Not only did she know herself now a face of many faces; but the life within her likewise as a soul of many souls. The one Emilia, so unquestioning, so sure, lay dead; and a dozen new spirits, with but a dim likeness to her, were fighting for possession of her frame, now occupying it alone, now in couples; and each casting grim reflections on the other. Which is only a way of telling you that the great result of mortal suffering—consciousness—had fully set in; to ripen; perhaps to debase; at any rate, to prove her.
To be of worth was still her fixed idea—all that was clear in the thickening mist. “I cannot be ugly,” she said, and reproved herself for simulating a childish tone. “Why do I talk in that way? I know I am not ugly. But if a fire scorched my face? There is nothing that seems safe!” The love of friends was suggested to her as something to rely on; and the loving them. “But if I have nothing to give!” said Emilia, and opened both her empty hands. She had diverted her mind from the pressure upon it, by this colloquy with a looking-glass, and gave herself a great rapture by running up notes to this theme:—
“No, no, no, no, no!—nothing! nothing!”
Clear, full, sonant notes; the notes of her true voice. She did not attempt them a second time; nor, when Sir Purcell requested her to sing in the course of the evening, did she comply. “The Signora thinks I have a cold,” she said. Madame Marini protested that she hoped not, she even thought not, though none could avoid it at this season in this climate, and she turned to Sir Purcell to petition for any receipts he might have in his possession, specifics for warding off the frightful affliction of households in England.
“I have now twenty,” said Madame, and throwing up her eyes; “I have tried all! oh! so many lozenge!”
Marini and Emilia laughed. While Sir Purcell was maintaining the fact of his total ignorance of the subject against Madame’s incredulity, Emilia left the room. When she came back Madame was pressing her visitor to be explicit with regard to a certain process of cure conducted by an application of cold water. The Neapolitan gave several shudders as she marked him attentively. “Water cold!” she murmured with the deepest pathos, and dropped her face in her hands with narrowed shoulders. Emilia held a letter over to Sir Purcell. He took it, first assuring himself that Marini was in complicity with them. To Marini Emilia addressed a Momus forefinger, and Marini shrugged, smiling. “Water cold!” ejaculated Madame, showing her countenance again. “In winter! Luigi, they are mad!” Marini poked the fire briskly, for his sensations entirely sided with his wife.
The letter Sir Purcell held contained these words:
“Be kind, and meet me to-morrow at ten in the morning, at that place where you first saw me sitting. I want you to take me to one who will help me. I cannot lose time any more. I must work. I have been dead for I cannot say how long. I know you will come.
am, for ever,
“Your thankful friend,