Part 5 out of 5
sat, practising Mozart. No smile came to his lips, and, changing
the subject again, he said: "We shan't have rain, but we shall
have darkness, so let us hurry on. The darkness last night was
They reached the Beehive Tavern at about five o'clock. That
amiable hostelry possesses a verandah, in which the young and the
unwise do dearly love to sit, while guests of more mature years
seek a pleasant sanded room, and have tea at a table comfortably.
Mr. Beebe saw that Miss Bartlett would be cold if she sat out, and
that Minnie would be dull if she sat in, so he proposed a division
of forces. They would hand the child her food through the window.
Thus he was incidentally enabled to discuss the fortunes of Lucy.
"I have been thinking, Miss Bartlett," he said, "and, unless you
very much object, I would like to reopen that discussion." She
bowed. "Nothing about the past. I know little and care less about
that; I am absolutely certain that it is to your cousin's credit.
She has acted loftily and rightly, and it is like her gentle
modesty to say that we think too highly of her. But the future.
Seriously, what do you think of this Greek plan?" He pulled out
the letter again. "I don't know whether you overheard, but she
wants to join the Miss Alans in their mad career. It's all--I
can't explain--it's wrong."
Miss Bartlett read the letter in silence, laid it down, seemed to
hesitate, and then read it again.
"I can't see the point of it myself."
To his astonishment, she replied: "There I cannot agree with you.
In it I spy Lucy's salvation."
"Really. Now, why?"
"She wanted to leave Windy Corner."
"I know--but it seems so odd, so unlike her, so--I was going to
"It is natural, surely--after such painful scenes--that she should
desire a change."
Here, apparently, was one of those points that the male intellect
misses. Mr. Beebe exclaimed: "So she says herself, and since
another lady agrees with her, I must own that I am partially
convinced. Perhaps she must have a change. I have no sisters or--
and I don't understand these things. But why need she go as far
"You may well ask that," replied Miss Bartlett, who was evidently
interested, and had almost dropped her evasive manner. "Why
Greece? (What is it, Minnie dear--jam?) Why not Tunbridge Wells?
Oh, Mr. Beebe! I had a long and most unsatisfactory interview
with dear Lucy this morning. I cannot help her. I will say no
more. Perhaps I have already said too much. I am not to talk. I
wanted her to spend six months with me at Tunbridge Wells, and
Mr. Beebe poked at a crumb with his knife.
"But my feelings are of no importance. I know too well that I get
on Lucy's nerves. Our tour was a failure. She wanted to leave
Florence, and when we got to Rome she did not want to be in Rome,
and all the time I felt that I was spending her mother's
"Let us keep to the future, though," interrupted Mr. Beebe. "I
want your advice."
"Very well," said Charlotte, with a choky abruptness that was
new to him, though familiar to Lucy. "I for one will help her to
go to Greece. Will you?"
Mr. Beebe considered.
"It is absolutely necessary," she continued, lowering her veil
and whispering through it with a passion, an intensity, that
surprised him. "I know--I know." The darkness was coming on, and
he felt that this odd woman really did know. "She must not stop
here a moment, and we must keep quiet till she goes. I trust that
the servants know nothing. Afterwards--but I may have said too
much already. Only, Lucy and I are helpless against Mrs.
Honeychurch alone. If you help we may succeed. Otherwise--"
"Otherwise," she repeated as if the word held finality.
"Yes, I will help her," said the clergyman, setting his jaw firm.
"Come, let us go back now, and settle the whole thing up."
Miss Bartlett burst into florid gratitude. The tavern sign--a
beehive trimmed evenly with bees--creaked in the wind outside as
she thanked him. Mr. Beebe did not quite understand the
situation; but then, he did not desire to understand it, nor to
jump to the conclusion of "another man" that would have attracted
a grosser mind. He only felt that Miss Bartlett knew of some
vague influence from which the girl desired to be delivered, and
which might well be clothed in the fleshly form. Its very
vagueness spurred him into knight-errantry. His belief in
celibacy, so reticent, so carefully concealed beneath his
tolerance and culture, now came to the surface and expanded like
some delicate flower. "They that marry do well, but they that
refrain do better." So ran his belief, and he never heard that an
engagement was broken off but with a slight feeling of pleasure.
In the case of Lucy, the feeling was intensified through dislike
of Cecil; and he was willing to go further--to place her out of
danger until she could confirm her resolution of virginity. The
feeling was very subtle and quite undogmatic, and he never
imparted it to any other of the characters in this entanglement.
Yet it existed, and it alone explains his action subsequently,
and his influence on the action of others. The compact that he
made with Miss Bartlett in the tavern, was to help not only Lucy,
but religion also.
They hurried home through a world of black and grey. He conversed
on indifferent topics: the Emersons' need of a housekeeper;
servants; Italian servants; novels about Italy; novels with a
purpose; could literature influence life? Windy Corner glimmered.
In the garden, Mrs. Honeychurch, now helped by Freddy, still
wrestled with the lives of her flowers.
"It gets too dark," she said hopelesly. "This comes of putting
off. We might have known the weather would break up soon; and now
Lucy wants to go to Greece. I don't know what the world's coming
"Mrs. Honeychurch," he said, "go to Greece she must. Come up to
the house and let's talk it over. Do you, in the first place,
mind her breaking with Vyse?"
"Mr. Beebe, I'm thankful--simply thankful."
"So am I," said Freddy.
"Good. Now come up to the house."
They conferred in the dining-room for half an hour.
Lucy would never have carried the Greek scheme alone. It was
expensive and dramatic--both qualities that her mother loathed.
Nor would Charlotte have succeeded. The honours of the day rested
with Mr. Beebe. By his tact and common sense, and by his
influence as a clergyman--for a clergyman who was not a fool
influenced Mrs. Honeychurch greatly--he bent her to their
purpose, "I don't see why Greece is necessary," she said; "but as
you do, I suppose it is all right. It must be something I can't
understand. Lucy! Let's tell her. Lucy!"
"She is playing the piano," Mr. Beebe said. He opened the door,
and heard the words of a song:
"Look not thou on beauty's charming."
"I didn't know that Miss Honeychurch sang, too."
"Sit thou still when kings are arming,
Taste not when the wine-cup glistens--"
"It's a song that Cecil gave her. How odd girls are!"
"What's that?" called Lucy, stopping short.
"All right, dear," said Mrs. Honeychurch kindly. She went into
the drawing-room, and Mr. Beebe heard her kiss Lucy and say: "I
am sorry I was so cross about Greece, but it came on the top of
Rather a hard voice said: "Thank you, mother; that doesn't matter
"And you are right, too--Greece will be all right; you can go if
the Miss Alans will have you."
"Oh, splendid! Oh, thank you!"
Mr. Beebe followed. Lucy still sat at the piano with her hands
over the keys. She was glad, but he had expected greater gladness.
Her mother bent over her. Freddy, to whom she had been singing,
reclined on the floor with his head against her, and an unlit pipe
between his lips. Oddly enough, the group was beautiful. Mr. Beebe,
who loved the art of the past, was reminded of a favourite theme,
the Santa Conversazione, in which people who care for one another
are painted chatting together about noble things--a theme neither
sensual nor sensational, and therefore ignored by the art of
to-day. Why should Lucy want either to marry or to travel when she
had such friends at home?
"Taste not when the wine-cup glistens,
Speak not when the people listens,"
"Here's Mr. Beebe."
"Mr. Beebe knows my rude ways."
"It's a beautiful song and a wise one," said he. "Go on."
"It isn't very good," she said listlessly. "I forget why--harmony
"I suspected it was unscholarly. It's so beautiful."
"The tune's right enough," said Freddy, "but the words are rotten.
Why throw up the sponge?"
"How stupidly you talk!" said his sister. The Santa Conversazione
was broken up. After all, there was no reason that Lucy should
talk about Greece or thank him for persuading her mother, so he
Freddy lit his bicycle lamp for him in the porch, and with his
usual felicity of phrase, said: "This has been a day and a half."
"Stop thine ear against the singer--"
"Wait a minute; she is finishing."
"From the red gold keep thy finger;
Vacant heart and hand and eye
Easy live and quiet die."
"I love weather like this," said Freddy.
Mr. Beebe passed into it.
The two main facts were clear. She had behaved splendidly, and he
had helped her. He could not expect to master the details of so
big a change in a girl's life. If here and there he was
dissatisfied or puzzled, he must acquiesce; she was choosing the
"Vacant heart and hand and eye--"
Perhaps the song stated "the better part" rather too strongly. He
half fancied that the soaring accompaniment--which he did not lose
in the shout of the gale--really agreed with Freddy, and was
gently criticizing the words that it adorned:
"Vacant heart and hand and eye
Easy live and quiet die."
However, for the fourth time Windy Corner lay poised below him--
now as a beacon in the roaring tides of darkness.
Chapter XIX: Lying to Mr. Emerson
The Miss Alans were found in their beloved temperance hotel near
Bloomsbury--a clean, airless establishment much patronized by
provincial England. They always perched there before crossing the
great seas, and for a week or two would fidget gently over
clothes, guide-books, mackintosh squares, digestive bread, and
other Continental necessaries. That there are shops abroad, even
in Athens, never occurred to them, for they regarded travel as a
species of warfare, only to be undertaken by those who have been
fully armed at the Haymarket Stores. Miss Honeychurch, they
trusted, would take care to equip herself duly. Quinine could now
be obtained in tabloids; paper soap was a great help towards
freshening up one's face in the train. Lucy promised, a little
"But, of course, you know all about these things, and you have
Mr. Vyse to help you. A gentleman is such a stand-by."
Mrs. Honeychurch, who had come up to town with her daughter,
began to drum nervously upon her card-case.
"We think it so good of Mr. Vyse to spare you," Miss Catharine
continued. "It is not every young man who would be so unselfish.
But perhaps he will come out and join you later on."
"Or does his work keep him in London?" said Miss Teresa, the more
acute and less kindly of the two sisters.
"However, we shall see him when he sees you off. I do so long to
"No one will see Lucy off," interposed Mrs. Honeychurch. "She
doesn't like it."
"No, I hate seeings-off," said Lucy.
"Really? How funny! I should have thought that in this case--"
"Oh, Mrs. Honeychurch, you aren't going? It is such a pleasure to
have met you!"
They escaped, and Lucy said with relief: "That's all right. We
just got through that time."
But her mother was annoyed. "I should be told, dear, that I am
unsympathetic. But I cannot see why you didn't tell your friends
about Cecil and be done with it. There all the time we had to sit
fencing, and almost telling lies, and be seen through, too, I
dare say, which is most unpleasant."
Lucy had plenty to say in reply. She described the Miss Alans'
character: they were such gossips, and if one told them, the news
would be everywhere in no time.
"But why shouldn't it be everywhere in no time?"
"Because I settled with Cecil not to announce it until I left
England. I shall tell them then. It's much pleasanter. How wet it
is! Let's turn in here."
"Here" was the British Museum. Mrs. Honeychurch refused. If they
must take shelter, let it be in a shop. Lucy felt contemptuous,
for she was on the tack of caring for Greek sculpture, and had
already borrowed a mythical dictionary from Mr. Beebe to get up
the names of the goddesses and gods.
"Oh, well, let it be shop, then. Let's go to Mudie's. I'll buy a
"You know, Lucy, you and Charlotte and Mr. Beebe all tell me I'm
so stupid, so I suppose I am, but I shall never understand this
hole-and-corner work. You've got rid of Cecil--well and good, and
I'm thankful he's gone, though I did feel angry for the minute.
But why not announce it? Why this hushing up and tip-toeing?"
"It's only for a few days."
"But why at all?"
Lucy was silent. She was drifting away from her mother. It was
quite easy to say, "Because George Emerson has been bothering me,
and if he hears I've given up Cecil may begin again"--quite easy,
and it had the incidental advantage of being true. But she could
not say it. She disliked confidences, for they might lead to
self-knowledge and to that king of terrors--Light. Ever since
that last evening at Florence she had deemed it unwise to reveal
Mrs. Honeychurch, too, was silent. She was thinking, "My daughter
won't answer me; she would rather be with those inquisitive old
maids than with Freddy and me. Any rag, tag, and bobtail
apparently does if she can leave her home." And as in her case
thoughts never remained unspoken long, she burst out with:
"You're tired of Windy Corner."
This was perfectly true. Lucy had hoped to return to Windy Corner
when she escaped from Cecil, but she discovered that her home
existed no longer. It might exist for Freddy, who still lived and
thought straight, but not for one who had deliberately warped the
brain. She did not acknowledge that her brain was warped, for the
brain itself must assist in that acknowledgment, and she was
disordering the very instruments of life. She only felt, "I do
not love George; I broke off my engagement because I did not love
George; I must go to Greece because I do not love George; it is
more important that I should look up gods in the dictionary than
that I should help my mother; every one else is behaving very
badly." She only felt irritable and petulant, and anxious to do
what she was not expected to do, and in this spirit she proceeded
with the conversation.
"Oh, mother, what rubbish you talk! Of course I'm not tired of
"Then why not say so at once, instead of considering half an
She laughed faintly, "Half a minute would be nearer."
"Perhaps you would like to stay away from your home altogether?"
"Hush, mother! People will hear you"; for they had entered
Mudie's. She bought Baedeker, and then continued: "Of course I
want to live at home; but as we are talking about it, I may as
well say that I shall want to be away in the future more than I
have been. You see, I come into my money next year."
Tears came into her mother's eyes.
Driven by nameless bewilderment, by what is in older people
termed "eccentricity," Lucy determined to make this point clear.
"I've seen the world so little--I felt so out of things in Italy.
I have seen so little of life; one ought to come up to London
more--not a cheap ticket like to-day, but to stop. I might even
share a flat for a little with some other girl."
"And mess with typewriters and latch-keys," exploded Mrs.
Honeychurch. "And agitate and scream, and be carried off kicking
by the police. And call it a Mission--when no one wants you! And
call it Duty--when it means that you can't stand your own home!
And call it Work--when thousands of men are starving with the
competition as it is! And then to prepare yourself, find two
doddering old ladies, and go abroad with them."
"I want more independence," said Lucy lamely; she knew that she
wanted something, and independence is a useful cry; we can always
say that we have not got it. She tried to remember her emotions
in Florence: those had been sincere and passionate, and had
suggested beauty rather than short skirts and latch-keys. But
independence was certainly her cue.
"Very well. Take your independence and be gone. Rush up and down
and round the world, and come back as thin as a lath with the bad
food. Despise the house that your father built and the garden
that he planted, and our dear view--and then share a flat with
Lucy screwed up her mouth and said: "Perhaps I spoke hastily."
"Oh, goodness!" her mother flashed. "How you do remind me of
"Charlotte!" flashed Lucy in her turn, pierced at last by a vivid
"More every moment."
"I don't know what you mean, mother; Charlotte and I are not the
very least alike."
"Well, I see the likeness. The same eternal worrying, the same
taking back of words. You and Charlotte trying to divide two
apples among three people last night might be sisters."
"What rubbish! And if you dislike Charlotte so, it's rather a
pity you asked her to stop. I warned you about her; I begged you,
implored you not to, but of course it was not listened to."
"There you go."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Charlotte again, my dear; that's all; her very words."
Lucy clenched her teeth. "My point is that you oughtn't to have
asked Charlotte to stop. I wish you would keep to the point." And
the conversation died off into a wrangle.
She and her mother shopped in silence, spoke little in the train,
little again in the carriage, which met them at Dorking Station.
It had poured all day and as they ascended through the deep
Surrey lanes showers of water fell from the over-hanging
beech-trees and rattled on the hood. Lucy complained that the
hood was stuffy. Leaning forward, she looked out into the
steaming dusk, and watched the carriage-lamp pass like a
search-light over mud and leaves, and reveal nothing beautiful.
"The crush when Charlotte gets in will be abominable," she
remarked. For they were to pick up Miss Bartlett at Summer
Street, where she had been dropped as the carriage went down, to
pay a call on Mr. Beebe's old mother. "We shall have to sit three
a side, because the trees drop, and yet it isn't raining. Oh, for
a little air!" Then she listened to the horse's hoofs--"He has
not told--he has not told." That melody was blurred by the soft
road. "CAN'T we have the hood down?" she demanded, and her mother,
with sudden tenderness, said: "Very well, old lady, stop the
horse." And the horse was stopped, and Lucy and Powell wrestled
with the hood, and squirted water down Mrs. Honeychurch's neck.
But now that the hood was down, she did see something that she
would have missed--there were no lights in the windows of Cissie
Villa, and round the garden gate she fancied she saw a padlock.
"Is that house to let again, Powell?" she called.
"Yes, miss," he replied.
"Have they gone?"
"It is too far out of town for the young gentleman, and his
father's rheumatism has come on, so he can't stop on alone, so
they are trying to let furnished," was the answer.
"They have gone, then?"
"Yes, miss, they have gone."
Lucy sank back. The carriage stopped at the Rectory. She got out
to call for Miss Bartlett. So the Emersons had gone, and all this
bother about Greece had been unnecessary. Waste! That word seemed
to sum up the whole of life. Wasted plans, wasted money, wasted
love, and she had wounded her mother. Was it possible that she
had muddled things away? Quite possible. Other people had. When
the maid opened the door, she was unable to speak, and stared
stupidly into the hall.
Miss Bartlett at once came forward, and after a long preamble
asked a great favour: might she go to church? Mr. Beebe and his
mother had already gone, but she had refused to start until she
obtained her hostess's full sanction, for it would mean keeping
the horse waiting a good ten minutes more.
"Certainly," said the hostess wearily. "I forgot it was Friday.
Let's all go. Powell can go round to the stables."
"No church for me, thank you."
A sigh, and they departed. The church was invisible, but up in
the darkness to the left there was a hint of colour. This was a
stained window, through which some feeble light was shining, and
when the door opened Lucy heard Mr. Beebe's voice running through
the litany to a minute congregation. Even their church, built
upon the slope of the hill so artfully, with its beautiful raised
transept and its spire of silvery shingle--even their church had
lost its charm; and the thing one never talked about--religion--
was fading like all the other things.
She followed the maid into the Rectory.
Would she object to sitting in Mr. Beebe's study? There was only
that one fire.
She would not object.
Some one was there already, for Lucy heard the words: "A lady to
Old Mr. Emerson was sitting by the fire, with his foot upon a
"Oh, Miss Honeychurch, that you should come!" he quavered; and
Lucy saw an alteration in him since last Sunday.
Not a word would come to her lips. George she had faced, and
could have faced again, but she had forgotten how to treat his
"Miss Honeychurch, dear, we are so sorry! George is so sorry! He
thought he had a right to try. I cannot blame my boy, and yet I
wish he had told me first. He ought not to have tried. I knew
nothing about it at all."
If only she could remember how to behave!
He held up his hand. "But you must not scold him."
Lucy turned her back, and began to look at Mr. Beebe's books.
"I taught him," he quavered, "to trust in love. I said: 'When
love comes, that is reality.' I said: 'Passion does not blind.
No. Passion is sanity, and the woman you love, she is the only
person you will ever really understand.'" He sighed: "True,
everlastingly true, though my day is over, and though there is
the result. Poor boy! He is so sorry! He said he knew it was
madness when you brought your cousin in; that whatever you felt
you did not mean. Yet"--his voice gathered strength: he spoke
out to make certain--"Miss Honeychurch, do you remember Italy?"
Lucy selected a book--a volume of Old Testament commentaries.
Holding it up to her eyes, she said: "I have no wish to discuss
Italy or any subject connected with your son."
"But you do remember it?"
"He has misbehaved himself from the first."
"I only was told that he loved you last Sunday. I never could
judge behaviour. I--I--suppose he has."
Feeling a little steadier, she put the book back and turned round
to him. His face was drooping and swollen, but his eyes, though
they were sunken deep, gleamed with a child's courage.
"Why, he has behaved abominably," she said. "I am glad he is
sorry. Do you know what he did?"
"Not 'abominably,'" was the gentle correction. "He only tried
when he should not have tried. You have all you want, Miss
Honeychurch: you are going to marry the man you love. Do not go
out of George's life saying he is abominable."
"No, of course," said Lucy, ashamed at the reference to Cecil.
"'Abominable' is much too strong. I am sorry I used it about your
son. I think I will go to church, after all. My mother and my
cousin have gone. I shall not be so very late--"
"Especially as he has gone under," he said quietly.
"What was that?"
"Gone under naturally." He beat his palms together in silence;
his head fell on his chest.
"I don't understand."
"As his mother did."
"But, Mr. Emerson--MR. EMERSON--what are you talking about?"
"When I wouldn't have George baptized," said he.
Lucy was frightened.
"And she agreed that baptism was nothing, but he caught that
fever when he was twelve and she turned round. She thought it a
judgment." He shuddered. "Oh, horrible, when we had given up that
sort of thing and broken away from her parents. Oh, horrible--
worst of all--worse than death, when you have made a little
clearing in the wilderness, planted your little garden, let in
your sunlight, and then the weeds creep in again! A judgment! And
our boy had typhoid because no clergyman had dropped water on him
in church! Is it possible, Miss Honeychurch? Shall we slip back
into the darkness for ever?"
"I don't know," gasped Lucy. "I don't understand this sort of
thing. I was not meant to understand it."
"But Mr. Eager--he came when I was out, and acted according to
his principles. I don't blame him or any one... but by the time
George was well she was ill. He made her think about sin, and she
went under thinking about it."
It was thus that Mr. Emerson had murdered his wife in the sight
"Oh, how terrible!" said Lucy, forgetting her own affairs at
"He was not baptized," said the old man. "I did hold firm." And
he looked with unwavering eyes at the rows of books, as if--at
what cost!--he had won a victory over them. "My boy shall go back
to the earth untouched."
She asked whether young Mr. Emerson was ill.
"Oh--last Sunday." He started into the present. "George last
Sunday--no, not ill: just gone under. He is never ill. But he is
his mother's son. Her eyes were his, and she had that forehead
that I think so beautiful, and he will not think it worth while
to live. It was always touch and go. He will live; but he will
not think it worth while to live. He will never think anything
worth while. You remember that church at Florence?"
Lucy did remember, and how she had suggested that George should
collect postage stamps.
"After you left Florence--horrible. Then we took the house here,
and he goes bathing with your brother, and became better. You saw
"I am so sorry, but it is no good discussing this affair. I am
deeply sorry about it."
"Then there came something about a novel. I didn't follow it at
all; I had to hear so much, and he minded telling me; he finds me
too old. Ah, well, one must have failures. George comes down
to-morrow, and takes me up to his London rooms. He can't bear to
be about here, and I must be where he is."
"Mr. Emerson," cried the girl, "don't leave at least, not on my
account. I am going to Greece. Don't leave your comfortable
It was the first time her voice had been kind and he smiled. "How
good every one is! And look at Mr. Beebe housing me--came over
this morning and heard I was going! Here I am so comfortable with
"Yes, but you won't go back to London. It's absurd."
"I must be with George; I must make him care to live, and down
here he can't. He says the thought of seeing you and of hearing
about you--I am not justifying him: I am only saying what has
"Oh, Mr. Emerson"--she took hold of his hand-- "you mustn't. I've
been bother enough to the world by now. I can't have you moving
out of your house when you like it, and perhaps losing money
through it--all on my account. You must stop! I am just going to
"All the way to Greece?"
Her manner altered.
"So you must stop. You won't talk about this business, I know. I
can trust you both."
"Certainly you can. We either have you in our lives, or leave you
to the life that you have chosen."
"I shouldn't want--"
"I suppose Mr. Vyse is very angry with George? No, it was wrong
of George to try. We have pushed our beliefs too far. I fancy
that we deserve sorrow."
She looked at the books again--black, brown, and that acrid
theological blue. They surrounded the visitors on every side;
they were piled on the tables, they pressed against the very
ceiling. To Lucy who could not see that Mr. Emerson was
profoundly religious, and differed from Mr. Beebe chiefly by his
acknowledgment of passion--it seemed dreadful that the old man
should crawl into such a sanctum, when he was unhappy, and be
dependent on the bounty of a clergyman.
More certain than ever that she was tired, he offered her his
"No, please sit still. I think I will sit in the carriage."
"Miss Honeychurch, you do sound tired."
"Not a bit," said Lucy, with trembling lips.
"But you are, and there's a look of George about you. And what
were you saying about going abroad?"
She was silent.
"Greece"--and she saw that he was thinking the word over--
"Greece; but you were to be married this year, I thought."
"Not till January, it wasn't," said Lucy, clasping her hands.
Would she tell an actual lie when it came to the point?
"I suppose that Mr. Vyse is going with you. I hope--it isn't
because George spoke that you are both going?"
"I hope that you will enjoy Greece with Mr. Vyse."
At that moment Mr. Beebe came back from church. His cassock was
covered with rain. "That's all right," he said kindly. "I counted
on you two keeping each other company. It's pouring again. The
entire congregation, which consists of your cousin, your mother,
and my mother, stands waiting in the church, till the carriage
fetches it. Did Powell go round?"
"I think so; I'll see."
"No--of course, I'll see. How are the Miss Alans?"
"Very well, thank you."
"Did you tell Mr. Emerson about Greece?"
"Don't you think it very plucky of her, Mr. Emerson, to undertake
the two Miss Alans? Now, Miss Honeychurch, go back--keep warm. I
think three is such a courageous number to go travelling." And he
hurried off to the stables.
"He is not going," she said hoarsely. "I made a slip. Mr. Vyse
does stop behind in England."
Somehow it was impossible to cheat this old man. To George, to
Cecil, she would have lied again; but he seemed so near the end
of things, so dignified in his approach to the gulf, of which he
gave one account, and the books that surrounded him another, so
mild to the rough paths that he had traversed, that the true
chivalry--not the worn-out chivalry of sex, but the true chivalry
that all the young may show to all the old--awoke in her, and, at
whatever risk, she told him that Cecil was not her companion to
Greece. And she spoke so seriously that the risk became a
certainty, and he, lifting his eyes, said: "You are leaving him?
You are leaving the man you love?"
"I--I had to."
"Why, Miss Honeychurch, why?"
Terror came over her, and she lied again. She made the long,
convincing speech that she had made to Mr. Beebe, and intended to
make to the world when she announced that her engagement was no
more. He heard her in silence, and then said: "My dear, I am
worried about you. It seems to me"--dreamily; she was not
alarmed--"that you are in a muddle."
She shook her head.
"Take an old man's word; there's nothing worse than a muddle in
all the world. It is easy to face Death and Fate, and the things
that sound so dreadful. It is on my muddles that I look back with
horror--on the things that I might have avoided. We can help one
another but little. I used to think I could teach young people
the whole of life, but I know better now, and all my teaching of
George has come down to this: beware of muddle. Do you remember
in that church, when you pretended to be annoyed with me and
weren't? Do you remember before, when you refused the room with
the view? Those were muddles--little, but ominous--and I am
fearing that you are in one now." She was silent. "Don't trust
me, Miss Honeychurch. Though life is very glorious, it is
difficult." She was still silent. "'Life' wrote a friend of mine,
'is a public performance on the violin, in which you must learn
the instrument as you go along.' I think he puts it well. Man has
to pick up the use of his functions as he goes along--especially
the function of Love." Then he burst out excitedly; "That's it;
that's what I mean. You love George!" And after his long
preamble, the three words burst against Lucy like waves from the
"But you do," he went on, not waiting for contradiction. "You
love the boy body and soul, plainly, directly, as he loves you,
and no other word expresses it. You won't marry the other man for
"How dare you!" gasped Lucy, with the roaring of waters in her
ears. "Oh, how like a man!--I mean, to suppose that a woman is
always thinking about a man."
"But you are."
She summoned physical disgust.
"You're shocked, but I mean to shock you. It's the only hope at
times. I can reach you no other way. You must marry, or your life
will be wasted. You have gone too far to retreat. I have no time
for the tenderness, and the comradeship, and the poetry, and the
things that really matter, and for which you marry. I know that,
with George, you will find them, and that you love him. Then be
his wife. He is already part of you. Though you fly to Greece,
and never see him again, or forget his very name, George will
work in your thoughts till you die. It isn't possible to love and
to part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love,
ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I
know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal."
Lucy began to cry with anger, and though her anger passed away
soon, her tears remained.
"I only wish poets would say this, too: love is of the body; not
the body, but of the body. Ah! the misery that would be saved if
we confessed that! Ah! for a little directness to liberate the
soul! Your soul, dear Lucy! I hate the word now, because of all
the cant with which superstition has wrapped it round. But we
have souls. I cannot say how they came nor whither they go, but
we have them, and I see you ruining yours. I cannot bear it. It
is again the darkness creeping in; it is hell." Then he checked
himself. "What nonsense I have talked--how abstract and remote!
And I have made you cry! Dear girl, forgive my prosiness; marry
my boy. When I think what life is, and how seldom love is
answered by love--Marry him; it is one of the moments for which
the world was made."
She could not understand him; the words were indeed remote. Yet
as he spoke the darkness was withdrawn, veil after veil, and she
saw to the bottom of her soul.
"You've frightened me," she moaned. "Cecil--Mr. Beebe--the
ticket's bought--everything." She fell sobbing into the chair.
"I'm caught in the tangle. I must suffer and grow old away from
him. I cannot break the whole of life for his sake. They trusted
A carriage drew up at the front-door.
"Give George my love--once only. Tell him 'muddle.'" Then she
arranged her veil, while the tears poured over her cheeks inside.
"No--they are in the hall--oh, please not, Mr. Emerson--they trust
"But why should they, when you have deceived them?"
Mr. Beebe opened the door, saying: "Here's my mother."
"You're not worthy of their trust."
"What's that?" said Mr. Beebe sharply.
"I was saying, why should you trust her when she deceived you?"
"One minute, mother." He came in and shut the door.
"I don't follow you, Mr. Emerson. To whom do you refer? Trust
"I mean she has pretended to you that she did not love George.
They have loved one another all along."
Mr. Beebe looked at the sobbing girl. He was very quiet, and his
white face, with its ruddy whiskers, seemed suddenly inhuman. A
long black column, he stood and awaited her reply.
"I shall never marry him," quavered Lucy.
A look of contempt came over him, and he said, "Why not?"
"Mr. Beebe--I have misled you--I have misled myself--"
"Oh, rubbish, Miss Honeychurch!"
"It is not rubbish!" said the old man hotly. "It's the part of
people that you don't understand."
Mr. Beebe laid his hand on the old man's shoulder pleasantly.
"Lucy! Lucy!" called voices from the carriage.
"Mr. Beebe, could you help me?"
He looked amazed at the request, and said in a low, stern voice:
"I am more grieved than I can possibly express. It is lamentable,
"What's wrong with the boy?" fired up the other again.
"Nothing, Mr. Emerson, except that he no longer interests me.
Marry George, Miss Honeychurch. He will do admirably."
He walked out and left them. They heard him guiding his mother
"Lucy!" the voices called.
She turned to Mr. Emerson in despair. But his face revived her. It
was the face of a saint who understood.
"Now it is all dark. Now Beauty and Passion seem never to have
existed. I know. But remember the mountains over Florence and the
view. Ah, dear, if I were George, and gave you one kiss, it would
make you brave. You have to go cold into a battle that needs
warmth, out into the muddle that you have made yourself; and your
mother and all your friends will despise you, oh, my darling, and
rightly, if it is ever right to despise. George still dark, all
the tussle and the misery without a word from him. Am I
justified?" Into his own eyes tears came. "Yes, for we fight for
more than Love or Pleasure; there is Truth. Truth counts, Truth
"You kiss me," said the girl. "You kiss me. I will try."
He gave her a sense of deities reconciled, a feeling that, in
gaining the man she loved, she would gain something for the whole
world. Throughout the squalor of her homeward drive--she spoke at
once--his salutation remained. He had robbed the body of its
taint, the world's taunts of their sting; he had shown her the
holiness of direct desire. She "never exactly understood," she
would say in after years, "how he managed to strengthen her. It
was as if he had made her see the whole of everything at once."
Chapter XX: The End of the Middle Ages
The Miss Alans did go to Greece, but they went by themselves.
They alone of this little company will double Malea and plough
the waters of the Saronic gulf. They alone will visit Athens and
Delphi, and either shrine of intellectual song--that upon the
Acropolis, encircled by blue seas; that under Parnassus, where
the eagles build and the bronze charioteer drives undismayed
towards infinity. Trembling, anxious, cumbered with much
digestive bread, they did proceed to Constantinople, they did go
round the world. The rest of us must be contented with a fair,
but a less arduous, goal. Italiam petimus: we return to the
George said it was his old room.
"No, it isn't," said Lucy; "because it is the room I had, and I
had your father's room. I forget why; Charlotte made me, for some
He knelt on the tiled floor, and laid his face in her lap.
"George, you baby, get up."
"Why shouldn't I be a baby?" murmured George.
Unable to answer this question, she put down his sock, which she
was trying to mend, and gazed out through the window. It was
evening and again the spring.
"Oh, bother Charlotte," she said thoughtfully. "What can such
people be made of?"
"Same stuff as parsons are made of."
"Quite right. It is nonsense."
"Now you get up off the cold floor, or you'll be starting
rheumatism next, and you stop laughing and being so silly."
"Why shouldn't I laugh?" he asked, pinning her with his elbows,
and advancing his face to hers. "What's there to cry at? Kiss me
here." He indicated the spot where a kiss would be welcome.
He was a boy after all. When it came to the point, it was she who
remembered the past, she into whose soul the iron had entered,
she who knew whose room this had been last year. It endeared him
to her strangely that he should be sometimes wrong.
"Any letters?" he asked.
"Just a line from Freddy."
"Now kiss me here; then here."
Then, threatened again with rheumatism, he strolled to the
window, opened it (as the English will), and leant out. There was
the parapet, there the river, there to the left the beginnings of
the hills. The cab-driver, who at once saluted him with the hiss
of a serpent, might be that very Phaethon who had set this
happiness in motion twelve months ago. A passion of gratitude--
all feelings grow to passions in the South--came over the
husband, and he blessed the people and the things who had taken
so much trouble about a young fool. He had helped himself, it is
true, but how stupidly!
All the fighting that mattered had been done by others--by Italy,
by his father, by his wife.
"Lucy, you come and look at the cypresses; and the church,
whatever its name is, still shows."
"San Miniato. I'll just finish your sock."
"Signorino, domani faremo uno giro," called the cabman, with
George told him that he was mistaken; they had no money to throw
away on driving.
And the people who had not meant to help--the Miss Lavishes, the
Cecils, the Miss Bartletts! Ever prone to magnify Fate, George
counted up the forces that had swept him into this contentment.
"Anything good in Freddy's letter?"
His own content was absolute, but hers held bitterness: the
Honeychurches had not forgiven them; they were disgusted at her
past hypocrisy; she had alienated Windy Corner, perhaps for ever.
"What does he say?"
"Silly boy! He thinks he's being dignified. He knew we should go
off in the spring--he has known it for six months--that if mother
wouldn't give her consent we should take the thing into our own
hands. They had fair warning, and now he calls it an elopement.
"Signorino, domani faremo uno giro--"
"But it will all come right in the end. He has to build us both
up from the beginning again. I wish, though, that Cecil had not
turned so cynical about women. He has, for the second time, quite
altered. Why will men have theories about women? I haven't any
about men. I wish, too, that Mr. Beebe--"
"You may well wish that."
"He will never forgive us--I mean, he will never be interested in
us again. I wish that he did not influence them so much at Windy
Corner. I wish he hadn't-- But if we act the truth, the people
who really love us are sure to come back to us in the long run."
"Perhaps." Then he said more gently: "Well, I acted the truth--
the only thing I did do--and you came back to me. So possibly you
know." He turned back into the room. "Nonsense with that sock."
He carried her to the window, so that she, too, saw all the view.
They sank upon their knees, invisible from the road, they hoped,
and began to whisper one another's names. Ah! it was worth while;
it was the great joy that they had expected, and countless little
joys of which they had never dreamt. They were silent.
"Signorino, domani faremo--"
"Oh, bother that man!"
But Lucy remembered the vendor of photographs and said, "No,
don't be rude to him." Then with a catching of her breath, she
murmured: "Mr. Eager and Charlotte, dreadful frozen Charlotte.
How cruel she would be to a man like that!"
"Look at the lights going over the bridge."
"But this room reminds me of Charlotte. How horrible to grow old
in Charlotte's way! To think that evening at the rectory that she
shouldn't have heard your father was in the house. For she would
have stopped me going in, and he was the only person alive who
could have made me see sense. You couldn't have made me. When I
am very happy"--she kissed him--"I remember on how little it all
hangs. If Charlotte had only known, she would have stopped me
going in, and I should have gone to silly Greece, and become
different for ever."
"But she did know," said George; "she did see my father, surely.
He said so."
"Oh, no, she didn't see him. She was upstairs with old Mrs.
Beebe, don't you remember, and then went straight to the church.
She said so."
George was obstinate again. "My father," said he, "saw her, and I
prefer his word. He was dozing by the study fire, and he opened
his eyes, and there was Miss Bartlett. A few minutes before you
came in. She was turning to go as he woke up. He didn't speak to
Then they spoke of other things--the desultory talk of those who
have been fighting to reach one another, and whose reward is to
rest quietly in each other's arms. It was long ere they returned
to Miss Bartlett, but when they did her behaviour seemed more
interesting. George, who disliked any darkness, said: "It's clear
that she knew. Then, why did she risk the meeting? She knew he
was there, and yet she went to church."
They tried to piece the thing together.
As they talked, an incredible solution came into Lucy's mind. She
rejected it, and said: "How like Charlotte to undo her work by a
feeble muddle at the last moment." But something in the dying
evening, in the roar of the river, in their very embrace warned
them that her words fell short of life, and George whispered: "Or
did she mean it?"
"Signorino, domani faremo uno giro--"
Lucy bent forward and said with gentleness: "Lascia, prego,
lascia. Siamo sposati."
"Scusi tanto, signora," he replied in tones as gentle and
whipped up his horse.
"Buona sera--e grazie."
The cabman drove away singing.
"Mean what, George?"
He whispered: "Is it this? Is this possible? I'll put a marvel to
you. That your cousin has always hoped. That from the very first
moment we met, she hoped, far down in her mind, that we should be
like this--of course, very far down. That she fought us on the
surface, and yet she hoped. I can't explain her any other way.
Can you? Look how she kept me alive in you all the summer; how
she gave you no peace; how month after month she became more
eccentric and unreliable. The sight of us haunted her--or she
couldn't have described us as she did to her friend. There are
details--it burnt. I read the book afterwards. She is not frozen,
Lucy, she is not withered up all through. She tore us apart
twice, but in the rectory that evening she was given one more
chance to make us happy. We can never make friends with her or
thank her. But I do believe that, far down in her heart, far
below all speech and behaviour, she is glad."
"It is impossible," murmured Lucy, and then, remembering the
experiences of her own heart, she said: "No--it is just
Youth enwrapped them; the song of Phaethon announced passion
requited, love attained. But they were conscious of a love more
mysterious than this. The song died away; they heard the river,
bearing down the snows of winter into the Mediterranean.