girl was very anxious to know whether the boy was ever
beaten, and hearing that he was, she appeared better satisfied, remarking
that she was also, but curious still as to the different forms of
chastisement they received. This being partially explained, she wished
to know whether he would be beaten that night, Emilia interpreting. A
grin, and a rapid whistle and 'cluck,' significant of the application of
whips, told the state of his expectations; at which the girl clapped her
hands, adding, lamentably, "So shall I, 'cause I am always." Emilia
gathered them under each shoulder, when, to her delight and half
perplexity, they closed their eyes, leaning against her.
The policeman passed, and for an hour endured this spectacle. At last he
felt compelled to explain to Emilia what were the sentiments of
gentlefolks with regard to their doorsteps, apart from the law of the
matter. He put it to her human nature whether she would like her
doorsteps to be blocked, so that no one could enter, and anyone emerging
stood a chance of being precipitated, nose foremost, upon the pavement.
Then, again, as gentle-folks had good experience of, the young ones in
London were twice as cunning as the old. Emilia pleaded for her sleeping
pair, that they might not be disturbed. Her voice gave the keeper of the
peace notions of her being one of the eccentric young ladies who are
occasionally 'missing,' and have advertizing friends. He uttered a stern
ahem! preliminary to assent; but the noise wakened the children, who
stared, and readily obeyed his gesture, which said, "Be off!" while his
words were those of remonstrance. Emilia accompanied them a little way.
Both promised eagerly that they would be at the same place the night
following and departed--the boy with laughing nods and waving of hands,
which the girl imitated. Emilia's feeling of security went with them.
She at once feigned a destination in the distance, and set forward to
reach it, but the continued exposure of this delusion made it difficult
to renew. She fell to counting the hours that were to elapse before she
would meet those children, saying to herself, that whatever she did she
must keep her engagement to be at the appointed steps. This restriction
set her darkly fancying that she wished for her end.
Remembering those men who had looked at her admiringly, "Am I worth
looking at?" she said; and it gave her some pleasure to think that she
had it still in her power to destroy a thing of value. She was savagely
ashamed of going to death empty-handed. By-and-by, great fatigue
stiffened her limbs, and she sat down from pure want of rest. The luxury
of rest and soothing languor kept hard thoughts away. She felt as if
floating, for a space. The fear of the streets left her. But when
necessity for rest had gone, she clung to the luxury still, and sitting
bent forward, with her hands about her knees, she began to brood over
tumbled images of a wrong done to her. She had two distinct visions of
herself, constantly alternating and acting like the temptation of two
devils. One represented her despicable in feature, and bade her die; the
other showed a fair face, feeling which to be her own, Emilia had fits of
intolerable rage. This vision prevailed; and this wicked side of her
humanity saved her. Active despair is a passion that must be superseded
by a passion. Passive despair comes later; it has nothing to do with
mental action, and is mainly a corruption or degradation of our blood.
The rage in Emilia was blind at first, but it rose like a hawk, and
singled its enemy. She fixed her mind to conceive the foolishness of
putting out a face that her rival might envy, and of destroying anything
that had value. The flattery of beauty came on her like a warm garment.
When she opened her eyes, seeing what she was and where, she almost
smiled at the silly picture that had given her comfort. Those men had
looked on her admiringly, it was true, but would Wilfrid have ceased to
love her if she had been beautiful? An extraordinary intuition of
Wilfrid's sentiment tormented her now. She saw herself in the light that
he would have seen her by, till she stood with the sensations of an
exposed criminal in the dark length of the street, and hurried down it,
back, as well as she could find her way, to the friendly policeman.
Her question on reaching him, "Are you married?" was prodigiously
astonishing, and he administered the rebuff of an affirmative with
severity. "Then," said Emilia, "when you go home, let me go with you to
your wife. Perhaps she will consent to take care of me for this night."
The policeman coughed mildly and replied, "It's plain you know nothing
of women--begging your pardon, miss,--for I can see you're a lady."
Emilia repeated her petition, and the policeman explained the nature of
women. Not to be baffled, Emilia said, "I think your wife must be a good
woman." Hereat the policeman laughed, arming "that the best of them knew
what bad suspicions was." Ultimately, he consented to take her to his
wife, when he was relieved, after the term of so many minutes. Emilia
stood at a distance, speculating on the possible choice he would make of
a tune to accompany his monotonous walk to and fro, and on the certainty
of his wearing any tune to nothing.
She was in a bed, sleeping heavily, a little before dawn.
The day that followed was her day of misery. The blow that had stunned
her had become as a loud intrusive pulse in her head. By this new
daylight she fathomed the depth, and reckoned the value, of her loss.
And her senses had no pleasure in the light, though there was sunshine.
The woman who was her hostess was kind, but full of her first surprise at
the strange visit, and too openly ready for any information the young
lady might be willing to give with regard to her condition, prospects,
and wishes. Emilia gave none. She took the woman's hand, asking
permission to remain under her protection. The woman by-and-by named a
sum of money as a sum for weekly payment, and Emilia transferred all to
her that she had. The policeman and his wife thought her, though
reasonable, a trifle insane. She sat at a window for hours watching a
'last man' of the fly species walking up and plunging down a pane of
glass. On this transparent solitary field for the most objectless
enterprise ever undertaken, he buzzed angrily at times, as if he had
another meaning in him, which was being wilfully misinterpreted. Then he
mounted again at his leisure, to pitch backward as before. Emilia found
herself thinking with great seriousness that it was not wonderful for
boys to be always teasing and killing flies, whose thin necks and bobbing
heads themselves suggested the idea of decapitation. She said to her
hostess: "I don't like flies. They seem never to sing but when they are
bothered." The woman replied: "Ah, indeed?" very smoothly, and thought:
"If you was to bust out now, which of us two would be strongest?" Emilia
grew distantly aware that the policeman and his wife talked of her and
watched her with combined observation.
When it was night she went to keep her appointment. The girl was there,
but the boy came late. He said he had earned only a few pence that day,
and would be beaten. He spoke in a whimpering tone which caused the girl
to desire a translation of his words. Emilia told her how things were
with him, and the girl expressed a wish that she had an organ, as in that
case she would be sure to earn more than sixpence a day; such being the
amount that procured her nightly a comfortable reception in the arms of
her parents. "Do you like music?" said Emilia. The girl replied that
she liked organs; but, as if to avoid committing an injustice, cited
parrots as foremost in her affections. Holding them both to her breast,
Emilia thought that she would rescue them from this beating by giving
them the money they had to offer for kindness: but the restlessness of
the children suddenly made her a third party to the thought of cakes.
She had no money. Her heart bled for the poor little hungry,
apprehensive creatures. For a moment she half fancied she had her voice,
and looked up at the windows of the pitiless houses with a bold look; but
there was a speedy mockery of her thought "You shall listen: you shall
open!" She coughed hoarsely, and then fell into fits of crying. Her
friend the policeman came by and took her arm with a force that he meant
to be persuasive; so lifting her and handing her some steps beyond the
limit of his beat, with stern directions for her to proceed home
immediately. She obeyed. Next day she asked her hostess to lend her
half-a-crown. The woman snapped shortly in answer: "No; the less you
have the better." Emilia was obliged to abandon her little people.
She was to this extent the creature of mania: that she could not conceive
of a way being open by which she might return to her father and mother,
or any of her friends. It was to her not a matter for her will to decide
upon, but simply a black door shut that nothing could displace. When the
week, for which term of shelter she had paid, was ended, her hostess
spoke upon this point, saying, more to convince Emilia of the necessity
for seeking her friends than from any unkindness: "Me and my husband
can't go on keepin' you, you know, my dear, however well's our meaning."
Emilia drew the woman toward her with both her lands, softly shaking her
head. She left the house about noon.
It was now her belief that she had probably no more than another day to
live, for she was destitute of money. The thought relieved her from that
dreadful fear of the street, and she walked at her own pace, even after
dark. The rumble and the rattle of wheels; the cries and grinding
noises; the hum of motion and talk; all under the lingering smoky red of
a London Winter sunset, were not discord to her animated blood. Her
unhunted spirit made a music of them. It was not like the music of other
days, nor was the exultation it created at all like happiness: but she at
least forgot herself. Voices came in her ear, and hung unheard until
long after the speaker had passed. Hunger did not assail her. She was
not beset by an animal weakness; and having in her mind no image of
death, and with her ties to life cut away;--thus devoid of apprehension
or regret, she was what her quick blood made her, for the time. She
recognized that, for one near extinction, it was useless to love or to
hate: so Wilfrid and Lady Charlotte were spared. Emilia thought of them
both with a sort of equanimity; not that any clear thought filled her
brain through that delirious night. The intoxicating music raged there
at one level depression, never rising any scale, never undulating ever so
little, scarcely changing its barbarous monotony of notes. She had no
power over it. Her critical judgement would at another moment have
shrieked at it. She was moved by it as by a mechanical force.
The South-west wind blew, and the hours of the night were not evil to
outcasts. Emilia saw many lying about, getting rest where they might.
She hurried her eye pityingly over little children, but the devil that
had seized her sprang contempt for the others--older beggars, who
appeared to succumb to their fate when they should have lifted their
heads up bravely. On she passed from square to market, market to park;
and presently her mind shot an arrow of desire for morning, which was
nothing less than hunger beginning to stir. "When will the shops open?"
She tried to cheat herself by replying that she did not care when, but
pangs of torment became too rapid for the counterfeit. Her imagination
raised the roof from those great rich houses, and laid bare a brilliancy
of dish-covers; and if any sharp gust of air touched the nerve in her
nostril, it seemed instantaneously charged with the smell of old dinners.
"No," cried Emilia, "I dislike anything but plain food." She quickly
gave way, and admitted a craving for dainty morsels. "One lump of
sugar!" she subsequently sighed. But neither sugar nor meat approached
Her seat was under trees, between a man and a woman who slanted from her
with hidden chins. The chilly dry leaves began to waken, and the sky
showed its grey. Hunger had become as a leaden ball in Emilia's chest.
She could have eaten eagerly still, but she had no ravenous images of
food. Nevertheless, she determined to beg for bread at a baker's shop.
Coming into the empty streets again, the dread of exposing her solitary
wretchedness and the stains of night upon her, kept her back. When she
did venture near the baker's shop, her sensation of weariness, want of
washing, and general misery, made her feel a contrast to all other women
she saw, that robbed her of the necessary effrontery. She preferred to
hide her head.
The morning hours went in this conflict. She was between-whiles hungry
and desperate, or stricken with shame. Fatigue, bringing the imperious
necessity for rest, intervened as a relief. Emilia moaned at the weary
length of the light, but when dusk fell and she beheld flame in the
lamps, it seemed to be too sudden and she was alarmed. Passive despair
had set in. She felt sick, though not weak, and the thought of asking
help had gone.
A street urchin, of the true London species, in whom excess of woollen
comforter made up for any marked scantiness in the rest of his attire,
came trotting the pavement, pouring one of the favourite tunes of his
native metropolis through the tube of a penny-whistle, from which it did
not issue so disguised but that attentive ears might pronounce it the
royal march of the Cannibal Islands. A placarded post beside a lamp met
this musician's eye; and, still piping, he bent his knees and read the
notification. Emilia thought of the Hillford and Ipley clubmen, the big
drum, the speeches, the cheers, and all the wild strength that lay in her
that happy morning. She watched the boy piping as if he were reading
from a score, and her sense of humour was touched. "You foolish boy!"
she said to herself softly. But when, having evidently come to the last
printed line, the boy rose and pocketed his penny-whistle, Emilia was
nearly laughing. "That's because he cannot turn over the leaf," she
said, and stood by the post till long after the boy had disappeared. The
slight emotion of fun had restored to her some of her lost human
sensations, and she looked about for a place where to indulge them
undisturbed. One of the bridges was in sight She yearned for the
solitude of the wharf beside it, and hurried to the steps. To descend
she had to pass a street-organ and a small figure bent over it. "Sei
buon' Italiano?" she said. The answer was a surly "Si." Emilia cried
convulsively "Addio!" Her brain had become on a sudden vacant of a
thought, and all she knew was that she descended.
"Sei buon' Italiana?"
Across what chasm did the words come to her?
It seemed but a minutes and again many hours back, that she had asked
that question of a little fellow, who, if he had looked up and nodded
would have given her great joy, but who kept his face dark from her and
with a sullen "Si" extinguished her last feeling of a desire for
companionship with life.
"Si," she replied, quite as sullenly, and without looking up.
But when her hand was taken and other words were uttered, she that had
crouched there so long between death and life immovable, loving neither,
rose possessed of a passion for the darkness and the void, and struggling
bitterly with the detaining hand, crying for instant death. No strength
was in her to support the fury.
"Merthyr Powys is with you," said her friend, "and will never leave you."
"Will never take me up there?" Emilia pointed to the noisy level above
"Listen, and I will tell you how I have found you," replied Merthyr.
"Don't force me to go up."
She spoke from the end of her breath. Merthyr feared that it was more
than misery, even madness, afflicting her. He sat on the wharf-bench
silent till she was reassured. But at his first words, the eager
question came: "You will not force me to go up there?"
"No; we can stay and talk here," said Merthyr. "And this is how I have
found you. Do you suppose you have been hidden from us all this time?
Perhaps you fancy you do not belong to your friends? Well, I spoke to
all of your 'children,' as you used to call them. Do you remember? The
day before yesterday two had seen you. You said to one, 'From Savoy or
Piedmont?' He said, 'From Savoy;' and you shook your head: 'Not looking
on Italy!' you said. This night I roused one of them, and he stretched
his finger down the steps, saying that you had gone down there. 'Sei
buon' Italiano?" you said. "And that is how I have found you. Sei buon'
Emilia let her hand rest in Merthyr's, wondering to think that there
should be no absolute darkness for a creature to escape into while
living. A trembling came on her. "Let me look over at the water," she
said; and Merthyr, who trusted her even in that extremity, allowed her to
lean forward, and felt her grasp grow moist in his, till she turned back
with shudders, giving him both her hands. "A drowned woman looks so
dreadful!" Her speech was faint as she begged to be taken away from that
place. Merthyr put his hand to her arm-pit, sustaining her steps. As
they neared the level where men were, she looked behind her and realized
the black terrors she had just been blindly handling. Fright sped her
limbs for a second or two, and then her whole weight hung upon Merthyr.
He held her in both arms, thinking that she had swooned, but she
murmured: "Have you heard that my voice has gone?"
"If you have suffered, I do not wonder," he said.
"I am useless. My voice is dead."
"Useless to your friends? Tush, my little Emilia! Sandra mia! Don't
you know that while you love your friends that's all they want of you?"
"Oh!" she moaned; "the gas-lamp hurts me. What a noise there is!"
"We shall soon get away from the noise."
"No; I like it; but not the light. Oh, my feet!--why are you walking
still? What friends?"
"For instance, myself."
"You knew of my wandering about London! It makes me believe in heaven.
I can't bear to think of being unseen."
"This morning," said Merthyr, "I saw the policeman in whose house you
have been staying."
Emilia bowed her head to the mystery by which this friend was endowed to
be cognizant of her actions. "I feel that I have not seen the streets
for years. If it were not for you I should fall down.--Oh! do you
understand that my voice has quite gone?"
Merthyr perceived her anxiety to be that she might not betaken on
doubtful terms. "Your hand hasn't," he said, pressing it, and so
gratified her with a concrete image of something that she could still
bestow upon a friend. To this she clung while the noisy wheels bore her
through London, till her weak body failed to keep courage in her breast,
and she wept and came closer to Merthyr. He who supposed that her recent
despair and present tears were for the loss of her lover, gave happily
more comfort than he took. "When old gentlemen choose to interest
themselves about very young ladies," he called upon his humorous
philosophy to observe internally, as men do to forestall the possible
cynic external;--and the rest of the sentence was acted under his eyes by
the figures of three persons. But, there she was, lying within his arm,
rescued, the creature whom he had found filling his heart, when lost, and
whom he thought one of the most hopeful of the women of earth! He
thanked God for bare facts. She lay against him with her eyelids softly
joined, and as he felt the breathing of her body, he marvelled to think
how matter-of-fact they had both been on the brink of a tragedy, and how
naturally she had, as it were, argued herself up to the gates of death.
For want of what? "My sister may supply it," thought Merthyr.
"Oh! that river is like a great black snake with a sick eye, and will
come round me!" said Emilia, talking as from sleep; then started, with
fright in her face: "Oh! my hunger again!"
"Hunger!" said he, horrified.
"It comes worse than ever," she moaned. "I was half dead just now, and
didn't feel it. There's--there's no pain in death. But this--it's like
fire and frost! I feel being eaten up. Give me something."
Merthyr set his teeth and enveloped her in a tight hug that relieved her
from the sharper pangs; and so held her, the tears bursting through his
shut eyelids, till at the first hotel they reached he managed to get food
for her. She gave a little gasping cry when he put bread through the
window of the cab. Bit by bit he handed her the morsels. It was
impossible to procure broth. When they drove on, she did not complain of
suffering, but her chest rose and fell many times heavily. She threw him
out in the reading of her character, after a space, by excusing herself
for having eaten with such eagerness; and it was long before he learnt
what Wilfrid's tyrannous sentiment had done to this simple nature. He
understood better the fear she expressed of meeting Georgiana.
Nevertheless, she exhibited none on entering the house, and returned
Georgiana's embrace with what strength was left to her.
Up the centre aisle of Hillford Church, the Tinleys (late as usual) were
seen trooping for morning service in midwinter. There was a man in the
rear known to be a man by the sound of his boots and measure of his
stride, for the ladies of Brookfield, having rejected the absurd
pretensions of Albert Tinley, could not permit curiosity to encounter the
risk of meeting his gaze by turning their heads. So, with charitable
condescension they returned the slight church nod of prim Miss Tinley
passing, of the detestable Laura Tinley, of affected Rose Tinley (whose
complexion was that of a dust-bin), and of Madeline Tinley (too young for
a character beyond what the name bestowed), and then they arranged their
prayer-books, and apparently speculated as to the possible text that
morning to be given forth from the pulpit. But it seemed to them all
that an exceedingly bulky object had passed as guardian of the light-
footed damsels preceding him. Though none of the ladies had looked up as
he passed, they were conscious of a stature and a circumference which
they had deemed to be entirely beyond the reach of the Tinleys, and a
scornful notion of the Tinleys having hired a guardsman, made Arabella
smile at the stretch of her contempt, that could help her to conceive the
ironic possibility. Relieved on the suspicion that Albert was in
attendance of his sisters, they let their eyes fall calmly on the Tinley
pew. Could two men upon this earthly sphere possess such a bearskin?
There towered the shoulders of Mr. Pericles; his head looking diminished
by the hugeous collar. Arabella felt a seizure of her hand from Adela's
side. She placed her book open before her, and stared at the pulpit.
From neither of the three of Brookfield could Laura's observation extract
a sign of the utter astonishment she knew they must be experiencing; and
had it not been for the ingenuous broad whisper of Mrs. Chump, which
sounded toward the verge even of her conception of possibilities, the
Tinleys would not have been gratified by the first public display of the
prize they had wrested from the Poles.
"Mr. Paricles--oh!" went Mrs. Chump, and a great many pews were set in
Forthwith she bent over Cornelia's lap, and Cornelia, surveying her
placidly, had to murmur, "By-and-by; by-and-by."
"But, did ye see 'm, my dear? and a forr'ner in a Protestant Church!
And such a forr'ner as he is, to be sure! And, ye know, ye said he'd
naver come with you, and it's them creatures ye don't like. Corrnelia!"
"The service commences," remarked that lady, standing up.
Many eyes were on Mr. Pericles, who occasionally inspected the cornices
and corbels and stained glass to right and left, or detected a young lady
staring at him, or anticipated her going to stare, and put her to
confusion by a sharp turn of his head, and then a sniff and smoothing
down of his moustache. But he did not once look at the Brookfield pew.
By hazard his eye ranged over it, and after the first performance of this
trick he would have found the ladies a match for him, even if he had
sought to challenge their eyes. They were constrained to admit that
Laura Tinley managed him cleverly. She made him hold a book and appear
respectably devout. She got him down in good time when seats were taken,
and up again, without much transparent persuasion. The first notes of
the organ were seen to agitate the bearskin. Laura had difficulty to
induce the man to rise for the hymn, and when he had listened to the
intoning of a verse, Mr. Pericles suddenly bent, as if he had snapped in
two: nor could Laura persuade him to rejoin the present posture of the
congregation. Then only did Laura, to cover her failure, turn the
subdued light of a merry smile upon the Brookfield pew.
The smile was noticed by Apprehension sitting in the corner of one eye,
and it was likewise known that Laura's chagrin at finding that she was
not being watched affected her visibly. At the termination of the
sermon, the ladies bowed their heads a short space, and placing Mrs.
Chump in front drove her out, so that her exclamations of wonderment, and
affectedly ostentatious gaspings of sympathy for Brookfield, were heard
by few. On they hurried, straight and fast to Brookfield. Mr. Pole was
talking to Tracy Runningbrook at the gate. The ladies cut short his
needless apology to the young man for not being found in church that day,
by asking questions of Tracy. The first related to their brother's
whereabouts; the second to Emilia's condition. Tracy had no time to
reply. Mrs. Chump had identified herself with Brookfield so warmly that
the defection of Mr. Pericles was a fine legitimate excitement to her.
"I hate 'm!" she cried. "I pos'tively hate the man! And he to go to
church! A pretty figure for an angel--he, now! But, my dears, we cann't
let annybody else have 'm. Shorrt of his bein' drowned or killed, we
must intrigue to keep the wretch to ourselves."
"Oh, dear!" said Adela impatiently.
"Well, and I didn't say to myself, ye little jealous thing!" retorted
"Indeed, ma'am, you are welcome to him."
"And indeed, miss, I don't want 'm. And, perhaps, ye were flirtin' all
the fun out of him on board the yacht, and got tired of 'm; and that's
Adela said: "Thank you," with exasperating sedateness, which provoked an
intemperate outburst from Mrs. Chump. "Sunday! Sunday!" cried Mr. Pole.
"Ain't I the first to remember ut, Pole? And didn't I get up airly so as
to go to church and have my conscience qui't, and 'stead of that I come
out full of evil passions, all for the sake o' these ungrateful garls
that's always where ye cann't find 'em. Why, if they was to be married
at the altar, they'd stare and be 'ffendud if ye asked them if they was
thinking of their husbands, they would! 'Oh, dear, no! and ye're
mistaken, and we're thinkin' o' the coal-scuttle in the back parlour,'--
or somethin' about souls, if not coals. There's their answer. What did
ye do with Mr. Paricles on board the yacht? Aha!"
"What's this about Pericles?" said Mr. Pole.
"Oh, nothing, Papa," returned Adela.
"Nothing, do ye call ut!" said Mrs. Chump. "And, mayhap, good cause too.
Didn't ye tease 'm, now, on board the yacht? Now, did he go on board the
yacht at all?"
"I should think you ought to know that as well as Adela," said Mr. Pole.
Adela interposed, hurriedly: "All this, my dear Papa, is because Mr.
Pericles has thought proper to visit the Tinleys' pew. Who would
complain how or where he does it, so long as the duty is fulfilled?"
Mr. Pole stared, muttering: "The Tinleys!"
"She's botherin' of ye, Pole, the puss!" said Mrs. Chump, certain that
she had hit a weak point in that mention of the yacht. "Ask her what
sorrt of behaviour--"
"And he didn't speak to any of you?" said Mr. Pole.
"He looked the other way?"
"He did us that honour."
"Ask her, Pole, how she behaved to 'm on board the yacht," cried Mrs.
Chump. "Oh! there was flirtin', fiirtin'! And go and see what the noble
poet says of tying up in sacks and plumpin' of poor bodies of women into
forty fathoms by them Turks and Greeks, all because of jeal'sy. So, they
make a woman in earnest there, the wretches, 'cause she cann't have onny
of her jokes. Didn't ye tease Mr. Paricles on board the yacht, Ad'la?
Now, was he there?"
"Martha! you're a fool!" said Mr. Pole, looking the victim of one of his
fits of agitation. "Who knows whether he was there better than you?
You'll be forgetting soon that we've ever dined together. I hate to see
a woman so absurd! There--never mind! Go in: take off bonnet something
--anything! only I can't bear folly! Eh, Mr. Runningbrook?"
"'Deed, Pole, and ye're mad." Mrs. Chump crossed her hands to reply with
full repose. "I'd like to know how I'm to know what I never said."
The scene was growing critical. Adela consulted the eyes of her sisters,
which plainly said that this was her peculiar scrape. Adela ended it by
going up to Mrs. Chump, taking her by the shoulders, and putting a kiss
upon her forehead. "Now you will see better," she said. "Don't you know
Mr. Pericles was not with us? As surely as he was with the Tinleys this
"And a nice morning it is!" ejaculated Mr. Pole, trotting off hurriedly.
"Does Pole think--" Mrs. Chump murmured, with reference to her voyaging
on the yacht. The kiss had bewildered her sequent sensations.
"He does think, and will think, and must think," Adela prattled some
persuasive infantine nonsense: her soul all the while in revolt against
her sisters, who left her the work to do, and took the position of
spectators and critics, condemning an effort they had not courage to
"By the way, I have to congratulate a friend of mine," said Tracy,
selecting Adela for an ironical bow.
"Then it is Captain Gambier," cried Mrs. Chump, as if a whole revelation
had burst on her. Adela blushed. "Oh! and what was that I heard?"
continued the aggravating woman.
Adela flashed her eyes round on her sisters. Even then they left her
without aid, their feeling being that she had debased the house by her
familiarity with this woman before Tracy.
"Stay! didn't ye both--" Mrs. Chump was saying.
"Yes?"--Adela passed by her--"only in your ears alone, you know! "At
which hint Mrs. Chump gleefully turned and followed her. A rumour was
prevalent of some misadventure to Adela and the captain on board the
yacht. Arabella saw her depart, thinking, "How singular is her
propensity to imitate me!" for the affirmative uttered in the tone of
interrogation was quite Arabella's own; as also occasionally the
negative,--the negative, however, suiting the musical indifference of the
sound, and its implied calm breast.
"As for Pericles," said Tracy, "you need not wonder that the fellow prays
in other pews than yours. By heaven! he may pray and pray: I'd send him
to Hades with an epigram in his heart!"
From Tracy the ladies learnt that Wilfrid had inflicted public
chastisement upon Mr. Pericles for saying a false thing of Emilia. He
danced the prettiest pas seal that was ever footed by debutant on the hot
iron plates of Purgatory. They dared not ask what it was that Mr.
Pericles had said, but Tracy was so vehement on the subject of his having
met his deserts, that they partly guessed it to bear some relation to
their sex's defencelessness, and they approved their brother's work.
Sir Twickenham and Captain Gambier dined at Brookfield that day. However
astonishing it might be to one who knew his character and triumphs, the
captain was a butterfly netted, and was on the highroad to an exhibition
of himself pinned, with his wings outspread. During the service of the
table Tracy relieved Adela from Mrs. Chump's inadvertencies and little
bits of feminine malice, but he could not help the captain, who blundered
like a schoolboy in her rough hands. It was noted that Sir Twickenham
reserved the tolerating smile he once had for her. Mr. Pole's nervous
fretfulness had increased. He complained in occasional underbreaths,
correcting himself immediately with a "No, no!" and blinking briskly.
But after dinner came the time when the painfullest scene was daily
enacted. Mrs. Chump drank Port freely. To drink it fondly, it was
necessary that she should have another rosy wineglass to nod to, and Mr.
Pole, whose taste for wine had been weakened, took this post as his duty.
The watchful, pinched features of the poor pale little man bloomed
unnaturally, and his unintelligible eyes sparkled as he emptied his
glass. His daughters knew that he drank, not for his pleasure, but for
their benefit; that he might sustain Martha Chump in the delusion that he
was a fitting bridegroom, and with her money save them from ruin. Each
evening, with remorse that blotted all perception of the tragic
comicality of the show, they saw him, in his false strength and his
anxiety concerning his pulse's play, act this part. The recurring words,
"Now, Martha, here's the Port," sent a cold wave through their blood.
They knew what the doctor remarked on the effect of that Port. "Ill!"
Mrs. Chump would cry, when she saw him wink after sipping; "you, Pole!
what do they say of ye, ye deer!" and she returned the wink, the ladies
looking on. Not to drink a proper quantum of Port, when Port was on the
table, was, in Mrs. Chump's eyes, mean for a man. Even Chump, she would
say, was master of his bottle, and thought nothing of it. "Who does?"
cried her present suitor, and the Port ebbed, and his cheeks grew
This frightful rivalry with the ghost of Alderman Chump continued night
after night. The rapturous Martha was incapable of observing that if she
drank with a ghost in memory, in reality she drank with nothing better
than an animated puppet. The nights ended with Mr. Pole either sleeping
in his arm-chair (upon which occasions one daughter watched him and told
dreadful tales of his waking), or staggering to bed, debating on the
stairs between tea and brandy, complaining of a loss of sensation at his
knee-cap, or elbow, or else rubbing his head and laughing hysterically.
His bride was not at such moments observant. No wonder Wilfrid kept out
of the way, if he had not better occupation elsewhere. The ladies, in
their utter anguish, after inveighing against the baneful Port, had
begged their father to delay no more to marry the woman. "Why?" said Mr.
Pole, sharply; "what do you want me to marry her for?" They were obliged
to keep up the delusion, and said, "Because she seems suited to you as a
companion." That satisfied him. "Oh! we won't be in a hurry," he said,
and named a day within a month; and not liking their unready faces,
laughed, and dismissed the idea aloud, as if he had not earnestly been
The ladies of Brookfield held no more their happy, energetic midnight
consultations. They had begun to crave for sleep and a snatch of
forgetfulness, the scourge being daily on their flesh: and they had now
no plans to discuss; they had no distant horizon of low vague lights that
used ever to be beyond their morrow. They kissed at the bedroom door of
one, and separated. Silence was their only protection to the Nice
Feelings, now that Fine Shades had become impossible. Adela had almost
made herself distinct from her sisters since the yachting expedition.
She had grown severely careful of the keys of her writing-desk, and would
sometimes slip the bolt of her bedroom door, and answer "Eh?" dubiously
in tone, when her sisters had knocked twice, and had said "Open" once.
The house of Brookfield showed those divisional rents which an admonitory
quaking of the earth will create. Neither sister was satisfied with the
other. Cornelia's treatment of Sir Twickenham was almost openly
condemned, but at the same time it seemed to Arabella that the baronet
was receiving more than the necessary amount of consolation from the
bride of Captain Gambier, and that yacht habits and moralities had been
recently imported to Brookfield. Adela, for her part, looked sadly on
Arabella, and longed to tell her, as she told Cornelia, that if she
continued to play Freshfield Sumner purposely against Edward Buxley, she
might lose both. Cornelia quietly measured accusations and judged
impartially; her mind being too full to bring any personal observations
to bear. She said, perhaps, less than she would have said, had she not
known that hourly her own Nice Feelings had to put up a petition for Fine
Shades: had she not known, indeed, that her conduct would soon demand
from her sisters an absolutely merciful interpretation. For she was now
simply attracting Sir Twickenham to Brookfield as a necessary medicine to
her Papa. Since Mrs. Chump's return, however, Mr. Pole had spoken
cheerfully of himself, and, by innuendo emphasized, had imparted that his
mercantile prospects were brighter. In fact, Cornelia half thought that
he must have been pretending bankruptcy to gain his end in getting the
consent of his daughters to receive the woman. She, and Adela likewise,
began to suspect that the parental transparency was a little mysterious,
and that there is, after all, more than we see in something that we see
through. They were now in danger of supposing that because the old man
had possibly deceived them to some extent, he had deceived them
altogether. But was not the after-dinner scene too horribly true? Were
not his hands moist and cold while the forehead was crimson? And could a
human creature feel at his own pulse, and look into vacancy with that
intense apprehensive look, and be but an actor? They could not think so.
But his conditions being dependent upon them, the ladies felt in their
hearts a spring of absolute rebellion when the call for fresh sacrifices
came. Though they did not grasp the image, they had a feeling that he
was nourished bit by bit by everything they held dear; and though they
loved him, and were generous, they had begun to ask, "What next?"
The ladies were at a dead-lock, and that the heart is the father of our
histories, I am led to think when I look abroad on families stagnant
because of so weak a motion of the heart. There are those who have none
at all; the mass of us are moved from the propulsion of the toes of the
Fates. But the ladies of Brookfield had hearts lively enough to get them
into scrapes. The getting out of them, or getting on at all, was left to
Providence. They were at a dead-lock, for Arabella, flattered as she was
by Freshfield Sumner's wooing, could not openly throw Edward over, whom
indeed she thought that she liked the better of the two, though his
letters had not so wide an intellectual range. Her father was irritably
anxious that she should close with Edward. Adela could not move: at
least, not openly. Cornelia might have taken an initiative; but
tenderness for her father's health had hitherto restrained her, and she
temporized with Sir Twickenham on the noblest of principles. She was, by
the devotion of her conduct, enabled to excuse herself so far that she
could even fish up an excuse in the shape of the effort she had made to
find him entertaining: as if the said effort should really be re-payment
enough to him for his assiduous and most futile suit. One deep grief sat
on Cornelia's mind. She had heard from Lady Gosstre that there was
something like madness in the Barrett family. She had consented to meet
Sir Purcell clandestinely (after debate on his claim to such a sacrifice
on her part), and if, on those occasions, her lover's tone was raised, it
gave her a tremour. And he had of late appeared to lose his noble calm;
he had spoken (it might almost be interpreted) as if he doubted her.
Once, when she had mentioned her care for her father, he had cried out
upon the name of father with violence, looking unlike himself.
His condemnation of the world, too, was not so Christian as it had been;
it betrayed what the vulgar would call spite, and was not all compassed
in his peculiar smooth shrug--expressive of a sort of border-land between
contempt and charity: which had made him wear in her sight all the
superiority which the former implies, with a considerable share of the
benign complacency of the latter. This had gone. He had been sarcastic
even to her; saying once, and harshly: "Have you a will?" Personally she
liked the poor organist better than the poor baronet, though he had less
merit. It was unpleasant in her present mood to be told "that we have
come into this life to fashion for ourselves souls;" and that "whosoever
cannot decide is a soulless wretch fit but to pass into vapour." He
appeared to have ceased to make his generous allowances for difficult
situations. A senseless notion struck Cornelia, that with the baronetcy
he had perhaps inherited some of the madness of his father.
The two were in a dramatic tangle of the Nice Feelings worth a glance as
we pass on. She wished to say to him, "You are unjust to my
perplexities;" and he to her, "You fail in your dilemma through
cowardice." Instead of uttering which, they chid themselves severally
for entertaining such coarse ideas of their idol. Doubtless they were
silent from consideration for one another: but I must add, out of extreme
tenderness for themselves likewise. There are people who can keep the
facts that front them absent from their contemplation by not framing them
in speech; and much benevolence of the passive order may be traced to a
disinclination to inflict pain upon oneself. "My duty to my father,"
being cited by Cornelia, Sir Purcell had to contend with it.
"True love excludes no natural duty," she said.
And he: "Love discerns unerringly what is and what is not duty."
"In the case of a father, can there be any doubt?" she asked, the answer
shining in her confident aspect.
"There are many things that fathers may demand of us!" he interjected
She had a fatal glimpse here of the false light in which his resentment
coloured the relations between fathers and children; and, deeming him
incapable of conducting this argument, she felt quite safe in her
opposition, up to a point where feeling stopped her.
"Devotedness to a father I must conceive to be a child's first duty," she
Sir Purcell nodded: "Yes; a child's!"
"Does not history give the higher praise to children who sacrifice
themselves for their parents?" asked Cornelia.
And he replied: "So, you seek to be fortified in such matters by
Courteous sneers silenced her. Feeling told her she was in the wrong;
but the beauty of her sentiment was not to be contested, and therefore
she thought that she might distrust feeling: and she went against it
somewhat; at first very tentatively, for it caused pain. She marked a
line where the light of duty should not encroach on the light of our
human desires. "But love for a parent is not merely duty," thought
Cornelia. "It is also love;--and is it not the least selfish love?"
Step by step Sir Purcell watched the clouding of her mind with false
conceits, and knew it to be owing to the heart's want of vigour. Again
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