“Why does he hope?” thought Cornelia, wounded, until a vision of the detaining Chips struck her with pity and remorse.
She turned to Emilia. “Our dear child is also going to leave us.”
“I?” cried Emilia, fierily out of languor.
“Does not your Italy claim you?”
“I am nothing to Italy any more. Have I not said so? I love England now.”
Cornelia smiled complacently. “Let us hope your heart is capacious enough to love both.”
“Then your theory is” (Mr. Barrett addressed Cornelia in the winning old style), “that the love of one thing enlarges the heart for another?”
“Should it not?” She admired his cruel self-possession pitiably, as she contrasted her own husky tones with it.
Emilia looked from one to the other, fancying that they must have her case somewhere in prospect, since none could be unconscious of the vehement struggle going on in her bosom; but they went farther and farther off from her comprehension, and seemed to speak of bloodless matters. “And yet he is her lover,” she thought. “When they meet they talk across a river, and he knows she is going to another man, and does not gripe her wrist and drag her away!” The sense that she had no kinship with such flesh shut her mouth faster than Wilfrid’s injunctions (which were ordinarily conveyed in too subtle a manner for her to feel their meaning enough to find them binding). Cornelia, for a mask to her emotions, gave Emilia a gentle, albeit high-worded lecture on the artist’s duty toward Art, quoting favourite passages from Mr. Barrett’s favourite Art-critic. And her fashion of dropping her voice as she declaimed the more dictatorial sentences (to imply, one might guess, by a show of personal humility that she would have you to know her preaching was vicarious; that she stood humbly in the pulpit, and was but a vessel for the delivery of the burden of the oracle), all this was beautiful to him who could see it. I cannot think it was wholesome for him; nor that Cornelia was unaware of a naughty wish to glitter temporarily in the eyes of the man who made her feel humble. The sorcery she sent through his blood communicated itself to hers. When she had done, Emilia, convincedly vanquished by big words, said, “I cannot talk,” and turned heavily from them without bestowing a smile upon either.
Cornelia believed that the girl would turn back as abruptly as she had retreated; and it was not until Emilia was out of sight that she remembered the impropriety of being alone with Mr. Barrett. The Pitfall of Sentiment yawned visible, but this lady’s strength had been too little tried for her to lack absolute faith in it. So, out of deep silences, the two leapt to speech and immediately subsided to the depths again: as on a sultry summer’s day fishes flash their tails in the sunlight and leave a solitary circle widening on the water.
Then Cornelia knew what was coming. In set phrase, and as one who performs a duty frigidly pleasant, he congratulated her on her rumored union. One hand was in his buttoned coat; the other hung elegantly loose: not a feature betrayed emotion. He might have spoken it in a ballroom. To Cornelia, who exulted in self-compression, after the Roman method, it was more dangerous than a tremulous tone.