Georgiana’s first sight of Emilia in her Branciani dress shut her heart against the girl with iron clasps. She took occasion to remark, “We need not expect visitors so very early;” but the offender was impervious. Breakfast finished, the reading with Merthyr recommenced, when Emilia, having got over her surprise at the sameness of things this day, acquitted herself better, and even declaimed the verses musically. Seeing him look pleased, she spoke them out sonorously. Merthyr applauded. Upon which Emilia said, with odd abruptness and solemnity, “Will he come to-day?” It was beyond Merthyr’s power of self-control to consent to be taken into a consultation on this matter, and he attempted to put it aside. “He may or he may not—probably to-morrow.”
“No; to-day, in the afternoon,” said Emilia, “be near me.”
“I have engagements.”
“Some word, say, that will seem to be you with me.”
“Some flattery, or you won’t remember it.”
“Yes, I like flattery.”
“Well, you look like Countess Branciani when, after thinking her husband the basest of men, she discovered him to be the noblest.”
Emilia blushed. “That’s not easily forgotten! But she must have looked braver, bolder, not so under a burden as I feel.”
“The comparison was meant to suit the moment of your reciting.”
“Yes,” said Emilia, half-mournfully, “then ‘myself’ doesn’t sit on my shoulders: I don’t even care what I am.”
“That is what Art does for you.”
“Only by fits and starts now. Once I never thought of myself.”
There was a knock at the street-door, and she changed countenance. Presently there came a gentle tap at their own door.
“It is that woman,” said Emilia.
“I fancy it must be Lady Charlotte. You will not see her?”
Merthyr was anticipating a negative, but Emilia said, “Let her come in.”
She gave her hand to the lady, and was the less concerned of the two. Lady Charlotte turned away from her briskly.
“Georgey didn’t say anything of you in her letter, Merthyr; I am going up to her, but I wished to satisfy myself that you were in town, first:—to save half-a-minute, you see I anticipate the philosophic manly sneer. Is it really true that you are going to mix yourself up in this mad Italian business again? Now that you’re a man, my dear Merthyr, it seems almost inexcuseable—for a sensible Englishman!”
Lady Charlotte laughed, giving him her hand at the same time.
“Don’t you know I swore an oath?” Merthyr caught up her tone.
“Yes, but you never succeed. I complain that you never succeed. Of what use on earth are all your efforts if you never succeed?”
Emilia’s voice burst out:—
che i miei sospir sien quali
Spera ’l Tevero e ’l Arno,
E ‘l Po,—’”
Merthyr continued the ode, acting a similar fervour:—