Part 1 - A Room with a View Audiobook by E. M. Forster (Chs 01-07)


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Transcript:
CHAPTER I: The Bertolini
"The Signora had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no business at all.
She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are
north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart.
Oh, Lucy!"
"And a Cockney, besides!" said Lucy, who had been further saddened by the Signora's
unexpected accent. "It might be London."
She looked at the two rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at
the row of white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between the
English people; at the portraits of the
late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung behind the English people, heavily
framed; at the notice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M. A. Oxon.), that
was the only other decoration of the wall.
"Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London?
I can hardly believe that all kinds of other things are just outside.
I suppose it is one's being so tired."
"This meat has surely been used for soup," said Miss Bartlett, laying down her fork.
"I want so to see the Arno. The rooms the Signora promised us in her
letter would have looked over the Arno.
The Signora had no business to do it at all.
Oh, it is a shame!"
"Any nook does for me," Miss Bartlett continued; "but it does seem hard that you
shouldn't have a view." Lucy felt that she had been selfish.
"Charlotte, you mustn't spoil me: of course, you must look over the Arno, too.
I meant that.
The first vacant room in the front--" "You must have it," said Miss Bartlett, part of
whose travelling expenses were paid by Lucy's mother--a piece of generosity to
which she made many a tactful allusion.
"No, no. You must have it." "I insist on it.
Your mother would never forgive me, Lucy." "She would never forgive me."
The ladies' voices grew animated, and--if the sad truth be owned--a little peevish.
They were tired, and under the guise of unselfishness they wrangled.
Some of their neighbours interchanged glances, and one of them--one of the ill-
bred people whom one does meet abroad-- leant forward over the table and actually
intruded into their argument.
He said: "I have a view, I have a view."
Miss Bartlett was startled.
Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and
often did not find out that they would "do" till they had gone.
She knew that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced at him.
He was an old man, of heavy build, with a fair, shaven face and large eyes.
There was something childish in those eyes, though it was not the childishness of
senility.
What exactly it was Miss Bartlett did not stop to consider, for her glance passed on
to his clothes. These did not attract her.
He was probably trying to become acquainted with them before they got into the swim.
So she assumed a dazed expression when he spoke to her, and then said: "A view?
Oh, a view!
How delightful a view is!" "This is my son," said the old man; "his
name's George. He has a view too."
"Ah," said Miss Bartlett, repressing Lucy, who was about to speak.
"What I mean," he continued, "is that you can have our rooms, and we'll have yours.
We'll change."
The better class of tourist was shocked at this, and sympathized with the new-comers.
Miss Bartlett, in reply, opened her mouth as little as possible, and said "Thank you
very much indeed; that is out of the question."
"Why?" said the old man, with both fists on the table.
"Because it is quite out of the question, thank you."
"You see, we don't like to take--" began Lucy.
Her cousin again repressed her. "But why?" he persisted.
"Women like looking at a view; men don't."
And he thumped with his fists like a naughty child, and turned to his son,
saying, "George, persuade them!" "It's so obvious they should have the
rooms," said the son.
"There's nothing else to say." He did not look at the ladies as he spoke,
but his voice was perplexed and sorrowful.
Lucy, too, was perplexed; but she saw that they were in for what is known as "quite a
scene," and she had an odd feeling that whenever these ill-bred tourists spoke the
contest widened and deepened till it dealt,
not with rooms and views, but with--well, with something quite different, whose
existence she had not realized before.
Now the old man attacked Miss Bartlett almost violently: Why should she not
change? What possible objection had she?
They would clear out in half an hour.
Miss Bartlett, though skilled in the delicacies of conversation, was powerless
in the presence of brutality. It was impossible to snub any one so gross.
Her face reddened with displeasure.
She looked around as much as to say, "Are you all like this?"
And two little old ladies, who were sitting further up the table, with shawls hanging
over the backs of the chairs, looked back, clearly indicating "We are not; we are
genteel."
"Eat your dinner, dear," she said to Lucy, and began to toy again with the meat that
she had once censured. Lucy mumbled that those seemed very odd
people opposite.
"Eat your dinner, dear. This pension is a failure.
To-morrow we will make a change." Hardly had she announced this fell decision
when she reversed it.
The curtains at the end of the room parted, and revealed a clergyman, stout but
attractive, who hurried forward to take his place at the table, cheerfully apologizing
for his lateness.
Lucy, who had not yet acquired decency, at once rose to her feet, exclaiming: "Oh, oh!
Why, it's Mr. Beebe! Oh, how perfectly lovely!
Oh, Charlotte, we must stop now, however bad the rooms are.
Oh!" Miss Bartlett said, with more restraint:
"How do you do, Mr. Beebe?
I expect that you have forgotten us: Miss Bartlett and Miss Honeychurch, who were at
Tunbridge Wells when you helped the Vicar of St. Peter's that very cold Easter."
The clergyman, who had the air of one on a holiday, did not remember the ladies quite
as clearly as they remembered him.
But he came forward pleasantly enough and accepted the chair into which he was
beckoned by Lucy.
"I AM so glad to see you," said the girl, who was in a state of spiritual starvation,
and would have been glad to see the waiter if her cousin had permitted it.
"Just fancy how small the world is.
Summer Street, too, makes it so specially funny."
"Miss Honeychurch lives in the parish of Summer Street," said Miss Bartlett, filling
up the gap, "and she happened to tell me in the course of conversation that you have
just accepted the living--"
"Yes, I heard from mother so last week. She didn't know that I knew you at
Tunbridge Wells; but I wrote back at once, and I said: 'Mr. Beebe is--'"
"Quite right," said the clergyman.
"I move into the Rectory at Summer Street next June.
I am lucky to be appointed to such a charming neighbourhood."
"Oh, how glad I am!
The name of our house is Windy Corner." Mr. Beebe bowed.
"There is mother and me generally, and my brother, though it's not often we get him
to ch---- The church is rather far off, I mean."
"Lucy, dearest, let Mr. Beebe eat his dinner."
"I am eating it, thank you, and enjoying it."
He preferred to talk to Lucy, whose playing he remembered, rather than to Miss
Bartlett, who probably remembered his sermons.
He asked the girl whether she knew Florence well, and was informed at some length that
she had never been there before. It is delightful to advise a newcomer, and
he was first in the field.
"Don't neglect the country round," his advice concluded.
"The first fine afternoon drive up to Fiesole, and round by Settignano, or
something of that sort."
"No!" cried a voice from the top of the table.
"Mr. Beebe, you are wrong. The first fine afternoon your ladies must
go to Prato."
"That lady looks so clever," whispered Miss Bartlett to her cousin.
"We are in luck." And, indeed, a perfect torrent of
information burst on them.
People told them what to see, when to see it, how to stop the electric trams, how to
get rid of the beggars, how much to give for a vellum blotter, how much the place
would grow upon them.
The Pension Bertolini had decided, almost enthusiastically, that they would do.
Whichever way they looked, kind ladies smiled and shouted at them.
And above all rose the voice of the clever lady, crying: "Prato!
They must go to Prato. That place is too sweetly squalid for
words.
I love it; I revel in shaking off the trammels of respectability, as you know."
The young man named George glanced at the clever lady, and then returned moodily to
his plate.
Obviously he and his father did not do. Lucy, in the midst of her success, found
time to wish they did.
It gave her no extra pleasure that any one should be left in the cold; and when she
rose to go, she turned back and gave the two outsiders a nervous little bow.
The father did not see it; the son acknowledged it, not by another bow, but by
raising his eyebrows and smiling; he seemed to be smiling across something.
She hastened after her cousin, who had already disappeared through the curtains--
curtains which smote one in the face, and seemed heavy with more than cloth.
Beyond them stood the unreliable Signora, bowing good-evening to her guests, and
supported by 'Enery, her little boy, and Victorier, her daughter.
It made a curious little scene, this attempt of the Cockney to convey the grace
and geniality of the South.
And even more curious was the drawing-room, which attempted to rival the solid comfort
of a Bloomsbury boarding-house. Was this really Italy?
Miss Bartlett was already seated on a tightly stuffed arm-chair, which had the
colour and the contours of a tomato.
She was talking to Mr. Beebe, and as she spoke, her long narrow head drove backwards
and forwards, slowly, regularly, as though she were demolishing some invisible
obstacle.
"We are most grateful to you," she was saying.
"The first evening means so much. When you arrived we were in for a
peculiarly mauvais quart d'heure."
He expressed his regret. "Do you, by any chance, know the name of an
old man who sat opposite us at dinner?" "Emerson."
"Is he a friend of yours?"
"We are friendly--as one is in pensions." "Then I will say no more."
He pressed her very slightly, and she said more.
"I am, as it were," she concluded, "the chaperon of my young cousin, Lucy, and it
would be a serious thing if I put her under an obligation to people of whom we know
nothing.
His manner was somewhat unfortunate. I hope I acted for the best."
"You acted very naturally," said he.
He seemed thoughtful, and after a few moments added: "All the same, I don't think
much harm would have come of accepting." "No harm, of course.
But we could not be under an obligation."
"He is rather a peculiar man." Again he hesitated, and then said gently:
"I think he would not take advantage of your acceptance, nor expect you to show
gratitude.
He has the merit--if it is one--of saying exactly what he means.
He has rooms he does not value, and he thinks you would value them.
He no more thought of putting you under an obligation than he thought of being polite.
It is so difficult--at least, I find it difficult--to understand people who speak
the truth."
Lucy was pleased, and said: "I was hoping that he was nice; I do so always hope that
people will be nice." "I think he is; nice and tiresome.
I differ from him on almost every point of any importance, and so, I expect--I may say
I hope--you will differ. But his is a type one disagrees with rather
than deplores.
When he first came here he not unnaturally put people's backs up.
He has no tact and no manners--I don't mean by that that he has bad manners--and he
will not keep his opinions to himself.
We nearly complained about him to our depressing Signora, but I am glad to say we
thought better of it." "Am I to conclude," said Miss Bartlett,
"that he is a Socialist?"
Mr. Beebe accepted the convenient word, not without a slight twitching of the lips.
"And presumably he has brought up his son to be a Socialist, too?"
"I hardly know George, for he hasn't learnt to talk yet.
He seems a nice creature, and I think he has brains.
Of course, he has all his father's mannerisms, and it is quite possible that
he, too, may be a Socialist." "Oh, you relieve me," said Miss Bartlett.
"So you think I ought to have accepted their offer?
You feel I have been narrow-minded and suspicious?"
"Not at all," he answered; "I never suggested that."
"But ought I not to apologize, at all events, for my apparent rudeness?"
He replied, with some irritation, that it would be quite unnecessary, and got up from
his seat to go to the smoking-room. "Was I a bore?" said Miss Bartlett, as soon
as he had disappeared.
"Why didn't you talk, Lucy? He prefers young people, I'm sure.
I do hope I haven't monopolized him. I hoped you would have him all the evening,
as well as all dinner-time."
"He is nice," exclaimed Lucy. "Just what I remember.
He seems to see good in every one. No one would take him for a clergyman."
"My dear Lucia--"
"Well, you know what I mean. And you know how clergymen generally laugh;
Mr. Beebe laughs just like an ordinary man."
"Funny girl!
How you do remind me of your mother. I wonder if she will approve of Mr. Beebe."
"I'm sure she will; and so will Freddy." "I think every one at Windy Corner will
approve; it is the fashionable world.
I am used to Tunbridge Wells, where we are all hopelessly behind the times."
"Yes," said Lucy despondently.
There was a haze of disapproval in the air, but whether the disapproval was of herself,
or of Mr. Beebe, or of the fashionable world at Windy Corner, or of the narrow
world at Tunbridge Wells, she could not determine.
She tried to locate it, but as usual she blundered.
Miss Bartlett sedulously denied disapproving of any one, and added "I am
afraid you are finding me a very depressing companion."
And the girl again thought: "I must have been selfish or unkind; I must be more
careful. It is so dreadful for Charlotte, being
poor."
Fortunately one of the little old ladies, who for some time had been smiling very
benignly, now approached and asked if she might be allowed to sit where Mr. Beebe had
sat.
Permission granted, she began to chatter gently about Italy, the plunge it had been
to come there, the gratifying success of the plunge, the improvement in her sister's
health, the necessity of closing the bed-
room windows at night, and of thoroughly emptying the water-bottles in the morning.
She handled her subjects agreeably, and they were, perhaps, more worthy of
attention than the high discourse upon Guelfs and Ghibellines which was proceeding
tempestuously at the other end of the room.
It was a real catastrophe, not a mere episode, that evening of hers at Venice,
when she had found in her bedroom something that is one worse than a flea, though one
better than something else.
"But here you are as safe as in England. Signora Bertolini is so English."
"Yet our rooms smell," said poor Lucy. "We dread going to bed."
"Ah, then you look into the court."
She sighed. "If only Mr. Emerson was more tactful!
We were so sorry for you at dinner." "I think he was meaning to be kind."
"Undoubtedly he was," said Miss Bartlett.
"Mr. Beebe has just been scolding me for my suspicious nature.
Of course, I was holding back on my cousin's account."
"Of course," said the little old lady; and they murmured that one could not be too
careful with a young girl. Lucy tried to look demure, but could not
help feeling a great fool.
No one was careful with her at home; or, at all events, she had not noticed it.
"About old Mr. Emerson--I hardly know.
No, he is not tactful; yet, have you ever noticed that there are people who do things
which are most indelicate, and yet at the same time--beautiful?"
"Beautiful?" said Miss Bartlett, puzzled at the word.
"Are not beauty and delicacy the same?" "So one would have thought," said the other
helplessly.
"But things are so difficult, I sometimes think."
She proceeded no further into things, for Mr. Beebe reappeared, looking extremely
pleasant.
"Miss Bartlett," he cried, "it's all right about the rooms.
I'm so glad.
Mr. Emerson was talking about it in the smoking-room, and knowing what I did, I
encouraged him to make the offer again. He has let me come and ask you.
He would be so pleased."
"Oh, Charlotte," cried Lucy to her cousin, "we must have the rooms now.
The old man is just as nice and kind as he can be."
Miss Bartlett was silent.
"I fear," said Mr. Beebe, after a pause, "that I have been officious.
I must apologize for my interference." Gravely displeased, he turned to go.
Not till then did Miss Bartlett reply: "My own wishes, dearest Lucy, are unimportant
in comparison with yours.
It would be hard indeed if I stopped you doing as you liked at Florence, when I am
only here through your kindness. If you wish me to turn these gentlemen out
of their rooms, I will do it.
Would you then, Mr. Beebe, kindly tell Mr. Emerson that I accept his kind offer, and
then conduct him to me, in order that I may thank him personally?"
She raised her voice as she spoke; it was heard all over the drawing-room, and
silenced the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. The clergyman, inwardly cursing the female
sex, bowed, and departed with her message.
"Remember, Lucy, I alone am implicated in this.
I do not wish the acceptance to come from you.
Grant me that, at all events."
Mr. Beebe was back, saying rather nervously:
"Mr. Emerson is engaged, but here is his son instead."
The young man gazed down on the three ladies, who felt seated on the floor, so
low were their chairs. "My father," he said, "is in his bath, so
you cannot thank him personally.
But any message given by you to me will be given by me to him as soon as he comes
out." Miss Bartlett was unequal to the bath.
All her barbed civilities came forth wrong end first.
Young Mr. Emerson scored a notable triumph to the delight of Mr. Beebe and to the
secret delight of Lucy.
"Poor young man!" said Miss Bartlett, as soon as he had gone.
"How angry he is with his father about the rooms!
It is all he can do to keep polite."
"In half an hour or so your rooms will be ready," said Mr. Beebe.
Then looking rather thoughtfully at the two cousins, he retired to his own rooms, to
write up his philosophic diary.
"Oh, dear!" breathed the little old lady, and shuddered as if all the winds of heaven
had entered the apartment.
"Gentlemen sometimes do not realize--" Her voice faded away, but Miss Bartlett seemed
to understand and a conversation developed, in which gentlemen who did not thoroughly
realize played a principal part.
Lucy, not realizing either, was reduced to literature.
Taking up Baedeker's Handbook to Northern Italy, she committed to memory the most
important dates of Florentine History.
For she was determined to enjoy herself on the morrow.
Thus the half-hour crept profitably away, and at last Miss Bartlett rose with a sigh,
and said:
"I think one might venture now. No, Lucy, do not stir.
I will superintend the move." "How you do do everything," said Lucy.
"Naturally, dear.
It is my affair." "But I would like to help you."
"No, dear." Charlotte's energy!
And her unselfishness!
She had been thus all her life, but really, on this Italian tour, she was surpassing
herself. So Lucy felt, or strove to feel.
And yet--there was a rebellious spirit in her which wondered whether the acceptance
might not have been less delicate and more beautiful.
At all events, she entered her own room without any feeling of joy.
"I want to explain," said Miss Bartlett, "why it is that I have taken the largest
room.
Naturally, of course, I should have given it to you; but I happen to know that it
belongs to the young man, and I was sure your mother would not like it."
Lucy was bewildered.
"If you are to accept a favour it is more suitable you should be under an obligation
to his father than to him. I am a woman of the world, in my small way,
and I know where things lead to.
However, Mr. Beebe is a guarantee of a sort that they will not presume on this."
"Mother wouldn't mind I'm sure," said Lucy, but again had the sense of larger and
unsuspected issues.
Miss Bartlett only sighed, and enveloped her in a protecting embrace as she wished
her good-night.
It gave Lucy the sensation of a fog, and when she reached her own room she opened
the window and breathed the clean night air, thinking of the kind old man who had
enabled her to see the lights dancing in
the Arno and the cypresses of San Miniato, and the foot-hills of the Apennines, black
against the rising moon.
Miss Bartlett, in her room, fastened the window-shutters and locked the door, and
then made a tour of the apartment to see where the cupboards led, and whether there
were any oubliettes or secret entrances.
It was then that she saw, pinned up over the washstand, a sheet of paper on which
was scrawled an enormous note of interrogation.
Nothing more.
"What does it mean?" she thought, and she examined it carefully by the light of a
candle. Meaningless at first, it gradually became
menacing, obnoxious, portentous with evil.
She was seized with an impulse to destroy it, but fortunately remembered that she had
no right to do so, since it must be the property of young Mr. Emerson.
So she unpinned it carefully, and put it between two pieces of blotting-paper to
keep it clean for him.
Then she completed her inspection of the room, sighed heavily according to her
habit, and went to bed.
>
CHAPTER II: In Santa Croce with No Baedeker
It was pleasant to wake up in Florence, to open the eyes upon a bright bare room, with
a floor of red tiles which look clean though they are not; with a painted ceiling
whereon pink griffins and blue amorini
sport in a forest of yellow violins and bassoons.
It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows, pinching the fingers in unfamiliar
fastenings, to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble
churches opposite, and close below, the
Arno, gurgling against the embankment of the road.
Over the river men were at work with spades and sieves on the sandy foreshore, and on
the river was a boat, also diligently employed for some mysterious end.
An electric tram came rushing underneath the window.
No one was inside it, except one tourist; but its platforms were overflowing with
Italians, who preferred to stand.
Children tried to hang on behind, and the conductor, with no malice, spat in their
faces to make them let go.
Then soldiers appeared--good-looking, undersized men--wearing each a knapsack
covered with mangy fur, and a great-coat which had been cut for some larger soldier.
Beside them walked officers, looking foolish and fierce, and before them went
little boys, turning somersaults in time with the band.
The tramcar became entangled in their ranks, and moved on painfully, like a
caterpillar in a swarm of ants. One of the little boys fell down, and some
white bullocks came out of an archway.
Indeed, if it had not been for the good advice of an old man who was selling
button-hooks, the road might never have got clear.
Over such trivialities as these many a valuable hour may slip away, and the
traveller who has gone to Italy to study the tactile values of Giotto, or the
corruption of the Papacy, may return
remembering nothing but the blue sky and the men and women who live under it.
So it was as well that Miss Bartlett should tap and come in, and having commented on
Lucy's leaving the door unlocked, and on her leaning out of the window before she
was fully dressed, should urge her to
hasten herself, or the best of the day would be gone.
By the time Lucy was ready her cousin had done her breakfast, and was listening to
the clever lady among the crumbs.
A conversation then ensued, on not unfamiliar lines.
Miss Bartlett was, after all, a wee bit tired, and thought they had better spend
the morning settling in; unless Lucy would at all like to go out?
Lucy would rather like to go out, as it was her first day in Florence, but, of course,
she could go alone. Miss Bartlett could not allow this.
Of course she would accompany Lucy everywhere.
Oh, certainly not; Lucy would stop with her cousin.
Oh, no! that would never do.
Oh, yes! At this point the clever lady broke in.
"If it is Mrs. Grundy who is troubling you, I do assure you that you can neglect the
good person.
Being English, Miss Honeychurch will be perfectly safe.
Italians understand.
A dear friend of mine, Contessa Baroncelli, has two daughters, and when she cannot send
a maid to school with them, she lets them go in sailor-hats instead.
Every one takes them for English, you see, especially if their hair is strained
tightly behind." Miss Bartlett was unconvinced by the safety
of Contessa Baroncelli's daughters.
She was determined to take Lucy herself, her head not being so very bad.
The clever lady then said that she was going to spend a long morning in Santa
Croce, and if Lucy would come too, she would be delighted.
"I will take you by a dear dirty back way, Miss Honeychurch, and if you bring me luck,
we shall have an adventure."
Lucy said that this was most kind, and at once opened the Baedeker, to see where
Santa Croce was. "Tut, tut!
Miss Lucy!
I hope we shall soon emancipate you from Baedeker.
He does but touch the surface of things. As to the true Italy--he does not even
dream of it.
The true Italy is only to be found by patient observation."
This sounded very interesting, and Lucy hurried over her breakfast, and started
with her new friend in high spirits.
Italy was coming at last. The Cockney Signora and her works had
vanished like a bad dream.
Miss Lavish--for that was the clever lady's name--turned to the right along the sunny
Lung' Arno. How delightfully warm!
But a wind down the side streets cut like a knife, didn't it?
Ponte alle Grazie--particularly interesting, mentioned by Dante.
San Miniato--beautiful as well as interesting; the crucifix that kissed a
murderer--Miss Honeychurch would remember the story.
The men on the river were fishing.
(Untrue; but then, so is most information.) Then Miss Lavish darted under the archway
of the white bullocks, and she stopped, and she cried:
"A smell! a true Florentine smell!
Every city, let me teach you, has its own smell."
"Is it a very nice smell?" said Lucy, who had inherited from her mother a distaste to
dirt.
"One doesn't come to Italy for niceness," was the retort; "one comes for life.
Buon giorno! Buon giorno!" bowing right and left.
"Look at that adorable wine-cart!
How the driver stares at us, dear, simple soul!"
So Miss Lavish proceeded through the streets of the city of Florence, short,
fidgety, and playful as a kitten, though without a kitten's grace.
It was a treat for the girl to be with any one so clever and so cheerful; and a blue
military cloak, such as an Italian officer wears, only increased the sense of
festivity.
"Buon giorno! Take the word of an old woman, Miss Lucy:
you will never repent of a little civility to your inferiors.
That is the true democracy.
Though I am a real Radical as well. There, now you're shocked."
"Indeed, I'm not!" exclaimed Lucy. "We are Radicals, too, out and out.
My father always voted for Mr. Gladstone, until he was so dreadful about Ireland."
"I see, I see. And now you have gone over to the enemy."
"Oh, please--!
If my father was alive, I am sure he would vote Radical again now that Ireland is all
right.
And as it is, the glass over our front door was broken last election, and Freddy is
sure it was the Tories; but mother says nonsense, a tramp."
"Shameful!
A manufacturing district, I suppose?" "No--in the Surrey hills.
About five miles from Dorking, looking over the Weald."
Miss Lavish seemed interested, and slackened her trot.
"What a delightful part; I know it so well. It is full of the very nicest people.
Do you know Sir Harry Otway--a Radical if ever there was?"
"Very well indeed." "And old Mrs. Butterworth the
philanthropist?"
"Why, she rents a field of us! How funny!"
Miss Lavish looked at the narrow ribbon of sky, and murmured: "Oh, you have property
in Surrey?"
"Hardly any," said Lucy, fearful of being thought a snob.
"Only thirty acres--just the garden, all downhill, and some fields."
Miss Lavish was not disgusted, and said it was just the size of her aunt's Suffolk
estate. Italy receded.
They tried to remember the last name of Lady Louisa some one, who had taken a house
near Summer Street the other year, but she had not liked it, which was odd of her.
And just as Miss Lavish had got the name, she broke off and exclaimed:
"Bless us! Bless us and save us!
We've lost the way."
Certainly they had seemed a long time in reaching Santa Croce, the tower of which
had been plainly visible from the landing window.
But Miss Lavish had said so much about knowing her Florence by heart, that Lucy
had followed her with no misgivings. "Lost! lost!
My dear Miss Lucy, during our political diatribes we have taken a wrong turning.
How those horrid Conservatives would jeer at us!
What are we to do?
Two lone females in an unknown town. Now, this is what I call an adventure."
Lucy, who wanted to see Santa Croce, suggested, as a possible solution, that
they should ask the way there.
"Oh, but that is the word of a craven! And no, you are not, not, NOT to look at
your Baedeker. Give it to me; I shan't let you carry it.
We will simply drift."
Accordingly they drifted through a series of those grey-brown streets, neither
commodious nor picturesque, in which the eastern quarter of the city abounds.
Lucy soon lost interest in the discontent of Lady Louisa, and became discontented
herself. For one ravishing moment Italy appeared.
She stood in the Square of the Annunziata and saw in the living terra-cotta those
divine babies whom no cheap reproduction can ever stale.
There they stood, with their shining limbs bursting from the garments of charity, and
their strong white arms extended against circlets of heaven.
Lucy thought she had never seen anything more beautiful; but Miss Lavish, with a
shriek of dismay, dragged her forward, declaring that they were out of their path
now by at least a mile.
The hour was approaching at which the continental breakfast begins, or rather
ceases, to tell, and the ladies bought some hot chestnut paste out of a little shop,
because it looked so typical.
It tasted partly of the paper in which it was wrapped, partly of hair oil, partly of
the great unknown.
But it gave them strength to drift into another Piazza, large and dusty, on the
farther side of which rose a black-and- white facade of surpassing ugliness.
Miss Lavish spoke to it dramatically.
It was Santa Croce. The adventure was over.
"Stop a minute; let those two people go on, or I shall have to speak to them.
I do detest conventional intercourse.
Nasty! they are going into the church, too. Oh, the Britisher abroad!"
"We sat opposite them at dinner last night. They have given us their rooms.
They were so very kind."
"Look at their figures!" laughed Miss Lavish.
"They walk through my Italy like a pair of cows.
It's very naughty of me, but I would like to set an examination paper at Dover, and
turn back every tourist who couldn't pass it."
"What would you ask us?"
Miss Lavish laid her hand pleasantly on Lucy's arm, as if to suggest that she, at
all events, would get full marks.
In this exalted mood they reached the steps of the great church, and were about to
enter it when Miss Lavish stopped, squeaked, flung up her arms, and cried:
"There goes my local-colour box!
I must have a word with him!"
And in a moment she was away over the Piazza, her military cloak flapping in the
wind; nor did she slacken speed till she caught up an old man with white whiskers,
and nipped him playfully upon the arm.
Lucy waited for nearly ten minutes. Then she began to get tired.
The beggars worried her, the dust blew in her eyes, and she remembered that a young
girl ought not to loiter in public places.
She descended slowly into the Piazza with the intention of rejoining Miss Lavish, who
was really almost too original.
But at that moment Miss Lavish and her local-colour box moved also, and
disappeared down a side street, both gesticulating largely.
Tears of indignation came to Lucy's eyes partly because Miss Lavish had jilted her,
partly because she had taken her Baedeker. How could she find her way home?
How could she find her way about in Santa Croce?
Her first morning was ruined, and she might never be in Florence again.
A few minutes ago she had been all high spirits, talking as a woman of culture, and
half persuading herself that she was full of originality.
Now she entered the church depressed and humiliated, not even able to remember
whether it was built by the Franciscans or the Dominicans.
Of course, it must be a wonderful building.
But how like a barn! And how very cold!
Of course, it contained frescoes by Giotto, in the presence of whose tactile values she
was capable of feeling what was proper.
But who was to tell her which they were? She walked about disdainfully, unwilling to
be enthusiastic over monuments of uncertain authorship or date.
There was no one even to tell her which, of all the sepulchral slabs that paved the
nave and transepts, was the one that was really beautiful, the one that had been
most praised by Mr. Ruskin.
Then the pernicious charm of Italy worked on her, and, instead of acquiring
information, she began to be happy.
She puzzled out the Italian notices--the notices that forbade people to introduce
dogs into the church--the notice that prayed people, in the interest of health
and out of respect to the sacred edifice in which they found themselves, not to spit.
She watched the tourists; their noses were as red as their Baedekers, so cold was
Santa Croce.
She beheld the horrible fate that overtook three Papists--two he-babies and a she-
baby--who began their career by sousing each other with the Holy Water, and then
proceeded to the Machiavelli memorial, dripping but hallowed.
Advancing towards it very slowly and from immense distances, they touched the stone
with their fingers, with their handkerchiefs, with their heads, and then
retreated.
What could this mean? They did it again and again.
Then Lucy realized that they had mistaken Machiavelli for some saint, hoping to
acquire virtue.
Punishment followed quickly. The smallest he-baby stumbled over one of
the sepulchral slabs so much admired by Mr. Ruskin, and entangled his feet in the
features of a recumbent bishop.
Protestant as she was, Lucy darted forward. She was too late.
He fell heavily upon the prelate's upturned toes.
"Hateful bishop!" exclaimed the voice of old Mr. Emerson, who had darted forward
also. "Hard in life, hard in death.
Go out into the sunshine, little boy, and kiss your hand to the sun, for that is
where you ought to be. Intolerable bishop!"
The child screamed frantically at these words, and at these dreadful people who
picked him up, dusted him, rubbed his bruises, and told him not to be
superstitious.
"Look at him!" said Mr. Emerson to Lucy. "Here's a mess: a baby hurt, cold, and
frightened! But what else can you expect from a
church?"
The child's legs had become as melting wax. Each time that old Mr. Emerson and Lucy set
it erect it collapsed with a roar.
Fortunately an Italian lady, who ought to have been saying her prayers, came to the
rescue.
By some mysterious virtue, which mothers alone possess, she stiffened the little
boy's back-bone and imparted strength to his knees.
He stood.
Still gibbering with agitation, he walked away.
"You are a clever woman," said Mr. Emerson. "You have done more than all the relics in
the world.
I am not of your creed, but I do believe in those who make their fellow-creatures
happy. There is no scheme of the universe--"
He paused for a phrase.
"Niente," said the Italian lady, and returned to her prayers.
"I'm not sure she understands English," suggested Lucy.
In her chastened mood she no longer despised the Emersons.
She was determined to be gracious to them, beautiful rather than delicate, and, if
possible, to erase Miss Bartlett's civility by some gracious reference to the pleasant
rooms.
"That woman understands everything," was Mr. Emerson's reply.
"But what are you doing here? Are you doing the church?
Are you through with the church?"
"No," cried Lucy, remembering her grievance.
"I came here with Miss Lavish, who was to explain everything; and just by the door--
it is too bad!--she simply ran away, and after waiting quite a time, I had to come
in by myself."
"Why shouldn't you?" said Mr. Emerson. "Yes, why shouldn't you come by yourself?"
said the son, addressing the young lady for the first time.
"But Miss Lavish has even taken away Baedeker."
"Baedeker?" said Mr. Emerson. "I'm glad it's THAT you minded.
It's worth minding, the loss of a Baedeker.
THAT'S worth minding." Lucy was puzzled.
She was again conscious of some new idea, and was not sure whither it would lead her.
"If you've no Baedeker," said the son, "you'd better join us."
Was this where the idea would lead? She took refuge in her dignity.
"Thank you very much, but I could not think of that.
I hope you do not suppose that I came to join on to you.
I really came to help with the child, and to thank you for so kindly giving us your
rooms last night. I hope that you have not been put to any
great inconvenience."
"My dear," said the old man gently, "I think that you are repeating what you have
heard older people say. You are pretending to be touchy; but you
are not really.
Stop being so tiresome, and tell me instead what part of the church you want to see.
To take you to it will be a real pleasure." Now, this was abominably impertinent, and
she ought to have been furious.
But it is sometimes as difficult to lose one's temper as it is difficult at other
times to keep it. Lucy could not get cross.
Mr. Emerson was an old man, and surely a girl might humour him.
On the other hand, his son was a young man, and she felt that a girl ought to be
offended with him, or at all events be offended before him.
It was at him that she gazed before replying.
"I am not touchy, I hope. It is the Giottos that I want to see, if
you will kindly tell me which they are."
The son nodded. With a look of sombre satisfaction, he led
the way to the Peruzzi Chapel. There was a hint of the teacher about him.
She felt like a child in school who had answered a question rightly.
The chapel was already filled with an earnest congregation, and out of them rose
the voice of a lecturer, directing them how to worship Giotto, not by tactful
valuations, but by the standards of the spirit.
"Remember," he was saying, "the facts about this church of Santa Croce; how it was
built by faith in the full fervour of medievalism, before any taint of the
Renaissance had appeared.
Observe how Giotto in these frescoes--now, unhappily, ruined by restoration--is
untroubled by the snares of anatomy and perspective.
Could anything be more majestic, more pathetic, beautiful, true?
How little, we feel, avails knowledge and technical cleverness against a man who
truly feels!"
"No!" exclaimed Mr. Emerson, in much too loud a voice for church.
"Remember nothing of the sort! Built by faith indeed!
That simply means the workmen weren't paid properly.
And as for the frescoes, I see no truth in them.
Look at that fat man in blue!
He must weigh as much as I do, and he is shooting into the sky like an air balloon."
He was referring to the fresco of the "Ascension of St. John."
Inside, the lecturer's voice faltered, as well it might.
The audience shifted uneasily, and so did Lucy.
She was sure that she ought not to be with these men; but they had cast a spell over
her. They were so serious and so strange that
she could not remember how to behave.
"Now, did this happen, or didn't it? Yes or no?"
George replied: "It happened like this, if it happened at
all.
I would rather go up to heaven by myself than be pushed by cherubs; and if I got
there I should like my friends to lean out of it, just as they do here."
"You will never go up," said his father.
"You and I, dear boy, will lie at peace in the earth that bore us, and our names will
disappear as surely as our work survives."
"Some of the people can only see the empty grave, not the saint, whoever he is, going
up. It did happen like that, if it happened at
all."
"Pardon me," said a frigid voice. "The chapel is somewhat small for two
parties. We will incommode you no longer."
The lecturer was a clergyman, and his audience must be also his flock, for they
held prayer-books as well as guide-books in their hands.
They filed out of the chapel in silence.
Amongst them were the two little old ladies of the Pension Bertolini--Miss Teresa and
Miss Catherine Alan. "Stop!" cried Mr. Emerson.
"There's plenty of room for us all.
Stop!" The procession disappeared without a word.
Soon the lecturer could be heard in the next chapel, describing the life of St.
Francis.
"George, I do believe that clergyman is the Brixton curate."
George went into the next chapel and returned, saying "Perhaps he is.
I don't remember."
"Then I had better speak to him and remind him who I am.
It's that Mr. Eager. Why did he go?
Did we talk too loud?
How vexatious. I shall go and say we are sorry.
Hadn't I better? Then perhaps he will come back."
"He will not come back," said George.
But Mr. Emerson, contrite and unhappy, hurried away to apologize to the Rev.
Cuthbert Eager.
Lucy, apparently absorbed in a lunette, could hear the lecture again interrupted,
the anxious, aggressive voice of the old man, the curt, injured replies of his
opponent.
The son, who took every little contretemps as if it were a tragedy, was listening
also. "My father has that effect on nearly every
one," he informed her.
"He will try to be kind." "I hope we all try," said she, smiling
nervously. "Because we think it improves our
characters.
But he is kind to people because he loves them; and they find him out, and are
offended, or frightened."
"How silly of them!" said Lucy, though in her heart she sympathized; "I think that a
kind action done tactfully--" "Tact!"
He threw up his head in disdain.
Apparently she had given the wrong answer. She watched the singular creature pace up
and down the chapel. For a young man his face was rugged, and--
until the shadows fell upon it--hard.
Enshadowed, it sprang into tenderness. She saw him once again at Rome, on the
ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, carrying a burden of acorns.
Healthy and muscular, he yet gave her the feeling of greyness, of tragedy that might
only find solution in the night. The feeling soon passed; it was unlike her
to have entertained anything so subtle.
Born of silence and of unknown emotion, it passed when Mr. Emerson returned, and she
could re-enter the world of rapid talk, which was alone familiar to her.
"Were you snubbed?" asked his son tranquilly.
"But we have spoilt the pleasure of I don't know how many people.
They won't come back."
"...full of innate sympathy...quickness to perceive good in others...vision of the
brotherhood of man..." Scraps of the lecture on St. Francis came
floating round the partition wall.
"Don't let us spoil yours," he continued to Lucy.
"Have you looked at those saints?" "Yes," said Lucy.
"They are lovely.
Do you know which is the tombstone that is praised in Ruskin?"
He did not know, and suggested that they should try to guess it.
George, rather to her relief, refused to move, and she and the old man wandered not
unpleasantly about Santa Croce, which, though it is like a barn, has harvested
many beautiful things inside its walls.
There were also beggars to avoid and guides to dodge round the pillars, and an old lady
with her dog, and here and there a priest modestly edging to his Mass through the
groups of tourists.
But Mr. Emerson was only half interested. He watched the lecturer, whose success he
believed he had impaired, and then he anxiously watched his son.
"Why will he look at that fresco?" he said uneasily.
"I saw nothing in it." "I like Giotto," she replied.
"It is so wonderful what they say about his tactile values.
Though I like things like the Della Robbia babies better."
"So you ought.
A baby is worth a dozen saints. And my baby's worth the whole of Paradise,
and as far as I can see he lives in Hell." Lucy again felt that this did not do.
"In Hell," he repeated.
"He's unhappy." "Oh, dear!" said Lucy.
"How can he be unhappy when he is strong and alive?
What more is one to give him?
And think how he has been brought up--free from all the superstition and ignorance
that lead men to hate one another in the name of God.
With such an education as that, I thought he was bound to grow up happy."
She was no theologian, but she felt that here was a very foolish old man, as well as
a very irreligious one.
She also felt that her mother might not like her talking to that kind of person,
and that Charlotte would object most strongly.
"What are we to do with him?" he asked.
"He comes out for his holiday to Italy, and behaves--like that; like the little child
who ought to have been playing, and who hurt himself upon the tombstone.
Eh? What did you say?"
Lucy had made no suggestion. Suddenly he said:
"Now don't be stupid over this.
I don't require you to fall in love with my boy, but I do think you might try and
understand him. You are nearer his age, and if you let
yourself go I am sure you are sensible.
You might help me. He has known so few women, and you have the
time. You stop here several weeks, I suppose?
But let yourself go.
You are inclined to get muddled, if I may judge from last night.
Let yourself go.
Pull out from the depths those thoughts that you do not understand, and spread them
out in the sunlight and know the meaning of them.
By understanding George you may learn to understand yourself.
It will be good for both of you." To this extraordinary speech Lucy found no
answer.
"I only know what it is that's wrong with him; not why it is."
"And what is it?" asked Lucy fearfully, expecting some harrowing tale.
"The old trouble; things won't fit."
"What things?" "The things of the universe.
It is quite true. They don't."
"Oh, Mr. Emerson, whatever do you mean?"
In his ordinary voice, so that she scarcely realized he was quoting poetry, he said:
"'From far, from eve and morning, And yon twelve-winded sky,
The stuff of life to knit me Blew hither: here am I'
George and I both know this, but why does it distress him?
We know that we come from the winds, and that we shall return to them; that all life
is perhaps a knot, a tangle, a blemish in the eternal smoothness.
But why should this make us unhappy?
Let us rather love one another, and work and rejoice.
I don't believe in this world sorrow." Miss Honeychurch assented.
"Then make my boy think like us.
Make him realize that by the side of the everlasting Why there is a Yes--a
transitory Yes if you like, but a Yes." Suddenly she laughed; surely one ought to
laugh.
A young man melancholy because the universe wouldn't fit, because life was a tangle or
a wind, or a Yes, or something! "I'm very sorry," she cried.
"You'll think me unfeeling, but--but--" Then she became matronly.
"Oh, but your son wants employment. Has he no particular hobby?
Why, I myself have worries, but I can generally forget them at the piano; and
collecting stamps did no end of good for my brother.
Perhaps Italy bores him; you ought to try the Alps or the Lakes."
The old man's face saddened, and he touched her gently with his hand.
This did not alarm her; she thought that her advice had impressed him and that he
was thanking her for it.
Indeed, he no longer alarmed her at all; she regarded him as a kind thing, but quite
silly.
Her feelings were as inflated spiritually as they had been an hour ago esthetically,
before she lost Baedeker.
The dear George, now striding towards them over the tombstones, seemed both pitiable
and absurd. He approached, his face in the shadow.
He said:
"Miss Bartlett." "Oh, good gracious me!" said Lucy, suddenly
collapsing and again seeing the whole of life in a new perspective.
"Where?
Where?" "In the nave."
"I see. Those gossiping little Miss Alans must
have--" She checked herself.
"Poor girl!" exploded Mr. Emerson. "Poor girl!"
She could not let this pass, for it was just what she was feeling herself.
"Poor girl?
I fail to understand the point of that remark.
I think myself a very fortunate girl, I assure you.
I'm thoroughly happy, and having a splendid time.
Pray don't waste time mourning over me. There's enough sorrow in the world, isn't
there, without trying to invent it.
Good-bye. Thank you both so much for all your
kindness. Ah, yes! there does come my cousin.
A delightful morning!
Santa Croce is a wonderful church." She joined her cousin.
>
CHAPTER III: Music, Violets, and the Letter "S"
It so happened that Lucy, who found daily life rather chaotic, entered a more solid
world when she opened the piano.
She was then no longer either deferential or patronizing; no longer either a rebel or
a slave.
The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom
breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected.
The commonplace person begins to play, and shoots into the empyrean without effort,
whilst we look up, marvelling how he has escaped us, and thinking how we could
worship him and love him, would he but
translate his visions into human words, and his experiences into human actions.
Perhaps he cannot; certainly he does not, or does so very seldom.
Lucy had done so never.
She was no dazzling executante; her runs were not at all like strings of pearls, and
she struck no more right notes than was suitable for one of her age and situation.
Nor was she the passionate young lady, who performs so tragically on a summer's
evening with the window open.
Passion was there, but it could not be easily labelled; it slipped between love
and hatred and jealousy, and all the furniture of the pictorial style.
And she was tragical only in the sense that she was great, for she loved to play on the
side of Victory. Victory of what and over what--that is more
than the words of daily life can tell us.
But that some sonatas of Beethoven are written tragic no one can gainsay; yet they
can triumph or despair as the player decides, and Lucy had decided that they
should triumph.
A very wet afternoon at the Bertolini permitted her to do the thing she really
liked, and after lunch she opened the little draped piano.
A few people lingered round and praised her playing, but finding that she made no
reply, dispersed to their rooms to write up their diaries or to sleep.
She took no notice of Mr. Emerson looking for his son, nor of Miss Bartlett looking
for Miss Lavish, nor of Miss Lavish looking for her cigarette-case.
Like every true performer, she was intoxicated by the mere feel of the notes:
they were fingers caressing her own; and by touch, not by sound alone, did she come to
her desire.
Mr. Beebe, sitting unnoticed in the window, pondered this illogical element in Miss
Honeychurch, and recalled the occasion at Tunbridge Wells when he had discovered it.
It was at one of those entertainments where the upper classes entertain the lower.
The seats were filled with a respectful audience, and the ladies and gentlemen of
the parish, under the auspices of their vicar, sang, or recited, or imitated the
drawing of a champagne cork.
Among the promised items was "Miss Honeychurch.
Piano.
Beethoven," and Mr. Beebe was wondering whether it would be Adelaida, or the march
of The Ruins of Athens, when his composure was disturbed by the opening bars of Opus
III.
He was in suspense all through the introduction, for not until the pace
quickens does one know what the performer intends.
With the roar of the opening theme he knew that things were going extraordinarily; in
the chords that herald the conclusion he heard the hammer strokes of victory.
He was glad that she only played the first movement, for he could have paid no
attention to the winding intricacies of the measures of nine-sixteen.
The audience clapped, no less respectful.
It was Mr. Beebe who started the stamping; it was all that one could do.
"Who is she?" he asked the vicar afterwards.
"Cousin of one of my parishioners.
I do not consider her choice of a piece happy.
Beethoven is so usually simple and direct in his appeal that it is sheer perversity
to choose a thing like that, which, if anything, disturbs."
"Introduce me."
"She will be delighted. She and Miss Bartlett are full of the
praises of your sermon." "My sermon?" cried Mr. Beebe.
"Why ever did she listen to it?"
When he was introduced he understood why, for Miss Honeychurch, disjoined from her
music stool, was only a young lady with a quantity of dark hair and a very pretty,
pale, undeveloped face.
She loved going to concerts, she loved stopping with her cousin, she loved iced
coffee and meringues. He did not doubt that she loved his sermon
also.
But before he left Tunbridge Wells he made a remark to the vicar, which he now made to
Lucy herself when she closed the little piano and moved dreamily towards him:
"If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting both
for us and for her." Lucy at once re-entered daily life.
"Oh, what a funny thing!
Some one said just the same to mother, and she said she trusted I should never live a
duet." "Doesn't Mrs. Honeychurch like music?"
"She doesn't mind it.
But she doesn't like one to get excited over anything; she thinks I am silly about
it. She thinks--I can't make out.
Once, you know, I said that I liked my own playing better than any one's.
She has never got over it. Of course, I didn't mean that I played
well; I only meant--"
"Of course," said he, wondering why she bothered to explain.
"Music--" said Lucy, as if attempting some generality.
She could not complete it, and looked out absently upon Italy in the wet.
The whole life of the South was disorganized, and the most graceful nation
in Europe had turned into formless lumps of clothes.
The street and the river were dirty yellow, the bridge was dirty grey, and the hills
were dirty purple.
Somewhere in their folds were concealed Miss Lavish and Miss Bartlett, who had
chosen this afternoon to visit the Torre del Gallo.
"What about music?" said Mr. Beebe.
"Poor Charlotte will be sopped," was Lucy's reply.
The expedition was typical of Miss Bartlett, who would return cold, tired,
hungry, and angelic, with a ruined skirt, a pulpy Baedeker, and a tickling cough in her
throat.
On another day, when the whole world was singing and the air ran into the mouth,
like wine, she would refuse to stir from the drawing-room, saying that she was an
old thing, and no fit companion for a hearty girl.
"Miss Lavish has led your cousin astray. She hopes to find the true Italy in the wet
I believe."
"Miss Lavish is so original," murmured Lucy.
This was a stock remark, the supreme achievement of the Pension Bertolini in the
way of definition.
Miss Lavish was so original. Mr. Beebe had his doubts, but they would
have been put down to clerical narrowness. For that, and for other reasons, he held
his peace.
"Is it true," continued Lucy in awe-struck tone, "that Miss Lavish is writing a book?"
"They do say so." "What is it about?"
"It will be a novel," replied Mr. Beebe, "dealing with modern Italy.
Let me refer you for an account to Miss Catharine Alan, who uses words herself more
admirably than any one I know."
"I wish Miss Lavish would tell me herself. We started such friends.
But I don't think she ought to have run away with Baedeker that morning in Santa
Croce.
Charlotte was most annoyed at finding me practically alone, and so I couldn't help
being a little annoyed with Miss Lavish." "The two ladies, at all events, have made
it up."
He was interested in the sudden friendship between women so apparently dissimilar as
Miss Bartlett and Miss Lavish. They were always in each other's company,
with Lucy a slighted third.
Miss Lavish he believed he understood, but Miss Bartlett might reveal unknown depths
of strangeness, though not perhaps, of meaning.
Was Italy deflecting her from the path of prim chaperon, which he had assigned to her
at Tunbridge Wells?
All his life he had loved to study maiden ladies; they were his specialty, and his
profession had provided him with ample opportunities for the work.
Girls like Lucy were charming to look at, but Mr. Beebe was, from rather profound
reasons, somewhat chilly in his attitude towards the other sex, and preferred to be
interested rather than enthralled.
Lucy, for the third time, said that poor Charlotte would be sopped.
The Arno was rising in flood, washing away the traces of the little carts upon the
foreshore.
But in the south-west there had appeared a dull haze of yellow, which might mean
better weather if it did not mean worse.
She opened the window to inspect, and a cold blast entered the room, drawing a
plaintive cry from Miss Catharine Alan, who entered at the same moment by the door.
"Oh, dear Miss Honeychurch, you will catch a chill!
And Mr. Beebe here besides. Who would suppose this is Italy?
There is my sister actually nursing the hot-water can; no comforts or proper
provisions."
She sidled towards them and sat down, self- conscious as she always was on entering a
room which contained one man, or a man and one woman.
"I could hear your beautiful playing, Miss Honeychurch, though I was in my room with
the door shut. Doors shut; indeed, most necessary.
No one has the least idea of privacy in this country.
And one person catches it from another." Lucy answered suitably.
Mr. Beebe was not able to tell the ladies of his adventure at Modena, where the
chambermaid burst in upon him in his bath, exclaiming cheerfully, "Fa niente, sono
vecchia."
He contented himself with saying: "I quite agree with you, Miss Alan.
The Italians are a most unpleasant people.
They pry everywhere, they see everything, and they know what we want before we know
it ourselves. We are at their mercy.
They read our thoughts, they foretell our desires.
From the cab-driver down to--to Giotto, they turn us inside out, and I resent it.
Yet in their heart of hearts they are--how superficial!
They have no conception of the intellectual life.
How right is Signora Bertolini, who exclaimed to me the other day: 'Ho, Mr.
Beebe, if you knew what I suffer over the children's edjucaishion.
HI won't 'ave my little Victorier taught by a hignorant Italian what can't explain
nothink!'" Miss Alan did not follow, but gathered that
she was being mocked in an agreeable way.
Her sister was a little disappointed in Mr. Beebe, having expected better things from a
clergyman whose head was bald and who wore a pair of russet whiskers.
Indeed, who would have supposed that tolerance, sympathy, and a sense of humour
would inhabit that militant form?
In the midst of her satisfaction she continued to sidle, and at last the cause
was disclosed.
From the chair beneath her she extracted a gun-metal cigarette-case, on which were
powdered in turquoise the initials "E. L." "That belongs to Lavish." said the
clergyman.
"A good fellow, Lavish, but I wish she'd start a pipe."
"Oh, Mr. Beebe," said Miss Alan, divided between awe and mirth.
"Indeed, though it is dreadful for her to smoke, it is not quite as dreadful as you
suppose.
She took to it, practically in despair, after her life's work was carried away in a
landslip. Surely that makes it more excusable."
"What was that?" asked Lucy.
Mr. Beebe sat back complacently, and Miss Alan began as follows: "It was a novel--and
I am afraid, from what I can gather, not a very nice novel.
It is so sad when people who have abilities misuse them, and I must say they nearly
always do.
Anyhow, she left it almost finished in the Grotto of the Calvary at the Capuccini
Hotel at Amalfi while she went for a little ink.
She said: 'Can I have a little ink, please?'
But you know what Italians are, and meanwhile the Grotto fell roaring on to the
beach, and the saddest thing of all is that she cannot remember what she has written.
The poor thing was very ill after it, and so got tempted into cigarettes.
It is a great secret, but I am glad to say that she is writing another novel.
She told Teresa and Miss Pole the other day that she had got up all the local colour--
this novel is to be about modern Italy; the other was historical--but that she could
not start till she had an idea.
First she tried Perugia for an inspiration, then she came here--this must on no account
get round. And so cheerful through it all!
I cannot help thinking that there is something to admire in every one, even if
you do not approve of them." Miss Alan was always thus being charitable
against her better judgment.
A delicate pathos perfumed her disconnected remarks, giving them unexpected beauty,
just as in the decaying autumn woods there sometimes rise odours reminiscent of
spring.
She felt she had made almost too many allowances, and apologized hurriedly for
her toleration.
"All the same, she is a little too--I hardly like to say unwomanly, but she
behaved most strangely when the Emersons arrived."
Mr. Beebe smiled as Miss Alan plunged into an anecdote which he knew she would be
unable to finish in the presence of a gentleman.
"I don't know, Miss Honeychurch, if you have noticed that Miss Pole, the lady who
has so much yellow hair, takes lemonade. That old Mr. Emerson, who puts things very
strangely--"
Her jaw dropped. She was silent.
Mr. Beebe, whose social resources were endless, went out to order some tea, and
she continued to Lucy in a hasty whisper:
"Stomach. He warned Miss Pole of her stomach-acidity,
he called it--and he may have meant to be kind.
I must say I forgot myself and laughed; it was so sudden.
As Teresa truly said, it was no laughing matter.
But the point is that Miss Lavish was positively ATTRACTED by his mentioning S.,
and said she liked plain speaking, and meeting different grades of thought.
She thought they were commercial travellers--'drummers' was the word she
used--and all through dinner she tried to prove that England, our great and beloved
country, rests on nothing but commerce.
Teresa was very much annoyed, and left the table before the cheese, saying as she did
so: 'There, Miss Lavish, is one who can confute you better than I,' and pointed to
that beautiful picture of Lord Tennyson.
Then Miss Lavish said: 'Tut! The early Victorians.'
Just imagine! 'Tut! The early Victorians.'
My sister had gone, and I felt bound to speak.
I said: 'Miss Lavish, I am an early Victorian; at least, that is to say, I will
hear no breath of censure against our dear Queen.'
It was horrible speaking.
I reminded her how the Queen had been to Ireland when she did not want to go, and I
must say she was dumbfounded, and made no reply.
But, unluckily, Mr. Emerson overheard this part, and called in his deep voice: 'Quite
so, quite so! I honour the woman for her Irish visit.'
The woman!
I tell things so badly; but you see what a tangle we were in by this time, all on
account of S. having been mentioned in the first place.
But that was not all.
After dinner Miss Lavish actually came up and said: 'Miss Alan, I am going into the
smoking-room to talk to those two nice men. Come, too.'
Needless to say, I refused such an unsuitable invitation, and she had the
impertinence to tell me that it would broaden my ideas, and said that she had
four brothers, all University men, except
one who was in the army, who always made a point of talking to commercial travellers."
"Let me finish the story," said Mr. Beebe, who had returned.
"Miss Lavish tried Miss Pole, myself, every one, and finally said: 'I shall go alone.'
She went.
At the end of five minutes she returned unobtrusively with a green baize board, and
began playing patience." "Whatever happened?" cried Lucy.
"No one knows.
No one will ever know. Miss Lavish will never dare to tell, and
Mr. Emerson does not think it worth telling."
"Mr. Beebe--old Mr. Emerson, is he nice or not nice?
I do so want to know." Mr. Beebe laughed and suggested that she
should settle the question for herself.
"No; but it is so difficult. Sometimes he is so silly, and then I do not
mind him. Miss Alan, what do you think?
Is he nice?"
The little old lady shook her head, and sighed disapprovingly.
Mr. Beebe, whom the conversation amused, stirred her up by saying:
"I consider that you are bound to class him as nice, Miss Alan, after that business of
the violets." "Violets?
Oh, dear!
Who told you about the violets? How do things get round?
A pension is a bad place for gossips. No, I cannot forget how they behaved at Mr.
Eager's lecture at Santa Croce.
Oh, poor Miss Honeychurch! It really was too bad.
No, I have quite changed. I do NOT like the Emersons.
They are not nice."
Mr. Beebe smiled nonchalantly. He had made a gentle effort to introduce
the Emersons into Bertolini society, and the effort had failed.
He was almost the only person who remained friendly to them.
Miss Lavish, who represented intellect, was avowedly hostile, and now the Miss Alans,
who stood for good breeding, were following her.
Miss Bartlett, smarting under an obligation, would scarcely be civil.
The case of Lucy was different.
She had given him a hazy account of her adventures in Santa Croce, and he gathered
that the two men had made a curious and possibly concerted attempt to annex her, to
show her the world from their own strange
standpoint, to interest her in their private sorrows and joys.
This was impertinent; he did not wish their cause to be championed by a young girl: he
would rather it should fail.
After all, he knew nothing about them, and pension joys, pension sorrows, are flimsy
things; whereas Lucy would be his parishioner.
Lucy, with one eye upon the weather, finally said that she thought the Emersons
were nice; not that she saw anything of them now.
Even their seats at dinner had been moved.
"But aren't they always waylaying you to go out with them, dear?" said the little lady
inquisitively. "Only once.
Charlotte didn't like it, and said something--quite politely, of course."
"Most right of her. They don't understand our ways.
They must find their level."
Mr. Beebe rather felt that they had gone under.
They had given up their attempt--if it was one--to conquer society, and now the father
was almost as silent as the son.
He wondered whether he would not plan a pleasant day for these folk before they
left--some expedition, perhaps, with Lucy well chaperoned to be nice to them.
It was one of Mr. Beebe's chief pleasures to provide people with happy memories.
Evening approached while they chatted; the air became brighter; the colours on the
trees and hills were purified, and the Arno lost its muddy solidity and began to
twinkle.
There were a few streaks of bluish-green among the clouds, a few patches of watery
light upon the earth, and then the dripping facade of San Miniato shone brilliantly in
the declining sun.
"Too late to go out," said Miss Alan in a voice of relief.
"All the galleries are shut." "I think I shall go out," said Lucy.
"I want to go round the town in the circular tram--on the platform by the
driver." Her two companions looked grave.
Mr. Beebe, who felt responsible for her in the absence of Miss Bartlett, ventured to
say: "I wish we could.
Unluckily I have letters.
If you do want to go out alone, won't you be better on your feet?"
"Italians, dear, you know," said Miss Alan. "Perhaps I shall meet some one who reads me
through and through!"
But they still looked disapproval, and she so far conceded to Mr. Beebe as to say that
she would only go for a little walk, and keep to the street frequented by tourists.
"She oughtn't really to go at all," said Mr. Beebe, as they watched her from the
window, "and she knows it. I put it down to too much Beethoven."
>
CHAPTER IV: Fourth Chapter
Mr. Beebe was right. Lucy never knew her desires so clearly as
after music.
She had not really appreciated the clergyman's wit, nor the suggestive
twitterings of Miss Alan.
Conversation was tedious; she wanted something big, and she believed that it
would have come to her on the wind-swept platform of an electric tram.
This she might not attempt.
It was unladylike. Why?
Why were most big things unladylike? Charlotte had once explained to her why.
It was not that ladies were inferior to men; it was that they were different.
Their mission was to inspire others to achievement rather than to achieve
themselves.
Indirectly, by means of tact and a spotless name, a lady could accomplish much.
But if she rushed into the fray herself she would be first censured, then despised, and
finally ignored.
Poems had been written to illustrate this point.
There is much that is immortal in this medieval lady.
The dragons have gone, and so have the knights, but still she lingers in our
midst.
She reigned in many an early Victorian castle, and was Queen of much early
Victorian song.
It is sweet to protect her in the intervals of business, sweet to pay her honour when
she has cooked our dinner well. But alas! the creature grows degenerate.
In her heart also there are springing up strange desires.
She too is enamoured of heavy winds, and vast panoramas, and green expanses of the
sea.
She has marked the kingdom of this world, how full it is of wealth, and beauty, and
war--a radiant crust, built around the central fires, spinning towards the
receding heavens.
Men, declaring that she inspires them to it, move joyfully over the surface, having
the most delightful meetings with other men, happy, not because they are masculine,
but because they are alive.
Before the show breaks up she would like to drop the august title of the Eternal Woman,
and go there as her transitory self.
Lucy does not stand for the medieval lady, who was rather an ideal to which she was
bidden to lift her eyes when feeling serious.
Nor has she any system of revolt.
Here and there a restriction annoyed her particularly, and she would transgress it,
and perhaps be sorry that she had done so. This afternoon she was peculiarly restive.
She would really like to do something of which her well-wishers disapproved.
As she might not go on the electric tram, she went to Alinari's shop.
There she bought a photograph of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus."
Venus, being a pity, spoilt the picture, otherwise so charming, and Miss Bartlett
had persuaded her to do without it.
(A pity in art of course signified the nude.)
Giorgione's "Tempesta," the "Idolino," some of the Sistine frescoes and the
Apoxyomenos, were added to it.
She felt a little calmer then, and bought Fra Angelico's "Coronation," Giotto's
"Ascension of St. John," some Della Robbia babies, and some Guido Reni Madonnas.
For her taste was catholic, and she extended uncritical approval to every well-
known name. But though she spent nearly seven lire, the
gates of liberty seemed still unopened.
She was conscious of her discontent; it was new to her to be conscious of it.
"The world," she thought, "is certainly full of beautiful things, if only I could
come across them."
It was not surprising that Mrs. Honeychurch disapproved of music, declaring that it
always left her daughter peevish, unpractical, and touchy.
"Nothing ever happens to me," she reflected, as she entered the Piazza
Signoria and looked nonchalantly at its marvels, now fairly familiar to her.
The great square was in shadow; the sunshine had come too late to strike it.
Neptune was already unsubstantial in the twilight, half god, half ghost, and his
fountain plashed dreamily to the men and satyrs who idled together on its marge.
The Loggia showed as the triple entrance of a cave, wherein many a deity, shadowy, but
immortal, looking forth upon the arrivals and departures of mankind.
It was the hour of unreality--the hour, that is, when unfamiliar things are real.
An older person at such an hour and in such a place might think that sufficient was
happening to him, and rest content.
Lucy desired more. She fixed her eyes wistfully on the tower
of the palace, which rose out of the lower darkness like a pillar of roughened gold.
It seemed no longer a tower, no longer supported by earth, but some unattainable
treasure throbbing in the tranquil sky.
Its brightness mesmerized her, still dancing before her eyes when she bent them
to the ground and started towards home. Then something did happen.
Two Italians by the Loggia had been bickering about a debt.
"Cinque lire," they had cried, "cinque lire!"
They sparred at each other, and one of them was hit lightly upon the chest.
He frowned; he bent towards Lucy with a look of interest, as if he had an important
message for her.
He opened his lips to deliver it, and a stream of red came out between them and
trickled down his unshaven chin. That was all.
A crowd rose out of the dusk.
It hid this extraordinary man from her, and bore him away to the fountain.
Mr. George Emerson happened to be a few paces away, looking at her across the spot
where the man had been.
How very odd! Across something.
Even as she caught sight of him he grew dim; the palace itself grew dim, swayed
above her, fell on to her softly, slowly, noiselessly, and the sky fell with it.
She thought: "Oh, what have I done?"
"Oh, what have I done?" she murmured, and opened her eyes.
George Emerson still looked at her, but not across anything.
She had complained of dullness, and lo! one man was stabbed, and another held her in
his arms. They were sitting on some steps in the
Uffizi Arcade.
He must have carried her. He rose when she spoke, and began to dust
his knees. She repeated:
"Oh, what have I done?"
"You fainted." "I--I am very sorry."
"How are you now?" "Perfectly well--absolutely well."
And she began to nod and smile.
"Then let us come home. There's no point in our stopping."
He held out his hand to pull her up. She pretended not to see it.
The cries from the fountain--they had never ceased--rang emptily.
The whole world seemed pale and void of its original meaning.
"How very kind you have been!
I might have hurt myself falling. But now I am well.
I can go alone, thank you." His hand was still extended.
"Oh, my photographs!" she exclaimed suddenly.
"What photographs?" "I bought some photographs at Alinari's.
I must have dropped them out there in the square."
She looked at him cautiously. "Would you add to your kindness by fetching
them?"
He added to his kindness. As soon as he had turned his back, Lucy
arose with the running of a maniac and stole down the arcade towards the Arno.
"Miss Honeychurch!"
She stopped with her hand on her heart. "You sit still; you aren't fit to go home
alone." "Yes, I am, thank you so very much."
"No, you aren't.
You'd go openly if you were." "But I had rather--"
"Then I don't fetch your photographs." "I had rather be alone."
He said imperiously: "The man is dead--the man is probably dead; sit down till you are
rested." She was bewildered, and obeyed him.
"And don't move till I come back."
In the distance she saw creatures with black hoods, such as appear in dreams.
The palace tower had lost the reflection of the declining day, and joined itself to
earth.
How should she talk to Mr. Emerson when he returned from the shadowy square?
Again the thought occurred to her, "Oh, what have I done?"--the thought that she,
as well as the dying man, had crossed some spiritual boundary.
He returned, and she talked of the murder.
Oddly enough, it was an easy topic. She spoke of the Italian character; she
became almost garrulous over the incident that had made her faint five minutes
before.
Being strong physically, she soon overcame the horror of blood.
She rose without his assistance, and though wings seemed to flutter inside her, she
walked firmly enough towards the Arno.
There a cabman signalled to them; they refused him.
"And the murderer tried to kiss him, you say--how very odd Italians are!--and gave
himself up to the police!
Mr. Beebe was saying that Italians know everything, but I think they are rather
childish. When my cousin and I were at the Pitti
yesterday--What was that?"
He had thrown something into the stream. "What did you throw in?"
"Things I didn't want," he said crossly. "Mr. Emerson!"
"Well?"
"Where are the photographs?" He was silent.
"I believe it was my photographs that you threw away."
"I didn't know what to do with them," he cried, and his voice was that of an anxious
boy. Her heart warmed towards him for the first
time.
"They were covered with blood. There!
I'm glad I've told you; and all the time we were making conversation I was wondering
what to do with them."
He pointed down-stream. "They've gone."
The river swirled under the bridge, "I did mind them so, and one is so foolish, it
seemed better that they should go out to the sea--I don't know; I may just mean that
they frightened me."
Then the boy verged into a man. "For something tremendous has happened; I
must face it without getting muddled. It isn't exactly that a man has died."
Something warned Lucy that she must stop him.
"It has happened," he repeated, "and I mean to find out what it is."
"Mr. Emerson--"
He turned towards her frowning, as if she had disturbed him in some abstract quest.
"I want to ask you something before we go in."
They were close to their pension.
She stopped and leant her elbows against the parapet of the embankment.
He did likewise.
There is at times a magic in identity of position; it is one of the things that have
suggested to us eternal comradeship. She moved her elbows before saying:
"I have behaved ridiculously."
He was following his own thoughts. "I was never so much ashamed of myself in
my life; I cannot think what came over me." "I nearly fainted myself," he said; but she
felt that her attitude repelled him.
"Well, I owe you a thousand apologies." "Oh, all right."
"And--this is the real point--you know how silly people are gossiping--ladies
especially, I am afraid--you understand what I mean?"
"I'm afraid I don't."
"I mean, would you not mention it to any one, my foolish behaviour?"
"Your behaviour? Oh, yes, all right--all right."
"Thank you so much.
And would you--" She could not carry her request any
further. The river was rushing below them, almost
black in the advancing night.
He had thrown her photographs into it, and then he had told her the reason.
It struck her that it was hopeless to look for chivalry in such a man.
He would do her no harm by idle gossip; he was trustworthy, intelligent, and even
kind; he might even have a high opinion of her.
But he lacked chivalry; his thoughts, like his behaviour, would not be modified by
awe.
It was useless to say to him, "And would you--" and hope that he would complete the
sentence for himself, averting his eyes from her nakedness like the knight in that
beautiful picture.
She had been in his arms, and he remembered it, just as he remembered the blood on the
photographs that she had bought in Alinari's shop.
It was not exactly that a man had died; something had happened to the living: they
had come to a situation where character tells, and where childhood enters upon the
branching paths of Youth.
"Well, thank you so much," she repeated, "How quickly these accidents do happen, and
then one returns to the old life!" "I don't."
Anxiety moved her to question him.
His answer was puzzling: "I shall probably want to live."
"But why, Mr. Emerson? What do you mean?"
"I shall want to live, I say."
Leaning her elbows on the parapet, she contemplated the River Arno, whose roar was
suggesting some unexpected melody to her ears.
>
CHAPTER V: Possibilities of a Pleasant Outing
It was a family saying that "you never knew which way Charlotte Bartlett would turn."
She was perfectly pleasant and sensible over Lucy's adventure, found the abridged
account of it quite adequate, and paid suitable tribute to the courtesy of Mr.
George Emerson.
She and Miss Lavish had had an adventure also.
They had been stopped at the Dazio coming back, and the young officials there, who
seemed impudent and desoeuvre, had tried to search their reticules for provisions.
It might have been most unpleasant.
Fortunately Miss Lavish was a match for any one.
For good or for evil, Lucy was left to face her problem alone.
None of her friends had seen her, either in the Piazza or, later on, by the embankment.
Mr. Beebe, indeed, noticing her startled eyes at dinner-time, had again passed to
himself the remark of "Too much Beethoven."
But he only supposed that she was ready for an adventure, not that she had encountered
it.
This solitude oppressed her; she was accustomed to have her thoughts confirmed
by others or, at all events, contradicted; it was too dreadful not to know whether she
was thinking right or wrong.
At breakfast next morning she took decisive action.
There were two plans between which she had to choose.
Mr. Beebe was walking up to the Torre del Gallo with the Emersons and some American
ladies. Would Miss Bartlett and Miss Honeychurch
join the party?
Charlotte declined for herself; she had been there in the rain the previous
afternoon.
But she thought it an admirable idea for Lucy, who hated shopping, changing money,
fetching letters, and other irksome duties- -all of which Miss Bartlett must accomplish
this morning and could easily accomplish alone.
"No, Charlotte!" cried the girl, with real warmth.
"It's very kind of Mr. Beebe, but I am certainly coming with you.
I had much rather."
"Very well, dear," said Miss Bartlett, with a faint flush of pleasure that called forth
a deep flush of shame on the cheeks of Lucy.
How abominably she behaved to Charlotte, now as always!
But now she should alter. All morning she would be really nice to
her.
She slipped her arm into her cousin's, and they started off along the Lung' Arno.
The river was a lion that morning in strength, voice, and colour.
Miss Bartlett insisted on leaning over the parapet to look at it.
She then made her usual remark, which was "How I do wish Freddy and your mother could
see this, too!"
Lucy fidgeted; it was tiresome of Charlotte to have stopped exactly where she did.
"Look, Lucia! Oh, you are watching for the Torre del
Gallo party.
I feared you would repent you of your choice."
Serious as the choice had been, Lucy did not repent.
Yesterday had been a muddle--queer and odd, the kind of thing one could not write down
easily on paper--but she had a feeling that Charlotte and her shopping were preferable
to George Emerson and the summit of the Torre del Gallo.
Since she could not unravel the tangle, she must take care not to re-enter it.
She could protest sincerely against Miss Bartlett's insinuations.
But though she had avoided the chief actor, the scenery unfortunately remained.
Charlotte, with the complacency of fate, led her from the river to the Piazza
Signoria.
She could not have believed that stones, a Loggia, a fountain, a palace tower, would
have such significance. For a moment she understood the nature of
ghosts.
The exact site of the murder was occupied, not by a ghost, but by Miss Lavish, who had
the morning newspaper in her hand. She hailed them briskly.
The dreadful catastrophe of the previous day had given her an idea which she thought
would work up into a book. "Oh, let me congratulate you!" said Miss
Bartlett.
"After your despair of yesterday! What a fortunate thing!"
"Aha! Miss Honeychurch, come you here I am in luck.
Now, you are to tell me absolutely everything that you saw from the
beginning." Lucy poked at the ground with her parasol.
"But perhaps you would rather not?"
"I'm sorry--if you could manage without it, I think I would rather not."
The elder ladies exchanged glances, not of disapproval; it is suitable that a girl
should feel deeply.
"It is I who am sorry," said Miss Lavish "literary hacks are shameless creatures.
I believe there's no secret of the human heart into which we wouldn't pry."
She marched cheerfully to the fountain and back, and did a few calculations in
realism.
Then she said that she had been in the Piazza since eight o'clock collecting
material. A good deal of it was unsuitable, but of
course one always had to adapt.
The two men had quarrelled over a five- franc note.
For the five-franc note she should substitute a young lady, which would raise
the tone of the tragedy, and at the same time furnish an excellent plot.
"What is the heroine's name?" asked Miss Bartlett.
"Leonora," said Miss Lavish; her own name was Eleanor.
"I do hope she's nice."
That desideratum would not be omitted. "And what is the plot?"
Love, murder, abduction, revenge, was the plot.
But it all came while the fountain plashed to the satyrs in the morning sun.
"I hope you will excuse me for boring on like this," Miss Lavish concluded.
"It is so tempting to talk to really sympathetic people.
Of course, this is the barest outline.
There will be a deal of local colouring, descriptions of Florence and the
neighbourhood, and I shall also introduce some humorous characters.
And let me give you all fair warning: I intend to be unmerciful to the British
tourist." "Oh, you wicked woman," cried Miss
Bartlett.
"I am sure you are thinking of the Emersons."
Miss Lavish gave a Machiavellian smile. "I confess that in Italy my sympathies are
not with my own countrymen.
It is the neglected Italians who attract me, and whose lives I am going to paint so
far as I can.
For I repeat and I insist, and I have always held most strongly, that a tragedy
such as yesterday's is not the less tragic because it happened in humble life."
There was a fitting silence when Miss Lavish had concluded.
Then the cousins wished success to her labours, and walked slowly away across the
square.
"She is my idea of a really clever woman," said Miss Bartlett.
"That last remark struck me as so particularly true.
It should be a most pathetic novel."
Lucy assented. At present her great aim was not to get put
into it.
Her perceptions this morning were curiously keen, and she believed that Miss Lavish had
her on trial for an ingenue.
"She is emancipated, but only in the very best sense of the word," continued Miss
Bartlett slowly. "None but the superficial would be shocked
at her.
We had a long talk yesterday. She believes in justice and truth and human
interest. She told me also that she has a high
opinion of the destiny of woman--Mr. Eager!
Why, how nice! What a pleasant surprise!"
"Ah, not for me," said the chaplain blandly, "for I have been watching you and
Miss Honeychurch for quite a little time."
"We were chatting to Miss Lavish." His brow contracted.
"So I saw. Were you indeed?
Andate via! sono occupato!"
The last remark was made to a vender of panoramic photographs who was approaching
with a courteous smile. "I am about to venture a suggestion.
Would you and Miss Honeychurch be disposed to join me in a drive some day this week--a
drive in the hills? We might go up by Fiesole and back by
Settignano.
There is a point on that road where we could get down and have an hour's ramble on
the hillside.
The view thence of Florence is most beautiful--far better than the hackneyed
view of Fiesole. It is the view that Alessio Baldovinetti is
fond of introducing into his pictures.
That man had a decided feeling for landscape.
Decidedly. But who looks at it to-day?
Ah, the world is too much for us."
Miss Bartlett had not heard of Alessio Baldovinetti, but she knew that Mr. Eager
was no commonplace chaplain. He was a member of the residential colony
who had made Florence their home.
He knew the people who never walked about with Baedekers, who had learnt to take a
siesta after lunch, who took drives the pension tourists had never heard of, and
saw by private influence galleries which were closed to them.
Living in delicate seclusion, some in furnished flats, others in Renaissance
villas on Fiesole's slope, they read, wrote, studied, and exchanged ideas, thus
attaining to that intimate knowledge, or
rather perception, of Florence which is denied to all who carry in their pockets
the coupons of Cook. Therefore an invitation from the chaplain
was something to be proud of.
Between the two sections of his flock he was often the only link, and it was his
avowed custom to select those of his migratory sheep who seemed worthy, and give
them a few hours in the pastures of the permanent.
Tea at a Renaissance villa? Nothing had been said about it yet.
But if it did come to that--how Lucy would enjoy it!
A few days ago and Lucy would have felt the same.
But the joys of life were grouping themselves anew.
A drive in the hills with Mr. Eager and Miss Bartlett--even if culminating in a
residential tea-party--was no longer the greatest of them.
She echoed the raptures of Charlotte somewhat faintly.
Only when she heard that Mr. Beebe was also coming did her thanks become more sincere.
"So we shall be a partie carree," said the chaplain.
"In these days of toil and tumult one has great needs of the country and its message
of purity.
Andate via! andate presto, presto! Ah, the town!
Beautiful as it is, it is the town." They assented.
"This very square--so I am told--witnessed yesterday the most sordid of tragedies.
To one who loves the Florence of Dante and Savonarola there is something portentous in
such desecration--portentous and humiliating."
"Humiliating indeed," said Miss Bartlett.
"Miss Honeychurch happened to be passing through as it happened.
She can hardly bear to speak of it." She glanced at Lucy proudly.
"And how came we to have you here?" asked the chaplain paternally.
Miss Bartlett's recent liberalism oozed away at the question.
"Do not blame her, please, Mr. Eager.
The fault is mine: I left her unchaperoned."
"So you were here alone, Miss Honeychurch?"
His voice suggested sympathetic reproof but at the same time indicated that a few
harrowing details would not be unacceptable.
His dark, handsome face drooped mournfully towards her to catch her reply.
"Practically."
"One of our pension acquaintances kindly brought her home," said Miss Bartlett,
adroitly concealing the sex of the preserver.
"For her also it must have been a terrible experience.
I trust that neither of you was at all-- that it was not in your immediate
proximity?"
Of the many things Lucy was noticing to- day, not the least remarkable was this: the
ghoulish fashion in which respectable people will nibble after blood.
George Emerson had kept the subject strangely pure.
"He died by the fountain, I believe," was her reply.
"And you and your friend--"
"Were over at the Loggia." "That must have saved you much.
You have not, of course, seen the disgraceful illustrations which the gutter
Press--This man is a public nuisance; he knows that I am a resident perfectly well,
and yet he goes on worrying me to buy his vulgar views."
Surely the vendor of photographs was in league with Lucy--in the eternal league of
Italy with youth.
He had suddenly extended his book before Miss Bartlett and Mr. Eager, binding their
hands together by a long glossy ribbon of churches, pictures, and views.
"This is too much!" cried the chaplain, striking petulantly at one of Fra
Angelico's angels. She tore.
A shrill cry rose from the vendor.
The book it seemed, was more valuable than one would have supposed.
"Willingly would I purchase--" began Miss Bartlett.
"Ignore him," said Mr. Eager sharply, and they all walked rapidly away from the
square. But an Italian can never be ignored, least
of all when he has a grievance.
His mysterious persecution of Mr. Eager became relentless; the air rang with his
threats and lamentations. He appealed to Lucy; would not she
intercede?
He was poor--he sheltered a family--the tax on bread.
He waited, he gibbered, he was recompensed, he was dissatisfied, he did not leave them
until he had swept their minds clean of all thoughts whether pleasant or unpleasant.
Shopping was the topic that now ensued.
Under the chaplain's guidance they selected many hideous presents and mementoes--florid
little picture-frames that seemed fashioned in gilded pastry; other little frames, more
severe, that stood on little easels, and
were carven out of oak; a blotting book of vellum; a Dante of the same material; cheap
mosaic brooches, which the maids, next Christmas, would never tell from real;
pins, pots, heraldic saucers, brown art-
photographs; Eros and Psyche in alabaster; St. Peter to match--all of which would have
cost less in London. This successful morning left no pleasant
impressions on Lucy.
She had been a little frightened, both by Miss Lavish and by Mr. Eager, she knew not
why. And as they frightened her, she had,
strangely enough, ceased to respect them.
She doubted that Miss Lavish was a great artist.
She doubted that Mr. Eager was as full of spirituality and culture as she had been
led to suppose.
They were tried by some new test, and they were found wanting.
As for Charlotte--as for Charlotte she was exactly the same.
It might be possible to be nice to her; it was impossible to love her.
"The son of a labourer; I happen to know it for a fact.
A mechanic of some sort himself when he was young; then he took to writing for the
Socialistic Press. I came across him at Brixton."
They were talking about the Emersons.
"How wonderfully people rise in these days!" sighed Miss Bartlett, fingering a
model of the leaning Tower of Pisa. "Generally," replied Mr. Eager, "one has
only sympathy for their success.
The desire for education and for social advance--in these things there is something
not wholly vile.
There are some working men whom one would be very willing to see out here in
Florence--little as they would make of it." "Is he a journalist now?"
Miss Bartlett asked, "He is not; he made an advantageous marriage."
He uttered this remark with a voice full of meaning, and ended with a sigh.
"Oh, so he has a wife."
"Dead, Miss Bartlett, dead. I wonder--yes I wonder how he has the
effrontery to look me in the face, to dare to claim acquaintance with me.
He was in my London parish long ago.
The other day in Santa Croce, when he was with Miss Honeychurch, I snubbed him.
Let him beware that he does not get more than a snub."
"What?" cried Lucy, flushing.
"Exposure!" hissed Mr. Eager. He tried to change the subject; but in
scoring a dramatic point he had interested his audience more than he had intended.
Miss Bartlett was full of very natural curiosity.
Lucy, though she wished never to see the Emersons again, was not disposed to condemn
them on a single word.
"Do you mean," she asked, "that he is an irreligious man?
We know that already." "Lucy, dear--" said Miss Bartlett, gently
reproving her cousin's penetration.
"I should be astonished if you knew all. The boy--an innocent child at the time--I
will exclude. God knows what his education and his
inherited qualities may have made him."
"Perhaps," said Miss Bartlett, "it is something that we had better not hear."
"To speak plainly," said Mr. Eager, "it is. I will say no more."
For the first time Lucy's rebellious thoughts swept out in words--for the first
time in her life. "You have said very little."
"It was my intention to say very little," was his frigid reply.
He gazed indignantly at the girl, who met him with equal indignation.
She turned towards him from the shop counter; her breast heaved quickly.
He observed her brow, and the sudden strength of her lips.
It was intolerable that she should disbelieve him.
"Murder, if you want to know," he cried angrily.
"That man murdered his wife!"
"How?" she retorted. "To all intents and purposes he murdered
her. That day in Santa Croce--did they say
anything against me?"
"Not a word, Mr. Eager--not a single word." "Oh, I thought they had been libelling me
to you. But I suppose it is only their personal
charms that makes you defend them."
"I'm not defending them," said Lucy, losing her courage, and relapsing into the old
chaotic methods. "They're nothing to me."
"How could you think she was defending them?" said Miss Bartlett, much discomfited
by the unpleasant scene. The shopman was possibly listening.
"She will find it difficult.
For that man has murdered his wife in the sight of God."
The addition of God was striking. But the chaplain was really trying to
qualify a rash remark.
A silence followed which might have been impressive, but was merely awkward.
Then Miss Bartlett hastily purchased the Leaning Tower, and led the way into the
street.
"I must be going," said he, shutting his eyes and taking out his watch.
Miss Bartlett thanked him for his kindness, and spoke with enthusiasm of the
approaching drive.
"Drive? Oh, is our drive to come off?"
Lucy was recalled to her manners, and after a little exertion the complacency of Mr.
Eager was restored.
"Bother the drive!" exclaimed the girl, as soon as he had departed.
"It is just the drive we had arranged with Mr. Beebe without any fuss at all.
Why should he invite us in that absurd manner?
We might as well invite him. We are each paying for ourselves."
Miss Bartlett, who had intended to lament over the Emersons, was launched by this
remark into unexpected thoughts.
"If that is so, dear--if the drive we and Mr. Beebe are going with Mr. Eager is
really the same as the one we are going with Mr. Beebe, then I foresee a sad kettle
of fish."
"How?" "Because Mr. Beebe has asked Eleanor Lavish
to come, too." "That will mean another carriage."
"Far worse.
Mr. Eager does not like Eleanor. She knows it herself.
The truth must be told; she is too unconventional for him."
They were now in the newspaper-room at the English bank.
Lucy stood by the central table, heedless of Punch and the Graphic, trying to answer,
or at all events to formulate the questions rioting in her brain.
The well-known world had broken up, and there emerged Florence, a magic city where
people thought and did the most extraordinary things.
Murder, accusations of murder, A lady clinging to one man and being rude to
another--were these the daily incidents of her streets?
Was there more in her frank beauty than met the eye--the power, perhaps, to evoke
passions, good and bad, and to bring them speedily to a fulfillment?
Happy Charlotte, who, though greatly troubled over things that did not matter,
seemed oblivious to things that did; who could conjecture with admirable delicacy
"where things might lead to," but
apparently lost sight of the goal as she approached it.
Now she was crouching in the corner trying to extract a circular note from a kind of
linen nose-bag which hung in chaste concealment round her neck.
She had been told that this was the only safe way to carry money in Italy; it must
only be broached within the walls of the English bank.
As she groped she murmured: "Whether it is Mr. Beebe who forgot to tell Mr. Eager, or
Mr. Eager who forgot when he told us, or whether they have decided to leave Eleanor
out altogether--which they could scarcely do--but in any case we must be prepared.
It is you they really want; I am only asked for appearances.
You shall go with the two gentlemen, and I and Eleanor will follow behind.
A one-horse carriage would do for us. Yet how difficult it is!"
"It is indeed," replied the girl, with a gravity that sounded sympathetic.
"What do you think about it?" asked Miss Bartlett, flushed from the struggle, and
buttoning up her dress.
"I don't know what I think, nor what I want."
"Oh, dear, Lucy! I do hope Florence isn't boring you.
Speak the word, and, as you know, I would take you to the ends of the earth to-
morrow." "Thank you, Charlotte," said Lucy, and
pondered over the offer.
There were letters for her at the bureau-- one from her brother, full of athletics and
biology; one from her mother, delightful as only her mother's letters could be.
She had read in it of the crocuses which had been bought for yellow and were coming
up puce, of the new parlour-maid, who had watered the ferns with essence of lemonade,
of the semi-detached cottages which were
ruining Summer Street, and breaking the heart of Sir Harry Otway.
She recalled the free, pleasant life of her home, where she was allowed to do
everything, and where nothing ever happened to her.
The road up through the pine-woods, the clean drawing-room, the view over the
Sussex Weald--all hung before her bright and distinct, but pathetic as the pictures
in a gallery to which, after much experience, a traveller returns.
"And the news?" asked Miss Bartlett.
"Mrs. Vyse and her son have gone to Rome," said Lucy, giving the news that interested
her least. "Do you know the Vyses?"
"Oh, not that way back.
We can never have too much of the dear Piazza Signoria."
"They're nice people, the Vyses. So clever--my idea of what's really clever.
Don't you long to be in Rome?"
"I die for it!" The Piazza Signoria is too stony to be
brilliant.
It has no grass, no flowers, no frescoes, no glittering walls of marble or comforting
patches of ruddy brick.
By an odd chance--unless we believe in a presiding genius of places--the statues
that relieve its severity suggest, not the innocence of childhood, nor the glorious
bewilderment of youth, but the conscious achievements of maturity.
Perseus and Judith, Hercules and Thusnelda, they have done or suffered something, and
though they are immortal, immortality has come to them after experience, not before.
Here, not only in the solitude of Nature, might a hero meet a goddess, or a heroine a
god. "Charlotte!" cried the girl suddenly.
"Here's an idea.
What if we popped off to Rome to-morrow-- straight to the Vyses' hotel?
For I do know what I want. I'm sick of Florence.
No, you said you'd go to the ends of the earth!
Do! Do!" Miss Bartlett, with equal vivacity,
replied:
"Oh, you droll person! Pray, what would become of your drive in
the hills?"
They passed together through the gaunt beauty of the square, laughing over the
unpractical suggestion.
>
CHAPTER VI: The Rev. Arthur Beebe, the Rev. Cuthbert Eager,Mr.Emerson,Mr.George
Emerson, Miss Eleanor Lavish,Miss Charlotte Bartlett, and Miss Lucy Honeychurch Drive
Out in Carriages to See a View; Italians Drive Them.
It was Phaethon who drove them to Fiesole that memorable day, a youth all
irresponsibility and fire, recklessly urging his master's horses up the stony
hill.
Mr. Beebe recognized him at once. Neither the Ages of Faith nor the Age of
Doubt had touched him; he was Phaethon in Tuscany driving a cab.
And it was Persephone whom he asked leave to pick up on the way, saying that she was
his sister--Persephone, tall and slender and pale, returning with the Spring to her
mother's cottage, and still shading her eyes from the unaccustomed light.
To her Mr. Eager objected, saying that here was the thin edge of the wedge, and one
must guard against imposition.
But the ladies interceded, and when it had been made clear that it was a very great
favour, the goddess was allowed to mount beside the god.
Phaethon at once slipped the left rein over her head, thus enabling himself to drive
with his arm round her waist. She did not mind.
Mr. Eager, who sat with his back to the horses, saw nothing of the indecorous
proceeding, and continued his conversation with Lucy.
The other two occupants of the carriage were old Mr. Emerson and Miss Lavish.
For a dreadful thing had happened: Mr. Beebe, without consulting Mr. Eager, had
doubled the size of the party.
And though Miss Bartlett and Miss Lavish had planned all the morning how the people
were to sit, at the critical moment when the carriages came round they lost their
heads, and Miss Lavish got in with Lucy,
while Miss Bartlett, with George Emerson and Mr. Beebe, followed on behind.
It was hard on the poor chaplain to have his partie carree thus transformed.
Tea at a Renaissance villa, if he had ever meditated it, was now impossible.
Lucy and Miss Bartlett had a certain style about them, and Mr. Beebe, though
unreliable, was a man of parts.
But a shoddy lady writer and a journalist who had murdered his wife in the sight of
God--they should enter no villa at his introduction.
Lucy, elegantly dressed in white, sat erect and nervous amid these explosive
ingredients, attentive to Mr. Eager, repressive towards Miss Lavish, watchful of
old Mr. Emerson, hitherto fortunately
asleep, thanks to a heavy lunch and the drowsy atmosphere of Spring.
She looked on the expedition as the work of Fate.
But for it she would have avoided George Emerson successfully.
In an open manner he had shown that he wished to continue their intimacy.
She had refused, not because she disliked him, but because she did not know what had
happened, and suspected that he did know. And this frightened her.
For the real event--whatever it was--had taken place, not in the Loggia, but by the
river. To behave wildly at the sight of death is
pardonable.
But to discuss it afterwards, to pass from discussion into silence, and through
silence into sympathy, that is an error, not of a startled emotion, but of the whole
fabric.
There was really something blameworthy (she thought) in their joint contemplation of
the shadowy stream, in the common impulse which had turned them to the house without
the passing of a look or word.
This sense of wickedness had been slight at first.
She had nearly joined the party to the Torre del Gallo.
But each time that she avoided George it became more imperative that she should
avoid him again.
And now celestial irony, working through her cousin and two clergymen, did not
suffer her to leave Florence till she had made this expedition with him through the
hills.
Meanwhile Mr. Eager held her in civil converse; their little tiff was over.
"So, Miss Honeychurch, you are travelling? As a student of art?"
"Oh, dear me, no--oh, no!"
"Perhaps as a student of human nature," interposed Miss Lavish, "like myself?"
"Oh, no. I am here as a tourist."
"Oh, indeed," said Mr. Eager.
"Are you indeed?
If you will not think me rude, we residents sometimes pity you poor tourists not a
little--handed about like a parcel of goods from Venice to Florence, from Florence to
Rome, living herded together in pensions or
hotels, quite unconscious of anything that is outside Baedeker, their one anxiety to
get 'done' or 'through' and go on somewhere else.
The result is, they mix up towns, rivers, palaces in one inextricable whirl.
You know the American girl in Punch who says: 'Say, poppa, what did we see at
Rome?'
And the father replies: 'Why, guess Rome was the place where we saw the yaller dog.'
There's travelling for you. Ha! ha! ha!"
"I quite agree," said Miss Lavish, who had several times tried to interrupt his
mordant wit.
"The narrowness and superficiality of the Anglo-Saxon tourist is nothing less than a
menace." "Quite so.
Now, the English colony at Florence, Miss Honeychurch--and it is of considerable
size, though, of course, not all equally--a few are here for trade, for example.
But the greater part are students.
Lady Helen Laverstock is at present busy over Fra Angelico.
I mention her name because we are passing her villa on the left.
No, you can only see it if you stand--no, do not stand; you will fall.
She is very proud of that thick hedge. Inside, perfect seclusion.
One might have gone back six hundred years.
Some critics believe that her garden was the scene of The Decameron, which lends it
an additional interest, does it not?" "It does indeed!" cried Miss Lavish.
"Tell me, where do they place the scene of that wonderful seventh day?"
But Mr. Eager proceeded to tell Miss Honeychurch that on the right lived Mr.
Someone Something, an American of the best type--so rare!--and that the Somebody Elses
were farther down the hill.
"Doubtless you know her monographs in the series of 'Mediaeval Byways'?
He is working at Gemistus Pletho.
Sometimes as I take tea in their beautiful grounds I hear, over the wall, the electric
tram squealing up the new road with its loads of hot, dusty, unintelligent tourists
who are going to 'do' Fiesole in an hour in
order that they may say they have been there, and I think--think--I think how
little they think what lies so near them."
During this speech the two figures on the box were sporting with each other
disgracefully. Lucy had a spasm of envy.
Granted that they wished to misbehave, it was pleasant for them to be able to do so.
They were probably the only people enjoying the expedition.
The carriage swept with agonizing jolts up through the Piazza of Fiesole and into the
Settignano road. "Piano! piano!" said Mr. Eager, elegantly
waving his hand over his head.
"Va bene, signore, va bene, va bene," crooned the driver, and whipped his horses
up again.
Now Mr. Eager and Miss Lavish began to talk against each other on the subject of
Alessio Baldovinetti. Was he a cause of the Renaissance, or was
he one of its manifestations?
The other carriage was left behind. As the pace increased to a gallop the
large, slumbering form of Mr. Emerson was thrown against the chaplain with the
regularity of a machine.
"Piano! piano!" said he, with a martyred look at Lucy.
An extra lurch made him turn angrily in his seat.
Phaethon, who for some time had been endeavouring to kiss Persephone, had just
succeeded.
A little scene ensued, which, as Miss Bartlett said afterwards, was most
unpleasant.
The horses were stopped, the lovers were ordered to disentangle themselves, the boy
was to lose his pourboire, the girl was immediately to get down.
"She is my sister," said he, turning round on them with piteous eyes.
Mr. Eager took the trouble to tell him that he was a liar.
Phaethon hung down his head, not at the matter of the accusation, but at its
manner.
At this point Mr. Emerson, whom the shock of stopping had awoke, declared that the
lovers must on no account be separated, and patted them on the back to signify his
approval.
And Miss Lavish, though unwilling to ally him, felt bound to support the cause of
Bohemianism. "Most certainly I would let them be," she
cried.
"But I dare say I shall receive scant support.
I have always flown in the face of the conventions all my life.
This is what I call an adventure."
"We must not submit," said Mr. Eager. "I knew he was trying it on.
He is treating us as if we were a party of Cook's tourists."
"Surely no!" said Miss Lavish, her ardour visibly decreasing.
The other carriage had drawn up behind, and sensible Mr. Beebe called out that after
this warning the couple would be sure to behave themselves properly.
"Leave them alone," Mr. Emerson begged the chaplain, of whom he stood in no awe.
"Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens
to sit there?
To be driven by lovers--A king might envy us, and if we part them it's more like
sacrilege than anything I know." Here the voice of Miss Bartlett was heard
saying that a crowd had begun to collect.
Mr. Eager, who suffered from an over-fluent tongue rather than a resolute will, was
determined to make himself heard. He addressed the driver again.
Italian in the mouth of Italians is a deep- voiced stream, with unexpected cataracts
and boulders to preserve it from monotony.
In Mr. Eager's mouth it resembled nothing so much as an acid whistling fountain which
played ever higher and higher, and quicker and quicker, and more and more shrilly,
till abruptly it was turned off with a click.
"Signorina!" said the man to Lucy, when the display had ceased.
Why should he appeal to Lucy?
"Signorina!" echoed Persephone in her glorious contralto.
She pointed at the other carriage. Why?
For a moment the two girls looked at each other.
Then Persephone got down from the box.
"Victory at last!" said Mr. Eager, smiting his hands together as the carriages started
again. "It is not victory," said Mr. Emerson.
"It is defeat.
You have parted two people who were happy." Mr. Eager shut his eyes.
He was obliged to sit next to Mr. Emerson, but he would not speak to him.
The old man was refreshed by sleep, and took up the matter warmly.
He commanded Lucy to agree with him; he shouted for support to his son.
"We have tried to buy what cannot be bought with money.
He has bargained to drive us, and he is doing it.
We have no rights over his soul."
Miss Lavish frowned. It is hard when a person you have classed
as typically British speaks out of his character.
"He was not driving us well," she said.
"He jolted us." "That I deny.
It was as restful as sleeping. Aha! he is jolting us now.
Can you wonder?
He would like to throw us out, and most certainly he is justified.
And if I were superstitious I'd be frightened of the girl, too.
It doesn't do to injure young people.
Have you ever heard of Lorenzo de Medici?" Miss Lavish bristled.
"Most certainly I have.
Do you refer to Lorenzo il Magnifico, or to Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, or to Lorenzo
surnamed Lorenzino on account of his diminutive stature?"
"The Lord knows.
Possibly he does know, for I refer to Lorenzo the poet.
He wrote a line--so I heard yesterday-- which runs like this: 'Don't go fighting
against the Spring.'"
Mr. Eager could not resist the opportunity for erudition.
"Non fate guerra al Maggio," he murmured. "'War not with the May' would render a
correct meaning."
"The point is, we have warred with it. Look."
He pointed to the Val d'Arno, which was visible far below them, through the budding
trees.
"Fifty miles of Spring, and we've come up to admire them.
Do you suppose there's any difference between Spring in nature and Spring in man?
But there we go, praising the one and condemning the other as improper, ashamed
that the same work eternally through both." No one encouraged him to talk.
Presently Mr. Eager gave a signal for the carriages to stop and marshalled the party
for their ramble on the hill.
A hollow like a great amphitheatre, full of terraced steps and misty olives, now lay
between them and the heights of Fiesole, and the road, still following its curve,
was about to sweep on to a promontory which stood out in the plain.
It was this promontory, uncultivated, wet, covered with bushes and occasional trees,
which had caught the fancy of Alessio Baldovinetti nearly five hundred years
before.
He had ascended it, that diligent and rather obscure master, possibly with an eye
to business, possibly for the joy of ascending.
Standing there, he had seen that view of the Val d'Arno and distant Florence, which
he afterwards had introduced not very effectively into his work.
But where exactly had he stood?
That was the question which Mr. Eager hoped to solve now.
And Miss Lavish, whose nature was attracted by anything problematical, had become
equally enthusiastic.
But it is not easy to carry the pictures of Alessio Baldovinetti in your head, even if
you have remembered to look at them before starting.
And the haze in the valley increased the difficulty of the quest.
The party sprang about from tuft to tuft of grass, their anxiety to keep together being
only equalled by their desire to go different directions.
Finally they split into groups.
Lucy clung to Miss Bartlett and Miss Lavish; the Emersons returned to hold
laborious converse with the drivers; while the two clergymen, who were expected to
have topics in common, were left to each other.
The two elder ladies soon threw off the mask.
In the audible whisper that was now so familiar to Lucy they began to discuss, not
Alessio Baldovinetti, but the drive.
Miss Bartlett had asked Mr. George Emerson what his profession was, and he had
answered "the railway." She was very sorry that she had asked him.
She had no idea that it would be such a dreadful answer, or she would not have
asked him.
Mr. Beebe had turned the conversation so cleverly, and she hoped that the young man
was not very much hurt at her asking him. "The railway!" gasped Miss Lavish.
"Oh, but I shall die!
Of course it was the railway!" She could not control her mirth.
"He is the image of a porter--on, on the South-Eastern."
"Eleanor, be quiet," plucking at her vivacious companion.
"Hush! They'll hear--the Emersons--"
"I can't stop.
Let me go my wicked way. A porter--"
"Eleanor!" "I'm sure it's all right," put in Lucy.
"The Emersons won't hear, and they wouldn't mind if they did."
Miss Lavish did not seem pleased at this. "Miss Honeychurch listening!" she said
rather crossly.
"Pouf! Wouf!
You naughty girl! Go away!"
"Oh, Lucy, you ought to be with Mr. Eager, I'm sure."
"I can't find them now, and I don't want to either."
"Mr. Eager will be offended.
It is your party." "Please, I'd rather stop here with you."
"No, I agree," said Miss Lavish. "It's like a school feast; the boys have
got separated from the girls.
Miss Lucy, you are to go. We wish to converse on high topics unsuited
for your ear." The girl was stubborn.
As her time at Florence drew to its close she was only at ease amongst those to whom
she felt indifferent. Such a one was Miss Lavish, and such for
the moment was Charlotte.
She wished she had not called attention to herself; they were both annoyed at her
remark and seemed determined to get rid of her.
"How tired one gets," said Miss Bartlett.
"Oh, I do wish Freddy and your mother could be here."
Unselfishness with Miss Bartlett had entirely usurped the functions of
enthusiasm.
Lucy did not look at the view either. She would not enjoy anything till she was
safe at Rome. "Then sit you down," said Miss Lavish.
"Observe my foresight."
With many a smile she produced two of those mackintosh squares that protect the frame
of the tourist from damp grass or cold marble steps.
She sat on one; who was to sit on the other?
"Lucy; without a moment's doubt, Lucy. The ground will do for me.
Really I have not had rheumatism for years.
If I do feel it coming on I shall stand. Imagine your mother's feelings if I let you
sit in the wet in your white linen." She sat down heavily where the ground
looked particularly moist.
"Here we are, all settled delightfully. Even if my dress is thinner it will not
show so much, being brown. Sit down, dear; you are too unselfish; you
don't assert yourself enough."
She cleared her throat. "Now don't be alarmed; this isn't a cold.
It's the tiniest cough, and I have had it three days.
It's nothing to do with sitting here at all."
There was only one way of treating the situation.
At the end of five minutes Lucy departed in search of Mr. Beebe and Mr. Eager,
vanquished by the mackintosh square.
She addressed herself to the drivers, who were sprawling in the carriages, perfuming
the cushions with cigars.
The miscreant, a bony young man scorched black by the sun, rose to greet her with
the courtesy of a host and the assurance of a relative.
"Dove?" said Lucy, after much anxious thought.
His face lit up. Of course he knew where, Not so far either.
His arm swept three-fourths of the horizon.
He should just think he did know where. He pressed his finger-tips to his forehead
and then pushed them towards her, as if oozing with visible extract of knowledge.
More seemed necessary.
What was the Italian for "clergyman"? "Dove buoni uomini?" said she at last.
Good? Scarcely the adjective for those noble
beings!
He showed her his cigar. "Uno--piu--piccolo," was her next remark,
implying "Has the cigar been given to you by Mr. Beebe, the smaller of the two good
men?"
She was correct as usual.
He tied the horse to a tree, kicked it to make it stay quiet, dusted the carriage,
arranged his hair, remoulded his hat, encouraged his moustache, and in rather
less than a quarter of a minute was ready to conduct her.
Italians are born knowing the way.
It would seem that the whole earth lay before them, not as a map, but as a chess-
board, whereon they continually behold the changing pieces as well as the squares.
Any one can find places, but the finding of people is a gift from God.
He only stopped once, to pick her some great blue violets.
She thanked him with real pleasure.
In the company of this common man the world was beautiful and direct.
For the first time she felt the influence of Spring.
His arm swept the horizon gracefully; violets, like other things, existed in
great profusion there; "would she like to see them?"
"Ma buoni uomini."
He bowed. Certainly.
Good men first, violets afterwards.
They proceeded briskly through the undergrowth, which became thicker and
thicker.
They were nearing the edge of the promontory, and the view was stealing round
them, but the brown network of the bushes shattered it into countless pieces.
He was occupied in his cigar, and in holding back the pliant boughs.
She was rejoicing in her escape from dullness.
Not a step, not a twig, was unimportant to her.
"What is that?" There was a voice in the wood, in the
distance behind them.
The voice of Mr. Eager? He shrugged his shoulders.
An Italian's ignorance is sometimes more remarkable than his knowledge.
She could not make him understand that perhaps they had missed the clergymen.
The view was forming at last; she could discern the river, the golden plain, other
hills.
"Eccolo!" he exclaimed. At the same moment the ground gave way, and
with a cry she fell out of the wood. Light and beauty enveloped her.
She had fallen on to a little open terrace, which was covered with violets from end to
end. "Courage!" cried her companion, now
standing some six feet above.
"Courage and love." She did not answer.
From her feet the ground sloped sharply into view, and violets ran down in rivulets
and streams and cataracts, irrigating the hillside with blue, eddying round the tree
stems collecting into pools in the hollows,
covering the grass with spots of azure foam.
But never again were they in such profusion; this terrace was the well-head,
the primal source whence beauty gushed out to water the earth.
Standing at its brink, like a swimmer who prepares, was the good man.
But he was not the good man that she had expected, and he was alone.
George had turned at the sound of her arrival.
For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven.
He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue
waves. The bushes above them closed.
He stepped quickly forward and kissed her.
Before she could speak, almost before she could feel, a voice called, "Lucy!
Lucy! Lucy!"
The silence of life had been broken by Miss Bartlett who stood brown against the view.
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CHAPTER VII: They Return
Some complicated game had been playing up and down the hillside all the afternoon.
What it was and exactly how the players had sided, Lucy was slow to discover.
Mr. Eager had met them with a questioning eye.
Charlotte had repulsed him with much small talk.
Mr. Emerson, seeking his son, was told whereabouts to find him.
Mr. Beebe, who wore the heated aspect of a neutral, was bidden to collect the factions
for the return home.
There was a general sense of groping and bewilderment.
Pan had been amongst them--not the great god Pan, who has been buried these two
thousand years, but the little god Pan, who presides over social contretemps and
unsuccessful picnics.
Mr. Beebe had lost every one, and had consumed in solitude the tea-basket which
he had brought up as a pleasant surprise. Miss Lavish had lost Miss Bartlett.
Lucy had lost Mr. Eager.
Mr. Emerson had lost George. Miss Bartlett had lost a mackintosh square.
Phaethon had lost the game. That last fact was undeniable.
He climbed on to the box shivering, with his collar up, prophesying the swift
approach of bad weather. "Let us go immediately," he told them.
"The signorino will walk."
"All the way? He will be hours," said Mr. Beebe.
"Apparently. I told him it was unwise."
He would look no one in the face; perhaps defeat was particularly mortifying for him.
He alone had played skilfully, using the whole of his instinct, while the others had
used scraps of their intelligence.
He alone had divined what things were, and what he wished them to be.
He alone had interpreted the message that Lucy had received five days before from the
lips of a dying man.
Persephone, who spends half her life in the grave--she could interpret it also.
Not so these English. They gain knowledge slowly, and perhaps too
late.
The thoughts of a cab-driver, however just, seldom affect the lives of his employers.
He was the most competent of Miss Bartlett's opponents, but infinitely the
least dangerous.
Once back in the town, he and his insight and his knowledge would trouble English
ladies no more.
Of course, it was most unpleasant; she had seen his black head in the bushes; he might
make a tavern story out of it. But after all, what have we to do with
taverns?
Real menace belongs to the drawing-room. It was of drawing-room people that Miss
Bartlett thought as she journeyed downwards towards the fading sun.
Lucy sat beside her; Mr. Eager sat opposite, trying to catch her eye; he was
vaguely suspicious. They spoke of Alessio Baldovinetti.
Rain and darkness came on together.
The two ladies huddled together under an inadequate parasol.
There was a lightning flash, and Miss Lavish who was nervous, screamed from the
carriage in front.
At the next flash, Lucy screamed also. Mr. Eager addressed her professionally:
"Courage, Miss Honeychurch, courage and faith.
If I might say so, there is something almost blasphemous in this horror of the
elements.
Are we seriously to suppose that all these clouds, all this immense electrical
display, is simply called into existence to extinguish you or me?"
"No--of course--"
"Even from the scientific standpoint the chances against our being struck are
enormous.
The steel knives, the only articles which might attract the current, are in the other
carriage. And, in any case, we are infinitely safer
than if we were walking.
Courage--courage and faith." Under the rug, Lucy felt the kindly
pressure of her cousin's hand.
At times our need for a sympathetic gesture is so great that we care not what exactly
it signifies or how much we may have to pay for it afterwards.
Miss Bartlett, by this timely exercise of her muscles, gained more than she would
have got in hours of preaching or cross examination.
She renewed it when the two carriages stopped, half into Florence.
"Mr. Eager!" called Mr. Beebe. "We want your assistance.
Will you interpret for us?"
"George!" cried Mr. Emerson. "Ask your driver which way George went.
The boy may lose his way. He may be killed."
"Go, Mr. Eager," said Miss Bartlett, "don't ask our driver; our driver is no help.
Go and support poor Mr. Beebe--, he is nearly demented."
"He may be killed!" cried the old man.
"He may be killed!" "Typical behaviour," said the chaplain, as
he quitted the carriage. "In the presence of reality that kind of
person invariably breaks down."
"What does he know?" whispered Lucy as soon as they were alone.
"Charlotte, how much does Mr. Eager know?" "Nothing, dearest; he knows nothing.
But--" she pointed at the driver-"HE knows everything.
Dearest, had we better? Shall I?"
She took out her purse.
"It is dreadful to be entangled with low- class people.
He saw it all."
Tapping Phaethon's back with her guide- book, she said, "Silenzio!" and offered him
a franc. "Va bene," he replied, and accepted it.
As well this ending to his day as any.
But Lucy, a mortal maid, was disappointed in him.
There was an explosion up the road.
The storm had struck the overhead wire of the tramline, and one of the great supports
had fallen. If they had not stopped perhaps they might
have been hurt.
They chose to regard it as a miraculous preservation, and the floods of love and
sincerity, which fructify every hour of life, burst forth in tumult.
They descended from the carriages; they embraced each other.
It was as joyful to be forgiven past unworthinesses as to forgive them.
For a moment they realized vast possibilities of good.
The older people recovered quickly. In the very height of their emotion they
knew it to be unmanly or unladylike.
Miss Lavish calculated that, even if they had continued, they would not have been
caught in the accident. Mr. Eager mumbled a temperate prayer.
But the drivers, through miles of dark squalid road, poured out their souls to the
dryads and the saints, and Lucy poured out hers to her cousin.
"Charlotte, dear Charlotte, kiss me.
Kiss me again. Only you can understand me.
You warned me to be careful. And I--I thought I was developing."
"Do not cry, dearest.
Take your time." "I have been obstinate and silly--worse
than you know, far worse. Once by the river--Oh, but he isn't killed-
-he wouldn't be killed, would he?"
The thought disturbed her repentance. As a matter of fact, the storm was worst
along the road; but she had been near danger, and so she thought it must be near
to every one.
"I trust not. One would always pray against that."
"He is really--I think he was taken by surprise, just as I was before.
But this time I'm not to blame; I want you to believe that.
I simply slipped into those violets. No, I want to be really truthful.
I am a little to blame.
I had silly thoughts. The sky, you know, was gold, and the ground
all blue, and for a moment he looked like some one in a book."
"In a book?"
"Heroes--gods--the nonsense of schoolgirls."
"And then?" "But, Charlotte, you know what happened
then."
Miss Bartlett was silent. Indeed, she had little more to learn.
With a certain amount of insight she drew her young cousin affectionately to her.
All the way back Lucy's body was shaken by deep sighs, which nothing could repress.
"I want to be truthful," she whispered. "It is so hard to be absolutely truthful."
"Don't be troubled, dearest.
Wait till you are calmer. We will talk it over before bed-time in my
room." So they re-entered the city with hands
clasped.
It was a shock to the girl to find how far emotion had ebbed in others.
The storm had ceased, and Mr. Emerson was easier about his son.
Mr. Beebe had regained good humour, and Mr. Eager was already snubbing Miss Lavish.
Charlotte alone she was sure of--Charlotte, whose exterior concealed so much insight
and love.
The luxury of self-exposure kept her almost happy through the long evening.
She thought not so much of what had happened as of how she should describe it.
All her sensations, her spasms of courage, her moments of unreasonable joy, her
mysterious discontent, should be carefully laid before her cousin.
And together in divine confidence they would disentangle and interpret them all.
"At last," thought she, "I shall understand myself.
I shan't again be troubled by things that come out of nothing, and mean I don't know
what." Miss Alan asked her to play.
She refused vehemently.
Music seemed to her the employment of a child.
She sat close to her cousin, who, with commendable patience, was listening to a
long story about lost luggage.
When it was over she capped it by a story of her own.
Lucy became rather hysterical with the delay.
In vain she tried to check, or at all events to accelerate, the tale.
It was not till a late hour that Miss Bartlett had recovered her luggage and
could say in her usual tone of gentle reproach:
"Well, dear, I at all events am ready for Bedfordshire.
Come into my room, and I will give a good brush to your hair."
With some solemnity the door was shut, and a cane chair placed for the girl.
Then Miss Bartlett said "So what is to be done?"
She was unprepared for the question.
It had not occurred to her that she would have to do anything.
A detailed exhibition of her emotions was all that she had counted upon.
"What is to be done?
A point, dearest, which you alone can settle."
The rain was streaming down the black windows, and the great room felt damp and
chilly, One candle burnt trembling on the chest of drawers close to Miss Bartlett's
toque, which cast monstrous and fantastic shadows on the bolted door.
A tram roared by in the dark, and Lucy felt unaccountably sad, though she had long
since dried her eyes.
She lifted them to the ceiling, where the griffins and bassoons were colourless and
vague, the very ghosts of joy. "It has been raining for nearly four
hours," she said at last.
Miss Bartlett ignored the remark. "How do you propose to silence him?"
"The driver?" "My dear girl, no; Mr. George Emerson."
Lucy began to pace up and down the room.
"I don't understand," she said at last. She understood very well, but she no longer
wished to be absolutely truthful. "How are you going to stop him talking
about it?"
"I have a feeling that talk is a thing he will never do."
"I, too, intend to judge him charitably. But unfortunately I have met the type
before.
They seldom keep their exploits to themselves."
"Exploits?" cried Lucy, wincing under the horrible plural.
"My poor dear, did you suppose that this was his first?
Come here and listen to me. I am only gathering it from his own
remarks.
Do you remember that day at lunch when he argued with Miss Alan that liking one
person is an extra reason for liking another?"
"Yes," said Lucy, whom at the time the argument had pleased.
"Well, I am no prude.
There is no need to call him a wicked young man, but obviously he is thoroughly
unrefined. Let us put it down to his deplorable
antecedents and education, if you wish.
But we are no farther on with our question. What do you propose to do?"
An idea rushed across Lucy's brain, which, had she thought of it sooner and made it
part of her, might have proved victorious.
"I propose to speak to him," said she. Miss Bartlett uttered a cry of genuine
alarm. "You see, Charlotte, your kindness--I shall
never forget it.
But--as you said--it is my affair. Mine and his."
"And you are going to IMPLORE him, to BEG him to keep silence?"
"Certainly not.
There would be no difficulty. Whatever you ask him he answers, yes or no;
then it is over. I have been frightened of him.
But now I am not one little bit."
"But we fear him for you, dear.
You are so young and inexperienced, you have lived among such nice people, that you
cannot realize what men can be--how they can take a brutal pleasure in insulting a
woman whom her sex does not protect and rally round.
This afternoon, for example, if I had not arrived, what would have happened?"
"I can't think," said Lucy gravely.
Something in her voice made Miss Bartlett repeat her question, intoning it more
vigorously. "What would have happened if I hadn't
arrived?"
"I can't think," said Lucy again. "When he insulted you, how would you have
replied?" "I hadn't time to think.
You came."
"Yes, but won't you tell me now what you would have done?"
"I should have--" She checked herself, and broke the sentence off.
She went up to the dripping window and strained her eyes into the darkness.
She could not think what she would have done.
"Come away from the window, dear," said Miss Bartlett.
"You will be seen from the road." Lucy obeyed.
She was in her cousin's power.
She could not modulate out the key of self- abasement in which she had started.
Neither of them referred again to her suggestion that she should speak to George
and settle the matter, whatever it was, with him.
Miss Bartlett became plaintive.
"Oh, for a real man! We are only two women, you and I.
Mr. Beebe is hopeless. There is Mr. Eager, but you do not trust
him.
Oh, for your brother! He is young, but I know that his sister's
insult would rouse in him a very lion. Thank God, chivalry is not yet dead.
There are still left some men who can reverence woman."
As she spoke, she pulled off her rings, of which she wore several, and ranged them
upon the pin cushion.
Then she blew into her gloves and said: "It will be a push to catch the morning
train, but we must try." "What train?"
"The train to Rome."
She looked at her gloves critically. The girl received the announcement as
easily as it had been given. "When does the train to Rome go?"
"At eight."
"Signora Bertolini would be upset." "We must face that," said Miss Bartlett,
not liking to say that she had given notice already.
"She will make us pay for a whole week's pension."
"I expect she will. However, we shall be much more comfortable
at the Vyses' hotel.
Isn't afternoon tea given there for nothing?"
"Yes, but they pay extra for wine." After this remark she remained motionless
and silent.
To her tired eyes Charlotte throbbed and swelled like a ghostly figure in a dream.
They began to sort their clothes for packing, for there was no time to lose, if
they were to catch the train to Rome.
Lucy, when admonished, began to move to and fro between the rooms, more conscious of
the discomforts of packing by candlelight than of a subtler ill.
Charlotte, who was practical without ability, knelt by the side of an empty
trunk, vainly endeavouring to pave it with books of varying thickness and size.
She gave two or three sighs, for the stooping posture hurt her back, and, for
all her diplomacy, she felt that she was growing old.
The girl heard her as she entered the room, and was seized with one of those emotional
impulses to which she could never attribute a cause.
She only felt that the candle would burn better, the packing go easier, the world be
happier, if she could give and receive some human love.
The impulse had come before to-day, but never so strongly.
She knelt down by her cousin's side and took her in her arms.
Miss Bartlett returned the embrace with tenderness and warmth.
But she was not a stupid woman, and she knew perfectly well that Lucy did not love
her, but needed her to love.
For it was in ominous tones that she said, after a long pause:
"Dearest Lucy, how will you ever forgive me?"
Lucy was on her guard at once, knowing by bitter experience what forgiving Miss
Bartlett meant. Her emotion relaxed, she modified her
embrace a little, and she said:
"Charlotte dear, what do you mean? As if I have anything to forgive!"
"You have a great deal, and I have a very great deal to forgive myself, too.
I know well how much I vex you at every turn."
"But no--" Miss Bartlett assumed her favourite role,
that of the prematurely aged martyr.
"Ah, but yes! I feel that our tour together is hardly the
success I had hoped. I might have known it would not do.
You want some one younger and stronger and more in sympathy with you.
I am too uninteresting and old-fashioned-- only fit to pack and unpack your things."
"Please--"
"My only consolation was that you found people more to your taste, and were often
able to leave me at home.
I had my own poor ideas of what a lady ought to do, but I hope I did not inflict
them on you more than was necessary. You had your own way about these rooms, at
all events."
"You mustn't say these things," said Lucy softly.
She still clung to the hope that she and Charlotte loved each other, heart and soul.
They continued to pack in silence.
"I have been a failure," said Miss Bartlett, as she struggled with the straps
of Lucy's trunk instead of strapping her own.
"Failed to make you happy; failed in my duty to your mother.
She has been so generous to me; I shall never face her again after this disaster."
"But mother will understand.
It is not your fault, this trouble, and it isn't a disaster either."
"It is my fault, it is a disaster. She will never forgive me, and rightly.
Fur instance, what right had I to make friends with Miss Lavish?"
"Every right." "When I was here for your sake?
If I have vexed you it is equally true that I have neglected you.
Your mother will see this as clearly as I do, when you tell her."
Lucy, from a cowardly wish to improve the situation, said:
"Why need mother hear of it?" "But you tell her everything?"
"I suppose I do generally."
"I dare not break your confidence. There is something sacred in it.
Unless you feel that it is a thing you could not tell her."
The girl would not be degraded to this.
"Naturally I should have told her. But in case she should blame you in any
way, I promise I will not, I am very willing not to.
I will never speak of it either to her or to any one."
Her promise brought the long-drawn interview to a sudden close.
Miss Bartlett pecked her smartly on both cheeks, wished her good-night, and sent her
to her own room. For a moment the original trouble was in
the background.
George would seem to have behaved like a cad throughout; perhaps that was the view
which one would take eventually. At present she neither acquitted nor
condemned him; she did not pass judgment.
At the moment when she was about to judge him her cousin's voice had intervened, and,
ever since, it was Miss Bartlett who had dominated; Miss Bartlett who, even now,
could be heard sighing into a crack in the
partition wall; Miss Bartlett, who had really been neither pliable nor humble nor
inconsistent.
She had worked like a great artist; for a time--indeed, for years--she had been
meaningless, but at the end there was presented to the girl the complete picture
of a cheerless, loveless world in which the
young rush to destruction until they learn better--a shamefaced world of precautions
and barriers which may avert evil, but which do not seem to bring good, if we may
judge from those who have used them most.
Lucy was suffering from the most grievous wrong which this world has yet discovered:
diplomatic advantage had been taken of her sincerity, of her craving for sympathy and
love.
Such a wrong is not easily forgotten. Never again did she expose herself without
due consideration and precaution against rebuff.
And such a wrong may react disastrously upon the soul.
The door-bell rang, and she started to the shutters.
Before she reached them she hesitated, turned, and blew out the candle.
Thus it was that, though she saw some one standing in the wet below, he, though he
looked up, did not see her.
To reach his room he had to go by hers. She was still dressed.
It struck her that she might slip into the passage and just say that she would be gone
before he was up, and that their extraordinary intercourse was over.
Whether she would have dared to do this was never proved.
At the critical moment Miss Bartlett opened her own door, and her voice said:
"I wish one word with you in the drawing- room, Mr. Emerson, please."
Soon their footsteps returned, and Miss Bartlett said: "Good-night, Mr. Emerson."
His heavy, tired breathing was the only reply; the chaperon had done her work.
Lucy cried aloud: "It isn't true. It can't all be true.
I want not to be muddled.
I want to grow older quickly." Miss Bartlett tapped on the wall.
"Go to bed at once, dear. You need all the rest you can get."
In the morning they left for Rome.
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