Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster

Part 4 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

after them, easy to transmute or to transfer, but well-nigh
impossible to destroy. And Philip knew that he was still
voyaging on the same magnificent, perilous sea, with the sun
or the clouds above him, and the tides below.

The course of the moment--that, at all events, was
certain. He and no one else must take the news to Gino. It
was easy to talk of Harriet's crime--easy also to blame the
negligent Perfetta or Mrs. Herriton at home. Every one had
contributed--even Miss Abbott and Irma. If one chose, one
might consider the catastrophe composite or the work of
fate. But Philip did not so choose. It was his own fault,
due to acknowledged weakness in his own character.
Therefore he, and no one else, must take the news of it to Gino.

Nothing prevented him. Miss Abbott was engaged with
Harriet, and people had sprung out of the darkness and were
conducting them towards some cottage. Philip had only to
get into the uninjured carriage and order the driver to
return. He was back at Monteriano after a two hours'
absence. Perfetta was in the house now, and greeted him
cheerfully. Pain, physical and mental, had made him
stupid. It was some time before he realized that she had
never missed the child.

Gino was still out. The woman took him to the
reception-room, just as she had taken Miss Abbott in the
morning, and dusted a circle for him on one of the horsehair
chairs. But it was dark now, so she left the guest a little

"I will be as quick as I can," she told him. "But there
are many streets in Monteriano; he is sometimes difficult to
find. I could not find him this morning."

"Go first to the Caffe Garibaldi," said Philip,
remembering that this was the hour appointed by his friends
of yesterday.

He occupied the time he was left alone not in
thinking--there was nothing to think about; he simply had to
tell a few facts--but in trying to make a sling for his
broken arm. The trouble was in the elbow-joint, and as long
as he kept this motionless he could go on as usual. But
inflammation was beginning, and the slightest jar gave him
agony. The sling was not fitted before Gino leapt up the
stairs, crying--

"So you are back! How glad I am! We are all waiting--"

Philip had seen too much to be nervous. In low, even
tones he told what had happened; and the other, also
perfectly calm, heard him to the end. In the silence
Perfetta called up that she had forgotten the baby's evening
milk; she must fetch it. When she had gone Gino took up the
lamp without a word, and they went into the other room.

"My sister is ill," said Philip, "and Miss Abbott is
guiltless. I should be glad if you did not have to trouble them."

Gino had stooped down by the way, and was feeling the
place where his son had lain. Now and then he frowned a
little and glanced at Philip.

"It is through me," he continued. "It happened because
I was cowardly and idle. I have come to know what you will do."

Gino had left the rug, and began to pat the table from
the end, as if he was blind. The action was so uncanny that
Philip was driven to intervene.

"Gently, man, gently; he is not here."

He went up and touched him on the shoulder.

He twitched away, and began to pass his hands over
things more rapidly--over the table, the chairs, the entire
floor, the walls as high as he could reach them. Philip had
not presumed to comfort him. But now the tension was too
great--he tried.

"Break down, Gino; you must break down. Scream and
curse and give in for a little; you must break down."

There was no reply, and no cessation of the sweeping hands.

"It is time to be unhappy. Break down or you will be
ill like my sister. You will go--"

The tour of the room was over. He had touched
everything in it except Philip. Now he approached him. He
face was that of a man who has lost his old reason for life
and seeks a new one.


He stopped for a moment; then he came nearer. Philip
stood his ground.

"You are to do what you like with me, Gino. Your son is
dead, Gino. He died in my arms, remember. It does not
excuse me; but he did die in my arms."

The left hand came forward, slowly this time. It
hovered before Philip like an insect. Then it descended and
gripped him by his broken elbow.

Philip struck out with all the strength of his other
arm. Gino fell to the blow without a cry or a word.

"You brute!" exclaimed the Englishman. "Kill me if you
like! But just you leave my broken arm alone."

Then he was seized with remorse, and knelt beside his
adversary and tried to revive him. He managed to raise him
up, and propped his body against his own. He passed his arm
round him. Again he was filled with pity and tenderness.
He awaited the revival without fear, sure that both of them
were safe at last.

Gino recovered suddenly. His lips moved. For one
blessed moment it seemed that he was going to speak. But he
scrambled up in silence, remembering everything, and he made
not towards Philip, but towards the lamp.

"Do what you like; but think first--"

The lamp was tossed across the room, out through the
loggia. It broke against one of the trees below. Philip
began to cry out in the dark.

Gino approached from behind and gave him a sharp pinch.
Philip spun round with a yell. He had only been pinched on
the back, but he knew what was in store for him. He struck
out, exhorting the devil to fight him, to kill him, to do
anything but this. Then he stumbled to the door. It was
open. He lost his head, and, instead of turning down the
stairs, he ran across the landing into the room opposite.
There he lay down on the floor between the stove and the

His senses grew sharper. He could hear Gino coming in
on tiptoe. He even knew what was passing in his mind, how
now he was at fault, now he was hopeful, now he was
wondering whether after all the victim had not escaped down
the stairs. There was a quick swoop above him, and then a
low growl like a dog's. Gino had broken his finger-nails
against the stove.

Physical pain is almost too terrible to bear. We can
just bear it when it comes by accident or for our good--as it
generally does in modem life--except at school. But when it
is caused by the malignity of a man, full grown, fashioned
like ourselves, all our control disappears. Philip's one
thought was to get away from that room at whatever sacrifice
of nobility or pride.

Gino was now at the further end of the room, groping by
the little tables. Suddenly the instinct came to him. He
crawled quickly to where Philip lay and had him clean by the

The whole arm seemed red-hot, and the broken bone grated
in the joint, sending out shoots of the essence of pain.
His other arm was pinioned against the wall, and Gino had
trampled in behind the stove and was kneeling on his legs.
For the space of a minute he yelled and yelled with all the
force of his lungs. Then this solace was denied him. The
other hand, moist and strong, began to close round his throat.

At first he was glad, for here, he thought, was death at
last. But it was only a new torture; perhaps Gino inherited
the skill of his ancestors--and childlike ruffians who flung
each other from the towers. Just as the windpipe closed,
the hand fell off, and Philip was revived by the motion of
his arm. And just as he was about to faint and gain at last
one moment of oblivion, the motion stopped, and he would
struggle instead against the pressure on his throat.

Vivid pictures were dancing through the pain--Lilia dying
some months back in this very house, Miss Abbott bending
over the baby, his mother at home, now reading evening
prayers to the servants. He felt that he was growing
weaker; his brain wandered; the agony did not seem so
great. Not all Gino's care could indefinitely postpone the
end. His yells and gurgles became mechanical--functions of
the tortured flesh rather than true notes of indignation and
despair. He was conscious of a horrid tumbling. Then his
arm was pulled a little too roughly, and everything was
quiet at last.

"But your son is dead, Gino. Your son is dead, dear
Gino. Your son is dead."

The room was full of light, and Miss Abbott had Gino by
the shoulders, holding him down in a chair. She was
exhausted with the struggle, and her arms were trembling.

"What is the good of another death? What is the good of
more pain?"

He too began to tremble. Then he turned and looked
curiously at Philip, whose face, covered with dust and foam,
was visible by the stove. Miss Abbott allowed him to get
up, though she still held him firmly. He gave a loud and
curious cry--a cry of interrogation it might be called.
Below there was the noise of Perfetta returning with the
baby's milk.

"Go to him," said Miss Abbott, indicating Philip. "Pick
him up. Treat him kindly."

She released him, and he approached Philip slowly. His
eyes were filling with trouble. He bent down, as if he
would gently raise him up.

"Help! help!" moaned Philip. His body had suffered too
much from Gino. It could not bear to be touched by him.

Gino seemed to understand. He stopped, crouched above
him. Miss Abbott herself came forward and lifted her friend
in her arms.

"Oh, the foul devil!" he murmured. "Kill him! Kill him
for me."

Miss Abbott laid him tenderly on the couch and wiped his
face. Then she said gravely to them both, "This thing stops

"Latte! latte!" cried Perfetta, hilariously ascending
the stairs.

"Remember," she continued, "there is to be no revenge.
I will have no more intentional evil. We are not to fight
with each other any more."

"I shall never forgive him," sighed Philip.

"Latte! latte freschissima! bianca come neve!"
Perfetta came in with another lamp and a little jug.

Gino spoke for the first time. "Put the milk on the
table," he said. "It will not be wanted in the other
room." The peril was over at last. A great sob shook the
whole body, another followed, and then he gave a piercing
cry of woe, and stumbled towards Miss Abbott like a child
and clung to her.

All through the day Miss Abbott had seemed to Philip
like a goddess, and more than ever did she seem so now.
Many people look younger and more intimate during great
emotion. But some there are who look older, and remote, and
he could not think that there was little difference in
years, and none in composition, between her and the man
whose head was laid upon her breast. Her eyes were open,
full of infinite pity and full of majesty, as if they
discerned the boundaries of sorrow, and saw unimaginable
tracts beyond. Such eyes he had seen in great pictures but
never in a mortal. Her hands were folded round the
sufferer, stroking him lightly, for even a goddess can do no
more than that. And it seemed fitting, too, that she should
bend her head and touch his forehead with her lips.

Philip looked away, as he sometimes looked away from the
great pictures where visible forms suddenly become
inadequate for the things they have shown to us. He was
happy; he was assured that there was greatness in the
world. There came to him an earnest desire to be good
through the example of this good woman. He would try
henceforward to be worthy of the things she had revealed.
Quietly, without hysterical prayers or banging of drums, he
underwent conversion. He was saved.

"That milk," said she, "need not be wasted. Take it,
Signor Carella, and persuade Mr. Herriton to drink."

Gino obeyed her, and carried the child's milk to
Philip. And Philip obeyed also and drank.

"Is there any left?"

"A little," answered Gino.

"Then finish it." For she was determined to use such
remnants as lie about the world.

"Will you not have some?"

"I do not care for milk; finish it all."

"Philip, have you had enough milk?"

"Yes, thank you, Gino; finish it all."

He drank the milk, and then, either by accident or in
some spasm of pain, broke the jug to pieces. Perfetta
exclaimed in bewilderment. "It does not matter," he told
her. "It does not matter. It will never be wanted any

Chapter 10

"He will have to marry her," said Philip. "I heard from him
this morning, just as we left Milan. He finds he has gone
too far to back out. It would be expensive. I don't know
how much he minds--not as much as we suppose, I think. At
all events there's not a word of blame in the letter. I
don't believe he even feels angry. I never was so
completely forgiven. Ever since you stopped him killing me,
it has been a vision of perfect friendship. He nursed me,
he lied for me at the inquest, and at the funeral, though he
was crying, you would have thought it was my son who had
died. Certainly I was the only person he had to be kind to;
he was so distressed not to make Harriet's acquaintance, and
that he scarcely saw anything of you. In his letter he says
so again."

"Thank him, please, when you write," said Miss Abbott,
"and give him my kindest regards."

"Indeed I will." He was surprised that she could slide
away from the man so easily. For his own part, he was bound
by ties of almost alarming intimacy. Gino had the southern
knack of friendship. In the intervals of business he would
pull out Philip's life, turn it inside out, remodel it, and
advise him how to use it for the best. The sensation was
pleasant, for he was a kind as well as a skilful operator.
But Philip came away feeling that he had not a secret corner
left. In that very letter Gino had again implored him, as a
refuge from domestic difficulties, "to marry Miss Abbott,
even if her dowry is small." And how Miss Abbott herself,
after such tragic intercourse, could resume the conventions
and send calm messages of esteem, was more than he could

"When will you see him again?" she asked. They were
standing together in the corridor of the train, slowly
ascending out of Italy towards the San Gothard tunnel.

"I hope next spring. Perhaps we shall paint Siena red
for a day or two with some of the new wife's money. It was
one of the arguments for marrying her."

"He has no heart," she said severely. "He does not
really mind about the child at all."

"No; you're wrong. He does. He is unhappy, like the
rest of us. But he doesn't try to keep up appearances as we
do. He knows that the things that have made him happy once
will probably make him happy again--"

"He said he would never be happy again."

"In his passion. Not when he was calm. We English say
it when we are calm--when we do not really believe it any
longer. Gino is not ashamed of inconsistency. It is one of
the many things I like him for.

"Yes; I was wrong. That is so."

"He's much more honest with himself than I am,"
continued Philip, "and he is honest without an effort and
without pride. But you, Miss Abbott, what about you? Will
you be in Italy next spring?"


"I'm sorry. When will you come back, do you think?"

"I think never."

"For whatever reason?" He stared at her as if she were
some monstrosity.

"Because I understand the place. There is no need."

"Understand Italy!" he exclaimed.


"Well, I don't. And I don't understand you," he
murmured to himself, as he paced away from her up the
corridor. By this time he loved her very much, and he could
not bear to be puzzled. He had reached love by the
spiritual path: her thoughts and her goodness and her
nobility had moved him first, and now her whole body and all
its gestures had become transfigured by them. The beauties
that are called obvious--the beauties of her hair and her
voice and her limbs--he had noticed these last; Gino, who
never traversed any path at all, had commended them
dispassionately to his friend.

Why was he so puzzling? He had known so much about her
once--what she thought, how she felt, the reasons for her
actions. And now he only knew that he loved her, and all
the other knowledge seemed passing from him just as he
needed it most. Why would she never come to Italy again?
Why had she avoided himself and Gino ever since the evening
that she had saved their lives? The train was nearly
empty. Harriet slumbered in a compartment by herself. He
must ask her these questions now, and he returned quickly to
her down the corridor.

She greeted him with a question of her own. "Are your
plans decided?"

"Yes. I can't live at Sawston."

"Have you told Mrs. Herriton?"

"I wrote from Monteriano. I tried to explain things;
but she will never understand me. Her view will be that the
affair is settled--sadly settled since the baby is dead.
Still it's over; our family circle need be vexed no more.
She won't even be angry with you. You see, you have done us
no harm in the long run. Unless, of course, you talk about
Harriet and make a scandal. So that is my plan--London and
work. What is yours?"

"Poor Harriet!" said Miss Abbott. "As if I dare judge
Harriet! Or anybody." And without replying to Philip's
question she left him to visit the other invalid.

Philip gazed after her mournfully, and then he looked
mournfully out of the window at the decreasing streams. All
the excitement was over--the inquest, Harriet's short
illness, his own visit to the surgeon. He was convalescent,
both in body and spirit, but convalescence brought no joy.
In the looking-glass at the end of the corridor he saw his
face haggard, and his shoulders pulled forward by the weight
of the sling. Life was greater than he had supposed, but it
was even less complete. He had seen the need for strenuous
work and for righteousness. And now he saw what a very
little way those things would go.

"Is Harriet going to be all right?" he asked. Miss
Abbott had come back to him.

"She will soon be her old self," was the reply. For
Harriet, after a short paroxysm of illness and remorse, was
quickly returning to her normal state. She had been
"thoroughly upset" as she phrased it, but she soon ceased to
realize that anything was wrong beyond the death of a poor
little child. Already she spoke of "this unlucky accident,"
and "the mysterious frustration of one's attempts to make
things better." Miss Abbott had seen that she was
comfortable, and had given her a kind kiss. But she
returned feeling that Harriet, like her mother, considered
the affair as settled.

"I'm clear enough about Harriet's future, and about
parts of my own. But I ask again, What about yours?"

"Sawston and work," said Miss Abbott.


"Why not?" she asked, smiling.

"You've seen too much. You've seen as much and done
more than I have."

"But it's so different. Of course I shall go to
Sawston. You forget my father; and even if he wasn't there,
I've a hundred ties: my district--I'm neglecting it
shamefully--my evening classes, the St. James'--"

"Silly nonsense!" he exploded, suddenly moved to have
the whole thing out with her. "You're too good--about a
thousand times better than I am. You can't live in that
hole; you must go among people who can hope to understand
you. I mind for myself. I want to see you often--again
and again."

"Of course we shall meet whenever you come down; and I
hope that it will mean often."

"It's not enough; it'll only be in the old horrible way,
each with a dozen relatives round us. No, Miss Abbott; it's
not good enough."

"We can write at all events."

"You will write?" he cried, with a flush of pleasure.
At times his hopes seemed so solid.

"I will indeed."

"But I say it's not enough--you can't go back to the old
life if you wanted to. Too much has happened.

"I know that," she said sadly.

"Not only pain and sorrow, but wonderful things: that
tower in the sunlight--do you remember it, and all you said
to me? The theatre, even. And the next day--in the church;
and our times with Gino."

"All the wonderful things are over," she said. "That is
just where it is."

"I don't believe it. At all events not for me. The
most wonderful things may be to come--"

"The wonderful things are over," she repeated, and
looked at him so mournfully that he dare not contradict
her. The train was crawling up the last ascent towards the
Campanile of Airolo and the entrance of the tunnel.

"Miss Abbott," he murmured, speaking quickly, as if
their free intercourse might soon be ended, "what is the
matter with you? I thought I understood you, and I don't.
All those two great first days at Monteriano I read you as
clearly as you read me still. I saw why you had come, and
why you changed sides, and afterwards I saw your wonderful
courage and pity. And now you're frank with me one moment,
as you used to be, and the next moment you shut me up. You
see I owe too much to you--my life, and I don't know what
besides. I won't stand it. You've gone too far to turn
mysterious. I'll quote what you said to me: 'Don't be
mysterious; there isn't the time.' I'll quote something
else: 'I and my life must be where I live.' You can't live
at Sawston."

He had moved her at last. She whispered to herself
hurriedly. "It is tempting--" And those three words threw
him into a tumult of joy. What was tempting to her? After
all was the greatest of things possible? Perhaps, after
long estrangement, after much tragedy, the South had brought
them together in the end. That laughter in the theatre,
those silver stars in the purple sky, even the violets of a
departed spring, all had helped, and sorrow had helped also,
and so had tenderness to others.

"It is tempting," she repeated, "not to be mysterious.
I've wanted often to tell you, and then been afraid. I
could never tell any one else, certainly no woman, and I
think you're the one man who might understand and not be

"Are you lonely?" he whispered. "Is it anything like that?"

"Yes." The train seemed to shake him towards her. He
was resolved that though a dozen people were looking, he
would yet take her in his arms. "I'm terribly lonely, or I
wouldn't speak. I think you must know already." Their
faces were crimson, as if the same thought was surging
through them both.

"Perhaps I do." He came close to her. "Perhaps I could
speak instead. But if you will say the word plainly you'll
never be sorry; I will thank you for it all my life."

She said plainly, "That I love him." Then she broke
down. Her body was shaken with sobs, and lest there should
be any doubt she cried between the sobs for Gino! Gino! Gino!

He heard himself remark "Rather! I love him too! When
I can forget how he hurt me that evening. Though whenever
we shake hands--" One of them must have moved a step or two,
for when she spoke again she was already a little way apart.

"You've upset me." She stifled something that was
perilously near hysterics. "I thought I was past all this.
You're taking it wrongly. I'm in love with Gino--don't pass
it off--I mean it crudely--you know what I mean. So laugh at me."

"Laugh at love?" asked Philip.

"Yes. Pull it to pieces. Tell me I'm a fool or
worse--that he's a cad. Say all you said when Lilia fell in
love with him. That's the help I want. I dare tell you
this because I like you--and because you're without passion;
you look on life as a spectacle; you don't enter it; you
only find it funny or beautiful. So I can trust you to cure
me. Mr. Herriton, isn't it funny?" She tried to laugh
herself, but became frightened and had to stop. "He's not a
gentleman, nor a Christian, nor good in any way. He's never
flattered me nor honoured me. But because he's handsome,
that's been enough. The son of an Italian dentist, with a
pretty face." She repeated the phrase as if it was a charm
against passion. "Oh, Mr. Herriton, isn't it funny!" Then,
to his relief, she began to cry. "I love him, and I'm not
ashamed of it. I love him, and I'm going to Sawston, and if
I mayn't speak about him to you sometimes, I shall die."

In that terrible discovery Philip managed to think not
of himself but of her. He did not lament. He did not even
speak to her kindly, for he saw that she could not stand
it. A flippant reply was what she asked and
needed--something flippant and a little cynical. And indeed
it was the only reply he could trust himself to make.

"Perhaps it is what the books call 'a passing fancy'?"

She shook her head. Even this question was too
pathetic. For as far as she knew anything about herself,
she knew that her passions, once aroused, were sure. "If I
saw him often," she said, "I might remember what he is
like. Or he might grow old. But I dare not risk it, so
nothing can alter me now."

"Well, if the fancy does pass, let me know." After all,
he could say what he wanted.

"Oh, you shall know quick enough--"

"But before you retire to Sawston--are you so mighty sure?"

"What of?" She had stopped crying. He was treating her
exactly as she had hoped.

"That you and he--" He smiled bitterly at the thought of
them together. Here was the cruel antique malice of the
gods, such as they once sent forth against Pasiphae.
Centuries of aspiration and culture--and the world could not
escape it. "I was going to say--whatever have you got in

"Nothing except the times we have seen each other."
Again her face was crimson. He turned his own face away.

"Which--which times?"

"The time I thought you weak and heedless, and went
instead of you to get the baby. That began it, as far as I
know the beginning. Or it may have begun when you took us
to the theatre, and I saw him mixed up with music and
light. But didn't understand till the morning. Then you
opened the door--and I knew why I had been so happy.
Afterwards, in the church, I prayed for us all; not for
anything new, but that we might just be as we were--he with
the child he loved, you and I and Harriet safe out of the
place--and that I might never see him or speak to him again.
I could have pulled through then--the thing was only coming
near, like a wreath of smoke; it hadn't wrapped me round."

"But through my fault," said Philip solemnly, "he is
parted from the child he loves. And because my life was in
danger you came and saw him and spoke to him again." For
the thing was even greater than she imagined. Nobody but
himself would ever see round it now. And to see round it he
was standing at an immense distance. He could even be glad
that she had once held the beloved in her arms.

"Don't talk of 'faults.' You're my friend for ever, Mr.
Herriton, I think. Only don't be charitable and shift or
take the blame. Get over supposing I'm refined. That's
what puzzles you. Get over that."

As he spoke she seemed to be transfigured, and to have
indeed no part with refinement or unrefinement any longer.
Out of this wreck there was revealed to him something
indestructible--something which she, who had given it, could
never take away.

"I say again, don't be charitable. If he had asked me,
I might have given myself body and soul. That would have
been the end of my rescue party. But all through he took me
for a superior being--a goddess. I who was worshipping every
inch of him, and every word he spoke. And that saved me."

Philip's eyes were fixed on the Campanile of Airolo.
But he saw instead the fair myth of Endymion. This woman
was a goddess to the end. For her no love could be
degrading: she stood outside all degradation. This episode,
which she thought so sordid, and which was so tragic for
him, remained supremely beautiful. To such a height was he
lifted, that without regret he could now have told her that
he was her worshipper too. But what was the use of telling
her? For all the wonderful things had happened.

"Thank you," was all that he permitted himself. "Thank
you for everything."

She looked at him with great friendliness, for he had
made her life endurable. At that moment the train entered
the San Gothard tunnel. They hurried back to the carriage
to close the windows lest the smuts should get into
Harriet's eyes.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest