“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.
Mr. Pole was perceived entering the garden, rubbing his hands a little too obsequiously to some remark of the baronet’s, as the critical ladies imagined. Sir Twickenham’s arm spread out in a sweep; Mr. Pole’s head nodded. After the ceremony of the salute, the ladies were informed of Sir Twickenham’s observation: Sir Twickenham Pryme, a statistical member of Parliament, a well-preserved half-century in age, a gentleman in bearing, passably grey-headed, his whiskers brushed out neatly, as if he knew them individually and had the exact amount of them collectively at his fingers’ ends: Sir Twickenham had said of Mr. Pole’s infant park that if devoted to mangold-wurzel it would be productive and would pay: whereas now it was not ornamental and was waste.
“Sir Twickenham calculates,” said Mr. Pole, “that we should have a crop of—eh?”
“The average?” Sir Twickenham asked, on the evident upward mounting of a sum in his brain. And then, with a relaxing look upon Cornelia: “Perhaps you might have fifteen, sixteen, perhaps for the first year; or, say—you see, the exact acreage is unknown to me. Say roughly, ten thousand sacks the first year.”
“Of what?” inquired Cornelia.
“Mangold-wurzel,” said the baronet.
She gazed about her. Mr. Barrett was gone.
“But, no doubt, you take no interest in such reckonings?” Sir Twickenham added.
“On the contrary, I take every interest in practical details.”
Practical men believe this when they hear it from the lips of gentlewomen, and without philosophically analyzing the fact that it is because the practical quality possesses simply the fascination of a form of strength. Sir Twickenham pursued his details. Day closed on Brookfield blankly. Nevertheless, the ladies felt that the situation was now dignified by tragic feeling, and remembering keenly how they had been degraded of late, they had a sad enjoyment of the situation.