All Wilfrid’s diplomacy was now brought into play to baffle Mr. Pericles, inspire Emilia with the spirit of secresy, and carry on his engagement to two women to their common satisfaction. Adela, whose penetration he dreaded most, he had removed by a flattering invitation to Stornley; and that Emilia might be occupied during his absences, and Mr. Pericles thrown on a false scent, he persuaded Tracy Runningbrook to come to Brookfield, and write libretti for Emilia’s operas. The two would sit down together for an hour, drawing wonderful precocious noses upon juvenile visages, when Emilia would sigh and say: “I can’t work!”—Tracy adding, with resignation: “I never can!” At first Mr. Pericles dogged them assiduously. After a little while he shrugged, remarking: “It is a nonsense.”
They were, however, perfectly serious about the production of an opera, Tracy furnishing verse to Emilia’s music. He wrote with extraordinary rapidity, but clung to graphic phrases, that were not always supple enough for nuptials with modulated notes. Then Emilia had to hit his sense of humour by giving the words as they came in the run of the song. “You make me crow, or I croak,” she said.
“The woman follows the man, and music fits to verse,” cried Tracy. “Music’s the vine, verse the tree.”
Emilia meditated. “Not if they grow up together,” she suggested, and broke into a smile at his rapture of amusement; which was succeeded by a dark perplexity, worthy of the present aspect of Mr. Pericles.
“That’s what has upset us,” he said. “We have been trying to ’grow up together,’ like first-cousins, and nature forbids the banns. To-morrow you shall have half a libretto. And then, really, my child, you must adapt yourself to the words.”
“I will,” Emilia promised; “only, not if they’re like iron to the teeth.”
“My belief is,” said Tracy savagely, “that music’s a fashion, and as delusive a growth as Cobbett’s potatoes, which will go back to the deadly nightshade, just as music will go back to the tom-tom.”
“What have you called out when I sang to you!” Emilia reproached him for this irreverent nonsense.
“Oh! it was you and not the music,” he returned half-cajolingly, while he beat the tom-tom on air.
“Hark here!” cried Emilia. She recited a verse. “Doesn’t that sound dead? Now hark!” She sang the verse, and looked confidently for Tracy’s verdict at the close.
“What a girl that is!” He went about the house, raving of her to everybody, with sundry Gallic interjections; until Mrs. Chump said: “’Deed, sir, ye don’t seem to have much idea of a woman’s feelin’s.”
Tracy produced in a night two sketches of libretti for Emilia to choose from—the Roman Clelia being one, and Camillus the other. Tracy praised either impartially, and was indifferent between them, he told her. Clelia offered the better theme for passionate song, but there was a winning political object and rebuff to be given to Radicalism in Camillus. “Think of Rome!” he said.