Emilia had caught blindly at Sir Purcell’s hand, by which she raised herself, and then uncovering her face, looked furtively at the malign furnace-white face of Mr. Pericles.
“It cannot have gone,”—she spoke, as if mentally balancing the possibility.
“It has gone, I say; and you know why, Mademoiselle ze Fool!” Mr. Pericles retorted.
“No, no; it can’t be gone. Gone? voices never go!”
The reiteration of the “You know why,” from Mr. Pericles, and all the wretchedness of loss it suggested, robbed her of the little spark of nervous fire by which she felt half-reviving in courage and confidence.
“Let me try once more,” she appealed to him, in a frenzy.
Mr. Pericles, though fully believing in his heart that it might only be a temporary deprivation of voice, affected to scout the notion of another trial, but finally extended his forefinger: “Well, now; start! ’Sempre al tuo Santo!’ Commence: Sem—” and Mr. Pericles hummed the opening bar, not as an unhopeful man would do. The next moment he was laughing horribly. Emilia, to make sure of the thing she dreaded, forced the note, and would not be denied. What voice there was in her came to the summons. It issued, if I may so express it, ragged, as if it had torn through a briar-hedge: then there was a whimper of tones, and the effect was like the lamentation of a hardly-used urchin, lacking a certain music that there is in his undoubted heartfelt earnestness. No single note poised firmly for the instant, but swayed, trembling on its neighbour to right and to left when pressed for articulate sound, it went into a ghastly whisper. The laughter of Mr. Pericles was pleasing discord in comparison.
Emilia stretched out her hand and said, “Good-bye.” Seeing that the hardened girl, with her dead eyelids, did not appear to feel herself at his mercy, and also that Sir Purcell’s forehead looked threatening, Mr. Pericles stopped his sardonic noise. He went straight to the door, which he opened with alacrity, and mimicking very wretchedly her words of adieu, stood prepared to bow her out. She astonished him by passing without another word. Before he could point a phrase bitter enough for expression, Sir Purcell had likewise passed, and in going had given him a quietly admonishing look.
“Zose Poles are beggars!” Mr. Pericles roared after them over the stairs, and slammed his door for emphasis. Almost immediately there was a knock at it. Mr. Pericles stood bent and cat-like as Sir Purcell reappeared. The latter, avoiding all preliminaries, demanded of the Greek that he should promise not to use the names of his friends publicly in such a manner again.
“I require a promise for the future. An apology will be needless from you.”
“I shall not give it,” said Mr. Pericles, with a sharp lift of his upper lip.
“But you will give me the promise I have returned for.”