Such is the construction of my story, however, that to entirely deny the Philosopher the privilege he stipulated for when with his assistance I conceived it, would render our performance unintelligible to that acute and honourable minority which consents to be thwacked with aphorisms and sentences and a fantastic delivery of the verities. While my Play goes on, I must permit him to come forward occasionally. We are indeed in a sort of partnership, and it is useless for me to tell him that he is not popular and destroys my chance.
“Don’t blame yourself, my Wilfrid.”
Emilia spoke thus, full of pity for him, and in her adorable, deep-fluted tones, after the effective stop he had come to.
The ‘my Wilfrid’ made the owner of the name quiver with satisfaction. He breathed: “You have forgiven me?”
“That I have. And there was indeed no blame. My voice has gone. Yes, but I do not think it your fault.”
“It was! it is!” groaned Wilfrid. “But, has your voice gone?” He leaned nearer to her, drawing largely on the claim his incredulity had to inspect her sweet features accurately. “You speak just as—more deliciously than ever! I can’t think you have lost it. Ah! forgive me! forgive me!”
Emilia was about to put her hand over to him, but the prompt impulse was checked by a simultaneous feminine warning within. She smiled, saying: “‘I forgive’ seems such a strange thing for me to say;” and to convey any further meaning that might comfort him, better than words could do, she held on her smile. The smile was of the acceptedly feigned, conventional character; a polished Surface: belonging to the passage of the discourse, and not to the emotions. Wilfrid’s swelling passion slipped on it. Sensitively he discerned an ease in its formation and disappearance that shot a first doubt through him, whether he really maintained his empire in her heart. If he did not reign there, why had she sent for him? He attributed the unheated smile to a defect in her manner, that was always chargeable with something, as he remembered. He began systematically to account for his acts: but the man was so constituted that as he laid them out for pardon, he himself condemned them most; and looking back at his weakness and double play, he broke through his phrases to cry without premeditation: “Can you have loved me then?”
Emilia’s cheeks tingled: “Don’t speak of that night in Devon,” she replied.
“Ah!” sighed he. “I did not mean then. Then you must have hated me.”
“No; for, what did I say? I said that you would come to me—nothing more. I hated that woman. You? Oh, no!”
“You loved me, then?”
“Did I not offer to work for you, if you were poor? And—I can’t remember what I said. Please, do not speak of that night.”
“Emilia! as a man of honour, I was bound—”