Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
BY D. H. LAWRENCE
HOW TOM BRANGWEN MARRIED A POLISH LADY
The Brangwens had lived for generations on the Marsh Farm, in
the meadows where the Erewash twisted sluggishly through alder
trees, separating Derbyshire from Nottinghamshire. Two miles
away, a church-tower stood on a hill, the houses of the little
country town climbing assiduously up to it. Whenever one of the
Brangwens in the fields lifted his head from his work, he saw
the church-tower at Ilkeston in the empty sky. So that as he
turned again to the horizontal land, he was aware of something
standing above him and beyond him in the distance.
There was a look in the eyes of the Brangwens as if they were
expecting something unknown, about which they were eager. They
had that air of readiness for what would come to them, a kind of
surety, an expectancy, the look of an inheritor.
They were fresh, blond, slow-speaking people, revealing
themselves plainly, but slowly, so that one could watch the
change in their eyes from laughter to anger, blue, lit-up
laughter, to a hard blue-staring anger; through all the
irresolute stages of the sky when the weather is changing.
Living on rich land, on their own land, near to a growing
town, they had forgotten what it was to be in straitened
circumstances. They had never become rich, because there were
always children, and the patrimony was divided every time. But
always, at the Marsh, there was ample.
So the Brangwens came and went without fear of necessity,
working hard because of the life that was in them, not for want
of the money. Neither were they thriftless. They were aware of
the last halfpenny, and instinct made them not waste the peeling
of their apple, for it would help to feed the cattle. But heaven
and earth was teeming around them, and how should this cease?
They felt the rush of the sap in spring, they knew the wave
which cannot halt, but every year throws forward the seed to
begetting, and, falling back, leaves the young-born on the
earth. They knew the intercourse between heaven and earth,
sunshine drawn into the breast and bowels, the rain sucked up in
the daytime, nakedness that comes under the wind in autumn,
showing the birds' nests no longer worth hiding. Their life and
interrelations were such; feeling the pulse and body of the
soil, that opened to their furrow for the grain, and became
smooth and supple after their ploughing, and clung to their feet
with a weight that pulled like desire, lying hard and
unresponsive when the crops were to be shorn away. The young
corn waved and was silken, and the lustre slid along the limbs
of the men who saw it. They took the udder of the cows, the cows
yielded milk and pulse against the hands of the men, the pulse
of the blood of the teats of the cows beat into the pulse of the
hands of the men. They mounted their horses, and held life
between the grip of their knees, they harnessed their horses at
the wagon, and, with hand on the bridle-rings, drew the heaving
of the horses after their will.
In autumn the partridges whirred up, birds in flocks blew
like spray across the fallow, rooks appeared on the grey, watery
heavens, and flew cawing into the winter. Then the men sat by
the fire in the house where the women moved about with surety,
and the limbs and the body of the men were impregnated with the
day, cattle and earth and vegetation and the sky, the men sat by
the fire and their brains were inert, as their blood flowed
heavy with the accumulation from the living day.
The women were different. On them too was the drowse of
blood-intimacy, calves sucking and hens running together in
droves, and young geese palpitating in the hand while the food
was pushed down their throttle. But the women looked out from
the heated, blind intercourse of farm-life, to the spoken world
beyond. They were aware of the lips and the mind of the world
speaking and giving utterance, they heard the sound in the
distance, and they strained to listen.
It was enough for the men, that the earth heaved and opened
its furrow to them, that the wind blew to dry the wet wheat, and
set the young ears of corn wheeling freshly round about; it was
enough that they helped the cow in labour, or ferreted the rats
from under the barn, or broke the back of a rabbit with a sharp
knock of the hand. So much warmth and generating and pain and
death did they know in their blood, earth and sky and beast and
green plants, so much exchange and interchange they had with
these, that they lived full and surcharged, their senses full
fed, their faces always turned to the heat of the blood, staring
into the sun, dazed with looking towards the source of
generation, unable to turn round.
But the woman wanted another form of life than this,
something that was not blood-intimacy. Her house faced out from
the farm-buildings and fields, looked out to the road and the
village with church and Hall and the world beyond. She stood to
see the far-off world of cities and governments and the active
scope of man, the magic land to her, where secrets were made
known and desires fulfilled. She faced outwards to where men
moved dominant and creative, having turned their back on the
pulsing heat of creation, and with this behind them, were set
out to discover what was beyond, to enlarge their own scope and
range and freedom; whereas the Brangwen men faced inwards to the
teeming life of creation, which poured unresolved into their
Looking out, as she must, from the front of her house towards
the activity of man in the world at large, whilst her husband
looked out to the back at sky and harvest and beast and land,
she strained her eyes to see what man had done in fighting
outwards to knowledge, she strained to hear how he uttered
himself in his conquest, her deepest desire hung on the battle
that she heard, far off, being waged on the edge of the unknown.
She also wanted to know, and to be of the fighting host.
At home, even so near as Cossethay, was the vicar, who spoke
the other, magic language, and had the other, finer bearing,
both of which she could perceive, but could never attain to. The
vicar moved in worlds beyond where her own menfolk existed. Did
she not know her own menfolk: fresh, slow, full-built men,
masterful enough, but easy, native to the earth, lacking
outwardness and range of motion. Whereas the vicar, dark and dry
and small beside her husband, had yet a quickness and a range of
being that made Brangwen, in his large geniality, seem dull and
local. She knew her husband. But in the vicar's nature was that
which passed beyond her knowledge. As Brangwen had power over
the cattle so the vicar had power over her husband. What was it
in the vicar, that raised him above the common men as man is
raised above the beast? She craved to know. She craved to
achieve this higher being, if not in herself, then in her
children. That which makes a man strong even if he be little and
frail in body, just as any man is little and frail beside a
bull, and yet stronger than the bull, what was it? It was not
money nor power nor position. What power had the vicar over Tom
Brangwen--none. Yet strip them and set them on a desert
island, and the vicar was the master. His soul was master of the
other man's. And why--why? She decided it was a question of
The curate was poor enough, and not very efficacious as a
man, either, yet he took rank with those others, the superior.
She watched his children being born, she saw them running as
tiny things beside their mother. And already they were separate
from her own children, distinct. Why were her own children
marked below the others? Why should the curate's children
inevitably take precedence over her children, why should
dominance be given them from the start? It was not money, nor
even class. It was education and experience, she decided.
It was this, this education, this higher form of being, that
the mother wished to give to her children, so that they too
could live the supreme life on earth. For her children, at least
the children of her heart, had the complete nature that should
take place in equality with the living, vital people in the
land, not be left behind obscure among the labourers. Why must
they remain obscured and stifled all their lives, why should
they suffer from lack of freedom to move? How should they learn
the entry into the finer, more vivid circle of life?
Her imagination was fired by the squire's lady at Shelly
Hall, who came to church at Cossethay with her little children,
girls in tidy capes of beaver fur, and smart little hats,
herself like a winter rose, so fair and delicate. So fair, so
fine in mould, so luminous, what was it that Mrs. Hardy felt
which she, Mrs. Brangwen, did not feel? How was Mrs. Hardy's
nature different from that of the common women of Cossethay, in
what was it beyond them? All the women of Cossethay talked
eagerly about Mrs. Hardy, of her husband, her children, her
guests, her dress, of her servants and her housekeeping. The
lady of the Hall was the living dream of their lives, her life
was the epic that inspired their lives. In her they lived
imaginatively, and in gossiping of her husband who drank, of her
scandalous brother, of Lord William Bentley her friend, member
of Parliament for the division, they had their own Odyssey
enacting itself, Penelope and Ulysses before them, and Circe and
the swine and the endless web.
So the women of the village were fortunate. They saw
themselves in the lady of the manor, each of them lived her own
fulfilment of the life of Mrs. Hardy. And the Brangwen wife of
the Marsh aspired beyond herself, towards the further life of
the finer woman, towards the extended being she revealed, as a
traveller in his self-contained manner reveals far-off countries
present in himself. But why should a knowledge of far-off
countries make a man's life a different thing, finer, bigger?
And why is a man more than the beast and the cattle that serve
him? It is the same thing.
The male part of the poem was filled in by such men as the
vicar and Lord William, lean, eager men with strange movements,
men who had command of the further fields, whose lives ranged
over a great extent. Ah, it was something very desirable to
know, this touch of the wonderful men who had the power of
thought and comprehension. The women of the village might be
much fonder of Tom Brangwen, and more at their ease with him,
yet if their lives had been robbed of the vicar, and of Lord
William, the leading shoot would have been cut away from them,
they would have been heavy and uninspired and inclined to hate.
So long as the wonder of the beyond was before them, they could
get along, whatever their lot. And Mrs. Hardy, and the vicar,
and Lord William, these moved in the wonder of the beyond, and
were visible to the eyes of Cossethay in their motion.
About 1840, a canal was constructed across the meadows of the
Marsh Farm, connecting the newly-opened collieries of the
Erewash Valley. A high embankment travelled along the fields to
carry the canal, which passed close to the homestead, and,
reaching the road, went over in a heavy bridge.
So the Marsh was shut off from Ilkeston, and enclosed in the
small valley bed, which ended in a bushy hill and the village
spire of Cossethay.
The Brangwens received a fair sum of money from this trespass
across their land. Then, a short time afterwards, a colliery was
sunk on the other side of the canal, and in a while the Midland
Railway came down the valley at the foot of the Ilkeston hill,
and the invasion was complete. The town grew rapidly, the
Brangwens were kept busy producing supplies, they became richer,
they were almost tradesmen.
Still the Marsh remained remote and original, on the old,
quiet side of the canal embankment, in the sunny valley where
slow water wound along in company of stiff alders, and the road
went under ash-trees past the Brangwens' garden gate.
But, looking from the garden gate down the road to the right,
there, through the dark archway of the canal's square aqueduct,
was a colliery spinning away in the near distance, and further,
red, crude houses plastered on the valley in masses, and beyond
all, the dim smoking hill of the town.
The homestead was just on the safe side of civilization,
outside the gate. The house stood bare from the road, approached
by a straight garden path, along which at spring the daffodils
were thick in green and yellow. At the sides of the house were
bushes of lilac and guelder-rose and privet, entirely hiding the
farm buildings behind.
At the back a confusion of sheds spread into the home-close
from out of two or three indistinct yards. The duck-pond lay
beyond the furthest wall, littering its white feathers on the
padded earthen banks, blowing its stray soiled feathers into the
grass and the gorse bushes below the canal embankment, which
rose like a high rampart near at hand, so that occasionally a
man's figure passed in silhouette, or a man and a towing horse
traversed the sky.
At first the Brangwens were astonished by all this commotion
around them. The building of a canal across their land made them
strangers in their own place, this raw bank of earth shutting
them off disconcerted them. As they worked in the fields, from
beyond the now familiar embankment came the rhythmic run of the
winding engines, startling at first, but afterwards a narcotic
to the brain. Then the shrill whistle of the trains re-echoed
through the heart, with fearsome pleasure, announcing the
far-off come near and imminent.
As they drove home from town, the farmers of the land met the
blackened colliers trooping from the pit-mouth. As they gathered
the harvest, the west wind brought a faint, sulphurous smell of
pit-refuse burning. As they pulled the turnips in November, the
sharp clink-clink-clink-clink-clink of empty trucks shunting on
the line, vibrated in their hearts with the fact of other
activity going on beyond them.
The Alfred Brangwen of this period had married a woman from
Heanor, a daughter of the "Black Horse". She was a slim, pretty,
dark woman, quaint in her speech, whimsical, so that the sharp
things she said did not hurt. She was oddly a thing to herself,
rather querulous in her manner, but intrinsically separate and
indifferent, so that her long lamentable complaints, when she
raised her voice against her husband in particular and against
everybody else after him, only made those who heard her wonder
and feel affectionately towards her, even while they were
irritated and impatient with her. She railed long and loud about
her husband, but always with a balanced, easy-flying voice and a
quaint manner of speech that warmed his belly with pride and
male triumph while he scowled with mortification at the things
Consequently Brangwen himself had a humorous puckering at the
eyes, a sort of fat laugh, very quiet and full, and he was
spoilt like a lord of creation. He calmly did as he liked,
laughed at their railing, excused himself in a teasing tone that
she loved, followed his natural inclinations, and sometimes,
pricked too near the quick, frightened and broke her by a deep,
tense fury which seemed to fix on him and hold him for days, and
which she would give anything to placate in him. They were two
very separate beings, vitally connected, knowing nothing of each
other, yet living in their separate ways from one root.
There were four sons and two daughters. The eldest boy ran
away early to sea, and did not come back. After this the mother
was more the node and centre of attraction in the home. The
second boy, Alfred, whom the mother admired most, was the most
reserved. He was sent to school in Ilkeston and made some
progress. But in spite of his dogged, yearning effort, he could
not get beyond the rudiments of anything, save of drawing. At
this, in which he had some power, he worked, as if it were his
hope. After much grumbling and savage rebellion against
everything, after much trying and shifting about, when his
father was incensed against him and his mother almost
despairing, he became a draughtsman in a lace-factory in
He remained heavy and somewhat uncouth, speaking with broad
Derbyshire accent, adhering with all his tenacity to his work
and to his town position, making good designs, and becoming
fairly well-off. But at drawing, his hand swung naturally in
big, bold lines, rather lax, so that it was cruel for him to
pedgill away at the lace designing, working from the tiny
squares of his paper, counting and plotting and niggling. He did
it stubbornly, with anguish, crushing the bowels within him,
adhering to his chosen lot whatever it should cost. And he came
back into life set and rigid, a rare-spoken, almost surly
He married the daughter of a chemist, who affected some
social superiority, and he became something of a snob, in his
dogged fashion, with a passion for outward refinement in the
household, mad when anything clumsy or gross occurred. Later,
when his three children were growing up, and he seemed a staid,
almost middle-aged man, he turned after strange women, and
became a silent, inscrutable follower of forbidden pleasure,
neglecting his indignant bourgeois wife without a qualm.
Frank, the third son, refused from the first to have anything
to do with learning. From the first he hung round the
slaughter-house which stood away in the third yard at the back
of the farm. The Brangwens had always killed their own meat, and
supplied the neighbourhood. Out of this grew a regular butcher's
business in connection with the farm.
As a child Frank had been drawn by the trickle of dark blood
that ran across the pavement from the slaughter-house to the
crew-yard, by the sight of the man carrying across to the
meat-shed a huge side of beef, with the kidneys showing,
embedded in their heavy laps of fat.
He was a handsome lad with soft brown hair and regular
features something like a later Roman youth. He was more easily
excitable, more readily carried away than the rest, weaker in
character. At eighteen he married a little factory girl, a pale,
plump, quiet thing with sly eyes and a wheedling voice, who
insinuated herself into him and bore him a child every year and
made a fool of him. When he had taken over the butchery
business, already a growing callousness to it, and a sort of
contempt made him neglectful of it. He drank, and was often to
be found in his public house blathering away as if he knew
everything, when in reality he was a noisy fool.
Of the daughters, Alice, the elder, married a collier and
lived for a time stormily in Ilkeston, before moving away to
Yorkshire with her numerous young family. Effie, the younger,
remained at home.
The last child, Tom, was considerably younger than his
brothers, so had belonged rather to the company of his sisters.
He was his mother's favourite. She roused herself to
determination, and sent him forcibly away to a grammar-school in
Derby when he was twelve years old. He did not want to go, and
his father would have given way, but Mrs. Brangwen had set her
heart on it. Her slender, pretty, tightly-covered body, with
full skirts, was now the centre of resolution in the house, and
when she had once set upon anything, which was not often, the
family failed before her.
So Tom went to school, an unwilling failure from the first.
He believed his mother was right in decreeing school for him,
but he knew she was only right because she would not acknowledge
his constitution. He knew, with a child's deep, instinctive
foreknowledge of what is going to happen to him, that he would
cut a sorry figure at school. But he took the infliction as
inevitable, as if he were guilty of his own nature, as if his
being were wrong, and his mother's conception right. If he could
have been what he liked, he would have been that which his
mother fondly but deludedly hoped he was. He would have been
clever, and capable of becoming a gentleman. It was her
aspiration for him, therefore he knew it as the true aspiration
for any boy. But you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear,
as he told his mother very early, with regard to himself; much
to her mortification and chagrin.
When he got to school, he made a violent struggle against his
physical inability to study. He sat gripped, making himself pale
and ghastly in his effort to concentrate on the book, to take in
what he had to learn. But it was no good. If he beat down his
first repulsion, and got like a suicide to the stuff, he went
very little further. He could not learn deliberately. His mind
simply did not work.
In feeling he was developed, sensitive to the atmosphere
around him, brutal perhaps, but at the same time delicate, very
delicate. So he had a low opinion of himself. He knew his own
limitation. He knew that his brain was a slow hopeless
good-for-nothing. So he was humble.
But at the same time his feelings were more discriminating
than those of most of the boys, and he was confused. He was more
sensuously developed, more refined in instinct than they. For
their mechanical stupidity he hated them, and suffered cruel
contempt for them. But when it came to mental things, then he
was at a disadvantage. He was at their mercy. He was a fool. He
had not the power to controvert even the most stupid argument,
so that he was forced to admit things he did not in the least
believe. And having admitted them, he did not know whether he
believed them or not; he rather thought he did.
But he loved anyone who could convey enlightenment to him
through feeling. He sat betrayed with emotion when the teacher
of literature read, in a moving fashion, Tennyson's "Ulysses",
or Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind". His lips parted, his eyes
filled with a strained, almost suffering light. And the teacher
read on, fired by his power over the boy. Tom Brangwen was moved
by this experience beyond all calculation, he almost dreaded it,
it was so deep. But when, almost secretly and shamefully, he
came to take the book himself, and began the words "Oh wild west
wind, thou breath of autumn's being," the very fact of the print
caused a prickly sensation of repulsion to go over his skin, the
blood came to his face, his heart filled with a bursting passion
of rage and incompetence. He threw the book down and walked over
it and went out to the cricket field. And he hated books as if
they were his enemies. He hated them worse than ever he hated
He could not voluntarily control his attention. His mind had
no fixed habits to go by, he had nothing to get hold of, nowhere
to start from. For him there was nothing palpable, nothing known
in himself, that he could apply to learning. He did not know how
to begin. Therefore he was helpless when it came to deliberate
understanding or deliberate learning.
He had an instinct for mathematics, but if this failed him,
he was helpless as an idiot. So that he felt that the ground was
never sure under his feet, he was nowhere. His final downfall
was his complete inability to attend to a question put without
suggestion. If he had to write a formal composition on the Army,
he did at last learn to repeat the few facts he knew: "You can
join the army at eighteen. You have to be over five foot eight."
But he had all the time a living conviction that this was a
dodge and that his common-places were beneath contempt. Then he
reddened furiously, felt his bowels sink with shame, scratched
out what he had written, made an agonized effort to think of
something in the real composition style, failed, became sullen
with rage and humiliation, put the pen down and would have been
torn to pieces rather than attempt to write another word.
He soon got used to the Grammar School, and the Grammar
School got used to him, setting him down as a hopeless duffer at
learning, but respecting him for a generous, honest nature. Only
one narrow, domineering fellow, the Latin master, bullied him
and made the blue eyes mad with shame and rage. There was a
horrid scene, when the boy laid open the master's head with a
slate, and then things went on as before. The teacher got little
sympathy. But Brangwen winced and could not bear to think of the
deed, not even long after, when he was a grown man.
He was glad to leave school. It had not been unpleasant, he
had enjoyed the companionship of the other youths, or had
thought he enjoyed it, the time had passed very quickly, in
endless activity. But he knew all the time that he was in an
ignominious position, in this place of learning. He was aware of
failure all the while, of incapacity. But he was too healthy and
sanguine to be wretched, he was too much alive. Yet his soul was
wretched almost to hopelessness.
He had loved one warm, clever boy who was frail in body, a
consumptive type. The two had had an almost classic friendship,
David and Jonathan, wherein Brangwen was the Jonathan, the
server. But he had never felt equal with his friend, because the
other's mind outpaced his, and left him ashamed, far in the
rear. So the two boys went at once apart on leaving school. But
Brangwen always remembered his friend that had been, kept him as
a sort of light, a fine experience to remember.
Tom Brangwen was glad to get back to the farm, where he was
in his own again. "I have got a turnip on my shoulders, let me
stick to th' fallow," he said to his exasperated mother. He had
too low an opinion of himself. But he went about at his work on
the farm gladly enough, glad of the active labour and the smell
of the land again, having youth and vigour and humour, and a
comic wit, having the will and the power to forget his own
shortcomings, finding himself violent with occasional rages, but
usually on good terms with everybody and everything.
When he was seventeen, his father fell from a stack and broke
his neck. Then the mother and son and daughter lived on at the
farm, interrupted by occasional loud-mouthed lamenting,
jealous-spirited visitations from the butcher Frank, who had a
grievance against the world, which he felt was always giving him
less than his dues. Frank was particularly against the young
Tom, whom he called a mardy baby, and Tom returned the hatred
violently, his face growing red and his blue eyes staring. Effie
sided with Tom against Frank. But when Alfred came, from
Nottingham, heavy jowled and lowering, speaking very little, but
treating those at home with some contempt, Effie and the mother
sided with him and put Tom into the shade. It irritated the
youth that his elder brother should be made something of a hero
by the women, just because he didn't live at home and was a
lace-designer and almost a gentleman. But Alfred was something
of a Prometheus Bound, so the women loved him. Tom came later to
understand his brother better.
As youngest son, Tom felt some importance when the care of
the farm devolved on to him. He was only eighteen, but he was
quite capable of doing everything his father had done. And of
course, his mother remained as centre to the house.
The young man grew up very fresh and alert, with zest for
every moment of life. He worked and rode and drove to market, he
went out with companions and got tipsy occasionally and played
skittles and went to the little travelling theatres. Once, when
he was drunk at a public house, he went upstairs with a
prostitute who seduced him. He was then nineteen.
The thing was something of a shock to him. In the close
intimacy of the farm kitchen, the woman occupied the supreme
position. The men deferred to her in the house, on all household
points, on all points of morality and behaviour. The woman was
the symbol for that further life which comprised religion and
love and morality. The men placed in her hands their own
conscience, they said to her "Be my conscience-keeper, be the
angel at the doorway guarding my outgoing and my incoming." And
the woman fulfilled her trust, the men rested implicitly in her,
receiving her praise or her blame with pleasure or with anger,
rebelling and storming, but never for a moment really escaping
in their own souls from her prerogative. They depended on her
for their stability. Without her, they would have felt like
straws in the wind, to be blown hither and thither at random.
She was the anchor and the security, she was the restraining
hand of God, at times highly to be execrated.
Now when Tom Brangwen, at nineteen, a youth fresh like a
plant, rooted in his mother and his sister, found that he had
lain with a prostitute woman in a common public house, he was
very much startled. For him there was until that time only one
kind of woman--his mother and sister.
But now? He did not know what to feel. There was a slight
wonder, a pang of anger, of disappointment, a first taste of ash
and of cold fear lest this was all that would happen, lest his
relations with woman were going to be no more than this
nothingness; there was a slight sense of shame before the
prostitute, fear that she would despise him for his
inefficiency; there was a cold distaste for her, and a fear of
her; there was a moment of paralyzed horror when he felt he
might have taken a disease from her; and upon all this startled
tumult of emotion, was laid the steadying hand of common sense,
which said it did not matter very much, so long as he had no
disease. He soon recovered balance, and really it did not matter
so very much.
But it had shocked him, and put a mistrust into his heart,
and emphasized his fear of what was within himself. He was,
however, in a few days going about again in his own careless,
happy-go-lucky fashion, his blue eyes just as clear and honest
as ever, his face just as fresh, his appetite just as keen.
Or apparently so. He had, in fact, lost some of his buoyant
confidence, and doubt hindered his outgoing.
For some time after this, he was quieter, more conscious when
he drank, more backward from companionship. The disillusion of
his first carnal contact with woman, strengthened by his innate
desire to find in a woman the embodiment of all his
inarticulate, powerful religious impulses, put a bit in his
mouth. He had something to lose which he was afraid of losing,
which he was not sure even of possessing. This first affair did
not matter much: but the business of love was, at the bottom of
his soul, the most serious and terrifying of all to him.
He was tormented now with sex desire, his imagination
reverted always to lustful scenes. But what really prevented his
returning to a loose woman, over and above the natural
squeamishness, was the recollection of the paucity of the last
experience. It had been so nothing, so dribbling and functional,
that he was ashamed to expose himself to the risk of a
repetition of it.
He made a strong, instinctive fight to retain his native
cheerfulness unimpaired. He had naturally a plentiful stream of
life and humour, a sense of sufficiency and exuberance, giving
ease. But now it tended to cause tension. A strained light came
into his eyes, he had a slight knitting of the brows. His
boisterous humour gave place to lowering silences, and days
passed by in a sort of suspense.
He did not know there was any difference in him, exactly; for
the most part he was filled with slow anger and resentment. But
he knew he was always thinking of women, or a woman, day in, day
out, and that infuriated him. He could not get free: and he was
ashamed. He had one or two sweethearts, starting with them in
the hope of speedy development. But when he had a nice girl, he
found that he was incapable of pushing the desired development.
The very presence of the girl beside him made it impossible. He
could not think of her like that, he could not think of her
actual nakedness. She was a girl and he liked her, and dreaded
violently even the thought of uncovering her. He knew that, in
these last issues of nakedness, he did not exist to her nor she
to him. Again, if he had a loose girl, and things began to
develop, she offended him so deeply all the time, that he never
knew whether he was going to get away from her as quickly as
possible, or whether he were going to take her out of inflamed
necessity. Again he learnt his lesson: if he took her it was a
paucity which he was forced to despise. He did not despise
himself nor the girl. But he despised the net result in him of
the experience--he despised it deeply and bitterly.
Then, when he was twenty-three, his mother died, and he was
left at home with Effie. His mother's death was another blow out
of the dark. He could not understand it, he knew it was no good
his trying. One had to submit to these unforeseen blows that
come unawares and leave a bruise that remains and hurts whenever
it is touched. He began to be afraid of all that which was up
against him. He had loved his mother.
After this, Effie and he quarrelled fiercely. They meant a
very great deal to each other, but they were both under a
strange, unnatural tension. He stayed out of the house as much
as possible. He got a special corner for himself at the "Red
Lion" at Cossethay, and became a usual figure by the fire, a
fresh, fair young fellow with heavy limbs and head held back,
mostly silent, though alert and attentive, very hearty in his
greeting of everybody he knew, shy of strangers. He teased all
the women, who liked him extremely, and he was very attentive to
the talk of the men, very respectful.
To drink made him quickly flush very red in the face, and
brought out the look of self-consciousness and unsureness,
almost bewilderment, in his blue eyes. When he came home in this
state of tipsy confusion his sister hated him and abused him,
and he went off his head, like a mad bull with rage.
He had still another turn with a light-o'-love. One
Whitsuntide he went a jaunt with two other young fellows, on
horseback, to Matlock and thence to Bakewell. Matlock was at
that time just becoming a famous beauty-spot, visited from
Manchester and from the Staffordshire towns. In the hotel where
the young men took lunch, were two girls, and the parties struck
up a friendship.
The Miss who made up to Tom Brangwen, then twenty-four years
old, was a handsome, reckless girl neglected for an afternoon by
the man who had brought her out. She saw Brangwen and liked him,
as all women did, for his warmth and his generous nature, and
for the innate delicacy in him. But she saw he was one who would
have to be brought to the scratch. However, she was roused and
unsatisfied and made mischievous, so she dared anything. It
would be an easy interlude, restoring her pride.
She was a handsome girl with a bosom, and dark hair and blue
eyes, a girl full of easy laughter, flushed from the sun,
inclined to wipe her laughing face in a very natural and taking
Brangwen was in a state of wonder. He treated her with his
chaffing deference, roused, but very unsure of himself, afraid
to death of being too forward, ashamed lest he might be thought
backward, mad with desire yet restrained by instinctive regard
for women from making any definite approach, feeling all the
while that his attitude was ridiculous, and flushing deep with
confusion. She, however, became hard and daring as he became
confused, it amused her to see him come on.
"When must you get back?" she asked.
"I'm not particular," he said.
There the conversation again broke down.
Brangwen's companions were ready to go on.
"Art commin', Tom," they called, "or art for stoppin'?"
"Ay, I'm commin'," he replied, rising reluctantly, an angry
sense of futility and disappointment spreading over him.
He met the full, almost taunting look of the girl, and he
trembled with unusedness.
"Shall you come an' have a look at my mare," he said to her,
with his hearty kindliness that was now shaken with
"Oh, I should like to," she said, rising.
And she followed him, his rather sloping shoulders and his
cloth riding-gaiters, out of the room. The young men got their
own horses out of the stable.
"Can you ride?" Brangwen asked her.
"I should like to if I could--I have never tried," she
"Come then, an' have a try," he said.
And he lifted her, he blushing, she laughing, into the
"I s'll slip off--it's not a lady's saddle," she
"Hold yer tight," he said, and he led her out of the hotel
The girl sat very insecurely, clinging fast. He put a hand on
her waist, to support her. And he held her closely, he clasped
her as in an embrace, he was weak with desire as he strode
The horse walked by the river.
"You want to sit straddle-leg," he said to her.
"I know I do," she said.
It was the time of very full skirts. She managed to get
astride the horse, quite decently, showing an intent concern for
covering her pretty leg.
"It's a lot's better this road," she said, looking down at
"Ay, it is," he said, feeling the marrow melt in his bones
from the look in her eyes. "I dunno why they have that
side-saddle business, twistin' a woman in two."
"Should us leave you then--you seem to be fixed up
there?" called Brangwen's companions from the road.
He went red with anger.
"Ay--don't worry," he called back.
"How long are yer stoppin'?" they asked.
"Not after Christmas," he said.
And the girl gave a tinkling peal of laughter.
"All right--by-bye!" called his friends.
And they cantered off, leaving him very flushed, trying to be
quite normal with the girl. But presently he had gone back to
the hotel and given his horse into the charge of an ostler and
had gone off with the girl into the woods, not quite knowing
where he was or what he was doing. His heart thumped and he
thought it the most glorious adventure, and was mad with desire
for the girl.
Afterwards he glowed with pleasure. By Jove, but that was
something like! He [stayed the afternoon with the girl, and]
wanted to stay the night. She, however, told him this was impossible:
her own man would be back by dark, and she must be with him.
He, Brangwen, must not let on that there had been anything
She gave him an intimate smile, which made him feel confused
He could not tear himself away, though he had promised not to
interfere with the girl. He stayed on at the hotel over night.
He saw the other fellow at the evening meal: a small,
middle-aged man with iron-grey hair and a curious face, like a
monkey's, but interesting, in its way almost beautiful. Brangwen
guessed that he was a foreigner. He was in company with another,
an Englishman, dry and hard. The four sat at table, two men and
two women. Brangwen watched with all his eyes.
He saw how the foreigner treated the women with courteous
contempt, as if they were pleasing animals. Brangwen's girl had
put on a ladylike manner, but her voice betrayed her. She wanted
to win back her man. When dessert came on, however, the little
foreigner turned round from his table and calmly surveyed the
room, like one unoccupied. Brangwen marvelled over the cold,
animal intelligence of the face. The brown eyes were round,
showing all the brown pupil, like a monkey's, and just calmly
looking, perceiving the other person without referring to him at
all. They rested on Brangwen. The latter marvelled at the old
face turned round on him, looking at him without considering it
necessary to know him at all. The eyebrows of the round,
perceiving, but unconcerned eyes were rather high up, with
slight wrinkles above them, just as a monkey's had. It was an
old, ageless face.
The man was most amazingly a gentleman all the time, an
aristocrat. Brangwen stared fascinated. The girl was pushing her
crumbs about on the cloth, uneasily, flushed and angry.
As Brangwen sat motionless in the hall afterwards, too much
moved and lost to know what to do, the little stranger came up
to him with a beautiful smile and manner, offering a cigarette
"Will you smoke?"
Brangwen never smoked cigarettes, yet he took the one
offered, fumbling painfully with thick fingers, blushing to the
roots of his hair. Then he looked with his warm blue eyes at the
almost sardonic, lidded eyes of the foreigner. The latter sat
down beside him, and they began to talk, chiefly of horses.
Brangwen loved the other man for his exquisite graciousness,
for his tact and reserve, and for his ageless, monkey-like
self-surety. They talked of horses, and of Derbyshire, and of
farming. The stranger warmed to the young fellow with real
warmth, and Brangwen was excited. He was transported at meeting
this odd, middle-aged, dry-skinned man, personally. The talk was
pleasant, but that did not matter so much. It was the gracious
manner, the fine contact that was all.
They talked a long while together, Brangwen flushing like a
girl when the other did not understand his idiom. Then they said
good night, and shook hands. Again the foreigner bowed and
repeated his good night.
"Good night, and bon voyage."
Then he turned to the stairs.
Brangwen went up to his room and lay staring out at the stars
of the summer night, his whole being in a whirl. What was it
all? There was a life so different from what he knew it. What
was there outside his knowledge, how much? What was this that he
had touched? What was he in this new influence? What did
everything mean? Where was life, in that which he knew or all
He fell asleep, and in the morning had ridden away before any
other visitors were awake. He shrank from seeing any of them
again, in the morning.
His mind was one big excitement. The girl and the foreigner:
he knew neither of their names. Yet they had set fire to the
homestead of his nature, and he would be burned out of cover. Of
the two experiences, perhaps the meeting with the foreigner was
the more significant. But the girl--he had not settled
about the girl.
He did not know. He had to leave it there, as it was. He
could not sum up his experiences.
The result of these encounters was, that he dreamed day and
night, absorbedly, of a voluptuous woman and of the meeting with
a small, withered foreigner of ancient breeding. No sooner was
his mind free, no sooner had he left his own companions, than he
began to imagine an intimacy with fine-textured, subtle-mannered
people such as the foreigner at Matlock, and amidst this subtle
intimacy was always the satisfaction of a voluptuous woman.
He went about absorbed in the interest and the actuality of
this dream. His eyes glowed, he walked with his head up, full of
the exquisite pleasure of aristocratic subtlety and grace,
tormented with the desire for the girl.
Then gradually the glow began to fade, and the cold material
of his customary life to show through. He resented it. Was he
cheated in his illusion? He balked the mean enclosure of
reality, stood stubbornly like a bull at a gate, refusing to
re-enter the well-known round of his own life.
He drank more than usual to keep up the glow. But it faded
more and more for all that. He set his teeth at the commonplace,
to which he would not submit. It resolved itself starkly before
him, for all that.
He wanted to marry, to get settled somehow, to get out of the
quandary he found himself in. But how? He felt unable to move
his limbs. He had seen a little creature caught in bird-lime,
and the sight was a nightmare to him. He began to feel mad with
the rage of impotency.
He wanted something to get hold of, to pull himself out. But
there was nothing. Steadfastly he looked at the young women, to
find a one he could marry. But not one of them did he want. And
he knew that the idea of a life among such people as the
foreigner was ridiculous.
Yet he dreamed of it, and stuck to his dreams, and would not
have the reality of Cossethay and Ilkeston. There he sat
stubbornly in his corner at the "Red Lion", smoking and musing
and occasionally lifting his beer-pot, and saying nothing, for
all the world like a gorping farm-labourer, as he said
Then a fever of restless anger came upon him. He wanted to go
away--right away. He dreamed of foreign parts. But somehow
he had no contact with them. And it was a very strong root which
held him to the Marsh, to his own house and land.
Then Effie got married, and he was left in the house with
only Tilly, the cross-eyed woman-servant who had been with them
for fifteen years. He felt things coming to a close. All the
time, he had held himself stubbornly resistant to the action of
the commonplace unreality which wanted to absorb him. But now he
had to do something.
He was by nature temperate. Being sensitive and emotional,
his nausea prevented him from drinking too much.
But, in futile anger, with the greatest of determination and
apparent good humour, he began to drink in order to get drunk.
"Damn it," he said to himself, "you must have it one road or
another--you can't hitch your horse to the shadow of a
gate-post--if you've got legs you've got to rise off your
backside some time or other."
So he rose and went down to Ilkeston, rather awkwardly took
his place among a gang of young bloods, stood drinks to the
company, and discovered he could carry it off quite well. He had
an idea that everybody in the room was a man after his own
heart, that everything was glorious, everything was perfect.
When somebody in alarm told him his coat pocket was on fire, he
could only beam from a red, blissful face and say
right--let it be, let it be----" and he laughed
with pleasure, and was rather indignant that the others should
think it unnatural for his coat pocket to burn:--it was the
happiest and most natural thing in the world--what?
He went home talking to himself and to the moon, that was
very high and small, stumbling at the flashes of moonlight from
the puddles at his feet, wondering What the Hanover! then
laughing confidently to the moon, assuring her this was first
class, this was.
In the morning he woke up and thought about it, and for the
first time in his life, knew what it was to feel really acutely
irritable, in a misery of real bad temper. After bawling and
snarling at Tilly, he took himself off for very shame, to be
alone. And looking at the ashen fields and the putty roads, he
wondered what in the name of Hell he could do to get out of this
prickly sense of disgust and physical repulsion. And he knew
that this was the result of his glorious evening.
And his stomach did not want any more brandy. He went
doggedly across the fields with his terrier, and looked at
everything with a jaundiced eye.
The next evening found him back again in his place at the
"Red Lion", moderate and decent. There he sat and stubbornly
waited for what would happen next.
Did he, or did he not believe that he belonged to this world
of Cossethay and Ilkeston? There was nothing in it he wanted.
Yet could he ever get out of it? Was there anything in himself
that would carry him out of it? Or was he a dunderheaded baby,
not man enough to be like the other young fellows who drank a
good deal and wenched a little without any question, and were
He went on stubbornly for a time. Then the strain became too
great for him. A hot, accumulated consciousness was always awake
in his chest, his wrists felt swelled and quivering, his mind
became full of lustful images, his eyes seemed blood-flushed. He
fought with himself furiously, to remain normal. He did not seek
any woman. He just went on as if he were normal. Till he must
either take some action or beat his head against the wall.
Then he went deliberately to Ilkeston, in silence, intent and
beaten. He drank to get drunk. He gulped down the brandy, and
more brandy, till his face became pale, his eyes burning. And
still he could not get free. He went to sleep in drunken
unconsciousness, woke up at four o'clock in the morning and
continued drinking. He would get free. Gradually the
tension in him began to relax. He began to feel happy. His
riveted silence was unfastened, he began to talk and babble. He
was happy and at one with all the world, he was united with all
flesh in a hot blood-relationship. So, after three days of
incessant brandy-drinking, he had burned out the youth from his
blood, he had achieved this kindled state of oneness with all
the world, which is the end of youth's most passionate desire.
But he had achieved his satisfaction by obliterating his own
individuality, that which it depended on his manhood to preserve
So he became a bout-drinker, having at intervals these bouts
of three or four days of brandy-drinking, when he was drunk for
the whole time. He did not think about it. A deep resentment
burned in him. He kept aloof from any women, antagonistic.
When he was twenty-eight, a thick-limbed, stiff, fair man
with fresh complexion, and blue eyes staring very straight
ahead, he was coming one day down from Cossethay with a load of
seed out of Nottingham. It was a time when he was getting ready
for another bout of drinking, so he stared fixedly before him,
watchful yet absorbed, seeing everything and aware of nothing,
coiled in himself. It was early in the year.
He walked steadily beside the horse, the load clanked behind
as the hill descended steeper. The road curved down-hill before
him, under banks and hedges, seen only for a few yards
Slowly turning the curve at the steepest part of the slope,
his horse britching between the shafts, he saw a woman
approaching. But he was thinking for the moment of the
Then he turned to look at her. She was dressed in black, was
apparently rather small and slight, beneath her long black
cloak, and she wore a black bonnet. She walked hastily, as if
unseeing, her head rather forward. It was her curious, absorbed,
flitting motion, as if she were passing unseen by everybody,
that first arrested him.
She had heard the cart, and looked up. Her face was pale and
clear, she had thick dark eyebrows and a wide mouth, curiously
held. He saw her face clearly, as if by a light in the air. He
saw her face so distinctly, that he ceased to coil on himself,
and was suspended.
"That's her," he said involuntarily. As the cart passed by,
splashing through the thin mud, she stood back against the bank.
Then, as he walked still beside his britching horse, his eyes
met hers. He looked quickly away, pressing back his head, a pain
of joy running through him. He could not bear to think of
He turned round at the last moment. He saw her bonnet, her
shape in the black cloak, the movement as she walked. Then she
was gone round the bend.
She had passed by. He felt as if he were walking again in a
far world, not Cossethay, a far world, the fragile reality. He
went on, quiet, suspended, rarefied. He could not bear to think
or to speak, nor make any sound or sign, nor change his fixed
motion. He could scarcely bear to think of her face. He moved
within the knowledge of her, in the world that was beyond
The feeling that they had exchanged recognition possessed him
like a madness, like a torment. How could he be sure, what
confirmation had he? The doubt was like a sense of infinite
space, a nothingness, annihilating. He kept within his breast
the will to surety. They had exchanged recognition.
He walked about in this state for the next few days. And then
again like a mist it began to break to let through the common,
barren world. He was very gentle with man and beast, but he
dreaded the starkness of disillusion cropping through again.
As he was standing with his back to the fire after dinner a
few days later, he saw the woman passing. He wanted to know that
she knew him, that she was aware. He wanted it said that there
was something between them. So he stood anxiously watching,
looking at her as she went down the road. He called to
"Who might that be?" he asked.
Tilly, the cross-eyed woman of forty, who adored him, ran
gladly to the window to look. She was glad when he asked her for
anything. She craned her head over the short curtain, the little
tight knob of her black hair sticking out pathetically as she
"Oh why"--she lifted her head and peered with her
twisted, keen brown eyes--"why, you know who it
is--it's her from th' vicarage--you know--"
"How do I know, you hen-bird," he shouted.
Tilly blushed and drew her neck in and looked at him with her
squinting, sharp, almost reproachful look.
"Why you do--it's the new housekeeper."
"Ay--an' what by that?"
"Well, an' what by that?" rejoined the indignant
"She's a woman, isn't she, housekeeper or no housekeeper?
She's got more to her than that! Who is she--she's got a
"Well, if she has, I don't know," retorted Tilly, not
to be badgered by this lad who had grown up into a man.
"What's her name?" he asked, more gently.
"I'm sure I couldn't tell you," replied Tilly, on her
"An' is that all as you've gathered, as she's housekeeping at
"I've 'eered mention of 'er name, but I couldn't remember it
for my life."
"Why, yer riddle-skulled woman o' nonsense, what have you got
a head for?"
"For what other folks 'as got theirs for," retorted Tilly,
who loved nothing more than these tilts when he would call her
There was a lull.
"I don't believe as anybody could keep it in their head," the
woman-servant continued, tentatively.
"What?" he asked.
"Why, 'er name."
"She's fra some foreign parts or other."
"Who told you that?"
"That's all I do know, as she is."
"An' wheer do you reckon she's from, then?"
"I don't know. They do say as she hails fra th' Pole. I don't
know," Tilly hastened to add, knowing he would attack her.
"Fra th' Pole, why do you hail fra th' Pole? Who set
up that menagerie confabulation?"
"That's what they say--I don't know----"
"Mrs. Bentley says as she's fra th' Pole--else she is a
Pole, or summat."
Tilly was only afraid she was landing herself deeper now.
"Who says she's a Pole?"
"They all say so."
"Then what's brought her to these parts?"
"I couldn't tell you. She's got a little girl with her."
"Got a little girl with her?"
"Of three or four, with a head like a fuzz-ball."
"White--fair as can be, an' all of a fuzz."
"Is there a father, then?"
"Not to my knowledge. I don't know."
"What brought her here?"
"I couldn't say, without th' vicar axed her."
"Is the child her child?"
"I s'd think so--they say so."
"Who told you about her?"
"Why, Lizzie--a-Monday--we seed her goin'
"You'd have to be rattling your tongues if anything went
Brangwen stood musing. That evening he went up to Cossethay
to the "Red Lion", half with the intention of hearing more.
She was the widow of a Polish doctor, he gathered. Her
husband had died, a refugee, in London. She spoke a bit
foreign-like, but you could easily make out what she said. She
had one little girl named Anna. Lensky was the woman's name,
Brangwen felt that here was the unreality established at
last. He felt also a curious certainty about her, as if she were
destined to him. It was to him a profound satisfaction that she
was a foreigner.
A swift change had taken place on the earth for him, as if a
new creation were fulfilled, in which he had real existence.
Things had all been stark, unreal, barren, mere nullities
before. Now they were actualities that he could handle.
He dared scarcely think of the woman. He was afraid. Only all
the time he was aware of her presence not far off, he lived in
her. But he dared not know her, even acquaint himself with her
by thinking of her.
One day he met her walking along the road with her little
girl. It was a child with a face like a bud of apple-blossom,
and glistening fair hair like thistle-down sticking out in
straight, wild, flamy pieces, and very dark eyes. The child
clung jealously to her mother's side when he looked at her,
staring with resentful black eyes. But the mother glanced at him
again, almost vacantly. And the very vacancy of her look
inflamed him. She had wide grey-brown eyes with very dark,
fathomless pupils. He felt the fine flame running under his
skin, as if all his veins had caught fire on the surface. And he
went on walking without knowledge.
It was coming, he knew, his fate. The world was submitting to
its transformation. He made no move: it would come, what would
When his sister Effie came to the Marsh for a week, he went
with her for once to church. In the tiny place, with its mere
dozen pews, he sat not far from the stranger. There was a
fineness about her, a poignancy about the way she sat and held
her head lifted. She was strange, from far off, yet so intimate.
She was from far away, a presence, so close to his soul. She was
not really there, sitting in Cossethay church beside her little
girl. She was not living the apparent life of her days. She
belonged to somewhere else. He felt it poignantly, as something
real and natural. But a pang of fear for his own concrete life,
that was only Cossethay, hurt him, and gave him misgiving.
Her thick dark brows almost met above her irregular nose, she
had a wide, rather thick mouth. But her face was lifted to
another world of life: not to heaven or death: but to some place
where she still lived, in spite of her body's absence.
The child beside her watched everything with wide, black
eyes. She had an odd little defiant look, her little red mouth
was pinched shut. She seemed to be jealously guarding something,
to be always on the alert for defence. She met Brangwen's near,
vacant, intimate gaze, and a palpitating hostility, almost like
a flame of pain, came into the wide, over-conscious dark
The old clergyman droned on, Cossethay sat unmoved as usual.
And there was the foreign woman with a foreign air about her,
inviolate, and the strange child, also foreign, jealously
When the service was over, he walked in the way of another
existence out of the church. As he went down the church-path
with his sister, behind the woman and child, the little girl
suddenly broke from her mother's hand, and slipped back with
quick, almost invisible movement, and was picking at something
almost under Brangwen's feet. Her tiny fingers were fine and
quick, but they missed the red button.
"Have you found something?" said Brangwen to her.
And he also stooped for the button. But she had got it, and
she stood back with it pressed against her little coat, her
black eyes flaring at him, as if to forbid him to notice her.
Then, having silenced him, she turned with a swift
"Mother----," and was gone down the path.
The mother had stood watching impassive, looking not at the
child, but at Brangwen. He became aware of the woman looking at
him, standing there isolated yet for him dominant in her foreign
He did not know what to do, and turned to his sister. But the
wide grey eyes, almost vacant yet so moving, held him beyond
"Mother, I may have it, mayn't I?" came the child's proud,
silvery tones. "Mother"-she seemed always to be calling her
mother to remember her-"mother"-and she had nothing to continue
now her mother had replied "Yes, my child." But, with ready
invention, the child stumbled and ran on, "What are those
Brangwen heard the abstract:
"I don't know, dear."
He went on down the road as if he were not living inside
himself, but somewhere outside.
"Who was that person?" his sister Effie asked.
"I couldn't tell you," he answered unknowing.
"She's somebody very funny," said Effie, almost in
condemnation. "That child's like one bewitched."
"Bewitched--how bewitched?" he repeated.
"You can see for yourself. The mother's plain, I must
say--but the child is like a changeling. She'd be about
But he took no notice. His sister talked on.
"There's your woman for you," she continued. "You'd better
marry her." But still he took no notice. Things were as
Another day, at tea-time, as he sat alone at table, there
came a knock at the front door. It startled him like a portent.
No one ever knocked at the front door. He rose and began
slotting back the bolts, turning the big key. When he had opened
the door, the strange woman stood on the threshold.
"Can you give me a pound of butter?" she asked, in a curious
detached way of one speaking a foreign language.
He tried to attend to her question. She was looking at him
questioningly. But underneath the question, what was there, in
her very standing motionless, which affected him?
He stepped aside and she at once entered the house, as if the
door had been opened to admit her. That startled him. It was the
custom for everybody to wait on the doorstep till asked inside.
He went into the kitchen and she followed.
His tea-things were spread on the scrubbed deal table, a big
fire was burning, a dog rose from the hearth and went to her.
She stood motionless just inside the kitchen.
"Tilly," he called loudly, "have we got any butter?"
The stranger stood there like a silence in her black
"Eh?" came the shrill cry from the distance.
He shouted his question again.
"We've got what's on t' table," answered Tilly's shrill voice
out of the dairy.
Brangwen looked at the table. There was a large pat of butter
on a plate, almost a pound. It was round, and stamped with
acorns and oak-leaves.
"Can't you come when you're wanted?" he shouted.
"Why, what d'you want?" Tilly protested, as she came peeking
inquisitively through the other door.
She saw the strange woman, stared at her with cross-eyes, but
"Haven't we any butter?" asked Brangwen again,
impatiently, as if he could command some by his question.
"I tell you there's what's on t' table," said Tilly,
impatient that she was unable to create any to his demand. "We
haven't a morsel besides."
There was a moment's silence.
The stranger spoke, in her curiously distinct, detached
manner of one who must think her speech first.
"Oh, then thank you very much. I am sorry that I have come to
She could not understand the entire lack of manners, was
slightly puzzled. Any politeness would have made the situation
quite impersonal. But here it was a case of wills in confusion.
Brangwen flushed at her polite speech. Still he did not let her
"Get summat an' wrap that up for her," he said to
Tilly, looking at the butter on the table.
And taking a clean knife, he cut off that side of the butter
where it was touched.
His speech, the "for her", penetrated slowly into the foreign
woman and angered Tilly.
"Vicar has his butter fra Brown's by rights," said the
insuppressible servant-woman. "We s'll be churnin' to-morrow
mornin' first thing."
"Yes"--the long-drawn foreign yes--"yes," said the
Polish woman, "I went to Mrs. Brown's. She hasn't any more."
Tilly bridled her head, bursting to say that, according to
the etiquette of people who bought butter, it was no sort of
manners whatever coming to a place cool as you like and knocking
at the front door asking for a pound as a stop-gap while your
other people were short. If you go to Brown's you go to Brown's,
an' my butter isn't just to make shift when Brown's has got
Brangwen understood perfectly this unspoken speech of
Tilly's. The Polish lady did not. And as she wanted butter for
the vicar, and as Tilly was churning in the morning, she
"Sluther up now," said Brangwen loudly after this silence had
resolved itself out; and Tilly disappeared through the inner
"I am afraid that I should not come, so," said the stranger,
looking at him enquiringly, as if referring to him for what it
was usual to do.
He felt confused.
"How's that?" he said, trying to be genial and being only
"Do you----?" she began deliberately. But she was
not sure of her ground, and the conversation came to an end. Her
eyes looked at him all the while, because she could not speak
They stood facing each other. The dog walked away from her to
him. He bent down to it.
"And how's your little girl?" he asked.
"Yes, thank you, she is very well," was the reply, a phrase
of polite speech in a foreign language merely.
"Sit you down," he said.
And she sat in a chair, her slim arms, coming through the
slits of her cloak, resting on her lap.
"You're not used to these parts," he said, still standing on
the hearthrug with his back to the fire, coatless, looking with
curious directness at the woman. Her self-possession pleased him
and inspired him, set him curiously free. It seemed to him
almost brutal to feel so master of himself and of the
Her eyes rested on him for a moment, questioning, as she
thought of the meaning of his speech.
"No," she said, understanding. "No--it is strange."
"You find it middlin' rough?" he said.
Her eyes waited on him, so that he should say it again.
"Our ways are rough to you," he repeated.
"Yes--yes, I understand. Yes, it is different, it is
strange. But I was in Yorkshire----"
"Oh, well then," he said, "it's no worse here than what they
are up there."
She did not quite understand. His protective manner, and his
sureness, and his intimacy, puzzled her. What did he mean? If he
was her equal, why did he behave so without formality?
"No----" she said, vaguely, her eyes resting on
She saw him fresh and naive, uncouth, almost entirely
beyond relationship with her. Yet he was good-looking, with his
fair hair and blue eyes full of energy, and with his healthy
body that seemed to take equality with her. She watched him
steadily. He was difficult for her to understand, warm, uncouth,
and confident as he was, sure on his feet as if he did not know
what it was to be unsure. What then was it that gave him this
She did not know. She wondered. She looked round the room he
lived in. It had a close intimacy that fascinated and almost
frightened her. The furniture was old and familiar as old
people, the whole place seemed so kin to him, as if it partook
of his being, that she was uneasy.
"It is already a long time that you have lived in this
house--yes?" she asked.
"I've always lived here," he said.
"Yes--but your people--your family?"
"We've been here above two hundred years," he said. Her eyes
were on him all the time, wide-open and trying to grasp him. He
felt that he was there for her.
"It is your own place, the house, the
"Yes," he said. He looked down at her and met her look. It
disturbed her. She did not know him. He was a foreigner, they
had nothing to do with each other. Yet his look disturbed her to
knowledge of him. He was so strangely confident and direct.
"You live quite alone?"
"Yes--if you call it alone?"
She did not understand. It seemed unusual to her. What was
the meaning of it?
And whenever her eyes, after watching him for some time,
inevitably met his, she was aware of a heat beating up over her
consciousness. She sat motionless and in conflict. Who was this
strange man who was at once so near to her? What was happening
to her? Something in his young, warm-twinkling eyes seemed to
assume a right to her, to speak to her, to extend her his
protection. But how? Why did he speak to her? Why were his eyes
so certain, so full of light and confident, waiting for no
permission nor signal?
Tilly returned with a large leaf and found the two silent. At
once he felt it incumbent on him to speak, now the serving-woman
had come back.
"How old is your little girl?" he asked.
"Four years," she replied.
"Her father hasn't been dead long, then?" he asked.
"She was one year when he died."
"Yes, three years that he is dead--yes."
Curiously quiet she was, almost abstracted, answering these
questions. She looked at him again, with some maidenhood opening
in her eyes. He felt he could not move, neither towards her nor
away from her. Something about her presence hurt him, till he
was almost rigid before her. He saw the girl's wondering look
rise in her eyes.
Tilly handed her the butter and she rose.
"Thank you very much," she said. "How much is it?"
"We'll make th' vicar a present of it," he said. "It'll do
for me goin' to church."
"It 'ud look better of you if you went to church and took th'
money for your butter," said Tilly, persistent in her claim to
"You'd have to put in, shouldn't you?" he said.
"How much, please?" said the Polish woman to Tilly. Brangwen
stood by and let be.
"Then, thank you very much," she said.
"Bring your little girl down sometime to look at th' fowls
and horses," he said,--"if she'd like it."
"Yes, she would like it," said the stranger.
And she went. Brangwen stood dimmed by her departure. He
could not notice Tilly, who was looking at him uneasily, wanting
to be reassured. He could not think of anything. He felt that he
had made some invisible connection with the strange woman.
A daze had come over his mind, he had another centre of
consciousness. In his breast, or in his bowels, somewhere in his
body, there had started another activity. It was as if a strong
light were burning there, and he was blind within it, unable to
know anything, except that this transfiguration burned between
him and her, connecting them, like a secret power.
Since she had come to the house he went about in a daze,
scarcely seeing even the things he handled, drifting, quiescent,
in a state of metamorphosis. He submitted to that which was
happening to him, letting go his will, suffering the loss of
himself, dormant always on the brink of ecstasy, like a creature
evolving to a new birth.
She came twice with her child to the farm, but there was this
lull between them, an intense calm and passivity like a torpor
upon them, so that there was no active change took place. He was
almost unaware of the child, yet by his native good humour he
gained her confidence, even her affection, setting her on a
horse to ride, giving her corn for the fowls.
Once he drove the mother and child from Ilkeston, picking
them up on the road. The child huddled close to him as if for
love, the mother sat very still. There was a vagueness, like a
soft mist over all of them, and a silence as if their wills were
suspended. Only he saw her hands, ungloved, folded in her lap,
and he noticed the wedding-ring on her finger. It excluded him:
it was a closed circle. It bound her life, the wedding-ring, it
stood for her life in which he could have no part. Nevertheless,
beyond all this, there was herself and himself which should
As he helped her down from the trap, almost lifting her, he
felt he had some right to take her thus between his hands. She
belonged as yet to that other, to that which was behind. But he
must care for her also. She was too living to be neglected.
Sometimes her vagueness, in which he was lost, made him
angry, made him rage. But he held himself still as yet. She had
no response, no being towards him. It puzzled and enraged him,
but he submitted for a long time. Then, from the accumulated
troubling of her ignoring him, gradually a fury broke out,
destructive, and he wanted to go away, to escape her.
It happened she came down to the Marsh with the child whilst
he was in this state. Then he stood over against her, strong and
heavy in his revolt, and though he said nothing, still she felt
his anger and heavy impatience grip hold of her, she was shaken
again as out of a torpor. Again her heart stirred with a quick,
out-running impulse, she looked at him, at the stranger who was
not a gentleman yet who insisted on coming into her life, and
the pain of a new birth in herself strung all her veins to a new
form. She would have to begin again, to find a new being, a new
form, to respond to that blind, insistent figure standing over
A shiver, a sickness of new birth passed over her, the flame
leaped up him, under his skin. She wanted it, this new life from
him, with him, yet she must defend herself against it, for it
was a destruction.
As he worked alone on the land, or sat up with his ewes at
lambing time, the facts and material of his daily life fell
away, leaving the kernel of his purpose clean. And then it came
upon him that he would marry her and she would be his life.
Gradually, even without seeing her, he came to know her. He
would have liked to think of her as of something given into his
protection, like a child without parents. But it was forbidden
him. He had to come down from this pleasant view of the case.
She might refuse him. And besides, he was afraid of her.
But during the long February nights with the ewes in labour,
looking out from the shelter into the flashing stars, he knew he
did not belong to himself. He must admit that he was only
fragmentary, something incomplete and subject. There were the
stars in the dark heaven travelling, the whole host passing by
on some eternal voyage. So he sat small and submissive to the
Unless she would come to him, he must remain as a
nothingness. It was a hard experience. But, after her repeated
obliviousness to him, after he had seen so often that he did not
exist for her, after he had raged and tried to escape, and said
he was good enough by himself, he was a man, and could stand
alone, he must, in the starry multiplicity of the night humble
himself, and admit and know that without her he was nothing.
He was nothing. But with her, he would be real. If she were
now walking across the frosty grass near the sheep-shelter,
through the fretful bleating of the ewes and lambs, she would
bring him completeness and perfection. And if it should be so,
that she should come to him! It should be so--it was
He was a long time resolving definitely to ask her to marry
him. And he knew, if he asked her, she must really acquiesce.
She must, it could not be otherwise.
He had learned a little of her. She was poor, quite alone,
and had had a hard time in London, both before and after her
husband died. But in Poland she was a lady well born, a
All these things were only words to him, the fact of her
superior birth, the fact that her husband had been a brilliant
doctor, the fact that he himself was her inferior in almost
every way of distinction. There was an inner reality, a logic of
the soul, which connected her with him.
One evening in March, when the wind was roaring outside, came
the moment to ask her. He had sat with his hands before him,
leaning to the fire. And as he watched the fire, he knew almost
without thinking that he was going this evening.
"Have you got a clean shirt?" he asked Tilly.
"You know you've got clean shirts," she said.
"Ay,--bring me a white one."
Tilly brought down one of the linen shirts he had inherited
from his father, putting it before him to air at the fire. She
loved him with a dumb, aching love as he sat leaning with his
arms on his knees, still and absorbed, unaware of her. Lately, a
quivering inclination to cry had come over her, when she did
anything for him in his presence. Now her hands trembled as she
spread the shirt. He was never shouting and teasing now. The
deep stillness there was in the house made her tremble.
He went to wash himself. Queer little breaks of consciousness
seemed to rise and burst like bubbles out of the depths of his
"It's got to be done," he said as he stooped to take the
shirt out of the fender, "it's got to be done, so why balk it?"
And as he combed his hair before the mirror on the wall, he
retorted to himself, superficially: "The woman's not speechless
dumb. She's not clutterin' at the nipple. She's got the right to
please herself, and displease whosoever she likes."
This streak of common sense carried him a little further.
"Did you want anythink?" asked Tilly, suddenly appearing,
having heard him speak. She stood watching him comb his fair
beard. His eyes were calm and uninterrupted.
"Ay," he said, "where have you put the scissors?"
She brought them to him, and stood watching as, chin forward,
he trimmed his beard.
"Don't go an' crop yourself as if you was at a shearin'
contest," she said, anxiously. He blew the fine-curled hair
quickly off his lips.
He put on all clean clothes, folded his stock carefully, and
donned his best coat. Then, being ready, as grey twilight was
falling, he went across to the orchard to gather the daffodils.
The wind was roaring in the apple trees, the yellow flowers
swayed violently up and down, he heard even the fine whisper of
their spears as he stooped to break the flattened, brittle stems
of the flowers.
"What's to-do?" shouted a friend who met him as he left the
"Bit of courtin', like," said Brangwen.
And Tilly, in a great state of trepidation and excitement,
let the wind whisk her over the field to the big gate, whence
she could watch him go.
He went up the hill and on towards the vicarage, the wind
roaring through the hedges, whilst he tried to shelter his bunch
of daffodils by his side. He did not think of anything, only
knew that the wind was blowing.
Night was falling, the bare trees drummed and whistled. The
vicar, he knew, would be in his study, the Polish woman in the
kitchen, a comfortable room, with her child. In the darkest of
twilight, he went through the gate and down the path where a few
daffodils stooped in the wind, and shattered crocuses made a
pale, colourless ravel.
There was a light streaming on to the bushes at the back from
the kitchen window. He began to hesitate. How could he do this?
Looking through the window, he saw her seated in the
rocking-chair with the child, already in its nightdress, sitting
on her knee. The fair head with its wild, fierce hair was
drooping towards the fire-warmth, which reflected on the bright
cheeks and clear skin of the child, who seemed to be musing,
almost like a grown-up person. The mother's face was dark and
still, and he saw, with a pang, that she was away back in the
life that had been. The child's hair gleamed like spun glass,
her face was illuminated till it seemed like wax lit up from the
inside. The wind boomed strongly. Mother and child sat
motionless, silent, the child staring with vacant dark eyes into
the fire, the mother looking into space. The little girl was
almost asleep. It was her will which kept her eyes so wide.
Suddenly she looked round, troubled, as the wind shook the
house, and Brangwen saw the small lips move. The mother began to
rock, he heard the slight crunch of the rockers of the chair.
Then he heard the low, monotonous murmur of a song in a foreign
language. Then a great burst of wind, the mother seemed to have
drifted away, the child's eyes were black and dilated. Brangwen
looked up at the clouds which packed in great, alarming haste
across the dark sky.
Then there came the child's high, complaining, yet imperative
"Don't sing that stuff, mother; I don't want to hear it."
The singing died away.
"You will go to bed," said the mother.
He saw the clinging protest of the child, the unmoved
farawayness of the mother, the clinging, grasping effort of the
child. Then suddenly the clear childish challenge:
"I want you to tell me a story."
The wind blew, the story began, the child nestled against the
mother, Brangwen waited outside, suspended, looking at the wild
waving of the trees in the wind and the gathering darkness. He
had his fate to follow, he lingered there at the threshold.
The child crouched distinct and motionless, curled in against
her mother, the eyes dark and unblinking among the keen wisps of
hair, like a curled-up animal asleep but for the eyes. The
mother sat as if in shadow, the story went on as if by itself.
Brangwen stood outside seeing the night fall. He did not notice
the passage of time. The hand that held the daffodils was fixed
The story came to an end, the mother rose at last, with the
child clinging round her neck. She must be strong, to carry so
large a child so easily. The little Anna clung round her
mother's neck. The fair, strange face of the child looked over
the shoulder of the mother, all asleep but the eyes, and these,
wide and dark, kept up the resistance and the fight with
When they were gone, Brangwen stirred for the first time from
the place where he stood, and looked round at the night. He
wished it were really as beautiful and familiar as it seemed in
these few moments of release. Along with the child, he felt a
curious strain on him, a suffering, like a fate.
The mother came down again, and began folding the child's
clothes. He knocked. She opened wondering, a little bit at bay,
like a foreigner, uneasy.
"Good evening," he said. "I'll just come in a minute."
A change went quickly over her face; she was unprepared. She
looked down at him as he stood in the light from the window,
holding the daffodils, the darkness behind. In his black clothes
she again did not know him. She was almost afraid.
But he was already stepping on to the threshold, and closing
the door behind him. She turned into the kitchen, startled out
of herself by this invasion from the night. He took off his hat,
and came towards her. Then he stood in the light, in his black
clothes and his black stock, hat in one hand and yellow flowers
in the other. She stood away, at his mercy, snatched out of
herself. She did not know him, only she knew he was a man come
for her. She could only see the dark-clad man's figure standing
there upon her, and the gripped fist of flowers. She could not
see the face and the living eyes.
He was watching her, without knowing her, only aware
underneath of her presence.
"I come to have a word with you," he said, striding forward
to the table, laying down his hat and the flowers, which tumbled
apart and lay in a loose heap. She had flinched from his
advance. She had no will, no being. The wind boomed in the
chimney, and he waited. He had disembarrassed his hands. Now he
shut his fists.
He was aware of her standing there unknown, dread, yet
related to him.
"I came up," he said, speaking curiously matter-of-fact and
level, "to ask if you'd marry me. You are free, aren't you?"
There was a long silence, whilst his blue eyes, strangely
impersonal, looked into her eyes to seek an answer to the truth.
He was looking for the truth out of her. And she, as if
hypnotized, must answer at length.
"Yes, I am free to marry."
The expression of his eyes changed, became less impersonal,
as if he were looking almost at her, for the truth of her.
Steady and intent and eternal they were, as if they would never
change. They seemed to fix and to resolve her. She quivered,
feeling herself created, will-less, lapsing into him, into a
common will with him.
"You want me?" she said.
A pallor came over his face.
"Yes," he said.
Still there was no response and silence.
"No," she said, not of herself. "No, I don't know."
He felt the tension breaking up in him, his fists slackened,
he was unable to move. He stood there looking at her, helpless
in his vague collapse. For the moment she had become unreal to
him. Then he saw her come to him, curiously direct and as if
without movement, in a sudden flow. She put her hand to his
"Yes I want to," she said, impersonally, looking at him with
wide, candid, newly-opened eyes, opened now with supreme truth.
He went very white as he stood, and did not move, only his eyes
were held by hers, and he suffered. She seemed to see him with
her newly-opened, wide eyes, almost of a child, and with a
strange movement, that was agony to him, she reached slowly
forward her dark face and her breast to him, with a slow
insinuation of a kiss that made something break in his brain,
and it was darkness over him for a few moments.
He had her in his arms, and, obliterated, was kissing her.
And it was sheer, bleached agony to him, to break away from
himself. She was there so small and light and accepting in his
arms, like a child, and yet with such an insinuation of embrace,
of infinite embrace, that he could not bear it, he could not
He turned and looked for a chair, and keeping her still in
his arms, sat down with her close to him, to his breast. Then,
for a few seconds, he went utterly to sleep, asleep and sealed
in the darkest sleep, utter, extreme oblivion.
From which he came to gradually, always holding her warm and
close upon him, and she as utterly silent as he, involved in the
same oblivion, the fecund darkness.
He returned gradually, but newly created, as after a
gestation, a new birth, in the womb of darkness. Aerial and
light everything was, new as a morning, fresh and newly-begun.
Like a dawn the newness and the bliss filled in. And she sat
utterly still with him, as if in the same.
Then she looked up at him, the wide, young eyes blazing with
light. And he bent down and kissed her on the lips. And the dawn
blazed in them, their new life came to pass, it was beyond all
conceiving good, it was so good, that it was almost like a
passing-away, a trespass. He drew her suddenly closer to
For soon the light began to fade in her, gradually, and as
she was in his arms, her head sank, she leaned it against him,
and lay still, with sunk head, a little tired, effaced because
she was tired. And in her tiredness was a certain negation of
"There is the child," she said, out of the long silence.
He did not understand. It was a long time since he had heard
a voice. Now also he heard the wind roaring, as if it had just
"Yes," he said, not understanding. There was a slight
contraction of pain at his heart, a slight tension on his brows.
Something he wanted to grasp and could not.
"You will love her?" she said.
The quick contraction, like pain, went over him again.
"I love her now," he said.
She lay still against him, taking his physical warmth without
heed. It was great confirmation for him to feel her there,
absorbing the warmth from him, giving him back her weight and
her strange confidence. But where was she, that she seemed so
absent? His mind was open with wonder. He did not know her.
"But I am much older than you," she said.
"How old?" he asked.
"I am thirty-four," she said.
"I am twenty-eight," he said.
She was oddly concerned, even as if it pleased her a little.
He sat and listened and wondered. It was rather splendid, to be
so ignored by her, whilst she lay against him, and he lifted her
with his breathing, and felt her weight upon his living, so he
had a completeness and an inviolable power. He did not interfere
with her. He did not even know her. It was so strange that she
lay there with her weight abandoned upon him. He was silent with
delight. He felt strong, physically, carrying her on his
breathing. The strange, inviolable completeness of the two of
them made him feel as sure and as stable as God. Amused, he
wondered what the vicar would say if he knew.
"You needn't stop here much longer, housekeeping," he
"I like it also, here," she said. "When one has been in many
places, it is very nice here."
He was silent again at this. So close on him she lay, and yet
she answered him from so far away. But he did not mind.
"What was your own home like, when you were little?" he
"My father was a landowner," she replied. "It was near a
This did not convey much to him. All was as vague as before.
But he did not care, whilst she was so close.
"I am a landowner--a little one," he said.
"Yes," she said.
He had not dared to move. He sat there with his arms round
her, her lying motionless on his breathing, and for a long time
he did not stir. Then softly, timidly, his hand settled on the
roundness of her arm, on the unknown. She seemed to lie a little
closer. A hot flame licked up from his belly to his chest.
But it was too soon. She rose, and went across the room to a
drawer, taking out a little tray-cloth. There was something
quiet and professional about her. She had been a nurse beside
her husband, both in Warsaw and in the rebellion afterwards. She
proceeded to set a tray. It was as if she ignored Brangwen. He
sat up, unable to bear a contradiction in her. She moved about
Then, as he sat there, all mused and wondering, she came near
to him, looking at him with wide, grey eyes that almost smiled
with a low light. But her ugly-beautiful mouth was still unmoved
and sad. He was afraid.
His eyes, strained and roused with unusedness, quailed a
little before her, he felt himself quailing and yet he rose, as
if obedient to her, he bent and kissed her heavy, sad, wide
mouth, that was kissed, and did not alter. Fear was too strong
in him. Again he had not got her.
She turned away. The vicarage kitchen was untidy, and yet to
him beautiful with the untidiness of her and her child. Such a
wonderful remoteness there was about her, and then something in
touch with him, that made his heart knock in his chest. He stood
there and waited, suspended.
Again she came to him, as he stood in his black clothes, with
blue eyes very bright and puzzled for her, his face tensely
alive, his hair dishevelled. She came close up to him, to his
intent, black-clothed body, and laid her hand on his arm. He
remained unmoved. Her eyes, with a blackness of memory
struggling with passion, primitive and electric away at the back
of them, rejected him and absorbed him at once. But he remained
himself. He breathed with difficulty, and sweat came out at the
roots of his hair, on his forehead.
"Do you want to marry me?" she asked slowly, always
He was afraid lest he could not speak. He drew breath hard,
Then again, what was agony to him, with one hand lightly
resting on his arm, she leaned forward a little, and with a
strange, primeval suggestion of embrace, held him her mouth. It
was ugly-beautiful, and he could not bear it. He put his mouth
on hers, and slowly, slowly the response came, gathering force
and passion, till it seemed to him she was thundering at him
till he could bear no more. He drew away, white, unbreathing.
Only, in his blue eyes, was something of himself concentrated.
And in her eyes was a little smile upon a black void.
She was drifting away from him again. And he wanted to go
away. It was intolerable. He could bear no more. He must go. Yet
he was irresolute. But she turned away from him.
With a little pang of anguish, of denial, it was decided.
"I'll come an' speak to the vicar to-morrow," he said, taking
She looked at him, her eyes expressionless and full of
darkness. He could see no answer.
"That'll do, won't it?" he said.
"Yes," she answered, mere echo without body or meaning.
"Good night," he said.
He left her standing there, expressionless and void as she
was. Then she went on laying the tray for the vicar. Needing the
table, she put the daffodils aside on the dresser without
noticing them. Only their coolness, touching her hand, remained
echoing there a long while.
They were such strangers, they must for ever be such
strangers, that his passion was a clanging torment to him. Such
intimacy of embrace, and such utter foreignness of contact! It
was unbearable. He could not bear to be near her, and know the
utter foreignness between them, know how entirely they were
strangers to each other. He went out into the wind. Big holes
were blown into the sky, the moonlight blew about. Sometimes a
high moon, liquid-brilliant, scudded across a hollow space and
took cover under electric, brown-iridescent cloud-edges. Then
there was a blot of cloud, and shadow. Then somewhere in the
night a radiance again, like a vapour. And all the sky was
teeming and tearing along, a vast disorder of flying shapes and
darkness and ragged fumes of light and a great brown circling
halo, then the terror of a moon running liquid-brilliant into
the open for a moment, hurting the eyes before she plunged under
cover of cloud again.
THEY LIVE AT THE MARSH
She was the daughter of a Polish landowner who, deeply in
debt to the Jews, had married a German wife with money, and who
had died just before the rebellion. Quite young, she had married
Paul Lensky, an intellectual who had studied at Berlin, and had
returned to Warsaw a patriot. Her mother had married a German
merchant and gone away.
Lydia Lensky, married to the young doctor, became with him a
patriot and an émancipée. They were poor, but they
were very conceited. She learned nursing as a mark of her
emancipation. They represented in Poland the new movement just
begun in Russia. But they were very patriotic: and, at the same
time, very "European".
They had two children. Then came the great rebellion. Lensky,
very ardent and full of words, went about inciting his
countrymen. Little Poles flamed down the streets of Warsaw, on
the way to shoot every Muscovite. So they crossed into the south
of Russia, and it was common for six little insurgents to ride
into a Jewish village, brandishing swords and words, emphasizing
the fact that they were going to shoot every living
Lensky was something of a fire-eater also. Lydia, tempered by
her German blood, coming of a different family, was obliterated,
carried along in her husband's emphasis of declaration, and his
whirl of patriotism. He was indeed a brave man, but no bravery
could quite have equalled the vividness of his talk. He worked
very hard, till nothing lived in him but his eyes. And Lydia, as
if drugged, followed him like a shadow, serving, echoing.
Sometimes she had her two children, sometimes they were left
She returned once to find them both dead of diphtheria. Her
husband wept aloud, unaware of everybody. But the war went on,
and soon he was back at his work. A darkness had come over
Lydia's mind. She walked always in a shadow, silenced, with a
strange, deep terror having hold of her, her desire was to seek
satisfaction in dread, to enter a nunnery, to satisfy the
instincts of dread in her, through service of a dark religion.
But she could not.
Then came the flight to London. Lensky, the little, thin man,
had got all his life locked into a resistance and could not
relax again. He lived in a sort of insane irritability, touchy,
haughty to the last degree, fractious, so that as assistant
doctor in one of the hospitals he soon became impossible. They
were almost beggars. But he kept still his great ideas of
himself, he seemed to live in a complete hallucination, where he
himself figured vivid and lordly. He guarded his wife jealously
against the ignominy of her position, rushed round her like a
brandished weapon, an amazing sight to the English eye, had her
in his power, as if he hypnotized her. She was passive, dark,
always in shadow.
He was wasting away. Already when the child was born he
seemed nothing but skin and bone and fixed idea. She watched him
dying, nursed him, nursed the baby, but really took no notice of
anything. A darkness was on her, like remorse, or like a
remembering of the dark, savage, mystic ride of dread, of death,
of the shadow of revenge. When her husband died, she was
relieved. He would no longer dart about her.
England fitted her mood, its aloofness and foreignness. She
had known a little of the language before coming, and a sort of
parrot-mind made her pick it up fairly easily. But she knew
nothing of the English, nor of English life. Indeed, these did
not exist for her. She was like one walking in the Underworld,
where the shades throng intelligibly but have no connection with
one. She felt the English people as a potent, cold, slightly
hostile host amongst whom she walked isolated.
The English people themselves were almost deferential to her,
the Church saw that she did not want. She walked without
passion, like a shade, tormented into moments of love by the
child. Her dying husband with his tortured eyes and the skin
drawn tight over his face, he was as a vision to her, not a
reality. In a vision he was buried and put away. Then the vision
ceased, she was untroubled, time went on grey, uncoloured, like
a long journey where she sat unconscious as the landscape
unrolled beside her. When she rocked her baby at evening, maybe
she fell into a Polish slumber song, or she talked sometimes to
herself in Polish. Otherwise she did not think of Poland, nor of
that life to which she had belonged. It was a great blot looming
blank in its darkness. In the superficial activity of her life,
she was all English. She even thought in English. But her long
blanks and darknesses of abstraction were Polish.
So she lived for some time. Then, with slight uneasiness, she
used half to awake to the streets of London. She realized that
there was something around her, very foreign, she realized she
was in a strange place. And then, she was sent away into the
country. There came into her mind now the memory of her home
where she had been a child, the big house among the land, the
peasants of the village.
She was sent to Yorkshire, to nurse an old rector in his
rectory by the sea. This was the first shake of the kaleidoscope
that brought in front of her eyes something she must see. It
hurt her brain, the open country and the moors. It hurt her and
hurt her. Yet it forced itself upon her as something living, it
roused some potency of her childhood in her, it had some
relation to her.
There was green and silver and blue in the air about her now.
And there was a strange insistence of light from the sea, to
which she must attend. Primroses glimmered around, many of them,
and she stooped to the disturbing influence near her feet, she
even picked one or two flowers, faintly remembering in the new
colour of life, what had been. All the day long, as she sat at
the upper window, the light came off the sea, constantly,
constantly, without refusal, till it seemed to bear her away,
and the noise of the sea created a drowsiness in her, a
relaxation like sleep. Her automatic consciousness gave way a
little, she stumbled sometimes, she had a poignant, momentary
vision of her living child, that hurt her unspeakably. Her soul
roused to attention.
Very strange was the constant glitter of the sea unsheathed
in heaven, very warm and sweet the graveyard, in a nook of the
hill catching the sunshine and holding it as one holds a bee
between the palms of the hands, when it is benumbed. Grey grass
and lichens and a little church, and snowdrops among coarse
grass, and a cupful of incredibly warm sunshine.
She was troubled in spirit. Hearing the rushing of the beck
away down under the trees, she was startled, and wondered what
it was. Walking down, she found the bluebells around her glowing
like a presence, among the trees.
Summer came, the moors were tangled with harebells like water
in the ruts of the roads, the heather came rosy under the skies,
setting the whole world awake. And she was uneasy. She went past
the gorse bushes shrinking from their presence, she stepped into
the heather as into a quickening bath that almost hurt. Her
fingers moved over the clasped fingers of the child, she heard
the anxious voice of the baby, as it tried to make her talk,
And she shrank away again, back into her darkness, and for a
long while remained blotted safely away from living. But autumn
came with the faint red glimmer of robins singing, winter
darkened the moors, and almost savagely she turned again to
life, demanding her life back again, demanding that it should be
as it had been when she was a girl, on the land at home, under
the sky. Snow lay in great expanses, the telegraph posts strode
over the white earth, away under the gloom of the sky. And
savagely her desire rose in her again, demanding that this was
Poland, her youth, that all was her own again.
But there were no sledges nor bells, she did not see the
peasants coming out like new people, in their sheepskins and
their fresh, ruddy, bright faces, that seemed to become new and
vivid when the snow lit up the ground. It did not come to her,
the life of her youth, it did not come back. There was a little
agony of struggle, then a relapse into the darkness of the
convent, where Satan and the devils raged round the walls, and
Christ was white on the cross of victory.
She watched from the sick-room the snow whirl past, like
flocks of shadows in haste, flying on some final mission out to
a leaden inalterable sea, beyond the final whiteness of the
curving shore, and the snow-speckled blackness of the rocks half
submerged. But near at hand on the trees the snow was soft in
bloom. Only the voice of the dying vicar spoke grey and
querulous from behind.
By the time the snowdrops were out, however, he was dead. He
was dead. But with curious equanimity the returning woman
watched the snowdrops on the edge of the grass below, blown
white in the wind, but not to be blown away. She watched them
fluttering and bobbing, the white, shut flowers, anchored by a
thread to the grey-green grass, yet never blown away, not
drifting with the wind.
As she rose in the morning, the dawn was beating up white,
gusts of light blown like a thin snowstorm from the east, blown
stronger and fiercer, till the rose appeared, and the gold, and
the sea lit up below. She was impassive and indifferent. Yet she
was outside the enclosure of darkness.
There passed a space of shadow again, the familiarity of
dread-worship, during which she was moved, oblivious, to
Cossethay. There, at first, there was nothing--just grey
nothing. But then one morning there was a light from the yellow
jasmine caught her, and after that, morning and evening, the
persistent ringing of thrushes from the shrubbery, till her
heart, beaten upon, was forced to lift up its voice in rivalry
and answer. Little tunes came into her mind. She was full of
trouble almost like anguish. Resistant, she knew she was beaten,
and from fear of darkness turned to fear of light. She would
have hidden herself indoors, if she could. Above all, she craved
for the peace and heavy oblivion of her old state. She could not
bear to come to, to realize. The first pangs of this new
parturition were so acute, she knew she could not bear it. She
would rather remain out of life, than be torn, mutilated into
this birth, which she could not survive. She had not the
strength to come to life now, in England, so foreign, skies so
hostile. She knew she would die like an early, colourless,
scentless flower that the end of the winter puts forth
mercilessly. And she wanted to harbour her modicum of twinkling
But a sunshiny day came full of the scent of a mezereon tree,
when bees were tumbling into the yellow crocuses, and she
forgot, she felt like somebody else, not herself, a new person,
quite glad. But she knew it was fragile, and she dreaded it. The
vicar put pea-flower into the crocuses, for his bees to roll in,
and she laughed. Then night came, with brilliant stars that she
knew of old, from her girlhood. And they flashed so bright, she
knew they were victors.
She could neither wake nor sleep. As if crushed between the
past and the future, like a flower that comes above-ground to
find a great stone lying above it, she was helpless.
The bewilderment and helplessness continued, she was
surrounded by great moving masses that must crush her. And there
was no escape. Save in the old obliviousness, the cold darkness
she strove to retain. But the vicar showed her eggs in the
thrush's nest near the back door. She saw herself the
mother-thrush upon the nest, and the way her wings were spread,
so eager down upon her secret. The tense, eager, nesting wings
moved her beyond endurance. She thought of them in the morning,
when she heard the thrush whistling as he got up, and she
thought, "Why didn't I die out there, why am I brought
She was aware of people who passed around her, not as
persons, but as looming presences. It was very difficult for her
to adjust herself. In Poland, the peasantry, the people, had
been cattle to her, they had been her cattle that she owned and
used. What were these people? Now she was coming awake, she was
But she had felt Brangwen go by almost as if he had brushed
her. She had tingled in body as she had gone on up the road.
After she had been with him in the Marsh kitchen, the voice of
her body had risen strong and insistent. Soon, she wanted him.
He was the man who had come nearest to her for her
Always, however, between-whiles she lapsed into the old
unconsciousness, indifference and there was a will in her to
save herself from living any more. But she would wake in the
morning one day and feel her blood running, feel herself lying
open like a flower unsheathed in the sun, insistent and potent
She got to know him better, and her instinct fixed on
him--just on him. Her impulse was strong against him,
because he was not of her own sort. But one blind instinct led
her, to take him, to leave him, and then to relinquish herself
to him. It would be safety. She felt the rooted safety of him,
and the life in him. Also he was young and very fresh. The blue,
steady livingness of his eyes she enjoyed like morning. He was
Then she lapsed again to stupor and indifference. This,
however, was bound to pass. The warmth flowed through her, she
felt herself opening, unfolding, asking, as a flower opens in
full request under the sun, as the beaks of tiny birds open
flat, to receive, to receive. And unfolded she turned to him,
straight to him. And he came, slowly, afraid, held back by
uncouth fear, and driven by a desire bigger than himself.
When she opened and turned to him, then all that had been and
all that was, was gone from her, she was as new as a flower that
unsheathes itself and stands always ready, waiting, receptive.
He could not understand this. He forced himself, through lack of
understanding, to the adherence to the line of honourable
courtship and sanctioned, licensed marriage. Therefore, after he
had gone to the vicarage and asked for her, she remained for
some days held in this one spell, open, receptive to him, before
him. He was roused to chaos. He spoke to the vicar and gave in
the banns. Then he stood to wait.
She remained attentive and instinctively expectant before
him, unfolded, ready to receive him. He could not act, because
of self-fear and because of his conception of honour towards
her. So he remained in a state of chaos.
And after a few days, gradually she closed again, away from
him, was sheathed over, impervious to him, oblivious. Then a
black, bottomless despair became real to him, he knew what he
had lost. He felt he had lost it for good, he knew what it was
to have been in communication with her, and to be cast off
again. In misery, his heart like a heavy stone, he went about
Till gradually he became desperate, lost his understanding,
was plunged in a revolt that knew no bounds. Inarticulate, he
moved with her at the Marsh in violent, gloomy, wordless
passion, almost in hatred of her. Till gradually she became
aware of him, aware of herself with regard to him, her blood
stirred to life, she began to open towards him, to flow towards
him again. He waited till the spell was between them again, till
they were together within one rushing, hastening flame. And then
again he was bewildered, he was tied up as with cords, and could
not move to her. So she came to him, and unfastened the breast
of his waistcoat and his shirt, and put her hand on him, needing
to know him. For it was cruel to her, to be opened and offered
to him, yet not to know what he was, not even that he was there.
She gave herself to the hour, but he could not, and he bungled
in taking her.
So that he lived in suspense, as if only half his faculties
worked, until the wedding. She did not understand. But the
vagueness came over her again, and the days lapsed by. He could
not get definitely into touch with her. For the time being, she
let him go again.
He suffered very much from the thought of actual marriage,
the intimacy and nakedness of marriage. He knew her so little.
They were so foreign to each other, they were such strangers.
And they could not talk to each other. When she talked, of
Poland or of what had been, it was all so foreign, she scarcely
communicated anything to him. And when he looked at her, an
over-much reverence and fear of the unknown changed the nature
of his desire into a sort of worship, holding her aloof from his
physical desire, self-thwarting.
She did not know this, she did not understand. They had
looked at each other, and had accepted each other. It was so,
then there was nothing to balk at, it was complete between
At the wedding, his face was stiff and expressionless. He
wanted to drink, to get rid of his forethought and afterthought,
to set the moment free. But he could not. The suspense only
tightened at his heart. The jesting and joviality and jolly,
broad insinuation of the guests only coiled him more. He could
not hear. That which was impending obsessed him, he could not
She sat quiet, with a strange, still smile. She was not
afraid. Having accepted him, she wanted to take him, she
belonged altogether to the hour, now. No future, no past, only
this, her hour. She did not even notice him, as she sat beside
him at the head of the table. He was very near, their coming
together was close at hand. What more!
As the time came for all the guests to go, her dark face was
softly lighted, the bend of her head was proud, her grey eyes
clear and dilated, so that the men could not look at her, and
the women were elated by her, they served her. Very wonderful
she was, as she bade farewell, her ugly wide mouth smiling with
pride and recognition, her voice speaking softly and richly in
the foreign accent, her dilated eyes ignoring one and all the
departing guests. Her manner was gracious and fascinating, but
she ignored the being of him or her to whom she gave her
And Brangwen stood beside her, giving his hearty handshake to
his friends, receiving their regard gratefully, glad of their
attention. His heart was tormented within him, he did not try to
smile. The time of his trial and his admittance, his Gethsemane
and his Triumphal Entry in one, had come now.
Behind her, there was so much unknown to him. When he
approached her, he came to such a terrible painful unknown. How
could he embrace it and fathom it? How could he close his arms
round all this darkness and hold it to his breast and give
himself to it? What might not happen to him? If he stretched and
strained for ever he would never be able to grasp it all, and to
yield himself naked out of his own hands into the unknown power!
How could a man be strong enough to take her, put his arms round
her and have her, and be sure he could conquer this awful
unknown next his heart? What was it then that she was, to which
he must also deliver himself up, and which at the same time he
must embrace, contain?
He was to be her husband. It was established so. And he
wanted it more than he wanted life, or anything. She stood
beside him in her silk dress, looking at him strangely, so that
a certain terror, horror took possession of him, because she was
strange and impending and he had no choice. He could not bear to
meet her look from under her strange, thick brows.
"Is it late?" she said.
He looked at his watch.
"No--half-past eleven," he said. And he made an excuse
to go into the kitchen, leaving her standing in the room among
the disorder and the drinking-glasses.
Tilly was seated beside the fire in the kitchen, her head in
her hands. She started up when he entered.
"Why haven't you gone to bed?" he said.
"I thought I'd better stop an' lock up an' do," she said. Her
agitation quietened him. He gave her some little order, then
returned, steadied now, almost ashamed, to his wife. She stood a
moment watching him, as he moved with averted face. Then she
"You will be good to me, won't you?"
She was small and girlish and terrible, with a queer, wide
look in her eyes. His heart leaped in him, in anguish of love
and desire, he went blindly to her and took her in his arms.
"I want to," he said as he drew her closer and closer in. She
was soothed by the stress of his embrace, and remained quite
still, relaxed against him, mingling in to him. And he let
himself go from past and future, was reduced to the moment with
her. In which he took her and was with her and there was nothing
beyond, they were together in an elemental embrace beyond their
superficial foreignness. But in the morning he was uneasy again.
She was still foreign and unknown to him. Only, within the fear
was pride, belief in himself as mate for her. And she,
everything forgotten in her new hour of coming to life, radiated
vigour and joy, so that he quivered to touch her.
It made a great difference to him, marriage. Things became so
remote and of so little significance, as he knew the powerful
source of his life, his eyes opened on a new universe, and he
wondered in thinking of his triviality before. A new, calm
relationship showed to him in the things he saw, in the cattle
he used, the young wheat as it eddied in a wind.
And each time he returned home, he went steadily,
expectantly, like a man who goes to a profound, unknown
satisfaction. At dinner-time, he appeared in the doorway,
hanging back a moment from entering, to see if she was there. He
saw her setting the plates on the white-scrubbed table. Her arms
were slim, she had a slim body and full skirts, she had a dark,
shapely head with close-banded hair. Somehow it was her head, so
shapely and poignant, that revealed her his woman to him. As she
moved about clothed closely, full-skirted and wearing her little
silk apron, her dark hair smoothly parted, her head revealed
itself to him in all its subtle, intrinsic beauty, and he knew
she was his woman, he knew her essence, that it was his to
possess. And he seemed to live thus in contact with her, in
contact with the unknown, the unaccountable and
They did not take much notice of each other, consciously.
"I'm betimes," he said.
"Yes," she answered.
He turned to the dogs, or to the child if she was there. The
little Anna played about the farm, flitting constantly in to
call something to her mother, to fling her arms round her
mother's skirts, to be noticed, perhaps caressed, then,
forgetting, to slip out again.
Then Brangwen, talking to the child, or to the dog between
his knees, would be aware of his wife, as, in her tight, dark
bodice and her lace fichu, she was reaching up to the corner
cupboard. He realized with a sharp pang that she belonged to
him, and he to her. He realized that he lived by her. Did he own
her? Was she here for ever? Or might she go away? She was not
really his, it was not a real marriage, this marriage between
them. She might go away. He did not feel like a master, husband,
father of her children. She belonged elsewhere. Any moment, she
might be gone. And he was ever drawn to her, drawn after her,
with ever-raging, ever-unsatisfied desire. He must always turn
home, wherever his steps were taking him, always to her, and he
could never quite reach her, he could never quite be satisfied,
never be at peace, because she might go away.
At evening, he was glad. Then, when he had finished in the
yard, and come in and washed himself, when the child was put to
bed, he could sit on the other side of the fire with his beer on
the hob and his long white pipe in his fingers, conscious of her
there opposite him, as she worked at her embroidery, or as she
talked to him, and he was safe with her now, till morning. She
was curiously self-sufficient and did not say very much.
Occasionally she lifted her head, her grey eyes shining with a
strange light, that had nothing to do with him or with this
place, and would tell him about herself. She seemed to be back
again in the past, chiefly in her childhood or her girlhood,
with her father. She very rarely talked of her first husband.
But sometimes, all shining-eyed, she was back at her own home,
telling him about the riotous times, the trip to Paris with her
father, tales of the mad acts of the peasants when a burst of
religious, self-hurting fervour had passed over the country.
She would lift her head and say:
"When they brought the railway across the country, they made
afterwards smaller railways, of shorter width, to come down to
our town-a hundred miles. When I was a girl, Gisla, my German
gouvernante, was very shocked and she would not tell me. But I
heard the servants talking. I remember, it was Pierre, the
coachman. And my father, and some of his friends, landowners,
they had taken a wagon, a whole railway wagon--that you
"A railway-carriage," said Brangwen.
She laughed to herself.
"I know it was a great scandal: yes--a whole wagon, and
they had girls, you know, filles, naked, all the
wagon-full, and so they came down to our village. They came
through villages of the Jews, and it was a great scandal. Can
you imagine? All the countryside! And my mother, she did not
like it. Gisla said to me, 'Madame, she must not know that you
have heard such things.'
"My mother, she used to cry, and she wished to beat my
father, plainly beat him. He would say, when she cried because
he sold the forest, the wood, to jingle money in his pocket, and
go to Warsaw or Paris or Kiev, when she said he must take back
his word, he must not sell the forest, he would stand and say,
'I know, I know, I have heard it all, I have heard it all
before. Tell me some new thing. I know, I know, I know.' Oh, but
can you understand, I loved him when he stood there under the
door, saying only, 'I know, I know, I know it all already.' She
could not change him, no, not if she killed herself for it. And
she could change everybody else, but him, she could not change
Brangwen could not understand. He had pictures of a
cattle-truck full of naked girls riding from nowhere to nowhere,
of Lydia laughing because her father made great debts and said,
"I know, I know"; of Jews running down the street shouting in
Yiddish, "Don't do it, don't do it," and being cut down by
demented peasants--she called them "cattle"--whilst
she looked on interested and even amused; of tutors and
governesses and Paris and a convent. It was too much for him.
And there she sat, telling the tales to the open space, not to
him, arrogating a curious superiority to him, a distance between
them, something strange and foreign and outside his life,
talking, rattling, without rhyme or reason, laughing when he was
shocked or astounded, condemning nothing, confounding his mind
and making the whole world a chaos, without order or stability
of any kind. Then, when they went to bed, he knew that he had
nothing to do with her. She was back in her childhood, he was a
peasant, a serf, a servant, a lover, a paramour, a shadow, a
nothing. He lay still in amazement, staring at the room he knew
so well, and wondering whether it was really there, the window,
the chest of drawers, or whether it was merely a figment in the
atmosphere. And gradually he grew into a raging fury against
her. But because he was so much amazed, and there was as yet
such a distance between them, and she was such an amazing thing
to him, with all wonder opening out behind her, he made no
retaliation on her. Only he lay still and wide-eyed with rage,
inarticulate, not understanding, but solid with hostility.
And he remained wrathful and distinct from her, unchanged
outwardly to her, but underneath a solid power of antagonism to
her. Of which she became gradually aware. And it irritated her
to be made aware of him as a separate power. She lapsed into a
sort of sombre exclusion, a curious communion with mysterious
powers, a sort of mystic, dark state which drove him and the
child nearly mad. He walked about for days stiffened with
resistance to her, stiff with a will to destroy her as she was.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, there was connection between them
again. It came on him as he was working in the fields. The
tension, the bond, burst, and the passionate flood broke forward
into a tremendous, magnificent rush, so that he felt he could
snap off the trees as he passed, and create the world
And when he arrived home, there was no sign between them. He
waited and waited till she came. And as he waited, his limbs
seemed strong and splendid to him, his hands seemed like
passionate servants to him, goodly, he felt a stupendous power
in himself, of life, and of urgent, strong blood.
She was sure to come at last, and touch him. Then he burst
into flame for her, and lost himself. They looked at each other,
a deep laugh at the bottom of their eyes, and he went to take of
her again, wholesale, mad to revel in the inexhaustible wealth
of her, to bury himself in the depths of her in an inexhaustible
exploration, she all the while revelling in that he revelled in
her, tossed all her secrets aside and plunged to that which was
secret to her as well, whilst she quivered with fear and the
last anguish of delight.
What did it matter who they were, whether they knew each
other or not?
The hour passed away again, there was severance between them,
and rage and misery and bereavement for her, and deposition and
toiling at the mill with slaves for him. But no matter. They had
had their hour, and should it chime again, they were ready for
it, ready to renew the game at the point where it was left off,
on the edge of the outer darkness, when the secrets within the
woman are game for the man, hunted doggedly, when the secrets of
the woman are the man's adventure, and they both give themselves
to the adventure.
She was with child, and there was again the silence and
distance between them. She did not want him nor his secrets nor
his game, he was deposed, he was cast out. He seethed with fury
at the small, ugly-mouthed woman who had nothing to do with him.
Sometimes his anger broke on her, but she did not cry. She
turned on him like a tiger, and there was battle.
He had to learn to contain himself again, and he hated it. He
hated her that she was not there for him. And he took himself
But an instinct of gratitude and a knowledge that she would
receive him back again, that later on she would be there for him
again, prevented his straying very far. He cautiously did not go
too far. He knew she might lapse into ignorance of him, lapse
away from him, farther, farther, farther, till she was lost to
him. He had sense enough, premonition enough in himself, to be
aware of this and to measure himself accordingly. For he did not
want to lose her: he did not want her to lapse away.
Cold, he called her, selfish, only caring about herself, a
foreigner with a bad nature, caring really about nothing, having
no proper feelings at the bottom of her, and no proper niceness.
He raged, and piled up accusations that had some measure of
truth in them all. But a certain grace in him forbade him from
going too far. He knew, and he quivered with rage and hatred,
that she was all these vile things, that she was everything vile
and detestable. But he had grace at the bottom of him, which
told him that, above all things, he did not want to lose her, he
was not going to lose her.
So he kept some consideration for her, he preserved some
relationship. He went out more often, to the "Red Lion" again,
to escape the madness of sitting next to her when she did not
belong to him, when she was as absent as any woman in
indifference could be. He could not stay at home. So he went to
the "Red Lion". And sometimes he got drunk. But he preserved his
measure, some things between them he never forfeited.
A tormented look came into his eyes, as if something were
always dogging him. He glanced sharp and quick, he could not
bear to sit still doing nothing. He had to go out, to find
company, to give himself away there. For he had no other outlet,
he could not work to give himself out, he had not the
As the months of her pregnancy went on, she left him more and
more alone, she was more and more unaware of him, his existence
was annulled. And he felt bound down, bound, unable to stir,
beginning to go mad, ready to rave. For she was quiet and
polite, as if he did not exist, as one is quiet and polite to a
Nevertheless she was great with his child, it was his turn to
submit. She sat opposite him, sewing, her foreign face
inscrutable and indifferent. He felt he wanted to break her into
acknowledgment of him, into awareness of him. It was
insufferable that she had so obliterated him. He would smash her
into regarding him. He had a raging agony of desire to do
But something bigger in him withheld him, kept him
motionless. So he went out of the house for relief. Or he turned
to the little girl for her sympathy and her love, he appealed
with all his power to the small Anna. So soon they were like
lovers, father and child.
For he was afraid of his wife. As she sat there with bent
head, silent, working or reading, but so unutterably silent that
his heart seemed under the millstone of it, she became herself
like the upper millstone lying on him, crushing him, as
sometimes a heavy sky lies on the earth.
Yet he knew he could not tear her away from the heavy
obscurity into which she was merged. He must not try to tear her
into recognition of himself, and agreement with himself. It were
disastrous, impious. So, let him rage as he might, he must
withhold himself. But his wrists trembled and seemed mad, seemed
as if they would burst.
When, in November, the leaves came beating against the window
shutters, with a lashing sound, he started, and his eyes
flickered with flame. The dog looked up at him, he sunk his head
to the fire. But his wife was startled. He was aware of her
"They blow up with a rattle," he said.
"What?" she asked.
She sank away again. The strange leaves beating in the wind
on the wood had come nearer than she. The tension in the room
was overpowering, it was difficult for him to move his head. He
sat with every nerve, every vein, every fibre of muscle in his
body stretched on a tension. He felt like a broken arch thrust
sickeningly out from support. For her response was gone, he
thrust at nothing. And he remained himself, he saved himself
from crashing down into nothingness, from being squandered into
fragments, by sheer tension, sheer backward resistance.
During the last months of her pregnancy, he went about in a
surcharged, imminent state that did not exhaust itself. She was
also depressed, and sometimes she cried. It needed so much life
to begin afresh, after she had lost so lavishly. Sometimes she
cried. Then he stood stiff, feeling his heart would burst. For
she did not want him, she did not want even to be made aware of
him. By the very puckering of her face he knew that he must
stand back, leave her intact, alone. For it was the old grief
come back in her, the old loss, the pain of the old life, the
dead husband, the dead children. This was sacred to her, and he
must not violate her with his comfort. For what she wanted she
would come to him. He stood aloof with turgid heart.
He had to see her tears come, fall over her scarcely moving
face, that only puckered sometimes, down on to her breast, that
was so still, scarcely moving. And there was no noise, save now
and again, when, with a strange, somnambulant movement, she took
her handkerchief and wiped her face and blew her nose, and went
on with the noiseless weeping. He knew that any offer of comfort
from himself would be worse than useless, hateful to her,
jangling her. She must cry. But it drove him insane. His heart
was scalded, his brain hurt in his head, he went away, out of
His great and chiefest source of solace was the child. She
had been at first aloof from him, reserved. However friendly she
might seem one day, the next she would have lapsed to her
original disregard of him, cold, detached, at her distance.
The first morning after his marriage he had discovered it
would not be so easy with the child. At the break of dawn he had
started awake hearing a small voice outside the door saying
He rose and opened the door. She stood on the threshold in
her night-dress, as she had climbed out of bed, black eyes
staring round and hostile, her fair hair sticking out in a wild
fleece. The man and child confronted each other.
"I want my mother," she said, jealously accenting the
"Come on then," he said gently.
"Where's my mother?"
"She's here--come on."
The child's eyes, staring at the man with ruffled hair and
beard, did not change. The mother's voice called softly. The
little bare feet entered the room with trepidation.
"Come, my dear."
The small bare feet approached swiftly.
"I wondered where you were," came the plaintive voice. The
mother stretched out her arms. The child stood beside the high
bed. Brangwen lightly lifted the tiny girl, with an
"up-a-daisy", then took his own place in the bed again.
"Mother!" cried the child, as in anguish.
"What, my pet?"
Anna wriggled close into her mother's arms, clinging tight,
hiding from the fact of the man. Brangwen lay still, and waited.
There was a long silence.
Then suddenly, Anna looked round, as if she thought he would
be gone. She saw the face of the man lying upturned to the
ceiling. Her black eyes stared antagonistic from her exquisite
face, her arms clung tightly to her mother, afraid. He did not
move for some time, not knowing what to say. His face was smooth
and soft-skinned with love, his eyes full of soft light. He
looked at her, scarcely moving his head, his eyes smiling.
"Have you just wakened up?" he said.
"Go away," she retorted, with a little darting forward of the
head, something like a viper.
"Nay," he answered, "I'm not going. You can go."
"Go away," came the sharp little command.
"There's room for you," he said.
"You can't send your father from his own bed, my little
bird," said her mother, pleasantly.
The child glowered at him, miserable in her impotence.
"There's room for you as well," he said. "It's a big bed
She glowered without answering, then turned and clung to her
mother. She would not allow it.
During the day she asked her mother several times:
"When are we going home, mother?"
"We are at home, darling, we live here now. This is our
house, we live here with your father."
The child was forced to accept it. But she remained against
the man. As night came on, she asked:
"Where are you going to sleep, mother?"
"I sleep with the father now."
And when Brangwen came in, the child asked fiercely:
"Why do you sleep with my mother? My mother
sleeps with me," her voice quivering.
"You come as well, an' sleep with both of us," he coaxed.
"Mother!" she cried, turning, appealing against him.
"But I must have a husband, darling. All women must have a
"And you like to have a father with your mother, don't you?"
Anna glowered at him. She seemed to cogitate.
"No," she cried fiercely at length, "no, I don't
want." And slowly her face puckered, she sobbed bitterly.
He stood and watched her, sorry. But there could be no altering
Which, when she knew, she became quiet. He was easy with her,
talking to her, taking her to see the live creatures, bringing
her the first chickens in his cap, taking her to gather the
eggs, letting her throw crusts to the horse. She would easily
accompany him, and take all he had to give, but she remained
She was curiously, incomprehensibly jealous of her mother,
always anxiously concerned about her. If Brangwen drove with his
wife to Nottingham, Anna ran about happily enough, or
unconcerned, for a long time. Then, as afternoon came on, there
was only one cry--"I want my mother, I want my
mother----" and a bitter, pathetic sobbing that soon
had the soft-hearted Tilly sobbing too. The child's anguish was
that her mother was gone, gone.
Yet as a rule, Anna seemed cold, resenting her mother,
critical of her. It was:
"I don't like you to do that, mother," or, "I don't like you
to say that." She was a sore problem to Brangwen and to all the
people at the Marsh. As a rule, however, she was active, lightly
flitting about the farmyard, only appearing now and again to
assure herself of her mother. Happy she never seemed, but quick,
sharp, absorbed, full of imagination and changeability. Tilly
said she was bewitched. But it did not matter so long as she did
not cry. There was something heart-rending about Anna's crying,
her childish anguish seemed so utter and so timeless, as if it
were a thing of all the ages.
She made playmates of the creatures of the farmyard, talking
to them, telling them the stories she had from her mother,
counselling them and correcting them. Brangwen found her at the
gate leading to the paddock and to the duckpond. She was peering
through the bars and shouting to the stately white geese, that
stood in a curving line:
"You're not to call at people when they want to come. You
must not do it."
The heavy, balanced birds looked at the fierce little face
and the fleece of keen hair thrust between the bars, and they
raised their heads and swayed off, producing the long,
can-canking, protesting noise of geese, rocking their ship-like,
beautiful white bodies in a line beyond the gate.
"You're naughty, you're naughty," cried Anna, tears of dismay
and vexation in her eyes. And she stamped her slipper.
"Why, what are they doing?" said Brangwen.
"They won't let me come in," she said, turning her flushed
little face to him.
"Yi, they will. You can go in if you want to," and he pushed
open the gate for her.
She stood irresolute, looking at the group of bluey-white
geese standing monumental under the grey, cold day.
"Go on," he said.
She marched valiantly a few steps in. Her little body started
convulsively at the sudden, derisive can-cank-ank of the geese.
A blankness spread over her. The geese trailed away with
uplifted heads under the low grey sky.
"They don't know you," said Brangwen. "You should tell 'em
what your name is."
"They're naughty to shout at me," she flashed.
"They think you don't live here," he said.
Later he found her at the gate calling shrilly and
"My name is Anna, Anna Lensky, and I live here, because Mr.
Brangwen's my father now. He is, yes he is. And I
This pleased Brangwen very much. And gradually, without
knowing it herself, she clung to him, in her lost, childish,
desolate moments, when it was good to creep up to something big
and warm, and bury her little self in his big, unlimited being.
Instinctively he was careful of her, careful to recognize her
and to give himself to her disposal.
She was difficult of her affections. For Tilly, she had a
childish, essential contempt, almost dislike, because the poor
woman was such a servant. The child would not let the
serving-woman attend to her, do intimate things for her, not for
a long time. She treated her as one of an inferior race.
Brangwen did not like it.
"Why aren't you fond of Tilly?" he asked.
"Because--because--because she looks at me with her
Then gradually she accepted Tilly as belonging to the
household, never as a person.
For the first weeks, the black eyes of the child were for
ever on the watch. Brangwen, good-humoured but impatient,
spoiled by Tilly, was an easy blusterer. If for a few minutes he
upset the household with his noisy impatience, he found at the
end the child glowering at him with intense black eyes, and she
was sure to dart forward her little head, like a serpent, with
"I'm not going away," he shouted, irritated at last.
"Go yourself--hustle--stir thysen--hop." And he
pointed to the door. The child backed away from him, pale with
fear. Then she gathered up courage, seeing him become
"We don't live with you," she said, thrusting forward
her little head at him. "You--you're--you're a
"A what?" he shouted.
Her voice wavered--but it came.
"Ay, an' you're a comakle."
She meditated. Then she hissed forwards her head.
"No more am I a bomakle."
He was really cross.
Other times she would say:
"My mother doesn't live here."
"I want her to go away."
"Then want's your portion," he replied laconically.
So they drew nearer together. He would take her with him when
he went out in the trap. The horse ready at the gate, he came
noisily into the house, which seemed quiet and peaceful till he
appeared to set everything awake.
"Now then, Topsy, pop into thy bonnet."
The child drew herself up, resenting the indignity of the
"I can't fasten my bonnet myself," she said haughtily.
"Not man enough yet," he said, tying the ribbons under her
chin with clumsy fingers.
She held up her face to him. Her little bright-red lips moved
as he fumbled under her chin.
"You talk--nonsents," she said, re-echoing one of his
"That face shouts for th' pump," he said, and taking
out a big red handkerchief, that smelled of strong tobacco,
began wiping round her mouth.
"Is Kitty waiting for me?" she asked.
"Ay," he said. "Let's finish wiping your face--it'll
pass wi' a cat-lick."
She submitted prettily. Then, when he let her go, she began
to skip, with a curious flicking up of one leg behind her.
"Now my young buck-rabbit," he said. "Slippy!"
She came and was shaken into her coat, and the two set off.
She sat very close beside him in the gig, tucked tightly,
feeling his big body sway, against her, very splendid. She loved
the rocking of the gig, when his big, live body swayed upon her,
against her. She laughed, a poignant little shrill laugh, and
her black eyes glowed.
She was curiously hard, and then passionately tenderhearted.
Her mother was ill, the child stole about on tip-toe in the
bedroom for hours, being nurse, and doing the thing thoughtfully
and diligently. Another day, her mother was unhappy. Anna would
stand with her legs apart, glowering, balancing on the sides of
her slippers. She laughed when the goslings wriggled in Tilly's
hand, as the pellets of food were rammed down their throats with
a skewer, she laughed nervously. She was hard and imperious with
the animals, squandering no love, running about amongst them
like a cruel mistress.
Summer came, and hay-harvest, Anna was a brown elfish mite
dancing about. Tilly always marvelled over her, more than she
But always in the child was some anxious connection with the
mother. So long as Mrs. Brangwen was all right, the little girl
played about and took very little notice of her. But
corn-harvest went by, the autumn drew on, and the mother, the
later months of her pregnancy beginning, was strange and
detached, Brangwen began to knit his brows, the old, unhealthy
uneasiness, the unskinned susceptibility came on the child
again. If she went to the fields with her father, then, instead
of playing about carelessly, it was:
"I want to go home."
"Home, why tha's nobbut this minute come."
"I want to go home."
"What for? What ails thee?"
"I want my mother."
"Thy mother! Thy mother none wants thee."
"I want to go home."
There would be tears in a moment.
"Can ter find t'road, then?"
And he watched her scudding, silent and intent, along the
hedge-bottom, at a steady, anxious pace, till she turned and was
gone through the gateway. Then he saw her two fields off, still
pressing forward, small and urgent. His face was clouded as he
turned to plough up the stubble.
The year drew on, in the hedges the berries shone red and
twinkling above bare twigs, robins were seen, great droves of
birds dashed like spray from the fallow, rooks appeared, black
and flapping down to earth, the ground was cold as he pulled the
turnips, the roads were churned deep in mud. Then the turnips
were pitted and work was slack.
Inside the house it was dark, and quiet. The child flitted
uneasily round, and now and again came her plaintive, startled
Mrs. Brangwen was heavy and unresponsive, tired, lapsed back.
Brangwen went on working out of doors.
At evening, when he came in to milk, the child would run
behind him. Then, in the cosy cow-sheds, with the doors shut and
the air looking warm by the light of the hanging lantern, above
the branching horns of the cows, she would stand watching his
hands squeezing rhythmically the teats of the placid beast,
watch the froth and the leaping squirt of milk, watch his hand
sometimes rubbing slowly, understandingly, upon a hanging udder.
So they kept each other company, but at a distance, rarely
The darkest days of the year came on, the child was fretful,
sighing as if some oppression were on her, running hither and
thither without relief. And Brangwen went about at his work,
heavy, his heart heavy as the sodden earth.
The winter nights fell early, the lamp was lighted before
tea-time, the shutters were closed, they were all shut into the
room with the tension and stress. Mrs. Brangwen went early to
bed, Anna playing on the floor beside her. Brangwen sat in the
emptiness of the downstairs room, smoking, scarcely conscious
even of his own misery. And very often he went out to escape
Christmas passed, the wet, drenched, cold days of January
recurred monotonously, with now and then a brilliance of blue
flashing in, when Brangwen went out into a morning like crystal,
when every sound rang again, and the birds were many and sudden
and brusque in the hedges. Then an elation came over him in
spite of everything, whether his wife were strange or sad, or
whether he craved for her to be with him, it did not matter, the
air rang with clear noises, the sky was like crystal, like a
bell, and the earth was hard. Then he worked and was happy, his
eyes shining, his cheeks flushed. And the zest of life was
strong in him.
The birds pecked busily round him, the horses were fresh and
ready, the bare branches of the trees flung themselves up like a
man yawning, taut with energy, the twigs radiated off into the
clear light. He was alive and full of zest for it all. And if
his wife were heavy, separated from him, extinguished, then, let
her be, let him remain himself. Things would be as they would
be. Meanwhile he heard the ringing crow of a cockerel in the
distance, he saw the pale shell of the moon effaced on a blue
So he shouted to the horses, and was happy. If, driving into
Ilkeston, a fresh young woman were going in to do her shopping,
he hailed her, and reined in his horse, and picked her up. Then
he was glad to have her near him, his eyes shone, his voice,
laughing, teasing in a warm fashion, made the poise of her head
more beautiful, her blood ran quicker. They were both
stimulated, the morning was fine.
What did it matter that, at the bottom of his heart, was care
and pain? It was at the bottom, let it stop at the bottom. His
wife, her suffering, her coming pain--well, it must be so.
She suffered, but he was out of doors, full in life, and it
would be ridiculous, indecent, to pull a long face and to insist
on being miserable. He was happy, this morning, driving to town,
with the hoofs of the horse spanking the hard earth. Well he was
happy, if half the world were weeping at the funeral of the
other half. And it was a jolly girl sitting beside him. And
Woman was immortal, whatever happened, whoever turned towards
death. Let the misery come when it could not be resisted.
The evening arrived later very beautiful, with a rosy flush
hovering above the sunset, and passing away into violet and
lavender, with turquoise green north and south in the sky, and
in the east, a great, yellow moon hanging heavy and radiant. It
was magnificent to walk between the sunset and the moon, on a
road where little holly trees thrust black into the rose and
lavender, and starlings flickered in droves across the light.
But what was the end of the journey? The pain came right enough,
later on, when his heart and his feet were heavy, his brain
dead, his life stopped.
One afternoon, the pains began, Mrs. Brangwen was put to bed,
the midwife came. Night fell, the shutters were closed, Brangwen
came in to tea, to the loaf and the pewter teapot, the child,
silent and quivering, playing with glass beads, the house,
empty, it seemed, or exposed to the winter night, as if it had
Sometimes there sounded, long and remote in the house,
vibrating through everything, the moaning cry of a woman in
labour. Brangwen, sitting downstairs, was divided. His lower,
deeper self was with her, bound to her, suffering. But the big
shell of his body remembered the sound of owls that used to fly
round the farmstead when he was a boy. He was back in his youth,
a boy, haunted by the sound of the owls, waking up his brother
to speak to him. And his mind drifted away to the birds, their
solemn, dignified faces, their flight so soft and broad-winged.
And then to the birds his brother had shot, fluffy,
dust-coloured, dead heaps of softness with faces absurdly
asleep. It was a queer thing, a dead owl.
He lifted his cup to his lips, he watched the child with the
beads. But his mind was occupied with owls, and the atmosphere
of his boyhood, with his brothers and sisters. Elsewhere,
fundamental, he was with his wife in labour, the child was being
brought forth out of their one flesh. He and she, one flesh, out
of which life must be put forth. The rent was not in his body,
but it was of his body. On her the blows fell, but the quiver
ran through to him, to his last fibre. She must be torn asunder
for life to come forth, yet still they were one flesh, and
still, from further back, the life came out of him to her, and
still he was the unbroken that has the broken rock in its arms,
their flesh was one rock from which the life gushed, out of her
who was smitten and rent, from him who quivered and yielded.
He went upstairs to her. As he came to the bedside she spoke
to him in Polish.
"Is it very bad?" he asked.
She looked at him, and oh, the weariness to her, of the
effort to understand another language, the weariness of hearing
him, attending to him, making out who he was, as he stood there
fair-bearded and alien, looking at her. She knew something of
him, of his eyes. But she could not grasp him. She closed her
He turned away, white to the gills.
"It's not so very bad," said the midwife.
He knew he was a strain on his wife. He went downstairs.
The child glanced up at him, frightened.
"I want my mother," she quavered.
"Ay, but she's badly," he said mildly, unheeding.
She looked at him with lost, frightened eyes.
"Has she got a headache?"
"No--she's going to have a baby."
The child looked round. He was unaware of her. She was alone
again in terror.
"I want my mother," came the cry of panic.
"Let Tilly undress you," he said. "You're tired."
There was another silence. Again came the cry of labour.
"I want my mother," rang automatically from the wincing,
panic-stricken child, that felt cut off and lost in a horror of
Tilly came forward, her heart wrung.
"Come an' let me undress her then, pet-lamb," she crooned.
"You s'll have your mother in th' mornin', don't you fret, my
duckie; never mind, angel."
But Anna stood upon the sofa, her back to the wall.
"I want my mother," she cried, her little face quivering, and
the great tears of childish, utter anguish falling.
"She's poorly, my lamb, she's poorly to-night, but she'll be
better by mornin'. Oh, don't cry, don't cry, love, she doesn't
want you to cry, precious little heart, no, she doesn't."
Tilly took gently hold of the child's skirts. Anna snatched
back her dress, and cried, in a little hysteria:
"No, you're not to undress me--I want my
mother,"--and her child's face was running with grief and
tears, her body shaken.
"Oh, but let Tilly undress you. Let Tilly undress you, who
loves you, don't be wilful to-night. Mother's poorly, she
doesn't want you to cry."
The child sobbed distractedly, she could not hear.
"I want--my--mother," she wept.
"When you're undressed, you s'll go up to see your
mother--when you're undressed, pet, when you've let Tilly
undress you, when you're a little jewel in your nightie, love.
Oh, don't you cry, don't you--"
Brangwen sat stiff in his chair. He felt his brain going
tighter. He crossed over the room, aware only of the maddening
"Don't make a noise," he said.
And a new fear shook the child from the sound of his voice.
She cried mechanically, her eyes looking watchful through her
tears, in terror, alert to what might happen.
"I want--my--mother," quavered the sobbing, blind
A shiver of irritation went over the man's limbs. It was the
utter, persistent unreason, the maddening blindness of the voice
and the crying.
"You must come and be undressed," he said, in a quiet voice
that was thin with anger.
And he reached his hand and grasped her. He felt her body
catch in a convulsive sob. But he too was blind, and intent,
irritated into mechanical action. He began to unfasten her
little apron. She would have shrunk from him, but could not. So
her small body remained in his grasp, while he fumbled at the
little buttons and tapes, unthinking, intent, unaware of
anything but the irritation of her. Her body was held taut and
resistant, he pushed off the little dress and the petticoats,
revealing the white arms. She kept stiff, overpowered, violated,
he went on with his task. And all the while she sobbed,
"I want my mother."
He was unheedingly silent, his face stiff. The child was now
incapable of understanding, she had become a little, mechanical
thing of fixed will. She wept, her body convulsed, her voice
repeating the same cry.
"Eh, dear o' me!" cried Tilly, becoming distracted herself.
Brangwen, slow, clumsy, blind, intent, got off all the little
garments, and stood the child naked in its shift upon the
"Where's her nightie?" he asked.
Tilly brought it, and he put it on her. Anna did not move her
limbs to his desire. He had to push them into place. She stood,
with fixed, blind will, resistant, a small, convulsed,
unchangeable thing weeping ever and repeating the same phrase.
He lifted one foot after the other, pulled off slippers and
socks. She was ready.
"Do you want a drink?" he asked.
She did not change. Unheeding, uncaring, she stood on the
sofa, standing back, alone, her hands shut and half lifted, her
face, all tears, raised and blind. And through the sobbing and
choking came the broken:
"Do you want a drink?" he said again.
There was no answer. He lifted the stiff, denying body
between his hands. Its stiff blindness made a flash of rage go
through him. He would like to break it.
He set the child on his knee, and sat again in his chair
beside the fire, the wet, sobbing, inarticulate noise going on
near his ear, the child sitting stiff, not yielding to him or
anything, not aware.
A new degree of anger came over him. What did it all matter?
What did it matter if the mother talked Polish and cried in
labour, if this child were stiff with resistance, and crying?
Why take it to heart? Let the mother cry in labour, let the
child cry in resistance, since they would do so. Why should he
fight against it, why resist? Let it be, if it were so. Let them
be as they were, if they insisted.
And in a daze he sat, offering no fight. The child cried on,
the minutes ticked away, a sort of torpor was on him.
It was some little time before he came to, and turned to
attend to the child. He was shocked by her little wet, blinded
face. A bit dazed, he pushed back the wet hair. Like a living
statue of grief, her blind face cried on.
"Nay," he said, "not as bad as that. It's not as bad as that,
Anna, my child. Come, what are you crying for so much? Come,
stop now, it'll make you sick. I wipe you dry, don't wet your
face any more. Don't cry any more wet tears, don't, it's better
not to. Don't cry--it's not so bad as all that. Hush now,
hush--let it be enough."
His voice was queer and distant and calm. He looked at the
child. She was beside herself now. He wanted her to stop, he
wanted it all to stop, to become natural.
"Come," he said, rising to turn away, "we'll go an' supper-up
He took a big shawl, folded her round, and went out into the
kitchen for a lantern.
"You're never taking the child out, of a night like this,"
"Ay, it'll quieten her," he answered.
It was raining. The child was suddenly still, shocked,
finding the rain on its face, the darkness.
"We'll just give the cows their something-to-eat, afore they
go to bed," Brangwen was saying to her, holding her close and
There was a trickling of water into the butt, a burst of
rain-drops sputtering on to her shawl, and the light of the
lantern swinging, flashing on a wet pavement and the base of a
wet wall. Otherwise it was black darkness: one breathed
He opened the doors, upper and lower, and they entered into
the high, dry barn, that smelled warm even if it were not warm.
He hung the lantern on the nail and shut the door. They were in
another world now. The light shed softly on the timbered barn,
on the whitewashed walls, and the great heap of hay; instruments
cast their shadows largely, a ladder rose to the dark arch of a
loft. Outside there was the driving rain, inside, the
softly-illuminated stillness and calmness of the barn.
Holding the child on one arm, he set about preparing the food
for the cows, filling a pan with chopped hay and brewer's grains
and a little meal. The child, all wonder, watched what he did. A
new being was created in her for the new conditions. Sometimes,
a little spasm, eddying from the bygone storm of sobbing, shook
her small body. Her eyes were wide and wondering, pathetic. She
was silent, quite still.
In a sort of dream, his heart sunk to the bottom, leaving the
surface of him still, quite still, he rose with the panful of
food, carefully balancing the child on one arm, the pan in the
other hand. The silky fringe of the shawl swayed softly, grains
and hay trickled to the floor; he went along a dimly-lit passage
behind the mangers, where the horns of the cows pricked out of
the obscurity. The child shrank, he balanced stiffly, rested the
pan on the manger wall, and tipped out the food, half to this
cow, half to the next. There was a noise of chains running, as
the cows lifted or dropped their heads sharply; then a
contented, soothing sound, a long snuffing as the beasts ate in
The journey had to be performed several times. There was the
rhythmic sound of the shovel in the barn, then the man returned
walking stiffly between the two weights, the face of the child
peering out from the shawl. Then the next time, as he stooped,
she freed her arm and put it round his neck, clinging soft and
warm, making all easier.
The beasts fed, he dropped the pan and sat down on a box, to
arrange the child.
"Will the cows go to sleep now?" she said, catching her
breath as she spoke.
"Will they eat all their stuff up first?"
"Yes. Hark at them."
And the two sat still listening to the snuffing and breathing
of cows feeding in the sheds communicating with this small barn.
The lantern shed a soft, steady light from one wall. All outside
was still in the rain. He looked down at the silky folds of the
paisley shawl. It reminded him of his mother. She used to go to
church in it. He was back again in the old irresponsibility and
security, a boy at home.
The two sat very quiet. His mind, in a sort of trance, seemed
to become more and more vague. He held the child close to him. A
quivering little shudder, re-echoing from her sobbing, went down
her limbs. He held her closer. Gradually she relaxed, the
eyelids began to sink over her dark, watchful eyes. As she sank
to sleep, his mind became blank.
When he came to, as if from sleep, he seemed to be sitting in
a timeless stillness. What was he listening for? He seemed to be
listening for some sound a long way off, from beyond life. He
remembered his wife. He must go back to her. The child was
asleep, the eyelids not quite shut, showing a slight film of
black pupil between. Why did she not shut her eyes? Her mouth
was also a little open.
He rose quickly and went back to the house.
"Is she asleep?" whispered Tilly.
He nodded. The servant-woman came to look at the child who
slept in the shawl, with cheeks flushed hot and red, and a
whiteness, a wanness round the eyes.
"God-a-mercy!" whispered Tilly, shaking her head.
He pushed off his boots and went upstairs with the child. He
became aware of the anxiety grasped tight at his heart, because
of his wife. But he remained still. The house was silent save
for the wind outside, and the noisy trickling and splattering of
water in the water-butts. There was a slit of light under his
He put the child into bed wrapped as she was in the shawl,
for the sheets would be cold. Then he was afraid that she might
not be able to move her arms, so he loosened her. The black eyes
opened, rested on him vacantly, sank shut again. He covered her
up. The last little quiver from the sobbing shook her
This was his room, the room he had had before he married. It
was familiar. He remembered what it was to be a young man,
He remained suspended. The child slept, pushing her small
fists from the shawl. He could tell the woman her child was
asleep. But he must go to the other landing. He started. There
was the sound of the owls--the moaning of the woman. What
an uncanny sound! It was not human--at least to a man.
He went down to her room, entering softly. She was lying
still, with eyes shut, pale, tired. His heart leapt, fearing she
was dead. Yet he knew perfectly well she was not. He saw the way
her hair went loose over her temples, her mouth was shut with
suffering in a sort of grin. She was beautiful to him--but
it was not human. He had a dread of her as she lay there. What
had she to do with him? She was other than himself.
Something made him go and touch her fingers that were still
grasped on the sheet. Her brown-grey eyes opened and looked at
him. She did not know him as himself. But she knew him as the
man. She looked at him as a woman in childbirth looks at the man
who begot the child in her: an impersonal look, in the extreme
hour, female to male. Her eyes closed again. A great, scalding
peace went over him, burning his heart and his entrails, passing
off into the infinite.
When her pains began afresh, tearing her, he turned aside,
and could not look. But his heart in torture was at peace, his
bowels were glad. He went downstairs, and to the door, outside,
lifted his face to the rain, and felt the darkness striking
unseen and steadily upon him.
The swift, unseen threshing of the night upon him silenced
him and he was overcome. He turned away indoors, humbly. There
was the infinite world, eternal, unchanging, as well as the
world of life.
CHILDHOOD OF ANNA LENSKY
Tom Brangwen never loved his own son as he loved his
stepchild Anna. When they told him it was a boy, he had a thrill
of pleasure. He liked the confirmation of fatherhood. It gave
him satisfaction to know he had a son. But he felt not very much
outgoing to the baby itself. He was its father, that was
He was glad that his wife was mother of his child. She was
serene, a little bit shadowy, as if she were transplanted. In
the birth of the child she seemed to lose connection with her
former self. She became now really English, really Mrs.
Brangwen. Her vitality, however, seemed lowered.
She was still, to Brangwen, immeasurably beautiful. She was
still passionate, with a flame of being. But the flame was not
robust and present. Her eyes shone, her face glowed for him, but
like some flower opened in the shade, that could not bear the
full light. She loved the baby. But even this, with a sort of
dimness, a faint absence about her, a shadowiness even in her
mother-love. When Brangwen saw her nursing his child, happy,
absorbed in it, a pain went over him like a thin flame. For he
perceived how he must subdue himself in his approach to her. And
he wanted again the robust, moral exchange of love and passion
such as he had had at first with her, at one time and another,
when they were matched at their highest intensity. This was the
one experience for him now. And he wanted it, always, with
She came to him again, with the same lifting of her mouth as
had driven him almost mad with trammelled passion at first. She
came to him again, and, his heart delirious in delight and
readiness, he took her. And it was almost as before.
Perhaps it was quite as before. At any rate, it made him know
perfection, it established in him a constant eternal
But it died down before he wanted it to die down. She was
finished, she could take no more. And he was not exhausted, he
wanted to go on. But it could not be.
So he had to begin the bitter lesson, to abate himself, to
take less than he wanted. For she was Woman to him, all other
women were her shadows. For she had satisfied him. And he wanted
it to go on. And it could not. However he raged, and, filled
with suppression that became hot and bitter, hated her in his
soul that she did not want him, however he had mad outbursts,
and drank and made ugly scenes, still he knew, he was only
kicking against the pricks. It was not, he had to learn, that
she would not want him enough, as much as he demanded that she
should want him. It was that she could not. She could only want
him in her own way, and to her own measure. And she had spent
much life before he found her as she was, the woman who could
take him and give him fulfilment. She had taken him and given
him fulfilment. She still could do so, in her own times and
ways. But he must control himself, measure himself to her.
He wanted to give her all his love, all his passion, all his
essential energy. But it could not be. He must find other things
than her, other centres of living. She sat close and impregnable
with the child. And he was jealous of the child.
But he loved her, and time came to give some sort of course
to his troublesome current of life, so that it did not foam and
flood and make misery. He formed another centre of love in her
child, Anna. Gradually a part of his stream of life was diverted
to the child, relieving the main flood to his wife. Also he
sought the company of men, he drank heavily now and again.
The child ceased to have so much anxiety for her mother after
the baby came. Seeing the mother with the baby boy, delighted
and serene and secure, Anna was at first puzzled, then gradually
she became indignant, and at last her little life settled on its
own swivel, she was no more strained and distorted to support
her mother. She became more childish, not so abnormal, not
charged with cares she could not understand. The charge of the
mother, the satisfying of the mother, had devolved elsewhere
than on her. Gradually the child was freed. She became an
independent, forgetful little soul, loving from her own
Of her own choice, she then loved Brangwen most, or most
obviously. For these two made a little life together, they had a
joint activity. It amused him, at evening, to teach her to
count, or to say her letters. He remembered for her all the
little nursery rhymes and childish songs that lay forgotten at
the bottom of his brain.
At first she thought them rubbish. But he laughed, and she
laughed. They became to her a huge joke. Old King Cole she
thought was Brangwen. Mother Hubbard was Tilly, her mother was
the old woman who lived in a shoe. It was a huge, it was a
frantic delight to the child, this nonsense, after her years
with her mother, after the poignant folk-tales she had had from
her mother, which always troubled and mystified her soul.
She shared a sort of recklessness with her father, a
complete, chosen carelessness that had the laugh of ridicule in
it. He loved to make her voice go high and shouting and defiant
with laughter. The baby was dark-skinned and dark-haired, like
the mother, and had hazel eyes. Brangwen called him the
"Hallo," Brangwen would cry, starting as he heard the wail of
the child announcing it wanted to be taken out of the cradle,
"there's the blackbird tuning up."
"The blackbird's singing," Anna would shout with delight,
"the blackbird's singing."
"When the pie was opened," Brangwen shouted in his bawling
bass voice, going over to the cradle, "the bird began to
"Wasn't it a dainty dish to set before a king?" cried Anna,
her eyes flashing with joy as she uttered the cryptic words,
looking at Brangwen for confirmation. He sat down with the baby,
"Sing up, my lad, sing up."
And the baby cried loudly, and Anna shouted lustily, dancing
in wild bliss:
"Sing a song of sixpence
Pocketful of posies,
Then she stopped suddenly in silence and looked at Brangwen
again, her eyes flashing, as she shouted loudly and
"I've got it wrong, I've got it wrong."
"Oh, my sirs," said Tilly entering, "what a racket!"
Brangwen hushed the child and Anna flipped and danced on. She
loved her wild bursts of rowdiness with her father. Tilly hated
it, Mrs. Brangwen did not mind.
Anna did not care much for other children. She domineered
them, she treated them as if they were extremely young and
incapable, to her they were little people, they were not her
equals. So she was mostly alone, flying round the farm,
entertaining the farm-hands and Tilly and the servant-girl,
whirring on and never ceasing.
She loved driving with Brangwen in the trap. Then, sitting
high up and bowling along, her passion for eminence and
dominance was satisfied. She was like a little savage in her
arrogance. She thought her father important, she was installed
beside him on high. And they spanked along, beside the high,
flourishing hedge-tops, surveying the activity of the
countryside. When people shouted a greeting to him from the road
below, and Brangwen shouted jovially back, her little voice was
soon heard shrilling along with his, followed by her chuckling
laugh, when she looked up at her father with bright eyes, and
they laughed at each other. And soon it was the custom for the
passerby to sing out: "How are ter, Tom? Well, my lady!" or
else, "Mornin', Tom, mornin', my Lass!" or else, "You're off
together then?" or else, "You're lookin' rarely, you two."
Anna would respond, with her father: "How are you, John!
Good mornin', William! Ay, makin' for Derby," shrilling
as loudly as she could. Though often, in response to "You're off
out a bit then," she would reply, "Yes, we are," to the great
joy of all. She did not like the people who saluted him and did
not salute her.
She went into the public-house with him, if he had to call,
and often sat beside him in the bar-parlour as he drank his beer
or brandy. The landladies paid court to her, in the obsequious
way landladies have.
"Well, little lady, an' what's your name?"
"Anna Brangwen," came the immediate, haughty answer.
"Indeed it is! An' do you like driving in a trap with your
"Yes," said Anna, shy, but bored by these inanities. She had
a touch-me-not way of blighting the inane inquiries of grown-up
"My word, she's a fawce little thing," the landlady would say
"Ay," he answered, not encouraging comments on the child.
Then there followed the present of a biscuit, or of cake, which
Anna accepted as her dues.
"What does she say, that I'm a fawce little thing?" the small
girl asked afterwards.
"She means you're a sharp-shins."
Anna hesitated. She did not understand. Then she laughed at
some absurdity she found.
Soon he took her every week to market with him. "I can come,
can't I?" she asked every Saturday, or Thursday morning, when he
made himself look fine in his dress of a gentleman farmer. And
his face clouded at having to refuse her.
So at last, he overcame his own shyness, and tucked her
beside him. They drove into Nottingham and put up at the "Black
Swan". So far all right. Then he wanted to leave her at the inn.
But he saw her face, and knew it was impossible. So he mustered
his courage, and set off with her, holding her hand, to the
She stared in bewilderment, flitting silent at his side. But
in the cattle-market she shrank from the press of men, all men,
all in heavy, filthy boots, and leathern leggins. And the road
underfoot was all nasty with cow-muck. And it frightened her to
see the cattle in the square pens, so many horns, and so little
enclosure, and such a madness of men and a yelling of drovers.
Also she felt her father was embarrassed by her, and
He brought her a cake at the refreshment-booth, and set her
on a seat. A man hailed him.
"Good morning, Tom. That thine, then?"--and the
bearded farmer jerked his head at Anna.
"Ay," said Brangwen, deprecating.
"I did-na know tha'd one that old."
"No, it's my missis's."
"Oh, that's it!" And the man looked at Anna as if she were
some odd little cattle. She glowered with black eyes.
Brangwen left her there, in charge of the barman, whilst he
went to see about the selling of some young stirks. Farmers,
butchers, drovers, dirty, uncouth men from whom she shrank
instinctively stared down at her as she sat on her seat, then
went to get their drink, talking in unabated tones. All was big
and violent about her.
"Whose child met that be?" they asked of the barman.
"It belongs to Tom Brangwen."
The child sat on in neglect, watching the door for her
father. He never came; many, many men came, but not he, and she
sat like a shadow. She knew one did not cry in such a place. And
every man looked at her inquisitively, she shut herself away
A deep, gathering coldness of isolation took hold on her. He
was never coming back. She sat on, frozen, unmoving.
When she had become blank and timeless he came, and she
slipped off her seat to him, like one come back from the dead.
He had sold his beast as quickly as he could. But all the
business was not finished. He took her again through the
hurtling welter of the cattle-market.
Then at last they turned and went out through the gate. He
was always hailing one man or another, always stopping to gossip
about land and cattle and horses and other things she did not
understand, standing in the filth and the smell, among the legs
and great boots of men. And always she heard the questions:
"What lass is that, then? I didn't know tha'd one o' that
"It belongs to my missis."
Anna was very conscious of her derivation from her mother, in
the end, and of her alienation.
But at last they were away, and Brangwen went with her into a
little dark, ancient eating-house in the Bridlesmith-Gate. They
had cow's-tail soup, and meat and cabbage and potatoes. Other
men, other people, came into the dark, vaulted place, to eat.
Anna was wide-eyed and silent with wonder.
Then they went into the big market, into the corn exchange,
then to shops. He bought her a little book off a stall. He loved
buying things, odd things that he thought would be useful. Then
they went to the "Black Swan", and she drank milk and he brandy,
and they harnessed the horse and drove off, up the Derby
She was tired out with wonder and marvelling. But the next
day, when she thought of it, she skipped, flipping her leg in
the odd dance she did, and talked the whole time of what had
happened to her, of what she had seen. It lasted her all the
week. And the next Saturday she was eager to go again.
She became a familiar figure in the cattle-market, sitting
waiting in the little booth. But she liked best to go to Derby.
There her father had more friends. And she liked the familiarity
of the smaller town, the nearness of the river, the strangeness
that did not frighten her, it was so much smaller. She liked the
covered-in market, and the old women. She liked the "George
Inn", where her father put up. The landlord was Brangwen's old
friend, and Anna was made much of. She sat many a day in the
cosy parlour talking to Mr. Wigginton, a fat man with red hair,
the landlord. And when the farmers all gathered at twelve
o'clock for dinner, she was a little heroine.
At first she would only glower or hiss at these strange men
with their uncouth accent. But they were good-humoured. She was
a little oddity, with her fierce, fair hair like spun glass
sticking out in a flamy halo round the apple-blossom face and
the black eyes, and the men liked an oddity. She kindled their
She was very angry because Marriott, a gentleman-farmer from
Ambergate, called her the little pole-cat.
"Why, you're a pole-cat," he said to her.
"I'm not," she flashed.
"You are. That's just how a pole-cat goes."
She thought about it.
"Well, you're--you're----" she began.
She looked him up and down.
"You're a bow-leg man."
Which he was. There was a roar of laughter. They loved her
that she was indomitable.
"Ah," said Marriott. "Only a pole-cat says that."
"Well, I am a pole-cat," she flamed.
There was another roar of laughter from the men.
They loved to tease her.
"Well, me little maid," Braithwaite would say to her, "an'
how's th' lamb's wool?"
He gave a tug at a glistening, pale piece of her hair.
"It's not lamb's wool," said Anna, indignantly putting back
her offended lock.
"Why, what'st ca' it then?"
"Hair! Wheriver dun they rear that sort?"
"Wheriver dun they?" she asked, in dialect, her curiosity
Instead of answering he shouted with joy. It was the triumph,
to make her speak dialect.
She had one enemy, the man they called Nut-Nat, or Nat-Nut, a
cretin, with inturned feet, who came flap-lapping along,
shoulder jerking up at every step. This poor creature sold nuts
in the public-houses where he was known. He had no roof to his
mouth, and the men used to mock his speech.
The first time he came into the "George" when Anna was there,
she asked, after he had gone, her eyes very round:
"Why does he do that when he walks?"
"'E canna 'elp 'isself, Duckie, it's th' make o' th'
She thought about it, then she laughed nervously. And then
she bethought herself, her cheeks flushed, and she cried:
"He's a horrid man."
"Nay, he's non horrid; he canna help it if he wor struck that
But when poor Nat came wambling in again, she slid away. And
she would not eat his nuts, if the men bought them for her. And
when the farmers gambled at dominoes for them, she was
"They are dirty-man's nuts," she cried.
So a revulsion started against Nat, who had not long after to
go to the workhouse.
There grew in Brangwen's heart now a secret desire to make
her a lady. His brother Alfred, in Nottingham, had caused a
great scandal by becoming the lover of an educated woman, a
lady, widow of a doctor. Very often, Alfred Brangwen went down
as a friend to her cottage, which was in Derbyshire, leaving his
wife and family for a day or two, then returning to them. And
no-one dared gainsay him, for he was a strong-willed, direct
man, and he said he was a friend of this widow.
One day Brangwen met his brother on the station.
"Where are you going to, then?" asked the younger
"I'm going down to Wirksworth."
"You've got friends down there, I'm told."
"I s'll have to be lookin' in when I'm down that road."
"You please yourself."
Tom Brangwen was so curious about the woman that the next
time he was in Wirksworth he asked for her house.
He found a beautiful cottage on the steep side of a hill,
looking clean over the town, that lay in the bottom of the
basin, and away at the old quarries on the opposite side of the
space. Mrs. Forbes was in the garden. She was a tall woman with
white hair. She came up the path taking off her thick gloves,
laying down her shears. It was autumn. She wore a wide-brimmed
Brangwen blushed to the roots of his hair, and did not know
what to say.
"I thought I might look in," he said, "knowing you were
friends of my brother's. I had to come to Wirksworth."
She saw at once that he was a Brangwen.
"Will you come in?" she said. "My father is lying down."
She took him into a drawing-room, full of books, with a piano
and a violin-stand. And they talked, she simply and easily. She
was full of dignity. The room was of a kind Brangwen had never
known; the atmosphere seemed open and spacious, like a
mountain-top to him.
"Does my brother like reading?" he asked.
"Some things. He has been reading Herbert Spencer. And we
read Browning sometimes."
Brangwen was full of admiration, deep thrilling, almost
reverential admiration. He looked at her with lit-up eyes when
she said, "we read". At last he burst out, looking round the
"I didn't know our Alfred was this way inclined."
"He is quite an unusual man."
He looked at her in amazement. She evidently had a new idea
of his brother: she evidently appreciated him. He looked again
at the woman. She was about forty, straight, rather hard, a
curious, separate creature. Himself, he was not in love with
her, there was something chilling about her. But he was filled
with boundless admiration.
At tea-time he was introduced to her father, an invalid who
had to be helped about, but who was ruddy and well-favoured,
with snowy hair and watery blue eyes, and a courtly naive manner
that again was new and strange to Brangwen, so suave, so merry,
His brother was this woman's lover! It was too amazing.
Brangwen went home despising himself for his own poor way of
life. He was a clod-hopper and a boor, dull, stuck in the mud.
More than ever he wanted to clamber out, to this visionary
He was well off. He was as well off as Alfred, who could not
have above six hundred a year, all told. He himself made about
four hundred, and could make more. His investments got better
every day. Why did he not do something? His wife was a lady
But when he got to the Marsh, he realized how fixed
everything was, how the other form of life was beyond him, and
he regretted for the first time that he had succeeded to the
farm. He felt a prisoner, sitting safe and easy and
unadventurous. He might, with risk, have done more with himself.
He could neither read Browning nor Herbert Spencer, nor have
access to such a room as Mrs. Forbes's. All that form of life
was outside him.
But then, he said he did not want it. The excitement of the
visit began to pass off. The next day he was himself, and if he
thought of the other woman, there was something about her and
her place that he did not like, something cold something alien,
as if she were not a woman, but an inhuman being who used up
human life for cold, unliving purposes.
The evening came on, he played with Anna, and then sat alone
with his own wife. She was sewing. He sat very still, smoking,
perturbed. He was aware of his wife's quiet figure, and quiet
dark head bent over her needle. It was too quiet for him. It was
too peaceful. He wanted to smash the walls down, and let the
night in, so that his wife should not be so secure and quiet,
sitting there. He wished the air were not so close and narrow.
His wife was obliterated from him, she was in her own world,
quiet, secure, unnoticed, unnoticing. He was shut down by
He rose to go out. He could not sit still any longer. He must
get out of this oppressive, shut-down, woman-haunt.
His wife lifted her head and looked at him.
"Are you going out?" she asked.
He looked down and met her eyes. They were darker than
darkness, and gave deeper space. He felt himself retreating
before her, defensive, whilst her eyes followed and tracked him
"I was just going up to Cossethay," he said.
She remained watching him.
"Why do you go?" she said.
His heart beat fast, and he sat down, slowly.
"No reason particular," he said, beginning to fill his pipe
"Why do you go away so often?" she said.
"But you don't want me," he replied.
She was silent for a while.
"You do not want to be with me any more," she said.
It startled him. How did she know this truth? He thought it
was his secret.
"Yi," he said.
"You want to find something else," she said.
He did not answer. "Did he?" he asked himself.
"You should not want so much attention," she said. "You are
not a baby."
"I'm not grumbling," he said. Yet he knew he was.
"You think you have not enough," she said.
"You think you have not enough in me. But how do you know me?
What do you do to make me love you?"
He was flabbergasted.
"I never said I hadn't enough in you," he replied. "I didn't
know you wanted making to love me. What do you want?"
"You don't make it good between us any more, you are not
interested. You do not make me want you."
"And you don't make me want you, do you now?" There was a
silence. They were such strangers.
"Would you like to have another woman?" she asked.
His eyes grew round, he did not know where he was. How could
she, his own wife, say such a thing? But she sat there, small
and foreign and separate. It dawned upon him she did not
consider herself his wife, except in so far as they agreed. She
did not feel she had married him. At any rate, she was willing
to allow he might want another woman. A gap, a space opened
"No," he said slowly. "What other woman should I want?"
"Like your brother," she said.
He was silent for some time, ashamed also.
"What of her?" he said. "I didn't like the woman."
"Yes, you liked her," she answered persistently.
He stared in wonder at his own wife as she told him his own
heart so callously. And he was indignant. What right had she to
sit there telling him these things? She was his wife, what right
had she to speak to him like this, as if she were a
"I didn't," he said. "I want no woman."
"Yes, you would like to be like Alfred."
His silence was one of angry frustration. He was astonished.
He had told her of his visit to Wirksworth, but briefly, without
interest, he thought.
As she sat with her strange dark face turned towards him, her
eyes watched him, inscrutable, casting him up. He began to
oppose her. She was again the active unknown facing him. Must he
admit her? He resisted involuntarily.
"Why should you want to find a woman who is more to you than
me?" she said.
The turbulence raged in his breast.
"I don't," he said.
"Why do you?" she repeated. "Why do you want to deny me?"
Suddenly, in a flash, he saw she might be lonely, isolated,
unsure. She had seemed to him the utterly certain, satisfied,
absolute, excluding him. Could she need anything?
"Why aren't you satisfied with me?--I'm not satisfied
with you. Paul used to come to me and take me like a man does.
You only leave me alone or take me like your cattle, quickly, to
forget me again--so that you can forget me again."
"What am I to remember about you?" said Brangwen.
"I want you to know there is somebody there besides
"Well, don't I know it?"
"You come to me as if it was for nothing, as if I was nothing
there. When Paul came to me, I was something to him--a
woman, I was. To you I am nothing--it is like
"You make me feel as if I was nothing," he said.
They were silent. She sat watching him. He could not move,
his soul was seething and chaotic. She turned to her sewing
again. But the sight of her bent before him held him and would
not let him be. She was a strange, hostile, dominant thing. Yet
not quite hostile. As he sat he felt his limbs were strong and
hard, he sat in strength.
She was silent for a long time, stitching. He was aware,
poignantly, of the round shape of her head, very intimate,
compelling. She lifted her head and sighed. The blood burned in
him, her voice ran to him like fire.
"Come here," she said, unsure.
For some moments he did not move. Then he rose slowly and
went across the hearth. It required an almost deathly effort of
volition, or of acquiescence. He stood before her and looked
down at her. Her face was shining again, her eyes were shining
again like terrible laughter. It was to him terrible, how she
could be transfigured. He could not look at her, it burnt his
"My love!" she said.
And she put her arms round him as he stood before her round
his thighs, pressing him against her breast. And her hands on
him seemed to reveal to him the mould of his own nakedness, he
was passionately lovely to himself. He could not bear to look at
"My dear!" she said. He knew she spoke a foreign language.
The fear was like bliss in his heart. He looked down. Her face
was shining, her eyes were full of light, she was awful. He
suffered from the compulsion to her. She was the awful unknown.
He bent down to her, suffering, unable to let go, unable to let
himself go, yet drawn, driven. She was now the transfigured, she
was wonderful, beyond him. He wanted to go. But he could not as
yet kiss her. He was himself apart. Easiest he could kiss her
feet. But he was too ashamed for the actual deed, which were
like an affront. She waited for him to meet her, not to bow
before her and serve her. She wanted his active participation,
not his submission. She put her fingers on him. And it was
torture to him, that he must give himself to her actively,
participate in her, that he must meet and embrace and know her,
who was other than himself. There was that in him which shrank
from yielding to her, resisted the relaxing towards her, opposed
the mingling with her, even while he most desired it. He was
afraid, he wanted to save himself.
There were a few moments of stillness. Then gradually, the
tension, the withholding relaxed in him, and he began to flow
towards her. She was beyond him, the unattainable. But he let go
his hold on himself, he relinquished himself, and knew the
subterranean force of his desire to come to her, to be with her,
to mingle with her, losing himself to find her, to find himself
in her. He began to approach her, to draw near.
His blood beat up in waves of desire. He wanted to come to
her, to meet her. She was there, if he could reach her. The
reality of her who was just beyond him absorbed him. Blind and
destroyed, he pressed forward, nearer, nearer, to receive the
consummation of himself, he received within the darkness which
should swallow him and yield him up to himself. If he could come
really within the blazing kernel of darkness, if really he could
be destroyed, burnt away till he lit with her in one
consummation, that were supreme, supreme.
Their coming together now, after two years of married life,
was much more wonderful to them than it had been before. It was
the entry into another circle of existence, it was the baptism
to another life, it was the complete confirmation. Their feet
trod strange ground of knowledge, their footsteps were lit-up
with discovery. Wherever they walked, it was well, the world
re-echoed round them in discovery. They went gladly and
forgetful. Everything was lost, and everything was found. The
new world was discovered, it remained only to be explored.
They had passed through the doorway into the further space,
where movement was so big, that it contained bonds and
constraints and labours, and still was complete liberty. She was
the doorway to him, he to her. At last they had thrown open the
doors, each to the other, and had stood in the doorways facing
each other, whilst the light flooded out from behind on to each
of their faces, it was the transfiguration, glorification, the
And always the light of the transfiguration burned on in
their hearts. He went his way, as before, she went her way, to
the rest of the world there seemed no change. But to the two of
them, there was the perpetual wonder of the transfiguration.
He did not know her any better, any more precisely, now that
he knew her altogether. Poland, her husband, the war--he
understood no more of this in her. He did not understand her
foreign nature, half German, half Polish, nor her foreign
speech. But he knew her, he knew her meaning, without
understanding. What she said, what she spoke, this was a blind
gesture on her part. In herself she walked strong and clear, he
knew her, he saluted her, was with her. What was memory after
all, but the recording of a number of possibilities which had
never been fulfilled? What was Paul Lensky to her, but an
unfulfilled possibility to which he, Brangwen, was the reality
and the fulfilment? What did it matter, that Anna Lensky was
born of Lydia and Paul? God was her father and her mother. He
had passed through the married pair without fully making Himself
known to them.
Now He was declared to Brangwen and to Lydia Brangwen, as
they stood together. When at last they had joined hands, the
house was finished, and the Lord took up his abode. And they
The days went on as before, Brangwen went out to his work,
his wife nursed her child and attended in some measure to the
farm. They did not think of each other-why should they? Only
when she touched him, he knew her instantly, that she was with
him, near him, that she was the gateway and the way out, that
she was beyond, and that he was travelling in her through the
beyond. Whither?--What does it matter? He responded always.
When she called, he answered, when he asked, her response came
at once, or at length.
Anna's soul was put at peace between them. She looked from
one to the other, and she saw them established to her safety,
and she was free. She played between the pillar of fire and the
pillar of cloud in confidence, having the assurance on her right
hand and the assurance on her left. She was no longer called
upon to uphold with her childish might the broken end of the
arch. Her father and her mother now met to the span of the
heavens, and she, the child, was free to play in the space
GIRLHOOD OF ANNE BRANGWEN
When Anna was nine years old, Brangwen sent her to the dames'
school in Cossethay. There she went, flipping and dancing in her
inconsequential fashion, doing very much as she liked,
disconcerting old Miss Coates by her indifference to
respectability and by her lack of reverence. Anna only laughed
at Miss Coates, liked her, and patronized her in superb,
The girl was at once shy and wild. She had a curious contempt
for ordinary people, a benevolent superiority. She was very shy,
and tortured with misery when people did not like her. On the
other hand, she cared very little for anybody save her mother,
whom she still rather resentfully worshipped, and her father,
whom she loved and patronized, but upon whom she depended. These
two, her mother and father, held her still in fee. But she was
free of other people, towards whom, on the whole, she took the
benevolent attitude. She deeply hated ugliness or intrusion or
arrogance, however. As a child, she was as proud and shadowy as
a tiger, and as aloof. She could confer favours, but, save from
her mother and father, she could receive none. She hated people
who came too near to her. Like a wild thing, she wanted her
distance. She mistrusted intimacy.
In Cossethay and Ilkeston she was always an alien. She had
plenty of acquaintances, but no friends. Very few people whom
she met were significant to her. They seemed part of a herd,
undistinguished. She did not take people very seriously.
She had two brothers, Tom, dark-haired, small, volatile, whom
she was intimately related to but whom she never mingled with,
and Fred, fair and responsive, whom she adored but did not
consider as a real, separate thing. She was too much the centre
of her own universe, too little aware of anything outside.
The first person she met, who affected her as a real,
living person, whom she regarded as having definite existence,
was Baron Skrebensky, her mother's friend. He also was a Polish
exile, who had taken orders, and had received from Mr. Gladstone
a small country living in Yorkshire.
When Anna was about ten years old, she went with her mother
to spend a few days with the Baron Skrebensky. He was very
unhappy in his red-brick vicarage. He was vicar of a country
church, a living worth a little over two hundred pounds a year,
but he had a large parish containing several collieries, with a
new, raw, heathen population. He went to the north of England
expecting homage from the common people, for he was an
aristocrat. He was roughly, even cruelly received. But he never
understood it. He remained a fiery aristocrat. Only he had to
learn to avoid his parishioners.
Anna was very much impressed by him. He was a smallish man
with a rugged, rather crumpled face and blue eyes set very deep
and glowing. His wife was a tall thin woman, of noble Polish
family, mad with pride. He still spoke broken English, for he
had kept very close to his wife, both of them forlorn in this
strange, inhospitable country, and they always spoke in Polish
together. He was disappointed with Mrs. Brangwen's soft, natural
English, very disappointed that her child spoke no Polish.
Anna loved to watch him. She liked the big, new, rambling
vicarage, desolate and stark on its hill. It was so exposed, so
bleak and bold after the Marsh. The Baron talked endlessly in
Polish to Mrs. Brangwen; he made furious gestures with his
hands, his blue eyes were full of fire. And to Anna, there was a
significance about his sharp, flinging movements. Something in
her responded to his extravagance and his exuberant manner. She
thought him a very wonderful person. She was shy of him, she
liked him to talk to her. She felt a sense of freedom near
She never could tell how she knew it, but she did know that
he was a knight of Malta. She could never remember whether she
had seen his star, or cross, of his order or not, but it flashed
in her mind, like a symbol. He at any rate represented to the
child the real world, where kings and lords and princes moved
and fulfilled their shining lives, whilst queens and ladies and
princesses upheld the noble order.
She had recognized the Baron Skrebensky as a real person, he
had had some regard for her. But when she did not see him any
more, he faded and became a memory. But as a memory he was
always alive to her.
Anna became a tall, awkward girl. Her eyes were still very
dark and quick, but they had grown careless, they had lost their
watchful, hostile look. Her fierce, spun hair turned brown, it
grew heavier and was tied back. She was sent to a young ladies'
school in Nottingham.
And at this period she was absorbed in becoming a young lady.
She was intelligent enough, but not interested in learning. At
first, she thought all the girls at school very ladylike and
wonderful, and she wanted to be like them. She came to a speedy
disillusion: they galled and maddened her, they were petty and
mean. After the loose, generous atmosphere of her home, where
little things did not count, she was always uneasy in the world,
that would snap and bite at every trifle.
A quick change came over her. She mistrusted herself, she
mistrusted the outer world. She did not want to go on, she did
not want to go out into it, she wanted to go no further.
"What do I care about that lot of girls?" she would
say to her father, contemptuously; "they are nobody."
The trouble was that the girls would not accept Anna at her
measure. They would have her according to themselves or not at
all. So she was confused, seduced, she became as they were for a
time, and then, in revulsion, she hated them furiously.
"Why don't you ask some of your girls here?" her father would
"They're not coming here," she cried.
"And why not?"
"They're bagatelle," she said, using one of her mother's rare
"Bagatelles or billiards, it makes no matter, they're nice
young lasses enough."
But Anna was not to be won over. She had a curious shrinking
from commonplace people, and particularly from the young lady of
her day. She would not go into company because of the
ill-at-ease feeling other people brought upon her. And she never
could decide whether it were her fault or theirs. She half
respected these other people, and continuous disillusion
maddened her. She wanted to respect them. Still she thought the
people she did not know were wonderful. Those she knew seemed
always to be limiting her, tying her up in little falsities that
irritated her beyond bearing. She would rather stay at home and
avoid the rest of the world, leaving it illusory.
For at the Marsh life had indeed a certain freedom and
largeness. There was no fret about money, no mean little
precedence, nor care for what other people thought, because
neither Mrs. Brangwen nor Brangwen could be sensible of any
judgment passed on them from outside. Their lives were too
So Anna was only easy at home, where the common sense and the
supreme relation between her parents produced a freer standard
of being than she could find outside. Where, outside the Marsh,
could she find the tolerant dignity she had been brought up in?
Her parents stood undiminished and unaware of criticism. The
people she met outside seemed to begrudge her her very
existence. They seemed to want to belittle her also. She was
exceedingly reluctant to go amongst them. She depended upon her
mother and her father. And yet she wanted to go out.
At school, or in the world, she was usually at fault, she
felt usually that she ought to be slinking in disgrace. She
never felt quite sure, in herself, whether she were wrong, or
whether the others were wrong. She had not done her lessons:
well, she did not see any reason why she should do her
lessons, if she did not want to. Was there some occult reason
why she should? Were these people, schoolmistresses,
representatives of some mystic Right, some Higher Good? They
seemed to think so themselves. But she could not for her life
see why a woman should bully and insult her because she did not
know thirty lines of As You Like It. After all, what did
it matter if she knew them or not? Nothing could persuade her
that it was of the slightest importance. Because she despised
inwardly the coarsely working nature of the mistress. Therefore
she was always at outs with authority. From constant telling,
she came almost to believe in her own badness, her own intrinsic
inferiority. She felt that she ought always to be in a state of
slinking disgrace, if she fulfilled what was expected of her.
But she rebelled. She never really believed in her own badness.
At the bottom of her heart she despised the other people, who
carped and were loud over trifles. She despised them, and wanted
revenge on them. She hated them whilst they had power over
Still she kept an ideal: a free, proud lady absolved from the
petty ties, existing beyond petty considerations. She would see
such ladies in pictures: Alexandra, Princess of Wales, was one
of her models. This lady was proud and royal, and stepped
indifferently over all small, mean desires: so thought Anna, in
her heart. And the girl did up her hair high under a little
slanting hat, her skirts were fashionably bunched up, she wore
an elegant, skin-fitting coat.
Her father was delighted. Anna was very proud in her bearing,
too naturally indifferent to smaller bonds to satisfy Ilkeston,
which would have liked to put her down. But Brangwen was having
no such thing. If she chose to be royal, royal she should be. He
stood like a rock between her and the world.
After the fashion of his family, he grew stout and handsome.
His blue eyes were full of light, twinkling and sensitive, his
manner was deliberate, but hearty, warm. His capacity for living
his own life without attention from his neighbours made them
respect him. They would run to do anything for him. He did not
consider them, but was open-handed towards them, so they made
profit of their willingness. He liked people, so long as they
remained in the background.
Mrs. Brangwen went on in her own way, following her own
devices. She had her husband, her two sons and Anna. These
staked out and marked her horizon. The other people were
outsiders. Inside her own world, her life passed along like a
dream for her, it lapsed, and she lived within its lapse, active
and always pleased, intent. She scarcely noticed the outer
things at all. What was outside was outside, non-existent. She
did not mind if the boys fought, so long as it was out of her
presence. But if they fought when she was by, she was angry, and
they were afraid of her. She did not care if they broke a window
of a railway carriage or sold their watches to have a revel at
the Goose Fair. Brangwen was perhaps angry over these things. To
the mother they were insignificant. It was odd little things
that offended her. She was furious if the boys hung around the
slaughter-house, she was displeased when the school reports were
bad. It did not matter how many sins her boys were accused of,
so long as they were not stupid, or inferior. If they seemed to
brook insult, she hated them. And it was only a certain
gaucherie, a gawkiness on Anna's part that irritated her
against the girl. Certain forms of clumsiness, grossness, made
the mother's eyes glow with curious rage. Otherwise she was
Pursuing her splendid-lady ideal, Anna became a lofty
demoiselle of sixteen, plagued by family shortcomings. She was
very sensitive to her father. She knew if he had been drinking,
were he ever so little affected, and she could not bear it. He
flushed when he drank, the veins stood out on his temples, there
was a twinkling, cavalier boisterousness in his eye, his manner
was jovially overbearing and mocking. And it angered her. When
she heard his loud, roaring, boisterous mockery, an anger of
resentment filled her. She was quick to forestall him, the
moment he came in.
"You look a sight, you do, red in the face," she cried.
"I might look worse if I was green," he answered.
"Boozing in Ilkeston."
"And what's wrong wi' Il'son?"
She flounced away. He watched her with amused, twinkling
eyes, yet in spite of himself said that she flouted him.
They were a curious family, a law to themselves, separate
from the world, isolated, a small republic set in invisible
bounds. The mother was quite indifferent to Ilkeston and
Cossethay, to any claims made on her from outside, she was very
shy of any outsider, exceedingly courteous, winning even. But
the moment the visitor had gone, she laughed and dismissed him,
he did not exist. It had been all a game to her. She was still a
foreigner, unsure of her ground. But alone with her own children
and husband at the Marsh, she was mistress of a little native
land that lacked nothing.
She had some beliefs somewhere, never defined. She had been
brought up a Roman Catholic. She had gone to the Church of
England for protection. The outward form was a matter of
indifference to her. Yet she had some fundamental religion. It
was as if she worshipped God as a mystery, never seeking in the
least to define what He was.
And inside her, the subtle sense of the Great Absolute
wherein she had her being was very strong. The English dogma
never reached her: the language was too foreign. Through it all
she felt the great Separator who held life in His hands,
gleaming, imminent, terrible, the Great Mystery, immediate
beyond all telling.
She shone and gleamed to the Mystery, Whom she knew through
all her senses, she glanced with strange, mystic superstitions
that never found expression in the English language, never
mounted to thought in English. But so she lived, within a
potent, sensuous belief that included her family and contained
To this she had reduced her husband. He existed with her
entirely indifferent to the general values of the world. Her
very ways, the very mark of her eyebrows were symbols and
indication to him. There, on the farm with her, he lived through
a mystery of life and death and creation, strange, profound
ecstasies and incommunicable satisfactions, of which the rest of
the world knew nothing; which made the pair of them apart and
respected in the English village, for they were also
But Anna was only half safe within her mother's unthinking
knowledge. She had a mother-of-pearl rosary that had been her
own father's. What it meant to her she could never say. But the
string of moonlight and silver, when she had it between her
fingers, filled her with strange passion. She learned at school
a little Latin, she learned an Ave Maria and a Pater Noster, she
learned how to say her rosary. But that was no good. "Ave Maria,
gratia plena, Dominus tecum, Benedicta tu in mulieribus et
benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesus. Ave Maria, Sancta Maria,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae,
It was not right, somehow. What these words meant when
translated was not the same as the pale rosary meant. There was
a discrepancy, a falsehood. It irritated her to say, "Dominus
tecum," or, "benedicta tu in mulieribus." She loved the mystic
words, "Ave Maria, Sancta Maria;" she was moved by "benedictus
fructus ventris tui Jesus," and by "nunc et in hora mortis
nostrae." But none of it was quite real. It was not
She avoided her rosary, because, moving her with curious
passion as it did, it meant only these not very
significant things. She put it away. It was her instinct to put
all these things away. It was her instinct to avoid thinking, to
avoid it, to save herself.
She was seventeen, touchy, full of spirits, and very moody:
quick to flush, and always uneasy, uncertain. For some reason or
other, she turned more to her father, she felt almost flashes of
hatred for her mother. Her mother's dark muzzle and curiously
insidious ways, her mother's utter surety and confidence, her
strange satisfaction, even triumph, her mother's way of laughing
at things and her mother's silent overriding of vexatious
propositions, most of all her mother's triumphant power maddened
She became sudden and incalculable. Often she stood at the
window, looking out, as if she wanted to go. Sometimes she went,
she mixed with people. But always she came home in anger, as if
she were diminished, belittled, almost degraded.
There was over the house a kind of dark silence and
intensity, in which passion worked its inevitable conclusions.
There was in the house a sort of richness, a deep, inarticulate
interchange which made other places seem thin and unsatisfying.
Brangwen could sit silent, smoking in his chair, the mother
could move about in her quiet, insidious way, and the sense of
the two presences was powerful, sustaining. The whole
intercourse was wordless, intense and close.
But Anna was uneasy. She wanted to get away. Yet wherever she
went, there came upon her that feeling of thinness, as if she
were made smaller, belittled. She hastened home.
There she raged and interrupted the strong, settled
interchange. Sometimes her mother turned on her with a fierce,
destructive anger, in which was no pity or consideration. And
Anna shrank, afraid. She went to her father.
He would still listen to the spoken word, which fell sterile
on the unheeding mother. Sometimes Anna talked to her father.
She tried to discuss people, she wanted to know what was meant.
But her father became uneasy. He did not want to have things
dragged into consciousness. Only out of consideration for her he
listened. And there was a kind of bristling rousedness in the
room. The cat got up and stretching itself, went uneasily to the
door. Mrs. Brangwen was silent, she seemed ominous. Anna could
not go on with her fault-finding, her criticism, her expression
of dissatisfactions. She felt even her father against her. He
had a strong, dark bond with her mother, a potent intimacy that
existed inarticulate and wild, following its own course, and
savage if interrupted, uncovered.
Nevertheless Brangwen was uneasy about the girl, the whole
house continued to be disturbed. She had a pathetic, baffled
appeal. She was hostile to her parents, even whilst she lived
entirely with them, within their spell.
Many ways she tried, of escape. She became an assiduous
church-goer. But the language meant nothing to her: it
seemed false. She hated to hear things expressed, put into
words. Whilst the religious feelings were inside her they were
passionately moving. In the mouth of the clergyman, they were
false, indecent. She tried to read. But again the tedium and the
sense of the falsity of the spoken word put her off. She went to
stay with girl friends. At first she thought it splendid. But
then the inner boredom came on, it seemed to her all
nothingness. And she felt always belittled, as if never, never
could she stretch her length and stride her stride.
Her mind reverted often to the torture cell of a certain
Bishop of France, in which the victim could neither stand nor
lie stretched out, never. Not that she thought of herself in any
connection with this. But often there came into her mind the
wonder, how the cell was built, and she could feel the horror of
the crampedness, as something very real.
She was, however, only eighteen when a letter came from Mrs.
Alfred Brangwen, in Nottingham, saying that her son William was
coming to Ilkeston to take a place as junior draughtsman,
scarcely more than apprentice, in a lace factory. He was twenty
years old, and would the Marsh Brangwens be friendly with
Tom Brangwen at once wrote offering the young man a home at
the Marsh. This was not accepted, but the Nottingham Brangwens
There had never been much love lost between the Nottingham
Brangwens and the Marsh. Indeed, Mrs. Alfred, having inherited
three thousand pounds, and having occasion to be dissatisfied
with her husband, held aloof from all the Brangwens whatsoever.
She affected, however, some esteem of Mrs. Tom, as she called
the Polish woman, saying that at any rate she was a lady.
Anna Brangwen was faintly excited at the news of her Cousin
Will's coming to Ilkeston. She knew plenty of young men, but
they had never become real to her. She had seen in this young
gallant a nose she liked, in that a pleasant moustache, in the
other a nice way of wearing clothes, in one a ridiculous fringe
of hair, in another a comical way of talking. They were objects
of amusement and faint wonder to her, rather than real beings,
the young men.
The only man she knew was her father; and, as he was
something large, looming, a kind of Godhead, he embraced all
manhood for her, and other men were just incidental.
She remembered her cousin Will. He had town clothes and was
thin, with a very curious head, black as jet, with hair like
sleek, thin fur. It was a curious head: it reminded her she knew
not of what: of some animal, some mysterious animal that lived
in the darkness under the leaves and never came out, but which
lived vividly, swift and intense. She always thought of him with
that black, keen, blind head. And she considered him odd.
He appeared at the Marsh one Sunday morning: a rather long,
thin youth with a bright face and a curious self-possession
among his shyness, a native unawareness of what other people
might be, since he was himself.
When Anna came downstairs in her Sunday clothes, ready for
church, he rose and greeted her conventionally, shaking hands.
His manners were better than hers. She flushed. She noticed that
he now had a thick fledge on his upper lip, a black,
finely-shapen line marking his wide mouth. It rather repelled
her. It reminded her of the thin, fine fur of his hair. She was
aware of something strange in him.
His voice had rather high upper notes, and very resonant
middle notes. It was queer. She wondered why he did it. But he
sat very naturally in the Marsh living-room. He had some
uncouthness, some natural self-possession of the Brangwens, that
made him at home there.
Anna was rather troubled by the strangely intimate,
affectionate way her father had towards this young man. He
seemed gentle towards him, he put himself aside in order to fill
out the young man. This irritated Anna.
"Father," she said abruptly, "give me some collection."
"What collection?" asked Brangwen.
"Don't be ridiculous," she cried, flushing.
"Nay," he said, "what collection's this?"
"You know it's the first Sunday of the month."
Anna stood confused. Why was he doing this, why was he making
her conspicuous before this stranger?
"I want some collection," she reasserted.
"So tha says," he replied indifferently, looking at her, then
turning again to this nephew.
She went forward, and thrust her hand into his breeches
pocket. He smoked steadily, making no resistance, talking to his
nephew. Her hand groped about in his pocket, and then drew out
his leathern purse. Her colour was bright in her clear cheeks,
her eyes shone. Brangwen's eyes were twinkling. The nephew sat
sheepishly. Anna, in her finery, sat down and slid all the money
into her lap. There was silver and gold. The youth could not
help watching her. She was bent over the heap of money,
fingering the different coins.
"I've a good mind to take half a sovereign," she said, and
she looked up with glowing dark eyes. She met the light-brown
eyes of her cousin, close and intent upon her. She was startled.
She laughed quickly, and turned to her father.
"I've a good mind to take half a sovereign, our Dad," she
"Yes, nimble fingers," said her father. "You take what's your
"Are you coming, our Anna?" asked her brother from the
She suddenly chilled to normal, forgetting both her father
and her cousin.
"Yes, I'm ready," she said, taking sixpence from the heap of
money and sliding the rest back into the purse, which she laid
on the table.
"Give it here," said her father.
Hastily she thrust the purse into his pocket and was going
"You'd better go wi' 'em, lad, hadn't you?" said the father
to the nephew.
Will Brangwen rose uncertainly. He had golden-brown, quick,
steady eyes, like a bird's, like a hawk's, which cannot look
"Your Cousin Will 'll come with you," said the father.
Anna glanced at the strange youth again. She felt him waiting
there for her to notice him. He was hovering on the edge of her
consciousness, ready to come in. She did not want to look at
him. She was antagonistic to him.
She waited without speaking. Her cousin took his hat and
joined her. It was summer outside. Her brother Fred was plucking
a sprig of flowery currant to put in his coat, from the bush at
the angle of the house. She took no notice. Her cousin followed
just behind her.
They were on the high road. She was aware of a strangeness in
her being. It made her uncertain. She caught sight of the
flowering currant in her brother's buttonhole.
"Oh, our Fred," she cried. "Don't wear that stuff to go to
Fred looked down protectively at the pink adornment on his
"Why, I like it," he said.
"Then you're the only one who does, I'm sure," she said.
And she turned to her cousin.
"Do you like the smell of it?" she asked.
He was there beside her, tall and uncouth and yet
self-possessed. It excited her.
"I can't say whether I do or not," he replied.
"Give it here, Fred, don't have it smelling in church," she
said to the little boy, her page.
Her fair, small brother handed her the flower dutifully. She
sniffed it and gave it without a word to her cousin, for his
judgment. He smelled the dangling flower curiously.
"It's a funny smell," he said.
And suddenly she laughed, and a quick light came on all their
faces, there was a blithe trip in the small boy's walk.
The bells were ringing, they were going up the summery hill
in their Sunday clothes. Anna was very fine in a silk frock of
brown and white stripes, tight along the arms and the body,
bunched up very elegantly behind the skirt. There was something
of the cavalier about Will Brangwen, and he was well
He walked along with the sprig of currant-blossom dangling
between his fingers, and none of them spoke. The sun shone
brightly on little showers of buttercup down the bank, in the
fields the fool's-parsley was foamy, held very high and proud
above a number of flowers that flitted in the greenish twilight
of the mowing-grass below.
They reached the church. Fred led the way to the pew,
followed by the cousin, then Anna. She felt very conspicuous and
important. Somehow, this young man gave her away to other
people. He stood aside and let her pass to her place, then sat
next to her. It was a curious sensation, to sit next to him.
The colour came streaming from the painted window above her.
It lit on the dark wood of the pew, on the stone, worn aisle, on
the pillar behind her cousin, and on her cousin's hands, as they
lay on his knees. She sat amid illumination, illumination and
luminous shadow all around her, her soul very bright. She sat,
without knowing it, conscious of the hands and motionless knees
of her cousin. Something strange had entered into her world,
something entirely strange and unlike what she knew.
She was curiously elated. She sat in a glowing world of
unreality, very delightful. A brooding light, like laughter, was
in her eyes. She was aware of a strange influence entering in to
her, which she enjoyed. It was a dark enrichening influence she
had not known before. She did not think of her cousin. But she
was startled when his hands moved.
She wished he would not say the responses so plainly. It
diverted her from her vague enjoyment. Why would he obtrude, and
draw notice to himself? It was bad taste. But she went on all
right till the hymn came. He stood up beside her to sing, and
that pleased her. Then suddenly, at the very first word, his
voice came strong and over-riding, filling the church. He was
singing the tenor. Her soul opened in amazement. His voice
filled the church! It rang out like a trumpet, and rang out
again. She started to giggle over her hymn-book. But he went on,
perfectly steady. Up and down rang his voice, going its own way.
She was helplessly shocked into laughter. Between moments of
dead silence in herself she shook with laughter. On came the
laughter, seized her and shook her till the tears were in her
eyes. She was amazed, and rather enjoyed it. And still the hymn
rolled on, and still she laughed. She bent over her hymn-book
crimson with confusion, but still her sides shook with laughter.
She pretended to cough, she pretended to have a crumb in her
throat. Fred was gazing up at her with clear blue eyes. She was
recovering herself. And then a slur in the strong, blind voice
at her side brought it all on again, in a gust of mad
She bent down to prayer in cold reproof of herself. And yet,
as she knelt, little eddies of giggling went over her. The very
sight of his knees on the praying cushion sent the little shock
of laughter over her.
She gathered herself together and sat with prim, pure face,
white and pink and cold as a Christmas rose, her hands in her
silk gloves folded on her lap, her dark eyes all vague,
abstracted in a sort of dream, oblivious of everything.
The sermon rolled on vaguely, in a tide of pregnant
Her cousin took out his pocket-handkerchief. He seemed to be
drifted absorbed into the sermon. He put his handkerchief to his
face. Then something dropped on to his knee. There lay the bit
of flowering currant! He was looking down at it in real
astonishment. A wild snort of laughter came from Anna. Everybody
heard: it was torture. He had shut the crumpled flower in his
hand and was looking up again with the same absorbed attention
to the sermon. Another snort of laughter from Anna. Fred nudged
Her cousin sat motionless. Somehow he was aware that his face
was red. She could feel him. His hand, closed over the flower,
remained quite still, pretending to be normal. Another wild
struggle in Anna's breast, and the snort of laughter. She bent
forward shaking with laughter. It was now no joke. Fred was
nudge-nudging at her. She nudged him back fiercely. Then another
vicious spasm of laughter seized her. She tried to ward it off
in a little cough. The cough ended in a suppressed whoop. She
wanted to die. And the closed hand crept away to the pocket.
Whilst she sat in taut suspense, the laughter rushed back at
her, knowing he was fumbling in his pocket to shove the flower
In the end, she felt weak, exhausted and thoroughly
depressed. A blankness of wincing depression came over her. She
hated the presence of the other people. Her face became quite
haughty. She was unaware of her cousin any more.
When the collection arrived with the last hymn, her cousin
was again singing resoundingly. And still it amused her. In
spite of the shameful exhibition she had made of herself, it
amused her still. She listened to it in a spell of amusement.
And the bag was thrust in front of her, and her sixpence was
mingled in the folds of her glove. In her haste to get it out,
it flipped away and went twinkling in the next pew. She stood
and giggled. She could not help it: she laughed outright, a
figure of shame.
"What were you laughing about, our Anna?" asked Fred, the
moment they were out of the church.
"Oh, I couldn't help it," she said, in her careless,
half-mocking fashion. "I don't know why Cousin Will's
singing set me off."
"What was there in my singing to make you laugh?" he
"It was so loud," she said.
They did not look at each other, but they both laughed again,
"What were you snorting and laughing for, our Anna?" asked
Tom, the elder brother, at the dinner table, his hazel eyes
bright with joy. "Everybody stopped to look at you." Tom was in
She was aware of Will's eyes shining steadily upon her,
waiting for her to speak.
"It was Cousin Will's singing," she said.
At which her cousin burst into a suppressed, chuckling laugh,
suddenly showing all his small, regular, rather sharp teeth, and
just as quickly closing his mouth again.
"Has he got such a remarkable voice on him then?" asked
"No, it's not that," said Anna. "Only it tickled me--I
couldn't tell you why."
And again a ripple of laughter went down the table.
Will Brangwen thrust forward his dark face, his eyes dancing,
"I'm in the choir of St. Nicholas."
"Oh, you go to church then!" said Brangwen.
"Mother does--father doesn't," replied the youth.
It was the little things, his movement, the funny tones of
his voice, that showed up big to Anna. The matter-of-fact things
he said were absurd in contrast. The things her father said
seemed meaningless and neutral.
During the afternoon they sat in the parlour, that smelled of
geranium, and they ate cherries, and talked. Will Brangwen was
called on to give himself forth. And soon he was drawn out.
He was interested in churches, in church architecture. The
influence of Ruskin had stimulated him to a pleasure in the
medieval forms. His talk was fragmentary, he was only half
articulate. But listening to him, as he spoke of church after
church, of nave and chancel and transept, of rood-screen and
font, of hatchet-carving and moulding and tracery, speaking
always with close passion of particular things, particular
places, there gathered in her heart a pregnant hush of churches,
a mystery, a ponderous significance of bowed stone, a
dim-coloured light through which something took place obscurely,
passing into darkness: a high, delighted framework of the mystic
screen, and beyond, in the furthest beyond, the altar. It was a
very real experience. She was carried away. And the land seemed
to be covered with a vast, mystic church, reserved in gloom,
thrilled with an unknown Presence.
Almost it hurt her, to look out of the window and see the
lilacs towering in the vivid sunshine. Or was this the jewelled
He talked of Gothic and Renaissance and Perpendicular, and
Early English and Norman. The words thrilled her.
"Have you been to Southwell?" he said. "I was there at twelve
o'clock at midday, eating my lunch in the churchyard. And the
bells played a hymn.
"Ay, it's a fine Minster, Southwell, heavy. It's got heavy,
round arches, rather low, on thick pillars. It's grand, the way
those arches travel forward.
"There's a sedilia as well--pretty. But I like the main
body of the church--and that north porch--"
He was very much excited and filled with himself that
afternoon. A flame kindled round him, making his experience
passionate and glowing, burningly real.
His uncle listened with twinkling eyes, half-moved. His aunt
bent forward her dark face, half-moved, but held by other
knowledge. Anna went with him.
He returned to his lodging at night treading quick, his eyes
glittering, and his face shining darkly as if he came from some
passionate, vital tryst.
The glow remained in him, the fire burned, his heart was
fierce like a sun. He enjoyed his unknown life and his own self.
And he was ready to go back to the Marsh.
Without knowing it, Anna was wanting him to come. In him she
had escaped. In him the bounds of her experience were
transgressed: he was the hole in the wall, beyond which the
sunshine blazed on an outside world.
He came. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, talking again,
there recurred the strange, remote reality which carried
everything before it. Sometimes, he talked of his father, whom
he hated with a hatred that was burningly close to love, of his
mother, whom he loved, with a love that was keenly close to
hatred, or to revolt. His sentences were clumsy, he was only
half articulate. But he had the wonderful voice, that could ring
its vibration through the girl's soul, transport her into his
feeling. Sometimes his voice was hot and declamatory, sometimes
it had a strange, twanging, almost cat-like sound, sometimes it
hesitated, puzzled, sometimes there was the break of a little
laugh. Anna was taken by him. She loved the running flame that
coursed through her as she listened to him. And his mother and
his father became to her two separate people in her life.
For some weeks the youth came frequently, and was received
gladly by them all. He sat amongst them, his dark face glowing,
an eagerness and a touch of derisiveness on his wide mouth,
something grinning and twisted, his eyes always shining like a
bird's, utterly without depth. There was no getting hold of the
fellow, Brangwen irritably thought. He was like a grinning young
tom-cat, that came when he thought he would, and without
cognizance of the other person.
At first the youth had looked towards Tom Brangwen when he
talked; and then he looked towards his aunt, for her
appreciation, valuing it more than his uncle's; and then he
turned to Anna, because from her he got what he wanted, which
was not in the elder people.
So that the two young people, from being always attendant on
the elder, began to draw apart and establish a separate kingdom.
Sometimes Tom Brangwen was irritated. His nephew irritated him.
The lad seemed to him too special, self-contained. His nature
was fierce enough, but too much abstracted, like a separate
thing, like a cat's nature. A cat could lie perfectly peacefully
on the hearthrug whilst its master or mistress writhed in agony
a yard away. It had nothing to do with other people's affairs.
What did the lad really care about anything, save his own
Brangwen was irritated. Nevertheless he liked and respected
his nephew. Mrs. Brangwen was irritated by Anna, who was
suddenly changed, under the influence of the youth. The mother
liked the boy: he was not quite an outsider. But she did not
like her daughter to be so much under the spell.
So that gradually the two young people drew apart, escaped
from the elders, to create a new thing by themselves. He worked
in the garden to propitiate his uncle. He talked churches to
propitiate his aunt. He followed Anna like a shadow: like a
long, persistent, unswerving black shadow he went after the
girl. It irritated Brangwen exceedingly. It exasperated him
beyond bearing, to see the lit-up grin, the cat-grin as he
called it, on his nephew's face.
And Anna had a new reserve, a new independence. Suddenly she
began to act independently of her parents, to live beyond them.
Her mother had flashes of anger.
But the courtship went on. Anna would find occasion to go
shopping in Ilkeston at evening. She always returned with her
cousin; he walking with his head over her shoulder, a little bit
behind her, like the Devil looking over Lincoln, as Brangwen
noted angrily and yet with satisfaction.
To his own wonder, Will Brangwen found himself in an electric
state of passion. To his wonder, he had stopped her at the gate
as they came home from Ilkeston one night, and had kissed her,
blocking her way and kissing her whilst he felt as if some blow
were struck at him in the dark. And when they went indoors, he
was acutely angry that her parents looked up scrutinizing at him
and her. What right had they there: why should they look up! Let
them remove themselves, or look elsewhere.
And the youth went home with the stars in heaven whirling
fiercely about the blackness of his head, and his heart fierce,
insistent, but fierce as if he felt something baulking him. He
wanted to smash through something.
A spell was cast over her. And how uneasy her parents were,
as she went about the house unnoticing, not noticing them,
moving in a spell as if she were invisible to them. She was
invisible to them. It made them angry. Yet they had to submit.
She went about absorbed, obscured for a while.
Over him too the darkness of obscurity settled. He seemed to
be hidden in a tense, electric darkness, in which his soul, his
life was intensely active, but without his aid or attention. His
mind was obscured. He worked swiftly and mechanically, and he
produced some beautiful things.
His favourite work was wood-carving. The first thing he made
for her was a butter-stamper. In it he carved a mythological
bird, a phoenix, something like an eagle, rising on symmetrical
wings, from a circle of very beautiful flickering flames that
rose upwards from the rim of the cup.
Anna thought nothing of the gift on the evening when he gave
it to her. In the morning, however, when the butter was made,
she fetched his seal in place of the old wooden stamper of
oak-leaves and acorns. She was curiously excited to see how it
would turn out. Strange, the uncouth bird moulded there, in the
cup-like hollow, with curious, thick waverings running inwards
from a smooth rim. She pressed another mould. Strange, to lift
the stamp and see that eagle-beaked bird raising its breast to
her. She loved creating it over and over again. And every time
she looked, it seemed a new thing come to life. Every piece of
butter became this strange, vital emblem.
She showed it to her mother and father.
"That is beautiful," said her mother, a little light coming
on to her face.
"Beautiful!" exclaimed the father, puzzled, fretted. "Why,
what sort of a bird does he call it?"
And this was the question put by the customers during the
"What sort of a bird do you call that, as you've got
on th' butter?"
When he came in the evening, she took him into the dairy to
"Do you like it?" he asked, in his loud, vibrating voice that
always sounded strange, re-echoing in the dark places of her
They very rarely touched each other. They liked to be alone
together, near to each other, but there was still a distance
In the cool dairy the candle-light lit on the large, white
surfaces of the cream pans. He turned his head sharply. It was
so cool and remote in there, so remote. His mouth was open in a
little, strained laugh. She stood with her head bent, turned
aside. He wanted to go near to her. He had kissed her once.
Again his eye rested on the round blocks of butter, where the
emblematic bird lifted its breast from the shadow cast by the
candle flame. What was restraining him? Her breast was near him;
his head lifted like an eagle's. She did not move. Suddenly,
with an incredibly quick, delicate movement, he put his arms
round her and drew her to him. It was quick, cleanly done, like
a bird that swoops and sinks close, closer.
He was kissing her throat. She turned and looked at him. Her
eyes were dark and flowing with fire. His eyes were hard and
bright with a fierce purpose and gladness, like a hawk's. She
felt him flying into the dark space of her flames, like a brand,
like a gleaming hawk.
They had looked at each other, and seen each other strange,
yet near, very near, like a hawk stooping, swooping, dropping
into a flame of darkness. So she took the candle and they went
back to the kitchen.
They went on in this way for some time, always coming
together, but rarely touching, very seldom did they kiss. And
then, often, it was merely a touch of the lips, a sign. But her
eyes began to waken with a constant fire, she paused often in
the midst of her transit, as if to recollect something, or to
And his face became sombre, intent, he did not really hear
what was said to him.
One evening in August he came when it was raining. He came in
with his jacket collar turned up, his jacket buttoned close, his
face wet. And he looked so slim and definite, coming out of the
chill rain, she was suddenly blinded with love for him. Yet he
sat and talked with her father and mother, meaninglessly, whilst
her blood seethed to anguish in her. She wanted to touch him
now, only to touch him.
There was the queer, abstract look on her silvery radiant
face that maddened her father, her dark eyes were hidden. But
she raised them to the youth. And they were dark with a flare
that made him quail for a moment.
She went into the second kitchen and took a lantern. Her
father watched her as she returned.
"Come with me, Will," she said to her cousin. "I want to see
if I put the brick over where that rat comes in."
"You've no need to do that," retorted her father. She took no
notice. The youth was between the two wills. The colour mounted
into the father's face, his blue eyes stared. The girl stood
near the door, her head held slightly back, like an indication
that the youth must come. He rose, in his silent, intent way,
and was gone with her. The blood swelled in Brangwen's forehead
It was raining. The light of the lantern flashed on the
cobbled path and the bottom of the wall. She came to a small
ladder, and climbed up. He reached her the lantern, and
followed. Up there in the fowl-loft, the birds sat in fat
bunches on the perches, the red combs shining like fire. Bright,
sharp eyes opened. There was a sharp crawk of expostulation as
one of the hens shifted over. The cock sat watching, his yellow
neck-feathers bright as glass. Anna went across the dirty floor.
Brangwen crouched in the loft watching. The light was soft under
the red, naked tiles. The girl crouched in a corner. There was
another explosive bustle of a hen springing from her perch.
Anna came back, stooping under the perches. He was waiting
for her near the door. Suddenly she had her arms round him, was
clinging close to him, cleaving her body against his, and
crying, in a whispering, whimpering sound.
"Will, I love you, I love you, Will, I love you." It sounded
as if it were tearing her.
He was not even very much surprised. He held her in his arms,
and his bones melted. He leaned back against the wall. The door
of the loft was open. Outside, the rain slanted by in fine,
steely, mysterious haste, emerging out of the gulf of darkness.
He held her in his arms, and he and she together seemed to be
swinging in big, swooping oscillations, the two of them clasped
together up in the darkness. Outside the open door of the loft
in which they stood, beyond them and below them, was darkness,
with a travelling veil of rain.
"I love you, Will, I love you," she moaned, "I love you,
He held her as thought they were one, and was silent.
In the house, Tom Brangwen waited a while. Then he got up and
went out. He went down the yard. He saw the curious misty shaft
coming from the loft door. He scarcely knew it was the light in
the rain. He went on till the illumination fell on him dimly.
Then looking up, through the blurr, he saw the youth and the
girl together, the youth with his back against the wall, his
head sunk over the head of the girl. The elder man saw them,
blurred through the rain, but lit up. They thought themselves so
buried in the night. He even saw the lighted dryness of the loft
behind, and shadows and bunches of roosting fowls, up in the
night, strange shadows cast from the lantern on the floor.
And a black gloom of anger, and a tenderness of
self-effacement, fought in his heart. She did not understand
what she was doing. She betrayed herself. She was a child, a
mere child. She did not know how much of herself she was
squandering. And he was blackly and furiously miserable. Was he
then an old man, that he should be giving her away in marriage?
Was he old? He was not old. He was younger than that young
thoughtless fellow in whose arms she lay. Who knew her--he
or that blind-headed youth? To whom did she belong, if not to
He thought again of the child he had carried out at night
into the barn, whilst his wife was in labour with the young Tom.
He remembered the soft, warm weight of the little girl on his
arm, round his neck. Now she would say he was finished. She was
going away, to deny him, to leave an unendurable emptiness in
him, a void that he could not bear. Almost he hated her. How
dared she say he was old. He walked on in the rain, sweating
with pain, with the horror of being old, with the agony of
having to relinquish what was life to him.
Will Brangwen went home without having seen his uncle. He
held his hot face to the rain, and walked on in a trance. "I
love you, Will, I love you." The words repeated themselves
endlessly. The veils had ripped and issued him naked into the
endless space, and he shuddered. The walls had thrust him out
and given him a vast space to walk in. Whither, through this
darkness of infinite space, was he walking blindly? Where, at
the end of all the darkness, was God the Almighty still darkly,
seated, thrusting him on? "I love you, Will, I love you." He
trembled with fear as the words beat in his heart again. And he
dared not think of her face, of her eyes which shone, and of her
strange, transfigured face. The hand of the Hidden Almighty,
burning bright, had thrust out of the darkness and gripped him.
He went on subject and in fear, his heart gripped and burning
from the touch.
The days went by, they ran on dark-padded feet in silence. He
went to see Anna, but again there had come a reserve between
them. Tom Brangwen was gloomy, his blue eyes sombre. Anna was
strange and delivered up. Her face in its delicate colouring was
mute, touched dumb and poignant. The mother bowed her head and
moved in her own dark world, that was pregnant again with
Will Brangwen worked at his wood-carving. It was a passion, a
passion for him to have the chisel under his grip. Verily the
passion of his heart lifted the fine bite of steel. He was
carving, as he had always wanted, the Creation of Eve. It was a
panel in low relief, for a church. Adam lay asleep as if
suffering, and God, a dim, large figure, stooped towards him,
stretching forward His unveiled hand; and Eve, a small vivid,
naked female shape, was issuing like a flame towards the hand of
God, from the torn side of Adam.
Now, Will Brangwen was working at the Eve. She was thin, a
keen, unripe thing. With trembling passion, fine as a breath of
air, he sent the chisel over her belly, her hard, unripe, small
belly. She was a stiff little figure, with sharp lines, in the
throes and torture and ecstasy of her creation. But he trembled
as he touched her. He had not finished any of his figures. There
was a bird on a bough overhead, lifting its wings for flight,
and a serpent wreathing up to it. It was not finished yet. He
trembled with passion, at last able to create the new, sharp
body of his Eve.
At the sides, at the far sides, at either end, were two
Angels covering their faces with their wings. They were like
trees. As he went to the Marsh, in the twilight, he felt that
the Angels, with covered faces, were standing back as he went
by. The darkness was of their shadows and the covering of their
faces. When he went through the Canal bridge, the evening glowed
in its last deep colours, the sky was dark blue, the stars
glittered from afar, very remote and approaching above the
darkening cluster of the farm, above the paths of crystal along
the edge of the heavens.
She waited for him like the glow of light, and as if his face
were covered. And he dared not lift his face to look at her.
Corn harvest came on. One evening they walked out through the
farm buildings at nightfall. A large gold moon hung heavily to
the grey horizon, trees hovered tall, standing back in the dusk,
waiting. Anna and the young man went on noiselessly by the
hedge, along where the farm-carts had made dark ruts in the
grass. They came through a gate into a wide open field where
still much light seemed to spread against their faces. In the
under-shadow the sheaves lay on the ground where the reapers had
left them, many sheaves like bodies prostrate in shadowy bulk;
others were riding hazily in shocks, like ships in the haze of
moonlight and of dusk, farther off.
They did not want to turn back, yet whither were they to go,
towards the moon? For they were separate, single.
"We will put up some sheaves," said Anna. So they could
remain there in the broad, open place.
They went across the stubble to where the long rows of
upreared shocks ended. Curiously populous that part of the field
looked, where the shocks rode erect; the rest was open and
The air was all hoary silver. She looked around her. Trees
stood vaguely at their distance, as if waiting like heralds, for
the signal to approach. In this space of vague crystal her heart
seemed like a bell ringing. She was afraid lest the sound should
"You take this row," she said to the youth, and passing on,
she stooped in the next row of lying sheaves, grasping her hands
in the tresses of the oats, lifting the heavy corn in either
hand, carrying it, as it hung heavily against her, to the
cleared space, where she set the two sheaves sharply down,
bringing them together with a faint, keen clash. Her two bulks
stood leaning together. He was coming, walking shadowily with
the gossamer dusk, carrying his two sheaves. She waited near-by.
He set his sheaves with a keen, faint clash, next to her
sheaves. They rode unsteadily. He tangled the tresses of corn.
It hissed like a fountain. He looked up and laughed.
Then she turned away towards the moon, which seemed glowingly
to uncover her bosom every time she faced it. He went to the
vague emptiness of the field opposite, dutifully.
They stooped, grasped the wet, soft hair of the corn, lifted
the heavy bundles, and returned. She was always first. She set
down her sheaves, making a pent-house with those others. He was
coming shadowy across the stubble, carrying his bundles, She
turned away, hearing only the sharp hiss of his mingling corn.
She walked between the moon and his shadowy figure.
She took her two new sheaves and walked towards him, as he
rose from stooping over the earth. He was coming out of the near
distance. She set down her sheaves to make a new stook. They
were unsure. Her hands fluttered. Yet she broke away, and turned
to the moon, which laid bare her bosom, so she felt as if her
bosom were heaving and panting with moonlight. And he had to put
up her two sheaves, which had fallen down. He worked in silence.
The rhythm of the work carried him away again, as she was coming
They worked together, coming and going, in a rhythm, which
carried their feet and their bodies in tune. She stooped, she
lifted the burden of sheaves, she turned her face to the dimness
where he was, and went with her burden over the stubble. She
hesitated, set down her sheaves, there was a swish and hiss of
mingling oats, he was drawing near, and she must turn again. And
there was the flaring moon laying bare her bosom again, making
her drift and ebb like a wave.
He worked steadily, engrossed, threading backwards and
forwards like a shuttle across the strip of cleared stubble,
weaving the long line of riding shocks, nearer and nearer to the
shadowy trees, threading his sheaves with hers.
And always, she was gone before he came. As he came, she drew
away, as he drew away, she came. Were they never to meet?
Gradually a low, deep-sounding will in him vibrated to her,
tried to set her in accord, tried to bring her gradually to him,
to a meeting, till they should be together, till they should
meet as the sheaves that swished together.
And the work went on. The moon grew brighter, clearer, the
corn glistened. He bent over the prostrate bundles, there was a
hiss as the sheaves left the ground, a trailing of heavy bodies
against him, a dazzle of moonlight on his eyes. And then he was
setting the corn together at the stook. And she was coming
He waited for her, he fumbled at the stook. She came. But she
stood back till he drew away. He saw her in shadow, a dark
column, and spoke to her, and she answered. She saw the
moonlight flash question on his face. But there was a space
between them, and he went away, the work carried them,
Why was there always a space between them, why were they
apart? Why, as she came up from under the moon, would she halt
and stand off from him? Why was he held away from her? His will
drummed persistently, darkly, it drowned everything else.
Into the rhythm of his work there came a pulse and a steadied
purpose. He stooped, he lifted the weight, he heaved it towards
her, setting it as in her, under the moonlit space. And he went
back for more. Ever with increasing closeness he lifted the
sheaves and swung striding to the centre with them, ever he
drove her more nearly to the meeting, ever he did his share, and
drew towards her, overtaking her. There was only the moving to
and fro in the moonlight, engrossed, the swinging in the
silence, that was marked only by the splash of sheaves, and
silence, and a splash of sheaves. And ever the splash of his
sheaves broke swifter, beating up to hers, and ever the splash
of her sheaves recurred monotonously, unchanging, and ever the
splash of his sheaves beat nearer.
Till at last, they met at the shock, facing each other,
sheaves in hand. And he was silvery with moonlight, with a
moonlit, shadowy face that frightened her. She waited for
"Put yours down," she said.
"No, it's your turn." His voice was twanging and
She set her sheaves against the shock. He saw her hands
glisten among the spray of grain. And he dropped his sheaves and
he trembled as he took her in his arms. He had over-taken her,
and it was his privilege to kiss her. She was sweet and fresh
with the night air, and sweet with the scent of grain. And the
whole rhythm of him beat into his kisses, and still he pursued
her, in his kisses, and still she was not quite overcome. He
wondered over the moonlight on her nose! All the moonlight upon
her, all the darkness within her! All the night in his arms,
darkness and shine, he possessed of it all! All the night for
him now, to unfold, to venture within, all the mystery to be
entered, all the discovery to be made.
Trembling with keen triumph, his heart was white as a star as
he drove his kisses nearer.
"My love!" she called, in a low voice, from afar. The low
sound seemed to call to him from far off, under the moon, to him
who was unaware. He stopped, quivered, and listened.
"My love," came again the low, plaintive call, like a bird
unseen in the night.
He was afraid. His heart quivered and broke. He was
"Anna," he said, as if he answered her from a distance,
And he drew near, and she drew near.
"Anna," he said, in wonder and the birthpain of love.
"My love," she said, her voice growing rapturous. And they
kissed on the mouth, in rapture and surprise, long, real kisses.
The kiss lasted, there among the moonlight. He kissed her again,
and she kissed him. And again they were kissing together. Till
something happened in him, he was strange. He wanted her. He
wanted her exceedingly. She was something new. They stood there
folded, suspended in the night. And his whole being quivered
with surprise, as from a blow. He wanted her, and he wanted to
tell her so. But the shock was too great to him. He had never
realized before. He trembled with irritation and unusedness, he
did not know what to do. He held her more gently, gently, much
more gently. The conflict was gone by. And he was glad, and
breathless, and almost in tears. But he knew he wanted her.
Something fixed in him for ever. He was hers. And he was very
glad and afraid. He did not know what to do, as they stood there
in the open, moonlit field. He looked through her hair at the
moon, which seemed to swim liquid-bright.
She sighed, and seemed to wake up, then she kissed him again.
Then she loosened herself away from him and took his hand. It
hurt him when she drew away from his breast. It hurt him with a
chagrin. Why did she draw away from him? But she held his
"I want to go home," she said, looking at him in a way he
could not understand.
He held close to her hand. He was dazed and he could not
move, he did not know how to move. She drew him away.
He walked helplessly beside her, holding her hand. She went
with bent head. Suddenly he said, as the simple solution stated
itself to him:
"We'll get married, Anna."
She was silent.
"We'll get married, Anna, shall we?"
She stopped in the field again and kissed him, clinging to
him passionately, in a way he could not understand. He could not
understand. But he left it all now, to marriage. That was the
solution now, fixed ahead. He wanted her, he wanted to be
married to her, he wanted to have her altogether, as his own for
ever. And he waited, intent, for the accomplishment. But there
was all the while a slight tension of irritation.
He spoke to his uncle and aunt that night.
"Uncle," he said, "Anna and me think of getting married."
"Oh ay!" said Brangwen.
"But how, you have no money?" said the mother.
The youth went pale. He hated these words. But he was like a
gleaming, bright pebble, something bright and inalterable. He
did not think. He sat there in his hard brightness, and did not
"Have you mentioned it to your own mother?" asked
"No--I'll tell her on Saturday."
"You'll go and see her?"
There was a long pause.
"And what are you going to marry on--your pound a
Again the youth went pale, as if the spirit were being
injured in him.
"I don't know," he said, looking at his uncle with his bright
inhuman eyes, like a hawk's.
Brangwen stirred in hatred.
"It needs knowing," he said.
"I shall have the money later on," said the nephew. "I will
raise some now, and pay it back then."
"Oh ay!--And why this desperate hurry? She's a child of
eighteen, and you're a boy of twenty. You're neither of you of
age to do as you like yet."
Will Brangwen ducked his head and looked at his uncle with
swift, mistrustful eyes, like a caged hawk.
"What does it matter how old she is, and how old I am?" he
said. "What's the difference between me now and when I'm
"A big difference, let us hope."
"But you have no experience--you have no experience, and
no money. Why do you want to marry, without experience or
money?" asked the aunt.
"What experience do I want, Aunt?" asked the boy.
And if Brangwen's heart had not been hard and intact with
anger, like a precious stone, he would have agreed.
Will Brangwen went home strange and untouched. He felt he
could not alter from what he was fixed upon, his will was set.
To alter it he must be destroyed. And he would not be destroyed.
He had no money. But he would get some from somewhere, it did
not matter. He lay awake for many hours, hard and clear and
unthinking, his soul crystallizing more inalterably. Then he
went fast asleep.
It was as if his soul had turned into a hard crystal. He
might tremble and quiver and suffer, it did not alter.
The next morning Tom Brangwen, inhuman with anger spoke to
"What's this about wanting to get married?" he said.
She stood, paling a little, her dark eyes springing to the
hostile, startled look of a savage thing that will defend
itself, but trembles with sensitiveness.
"I do," she said, out of her unconsciousness.
His anger rose, and he would have liked to break her.
"You do-you do-and what for?" he sneered with contempt. The
old, childish agony, the blindness that could recognize nobody,
the palpitating antagonism as of a raw, helpless, undefended
thing came back on her.
"I do because I do," she cried, in the shrill, hysterical way
of her childhood. "You are not my father--my father
is dead--you are not my father."
She was still a stranger. She did not recognize him. The cold
blade cut down, deep into Brangwen's soul. It cut him off from
"And what if I'm not?" he said.
But he could not bear it. It had been so passionately dear to
him, her "Father--Daddie."
He went about for some days as if stunned. His wife was
bemused. She did not understand. She only thought the marriage
was impeded for want of money and position.
There was a horrible silence in the house. Anna kept out of
sight as much as possible. She could be for hours alone.
Will Brangwen came back, after stupid scenes at Nottingham.
He too was pale and blank, but unchanging. His uncle hated him.
He hated this youth, who was so inhuman and obstinate.
Nevertheless, it was to Will Brangwen that the uncle, one
evening, handed over the shares which he had transferred to Anna
Lensky. They were for two thousand five hundred pounds. Will
Brangwen looked at his uncle. It was a great deal of the Marsh
capital here given away. The youth, however, was only colder and
more fixed. He was abstract, purely a fixed will. He gave the
shares to Anna.
After which she cried for a whole day, sobbing her eyes out.
And at night, when she had heard her mother go to bed, she
slipped down and hung in the doorway. Her father sat in his
heavy silence, like a monument. He turned his head slowly.
"Daddy," she cried from the doorway, and she ran to him
sobbing as if her heart would break.
She crouched on the hearthrug with her arms round him and her
face against him. His body was so big and comfortable. But
something hurt her head intolerably. She sobbed almost with
He was silent, with his hand on her shoulder. His heart was
bleak. He was not her father. That beloved image she had broken.
Who was he then? A man put apart with those whose life has no
more developments. He was isolated from her. There was a
generation between them, he was old, he had died out from hot
life. A great deal of ash was in his fire, cold ash. He felt the
inevitable coldness, and in bitterness forgot the fire. He sat
in his coldness of age and isolation. He had his own wife. And
he blamed himself, he sneered at himself, for this clinging to
the young, wanting the young to belong to him.
The child who clung to him wanted her child-husband. As was
natural. And from him, Brangwen, she wanted help, so that her
life might be properly fitted out. But love she did not want.
Why should there be love between them, between the stout,
middle-aged man and this child? How could there be anything
between them, but mere human willingness to help each other? He
was her guardian, no more. His heart was like ice, his face cold
and expressionless. She could not move him any more than a
She crept to bed, and cried. But she was going to be married
to Will Brangwen, and then she need not bother any more.
Brangwen went to bed with a hard, cold heart, and cursed
himself. He looked at his wife. She was still his wife. Her dark
hair was threaded with grey, her face was beautiful in its
gathering age. She was just fifty. How poignantly he saw her!
And he wanted to cut out some of his own heart, which was
incontinent, and demanded still to share the rapid life of
youth. How he hated himself.
His wife was so poignant and timely. She was still young and
naive, with some girl's freshness. But she did not want any more
the fight, the battle, the control, as he, in his incontinence,
still did. She was so natural, and he was ugly, unnatural, in
his inability to yield place. How hideous, this greedy
middle-age, which must stand in the way of life, like a large
What was missing in his life, that, in his ravening soul, he
was not satisfied? He had had that friend at school, his mother,
his wife, and Anna? What had he done? He had failed with his
friend, he had been a poor son; but he had known satisfaction
with his wife, let it be enough; he loathed himself for the
state he was in over Anna. Yet he was not satisfied. It was
agony to know it.
Was his life nothing? Had he nothing to show, no work? He did
not count his work, anybody could have done it. What had he
known, but the long, marital embrace with his wife! Curious,
that this was what his life amounted to! At any rate, it was
something, it was eternal. He would say so to anybody, and be
proud of it. He lay with his wife in his arms, and she was still
his fulfilment, just the same as ever. And that was the be-all
and the end-all. Yes, and he was proud of it.
But the bitterness, underneath, that there still remained an
unsatisfied Tom Brangwen, who suffered agony because a girl
cared nothing for him. He loved his sons--he had them also.
But it was the further, the creative life with the girl, he
wanted as well. Oh, and he was ashamed. He trampled himself to
What weariness! There was no peace, however old one grew! One
was never right, never decent, never master of oneself. It was
as if his hope had been in the girl.
Anna quickly lapsed again into her love for the youth. Will
Brangwen had fixed his marriage for the Saturday before
Christmas. And he waited for her, in his bright, unquestioning
fashion, until then. He wanted her, she was his, he suspended
his being till the day should come. The wedding day, December
the twenty-third, had come into being for him as an absolute
thing. He lived in it.
He did not count the days. But like a man who journeys in a
ship, he was suspended till the coming to port.
He worked at his carving, he worked in his office, he came to
see her; all was but a form of waiting, without thought or
She was much more alive. She wanted to enjoy courtship. He
seemed to come and go like the wind, without asking why or
whither. But she wanted to enjoy his presence. For her, he was
the kernel of life, to touch him alone was bliss. But for him,
she was the essence of life. She existed as much when he was at
his carving in his lodging in Ilkeston, as when she sat looking
at him in the Marsh kitchen. In himself, he knew her. But his
outward faculties seemed suspended. He did not see her with his
eyes, nor hear her with his voice.
And yet he trembled, sometimes into a kind of swoon, holding
her in his arms. They would stand sometimes folded together in
the barn, in silence. Then to her, as she felt his young, tense
figure with her hands, the bliss was intolerable, intolerable
the sense that she possessed him. For his body was so keen and
wonderful, it was the only reality in her world. In her world,
there was this one tense, vivid body of a man, and then many
other shadowy men, all unreal. In him, she touched the centre of
reality. And they were together, he and she, at the heart of the
secret. How she clutched him to her, his body the central body
of all life. Out of the rock of his form the very fountain of
But to him, she was a flame that consumed him. The flame
flowed up his limbs, flowed through him, till he was consumed,
till he existed only as an unconscious, dark transit of flame,
deriving from her.
Sometimes, in the darkness, a cow coughed. There was, in the
darkness, a slow sound of cud chewing. And it all seemed to flow
round them and upon them as the hot blood flows through the
womb, laving the unborn young.
Sometimes, when it was cold, they stood to be lovers in the
stables, where the air was warm and sharp with ammonia. And
during these dark vigils, he learned to know her, her body
against his, they drew nearer and nearer together, the kisses
came more subtly close and fitting. So when in the thick
darkness a horse suddenly scrambled to its feet, with a dull,
thunderous sound, they listened as one person listening, they
knew as one person, they were conscious of the horse.
Tom Brangwen had taken them a cottage at Cossethay, on a
twenty-one years' lease. Will Brangwen's eyes lit up as he saw
it. It was the cottage next the church, with dark yew-trees,
very black old trees, along the side of the house and the grassy
front garden; a red, squarish cottage with a low slate roof, and
low windows. It had a long dairy-scullery, a big flagged
kitchen, and a low parlour, that went up one step from the
kitchen. There were whitewashed beams across the ceilings, and
odd corners with cupboards. Looking out through the windows,
there was the grassy garden, the procession of black yew trees
down one side, and along the other sides, a red wall with ivy
separating the place from the high-road and the churchyard. The
old, little church, with its small spire on a square tower,
seemed to be looking back at the cottage windows.
"There'll be no need to have a clock," said Will Brangwen,
peeping out at the white clock-face on the tower, his
At the back of the house was a garden adjoining the paddock,
a cowshed with standing for two cows, pig-cotes and fowl-houses.
Will Brangwen was very happy. Anna was glad to think of being
mistress of her own place.
Tom Brangwen was now the fairy godfather. He was never happy
unless he was buying something. Will Brangwen, with his interest
in all wood-work, was getting the furniture. He was left to buy
tables and round-staved chairs and the dressers, quite ordinary
stuff, but such as was identified with his cottage.
Tom Brangwen, with more particular thought, spied out what he
called handy little things for her. He appeared with a set of
new-fangled cooking-pans, with a special sort of hanging lamp,
though the rooms were so low, with canny little machines for
grinding meat or mashing potatoes or whisking eggs.
Anna took a sharp interest in what he bought, though she was
not always pleased. Some of the little contrivances, which he
thought so canny, left her doubtful. Nevertheless she was always
expectant, on market days there was always a long thrill of
anticipation. He arrived with the first darkness, the copper
lamps of his cart glowing. And she ran to the gate, as he, a
dark, burly figure up in the cart, was bending over his
"It's cupboard love as brings you out so sharp," he said, his
voice resounding in the cold darkness. Nevertheless he was
excited. And she, taking one of the cart lamps, poked and peered
among the jumble of things he had brought, pushing aside the oil
or implements he had got for himself.
She dragged out a pair of small, strong bellows, registered
them in her mind, and then pulled uncertainly at something else.
It had a long handle, and a piece of brown paper round the
middle of it, like a waistcoat.
"What's this?" she said, poking.
He stopped to look at her. She went to the lamp-light by the
horse, and stood there bent over the new thing, while her hair
was like bronze, her apron white and cheerful. Her fingers
plucked busily at the paper. She dragged forth a little wringer,
with clean indiarubber rollers. She examined it critically, not
knowing quite how it worked.
She looked up at him. He stood a shadowy presence beyond the
"How does it go?" she asked.
"Why, it's for pulpin' turnips," he replied.
She looked at him. His voice disturbed her.
"Don't be silly. It's a little mangle," she said. "How do you
stand it, though?"
"You screw it on th' side o' your wash-tub." He came and held
it out to her.
"Oh, yes!" she cried, with one of her little skipping
movements, which still came when she was suddenly glad.
And without another thought she ran off into the house,
leaving him to untackle the horse. And when he came into the
scullery, he found her there, with the little wringer fixed on
the dolly-tub, turning blissfully at the handle, and Tilly
beside her, exclaiming:
"My word, that's a natty little thing! That'll save you
luggin' your inside out. That's the latest contraption, that
And Anna turned away at the handle, with great gusto of
possession. Then she let Tilly have a turn.
"It fair runs by itself," said Tilly, turning on and on.
"Your clothes'll nip out on to th' line."
WEDDING AT THE MARSH
It was a beautiful sunny day for the wedding, a muddy earth
but a bright sky. They had three cabs and two big closed-in
vehicles. Everybody crowded in the parlour in excitement. Anna
was still upstairs. Her father kept taking a nip of brandy. He
was handsome in his black coat and grey trousers. His voice was
hearty but troubled. His wife came down in dark grey silk with
lace, and a touch of peacock-blue in her bonnet. Her little body
was very sure and definite. Brangwen was thankful she was there,
to sustain him among all these people.
The carriages! The Nottingham Mrs. Brangwen, in silk brocade,
stands in the doorway saying who must go with whom. There is a
great bustle. The front door is opened, and the wedding guests
are walking down the garden path, whilst those still waiting
peer through the window, and the little crowd at the gate gorps
and stretches. How funny such dressed-up people look in the
They are gone--another lot! There begins to be more
room. Anna comes down blushing and very shy, to be viewed in her
white silk and her veil. Her mother-in-law surveys her
objectively, twitches the white train, arranges the folds of the
veil and asserts herself.
Loud exclamations from the window that the bridegroom's
carriage has just passed.
"Where's your hat, father, and your gloves?" cries the bride,
stamping her white slipper, her eyes flashing through her veil.
He hunts round--his hair is ruffled. Everybody has gone but
the bride and her father. He is ready--his face very red
and daunted. Tilly dithers in the little porch, waiting to open
the door. A waiting woman walks round Anna, who asks:
"Am I all right?"
She is ready. She bridles herself and looks queenly. She
waves her hand sharply to her father:
He goes. She puts her hand very lightly on his arm, and
holding her bouquet like a shower, stepping, oh, very
graciously, just a little impatient with her father for being so
red in the face, she sweeps slowly past the fluttering Tilly,
and down the path. There are hoarse shouts at the gate, and all
her floating foamy whiteness passes slowly into the cab.
Her father notices her slim ankle and foot as she steps up: a
child's foot. His heart is hard with tenderness. But she is in
ecstasies with herself for making such a lovely spectacle. All
the way she sat flamboyant with bliss because it was all so
lovely. She looked down solicitously at her bouquet: white roses
and lilies-of-the-valley and tube-roses and maidenhair
fern--very rich and cascade-like.
Her father sat bewildered with all this strangeness, his
heart was so full it felt hard, and he couldn't think of
The church was decorated for Christmas, dark with evergreens,
cold and snowy with white flowers. He went vaguely down to the
altar. How long was it since he had gone to be married himself?
He was not sure whether he was going to be married now, or what
he had come for. He had a troubled notion that he had to do
something or other. He saw his wife's bonnet, and wondered why
she wasn't there with him.
They stood before the altar. He was staring up at the east
window, that glowed intensely, a sort of blue purple: it was
deep blue glowing, and some crimson, and little yellow flowers
held fast in veins of shadow, in a heavy web of darkness. How it
burned alive in radiance among its black web.
"Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?" He felt
somebody touch him. He started. The words still re-echoed in his
memory, but were drawing off.
"Me," he said hastily.
Ann bent her head and smiled in her veil. How absurd he
Brangwen was staring away at the burning blue window at the
back of the altar, and wondering vaguely, with pain, if he ever
should get old, if he ever should feel arrived and established.
He was here at Anna's wedding. Well, what right had he to feel
responsible, like a father? He was still as unsure and unfixed
as when he had married himself. His wife and he! With a pang of
anguish he realized what uncertainties they both were. He was a
man of forty-five. Forty-five! In five more years fifty. Then
sixty--then seventy--then it was finished. My
God--and one still was so unestablished!
How did one grow old-how could one become confident? He
wished he felt older. Why, what difference was there, as far as
he felt matured or completed, between him now and him at his own
wedding? He might be getting married over again--he and his
wife. He felt himself tiny, a little, upright figure on a plain
circled round with the immense, roaring sky: he and his wife,
two little, upright figures walking across this plain, whilst
the heavens shimmered and roared about them. When did one come
to an end? In which direction was it finished? There was no end,
no finish, only this roaring vast space. Did one never get old,
never die? That was the clue. He exulted strangely, with
torture. He would go on with his wife, he and she like two
children camping in the plains. What was sure but the endless
sky? But that was so sure, so boundless.
Still the royal blue colour burned and blazed and sported
itself in the web of darkness before him, unwearyingly rich and
splendid. How rich and splendid his own life was, red and
burning and blazing and sporting itself in the dark meshes of
his body: and his wife, how she glowed and burned dark within
her meshes! Always it was so unfinished and unformed!
There was a loud noise of the organ. The whole party was
trooping to the vestry. There was a blotted, scrawled
book--and that young girl putting back her veil in her
vanity, and laying her hand with the wedding-ring
self-consciously conspicuous, and signing her name proudly
because of the vain spectacle she made:
"Anna Theresa Lensky."
"Anna Theresa Lensky"--what a vain, independent minx she
was! The bridegroom, slender in his black swallow-tail and grey
trousers, solemn as a young solemn cat, was writing
That looked more like it.
"Come and sign, father," cried the imperious young hussy.
"Thomas Brangwen--clumsy-fist," he said to himself as he
Then his brother, a big, sallow fellow with black
"How many more Brangwens?" said Tom Brangwen, ashamed of the
too-frequent recurrence of his family name.
When they were out again in the sunshine, and he saw the
frost hoary and blue among the long grass under the tomb-stones,
the holly-berries overhead twinkling scarlet as the bells rang,
the yew trees hanging their black, motionless, ragged boughs,
everything seemed like a vision.
The marriage party went across the graveyard to the wall,
mounted it by the little steps, and descended. Oh, a vain white
peacock of a bride perching herself on the top of the wall and
giving her hand to the bridegroom on the other side, to be
helped down! The vanity of her white, slim, daintily-stepping
feet, and her arched neck. And the regal impudence with which
she seemed to dismiss them all, the others, parents and wedding
guests, as she went with her young husband.
In the cottage big fires were burning, there were dozens of
glasses on the table, and holly and mistletoe hanging up. The
wedding party crowded in, and Tom Brangwen, becoming roisterous,
poured out drinks. Everybody must drink. The bells were ringing
away against the windows.
"Lift your glasses up," shouted Tom Brangwen from the
parlour, "lift your glasses up, an' drink to the hearth an'
home--hearth an' home, an' may they enjoy it."
"Night an' day, an' may they enjoy it," shouted Frank
Brangwen, in addition.
"Hammer an' tongs, and may they enjoy it," shouted Alfred
Brangwen, the saturnine.
"Fill your glasses up, an' let's have it all over again,"
shouted Tom Brangwen.
"Hearth an' home, an' may ye enjoy it."
There was a ragged shout of the company in response.
"Bed an' blessin', an' may ye enjoy it," shouted Frank
There was a swelling chorus in answer.
"Comin' and goin', an' may ye enjoy it," shouted the
saturnine Alfred Brangwen, and the men roared by now boldly, and
the women said, "Just hark, now!"
There was a touch of scandal in the air.
Then the party rolled off in the carriages, full speed back
to the Marsh, to a large meal of the high-tea order, which
lasted for an hour and a half. The bride and bridegroom sat at
the head of the table, very prim and shining both of them,
wordless, whilst the company raged down the table.
The Brangwen men had brandy in their tea, and were becoming
unmanageable. The saturnine Alfred had glittering, unseeing
eyes, and a strange, fierce way of laughing that showed his
teeth. His wife glowered at him and jerked her head at him like
a snake. He was oblivious. Frank Brangwen, the butcher, flushed
and florid and handsome, roared echoes to his two brothers. Tom
Brangwen, in his solid fashion, was letting himself go at
These three brothers dominated the whole company. Tom
Brangwen wanted to make a speech. For the first time in his
life, he must spread himself wordily.
"Marriage," he began, his eyes twinkling and yet quite
profound, for he was deeply serious and hugely amused at the
same time, "Marriage," he said, speaking in the slow,
full-mouthed way of the Brangwens, "is what we're made
"Let him talk," said Alfred Brangwen, slowly and inscrutably,
"let him talk." Mrs. Alfred darted indignant eyes at her
"A man," continued Tom Brangwen, "enjoys being a man: for
what purpose was he made a man, if not to enjoy it?"
"That a true word," said Frank, floridly.
"And likewise," continued Tom Brangwen, "a woman enjoys being
a woman: at least we surmise she does----"
"Oh, don't you bother----" called a farmer's
"You may back your life they'd be summisin'." said Frank's
"Now," continued Tom Brangwen, "for a man to be a man, it
takes a woman----"
"It does that," said a woman grimly.
"And for a woman to be a woman, it takes a man----"
continued Tom Brangwen.
"All speak up, men," chimed in a feminine voice.
"Therefore we have marriage," continued Tom Brangwen.
"Hold, hold," said Alfred Brangwen. "Don't run us off our
And in dead silence the glasses were filled. The bride and
bridegroom, two children, sat with intent, shining faces at the
head of the table, abstracted.
"There's no marriage in heaven," went on Tom Brangwen; "but
on earth there is marriage."
"That's the difference between 'em," said Alfred Brangwen,
"Alfred," said Tom Brangwen, "keep your remarks till
afterwards, and then we'll thank you for them.-=--There's
very little else, on earth, but marriage. You can talk about
making money, or saving souls. You can save your own soul seven
times over, and you may have a mint of money, but your soul goes
gnawin', gnawin', gnawin', and it says there's something it must
have. In heaven there is no marriage. But on earth there is
marriage, else heaven drops out, and there's no bottom to
"Just hark you now," said Frank's wife.
"Go on, Thomas," said Alfred sardonically.
"If we've got to be Angels," went on Tom Brangwen,
haranguing the company at large, "and if there is no such thing
as a man nor a woman amongst them, then it seems to me as a
married couple makes one Angel."
"It's the brandy," said Alfred Brangwen wearily.
"For," said Tom Brangwen, and the company was listening to
the conundrum, "an Angel can't be less than a human being. And
if it was only the soul of a man minus the man, then it would be
less than a human being."
"Decidedly," said Alfred.
And a laugh went round the table. But Tom Brangwen was
"An Angel's got to be more than a human being," he continued.
"So I say, an Angel is the soul of man and woman in one: they
rise united at the Judgment Day, as one Angel----"
"Praising the Lord," said Frank.
"Praising the Lord," repeated Tom.
"And what about the women left over?" asked Alfred, jeering.
The company was getting uneasy.
"That I can't tell. How do I know as there is anybody left
over at the Judgment Day? Let that be. What I say is, that when
a man's soul and a woman's soul unites together--that makes
"I dunno about souls. I know as one plus one makes three,
sometimes," said Frank. But he had the laugh to himself.
"Bodies and souls, it's the same," said Tom.
"And what about your missis, who was married afore you knew
her?" asked Alfred, set on edge by this discourse.
"That I can't tell you. If I am to become an Angel, it'll be
my married soul, and not my single soul. It'll not be the soul
of me when I was a lad: for I hadn't a soul as would make
an Angel then."
"I can always remember," said Frank's wife, "when our Harold
was bad, he did nothink but see an angel at th' back o' th'
lookin'-glass. 'Look, mother,' 'e said, 'at that angel!' 'Theer
isn't no angel, my duck,' I said, but he wouldn't have it. I
took th' lookin'-glass off'n th' dressin'-table, but it made no
difference. He kep' on sayin' it was there. My word, it did give
me a turn. I thought for sure as I'd lost him."
"I can remember," said another man, Tom's sister's husband,
"my mother gave me a good hidin' once, for sayin' I'd got an
angel up my nose. She seed me pokin', an' she said: 'What are
you pokin' at your nose for-give over.' 'There's an angel up
it,' I said, an' she fetched me such a wipe. But there was. We
used to call them thistle things 'angels' as wafts about. An'
I'd pushed one o' these up my nose, for some reason or
"It's wonderful what children will get up their noses," said
Frank's wife. "I c'n remember our Hemmie, she shoved one o' them
bluebell things out o' th' middle of a bluebell, what they call
'candles', up her nose, and oh, we had some work! I'd seen her
stickin' 'em on the end of her nose, like, but I never thought
she'd be so soft as to shove it right up. She was a gel of eight
or more. Oh, my word, we got a crochet-hook an' I don't know
Tom Brangwen's mood of inspiration began to pass away. He
forgot all about it, and was soon roaring and shouting with the
rest. Outside the wake came, singing the carols. They were
invited into the bursting house. They had two fiddles and a
piccolo. There in the parlour they played carols, and the whole
company sang them at the top of its voice. Only the bride and
bridegroom sat with shining eyes and strange, bright faces, and
scarcely sang, or only with just moving lips.
The wake departed, and the guysers came. There was loud
applause, and shouting and excitement as the old mystery play of
St. George, in which every man present had acted as a boy,
proceeded, with banging and thumping of club and dripping
"By Jove, I got a crack once, when I was playin' Beelzebub,"
said Tom Brangwen, his eyes full of water with laughing. "It
knocked all th' sense out of me as you'd crack an egg. But I
tell you, when I come to, I played Old Johnny Roger with St.
George, I did that."
He was shaking with laughter. Another knock came at the door.
There was a hush.
"It's th' cab," said somebody from the door.
"Walk in," shouted Tom Brangwen, and a red-faced grinning man
"Now, you two, get yourselves ready an' off to blanket fair,"
shouted Tom Brangwen. "Strike a daisy, but if you're not off
like a blink o' lightnin', you shanna go, you s'll sleep
Anna rose silently and went to change her dress. Will
Brangwen would have gone out, but Tilly came with his hat and
coat. The youth was helped on.
"Well, here's luck, my boy," shouted his father.
"When th' fat's in th' fire, let it frizzle," admonished his
"Fair and softly does it, fair an' softly does
it," cried his aunt, Frank's wife, contrary.
"You don't want to fall over yourself," said his uncle by
marriage. "You're not a bull at a gate."
"Let a man have his own road," said Tom Brangwen testily.
"Don't be so free of your advice--it's his wedding this
time, not yours."
"'E don't want many sign-posts," said his father. "There's
some roads a man has to be led, an' there's some roads a
boss-eyed man can only follow wi' one eye shut. But this road
can't be lost by a blind man nor a boss-eyed man nor a
cripple--and he's neither, thank God."
"Don't you be so sure o' your walkin' powers," cried Frank's
wife. "There's many a man gets no further than half-way, nor
can't to save his life, let him live for ever."
"Why, how do you know?" said Alfred.
"It's plain enough in th' looks o' some," retorted Lizzie,
The youth stood with a faint, half-hearing smile on his face.
He was tense and abstracted. These things, or anything, scarcely
Anna came down, in her day dress, very elusive. She kissed
everybody, men and women, Will Brangwen shook hands with
everybody, kissed his mother, who began to cry, and the whole
party went surging out to the cab.
The young couple were shut up, last injunctions shouted at
"Drive on," shouted Tom Brangwen.
The cab rolled off. They saw the light diminish under the ash
trees. Then the whole party, quietened, went indoors.
"They'll have three good fires burning," said Tom Brangwen,
looking at his watch. "I told Emma to make 'em up at nine, an'
then leave the door on th' latch. It's only half-past. They'll
have three fires burning, an' lamps lighted, an' Emma will ha'
warmed th' bed wi' th' warmin' pan. So I s'd think they'll be
The party was much quieter. They talked of the young
"She said she didn't want a servant in," said Tom Brangwen.
"The house isn't big enough, she'd always have the creature
under her nose. Emma'll do what is wanted of her, an' they'll be
"It's best," said Lizzie, "you're more free."
The party talked on slowly. Brangwen looked at his watch.
"Let's go an' give 'em a carol," he said. "We s'll find th'
fiddles at the 'Cock an' Robin'."
"Ay, come on," said Frank.
Alfred rose in silence. The brother-in-law and one of Will's
brothers rose also.
The five men went out. The night was flashing with stars.
Sirius blazed like a signal at the side of the hill, Orion,
stately and magnificent, was sloping along.
Tom walked with his brother, Alfred. The men's heels rang on
"It's a fine night," said Tom.
"Ay," said Alfred.
"Nice to get out."
The brothers walked close together, the bond of blood strong
between them. Tom always felt very much the junior to
"It's a long while since you left home," he said.
"Ay," said Alfred. "I thought I was getting a bit
oldish--but I'm not. It's the things you've got as gets
worn out, it's not you yourself."
"Why, what's worn out?"
"Most folks as I've anything to do with--as has anything
to do with me. They all break down. You've got to go on by
yourself, if it's only to perdition. There's nobody going
alongside even there."
Tom Brangwen meditated this.
"Maybe you was never broken in," he said.
"No, I never was," said Alfred proudly.
And Tom felt his elder brother despised him a little. He
winced under it.
"Everybody's got a way of their own," he said, stubbornly.
"It's only a dog as hasn't. An' them as can't take what they
give an' give what they take, they must go by themselves, or get
a dog as'll follow 'em."
"They can do without the dog," said his brother. And again
Tom Brangwen was humble, thinking his brother was bigger than
himself. But if he was, he was. And if it were finer to go
alone, it was: he did not want to go for all that.
They went over the field, where a thin, keen wind blew round
the ball of the hill, in the starlight. They came to the stile,
and to the side of Anna's house. The lights were out, only on
the blinds of the rooms downstairs, and of a bedroom upstairs,
"We'd better leave 'em alone," said Alfred Brangwen.
"Nay, nay," said Tom. "We'll carol 'em, for th' last
And in a quarter of an hour's time, eleven silent, rather
tipsy men scrambled over the wall, and into the garden by the
yew trees, outside the windows where faint firelight glowered on
the blinds. There came a shrill sound, two violins and a piccolo
shrilling on the frosty air.
"In the fields with their flocks abiding." A commotion of
men's voices broke out singing in ragged unison.
Anna Brangwen had started up, listening, when the music
began. She was afraid.
"It's the wake," he whispered.
She remained tense, her heart beating heavily, possessed with
strange, strong fear. Then there came the burst of men's
singing, rather uneven. She strained still, listening.
"It's Dad," she said, in a low voice. They were silent,
"And my father," he said.
She listened still. But she was sure. She sank down again
into bed, into his arms. He held her very close, kissing her.
The hymn rambled on outside, all the men singing their best,
having forgotten everything else under the spell of the fiddles
and the tune. The firelight glowed against the darkness in the
room. Anna could hear her father singing with gusto.
"Aren't they silly," she whispered.
And they crept closer, closer together, hearts beating to one
another. And even as the hymn rolled on, they ceased to hear
Will Brangwen had some weeks of holiday after his marriage,
so the two took their honeymoon in full hands, alone in their
And to him, as the days went by, it was as if the heavens had
fallen, and he were sitting with her among the ruins, in a new
world, everybody else buried, themselves two blissful survivors,
with everything to squander as they would. At first, he could
not get rid of a culpable sense of licence on his part. Wasn't
there some duty outside, calling him and he did not come?
It was all very well at night, when the doors were locked and
the darkness drawn round the two of them. Then they were the
only inhabitants of the visible earth, the rest were under the
flood. And being alone in the world, they were a law unto
themselves, they could enjoy and squander and waste like
But in the morning, as the carts clanked by, and children
shouted down the lane; as the hucksters came calling their
wares, and the church clock struck eleven, and he and she had
not got up yet, even to breakfast, he could not help feeling
guilty, as if he were committing a breach of the
law--ashamed that he was not up and doing.
"Doing what?" she asked. "What is there to do? You will only
Still, even lounging about was respectable. One was at least
in connection with the world, then. Whereas now, lying so still
and peacefully, while the daylight came obscurely through the
drawn blind, one was severed from the world, one shut oneself
off in tacit denial of the world. And he was troubled.
But it was so sweet and satisfying lying there talking
desultorily with her. It was sweeter than sunshine, and not so
evanescent. It was even irritating the way the church-clock kept
on chiming: there seemed no space between the hours, just a
moment, golden and still, whilst she traced his features with
her finger-tips, utterly careless and happy, and he loved her to
But he was strange and unused. So suddenly, everything that
had been before was shed away and gone. One day, he was a
bachelor, living with the world. The next day, he was with her,
as remote from the world as if the two of them were buried like
a seed in darkness. Suddenly, like a chestnut falling out of a
burr, he was shed naked and glistening on to a soft, fecund
earth, leaving behind him the hard rind of worldly knowledge and
experience. He heard it in the huckster's cries, the noise of
carts, the calling of children. And it was all like the hard,
shed rind, discarded. Inside, in the softness and stillness of
the room, was the naked kernel, that palpitated in silent
activity, absorbed in reality.
Inside the room was a great steadiness, a core of living
eternity. Only far outside, at the rim, went on the noise and
the destruction. Here at the centre the great wheel was
motionless, centred upon itself. Here was a poised, unflawed
stillness that was beyond time, because it remained the same,
inexhaustible, unchanging, unexhausted.
As they lay close together, complete and beyond the touch of
time or change, it was as if they were at the very centre of all
the slow wheeling of space and the rapid agitation of life,
deep, deep inside them all, at the centre where there is utter
radiance, and eternal being, and the silence absorbed in praise:
the steady core of all movements, the unawakened sleep of all
wakefulness. They found themselves there, and they lay still, in
each other's arms; for their moment they were at the heart of
eternity, whilst time roared far off, for ever far off, towards
Then gradually they were passed away from the supreme centre,
down the circles of praise and joy and gladness, further and
further out, towards the noise and the friction. But their
hearts had burned and were tempered by the inner reality, they
were unalterably glad.
Gradually they began to wake up, the noises outside became
more real. They understood and answered the call outside. They
counted the strokes of the bell. And when they counted midday,
they understood that it was midday, in the world, and for
It dawned upon her that she was hungry. She had been getting
hungrier for a lifetime. But even yet it was not sufficiently
real to rouse her. A long way off she could hear the words, "I
am dying of hunger." Yet she lay still, separate, at peace, and
the words were unuttered. There was still another lapse.
And then, quite calmly, even a little surprised, she was in
the present, and was saying:
"I am dying with hunger."
"So am I," he said calmly, as if it were of not the slightest
significance. And they relapsed into the warm, golden stillness.
And the minutes flowed unheeded past the window outside.
Then suddenly she stirred against him.
"My dear, I am dying of hunger," she said.
It was a slight pain to him to be brought to.
"We'll get up," he said, unmoving.
And she sank her head on to him again, and they lay still,
lapsing. Half consciously, he heard the clock chime the hour.
She did not hear.
"Do get up," she murmured at length, "and give me something
"Yes," he said, and he put his arms round her, and she lay
with her face on him. They were faintly astonished that they did
not move. The minutes rustled louder at the window.
"Let me go then," he said.
She lifted her head from him, relinquishingly. With a little
breaking away, he moved out of bed, and was taking his clothes.
She stretched out her hand to him.
"You are so nice," she said, and he went back for a moment or
Then actually he did slip into some clothes, and, looking
round quickly at her, was gone out of the room. She lay
translated again into a pale, clearer peace. As if she were a
spirit, she listened to the noise of him downstairs, as if she
were no longer of the material world.
It was half-past one. He looked at the silent kitchen,
untouched from last night, dim with the drawn blind. And he
hastened to draw up the blind, so people should know they were
not in bed any later. Well, it was his own house, it did not
matter. Hastily he put wood in the grate and made a fire. He
exulted in himself, like an adventurer on an undiscovered
island. The fire blazed up, he put on the kettle. How happy he
felt! How still and secluded the house was! There were only he
and she in the world.
But when he unbolted the door, and, half-dressed, looked out,
he felt furtive and guilty. The world was there, after all. And
he had felt so secure, as though this house were the Ark in the
flood, and all the rest was drowned. The world was there: and it
was afternoon. The morning had vanished and gone by, the day was
growing old. Where was the bright, fresh morning? He was
accused. Was the morning gone, and he had lain with blinds
drawn, let it pass by unnoticed?
He looked again round the chill, grey afternoon. And he
himself so soft and warm and glowing! There were two sprigs of
yellow jasmine in the saucer that covered the milk-jug. He
wondered who had been and left the sign. Taking the jug, he
hastily shut the door. Let the day and the daylight drop out,
let it go by unseen. He did not care. What did one day more or
less matter to him. It could fall into oblivion unspent if it
liked, this one course of daylight.
"Somebody has been and found the door locked," he said when
he went upstairs with the tray. He gave her the two sprigs of
jasmine. She laughed as she sat up in bed, childishly threading
the flowers in the breast of her nightdress. Her brown hair
stuck out like a nimbus, all fierce, round her softly glowing
face. Her dark eyes watched the tray eagerly.
"How good!" she cried, sniffing the cold air. "I'm glad you
did a lot." And she stretched out her hands eagerly for her
plate--"Come back to bed, quick--it's cold." She
rubbed her hands together sharply.
He [put off what little clothing he had on, and] sat beside her
in the bed.
"You look like a lion, with your mane sticking out, and your
nose pushed over your food," he said.
She tinkled with laughter, and gladly ate her breakfast.
The morning was sunk away unseen, the afternoon was steadily
going too, and he was letting it go. One bright transit of
daylight gone by unacknowledged! There was something unmanly,
recusant in it. He could not quite reconcile himself to the
fact. He felt he ought to get up, go out quickly into the
daylight, and work or spend himself energetically in the open
air of the afternoon, retrieving what was left to him of the
But he did not go. Well, one might as well be hung for a
sheep as for a lamb. If he had lost this day of his life, he had
lost it. He gave it up. He was not going to count his losses.
She didn't care. She didn't care in the least.
Then why should he? Should he be behind her in recklessness and
independence? She was superb in her indifference. He wanted to
be like her.
She took her responsibilities lightly. When she spilled her
tea on the pillow, she rubbed it carelessly with a handkerchief,
and turned over the pillow. He would have felt guilty. She did
not. And it pleased him. It pleased him very much to see how
these things did not matter to her.
When the meal was over, she wiped her mouth on her
handkerchief quickly, satisfied and happy, and settled down on
the pillow again, with her fingers in his close, strange,
The evening began to fall, the light was half alive, livid.
He hid his face against her.
"I don't like the twilight," he said.
"I love it," she answered.
He hid his face against her, who was warm and like sunlight.
She seemed to have sunlight inside her. Her heart beating seemed
like sunlight upon him. In her was a more real day than the day
could give: so warm and steady and restoring. He hid his face
against her whilst the twilight fell, whilst she lay staring out
with her unseeing dark eyes, as if she wandered forth
untrammelled in the vagueness. The vagueness gave her scope and
set her free.
To him, turned towards her heart-pulse, all was very still
and very warm and very close, like noon-tide. He was glad to
know this warm, full noon. It ripened him and took away his
responsibility, some of his conscience.
They got up when it was quite dark. She hastily twisted her
hair into a knot, and was dressed in a twinkling. Then they went
downstairs, drew to the fire, and sat in silence, saying a few
words now and then.
Her father was coming. She bundled the dishes away, flew
round and tidied the room, assumed another character, and again
seated herself. He sat thinking of his carving of Eve. He loved
to go over his carving in his mind, dwelling on every stroke,
every line. How he loved it now! When he went back to his
Creation-panel again, he would finish his Eve, tender and
sparkling. It did not satisfy him yet. The Lord should labour
over her in a silent passion of Creation, and Adam should be
tense as if in a dream of immortality, and Eve should take form
glimmeringly, shadowily, as if the Lord must wrestle with His
own soul for her, yet she was a radiance.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked.
He found it difficult to say. His soul became shy when he
tried to communicate it.
"I was thinking my Eve was too hard and lively."
"I don't know. She should be more----," he made a
gesture of infinite tenderness.
There was a stillness with a little joy. He could not tell
her any more. Why could he not tell her any more? She felt a
pang of disconsolate sadness. But it was nothing. She went to
Her father came, and found them both very glowing, like an
open flower. He loved to sit with them. Where there was a
perfume of love, anyone who came must breathe it. They were both
very quick and alive, lit up from the other-world, so that it
was quite an experience for them, that anyone else could
But still it troubled Will Brangwen a little, in his orderly,
conventional mind, that the established rule of things had gone
so utterly. One ought to get up in the morning and wash oneself
and be a decent social being. Instead, the two of them stayed in
bed till nightfall, and then got up, she never washed her face,
but sat there talking to her father as bright and shameless as a
daisy opened out of the dew. Or she got up at ten o'clock, and
quite blithely went to bed again at three, or at half-past four,
stripping him naked in the daylight, and all so gladly and
perfectly, oblivious quite of his qualms. He let her do as she
liked with him, and shone with strange pleasure. She was to
dispose of him as she would. He was translated with gladness to
be in her hands. And down went his qualms, his maxims, his
rules, his smaller beliefs, she scattered them like an expert
skittle-player. He was very much astonished and delighted to see
He stood and gazed and grinned with wonder whilst his Tablets
of Stone went bounding and bumping and splintering down the
hill, dislodged for ever. Indeed, it was true as they said, that
a man wasn't born before he was married. What a change
He surveyed the rind of the world: houses, factories, trams,
the discarded rind; people scurrying about, work going on, all
on the discarded surface. An earthquake had burst it all from
inside. It was as if the surface of the world had been broken
away entire: Ilkeston, streets, church, people, work,
rule-of-the-day, all intact; and yet peeled away into unreality,
leaving here exposed the inside, the reality: one's own being,
strange feelings and passions and yearnings and beliefs and
aspirations, suddenly become present, revealed, the permanent
bedrock, knitted one rock with the woman one loved. It was
confounding. Things are not what they seem! When he was a child,
he had thought a woman was a woman merely by virtue of her
skirts and petticoats. And now, lo, the whole world could be
divested of its garment, the garment could lie there shed away
intact, and one could stand in a new world, a new earth, naked
in a new, naked universe. It was too astounding and
This then was marriage! The old things didn't matter any
more. One got up at four o'clock, and had broth at tea-time and
made toffee in the middle of the night. One didn't put on one's
clothes or one did put on one's clothes. He still was not quite
sure it was not criminal. But it was a discovery to find one
might be so supremely absolved. All that mattered was that he
should love her and she should love him and they should live
kindled to one another, like the Lord in two burning bushes that
were not consumed. And so they lived for the time.
She was less hampered than he, so she came more quickly to
her fulness, and was sooner ready to enjoy again a return to the
outside world. She was going to give a tea-party. His heart
sank. He wanted to go on, to go on as they were. He wanted to
have done with the outside world, to declare it finished for
ever. He was anxious with a deep desire and anxiety that she
should stay with him where
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