Emilia knew her father’s temper. He had a habit of dallying with an evil passion till it boiled over and possessed him. Believing Braintop to be in danger of harm, she beckoned to some of the faces crowding the windows; but the movement was not seen, as none of the circumstances were at all understood. Wilfrid, however, knew well who had sung those three bars, concerning which the ‘Prima donna’ questioned Mr. Pericles, and would not be put off by hearing that it was a startled jackdaw, or an owl, and an ole nightingale. The Greek rubbed his hands. “Now to recommence,” he said; “and we shall not notice a jackdaw again.” His eye went sideways watchfully at Wilfrid. “You like zat piece of opera?”
“Immensely,” said Wilfrid, half bowing to the Signora—to whom, as to Majesty, Mr. Pericles introduced him, and fixed him.
“Now! To seats!”
Mr. Pericles’ mandates was being obeyed, when a cry of “Wilfrid!” from Emilia below, raised a flutter.
Mr. Pole had been dozing in his chair. He rose at the cry, looking hard, with a mechanical jerk of the neck, at two or three successive faces, and calling, “Somebody—somebody” to take his outstretched hand trembling in a paroxysm of nervous terror.
Hearing his son’s name again, but more faintly, he raised his voice for Martha. “Don’t let that girl come near me! I—I can’t get on with foreign girls!”
His eyes went among the curious faces surrounding him. “Wilfrid!” he shouted. To the second summons, “Sir” was replied, in the silence. Neither saw the other as they spoke.
“Are you going out to her, Wilfrid?”
“Someone called me, sir.”
“He’s got the cunning of hell,” said Mr. Pole, baffled by his own agitation.
“Oh! don’t talk o’ that place,” moaned Mrs. Chump.
“Stop!” cried the old man. “Are you going? Stop! you shan’t do mischief. I mean—there—stop! Don’t go. You’re not to go. I say you’re not to go out.”
Emphasis and gesticulations gave their weight to the plain words.
But rage at the upset of all sentiments and dignity that day made Wilfrid reckless, and he now felt his love to be all he had. He heard his Emilia being dragged away to misery—perhaps to be sold to shame. Maddened, he was incapable of understanding his father’s state, or caring for what the world thought. His sisters gathered near him, but were voiceless.
“Is he gone?” Mr. Pole burst forward. “You’re gone, sir? Wilfrid, have you gone to that girl? I ask you whether...(there’s one shot at my heart,” he added in a swift undertone to one of the heads near him, while he caught at his breast with both hands). “Wilfrid, will you stay here?”
“For God’s sake, go to him, Wilfrid,” murmured Adela. “I can’t.”
“Because if you do—if you don’t—I mean, if you go...” The old man gasped at the undertone. “Now I have got it in my throat.”