John Tranter -Room With a View, Spa Bath, Many Extras

John Tranter


Room With a View, Spa Bath, Many Extras

Lucy couldn't help feeling nervous as Mr. Beebe accosted the old 
woman, and asked if the house was for sale. 'We want plenty of 
views,' he said firmly. He was Lucy's uncle, and believed in speaking 
firmly when abroad.
	'Is this house for sale?' the old woman repeated, in a heavy 
accent. 'No. Well, perhaps. And views? There are no views.'
	'No views!' Charlotte's voice was a whisper; she clutched her 
handkerchief.
	Lucy smiled at her sister's anxiety. Poor Charlotte! Lucy could 
see over the old woman's shoulder that the separate dining room 
with two fireplaces was spacious enough, and behind that, the sun-
dazzled terrace afforded unparalleled panoramic views out onto a 
family outdoor living area.
	Miss Bartlett went upstairs to inspect the sanitary 
arrangements.
	'How horrible that a quality villa with such magnificent rooms 
is simply someone's property to sell,' Charlotte said, with her usual 
lack of tact.
	Mr. Beebe tried again, and raised his voice. 'We're English, and 
rather well connected. I've brought my nieces with me -'
	'In Tuscany, where I come from, all the foreigners are lords 
from England,' said the horrid old woman. 'That cuts no cheese with 
me.'
	'My niece -' he indicated Lucy - 'she's not well. We've come 
here for the waters.'
	The old woman gazed out over the valley. Cars crawled along 
the road at the foot of the slope like miniature working models. 
'Waters? You have been misinformed. There are no waters. Here is 
the life-giving sun, and so we slip into the Spring. Oh well, come on 
in.' She led the way. Lucy's heart was beating. The young ladies 
tossed their heads and, full of alarm, surveyed the air-conditioned 
lounge and the marble fireplace.
	It was particularly mortifying for Lucy, for this old woman's 
villa was the very house she had longed to own, once, and now could 
never afford. Meandering across the marble floor, sighing over the 
lush family accommodation, she felt too ill to go on.


	'Mr. Beebe, this fireplace - it's real marble,' said Charlotte.
	'Silly girl.' Mr. Beebe had a smile on his lips. 'Far from being 
real marble sculptured with an impression of fresh flowers, the 
fireplace seems to be "marble effect", dripping with verdure 
gathered from the garden by the gated swimming pool. Very 
interesting. Here we can enjoy dramatic views out onto the 
charioteer drive, there is easy access to town, and by day Sydney's 
eventful history parades before us. And look at the garden.'
	The garden featured a galley kitchen and a wonderful wombat-
burrow park with newspapers and its own balcony. A wombat ñ only 
a strong man would keep such a fierce and obstinate animal.
	Such thoughts, murmured Lucy to herself; such thoughts I'm 
having.
	'Shall we go out to the front of the house again?' Mr. Beebe 
asked. 'Then we can look for Miss Bartlett's toque, which was lost 
yesterday.'
	Lucy's cousin George had abandoned his friendly manner. 
Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps the old woman. He frowned. 'Do you 
think we should? Perhaps you two could just go for a scenic walk. 
Lucy and I could explore the old laundry.' He smiled, showing his 
teeth.
	'A walk, yes, you're quite right,' Mr. Beebe said. 'It's best not to 
stay at home too much. A person who is not at home is rarely 
disturbed, they say. Then we must take the tea-basket.' The tea-
basket gave out a pleasant sound; he had players concealed inside, 
and they made a lovely music. Miss Bartlett was already upstairs 
balanced on a parapet. George took Lucy's hand and they crossed the 
lounge. Outside, pale sunlight flooded the sunken pit.
	Lucy and George went upstairs alone. For a moment, in step 
with fashion and out of earshot, Miss Bartlett contrived to remain 
undiscovered.
	Lucy, who was not what she seemed to be, went out onto the 
veranda. She had plans. Just look at the things we must do to achieve 
a fully renovated pool, Lucy mused: and then garaging for a cousin, 
gardens meant to please George, a timber porch with ample parking 
all night, which turned into a paved garden by day.
	'There are comforts in consciously living in a state of attained 
profundity,' George called from the other room. 'The buzz of the city 
location is one thing. The lovely forty square metres of lawn is 
another.'


	She looked out the window onto the spacious gardens below: it 
was true. But how I should like the house to have something of the 
taste of Provence, she thought. Tuscany was not quite so much in 
fashion this year; a sudden influx of colonials had quite spoiled its 
allure. There, in Provence, the things grow old in a charming family 
manner, generation after generation. One room is casual, one formal, 
and so on. The houses are two thousand years old, or more. Her 
thoughts were interrupted by a commotion from the drive.
	'Charlotte, can you please settle your driver?'
	Whose voice was that? Mr. Beebe's? She couldn't hear 
Charlotte's reply, though she caught a glimpse of her figure as she 
tripped by in a feeble muddle, taking ages, the way girls do.
	A voice from the darkened room behind her startled her. 'Now 
you gaze out at nothing,' said Miss Bartlett. The diamond pattern on 
the cold floor and a grand piano followed her eyes. George had 
disappeared. 'But you did not come here to gaze out. You came here 
for other reasons. There is a man, and you are making a nuisance of 
yourself with him -'
	'Why shouldn't I be a nuisance if I wish? I am very aware of 
the possibility of trouble; they say opportunity breeds it. Damn you! 
I'm off to Bondi Junction to have some harmless fun. Then I may 
come back, but not to speak to you. I shall walk in the grounds.'
	'Lucy! Come here this minute!' But it was too late. Lucy poured 
herself down the staircase in a rush, hoping not to be seen. The 
balustrade was almost blasphemous in size, a shibboleth that 
clambered across the mellow space of the huge entrance hall.
	There was a hubbub in the drive as she left. But for all her 
suggested means of escape, Lucy felt sure of having to paint other 
people's renovated bathrooms for a living. That wasn't what she had 
planned.
	The others gathered in a knot on the piazza below. George 
joined them. 'If I might own up as a kind of magic fairy to Miss 
Bartlett's grandmother,' he began to banter playfully, but Miss 
Bartlett cut him off.
	'Stuff and nonsense,' she said sharply.
	'You're concerned about Lucy,' he went on, a little more 
soberly. 'It's 
clear that she is used to being entertained by fellows whose 
traditional high style 


rarely allows glimpses of their baser selves to be apparent. From this 
we propose to show that my brother Robert had continued to enjoy 
many a rare occasion with her, and the theme that mattered to them, 
that is so sovereign in their thoughts, was not what you think. And as 
for you, Miss Bartlett, I feel you would be as happy to be joyful as to 
be truthful.'
	'Well!' spat out Miss Bartlett.
	Charlotte tried to explain to the angry older woman. 'My cousin 
George is trying to be frank,' she said. 'My sister Lucy - you know, 
youth in tumult - the property market is in a vibrant mood, we can 
all see that, and some are susceptible. Their hormones tremble and 
gush in sympathy when a remarkable opportunity declares itself. 
This so-called villa, for example - I've made certain enquiries. The 
lease has expired conveniently, the tenant as it happens was given 
an inferior concealed laundry, with no separate in-law 
accommodation, and stormed off. What's more, she threatened some 
other people just driving by in their carriages. It's Lucy's for the 
plucking - as long as George plays ball. Can you blame a girl for 
getting a little over-heated?' She gave a cruel laugh.
	Mr. Beebe smiled. So things were not turning out so badly, after 
all, for his little charges.
	

	
Meanwhile, Lucy found herself walking alone in the grounds of the 
villa, her pulse throbbing. There were images flowing through the 
trees, and ghostly figures seemed to drift across the lawn, some 
becoming plaintive. The animals looked at her playfully. But they 
failed to affect the way she really felt.
	The house was almost perfect, she thought, and yet - something 
was warning her. The Sunday breakfasts with a central pond and 
reverse cycle ducted air delight the soul, and the strange reversed 
light in the mirrors plays tricks upon the taste. Then there was her 
other self, and the night-life of the harbourfront where she wanted 
sometimes to be wrong, but nicely wrong. Lucy seemed to be 'it' 
among the crowds in cafŽs and restaurants, their wildest 
imaginations making the worst of things. That reminded her of 
something unpleasant - the driver who had brought her home from 
the nightclub had seen 


things he shouldn't have, and there was now talk in the town. With 
an effort she dismissed her anger, for the time being.
	It's fine here, Lucy thought, except perhaps for George's 
asthma-there may be problems, but nothing he can't handleñand by 
day Sydney's eastern sunlight pours in through the windows. 
Elsewhere it is quiet and comfortable, except for the occasional 
shrieks of bad weather. We were disgusted with the city, and 
George-this is certainly a place to live a good life in.
	So I shall build, she dreamed, and cast moments into the 
stream of time.
	She thought of the way George had looked at her. 'What is my 
affair really going to end up as? Sleep brings romantic dreams, but 
what use are dreams? Yes, they're a natural part of livingÉ Yet 
subtly wrong, too.' And now memories came to trouble her. This was 
surely the same garden where she had spent long hours with some 
man who had lost his head.
	Babble, babble said the little spring.
	In the shadow of a cypress tree, a bird. Those who really love 
and understand birdsong, she thought, the world of nature is a book 
to them.
	Under the tree she fell asleep, and had a strange dream. An old 
man was speaking: 'You may have noted on the country roads, the 
reverence the locals show for every well, every roadside shrine. The 
spirit of the shrine can warn you against hazardous investments. I 
acted the home buyer in an unstable environment ñ that was wrong, 
and the spirits said I may be killed - ' Just then she woke up.
	It was time to go back and face whatever awaited her in the 
house.
	

	
When she arrived in the welcome shade of the villa, it was strangely 
empty. A voice called to her from upstairs. She found George 
standing at the railing. 'See,' he said, 'Charlotte has suggested how the 
laundry's features could be remodelled, including having the 
staircase lead up to the bathroom, like so. 
DownstairsÉ spectacular views over the valley.'
	'So?' Lucy was not prepared to be impressed.
	'And the prospect of vibrant local shopping,' he went on, 'the 
thrilling 


restaurants full of natural light with French farmhouse accents.'
	No, I want something special, Lucy thought, and this laundry 
isn't it. Yet she could only agree with his firm words. She wished to 
leave, but she had only minutes to find an excuse. The stained 
psychology of his speech seemed strange to her, and yet alluring.
	He noticed her hesitation. 'Do you propose to remain?'
	'No, I'm irritable now, I should have gone ages ago.'
	So these two young people played their strange games. 

One could well question their quest for a quiet intellectual cul-de-sac. 
Heroes-gods-even beautiful people, cast in their image-come to 
abandon the things of the mind, and to enjoy outdoor living, and the 
original bi-folding doors of their youth open onto a grand entrance 
hallway which darkens and leads in the end to the clergyman 
dressed in black, either for one ceremony or for the other, or so it 
seemed to Lucy.
	He doesn't really admire me, she thought; he says that what I 
do in my bedroom had ceased to fray at his nerves.
	George talked about providing extra features, the tranquillity 
of an in-ground floor heating system. His soothing talk encompassed 
her. But in his plans there was-what was it?ñtoo much decoration? 
She had been trained to dislike any decoration more than nature 
allows, more than is afforded by a property's expected capital gains. 
She gazed out over the harbour views, the water a deep greenhouse 
colour.
	'Leave me for a moment,' she said.
	In the bathroom she sat thinking. What should she do? She 
wandered out through the spacious bedrooms and the formal lounge 
and arrived by mean of the subconscious family area at the outdoor 
barbecue pit.
	He was waiting for her. 'Well? I think I know what's going 
through your mind.'
	'No, I don't want you to get to know me any better.'
	'Try and stop me.'
	A waterfall plunging into a sunken pond completed the luxury 
feeling of the villa. It splashed her dress. And yet the water's insult 
was as nothing


compared to his impertinence. 'You came intoning the virtues of a 
northern aspect,' she said angrily, 'of a quiet location with three 
bathrooms plus a separate shower under the covered patio 
commanding a large view across the 
harbour to the Botanic Gardens. And all the time you only wanted to 
impress a foolish girl.'
	He kept silent, and fumbled with his hands. She was waking up 
to his ability to keep silent. Was it intelligence, or the lack of it? She 
went to the railing and looked down. Her memory of their embrace 
that very morning-t bothered her.
	I have upset her, he thought. A woman in many ways, but still 
just a girl. She is looking for love, and all I have to offer is real estate.
	'This property is worth two to three million all told,' he 
ventured. 'With your inheritance, we can borrow the money. This is a 
fantastic opportunity for us.' In the heat of the moment he grasped 
her arm. She withdrew it angrily.
	Beside her George mumbled a temperate apology. 'I don't 
understand myself, Lucy,' he said. 'This is capitalisation, and I fear 
I've missed out on it as the moment passed. It must be affecting me 
more than I thought.'
	'No, don't apologise. It happens to us all sooner or later, and 
maximising the situation is sometimes an impossibility.'
	'Oh Lucy, you are so understanding.'
	

	
He moved closer and put his arm around her.
	She pulled back. 'Do you propose to seduce me, you silly boy?'
	His voice was full of warmth and he soon began to make love to 
her. They embraced, and came out onto the terrace. He pushed her 
into the bedroom and adjusted the skylights of this once grand old 
residence. The lace verandas gave onto the harbour and created a 
sun-drenched mood. Lucy's body was silent.
	She tried to open the windows, but she knew they were locked. 
You can trust him, Charlotte had said. But was it true? She began to 
cry.
	'What is there to cry about?' he asked. 'Kiss me here.'


	Then they talked, and considered the harbour views and the 
buoyant market. For all she could relish the opportunity to make a 
killing while the market was rising, the joy that she felt most keenly 
was the abstract comprehension of the market forces working out 
their patterns behind the figures on the stock exchange.
	He touched her gently on the arm and drew her to the terrace. 
'It is a dreadful thing,' he said, 'that this delightful timber kitchen 
detail is almost ignored by most people. This is a lovely place, with a 
fine garden, a sensible modern investment by Miss Honeychurch, 
whatever your opinion of her morals. It used to be a wilderness, and 
now with its billiard room, the close proximity to harbour and 
synagogue, it's perfectly civilised.'
	'Her morals?'
	'Oh, please, I shouldn't have mentioned that. Forgive me. Here, 
have you seen the laundry? It's quite remarkable.'
	Lucy detected that the room, ostensibly a place for washing 
clothes, was more a gourmet bedroom, and a perfect location for 
horseplay. To her it was utterly magical; she was shaken by the 
appearance of the well designed fittings. She had a yen for those 
itching bedrooms, and for love.
	He took her into the garden. 'Kiss me here,' he said roughly.
	'Here? Now?' Here voice was faint. 'Ah, you fabulous boy-They 
sank upon the bank of soft grass. It had a fine south-east aspect and 
allowed plenty of opportunity to find true charm. They embraced for 
what seemed to her like an endless moment, and a luxurious 
certainty filled her being. She gave a cry as her defences fell, and 
harbour glimpses filled her vision. To enjoy that was a mistake, said 
her subconscious.
	Then she said 'There. Kiss me. Kiss me. Kiss me again in the 
dark.'
	He counted her fallen defences. They weren't much.
	She pulled herself together, stood up, and checked the sunny 
northern aspect. No one there. Just what exactly she thought she had 
been doing, she didn't really know. How it was they had not stopped 
when any decent person 
would have stopped-perhaps they had fallen into some lower state of 
existence. If the nonsense of life could drag you down like that-she 
found herself running through the grounds, her hair distraught.


	Meanwhile George was in a daze.
	Her lovely voice made me do it, he thought, or perhaps 
something about her looks made me think of love-no, figures, 
investment figures, and this intense feeling became more than I 
sensibly could repress. I wanted to be the one to make a choice 
among many fine and uniquely maintained features, to impress the 
girl. Was that wrong? But with prices soaring like that, it was over. 
Mr. Beebe held Lucy's future in his hands, and he was obstinate in 
his stand against what might make her happy, the kind of risky but 
profitable investment that could give us years of good dividend 
yields.
	He got up and went to check the elegant forecourt and the 
somewhat whimsical shower cubicle; they seemed structurally 
unreliable.
	
Lucy ran into Charlotte by a goldfish pond in the grounds. Her sister 
asked her what had happened behind the black windows that 
overlooked the sullen landscape, and in the deserted laundry. She 
paled when told. Could one so young rescue herself from disgrace?
	'I feel used,' Lucy complained.
	'Of course, dear. Men are always like that, didn't you know? Oh, 
you poor thing. And you were expecting a larger house, more elegant 
accommodation, a more generous lounge room.'
	'Well, for instance, ornate ceilings would be one thing I should 
insist on.'
	'Had there been any previous indication-that he might-'
	'Of course. George had met me on the beach and undressed me 
long before he had shown me these properties. And at the nightclub-
he is not the perfect person in the dark, to be frank, and he has little 
cultural content. He kissed me that first evening, if the truth be 
known, while we were analysing the quarterly market trends-'
	'Oh, don't tell,' Charlotte replied. 'You're quite blind, aren't you? 
He was 
my ideal, too, once upon a time. He showed me his property near 
Wollongong, it's named Capri, and I had hopes - I mean, I was in 
some jeopardy-oh, never mind.' Indeed, on that occasion Charlotte 
had been subject to his stupefying 


touch in the dark, and in close proximity to mortal danger. It had 
been a long evening; it was now long ago.
	'But he has something, a touch of je ne sais quoi,' Lucy 
admitted.
	'He owns a typical Balinese bungalow. Is that what impressed 
you, you vain woman?'
	'No-of course not! George has his surprises. Just a few minutes 
walk from the harbour he showed me a wide terrace house he's 
thinking of investing in, just the thing a shrewd buyer would snap 
up. Features flood the property, flowing to it from cafŽs where 
retirees sip cafŽ au lait, incorporating generous proportions with 
Jetmaster air leading through the lovely garden. With his market 
sense, a girl could hardly go wrong.'
	'Yes, but don't you sometimes want to go wrong?' her sister 
asked vehemently. 'That's what's wrong with you, isn't it?'
	Lucy regarded her coolly. What on earth could she mean?
	

	
Back at the villa, the others discussed her behaviour. 'Lucy has fallen 
into moral darkness,' said Miss Bartlett. 'A dreadful thing has 
happened. Let us go immediately to look for her.'
	'No,' said Mr Beebe. 'To the contrary. I propose this deplorable 
event be forgotten. There are more important things to think about. 
The property purchase George is urging, for example. Here the 
opportunities display themselves, in the finest classical lines, elegant 
to the ocean viewing. So what are we to do?'
	'My dear Mr. Beebe, would you trust George? He was seen 
climbing the veranda opposite. Isn't that where that Honeychurch 
woman-'She stopped, blushing.
	George's brother Robert had joined them, and he broke in 
bitterly: 'As for Lucy, I saw her with her friend,' said he, 'in the 
private office area. Theatrette, 
you could call it. The lights were out. It was the night of that 
dreadful storm. She is not protected so much by the private nature of 
the terracotta paved garden deck as she thinks she is.'


	'The choice of a genuine alarm system in the master bedroom 
en suite should have stopped him,' mused Mr. Beebe. 'I suppose she 
ended up in that position because of the storm, needing protection, 
that sort of thing.'
	'She does not have to be forgiven simply because of the storm,' 
cried Robert. 'What about the laundry? Last Easter, downstairs in the 
eat-in kitchen, it almost happened then, worse than a storm. Have 
you not seen that she is the only person living in this wild way, 
bringing shame upon her family? She thinks to be forgiven, but what 
about me? The young woman had made certain promises-would you 
have put up with as much? She is thoroughly unrefined, and this 
house she is obsessed with -first, the living areas have to be seen to 
be believed. Elegant homes always have a superb outlook-they 
always have loads of winter comfort-this has none. And her exploits-
even the foreigners were disgusted at her behaviour, Miss 
Honeychurch said.'
	'I wonder what could she have meant?' Miss Bartlett said. 'You 
mean what, Robert Emerson? That it had happened before?' Had 
Lucy, in fact, suffered this before?
	Charlotte joined them. 'You've ruined the poor creature's 
reputation. There-are you happy now?' Charlotte glared at Robert. 
She had long since dried her soaked underclothes on the timber deck, 
among thoughts of recently-past joy.
	The one candle burnt trembling. Lucy-Lucy had won George. 
That's all Charlotte knew. She addressed the plaster work here, an 
elegant all-white city, to no avail. Gleaming doors led to a future, but 
it was empty. 'Last Easter, I never dreamed that such things might 
happen,' she said. 'That brief moment of hope and happiness will 
never come again.'
	'I think,' said Miss Bartlett, 'that we had better forget the whole 
thing.' Darkness and the problems of off-street parking and so forth 
agreed with her.
	Charlotte said, 'He seems to purchase a kind of mental 
throbbing in susceptible women, with his reputation for dissolution. 
Since the mirrored walls 
reflect everything willy-nilly, their eyes can only reflect their own 
desires, seen gleaming in his eyes. In the end, he had the two women 
he wanted. Once a cad, always a cad. Such people not only hurt 
themselves; they hurt others as well.'



Later that evening, Lucy came upon Miss Bartlett on the back porch, 
by the ornamental lake. Fish bothered the surface. Miss Bartlett said 
'I want you to remember the highlights of your life in this garden, 
Lucy, and remember the dying man's words in your dream. They are 
meant for you. Your name means light. Listen to Persephone, whose 
hair in disarray rarely disturbed her.'
	Lucy stared at the old woman-she understood! 'In the years to 
come,' Lucy said, touching her arm, 'you will be welcome here. The 
villa will be different-imagine the result of years of labour, of value-
adding improvements. As for Charlotte, and her forlorn passion for 
Charles-perhaps defeat was always part of her love, this deplorable 
emotional gambling, an urge to self-destruction while waiting for life 
to go on. She will recover, I know, and we shall love each other again, 
as we used to do.'
	Miss Bartlett took her arm, and the two women walked out into 
the 
night air.
	The painful things which had been buried among these 
entertaining evenings faded, and the floodlights from the double 
security fittings glowed through french doors onto the veranda 
bright with golden light, which warmed the lounge and flowed down 
across the lawns, reminding Lucy of her cousin's awful power; a 
power which was now hers to enjoy.

T H E  E N D

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