“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 Mr. Pericles.
“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.”