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A Room with a View


  Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer

  A ROOM WITH A VIEW

  By E. M. Forster

  CONTENTS:

  PART ONE

  I. The Bertolini

  II. In Santa Croce with No Baedeker

  III. Music, Violets, and the Letter "S"

  IV. Fourth Chapter

  V. Possibilities of a Pleasant Outing

  VI. The Reverend Arthur Beebe, the Reverend Cuthbert Eager, Mr. Emerson, Mr. George Emerson, Miss Eleanor Lavish, Miss Charlotte Bartlett, and Miss Lucy Honeychurch Drive Out in Carriages to See a View; Italians Drive Them

  VII. They Return

  PART TWO

  VIII. Medieval

  IX. Lucy as a Work of Art

  X. Cecil as a Humourist

  XI. In Mrs. Vyse's Well-Appointed Flat

  XII. Twelfth Chapter

  XIII. How Miss Bartlett's Boiler Was So Tiresome

  XIV. How Lucy Faced the External Situation Bravely

  XV. The Disaster Within

  XVI. Lying to George

  XVII. Lying to Cecil

  XVIII. Lying to Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeychurch, Freddy, and the Servants

  XIX. Lying to Mr. Emerson

  XX. The End of the Middle Ages

  PART ONE

  Chapter I: The Bertolini

  "The Signora had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no businessat all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, insteadof which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long wayapart. Oh, Lucy!"

  "And a Cockney, besides!" said Lucy, who had been further saddened bythe Signora's unexpected accent. "It might be London." She looked at thetwo rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at the rowof white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between theEnglish people; at the portraits of the late Queen and the late PoetLaureate that hung behind the English people, heavily framed; at thenotice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M. A. Oxon.), thatwas the only other decoration of the wall. "Charlotte, don't you feel,too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all kinds ofother things are just outside. I suppose it is one's being so tired."

  "This meat has surely been used for soup," said Miss Bartlett, layingdown her fork.

  "I want so to see the Arno. The rooms the Signora promised us in herletter would have looked over the Arno. The Signora had no business todo it at all. Oh, it is a shame!"

  "Any nook does for me," Miss Bartlett continued; "but it does seem hardthat you shouldn't have a view."

  Lucy felt that she had been selfish. "Charlotte, you mustn't spoil me:of course, you must look over the Arno, too. I meant that. The firstvacant room in the front--" "You must have it," said Miss Bartlett, partof whose travelling expenses were paid by Lucy's mother--a piece ofgenerosity to which she made many a tactful allusion.

  "No, no. You must have it."

  "I insist on it. Your mother would never forgive me, Lucy."

  "She would never forgive me."

  The ladies' voices grew animated, and--if the sad truth be owned--alittle peevish. They were tired, and under the guise of unselfishnessthey wrangled. Some of their neighbours interchanged glances, and oneof them--one of the ill-bred people whom one does meet abroad--leantforward over the table and actually intruded into their argument. Hesaid:

  "I have a view, I have a view."

  Miss Bartlett was startled. Generally at a pension people looked themover for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out thatthey would "do" till they had gone. She knew that the intruder wasill-bred, even before she glanced at him. He was an old man, of heavybuild, with a fair, shaven face and large eyes. There was somethingchildish in those eyes, though it was not the childishness of senility.What exactly it was Miss Bartlett did not stop to consider, for herglance passed on to his clothes. These did not attract her. He wasprobably trying to become acquainted with them before they got into theswim. So she assumed a dazed expression when he spoke to her, and thensaid: "A view? Oh, a view! How delightful a view is!"

  "This is my son," said the old man; "his name's George. He has a viewtoo."

  "Ah," said Miss Bartlett, repressing Lucy, who was about to speak.

  "What I mean," he continued, "is that you can have our rooms, and we'llhave yours. We'll change."

  The better class of tourist was shocked at this, and sympathized withthe new-comers. Miss Bartlett, in reply, opened her mouth as littleas possible, and said "Thank you very much indeed; that is out of thequestion."

  "Why?" said the old man, with both fists on the table.

  "Because it is quite out of the question, thank you."

  "You see, we don't like to take--" began Lucy. Her cousin againrepressed her.

  "But why?" he persisted. "Women like looking at a view; men don't." Andhe thumped with his fists like a naughty child, and turned to his son,saying, "George, persuade them!"

  "It's so obvious they should have the rooms," said the son. "There'snothing else to say."

  He did not look at the ladies as he spoke, but his voice was perplexedand sorrowful. Lucy, too, was perplexed; but she saw that they were infor what is known as "quite a scene," and she had an odd feeling thatwhenever these ill-bred tourists spoke the contest widened and deepenedtill it dealt, not with rooms and views, but with--well, with somethingquite different, whose existence she had not realized before. Now theold man attacked Miss Bartlett almost violently: Why should she notchange? What possible objection had she? They would clear out in half anhour.

  Miss Bartlett, though skilled in the delicacies of conversation, waspowerless in the presence of brutality. It was impossible to snub anyone so gross. Her face reddened with displeasure. She looked around asmuch as to say, "Are you all like this?" And two little old ladies, whowere sitting further up the table, with shawls hanging over the backsof the chairs, looked back, clearly indicating "We are not; we aregenteel."

  "Eat your dinner, dear," she said to Lucy, and began to toy again withthe meat that she had once censured.

  Lucy mumbled that those seemed very odd people opposite.

  "Eat your dinner, dear. This pension is a failure. To-morrow we willmake a change."

  Hardly had she announced this fell decision when she reversed it. Thecurtains at the end of the room parted, and revealed a clergyman, stoutbut attractive, who hurried forward to take his place at the table,cheerfully apologizing for his lateness. Lucy, who had not yet acquireddecency, at once rose to her feet, exclaiming: "Oh, oh! Why, it'sMr. Beebe! Oh, how perfectly lovely! Oh, Charlotte, we must stop now,however bad the rooms are. Oh!"

  Miss Bartlett said, with more restraint:

  "How do you do, Mr. Beebe? I expect that you have forgotten us: MissBartlett and Miss Honeychurch, who were at Tunbridge Wells when youhelped the Vicar of St. Peter's that very cold Easter."

  The clergyman, who had the air of one on a holiday, did not rememberthe ladies quite as clearly as they remembered him. But he came forwardpleasantly enough and accepted the chair into which he was beckoned byLucy.

  "I AM so glad to see you," said the girl, who was in a state ofspiritual starvation, and would have been glad to see the waiter ifher cousin had permitted it. "Just fancy how small the world is. SummerStreet, too, makes it so specially funny."

  "Miss Honeychurch lives in the parish of Summer Street," said MissBartlett, filling up the gap, "and she happened to tell me in the courseof conversation that you have just accepted the living--"

  "Yes, I heard from mother so last week. She didn't know that I knew youat Tunbridge Wells; but I wrote back at once, and I said: 'Mr. Beebeis--'"

  "Quite right," said the clergyman. "I move into the Rectory at SummerStreet next June. I am lucky to be appointed to such a charmingneighbourhood."

  "Oh, how glad I am! The name of our house is Windy Corner." Mr. Beebebowed.

  "There is mother and me generally, and my brother, though it's not oftenwe get him to ch---- The church is rather far off, I mean."

  "Lucy, dearest, let Mr. Beebe eat his dinner."

  "I am eating it, thank you, and enjoying it."

  He preferred to talk to Lucy, whose playing he remembered, rather thanto Miss Bartlett, who probably remembered his sermons. He asked the girlwhether she knew Florence well, and was informed at some length that shehad never been there before. It is delightful to advise a newcomer, andhe was first in the field. "Don't neglect the country round," his adviceconcluded. "The first fine afternoon drive up to Fiesole, and round bySettignano, or something of that sort."

  "No!" cried a voice from the top of the table. "Mr. Beebe, you arewrong. The first fine afternoon your ladies must go to Prato."

  "That lady looks so clever," whispered Miss Bartlett to her cousin. "Weare in luck."

  And, indeed, a perfect torrent of information burst on them. People toldthem what to see, when to see it, how to stop the electric trams, how toget rid of the beggars, how much to give for a vellum blotter, howmuch the place would grow upon them. The Pension Bertolini had decided,almost enthusiastically, that they would do. Whichever way they looked,kind ladies smiled and shouted at them. And above all rose the voice ofthe clever lady, crying: "Prato! They must go to Prato. That place istoo sweetly squalid for words. I love it; I revel in shaking off thetrammels of respectability, as you know."

  The young man named George glanced at the clever lady, and then returnedmoodily to his plate. Obviously he and his father did not do. Lucy, inthe midst of her success, found time to wish they did. It gave her noextra pleasure that any one should be left in the cold; and when sherose to go, she turned back and gave the two outsiders a nervous littlebow.

  The father did not see it; the son acknowledged it, not by another bow,but by raising his eyebrows and smiling; he seemed to be smiling acrosssomething.

  She hastened after her cousin, who had already disappeared through thecurtains--curtains which smote one in the face, and seemed heavy withmore than cloth. Beyond them stood the unreliable Signora, bowinggood-evening to her guests, and supported by 'Enery, her little boy, andVictorier, her daughter. It made a curious little scene, this attemptof the Cockney to convey the grace and geniality of the South. And evenmore curious was the drawing-room, which attempted to rival the solidcomfort of a Bloomsbury boarding-house. Was this really Italy?

  Miss Bartlett was already seated on a tightly stuffed arm-chair, whichhad the colour and the contours of a tomato. She was talking to Mr.Beebe, and as she spoke, her long narrow head drove backwards andforwards, slowly, regularly, as though she were demolishing someinvisible obstacle. "We are most grateful to you," she was saying."The first evening means so much. When you arrived we were in for apeculiarly mauvais quart d'heure."

  He expressed his regret.

  "Do you, by any chance, know the name of an old man who sat opposite usat dinner?"

  "Emerson."

  "Is he a friend of yours?"

  "We are friendly--as one is in pensions."

  "Then I will say no more."

  He pressed her very slightly, and she said more.

  "I am, as it were," she concluded, "the chaperon of my young cousin,Lucy, and it would be a serious thing if I put her under an obligationto people of whom we know nothing. His manner was somewhat unfortunate.I hope I acted for the best."

  "You acted very naturally," said he. He seemed thoughtful, and aftera few moments added: "All the same, I don't think much harm would havecome of accepting."

  "No harm, of course. But we could not be under an obligation."

  "He is rather a peculiar man." Again he hesitated, and then said gently:"I think he would not take advantage of your acceptance, nor expect youto show gratitude. He has the merit--if it is one--of saying exactlywhat he means. He has rooms he does not value, and he thinks you wouldvalue them. He no more thought of putting you under an obligation thanhe thought of being polite. It is so difficult--at least, I find itdifficult--to understand people who speak the truth."

  Lucy was pleased, and said: "I was hoping that he was nice; I do soalways hope that people will be nice."

  "I think he is; nice and tiresome. I differ from him on almost everypoint of any importance, and so, I expect--I may say I hope--you willdiffer. But his is a type one disagrees with rather than deplores. Whenhe first came here he not unnaturally put people's backs up. He has notact and no manners--I don't mean by that that he has bad manners--andhe will not keep his opinions to himself. We nearly complained abouthim to our depressing Signora, but I am glad to say we thought better ofit."

  "Am I to conclude," said Miss Bartlett, "that he is a Socialist?"

  Mr. Beebe accepted the convenient word, not without a slight twitchingof the lips.

  "And presumably he has brought up his son to be a Socialist, too?"

  "I hardly know George, for he hasn't learnt to talk yet. He seems a nicecreature, and I think he has brains. Of course, he has all his father'smannerisms, and it is quite possible that he, too, may be a Socialist."

  "Oh, you relieve me," said Miss Bartlett. "So you think I ought tohave accepted their offer? You feel I have been narrow-minded andsuspicious?"

  "Not at all," he answered; "I never suggested that."

  "But ought I not to apologize, at all events, for my apparent rudeness?"

  He replied, with some irritation, that it would be quite unnecessary,and got up from his seat to go to the smoking-room.

  "Was I a bore?" said Miss Bartlett, as soon as he had disappeared. "Whydidn't you talk, Lucy? He prefers young people, I'm sure. I do hope Ihaven't monopolized him. I hoped you would have him all the evening, aswell as all dinner-time."

  "He is nice," exclaimed Lucy. "Just what I remember. He seems to seegood in everyone. No one would take him for a clergyman."

  "My dear Lucia--"

  "Well, you know what I mean. And you know how clergymen generally laugh;Mr. Beebe laughs just like an ordinary man."

  "Funny girl! How you do remind me of your mother. I wonder if she willapprove of Mr. Beebe."

  "I'm sure she will; and so will Freddy."

  "I think everyone at Windy Corner will approve; it is the fashionableworld. I am used to Tunbridge Wells, where we are all hopelessly behindthe times."

  "Yes," said Lucy despondently.

  There was a haze of disapproval in the air, but whether the disapprovalwas of herself, or of Mr. Beebe, or of the fashionable world at WindyCorner, or of the narrow world at Tunbridge Wells, she could notdetermine. She tried to locate it, but as usual she blundered. MissBartlett sedulously denied disapproving of any one, and added "I amafraid you are finding me a very depressing companion."

  And the girl again thought: "I must have been selfish or unkind; I mustbe more careful. It is so dreadful for Charlotte, being poor."

  Fortunately one of the little old ladies, who for some time had beensmiling very benignly, now approached and asked if she might be allowedto sit where Mr. Beebe had sat. Permission granted, she began to chattergently about Italy, the plunge it had been to come there, the gratifyingsuccess of the plunge, the improvement in her sister's health, thenecessity of closing the bed-room windows at night, and of thoroughlyemptying the water-bottles in the morning. She handled her subjectsagreeably, and they were, perhaps, more worthy of attention thanthe high discourse upon Guelfs and Ghibellines which was proceedingtempestuously at the other end of the room. It was a real catastrophe,not a mere episode, that evening of hers at Venice, when she had foundin her bedroom something that is one worse than a flea, though onebetter than something else.

  "But here you are as safe as in England. Signora Bertolini is soEnglish."

  "Yet our rooms smell," said poor Lucy. "We dread going to bed."

  "Ah, then you look into the court." She sighed. "If only Mr. Emerson wasmore tactful! We were so sorry for you at dinner."

  "I think he was meaning to be kind."

  "Undoubtedly he was," said Miss Bartlett.

  "Mr. Beebe has just been scolding me for my suspicious nature. Ofcourse, I was holding back on my cousin's account."

  "Of course," said the little old lady; and they murmured that one couldnot be too careful with a young girl.

  Lucy tried to look demure, but could not help feeling a great fool. Noone was careful with her at home; or, at all events, she had not noticedit.

  "About old Mr. Emerson--I hardly know. No, he is not tactful; yet, haveyou ever noticed that there are people who do things which are mostindelicate, and yet at the same time--beautiful?"

  "Beautiful?" said Miss Bartlett, puzzled at the word. "Are not beautyand delicacy the same?"

  "So one would have thought," said the other helplessly. "But things areso difficult, I sometimes think."

  She proceeded no further into things, for Mr. Beebe reappeared, lookingextremely pleasant.

  "Miss Bartlett," he cried, "it's all right about the rooms. I'm so glad.Mr. Emerson was talking about it in the smoking-room, and knowing whatI did, I encouraged him to make the offer again. He has let me come andask you. He would be so pleased."

  "Oh, Charlotte," cried Lucy to her cousin, "we must have the rooms now.The old man is just as nice and kind as he can be."

  Miss Bartlett was silent.

  "I fear," said Mr. Beebe, after a pause, "that I have been officious. Imust apologize for my interference."

  Gravely displeased, he turned to go. Not till then did Miss Bartlettreply: "My own wishes, dearest Lucy, are unimportant in comparison withyours. It would be hard indeed if I stopped you doing as you liked atFlorence, when I am only here through your kindness. If you wish me toturn these gentlemen out of their rooms, I will do it. Would you then,Mr. Beebe, kindly tell Mr. Emerson that I accept his kind offer, andthen conduct him to me, in order that I may thank him personally?"

  She raised her voice as she spoke; it was heard all over thedrawing-room, and silenced the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. Theclergyman, inwardly cursing the female sex, bowed, and departed with hermessage.

  "Remember, Lucy, I alone am implicated in this. I do not wish theacceptance to come from you. Grant me that, at all events."

  Mr. Beebe was back, saying rather nervously:

  "Mr. Emerson is engaged, but here is his son instead."

  The young man gazed down on the three ladies, who felt seated on thefloor, so low were their chairs.

  "My father," he said, "is in his bath, so you cannot thank himpersonally. But any message given by you to me will be given by me tohim as soon as he comes out."

  Miss Bartlett was unequal to the bath. All her barbed civilities cameforth wrong end first. Young Mr. Emerson scored a notable triumph to thedelight of Mr. Beebe and to the secret delight of Lucy.

  "Poor young man!" said Miss Bartlett, as soon as he had gone.

  "How angry he is with his father about the rooms! It is all he can do tokeep polite."

  "In half an hour or so your rooms will be ready," said Mr. Beebe. Thenlooking rather thoughtfully at the two cousins, he retired to his ownrooms, to write up his philosophic diary.

  "Oh, dear!" breathed the little old lady, and shuddered as if all thewinds of heaven had entered the apartment. "Gentlemen sometimes do notrealize--" Her voice faded away, but Miss Bartlett seemed to understandand a conversation developed, in which gentlemen who did not thoroughlyrealize played a principal part. Lucy, not realizing either, was reducedto literature. Taking up Baedeker's Handbook to Northern Italy, shecommitted to memory the most important dates of Florentine History. Forshe was determined to enjoy herself on the morrow. Thus the half-hourcrept profitably away, and at last Miss Bartlett rose with a sigh, andsaid:

  "I think one might venture now. No, Lucy, do not stir. I willsuperintend the move."

  "How you do do everything," said Lucy.

  "Naturally, dear. It is my affair."

  "But I would like to help you."

  "No, dear."

  Charlotte's energy! And her unselfishness! She had been thus all herlife, but really, on this Italian tour, she was surpassing herself. SoLucy felt, or strove to feel. And yet--there was a rebellious spiritin her which wondered whether the acceptance might not have been lessdelicate and more beautiful. At all events, she entered her own roomwithout any feeling of joy.

  "I want to explain," said Miss Bartlett, "why it is that I have takenthe largest room. Naturally, of course, I should have given it to you;but I happen to know that it belongs to the young man, and I was sureyour mother would not like it."

  Lucy was bewildered.

  "If you are to accept a favour it is more suitable you should be underan obligation to his father than to him. I am a woman of the world, inmy small way, and I know where things lead to. However, Mr. Beebe is aguarantee of a sort that they will not presume on this."

  "Mother wouldn't mind I'm sure," said Lucy, but again had the sense oflarger and unsuspected issues.

  Miss Bartlett only sighed, and enveloped her in a protecting embrace asshe wished her good-night. It gave Lucy the sensation of a fog, and whenshe reached her own room she opened the window and breathed the cleannight air, thinking of the kind old man who had enabled her to see thelights dancing in the Arno and the cypresses of San Miniato, and thefoot-hills of the Apennines, black against the rising moon.

  Miss Bartlett, in her room, fastened the window-shutters and locked thedoor, and then made a tour of the apartment to see where the cupboardsled, and whether there were any oubliettes or secret entrances. It wasthen that she saw, pinned up over the washstand, a sheet of paper onwhich was scrawled an enormous note of interrogation. Nothing more.

  "What does it mean?" she thought, and she examined it carefully by thelight of a candle. Meaningless at first, it gradually became menacing,obnoxious, portentous with evil. She was seized with an impulse todestroy it, but fortunately remembered that she had no right to do so,since it must be the property of young Mr. Emerson. So she unpinned itcarefully, and put it between two pieces of blotting-paper to keep itclean for him. Then she completed her inspection of the room, sighedheavily according to her habit, and went to bed.

 
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