In EM Forster’s novel A Room With a View, young English woman Lucy Honeychurch is abroad for the first time, exploring the great sights and culture of the Italian city of Florence. She is in the company of her guardian Miss Lavish, who is an experienced traveller, when she suddenly finds herself alone in an alien environment.
The hour was approaching at which the continental breakfast begins to wear off and the ladies bought some hot chestnut paste out of a little shop, because it looked so typical. It tasted partly of the paper in which it was wrapped, partly of hair oil, partly of the great unknown. But it gave them strength to drift into another Piazza1, large and dusty, on the farther side of which rose a black-and-white façade2 of supreme beauty. Miss Lavish spoke to it dramatically. It was the Church of Santa Croce.
“Stop a minute; let those two people go on, or I shall have to speak to them. I do detest conventional conversation. Nasty! they are going into the church, too. Oh, the Britisher abroad!”
“We sat opposite them at dinner last night. They have given us their rooms. They were so very kind.”
“Look at their figures!” laughed Miss Lavish. “They walk through my Italy like a pair of cows. It’s very naughty of me, but I would like to set a test at Dover, and turn back every tourist who couldn’t pass it.”
“What would you ask us?”
Miss Lavish laid her hand pleasantly on Lucy’s arm, as if to suggest that she, at all events, would get full marks. In this triumphant mood they reached the steps of the great church, and were about to enter it when Miss Lavish stopped, squeaked, flung up her arms, and cried:
“There goes my local postman! I must have a word with him!”
And in a moment she was away over the Piazza, her military cloak flapping in the wind; nor did she slacken speed till she caught up an old man with white whiskers, and nipped him playfully upon the arm.
Lucy waited for nearly ten minutes. Then she began to get tired. The beggars worried her, the dust blew in her eyes, and she remembered that a young girl ought not to loiter in public places. She descended slowly into the Piazza with the intention of rejoining Miss Lavish. But at that moment Miss Lavish and her local postman moved also, and disappeared down a side street, both gesticulating3 largely.
Tears of indignation came to Lucy’s eyes—partly because Miss Lavish had jilted her, partly because she had taken her guide book. How could she find her way home? How could she find her way about in Santa Croce? Her first morning was ruined, and she might never be in Florence again. A few minutes ago she had been all high spirits, talking as a woman of culture, and half persuading herself that she was full of originality. Now she entered the church depressed and humiliated, not even able to remember whether it was built in the 13th Century or the 14th.
1 – public square
2 – the front of a building
3 – making hand motions