Part 1 out of 5
A ROOM WITH A VIEW
by E. M. Forster
I. The Bertolini
II. In Santa Croce with No Baedeker
III. Music, Violets, and the Letter "S"
IV. Fourth Chapter
V. Possibilities of a Pleasant Outing
VI. The Reverend Arthur Beebe, the Reverend Cuthbert Eager,
Mr. Emerson, Mr. George Emerson, Miss Eleanor Lavish,
Miss Charlotte Bartlett, and Miss Lucy Honeychurch Drive
Out in Carriages to See a View; Italians Drive Them
VII. They Return
IX. Lucy as a Work of Art
X. Cecil as a Humourist
XI. In Mrs. Vyse's Well-Appointed Flat
XII. Twelfth Chapter
XIII. How Miss Bartlett's Boiler Was So Tiresome
XIV. How Lucy Faced the External Situation Bravely
XV. The Disaster Within
XVI. Lying to George
XVII. Lying to Cecil
XVIII. Lying to Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeychurch, Freddy, and the Servants
XIX. Lying to Mr. Emerson
XX. The End of the Middle Ages
Chapter I: The Bertolini
The Signora had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no
business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close
together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a
courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!"
"And a Cockney, besides!" said Lucy, who had been further
saddened by the Signora's unexpected accent. "It might be
London." She looked at the two rows of English people who were
sitting at the table; at the row of white bottles of water and
red bottles of wine that ran between the English people; at the
portraits of the late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung
behind the English people, heavily framed; at the notice of the
English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M. A. Oxon.), that was the
only other decoration of the wall. "Charlotte, don't you feel,
too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all
kinds of other things are just outside. I suppose it is one's
being so tired."
"This meat has surely been used for soup," said Miss Bartlett,
laying down her fork.
"I want so to see the Arno. The rooms the Signora promised us in
her letter would have looked over the Arno. The Signora had no
business to do it at all. Oh, it is a shame!"
"Any nook does for me," Miss Bartlett continued; "but it does
seem hard that you shouldn't have a view."
Lucy felt that she had been selfish. "Charlotte, you mustn't
spoil me: of course, you must look over the Arno, too. I meant
that. The first vacant room in the front--"
------"You must have it," said Miss Bartlett, part of whose
travelling expenses were paid by Lucy's mother--a piece of
generosity to which she made many a tactful allusion.
"No, no. You must have it."
"I insist on it. Your mother would never forgive me, Lucy."
"She would never forgive me."
The ladies' voices grew animated, and--if the sad truth be
owned--a little peevish. They were tired, and under the guise of
unselfishness they wrangled. Some of their neighbours
interchanged glances, and one of them--one of the ill-bred people
whom one does meet abroad--leant forward over the table and
actually intruded into their argument. He said:
"I have a view, I have a view."
Miss Bartlett was startled. Generally at a pension people
looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did
not find out that they would "do" till they had gone. She knew
that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced at him.
He was an old man, of heavy build, with a fair, shaven face and
large eyes. There was something childish in those eyes, though it
was not the childishness of senility. What exactly it was
Miss Bartlett did not stop to consider, for her glance
passed on to his clothes. These did not attract her. He was
probably trying to become acquainted with them before they got
into the swim. So she assumed a dazed expression when he spoke to
her, and then said: "A view? Oh, a view! How delightful a view
"This is my son," said the old man; "his name's George. He has a
"Ah," said Miss Bartlett, repressing Lucy, who was about to
"What I mean," he continued, "is that you can have our rooms, and
we'll have yours. We'll change."
The better class of tourist was shocked at this, and sympathized
with the new-comers. Miss Bartlett, in reply, opened her mouth as
little as possible, and said "Thank you very much indeed; that is
out of the question."
"Why?" said the old man, with both fists on the table.
"Because it is quite out of the question, thank you."
"You see, we don't like to take--" began Lucy. Her cousin again
"But why?" he persisted. "Women like looking at a view; men
don't." And he thumped with his fists like a naughty child,
and turned to his son, saying, "George, persuade them!"
"It's so obvious they should have the rooms," said the son.
"There's nothing else to say."
He did not look at the ladies as he spoke, but his voice was
perplexed and sorrowful. Lucy, too, was perplexed; but she saw
that they were in for what is known as "quite a scene," and she
had an odd feeling that whenever these ill-bred tourists spoke
the contest widened and deepened till it dealt, not with rooms
and views, but with--well, with something quite different, whose
existence she had not realized before. Now the old man attacked
Miss Bartlett almost violently: Why should she not change? What
possible objection had she? They would clear out in half an hour.
Miss Bartlett, though skilled in the delicacies of conversation,
was powerless in the presence of brutality. It was impossible to
snub any one so gross. Her face reddened with displeasure. She
looked around as much as to say, "Are you all like this?" And two
little old ladies, who were sitting further up the table, with
shawls hanging over the backs of the chairs, looked back, clearly
indicating "We are not; we are genteel."
"Eat your dinner, dear," she said to Lucy, and began to toy again
with the meat that she had once censured.
Lucy mumbled that those seemed very odd people opposite.
"Eat your dinner, dear. This pension is a failure. To-morrow we
will make a change."
Hardly had she announced this fell decision when she reversed it.
The curtains at the end of the room parted, and revealed a
clergyman, stout but attractive, who hurried forward to take his
place at the table, cheerfully apologizing for his lateness.
Lucy, who had not yet acquired decency, at once rose to her feet,
exclaiming: "Oh, oh! Why, it's Mr. Beebe! Oh, how perfectly
lovely! Oh, Charlotte, we must stop now, however bad the rooms
Miss Bartlett said, with more restraint:
"How do you do, Mr. Beebe? I expect that you have forgotten
us: Miss Bartlett and Miss Honeychurch, who were at Tunbridge
Wells when you helped the Vicar of St. Peter's that very cold
The clergyman, who had the air of one on a holiday, did not
remember the ladies quite as clearly as they remembered him. But
he came forward pleasantly enough and accepted the chair into
which he was beckoned by Lucy.
"I AM so glad to see you," said the girl, who was in a state of
spiritual starvation, and would have been glad to see the waiter
if her cousin had permitted it. "Just fancy how small the world
is. Summer Street, too, makes it so specially funny."
"Miss Honeychurch lives in the parish of Summer Street," said
Miss Bartlett, filling up the gap, "and she happened to tell me
in the course of conversation that you have just accepted the
"Yes, I heard from mother so last week. She didn't know that I
knew you at Tunbridge Wells; but I wrote back at once, and I
said: 'Mr. Beebe is--'"
"Quite right," said the clergyman. "I move into the Rectory at
Summer Street next June. I am lucky to be appointed to such a
"Oh, how glad I am! The name of our house is Windy Corner." Mr.
"There is mother and me generally, and my brother, though it's
not often we get him to ch-- The church is rather far
off, I mean."
"Lucy, dearest, let Mr. Beebe eat his dinner."
"I am eating it, thank you, and enjoying it."
He preferred to talk to Lucy, whose playing he remembered, rather
than to Miss Bartlett, who probably remembered his sermons. He
asked the girl whether she knew Florence well, and was informed
at some length that she had never been there before. It is
delightful to advise a newcomer, and he was first in the field.
"Don't neglect the country round," his advice concluded. "The
first fine afternoon drive up to Fiesole, and round by
Settignano, or something of that sort."
"No!" cried a voice from the top of the table. "Mr. Beebe, you
are wrong. The first fine afternoon your ladies must go to
"That lady looks so clever," whispered Miss Bartlett to her
cousin. "We are in luck."
And, indeed, a perfect torrent of information burst on them.
People told them what to see, when to see it, how to stop the
electric trams, how to get rid of the beggars, how much to give
for a vellum blotter, how much the place would grow upon them.
The Pension Bertolini had decided, almost enthusiastically, that
they would do. Whichever way they looked, kind ladies smiled and
shouted at them. And above all rose the voice of the clever lady,
crying: "Prato! They must go to Prato. That place is too sweetly
squalid for words. I love it; I revel in shaking off the trammels
of respectability, as you know."
The young man named George glanced at the clever lady, and then
returned moodily to his plate. Obviously he and his father did
not do. Lucy, in the midst of her success, found time to wish
they did. It gave her no extra pleasure that any one should be
left in the cold; and when she rose to go, she turned back and
gave the two outsiders a nervous little bow.
The father did not see it; the son acknowledged it, not by
another bow, but by raising his eyebrows and smiling; he seemed
to be smiling across something.
She hastened after her cousin, who had already disappeared
through the curtains--curtains which smote one in the face, and
seemed heavy with more than cloth. Beyond them stood the
unreliable Signora, bowing good-evening to her guests, and
supported by 'Enery, her little boy, and Victorier, her
daughter. It made a curious little scene, this attempt of the
Cockney to convey the grace and geniality of the South. And even
more curious was the drawing-room, which attempted to rival the
solid comfort of a Bloomsbury boarding-house. Was this really
Miss Bartlett was already seated on a tightly stuffed arm-chair,
which had the colour and the contours of a tomato. She was
talking to Mr. Beebe, and as she spoke, her long narrow head
drove backwards and forwards, slowly, regularly, as though she
were demolishing some invisible obstacle. "We are most grateful
to you," she was saying. "The first evening means so much. When
you arrived we were in for a peculiarly mauvais quart d'heure."
He expressed his regret.
"Do you, by any chance, know the name of an old man who sat
opposite us at dinner?"
"Is he a friend of yours?"
"We are friendly--as one is in pensions."
"Then I will say no more."
He pressed her very slightly, and she said more.
"I am, as it were," she concluded, "the chaperon of my young
cousin, Lucy, and it would be a serious thing if I put her under
an obligation to people of whom we know nothing. His manner was
somewhat unfortunate. I hope I acted for the best."
"You acted very naturally," said he. He seemed thoughtful, and
after a few moments added: "All the same, I don't think much harm
would have come of accepting."
"No harm, of course. But we could not be under an obligation."
"He is rather a peculiar man." Again he hesitated, and then said
gently: "I think he would not take advantage of your acceptance,
nor expect you to show gratitude. He has the merit--if it is one
--of saying exactly what he means. He has rooms he does not
value, and he thinks you would value them. He no more thought of
putting you under an obligation than he thought of being polite.
It is so difficult--at least, I find it difficult--to understand
people who speak the truth."
Lucy was pleased, and said: "I was hoping that he was nice; I do
so always hope that people will be nice."
"I think he is; nice and tiresome. I differ from him on almost
every point of any importance, and so, I expect--I may say I
hope--you will differ. But his is a type one disagrees with
rather than deplores. When he first came here he not unnaturally
put people's backs up. He has no tact and no manners--I don't
mean by that that he has bad manners--and he will not keep his
opinions to himself. We nearly complained about him to our
depressing Signora, but I am glad to say we thought better of
"Am I to conclude," said Miss Bartlett, "that he is a Socialist?"
Mr. Beebe accepted the convenient word, not without a slight
twitching of the lips.
"And presumably he has brought up his son to be a Socialist,
"I hardly know George, for he hasn't learnt to talk yet. He
seems a nice creature, and I think he has brains. Of course, he
has all his father's mannerisms, and it is quite possible that
he, too, may be a Socialist."
"Oh, you relieve me," said Miss Bartlett. "So you think I ought
to have accepted their offer? You feel I have been narrow-minded
"Not at all," he answered; "I never suggested that."
"But ought I not to apologize, at all events, for my apparent
He replied, with some irritation, that it would be quite
unnecessary, and got up from his seat to go to the
"Was I a bore?" said Miss Bartlett, as soon as he had
disappeared. "Why didn't you talk, Lucy? He prefers young people,
I'm sure. I do hope I haven't monopolized him. I hoped you would
have him all the evening, as well as all dinner-time."
"He is nice," exclaimed Lucy. "Just what I remember. He seems to
see good in every one. No one would take him for a clergyman."
"My dear Lucia--"
"Well, you know what I mean. And you know how clergymen generally
laugh; Mr. Beebe laughs just like an ordinary man."
"Funny girl! How you do remind me of your mother. I wonder if she
will approve of Mr. Beebe."
"I'm sure she will; and so will Freddy."
"I think every one at Windy Corner will approve; it is the
fashionable world. I am used to Tunbridge Wells, where we are all
hopelessly behind the times."
"Yes," said Lucy despondently.
There was a haze of disapproval in the air, but whether the
disapproval was of herself, or of Mr. Beebe, or of the
fashionable world at Windy Corner, or of the narrow world at
Tunbridge Wells, she could not determine. She tried to locate it,
but as usual she blundered. Miss Bartlett sedulously denied
disapproving of any one, and added "I am afraid you are finding
me a very depressing companion."
And the girl again thought: "I must have been selfish or unkind;
I must be more careful. It is so dreadful for Charlotte, being
Fortunately one of the little old ladies, who for some time had
been smiling very benignly, now approached and asked if she might
be allowed to sit where Mr. Beebe had sat. Permission granted,
she began to chatter gently about Italy, the plunge it had been
to come there, the gratifying success of the plunge, the
improvement in her sister's health, the necessity of closing the
bed-room windows at night, and of thoroughly emptying the
water-bottles in the morning. She handled her subjects agreeably,
and they were, perhaps, more worthy of attention than the high
discourse upon Guelfs and Ghibellines which was proceeding
tempestuously at the other end of the room. It was a real
catastrophe, not a mere episode, that evening of hers at Venice,
when she had found in her bedroom something that is one worse
than a flea, though one better than something else.
"But here you are as safe as in England. Signora Bertolini is so
"Yet our rooms smell," said poor Lucy. "We dread going to bed."
"Ah, then you look into the court." She sighed. "If only Mr.
Emerson was more tactful! We were so sorry for you at dinner."
"I think he was meaning to be kind."
"Undoubtedly he was," said Miss Bartlett.
"Mr. Beebe has just been scolding me for my suspicious nature. Of
course, I was holding back on my cousin's account."
"Of course," said the little old lady; and they murmured that one
could not be too careful with a young girl.
Lucy tried to look demure, but could not help feeling a great
fool. No one was careful with her at home; or, at all events, she
had not noticed it.
"About old Mr. Emerson--I hardly know. No, he is not tactful;
yet, have you ever noticed that there are people who do things
which are most indelicate, and yet at the same time--beautiful?"
"Beautiful?" said Miss Bartlett, puzzled at the word. "Are not
beauty and delicacy the same?"
"So one would have thought," said the other helplessly. "But
things are so difficult, I sometimes think."
She proceeded no further into things, for Mr. Beebe reappeared,
looking extremely pleasant.
"Miss Bartlett," he cried, "it's all right about the rooms. I'm
so glad. Mr. Emerson was talking about it in the smoking-room,
and knowing what I did, I encouraged him to make the offer again.
He has let me come and ask you. He would be so pleased."
"Oh, Charlotte," cried Lucy to her cousin, "we must have the
rooms now. The old man is just as nice and kind as he can be."
Miss Bartlett was silent.
"I fear," said Mr. Beebe, after a pause, "that I have been
officious. I must apologize for my interference."
Gravely displeased, he turned to go. Not till then did Miss
Bartlett reply: "My own wishes, dearest Lucy, are unimportant in
comparison with yours. It would be hard indeed if I stopped you
doing as you liked at Florence, when I am only here through your
kindness. If you wish me to turn these gentlemen out of their
rooms, I will do it. Would you then, Mr. Beebe, kindly tell Mr.
Emerson that I accept his kind offer, and then conduct him to me,
in order that I may thank him personally?"
She raised her voice as she spoke; it was heard all over the
drawing-room, and silenced the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. The
clergyman, inwardly cursing the female sex, bowed, and departed
with her message.
"Remember, Lucy, I alone am implicated in this. I do not wish the
acceptance to come from you. Grant me that, at all events."
Mr. Beebe was back, saying rather nervously:
"Mr. Emerson is engaged, but here is his son instead."
The young man gazed down on the three ladies, who felt seated on
the floor, so low were their chairs.
"My father," he said, "is in his bath, so you cannot thank him
personally. But any message given by you to me will be given by
me to him as soon as he comes out."
Miss Bartlett was unequal to the bath. All her barbed civilities
came forth wrong end first. Young Mr. Emerson scored a notable
triumph to the delight of Mr. Beebe and to the secret delight of
"Poor young man!" said Miss Bartlett, as soon as he had gone.
"How angry he is with his father about the rooms! It is all he
can do to keep polite."
"In half an hour or so your rooms will be ready," said Mr. Beebe.
Then looking rather thoughtfully at the two cousins, he retired
to his own rooms, to write up his philosophic diary.
"Oh, dear!" breathed the little old lady, and shuddered as if all
the winds of heaven had entered the apartment. "Gentlemen
sometimes do not realize--" Her voice faded away, but Miss
Bartlett seemed to understand and a conversation developed, in
which gentlemen who did not thoroughly realize played a principal
part. Lucy, not realizing either, was reduced to literature.
Taking up Baedeker's Handbook to Northern Italy, she committed to
memory the most important dates of Florentine History. For she
was determined to enjoy herself on the morrow. Thus the half-hour
crept profitably away, and at last Miss Bartlett rose with a
sigh, and said:
"I think one might venture now. No, Lucy, do not stir. I will
superintend the move."
"How you do do everything," said Lucy.
"Naturally, dear. It is my affair."
"But I would like to help you."
Charlotte's energy! And her unselfishness! She had been thus all
her life, but really, on this Italian tour, she was surpassing
herself. So Lucy felt, or strove to feel. And yet--there was a
rebellious spirit in her which wondered whether the acceptance
might not have been less delicate and more beautiful. At all
events, she entered her own room without any feeling of joy.
"I want to explain," said Miss Bartlett, "why it is that I have
taken the largest room. Naturally, of course, I should have given
it to you; but I happen to know that it belongs to the young man,
and I was sure your mother would not like it."
Lucy was bewildered.
"If you are to accept a favour it is more suitable you should be
under an obligation to his father than to him. I am a woman of
the world, in my small way, and I know where things lead to. How-
ever, Mr. Beebe is a guarantee of a sort that they will not
presume on this."
"Mother wouldn't mind I'm sure," said Lucy, but again had the
sense of larger and unsuspected issues.
Miss Bartlett only sighed, and enveloped her in a protecting
embrace as she wished her good-night. It gave Lucy the sensation
of a fog, and when she reached her own room she opened the window
and breathed the clean night air, thinking of the kind old man
who had enabled her to see the lights dancing in the Arno and the
cypresses of San Miniato, and the foot-hills of the Apennines,
black against the rising moon.
Miss Bartlett, in her room, fastened the window-shutters and
locked the door, and then made a tour of the apartment to see
where the cupboards led, and whether there were any oubliettes or
secret entrances. It was then that she saw, pinned up over the
washstand, a sheet of paper on which was scrawled an enormous
note of interrogation. Nothing more.
"What does it mean?" she thought, and she examined it carefully
by the light of a candle. Meaningless at first, it gradually
became menacing, obnoxious, portentous with evil. She was seized
with an impulse to destroy it, but fortunately remembered that
she had no right to do so, since it must be the property of young
Mr. Emerson. So she unpinned it carefully, and put it between two
pieces of blotting-paper to keep it clean for him. Then she
completed her inspection of the room, sighed heavily according to
her habit, and went to bed.
Chapter II: In Santa Croce with No Baedeker
It was pleasant to wake up in Florence, to open the eyes upon a
bright bare room, with a floor of red tiles which look clean
though they are not; with a painted ceiling whereon pink griffins
and blue amorini sport in a forest of yellow violins and
bassoons. It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows,
pinching the fingers in unfamiliar fastenings, to lean out into
sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches
opposite, and close below, the Arno, gurgling against the
embankment of the road.
Over the river men were at work with spades and sieves on the
sandy foreshore, and on the river was a boat, also diligently
employed for some mysterious end. An electric tram came rushing
underneath the window. No one was inside it, except one tourist;
but its platforms were overflowing with Italians, who preferred
to stand. Children tried to hang on behind, and the conductor,
with no malice, spat in their faces to make them let go. Then
soldiers appeared--good-looking, undersized men--wearing each a
knapsack covered with mangy fur, and a great-coat which had been
cut for some larger soldier. Beside them walked officers, looking
foolish and fierce, and before them went little boys, turning
somersaults in time with the band. The tramcar became entangled
in their ranks, and moved on painfully, like a caterpillar in a
swarm of ants. One of the little boys fell down, and some white
bullocks came out of an archway. Indeed, if it had not been for
the good advice of an old man who was selling button-hooks, the
road might never have got clear.
Over such trivialities as these many a valuable hour may slip
away, and the traveller who has gone to Italy to study the
tactile values of Giotto, or the corruption of the Papacy, may
return remembering nothing but the blue sky and the men and women
who live under it. So it was as well that Miss Bartlett should
tap and come in, and having commented on Lucy's leaving the door
unlocked, and on her leaning out of the window before she was
fully dressed, should urge her to hasten herself, or the best of
the day would be gone. By the time Lucy was ready her cousin had
done her breakfast, and was listening to the clever lady among
A conversation then ensued, on not unfamiliar lines. Miss
Bartlett was, after all, a wee bit tired, and thought they had
better spend the morning settling in; unless Lucy would at all
like to go out? Lucy would rather like to go out, as it was her
first day in Florence, but, of course, she could go alone. Miss
Bartlett could not allow this. Of course she would accompany Lucy
everywhere. Oh, certainly not; Lucy would stop with her cousin.
Oh, no! that would never do. Oh, yes!
At this point the clever lady broke in.
"If it is Mrs. Grundy who is troubling you, I do assure you that
you can neglect the good person. Being English, Miss Honeychurch
will be perfectly safe. Italians understand. A dear friend of
mine, Contessa Baroncelli, has two daughters, and when she cannot
send a maid to school with them, she lets them go in sailor-hats
instead. Every one takes them for English, you see, especially if
their hair is strained tightly behind."
Miss Bartlett was unconvinced by the safety of Contessa
Baroncelli's daughters. She was determined to take Lucy herself,
her head not being so very bad. The clever lady then said that
she was going to spend a long morning in Santa Croce, and if Lucy
would come too, she would be delighted.
"I will take you by a dear dirty back way, Miss Honeychurch, and
if you bring me luck, we shall have an adventure."
Lucy said that this was most kind, and at once opened the
Baedeker, to see where Santa Croce was.
"Tut, tut! Miss Lucy! I hope we shall soon emancipate you from
Baedeker. He does but touch the surface of things. As to the true
Italy--he does not even dream of it. The true Italy is only to be
found by patient observation."
This sounded very interesting, and Lucy hurried over her
breakfast, and started with her new friend in high spirits. Italy
was coming at last. The Cockney Signora and her works had
vanished like a bad dream.
Miss Lavish--for that was the clever lady's name--turned to the
right along the sunny Lung' Arno. How delightfully warm! But a
wind down the side streets cut like a knife, didn't it? Ponte
alle Grazie--particularly interesting, mentioned by Dante. San
Miniato--beautiful as well as interesting; the crucifix that
kissed a murderer--Miss Honeychurch would remember the story. The
men on the river were fishing. (Untrue; but then, so is most
information.) Then Miss Lavish darted under the archway of the
white bullocks, and she stopped, and she cried:
"A smell! a true Florentine smell! Every city, let me teach you,
has its own smell."
"Is it a very nice smell?" said Lucy, who had inherited from her
mother a distaste to dirt.
"One doesn't come to Italy for niceness," was the retort; "one
comes for life. Buon giorno! Buon giorno!" bowing right and
left. "Look at that adorable wine-cart! How the driver stares at
us, dear, simple soul!"
So Miss Lavish proceeded through the streets of the city of
Florence, short, fidgety, and playful as a kitten, though without
a kitten's grace. It was a treat for the girl to be with any one
so clever and so cheerful; and a blue military cloak, such as an
Italian officer wears, only increased the sense of festivity.
"Buon giorno! Take the word of an old woman, Miss Lucy: you will
never repent of a little civility to your inferiors. That is the
true democracy. Though I am a real Radical as well. There, now
"Indeed, I'm not!" exclaimed Lucy. "We are Radicals, too, out and
out. My father always voted for Mr. Gladstone, until he was so
dreadful about Ireland."
"I see, I see. And now you have gone over to the enemy."
"Oh, please--! If my father was alive, I am sure he would vote
Radical again now that Ireland is all right. And as it is, the
glass over our front door was broken last election, and Freddy is
sure it was the Tories; but mother says nonsense, a tramp."
"Shameful! A manufacturing district, I suppose?"
"No--in the Surrey hills. About five miles from Dorking, looking
over the Weald."
Miss Lavish seemed interested, and slackened her trot.
"What a delightful part; I know it so well. It is full of the
very nicest people. Do you know Sir Harry Otway--a Radical if
ever there was?"
"Very well indeed."
"And old Mrs. Butterworth the philanthropist?" "Why, she rents a
field of us! How funny!"
Miss Lavish looked at the narrow ribbon of sky, and murmured:
"Oh, you have property in Surrey?"
"Hardly any," said Lucy, fearful of being thought a snob. "Only
thirty acres--just the garden, all downhill, and some fields."
Miss Lavish was not disgusted, and said it was just the size of
her aunt's Suffolk estate. Italy receded. They tried to remember
the last name of Lady Louisa some one, who had taken a house near
Summer Street the other year, but she had not liked it, which was
odd of her. And just as Miss Lavish had got the name, she broke
off and exclaimed:
"Bless us! Bless us and save us! We've lost the way."
Certainly they had seemed a long time in reaching Santa Croce,
the tower of which had been plainly visible from the landing
window. But Miss Lavish had said so much about knowing her
Florence by heart, that Lucy had followed her with no misgivings.
"Lost! lost! My dear Miss Lucy, during our political diatribes we
have taken a wrong turning. How those horrid Conservatives would
jeer at us! What are we to do? Two lone females in an unknown
town. Now, this is what I call an adventure."
Lucy, who wanted to see Santa Croce, suggested, as a possible
solution, that they should ask the way there.
"Oh, but that is the word of a craven! And no, you are not, not,
NOT to look at your Baedeker. Give it to me; I shan't let you
carry it. We will simply drift."
Accordingly they drifted through a series of those grey-brown
streets, neither commodious nor picturesque, in which the eastern
quarter of the city abounds. Lucy soon lost interest in the
discontent of Lady Louisa, and became discontented herself. For
one ravishing moment Italy appeared. She stood in the Square of
the Annunziata and saw in the living terra-cotta those divine
babies whom no cheap reproduction can ever stale. There they
stood, with their shining limbs bursting from the garments of
charity, and their strong white arms extended against circlets of
heaven. Lucy thought she had never seen anything more beautiful;
but Miss Lavish, with a shriek of dismay, dragged her forward,
declaring that they were out of their path now by at least a
The hour was approaching at which the continental breakfast
begins, or rather ceases, to tell, and the ladies bought some hot
chestnut paste out of a little shop, because it looked so
typical. It tasted partly of the paper in which it was wrapped,
partly of hair oil, partly of the great unknown. But it gave them
strength to drift into another Piazza, large and dusty, on the
farther side of which rose a black-and-white facade of surpassing
ugliness. Miss Lavish spoke to it dramatically. It was Santa
Croce. The adventure was over.
"Stop a minute; let those two people go on, or I shall have to
speak to them. I do detest conventional intercourse. Nasty! they
are going into the church, too. Oh, the Britisher abroad!"
"We sat opposite them at dinner last night. They have given us
their rooms. They were so very kind."
"Look at their figures!" laughed Miss Lavish. "They walk through
my Italy like a pair of cows. It's very naughty of me, but I
would like to set an examination paper at Dover, and turn back
every tourist who couldn't pass it."
"What would you ask us?"
Miss Lavish laid her hand pleasantly on Lucy's arm, as if to
suggest that she, at all events, would get full marks. In this
exalted mood they reached the steps of the great church, and were
about to enter it when Miss Lavish stopped, squeaked, flung up
her arms, and cried:
"There goes my local-colour box! I must have a word with him!"
And in a moment she was away over the Piazza, her military cloak
flapping in the wind; nor did she slacken speed till she caught
up an old man with white whiskers, and nipped him playfully upon
Lucy waited for nearly ten minutes. Then she began to get tired.
The beggars worried her, the dust blew in her eyes, and she
remembered that a young girl ought not to loiter in public
places. She descended slowly into the Piazza with the intention
of rejoining Miss Lavish, who was really almost too original. But
at that moment Miss Lavish and her local-colour box moved also,
and disappeared down a side street, both gesticulating largely.
Tears of indignation came to Lucy's eyes partly because Miss
Lavish had jilted her, partly because she had taken her Baedeker.
How could she find her way home? How could she find her way about
in Santa Croce? Her first morning was ruined, and she might never
be in Florence again. A few minutes ago she had been all high
spirits, talking as a woman of culture, and half persuading
herself that she was full of originality. Now she entered the
church depressed and humiliated, not even able to remember
whether it was built by the Franciscans or the Dominicans.
Of course, it must be a wonderful building. But how like a barn!
And how very cold! Of course, it contained frescoes by Giotto, in
the presence of whose tactile values she was capable of feeling
what was proper. But who was to tell her which they were? She
walked about disdainfully, unwilling to be enthusiastic over
monuments of uncertain authorship or date. There was no one even
to tell her which, of all the sepulchral slabs that paved the
nave and transepts, was the one that was really beautiful, the
one that had been most praised by Mr. Ruskin.
Then the pernicious charm of Italy worked on her, and, instead of
acquiring information, she began to be happy. She puzzled out the
Italian notices--the notices that forbade people to introduce
dogs into the church--the notice that prayed people, in the
interest of health and out of respect to the sacred edifice in
which they found themselves, not to spit. She watched the
tourists; their noses were as red as their Baedekers, so cold was
Santa Croce. She beheld the horrible fate that overtook three
Papists--two he-babies and a she-baby--who began their career by
sousing each other with the Holy Water, and then proceeded to the
Machiavelli memorial, dripping but hallowed. Advancing towards it
very slowly and from immense distances, they touched the stone
with their fingers, with their handkerchiefs, with their heads,
and then retreated. What could this mean? They did it again and
again. Then Lucy realized that they had mistaken Machiavelli for
some saint, hoping to acquire virtue. Punishment followed
quickly. The smallest he-baby stumbled over one of the sepulchral
slabs so much admired by Mr. Ruskin, and entangled his feet in
the features of a recumbent bishop. Protestant as she was, Lucy
darted forward. She was too late. He fell heavily upon the
prelate's upturned toes.
"Hateful bishop!" exclaimed the voice of old Mr. Emerson, who had
darted forward also. "Hard in life, hard in death. Go out into
the sunshine, little boy, and kiss your hand to the sun, for that
is where you ought to be. Intolerable bishop!"
The child screamed frantically at these words, and at these
dreadful people who picked him up, dusted him, rubbed his
bruises, and told him not to be superstitious.
"Look at him!" said Mr. Emerson to Lucy. "Here's a mess: a baby
hurt, cold, and frightened! But what else can you expect from a
The child's legs had become as melting wax. Each time that old
Mr. Emerson and Lucy set it erect it collapsed with a roar.
Fortunately an Italian lady, who ought to have been saying her
prayers, came to the rescue. By some mysterious virtue, which
mothers alone possess, she stiffened the little boy's back-bone
and imparted strength to his knees. He stood. Still gibbering
with agitation, he walked away.
"You are a clever woman," said Mr. Emerson. "You have done more
than all the relics in the world. I am not of your creed, but I
do believe in those who make their fellow-creatures happy. There
is no scheme of the universe--"
He paused for a phrase.
"Niente," said the Italian lady, and returned to her prayers.
"I'm not sure she understands English," suggested Lucy.
In her chastened mood she no longer despised the Emersons. She
was determined to be gracious to them, beautiful rather than
delicate, and, if possible, to erase Miss Bartlett's civility by
some gracious reference to the pleasant rooms.
"That woman understands everything," was Mr. Emerson's reply.
"But what are you doing here? Are you doing the church? Are you
through with the church?"
"No," cried Lucy, remembering her grievance. "I came here with
Miss Lavish, who was to explain everything; and just by the door
--it is too bad!--she simply ran away, and after waiting quite a
time, I had to come in by myself."
"Why shouldn't you?" said Mr. Emerson.
"Yes, why shouldn't you come by yourself?" said the son,
addressing the young lady for the first time.
"But Miss Lavish has even taken away Baedeker."
"Baedeker?" said Mr. Emerson. "I'm glad it's THAT you minded.
It's worth minding, the loss of a Baedeker. THAT'S worth
Lucy was puzzled. She was again conscious of some new idea, and
was not sure whither it would lead her.
"If you've no Baedeker," said the son, "you'd better join us."
Was this where the idea would lead? She took refuge in her
"Thank you very much, but I could not think of that. I hope you
do not suppose that I came to join on to you. I really came to
help with the child, and to thank you for so kindly giving us
your rooms last night. I hope that you have not been put to any
"My dear," said the old man gently, "I think that you are
repeating what you have heard older people say. You are
pretending to be touchy; but you are not really. Stop being so
tiresome, and tell me instead what part of the church you want to
see. To take you to it will be a real pleasure."
Now, this was abominably impertinent, and she ought to have been
furious. But it is sometimes as difficult to lose one's temper as
it is difficult at other times to keep it. Lucy could not get
cross. Mr. Emerson was an old man, and surely a girl might humour
him. On the other hand, his son was a young man, and she felt
that a girl ought to be offended with him, or at all events be
offended before him. It was at him that she gazed before
"I am not touchy, I hope. It is the Giottos that I want to see,
if you will kindly tell me which they are."
The son nodded. With a look of sombre satisfaction, he led the
way to the Peruzzi Chapel. There was a hint of the teacher about
him. She felt like a child in school who had answered a question
The chapel was already filled with an earnest congregation, and
out of them rose the voice of a lecturer, directing them how to
worship Giotto, not by tactful valuations, but by the standards
of the spirit.
"Remember," he was saying, "the facts about this church of Santa
Croce; how it was built by faith in the full fervour of
medievalism, before any taint of the Renaissance had appeared.
Observe how Giotto in these frescoes--now, unhappily, ruined by
restoration--is untroubled by the snares of anatomy and
perspective. Could anything be more majestic, more pathetic,
beautiful, true? How little, we feel, avails knowledge and
technical cleverness against a man who truly feels!"
"No!" exclaimed Mr. Emerson, in much too loud a voice for church.
"Remember nothing of the sort! Built by faith indeed! That simply
means the workmen weren't paid properly. And as for the frescoes,
I see no truth in them. Look at that fat man in blue! He must
weigh as much as I do, and he is shooting into the sky like an
He was referring to the fresco of the "Ascension of St. John."
Inside, the lecturer's voice faltered, as well it might. The
audience shifted uneasily, and so did Lucy. She was sure that she
ought not to be with these men; but they had cast a spell over
her. They were so serious and so strange that she could not
remember how to behave.
"Now, did this happen, or didn't it? Yes or no?"
"It happened like this, if it happened at all. I would rather go
up to heaven by myself than be pushed by cherubs; and if I got
there I should like my friends to lean out of it, just as they do
"You will never go up," said his father. "You and I, dear boy,
will lie at peace in the earth that bore us, and our names will
disappear as surely as our work survives."
"Some of the people can only see the empty grave, not the saint,
whoever he is, going up. It did happen like that, if it happened
"Pardon me," said a frigid voice. "The chapel is somewhat small
for two parties. We will incommode you no longer."
The lecturer was a clergyman, and his audience must be also his
flock, for they held prayer-books as well as guide-books in their
hands. They filed out of the chapel in silence. Amongst them were
the two little old ladies of the Pension Bertolini--Miss Teresa
and Miss Catherine Alan.
"Stop!" cried Mr. Emerson. "There's plenty of room for us all.
The procession disappeared without a word.
Soon the lecturer could be heard in the next chapel, describing
the life of St. Francis.
"George, I do believe that clergyman is the Brixton curate."
George went into the next chapel and returned, saying "Perhaps he
is. I don't remember."
"Then I had better speak to him and remind him who I am. It's
that Mr. Eager. Why did he go? Did we talk too loud? How
vexatious. I shall go and say we are sorry. Hadn't I better? Then
perhaps he will come back."
"He will not come back," said George.
But Mr. Emerson, contrite and unhappy, hurried away to apologize
to the Rev. Cuthbert Eager. Lucy, apparently absorbed in a
lunette, could hear the lecture again interrupted, the anxious,
aggressive voice of the old man, the curt, injured replies of his
opponent. The son, who took every little contretemps as if it
were a tragedy, was listening also.
"My father has that effect on nearly every one," he informed her.
"He will try to be kind."
"I hope we all try," said she, smiling nervously.
"Because we think it improves our characters. But he is kind to
people because he loves them; and they find him out, and are
offended, or frightened."
"How silly of them!" said Lucy, though in her heart she
sympathized; "I think that a kind action done tactfully--"
He threw up his head in disdain. Apparently she had given the
wrong answer. She watched the singular creature pace up and down
the chapel. For a young man his face was rugged, and--until the
shadows fell upon it--hard. Enshadowed, it sprang into
tenderness. She saw him once again at Rome, on the ceiling of the
Sistine Chapel, carrying a burden of acorns. Healthy and
muscular, he yet gave her the feeling of greyness, of tragedy
that might only find solution in the night. The feeling soon
passed; it was unlike her to have entertained anything so subtle.
Born of silence and of unknown emotion, it passed when Mr.
Emerson returned, and she could re-enter the world of rapid talk,
which was alone familiar to her.
"Were you snubbed?" asked his son tranquilly.
"But we have spoilt the pleasure of I don't know how many people.
They won't come back."
"...full of innate sympathy...quickness to perceive good in
others...vision of the brotherhood of man..." Scraps of the
lecture on St. Francis came floating round the partition wall.
"Don't let us spoil yours," he continued to Lucy. "Have you
looked at those saints?"
"Yes," said Lucy. "They are lovely. Do you know which is the
tombstone that is praised in Ruskin?"
He did not know, and suggested that they should try to guess it.
George, rather to her relief, refused to move, and she and the
old man wandered not unpleasantly about Santa Croce, which,
though it is like a barn, has harvested many beautiful things
inside its walls. There were also beggars to avoid. and guides to
dodge round the pillars, and an old lady with her dog, and here
and there a priest modestly edging to his Mass through the groups
of tourists. But Mr. Emerson was only half interested. He watched
the lecturer, whose success he believed he had impaired, and then
he anxiously watched his son.
"Why will he look at that fresco?" he said uneasily. "I saw
nothing in it."
"I like Giotto," she replied. "It is so wonderful what they say
about his tactile values. Though I like things like the Della
Robbia babies better."
"So you ought. A baby is worth a dozen saints. And my baby's
worth the whole of Paradise, and as far as I can see he lives in
Lucy again felt that this did not do.
"In Hell," he repeated. "He's unhappy."
"Oh, dear!" said Lucy.
"How can he be unhappy when he is strong and alive? What more is
one to give him? And think how he has been brought up--free from
all the superstition and ignorance that lead men to hate one
another in the name of God. With such an education as that, I
thought he was bound to grow up happy."
She was no theologian, but she felt that here was a very foolish
old man, as well as a very irreligious one. She also felt that
her mother might not like her talking to that kind of person, and
that Charlotte would object most strongly.
"What are we to do with him?" he asked. "He comes out for his
holiday to Italy, and behaves--like that; like the little child
who ought to have been playing, and who hurt himself upon the
tombstone. Eh? What did you say?"
Lucy had made no suggestion. Suddenly he said:
"Now don't be stupid over this. I don't require you to fall in
love with my boy, but I do think you might try and understand
him. You are nearer his age, and if you let yourself go I am sure
you are sensible. You might help me. He has known so few women,
and you have the time. You stop here several weeks, I suppose?
But let yourself go. You are inclined to get muddled, if I may
judge from last night. Let yourself go. Pull out from the depths
those thoughts that you do not understand, and spread them out in
the sunlight and know the meaning of them. By understanding
George you may learn to understand yourself. It will be good for
both of you."
To this extraordinary speech Lucy found no answer.
"I only know what it is that's wrong with him; not why it is."
"And what is it?" asked Lucy fearfully, expecting some harrowing
"The old trouble; things won't fit."
"The things of the universe. It is quite true. They don't."
"Oh, Mr. Emerson, whatever do you mean?"
In his ordinary voice, so that she scarcely realized he was
quoting poetry, he said:
"'From far, from eve and morning,
And yon twelve-winded sky,
The stuff of life to knit me
Blew hither: here am I'
George and I both know this, but why does it distress him? We
know that we come from the winds, and that we shall return to
them; that all life is perhaps a knot, a tangle, a blemish in the
eternal smoothness. But why should this make us unhappy? Let us
rather love one another, and work and rejoice. I don't believe in
this world sorrow."
Miss Honeychurch assented.
"Then make my boy think like us. Make him realize that by the
side of the everlasting Why there is a Yes--a transitory Yes if
you like, but a Yes."
Suddenly she laughed; surely one ought to laugh. A young man
melancholy because the universe wouldn't fit, because life was a
tangle or a wind, or a Yes, or something!
"I'm very sorry," she cried. "You'll think me unfeeling, but--but
--" Then she became matronly. "Oh, but your son wants employment.
Has he no particular hobby? Why, I myself have worries, but I can
generally forget them at the piano; and collecting stamps did no
end of good for my brother. Perhaps Italy bores him; you ought to
try the Alps or the Lakes."
The old man's face saddened, and he touched her gently with his
hand. This did not alarm her; she thought that her advice had
impressed him and that he was thanking her for it. Indeed, he no
longer alarmed her at all; she regarded him as a kind thing, but
quite silly. Her feelings were as inflated spiritually as they
had been an hour ago esthetically, before she lost Baedeker. The
dear George, now striding towards them over the tombstones,
seemed both pitiable and absurd. He approached, his face in the
shadow. He said:
"Oh, good gracious me!" said Lucy, suddenly collapsing and again
seeing the whole of life in a new perspective. "Where? Where?"
"In the nave."
"I see. Those gossiping little Miss Alans must have--" She
"Poor girl!" exploded Mr. Emerson. "Poor girl!"
She could not let this pass, for it was just what she was feeling
"Poor girl? I fail to understand the point of that remark. I
think myself a very fortunate girl, I assure you. I'm thoroughly
happy, and having a splendid time. Pray don't waste time mourning
over me. There's enough sorrow in the world, isn't there, without
trying to invent it. Good-bye. Thank you both so much for all
your kindness. Ah, yes! there does come my cousin. A delightful
morning! Santa Croce is a wonderful church."
She joined her cousin.
Chapter III: Music, Violets, and the Letter "S"
It so happened that Lucy, who found daily life rather chaotic,
entered a more solid world when she opened the piano. She was
then no longer either deferential or patronizing; no longer
either a rebel or a slave. The kingdom of music is not the
kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and
intellect and culture have alike rejected. The commonplace person
begins to play, and shoots into the empyrean without effort,
whilst we look up, marvelling how he has escaped us, and thinking
how we could worship him and love him, would he but translate his
visions into human words, and his experiences into human actions.
Perhaps he cannot; certainly he does not, or does so very seldom.
Lucy had done so never.
She was no dazzling executante; her runs were not at all like
strings of pearls, and she struck no more right notes than was
suitable for one of her age and situation. Nor was she the
passionate young lady, who performs so tragically on a summer's
evening with the window open. Passion was there, but it could not
be easily labelled; it slipped between love and hatred and
jealousy, and all the furniture of the pictorial style. And she
was tragical only in the sense that she was great, for she loved
to play on the side of Victory. Victory of what and over what--
that is more than the words of daily life can tell us. But that
some sonatas of Beethoven are written tragic no one can gainsay;
yet they can triumph or despair as the player decides, and Lucy
had decided that they should triumph.
A very wet afternoon at the Bertolini permitted her to do the
thing she really liked, and after lunch she opened the little
draped piano. A few people lingered round and praised her
playing, but finding that she made no reply, dispersed to their
rooms to write up their diaries or to sleep. She took no notice
of Mr. Emerson looking for his son, nor of Miss Bartlett looking
for Miss Lavish, nor of Miss Lavish looking for her
cigarette-case. Like every true performer, she was intoxicated by
the mere feel of the notes: they were fingers caressing her own;
and by touch, not by sound alone, did she come to her desire.
Mr. Beebe, sitting unnoticed in the window, pondered this
illogical element in Miss Honeychurch, and recalled the occasion
at Tunbridge Wells when he had discovered it. It was at one of
those entertainments where the upper classes entertain the lower.
The seats were filled with a respectful audience, and the ladies
and gentlemen of the parish, under the auspices of their vicar,
sang, or recited, or imitated the drawing of a champagne cork.
Among the promised items was "Miss Honeychurch. Piano.
Beethoven," and Mr. Beebe was wondering whether it would be
Adelaida, or the march of The Ruins of Athens, when his composure
was disturbed by the opening bars of Opus III. He was in suspense
all through the introduction, for not until the pace quickens
does one know what the performer intends. With the roar of the
opening theme he knew that things were going extraordinarily; in
the chords that herald the conclusion he heard the hammer strokes
of victory. He was glad that she only played the first movement,
for he could have paid no attention to the winding intricacies of
the measures of nine-sixteen. The audience clapped, no less
respectful. It was Mr. Beebe who started the stamping; it was all
that one could do.
"Who is she?" he asked the vicar afterwards.
"Cousin of one of my parishioners. I do not consider her choice
of a piece happy. Beethoven is so usually simple and direct in
his appeal that it is sheer perversity to choose a thing like
that, which, if anything, disturbs."
"She will be delighted. She and Miss Bartlett are full of the
praises of your sermon."
"My sermon?" cried Mr. Beebe. "Why ever did she listen to it?"
When he was introduced he understood why, for Miss Honeychurch,
disjoined from her music stool, was only a young lady with a
quantity of dark hair and a very pretty, pale, undeveloped face.
She loved going to concerts, she loved stopping with her cousin,
she loved iced coffee and meringues. He did not doubt that she
loved his sermon also. But before he left Tunbridge Wells he made
a remark to the vicar, which he now made to Lucy herself when she
closed the little piano and moved dreamily towards him:
"If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be
very exciting both for us and for her."
Lucy at once re-entered daily life.
"Oh, what a funny thing! Some one said just the same to mother,
and she said she trusted I should never live a duet."
"Doesn't Mrs. Honeychurch like music?"
"She doesn't mind it. But she doesn't like one to get excited
over anything; she thinks I am silly about it. She thinks--I
can't make out. Once, you know, I said that I liked my own
playing better than any one's. She has never got over it. Of
course, I didn't mean that I played well; I only meant--"
"Of course," said he, wondering why she bothered to explain.
"Music--" said Lucy, as if attempting some generality. She could
not complete it, and looked out absently upon Italy in the wet.
The whole life of the South was disorganized, and the most
graceful nation in Europe had turned into formless lumps of
The street and the river were dirty yellow, the bridge was dirty
grey, and the hills were dirty purple. Somewhere in their folds
were concealed Miss Lavish and Miss Bartlett, who had chosen this
afternoon to visit the Torre del Gallo.
"What about music?" said Mr. Beebe.
"Poor Charlotte will be sopped," was Lucy's reply.
The expedition was typical of Miss Bartlett, who would return
cold, tired, hungry, and angelic, with a ruined skirt, a pulpy
Baedeker, and a tickling cough in her throat. On another day,
when the whole world was singing and the air ran into the mouth.
like wine, she would refuse to stir from the drawing-room, saying
that she was an old thing, and no fit companion for a hearty
"Miss Lavish has led your cousin astray. She hopes to find the
true Italy in the wet I believe."
"Miss Lavish is so original," murmured Lucy. This was a stock
remark, the supreme achievement of the Pension Bertolini in the
way of definition. Miss Lavish was so original. Mr. Beebe had his
doubts, but they would have been put down to clerical narrowness.
For that, and for other reasons, he held his peace.
"Is it true," continued Lucy in awe-struck tone, "that Miss
Lavish is writing a book?"
"They do say so."
"What is it about?"
"It will be a novel," replied Mr. Beebe, "dealing with modern
Italy. Let me refer you for an account to Miss Catharine Alan,
who uses words herself more admirably than any one I know."
"I wish Miss Lavish would tell me herself. We started such
friends. But I don't think she ought to have run away with
Baedeker that morning in Santa Croce. Charlotte was most annoyed
at finding me practically alone, and so I couldn't help being a
little annoyed with Miss Lavish."
"The two ladies, at all events, have made it up."
He was interested in the sudden friendship between women so
apparently dissimilar as Miss Bartlett and Miss Lavish. They were
always in each other's company, with Lucy a slighted third. Miss
Lavish he believed he understood, but Miss Bartlett might reveal
unknown depths of strangeness, though not perhaps, of meaning.
Was Italy deflecting her from the path of prim chaperon, which he
had assigned to her at Tunbridge Wells? All his life he had loved
to study maiden ladies; they were his specialty, and his
profession had provided him with ample opportunities for the
work. Girls like Lucy were charming to look at, but Mr. Beebe
was, from rather profound reasons, somewhat chilly in his
attitude towards the other sex, and preferred to be interested
rather than enthralled.
Lucy, for the third time, said that poor Charlotte would be
sopped. The Arno was rising in flood, washing away the traces of
the little carts upon the foreshore. But in the south-west there
had appeared a dull haze of yellow, which might mean better
weather if it did not mean worse. She opened the window to
inspect, and a cold blast entered the room, drawing a plaintive
cry from Miss Catharine Alan, who entered at the same moment by
"Oh, dear Miss Honeychurch, you will catch a chill! And Mr. Beebe
here besides. Who would suppose this is Italy? There is my sister
actually nursing the hot-water can; no comforts or proper
She sidled towards them and sat down, self-conscious as she
always was on entering a room which contained one man, or a man
and one woman.
"I could hear your beautiful playing, Miss Honeychurch, though I
was in my room with the door shut. Doors shut; indeed, most
necessary. No one has the least idea of privacy in this country.
And one person catches it from another."
Lucy answered suitably. Mr. Beebe was not able to tell the ladies
of his adventure at Modena, where the chambermaid burst in upon
him in his bath, exclaiming cheerfully, "Fa niente, sono
vecchia." He contented himself with saying: "I quite agree with
you, Miss Alan. The Italians are a most unpleasant people. They
pry everywhere, they see everything, and they know what we want
before we know it ourselves. We are at their mercy. They read our
thoughts, they foretell our desires. From the cab-driver down
to--to Giotto, they turn us inside out, and I resent it. Yet in
their heart of hearts they are--how superficial! They have no
conception of the intellectual life. How right is Signora
Bertolini, who exclaimed to me the other day: 'Ho, Mr. Beebe, if
you knew what I suffer over the children's edjucaishion. HI
won't 'ave my little Victorier taught by a hignorant Italian
what can't explain nothink!'"
Miss Alan did not follow, but gathered that she was being mocked
in an agreeable way. Her sister was a little disappointed in Mr.
Beebe, having expected better things from a clergyman whose head
was bald and who wore a pair of russet whiskers. Indeed, who
would have supposed that tolerance, sympathy, and a sense of
humour would inhabit that militant form?
In the midst of her satisfaction she continued to sidle, and at
last the cause was disclosed. From the chair beneath her she
extracted a gun-metal cigarette-case, on which were powdered in
turquoise the initials "E. L."
"That belongs to Lavish." said the clergyman. "A good fellow,
Lavish, but I wish she'd start a pipe."
"Oh, Mr. Beebe," said Miss Alan, divided between awe and mirth.
"Indeed, though it is dreadful for her to smoke, it is not quite
as dreadful as you suppose. She took to it, practically in
despair, after her life's work was carried away in a landslip.
Surely that makes it more excusable."
"What was that?" asked Lucy.
Mr. Beebe sat back complacently, and Miss Alan began as follows:
"It was a novel--and I am afraid, from what I can gather, not a
very nice novel. It is so sad when people who have abilities
misuse them, and I must say they nearly always do. Anyhow, she
left it almost finished in the Grotto of the Calvary at the
Capuccini Hotel at Amalfi while she went for a little ink. She
said: 'Can I have a little ink, please?' But you know what
Italians are, and meanwhile the Grotto fell roaring on to the
beach, and the saddest thing of all is that she cannot remember
what she has written. The poor thing was very ill after it, and
so got tempted into cigarettes. It is a great secret, but I am
glad to say that she is writing another novel. She told Teresa
and Miss Pole the other day that she had got up all the local
colour--this novel is to be about modern Italy; the other was
historical--but that she could not start till she had an idea.
First she tried Perugia for an inspiration, then she came here--
this must on no account get round. And so cheerful through it
all! I cannot help thinking that there is something to admire in
every one, even if you do not approve of them."
Miss Alan was always thus being charitable against her better
judgment. A delicate pathos perfumed her disconnected remarks,
giving them unexpected beauty, just as in the decaying autumn
woods there sometimes rise odours reminiscent of spring. She felt
she had made almost too many allowances, and apologized hurriedly
for her toleration.
"All the same, she is a little too--I hardly like to say
unwomanly, but she behaved most strangely when the Emersons
Mr. Beebe smiled as Miss Alan plunged into an anecdote which he
knew she would be unable to finish in the presence of a
"I don't know, Miss Honeychurch, if you have noticed that Miss
Pole, the lady who has so much yellow hair, takes lemonade. That
old Mr. Emerson, who puts things very strangely--"
Her jaw dropped. She was silent. Mr. Beebe, whose social
resources were endless, went out to order some tea, and she
continued to Lucy in a hasty whisper:
"Stomach. He warned Miss Pole of her stomach-acidity, he called
it--and he may have meant to be kind. I must say I forgot myself
and laughed; it was so sudden. As Teresa truly said, it was no
laughing matter. But the point is that Miss Lavish was positively
ATTRACTED by his mentioning S., and said she liked plain
speaking, and meeting different grades of thought. She thought
they were commercial travellers--'drummers' was the word she
used--and all through dinner she tried to prove that England, our
great and beloved country, rests on nothing but commerce. Teresa
was very much annoyed, and left the table before the cheese,
saying as she did so: 'There, Miss Lavish, is one who can confute
you better than I,' and pointed to that beautiful picture of Lord
Tennyson. Then Miss Lavish said: 'Tut! The early Victorians.'
Just imagine! 'Tut! The early Victorians.' My sister had gone,
and I felt bound to speak. I said: 'Miss Lavish, I am an early
Victorian; at least, that is to say, I will hear no breath of
censure against our dear Queen.' It was horrible speaking. I
reminded her how the Queen had been to Ireland when she did not
want to go, and I must say she was dumbfounded, and made no
reply. But, unluckily, Mr. Emerson overheard this part, and
called in his deep voice: 'Quite so, quite so! I honour the woman
for her Irish visit.' The woman! I tell things so badly; but you
see what a tangle we were in by this time, all on account of S.
having been mentioned in the first place. But that was not all.
After dinner Miss Lavish actually came up and said: 'Miss Alan, I
am going into the smoking-room to talk to those two nice men.
Come, too.' Needless to say, I refused such an unsuitable
invitation, and she had the impertinence to tell me that it would
broaden my ideas, and said that she had four brothers, all
University men, except one who was in the army, who always made a
point of talking to commercial travellers."
"Let me finish the story," said Mr. Beebe, who had returned.
"Miss Lavish tried Miss Pole, myself, every one, and finally
said: 'I shall go alone.' She went. At the end of five minutes
she returned unobtrusively with a green baize board, and began
"Whatever happened?" cried Lucy.
"No one knows. No one will ever know. Miss Lavish will never dare
to tell, and Mr. Emerson does not think it worth telling."
"Mr. Beebe--old Mr. Emerson, is he nice or not nice? I do so want
Mr. Beebe laughed and suggested that she should settle the
question for herself.
"No; but it is so difficult. Sometimes he is so silly, and then I
do not mind him. Miss Alan, what do you think? Is he nice?"
The little old lady shook her head, and sighed disapprovingly.
Mr. Beebe, whom the conversation amused, stirred her up by
"I consider that you are bound to class him as nice, Miss Alan,
after that business of the violets."
"Violets? Oh, dear! Who told you about the violets? How do things
get round? A pension is a bad place for gossips. No, I cannot
forget how they behaved at Mr. Eager's lecture at Santa Croce.
Oh, poor Miss Honeychurch! It really was too bad. No, I have quite
changed. I do NOT like the Emersons. They are not nice."
Mr. Beebe smiled nonchalantly. He had made a gentle effort to
introduce the Emersons into Bertolini society, and the effort had
failed. He was almost the only person who remained friendly to
them. Miss Lavish, who represented intellect, was avowedly
hostile, and now the Miss Alans, who stood for good breeding,
were following her. Miss Bartlett, smarting under an obligation,
would scarcely be civil. The case of Lucy was different. She had
given him a hazy account of her adventures in Santa Croce, and he
gathered that the two men had made a curious and possibly
concerted attempt to annex her, to show her the world from their
own strange standpoint, to interest her in their private sorrows
and joys. This was impertinent; he did not wish their cause to be
championed by a young girl: he would rather it should fail. After
all, he knew nothing about them, and pension joys, pension
sorrows, are flimsy things; whereas Lucy would be his
Lucy, with one eye upon the weather, finally said that she
thought the Emersons were nice; not that she saw anything of them
now. Even their seats at dinner had been moved.
"But aren't they always waylaying you to go out with them, dear?"
said the little lady inquisitively.
"Only once. Charlotte didn't like it, and said something--quite
politely, of course."
"Most right of her. They don't understand our ways. They must
find their level."
Mr. Beebe rather felt that they had gone under. They had given up
their attempt--if it was one--to conquer society, and now the
father was almost as silent as the son. He wondered whether he
would not plan a pleasant day for these folk before they left--
some expedition, perhaps, with Lucy well chaperoned to be nice to
them. It was one of Mr. Beebe's chief pleasures to provide people
with happy memories.
Evening approached while they chatted; the air became brighter;
the colours on the trees and hills were purified, and the Arno
lost its muddy solidity and began to twinkle. There were a few
streaks of bluish-green among the clouds, a few patches of watery
light upon the earth, and then the dripping facade of San Miniato
shone brilliantly in the declining sun.
"Too late to go out," said Miss Alan in a voice of relief. "All
the galleries are shut."
"I think I shall go out," said Lucy. "I want to go round the town
in the circular tram--on the platform by the driver."
Her two companions looked grave. Mr. Beebe, who felt responsible
for her in the absence of Miss Bartlett, ventured to say:
"I wish we could. Unluckily I have letters. If you do want to go
out alone, won't you be better on your feet?"
"Italians, dear, you know," said Miss Alan.
"Perhaps I shall meet some one who reads me through and
But they still looked disapproval, and she so far conceded to Mr.
Beebe as to say that she would only go for a little walk, and
keep to the street frequented by tourists.
"She oughtn't really to go at all," said Mr. Beebe, as they
watched her from the window, "and she knows it. I put it down to
too much Beethoven."
Chapter IV: Fourth Chapter
Mr. Beebe was right. Lucy never knew her desires so clearly as
after music. She had not really appreciated the clergyman's wit,
nor the suggestive twitterings of Miss Alan. Conversation was
tedious; she wanted something big, and she believed that it would
have come to her on the wind-swept platform of an electric tram.
This she might not attempt. It was unladylike. Why? Why were most
big things unladylike? Charlotte had once explained to her why.
It was not that ladies were inferior to men; it was that they
were different. Their mission was to inspire others to
achievement rather than to achieve themselves. Indirectly, by
means of tact and a spotless name, a lady could accomplish much.
But if she rushed into the fray herself she would be first
censured, then despised, and finally ignored. Poems had been
written to illustrate this point.
There is much that is immortal in this medieval lady. The dragons
have gone, and so have the knights, but still she lingers in our
midst. She reigned in many an early Victorian castle, and was
Queen of much early Victorian song. It is sweet to protect her in
the intervals of business, sweet to pay her honour when she has
cooked our dinner well. But alas! the creature grows degenerate.
In her heart also there are springing up strange desires. She too
is enamoured of heavy winds, and vast panoramas, and green
expanses of the sea. She has marked the kingdom of this world,
how full it is of wealth, and beauty, and war--a radiant crust,
built around the central fires, spinning towards the receding
heavens. Men, declaring that she inspires them to it, move
joyfully over the surface, having the most delightful meetings
with other men, happy, not because they are masculine, but
because they are alive. Before the show breaks up she would like
to drop the august title of the Eternal Woman, and go there as
her transitory self.
Lucy does not stand for the medieval lady, who was rather an
ideal to which she was bidden to lift her eyes when feeling
serious. Nor has she any system of revolt. Here and there a
restriction annoyed her particularly, and she would transgress
it, and perhaps be sorry that she had done so. This afternoon she
was peculiarly restive. She would really like to do something of
which her well-wishers disapproved. As she might not go on the
electric tram, she went to Alinari's shop.
There she bought a photograph of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus."
Venus, being a pity, spoilt the picture, otherwise so charming,
and Miss Bartlett had persuaded her to do without it. (A pity in
art of course signified the nude.) Giorgione's "Tempesta," the
"Idolino," some of the Sistine frescoes and the Apoxyomenos,
were added to it. She felt a little calmer then, and bought Fra
Angelico's "Coronation," Giotto's "Ascension of St. John," some
Della Robbia babies, and some Guido Reni Madonnas. For her taste
was catholic, and she extended uncritical approval to every
But though she spent nearly seven lire, the gates of liberty
seemed still unopened. She was conscious of her discontent; it
was new to her to be conscious of it. "The world," she thought,
"is certainly full of beautiful things, if only I could come
across them." It was not surprising that Mrs. Honeychurch
disapproved of music, declaring that it always left her daughter
peevish, unpractical, and touchy.
"Nothing ever happens to me," she reflected, as she entered the
Piazza Signoria and looked nonchalantly at its marvels, now
fairly familiar to her. The great square was in shadow; the
sunshine had come too late to strike it. Neptune was already
unsubstantial in the twilight, half god, half ghost, and his
fountain plashed dreamily to the men and satyrs who idled
together on its marge. The Loggia showed as the triple entrance
of a cave, wherein many a deity, shadowy, but immortal, looking
forth upon the arrivals and departures of mankind. It was the
hour of unreality--the hour, that is, when unfamiliar things are
real. An older person at such an hour and in such a place might
think that sufficient was happening to him, and rest content.
Lucy desired more.
She fixed her eyes wistfully on the tower of the palace, which
rose out of the lower darkness like a pillar of roughened gold.
It seemed no longer a tower, no longer supported by earth, but
some unattainable treasure throbbing in the tranquil sky. Its
brightness mesmerized her, still dancing before her eyes when she
bent them to the ground and started towards home.
Then something did happen.
Two Italians by the Loggia had been bickering about a debt.
"Cinque lire," they had cried, "cinque lire!" They sparred at
each other, and one of them was hit lightly upon the chest. He
frowned; he bent towards Lucy with a look of interest, as if he
had an important message for her. He opened his lips to deliver
it, and a stream of red came out between them and trickled down
his unshaven chin.
That was all. A crowd rose out of the dusk. It hid this
extraordinary man from her, and bore him away to the fountain.
Mr. George Emerson happened to be a few paces away, looking at
her across the spot where the man had been. How very odd! Across
something. Even as she caught sight of him he grew dim; the
palace itself grew dim, swayed above her, fell on to her softly,
slowly, noiselessly, and the sky fell with it.
She thought: "Oh, what have I done?"
"Oh, what have I done?" she murmured, and opened her eyes.
George Emerson still looked at her, but not across anything. She
had complained of dullness, and lo! one man was stabbed, and
another held her in his arms.
They were sitting on some steps in the Uffizi Arcade. He must
have carried her. He rose when she spoke, and began to dust his
knees. She repeated:
"Oh, what have I done?"
"I--I am very sorry."
"How are you now?"
"Perfectly well--absolutely well." And she began to nod and
"Then let us come home. There's no point in our stopping."
He held out his hand to pull her up. She pretended not to see it.
The cries from the fountain--they had never ceased--rang emptily.
The whole world seemed pale and void of its original meaning.
"How very kind you have been! I might have hurt myself falling.
But now I am well. I can go alone, thank you."
His hand was still extended.
"Oh, my photographs!" she exclaimed suddenly.
"I bought some photographs at Alinari's. I must have dropped them
out there in the square." She looked at him cautiously. "Would
you add to your kindness by fetching them?"
He added to his kindness. As soon as he had turned his back, Lucy
arose with the running of a maniac and stole down the arcade
towards the Arno.
She stopped with her hand on her heart.
"You sit still; you aren't fit to go home alone."
"Yes, I am, thank you so very much."
"No, you aren't. You'd go openly if you were."
"But I had rather--"
"Then I don't fetch your photographs."
"I had rather be alone."
He said imperiously: "The man is dead--the man is probably dead;
sit down till you are rested." She was bewildered, and obeyed
him. "And don't move till I come back."
In the distance she saw creatures with black hoods, such as
appear in dreams. The palace tower had lost the reflection of the
declining day, and joined itself to earth. How should she talk to
Mr. Emerson when he returned from the shadowy square? Again the
thought occurred to her, "Oh, what have I done?"--the thought
that she, as well as the dying man, had crossed some spiritual
He returned, and she talked of the murder. Oddly enough, it was
an easy topic. She spoke of the Italian character; she became
almost garrulous over the incident that had made her faint five
minutes before. Being strong physically, she soon overcame the
horror of blood. She rose without his assistance, and though
wings seemed to flutter inside her, she walked firmly enough
towards the Arno. There a cabman signalled to them; they refused
"And the murderer tried to kiss him, you say--how very odd
Italians are!--and gave himself up to the police! Mr. Beebe was
saying that Italians know everything, but I think they are rather
childish. When my cousin and I were at the Pitti yesterday--What
He had thrown something into the stream.
"What did you throw in?"
"Things I didn't want," he said crossly.
"Where are the photographs?"
He was silent.
"I believe it was my photographs that you threw away."
"I didn't know what to do with them," he cried. and his voice was
that of an anxious boy. Her heart warmed towards him for the
first time. "They were covered with blood. There! I'm glad I've
told you; and all the time we were making conversation I was
wondering what to do with them." He pointed down-stream. "They've
gone." The river swirled under the bridge, "I did mind them so,
and one is so foolish, it seemed better that they should go out
to the sea--I don't know; I may just mean that they frightened me.
Then the boy verged into a man. "For something tremendous has
happened; I must face it without getting muddled. It isn't
exactly that a man has died."
Something warned Lucy that she must stop him.
"It has happened," he repeated, "and I mean to find out what it
He turned towards her frowning, as if she had disturbed him in
some abstract quest.
"I want to ask you something before we go in."
They were close to their pension. She stopped and leant her
elbows against the parapet of the embankment. He did likewise.
There is at times a magic in identity of position; it is one of
the things that have suggested to us eternal comradeship. She
moved her elbows before saying:
"I have behaved ridiculously."
He was following his own thoughts.
"I was never so much ashamed of myself in my life; I cannot think
what came over me."
"I nearly fainted myself," he said; but she felt that her
attitude repelled him.
"Well, I owe you a thousand apologies."
"Oh, all right."
"And--this is the real point--you know how silly people are
gossiping--ladies especially, I am afraid--you understand what I
"I'm afraid I don't."
"I mean, would you not mention it to any one, my foolish
"Your behaviour? Oh, yes, all right--all right."
"Thank you so much. And would you--"
She could not carry her request any further. The river was
rushing below them, almost black in the advancing night. He had
thrown her photographs into it, and then he had told her the
reason. It struck her that it was hopeless to look for chivalry
in such a man. He would do her no harm by idle gossip; he was
trustworthy, intelligent, and even kind; he might even have a
high opinion of her. But he lacked chivalry; his thoughts, like
his behaviour, would not be modified by awe. It was useless to
say to him, "And would you--" and hope that he would complete the
sentence for himself, averting his eyes from her nakedness like
the knight in that beautiful picture. She had been in his arms,
and he remembered it, just as he remembered the blood on the
photographs that she had bought in Alinari's shop. It was not
exactly that a man had died; something had happened to the
living: they had come to a situation where character tells, and
where childhood enters upon the branching paths of Youth.
"Well, thank you so much," she repeated, "How quickly these
accidents do happen, and then one returns to the old life!"
Anxiety moved her to question him.
His answer was puzzling: "I shall probably want to live."
"But why, Mr. Emerson? What do you mean?"
"I shall want to live, I say."
Leaning her elbows on the parapet, she contemplated the River
Arno, whose roar was suggesting some unexpected melody to her
Chapter V: Possibilities of a Pleasant Outing
It was a family saying that "you never knew which way Charlotte
Bartlett would turn." She was perfectly pleasant and sensible
over Lucy's adventure, found the abridged account of it quite
adequate, and paid suitable tribute to the courtesy of Mr. George
Emerson. She and Miss Lavish had had an adventure also. They had
been stopped at the Dazio coming back, and the young officials
there, who seemed impudent and desoeuvre, had tried to search
their reticules for provisions. It might have been most
unpleasant. Fortunately Miss Lavish was a match for any one.
For good or for evil, Lucy was left to face her problem alone.
None of her friends had seen her, either in the Piazza or, later
on, by the embankment. Mr. Beebe, indeed, noticing her startled
eyes at dinner-time, had again passed to himself the remark of
"Too much Beethoven." But he only supposed that she was ready for
an adventure, not that she had encountered it. This solitude
oppressed her; she was accustomed to have her thoughts confirmed
by others or, at all events, contradicted; it was too dreadful
not to know whether she was thinking right or wrong.
At breakfast next morning she took decisive action. There were
two plans between which she had to choose. Mr. Beebe was walking
up to the Torre del Gallo with the Emersons and some American
ladies. Would Miss Bartlett and Miss Honeychurch join the party?
Charlotte declined for herself; she had been there in the rain
the previous afternoon. But she thought it an admirable idea for
Lucy, who hated shopping, changing money, fetching letters, and
other irksome duties--all of which Miss Bartlett must accomplish
this morning and could easily accomplish alone.
"No, Charlotte!" cried the girl, with real warmth. "It's very
kind of Mr. Beebe, but I am certainly coming with you. I had much
"Very well, dear," said Miss Bartlett, with a faint flush of
pleasure that called forth a deep flush of shame on the cheeks of
Lucy. How abominably she behaved to Charlotte, now as always! But
now she should alter. All morning she would be really nice to
She slipped her arm into her cousin's, and they started off along
the Lung' Arno. The river was a lion that morning in strength,
voice, and colour. Miss Bartlett insisted on leaning over the
parapet to look at it. She then made her usual remark, which was
"How I do wish Freddy and your mother could see this, too!"
Lucy fidgeted; it was tiresome of Charlotte to have stopped
exactly where she did.
"Look, Lucia! Oh, you are watching for the Torre del Gallo party.
I feared you would repent you of your choice."
Serious as the choice had been, Lucy did not repent. Yesterday
had been a muddle--queer and odd, the kind of thing one could not
write down easily on paper--but she had a feeling that Charlotte
and her shopping were preferable to George Emerson and the summit
of the Torre del Gallo. Since she could not unravel the tangle,
she must take care not to re-enter it. She could protest
sincerely against Miss Bartlett's insinuations.
But though she had avoided the chief actor, the scenery
unfortunately remained. Charlotte, with the complacency of fate,
led her from the river to the Piazza Signoria. She could not have
believed that stones, a Loggia, a fountain, a palace tower,
would have such significance. For a moment she understood the
nature of ghosts.
The exact site of the murder was occupied, not by a ghost, but by
Miss Lavish, who had the morning newspaper in her hand. She
hailed them briskly. The dreadful catastrophe of the previous day
had given her an idea which she thought would work up into a
"Oh, let me congratulate you!" said Miss Bartlett. "After your
despair of yesterday! What a fortunate thing!"
"Aha! Miss Honeychurch, come you here I am in luck. Now, you are
to tell me absolutely everything that you saw from the