He replied: “That would have been my idea under other conditions,” and looked meaningly.
She met the look with: “There are harsh conditions in life, are there not?” and left him sufficiently occupied by his own sensations.
“Mr. Barrett,” she inquired (partly to assist the wretch out of his compromising depression, and also that the question represented a real matter of debate in her mind), “I want your opinion; will you give it me? Apropos of slang, why does it sit well on some people? It certainly does not vulgarize them. After all, in many cases, it is what they call ’racy idiom.’ Perhaps our delicacy is strained?”
Now, it was Mr. Barrett’s established manner to speak in a deliberately ready fashion upon the introduction of a new topic. Habit made him, on this occasion, respond instantly; but the opening of the gates displayed the confusion of ideas within and the rageing tumult.
He said: “In many cases. There are two sorts. If you could call it the language of nature! which anything...I beg your pardon, Slang! Polite society rightly excludes it, because...”
“Yes, yes,” returned Adela; “but do we do rightly in submitting to the absolute tyranny?—I mean, I think, originality flies from us in consequence.”
The pitiable mortal became a trifle more luminous: “The objection is to the repetition of risked phrases. A happy audacity of expression may pass. It is bad taste to repeat it, that is all. Then there is the slang of heavy boorishness, and the slang of impatient wit...”
“Is there any fine distinction between the extremes?” said Cornelia, in as clear a tone as she could summon.
“I think,” observed Arabella, “that whatever shows staleness speedily is self-condemned; and that is the case with slang.”
“And yet it’s to avoid some feeling of the sort that people employ it,” was Adela’s remark; and the discussion of this theme dropped lifelessly, and they walked on as before.
Coming to a halt near the garden gate, Adela tapped Emilia’s cheek, addressing her: “How demure she has become!”
“Ah!” went Arabella, “does she know papa has had a letter from Mr. Pericles, who wrote from Milan to say that he has made arrangements for her to enter the Academy there, and will come to fetch her in a few days?”
Emilia’s wrists crossed below her neck, while she gave ear.
“To take me away?” she said.
The tragic attitude and outcry, with the mournful flash of her eyes, might have told Emilia’s tale.
Adela unwillingly shielded her by interpreting the scene. “See! she must be a born actress. They always exaggerate in that style, so that you would really think she had a mighty passion for Brookfield.”
“Or in it,” suggested Freshfield.
“Or in it!” she laughed assentingly.