Twelve Stories and a Dream HTML version

Miss Winchelsea's Heart
Miss Winchelsea was going to Rome. The matter had filled her mind for a month or
more, and had overflowed so abundantly into her conversation that quite a number of
people who were not going to Rome, and who were not likely to go to Rome, had made it
a personal grievance against her. Some indeed had attempted quite unavailingly to
convince her that Rome was not nearly such a desirable place as it was reported to be,
and others had gone so far as to suggest behind her back that she was dreadfully "stuck
up" about "that Rome of hers." And little Lily Hardhurst had told her friend Mr. Binns
that so far as she was concerned Miss Winchelsea might "go to her old Rome and stop
there; SHE (Miss Lily Hardhurst) wouldn't grieve." And the way in which Miss
Winchelsea put herself upon terms of personal tenderness with Horace and Benvenuto
Cellini and Raphael and Shelley and Keats--if she had been Shelley's widow she could
not have professed a keener interest in his grave--was a matter of universal astonishment.
Her dress was a triumph of tactful discretion, sensible, but not too "touristy"--Miss
Winchelsea, had a great dread of being "touristy"-- and her Baedeker was carried in a
cover of grey to hide its glaring red. She made a prim and pleasant little figure on the
Charing Cross platform, in spite of her swelling pride, when at last the great day dawned,
and she could start for Rome. The day was bright, the Channel passage would be
pleasant, and all the omens promised well. There was the gayest sense of adventure in
this unprecedented departure.
She was going with two friends who had been fellow-students with her at the training
college, nice honest girls both, though not so good at history and literature as Miss
Winchelsea. They both looked up to her immensely, though physically they had to look
down, and she anticipated some pleasant times to be spent in "stirring them up" to her
own pitch of aesthetic and historical enthusiasm. They had secured seats already, and
welcomed her effusively at the carriage door. In the instant criticism of the encounter she
noted that Fanny had a slightly "touristy" leather strap, and that Helen had succumbed to
a serge jacket with side pockets, into which her hands were thrust. But they were much
too happy with themselves and the expedition for their friend to attempt any hint at the
moment about these things. As soon as the first ecstasies were over--Fanny's enthusiasm
was a little noisy and crude, and consisted mainly in emphatic repetitions of "Just
FANCY! we're going to Rome, my dear!--Rome!"--they gave their attention to their
fellow-travellers. Helen was anxious to secure a compartment to themselves, and, in
order to discourage intruders, got out and planted herself firmly on the step. Miss
Winchelsea peeped out over her shoulder, and made sly little remarks about the
accumulating people on the platform, at which Fanny laughed gleefully.
They were travelling with one of Mr. Thomas Gunn's parties--fourteen days in Rome for
fourteen pounds. They did not belong to the personally conducted party of course--Miss
Winchelsea had seen to that--but they travelled with it because of the convenience of that
arrangement. The people were the oddest mixture, and wonderfully amusing. There was a
vociferous red-faced polyglot personal conductor in a pepper-and-salt suit, very long in
the arms and legs and very active. He shouted proclamations. When he wanted to speak