the enchanted april byelizabeth von arnim chapter 5 it was cloudy in italy, which surprised them.they had expected brilliant sunshine. but never mind: it wasitaly, and the very clouds
Wives Under Suspicion (1938), looked fat. neither of them had ever beenthere before. both gazed out of the windows with rapt faces. the hoursflew as long as it was daylight, and after that there was the excitementof getting nearer, getting quite near, getting there. at genoait had begun to rainâ€”
genoa! imagine actually being at genoa, seeingits name written up in the station just like any other nameâ€”atnervi it was pouring, and when at last towards midnight, for again the trainwas late, they got to mezzago, the rain was coming down in whatseemed solid sheets. but it was italy. nothing it did could be bad. thevery rain was differentâ€” straight rain, falling properly on to one’sumbrella; not that violently blowing english stuff that got ineverywhere. and it did leave off; and when it did, behold the earthwould be strewn with roses.
mr. briggs, san salvatore’s owner, had said,"you get out at mezzago, and then you drive." but he had forgottenwhat he amply knew, that trains in italy are sometimes late, andhe had imagined his tenants arriving at mezzago at eight o’clockand finding a string of flys to choose from. the train was four hours late, and when mrs.arbuthnot and mrs. wilkins scrambled down the ladder-like highsteps of their carriage into the black downpour, their skirts sweepingoff great pools of sooty wet because their hands were full of suit-cases,if it had not been for
the vigilance of domenico, the gardener atsan salvatore, they would have found nothing for them to drive in. allordinary flys had long since gone home. domenico, foreseeing this,had sent his aunt’s fly, driven by her son his cousin; and hisaunt and her fly lived in castagneto, the village crouching at the feetof san salvatore, and therefore, however late the train was, thefly would not dare come home without containing that which it had beensent to fetch. domenico’s cousin’s name was beppo, and hepresently emerged out of the dark where mrs. arbuthnot and mrs.wilkins stood, uncertain what
to do next after the train had gone on, forthey could see no porter and they thought from the feel of it thatthey were standing not so much on a platform as in the middle of thepermanent way. beppo, who had been searching for them, emergedfrom the dark with a kind of pounce and talked italian tothem vociferously. beppo was a most respectable young man, but he didnot look as if he were, especially not in the dark, and he had a drippinghat slouched over one eye. they did not like the way he seized theirsuit-cases. he could not be, they thought, a porter. however, theypresently from out of
his streaming talk discerned the words sansalvatore, and after that they kept on saying them to him, for it wasthe only italian they knew, as they hurried after him, unwilling to losesight of their suit-cases, stumbling across rails and through puddlesout to where in the road a small, high fly stood. its hood was up, and its horse was in an attitudeof thought. they climbed in, and the minute they wereinâ€”mrs. wilkins, indeed, could hardly be called inâ€”the horse awokewith a start from its reverie and immediately began going home rapidly;without beppo;
without the suit-cases. beppo darted after him, making the night ringwith his shouts, and caught the hanging reins just in time.he explained proudly, and as it seemed to him with perfect clearness,that the horse always did that, being a fine animal full of corn andblood, and cared for by him, beppo, as if he were his own son, and theladies must be alarmedâ€”he had noticed they were clutching each other;but clear, and loud, and profuse of words though he was, they onlylooked at him blankly. he went on talking, however, while he piledthe suit-cases up
round them, sure that sooner or later theymust understand him, especially as he was careful to talk veryloud and illustrate everything he said with the simplest elucidatorygestures, but they both continued only to look at him. they both,he noticed sympathetically, had white faces, fatiguedfaces, and they both had big eyes, fatigued eyes. they were beautiful ladies,he thought, and their eyes, looking at him over the tops of thesuit-cases watching his every movementâ€”there were no trunks, only numbersof suit-casesâ€”were like the eyes of the mother of god. the only thingthe ladies said, and
they repeated it at regular intervals, evenafter they had started, gently prodding him as he sat on his box tocall his attention to it, was, "san salvatore?" and each time he answered vociferously, encouragingly,"si, siâ€” san salvatore." "we don’t know of course if he’s taking usthere," said mrs. arbuthnot at last in a low voice, after theyhad been driving as it seemed to them a long while, and had got offthe paving-stones of the sleep-shrouded town and were out on a windingroad with what they could
just see was a low wall on their left beyondwhich was a great black emptiness and the sound of the sea. on theirright was something close and steep and high and blackâ€”rocks, theywhispered to each other; huge rocks. they felt very uncomfortable. it was so late.it was so dark. the road was so lonely. suppose a wheel cameoff. suppose they met fascisti, or the opposite of fascisti. howsorry they were now that they had not slept at genoa and come on thenext morning in daylight. "but that would have been the first of april,"said mrs. wilkins,
in a low voice. "it is that now," said mrs. arbuthnot beneathher breath. "so it is," murmured mrs. wilkins. they were silent. beppo turned round on his boxâ€”a disquietinghabit already noticed, for surely his horse ought to becarefully watchedâ€”and again addressed them with what he was convincedwas lucidityâ€”no patois, and the clearest explanatory movements. how much they wished their mothers had madethem learn italian
when they were little. if only now they couldhave said, "please sit round the right way and look after the horse."they did not even know what horse was in italian. it was contemptibleto be so ignorant. in their anxiety, for the road twisted roundgreat jutting rocks, and on their left was only the low wall tokeep them out of the sea should anything happen, they too began togesticulate, waving their hands at beppo, pointing ahead. they wantedhim to turn round again and face his horse, that was all. he thought theywanted him to drive faster; and there followed a terrifying tenminutes during which, as he
supposed, he was gratifying them. he was proudof his horse, and it could go very fast. he rose in his seat, thewhip cracked, the horse rushed forward, the rocks leaped towards them,the little fly swayed, the suit-cases heaved, mrs. arbuthnot andmrs. wilkins clung. in this way they continued, swaying, heaving, clattering,clinging, till at a point near castagneto there was a rise inthe road, and on reaching the foot of the rise the horse, who knew everyinch of the way, stopped suddenly, throwing everything in the fly intoa heap, and then proceeded up at the slowest of walks.
beppo twisted himself round to receive theiradmiration, laughing with pride in his horse. there was no answering laugh from the beautifulladies. their eyes, fixed on him, seemed bigger than ever,and their faces against the black of the night showed milky. but here at least, once they were up the slope,were houses. the rocks left off, and there were houses; thelow wall left off, and there were houses; the sea shrunk away, and thesound of it ceased, and the loneliness of the road was finished. no lightsanywhere, of course,
nobody to see them pass; and yet beppo, whenthe houses began, after looking over his shoulder and shouting "castagneto"at the ladies, once more stood up and cracked his whip and oncemore made his horse dash forward. "we shall be there in a minute," mrs. arbuthnotsaid to herself, holding on. "we shall soon stop now," mrs. wilkins saidto herself, holding on. they said nothing aloud, because nothingwould have been heard above the whip-cracking and the wheel-clatteringand the boisterous
inciting noises beppo was making at his horse. anxiously they strained their eyes for anysight of the beginning of san salvatore. they had supposed and hoped that after a reasonableamount of village a mediaeval archway would loom uponthem, and through it they would drive into a garden and draw up at anopen, welcoming door, with light streaming from it and those servantsstanding in it who, according to the advertisement, remained. instead the fly suddenly stopped.
peering out they could see they were stillin the village street, with small dark houses each side; and beppo,throwing the reins over the horse’s back as if completely confidentthis time that he would not go any farther, got down off his box. at thesame moment, springing as it seemed out of nothing, a man and severalhalf-grown boys appeared on each side of the fly and began dragging outthe suit-cases. "no, noâ€”san salvatore, san salvatore"â€”exclaimedmrs. wilkins, trying to hold on to what suit-cases she could. "si, siâ€”san salvatore," they all shouted,pulling.
"this can’t be san salvatore," said mrs. wilkins,turning to mrs. arbuthnot, who sat quite still watching hersuit-cases being taken from her with the same patience she applied tolesser evils. she knew she could do nothing if these men were wickedmen determined to have her suit-cases. "i don’t think it can be," she admitted, andcould not refrain from a moment’s wonder at the ways of god.had she really been brought here, she and poor mrs. wilkins, after somuch trouble in arranging it, so much difficulty and worry, along such deviouspaths of prevarication
and deceit, only to beâ€” she checked her thoughts, and gently saidto mrs. wilkins, while the ragged youths disappeared with the suit-casesinto the night and the man with the lantern helped beppo pullthe rug off her, that they were both in god’s hands; and for the firsttime on hearing this, mrs. wilkins was afraid. there was nothing for it but to get out. uselessto try to go on sitting in the fly repeating san salvatore.every time they said it, and their voices each time were fainter, beppoand the other man merely
echoed it in a series of loud shouts. if onlythey had learned italian when they were little. if only they couldhave said, "we wish to be driven to the door." but they did not evenknow what door was in italian. such ignorance was not only contemptible,it was, they now saw, definitely dangerous. useless, however,to lament it now. useless to put off whatever it was that wasgoing to happen to them by trying to go on sitting in the fly. they thereforegot out. the two men opened their umbrellas for themand handed them to them. from this they received a faint encouragement,because they
could not believe that if these men were wickedthey would pause to open umbrellas. the man with the lantern thenmade signs to them to follow him, talking loud and quickly, andbeppo, they noticed, remained behind. ought they to pay him? not, they thought,if they were going to be robbed and perhaps murdered. surelyon such an occasion one did not pay. besides, he had not after all broughtthem to san salvatore. where they had got to was evidently somewhereelse. also, he did not show the least wish to be paid; he let themgo away into the night with no clamour at all. this, they could not helpthinking, was a bad sign.
he asked for nothing because presently hewas to get so much. they came to some steps. the road ended abruptlyin a church and some descending steps. the man held the lanternlow for them to see the steps. "san salvatore?" said mrs. wilkins once again,very faintly, before committing herself to the steps. itwas useless to mention it now, of course, but she could not go downsteps in complete silence. no mediaeval castle, she was sure, was everbuilt at the bottom of steps.
again, however, came the echoing shoutâ€”"si,siâ€”san salvatore." they descended gingerly, holding up theirskirts just as if they would be wanting them another time and hadnot in all probability finished with skirts for ever. the steps ended in a steeply sloping pathwith flat stone slabs down the middle. they slipped a good dealon these wet slabs, and the man with the lantern, talking loud and quickly,held them up. his way of holding them up was polite. "perhaps," said mrs. wilkins in a low voiceto mrs. arbuthnot,
"it is all right after all." "we’re in god’s hands," said mrs. arbuthnotagain; and again mrs. they reached the bottom of the sloping path,and the light of the lantern flickered over an open space withhouses round three sides. the sea was the fourth side, lazily washingbackwards and forwards on pebbles. "san salvatore," said the man pointing withhis lantern to a black mass curved round the water like anarm flung about it. they strained their eyes. they saw the blackmass, and on the
top of it a light. "san salvatore?" they both repeated incredulously,for where were the suit-cases, and why had they been forcedto get out of the fly? "si, siâ€”san salvatore." they went along what seemed to be a quay,right on the edge of the water. there was not even a low wall hereâ€”nothingto prevent the man with the lantern tipping them in if hewanted to. he did not, however, tip them in. perhaps it was all rightafter all, mrs. wilkins again suggested to mrs. arbuthnot on noticingthis, who this time was
herself beginning to think that it might be,and said no more about god’s hands. the flicker of the lantern danced along, reflectedin the wet pavement of the quay. out to the left, inthe darkness and evidently at the end of a jetty, was a red light. theycame to an archway with a heavy iron gate. the man with the lanternpushed the gate open. this time they went up steps instead of down, andat the top of them was a little path that wound upwards among flowers.they could not see the flowers, but the whole place was evidentlyfull of them.
it here dawned on mrs. wilkins that perhapsthe reason why the fly had not driven them up to the door was that therewas no road, only a footpath. that also would explain the disappearanceof the suit-cases. she began to feel confident that they wouldfind their suit-cases waiting for them when they got up to the top.san salvatore was, it seemed, on the top of a hill, as a mediaevalcastle should be. at a turn of the path they saw above them, muchnearer now and shining more brightly, the light they had seen fromthe quay. she told mrs. arbuthnot of her dawning belief, and mrs.arbuthnot agreed that it was
very likely a true one. once more, but this time in a tone of realhopefulness, mrs. wilkins said, pointing upwards at the blackoutline against the only slightly less black sky, "san salvatore?"and once more, but this time comfortingly, encouragingly, came back theassurance, "si, siâ€”san salvatore." they crossed a little bridge, over what wasapparently a ravine, and then came a flat bit with long grass atthe sides and more flowers. they felt the grass flicking wet against theirstockings, and the
invisible flowers were everywhere. then upagain through trees, along a zigzag path with the smell all the way ofthe flowers they could not see. the warm rain was bringing out all thesweetness. higher and higher they went in this sweet darkness, andthe red light on the jetty dropped farther and farther below them. the path wound round to the other side ofwhat appeared to be a little peninsula; the jetty and the red lightdisappeared; across the emptiness on their left were distant lights. "mezzago," said the man, waving his lanternat the lights.
"si, si," they answered, for they had by nowlearned si, si. upon which the man congratulated them in agreat flow of polite words, not one of which they understood, on theirmagnificent italian; for this was domenico, the vigilant and accomplishedgardener of san salvatore, the prop and stay of the establishment,the resourceful, the gifted, the eloquent, the courteous, the intelligentdomenico. only they did not know that yet; and he did inthe dark, and even sometimes in the light, look, with his knife-sharp swarthyfeatures and swift, panther movements, very like somebody wicked.
they passed along another flat bit of path,with a black shape like a high wall towering above them on theirright, and then the path went up again under trellises, and trailingsprays of scented things caught at them and shook raindrops on them,and the light of the lantern flickered over lilies, and then camea flight of ancient steps worn with centuries, and then another irongate, and then they were inside, though still climbing a twisting flightof stone steps with old walls on either side like the walls of dungeons,and with a vaulted roof.
at the top was a wrought-iron door, and throughit shone a flood of electric light. "ecco," said domenico, lithely running upthe last few steps ahead and pushing the door open. and there they were, arrived; and it was sansalvatore; and their suit-cases were waiting for them; and theyhad not been murdered. they looked at each other’s white faces andblinking eyes very solemnly. it was a great, a wonderful moment. here theywere, in their
mediaeval castle at last. their feet touchedits stones. mrs. wilkins put her arm round mrs. arbuthnot’sneck and kissed her. "the first thing to happen in this house,"she said softly, solemnly, "shall be a kiss." "dear lotty," said mrs. arbuthnot. "dear rose," said mrs. wilkins, her eyes brimmingwith gladness. domenico was delighted. he liked to see beautifulladies kiss. he made them a most appreciative speech ofwelcome, and they stood arm
in arm, holding each other up, for they werevery tired, blinking smilingly at him, and not understanding aword. chapter 6 when mrs. wilkins woke next morning she layin bed a few minutes before getting up and opening the shutters.what would she see out of her window? a shining world, or a world ofrain? but it would be beautiful; whatever it was would be beautiful. she was in a little bedroom with bare whitewalls and a stone floor and sparse old furniture. the bedsâ€”therewere twoâ€”were made of
iron, enameled black and painted with bunchesof gay flowers. she lay putting off the great moment of going to thewindow as one puts off opening a precious letter, gloating over it.she had no idea what time it was; she had forgotten to wind up her watchever since, centuries ago, she last went to bed in hampstead. nosounds were to be heard in the house, so she supposed it was very early,yet she felt as if she had slept a long whileâ€”so completely rested,so perfectly content. she lay with her arms clasped round her headthinking how happy she was, her lips curved upwards in a delightedsmile. in bed by herself:
adorable condition. she had not been in abed without mellersh once now for five whole years; and the cool roominessof it, the freedom of one’s movements, the sense of recklessness,of audacity, in giving the blankets a pull if one wanted to, or twitchingthe pillows more comfortably! it was like the discovery ofan entirely new joy. mrs. wilkins longed to get up and open theshutters, but where she was was really so very delicious. shegave a sigh of contentment, and went on lying there looking round her,taking in everything in her room, her own little room, her very own toarrange just as she pleased
for this one blessed month, her room boughtwith her own savings, the fruit of her careful denials, whose door shecould bolt if she wanted to, and nobody had the right to come in. itwas such a strange little room, so different from any she had known,and so sweet. it was like a cell. except for the two beds, it suggesteda happy austerity. "and the name of the chamber," she thought, quotingand smiling round at it, "was peace." well, this was delicious, to lie there thinkinghow happy she was, but outside those shutters it was moredelicious still. she
jumped up, pulled on her slippers, for therewas nothing on the stone floor but one small rug, ran to the windowand threw open the shutters. "oh!" cried mrs. wilkins. all the radiance of april in italy lay gatheredtogether at her feet. the sun poured in on her. the sea layasleep in it, hardly stirring. across the bay the lovely mountains,exquisitely different in colour, were asleep too in the light; andunderneath her window, at the bottom of the flower-starred grass slopefrom which the wall of the castle rose up, was a great cypress, cuttingthrough the delicate blues
and violets and rose-colours of the mountainsand the sea like a great black sword. she stared. such beauty; and she there tosee it. such beauty; and she alive to feel it. her face was bathedin light. lovely scents came up to the window and caressed her. atiny breeze gently lifted her hair. far out in the bay a cluster ofalmost motionless fishing boats hovered like a flock of white birdson the tranquil sea. how beautiful, how beautiful. not to have diedbefore this . . . to have been allowed to see, breathe, feel this. . . . shestared, her lips
parted. happy? poor, ordinary, everyday word.but what could one say, how could one describe it? it was asthough she could hardly stay inside herself, it was as though she weretoo small to hold so much of joy, it was as though she were washed throughwith light. and how astonishing to feel this sheer bliss, forhere she was, not doing and not going to do a single unselfish thing,not going to do a thing she didn’t want to do. according to everybodyshe had ever some across she ought at least to have twinges. she had notone twinge. something was wrong somewhere. wonderful that at home sheshould have been so good,
so terribly good, and merely felt tormented.twinges of every sort had there been her portion; aches, hurts, discouragements,and she the whole time being steadily unselfish. now shehad taken off all her goodness and left it behind her like a heapin rain-sodden clothes, and she only felt joy. she was naked of goodness,and was rejoicing in being naked. she was stripped, and exulting.and there, away in the dim mugginess of hampstead, was mellersh beingangry. she tried to visualize mellersh, she triedto see him having breakfast and thinking bitter things abouther; and lo, mellersh
himself began to shimmer, became rose-colour,became delicate violet, became an enchanting blue, became formless,became iridescent. actually mellersh, after quivering a minute,was lost in light. "well," thought mrs. wilkins, staring, asit were, after him. how extraordinary not to be able to visualizemellersh; and she who used to know every feature, every expressionof his by heart. she simply could not see him as he was. she couldonly see him resolved into beauty, melted into harmony with everythingelse. the familiar words of the general thanksgiving came quitenaturally into her mind,
and she found herself blessing god for hercreation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life, but aboveall for his inestimable love; out loud; in a burst of acknowledgment. whilemellersh, at that moment angrily pulling on his boots before goingout into the dripping streets, was indeed thinking bitter thingsabout her. she began to dress, choosing clean white clothesin honour of the summer’s day, unpacking her suit-cases, tidyingher adorable little room. she moved about with quick, purposefulsteps, her long thin body held up straight, her small face, so muchpuckered at home with effort
and fear, smoothed out. all she had been anddone before this morning, all she had felt and worried about, was gone.each of her worries behaved as the image of mellersh had behaved,and dissolved into colour and light. and she noticed things she hadnot noticed for yearsâ€”when she was doing her hair in front of the glassshe noticed it, and thought, "why, what pretty stuff." for yearsshe had forgotten she had such a thing as hair, plaiting it in the eveningand unplaiting it in the morning with the same hurry and indifferencewith which she laced and unlaced her shoes. now she suddenly sawit, and she twisted it
round her fingers before the glass, and wasglad it was so pretty. mellersh couldn’t have seen it either, forhe had never said a word about it. well, when she got home she woulddraw his attention to it. "mellersh," she would say, "look at my hair.aren’t you pleased you’ve got a wife with hair like curly honey?" she laughed. she had never said anything likethat to mellersh yet, and the idea of it amused her. but whyhad she not? oh yesâ€”she used to be afraid of him. funny to be afraidof anybody; and especially of one’s husband, whom one sawin his more simplified
moments, such as asleep, and not breathingproperly through his nose. when she was ready she opened her door togo across to see if rose, who had been put the night before bya sleepy maidservant into a cell opposite, were awake. she would say good-morningto her, and then she would run down and stay with that cypresstree till breakfast was ready, and after breakfast she wouldn’t somuch as look out of a window till she had helped rose get everything readyfor lady caroline and mrs. fisher. there was much to be done thatday, settling in, arranging the rooms; she mustn’t leave roseto do it alone. they would
make it all so lovely for the two to come,have such an entrancing vision ready for them of little cells brightwith flowers. she remembered she had wanted lady caroline notto come; fancy wanting to shut some one out of heaven because she thoughtshe would be shy of her! and as though it mattered if she were,and as though she would be anything so self-conscious as shy. besides,what a reason. she could not accuse herself of goodness over that.and she remembered she had wanted not to have mrs. fisher either, becauseshe had seemed lofty. how funny of her. so funny to worry aboutsuch little things, making
them important. the bedrooms and two of the sitting-roomsat san salvatore were on the top floor, and opened into a roomyhall with a wide glass window at the north end. san salvatore was rich insmall gardens in different parts and on different levels. the gardenthis window looked down on was made on the highest part of the walls,and could only be reached through the corresponding spacious hall onthe floor below. when mrs. wilkins came out of her room this window stoodwide open, and beyond it in the sun was a judas tree in full flower.there was no sign of
anybody, no sound of voices or feet. tubsof arum lilies stood about on the stone floor, and on a table flameda huge bunch of fierce nasturtiums. spacious, flowery, silent, withthe wide window at the end opening into the garden, and the judastree absurdly beautiful in the sunshine, it seemed to mrs. wilkins, arrestedon her way across to mrs. arbuthnot, too good to be true. was shereally going to live in this for a whole month? up to now she hadhad to take what beauty she could as she went along, snatching at littlebits of it when she came across itâ€”a patch of daisies on a fine dayin a hampstead field, a
flash of sunset between two chimney pots.she had never been in definitely, completely beautiful places. shehad never been even in a venerable house; and such a thing as a profusionof flowers in her rooms was unattainable to her. sometimes inthe spring she had bought six tulips at shoolbred’s, unable to resistthem, conscious that mellersh if he knew what they had cost wouldthink it inexcusable; but they had soon died, and then there were nomore. as for the judas tree, she hadn’t an idea what it was, andgazed at it out there against the sky with the rapt expression of one whosees a heavenly vision.
mrs. arbuthnot, coming out of her room, foundher there like that, standing in the middle of the hall staring. "now what does she think she sees now?" thoughtmrs. arbuthnot. "we are in god’s hands," said mrs. wilkins,turning to her, speaking with extreme conviction. "oh!" said mrs. arbuthnot quickly, her face,which had been covered with smiles when she came out of herroom, falling. "why, what has happened?" for mrs. arbuthnot had woken up with sucha delightful feeling of
security, of relief, and she did not wantto find she had not after all escaped from the need of refuge. she had noteven dreamed of frederick. for the first time in years shehad been spared the nightly dream that he was with her, that they wereheart to heart, and its miserable awakening. she had slept like ababy, and had woken up confident; she had found there was nothingshe wished to say in her morning prayer, except thank you. it was disconcertingto be told she was after all in god’s hands. "i hope nothing has happened?" she asked anxiously.
mrs. wilkins looked at her a moment, and laughed."how funny," she said, kissing her. "what is funny?" asked mrs. arbuthnot, herface clearing because mrs. wilkins laughed. "we are. this is. everything. it’s all sowonderful. it’s so funny and so adorable that we should be init. i daresay when we finally reach heavenâ€”the one they talk aboutso muchâ€”we shan’t find it a bit more beautiful." mrs. arbuthnot relaxed to smiling securityagain. "isn’t it
divine?" she said? "were you ever, ever in your life so happy?"asked mrs. wilkins, catching her by the arm. "no," said mrs. arbuthnot. nor had she been;not ever; not even in her first love-days with frederick. becausealways pain had been close at hand in that other happiness, readyto torture with doubts, to torture even with the very excess of herlove; while this was the simple happiness of complete harmony withher surroundings, the happiness that asks for nothing, that justaccepts, just breathes, just
is. "let’s go and look at that tree close," saidmrs. wilkins. "i don’t believe it can only be a tree." and arm in arm they went along the hall, andtheir husbands would not have known them their faces were so youngwith eagerness, and together they stood at the open window, andwhen their eyes, having feasted on the marvelous pink thing, wanderedfarther among the beauties of the garden, they saw sitting onthe low wall at the east edge of it, gazing out over the bay, her feetin lilies, lady caroline.
they were astonished. they said nothing intheir astonishment, but stood quite still, arm in arm, staringdown at her. she too had on a white frock, and her headwas bare. they had had no idea that day in london, when her hatwas down to her nose and her furs were up to her ears, that she wasso pretty. they had merely thought her different from the other womenin the club, and so had the other women themselves, and so had allthe waitresses, eyeing her sideways and eyeing her again as they passedthe corner where she sat talking; but they had had no idea shewas so pretty. she was
exceedingly pretty. everything about her wasvery much that which it was. her fair hair was very fair, her lovelygrey eyes were very lovely and grey, her dark eyelashes were verydark, her white skin was very white, her red mouth was very red. shewas extravagantly slenderâ€” the merest thread of a girl, though not withoutlittle curves beneath her thin frock where little curves shouldbe. she was looking out across the bay, and was sharply defined againstthe background of empty blue. she was full in the sun. her feet dangledamong the leaves and flowers of the lilies just as if it did notmatter that they should be
bent or bruised. "she ought to have a headache," whisperedmrs. arbuthnot at last, "sitting there in the sun like that." "she ought to have a hat," whispered mrs.wilkins. "she is treading on lilies." "but they’re hers as much as ours." "only one-fourth of them." lady caroline turned her head. she lookedup at them a moment, surprised to see them so much younger thanthey had seemed that day at
the club, and so much less unattractive. indeed,they were really almost quite attractive, if any one couldever be really quite attractive in the wrong clothes. her eyes,swiftly glancing over them, took in every inch of each of them in thehalf second before she smiled and waved her hand and called out good-morning.there was nothing, she saw at once to be hoped for in the way ofinterest from their clothes. she did not consciously think this, for shewas having a violent reaction against beautiful clothes and theslavery they impose on one, her experience being that the instant onehad got them they took one in
hand and gave one no peace till they had beeneverywhere and been seen by everybody. you didn’t take your clothesto parties; they took you. it was quite a mistake to think that a woman,a really well-dressed woman, wore out her clothes; it was the clothesthat wore out the womanâ€”dragging her about at all hours ofthe day and night. no wonder men stayed younger longer. just new trouserscouldn’t excite them. she couldn’t suppose that even the newesttrousers ever behaved like that, taking the bit between their teeth.her images were disorderly, but she thought as she chose, she used whatimages she like. as she
got off the wall and came towards the window,it seemed a restful thing to know she was going to spend an entire monthwith people in dresses made as she dimly remembered dresses usedto be made five summers ago. "i got here yesterday morning," she said,looking up at them and smiling. she really was bewitching. she hadeverything, even a dimple. "it’s a great pity," said mrs. arbuthnot,smiling back, "because we were going to choose the nicest room foryou." "oh, but i’ve done that," said lady caroline."at least, i think
it’s the nicest. it looks two waysâ€”i adorea room that looks two ways, don’t you? over the sea to the west,and over this judas tree to the north." "and we had meant to make it pretty for youwith flowers," said mrs. wilkins. "oh, domenico did that. i told him to directlyi got here. he’s the gardener. he’s wonderful." "it’s a good thing, of course," said mrs.arbuthnot a little hesitatingly, "to be independent, and to knowexactly what one wants."
"yes, it saves trouble," agreed lady caroline. "but one shouldn’t be so independent," saidmrs. wilkins, "as to leave no opportunity for other people to exercisetheir benevolences on one." lady caroline, who had been looking at mrs.arbuthnot, now looked at mrs. wilkins. that day at the queer clubshe had had merely a blurred impression of mrs. wilkins, for itwas the other one who did all the talking, and her impression had beenof somebody so shy, so awkward that it was best to take no noticeof her. she had not even
been able to say good-bye properly, doingit in an agony, turning red, turning damp. therefore she now looked ather in some surprise; and she was still more surprised when mrs. wilkinsadded, gazing at her with the most obvious sincere admiration,speaking indeed with a conviction that refused to remain unuttered,"i didn’t realize you were so pretty." she stared at mrs. wilkins. she was not usuallytold this quite so immediately and roundly. abundantly asshe was used to itâ€” impossible not to be after twenty-eight solidyearsâ€”it surprised her
to be told it with such bluntness, and bya woman. "it’s very kind of you to think so," she said. "why, you’re very lovely," said mrs. wilkins."quite, quite lovely." "i hope," said mrs. arbuthnot pleasantly,"you make the most of it." lady caroline then stared at mrs. arbuthnot."oh yes," she said. "i make the most of it. i’ve been doing thatever since i can remember."
"because," said mrs. arbuthnot, smiling andraising a warning forefinger, "it won’t last." then lady caroline began to be afraid thesetwo were originals. if so, she would be bored. nothing bored herso much as people who insisted on being original, who came and buttonholedher and kept her waiting while they were being original. andthe one who admired herâ€” it would be tiresome if she dogged her aboutin order to look at her. what she wanted of this holiday was completeescape from all she had had before, she wanted the rest of completecontrast. being admired,
being dogged, wasn’t contrast, it was repetition;and as for originals, to find herself shut up with two on the topof a precipitous hill in a medieval castle built for the express purposeof preventing easy goings out and in, would not, she was afraid, beespecially restful. perhaps she had better be a little less encouraging.they had seemed such timid creatures, even the dark oneâ€”she couldn’tremember their namesâ€”that day at the club, that she hadfelt it quite safe to be very friendly. here they had come out of theirshells; already; indeed, at once. there was no sign of timidity abouteither of them here. if
they had got out of their shells so immediately,at the very first contact, unless she checked them they wouldsoon begin to press upon her, and then good-bye to her dream of thirtyrestful, silent days, lying unmolested in the sun, getting her featherssmooth again, not being spoken to, not waited on, not grabbedat and monopolized, but just recovering from the fatigue, the deepand melancholy fatigue, of the too much. besides, there was mrs. fisher. she too mustbe checked. lady caroline had started two days earlier thanhad been arranged for two
reasons: first, because she wished to arrivebefore the others in order to pick out the room or rooms she preferred,and second, because she judged it likely that otherwise she wouldhave to travel with mrs. fisher. she did not want to travel with mrs.fisher. she did not want to arrive with mrs. fisher. she saw no reasonwhatever why for a single moment she should have to have anythingat all to do with mrs. fisher. but unfortunately mrs. fisher also was filledwith a desire to get to san salvatore first and pick out theroom or rooms she
preferred, and she and lady caroline had afterall traveled together. as early as calais they began to suspect it;in paris they feared it; at modane they knew it; at mezzago they concealedit, driving out to castagneto in two separate flys, the noseof the one almost touching the back of the other the whole way. but whenthe road suddenly left off at the church and the steps, further evasionwas impossible; and faced by this abrupt and difficult finishto their journey there was nothing for it but to amalgamate. because of mrs. fisher’s stick lady carolinehad to see about
everything. mrs. fisher’s intentions, sheexplained from her fly when the situation had become plain to her, wereactive, but her stick prevented their being carried out. the twodrivers told lady caroline boys would have to carry the luggage up tothe castle, and she went in search of some, while mrs. fisher waited inthe fly because of her stick. mrs. fisher could speak italian, butonly, she explained, the italian of dante, which matthew arnold usedto read with her when she was a girl, and she thought this might beabove the heads of boys. therefore lady caroline, who spoke ordinaryitalian very well, was
obviously the one to go and do things. "i am in your hands," said mrs. fisher, sittingfirmly in her fly. "you must please regard me as merelyan old woman with a stick." and presently, down the steps and cobblesto the piazza, and along the quay, and up the zigzag path, ladycaroline found herself as much obliged to walk slowly with mrs. fisheras if she were her own grandmother. "it’s my stick," mrs. fisher complacentlyremarked at intervals. and when they rested at those bends of thezigzag path where
seats were, and lady caroline, who would haveliked to run on and get to the top quickly, was forced in common humanityto remain with mrs. fisher because of her stick, mrs. fisher toldher how she had been on a zigzag path once with tennyson. "isn’t his cricket wonderful?" said lady carolineabsently. "the tennyson," said mrs. fisher, turningher head and observing her a moment over her spectacles. "isn’t he?" said lady caroline. "and it was a path, too," mrs. fisher wenton severely,
"curiously like this. no eucalyptus tree,of course, but otherwise curiously like this. and at one of the bendshe turned and said to meâ€”i see him now turning and saying to meâ€”" yes, mrs. fisher would have to be checked.and so would these two up at the window. she had better beginat once. she was sorry she had got off the wall. all she need have donewas to have waved her hand, and waited till they came down and outinto the garden to her. so she ignored mrs. arbuthnot’s remark andraised forefinger, and said with marked coldnessâ€”at least, shetried to make it sound markedâ€”
that she supposed they would be going to breakfast,and that she had had hers; but it was her fate that howevercoldly she sent forth her words they came out sounding quite warm andagreeable. that was because she had a sympathetic and delightfulvoice, due entirely to some special formation of her throat and theroof of her mouth, and having nothing whatever to do with what shewas feeling. nobody in consequence ever believed they were beingsnubbed. it was most tiresome. and if she stared icily it did notlook icy at all, because her eyes, lovely to begin with, had the addedloveliness of very long,
soft, dark eyelashes. no icy stare could comeout of eyes like that; it got caught and lost in the soft eyelashes,and the persons stared at merely thought they were being regarded witha flattering and exquisite attentiveness. and if ever she was out ofhumour or definitely crossâ€” and who would not be sometimes in such a world?â€”-sheonly looked so pathetic that people all rushed to comforther, if possible by means of kissing. it was more than tiresome, it wasmaddening. nature was determined that she should look and soundangelic. she could never be disagreeable or rude without being completelymisunderstood.
"i had my breakfast in my room," she said,trying her utmost to sound curt. "perhaps i’ll see you later." and she nodded, and went back to where shehad been sitting on the wall, with the lilies being nice and coolround her feet. chapter 7 their eyes followed her admiringly. they hadno idea they had been snubbed. it was a disappointment, ofcourse, to find she had forestalled them and that they were not tohave the happiness of preparing for her, of watching her face whenshe arrived and first saw
everything, but there was till mrs. fisher.they would concentrate on mrs. fisher, and would watch her face instead;only, like everybody else, they would have preferred to watch ladycaroline’s. perhaps, then, as lady caroline had talkedof breakfast, they had better begin by going and having it, for therewas too much to be done that day to spend any more time gazing atthe sceneryâ€”servants to be interviewed, the house to be gone throughand examined, and finally mrs. fisher’s room to be got ready and adorned. they waved their hands gaily at lady caroline,who seemed
absorbed in what she saw and took no notice,and turning away found the maidservant of the night before had come upsilently behind them in cloth slippers with string soles. she was francesca, the elderly parlour-maid,who had been with the owner, he had said, for years, and whosepresence made inventories unnecessary; and after wishing them good-morningand hoping they had slept well, she told them breakfast was readyin the dining-room on the floor below, and if they would follow hershe would lead. they did not understand a single word of thevery many in which
francesca succeeded in clothing this simpleinformation, but they followed her, for it at least was clear thatthey were to follow, and going down the stairs, and along the broadhall like the one above except for glass doors at the end insteadof a window opening into the garden, they were shown into the dining-room;where, sitting at the head of the table having her breakfast, wasmrs. fisher. this time they exclaimed. even mrs. arbuthnotexclaimed, though her exclamation was only "oh." mrs. wilkins exclaimed at greater length."why, but it’s like
having the bread taken out of one’s mouth!"exclaimed mrs. wilkins. "how do you do," said mrs. fisher. "i can’tget up because of my stick." and she stretched out her hand acrossthe table. they advanced and shook it. "we had no idea you were here," said mrs.arbuthnot. "yes," said mrs. fisher, resuming her breakfast."yes. i am here." and with composure she removed thetop of her egg. "it’s a great disappointment," said mrs. wilkins."we had meant to give you such a welcome."
this was the one, mrs. fisher remembered,briefly glancing at her, who when she came to prince of walesterrace said she had seen keats. she must be careful with this oneâ€”curbher from the beginning. she therefore ignored mrs. wilkins and saidgravely, with a downward face of impenetrable calm bent onher egg, "yes. i arrived yesterday with lady caroline." "it’s really dreadful," said mrs. wilkins,exactly as if she had not been ignored. "there’s nobody left toget anything ready for now. i fee thwarted. i feel as if the bread hadbeen taken out of my mouth
just when i was going to be happy swallowingit." "where will you sit?" asked mrs. fisher ofmrs. arbuthnotâ€”markedly of mrs. arbuthnot; the comparison with thebread seemed to her most unpleasant. "oh, thank youâ€”" said mrs. arbuthnot, sittingdown rather suddenly next to her. there were only two places she could sit downin, the places laid on either side of mrs. fisher. she thereforesat down in one, and mrs. wilkins sat down opposite her in the other.
mrs. fisher was at the head of the table.round her was grouped the coffee and the tea. of course they wereall sharing san salvatore equally, but it was she herself and lotty,mrs. arbuthnot mildly reflected, who had found it, who had had thework of getting it, who had chosen to admit mrs. fisher into it. withoutthem, she could not help thinking, mrs. fisher would not havebeen there. morally mrs. fisher was a guest. there was no hostess inthis party, but supposing there had been a hostess it would not havebeen mrs. fisher, nor lady caroline, it would have been either herselfor lotty. mrs. arbuthnot
could not help feeling this as she sat down,and mrs. fisher, the hand which ruskin had wrung suspended over thepots before her, inquired, "tea or coffee?" she could not help feelingit even more definitely when mrs. fisher touched a small gong on thetable beside her as though she had been used to that gong and that tableever since she was little, and, on francesca’s appearing, badeher in the language of dante bring more milk. there was a curiousair about mrs. fisher, thought mrs. arbuthnot, of being in possession;and if she herself had not been so happy she would have perhaps minded.
mrs. wilkins noticed it too, but it only madeher discursive brain think of cuckoos. she would no doubtimmediately have begun to talk of cuckoos, incoherently, unrestrainablyand deplorably, if she had been in the condition of nerves and shynessshe was in last time she saw mrs. fisher. but happiness had doneaway with shynessâ€”she was very serene; she could control her conversation;she did not have, horrified, to listen to herself saying thingsshe had no idea of saying when she began; she was quite at her ease,and completely natural. the disappointment of not going to be able toprepare a welcome for mrs.
fisher had evaporated at once, for it wasimpossible to go on being disappointed in heaven. nor did she mind herbehaving as hostess. what did it matter? you did not mind thingsin heaven. she and mrs. arbuthnot, therefore, sat down more willinglythan they otherwise would have done, one on either side of mrs. fisher,and the sun, pouring through the two windows facing east acrossthe bay, flooded the room, and there was an open door leading into thegarden, and the garden was full of many lovely things, especially freesias. the delicate and delicious fragrance of thefreesias came in
through the door and floated round mrs. wilkins’senraptured nostrils. freesias in london were quite beyond her.occasionally she went into a shop and asked what they cost, so as justto have an excuse for lifting up a bunch and smelling them, well knowingthat it was something awful like a shilling for about three flowers. herethey were everywhereâ€” bursting out of every corner and carpetingthe rose beds. imagine itâ€” having freesias to pick in armsful if youwanted to, and with glorious sunshine flooding the room, and in your summerfrock, and its being only the first of april!
"i suppose you realize, don’t you, that we’vegot to heaven?" she said, beaming at mrs. fisher with all the familiarityof a fellow-angel. "they are considerably younger than i hadsupposed," thought mrs. fisher, "and not nearly so plain." and shemused a moment, while she took no notice of mrs. wilkins’s exuberance,on their instant and agitated refusal that day at prince of walesterrace to have anything to do with the giving or the taking of references. nothing could affect her, of course; nothingthat anybody did. she was far too solidly seated in respectability.at her back stood
massively in a tremendous row those threegreat names she had offered, and they were not the only ones she couldturn to for support and countenance. even if these young womenâ€”shehad no grounds for believing the one out in the garden to bereally lady caroline dester, she had merely been told she wasâ€”even ifthese young women should all turn out to be what browning used to callâ€”howwell she remembered his amusing and delightful way of putting thingsâ€”fly-by-nights,what could it possibly, or in any way matter to her?let them fly by night if they wished. one was not sixty-five for nothing.in any case there
would only be four weeks of it, at the endof which she would see no more of them. and in the meanwhile there wereplenty of places where she could sit quietly away from them and remember.also there was her own sitting-room, a charming room, all honey-colouredfurniture and pictures, with windows to the sea towardsgenoa, and a door opening on to the battlements. the house possessed twositting-rooms, and she explained to that pretty creature lady carolineâ€”certainlya pretty creature, whatever else she was; tennysonwould have enjoyed taking her for blows on the downsâ€”who had seemed inclinedto appropriate the
honey-colored one, that she needed some littlerefuge entirely to herself because of her stick. "nobody wants to see an old woman hobblingabout everywhere," she had said. "i shall be quite content to spendmuch of my time by myself in here or sitting out on these convenientbattlements." and she had a very nice bedroom, too; it lookedtwo ways, across the bay in the morning sunâ€”she liked themorning sunâ€”and onto the garden. there were only two of these bedroomswith cross-views in the house, she and lady caroline had discovered,and they were by far the
airiest. they each had two beds in them, andshe and lady caroline had had the extra beds taken out at once and putinto two of the other rooms. in this way there was much more spaceand comfort. lady caroline, indeed, had turned hers into a bed-sitting-room,with the sofa out of the bigger drawing-room and thewriting-table and the most comfortable chair, but she herself had nothad to do that because she had her own sitting-room, equipped with whatwas necessary. lady caroline had thought at first of taking thebigger sitting-room entirely for her own, because the dining-roomon the floor below could
quite well be used between meals to sit inby the two others, and was a very pleasant room with nice chairs, but shehad not liked the bigger sitting-room’s shapeâ€”it was a round roomin the tower, with deep slit windows pierced through the massive walls,and a domed and ribbed ceiling arranged to look like an open umbrella,and it seemed a little dark. undoubtedly lady caroline had cast covetousglances at the honey-coloured room, and if she mrs. fisher,had been less firm would have installed herself in it. which wouldhave been absurd. "i hope," said mrs. arbuthnot, smilingly makingan attempt to
convey to mrs. fisher that though she, mrs.fisher, might not be exactly a guest she certainly was not in thevery least a hostess, "your room is comfortable." "quite," said mrs. fisher. "will you havesome more coffee?" "no, thank you. will you?" "no, thank you. there were two beds in mybedroom, filling it up unnecessarily, and i had one taken out. ithas made it much more convenient." "oh that’s why i’ve got two beds in my room!"exclaimed mrs. wilkins,
illuminated; the second bed in her littlecell had seemed an unnatural and inappropriate object from themoment she saw it. "i gave no directions," said mrs. fisher,addressing mrs. arbuthnot, "i merely asked francesca to removeit." "i have two in my room as well," said mrs.arbuthnot. "your second one must be lady caroline’s.she had hers removed too," said mrs. fisher. "it seems foolishto have more beds in a room than there are occupiers." "but we haven’t got husbands here either,"said mrs. wilkins,
"and i don’t see any use in extra beds inone’s room if one hasn’t got husbands to put in them. can’t we have themtaken away too?" "beds," said mrs. fisher coldly, "cannot beremoved from one room after another. they must remain somewhere." mrs. wilkins’s remarks seemed to mrs. fisherpersistently unfortunate. each time she opened her mouthshe said something best left unsaid. loose talk about husbands hadnever in mrs. fisher’s circle been encouraged. in the ‘eighties,when she chiefly flourished, husbands were taken seriously, as the onlyreal obstacles to sin. beds
too, if they had to be mentioned, were approachedwith caution; and a decent reserve prevented them and husbandsever being spoken of in the same breath. she turned more markedly than ever to mrs.arbuthnot. "do let me give you a little more coffee," she said. "no, thank you. but won’t you have some more?" "no indeed. i never have more than two cupsat breakfast. would you like an orange?" "no thank you. would you?"
"no, i don’t eat fruit at breakfast. it isan american fashion which i am too old now to adopt. have youhad all you want?" "quite. have you?" mrs. fisher paused before replying was thisa habit, this trick of answering a simple question with the samequestion? if so it must be curbed, for no one could live for fourweeks in any real comfort with somebody who had a habit. she glanced at mrs. arbuthnot, and her partedhair and gentle brow reassured her. no; it was accident, nothabit, that had produced
those echoes. she could as soon imagine adove having tiresome habits as mrs. arbuthnot. considering her, she thoughtwhat a splendid wife she would have been for poor carlyle. so muchbetter than that horrid clever jane. she would have soothed him. "then shall we go?" she suggested. "let me help you up," said mrs. arbuthnot,all consideration. "oh, thank youâ€”i can manage perfectly. it’sonly sometimes that my stick prevents meâ€”" mrs. fisher got up quite easily; mrs. arbuthnothad hovered over
her for nothing. "i’m going to have one of these gorgeous oranges,"said mrs. wilkins, staying where she was and reachingacross to a black bowl piled with them. "rose, how can you resistthem. lookâ€”have this one. do have this beautyâ€”" and she held out abig one. "no, i’m going to see to my duties," saidmrs. arbuthnot, moving towards the door. "you’ll forgive me for leavingyou, won’t you," she added politely to mrs. fisher. mrs. fisher moved towards the door too; quiteeasily; almost
quickly; her stick did not hinder her at all.she had no intention of being left with mrs. wilkins. "what time would you like to have lunch?"mrs. arbuthnot asked her, trying to keep her head as at least anon-guest, if not precisely a hostess, above water. "lunch," said mrs. fisher, "is at half-pasttwelve." "you shall have it at half-past twelve then,"said mrs. arbuthnot. "i’ll tell the cook. it will bea great struggle," she continued, smiling, "but i’ve brought a littledictionaryâ€”"
"the cook," said mrs. fisher, "knows." "oh?" said mrs. arbuthnot. "lady caroline has already told her," saidmrs. fisher. "yes. lady caroline speaks the kind of italiancooks understand. i am prevented going into the kitchen becauseof my stick. and even if i were able to go, i fear i shouldn’t be understood." "butâ€”" began mrs. arbuthnot. "but it’s too wonderful," mrs. wilkins finishedfor her from the table, delighted with these unexpected simplificationsin her and
rose’s lives. "why, we’ve got positively nothingto do here, either of us, except just be happy. you wouldn’t believe,"she said, turning her head and speaking straight to mrs. fisher,portions of orange in either hand, "how terribly good rose and i have beenfor years without stopping, and how much now we need a perfectrest." and mrs. fisher, going without answering herout the room, said to herself, "she must, she shall be curbed." chapter 8 presently, when mrs. wilkins and mrs. arbuthnot,unhampered by
any duties, wandered out and down the wornstone steps and under the pergola into the lower garden, mrs. wilkinssaid to mrs. arbuthnot, who seemed pensive, "don’t you see that if somebodyelse does the ordering it frees us?" mrs. arbuthnot said she did see, but neverthelessshe thought it rather silly to have everything taken outof their hands. "i love things to be taken out of my hands,"said mrs. wilkins. "but we found san salvatore," said mrs. arbuthnot,"and it is rather silly that mrs. fisher should behaveas if it belonged only to
her." "what is rather silly," said mrs. wilkinswith much serenity, "is to mind. i can’t see the least point in beingin authority at the price of one’s liberty." mrs. arbuthnot said nothing to that for tworeasonsâ€”first, because she was struck by the remarkable andgrowing calm of the hitherto incoherent and excited lotty, andsecondly because what she was looking at was so very beautiful. all down the stone steps on either side wereperiwinkles in full
flower, and she could now see what it wasthat had caught at her the night before and brushed, wet and scented,across her face. it was wistaria. wistaria and sunshine . . . sheremembered the advertisement. here indeed were both in profusion.the wistaria was tumbling over itself in its excess of life,its prodigality of flowering; and where the pergola ended thesun blazed on scarlet geraniums, bushes of them, and nasturtiumsin great heaps, and marigolds so brilliant that they seemed tobe burning, and red and pink snapdragons, all outdoing each other in bright,fierce colour. the
ground behind these flaming things droppedaway in terraces to the sea, each terrace a little orchard, where amongthe olives grew vines on trellises, and fig-trees, and peach-trees,and cherry-trees. the cherry-trees and peach-trees were in blossomâ€”lovelyshowers of white and deep rose-colour among the trembling delicacyof the olives; the fig-leaves were just big enough to smell offigs, the vine-buds were only beginning to show. and beneath thesetrees were groups of blue and purple irises, and bushes of lavender,and grey, sharp cactuses, and the grass was thick with dandelions anddaisies, and right down at
the bottom was the sea. colour seemed flungdown anyhow, anywhere; every sort of colour, piled up in heaps, pouringalong in riversâ€”the periwinkles looked exactly as if they werebeing poured down each side of the stepsâ€”and flowers that grow onlyin borders in england, proud flowers keeping themselves to themselves overthere, such as the great blue irises and the lavender, were being jostledby small, shining common things like dandelions and daisiesand the white bells of the wild onion, and only seemed the better andthe more exuberant for it. they stood looking at this crowd of loveliness,this happy
jumble, in silence. no, it didn’t matter whatmrs. fisher did; not here; not in such beauty. mrs. arbuthnot’sdiscomposure melted out of her. in the warmth and light of what she waslooking at, of what to her was a manifestation, and entirely newside of god, how could one be discomposed? if only frederick were with her,seeing it too, seeing as he would have seen it when first they werelovers, in the days when he saw what she saw and loved what she loved.. . she sighed. "you mustn’t sigh in heaven," said mrs. wilkins."one doesn’t."
"i was thinking how one longs to share thiswith those one loves," said mrs. arbuthnot. "you mustn’t long in heaven," said mrs. wilkins."you’re supposed to be quite complete there. and itis heaven, isn’t it, rose? see how everything has been let in togetherâ€”thedandelions and the irises, the vulgar and the superior, me andmrs. fisherâ€”all welcome, all mixed up anyhow, and all so visibly happyand enjoying ourselves." "mrs. fisher doesn’t seem happyâ€”not visibly,anyhow," said mrs. arbuthnot, smiling.
"she’ll begin soon, you’ll see." mrs. arbuthnot said she didn’t believe thatafter a certain age people began anything. mrs. wilkins said she was sure no one, howeverold and tough, could resist the effects of perfect beauty.before many days, perhaps only hours, they would see mrs. fisher burstingout into every kind of exuberance. "i’m quite sure," said mrs. wilkins,"that we’ve got to heaven, and once mrs. fisher realizes thatthat’s where she is, she’s bound to be different. you’ll see. she’llleave off being ossified,
and go all soft and able to stretch, and weshall get quiteâ€”why, i shouldn’t be surprised if we get quite fondof her." the idea of mrs. fisher bursting out intoanything, she who seemed so particularly firmly fixed insideher buttons, made mrs. arbuthnot laugh. she condoned lotty’s looseway of talking of heaven, because in such a place, on such a morning,condonation was in the very air. besides, what an excuse there was. and lady caroline, sitting where they hadleft her before breakfast on the wall, peeped over when sheheard laughter, and saw
them standing on the path below, and thoughtwhat a mercy it was they were laughing down there and had not comeup and done it round her. she disliked jokes at all times, but in themorning she hated them; especially close up; especially crowding inher ears. she hoped the originals were on their way out for a walk,and not on their way back from one. they were laughing more and more.what could they possibly find to laugh at? she looked down on the tops of their headswith a very serious face, for the thought of spending a monthwith laughers was a grave
one, and they, as though they felt her eyes,turned suddenly and looked up. the dreadful geniality of those women. . . she shrank away from their smiles and wavings,but she could not shrink out of sight without falling into thelilies. she neither smiled nor waved back, and turning her eyesto the more distant mountains surveyed them carefully till thetwo, tired of waving, moved away along the path and turned the cornerand disappeared. this time they both did notice that they hadbeen met with, at
least, unresponsiveness. "if we weren’t in heaven," said mrs. wilkinsserenely, "i should say we had been snubbed, but as nobody snubsanybody there of course we can’t have been." "perhaps she is unhappy," said mrs. arbuthnot. "whatever it is she is she’ll get over ithere," said mrs. wilkins with conviction. "we must try and help her," said mrs. arbuthnot. "oh, but nobody helps anybody in heaven. that’sfinished with.
you don’t try to be, or do. you simply are." well, mrs. arbuthnot wouldn’t go into thatâ€”nothere, not to-day. the vicar, she knew, would have called lotty’stalk levity, if not profanity. how old he seemed from here; anold, old vicar. they left the path, and clambered down theolive terraces, down and down, to where at the bottom the warm,sleepy sea heaved gently among the rocks. there a pine-tree grew closeto the water, and they sat under it, and a few yards away was a fishing-boatlying motionless and green-bellied on the water. the ripplesof the sea made little
gurgling noises at their feet. they screwedup their eyes to be able to look into the blaze of light beyond theshade of their tree. the hot smell from the pine-needles and from thecushions of wild thyme that padded the spaces between the rocks,and sometimes a smell of pure honey from a clump of warm irises up behindthem in the sun, puffed across their faces. very soon mrs. wilkinstook her shoes and stockings off, and let her feet hang in the water. afterwatching her a minute mrs. arbuthnot did the same. their happinesswas then complete. their husbands would not have known them. they leftoff talking. they
ceased to mention heaven. they were just cupsof acceptance. meanwhile lady caroline, on her wall, wasconsidering her position. the garden on the top of the wall was a deliciousgarden, but its situation made it insecure and exposed tointerruptions. at any moment the others might come and want to use it,because both the hall and the dining-room had doors opening straight intoit. perhaps, thought lady caroline, she could arrange that it shouldbe solely hers. mrs. fisher had the battlements, delightful with flowers,and a watch-tower all to herself, besides having snatched the one reallynice room in the house.
there were plenty of places the originalscould go toâ€”she had herself seen at least two other little gardens, whilethe hill the castle stood on was itself a garden, with walks and seats.why should not this one spot be kept exclusively for her? she likedit; she liked it best of all. it had the judas tree and an umbrellapine, it had the freesias and the lilies, it had a tamarisk beginningto flush pink, it had the convenient low wall to sit on, it had fromeach of its three sides the most amazing viewsâ€”to the east the bay andmountains, to the north the village across the tranquil clear greenwater of the little harbour
and the hills dotted with white houses andorange groves, and to the west was the thin thread of land by whichsan salvatore was tied to the mainland, and then the open sea and thecoast line beyond genoa reaching away into the blue dimness of france.yes, she would say she wanted to have this entirely to herself. howobviously sensible if each of them had their own special place tosit in apart. it was essential to her comfort that she should beable to be apart, left alone, not talked to. the others ought tolike it best too. why herd? one had enough of that in england, withone’s relations and
friendsâ€”oh, the numbers of them!â€”pressingon one continually. having successfully escaped them for fourweeks why continue, and with persons having no earthly claim on one,to herd? she lit a cigarette. she began to feel secure.those two had gone for a walk. there was no sign of mrs.fisher. how very pleasant this was. somebody came out through the glass doors,just as she was drawing a deep breath of security. surelyit couldn’t be mrs. fisher, wanting to sit with her? mrs. fisher had herbattlements. she ought
to stay on them, having snatched them. itwould be too tiresome if she wouldn’t, and wanted not only to have themand her sitting-room but to establish herself in this garden as well. no; it wasn’t mrs. fisher, it was the cook. she frowned. was she going to have to go onordering the food? surely one or other of those two waving womenwould do that now. the cook, who had been waiting in increasingagitation in the kitchen, watching the clock getting nearerto lunchâ€”time while she still was without knowledge of what lunchwas to consist of, had gone
at last to mrs. fisher, who had immediatelywaved her away. she then wandered about the house seeking a mistress,any mistress, who would tell her what to cook, and finding none; andat last, directed by francesca, who always knew where everybodywas, came out to lady caroline. dominica had provided this cook. she was costanza,the sister of that one of his cousins who kept a restaurantdown on the piazza. she helped her brother in his cooking when shehad no other job, and knew every sort of fat, mysterious italian dishsuch as the workmen of
castagneto, who crowded the restaurant atmidday, and the inhabitants of mezzago when they came over on sundays,loved to eat. she was a fleshless spinster of fifty, grey-haired,nimble, rich of speech, and thought lady caroline more beautiful thananyone she had ever seen; and so did domenico; and so did the boy giuseppewho helped domenico and was, besides, his nephew; and so did the girlangela who helped francesca and was, besides, domenico’s niece;and so did francesca herself. domenico and francesca, the onlytwo who had seen them, thought the two ladies who arrived last verybeautiful, but compared to
the fair young lady who arrived first theywere as candles to the electric light that had lately been installed,and as the tin tubs in the bedrooms to the wonderful new bathroomtheir master had had arranged on his last visit. lady caroline scowled at the cook. the scowl,as usual, was transformed on the way into what appearedto be an intent and beautiful gravity, and costanza threw up her hands andtook the saints aloud to witness that here was the very picture ofthe mother of god. lady caroline asked her crossly what she wanted,and costanza’s
head went on one side with delight at thesheer music of her voice. she said, after waiting a moment in case themusic was going to continue, for she didn’t wish to miss anyof it, that she wanted orders; she had been to the signorina’s mother,but in vain. "she is not my mother," repudiated lady carolineangrily; and her anger sounded like the regretful wail of amelodious orphan. costanza poured forth pity. she too, she explained,had no motherâ€” lady caroline interrupted with the curt informationthat her
mother was alive and in london. costanza praised god and the saints that theyoung lady did not yet know what it was like to be without amother. quickly enough did misfortunes overtake one; no doubt the younglady already had a husband. "no," said lady caroline icily. worse thanjokes in the morning did she hate the idea of husbands. and everybodywas always trying to press them on herâ€”all her relations, allher friends, all the evening papers. after all, she could only marry one,anyhow; but you would
think from the way everybody talked, and especiallythose persons who wanted to be husbands, that she could marryat least a dozen. her soft, pathetic "no" made costanza, whowas standing close to her, well with sympathy. "poor little one," said costanza, moved actuallyto pat her encouragingly on the shoulder, "take hope.there is still time." "for lunch," said lady caroline freezingly,marveling as she spoke that she should be patted, she who hadtaken so much trouble to come to a place, remote and hidden, whereshe could be sure that among
other things of a like oppressive nature pattingsalso were not, "we will haveâ€”" costanza became business-like. she interruptedwith suggestions, and her suggestions were all admirable andall expensive. lady caroline did not know they were expensive,and fell in with them at once. they sounded very nice. everysort of young vegetables and fruits came into them, and much butterand a great deal of cream and incredible numbers of eggs. costanza saidenthusiastically at the end, as a tribute to this acquiescence, thatof the many ladies and
gentlemen she had worked for on temporaryjobs such as this she preferred the english ladies and gentlemen.she more than preferred themâ€”they roused devotion in her. for theyknew what to order; they did not skimp; they refrained from grindingdown the faces of the poor. from this lady caroline concluded that shehad been extravagant, and promptly countermanded the cream. costanza’s face fell, for she had a cousinwho had a cow, and the cream was to have come from them both. "and perhaps we had better not have chickens,"said lady
costanza’s face fell more, for her brotherat the restaurant kept chickens in his back-yard, and many of themwere ready for killing. "also do not order strawberries till i haveconsulted with the other ladies," said lady caroline, rememberingthat it was only the first of april, and that perhaps people wholived in hampstead might be poor; indeed, must be poor, or why live inhampstead? "it is not i who am mistress here." "is it the old one?" asked costanza, her facevery long. "no," said lady caroline.
"which of the other two ladies is it?" "neither," said lady caroline. then costanza’s smiles returned, for the younglady was having fun with her and making jokes. she told herso, in her friendly italian way, and was genuinely delighted. "i never make jokes," said lady caroline briefly."you had better go, or lunch will certainly not beready by half-past twelve." and these curt words came out sounding sosweet that costanza felt as if kind compliments were being paidher, and forgot her
disappointment about the cream and the chickens,and went away all gratitude and smiles. "this," thought lady caroline, "will neverdo. i haven’t come here to housekeep, and i won’t." she called costanza back. costanza came running.the sound of her name in that voice enchanted her. "i have ordered the lunch for to-day," saidlady caroline, with the serious angel face that was hers whenshe was annoyed, "and i have also ordered the dinner, but from now on youwill go to one of the
other ladies for orders. i give no more." the idea that she would go on giving orderswas too absurd. she never gave orders at home. nobody there dreamedof asking her to do anything. that such a very tiresome activityshould be thrust upon her here, simply because she happened to be ableto talk italian, was ridiculous. let the originals give ordersif mrs. fisher refused to. mrs. fisher, of course, was the one natureintended for such a purpose. she had the very air of a competent housekeeper.her clothes were the clothes of a housekeeper, and so was the wayshe did her hair.
having delivered herself of her ultimatumwith an acerbity that turned sweet on the way, and accompanied itby a peremptory gesture of dismissal that had the grace and loving-kindnessof a benediction, it was annoying that costanza should only standstill with her head on one side gazing at her in obvious delight. "oh, go away!" exclaimed lady caroline inenglish, suddenly exasperated. there had been a fly in her bedroom that morningwhich had stuck just as costanza was sticking; only one, butit might have been a
myriad it was so tiresome from daylight on.it was determined to settle on her face, and she was determinedit should not. its persistence was uncanny. it woke her, andwould not let her go to sleep again. she hit at it, and it eludedher without fuss or effort and with an almost visible blandness, andshe had only hit herself. it came back again instantly, and with a loudbuzz alighted on her cheek. she hit at it again and hurt herself, whileit skimmed gracefully away. she lost her temper, and sat up in bed andwaited, watching to hit at it and kill it. she kept on hitting at itat last with fury and with
all her strength, as if it were a real enemydeliberately trying to madden her; and it elegantly skimmed in andout of her blows, not even angry, to be back again the next instant.it succeeded every time in getting on to her face, and was quite indifferenthow often it was driven away. that was why she had dressedand come out so early. francesca had already been told to put a netover her bed, for she was not going to allow herself to be annoyed twicelike that. people were exactly like flies. she wished there werenets for keeping them off too. she hit at them with words and frowns,and like the fly they
slipped between her blows and were untouched.worse than the fly, they seemed unaware that she had even tried tohit them. the fly at least did for a moment go away. with human beingsthe only way to get rid of them was to go away herself. that was what,so tired, she had done this april; and having got here, having gotclose up to the details of life at san salvatore, it appeared that here,too, she was not to be let alone. viewed from london there had seemed to beno details. san salvatore from there seemed to be an empty,a delicious blank. yet,
after only twenty-four hours of it, she wasdiscovering that it was not a blank at all, and that she was having toward off as actively as ever. already she had been much stuck to.mrs. fisher had stuck nearly the whole of the day before, and thismorning there had been no peace, not ten minutes uninterruptedly alone. costanza of course had finally to go becauseshe had to cook, but hardly had she gone before domenico came.he came to water and tie up. that was natural, since he was the gardener,but he watered and tied up all the things that were nearest to her; hehovered closer and closer;
he watered to excess; he tied plants thatwere as straight and steady as arrows. well, at least he was a man, andtherefore not quite so annoying, and his smiling good-morning wasreceived with an answering smile; upon which domenico forgot his family,his wife, his mother, his grown-up children and all his duties, andonly wanted to kiss the young lady’s feet. he could not do that, unfortunately, but hecould talk while he worked, and talk he did; voluminously; pouringout every kind of information, illustrating what he said withgestures so lively that he
had to put down the watering-pot, and thusdelay the end of the watering. lady caroline bore it for a time but presentlywas unable to bear it, and as he would not go, and she couldnot tell him to, seeing that he was engaged in his proper work, once againit was she who had to. she got off the wall and moved to the otherside of the garden, where in a wooden shed were some comfortablelow cane chairs. all she wanted was to turn one of these round withits back to domenico and its front to the sea towards genoa. such a littlething to want. one
would have thought she might have been allowedto do that unmolested. but he, who watched her every movement, whenhe saw her approaching the chairs darted after her and seized one andasked to be told where to put it. would she never get away from being waitedon, being made comfortable, being asked where she wantedthings put, having to say thank you? she was short with domenico, whoinstantly concluded the sun had given her a headache, and ran in andfetched her a sunshade and a cushion and a footstool, and was skilful,and was wonderful, and was
one of nature’s gentlemen. she shut her eyes in a heavy resignation.she could not be unkind to domenico. she could not get up andwalk indoors as she would have done if it had been one of the others.domenico was intelligent and very competent. she had at once discoveredthat it was he who really ran the house, who really did everything.and his manners were definitely delightful, and he undoubtedlywas a charming person. it was only that she did so much long to be letalone. if only, only she could be left quite quiet for this one month,she felt that she might
perhaps make something of herself after all. she kept her eyes shut, because then he wouldthink she wanted to sleep and would go away. domenico’s romantic italian soul melted withinhim at the sight, for having her eyes shut was extraordinarilybecoming to her. he stood entranced, quite still, and she thought hehad stolen away, so she opened them again. no; there he was, staring at her. even he.there was no getting away from being stared at.
"i have a headache," she said, shutting themagain. "it is the sun," said domenico, "and sittingon the wall without a hat." "i wish to sleep." "si signorina," he said sympathetically; andwent softly away. she opened her eyes with a sigh of relief.the gentle closing of the glass doors showed her that he had notonly gone quite away but had shut her out in the garden so that she shouldbe undisturbed. now perhaps she would be alone till lunch-time.
it was very curious, and no one in the worldcould have been more surprised than she herself, but she wantedto think. she had never wanted to do that before. everything elsethat it is possible to do without too much inconvenience she had eitherwanted to do or had done at one period or another of her life, butnot before had she wanted to think. she had come to san salvatore withthe single intention of lying comatose for four weeks in the sun,somewhere where her parents and friends were not, lapped in forgetfulness,stirring herself only to be fed, and she had not been there more thana few hours when this
strange new desire took hold of her. there had been wonderful stars the eveningbefore, and she had gone out into the top garden after dinner,leaving mrs. fisher alone over her nuts and wine, and, sitting on thewall at the place where the lilies crowded their ghost heads, she hadlooked out into the gulf of the night, and it had suddenly seemed as ifher life had been a noise all about nothing. she had been intensely surprised. she knewstars and darkness did produce unusual emotions because, in others,she had seen them
being produced, but they had not before doneit in herself. a noise all about nothing. could she be quite well?she had wondered. for a long while past she had been aware that herlife was a noise, but it had seemed to be very much about something;a noise, indeed, about so much that she felt she must get out of earshotfor a little or she would be completely, and perhaps permanently,deafened. but suppose it was only a noise about nothing? she had not had a question like that in hermind before. it had made her feel lonely. she wanted to be alone,but not lonely. that
was very different; that was something thatached and hurt dreadfully right inside one. it was what one dreadedmost. it was what made one go to so many parties; and lately even theparties had seemed once or twice not to be a perfectly certain protection.was it possible that loneliness had nothing to do with circumstances,but only with the way one met them? perhaps, she had thought, shehad better go to bed. she couldn’t be very well. she went to bed; and in the morning, aftershe had escaped the fly and had her breakfast and got out again into thegarden, there was this
same feeling again, and in broad daylight.once more she had that really rather disgusting suspicion that herlife till now had not only been loud but empty. well, if that wereso, and if her first twenty-eight yearsâ€”the best onesâ€”had gonejust in meaningless noise, she had better stop a moment and look roundher; pause, as they said in tiresome novels, and consider. shehadn’t got many sets of twenty-eight years. one more would see hergrowing very like mrs. fisher. two moreâ€” she averted her eyes. her mother would have been concerned if shehad known. her
mother doted. her father would have been concernedtoo, for he also doted. everybody doted. and when, melodiouslyobstinate, she had insisted on going off to entomb herself initaly for a whole month with queer people she had got out of an advertisement,refusing even to take her maid, the only explanation her friendscould imagine was that poor scrapâ€”such was her name among themâ€”hadoverdone it and was feeling a little nervy. her mother had been distressed at her departure.it was such an odd thing to do, such a sign of disappointment.she encouraged the
general idea of the verge of a nervous breakdown.if she could have seen her adored scrap, more delightful tolook upon than any other mother’s daughter had ever yet been, the objectof her utmost pride, the source of all her fondest hopes,sitting staring at the empty noonday mediterranean considering herthree possible sets of twenty-eight years, she would have been miserable.to go away alone was bad; to think was worse. no good couldcome out of the thinking of a beautiful young woman. complicationscould come out of it in profusion, but no good. the thinking of thebeautiful was bound to
result in hesitations, in reluctances, inunhappiness all round. and here, if she could have seen her, sat herscrap thinking quite hard. and such things. such old things. things nobodyever began to think till they were at least forty. end of chapter 8ï¿½