Emilia sang in the drawing-room. Brookfield knew perfectly why she looked indifferent to the plaudits, and was not dissatisfied at hearing Lady Gosstre say that she was a little below the mark. The kindly lady brought Emilia between herself and Mr. Powys, saying, “I don’t intend to let you be the star of the evening and outshine us all.” After which, conversation commenced, and Brookfield had reason to admire her ladyship’s practised play upon the social instrument, surely the grandest of all, the chords being men and women. Consider what an accomplishment this is!
Albeit Brookfield knew itself a student at Richford, Adela was of too impatient a wit to refrain from little ventures toward independence, if not rivalry. “What we do,” she uttered distinctively once or twice. Among other things she spoke of “our discovery,” to attest her declaration that, to wakeful eyes, neither Hillford nor any other place on earth was dull. Cornelia flushed at hearing the name of Mr. Barrett pronounced publicly by her sister.
“An organist an accomplished man!” Lady Gosstre repeated Adela’s words. “Well, I suppose it is possible, but it rather upsets one’s notions, does it not?”
“Yes, but agreeably,” said Adela, with boldness; and related how he had been introduced, and hinted that he was going to be patronized.
“The man cannot maintain himself on the income that sort of office brings him,” Lady Gosstre observed.
“Oh, no,” said Adela. “I fancy he does it simply for some sort of occupation. One cannot help imagining a disguise.”
“Personally I confess to an objection to gentlemen in disguise,” said Lady Gosstre. “Barrett!—do you know the man?”
She addressed Mr. Powys.
“There used to be good quartett evenings given by the Barretts of Bursey,” he said. “Sir Justinian Barrett married a Miss Purcell, who subsequently preferred the musical accomplishments of a foreign professor of the Art.”
“Purcell Barrett is his name,” said Adela. “Our Emilia brought him to us. Where is she? But, where can she be?”
“She pressed my hand just now,” said Lady Gosstre.
“She was here when Captain Gambler quitted the room,” Arabella remarked.
The exclamation came from Adela.
“Oh, Lady Gosstre! I fear to tell you what I think she has done.”
The scene of the rival Clubs was hurriedly related, together with the preposterous pledge given by Emilia, that she would sing at the Ipley Booth: “Among those dreadful men!”
“They will treat her respectfully,” said Mr. Powys.
“Worship her, I should imagine, Merthyr,” said Lady Gosstre. “For all that, she had better be away. Beer is not a respectful spirit.”
“I trust you will pardon her,” Arabella pleaded. “Everything that explanations of the impropriety of such a thing could do, we have done. We thought that at last we had convinced her. She is quite untamed.”