Chapter 7: They Return
Some complicated game had been playing up and down the hillside
all the afternoon. What it was and exactly how the players
had sided, Lucy was slow to discover. Mr. Eager had met them with
a questioning eye. Charlotte had repulsed him with much small
talk. Mr. Emerson, seeking his son, was told whereabouts to find
him. Mr. Beebe, who wore the heated aspect of a neutral, was
bidden to collect the factions for the return home. There was a
general sense of groping and bewilderment. Pan had been amongst
them--not the great god Pan, who has been buried these two
thousand years, but the little god Pan, who presides over social
contretemps and unsuccessful picnics. Mr. Beebe had lost every
one, and had consumed in solitude the tea-basket which he had
brought up as a pleasant surprise. Miss Lavish had lost Miss
Bartlett. Lucy had lost Mr. Eager. Mr. Emerson had lost George.
Miss Bartlett had lost a mackintosh square. Phaethon had lost the
That last fact was undeniable. He climbed on to the box
shivering, with his collar up, prophesying the swift approach of
bad weather. "Let us go immediately," he told them. "The
signorino will walk."
"All the way? He will be hours," said Mr. Beebe.
"Apparently. I told him it was unwise." He would look no one in
the face; perhaps defeat was particularly mortifying for him. He
alone had played skilfully, using the whole of his instinct,
while the others had used scraps of their intelligence. He alone
had divined what things were, and what he wished them to be. He
alone had interpreted the message that Lucy had received five
days before from the lips of a dying man. Persephone, who spends
half her life in the grave--she could interpret it also. Not so
these English. They gain knowledge slowly, and perhaps too late.
The thoughts of a cab-driver, however just, seldom affect the
lives of his employers. He was the most competent of Miss
Bartlett's opponents, but infinitely the least dangerous. Once
back in the town, he and his insight and his knowledge would
trouble English ladies no more. Of course, it was most
unpleasant; she had seen his black head in the bushes; he might
make a tavern story out of it. But after all, what have we to do
with taverns? Real menace belongs to the drawing-room. It was of
drawing-room people that Miss Bartlett thought as she journeyed
downwards towards the fading sun. Lucy sat beside her; Mr. Eager
sat opposite, trying to catch her eye; he was vaguely suspicious.
They spoke of Alessio Baldovinetti.