Chapter 4: Fourth Chapter
Mr. Beebe was right. Lucy never knew her desires so clearly as
after music. She had not really appreciated the clergyman's wit,
nor the suggestive twitterings of Miss Alan. Conversation was
tedious; she wanted something big, and she believed that it would
have come to her on the wind-swept platform of an electric tram.
This she might not attempt. It was unladylike. Why? Why were most
big things unladylike? Charlotte had once explained to her why.
It was not that ladies were inferior to men; it was that they
were different. Their mission was to inspire others to
achievement rather than to achieve themselves. Indirectly, by
means of tact and a spotless name, a lady could accomplish much.
But if she rushed into the fray herself she would be first
censured, then despised, and finally ignored. Poems had been
written to illustrate this point.
There is much that is immortal in this medieval lady. The dragons
have gone, and so have the knights, but still she lingers in our
midst. She reigned in many an early Victorian castle, and was
Queen of much early Victorian song. It is sweet to protect her in
the intervals of business, sweet to pay her honour when she has
cooked our dinner well. But alas! the creature grows degenerate.
In her heart also there are springing up strange desires. She too
is enamoured of heavy winds, and vast panoramas, and green
expanses of the sea. She has marked the kingdom of this world,
how full it is of wealth, and beauty, and war--a radiant crust,
built around the central fires, spinning towards the receding
heavens. Men, declaring that she inspires them to it, move
joyfully over the surface, having the most delightful meetings
with other men, happy, not because they are masculine, but
because they are alive. Before the show breaks up she would like
to drop the august title of the Eternal Woman, and go there as
her transitory self.
Lucy does not stand for the medieval lady, who was rather an
ideal to which she was bidden to lift her eyes when feeling
serious. Nor has she any system of revolt. Here and there a
restriction annoyed her particularly, and she would transgress
it, and perhaps be sorry that she had done so. This afternoon she
was peculiarly restive. She would really like to do something of
which her well-wishers disapproved. As she might not go on the
electric tram, she went to Alinari's shop.