They were all at Charing Cross to see Lilia off--Philip, Harriet, Irma, Mrs.
Herriton herself. Even Mrs. Theobald, squired by Mr. Kingcroft, had braved
the journey from Yorkshire to bid her only daughter good-bye. Miss Abbott
was likewise attended by numerous relatives, and the sight of so many people
talking at once and saying such different things caused Lilia to break into
ungovernable peals of laughter.
"Quite an ovation,"
she cried, sprawling out of her first-class carriage. "They'll take us for
royalty. Oh, Mr. Kingcroft, get us
The good-natured young man hurried
away, and Philip, taking his place, flooded her with a final stream of advice
and injunctions--where to stop, how to learn Italian, when to use mosquito-nets,
what pictures to look at. "Remember," he concluded, "that it is only by
going off the track that you get to know the country. See the little
towns--Gubbio, Pienza, Cortona, San Gemignano, Monteriano. And don't, let
me beg you, go with that awful tourist idea that Italy's only a museum of
antiquities and art. Love and understand the Italians, for the people are
more marvellous than the land."
"How I wish you were
coming, Philip," she said, flattered at the unwonted notice her brother-in-law
was giving her.
"I wish I were." He could have
managed it without great difficulty, for his career at the Bar was not so
intense as to prevent occasional holidays. But his family disliked his
continual visits to the Continent, and he himself often found pleasure in the
idea that he was too busy to leave town.
dear every one. What a whirl!" She caught sight of her little
daughter Irma, and felt that a touch of maternal solemnity was required.
"Good-bye, darling. Mind you're always good, and do what Granny tells
She referred not to her own mother, but to her
mother-in-law, Mrs. Herriton, who hated the title of
Irma lifted a serious face to be kissed, and
said cautiously, "I'll do my best."
"She is sure to
be good," said Mrs. Herriton, who was standing pensively a little out of the
hubbub. But Lilia was already calling to Miss Abbott, a tall, grave,
rather nice-looking young lady who was conducting her adieus in a more decorous
manner on the platform.
"Caroline, my Caroline!
Jump in, or your chaperon will go off without
And Philip, whom the idea of Italy always
intoxicated, had started again, telling her of the supreme moments of her coming
journey--the Campanile of Airolo, which would burst on her when she emerged from
the St. Gothard tunnel, presaging the future; the view of the Ticino and Lago
Maggiore as the train climbed the slopes of Monte Cenere; the view of Lugano,
the view of Como--Italy gathering thick around her now--the arrival at her first
resting-place, when, after long driving through dark and dirty streets, she
should at last behold, amid the roar of trams and the glare of arc lamps, the
buttresses of the cathedral of Milan.
and collars," screamed Harriet, "in my inlaid box! I've lent you my inlaid
"Good old Harry!" She kissed every one
again, and there was a moment's silence. They all smiled steadily,
excepting Philip, who was choking in the fog, and old Mrs. Theobald, who had
begun to cry. Miss Abbott got into the carriage. The guard himself
shut the door, and told Lilia that she would be all right. Then the train
moved, and they all moved with it a couple of steps, and waved their
handkerchiefs, and uttered cheerful little cries. At that moment Mr.
Kingcroft reappeared, carrying a footwarmer by both ends, as if it was a
tea-tray. He was sorry that he was too late, and called out in a quivering
voice, "Good-bye, Mrs. Charles. May you enjoy yourself, and may God bless
Lilia smiled and nodded, and then the absurd
position of the foot-warmer overcame her, and she began to laugh
"Oh, I am so sorry," she cried back, "but you
do look so funny. Oh, you all look so funny waving! Oh, pray!"
And laughing helplessly, she was carried out into the
"High spirits to begin so long a journey," said
Mrs. Theobald, dabbing her eyes.
solemnly moved his head in token of agreement. "I wish," said he, "that
Mrs. Charles had gotten the footwarmer. These London porters won't take
heed to a country chap."
"But you did your best,"
said Mrs. Herriton. "And I think it simply noble of you to have brought
Mrs. Theobald all the way here on such a day as this." Then, rather
hastily, she shook hands, and left him to take Mrs. Theobald all the way
Sawston, her own home, was within easy reach of
London, and they were not late for tea. Tea was in the dining-room, with
an egg for Irma, to keep up the child's spirits. The house seemed
strangely quiet after a fortnight's bustle, and their conversation was spasmodic
and subdued. They wondered whether the travellers had got to Folkestone,
whether it would be at all rough, and if so what would happen to poor Miss
"And, Granny, when will the old ship get to
Italy?" asked Irma.
"'Grandmother,' dear; not
'Granny,'" said Mrs. Herriton, giving her a kiss. "And we say 'a boat' or
'a steamer,' not 'a ship.' Ships have sails. And mother won't go all the
way by sea. You look at the map of Europe, and you'll see why.
Harriet, take her. Go with Aunt Harriet, and she'll show you the
"Righto!" said the little girl, and dragged the
reluctant Harriet into the library. Mrs. Herriton and her son were left
alone. There was immediately confidence between
"Here beginneth the New Life," said
"Poor child, how vulgar!" murmured Mrs.
Herriton. "It's surprising that she isn't worse. But she has got a
look of poor Charles about her."
look of old Mrs. Theobald. What appalling apparition was that! I did
think the lady was bedridden as well as imbecile. Why ever did she
"Mr. Kingcroft made her. I am certain of
it. He wanted to see Lilia again, and this was the only
"I hope he is satisfied. I did not think
my sister-in-law distinguished herself in her
Mrs. Herriton shuddered. "I mind
nothing, so long as she has gone--and gone with Miss Abbott. It is
mortifying to think that a widow of thirty-three requires a girl ten years
younger to look after her."
"I pity Miss
Abbott. Fortunately one admirer is chained to England. Mr. Kingcroft
cannot leave the crops or the climate or something. I don't think, either,
he improved his chances today. He, as well as Lilia, has the knack of
being absurd in public."
Mrs. Herriton replied, "When
a man is neither well bred, nor well connected, nor handsome, nor clever, nor
rich, even Lilia may discard him in time."
I believe she would take any one. Right up to the last, when her boxes
were packed, she was 'playing' the chinless curate. Both the curates are
chinless, but hers had the dampest hands. I came on them in the
Park. They were speaking of the
"My dear boy! If possible, she has
got worse and worse. It was your idea of Italian travel that saved
Philip brightened at the little
compliment. "The odd part is that she was quite eager--always asking me
for information; and of course I was very glad to give it. I admit she is
a Philistine, appallingly ignorant, and her taste in art is false. Still,
to have any taste at all is something. And I do believe that Italy really
purifies and ennobles all who visit her. She is the school as well as the
playground of the world. It is really to Lilia's credit that she wants to
"She would go anywhere," said his mother,
who had heard enough of the praises of Italy. "I and Caroline Abbott had
the greatest difficulty in dissuading her from the
"No, Mother; no. She was really keen
on Italy. This travel is quite a crisis for her." He found the
situation full of whimsical romance: there was something half attractive, half
repellent in the thought of this vulgar woman journeying to places he loved and
revered. Why should she not be transfigured? The same had happened
to the Goths.
Mrs. Herriton did not believe in
romance nor in transfiguration, nor in parallels from history, nor in anything
else that may disturb domestic life. She adroitly changed the subject
before Philip got excited. Soon Harriet returned, having given her lesson
in geography. Irma went to bed early, and was tucked up by her
grandmother. Then the two ladies worked and played cards. Philip
read a book. And so they all settled down to their quiet, profitable
existence, and continued it without interruption through the
It was now nearly ten years since Charles had
fallen in love with Lilia Theobald because she was pretty, and during that time
Mrs. Herriton had hardly known a moment's rest. For six months she schemed
to prevent the match, and when it had taken place she turned to another
task--the supervision of her daughter-in-law. Lilia must be pushed through
life without bringing discredit on the family into which she had married.
She was aided by Charles, by her daughter Harriet, and, as soon as he was old
enough, by the clever one of the family, Philip. The birth of Irma made
things still more difficult. But fortunately old Mrs. Theobald, who had
attempted interference, began to break up. It was an effort to her to
leave Whitby, and Mrs. Herriton discouraged the effort as far as possible.
That curious duel which is fought over every baby was fought and decided early.
Irma belonged to her father's family, not to her
Charles died, and the struggle
recommenced. Lilia tried to assert herself, and said that she should go to
take care of Mrs. Theobald. It required all Mrs. Herriton's kindness to
prevent her. A house was finally taken for her at Sawston, and there for
three years she lived with Irma, continually subject to the refining influences
of her late husband's family.
During one of her rare
Yorkshire visits trouble began again. Lilia confided to a friend that she
liked a Mr. Kingcroft extremely, but that she was not exactly engaged to
him. The news came round to Mrs. Herriton, who at once wrote, begging for
information, and pointing out that Lilia must either be engaged or not, since no
intermediate state existed. It was a good letter, and flurried Lilia
extremely. She left Mr. Kingcroft without even the pressure of a
rescue-party. She cried a great deal on her return to Sawston, and said
she was very sorry. Mrs. Herriton took the opportunity of speaking more
seriously about the duties of widowhood and motherhood than she had ever done
before. But somehow things never went easily after. Lilia would not
settle down in her place among Sawston matrons. She was a bad housekeeper,
always in the throes of some domestic crisis, which Mrs. Herriton, who kept her
servants for years, had to step across and adjust. She let Irma stop away
from school for insufficient reasons, and she allowed her to wear rings.
She learnt to bicycle, for the purpose of waking the place up, and coasted down
the High Street one Sunday evening, falling off at the turn by the church.
If she had not been a relative, it would have been entertaining. But even
Philip, who in theory loved outraging English conventions, rose to the occasion,
and gave her a talking which she remembered to her dying day. It was just
then, too, that they discovered that she still allowed Mr. Kingcroft to write to
her "as a gentleman friend," and to send presents to
Philip thought of Italy, and the situation was
saved. Caroline, charming, sober, Caroline Abbott, who lived two turnings
away, was seeking a companion for a year's travel. Lilia gave up her
house, sold half her furniture, left the other half and Irma with Mrs. Herriton,
and had now departed, amid universal approval, for a change of
She wrote to them frequently during the
winter--more frequently than she wrote to her mother. Her letters were
always prosperous. Florence she found perfectly sweet, Naples a dream, but
very whiffy. In Rome one had simply to sit still and feel. Philip,
however, declared that she was improving. He was particularly gratified
when in the early spring she began to visit the smaller towns that he had
recommended. "In a place like this," she wrote, "one really does feel in
the heart of things, and off the beaten track. Looking out of a Gothic
window every morning, it seems impossible that the middle ages have passed
away." The letter was from Monteriano, and concluded with a not
unsuccessful description of the wonderful little
"It is something that she is contented," said
Mrs. Herriton. "But no one could live three months with Caroline Abbott
and not be the better for it."
Just then Irma came in
from school, and she read her mother's letter to her, carefully correcting any
grammatical errors, for she was a loyal supporter of parental authority--Irma
listened politely, but soon changed the subject to hockey, in which her whole
being was absorbed. They were to vote for colours that afternoon--yellow
and white or yellow and green. What did her grandmother
Of course Mrs. Herriton had an opinion, which
she sedately expounded, in spite of Harriet, who said that colours were
unnecessary for children, and of Philip, who said that they were ugly. She
was getting proud of Irma, who had certainly greatly improved, and could no
longer be called that most appalling of things--a vulgar child. She was
anxious to form her before her mother returned. So she had no objection to
the leisurely movements of the travellers, and even suggested that they should
overstay their year if it suited them.
letter was also from Monteriano, and Philip grew quite
"They've stopped there over a week!" he
cried. "Why! I shouldn't have done as much myself. They must
be really keen, for the hotel's none too
"I cannot understand people," said
Harriet. "What can they be doing all day? And there is no church
there, I suppose."
"There is Santa Deodata, one of
the most beautiful churches in Italy."
"Of course I
mean an English church," said Harriet stiffly. "Lilia promised me that she
would always be in a large town on Sundays."
goes to a service at Santa Deodata's, she will find more beauty and sincerity
than there is in all the Back Kitchens of
The Back Kitchen was his nickname for St.
James's, a small depressing edifice much patronized by his sister. She
always resented any slight on it, and Mrs. Herriton had to
"Now, dears, don't. Listen to
Lilia's letter. 'We love this place, and I do not know how I shall ever
thank Philip for telling me it. It is not only so quaint, but one sees the
Italians unspoiled in all their simplicity and charm here. The frescoes
are wonderful. Caroline, who grows sweeter every day, is very busy
"Every one to his taste!" said Harriet,
who always delivered a platitude as if it was an epigram. She was
curiously virulent about Italy, which she had never visited, her only experience
of the Continent being an occasional six weeks in the Protestant parts of
"Oh, Harriet is a bad lot!" said Philip
as soon as she left the room. His mother laughed, and told him not to be
naughty; and the appearance of Irma, just off to school, prevented further
discussion. Not only in Tracts is a child a
"One moment, Irma," said her uncle.
"I'm going to the station. I'll give you the pleasure of my
They started together. Irma was
gratified; but conversation flagged, for Philip had not the art of talking to
the young. Mrs. Herriton sat a little longer at the breakfast table,
re-reading Lilia's letter. Then she helped the cook to clear, ordered
dinner, and started the housemaid turning out the drawing-room, Tuesday being
its day. The weather was lovely, and she thought she would do a little
gardening, as it was quite early. She called Harriet, who had recovered
from the insult to St. James's, and together they went to the kitchen
garden and began to sow some early vegetables.
will save the peas to the last; they are the greatest fun," said Mrs. Herriton,
who had the gift of making work a treat. She and her elderly daughter
always got on very well, though they had not a great deal in common.
Harriet's education had been almost too successful. As Philip once said,
she had "bolted all the cardinal virtues and couldn't digest them." Though
pious and patriotic, and a great moral asset for the house, she lacked that
pliancy and tact which her mother so much valued, and had expected her to pick
up for herself. Harriet, if she had been allowed, would have driven Lilia
to an open rupture, and, what was worse, she would have done the same to Philip
two years before, when he returned full of passion for Italy, and ridiculing
Sawston and its ways.
"It's a shame, Mother!" she had
cried. "Philip laughs at everything--the Book Club, the Debating Society,
the Progressive Whist, the bazaars. People won't like it. We have
our reputation. A house divided against itself cannot
Mrs. Herriton replied in the memorable words,
"Let Philip say what he likes, and he will let us do what we like." And
Harriet had acquiesced.
They sowed the duller
vegetables first, and a pleasant feeling of righteous fatigue stole over them as
they addressed themselves to the peas. Harriet stretched a string to guide
the row straight, and Mrs. Herriton scratched a furrow with a pointed
stick. At the end of it she looked at her
"It's twelve! The second post's
in. Run and see if there are any
Harriet did not want to go. "Let's
finish the peas. There won't be any
"No, dear; please go. I'll sow the
peas, but you shall cover them up--and mind the birds don't see
Mrs. Herriton was very careful to let those
peas trickle evenly from her hand, and at the end of the row she was conscious
that she had never sown better. They were expensive
"Actually old Mrs. Theobald!" said Harriet,
"Read me the letter. My hands are
dirty. How intolerable the crested paper
Harriet opened the
"I don't understand," she said; "it doesn't
"Her letters never
"But it must be sillier than usual," said
Harriet, and her voice began to quaver. "Look here, read it, Mother; I
can't make head or tail."
Mrs. Herriton took the
letter indulgently. "What is the difficulty?" she said after a long
pause. "What is it that puzzles you in this
"The meaning--" faltered Harriet. The
sparrows hopped nearer and began to eye the
"The meaning is quite clear--Lilia is engaged
to be married. Don't cry, dear; please me by not crying--don't talk at
all. It's more than I could bear. She is going to marry some one she
has met in a hotel. Take the letter and read for yourself." Suddenly
she broke down over what might seem a small point. "How dare she not tell
me direct! How dare she write first to Yorkshire! Pray, am I to hear
through Mrs. Theobald--a patronizing, insolent letter like this? Have I no
claim at all? Bear witness, dear"--she choked with passion--"bear witness
that for this I'll never forgive her!"
"Oh, what is
to be done?" moaned Harriet. "What is to be
"This first!" She tore the letter into
little pieces and scattered it over the mould. "Next, a telegram for
Lilia! No! a telegram for Miss Caroline Abbott. She, too, has
something to explain."
"Oh, what is to be done?"
repeated Harriet, as she followed her mother to the house. She was
helpless before such effrontery. What awful thing--what awful person had
come to Lilia? "Some one in the hotel." The letter only said
that. What kind of person? A gentleman? An Englishman?
The letter did not say.
"Wire reason of stay at
Monteriano. Strange rumours," read Mrs. Herriton, and addressed the
telegram to Abbott, Stella d'Italia, Monteriano, Italy. "If there is an
office there," she added, "we might get an answer this evening. Since
Philip is back at seven, and the eight-fifteen catches the midnight boat at
Dover--Harriet, when you go with this, get £100 in £5 notes at the
"Go, dear, at once; do not talk. I see
Irma coming back; go quickly.... Well, Irma dear, and whose team are you in this
afternoon--Miss Edith's or Miss May's?"
But as soon
as she had behaved as usual to her grand-daughter, she went to the library and
took out the large atlas, for she wanted to know about Monteriano. The
name was in the smallest print, in the midst of a woolly-brown tangle of hills
which were called the "Sub-Apennines." It was not so very far from Siena,
which she had learnt at school. Past it there wandered a thin black line,
notched at intervals like a saw, and she knew that this was a railway. But
the map left a good deal to imagination, and she had not got any. She
looked up the place in "Childe Harold," but Byron had not been there. Nor
did Mark Twain visit it in the "Tramp Abroad." The resources of literature
were exhausted: she must wait till Philip came home. And the thought of
Philip made her try Philip's room, and there she found "Central Italy," by
Baedeker, and opened it for the first time in her life and read in it as
Monteriano (pop. 4800).
Hotels: Stella d'Italia, moderate only; Globo, dirty. * Caffè Garibaldi.
Post and Telegraph office in Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, next to theatre.
Photographs at Seghena's (cheaper in Florence). Diligence (1 lira) meets
Chief attractions (2-3 hours):
Santa Deodata, Palazzo Pubblico, Sant' Agostino, Santa Caterina, Sant'
Ambrogio, Palazzo Capocchi. Guide (2 lire) unnecessary. A walk
round the Walls should on no account be omitted. The view from the Rocca
(small gratuity) is finest at sunset.
Monteriano, the Mons Rianus of Antiquity, whose Ghibelline tendencies are
noted by Dante (Purg. xx.), definitely emancipated itself from Poggibonsi in
1261. Hence the distich, "Poggibonizzi, faui in là, che Monteriano
si fa città!" till recently enscribed over the Siena gate. It
remained independent till 1530, when it was sacked by the Papal troops and
became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It is now of small
importance, and seat of the district prison. The inhabitants are still
noted for their agreeable manners.
- - - - -
The traveller will proceed direct from the Siena
gate to the Collegiate Church of Santa Deodata, and inspect (5th chapel on
right) the charming * Frescoes....
Mrs. Herriton did not proceed. She was not one
to detect the hidden charms of Baedeker. Some of the information seemed to
her unnecessary, all of it was dull. Whereas Philip could never read "The
view from the Rocca (small gratuity) is finest at sunset" without a catching at
the heart. Restoring the book to its place, she went downstairs, and
looked up and down the asphalt paths for her daughter. She saw her at
last, two turnings away, vainly trying to shake off Mr. Abbott, Miss Caroline
Abbott's father. Harriet was always unfortunate. At last she
returned, hot, agitated, crackling with bank-notes, and Irma bounced to greet
her, and trod heavily on her corn.
"Your feet grow
larger every day," said the agonized Harriet, and gave her niece a violent
push. Then Irma cried, and Mrs. Herriton was annoyed with Harriet for
betraying irritation. Lunch was nasty; and during pudding news arrived
that the cook, by sheer dexterity, had broken a very vital knob off the
kitchen-range. "It is too bad," said Mrs. Herriton. Irma said it was
three bad, and was told not to be rude. After lunch Harriet would get out
Baedeker, and read in injured tones about Monteriano, the Mons Rianus of
Antiquity, till her mother stopped her.
ridiculous to read, dear. She's not trying to marry any one in the
place. Some tourist, obviously, who's stopping in the hotel. The
place has nothing to do with it at all."
"But what a
place to go to! What nice person, too, do you meet in a
"Nice or nasty, as I have told you several
times before, is not the point. Lilia has insulted our family, and she
shall suffer for it. And when you speak against hotels, I think you forget
that I met your father at Chamounix. You can contribute nothing, dear, at
present, and I think you had better hold your tongue. I am going to the
kitchen, to speak about the range."
She spoke just
too much, and the cook said that if she could not give satisfaction--she had
better leave. A small thing at hand is greater than a great thing remote,
and Lilia, misconducting herself upon a mountain in Central Italy, was
immediately hidden. Mrs. Herriton flew to a registry office, failed; flew
to another, failed again; came home, was told by the housemaid that things
seemed so unsettled that she had better leave as well; had tea, wrote six
letters, was interrupted by cook and housemaid, both weeping, asking her pardon,
and imploring to be taken back. In the flush of victory the door-bell
rang, and there was the telegram: "Lilia engaged to Italian nobility.
"No answer," said Mrs.
Herriton. "Get down Mr. Philip's Gladstone from the
She would not allow herself to be frightened
by the unknown. Indeed she knew a little now. The man was not an
Italian noble, otherwise the telegram would have said so. It must have
been written by Lilia. None but she would have been guilty of the fatuous
vulgarity of "Italian nobility." She recalled phrases of this morning's
letter: "We love this place--Caroline is sweeter than ever, and busy
sketching--Italians full of simplicity and charm." And the remark of
Baedeker, "The inhabitants are still noted for their agreeable manners," had a
baleful meaning now. If Mrs. Herriton had no imagination, she had
intuition, a more useful quality, and the picture she made to herself of Lilia's
fiancé did not prove altogether wrong.
Philip was received with the news that he must start in half an hour for
Monteriano. He was in a painful position. For three years he had
sung the praises of the Italians, but he had never contemplated having one as a
relative. He tried to soften the thing down to his mother, but in his
heart of hearts he agreed with her when she said, "The man may be a duke or he
may be an organ-grinder. That is not the point. If Lilia marries him
she insults the memory of Charles, she insults Irma, she insults us.
Therefore I forbid her, and if she disobeys we have done with her for
"I will do all I can," said Philip in a low
voice. It was the first time he had had anything to do. He kissed
his mother and sister and puzzled Irma. The hall was warm and attractive
as he looked back into it from the cold March night, and he departed for Italy
reluctantly, as for something commonplace and
Before Mrs. Herriton went to bed she wrote to
Mrs. Theobald, using plain language about Lilia's conduct, and hinting that it
was a question on which every one must definitely choose sides. She added,
as if it was an afterthought, that Mrs. Theobald's letter had arrived that
Just as she was going upstairs she
remembered that she never covered up those peas. It upset her more than
anything, and again and again she struck the banisters with vexation. Late
as it was, she got a lantern from the tool-shed and went down the garden to rake
the earth over them. The sparrows had taken every one. But countless
fragments of the letter remained, disfiguring the tidy ground.