Angels Fear to Trea
E. M. Forster
A Vintage Book V-61
FEAR TO TREAD
FEAR TO TREAD
E. M. Forster
A DIVISION OF RANDOM HOUSE
are published by ALFRED A. KNOPF, me.
and RANDOM HOUSE, me.
Published in 1920. All rights reserved under International and Pan-
American Copyright Conventions. Published in New York by Random
House, Inc., and in Toronto, Canada, by Random House of Canada,
MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
FEAR TO TREAD
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 footwarmers."
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 coun-
try. See the little towns Gubbio, Pienza, Cortona,
4 E. M. FORSTER
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
"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 in-
tense 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.
"Good-bye, 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 you."
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 cau-
tiously, "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 you."
And Philip, whom the idea of Italy always intoxi-
Where Angels Fear to Tread 5
cated, 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 Lu-
gano, 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
"Handkerchiefs and collars," screamed Harriet, "in
my inlaid box! I've lent you my inlaid box."
"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 re-
appeared, 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 posi-
tion of the footwarmer overcame her, and she began
to laugh again.
"Oh, I am so sorry," she cried back, "but you do
6 E. M. FORSTER
look so funny. Oh, you all look so funny waving! Oh,
pray!" And laughing helplessly, she was carried out
into the fog.
"High spirits to begin so long a journey," said Mrs.
Theobald, dabbing her eyes.
Mr. Kingcroft 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 back.
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 spas-
modic and subdued. They wondered whether the trav-
ellers 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?"
" '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 map."
"Righto!" said the little girl, and dragged the
reluctant Harriet into the library. Mrs. Herriton and
Where Angels Fear to Tread 7
her son were left alone. There was immediately con-
fidence between them.
"Here beginneth the New Life," said Philip.
"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."
"And alas, alas! a look of old Mrs. Theobald.
What appalling apparition was that! I did think the
lady was bedridden as well as imbecile. Why ever did
"Mr. Kingcroft made her. I am certain of it. He
wanted to see Lilia again, and this was the only way."
"I hope he is satisfied. I did not think my sister-in-
law distinguished herself in her farewells."
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 re-
quires 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."
"No. 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 Pentateuch."
"My dear boy! If possible, she has got worse and
worse. It was your idea of Italian travel that saved us!"
8 E. M. FORSTER
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 puri-
fies 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 go there."
"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 Riviera."
"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 geog-
raphy. 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 con-
tinued it without interruption through the winter.
- 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
Where Angels Fear to Tread 9
a moment's rest. For six months she schemed to pre-
vent 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 be-
longed to her father's family, not to her mother's.)
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. Herri-
ton'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 in-
fluences of her late husband's family.
During one of her rare Yorkshire visits trouble be-
gan 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. Herri-
ton, 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 let-
ter, and flurried Lilia extremely. She left Mr. King-
croft 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
1O E. M. FORSTER
of speaking more seriously about the duties of widow-
hood 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 insuf-
ficient 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 entertain-
ing. 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 gentle-
man friend," and to send presents to Irma.
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. Her-
riton, and had now departed, amid universal approval,
for a change of scene.
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, how-
ever, declared that she was improving. He was par-
ticularly gratified when in the early spring she began
Where Angels Fear to Tread 11
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. Look-
ing 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 think?
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
Lilia's next letter was also from Monteriano, and
Philip grew quite enthusiastic.
"They've stopped there over a week!" he cried.
12 E. M. FORSTER
"Why! I shouldn't have done as much myself. They
must be really keen, for the hotel's none too comfort-
"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."
"If she goes to a service at Santa Deodata's, she will
find more beauty and sincerity than there is in all the
Back Kitchens of Europe."
The Back Kitchen was his nickname for St. James's,
a small depressing edifice much patronized by his sis-
ter. She always resented any slight on it, and Mrs. Her-
riton had to intervene.
"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 sketching.' "
"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 Switzer-
"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
Where Angels Fear to Tread 13
school, prevented further discussion. Not only in
Tracts is a child a peacemaker.
"One moment, Irma," said her uncle. "I'm going to
the station. I'll give you the pleasure of my company."
They started together. Irma was gratified; but con-
versation flagged, for Philip had not the art of talking
to the young. Mrs. Herri ton 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, Tues-
day 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 veg-
"We 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 al-
ways 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
14 E. M. FORSTER
Society, the Progressive Whist, the bazaars. People
won't like it. We have our reputation. A house divided
against itself cannot stand."
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 pleas-
ant 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 watch.
"It's twelve! The second post's in. Run and see if
there are any letters."
Harriet did not want to go. "Let's finish the peas.
There won't be any letters."
"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 too.
"Actually old Mrs. Theobald!" said Harriet, return-
"Read me the letter. My hands are dirty. How in-
tolerable the crested paper is."
Harriet opened the envelope.
"I don't understand," she said; "it doesn't make
"Her letters never did."
"But it must be sillier than usual," said Harriet, and
Where Angels Fear to Tread 15
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 letter?"
"The meaning " faltered Harriet. The sparrows
hopped nearer and began to eye the peas.
"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 go-
ing 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. Theo-
bald 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
"Oh, what is to be done?" moaned Harriet. "What
is to be done?"
"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 gen-
tleman? An Englishman? The letter did not say.
"Wire reason of stay at Monteriano. Strange ru-
l6 E. M. FORSTER
mours," read Mrs. Herriton, and addressed the tele-
gram to Abbott, Stella d'ltalia, 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 bank."
"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
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 Mon-
teriano. 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 follows :
Monteriano (pop. 4800). Hotels: Stella d'ltalia, moderate
only; Globo, dirty. * Gaffe Garibaldi. Post and Tele-
graph office in Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, next to
theatre. Photographs at Seghena's (cheaper in Florence).
Diligence (i lira) meets principal trains.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 17
Chief attractions (2-3 hours): Santa Deodata, Palazzo
Pubblico, Sant' Agostino, Santa Caterina, Sant' Am-
brogio, 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.
History: Monteriano, the Mons Rianus of Antiquity,
whose Ghibelline tendencies are noted by Dante (Purg.
xx.), definitely emancipated itself from Poggibonsi in
'261. Hence the distich, "Poggibom'zzi, fatti in la, che
Monteriano si fa citta!" 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 im-
portance, 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 as-
phalt 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 un-
fortunate. 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 pud-
l8 E. M. FORSTER
ding 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.
"It's ridiculous to read, dear. She's not trying to
many 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 hotel?"
"Nice or nasty, as I have told you several times be-
fore, 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 re-
mote, and Lilia, misconducting herself upon a moun-
tain in Central Italy, was immediately hidden. Mrs.
Herriton flew to a registry office, failed; flew to an-
other, failed again; came home, was told by the house-
maid that things seemed so unsettled that she had
better leave as well; had tea, wrote six letters, was in-
terrupted by cook and housemaid, both weeping, ask-
ing her pardon, and imploring to be taken back. In the
flush of victory the door-bell rang, and there was the
Where Angels Fear to Tread 19
telegram: "Lilia engaged to Italian nobility. Writing.
"No answer/' said Mrs. Herriton. "Get down Mr.
Philip's Gladstone from the attic."
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 vul-
garity 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. Herri-
ton had no imagination, she had intuition, a more use-
ful quality, and the picture she made to herself of
Lilia's fiance did not prove altogether wrong.
So 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
"I will do all I can," said Philip in a low voice. It
was the first time he had had anything to do. He
20 E. M. FORSTER
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 dull.
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
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 lan-
tern 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 re-
mained, disfiguring the tidy ground.
When the bewildered tourist alights at the station of
Monteriano, he finds himself in the middle of the
country. There are a few houses round the railway, and
many more dotted over the plain and the slopes of the
hills, but of a town, mediaeval or otherwise, not the
slightest sign. He must take what is suitably termed a
"legno" a piece of wood and drive up eight miles
of excellent road into the middle ages. For it is im-
Where Angels Fear to Tread 21
possible, as well as sacrilegious, to be as quick as Bae-
It was three in the afternoon when Philip left the
realms of common-sense. He was so weary with trav-
elling that he had fallen asleep in the train. His fellow-
passengers had the usual Italian gift of divination, and
when Monteriano came they knew he wanted to go
there, and dropped him out. His feet sank into the hot
asphalt of the platform, and in a dream he watched
the train depart, while the porter who ought to have
been carrying his bag, ran up the line playing touch-
you-last with the guard. Alas! he was in no humour for
Italy. Bargaining for a legno bored him unutterably.
The man asked six lire; and though Philip knew that
for eight miles it should scarcely be more than four,
yet he was about to give what he was asked, and so
make the man discontented and unhappy for the rest
of the day. He was saved from this social blunder by
loud shouts, and looking up the road saw one cracking
his whip and waving his reins and driving two horses
furiously, and behind him there appeared the swaying
figure of a woman, holding star-fish fashion on to any-
thing she could touch. It was Miss Abbott, who had
just received his letter from Milan announcing the
time of his arrival, and had hurried down to meet him.
He had known Miss Abbott for years, and had never
had much opinion about her one way or the other.
She was good, quiet, dull, and amiable, and young
only because she was twenty-three: there was nothing
in her appearance or manner to suggest the fire of
youth. All her life had been spent at Sawston with a
dull and amiable father, and her pleasant, pallid face^
22 E. M. FORSTER
bent on some respectable charity, was a familiar object
of the Sawston streets. Why she had ever wished to
leave them was surprising; but as she truly said, "I am
John Bull to the backbone, yet I do want to see Italy,
just once. Everybody says it is marvellous, and that one
gets no idea of it from books at all." The curate sug-
gested that a year was a long time; and Miss Abbott,
with decorous playfulness, answered him, "Oh, but
you must let me have my fling! I promise to have it
once, and once only. It will give me things to think
about and talk about for the rest of my life." The cu-
rate had consented; so had Mr. Abbott. And here she
was in a legno, solitary, dusty, frightened, with as much
to answer and to answer for as the most dashing ad-
venturess could desire.
They shook hands without speaking. She made room
for Philip and his luggage amidst the loud indignation
of the unsuccessful driver, whom it required the com-
bined eloquence of the station-master and the station
beggar to confute. The silence was prolonged until
they started. For three days he had been considering
what he should do, and still more what he should say.
He had invented a dozen imaginary conversations, in
all of which his logic and eloquence procured him cer-
tain victory. But how to begin? He was in the enemy's
country, and everything the hot sun, the cold air be-
hind the heat, the endless rows of olive-trees, regular yet
mysterious seemed hostile to the placid atmosphere
of Sawston in which his thoughts took birth. At the
outset he made one great concession. If the match was
really suitable, and Lilia were bent on it, he would give
in, and trust to his influence with his mother to set
Where Angels Fear to Tread 23
things right. He would not have made the concession
in England; but here in Italy, Lilia, however wilful and
silly, was at all events growing to be a human being.
"Are we to talk it over now?" he asked.
"Certainly, please," said Miss Abbott, in great agi-
tation. "If you will be so very kind."
"Then how long has she been engaged?"
Her face was that of a perfect fool a fool in terror.
"A short time quite a short time," she stammered,
as if the shortness of the time would reassure him.
"I should like to know how long, if you can remem-
She entered into elaborate calculations on her fin-
gers. "Exactly eleven days," she said at last.
"How long have you been here?"
More calculations, while he tapped irritably with
his foot. "Close on three weeks."
"Did you know him before you came?"
"Oh! Who is he?"
"A native of the place."
The second silence took place. They had left the
plain now and were climbing up the outposts of the
hills, the olive-trees still accompanying. The driver, a
jolly fat man, had got out to ease the horses, and was
walking by the side of the carriage.
"I understood they met at the hotel."
"It was a mistake of Mrs. Theobald's."
"I also understand that he is a member of the
She did not reply.
"May I be told his name?"
24 E. M. FORSTER
Miss Abbott whispered "Carella." But the driver
heard her, and a grin split over his face. The engage-
ment must be known already.
"Carella? Conte or Marchese, or what?"
"Signor," said Miss Abbott, and looked helplessly
"Perhaps I bore you with these questions. If so, I
"Oh, no, please; not at all. I am here my own idea
to give all information which you very naturally
and to see if somehow please ask anything you like."
"Then how old is he?"
"Oh, quite young. Twenty-one, I believe."
There burst from Philip the exclamation, "Good
"One would never believe it," said Miss Abbott,
flushing. "He looks much older."
"And is he good-looking?" he asked, with gathering
She became decisive. "Very good-looking. All his
features are good, and he is well built though I dare
say English standards would find him too short."
Philip, whose one physical advantage was his height,
felt annoyed at her implied indifference to it.
"May I conclude that you like him?"
She replied decisively again, "As far as I have seen
him, I do."
At that moment the carriage entered a little wood,
.which lay brown and sombre across the cultivated hill.
The trees of the wood were small and leafless, but no-
ticeable for this that their stems stood in violets as
rocks stand in the summer sea. There are such violets
in England, but not so many. Nor are there so many
Where Angels Fear to Tread 25
in Art, for no painter has the courage. The cart-ruts
were channels, the hollow lagoons; even the dry white
margin of the road was splashed, like a causeway soon
to be submerged under the advancing tide of spring.
Philip paid no attention at the time: he was thinking
what to say next. But his eyes had registered the
beauty, and next March he did not forget that the
road to Monteriano must traverse innumerable flowers.
"As far as I have seen him, I do like him," repeated
Miss Abbott, after a pause.
He thought she sounded a little defiant, and crushed
her at once.
"What is he, please? You haven't told me that.
What's his position?"
She opened her mouth to speak, and no sound came
from it. Philip waited patiently. She tried to be au-
dacious, and failed pitiably.
"No position at all. He is kicking his heels, as my
father would say. You see, he has only just finished his
"As a private?"
"I suppose so. There is general conscription. He was
in the Bersaglieri, I think. Isn't that the crack regi-
"The men in it must be short and broad. They must
also be able to walk six miles an hour."
She looked at him wildly, not understanding all that
he said, but feeling that he was very clever. Then she
continued her defence of Signor Carella.
"And now, like most young men, he is looking out
for something to do."
"Meanwhile, like most young men, he lives with his
26 E. M. FORSTER
people father, mother, two sisters, and a tiny tot of
There was a grating sprightliness about her that
drove him nearly mad. He determined to silence her
"One more question, and only one more. What is
"His father," said Miss Abbott. "Well, I don't sup-
pose you'll think it a good match. But that's not the
point. I mean the point is not I mean that social
differences love, after all not but what "
Philip ground his teeth together and said nothing.
V "Gentlemen sometimes judge hardly. But I feel that
you, and at all events your mother so really good in
every sense, so really unworldly after all, love mar-
riages are made in heaven."
"Yes, Miss Abbott, I know. But I am anxious to
hear heaverx's choice. You arouse my curiosity. Is my
sister-in-law to marry an angel?"
"Mr. Herriton, don't please, Mr. Herriton a den-
tist. His father's a dentist."
Philip gave a cry of personal disgust and pain. He
shuddered all over, and edged away from his com-
panion. A dentist! A dentist at Monteriano. A dentist
in fairyland! False teeth and laughing gas and the tilt-
ing chair at a place which knew the Etruscan League,
and the Pax Romana, and Alaric himself, and the
Countess Matilda, and the Middle Ages, all fighting
and holiness, and the Renaissance, all fighting and
beauty! He thought of Lilia no longer. He was anxious
for himself: he feared that Romance might die.
Romance only dies with life. No pair of pincers will
ever pull it out of us. But there is a spurious senti-
Where Angels Fear to Tread 27
ment which cannot resist the unexpected and the
incongruous and the grotesque. A touch will loosen it,
and the sooner it goes from us the better. It was going
from Philip now, and therefore he gave the cry of pain.
"I cannot think what is in the air," he began. "If
Lilia was determined to disgrace us, she might have
found a less repulsive way. A boy of medium height
with a pretty face, the son of a dentist at Monteri-
ano. Have I put it correctly? May I surmise that he
has not got one penny? May I also surmise that his
social position is nil? Furthermore "
"Stop! I'll tell you no more."
"Really, Miss Abbott, it is a little late for reticence.
You have equipped me admirably!"
"I'll tell you not another word!" she cried, with a
spasm of terror. Then she got out her handkerchief,
and seemed as if she would shed tears. After a silence,
which he intended to symbolize to her the dropping
of a curtain on the scene, he began to talk of other
They were among olives again, and the wood with
its beauty and wildness had passed away. But as they
climbed higher the country opened out, and there ap-
peared, high on a hill to the right, Monteriano. The
hazy green of the olives rose up to its walls, and it
seemed to float in isolation between trees and sky,
like some fantastic ship city of a dream. Its colour was
brown, and it revealed not a single house nothing
but the narrow circle of the walls, and behind them
seventeen towers all that was left of the fifty-two
that had filled the city in her prime. Some were only
stumps, some were inclining stiffly to their fall, some
were still erect, piercing like masts into the blue. It
28 E. M. FORSTER
was impossible to praise it as beautiful, but it was also
impossible to damn it as quaint.
Meanwhile Philip talked continually, thinking this
to be great evidence of resource and tact. It showed
Miss Abbott that he had probed her to the bottom,
but was able to conquer his disgust, and by sheer
force of intellect continue to be as agreeable and
amusing as ever. He did not know that he talked a
good deal of nonsense, and that the sheer force of his
intellect was weakened by the sight of Monteriano,
and by the thought of dentistry within those walls.
The town above them swung to the left, to the
right, to the left again, as the road wound upward
through the trees, and the towers began to glow in
the descending sun. As they drew near, Philip saw the
heads of people gathering black upon the walls, and
he knew well what was happening how the news was
spreading that a stranger was in sight, and the beggars
were aroused from their content and bid to adjust
their deformities; how the alabaster man was running
for his wares, and the Authorized Guide running for
his peaked cap and his two cards of recommendation
one from Miss M'Gee, Maida Vale, the other, less
valuable, from an Equerry to the Queen of Peru;
how some one else was running to tell the landlady of
the Stella d'ltalia to put on her pearl necklace and
brown boots and empty the slops from the spare bed-
room; and how the landlady was running to tell Lilia
and her boy that their fate was at hand.
Perhaps it was a pity Philip had talked so pro-
fusely. He had driven Miss Abbott half demented,
but he had given himself no time to concert a plan.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 29
The end came so suddenly. They emerged from the
trees on to the terrace before the walk, with the vision
of half Tuscany radiant in the sun behind them, and
then they turned in through the Siena gate, and their
journey was over. The Dogana men admitted them
with an air of gracious welcome, and they clattered up
the narrow dark street, greeted by that mixture of
curiosity and kindness which makes each Italian ar-
rival so wonderful.
He was stunned and knew not what to do. At the
hotel he received no ordinary reception. The landlady
wrung him by the hand; one person snatched his um-
brella, another his bag; people pushed each other out
of his way. The entrance seemed blocked with a
crowd. Dogs were barking, bladder whistles being
blown, women waving their handkerchiefs, excited
children screaming on the stairs, and at the top of the
stairs was Lilia herself, very radiant, with her best
"Welcome!" she cried. "Welcome to Monteriano!"
He greeted her, for he did not know what else to do,
and a sympathetic murmur rose from the crowd be-
"You told me to come here," she continued, "and
I don't forget it. Let me introduce Signor Carella!"
Philip discerned in the corner behind her a young
man who might eventually prove handsome and well-
made, but certainly did not seem so then. He was half
enveloped in the drapery of a cold dirty curtain, and
nervously stuck out a hand, which Philip took and
found thick and damp. There were more murmurs of
approval from the stairs.
3O E. M. FORSTER
"Well, din-din's nearly ready/' said Lilia. "Your
room's down the passage, Philip. You needn't go
He stumbled away to wash his hands, utterly
crushed by her effrontery.
"Dear Caroline!" whispered Lilia as soon as he had
gone. "What an angel you've been to tell him! He
takes it so well. But you must have had a mauvais
Miss Abbott's long terror suddenly turned into acid-
ity. "I've told nothing," she snapped. "It's all for you
and if it only takes a quarter of an hour you'll be
Dinner was a nightmare. They had the smelly din-
ing-room to themselves. Lilia, very smart and vocifer-
ous, was at the head of the table; Miss Abbott, also
in her best, sat by Philip, looking, to his irritated
nerves, more like the tragedy confidante every mo-
ment. That scion of the Italian nobility, Signer Car-
ella, sat opposite. Behind him loomed a bowl of gold-
fish, who swam round and round, gaping at the
The face of Signer Carella was twitching too much
for Philip to study it. But he could see the hands,
which were not particularly clean, and did not get
cleaner by fidgeting amongst the shining slabs of hair.
His starched cuffs were not clean either, and as for his
suit, it had obviously been bought for the occasion as
something really English a gigantic check, which did
not even fit. His handkerchief he had forgotten, but
never missed it. Altogether, he was quite unpresent-
able, and very lucky to have a father who was a
dentist in Monteriano. And why, even Lilia But
Where Angels Fear to Tread 31
as soon as the meal began it furnished Philip with an
For the youth was hungry, and his lady filled his
plate with spaghetti, and when those delicious slip-
pery worms were flying down his throat, his face re-
laxed and became for a moment unconscious and
calm. And Philip had seen that face before in Italy a
hundred times seen it and loved it, for it was not
merely beautiful, but had the charm which is the
rightful heritage of all who are born on that soil. But
he did not want to see it opposite him at dinner. It
was not the face of a gentleman.
Conversation, to give it that name, was carried on
in a mixture of English and Italian. Lilia had picked
up hardly any of the latter language, and Signor
Carella had not yet learnt any of the former. Occa-
sionally Miss Abbott had to act as interpreter between
the lovers, and the situation became uncouth and
revolting in the extreme. Yet Philip was too cowardly
to break forth and denounce the engagement. He
thought he should be more effective with Lilia if he
had her alone, and pretended to himself that he must
hear her defence before giving judgment.
Signor Carella, heartened by the spaghetti and the
throat-rasping wine, attempted to talk, and, looking
politely towards Philip, said, "England is a great coun-
try. The Italians love England and the English."
Philip, in no mood for international amenities,
"Italy too," the other continued a little resentfully,
"is a great country. She has produced many famous
men for example Garibaldi and Dante. The latter
wrote the 'Inferno/ the Turgatorio/ the Taradiso/
32 E. M. FORSTER
The 'Inferno' is the most beautiful." And with the
complacent tone of one who has received a solid edu-
cation, he quoted the opening lines
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
Che la diritta via era smarrita
a quotation which was more apt than he supposed.
Lilia glanced at Philip to see whether he noticed
that she was marrying no ignoramus. Anxious to ex-
hibit all the good qualities of her betrothed, she
abruptly introduced the subject of pallone, in which,
it appeared, he was a proficient player. He suddenly
became shy and developed a conceited grin the grin
of the village yokel whose cricket score is mentioned
before a stranger. Philip himself had loved to watch
pallone, that entrancing combination of lawn-tennis
and fives. But he did not expect to love it quite so
"Oh, look!" exclaimed Lilia, "the poor wee fish!"
A starved cat had been worrying them all for
pieces of the purple quivering beef they were trying
to swallow. Signer Carella, with the brutality so com-
mon in Italians, had caught her by the paw and flung
her away from him. Now she had climbed up to the
bowl and was trying to hook out the fish. He got up,
drove her off, and finding a large glass stopper by the
bowl, entirely plugged up the aperture with it.
"But may not the fish die?" said Miss Abbott.
"They have no air."
"Fish live on water, not on air," he replied in a
knowing voice, and sat down. Apparently he was at
his ease again, for he took to spitting on the floor.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 33
Philip glanced at Lilia but did not detect her wincing.
She talked bravely till the end of the disgusting meal,
and then got up saying, 'Well, Philip, I am sure you
are ready for by-bye. We shall meet at twelve o'clock
lunch tomorrow, if we don't meet before. They give
us caffe later in our rooms."
It was a little too impudent. Philip replied, "I
should like to see you now, please, in my room, as I
have come all the way on business." He heard
Miss Abbott gasp. Signer Carella, who was lighting a
rank cigar, had not understood.
It was as he expected. When he was alone with Lilia
he lost all nervousness. The remembrance of his long
intellectual supremacy strengthened him, and he be-
"My dear Lilia, don't let's have a scene. Before I
arrived I thought I might have to question you. It is
unnecessary. I know everything. Miss Abbott has told
me a certain amount, and the rest I see for myself."
"See for yourself?" she exclaimed, and he remem-
bered afterwards that she had flushed crimson.
"That he is probably a ruffian and certainly a cad."
"There are no cads in Italy," she said quickly.
He was taken aback. It was one of his own remarks.
And she further upset him by adding, "He is the son
of a dentist. Why not?"
"Thank you for the information. I know everything,
as I told you before. I am also aware of the social posi-
tion of an Italian who pulls teeth in a minute pro-
He was not aware of it, but he ventured to conclude
that it was pretty low. Nor did Lilia contradict him.
But she was sharp enough to say, "Indeed, Philip, you
34 E. M. FORSTER
surprise me. I understood you went in for equality and
"And I understood that Signer Carella was a mem-
ber of the Italian nobility."
"Well, we put it like that in the telegram so as not
to shock dear Mrs. Herriton. But it is true. He is a
younger branch. Of course families ramify just as in
yours there is your cousin Joseph." She adroitly picked
out the only undesirable member of the Herriton
clan. "Gino's father is courtesy itself, and rising rap-
idly in his profession. This very month he leaves
Monteriano, and sets up at Poggibonsi. And for my
own poor part, I think what people are is what mat-
ters, but I don't suppose you'll agree. And I should
like you to know that Gino's uncle is a priest the
same as a clergyman at home."
Philip was aware of the social position of an Italian
priest, and said so much about it that Lilia inter-
rupted him with, "Well, his cousin's a lawyer at
"What kind of 'lawyer'?"
"Why, a lawyer just like you are except that he
has lots to do and can never get away."
The remark hurt more than he cared to show. He
changed his method, and in a gentle, conciliating tone
delivered the following speech:
"The whole thing is like a bad dream so bad
that it cannot go on. If there was one redeeming fea-
ture about the man I might be uneasy. As it is I can
trust to time. For the moment, Lilia, he has taken
you in, but you will find him out soon. It is not pos-
sible that you, a lady, accustomed to ladies and gen-
tlemen, will tolerate a man whose position is well,.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 35
not equal to the son of the servants' dentist in Coro-
nation Place. I am not blaming you now. But I blame
the glamour of Italy I have felt it myself, you know
and I greatly blame Miss Abbott."
"Caroline! Why blame her? What's all this to do
"Because we expected her to " He saw that the
answer would involve him in difficulties, and, waving
his hand, continued, "So I am confident, and you in
your heart agree, that this engagement will not last.
Think of your life at home think of Irma! And I'll
also say think of us; for you know, Lilia, that we count
you more than a relation. I should feel I was losing
my own sister if you did this, and my mother would
lose a daughter."
She seemed touched at last, for she turned away
her face and said, "I can't break it off now!"
"Poor Lilia," said he, genuinely moved. "I know it
may be painful. But I have come to rescue you, and,
book-worm though I may be, I am not frightened to
stand up to a bully. He's merely an insolent boy. He
thinks he can keep you to your word by threats. He
will be different when he sees he has a man to deal
What follows should be prefaced with some simile
the simile of a powder-mine, a thunderbolt, an
earthquake for it blew Philip up in the air and flat-
tened him on the ground and swallowed him up in
the depths. Lilia turned on her gallant defender and
"For once in my life I'll thank you to leave me
alone. I'll thank your mother too. For twelve years
you've trained me and tortured me, and I'll stand it
36 E. M. FORSTER
no more. Do you think I'm a fool? Do you think I
never felt? Ah! when I came to your house a poor
young bride, how you all looked me over never a
kind word and discussed me, and thought I might
just do; and your mother corrected me, and your sister
snubbed me, and you said funny things about me to
show how clever you were! And when Charles died I
was still to run in strings for the honour of your
beastly family, and I was to be cooped up at Sawston
and learn to keep house, and all my chances spoilt of
marrying again. No, thank you! No, thank you!
'Bully?' 'Insolent boy?' Who's that, pray, but you?
But, thank goodness, I can stand up against the world
now, for I've found Gino, and this time I marry for
The coarseness and truth of her attack alike over-
whelmed him. But her supreme insolence found him
words, and he too burst forth.
"Yes! and I forbid you to do it! You despise me,
perhaps, and think I'm feeble. But you're mistaken.
You are ungrateful and impertinent and contemptible,
but I will save you in order to save Irma and our name.
There is going to be such a row in this town that you
and he'll be sorry you came to it. I shall shrink from
nothing, for my blood is up. It is unwise of you to
laugh. I forbid you to marry Carella, and I shall tell
him so now."
"Do," she cried. "Tell him so now. Have it out with
him. Gino! Gino! Come in! Avanti! Fra Filippo for-
bids the banns!"
Gino appeared so quickly that he must have been
listening outside the door.
"Fra Filippo's blood's up. He shrinks from nothing.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 37
Oh, take care he doesn't hurt you!" She swayed
about in vulgar imitation of Philip's walk, and then,
with a proud glance at the square shoulders of her be-
trothed, flounced out of the room.
Did she intend them to fight? Philip had no in-
tention of doing so; and no more, it seemed, had Gino,
who stood nervously in the middle of the room with
twitching lips and eyes.
"Please sit down, Signer Carella," said Philip in
Italian. "Mrs. Herriton is rather agitated, but there is
no reason we should not be calm. Might I offer you a
cigarette? Please sit down."
He refused the cigarette and the chair, and re-
mained standing in the full glare of the lamp. Philip,
not averse to such assistance, got his own face into
For a long time he was silent. It might impress
Gino, and it also gave him time to collect himself. He
would not this time fall into the error of blustering,
which he had caught so unaccountably from Lilia. He
would make his power felt by restraint.
Why, when he looked up to begin, was Gino con-
vulsed with silent laughter? It vanished immediately;
but he became nervous, and was even more pompous
than he intended.
"Signer Carella, I will be frank with you. I have
come to prevent you marrying Mrs. Herriton, because
I see you will both be unhappy together. She is Eng-
lish, you are Italian; she is accustomed to one thing,
you to another. And pardon me if I say it she is
rich and you are poor."
"I am not marrying her because she is rich/' was
the sulky reply.
38 E. M. FORSTER
"I never suggested that for a moment/' said Philip
courteously. "You are honourable, I am sure; but are
you wise? And let me remind you that we want her
with us at home. Her little daughter will be mother-
less, our home will be broken up. If you grant my re-
quest you will earn our thanks and you will not be
without a reward for your disappointment."
"Reward what reward?" He bent over the back of
a chair and looked earnestly at Philip. They were com-
ing to terms pretty quickly. Poor Lilia!
Philip said slowly, "What about a thousand lire?"
His soul went forth into one exclamation, and then
he was silent, with gaping lips. Philip would have
given double: he had expected a bargain.
"You can have them tonight."
He found words, and said, "It is too late."
"Because " His voice broke. Philip watched
his face, a face without refinement perhaps, but not
without expression, watched it quiver and re-form
and dissolve from emotion into emotion. There was
avarice at one moment, and insolence, and politeness,
and stupidity, and cunning and let us hope that
sometimes there was love. But gradually one emo-
tion dominated, the most unexpected of all; for his
chest began to heave and his eyes to wink and his
mouth to twitch, and suddenly he stood erect and
roared forth his whole being in one tremendous laugh.
Philip sprang up, and Gino, who had flung wide his
arms to let the glorious creature go, took him by the
shoulders and shook him, and said, "Because we are
married married married as soon as I knew you
were coming. There was no time to tell you. Oh, oh!
Where Angels Fear to Tread 39
You have come all the way for nothing. Oh! And oh,
your generosity!" Suddenly he became grave, and
said, "Please pardon me; I am rude. I am no better
than a peasant, and I " Here he saw Philip's face,
and it was too much for him. He gasped and exploded
and crammed his hands into his mouth and spat them
out in another explosion, and gave Philip an aimless
push, which toppled him on to the bed. He uttered a
horrified Oh! and then gave up, and bolted away
down the passage, shrieking like a child, to tell the
joke to his wife.
For a time Philip lay on the bed, pretending to
himself that he was hurt grievously. He could scarcely
see for temper, and in the passage he ran against Miss
Abbott, who promptly burst into tears.
"I sleep at the Globo," he told her, "and start for
Sawston tomorrow morning early. He has assaulted me.
I could prosecute him. But shall not."
"I can't stop here," she sobbed. "I daren't stop
here. You will have to take me with you!"
Opposite the Volterra gate of Monteriano, outside
the city, is a very respectable white-washed mud wall,
with a coping of red crinkled tiles to keep it from dis-
solution. It would suggest a gentleman's garden if
there was not in its middle a large hole, which grows
larger with every rain-storm. Through the hole is vis-
ible, firstly, the iron gate that is intended to close it;
40 E. M. FORSTER
secondly, a square piece of ground which, though not
quite mud, is at the same time not exactly grass; and
finally, another wall, stone this time, which has a
wooden door in the middle and two wooden-shut-
tered windows each side, and apparently forms the
fagade of a one-storey house.
This house is bigger than it looks, for it slides for
two storeys down the hill behind, and the wooden
door, which is always locked, really leads into the at-
tic. The knowing person prefers to follow the precipi-
tous mule-track round the turn of the mud wall till
he can take the edifice in the rear. Then being now
on a level with the cellars he lifts up his head and
shouts. If his voice sounds like something light a let-
ter, for example, or some vegetables, or a bunch of
flowers a basket is let out of the first-floor windows
by a string, into which he puts his burdens and de-
parts. But if he sounds like something heavy, such as a
log of wood, or a piece of meat, or a visitor, he is in-
terrogated, and then bidden or forbidden to ascend.
The ground floor and the upper floor of that bat-
tered house are alike deserted, and the inmates keep
to the central portion, just as in a dying body all life
retires to the heart. There is a door at the top of the
first flight of stairs, and if the visitor is admitted he
will find a welcome which is not necessarily cold. There
are several rooms, some dark and mostly stuffy a re-
ception-room adorned with horsehair chairs, wool-
work stools, and a stove that is never lit German bad
taste without German domesticity broods over that
room; also a living-room, which insensibly glides into
a bedroom when the refining influence of hospitality
is absent, and real bedrooms; and last, but not least,
Where Angels Fear to Tread 41
the loggia, where you can live day and night if you feel
inclined, drinking vermouth and smoking cigarettes,
with leagues of olive-trees and vineyards and blue-
green hills to watch you.
It was in this house that the brief and inevitable
tragedy of Lilia's married life took place. She made
Gino buy it for her, because it was there she had first
seen him sitting on the mud wall that faced the Vol-
terra gate. She remembered how the evening sun had
struck his hair, and how he had smiled down at her,
and being both sentimental and unrefined, was deter-
mined to have the man and the place together. Things
in Italy are cheap for an Italian, and, though he
would have preferred a house in the piazza, or better
still a house at Siena, or, bliss above bliss, a house at
Leghorn, he did as she asked, thinking that perhaps
she showed her good taste in preferring so retired an
The house was far too big for them, and there was a
general concourse of his relatives to fill it up. His fa-
ther wished to make it a patriarchal concern, where
all the family should have their rooms and meet to-
gether for meals, and was perfectly willing to give up
the new practice at Poggibonsi and preside. Gino was
quite willing too, for he was an affectionate youth who
liked a large home-circle, and he told it as a pleasant
bit of news to Lilia, who did not attempt to conceal
At once he was horrified too; saw that the idea was
monstrous; abused himself to her for having suggested
it; rushed off to tell his father that it was impossible.
His father complained that prosperity was already cor-
rupting him and making him unsympathetic and hard;
42 E. M. FORSTER
his mother cried; his sisters accused him of blocking
their social advance. He was apologetic, and even
cringing, until they turned on Lilia. Then he turned
on them, saying that they could not understand, much
less associate with, the English lady who was his wife;
that there should be one master in that house him-
Lilia praised and petted him on his return, calling
him brave and a hero and other endearing epithets.
But he was rather blue when his clan left Monteri-
ano in much dignity a dignity which was not at all
impaired by the acceptance of a cheque. They took
the cheque not to Poggibonsi, after all, but to Empoli
a lively, dusty town some twenty miles off. There
they settled down in comfort, and the sisters said they
had been driven to it by Gino.
The cheque was, of course, Lilia's, who was ex-
tremely generous, and was quite willing to know any-
body so long as she had not to live with them, rela-
tions-in-law being on her nerves. She liked nothing
better than finding out some obscure and distant con-
nection there were several of them and acting the
lady bountiful, leaving behind her bewilderment, and
too often discontent. Gino wondered how it was that all
his people, who had formerly seemed so pleasant, had
suddenly become plaintive and disagreeable. He put
it down to his lady-wife's magnificence, in comparison
with which all seemed common. Her money flew
apace, in spite of the cheap living. She was even
richer than he expected; and he remembered with
shame how he had once regretted his inability to ac-
cept the thousand lire that Philip Herriton offered
Where Angels Fear to Tread 43
him in exchange for her. It would have been a short-
Lilia enjoyed settling into the house, with nothing
to do except give orders to smiling workpeople, and a
devoted husband as interpreter. She wrote a jaunty
account of her happiness to Mrs. Herri ton, and Har-
riet answered the letter, saying (i) that all future
communications should be addressed to the solicitors;
( 2 ) would Lilia return an inlaid box which Harriet had
lent her but not given to keep handkerchiefs and
"Look what I am giving up to live with you!" she
said to Gino, never omitting to lay stress on her con-
descension. He took her to mean the inlaid box, and
said that she need not give it up at all.
"Silly fellow, no! I mean the life. Those Herritons
are very well connected. They lead Sawston society.
But what do I care, so long as I have my silly fellow!"
She always treated him as a boy, which he was, and as
a fool, which he was not, thinking herself so immeas-
urably superior to him that she neglected opportunity
after opportunity of establishing her rule. He was
good-looking and indolent; therefore he must be
stupid. He was poor; therefore he would never dare to
criticize his benefactress. He was passionately in love
with her; therefore she could do exactly as she liked.
"It mayn't be heaven below," she thought, "but it's
better than Charles."
And all the time the boy was watching her, and
She was reminded of Charles by a disagreeable let-
ter from the solicitors, bidding her disgorge a large
44 E. M. FORSTER
sum of money for Irma, in accordance with her late
husband's will. It was just like Charles's suspicious
nature to have provided against a second marriage.
Gino was equally indignant, and between them they
composed a stinging reply, which had no effect. He
then said that Irma had better come out and live with
them. "The air is good, so is the food; she will be
happy here, and we shall not have to part with the
money." But Lilia had not the courage even to sug-
gest this to the Herritons, and an unexpected terror
seized her at the thought of Irma or any English child
being educated at Monteriano.
Gino became terribly depressed over the solicitors'
letter, more depressed than she thought necessary.
There was no more to do in the house, and he spent
whole days in the loggia leaning over the parapet
or sitting astride it disconsolately.
"Oh, you idle boy!" she cried, pinching his muscles.
"Go and play pallone."
"I am a married man," he answered, without raising
his head. "I do not play games any more."
"Go and see your friends then."
"I have no friends now."
"Silly, silly, silly! You can't stop indoors all day!"
"I want to see no one but you." He spat on to an
"Now, Gino, don't be silly. Go and see your friends,
and bring them to see me. We both of us like society."
He looked puzzled, but allowed himself to be per-
suaded, went out, found that he was not as friend-
less as he supposed, and returned after several hours
in altered spirits. Lilia congratulated herself on her
Where Angels Fear to Tread 45
"I'm ready, too, for people now," she said. "I mean
to wake you all up, just as I woke up Sawston. Let's
have plenty of men and make them bring their
womenkind. I mean to have real English tea-parties."
"There is my aunt and her husband; but I thought
you did not want to receive my relatives."
"I never said such a "
"But you would be right," he said earnestly. "They
are not for you. Many of them are in trade, and even
we are little more; you should have gentlefolk and
nobility for your friends."
"Poor fellow," thought Lilia. "It is sad for him to
discover that his people are vulgar." She began to tell
him that she loved him just for his silly self, and he
flushed and began tugging at his moustache.
"But besides your relatives I must have other peo-
ple here. Your friends have wives and sisters, haven't
"Oh, yes; but of course I scarcely know them."
"Not know your friends' people?"
"Why, no. If they are poor and have to work for
their living I may see them but not otherwise. Ex-
cept " He stopped. The chief exception was a
young lady, to whom he had once been introduced
for matrimonial purposes. But the dowry had proved
inadequate, and the acquaintance terminated.
"How funny! But I mean to change all that. Bring
your friends to see me, and I will make them bring
He looked at her rather hopelessly.
"Well, who are the principal people here? Who leads
The governor of the prison, he supposed, and the
46 E. M. FORSTER
officers who assisted him.
"Well, are they married?"
"There we are. Do you know them?"
"Yes in a way."
"I see," she exclaimed angrily. "They look down on
you, do they, poor boy? Wait!" He assented. "Wait!
Fll soon stop that. Now, who else is there?"
"The marchese, sometimes, and the canons of the
"The canons " he began with twinkling eyes.
"Oh, I forgot your horrid celibacy. In England they
would be the centre of everything. But why shouldn't
I know them? Would it make it easier if I called all
round? Isn't that your foreign way?"
He did not think it would make it easier.
"But I must know some one! Who were the men
you were talking to this afternoon?"
Low-class men. He could scarcely recollect their
"But, Gino dear, if they're low class, why did you
talk to them? Don't you care about your position?"
All Gino cared about at present was idleness and
pocket-money, and his way of expressing it was to ex-
claim, "Ouf pouf! How hot it is in here. No air; I
sweat all over. I expire. I must cool myself, or I shall
never get to sleep." In his funny abrupt way he ran
out on to the loggia, where he lay full length on the
parapet, and began to smoke and spit under the si-
lence of the stars.
Lilia gathered somehow from this conversation that
Continental society was not the go-as-you-please
Where Angels Fear to Tread 47
thing she had expected. Indeed she could not see
where Continental society wasfjtaly is such a delight-
ful place to live in if you happen to be a man. There
one may enjoy that exquisite luxury of Socialism
that true Socialism which is based not on equality of
income or character, but on the equality of manners.
In the democracy of the caffe or the street the great
question of our life has been solved, and the brother-
hood of man is a reality. JBut is accomplished at the
expense of the sisterhood of women. Why should
you not make friends with your neighbour at the
theatre or in the train, when you know and he knows
that feminine criticism and feminine insight and
feminine prejudice will never come between you?
Though you become as David and Jonathan, you
need never enter his home, nor he yours. All your
lives you will meet under the open air, the only roof-
tree of the South, under which he will spit and swear,
and you will drop your h's, and nobody will think the
worse of either.
Meanwhile the women they have, of course, their
house and their church, with its admirable and
frequent services, to which they are escorted by the
maid. Otherwise they do not go out much, for it is
not genteel to walk, and you are too poor to keep
a carriage. Occasionally you will take them to the caffe
or theatre, and immediately all your wonted acquaint-
ance there desert you, except those few who are ex-
pecting and expected to marry into your family. It is
all very sad. But one consolation emerges life is
very pleasant in Italy if you are a man.
Hitherto Gino had not interfered with Lilia. She
was so much older than he was, and so much richer,
48 E. M. FORSTER
that he regarded her as a superior being who answered
to other laws. He was not wholly surprised, for strange
rumours were always blowing over the Alps of lands
where men and women had the same amusements and
interests, and he had often met that privileged maniac,
the lady tourist, on her solitary walks. Lilia took soli-
tary walks too, and only that week a tramp had
grabbed at her watch an episode which is supposed
to be indigenous in Italy, though really less frequent
there than in Bond Street. Now that he knew her bet-
ter, he was inevitably losing his awe: no one could
live with her and keep it, especially when she had been
so silly as to lose a gold watch and chain. As he lay
thoughtful along the parapet, he realized for the first
time the responsibilities of married life. He must save
her from dangers, physical and social, for after all she
was a woman. "And I," he reflected, "though I am
young, am at all events a man, and know what is
He found her still in the living-room, combing her
hair, for she had something of the slattern in her na-
ture, and there was no need to keep up appearances.
"You must not go out alone," he said gently. "It
is not safe. If you want to walk, Perfetta shall accom-
pany you." Perfetta was a widowed cousin, too hum-
ble for social aspirations, who was living with them
"Very well," smiled Lilia, "very well" as if she
were addressing a solicitous kitten. But for all that she
never took a solitary walk again, with one exception,
till the day of her death.
Days passed, and no one called except poor rela-
Where Angels Fear to Tread 49
tives. She began to feel dull. Didn't he know the Sin-
daco or the bank manager? Even the landlady of the
Stella d'ltalia would be better than no one. She,
when she went into the town, was pleasantly re-
ceived; but people naturally found a difficulty in get-
ting on with a lady who could not learn their language.
And the tea-party, under Gino's adroit management,
receded ever and ever before her.
He had a good deal of anxiety over her welfare, for
she did not settle down in the house at all. But he was
comforted by a welcome and unexpected visitor. As
he was going one afternoon for the letters they were
delivered at the door, but it took longer to get them
at the office some one humorously threw a cloak over
his head, and when he disengaged himself he saw his
very dear friend Spiridione Tesi of the custom-house
at Chiasso, whom he had not met for two years.
What joy! what salutations! so that all the passers-by
smiled with approval on the amiable scene. Spiri-
dione's brother was now station-master at Bologna,
and thus he himself could spend his holiday travelling
over Italy at the public expense. Hearing of Gino's
marriage, he had come to see him on his way to Siena,
where lived his own uncle, lately married too.
"They all do it," he exclaimed, "myself excepted."
He was not quite twenty-three. "But tell me more.
She is English. That is good, very good. An English
wife is very good indeed. And she is rich?"
"Blonde or dark?"
"Is it possible!"
5O E. M. FORSTER
"It pleases me very much/' said Gino simply. "If
you remember, I always desired a blonde." Three or
four men had collected, and were listening.
"We all desire one/' said Spiridione. "But you,
Gino, deserve your good fortune, for you are a good
son, a brave man, and a true friend, and from the very
first moment I saw you I wished you well."
"No compliments, I beg," said Gino, standing with
his hands crossed on his chest and a smile of pleasure
on his face.
Spiridione addressed the other men, none of whom
he had ever seen before. "Is it not true? Does not he
deserve this wealthy blonde?"
"He does deserve her," said all the men.
It is a marvellous land, where you love it or hate it.
There were no letters, and of course they sat down
at the Gaffe Garibaldi, by the Collegiate Church-
quite a good caffe that for so small a city. There were
marble-topped tables, and pillars terra-cotta below and
gold above, and on the ceiling was a fresco of the bat-
tle of Solferino. One could not have desired a prettier
room. They had vermouth and little cakes with sugar
on the top, which they chose gravely at the counter,
pinching them first to be sure they were fresh. And
though vermouth is barely alcoholic, Spiridione
drenched his with soda-water to be sure that it should
not get into his head.
They were in high spirits, and elaborate compli-
ments alternated curiously with gentle horseplay. But
soon they put up their legs on a pair of chairs and be-
gan to smoke.
"Tell me," said Spiridione "I forgot to ask is she
Where Angels Fear to Tread 51
"Ah, well, we cannot have everything."
"But you would be surprised. Had she told me
twenty-eight, I should not have disbelieved her."
"Is she simpatica?" (Nothing will translate that
Gino dabbed at the sugar and said after a silence,
"It is a most important thing."
"She is rich, she is generous, she is affable, she ad-
dresses her inferiors without haughtiness."
There was another silence. "It is not sufficient,"
said the other. "One does not define it thus." He low-
ered his voice to a whisper. "Last month a German
was smuggling cigars. The custom-house was dark.
Yet I refused because I did not like him. The gifts of
such men do not bring happiness. Non era simpatico.
He paid for every one, and the fine for deception be-
"Do you gain much beyond your pay?" asked Gino,
diverted for an instant.
"I do not accept small sums now. It is not worth
the risk. But the German was another matter. But lis-
ten, my Gino, for I am older than you and more full
of experience. The person who understands us at first
sight, who never irritates us, who never bores, to
whom we can pour forth every thought and wish, not
only in speech but in silence that is what I mean by
"There are such men, I know," said Gino. "And I
have heard it said of children. But where will you find
such a woman?"
"That is true. Here you are wiser than I. Sono
52 E. M. FORSTER
poco simpatiche le donne. And the time we waste
over them is much." He sighed dolefully, as if he found
the nobility of his sex a burden.
"One I have seen who may be so. She spoke very
little, but she was a young lady different to most.
She, too, was English, the companion of my wife here.
But Fra Filippo, the brother-in-law, took her back
with him. I saw them start. He was very angry."
Then he spoke of his exciting and secret marriage,
and they made fun of the unfortunate Philip, who
had travelled over Europe to stop it.
"I regret though," said Gino, when they had fin-
ished laughing, "that I toppled him on to the bed. A
great tall man! And when I am really amused I am
"You will never see him again," said Spiridione,
who carried plenty of philosophy about him. "And
by now the scene will have passed from his mind."
"It sometimes happens that such things are recol-
lected longest. I shall never see him again, of course;
but it is no benefit to me that he should wish me ill.
And even if he has forgotten, I am still sorry that I
toppled him on to the bed."
So their talk continued, at one moment full of
childishness and tender wisdom, the next moment
scandalously gross. The shadows of the terra-cotta pil-
lars lengthened, and tourists, flying through the
Palazzo Pubblico opposite, could observe how the
Italians wasted time.
The sight of tourists reminded Gino of something
he might say. "I want to consult you since you are
so kind as to take an interest in my affairs. My wife
wishes to take solitary walks."
Where Angels Fear to Tread 53
Spiridione was shocked.
"But I have forbidden her."
"She does not yet understand. She asked me to
accompany her sometimes to walk without object!
You know, she would like me to be with her all day."
"I see, I see." He knitted his brows and tried to
think how he could help his friend. "She needs em-
ployment. Is she a Catholic?"
"That is a pity. She must be persuaded. It will be a
great solace to her when she is alone."
"I am a Catholic, but of course I never go to
"Of course not. Still, you might take her at first.
That is what my brother has done with his wife at
Bologna and he has joined the Free Thinkers. He took
her once or twice himself, and now she has acquired
the habit and continues to go without him."
"Most excellent advice, and I thank you for it. But
she wishes to give tea-parties men and women to-
gether whom she has never seen."
"Oh, the English! they are always thinking of tea.
They carry it by the kilogramme in their trunks, and
they are so clumsy that they always pack it at the top.
But it is absurd!"
"What am I to do about it?"
"Do nothing. Or ask me!"
"Come!" cried Gino, springing up. "She will be
The dashing young fellow coloured crimson. "Of
course I was only joking."
"I know. But she wants me to take my friends.
54 E. M. FORSTER
Come now! Waiter!"
"If I do come/' cried the other, "and take tea with
you, this bill must be my affair."
"Certainly not; you are in my country!"
A long argument ensued, in which the waiter took
part, suggesting various solutions. At last Gino tri-
umphed. The bill came to eightpence-halfpenny, and
a halfpenny for the waiter brought it up to nine-
pence. Then there was a shower of gratitude on one
side and of deprecation on the other, and when cour-
tesies were at their height they suddenly linked arms
and swung down the street, tickling each other with
lemonade straws as they went.
Lilia was delighted to see them, and became more
animated than Gino had known her for a long time.
The tea tasted of chopped hay, and they asked to be
allowed to drink it out of a wine-glass, and refused
milk; but, as she repeatedly observed, this was some-
thing like. Spiridione's manners were very agreeable.
He kissed her hand on introduction, and as his pro-
fession had taught him a little English, conversation
did not flag.
"Do you like music?" she asked.
"Passionately," he replied. "I have not studied
scientific music, but the music of the heart, yes."
So she played on the humming piano very badly,
and he sang, not so badly. Gino got out a guitar and
sang too, sitting out on the loggia. It was a most agree-
Gino said he would just walk his friend back to his
lodgings. As they went he said, without the least
trace of malice or satire in his voice, "I think you are
quite right. I shall not bring people to the house any
Where Angels Fear to Tread 55
more. I do not see why an English wife should be
treated differently. This is Italy."
"You are very wise," exclaimed the other; "very wise
indeed. The more precious a possession the more care-
fully it should be guarded."
They had reached the lodging, but went on as far
as the Gaffe Garibaldi, where they spent a long and
most delightful evening.
The advance of regret can be so gradual that it is im-
possible to say "yesterday I was happy, today I am
not." At no one moment did Lilia realize that her
marriage was a failure; yet during the summer and
autumn she became as unhappy as it was possible for
her nature to be. She had no unkind treatment, and
few unkind words, from her husband. He simply left
her alone. In the morning he went out to do "busi-
ness," which, as far as she could discover, meant sit-
ting in the Farmacia. He usually returned to lunch,
after which he retired to another room and slept. In
the evening he grew vigorous again, and took the air
on the ramparts, often having his dinner out, and sel-
dom returning till midnight or later. There were, of
course, the times when he was away altogether at
Empoli, Siena, Florence, Bologna for he delighted in
travel, and seemed to pick up friends all over the
country. Lilia often heard what a favourite he was.
She began to see that she must assert herself, but
56 E. M. FORSTER
she could not see how. Her self-confidence, which had
overthrown Philip, had gradually oozed away. If she
left the strange house there was the strange little town,
she were to disobey her husband and walk in the
country, that would be stranger still vast slopes of
olives and vineyards, with chalk-white farms, and in
the distance other slopes, with more olives and more
farms, and more little towns outlined against the
cloudless sky. "I don't call this country," she would
say. "Why, it's not as wild as Sawston Park!" And, in-
deed, there was scarcely a touch of wildness in it
some of those slopes had been under cultivation for
two thousand years. But it was terrible and mysteri-
ous all the same, and its continued presence made
Lilia so uncomfortable that she forgot her nature and
began tojreflect j
She reflected chiefly about her marriage. The cere-
mony had been hasty and expensive, and the rites,
whatever they were, were not those of the Church of
England. Lilia had no religion in her; but for hours at
a time she would be seized with a vulgar fear that she
was not "married properly," and that her social posi-
tion in the next world might be as obscure as it was
in this. It might be safer to do the thing thoroughly,
and one day she took the advice of Spiridione and
joined the Roman Catholic Church, or as she called
it, "Santa Deodata's." Gino approved; he, too,
thought it safer, and it was fun confessing, though the
priest was a stupid old man, and the whole thing was
a good slap in the face for the people at home.
The people at home took the slap very soberly; in-
deed, there were few left for her to give it to. The Her-
ritons were out of the question; they would not even
Where Angels Fear to Tread 57
let her write to Irma, though Irma was occasionally
allowed to write to her. Mrs. Theobald was rapidly
subsiding into dotage, and, as far as she could be def-
inite about anything, had definitely sided with the
Herritons. And Miss Abbott did likewise. Night after
night did Lilia curse this false friend, who had agreed
with her that the marriage would "do," and that the
Herritons would come round to it, and then, at the
first hint of opposition, had fled back to England
shrieking and distraught. Miss Abbott headed the
long list of those who should never be written to,
and who should never be forgiven. Almost the only
person who was not on that list was Mr. Kingcroft,
who had unexpectedly sent an affectionate and in-
quiring letter. He was quite sure never to cross the
Channel, and Lilia drew freely on her fancy in the
At first she had seen a few English people, for Mon-
teriano was not the end of the earth. One or two
inquisitive ladies, who had heard at home of her quar-
rel with the Herritons, came to call. She was very
sprightly, and they thought her quite unconven-
tional, and Gino a charming boy, so all that was to
the good. But by May the season, such as it was, had
finished, and there would be no one till next spring.
As Mrs. Herriton had often observed, Lilia had no
resources. She did not like music, or reading, or work.
Her one qualification for life was rather blowsy high
spirits, which turned querulous or boisterous according
to circumstances. She was not obedient, but she was
cowardly, and in the most gentle way, which Mrs.
Herriton might have envied, Gino made her do what
he wanted. At first it had been rather fun to let him
$8 E. M. FORSTER
get the upper hand. But it was galling to discover
that he could not do otherwise. He had a good strong
will when he chose to use it, and would not have had
the least scruple in using bolts and locks to put it
into effect. There was plenty of brutality deep down
in him, and one day Lilia nearly touched it.
It was the old question of going out alone.
"I always do it in England."
"This is Italy."
"Yes, but I'm older than you, and Til settle."
"I am your husband," he said, smiling. They had
finished their mid-day meal, and he wanted to go and
sleep. Nothing would rouse him up, until at last Lilia,
getting more and more angry, said, "And I've got the
He looked horrified.
Now was the moment to assert herself. She made
the statement again. He got up from his chair.
"And you'd better mend your manners," she con-
tinued, "for you'd find it awkward if I stopped draw-
She was no reader of character, but she quickly be-
came alarmed. As she said to Perfetta afterwards,
"None of his clothes seemed to fit too big in one
place, too small in another." His figure rather than
his face altered, the shoulders falling forward till his
coat wrinkled across the back and pulled away from
his wrists. He seemed all arms. He edged round the
table to where she was sitting, and she sprang away
and held the chair between them, too frightened to
speak or to move. He looked at her with round, ex-
pressionless eyes, and slowly stretched out his left
Where Angels Fear to Tread 59
Perfetta was heard coming up from the kitchen. It
seemed to wake him up, and he turned away and went
to his room without a word.
"What has happened?" cried Lilia, nearly fainting.
"He is ill ill."
Perfetta looked suspicious when she heard the ac-
count. "What did you say to him?" She crossed her-
"Hardly anything/' said Lilia and crossed herself
also. Thus did the two women pay homage to their
It was clear to Lilia at last that Gino had married
her for money. But he had frightened her too much to
leave any place for contempt. His return was terrify-
ing, for he was frightened too, imploring her pardon,
lying at her feet, embracing her, murmuring "It was
not I," striving to define things which he did not un-
derstand. He stopped in the house for three days, pos-
itively ill with physical collapse. But for all his suffer-
ing he had tamed her, and she never threatened to
cut off supplies again.
Perhaps he kept her even closer than convention
demanded. But he was very young, and he could not
bear it to be said of him that he did not know how to
treat a lady or to manage a wife. And his own social
position was uncertain. Even in England a dentist is
a troublesome creature, whom careful people find dif-
ficult to class. He hovers between the professions and
the trades; he may be only a little lower than the doc-
tors, or he may be down among the chemists, or even
beneath them. The son of the Italian dentist felt this
too. For himself nothing mattered; he made friends
with the people he liked, for he was that glorious in-
60 E. M. FORSTER
variable creature, a man. But his wife should visit no-
where rather than visit wrongly: seclusion was both
decent and safe. The social ideals of North and South
had had their brief contention, and this time the
South had won.
It would have been well if he had been as strict over
his own behaviour as he was over hers. But the incon-
gruity never occurred to him for a moment. His mo-
rality was that of the average Latin, and as he was sud-
denly placed in the position of a gentleman, he did
not see why he should not behave as such. Of course,
had Lilia been different had she asserted herself and
got a grip on his character he might possibly though
not probably have been made a better husband as
well as a better man, and at all events he could have
adopted the attitude of the Englishman, whose stand-
ard is higher even when his practice is the same. But
had Lilia been different she might not have married
The discovery of his infidelity which she made by
accident destroyed such remnants of self-satisfaction
as her life might yet possess. She broke down utterly
and sobbed and cried in Perfetta's arms. Perfetta was
kind and even sympathetic, but cautioned her on no
account to speak to Gino, who would be furious if he
was suspected. And Lilia agreed, partly because she
was afraid of him, partly because it was, after all, the
best and most dignified thing to do. She had given up
everything for him her daughter, her relatives, her
friends, all the little comforts and luxuries of a civi-
lized life and even if she had the courage to break
away, there was no one who would receive her now.
The Herritons had been almost malignant in their
Where Angels Fear to Tread 61
efforts against her, and all her friends had one by one
fallen off. So it was better to live on humbly, trying
not to feel, endeavouring by a cheerful demeanour to
put things right. "Perhaps," she thought, "if I have a
child he will be different. I know he wants a son."
Lilia had achieved pathos despite herself, for there
are some situations in which vulgarity counts no
longer. Not Cordelia nor Imogen more deserves
She herself cried frequently, making herself look
plain and old, which distressed her husband. He was
particularly kind to her when he hardly ever saw her,
and she accepted his kindness without resentment,
even with gratitude, so docile had she become. She
did not hate him, even as she had never loved him;
with her it was only when she was excited that the
semblance of either passion arose. People said she was
headstrong, but really her weak brain left her cold.
Suffering, however, is more independent of tempera-
ment, and the wisest of women could hardly have
As for Gino, he was quite as boyish as ever, and
carried his iniquities like a feather. A favourite speech
of his was, "Ah, one ought to marry! Spiridione is
wrong; I must persuade him. Not till marriage does
one realize the pleasures and the possibilities of life."
So saying, he would take down his felt hat, strike it in
the right place as infallibly as a German strikes his
in the wrong place, and leave her.
One evening, when he had gone out thus, Lilia
could stand it no longer. It was September. Sawston
would be just filling up after the summer holidays. Peo-
ple would be running in and out of each other's houses
62 E. M. FORSTER
all along the road. There were bicycle gymkhanas, and
on the 3oth Mrs. Herriton would be holding the an-
nual bazaar in her garden for the C.M.S. It seemed
impossible that such a free, happy life could exist. She
walked out on to the loggia. Moonlight and stars in a
soft purple sky. The walls of Monteriano should be
glorious on such a night as this. But the house faced
away from them.
Perfetta was banging in the kitchen, and the stairs
down led past the kitchen door. But the stairs up to
the attic the stairs no one ever used opened out of
the living-room, and by unlocking the door at the
top one might slip out on to the square terrace above
the house, and thus for ten minutes walk in freedom
The key was in the pocket of Gino's best suit the
English check which he never wore. The stairs
creaked and the key-hole screamed; but Perfetta was
growing deaf. The walls were beautiful, but as they
faced west they were in shadow. To see the light upon
them she must walk round the town a little, till they
were caught by the beams of the rising moon. She
looked anxiously at the house, and started.
It was easy walking, for a little path ran all outside
the ramparts. The few people she met wished her a
civil good-night, taking her, in her hatless condition,
for a peasant. The walls trended round towards the
moon; and presently she came into its light, and saw
all the rough towers turn into pillars of silver and
black, and the ramparts into cliffs of pearl. She had no
great sense of beauty, but she was sentimental, and
she began to cry; for here, where a great cypress inter-
rupted the monotony of the girdle of olives, she had
Where Angels Fear to Tread 65
sat with Gino one afternoon in March, her head upon
his shoulder, while Caroline was looking at the view
and sketching. Round the corner was the Siena gate,
from which the road to England started, and she could
hear the rumble of the diligence which was going
down to catch the night train to Empoli. The next
moment it was upon her, for the highroad came to-
wards her a little before it began its long zigzag down
The driver slackened, and called to her to get in.
He did not know who she was. He hoped she might
be coming to the station.
"Non vengo!" she cried.
He wished her good-night, and turned his horses
down the corner. As the diligence came round she saw
that it was empty.
"Vengo . . ."
Her voice was tremulous, and did not carry. The
horses swung off.
He had begun to sing, and heard nothing. She ran
down the road screaming to him to stop that she
was coming; while the distance grew greater and the
noise of the diligence increased. The man's back was
black and square against the moon, and if he would
but turn for an instant she would be saved. She tried
to cut off the corner of the zigzag, stumbling over the
great clods of earth, large and hard as rocks, which lay
between the eternal olives. She was too late; for, just
before she regained the road, the thing swept past her,
thunderous, ploughing up choking clouds of moonlit
She did not call any more, for she felt very ill, and
64 E. M. FORSTER
fainted; and when she revived she was lying in the
road, with dust in her eyes, and dust in her mouth,
and dust down her ears. There is something very ter-
rible in dust at night-time.
"What shall I do?" she moaned. "He will be so an-
And without further effort she slowly climbed back
to captivity, shaking her garments as she went.
Ill luck pursued her to the end. It was one of the
nights when Gino happened to come in. He was in
the kitchen, swearing and smashing plates, while Per-
fetta, her apron over her head, was weeping violently.
At the sight of Lilia he turned upon her and poured
forth a flood of miscellaneous abuse. He was far more
angry but much less alarming than he had been that
day when he edged after her round the table. And
Lilia gained more courage from her bad conscience
than she ever had from her good one, for as he spoke
she was seized with indignation and feared him no
longer, and saw him for a cruel, worthless, hypocriti-
cal, dissolute upstart, and spoke in return.
Perfetta screamed for she told him everything all
she knew and all she thought. He stood with open
mouth, all the anger gone out of him, feeling ashamed,
and an utter fool. He was fairly and rightfully
cornered. When had husband so given himself away
before? She finished; and he was dumb, for she had
spoken truly. Then, alas! the absurdity of his own posi-
tion grew upon him, and he laughed as he would
have laughed at the same situation on the stage.
"You laugh?" stammered Lilia.
"Ah!" he cried, "who could help it? I, who thought
you knew and saw nothing I am tricked I am con-
Where Angels Fear to Tread 65
quered. I give in. Let us talk of it no more."
He touched her on the shoulder like a good com-
rade, half amused and half penitent, and then, mur-
muring and smiling to himself, ran quietly out of the
Perfetta burst into congratulations. "What courage
you have!" she cried; "and what good fortune! He is
angry no longer! He has forgiven you!"
Neither Perfetta, nor Gino, nor Lilia herself knew
the true reason of all the misery that followed. To the
end he thought that kindness and a little attention
would be enough to set things straight. His wife was
a very ordinary woman, and why should her ideas
differ from his own? No one realized that more than
personalities were engaged; that the struggle was na-
tional; that generations of ancestors, good, bad, or in-
different, forbad the Latin man to be chivalrous to
the northern woman, the northern woman to forgive
the Latin man. All this might have been foreseen:
Mrs. Herriton foresaw it from the first.
Meanwhile Lilia prided herself on her high personal
standard, and Gino simply wondered why she did not
come round. He hated discomfort and yearned for
sympathy, but shrank from mentioning his difficulties
in the town in case they were put down to his own
incompetence. Spiridione was told, and replied in a
philosophical but not very helpful letter. His other
great friend, whom he trusted more, was still serving
in Eritrea or some other desolate outpost. It would
take too long to explain everything to him. And, be-
sides, what was the good of letters? Friends cannot
travel through the post.
Lilia, so similar to her husband in many ways,
66 E. M. FORSTER
yearned for comfort and sympathy too. The night he
laughed at her she wildly took up paper and pen and
wrote page after page, analysing his character, enumer-
ating his iniquities, reporting whole conversations,
tracing all the causes and the growth of her misery.
She was beside herself with passion, and though she
could hardly think or see, she suddenly attained to
magnificence and pathos which a practised stylist
might have envied. It was written like a diary, and not
till its conclusion did she realize for whom it was
"Irma, darling Irma, this letter is for you. I almost
forgot I have a daughter. It will make you unhappy,
but I want you to know everything, and you cannot
learn things too soon. God bless you, my dearest, and
save you. God bless your miserable mother."
Fortunately Mrs. Herriton was in when the letter
arrived. She seized it and opened it in her bedroom.
Another moment, and Irma's placid childhood would
have been destroyed for ever.
Lilia received a brief note from Harriet, again for-
bidding direct communication between mother and
daughter, and concluding with formal condolences. It
nearly drove her mad.
"Gently! gently!" said her husband. They were sit-
ting together on the loggia when the letter arrived. He
often sat with her now, watching her for hours, puz-
zled and anxious, but not contrite.
"It's nothing." She went in and tore it up, and
then began to write a very short letter, whose gist
was "Come and save me."
It is not good to see your wife crying when she
writes especially if you are conscious that, on the
Where Angels Fear to Tread 67
whole, your treatment of her has been reasonable and
kind. It is not good, when you accidentally look over
her shoulder, to see that she is writing to a man. Nor
should she shake her fist at you when she leaves the
room, under the impression that you are engaged in
lighting a cigar and cannot see her.
Lilia went to the post herself. But in Italy so many
things can be arranged. The postman was a friend of
Gino's, and Mr. Kingcroft never got his letter.
So she gave up hope, became ill, and all through
the autumn lay in bed. Gino was distracted. She knew
why; he wanted a son. He could talk and think of
nothing else. His one desire was to become the father
of a man like himself, and it held him with a grip he
only partially understood, for it was the first great de-
sire, the first great passion of his life. Falling in love
was a mere physical triviality, like warm sun or cool
water, beside this divine hope of immortality: "I con-
tinue." He gave candles to Santa Deodata, for he was
always religious at a crisis, and sometimes he went to
her himself and prayed the crude uncouth demands of
the simple. Impetuously he summoned all his relatives
back to bear him company in his time of need, and
Lilia saw strange faces flitting past her in the darkened
"My love!" he would say, "my dearest Lilia! Be
calm. I have never loved any one but you."
She, knowing everything, would only smile gently,
too broken by suffering to make sarcastic repartees.
Before the child was born he gave her a kiss, and
said, "I have prayed all night for a boy."
Some strangely tender impulse moved her, and she
said faintly, "You are a boy yourself, Gino."
68 E. M. FORSTER
He answered, "Then we shall be brothers."
He lay outside the room with his head against the
door like a dog. When they came to tell him the glad
news they found him half unconscious, and his face
was wet with tears.
As for Lilia, some one said to her, "It is a beautiful
boy!" But she had died in giving birth to him.
At the time of Lilians death Philip Herriton was just
twenty-four years of age indeed the news reached
Sawston on his birthday. He was a tall, weakly-built
young man, whose clothes had to be judiciously
padded on the shoulders in order to make him pass
muster. His face was plain rather than not, and there
was a curious mixture in it of good and bad. He had a
fine forehead and a good large nose, and both ob-
servation and sympathy were in his eyes. But below
the nose and eyes all was confusion, and those people
who believe that destiny resides in the mouth and
chin shook their heads when they looked at him.
Philip himself, as a boy, had been keenly conscious
of these defects. Sometimes when he had been bullied
or hustled about at school he would retire to his cu-
bicle and examine his features in a looking-glass, and
he would sigh and say, "It is a weak face. I shall never
carve a place for myself in the world." But as years
went on he became either less self-conscious or more
self-satisfied. The world, he found, made a niche for
Where Angels Fear to Tread 69
him as it did for every one. Decision of character might
come later or he might have it without knowing. At
all events he had got a sense of beauty and a sense
of humour, two most desirable gifts. The sense of
beauty developed first. It caused him at the age of
twenty to wear parti-coloured ties and a squashy hat,
to be late for dinner on account of the sunset, and to
catch art from Burne-Jones to Praxiteles. At twenty-
two he went to Italy with some cousins, and there he
absorbed into one aesthetic whole olive-trees, blue
sky, frescoes, country inns, saints, peasants, mosaics,
statues, beggars. He came back with the air of a
prophet who would either remodel Sawston or reject
it. All the energies and enthusiasms of a rather friend-
less life had passed into the championship of beauty.
In a short time it was over. Nothing had happened
either in Sawston or within himself. He had shocked
half-a-dozen people, squabbled with his sister, and
bickered with his mother. He concluded that nothing
could happen, not knowing that human love and love
of truth sometimes conquer where love of beauty fails.
A little disenchanted, a little tired, but aesthetically
intact, he resumed his placid life, relying more and
more on his second gift, the gift of humour. If he
could not reform the world, he could at all events
laugh at it, thus attaining at least an intellectual su-
periority. Laughter, he read and believed, was a sign
of good moral health, and he laughed on contentedly,
till Lilia's marriage toppled contentment down for
ever. Italy, the land of beauty, was ruined for him. She
had no power to change men and things who dwelt in
her. She, too, could produce avarice, brutality, stupid-
ity and, what was worse, vulgarity. It was on her
7O E. M. FORSTER
soil and through her influence that a silly woman had
married a cad. He hated Gino, the betrayer of his life's
ideal, and now that the sordid tragedy had come, it
filled him with pangs, not of sympathy, but of final
The disillusion was convenient for Mrs. Herriton,
who saw a trying little period ahead of her, and was
glad to have her family united.
"Are we to go into mourning, do you think?" She
always asked her children's advice where possible.
Harriet thought that they should. She had been
detestable to Lilia while she lived, but she always felt
that the dead deserve attention and sympathy. "After
all she has suffered. That letter kept me awake for
nights. The whole thing is like one of those horrible
modern plays where no one is in the right. But if we
have mourning, it will mean telling Irma."
"Of course we must tell Irma!" said Philip.
"Of course," said his mother. "But I think we can
still not tell her about Lilia's marriage."
"I don't think that. And she must have suspected
something by now."
"So one would have supposed. But she never cared
for her mother, and little girls of nine don't reason
clearly. She looks on it as a long visit. And it is im-
portant, most important, that she should not receive
a shock. All a child's life depends on the ideal it has
of its parents. Destroy that and everything goes
morals, behaviour, everything. Absolute trust in some
one else is the essence of education. That is why I
have been so careful about talking of poor Lilia be-
Where Angels Fear to Tread 71
"But you forget this wretched baby. Waters and
Adamson write that there is a baby."
"Mrs. Theobald must be told. But she doesn't
count. She is breaking up very quickly. She doesn't
even see Mr. Kingcroft now. He, thank goodness, I
hear, has at last consoled himself with someone
"The child must know some time," persisted Philip,
who felt a little displeased, though he could not tell
"The later the better. Every moment she is devel-
"I must say it seems rather hard luck, doesn't it?"
"On Irma? Why?"
"On us, perhaps. We have morals and behaviour
also, and I don't think this continual secrecy improves
"There's no need to twist the thing round to that,"
said Harriet, rather disturbed.
"Of course there isn't," said her mother. "Let's keep
to the main issue. This baby's quite beside the point.
Mrs. Theobald will do nothing, and it's no concern
"It will make a difference in the money, surely,"
"No, dear; very little. Poor Charles provided for
every kind of contingency in his will. The money will
come to you and Harriet, as Irma's guardians."
"Good. Does the Italian get anything?"
"He will get all hers. But you know what that is."
"Good. So those are our tactics to tell no one
about the baby, not even Miss Abbott."
72 E. M. FORSTER
"Most certainly this is the proper course," said Mrs.
Herriton, preferring "course" to "tactics" for Harriet's
sake. "And why ever should we tell Caroline?"
"She was so mixed up in the affair."
"Poor silly creature. The less she hears about it the
better she will be pleased. I have come to be very sorry
for Caroline. She, if any one, has suffered and been
penitent. She burst into tears when I told her a little,
only a little, of that terrible letter. I never saw such
genuine remorse. We must forgive her and forget. Let
the dead bury their dead. We will not trouble her with
Philip saw that his mother was scarcely logical. But
there was no advantage in saying so. "Here beginneth
the New Life, then. Do you remember, mother, that
was what we said when we saw Lilia off?"
"Yes, dear; but now it is really a New Life, because
we are all at accord. Then you were still infatuated
with Italy. It may be full of beautiful pictures and
churches, but we cannot judge a country by anything
but its men."
"That is quite true," he said sadly. And as the tac-
tics were now settled, he went out and took an aim-
less and solitary walk.
By the time he came back two important things had
happened. Irma had been told of her mother's death,
and Miss Abbott, who had called for a subscription,
had been told also.
Irma had wept loudly, had asked a few sensible ques-
tions and a good many silly ones, and had been con-
tent with evasive answers. Fortunately the school
prize-giving was at hand, and that, together with the
prospect of new black clothes, kept her from meditat-
Where Angels Fear to Tread 73
ing on the fact that Lilia, who had been absent so
long, would now be absent for ever.
"As for Caroline/' said Mrs. Herriton, "I was almost
frightened. She broke down utterly. She cried even
when she left the house. I comforted her as best I
could, and I kissed her. It is something that the breach
between her and ourselves is now entirely healed."
"Did she ask no questions as to the nature of
Lilia's death, I mean?"
"She did. But she has a mind of extraordinary del-
icacy. She saw that I was reticent, and she did not
press me. You see, Philip, I can say to you what I
could not say before Harriet. Her ideas are so crude
Really we do not want it known in Sawston that there
is a baby. All peace and comfort would be lost if peo-
ple came inquiring after it."
His mother knew how to manage him. He agreed
enthusiastically. And a few days later, when he
chanced to travel up to London with Miss Abbott, he
had all the time the pleasant thrill of one who is bet-
ter informed. Their last journey together had been
from Monteriano back across Europe. It had been a
ghastly journey, and Philip, from the force of associa-
tion, rather expected something ghastly now.
He was surprised. Miss Abbott, between Sawston
and Charing Cross, revealed qualities which he had
never guessed her to possess. Without being exactly
original, she did show a commendable intelligence,'
and though at times she was gauche and even un-
courtly, he felt that here was a person whom it might
be well to cultivate.
At first she annoyed him. They were talking, of
course, about Lilia, when she broke the thread of
74 E. M. FORSTER
vague commiseration and said abruptly, "It is all so
strange as well as so tragic. And what I did was as
strange as anything."
It was the first reference she had ever made to her
contemptible behaviour. "Never mind/' he said. "It's
all over now. Let the dead bury their dead. It's fallen
out of our lives."
"But that's why I can talk about it and tell
you everything I have always wanted to. You thought
me stupid and sentimental and wicked and mad, but
you never really knew how much I was to blame."
"Indeed I never think about it now," said Philip
gently. He knew that her nature was in the main gen-
erous and upright: it was unnecessary for her to reveal
"The first evening we got to Monteriano," she per-
sisted, "Lilia went out for a walk alone, saw that
Italian in a picturesque position on a wall, and fell in
love. He was shabbily dressed, and she did not even
know he was the son of a dentist. I must tell you I was
used to this sort of thing. Once or twice before I had
had to send people about their business."
"Yes; we counted on you," said Philip, with sudden
sharpness. After all, if she would reveal her thoughts,
she must take the consequences.
"I know you did," she retorted with equal sharpness.
"Lilia saw him several times again, and I knew I ought
to interfere. I called her to my bedroom one night. She
was very frightened, for she knew what it was about
and how severe I could be. 'Do you love this man?' I
asked. Tes or no?' She said 'Yes.' And I said, 'Why
don't you marry him if you think you'll be happy?' "
Where Angels Fear to Tread 75
"Really really," exploded Philip, as exasperated as
if the thing had happened yesterday. "You knew Lilia
all your life. Apart from everything else as if she
could choose what could make her happy!"
"Had you ever let her choose?" she flashed out. "I'm
afraid that's rude," she added, trying to calm herself.
"Let us rather say unhappily expressed," said Philip,
who always adopted a dry satirical manner when he
"I want to finish. Next morning I found Signor Car-
ella and said the same to him. He well, he was will-
ing. That's all."
"And the telegram?" He looked scornfully out of
Hitherto her voice had been hard, possibly in self-
accusation, possibly in defiance. Now it became un-
mistakably sad. "Ah, the telegram! That was wrong.
Lilia there was more cowardly than I was. We should
have told the truth. It lost me my nerve, at all events.
I came to the station meaning to tell you everything
then. But we had started with a lie, and I got fright-
ened. And at the end, when you left, I got frightened
again and came with you."
"Did you really mean to stop?"
"For a time, at all events."
"Would that have suited a newly married pair?"
"It would have suited them. Lilia needed me. And
as for him I can't help feeling I might have got in-
fluence over him."
"I am ignorant of these matters," said Philip; "but
I should have thought that would have increased the
difficulty of the situation."
76 E. M. FORSTER
The crisp remark was wasted on her. She looked
hopelessly at the raw over-built country, and said,
"Well, I have explained."
"But pardon me, Miss Abbott; of most of your con-
duct you have given a description rather than an ex-
He had fairly caught her, and expected that she
would gape and collapse. To his surprise she answered
with some spirit, "An explanation may bore you, Mr.
Herriton: it drags in other topics."
"Oh, never mind."
"I hated Sawston, you see."
He was delighted. "So did and do I. That's splendid.
"I hated the idleness, the stupidity, the respectabil-
ity, the petty unselfishness."
"Petty selfishness," he corrected. Sawston psychol-
ogy had long been his specialty.
"Petty unselfishness," she repeated. "I had got an
idea that every one here spent their lives in making
little sacrifices for objects they didn't care for, to please
people they didn't love; that they never learnt to be
sincere and, what's as bad, never learnt how to en-
joy themselves. That's what I thought what I thought
"Why, Miss Abbott," he cried, "you should have
told me this before! Think it still! I agree with lots of
"Now Lilia," she went on, "though there were
things about her I didn't like, had somehow kept the
power of enjoying herself with sincerity. And Gino,
I thought, was splendid, and young, and strong not
only in body, and sincere as the day. If they wanted
Where Angels Fear to Tread 77
to marry, why shouldn't they do so? Why shouldn't
she break with the deadening life where she had got
into a groove, and would go on in it, getting more and
more worse than unhappy apathetic till she died?
Of course I was wrong. She only changed one groove
for another a worse groove. And as for him well,
you know more about him than I do. I can never trust
myself to judge characters again. But I still feel he
cannot have been quite bad when we first met him.
Lilia that I should dare to say it! must have been
cowardly. He was only a boy just going to turn into
something fine, I thought and she must have mis-
managed him. So that is the one time I have gone
against what is proper, and there are the results. You
have an explanation now."
"And much of it has been most interesting, though
I don't understand everything. Did you never think
of the disparity of their social position?"
"We were mad drunk with rebellion. We had no
common-sense. As soon as you came, you saw and
"Oh, I don't think that." He was vaguely displeased
at being credited with common-sense. For a moment
Miss Abbott had seemed to him more unconventional
"I hope you see," she concluded, "why I have
troubled you with this long story. Women I heard
you say the other day are never at ease till they tell
their faults out loud. Lilia is dead and her husband
gone to the bad all through me. You see, Mr. Her-
riton, it makes me specially unhappy; it's the only
time I've ever gone into what my father calls 'real life'
and look what I've made of it! All that winter I
78 E. M. FORSTER
seemed to be waking up to beauty and splendour and
I don't know what; and when the spring came, I
wanted to fight against the things I hated medioc-
rity and dulness and spitefulness and society. I ac-
tually hated society for a day or two at Monteriano.
I didn't see that all these things are invincible, and
that if we go against them they will break us to pieces.
Thank you for listening to so much nonsense."
"Oh, I quite sympathize with what you say," said
Philip encouragingly; "it isn't nonsense, and a year or
two ago I should have been saying it too. But I feel
differently now, and I hope that you also will change.
Society is invincible to a certain degree. But your
real life is your own, and nothing can touch it. There
is no power on earth that can prevent your criticizing
and despising mediocrity nothing that can stop you
retreating into splendour and beauty into the
thoughts and beliefs that make the real life the real
"I have never had that experience yet. Surely I and
my life must be where T Jiv?" f*3M&4~v^&+*> Hjb&o
Evidently she had the usual feminine incapacity for
grasping philosophy. But she had developed quite a
personality, and he must see more of her. "There is
another great consolation against invincible medioc-
rity," he said "the meeting a fellow-victim. I hope
that this is only the first of many discussions that we
shall have together."
She made a suitable reply. The train reached Char-
ing Cross, and they parted, he to go to a matinee,
she to buy petticoats for the corpulent poor. Her
thoughts wandered as she bought them: the gulf be-
tween herself and Mr. Herriton, which she had always
Where Angels Fear to Tread 79
known to be great, now seemed to her immeasurable.
These events and conversations took place at Christ-
mas-time. The New Life initiated by them lasted some
seven months. Then a little incident a mere little
vexatious incident brought it to its close.
Irma collected picture post-cards, and Mrs. Herriton
or Harriet always glanced first at all that came, lest the
child should get hold of something vulgar. On this oc-
casion the subject seemed perfectly inoffensive a lot
of ruined factory chimneys and Harriet was about
to hand it to her niece when her eye was caught by
the words on the margin. She gave a shriek and flung
the card into the grate. Of course no fire was alight
in July, and Irma only had to run and pick it
"How dare you!" screamed her aunt. "You wicked
girl! Give it here!"
Unfortunately Mrs. Herriton was out of the room.
Irma, who was not in awe of Harriet, danced round
the table, reading as she did so, "View of the superb
city of Monteriano from your lital brother."
Stupid Harriet caught her, boxed her ears, and tore
the post-card into fragments. Irma howled with pain,
and began shouting indignantly, "Who is my little
brother? Why have I never heard of him before?
Grandmamma! Grandmamma! Who is my little
brother? Who is my "
Mrs. Herriton swept into the room, saying, "Come
with me, dear, and I will tell you. Now it is time for
you to know."
Irma returned from the interview sobbing, though,
as a matter of fact, she had learnt very little. But that
little took hold of her imagination. She had promised
80 E. M. FORSTER
secrecy she knew not why. But what harm in talking
of the little brother to those who had heard of him
"Aunt Harriet!" she would say. "Uncle Phil! Grand-
mamma! What do you suppose my little brother is
doing now? Has he begun to play? Do Italian babies
talk sooner than us, or would he be an English baby
born abroad? Oh, I do long to see him, and be the
first to teach him the Ten Commandments and the
The last remark always made Harriet look grave.
"Really," exclaimed Mrs. Herriton, "Irma is getting
too tiresome. She forgot poor Lilia soon enough."
"A living brother is more to her than a dead
mother," said Philip dreamily. "She can knit , him
"I stopped that. She is bringing him in everywhere.
It is most vexatious. The other night she asked if she
might include him in the people she mentions
specially in her prayers."
"What did you say?"
"Of course I allowed her," she replied coldly. "She
has a right to mention any one she chooses. But I was
annoyed with her this morning, and I fear that I
"And what happened this morning?"
"She asked if she could pray for her 'new father'
for the Italian!"
"Did you let her?"
"I got up without saying anything."
"You must have felt just as you did when I wanted
to pray for the devil."
"He is the devil," cried Harriet.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 81
"No, Harriet; he is too vulgar."
"I will thank you not to scoff against religion!" was
Harriet's retort. "Think of that poor baby. Irma is
right to pray for him. What an entrance into life for
an English child!"
"My dear sister, I can reassure you. Firstly, the
beastly baby is Italian. Secondly, it was promptly
christened at Santa Deodata's, and a powerful com-
bination of saints watch over "
"Don't, dear. And, Harriet, don't be so serious I
mean not so serious when you are with Irma. She will
be worse than ever if she thinks we have something to
Harriet's conscience could be quite as tiresome as
Philip's unconventionality. Mrs. Herriton soon made
it easy for her daughter to go for six weeks to the Tirol.
Then she and Philip began to grapple with Irma alone.
Just as they had got things a little quiet the beastly
baby sent another picture post-card a comic one, not
particularly proper. Irma received it while they were
out, and all the trouble began again.
"I cannot think," said Mrs. Herriton, "what his mo-
tive is in sending them."
Two years before, Philip would have said that the
motive was to give pleasure. Now he, like his mother,
tried to think of something sinister and subtle.
"Do you suppose that he guesses the situation
how anxious we are to hush the scandal up?"
"That is quite possible. He knows that Irma will
worry us about the baby. Perhaps he hopes that we
shall adopt it to quiet her."
"At the same time he has the chance of corrupting
82 E. M. FORSTER
the child's morals." She unlocked a drawer, took out
the post-card, and regarded it gravely. "He entreats
her to send the baby one/' was her next remark.
"She might do it too!"
"I told her not to; but we must watch her carefully,
without, of course, appearing to be suspicious."
Philip was getting to enjoy his mother's diplomacy.
He did not think of his own morals and behaviour any
"Who's to watch her at school, though? She may
bubble out any moment."
"We can but trust to our influence," said Mrs. Her-
Irma did bubble out, that very day. She was proof
against a single post-card, not against two. A new lit-
tle brother is a valuable sentimental asset to a school-
girl, and her school was then passing through an acute
phase of baby-worship. Happy the girl who had her
quiver full of them, who kissed them when she left
home in the morning, who had the right to extricate
them from mail-carts in the interval, who dangled
them at tea ere they retired to rest! That one might
sing the unwritten song of Miriam, blessed above all
school-girls, who was allowed to hide her baby brother
in a squashy place, where none but herself could find
How could Irma keep silent when pretentious girls
spoke of baby cousins and baby visitors she who
had a baby brother, who wrote her post-cards through
his dear papa? She had promised not to tell about him
she knew not why and she told. And one girl told
another, and one girl told her mother, and the thing
Where Angels Fear to Tread 83
"Yes, it is all very sad," Mrs. Herriton kept saying.
""My daughter-in-law made a very unhappy marriage,
as I dare say you know. I suppose that the child will
be educated in Italy. Possibly his grandmother may be
doing something, but I have not heard of it. I do not
expect that she will have him over. She disapproves of
the father. It is altogether a painful business for her."
She was careful only to scold Irma for disobedi-
ence that eighth deadly sin, so convenient to parents
and guardians. Harriet would have plunged into need-
less explanations and abuse. The child was ashamed,
and talked about the baby less. The end of the school
year was at hand, and she hoped to get another prize.
But she also had put her hand to the wheel.
It was several days before they saw Miss Abbott.
Mrs. Herriton had not come across her much since
the kiss of reconciliation, nor Philip since the journey
to London. She had, indeed, been rather a disappoint-
ment to him. Her creditable display of originality had
never been repeated: he feared she was slipping back.
Now she came about the Cottage Hospital her life
was devoted to dull acts of charity and though she
got money out of him and out of his mother, she still
sat tight in her chair, looking graver and more wooden
"I dare say you have heard," said Mrs. Herriton,
well knowing what the matter was.
"Yes, I have. I came to ask you; have any steps been
Philip was astonished. The question was imperti-
nent in the extreme. He had a regard for Miss Abbott,
and regretted that she had been guilty of it.
"About the baby?" asked Mrs. Herriton pleasantly.
84 E. M. FORSTER
"As far as I know, no steps. Mrs. Theobald may have
decided on something, but I have not heard of it."
"I was meaning, had you decided on anything?"
"The child is no relation of ours," said Philip. "It is
therefore scarcely for us to interfere."
His mother glanced at him nervously. "Poor Lilia
was almost a daughter to me once. I know what Miss
Abbott means. But now things have altered. Any ini-
tiative would naturally come from Mrs. Theobald."
"But does not Mrs. Theobald always take any ini-
tiative from you?" asked Miss Abbott.
Mrs. Herriton could not help colouring. "I some-
times have given her advice in the past. I should not
presume to do so now."
"Then is nothing to be done for the child at all?"
"It is extraordinarily good of you to take this un-
expected interest," said Philip.
"The child came into the world through my negli-
gence," replied Miss Abbott. "It is natural I should
take an interest in it."
"My dear Caroline," said Mrs. Herriton, "you must
not brood over the thing. Let bygones be bygones.
The child should worry you even less than it worries
us. We never even mention it. It belongs to another
Miss Abbott got up without replying and turned to
go. Her extreme gravity made Mrs. Herriton uneasy.
"Of course," she added, "if Mrs. Theobald decides on
any plan that seems at all practicable I must say I
don't see any such I shall ask if I may join her in
it, for Irma's sake, and share in any possible expenses."
Where Angels Fear to Tread 85
"Please would you let me know if she decides on
anything. I should like to join as well."
"My dear, how you throw about your money! We
would never allow it."
"And if she decides on nothing, please also let me
know. Let me know in any case."
Mrs. Herriton made a point of kissing her.
"Is the young person mad?" burst out Philip as soon
as she had departed. "Never in my life have I seen
such colossal impertinence. She ought to be well
smacked, and sent back to Sunday-school."
His mother said nothing.
"But don't you see she is practically threatening
us? You can't put her off with Mrs. Theobald; she
knows as well as we do that she is a nonentity. If we
don't do anything she's going to raise a scandal that
we neglect our relatives, &c., which is, of course, a lie.
Still she'll say it. Oh, dear, sweet, sober Caroline Ab-
bott has a screw loose! We knew it at Monteriano. I
had my suspicions last year one day in the train; and
here it is again. The young person is mad."
She still said nothing.
"Shall I go round at once and give it her well? I'd
really enjoy it."
In a low, serious voice such a voice as she had not
used to him for months Mrs. Herriton said, "Caro-
line has been extremely impertinent. Yet there may
be something in what she says after all. Ought the
child to grow up in that place and with that fa-
Philip started and shuddered. He saw that his
mother was not sincere. Her insincerity to others had
86 E. M. FORSTER
amused him, but it was disheartening when used
"Let us admit frankly," she continued, "that after
all we may have responsibilities."
"I don't understand you, mother. You are turning
absolutely round. What are you up to?"
In one moment an impenetrable barrier had been
erected between them. They were no longer in smiling
confidence. Mrs. Herriton was off on tactics of her
own tactics which might be beyond or beneath him.
His remark offended her. "Up to? I am wondering
whether I ought not to adopt the child. Is that suf-
"And this is the result of half-a-dozen idiocies of
"It is. I repeat, she has been extremely impertinent.
None the less she is showing me my duty. If I can res-
cue poor Lilia's baby from that horrible man, who will
bring it up either as Papist or infidel who will cer-
tainly bring it up to be vicious I shall do it."
"You talk like Harriet."
"And why not?" said she, flushing at what she knew
to be an insult. "Say, if you choose, that I talk like
Irma. That child has seen the thing more clearly than
any of us. She longs for her little brother. She shall
have him. I don't care if I am impulsive."
He was sure that she was not impulsive, but did not
dare to say so. Her ability frightened him. All his
life he had been her puppet. She let him worship Italy,
and reform Sawston just as she had let Harriet be
Low Church. She had let him talk as much as he liked.
But when she wanted a thing she always got it.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 87
And though she was frightening him, she did not
inspire him with reverence. Her life, he saw, was with-
out meaning. To what purpose was hei diplomacy, her
insincerity, her continued repression of vigour? Did
they make any one better or happier? Did they even
bring happiness to herself? Harriet with her gloomy
peevish creed, Lilia with her clutches after pleasure,
were after all more divine than this well-ordered, ac-
tive, useless machine.
Now that his mother had wounded his vanity he
could criticize her thus. But he could not rebel. To the
end of his days he would probably go on doing what
she wanted. He watched with a cold interest the duel
between her and Miss Abbott. Mrs. Herriton's policy
only appeared gradually. It was to prevent Miss Ab-
bott interfering with the child at all costs, and if pos-
sible to prevent her at a small cost. Pride was the only
solid element in her disposition. She could not bear to
seem less charitable than others.
"I am planning what can be done," she would tell
people, "and that kind Caroline Abbott is helping me.
It is no business of either of us, but we are getting to
feel that the baby must not be left entirely to that
horrible man. It would be unfair to little Irma; after
all, he is her half-brother. No, we have come to noth-
Miss Abbott was equally civil, but not to be ap-
peased by good intentions. The child's welfare was a
sacred duty to her, not a matter of pride or even of
sentiment. By it alone, she felt, could she undo a little
of the evil that she had permitted to come into the
world. To her imagination Monteriano had become a
88 E. M. FORSTER
magic city of vice, beneath whose towers no person
could grow up happy or pure. Sawston, with its semi-
detached houses and snobby schools, its book teas and
bazaars, was certainly petty and dull; at times she
found it even contemptible. But it was not a place of
sin, and at Sawston, either with the Herritons or with
herself, the baby should grow up.
As soon as it was inevitable, Mrs. Herriton wrote a
letter for Waters and Adamson to send to Gino the
oddest letter; Philip saw a copy of it afterwards. Its
ostensible purpose was to complain of the picture post-
cards. Right at the end, in a few nonchalant sentences,
she offered to adopt the child, provided that Gino
would undertake never to come near it, and would
surrender some of Lilians money for its education.
"What do you think of it?" she asked her son. "It
would not do to let him know that we are anxious for
"Certainly he will never suppose that."
"But what effect will the letter have on him?"
"When he gets it he will do a sum. If it is less ex-
pensive in the long run to part with a little money and
to be clear of the baby, he will part with it. If he would
lose, he will adopt the tone of the loving father."
"Dear, you're shockingly cynical." After a pause she
added, "How would the sum work out?"
"I don't know, I'm sure. But if you wanted to en-
sure the baby being posted by return, you should have
sent a little sum to him. Oh, I'm not cynical at least
I only go by what I know of him. But I am weary of
the whole show. Weary of Italy. Weary, weary, weary.
Sawston's a kind, pitiful place, isn't it? I will go walk
in it and seek comfort."
Where Angek Fear to Tread 89
He smiled as he spoke, for the sake of not appear-
ing serious. When he had left her she began to smile
It was to the Abbotts' that he walked. Mr. Abbott
offered him tea, and Caroline, who was keeping up her
Italian in the next room, came in to pour it out. He
told them that his mother had written to Signer Ca-
rella, and they both uttered fervent wishes for her suc-
"Very fine of Mrs. Herriton, very fine indeed," said
Mr. Abbott, who, like every one else, knew nothing of
his daughter's exasperating behaviour. "I'm afraid it
will mean a lot of expense. She will get nothing out of
Italy without paying."
"There are sure to be incidental expenses," said
Philip cautiously. Then he turned to Miss Abbott and
said, "Do you suppose we shall have difficulty with
"It depends," she replied, with equal caution.
"From what you saw of him, should you conclude
that he would make an affectionate parent?"
"I don't go by what I saw of him, but by what I
know of him."
"Well, what do you conclude from that?"
"That he is a thoroughly wicked man."
"Yet thoroughly wicked men have loved their chil-
dren. Look at Rodrigo Borgia, for example."
"I have also seen examples of that in my district."
With this remark the admirable young woman rose,
and returned to keep up her Italian. She puzzled Philip
extremely. He could understand enthusiasm, but she
did not seem the least enthusiastic. He could under-
stand pure cussedness, but it did not seem to be that
9O E. M. FORSTER
either. Apparently she was deriving neither amusement
nor profit from the struggle. Why, then, had she under-
taken it? Perhaps she was not sincere. Perhaps, on the
whole, that was most likely. She must be professing
one thing and aiming at another. What the other
thing could be he did not stop to consider. Insincerity
was becoming his stock explanation for anything un-
familiar, whether that thing was a kindly action or a
"She fences well," he said to his mother afterwards.
"What had you to fence about?" she said suavely.
Her son might know her tactics, but she refused to
admit that he knew. She still pretended to him that
the baby was the one thing she wanted, and had al-
ways wanted, and that Miss Abbott was her valued
And when, next week, the reply came from Italy,
she showed him no face of triumph. "Read the letters,"
she said. "We have failed."
Gino wrote in his own language, but the solicitors
had sent a laborious English translation, where "Preg-
hiatissima Signora" was rendered as "Most Praise-
worthy Madam," and every delicate compliment and
superlative superlatives are delicate in Italian
would have felled an ox. For a moment Philip forgot
the matter in the manner; this grotesque memorial of
the land he had loved moved him almost to tears. He
knew the originals of these lumbering phrases; he also
had sent "sincere auguries"; he also had addressed let-
ters who writes at home? from the Gaffe Garibaldi.
"I didn't know I was still such an ass," he thought.
"Why can't I realize that it's merely tricks of expres-
Where Angels Fear to Tread 91
sion? A bounder's a bounder, whether he lives in Saw-
ston or Monteriano."
"Isn't it disheartening?" said his mother.
He then read that Gino could not accept the gen-
erous offer. His paternal heart would not permit him
to abandon this symbol of his deplored spouse. As
for the picture post-cards, it displeased him greatly
that they had been obnoxious. He would send no more.
Would Mrs. Herriton, with her notorious kindness,
explain this to Irma, and thank her for those which
Irma (courteous Miss!) had sent to him?
"The sum works out against us," said Philip. "Or
perhaps he is putting up the price."
"No," said Mrs. Herriton decidedly. "It is not that.
For some perverse reason he will not part with the
child. I must go and tell poor Caroline. She will be
She returned from the visit in the most extraordi-
nary condition. Her face was red, she panted for
breath, there were, dark circles round her eyes.
"The impudence!" she shouted. "The cursed im-
pudence! Oh, I'm swearing. I don't care. That beastly
woman how dare she interfere I'll Philip, dear,
I'm sorry. It's no good. You must go."
"Go where? Do sit down. What's happened?" This
outburst of violence from his elegant ladylike mother
pained him dreadfully. He had not known that it was
"She won't accept won't accept the letter as final.
You must go to Monteriano!"
"I won't!" he shouted back. "I've been and I've
failed. I'll never see the place again. I hate Italy."
92 E. M. FORSTER
"If you don't go, she will."
"Yes. Going alone; would start this evening. I of-
fered to write; she said it was 'too late!' Too late! The
child, if you please Irma's brother to live with her,
to be brought up by her and her father at our very
gates, to go to school like a gentleman, she paying. Oh,
you're a man! It doesn't matter for you. You can laugh.
But I know what people say; and that woman goes to
Italy this evening."
He seemed to be inspired. "Then let her go! Let
her mess with Italy by herself. She'll come to grief
somehow. Italy's too dangerous, too "
"Stop that nonsense, Philip. I will not be disgraced
by her. I will have the child. Pay all we've got for it.
I will have it."
"Let her go to Italy!" he cried. "Let her meddle with
what she doesn't understand! Look at this letter! The
man who wrote it will marry her, or murder her, or do
for her somehow. He's a bounder, but he's not an
English bounder. He's mysterious and terrible. He's
got a country behind him that's upset people from
the beginning of the world."
"Harriet!" exclaimed his mother. "Harriet shall go
too. Harriet, now, will be invaluable!" And before
Philip had stopped talking nonsense, she had planned
the whole thing and was looking out the trains.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 93
Italy, Philip had always maintained, is only her true
self in the height of the summer, when the tourists
have left her, and her soul awakes under the beams of
a vertical sun. He now had every opportunity of seeing
her at her best, for it was nearly the middle of August
before he went out to meet Harriet in the Tirol.
He found his sister in a dense cloud five thousand
feet above the sea, chilled to the bone, overfed, bored,
and not at all unwilling to be fetched away.
"It upsets one's plans terribly," she remarked, as
she squeezed out her sponges, "but obviously it is my
"Did mother explain it all to you?" asked Philip.
"Yes, indeed! Mother has written me a really beauti-
ful letter. She describes how it was that she gradually
got to feel that we must rescue the poor baby from its
terrible surroundings, how she has tried by letter, and
it is no good nothing but insincere compliments and
hypocrisy came back. Then she says, 'There is nothing
like personal influence; you and Philip will succeed
where I have failed/ She says, too, that Caroline Ab-
bott has been wonderful."
"Caroline feels it as keenly almost as us. That is be-
cause she knows the man. Oh, he must be loathsome!
Goodness me! I've forgotten to pack the ammonia!
... It has been a terrible lesson for Caroline, but I
94 E. M. FORSTER
fancy it is her turning-point. I can't help liking to think
that out of all this evil good will come."
Philip saw no prospect of good, nor of beauty either.
But the expedition promised to be highly comic. He
was not averse to it any longer; he was simply indif-
ferent to all in it except the humours. These would be
-*C^ wonderful. Harriet, worked by her mother; Mrs. Herri-
ton, worked by Miss Abbott; Gino, worked by a
cheque what better entertainment could he desire?
There was nothing to distract him this time; his senti-
mentality had died, so had his anxiety for the family
honour. He might be a piippefs puppet, but he knew
exactly the disposition of thc^strings.
They travelled for thirteen hours down-hill, whilst
the streams broadened and the mountains shrank, and
the vegetation changed, and the people ceased being
ugly and drinking beer, and began instead to drink
wine and to be beautiful. And the train which had
picked them at sunrise out of a waste of glaciers and
hotels was waltzing at sunset round the walls of
"Absurd nonsense they talk about the heat," said
Philip, as they drove from the station. "Supposing we
were here for pleasure, what could be more pleasurable
"Did you hear, though, they are remarking on the
cold?" said Harriet nervously. "I should never have
thought it cold."
And on the second day the heat struck them, like a
hand laid over the mouth, just as they were walking
to see the tomb of Juliet. From that moment every-
thing went wrong. They fled from Verona. Harriet's
Where Angels Fear to Tread 95
sketch-book was stolen, and the bottle of ammonia
in her trunk burst over her prayer-book, so that purple
patches appeared on all her clothes. Then, as she was
going through Mantua at four in the morning, Philip
made her look out of the window because it was Virgil's
birthplace, and a smut flew in her eye, and Harriet
with a smut in her eye was notorious. At Bologna they
stopped twenty-four hours to rest. It was a festa, and
children blew bladder whistles night and day. "What
a religion!" said Harriet. The hotel smelt, two puppies
were asleep on her bed, and her bedroom window
looked into a belfry, which saluted her slumbering
form every quarter of an hour. Philip left his walking-
stick, his socks, and the Baedeker at Bologna; she only
left her sponge-bag. Next day they crossed the Apen-
nines with a train-sick child and a hot lady, who told
them that never, never before had she sweated so
profusely. "Foreigners are a filthy nation," said Harriet.
"I don't care if there are tunnels; open the windows."
He obeyed, and she got another smut in her eye. Nor
did Florence improve matters. Eating, walking, even
a cross word would bathe them both in boiling water.
Philip, who was slighter of build, and less conscien-
tious, suffered less. But Harriet had never been to
Florence, and between the hours of eight and eleven
she crawled like a wounded creature through the
streets, and swooned before various masterpieces of
art. It was an irritable couple who took tickets to Mon-
"Singles or returns?" said he.
"A single for me," said Harriet peevishly; "I shall
never get back alive."
96 E. M. FORSTER
"Sweet creature!" said her brother, suddenly break-
ing down. "How helpful you will be when we come to
"Do you suppose/' said Harriet, standing still among
a whirl of porters "do you suppose I am going to
enter that man's house?"
"Then what have you come for, pray? For orna-
"To see that you do your duty."
"So mother told me. For goodness sake get the
tickets; here comes that hot woman again! She has the
impudence to bow."
"Mother told you, did she?" said Philip wrathfully,
as he went to struggle for tickets at a slit so narrow
that they were handed to him edgeways. Italy was
beastly, and Florence station is the centre of beastly
Italy. But he had a strange feeling that he was to
blame for it all; that a little influx into him of virtue
would make the whole land not beastly but amusing.
For there was enchantment, he was sure of that; solid
enchantment, which lay behind the porters and the
screaming and the dust. He could see it in the terrific
blue sky beneath which they travelled, in the whitened
plain which gripped life tighter than a frost, in the
exhausted reaches of the Arno, in the ruins of brown
castles which stood quivering upon the hills. He could
see it, though his head ached and his skin was twitch-
ing, though he was here as a puppet, and though his
sister knew how he was here. There was nothing pleas-
ant in that journey to Monteriano station. But noth-
ing not even the discomfort was commonplace.
"But do people live inside?" asked Harriet. They
Where Angels Fear to Tread 97
had exchanged railway-carriage for the legno, and the
legno had emerged from the withered trees, and had
revealed to them their destination. Philip, to be an-
noying, answered "No."
"What do they do there?" continued Harriet, with
"There is a caffe. A prison. A theatre. A church.
Walls. A view."
"Not for me, thank you," said Harriet, after a
"Nobody asked you, Miss, you see. Now Lilia was
asked by such a nice young gentleman, with curls all
over his forehead, and teeth just as white as father
makes them." Then his manner changed. "But, Har-
riet, do you see nothing wonderful or attractive in that
place nothing at all?"
"Nothing at all. It's frightful."
"I know it is. But it's old awfully old."
"Beauty is the only test," said Harriet. "At least so
you told me when I sketched old buildings for the
sake, I suppose, of making yourself unpleasant."
"Oh, I'm perfectly right. But at the same time I
don't know so many things have happened here
people have lived so hard and so splendidly I can't
"I shouldn't think you could. It doesn't seem the
best moment to begin your Italy mania. I thought you
were cured of it by now. Instead, will you kindly tell
me what you are going to do when you arrive. I do
beg you will not be taken unawares this time."
"First, Harriet, I shall settle you at the Stella
d' Italia, in the comfort that befits your sex and dis-
position. Then I shall make myself some tea. After tea
98 E. M. FORSTER
I shall take a book into Santa Deodata's, and read
there. It is always fresh and cool."
The martyred Harriet exclaimed, "I'm not clever,
Philip. I don't go in for it, as you know. But I know
what's rude. And I know what's wrong."
"You!" she shouted, bouncing on the cushions of
the legno and startling all the fleas. "What's the good
of cleverness if a man's murdered a woman?"
"Harriet, I am hot. To whom do you refer?"
"He. Her. If you don't look out he'll murder you. I
wish he would."
"Tut tut, tutlet! You'd find a corpse extraordinar-
ily inconvenient." Then he tried to be less aggravat-
ing. "I heartily dislike the fellow, but we know he
didn't murder her. In that letter, though she said a
lot, she never said he was physically cruel."
"He has murdered her. The things he did things
one can't even mention "
"Things which one must mention if one's to talk
at all. And things which one must keep in their
proper place. Because he was unfaithful to his wife, it
doesn't follow that in every way he's absolutely vile."
He looked at the city. It seemed to approve his re-
"It's the supreme test. The man who is unchival-
rous to a woman "
"Oh, stow it! Take it to the Back Kitchen. It's no
more a supreme test than anything else. The Italians
never were chivalrous from the first. If you condemn
him for that, you'll condemn the whole lot."
"I condemn the whole lot."
"And the French as well?"
Where Angels Fear to Tread 99
"And the French as well."
"Things aren't so jolly easy," said Philip, more to
himself than to her.
But for Harriet things were easy, though not jolly,
and she turned upon her brother yet again. "What
about the baby, pray? You've said a lot of smart things
and whittled away morality and religion and I don't
know what; but what about the baby? You think me
a fool, but I've been noticing you all today, and you
haven't mentioned the baby once. You haven't
thought about it, even. You don't care. Philip! I shall
not speak to you. You are intolerable."
She kept her promise, and never opened her lips all
the rest of the way. But her eyes glowed with anger
and resolution. For she was a straight, brave woman,
as well as a peevish one.
Philip acknowledged her reproof to be true. He
did not care about the baby one straw. Nevertheless,
he meant to do his duty, and he was fairly confident
of success. If Gino would have sold his wife for a
thousand lire, for how much less would he not sell his
child? It was just a commercial transaction. Why
should it interfere with other things? His eyes were
fixed on the towers again, just as they had been fixed
when he drove with Miss Abbott. But this time his
thoughts were pleasanter, for he had no such grave
business on his mind. It was in the spirit of the cul-
tivated tourist that he approached his destination.
One of the towers, rough as any other, was
topped by a cross the tower of the Collegiate Church
of Santa Deodata. She was a holy maiden of the Dark
Ages, the city's patron saint, and sweetness and bar-
barity mingle strangely in her story. So holy was she
1OO E. M. FORSTER
that all her life she lay upon her back in the house of
her mother, refusing to eat, refusing to play, refusing
to work. The devil, envious of such sanctity, tempted
her in various ways. He dangled grapes above her, he
showed her fascinating toys, he pushed soft pillows
beneath her aching head. When all proved vain he
tripped up the mother and flung her downstairs be-
fore her very eyes. But so holy was the saint that she
never picked her mother up, but lay upon her back
through all, and thus assured her throne in Paradise.
She was only fifteen when she died, which shows how
much is within the reach of any school-girl. Those
who think her life was unpractical need only think of
the victories upon Poggibonsi, San Gemignano, Vol-
terra, Siena itself all gained through the invocation
of her name; they need only look at the church which
rose over her grave. The grand schemes for a marble
facade were never carried out, and it is brown unfin-
ished stone until this day. But for the inside Giotto
was summoned to decorate the walls of the nave.
Giotto came that is to say, he did not come, Ger-
man research having decisively proved but at all
events the nave is covered with frescoes, and so are
two chapels in the left transept, and the arch into the
choir, and there are scraps in the choir itself. There
the decoration stopped, till in the full spring of the
Renaissance a great painter came to pay a few weeks'
visit to his friend the Lord of Monteriano. In the in-
tervals between the banquets and the discussions on
Latin etymology and the dancing, he would stroll over
to the church, and there in the fifth chapel to the
right he has painted two frescoes of the death and
Where Angels Fear to Tread 101
burial of Santa Deodata. That is why Baedeker gives
the place a star.
Santa Deodata was better company than Harriet,
and she kept Philip in a pleasant dream until the
legno drew up at the hotel. Every one there was
asleep, for it was still the hour when only idiots were
moving. There were not even any beggars about. The
cabman put their bags down in the passage they had
left heavy luggage at the station and strolled about
till he came on the landlady's room and woke her, and
sent her to them.
Then Harriet pronounced the monosyllable "Go!"
"Go where?" asked Philip, bowing to the landlady,
who was swimming down the stairs.
"To the Italian. Go."
"Buona sera, signora padrona. Si ritorna volontieri
a Monteriano!" (Don't be a goose. I'm not going now.
You're in the way, too.) "Vorrei due camere "
"Go. This instant. Now. I'll stand it no longer.
"I'm damned if I'll go. I want my tea."
"Swear if you like!" she cried. "Blaspheme! Abuse
me! But understand, I'm in earnest."
"Harriet, don't act. Or act better."
"We've come here to get the baby back, and for
nothing else. I'll not have this levity and slackness,
and talk about pictures and churches. Think of
mother; did she send you out for them?"
"Think of mother and don't straddle across the
stairs. Let the cabman and the landlady come down,
and let me go up and choose rooms."
1O2 E. M. FORSTER
"Harriet, are you mad?"
"If you like. But you will not come up till you have
seen the Italian."
"La signorina si sente male/' said Philip, "C e il
"Poveretta!" cried the landlady and the cabman.
"Leave me alone!" said Harriet, snarling round at
them. "I don't care for the lot of you. I'm English,
and neither you'll come down nor he up till he goes
for the baby."
"La prego piano piano c e un' altra signorina
che dorme "
"We shall probably be arrested for brawling, Har-
riet. Have you the very slightest sense of the ludi-
Harriet had not; that was why she could be so pow-
erful. She had concocted this scene in the carriage,,
and nothing should baulk her of it. To the abuse in
front and the coaxing behind she was equally indif-
ferent. How long she would have stood like a glorified
Horatius, keeping the staircase at both ends, was
never to be known. For the young lady, whose sleep
they were disturbing, awoke and opened her bed-
room door, and came out on to the landing. She was
Philip's first coherent feeling was one of indigna-
tion. To be run by his mother and hectored by his sis-
ter was as much as he could stand. The intervention
of a third female drove him suddenly beyond politeness.
He was about to say exactly what he thought about
the thing from beginning to end. But before he could
do so Harriet also had seen Miss Abbott. She uttered
a shrill cry of joy.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 103
"You, Caroline, here of all people!" And in spite of
the heat she darted up the stairs and imprinted an
affectionate kiss upon her friend.
Philip had an inspiration. "You will have a lot to
tell Miss Abbott, Harriet, and she may have as much
to tell you. So Fll pay my call on Signer Carella, as
you suggested, and see how things stand."
Miss Abbott uttered some noise of greeting or
alarm. He did not reply to it or approach nearer to
her. Without even paying the cabman, he escaped
into the street.
"Tear each other's eyes out!" he cried, gesticulating
at the facade of the hotel. "Give it to her, Harriet!
Teach her to leave us alone. Give it to her, Caroline!
Teach her to be grateful to you. Go it, ladies; go it!"
Such people as observed him were interested, but
did not conclude that he was mad. This aftermath
of conversation is not unknown in Italy.
He tried to think how amusing it was; but it would
not do Miss Abbott's presence affected him too per-
sonally. Either she suspected him of dishonesty, or
else she was being dishonest herself. He preferred to
suppose the latter. Perhaps she had seen Gino, and
they had prepared some elaborate mortification for
the Herritons. Perhaps Gino had sold the baby cheap
to her for a joke: it was just the kind of joke that
would appeal to him. Philip still remembered the
laughter that had greeted his fruitless journey, and the
uncouth push that had toppled him on to the bed.
And whatever it might mean, Miss Abbott's presence
spoilt the comedy: she would do nothing funny.
During this short meditation he had walked
through the city, and was out on the other side.
104 E. M. FORSTER
"Where does Signer Carella live?" he asked the men
at the Dogana.
"I'll show you," said a little girl, springing out of
the ground as Italian children will.
"She will show you/' said the Dogana men, nod-
ding reassuringly. "Follow her always, always, and you
will come to no harm. She is a trustworthy guide.
She is my -I cousin."
Philip knew these relatives well: they ramify, if need
be, all over the peninsula.
"Do you chance to know whether Signer Carella is
in?" he asked her.
She had just seen him go in. Philip nodded. He
was looking forward to the interview this time: it
would be an intellectual duel with a man of no great
intellect. What was Miss Abbott up to? That was one
of the things he was going to discover. While she had
it out with Harriet, he would have it out with Gino.
He followed the Dogana's relative softly, like a
He did not follow her long, for this was the Vol-
terra gate, and the house was exactly opposite to it.
In half a minute they had scrambled down the mule-
track and reached the only practicable entrance.
Philip laughed, partly at the thought of Lilia in such
a building, partly in the confidence of victory. Mean-
while the Dogana's relative lifted up her voice and
gave a shout.
For an impressive interval there was no reply.
Then the figure of a woman appeared high up on the
Where Angels Fear to Tread 105
"That is Perfetta," said the girl.
"I want to see Signer Carella," cried Philip.
"Out/' echoed the girl complacently.
"Why on earth did you say he was in?" He could
have strangled her for temper. He had been just ripe
for an interview just the right combination of indig-
nation and acuteness: blood hot, brain cool. But
nothing ever did go right in Monteriano. "When will
he be back?" he called to Perfetta. It really was too
She did not know. He was away on business. He
might be back this evening, he might not. He had
gone to Poggibonsi.
At the sound of this word the little girl put her fin-
gers to her nose and swept them at the plain. She
sang as she did so, even as her foremothers had sung
seven hundred years back
Poggibonizzi, fatti in Id,
Che Monteriano si fa cittd!
Then she asked Philip for a halfpenny. A German
lady, friendly to the Past, had given her one that very
"I shall have to leave a message," he called.
"Now Perfetta has gone for her basket," said the
little girl. "When she returns she will lower it so.
Then you will put your card into it. Then she will
raise it thus. By this means "
When Perfetta returned, Philip remembered to ask
after the baby. It took longer to find than the basket,
and he stood perspiring in the evening sun, trying to
avoid the smell of the drains and to prevent the little
106 E. M. FORSTER
girl from singing against Poggibonsi. The olive-trees
beside him were draped with the weekly or more
probably the monthly wash. What a frightful spotty
blouse! He could not think where he had seen it.
Then he remembered that it was Lilia's. She had
brought it "to hack about in" at Sawston, and had
taken it to Italy because "in Italy anything does." He
had rebuked her for the sentiment.
"Beautiful as an angel!" bellowed Perfetta, holding
out something which must be Lilia's baby. "But who
am I addressing?"
"Thank you here is my card." He had written on
it a civil request to Gino for an interview next morn-
ing. But before he placed it in the basket and revealed
his identity, he wished to find something out. "Has a
young lady happened to call here lately a young
Perfetta begged his pardon: she was a little deaf.
"A young lady pale, large, tall."
She did not quite catch.
"A YOUNG LADY!"
"Perfetta is deaf when she chooses," said the Do-
gana's relative. At last Philip admitted the peculiarity
and strode away. He paid off the detestable child at
the Volterra gate. She got two nickel pieces and was
not pleased, partly because it was too much, partly
because he did not look pleased when he gave it to
her. He caught her fathers and cousins winking at
each other as he walked past them. Monteriano
seemed in one conspiracy to make him look a fool.
He felt tired and anxious and muddled, and not sure
of anything except that his temper was lost. In this
mood he returned to the Stella d'ltalia, and there,
Where Angels Fear to Tread 107
as he was ascending the stairs, Miss Abbott popped
out of the dining-room on the first floor and beck-
oned to him mysteriously.
"I was going to make myself some tea," he said,
with his hand still on the banisters.
"I should be grateful "
So he followed her into the dining-room and shut
"You see," she began, "Harriet knows nothing."
"No more do I. He was out."
"But what's that to do with it?"
He presented her with an unpleasant smile. She
fenced well, as he had noticed before. "He was out.
You find me as ignorant as you have left Harriet."
"What do you mean? Please, please Mr. Herriton,
don't be mysterious: there isn't the time. Any mo-
ment Harriet may be down, and we shan't have de-
cided how to behave to her. Sawston was different:
we had to keep up appearances. But here we must
speak out, and I think I can trust you to do it.
Otherwise we'll never start clear."
"Pray let us start clear," said Philip, pacing up and
down the room. "Permit me to begin by asking you
a question. In which capacity have you come to Mon-
teriano spy or traitor?"
"Spy!" she answered, without a moment's hesita-
tion. She was standing by the little Gothic window
as she spoke the hotel had been a palace once
and with her finger she was following the curves of
the moulding as if they might feel beautiful and
strange. "Spy," she repeated, for Philip was
bewildered at learning her guilt so easily, and could
not answer a word. "Your mother has behaved dis-
1O8 E. M. FORSTER
honourably all through. She never wanted the child;
no harm in that; but she is too proud to let it come
to me. She has done all she could to wreck things;
she did not tell you everything; she has told Harriet
nothing at all; she has lied or acted lies everywhere. I
cannot trust your mother. So I have come here alone
all across Europe; no one knows it; my father thinks
I am in Normandy to spy on Mrs. Herriton. Don't
let's argue!" for he had begun, almost mechanically,
to rebuke her for impertinence. "If you are here to get
the child, I will help you; if you are here to fail, I shall
get it instead of you."
"It is hopeless to expect you to believe me," he
stammered. "But I can assert that we are here to get
the child, even if it costs us all we've got. My mother
has fixed no money limit whatever. I am here to carry
out her instructions. I think that you will approve of
them, as you have practically dictated them. I do not
approve of them. They are absurd."
She nodded carelessly. She did not mind what he
said. All she wanted was to get the baby out of Mon-
"Harriet also carries out your instructions," he con-
tinued. "She, however, approves of them, and does
not know that they proceed from you. I think, Miss
Abbott, you had better take entire charge of the res-
cue party. I have asked for an interview with Signor
Carella tomorrow morning. Do you acquiesce?"
She nodded again.
"Might I ask for details of your interview with him?
They might be helpful to me."
He had spoken at random. To his delight she sud-
denly collapsed. Her hand fell from the window. Her
Where Angels Fear to Tread 109
face was red with more than the reflection of evening.
"My interview how do you know of it?"
"From Perfetta, if it interests you."
"Who ever is Perfetta?"
"The woman who must have let you in."
"Into Signor Carella's house."
"Mr. Herriton!" she exclaimed. "How could you
believe her? Do you suppose that I would have en-
tered that man's house, knowing about him all that I
do? I think you have very odd ideas of what is possible
for a lady. I hear you wanted Harriet to go. Very prop-
erly she refused. Eighteen months ago I might have
done such a thing. But I trust I have learnt how to be-
have by now."
Philip began to see that there were two Miss Ab-
botts the Miss Abbott who could travel alone to
Monteriano, and the Miss Abbott who could not en-
ter Gino's house when she got there. It was an amus-
ing discovery. Which of them would respond to his
"I suppose I misunderstood Perfetta. Where did
you have your interview, then?"
"Not an interview an accident I am very sorry
I meant you to have the chance of seeing him first.
Though it is your fault. You are a day late. You were
due here yesterday. So I came yesterday, and, not find-
ing you, went up to the Rocca you know that
kitchen-garden where they let you in, and there is a
ladder up to a broken tower, where you can stand and
see all the other towers below you and the plain and
all the other hills?"
"Yes, yes. I know the Rocca; I told you of it."
HO E. M. FORSTER
"So I went up in the evening for the sunset: I had
nothing to do. He was in the garden: it belongs to a
friend of his."
"And you talked/'
"It was very awkward for me. But I had to talk:
he seemed to make me. You see he thought I was
here as a tourist; he thinks so still. He intended to be
civil, and I judged it better to be civil also."
"And of what did you talk?"
"The weather there will be rain, he says, by to-
morrow evening the other towns, England, myself,
about you a little, and he actually mentioned Lilia.
He was perfectly disgusting; he pretended he loved
her; he offered to show me her grave the grave of the
woman he has murdered!"
"My dear Miss Abbott, he is not a murderer. I have
just been driving that into Harriet. And when you
know the Italians as well as I do, you will realize that
in all that he said to you he was perfectly sincere. The
Italians are essentially dramatic; they look on death
and love as spectacles. I don't doubt that he per-
suaded himself, for the moment, that he had behaved
admirably, both as husband and widower."
"You may be right," said Miss Abbott, impressed
for the first time. "When I tried to pave the way, so
to speak to hint that he had not behaved as he ought
well, it was no good at all. He couldn't or wouldn't
There was something very humorous in the idea of
Miss Abbott approaching Gino, on the Rocca, in the
spirit of a district visitor. Philip, whose temper was
"Harriet would say he has no sense of sin."
Where Angels Fear to Tread in
"Harriet may be right, I am afraid."
"If so, perhaps he isn't sinful!"
Miss Abbott was not one to encourage levity. "I
know what he has done," she said. "What he says and
what he thinks is of very little importance."
Philip smiled at her crudity. "I should like to hear,
though, what he said about me. Is he preparing a
"Oh, no, not that. I never told him that you and
Harriet were coming. You could have taken him by
surprise if you liked. He only asked for you, and
wished he hadn't been so rude to you eighteen months
"What a memory the fellow has for little things!"
He turned away as he spoke, for he did not want her
to see his face. It was suffused with pleasure. For an
apology, which would have been intolerable eighteen
months ago, was gracious and agreeable now.
She would not let this pass. "You did not think it
a little thing at the time. You told me he had
"I lost my temper," said Philip lightly. His vanity
had been appeased, and he knew it. This tiny piece of
civility had changed his mood. "Did he really what
exactly did he say?"
"He said he was sorry pleasantly, as Italians do
say such things. But he never mentioned the baby
What did the baby matter when the world was sud-
denly right way up? Philip smiled, and was shocked
at himself for smiling, and smiled again. For romance
had come back to Italy; there were no cads in her; she
was beautiful, courteous, lovable, as of old. And Miss
112 E. M. FORSTER
Abbott she, too, was beautiful in her way, for all her
gaucheness and conventionality. She really cared
about life, and tried to live it properly. And Harriet
even Harriet tried.
This admirable^jchange in Philip proceeds from
nothing nTTminM-p; nnrf may thfigrfoie provoke the
gibes of the ^yniral P^t a n gHs and other practical
people will accept it reverently,, and write it down as
"The view from the Rocca (small gratuity) is finest
at sunset," he murmured, more to himself than to her.
"And he never mentioned the baby once," Miss
Abbott repeated. But she had returned to the win-
dow, and again her finger pursued the delicate curves.
He watched her in silence, and was more attracted to
her than he had ever been before. She really was the
"The view from the Rocca wasn't it fine?"
"What isn't fine here?" she answered gently, and
then added, "I wish I was Harriet," throwing an extraor-
dinary meaning into the words.
"Because Harriet ?"
She would not go further, but he believed that she
had paid homage to the complexity of life. For her,
at all events, the expedition was neither easy nor jolly.
Beauty, evil, charm, vulgarity, mystery she also ac-
knowledged this tangle, in spite of herself. And her
voice thrilled him when she broke silence with "Mr.
Herri ton come here look at this!"
She removed a pile of plates from the Gothic win-
dow, and they leant out of it. Close opposite, wedged
between mean houses, there rose up one of the great
towers. It is your tower: you stretch a barricade be-
Where Angels Fear to Tread 113
tween it and the hotel, and the traffic is blocked in a
moment. Farther up, where the street empties out by
the church, your connections, the Merli and the Capoc-
chi, do likewise. They command the Piazza, you the
Siena gate. No one can move in either but he shall
be instantly slain, either by bows or by crossbows, or
by Greek fire. Beware, however, of the back bedroom
windows. For they are menaced by the tower of the
Aldobrandeschi, and before now arrows have stuck
quivering over the washstand. Guard these windows
well, lest there be a repetition of the events of Feb-
ruary 1338, when the hotel was surprised from the
rear, and your dearest friend you could just make
out that it was he was thrown at you over the stairs.
"It reaches up to heaven," said Philip, "and down
to the other place." The summit of the tower was
radiant in the sun, while its base was in shadow and
pasted over with advertisements. "Is it to be a symbol
of the town?"
She gave no hint that she understood him. But they
remained together at the window because it was a lit-
tle cooler and so pleasant. Philip found a certain grace
and lightness in his companion which he had never
noticed in England. She was appallingly narrow, but
tier consciousness of wider things gave to her narrow-
ness a pathetic charm. He did not suspect that he was
more graceful too. For our vanity is such that we hold
our own characters immutable, and we are slow to
acknowledge that they have changed, even for the
Citizens came out for a little stroll before dinner.
Some of them stood and gazed at the advertisements
on the tower.
114 E - M - FORSTER
"Surely that isn't an opera-bill?" said Miss Abbott.
Philip put on his pince-nez. " 'Lucia di Lammer-
moor. By the Master Donizetti. Unique representa-
tion. This evening/ "
"But is there an opera? Right up here?"
"Why, yes. These people know how to live. They
would sooner have a thing bad than not have it at all.
That is why they have got to have so much that is
good. However bad the performance is tonight, it will
be alive. Italians don't love music silently, like the
beastly Germans. The audience takes its share some-
"Can't we go?"
He turned on her, but not unkindly. "But we're
here to rescue a child!"
He cursed himself for the remark. All the pleasure
and the light went out of her face, and she became
again Miss Abbott of Sawston good, oh, most un-
doubtedly good, but most appallingly dull. Dull and
remorseful: it is a deadly combination, and he strove
against it in vain till he was interrupted by the open-
ing of the dining-room door.
They started as guiltily as if they had been flirting.
Their interview had taken such an unexpected course.
Anger, cynicism, stubborn morality all had ended
in a feeling of good-will towards each other and to-
wards the city which had received them. And now
Harriet was here acrid, indissoluble, large; the same
in Italy as in England changing her disposition
never, and her atmosphere under protest.
Yet even Harriet was human, and the better for
a little tea. She did not scold Philip for finding Gino
out, as she might reasonably have done. She showered
Where Angels Fear to Tread 115
civilities on Miss Abbott, exclaiming again and again
that Caroline's visit was one of the most fortunate
coincidences in the world. Caroline did not contradict
"You see him tomorrow at ten, Philip. Well, don't
forget the blank cheque. Say an hour for the busi-
ness. No, Italians are so slow; say two. Twelve o'clock.
Lunch. Well then it's no good going till the evening
train. I can manage the baby as far as Florence "
"My dear sister, you can't run on like that. You
don't buy a pair of gloves in two hours, much less a
"Three hours, then, or four; or make him learn Eng-
lish ways. At Florence we get a nurse "
"But, Harriet," said Miss Abbott, "what if at
first he was to refuse?"
"I don't know the meaning of the word/' said Har-
riet impressively. "I've told the landlady that Philip
and I only want our rooms one night, and we shall
keep to it."
"I dare say it will be all right. But, as I told you, I
thought the man I met on the Rocca a strange, dif-
"He's insolent to ladies, we know. But my brother
can be trusted to bring him to his senses. That
woman, Philip, whom you saw will carry the baby to
the hotel. Of course you must tip her for it. And try,
if you can, to get poor Lilia's silver bangles. They were
nice quiet things, and will do for Irma. And there is
an inlaid box I lent her lent, not gave to keep her
handkerchiefs in. It's of no real value; but this is our
only chance. Don't ask for it; but if you see it lying
about, just say "
Il6 E. M. FORSTER
"No, Harriet; I'll try for the baby, but for nothing
else. I promise to do that tomorrow, and to do it in
the way you wish. But tonight, as we're all tired,
we want a change of topic. We want relaxation. We
want to go to the theatre."
"Theatres here? And at such a moment?"
"We should hardly enjoy it, with the great inter-
view impending," said Miss Abbott, with an anxious
glance at Philip.
He did not betray her, but said, "Don't you think
it's better than sitting in all the evening and getting
His sister shook her head. "Mother wouldn't like
it. It would be most unsuitable almost irreverent.
Besides all that, foreign theatres are notorious. Don't
you remember those letters in the 'Church Family
"But this is an opera 'Lucia di Lammermoor'
Sir Walter Scott classical, you know."
Harriet's face grew resigned. "Certainly one has so
few opportunities of hearing music. It is sure to be
very bad. But it might be better than sitting idle all
the evening. We have no book, and I lost my crochet
"Good. Miss Abbott, you are coming too?"
"It is very kind of you, Mr. Herriton. In some ways
I should enjoy it; but excuse the suggestion I don't
think we ought to go to cheap seats."
"Good gracious me!" cried Harriet, "I should never
have thought of that. As likely as not, we should have
tried to save money and sat among the most awful
people. One keeps on forgetting this is Italy."
Where Angels Fear to Tread 117
"Unfortunately I have no evening dress; and if the
"Oh, that'll be all right," said Philip, smiling at his
timorous, scrupulous women-kind. "We'll go as we
are, and buy the best we can get. Monteriano is not
So this strenuous day of resolutions, plans, alarms,
battles, victories, defeats, truces, ended at the opera.
Miss Abbott and Harriet were both a little shame-
faced. They thought of their friends at Sawston, who
were supposing them to be now tilting against the
powers of evil. What would Mrs. Herriton, or Irma,
or the curates at the Back Kitchen say if they could
see the rescue party at a place of amusement on the
very first day of its mission? Philip, too, marvelled at
his wish to go. He began to see that he was enjoying
his time in Monteriano, in spite of the tiresomeness
of his companions and the occasional contrariness of
He had been to this theatre many years before, on
the occasion of a performance of "La Zia di Carlo."
Since then it had been thoroughly done up, in the
tints of the beet-root and the tomato, and was in
many other ways a credit to the little town. The or-
chestra had been enlarged, some of the boxes had
terra-cotta draperies, and over each box was now sus-
pended an enormous tablet, neatly framed, bearing
upon it the number of that box. There was also a drop-
scene, representing a pink and purple landscape,
wherein sported many a lady lightly clad, and two
more ladies lay along the top of the proscenium to
steady a large and pallid clock. So rich and so appall-
Il8 E. M. FORSTER
ing was the effect, that Philip could scarcely suppress
a cry. There is something majestic in the bad taste of
Italy; it is not the bad taste of a country which knows
no better; it has not the nervous vulgarity of Eng-
land, or the blinded vulgarity of Germany. It observes
beauty, and chooses to pass it by. But it attains
to beauty's confidence. This tiny theatre of Monteri-
ano spraddled and swaggered with the best of them,
and these ladies with their clock would have nodded
to the young men on the ceiling of the Sistine.
Philip had tried for a box, but all the best were
taken: it was rather a grand performance, and he had
to be content with stalls. Harriet was fretful and in-
sular. Miss Abbott was pleasant, and insisted on
praising everything: her only regret was that she had
no pretty clothes with her.
"We do all right," said Philip, amused at her un-
"Yes, I know; but pretty things pack as easily as
ugly ones. We had no need to come to Italy like guys."
This time he did not reply. "But we're here to res-
cue a baby." For he saw a charming picture, as charm-
ing a picture as he had seen for years the hot red
theatre; outside the theatre, towers and dark gates and
mediaeval walls; beyond the walls olive-trees in the
starlight and white winding roads and fireflies and
untroubled dust; and here in the middle of it all, Miss
Abbott, wishing she had not come looking like a guy.
She had made the right remark. Most undoubtedly
she had made the right remark. This stiff suburban
woman was unbending before the shrine.
"Don't you like it at all?" he asked her.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 119
"Most awfully." And by this bald interchange they
convinced each other that Romance was here.
Harriet, meanwhile, had been coughing ominously
at the drop-scene, which presently rose on the grounds
of Ravenswood, and the chorus of Scotch retainers
burst into cry. The audience accompanied with tap-
pings and drummings, swaying in the melody like
corn in the wind. Harriet, though she did not care for
music, knew how to listen to it. She uttered an acid
"Shut it," whispered her brother.
"We must make a stand from the beginning.
"It is tiresome," murmured Miss Abbott; "but per-
haps it isn't for us to interfere."
Harriet shook her head and shished again. The peo-
ple were quiet, not because it is wrong to talk during
a chorus, but because it is natural to be civil to
a visitor. For a little time she kept the whole house in
order, and could smile at her brother complacently.
Her success annoyed him. He had grasped the prin-
ciple of opera in Italy it aims not at illusion but at
entertainment and he did not want this great eve-
ning-party to turn into a prayer-meeting. But soon the
boxes began to fill, and Harriet's power was over. Fam-
ilies greeted each other across the auditorium. People
in the pit hailed their brothers and sons in the chorus,
and told them how well they were singing. When
Lucia appeared by the fountain there was loud ap-
plause, and cries of "Welcome to Monteriano!"
"Ridiculous babies!" said Harriet, settling down in
120 E. M. FORSTER
"Why, it is the famous hot lady of the Apennines,"
cried Philip; "the one who had never, never be-
"Ugh! Don't. She will be very vulgar. And I'm sure
it's even worse here than in the tunnel. I wish we'd
Lucia began to sing, and there was a moment's si-
lence. She was stout and ugly; but her voice was still
beautiful, and as she sang the theatre murmured like
a hive of happy bees. All through the coloratura she
was accompanied by sighs, and its top note was
drowned in a shout of universal joy.
So the opera proceeded. The singers drew inspira-
tion from the audience, and the two great sextettes
were rendered not unworthily. Miss Abbott fell into
the spirit of the thing. She, too, chatted and laughed
and applauded and encored, and rejoiced in the exist-
ence of beauty. As for Philip, he forgot himself as
well as his mission. He was not even an enthusiastic
visitor. For he had been in this place always. It was
Harriet, like M. Bovary on a more famous occasion,
was trying to follow the plot. Occasionally she
nudged her companions, and asked them what had
become of Walter Scott. She looked round grimly.
The audience sounded drunk, and even Caroline, who
never took a drop, was swaying oddly. Violent waves
of excitement, all arising from very little, went sweep-
ing round the theatre. The climax was reached in the
mad scene. Lucia, clad in white, as befitted her mal-
ady, suddenly gathered up her streaming hair and
bowed her acknowledgment to the audience. Then
from the back of the stage she feigned not to see it
Where Angels Fear to Tread 121
there advanced a kind of bamboo clothes-horse,
stuck all over with bouquets. It was very ugly, and
most of the flowers in it were false. Lucia knew this,
and so did the audience; and they all knew that the
clothes-horse was a piece of stage property, brought in
to make the performance go year after year. None the
less did it unloose the great deeps. With a scream of
amazement and joy she embraced the animal, pulled
out one or two practicable blossoms, pressed them to
her lips, and flung them into her admirers. They flung
them back, with loud melodious cries, and a little boy
in one of the stageboxes snatched up his sister's carna-
tions and offered them. "Che carino!" exclaimed the
singer. She darted at the little boy and kissed him.
Now the noise became tremendous. "Silence! silence!"
shouted many old gentlemen behind. "Let the divine
creature continue!" But the young men in the adja-
cent box were imploring Lucia to extend her civility
to them. She refused, with a humorous, expressive ges-
ture. One of them hurled a bouquet at her. She
spurned it with her foot. Then, encouraged by the
roars of the audience, she picked it up and tossed it to
them. Harriet was always unfortunate. The bouquet
struck her full in the chest, and a little billet-doux fell
out of it into her lap.
"Call this classical!" she cried, rising from her seat.
"It's not even respectable! Philip! take me out at
"Whose is it?" shouted her brother, holding up the
bouquet in one hand and the billet-doux in the
other. "Whose is it?"
The house exploded, and one of the boxes was vio-
lently agitated, as if some one was being hauled to the
122 E. M. FORSTER
front. Harriet moved down the gangway, and com-
pelled Miss Abbott to follow her. Philip, still laughing
and calling "Whose is it?" brought up the rear. He
was drunk with excitement. The heat, the fatigue, and
the enjoyment had mounted into his head.
"To the left!" the people cried. "The innamorato is
to the left."
He deserted his ladies and plunged towards the
box. A young man was flung stomach downwards
across the balustrade. Philip handed him up the bou-
quet and the note. Then his own hands were seized
affectionately. It all seemed quite natural.
"Why have you not written?" cried the young man.
"Why do you take me by surprise?"
"Oh, I've written," said Philip hilariously. "I left a
note this afternoon."
"Silence! silence!" cried the audience, who were
beginning to have enough. "Let the divine creature
continue." Miss Abbott and Harriet had disappeared.
"No! no!" cried the young man. "You don't escape
me now." For Philip was trying feebly to disengage
his hands. Amiable youths bent out of the box and
invited him to enter it.
"Gino's friends are ours "
"Friends?" cried Gino. "A relative! A brother! Fra
Filippo, who has come all the way from England and
"I left a message."
The audience began to hiss.
"Come in to us."
"Thank you ladies there is not time "
The next moment he was swinging by his arms. The
moment after he shot over the balustrade into the box.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 123
Then the conductor, seeing that the incident was over,
raised his baton. The house was hushed, and Lucia di
Lammermoor resumed her song of madness and
Philip had whispered introductions to the pleasant
people who had pulled him in tradesmen's sons per-
haps they were, or medical students, or solicitors'
clerks, or sons of other dentists. There is no knowing
who is who in Italy. The guest of the evening was a
private soldier. He shared the honour now with Philip.
The two had to stand side by side in the front, and
exchange compliments, whilst Gino presided, cour-
teous, but delightfully familiar. Philip would have a
spasm of horror at the muddle he had made. But the
spasm would pass, and again he would be enchanted
by the kind, cheerful voices, the laughter that was
never vapid, and the light caress of the arm across his
He could not get away till the play was nearly fin-
ished, and Edgardo was singing amongst the tombs
of ancestors. His new friends hoped to see him at the
Garibaldi tomorrow evening. He promised; then he
remembered that if they kept to Harriet's plan he
would have left Monteriano. "At ten o'clock, then,"
he said to Gino. "I want to speak to you alone. At
"Certainly!" laughed the other.
Miss Abbott was sitting up for him when he got
back. Harriet, it seemed, had gone straight to bed.
"That was he, wasn't it?" she asked.
"I suppose you didn't settle anything?"
"Why, no; how could I? The fact is well, I got
124 E - M - FORSTER
taken by surprise, but after all, what does it matter?
There's no earthly reason why we shouldn't do the
business pleasantly. He's a perfectly charming person,
and so are his friends. I'm his friend now his long-
lost brother. What's the harm? I tell you, Miss Ab-
bott, it's one thing for England and another for
Italy. There we plan and get on high moral horses.
Here we find what asses we are, for things go off quite
easily, all by themselves. My hat, what a night! Did
you ever see a really purple sky and really silver stars
before? Well, as I was saying, it's absurd to worry; he's
not a porky father. He wants that baby as little as I
do. He's been ragging my dear mother just as he
ragged me eighteen months ago, and I've forgiven
him. Oh, but he has a sense of humour!"
Miss Abbott, too, had a wonderful evening, nor did
she ever remember such stars or such a sky. Her head,
too, was full of music, and that night when she opened
the window her room was filled with warm, sweet air.
She was bathed in beauty within and without; she
could not go to bed for happiness. Had she ever been
so happy before? Yes, once before, and here, a night
in March, the night Gino and Lilia had told her of
their love the night whose evil she had come now
She gave a sudden cry of shame. "This time the
same place the same thing" and she began to beat
down her happiness, knowing it to be sinful. She was
here to fight against this place, to rescue a little soul
who was innocent as yet. She was here to champion
morality and purity, and the holy life of an English
home. In the spring she had sinned through igno-
rance; she was not ignorant now. "Help me!" she cried,
Where Angels Fear to Tread 125
and shut the window as if there was magic in the en-
circling air. But the tunes would not go out of her
head, and all night long she was troubled by torrents
of music, and by applause and laughter, and angry
young men who shouted the distich out of Baedeker:
Poggibonizzi fatti in la,
Che Monteriano si fa cittal
Poggibonsi was revealed to her as they sang a joy-
less, straggling place, full of people who pretended.
When she woke up she knew that it had been Saw-
At about nine o'clock next morning Perfetta went out
on to the loggia, not to look at the view, but to throw
some dirty water at it. "Scusi tanto!" she wailed, for
the water spattered a tall young lady who had for some
time been tapping at the lower door.
"Is Signer Carella in?" the young lady asked. It was
no business of Perfetta's to be shocked, and the style
of the visitor seemed to demand the reception-room.
Accordingly she opened its shutters, dusted a round
patch on one of the horsehair chairs, and bade the
lady do herself the inconvenience of sitting down.
Then she ran into Monteriano and shouted up and
down its streets until such time as her young master
should hear her.
The reception-room was sacred to the dead wife.
Her shiny portrait hung upon the wall similar, doubt-
126 E. M. FORSTER
less, in all respects to the one which would be
pasted on her tombstone. A little piece of black dra-
pery had been tacked above the frame to lend a dignity
to woe. But two of the tacks had fallen out, and the
effect was now rakish, as of a drunkard's bonnet. A
coon song lay open on the piano, and of the two-
tables one supported Baedeker's "Central Italy," the
other Harriet's inlaid box. And over everything there
lay a deposit of heavy white dust, which was
only blown off one moment to thicken on another. It
is well to be remembered with love. It is not so very
dreadful to be forgotten entirely. But if we shall resent
anything on earth at all, we shall resent the consecra-
tion of a deserted room.
Miss Abbott did not sit down, partly because the
antimacassars might harbour fleas, partly because she
had suddenly felt faint, and was glad to cling on to
the funnel of the stove. She struggled with herself, for
she had need to be very calm; only if she was very
calm might her behaviour be justified. She had broken
faith with Philip and Harriet: she was going to try for
the baby before they did. If she failed she could
scarcely look them in the face again.
"Harriet and her brother," she reasoned, "don't
realize what is before them. She would bluster and be
rude; he would be pleasant and take it as a joke. Both
of them even if they offered money would fail. But
I begin to understand the man's nature; he does not
love the child, but he will be touchy about it and
that is quite as bad for us. He's charming, but he's no
fool; he conquered me last year; he conquered Mr.
Herriton yesterday, and if I am not careful he will
conquer us all today, and the baby will grow up in
Where Angels Fear to Tread 127
Monteriano. He is terribly strong; Lilia found that
out, but only I remember it now."
This attempt, and this justification of it, were the
results of the long and restless night. Miss Abbott had
come to believe that she alone could do battle with
Gino, because she alone understood him; and she had
put this, as nicely as she could, in a note which she
had left for Philip. It distressed her to write such a
note, partly because her education inclined her to
reverence the male, partly because she had got to like
Philip a good deal after their last strange interview.
His pettiness would be dispersed, and as for his "un-
conventionality," which was so much gossiped about
at Sawston, she began to see that it did not dif-
fer greatly from certain familiar notions of her own.
If only he would forgive her for what she was doing
now, there might perhaps be before them a long and
profitable friendship. But she must succeed. No one
would forgive her if she did not succeed. She pre-
pared to do battle with the powers of evil.
The voice of her adversary was heard at last, singing
fearlessly from his expanded lungs, like a profes-
sional. Herein he differed from Englishmen, who al-
ways have a little feeling against music, and sing only
from the throat, apologetically. He padded upstairs,
and looked in at the open door of the reception-room
without seeing her. Her heart leapt and her throat was
dry when he turned away and passed, still singing,
into the room opposite. It is alarming not to be seen.
He had left the door of this room open, and she
could see into it, right across the landing. It was in a
shocking mess. Food, bedclothes, patent-leather boots,
dirty plates, and knives lay strewn over a large table
128 E. M. FORSTER
and on the floor. But it was the mess that comes of life,
not of desolation. It was preferable to the charn el-
chamber in which she was standing now, and the light
in it was soft and large, as from some gracious, noble
He stopped singing, and cried "Where is Perfetta?"
His back was turned, and he was lighting a cigar.
He was not speaking to Miss Abbott. He could not
even be expecting her. The vista of the landing and
the two open doors made him both remote and sig-
nificant, like an actor on the stage, intimate and un-
approachable at the same time. She could no more
call out to him than if he was Hamlet.
"You know!" he continued, "but you will not tell
me. Exactly like you." He reclined on the table and
blew a fat smoke-ring. "And why won't you tell me
the numbers? I have dreamt of a red hen that is two
hundred and five, and a friend unexpected he means
eighty-two. But I try for the Terno this week. So
tell me another number."
Miss Abbott did not know of the Tombola. His
speech terrified her. She felt those subtle restrictions
which come upon us in fatigue. Had she slept well
she would have greeted him as soon as she saw him.
Now it was impossible. He had got into another world.
She watched his smoke-ring. The air had carried it
slowly away from him, and brought it out intact upon
"Two hundred and five eighty-two. In any case I
shall put them on Bari, not on Florence. I cannot tell
you why; I have a feeling this week for Bari." Again she
tried to speak. But the ring mesmerized her. It had
become vast and elliptical, and floated in at the recep-
Where Angels Fear to Tread 129
"Ah! you don't care if you get the profits. You
won't even say 'Thank you, Gino.' Say it, or I'll drop
hot, red-hot ashes on you. 'Thank you, Gino ' "
The ring had extended its pale blue coils towards
her. She lost self-control. It enveloped her. As if it was
a breath from the pit, she screamed.
There he was, wanting to know what had frightened
her, how she had got here, why she had never spoken.
He made her sit down. He brought her wine, which
she refused. She had not one word to say to him.
"What is it?" he repeated. "What has frightened
He, too, was frightened, and perspiration came start-
ing through the tan. For it is a serious thing to have
been watched. We all radiate something curiously in-
timate when we believe ourselves to be alone.
"Business " she said at last.
"Business with me?"
"Most important business." She was lying, white
and limp, in the dusty chair.
"Before business you must get well; this is the best
She refused it feebly. He poured out a glass. She
drank it. As she did so she became self-conscious.
However important the business, it was not proper
of her to have called on him, or to accept his hos-
"Perhaps you are engaged," she said. "And as I
am not very well "
"You are not well enough to go back. And I am not
She looked nervously at the other room.
13O E. M. FORSTER
"Ah, now I understand/' he exclaimed. "Now I see
what frightened you. But why did you never speak?"
And taking her into the room where he lived, he
pointed to the baby.
She had thought so much about this baby, of its
welfare, its soul, its morals, its probable defects. But,
like most unmarried people, she had only thought of it
as a word just as the healthy man only thinks of
fine word death, not of death itself. The real thing,
lying asleep on a dirty rug, disconcerted her. It did not
stand for a principle any longer. It was so much flesh
and blood, so many inches and ounces of life a glori-
ous, unquestionable fact, which a man and another
woman had given to the world. You could talk to
it; in time it would answer you; in time it would not
answer you unless it chose, but would secrete, within
the compass of its body, thoughts and wonderful pas-
sions of its own. And this was the machine on which
she and Mrs. Herriton and Philip and Harriet had for
the last month been exercising their various ideals
had determined that in time it should move this way
or that way, should accomplish this and not that. It
was to be Low Church, it was to be high-principled, it
was to be tactful, gentlemanly, artistic excellent
things all. Yet now that she saw this baby, lying
asleep on a dirty rug, she had a great disposition not
to dictate one of them, and to exert no more influence
than there may be in a kiss or in the vaguest of the
But she had practised self-discipline, and her
thoughts and actions were not yet to correspond. To
recover her self-esteem she tried to imagine that she
was in her district, and to behave accordingly.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 131
"What a fine child, Signor Carella. And how nice
of you to talk to it. Though I see that the ungrateful .
little fellow is asleep! Seven months? No, eight; of
course eight. Still, he is a remarkably fine child for
Italian is a bad medium for condescension. The
patronizing words came out gracious and sincere, and
he smiled with pleasure. f
"You must not stand. Let us sit on the loggia, where
it is cool. I am afraid the room is very untidy,"
he added, with the air of a hostess who apologizes
for a stray thread on the drawing-room carpet. Miss
Abbott picked her way to the chair. He sat near her,
astride the parapet, with one foot in the loggia and
the other dangling into the view. His face was in pro-
file, and its beautiful contours drove artfully against
the misty green of the opposing hills. "Posing!" said
Miss Abbott to herself. "A born artist's model."
"Mr. Herriton called yesterday," she began, "but
you were out." ?
He started an elaborate and graceful explanation.
He had gone for the day to Poggibonsi. Why had the
Herritons not written to him, so that he could have
received them properly? Poggibonsi would have done
any day; not but what his business there was fairly
important. What did she suppose that it was?
Naturally she was not greatly interested. She had
not come from Sawston to guess why he had been to
Poggibonsi. She answered politely that she had no
idea, and returned to her mission.
"But guess!" he persisted, clapping the balustrade
between his hands.
She suggested, with gentle sarcasm, that perhaps he
132 E. M. FORSTER
had gone to Poggibonsi to find something to do.
He intimated that it was not as important as all
that. Something to do an almost hopeless quest! "E
manca questo!" He rubbed his thumb and forefinger
together, to indicate that he had no money. Then he
sighed, and blew another smoke-ring. Miss Abbott
took heart and turned diplomatic.
"This house/' she said, "is a large house."
"Exactly," was his gloomy reply. "And when my
poor wife died " He got up, went in, and walked
across the landing to the reception-room door, which
he closed reverently. Then he shut the door of the liv-
ing-room with his foot, returned briskly to his seat,
and continued his sentence. "When my poor wife died
I thought of having my relatives to live here. My fa-
ther wished to give up his practice at Empoli; my
mother and sisters and two aunts were also willing.
But it was impossible. They have their ways of doing
things, and when I was younger I was content with
them. But now I am a man. I have my own ways. Do
, "Yes, I do," said Miss Abbott, thinking of her own
dear father, whose tricks and habits, after twenty-five
years spent in their company, were beginning to get
on her nerves. She remembered, though, that she was
not here to sympathize with Gino at all events, not
to show that she sympathized. She also reminded her-
self that he was not worthy of sympathy. "It is a large
house," she repeated.
"Immense; and the taxes! But it will be better
when Ah! but you have never guessed why I went
to Poggibonsi why it was that I was out when he
Where Angels Fear to Tread 133
"I cannot guess, Signer Carella. I am here on busi-
"I cannot; I hardly know you."
"But we are old friends," he said, "and your ap-
proval will be grateful to me. You gave it me once be-
fore. Will you give it now?"
"I have not come as a friend this time," she
answered stiffly. "I am not likely, Signer Carella, to ap-
prove of anything you do."
"Oh, Signorina!" He laughed, as if he found her
piquant and amusing. "Surely you approve of mar-
"Where there is love," said Miss Abbott, looking at
him hard. His face had altered in the last year, but not
for the worse, which was baffling.
"Where there is love," said he, politely echoing the
English view. Then he smiled on her, expecting con-
"Do I understand that you are proposing to marry
"I forbid you, then!"
He looked puzzled, but took it for some foreign ban-
ter, and laughed.
"I forbid you!" repeated Miss Abbott, and all the
indignation of her sex and her nationality went thrill-
ing through the words.
"But why?" He jumped up, frowning. His voice was
squeaky and petulant, like that of a child who is sud-
denly forbidden a toy.
"You have ruined one woman; I forbid you to ruin
another. It is not a year since Lilia died. You
134 E - M - FORSTER
pretended to me the other day that you loved her. It
is a lie. You wanted her money. Has this woman
"Why, yes!" he said irritably. "A little."
"And I suppose you will say that you love her."
"I shall not say it. It will be untrue. Now my poor
wife " He stopped, seeing that the comparison
would involve him in difficulties. And indeed he had
often found Lilia as agreeable as any one else.
Miss Abbott was furious at this final insult to her
dead acquaintance. She was glad that after all she
could be so angry with the boy. She glowed and
throbbed; her tongue moved nimbly. At the finish, if
the real business of the day had been completed, she
could have swept majestically from the house. But the
baby still remained, asleep on a dirty rug.
Gino was thoughtful, and stood scratching his head.
He respected Miss Abbott. He wished that she would
respect him. "So you do not advise me?" he said dole-
fully. "But why should it be a failure?"
Miss Abbott tried to remember that he was really a
child still a child with the strength and the passions
of a disreputable man. "How can it succeed," she said
solemnly, "where there is no love?"
"But she does love me! I forgot to tell you that."
"Passionately." He laid his hand upon his own
"Then God help her!"
He stamped impatiently. "Whatever I say displeases
you, Signorina. God help you, for you are most un-
fair. You say that I ill-treated my dear wife. It is not
so. I have never ill-treated any one. You complain that
Where Angels Fear to Tread 135
there is no love in this marriage. I prove that there is,
and you become still more angry. What do you want?
Do you suppose she will not be contented? Glad
enough she is to get me, and she will do her duty
"Her duty!" cried Miss Abbott, with all the bitter-
ness of which she was capable.
"Why, of course. She knows why I am marrying
"To succeed where Lilia failed! To be your house-
keeper, your slave, you " The words she would
like to have said were too violent for her.
"To look after the baby, certainly," said he.
"The baby ?" She had forgotten it.
"It is an English marriage," he said proudly. "I do
not care about the money. I am having her for my son.
Did you not understand that?"
"No," said Miss Abbott, utterly bewildered. Then,
for a moment, she saw light. "It is not necessary,
Signer Carella. Since you are tired of the baby "
Ever after she remembered it to her credit that she
saw her mistake at once. "I don't mean that," she
"I know," was his courteous response. "Ah, in a
foreign language (and how perfectly you speak Italian)
one is certain to make slips."
She looked at his face. It was apparently innocent
"You meant that we could not always be together
yet, he and I. You are right. What is to be done? I can-
not afford a nurse, and Perfetta is too rough. When he
was ill I dare not let her touch him. When he has to be
washed, which happens now and then, who does it? I.
136 E. M. FORSTER
I feed him, or settle what he shall have. I sleep with
him and comfort him when he is unhappy in the night.
No one talks, no one may sing to him but I. Do not
be unfair this time; I like to do these things. But never-
theless (his voice became pathetic) they take up a
great deal of time, and are not all suitable for a young
"Not at all suitable," said Miss Abbott, and closed
her eyes wearily. Each moment her difficulties were in-
creasing. She wished that she was not so tired, so open
to contradictory impressions. She longed for Harriet's
burly obtuseness or for the soulless diplomacy of Mrs.
"A little more wine?" asked Gino kindly.
"Oh, no, thank you! But marriage, Signer Carella,
is a very serious step. Could you not manage more sim-
ply? Your relative, for example "
"Empoli! I would as soon have him in England!"
"England, then "
"He has a grandmother there, you know Mrs.
"He has a grandmother here. No, he is troublesome,
but I must have him with me. I will not even have my
father and mother too. For they would separate us,"
"They would separate our thoughts."
She was silent. This cruel, vicious fellow knew of
strange refinements. The horrible truth, that wicked
people are capable of love, stood naked before her, and
her moral being was abashed. It was her duty to rescue
the baby, to save it from contagion, and she still
Where Angels Fear to Tread 137
meant to do her duty. But the comfortable sense of
virtue left her. She was in the presence of something
greater than right or wrong.
Forgetting that this was an interview, he had strolled
back into the room, driven by the instinct she had
aroused in him. "Wake up!" he cried to his baby, as if
it was some grown-up friend. Then he lifted his foot
and trod lightly on its stomach.
Miss Abbott cried, "Oh, take care!" She was unac-
customed to this method of awakening the young.
"He is not much longer than my boot, is he? Can
you believe that in time his own boots will be as large?
And that he also "
"But ought you to treat him like that?"
He stood with one foot resting on the little body,
suddenly musing, filled with the desire that his son
should be like him, and should have sons like him, to
people the earth. It is the strongest desire that can
come to a man if it comes to him at all stronger
even than love or the desire for personal immortality.
All men vaunt it, and declare that it is theirs; but the
hearts of most are set elsewhere. \ It is the exception^
who comprehends that physical and spiritual life
may stream out of him for ever. j Miss Abbott, for all
her goodness, could not comprehend it, though such a
thing is more within the comprehension of women.
And when Gino pointed first to himself and then to
his baby and said "father son," she still took it as a
piece of nursery prattle, and smiled mechanically.
The child, the first fruits, woke up and glared at her.
Gino did not greet it, but continued the exposition
of his policy.
"This woman will do exactly what I tell her. She is
138 E. M. FORSTER
fond of children. She is clean; she has a pleasant voice.
She is not beautiful; I cannot pretend that to you for
a moment. But she is what I require."
The baby gave a piercing yell.
"Oh, do take care!" begged Miss Abbott. "You are
"It is nothing. If he cries silently then you may be
frightened. He thinks I am going to wash him, and he
is quite right."
"Wash him!" she cried. "You? Here?" The homely
piece of news seemed to shatter all her plans. She had
spent a long half-hour in elaborate approaches, in high
moral attacks; she had neither frightened her enemy
nor made him angry, nor interfered with the least de-
tail of his domestic life.
"I had gone to the Farmacia," he continued, "and
was sitting there comfortably, when suddenly I remem-
bered that Perfetta had heated water an hour ago
over there, look, covered with a cushion. I came awa)
at once, for really he must be washed. You must ex-
cuse me. I can put it off no longer."
"I have wasted your time," she said feebly.
He walked sternly to the loggia and drew from it a
large earthenware bowl. It was dirty inside; he dusted
it with a tablecloth. Then he fetched the hot water,
which was in a copper pot. He poured it out. He
added cold. He felt in his pocket and brought out a
piece of soap. Then he took up the baby, and, holding
his cigar between his teeth, began to unwrap it. Miss
Abbott turned to go.
"But why are you going? Excuse me if I wash him
while we talk."
"I have nothing more to say," said Miss Abbott. All
Where Angels Fear to Tread 139
she could do now was to find Philip, confess her miser-
able defeat, and bid him go in her stead and prosper
better. She cursed her feebleness; she longed to expose
it, without apologies or tears.
"Oh, but stop a moment!" he cried. "You have
not seen him yet."
"I have seen as much as I want, thank you."
The last wrapping slid off. He held out to her in his
two hands a little kicking image of bronze.
She would not touch the child.
"I must go at once," she cried; for the tears the
wrong tears were hurrying to her eyes.
"Who would have believed his mother was blonde?
For he is brown all over -brown every inch of him.
Ah, but how beautiful he is! And he is mine; mine for
ever. Even if he hates me he will be mine. He cannot
help it; he is made out of me; I am his father."
It was too late to go. She could not tell why, but it
was too late. She turned away her head when Gino
lifted his son to his lips. This was something too re-
mote from the prettiness of the nursery. The man was
majestic; he was a part of Nature; in no ordinary love
scene could he ever be so great. For a wonderful phys-
ical tie binds the parents to the children; and by
some sad, strange irony it does not bind us children
to our parents. ^For if it did, if we could answer their
love not with gratitude but with equal love, life would
lose much of its pathos and much of its squalor, and
we might be wonderfully happy? Gino passionately
embracing, Miss Abbott reverently averting her eyes
both of them had parents whom they did not love
so very much.
14O E. M. FORSTER
"May I help you to wash him?" she asked humbly.
He gave her his son without speaking, and they
knelt side by side, tucking up their sleeves. The child
had stopped crying, and his arms and legs were agi-
tated by some overpowering joy. Miss Abbott had a
woman's pleasure in cleaning anything more espe-
cially when the thing was human. She understood little
babies from long experience in a district, and Gino
soon ceased to give her directions, and only gave her
"It is very kind of you," he murmured, "especially in
your beautiful dress. He is nearly clean already. Why,
I take the whole morning! There is so much more of
a baby than one expects. And Perfetta washes him
just as she washes clothes. Then he screams for hours.
My wife is to have a light hand. Ah, how he kicks! Has
he splashed you? I am very sorry."
"I am ready for a soft towel now," said Miss Abbott,
who was strangely exalted by the service.
"Certainly! certainly!" He strode in a knowing way
to a cupboard. But he had no idea where the soft towel
was. Generally he dabbed the baby on the first dry
thing he found.
"And if you had any powder."
He struck his forehead despairingly. Apparently the
stock of powder was just exhausted.
She sacrificed her own clean handkerchief. He put a
chair for her on the loggia, which faced westward, and
was still pleasant and cool. There she sat, with twenty
miles of view behind her, and he placed the dripping
baby on her knee. It shone now with health and
beauty: it seemed to reflect light, like a copper vessel.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 141
Just such a baby Bellini sets languid on his mother's
lap, or Signorelli flings wriggling on pavements of
marble, or Lorenzo di Credi, more reverent but less
divine, lays carefully among flowers, with his head
upon a wisp of golden straw. For a time Gino con-
templated them standing. Then, to get a better view,
he knelt by the side of the chair, with his hands clasped
So they were when Philip entered, and saw, to all
intents and purposes, the Virgin and Child, with
"Hullo!" he exclaimed; for he was glad to find things
in such cheerful trim.
She did not greet him, but rose up unsteadily and
handed the baby to his father.
"No, do stop!" whispered Philip. "I got your note.
I'm not offended; you're quite right. I really want you;
I could never have done it alone."
No words came from her, but she raised her hands to
her mouth, like one who is in sudden agony.
"Signorina, do stop a little after all your kindness."
She burst into tears.
"What is it?" said Philip kindly.
She tried to speak, and then went away weeping
The two men stared at each other. By a common
impulse they ran on to the loggia. They were just in
time to see Miss Abbott disappear among the trees.
"What is it?" asked Philip again. There was no an-
swer, and somehow he did not want an answer. Some
strange thing had happened which he could not pre-
sume to understand. He would find out from Miss
142 E. M. FORSTER
Abbott, if ever he found out at all.
"Well, your business," said Gino, after a puzzled
"Our business Miss Abbott has told you of that."
"But surely "
"She came for business. But she forgot about it; so
Perfetta, who had a genius for missing people, now
returned, loudly complaining of the size of Monteriano
and the intricacies of its streets. Gino told her to watch
the baby. Then he offered Philip a cigar, and they pro-
ceeded to the business.
"Mad!" screamed Harriet, "absolutely stark, staring,
Philip judged it better not to contradict her.
"What's she here for? Answer me that. What's she
doing in Monteriano in August? Why isn't she in Nor-
mandy? Answer that. She won't. I can: she's come to
thwart us; she's betrayed us got hold of mother's
plans. Oh, goodness, my head!"
He was unwise enough to reply, "You mustn't ac-
cuse her of that. Though she is exasperating, she hasn't
come here to betray us."
"Then why has she come here? Answer me that."
He made no answer. But fortunately his sister was
too much agitated to wait for one. "Bursting in on me
Where Angels Fear to Tread 143
crying and looking a disgusting sight and says she
has been to see the Italian. Couldn't even talk prop-
erly; pretended she had changed her opinions. What
are her opinions to us? I was very calm. I said: 'Miss
Abbott, I think there is a little misapprehension in
this matter. My mother, Mrs. Herriton ' Oh,
goodness, my head! Of course you've failed don't
trouble to answer I know you've failed. Where's the
baby, pray? Of course you haven't got it. Dear sweet
Caroline won't let you. Oh, yes, and we're to go away
at once and trouble the father no more. Those are her
commands. Commands! COMMANDS!" And Harriet
also burst into tears.
Philip governed his temper. His sister was annoying,
but quite reasonable in her indignation. Moreover,
Miss Abbott had behaved even worse than she sup-
"I've not got the baby, Harriet, but at the same time
I haven't exactly failed. I and Signor Carella are to
have another interview this afternoon, at the Caffe
Garibaldi. He is perfectly reasonable and pleasant.
Should you be disposed to come with me, you would
find him quite willing to discuss things. He is desper-
ately in want of money, and has no prospect of get-
ting any. I discovered that. At the same time, he has
a certain affection for the child." For Philip's insight,
or perhaps his opportunities, had not been equal to
Harriet would only sob, and accuse her brother of
insulting her; how could a lady speak to such a horrible
man? That, and nothing else, was enough to stamp
Caroline. Oh, poor Lilia!
Philip drummed on the bedroom window-sill. He
144 E - M - FORSTER
saw no escape from the deadlock. For though he spoke
cheerfully about his second interview with Gino, he
felt at the bottom of his heart that it would fail. Gino
was too courteous: he would not break off negotiations
by sharp denial; he loved this civil, half-humorous bar-
gaining. And he loved fooling his opponent, and did
it so nicely that his opponent did not mind being
"Miss Abbott has behaved extraordinarily," he said
at last; "but at the same time "
His sister would not hear him. She burst forth again
on the madness, the interference, the intolerable du-
plicity of Caroline.
"Harriet, you must listen. My dear, you must stop
crying. I have something quite important to say."
"I shall not stop crying," said she. But in time, find-
ing that he would not speak to her, she did stop.
"Remember that Miss Abbott has done us no harm.
She said nothing to him about the matter. He assumes
that she is working with us: I gathered that."
"Well, she isn't."
"Yes; but if you're careful she may be. I interpret
her behaviour thus: She went to see him, honestly in-
tending to get the child away. In the note she left me
she says so, and I don't believe she'd lie."
"When she got there, there was some pretty domes-
tic scene between him and the baby, and she has got
swept off in a gush of sentimentalism. Before very long,
if I know anything about psychology, there will be a
reaction. She'll be swept back."
"I don't understand your long words. Say
Where Angels Fear to Tread 145
"When she's swept back, she'll be invaluable. For
she has made quite an impression on him. He thinks
her so nice with the baby. You know, she washed it
Harriet's ejaculations were more aggravating than
the rest of her. But Philip was averse to losing his tem-
per. The access of joy that had come to him yesterday
in the theatre promised to be permanent. He was more
anxious than heretofore to be charitable towards the
"If you want to carry off the baby, keep your peace
with Miss Abbott. For if she chooses, she can help you
better than I can."
"There can be no peace between me and her," said
-Did you "
"Oh, not all I wanted. She went away before I had
finished speaking just like those cowardly people!
into the church."
"Into Santa Deodata's?"
"Yes; I'm sure she needs it. Anything more un-
In time Philip went to the church also, leaving his
sister a little calmer and a little disposed to think over
his advice. What had come over Miss Abbott? He had
always thought her both stable and sincere. That con-
versation he had had with her last Christmas in the
train to Charing Cross that alone furnished him with
a parallel. For the second time, Monteriano must have
turned her head. He was not angry with her, for he was
quite indifferent to the outcome of their expedition.
He was only extremely interested.
146 E. M. FORSTER
It was now nearly midday, and the streets were clear-
ing. But the intense heat had broken, and there was a
pleasant suggestion of rain. The Piazza, with its three
great attractions the Palazzo Pubblico, the Collegiate
Church, and the Gaffe Garibaldi: the intellect, the
soul, and the body had never looked more charming.
For a moment Philip stood in its centre, much in-
clined to be dreamy, and thinking how wonderful it
must feel to belong to a city, however mean. He was
here, however, as an emissary of civilization and as a
student of character, and, after a sigh, he entered Santa
Deodata's to continue his mission.
There had been a festa two days before, and the
church still smelt of incense and of garlic. The little
son of the sacristan was sweeping the nave, more for
amusement than for cleanliness, sending great clouds
of dust over the frescoes and the scattered worshippers.
The sacristan himself had propped a ladder in the
centre of the Deluge which fills one of the nave span-
drels and was freeing a column from its wealth of
scarlet calico. Much scarlet calico also lay upon the
floor for the church can look as fine as any theatre
and the sacristan's little daughter was trying to fold
it up. She was wearing a tinsel crown. The crown really
belonged to St. Augustine. But it had been cut too
big: it fell down over his cheeks like a collar: you
never saw anything so absurd. One of the canons had
unhooked it just before the fiesta began, and had given
it to the sacristan's daughter.
"Please," cried Philip, "is there an English lady
The man's mouth was full of tin-tacks, but he
nodded cheerfully towards a kneeling figure. In the
Where Angels Fear to Tread 147
midst of this confusion Miss Abbott was praying.
He was not much surprised: a spiritual breakdown
was quite to be expected. For though he was growing
more charitable towards mankind, he was still a little
jaunty, and too apt to stake out beforehand the course,
that will be pursued by the wounded soul. It did not
surprise him, however, that she should greet him natu-
rally, with none of the sour self-consciousness of a
person who had just risen from her knees. This was
indeed the spirit of Santa Deodata's, where a prayer
to God is thought none the worse of because it comes
next to a pleasant word to a neighbour. "I am sure
that I need it," said she; and he, who had expected her
to be ashamed, became confused, and knew not what
"I've nothing to tell you," she continued. "I have
simply changed straight round. If I had planned the
whole thing out, I could not have treated you worse.
I can talk it over now; but please believe that I have
"And please believe that I have not come to scold
you," said Philip. "I know what has happened."
"What?" asked Miss Abbott. Instinctively she led
the way to the famous chapel, the fifth chapel on the
right, wherein Giovanni da Empoli has painted the
death and burial of the saint. Here they could sit out
of the dust and the noise, and proceed with a discus-
sion which promised to be important.
"What might have happened to me he had made
you believe that he loved the child."
"Oh, yes; he has. He will never give it up."
"At present it is still unsettled."
"It will never be settled."
148 E. M. FORSTER
"Perhaps not. Well, as I said, I know what has hap-
pened, and I am not here to scold you. But I must ask
you to withdraw from the thing for the present. Har-
riet is furious. But she will calm down when she real-
izes that you have done us no harm, and will do none."
"I can do no more," she said. "But I tell you plainly
I have changed sides."
"If you do no more, that is all we want. You prom-
ise not to prejudice our cause by speaking to Signer
"Oh, certainly. I don't want to speak to him again;
I shan't ever see him again."
"Quite nice, wasn't he?"
"Well, that's all I wanted to know. I'll go and tell
Harriet of your promise, and I think things'll quiet
But he did not move, for it was an increasing pleas-
ure to him to be near her, and her charm was at its
strongest today. He thought less of psychology and
feminine reaction. The gush of sentimentalism which
had carried her away had only made her more alluring.
He was content to observe her beauty and to profit by
the tenderness and the wisdom that dwelt within her.
"Why aren't you angry with me?" she asked, after a
"Because I understand you all sides, I think,
Harriet, Signer Carella, even my mother."
"You do understand wonderfully. You are the only
one of us who has a general view of the muddle."
He smiled with pleasure. It was the first time she
had ever praised him. His eyes rested agreeably on
Santa Deodata, who was dying in full sanctity, upon
"Then another. If that fails I shall wire home for
instructions. I dare say we may fail altogether, but we
shall fail honourably."
She had often been decided. But now behind her
decision there was a note of passion. She struck him
not as different, but as more important, and he minded
it very much when she said
"That's not doing anything! You would be doing
something if you kidnapped the baby, or if you went
straight away. But that! To fail honourably! To come
out of the thing as well as you can! Is that all you are
"Why, yes," he stammered. "Since we talk openly,
that is all I am after just now. What else is there? If
I can persuade Signer Carella to give in, so much the
better. If he won't, I must report the failure to my
mother and then go home. Why, Miss Abbott, you
150 E. M. FORSTER
can't expect me to follow you through all these
"I don't! But I do expect you to settle what is right
and to follow that. Do you want the child to stop with
his father, who loves him and will bring him up badly,
or do you want him to come to Sawston, where no
one loves him, but where he will be brought up well?
There is the question put dispassionately enough
even for you. Settle it. Settle which side you'll fight on.
But don't go talking about an 'honourable failure/
which means simply not thinking and not acting at all./''
"Because I understand the position of Signer Carella
and of you, it's no reason that "
"None at all. Fight as if you think us wrong. Oh,
what's the use of your fair-mindedness if you never
decide for yourself? Any one gets hold of you and
makes you do what they want. And you see through
them and laugh at them and do it. It's not enough to
see clearly; I'm muddle-headed and stupid, and not
worth a quarter of you, but I have tried to do what
seemed right at the time. And you your brain and
your insight are splendid. But when you see what's
right you're too idle to do it. You told jne once that
we shall be judged by our intention^, not by pur ac-
rnrnj^sh merits. I thought it a grand remark. But we
must intend to a^jjmolish not sit intending on a
"You are wonderful!" he said gravely.
"Oh, you appreciate me!" she burst out again. "I
wish you didn't. You appreciate us all see good in
all of us. And all the time you are dead dead dead.
Look, why aren't you angry?" She came up to him,,
and then her mood suddenly changed, and she took
Where Angels Fear to Tread 151
hold of both his hands. "You are so splendid, Mr.
Herriton, that I can't bear to see you wasted. I can't
bear she has not been good to you your mother."
"Miss Abbott, don't worry over me. Some people
are born not to do things. I'm one of them; I never
did anything at school or at the Bar. I came out to
stop Lilia's marriage, and it was too late. I came out
intending to get the baby, and I shall return an 'hon-
ourable failure/ I never expect anything to happen
now, and so I am never disappointed. You would be
surprised to know what my great events are. Going to
the theatre yesterday, talking to you now I don't
suppose I shall ever meet anything greater. I seem
fated to pass through the world without colliding with
it or moving it and I'm sure I can't tell you whether
the fate's good or evil. I don't die I don't fall in love.
And if other people die or fall in love they always do
it when I'm just not there. You are quite right; life
to me is just a spectacle, which thank God, and
thank Italy, and thank you is now more beautiful
and heartening than it has ever been before."
She said solemnly, "I wish something would happen
to you, my dear friend; I wish something would hap-
pen to you."
"But why?" he asked, smiling. "Prove to me why I
don't do as I am."
She also smiled, very gravely. She could not prove it.
No argument existed. Their discourse, splendid as it
had been, resulted in nothing, and their respective
opinions and policies were exactly the same when they
left the church as when they had entered it.
Harriet was rude at lunch. She called Miss Abbott
a turncoat and a coward to her face. Miss Abbott
152 E. M. FORSTER
resented neither epithet, feeling that one was justified
and the other not unreasonable. She tried to avoid
even the suspicion of satire in her replies. But Harriet
was sure that she was satirical because she was so calm.
She got more and more violent, and Philip at one time
feared that she would come to blows.
"Look here!" he cried, with something of the old
manner, "it's too hot for this. We've been talking and
interviewing each other all the morning, and I have
another interview this afternoon. I do stipulate for
silence. Let each lady retire to her bedroom with a
"I retire to pack," said Harriet. "Please remind Sig-
nor Carella, Philip, that the baby is to be here by half-
past eight this evening."
"Oh, certainly, Harriet. I shall make a point of re-
"And order a carriage to take us to the evening
"And please," said Miss Abbott, "would you order
a carriage for me too?"
"You going?" he exclaimed.
"Of course," she replied, suddenly flushing. "Why
"Why, of course you would be going. Two carriages,
then. Two carriages for the evening train." He looked
at his sister hopelessly. "Harriet, whatever are you up
to? We shall never be ready."
"Order my carriage for the evening train," said Har-
riet, and departed.
"Well, I suppose I shall. And I shall also have my
interview with Signer Carella."
Where Angels Fear to Tread 153
Miss Abbott gave a little sigh.
"But why should you mind? Do you suppose that
I shall have the slightest influence over him?"
"No. But I can't repeat all that I said in the
church. You ought never to see him again. You ought
to bundle Harriet into a carriage, not this evening,
but now, and drive her straight away."
"Perhaps I ought. But it isn't a very big 'ought/
Whatever Harriet and I do the issue is the same. Why,
I can see the splendour of it even the humour. Gino
sitting up here on the mountain-top with his cub. We
come and ask for it. He welcomes us. We ask for it
again. He is equally pleasant. I'm agreeable to spend
the whole week bargaining with him. But I know that
at the end of it I shall descend empty-handed to the
plains. It might be finer of me to make up my mind.
But I'm not a fine character. And nothing hangs on
"Perhaps I am extreme," she said humbly. "I've
been trying to run you, just like your mother. I feel
you ought to fight it out with Harriet. Every little
trifle, for some reason, does seem incalculably impor-
tant today, and when you say of a thing that 'nothing
hangs on it/ it sounds like blasphemy. There's never
any knowing (how am I to put it?) which of our
actions, which of our idlenesses won't have things hang-
ing on it for ever."
He assented, but her remark had only an aesthetic
value. He was not prepared to take it to his heart. All
the afternoon he rested worried, but not exactly
despondent. The thing would jog out somehow. Prob-
ably Miss Abbott was right. The baby had better stop
154 E - M - FORSTER
where it was loved. And that, probably, was what the
fates had decreed. He felt little interest in the matter,
and he was sure that he had no influence.
It was not surprising, therefore, that the interview
at the Gaffe Garibaldi came to nothing. Neither of
them took it very seriously. And before long Gino had
discovered how things lay, and was ragging his com-
panion hopelessly. Philip tried to look offended, but
in the end he had to laugh. "Well, you are right," he
said. "This affair is being managed by the ladies."
"Ah, the ladies the ladies!" cried the other, and
then he roared like a millionaire for two cups of black
coffee, and insisted on treating his friend, as a sign
that their strife was over.
"Well, I have done my best," said Philip, dipping a
long slice of sugar into his cup, and watching the
brown liquid ascend into it. "I shall face my mother
with a good conscience. Will you bear me witness that
I've done my best?"
"My poor fellow, I will!" He laid a sympathetic hand
on Philip's knee.
"And that I have " The sugar was now impreg-
nated with coffee, and he bent forward to swallow it.
As he did so his eyes swept the opposite of the Piazza,
and he saw there, watching them, Harriet. "Mia so-
rella!" he exclaimed. Gino, much amused, laid his
hand upon the little table, and beat the marble humor-
ously with his fists. Harriet turned away and began
gloomily to inspect the Palazzo Pubblico.
"Poor Harriet!" said Philip, swallowing the sugar.
^One more wrench and it will all be over for her; we
are leaving this evening."
Gino was sorry for this. "Then you will not be here
Where Angels Fear to Tread 155
this evening as you promised us. All three leaving?"
"All three/' said Philip, who had not revealed the
secession of Miss Abbott; "by the night train; at least,,
that is my sister's plan. So I'm afraid I shan't be here."
They watched the departing figure of Harriet, and
then entered upon the final civilities. They shook each
other warmly by both hands. Philip was to come again
next year, and to write beforehand. He was to be
introduced to Gino's wife, for he was told of the mar-
riage now. He was to be godfather to his next baby.
As for Gino, he would remember some time that
Philip liked vermouth. He begged him to give his
love to Irma. Mrs. Herriton should he send her his
sympathetic regards? No; perhaps that would hardly
So the two young men parted with a good deal of
genuine affection. For the barrier of language is some-
times a blessed barrier, which only lets pass what is
good. Or to put the thing less cynically we may be
better in new clean words, which have never been
tainted by our pettiness or vice. Philip, at all events^
lived more graciously in Italian, the very phrases of
which entice one to be happy and kind. It was horrible
to think of the English of Harriet, whose every word
would be as hard, as distinct, and as unfinished as a
lump of coal.
Harriet, however, talked little. She had seen enough
to know that her brother had failed again, and with
unwonted dignity she accepted the situation. She did
her packing, she wrote up her diary, she made a brown
paper cover for the new Baedeker. Philip, finding her
so amenable, tried to discuss their future plans. But
she only said that they would sleep in Florence, and
156 E. M. FORSTER
told him to telegraph for rooms. They had supper
alone. Miss Abbott did not come down. The land-
lady told them that Signer Carella had called on Miss
Abbott to say good-bye, but she, though in, had not
been able to see him. She also told them that it had
begun to rain. Harriet sighed, but indicated to her
brother that he was not responsible.
The carriages came round at a quarter past eight. It
was not raining much, but the night was extraordi-
narily dark, and one of the drivers wanted to go slowly
to the station. Miss Abbott came down and said that
she was ready, and would start at once.
"Yes, do," said Philip, who was standing in the hall.
"Now that we have quarrelled we scarcely want to
travel in procession all the way down the hill. Well,
good-bye; it's all over at last; another scene in my
pageant has shifted."
"Good-bye; it's been a great pleasure to see you. I
hope that won't shift, at all events." She gripped his
"You sound despondent," he said, laughing. "Don't
forget that you return victorious."
"I suppose I do," she replied, more despondently
than ever, and got into the carriage. He concluded
that she was thinking of her reception at Sawston,
whither her fame would doubtless precede her. What-
ever would Mrs. Herriton do? She could make things
quite unpleasant when she thought it right. She might
think it right to be silent, but then there was Harriet.
Who would bridle Harriet's tongue? Between the two
of them Miss Abbott was bound to have a bad time.
Her reputation, both for consistency and for moral
enthusiasm, would be lost for ever.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 157
"It's hard luck on her/' he thought. "She is a good
person. I must do for her anything I can." Their in-
timacy had been very rapid, but he too hoped that it
would not shift. He believed that he understood her,
and that she, by now, had seen the worst of him. What
if after a long time if after all he flushed like a boy
as he looked after her carriage.
He went into the dining-room to look for Harriet.
Harriet was not to be found. Her bedroom, too, was
empty. All that was left of her was the purple prayer-
book which lay open on the bed. Philip took it up
aimlessly, and saw "Blessed be the Lord my God
who teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to
fight." He put the book in his pocket, and began to
brood over more profitable themes.
Santa Deodata gave out half past eight. All the lug-
gage was on, and still Harriet had not appeared. "De-
pend upon it," said the landlady, "she has gone to
Signer Carella's to say good-bye to her little nephew."
Philip did not think it likely. They shouted all over
the house and still there was no Harriet. He began to
be uneasy. He was helpless without Miss Abbott; her
grave, kind face had cheered him wonderfully, even
when it looked displeased. Monteriano was sad with-
out her; the rain was thickening; the scraps of Doni-
zetti floated tunelessly out of the wineshops, and of
the great tower opposite he could only see the base,
fresh papered with the advertisements of quacks.
A man came up the street with a note. Philip read,
'Start at once. Pick me up outside the gate. Pay the
bearer. H. H."
"Did the lady give you this note?" he cried.
The man was unintelligible.
158 E. M. FORSTER
"Speak up!" exclaimed Philip. "Who gave it you
Nothing but horrible sighings and bubblings came
out of the man.
"Be patient with him," said the driver, turning
round on the box. "It :s the poor idiot." And the land-
lady came out of the hotel and echoed "The poor
idiot. He cannot speak. He takes messages for us all."
Philip then saw that the messenger was a ghastly
creature, quite bald, with trickling eyes and grey
twitching nose. In another country he would have
been shut up; here he was accepted as a public insti-
tution, and part of Nature's scheme.
"Ugh!" shuddered the Englishman. "Signora pa-
drona, find out from him; this note is from my sister.
What does it mean? Where did he see her?"
"It is no good," said the landlady. "He understands
everything but he can explain nothing."
"He has visions of the saints," said the man who
drove the cab.
"But my sister where has she gone? How has she
"She has gone for a walk," asserted the landlady. It
was a nasty evening, but she was beginning to under-
stand the English. "She has gone for a walk perhaps
to wish good-bye to her little nephew. Preferring to
come back another way, she has sent you this note
by the poor idiot and is waiting for you outside the
Siena gate. Many of my guests do this."
There was nothing to do but to obey the message.
He shook hands with the landlady, gave the messen-
ger a nickel piece, and drove away. After a dozen yards
Where Angels Fear to Tread 159
the carriage stopped. The poor idiot was running and
"Go on/' cried Philip. "I have paid him plenty."
A horrible hand pushed three soldi into his lap. It
was part of the idiot's malady only to receive what
was just for his services. This was the change out of
the nickel piece.
"Go on!" shouted Philip, and flung the money into
the road. He was frightened at the episode; the whole
of life had become unreal. It was a relief to be out of
the Siena gate. They drew up for a moment on the
terrace. But there was no sign of Harriet. The driver
called to the Dogana men. But they had seen no Eng-
lish lady pass.
"What am I to do?" he cried; "it is not like the lady
to be late. We shall miss the train."
"Let us drive slowly," said the driver, "and you shall
call her by name as we go."
So they started down into the night, Philip calling
"Harriet! Harriet! Harriet!" And there she was, wait-
ing for them in the wet, at the first turn of the zig-
"Harriet, why don't you answer?"
"I heard you coming," said she, and got quickly in.
Not till then did he see that she carried a bundle.
"Whatever is that?"
Harriet had succeeded where Miss Abbott and
Philip had failed. It was the baby.
She would not let him talk. The baby, she re-
l6o E. M. FORSTER
peated, was asleep, and she put up an umbrella to
shield it and her from the rain. He should hear all
later, so he had to conjecture the course of the won-
derful interview an interview betwe.cn the South pole
and the North. It was quite easy to conjecture:
Gino crumpling up suddenly before the intense con-
viction of Harriet; being told, perhaps, to his face that
he was a villain; yielding his only son perhaps for
money, perhaps for nothing. "Poor Gino/' he thought.
"He's no greater than I am, after all."
Then he thought of Miss Abbott, whose carriage
must be descending the darkness some mile or two
below them, and his easy self-accusation failed. She,
too, had conviction; he had felt its force; he would
feel it again when she knew this day's sombre and un-
"You have been pretty secret/' he said; "you might
tell me a little now. What do we pay for him?
All we've got?"
"Hush!" answered Harriet, and dandled the bundle
laboriously, like some bony prophetess Judith, or
Deborah, or Jael. He had last seen the baby sprawling
on the knees of Miss Abbott, shining and naked, with
twenty miles of view behind him, and his father kneel-
ing by his feet. And that remembrance, together with
Harriet, and the darkness, and the poor idiot, and the
silent rain, filled him with sorrow and with the expec-
tation of sorrow to come.
Monteriano had long disappeared, and he could see
nothing but the occasional wet stem of an olive, which
their lamp illumined as they passed it. They travelled
quickly, for this driver did not care how fast he went
Where Angels Fear to Tread 161
to the station, and would dash down each incline and
scuttle perilously round the curves.
"Look here, Harriet/' he said at last, "I feel bad;
I want to see the baby."
"I don't mind if I do wake him up. I want to see
him. I've as much right in him as you."
Harriet gave in. But it was too dark for him to see
the child's face. "Wait a minute," he whispered, and
before she could stop him he had lit a match under
the shelter of her umbrella. "But he's awake!" he
exclaimed. The match went out.
"Good ickle quiet boysey, then."
Philip winced. "His face, do you know, struck me
as all wrong."
"All puckered queerly."
"Of course with the shadows you couldn't see
"Well, hold him up again." She did so. He lit an-
other match. It went out quickly, but not before he
had seen that the baby was crying.
"Nonsense," said Harriet sharply. "We should hear
him if he cried."
"No, he's crying hard; I thought so before, and I'm
Harriet touched the child's face. It was bathed in
tears. "Oh, the night air, I suppose," she said, "or per-
haps the wet of the rain."
"I say, you haven't hurt it, or held it the wrong way,
or anything; it is too uncanny crying and no noise.
Why didn't you get Perfetta to carry it to the hotel
l62 E. M. FORSTER
instead of muddling with the messenger? It's a marvel
he understood about the note."
"Oh, he understands." And he could feel her shud-
der. "He tried to carry the baby "
"But why not Gino or Perfetta?"
"Philip, don't talk. Must I say it again? Don't talk.
The baby wants to sleep." She crooned harshly as they
descended, and now and then she wiped up the tears
which welled inexhaustibly from the little eyes. Philip
looked away, winking at times himself. It was as if
they were travelling with the whole world's sorrow, as
if all the mystery, all the persistency of woe were gath-
ered to a single fount. The roads were now coated
with mud, and the carriage went more quietly but
not less swiftly, sliding by long zigzags into the night.
He knew the landmarks pretty well : here was the cross-
road to Poggibonsi; and the last view of Monteriano,
if they had light, would be from here. Soon they ought
to come to that little wood where violets were so plen-
tiful in spring. He wished the weather had not
changed; it was not cold, but the air was extraordi-
narily damp. It could not be good for the child.
"I suppose he breathes, and all that sort of thing?"
"Of course," said Harriet, in an angry whisper.
"You've started him again. I'm certain he was asleep.
I do wish you wouldn't talk; it makes me so nervous."
"I'm nervous too. I wish he'd scream. It's too un-
canny. Poor Gino! I'm terribly sorry for Gino."
"Because he's weak like most of us. He doesn't
know what he wants. He doesn't grip on to life. But I
like that man, and I'm sorry for him."
Where Angels Fear to Tread 163
Naturally enough she made no answer.
"You despise him, Harriet, and you despise me. But
you do us no good by it. We fools want some one to
set us on our feet. Suppose a really decent woman
had set up Gino I believe Caroline Abbott might <
have done it mightn't he have been another man?"
"Philip," she interrupted, with an attempt at non-
chalance, "do you happen to have those matches
handy? We might as well look at the baby again if you
The first match blew out immediately. So did the
second. He suggested that they should stop the car-
riage and borrow the lamp from the driver.
"Oh, I don't want all that bother. Try again."
They entered the little wood as he tried to strike the
third match. At last it caught. Harriet poised the um-
brella rightly, and for a full quarter minute they con-
templated the face that trembled in the light of the
trembling flame. Then there was a shout and a crash.
They were lying in the mud in darkness. The carriage
Philip was a good deal hurt. He sat up and rocked
himself to and fro, holding his arm. He could just
make out the outline of the carriage above him, and
the outlines of the carriage cushions and of their lug-
gage upon the grey road. The accident had taken place
in the wood, where it was even darker than in the
"Are you all right?" he managed to say. Harriet was
screaming, the horse was kicking, the driver was curs-
ing some other man.
Harriet's screams became coherent. "The baby the
baby it slipped it's gone from my arms I stole it!"
164 E. M. FORSTER
"God help me!" said Philip. A cold circle came
round his mouth, and he fainted.
When he recovered it was still the same confusion.
The horse was kicking, the baby had not been found,
and Harriet still screamed like a maniac, "I stole it! I
stole it! I stole it! It slipped out of my arms!"
"Keep still!" he commanded the driver. "Let no one
move. We may tread on it. Keep still."
For a moment they all obeyed him. He began to
crawl through the mud, touching first this, then that,
grasping the cushions by mistake, listening for the faint-
est whisper that might guide him. He tried to light a
match, holding the box in his teeth and striking at it
with the uninjured hand. At last he succeeded, and
the light fell upon the bundle which he was seeking.
It had rolled off the road into the wood a little way,
and had fallen across a great rut. So tiny it was that
had it fallen lengthways it would have disappeared,
and he might never have found it.
"I stole it! I and the idiot no one was there." She
burst out laughing.
He sat down and laid it on his knee. Then he tried
to cleanse the face from the mud and the rain and
the tears. His arm, he supposed, was broken, but he
could still move it a little, and for the moment he for-
got all pain. He was listening not for a cry, but for
the tick of a heart or the slightest tremor of breath.
"Where are you?" called a voice. It was Miss Abbott,
against whose carriage they had collided. She had re-
lit one of the lamps, and was picking her way towards
"Silence!" he called again, and again they obeyed.
He shook the bundle; he breathed into it; he opened
Where Angels Fear to Tread 165
his coat and pressed it against him. Then he listened,
and heard nothing but the rain and the panting horses,
and Harriet, who was somewhere chuckling to herself
in the dark.
Miss Abbott approached, and took it gently from
him. The face was already chilly, but thanks to Philip
it was no longer wet. Nor would it again be wetted by
The details of Harriet's crime were never known. In
her illness she spoke more of the inlaid box that she
lent to Lilia lent, not given than of recent trou-
bles. It was clear that she had gone prepared for an
interview with Gino, and finding him out, she had
yielded to a grotesque temptation. But how far this
was the result of ill-temper, to what extent she had
been fortified by her religion, when and how she had
met the poor idiot these questions were never an-
swered, nor did they interest Philip greatly. Detection
was certain: they would have been arrested by the
police of Florence or Milan, or at the frontier. As it
was, they had been stopped in a simpler manner a few
miles out of the town.
As yet he could scarcely survey the thing. It was
too great. Round the Italian baby who had died in
the mud there centred deep passions and high
hopes. People had been wicked or wrong in the
matter; no one save himself had been trivial. Now the
l66 E. M. FORSTER
baby had gone, but there remained this vast apparatus
of pride and pity and love. For the dead, who seemed
to take away so much, really take with them nothing
that is ours. The passion they have aroused lives after
them, easy to transmute or to transfer, but well-nigh
impossible to destroy. And Philip knew that he was
still voyaging on the same magnificent, perilous sea,
with the sun or the clouds above him, and the tides
The course of the moment that, at all events, was
certain. He and no one else must take the news to
Gino. It was easy to talk of Harriet's crime easy also
to blame the negligent Perfetta or Mrs. Herriton at
home. Every one had contributed even Miss Abbott
and Irma. If one chose, one might consider the catas-
, trophe composite or the work of fate. But Philip did
F not so choose. It was his own fault, due to acknowl;
edged weakness in hisjown character. Therefore he,
and no one else, must take the news of it to Gino.
Nothing prevented him. Miss Abbott was engaged
with Harriet, and people had sprung out of the dark-
ness and were conducting them towards some cottage.
Philip had only to get into the uninjured carriage and
order the driver to return. He was back at Monteriano
after a two hours' absence. Perfetta was in the house
now, and greeted him cheerfully. Pain, physical and
mental, had made him stupid. It was some time before
he realized that she had never missed the child.
Gino was still out. The woman took him to the re-
ception-room, just as she had taken Miss Abbott in
the morning, and dusted a circle for him on one of
the horsehair chairs. But it was dark now, so she left
the guest a little lamp.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 167
"I will be as quick as I can/' she told him. "But
there are many streets in Monteriano; he is sometimes
difficult to find. I could not find him this morning."
"Go first to the Gaffe Garibaldi/' said Philip, re-
membering that this was the hour appointed by his
friends of yesterday.
He occupied the time he was left alone not in
thinking there was nothing to think about; he simply
had to tell a few facts but in trying to make a sling
for his broken arm. The trouble was in the elbow- joint,
and as long as he kept this motionless he could go on
as usual. But inflammation was beginning, and the
slightest jar gave him agony. The sling was not fitted
before Gino leapt up the stairs, crying
"So you are back! How glad I am! We are all wait-
Philip had seen too much to be nervous. In low,
even tones he told what had happened; and the other,
also perfectly calm, heard him to the end. In the si-
lence Perfetta called up that she had forgotten the
baby's evening milk; she must fetch it. When she had
gone Gino took up the lamp without a word, and they
went into the other room.
"My sister is ill," said Philip, "and Miss Abbott is
guiltless. I should be glad if you did not have to trou-
Gino had stooped down by the way, and was feel-
ing the place where his son had lain. Now and
then he frowned a little and glanced at Philip.
"It is through me," he continued. "It happened
because I was cowardly and idle. I have come to know
what you will do."
Gino had left the rug, and began to pat the table
l68 E. M. FORSTER
from the end, as if he was blind. The action was so
uncanny that Philip was driven to intervene.
"Gently, man, gently; he is not here."
He went up and touched him on the shoulder.
He twitched away, and began to pass his hands over
things more rapidly over the table, the chairs, the
entire floor, the walls as high as he could reach them.
Philip had not presumed to comfort him. But now
the tension was too great he tried.
"Break down, Gino; you must break down. Scream
and curse and give in for a little; you must break
There was no reply, and no cessation of the sweep-
"It is time to be unhappy. Break down or you will
be ill like my sister. You will go "
The tour of the room was over. He had touched
everything in it except Philip. Now he approached
him. His face was that of a man who has lost his old
reason for life and seeks a new one.
He stopped for a moment; then he came nearer.
Philip stood his ground.
"You are to do what you like with me, Gino. Your
son is dead, Gino. He died in my arms, remember.
It does not excuse me; but he did die in my arms."
The left hand came forward, slowly this time. It
hovered before Philip like an insect. Then it descended
and gripped him by his broken elbow.
Philip struck out with all the strength of his other
arm. Gino fell to the blow without a cry or a word.
"You brute!" exclaimed the Englishman. "Kill me if
Where Angels Fear to Tread 169
you like! But just you leave my broken arm alone."
Then he was seized with remorse, and knelt be-
side his adversary and tried to revive him. He man-
aged to raise him up, and propped his body against
his own. He passed his arm round him. Again he was
filled with pity and tenderness. He awaited the re-
vival without fear, sure that both of them were safe at
Gino recovered suddenly. His lips moved. For one
blessed moment it seemed that he was going to speak.
But he scrambled up in silence, remembering every-
thing, and he made not towards Philip, but towards
"Do what you like; but think first "
The lamp was tossed across the room, out through
the loggia. It broke against one of the trees below.
Philip began to cry out in the dark.
>- Gino approached from behind and gave him a sharp
pinch. Philip spun round with a yell. He had only
been pinched on the back, but he knew what was in
store for him. He struck out, exhorting the devil to
fight him, to kill him, to do anything but this. Then
he stumbled to the door. It was open. He lost his head,
and, instead of turning down the stairs, he ran across
the landing into the room opposite. There he lay
down on the floor between the stove and the skirting-
His senses grew sharper. He could hear Gino com-
ing in on tiptoe. He even knew what was passing in
his mind, how now he was at fault, now he was hope-
ful, now he was wondering whether after all the vic-
tim had not escaped down the stairs. There was a
17O E. M. FORSTER
quick swoop above him, and then a low growl like a
dog's. Gino had broken his finger-nails against the
Physical pain is almost too terrible to bear. We can
just bear it when it comes by accident or for our good
as it generally does in modern life except at
school. But when it is caused by the malignity of a
man, full grown, fashioned like ourselves, all our con-
trol disappears. Philip's one thought was to get away
from that room at whatever sacrifice of nobility or
Gino was now at the further end of the room, grop-
ing by the little tables. Suddenly the instinct came to
him. He crawled quickly to where Philip lay and had
him clean by the elbow.
The whole arm seemed red-hot, and the broken
bone grated in the joint, sending out shoots of the
essence of pain. His other arm was pinioned against
the wall, and Gino had trampled in behind the stove
and was kneeling on his legs. For the space of a min-
ute he yelled and yelled with all the force of his lungs.
Then this solace was denied him. The other hand,
moist and strong, began to close round his throat.
At first he was glad, for here, he thought, was death
at last. But it was only a new torture; perhaps Gino
inherited the skill of his ancestors and childlike ruf-
fians who flung each other from the towers. Just as the
windpipe closed, the hand fell off, and Philip was re-
vived by the motion of his arm. And just as he was
about to faint and gain at last one moment of oblivion,
the motion stopped, and he would struggle instead
against the pressure on his throat.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 171
Vivid pictures were dancing through the pain
Lilia dying some months back in this very house, Miss
Abbott bending over the baby, his mother at home,
now reading evening prayers to the servants. He felt
that he was growing weaker; his brain wandered; the
agony did not seem so great. Not all Gino's care could
indefinitely postpone the end. His yells and gurgles
became mechanical functions of the tortured flesh
rather than true notes of indignation and despair. He
was conscious of a horrid tumbling. Then his arm was
pulled a little too roughly, and everything was quiet at
"But your son is dead, Gino. Your son is dead, dear
Gino. Your son is dead."
The room was full of light, and Miss Abbott had
Gino by the shoulders, holding him down in a chair.
She was exhausted with the struggle, and her arms
"What is the good of another death? What is the
good of more pain?"
He too began to tremble. Then he turned and
looked curiously at Philip, whose face, covered with
dust and foam, was visible by the stove. Miss Abbott
allowed him to get up, though she still held him
firmly. He gave a loud and curious cry a cry of in-
terrogation it might be called. Below there was the
noise of Perfetta returning with the baby's milk.
"Go to him," said Miss Abbott, indicating Philip.
"Pick him up. Treat him kindly."
She released him, and he approached Philip slowly.
His eyes were filling with trouble. He bent down, as if
he would gently raise him up.
172 E. M. FORSTER
"Help! help!" moaned Philip. His body had suffered
too much from Gino. It could not bear to be touched
Gino seemed to understand. He stopped, crouched
above him. Miss Abbott herself came forward and
lifted her friend in her arms.
"Oh, the foul devil!" he murmured. "Kill him! Kill
him for me."
Miss Abbott laid him tenderly on the couch and
wiped his face. Then she said gravely to them both,
"This thing stops here."
"Latte! latte!" cried Perfetta, hilariously ascend-
ing the stairs.
"Remember," she continued, "there is to be no re-
venge. I will have no more intentional evil. We are
not to fight with each other any more."
"I shall never forgive him," sighed Philip.
"Latte! latte freschissima! bianca come neve!" Per-
fetta came in with another lamp and a little jug.
Gino spoke for the first time. "Put the milk on the
table," he said. "It will not be wanted in the other
room." The peril was over at last. A great sob shook
the whole body, another followed, and then he gave
a piercing cry of woe, and stumbled towards Miss Ab-
bott like a child and clung to her.
All through the day Miss Abbott had seemed to
Philip like a goddess, and more than ever did she seem
so now. Many people look younger and more intimate
during great emotion. But some there are who look
older, and remote, and he could not think that there
was little difference in years, and none in composi-
tion, between her and the man whose head was laicf
upon her breast. Her eyes were open, full of infinite
Where Angels Fear to Tread 173
pity and full of majesty, as if they discerned the
boundaries of sorrow, and saw unimaginable tracts
beyond. Such eyes he had seen in great pictures but
never in a mortal. Her hands were folded round the
sufferer, stroking him lightly, for even a goddess can
do no more than that. And it seemed fitting, too, that
she should bend her head and touch his forehead
with her lips.
V Philip looked away, as he sometimes looked away
from the great pictures where visible forms suddenly
become inadequate for the things they have shown
to us. He was happy; he was assured that there was
greatness in the world. There came to him an earnest
desire to be good through the example of this good
woman. He would try henceforward to be worthy
of the things she had revealed. Quietly, without hys-
terical prayers or banging of drums, he underwent
conversion. He was saved.
"That milk," said she, "need not be wasted. Take
it, Signor Carella, and persuade Mr. Herri ton to
Gino obeyed her, and carried the child's milk to
Philip. And Philip obeyed also and drank.
"Is there any left?"
"A little," answered Gino.
"Then finish it." For she was determined to use
such remnants as lie about the world.
"Will you not have some?"
"I do not care for milk; finish it all."
"Philip, have you had enough milk?"
"Yes, thank you, Gino; finish it all."
He drank the milk, and then, either by accident or
in some spasm of pain, broke the jug to pieces. Per-
174 E - M - FORSTER
fetta exclaimed in bewilderment. "It does not mat-
ter," he told her. "It does not matter. It will never be
wanted any more."
"He will have to marry her/' said Philip. "I heard from
him this morning, just as we left Milan. He finds he
has gone too far to back out. It would be expensive. I
don't know how much he minds not as much as we
suppose, I think. At all events there's not a word of
blame in the letter. I don't believe he even feels an-
gry. I never was so completely forgiven. Ever since
you stopped him killing me, it has been a .vjision^f
perfect friendship. He nursed me, he lied for me at
the inquest, and at the funeral, though he was crying,
you would have thought it was my son who had died.
Certainly I was the only person he had to be kind
to; he was so distressed not to make Harriet's ac-
quaintance, and that he scarcely saw anything of
you. In his letter he says so again."
"Thank him, please, when you write," said Miss
Abbott, "and give him my kindest regards."
"Indeed I will." He was surprised that she could
slide away from the man so easily. For his own part,
he was bound by ties of almost alarming intimacy.
Gino had the southern knack of friendship. In the
intervals of business he would pull out Philip's life,
turn it inside out, remodel it, and advise him how to
use it for the best. The sensation was pleasant, for
Where Angels Fear to Tread 175
he was a kind as well as a skilful operator. But Philip
came away feeling that he had not a secret corner left.
In that very letter Gino had again implored him, as a
refuge from domestic difficulties, "to marry Miss Ab-
bott, even if her dowry is small." And how Miss
Abbott herself, after such tragic intercourse, could
resume the conventions and send calm messages of
esteem, was more than he could understand.
"When will you see him again?" she asked. They
were standing together in the corridor of the train,
slowly ascending out of Italy towards the San Gothard
"I hope next spring. Perhaps we shall paint Siena
red for a day or two with some of the new wife's
money. It was one of the arguments for marrying her."
"He has no heart," she said severely. "He does not
really mind about the child at all."
"No; you're wrong. He does. He is unhappy, like
the rest of us. But he doesn't try to keep up appear-
ances as we do. He knows that the things that have
made him happy once will probably make him happy
"He said he would never be happy again."
"In his passion. Not when he was calm. We Eng-
lish say it when we are calm when we do not really
believe it any longer. Gino is not ashamed of incon-
sistency. It is one of the many things I like him for."
"Yes; I was wrong. That is so."
"He's much more honest with himself than I am,"
continued Philip, "and he is honest without an effort
and without pride. But you, Miss Abbott, what about
you? Will you be in Italy next spring?"
176 E. M. FORSTER
"I'm sorry. When will you come back, do you
"I think never."
"For whatever reason?" He stared at her as if she
were some monstrosity.
"Because I understand the place. There is no
"Understand Italy!" he exclaimed.
"Well, I don't. And I don't understand you," he
murmured to himself, as he paced away from her up
the corridor. By this time he loved her very much, and
he could not bear to be puzzled. He had reached love
by the spiritual path: her thoughts and her goodness
and her nobility had moved him first, and now her
whole body and all its gestures had become trans-
figured by them. The beauties that are called obvious
the beauties of her hair and her voice and her limbs
he had noticed these last; Gino, who never trav-
ersed any path at all, had commended them dispas-
sionately to his friend.
Why was he so puzzling? He had known so much
about her once what she thought, how she felt, the
reasons for her actions. And now he only knew
that he loved her, and all the other knowledge
seemed passing from him just as he needed it most.
Why would she never come to Italy again? Why had
she avoided himself and Gino ever since the evening
that she had saved their lives? The train was nearly
empty. Harriet slumbered in a compartment by her-
self. He must ask her these questions now, and he
returned quickly to her down the corridor.
Where Angels Fear to Tread 177
She greeted him with a question of her own. "Are
your plans decided?"
"Yes. I can't live at Sawston."
"Have you told Mrs. Herriton?"
"I wrote from Monteriano. I tried to explain
things; but she will never understand me. Her view
will be that the affair is settled sadly settled since
the baby is dead. Still it's over; our family circle need
be vexed no more. She won't even be angry with
you. You see, you have done us no harm in the long
run. Unless, of course, you talk about Harriet and
make a scandal. So that is my plan London and
work. What is yours?"
"Poor Harriet!" said Miss Abbott. "As if I dare
judge Harriet! Or anybody." And without replying
to Philip's question she left him to visit the other in-
Philip gazed after her mournfully, and then he
looked mournfully out of the window at the decreas-
ing streams. All the excitement was over the inquest,
Harriet's short illness, his own visit to the surgeon.
He was convalescent, both in body and spirit, but
convalescence brought no joy. In the looking-glass at
the end of the corridor he saw his face haggard,
and his shoulders pulled forward by the weight of the
sling. Life was greater than he had supposed, but it
was even less complete. He had seen the need for
strenuous work and for righteousness. And now he
saw what a very little way those things would go.
"Is Harriet going to be all right?" he asked. Miss
Abbott had come back to him.
"She will soon be her old self," was the reply. For
Harriet, after a short paroxysm of illness and remorse,
178 E. M. FORSTER
was quickly returning to her normal state. She had
been "thoroughly upset" as she phrased it, but she
soon ceased to realize that anything was wrong be-
yond the death of a poor little child. Already she
spoke of "this unlucky accident," and "the mysterious
frustration of one's attempts to make things better."
Miss Abbott had seen that she was comfortable, and
had given her a kind kiss. But she returned feeling
that Harriet, like her mother, considered the affair as
"I'm clear enough about Harriet's future, and about
parts of my own. But I ask again, What about yours?"
"Sawston and work," said Miss Abbott.
"Why not?" she asked, smiling.
"You've seen too much. You've seen as much and
done more than I have."
"But it's so different. Of course I shall go to Saw-
ston. You forget my father; and even if he wasn't
there, I've a hundred ties: my district I'm neglect-
ing it shamefully my evening classes, the St.
"Silly nonsense!" he exploded, suddenly moved
to have the whole thing out with her. "You're too
good about a thousand times better than I am. You
can't live in that hole; you must go among people who
can hope to understand you. I mind for myself: I
want to see you often again and again."
"Of course we shall meet whenever you come
down; and I hope that it will mean often."
"It's not enough; it'll only be in the old horrible
way, each with a dozen relatives round us. No, Miss
Abbott; it's not good enough."
Where Angels Fear to Tread 179
"We can write at all events."
"You will write?" he cried, with a flush of pleas-
ure. At times his hopes seemed so solid.
"I will indeed."
"But I say it's not enough you can't go back to
the old life if you wanted to. Too much has hap-
"I know that," she said sadly.
"Not only pain and sorrow, but wonderful things:
that tower in the sunlight do you remember it,
and all you said to me? The theatre, even. And the
next day in the church; and our times with Gino."
"All the wonderful things are over," she said.
"That is just where it is."
"I don't believe it. At all events not for me. The
most wonderful things may be to come "
"The wonderful things are over," she repeated, and
looked at him so mournfully that he dare not con-
tradict her. The train was crawling up the last ascent
towards the Campanile of Airolo and the entrance of
"Miss Abbott," he murmured, speaking quickly, as
if their free intercourse might soon be ended, "what
is the matter with you? I thought I understood you r
and I don't. All those two great first days at Mon-
teriano I read you as clearly as you read me still. I saw
why you had come, and why you changed sides, and
afterwards I saw your wonderful courage and pity.
And now you're frank with me one moment, as you
used to be, and the next moment you shut me up.
You see I owe too much to you my life, and I don't
know what besides. I won't stand it. You've gone too-
far to turn mysterious. I'll quote what you said to me:
l8o E. M. FORSTER
'Don't be mysterious; there isn't the time.' I'll quote
something else: 'I and my life must be where I live.'
You can't live at Sawston."
He had moved her at last. She whispered to herself
hurriedly. "It is tempting " And those three
words threw him into a tumult of joy. What was
tempting to her? After all was the greatest of things
possible? Perhaps, after long estrangement, after much
tragedy, the South had brought them together in the
end. That laughter in the theatre, those silver stars
in the purple sky, even the violets of a departed
spring, all had helped, and sorrow had helped also,
and so had tenderness to others.
"It is tempting," she repeated, "not to be mysteri-
ous. I've wanted often to tell you, and then been
afraid. I could never tell any one else, certainly no
woman, and I think you're the one man who might
understand and not be disgusted."
"Are you lonely?" he whispered. "Is it anything like
"Yes." The train seemed to shake him towards her.
He was resolved that though a dozen people were
looking, he would yet take her in his arms. "I'm ter-
ribly lonely, or I wouldn't speak. I think you must
know already." Their faces were crimson, as if the
same thought was surging through them both.
"Perhaps I do." He came close to her. "Perhaps I
could speak instead. But if you will say the word
plainly you'll never be sorry; I will thank you for it all
She said plainly "That I love him." Then she broke
down. Her body was shaken with sobs, and lest therf
Where Angels Fear to Tread 181
should be any doubt she cried between the sobs for
Gino! Gino! Gino!
He heard himself remark "Rather! I love him too!
When I can forget how he hurt me that eve-
ning. Though whenever we shake hands " One of
them must have moved a step or two, for when she
spoke again she was already a little way apart.
"You've upset me." She stifled something that was
perilously near hysterics. "I thought I was past all
this. You're taking it wrongly. I'm in love with Gino
don't pass it off I mean it crudely you know
what I mean. So laugh at me."
"Laugh at love?" asked Philip.
"Yes. Pull it to pieces. Tell me I'm a fool or worse
that he's a cad. Say all you said when Lilia fell in
love with him. That's the help I want. I dare tell you
this because I like you and because you're without
passion; you look on life as a spectacle; you don't en- /
ter it; you only find it funny or beautiful. So I can
trust you to cure me. Mr. Herriton, isn't it funny?"
She tried to laugh herself, but became frightened and
had to stop. "He's not a gentleman, nor a Christian,
nor good in any way. He's never flattered me nor hon-
oured me. But because he's handsome, that's been
enough. The son of an Italian dentist, with a pretty
face." She repeated the phrase as if it was a charm
against passion. "Oh, Mr. Herriton, isn't it funny!"
Then, to his relief, she began to cry. "I love him, and
I'm not ashamed of it. I love him, and I'm going to
Sawston, and if I mayn't speak about him to you
sometimes, I shall die."
In that terrible discovery Philip managed to think
182 E. M. FORSTER
not of himself but of her. He did not lament. He did
not even speak to her kindly, for he saw that she
could not stand it. A flippant reply was what she
asked and needed something flippant and a little cyni-
cal. And indeed it was the only reply he could trust
himself to make.
"Perhaps it is what the books call 'a passing
She shook her head. Even this question was too
pathetic. For as far as she knew anything about her-
self, she knew that her passions, once aroused, were
sure. "If I saw him often," she said, "I might remem-
ber what he is like. Or he might grow old. But I dare
not risk it, so nothing can alter me now."
"Well, if the fancy does pass, let me know." After
all, he could say what he wanted.
"Oh, you shall know quick enough."
"But before you retire to Sawston are you so
"What of?" She had stopped crying. He was treat-
ing her exactly as she had hoped.
"That you and he " He smiled bitterly at the
thought of them together. Here was the cruel antique
malice of the gods, such as they once sent forth
against Pasiphae. Centuries of aspiration and culture
and the world could not escape it. "I was going to
say whatever have you got in common?"
"Nothing except the times we have seen each
other." Again her face was crimson. He turned his
own face away.
'The time I thought you weak and heedless, and
went instead of vou to get the baby. That began it,
Where Angels Fear to Tread 183
as far as I know the beginning. Or it may have begun
when you took us to the theatre, and I saw him
mixed up with music and light. But didn't under-
stand till the morning. Then you opened the door
and I knew why I had been so happy. Afterwards, in
the church, I prayed for us all; not for anything new,
but that we might just be as we were he with the
child he loved, you and I and Harriet safe out of the
place and that I might never see him or speak to
him again. I could have pulled through then the
thing was only coming near, like a wreath of smoke; it
hadn't wrapped me round."
"But through my fault," said Philip solemnly, "he
is parted from the child he loves. And because my life
was in danger you came and saw him and spoke to
him again." For the thing was even greater than she
imagined. Nobody but himself would ever see round
it now. And to see round it he was standing at an
immense distance. He could even be glad that she had
once held the beloved in her arms.
"Don't talk of 'faults.' You're my friend for ever,
Mr. Herriton, I think. Only don't be charitable and
shift or take the blame. Get over supposing I'm re-
fined. That's what puzzles you. Get over that."
As he spoke she seemed to be transfigured, and to
have indeed no part with refinement or unrefinement
any longer. Out of this wreck there was revealed to
him something indestructible something which she,
who had given it, could never take away.
"I say again, don't be charitable. If he had asked
me, I might have given myself body and soul. That
would have been the end of my rescue party. But all
through he took me for a superior being a goddess.
184 E. M. FORSTER
I who was worshipping every inch of him, and every
word he spoke. And that saved me."
Philip's eyes were fixed on the Campanile of Airolo.
But he saw instead the fair myth of Endymion. This
woman was a goddess to the end. For her no love
could be degrading: she stood outside all degrada-
tion. This episode, which she thought so sordid, and
which was so tragic for him, remained supremely beau-
tiful. To such a height was he lifted, that without
regret he could now have told her that he was her
worshipper too. But what was the use of telling her?
For all the wonderful things had happened.
"Thank you," was all that he permitted himself.
"Thank you for everything."}
She looked at him with great friendliness, for he
had made her life endurable. At that moment the
train entered the San Gothard tunnel. They hurried
back to the carriage to close the windows lest the
smuts should get into Harriet's eyes.
E. M. FORSTER was born in England in 1879, and at-
tended King's College, Cambridge, where he later was a
Fellow for a time. His books include The Longest Journey
(1907), A Room -with a View (1908), Howards End
(1910), and A Passage to India (1924). He has also writ-
ten short stories, biographical studies, and critical essays.
THIS BOOK is set in Electra, a Linotype face designed by W. A.
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It is not based on any historical model, nor does it echo any particular
period or style. It avoids the extreme contrast between thick and thin
elements that marks most modern faces, and attempts to give a feeling
of fluidity, power, and speed. The book was composed, printed, od
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