Where Angels Fear to Tread
E. M. Forster
Part 2 out of 4
it, and 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 him, and 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 said, smiling. They had
finished their mid-day meal, and he wanted to go and sleep.
Nothing would rouse him up, until at last Lilia, getting
more and more angry, said, "And 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 character, but she quickly became
alarmed. As she said to Perfetta afterwards, "None of his
clothes seemed to fit--too big in one place, too small in
another." His figure rather than his face altered, the
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 sitting, and she
sprang away and held the chair between them, too frightened
to speak or to move. He looked at her with round,
expressionless eyes, and slowly stretched out his left hand.
Perfetta was heard coming up from the kitchen. It
seemed to wake him up, and he turned away and went to his
room without a word.
"What has happened?" cried Lilia, nearly 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 terrifying, for he was
frightened too, imploring her pardon, lying at her feet,
embracing her, murmuring "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 herself, for there are
some situations in which vulgarity counts no longer. Not
Cordelia nor Imogen more deserves our tears.
She herself cried frequently, making herself look plain
and old, which distressed her husband. He was particularly
kind to her when he hardly ever saw her, and she accepted
his kindness without resentment, even with gratitude, so
docile had she become. She did not hate him, even 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 headstrong, but really her weak brain left her cold.
Suffering, however, is more independent of temperament,
and the wisest of women could hardly have suffered more.
As for Gino, he was quite as boyish as ever, and carried
his iniquities like a feather. A favourite speech of his
was, "Ah, 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 saying, he
would take down his felt hat, strike it in the right place
as infallibly as a German strikes his in the wrong place,
and leave her.
One evening, when he had gone out thus, Lilia 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 gymkhanas, and 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 free, happy
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 kitchen, and 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-room, and by unlocking the door at the top one might
slip out to the square terrace above the house, and 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 beautiful, but as they faced west they were in
shadow. To see the light upon them she must walk round the
town a little, till they were caught by the beams of the
rising moon. She looked anxiously at the house, and started.
It was easy walking, for a little path ran all outside
the ramparts. The few people she met wished her a civil
good-night, taking her, in her hatless condition, for a
peasant. The walls trended round towards the moon; and
presently she came into its light, and saw all the rough
towers turn into pillars of silver and black, and the
ramparts into cliffs of pearl. She had no great sense of
beauty, but she was sentimental, and she began to cry; for
here, where a great cypress interrupted the monotony of the
girdle of olives, she had sat with Gino one afternoon in
March, her head upon his shoulder, while Caroline was
looking at the view and sketching. Round the comer was the
Siena gate, from which the road to England started, and 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 her, for the highroad came towards her a little before
it began its long zigzag down the hill.
The driver slackened, and 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-night, and turned his horses down the
corner. As the diligence came round she saw that it was empty.
"Vengo . . ."
Her voice was tremulous, and did not carry. The horses
He had begun to sing, and 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
moon, and 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 earth, large and hard as
rocks, which lay between the eternal olives. She was too
late; for, just before she regained the road, the thing
swept past her, thunderous, ploughing up choking clouds of
She did not call any more, for she felt very ill, and
fainted; and when she revived she was lying in the road,
with dust in her eyes, and dust in her mouth, and 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
captivity, shaking 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
kitchen, swearing and smashing plates, while Perfetta, her
apron over her head, was 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 one, for as he
spoke she was seized with indignation and feared him no
longer, and saw him for a cruel, worthless, hypocritical,
dissolute upstart, and spoke in return.
Perfetta screamed for she told him everything--all she
knew and all she thought. He stood with open mouth, all the
anger gone out of him, feeling ashamed, and an utter fool.
He was fairly and rightfully cornered. When had a husband
so given himself away before? She finished; and he was
dumb, for she had spoken truly. Then, alas! the absurdity
of his own position grew upon him, and he laughed--as he
would have laughed at the same situation on the stage.
"You laugh?" stammered Lilia.
"Ah!" he cried, "who 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 comrade, half
amused and half penitent, and then, murmuring and smiling to
himself, ran 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 Perfetta, nor Gino, nor 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 ancestors, good,
bad, or indifferent, forbad the Latin man to be chivalrous
to the northern woman, the 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
standard, and Gino simply wondered why she did not come
round. He hated discomfort and yearned for sympathy, but
shrank from mentioning his difficulties in the town in case
they were put down to his own incompetence. Spiridione was
told, and replied in a philosophical but not very helpful
letter. His other great friend, whom he trusted more, was
still serving in Eritrea or some other desolate outpost.
And, besides, what was the good of letters? Friends cannot
travel through the post.
Lilia, so similar to her husband in many ways, yearned
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 character, enumerating his iniquities,
reporting whole conversations, tracing all the causes and
the growth of her misery. She was beside herself with
passion, and though she could hardly think or see, she
suddenly attained to magnificence and pathos which a
practised stylist might have envied. It was written like a
diary, and 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 moment, and Irma's placid childhood would have been
destroyed for ever.
Lilia received a brief note from Harriet, again
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 now, watching her for hours, puzzled and
anxious, but not contrite.
"It's nothing." She went in and tore it up, and then
began to write--a very short letter, whose gist was "Come and
It is not good to see your wife crying when she
writes--especially if you are conscious that, on the whole,
your treatment of her has been reasonable and kind. It is
not good, when you accidentally look over her shoulder, to
see that she is writing to a man. Nor should she shake her
fist at you when she leaves the room, under 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 hope, became ill, and 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 desire, the first great passion
of his life. Falling in love was a mere physical
triviality, like warm sun or cool water, beside this divine
hope of immortality: "I continue." He gave candles to Santa
Deodata, for he was always religious at a crisis, and
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 say, "my dearest Lilia! Be calm. I
have never loved any one but you."
She, knowing everything, would only smile gently, too
broken by suffering to make sarcastic repartees.
Before the child was born he gave her a kiss, and said,
"I have prayed all night for a boy."
Some strangely tender impulse moved her, and she said
faintly, "You are a boy yourself, Gino."
He answered, "Then 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 unconscious, and his face was wet with tears.
As for Lilia, some one said to her, "It 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 tall, weakly-built young man, whose
clothes had to be judiciously padded on the shoulders in
order to make him pass muster. His face was plain rather
than not, and there was a curious mixture in it of good and
bad. He had a fine forehead and a good large nose, and both
observation and sympathy were in his eyes. But below the
nose and eyes all was confusion, and those people who
believe that destiny resides in the mouth and chin shook
their heads when they looked at him.
Philip himself, as a boy, had 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-glass, and he would sigh
and say, "It 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
world, he found, made 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 humour, two 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 sunset, and to catch
art from Burne-Jones to Praxiteles. At twenty-two he went
to Italy with some cousins, and there he absorbed into one
aesthetic whole olive-trees, blue sky, frescoes, country
inns, saints, peasants, mosaics, statues, beggars. 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 people, squabbled with his sister, and 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 disenchanted, a little tired, but aesthetically
intact, he resumed his placid life, relying more and more on
his second gift, the gift of humour. If he could not reform
the world, he could at all events laugh at it, thus
attaining at least an intellectual superiority. Laughter,
he read and believed, was a sign of good moral health, and
he laughed on contentedly, till Lilia's marriage toppled
contentment down for ever. Italy, the land of beauty, was
ruined for him. She had no power to change men and things
who dwelt in her. She, too, could produce avarice,
brutality, stupidity--and, what was worse, vulgarity. It was
on her soil and through her influence that a silly woman had
married a cad. He hated Gino, the betrayer of his life's
ideal, and now that the sordid tragedy had come, it filled
him with pangs, not of sympathy, but of final disillusion.
The disillusion was convenient for Mrs. Herriton, who
saw a trying little period ahead of her, and 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 lived, but 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 mourning, it
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 Philip, who
felt a little displeased, though 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
Harriet, rather disturbed.
"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 nothing, and 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.
Herriton, preferring "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 Life, then. Do you remember, mother, that 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 settled, he 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 death, and
Miss Abbott, who had called for a subscription, had been
Irma had wept loudly, had asked a few sensible questions
and a good many silly ones, and had been content with
evasive answers. Fortunately the school prize-giving was at
hand, and that, together with the prospect of new black
clothes, kept her from meditating on the fact that Lilia,
who had been absent so long, would now be absent for ever.
"As for Caroline," said Mrs. Herriton, "I 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 later, when he chanced to
travel up to London with Miss Abbott, he 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 journey, and Philip, from the
force of association, rather expected something ghastly now.
He was surprised. Miss Abbott, between Sawston and
Charing Cross, revealed qualities which he had never guessed
her to possess. Without being exactly original, she did
show a commendable intelligence, and though at times she was
gauche and even uncourtly, he felt that here was a person
whom it might be well to cultivate.
At first she annoyed him. They were talking, of course,
about Lilia, when she broke the thread of vague
commiseration and said abruptly, "It 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 again, and I knew I ought to
interfere. I called her to my bedroom one night. She was
very frightened, for 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 Philip, as 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--well, he was willing. That's all."
"And the telegram?" He looked scornfully out of the window.
Hitherto her voice had been hard, possibly in
self-accusation, possibly in defiance. Now it became
unmistakably sad. "Ah, the telegram! That was wrong.
Lilia there was more cowardly than I was. We should have
told the truth. It lost me my nerve, at all events. I came
to the station meaning to tell you everything then. But we
had started with a lie, and I got frightened. And at the
end, when you left, I 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 country, and said, "Well, I
"But pardon me, Miss Abbott; of most of your conduct you
have given a description rather than an explanation."
He had fairly caught her, and expected that she would
gape and collapse. To his surprise she answered with some
spirit, "An 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 for, to please
people they didn't love; that they never learnt to be
sincere--and, what's as bad, never learnt how to enjoy
themselves. That's what I thought--what I thought at Monteriano."
"Why, Miss Abbott," he cried, "you should have told me
this before! Think it still! I agree with lots of it.
"Now Lilia," she went on, "though 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 concluded, "why 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 nonsense, and 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
own, and 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
personality, and 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
Cross, and they parted,--he to go to a matinee, she 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 great, now 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-cards, and Mrs. Herriton or
Harriet always glanced first at all that came, lest 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 July, and 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 Harriet, danced round the table,
reading as she did so, "View of the superb city of
Monteriano--from your lital brother."
Stupid Harriet caught her, boxed her ears, and tore the
post-card into fragments. Irma howled with pain, and began
shouting indignantly, "Who 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 room, saying, "Come with
me, dear, and I will tell you. Now it is time for you to know."
Irma returned from the interview sobbing, though, as a
matter of fact, she 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 us, or would he be an English baby born abroad? Oh, I
do long to see him, and be the first to teach him the Ten
Commandments and the Catechism."
The last remark always made Harriet look grave.
"Really," exclaimed Mrs. Herriton, "Irma 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 morning, and 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 one, not
particularly proper. Irma received it while they were out,
and all the trouble began again.
"I cannot think," said Mrs. Herriton, "what his motive
is in sending them."
Two years before, Philip would have said that the motive
was to give pleasure. Now he, like his mother, tried 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 drawer, took out the
post-card, and 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 out, that very day. She was proof
against a single post-card, not 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
them, who kissed them when she left home in the morning, who
had the right to extricate them from mail-carts in the
interval, who dangled them at tea ere they retired to rest!
That one might sing the unwritten song of Miriam, blessed
above all school-girls, who was allowed to hide her baby
brother in a squashy place, where none but herself could
How could Irma keep silent when pretentious girls spoke
of baby cousins and baby visitors--she who had a baby
brother, who 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 another, and one girl told her
mother, and 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 sin, so convenient to parents and guardians.
Harriet would have plunged into needless explanations and
abuse. The child was ashamed, and talked about the baby
less. The end of the school year was at hand, and 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
reconciliation, nor Philip since the journey to London. She
had, indeed, been 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
mother, she still sat tight in her chair, looking graver and
more wooden than ever.
"I dare say you have heard," said Mrs. Herriton, well
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 Abbott, and 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. Herriton, "you 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 it, for Irma's sake, and 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 smacked, and
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 low, serious voice--such a voice as she had not used
to him for months--Mrs. Herriton said, "Caroline 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 continued, "that 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 she, flushing at what she knew to be
an insult. "Say, if you choose, that 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 impulsive, but did not dare
to say so. Her ability frightened him. All his life he had
been her puppet. She let him worship Italy, and 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 him, she did not inspire
him with reverence. Her life, he saw, was without meaning.
To what purpose was her diplomacy, her insincerity, her
continued repression of vigour? Did they make any one
better or happier? Did they even bring happiness to
herself? Harriet with her gloomy peevish creed, Lilia with
her clutches after pleasure, were after all more divine than
this well-ordered, active, useless 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
costs, and 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 civil, but not to be appeased by
good intentions. The child's welfare was a sacred duty to
her, not a matter of pride or even of sentiment. By it
alone, she felt, could 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.
Sawston, with its semi-detached houses and snobby schools,
its book teas and bazaars, was certainly petty and dull; at
times she found it even contemptible. But it was not a
place of sin, and at Sawston, either with the Herritons or
with herself, the baby should grow up.
As soon as it was inevitable, Mrs. 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 end, in a few nonchalant sentences, she offered to adopt
the child, provided that Gino would undertake never to come
near it, and 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
added, "How 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 spoke, for 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 tea, and Caroline, who was keeping up her
Italian in the next room, came in to pour it out. He told
them that his mother had written to Signor Carella, and they
both uttered fervent wishes for her success.
"Very fine of Mrs. Herriton, very fine indeed," said Mr.
Abbott, who, like every one else, knew 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 said, "Do you
suppose we shall have difficulty with the man?"
"It depends," she replied, with 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 rose, and
returned to keep up her Italian. She puzzled Philip
extremely. He could understand enthusiasm, but she did not
seem the least enthusiastic. He could understand pure
cussedness, but it did not seem to be that either.
Apparently she was deriving neither amusement nor profit
from the struggle. Why, then, had she undertaken it?
Perhaps she was not sincere. Perhaps, on the whole, that
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 unfamiliar, whether 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 tactics, but she refused to admit that he
knew. She still pretended to him that the baby was the one
thing she wanted, and had always wanted, and that Miss
Abbott was her valued ally.
And when, next week, the reply came from Italy, she
showed him no face of triumph. "Read the letters," she
said. "We have failed."
Gino wrote in his own language, but the solicitors had
sent a laborious English translation, where "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 bounder, whether 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-cards, it displeased him greatly that they had been
obnoxious. He would send no more. Would Mrs. Herriton,
with her notorious kindness, explain this to Irma, and 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 red, she panted for breath, there
were dark circles round her eyes.
"The impudence!" she shouted. "The cursed impudence!
Oh, I'm swearing. I don't care. That beastly woman--how
dare she interfere--I'll--Philip, dear, I'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 dangerous, too--"
"Stop that nonsense, Philip. I will not be disgraced by
her. I WILL have the child. Pay all we've got for it. I
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 her, or murder her, or do for her
somehow. He's a bounder, but 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. Harriet, now, will be invaluable!" And before Philip
had stopped talking nonsense, she had planned the whole
thing and was looking out the trains.
Italy, Philip had always maintained, is only her true self
in the height of the summer, when the tourists have left
her, and her soul awakes under the beams of a vertical sun.
He now had every opportunity of seeing her at her best, for
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 sea, chilled to the bone, overfed, bored, and not
at all unwilling to be fetched away.
"It upsets one's plans terribly," she remarked, as she
squeezed out her sponges, "but 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 good, nor 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. Herriton, worked by Miss Abbott;
Gino, worked by a cheque--what better entertainment could he
desire? There was nothing to distract him this time; his
sentimentality had died, so had his anxiety for the family
honour. He might be a puppet's puppet, but he knew exactly
the disposition of the strings.
They travelled for thirteen hours down-hill, whilst the
streams broadened and the mountains shrank, and the
vegetation changed, and the people ceased being ugly and
drinking beer, and 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
pleasure, what 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 them, like a hand
laid over the mouth, just 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-book, so that purple patches appeared on all her
clothes. Then, as she was going through Mantua at four in
the morning, Philip made her look out of the window because
it was Virgil's birthplace, and a smut flew in her eye, and
Harriet with a smut in her eye was notorious. At Bologna
they stopped twenty-four hours to rest. It was a FESTA, and
children blew bladder whistles night and day. "What a
religion!" said Harriet. The hotel smelt, two puppies were
asleep on her bed, and her bedroom window looked into a
belfry, which saluted her slumbering form every quarter of
an hour. Philip left his walking-stick, his socks, and the
Baedeker at Bologna; she only left her sponge-bag. Next day
they crossed the Apennines with a train-sick child and a hot
lady, who told them that never, never 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 obeyed, and she got another smut in her eye.
Nor did Florence improve matters. Eating, walking, even a
cross word would bathe them both in boiling water. Philip,
who was slighter of build, and less conscientious, suffered
less. But Harriet had never been to Florence, and between
the hours of eight and eleven she crawled like a wounded
creature through the streets, and 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 brother, suddenly breaking
down. "How helpful you will be when we come to Signor Carella!"
"Do you suppose," said Harriet, standing 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 wrathfully, as
he went to struggle for tickets at a slit so narrow that
they were handed to him edgeways. Italy was beastly, and
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 enchantment, he was
sure of that; solid enchantment, which lay behind the
porters and the screaming and the dust. He could see it in
the terrific blue sky beneath which they travelled, in the
whitened plain which gripped life tighter than a frost, in
the exhausted reaches of the Arno, in the ruins of brown
castles which stood quivering upon the hills. He could see
it, though his head ached and his skin was twitching, though
he was here as a puppet, and 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 legno, and the legno had
emerged from the withered trees, and had revealed to them
their destination. Philip, to be annoying, answered "No."
"What do they do there?" continued Harriet, with a frown.
"There is a caffe. A prison. A theatre. A church.
Walls. A view."
"Not for me, thank you," said Harriet, after 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. "But, Harriet, do 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 sake, I
suppose, of 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 exclaimed, "I'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 shouted, bouncing 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 fellow, but we know he didn't murder
her. In that letter, though she said a lot, she 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 Philip, more to
himself than to her.
But for Harriet things were easy, though not jolly, and
she turned upon her brother yet again. "What about the
baby, pray? 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 fool, but I've been noticing
you all today, and you haven't mentioned the baby once. You
haven't thought about it, even. You don't care. Philip! I
shall not speak to you. You are intolerable."
She kept her promise, and never opened her lips all the
rest of the way. But her eyes glowed with anger and
resolution. For she was a straight, brave woman, as well as
a peevish one.
Philip acknowledged her reproof to be true. He did not
care about the baby one straw. Nevertheless, he meant to do
his duty, and he was fairly confident of success. If Gino
would have sold his wife for a thousand lire, for 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 again, just as they had
been fixed when he drove with Miss Abbott. But this time
his thoughts were pleasanter, for 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 towers, rough as any other, was topped by a
cross--the tower of the Collegiate Church of Santa Deodata.
She was a holy maiden of the Dark Ages, the city's patron
saint, and 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 mother, refusing to eat, refusing
to play, refusing to work. The devil, envious of such
sanctity, tempted her in various ways. He dangled grapes
above her, he showed her fascinating toys, he 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 up, but lay upon her back through all, and thus
assured her throne in Paradise. She was only fifteen when
she died, which 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 Poggibonsi, San Gemignano,
Volterra, Siena 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 out, and 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 say, he did not
come, German research having decisively proved--but at all
events the nave is covered with frescoes, and so are two
chapels in the left transept, and the arch into the choir,
and there are scraps in the choir itself. There the
decoration stopped, till 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 dancing, he would stroll over to the church, and
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 Harriet, and she
kept Philip in a pleasant dream until the legno drew up at
the hotel. Every one there was asleep, for 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
her, and sent her to them.
Then Harriet pronounced the monosyllable "Go!"
"Go where?" asked Philip, bowing to the landlady, who
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 understand, I'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 Philip, "C' e il sole."
"Poveretta!" cried the landlady and the cabman.
"Leave me alone!" said Harriet, snarling 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 carriage, and 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 Horatius, keeping the
staircase at both ends, was never to be known. For the
young lady, whose sleep they were disturbing, awoke and
opened her bedroom door, and 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 Abbott, Harriet, and she may have as much to tell you.
So I'll pay my call on Signor Carella, as you suggested, and
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 cabman, he escaped into the street.
"Tear each other's eyes out!" he cried, gesticulating at
the facade of the hotel. "Give it to her, Harriet! Teach
her to leave us alone. Give it to her, Caroline! Teach her
to be grateful to you. Go it, ladies; go it!"
Such people as observed him were interested, but 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 dishonesty, or else she was
being dishonest herself. He preferred to suppose the
latter. Perhaps she had seen Gino, and 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
journey, and the uncouth push that had toppled him on to the
bed. And whatever it might mean, Miss Abbott's presence
spoilt the comedy: she would do nothing funny.
During this short meditation he had walked through the
city, and 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 girl, springing out of
the ground as Italian children will.
"She will show you," said the Dogana men, nodding
reassuringly. "Follow her always, always, and you will come
to no harm. She is a trustworthy guide. She is my
Philip knew these relatives well: they ramify, if need
be, all 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 Harriet, he
would have it out with Gino. He followed the Dogana's
relative softly, like a diplomatist.
He did not follow her long, for this was the Volterra
gate, and 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 laughed, partly at
the thought of Lilia in such a building, partly 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 hot, brain 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 evening, he 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 so, even as her foremothers had sung seven
hundred years back--
Poggibonizzi, fatti in la,
Che Monteriano si fa citta!
Then she asked Philip for a halfpenny. A German lady,
friendly to the Past, had 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 returned, Philip remembered to ask after
the baby. It took longer to find than the basket, and he
stood perspiring in the evening sun, trying 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 Sawston, and had taken
it to Italy because "in Italy anything does." He had
rebuked her for the sentiment.
"Beautiful as an angel!" bellowed Perfetta, holding 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
pleased, partly because it was too much, partly 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 muddled, and not sure
of anything except that his temper was lost. In this mood
he returned to the Stella d'Italia, and there, as he was
ascending the stairs, Miss 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 said, with 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 began, "Harriet 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
well, as 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 Philip, pacing 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 answered, without 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 begun, almost mechanically, to
rebuke her for impertinence. "If you are here to get the
child, I will help you; if you are here to fail, I 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
child, even 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 them, as 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. "She, however, approves of them, and does not
know that they proceed from you. I think, Miss Abbott, you
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
house, knowing 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 Monteriano, and 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 Abbott, impressed for the
first time. "When I tried to pave the way, so to speak--to
hint that he had not behaved as he ought--well, it was no
good at all. He couldn't or wouldn't understand."
There was something very humorous in the idea of Miss
Abbott approaching Gino, on the Rocca, in the spirit of a
district visitor. Philip, whose temper was returning, laughed.
"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,
though, what 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 spoke, for he did not want her to see his
face. It was suffused with pleasure. For an apology, which
would have been intolerable eighteen months ago, was
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 appeased, and 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 smiled, and was shocked at himself for
smiling, and smiled again. For romance had come back to
Italy; there were no cads in her; she was beautiful,
courteous, lovable, as of old. And Miss Abbott--she, too,
was beautiful in her way, for all her gaucheness and
conventionality. She really cared about life, and tried to
live it properly. And Harriet--even Harriet tried.
Back to Full Books