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Where Angels Fear to Tread
by E. M. Forster
They were all at Charing Cross to see Lilia off--Philip
HarrietIrmaMrs. Herriton herself. Even Mrs. Theobald
squired by Mr. Kingcrofthad braved the journey from
Yorkshire to bid her only daughter good-bye. Miss Abbott
was likewise attended by numerous relativesand the sight
of so many people talking at once and saying such different
things caused Lilia to break into ungovernable peals of laughter.
Quite an ovation,she criedsprawling out of her
first-class carriage. "They'll take us for royalty. Oh
Mr. Kingcroftget us foot-warmers."
The good-natured young man hurried awayand Philip
taking his placeflooded her with a final stream of advice
and injunctions--where to stophow to learn Italianwhen to
use mosquito-netswhat pictures to look at. "Remember he
concluded, that it is only by going off the track that you
get to know the country. See the little towns--Gubbio
PienzaCortonaSan GemignanoMonteriano. And don'tlet
me beg yougo with that awful tourist idea that Italy's
only a museum of antiquities and art. Love and understand
the Italiansfor the people are more marvellous than the land."
How I wish you were coming, Philip,she said
flattered at the unwonted notice her brother-in-law was
I wish I were.He could have managed it without great
difficultyfor his career at the Bar was not so intense as
to prevent occasional holidays. But his family disliked his
continual visits to the Continentand he himself often
found pleasure in the idea that he was too busy to leave town.
Good-bye, dear every one. What a whirl!She caught
sight of her little daughter Irmaand felt that a touch of
maternal solemnity was required. "Good-byedarling. Mind
you're always goodand do what Granny tells you."
She referred not to her own motherbut to her
mother-in-lawMrs. Herritonwho hated the title of Granny.
Irma lifted a serious face to be kissedand said
cautiouslyI'll do my best.
She is sure to be good,said Mrs. Herritonwho was
standing pensively a little out of the hubbub. But Lilia
was already calling to Miss Abbotta tallgraverather
nice-looking young lady who was conducting her adieus in a
more decorous manner on the platform.
Caroline, my Caroline! Jump in, or your chaperon will
go off without you.
And Philipwhom the idea of Italy always intoxicated
had started againtelling her of the supreme moments of her
coming journey--the Campanile of Airolowhich would burst on
her when she emerged from the St. Gothard tunnelpresaging
the future; the view of the Ticino and Lago Maggiore as the
train climbed the slopes of Monte Cenere; the view of
Luganothe view of Como--Italy gathering thick around her
now--the arrival at her first resting-placewhenafter long
driving through dark and dirty streetsshe should at last
beholdamid the roar of trams and the glare of arc lamps
the buttresses of the cathedral of Milan.
Handkerchiefs and collars,screamed Harrietin my
inlaid box! I've lent you my inlaid box.
Good old Harry!She kissed every one againand there
was a moment's silence. They all smiled steadilyexcepting
Philipwho was choking in the fogand old Mrs. Theobald
who had begun to cry. Miss Abbott got into the carriage.
The guard himself shut the doorand told Lilia that she
would be all right. Then the train movedand they all
moved with it a couple of stepsand waved their
handkerchiefsand uttered cheerful little cries. At that
moment Mr. Kingcroft reappearedcarrying a footwarmer by
both endsas if it was a tea-tray. He was sorry that he
was too lateand called out in a quivering voice
Good-bye, Mrs. Charles. May you enjoy yourself, and may
God bless you.
Lilia smiled and noddedand then the absurd position of
the foot-warmer overcame herand she began to laugh again.
Oh, I am so sorry,she cried backbut you do look so
funny. Oh, you all look so funny waving! Oh, pray!And
laughing helplesslyshe was carried out into the fog.
High spirits to begin so long a journey,said Mrs.
Theobalddabbing her eyes.
Mr. Kingcroft solemnly moved his head in token of
agreement. "I wish said he, that Mrs. Charles had gotten
the footwarmer. These London porters won't take heed to a
But you did your best,said Mrs. Herriton. "And I
think it simply noble of you to have brought Mrs. Theobald
all the way here on such a day as this." Thenrather
hastilyshe shook handsand left him to take Mrs. Theobald
all the way back.
Sawstonher own homewas within easy reach of London
and they were not late for tea. Tea was in the dining-room
with an egg for Irmato keep up the child's spirits. The
house seemed strangely quiet after a fortnight's bustleand
their conversation was spasmodic and subdued. They wondered
whether the travellers had got to Folkestonewhether it
would be at all roughand if so what would happen to poor
And, Granny, when will the old ship get to Italy?
'Grandmother,' dear; not 'Granny,'said Mrs. Herriton
giving her a kiss. "And we say 'a boat' or 'a steamer' not
'a ship.' Ships have sails. And mother won't go all the way
by sea. You look at the map of Europeand you'll see why.
Harriettake her. Go with Aunt Harrietand she'll show
you the map."
Righto!said the little girland dragged the
reluctant Harriet into the library. Mrs. Herriton and her
son were left alone. There was immediately confidence
Here beginneth the New Life,said Philip.
Poor child, how vulgar!murmured Mrs. Herriton. "It's
surprising that she isn't worse. But she has got a look of
poor Charles about her."
And--alas, alas!--a look of old Mrs. Theobald. What
appalling apparition was that! I did think the lady was
bedridden as well as imbecile. Why ever did she come?
Mr. Kingcroft made her. I am certain of it. He wanted
to see Lilia again, and this was the only way.
I hope he is satisfied. I did not think my
sister-in-law distinguished herself in her farewells.
Mrs. Herriton shuddered. "I mind nothingso long as
she has gone--and gone with Miss Abbott. It is mortifying to
think that a widow of thirty-three requires a girl ten years
younger to look after her."
I pity Miss Abbott. Fortunately one admirer is chained
to England. Mr. Kingcroft cannot leave the crops or the
climate or something. I don't think, either, he improved
his chances today. He, as well as Lilia, has the knack of
being absurd in public.
Mrs. Herriton repliedWhen a man is neither well bred,
nor well connected, nor handsome, nor clever, nor rich, even
Lilia may discard him in time.
No. I believe she would take any one. Right up to the
last, when her boxes were packed, she was 'playing' the
chinless curate. Both the curates are chinless, but hers
had the dampest hands. I came on them in the Park. They
were speaking of the Pentateuch.
My dear boy! If possible, she has got worse and
worse. It was your idea of Italian travel that saved us!
Philip brightened at the little compliment. "The odd
part is that she was quite eager--always asking me for
information; and of course I was very glad to give it. I
admit she is a Philistineappallingly ignorantand her
taste in art is false. Stillto have any taste at all is
something. And I do believe that Italy really purifies and
ennobles all who visit her. She is the school as well as
the playground of the world. It is really to Lilia's credit
that she wants to go there."
She would go anywhere,said his motherwho had heard
enough of the praises of Italy. "I and Caroline Abbott had
the greatest difficulty in dissuading her from the Riviera."
No, Mother; no. She was really keen on Italy. This
travel is quite a crisis for her.He found the situation
full of whimsical romance: there was something half
attractivehalf repellent in the thought of this vulgar
woman journeying to places he loved and revered. Why should
she not be transfigured? The same had happened to the Goths.
Mrs. Herriton did not believe in romance nor in
transfigurationnor in parallels from historynor in
anything else that may disturb domestic life. She adroitly
changed the subject before Philip got excited. Soon Harriet
returnedhaving given her lesson in geography. Irma went
to bed earlyand was tucked up by her grandmother. Then
the two ladies worked and played cards. Philip read a
book. And so they all settled down to their quiet
profitable existenceand continued it without interruption
through the winter.
It was now nearly ten years since Charles had fallen in
love with Lilia Theobald because she was prettyand during
that time Mrs. Herriton had hardly known a moment's rest.
For six months she schemed to prevent the matchand when it
had taken place she turned to another task--the supervision
of her daughter-in-law. Lilia must be pushed through life
without bringing discredit on the family into which she had
married. She was aided by Charlesby her daughter Harriet
andas soon as he was old enoughby the clever one of the
familyPhilip. The birth of Irma made things still more
difficult. But fortunately old Mrs. Theobaldwho had
attempted interferencebegan to break up. It was an effort
to her to leave Whitbyand Mrs. Herriton discouraged the
effort as far as possible. That curious duel which is
fought over every baby was fought and decided early. Irma
belonged to her father's familynot to her mother's.
Charles diedand the struggle recommenced. Lilia tried
to assert herselfand said that she should go to take care
of Mrs. Theobald. It required all Mrs. Herriton's kindness
to prevent her. A house was finally taken for her at
Sawstonand there for three years she lived with Irma
continually subject to the refining influences of her late
During one of her rare Yorkshire visits trouble began
again. Lilia confided to a friend that she liked a Mr.
Kingcroft extremelybut that she was not exactly engaged to
him. The news came round to Mrs. Herritonwho at once
wrotebegging for informationand pointing out that Lilia
must either be engaged or notsince no intermediate state
existed. It was a good letterand flurried Lilia
extremely. She left Mr. Kingcroft without even the pressure
of a rescue-party. She cried a great deal on her return to
Sawstonand said she was very sorry. Mrs. Herriton took
the opportunity of speaking more seriously about the duties
of widowhood and motherhood than she had ever done before.
But somehow things never went easily after. Lilia would not
settle down in her place among Sawston matrons. She was a
bad housekeeperalways in the throes of some domestic
crisiswhich Mrs. Herritonwho kept her servants for
yearshad to step across and adjust. She let Irma stop
away from school for insufficient reasonsand she allowed
her to wear rings. She learnt to bicyclefor the purpose
of waking the place upand coasted down the High Street one
Sunday eveningfalling off at the turn by the church. If
she had not been a relativeit would have been
entertaining. But even Philipwho in theory loved
outraging English conventionsrose to the occasionand
gave her a talking which she remembered to her dying day.
It was just thentoothat they discovered that she still
allowed Mr. Kingcroft to write to her "as a gentleman
friend and to send presents to Irma.
Philip thought of Italy, and the situation was saved.
Caroline, charming, sober, Caroline Abbott, who lived two
turnings away, was seeking a companion for a year's travel.
Lilia gave up her house, sold half her furniture, left the
other half and Irma with Mrs. Herriton, and had now
departed, amid universal approval, for a change of scene.
She wrote to them frequently during the winter--more
frequently than she wrote to her mother. Her letters were
always prosperous. Florence she found perfectly sweet,
Naples a dream, but very whiffy. In Rome one had simply to
sit still and feel. Philip, however, declared that she was
improving. He was particularly gratified when in the early
spring she began to visit the smaller towns that he had
recommended. In a place like this she wrote, one really
does feel in the heart of thingsand off the beaten track.
Looking out of a Gothic window every morningit seems
impossible that the middle ages have passed away." The
letter was from Monterianoand concluded with a not
unsuccessful description of the wonderful little town.
It is something that she is contented,said Mrs.
Herriton. "But no one could live three months with Caroline
Abbott and not be the better for it."
Just then Irma came in from schooland she read her
mother's letter to hercarefully correcting any grammatical
errorsfor she was a loyal supporter of parental
authority--Irma listened politelybut soon changed the
subject to hockeyin which her whole being was absorbed.
They were to vote for colours that afternoon--yellow and
white or yellow and green. What did her grandmother think?
Of course Mrs. Herriton had an opinionwhich she
sedately expoundedin spite of Harrietwho said that
colours were unnecessary for childrenand of Philipwho
said that they were ugly. She was getting proud of Irma
who had certainly greatly improvedand could no longer be
called that most appalling of things--a vulgar child. She
was anxious to form her before her mother returned. So she
had no objection to the leisurely movements of the
travellersand even suggested that they should overstay
their year if it suited them.
Lilia's next letter was also from Monterianoand Philip
grew quite enthusiastic.
They've stopped there over a week!he cried. "Why! I
shouldn't have done as much myself. They must be really
keenfor the hotel's none too comfortable."
I cannot understand people,said Harriet. "What can
they be doing all day? And there is no church thereI suppose."
There is Santa Deodata, one of the most beautiful
churches in Italy.
Of course I mean an English church,said Harriet
stiffly. "Lilia promised me that she would always be in a
large town on Sundays."
If she goes to a service at Santa Deodata's, she will
find more beauty and sincerity than there is in all the Back
Kitchens of Europe.
The Back Kitchen was his nickname for St. James's, a
small depressing edifice much patronized by his sister. She
always resented any slight on it, and Mrs. Herriton had to
Nowdearsdon't. Listen to Lilia's letter. 'We love
this placeand I do not know how I shall ever thank Philip
for telling me it. It is not only so quaintbut one sees
the Italians unspoiled in all their simplicity and charm
here. The frescoes are wonderful. Carolinewho grows
sweeter every dayis very busy sketching.' "
Every one to his taste!said Harrietwho always
delivered a platitude as if it was an epigram. She was
curiously virulent about Italywhich she had never visited
her only experience of the Continent being an occasional six
weeks in the Protestant parts of Switzerland.
Oh, Harriet is a bad lot!said Philip as soon as she
left the room. His mother laughedand told him not to be
naughty; and the appearance of Irmajust off to school
prevented further discussion. Not only in Tracts is a child
One moment, Irma,said her uncle. "I'm going to the
station. I'll give you the pleasure of my company."
They started together. Irma was gratified; but
conversation flaggedfor Philip had not the art of talking
to the young. Mrs. Herriton sat a little longer at the
breakfast tablere-reading Lilia's letter. Then she helped
the cook to clearordered dinnerand started the housemaid
turning out the drawing-roomTuesday being its day. The
weather was lovelyand she thought she would do a little
gardeningas it was quite early. She called Harrietwho
had recovered from the insult to St. James'sand together
they went to the kitchen garden and began to sow some early
We will save the peas to the last; they are the
greatest fun,said Mrs. Herritonwho had the gift of
making work a treat. She and her elderly daughter always
got on very wellthough they had not a great deal in
common. Harriet's education had been almost too
successful. As Philip once saidshe had "bolted all the
cardinal virtues and couldn't digest them." Though pious
and patrioticand a great moral asset for the houseshe
lacked that pliancy and tact which her mother so much
valuedand had expected her to pick up for herself.
Harrietif she had been allowedwould have driven Lilia to
an open ruptureandwhat was worseshe would have done
the same to Philip two years beforewhen he returned full
of passion for Italyand ridiculing Sawston and its ways.
It's a shame, Mother!she had cried. "Philip laughs
at everything--the Book Clubthe Debating Societythe
Progressive Whistthe bazaars. People won't like it. We
have our reputation. A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Mrs. Herriton replied in the memorable wordsLet
Philip say what he likes, and he will let us do what we
like.And Harriet had acquiesced.
They sowed the duller vegetables firstand a pleasant
feeling of righteous fatigue stole over them as they
addressed themselves to the peas. Harriet stretched a
string to guide the row straightand Mrs. Herriton
scratched a furrow with a pointed stick. At the end of it
she looked at her watch.
It's twelve! The second post's in. Run and see if
there are any letters.
Harriet did not want to go. "Let's finish the peas.
There won't be any letters."
No, dear; please go. I'll sow the peas, but you shall
cover them up--and mind the birds don't see 'em!
Mrs. Herriton was very careful to let those peas trickle
evenly from her handand at the end of the row she was
conscious that she had never sown better. They were
Actually old Mrs. Theobald!said Harrietreturning.
Read me the letter. My hands are dirty. How
intolerable the crested paper is.
Harriet opened the envelope.
I don't understand,she said; "it doesn't make sense."
Her letters never did.
But it must be sillier than usual,said Harrietand
her voice began to quaver. "Look hereread itMother; I
can't make head or tail."
Mrs. Herriton took the letter indulgently. "What is the
difficulty?" she said after a long pause. "What is it that
puzzles you in this letter?"
The meaning--faltered Harriet. The sparrows hopped
nearer and began to eye the peas.
The meaning is quite clear--Lilia is engaged to be
married. Don't cry, dear; please me by not crying--don't
talk at all. It's more than I could bear. She is going to
marry some one she has met in a hotel. Take the letter and
read for yourself.Suddenly she broke down over what might
seem a small point. "How dare she not tell me direct! How
dare she write first to Yorkshire! Prayam I to hear
through Mrs. Theobald--a patronizinginsolent letter like
this? Have I no claim at all? Bear witnessdear"--she
choked with passion--"bear witness that for this I'll never
Oh, what is to be done?moaned Harriet. "What is to
This first!She tore the letter into little pieces
and scattered it over the mould. "Nexta telegram for
Lilia! No! a telegram for Miss Caroline Abbott. Shetoo
has something to explain."
Oh, what is to be done?repeated Harrietas she
followed her mother to the house. She was helpless before
such effrontery. What awful thing--what awful person had
come to Lilia? "Some one in the hotel." The letter only
said that. What kind of person? A gentleman? An
Englishman? The letter did not say.
Wire reason of stay at Monteriano. Strange rumours,
read Mrs. Herritonand addressed the telegram to Abbott
Stella d'ItaliaMonterianoItaly. "If there is an office
there she added, we might get an answer this evening.
Since Philip is back at sevenand the eight-fifteen catches
the midnight boat at Dover--Harrietwhen you go with this
get 100 pounds in 5 pound notes at the bank."
Godearat once; do not talk. I see Irma coming back;
go quickly.... WellIrma dearand whose team are you in
this afternoon--Miss Edith's or Miss May's?"
But as soon as she had behaved as usual to her
grand-daughtershe went to the library and took out the
large atlasfor she wanted to know about Monteriano. The
name was in the smallest printin the midst of a
woolly-brown tangle of hills which were called the
Sub-Apennines.It was not so very far from Sienawhich
she had learnt at school. Past it there wandered a thin
black linenotched at intervals like a sawand she knew
that this was a railway. But the map left a good deal to
imaginationand she had not got any. She looked up the
place in "Childe Harold but Byron had not been there. Nor
did Mark Twain visit it in the Tramp Abroad." The
resources of literature were exhausted: she must wait till
Philip came home. And the thought of Philip made her try
Philip's roomand there she found "Central Italy by
Baedeker, and opened it for the first time in her life and
read in it as follows:-
MONTERIANO (pop. 4800). Hotels: Stella d'Italia,
moderate only; Globo, dirty. * CaffeGaribaldi. Post and
Telegraph office in Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, next to
theatre. Photographs at Seghena's (cheaper in
Florence). Diligence (1 lira) meets principal trains.
Chief attractions (2-3 hours): Santa Deodata, Palazzo
Pubblico, Sant' Agostino, Santa Caterina, Sant' Ambrogio,
Palazzo Capocchi. Guide (2 lire) unnecessary. A walk
round the Walls should on no account be omitted. The
view from the Rocca (small gratuity) is finest at sunset.
History: Monteriano, the Mons Rianus of Antiquity,
whose Ghibelline tendencies are noted by Dante (Purg.
xx.), definitely emancipated itself from Poggibonsi in
'261. Hence the distich, POGGIBONIZZIFAUI IN LACHE
MONTERIANO SI FA CITTA!" till recently enscribed over
the Siena gate. It remained independent till 1530when
it was sacked by the Papal troops and became part of the
Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It is now of small importance
and seat of the district prison. The inhabitants are
still noted for their agreeable manners.
- - - - -
The traveller will proceed direct from the Siena gate to
the Collegiate Church of Santa Deodataand inspect (5th
chapel on right) the charming * Frescoes....
Mrs. Herriton did not proceed. She was not one to
detect the hidden charms of Baedeker. Some of the
information seemed to her unnecessaryall of it was dull.
Whereas Philip could never read "The view from the Rocca
(small gratuity) is finest at sunset" without a catching at
the heart. Restoring the book to its placeshe went
downstairsand looked up and down the asphalt paths for her
daughter. She saw her at lasttwo turnings awayvainly
trying to shake off Mr. AbbottMiss Caroline Abbott's
father. Harriet was always unfortunate. At last she
returnedhotagitatedcrackling with bank-notesand Irma
bounced to greet herand trod heavily on her corn.
Your feet grow larger every day,said the agonized
Harrietand gave her niece a violent push. Then Irma
criedand Mrs. Herriton was annoyed with Harriet for
betraying irritation. Lunch was nasty; and during pudding
news arrived that the cookby sheer dexterityhad broken a
very vital knob off the kitchen-range. "It is too bad
said Mrs. Herriton. Irma said it was three bad, and was
told not to be rude. After lunch Harriet would get out
Baedeker, and read in injured tones about Monteriano, the
Mons Rianus of Antiquity, till her mother stopped her.
It's ridiculous to readdear. She's not trying to
marry any one in the place. Some touristobviouslywho's
stopping in the hotel. The place has nothing to do with it
But what a place to go to! What nice person, too, do
you meet in a hotel?
Nice or nasty, as I have told you several times before,
is not the point. Lilia has insulted our family, and she
shall suffer for it. And when you speak against hotels, I
think you forget that I met your father at Chamounix. You
can contribute nothing, dear, at present, and I think you
had better hold your tongue. I am going to the kitchen, to
speak about the range.
She spoke just too muchand the cook said that if she
could not give satisfaction--she had better leave. A small
thing at hand is greater than a great thing remoteand
Liliamisconducting herself upon a mountain in Central
Italywas immediately hidden. Mrs. Herriton flew to a
registry officefailed; flew to anotherfailed again; came
homewas told by the housemaid that things seemed so
unsettled that she had better leave as well; had teawrote
six letterswas interrupted by cook and housemaidboth
weepingasking her pardonand imploring to be taken back.
In the flush of victory the door-bell rangand there was
the telegram: "Lilia engaged to Italian nobility. Writing.
No answer,said Mrs. Herriton. "Get down Mr. Philip's
Gladstone from the attic."
She would not allow herself to be frightened by the
unknown. Indeed she knew a little now. The man was not an
Italian nobleotherwise the telegram would have said so.
It must have been written by Lilia. None but she would have
been guilty of the fatuous vulgarity of "Italian nobility."
She recalled phrases of this morning's letter: "We love this
place--Caroline is sweeter than everand busy
sketching--Italians full of simplicity and charm." And the
remark of BaedekerThe inhabitants are still noted for
their agreeable manners,had a baleful meaning now. If
Mrs. Herriton had no imaginationshe had intuitiona more
useful qualityand the picture she made to herself of
Lilia's FIANCE did not prove altogether wrong.
So Philip was received with the news that he must start
in half an hour for Monteriano. He was in a painful
position. For three years he had sung the praises of the
Italiansbut he had never contemplated having one as a
relative. He tried to soften the thing down to his mother
but in his heart of hearts he agreed with her when she said
The man may be a duke or he may be an organ-grinder. That
is not the point. If Lilia marries him she insults the
memory of Charles, she insults Irma, she insults us.
Therefore I forbid her, and if she disobeys we have done
with her for ever.
I will do all I can,said Philip in a low voice. It
was the first time he had had anything to do. He kissed his
mother and sister and puzzled Irma. The hall was warm and
attractive as he looked back into it from the cold March
nightand he departed for Italy reluctantlyas for
something commonplace and dull.
Before Mrs. Herriton went to bed she wrote to Mrs.
Theobaldusing plain language about Lilia's conductand
hinting that it was a question on which every one must
definitely choose sides. She addedas if it was an
afterthoughtthat Mrs. Theobald's letter had arrived that
Just as she was going upstairs she remembered that she
never covered up those peas. It upset her more than
anythingand again and again she struck the banisters with
vexation. Late as it wasshe got a lantern from the
tool-shed and went down the garden to rake the earth over
them. The sparrows had taken every one. But countless
fragments of the letter remaineddisfiguring the tidy
When the bewildered tourist alights at the station of
Monterianohe finds himself in the middle of the country.
There are a few houses round the railwayand many more
dotted over the plain and the slopes of the hillsbut of a
townmediaeval or otherwisenot the slightest sign. He
must take what is suitably termed a "legno"--a piece of
wood--and drive up eight miles of excellent road into the
middle ages. For it is impossibleas well as sacrilegious
to be as quick as Baedeker.
It was three in the afternoon when Philip left the
realms of commonsense. He was so weary with travelling that
he had fallen asleep in the train. His fellow-passengers
had the usual Italian gift of divinationand when
Monteriano came they knew he wanted to go thereand dropped
him out. His feet sank into the hot asphalt of the
platformand in a dream he watched the train departwhile
the porter who ought to have been carrying his bagran up
the line playing touch-you-last with the guard. Alas! he
was in no humour for Italy. Bargaining for a legno bored
him unutterably. The man asked six lire; and though Philip
knew that for eight miles it should scarcely be more than
fouryet he was about to give what he was askedand so
make the man discontented and unhappy for the rest of the
day. He was saved from this social blunder by loud shouts
and looking up the road saw one cracking his whip and waving
his reins and driving two horses furiouslyand behind him
there appeared the swaying figure of a womanholding
star-fish fashion on to anything she could touch. It was
Miss Abbottwho had just received his letter from Milan
announcing the time of his arrivaland had hurried down to
He had known Miss Abbott for yearsand had never had
much opinion about her one way or the other. She was good
quietdulland amiableand young only because she was
twenty-three: there was nothing in her appearance or manner
to suggest the fire of youth. All her life had been spent
at Sawston with a dull and amiable fatherand her pleasant
pallid facebent on some respectable charitywas a
familiar object of the Sawston streets. Why she had ever
wished to leave them was surprising; but as she truly said
I am John Bull to the backbone, yet I do want to see Italy,
just once. Everybody says it is marvellous, and that one
gets no idea of it from books at all.The curate suggested
that a year was a long time; and Miss Abbottwith decorous
playfulnessanswered himOh, but you must let me have my
fling! I promise to have it once, and once only. It will
give me things to think about and talk about for the rest of
my life.The curate had consented; so had Mr. Abbott. And
here she was in a legnosolitarydustyfrightenedwith
as much to answer and to answer for as the most dashing
adventuress could desire.
They shook hands without speaking. She made room for
Philip and his luggage amidst the loud indignation of the
unsuccessful driverwhom it required the combined eloquence
of the station-master and the station beggar to confute.
The silence was prolonged until they started. For three
days he had been considering what he should doand still
more what he should say. He had invented a dozen imaginary
conversationsin all of which his logic and eloquence
procured him certain victory. But how to begin? He was in
the enemy's countryand everything--the hot sunthe cold
air behind the heatthe endless rows of olive-trees
regular yet mysterious--seemed hostile to the placid
atmosphere of Sawston in which his thoughts took birth. At
the outset he made one great concession. If the match was
really suitableand Lilia were bent on ithe would give
inand trust to his influence with his mother to set things
right. He would not have made the concession in England;
but here in ItalyLiliahowever wilful and sillywas at
all events growing to be a human being.
Are we to talk it over now?he asked.
Certainly, please,said Miss Abbottin great
agitation. "If you will be so very kind."
Then how long has she been engaged?
Her face was that of a perfect fool--a fool in terror.
A short time--quite a short time,she stammeredas if
the shortness of the time would reassure him.
I should like to know how long, if you can remember.
She entered into elaborate calculations on her fingers.
Exactly eleven days,she said at last.
How long have you been here?
More calculationswhile he tapped irritably with his
foot. "Close on three weeks."
Did you know him before you came?
Oh! Who is he?
A native of the place.
The second silence took place. They had left the plain
now and were climbing up the outposts of the hillsthe
olive-trees still accompanying. The drivera jolly fat
manhad got out to ease the horsesand was walking by the
side of the carriage.
I understood they met at the hotel.
It was a mistake of Mrs. Theobald's.
I also understand that he is a member of the Italian nobility.
She did not reply.
May I be told his name?
Miss Abbott whisperedCarella.But the driver heard
herand a grin split over his face. The engagement must be
Carella? Conte or Marchese, or what?
Signor,said Miss Abbottand looked helplessly aside.
Perhaps I bore you with these questions. If so, I will
Oh, no, please; not at all. I am here--my own idea--to
give all information which you very naturally--and to see if
somehow--please ask anything you like.
Then how old is he?
Oh, quite young. Twenty-one, I believe.
There burst from Philip the exclamationGood Lord!
One would never believe it,said Miss Abbott
flushing. "He looks much older."
And is he good-looking?he askedwith gathering sarcasm.
She became decisive. "Very good-looking. All his
features are goodand he is well built--though I dare say
English standards would find him too short."
Philipwhose one physical advantage was his height
felt annoyed at her implied indifference to it.
May I conclude that you like him?
She replied decisively againAs far as I have seen
him, I do.
At that moment the carriage entered a little woodwhich
lay brown and sombre across the cultivated hill. The trees
of the wood were small and leaflessbut noticeable for
this--that their stems stood in violets as rocks stand in the
summer sea. There are such violets in Englandbut not so
many. Nor are there so many in Artfor no painter has the
courage. The cart-ruts were channelsthe hollow lagoons;
even the dry white margin of the road was splashedlike a
causeway soon to be submerged under the advancing tide of
spring. Philip paid no attention at the time: he was
thinking what to say next. But his eyes had registered the
beautyand next March he did not forget that the road to
Monteriano must traverse innumerable flowers.
As far as I have seen him, I do like him,repeated
Miss Abbottafter a pause.
He thought she sounded a little defiantand crushed her
What is he, please? You haven't told me that. What's
She opened her mouth to speakand no sound came from
it. Philip waited patiently. She tried to be audacious
and failed pitiably.
No position at all. He is kicking his heels, as my
father would say. You see, he has only just finished his
As a private?
I suppose so. There is general conscription. He was
in the Bersaglieri, I think. Isn't that the crack regiment?
The men in it must be short and broad. They must also
be able to walk six miles an hour.
She looked at him wildlynot understanding all that he
saidbut feeling that he was very clever. Then she
continued her defence of Signor Carella.
And now, like most young men, he is looking out for
something to do.
Meanwhile, like most young men, he lives with his
people--father, mother, two sisters, and a tiny tot of a brother.
There was a grating sprightliness about her that drove
him nearly mad. He determined to silence her at last.
One more question, and only one more. What is his father?
His father,said Miss Abbott. "WellI don't suppose
you'll think it a good match. But that's not the point. I
mean the point is not--I mean that social differences--love
after all--not but what--I'
Philip ground his teeth together and said nothing.
Gentlemen sometimes judge hardly. But I feel that you,
and at all events your mother--so really good in every sense,
so really unworldly--after all, love-marriages are made in heaven.
Yes, Miss Abbott, I know. But I am anxious to hear
heaven's choice. You arouse my curiosity. Is my
sister-in-law to marry an angel?
Mr. Herriton, don't--please, Mr. Herriton--a dentist.
His father's a dentist.
Philip gave a cry of personal disgust and pain. He
shuddered all overand edged away from his companion. A
dentist! A dentist at Monteriano. A dentist in fairyland!
False teeth and laughing gas and the tilting chair at a
place which knew the Etruscan Leagueand the Pax Romana
and Alaric himselfand the Countess Matildaand the Middle
Agesall fighting and holinessand the Renaissanceall
fighting and beauty! He thought of Lilia no longer. He was
anxious for himself: he feared that Romance might die.
Romance only dies with life. No pair of pincers will
ever pull it out of us. But there is a spurious sentiment
which cannot resist the unexpected and the incongruous and
the grotesque. A touch will loosen itand the sooner it
goes from us the better. It was going from Philip nowand
therefore he gave the cry of pain.
I cannot think what is in the air,he began. "If
Lilia was determined to disgrace usshe might have found a
less repulsive way. A boy of medium height with a pretty
facethe son of a dentist at Monteriano. Have I put it
correctly? May I surmise that he has not got one penny?
May I also surmise that his social position is nil?
Stop! I'll tell you no more.
Really, Miss Abbott, it is a little late for
reticence. You have equipped me admirably!
I'll tell you not another word!she criedwith a
spasm of terror. Then she got out her handkerchiefand
seemed as if she would shed tears. After a silencewhich
he intended to symbolize to her the dropping of a curtain on
the scenehe began to talk of other subjects.
They were among olives againand the wood with its
beauty and wildness had passed away. But as they climbed
higher the country opened outand there appearedhigh on a
hill to the rightMonteriano. The hazy green of the olives
rose up to its wallsand it seemed to float in isolation
between trees and skylike some fantastic ship city of a
dream. Its colour was brownand it revealed not a single
house--nothing but the narrow circle of the wallsand behind
them seventeen towers--all that was left of the fifty-two
that had filled the city in her prime. Some were only
stumpssome were inclining stiffly to their fallsome were
still erectpiercing like masts into the blue. It was
impossible to praise it as beautifulbut it was also
impossible to damn it as quaint.
Meanwhile Philip talked continuallythinking this to be
great evidence of resource and tact. It showed Miss Abbott
that he had probed her to the bottombut was able to
conquer his disgustand by sheer force of intellect
continue to be as agreeable and amusing as ever. He did not
know that he talked a good deal of nonsenseand that the
sheer force of his intellect was weakened by the sight of
Monterianoand by the thought of dentistry within those walls.
The town above them swung to the leftto the rightto
the left againas the road wound upward through the trees
and the towers began to glow in the descending sun. As they
drew nearPhilip saw the heads of people gathering black
upon the wallsand he knew well what was happening--how the
news was spreading that a stranger was in sightand the
beggars were aroused from their content and bid to adjust
their deformities; how the alabaster man was running for his
waresand the Authorized Guide running for his peaked cap
and his two cards of recommendation--one from Miss M'Gee
Maida Valethe otherless valuablefrom an Equerry to the
Queen of Peru; how some one else was running to tell the
landlady of the Stella d'Italia to put on her pearl necklace
and brown boots and empty the slops from the spare bedroom;
and how the landlady was running to tell Lilia and her boy
that their fate was at hand.
Perhaps it was a pity Philip had talked so profusely.
He had driven Miss Abbott half dementedbut he had given
himself no time to concert a plan. The end came so
suddenly. They emerged from the trees on to the terrace
before the walkwith the vision of half Tuscany radiant in
the sun behind themand then they turned in through the
Siena gateand their journey was over. The Dogana men
admitted them with an air of gracious welcomeand they
clattered up the narrow dark streetgreeted by that mixture
of curiosity and kindness which makes each Italian arrival
He was stunned and knew not what to do. At the hotel he
received no ordinary reception. The landlady wrung him by
the hand; one person snatched his umbrellaanother his bag;
people pushed each other out of his way. The entrance
seemed blocked with a crowd. Dogs were barkingbladder
whistles being blownwomen waving their handkerchiefs
excited children screaming on the stairsand at the top of
the stairs was Lilia herselfvery radiantwith her best
Welcome!she cried. "Welcome to Monteriano!" He
greeted herfor he did not know what else to doand a
sympathetic murmur rose from the crowd below.
You told me to come here,she continuedand I don't
forget it. Let me introduce Signor Carella!
Philip discerned in the comer behind her a young man who
might eventually prove handsome and well-madebut certainly
did not seem so then. He was half enveloped in the drapery
of a cold dirty curtainand nervously stuck out a hand
which Philip took and found thick and damp. There were more
murmurs of approval from the stairs.
Well, din-din's nearly ready,said Lilia. "Your
room's down the passagePhilip. You needn't go changing."
He stumbled away to wash his handsutterly crushed by
Dear Caroline!whispered Lilia as soon as he had
gone. "What an angel you've been to tell him! He takes it
so well. But you must have had a MAUVAIS QUART D'HEURE."
Miss Abbott's long terror suddenly turned into acidity.
I've told nothing,she snapped. "It's all for you--and if
it only takes a quarter of an hour you'll be lucky!"
Dinner was a nightmare. They had the smelly dining-room
to themselves. Liliavery smart and vociferouswas at the
head of the table; Miss Abbottalso in her bestsat by
Philiplookingto his irritated nervesmore like the
tragedy confidante every moment. That scion of the Italian
nobilitySignor Carellasat opposite. Behind him loomed a
bowl of goldfishwho swam round and roundgaping at the guests.
The face of Signor Carella was twitching too much for
Philip to study it. But he could see the handswhich were
not particularly cleanand did not get cleaner by fidgeting
amongst the shining slabs of hair. His starched cuffs were
not clean eitherand as for his suitit had obviously been
bought for the occasion as something really English--a
gigantic checkwhich did not even fit. His handkerchief he
had forgottenbut never missed it. Altogetherhe was
quite unpresentableand very lucky to have a father who was
a dentist in Monteriano. And whyeven Lilia--But as soon as
the meal began it furnished Philip with an explanation.
For the youth was hungryand his lady filled his plate
with spaghettiand when those delicious slippery worms were
flying down his throathis face relaxed and became for a
moment unconscious and calm. And Philip had seen that face
before in Italy a hundred times--seen it and loved itfor it
was not merely beautifulbut had the charm which is the
rightful heritage of all who are born on that soil. But he
did not want to see it opposite him at dinner. It was not
the face of a gentleman.
Conversationto give it that namewas carried on in a
mixture of English and Italian. Lilia had picked up hardly
any of the latter languageand Signor Carella had not yet
learnt any of the former. Occasionally Miss Abbott had to
act as interpreter between the loversand the situation
became uncouth and revolting in the extreme. Yet Philip was
too cowardly to break forth and denounce the engagement. He
thought he should be more effective with Lilia if he had her
aloneand pretended to himself that he must hear her
defence before giving judgment.
Signor Carellaheartened by the spaghetti and the
throat-rasping wineattempted to talkandlooking
politely towards PhilipsaidEngland is a great country.
The Italians love England and the English.
Philipin no mood for international amenitiesmerely bowed.
Italy too,the other continued a little resentfully
is a great country. She has produced many famous men--for
example Garibaldi and Dante. The latter wrote the
'Inferno,' the 'Purgatorio,' the 'Paradiso.' The 'Inferno'
is the most beautiful.And with the complacent tone of one
who has received a solid educationhe quoted the opening
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
Che la diritta via era smarrita-
a quotation which was more apt than he supposed.
Lilia glanced at Philip to see whether he noticed that
she was marrying no ignoramus. Anxious to exhibit all the
good qualities of her betrothedshe abruptly introduced the
subject of pallonein whichit appearedhe was a
proficient player. He suddenly became shy and developed a
conceited grin--the grin of the village yokel whose cricket
score is mentioned before a stranger. Philip himself had
loved to watch pallonethat entrancing combination of
lawn-tennis and fives. But he did not expect to love it
quite so much again.
Oh, look!exclaimed Liliathe poor wee fish!
A starved cat had been worrying them all for pieces of
the purple quivering beef they were trying to swallow.
Signor Carellawith the brutality so common in Italians
had caught her by the paw and flung her away from him. Now
she had climbed up to the bowl and was trying to hook out
the fish. He got updrove her offand finding a large
glass stopper by the bowlentirely plugged up the aperture
But may not the fish die?said Miss Abbott. "They
have no air."
Fish live on water, not on air,he replied in a
knowing voiceand sat down. Apparently he was at his ease
againfor he took to spitting on the floor. Philip glanced
at Lilia but did not detect her wincing. She talked bravely
till the end of the disgusting mealand then got up saying
Well, Philip, I am sure you are ready for by-bye. We shall
meet at twelve o'clock lunch tomorrow, if we don't meet
before. They give us caffe later in our rooms.
It was a little too impudent. Philip repliedI should
like to see you now, please, in my room, as I have come all
the way on business.He heard Miss Abbott gasp. Signor
Carellawho was lighting a rank cigarhad not understood.
It was as he expected. When he was alone with Lilia he
lost all nervousness. The remembrance of his long
intellectual supremacy strengthened himand he began volubly-
My. dear Lilia, don't let's have a scene. Before I
arrived I thought I might have to question you. It is
unnecessary. I know everything. Miss Abbott has told me a
certain amount, and the rest I see for myself.
See for yourself?she exclaimedand he remembered
afterwards that she had flushed crimson.
That he is probably a ruffian and certainly a cad.
There are no cads in Italy,she said quickly.
He was taken aback. It was one of his own remarks. And
she further upset him by addingHe is the son of a
dentist. Why not?
Thank you for the information. I know everything, as I
told you before. I am also aware of the social position of
an Italian who pulls teeth in a minute provincial town.
He was not aware of itbut he ventured to conclude that
it was prettylow. Nor did Lilia contradict him. But she
was sharp enough to sayIndeed, Philip, you surprise me.
I understood you went in for equality and so on.
And I understood that Signor Carella was a member of
the Italian nobility.
Wellwe put it like that in the telegram so as not to
shock dear Mrs. Herriton. But it is true. He is a younger
branch. Of course families ramify--just as in yours there is
your cousin Joseph." She adroitly picked out the only
undesirable member of the Herriton clan. "Gino's father is
courtesy itselfand rising rapidly in his profession. This
very month he leaves Monterianoand sets up at Poggibonsi.
And for my own poor partI think what people are is what
mattersbut I don't suppose you'll agree. And I should
like you to know that Gino's uncle is a priest--the same as a
clergyman at home."
Philip was aware of the social position of an Italian
priestand said so much about it that Lilia interrupted him
withWell, his cousin's a lawyer at Rome.
What kind of 'lawyer'?
Why, a lawyer just like you are--except that he has lots
to do and can never get away.
The remark hurt more than he cared to show. He changed
his methodand in a gentleconciliating tone delivered the
The whole thing is like a bad dream--so bad that it
cannot go on. If there was one redeeming feature about the
man I might be uneasy. As it is I can trust to time. For
the moment, Lilia, he has taken you in, but you will find
him out soon. It is not possible that you, a lady,
accustomed to ladies and gentlemen, will tolerate a man
whose position is--well, not equal to the son of the
servants' dentist in Coronation Place. I am not blaming you
now. But I blame the glamour of Italy--I have felt it
myself, you know--and I greatly blame Miss Abbott.
Caroline! Why blame her? What's all this to do with Caroline?
Because we expected her to--He saw that the answer
would involve him in difficultiesandwaving his hand
continuedSo I am confident, and you in your heart agree,
that this engagement will not last. Think of your life at
home--think of Irma! And I'll also say think of us; for you
know, Lilia, that we count you more than a relation. I
should feel I was losing my own sister if you did this, and
my mother would lose a daughter.
She seemed touched at lastfor she turned away her face
and saidI can't break it off now!
Poor Lilia,said hegenuinely moved. "I know it may
be painful. But I have come to rescue youandbook-worm
though I may beI am not frightened to stand up to a
bully. He's merely an insolent boy. He thinks he can keep
you to your word by threats. He will be different when he
sees he has a man to deal with."
What follows should be prefaced with some simile--the
simile of a powder-minea thunderboltan earthquake--for it
blew Philip up in the air and flattened him on the ground
and swallowed him up in the depths. Lilia turned on her
gallant defender and said-
For once in my life I'll thank you to leave me alone.
I'll thank your mother too. For twelve years you've trained
me and tortured me, and I'll stand it no more. Do you think
I'm a fool? Do you think I never felt? Ah! when I came to
your house a poor young bride, how you all looked me
over--never a kind word--and discussed me, and thought I might
just do; and your mother corrected me, and your sister
snubbed me, and you said funny things about me to show how
clever you were! And when Charles died I was still to run
in strings for the honour of your beastly family, and I was
to be cooped up at Sawston and learn to keep house, and all
my chances spoilt of marrying again. No, thank you! No,
thank you! 'Bully?' 'Insolent boy?' Who's that, pray, but
you? But, thank goodness, I can stand up against the world
now, for I've found Gino, and this time I marry for love!
The coarseness and truth of her attack alike overwhelmed
him. But her supreme insolence found him wordsand he too
Yes! and I forbid you to do it! You despise me,
perhaps, and think I'm feeble. But you're mistaken. You
are ungrateful and impertinent and contemptible, but I will
save you in order to save Irma and our name. There is going
to be such a row in this town that you and he'll be sorry
you came to it. I shall shrink from nothing, for my blood
is up. It is unwise of you to laugh. I forbid you to marry
Carella, and I shall tell him so now.
Do,she cried. "Tell him so now. Have it out with
him. Gino! Gino! Come in! Avanti! Fra Filippo forbids
Gino appeared so quickly that he must have been
listening outside the door.
Fra Filippo's blood's up. He shrinks from nothing.
Oh, take care he doesn't hurt you!She swayed about in
vulgar imitation of Philip's walkand thenwith a proud
glance at the square shoulders of her betrothedflounced
out of the room.
Did she intend them to fight? Philip had no intention
of doing so; and no moreit seemedhad Ginowho stood
nervously in the middle of the room with twitching lips and eyes.
Please sit down, Signor Carella,said Philip in
Italian. "Mrs. Herriton is rather agitatedbut there is no
reason we should not be calm. Might I offer you a
cigarette? Please sit down."
He refused the cigarette and the chairand remained
standing in the full glare of the lamp. Philipnot averse
to such assistancegot his own face into shadow.
For a long time he was silent. It might impress Gino
and it also gave him time to collect himself. He would not
this time fall into the error of blusteringwhich he had
caught so unaccountably from Lilia. He would make his power
felt by restraint.
Whywhen he looked up to beginwas Gino convulsed with
silent laughter? It vanished immediately; but he became
nervousand was even more pompous than he intended.
Signor Carella, I will be frank with you. I have come
to prevent you marrying Mrs. Herriton, because I see you
will both be unhappy together. She is English, you are
Italian; she is accustomed to one thing, you to another.
And--pardon me if I say it--she is rich and you are poor.
I am not marrying her because she is rich,was the
I never suggested that for a moment,said Philip
courteously. "You are honourableI am sure; but are you
wise? And let me remind you that we want her with us at
home. Her little daughter will be motherlessour home will
be broken up. If you grant my request you will earn our
thanks--and you will not be without a reward for your
Reward--what reward?He bent over the back of a chair
and looked earnestly at Philip. They were coming to terms
pretty quickly. Poor Lilia!
Philip said slowlyWhat about a thousand lire?
His soul went forth into one exclamationand then he
was silentwith gaping lips. Philip would have given
double: he had expected a bargain.
You can have them tonight.
He found wordsand saidIt is too late.
Because--His voice broke. Philip watched his face--a
face without refinement perhapsbut not without
expression--watched it quiver and re-form and dissolve from
emotion into emotion. There was avarice at one momentand
insolenceand politenessand stupidityand cunning--and
let us hope that sometimes there was love. But gradually
one emotion dominatedthe most unexpected of all; for his
chest began to heave and his eyes to wink and his mouth to
twitchand suddenly he stood erect and roared forth his
whole being in one tremendous laugh.
Philip sprang upand Ginowho had flung wide his arms
to let the glorious creature gotook him by the shoulders
and shook himand saidBecause we are
married--married--married as soon as I knew you were, coming.
There was no time to tell you. Oh. oh! You have come all
the way for nothing. Oh! And oh, your generosity!
Suddenly he became graveand saidPlease pardon me; I am
rude. I am no better than a peasant, and I--Here he saw
Philip's faceand it was too much for him. He gasped and
exploded and crammed his hands into his mouth and spat them
out in another explosionand gave Philip an aimless push
which toppled him on to the bed. He uttered a horrified
Oh! and then gave upand bolted away down the passage
shrieking like a childto tell the joke to his wife.
For a time Philip lay on the bedpretending to himself
that he was hurt grievously. He could scarcely see for
temperand in the passage he ran against Miss Abbottwho
promptly burst into tears.
I sleep at the Globo,he told herand start for
Sawston tomorrow morning early. He has assaulted me. I
could prosecute him. But shall not.
I can't stop here,she sobbed. "I daren't stop here.
You will have to take me with you!"
Opposite the Volterra gate of Monterianooutside the city
is a very respectable white-washed mud wallwith a coping
of red crinkled tiles to keep it from dissolution. It would
suggest a gentleman's garden if there was not in its middle
a large holewhich grows larger with every rain-storm.
Through the hole is visiblefirstlythe iron gate that is
intended to close it; secondlya square piece of ground
whichthough not quitemudis at the same time not
exactly grass; and finallyanother wallstone this time
which has a wooden door in the middle and two
wooden-shuttered windows each sideand apparently forms the
facade of a one-storey house.
This house is bigger than it looksfor it slides for
two storeys down the hill behindand the wooden doorwhich
is always lockedreally leads into the attic. The knowing
person prefers to follow the precipitous mule-track round
the turn of the mud wall till he can take the edifice in the
rear. Then--being now on a level with the cellars--he lifts
up his head and shouts. If his voice sounds like something
light--a letterfor exampleor some vegetablesor a bunch
of flowers--a basket is let out of the first-floor windows by
a stringinto which he puts his burdens and departs. But
if he sounds like something heavysuch as a log of woodor
a piece of meator a visitorhe is interrogatedand then
bidden or forbidden to ascend. The ground floor and the
upper floor of that battered house are alike desertedand
the inmates keep the central portionjust as in a dying
body all life retires to the heart. There is a door at the
top of the first flight of stairsand if the visitor is
admitted he will find a welcome which is not necessarily
cold. There are several roomssome dark and mostly
stuffy--a reception-room adorned with horsehair chairs
wool-work stoolsand a stove that is never lit--German bad
taste without German domesticity broods over that room; also
a living-roomwhich insensibly glides into a bedroom when
the refining influence of hospitality is absentand real
bedrooms; and lastbut not leastthe loggiawhere you can
live day and night if you feel inclineddrinking vermouth
and smoking cigaretteswith leagues of olive-trees and
vineyards and blue-green hills to watch you.
It was in this house that the brief and inevitable
tragedy of Lilia's married life took place. She made Gino
buy it for herbecause it was there she had first seen him
sitting on the mud wall that faced the Volterra gate. She
remembered how the evening sun had struck his hairand how
he had smiled down at herand being both sentimental and
unrefinedwas determined to have the man and the place
together. Things in Italy are cheap for an Italianand
though he would have preferred a house in the piazzaor
better still a house at Sienaorbliss above blissa
house at Leghornhe did as she askedthinking that perhaps
she showed her good taste in preferring so retired an abode.
The house was far too big for themand there was a
general concourse of his relatives to fill it up. His
father wished to make it a patriarchal concernwhere all
the family should have their rooms and meet together for
mealsand was perfectly willing to give up the new practice
at Poggibonsi and preside. Gino was quite willing toofor
he was an affectionate youth who liked a large home-circle
and he told it as a pleasant bit of news to Liliawho did
not attempt to conceal her horror.
At once he was horrified too; saw that the idea was
monstrous; abused himself to her for having suggested it;
rushed off to tell his father that it was impossible. His
father complained that prosperity was already corrupting him
and making him unsympathetic and hard; his mother cried; his
sisters accused him of blocking their social advance. He
was apologeticand even cringinguntil they turned on
Lilia. Then he turned on themsaying that they could not
understandmuch less associate withthe English lady who
was his wife; that there should be one master in that house-himself.
Lilia praised and petted him on his returncalling him
brave and a hero and other endearing epithets. But he was
rather blue when his clan left Monteriano in much dignity--a
dignity which was not at all impaired by the acceptance of a
cheque. They took the cheque not to Poggibonsiafter all
but to Empoli--a livelydusty town some twenty miles off.
There they settled down in comfortand the sisters said
they had been driven to it by Gino.
The cheque wasof courseLilia'swho was extremely
generousand was quite willing to know anybody so long as
she had not to live with themrelations-in-law being on her
nerves. She liked nothing better than finding out some
obscure and distant connection--there were several of
them--and acting the lady bountifulleaving behind her
bewildermentand too often discontent. Gino wondered how
it was that all his peoplewho had formerly seemed so
pleasanthad suddenly become plaintive and disagreeable.
He put it down to his lady wife's magnificencein
comparison with which all seemed common. Her money flew
apacein spite of the cheap living. She was even richer
than he expected; and he remembered with shame how he had
once regretted his inability to accept the thousand lire
that Philip Herriton offered him in exchange for her. It
would have been a shortsighted bargain.
Lilia enjoyed settling into the housewith nothing to
do except give orders to smiling workpeopleand a devoted
husband as interpreter. She wrote a jaunty account of her
happiness to Mrs. Herritonand Harriet answered the letter
saying (1) that all future communications should be
addressed to the solicitors; (2) would Lilia return an
inlaid box which Harriet had lent her--but not given--to keep
handkerchiefs and collars in?
Look what I am giving up to live with you!she said to
Ginonever omitting to lay stress on her condescension. He
took her to mean the inlaid boxand said that she need not
give it up at all.
Silly fellow, no! I mean the life. Those Herritons
are very well connected. They lead Sawston society. But
what do I care, so long as I have my silly fellow!She
always treated him as a boywhich he wasand as a fool
which he was notthinking herself so immeasurably superior
to him that she neglected opportunity after opportunity of
establishing her rule. He was good-looking and indolent;
therefore he must be stupid. He was poor; therefore he
would never dare to criticize his benefactress. He was
passionately in love with her; therefore she could do
exactly as she liked.
It mayn't be heaven below,she thoughtbut it's
better than Charles.
And all the time the boy was watching herand growing up.
She was reminded of Charles by a disagreeable letter
from the solicitorsbidding her disgorge a large sum of
money for Irmain accordance with her late husband's will.
It was just like Charles's suspicious nature to have
provided against a second marriage. Gino was equally
indignantand between them they composed a stinging reply
which had no effect. He then said that Irma had better come
out and live with them. "The air is goodso is the food;
she will be happy hereand we shall not have to part with
the money." But Lilia had not the courage even to suggest
this to the Herritonsand an unexpected terror seized her
at the thought of Irma or any English child being educated
Gino became terribly depressed over the solicitors'
lettermore depressed than she thought necessary. There
was no more to do in the houseand he spent whole days in
the loggia leaning over the parapet or sitting astride it
Oh, you idle boy!she criedpinching his muscles.
Go and play pallone.
I am a married man,he answeredwithout raising his
head. "I do not play games any more."
Go and see your friends then.
I have no friends now.
Silly, silly, silly! You can't stop indoors all day!
I want to see no one but you.He spat on to an olive-tree.
Now, Gino, don't be silly. Go and see your friends,
and bring them to see me. We both of us like society.
He looked puzzledbut allowed himself to be persuaded
went outfound that he was not as friendless as he
supposedand returned after several hours in altered
spirits. Lilia congratulated herself on her good management.
I'm ready, too, for people now,she said. "I mean to
wake you all upjust as I woke up Sawston. Let's have
plenty of men--and make them bring their womenkind. I mean
to have real English tea-parties."
There is my aunt and her husband; but I thought you did
not want to receive my relatives.
I never said such a--
But you would be right,he said earnestly. "They are
not for you. Many of them are in tradeand even we are
little more; you should have gentlefolk and nobility for
Poor fellow,thought Lilia. "It is sad for him to
discover that his people are vulgar." She began to tell him
that she loved him just for his silly selfand he flushed
and began tugging at his moustache.
But besides your relatives I must have other people
here. Your friends have wives and sisters, haven't they?
Oh, yes; but of course I scarcely know them.
Not know your friends' people?
Why, no. If they are poor and have to work for their
living I may see them--but not otherwise. Except--He
stopped. The chief exception was a young ladyto whom he
had once been introduced for matrimonial purposes. But the
dowry had proved inadequateand the acquaintance terminated.
How funny! But I mean to change all that. Bring your
friends to see me, and I will make them bring their people.
He looked at her rather hopelessly.
Well, who are the principal people here? Who leads society?
The governor of the prisonhe supposedand the
officers who assisted him.
Well, are they married?
There we are. Do you know them?
Yes--in a way.
I see,she exclaimed angrily. "They look down on you
do theypoor boy? Wait!" He assented. "Wait! I'll soon
stop that. Nowwho else is there?"
The marchese, sometimes, and the canons of the
The canons--he began with twinkling eyes.
Oh, I forgot your horrid celibacy. In England they
would be the centre of everything. But why shouldn't I know
them? Would it make it easier if I called all round? Isn't
that your foreign way?
He did not think it would make it easier.
But I must know some one! Who were the men you were
talking to this afternoon?
Low-class men. He could scarcely recollect their names.
But, Gino dear, if they're low class, why did you talk
to them? Don't you care about your position?
All Gino cared about at present was idleness and
pocket-moneyand his way of expressing it was to exclaim
Ouf-pouf! How hot it is in here. No air; I sweat all
over. I expire. I must cool myself, or I shall never get
to sleep.In his funny abrupt way he ran out on to the
loggiawhere he lay full length on the parapetand began
to smoke and spit under the silence of the stars.
Lilia gathered somehow from this conversation that
Continental society was not the go-as-you-please thing she
had expected. Indeed she could not see where Continental
society was. Italy is such a delightful place to live in if
you happen to be a man. There one may enjoy that exquisite
luxury of Socialism--that true Socialism which is based not
on equality of income or characterbut on the equality of
manners. In the democracy of the caffe or the street the
great question of our life has been solvedand the
brotherhood of man is a reality. But is accomplished at the
expense of the sisterhood of women. Why should you not make
friends with your neighbour at the theatre or in the train
when you know and he knows that feminine criticism and
feminine insight and feminine prejudice will never come
between you? Though you become as David and Jonathanyou
need never enter his homenor he yours. All your lives you
will meet under the open airthe only roof-tree of the
Southunder which he will spit and swearand you will drop
your h'sand nobody will think the worse of either.
Meanwhile the women--they haveof coursetheir house
and their churchwith its admirable and frequent services
to which they are escorted by the maid. Otherwise they do
not go out muchfor it is not genteel to walkand you are
too poor to keep a carriage. Occasionally you will take
them to the caffe or theatreand immediately all your
wonted acquaintance there desert youexcept those few who
are expecting and expected to marry into your family. It is
all very sad. But one consolation emerges--life is very
pleasant in Italy if you are a man.
Hitherto Gino had not interfered with Lilia. She was so
much older than he wasand so much richerthat he regarded
her as a superior being who answered to other laws. He was
not wholly surprisedfor strange rumours were always
blowing over the Alps of lands where men and women had the
same amusements and interestsand he had often met that
privileged maniacthe lady touriston her solitary walks.
Lilia took solitary walks tooand only that week a tramp
had grabbed at her watch--an episode which is supposed to be
indigenous in Italythough really less frequent there than
in Bond Street. Now that he knew her betterhe was
inevitably losing his awe: no one could live with her and
keep itespecially when she had been so silly as to lose a
gold watch and chain. As he lay thoughtful along the
parapethe realized for the first time the responsibilities
of monied life. He must save her from dangersphysical and
socialfor after all she was a woman. "And I he
reflected, though I am youngam at all events a manand
know what is right."
He found her still in the living-roomcombing her hair
for she had something of the slattern in her natureand
there was no need to keep up appearances.
You must not go out alone,he said gently. "It is not
safe. If you want to walkPerfetta shall accompany you."
Perfetta was a widowed cousintoo humble for social
aspirationswho was living with them as factotum.
Very well,smiled Liliavery well--as if she were
addressing a solicitous kitten. But for all that she never
took a solitary walk againwith one exceptiontill the day
of her death.
Days passedand no one called except poor relatives.
She began to feel dull. Didn't he know the Sindaco or the
bank manager? Even the landlady of the Stella d'Italia
would be better than no one. Shewhen she went into the
townwas pleasantly received; but people naturally found a
difficulty in getting on with a lady who could not learn
their language. And the tea-partyunder Gino's adroit
managementreceded ever and ever before her.
He had a good deal of anxiety over her welfarefor she
did not settle down in the house at all. But he was
comforted by a welcome and unexpected visitor. As he was
going one afternoon for the letters--they were delivered at
the doorbut it took longer to get them at the office--some
one humorously threw a cloak over his headand when he
disengaged himself he saw his very dear friend Spiridione
Tesi of the custom-house at Chiassowhom he had not met for
two years. What joy! what salutations! so that all the
passersby smiled with approval on the amiable scene.
Spiridione's brother was now station-master at Bolognaand
thus he himself could spend his holiday travelling over
Italy at the public expense. Hearing of Gino's marriagehe
had come to see him on his way to Sienawhere lived his own
unclelately monied too.
They all do it,he exclaimedmyself excepted.He
was not quite twenty-three. "But tell me more. She is
English. That is goodvery good. An English wife is very
good indeed. And she is rich?"
Blonde or dark?
Is it possible!
It pleases me very much,said Gino simply. "If you
rememberI always desired a blonde." Three or four men had
collectedand were listening.
We all desire one,said Spiridione. "But youGino
deserve your good fortunefor you are a good sona brave
manand a true friendand from the very first moment I saw
you I wished you well."
No compliments, I beg,said Ginostanding with his
hands crossed on his chest and a smile of pleasure on his face.
Spiridione addressed the other mennone of whom he had
ever seen before. "Is it not true? Does not he deserve
this wealthy blonde?"
He does deserve her,said all the men.
It is a marvellous landwhere you love it or hate it.
There were no lettersand of course they sat down at
the Caffe Garibaldiby the Collegiate Church--quite a good
caffe that for so small a city. There were marble-topped
tablesand pillars terra-cotta below and gold aboveand on
the ceiling was a fresco of the battle of Solferino. One
could not have desired a prettier room. They had vermouth
and little cakes with sugar on the topwhich they chose
gravely at the counterpinching them first to be sure they
were fresh. And though vermouth is barely alcoholic
Spiridione drenched his with soda-water to be sure that it
should not get into his head.
They were in high spiritsand elaborate compliments
alternated curiously with gentle horseplay. But soon they
put up their legs on a pair of chairs and began to smoke.
Tell me,said Spiridione--"I forgot to ask--is she young?"
Ah, well, we cannot have everything.
But you would be surprised. Had she told me
twenty-eight, I should not have disbelieved her.
Is she SIMPATICA?(Nothing will translate that word.)
Gino dabbed at the sugar and said after a silence
It is a most important thing.
She is rich, she is generous, she is affable, she
addresses her inferiors without haughtiness.
There was another silence. "It is not sufficient said
the other. One does not define it thus." He lowered his
voice to a whisper. "Last month a German was smuggling
cigars. The custom-house was dark. Yet I refused because I
did not like him. The gifts of such men do not bring
happiness. NON ERA SIMPATICO. He paid for every oneand
the fine for deception besides."
Do you gain much beyond your pay?asked Ginodiverted
for an instant.
I do not accept small sums now. It is not worth the
risk. But the German was another matter. But listen, my
Gino, for I am older than you and more full of experience.
The person who understands us at first sight, who never
irritates us, who never bores, to whom we can pour forth
every thought and wish, not only in speech but in
silence--that is what I mean by SIMPATICO.
There are such men, I know,said Gino. "And I have
heard it said of children. But where will you find such a woman?"
That is true. Here you are wiser than I. SONO POCO
SIMPATICHE LE DONNE. And the time we waste over them is
much.He sighed dolefullyas if he found the nobility of
his sex a burden.
One I have seen who may be so. She spoke very little,
but she was a young lady--different to most. She, too, was
English, the companion of my wife here. But Fra Filippo,
the brother-in-law, took her back with him. I saw them
start. He was very angry.
Then he spoke of his exciting and secret marriageand
they made fun of the unfortunate Philipwho had travelled
over Europe to stop it.
I regret though,said Ginowhen they had finished
laughingthat I toppled him on to the bed. A great tall
man! And when I am really amused I am often impolite.
You will never see him again,said Spiridionewho
carried plenty of philosophy about him. "And by now the
scene will have passed from his mind."
It sometimes happens that such things are recollected
longest. I shall never see him again, of course; but it is
no benefit to me that he should wish me ill. And even if he
has forgotten, I am still sorry that I toppled him on to the
So their talk continuedat one moment full of
childishness and tender wisdomthe next moment scandalously
gross. The shadows of the terra-cotta pillars lengthened
and touristsflying through the Palazzo Pubblico opposite
could observe how the Italians wasted time.
The sight of tourists reminded Gino of something he
might say. "I want to consult you since you are so kind as
to take an interest in my affairs. My wife wishes to take
Spiridione was shocked.
But I have forbidden her.
She does not yet understand. She asked me to accompany
her sometimes--to walk without object! You know, she would
like me to be with her all day.
I see. I see.He knitted his brows and tried to
think how he could help his friend. "She needs employment.
Is she a Catholic?"
That is a pity. She must be persuaded. It will be a
great solace to her when she is alone.
I am a Catholic, but of course I never go to church.
Of course not. Still, you might take her at first.
That is what my brother has done with his wife at Bologna
and he has joined the Free Thinkers. He took her once or
twice himself, and now she has acquired the habit and
continues to go without him.
Most excellent advice, and I thank you for it. But she
wishes to give tea-parties--men and women together whom she
has never seen.
Oh, the English! they are always thinking of tea.
They carry it by the kilogramme in their trunks, and they
are so clumsy that they always pack it at the top. But it
What am I to do about it?'
Do nothing. Or ask me!"
Come!cried Ginospringing up. "She will be quite pleased."
The dashing young fellow coloured crimson. "Of course I
was only joking."
I know. But she wants me to take my friends. Come
If I do come,cried the otherand take tea with you,
this bill must be my affair.
Certainly not; you are in my country!
A long argument ensuedin which the waiter took part
suggesting various solutions. At last Gino triumphed. The
bill came to eightpence-halfpennyand a halfpenny for the
waiter brought it up to ninepence. Then there was a shower
of gratitude on one side and of deprecation on the other
and when courtesies were at their height they suddenly
linked arms and swung down the streettickling each other
with lemonade straws as they went.
Lilia was delighted to see themand became more
animated than Gino had known her for a long time. The tea
tasted of chopped hayand they asked to be allowed to drink
it out of a wine-glassand refused milk; butas she
repeatedly observedthis was something like. Spiridione's
manners were very agreeable. He kissed her hand on
introductionand as his profession had taught him a little
Englishconversation did not flag.
Do you like music?she asked.
Passionately,he replied. "I have not studied
scientific musicbut the music of the heartyes."
So she played on the humming piano very badlyand he
sangnot so badly. Gino got out a guitar and sang too
sitting out on the loggia. It was a most agreeable visit.
Gino said he would just walk his friend back to his
lodgings. As they went he saidwithout the least trace of
malice or satire in his voiceI think you are quite
right. I shall not bring people to the house any more.
do not see why an English wife should be treated
differently. This is Italy.
You are very wise,exclaimed the other; "very wise
indeed. The more precious a possession the more carefully
it should be guarded."
They had reached the lodgingbut went on as far as the
Caffe Garibaldiwhere they spent a long and most delightful
The advance of regret can be so gradual that it is
impossible to say "yesterday I was happytoday I am not."
At no one moment did Lilia realize that her marriage was a
failure; yet during the summer and autumn she became as
unhappy as it was possible for her nature to be. She had no
unkind treatmentand few unkind wordsfrom her husband.
He simply left her alone. In the morning he went out to do
business,whichas far as she could discovermeant
sitting in the Farmacia. He usually returned to lunch
after which he retired to another room and slept. In the
evening he grew vigorous againand took the air on the
rampartsoften having his dinner outand seldom returning
till midnight or later. There wereof coursethe times
when he was away altogether--at EmpoliSienaFlorence
Bologna--for he delighted in traveland seemed to pick up
friends all over the country. Lilia often heard what a
favorite he was.
She began to see that she must assert herselfbut she
could not see how. Her self-confidencewhich had
overthrown Philiphad gradually oozed away. If she left
the strange house there was the strange little town. If she
were to disobey her husband and walk in the countrythat
would be stranger still--vast slopes of olives and vineyards
with chalk-white farmsand in the distance other slopes
with more olives and more farmsand more little towns
outlined against the cloudless sky. "I don't call this
country she would say. Whyit's not as wild as Sawston
Park!" Andindeedthere was scarcely a touch of wildness
in it--some of those slopes had been under cultivation for
two thousand years. But it was terrible and mysterious all
the sameand its continued presence made Lilia so
uncomfortable that she forgot her nature and began to reflect.
She reflected chiefly about her marriage. The ceremony
had been hasty and expensiveand the riteswhatever they
werewere not those of the Church of England. Lilia had no
religion in her; but for hours at a time she would be seized
with a vulgar fear that she was not "married properly and
that her social position in the next world might be as
obscure as it was in this. It might be safer to do the
thing thoroughly, and one day she took the advice of
Spiridione and joined the Roman Catholic Church, or as she
called it, Santa Deodata's." Gino approved; hetoo
thought it saferand it was fun confessingthough the
priest was a stupid old manand the whole thing was a good
slap in the face for the people at home.
The people at home took the slap very soberly; indeed
there were few left for her to give it to. The Herritons
were out of the question; they would not even let her write
to Irmathough Irma was occasionally allowed to write to
her. Mrs. Theobald was rapidly subsiding into dotageand
as far as she could be definite about anythinghad
definitely sided with the Herritons. And Miss Abbott did
likewise. Night after night did Lilia curse this false
friendwho had agreed with her that the marriage would
do,and that the Herritons would come round to itand
thenat the first hint of oppositionhad fled back to
England shrieking and distraught. Miss Abbott headed the
long list of those who should never be written toand who
should never be forgiven. Almost the only person who was
not on that list was Mr. Kingcroftwho had unexpectedly
sent an affectionate and inquiring letter. He was quite
sure never to cross the Channeland Lilia drew freely on
her fancy in the reply.
At first she had seen a few English peoplefor
Monteriano was not the end of the earth. One or two
inquisitive ladieswho had heard at home of her quarrel
with the Herritonscame to call. She was very sprightly
and they thought her quite unconventionaland Gino a
charming boyso all that was to the good. But by May the
seasonsuch as it washad finishedand there would be no
one till next spring. As Mrs. Herriton had often observed
Lilia had no resources. She did not like musicor reading
or work. Her one qualification for life was rather blowsy
high spiritswhich turned querulous or boisterous according
to circumstances. She was not obedientbut she was
cowardlyand in the most gentle waywhich Mrs. Herriton
might have enviedGino made her do what he wanted. At
first it had been rather fun to let him get the upper hand.
But it was galling to discover that he could not do
otherwise. He had a good strong will when he chose to use
itand would not have had the least scruple in using bolts
and locks to put it into effect. There was plenty of
brutality deep down in himand one day Lilia nearly touched
It was the old question of going out alone.
I always do it in England.
This is Italy.
Yes, but I'm older than you, and I'll settle.
I am your husband,he saidsmiling. They had
finished their mid-day mealand he wanted to go and sleep.
Nothing would rouse him upuntil at last Liliagetting
more and more angrysaidAnd I've got the money.
He looked horrified.
Now was the moment to assert herself. She made the
statement again. He got up from his chair.
And you'd better mend your manners,she continued
for you'd find it awkward if I stopped drawing cheques.
She was no reader of characterbut she quickly became
alarmed. As she said to Perfetta afterwardsNone of his
clothes seemed to fit--too big in one place, too small in
another.His figure rather than his face alteredthe
shoulders falling forward till his coat wrinkled across the
back and pulled away from his wrists. He seemed all arms.
He edged round the table to where she was sittingand she
sprang away and held the chair between themtoo frightened
to speak or to move. He looked at her with round
expressionless eyesand slowly stretched out his left hand.
Perfetta was heard coming up from the kitchen. It
seemed to wake him upand he turned away and went to his
room without a word.
What has happened?cried Lilianearly fainting. "He
Perfetta looked suspicious when she heard the account.
What did you say to him?She crossed herself.
Hardly anything,said Lilia and crossed herself also.
Thus did the two women pay homage to their outraged male.
It was clear to Lilia at last that Gino had married her
for money. But he had frightened her too much to leave any
place for contempt. His return was terrifyingfor he was
frightened tooimploring her pardonlying at her feet
embracing hermurmuring "It was not I striving to define
things which he did not understand. He stopped in the house
for three days, positively ill with physical collapse. But
for all his suffering he had tamed her, and she never
threatened to cut off supplies again.
Perhaps he kept her even closer than convention
demanded. But he was very young, and he could not bear it
to be said of him that he did not know how to treat a
lady--or to manage a wife. And his own social position was
uncertain. Even in England a dentist is a troublesome
creature, whom careful people find difficult to class. He
hovers between the professions and the trades; he may be
only a little lower than the doctors, or he may be down
among the chemists, or even beneath them. The son of the
Italian dentist felt this too. For himself nothing
mattered; he made friends with the people he liked, for he
was that glorious invariable creature, a man. But his wife
should visit nowhere rather than visit wrongly: seclusion
was both decent and safe. The social ideals of North and
South had had their brief contention, and this time the
South had won.
It would have been well if he had been as strict over
his own behaviour as he was over hers. But the incongruity
never occurred to him for a moment. His morality was that
of the average Latin, and as he was suddenly placed in the
position of a gentleman, he did not see why he should not
behave as such. Of course, had Lilia been different--had she
asserted herself and got a grip on his character--he might
possibly--though not probably--have been made a better husband
as well as a better man, and at all events he could have
adopted the attitude of the Englishman, whose standard is
higher even when his practice is the same. But had Lilia
been different she might not have married him.
The discovery of his infidelity--which she made by
accident--destroyed such remnants of self-satisfaction as her
life might yet possess. She broke down utterly and sobbed
and cried in Perfetta's arms. Perfetta was kind and even
sympathetic, but cautioned her on no account to speak to
Gino, who would be furious if he was suspected. And Lilia
agreed, partly because she was afraid of him, partly because
it was, after all, the best and most dignified thing to do.
She had given up everything for him--her daughter, her
relatives, her friends, all the little comforts and luxuries
of a civilized life--and even if she had the courage to break
away, there was no one who would receive her now. The
Herritons had been almost malignant in their efforts against
her, and all her friends had one by one fallen off. So it
was better to live on humbly, trying not to feel,
endeavouring by a cheerful demeanour to put things right.
Perhaps she thought, if I have a child he will be
different. I know he wants a son."
Lilia had achieved pathos despite herselffor there are
some situations in which vulgarity counts no longer. Not
Cordelia nor Imogen more deserves our tears.
She herself cried frequentlymaking herself look plain
and oldwhich distressed her husband. He was particularly
kind to her when he hardly ever saw herand she accepted
his kindness without resentmenteven with gratitudeso
docile had she become. She did not hate himeven as she
had never loved him; with her it was only when she was
excited that the semblance of either passion arose. People
said she was headstrongbut really her weak brain left her cold.
Sufferinghoweveris more independent of temperament
and the wisest of women could hardly have suffered more.
As for Ginohe was quite as boyish as everand carried
his iniquities like a feather. A favourite speech of his
wasAh, one ought to marry! Spiridione is wrong; I must
persuade him. Not till marriage does one realize the
pleasures and the possibilities of life.So sayinghe
would take down his felt hatstrike it in the right place
as infallibly as a German strikes his in the wrong place
and leave her.
One eveningwhen he had gone out thusLilia could
stand it no longer. It was September. Sawston would be
just filling up after the summer holidays. People would be
running in and out of each other's houses all along the
road. There were bicycle gymkhanasand on the 30th Mrs.
Herriton would be holding the annual bazaar in her garden
for the C.M.S. It seemed impossible that such a freehappy
life could exist. She walked out on to the loggia.
Moonlight and stars in a soft purple sky. The walls of
Monteriano should be glorious on such a night as this. But
the house faced away from them.
Perfetta was banging in the kitchenand the stairs down
led past the kitchen door. But the stairs up to the
attic--the stairs no one ever used--opened out of the
living-roomand by unlocking the door at the top one might
slip out to the square terrace above the houseand thus for
ten minutes walk in freedom and peace.
The key was in the pocket of Gino's best suit--the
English check--which he never wore. The stairs creaked and
the key-hole screamed; but Perfetta was growing deaf. The
walls were beautifulbut as they faced west they were in
shadow. To see the light upon them she must walk round the
town a littletill they were caught by the beams of the
rising moon. She looked anxiously at the houseand started.
It was easy walkingfor a little path ran all outside
the ramparts. The few people she met wished her a civil
good-nighttaking herin her hatless conditionfor a
peasant. The walls trended round towards the moon; and
presently she came into its lightand saw all the rough
towers turn into pillars of silver and blackand the
ramparts into cliffs of pearl. She had no great sense of
beautybut she was sentimentaland she began to cry; for
herewhere a great cypress interrupted the monotony of the
girdle of olivesshe had sat with Gino one afternoon in
Marchher head upon his shoulderwhile Caroline was
looking at the view and sketching. Round the comer was the
Siena gatefrom which the road to England startedand she
could hear the rumble of the diligence which was going down
to catch the night train to Empoli. The next moment it was
upon herfor the highroad came towards her a little before
it began its long zigzag down the hill.
The driver slackenedand called to her to get in. He
did not know who she was. He hoped she might be coming to
Non vengo!she cried.
He wished her good-nightand turned his horses down the
corner. As the diligence came round she saw that it was empty.
Vengo . . .
Her voice was tremulousand did not carry. The horses
He had begun to singand heard nothing. She ran down
the road screaming to him to stop--that she was coming; while
the distance grew greater and the noise of the diligence
increased. The man's back was black and square against the
moonand if he would but turn for an instant she would be
saved. She tried to cut off the comer of the zigzag
stumbling over the great clods of earthlarge and hard as
rockswhich lay between the eternal olives. She was too
late; forjust before she regained the roadthe thing
swept past herthunderousploughing up choking clouds of
She did not call any morefor she felt very illand
fainted; and when she revived she was lying in the road
with dust in her eyesand dust in her mouthand dust down
her ears. There is something very terrible in dust at night-time.
What shall I do?she moaned. "He will be so angry."
And without further effort she slowly climbed back to
captivityshaking her garments as she went.
Ill luck pursued her to the end. It was one of the
nights when Gino happened to come in. He was in the
kitchenswearing and smashing plateswhile Perfettaher
apron over her headwas weeping violently. At the sight of
Lilia he turned upon her and poured forth a flood of
miscellaneous abuse. He was far more angry but much less
alarming than he had been that day when he edged after her
round the table. And Lilia gained more courage from her bad
conscience than she ever had from her good onefor as he
spoke she was seized with indignation and feared him no
longerand saw him for a cruelworthlesshypocritical
dissolute upstartand spoke in return.
Perfetta screamed for she told him everything--all she
knew and all she thought. He stood with open mouthall the
anger gone out of himfeeling ashamedand an utter fool.
He was fairly and rightfully cornered. When had a husband
so given himself away before? She finished; and he was
dumbfor she had spoken truly. Thenalas! the absurdity
of his own position grew upon himand he laughed--as he
would have laughed at the same situation on the stage.
You laugh?stammered Lilia.
Ah!he criedwho could help it? I, who thought you
knew and saw nothing--I am tricked--I am conquered. I give
in. Let us talk of it no more.
He touched her on the shoulder like a good comradehalf
amused and half penitentand thenmurmuring and smiling to
himselfran quietly out of the room.
Perfetta burst into congratulations. "What courage you
have!" she cried; "and what good fortune! He is angry no
longer! He has forgiven you!"
Neither Perfettanor Ginonor Lilia herself knew the
true reason of all the misery that followed. To the end he
thought that kindness and a little attention would be enough
to set things straight. His wife was a very ordinary woman
and why should her ideas differ from his own? No one
realized that more than personalities were engaged; that the
struggle was national; that generations of ancestorsgood
bador indifferentforbad the Latin man to be chivalrous
to the northern womanthe northern woman to forgive the
Latin man. All this might have been foreseen: Mrs. Herriton
foresaw it from the first.
Meanwhile Lilia prided herself on her high personal
standardand Gino simply wondered why she did not come
round. He hated discomfort and yearned for sympathybut
shrank from mentioning his difficulties in the town in case
they were put down to his own incompetence. Spiridione was
toldand replied in a philosophical but not very helpful
letter. His other great friendwhom he trusted morewas
still serving in Eritrea or some other desolate outpost.
Andbesideswhat was the good of letters? Friends cannot
travel through the post.
Liliaso similar to her husband in many waysyearned
for comfort and sympathy too. The night he laughed at her
she wildly took up paper and pen and wrote page after page
analysing his characterenumerating his iniquities
reporting whole conversationstracing all the causes and
the growth of her misery. She was beside herself with
passionand though she could hardly think or seeshe
suddenly attained to magnificence and pathos which a
practised stylist might have envied. It was written like a
diaryand not till its conclusion did she realize for whom
it was meant.
Irma, darling Irma, this letter is for you. I almost
forgot I have a daughter. It will make you unhappy, but I
want you to know everything, and you cannot learn things too
soon. God bless you, my dearest, and save you. God bless
your miserable mother.
Fortunately Mrs. Herriton was in when the letter
arrived. She seized it and opened it in her bedroom.
Another momentand Irma's placid childhood would have been
destroyed for ever.
Lilia received a brief note from Harrietagain
forbidding direct communication between mother and daughter
and concluding with formal condolences. It nearly drove her
Gently! gently!said her husband. They were sitting
together on the loggia when the letter arrived. He often
sat with her nowwatching her for hourspuzzled and
anxiousbut not contrite.
It's nothing.She went in and tore it upand then
began to write--a very short letterwhose gist was "Come and
It is not good to see your wife crying when she
writes--especially if you are conscious thaton the whole
your treatment of her has been reasonable and kind. It is
not goodwhen you accidentally look over her shoulderto
see that she is writing to a man. Nor should she shake her
fist at you when she leaves the roomunder the impression
that you are engaged in lighting a cigar and cannot see her.
Lilia went to the post herself. But in Italy so many
things can be arranged. The postman was a friend of Gino's
and Mr. Kingcroft never got his letter.
So she gave up hopebecame illand all through the
autumn lay in bed. Gino was distracted. She knew why; he
wanted a son. He could talk and think of nothing else. His
one desire was to become the father of a man like himself
and it held him with a grip he only partially understood
for it was the first great desirethe first great passion
of his life. Falling in love was a mere physical
trivialitylike warm sun or cool waterbeside this divine
hope of immortality: "I continue." He gave candles to Santa
Deodatafor he was always religious at a crisisand
sometimes he went to her himself and prayed the crude
uncouth demands of the simple. Impetuously he summoned all
his relatives back to bear him company in his time of need
and Lilia saw strange faces flitting past her in the
My love!he would saymy dearest Lilia! Be calm. I
have never loved any one but you.
Sheknowing everythingwould only smile gentlytoo
broken by suffering to make sarcastic repartees.
Before the child was born he gave her a kissand said
I have prayed all night for a boy.
Some strangely tender impulse moved herand she said
faintlyYou are a boy yourself, Gino.
He answeredThen we shall be brothers.
He lay outside the room with his head against the door
like a dog. When they came to tell him the glad news they
found him half unconsciousand his face was wet with tears.
As for Liliasome one said to herIt is a beautiful
boy!But she had died in giving birth to him.
At the time of Lilia's death Philip Herriton was just
twenty-four years of age--indeed the news reached Sawston on
his birthday. He was a tallweakly-built young manwhose
clothes had to be judiciously padded on the shoulders in
order to make him pass muster. His face was plain rather
than notand there was a curious mixture in it of good and
bad. He had a fine forehead and a good large noseand both
observation and sympathy were in his eyes. But below the
nose and eyes all was confusionand those people who
believe that destiny resides in the mouth and chin shook
their heads when they looked at him.
Philip himselfas a boyhad been keenly conscious of
these defects. Sometimes when he had been bullied or
hustled about at school he would retire to his cubicle and
examine his features in a looking-glassand he would sigh
and sayIt is a weak face. I shall never carve a place
for myself in the world.But as years went on he became
either less self-conscious or more self-satisfied. The
worldhe foundmade a niche for him as it did for every
one. Decision of character might come later--or he might
have it without knowing. At all events he had got a sense
of beauty and a sense of humourtwo most desirable gifts.
The sense of beauty developed first. It caused him at the
age of twenty to wear parti-coloured ties and a squashy hat
to be late for dinner on account of the sunsetand to catch
art from Burne-Jones to Praxiteles. At twenty-two he went
to Italy with some cousinsand there he absorbed into one
aesthetic whole olive-treesblue skyfrescoescountry
innssaintspeasantsmosaicsstatuesbeggars. He came
back with the air of a prophet who would either remodel
Sawston or reject it. All the energies and enthusiasms of a
rather friendless life had passed into the championship of beauty.
In a short time it was over. Nothing had happened
either in Sawston or within himself. He had shocked
half-a-dozen peoplesquabbled with his sisterand bickered
with his mother. He concluded that nothing could happen
not knowing that human love and love of truth sometimes
conquer where love of beauty fails.
A little disenchanteda little tiredbut aesthetically
intacthe resumed his placid liferelying more and more on
his second giftthe gift of humour. If he could not reform
the worldhe could at all events laugh at itthus
attaining at least an intellectual superiority. Laughter
he read and believedwas a sign of good moral healthand
he laughed on contentedlytill Lilia's marriage toppled
contentment down for ever. Italythe land of beautywas
ruined for him. She had no power to change men and things
who dwelt in her. Shetoocould produce avarice
brutalitystupidity--andwhat was worsevulgarity. It was
on her soil and through her influence that a silly woman had
married a cad. He hated Ginothe betrayer of his life's
idealand now that the sordid tragedy had comeit filled
him with pangsnot of sympathybut of final disillusion.
The disillusion was convenient for Mrs. Herritonwho
saw a trying little period ahead of herand was glad to
have her family united.
Are we to go into mourning, do you think?She always
asked her children's advice where possible.
Harriet thought that they should. She had been
detestable to Lilia while she livedbut she always felt
that the dead deserve attention and sympathy. "After all
she has suffered. That letter kept me awake for nights.
The whole thing is like one of those horrible modern plays
where no one is in 'the right.' But if we have mourningit
will mean telling Irma."
Of course we must tell Irma!said Philip.
Of course,said his mother. "But I think we can still
not tell her about Lilia's marriage."
I don't think that. And she must have suspected
something by now.
So one would have supposed. But she never cared for
her mother, and little girls of nine don't reason clearly.
She looks on it as a long visit. And it is important, most
important, that she should not receive a shock. All a
child's life depends on the ideal it has of its parents.
Destroy that and everything goes--morals, behaviour,
everything. Absolute trust in some one else is the essence
of education. That is why I have been so careful about
talking of poor Lilia before her.
But you forget this wretched baby. Waters and Adamson
write that there is a baby.
Mrs. Theobald must be told. But she doesn't count.
She is breaking up very quickly. She doesn't even see Mr.
Kingcroft now. He, thank goodness, I hear, has at last
consoled himself with someone else.
The child must know some time,persisted Philipwho
felt a little displeasedthough he could not tell with what.
The later the better. Every moment she is developing.
I must say it seems rather hard luck, doesn't it?
On Irma? Why?
On us, perhaps. We have morals and behaviour also, and
I don't think this continual secrecy improves them.
There's no need to twist the thing round to that,said
Of course there isn't,said her mother. "Let's keep
to the main issue. This baby's quite beside the point.
Mrs. Theobald will do nothingand it's no concern of ours."
It will make a difference in the money, surely,said he.
No, dear; very little. Poor Charles provided for every
kind of contingency in his will. The money will come to you
and Harriet, as Irma's guardians.
Good. Does the Italian get anything?
He will get all hers. But you know what that is.
Good. So those are our tactics--to tell no one about
the baby, not even Miss Abbott.
Most certainly this is the proper course,said Mrs.
Herritonpreferring "course" to "tactics" for Harriet's
sake. "And why ever should we tell Caroline?"
She was so mixed up in the affair.
Poor silly creature. The less she hears about it the
better she will be pleased. I have come to be very sorry
for Caroline. She, if any one, has suffered and been
penitent. She burst into tears when I told her a little,
only a little, of that terrible letter. I never saw such
genuine remorse. We must forgive her and forget. Let the
dead bury their dead. We will not trouble her with them.
Philip saw that his mother was scarcely logical. But
there was no advantage in saying so. "Here beginneth the
New Lifethen. Do you remembermotherthat was what we
said when we saw Lilia off.?"
Yes, dear; but now it is really a New Life, because we
are all at accord. Then you were still infatuated with
Italy. It may be full of beautiful pictures and churches,
but we cannot judge a country by anything but its men.
That is quite true,he said sadly. And as the tactics
were now settledhe went out and took an aimless and
By the time he came back two important things had
happened. Irma had been told of her mother's deathand
Miss Abbottwho had called for a subscriptionhad been
Irma had wept loudlyhad asked a few sensible questions
and a good many silly onesand had been content with
evasive answers. Fortunately the school prize-giving was at
handand thattogether with the prospect of new black
clotheskept her from meditating on the fact that Lilia
who had been absent so longwould now be absent for ever.
As for Caroline,said Mrs. HerritonI was almost
frightened. She broke down utterly. She cried even when
she left the house. I comforted her as best I could, and I
kissed her. It is something that the breach between her and
ourselves is now entirely healed.
Did she ask no questions--as to the nature of Lilia's
death, I mean?
She did. But she has a mind of extraordinary
delicacy. She saw that I was reticent, and she did not
press me. You see, Philip, I can say to you what I could
not say before Harriet. Her ideas are so crude. Really we
do not want it known in Sawston that there is a baby. All
peace and comfort would be lost if people came inquiring
His mother knew how to manage him. He agreed
enthusiastically. And a few days laterwhen he chanced to
travel up to London with Miss Abbotthe had all the time
the pleasant thrill of one who is better informed. Their
last journey together had been from Monteriano back across
Europe. It had been a ghastly journeyand Philipfrom the
force of associationrather expected something ghastly now.
He was surprised. Miss Abbottbetween Sawston and
Charing Crossrevealed qualities which he had never guessed
her to possess. Without being exactly originalshe did
show a commendable intelligenceand though at times she was
gauche and even uncourtlyhe felt that here was a person
whom it might be well to cultivate.
At first she annoyed him. They were talkingof course
about Liliawhen she broke the thread of vague
commiseration and said abruptlyIt is all so strange as
well as so tragic. And what I did was as strange as anything.
It was the first reference she had ever made to her
contemptible behaviour. "Never mind he said. It's all
over now. Let the dead bury their dead. It's fallen out of
But that's why I can talk about it and tell you
everything I have always wanted to. You thought me stupid
and sentimental and wicked and mad, but you never really
knew how much I was to blame.
Indeed I never think about it now,said Philip
gently. He knew that her nature was in the main generous
and upright: it was unnecessary for her to reveal her thoughts.
The first evening we got to Monteriano,she persisted
Lilia went out for a walk alone, saw that Italian in a
picturesque position on a wall, and fell in love. He was
shabbily dressed, and she did not even know he was the son
of a dentist. I must tell you I was used to this sort of
thing. Once or twice before I had had to send people about
Yes; we counted on you said Philip, with sudden
sharpness. After all, if she would reveal her thoughts, she
must take the consequences.
I know you did she retorted with equal sharpness.
Lilia saw him several times againand I knew I ought to
interfere. I called her to my bedroom one night. She was
very frightenedfor she knew what it was about and how
severe I could be. 'Do you love this man?' I asked. 'Yes
or no?' She said 'Yes.' And I said'Why don't you marry him
if you think you'll be happy?' "
Really--really,exploded Philipas exasperated as if
the thing had happened yesterday. "You knew Lilia all your
life. Apart from everything else--as if she could choose
what could make her happy!"
Had you ever let her choose?she flashed out. "I'm
afraid that's rude she added, trying to calm herself.
Let us rather say unhappily expressed said Philip,
who always adopted a dry satirical manner when he was puzzled.
I want to finish. Next morning I found Signor Carella
and said the same to him. He--wellhe was willing. That's all."
And the telegram?He looked scornfully out of the window.
Hitherto her voice had been hardpossibly in
self-accusationpossibly in defiance. Now it became
unmistakably sad. "Ahthe telegram! That was wrong.
Lilia there was more cowardly than I was. We should have
told the truth. It lost me my nerveat all events. I came
to the station meaning to tell you everything then. But we
had started with a lieand I got frightened. And at the
endwhen you leftI got frightened again and came with
Did you really mean to stop?
For a time, at all events.
Would that have suited a newly married pair?
It would have suited them. Lilia needed me. And as
for him--I can't help feeling I might have got influence over
I am ignorant of these matters,said Philip; "but I
should have thought that would have increased the difficulty
of the situation."
The crisp remark was wasted on her. She looked
hopelessly at the raw over-built countryand saidWell, I
But pardon me, Miss Abbott; of most of your conduct you
have given a description rather than an explanation.
He had fairly caught herand expected that she would
gape and collapse. To his surprise she answered with some
spiritAn explanation may bore you, Mr. Herriton: it drags
in other topics.
Oh, never mind.
I hated Sawston, you see.
He was delighted. "So did and do I. That's splendid.
I hated the idleness, the stupidity, the
respectability, the petty unselfishness.
Petty selfishness,he corrected. Sawston psychology
had long been his specialty.
Petty unselfishness,she repeated. "I had got an idea
that every one here spent their lives in making little
sacrifices for objects they didn't care forto please
people they didn't love; that they never learnt to be
sincere--andwhat's as badnever learnt how to enjoy
themselves. That's what I thought--what I thought at Monteriano."
Why, Miss Abbott,he criedyou should have told me
this before! Think it still! I agree with lots of it.
Now Lilia,she went onthough there were things
about her I didn't like, had somehow kept the power of
enjoying herself with sincerity. And Gino, I thought, was
splendid, and young, and strong not only in body, and
sincere as the day. If they wanted to marry, why shouldn't
they do so? Why shouldn't she break with the deadening life
where she had got into a groove, and would go on in it,
getting more and more--worse than unhappy--apathetic till she
died? Of course I was wrong. She only changed one groove
for another--a worse groove. And as for him--well, you know
more about him than I do. I can never trust myself to judge
characters again. But I still feel he cannot have been
quite bad when we first met him. Lilia--that I should dare
to say it! --must have been cowardly. He was only a boy--just
going to turn into something fine, I thought--and she must
have mismanaged him. So that is the one time I have gone
against what is proper, and there are the results. You have
an explanation now.
And much of it has been most interesting, though I
don't understand everything. Did you never think of the
disparity of their social position?
We were mad--drunk with rebellion. We had no
common-sense. As soon as you came, you saw and foresaw everything.
Oh, I don't think that.He was vaguely displeased at
being credited with common-sense. For a moment Miss Abbott
had seemed to him more unconventional than himself.
I hope you see,she concludedwhy I have troubled
you with this long story. Women--I heard you say the other
day--are never at ease till they tell their faults out loud.
Lilia is dead and her husband gone to the bad--all through
me. You see, Mr. Herriton, it makes me specially unhappy;
it's the only time I've ever gone into what my father calls
'real life'--and look what I've made of it! All that winter
I seemed to be waking up to beauty and splendour and I don't
know what; and when the spring came, I wanted to fight
against the things I hated--mediocrity and dulness and
spitefulness and society. I actually hated society for a
day or two at Monteriano. I didn't see that all these
things are invincible, and that if we go against them they
will break us to pieces. Thank you for listening to so much
Oh, I quite sympathize with what you say,said Philip
encouragingly; "it isn't nonsenseand a year or two ago I
should have been saying it too. But I feel differently now
and I hope that you also will change. Society is
invincible--to a certain degree. But your real life is your
ownand nothing can touch it. There is no power on earth
that can prevent your criticizing and despising
mediocrity--nothing that can stop you retreating into
splendour and beauty--into the thoughts and beliefs that make
the real life--the real you."
I have never had that experience yet. Surely I and my
life must be where I live.
Evidently she had the usual feminine incapacity for
grasping philosophy. But she had developed quite a
personalityand he must see more of her. "There is another
great consolation against invincible mediocrity he
said--the meeting a fellow-victim. I hope that this is only
the first of many discussions that we shall have together."
She made a suitable reply. The train reached Charing
Crossand they parted--he to go to a matineeshe to buy
petticoats for the corpulent poor. Her thoughts wandered as
she bought them: the gulf between herself and Mr. Herriton
which she had always known to be greatnow seemed to her
These events and conversations took place at
Christmas-time. The New Life initiated by them lasted some
seven months. Then a little incident--a mere little
vexatious incident--brought it to its close.
Irma collected picture post-cardsand Mrs. Herriton or
Harriet always glanced first at all that camelest the
child should get hold of something vulgar. On this occasion
the subject seemed perfectly inoffensive--a lot of ruined
factory chimneys--and Harriet was about to hand it to her
niece when her eye was caught by the words on the margin.
She gave a shriek and flung the card into the grate. Of
course no fire was alight in Julyand Irma only had to run
and pick it out again.
How dare you!screamed her aunt. "You wicked girl!
Give it here!"
Unfortunately Mrs. Herriton was out of the room. Irma
who was not in awe of Harrietdanced round the table
reading as she did soView of the superb city of
Monteriano--from your lital brother.
Stupid Harriet caught herboxed her earsand tore the
post-card into fragments. Irma howled with painand began
shouting indignantlyWho is my little brother? Why have I
never heard of him before? Grandmamma! Grandmamma! Who is
my little brother? Who is my--
Mrs. Herriton swept into the roomsayingCome with
me, dear, and I will tell you. Now it is time for you to know.
Irma returned from the interview sobbingthoughas a
matter of factshe had learnt very little. But that little
took hold of her imagination. She had promised secrecy--she
knew not why. But what harm in talking of the little
brother to those who had heard of him already?
Aunt Harriet!she would say. "Uncle Phil!
Grandmamma! What do you suppose my little brother is doing
now? Has he begun to play? Do Italian babies talk sooner
than usor would he be an English baby born abroad? OhI
do long to see himand be the first to teach him the Ten
Commandments and the Catechism."
The last remark always made Harriet look grave.
Really,exclaimed Mrs. HerritonIrma is getting too
tiresome. She forgot poor Lilia soon enough.
A living brother is more to her than a dead mother,
said Philip dreamily. "She can knit him socks."
I stopped that. She is bringing him in everywhere. It
is most vexatious. The other night she asked if she might
include him in the people she mentions specially in her prayers.
What did you say?
Of course I allowed her,she replied coldly. "She has
a right to mention any one she chooses. But I was annoyed
with her this morningand I fear that I showed it."
And what happened this morning?
She asked if she could pray for her 'new father'--for
Did you let her?
I got up without saying anything.
You must have felt just as you did when I wanted to
pray for the devil.
He is the devil,cried Harriet.
No, Harriet; he is too vulgar.
I will thank you not to scoff against religion!was
Harriet's retort. "Think of that poor baby. Irma is right
to pray for him. What an entrance into life for an English
My dear sister, I can reassure you. Firstly, the
beastly baby is Italian. Secondly, it was promptly
christened at Santa Deodata's, and a powerful combination of
saints watch over--
Don't, dear. And, Harriet, don't be so serious--I mean
not so serious when you are with Irma. She will be worse
than ever if she thinks we have something to hide.
Harriet's conscience could be quite as tiresome as
Philip's unconventionality. Mrs. Herriton soon made it easy
for her daughter to go for six weeks to the Tirol. Then she
and Philip began to grapple with Irma alone.
Just as they had got things a little quiet the beastly
baby sent another picture post-card--a comic onenot
particularly proper. Irma received it while they were out
and all the trouble began again.
I cannot think,said Mrs. Herritonwhat his motive
is in sending them.
Two years beforePhilip would have said that the motive
was to give pleasure. Now helike his mothertried to
think of something sinister and subtle.
Do you suppose that he guesses the situation--how
anxious we are to hush the scandal up?
That is quite possible. He knows that Irma will worry
us about the baby. Perhaps he hopes that we shall adopt it
to quiet her.
At the same time he has the chance of corrupting the
child's morals.She unlocked a drawertook out the
post-cardand regarded it gravely. "He entreats her to
send the baby one was her next remark.
She might do it too!"
I told her not to; but we must watch her carefully,
without, of course, appearing to be suspicious.
Philip was getting to enjoy his mother's diplomacy. He
did not think of his own morals and behaviour any more.
Who's to watch her at school, though? She may bubble
out any moment.
We can but trust to our influence,said Mrs. Herriton.
Irma did bubble outthat very day. She was proof
against a single post-cardnot against two. A new little
brother is a valuable sentimental asset to a school-girl
and her school was then passing through an acute phase of
baby-worship. Happy the girl who had her quiver full of
themwho kissed them when she left home in the morningwho
had the right to extricate them from mail-carts in the
intervalwho dangled them at tea ere they retired to rest!
That one might sing the unwritten song of Miriamblessed
above all school-girlswho was allowed to hide her baby
brother in a squashy placewhere none but herself could
How could Irma keep silent when pretentious girls spoke
of baby cousins and baby visitors--she who had a baby
brotherwho wrote her post-cards through his dear papa?
She had promised not to tell about him--she knew not why--and
she told. And one girl told anotherand one girl told her
motherand the thing was out.
Yes, it is all very sad,Mrs. Herriton kept saying.
My daughter-in-law made a very unhappy marriage, as I dare
say you know. I suppose that the child will be educated in
Italy. Possibly his grandmother may be doing something, but
I have not heard of it. I do not expect that she will have
him over. She disapproves of the father. It is altogether
a painful business for her.
She was careful only to scold Irma for disobedience--that
eighth deadly sinso convenient to parents and guardians.
Harriet would have plunged into needless explanations and
abuse. The child was ashamedand talked about the baby
less. The end of the school year was at handand she hoped
to get another prize. But she also had put her hand to the wheel.
It was several days before they saw Miss Abbott. Mrs.
Herriton had not come across her much since the kiss of
reconciliationnor Philip since the journey to London. She
hadindeedbeen rather a disappointment to him. Her
creditable display of originality had never been repeated:
he feared she was slipping back. Now she came about the
Cottage Hospital--her life was devoted to dull acts of
charity--and though she got money out of him and out of his
mothershe still sat tight in her chairlooking graver and
more wooden than ever.
I dare say you have heard,said Mrs. Herritonwell
knowing what the matter was.
Yes, I have. I came to ask you; have any steps been taken?
Philip was astonished. The question was impertinent in
the extreme. He had a regard for Miss Abbottand regretted
that she had been guilty of it.
About the baby?asked Mrs. Herriton pleasantly.
As far as I know, no steps. Mrs. Theobald may have
decided on something, but I have not heard of it.
I was meaning, had you decided on anything?
The child is no relation of ours,said Philip. "It is
therefore scarcely for us to interfere."
His mother glanced at him nervously. "Poor Lilia was
almost a daughter to me once. I know what Miss Abbott
means. But now things have altered. Any initiative would
naturally come from Mrs. Theobald."
But does not Mrs. Theobald always take any initiative
from you?asked Miss Abbott.
Mrs. Herriton could not help colouring. "I sometimes
have given her advice in the past. I should not presume to
do so now."
Then is nothing to be done for the child at all?
It is extraordinarily good of you to take this
unexpected interest,said Philip.
The child came into the world through my negligence,
replied Miss Abbott. "It is natural I should take an
interest in it."
My dear Caroline,said Mrs. Herritonyou must not
brood over the thing. Let bygones be bygones. The child
should worry you even less than it worries us. We never
even mention it. It belongs to another world.
Miss Abbott got up without replying and turned to go.
Her extreme gravity made Mrs. Herriton uneasy. "Of course
she added, if Mrs. Theobald decides on any plan that seems
at all practicable--I must say I don't see any such--I shall
ask if I may join her in itfor Irma's sakeand share in
any possible expenses."
Please would you let me know if she decides on
anything. I should like to join as well.
My dear, how you throw about your money! We would
never allow it.
And if she decides on nothing, please also let me
know. Let me know in any case.
Mrs. Herriton made a point of kissing her.
Is the young person mad?burst out Philip as soon as
she had departed. "Never in my life have I seen such
colossal impertinence. She ought to be well smackedand
sent back to Sunday-school."
His mother said nothing.
But don't you see--she is practically threatening us?
You can't put her off with Mrs. Theobald; she knows as well
as we do that she is a nonentity. If we don't do anything
she's going to raise a scandal--that we neglect our
relatives, &c., which is, of course, a lie. Still she'll
say it. Oh, dear, sweet, sober Caroline Abbott has a screw
loose! We knew it at Monteriano. I had my suspicions last
year one day in the train; and here it is again. The young
person is mad.
She still said nothing.
Shall I go round at once and give it her well? I'd
really enjoy it.
In a lowserious voice--such a voice as she had not used
to him for months--Mrs. Herriton saidCaroline has been
extremely impertinent. Yet there may be something in what
she says after all. Ought the child to grow up in that
place--and with that father?
Philip started and shuddered. He saw that his mother
was not sincere. Her insincerity to others had amused him
but it was disheartening when used against himself.
Let us admit frankly,she continuedthat after all
we may have responsibilities.
I don't understand you, Mother. You are turning
absolutely round. What are you up to?
In one moment an impenetrable barrier had been erected
between them. They were no longer in smiling confidence.
Mrs. Herriton was off on tactics of her own--tactics which
might be beyond or beneath him.
His remark offended her. "Up to? I am wondering
whether I ought not to adopt the child. Is that
And this is the result of half-a-dozen idiocies of Miss
It is. I repeat, she has been extremely impertinent.
None the less she is showing me my duty. If I can rescue
poor Lilia's baby from that horrible man, who will bring it
up either as Papist or infidel--who will certainly bring it
up to be vicious--I shall do it.
You talk like Harriet.
And why not?said sheflushing at what she knew to be
an insult. "Sayif you choosethat I talk like Irma.
That child has seen the thing more clearly than any of us.
She longs for her little brother. She shall have him. I
don't care if I am impulsive."
He was sure that she was not impulsivebut did not dare
to say so. Her ability frightened him. All his life he had
been her puppet. She let him worship Italyand reform
Sawston--just as she had let Harriet be Low Church. She had
let him talk as much as he liked. But when she wanted a
thing she always got it.
And though she was frightening himshe did not inspire
him with reverence. Her lifehe sawwas without meaning.
To what purpose was her diplomacyher insincerityher
continued repression of vigour? Did they make any one
better or happier? Did they even bring happiness to
herself? Harriet with her gloomy peevish creedLilia with
her clutches after pleasurewere after all more divine than
this well-orderedactiveuseless machine.
Now that his mother had wounded his vanity he could
criticize her thus. But he could not rebel. To the end of
his days he could probably go on doing what she wanted. He
watched with a cold interest the duel between her and Miss
Abbott. Mrs. Herriton's policy only appeared gradually. It
was to prevent Miss Abbott interfering with the child at all
costsand if possible to prevent her at a small cost.
Pride was the only solid element in her disposition. She
could not bear to seem less charitable than others.
I am planning what can be done,she would tell people
and that kind Caroline Abbott is helping me. It is no
business of either of us, but we are getting to feel that
the baby must not be left entirely to that horrible man. It
would be unfair to little Irma; after all, he is her
half-brother. No, we have come to nothing definite.
Miss Abbott was equally civilbut not to be appeased by
good intentions. The child's welfare was a sacred duty to
hernot a matter of pride or even of sentiment. By it
aloneshe feltcould she undo a little of the evil that
she had permitted to come into the world. To her
imagination Monteriano had become a magic city of vice
beneath whose towers no person could grow up happy or pure.
Sawstonwith its semi-detached houses and snobby schools
its book teas and bazaarswas certainly petty and dull; at
times she found it even contemptible. But it was not a
place of sinand at Sawstoneither with the Herritons or
with herselfthe baby should grow up.
As soon as it was inevitableMrs. Herriton wrote a
letter for Waters and Adamson to send to Gino--the oddest
letter; Philip saw a copy of it afterwards. Its ostensible
purpose was to complain of the picture postcards. Right at
the endin a few nonchalant sentencesshe offered to adopt
the childprovided that Gino would undertake never to come
near itand would surrender some of Lilia's money for its
What do you think of it?she asked her son. "It would
not do to let him know that we are anxious for it."
Certainly he will never suppose that.
But what effect will the letter have on him?
When he gets it he will do a sum. If it is less
expensive in the long run to part with a little money and to
be clear of the baby, he will part with it. If he would
lose, he will adopt the tone of the loving father.
Dear, you're shockingly cynical.After a pause she
addedHow would the sum work out?
I don't know, I'm sure. But if you wanted to ensure
the baby being posted by return, you should have sent a
little sum to HIM. Oh, I'm not cynical--at least I only go
by what I know of him. But I am weary of the whole show.
Weary of Italy. Weary, weary, weary. Sawston's a kind,
pitiful place, isn't it? I will go walk in it and seek comfort.
He smiled as he spokefor the sake of not appearing
serious. When he had left her she began to smile also.
It was to the Abbotts' that he walked. Mr. Abbott
offered him teaand Carolinewho was keeping up her
Italian in the next roomcame in to pour it out. He told
them that his mother had written to Signor Carellaand they
both uttered fervent wishes for her success.
Very fine of Mrs. Herriton, very fine indeed,said Mr.
Abbottwholike every one elseknew nothing of his
daughter's exasperating behaviour. "I'm afraid it will mean
a lot of expense. She will get nothing out of Italy without
There are sure to be incidental expenses,said Philip
cautiously. Then he turned to Miss Abbott and saidDo you
suppose we shall have difficulty with the man?
It depends,she repliedwith equal caution.
From what you saw of him, should you conclude that he
would make an affectionate parent?
I don't go by what I saw of him, but by what I know of him.
Well, what do you conclude from that?
That he is a thoroughly wicked man.
Yet thoroughly wicked men have loved their children.
Look at Rodrigo Borgia, for example.
I have also seen examples of that in my district.
With this remark the admirable young woman roseand
returned to keep up her Italian. She puzzled Philip
extremely. He could understand enthusiasmbut she did not
seem the least enthusiastic. He could understand pure
cussednessbut it did not seem to be that either.
Apparently she was deriving neither amusement nor profit
from the struggle. Whythenhad she undertaken it?
Perhaps she was not sincere. Perhapson the wholethat
was most likely. She must be professing one thing and
aiming at another. What the other thing could be he did not
stop to consider. Insincerity was becoming his stock
explanation for anything unfamiliarwhether that thing was
a kindly action or a high ideal.
She fences well,he said to his mother afterwards.
What had you to fence about?she said suavely. Her
son might know her tacticsbut she refused to admit that he
knew. She still pretended to him that the baby was the one
thing she wantedand had always wantedand that Miss
Abbott was her valued ally.
And whennext weekthe reply came from Italyshe
showed him no face of triumph. "Read the letters she
said. We have failed."
Gino wrote in his own languagebut the solicitors had
sent a laborious English translationwhere "Preghiatissima
Signora" was rendered as "Most Praiseworthy Madam and
every delicate compliment and superlative--superlatives are
delicate in Italian--would have felled an ox. For a moment
Philip forgot the matter in the manner; this grotesque
memorial of the land he had loved moved him almost to
tears. He knew the originals of these lumbering phrases; he
also had sent sincere auguries"; he also had addressed
letters--who writes at home? --from the Caffe Garibaldi. "I
didn't know I was still such an ass he thought. Why
can't I realize that it's merely tricks of expression? A
bounder's a bounderwhether he lives in Sawston or Monteriano.
Isn't it disheartening?said his mother.
He then read that Gino could not accept the generous
offer. His paternal heart would not permit him to abandon
this symbol of his deplored spouse. As for the picture
post-cardsit displeased him greatly that they had been
obnoxious. He would send no more. Would Mrs. Herriton
with her notorious kindnessexplain this to Irmaand thank
her for those which Irma (courteous Miss!) had sent to him?
The sum works out against us,said Philip. "Or
perhaps he is putting up the price."
No,said Mrs. Herriton decidedly. "It is not that.
For some perverse reason he will not part with the child. I
must go and tell poor Caroline. She will be equally distressed."
She returned from the visit in the most extraordinary
condition. Her face was redshe panted for breaththere
were dark circles round her eyes.
The impudence!she shouted. "The cursed impudence!
OhI'm swearing. I don't care. That beastly woman--how
dare she interfere--I'll--PhilipdearI'm sorry. It's no
good. You must go."
Go where? Do sit down. What's happened?This
outburst of violence from his elegant ladylike mother pained
him dreadfully. He had not known that it was in her.
She won't accept--won't accept the letter as final. You
must go to Monteriano!
I won't!he shouted back. "I've been and I've
failed. I'll never see the place again. I hate Italy."
If you don't go, she will.
Yes. Going alone; would start this evening. I offered
to write; she said it was 'too late!' Too late! The child,
if you please--Irma's brother--to live with her, to be brought
up by her and her father at our very gates, to go to school
like a gentleman, she paying. Oh, you're a man! It doesn't
matter for you. You can laugh. But I know what people say;
and that woman goes to Italy this evening.
He seemed to be inspired. "Then let her go! Let her
mess with Italy by herself. She'll come to grief somehow.
Italy's too dangeroustoo--"
Stop that nonsense, Philip. I will not be disgraced by
her. I WILL have the child. Pay all we've got for it.
will have it.
Let her go to Italy!he cried. "Let her meddle with
what she doesn't understand! Look at this letter! The man
who wrote it will marry heror murder heror do for her
somehow. He's a bounderbut he's not an English bounder.
He's mysterious and terrible. He's got a country behind him
that's upset people from the beginning of the world."
Harriet!exclaimed his mother. "Harriet shall go
too. Harrietnowwill be invaluable!" And before Philip
had stopped talking nonsenseshe had planned the whole
thing and was looking out the trains.
ItalyPhilip had always maintainedis only her true self
in the height of the summerwhen the tourists have left
herand her soul awakes under the beams of a vertical sun.
He now had every opportunity of seeing her at her bestfor
it was nearly the middle of August before he went out to
meet Harriet in the Tirol.
He found his sister in a dense cloud five thousand feet
above the seachilled to the boneoverfedboredand not
at all unwilling to be fetched away.
It upsets one's plans terribly,she remarkedas she
squeezed out her spongesbut obviously it is my duty.
Did mother explain it all to you?asked Philip.
Yes, indeed! Mother has written me a really beautiful
letter. She describes how it was that she gradually got to
feel that we must rescue the poor baby from its terrible
surroundings, how she has tried by letter, and it is no
good--nothing but insincere compliments and hypocrisy came
back. Then she says, 'There is nothing like personal
influence; you and Philip will succeed where I have failed.'
She says, too, that Caroline Abbott has been wonderful.
Caroline feels it as keenly almost as us. That is
because she knows the man. Oh, he must be loathsome!
Goodness me! I've forgotten to pack the ammonia! . . . It
has been a terrible lesson for Caroline, but I fancy it is
her turning-point. I can't help liking to think that out of
all this evil good will come.
Philip saw no prospect of goodnor of beauty either.
But the expedition promised to be highly comic. He was not
averse to it any longer; he was simply indifferent to all in
it except the humours. These would be wonderful. Harriet
worked by her mother; Mrs. Herritonworked by Miss Abbott;
Ginoworked by a cheque--what better entertainment could he
desire? There was nothing to distract him this time; his
sentimentality had diedso had his anxiety for the family
honour. He might be a puppet's puppetbut he knew exactly
the disposition of the strings.
They travelled for thirteen hours down-hillwhilst the
streams broadened and the mountains shrankand the
vegetation changedand the people ceased being ugly and
drinking beerand began instead to drink wine and to be
beautiful. And the train which had picked them at sunrise
out of a waste of glaciers and hotels was waltzing at sunset
round the walls of Verona.
Absurd nonsense they talk about the heat,said Philip
as they drove from the station. "Supposing we were here for
pleasurewhat could be more pleasurable than this?"
Did you hear, though, they are remarking on the cold?
said Harriet nervously. "I should never have thought it cold."
And on the second day the heat struck themlike a hand
laid over the mouthjust as they were walking to see the
tomb of Juliet. From that moment everything went wrong.
They fled from Verona. Harriet's sketch-book was stolen
and the bottle of ammonia in her trunk burst over her
prayer-bookso that purple patches appeared on all her
clothes. Thenas she was going through Mantua at four in
the morningPhilip made her look out of the window because
it was Virgil's birthplaceand a smut flew in her eyeand
Harriet with a smut in her eye was notorious. At Bologna
they stopped twenty-four hours to rest. It was a FESTAand
children blew bladder whistles night and day. "What a
religion!" said Harriet. The hotel smelttwo puppies were
asleep on her bedand her bedroom window looked into a
belfrywhich saluted her slumbering form every quarter of
an hour. Philip left his walking-stickhis socksand the
Baedeker at Bologna; she only left her sponge-bag. Next day
they crossed the Apennines with a train-sick child and a hot
ladywho told them that nevernever before had she sweated
so profusely. "Foreigners are a filthy nation said
Harriet. I don't care if there are tunnels; open the
windows. "He obeyedand she got another smut in her eye.
Nor did Florence improve matters. Eatingwalkingeven a
cross word would bathe them both in boiling water. Philip
who was slighter of buildand less conscientioussuffered
less. But Harriet had never been to Florenceand between
the hours of eight and eleven she crawled like a wounded
creature through the streetsand swooned before various
masterpieces of art. It was an irritable couple who took
tickets to Monteriano.
Singles or returns?said he.
A single for me,said Harriet peevishly; "I shall
never get back alive."
Sweet creature!said her brothersuddenly breaking
down. "How helpful you will be when we come to Signor Carella!"
Do you suppose,said Harrietstanding still among a
whirl of porters--"do you suppose I am going to enter that
Then what have you come for, pray? For ornament?
To see that you do your duty.
So mother told me. For goodness sake get the tickets;
here comes that hot woman again! She has the impudence to bow.
Mother told you, did she?said Philip wrathfullyas
he went to struggle for tickets at a slit so narrow that
they were handed to him edgeways. Italy was beastlyand
Florence station is the centre of beastly Italy. But he had
a strange feeling that he was to blame for it all; that a
little influx into him of virtue would make the whole land
not beastly but amusing. For there was enchantmenthe was
sure of that; solid enchantmentwhich lay behind the
porters and the screaming and the dust. He could see it in
the terrific blue sky beneath which they travelledin the
whitened plain which gripped life tighter than a frostin
the exhausted reaches of the Arnoin the ruins of brown
castles which stood quivering upon the hills. He could see
itthough his head ached and his skin was twitchingthough
he was here as a puppetand though his sister knew how he
was here. There was nothing pleasant in that journey to
Monteriano station. But nothing--not even the discomfort--was
But do people live inside?asked Harriet. They had
exchanged railway-carriage for the legnoand the legno had
emerged from the withered treesand had revealed to them
their destination. Philipto be annoyinganswered "No."
What do they do there?continued Harrietwith a frown.
There is a caffe. A prison. A theatre. A church.
Walls. A view.
Not for me, thank you,said Harrietafter a weighty pause.
Nobody asked you, Miss, you see. Now Lilia was asked
by such a nice young gentleman, with curls all over his
forehead, and teeth just as white as father makes them.
Then his manner changed. "ButHarrietdo you see nothing
wonderful or attractive in that place--nothing at all?"
Nothing at all. It's frightful.
I know it is. But it's old--awfully old.
Beauty is the only test,said Harriet. "At least so
you told me when I sketched old buildings--for the sakeI
supposeof making yourself unpleasant."
Oh, I'm perfectly right. But at the same time--I don't
know--so many things have happened here--people have lived so
hard and so splendidly--I can't explain.
I shouldn't think you could. It doesn't seem the best
moment to begin your Italy mania. I thought you were cured
of it by now. Instead, will you kindly tell me what you are
going to do when you arrive. I do beg you will not be taken
unawares this time.
First, Harriet, I shall settle you at the Stella
d'Italia, in the comfort that befits your sex and
disposition. Then I shall make myself some tea. After tea
I shall take a book into Santa Deodata's, and read there.
It is always fresh and cool.
The martyred Harriet exclaimedI'm not clever,
Philip. I don't go in for it, as you know. But I know
what's rude. And I know what's wrong.
You!she shoutedbouncing on the cushions of the
legno and startling all the fleas. "What's the good of
cleverness if a man's murdered a woman?"
Harriet, I am hot. To whom do you refer?
He. Her. If you don't look out he'll murder you. I
wish he would.
Tut tut, tutlet! You'd find a corpse extraordinarily
inconvenient.Then he tried to be less aggravating. "I
heartily dislike the fellowbut we know he didn't murder
her. In that letterthough she said a lotshe never said
he was physically cruel."
He has murdered her. The things he did--things one
can't even mention--
Things which one must mention if one's to talk at all.
And things which one must keep in their proper place.
Because he was unfaithful to his wife, it doesn't follow
that in every way he's absolutely vile.He looked at the
city. It seemed to approve his remark.
It's the supreme test. The man who is unchivalrous to
Oh, stow it! Take it to the Back Kitchen. It's no
more a supreme test than anything else. The Italians never
were chivalrous from the first. If you condemn him for
that, you'll condemn the whole lot.
I condemn the whole lot.
And the French as well?
And the French as well.
Things aren't so jolly easy,said Philipmore to
himself than to her.
But for Harriet things were easythough not jollyand
she turned upon her brother yet again. "What about the
babypray? You've said a lot of smart things and whittled
away morality and religion and I don't know what; but what
about the baby? You think me a foolbut I've been noticing
you all todayand you haven't mentioned the baby once. You
haven't thought about iteven. You don't care. Philip! I
shall not speak to you. You are intolerable."
She kept her promiseand never opened her lips all the
rest of the way. But her eyes glowed with anger and
resolution. For she was a straightbrave womanas well as
a peevish one.
Philip acknowledged her reproof to be true. He did not
care about the baby one straw. Neverthelesshe meant to do
his dutyand he was fairly confident of success. If Gino
would have sold his wife for a thousand lirefor how much
less would he not sell his child? It was just a commercial
transaction. Why should it interfere with other things?
His eyes were fixed on the towers againjust as they had
been fixed when he drove with Miss Abbott. But this time
his thoughts were pleasanterfor he had no such grave
business on his mind. It was in the spirit of the
cultivated tourist that he approached his destination.
One of the towersrough as any otherwas topped by a
cross--the tower of the Collegiate Church of Santa Deodata.
She was a holy maiden of the Dark Agesthe city's patron
saintand sweetness and barbarity mingle strangely in her
story. So holy was she that all her life she lay upon her
back in the house of her motherrefusing to eatrefusing
to playrefusing to work. The devilenvious of such
sanctitytempted her in various ways. He dangled grapes
above herhe showed her fascinating toyshe pushed soft
pillows beneath her aching head. When all proved vain he
tripped up the mother and flung her downstairs before her
very eyes. But so holy was the saint that she never picked
her mother upbut lay upon her back through alland thus
assured her throne in Paradise. She was only fifteen when
she diedwhich shows how much is within the reach of any
school-girl. Those who think her life was unpractical need
only think of the victories upon PoggibonsiSan Gemignano
VolterraSiena itself--all gained through the invocation of
her name; they need only look at the church which rose over
her grave. The grand schemes for a marble facade were never
carried outand it is brown unfinished stone until this
day. But for the inside Giotto was summoned to decorate the
walls of the nave. Giotto came--that is to sayhe did not
comeGerman research having decisively proved--but at all
events the nave is covered with frescoesand so are two
chapels in the left transeptand the arch into the choir
and there are scraps in the choir itself. There the
decoration stoppedtill in the full spring of the
Renaissance a great painter came to pay a few weeks' visit
to his friend the Lord of Monteriano. In the intervals
between the banquets and the discussions on Latin etymology
and the dancinghe would stroll over to the churchand
there in the fifth chapel to the right he has painted two
frescoes of the death and burial of Santa Deodata. That is
why Baedeker gives the place a star.
Santa Deodata was better company than Harrietand she
kept Philip in a pleasant dream until the legno drew up at
the hotel. Every one there was asleepfor it was still the
hour when only idiots were moving. There were not even any
beggars about. The cabman put their bags down in the
passage--they had left heavy luggage at the station--and
strolled about till he came on the landlady's room and woke
herand sent her to them.
Then Harriet pronounced the monosyllable "Go!"
Go where?asked Philipbowing to the landladywho
was swimming down the stairs.
To the Italian. Go.
Buona sera, signora padrona. Si ritorna volontieri a
Monteriano! (Don't be a goose. I'm not going now. You're
in the way, too.) Vorrei due camere--"
Go. This instant. Now. I'll stand it no longer. Go!
I'm damned if I'll go. I want my tea.
Swear if you like!she cried. "Blaspheme! Abuse me!
But understandI'm in earnest."
Harriet, don't act. Or act better.
We've come here to get the baby back, and for nothing
else. I'll not have this levity and slackness, and talk
about pictures and churches. Think of mother; did she send
you out for THEM?
Think of mother and don't straddle across the stairs.
Let the cabman and the landlady come down, and let me go up
and choose rooms.
Harriet, are you mad?
If you like. But you will not come up till you have
seen the Italian.
La signorina si sente male,said PhilipC' e il sole.
Poveretta!cried the landlady and the cabman.
Leave me alone!said Harrietsnarling round at them.
I don't care for the lot of you. I'm English, and neither
you'll come down nor he up till he goes for the baby.
La prego-piano-piano-c e un' altra signorina che dorme--
We shall probably be arrested for brawling, Harriet.
Have you the very slightest sense of the ludicrous?
Harriet had not; that was why she could be so powerful.
She had concocted this scene in the carriageand nothing
should baulk her of it. To the abuse in front and the
coaxing behind she was equally indifferent. How long she
would have stood like a glorified Horatiuskeeping the
staircase at both endswas never to be known. For the
young ladywhose sleep they were disturbingawoke and
opened her bedroom doorand came out on to the landing.
She was Miss Abbott.
Philip's first coherent feeling was one of indignation.
To be run by his mother and hectored by his sister was as
much as he could stand. The intervention of a third female
drove him suddenly beyond politeness. He was about to say
exactly what he thought about the thing from beginning to
end. But before he could do so Harriet also had seen Miss
Abbott. She uttered a shrill cry of joy.
You, Caroline, here of all people!And in spite of
the heat she darted up the stairs and imprinted an
affectionate kiss upon her friend.
Philip had an inspiration. "You will have a lot to tell
Miss AbbottHarrietand she may have as much to tell you.
So I'll pay my call on Signor Carellaas you suggestedand
see how things stand."
Miss Abbott uttered some noise of greeting or alarm. He
did not reply to it or approach nearer to her. Without even
paying the cabmanhe escaped into the street.
Tear each other's eyes out!he criedgesticulating at
the facade of the hotel. "Give it to herHarriet! Teach
her to leave us alone. Give it to herCaroline! Teach her
to be grateful to you. Go itladies; go it!"
Such people as observed him were interestedbut did not
conclude that he was mad. This aftermath of conversation is
not unknown in Italy.
He tried to think how amusing it was; but it would not
do--Miss Abbott's presence affected him too personally.
Either she suspected him of dishonestyor else she was
being dishonest herself. He preferred to suppose the
latter. Perhaps she had seen Ginoand they had prepared
some elaborate mortification for the Herritons. Perhaps
Gino had sold the baby cheap to her for a joke: it was just
the kind of joke that would appeal to him. Philip still
remembered the laughter that had greeted his fruitless
journeyand the uncouth push that had toppled him on to the
bed. And whatever it might meanMiss Abbott's presence
spoilt the comedy: she would do nothing funny.
During this short meditation he had walked through the
cityand was out on the other side. "Where does Signor
Carella live?" he asked the men at the Dogana.
I'll show you,said a little girlspringing out of
the ground as Italian children will.
She will show you,said the Dogana mennodding
reassuringly. "Follow her alwaysalwaysand you will come
to no harm. She is a trustworthy guide. She is my
Philip knew these relatives well: they ramifyif need
beall over the peninsula.
Do you chance to know whether Signor Carella is in?he
She had just seen him go in. Philip nodded. He was
looking forward to the interview this time: it would be an
intellectual duet with a man of no great intellect. What
was Miss Abbott up to? That was one of the things he was
going to discover. While she had it out with Harriethe
would have it out with Gino. He followed the Dogana's
relative softlylike a diplomatist.
He did not follow her longfor this was the Volterra
gateand the house was exactly opposite to it. In half a
minute they had scrambled down the mule-track and reached
the only practicable entrance. Philip laughedpartly at
the thought of Lilia in such a buildingpartly in the
confidence of victory. Meanwhile the Dogana's relative
lifted up her voice and gave a shout.
For an impressive interval there was no reply. Then the
figure of a woman appeared high up on the loggia.
That is Perfetta,said the girl.
I want to see Signor Carella,cried Philip.
Out,echoed the girl complacently.
Why on earth did you say he was in?He could have
strangled her for temper. He had been just ripe for an
interview--just the right combination of indignation and
acuteness: blood hotbrain cool. But nothing ever did go
right in Monteriano. "When will he be back?" he called to
Perfetta. It really was too bad.
She did not know. He was away on business. He might be
back this eveninghe might not. He had gone to Poggibonsi.
At the sound of this word the little girl put her
fingers to her nose and swept them at the plain. She sang
as she did soeven as her foremothers had sung seven
hundred years back-
Poggibonizzifatti in la
Che Monteriano si fa citta!
Then she asked Philip for a halfpenny. A German lady
friendly to the Pasthad given her one that very spring.
I shall have to leave a message,he called.
Now Perfetta has gone for her basket,said the little
girl. "When she returns she will lower it--so. Then you
will put your card into it. Then she will raise it--thus.
By this means--"
When Perfetta returnedPhilip remembered to ask after
the baby. It took longer to find than the basketand he
stood perspiring in the evening suntrying to avoid the
smell of the drains and to prevent the little girl from
singing against Poggibonsi. The olive-trees beside him were
draped with the weekly--or more probably the monthly--wash.
What a frightful spotty blouse! He could not think where he
had seen it. Then he remembered that it was Lilia's. She
had brought it "to hack about in" at Sawstonand had taken
it to Italy because "in Italy anything does." He had
rebuked her for the sentiment.
Beautiful as an angel!bellowed Perfettaholding out
something which must be Lilia's baby. "But who am I addressing?"
Thank you--here is my card.He had written on it a
civil request to Gino for an interview next morning. But
before he placed it in the basket and revealed his identity
he wished to find something out. "Has a young lady happened
to call here lately--a young English lady?"
Perfetta begged his pardon: she was a little deaf.
A young lady--pale, large, tall.
She did not quite catch.
A YOUNG LADY!
Perfetta is deaf when she chooses,said the Dogana's
relative. At last Philip admitted the peculiarity and
strode away. He paid off the detestable child at the
Volterra gate. She got two nickel pieces and was not
pleasedpartly because it was too muchpartly because he
did not look pleased when he gave it to her. He caught her
fathers and cousins winking at each other as he walked past
them. Monteriano seemed in one conspiracy to make him look
a fool. He felt tired and anxious and muddledand not sure
of anything except that his temper was lost. In this mood
he returned to the Stella d'Italiaand thereas he was
ascending the stairsMiss Abbott popped out of the
dining-room on the first floor and beckoned to him mysteriously.
I was going to make myself some tea,he saidwith his
hand still on the banisters.
I should be grateful--
So he followed her into the dining-room and shut the door.
You see,she beganHarriet knows nothing.
No more do I. He was out.
But what's that to do with it?
He presented her with an unpleasant smile. She fenced
wellas he had noticed before. "He was out. You find me
as ignorant as you have left Harriet."
What do you mean? Please, please Mr. Herriton, don't
be mysterious: there isn't the time. Any moment Harriet may
be down, and we shan't have decided how to behave to her.
Sawston was different: we had to keep up appearances. But
here we must speak out, and I think I can trust you to do
it. Otherwise we'll never start clear.
Pray let us start clear,said Philippacing up and
down the room. "Permit me to begin by asking you a
question. In which capacity have you come to Monteriano--spy
Spy!she answeredwithout a moment's hesitation. She
was standing by the little Gothic window as she spoke--the
hotel had been a palace once--and with her finger she was
following the curves of the moulding as if they might feel
beautiful and strange. "Spy she repeated, for Philip was
bewildered at learning her guilt so easily, and could not
answer a word. Your mother has behaved dishonourably all
through. She never wanted the child; no harm in that; but
she is too proud to let it come to me. She has done all she
could to wreck things; she did not tell you everything; she
has told Harriet nothing at all; she has lied or acted lies
everywhere. I cannot trust your mother. So I have come
here alone--all across Europe; no one knows it; my father
thinks I am in Normandy--to spy on Mrs. Herriton. Don't
let's argue!" for he had begunalmost mechanicallyto
rebuke her for impertinence. "If you are here to get the
childI will help you; if you are here to failI shall get
it instead of you."
It is hopeless to expect you to believe me,he
stammered. "But I can assert that we are here to get the
childeven if it costs us all we've got. My mother has
fixed no money limit whatever. I am here to carry out her
instructions. I think that you will approve of themas you
have practically dictated them. I do not approve of them.
They are absurd."
She nodded carelessly. She did not mind what he said.
All she wanted was to get the baby out of Monteriano.
Harriet also carries out your instructions,he
continued. "Shehoweverapproves of themand does not
know that they proceed from you. I thinkMiss Abbottyou
had better take entire charge of the rescue party. I have
asked for an interview with Signor Carella tomorrow
morning. Do you acquiesce?"
She nodded again.
Might I ask for details of your interview with him?
They might be helpful to me.
He had spoken at random. To his delight she suddenly
collapsed. Her hand fell from the window. Her face was red
with more than the reflection of evening.
My interview--how do you know of it?
From Perfetta, if it interests you.
Who ever is Perfetta?
The woman who must have let you in.
Into Signor Carella's house.
Mr. Herriton!she exclaimed. "How could you believe
her? Do you suppose that I would have entered that man's
houseknowing about him all that I do? I think you have
very odd ideas of what is possible for a lady. I hear you
wanted Harriet to go. Very properly she refused. Eighteen
months ago I might have done such a thing. But I trust I
have learnt how to behave by now."
Philip began to see that there were two Miss Abbotts--the
Miss Abbott who could travel alone to Monterianoand the
Miss Abbott who could not enter Gino's house when she got
there. It was an amusing discovery. Which of them would
respond to his next move?
I suppose I misunderstood Perfetta. Where did you have
your interview, then?
Not an interview--an accident--I am very sorry--I meant
you to have the chance of seeing him first. Though it is
your fault. You are a day late. You were due here
yesterday. So I came yesterday, and, not finding you, went
up to the Rocca--you know that kitchen-garden where they let
you in, and there is a ladder up to a broken tower, where
you can stand and see all the other towers below you and the
plain and all the other hills?
Yes, yes. I know the Rocca; I told you of it.
So I went up in the evening for the sunset: I had
nothing to do. He was in the garden: it belongs to a friend
And you talked.
It was very awkward for me. But I had to talk: he
seemed to make me. You see he thought I was here as a
tourist; he thinks so still. He intended to be civil, and I
judged it better to be civil also.
And of what did you talk?
The weather--there will be rain, he says, by tomorrow
evening--the other towns, England, myself, about you a
little, and he actually mentioned Lilia. He was perfectly
disgusting; he pretended he loved her; he offered to show me
her grave--the grave of the woman he has murdered!
My dear Miss Abbott, he is not a murderer. I have just
been driving that into Harriet. And when you know the
Italians as well as I do, you will realize that in all that
he said to you he was perfectly sincere. The Italians are
essentially dramatic; they look on death and love as
spectacles. I don't doubt that he persuaded himself, for
the moment, that he had behaved admirably, both as husband
You may be right,said Miss Abbottimpressed for the
first time. "When I tried to pave the wayso to speak--to
hint that he had not behaved as he ought--wellit was no
good at all. He couldn't or wouldn't understand."
There was something very humorous in the idea of Miss
Abbott approaching Ginoon the Roccain the spirit of a
district visitor. Philipwhose temper was returninglaughed.
Harriet would say he has no sense of sin.
Harriet may be right, I am afraid.
If so, perhaps he isn't sinful!
Miss Abbott was not one to encourage levity. "I know
what he has done she said. What he says and what he
thinks is of very little importance."
Philip smiled at her crudity. "I should like to hear
thoughwhat he said about me. Is he preparing a warm reception?"
Oh, no, not that. I never told him that you and
Harriet were coming. You could have taken him by surprise
if you liked. He only asked for you, and wished he hadn't
been so rude to you eighteen months ago.
What a memory the fellow has for little things!He
turned away as he spokefor he did not want her to see his
face. It was suffused with pleasure. For an apologywhich
would have been intolerable eighteen months agowas
gracious and agreeable now.
She would not let this pass. "You did not think it a
little thing at the time. You told me he had assaulted you."
I lost my temper,said Philip lightly. His vanity had
been appeasedand he knew it. This tiny piece of civility
had changed his mood. "Did he really--what exactly did he
He said he was sorry--pleasantly, as Italians do say
such things. But he never mentioned the baby once.
What did the baby matter when the world was suddenly
right way up? Philip smiledand was shocked at himself for
smilingand smiled again. For romance had come back to
Italy; there were no cads in her; she was beautiful
courteouslovableas of old. And Miss Abbott--shetoo
was beautiful in her wayfor all her gaucheness and
conventionality. She really cared about lifeand tried to
live it properly. And Harriet--even Harriet tried.
This admirable change in Philip proceeds from nothing
admirableand may therefore provoke the gibes of the
cynical. But angels and other practical people will accept
it reverentlyand write it down as good.
The view from the Rocca (small gratuity) is finest at
sunset,he murmuredmore to himself than to her.
And he never mentioned the baby once,Miss Abbott
repeated. But she had returned to the windowand again her
finger pursued the delicate curves. He watched her in
silenceand was more attracted to her than he had ever been
before. She really was the strangest mixture.
The view from the Rocca--wasn't it fine?
What isn't fine here?she answered gentlyand then
addedI wish I was Harriet,throwing an extraordinary
meaning into the words.
She would not go furtherbut he believed that she had
paid homage to the complexity of life. For herat all
eventsthe expedition was neither easy nor jolly. Beauty
evilcharmvulgaritymystery--she also acknowledged this
tanglein spite of herself. And her voice thrilled him
when she broke silence with "Mr. Herriton--come here--look at
She removed a pile of plates from the Gothic windowand
they leant out of it. Close oppositewedged between mean
housesthere rose up one of the great towers. It is your
tower: you stretch a barricade between it and the hoteland
the traffic is blocked in a moment. Farther upwhere the
street empties out by the churchyour connectionsthe
Merli and the Capocchido likewise. They command the
Piazzayou the Siena gate. No one can move in either but
he shall be instantly slaineither by bows or by crossbows
or by Greek fire. Bewarehoweverof the back bedroom
windows. For they are menaced by the tower of the
Aldobrandeschiand before now arrows have stuck quivering
over the washstand. Guard these windows welllest there be
a repetition of the events of February 1338when the hotel
was surprised from the rearand your dearest friend--you
could just make out that it was he--was thrown at you over
It reaches up to heaven,said Philipand down to the
other place. The summit of the tower was radiant in the
sunwhile its base was in shadow and pasted over with
advertisements. "Is it to be a symbol of the town?"
She gave no hint that she understood him. But they
remained together at the window because it was a little
cooler and so pleasant. Philip found a certain grace and
lightness in his companion which he had never noticed in
England. She was appallingly narrowbut her consciousness
of wider things gave to her narrowness a pathetic charm. He
did not suspect that he was more graceful too. For our
vanity is such that we hold our own characters immutable
and we are slow to acknowledge that they have changedeven
for the better.
Citizens came out for a little stroll before dinner.
Some of them stood and gazed at the advertisements on the tower.
Surely that isn't an opera-bill?said Miss Abbott.
Philip put on his pince-nez. " 'Lucia di Lammermoor.
By the Master Donizetti. Unique representation. This evening.'
But is there an opera? Right up here?
Why, yes. These people know how to live. They would
sooner have a thing bad than not have it at all. That is
why they have got to have so much that is good. However bad
the performance is tonight, it will be alive. Italians
don't love music silently, like the beastly Germans. The
audience takes its share--sometimes more.
Can't we go?"
He turned on herbut not unkindly. "But we're here to
rescue a child!"
He cursed himself for the remark. All the pleasure and
the light went out of her faceand she became again Miss
Abbott of Sawston--goodohmost undoubtedly goodbut most
appallingly dull. Dull and remorseful: it is a deadly
combinationand he strove against it in vain till he was
interrupted by the opening of the dining-room door.
They started as guiltily as if they had been flirting.
Their interview had taken such an unexpected course. Anger
cynicismstubborn morality--all had ended in a feeling of
good-will towards each other and towards the city which had
received them. And now Harriet was here--acrid
indissolublelarge; the same in Italy as in
England--changing her disposition neverand her atmosphere
Yet even Harriet was humanand the better for a little
tea. She did not scold Philip for finding Gino outas she
might reasonably have done. She showered civilities on Miss
Abbottexclaiming again and again that Caroline's visit was
one of the most fortunate coincidences in the world.
Caroline did not contradict her.
You see him tomorrow at ten, Philip. Well, don't
forget the blank cheque. Say an hour for the business. No,
Italians are so slow; say two. Twelve o'clock. Lunch.
Well--then it's no good going till the evening train. I can
manage the baby as far as Florence--
My dear sister, you can't run on like that. You don't
buy a pair of gloves in two hours, much less a baby.
Three hours, then, or four; or make him learn English
ways. At Florence we get a nurse--
But, Harriet,said Miss Abbottwhat if at first he
was to refuse?
I don't know the meaning of the word,said Harriet
impressively. "I've told the landlady that Philip and I
only want our rooms one nightand we shall keep to it."
I dare say it will be all right. But, as I told you, I
thought the man I met on the Rocca a strange, difficult man.
He's insolent to ladies, we know. But my brother can
be trusted to bring him to his senses. That woman, Philip,
whom you saw will carry the baby to the hotel. Of course
you must tip her for it. And try, if you can, to get poor
Lilia's silver bangles. They were nice quiet things, and
will do for Irma. And there is an inlaid box I lent
her--lent, not gave--to keep her handkerchiefs in. It's of no
real value; but this is our only chance. Don't ask for it;
but if you see it lying about, just say--
No, Harriet; I'll try for the baby, but for nothing
else. I promise to do that tomorrow, and to do it in the
way you wish. But tonight, as we're all tired, we want a
change of topic. We want relaxation. We want to go to the
Theatres here? And at such a moment?
We should hardly enjoy it, with the great interview
impending,said Miss Abbottwith an anxious glance at Philip.
He did not betray herbut saidDon't you think it's
better than sitting in all the evening and getting nervous?
His sister shook her head. "Mother wouldn't like it.
It would be most unsuitable--almost irreverent. Besides all
thatforeign theatres are notorious. Don't you remember
those letters in the 'Church Family Newspaper'?"
But this is an opera--'Lucia di Lammermoor'--Sir Walter
Scott--classical, you know.
Harriet's face grew resigned. "Certainly one has so few
opportunities of hearing music. It is sure to be very bad.
But it might be better than sitting idle all the evening.
We have no bookand I lost my crochet at Florence."
Good. Miss Abbott, you are coming too?
It is very kind of you, Mr. Herriton. In some ways I
should enjoy it; but--excuse the suggestion--I don't think we
ought to go to cheap seats.
Good gracious me!cried HarrietI should never have
thought of that. As likely as not, we should have tried to
save money and sat among the most awful people. One keeps
on forgetting this is Italy.
Unfortunately I have no evening dress; and if the seats--
Oh, that'll be all right,said Philipsmiling at his
timorousscrupulous women-kind. "We'll go as we areand
buy the best we can get. Monteriano is not formal."
So this strenuous day of resolutionsplansalarms
battlesvictoriesdefeatstrucesended at the opera.
Miss Abbott and Harriet were both a little shame-faced.
They thought of their friends at Sawstonwho were supposing
them to be now tilting against the powers of evil. What
would Mrs. Herritonor Irmaor the curates at the Back
Kitchen say if they could see the rescue party at a place of
amusement on the very first day of its mission? Philip
toomarvelled at his wish to go. He began to see that he
was enjoying his time in Monterianoin spite of the
tiresomeness of his companions and the occasional
contrariness of himself.
He had been to this theatre many years beforeon the
occasion of a performance of "La Zia di Carlo." Since then
it had been thoroughly done upin the tints of the
beet-root and the tomatoand was in many other ways a
credit to the little town. The orchestra had been enlarged
some of the boxes had terra-cotta draperiesand over each
box was now suspended an enormous tabletneatly framed
bearing upon it the number of that box. There was also a
drop-scenerepresenting a pink and purple landscape
wherein sported many a lady lightly cladand two more
ladies lay along the top of the proscenium to steady a large
and pallid clock. So rich and so appalling was the effect
that Philip could scarcely suppress a cry. There is
something majestic in the bad taste of Italy; it is not the
bad taste of a country which knows no better; it has not the
nervous vulgarity of Englandor the blinded vulgarity of
Germany. It observes beautyand chooses to pass it by.
But it attains to beauty's confidence. This tiny theatre of
Monteriano spraddled and swaggered with the best of them
and these ladies with their clock would have nodded to the
young men on the ceiling of the Sistine.
Philip had tried for a boxbut all the best were taken:
it was rather a grand performanceand he had to be content
with stalls. Harriet was fretful and insular. Miss Abbott
was pleasantand insisted on praising everything: her only
regret was that she had no pretty clothes with her.
We do all right,said Philipamused at her unwonted vanity.
Yes, I know; but pretty things pack as easily as ugly
ones. We had no need to come to Italy like guys.
This time he did not replyBut we're here to rescue a
baby.For he saw a charming pictureas charming a picture
as he had seen for years--the hot red theatre; outside the
theatretowers and dark gates and mediaeval walls; beyond
the walls olive-trees in the starlight and white winding
roads and fireflies and untroubled dust; and here in the
middle of it allMiss Abbottwishing she had not come
looking like a guy. She had made the right remark. Most
undoubtedly she had made the right remark. This stiff
suburban woman was unbending before the shrine.
Don't you like it at all?he asked her.
Most awfully.And by this bald interchange they
convinced each other that Romance was here.
Harrietmeanwhilehad been coughing ominously at the
drop-scenewhich presently rose on the grounds of
Ravenswoodand the chorus of Scotch retainers burst into
cry. The audience accompanied with tappings and drummings
swaying in the melody like corn in the wind. Harriet
though she did not care for musicknew how to listen to
it. She uttered an acid "Shish!"
Shut it,whispered her brother.
We must make a stand from the beginning. They're talking.
It is tiresome,murmured Miss Abbott; "but perhaps it
isn't for us to interfere."
Harriet shook her head and shished again. The people
were quietnot because it is wrong to talk during a chorus
but because it is natural to be civil to a visitor. For a
little time she kept the whole house in orderand could
smile at her brother complacently.
Her success annoyed him. He had grasped the principle
of opera in Italy--it aims not at illusion but at
entertainment--and he did not want this great evening-party
to turn into a prayer-meeting. But soon the boxes began to
filland Harriet's power was over. Families greeted each
other across the auditorium. People in the pit hailed their
brothers and sons in the chorusand told them how well they
were singing. When Lucia appeared by the fountain there was
loud applauseand cries of "Welcome to Monteriano!"
Ridiculous babies!said Harrietsettling down in her stall.
Why, it is the famous hot lady of the Apennines,cried
Philip; "the one who had nevernever before--"
Ugh! Don't. She will be very vulgar. And I'm sure
it's even worse here than in the tunnel. I wish we'd never--
Lucia began to singand there was a moment's silence.
She was stout and ugly; but her voice was still beautiful
and as she sang the theatre murmured like a hive of happy
bees. All through the coloratura she was accompanied by
sighsand its top note was drowned in a shout of universal joy.
So the opera proceeded. The singers drew inspiration
from the audienceand the two great sextettes were rendered
not unworthily. Miss Abbott fell into the spirit of the
thing. Shetoochatted and laughed and applauded and
encoredand rejoiced in the existence of beauty. As for
Philiphe forgot himself as well as his mission. He was
not even an enthusiastic visitor. For he had been in this
place always. It was his home.
Harrietlike M. Bovary on a more famous occasionwas
trying to follow the plot. Occasionally she nudged her
companionsand asked them what had become of Walter Scott.
She looked round grimly. The audience sounded drunkand
even Carolinewho never took a dropwas swaying oddly.
Violent waves of excitementall arising from very little
went sweeping round the theatre. The climax was reached in
the mad scene. Luciaclad in whiteas befitted her
maladysuddenly gathered up her streaming hair and bowed
her acknowledgment to the audience. Then from the back of
the stage--she feigned not to see it--there advanced a kind of
bamboo clothes-horsestuck all over with bouquets. It was
very uglyand most of the flowers in it were false. Lucia
knew thisand so did the audience; and they all knew that
the clothes-horse was a piece of stage propertybrought in
to make the performance go year after year. None the less
did it unloose the great deeps. With a scream of amazement
and joy she embraced the animalpulled out one or two
practicable blossomspressed them to her lipsand flung
them into her admirers. They flung them backwith loud
melodious criesand a little boy in one of the stageboxes
snatched up his sister's carnations and offered them. "Che
carino!" exclaimed the singer. She darted at the little boy
and kissed him. Now the noise became tremendous.
Silence! silence!shouted many old gentlemen behind.
Let the divine creature continue!But the young men in
the adjacent box were imploring Lucia to extend her civility
to them. She refusedwith a humorousexpressive gesture.
One of them hurled a bouquet at her. She spurned it with
her foot. Thenencouraged by the roars of the audience
she picked it up and tossed it to them. Harriet was always
unfortunate. The bouquet struck her full in the chestand
a little billet-doux fell out of it into her lap.
Call this classical!she criedrising from her seat.
It's not even respectable! Philip! take me out at once.
Whose is it?shouted her brotherholding up the
bouquet in one hand and the billet-doux in the other.
Whose is it?
The house explodedand one of the boxes was violently
agitatedas if some one was being hauled to the front.
Harriet moved down the gangwayand compelled Miss Abbott to
follow her. Philipstill laughing and calling "Whose is
it?" brought up the rear. He was drunk with excitement.
The heatthe fatigueand the enjoyment had mounted into
To the left!the people cried. "The innamorato is to
He deserted his ladies and plunged towards the box. A
young man was flung stomach downwards across the
balustrade. Philip handed him up the bouquet and the note.
Then his own hands were seized affectionately. It all
seemed quite natural.
Why have you not written?cried the young man. "Why
do you take me by surprise?"
Oh, I've written,said Philip hilariously. "I left a
note this afternoon."
Silence! silence!cried the audiencewho were
beginning to have enough. "Let the divine creature
continue." Miss Abbott and Harriet had disappeared.
No! no!cried the young man. "You don't escape me
now." For Philip was trying feebly to disengage his hands.
Amiable youths bent out of the box and invited him to enter it.
Gino's friends are ours--
Friends?cried Gino. "A relative! A brother! Fra
Filippowho has come all the way from England and never written."
I left a message.
The audience began to hiss.
Come in to us.
Thank you--ladies--there is not time--
The next moment he was swinging by his arms. The moment
after he shot over the balustrade into the box. Then the
conductorseeing that the incident was overraised his
baton. The house was hushedand Lucia di Lammermoor
resumed her song of madness and death.
Philip had whispered introductions to the pleasant
people who had pulled him in--tradesmen's sons perhaps they
wereor medical studentsor solicitors' clerksor sons of
other dentists. There is no knowing who is who in Italy.
The guest of the evening was a private soldier. He shared
the honour now with Philip. The two had to stand side by
side in the frontand exchange complimentswhilst Gino
presidedcourteousbut delightfully familiar. Philip
would have a spasm of horror at the muddle he had made. But
the spasm would passand again he would be enchanted by the
kindcheerful voicesthe laughter that was never vapid
and the light caress of the arm across his back.
He could not get away till the play was nearly finished
and Edgardo was singing amongst the tombs of ancestors. His
new friends hoped to see him at the Garibaldi tomorrow
evening. He promised; then he remembered that if they kept
to Harriet's plan he would have left Monteriano. "At ten
o'clockthen he said to Gino. I want to speak to you
alone. At ten."
Certainly!laughed the other.
Miss Abbott was sitting up for him when he got back.
Harrietit seemedhad gone straight to bed.
That was he, wasn't it?she asked.
I suppose you didn't settle anything?
Why, no; how could I? The fact is--well, I got taken by
surprise, but after all, what does it matter? There's no
earthly reason why we shouldn't do the business pleasantly.
He's a perfectly charming person, and so are his friends.
I'm his friend now--his long-lost brother. What's the harm?
I tell you, Miss Abbott, it's one thing for England and
another for Italy. There we plan and get on high moral
horses. Here we find what asses we are, for things go off
quite easily, all by themselves. My hat, what a night! Did
you ever see a really purple sky and really silver stars
before? Well, as I was saying, it's absurd to worry; he's
not a porky father. He wants that baby as little as I do.
He's been ragging my dear mother--just as he ragged me
eighteen months ago, and I've forgiven him. Oh, but he has
a sense of humour!
Miss Abbotttoohad a wonderful eveningnor did she
ever remember such stars or such a sky. Her headtoowas
full of musicand that night when she opened the window her
room was filled with warmsweet air. She was bathed in
beauty within and without; she could not go to bed for
happiness. Had she ever been so happy before? Yesonce
beforeand herea night in Marchthe night Gino and Lilia
had told her of their love--the night whose evil she had come
now to undo.
She gave a sudden cry of shame. "This time--the same
place--the same thing"--and she began to beat down her
happinessknowing it to be sinful. She was here to fight
against this placeto rescue a little soul--who was innocent
as yet. She was here to champion morality and purityand
the holy life of an English home. In the spring she had
sinned through ignorance; she was not ignorant now. "Help
me!" she criedand shut the window as if there was magic in
the encircling air. But the tunes would not go out of her
headand all night long she was troubled by torrents of
musicand by applause and laughterand angry young men who
shouted the distich out of Baedeker:-
Poggibonizzi fatti in la
Che Monteriano si fa citta!
Poggibonsi was revealed to her as they sang--a joyless
straggling placefull of people who pretended. When she
woke up she knew that it had been Sawston.
At about nine o'clock next morning Perfetta went out on to
the loggianot to look at the viewbut to throw some dirty
water at it. "Scusi tanto!" she wailedfor the water
spattered a tall young lady who had for some time been
tapping at the lower door.
Is Signor Carella in?the young lady asked. It was no
business of Perfetta's to be shockedand the style of the
visitor seemed to demand the reception-room. Accordingly
she opened its shuttersdusted a round patch on one of the
horsehair chairsand bade the lady do herself the
inconvenience of sitting down. Then she ran into Monteriano
and shouted up and down its streets until such time as her
young master should hear her.
The reception-room was sacred to the dead wife. Her
shiny portrait hung upon the wall--similardoubtlessin all
respects to the one which would be pasted on her tombstone.
A little piece of black drapery had been tacked above the
frame to lend a dignity to woe. But two of the tacks had
fallen outand the effect was now rakishas of a
drunkard's bonnet. A coon song lay open on the pianoand
of the two tables one supported Baedeker's "Central Italy
the other Harriet's inlaid box. And over everything there
lay a deposit of heavy white dust, which was only blown off
one moment to thicken on another. It is well to be
remembered with love. It is not so very dreadful to be
forgotten entirely. But if we shall resent anything on
earth at all, we shall resent the consecration of a deserted
Miss Abbott did not sit down, partly because the
antimacassars might harbour fleas, partly because she had
suddenly felt faint, and was glad to cling on to the funnel
of the stove. She struggled with herself, for she had need
to be very calm; only if she was very calm might her
behaviour be justified. She had broken faith with Philip
and Harriet: she was going to try for the baby before they
did. If she failed she could scarcely look them in the face
Harriet and her brother she reasoned, don't realize
what is before them. She would bluster and be rude; he
would be pleasant and take it as a joke. Both of them--even
if they offered money--would fail. But I begin to understand
the man's nature; he does not love the childbut he will be
touchy about it--and that is quite as bad for us. He's
charmingbut he's no fool; he conquered me last year; he
conquered Mr. Herriton yesterdayand if I am not careful he
will conquer us all todayand the baby will grow up in
Monteriano. He is terribly strong; Lilia found that out
but only I remember it now."
This attemptand this justification of itwere the
results of the long and restless night. Miss Abbott had
come to believe that she alone could do battle with Gino
because she alone understood him; and she had put thisas
nicely as she couldin a note which she had left for
Philip. It distressed her to write such a notepartly
because her education inclined her to reverence the male
partly because she had got to like Philip a good deal after
their last strange interview. His pettiness would be
dispersedand as for his "unconventionality which was so
much gossiped about at Sawston, she began to see that it did
not differ greatly from certain familiar notions of her
own. If only he would forgive her for what she was doing
now, there might perhaps be before them a long and
profitable friendship. But she must succeed. No one would
forgive her if she did not succeed. She prepared to do
battle with the powers of evil.
The voice of her adversary was heard at last, singing
fearlessly from his expanded lungs, like a professional.
Herein he differed from Englishmen, who always have a little
feeling against music, and sing only from the throat,
apologetically. He padded upstairs, and looked in at the
open door of the reception-room without seeing her. Her
heart leapt and her throat was dry when he turned away and
passed, still singing, into the room opposite. It is
alarming not to be seen.
He had left the door of this room open, and she could
see into it, right across the landing. It was in a shocking
mess. Food, bedclothes, patent-leather boots, dirty plates,
and knives lay strewn over a large table and on the floor.
But it was the mess that comes of life, not of desolation.
It was preferable to the charnel-chamber in which she was
standing now, and the light in it was soft and large, as
from some gracious, noble opening.
He stopped singing, and cried Where is Perfetta?"
His back was turnedand he was lighting a cigar. He
was not speaking to Miss Abbott. He could not even be
expecting her. The vista of the landing and the two open
doors made him both remote and significantlike an actor on
the stageintimate and unapproachable at the same time.
She could no more call out to him than if he was Hamlet.
You know!he continuedbut you will not tell me.
Exactly like you.He reclined on the table and blew a fat
smoke-ring. "And why won't you tell me the numbers? I have
dreamt of a red hen--that is two hundred and fiveand a
friend unexpected--he means eighty-two. But I try for the
Terno this week. So tell me another number."
Miss Abbott did not know of the Tombola. His speech
terrified her. She felt those subtle restrictions which
come upon us in fatigue. Had she slept well she would have
greeted him as soon as she saw him. Now it was impossible.
He had got into another world.
She watched his smoke-ring. The air had carried it
slowly away from himand brought it out intact upon the landing.
Two hundred and five--eighty-two. In any case I shall
put them on Bari, not on Florence. I cannot tell you why; I
have a feeling this week for Bari.Again she tried to
speak. But the ring mesmerized her. It had become vast and
ellipticaland floated in at the reception-room door.
Ah! you don't care if you get the profits. You won't
even say 'Thank you, Gino.' Say it, or I'll drop hot,
red-hot ashes on you. 'Thank you, Gino--'
The ring had extended its pale blue coils towards her.
She lost self-control. It enveloped her. As if it was a
breath from the pitshe screamed.
There he waswanting to know what had frightened her
how she had got herewhy she had never spoken. He made her
sit down. He brought her winewhich she refused. She had
not one word to say to him.
What is it?he repeated. "What has frightened you?"
Hetoowas frightenedand perspiration came starting
through the tan. For it is a serious thing to have been
watched. We all radiate something curiously intimate when
we believe ourselves to be alone.
Business--she said at last.
Business with me?
Most important business.She was lyingwhite and
limpin the dusty chair.
Before business you must get well; this is the best wine.
She refused it feebly. He poured out a glass. She
drank it. As she did so she became self-conscious. However
important the businessit was not proper of her to have
called on himor to accept his hospitality.
Perhaps you are engaged,she said. "And as I am not
You are not well enough to go back. And I am not engaged.
She looked nervously at the other room.
Ah, now I understand,he exclaimed. "Now I see what
frightened you. But why did you never speak?" And taking
her into the room where he livedhe pointed to--the baby.
She had thought so much about this babyof its welfare
its soulits moralsits probable defects. Butlike most
unmarried peopleshe had only thought of it as a word--just
as the healthy man only thinks of the word deathnot of
death itself. The real thinglying asleep on a dirty rug
disconcerted her. It did not stand for a principle any
longer. It was so much flesh and bloodso many inches and
ounces of life--a gloriousunquestionable factwhich a man
and another woman had given to the world. You could talk to
it; in time it would answer you; in time it would not answer
you unless it chosebut would secretewithin the compass
of its bodythoughts and wonderful passions of its own.
And this was the machine on which she and Mrs. Herriton and
Philip and Harriet had for the last month been exercising
their various ideals--had determined that in time it should
move this way or that wayshould accomplish this and not
that. It was to be Low Churchit was to be
high-principledit was to be tactfulgentlemanly
artistic--excellent things all. Yet now that she saw this
babylying asleep on a dirty rugshe had a great
disposition not to dictate one of themand to exert no more
influence than there may be in a kiss or in the vaguest of
the heartfelt prayers.
But she had practised self-disciplineand her thoughts
and actions were not yet to correspond. To recover her
self-esteem she tried to imagine that she was in her
districtand to behave accordingly.
What a fine child, Signor Carella. And how nice of you
to talk to it. Though I see that the ungrateful little
fellow is asleep! Seven months? No, eight; of course
eight. Still, he is a remarkably fine child for his age.
Italian is a bad medium for condescension. The
patronizing words came out gracious and sincereand he
smiled with pleasure.
You must not stand. Let us sit on the loggia, where it
is cool. I am afraid the room is very untidy,he added
with the air of a hostess who apologizes for a stray thread
on the drawing-room carpet. Miss Abbott picked her way to
the chair. He sat near herastride the parapetwith one
foot in the loggia and the other dangling into the view.
His face was in profileand its beautiful contours drove
artfully against the misty green of the opposing hills.
Posing!said Miss Abbott to herself. "A born artist's model."
Mr. Herriton called yesterday,she beganbut you
He started an elaborate and graceful explanation. He
had gone for the day to Poggibonsi. Why had the Herritons
not written to himso that he could have received them
properly? Poggibonsi would have done any day; not but what
his business there was fairly important. What did she
suppose that it was?
Naturally she was not greatly interested. She had not
come from Sawston to guess why he had been to Poggibonsi.
She answered politely that she had no ideaand returned to
But guess!he persistedclapping the balustrade
between his hands.
She suggestedwith gentle sarcasmthat perhaps he had
gone to Poggibonsi to find something to do.
He intimated that it was not as important as all that.
Something to do--an almost hopeless quest! "E manca
questo!" He rubbed his thumb and forefinger togetherto
indicate that he had no money. Then he sighedand blew
another smoke-ring. Miss Abbott took heart and turned
This house,she saidis a large house.
Exactly,was his gloomy reply. "And when my poor wife
died--" He got upwent inand walked across the landing to
the reception-room doorwhich he closed reverently. Then
he shut the door of the living-room with his footreturned
briskly to his seatand continued his sentence. "When my
poor wife died I thought of having my relatives to live
here. My father wished to give up his practice at Empoli;
my mother and sisters and two aunts were also willing. But
it was impossible. They have their ways of doing things
and when I was younger I was content with them. But now I
am a man. I have my own ways. Do you understand?"
Yes, I do,said Miss Abbottthinking of her own dear
fatherwhose tricks and habitsafter twenty-five years
spent in their companywere beginning to get on her
nerves. She rememberedthoughthat she was not here to
sympathize with Gino--at all eventsnot to show that she
sympathized. She also reminded herself that he was not
worthy of sympathy. "It is a large house she repeated.
Immense; and the taxes! But it will be better
when--Ah! but you have never guessed why I went to
Poggibonsi--why it was that I was out when he called."
I cannot guess, Signor Carella. I am here on business.
I cannot; I hardly know you.
But we are old friends,he saidand your approval
will be grateful to me. You gave it me once before. Will
you give it now?
I have not come as a friend this time,she answered
stiffly. "I am not likelySignor Carellato approve of
anything you do."
Oh, Signorina!He laughedas if he found her piquant
and amusing. "Surely you approve of marriage?"
Where there is love,said Miss Abbottlooking at him
hard. His face had altered in the last yearbut not for
the worsewhich was baffling.
Where there is love,said hepolitely echoing the
English view. Then he smiled on herexpecting congratulations.
Do I understand that you are proposing to marry again?
I forbid you, then!
He looked puzzledbut took it for some foreign banter
I forbid you!repeated Miss Abbottand all the
indignation of her sex and her nationality went thrilling
through the words.
But why?He jumped upfrowning. His voice was
squeaky and petulantlike that of a child who is suddenly
forbidden a toy.
You have ruined one woman; I forbid you to ruin
another. It is not a year since Lilia died. You pretended
to me the other day that you loved her. It is a lie. You
wanted her money. Has this woman money too?
Why, yes!he said irritably. "A little."
And I suppose you will say that you love her.
I shall not say it. It will be untrue. Now my poor
wife--He stoppedseeing that the comparison would involve
him in difficulties. And indeed he had often found Lilia as
agreeable as any one else.
Miss Abbott was furious at this final insult to her dead
acquaintance. She was glad that after all she could be so
angry with the boy. She glowed and throbbed; her tongue
moved nimbly. At the finishif the real business of the
day had been completedshe could have swept majestically
from the house. But the baby still remainedasleep on a
Gino was thoughtfuland stood scratching his head. He
respected Miss Abbott. He wished that she would respect
him. "So you do not advise me?" he said dolefully. "But
why should it be a failure?"
Miss Abbott tried to remember that he was really a child
still--a child with the strength and the passions of a
disreputable man. "How can it succeed she said solemnly,
where there is no love?"
But she does love me! I forgot to tell you that.
Passionately.He laid his hand upon his own heart.
Then God help her!
He stamped impatiently. "Whatever I say displeases you
Signorina. God help youfor you are most unfair. You say
that I ill-treated my dear wife. It is not so. I have
never ill-treated any one. You complain that there is no
love in this marriage. I prove that there isand you
become still more angry. What do you want? Do you suppose
she will not be contented? Glad enough she is to get me
and she will do her duty well."
Her duty!cried Miss Abbottwith all the bitterness
of which she was capable.
Why, of course. She knows why I am marrying her.
To succeed where Lilia failed! To be your housekeeper,
your slave, you--The words she would like to have said
were too violent for her.
To look after the baby, certainly,said he.
The baby--?She had forgotten it.
It is an English marriage,he said proudly. "I do not
care about the money. I am having her for my son. Did you
not understand that?"
No,said Miss Abbottutterly bewildered. Thenfor a
momentshe saw light. "It is not necessarySignor
Carella. Since you are tired of the baby--"
Ever after she remembered it to her credit that she saw
her mistake at once. "I don't mean that she added quickly.
I know was his courteous response. Ahin a foreign
language (and how perfectly you speak Italian) one is
certain to make slips."
She looked at his face. It was apparently innocent of satire.
You meant that we could not always be together yet, he
and I. You are right. What is to be done? I cannot afford
a nurse, and Perfetta is too rough. When he was ill I dare
not let her touch him. When he has to be washed, which
happens now and then, who does it? I. I feed him, or settle
what he shall have. I sleep with him and comfort him when
he is unhappy in the night. No one talks, no one may sing
to him but I. Do not be unfair this time; I like to do these
things. But nevertheless (his voice became pathetic) they
take up a great deal of time, and are not all suitable for a
Not at all suitable,said Miss Abbottand closed her
eyes wearily. Each moment her difficulties were
increasing. She wished that she was not so tiredso open
to contradictory impressions. She longed for Harriet's
burly obtuseness or for the soulless diplomacy of Mrs. Herriton.
A little more wine?asked Gino kindly.
Oh, no, thank you! But marriage, Signor Carella, is a
very serious step. Could you not manage more simply? Your
relative, for example--
Empoli! I would as soon have him in England!
He has a grandmother there, you know--Mrs. Theobald.
He has a grandmother here. No, he is troublesome, but
I must have him with me. I will not even have my father and
mother too. For they would separate us,he added.
They would separate our thoughts.
She was silent. This cruelvicious fellow knew of
strange refinements. The horrible truththat wicked people
are capable of lovestood naked before herand her moral
being was abashed. It was her duty to rescue the babyto
save it from contagionand she still meant to do her duty.
But the comfortable sense of virtue left her. She was in
the presence of something greater than right or wrong.
Forgetting that this was an interviewhe had strolled
back into the roomdriven by the instinct she had aroused
in him. "Wake up!" he cried to his babyas if it was some
grown-up friend. Then he lifted his foot and trod lightly
on its stomach.
Miss Abbott criedOh, take care!She was
unaccustomed to this method of awakening the young.
He is not much longer than my boot, is he? Can you
believe that in time his own boots will be as large? And
that he also--
But ought you to treat him like that?
He stood with one foot resting on the little body
suddenly musingfilled with the desire that his son should
be like himand should have sons like himto people the
earth. It is the strongest desire that can come to a man--if
it comes to him at all--stronger even than love or the desire
for personal immortality. All men vaunt itand declare
that it is theirs; but the hearts of most are set
elsewhere. It is the exception who comprehends that
physical and spiritual life may stream out of him for ever.
Miss Abbottfor all her goodnesscould not comprehend it
though such a thing is more within the comprehension of
women. And when Gino pointed first to himself and then to
his baby and said "father-son she still took it as a piece
of nursery prattle, and smiled mechanically.
The child, the first fruits, woke up and glared at her.
Gino did not greet it, but continued the exposition of his policy.
This woman will do exactly what I tell her. She is
fond of children. She is clean; she has a pleasant voice.
She is not beautiful; I cannot pretend that to you for a
moment. But she is what I require."
The baby gave a piercing yell.
Oh, do take care!begged Miss Abbott. "You are
It is nothing. If he cries silently then you may be
frightened. He thinks I am going to wash him, and he is
Wash him!she cried. "You? Here?" The homely piece
of news seemed to shatter all her plans. She had spent a
long half-hour in elaborate approachesin high moral
attacks; she had neither frightened her enemy nor made him
angrynor interfered with the least detail of his domestic life.
I had gone to the Farmacia,he continuedand was
sitting there comfortably, when suddenly I remembered that
Perfetta had heated water an hour ago--over there, look,
covered with a cushion. I came away at once, for really he
must be washed. You must excuse me. I can put it off no longer.
I have wasted your time,she said feebly.
He walked sternly to the loggia and drew from it a large
earthenware bowl. It was dirty inside; he dusted it with a
tablecloth. Then he fetched the hot waterwhich was in a
copper pot. He poured it out. He added cold. He felt in
his pocket and brought out a piece of soap. Then he took up
the babyandholding his cigar between his teethbegan to
unwrap it. Miss Abbott turned to go.
But why are you going? Excuse me if I wash him while
I have nothing more to say,said Miss Abbott. All she
could do now was to find Philipconfess her miserable
defeatand bid him go in her stead and prosper better. She
cursed her feebleness; she longed to expose itwithout
apologies or tears.
Oh, but stop a moment!he cried. "You have not seen
I have seen as much as I want, thank you.
The last wrapping slid off. He held out to her in his
two hands a little kicking image of bronze.
She would not touch the child.
I must go at once,she cried; for the tears--the wrong
tears--were hurrying to her eyes.
Who would have believed his mother was blonde? For he
is brown all over--brown every inch of him. Ah, but how
beautiful he is! And he is mine; mine for ever. Even if he
hates me he will be mine. He cannot help it; he is made out
of me; I am his father.
It was too late to go. She could not tell whybut it
was too late. She turned away her head when Gino lifted his
son to his lips. This was something too remote from the
prettiness of the nursery. The man was majestic; he was a
part of Nature; in no ordinary love scene could he ever be
so great. For a wonderful physical tie binds the parents to
the children; and--by some sadstrange irony--it does not
bind us children to our parents. For if it didif we could
answer their love not with gratitude but with equal love
life would lose much of its pathos and much of its squalor
and we might be wonderfully happy. Gino passionately
embracingMiss Abbott reverently averting her eyes--both of
them had parents whom they did not love so very much.
May I help you to wash him?she asked humbly.
He gave her his son without speakingand they knelt
side by sidetucking up their sleeves. The child had
stopped cryingand his arms and legs were agitated by some
overpowering joy. Miss Abbott had a woman's pleasure in
cleaning anything--more especially when the thing was human.
She understood little babies from long experience in a
districtand Gino soon ceased to give her directionsand
only gave her thanks.
It is very kind of you,he murmuredespecially in
your beautiful dress. He is nearly clean already. Why, I
take the whole morning! There is so much more of a baby
than one expects. And Perfetta washes him just as she
washes clothes. Then he screams for hours. My wife is to
have a light hand. Ah, how he kicks! Has he splashed you?
I am very sorry.
I am ready for a soft towel now,said Miss Abbottwho
was strangely exalted by the service.
Certainly! certainly!He strode in a knowing way to
a cupboard. But he had no idea where the soft towel was.
Generally he dabbed the baby on the first dry thing. he found.
And if you had any powder.
He struck his forehead despairingly. Apparently the
stock of powder was just exhausted.
She sacrificed her own clean handkerchief. He put a
chair for her on the loggiawhich faced westwardand was
still pleasant and cool. There she satwith twenty miles
of view behind herand he placed the dripping baby on her
knee. It shone now with health and beauty: it seemed to
reflect lightlike a copper vessel. Just such a baby
Bellini sets languid on his mother's lapor Signorelli
flings wriggling on pavements of marbleor Lorenzo di
Credimore reverent but less divinelays carefully among
flowerswith his head upon a wisp of golden straw. For a
time Gino contemplated them standing. Thento get a better
viewhe knelt by the side of the chairwith his hands
clasped before him.
So they were when Philip enteredand sawto all
intents and purposesthe Virgin and Childwith Donor.
Hullo!he exclaimed; for he was glad to find things in
such cheerful trim.
She did not greet himbut rose up unsteadily and handed
the baby to his father.
No, do stop!whispered Philip. "I got your note. I'm
not offended; you're quite right. I really want you; I
could never have done it alone."
No words came from herbut she raised her hands to her
mouthlike one who is in sudden agony.
Signorina, do stop a little--after all your kindness.
She burst into tears.
What is it?said Philip kindly.
She tried to speakand then went away weeping bitterly.
The two men stared at each other. By a common impulse
they ran on to the loggia. They were just in time to see
Miss Abbott disappear among the trees.
What is it?asked Philip again. There was no answer
and somehow he did not want an answer. Some strange thing
had happened which he could not presume to understand. He
would find out from Miss Abbottif ever he found out at all.
Well, your business,said Ginoafter a puzzled sigh.
Our business--Miss Abbott has told you of that.
She came for business. But she forgot about it; so did
Perfetta, who had a genius for missing people, now
returned, loudly complaining of the size of Monteriano and
the intricacies of its streets. Gino told her to watch the
baby. Then he offered Philip a cigar, and they proceeded to
Mad!" screamed Harriet--"absolutely starkstaringraving mad!"
Philip judged it better not to contradict her.
What's she here for? Answer me that. What's she doing
in Monteriano in August? Why isn't she in Normandy? Answer
that. She won't. I can: she's come to thwart us; she's
betrayed us--got hold of mother's plans. Ohgoodnessmy head!"
He was unwise enough to replyYou mustn't accuse her
of that. Though she is exasperating, she hasn't come here
to betray us.
Then why has she come here? Answer me that.
He made no answer. But fortunately his sister was too
much agitated to wait for one. "Bursting in on me--crying
and looking a disgusting sight--and says she has been to see
the Italian. Couldn't even talk properly; pretended she had
changed her opinions. What are her opinions to us? I was
very calm. I said: 'Miss AbbottI think there is a little
misapprehension in this matter. My motherMrs. Herriton--'
Ohgoodnessmy head! Of course you've failed--don't
trouble to answer--I know you've failed. Where's the baby
pray? Of course you haven't got it. Dear sweet Caroline
won't let you. Ohyesand we're to go away at once and
trouble the father no more. Those are her commands.
Commands! COMMANDS!" And Harriet also burst into tears.
Philip governed his temper. His sister was annoying
but quite reasonable in her indignation. MoreoverMiss
Abbott had behaved even worse than she supposed.
I've not got the baby, Harriet, but at the same time I
haven't exactly failed. I and Signor Carella are to have
another interview this afternoon, at the Caffe Garibaldi.
He is perfectly reasonable and pleasant. Should you be
disposed to come with me, you would find him quite willing
to discuss things. He is desperately in want of money, and
has no prospect of getting any. I discovered that. At the
same time, he has a certain affection for the child.For
Philip's insightor perhaps his opportunitieshad not been
equal to Miss Abbott's.
Harriet would only soband accuse her brother of
insulting her; how could a lady speak to such a horrible
man? Thatand nothing elsewas enough to stamp Caroline.
Philip drummed on the bedroom window-sill. He saw no
escape from the deadlock. For though he spoke cheerfully
about his second interview with Ginohe felt at the bottom
of his heart that it would fail. Gino was too courteous: he
would not break off negotiations by sharp denial; he loved
this civilhalf-humorous bargaining. And he loved fooling
his opponentand did it so nicely that his opponent did not
mind being fooled.
Miss Abbott has behaved extraordinarily,he said at
last; "but at the same time--"
His sister would not hear him. She burst forth again on
the madnessthe interferencethe intolerable duplicity of
Harriet, you must listen. My dear, you must stop
crying. I have something quite important to say.
I shall not stop crying,said she. But in time
finding that he would not speak to hershe did stop.
Remember that Miss Abbott has done us no harm. She
said nothing to him about the matter. He assumes that she
is working with us: I gathered that.
Well, she isn't.
Yes; but if you're careful she may be. I interpret her
behaviour thus: She went to see him, honestly intending to
get the child away. In the note she left me she says so,
and I don't believe she'd lie.
When she got there, there was some pretty domestic
scene between him and the baby, and she has got swept off in
a gush of sentimentalism. Before very long, if I know
anything about psychology, there will be a reaction. She'll
be swept back.
I don't understand your long words. Say plainly--
When she's swept back, she'll be invaluable. For she
has made quite an impression on him. He thinks her so nice
with the baby. You know, she washed it for him.
Harriet's ejaculations were more aggravating than the
rest of her. But Philip was averse to losing his temper.
The access of joy that had come to him yesterday in the
theatre promised to be permanent. He was more anxious than
heretofore to be charitable towards the world.
If you want to carry off the baby, keep your peace with
Miss Abbott. For if she chooses, she can help you better
than I can.
There can be no peace between me and her,said Harriet
Oh, not all I wanted. She went away before I had
finished speaking--just like those cowardly people! --into the
Into Santa Deodata's?
Yes; I'm sure she needs it. Anything more unchristian--
In time Philip went to the church alsoleaving his
sister a little calmer and a little disposed to think over
his advice. What had come over Miss Abbott? He had always
thought her both stable and sincere. That conversation he
had had with her last Christmas in the train to Charing
Cross--that alone furnished him with a parallel. For the
second timeMonteriano must have turned her head. He was
not angry with herfor he was quite indifferent to the
outcome of their expedition. He was only extremely interested.
It was now nearly middayand the streets were
clearing. But the intense heat had brokenand there was a
pleasant suggestion of rain. The Piazzawith its three
great attractions--the Palazzo Pubblicothe Collegiate
Churchand the Caffe Garibaldi: the intellectthe soul
and the body--had never looked more charming. For a moment
Philip stood in its centremuch inclined to be dreamyand
thinking how wonderful it must feel to belong to a city
however mean. He was herehoweveras an emissary of
civilization and as a student of characterandafter a
sighhe entered Santa Deodata's to continue his mission.
There had been a FESTA two days beforeand the church
still smelt of incense and of garlic. The little son of the
sacristan was sweeping the navemore for amusement than for
cleanlinesssending great clouds of dust over the frescoes
and the scattered worshippers. The sacristan himself had
propped a ladder in the centre of the Deluge--which fills one
of the nave spandrels--and was freeing a column from its
wealth of scarlet calico. Much scarlet calico also lay upon
the floor--for the church can look as fine as any theatre--and
the sacristan's little daughter was trying to fold it up.
She was wearing a tinsel crown. The crown really belonged
to St. Augustine. But it had been cut too big: it fell down
over his cheeks like a collar: you never saw anything so
absurd. One of the canons had unhooked it just before the
FIESTA beganand had given it to the sacristan's daughter.
Please,cried Philipis there an English lady here?
The man's mouth was full of tin-tacksbut he nodded
cheerfully towards a kneeling figure. In the midst of this
confusion Miss Abbott was praying.
He was not much surprised: a spiritual breakdown was
quite to be expected. For though he was growing more
charitable towards mankindhe was still a little jaunty
and too apt to stake out beforehand the course that will be
pursued by the wounded soul. It did not surprise him
howeverthat she should greet him naturallywith none of
the sour self-consciousness of a person who had just risen
from her knees. This was indeed the spirit of Santa
Deodata'swhere a prayer to God is thought none the worse
of because it comes next to a pleasant word to a neighbour.
I am sure that I need it,said she; and hewho had
expected her to be ashamedbecame confusedand knew not
what to reply.
I've nothing to tell you,she continued. "I have
simply changed straight round. If I had planned the whole
thing outI could not have treated you worse. I can talk
it over now; but please believe that I have been crying."
And please believe that I have not come to scold you,
said Philip. "I know what has happened."
What?asked Miss Abbott. Instinctively she led the
way to the famous chapelthe fifth chapel on the right
wherein Giovanni da Empoli has painted the death and burial
of the saint. Here they could sit out of the dust and the
noiseand proceed with a discussion which promised to be important.
What might have happened to me--he had made you believe
that he loved the child.
Oh, yes; he has. He will never give it up.
At present it is still unsettled.
It will never be settled.
Perhaps not. Well, as I said, I know what has
happened, and I am not here to scold you. But I must ask
you to withdraw from the thing for the present. Harriet is
furious. But she will calm down when she realizes that you
have done us no harm, and will do none.
I can do no more,she said. "But I tell you plainly I
have changed sides."
If you do no more, that is all we want. You promise
not to prejudice our cause by speaking to Signor Carella?
Oh, certainly. I don't want to speak to him again; I
shan't ever see him again.
Quite nice, wasn't he?
Well, that's all I wanted to know. I'll go and tell
Harriet of your promise, and I think things'll quiet down now.
But he did not movefor it was an increasing pleasure
to him to be near herand her charm was at its strongest
today. He thought less of psychology and feminine
reaction. The gush of sentimentalism which had carried her
away had only made her more alluring. He was content to
observe her beauty and to profit by the tenderness and the
wisdom that dwelt within her.
Why aren't you angry with me?she askedafter a pause.
Because I understand you--all sides, I think,--Harriet,
Signor Carella, even my mother.
You do understand wonderfully. You are the only one of
us who has a general view of the muddle.
He smiled with pleasure. It was the first time she had
ever praised him. His eyes rested agreeably on Santa
Deodatawho was dying in full sanctityupon her back.
There was a window open behind herrevealing just such a
view as he had seen that morningand on her widowed
mother's dresser there stood just such another copper pot.
The saint looked neither at the view nor at the potand at
her widowed mother still less. For lo! she had a vision:
the head and shoulders of St. Augustine were sliding like
some miraculous enamel along the rough-cast wall. It is a
gentle saint who is content with half another saint to see
her die. In her deathas in her lifeSanta Deodata did
not accomplish much.
So what are you going to do?said Miss Abbott.
Philip startednot so much at the words as at the
sudden change in the voice. "Do?" he echoedrather
dismayed. "This afternoon I have another interview."
It will come to nothing. Well?
Then another. If that fails I shall wire home for
instructions. I dare say we may fail altogether, but we
shall fail honourably.
She had often been decided. But now behind her decision
there was a note of passion. She struck him not as
differentbut as more importantand he minded it very much
when she said-
That's not doing anything! You would be doing
something if you kidnapped the baby, or if you went straight
away. But that! To fail honourably! To come out of the
thing as well as you can! Is that all you are after?
Why, yes,he stammered. "Since we talk openlythat
is all I am after just now. What else is there? If I can
persuade Signor Carella to give inso much the better. If
he won'tI must report the failure to my mother and then go
home. WhyMiss Abbottyou can't expect me to follow you
through all these turns--"
I don't! But I do expect you to settle what is right
and to follow that. Do you want the child to stop with his
father, who loves him and will bring him up badly, or do you
want him to come to Sawston, where no one loves him, but
where he will be brought up well? There is the question put
dispassionately enough even for you. Settle it. Settle
which side you'll fight on. But don't go talking about an
'honourable failure,' which means simply not thinking and
not acting at all.
Because I understand the position of Signor Carella and
of you, it's no reason that--
None at all. Fight as if you think us wrong. Oh,
what's the use of your fair-mindedness if you never decide
for yourself? Any one gets hold of you and makes you do
what they want. And you see through them and laugh at
them--and do it. It's not enough to see clearly; I'm
muddle-headed and stupid, and not worth a quarter of you,
but I have tried to do what seemed right at the time. And
you--your brain and your insight are splendid. But when you
see what's right you're too idle to do it. You told me once
that we shall be judged by our intentions, not by our
accomplishments. I thought it a grand remark. But we must
intend to accomplish--not sit intending on a chair.
You are wonderful!he said gravely.
Oh, you appreciate me!she burst out again. "I wish
you didn't. You appreciate us all--see good in all of us.
And all the time you are dead--dead--dead. Lookwhy aren't
you angry?" She came up to himand then her mood suddenly
changedand she took hold of both his hands. "You are so
splendidMr. Herritonthat I can't bear to see you
wasted. I can't bear--she has not been good to you--your
Miss Abbott, don't worry over me. Some people are born
not to do things. I'm one of them; I never did anything at
school or at the Bar. I came out to stop Lilia's marriage,
and it was too late. I came out intending to get the baby,
and I shall return an 'honourable failure.' I never expect
anything to happen now, and so I am never disappointed. You
would be surprised to know what my great events are. Going
to the theatre yesterday, talking to you now--I don't suppose
I shall ever meet anything greater. I seem fated to pass
through the world without colliding with it or moving it--and
I'm sure I can't tell you whether the fate's good or evil.
I don't die--I don't fall in love. And if other people die
or fall in love they always do it when I'm just not there.
You are quite right; life to me is just a spectacle,
which--thank God, and thank Italy, and thank you--is now more
beautiful and heartening than it has ever been before.
She said solemnlyI wish something would happen to
you, my dear friend; I wish something would happen to you.
But why?he askedsmiling. "Prove to me why I don't
do as I am."
She also smiledvery gravely. She could not prove it.
No argument existed. Their discoursesplendid as it had
beenresulted in nothingand their respective opinions and
policies were exactly the same when they left the church as
when they had entered it.
Harriet was rude at lunch. She called Miss Abbott a
turncoat and a coward to her face. Miss Abbott resented
neither epithetfeeling that one was justified and the
other not unreasonable. She tried to avoid even the
suspicion of satire in her replies. But Harriet was sure
that she was satirical because she was so calm. She got
more and more violentand Philip at one time feared that
she would come to blows.
Look here!he criedwith something of the old manner
it's too hot for this. We've been talking and interviewing
each other all the morning, and I have another interview
this afternoon. I do stipulate for silence. Let each lady
retire to her bedroom with a book.
I retire to pack,said Harriet. "Please remind Signor
CarellaPhilipthat the baby is to be here by half-past
eight this evening."
Oh, certainly, Harriet. I shall make a point of
And order a carriage to take us to the evening train.
And please,said Miss Abbottwould you order a
carriage for me too?
You going?he exclaimed.
Of course,she repliedsuddenly flushing. "Why not?"
Why, of course you would be going. Two carriages,
then. Two carriages for the evening train.He looked at
his sister hopelessly. "Harrietwhatever are you up to?
We shall never be ready."
Order my carriage for the evening train,said Harriet
Well, I suppose I shall. And I shall also have my
interview with Signor Carella.
Miss Abbott gave a little sigh.
But why should you mind? Do you suppose that I shall
have the slightest influence over him?
No. But--I can't repeat all that I said in the church.
You ought never to see him again. You ought to bundle
Harriet into a carriage, not this evening, but now, and
drive her straight away.
Perhaps I ought. But it isn't a very big 'ought.'
Whatever Harriet and I do the issue is the same. Why, I can
see the splendour of it--even the humour. Gino sitting up
here on the mountain-top with his cub. We come and ask for
it. He welcomes us. We ask for it again. He is equally
pleasant. I'm agreeable to spend the whole week bargaining
with him. But I know that at the end of it I shall descend
empty-handed to the plains. It might be finer of me to make
up my mind. But I'm not a fine character. And nothing
hangs on it.
Perhaps I am extreme,she said humbly. "I've been
trying to run youjust like your mother. I feel you ought
to fight it out with Harriet. Every little triflefor some
reasondoes seem incalculably important todayand when you
say of a thing that 'nothing hangs on it' it sounds like
blasphemy. There's never any knowing--(how am I to put
it?)--which of our actionswhich of our idlenesses won't
have things hanging on it for ever."
He assentedbut her remark had only an aesthetic value.
He was not prepared to take it to his heart. All the
afternoon he rested--worriedbut not exactly despondent.
The thing would jog out somehow. Probably Miss Abbott was
right. The baby had better stop where it was loved. And
thatprobablywas what the fates had decreed. He felt
little interest in the matterand he was sure that he had
It was not surprisingthereforethat the interview at
the Caffe Garibaldi came to nothing. Neither of them took
it very seriously. And before long Gino had discovered how
things layand was ragging his companion hopelessly.
Philip tried to look offendedbut in the end he had to
laugh. "Wellyou are right he said. This affair is
being managed by the ladies."
Ah, the ladies--the ladies!cried the otherand then
he roared like a millionaire for two cups of black coffee
and insisted on treating his friendas a sign that their
strife was over.
Well, I have done my best,said Philipdipping a long
slice of sugar into his cupand watching the brown liquid
ascend into it. "I shall face my mother with a good
conscience. Will you bear me witness that I've done my best?"
My poor fellow, I will!He laid a sympathetic hand on
And that I have--The sugar was now impregnated with
coffeeand he bent forward to swallow it. As he did so his
eyes swept the opposite of the Piazzaand he saw there
watching themHarriet. "Mia sorella!" he exclaimed. Gino
much amusedlaid his hand upon the little tableand beat
the marble humorously with his fists. Harriet turned away
and began gloomily to inspect the Palazzo Pubblico.
Poor Harriet!said Philipswallowing the sugar. "One
more wrench and it will all be over for her; we are leaving
Gino was sorry for this. "Then you will not be here
this evening as you promised us. All three leaving?"
All three,said Philipwho had not revealed the
secession of Miss Abbott; "by the night train; at least
that is my sister's plan. So I'm afraid I shan't be here."
They watched the departing figure of Harrietand then
entered upon the final civilities. They shook each other
warmly by both hands. Philip was to come again next year
and to write beforehand. He was to be introduced to Gino's
wifefor he was told of the marriage now. He was to be
godfather to his next baby. As for Ginohe would remember
some time that Philip liked vermouth. He begged him to give
his love to Irma. Mrs. Herriton--should he send her his
sympathetic regards? No; perhaps that would hardly do.
So the two young men parted with a good deal of genuine
affection. For the barrier of language is sometimes a
blessed barrierwhich only lets pass what is good. Or--to
put the thing less cynically--we may be better in new clean
wordswhich have never been tainted by our pettiness or
vice. Philipat all eventslived more graciously in
Italianthe very phrases of which entice one to be happy
and kind. It was horrible to think of the English of
Harrietwhose every word would be as hardas distinctand
as unfinished as a lump of coal.
Harriethowevertalked little. She had seen enough to
know that her brother had failed againand with unwonted
dignity she accepted the situation. She did her packing
she wrote up her diaryshe made a brown paper cover for the
new Baedeker. Philipfinding her so amenabletried to
discuss their future plans. But she only said that they
would sleep in Florenceand told him to telegraph for
rooms. They had supper alone. Miss Abbott did not come
down. The landlady told them that Signor Carella had called
on Miss Abbott to say good-byebut shethough inhad not
been able to see him. She also told them that it had begun
to rain. Harriet sighedbut indicated to her brother that
he was not responsible.
The carriages came round at a quarter past eight. It
was not raining muchbut the night was extraordinarily
darkand one of the drivers wanted to go slowly to the
station. Miss Abbott came down and said that she was ready
and would start at once.
Yes, do,said Philipwho was standing in the hall.
Now that we have quarrelled we scarcely want to travel in
procession all the way down the hill. Well, good-bye; it's
all over at last; another scene in my pageant has shifted.
Good-bye; it's been a great pleasure to see you. I
hope that won't shift, at all events.She gripped his hand.
You sound despondent,he saidlaughing. "Don't
forget that you return victorious."
I suppose I do,she repliedmore despondently than
everand got into the carriage. He concluded that she was
thinking of her reception at Sawstonwhither her fame would
doubtless precede her. Whatever would Mrs. Herriton do?
She could make things quite unpleasant when she thought it
right. She might think it right to be silentbut then
there was Harriet. Who would bridle Harriet's tongue?
Between the two of them Miss Abbott was bound to have a bad
time. Her reputationboth for consistency and for moral
enthusiasmwould be lost for ever.
It's hard luck on her,he thought. "She is a good
person. I must do for her anything I can." Their intimacy
had been very rapidbut he too hoped that it would not
shift. He believed that he understood herand that sheby
nowhad seen the worst of him. What if after a long
time--if after all--he flushed like a boy as he looked after
He went into the dining-room to look for Harriet.
Harriet was not to be found. Her bedroomtoowas empty.
All that was left of her was the purple prayer-book which
lay open on the bed. Philip took it up aimlesslyand
saw--"Blessed be the Lord my God who teacheth my hands to war
and my fingers to fight." He put the book in his pocket
and began to brood over more profitable themes.
Santa Deodata gave out half past eight. All the luggage
was onand still Harriet had not appeared. "Depend upon
it said the landlady, she has gone to Signor Carella's to
say good-bye to her little nephew." Philip did not think it
likely. They shouted all over the house and still there was
no Harriet. He began to be uneasy. He was helpless without
Miss Abbott; her gravekind face had cheered him
wonderfullyeven when it looked displeased. Monteriano was
sad without her; the rain was thickening; the scraps of
Donizetti floated tunelessly out of the wineshopsand of
the great tower opposite he could only see the basefresh
papered with the advertisements of quacks.
A man came up the street with a note. Philip read
Start at once. Pick me up outside the gate. Pay the
bearer. H. H.
Did the lady give you this note?he cried.
The man was unintelligible.
Speak up!exclaimed Philip. "Who gave it you--and where?"
Nothing but horrible sighings and bubblings came out of
Be patient with him,said the driverturning round on
the box. "It is the poor idiot." And the landlady came out
of the hotel and echoed "The poor idiot. He cannot speak.
He takes messages for us all."
Philip then saw that the messenger was a ghastly
creaturequite baldwith trickling eyes and grey twitching
nose. In another country he would have been shut up; here
he was accepted as a public institutionand part of
Ugh!shuddered the Englishman. "Signora padronafind
out from him; this note is from my sister. What does it
mean? Where did he see her?"
It is no good,said the landlady. "He understands
everything but he can explain nothing."
He has visions of the saints,said the man who drove
But my sister--where has she gone? How has she met him?
She has gone for a walk,asserted the landlady. It
was a nasty eveningbut she was beginning to understand the
English. "She has gone for a walk--perhaps to wish good-bye
to her little nephew. Preferring to come back another way
she has sent you this note by the poor idiot and is waiting
for you outside the Siena gate. Many of my guests do this."
There was nothing to do but to obey the message. He
shook hands with the landladygave the messenger a nickel
pieceand drove away. After a dozen yards the carriage
stopped. The poor idiot was running and whimpering behind.
Go on,cried Philip. "I have paid him plenty."
A horrible hand pushed three soldi into his lap. It was
part of the idiot's malady only to receive what was just for
his services. This was the change out of the nickel piece.
Go on!shouted Philipand flung the money into the
road. He was frightened at the episode; the whole of life
had become unreal. It was a relief to be out of the Siena
gate. They drew up for a moment on the terrace. But there
was no sign of Harriet. The driver called to the Dogana
men. But they had seen no English lady pass.
What am I to do?he cried; "it is not like the lady to
be late. We shall miss the train."
Let us drive slowly,said the driverand you shall
call her by name as we go.
So they started down into the nightPhilip calling
Harriet! Harriet! Harriet!And there she waswaiting
for them in the wetat the first turn of the zigzag.
Harriet, why don't you answer?
I heard you coming,said sheand got quickly in. Not
till then did he see that she carried a bundle.
Whatever is that?
Harriet had succeeded where Miss Abbott and Philip had
failed. It was the baby.
She would not let him talk. The babyshe repeatedwas
asleepand she put up an umbrella to shield it and her from
the rain. He should hear all laterso he had to conjecture
the course of the wonderful interview--an interview between
the South pole and the North. It was quite easy to
conjecture: Gino crumpling up suddenly before the intense
conviction of Harriet; being toldperhapsto his face that
he was a villain; yielding his only son perhaps for money
perhaps for nothing. "Poor Gino he thought. He's no
greater than I amafter all."
Then he thought of Miss Abbottwhose carriage must be
descending the darkness some mile or two below themand his
easy self-accusation failed. Shetoohad conviction; he
had felt its force; he would feel it again when she knew
this day's sombre and unexpected close.
You have been pretty secret,he said; "you might tell
me a little now. What do we pay for him? All we've got?"
Hush!answered Harrietand dandled the bundle
laboriouslylike some bony prophetess--Judithor Deborah
or Jael. He had last seen the baby sprawling on the knees
of Miss Abbottshining and nakedwith twenty miles of view
behind himand his father kneeling by his feet. And that
remembrancetogether with Harrietand the darknessand
the poor idiotand the silent rainfilled him with sorrow
and with the expectation of sorrow to come.
Monteriano had long disappearedand he could see
nothing but the occasional wet stem of an olivewhich their
lamp illumined as they passed it. They travelled quickly
for this driver did not care how fast he went to the
stationand would dash down each incline and scuttle
perilously round the curves.
Look here, Harriet,he said at lastI feel bad; I
want to see the baby.
I don't mind if I do wake him up. I want to see him.
I've as much right in him as you.
Harriet gave in. But it was too dark for him to see the
child's face. "Wait a minute he whispered, and before she
could stop him he had lit a match under the shelter of her
umbrella. But he's awake!" he exclaimed. The match went out.
Good ickle quiet boysey, then.
Philip winced. "His facedo you knowstruck me as all
All puckered queerly.
Of course--with the shadows--you couldn't see him.
Well, hold him up again.She did so. He lit another
match. It went out quicklybut not before he had seen that
the baby was crying.
Nonsense,said Harriet sharply. "We should hear him
if he cried."
No, he's crying hard; I thought so before, and I'm
Harriet touched the child's face. It was bathed in
tears. "Ohthe night airI suppose she said, or
perhaps the wet of the rain."
I say, you haven't hurt it, or held it the wrong way,
or anything; it is too uncanny--crying and no noise. Why
didn't you get Perfetta to carry it to the hotel instead of
muddling with the messenger? It's a marvel he understood
about the note.
Oh, he understands.And he could feel her shudder.
He tried to carry the baby--
But why not Gino or Perfetta?
Philip, don't talk. Must I say it again? Don't talk.
The baby wants to sleep.She crooned harshly as they
descendedand now and then she wiped up the tears which
welled inexhaustibly from the little eyes. Philip looked
awaywinking at times himself. It was as if they were
travelling with the whole world's sorrowas if all the
mysteryall the persistency of woe were gathered to a
single fount. The roads were now coated with mudand the
carriage went more quietly but not less swiftlysliding by
long zigzags into the night. He knew the landmarks pretty
well: here was the crossroad to Poggibonsi; and the last
view of Monterianoif they had lightwould be from here.
Soon they ought to come to that little wood where violets
were so plentiful in spring. He wished the weather had not
changed; it was not coldbut the air was extraordinarily
damp. It could not be good for the child.
I suppose he breathes, and all that sort of thing?he said.
Of course,said Harrietin an angry whisper. "You've
started him again. I'm certain he was asleep. I do wish
you wouldn't talk; it makes me so nervous."
I'm nervous too. I wish he'd scream. It's too
uncanny. Poor Gino! I'm terribly sorry for Gino.
Because he's weak--like most of us. He doesn't know
what he wants. He doesn't grip on to life. But I like that
man, and I'm sorry for him.
Naturally enough she made no answer.
You despise him, Harriet, and you despise me. But you
do us no good by it. We fools want some one to set us on
our feet. Suppose a really decent woman had set up Gino--I
believe Caroline Abbott might have done it--mightn't he have
been another man?
Philip,she interruptedwith an attempt at
nonchalancedo you happen to have those matches handy? We
might as well look at the baby again if you have.
The first match blew out immediately. So did the
second. He suggested that they should stop the carriage and
borrow the lamp from the driver.
Oh, I don't want all that bother. Try again.
They entered the little wood as he tried to strike the
third match. At last it caught. Harriet poised the
umbrella rightlyand for a full quarter minute they
contemplated the face that trembled in the light of the
trembling flame. Then there was a shout and a crash. They
were lying in the mud in darkness. The carriage had overturned.
Philip was a good deal hurt. He sat up and rocked
himself to and froholding his arm. He could just make out
the outline of the carriage above himand the outlines of
the carriage cushions and of their luggage upon the grey
road. The accident had taken place in the woodwhere it
was even darker than in the open.
Are you all right?he managed to say. Harriet was
screamingthe horse was kickingthe driver was cursing
some other man.
Harriet's screams became coherent. "The baby--the
baby--it slipped--it's gone from my arms--I stole it!"
God help me!said Philip. A cold circle came round
his mouthandhe fainted.
When he recovered it was still the same confusion. The
horse was kickingthe baby had not been foundand Harriet
still screamed like a maniacI stole it! I stole it! I
stole it! It slipped out of my arms!
Keep still!he commanded the driver. "Let no one
move. We may tread on it. Keep still."
For a moment they all obeyed him. He began to crawl
through the mudtouching first thisthen thatgrasping
the cushions by mistakelistening for the faintest whisper
that might guide him. He tried to light a matchholding
the box in his teeth and striking at it with the uninjured
hand. At last he succeededand the light fell upon the
bundle which he was seeking.
It had rolled off the road into the wood a little way
and had fallen across a great rut. So tiny it was that had
it fallen lengthways it would have disappearedand he might
never have found it.
I stole it! I and the idiot--no one was there.She
burst out laughing.
He sat down and laid it on his knee. Then he tried to
cleanse the face from the mud and the rain and the tears.
His armhe supposedwas brokenbut he could still move it
a littleand for the moment he forgot all pain. He was
listening--not for a crybut for the tick of a heart or the
slightest tremor of breath.
Where are you?called a voice. It was Miss Abbott
against whose carriage they had collided. She had relit one
of the lampsand was picking her way towards him.
Silence!he called againand again they obeyed. He
shook the bundle; he breathed into it; he opened his coat
and pressed it against him. Then he listenedand heard
nothing but the rain and the panting horsesand Harriet
who was somewhere chuckling to herself in the dark.
Miss Abbott approachedand took it gently from him.
The face was already chillybut thanks to Philip it was no
longer wet. Nor would it again be wetted by any tear.
The details of Harriet's crime were never known. In her
illness she spoke more of the inlaid box that she lent to
Lilia--lentnot given--than of recent troubles. It was clear
that she had gone prepared for an interview with Ginoand
finding him outshe had yielded to a grotesque temptation.
But how far this was the result of ill-temperto what
extent she had been fortified by her religionwhen and how
she had met the poor idiot--these questions were never
answerednor did they interest Philip greatly. Detection
was certain: they would have been arrested by the police of
Florence or Milanor at the frontier. As it wasthey had
been stopped in a simpler manner a few miles out of the town.
As yet he could scarcely survey the thing. It was too
great. Round the Italian baby who had died in the mud there
centred deep passions and high hopes. People had been
wicked or wrong in the matter; no one save himself had been
trivial. Now the baby had gonebut there remained this
vast apparatus of pride and pity and love. For the dead
who seemed to take away so muchreally take with them
nothing that is ours. The passion they have aroused lives
after themeasy to transmute or to transferbut well-nigh
impossible to destroy. And Philip knew that he was still
voyaging on the same magnificentperilous seawith the sun
or the clouds above himand the tides below.
The course of the moment--thatat all eventswas
certain. He and no one else must take the news to Gino. It
was easy to talk of Harriet's crime--easy also to blame the
negligent Perfetta or Mrs. Herriton at home. Every one had
contributed--even Miss Abbott and Irma. If one choseone
might consider the catastrophe composite or the work of
fate. But Philip did not so choose. It was his own fault
due to acknowledged weakness in his own character.
Therefore heand no one elsemust take the news of it to Gino.
Nothing prevented him. Miss Abbott was engaged with
Harrietand people had sprung out of the darkness and were
conducting them towards some cottage. Philip had only to
get into the uninjured carriage and order the driver to
return. He was back at Monteriano after a two hours'
absence. Perfetta was in the house nowand greeted him
cheerfully. Painphysical and mentalhad made him
stupid. It was some time before he realized that she had
never missed the child.
Gino was still out. The woman took him to the
reception-roomjust as she had taken Miss Abbott in the
morningand dusted a circle for him on one of the horsehair
chairs. But it was dark nowso she left the guest a little
I will be as quick as I can,she told him. "But there
are many streets in Monteriano; he is sometimes difficult to
find. I could not find him this morning."
Go first to the Caffe Garibaldi,said Philip
remembering that this was the hour appointed by his friends
He occupied the time he was left alone not in
thinking--there was nothing to think about; he simply had to
tell a few facts--but in trying to make a sling for his
broken arm. The trouble was in the elbow-jointand as long
as he kept this motionless he could go on as usual. But
inflammation was beginningand the slightest jar gave him
agony. The sling was not fitted before Gino leapt up the
So you are back! How glad I am! We are all waiting--
Philip had seen too much to be nervous. In loweven
tones he told what had happened; and the otheralso
perfectly calmheard him to the end. In the silence
Perfetta called up that she had forgotten the baby's evening
milk; she must fetch it. When she had gone Gino took up the
lamp without a wordand they went into the other room.
My sister is ill,said Philipand Miss Abbott is
guiltless. I should be glad if you did not have to trouble them.
Gino had stooped down by the wayand was feeling the
place where his son had lain. Now and then he frowned a
little and glanced at Philip.
It is through me,he continued. "It happened because
I was cowardly and idle. I have come to know what you will do."
Gino had left the rugand began to pat the table from
the endas if he was blind. The action was so uncanny that
Philip was driven to intervene.
Gently, man, gently; he is not here.
He went up and touched him on the shoulder.
He twitched awayand began to pass his hands over
things more rapidly--over the tablethe chairsthe entire
floorthe walls as high as he could reach them. Philip had
not presumed to comfort him. But now the tension was too
Break down, Gino; you must break down. Scream and
curse and give in for a little; you must break down.
There was no replyand no cessation of the sweeping hands.
It is time to be unhappy. Break down or you will be
ill like my sister. You will go--
The tour of the room was over. He had touched
everything in it except Philip. Now he approached him. He
face was that of a man who has lost his old reason for life
and seeks a new one.
He stopped for a moment; then he came nearer. Philip
stood his ground.
You are to do what you like with me, Gino. Your son is
dead, Gino. He died in my arms, remember. It does not
excuse me; but he did die in my arms.
The left hand came forwardslowly this time. It
hovered before Philip like an insect. Then it descended and
gripped him by his broken elbow.
Philip struck out with all the strength of his other
arm. Gino fell to the blow without a cry or a word.
You brute!exclaimed the Englishman. "Kill me if you
like! But just you leave my broken arm alone."
Then he was seized with remorseand knelt beside his
adversary and tried to revive him. He managed to raise him
upand propped his body against his own. He passed his arm
round him. Again he was filled with pity and tenderness.
He awaited the revival without fearsure that both of them
were safe at last.
Gino recovered suddenly. His lips moved. For one
blessed moment it seemed that he was going to speak. But he
scrambled up in silenceremembering everythingand he made
not towards Philipbut towards the lamp.
Do what you like; but think first--
The lamp was tossed across the roomout through the
loggia. It broke against one of the trees below. Philip
began to cry out in the dark.
Gino approached from behind and gave him a sharp pinch.
Philip spun round with a yell. He had only been pinched on
the backbut he knew what was in store for him. He struck
outexhorting the devil to fight himto kill himto do
anything but this. Then he stumbled to the door. It was
open. He lost his headandinstead of turning down the
stairshe ran across the landing into the room opposite.
There he lay down on the floor between the stove and the
His senses grew sharper. He could hear Gino coming in
on tiptoe. He even knew what was passing in his mindhow
now he was at faultnow he was hopefulnow he was
wondering whether after all the victim had not escaped down
the stairs. There was a quick swoop above himand then a
low growl like a dog's. Gino had broken his finger-nails
against the stove.
Physical pain is almost too terrible to bear. We can
just bear it when it comes by accident or for our good--as it
generally does in modem life--except at school. But when it
is caused by the malignity of a manfull grownfashioned
like ourselvesall our control disappears. Philip's one
thought was to get away from that room at whatever sacrifice
of nobility or pride.
Gino was now at the further end of the roomgroping by
the little tables. Suddenly the instinct came to him. He
crawled quickly to where Philip lay and had him clean by the
The whole arm seemed red-hotand the broken bone grated
in the jointsending out shoots of the essence of pain.
His other arm was pinioned against the walland Gino had
trampled in behind the stove and was kneeling on his legs.
For the space of a minute he yelled and yelled with all the
force of his lungs. Then this solace was denied him. The
other handmoist and strongbegan to close round his throat.
At first he was gladfor herehe thoughtwas death at
last. But it was only a new torture; perhaps Gino inherited
the skill of his ancestors--and childlike ruffians who flung
each other from the towers. Just as the windpipe closed
the hand fell offand Philip was revived by the motion of
his arm. And just as he was about to faint and gain at last
one moment of oblivionthe motion stoppedand he would
struggle instead against the pressure on his throat.
Vivid pictures were dancing through the pain--Lilia dying
some months back in this very houseMiss Abbott bending
over the babyhis mother at homenow reading evening
prayers to the servants. He felt that he was growing
weaker; his brain wandered; the agony did not seem so
great. Not all Gino's care could indefinitely postpone the
end. His yells and gurgles became mechanical--functions of
the tortured flesh rather than true notes of indignation and
despair. He was conscious of a horrid tumbling. Then his
arm was pulled a little too roughlyand everything was
quiet at last.
But your son is dead, Gino. Your son is dead, dear
Gino. Your son is dead.
The room was full of lightand Miss Abbott had Gino by
the shouldersholding him down in a chair. She was
exhausted with the struggleand her arms were trembling.
What is the good of another death? What is the good of
He too began to tremble. Then he turned and looked
curiously at Philipwhose facecovered with dust and foam
was visible by the stove. Miss Abbott allowed him to get
upthough she still held him firmly. He gave a loud and
curious cry--a cry of interrogation it might be called.
Below there was the noise of Perfetta returning with the
Go to him,said Miss Abbottindicating Philip. "Pick
him up. Treat him kindly."
She released himand he approached Philip slowly. His
eyes were filling with trouble. He bent downas if he
would gently raise him up.
Help! help!moaned Philip. His body had suffered too
much from Gino. It could not bear to be touched by him.
Gino seemed to understand. He stoppedcrouched above
him. Miss Abbott herself came forward and lifted her friend
in her arms.
Oh, the foul devil!he murmured. "Kill him! Kill him
Miss Abbott laid him tenderly on the couch and wiped his
face. Then she said gravely to them bothThis thing stops
Latte! latte!cried Perfettahilariously ascending
Remember,she continuedthere is to be no revenge.
I will have no more intentional evil. We are not to fight
with each other any more.
I shall never forgive him,sighed Philip.
Latte! latte freschissima! bianca come neve!
Perfetta came in with another lamp and a little jug.
Gino spoke for the first time. "Put the milk on the
table he said. It will not be wanted in the other
room." The peril was over at last. A great sob shook the
whole bodyanother followedand then he gave a piercing
cry of woeand stumbled towards Miss Abbott like a child
and clung to her.
All through the day Miss Abbott had seemed to Philip
like a goddessand more than ever did she seem so now.
Many people look younger and more intimate during great
emotion. But some there are who look olderand remoteand
he could not think that there was little difference in
yearsand none in compositionbetween her and the man
whose head was laid upon her breast. Her eyes were open
full of infinite pity and full of majestyas if they
discerned the boundaries of sorrowand saw unimaginable
tracts beyond. Such eyes he had seen in great pictures but
never in a mortal. Her hands were folded round the
suffererstroking him lightlyfor even a goddess can do no
more than that. And it seemed fittingtoothat she should
bend her head and touch his forehead with her lips.
Philip looked awayas he sometimes looked away from the
great pictures where visible forms suddenly become
inadequate for the things they have shown to us. He was
happy; he was assured that there was greatness in the
world. There came to him an earnest desire to be good
through the example of this good woman. He would try
henceforward to be worthy of the things she had revealed.
Quietlywithout hysterical prayers or banging of drumshe
underwent conversion. He was saved.
That milk,said sheneed not be wasted. Take it,
Signor Carella, and persuade Mr. Herriton to drink.
Gino obeyed herand carried the child's milk to
Philip. And Philip obeyed also and drank.
Is there any left?
A little,answered Gino.
Then finish it.For she was determined to use such
remnants as lie about the world.
Will you not have some?
I do not care for milk; finish it all.
Philip, have you had enough milk?
Yes, thank you, Gino; finish it all.
He drank the milkand theneither by accident or in
some spasm of painbroke the jug to pieces. Perfetta
exclaimed in bewilderment. "It does not matter he told
her. It does not matter. It will never be wanted any
He will have to marry her,said Philip. "I heard from him
this morningjust as we left Milan. He finds he has gone
too far to back out. It would be expensive. I don't know
how much he minds--not as much as we supposeI think. At
all events there's not a word of blame in the letter. I
don't believe he even feels angry. I never was so
completely forgiven. Ever since you stopped him killing me
it has been a vision of perfect friendship. He nursed me
he lied for me at the inquestand at the funeralthough he
was cryingyou would have thought it was my son who had
died. Certainly I was the only person he had to be kind to;
he was so distressed not to make Harriet's acquaintanceand
that he scarcely saw anything of you. In his letter he says
Thank him, please, when you write,said Miss Abbott
and give him my kindest regards.
Indeed I will.He was surprised that she could slide
away from the man so easily. For his own parthe was bound
by ties of almost alarming intimacy. Gino had the southern
knack of friendship. In the intervals of business he would
pull out Philip's lifeturn it inside outremodel itand
advise him how to use it for the best. The sensation was
pleasantfor he was a kind as well as a skilful operator.
But Philip came away feeling that he had not a secret corner
left. In that very letter Gino had again implored himas a
refuge from domestic difficultiesto marry Miss Abbott,
even if her dowry is small.And how Miss Abbott herself
after such tragic intercoursecould resume the conventions
and send calm messages of esteemwas more than he could
When will you see him again?she asked. They were
standing together in the corridor of the trainslowly
ascending out of Italy towards the San Gothard tunnel.
I hope next spring. Perhaps we shall paint Siena red
for a day or two with some of the new wife's money. It was
one of the arguments for marrying her.
He has no heart,she said severely. "He does not
really mind about the child at all."
No; you're wrong. He does. He is unhappy, like the
rest of us. But he doesn't try to keep up appearances as we
do. He knows that the things that have made him happy once
will probably make him happy again--
He said he would never be happy again.
In his passion. Not when he was calm. We English say
it when we are calm--when we do not really believe it any
longer. Gino is not ashamed of inconsistency. It is one of
the many things I like him for.
Yes; I was wrong. That is so."
He's much more honest with himself than I am,
continued Philipand he is honest without an effort and
without pride. But you, Miss Abbott, what about you? Will
you be in Italy next spring?
I'm sorry. When will you come back, do you think?
I think never.
For whatever reason?He stared at her as if she were
Because I understand the place. There is no need.
Understand Italy!he exclaimed.
Well, I don't. And I don't understand you,he
murmured to himselfas he paced away from her up the
corridor. By this time he loved her very muchand he could
not bear to be puzzled. He had reached love by the
spiritual path: her thoughts and her goodness and her
nobility had moved him firstand now her whole body and all
its gestures had become transfigured by them. The beauties
that are called obvious--the beauties of her hair and her
voice and her limbs--he had noticed these last; Ginowho
never traversed any path at allhad commended them
dispassionately to his friend.
Why was he so puzzling? He had known so much about her
once--what she thoughthow she feltthe reasons for her
actions. And now he only knew that he loved herand all
the other knowledge seemed passing from him just as he
needed it most. Why would she never come to Italy again?
Why had she avoided himself and Gino ever since the evening
that she had saved their lives? The train was nearly
empty. Harriet slumbered in a compartment by herself. He
must ask her these questions nowand he returned quickly to
her down the corridor.
She greeted him with a question of her own. "Are your
Yes. I can't live at Sawston.
Have you told Mrs. Herriton?
I wrote from Monteriano. I tried to explain things;
but she will never understand me. Her view will be that the
affair is settled--sadly settled since the baby is dead.
Still it's over; our family circle need be vexed no more.
She won't even be angry with you. You see, you have done us
no harm in the long run. Unless, of course, you talk about
Harriet and make a scandal. So that is my plan--London and
work. What is yours?
Poor Harriet!said Miss Abbott. "As if I dare judge
Harriet! Or anybody." And without replying to Philip's
question she left him to visit the other invalid.
Philip gazed after her mournfullyand then he looked
mournfully out of the window at the decreasing streams. All
the excitement was over--the inquestHarriet's short
illnesshis own visit to the surgeon. He was convalescent
both in body and spiritbut convalescence brought no joy.
In the looking-glass at the end of the corridor he saw his
face haggardand his shoulders pulled forward by the weight
of the sling. Life was greater than he had supposedbut it
was even less complete. He had seen the need for strenuous
work and for righteousness. And now he saw what a very
little way those things would go.
Is Harriet going to be all right?he asked. Miss
Abbott had come back to him.
She will soon be her old self,was the reply. For
Harrietafter a short paroxysm of illness and remorsewas
quickly returning to her normal state. She had been
thoroughly upsetas she phrased itbut she soon ceased to
realize that anything was wrong beyond the death of a poor
little child. Already she spoke of "this unlucky accident
and the mysterious frustration of one's attempts to make
things better." Miss Abbott had seen that she was
comfortableand had given her a kind kiss. But she
returned feeling that Harrietlike her motherconsidered
the affair as settled.
I'm clear enough about Harriet's future, and about
parts of my own. But I ask again, What about yours?
Sawston and work,said Miss Abbott.
Why not?she askedsmiling.
You've seen too much. You've seen as much and done
more than I have.
But it's so different. Of course I shall go to
Sawston. You forget my father; and even if he wasn't there,
I've a hundred ties: my district--I'm neglecting it
shamefully--my evening classes, the St. James'--
Silly nonsense!he explodedsuddenly moved to have
the whole thing out with her. "You're too good--about a
thousand times better than I am. You can't live in that
hole; you must go among people who can hope to understand
you. I mind for myself. I want to see you often--again
Of course we shall meet whenever you come down; and I
hope that it will mean often.
It's not enough; it'll only be in the old horrible way,
each with a dozen relatives round us. No, Miss Abbott; it's
not good enough.
We can write at all events.
You will write?he criedwith a flush of pleasure.
At times his hopes seemed so solid.
I will indeed.
But I say it's not enough--you can't go back to the old
life if you wanted to. Too much has happened.
I know that she said sadly.
Not only pain and sorrowbut wonderful things: that
tower in the sunlight--do you remember itand all you said
to me? The theatreeven. And the next day--in the church;
and our times with Gino."
All the wonderful things are over,she said. "That is
just where it is."
I don't believe it. At all events not for me. The
most wonderful things may be to come--
The wonderful things are over,she repeatedand
looked at him so mournfully that he dare not contradict
her. The train was crawling up the last ascent towards the
Campanile of Airolo and the entrance of the tunnel.
Miss Abbott,he murmuredspeaking quicklyas if
their free intercourse might soon be endedwhat is the
matter with you? I thought I understood you, and I don't.
All those two great first days at Monteriano I read you as
clearly as you read me still. I saw why you had come, and
why you changed sides, and afterwards I saw your wonderful
courage and pity. And now you're frank with me one moment,
as you used to be, and the next moment you shut me up. You
see I owe too much to you--my life, and I don't know what
besides. I won't stand it. You've gone too far to turn
mysterious. I'll quote what you said to me: 'Don't be
mysterious; there isn't the time.' I'll quote something
else: 'I and my life must be where I live.' You can't live
He had moved her at last. She whispered to herself
hurriedly. "It is tempting--" And those three words threw
him into a tumult of joy. What was tempting to her? After
all was the greatest of things possible? Perhapsafter
long estrangementafter much tragedythe South had brought
them together in the end. That laughter in the theatre
those silver stars in the purple skyeven the violets of a
departed springall had helpedand sorrow had helped also
and so had tenderness to others.
It is tempting,she repeatednot to be mysterious.
I've wanted often to tell you, and then been afraid. I
could never tell any one else, certainly no woman, and I
think you're the one man who might understand and not be
Are you lonely?he whispered. "Is it anything like that?"
Yes.The train seemed to shake him towards her. He
was resolved that though a dozen people were lookinghe
would yet take her in his arms. "I'm terribly lonelyor I
wouldn't speak. I think you must know already." Their
faces were crimsonas if the same thought was surging
through them both.
Perhaps I do.He came close to her. "Perhaps I could
speak instead. But if you will say the word plainly you'll
never be sorry; I will thank you for it all my life."
She said plainlyThat I love him.Then she broke
down. Her body was shaken with sobsand lest there should
be any doubt she cried between the sobs for Gino! Gino! Gino!
He heard himself remark "Rather! I love him too! When
I can forget how he hurt me that evening. Though whenever
we shake hands--" One of them must have moved a step or two
for when she spoke again she was already a little way apart.
You've upset me.She stifled something that was
perilously near hysterics. "I thought I was past all this.
You're taking it wrongly. I'm in love with Gino--don't pass
it off--I mean it crudely--you know what I mean. So laugh at me."
Laugh at love?asked Philip.
Yes. Pull it to pieces. Tell me I'm a fool or
worse--that he's a cad. Say all you said when Lilia fell in
love with him. That's the help I want. I dare tell you
this because I like you--and because you're without passion;
you look on life as a spectacle; you don't enter it; you
only find it funny or beautiful. So I can trust you to cure
me. Mr. Herriton, isn't it funny?She tried to laugh
herselfbut became frightened and had to stop. "He's not a
gentlemannor a Christiannor good in any way. He's never
flattered me nor honoured me. But because he's handsome
that's been enough. The son of an Italian dentistwith a
pretty face." She repeated the phrase as if it was a charm
against passion. "OhMr. Herritonisn't it funny!" Then
to his reliefshe began to cry. "I love himand I'm not
ashamed of it. I love himand I'm going to Sawstonand if
I mayn't speak about him to you sometimesI shall die."
In that terrible discovery Philip managed to think not
of himself but of her. He did not lament. He did not even
speak to her kindlyfor he saw that she could not stand
it. A flippant reply was what she asked and
needed--something flippant and a little cynical. And indeed
it was the only reply he could trust himself to make.
Perhaps it is what the books call 'a passing fancy'?
She shook her head. Even this question was too
pathetic. For as far as she knew anything about herself
she knew that her passionsonce arousedwere sure. "If I
saw him often she said, I might remember what he is
like. Or he might grow old. But I dare not risk itso
nothing can alter me now."
Well, if the fancy does pass, let me know.After all
he could say what he wanted.
Oh, you shall know quick enough--
But before you retire to Sawston--are you so mighty sure?
What of?She had stopped crying. He was treating her
exactly as she had hoped.
That you and he--He smiled bitterly at the thought of
them together. Here was the cruel antique malice of the
godssuch as they once sent forth against Pasiphae.
Centuries of aspiration and culture--and the world could not
escape it. "I was going to say--whatever have you got in
Nothing except the times we have seen each other.
Again her face was crimson. He turned his own face away.
The time I thought you weak and heedless, and went
instead of you to get the baby. That began it, as far as I
know the beginning. Or it may have begun when you took us
to the theatre, and I saw him mixed up with music and
light. But didn't understand till the morning. Then you
opened the door--and I knew why I had been so happy.
Afterwards, in the church, I prayed for us all; not for
anything new, but that we might just be as we were--he with
the child he loved, you and I and Harriet safe out of the
place--and that I might never see him or speak to him again.
I could have pulled through then--the thing was only coming
near, like a wreath of smoke; it hadn't wrapped me round.
But through my fault,said Philip solemnlyhe is
parted from the child he loves. And because my life was in
danger you came and saw him and spoke to him again.For
the thing was even greater than she imagined. Nobody but
himself would ever see round it now. And to see round it he
was standing at an immense distance. He could even be glad
that she had once held the beloved in her arms.
Don't talk of 'faults.' You're my friend for ever, Mr.
Herriton, I think. Only don't be charitable and shift or
take the blame. Get over supposing I'm refined. That's
what puzzles you. Get over that.
As he spoke she seemed to be transfiguredand to have
indeed no part with refinement or unrefinement any longer.
Out of this wreck there was revealed to him something
indestructible--something which shewho had given itcould
never take away.
I say again, don't be charitable. If he had asked me,
I might have given myself body and soul. That would have
been the end of my rescue party. But all through he took me
for a superior being--a goddess. I who was worshipping every
inch of him, and every word he spoke. And that saved me.
Philip's eyes were fixed on the Campanile of Airolo.
But he saw instead the fair myth of Endymion. This woman
was a goddess to the end. For her no love could be
degrading: she stood outside all degradation. This episode
which she thought so sordidand which was so tragic for
himremained supremely beautiful. To such a height was he
liftedthat without regret he could now have told her that
he was her worshipper too. But what was the use of telling
her? For all the wonderful things had happened.
Thank you,was all that he permitted himself. "Thank
you for everything."
She looked at him with great friendlinessfor he had
made her life endurable. At that moment the train entered
the San Gothard tunnel. They hurried back to the carriage
to close the windows lest the smuts should get into