Part 3 - A Room with a View Audiobook by E. M. Forster (Chs 15-20)


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Transcript:
CHAPTER XV: The Disaster Within
The Sunday after Miss Bartlett's arrival was a glorious day, like most of the days
of that year.
In the Weald, autumn approached, breaking up the green monotony of summer, touching
the parks with the grey bloom of mist, the beech-trees with russet, the oak-trees with
gold.
Up on the heights, battalions of black pines witnessed the change, themselves
unchangeable.
Either country was spanned by a cloudless sky, and in either arose the tinkle of
church bells.
The garden of Windy Corners was deserted except for a red book, which lay sunning
itself upon the gravel path. From the house came incoherent sounds, as
of females preparing for worship.
"The men say they won't go"--"Well, I don't blame them"--Minnie says, "need she go?"--
"Tell her, no nonsense"--"Anne! Mary!
Hook me behind!"--"Dearest Lucia, may I trespass upon you for a pin?"
For Miss Bartlett had announced that she at all events was one for church.
The sun rose higher on its journey, guided, not by Phaethon, but by Apollo, competent,
unswerving, divine.
Its rays fell on the ladies whenever they advanced towards the bedroom windows; on
Mr. Beebe down at Summer Street as he smiled over a letter from Miss Catharine
Alan; on George Emerson cleaning his
father's boots; and lastly, to complete the catalogue of memorable things, on the red
book mentioned previously. The ladies move, Mr. Beebe moves, George
moves, and movement may engender shadow.
But this book lies motionless, to be caressed all the morning by the sun and to
raise its covers slightly, as though acknowledging the caress.
Presently Lucy steps out of the drawing- room window.
Her new cerise dress has been a failure, and makes her look tawdry and wan.
At her throat is a garnet brooch, on her finger a ring set with rubies--an
engagement ring. Her eyes are bent to the Weald.
She frowns a little--not in anger, but as a brave child frowns when he is trying not to
cry.
In all that expanse no human eye is looking at her, and she may frown unrebuked and
measure the spaces that yet survive between Apollo and the western hills.
"Lucy!
Lucy! What's that book?
Who's been taking a book out of the shelf and leaving it about to spoil?"
"It's only the library book that Cecil's been reading."
"But pick it up, and don't stand idling there like a flamingo."
Lucy picked up the book and glanced at the title listlessly, Under a Loggia.
She no longer read novels herself, devoting all her spare time to solid literature in
the hope of catching Cecil up.
It was dreadful how little she knew, and even when she thought she knew a thing,
like the Italian painters, she found she had forgotten it.
Only this morning she had confused Francesco Francia with Piero della
Francesca, and Cecil had said, "What! you aren't forgetting your Italy already?"
And this too had lent anxiety to her eyes when she saluted the dear view and the dear
garden in the foreground, and above them, scarcely conceivable elsewhere, the dear
sun.
"Lucy--have you a sixpence for Minnie and a shilling for yourself?"
She hastened in to her mother, who was rapidly working herself into a Sunday
fluster.
"It's a special collection--I forget what for.
I do beg, no vulgar clinking in the plate with halfpennies; see that Minnie has a
nice bright sixpence.
Where is the child? Minnie!
That book's all warped. (Gracious, how plain you look!)
Put it under the Atlas to press.
Minnie!" "Oh, Mrs. Honeychurch--" from the upper
regions. "Minnie, don't be late.
Here comes the horse"--it was always the horse, never the carriage.
"Where's Charlotte? Run up and hurry her.
Why is she so long?
She had nothing to do. She never brings anything but blouses.
Poor Charlotte--How I do detest blouses! Minnie!"
Paganism is infectious--more infectious than diphtheria or piety--and the Rector's
niece was taken to church protesting. As usual, she didn't see why.
Why shouldn't she sit in the sun with the young men?
The young men, who had now appeared, mocked her with ungenerous words.
Mrs. Honeychurch defended orthodoxy, and in the midst of the confusion Miss Bartlett,
dressed in the very height of the fashion, came strolling down the stairs.
"Dear Marian, I am very sorry, but I have no small change--nothing but sovereigns and
half crowns. Could any one give me--"
"Yes, easily.
Jump in. Gracious me, how smart you look!
What a lovely frock! You put us all to shame."
"If I did not wear my best rags and tatters now, when should I wear them?" said Miss
Bartlett reproachfully. She got into the victoria and placed
herself with her back to the horse.
The necessary roar ensued, and then they drove off.
"Good-bye! Be good!" called out Cecil.
Lucy bit her lip, for the tone was sneering.
On the subject of "church and so on" they had had rather an unsatisfactory
conversation.
He had said that people ought to overhaul themselves, and she did not want to
overhaul herself; she did not know it was done.
Honest orthodoxy Cecil respected, but he always assumed that honesty is the result
of a spiritual crisis; he could not imagine it as a natural birthright, that might grow
heavenward like flowers.
All that he said on this subject pained her, though he exuded tolerance from every
pore; somehow the Emersons were different. She saw the Emersons after church.
There was a line of carriages down the road, and the Honeychurch vehicle happened
to be opposite Cissie Villa.
To save time, they walked over the green to it, and found father and son smoking in the
garden. "Introduce me," said her mother.
"Unless the young man considers that he knows me already."
He probably did; but Lucy ignored the Sacred Lake and introduced them formally.
Old Mr. Emerson claimed her with much warmth, and said how glad he was that she
was going to be married.
She said yes, she was glad too; and then, as Miss Bartlett and Minnie were lingering
behind with Mr. Beebe, she turned the conversation to a less disturbing topic,
and asked him how he liked his new house.
"Very much," he replied, but there was a note of offence in his voice; she had never
known him offended before.
He added: "We find, though, that the Miss Alans were coming, and that we have turned
them out. Women mind such a thing.
I am very much upset about it."
"I believe that there was some misunderstanding," said Mrs. Honeychurch
uneasily.
"Our landlord was told that we should be a different type of person," said George, who
seemed disposed to carry the matter further.
"He thought we should be artistic.
He is disappointed." "And I wonder whether we ought to write to
the Miss Alans and offer to give it up. What do you think?"
He appealed to Lucy.
"Oh, stop now you have come," said Lucy lightly.
She must avoid censuring Cecil.
For it was on Cecil that the little episode turned, though his name was never
mentioned. "So George says.
He says that the Miss Alans must go to the wall.
Yet it does seem so unkind."
"There is only a certain amount of kindness in the world," said George, watching the
sunlight flash on the panels of the passing carriages.
"Yes!" exclaimed Mrs. Honeychurch.
"That's exactly what I say. Why all this twiddling and twaddling over
two Miss Alans?"
"There is a certain amount of kindness, just as there is a certain amount of
light," he continued in measured tones.
"We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place
to place to save things; because the shadow always follows.
Choose a place where you won't do harm-- yes, choose a place where you won't do very
much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine."
"Oh, Mr. Emerson, I see you're clever!"
"Eh--?" "I see you're going to be clever.
I hope you didn't go behaving like that to poor Freddy."
George's eyes laughed, and Lucy suspected that he and her mother would get on rather
well. "No, I didn't," he said.
"He behaved that way to me.
It is his philosophy. Only he starts life with it; and I have
tried the Note of Interrogation first." "What DO you mean?
No, never mind what you mean.
Don't explain. He looks forward to seeing you this
afternoon. Do you play tennis?
Do you mind tennis on Sunday--?"
"George mind tennis on Sunday! George, after his education, distinguish
between Sunday--" "Very well, George doesn't mind tennis on
Sunday.
No more do I. That's settled.
Mr. Emerson, if you could come with your son we should be so pleased."
He thanked her, but the walk sounded rather far; he could only potter about in these
days. She turned to George: "And then he wants to
give up his house to the Miss Alans."
"I know," said George, and put his arm round his father's neck.
The kindness that Mr. Beebe and Lucy had always known to exist in him came out
suddenly, like sunlight touching a vast landscape--a touch of the morning sun?
She remembered that in all his perversities he had never spoken against affection.
Miss Bartlett approached. "You know our cousin, Miss Bartlett," said
Mrs. Honeychurch pleasantly.
"You met her with my daughter in Florence." "Yes, indeed!" said the old man, and made
as if he would come out of the garden to meet the lady.
Miss Bartlett promptly got into the victoria.
Thus entrenched, she emitted a formal bow.
It was the pension Bertolini again, the dining-table with the decanters of water
and wine. It was the old, old battle of the room with
the view.
George did not respond to the bow. Like any boy, he blushed and was ashamed;
he knew that the chaperon remembered. He said: "I--I'll come up to tennis if I
can manage it," and went into the house.
Perhaps anything that he did would have pleased Lucy, but his awkwardness went
straight to her heart; men were not gods after all, but as human and as clumsy as
girls; even men might suffer from unexplained desires, and need help.
To one of her upbringing, and of her destination, the weakness of men was a
truth unfamiliar, but she had surmised it at Florence, when George threw her
photographs into the River Arno.
"George, don't go," cried his father, who thought it a great treat for people if his
son would talk to them.
"George has been in such good spirits today, and I am sure he will end by coming
up this afternoon." Lucy caught her cousin's eye.
Something in its mute appeal made her reckless.
"Yes," she said, raising her voice, "I do hope he will."
Then she went to the carriage and murmured, "The old man hasn't been told; I knew it
was all right." Mrs. Honeychurch followed her, and they
drove away.
Satisfactory that Mr. Emerson had not been told of the Florence escapade; yet Lucy's
spirits should not have leapt up as if she had sighted the ramparts of heaven.
Satisfactory; yet surely she greeted it with disproportionate joy.
All the way home the horses' hoofs sang a tune to her: "He has not told, he has not
told."
Her brain expanded the melody: "He has not told his father--to whom he tells all
things. It was not an exploit.
He did not laugh at me when I had gone."
She raised her hand to her cheek. "He does not love me.
No. How terrible if he did! But he has not told.
He will not tell."
She longed to shout the words: "It is all right.
It's a secret between us two for ever. Cecil will never hear."
She was even glad that Miss Bartlett had made her promise secrecy, that last dark
evening at Florence, when they had knelt packing in his room.
The secret, big or little, was guarded.
Only three English people knew of it in the world.
Thus she interpreted her joy. She greeted Cecil with unusual radiance,
because she felt so safe.
As he helped her out of the carriage, she said:
"The Emersons have been so nice. George Emerson has improved enormously."
"How are my proteges?" asked Cecil, who took no real interest in them, and had long
since forgotten his resolution to bring them to Windy Corner for educational
purposes.
"Proteges!" she exclaimed with some warmth. For the only relationship which Cecil
conceived was feudal: that of protector and protected.
He had no glimpse of the comradeship after which the girl's soul yearned.
"You shall see for yourself how your proteges are.
George Emerson is coming up this afternoon.
He is a most interesting man to talk to. Only don't--" She nearly said, "Don't
protect him."
But the bell was ringing for lunch, and, as often happened, Cecil had paid no great
attention to her remarks. Charm, not argument, was to be her forte.
Lunch was a cheerful meal.
Generally Lucy was depressed at meals. Some one had to be soothed--either Cecil or
Miss Bartlett or a Being not visible to the mortal eye--a Being who whispered to her
soul: "It will not last, this cheerfulness.
In January you must go to London to entertain the grandchildren of celebrated
men." But to-day she felt she had received a
guarantee.
Her mother would always sit there, her brother here.
The sun, though it had moved a little since the morning, would never be hidden behind
the western hills.
After luncheon they asked her to play.
She had seen Gluck's Armide that year, and played from memory the music of the
enchanted garden--the music to which Renaud approaches, beneath the light of an eternal
dawn, the music that never gains, never
wanes, but ripples for ever like the tideless seas of fairyland.
Such music is not for the piano, and her audience began to get restive, and Cecil,
sharing the discontent, called out: "Now play us the other garden--the one in
Parsifal."
She closed the instrument. "Not very dutiful," said her mother's
voice. Fearing that she had offended Cecil, she
turned quickly round.
There George was. He had crept in without interrupting her.
"Oh, I had no idea!" she exclaimed, getting very red; and then, without a word of
greeting, she reopened the piano.
Cecil should have the Parsifal, and anything else that he liked.
"Our performer has changed her mind," said Miss Bartlett, perhaps implying, she will
play the music to Mr. Emerson.
Lucy did not know what to do nor even what she wanted to do.
She played a few bars of the Flower Maidens' song very badly and then she
stopped.
"I vote tennis," said Freddy, disgusted at the scrappy entertainment.
"Yes, so do I." Once more she closed the unfortunate piano.
"I vote you have a men's four."
"All right." "Not for me, thank you," said Cecil.
"I will not spoil the set."
He never realized that it may be an act of kindness in a bad player to make up a
fourth. "Oh, come along Cecil.
I'm bad, Floyd's rotten, and so I dare say's Emerson."
George corrected him: "I am not bad." One looked down one's nose at this.
"Then certainly I won't play," said Cecil, while Miss Bartlett, under the impression
that she was snubbing George, added: "I agree with you, Mr. Vyse.
You had much better not play.
Much better not." Minnie, rushing in where Cecil feared to
tread, announced that she would play. "I shall miss every ball anyway, so what
does it matter?"
But Sunday intervened and stamped heavily upon the kindly suggestion.
"Then it will have to be Lucy," said Mrs. Honeychurch; "you must fall back on Lucy.
There is no other way out of it.
Lucy, go and change your frock." Lucy's Sabbath was generally of this
amphibious nature.
She kept it without hypocrisy in the morning, and broke it without reluctance in
the afternoon.
As she changed her frock, she wondered whether Cecil was sneering at her; really
she must overhaul herself and settle everything up before she married him.
Mr. Floyd was her partner.
She liked music, but how much better tennis seemed.
How much better to run about in comfortable clothes than to sit at the piano and feel
girt under the arms.
Once more music appeared to her the employment of a child.
George served, and surprised her by his anxiety to win.
She remembered how he had sighed among the tombs at Santa Croce because things
wouldn't fit; how after the death of that obscure Italian he had leant over the
parapet by the Arno and said to her: "I
shall want to live, I tell you," He wanted to live now, to win at tennis, to stand for
all he was worth in the sun--the sun which had begun to decline and was shining in her
eyes; and he did win.
Ah, how beautiful the Weald looked! The hills stood out above its radiance, as
Fiesole stands above the Tuscan Plain, and the South Downs, if one chose, were the
mountains of Carrara.
She might be forgetting her Italy, but she was noticing more things in her England.
One could play a new game with the view, and try to find in its innumerable folds
some town or village that would do for Florence.
Ah, how beautiful the Weald looked!
But now Cecil claimed her. He chanced to be in a lucid critical mood,
and would not sympathize with exaltation.
He had been rather a nuisance all through the tennis, for the novel that he was
reading was so bad that he was obliged to read it aloud to others.
He would stroll round the precincts of the court and call out: "I say, listen to this,
Lucy. Three split infinitives."
"Dreadful!" said Lucy, and missed her stroke.
When they had finished their set, he still went on reading; there was some murder
scene, and really every one must listen to it.
Freddy and Mr. Floyd were obliged to hunt for a lost ball in the laurels, but the
other two acquiesced. "The scene is laid in Florence."
"What fun, Cecil!
Read away. Come, Mr. Emerson, sit down after all your
energy."
She had "forgiven" George, as she put it, and she made a point of being pleasant to
him. He jumped over the net and sat down at her
feet asking: "You--and are you tired?"
"Of course I'm not!" "Do you mind being beaten?"
She was going to answer, "No," when it struck her that she did mind, so she
answered, "Yes."
She added merrily, "I don't see you're such a splendid player, though.
The light was behind you, and it was in my eyes."
"I never said I was."
"Why, you did!" "You didn't attend."
"You said--oh, don't go in for accuracy at this house.
We all exaggerate, and we get very angry with people who don't."
"'The scene is laid in Florence,'" repeated Cecil, with an upward note.
Lucy recollected herself.
"'Sunset. Leonora was speeding--'"
Lucy interrupted. "Leonora?
Is Leonora the heroine?
Who's the book by?" "Joseph Emery Prank.
'Sunset. Leonora speeding across the square.
Pray the saints she might not arrive too late.
Sunset--the sunset of Italy. Under Orcagna's Loggia--the Loggia de'
Lanzi, as we sometimes call it now--'"
Lucy burst into laughter. "'Joseph Emery Prank' indeed!
Why it's Miss Lavish! It's Miss Lavish's novel, and she's
publishing it under somebody else's name."
"Who may Miss Lavish be?" "Oh, a dreadful person--Mr. Emerson, you
remember Miss Lavish?" Excited by her pleasant afternoon, she
clapped her hands.
George looked up. "Of course I do.
I saw her the day I arrived at Summer Street.
It was she who told me that you lived here."
"Weren't you pleased?"
She meant "to see Miss Lavish," but when he bent down to the grass without replying, it
struck her that she could mean something else.
She watched his head, which was almost resting against her knee, and she thought
that the ears were reddening. "No wonder the novel's bad," she added.
"I never liked Miss Lavish.
But I suppose one ought to read it as one's met her."
"All modern books are bad," said Cecil, who was annoyed at her inattention, and vented
his annoyance on literature.
"Every one writes for money in these days." "Oh, Cecil--!"
"It is so. I will inflict Joseph Emery Prank on you no
longer."
Cecil, this afternoon seemed such a twittering sparrow.
The ups and downs in his voice were noticeable, but they did not affect her.
She had dwelt amongst melody and movement, and her nerves refused to answer to the
clang of his. Leaving him to be annoyed, she gazed at the
black head again.
She did not want to stroke it, but she saw herself wanting to stroke it; the sensation
was curious. "How do you like this view of ours, Mr.
Emerson?"
"I never notice much difference in views." "What do you mean?"
"Because they're all alike. Because all that matters in them is
distance and air."
"H'm!" said Cecil, uncertain whether the remark was striking or not.
"My father"--he looked up at her (and he was a little flushed)--"says that there is
only one perfect view--the view of the sky straight over our heads, and that all these
views on earth are but bungled copies of it."
"I expect your father has been reading Dante," said Cecil, fingering the novel,
which alone permitted him to lead the conversation.
"He told us another day that views are really crowds--crowds of trees and houses
and hills--and are bound to resemble each other, like human crowds--and that the
power they have over us is sometimes supernatural, for the same reason."
Lucy's lips parted. "For a crowd is more than the people who
make it up.
Something gets added to it--no one knows how--just as something has got added to
those hills." He pointed with his racquet to the South
Downs.
"What a splendid idea!" she murmured. "I shall enjoy hearing your father talk
again. I'm so sorry he's not so well."
"No, he isn't well."
"There's an absurd account of a view in this book," said Cecil.
"Also that men fall into two classes--those who forget views and those who remember
them, even in small rooms."
"Mr. Emerson, have you any brothers or sisters?"
"None. Why?"
"You spoke of 'us.'"
"My mother, I was meaning." Cecil closed the novel with a bang.
"Oh, Cecil--how you made me jump!" "I will inflict Joseph Emery Prank on you
no longer."
"I can just remember us all three going into the country for the day and seeing as
far as Hindhead. It is the first thing that I remember."
Cecil got up; the man was ill-bred--he hadn't put on his coat after tennis--he
didn't do. He would have strolled away if Lucy had not
stopped him.
"Cecil, do read the thing about the view." "Not while Mr. Emerson is here to entertain
us." "No--read away.
I think nothing's funnier than to hear silly things read out loud.
If Mr. Emerson thinks us frivolous, he can go."
This struck Cecil as subtle, and pleased him.
It put their visitor in the position of a prig.
Somewhat mollified, he sat down again.
"Mr. Emerson, go and find tennis balls." She opened the book.
Cecil must have his reading and anything else that he liked.
But her attention wandered to George's mother, who--according to Mr. Eager--had
been murdered in the sight of God according to her son--had seen as far as Hindhead.
"Am I really to go?" asked George.
"No, of course not really," she answered. "Chapter two," said Cecil, yawning.
"Find me chapter two, if it isn't bothering you."
Chapter two was found, and she glanced at its opening sentences.
She thought she had gone mad. "Here--hand me the book."
She heard her voice saying: "It isn't worth reading--it's too silly to read--I never
saw such rubbish--it oughtn't to be allowed to be printed."
He took the book from her.
"'Leonora,'" he read, "'sat pensive and alone.
Before her lay the rich champaign of Tuscany, dotted over with many a smiling
village.
The season was spring.'" Miss Lavish knew, somehow, and had printed
the past in draggled prose, for Cecil to read and for George to hear.
"'A golden haze,'" he read.
He read: "'Afar off the towers of Florence, while the bank on which she sat was
carpeted with violets. All unobserved Antonio stole up behind her-
-'"
Lest Cecil should see her face she turned to George and saw his face.
He read: "'There came from his lips no wordy protestation such as formal lovers
use.
No eloquence was his, nor did he suffer from the lack of it.
He simply enfolded her in his manly arms.'"
"This isn't the passage I wanted," he informed them, "there is another much
funnier, further on." He turned over the leaves.
"Should we go in to tea?" said Lucy, whose voice remained steady.
She led the way up the garden, Cecil following her, George last.
She thought a disaster was averted.
But when they entered the shrubbery it came.
The book, as if it had not worked mischief enough, had been forgotten, and Cecil must
go back for it; and George, who loved passionately, must blunder against her in
the narrow path.
"No--" she gasped, and, for the second time, was kissed by him.
As if no more was possible, he slipped back; Cecil rejoined her; they reached the
upper lawn alone.
>
CHAPTER XVI: Lying to George
But Lucy had developed since the spring. That is to say, she was now better able to
stifle the emotions of which the conventions and the world disapprove.
Though the danger was greater, she was not shaken by deep sobs.
She said to Cecil, "I am not coming in to tea--tell mother--I must write some
letters," and went up to her room.
Then she prepared for action.
Love felt and returned, love which our bodies exact and our hearts have
transfigured, love which is the most real thing that we shall ever meet, reappeared
now as the world's enemy, and she must stifle it.
She sent for Miss Bartlett. The contest lay not between love and duty.
Perhaps there never is such a contest.
It lay between the real and the pretended, and Lucy's first aim was to defeat herself.
As her brain clouded over, as the memory of the views grew dim and the words of the
book died away, she returned to her old shibboleth of nerves.
She "conquered her breakdown."
Tampering with the truth, she forgot that the truth had ever been.
Remembering that she was engaged to Cecil, she compelled herself to confused
remembrances of George; he was nothing to her; he never had been anything; he had
behaved abominably; she had never encouraged him.
The armour of falsehood is subtly wrought out of darkness, and hides a man not only
from others, but from his own soul.
In a few moments Lucy was equipped for battle.
"Something too awful has happened," she began, as soon as her cousin arrived.
"Do you know anything about Miss Lavish's novel?"
Miss Bartlett looked surprised, and said that she had not read the book, nor known
that it was published; Eleanor was a reticent woman at heart.
"There is a scene in it.
The hero and heroine make love. Do you know about that?"
"Dear--?" "Do you know about it, please?" she
repeated.
"They are on a hillside, and Florence is in the distance."
"My good Lucia, I am all at sea. I know nothing about it whatever."
"There are violets.
I cannot believe it is a coincidence. Charlotte, Charlotte, how could you have
told her? I have thought before speaking; it must be
you."
"Told her what?" she asked, with growing agitation.
"About that dreadful afternoon in February."
Miss Bartlett was genuinely moved.
"Oh, Lucy, dearest girl--she hasn't put that in her book?"
Lucy nodded. "Not so that one could recognize it.
Yes."
"Then never--never--never more shall Eleanor Lavish be a friend of mine."
"So you did tell?" "I did just happen--when I had tea with her
at Rome--in the course of conversation--"
"But Charlotte--what about the promise you gave me when we were packing?
Why did you tell Miss Lavish, when you wouldn't even let me tell mother?"
"I will never forgive Eleanor.
She has betrayed my confidence." "Why did you tell her, though?
This is a most serious thing." Why does any one tell anything?
The question is eternal, and it was not surprising that Miss Bartlett should only
sigh faintly in response.
She had done wrong--she admitted it, she only hoped that she had not done harm; she
had told Eleanor in the strictest confidence.
Lucy stamped with irritation.
"Cecil happened to read out the passage aloud to me and to Mr. Emerson; it upset
Mr. Emerson and he insulted me again. Behind Cecil's back.
Ugh!
Is it possible that men are such brutes? Behind Cecil's back as we were walking up
the garden." Miss Bartlett burst into self-accusations
and regrets.
"What is to be done now? Can you tell me?"
"Oh, Lucy--I shall never forgive myself, never to my dying day.
Fancy if your prospects--"
"I know," said Lucy, wincing at the word. "I see now why you wanted me to tell Cecil,
and what you meant by 'some other source.' You knew that you had told Miss Lavish, and
that she was not reliable."
It was Miss Bartlett's turn to wince. "However," said the girl, despising her
cousin's shiftiness, "What's done's done. You have put me in a most awkward position.
How am I to get out of it?"
Miss Bartlett could not think. The days of her energy were over.
She was a visitor, not a chaperon, and a discredited visitor at that.
She stood with clasped hands while the girl worked herself into the necessary rage.
"He must--that man must have such a setting down that he won't forget.
And who's to give it him?
I can't tell mother now--owing to you. Nor Cecil, Charlotte, owing to you.
I am caught up every way. I think I shall go mad.
I have no one to help me.
That's why I've sent for you. What's wanted is a man with a whip."
Miss Bartlett agreed: one wanted a man with a whip.
"Yes--but it's no good agreeing.
What's to be DONE. We women go maundering on.
What DOES a girl do when she comes across a cad?"
"I always said he was a cad, dear.
Give me credit for that, at all events. From the very first moment--when he said
his father was having a bath." "Oh, bother the credit and who's been right
or wrong!
We've both made a muddle of it. George Emerson is still down the garden
there, and is he to be left unpunished, or isn't he?
I want to know."
Miss Bartlett was absolutely helpless. Her own exposure had unnerved her, and
thoughts were colliding painfully in her brain.
She moved feebly to the window, and tried to detect the cad's white flannels among
the laurels. "You were ready enough at the Bertolini
when you rushed me off to Rome.
Can't you speak again to him now?" "Willingly would I move heaven and earth--"
"I want something more definite," said Lucy contemptuously.
"Will you speak to him?
It is the least you can do, surely, considering it all happened because you
broke your word." "Never again shall Eleanor Lavish be a
friend of mine."
Really, Charlotte was outdoing herself. "Yes or no, please; yes or no."
"It is the kind of thing that only a gentleman can settle."
George Emerson was coming up the garden with a tennis ball in his hand.
"Very well," said Lucy, with an angry gesture.
"No one will help me.
I will speak to him myself." And immediately she realized that this was
what her cousin had intended all along. "Hullo, Emerson!" called Freddy from below.
"Found the lost ball?
Good man! Want any tea?"
And there was an irruption from the house on to the terrace.
"Oh, Lucy, but that is brave of you!
I admire you--" They had gathered round George, who
beckoned, she felt, over the rubbish, the sloppy thoughts, the furtive yearnings that
were beginning to cumber her soul.
Her anger faded at the sight of him. Ah! The Emersons were fine people in their
way. She had to subdue a rush in her blood
before saying:
"Freddy has taken him into the dining-room. The others are going down the garden.
Come. Let us get this over quickly.
Come.
I want you in the room, of course." "Lucy, do you mind doing it?"
"How can you ask such a ridiculous question?"
"Poor Lucy--" She stretched out her hand.
"I seem to bring nothing but misfortune wherever I go."
Lucy nodded.
She remembered their last evening at Florence--the packing, the candle, the
shadow of Miss Bartlett's toque on the door.
She was not to be trapped by pathos a second time.
Eluding her cousin's caress, she led the way downstairs.
"Try the jam," Freddy was saying.
"The jam's jolly good." George, looking big and dishevelled, was
pacing up and down the dining-room. As she entered he stopped, and said:
"No--nothing to eat."
"You go down to the others," said Lucy; "Charlotte and I will give Mr. Emerson all
he wants. Where's mother?"
"She's started on her Sunday writing.
She's in the drawing-room." "That's all right.
You go away." He went off singing.
Lucy sat down at the table.
Miss Bartlett, who was thoroughly frightened, took up a book and pretended to
read. She would not be drawn into an elaborate
speech.
She just said: "I can't have it, Mr. Emerson.
I cannot even talk to you.
Go out of this house, and never come into it again as long as I live here--" flushing
as she spoke and pointing to the door. "I hate a row.
Go please."
"What--" "No discussion."
"But I can't--" She shook her head.
"Go, please.
I do not want to call in Mr. Vyse." "You don't mean," he said, absolutely
ignoring Miss Bartlett--"you don't mean that you are going to marry that man?"
The line was unexpected.
She shrugged her shoulders, as if his vulgarity wearied her.
"You are merely ridiculous," she said quietly.
Then his words rose gravely over hers: "You cannot live with Vyse.
He's only for an acquaintance. He is for society and cultivated talk.
He should know no one intimately, least of all a woman."
It was a new light on Cecil's character. "Have you ever talked to Vyse without
feeling tired?"
"I can scarcely discuss--" "No, but have you ever?
He is the sort who are all right so long as they keep to things--books, pictures--but
kill when they come to people.
That's why I'll speak out through all this muddle even now.
It's shocking enough to lose you in any case, but generally a man must deny himself
joy, and I would have held back if your Cecil had been a different person.
I would never have let myself go.
But I saw him first in the National Gallery, when he winced because my father
mispronounced the names of great painters.
Then he brings us here, and we find it is to play some silly trick on a kind
neighbour.
That is the man all over--playing tricks on people, on the most sacred form of life
that he can find.
Next, I meet you together, and find him protecting and teaching you and your mother
to be shocked, when it was for YOU to settle whether you were shocked or no.
Cecil all over again.
He daren't let a woman decide. He's the type who's kept Europe back for a
thousand years.
Every moment of his life he's forming you, telling you what's charming or amusing or
ladylike, telling you what a man thinks womanly; and you, you of all women, listen
to his voice instead of to your own.
So it was at the Rectory, when I met you both again; so it has been the whole of
this afternoon.
Therefore--not 'therefore I kissed you,' because the book made me do that, and I
wish to goodness I had more self-control. I'm not ashamed.
I don't apologize.
But it has frightened you, and you may not have noticed that I love you.
Or would you have told me to go, and dealt with a tremendous thing so lightly?
But therefore--therefore I settled to fight him."
Lucy thought of a very good remark. "You say Mr. Vyse wants me to listen to
him, Mr. Emerson.
Pardon me for suggesting that you have caught the habit."
And he took the shoddy reproof and touched it into immortality.
He said:
"Yes, I have," and sank down as if suddenly weary.
"I'm the same kind of brute at bottom.
This desire to govern a woman--it lies very deep, and men and women must fight it
together before they shall enter the garden.
But I do love you surely in a better way than he does."
He thought. "Yes--really in a better way.
I want you to have your own thoughts even when I hold you in my arms," He stretched
them towards her.
"Lucy, be quick--there's no time for us to talk now--come to me as you came in the
spring, and afterwards I will be gentle and explain.
I have cared for you since that man died.
I cannot live without you, 'No good,' I thought; 'she is marrying some one else';
but I meet you again when all the world is glorious water and sun.
As you came through the wood I saw that nothing else mattered.
I called. I wanted to live and have my chance of
joy."
"And Mr. Vyse?" said Lucy, who kept commendably calm.
"Does he not matter? That I love Cecil and shall be his wife
shortly?
A detail of no importance, I suppose?" But he stretched his arms over the table
towards her. "May I ask what you intend to gain by this
exhibition?"
He said: "It is our last chance. I shall do all that I can."
And as if he had done all else, he turned to Miss Bartlett, who sat like some portent
against the skies of the evening.
"You wouldn't stop us this second time if you understood," he said.
"I have been into the dark, and I am going back into it, unless you will try to
understand."
Her long, narrow head drove backwards and forwards, as though demolishing some
invisible obstacle. She did not answer.
"It is being young," he said quietly, picking up his racquet from the floor and
preparing to go. "It is being certain that Lucy cares for me
really.
It is that love and youth matter intellectually."
In silence the two women watched him. His last remark, they knew, was nonsense,
but was he going after it or not?
Would not he, the cad, the charlatan, attempt a more dramatic finish?
No. He was apparently content.
He left them, carefully closing the front door; and when they looked through the hall
window, they saw him go up the drive and begin to climb the slopes of withered fern
behind the house.
Their tongues were loosed, and they burst into stealthy rejoicings.
"Oh, Lucia--come back here--oh, what an awful man!"
Lucy had no reaction--at least, not yet.
"Well, he amuses me," she said. "Either I'm mad, or else he is, and I'm
inclined to think it's the latter. One more fuss through with you, Charlotte.
Many thanks.
I think, though, that this is the last. My admirer will hardly trouble me again."
And Miss Bartlett, too, essayed the roguish:
"Well, it isn't every one who could boast such a conquest, dearest, is it?
Oh, one oughtn't to laugh, really. It might have been very serious.
But you were so sensible and brave--so unlike the girls of my day."
"Let's go down to them." But, once in the open air, she paused.
Some emotion--pity, terror, love, but the emotion was strong--seized her, and she was
aware of autumn.
Summer was ending, and the evening brought her odours of decay, the more pathetic
because they were reminiscent of spring. That something or other mattered
intellectually?
A leaf, violently agitated, danced past her, while other leaves lay motionless.
That the earth was hastening to re-enter darkness, and the shadows of those trees
over Windy Corner?
"Hullo, Lucy! There's still light enough for another set,
if you two'll hurry." "Mr. Emerson has had to go."
"What a nuisance!
That spoils the four. I say, Cecil, do play, do, there's a good
chap. It's Floyd's last day.
Do play tennis with us, just this once."
Cecil's voice came: "My dear Freddy, I am no athlete.
As you well remarked this very morning, 'There are some chaps who are no good for
anything but books'; I plead guilty to being such a chap, and will not inflict
myself on you."
The scales fell from Lucy's eyes. How had she stood Cecil for a moment?
He was absolutely intolerable, and the same evening she broke off her engagement.
>
CHAPTER XVII: Lying to Cecil
He was bewildered. He had nothing to say.
He was not even angry, but stood, with a glass of whiskey between his hands, trying
to think what had led her to such a conclusion.
She had chosen the moment before bed, when, in accordance with their bourgeois habit,
she always dispensed drinks to the men.
Freddy and Mr. Floyd were sure to retire with their glasses, while Cecil invariably
lingered, sipping at his while she locked up the sideboard.
"I am very sorry about it," she said; "I have carefully thought things over.
We are too different.
I must ask you to release me, and try to forget that there ever was such a foolish
girl." It was a suitable speech, but she was more
angry than sorry, and her voice showed it.
"Different--how--how--" "I haven't had a really good education, for
one thing," she continued, still on her knees by the sideboard.
"My Italian trip came too late, and I am forgetting all that I learnt there.
I shall never be able to talk to your friends, or behave as a wife of yours
should."
"I don't understand you. You aren't like yourself.
You're tired, Lucy." "Tired!" she retorted, kindling at once.
"That is exactly like you.
You always think women don't mean what they say."
"Well, you sound tired, as if something has worried you."
"What if I do?
It doesn't prevent me from realizing the truth.
I can't marry you, and you will thank me for saying so some day."
"You had that bad headache yesterday--All right"--for she had exclaimed indignantly:
"I see it's much more than headaches. But give me a moment's time."
He closed his eyes.
"You must excuse me if I say stupid things, but my brain has gone to pieces.
Part of it lives three minutes back, when I was sure that you loved me, and the other
part--I find it difficult--I am likely to say the wrong thing."
It struck her that he was not behaving so badly, and her irritation increased.
She again desired a struggle, not a discussion.
To bring on the crisis, she said:
"There are days when one sees clearly, and this is one of them.
Things must come to a breaking-point some time, and it happens to be to-day.
If you want to know, quite a little thing decided me to speak to you--when you
wouldn't play tennis with Freddy." "I never do play tennis," said Cecil,
painfully bewildered; "I never could play.
I don't understand a word you say." "You can play well enough to make up a
four. I thought it abominably selfish of you."
"No, I can't--well, never mind the tennis.
Why couldn't you--couldn't you have warned me if you felt anything wrong?
You talked of our wedding at lunch--at least, you let me talk."
"I knew you wouldn't understand," said Lucy quite crossly.
"I might have known there would have been these dreadful explanations.
Of course, it isn't the tennis--that was only the last straw to all I have been
feeling for weeks. Surely it was better not to speak until I
felt certain."
She developed this position. "Often before I have wondered if I was
fitted for your wife--for instance, in London; and are you fitted to be my
husband?
I don't think so. You don't like Freddy, nor my mother.
There was always a lot against our engagement, Cecil, but all our relations
seemed pleased, and we met so often, and it was no good mentioning it until--well,
until all things came to a point.
They have to-day. I see clearly.
I must speak. That's all."
"I cannot think you were right," said Cecil gently.
"I cannot tell why, but though all that you say sounds true, I feel that you are not
treating me fairly.
It's all too horrible." "What's the good of a scene?"
"No good. But surely I have a right to hear a little
more."
He put down his glass and opened the window.
From where she knelt, jangling her keys, she could see a slit of darkness, and,
peering into it, as if it would tell him that "little more," his long, thoughtful
face.
"Don't open the window; and you'd better draw the curtain, too; Freddy or any one
might be outside." He obeyed.
"I really think we had better go to bed, if you don't mind.
I shall only say things that will make me unhappy afterwards.
As you say it is all too horrible, and it is no good talking."
But to Cecil, now that he was about to lose her, she seemed each moment more desirable.
He looked at her, instead of through her, for the first time since they were engaged.
From a Leonardo she had become a living woman, with mysteries and forces of her
own, with qualities that even eluded art.
His brain recovered from the shock, and, in a burst of genuine devotion, he cried: "But
I love you, and I did think you loved me!" "I did not," she said.
"I thought I did at first.
I am sorry, and ought to have refused you this last time, too."
He began to walk up and down the room, and she grew more and more vexed at his
dignified behaviour.
She had counted on his being petty. It would have made things easier for her.
By a cruel irony she was drawing out all that was finest in his disposition.
"You don't love me, evidently.
I dare say you are right not to. But it would hurt a little less if I knew
why."
"Because"--a phrase came to her, and she accepted it--"you're the sort who can't
know any one intimately." A horrified look came into his eyes.
"I don't mean exactly that.
But you will question me, though I beg you not to, and I must say something.
It is that, more or less.
When we were only acquaintances, you let me be myself, but now you're always protecting
me." Her voice swelled.
"I won't be protected.
I will choose for myself what is ladylike and right.
To shield me is an insult. Can't I be trusted to face the truth but I
must get it second-hand through you?
A woman's place!
You despise my mother--I know you do-- because she's conventional and bothers over
puddings; but, oh goodness!"--she rose to her feet--"conventional, Cecil, you're
that, for you may understand beautiful
things, but you don't know how to use them; and you wrap yourself up in art and books
and music, and would try to wrap up me.
I won't be stifled, not by the most glorious music, for people are more
glorious, and you hide them from me. That's why I break off my engagement.
You were all right as long as you kept to things, but when you came to people--" She
stopped. There was a pause.
Then Cecil said with great emotion:
"It is true." "True on the whole," she corrected, full of
some vague shame. "True, every word.
It is a revelation.
It is--I." "Anyhow, those are my reasons for not being
your wife." He repeated: "'The sort that can know no
one intimately.'
It is true. I fell to pieces the very first day we were
engaged. I behaved like a cad to Beebe and to your
brother.
You are even greater than I thought." She withdrew a step.
"I'm not going to worry you. You are far too good to me.
I shall never forget your insight; and, dear, I only blame you for this: you might
have warned me in the early stages, before you felt you wouldn't marry me, and so have
given me a chance to improve.
I have never known you till this evening. I have just used you as a peg for my silly
notions of what a woman should be. But this evening you are a different
person: new thoughts--even a new voice--"
"What do you mean by a new voice?" she asked, seized with incontrollable anger.
"I mean that a new person seems speaking through you," said he.
Then she lost her balance.
She cried: "If you think I am in love with some one else, you are very much mistaken."
"Of course I don't think that. You are not that kind, Lucy."
"Oh, yes, you do think it.
It's your old idea, the idea that has kept Europe back--I mean the idea that women are
always thinking of men.
If a girl breaks off her engagement, every one says: 'Oh, she had some one else in her
mind; she hopes to get some one else.' It's disgusting, brutal!
As if a girl can't break it off for the sake of freedom."
He answered reverently: "I may have said that in the past.
I shall never say it again.
You have taught me better." She began to redden, and pretended to
examine the windows again.
"Of course, there is no question of 'some one else' in this, no 'jilting' or any such
nauseous stupidity. I beg your pardon most humbly if my words
suggested that there was.
I only meant that there was a force in you that I hadn't known of up till now."
"All right, Cecil, that will do. Don't apologize to me.
It was my mistake."
"It is a question between ideals, yours and mine--pure abstract ideals, and yours are
the nobler.
I was bound up in the old vicious notions, and all the time you were splendid and
new." His voice broke.
"I must actually thank you for what you have done--for showing me what I really am.
Solemnly, I thank you for showing me a true woman.
Will you shake hands?"
"Of course I will," said Lucy, twisting up her other hand in the curtains.
"Good-night, Cecil. Good-bye.
That's all right.
I'm sorry about it. Thank you very much for your gentleness."
"Let me light your candle, shall I?" They went into the hall.
"Thank you.
Good-night again. God bless you, Lucy!"
"Good-bye, Cecil."
She watched him steal up-stairs, while the shadows from three banisters passed over
her face like the beat of wings.
On the landing he paused strong in his renunciation, and gave her a look of
memorable beauty.
For all his culture, Cecil was an ascetic at heart, and nothing in his love became
him like the leaving of it. She could never marry.
In the tumult of her soul, that stood firm.
Cecil believed in her; she must some day believe in herself.
She must be one of the women whom she had praised so eloquently, who care for liberty
and not for men; she must forget that George loved her, that George had been
thinking through her and gained her this
honourable release, that George had gone away into--what was it?--the darkness.
She put out the lamp. It did not do to think, nor, for the matter
of that to feel.
She gave up trying to understand herself, and the vast armies of the benighted, who
follow neither the heart nor the brain, and march to their destiny by catch-words.
The armies are full of pleasant and pious folk.
But they have yielded to the only enemy that matters--the enemy within.
They have sinned against passion and truth, and vain will be their strife after virtue.
As the years pass, they are censured.
Their pleasantry and their piety show cracks, their wit becomes cynicism, their
unselfishness hypocrisy; they feel and produce discomfort wherever they go.
They have sinned against Eros and against Pallas Athene, and not by any heavenly
intervention, but by the ordinary course of nature, those allied deities will be
avenged.
Lucy entered this army when she pretended to George that she did not love him, and
pretended to Cecil that she loved no one. The night received her, as it had received
Miss Bartlett thirty years before.
>
CHAPTER XVIII: Lying to Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeychurch, Freddy, and The Servants
Windy Corner lay, not on the summit of the ridge, but a few hundred feet down the
southern slope, at the springing of one of the great buttresses that supported the
hill.
On either side of it was a shallow ravine, filled with ferns and pine-trees, and down
the ravine on the left ran the highway into the Weald.
Whenever Mr. Beebe crossed the ridge and caught sight of these noble dispositions of
the earth, and, poised in the middle of them, Windy Corner,--he laughed.
The situation was so glorious, the house so commonplace, not to say impertinent.
The late Mr. Honeychurch had affected the cube, because it gave him the most
accommodation for his money, and the only addition made by his widow had been a small
turret, shaped like a rhinoceros' horn,
where she could sit in wet weather and watch the carts going up and down the road.
So impertinent--and yet the house "did," for it was the home of people who loved
their surroundings honestly.
Other houses in the neighborhood had been built by expensive architects, over others
their inmates had fidgeted sedulously, yet all these suggested the accidental, the
temporary; while Windy Corner seemed as
inevitable as an ugliness of Nature's own creation.
One might laugh at the house, but one never shuddered.
Mr. Beebe was bicycling over this Monday afternoon with a piece of gossip.
He had heard from the Miss Alans.
These admirable ladies, since they could not go to Cissie Villa, had changed their
plans. They were going to Greece instead.
"Since Florence did my poor sister so much good," wrote Miss Catharine, "we do not see
why we should not try Athens this winter.
Of course, Athens is a plunge, and the doctor has ordered her special digestive
bread; but, after all, we can take that with us, and it is only getting first into
a steamer and then into a train.
But is there an English Church?"
And the letter went on to say: "I do not expect we shall go any further than Athens,
but if you knew of a really comfortable pension at Constantinople, we should be so
grateful."
Lucy would enjoy this letter, and the smile with which Mr. Beebe greeted Windy Corner
was partly for her. She would see the fun of it, and some of
its beauty, for she must see some beauty.
Though she was hopeless about pictures, and though she dressed so unevenly--oh, that
cerise frock yesterday at church!--she must see some beauty in life, or she could not
play the piano as she did.
He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than
other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as
their friends; that their psychology is a
modern development, and has not yet been understood.
This theory, had he known it, had possibly just been illustrated by facts.
Ignorant of the events of yesterday he was only riding over to get some tea, to see
his niece, and to observe whether Miss Honeychurch saw anything beautiful in the
desire of two old ladies to visit Athens.
A carriage was drawn up outside Windy Corner, and just as he caught sight of the
house it started, bowled up the drive, and stopped abruptly when it reached the main
road.
Therefore it must be the horse, who always expected people to walk up the hill in case
they tired him.
The door opened obediently, and two men emerged, whom Mr. Beebe recognized as Cecil
and Freddy. They were an odd couple to go driving; but
he saw a trunk beside the coachman's legs.
Cecil, who wore a bowler, must be going away, while Freddy (a cap)--was seeing him
to the station.
They walked rapidly, taking the short cuts, and reached the summit while the carriage
was still pursuing the windings of the road.
They shook hands with the clergyman, but did not speak.
"So you're off for a minute, Mr. Vyse?" he asked.
Cecil said, "Yes," while Freddy edged away.
"I was coming to show you this delightful letter from those friends of Miss
Honeychurch." He quoted from it.
"Isn't it wonderful?
Isn't it romance? most certainly they will go to Constantinople.
They are taken in a snare that cannot fail. They will end by going round the world."
Cecil listened civilly, and said he was sure that Lucy would be amused and
interested. "Isn't Romance capricious!
I never notice it in you young people; you do nothing but play lawn tennis, and say
that romance is dead, while the Miss Alans are struggling with all the weapons of
propriety against the terrible thing.
'A really comfortable pension at Constantinople!'
So they call it out of decency, but in their hearts they want a pension with magic
windows opening on the foam of perilous seas in fairyland forlorn!
No ordinary view will content the Miss Alans.
They want the Pension Keats."
"I'm awfully sorry to interrupt, Mr. Beebe," said Freddy, "but have you any
matches?"
"I have," said Cecil, and it did not escape Mr. Beebe's notice that he spoke to the boy
more kindly. "You have never met these Miss Alans, have
you, Mr. Vyse?"
"Never." "Then you don't see the wonder of this
Greek visit.
I haven't been to Greece myself, and don't mean to go, and I can't imagine any of my
friends going. It is altogether too big for our little
lot.
Don't you think so? Italy is just about as much as we can
manage.
Italy is heroic, but Greece is godlike or devilish--I am not sure which, and in
either case absolutely out of our suburban focus.
All right, Freddy--I am not being clever, upon my word I am not--I took the idea from
another fellow; and give me those matches when you've done with them."
He lit a cigarette, and went on talking to the two young men.
"I was saying, if our poor little Cockney lives must have a background, let it be
Italian.
Big enough in all conscience. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for me.
There the contrast is just as much as I can realize.
But not the Parthenon, not the frieze of Phidias at any price; and here comes the
victoria." "You're quite right," said Cecil.
"Greece is not for our little lot"; and he got in.
Freddy followed, nodding to the clergyman, whom he trusted not to be pulling one's
leg, really.
And before they had gone a dozen yards he jumped out, and came running back for
Vyse's match-box, which had not been returned.
As he took it, he said: "I'm so glad you only talked about books.
Cecil's hard hit. Lucy won't marry him.
If you'd gone on about her, as you did about them, he might have broken down."
"But when--" "Late last night.
I must go."
"Perhaps they won't want me down there." "No--go on.
Good-bye."
"Thank goodness!" exclaimed Mr. Beebe to himself, and struck the saddle of his
bicycle approvingly, "It was the one foolish thing she ever did.
Oh, what a glorious riddance!"
And, after a little thought, he negotiated the slope into Windy Corner, light of
heart. The house was again as it ought to be--cut
off forever from Cecil's pretentious world.
He would find Miss Minnie down in the garden.
In the drawing-room Lucy was tinkling at a Mozart Sonata.
He hesitated a moment, but went down the garden as requested.
There he found a mournful company. It was a blustering day, and the wind had
taken and broken the dahlias.
Mrs. Honeychurch, who looked cross, was tying them up, while Miss Bartlett,
unsuitably dressed, impeded her with offers of assistance.
At a little distance stood Minnie and the "garden-child," a minute importation, each
holding either end of a long piece of bass. "Oh, how do you do, Mr. Beebe?
Gracious what a mess everything is!
Look at my scarlet pompons, and the wind blowing your skirts about, and the ground
so hard that not a prop will stick in, and then the carriage having to go out, when I
had counted on having Powell, who--give
every one their due--does tie up dahlias properly."
Evidently Mrs. Honeychurch was shattered.
"How do you do?" said Miss Bartlett, with a meaning glance, as though conveying that
more than dahlias had been broken off by the autumn gales.
"Here, Lennie, the bass," cried Mrs. Honeychurch.
The garden-child, who did not know what bass was, stood rooted to the path with
horror.
Minnie slipped to her uncle and whispered that every one was very disagreeable to-
day, and that it was not her fault if dahlia-strings would tear longways instead
of across.
"Come for a walk with me," he told her. "You have worried them as much as they can
stand. Mrs. Honeychurch, I only called in
aimlessly.
I shall take her up to tea at the Beehive Tavern, if I may."
"Oh, must you?
Yes do.--Not the scissors, thank you, Charlotte, when both my hands are full
already--I'm perfectly certain that the orange cactus will go before I can get to
it."
Mr. Beebe, who was an adept at relieving situations, invited Miss Bartlett to
accompany them to this mild festivity.
"Yes, Charlotte, I don't want you--do go; there's nothing to stop about for, either
in the house or out of it."
Miss Bartlett said that her duty lay in the dahlia bed, but when she had exasperated
every one, except Minnie, by a refusal, she turned round and exasperated Minnie by an
acceptance.
As they walked up the garden, the orange cactus fell, and Mr. Beebe's last vision
was of the garden-child clasping it like a lover, his dark head buried in a wealth of
blossom.
"It is terrible, this havoc among the flowers," he remarked.
"It is always terrible when the promise of months is destroyed in a moment,"
enunciated Miss Bartlett.
"Perhaps we ought to send Miss Honeychurch down to her mother.
Or will she come with us?" "I think we had better leave Lucy to
herself, and to her own pursuits."
"They're angry with Miss Honeychurch because she was late for breakfast,"
whispered Minnie, "and Floyd has gone, and Mr. Vyse has gone, and Freddy won't play
with me.
In fact, Uncle Arthur, the house is not AT ALL what it was yesterday."
"Don't be a prig," said her Uncle Arthur. "Go and put on your boots."
He stepped into the drawing-room, where Lucy was still attentively pursuing the
Sonatas of Mozart. She stopped when he entered.
"How do you do?
Miss Bartlett and Minnie are coming with me to tea at the Beehive.
Would you come too?" "I don't think I will, thank you."
"No, I didn't suppose you would care to much."
Lucy turned to the piano and struck a few chords.
"How delicate those Sonatas are!" said Mr. Beebe, though at the bottom of his heart,
he thought them silly little things. Lucy passed into Schumann.
"Miss Honeychurch!"
"Yes." "I met them on the hill.
Your brother told me." "Oh he did?"
She sounded annoyed.
Mr. Beebe felt hurt, for he had thought that she would like him to be told.
"I needn't say that it will go no further."
"Mother, Charlotte, Cecil, Freddy, you," said Lucy, playing a note for each person
who knew, and then playing a sixth note.
"If you'll let me say so, I am very glad, and I am certain that you have done the
right thing." "So I hoped other people would think, but
they don't seem to."
"I could see that Miss Bartlett thought it unwise."
"So does mother. Mother minds dreadfully."
"I am very sorry for that," said Mr. Beebe with feeling.
Mrs. Honeychurch, who hated all changes, did mind, but not nearly as much as her
daughter pretended, and only for the minute.
It was really a ruse of Lucy's to justify her despondency--a ruse of which she was
not herself conscious, for she was marching in the armies of darkness.
"And Freddy minds."
"Still, Freddy never hit it off with Vyse much, did he?
I gathered that he disliked the engagement, and felt it might separate him from you."
"Boys are so odd."
Minnie could be heard arguing with Miss Bartlett through the floor.
Tea at the Beehive apparently involved a complete change of apparel.
Mr. Beebe saw that Lucy--very properly--did not wish to discuss her action, so after a
sincere expression of sympathy, he said, "I have had an absurd letter from Miss Alan.
That was really what brought me over.
I thought it might amuse you all." "How delightful!" said Lucy, in a dull
voice. For the sake of something to do, he began
to read her the letter.
After a few words her eyes grew alert, and soon she interrupted him with "Going
abroad? When do they start?"
"Next week, I gather."
"Did Freddy say whether he was driving straight back?"
"No, he didn't." "Because I do hope he won't go gossiping."
So she did want to talk about her broken engagement.
Always complaisant, he put the letter away. But she, at once exclaimed in a high voice,
"Oh, do tell me more about the Miss Alans!
How perfectly splendid of them to go abroad!"
"I want them to start from Venice, and go in a cargo steamer down the Illyrian
coast!"
She laughed heartily. "Oh, delightful!
I wish they'd take me." "Has Italy filled you with the fever of
travel?
Perhaps George Emerson is right. He says that 'Italy is only an euphuism for
Fate.'" "Oh, not Italy, but Constantinople.
I have always longed to go to Constantinople.
Constantinople is practically Asia, isn't it?"
Mr. Beebe reminded her that Constantinople was still unlikely, and that the Miss Alans
only aimed at Athens, "with Delphi, perhaps, if the roads are safe."
But this made no difference to her enthusiasm.
She had always longed to go to Greece even more, it seemed.
He saw, to his surprise, that she was apparently serious.
"I didn't realize that you and the Miss Alans were still such friends, after Cissie
Villa."
"Oh, that's nothing; I assure you Cissie Villa's nothing to me; I would give
anything to go with them." "Would your mother spare you again so soon?
You have scarcely been home three months."
"She MUST spare me!" cried Lucy, in growing excitement.
"I simply MUST go away. I have to."
She ran her fingers hysterically through her hair.
"Don't you see that I HAVE to go away?
I didn't realize at the time--and of course I want to see Constantinople so
particularly." "You mean that since you have broken off
your engagement you feel--"
"Yes, yes. I knew you'd understand."
Mr. Beebe did not quite understand. Why could not Miss Honeychurch repose in
the bosom of her family?
Cecil had evidently taken up the dignified line, and was not going to annoy her.
Then it struck him that her family itself might be annoying.
He hinted this to her, and she accepted the hint eagerly.
"Yes, of course; to go to Constantinople until they are used to the idea and
everything has calmed down."
"I am afraid it has been a bothersome business," he said gently.
"No, not at all.
Cecil was very kind indeed; only--I had better tell you the whole truth, since you
have heard a little--it was that he is so masterful.
I found that he wouldn't let me go my own way.
He would improve me in places where I can't be improved.
Cecil won't let a woman decide for herself- -in fact, he daren't.
What nonsense I do talk! but that is the kind of thing."
"It is what I gathered from my own observation of Mr. Vyse; it is what I
gather from all that I have known of you. I do sympathize and agree most profoundly.
I agree so much that you must let me make one little criticism: Is it worth while
rushing off to Greece?" "But I must go somewhere!" she cried.
"I have been worrying all the morning, and here comes the very thing."
She struck her knees with clenched fists, and repeated: "I must!
And the time I shall have with mother, and all the money she spent on me last spring.
You all think much too highly of me. I wish you weren't so kind."
At this moment Miss Bartlett entered, and her nervousness increased.
"I must get away, ever so far. I must know my own mind and where I want to
go."
"Come along; tea, tea, tea," said Mr. Beebe, and bustled his guests out of the
front-door. He hustled them so quickly that he forgot
his hat.
When he returned for it he heard, to his relief and surprise, the tinkling of a
Mozart Sonata. "She is playing again," he said to Miss
Bartlett.
"Lucy can always play," was the acid reply. "One is very thankful that she has such a
resource. She is evidently much worried, as, of
course, she ought to be.
I know all about it. The marriage was so near that it must have
been a hard struggle before she could wind herself up to speak."
Miss Bartlett gave a kind of wriggle, and he prepared for a discussion.
He had never fathomed Miss Bartlett.
As he had put it to himself at Florence, "she might yet reveal depths of
strangeness, if not of meaning." But she was so unsympathetic that she must
be reliable.
He assumed that much, and he had no hesitation in discussing Lucy with her.
Minnie was fortunately collecting ferns. She opened the discussion with: "We had
much better let the matter drop."
"I wonder." "It is of the highest importance that there
should be no gossip in Summer Street. It would be DEATH to gossip about Mr.
Vyse's dismissal at the present moment."
Mr. Beebe raised his eyebrows. Death is a strong word--surely too strong.
There was no question of tragedy.
He said: "Of course, Miss Honeychurch will make the fact public in her own way, and
when she chooses. Freddy only told me because he knew she
would not mind."
"I know," said Miss Bartlett civilly. "Yet Freddy ought not to have told even
you. One cannot be too careful."
"Quite so."
"I do implore absolute secrecy. A chance word to a chattering friend, and--
" "Exactly."
He was used to these nervous old maids and to the exaggerated importance that they
attach to words.
A rector lives in a web of petty secrets, and confidences and warnings, and the wiser
he is the less he will regard them.
He will change the subject, as did Mr. Beebe, saying cheerfully: "Have you heard
from any Bertolini people lately? I believe you keep up with Miss Lavish.
It is odd how we of that pension, who seemed such a fortuitous collection, have
been working into one another's lives.
Two, three, four, six of us--no, eight; I had forgotten the Emersons--have kept more
or less in touch. We must really give the Signora a
testimonial."
And, Miss Bartlett not favouring the scheme, they walked up the hill in a
silence which was only broken by the rector naming some fern.
On the summit they paused.
The sky had grown wilder since he stood there last hour, giving to the land a
tragic greatness that is rare in Surrey.
Grey clouds were charging across tissues of white, which stretched and shredded and
tore slowly, until through their final layers there gleamed a hint of the
disappearing blue.
Summer was retreating. The wind roared, the trees groaned, yet the
noise seemed insufficient for those vast operations in heaven.
The weather was breaking up, breaking, broken, and it is a sense of the fit rather
than of the supernatural that equips such crises with the salvos of angelic
artillery.
Mr. Beebe's eyes rested on Windy Corner, where Lucy sat, practising Mozart.
No smile came to his lips, and, changing the subject again, he said: "We shan't have
rain, but we shall have darkness, so let us hurry on.
The darkness last night was appalling."
They reached the Beehive Tavern at about five o'clock.
That amiable hostelry possesses a verandah, in which the young and the unwise do dearly
love to sit, while guests of more mature years seek a pleasant sanded room, and have
tea at a table comfortably.
Mr. Beebe saw that Miss Bartlett would be cold if she sat out, and that Minnie would
be dull if she sat in, so he proposed a division of forces.
They would hand the child her food through the window.
Thus he was incidentally enabled to discuss the fortunes of Lucy.
"I have been thinking, Miss Bartlett," he said, "and, unless you very much object, I
would like to reopen that discussion." She bowed.
"Nothing about the past.
I know little and care less about that; I am absolutely certain that it is to your
cousin's credit.
She has acted loftily and rightly, and it is like her gentle modesty to say that we
think too highly of her. But the future.
Seriously, what do you think of this Greek plan?"
He pulled out the letter again.
"I don't know whether you overheard, but she wants to join the Miss Alans in their
mad career. It's all--I can't explain--it's wrong."
Miss Bartlett read the letter in silence, laid it down, seemed to hesitate, and then
read it again. "I can't see the point of it myself."
To his astonishment, she replied: "There I cannot agree with you.
In it I spy Lucy's salvation." "Really.
Now, why?"
"She wanted to leave Windy Corner." "I know--but it seems so odd, so unlike
her, so--I was going to say--selfish." "It is natural, surely--after such painful
scenes--that she should desire a change."
Here, apparently, was one of those points that the male intellect misses.
Mr. Beebe exclaimed: "So she says herself, and since another lady agrees with her, I
must own that I am partially convinced.
Perhaps she must have a change. I have no sisters or--and I don't
understand these things. But why need she go as far as Greece?"
"You may well ask that," replied Miss Bartlett, who was evidently interested, and
had almost dropped her evasive manner. "Why Greece?
(What is it, Minnie dear--jam?)
Why not Tunbridge Wells? Oh, Mr. Beebe!
I had a long and most unsatisfactory interview with dear Lucy this morning.
I cannot help her.
I will say no more. Perhaps I have already said too much.
I am not to talk. I wanted her to spend six months with me at
Tunbridge Wells, and she refused."
Mr. Beebe poked at a crumb with his knife. "But my feelings are of no importance.
I know too well that I get on Lucy's nerves.
Our tour was a failure.
She wanted to leave Florence, and when we got to Rome she did not want to be in Rome,
and all the time I felt that I was spending her mother's money--."
"Let us keep to the future, though," interrupted Mr. Beebe.
"I want your advice."
"Very well," said Charlotte, with a choky abruptness that was new to him, though
familiar to Lucy. "I for one will help her to go to Greece.
Will you?"
Mr. Beebe considered. "It is absolutely necessary," she
continued, lowering her veil and whispering through it with a passion, an intensity,
that surprised him.
"I know--I know." The darkness was coming on, and he felt
that this odd woman really did know. "She must not stop here a moment, and we
must keep quiet till she goes.
I trust that the servants know nothing. Afterwards--but I may have said too much
already. Only, Lucy and I are helpless against Mrs.
Honeychurch alone.
If you help we may succeed. Otherwise--"
"Otherwise--?" "Otherwise," she repeated as if the word
held finality.
"Yes, I will help her," said the clergyman, setting his jaw firm.
"Come, let us go back now, and settle the whole thing up."
Miss Bartlett burst into florid gratitude.
The tavern sign--a beehive trimmed evenly with bees--creaked in the wind outside as
she thanked him.
Mr. Beebe did not quite understand the situation; but then, he did not desire to
understand it, nor to jump to the conclusion of "another man" that would have
attracted a grosser mind.
He only felt that Miss Bartlett knew of some vague influence from which the girl
desired to be delivered, and which might well be clothed in the fleshly form.
Its very vagueness spurred him into knight- errantry.
His belief in celibacy, so reticent, so carefully concealed beneath his tolerance
and culture, now came to the surface and expanded like some delicate flower.
"They that marry do well, but they that refrain do better."
So ran his belief, and he never heard that an engagement was broken off but with a
slight feeling of pleasure.
In the case of Lucy, the feeling was intensified through dislike of Cecil; and
he was willing to go further--to place her out of danger until she could confirm her
resolution of virginity.
The feeling was very subtle and quite undogmatic, and he never imparted it to any
other of the characters in this entanglement.
Yet it existed, and it alone explains his action subsequently, and his influence on
the action of others.
The compact that he made with Miss Bartlett in the tavern, was to help not only Lucy,
but religion also. They hurried home through a world of black
and grey.
He conversed on indifferent topics: the Emersons' need of a housekeeper; servants;
Italian servants; novels about Italy; novels with a purpose; could literature
influence life?
Windy Corner glimmered. In the garden, Mrs. Honeychurch, now helped
by Freddy, still wrestled with the lives of her flowers.
"It gets too dark," she said hopelessly.
"This comes of putting off. We might have known the weather would break
up soon; and now Lucy wants to go to Greece.
I don't know what the world's coming to."
"Mrs. Honeychurch," he said, "go to Greece she must.
Come up to the house and let's talk it over.
Do you, in the first place, mind her breaking with Vyse?"
"Mr. Beebe, I'm thankful--simply thankful." "So am I," said Freddy.
"Good.
Now come up to the house." They conferred in the dining-room for half
an hour. Lucy would never have carried the Greek
scheme alone.
It was expensive and dramatic--both qualities that her mother loathed.
Nor would Charlotte have succeeded. The honours of the day rested with Mr.
Beebe.
By his tact and common sense, and by his influence as a clergyman--for a clergyman
who was not a fool influenced Mrs. Honeychurch greatly--he bent her to their
purpose, "I don't see why Greece is
necessary," she said; "but as you do, I suppose it is all right.
It must be something I can't understand. Lucy!
Let's tell her.
Lucy!" "She is playing the piano," Mr. Beebe said.
He opened the door, and heard the words of a song:
"Look not thou on beauty's charming."
"I didn't know that Miss Honeychurch sang, too."
"Sit thou still when kings are arming, Taste not when the wine-cup glistens--"
"It's a song that Cecil gave her.
How odd girls are!" "What's that?" called Lucy, stopping short.
"All right, dear," said Mrs. Honeychurch kindly.
She went into the drawing-room, and Mr. Beebe heard her kiss Lucy and say: "I am
sorry I was so cross about Greece, but it came on the top of the dahlias."
Rather a hard voice said: "Thank you, mother; that doesn't matter a bit."
"And you are right, too--Greece will be all right; you can go if the Miss Alans will
have you."
"Oh, splendid! Oh, thank you!"
Mr. Beebe followed. Lucy still sat at the piano with her hands
over the keys.
She was glad, but he had expected greater gladness.
Her mother bent over her.
Freddy, to whom she had been singing, reclined on the floor with his head against
her, and an unlit pipe between his lips. Oddly enough, the group was beautiful.
Mr. Beebe, who loved the art of the past, was reminded of a favourite theme, the
Santa Conversazione, in which people who care for one another are painted chatting
together about noble things--a theme
neither sensual nor sensational, and therefore ignored by the art of to-day.
Why should Lucy want either to marry or to travel when she had such friends at home?
"Taste not when the wine-cup glistens, Speak not when the people listens," she
continued. "Here's Mr. Beebe."
"Mr. Beebe knows my rude ways."
"It's a beautiful song and a wise one," said he.
"Go on." "It isn't very good," she said listlessly.
"I forget why--harmony or something."
"I suspected it was unscholarly. It's so beautiful."
"The tune's right enough," said Freddy, "but the words are rotten.
Why throw up the sponge?"
"How stupidly you talk!" said his sister. The Santa Conversazione was broken up.
After all, there was no reason that Lucy should talk about Greece or thank him for
persuading her mother, so he said good-bye.
Freddy lit his bicycle lamp for him in the porch, and with his usual felicity of
phrase, said: "This has been a day and a half."
"Stop thine ear against the singer--"
"Wait a minute; she is finishing." "From the red gold keep thy finger; Vacant
heart and hand and eye Easy live and quiet die."
"I love weather like this," said Freddy.
Mr. Beebe passed into it. The two main facts were clear.
She had behaved splendidly, and he had helped her.
He could not expect to master the details of so big a change in a girl's life.
If here and there he was dissatisfied or puzzled, he must acquiesce; she was
choosing the better part.
"Vacant heart and hand and eye--" Perhaps the song stated "the better part"
rather too strongly.
He half fancied that the soaring accompaniment--which he did not lose in the
shout of the gale--really agreed with Freddy, and was gently criticizing the
words that it adorned:
"Vacant heart and hand and eye Easy live and quiet die."
However, for the fourth time Windy Corner lay poised below him--now as a beacon in
the roaring tides of darkness.
>
CHAPTER XIX: Lying to Mr. Emerson
The Miss Alans were found in their beloved temperance hotel near Bloomsbury--a clean,
airless establishment much patronized by provincial England.
They always perched there before crossing the great seas, and for a week or two would
fidget gently over clothes, guide-books, mackintosh squares, digestive bread, and
other Continental necessaries.
That there are shops abroad, even in Athens, never occurred to them, for they
regarded travel as a species of warfare, only to be undertaken by those who have
been fully armed at the Haymarket Stores.
Miss Honeychurch, they trusted, would take care to equip herself duly.
Quinine could now be obtained in tabloids; paper soap was a great help towards
freshening up one's face in the train.
Lucy promised, a little depressed. "But, of course, you know all about these
things, and you have Mr. Vyse to help you. A gentleman is such a stand-by."
Mrs. Honeychurch, who had come up to town with her daughter, began to drum nervously
upon her card-case. "We think it so good of Mr. Vyse to spare
you," Miss Catharine continued.
"It is not every young man who would be so unselfish.
But perhaps he will come out and join you later on."
"Or does his work keep him in London?" said Miss Teresa, the more acute and less kindly
of the two sisters. "However, we shall see him when he sees you
off.
I do so long to see him." "No one will see Lucy off," interposed Mrs.
Honeychurch. "She doesn't like it."
"No, I hate seeings-off," said Lucy.
"Really? How funny!
I should have thought that in this case--" "Oh, Mrs. Honeychurch, you aren't going?
It is such a pleasure to have met you!"
They escaped, and Lucy said with relief: "That's all right.
We just got through that time." But her mother was annoyed.
"I should be told, dear, that I am unsympathetic.
But I cannot see why you didn't tell your friends about Cecil and be done with it.
There all the time we had to sit fencing, and almost telling lies, and be seen
through, too, I dare say, which is most unpleasant."
Lucy had plenty to say in reply.
She described the Miss Alans' character: they were such gossips, and if one told
them, the news would be everywhere in no time.
"But why shouldn't it be everywhere in no time?"
"Because I settled with Cecil not to announce it until I left England.
I shall tell them then.
It's much pleasanter. How wet it is!
Let's turn in here." "Here" was the British Museum.
Mrs. Honeychurch refused.
If they must take shelter, let it be in a shop.
Lucy felt contemptuous, for she was on the tack of caring for Greek sculpture, and had
already borrowed a mythical dictionary from Mr. Beebe to get up the names of the
goddesses and gods.
"Oh, well, let it be shop, then. Let's go to Mudie's.
I'll buy a guide-book."
"You know, Lucy, you and Charlotte and Mr. Beebe all tell me I'm so stupid, so I
suppose I am, but I shall never understand this hole-and-corner work.
You've got rid of Cecil--well and good, and I'm thankful he's gone, though I did feel
angry for the minute. But why not announce it?
Why this hushing up and tip-toeing?"
"It's only for a few days." "But why at all?"
Lucy was silent. She was drifting away from her mother.
It was quite easy to say, "Because George Emerson has been bothering me, and if he
hears I've given up Cecil may begin again"- -quite easy, and it had the incidental
advantage of being true.
But she could not say it. She disliked confidences, for they might
lead to self-knowledge and to that king of terrors--Light.
Ever since that last evening at Florence she had deemed it unwise to reveal her
soul. Mrs. Honeychurch, too, was silent.
She was thinking, "My daughter won't answer me; she would rather be with those
inquisitive old maids than with Freddy and me.
Any rag, tag, and bobtail apparently does if she can leave her home."
And as in her case thoughts never remained unspoken long, she burst out with: "You're
tired of Windy Corner."
This was perfectly true. Lucy had hoped to return to Windy Corner
when she escaped from Cecil, but she discovered that her home existed no longer.
It might exist for Freddy, who still lived and thought straight, but not for one who
had deliberately warped the brain.
She did not acknowledge that her brain was warped, for the brain itself must assist in
that acknowledgment, and she was disordering the very instruments of life.
She only felt, "I do not love George; I broke off my engagement because I did not
love George; I must go to Greece because I do not love George; it is more important
that I should look up gods in the
dictionary than that I should help my mother; every one else is behaving very
badly."
She only felt irritable and petulant, and anxious to do what she was not expected to
do, and in this spirit she proceeded with the conversation.
"Oh, mother, what rubbish you talk!
Of course I'm not tired of Windy Corner." "Then why not say so at once, instead of
considering half an hour?" She laughed faintly, "Half a minute would
be nearer."
"Perhaps you would like to stay away from your home altogether?"
"Hush, mother! People will hear you"; for they had entered
Mudie's.
She bought Baedeker, and then continued: "Of course I want to live at home; but as
we are talking about it, I may as well say that I shall want to be away in the future
more than I have been.
You see, I come into my money next year." Tears came into her mother's eyes.
Driven by nameless bewilderment, by what is in older people termed "eccentricity," Lucy
determined to make this point clear.
"I've seen the world so little--I felt so out of things in Italy.
I have seen so little of life; one ought to come up to London more--not a cheap ticket
like to-day, but to stop.
I might even share a flat for a little with some other girl."
"And mess with typewriters and latch-keys," exploded Mrs. Honeychurch.
"And agitate and scream, and be carried off kicking by the police.
And call it a Mission--when no one wants you!
And call it Duty--when it means that you can't stand your own home!
And call it Work--when thousands of men are starving with the competition as it is!
And then to prepare yourself, find two doddering old ladies, and go abroad with
them."
"I want more independence," said Lucy lamely; she knew that she wanted something,
and independence is a useful cry; we can always say that we have not got it.
She tried to remember her emotions in Florence: those had been sincere and
passionate, and had suggested beauty rather than short skirts and latch-keys.
But independence was certainly her cue.
"Very well. Take your independence and be gone.
Rush up and down and round the world, and come back as thin as a lath with the bad
food.
Despise the house that your father built and the garden that he planted, and our
dear view--and then share a flat with another girl."
Lucy screwed up her mouth and said: "Perhaps I spoke hastily."
"Oh, goodness!" her mother flashed. "How you do remind me of Charlotte
Bartlett!"
"Charlotte!" flashed Lucy in her turn, pierced at last by a vivid pain.
"More every moment."
"I don't know what you mean, mother; Charlotte and I are not the very least
alike." "Well, I see the likeness.
The same eternal worrying, the same taking back of words.
You and Charlotte trying to divide two apples among three people last night might
be sisters."
"What rubbish! And if you dislike Charlotte so, it's
rather a pity you asked her to stop.
I warned you about her; I begged you, implored you not to, but of course it was
not listened to." "There you go."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Charlotte again, my dear; that's all; her very words."
Lucy clenched her teeth. "My point is that you oughtn't to have
asked Charlotte to stop.
I wish you would keep to the point." And the conversation died off into a
wrangle.
She and her mother shopped in silence, spoke little in the train, little again in
the carriage, which met them at Dorking Station.
It had poured all day and as they ascended through the deep Surrey lanes showers of
water fell from the over-hanging beech- trees and rattled on the hood.
Lucy complained that the hood was stuffy.
Leaning forward, she looked out into the steaming dusk, and watched the carriage-
lamp pass like a search-light over mud and leaves, and reveal nothing beautiful.
"The crush when Charlotte gets in will be abominable," she remarked.
For they were to pick up Miss Bartlett at Summer Street, where she had been dropped
as the carriage went down, to pay a call on Mr. Beebe's old mother.
"We shall have to sit three a side, because the trees drop, and yet it isn't raining.
Oh, for a little air!" Then she listened to the horse's hoofs--"He
has not told--he has not told."
That melody was blurred by the soft road. "CAN'T we have the hood down?" she
demanded, and her mother, with sudden tenderness, said: "Very well, old lady,
stop the horse."
And the horse was stopped, and Lucy and Powell wrestled with the hood, and squirted
water down Mrs. Honeychurch's neck.
But now that the hood was down, she did see something that she would have missed--there
were no lights in the windows of Cissie Villa, and round the garden gate she
fancied she saw a padlock.
"Is that house to let again, Powell?" she called.
"Yes, miss," he replied. "Have they gone?"
"It is too far out of town for the young gentleman, and his father's rheumatism has
come on, so he can't stop on alone, so they are trying to let furnished," was the
answer.
"They have gone, then?" "Yes, miss, they have gone."
Lucy sank back. The carriage stopped at the Rectory.
She got out to call for Miss Bartlett.
So the Emersons had gone, and all this bother about Greece had been unnecessary.
Waste! That word seemed to sum up the whole of
life.
Wasted plans, wasted money, wasted love, and she had wounded her mother.
Was it possible that she had muddled things away?
Quite possible.
Other people had. When the maid opened the door, she was
unable to speak, and stared stupidly into the hall.
Miss Bartlett at once came forward, and after a long preamble asked a great favour:
might she go to church?
Mr. Beebe and his mother had already gone, but she had refused to start until she
obtained her hostess's full sanction, for it would mean keeping the horse waiting a
good ten minutes more.
"Certainly," said the hostess wearily. "I forgot it was Friday.
Let's all go. Powell can go round to the stables."
"Lucy dearest--"
"No church for me, thank you." A sigh, and they departed.
The church was invisible, but up in the darkness to the left there was a hint of
colour.
This was a stained window, through which some feeble light was shining, and when the
door opened Lucy heard Mr. Beebe's voice running through the litany to a minute
congregation.
Even their church, built upon the slope of the hill so artfully, with its beautiful
raised transept and its spire of silvery shingle--even their church had lost its
charm; and the thing one never talked
about--religion--was fading like all the other things.
She followed the maid into the Rectory. Would she object to sitting in Mr. Beebe's
study?
There was only that one fire. She would not object.
Some one was there already, for Lucy heard the words: "A lady to wait, sir."
Old Mr. Emerson was sitting by the fire, with his foot upon a gout-stool.
"Oh, Miss Honeychurch, that you should come!" he quavered; and Lucy saw an
alteration in him since last Sunday.
Not a word would come to her lips. George she had faced, and could have faced
again, but she had forgotten how to treat his father.
"Miss Honeychurch, dear, we are so sorry!
George is so sorry! He thought he had a right to try.
I cannot blame my boy, and yet I wish he had told me first.
He ought not to have tried.
I knew nothing about it at all." If only she could remember how to behave!
He held up his hand. "But you must not scold him."
Lucy turned her back, and began to look at Mr. Beebe's books.
"I taught him," he quavered, "to trust in love.
I said: 'When love comes, that is reality.'
I said: 'Passion does not blind. No. Passion is sanity, and the woman you
love, she is the only person you will ever really understand.'"
He sighed: "True, everlastingly true, though my day is over, and though there is
the result. Poor boy!
He is so sorry!
He said he knew it was madness when you brought your cousin in; that whatever you
felt you did not mean.
Yet"--his voice gathered strength: he spoke out to make certain--"Miss Honeychurch, do
you remember Italy?" Lucy selected a book--a volume of Old
Testament commentaries.
Holding it up to her eyes, she said: "I have no wish to discuss Italy or any
subject connected with your son." "But you do remember it?"
"He has misbehaved himself from the first."
"I only was told that he loved you last Sunday.
I never could judge behaviour. I--I--suppose he has."
Feeling a little steadier, she put the book back and turned round to him.
His face was drooping and swollen, but his eyes, though they were sunken deep, gleamed
with a child's courage.
"Why, he has behaved abominably," she said. "I am glad he is sorry.
Do you know what he did?" "Not 'abominably,'" was the gentle
correction.
"He only tried when he should not have tried.
You have all you want, Miss Honeychurch: you are going to marry the man you love.
Do not go out of George's life saying he is abominable."
"No, of course," said Lucy, ashamed at the reference to Cecil.
"'Abominable' is much too strong.
I am sorry I used it about your son. I think I will go to church, after all.
My mother and my cousin have gone. I shall not be so very late--"
"Especially as he has gone under," he said quietly.
"What was that?" "Gone under naturally."
He beat his palms together in silence; his head fell on his chest.
"I don't understand." "As his mother did."
"But, Mr. Emerson--MR.
EMERSON--what are you talking about?" "When I wouldn't have George baptized,"
said he. Lucy was frightened.
"And she agreed that baptism was nothing, but he caught that fever when he was twelve
and she turned round. She thought it a judgment."
He shuddered.
"Oh, horrible, when we had given up that sort of thing and broken away from her
parents.
Oh, horrible--worst of all--worse than death, when you have made a little clearing
in the wilderness, planted your little garden, let in your sunlight, and then the
weeds creep in again!
A judgment! And our boy had typhoid because no
clergyman had dropped water on him in church!
Is it possible, Miss Honeychurch?
Shall we slip back into the darkness for ever?"
"I don't know," gasped Lucy. "I don't understand this sort of thing.
I was not meant to understand it."
"But Mr. Eager--he came when I was out, and acted according to his principles.
I don't blame him or any one... but by the time George was well she was ill.
He made her think about sin, and she went under thinking about it."
It was thus that Mr. Emerson had murdered his wife in the sight of God.
"Oh, how terrible!" said Lucy, forgetting her own affairs at last.
"He was not baptized," said the old man. "I did hold firm."
And he looked with unwavering eyes at the rows of books, as if--at what cost!--he had
won a victory over them. "My boy shall go back to the earth
untouched."
She asked whether young Mr. Emerson was ill.
"Oh--last Sunday." He started into the present.
"George last Sunday--no, not ill: just gone under.
He is never ill. But he is his mother's son.
Her eyes were his, and she had that forehead that I think so beautiful, and he
will not think it worth while to live. It was always touch and go.
He will live; but he will not think it worth while to live.
He will never think anything worth while. You remember that church at Florence?"
Lucy did remember, and how she had suggested that George should collect
postage stamps. "After you left Florence--horrible.
Then we took the house here, and he goes bathing with your brother, and became
better. You saw him bathing?"
"I am so sorry, but it is no good discussing this affair.
I am deeply sorry about it." "Then there came something about a novel.
I didn't follow it at all; I had to hear so much, and he minded telling me; he finds me
too old. Ah, well, one must have failures.
George comes down to-morrow, and takes me up to his London rooms.
He can't bear to be about here, and I must be where he is."
"Mr. Emerson," cried the girl, "don't leave at least, not on my account.
I am going to Greece. Don't leave your comfortable house."
It was the first time her voice had been kind and he smiled.
"How good every one is! And look at Mr. Beebe housing me--came over
this morning and heard I was going!
Here I am so comfortable with a fire." "Yes, but you won't go back to London.
It's absurd." "I must be with George; I must make him
care to live, and down here he can't.
He says the thought of seeing you and of hearing about you--I am not justifying him:
I am only saying what has happened." "Oh, Mr. Emerson"--she took hold of his
hand--"you mustn't.
I've been bother enough to the world by now.
I can't have you moving out of your house when you like it, and perhaps losing money
through it--all on my account.
You must stop! I am just going to Greece."
"All the way to Greece?" Her manner altered.
"To Greece?"
"So you must stop. You won't talk about this business, I know.
I can trust you both." "Certainly you can.
We either have you in our lives, or leave you to the life that you have chosen."
"I shouldn't want--" "I suppose Mr. Vyse is very angry with
George?
No, it was wrong of George to try. We have pushed our beliefs too far.
I fancy that we deserve sorrow." She looked at the books again--black,
brown, and that acrid theological blue.
They surrounded the visitors on every side; they were piled on the tables, they pressed
against the very ceiling.
To Lucy who could not see that Mr. Emerson was profoundly religious, and differed from
Mr. Beebe chiefly by his acknowledgment of passion--it seemed dreadful that the old
man should crawl into such a sanctum, when
he was unhappy, and be dependent on the bounty of a clergyman.
More certain than ever that she was tired, he offered her his chair.
"No, please sit still.
I think I will sit in the carriage." "Miss Honeychurch, you do sound tired."
"Not a bit," said Lucy, with trembling lips.
"But you are, and there's a look of George about you.
And what were you saying about going abroad?"
She was silent.
"Greece"--and she saw that he was thinking the word over--"Greece; but you were to be
married this year, I thought." "Not till January, it wasn't," said Lucy,
clasping her hands.
Would she tell an actual lie when it came to the point?
"I suppose that Mr. Vyse is going with you. I hope--it isn't because George spoke that
you are both going?"
"No." "I hope that you will enjoy Greece with Mr.
Vyse." "Thank you."
At that moment Mr. Beebe came back from church.
His cassock was covered with rain. "That's all right," he said kindly.
"I counted on you two keeping each other company.
It's pouring again.
The entire congregation, which consists of your cousin, your mother, and my mother,
stands waiting in the church, till the carriage fetches it.
Did Powell go round?"
"I think so; I'll see." "No--of course, I'll see.
How are the Miss Alans?" "Very well, thank you."
"Did you tell Mr. Emerson about Greece?"
"I--I did." "Don't you think it very plucky of her, Mr.
Emerson, to undertake the two Miss Alans? Now, Miss Honeychurch, go back--keep warm.
I think three is such a courageous number to go travelling."
And he hurried off to the stables. "He is not going," she said hoarsely.
"I made a slip.
Mr. Vyse does stop behind in England." Somehow it was impossible to cheat this old
man.
To George, to Cecil, she would have lied again; but he seemed so near the end of
things, so dignified in his approach to the gulf, of which he gave one account, and the
books that surrounded him another, so mild
to the rough paths that he had traversed, that the true chivalry--not the worn-out
chivalry of sex, but the true chivalry that all the young may show to all the old--
awoke in her, and, at whatever risk, she
told him that Cecil was not her companion to Greece.
And she spoke so seriously that the risk became a certainty, and he, lifting his
eyes, said: "You are leaving him?
You are leaving the man you love?" "I--I had to."
"Why, Miss Honeychurch, why?" Terror came over her, and she lied again.
She made the long, convincing speech that she had made to Mr. Beebe, and intended to
make to the world when she announced that her engagement was no more.
He heard her in silence, and then said: "My dear, I am worried about you.
It seems to me"--dreamily; she was not alarmed--"that you are in a muddle."
She shook her head.
"Take an old man's word; there's nothing worse than a muddle in all the world.
It is easy to face Death and Fate, and the things that sound so dreadful.
It is on my muddles that I look back with horror--on the things that I might have
avoided. We can help one another but little.
I used to think I could teach young people the whole of life, but I know better now,
and all my teaching of George has come down to this: beware of muddle.
Do you remember in that church, when you pretended to be annoyed with me and
weren't? Do you remember before, when you refused
the room with the view?
Those were muddles--little, but ominous-- and I am fearing that you are in one now."
She was silent. "Don't trust me, Miss Honeychurch.
Though life is very glorious, it is difficult."
She was still silent.
"'Life' wrote a friend of mine, 'is a public performance on the violin, in which
you must learn the instrument as you go along.'
I think he puts it well.
Man has to pick up the use of his functions as he goes along--especially the function
of Love." Then he burst out excitedly; "That's it;
that's what I mean.
You love George!" And after his long preamble, the three
words burst against Lucy like waves from the open sea.
"But you do," he went on, not waiting for contradiction.
"You love the boy body and soul, plainly, directly, as he loves you, and no other
word expresses it.
You won't marry the other man for his sake."
"How dare you!" gasped Lucy, with the roaring of waters in her ears.
"Oh, how like a man!--I mean, to suppose that a woman is always thinking about a
man." "But you are."
She summoned physical disgust.
"You're shocked, but I mean to shock you. It's the only hope at times.
I can reach you no other way. You must marry, or your life will be
wasted.
You have gone too far to retreat. I have no time for the tenderness, and the
comradeship, and the poetry, and the things that really matter, and for which you
marry.
I know that, with George, you will find them, and that you love him.
Then be his wife. He is already part of you.
Though you fly to Greece, and never see him again, or forget his very name, George will
work in your thoughts till you die. It isn't possible to love and to part.
You will wish that it was.
You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you.
I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal."
Lucy began to cry with anger, and though her anger passed away soon, her tears
remained.
"I only wish poets would say this, too: love is of the body; not the body, but of
the body. Ah! the misery that would be saved if we
confessed that!
Ah! for a little directness to liberate the soul!
Your soul, dear Lucy!
I hate the word now, because of all the cant with which superstition has wrapped it
round. But we have souls.
I cannot say how they came nor whither they go, but we have them, and I see you ruining
yours. I cannot bear it.
It is again the darkness creeping in; it is hell."
Then he checked himself. "What nonsense I have talked--how abstract
and remote!
And I have made you cry! Dear girl, forgive my prosiness; marry my
boy.
When I think what life is, and how seldom love is answered by love--Marry him; it is
one of the moments for which the world was made."
She could not understand him; the words were indeed remote.
Yet as he spoke the darkness was withdrawn, veil after veil, and she saw to the bottom
of her soul.
"Then, Lucy--" "You've frightened me," she moaned.
"Cecil--Mr. Beebe--the ticket's bought-- everything."
She fell sobbing into the chair.
"I'm caught in the tangle. I must suffer and grow old away from him.
I cannot break the whole of life for his sake.
They trusted me."
A carriage drew up at the front-door. "Give George my love--once only.
Tell him 'muddle.'" Then she arranged her veil, while the tears
poured over her cheeks inside.
"Lucy--" "No--they are in the hall--oh, please not,
Mr. Emerson--they trust me--" "But why should they, when you have
deceived them?"
Mr. Beebe opened the door, saying: "Here's my mother."
"You're not worthy of their trust." "What's that?" said Mr. Beebe sharply.
"I was saying, why should you trust her when she deceived you?"
"One minute, mother." He came in and shut the door.
"I don't follow you, Mr. Emerson.
To whom do you refer? Trust whom?"
"I mean she has pretended to you that she did not love George.
They have loved one another all along."
Mr. Beebe looked at the sobbing girl. He was very quiet, and his white face, with
its ruddy whiskers, seemed suddenly inhuman.
A long black column, he stood and awaited her reply.
"I shall never marry him," quavered Lucy. A look of contempt came over him, and he
said, "Why not?"
"Mr. Beebe--I have misled you--I have misled myself--"
"Oh, rubbish, Miss Honeychurch!" "It is not rubbish!" said the old man
hotly.
"It's the part of people that you don't understand."
Mr. Beebe laid his hand on the old man's shoulder pleasantly.
"Lucy!
Lucy!" called voices from the carriage. "Mr. Beebe, could you help me?"
He looked amazed at the request, and said in a low, stern voice: "I am more grieved
than I can possibly express.
It is lamentable, lamentable--incredible." "What's wrong with the boy?" fired up the
other again. "Nothing, Mr. Emerson, except that he no
longer interests me.
Marry George, Miss Honeychurch. He will do admirably."
He walked out and left them. They heard him guiding his mother up-
stairs.
"Lucy!" the voices called. She turned to Mr. Emerson in despair.
But his face revived her. It was the face of a saint who understood.
"Now it is all dark.
Now Beauty and Passion seem never to have existed.
I know. But remember the mountains over Florence
and the view.
Ah, dear, if I were George, and gave you one kiss, it would make you brave.
You have to go cold into a battle that needs warmth, out into the muddle that you
have made yourself; and your mother and all your friends will despise you, oh, my
darling, and rightly, if it is ever right to despise.
George still dark, all the tussle and the misery without a word from him.
Am I justified?"
Into his own eyes tears came. "Yes, for we fight for more than Love or
Pleasure; there is Truth. Truth counts, Truth does count."
"You kiss me," said the girl.
"You kiss me. I will try."
He gave her a sense of deities reconciled, a feeling that, in gaining the man she
loved, she would gain something for the whole world.
Throughout the squalor of her homeward drive--she spoke at once--his salutation
remained.
He had robbed the body of its taint, the world's taunts of their sting; he had shown
her the holiness of direct desire.
She "never exactly understood," she would say in after years, "how he managed to
strengthen her. It was as if he had made her see the whole
of everything at once."
>
CHAPTER XX: The End of the Middle Ages
The Miss Alans did go to Greece, but they went by themselves.
They alone of this little company will double Malea and plough the waters of the
Saronic gulf.
They alone will visit Athens and Delphi, and either shrine of intellectual song--
that upon the Acropolis, encircled by blue seas; that under Parnassus, where the
eagles build and the bronze charioteer drives undismayed towards infinity.
Trembling, anxious, cumbered with much digestive bread, they did proceed to
Constantinople, they did go round the world.
The rest of us must be contented with a fair, but a less arduous, goal.
Italiam petimus: we return to the Pension Bertolini.
George said it was his old room.
"No, it isn't," said Lucy; "because it is the room I had, and I had your father's
room. I forget why; Charlotte made me, for some
reason."
He knelt on the tiled floor, and laid his face in her lap.
"George, you baby, get up." "Why shouldn't I be a baby?" murmured
George.
Unable to answer this question, she put down his sock, which she was trying to
mend, and gazed out through the window. It was evening and again the spring.
"Oh, bother Charlotte," she said thoughtfully.
"What can such people be made of?" "Same stuff as parsons are made of."
"Nonsense!"
"Quite right. It is nonsense."
"Now you get up off the cold floor, or you'll be starting rheumatism next, and you
stop laughing and being so silly."
"Why shouldn't I laugh?" he asked, pinning her with his elbows, and advancing his face
to hers. "What's there to cry at?
Kiss me here."
He indicated the spot where a kiss would be welcome.
He was a boy after all.
When it came to the point, it was she who remembered the past, she into whose soul
the iron had entered, she who knew whose room this had been last year.
It endeared him to her strangely that he should be sometimes wrong.
"Any letters?" he asked. "Just a line from Freddy."
"Now kiss me here; then here."
Then, threatened again with rheumatism, he strolled to the window, opened it (as the
English will), and leant out.
There was the parapet, there the river, there to the left the beginnings of the
hills.
The cab-driver, who at once saluted him with the hiss of a serpent, might be that
very Phaethon who had set this happiness in motion twelve months ago.
A passion of gratitude--all feelings grow to passions in the South--came over the
husband, and he blessed the people and the things who had taken so much trouble about
a young fool.
He had helped himself, it is true, but how stupidly!
All the fighting that mattered had been done by others--by Italy, by his father, by
his wife.
"Lucy, you come and look at the cypresses; and the church, whatever its name is, still
shows." "San Miniato.
I'll just finish your sock."
"Signorino, domani faremo uno giro," called the cabman, with engaging certainty.
George told him that he was mistaken; they had no money to throw away on driving.
And the people who had not meant to help-- the Miss Lavishes, the Cecils, the Miss
Bartletts!
Ever prone to magnify Fate, George counted up the forces that had swept him into this
contentment. "Anything good in Freddy's letter?"
"Not yet."
His own content was absolute, but hers held bitterness: the Honeychurches had not
forgiven them; they were disgusted at her past hypocrisy; she had alienated Windy
Corner, perhaps for ever.
"What does he say?" "Silly boy!
He thinks he's being dignified.
He knew we should go off in the spring--he has known it for six months--that if mother
wouldn't give her consent we should take the thing into our own hands.
They had fair warning, and now he calls it an elopement.
Ridiculous boy--" "Signorino, domani faremo uno giro--"
"But it will all come right in the end.
He has to build us both up from the beginning again.
I wish, though, that Cecil had not turned so cynical about women.
He has, for the second time, quite altered.
Why will men have theories about women? I haven't any about men.
I wish, too, that Mr. Beebe--" "You may well wish that."
"He will never forgive us--I mean, he will never be interested in us again.
I wish that he did not influence them so much at Windy Corner.
I wish he hadn't--But if we act the truth, the people who really love us are sure to
come back to us in the long run." "Perhaps."
Then he said more gently: "Well, I acted the truth--the only thing I did do--and you
came back to me. So possibly you know."
He turned back into the room.
"Nonsense with that sock." He carried her to the window, so that she,
too, saw all the view.
They sank upon their knees, invisible from the road, they hoped, and began to whisper
one another's names.
Ah! it was worth while; it was the great joy that they had expected, and countless
little joys of which they had never dreamt. They were silent.
"Signorino, domani faremo--"
"Oh, bother that man!" But Lucy remembered the vendor of
photographs and said, "No, don't be rude to him."
Then with a catching of her breath, she murmured: "Mr. Eager and Charlotte,
dreadful frozen Charlotte. How cruel she would be to a man like that!"
"Look at the lights going over the bridge."
"But this room reminds me of Charlotte. How horrible to grow old in Charlotte's
way!
To think that evening at the rectory that she shouldn't have heard your father was in
the house.
For she would have stopped me going in, and he was the only person alive who could have
made me see sense. You couldn't have made me.
When I am very happy"--she kissed him--"I remember on how little it all hangs.
If Charlotte had only known, she would have stopped me going in, and I should have gone
to silly Greece, and become different for ever."
"But she did know," said George; "she did see my father, surely.
He said so." "Oh, no, she didn't see him.
She was upstairs with old Mrs. Beebe, don't you remember, and then went straight to the
church. She said so."
George was obstinate again.
"My father," said he, "saw her, and I prefer his word.
He was dozing by the study fire, and he opened his eyes, and there was Miss
Bartlett.
A few minutes before you came in. She was turning to go as he woke up.
He didn't speak to her."
Then they spoke of other things--the desultory talk of those who have been
fighting to reach one another, and whose reward is to rest quietly in each other's
arms.
It was long ere they returned to Miss Bartlett, but when they did her behaviour
seemed more interesting. George, who disliked any darkness, said:
"It's clear that she knew.
Then, why did she risk the meeting? She knew he was there, and yet she went to
church." They tried to piece the thing together.
As they talked, an incredible solution came into Lucy's mind.
She rejected it, and said: "How like Charlotte to undo her work by a feeble
muddle at the last moment."
But something in the dying evening, in the roar of the river, in their very embrace
warned them that her words fell short of life, and George whispered: "Or did she
mean it?"
"Mean what?" "Signorino, domani faremo uno giro--"
Lucy bent forward and said with gentleness: "Lascia, prego, lascia.
Siamo sposati."
"Scusi tanto, signora," he replied in tones as gentle and whipped up his horse.
"Buona sera--e grazie." "Niente."
The cabman drove away singing.
"Mean what, George?" He whispered: "Is it this?
Is this possible? I'll put a marvel to you.
That your cousin has always hoped.
That from the very first moment we met, she hoped, far down in her mind, that we should
be like this--of course, very far down. That she fought us on the surface, and yet
she hoped.
I can't explain her any other way. Can you?
Look how she kept me alive in you all the summer; how she gave you no peace; how
month after month she became more eccentric and unreliable.
The sight of us haunted her--or she couldn't have described us as she did to
her friend. There are details--it burnt.
I read the book afterwards.
She is not frozen, Lucy, she is not withered up all through.
She tore us apart twice, but in the rectory that evening she was given one more chance
to make us happy.
We can never make friends with her or thank her.
But I do believe that, far down in her heart, far below all speech and behaviour,
she is glad."
"It is impossible," murmured Lucy, and then, remembering the experiences of her
own heart, she said: "No--it is just possible."
Youth enwrapped them; the song of Phaethon announced passion requited, love attained.
But they were conscious of a love more mysterious than this.
The song died away; they heard the river, bearing down the snows of winter into the
Mediterranean.
>