Chapter 13: How Miss Bartlett's Boiler Was So Tiresome
How often had Lucy rehearsed this bow, this interview! But she
had always rehearsed them indoors, and with certain accessories,
which surely we have a right to assume. Who could foretell that
she and George would meet in the rout of a civilization, amidst
an army of coats and collars and boots that lay wounded over the
sunlit earth? She had imagined a young Mr. Emerson, who might be
shy or morbid or indifferent or furtively impudent. She was
prepared for all of these. But she had never imagined one who
would be happy and greet her with the shout of the morning star.
Indoors herself, partaking of tea with old Mrs. Butterworth, she
reflected that it is impossible to foretell the future with any
degree of accuracy, that it is impossible to rehearse life. A
fault in the scenery, a face in the audience, an irruption of the
audience on to the stage, and all our carefully planned gestures
mean nothing, or mean too much. "I will bow," she had thought. "I
will not shake hands with him. That will be just the proper
thing." She had bowed--but to whom? To gods, to heroes, to the
nonsense of school-girls! She had bowed across the rubbish that
cumbers the world.
So ran her thoughts, while her faculties were busy with Cecil. It
was another of those dreadful engagement calls. Mrs. Butterworth
had wanted to see him, and he did not want to be seen. He did not
want to hear about hydrangeas, why they change their colour at
the seaside. He did not want to join the C. O. S. When cross he
was always elaborate, and made long, clever answers where "Yes"
or "No" would have done. Lucy soothed him and tinkered at the
conversation in a way that promised well for their married peace.
No one is perfect, and surely it is wiser to discover the
imperfections before wedlock. Miss Bartlett, indeed, though not
in word, had taught the girl that this our life contains nothing
satisfactory. Lucy, though she disliked the teacher, regarded the
teaching as profound, and applied it to her lover.
"Lucy," said her mother, when they got home, "is anything the
matter with Cecil?"
The question was ominous; up till now Mrs. Honeychurch had
behaved with charity and restraint.