Chapter IV: Fourth Chapter
Mr. Beebe was right
. Lucy never knew her desires so clearly as after music. She had not really appreciated the clergyman's wit
, nor the suggestive
twitterings of Miss Alan. Conversation was tedious
; she wanted something big, and she believed that it would have come to her on the wind-swept platform
of an electric tram
. This she might
. It was unladylike. Why? Why were most big things unladylike? Charlotte had once explained to her why. It was not that ladies were inferior
to men; it was that they were different
. Their mission
was to inspire
others to achievement
rather than to achieve
themselves. Indirectly, by means of tact
and a spotless name, a lady could accomplish
much. But if she rushed into the fray
herself she would be first censured, then despised, and finally ignored. Poems had been written to illustrate
There is much that is immortal
in this medieval
lady. The dragons have gone, and so have the knights, but still she lingers in our midst. She reigned in many an early Victorian castle, and was Queen of much early Victorian song. It is sweet to protect
her in the intervals of business, sweet to pay her honour when she has cooked our dinner well. But alas! the creature
. In her heart
also there are springing up strange
desires. She too is enamoured of heavy winds, and vast
panoramas, and green expanses of the sea. She has marked
of this world, how full it is of wealth
, and beauty, and war-a radiant crust
, built around the central
fires, spinning towards the receding heavens. Men, declaring that she inspires them to it, move joyfully over the surface
, having the most delightful meetings with other men, happy, not because they are masculine
, but because they are alive. Before the show breaks up she would like to drop
the august title
of the Eternal Woman, and go there as her transitory
Lucy does not stand for the medieval
lady, who was rather an ideal
to which she was bidden to lift her eyes when feeling serious
. Nor has she any system
. Here and there a restriction annoyed
, and she would transgress
it, and perhaps be sorry that she had done so. This afternoon she was peculiarly restive
. She would really like to do something of which her well-wishers disapproved. As she might
not go on the electric tram
, she went to Alinari's shop.
There she bought a photograph
of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus." Venus, being a pity
, spoilt the picture, otherwise so charming
, and Miss Bartlett had persuaded her to do without it. (A pity
in art of course signified the nude.) Giorgione's "Tempesta," the "Idolino," some of the Sistine frescoes and the Apoxyomenos, were added to it. She felt a little calmer then, and bought Fra Angelico's "Coronation," Giotto's "Ascension of St. John," some Della Robbia babies, and some Guido Reni Madonnas. For her taste was catholic
, and she extended uncritical approval
to every well-known name.
But though she spent nearly seven lire, the gates of liberty
seemed still unopened. She was conscious
of her discontent
; it was new to her to be conscious
of it. "The world," she thought
, "is certainly
full of beautiful things, if only I could come across them." It was not surprising that Mrs. Honeychurch disapproved of music, declaring that it always left her daughter peevish
, unpractical, and touchy
"Nothing ever happens to me," she reflected, as she entered the Piazza Signoria and looked nonchalantly
at its marvels, now fairly familiar
to her. The great square was in shadow
; the sunshine had come too late to strike
it. Neptune was already unsubstantial in the twilight
, half god, half ghost, and his fountain plashed dreamily to the men and satyrs who idled together on its marge. The Loggia showed as the triple entrance
of a cave, wherein many a deity
, but immortal
, looking forth upon the arrivals and departures of mankind. It was the hour of unreality-the hour, that is, when unfamiliar things are real. An older person at such an hour and in such a place might
think that sufficient
was happening to him, and rest content
. Lucy desired more.
She fixed her eyes wistfully
on the tower
of the palace
, which rose out of the lower darkness like a pillar
of roughened gold. It seemed no longer a tower
, no longer supported by earth
, but some unattainable treasure throbbing
in the tranquil
sky. Its brightness mesmerized her, still dancing before her eyes when she bent
them to the ground and started towards home.
Then something did happen.
Two Italians by the Loggia had been bickering about a debt
. "Cinque lire," they had cried, "cinque lire!" They sparred at each other, and one of them was hit lightly upon the chest. He frowned; he bent
towards Lucy with a look of interest
, as if he had an important message
for her. He opened his lips to deliver
it, and a stream
of red came out between them and trickled down his unshaven chin.
That was all. A crowd
rose out of the dusk
. It hid this man from her, and bore
him away to the fountain. Mr. George Emerson happened to be a few paces away, looking at her across the spot where the man had been. How very odd! Across something. Even as she caught sight
of him he grew dim
; the palace
itself grew dim
, swayed above her, fell on to her softly, slowly, noiselessly
, and the sky fell with it.
: "Oh, what have I done?"
"Oh, what have I done?" she murmured, and opened her eyes.
George Emerson still looked at her, but not across anything. She had complained of dullness, and lo! one man was stabbed, and another held her in his arms.
They were sitting on some steps in the Uffizi Arcade. He must have carried her. He rose when she spoke
, and began to dust his knees. She repeated
"Oh, what have I done?"
"I-I am very sorry."
"How are you now?"
"Perfectly well-absolutely well." And she began to nod and smile.
"Then let us come home. There's no point in our stopping."
He held out his hand to pull her up. She pretended not to see it. The cries from the fountain-they had never ceased-rang emptily. The whole world seemed pale
of its original meaning
"How very kind you have been! I might
have hurt myself falling. But now I am well. I can go alone, thank you."
His hand was still extended.
"Oh, my photographs!" she exclaimed suddenly
"I bought some photographs at Alinari's. I must have dropped them out there in the square." She looked at him cautiously. "Would you add to your kindness by fetching
He added to his kindness. As soon as he had turned his back, Lucy arose with the running of a maniac
down the arcade
towards the Arno.
She stopped with her hand on her heart
"You sit still; you aren't fit
to go home alone."
"Yes, I am, thank you so very much."
"No, you aren't. You'd go openly if you were."
"But I had rather-"
"Then I don't fetch
"I had rather be alone."
He said imperiously
: "The man is dead-the man is probably
dead; sit down till
you are rested." She was bewildered
, and obeyed him. "And don't move till
I come back."
In the distance
she saw creatures with black hoods, such as appear in dreams. The palace tower
of the declining day, and joined itself to earth
. How should she talk to Mr. Emerson when he returned from the shadowy
square? Again the thought
occurred to her, "Oh, what have I done?"-the thought
that she, as well as the dying man, had crossed some spiritual boundary
He returned, and she talked of the murder
. Oddly enough, it was an easy topic
. She spoke
of the Italian character
; she became almost garrulous
over the incident
that had made her faint
five minutes before. Being strong physically, she soon overcame the horror
of blood. She rose without his assistance
, and though wings seemed to flutter
inside her, she walked firmly enough towards the Arno. There a cabman signalled to them; they refused him.
"And the murderer tried to kiss him, you say-how very odd Italians are!-and gave himself up to the police! Mr. Beebe was saying that Italians know everything, but I think they are rather childish. When my cousin and I were at the Pitti yesterday-What was that?"
He had thrown something into the stream
"What did you throw
"Things I didn't want," he said crossly.
"Where are the photographs?"
He was silent.
"I believe it was my photographs that you threw away."
"I didn't know what to do with them," he cried, and his voice was that of an anxious
boy. Her heart
warmed towards him for the first time. "They were covered with blood. There! I'm glad I've told you; and all the time we were making conversation
I was wondering what to do with them." He pointed down-stream
. "They've gone." The river swirled under the bridge, "I did mind them so, and one is so foolish
, it seemed better that they should go out to the sea-I don't know; I may just mean
that they frightened
me." Then the boy verged into a man. "For something tremendous
has happened; I must face it without getting muddled. It isn't exactly that a man has died."
Something warned Lucy that she must stop him.
"It has happened," he repeated
, "and I mean
to find out what it is."
He turned towards her frowning, as if she had disturbed him in some abstract quest
"I want to ask you something before we go in."
They were close to their pension
. She stopped and leant her elbows against the parapet
of the embankment. He did likewise. There is at times a magic in identity
of position; it is one of the things that have suggested to us eternal
comradeship. She moved her elbows before saying:
"I have behaved ridiculously."
He was following his own thoughts.
"I was never so much ashamed
of myself in my life; I cannot think what came over me."
"I nearly fainted myself," he said; but she felt that her attitude
"Well, I owe you a thousand apologies."
"Oh, all right
"And-this is the real point-you know how silly people are gossiping-ladies especially, I am afraid-you understand
what I mean
"I'm afraid I don't."
, would you not mention
it to any one, my foolish
"Your behaviour? Oh, yes, all right
"Thank you so much. And would you-"
She could not carry
any further. The river was rushing below them, almost black in the advancing night. He had thrown her photographs into it, and then he had told her the reason
. It struck her that it was hopeless to look for chivalry
in such a man. He would do her no harm by idle gossip
; he was trustworthy
, and even kind; he might
even have a high opinion
of her. But he lacked chivalry
; his thoughts, like his behaviour, would not be modified by awe
. It was useless
to say to him, "And would you-" and hope that he would complete
for himself, averting his eyes from her nakedness like the knight
in that beautiful picture. She had been in his arms, and he remembered it, just as he remembered the blood on the photographs that she had bought in Alinari's shop. It was not exactly that a man had died; something had happened to the living: they had come to a situation
tells, and where childhood enters upon the branching paths of Youth.
"Well, thank you so much," she repeated
, "How quickly these accidents do happen, and then one returns to the old life!"
Anxiety moved her to question him.
His answer was puzzling
: "I shall probably
want to live."
"But why, Mr. Emerson? What do you mean
"I shall want to live, I say."
Leaning her elbows on the parapet
, she contemplated the River Arno, whose roar
was suggesting some unexpected melody
to her ears.