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chapter viii: medieval the drawing-room curtains at windy cornerhad been pulled to meet, for the carpet was new and deserved protection from the augustsun. they were heavy curtains, reaching almostto the ground, and the light that filtered through them was subdued and varied. a poet--none was present--might havequoted, "life like a dome of many coloured glass," or might have compared the curtainsto sluice-gates, lowered against the intolerable tides of heaven. without was poured a sea of radiance;within, the glory, though visible, was
tempered to the capacities of man.two pleasant people sat in the room. one--a boy of nineteen--was studying asmall manual of anatomy, and peering occasionally at a bone which lay upon thepiano. from time to time he bounced in his chairand puffed and groaned, for the day was hot and the print small, and the human framefearfully made; and his mother, who was writing a letter, did continually read outto him what she had written. and continually did she rise from her seatand part the curtains so that a rivulet of light fell across the carpet, and make theremark that they were still there. "where aren't they?" said the boy, who wasfreddy, lucy's brother.
"i tell you i'm getting fairly sick." "for goodness' sake go out of my drawing-room, then?" cried mrs. honeychurch, who hoped to cure her children of slang bytaking it literally. freddy did not move or reply. "i think things are coming to a head," sheobserved, rather wanting her son's opinion on the situation if she could obtain itwithout undue supplication. "time they did." "i am glad that cecil is asking her thisonce more." "it's his third go, isn't it?""freddy i do call the way you talk unkind."
"i didn't mean to be unkind." then he added: "but i do think lucy mighthave got this off her chest in italy. i don't know how girls manage things, butshe can't have said 'no' properly before, or she wouldn't have to say it again now. over the whole thing--i can't explain--i dofeel so uncomfortable." "do you indeed, dear?how interesting!" "i feel--never mind." he returned to his work."just listen to what i have written to mrs. vyse.i said: 'dear mrs. vyse.'"
"yes, mother, you told me. a jolly good letter.""i said: 'dear mrs. vyse, cecil has just asked my permission about it, and i shouldbe delighted, if lucy wishes it. but--'" she stopped reading, "i was ratheramused at cecil asking my permission at all. he has always gone in forunconventionality, and parents nowhere, and so forth.when it comes to the point, he can't get on without me." "nor me.""you?"
freddy nodded."what do you mean?" "he asked me for my permission also." she exclaimed: "how very odd of him!""why so?" asked the son and heir. "why shouldn't my permission be asked?""what do you know about lucy or girls or anything? what ever did you say?""i said to cecil, 'take her or leave her; it's no business of mine!'""what a helpful answer!" but her own answer, though more normal inits wording, had been to the same effect. "the bother is this," began freddy.then he took up his work again, too shy to
say what the bother was. mrs. honeychurch went back to the window."freddy, you must come. there they still are!""i don't see you ought to go peeping like that." "peeping like that!can't i look out of my own window?" but she returned to the writing-table,observing, as she passed her son, "still page 322?" freddy snorted, and turned over two leaves.for a brief space they were silent. close by, beyond the curtains, the gentlemurmur of a long conversation had never
ceased. "the bother is this: i have put my foot init with cecil most awfully." he gave a nervous gulp. "not content with 'permission', which i didgive--that is to say, i said, 'i don't mind'--well, not content with that, hewanted to know whether i wasn't off my head with joy. he practically put it like this: wasn't ita splendid thing for lucy and for windy corner generally if he married her?and he would have an answer--he said it would strengthen his hand."
"i hope you gave a careful answer, dear.""i answered 'no'" said the boy, grinding his teeth."there! fly into a stew! i can't help it--had to say it.i had to say no. he ought never to have asked me.""ridiculous child!" cried his mother. "you think you're so holy and truthful, butreally it's only abominable conceit. do you suppose that a man like cecil wouldtake the slightest notice of anything you say? i hope he boxed your ears.how dare you say no?"
"oh, do keep quiet, mother!i had to say no when i couldn't say yes. i tried to laugh as if i didn't mean what isaid, and, as cecil laughed too, and went away, it may be all right.but i feel my foot's in it. oh, do keep quiet, though, and let a man dosome work." "no," said mrs. honeychurch, with the airof one who has considered the subject, "i shall not keep quiet. you know all that has passed between themin rome; you know why he is down here, and yet you deliberately insult him, and try toturn him out of my house." "not a bit!" he pleaded.
"i only let out i didn't like him.i don't hate him, but i don't like him. what i mind is that he'll tell lucy."he glanced at the curtains dismally. "well, i like him," said mrs. honeychurch. "i know his mother; he's good, he's clever,he's rich, he's well connected--oh, you needn't kick the piano!he's well connected--i'll say it again if you like: he's well connected." she paused, as if rehearsing her eulogy,but her face remained dissatisfied. she added: "and he has beautiful manners.""i liked him till just now. i suppose it's having him spoiling lucy'sfirst week at home; and it's also something
that mr. beebe said, not knowing.""mr. beebe?" said his mother, trying to conceal her interest. "i don't see how mr. beebe comes in.""you know mr. beebe's funny way, when you never quite know what he means.he said: 'mr. vyse is an ideal bachelor.' i was very cute, i asked him what he meant. he said 'oh, he's like me--betterdetached.' i couldn't make him say any more, but itset me thinking. since cecil has come after lucy he hasn'tbeen so pleasant, at least--i can't explain.""you never can, dear.
but i can. you are jealous of cecil because he maystop lucy knitting you silk ties." the explanation seemed plausible, andfreddy tried to accept it. but at the back of his brain there lurked adim mistrust. cecil praised one too much for beingathletic. was that it? cecil made one talk in one's own way.this tired one. was that it?and cecil was the kind of fellow who would never wear another fellow's cap.
unaware of his own profundity, freddychecked himself. he must be jealous, or he would not dislikea man for such foolish reasons. "will this do?" called his mother. "'dear mrs. vyse,--cecil has just asked mypermission about it, and i should be delighted if lucy wishes it.'then i put in at the top, 'and i have told lucy so.' i must write the letter out again--'and ihave told lucy so. but lucy seems very uncertain, and in thesedays young people must decide for themselves.'
i said that because i didn't want mrs. vyseto think us old-fashioned. she goes in for lectures and improving hermind, and all the time a thick layer of flue under the beds, and the maid's dirtythumb-marks where you turn on the electric light. she keeps that flat abominably--""suppose lucy marries cecil, would she live in a flat, or in the country?""don't interrupt so foolishly. where was i? oh yes--'young people must decide forthemselves. i know that lucy likes your son, becauseshe tells me everything, and she wrote to
me from rome when he asked her first.' no, i'll cross that last bit out--it lookspatronizing. i'll stop at 'because she tells meeverything.' or shall i cross that out, too?" "cross it out, too," said freddy.mrs. honeychurch left it in. "then the whole thing runs: 'dear mrs.vyse.--cecil has just asked my permission about it, and i should be delighted if lucywishes it, and i have told lucy so. themselves.i know that lucy likes your son, because she tells me everything.
but i do not know--'""look out!" cried freddy. the curtains parted.cecil's first movement was one of irritation. he couldn't bear the honeychurch habit ofsitting in the dark to save the furniture. instinctively he give the curtains atwitch, and sent them swinging down their poles. light entered.there was revealed a terrace, such as is owned by many villas with trees each sideof it, and on it a little rustic seat, and two flower-beds.
but it was transfigured by the view beyond,for windy corner was built on the range that overlooks the sussex weald. lucy, who was in the little seat, seemed onthe edge of a green magic carpet which hovered in the air above the tremulousworld. cecil entered. appearing thus late in the story, cecilmust be at once described. he was medieval.like a gothic statue. tall and refined, with shoulders thatseemed braced square by an effort of the will, and a head that was tilted a littlehigher than the usual level of vision, he
resembled those fastidious saints who guardthe portals of a french cathedral. well educated, well endowed, and notdeficient physically, he remained in the grip of a certain devil whom the modernworld knows as self-consciousness, and whom the medieval, with dimmer vision,worshipped as asceticism. a gothic statue implies celibacy, just as agreek statue implies fruition, and perhaps this was what mr. beebe meant. and freddy, who ignored history and art,perhaps meant the same when he failed to imagine cecil wearing another fellow's cap. mrs. honeychurch left her letter on thewriting table and moved towards her young
acquaintance."oh, cecil!" she exclaimed--"oh, cecil, do tell me!" "i promessi sposi," said he.they stared at him anxiously. "she has accepted me," he said, and thesound of the thing in english made him flush and smile with pleasure, and lookmore human. "i am so glad," said mrs. honeychurch,while freddy proffered a hand that was yellow with chemicals. they wished that they also knew italian,for our phrases of approval and of amazement are so connected with littleoccasions that we fear to use them on great
ones. we are obliged to become vaguely poetic, orto take refuge in scriptural reminiscences. "welcome as one of the family!" said mrs.honeychurch, waving her hand at the furniture. "this is indeed a joyous day!i feel sure that you will make our dear lucy happy.""i hope so," replied the young man, shifting his eyes to the ceiling. "we mothers--" simpered mrs. honeychurch,and then realized that she was affected, sentimental, bombastic--all the things shehated most.
why could she not be freddy, who stoodstiff in the middle of the room; looking very cross and almost handsome?"i say, lucy!" called cecil, for conversation seemed to flag. lucy rose from the seat.she moved across the lawn and smiled in at them, just as if she was going to ask themto play tennis. then she saw her brother's face. her lips parted, and she took him in herarms. he said, "steady on!""not a kiss for me?" asked her mother. lucy kissed her also.
"would you take them into the garden andtell mrs. honeychurch all about it?" cecil suggested."and i'd stop here and tell my mother." "we go with lucy?" said freddy, as iftaking orders. "yes, you go with lucy."they passed into the sunlight. cecil watched them cross the terrace, anddescend out of sight by the steps. they would descend--he knew their ways--past the shrubbery, and past the tennis- lawn and the dahlia-bed, until they reachedthe kitchen garden, and there, in the presence of the potatoes and the peas, thegreat event would be discussed. smiling indulgently, he lit a cigarette,and rehearsed the events that had led to
such a happy conclusion. he had known lucy for several years, butonly as a commonplace girl who happened to be musical. he could still remember his depression thatafternoon at rome, when she and her terrible cousin fell on him out of theblue, and demanded to be taken to st. peter's. that day she had seemed a typical tourist--shrill, crude, and gaunt with travel. but italy worked some marvel in her.it gave her light, and--which he held more precious--it gave her shadow.
soon he detected in her a wonderfulreticence. she was like a woman of leonardo davinci's, whom we love not so much for herself as for the things that she will nottell us, the things are assuredly not of this life; no woman of leonardo's couldhave anything so vulgar as a "story." she did develop most wonderfully day byday. so it happened that from patronizingcivility he had slowly passed if not to passion, at least to a profound uneasiness.already at rome he had hinted to her that they might be suitable for each other. it had touched him greatly that she had notbroken away at the suggestion.
her refusal had been clear and gentle;after it--as the horrid phrase went--she had been exactly the same to him as before. three months later, on the margin of italy,among the flower-clad alps, he had asked her again in bald, traditional language. she reminded him of a leonardo more thanever; her sunburnt features were shadowed by fantastic rock; at his words she hadturned and stood between him and the light with immeasurable plains behind her. he walked home with her unashamed, feelingnot at all like a rejected suitor. the things that really mattered wereunshaken.
so now he had asked her once more, and,clear and gentle as ever, she had accepted him, giving no coy reasons for her delay,but simply saying that she loved him and would do her best to make him happy. his mother, too, would be pleased; she hadcounselled the step; he must write her a long account. glancing at his hand, in case any offreddy's chemicals had come off on it, he moved to the writing table.there he saw "dear mrs. vyse," followed by many erasures. he recoiled without reading any more, andafter a little hesitation sat down
elsewhere, and pencilled a note on hisknee. then he lit another cigarette, which didnot seem quite as divine as the first, and considered what might be done to make windycorner drawing-room more distinctive. with that outlook it should have been asuccessful room, but the trail of tottenham court road was upon it; he could almostvisualize the motor-vans of messrs. shoolbred and messrs. maple arriving at the door and depositingthis chair, those varnished book-cases, that writing-table.the table recalled mrs. honeychurch's letter.
he did not want to read that letter--histemptations never lay in that direction; but he worried about it none the less. it was his own fault that she wasdiscussing him with his mother; he had wanted her support in his third attempt towin lucy; he wanted to feel that others, no matter who they were, agreed with him, andso he had asked their permission. mrs. honeychurch had been civil, but obtusein essentials, while as for freddy--"he is only a boy," he reflected. "i represent all that he despises.why should he want me for a brother-in- law?"
the honeychurches were a worthy family, buthe began to realize that lucy was of another clay; and perhaps--he did not putit very definitely--he ought to introduce her into more congenial circles as soon aspossible. "mr. beebe!" said the maid, and the newrector of summer street was shown in; he had at once started on friendly relations,owing to lucy's praise of him in her letters from florence. cecil greeted him rather critically."i've come for tea, mr. vyse. do you suppose that i shall get it?""i should say so. food is the thing one does get here--don'tsit in that chair; young honeychurch has
left a bone in it.""pfui!" "i know," said cecil. "i know.i can't think why mrs. honeychurch allows it." for cecil considered the bone and themaples' furniture separately; he did not realize that, taken together, they kindledthe room into the life that he desired. "i've come for tea and for gossip. isn't this news?""news? i don't understand you," said cecil."news?"
mr. beebe, whose news was of a verydifferent nature, prattled forward. "i met sir harry otway as i came up; i haveevery reason to hope that i am first in the field. he has bought cissie and albert from mr.flack!" "has he indeed?" said cecil, trying torecover himself. into what a grotesque mistake had hefallen! was it likely that a clergyman and agentleman would refer to his engagement in a manner so flippant? but his stiffness remained, and, though heasked who cissie and albert might be, he
still thought mr. beebe rather a bounder."unpardonable question! to have stopped a week at windy corner andnot to have met cissie and albert, the semi-detached villas that have been run upopposite the church! i'll set mrs. honeychurch after you." "i'm shockingly stupid over local affairs,"said the young man languidly. "i can't even remember the differencebetween a parish council and a local government board. perhaps there is no difference, or perhapsthose aren't the right names. i only go into the country to see myfriends and to enjoy the scenery.
it is very remiss of me. italy and london are the only places wherei don't feel to exist on sufferance." mr. beebe, distressed at this heavyreception of cissie and albert, determined to shift the subject. "let me see, mr. vyse--i forget--what isyour profession?" "i have no profession," said cecil."it is another example of my decadence. my attitude quite an indefensible one--isthat so long as i am no trouble to any one i have a right to do as i like. i know i ought to be getting money out ofpeople, or devoting myself to things i
don't care a straw about, but somehow, i'venot been able to begin." "you are very fortunate," said mr. beebe. "it is a wonderful opportunity, thepossession of leisure." his voice was rather parochial, but he didnot quite see his way to answering naturally. he felt, as all who have regular occupationmust feel, that others should have it also. "i am glad that you approve.i daren't face the healthy person--for example, freddy honeychurch." "oh, freddy's a good sort, isn't he?""admirable.
the sort who has made england what she is."cecil wondered at himself. why, on this day of all others, was he sohopelessly contrary? he tried to get right by inquiringeffusively after mr. beebe's mother, an old lady for whom he had no particular regard. then he flattered the clergyman, praisedhis liberal-mindedness, his enlightened attitude towards philosophy and science. "where are the others?" said mr. beebe atlast, "i insist on extracting tea before evening service.""i suppose anne never told them you were here.
in this house one is so coached in theservants the day one arrives. the fault of anne is that she begs yourpardon when she hears you perfectly, and kicks the chair-legs with her feet. the faults of mary--i forget the faults ofmary, but they are very grave. shall we look in the garden?""i know the faults of mary. she leaves the dust-pans standing on thestairs." "the fault of euphemia is that she willnot, simply will not, chop the suet sufficiently small." they both laughed, and things began to gobetter.
"the faults of freddy--" cecil continued."ah, he has too many. no one but his mother can remember thefaults of freddy. try the faults of miss honeychurch; theyare not innumerable." "she has none," said the young man, withgrave sincerity. "i quite agree.at present she has none." "at present?" "i'm not cynical.i'm only thinking of my pet theory about miss honeychurch.does it seem reasonable that she should play so wonderfully, and live so quietly?
i suspect that one day she will bewonderful in both. the water-tight compartments in her willbreak down, and music and life will mingle. then we shall have her heroically good,heroically bad--too heroic, perhaps, to be good or bad."cecil found his companion interesting. "and at present you think her not wonderfulas far as life goes?" "well, i must say i've only seen her attunbridge wells, where she was not wonderful, and at florence. since i came to summer street she has beenaway. you saw her, didn't you, at rome and in thealps.
oh, i forgot; of course, you knew herbefore. no, she wasn't wonderful in florenceeither, but i kept on expecting that she would be." "in what way?"conversation had become agreeable to them, and they were pacing up and down theterrace. "i could as easily tell you what tuneshe'll play next. there was simply the sense that she hadfound wings, and meant to use them. i can show you a beautiful picture in myitalian diary: miss honeychurch as a kite, miss bartlett holding the string.picture number two: the string breaks."
the sketch was in his diary, but it hadbeen made afterwards, when he viewed things artistically.at the time he had given surreptitious tugs to the string himself. "but the string never broke?""no. i mightn't have seen miss honeychurch rise, but i should certainly have heardmiss bartlett fall." "it has broken now," said the young man inlow, vibrating tones. immediately he realized that of all theconceited, ludicrous, contemptible ways of announcing an engagement this was theworst. he cursed his love of metaphor; had hesuggested that he was a star and that lucy
was soaring up to reach him?"broken? what do you mean?" "i meant," said cecil stiffly, "that she isgoing to marry me." the clergyman was conscious of some bitterdisappointment which he could not keep out of his voice. "i am sorry; i must apologize.i had no idea you were intimate with her, or i should never have talked in thisflippant, superficial way. mr. vyse, you ought to have stopped me." and down the garden he saw lucy herself;yes, he was disappointed.
cecil, who naturally preferredcongratulations to apologies, drew down his mouth at the corners. was this the reception his action would getfrom the world? of course, he despised the world as awhole; every thoughtful man should; it is almost a test of refinement. but he was sensitive to the successiveparticles of it which he encountered. occasionally he could be quite crude."i am sorry i have given you a shock," he said dryly. "i fear that lucy's choice does not meetwith your approval."
"not that.but you ought to have stopped me. i know miss honeychurch only a little astime goes. perhaps i oughtn't to have discussed her sofreely with any one; certainly not with you." "you are conscious of having said somethingindiscreet?" mr. beebe pulled himself together.really, mr. vyse had the art of placing one in the most tiresome positions. he was driven to use the prerogatives ofhis profession. "no, i have said nothing indiscreet.
i foresaw at florence that her quiet,uneventful childhood must end, and it has ended.i realized dimly enough that she might take some momentous step. she has taken it. she has learnt--you will let me talkfreely, as i have begun freely--she has learnt what it is to love: the greatestlesson, some people will tell you, that our earthly life provides." it was now time for him to wave his hat atthe approaching trio. he did not omit to do so.
"she has learnt through you," and if hisvoice was still clerical, it was now also sincere; "let it be your care that herknowledge is profitable to her." "grazie tante!" said cecil, who did notlike parsons. "have you heard?" shouted mrs. honeychurchas she toiled up the sloping garden. "oh, mr. beebe, have you heard the news?" freddy, now full of geniality, whistled thewedding march. youth seldom criticizes the accomplishedfact. "indeed i have!" he cried. he looked at lucy.in her presence he could not act the parson
any longer--at all events not withoutapology. "mrs. honeychurch, i'm going to do what iam always supposed to do, but generally i'm too shy.i want to invoke every kind of blessing on them, grave and gay, great and small. i want them all their lives to be supremelygood and supremely happy as husband and wife, as father and mother.and now i want my tea." "you only asked for it just in time," thelady retorted. "how dare you be serious at windy corner?"he took his tone from her. there was no more heavy beneficence, nomore attempts to dignify the situation with
poetry or the scriptures.none of them dared or was able to be serious any more. an engagement is so potent a thing thatsooner or later it reduces all who speak of it to this state of cheerful awe. away from it, in the solitude of theirrooms, 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 notonly the lips, but the very heart. the chief parallel to compare one greatthing 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 notours, we become true believers, in case any true believer should be present. so it was that after the gropings and themisgivings of the afternoon they pulled themselves together and settled down to avery pleasant tea-party. if they were hypocrites they did not knowit, 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 ofhers which she gave them ere she kicked the drawing-room door.mr. beebe chirruped. freddy was at his wittiest, referring tocecil 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 templehad been built, they also joined in the merry ritual, but waited, as earnestworshippers should, for the disclosure of some holier shrine of joy. >
chapter ix: lucy as a work of art a few days after the engagement wasannounced mrs. honeychurch made lucy and her fiasco come to a little garden-party inthe neighbourhood, for naturally she wanted to show people that her daughter wasmarrying a presentable man. cecil was more than presentable; he lookeddistinguished, 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 cecilrather indiscriminately to some stuffy
dowagers. at tea a misfortune took place: a cup ofcoffee was upset over lucy's figured silk, and though lucy feigned indifference, hermother feigned nothing of the sort but dragged her indoors to have the frocktreated by a sympathetic maid. they were gone some time, and cecil wasleft with the dowagers. when they returned he was not as pleasantas 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 hadrather 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 and said: "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 engagementis regarded as public property--a kind of waste place where every outsider may shoothis 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 attitudeis wrong. an engagement--horrid word in the firstplace--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 smiledthrough them, rejoicing in the engagement of cecil and lucy because it promised thecontinuance of life on earth. to cecil and lucy it promised somethingquite different--personal love. hence cecil's irritation and lucy's beliefthat his irritation was just.
"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 theinglese italianato." "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 withhis mother.
but cecil, since his engagement, had takento 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 barriersbetween 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."how?" "it makes a difference doesn't it, whetherwe fully fence ourselves in, or whether we
are fenced out by the barriers of others?"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 interruption jarred. "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 otherpeople. motives are all very well, but the fencecomes here." "we weren't talking of real fences," saidlucy, 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 youcall them," she said, "and that's mr. beebe." "a parson fenceless would mean a parsondefenceless." lucy was slow to follow what people said,but quick enough to detect what they meant.
she missed cecil's epigram, but grasped thefeeling that prompted it. "don't you like mr. beebe?" she askedthoughtfully. "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 shewanting to say something sympathetic, "a clergyman that does have fences, and themost dreadful ones, is mr. eager, the english chaplain at florence. he was truly insincere--not merely themanner unfortunate.
he was a snob, and so conceited, and he didsay such unkind things." "what sort of things?" "there was an old man at the bertolini whomhe said had murdered his wife." "perhaps he had.""no!" "why 'no'?" "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 god.""hush, dear!" said mrs. honeychurch absently. "but isn't it intolerable that a personwhom 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 hecertainly wasn't that." "poor old man!what was his name?" "harris," said lucy glibly. "let's hope that mrs. harris there warn'tno sich person," said her mother.
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 moreclergymen."
he smiled. there was indeed something ratherincongruous 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 layher vocation; that a woman's power and charm reside in mystery, not in muscularrant. but possibly rant is a sign of vitality: itmars the beautiful creature, but shows that she is alive. after a moment, he contemplated her flushedface and excited gestures with a certain
approval.he forebore to repress the sources of youth. nature--simplest of topics, he thought--layaround them. he praised the pine-woods, the deep lastsof bracken, the crimson leaves that spotted the hurt-bushes, the serviceable beauty ofthe turnpike road. the outdoor world was not very familiar tohim, 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," heconcluded, "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 andtrees and the sky are the most wonderful things in life, and that the people wholive amongst them must be the best. it's true that in nine cases out of tenthey don't seem to notice anything. the country gentleman and the countrylabourer are each in their way the most depressing of companions. yet they may have a tacit sympathy with theworkings of nature which is denied to us of the town.do you feel that, mrs. honeychurch?"
mrs. honeychurch started and smiled. she had not been attending.cecil, who was rather crushed on the front seat of the victoria, felt irritable, anddetermined not to say anything interesting again. 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 thebeauties of an august wood. "'come down, o maid, from yonder mountainheight,'" 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 (theshepherd sang). in height and in the splendour of thehills?' let us take mrs. honeychurch's advice andhate clergymen no more. what's this place?" "summer street, of course," said lucy, androused herself. the woods had opened to leave space for asloping triangular meadow. pretty cottages lined it on two sides, andthe upper and third side was occupied by a new stone church, expensively simple, acharming shingled spire.
mr. beebe's house was near the church. in height it scarcely exceeded thecottages. some great mansions were at hand, but theywere hidden in the trees. the scene suggested a swiss alp rather thanthe shrine and centre of a leisured world, and was marred only by two ugly littlevillas--the villas that had competed with cecil's engagement, having been acquired by sir harry otway the very afternoon thatlucy had been acquired by cecil. "cissie" was the name of one of thesevillas, "albert" of the other. these titles were not only picked out inshaded 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 announcedthe 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 sameagain." as the carriage passed, "cissie's" dooropened, and a gentleman came out of her. "stop!" cried mrs. honeychurch, touchingthe 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 almostbedridden." "turn her out," said cecil bravely. sir harry sighed, and looked at the villasmournfully. he had had full warning of mr. flack'sintentions, and might have bought the plot before building commenced: but he wasapathetic and dilatory.
he had known summer street for so manyyears that he could not imagine it being spoilt. not till mrs. flack had laid the foundationstone, 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 moreartistic roof, but pointed out that slates were cheaper. he ventured to differ, however, about thecorinthian 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, ifpossible, should be structural as well as decorative. mr. flack replied that all the columns hadbeen 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 hisdesire; and not until he had inserted an immovable aunt into one of them did sirharry buy.
this futile and unprofitable transactionfilled 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 desirabletenant 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 likeourselves." cecil had been hesitating whether he shoulddespise the villas or despise sir harry for despising them.the latter impulse seemed the more fruitful. "you ought to find a tenant at once," hesaid maliciously. "it would be a perfect paradise for a bankclerk." "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 fatalimprovement, to my mind.
and what are five miles from a station inthese days of bicycles?" "rather a strenuous clerk it would be,"said lucy. cecil, who had his full share of mediaevalmischievousness, replied that the physique of the lower middle classes was improvingat a most appalling rate. she saw that he was laughing at theirharmless neighbour, and roused herself to stop him."sir harry!" she exclaimed, "i have an idea. how would you like spinsters?""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 momenthomeless. i heard from them last week--miss teresaand 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 solvedalready. how delightful it is! extra facilities--please tell them theyshall 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 paythe rent in advance. as if one cares about that! and several references i took up were mostunsatisfactory--people swindlers, or not respectable.and oh, the deceit! i have seen a good deal of the seamy sidethis last week. the deceit of the most promising people.my dear lucy, the deceit!"
she nodded. "my advice," put in mrs. honeychurch, "isto have nothing to do with lucy and her decayed gentlewomen at all.i know the type. preserve me from people who have seenbetter days, and bring heirlooms with them that make the house smell stuffy. it's a sad thing, but i'd far rather let tosome 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 theywere a highly unsuitable addition to the neighbourhood." "don't listen to him, sir harry--he'stiresome." "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 otwaywill only say that i cannot be too careful, which is quite true, but no real help.""then may i write to my misses alan?" "please!" but his eye wavered when mrs. honeychurchexclaimed:
"beware!they are certain to have canaries. sir harry, beware of canaries: they spitthe seed out through the bars of the cages and then the mice come.beware of women altogether. only let to a man." "really--" he murmured gallantly, though hesaw the wisdom of her remark. "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 tothemselves. 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 shehad time, should descend from the carriage and inspect "cissie" for herself.she was delighted. nature had intended her to be poor and tolive in such a house. domestic arrangements always attracted her,especially when they were on a small scale. cecil pulled lucy back as she followed hermother.
"mrs. honeychurch," he said, "what if wetwo walk home and leave you?" "certainly!" was her cordial reply. sir harry likewise seemed almost too gladto 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. "oh, cecil!""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, andhis wife would give brainless dinner parties. but down here he acts the little god withhis gentility, and his patronage, and his sham aesthetics, and every one--even yourmother--is taken in." "all that you say is quite true," saidlucy, though she felt discouraged. "i wonder whether--whether it matters sovery 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 tenantin that villa--some woman so really vulgar that he'll notice it.gentlefolks! ugh! with his bald head and retreatingchin! 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 wouldescape? for instance, freddy. freddy was neither clever, nor subtle, norbeautiful, and what prevented cecil from
saying, any minute, "it would be wrong notto loathe freddy"? and what would she reply? further than freddy she did not go, but hegave her anxiety enough. she could only assure herself that cecilhad 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, andshe had stopped where a footpath diverged
from the highroad."are there two ways?" "perhaps the road is more sensible, aswe're got up smart." "i'd rather go through the wood," saidcecil, with that subdued irritation that she had noticed in him all the afternoon. "why is it, lucy, that you always say theroad? do you know that you have never once beenwith me in the fields or the wood since we were engaged?" "haven't i?the wood, then," said lucy, startled at his queerness, but pretty sure that he wouldexplain 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 aroad. 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 sortof 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, "thatconnected me with the open air." she said again, "oh, cecil, whatever do youmean?" as no explanation was forthcoming, sheshook 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 familiarcombination of the trees. she had known the wood between summerstreet and windy corner ever since she could walk alone; she had played at losingfreddy in it, when freddy was a purple-
faced baby; and though she had been toitaly, it had lost none of its charm. presently they came to a little clearingamong the pines--another tiny green alp, solitary this time, and holding in itsbosom a shallow pool. 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 afterheavy rains, and can't get away at once, and the pool becomes quite large andbeautiful.
then freddy used to bathe there. he is very fond of it.""and you?" 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 withinhim. but now? with his momentary cult of thefresh 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, butblooms abruptly out of a world of green. "who found you out?" "charlotte," she murmured."she was stopping with us. charlotte--charlotte.""poor girl!" she smiled gravely. a certain scheme, from which hitherto hehad shrank, now appeared practical. "lucy!""yes, i suppose we ought to be going," was her reply.
"lucy, i want to ask something of you thati have never asked before." at the serious note in his voice shestepped frankly and kindly towards him. "what, cecil?" "hitherto never--not even that day on thelawn when you agreed to marry me--" he became self-conscious and kept glancinground to see if they were observed. his courage had gone. "yes?""up to now i have never kissed you." she was as scarlet as if he had put thething 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, you know." at that supreme moment he was conscious ofnothing but absurdities. her reply was inadequate.she gave such a business-like lift to her veil. as he approached her he found time to wishthat he could recoil. as he touched her, his gold pince-nezbecame 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 considerationand 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 ornavvy--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 himever after for his manliness. for he believed that women revere men fortheir manliness.
they left the pool in silence, after thisone salutation. he waited for her to make some remark whichshould show him her inmost thoughts. at last she spoke, and with fittinggravity. "emerson was the name, not harris." "what name?""the old man's." "what old man?""that old man i told you about. the one mr. eager was so unkind to." he could not know that this was the mostintimate conversation they had ever had. chapter x: cecil as a humourist
the society out of which cecil proposed torescue lucy was perhaps no very splendid affair, yet it was more splendid than herantecedents 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 socialatmosphere began to alter. other houses were built on the brow of thatsteep southern slope and others, again, among the pine-trees behind, and northwardon the chalk barrier of the downs. most of these houses were larger than windycorner, and were filled by people who came,
not from the district, but from london, andwho mistook the honeychurches for the remnants of an indigenous aristocracy. he was inclined to be frightened, but hiswife accepted the situation without either pride or humility. "i cannot think what people are doing," shewould say, "but it is extremely fortunate for the children." she called everywhere; her calls werereturned with enthusiasm, and by the time people found out that she was not exactlyof their milieu, they liked her, and it did not seem to matter.
when mr. honeychurch died, he had thesatisfaction--which few honest solicitors despise--of leaving his family rooted inthe best society obtainable. the best obtainable. certainly many of the immigrants wererather dull, and lucy realized this more vividly since her return from italy. hitherto she had accepted their idealswithout 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 speakwith horror of suburbia.
life, so far as she troubled to conceiveit, was a circle of rich, pleasant people, with identical interests and identicalfoes. in this circle, one thought, married, anddied. outside it were poverty and vulgarity forever trying to enter, just as the london fog tries to enter the pine-woods pouringthrough the gaps in the northern hills. but, in italy, where any one who choosesmay warm himself in equality, as in the sun, this conception of life vanished. her senses expanded; she felt that therewas 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 apeasant's olive-yard in the apennines, and he is glad to see you.she returned with new eyes. so did cecil; but italy had quickenedcecil, 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 tosubstitute for it the society he called broad. he did not realize that lucy hadconsecrated her environment by the thousand little civilities that create a tendernessin time, and that though her eyes saw its defects, her heart refused to despise itentirely.
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 hadreached the stage where personal intercourse would alone satisfy her. a rebel she was, but not of the kind heunderstood--a rebel who desired, not a wider dwelling-room, but equality besidethe man she loved. for italy was offering her the mostpriceless 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, whichconsists 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 betterillustrates lucy's state of mind, for she was trying to talk to mr. beebe at the sametime. "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--shewas wondering how often the butcher called, and my reply of once a month must haveimpressed 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 ashadow." mr. beebe watched the shadow springing andshouting over the tennis-court. cecil was absent--one did not play bumble-puppy when he was there. "well, if they are coming--no, minnie, notsaturn." saturn was a tennis-ball whose skin waspartially unsewn.
when in motion his orb was encircled by aring. "if they are coming, sir harry will letthem move in before the twenty-ninth, and he will cross out the clause aboutwhitewashing the ceilings, because it made them nervous, and put in the fair wear andtear 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 beautifulwhite 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 herover 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 nameof this ball is vittoria corombona, please."but his correction passed unheeded. freddy possessed to a high degree the powerof lashing little girls to fury, and in
half a minute he had transformed minniefrom 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 hegot hurt. he was not a coward and bore necessary painas well as any man. but he hated the physical violence of theyoung. 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 wasnursing 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 fellmost agreeably on to the grass. an interval elapses."wasn't what name?" asked lucy, with her brother's head in her lap. "alan wasn't the name of the people sirharry'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 indifferentmimic--"'ahem! ahem! i have at last procured really dee-sire-rebel tenants.' i said, 'ooray, old boy!' and slapped himon 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 sooften." "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.""what name?" "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 thecloudless sky. mr. beebe, whose opinion of her rose daily,whispered to his niece that that was the proper way to behave if any little thingwent wrong. meanwhile the name of the new tenants haddiverted 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 anyemersons," 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 thatthere 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 andthinking 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 descendingone beyond another into the weald. the further one descended the garden, themore glorious was this lateral view. "i was merely going to remark, freddy, thati 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, forthey're friends of cecil; so"--elaborate irony--"you and the other country familieswill be able to call in perfect safety." "cecil?" exclaimed lucy. "don't be rude, dear," said his motherplacidly.
"lucy, don't screech.it's a new bad habit you're getting into." "but has cecil--" "friends of cecil's," he repeated, "'and soreally 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 themiss 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 thana tease: he took a malicious pleasure in thwarting people. the clergyman, knowing this, looked at misshoneychurch with more than his usual kindness. when she exclaimed, "but cecil's emersons--they can't possibly be the same ones--there is that--" he did not consider that theexclamation was strange, but saw in it an opportunity of diverting the conversationwhile 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 bethem. it is probably a long cry from them tofriends 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 thevases 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 greatstories. '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 florentineemersons with violets." "fiasco's done you this time," remarkedfreddy, 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 afather and a son--the son a goodly, if not a good young man; not a fool, i fancy, butvery immature--pessimism, et cetera. our special joy was the father--such asentimental darling, and people declared he had murdered his wife." in his normal state mr. beebe would neverhave repeated such gossip, but he was trying to shelter lucy in her littletrouble. he repeated any rubbish that came into hishead. "murdered his wife?" said mrs. honeychurch."lucy, don't desert us--go on playing bumble-puppy.
really, the pension bertolini must havebeen the oddest place. that's the second murderer i've heard of asbeing there. whatever was charlotte doing to stop? by-the-by, we really must ask charlottehere 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 beena 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 wasin. "oh, don't go!" he cried, and tried tocatch 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 andhad never put it right. such a senseless lie, too, yet it shatteredher nerves and made her connect these
emersons, friends of cecil's, with a pairof nondescript tourists. hitherto truth had come to her naturally. she saw that for the future she must bemore vigilant, and be--absolutely truthful? well, at all events, she must not telllies. she hurried up the garden, still flushedwith shame. a word from cecil would soothe her, she wassure. "cecil!" "hullo!" he called, and leant out of thesmoking-room window. he seemed in high spirits."i was hoping you'd come.
i heard you all bear-gardening, but there'sbetter fun up here. i, even i, have won a great victory for thecomic muse. george meredith's right--the cause ofcomedy and the cause of truth are really the same; and i, even i, have found tenantsfor 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 wasbright, 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 fornothing! certainly the miss alans are a littletiresome, and i'd rather have nice friends of yours. but you oughtn't to tease one so.""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 desirabletenants? in the national gallery, when i was up tosee my mother last week."
"what an odd place to meet people!" shesaid nervously. "i don't quite understand.""in the umbrian room. absolute strangers. they were admiring luca signorelli--ofcourse, quite stupidly. however, we got talking, and they refreshedme 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--thefather to live there, the son to run down for week-ends.
i thought, 'what a chance of scoring offsir harry!' and i took their address and a london reference, found they weren't actualblackguards--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 means."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 aboutthe 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 smartfriends 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 outthe son, who was silent.
in the interests of the comic muse and oftruth, he would bring them to windy corner. chapter xi: in mrs. vyse's well-appointedflat the comic muse, though able to look afterher own interests, did not disdain the assistance of mr. vyse. his idea of bringing the emersons to windycorner struck her as decidedly good, and she carried through the negotiationswithout a hitch. sir harry otway signed the agreement, metmr. emerson, who was duly disillusioned. the miss alans were duly offended, andwrote a dignified letter to lucy, whom they held responsible for the failure.
mr. beebe planned pleasant moments for thenew-comers, and told mrs. honeychurch that freddy must call on them as soon as theyarrived. indeed, so ample was the muse's equipmentthat she permitted mr. harris, never a very robust criminal, to droop his head, to beforgotten, and to die. lucy--to descend from bright heaven toearth, whereon there are shadows because there are hills--lucy was at first plungedinto despair, but settled after a little thought that it did not matter the veryleast. now that she was engaged, the emersonswould scarcely insult her and were welcome into the neighbourhood.
and cecil was welcome to bring whom hewould into the neighbourhood. therefore cecil was welcome to bring theemersons into the neighbourhood. but, as i say, this took a little thinking,and--so illogical are girls--the event remained rather greater and rather moredreadful than it should have done. she was glad that a visit to mrs. vyse nowfell due; the tenants moved into cissie villa while she was safe in the londonflat. "cecil--cecil darling," she whispered theevening she arrived, and crept into his arms.cecil, too, became demonstrative. he saw that the needful fire had beenkindled in lucy.
at last she longed for attention, as awoman should, and looked up to him because he was a man. "so you do love me, little thing?" hemurmured. "oh, cecil, i do, i do!i don't know what i should do without you." several days passed. then she had a letter from miss bartlett.a coolness had sprung up between the two cousins, and they had not correspondedsince they parted in august. the coolness dated from what charlottewould call "the flight to rome," and in rome it had increased amazingly.
for the companion who is merely uncongenialin the mediaeval world becomes exasperating in the classical. charlotte, unselfish in the forum, wouldhave tried a sweeter temper than lucy's, and once, in the baths of caracalla, theyhad 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 theplan and miss bartlett had replied that she was quite used to being abandoned suddenly. finally nothing happened; but the coolnessremained, and, for lucy, was even increased
when she opened the letter and read asfollows. it had been forwarded from windy corner. "tunbridge wells,"september. "dearest lucia,"i have news of you at last! miss lavish has been bicycling in yourparts, but was not sure whether a call would be welcome. puncturing her tire near summer street, andit being mended while she sat very woebegone in that pretty churchyard, shesaw to her astonishment, a door open opposite and the younger emerson man comeout.
he said his father had just taken thehouse. he said he did not know that you lived inthe neighbourhood (?). he never suggested giving eleanor a cup oftea. dear lucy, i am much worried, and i adviseyou 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 sayyou 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 shouldnot feel easy unless i warned you. "believe me,"your anxious and loving cousin, "charlotte." lucy was much annoyed, and replied asfollows: "beauchamp mansions, s.w."dear charlotte, "many thanks for your warning. when mr. emerson forgot himself on themountain, you made me promise not to tell mother, because you said she would blameyou for not being always with me. i have kept that promise, and cannotpossibly tell her now.
i have said both to her and cecil that imet 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 nonehimself. 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 ofthem, they would think themselves of importance, which is exactly what they arenot. i like the old father, and look forward toseeing him again. as for the son, i am sorry for him when wemeet, rather than for myself.
they are known to cecil, who is very welland spoke of you the other day. we expect to be married in january. "miss lavish cannot have told you muchabout 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."yours affectionately, "l. m. honeychurch." secrecy has this disadvantage: we lose thesense of proportion; we cannot tell whether our secret is important or not.
were lucy and her cousin closeted with agreat thing which would destroy cecil's life if he discovered it, or with a littlething 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 hermother and her lover ingenuously, and it would have remained a little thing. "emerson, not harris"; it was only that afew weeks ago. she tried to tell cecil even now when theywere laughing about some beautiful lady who had smitten his heart at school.
but her body behaved so ridiculously thatshe stopped. she and her secret stayed ten days longerin the deserted metropolis visiting the scenes they were to know so well later on. it did her no harm, cecil thought, to learnthe framework of society, while society itself was absent on the golf-links or themoors. the weather was cool, and it did her noharm. in spite of the season, mrs. vyse managedto scrape together a dinner-party consisting entirely of the grandchildren offamous people. the food was poor, but the talk had a wittyweariness that impressed the girl.
one was tired of everything, it seemed. one launched into enthusiasms only tocollapse gracefully, and pick oneself up amid sympathetic laughter. in this atmosphere the pension bertoliniand windy corner appeared equally crude, and lucy saw that her london career wouldestrange her a little from all that she had loved in the past. the grandchildren asked her to play thepiano. she played schumann."now some beethoven" called cecil, when the querulous beauty of the music had died.
she shook her head and played schumannagain. 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 sadnessthat is often life, but should never be art--throbbed in its disjected phrases, andmade the nerves of the audience throb. not thus had she played on the littledraped 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 hadgone to bed, mrs. vyse paced up and down
the drawing-room, discussing her littleparty with her son. mrs. vyse was a nice woman, but herpersonality, like many another's, had been swamped by london, for it needs a stronghead to live among many people. the too vast orb of her fate had crushedher; and she had seen too many seasons, too many cities, too many men, for herabilities, and even with cecil she was mechanical, and behaved as if he was notone son, but, so to speak, a filial crowd. "make lucy one of us," she said, lookinground intelligently at the end of each sentence, and straining her lips apartuntil she spoke again. "lucy is becoming wonderful--wonderful."
"her music always was wonderful.""yes, but she is purging off the honeychurch taint, most excellenthoneychurches, but you know what i mean. she is not always quoting servants, orasking 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 anidiot, i wanted beethoven.
schumann was right for this evening.schumann was the thing. do you know, mother, i shall have ourchildren educated just like lucy. bring them up among honest country folksfor freshness, send them to italy for subtlety, and then--not till then--let themcome to london. i don't believe in these london educations--" he broke off, remembering that he had had one himself, and concluded, "at allevents, not for women." "make her one of us," repeated mrs. vyse,and processed to bed. as she was dozing off, a cry--the cry ofnightmare--rang from lucy's room. lucy could ring for the maid if she likedbut 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 thesedreams." "bad dreams?""just 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 onecheek 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 andbrilliant after abundant rains, and the spirit of youth dwelt in it, though theseason was now autumn. all that was gracious triumphed. as the motorcars passed through summerstreet they raised only a little dust, and their stench was soon dispersed by the windand 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 pendantpipe. "suppose we go and hinder those new peopleopposite for a little." "m'm.""they might amuse you." freddy, whom his fellow-creatures neveramused, suggested that the new people might be feeling a bit busy, and so on, sincethey had only just moved in. "i suggested we should hinder them," saidmr. beebe. "they are worth it."unlatching the gate, he sauntered over the triangular green to cissie villa. "hullo!" he cried, shouting in at the opendoor, 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 carryup the stairs. mr. beebe edged round it with difficulty. the sitting-room itself was blocked withbooks. "are these people great readers?"freddy whispered. "are they that sort?" "i fancy they know how to read--a rareaccomplishment.
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, honeychurch." "mr. beebe, look at that," said freddy inawestruck tones.
on the cornice of the wardrobe, the hand ofan amateur had painted this inscription: "mistrust all enterprises that require newclothes." "i know. isn't it jolly?i like that. i'm certain that's the old man's doing.""how very odd of him!" "surely you agree?" but freddy was his mother's son and feltthat 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 bebound." "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 saysher playing is wonderful. there are all kinds of things in it that wehave never noticed. cecil says--" "what on earth are those people doingupstairs? emerson--we think we'll come another time."george ran down-stairs and pushed them into the room without speaking.
"let me introduce mr. honeychurch, aneighbour." then freddy hurled one of the thunderboltsof youth. perhaps he was shy, perhaps he wasfriendly, 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 openingi've ever heard.
but i'm afraid it will only act betweenmen. can you picture a lady who has beenintroduced 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 areequal." "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 ofeden anywhere. "in this--not in other things--we men areahead. we despise the body less than women do. but not until we are comrades shall weenter the garden." "i say, what about this bathe?" murmuredfreddy, 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 attainsimplicity. it is our heritage.""let me introduce mr. honeychurch, whose sister you will remember at florence." "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 nationalgallery, 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 iwas anxious to compare his attitude towards the game laws with the conservativeattitude. 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--havethe pleasure of calling on you later on, my mother says, i hope.""call, my lad? who taught us that drawing-room twaddle? call on your grandmother!listen to the wind among the pines! yours is a glorious country."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 withthe stair-eyes yesterday. it does not count that they are going tobathe 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 hisoffice. 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 better.""yes--i have said 'yes' already." mr. beebe felt bound to assist his youngfriend, 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 whocould not bear silence, was compelled to
chatter, since the expedition looked like afailure, and neither of his companions would utter a word. he spoke of florence.george attended gravely, assenting or dissenting with slight but determinedgestures that were as inexplicable as the motions of the tree-tops above their heads. "and what a coincidence that you shouldmeet mr. vyse! did you realize that you would find all thepension bertolini down here?" "i did not. miss lavish told me.""when i was a young man, i always meant to
write a 'history of coincidence.'"no enthusiasm. "though, as a matter of fact, coincidencesare much rarer than we suppose. for example, it isn't purely coincidentallythat 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 apartby fate--flung together, drawn apart. the twelve winds blow us--we settlenothing--"
"you have not reflected at all," rapped theclergyman. "let me give you a useful tip, emerson:attribute nothing to fate. don't say, 'i didn't do this,' for you didit, ten to one. now i'll cross-question you.where did you first meet miss honeychurch and myself?" "italy.""and where did you meet mr. vyse, who is going to marry miss honeychurch?""national gallery." "looking at italian art. there you are, and yet you talk ofcoincidence and fate.
you naturally seek out things italian, andso do we and our friends. this narrows the field immeasurably we meetagain in it." "it is fate that i am here," persistedgeorge. "but you can call it italy if it makes youless unhappy." mr. beebe slid away from such heavytreatment of the subject. but he was infinitely tolerant of theyoung, and had no desire to snub george. "and so for this and for other reasons my'history of coincidence' is still to write." silence.wishing to round off the episode, he added;
"we are all so glad that you have come."silence. "here we are!" called freddy. "oh, good!" exclaimed mr. beebe, moppinghis brow. "in there's the pond.i wish it was bigger," he added apologetically. they climbed down a slippery bank of pine-needles. there lay the pond, set in its little alpof green--only a pond, but large enough to contain the human body, and pure enough toreflect the sky. on account of the rains, the waters hadflooded the surrounding grass, which showed
like a beautiful emerald path, temptingthese 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 his boots. "aren't those masses of willow-herbsplendid? 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--thislittle spongeous tract of water plants, and on either side of it all the growths aretough or brittle--heather, bracken, hurts,
pines. very charming, very charming."mr. beebe, aren't you bathing?" called freddy, as he stripped himself.mr. beebe thought he was not. "water's wonderful!" cried freddy, prancingin. "water's water," murmured george. wetting his hair first--a sure sign ofapathy--he followed freddy into the divine, as indifferent as if he were a statue andthe 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 choricallyabove their heads. "apooshoo, apooshoo, apooshoo," wentfreddy, swimming for two strokes in either direction, and then becoming involved inreeds or mud. "is it worth it?" asked the other,michelangelesque on the flooded margin. the bank broke away, and he fell into thepool 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." "apooshoo, kouf."mr. beebe, who was hot, and who always acquiesced where possible, looked aroundhim. he could detect no parishioners except thepine-trees, rising up steeply on all sides, and gesturing to each other against theblue. how glorious it was! the world of motor-cars and rural deansreceded inimitably. water, sky, evergreens, a wind--thesethings not even the seasons can touch, and
surely they lie beyond the intrusion ofman? "i may as well wash too"; and soon hisgarments made a third little pile on the sward, and he too asserted the wonder ofthe water. it was ordinary water, nor was there verymuch of it, and, as freddy said, it reminded one of swimming in a salad. the three gentlemen rotated in the poolbreast high, after the fashion of the nymphs in gotterdammerung. but either because the rains had given afreshness or because the sun was shedding a most glorious heat, or because two of thegentlemen were young in years and the third
young in spirit--for some reason or other a change came over them, and they forgotitaly and botany and fate. they began to play.mr. beebe and freddy splashed each other. a little deferentially, they splashedgeorge. he was quiet: they feared they had offendedhim. then all the forces of youth burst out. he smiled, flung himself at them, splashedthem, 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, andhad to bathe a second time. then mr. beebe consented to run--amemorable sight. they ran to get dry, they bathed to getcool, they played at being indians in the willow-herbs and in the bracken, theybathed to get clean. and all the time three little bundles laydiscreetly 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 animaginary goal-post.
"socker rules," george retorted, scatteringfreddy's bundle with a kick. "goal!""goal!" "pass!" "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 say!"but the two young men were delirious. away they twinkled into the trees, freddywith a clerical waistcoat under his arm, george with a wide-awake hat on hisdripping 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 you fellows!" yells, and widening circles over thedappled earth. "hi! hi! ladies!"neither george nor freddy was truly refined. still, they did not hear mr. beebe's lastwarning or they would have avoided mrs.
honeychurch, cecil, and lucy, who werewalking 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 andscudded 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," commandedcecil, who always felt that he must lead
women, though knew not whither, and protectthem, though he knew not against what. he led them now towards the bracken wherefreddy 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, glancingat lucy, who was all parasol and evidently "minded.""i fancy mr. beebe jumped back into the pond." "this way, please, mrs. honeychurch, thisway." they followed him up the bank attemptingthe tense yet nonchalant expression that is
suitable for ladies on such occasions. "well, i can't help it," said a voice closeahead, and freddy reared a freckled face and a pair of snowy shoulders out of thefronds. "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 on?" "look here, mother, a fellow must wash, anda 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 thepond, 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 heof the bracken. "i've swallowed a pollywog.it wriggleth in my tummy. i shall die--emerson you beast, you've goton my bags."
"hush, dears," said mrs. honeychurch, whofound it impossible to remain shocked. "and do be sure you dry yourselvesthoroughly first. all these colds come of not dryingthoroughly." "mother, do come away," said lucy. "oh for goodness' sake, do come.""hullo!" cried george, so that again the ladies stopped.he regarded himself as dressed. barefoot, bare-chested, radiant andpersonable 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 waterran away. on the morrow the pool had shrunk to itsold size and lost its glory. it had been a call to the blood and to therelaxed will, a passing benediction whose influence did not pass, a holiness, aspell, a momentary chalice for youth. chapter xiii: how miss bartlett's boilerwas so tiresome how often had lucy rehearsed this bow, thisinterview! 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 georgewould meet in the rout of a civilization, amidst an army of coats and collars andboots that lay wounded over the sunlit earth? she had imagined a young mr. emerson, whomight be shy or morbid or indifferent or furtively impudent.she was prepared for all of these. but she had never imagined one who would behappy and greet her with the shout of the morning star. indoors herself, partaking of tea with oldmrs. butterworth, she reflected that it is
impossible to foretell the future with anydegree of accuracy, that it is impossible to rehearse life. a fault in the scenery, a face in theaudience, an irruption of the audience on to the stage, and all our carefully plannedgestures 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 thatcumbers the world.
so ran her thoughts, while her facultieswere busy with cecil. it was another of those dreadful engagementcalls. mrs. butterworth had wanted to see him, andhe 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, andmade long, clever answers where "yes" or "no" would have done. lucy soothed him and tinkered at theconversation in a way that promised well for their married peace.
no one is perfect, and surely it is wiserto 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 herbonnet-pins with gathering displeasure-- "because otherwise i cannot account forhim." "i do think mrs. butterworth is rathertiresome, if you mean that." "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 everywhere."
"let me just put your bonnet away, may i?" "surely he could answer her civilly for onehalf-hour?" "cecil has a very high standard forpeople," faltered lucy, seeing trouble ahead. "it's part of his ideals--it is really thatthat makes him sometimes seem--" "oh, rubbish! if high ideals make a young man rude, thesooner he gets rid of them the better," said mrs. honeychurch, handing her thebonnet. "now, mother!
i've seen you cross with mrs. butterworthyourself!" "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 wasaway in london." this attempt to divert the conversation wastoo 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 literarynor intellectual nor musical, but i cannot help the drawing-room furniture; yourfather bought it and we must put up with it, will cecil kindly remember." "i--i see what you mean, and certainlycecil oughtn't to. but he does not mean to be uncivil--he onceexplained--it is the things that upset him- -he is easily upset by ugly things--he isnot uncivil to people." "is it a thing or a person when freddysings?" "you can't expect a really musical personto enjoy comic songs as we do." "then why didn't he leave the room?
why sit wriggling and sneering and spoilingeveryone's pleasure?" "we mustn't be unjust to people," falteredlucy. something had enfeebled her, and the casefor cecil, which she had mastered so perfectly in london, would not come forthin an effective form. the two civilizations had clashed--cecilhinted that they might--and she was dazzled and bewildered, as though the radiance thatlies behind all civilization had blinded her eyes. good taste and bad taste were onlycatchwords, garments of diverse cut; and music itself dissolved to a whisper throughpine-trees, where the song is not
distinguishable from the comic song. she remained in much embarrassment, whilemrs. honeychurch changed her frock for dinner; and every now and then she said aword, and made things no better. there was no concealing the fact, cecil hadmeant 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 atthe landing window.
it faced north, so there was little view,and no view of the sky. now, as in the winter, the pine-trees hungclose to her eyes. one connected the landing window withdepression. no definite problem menaced her, but shesighed 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 missbartlett's letter. she must be more careful; her mother wasrather inquisitive, and might have asked what it was about.
oh, dear, should she do?--and then freddycame 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 bathingin the sacred it's much too public. it was all right for you but most awkwardfor every one else. do be more careful. you forget the place is growing halfsuburban." "i say, is anything on to-morrow week?""not that i know of." "then i want to ask the emersons up tosunday tennis."
"oh, i wouldn't do that, freddy, i wouldn'tdo that with all this muddle." "what's wrong with the court? they won't mind a bump or two, and i'veordered new balls." "i meant it's better not.i really mean it." he seized her by the elbows and humorouslydanced her up and down the passage. she pretended not to mind, but she couldhave screamed with temper. cecil glanced at them as he proceeded tohis 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 away."yes. i really can't stop. i must dress too." "how's charlotte?""all right." "lucy!"the unfortunate girl returned. "you've a bad habit of hurrying away in themiddle of one's sentences. did charlotte mention her boiler?""her what?" "don't you remember that her boiler was tobe had out in october, and her bath cistern cleaned out, and all kinds of terrible to-doings?"
"i can't remember all charlotte's worries,"said lucy bitterly. "i shall have enough of my own, now thatyou are not pleased with cecil." 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 feltfor the moment that her mother and windy corner and the weald in the declining sunwere 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 otherof the family poured in a drop of oil. cecil despised their methods--perhapsrightly. at all events, they were not his own.dinner was at half-past seven. freddy gabbled the grace, and they drew uptheir heavy chairs and fell to. fortunately, the men were hungry.nothing untoward occurred until the pudding. then freddy said:"lucy, what's emerson like?" "i saw him in florence," said lucy, hopingthat this would pass for a reply. "is he the clever sort, or is he a decentchap?"
"ask cecil; it is cecil who brought himhere." "he is the clever sort, like myself," saidcecil. freddy looked at him doubtfully."how well did you know them at the bertolini?" asked mrs. honeychurch. "oh, very slightly.i mean, charlotte knew them even less than i did.""oh, that reminds me--you never told me what charlotte said in her letter." "one thing and another," said lucy,wondering whether she would get through the meal without a lie.
"among other things, that an awful friendof hers had been bicycling through summer street, wondered if she'd come up and seeus, 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 asliterature in the hands of females. she would abandon every topic to inveighagainst those women who (instead of minding their houses and their children) seeknotoriety by print. her attitude was: "if books must bewritten, let them be written by men"; and she developed it at great length, whilececil yawned and freddy played at "this
year, next year, now, never," with his plum-stones, and lucy artfully fed theflames of her mother's wrath. but soon the conflagration died down, andthe ghosts began to gather in the darkness. there were too many ghosts about. the original ghost--that touch of lips onher cheek--had surely been laid long ago; it could be nothing to her that a man hadkissed 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 ofthese was bound to haunt her before cecil's very eyes.
it was miss bartlett who returned now, andwith appalling vividness. "i have been thinking, lucy, of that letterof charlotte's. how is she?" "i tore the thing up.""didn't she say how she was? how does she sound?cheerful?" "oh, yes i suppose so--no--not verycheerful, 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 amisfortune with the meat."
cecil laid his hand over his eyes. "so would i," asserted freddy, backing hismother up--backing up the spirit of her remark rather than the substance. "and i have been thinking," she addedrather nervously, "surely we could squeeze charlotte in here next week, and give her anice holiday while plumbers at tunbridge wells finish. i have not seen poor charlotte for solong." 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 theother things; we're squeezed to death as it is. freddy's got a friend coming tuesday,there's cecil, and you've promised to take in minnie beebe because of the diphtheriascare. it simply can't be done." "nonsense!it can." "if minnie sleeps in the bath.not otherwise." "minnie can sleep with you."
"i won't have her.""then, if you're so selfish, mr. floyd must share a room with freddy." "miss bartlett, miss bartlett, missbartlett," moaned cecil, again laying his hand over his eyes."it's impossible," repeated lucy. "i don't want to make difficulties, but itreally isn't fair on the maids to fill up the house so."alas! "the truth is, dear, you don't likecharlotte." "no, i don't.and no more does cecil. she gets on our nerves.
you haven't seen her lately, and don'trealize how tiresome she can be, though so good. so please, mother, don't worry us this lastsummer; but spoil us by not asking her to come.""hear, hear!" said cecil. mrs. honeychurch, with more gravity thanusual, and with more feeling than she usually permitted herself, replied: "thisisn't very kind of you two. you have each other and all these woods towalk in, so full of beautiful things; and poor charlotte has only the water turnedoff and plumbers. you are young, dears, and however cleveryoung people are, and however many books
they read, they will never guess what itfeels like to grow old." cecil crumbled his bread. "i must say cousin charlotte was very kindto me that year i called on my bike," put in freddy. "she thanked me for coming till i felt likesuch a fool, and fussed round no end to get an egg boiled for my tea just right.""i know, dear. she is kind to every one, and yet lucymakes this difficulty when we try to give her some little return."but lucy hardened her heart. it was no good being kind to miss bartlett.
she had tried herself too often and toorecently. one might lay up treasure in heaven by theattempt, but one enriched neither miss bartlett nor any one else upon earth. she was reduced to saying: "i can't helpit, mother. i don't like charlotte.i admit it's horrid of me." "from your own account, you told her asmuch." "well, she would leave florence sostupidly. she flurried--" the ghosts were returning; they filleditaly, they were even usurping the places
she had known as a child. the sacred lake would never be the sameagain, and, on sunday week, something would even happen to windy corner.how would she fight against ghosts? for a moment the visible world faded away,and memories and emotions alone seemed real. "i suppose miss bartlett must come, sinceshe boils eggs so well," said cecil, who was in rather a happier frame of mind,thanks to the admirable cooking. "i didn't mean the egg was well boiled,"corrected freddy, "because in point of fact she forgot to take it off, and as a matterof fact i don't care for eggs.
i only meant how jolly kind she seemed." cecil frowned again.oh, these honeychurches! eggs, boilers, hydrangeas, maids--of suchwere their lives compact. "may me and lucy get down from our chairs?"he asked, with scarcely veiled insolence. "we don't want no dessert." chapter xiv: how lucy faced the externalsituation bravely of course miss bartlett accepted.and, equally of course, she felt sure that she would prove a nuisance, and begged tobe given an inferior spare room--something with no view, anything.
her love to lucy.and, equally of course, george emerson could come to tennis on the sunday week. lucy faced the situation bravely, though,like most of us, she only faced the situation that encompassed her.she never gazed inwards. if at times strange images rose from thedepths, she put them down to nerves. when cecil brought the emersons to summerstreet, it had upset her nerves. charlotte would burnish up pastfoolishness, and this might upset her nerves.she was nervous at night. when she talked to george--they met againalmost immediately at the rectory--his
voice moved her deeply, and she wished toremain near him. how dreadful if she really wished to remainnear him! of course, the wish was due to nerves,which love to play such perverse tricks upon us. once she had suffered from "things thatcame out of nothing and meant she didn't know what." now cecil had explained psychology to herone wet afternoon, and all the troubles of youth in an unknown world could bedismissed. it is obvious enough for the reader toconclude, "she loves young emerson."
a reader in lucy's place would not find itobvious. life is easy to chronicle, but bewilderingto practice, and we welcome "nerves" or any other shibboleth that will cloak ourpersonal desire. she loved cecil; george made her nervous;will the reader explain to her that the phrases should have been reversed?but the external situation--she will face that bravely. the meeting at the rectory had passed offwell enough. standing between mr. beebe and cecil, shehad made a few temperate allusions to italy, and george had replied.
she was anxious to show that she was notshy, and was glad that he did not seem shy either."a nice fellow," said mr. beebe afterwards "he will work off his crudities in time. i rather mistrust young men who slip intolife gracefully." lucy said, "he seems in better spirits.he laughs more." "yes," replied the clergyman. "he is waking up."that was all. but, as the week wore on, more of herdefences fell, and she entertained an image that had physical beauty.
in spite of the clearest directions, missbartlett contrived to bungle her arrival. she was due at the south-eastern station atdorking, whither mrs. honeychurch drove to meet her. she arrived at the london and brightonstation, and had to hire a cab up. no one was at home except freddy and hisfriend, who had to stop their tennis and to entertain her for a solid hour. cecil and lucy turned up at four o'clock,and these, with little minnie beebe, made a somewhat lugubrious sextette upon the upperlawn for tea. "i shall never forgive myself," said missbartlett, who kept on rising from her seat,
and had to be begged by the united companyto remain. "i have upset everything. bursting in on young people!but i insist on paying for my cab up. grant that, at any rate." "our visitors never do such dreadfulthings," said lucy, while her brother, in whose memory the boiled egg had alreadygrown unsubstantial, exclaimed in irritable tones: "just what i've been trying to convince cousin charlotte of, lucy, for thelast half hour." "i do not feel myself an ordinary visitor,"said miss bartlett, and looked at her
frayed glove. "all right, if you'd really rather.five shillings, and i gave a bob to the driver."miss bartlett looked in her purse. only sovereigns and pennies. could any one give her change?freddy had half a quid and his friend had four half-crowns. miss bartlett accepted their moneys andthen said: "but who am i to give the sovereign to?""let's leave it all till mother comes back," suggested lucy.
"no, dear; your mother may take quite along drive now that she is not hampered with me.we all have our little foibles, and mine is the prompt settling of accounts." here freddy's friend, mr. floyd, made theone remark of his that need be quoted: he offered to toss freddy for miss bartlett'squid. a solution seemed in sight, and even cecil,who had been ostentatiously drinking his tea at the view, felt the eternalattraction of chance, and turned round. but this did not do, either. "please--please--i know i am a sadspoilsport, but it would make me wretched.
i should practically be robbing the one wholost." "freddy owes me fifteen shillings,"interposed cecil. "so it will work out right if you give thepound to me." "fifteen shillings," said miss bartlettdubiously. "how is that, mr. vyse?""because, don't you see, freddy paid your cab. give me the pound, and we shall avoid thisdeplorable gambling." miss bartlett, who was poor at figures,became bewildered and rendered up the sovereign, amidst the suppressed gurgles ofthe other youths.
for a moment cecil was happy. he was playing at nonsense among his peers.then he glanced at lucy, in whose face petty anxieties had marred the smiles.in january he would rescue his leonardo from this stupefying twaddle. "but i don't see that!" exclaimed minniebeebe who had narrowly watched the iniquitous transaction."i don't see why mr. vyse is to have the quid." "because of the fifteen shillings and thefive," they said solemnly. "fifteen shillings and five shillings makeone pound, you see."
"but i don't see--" they tried to stifle her with cake."no, thank you. i'm done.i don't see why--freddy, don't poke me. miss honeychurch, your brother's hurtingme. ow! what about mr. floyd's ten shillings? ow! no, i don't see and i never shall seewhy miss what's-her-name shouldn't pay that bob for the driver."'"i had forgotten the driver," said miss bartlett, reddening. "thank you, dear, for reminding me.a shilling was it?
can any one give me change for half acrown?" "i'll get it," said the young hostess,rising with decision. "cecil, give me that sovereign.no, give me up that sovereign. i'll get euphemia to change it, and we'llstart the whole thing again from the beginning." "lucy--lucy--what a nuisance i am!"protested miss bartlett, and followed her across the lawn.lucy tripped ahead, simulating hilarity. when they were out of earshot miss bartlettstopped her wails and said quite briskly: "have you told him about him yet?"
"no, i haven't," replied lucy, and thencould have bitten her tongue for understanding so quickly what her cousinmeant. "let me see--a sovereign's worth ofsilver." she escaped into the kitchen.miss bartlett's sudden transitions were too uncanny. it sometimes seemed as if she planned everyword she spoke or caused to be spoken; as if all this worry about cabs and change hadbeen a ruse to surprise the soul. "no, i haven't told cecil or any one," sheremarked, when she returned. "i promised you i shouldn't.here is your money--all shillings, except
two half-crowns. would you count it?you can settle your debt nicely now." miss bartlett was in the drawing-room,gazing at the photograph of st. john ascending, which had been framed. "how dreadful!" she murmured, "how morethan dreadful, if mr. vyse should come to hear of it from some other source.""oh, no, charlotte," said the girl, entering the battle. "george emerson is all right, and whatother source is there?" miss bartlett considered."for instance, the driver.
i saw him looking through the bushes atyou, remember he had a violet between his teeth."lucy shuddered a little. "we shall get the silly affair on ournerves if we aren't careful. how could a florentine cab-driver ever gethold of cecil?" "we must think of every possibility." "oh, it's all right.""or perhaps old mr. emerson knows. in fact, he is certain to know.""i don't care if he does. i was grateful to you for your letter, buteven if the news does get round, i think i can trust cecil to laugh at it.""to contradict it?"
"no, to laugh at it." but she knew in her heart that she couldnot trust him, for he desired her untouched."very well, dear, you know best. perhaps gentlemen are different to whatthey were when i was young. ladies are certainly different.""now, charlotte!" she struck at her playfully. "you kind, anxious thing.what would you have me do? first you say 'don't tell'; and then yousay, 'tell'. which is it to be?
quick!"miss bartlett sighed "i am no match for you in conversation, dearest. i blush when i think how i interfered atflorence, and you so well able to look after yourself, and so much cleverer in allways than i am. you will never forgive me." "shall we go out, then.they will smash all the china if we don't." for the air rang with the shrieks ofminnie, who was being scalped with a teaspoon. "dear, one moment--we may not have thischance for a chat again.
have you seen the young one yet?""yes, i have." "what happened?" "we met at the rectory.""what line is he taking up?" "no line.he talked about italy, like any other person. it is really all right.what advantage would he get from being a cad, to put it bluntly?i do wish i could make you see it my way. he really won't be any nuisance,charlotte." "once a cad, always a cad.that is my poor opinion."
lucy paused. "cecil said one day--and i thought it soprofound--that there are two kinds of cads- -the conscious and the subconscious."she paused again, to be sure of doing justice to cecil's profundity. through the window she saw cecil himself,turning over the pages of a novel. it was a new one from smith's library.her mother must have returned from the station. "once a cad, always a cad," droned missbartlett. "what i mean by subconscious is thatemerson lost his head.
i fell into all those violets, and he wassilly and surprised. i don't think we ought to blame him verymuch. it makes such a difference when you see aperson with beautiful things behind him unexpectedly. it really does; it makes an enormousdifference, and he lost his head: he doesn't admire me, or any of that nonsense,one straw. freddy rather likes him, and has asked himup here on sunday, so you can judge for yourself.he has improved; he doesn't always look as if he's going to burst into tears.
he is a clerk in the general manager'soffice at one of the big railways--not a porter! and runs down to his father forweek-ends. papa was to do with journalism, but isrheumatic and has retired. there!now for the garden." she took hold of her guest by the arm. "suppose we don't talk about this sillyitalian business any more. we want you to have a nice restful visit atwindy corner, with no worriting." lucy thought this rather a good speech. the reader may have detected an unfortunateslip in it.
whether miss bartlett detected the slip onecannot say, for it is impossible to penetrate into the minds of elderly people. she might have spoken further, but theywere interrupted by the entrance of her hostess. explanations took place, and in the midstof them lucy escaped, the images throbbing a little more vividly in her brain.