Part 3 out of 5
He took his tone from her. There was no more heavy beneficence,
no more attempts to dignify the situation with poetry or the
Scriptures. None of them dared or was able to be serious any
An engagement is so potent a thing that sooner or later it
reduces all who speak of it to this state of cheerful awe. Away
from it, in the solitude of their rooms, Mr. Beebe, and even
Freddy, might again be critical. But in its presence and in the
presence of each other they were sincerely hilarious. It has a
strange power, for it compels not only the lips, but the very
heart. The chief parallel to compare one great thing with
another--is the power over us of a temple of some alien creed.
Standing outside, we deride or oppose it, or at the most feel
sentimental. Inside, though the saints and gods are not ours, we
become true believers, in case any true believer should be
So it was that after the gropings and the misgivings of the
afternoon they pulled themselves together and settled down to a
very pleasant tea-party. If they were hypocrites they did not
know it, and their hypocrisy had every chance of setting and of
becoming true. Anne, putting down each plate as if it were a
wedding present, stimulated them greatly. They could not lag
behind that smile of hers which she gave them ere she kicked the
drawing-room door. Mr. Beebe chirruped. Freddy was at his
wittiest, referring to Cecil as the "Fiasco"--family honoured pun
on fiance. Mrs. Honeychurch, amusing and portly, promised well as
a mother-in-law. As for Lucy and Cecil, for whom the temple had
been built, they also joined in the merry ritual, but waited, as
earnest worshippers should, for the disclosure of some holier
shrine of joy.
Chapter IX: Lucy As a Work of Art
A few days after the engagement was announced Mrs. Honeychurch
made Lucy and her Fiasco come to a little garden-party in the
neighbourhood, for naturally she wanted to show people that her
daughter was marrying a presentable man.
Cecil was more than presentable; he looked distinguished, and it
was very pleasant to see his slim figure keeping step with Lucy,
and his long, fair face responding when Lucy spoke to him. People
congratulated Mrs. Honeychurch, which is, I believe, a social
blunder, but it pleased her, and she introduced Cecil rather
indiscriminately to some stuffy dowagers.
At tea a misfortune took place: a cup of coffee was upset over
Lucy's figured silk, and though Lucy feigned indifference, her
mother feigned nothing of the sort but dragged her indoors to
have the frock treated by a sympathetic maid. They were gone some
time, and Cecil was left with the dowagers. When they returned he
was not as pleasant as he had been.
"Do you go to much of this sort of thing?" he asked when they
were driving home.
"Oh, now and then," said Lucy, who had rather enjoyed herself.
"Is it typical of country society?"
"I suppose so. Mother, would it be?"
"Plenty of society," said Mrs. Honeychurch, who was trying to
remember the hang of one of the dresses.
Seeing that her thoughts were elsewhere, Cecil bent towards Lucy
"To me it seemed perfectly appalling, disastrous, portentous."
"I am so sorry that you were stranded."
"Not that, but the congratulations. It is so disgusting, the way
an engagement is regarded as public property--a kind of waste
place where every outsider may shoot his vulgar sentiment. All
those old women smirking!"
"One has to go through it, I suppose. They won't notice us so
much next time."
"But my point is that their whole attitude is wrong. An
engagement--horrid word in the first place--is a private matter,
and should be treated as such."
Yet the smirking old women, however wrong individually, were
racially correct. The spirit of the generations had smiled
through them, rejoicing in the engagement of Cecil and Lucy
because it promised the continuance of life on earth. To Cecil
and Lucy it promised something quite different--personal love.
Hence Cecil's irritation and Lucy's belief that his irritation
"How tiresome!" she said. "Couldn't you have escaped to tennis?"
"I don't play tennis--at least, not in public. The neighbourhood
is deprived of the romance of me being athletic. Such romance as
I have is that of the Inglese Italianato."
"E un diavolo incarnato! You know the proverb?"
She did not. Nor did it seem applicable to a young man who had
spent a quiet winter in Rome with his mother. But Cecil, since
his engagement, had taken to affect a cosmopolitan naughtiness
which he was far from possessing.
"Well," said he, "I cannot help it if they do disapprove of me.
There are certain irremovable barriers between myself and them,
and I must accept them."
"We all have our limitations, I suppose," said wise Lucy.
"Sometimes they are forced on us, though," said Cecil, who saw
from her remark that she did not quite understand his position.
"It makes a difference doesn't it, whether we fully fence
ourselves in, or whether we are fenced out by the barriers of
She thought a moment, and agreed that it did make a difference.
"Difference?" cried Mrs. Honeychurch, suddenly alert. "I don't
see any difference. Fences are fences, especially when they are
in the same place."
"We were speaking of motives," said Cecil, on whom the
"My dear Cecil, look here." She spread out her knees and perched
her card-case on her lap. "This is me. That's Windy Corner. The
rest of the pattern is the other people. Motives are all very
well, but the fence comes here."
"We weren't talking of real fences," said Lucy, laughing.
"Oh, I see, dear--poetry."
She leant placidly back. Cecil wondered why Lucy had been amused.
"I tell you who has no 'fences,' as you call them," she said,
"and that's Mr. Beebe."
"A parson fenceless would mean a parson defenceless."
Lucy was slow to follow what people said, but quick enough to
detect what they meant. She missed Cecil's epigram, but grasped
the feeling that prompted it.
"Don't you like Mr. Beebe?" she asked thoughtfully.
"I never said so!" he cried. "I consider him far above the
average. I only denied--" And he swept off on the subject of
fences again, and was brilliant.
"Now, a clergyman that I do hate," said she wanting to say
something sympathetic, "a clergyman that does have fences, and
the most dreadful ones, is Mr. Eager, the English chaplain at
Florence. He was truly insincere--not merely the manner
unfortunate. He was a snob, and so conceited, and he did say such
"What sort of things?"
"There was an old man at the Bertolini whom he said had murdered
"Perhaps he had."
"He was such a nice old man, I'm sure."
Cecil laughed at her feminine inconsequence.
"Well, I did try to sift the thing. Mr. Eager would never come
to the point. He prefers it vague--said the old man had
'practically' murdered his wife--had murdered her in the sight of
"Hush, dear!" said Mrs. Honeychurch absently. "But isn't it
intolerable that a person whom we're told to imitate should go
round spreading slander? It was, I believe, chiefly owing to him
that the old man was dropped. People pretended he was vulgar, but
he certainly wasn't that."
"Poor old man! What was his name?"
"Harris," said Lucy glibly.
"Let's hope that Mrs. Harris there warn't no sich person," said
Cecil nodded intelligently.
"Isn't Mr. Eager a parson of the cultured type?" he asked.
"I don't know. I hate him. I've heard him lecture on Giotto. I
hate him. Nothing can hide a petty nature. I HATE him."
"My goodness gracious me, child!" said Mrs. Honeychurch. "You'll
blow my head off! Whatever is there to shout over? I forbid you
and Cecil to hate any more clergymen."
He smiled. There was indeed something rather incongruous in
Lucy's moral outburst over Mr. Eager. It was as if one should see
the Leonardo on the ceiling of the Sistine. He longed to hint to
her that not here lay her vocation; that a woman's power and
charm reside in mystery, not in muscular rant. But possibly rant
is a sign of vitality: it mars the beautiful creature, but shows
that she is alive. After a moment, he contemplated her flushed
face and excited gestures with a certain approval. He forebore to
repress the sources of youth.
Nature--simplest of topics, he thought--lay around them. He
praised the pine-woods, the deep lasts of bracken, the crimson
leaves that spotted the hurt-bushes, the serviceable beauty of
the turnpike road. The outdoor world was not very familiar to
him, and occasionally he went wrong in a question of fact. Mrs.
Honeychurch's mouth twitched when he spoke of the perpetual green
of the larch.
"I count myself a lucky person," he concluded, "When I'm in
London I feel I could never live out of it. When I'm in the
country I feel the same about the country. After all, I do
believe that birds and trees and the sky are the most wonderful
things in life, and that the people who live amongst them must be
the best. It's true that in nine cases out of ten they don't seem
to notice anything. The country gentleman and the country
labourer are each in their way the most depressing of companions.
Yet they may have a tacit sympathy with the workings of Nature
which is denied to us of the town. Do you feel that, Mrs.
Mrs. Honeychurch started and smiled. She had not been attending.
Cecil, who was rather crushed on the front seat of the victoria,
felt irritable, and determined not to say anything interesting
Lucy had not attended either. Her brow was wrinkled, and she
still looked furiously cross--the result, he concluded, of too
much moral gymnastics. It was sad to see her thus blind to the
beauties of an August wood.
"'Come down, O maid, from yonder mountain height,'" he quoted,
and touched her knee with his own.
She flushed again and said: "What height?"
"'Come down, O maid, from yonder mountain height,
What pleasure lives in height (the shepherd sang).
In height and in the splendour of the hills?'
Let us take Mrs. Honeychurch's advice and hate clergymen no
more. What's this place?"
"Summer Street, of course," said Lucy, and roused herself.
The woods had opened to leave space for a sloping triangular
meadow. Pretty cottages lined it on two sides, and the upper and
third side was occupied by a new stone church, expensively
simple, a charming shingled spire. Mr. Beebe's house was near the
church. In height it scarcely exceeded the cottages. Some great
mansions were at hand, but they were hidden in the trees. The
scene suggested a Swiss Alp rather than the shrine and centre of
a leisured world, and was marred only by two ugly little villas--
the villas that had competed with Cecil's engagement, having been
acquired by Sir Harry Otway the very afternoon that Lucy had been
acquired by Cecil.
"Cissie" was the name of one of these villas, "Albert" of the
other. These titles were not only picked out in shaded Gothic on
the garden gates, but appeared a second time on the porches,
where they followed the semicircular curve of the entrance arch
in block capitals. "Albert" was inhabited. His tortured garden
was bright with geraniums and lobelias and polished shells. His
little windows were chastely swathed in Nottingham lace. "Cissie"
was to let. Three notice-boards, belonging to Dorking agents,
lolled on her fence and announced the not surprising fact. Her
paths were already weedy; her pocket-handkerchief of a lawn was
yellow with dandelions.
"The place is ruined!" said the ladies mechanically. "Summer
Street will never be the same again."
As the carriage passed, "Cissie's" door opened, and a gentleman
came out of her.
"Stop!" cried Mrs. Honeychurch, touching the coachman with her
parasol. "Here's Sir Harry. Now we shall know. Sir Harry, pull
those things down at once!"
Sir Harry Otway--who need not be described--came to the carriage
and said "Mrs. Honeychurch, I meant to. I can't, I really can't
turn out Miss Flack."
"Am I not always right? She ought to have gone before the
contract was signed. Does she still live rent free, as she did in
her nephew's time?"
"But what can I do?" He lowered his voice. "An old lady, so very
vulgar, and almost bedridden."
"Turn her out," said Cecil bravely.
Sir Harry sighed, and looked at the villas mournfully. He had had
full warning of Mr. Flack's intentions, and might have bought the
plot before building commenced: but he was apathetic and
dilatory. He had known Summer Street for so many years that he
could not imagine it being spoilt. Not till Mrs. Flack had laid
the foundation stone, and the apparition of red and cream brick
began to rise did he take alarm. He called on Mr. Flack, the
local builder,--a most reasonable and respectful man--who agreed
that tiles would have made more artistic roof, but pointed out
that slates were cheaper. He ventured to differ, however, about
the Corinthian columns which were to cling like leeches to the
frames of the bow windows, saying that, for his part, he liked to
relieve the facade by a bit of decoration. Sir Harry hinted that
a column, if possible, should be structural as well as
Mr. Flack replied that all the columns had been ordered, adding,
"and all the capitals different--one with dragons in the foliage,
another approaching to the Ionian style, another introducing Mrs.
Flack's initials--every one different." For he had read his
Ruskin. He built his villas according to his desire; and not until
he had inserted an immovable aunt into one of them did Sir Harry
This futile and unprofitable transaction filled the knight with
sadness as he leant on Mrs. Honeychurch's carriage. He had
failed in his duties to the country-side, and the country-side
was laughing at him as well. He had spent money, and yet Summer
Street was spoilt as much as ever. All he could do now was to
find a desirable tenant for "Cissie"--some one really desirable.
"The rent is absurdly low," he told them, "and perhaps I am an
easy landlord. But it is such an awkward size. It is too large
for the peasant class and too small for any one the least like
Cecil had been hesitating whether he should despise the villas or
despise Sir Harry for despising them. The latter impulse seemed
the more fruitful.
"You ought to find a tenant at once," he said maliciously. "It
would be a perfect paradise for a bank clerk."
"Exactly!" said Sir Harry excitedly. "That is exactly what I
fear, Mr. Vyse. It will attract the wrong type of people. The
train service has improved--a fatal improvement, to my mind. And
what are five miles from a station in these days of bicycles?"
"Rather a strenuous clerk it would be," said Lucy.
Cecil, who had his full share of mediaeval mischievousness,
replied that the physique of the lower middle classes was
improving at a most appalling rate. She saw that he was laughing
at their harmless neighbour, and roused herself to stop him.
"Sir Harry!" she exclaimed, "I have an idea. How would you like
"My dear Lucy, it would be splendid. Do you know any such?"
"Yes; I met them abroad."
"Gentlewomen?" he asked tentatively.
"Yes, indeed, and at the present moment homeless. I heard from
them last week--Miss Teresa and Miss Catharine Alan. I'm really
not joking. They are quite the right people. Mr. Beebe knows
them, too. May I tell them to write to you?"
"Indeed you may!" he cried. "Here we are with the difficulty
solved already. How delightful it is! Extra facilities--please
tell them they shall have extra facilities, for I shall have no
agents' fees. Oh, the agents! The appalling people they have sent
me! One woman, when I wrote--a tactful letter, you know--asking
her to explain her social position to me, replied that she would
pay the rent in advance. As if one cares about that! And several
references I took up were most unsatisfactory--people swindlers,
or not respectable. And oh, the deceit! I have seen a good deal
of the seamy side this last week. The deceit of the most
promising people. My dear Lucy, the deceit!"
"My advice," put in Mrs. Honeychurch, "is to have nothing to do
with Lucy and her decayed gentlewomen at all. I know the type.
Preserve me from people who have seen better days, and bring
heirlooms with them that make the house smell stuffy. It's a
sad thing, but I'd far rather let to some one who is going up in
the world than to some one who has come down."
"I think I follow you," said Sir Harry; "but it is, as you say, a
very sad thing."
"The Misses Alan aren't that!" cried Lucy.
"Yes, they are," said Cecil. "I haven't met them but I should say
they were a highly unsuitable addition to the neighbourhood."
"Don't listen to him, Sir Harry--he's tiresome."
"It's I who am tiresome," he replied. "I oughtn't to come with my
troubles to young people. But really I am so worried, and Lady
Otway will only say that I cannot be too careful, which is quite
true, but no real help."
"Then may I write to my Misses Alan?"
But his eye wavered when Mrs. Honeychurch exclaimed:
"Beware! They are certain to have canaries. Sir Harry, beware of
canaries: they spit the seed out through the bars of the cages
and then the mice come. Beware of women altogether. Only let to a
"Really--" he murmured gallantly, though he saw the wisdom of her
"Men don't gossip over tea-cups. If they get drunk, there's an
end of them--they lie down comfortably and sleep it off. If
they're vulgar, they somehow keep it to themselves. It doesn't
spread so. Give me a man--of course, provided he's clean."
Sir Harry blushed. Neither he nor Cecil enjoyed these open
compliments to their sex. Even the exclusion of the dirty did not
leave them much distinction. He suggested that Mrs. Honeychurch,
if she had time, should descend from the carriage and inspect
"Cissie" for herself. She was delighted. Nature had intended her
to be poor and to live in such a house. Domestic arrangements
always attracted her, especially when they were on a small
Cecil pulled Lucy back as she followed her mother.
"Mrs. Honeychurch," he said, "what if we two walk home and leave
"Certainly!" was her cordial reply.
Sir Harry likewise seemed almost too glad to get rid of them. He
beamed at them knowingly, said, "Aha! young people, young people!"
and then hastened to unlock the house.
"Hopeless vulgarian!" exclaimed Cecil, almost before they were
out of earshot,
"I can't help it. It would be wrong not to loathe that man."
"He isn't clever, but really he is nice."
"No, Lucy, he stands for all that is bad in country life. In
London he would keep his place. He would belong to a brainless
club, and his wife would give brainless dinner parties. But down
here he acts the little god with his gentility, and his
patronage, and his sham aesthetics, and every one--even your
mother--is taken in."
"All that you say is quite true," said Lucy, though she felt
discouraged. "I wonder whether--whether it matters so very much."
"It matters supremely. Sir Harry is the essence of that
garden-party. Oh, goodness, how cross I feel! How I do hope he'll
get some vulgar tenant in that villa--some woman so really vulgar
that he'll notice it. GENTLEFOLKS! Ugh! with his bald head and
retreating chin! But let's forget him."
This Lucy was glad enough to do. If Cecil disliked Sir Harry
Otway and Mr. Beebe, what guarantee was there that the people
who really mattered to her would escape? For instance, Freddy.
Freddy was neither clever, nor subtle, nor beautiful, and what
prevented Cecil from saying, any minute, "It would be wrong not
to loathe Freddy"? And what would she reply? Further than Freddy
she did not go, but he gave her anxiety enough. She could only
assure herself that Cecil had known Freddy some time, and that
they had always got on pleasantly, except, perhaps, during the
last few days, which was an accident, perhaps.
"Which way shall we go?" she asked him.
Nature--simplest of topics, she thought--was around them. Summer
Street lay deep in the woods, and she had stopped where a
footpath diverged from the highroad.
"Are there two ways?"
"Perhaps the road is more sensible, as we're got up smart."
"I'd rather go through the wood," said Cecil, With that subdued
irritation that she had noticed in him all the afternoon. "Why is
it, Lucy, that you always say the road? Do you know that you have
never once been with me in the fields or the wood since we were
"Haven't I? The wood, then," said Lucy, startled at his
queerness, but pretty sure that he would explain later; it was
not his habit to leave her in doubt as to his meaning.
She led the way into the whispering pines, and sure enough he
did explain before they had gone a dozen yards.
"I had got an idea--I dare say wrongly--that you feel more at
home with me in a room."
"A room?" she echoed, hopelessly bewildered.
"Yes. Or, at the most, in a garden, or on a road. Never in the
real country like this."
"Oh, Cecil, whatever do you mean? I have never felt anything of
the sort. You talk as if I was a kind of poetess sort of person."
"I don't know that you aren't. I connect you with a view--a
certain type of view. Why shouldn't you connect me with a room?"
She reflected a moment, and then said, laughing:
"Do you know that you're right? I do. I must be a poetess after
all. When I think of you it's always as in a room. How funny!"
To her surprise, he seemed annoyed.
"A drawing-room, pray? With no view?"
"Yes, with no view, I fancy. Why not?"
"I'd rather," he said reproachfully, "that connected me with the
She said again, "Oh, Cecil, whatever do you mean?"
As no explanation was forthcoming, she shook off the subject as
too difficult for a girl, and led him further into the wood,
pausing every now and then at some particularly beautiful or
familiar combination of the trees. She had known the wood between
Summer Street and Windy Corner ever since she could walk alone;
she had played at losing Freddy in it, when Freddy was a
purple-faced baby; and though she had been to Italy, it had lost
none of its charm.
Presently they came to a little clearing among the pines--another
tiny green alp, solitary this time, and holding in its bosom a
She exclamed, "The Sacred Lake!"
"Why do you call it that?"
"I can't remember why. I suppose it comes out of some book. It's
only a puddle now, but you see that stream going through it?
Well, a good deal of water comes down after heavy rains, and
can't get away at once, and the pool becomes quite large and
beautiful. Then Freddy used to bathe there. He is very fond of
He meant, "Are you fond of it?" But she answered dreamily, "I
bathed here, too, till I was found out. Then there was a row."
At another time he might have been shocked, for he had depths of
prudishness within him. But now? with his momentary cult of the
fresh air, he was delighted at her admirable simplicity. He
looked at her as she stood by the pool's edge. She was got up
smart, as she phrased it, and she reminded him of some brilliant
flower that has no leaves of its own, but blooms abruptly out of
a world of green.
"Who found you out?"
"Charlotte," she murmured. "She was stopping with us. Charlotte--
She smiled gravely. A certain scheme, from which hitherto he had
shrank, now appeared practical.
"Yes, I suppose we ought to be going," was her reply.
"Lucy, I want to ask something of you that I have never asked
At the serious note in his voice she stepped frankly and kindly
"Hitherto never--not even that day on the lawn when you agreed to
He became self-conscious and kept glancing round to see if they
were observed. His courage had gone.
"Up to now I have never kissed you."
She was as scarlet as if he had put the thing most indelicately.
"No--more you have," she stammered.
"Then I ask you--may I now?"
"Of course, you may, Cecil. You might before. I can't run at you,
At that supreme moment he was conscious of nothing but
absurdities. Her reply was inadequate. She gave such a
business-like lift to her veil. As he approached her he found
time to wish that he could recoil. As he touched her, his gold
pince-nez became dislodged and was flattened between them.
Such was the embrace. He considered, with truth, that it had been
a failure. Passion should believe itself irresistible. It should
forget civility and consideration and all the other curses of a
refined nature. Above all, it should never ask for leave where
there is a right of way. Why could he not do as any labourer or
navvy--nay, as any young man behind the counter would have
done? He recast the scene. Lucy was standing flowerlike by the
water, he rushed up and took her in his arms; she rebuked him,
permitted him and revered him ever after for his manliness. For
he believed that women revere men for their manliness.
They left the pool in silence, after this one salutation. He
waited for her to make some remark which should show him her
inmost thoughts. At last she spoke, and with fitting gravity.
"Emerson was the name, not Harris."
"The old man's."
"What old man?"
"That old man I told you about. The one Mr. Eager was so unkind
He could not know that this was the most intimate conversation
they had ever had.
Chapter X: Cecil as a Humourist
The society out of which Cecil proposed to rescue Lucy was
perhaps no very splendid affair, yet it was more splendid than
her antecedents entitled her to. Her father, a prosperous local
solicitor, had built Windy Corner, as a speculation at the time
the district was opening up, and, falling in love with his own
creation, had ended by living there himself. Soon after his
marriage the social atmosphere began to alter. Other houses were
built on the brow of that steep southern slope and others, again,
among the pine-trees behind, and northward on the chalk barrier
of the downs. Most of these houses were larger than Windy Corner,
and were filled by people who came, not from the district, but
from London, and who mistook the Honeychurches for the remnants
of an indigenous aristocracy. He was inclined to be frightened,
but his wife accepted the situation without either pride or
humility. "I cannot think what people are doing," she would say,
"but it is extremely fortunate for the children." She called
everywhere; her calls were returned with enthusiasm, and by the
time people found out that she was not exactly of their milieu,
they liked her, and it did not seem to matter. When Mr.
Honeychurch died, he had the satisfaction--which few honest
solicitors despise--of leaving his family rooted in the best
The best obtainable. Certainly many of the immigrants were rather
dull, and Lucy realized this more vividly since her return from
Italy. Hitherto she had accepted their ideals without questioning
--their kindly affluence, their inexplosive religion, their
dislike of paper-bags, orange-peel, and broken bottles. A Radical
out and out, she learnt to speak with horror of Suburbia. Life,
so far as she troubled to conceive it, was a circle of rich,
pleasant people, with identical interests and identical foes.
In this circle, one thought, married, and died. Outside it were
poverty and vulgarity for ever trying to enter, just as the
London fog tries to enter the pine-woods pouring through the gaps
in the northern hills. But, in Italy, where any one who chooses
may warm himself in equality, as in the sun, this conception of
life vanished. Her senses expanded; she felt that there was no
one whom she might not get to like, that social barriers were
irremovable, doubtless, but not particularly high. You jump over
them just as you jump into a peasant's olive-yard in the
Apennines, and he is glad to see you. She returned with new eyes.
So did Cecil; but Italy had quickened Cecil, not to tolerance,
but to irritation. He saw that the local society was narrow, but,
instead of saying, "Does that very much matter?" he rebelled, and
tried to substitute for it the society he called broad. He did
not realize that Lucy had consecrated her environment by the
thousand little civilities that create a tenderness in time, and
that though her eyes saw its defects, her heart refused to
despise it entirely. Nor did he realize a more important point--
that if she was too great for this society, she was too great for
all society, and had reached the stage where personal intercourse
would alone satisfy her. A rebel she was, but not of the kind he
understood--a rebel who desired, not a wider dwelling-room, but
equality beside the man she loved. For Italy was offering her the
most priceless of all possessions--her own soul.
Playing bumble-puppy with Minnie Beebe, niece to the rector, and
aged thirteen--an ancient and most honourable game, which
consists in striking tennis-balls high into the air, so that they
fall over the net and immoderately bounce; some hit Mrs.
Honeychurch; others are lost. The sentence is confused, but the
better illustrates Lucy's state of mind, for she was trying to
talk to Mr. Beebe at the same time.
"Oh, it has been such a nuisance--first he, then they--no one
knowing what they wanted, and every one so tiresome."
"But they really are coming now," said Mr. Beebe. "I wrote to
Miss Teresa a few days ago--she was wondering how often the
butcher called, and my reply of once a month must have impressed
her favourably. They are coming. I heard from them this morning.
"I shall hate those Miss Alans!" Mrs. Honeychurch cried. "Just
because they're old and silly one's expected to say 'How sweet!'
I hate their 'if'-ing and 'but'-ing and 'and'-ing. And poor Lucy
--serve her right--worn to a shadow."
Mr. Beebe watched the shadow springing and shouting over the
tennis-court. Cecil was absent--one did not play bumble-puppy
when he was there.
"Well, if they are coming-- No, Minnie, not Saturn." Saturn was a
tennis-ball whose skin was partially unsewn. When in motion his
orb was encircled by a ring. "If they are coming, Sir Harry will
let them move in before the twenty-ninth, and he will cross out
the clause about whitewashing the ceilings, because it made them
nervous, and put in the fair wear and tear one.--That doesn't
count. I told you not Saturn."
"Saturn's all right for bumble-puppy," cried Freddy, joining
them. "Minnie, don't you listen to her."
"Saturn doesn't bounce."
"Saturn bounces enough."
"No, he doesn't."
"Well; he bounces better than the Beautiful White Devil."
"Hush, dear," said Mrs. Honeychurch.
"But look at Lucy--complaining of Saturn, and all the time's got
the Beautiful White Devil in her hand, ready to plug it in.
That's right, Minnie, go for her--get her over the shins with the
racquet--get her over the shins!"
Lucy fell, the Beautiful White Devil rolled from her hand.
Mr. Beebe picked it up, and said: "The name of this ball is
Vittoria Corombona, please." But his correction passed
Freddy possessed to a high degree the power of lashing little
girls to fury, and in half a minute he had transformed Minnie
from a well-mannered child into a howling wilderness. Up in the
house Cecil heard them, and, though he was full of entertaining
news, he did not come down to impart it, in case he got hurt. He
was not a coward and bore necessary pain as well as any man. But
he hated the physical violence of the young. How right it was!
Sure enough it ended in a cry.
"I wish the Miss Alans could see this," observed Mr. Beebe, just
as Lucy, who was nursing the injured Minnie, was in turn lifted
off her feet by her brother.
"Who are the Miss Alans?" Freddy panted.
"They have taken Cissie Villa."
"That wasn't the name--"
Here his foot slipped, and they all fell most agreeably on to the
grass. An interval elapses.
"Wasn't what name?" asked Lucy, with her brother's head in her
"Alan wasn't the name of the people Sir Harry's let to."
"Nonsense, Freddy! You know nothing about it."
"Nonsense yourself! I've this minute seen him. He said to me:
'Ahem! Honeychurch,'"--Freddy was an indifferent mimic--"'ahem!
ahem! I have at last procured really dee-sire-rebel tenants.' I
said, 'ooray, old boy!' and slapped him on the back."
"Exactly. The Miss Alans?"
"Rather not. More like Anderson."
"Oh, good gracious, there isn't going to be another muddle!" Mrs.
Honeychurch exclaimed. "Do you notice, Lucy, I'm always right? I
said don't interfere with Cissie Villa. I'm always right. I'm
quite uneasy at being always right so often."
"It's only another muddle of Freddy's. Freddy doesn't even know
the name of the people he pretends have taken it instead."
"Yes, I do. I've got it. Emerson."
"Emerson. I'll bet you anything you like."
"What a weathercock Sir Harry is," said Lucy quietly. "I wish I
had never bothered over it at all."
Then she lay on her back and gazed at the cloudless sky. Mr.
Beebe, whose opinion of her rose daily, whispered to his niece
that THAT was the proper way to behave if any little thing went
Meanwhile the name of the new tenants had diverted Mrs.
Honeychurch from the contemplation of her own abilities.
"Emerson, Freddy? Do you know what Emersons they are?"
"I don't know whether they're any Emersons," retorted Freddy, who
was democratic. Like his sister and like most young people, he
was naturally attracted by the idea of equality, and the
undeniable fact that there are different kinds of Emersons
annoyed him beyond measure.
"I trust they are the right sort of person. All right, Lucy"--she
was sitting up again--"I see you looking down your nose and
thinking your mother's a snob. But there is a right sort and a
wrong sort, and it's affectation to pretend there isn't."
"Emerson's a common enough name," Lucy remarked.
She was gazing sideways. Seated on a promontory herself, she
could see the pine-clad promontories descending one beyond
another into the Weald. The further one descended the garden, the
more glorious was this lateral view.
"I was merely going to remark, Freddy, that I trusted they were
no relations of Emerson the philosopher, a most trying man. Pray,
does that satisfy you?"
"Oh, yes," he grumbled. "And you will be satisfied, too, for
they're friends of Cecil; so--elaborate irony--"you and the other
country families will be able to call in perfect safety."
"CECIL?" exclaimed Lucy.
"Don't be rude, dear," said his mother placidly. "Lucy, don't
screech. It's a new bad habit you're getting into."
"But has Cecil--"
"Friends of Cecil's," he repeated, "'and so really dee-sire-
rebel. Ahem! Honeychurch, I have just telegraphed to them.'"
She got up from the grass.
It was hard on Lucy. Mr. Beebe sympathized with her very much.
While she believed that her snub about the Miss Alans came from
Sir Harry Otway, she had borne it like a good girl. She might
well "screech" when she heard that it came partly from her lover.
Mr. Vyse was a tease--something worse than a tease: he took a
malicious pleasure in thwarting people. The clergyman, knowing
this, looked at Miss Honeychurch with more than his usual
When she exclaimed, "But Cecil's Emersons--they can't possibly be
the same ones--there is that--" he did not consider that the
exclamation was strange, but saw in it an opportunity of
diverting the conversation while she recovered her composure. He
diverted it as follows:
"The Emersons who were at Florence, do you mean? No, I don't
suppose it will prove to be them. It is probably a long cry from
them to friends of Mr. Vyse's. Oh, Mrs. Honeychurch, the oddest
people! The queerest people! For our part we liked them, didn't
we?" He appealed to Lucy. "There was a great scene over some
violets. They picked violets and filled all the vases in the room
of these very Miss Alans who have failed to come to Cissie Villa.
Poor little ladies! So shocked and so pleased. It used to be one
of Miss Catharine's great stories. 'My dear sister loves
flowers,' it began. They found the whole room a mass of blue
--vases and jugs--and the story ends with 'So ungentlemanly and
yet so beautiful.' It is all very difficult. Yes, I always connect
those Florentine Emersons with violets."
"Fiasco's done you this time," remarked Freddy, not seeing that
his sister's face was very red. She could not recover herself.
Mr. Beebe saw it, and continued to divert the conversation.
"These particular Emersons consisted of a father and a son--the
son a goodly, if not a good young man; not a fool, I fancy, but
very immature--pessimism, et cetera. Our special joy was the
father--such a sentimental darling, and people declared he had
murdered his wife."
In his normal state Mr. Beebe would never have repeated such
gossip, but he was trying to shelter Lucy in her little trouble.
He repeated any rubbish that came into his head.
"Murdered his wife?" said Mrs. Honeychurch. "Lucy, don't desert
us--go on playing bumble-puppy. Really, the Pension Bertolini
must have been the oddest place. That's the second murderer I've
heard of as being there. Whatever was Charlotte doing to stop?
By-the-by, we really must ask Charlotte here some time."
Mr. Beebe could recall no second murderer. He suggested that his
hostess was mistaken. At the hint of opposition she warmed. She
was perfectly sure that there had been a second tourist of whom
the same story had been told. The name escaped her. What was the
name? Oh, what was the name? She clasped her knees for the name.
Something in Thackeray. She struck her matronly forehead.
Lucy asked her brother whether Cecil was in.
"Oh, don't go!" he cried, and tried to catch her by the ankles.
"I must go," she said gravely. "Don't be silly. You always overdo
it when you play."
As she left them her mother's shout of "Harris!" shivered the
tranquil air, and reminded her that she had told a lie and had
never put it right. Such a senseless lie, too, yet it shattered
her nerves and made her connect these Emersons, friends of
Cecil's, with a pair of nondescript tourists. Hitherto truth had
come to her naturally. She saw that for the future she must be
more vigilant, and be--absolutely truthful? Well, at all events,
she must not tell lies. She hurried up the garden, still flushed
with shame. A word from Cecil would soothe her, she was sure.
"Hullo!" he called, and leant out of the smoking-room window. He
seemed in high spirits. "I was hoping you'd come. I heard you all
bear-gardening, but there's better fun up here. I, even I, have
won a great victory for the Comic Muse. George Meredith's right--
the cause of Comedy and the cause of Truth are really the same;
and I, even I, have found tenants for the distressful Cissie
Villa. Don't be angry! Don't be angry! You'll forgive me when you
hear it all."
He looked very attractive when his face was bright, and he
dispelled her ridiculous forebodings at once.
"I have heard," she said. "Freddy has told us. Naughty Cecil! I
suppose I must forgive you. Just think of all the trouble I took
for nothing! Certainly the Miss Alans are a little tiresome, and
I'd rather have nice friends of yours. But you oughtn't to tease
"Friends of mine?" he laughed. "But, Lucy, the whole joke is to
come! Come here." But she remained standing where she was. "Do
you know where I met these desirable tenants? In the National
Gallery, when I was up to see my mother last week."
"What an odd place to meet people!" she said nervously. "I don't
"In the Umbrian Room. Absolute strangers. They were admiring Luca
Signorelli--of course, quite stupidly. However, we got talking,
and they refreshed me not--a little. They had been to Italy."
"But, Cecil--" proceeded hilariously.
"In the course of conversation they said that they wanted a
country cottage--the father to live there, the son to run down
for week-ends. I thought, 'What a chance of scoring off Sir
Harry!' and I took their address and a London reference, found
they weren't actual blackguards--it was great sport--and wrote to
him, making out--"
"Cecil! No, it's not fair. I've probably met them before--"
He bore her down.
"Perfectly fair. Anything is fair that punishes a snob. That old
man will do the neighbourhood a world of good. Sir Harry is too
disgusting with his 'decayed gentlewomen.' I meant to read him a
lesson some time. No, Lucy, the classes ought to mix, and before
long you'll agree with me. There ought to be intermarriage--all
sorts of things. I believe in democracy--"
"No, you don't," she snapped. "You don't know what the word
He stared at her, and felt again that she had failed to be
Leonardesque. "No, you don't!"
Her face was inartistic--that of a peevish virago.
"It isn't fair, Cecil. I blame you--I blame you very much indeed.
You had no business to undo my work about the Miss Alans, and
make me look ridiculous. You call it scoring off Sir Harry, but
do you realize that it is all at my expense? I consider it most
disloyal of you."
She left him.
"Temper!" he thought, raising his eyebrows.
No, it was worse than temper--snobbishness. As long as Lucy
thought that his own smart friends were supplanting the Miss
Alans, she had not minded. He perceived that these new tenants
might be of value educationally. He would tolerate the father and
draw out the son, who was silent. In the interests of the Comic
Muse and of Truth, he would bring them to Windy Corner.
Chapter XI: In Mrs. Vyse's Well-Appointed Flat
The Comic Muse, though able to look after her own interests, did
not disdain the assistance of Mr. Vyse. His idea of bringing the
Emersons to Windy Corner struck her as decidedly good, and she
carried through the negotiations without a hitch. Sir Harry Otway
signed the agreement, met Mr. Emerson, who was duly
disillusioned. The Miss Alans were duly offended, and wrote a
dignified letter to Lucy, whom they held responsible for the
failure. Mr. Beebe planned pleasant moments for the new-comers,
and told Mrs. Honeychurch that Freddy must call on them as soon
as they arrived. Indeed, so ample was the Muse's equipment that
she permitted Mr. Harris, never a very robust criminal, to droop
his head, to be forgotten, and to die.
Lucy--to descend from bright heaven to earth, whereon there are
shadows because there are hills--Lucy was at first plunged into
despair, but settled after a little thought that it did not
matter the very least. Now that she was engaged, the Emersons
would scarcely insult her and were welcome into the
neighbourhood. And Cecil was welcome to bring whom he would into
the neighbourhood. Therefore Cecil was welcome to bring the
Emersons into the neighbourhood. But, as I say, this took a
little thinking, and--so illogical are girls--the event remained
rather greater and rather more dreadful than it should have done.
She was glad that a visit to Mrs. Vyse now fell due; the tenants
moved into Cissie Villa while she was safe in the London flat.
"Cecil--Cecil darling," she whispered the evening she arrived,
and crept into his arms.
Cecil, too, became demonstrative. He saw that the needful fire
had been kindled in Lucy. At last she longed for attention, as a
woman should, and looked up to him because he was a man.
"So you do love me, little thing?" he murmured.
"Oh, Cecil, I do, I do! I don't know what I should do without
Several days passed. Then she had a letter from Miss Bartlett.
A coolness had sprung up between the two cousins, and they had
not corresponded since they parted in August. The coolness dated
from what Charlotte would call "the flight to Rome," and in Rome
it had increased amazingly. For the companion who is merely
uncongenial in the mediaeval world becomes exasperating in the
classical. Charlotte, unselfish in the Forum, would have tried a
sweeter temper than Lucy's, and once, in the Baths of Caracalla,
they had doubted whether they could continue their tour. Lucy had
said she would join the Vyses--Mrs. Vyse was an acquaintance of
her mother, so there was no impropriety in the plan and Miss
Bartlett had replied that she was quite used to being abandoned
suddenly. Finally nothing happened; but the coolness remained,
and, for Lucy, was even increased when she opened the letter and
read as follows. It had been forwarded from Windy Corner.
"I have news of you at last! Miss Lavish has been bicycling in
your parts, but was not sure whether a call would be welcome.
Puncturing her tire near Summer Street, and it being mended while
she sat very woebegone in that pretty churchyard, she saw to her
astonishment, a door open opposite and the younger Emerson man
come out. He said his father had just taken the house. He SAID he
did not know that you lived in the neighbourhood (?). He never
suggested giving Eleanor a cup of tea. Dear Lucy, I am much
worried, and I advise you to make a clean breast of his past
behaviour to your mother, Freddy, and Mr. Vyse, who will forbid
him to enter the house, etc. That was a great misfortune, and I
dare say you have told them already. Mr. Vyse is so sensitive. I
remember how I used to get on his nerves at Rome. I am very sorry
about it all, and should not feel easy unless I warned you.
"Your anxious and loving cousin,
Lucy was much annoyed, and replied as follows:
"Beauchamp Mansions, S.W.
"Many thanks for your warning. When Mr. Emerson forgot himself on
the mountain, you made me promise not to tell mother, because you
said she would blame you for not being always with me. I have
kept that promise, and cannot possibly tell her now. I have said
both to her and Cecil that I met the Emersons at Florence, and
that they are respectable people--which I do think--and the
reason that he offered Miss Lavish no tea was probably that he
had none himself. She should have tried at the Rectory. I cannot
begin making a fuss at this stage. You must see that it would be
too absurd. If the Emersons heard I had complained of them, they
would think themselves of importance, which is exactly what they
are not. I like the old father, and look forward to seeing him
again. As for the son, I am sorry for him when we meet, rather
than for myself. They are known to Cecil, who is very well and
spoke of you the other day. We expect to be married in January.
"Miss Lavish cannot have told you much about me, for I am not at
Windy Corner at all, but here. Please do not put 'Private'
outside your envelope again. No one opens my letters.
"L. M. Honeychurch."
Secrecy has this disadvantage: we lose the sense of proportion;
we cannot tell whether our secret is important or not. Were Lucy
and her cousin closeted with a great thing which would destroy
Cecil's life if he discovered it, or with a little thing which he
would laugh at? Miss Bartlett suggested the former. Perhaps she
was right. It had become a great thing now. Left to herself, Lucy
would have told her mother and her lover ingenuously, and it
would have remained a little thing. "Emerson, not Harris"; it was
only that a few weeks ago. She tried to tell Cecil even now when
they were laughing about some beautiful lady who had smitten his
heart at school. But her body behaved so ridiculously that she
She and her secret stayed ten days longer in the deserted
Metropolis visiting the scenes they were to know so well later
on. It did her no harm, Cecil thought, to learn the framework of
society, while society itself was absent on the golf-links or the
moors. The weather was cool, and it did her no harm. In spite of
the season, Mrs. Vyse managed to scrape together a dinner-party
consisting entirely of the grandchildren of famous people. The
food was poor, but the talk had a witty weariness that impressed
the girl. One was tired of everything, it seemed. One launched
into enthusiasms only to collapse gracefully, and pick oneself up
amid sympathetic laughter. In this atmosphere the Pension
Bertolini and Windy Corner appeared equally crude, and Lucy saw
that her London career would estrange her a little from all that
she had loved in the past.
The grandchildren asked her to play the piano.
She played Schumann. "Now some Beethoven" called Cecil, when the
querulous beauty of the music had died. She shook her head and
played Schumann again. The melody rose, unprofitably magical. It
broke; it was resumed broken, not marching once from the cradle
to the grave. The sadness of the incomplete--the sadness that is
often Life, but should never be Art--throbbed in its disjected
phrases, and made the nerves of the audience throb. Not thus had
she played on the little draped piano at the Bertolini, and "Too
much Schumann" was not the remark that Mr. Beebe had passed to
himself when she returned.
When the guests were gone, and Lucy had gone to bed, Mrs. Vyse
paced up and down the drawing-room, discussing her little party
with her son. Mrs. Vyse was a nice woman, but her personality,
like many another's, had been swamped by London, for it needs a
strong head to live among many people. The too vast orb of her
fate had crushed her; and she had seen too many seasons, too many
cities, too many men, for her abilities, and even with Cecil she
was mechanical, and behaved as if he was not one son, but, so to
speak, a filial crowd.
"Make Lucy one of us," she said, looking round intelligently at
the end of each sentence, and straining her lips apart until she
spoke again. "Lucy is becoming wonderful--wonderful."
"Her music always was wonderful."
"Yes, but she is purging off the Honeychurch taint, most
excellent Honeychurches, but you know what I mean. She is not
always quoting servants, or asking one how the pudding is made."
"Italy has done it."
"Perhaps," she murmured, thinking of the museum that represented
Italy to her. "It is just possible. Cecil, mind you marry her
next January. She is one of us already."
"But her music!" he exclaimed. "The style of her! How she kept to
Schumann when, like an idiot, I wanted Beethoven. Schumann was
right for this evening. Schumann was the thing. Do you know,
mother, I shall have our children educated just like Lucy. Bring
them up among honest country folks for freshness, send them to
Italy for subtlety, and then--not till then--let them come to
London. I don't believe in these London educations--" He broke
off, remembering that he had had one himself, and concluded, "At
all events, not for women."
"Make her one of us," repeated Mrs. Vyse, and processed to bed.
As she was dozing off, a cry--the cry of nightmare--rang from
Lucy's room. Lucy could ring for the maid if she liked but Mrs.
Vyse thought it kind to go herself. She found the girl sitting
upright with her hand on her cheek.
"I am so sorry, Mrs. Vyse--it is these dreams."
The elder lady smiled and kissed her, saying very distinctly:
"You should have heard us talking about you, dear. He admires you
more than ever. Dream of that."
Lucy returned the kiss, still covering one cheek with her hand.
Mrs. Vyse recessed to bed. Cecil, whom the cry had not awoke,
snored. Darkness enveloped the flat.
Chapter XII: Twelfth Chapter
It was a Saturday afternoon, gay and brilliant after abundant
rains, and the spirit of youth dwelt in it, though the season was
now autumn. All that was gracious triumphed. As the motorcars
passed through Summer Street they raised only a little dust, and
their stench was soon dispersed by the wind and replaced by the
scent of the wet birches or of the pines. Mr. Beebe, at leisure
for life's amenities, leant over his Rectory gate. Freddy leant
by him, smoking a pendant pipe.
"Suppose we go and hinder those new people opposite for a
"They might amuse you."
Freddy, whom his fellow-creatures never amused, suggested that
the new people might be feeling a bit busy, and so on, since they
had only just moved in.
"I suggested we should hinder them," said Mr. Beebe. "They are
worth it." Unlatching the gate, he sauntered over the triangular
green to Cissie Villa. "Hullo!" he cried, shouting in at the open
door, through which much squalor was visible.
A grave voice replied, "Hullo!"
"I've brought some one to see you."
"I'll be down in a minute."
The passage was blocked by a wardrobe, which the removal men had
failed to carry up the stairs. Mr. Beebe edged round it with
difficulty. The sitting-room itself was blocked with books.
"Are these people great readers?" Freddy whispered. "Are they
"I fancy they know how to read--a rare accomplishment. What have
they got? Byron. Exactly. A Shropshire Lad. Never heard of it.
The Way of All Flesh. Never heard of it. Gibbon. Hullo! dear
George reads German. Um--um--Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and so we
go on. Well, I suppose your generation knows its own business,
"Mr. Beebe, look at that," said Freddy in awestruck tones.
On the cornice of the wardrobe, the hand of an amateur had
painted this inscription: "Mistrust all enterprises that require
"I know. Isn't it jolly? I like that. I'm certain that's the old
"How very odd of him!"
"Surely you agree?"
But Freddy was his mother's son and felt that one ought not to go
on spoiling the furniture.
"Pictures!" the clergyman continued, scrambling about the room.
"Giotto--they got that at Florence, I'll be bound."
"The same as Lucy's got."
"Oh, by-the-by, did Miss Honeychurch enjoy London?"
"She came back yesterday."
"I suppose she had a good time?"
"Yes, very," said Freddy, taking up a book. "She and Cecil are
thicker than ever."
"That's good hearing."
"I wish I wasn't such a fool, Mr. Beebe."
Mr. Beebe ignored the remark.
"Lucy used to be nearly as stupid as I am, but it'll be very
different now, mother thinks. She will read all kinds of books."
"So will you."
"Only medical books. Not books that you can talk about
afterwards. Cecil is teaching Lucy Italian, and he says her
playing is wonderful. There are all kinds of things in it that we
have never noticed. Cecil says--"
"What on earth are those people doing upstairs? Emerson--we think
we'll come another time."
George ran down-stairs and pushed them into the room without
"Let me introduce Mr. Honeychurch, a neighbour."
Then Freddy hurled one of the thunderbolts of youth. Perhaps he
was shy, perhaps he was friendly, or perhaps he thought that
George's face wanted washing. At all events he greeted him with,
"How d'ye do? Come and have a bathe."
"Oh, all right," said George, impassive.
Mr. Beebe was highly entertained.
"'How d'ye do? how d'ye do? Come and have a bathe,'" he chuckled.
"That's the best conversational opening I've ever heard. But I'm
afraid it will only act between men. Can you picture a lady who
has been introduced to another lady by a third lady opening
civilities with 'How do you do? Come and have a bathe'? And yet
you will tell me that the sexes are equal."
"I tell you that they shall be," said Mr. Emerson, who had been
slowly descending the stairs. "Good afternoon, Mr. Beebe. I tell
you they shall be comrades, and George thinks the same."
"We are to raise ladies to our level?" the clergyman inquired.
"The Garden of Eden," pursued Mr. Emerson, still descending,
"which you place in the past, is really yet to come. We shall
enter it when we no longer despise our bodies."
Mr. Beebe disclaimed placing the Garden of Eden anywhere.
"In this--not in other things--we men are ahead. We despise the
body less than women do. But not until we are comrades shall we
enter the garden."
"I say, what about this bathe?" murmured Freddy, appalled at the
mass of philosophy that was approaching him.
"I believed in a return to Nature once. But how can we return to
Nature when we have never been with her? To-day, I believe that
we must discover Nature. After many conquests we shall attain
simplicity. It is our heritage."
"Let me introduce Mr. Honeychurch, whose sister you will remember
"How do you do? Very glad to see you, and that you are taking
George for a bathe. Very glad to hear that your sister is going
to marry. Marriage is a duty. I am sure that she will be happy,
for we know Mr. Vyse, too. He has been most kind. He met us by
chance in the National Gallery, and arranged everything about
this delightful house. Though I hope I have not vexed Sir Harry
Otway. I have met so few Liberal landowners, and I was anxious to
compare his attitude towards the game laws with the Conservative
attitude. Ah, this wind! You do well to bathe. Yours is a
glorious country, Honeychurch!"
"Not a bit!" mumbled Freddy. "I must--that is to say, I have to--
have the pleasure of calling on you later on, my mother says, I
"CALL, my lad? Who taught us that drawing-room twaddle? Call on
your grandmother! Listen to the wind among the pines! Yours is a
Mr. Beebe came to the rescue.
"Mr. Emerson, he will call, I shall call; you or your son will
return our calls before ten days have elapsed. I trust that you
have realized about the ten days' interval. It does not count
that I helped you with the stair-eyes yesterday. It does not
count that they are going to bathe this afternoon."
"Yes, go and bathe, George. Why do you dawdle talking? Bring them
back to tea. Bring back some milk, cakes, honey. The change will
do you good. George has been working very hard at his office. I
can't believe he's well."
George bowed his head, dusty and sombre, exhaling the peculiar
smell of one who has handled furniture.
"Do you really want this bathe?" Freddy asked him. "It is only a
pond, don't you know. I dare say you are used to something
"Yes--I have said 'Yes' already."
Mr. Beebe felt bound to assist his young friend, and led the way
out of the house and into the pine-woods. How glorious it was! For
a little time the voice of old Mr. Emerson pursued them
dispensing good wishes and philosophy. It ceased, and they only
heard the fair wind blowing the bracken and the trees. Mr. Beebe,
who could be silent, but who could not bear silence, was
compelled to chatter, since the expedition looked like a failure,
and neither of his companions would utter a word. He spoke of
Florence. George attended gravely, assenting or dissenting with
slight but determined gestures that were as inexplicable as the
motions of the tree-tops above their heads.
And what a coincidence that you should meet Mr. Vyse! Did you
realize that you would find all the Pension Bertolini down here?"
"I did not. Miss Lavish told me."
"When I was a young man, I always meant to write a 'History of
"Though, as a matter of fact, coincidences are much rarer than we
suppose. For example, it isn't purely coincidentally that you are
here now, when one comes to reflect."
To his relief, George began to talk.
"It is. I have reflected. It is Fate. Everything is Fate. We are
flung together by Fate, drawn apart by Fate--flung together,
drawn apart. The twelve winds blow us--we settle nothing--"
"You have not reflected at all," rapped the clergyman. "Let me
give you a useful tip, Emerson: attribute nothing to Fate. Don't
say, 'I didn't do this,' for you did it, ten to one. Now I'll
cross-question you. Where did you first meet Miss Honeychurch and
"And where did you meet Mr. Vyse, who is going to marry Miss
"Looking at Italian art. There you are, and yet you talk of
coincidence and Fate. You naturally seek out things Italian, and
so do we and our friends. This narrows the field immeasurably
we meet again in it."
"It is Fate that I am here," persisted George. "But you can call
it Italy if it makes you less unhappy."
Mr. Beebe slid away from such heavy treatment of the subject.
But he was infinitely tolerant of the young, and had no desire
to snub George.
"And so for this and for other reasons my "'History of
Coincidence' is still to write."
Wishing to round off the episode, he added; "We are all so glad
that you have come."
"Here we are!" called Freddy.
"Oh, good!" exclaimed Mr. Beebe, mopping his brow.
"In there's the pond. I wish it was bigger," he added
They climbed down a slippery bank of pine-needles. There lay the
pond, set in its little alp of green--only a pond, but large
enough to contain the human body, and pure enough to reflect the
sky. On account of the rains, the waters had flooded the
surrounding grass, which showed like a beautiful emerald path,
tempting these feet towards the central pool.
"It's distinctly successful, as ponds go," said Mr. Beebe. "No
apologies are necessary for the pond."
George sat down where the ground was dry, and drearily unlaced
"Aren't those masses of willow-herb splendid? I love willow-herb
in seed. What's the name of this aromatic plant?"
No one knew, or seemed to care.
"These abrupt changes of vegetation--this little spongeous
tract of water plants, and on either side of it all the growths
are tough or brittle--heather, bracken, hurts, pines. Very
charming, very charming.
"Mr. Beebe, aren't you bathing?" called Freddy, as he stripped
Mr. Beebe thought he was not.
"Water's wonderful!" cried Freddy, prancing in.
"Water's water," murmured George. Wetting his hair first--a sure
sign of apathy--he followed Freddy into the divine, as
indifferent as if he were a statue and the pond a pail of
soapsuds. It was necessary to use his muscles. It was necessary
to keep clean. Mr. Beebe watched them, and watched the seeds of
the willow-herb dance chorically above their heads.
"Apooshoo, apooshoo, apooshoo," went Freddy, swimming for two
strokes in either direction, and then becoming involved in reeds
"Is it worth it?" asked the other, Michelangelesque on the
The bank broke away, and he fell into the pool before he had
weighed the question properly.
"Hee-poof--I've swallowed a pollywog, Mr. Beebe, water's
wonderful, water's simply ripping."
"Water's not so bad," said George, reappearing from his plunge,
and sputtering at the sun.
"Water's wonderful. Mr. Beebe, do."
Mr. Beebe, who was hot, and who always acquiesced where possible,
looked around him. He could detect no parishioners except the
pine-trees, rising up steeply on all sides, and gesturing to each
other against the blue. How glorious it was! The world of
motor-cars and rural Deans receded inimitably. Water, sky,
evergreens, a wind--these things not even the seasons can touch,
and surely they lie beyond the intrusion of man?
"I may as well wash too"; and soon his garments made a third
little pile on the sward, and he too asserted the wonder of the
It was ordinary water, nor was there very much of it, and, as
Freddy said, it reminded one of swimming in a salad. The three
gentlemen rotated in the pool breast high, after the fashion of
the nymphs in Gotterdammerung. But either because the rains had
given a freshness or because the sun was shedding a most glorious
heat, or because two of the gentlemen were young in years and the
third young in spirit--for some reason or other a change came
over them, and they forgot Italy and Botany and Fate. They began
to play. Mr. Beebe and Freddy splashed each other. A little
deferentially, they splashed George. He was quiet: they feared
they had offended him. Then all the forces of youth burst out. He
smiled, flung himself at them, splashed them, ducked them, kicked
them, muddied them, and drove them out of the pool.
"Race you round it, then," cried Freddy, and they raced in the
sunshine, and George took a short cut and dirtied his shins, and
had to bathe a second time. Then Mr. Beebe consented to run--a
They ran to get dry, they bathed to get cool, they played at
being Indians in the willow-herbs and in the bracken, they bathed
to get clean. And all the time three little bundles lay
discreetly on the sward, proclaiming:
"No. We are what matters. Without us shall no enterprise begin.
To us shall all flesh turn in the end."
"A try! A try!" yelled Freddy, snatching up George's bundle and
placing it beside an imaginary goal-post.
"Socker rules," George retorted, scattering Freddy's bundle
with a kick.
"Take care my watch!" cried Mr. Beebe.
Clothes flew in all directions.
"Take care my hat! No, that's enough, Freddy. Dress now. No, I
But the two young men were delirious. Away they twinkled into the
trees, Freddy with a clerical waistcoat under his arm, George
with a wide-awake hat on his dripping hair.
"That'll do!" shouted Mr. Beebe, remembering that after all he
was in his own parish. Then his voice changed as if every
pine-tree was a Rural Dean. "Hi! Steady on! I see people coming
Yells, and widening circles over the dappled earth.
"Hi! hi! LADIES!"
Neither George nor Freddy was truly refined. Still, they did not
hear Mr. Beebe's last warning or they would have avoided Mrs.
Honeychurch, Cecil, and Lucy, who were walking down to call on
old Mrs. Butterworth. Freddy dropped the waistcoat at their feet,
and dashed into some bracken. George whooped in their faces,
turned and scudded away down the path to the pond, still
clad in Mr. Beebe's hat.
"Gracious alive!" cried Mrs. Honeychurch. "Whoever were those
unfortunate people? Oh, dears, look away! And poor Mr. Beebe,
too! Whatever has happened?"
"Come this way immediately," commanded Cecil, who always felt
that he must lead women, though knew not whither, and protect
them, though he knew not against what. He led them now towards
the bracken where Freddy sat concealed.
"Oh, poor Mr. Beebe! Was that his waistcoat we left in the path?
Cecil, Mr. Beebe's waistcoat--"
No business of ours, said Cecil, glancing at Lucy, who was all
parasol and evidently "minded."
"I fancy Mr. Beebe jumped back into the pond."
"This way, please, Mrs. Honeychurch, this way."
They followed him up the bank attempting the tense yet nonchalant
expression that is suitable for ladies on such occasions.
"Well, I can't help it," said a voice close ahead, and Freddy
reared a freckled face and a pair of snowy shoulders out of the
fronds. "I can't be trodden on, can I?"
"Good gracious me, dear; so it's you! What miserable management!
Why not have a comfortable bath at home, with hot and cold laid
"Look here, mother, a fellow must wash, and a fellow's got to
dry, and if another fellow--"
"Dear, no doubt you're right as usual, but you are in no position
to argue. Come, Lucy." They turned. "Oh, look--don't look! Oh,
poor Mr. Beebe! How unfortunate again--"
For Mr. Beebe was just crawling out of the pond, On whose surface
garments of an intimate nature did float; while George, the
world-weary George, shouted to Freddy that he had hooked a fish.
"And me, I've swallowed one," answered he of the bracken. "I've
swallowed a pollywog. It wriggleth in my tummy. I shall die--
Emerson you beast, you've got on my bags."
"Hush, dears," said Mrs. Honeychurch, who found it impossible to
remain shocked. "And do be sure you dry yourselves thoroughly
first. All these colds come of not drying thoroughly."
"Mother, do come away," said Lucy. "Oh for goodness' sake, do
"Hullo!" cried George, so that again the ladies stopped.
He regarded himself as dressed. Barefoot, bare-chested, radiant
and personable against the shadowy woods, he called:
"Hullo, Miss Honeychurch! Hullo!"
"Bow, Lucy; better bow. Whoever is it? I shall bow."
Miss Honeychurch bowed.
That evening and all that night the water ran away. On the morrow
the pool had shrunk to its old size and lost its glory. It had
been a call to the blood and to the relaxed will, a passing
benediction whose influence did not pass, a holiness, a spell, a
momentary chalice for youth.
Chapter XIII: How Miss Bartlett's Boiler Was So Tiresome
How often had Lucy rehearsed this bow, this interview! But she
had always rehearsed them indoors, and with certain accessories,
which surely we have a right to assume. Who could foretell that
she and George would meet in the rout of a civilization, amidst
an army of coats and collars and boots that lay wounded over the
sunlit earth? She had imagined a young Mr. Emerson, who might be
shy or morbid or indifferent or furtively impudent. She was
prepared for all of these. But she had never imagined one who
would be happy and greet her with the shout of the morning star.
Indoors herself, partaking of tea with old Mrs. Butterworth, she
reflected that it is impossible to foretell the future with any
degree of accuracy, that it is impossible to rehearse life. A
fault in the scenery, a face in the audience, an irruption of the
audience on to the stage, and all our carefully planned gestures
mean nothing, or mean too much. "I will bow," she had thought. "I
will not shake hands with him. That will be just the proper
thing." She had bowed--but to whom? To gods, to heroes, to the
nonsense of school-girls! She had bowed across the rubbish that
cumbers the world.
So ran her thoughts, while her faculties were busy with Cecil. It
was another of those dreadful engagement calls. Mrs. Butterworth
had wanted to see him, and he did not want to be seen. He did not
want to hear about hydrangeas, why they change their colour at
the seaside. He did not want to join the C. O. S. When cross he
was always elaborate, and made long, clever answers where "Yes"
or "No" would have done. Lucy soothed him and tinkered at the
conversation in a way that promised well for their married peace.
No one is perfect, and surely it is wiser to discover the
imperfections before wedlock. Miss Bartlett, indeed, though not
in word, had taught the girl that this our life contains nothing
satisfactory. Lucy, though she disliked the teacher, regarded the
teaching as profound, and applied it to her lover.
"Lucy," said her mother, when they got home, "is anything the
matter with Cecil?"
The question was ominous; up till now Mrs. Honeychurch had
behaved with charity and restraint.
"No, I don't think so, mother; Cecil's all right."
"Perhaps he's tired."
Lucy compromised: perhaps Cecil was a little tired.
"Because otherwise"--she pulled out her bonnet-pins with gathering
displeasure--"because otherwise I cannot account for him."
"I do think Mrs. Butterworth is rather tiresome, if you mean
"Cecil has told you to think so. You were devoted to her as a
little girl, and nothing will describe her goodness to you
through the typhoid fever. No--it is just the same thing
"Let me just put your bonnet away, may I?"
"Surely he could answer her civilly for one half-hour?"
"Cecil has a very high standard for people," faltered Lucy,
seeing trouble ahead. "It's part of his ideals--it is really that
that makes him sometimes seem--"
"Oh, rubbish! If high ideals make a young man rude, the sooner he
gets rid of them the better," said Mrs. Honeychurch, handing her
"Now, mother! I've seen you cross with Mrs. Butterworth yourself!"
"Not in that way. At times I could wring her neck. But not in
that way. No. It is the same with Cecil all over."
"By-the-by--I never told you. I had a letter from Charlotte while
I was away in London."
This attempt to divert the conversation was too puerile, and Mrs.
Honeychurch resented it.
"Since Cecil came back from London, nothing appears to please
him. Whenever I speak he winces;--I see him, Lucy; it is useless
to contradict me. No doubt I am neither artistic nor literary nor
intellectual nor musical, but I cannot help the drawing-room
furniture; your father bought it and we must put up with it, will
Cecil kindly remember."
"I--I see what you mean, and certainly Cecil oughtn't to. But he
does not mean to be uncivil--he once explained--it is the things
that upset him--he is easily upset by ugly things--he is not
uncivil to PEOPLE."
"Is it a thing or a person when Freddy sings?"
"You can't expect a really musical person to enjoy comic songs as
"Then why didn't he leave the room? Why sit wriggling and
sneering and spoiling everyone's pleasure?"
"We mustn't be unjust to people," faltered Lucy. Something had
enfeebled her, and the case for Cecil, which she had mastered so
perfectly in London, would not come forth in an effective form.
The two civilizations had clashed--Cecil hinted that they might--
and she was dazzled and bewildered, as though the radiance that
lies behind all civilization had blinded her eyes. Good taste and
bad taste were only catchwords, garments of diverse cut; and
music itself dissolved to a whisper through pine-trees, where the
song is not distinguishable from the comic song.
She remained in much embarrassment, while Mrs. Honeychurch
changed her frock for dinner; and every now and then she said a
word, and made things no better. There was no concealing the
fact, Cecil had meant to be supercilious, and he had succeeded.
And Lucy--she knew not why--wished that the trouble could have
come at any other time.
"Go and dress, dear; you'll be late."
"All right, mother--"
"Don't say 'All right' and stop. Go."
She obeyed, but loitered disconsolately at the landing window. It
faced north, so there was little view, and no view of the sky.
Now, as in the winter, the pine-trees hung close to her eyes. One
connected the landing window with depression. No definite problem
menaced her, but she sighed to herself, "Oh, dear, what shall I
do, what shall I do?" It seemed to her that every one else was
behaving very badly. And she ought not to have mentioned Miss
Bartlett's letter. She must be more careful; her mother was
rather inquisitive, and might have asked what it was about. Oh,
dear, should she do?--and then Freddy came bounding up-stairs,
and joined the ranks of the ill-behaved.
"I say, those are topping people."
"My dear baby, how tiresome you've been! You have no business to take
them bathing in the Sacred it's much too public. It was all right
for you but most awkward for every one else. Do be more careful. You
forget the place is growing half suburban."
"I say, is anything on to-morrow week?"
"Not that I know of."
"Then I want to ask the Emersons up to Sunday tennis."
"Oh, I wouldn't do that, Freddy, I wouldn't do that with all this
"What's wrong with the court? They won't mind a bump or two, and
I've ordered new balls."
"I meant it's better not. I really mean it."
He seized her by the elbows and humorously danced her up and down
the passage. She pretended not to mind, but she could have
screamed with temper. Cecil glanced at them as he proceeded to
his toilet and they impeded Mary with her brood of hot-water
cans. Then Mrs. Honeychurch opened her door and said: "Lucy,
what a noise you're making! I have something to say to you. Did
you say you had had a letter from Charlotte?" and Freddy ran
"Yes. I really can't stop. I must dress too."
The unfortunate girl returned.
"You've a bad habit of hurrying away in the middle of one's
sentences. Did Charlotte mention her boiler?"
"Don't you remember that her boiler was to be had out in October,
and her bath cistern cleaned out, and all kinds of terrible
"I can't remember all Charlotte's worries," said Lucy bitterly.
"I shall have enough of my own, now that you are not pleased with
Mrs. Honeychurch might have flamed out. She did not. She said:
"Come here, old lady--thank you for putting away my bonnet--kiss
me." And, though nothing is perfect, Lucy felt for the moment
that her mother and Windy Corner and the Weald in the declining
sun were perfect.
So the grittiness went out of life. It generally did at Windy
Corner. At the last minute, when the social machine was clogged
hopelessly, one member or other of the family poured in a drop of
oil. Cecil despised their methods--perhaps rightly. At a11
events, they were not his own.
Dinner was at half-past seven. Freddy gabbled the grace, and they
drew up their heavy chairs and fell to. Fortunately, the men were
hungry. Nothing untoward occurred until the pudding. Then Freddy
"Lucy, what's Emerson like?"
"I saw him in Florence," said Lucy, hoping that this would pass
for a reply.
"Is he the clever sort, or is he a decent chap?"
"Ask Cecil; it is Cecil who brought him here."
"He is the clever sort, like myself," said Cecil.
Freddy looked at him doubtfully.
"How well did you know them at the Bertolini?" asked Mrs.
"Oh, very slightly. I mean, Charlotte knew them even less than I
"Oh, that reminds me--you never told me what Charlotte said in
"One thing and another," said Lucy, wondering whether she would
get through the meal without a lie. "Among other things, that an
awful friend of hers had been bicycling through Summer Street,
wondered if she'd come up and see us, and mercifully didn't."
"Lucy, I do call the way you talk unkind."
"She was a novelist," said Lucy craftily. The remark was a happy
one, for nothing roused Mrs. Honeychurch so much as literature in
the hands of females. She would abandon every topic to inveigh
against those women who (instead of minding their houses and
their children) seek notoriety by print. Her attitude was: "If
books must be written, let them be written by men"; and she de-
veloped it at great length, while Cecil yawned and Freddy played
at "This year, next year, now, never," with his plum-stones, and
Lucy artfully fed the flames of her mother's wrath. But soon the
conflagration died down, and the ghosts began to gather in the
darkness. There were too many ghosts about. The original ghost--
that touch of lips on her cheek--had surely been laid long ago;
it could be nothing to her that a man had kissed her on a
mountain once. But it had begotten a spectral family--Mr. Harris,
Miss Bartlett's letter, Mr. Beebe's memories of violets--and one
or other of these was bound to haunt her before Cecil's very
eyes. It was Miss Bartlett who returned now, and with appalling
"I have been thinking, Lucy, of that letter of Charlotte's. How
"I tore the thing up."
"Didn't she say how she was? How does she sound? Cheerful?"
"Oh, yes I suppose so--no--not very cheerful, I suppose."
"Then, depend upon it, it IS the boiler. I know myself how water
preys upon one's mind. I would rather anything else--even a
misfortune with the meat."
Cecil laid his hand over his eyes.
"So would I," asserted Freddy, backing his mother up--backing up
the spirit of her remark rather than the substance.
"And I have been thinking," she added rather nervously, "surely
we could squeeze Charlotte in here next week, and give her a nice
holiday while plumbers at Tunbridge Wells finish. I have not
seen poor Charlotte for so long."
It was more than her nerves could stand. And she could not
protest violently after her mother's goodness to her upstairs.
"Mother, no!" she pleaded. "It's impossible. We can't have
Charlotte on the top of the other things; we're squeezed to death
as it is. Freddy's got a friend coming Tuesday, there's Cecil,