They spoke in French, with an occasional phrase in Italian when they found the other tongue lacking in melody or in the exact shade of meaning that they sought to express. Edward Burney thought that the moment was one that favoured his ambition to study the pose of Madame Gabrielli, with a view to starting on a portrait that should make him famous. He asked Fanny’s permission to allow him to take up a place a few yards beyond the pillar. He promised not to be long absent, and Fanny had not the heart to detain him.

“You fled from me—was that kind?” asked Rauzzini when the cousin had moved away, but was still in view.

“Ah,” said she, “one who has my odious self-consciousness does not ask what is kind or unkind, she simply flies.”

“But you knew that I was coming to your side?” said he.

“I know that you are wise enough to value the criticism of a musician like my father above the vapid phrases of the people of fashion,” replied Fanny.

“That is true indeed,” said he. “I value a word of praise or blame from Dr. Burney as precious. But Dr. Burney has a daughter whose words are to me as precious.”

“She is not here to-night,” said Fanny. “My sister Esther, to whom you refer, is indeed a discriminating critic. She told me how exquisitely you sang at the concert where you met her—it is scarcely a fortnight ago.”

“Dr. Burney has more daughters than that one,” said he.

Fanny laughed.

“He has indeed more daughters than one,” she said. “We were a household of daughters before Esther married and when my brother was in the South Seas. But only Esther is critical as a musician.”

“In the name of heaven, do you think that it is only possible for me to value words that refer to my singing?” he asked. “Do you not know that I would rather listen to your voice than—”

“Than Madame Gabrielli’s?” said Fanny; he had spoken his last sentence in too loud a tone, even though the Gabrielli’s brilliant vocalism usually admitted of a conversation being carried on with some vehemence in the great room of the Pantheon without causing remark.

He smiled at her warning, and it was in a subdued voice that he said:

“I am tired of hearing the Gabrielli; but what of your voice? How often have you given me the chance of hearing it? Even now you fled from me as though I carried the plague about with me! Was that kind or unkind?”

“You do not entertain the thought that perhaps I have not yet tired of Madame Gabrielli’s vocalism: I knew that she was at the point of beginning her aria.”

“You would sacrifice me on the altar of your favourite? Well, perhaps you would be justified in doing so. Hold up your finger now and I shall be mute as a fish until Gabrielli has had her last shriek. I can still look at you—it will not spoil your appreciation of the aria if I merely look at you.”

“I think I would rather that you talked to me than merely looked at me. I do not invite people to look at me, and happily few people do. I am not conspicuous I am the insignificant one. There is Mrs. Thrale, for instance; she has been several times at our house, and every time she comes she inquires who is the little one.”

He smiled and held up his finger in imitation of the way she had rebuked him for talking too loud.

“H’sh; I am anxious to hear the Signora Gabrielli,” he said, and the expression that he made his face assume at that moment would have convinced anyone that he was giving all his attention to the singing—drinking in every note with the earnestness of an enthusiast. There was a certain boyish exaggeration in his expression that was very amusing to Fanny, though less observing persons would have been ready to accept it as evidence of the generous appreciation on the part of one great singer of the success of another.

So he remained until the cavatina had come to an end; and then he was loudest in his cry of “Brava!”

“It is a treat—a great—a sacred treat,” said he, turning to Fanny. “I do not think I ever heard that song before. Has it a name, I wonder?”

“If I mistake not it is from an opera in which a certain Roman tenore made a name for himself last year, in happy conjunction with Madame Gabrielli,” said Fanny.

“Is it possible? I had not heard of that circumstance,” said he, with a look of the most charming innocence in his large eyes. It was his hands that were most expressive, however, as he added:

“But it was last year, you say, mademoiselle? Ah, who is it that remembers an opera from one year to another? No one, except the impresario who has lost his good money, or somebody’s else’s money, over its production. Enough, the cantatrice has given us of her best, and is there now any reason why we should remain dumb? The great charm of the singing of these brilliant artistes of last year’s operas is that when they have sung, they have sung—they leave one nothing to think about afterward. Is not that so, mademoiselle?”

“They leave one nothing to think about—except their singing,” said Fanny. “For myself, I am still thinking of ‘Waft her, angels,’ although nearly half an hour must have passed since I heard the last notes. And it seems to me that when half a century will have passed I shall still be thinking of it.”

He did not offer her the conventional acknowledgment of a bow. He only looked at her with those large eyes of his; they were capable of expressing in a single glance all the tenderness of feeling of a poem.

“I have not sung in vain,” he said in a low tone. “My old maestro gave me the advice one day when I was proving to him my success in reaching the high note which I had been striving for years to bring into my compass: ‘That is all very well,’ he said. ‘You have aimed at touching that rare note, now your aim must be to touch the heart of everyone who hears you sing.’ I sometimes think that he set for me too difficult a task.”

“Not too difficult—for you,” said she.

“There are dangers,” he said thoughtfully. “I have known singers who tried to reach the hearts of their hearers by tricks—yes, and they succeeded through these illegitimate means in making themselves popular, while far better singers who had a scorn of such tricks and gave their best to all who listened to them, failed to please anyone who had not a knowledge of the true boundary of music.”

“I have seen these tricksters, too,” said Fanny. “I have witnessed their sentimental grimaces—their head shakings—their appeal to the feelings with pathetic eyes turned heavenward. They made me ashamed of them—ashamed of myself for listening to them, though people about me had been moved to tears. But I think that the people who are easily moved to tears are those who retain an impression the shortest space of time.”

“You give me confidence—encouragement,” he cried. “I have made up my mind that if I cannot reach a heart by the straight King’s highway, I will not try to do so by any bypath. Bypaths are, we know, the resorts of brigands: they may captivate a heart or two, but only to leave them empty afterwards.”

So they talked together for many minutes. Fanny Burney had a sufficient acquaintance among musicians, vocal as well as instrumental, to have learned, long ago, that they can easily be prevented from talking on any other subject than music, and the same reflection that had caused her to say that “Not yet—not yet,” had impelled her to lead Rauzzini in another direction than that in which he had shown so strong a tendency to go. He had been trying to make her understand that he had travelled through the obstructions of the hall not in order that he might obtain the criticism of so accomplished a maestro as Dr. Burney upon his singing, but in order that he should have a chance of talking to Dr. Burney’s unaccomplished daughter; he had shown her that his wish was to converse on the topic of this unaccomplished daughter; but she had no mind to acquiesce in his aims for the present. She still felt herself to be the beggar maid, and she would not allow her king to get any nearer to her.

It was not until her cousin had returned to where she was seated, that the young Italian found that he had not made much progress with his suit. He had intended that this tête-à-tête with her should make her aware of how he felt in regard to her, but he had allowed his opportunity to pass, and in place of talking about her he had been led to talk of himself.

That was how he expressed himself to her when he found that their tête-à-tête was at an end.

“How has this come about?” he cried in surprise. “How is it that I have shown myself to be so vain as to make speeches about my singing when I meant to talk to you of yourself?”

“’Twas I who found a more profitable topic for you, signore mio,” she replied, feeling her way through the words of his native tongue, for he had spoken out his surprise in Italian.

He shook his head and made a gesture with his hands.

“But it is a mystery!” he said in French. “I had no desire to talk about myself or my singing. I meant to tell you what was in my mind when I saw you entering this place with your father. Shall we retrace our steps in our conversation until I find how it was that I took a wrong turning? Alas! I fear that it would not be possible!”

“It would not be possible, indeed,” she replied. “Did you not say something about the bypaths being dangerous with banditti? We kept our feet upon the King’s highway, which is safe. I was swept off my feet—carried away—away—by your singing of the aria; I had scarce touched the earth once more when you came to my side, and now we are parting happily, you to realize your aspirations, I to—to—well, to retain for ever the memory of your singing—the memory of those celestial harmonies into the midst of which I was wafted by the angels of your imploration. That is enough for one evening of my life. Nay, you must not speak another word lest the charm of all should fade away. I shall go home to dream of angels.”

“And I shall go to dream of you,” he said in a low tone.

He did not hold her hand so long as Thomas Barlowe had done when parting from her, but she felt that somehow he had accomplished more by his reserve than Thomas had achieved by his impetuosity. She hoped that she might never see Thomas again; but for Signor Rauzzini—

They parted.

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