Chapter 10: Cecil as a Humourist
So did Cecil; but Italy had quickened Cecil, not to tolerance,
but to irritation. He saw that the local society was narrow, but,
instead of saying, "Does that very much matter?" he rebelled, and
tried to substitute for it the society he called broad. He did
not realize that Lucy had consecrated her environment by the
thousand little civilities that create a tenderness in time, and
that though her eyes saw its defects, her heart refused to
despise it entirely. Nor did he realize a more important point--
that if she was too great for this society, she was too great for
all society, and had reached the stage where personal intercourse
would alone satisfy her. A rebel she was, but not of the kind he
understood--a rebel who desired, not a wider dwelling-room, but
equality beside the man she loved. For Italy was offering her the
most priceless of all possessions--her own soul.
Playing bumble-puppy with Minnie Beebe, niece to the rector, and
aged thirteen--an ancient and most honourable game, which
consists in striking tennis-balls high into the air, so that they
fall over the net and immoderately bounce; some hit Mrs.
Honeychurch; others are lost. The sentence is confused, but the
better illustrates Lucy's state of mind, for she was trying to
talk to Mr. Beebe at the same time.
"Oh, it has been such a nuisance--first he, then they--no one
knowing what they wanted, and every one so tiresome."
"But they really are coming now," said Mr. Beebe. "I wrote to
Miss Teresa a few days ago--she was wondering how often the
butcher called, and my reply of once a month must have impressed
her favourably. They are coming. I heard from them this morning.
"I shall hate those Miss Alans!" Mrs. Honeychurch cried. "Just
because they're old and silly one's expected to say 'How sweet!'
I hate their 'if'-ing and 'but'-ing and 'and'-ing. And poor Lucy
--serve her right--worn to a shadow."
Mr. Beebe watched the shadow springing and shouting over the
tennis-court. Cecil was absent--one did not play bumble-puppy
when he was there.