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
Women in Love.
by D. H. Lawrence.
CHAPTER 1. SISTERS.
Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen sat one morning in the window-bay of their
father's house in Beldover, working and talking. Ursula was stitching a
piece of brightly-coloured embroidery, and Gudrun was drawing upon a
board which she held on her knee. They were mostly silent, talking as
their thoughts strayed through their minds.
'Ursula,' said Gudrun, 'don't you REALLY WANT to get married?' Ursula
laid her embroidery in her lap and looked up. Her face was calm and
'I don't know,' she replied. 'It depends how you mean.'
Gudrun was slightly taken aback. She watched her sister for some
'Well,' she said, ironically, 'it usually means one thing! But don't
you think anyhow, you'd be--' she darkened slightly--'in a better
position than you are in now.'
A shadow came over Ursula's face.
'I might,' she said. 'But I'm not sure.'
Again Gudrun paused, slightly irritated. She wanted to be quite
'You don't think one needs the EXPERIENCE of having been married?' she
'Do you think it need BE an experience?' replied Ursula.
'Bound to be, in some way or other,' said Gudrun, coolly. 'Possibly
undesirable, but bound to be an experience of some sort.'
'Not really,' said Ursula. 'More likely to be the end of experience.'
Gudrun sat very still, to attend to this.
'Of course,' she said, 'there's THAT to consider.' This brought the
conversation to a close. Gudrun, almost angrily, took up her rubber and
began to rub out part of her drawing. Ursula stitched absorbedly.
'You wouldn't consider a good offer?' asked Gudrun.
'I think I've rejected several,' said Ursula.
'REALLY!' Gudrun flushed dark--'But anything really worth while? Have
'A thousand a year, and an awfully nice man. I liked him awfully,' said
'Really! But weren't you fearfully tempted?'
'In the abstract but not in the concrete,' said Ursula. 'When it comes
to the point, one isn't even tempted--oh, if I were tempted, I'd marry
like a shot. I'm only tempted NOT to.' The faces of both sisters
suddenly lit up with amusement.
'Isn't it an amazing thing,' cried Gudrun, 'how strong the temptation
is, not to!' They both laughed, looking at each other. In their hearts
they were frightened.
There was a long pause, whilst Ursula stitched and Gudrun went on with
her sketch. The sisters were women, Ursula twenty-six, and Gudrun
twenty-five. But both had the remote, virgin look of modern girls,
sisters of Artemis rather than of Hebe. Gudrun was very beautiful,
passive, soft-skinned, soft-limbed. She wore a dress of dark-blue silky
stuff, with ruches of blue and green linen lace in the neck and
sleeves; and she had emerald-green stockings. Her look of confidence
and diffidence contrasted with Ursula's sensitive expectancy. The
provincial people, intimidated by Gudrun's perfect sang-froid and
exclusive bareness of manner, said of her: 'She is a smart woman.' She
had just come back from London, where she had spent several years,
working at an art-school, as a student, and living a studio life.
'I was hoping now for a man to come along,' Gudrun said, suddenly
catching her underlip between her teeth, and making a strange grimace,
half sly smiling, half anguish. Ursula was afraid.
'So you have come home, expecting him here?' she laughed.
'Oh my dear,' cried Gudrun, strident, 'I wouldn't go out of my way to
look for him. But if there did happen to come along a highly attractive
individual of sufficient means--well--' she tailed off ironically. Then
she looked searchingly at Ursula, as if to probe her. 'Don't you find
yourself getting bored?' she asked of her sister. 'Don't you find, that
things fail to materialise? NOTHING MATERIALISES! Everything withers in
'What withers in the bud?' asked Ursula.
'Oh, everything--oneself--things in general.' There was a pause, whilst
each sister vaguely considered her fate.
'It does frighten one,' said Ursula, and again there was a pause. 'But
do you hope to get anywhere by just marrying?'
'It seems to be the inevitable next step,' said Gudrun. Ursula pondered
this, with a little bitterness. She was a class mistress herself, in
Willey Green Grammar School, as she had been for some years.
'I know,' she said, 'it seems like that when one thinks in the
abstract. But really imagine it: imagine any man one knows, imagine him
coming home to one every evening, and saying "Hello," and giving one a
There was a blank pause.
'Yes,' said Gudrun, in a narrowed voice. 'It's just impossible. The man
makes it impossible.'
'Of course there's children--' said Ursula doubtfully.
Gudrun's face hardened.
'Do you REALLY want children, Ursula?' she asked coldly. A dazzled,
baffled look came on Ursula's face.
'One feels it is still beyond one,' she said.
'DO you feel like that?' asked Gudrun. 'I get no feeling whatever from
the thought of bearing children.'
Gudrun looked at Ursula with a masklike, expressionless face. Ursula
knitted her brows.
'Perhaps it isn't genuine,' she faltered. 'Perhaps one doesn't really
want them, in one's soul--only superficially.' A hardness came over
Gudrun's face. She did not want to be too definite.
'When one thinks of other people's children--' said Ursula.
Again Gudrun looked at her sister, almost hostile.
'Exactly,' she said, to close the conversation.
The two sisters worked on in silence, Ursula having always that strange
brightness of an essential flame that is caught, meshed, contravened.
She lived a good deal by herself, to herself, working, passing on from
day to day, and always thinking, trying to lay hold on life, to grasp
it in her own understanding. Her active living was suspended, but
underneath, in the darkness, something was coming to pass. If only she
could break through the last integuments! She seemed to try and put her
hands out, like an infant in the womb, and she could not, not yet.
Still she had a strange prescience, an intimation of something yet to
She laid down her work and looked at her sister. She thought Gudrun so
CHARMING, so infinitely charming, in her softness and her fine,
exquisite richness of texture and delicacy of line. There was a certain
playfulness about her too, such a piquancy or ironic suggestion, such
an untouched reserve. Ursula admired her with all her soul.
'Why did you come home, Prune?' she asked.
Gudrun knew she was being admired. She sat back from her drawing and
looked at Ursula, from under her finely-curved lashes.
'Why did I come back, Ursula?' she repeated. 'I have asked myself a
'And don't you know?'
'Yes, I think I do. I think my coming back home was just RECULER POUR
And she looked with a long, slow look of knowledge at Ursula.
'I know!' cried Ursula, looking slightly dazzled and falsified, and as
if she did NOT know. 'But where can one jump to?'
'Oh, it doesn't matter,' said Gudrun, somewhat superbly. 'If one jumps
over the edge, one is bound to land somewhere.'
'But isn't it very risky?' asked Ursula.
A slow mocking smile dawned on Gudrun's face.
'Ah!' she said laughing. 'What is it all but words!' And so again she
closed the conversation. But Ursula was still brooding.
'And how do you find home, now you have come back to it?' she asked.
Gudrun paused for some moments, coldly, before answering. Then, in a
cold truthful voice, she said:
'I find myself completely out of it.'
Gudrun looked at Ursula, almost with resentment, as if brought to bay.
'I haven't thought about him: I've refrained,' she said coldly.
'Yes,' wavered Ursula; and the conversation was really at an end. The
sisters found themselves confronted by a void, a terrifying chasm, as
if they had looked over the edge.
They worked on in silence for some time, Gudrun's cheek was flushed
with repressed emotion. She resented its having been called into being.
'Shall we go out and look at that wedding?' she asked at length, in a
voice that was too casual.
'Yes!' cried Ursula, too eagerly, throwing aside her sewing and leaping
up, as if to escape something, thus betraying the tension of the
situation and causing a friction of dislike to go over Gudrun's nerves.
As she went upstairs, Ursula was aware of the house, of her home round
about her. And she loathed it, the sordid, too-familiar place! She was
afraid at the depth of her feeling against the home, the milieu, the
whole atmosphere and condition of this obsolete life. Her feeling
The two girls were soon walking swiftly down the main road of Beldover,
a wide street, part shops, part dwelling-houses, utterly formless and
sordid, without poverty. Gudrun, new from her life in Chelsea and
Sussex, shrank cruelly from this amorphous ugliness of a small colliery
town in the Midlands. Yet forward she went, through the whole sordid
gamut of pettiness, the long amorphous, gritty street. She was exposed
to every stare, she passed on through a stretch of torment. It was
strange that she should have chosen to come back and test the full
effect of this shapeless, barren ugliness upon herself. Why had she
wanted to submit herself to it, did she still want to submit herself to
it, the insufferable torture of these ugly, meaningless people, this
defaced countryside? She felt like a beetle toiling in the dust. She
was filled with repulsion.
They turned off the main road, past a black patch of common-garden,
where sooty cabbage stumps stood shameless. No one thought to be
ashamed. No one was ashamed of it all.
'It is like a country in an underworld,' said Gudrun. 'The colliers
bring it above-ground with them, shovel it up. Ursula, it's marvellous,
it's really marvellous--it's really wonderful, another world. The
people are all ghouls, and everything is ghostly. Everything is a
ghoulish replica of the real world, a replica, a ghoul, all soiled,
everything sordid. It's like being mad, Ursula.'
The sisters were crossing a black path through a dark, soiled field. On
the left was a large landscape, a valley with collieries, and opposite
hills with cornfields and woods, all blackened with distance, as if
seen through a veil of crape. White and black smoke rose up in steady
columns, magic within the dark air. Near at hand came the long rows of
dwellings, approaching curved up the hill-slope, in straight lines
along the brow of the hill. They were of darkened red brick, brittle,
with dark slate roofs. The path on which the sisters walked was black,
trodden-in by the feet of the recurrent colliers, and bounded from the
field by iron fences; the stile that led again into the road was rubbed
shiny by the moleskins of the passing miners. Now the two girls were
going between some rows of dwellings, of the poorer sort. Women, their
arms folded over their coarse aprons, standing gossiping at the end of
their block, stared after the Brangwen sisters with that long,
unwearying stare of aborigines; children called out names.
Gudrun went on her way half dazed. If this were human life, if these
were human beings, living in a complete world, then what was her own
world, outside? She was aware of her grass-green stockings, her large
grass-green velour hat, her full soft coat, of a strong blue colour.
And she felt as if she were treading in the air, quite unstable, her
heart was contracted, as if at any minute she might be precipitated to
the ground. She was afraid.
She clung to Ursula, who, through long usage was inured to this
violation of a dark, uncreated, hostile world. But all the time her
heart was crying, as if in the midst of some ordeal: 'I want to go
back, I want to go away, I want not to know it, not to know that this
exists.' Yet she must go forward.
Ursula could feel her suffering.
'You hate this, don't you?' she asked.
'It bewilders me,' stammered Gudrun.
'You won't stay long,' replied Ursula.
And Gudrun went along, grasping at release.
They drew away from the colliery region, over the curve of the hill,
into the purer country of the other side, towards Willey Green. Still
the faint glamour of blackness persisted over the fields and the wooded
hills, and seemed darkly to gleam in the air. It was a spring day,
chill, with snatches of sunshine. Yellow celandines showed out from the
hedge-bottoms, and in the cottage gardens of Willey Green,
currant-bushes were breaking into leaf, and little flowers were coming
white on the grey alyssum that hung over the stone walls.
Turning, they passed down the high-road, that went between high banks
towards the church. There, in the lowest bend of the road, low under
the trees, stood a little group of expectant people, waiting to see the
wedding. The daughter of the chief mine-owner of the district, Thomas
Crich, was getting married to a naval officer.
'Let us go back,' said Gudrun, swerving away. 'There are all those
And she hung wavering in the road.
'Never mind them,' said Ursula, 'they're all right. They all know me,
they don't matter.'
'But must we go through them?' asked Gudrun.
'They're quite all right, really,' said Ursula, going forward. And
together the two sisters approached the group of uneasy, watchful
common people. They were chiefly women, colliers' wives of the more
shiftless sort. They had watchful, underworld faces.
The two sisters held themselves tense, and went straight towards the
gate. The women made way for them, but barely sufficient, as if
grudging to yield ground. The sisters passed in silence through the
stone gateway and up the steps, on the red carpet, a policeman
estimating their progress.
'What price the stockings!' said a voice at the back of Gudrun. A
sudden fierce anger swept over the girl, violent and murderous. She
would have liked them all annihilated, cleared away, so that the world
was left clear for her. How she hated walking up the churchyard path,
along the red carpet, continuing in motion, in their sight.
'I won't go into the church,' she said suddenly, with such final
decision that Ursula immediately halted, turned round, and branched off
up a small side path which led to the little private gate of the
Grammar School, whose grounds adjoined those of the church.
Just inside the gate of the school shrubbery, outside the churchyard,
Ursula sat down for a moment on the low stone wall under the laurel
bushes, to rest. Behind her, the large red building of the school rose
up peacefully, the windows all open for the holiday. Over the shrubs,
before her, were the pale roofs and tower of the old church. The
sisters were hidden by the foliage.
Gudrun sat down in silence. Her mouth was shut close, her face averted.
She was regretting bitterly that she had ever come back. Ursula looked
at her, and thought how amazingly beautiful she was, flushed with
discomfiture. But she caused a constraint over Ursula's nature, a
certain weariness. Ursula wished to be alone, freed from the tightness,
the enclosure of Gudrun's presence.
'Are we going to stay here?' asked Gudrun.
'I was only resting a minute,' said Ursula, getting up as if rebuked.
'We will stand in the corner by the fives-court, we shall see
everything from there.'
For the moment, the sunshine fell brightly into the churchyard, there
was a vague scent of sap and of spring, perhaps of violets from off the
graves. Some white daisies were out, bright as angels. In the air, the
unfolding leaves of a copper-beech were blood-red.
Punctually at eleven o'clock, the carriages began to arrive. There was
a stir in the crowd at the gate, a concentration as a carriage drove
up, wedding guests were mounting up the steps and passing along the red
carpet to the church. They were all gay and excited because the sun was
Gudrun watched them closely, with objective curiosity. She saw each one
as a complete figure, like a character in a book, or a subject in a
picture, or a marionette in a theatre, a finished creation. She loved
to recognise their various characteristics, to place them in their true
light, give them their own surroundings, settle them for ever as they
passed before her along the path to the church. She knew them, they
were finished, sealed and stamped and finished with, for her. There was
none that had anything unknown, unresolved, until the Criches
themselves began to appear. Then her interest was piqued. Here was
something not quite so preconcluded.
There came the mother, Mrs Crich, with her eldest son Gerald. She was a
queer unkempt figure, in spite of the attempts that had obviously been
made to bring her into line for the day. Her face was pale, yellowish,
with a clear, transparent skin, she leaned forward rather, her features
were strongly marked, handsome, with a tense, unseeing, predative look.
Her colourless hair was untidy, wisps floating down on to her sac coat
of dark blue silk, from under her blue silk hat. She looked like a
woman with a monomania, furtive almost, but heavily proud.
Her son was of a fair, sun-tanned type, rather above middle height,
well-made, and almost exaggeratedly well-dressed. But about him also
was the strange, guarded look, the unconscious glisten, as if he did
not belong to the same creation as the people about him. Gudrun lighted
on him at once. There was something northern about him that magnetised
her. In his clear northern flesh and his fair hair was a glisten like
sunshine refracted through crystals of ice. And he looked so new,
unbroached, pure as an arctic thing. Perhaps he was thirty years old,
perhaps more. His gleaming beauty, maleness, like a young,
good-humoured, smiling wolf, did not blind her to the significant,
sinister stillness in his bearing, the lurking danger of his unsubdued
temper. 'His totem is the wolf,' she repeated to herself. 'His mother
is an old, unbroken wolf.' And then she experienced a keen paroxyism, a
transport, as if she had made some incredible discovery, known to
nobody else on earth. A strange transport took possession of her, all
her veins were in a paroxysm of violent sensation. 'Good God!' she
exclaimed to herself, 'what is this?' And then, a moment after, she was
saying assuredly, 'I shall know more of that man.' She was tortured
with desire to see him again, a nostalgia, a necessity to see him
again, to make sure it was not all a mistake, that she was not deluding
herself, that she really felt this strange and overwhelming sensation
on his account, this knowledge of him in her essence, this powerful
apprehension of him. 'Am I REALLY singled out for him in some way, is
there really some pale gold, arctic light that envelopes only us two?'
she asked herself. And she could not believe it, she remained in a
muse, scarcely conscious of what was going on around.
The bridesmaids were here, and yet the bridegroom had not come. Ursula
wondered if something was amiss, and if the wedding would yet all go
wrong. She felt troubled, as if it rested upon her. The chief
bridesmaids had arrived. Ursula watched them come up the steps. One of
them she knew, a tall, slow, reluctant woman with a weight of fair hair
and a pale, long face. This was Hermione Roddice, a friend of the
Criches. Now she came along, with her head held up, balancing an
enormous flat hat of pale yellow velvet, on which were streaks of
ostrich feathers, natural and grey. She drifted forward as if scarcely
conscious, her long blanched face lifted up, not to see the world. She
was rich. She wore a dress of silky, frail velvet, of pale yellow
colour, and she carried a lot of small rose-coloured cyclamens. Her
shoes and stockings were of brownish grey, like the feathers on her
hat, her hair was heavy, she drifted along with a peculiar fixity of
the hips, a strange unwilling motion. She was impressive, in her lovely
pale-yellow and brownish-rose, yet macabre, something repulsive. People
were silent when she passed, impressed, roused, wanting to jeer, yet
for some reason silenced. Her long, pale face, that she carried lifted
up, somewhat in the Rossetti fashion, seemed almost drugged, as if a
strange mass of thoughts coiled in the darkness within her, and she was
never allowed to escape.
Ursula watched her with fascination. She knew her a little. She was the
most remarkable woman in the Midlands. Her father was a Derbyshire
Baronet of the old school, she was a woman of the new school, full of
intellectuality, and heavy, nerve-worn with consciousness. She was
passionately interested in reform, her soul was given up to the public
cause. But she was a man's woman, it was the manly world that held her.
She had various intimacies of mind and soul with various men of
capacity. Ursula knew, among these men, only Rupert Birkin, who was one
of the school-inspectors of the county. But Gudrun had met others, in
London. Moving with her artist friends in different kinds of society,
Gudrun had already come to know a good many people of repute and
standing. She had met Hermione twice, but they did not take to each
other. It would be queer to meet again down here in the Midlands, where
their social standing was so diverse, after they had known each other
on terms of equality in the houses of sundry acquaintances in town. For
Gudrun had been a social success, and had her friends among the slack
aristocracy that keeps touch with the arts.
Hermione knew herself to be well-dressed; she knew herself to be the
social equal, if not far the superior, of anyone she was likely to meet
in Willey Green. She knew she was accepted in the world of culture and
of intellect. She was a KULTURTRAGER, a medium for the culture of
ideas. With all that was highest, whether in society or in thought or
in public action, or even in art, she was at one, she moved among the
foremost, at home with them. No one could put her down, no one could
make mock of her, because she stood among the first, and those that
were against her were below her, either in rank, or in wealth, or in
high association of thought and progress and understanding. So, she was
invulnerable. All her life, she had sought to make herself
invulnerable, unassailable, beyond reach of the world's judgment.
And yet her soul was tortured, exposed. Even walking up the path to the
church, confident as she was that in every respect she stood beyond all
vulgar judgment, knowing perfectly that her appearance was complete and
perfect, according to the first standards, yet she suffered a torture,
under her confidence and her pride, feeling herself exposed to wounds
and to mockery and to despite. She always felt vulnerable, vulnerable,
there was always a secret chink in her armour. She did not know herself
what it was. It was a lack of robust self, she had no natural
sufficiency, there was a terrible void, a lack, a deficiency of being
And she wanted someone to close up this deficiency, to close it up for
ever. She craved for Rupert Birkin. When he was there, she felt
complete, she was sufficient, whole. For the rest of time she was
established on the sand, built over a chasm, and, in spite of all her
vanity and securities, any common maid-servant of positive, robust
temper could fling her down this bottomless pit of insufficiency, by
the slightest movement of jeering or contempt. And all the while the
pensive, tortured woman piled up her own defences of aesthetic
knowledge, and culture, and world-visions, and disinterestedness. Yet
she could never stop up the terrible gap of insufficiency.
If only Birkin would form a close and abiding connection with her, she
would be safe during this fretful voyage of life. He could make her
sound and triumphant, triumphant over the very angels of heaven. If
only he would do it! But she was tortured with fear, with misgiving.
She made herself beautiful, she strove so hard to come to that degree
of beauty and advantage, when he should be convinced. But always there
was a deficiency.
He was perverse too. He fought her off, he always fought her off. The
more she strove to bring him to her, the more he battled her back. And
they had been lovers now, for years. Oh, it was so wearying, so aching;
she was so tired. But still she believed in herself. She knew he was
trying to leave her. She knew he was trying to break away from her
finally, to be free. But still she believed in her strength to keep
him, she believed in her own higher knowledge. His own knowledge was
high, she was the central touchstone of truth. She only needed his
conjunction with her.
And this, this conjunction with her, which was his highest fulfilment
also, with the perverseness of a wilful child he wanted to deny. With
the wilfulness of an obstinate child, he wanted to break the holy
connection that was between them.
He would be at this wedding; he was to be groom's man. He would be in
the church, waiting. He would know when she came. She shuddered with
nervous apprehension and desire as she went through the church-door. He
would be there, surely he would see how beautiful her dress was, surely
he would see how she had made herself beautiful for him. He would
understand, he would be able to see how she was made for him, the
first, how she was, for him, the highest. Surely at last he would be
able to accept his highest fate, he would not deny her.
In a little convulsion of too-tired yearning, she entered the church
and looked slowly along her cheeks for him, her slender body convulsed
with agitation. As best man, he would be standing beside the altar. She
looked slowly, deferring in her certainty.
And then, he was not there. A terrible storm came over her, as if she
were drowning. She was possessed by a devastating hopelessness. And she
approached mechanically to the altar. Never had she known such a pang
of utter and final hopelessness. It was beyond death, so utterly null,
The bridegroom and the groom's man had not yet come. There was a
growing consternation outside. Ursula felt almost responsible. She
could not bear it that the bride should arrive, and no groom. The
wedding must not be a fiasco, it must not.
But here was the bride's carriage, adorned with ribbons and cockades.
Gaily the grey horses curvetted to their destination at the
church-gate, a laughter in the whole movement. Here was the quick of
all laughter and pleasure. The door of the carriage was thrown open, to
let out the very blossom of the day. The people on the roadway murmured
faintly with the discontented murmuring of a crowd.
The father stepped out first into the air of the morning, like a
shadow. He was a tall, thin, careworn man, with a thin black beard that
was touched with grey. He waited at the door of the carriage patiently,
In the opening of the doorway was a shower of fine foliage and flowers,
a whiteness of satin and lace, and a sound of a gay voice saying:
'How do I get out?'
A ripple of satisfaction ran through the expectant people. They pressed
near to receive her, looking with zest at the stooping blond head with
its flower buds, and at the delicate, white, tentative foot that was
reaching down to the step of the carriage. There was a sudden foaming
rush, and the bride like a sudden surf-rush, floating all white beside
her father in the morning shadow of trees, her veil flowing with
'That's done it!' she said.
She put her hand on the arm of her care-worn, sallow father, and
frothing her light draperies, proceeded over the eternal red carpet.
Her father, mute and yellowish, his black beard making him look more
careworn, mounted the steps stiffly, as if his spirit were absent; but
the laughing mist of the bride went along with him undiminished.
And no bridegroom had arrived! It was intolerable for her. Ursula, her
heart strained with anxiety, was watching the hill beyond; the white,
descending road, that should give sight of him. There was a carriage.
It was running. It had just come into sight. Yes, it was he. Ursula
turned towards the bride and the people, and, from her place of
vantage, gave an inarticulate cry. She wanted to warn them that he was
coming. But her cry was inarticulate and inaudible, and she flushed
deeply, between her desire and her wincing confusion.
The carriage rattled down the hill, and drew near. There was a shout
from the people. The bride, who had just reached the top of the steps,
turned round gaily to see what was the commotion. She saw a confusion
among the people, a cab pulling up, and her lover dropping out of the
carriage, and dodging among the horses and into the crowd.
'Tibs! Tibs!' she cried in her sudden, mocking excitement, standing
high on the path in the sunlight and waving her bouquet. He, dodging
with his hat in his hand, had not heard.
'Tibs!' she cried again, looking down to him.
He glanced up, unaware, and saw the bride and her father standing on
the path above him. A queer, startled look went over his face. He
hesitated for a moment. Then he gathered himself together for a leap,
to overtake her.
'Ah-h-h!' came her strange, intaken cry, as, on the reflex, she
started, turned and fled, scudding with an unthinkable swift beating of
her white feet and fraying of her white garments, towards the church.
Like a hound the young man was after her, leaping the steps and
swinging past her father, his supple haunches working like those of a
hound that bears down on the quarry.
'Ay, after her!' cried the vulgar women below, carried suddenly into
She, her flowers shaken from her like froth, was steadying herself to
turn the angle of the church. She glanced behind, and with a wild cry
of laughter and challenge, veered, poised, and was gone beyond the grey
stone buttress. In another instant the bridegroom, bent forward as he
ran, had caught the angle of the silent stone with his hand, and had
swung himself out of sight, his supple, strong loins vanishing in
Instantly cries and exclamations of excitement burst from the crowd at
the gate. And then Ursula noticed again the dark, rather stooping
figure of Mr Crich, waiting suspended on the path, watching with
expressionless face the flight to the church. It was over, and he
turned round to look behind him, at the figure of Rupert Birkin, who at
once came forward and joined him.
'We'll bring up the rear,' said Birkin, a faint smile on his face.
'Ay!' replied the father laconically. And the two men turned together
up the path.
Birkin was as thin as Mr Crich, pale and ill-looking. His figure was
narrow but nicely made. He went with a slight trail of one foot, which
came only from self-consciousness. Although he was dressed correctly
for his part, yet there was an innate incongruity which caused a slight
ridiculousness in his appearance. His nature was clever and separate,
he did not fit at all in the conventional occasion. Yet he subordinated
himself to the common idea, travestied himself.
He affected to be quite ordinary, perfectly and marvellously
commonplace. And he did it so well, taking the tone of his
surroundings, adjusting himself quickly to his interlocutor and his
circumstance, that he achieved a verisimilitude of ordinary
commonplaceness that usually propitiated his onlookers for the moment,
disarmed them from attacking his singleness.
Now he spoke quite easily and pleasantly to Mr Crich, as they walked
along the path; he played with situations like a man on a tight-rope:
but always on a tight-rope, pretending nothing but ease.
'I'm sorry we are so late,' he was saying. 'We couldn't find a
button-hook, so it took us a long time to button our boots. But you
were to the moment.'
'We are usually to time,' said Mr Crich.
'And I'm always late,' said Birkin. 'But today I was REALLY punctual,
only accidentally not so. I'm sorry.'
The two men were gone, there was nothing more to see, for the time.
Ursula was left thinking about Birkin. He piqued her, attracted her,
and annoyed her.
She wanted to know him more. She had spoken with him once or twice, but
only in his official capacity as inspector. She thought he seemed to
acknowledge some kinship between her and him, a natural, tacit
understanding, a using of the same language. But there had been no time
for the understanding to develop. And something kept her from him, as
well as attracted her to him. There was a certain hostility, a hidden
ultimate reserve in him, cold and inaccessible.
Yet she wanted to know him.
'What do you think of Rupert Birkin?' she asked, a little reluctantly,
of Gudrun. She did not want to discuss him.
'What do I think of Rupert Birkin?' repeated Gudrun. 'I think he's
attractive--decidedly attractive. What I can't stand about him is his
way with other people--his way of treating any little fool as if she
were his greatest consideration. One feels so awfully sold, oneself.'
'Why does he do it?' said Ursula.
'Because he has no real critical faculty--of people, at all events,'
said Gudrun. 'I tell you, he treats any little fool as he treats me or
you--and it's such an insult.'
'Oh, it is,' said Ursula. 'One must discriminate.'
'One MUST discriminate,' repeated Gudrun. 'But he's a wonderful chap,
in other respects--a marvellous personality. But you can't trust him.'
'Yes,' said Ursula vaguely. She was always forced to assent to Gudrun's
pronouncements, even when she was not in accord altogether.
The sisters sat silent, waiting for the wedding party to come out.
Gudrun was impatient of talk. She wanted to think about Gerald Crich.
She wanted to see if the strong feeling she had got from him was real.
She wanted to have herself ready.
Inside the church, the wedding was going on. Hermione Roddice was
thinking only of Birkin. He stood near her. She seemed to gravitate
physically towards him. She wanted to stand touching him. She could
hardly be sure he was near her, if she did not touch him. Yet she stood
subjected through the wedding service.
She had suffered so bitterly when he did not come, that still she was
dazed. Still she was gnawed as by a neuralgia, tormented by his
potential absence from her. She had awaited him in a faint delirium of
nervous torture. As she stood bearing herself pensively, the rapt look
on her face, that seemed spiritual, like the angels, but which came
from torture, gave her a certain poignancy that tore his heart with
pity. He saw her bowed head, her rapt face, the face of an almost
demoniacal ecstatic. Feeling him looking, she lifted her face and
sought his eyes, her own beautiful grey eyes flaring him a great
signal. But he avoided her look, she sank her head in torment and
shame, the gnawing at her heart going on. And he too was tortured with
shame, and ultimate dislike, and with acute pity for her, because he
did not want to meet her eyes, he did not want to receive her flare of
The bride and bridegroom were married, the party went into the vestry.
Hermione crowded involuntarily up against Birkin, to touch him. And he
Outside, Gudrun and Ursula listened for their father's playing on the
organ. He would enjoy playing a wedding march. Now the married pair
were coming! The bells were ringing, making the air shake. Ursula
wondered if the trees and the flowers could feel the vibration, and
what they thought of it, this strange motion in the air. The bride was
quite demure on the arm of the bridegroom, who stared up into the sky
before him, shutting and opening his eyes unconsciously, as if he were
neither here nor there. He looked rather comical, blinking and trying
to be in the scene, when emotionally he was violated by his exposure to
a crowd. He looked a typical naval officer, manly, and up to his duty.
Birkin came with Hermione. She had a rapt, triumphant look, like the
fallen angels restored, yet still subtly demoniacal, now she held
Birkin by the arm. And he was expressionless, neutralised, possessed by
her as if it were his fate, without question.
Gerald Crich came, fair, good-looking, healthy, with a great reserve of
energy. He was erect and complete, there was a strange stealth
glistening through his amiable, almost happy appearance. Gudrun rose
sharply and went away. She could not bear it. She wanted to be alone,
to know this strange, sharp inoculation that had changed the whole
temper of her blood.
The Brangwens went home to Beldover, the wedding-party gathered at
Shortlands, the Criches' home. It was a long, low old house, a sort of
manor farm, that spread along the top of a slope just beyond the narrow
little lake of Willey Water. Shortlands looked across a sloping meadow
that might be a park, because of the large, solitary trees that stood
here and there, across the water of the narrow lake, at the wooded hill
that successfully hid the colliery valley beyond, but did not quite
hide the rising smoke. Nevertheless, the scene was rural and
picturesque, very peaceful, and the house had a charm of its own.
It was crowded now with the family and the wedding guests. The father,
who was not well, withdrew to rest. Gerald was host. He stood in the
homely entrance hall, friendly and easy, attending to the men. He
seemed to take pleasure in his social functions, he smiled, and was
abundant in hospitality.
The women wandered about in a little confusion, chased hither and
thither by the three married daughters of the house. All the while
there could be heard the characteristic, imperious voice of one Crich
woman or another calling 'Helen, come here a minute,' 'Marjory, I want
you--here.' 'Oh, I say, Mrs Witham--.' There was a great rustling of
skirts, swift glimpses of smartly-dressed women, a child danced through
the hall and back again, a maidservant came and went hurriedly.
Meanwhile the men stood in calm little groups, chatting, smoking,
pretending to pay no heed to the rustling animation of the women's
world. But they could not really talk, because of the glassy ravel of
women's excited, cold laughter and running voices. They waited, uneasy,
suspended, rather bored. But Gerald remained as if genial and happy,
unaware that he was waiting or unoccupied, knowing himself the very
pivot of the occasion.
Suddenly Mrs Crich came noiselessly into the room, peering about with
her strong, clear face. She was still wearing her hat, and her sac coat
of blue silk.
'What is it, mother?' said Gerald.
'Nothing, nothing!' she answered vaguely. And she went straight towards
Birkin, who was talking to a Crich brother-in-law.
'How do you do, Mr Birkin,' she said, in her low voice, that seemed to
take no count of her guests. She held out her hand to him.
'Oh Mrs Crich,' replied Birkin, in his readily-changing voice, 'I
couldn't come to you before.'
'I don't know half the people here,' she said, in her low voice. Her
son-in-law moved uneasily away.
'And you don't like strangers?' laughed Birkin. 'I myself can never see
why one should take account of people, just because they happen to be
in the room with one: why SHOULD I know they are there?'
'Why indeed, why indeed!' said Mrs Crich, in her low, tense voice.
'Except that they ARE there. I don't know people whom I find in the
house. The children introduce them to me--"Mother, this is Mr
So-and-so." I am no further. What has Mr So-and-so to do with his own
name?--and what have I to do with either him or his name?'
She looked up at Birkin. She startled him. He was flattered too that
she came to talk to him, for she took hardly any notice of anybody. He
looked down at her tense clear face, with its heavy features, but he
was afraid to look into her heavy-seeing blue eyes. He noticed instead
how her hair looped in slack, slovenly strands over her rather
beautiful ears, which were not quite clean. Neither was her neck
perfectly clean. Even in that he seemed to belong to her, rather than
to the rest of the company; though, he thought to himself, he was
always well washed, at any rate at the neck and ears.
He smiled faintly, thinking these things. Yet he was tense, feeling
that he and the elderly, estranged woman were conferring together like
traitors, like enemies within the camp of the other people. He
resembled a deer, that throws one ear back upon the trail behind, and
one ear forward, to know what is ahead.
'People don't really matter,' he said, rather unwilling to continue.
The mother looked up at him with sudden, dark interrogation, as if
doubting his sincerity.
'How do you mean, MATTER?' she asked sharply.
'Not many people are anything at all,' he answered, forced to go deeper
than he wanted to. 'They jingle and giggle. It would be much better if
they were just wiped out. Essentially, they don't exist, they aren't
She watched him steadily while he spoke.
'But we didn't imagine them,' she said sharply.
'There's nothing to imagine, that's why they don't exist.'
'Well,' she said, 'I would hardly go as far as that. There they are,
whether they exist or no. It doesn't rest with me to decide on their
existence. I only know that I can't be expected to take count of them
all. You can't expect me to know them, just because they happen to be
there. As far as I go they might as well not be there.'
'Exactly,' he replied.
'Mightn't they?' she asked again.
'Just as well,' he repeated. And there was a little pause.
'Except that they ARE there, and that's a nuisance,' she said. 'There
are my sons-in-law,' she went on, in a sort of monologue. 'Now Laura's
got married, there's another. And I really don't know John from James
yet. They come up to me and call me mother. I know what they will
say--"how are you, mother?" I ought to say, "I am not your mother, in
any sense." But what is the use? There they are. I have had children of
my own. I suppose I know them from another woman's children.'
'One would suppose so,' he said.
She looked at him, somewhat surprised, forgetting perhaps that she was
talking to him. And she lost her thread.
She looked round the room, vaguely. Birkin could not guess what she was
looking for, nor what she was thinking. Evidently she noticed her sons.
'Are my children all there?' she asked him abruptly.
He laughed, startled, afraid perhaps.
'I scarcely know them, except Gerald,' he replied.
'Gerald!' she exclaimed. 'He's the most wanting of them all. You'd
never think it, to look at him now, would you?'
'No,' said Birkin.
The mother looked across at her eldest son, stared at him heavily for
'Ay,' she said, in an incomprehensible monosyllable, that sounded
profoundly cynical. Birkin felt afraid, as if he dared not realise. And
Mrs Crich moved away, forgetting him. But she returned on her traces.
'I should like him to have a friend,' she said. 'He has never had a
Birkin looked down into her eyes, which were blue, and watching
heavily. He could not understand them. 'Am I my brother's keeper?' he
said to himself, almost flippantly.
Then he remembered, with a slight shock, that that was Cain's cry. And
Gerald was Cain, if anybody. Not that he was Cain, either, although he
had slain his brother. There was such a thing as pure accident, and the
consequences did not attach to one, even though one had killed one's
brother in such wise. Gerald as a boy had accidentally killed his
brother. What then? Why seek to draw a brand and a curse across the
life that had caused the accident? A man can live by accident, and die
by accident. Or can he not? Is every man's life subject to pure
accident, is it only the race, the genus, the species, that has a
universal reference? Or is this not true, is there no such thing as
pure accident? Has EVERYTHING that happens a universal significance?
Has it? Birkin, pondering as he stood there, had forgotten Mrs Crich,
as she had forgotten him.
He did not believe that there was any such thing as accident. It all
hung together, in the deepest sense.
Just as he had decided this, one of the Crich daughters came up,
'Won't you come and take your hat off, mother dear? We shall be sitting
down to eat in a minute, and it's a formal occasion, darling, isn't
it?' She drew her arm through her mother's, and they went away. Birkin
immediately went to talk to the nearest man.
The gong sounded for the luncheon. The men looked up, but no move was
made to the dining-room. The women of the house seemed not to feel that
the sound had meaning for them. Five minutes passed by. The elderly
manservant, Crowther, appeared in the doorway exasperatedly. He looked
with appeal at Gerald. The latter took up a large, curved conch shell,
that lay on a shelf, and without reference to anybody, blew a
shattering blast. It was a strange rousing noise, that made the heart
beat. The summons was almost magical. Everybody came running, as if at
a signal. And then the crowd in one impulse moved to the dining-room.
Gerald waited a moment, for his sister to play hostess. He knew his
mother would pay no attention to her duties. But his sister merely
crowded to her seat. Therefore the young man, slightly too dictatorial,
directed the guests to their places.
There was a moment's lull, as everybody looked at the BORS D'OEUVRES
that were being handed round. And out of this lull, a girl of thirteen
or fourteen, with her long hair down her back, said in a calm,
'Gerald, you forget father, when you make that unearthly noise.'
'Do I?' he answered. And then, to the company, 'Father is lying down,
he is not quite well.'
'How is he, really?' called one of the married daughters, peeping round
the immense wedding cake that towered up in the middle of the table
shedding its artificial flowers.
'He has no pain, but he feels tired,' replied Winifred, the girl with
the hair down her back.
The wine was filled, and everybody was talking boisterously. At the far
end of the table sat the mother, with her loosely-looped hair. She had
Birkin for a neighbour. Sometimes she glanced fiercely down the rows of
faces, bending forwards and staring unceremoniously. And she would say
in a low voice to Birkin:
'Who is that young man?'
'I don't know,' Birkin answered discreetly.
'Have I seen him before?' she asked.
'I don't think so. I haven't,' he replied. And she was satisfied. Her
eyes closed wearily, a peace came over her face, she looked like a
queen in repose. Then she started, a little social smile came on her
face, for a moment she looked the pleasant hostess. For a moment she
bent graciously, as if everyone were welcome and delightful. And then
immediately the shadow came back, a sullen, eagle look was on her face,
she glanced from under her brows like a sinister creature at bay,
hating them all.
'Mother,' called Diana, a handsome girl a little older than Winifred,
'I may have wine, mayn't I?'
'Yes, you may have wine,' replied the mother automatically, for she was
perfectly indifferent to the question.
And Diana beckoned to the footman to fill her glass.
'Gerald shouldn't forbid me,' she said calmly, to the company at large.
'All right, Di,' said her brother amiably. And she glanced challenge at
him as she drank from her glass.
There was a strange freedom, that almost amounted to anarchy, in the
house. It was rather a resistance to authority, than liberty. Gerald
had some command, by mere force of personality, not because of any
granted position. There was a quality in his voice, amiable but
dominant, that cowed the others, who were all younger than he.
Hermione was having a discussion with the bridegroom about nationality.
'No,' she said, 'I think that the appeal to patriotism is a mistake. It
is like one house of business rivalling another house of business.'
'Well you can hardly say that, can you?' exclaimed Gerald, who had a
real PASSION for discussion. 'You couldn't call a race a business
concern, could you?--and nationality roughly corresponds to race, I
think. I think it is MEANT to.'
There was a moment's pause. Gerald and Hermione were always strangely
but politely and evenly inimical.
'DO you think race corresponds with nationality?' she asked musingly,
with expressionless indecision.
Birkin knew she was waiting for him to participate. And dutifully he
'I think Gerald is right--race is the essential element in nationality,
in Europe at least,' he said.
Again Hermione paused, as if to allow this statement to cool. Then she
said with strange assumption of authority:
'Yes, but even so, is the patriotic appeal an appeal to the racial
instinct? Is it not rather an appeal to the proprietory instinct, the
COMMERCIAL instinct? And isn't this what we mean by nationality?'
'Probably,' said Birkin, who felt that such a discussion was out of
place and out of time.
But Gerald was now on the scent of argument.
'A race may have its commercial aspect,' he said. 'In fact it must. It
is like a family. You MUST make provision. And to make provision you
have got to strive against other families, other nations. I don't see
why you shouldn't.'
Again Hermione made a pause, domineering and cold, before she replied:
'Yes, I think it is always wrong to provoke a spirit of rivalry. It
makes bad blood. And bad blood accumulates.'
'But you can't do away with the spirit of emulation altogether?' said
Gerald. 'It is one of the necessary incentives to production and
'Yes,' came Hermione's sauntering response. 'I think you can do away
'I must say,' said Birkin, 'I detest the spirit of emulation.' Hermione
was biting a piece of bread, pulling it from between her teeth with her
fingers, in a slow, slightly derisive movement. She turned to Birkin.
'You do hate it, yes,' she said, intimate and gratified.
'Detest it,' he repeated.
'Yes,' she murmured, assured and satisfied.
'But,' Gerald insisted, 'you don't allow one man to take away his
neighbour's living, so why should you allow one nation to take away the
living from another nation?'
There was a long slow murmur from Hermione before she broke into
speech, saying with a laconic indifference:
'It is not always a question of possessions, is it? It is not all a
question of goods?'
Gerald was nettled by this implication of vulgar materialism.
'Yes, more or less,' he retorted. 'If I go and take a man's hat from
off his head, that hat becomes a symbol of that man's liberty. When he
fights me for his hat, he is fighting me for his liberty.'
Hermione was nonplussed.
'Yes,' she said, irritated. 'But that way of arguing by imaginary
instances is not supposed to be genuine, is it? A man does NOT come and
take my hat from off my head, does he?'
'Only because the law prevents him,' said Gerald.
'Not only,' said Birkin. 'Ninety-nine men out of a hundred don't want
'That's a matter of opinion,' said Gerald.
'Or the hat,' laughed the bridegroom.
'And if he does want my hat, such as it is,' said Birkin, 'why, surely
it is open to me to decide, which is a greater loss to me, my hat, or
my liberty as a free and indifferent man. If I am compelled to offer
fight, I lose the latter. It is a question which is worth more to me,
my pleasant liberty of conduct, or my hat.'
'Yes,' said Hermione, watching Birkin strangely. 'Yes.'
'But would you let somebody come and snatch your hat off your head?'
the bride asked of Hermione.
The face of the tall straight woman turned slowly and as if drugged to
this new speaker.
'No,' she replied, in a low inhuman tone, that seemed to contain a
chuckle. 'No, I shouldn't let anybody take my hat off my head.'
'How would you prevent it?' asked Gerald.
'I don't know,' replied Hermione slowly. 'Probably I should kill him.'
There was a strange chuckle in her tone, a dangerous and convincing
humour in her bearing.
'Of course,' said Gerald, 'I can see Rupert's point. It is a question
to him whether his hat or his peace of mind is more important.'
'Peace of body,' said Birkin.
'Well, as you like there,' replied Gerald. 'But how are you going to
decide this for a nation?'
'Heaven preserve me,' laughed Birkin.
'Yes, but suppose you have to?' Gerald persisted.
'Then it is the same. If the national crown-piece is an old hat, then
the thieving gent may have it.'
'But CAN the national or racial hat be an old hat?' insisted Gerald.
'Pretty well bound to be, I believe,' said Birkin.
'I'm not so sure,' said Gerald.
'I don't agree, Rupert,' said Hermione.
'All right,' said Birkin.
'I'm all for the old national hat,' laughed Gerald.
'And a fool you look in it,' cried Diana, his pert sister who was just
in her teens.
'Oh, we're quite out of our depths with these old hats,' cried Laura
Crich. 'Dry up now, Gerald. We're going to drink toasts. Let us drink
toasts. Toasts--glasses, glasses--now then, toasts! Speech! Speech!'
Birkin, thinking about race or national death, watched his glass being
filled with champagne. The bubbles broke at the rim, the man withdrew,
and feeling a sudden thirst at the sight of the fresh wine, Birkin
drank up his glass. A queer little tension in the room roused him. He
felt a sharp constraint.
'Did I do it by accident, or on purpose?' he asked himself. And he
decided that, according to the vulgar phrase, he had done it
'accidentally on purpose.' He looked round at the hired footman. And
the hired footman came, with a silent step of cold servant-like
disapprobation. Birkin decided that he detested toasts, and footmen,
and assemblies, and mankind altogether, in most of its aspects. Then he
rose to make a speech. But he was somehow disgusted.
At length it was over, the meal. Several men strolled out into the
garden. There was a lawn, and flower-beds, and at the boundary an iron
fence shutting off the little field or park. The view was pleasant; a
highroad curving round the edge of a low lake, under the trees. In the
spring air, the water gleamed and the opposite woods were purplish with
new life. Charming Jersey cattle came to the fence, breathing hoarsely
from their velvet muzzles at the human beings, expecting perhaps a
Birkin leaned on the fence. A cow was breathing wet hotness on his
'Pretty cattle, very pretty,' said Marshall, one of the
brothers-in-law. 'They give the best milk you can have.'
'Yes,' said Birkin.
'Eh, my little beauty, eh, my beauty!' said Marshall, in a queer high
falsetto voice, that caused the other man to have convulsions of
laughter in his stomach.
'Who won the race, Lupton?' he called to the bridegroom, to hide the
fact that he was laughing.
The bridegroom took his cigar from his mouth.
'The race?' he exclaimed. Then a rather thin smile came over his face.
He did not want to say anything about the flight to the church door.
'We got there together. At least she touched first, but I had my hand
on her shoulder.'
'What's this?' asked Gerald.
Birkin told him about the race of the bride and the bridegroom.
'H'm!' said Gerald, in disapproval. 'What made you late then?'
'Lupton would talk about the immortality of the soul,' said Birkin,
'and then he hadn't got a button-hook.'
'Oh God!' cried Marshall. 'The immortality of the soul on your wedding
day! Hadn't you got anything better to occupy your mind?'
'What's wrong with it?' asked the bridegroom, a clean-shaven naval man,
'Sounds as if you were going to be executed instead of married. THE
IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL!' repeated the brother-in-law, with most
But he fell quite flat.
'And what did you decide?' asked Gerald, at once pricking up his ears
at the thought of a metaphysical discussion.
'You don't want a soul today, my boy,' said Marshall. 'It'd be in your
'Christ! Marshall, go and talk to somebody else,' cried Gerald, with
'By God, I'm willing,' said Marshall, in a temper. 'Too much bloody
soul and talk altogether--'
He withdrew in a dudgeon, Gerald staring after him with angry eyes,
that grew gradually calm and amiable as the stoutly-built form of the
other man passed into the distance.
'There's one thing, Lupton,' said Gerald, turning suddenly to the
bridegroom. 'Laura won't have brought such a fool into the family as
'Comfort yourself with that,' laughed Birkin.
'I take no notice of them,' laughed the bridegroom.
'What about this race then--who began it?' Gerald asked.
'We were late. Laura was at the top of the churchyard steps when our
cab came up. She saw Lupton bolting towards her. And she fled. But why
do you look so cross? Does it hurt your sense of the family dignity?'
'It does, rather,' said Gerald. 'If you're doing a thing, do it
properly, and if you're not going to do it properly, leave it alone.'
'Very nice aphorism,' said Birkin.
'Don't you agree?' asked Gerald.
'Quite,' said Birkin. 'Only it bores me rather, when you become
'Damn you, Rupert, you want all the aphorisms your own way,' said
'No. I want them out of the way, and you're always shoving them in it.'
Gerald smiled grimly at this humorism. Then he made a little gesture of
dismissal, with his eyebrows.
'You don't believe in having any standard of behaviour at all, do you?'
he challenged Birkin, censoriously.
'Standard--no. I hate standards. But they're necessary for the common
ruck. Anybody who is anything can just be himself and do as he likes.'
'But what do you mean by being himself?' said Gerald. 'Is that an
aphorism or a cliche?'
'I mean just doing what you want to do. I think it was perfect good
form in Laura to bolt from Lupton to the church door. It was almost a
masterpiece in good form. It's the hardest thing in the world to act
spontaneously on one's impulses--and it's the only really gentlemanly
thing to do--provided you're fit to do it.'
'You don't expect me to take you seriously, do you?' asked Gerald.
'Yes, Gerald, you're one of the very few people I do expect that of.'
'Then I'm afraid I can't come up to your expectations here, at any
rate. You think people should just do as they like.'
'I think they always do. But I should like them to like the purely
individual thing in themselves, which makes them act in singleness. And
they only like to do the collective thing.'
'And I,' said Gerald grimly, 'shouldn't like to be in a world of people
who acted individually and spontaneously, as you call it. We should
have everybody cutting everybody else's throat in five minutes.'
'That means YOU would like to be cutting everybody's throat,' said
'How does that follow?' asked Gerald crossly.
'No man,' said Birkin, 'cuts another man's throat unless he wants to
cut it, and unless the other man wants it cutting. This is a complete
truth. It takes two people to make a murder: a murderer and a murderee.
And a murderee is a man who is murderable. And a man who is murderable
is a man who in a profound if hidden lust desires to be murdered.'
'Sometimes you talk pure nonsense,' said Gerald to Birkin. 'As a matter
of fact, none of us wants our throat cut, and most other people would
like to cut it for us--some time or other--'
'It's a nasty view of things, Gerald,' said Birkin, 'and no wonder you
are afraid of yourself and your own unhappiness.'
'How am I afraid of myself?' said Gerald; 'and I don't think I am
'You seem to have a lurking desire to have your gizzard slit, and
imagine every man has his knife up his sleeve for you,' Birkin said.
'How do you make that out?' said Gerald.
'From you,' said Birkin.
There was a pause of strange enmity between the two men, that was very
near to love. It was always the same between them; always their talk
brought them into a deadly nearness of contact, a strange, perilous
intimacy which was either hate or love, or both. They parted with
apparent unconcern, as if their going apart were a trivial occurrence.
And they really kept it to the level of trivial occurrence. Yet the
heart of each burned from the other. They burned with each other,
inwardly. This they would never admit. They intended to keep their
relationship a casual free-and-easy friendship, they were not going to
be so unmanly and unnatural as to allow any heart-burning between them.
They had not the faintest belief in deep relationship between men and
men, and their disbelief prevented any development of their powerful
but suppressed friendliness.
A school-day was drawing to a close. In the class-room the last lesson
was in progress, peaceful and still. It was elementary botany. The
desks were littered with catkins, hazel and willow, which the children
had been sketching. But the sky had come overdark, as the end of the
afternoon approached: there was scarcely light to draw any more. Ursula
stood in front of the class, leading the children by questions to
understand the structure and the meaning of the catkins.
A heavy, copper-coloured beam of light came in at the west window,
gilding the outlines of the children's heads with red gold, and falling
on the wall opposite in a rich, ruddy illumination. Ursula, however,
was scarcely conscious of it. She was busy, the end of the day was
here, the work went on as a peaceful tide that is at flood, hushed to
This day had gone by like so many more, in an activity that was like a
trance. At the end there was a little haste, to finish what was in
hand. She was pressing the children with questions, so that they should
know all they were to know, by the time the gong went. She stood in
shadow in front of the class, with catkins in her hand, and she leaned
towards the children, absorbed in the passion of instruction.
She heard, but did not notice the click of the door. Suddenly she
started. She saw, in the shaft of ruddy, copper-coloured light near
her, the face of a man. It was gleaming like fire, watching her,
waiting for her to be aware. It startled her terribly. She thought she
was going to faint. All her suppressed, subconscious fear sprang into
being, with anguish.
'Did I startle you?' said Birkin, shaking hands with her. 'I thought
you had heard me come in.'
'No,' she faltered, scarcely able to speak. He laughed, saying he was
sorry. She wondered why it amused him.
'It is so dark,' he said. 'Shall we have the light?'
And moving aside, he switched on the strong electric lights. The
class-room was distinct and hard, a strange place after the soft dim
magic that filled it before he came. Birkin turned curiously to look at
Ursula. Her eyes were round and wondering, bewildered, her mouth
quivered slightly. She looked like one who is suddenly wakened. There
was a living, tender beauty, like a tender light of dawn shining from
her face. He looked at her with a new pleasure, feeling gay in his
'You are doing catkins?' he asked, picking up a piece of hazel from a
scholar's desk in front of him. 'Are they as far out as this? I hadn't
noticed them this year.'
He looked absorbedly at the tassel of hazel in his hand.
'The red ones too!' he said, looking at the flickers of crimson that
came from the female bud.
Then he went in among the desks, to see the scholars' books. Ursula
watched his intent progress. There was a stillness in his motion that
hushed the activities of her heart. She seemed to be standing aside in
arrested silence, watching him move in another, concentrated world. His
presence was so quiet, almost like a vacancy in the corporate air.
Suddenly he lifted his face to her, and her heart quickened at the
flicker of his voice.
'Give them some crayons, won't you?' he said, 'so that they can make
the gynaecious flowers red, and the androgynous yellow. I'd chalk them
in plain, chalk in nothing else, merely the red and the yellow. Outline
scarcely matters in this case. There is just the one fact to
'I haven't any crayons,' said Ursula.
'There will be some somewhere--red and yellow, that's all you want.'
Ursula sent out a boy on a quest.
'It will make the books untidy,' she said to Birkin, flushing deeply.
'Not very,' he said. 'You must mark in these things obviously. It's the
fact you want to emphasise, not the subjective impression to record.
What's the fact?--red little spiky stigmas of the female flower,
dangling yellow male catkin, yellow pollen flying from one to the
other. Make a pictorial record of the fact, as a child does when
drawing a face--two eyes, one nose, mouth with teeth--so--' And he drew
a figure on the blackboard.
At that moment another vision was seen through the glass panels of the
door. It was Hermione Roddice. Birkin went and opened to her.
'I saw your car,' she said to him. 'Do you mind my coming to find you?
I wanted to see you when you were on duty.'
She looked at him for a long time, intimate and playful, then she gave
a short little laugh. And then only she turned to Ursula, who, with all
the class, had been watching the little scene between the lovers.
'How do you do, Miss Brangwen,' sang Hermione, in her low, odd, singing
fashion, that sounded almost as if she were poking fun. 'Do you mind my
Her grey, almost sardonic eyes rested all the while on Ursula, as if
summing her up.
'Oh no,' said Ursula.
'Are you SURE?' repeated Hermione, with complete sang froid, and an
odd, half-bullying effrontery.
'Oh no, I like it awfully,' laughed Ursula, a little bit excited and
bewildered, because Hermione seemed to be compelling her, coming very
close to her, as if intimate with her; and yet, how could she be
This was the answer Hermione wanted. She turned satisfied to Birkin.
'What are you doing?' she sang, in her casual, inquisitive fashion.
'Catkins,' he replied.
'Really!' she said. 'And what do you learn about them?' She spoke all
the while in a mocking, half teasing fashion, as if making game of the
whole business. She picked up a twig of the catkin, piqued by Birkin's
attention to it.
She was a strange figure in the class-room, wearing a large, old cloak
of greenish cloth, on which was a raised pattern of dull gold. The high
collar, and the inside of the cloak, was lined with dark fur. Beneath
she had a dress of fine lavender-coloured cloth, trimmed with fur, and
her hat was close-fitting, made of fur and of the dull, green-and-gold
figured stuff. She was tall and strange, she looked as if she had come
out of some new, bizarre picture.
'Do you know the little red ovary flowers, that produce the nuts? Have
you ever noticed them?' he asked her. And he came close and pointed
them out to her, on the sprig she held.
'No,' she replied. 'What are they?'
'Those are the little seed-producing flowers, and the long catkins,
they only produce pollen, to fertilise them.'
'Do they, do they!' repeated Hermione, looking closely.
'From those little red bits, the nuts come; if they receive pollen from
the long danglers.'
'Little red flames, little red flames,' murmured Hermione to herself.
And she remained for some moments looking only at the small buds out of
which the red flickers of the stigma issued.
'Aren't they beautiful? I think they're so beautiful,' she said, moving
close to Birkin, and pointing to the red filaments with her long, white
'Had you never noticed them before?' he asked.
'No, never before,' she replied.
'And now you will always see them,' he said.
'Now I shall always see them,' she repeated. 'Thank you so much for
showing me. I think they're so beautiful--little red flames--'
Her absorption was strange, almost rhapsodic. Both Birkin and Ursula
were suspended. The little red pistillate flowers had some strange,
almost mystic-passionate attraction for her.
The lesson was finished, the books were put away, at last the class was
dismissed. And still Hermione sat at the table, with her chin in her
hand, her elbow on the table, her long white face pushed up, not
attending to anything. Birkin had gone to the window, and was looking
from the brilliantly-lighted room on to the grey, colourless outside,
where rain was noiselessly falling. Ursula put away her things in the
At length Hermione rose and came near to her.
'Your sister has come home?' she said.
'Yes,' said Ursula.
'And does she like being back in Beldover?'
'No,' said Ursula.
'No, I wonder she can bear it. It takes all my strength, to bear the
ugliness of this district, when I stay here. Won't you come and see me?
Won't you come with your sister to stay at Breadalby for a few
'Thank you very much,' said Ursula.
'Then I will write to you,' said Hermione. 'You think your sister will
come? I should be so glad. I think she is wonderful. I think some of
her work is really wonderful. I have two water-wagtails, carved in
wood, and painted--perhaps you have seen it?'
'No,' said Ursula.
'I think it is perfectly wonderful--like a flash of instinct.'
'Her little carvings ARE strange,' said Ursula.
'Perfectly beautiful--full of primitive passion--'
'Isn't it queer that she always likes little things?--she must always
work small things, that one can put between one's hands, birds and tiny
animals. She likes to look through the wrong end of the opera glasses,
and see the world that way--why is it, do you think?'
Hermione looked down at Ursula with that long, detached scrutinising
gaze that excited the younger woman.
'Yes,' said Hermione at length. 'It is curious. The little things seem
to be more subtle to her--'
'But they aren't, are they? A mouse isn't any more subtle than a lion,
Again Hermione looked down at Ursula with that long scrutiny, as if she
were following some train of thought of her own, and barely attending
to the other's speech.
'I don't know,' she replied.
'Rupert, Rupert,' she sang mildly, calling him to her. He approached in
'Are little things more subtle than big things?' she asked, with the
odd grunt of laughter in her voice, as if she were making game of him
in the question.
'Dunno,' he said.
'I hate subtleties,' said Ursula.
Hermione looked at her slowly.
'Do you?' she said.
'I always think they are a sign of weakness,' said Ursula, up in arms,
as if her prestige were threatened.
Hermione took no notice. Suddenly her face puckered, her brow was knit
with thought, she seemed twisted in troublesome effort for utterance.
'Do you really think, Rupert,' she asked, as if Ursula were not
present, 'do you really think it is worth while? Do you really think
the children are better for being roused to consciousness?'
A dark flash went over his face, a silent fury. He was hollow-cheeked
and pale, almost unearthly. And the woman, with her serious,
conscience-harrowing question tortured him on the quick.
'They are not roused to consciousness,' he said. 'Consciousness comes
to them, willy-nilly.'
'But do you think they are better for having it quickened, stimulated?
Isn't it better that they should remain unconscious of the hazel, isn't
it better that they should see as a whole, without all this pulling to
pieces, all this knowledge?'
'Would you rather, for yourself, know or not know, that the little red
flowers are there, putting out for the pollen?' he asked harshly. His
voice was brutal, scornful, cruel.
Hermione remained with her face lifted up, abstracted. He hung silent
'I don't know,' she replied, balancing mildly. 'I don't know.'
'But knowing is everything to you, it is all your life,' he broke out.
She slowly looked at him.
'Is it?' she said.
'To know, that is your all, that is your life--you have only this, this
knowledge,' he cried. 'There is only one tree, there is only one fruit,
in your mouth.'
Again she was some time silent.
'Is there?' she said at last, with the same untouched calm. And then in
a tone of whimsical inquisitiveness: 'What fruit, Rupert?'
'The eternal apple,' he replied in exasperation, hating his own
'Yes,' she said. There was a look of exhaustion about her. For some
moments there was silence. Then, pulling herself together with a
convulsed movement, Hermione resumed, in a sing-song, casual voice:
'But leaving me apart, Rupert; do you think the children are better,
richer, happier, for all this knowledge; do you really think they are?
Or is it better to leave them untouched, spontaneous. Hadn't they
better be animals, simple animals, crude, violent, ANYTHING, rather
than this self-consciousness, this incapacity to be spontaneous.'
They thought she had finished. But with a queer rumbling in her throat
she resumed, 'Hadn't they better be anything than grow up crippled,
crippled in their souls, crippled in their feelings--so thrown back--so
turned back on themselves--incapable--' Hermione clenched her fist like
one in a trance--'of any spontaneous action, always deliberate, always
burdened with choice, never carried away.'
Again they thought she had finished. But just as he was going to reply,
she resumed her queer rhapsody--'never carried away, out of themselves,
always conscious, always self-conscious, always aware of themselves.
Isn't ANYTHING better than this? Better be animals, mere animals with
no mind at all, than this, this NOTHINGNESS--'
'But do you think it is knowledge that makes us unliving and
selfconscious?' he asked irritably.
She opened her eyes and looked at him slowly.
'Yes,' she said. She paused, watching him all the while, her eyes
vague. Then she wiped her fingers across her brow, with a vague
weariness. It irritated him bitterly. 'It is the mind,' she said, 'and
that is death.' She raised her eyes slowly to him: 'Isn't the mind--'
she said, with the convulsed movement of her body, 'isn't it our death?
Doesn't it destroy all our spontaneity, all our instincts? Are not the
young people growing up today, really dead before they have a chance to
'Not because they have too much mind, but too little,' he said
'Are you SURE?' she cried. 'It seems to me the reverse. They are
overconscious, burdened to death with consciousness.'
'Imprisoned within a limited, false set of concepts,' he cried.
But she took no notice of this, only went on with her own rhapsodic
'When we have knowledge, don't we lose everything but knowledge?' she
asked pathetically. 'If I know about the flower, don't I lose the
flower and have only the knowledge? Aren't we exchanging the substance
for the shadow, aren't we forfeiting life for this dead quality of
knowledge? And what does it mean to me, after all? What does all this
knowing mean to me? It means nothing.'
'You are merely making words,' he said; 'knowledge means everything to
you. Even your animalism, you want it in your head. You don't want to
BE an animal, you want to observe your own animal functions, to get a
mental thrill out of them. It is all purely secondary--and more
decadent than the most hide-bound intellectualism. What is it but the
worst and last form of intellectualism, this love of yours for passion
and the animal instincts? Passion and the instincts--you want them hard
enough, but through your head, in your consciousness. It all takes
place in your head, under that skull of yours. Only you won't be
conscious of what ACTUALLY is: you want the lie that will match the
rest of your furniture.'
Hermione set hard and poisonous against this attack. Ursula stood
covered with wonder and shame. It frightened her, to see how they hated
'It's all that Lady of Shalott business,' he said, in his strong
abstract voice. He seemed to be charging her before the unseeing air.
'You've got that mirror, your own fixed will, your immortal
understanding, your own tight conscious world, and there is nothing
beyond it. There, in the mirror, you must have everything. But now you
have come to all your conclusions, you want to go back and be like a
savage, without knowledge. You want a life of pure sensation and
He quoted the last word satirically against her. She sat convulsed with
fury and violation, speechless, like a stricken pythoness of the Greek
'But your passion is a lie,' he went on violently. 'It isn't passion at
all, it is your WILL. It's your bullying will. You want to clutch
things and have them in your power. You want to have things in your
power. And why? Because you haven't got any real body, any dark sensual
body of life. You have no sensuality. You have only your will and your
conceit of consciousness, and your lust for power, to KNOW.'
He looked at her in mingled hate and contempt, also in pain because she
suffered, and in shame because he knew he tortured her. He had an
impulse to kneel and plead for forgiveness. But a bitterer red anger
burned up to fury in him. He became unconscious of her, he was only a
passionate voice speaking.
'Spontaneous!' he cried. 'You and spontaneity! You, the most deliberate
thing that ever walked or crawled! You'd be verily deliberately
spontaneous--that's you. Because you want to have everything in your
own volition, your deliberate voluntary consciousness. You want it all
in that loathsome little skull of yours, that ought to be cracked like
a nut. For you'll be the same till it is cracked, like an insect in its
skin. If one cracked your skull perhaps one might get a spontaneous,
passionate woman out of you, with real sensuality. As it is, what you
want is pornography--looking at yourself in mirrors, watching your
naked animal actions in mirrors, so that you can have it all in your
consciousness, make it all mental.'
There was a sense of violation in the air, as if too much was said, the
unforgivable. Yet Ursula was concerned now only with solving her own
problems, in the light of his words. She was pale and abstracted.
'But do you really WANT sensuality?' she asked, puzzled.
Birkin looked at her, and became intent in his explanation.
'Yes,' he said, 'that and nothing else, at this point. It is a
fulfilment--the great dark knowledge you can't have in your head--the
dark involuntary being. It is death to one's self--but it is the coming
into being of another.'
'But how? How can you have knowledge not in your head?' she asked,
quite unable to interpret his phrases.
'In the blood,' he answered; 'when the mind and the known world is
drowned in darkness everything must go--there must be the deluge. Then
you find yourself a palpable body of darkness, a demon--'
'But why should I be a demon--?' she asked.
'"WOMAN WAILING FOR HER DEMON LOVER"--' he quoted--'why, I don't know.'
Hermione roused herself as from a death--annihilation.
'He is such a DREADFUL satanist, isn't he?' she drawled to Ursula, in a
queer resonant voice, that ended on a shrill little laugh of pure
ridicule. The two women were jeering at him, jeering him into
nothingness. The laugh of the shrill, triumphant female sounded from
Hermione, jeering him as if he were a neuter.
'No,' he said. 'You are the real devil who won't let life exist.'
She looked at him with a long, slow look, malevolent, supercilious.
'You know all about it, don't you?' she said, with slow, cold, cunning
'Enough,' he replied, his face fixing fine and clear like steel. A
horrible despair, and at the same time a sense of release, liberation,
came over Hermione. She turned with a pleasant intimacy to Ursula.
'You are sure you will come to Breadalby?' she said, urging.
'Yes, I should like to very much,' replied Ursula.
Hermione looked down at her, gratified, reflecting, and strangely
absent, as if possessed, as if not quite there.
'I'm so glad,' she said, pulling herself together. 'Some time in about
a fortnight. Yes? I will write to you here, at the school, shall I?
Yes. And you'll be sure to come? Yes. I shall be so glad. Good-bye!
Hermione held out her hand and looked into the eyes of the other woman.
She knew Ursula as an immediate rival, and the knowledge strangely
exhilarated her. Also she was taking leave. It always gave her a sense
of strength, advantage, to be departing and leaving the other behind.
Moreover she was taking the man with her, if only in hate.
Birkin stood aside, fixed and unreal. But now, when it was his turn to
bid good-bye, he began to speak again.
'There's the whole difference in the world,' he said, 'between the
actual sensual being, and the vicious mental-deliberate profligacy our
lot goes in for. In our night-time, there's always the electricity
switched on, we watch ourselves, we get it all in the head, really.
You've got to lapse out before you can know what sensual reality is,
lapse into unknowingness, and give up your volition. You've got to do
it. You've got to learn not-to-be, before you can come into being.
'But we have got such a conceit of ourselves--that's where it is. We
are so conceited, and so unproud. We've got no pride, we're all
conceit, so conceited in our own papier-mache realised selves. We'd
rather die than give up our little self-righteous self-opinionated
There was silence in the room. Both women were hostile and resentful.
He sounded as if he were addressing a meeting. Hermione merely paid no
attention, stood with her shoulders tight in a shrug of dislike.
Ursula was watching him as if furtively, not really aware of what she
was seeing. There was a great physical attractiveness in him--a curious
hidden richness, that came through his thinness and his pallor like
another voice, conveying another knowledge of him. It was in the curves
of his brows and his chin, rich, fine, exquisite curves, the powerful
beauty of life itself. She could not say what it was. But there was a
sense of richness and of liberty.
'But we are sensual enough, without making ourselves so, aren't we?'
she asked, turning to him with a certain golden laughter flickering
under her greenish eyes, like a challenge. And immediately the queer,
careless, terribly attractive smile came over his eyes and brows,
though his mouth did not relax.
'No,' he said, 'we aren't. We're too full of ourselves.'
'Surely it isn't a matter of conceit,' she cried.
'That and nothing else.'
She was frankly puzzled.
'Don't you think that people are most conceited of all about their
sensual powers?' she asked.
'That's why they aren't sensual--only sensuous--which is another
matter. They're ALWAYS aware of themselves--and they're so conceited,
that rather than release themselves, and live in another world, from
another centre, they'd--'
'You want your tea, don't you,' said Hermione, turning to Ursula with a
gracious kindliness. 'You've worked all day--'
Birkin stopped short. A spasm of anger and chagrin went over Ursula.
His face set. And he bade good-bye, as if he had ceased to notice her.
They were gone. Ursula stood looking at the door for some moments. Then
she put out the lights. And having done so, she sat down again in her
chair, absorbed and lost. And then she began to cry, bitterly, bitterly
weeping: but whether for misery or joy, she never knew.
The week passed away. On the Saturday it rained, a soft drizzling rain
that held off at times. In one of the intervals Gudrun and Ursula set
out for a walk, going towards Willey Water. The atmosphere was grey and
translucent, the birds sang sharply on the young twigs, the earth would
be quickening and hastening in growth. The two girls walked swiftly,
gladly, because of the soft, subtle rush of morning that filled the wet
haze. By the road the black-thorn was in blossom, white and wet, its
tiny amber grains burning faintly in the white smoke of blossom. Purple
twigs were darkly luminous in the grey air, high hedges glowed like
living shadows, hovering nearer, coming into creation. The morning was
full of a new creation.
When the sisters came to Willey Water, the lake lay all grey and
visionary, stretching into the moist, translucent vista of trees and
meadow. Fine electric activity in sound came from the dumbles below the
road, the birds piping one against the other, and water mysteriously
plashing, issuing from the lake.
The two girls drifted swiftly along. In front of them, at the corner of
the lake, near the road, was a mossy boat-house under a walnut tree,
and a little landing-stage where a boat was moored, wavering like a
shadow on the still grey water, below the green, decayed poles. All was
shadowy with coming summer.
Suddenly, from the boat-house, a white figure ran out, frightening in
its swift sharp transit, across the old landing-stage. It launched in a
white arc through the air, there was a bursting of the water, and among
the smooth ripples a swimmer was making out to space, in a centre of
faintly heaving motion. The whole otherworld, wet and remote, he had to
himself. He could move into the pure translucency of the grey,
Gudrun stood by the stone wall, watching.
'How I envy him,' she said, in low, desirous tones.
'Ugh!' shivered Ursula. 'So cold!'
'Yes, but how good, how really fine, to swim out there!' The sisters
stood watching the swimmer move further into the grey, moist, full
space of the water, pulsing with his own small, invading motion, and
arched over with mist and dim woods.
'Don't you wish it were you?' asked Gudrun, looking at Ursula.
'I do,' said Ursula. 'But I'm not sure--it's so wet.'
'No,' said Gudrun, reluctantly. She stood watching the motion on the
bosom of the water, as if fascinated. He, having swum a certain
distance, turned round and was swimming on his back, looking along the
water at the two girls by the wall. In the faint wash of motion, they
could see his ruddy face, and could feel him watching them.
'It is Gerald Crich,' said Ursula.
'I know,' replied Gudrun.
And she stood motionless gazing over the water at the face which washed
up and down on the flood, as he swam steadily. From his separate
element he saw them and he exulted to himself because of his own
advantage, his possession of a world to himself. He was immune and
perfect. He loved his own vigorous, thrusting motion, and the violent
impulse of the very cold water against his limbs, buoying him up. He
could see the girls watching him a way off, outside, and that pleased
him. He lifted his arm from the water, in a sign to them.
'He is waving,' said Ursula.
'Yes,' replied Gudrun. They watched him. He waved again, with a strange
movement of recognition across the difference.
'Like a Nibelung,' laughed Ursula. Gudrun said nothing, only stood
still looking over the water.
Gerald suddenly turned, and was swimming away swiftly, with a side
stroke. He was alone now, alone and immune in the middle of the waters,
which he had all to himself. He exulted in his isolation in the new
element, unquestioned and unconditioned. He was happy, thrusting with
his legs and all his body, without bond or connection anywhere, just
himself in the watery world.
Gudrun envied him almost painfully. Even this momentary possession of
pure isolation and fluidity seemed to her so terribly desirable that
she felt herself as if damned, out there on the high-road.
'God, what it is to be a man!' she cried.
'What?' exclaimed Ursula in surprise.
'The freedom, the liberty, the mobility!' cried Gudrun, strangely
flushed and brilliant. 'You're a man, you want to do a thing, you do
it. You haven't the THOUSAND obstacles a woman has in front of her.'
Ursula wondered what was in Gudrun's mind, to occasion this outburst.
She could not understand.
'What do you want to do?' she asked.
'Nothing,' cried Gudrun, in swift refutation. 'But supposing I did.
Supposing I want to swim up that water. It is impossible, it is one of
the impossibilities of life, for me to take my clothes off now and jump
in. But isn't it RIDICULOUS, doesn't it simply prevent our living!'
She was so hot, so flushed, so furious, that Ursula was puzzled.
The two sisters went on, up the road. They were passing between the
trees just below Shortlands. They looked up at the long, low house, dim
and glamorous in the wet morning, its cedar trees slanting before the
windows. Gudrun seemed to be studying it closely.
'Don't you think it's attractive, Ursula?' asked Gudrun.
'Very,' said Ursula. 'Very peaceful and charming.'
'It has form, too--it has a period.'
'Oh, eighteenth century, for certain; Dorothy Wordsworth and Jane
Austen, don't you think?'
'Don't you think so?' repeated Gudrun.
'Perhaps. But I don't think the Criches fit the period. I know Gerald
is putting in a private electric plant, for lighting the house, and is
making all kinds of latest improvements.'
Gudrun shrugged her shoulders swiftly.
'Of course,' she said, 'that's quite inevitable.'
'Quite,' laughed Ursula. 'He is several generations of youngness at one
go. They hate him for it. He takes them all by the scruff of the neck,
and fairly flings them along. He'll have to die soon, when he's made
every possible improvement, and there will be nothing more to improve.
He's got GO, anyhow.'
'Certainly, he's got go,' said Gudrun. 'In fact I've never seen a man
that showed signs of so much. The unfortunate thing is, where does his
GO go to, what becomes of it?'
'Oh I know,' said Ursula. 'It goes in applying the latest appliances!'
'Exactly,' said Gudrun.
'You know he shot his brother?' said Ursula.
'Shot his brother?' cried Gudrun, frowning as if in disapprobation.
'Didn't you know? Oh yes!--I thought you knew. He and his brother were
playing together with a gun. He told his brother to look down the gun,
and it was loaded, and blew the top of his head off. Isn't it a
'How fearful!' cried Gudrun. 'But it is long ago?'
'Oh yes, they were quite boys,' said Ursula. 'I think it is one of the
most horrible stories I know.'
'And he of course did not know that the gun was loaded?'
'Yes. You see it was an old thing that had been lying in the stable for
years. Nobody dreamed it would ever go off, and of course, no one
imagined it was loaded. But isn't it dreadful, that it should happen?'
'Frightful!' cried Gudrun. 'And isn't it horrible too to think of such
a thing happening to one, when one was a child, and having to carry the
responsibility of it all through one's life. Imagine it, two boys
playing together--then this comes upon them, for no reason
whatever--out of the air. Ursula, it's very frightening! Oh, it's one
of the things I can't bear. Murder, that is thinkable, because there's
a will behind it. But a thing like that to HAPPEN to one--'
'Perhaps there WAS an unconscious will behind it,' said Ursula. 'This
playing at killing has some primitive DESIRE for killing in it, don't
'Desire!' said Gudrun, coldly, stiffening a little. 'I can't see that
they were even playing at killing. I suppose one boy said to the other,
"You look down the barrel while I pull the trigger, and see what
happens." It seems to me the purest form of accident.'
'No,' said Ursula. 'I couldn't pull the trigger of the emptiest gun in
the world, not if some-one were looking down the barrel. One
instinctively doesn't do it--one can't.'
Gudrun was silent for some moments, in sharp disagreement.
'Of course,' she said coldly. 'If one is a woman, and grown up, one's
instinct prevents one. But I cannot see how that applies to a couple of
boys playing together.'
Her voice was cold and angry.
'Yes,' persisted Ursula. At that moment they heard a woman's voice a
few yards off say loudly:
'Oh damn the thing!' They went forward and saw Laura Crich and Hermione
Roddice in the field on the other side of the hedge, and Laura Crich
struggling with the gate, to get out. Ursula at once hurried up and
helped to lift the gate.
'Thanks so much,' said Laura, looking up flushed and amazon-like, yet
rather confused. 'It isn't right on the hinges.'
'No,' said Ursula. 'And they're so heavy.'
'Surprising!' cried Laura.
'How do you do,' sang Hermione, from out of the field, the moment she
could make her voice heard. 'It's nice now. Are you going for a walk?
Yes. Isn't the young green beautiful? So beautiful--quite burning. Good
morning--good morning--you'll come and see me?--thank you so much--next
week--yes--good-bye, g-o-o-d b-y-e.'
Gudrun and Ursula stood and watched her slowly waving her head up and
down, and waving her hand slowly in dismissal, smiling a strange
affected smile, making a tall queer, frightening figure, with her heavy
fair hair slipping to her eyes. Then they moved off, as if they had
been dismissed like inferiors. The four women parted.
As soon as they had gone far enough, Ursula said, her cheeks burning,
'I do think she's impudent.'
'Who, Hermione Roddice?' asked Gudrun. 'Why?'
'The way she treats one--impudence!'
'Why, Ursula, what did you notice that was so impudent?' asked Gudrun
'Her whole manner. Oh, It's impossible, the way she tries to bully one.
Pure bullying. She's an impudent woman. "You'll come and see me," as if
we should be falling over ourselves for the privilege.'
'I can't understand, Ursula, what you are so much put out about,' said
Gudrun, in some exasperation. 'One knows those women are
impudent--these free women who have emancipated themselves from the
'But it is so UNNECESSARY--so vulgar,' cried Ursula.
'No, I don't see it. And if I did--pour moi, elle n'existe pas. I don't
grant her the power to be impudent to me.'
'Do you think she likes you?' asked Ursula.
'Well, no, I shouldn't think she did.'
'Then why does she ask you to go to Breadalby and stay with her?'
Gudrun lifted her shoulders in a low shrug.
'After all, she's got the sense to know we're not just the ordinary
run,' said Gudrun. 'Whatever she is, she's not a fool. And I'd rather
have somebody I detested, than the ordinary woman who keeps to her own
set. Hermione Roddice does risk herself in some respects.'
Ursula pondered this for a time.
'I doubt it,' she replied. 'Really she risks nothing. I suppose we
ought to admire her for knowing she CAN invite us--school teachers--and
'Precisely!' said Gudrun. 'Think of the myriads of women that daren't
do it. She makes the most of her privileges--that's something. I
suppose, really, we should do the same, in her place.'
'No,' said Ursula. 'No. It would bore me. I couldn't spend my time
playing her games. It's infra dig.'
The two sisters were like a pair of scissors, snipping off everything
that came athwart them; or like a knife and a whetstone, the one
sharpened against the other.
'Of course,' cried Ursula suddenly, 'she ought to thank her stars if we
will go and see her. You are perfectly beautiful, a thousand times more
beautiful than ever she is or was, and to my thinking, a thousand times
more beautifully dressed, for she never looks fresh and natural, like a
flower, always old, thought-out; and we ARE more intelligent than most
'Undoubtedly!' said Gudrun.
'And it ought to be admitted, simply,' said Ursula.
'Certainly it ought,' said Gudrun. 'But you'll find that the really
chic thing is to be so absolutely ordinary, so perfectly commonplace
and like the person in the street, that you really are a masterpiece of
humanity, not the person in the street actually, but the artistic
creation of her--'
'How awful!' cried Ursula.
'Yes, Ursula, it IS awful, in most respects. You daren't be anything
that isn't amazingly A TERRE, SO much A TERRE that it is the artistic
creation of ordinariness.'
'It's very dull to create oneself into nothing better,' laughed Ursula.
'Very dull!' retorted Gudrun. 'Really Ursula, it is dull, that's just
the word. One longs to be high-flown, and make speeches like Corneille,
Gudrun was becoming flushed and excited over her own cleverness.
'Strut,' said Ursula. 'One wants to strut, to be a swan among geese.'
'Exactly,' cried Gudrun, 'a swan among geese.'
'They are all so busy playing the ugly duckling,' cried Ursula, with
mocking laughter. 'And I don't feel a bit like a humble and pathetic
ugly duckling. I do feel like a swan among geese--I can't help it. They
make one feel so. And I don't care what THEY think of me. FE M'EN
Gudrun looked up at Ursula with a queer, uncertain envy and dislike.
'Of course, the only thing to do is to despise them all--just all,' she
The sisters went home again, to read and talk and work, and wait for
Monday, for school. Ursula often wondered what else she waited for,
besides the beginning and end of the school week, and the beginning and
end of the holidays. This was a whole life! Sometimes she had periods
of tight horror, when it seemed to her that her life would pass away,
and be gone, without having been more than this. But she never really
accepted it. Her spirit was active, her life like a shoot that is
growing steadily, but which has not yet come above ground.
IN THE TRAIN
One day at this time Birkin was called to London. He was not very fixed
in his abode. He had rooms in Nottingham, because his work lay chiefly
in that town. But often he was in London, or in Oxford. He moved about
a great deal, his life seemed uncertain, without any definite rhythm,
any organic meaning.
On the platform of the railway station he saw Gerald Crich, reading a
newspaper, and evidently waiting for the train. Birkin stood some
distance off, among the people. It was against his instinct to approach
From time to time, in a manner characteristic of him, Gerald lifted his
head and looked round. Even though he was reading the newspaper
closely, he must keep a watchful eye on his external surroundings.
There seemed to be a dual consciousness running in him. He was thinking
vigorously of something he read in the newspaper, and at the same time
his eye ran over the surfaces of the life round him, and he missed
nothing. Birkin, who was watching him, was irritated by his duality. He
noticed too, that Gerald seemed always to be at bay against everybody,
in spite of his queer, genial, social manner when roused.
Now Birkin started violently at seeing this genial look flash on to
Gerald's face, at seeing Gerald approaching with hand outstretched.
'Hallo, Rupert, where are you going?'
'London. So are you, I suppose.'
Gerald's eyes went over Birkin's face in curiosity.
'We'll travel together if you like,' he said.
'Don't you usually go first?' asked Birkin.
'I can't stand the crowd,' replied Gerald. 'But third'll be all right.
There's a restaurant car, we can have some tea.'
The two men looked at the station clock, having nothing further to say.
'What were you reading in the paper?' Birkin asked.
Gerald looked at him quickly.
'Isn't it funny, what they DO put in the newspapers,' he said. 'Here
are two leaders--' he held out his DAILY TELEGRAPH, 'full of the
ordinary newspaper cant--' he scanned the columns down--'and then
there's this little--I dunno what you'd call it, essay,
almost--appearing with the leaders, and saying there must arise a man
who will give new values to things, give us new truths, a new attitude
to life, or else we shall be a crumbling nothingness in a few years, a
country in ruin--'
'I suppose that's a bit of newspaper cant, as well,' said Birkin.
'It sounds as if the man meant it, and quite genuinely,' said Gerald.
'Give it to me,' said Birkin, holding out his hand for the paper.
The train came, and they went on board, sitting on either side a little
table, by the window, in the restaurant car. Birkin glanced over his
paper, then looked up at Gerald, who was waiting for him.
'I believe the man means it,' he said, 'as far as he means anything.'
'And do you think it's true? Do you think we really want a new gospel?'
Birkin shrugged his shoulders.
'I think the people who say they want a new religion are the last to
accept anything new. They want novelty right enough. But to stare
straight at this life that we've brought upon ourselves, and reject it,
absolutely smash up the old idols of ourselves, that we sh'll never do.
You've got very badly to want to get rid of the old, before anything
new will appear--even in the self.'
Gerald watched him closely.
'You think we ought to break up this life, just start and let fly?' he
'This life. Yes I do. We've got to bust it completely, or shrivel
inside it, as in a tight skin. For it won't expand any more.'
There was a queer little smile in Gerald's eyes, a look of amusement,
calm and curious.
'And how do you propose to begin? I suppose you mean, reform the whole
order of society?' he asked.
Birkin had a slight, tense frown between the brows. He too was
impatient of the conversation.
'I don't propose at all,' he replied. 'When we really want to go for
something better, we shall smash the old. Until then, any sort of
proposal, or making proposals, is no more than a tiresome game for
The little smile began to die out of Gerald's eyes, and he said,
looking with a cool stare at Birkin:
'So you really think things are very bad?'
The smile appeared again.
'In what way?'
'Every way,' said Birkin. 'We are such dreary liars. Our one idea is to
lie to ourselves. We have an ideal of a perfect world, clean and
straight and sufficient. So we cover the earth with foulness; life is a
blotch of labour, like insects scurrying in filth, so that your collier
can have a pianoforte in his parlour, and you can have a butler and a
motor-car in your up-to-date house, and as a nation we can sport the
Ritz, or the Empire, Gaby Deslys and the Sunday newspapers. It is very
Gerald took a little time to re-adjust himself after this tirade.
'Would you have us live without houses--return to nature?' he asked.
'I would have nothing at all. People only do what they want to do--and
what they are capable of doing. If they were capable of anything else,
there would be something else.'
Again Gerald pondered. He was not going to take offence at Birkin.
'Don't you think the collier's PIANOFORTE, as you call it, is a symbol
for something very real, a real desire for something higher, in the
'Higher!' cried Birkin. 'Yes. Amazing heights of upright grandeur. It
makes him so much higher in his neighbouring collier's eyes. He sees
himself reflected in the neighbouring opinion, like in a Brocken mist,
several feet taller on the strength of the pianoforte, and he is
satisfied. He lives for the sake of that Brocken spectre, the
reflection of himself in the human opinion. You do the same. If you are
of high importance to humanity you are of high importance to yourself.
That is why you work so hard at the mines. If you can produce coal to
cook five thousand dinners a day, you are five thousand times more
important than if you cooked only your own dinner.'
'I suppose I am,' laughed Gerald.
'Can't you see,' said Birkin, 'that to help my neighbour to eat is no
more than eating myself. "I eat, thou eatest, he eats, we eat, you eat,
they eat"--and what then? Why should every man decline the whole verb.
First person singular is enough for me.'
'You've got to start with material things,' said Gerald. Which
statement Birkin ignored.
'And we've got to live for SOMETHING, we're not just cattle that can
graze and have done with it,' said Gerald.
'Tell me,' said Birkin. 'What do you live for?'
Gerald's face went baffled.
'What do I live for?' he repeated. 'I suppose I live to work, to
produce something, in so far as I am a purposive being. Apart from
that, I live because I am living.'
'And what's your work? Getting so many more thousands of tons of coal
out of the earth every day. And when we've got all the coal we want,
and all the plush furniture, and pianofortes, and the rabbits are all
stewed and eaten, and we're all warm and our bellies are filled and
we're listening to the young lady performing on the pianoforte--what
then? What then, when you've made a real fair start with your material
Gerald sat laughing at the words and the mocking humour of the other
man. But he was cogitating too.
'We haven't got there yet,' he replied. 'A good many people are still
waiting for the rabbit and the fire to cook it.'
'So while you get the coal I must chase the rabbit?' said Birkin,
mocking at Gerald.
'Something like that,' said Gerald.
Birkin watched him narrowly. He saw the perfect good-humoured
callousness, even strange, glistening malice, in Gerald, glistening
through the plausible ethics of productivity.
'Gerald,' he said, 'I rather hate you.'
'I know you do,' said Gerald. 'Why do you?'
Birkin mused inscrutably for some minutes.
'I should like to know if you are conscious of hating me,' he said at
last. 'Do you ever consciously detest me--hate me with mystic hate?
There are odd moments when I hate you starrily.'
Gerald was rather taken aback, even a little disconcerted. He did not
quite know what to say.
'I may, of course, hate you sometimes,' he said. 'But I'm not aware of
it--never acutely aware of it, that is.'
'So much the worse,' said Birkin.
Gerald watched him with curious eyes. He could not quite make him out.
'So much the worse, is it?' he repeated.
There was a silence between the two men for some time, as the train ran
on. In Birkin's face was a little irritable tension, a sharp knitting
of the brows, keen and difficult. Gerald watched him warily, carefully,
rather calculatingly, for he could not decide what he was after.
Suddenly Birkin's eyes looked straight and overpowering into those of
the other man.
'What do you think is the aim and object of your life, Gerald?' he
Again Gerald was taken aback. He could not think what his friend was
getting at. Was he poking fun, or not?
'At this moment, I couldn't say off-hand,' he replied, with faintly
'Do you think love is the be-all and the end-all of life?' Birkin
asked, with direct, attentive seriousness.
'Of my own life?' said Gerald.
There was a really puzzled pause.
'I can't say,' said Gerald. 'It hasn't been, so far.'
'What has your life been, so far?'
'Oh--finding out things for myself--and getting experiences--and making
Birkin knitted his brows like sharply moulded steel.
'I find,' he said, 'that one needs some one REALLY pure single
activity--I should call love a single pure activity. But I DON'T really
love anybody--not now.'
'Have you ever really loved anybody?' asked Gerald.
'Yes and no,' replied Birkin.
'Not finally?' said Gerald.
'Finally--finally--no,' said Birkin.
'Nor I,' said Gerald.
'And do you want to?' said Birkin.
Gerald looked with a long, twinkling, almost sardonic look into the
eyes of the other man.
'I don't know,' he said.
'I do--I want to love,' said Birkin.
'Yes. I want the finality of love.'
'The finality of love,' repeated Gerald. And he waited for a moment.
'Just one woman?' he added. The evening light, flooding yellow along
the fields, lit up Birkin's face with a tense, abstract steadfastness.
Gerald still could not make it out.
'Yes, one woman,' said Birkin.
But to Gerald it sounded as if he were insistent rather than confident.
'I don't believe a woman, and nothing but a woman, will ever make my
life,' said Gerald.
'Not the centre and core of it--the love between you and a woman?'
Gerald's eyes narrowed with a queer dangerous smile as he watched the
'I never quite feel it that way,' he said.
'You don't? Then wherein does life centre, for you?'
'I don't know--that's what I want somebody to tell me. As far as I can
make out, it doesn't centre at all. It is artificially held TOGETHER by
the social mechanism.'
Birkin pondered as if he would crack something.
'I know,' he said, 'it just doesn't centre. The old ideals are dead as
nails--nothing there. It seems to me there remains only this perfect
union with a woman--sort of ultimate marriage--and there isn't anything
'And you mean if there isn't the woman, there's nothing?' said Gerald.
'Pretty well that--seeing there's no God.'
'Then we're hard put to it,' said Gerald. And he turned to look out of
the window at the flying, golden landscape.
Birkin could not help seeing how beautiful and soldierly his face was,
with a certain courage to be indifferent.
'You think its heavy odds against us?' said Birkin.
'If we've got to make our life up out of a woman, one woman, woman
only, yes, I do,' said Gerald. 'I don't believe I shall ever make up MY
life, at that rate.'
Birkin watched him almost angrily.
'You are a born unbeliever,' he said.
'I only feel what I feel,' said Gerald. And he looked again at Birkin
almost sardonically, with his blue, manly, sharp-lighted eyes. Birkin's
eyes were at the moment full of anger. But swiftly they became
troubled, doubtful, then full of a warm, rich affectionateness and
'It troubles me very much, Gerald,' he said, wrinkling his brows.
'I can see it does,' said Gerald, uncovering his mouth in a manly,
quick, soldierly laugh.
Gerald was held unconsciously by the other man. He wanted to be near
him, he wanted to be within his sphere of influence. There was
something very congenial to him in Birkin. But yet, beyond this, he did
not take much notice. He felt that he, himself, Gerald, had harder and
more durable truths than any the other man knew. He felt himself older,
more knowing. It was the quick-changing warmth and venality and
brilliant warm utterance he loved in his friend. It was the rich play
of words and quick interchange of feelings he enjoyed. The real content
of the words he never really considered: he himself knew better.
Birkin knew this. He knew that Gerald wanted to be FOND of him without
taking him seriously. And this made him go hard and cold. As the train
ran on, he sat looking at the land, and Gerald fell away, became as
nothing to him.
Birkin looked at the land, at the evening, and was thinking: 'Well, if
mankind is destroyed, if our race is destroyed like Sodom, and there is
this beautiful evening with the luminous land and trees, I am
satisfied. That which informs it all is there, and can never be lost.
After all, what is mankind but just one expression of the
incomprehensible. And if mankind passes away, it will only mean that
this particular expression is completed and done. That which is
expressed, and that which is to be expressed, cannot be diminished.
There it is, in the shining evening. Let mankind pass away--time it
did. The creative utterances will not cease, they will only be there.
Humanity doesn't embody the utterance of the incomprehensible any more.
Humanity is a dead letter. There will be a new embodiment, in a new
way. Let humanity disappear as quick as possible.'
Gerald interrupted him by asking,
'Where are you staying in London?'
Birkin looked up.
'With a man in Soho. I pay part of the rent of a flat, and stop there
when I like.'
'Good idea--have a place more or less your own,' said Gerald.
'Yes. But I don't care for it much. I'm tired of the people I am bound
to find there.'
'What kind of people?'
'Art--music--London Bohemia--the most pettifogging calculating Bohemia
that ever reckoned its pennies. But there are a few decent people,
decent in some respects. They are really very thorough rejecters of the
world--perhaps they live only in the gesture of rejection and
negation--but negatively something, at any rate.'
'What are they?--painters, musicians?'
'Painters, musicians, writers--hangers-on, models, advanced young
people, anybody who is openly at outs with the conventions, and belongs
to nowhere particularly. They are often young fellows down from the
University, and girls who are living their own lives, as they say.'
'All loose?' said Gerald.
Birkin could see his curiosity roused.
'In one way. Most bound, in another. For all their shockingness, all on
He looked at Gerald, and saw how his blue eyes were lit up with a
little flame of curious desire. He saw too how good-looking he was.
Gerald was attractive, his blood seemed fluid and electric. His blue
eyes burned with a keen, yet cold light, there was a certain beauty, a
beautiful passivity in all his body, his moulding.
'We might see something of each other--I am in London for two or three
days,' said Gerald.
'Yes,' said Birkin, 'I don't want to go to the theatre, or the music
hall--you'd better come round to the flat, and see what you can make of
Halliday and his crowd.'
'Thanks--I should like to,' laughed Gerald. 'What are you doing
'I promised to meet Halliday at the Pompadour. It's a bad place, but
there is nowhere else.'
'Where is it?' asked Gerald.
'Oh yes--well, shall I come round there?'
'By all means, it might amuse you.'
The evening was falling. They had passed Bedford. Birkin watched the
country, and was filled with a sort of hopelessness. He always felt
this, on approaching London.
His dislike of mankind, of the mass of mankind, amounted almost to an
'"Where the quiet coloured end of evening smiles
Miles and miles--"'
he was murmuring to himself, like a man condemned to death. Gerald, who
was very subtly alert, wary in all his senses, leaned forward and asked
'What were you saying?' Birkin glanced at him, laughed, and repeated:
'"Where the quiet coloured end of evening smiles,
Miles and miles,
Over pastures where the something something sheep
Gerald also looked now at the country. And Birkin, who, for some reason
was now tired and dispirited, said to him:
'I always feel doomed when the train is running into London. I feel
such a despair, so hopeless, as if it were the end of the world.'
'Really!' said Gerald. 'And does the end of the world frighten you?'
Birkin lifted his shoulders in a slow shrug.
'I don't know,' he said. 'It does while it hangs imminent and doesn't
fall. But people give me a bad feeling--very bad.'
There was a roused glad smile in Gerald's eyes.
'Do they?' he said. And he watched the other man critically.
In a few minutes the train was running through the disgrace of
outspread London. Everybody in the carriage was on the alert, waiting
to escape. At last they were under the huge arch of the station, in the
tremendous shadow of the town. Birkin shut himself together--he was in
The two men went together in a taxi-cab.
'Don't you feel like one of the damned?' asked Birkin, as they sat in a
little, swiftly-running enclosure, and watched the hideous great
'No,' laughed Gerald.
'It is real death,' said Birkin.
CREME DE MENTHE
They met again in the cafe several hours later. Gerald went through the
push doors into the large, lofty room where the faces and heads of the
drinkers showed dimly through the haze of smoke, reflected more dimly,
and repeated ad infinitum in the great mirrors on the walls, so that
one seemed to enter a vague, dim world of shadowy drinkers humming
within an atmosphere of blue tobacco smoke. There was, however, the red
plush of the seats to give substance within the bubble of pleasure.
Gerald moved in his slow, observant, glistening-attentive motion down
between the tables and the people whose shadowy faces looked up as he
passed. He seemed to be entering in some strange element, passing into
an illuminated new region, among a host of licentious souls. He was
pleased, and entertained. He looked over all the dim, evanescent,
strangely illuminated faces that bent across the tables. Then he saw
Birkin rise and signal to him.
At Birkin's table was a girl with dark, soft, fluffy hair cut short in
the artist fashion, hanging level and full almost like the Egyptian
princess's. She was small and delicately made, with warm colouring and
large, dark hostile eyes. There was a delicacy, almost a beauty in all
her form, and at the same time a certain attractive grossness of
spirit, that made a little spark leap instantly alight in Gerald's
Birkin, who looked muted, unreal, his presence left out, introduced her
as Miss Darrington. She gave her hand with a sudden, unwilling
movement, looking all the while at Gerald with a dark, exposed stare. A
glow came over him as he sat down.
The waiter appeared. Gerald glanced at the glasses of the other two.
Birkin was drinking something green, Miss Darrington had a small
liqueur glass that was empty save for a tiny drop.
'Won't you have some more--?'
'Brandy,' she said, sipping her last drop and putting down the glass.
The waiter disappeared.
'No,' she said to Birkin. 'He doesn't know I'm back. He'll be terrified
when he sees me here.'
She spoke her r's like w's, lisping with a slightly babyish
pronunciation which was at once affected and true to her character. Her
voice was dull and toneless.
'Where is he then?' asked Birkin.
'He's doing a private show at Lady Snellgrove's,' said the girl.
'Warens is there too.'
There was a pause.
'Well, then,' said Birkin, in a dispassionate protective manner, 'what
do you intend to do?'
The girl paused sullenly. She hated the question.
'I don't intend to do anything,' she replied. 'I shall look for some
'Who shall you go to?' asked Birkin.
'I shall go to Bentley's first. But I believe he's angwy with me for
'That is from the Madonna?'
'Yes. And then if he doesn't want me, I know I can get work with
'Lord Carmarthen--he does photographs.'
'Chiffon and shoulders--'
'Yes. But he's awfully decent.' There was a pause.
'And what are you going to do about Julius?' he asked.
'Nothing,' she said. 'I shall just ignore him.'
'You've done with him altogether?' But she turned aside her face
sullenly, and did not answer the question.
Another young man came hurrying up to the table.
'Hallo Birkin! Hallo PUSSUM, when did you come back?' he said eagerly.
'Does Halliday know?'
'I don't know. I don't care either.'
'Ha-ha! The wind still sits in that quarter, does it? Do you mind if I
come over to this table?'
'I'm talking to Wupert, do you mind?' she replied, coolly and yet
appealingly, like a child.
'Open confession--good for the soul, eh?' said the young man. 'Well, so
And giving a sharp look at Birkin and at Gerald, the young man moved
off, with a swing of his coat skirts.
All this time Gerald had been completely ignored. And yet he felt that
the girl was physically aware of his proximity. He waited, listened,
and tried to piece together the conversation.
'Are you staying at the flat?' the girl asked, of Birkin.
'For three days,' replied Birkin. 'And you?'
'I don't know yet. I can always go to Bertha's.' There was a silence.
Suddenly the girl turned to Gerald, and said, in a rather formal,
polite voice, with the distant manner of a woman who accepts her
position as a social inferior, yet assumes intimate CAMARADERIE with
the male she addresses:
'Do you know London well?'
'I can hardly say,' he laughed. 'I've been up a good many times, but I
was never in this place before.'
'You're not an artist, then?' she said, in a tone that placed him an
'No,' he replied.
'He's a soldier, and an explorer, and a Napoleon of industry,' said
Birkin, giving Gerald his credentials for Bohemia.
'Are you a soldier?' asked the girl, with a cold yet lively curiosity.
'No, I resigned my commission,' said Gerald, 'some years ago.'
'He was in the last war,' said Birkin.
'Were you really?' said the girl.
'And then he explored the Amazon,' said Birkin, 'and now he is ruling
The girl looked at Gerald with steady, calm curiosity. He laughed,
hearing himself described. He felt proud too, full of male strength.
His blue, keen eyes were lit up with laughter, his ruddy face, with its
sharp fair hair, was full of satisfaction, and glowing with life. He
'How long are you staying?' she asked him.
'A day or two,' he replied. 'But there is no particular hurry.'
Still she stared into his face with that slow, full gaze which was so
curious and so exciting to him. He was acutely and delightfully
conscious of himself, of his own attractiveness. He felt full of
strength, able to give off a sort of electric power. And he was aware
of her dark, hot-looking eyes upon him. She had beautiful eyes, dark,
fully-opened, hot, naked in their looking at him. And on them there
seemed to float a film of disintegration, a sort of misery and
sullenness, like oil on water. She wore no hat in the heated cafe, her
loose, simple jumper was strung on a string round her neck. But it was
made of rich peach-coloured crepe-de-chine, that hung heavily and
softly from her young throat and her slender wrists. Her appearance was
simple and complete, really beautiful, because of her regularity and
form, her soft dark hair falling full and level on either side of her
head, her straight, small, softened features, Egyptian in the slight
fulness of their curves, her slender neck and the simple, rich-coloured
smock hanging on her slender shoulders. She was very still, almost
null, in her manner, apart and watchful.
She appealed to Gerald strongly. He felt an awful, enjoyable power over
her, an instinctive cherishing very near to cruelty. For she was a
victim. He felt that she was in his power, and he was generous. The
electricity was turgid and voluptuously rich, in his limbs. He would be
able to destroy her utterly in the strength of his discharge. But she
was waiting in her separation, given.
They talked banalities for some time. Suddenly Birkin said:
'There's Julius!' and he half rose to his feet, motioning to the
newcomer. The girl, with a curious, almost evil motion, looked round
over her shoulder without moving her body. Gerald watched her dark,
soft hair swing over her ears. He felt her watching intensely the man
who was approaching, so he looked too. He saw a pale, full-built young
man with rather long, solid fair hair hanging from under his black hat,
moving cumbrously down the room, his face lit up with a smile at once
naive and warm, and vapid. He approached towards Birkin, with a haste
It was not till he was quite close that he perceived the girl. He
recoiled, went pale, and said, in a high squealing voice:
'Pussum, what are YOU doing here?'
The cafe looked up like animals when they hear a cry. Halliday hung
motionless, an almost imbecile smile flickering palely on his face. The
girl only stared at him with a black look in which flared an
unfathomable hell of knowledge, and a certain impotence. She was
limited by him.
'Why have you come back?' repeated Halliday, in the same high,
hysterical voice. 'I told you not to come back.'
The girl did not answer, only stared in the same viscous, heavy
fashion, straight at him, as he stood recoiled, as if for safety,
against the next table.
'You know you wanted her to come back--come and sit down,' said Birkin
'No I didn't want her to come back, and I told her not to come back.
What have you come for, Pussum?'
'For nothing from YOU,' she said in a heavy voice of resentment.
'Then why have you come back at ALL?' cried Halliday, his voice rising
to a kind of squeal.
'She comes as she likes,' said Birkin. 'Are you going to sit down, or
are you not?'
'No, I won't sit down with Pussum,' cried Halliday.
'I won't hurt you, you needn't be afraid,' she said to him, very
curtly, and yet with a sort of protectiveness towards him, in her
Halliday came and sat at the table, putting his hand on his heart, and
'Oh, it's given me such a turn! Pussum, I wish you wouldn't do these
things. Why did you come back?'
'Not for anything from you,' she repeated.
'You've said that before,' he cried in a high voice.
She turned completely away from him, to Gerald Crich, whose eyes were
shining with a subtle amusement.
'Were you ever vewy much afwaid of the savages?' she asked in her calm,
dull childish voice.
'No--never very much afraid. On the whole they're harmless--they're not
born yet, you can't feel really afraid of them. You know you can manage
'Do you weally? Aren't they very fierce?'
'Not very. There aren't many fierce things, as a matter of fact. There
aren't many things, neither people nor animals, that have it in them to
be really dangerous.'
'Except in herds,' interrupted Birkin.
'Aren't there really?' she said. 'Oh, I thought savages were all so
dangerous, they'd have your life before you could look round.'
'Did you?' he laughed. 'They are over-rated, savages. They're too much
like other people, not exciting, after the first acquaintance.'
'Oh, it's not so very wonderfully brave then, to be an explorer?'
'No. It's more a question of hardships than of terrors.'
'Oh! And weren't you ever afraid?'
'In my life? I don't know. Yes, I'm afraid of some things--of being
shut up, locked up anywhere--or being fastened. I'm afraid of being
bound hand and foot.'
She looked at him steadily with her dark eyes, that rested on him and
roused him so deeply, that it left his upper self quite calm. It was
rather delicious, to feel her drawing his self-revelations from him, as
from the very innermost dark marrow of his body. She wanted to know.
And her dark eyes seemed to be looking through into his naked organism.
He felt, she was compelled to him, she was fated to come into contact
with him, must have the seeing him and knowing him. And this roused a
curious exultance. Also he felt, she must relinquish herself into his
hands, and be subject to him. She was so profane, slave-like, watching
him, absorbed by him. It was not that she was interested in what he
said; she was absorbed by his self-revelation, by HIM, she wanted the
secret of him, the experience of his male being.
Gerald's face was lit up with an uncanny smile, full of light and
rousedness, yet unconscious. He sat with his arms on the table, his
sunbrowned, rather sinister hands, that were animal and yet very
shapely and attractive, pushed forward towards her. And they fascinated
her. And she knew, she watched her own fascination.
Other men had come to the table, to talk with Birkin and Halliday.
Gerald said in a low voice, apart, to Pussum:
'Where have you come back from?'
'From the country,' replied Pussum, in a very low, yet fully resonant
voice. Her face closed hard. Continually she glanced at Halliday, and
then a black flare came over her eyes. The heavy, fair young man
ignored her completely; he was really afraid of her. For some moments
she would be unaware of Gerald. He had not conquered her yet.
'And what has Halliday to do with it?' he asked, his voice still muted.
She would not answer for some seconds. Then she said, unwillingly:
'He made me go and live with him, and now he wants to throw me over.
And yet he won't let me go to anybody else. He wants me to live hidden
in the country. And then he says I persecute him, that he can't get rid
'Doesn't know his own mind,' said Gerald.
'He hasn't any mind, so he can't know it,' she said. 'He waits for what
somebody tells him to do. He never does anything he wants to do
himself--because he doesn't know what he wants. He's a perfect baby.'
Gerald looked at Halliday for some moments, watching the soft, rather
degenerate face of the young man. Its very softness was an attraction;
it was a soft, warm, corrupt nature, into which one might plunge with
'But he has no hold over you, has he?' Gerald asked.
'You see he MADE me go and live with him, when I didn't want to,' she
replied. 'He came and cried to me, tears, you never saw so many, saying
HE COULDN'T bear it unless I went back to him. And he wouldn't go away,
he would have stayed for ever. He made me go back. Then every time he
behaves in this fashion. And now I'm going to have a baby, he wants to
give me a hundred pounds and send me into the country, so that he would
never see me nor hear of me again. But I'm not going to do it, after--'
A queer look came over Gerald's face.
'Are you going to have a child?' he asked incredulous. It seemed, to
look at her, impossible, she was so young and so far in spirit from any
She looked full into his face, and her dark, inchoate eyes had now a
furtive look, and a look of a knowledge of evil, dark and indomitable.
A flame ran secretly to his heart.
'Yes,' she said. 'Isn't it beastly?'
'Don't you want it?' he asked.
'I don't,' she replied emphatically.
'But--' he said, 'how long have you known?'
'Ten weeks,' she said.
All the time she kept her dark, inchoate eyes full upon him. He
remained silent, thinking. Then, switching off and becoming cold, he
asked, in a voice full of considerate kindness:
'Is there anything we can eat here? Is there anything you would like?'
'Yes,' she said, 'I should adore some oysters.'
'All right,' he said. 'We'll have oysters.' And he beckoned to the
Halliday took no notice, until the little plate was set before her.
Then suddenly he cried:
'Pussum, you can't eat oysters when you're drinking brandy.'
'What has it go to do with you?' she asked.
'Nothing, nothing,' he cried. 'But you can't eat oysters when you're
'I'm not drinking brandy,' she replied, and she sprinkled the last
drops of her liqueur over his face. He gave an odd squeal. She sat
looking at him, as if indifferent.
'Pussum, why do you do that?' he cried in panic. He gave Gerald the
impression that he was terrified of her, and that he loved his terror.
He seemed to relish his own horror and hatred of her, turn it over and
extract every flavour from it, in real panic. Gerald thought him a
strange fool, and yet piquant.
'But Pussum,' said another man, in a very small, quick Eton voice, 'you
promised not to hurt him.'
'I haven't hurt him,' she answered.
'What will you drink?' the young man asked. He was dark, and
smooth-skinned, and full of a stealthy vigour.
'I don't like porter, Maxim,' she replied.
'You must ask for champagne,' came the whispering, gentlemanly voice of
Gerald suddenly realised that this was a hint to him.
'Shall we have champagne?' he asked, laughing.
'Yes please, dwy,' she lisped childishly.
Gerald watched her eating the oysters. She was delicate and finicking
in her eating, her fingers were fine and seemed very sensitive in the
tips, so she put her food apart with fine, small motions, she ate
carefully, delicately. It pleased him very much to see her, and it
irritated Birkin. They were all drinking champagne. Maxim, the prim
young Russian with the smooth, warm-coloured face and black, oiled hair
was the only one who seemed to be perfectly calm and sober. Birkin was
white and abstract, unnatural, Gerald was smiling with a constant
bright, amused, cold light in his eyes, leaning a little protectively
towards the Pussum, who was very handsome, and soft, unfolded like some
red lotus in dreadful flowering nakedness, vainglorious now, flushed
with wine and with the excitement of men. Halliday looked foolish. One
glass of wine was enough to make him drunk and giggling. Yet there was
always a pleasant, warm naivete about him, that made him attractive.
'I'm not afwaid of anything except black-beetles,' said the Pussum,
looking up suddenly and staring with her black eyes, on which there
seemed an unseeing film of flame, fully upon Gerald. He laughed
dangerously, from the blood. Her childish speech caressed his nerves,
and her burning, filmed eyes, turned now full upon him, oblivious of
all her antecedents, gave him a sort of licence.
'I'm not,' she protested. 'I'm not afraid of other things. But
black-beetles--ugh!' she shuddered convulsively, as if the very thought
were too much to bear.
'Do you mean,' said Gerald, with the punctiliousness of a man who has
been drinking, 'that you are afraid of the sight of a black-beetle, or
you are afraid of a black-beetle biting you, or doing you some harm?'
'Do they bite?' cried the girl.
'How perfectly loathsome!' exclaimed Halliday.
'I don't know,' replied Gerald, looking round the table. 'Do
black-beetles bite? But that isn't the point. Are you afraid of their
biting, or is it a metaphysical antipathy?'
The girl was looking full upon him all the time with inchoate eyes.
'Oh, I think they're beastly, they're horrid,' she cried. 'If I see
one, it gives me the creeps all over. If one were to crawl on me, I'm
SURE I should die--I'm sure I should.'
'I hope not,' whispered the young Russian.
'I'm sure I should, Maxim,' she asseverated.
'Then one won't crawl on you,' said Gerald, smiling and knowing. In
some strange way he understood her.
'It's metaphysical, as Gerald says,' Birkin stated.
There was a little pause of uneasiness.
'And are you afraid of nothing else, Pussum?' asked the young Russian,
in his quick, hushed, elegant manner.
'Not weally,' she said. 'I am afwaid of some things, but not weally the
same. I'm not afwaid of BLOOD.'
'Not afwaid of blood!' exclaimed a young man with a thick, pale,
jeering face, who had just come to the table and was drinking whisky.
The Pussum turned on him a sulky look of dislike, low and ugly.
'Aren't you really afraid of blud?' the other persisted, a sneer all
over his face.
'No, I'm not,' she retorted.
'Why, have you ever seen blood, except in a dentist's spittoon?' jeered
the young man.
'I wasn't speaking to you,' she replied rather superbly.
'You can answer me, can't you?' he said.
For reply, she suddenly jabbed a knife across his thick, pale hand. He
started up with a vulgar curse.
'Show's what you are,' said the Pussum in contempt.
'Curse you,' said the young man, standing by the table and looking down
at her with acrid malevolence.
'Stop that,' said Gerald, in quick, instinctive command.
The young man stood looking down at her with sardonic contempt, a
cowed, self-conscious look on his thick, pale face. The blood began to
flow from his hand.
'Oh, how horrible, take it away!' squealed Halliday, turning green and
averting his face.
'D'you feel ill?' asked the sardonic young man, in some concern. 'Do
you feel ill, Julius? Garn, it's nothing, man, don't give her the
pleasure of letting her think she's performed a feat--don't give her
the satisfaction, man--it's just what she wants.'
'Oh!' squealed Halliday.
'He's going to cat, Maxim,' said the Pussum warningly. The suave young
Russian rose and took Halliday by the arm, leading him away. Birkin,
white and diminished, looked on as if he were displeased. The wounded,
sardonic young man moved away, ignoring his bleeding hand in the most
'He's an awful coward, really,' said the Pussum to Gerald. 'He's got
such an influence over Julius.'
'Who is he?' asked Gerald.
'He's a Jew, really. I can't bear him.'
'Well, he's quite unimportant. But what's wrong with Halliday?'
'Julius's the most awful coward you've ever seen,' she cried. 'He
always faints if I lift a knife--he's tewwified of me.'
'H'm!' said Gerald.
'They're all afwaid of me,' she said. 'Only the Jew thinks he's going
to show his courage. But he's the biggest coward of them all, really,
because he's afwaid what people will think about him--and Julius
doesn't care about that.'
'They've a lot of valour between them,' said Gerald good-humouredly.
The Pussum looked at him with a slow, slow smile. She was very
handsome, flushed, and confident in dreadful knowledge. Two little
points of light glinted on Gerald's eyes.
'Why do they call you Pussum, because you're like a cat?' he asked her.
'I expect so,' she said.
The smile grew more intense on his face.
'You are, rather; or a young, female panther.'
'Oh God, Gerald!' said Birkin, in some disgust.
They both looked uneasily at Birkin.
'You're silent tonight, Wupert,' she said to him, with a slight
insolence, being safe with the other man.
Halliday was coming back, looking forlorn and sick.
'Pussum,' he said, 'I wish you wouldn't do these things--Oh!' He sank
in his chair with a groan.
'You'd better go home,' she said to him.
'I WILL go home,' he said. 'But won't you all come along. Won't you
come round to the flat?' he said to Gerald. 'I should be so glad if you
would. Do--that'll be splendid. I say?' He looked round for a waiter.
'Get me a taxi.' Then he groaned again. 'Oh I do feel--perfectly
ghastly! Pussum, you see what you do to me.'
'Then why are you such an idiot?' she said with sullen calm.
'But I'm not an idiot! Oh, how awful! Do come, everybody, it will be so
splendid. Pussum, you are coming. What? Oh but you MUST come, yes, you
must. What? Oh, my dear girl, don't make a fuss now, I feel
perfectly--Oh, it's so ghastly--Ho!--er! Oh!'
'You know you can't drink,' she said to him, coldly.
'I tell you it isn't drink--it's your disgusting behaviour, Pussum,
it's nothing else. Oh, how awful! Libidnikov, do let us go.'
'He's only drunk one glass--only one glass,' came the rapid, hushed
voice of the young Russian.
They all moved off to the door. The girl kept near to Gerald, and
seemed to be at one in her motion with him. He was aware of this, and
filled with demon-satisfaction that his motion held good for two. He
held her in the hollow of his will, and she was soft, secret, invisible
in her stirring there.
They crowded five of them into the taxi-cab. Halliday lurched in first,
and dropped into his seat against the other window. Then the Pussum
took her place, and Gerald sat next to her. They heard the young
Russian giving orders to the driver, then they were all seated in the
dark, crowded close together, Halliday groaning and leaning out of the
window. They felt the swift, muffled motion of the car.
The Pussum sat near to Gerald, and she seemed to become soft, subtly to
infuse herself into his bones, as if she were passing into him in a
black, electric flow. Her being suffused into his veins like a magnetic
darkness, and concentrated at the base of his spine like a fearful
source of power. Meanwhile her voice sounded out reedy and nonchalant,
as she talked indifferently with Birkin and with Maxim. Between her and
Gerald was this silence and this black, electric comprehension in the
darkness. Then she found his hand, and grasped it in her own firm,
small clasp. It was so utterly dark, and yet such a naked statement,
that rapid vibrations ran through his blood and over his brain, he was
no longer responsible. Still her voice rang on like a bell, tinged with
a tone of mockery. And as she swung her head, her fine mane of hair
just swept his face, and all his nerves were on fire, as with a subtle
friction of electricity. But the great centre of his force held steady,
a magnificent pride to him, at the base of his spine.
They arrived at a large block of buildings, went up in a lift, and
presently a door was being opened for them by a Hindu. Gerald looked in
surprise, wondering if he were a gentleman, one of the Hindus down from
Oxford, perhaps. But no, he was the man-servant.
'Make tea, Hasan,' said Halliday.
'There is a room for me?' said Birkin.
To both of which questions the man grinned, and murmured.
He made Gerald uncertain, because, being tall and slender and reticent,
he looked like a gentleman.
'Who is your servant?' he asked of Halliday. 'He looks a swell.'
'Oh yes--that's because he's dressed in another man's clothes. He's
anything but a swell, really. We found him in the road, starving. So I
took him here, and another man gave him clothes. He's anything but what
he seems to be--his only advantage is that he can't speak English and
can't understand it, so he's perfectly safe.'
'He's very dirty,' said the young Russian swiftly and silently.
Directly, the man appeared in the doorway.
'What is it?' said Halliday.
The Hindu grinned, and murmured shyly:
'Want to speak to master.'
Gerald watched curiously. The fellow in the doorway was goodlooking and
clean-limbed, his bearing was calm, he looked elegant, aristocratic.
Yet he was half a savage, grinning foolishly. Halliday went out into
the corridor to speak with him.
'What?' they heard his voice. 'What? What do you say? Tell me again.
What? Want money? Want MORE money? But what do you want money for?'
There was the confused sound of the Hindu's talking, then Halliday
appeared in the room, smiling also foolishly, and saying:
'He says he wants money to buy underclothing. Can anybody lend me a
shilling? Oh thanks, a shilling will do to buy all the underclothes he
wants.' He took the money from Gerald and went out into the passage
again, where they heard him saying, 'You can't want more money, you had
three and six yesterday. You mustn't ask for any more. Bring the tea in
Gerald looked round the room. It was an ordinary London sitting-room in
a flat, evidently taken furnished, rather common and ugly. But there
were several negro statues, wood-carvings from West Africa, strange and
disturbing, the carved negroes looked almost like the foetus of a human
being. One was a woman sitting naked in a strange posture, and looking
tortured, her abdomen stuck out. The young Russian explained that she
was sitting in child-birth, clutching the ends of the band that hung
from her neck, one in each hand, so that she could bear down, and help
labour. The strange, transfixed, rudimentary face of the woman again
reminded Gerald of a foetus, it was also rather wonderful, conveying
the suggestion of the extreme of physical sensation, beyond the limits
of mental consciousness.
'Aren't they rather obscene?' he asked, disapproving.
'I don't know,' murmured the other rapidly. 'I have never defined the
obscene. I think they are very good.'
Gerald turned away. There were one or two new pictures in the room, in
the Futurist manner; there was a large piano. And these, with some
ordinary London lodging-house furniture of the better sort, completed
The Pussum had taken off her hat and coat, and was seated on the sofa.
She was evidently quite at home in the house, but uncertain, suspended.
She did not quite know her position. Her alliance for the time being
was with Gerald, and she did not know how far this was admitted by any
of the men. She was considering how she should carry off the situation.
She was determined to have her experience. Now, at this eleventh hour,
she was not to be baulked. Her face was flushed as with battle, her eye
was brooding but inevitable.
The man came in with tea and a bottle of Kummel. He set the tray on a
little table before the couch.
'Pussum,' said Halliday, 'pour out the tea.'
She did not move.
'Won't you do it?' Halliday repeated, in a state of nervous
'I've not come back here as it was before,' she said. 'I only came
because the others wanted me to, not for your sake.'
'My dear Pussum, you know you are your own mistress. I don't want you
to do anything but use the flat for your own convenience--you know it,
I've told you so many times.'
She did not reply, but silently, reservedly reached for the tea-pot.
They all sat round and drank tea. Gerald could feel the electric
connection between him and her so strongly, as she sat there quiet and
withheld, that another set of conditions altogether had come to pass.
Her silence and her immutability perplexed him. HOW was he going to
come to her? And yet he felt it quite inevitable. He trusted completely
to the current that held them. His perplexity was only superficial, new
conditions reigned, the old were surpassed; here one did as one was
possessed to do, no matter what it was.
Birkin rose. It was nearly one o'clock.
'I'm going to bed,' he said. 'Gerald, I'll ring you up in the morning
at your place or you ring me up here.'
'Right,' said Gerald, and Birkin went out.
When he was well gone, Halliday said in a stimulated voice, to Gerald:
'I say, won't you stay here--oh do!'
'You can't put everybody up,' said Gerald.
'Oh but I can, perfectly--there are three more beds besides mine--do
stay, won't you. Everything is quite ready--there is always somebody
here--I always put people up--I love having the house crowded.'
'But there are only two rooms,' said the Pussum, in a cold, hostile
voice, 'now Rupert's here.'
'I know there are only two rooms,' said Halliday, in his odd, high way
of speaking. 'But what does that matter?'
He was smiling rather foolishly, and he spoke eagerly, with an
'Julius and I will share one room,' said the Russian in his discreet,
precise voice. Halliday and he were friends since Eton.
'It's very simple,' said Gerald, rising and pressing back his arms,
stretching himself. Then he went again to look at one of the pictures.
Every one of his limbs was turgid with electric force, and his back was
tense like a tiger's, with slumbering fire. He was very proud.
The Pussum rose. She gave a black look at Halliday, black and deadly,
which brought the rather foolishly pleased smile to that young man's
face. Then she went out of the room, with a cold good-night to them all
There was a brief interval, they heard a door close, then Maxim said,
in his refined voice:
'That's all right.'
He looked significantly at Gerald, and said again, with a silent nod:
'That's all right--you're all right.'
Gerald looked at the smooth, ruddy, comely face, and at the strange,
significant eyes, and it seemed as if the voice of the young Russian,
so small and perfect, sounded in the blood rather than in the air.
'I'M all right then,' said Gerald.
'Yes! Yes! You're all right,' said the Russian.
Halliday continued to smile, and to say nothing.
Suddenly the Pussum appeared again in the door, her small, childish
face looking sullen and vindictive.
'I know you want to catch me out,' came her cold, rather resonant
voice. 'But I don't care, I don't care how much you catch me out.'
She turned and was gone again. She had been wearing a loose
dressing-gown of purple silk, tied round her waist. She looked so small
and childish and vulnerable, almost pitiful. And yet the black looks of
her eyes made Gerald feel drowned in some potent darkness that almost
The men lit another cigarette and talked casually.
In the morning Gerald woke late. He had slept heavily. Pussum was still
asleep, sleeping childishly and pathetically. There was something small
and curled up and defenceless about her, that roused an unsatisfied
flame of passion in the young man's blood, a devouring avid pity. He
looked at her again. But it would be too cruel to wake her. He subdued
himself, and went away.
Hearing voices coming from the sitting-room, Halliday talking to
Libidnikov, he went to the door and glanced in. He had on a silk wrap
of a beautiful bluish colour, with an amethyst hem.
To his surprise he saw the two young men by the fire, stark naked.
Halliday looked up, rather pleased.
'Good-morning,' he said. 'Oh--did you want towels?' And stark naked he
went out into the hall, striding a strange, white figure between the
unliving furniture. He came back with the towels, and took his former
position, crouching seated before the fire on the fender.
'Don't you love to feel the fire on your skin?' he said.
'It IS rather pleasant,' said Gerald.
'How perfectly splendid it must be to be in a climate where one could
do without clothing altogether,' said Halliday.
'Yes,' said Gerald, 'if there weren't so many things that sting and
'That's a disadvantage,' murmured Maxim.
Gerald looked at him, and with a slight revulsion saw the human animal,
golden skinned and bare, somehow humiliating. Halliday was different.
He had a rather heavy, slack, broken beauty, white and firm. He was
like a Christ in a Pieta. The animal was not there at all, only the
heavy, broken beauty. And Gerald realised how Halliday's eyes were
beautiful too, so blue and warm and confused, broken also in their
expression. The fireglow fell on his heavy, rather bowed shoulders, he
sat slackly crouched on the fender, his face was uplifted, weak,
perhaps slightly disintegrate, and yet with a moving beauty of its own.
'Of course,' said Maxim, 'you've been in hot countries where the people
go about naked.'
'Oh really!' exclaimed Halliday. 'Where?'
'South America--Amazon,' said Gerald.
'Oh but how perfectly splendid! It's one of the things I want most to
do--to live from day to day without EVER putting on any sort of
clothing whatever. If I could do that, I should feel I had lived.'
'But why?' said Gerald. 'I can't see that it makes so much difference.'
'Oh, I think it would be perfectly splendid. I'm sure life would be
entirely another thing--entirely different, and perfectly wonderful.'
'But why?' asked Gerald. 'Why should it?'
'Oh--one would FEEL things instead of merely looking at them. I should
feel the air move against me, and feel the things I touched, instead of
having only to look at them. I'm sure life is all wrong because it has
become much too visual--we can neither hear nor feel nor understand, we
can only see. I'm sure that is entirely wrong.'
'Yes, that is true, that is true,' said the Russian.
Gerald glanced at him, and saw him, his suave, golden coloured body
with the black hair growing fine and freely, like tendrils, and his
limbs like smooth plant-stems. He was so healthy and well-made, why did
he make one ashamed, why did one feel repelled? Why should Gerald even
dislike it, why did it seem to him to detract from his own dignity. Was
that all a human being amounted to? So uninspired! thought Gerald.
Birkin suddenly appeared in the doorway, in white pyjamas and wet hair,
and a towel over his arm. He was aloof and white, and somehow
'There's the bath-room now, if you want it,' he said generally, and was
going away again, when Gerald called:
'I say, Rupert!'
'What?' The single white figure appeared again, a presence in the room.
'What do you think of that figure there? I want to know,' Gerald asked.
Birkin, white and strangely ghostly, went over to the carved figure of
the negro woman in labour. Her nude, protuberant body crouched in a
strange, clutching posture, her hands gripping the ends of the band,
above her breast.
'It is art,' said Birkin.
'Very beautiful, it's very beautiful,' said the Russian.
They all drew near to look. Gerald looked at the group of men, the
Russian golden and like a water-plant, Halliday tall and heavily,
brokenly beautiful, Birkin very white and indefinite, not to be
assigned, as he looked closely at the carven woman. Strangely elated,
Gerald also lifted his eyes to the face of the wooden figure. And his
He saw vividly with his spirit the grey, forward-stretching face of the
negro woman, African and tense, abstracted in utter physical stress. It
was a terrible face, void, peaked, abstracted almost into
meaninglessness by the weight of sensation beneath. He saw the Pussum
in it. As in a dream, he knew her.
'Why is it art?' Gerald asked, shocked, resentful.
'It conveys a complete truth,' said Birkin. 'It contains the whole
truth of that state, whatever you feel about it.'
'But you can't call it HIGH art,' said Gerald.
'High! There are centuries and hundreds of centuries of development in
a straight line, behind that carving; it is an awful pitch of culture,
of a definite sort.'
'What culture?' Gerald asked, in opposition. He hated the sheer African
'Pure culture in sensation, culture in the physical consciousness,
really ultimate PHYSICAL consciousness, mindless, utterly sensual. It
is so sensual as to be final, supreme.'
But Gerald resented it. He wanted to keep certain illusions, certain
ideas like clothing.
'You like the wrong things, Rupert,' he said, 'things against
'Oh, I know, this isn't everything,' Birkin replied, moving away.
When Gerald went back to his room from the bath, he also carried his
clothes. He was so conventional at home, that when he was really away,
and on the loose, as now, he enjoyed nothing so much as full
outrageousness. So he strode with his blue silk wrap over his arm and
The Pussum lay in her bed, motionless, her round, dark eyes like black,
unhappy pools. He could only see the black, bottomless pools of her
eyes. Perhaps she suffered. The sensation of her inchoate suffering
roused the old sharp flame in him, a mordant pity, a passion almost of
'You are awake now,' he said to her.
'What time is it?' came her muted voice.
She seemed to flow back, almost like liquid, from his approach, to sink
helplessly away from him. Her inchoate look of a violated slave, whose
fulfilment lies in her further and further violation, made his nerves
quiver with acutely desirable sensation. After all, his was the only
will, she was the passive substance of his will. He tingled with the
subtle, biting sensation. And then he knew, he must go away from her,
there must be pure separation between them.
It was a quiet and ordinary breakfast, the four men all looking very
clean and bathed. Gerald and the Russian were both correct and COMME IL
FAUT in appearance and manner, Birkin was gaunt and sick, and looked a
failure in his attempt to be a properly dressed man, like Gerald and
Maxim. Halliday wore tweeds and a green flannel shirt, and a rag of a
tie, which was just right for him. The Hindu brought in a great deal of
soft toast, and looked exactly the same as he had looked the night
before, statically the same.
At the end of the breakfast the Pussum appeared, in a purple silk wrap
with a shimmering sash. She had recovered herself somewhat, but was
mute and lifeless still. It was a torment to her when anybody spoke to
her. Her face was like a small, fine mask, sinister too, masked with
unwilling suffering. It was almost midday. Gerald rose and went away to
his business, glad to get out. But he had not finished. He was coming
back again at evening, they were all dining together, and he had booked
seats for the party, excepting Birkin, at a music-hall.
At night they came back to the flat very late again, again flushed with
drink. Again the man-servant--who invariably disappeared between the
hours of ten and twelve at night--came in silently and inscrutably with
tea, bending in a slow, strange, leopard-like fashion to put the tray
softly on the table. His face was immutable, aristocratic-looking,
tinged slightly with grey under the skin; he was young and
good-looking. But Birkin felt a slight sickness, looking at him, and
feeling the slight greyness as an ash or a corruption, in the
aristocratic inscrutability of expression a nauseating, bestial
Again they talked cordially and rousedly together. But already a
certain friability was coming over the party, Birkin was mad with
irritation, Halliday was turning in an insane hatred against Gerald,
the Pussum was becoming hard and cold, like a flint knife, and Halliday
was laying himself out to her. And her intention, ultimately, was to
capture Halliday, to have complete power over him.
In the morning they all stalked and lounged about again. But Gerald
could feel a strange hostility to himself, in the air. It roused his
obstinacy, and he stood up against it. He hung on for two more days.
The result was a nasty and insane scene with Halliday on the fourth
evening. Halliday turned with absurd animosity upon Gerald, in the
cafe. There was a row. Gerald was on the point of knocking-in
Halliday's face; when he was filled with sudden disgust and
indifference, and he went away, leaving Halliday in a foolish state of
gloating triumph, the Pussum hard and established, and Maxim standing
clear. Birkin was absent, he had gone out of town again.
Gerald was piqued because he had left without giving the Pussum money.
It was true, she did not care whether he gave her money or not, and he
knew it. But she would have been glad of ten pounds, and he would have
been VERY glad to give them to her. Now he felt in a false position. He
went away chewing his lips to get at the ends of his short clipped
moustache. He knew the Pussum was merely glad to be rid of him. She had
got her Halliday whom she wanted. She wanted him completely in her
power. Then she would marry him. She wanted to marry him. She had set
her will on marrying Halliday. She never wanted to hear of Gerald
again; unless, perhaps, she were in difficulty; because after all,
Gerald was what she called a man, and these others, Halliday,
Libidnikov, Birkin, the whole Bohemian set, they were only half men.
But it was half men she could deal with. She felt sure of herself with
them. The real men, like Gerald, put her in her place too much.
Still, she respected Gerald, she really respected him. She had managed
to get his address, so that she could appeal to him in time of
distress. She knew he wanted to give her money. She would perhaps write
to him on that inevitable rainy day.
Breadalby was a Georgian house with Corinthian pillars, standing among
the softer, greener hills of Derbyshire, not far from Cromford. In
front, it looked over a lawn, over a few trees, down to a string of
fish-ponds in the hollow of the silent park. At the back were trees,
among which were to be found the stables, and the big kitchen garden,
behind which was a wood.
It was a very quiet place, some miles from the high-road, back from the
Derwent Valley, outside the show scenery. Silent and forsaken, the
golden stucco showed between the trees, the house-front looked down the
park, unchanged and unchanging.
Of late, however, Hermione had lived a good deal at the house. She had
turned away from London, away from Oxford, towards the silence of the
country. Her father was mostly absent, abroad, she was either alone in
the house, with her visitors, of whom there were always several, or she
had with her her brother, a bachelor, and a Liberal member of
Parliament. He always came down when the House was not sitting, seemed
always to be present in Breadalby, although he was most conscientious
in his attendance to duty.
The summer was just coming in when Ursula and Gudrun went to stay the
second time with Hermione. Coming along in the car, after they had
entered the park, they looked across the dip, where the fish-ponds lay
in silence, at the pillared front of the house, sunny and small like an
English drawing of the old school, on the brow of the green hill,
against the trees. There were small figures on the green lawn, women in
lavender and yellow moving to the shade of the enormous, beautifully
balanced cedar tree.
'Isn't it complete!' said Gudrun. 'It is as final as an old aquatint.'
She spoke with some resentment in her voice, as if she were captivated
unwillingly, as if she must admire against her will.
'Do you love it?' asked Ursula.
'I don't LOVE it, but in its way, I think it is quite complete.'
The motor-car ran down the hill and up again in one breath, and they
were curving to the side door. A parlour-maid appeared, and then
Hermione, coming forward with her pale face lifted, and her hands
outstretched, advancing straight to the new-comers, her voice singing:
'Here you are--I'm so glad to see you--' she kissed Gudrun--'so glad to
see you--' she kissed Ursula and remained with her arm round her. 'Are
you very tired?'
'Not at all tired,' said Ursula.
'Are you tired, Gudrun?'
'Not at all, thanks,' said Gudrun.
'No--' drawled Hermione. And she stood and looked at them. The two
girls were embarrassed because she would not move into the house, but
must have her little scene of welcome there on the path. The servants
'Come in,' said Hermione at last, having fully taken in the pair of
them. Gudrun was the more beautiful and attractive, she had decided
again, Ursula was more physical, more womanly. She admired Gudrun's
dress more. It was of green poplin, with a loose coat above it, of
broad, dark-green and dark-brown stripes. The hat was of a pale,
greenish straw, the colour of new hay, and it had a plaited ribbon of
black and orange, the stockings were dark green, the shoes black. It
was a good get-up, at once fashionable and individual. Ursula, in dark
blue, was more ordinary, though she also looked well.
Hermione herself wore a dress of prune-coloured silk, with coral beads
and coral coloured stockings. But her dress was both shabby and soiled,
even rather dirty.
'You would like to see your rooms now, wouldn't you! Yes. We will go up
now, shall we?'
Ursula was glad when she could be left alone in her room. Hermione
lingered so long, made such a stress on one. She stood so near to one,
pressing herself near upon one, in a way that was most embarrassing and
oppressive. She seemed to hinder one's workings.
Lunch was served on the lawn, under the great tree, whose thick,
blackish boughs came down close to the grass. There were present a
young Italian woman, slight and fashionable, a young, athletic-looking
Miss Bradley, a learned, dry Baronet of fifty, who was always making
witticisms and laughing at them heartily in a harsh, horse-laugh, there
was Rupert Birkin, and then a woman secretary, a Fraulein Marz, young
and slim and pretty.
The food was very good, that was one thing. Gudrun, critical of
everything, gave it her full approval. Ursula loved the situation, the
white table by the cedar tree, the scent of new sunshine, the little
vision of the leafy park, with far-off deer feeding peacefully. There
seemed a magic circle drawn about the place, shutting out the present,
enclosing the delightful, precious past, trees and deer and silence,
like a dream.
But in spirit she was unhappy. The talk went on like a rattle of small
artillery, always slightly sententious, with a sententiousness that was
only emphasised by the continual crackling of a witticism, the
continual spatter of verbal jest, designed to give a tone of flippancy
to a stream of conversation that was all critical and general, a canal
of conversation rather than a stream.
The attitude was mental and very wearying. Only the elderly
sociologist, whose mental fibre was so tough as to be insentient,
seemed to be thoroughly happy. Birkin was down in the mouth. Hermione
appeared, with amazing persistence, to wish to ridicule him and make
him look ignominious in the eyes of everybody. And it was surprising
how she seemed to succeed, how helpless he seemed against her. He
looked completely insignificant. Ursula and Gudrun, both very unused,
were mostly silent, listening to the slow, rhapsodic sing-song of
Hermione, or the verbal sallies of Sir Joshua, or the prattle of
Fraulein, or the responses of the other two women.
Luncheon was over, coffee was brought out on the grass, the party left
the table and sat about in lounge chairs, in the shade or in the
sunshine as they wished. Fraulein departed into the house, Hermione
took up her embroidery, the little Contessa took a book, Miss Bradley
was weaving a basket out of fine grass, and there they all were on the
lawn in the early summer afternoon, working leisurely and spattering
with half-intellectual, deliberate talk.
Suddenly there was the sound of the brakes and the shutting off of a
'There's Salsie!' sang Hermione, in her slow, amusing sing-song. And
laying down her work, she rose slowly, and slowly passed over the lawn,
round the bushes, out of sight.
'Who is it?' asked Gudrun.
'Mr Roddice--Miss Roddice's brother--at least, I suppose it's he,' said
'Salsie, yes, it is her brother,' said the little Contessa, lifting her
head for a moment from her book, and speaking as if to give
information, in her slightly deepened, guttural English.
They all waited. And then round the bushes came the tall form of
Alexander Roddice, striding romantically like a Meredith hero who
remembers Disraeli. He was cordial with everybody, he was at once a
host, with an easy, offhand hospitality that he had learned for
Hermione's friends. He had just come down from London, from the House.
At once the atmosphere of the House of Commons made itself felt over
the lawn: the Home Secretary had said such and such a thing, and he,
Roddice, on the other hand, thought such and such a thing, and had said
so-and-so to the PM.
Now Hermione came round the bushes with Gerald Crich. He had come along
with Alexander. Gerald was presented to everybody, was kept by Hermione
for a few moments in full view, then he was led away, still by
Hermione. He was evidently her guest of the moment.
There had been a split in the Cabinet; the minister for Education had
resigned owing to adverse criticism. This started a conversation on
'Of course,' said Hermione, lifting her face like a rhapsodist, 'there
CAN be no reason, no EXCUSE for education, except the joy and beauty of
knowledge in itself.' She seemed to rumble and ruminate with
subterranean thoughts for a minute, then she proceeded: 'Vocational
education ISN'T education, it is the close of education.'
Gerald, on the brink of discussion, sniffed the air with delight and
prepared for action.
'Not necessarily,' he said. 'But isn't education really like
gymnastics, isn't the end of education the production of a
well-trained, vigorous, energetic mind?'
'Just as athletics produce a healthy body, ready for anything,' cried
Miss Bradley, in hearty accord.
Gudrun looked at her in silent loathing.
'Well--' rumbled Hermione, 'I don't know. To me the pleasure of knowing
is so great, so WONDERFUL--nothing has meant so much to me in all life,
as certain knowledge--no, I am sure--nothing.'
'What knowledge, for example, Hermione?' asked Alexander.
Hermione lifted her face and rumbled--
'M--m--m--I don't know . . . But one thing was the stars, when I really
understood something about the stars. One feels so UPLIFTED, so
UNBOUNDED . . .'
Birkin looked at her in a white fury.
'What do you want to feel unbounded for?' he said sarcastically. 'You
don't want to BE unbounded.'
Hermione recoiled in offence.
'Yes, but one does have that limitless feeling,' said Gerald. 'It's
like getting on top of the mountain and seeing the Pacific.'
'Silent upon a peak in Dariayn,' murmured the Italian, lifting her face
for a moment from her book.
'Not necessarily in Dariayn,' said Gerald, while Ursula began to laugh.
Hermione waited for the dust to settle, and then she said, untouched:
'Yes, it is the greatest thing in life--to KNOW. It is really to be
happy, to be FREE.'
'Knowledge is, of course, liberty,' said Mattheson.
'In compressed tabloids,' said Birkin, looking at the dry, stiff little
body of the Baronet. Immediately Gudrun saw the famous sociologist as a
flat bottle, containing tabloids of compressed liberty. That pleased
her. Sir Joshua was labelled and placed forever in her mind.
'What does that mean, Rupert?' sang Hermione, in a calm snub.
'You can only have knowledge, strictly,' he replied, 'of things
concluded, in the past. It's like bottling the liberty of last summer
in the bottled gooseberries.'
'CAN one have knowledge only of the past?' asked the Baronet,
pointedly. 'Could we call our knowledge of the laws of gravitation for
instance, knowledge of the past?'
'Yes,' said Birkin.
'There is a most beautiful thing in my book,' suddenly piped the little
Italian woman. 'It says the man came to the door and threw his eyes
down the street.'
There was a general laugh in the company. Miss Bradley went and looked
over the shoulder of the Contessa.
'See!' said the Contessa.
'Bazarov came to the door and threw his eyes hurriedly down the
street,' she read.
Again there was a loud laugh, the most startling of which was the
Baronet's, which rattled out like a clatter of falling stones.
'What is the book?' asked Alexander, promptly.
'Fathers and Sons, by Turgenev,' said the little foreigner, pronouncing
every syllable distinctly. She looked at the cover, to verify herself.
'An old American edition,' said Birkin.
'Ha!--of course--translated from the French,' said Alexander, with a
fine declamatory voice. 'Bazarov ouvra la porte et jeta les yeux dans
He looked brightly round the company.
'I wonder what the "hurriedly" was,' said Ursula.
They all began to guess.
And then, to the amazement of everybody, the maid came hurrying with a
large tea-tray. The afternoon had passed so swiftly.
After tea, they were all gathered for a walk.
'Would you like to come for a walk?' said Hermione to each of them, one
by one. And they all said yes, feeling somehow like prisoners
marshalled for exercise. Birkin only refused.
'Will you come for a walk, Rupert?'
'But are you SURE?'
'Quite sure.' There was a second's hesitation.
'And why not?' sang Hermione's question. It made her blood run sharp,
to be thwarted in even so trifling a matter. She intended them all to
walk with her in the park.
'Because I don't like trooping off in a gang,' he said.
Her voice rumbled in her throat for a moment. Then she said, with a
curious stray calm:
'Then we'll leave a little boy behind, if he's sulky.'
And she looked really gay, while she insulted him. But it merely made
She trailed off to the rest of the company, only turning to wave her
handkerchief to him, and to chuckle with laughter, singing out:
'Good-bye, good-bye, little boy.'
'Good-bye, impudent hag,' he said to himself.
They all went through the park. Hermione wanted to show them the wild
daffodils on a little slope. 'This way, this way,' sang her leisurely
voice at intervals. And they had all to come this way. The daffodils
were pretty, but who could see them? Ursula was stiff all over with
resentment by this time, resentment of the whole atmosphere. Gudrun,
mocking and objective, watched and registered everything.
They looked at the shy deer, and Hermione talked to the stag, as if he
too were a boy she wanted to wheedle and fondle. He was male, so she
must exert some kind of power over him. They trailed home by the
fish-ponds, and Hermione told them about the quarrel of two male swans,
who had striven for the love of the one lady. She chuckled and laughed
as she told how the ousted lover had sat with his head buried under his
wing, on the gravel.
When they arrived back at the house, Hermione stood on the lawn and
sang out, in a strange, small, high voice that carried very far:
'Rupert! Rupert!' The first syllable was high and slow, the second
dropped down. 'Roo-o-opert.'
But there was no answer. A maid appeared.
'Where is Mr Birkin, Alice?' asked the mild straying voice of Hermione.
But under the straying voice, what a persistent, almost insane WILL!
'I think he's in his room, madam.'
Hermione went slowly up the stairs, along the corridor, singing out in
her high, small call:
'Ru-oo-pert! Ru-oo pert!'
She came to his door, and tapped, still crying: 'Roo-pert.'
'Yes,' sounded his voice at last.
'What are you doing?'
The question was mild and curious.
There was no answer. Then he opened the door.
'We've come back,' said Hermione. 'The daffodils are SO beautiful.'
'Yes,' he said, 'I've seen them.'
She looked at him with her long, slow, impassive look, along her
'Have you?' she echoed. And she remained looking at him. She was
stimulated above all things by this conflict with him, when he was like
a sulky boy, helpless, and she had him safe at Breadalby. But
underneath she knew the split was coming, and her hatred of him was
subconscious and intense.
'What were you doing?' she reiterated, in her mild, indifferent tone.
He did not answer, and she made her way, almost unconsciously into his
room. He had taken a Chinese drawing of geese from the boudoir, and was
copying it, with much skill and vividness.
'You are copying the drawing,' she said, standing near the table, and
looking down at his work. 'Yes. How beautifully you do it! You like it
very much, don't you?'
'It's a marvellous drawing,' he said.
'Is it? I'm so glad you like it, because I've always been fond of it.
The Chinese Ambassador gave it me.'
'I know,' he said.
'But why do you copy it?' she asked, casual and sing-song. 'Why not do
'I want to know it,' he replied. 'One gets more of China, copying this
picture, than reading all the books.'
'And what do you get?'
She was at once roused, she laid as it were violent hands on him, to
extract his secrets from him. She MUST know. It was a dreadful tyranny,
an obsession in her, to know all he knew. For some time he was silent,
hating to answer her. Then, compelled, he began:
'I know what centres they live from--what they perceive and feel--the
hot, stinging centrality of a goose in the flux of cold water and
mud--the curious bitter stinging heat of a goose's blood, entering
their own blood like an inoculation of corruptive fire--fire of the
cold-burning mud--the lotus mystery.'
Hermione looked at him along her narrow, pallid cheeks. Her eyes were
strange and drugged, heavy under their heavy, drooping lids. Her thin
bosom shrugged convulsively. He stared back at her, devilish and
unchanging. With another strange, sick convulsion, she turned away, as
if she were sick, could feel dissolution setting-in in her body. For
with her mind she was unable to attend to his words, he caught her, as
it were, beneath all her defences, and destroyed her with some
insidious occult potency.
'Yes,' she said, as if she did not know what she were saying. 'Yes,'
and she swallowed, and tried to regain her mind. But she could not, she
was witless, decentralised. Use all her will as she might, she could
not recover. She suffered the ghastliness of dissolution, broken and
gone in a horrible corruption. And he stood and looked at her unmoved.
She strayed out, pallid and preyed-upon like a ghost, like one attacked
by the tomb-influences which dog us. And she was gone like a corpse,
that has no presence, no connection. He remained hard and vindictive.
Hermione came down to dinner strange and sepulchral, her eyes heavy and
full of sepulchral darkness, strength. She had put on a dress of stiff
old greenish brocade, that fitted tight and made her look tall and
rather terrible, ghastly. In the gay light of the drawing-room she was
uncanny and oppressive. But seated in the half-light of the diningroom,
sitting stiffly before the shaded candles on the table, she seemed a
power, a presence. She listened and attended with a drugged attention.
The party was gay and extravagant in appearance, everybody had put on
evening dress except Birkin and Joshua Mattheson. The little Italian
Contessa wore a dress of tissue, of orange and gold and black velvet in
soft wide stripes, Gudrun was emerald green with strange net-work,
Ursula was in yellow with dull silver veiling, Miss Bradley was of
grey, crimson and jet, Fraulein Marz wore pale blue. It gave Hermione a
sudden convulsive sensation of pleasure, to see these rich colours
under the candle-light. She was aware of the talk going on,
ceaselessly, Joshua's voice dominating; of the ceaseless pitter-patter
of women's light laughter and responses; of the brilliant colours and
the white table and the shadow above and below; and she seemed in a
swoon of gratification, convulsed with pleasure and yet sick, like a
REVENANT. She took very little part in the conversation, yet she heard
it all, it was all hers.
They all went together into the drawing-room, as if they were one
family, easily, without any attention to ceremony. Fraulein handed the
coffee, everybody smoked cigarettes, or else long warden pipes of white
clay, of which a sheaf was provided.
'Will you smoke?--cigarettes or pipe?' asked Fraulein prettily. There
was a circle of people, Sir Joshua with his eighteenth-century
appearance, Gerald the amused, handsome young Englishman, Alexander
tall and the handsome politician, democratic and lucid, Hermione
strange like a long Cassandra, and the women lurid with colour, all
dutifully smoking their long white pipes, and sitting in a half-moon in
the comfortable, soft-lighted drawing-room, round the logs that
flickered on the marble hearth.
The talk was very often political or sociological, and interesting,
curiously anarchistic. There was an accumulation of powerful force in
the room, powerful and destructive. Everything seemed to be thrown into
the melting pot, and it seemed to Ursula they were all witches, helping
the pot to bubble. There was an elation and a satisfaction in it all,
but it was cruelly exhausting for the new-comers, this ruthless mental
pressure, this powerful, consuming, destructive mentality that emanated
from Joshua and Hermione and Birkin and dominated the rest.
But a sickness, a fearful nausea gathered possession of Hermione. There
was a lull in the talk, as it was arrested by her unconscious but
'Salsie, won't you play something?' said Hermione, breaking off
completely. 'Won't somebody dance? Gudrun, you will dance, won't you? I
wish you would. Anche tu, Palestra, ballerai?--si, per piacere. You
Hermione rose and slowly pulled the gold-embroidered band that hung by
the mantel, clinging to it for a moment, then releasing it suddenly.
Like a priestess she looked, unconscious, sunk in a heavy half-trance.
A servant came, and soon reappeared with armfuls of silk robes and
shawls and scarves, mostly oriental, things that Hermione, with her
love for beautiful extravagant dress, had collected gradually.
'The three women will dance together,' she said.
'What shall it be?' asked Alexander, rising briskly.
'Vergini Delle Rocchette,' said the Contessa at once.
'They are so languid,' said Ursula.
'The three witches from Macbeth,' suggested Fraulein usefully. It was
finally decided to do Naomi and Ruth and Orpah. Ursula was Naomi,
Gudrun was Ruth, the Contessa was Orpah. The idea was to make a little
ballet, in the style of the Russian Ballet of Pavlova and Nijinsky.
The Contessa was ready first, Alexander went to the piano, a space was
cleared. Orpah, in beautiful oriental clothes, began slowly to dance
the death of her husband. Then Ruth came, and they wept together, and
lamented, then Naomi came to comfort them. It was all done in dumb
show, the women danced their emotion in gesture and motion. The little
drama went on for a quarter of an hour.
Ursula was beautiful as Naomi. All her men were dead, it remained to
her only to stand alone in indomitable assertion, demanding nothing.
Ruth, woman-loving, loved her. Orpah, a vivid, sensational, subtle
widow, would go back to the former life, a repetition. The interplay
between the women was real and rather frightening. It was strange to
see how Gudrun clung with heavy, desperate passion to Ursula, yet
smiled with subtle malevolence against her, how Ursula accepted
silently, unable to provide any more either for herself or for the
other, but dangerous and indomitable, refuting her grief.
Hermione loved to watch. She could see the Contessa's rapid, stoat-like
sensationalism, Gudrun's ultimate but treacherous cleaving to the woman
in her sister, Ursula's dangerous helplessness, as if she were
helplessly weighted, and unreleased.
'That was very beautiful,' everybody cried with one accord. But
Hermione writhed in her soul, knowing what she could not know. She
cried out for more dancing, and it was her will that set the Contessa
and Birkin moving mockingly in Malbrouk.
Gerald was excited by the desperate cleaving of Gudrun to Naomi. The
essence of that female, subterranean recklessness and mockery
penetrated his blood. He could not forget Gudrun's lifted, offered,
cleaving, reckless, yet withal mocking weight. And Birkin, watching
like a hermit crab from its hole, had seen the brilliant frustration
and helplessness of Ursula. She was rich, full of dangerous power. She
was like a strange unconscious bud of powerful womanhood. He was
unconsciously drawn to her. She was his future.
Alexander played some Hungarian music, and they all danced, seized by
the spirit. Gerald was marvellously exhilarated at finding himself in
motion, moving towards Gudrun, dancing with feet that could not yet
escape from the waltz and the two-step, but feeling his force stir
along his limbs and his body, out of captivity. He did not know yet how
to dance their convulsive, rag-time sort of dancing, but he knew how to
begin. Birkin, when he could get free from the weight of the people
present, whom he disliked, danced rapidly and with a real gaiety. And
how Hermione hated him for this irresponsible gaiety.
'Now I see,' cried the Contessa excitedly, watching his purely gay
motion, which he had all to himself. 'Mr Birkin, he is a changer.'
Hermione looked at her slowly, and shuddered, knowing that only a
foreigner could have seen and have said this.
'Cosa vuol'dire, Palestra?' she asked, sing-song.
'Look,' said the Contessa, in Italian. 'He is not a man, he is a
chameleon, a creature of change.'
'He is not a man, he is treacherous, not one of us,' said itself over
in Hermione's consciousness. And her soul writhed in the black
subjugation to him, because of his power to escape, to exist, other
than she did, because he was not consistent, not a man, less than a
man. She hated him in a despair that shattered her and broke her down,
so that she suffered sheer dissolution like a corpse, and was
unconscious of everything save the horrible sickness of dissolution
that was taking place within her, body and soul.
The house being full, Gerald was given the smaller room, really the
dressing-room, communicating with Birkin's bedroom. When they all took
their candles and mounted the stairs, where the lamps were burning
subduedly, Hermione captured Ursula and brought her into her own
bedroom, to talk to her. A sort of constraint came over Ursula in the
big, strange bedroom. Hermione seemed to be bearing down on her, awful
and inchoate, making some appeal. They were looking at some Indian silk
shirts, gorgeous and sensual in themselves, their shape, their almost
corrupt gorgeousness. And Hermione came near, and her bosom writhed,
and Ursula was for a moment blank with panic. And for a moment
Hermione's haggard eyes saw the fear on the face of the other, there
was again a sort of crash, a crashing down. And Ursula picked up a
shirt of rich red and blue silk, made for a young princess of fourteen,
and was crying mechanically:
'Isn't it wonderful--who would dare to put those two strong colours
Then Hermione's maid entered silently and Ursula, overcome with dread,
escaped, carried away by powerful impulse.
Birkin went straight to bed. He was feeling happy, and sleepy. Since he
had danced he was happy. But Gerald would talk to him. Gerald, in
evening dress, sat on Birkin's bed when the other lay down, and must
'Who are those two Brangwens?' Gerald asked.
'They live in Beldover.'
'In Beldover! Who are they then?'
'Teachers in the Grammar School.'
There was a pause.
'They are!' exclaimed Gerald at length. 'I thought I had seen them
'It disappoints you?' said Birkin.
'Disappoints me! No--but how is it Hermione has them here?'
'She knew Gudrun in London--that's the younger one, the one with the
darker hair--she's an artist--does sculpture and modelling.'
'She's not a teacher in the Grammar School, then--only the other?'
'Both--Gudrun art mistress, Ursula a class mistress.'
'And what's the father?'
'Handicraft instructor in the schools.'
'Class-barriers are breaking down!'
Gerald was always uneasy under the slightly jeering tone of the other.
'That their father is handicraft instructor in a school! What does it
matter to me?'
Birkin laughed. Gerald looked at his face, as it lay there laughing and
bitter and indifferent on the pillow, and he could not go away.
'I don't suppose you will see very much more of Gudrun, at least. She
is a restless bird, she'll be gone in a week or two,' said Birkin.
'Where will she go?'
'London, Paris, Rome--heaven knows. I always expect her to sheer off to
Damascus or San Francisco; she's a bird of paradise. God knows what
she's got to do with Beldover. It goes by contraries, like dreams.'
Gerald pondered for a few moments.
'How do you know her so well?' he asked.
'I knew her in London,' he replied, 'in the Algernon Strange set.
She'll know about Pussum and Libidnikov and the rest--even if she
doesn't know them personally. She was never quite that set--more
conventional, in a way. I've known her for two years, I suppose.'
'And she makes money, apart from her teaching?' asked Gerald.
'Some--irregularly. She can sell her models. She has a certain
'How much for?'
'A guinea, ten guineas.'
'And are they good? What are they?'
'I think sometimes they are marvellously good. That is hers, those two
wagtails in Hermione's boudoir--you've seen them--they are carved in
wood and painted.'
'I thought it was savage carving again.'
'No, hers. That's what they are--animals and birds, sometimes odd small
people in everyday dress, really rather wonderful when they come off.
They have a sort of funniness that is quite unconscious and subtle.'
'She might be a well-known artist one day?' mused Gerald.
'She might. But I think she won't. She drops her art if anything else
catches her. Her contrariness prevents her taking it seriously--she
must never be too serious, she feels she might give herself away. And
she won't give herself away--she's always on the defensive. That's what
I can't stand about her type. By the way, how did things go off with
Pussum after I left you? I haven't heard anything.'
'Oh, rather disgusting. Halliday turned objectionable, and I only just
saved myself from jumping in his stomach, in a real old-fashioned row.'
Birkin was silent.
'Of course,' he said, 'Julius is somewhat insane. On the one hand he's
had religious mania, and on the other, he is fascinated by obscenity.
Either he is a pure servant, washing the feet of Christ, or else he is
making obscene drawings of Jesus--action and reaction--and between the
two, nothing. He is really insane. He wants a pure lily, another girl,
with a baby face, on the one hand, and on the other, he MUST have the
Pussum, just to defile himself with her.'
'That's what I can't make out,' said Gerald. 'Does he love her, the
Pussum, or doesn't he?'
'He neither does nor doesn't. She is the harlot, the actual harlot of
adultery to him. And he's got a craving to throw himself into the filth
of her. Then he gets up and calls on the name of the lily of purity,
the baby-faced girl, and so enjoys himself all round. It's the old
story--action and reaction, and nothing between.'
'I don't know,' said Gerald, after a pause, 'that he does insult the
Pussum so very much. She strikes me as being rather foul.'
'But I thought you liked her,' exclaimed Birkin. 'I always felt fond of
her. I never had anything to do with her, personally, that's true.'
'I liked her all right, for a couple of days,' said Gerald. 'But a week
of her would have turned me over. There's a certain smell about the
skin of those women, that in the end is sickening beyond words--even if
you like it at first.'
'I know,' said Birkin. Then he added, rather fretfully, 'But go to bed,
Gerald. God knows what time it is.'
Gerald looked at his watch, and at length rose off the bed, and went to
his room. But he returned in a few minutes, in his shirt.
'One thing,' he said, seating himself on the bed again. 'We finished up
rather stormily, and I never had time to give her anything.'
'Money?' said Birkin. 'She'll get what she wants from Halliday or from
one of her acquaintances.'
'But then,' said Gerald, 'I'd rather give her her dues and settle the
'She doesn't care.'
'No, perhaps not. But one feels the account is left open, and one would
rather it were closed.'
'Would you?' said Birkin. He was looking at the white legs of Gerald,
as the latter sat on the side of the bed in his shirt. They were
white-skinned, full, muscular legs, handsome and decided. Yet they
moved Birkin with a sort of pathos, tenderness, as if they were
'I think I'd rather close the account,' said Gerald, repeating himself
'It doesn't matter one way or another,' said Birkin.
'You always say it doesn't matter,' said Gerald, a little puzzled,
looking down at the face of the other man affectionately.
'Neither does it,' said Birkin.
'But she was a decent sort, really--'
'Render unto Caesarina the things that are Caesarina's,' said Birkin,
turning aside. It seemed to him Gerald was talking for the sake of
talking. 'Go away, it wearies me--it's too late at night,' he said.
'I wish you'd tell me something that DID matter,' said Gerald, looking
down all the time at the face of the other man, waiting for something.
But Birkin turned his face aside.
'All right then, go to sleep,' said Gerald, and he laid his hand
affectionately on the other man's shoulder, and went away.
In the morning when Gerald awoke and heard Birkin move, he called out:
'I still think I ought to give the Pussum ten pounds.'
'Oh God!' said Birkin, 'don't be so matter-of-fact. Close the account
in your own soul, if you like. It is there you can't close it.'
'How do you know I can't?'
Gerald meditated for some moments.
'It seems to me the right thing to do, you know, with the Pussums, is
to pay them.'
'And the right thing for mistresses: keep them. And the right thing for
wives: live under the same roof with them. Integer vitae scelerisque
purus--' said Birkin.
'There's no need to be nasty about it,' said Gerald.
'It bores me. I'm not interested in your peccadilloes.'
'And I don't care whether you are or not--I am.'
The morning was again sunny. The maid had been in and brought the
water, and had drawn the curtains. Birkin, sitting up in bed, looked
lazily and pleasantly out on the park, that was so green and deserted,
romantic, belonging to the past. He was thinking how lovely, how sure,
how formed, how final all the things of the past were--the lovely
accomplished past--this house, so still and golden, the park slumbering
its centuries of peace. And then, what a snare and a delusion, this
beauty of static things--what a horrible, dead prison Breadalby really
was, what an intolerable confinement, the peace! Yet it was better than
the sordid scrambling conflict of the present. If only one might create
the future after one's own heart--for a little pure truth, a little
unflinching application of simple truth to life, the heart cried out
'I can't see what you will leave me at all, to be interested in,' came
Gerald's voice from the lower room. 'Neither the Pussums, nor the
mines, nor anything else.'
'You be interested in what you can, Gerald. Only I'm not interested
myself,' said Birkin.
'What am I to do at all, then?' came Gerald's voice.
'What you like. What am I to do myself?'
In the silence Birkin could feel Gerald musing this fact.
'I'm blest if I know,' came the good-humoured answer.
'You see,' said Birkin, 'part of you wants the Pussum, and nothing but
the Pussum, part of you wants the mines, the business, and nothing but
the business--and there you are--all in bits--'
'And part of me wants something else,' said Gerald, in a queer, quiet,
'What?' said Birkin, rather surprised.
'That's what I hoped you could tell me,' said Gerald.
There was a silence for some time.
'I can't tell you--I can't find my own way, let alone yours. You might
marry,' Birkin replied.
'Who--the Pussum?' asked Gerald.
'Perhaps,' said Birkin. And he rose and went to the window.
'That is your panacea,' said Gerald. 'But you haven't even tried it on
yourself yet, and you are sick enough.'
'I am,' said Birkin. 'Still, I shall come right.'
'Yes,' Birkin answered obstinately.
'And no,' added Gerald. 'No, no, no, my boy.'
There was a silence between them, and a strange tension of hostility.
They always kept a gap, a distance between them, they wanted always to
be free each of the other. Yet there was a curious heart-straining
towards each other.
'Salvator femininus,' said Gerald, satirically.
'Why not?' said Birkin.
'No reason at all,' said Gerald, 'if it really works. But whom will you
'A woman,' said Birkin.
'Good,' said Gerald.
Birkin and Gerald were the last to come down to breakfast. Hermione
liked everybody to be early. She suffered when she felt her day was
diminished, she felt she had missed her life. She seemed to grip the
hours by the throat, to force her life from them. She was rather pale
and ghastly, as if left behind, in the morning. Yet she had her power,
her will was strangely pervasive. With the entrance of the two young
men a sudden tension was felt.
She lifted her face, and said, in her amused sing-song:
'Good morning! Did you sleep well? I'm so glad.'
And she turned away, ignoring them. Birkin, who knew her well, saw that
she intended to discount his existence.
'Will you take what you want from the sideboard?' said Alexander, in a
voice slightly suggesting disapprobation. 'I hope the things aren't
cold. Oh no! Do you mind putting out the flame under the chafingdish,
Rupert? Thank you.'
Even Alexander was rather authoritative where Hermione was cool. He
took his tone from her, inevitably. Birkin sat down and looked at the
table. He was so used to this house, to this room, to this atmosphere,
through years of intimacy, and now he felt in complete opposition to it
all, it had nothing to do with him. How well he knew Hermione, as she
sat there, erect and silent and somewhat bemused, and yet so potent, so
powerful! He knew her statically, so finally, that it was almost like a
madness. It was difficult to believe one was not mad, that one was not
a figure in the hall of kings in some Egyptian tomb, where the dead all
sat immemorial and tremendous. How utterly he knew Joshua Mattheson,
who was talking in his harsh, yet rather mincing voice, endlessly,
endlessly, always with a strong mentality working, always interesting,
and yet always known, everything he said known beforehand, however
novel it was, and clever. Alexander the up-to-date host, so bloodlessly
free-and-easy, Fraulein so prettily chiming in just as she should, the
little Italian Countess taking notice of everybody, only playing her
little game, objective and cold, like a weasel watching everything, and
extracting her own amusement, never giving herself in the slightest;
then Miss Bradley, heavy and rather subservient, treated with cool,
almost amused contempt by Hermione, and therefore slighted by
everybody--how known it all was, like a game with the figures set out,
the same figures, the Queen of chess, the knights, the pawns, the same
now as they were hundreds of years ago, the same figures moving round
in one of the innumerable permutations that make up the game. But the
game is known, its going on is like a madness, it is so exhausted.
There was Gerald, an amused look on his face; the game pleased him.
There was Gudrun, watching with steady, large, hostile eyes; the game
fascinated her, and she loathed it. There was Ursula, with a slightly
startled look on her face, as if she were hurt, and the pain were just
outside her consciousness.
Suddenly Birkin got up and went out.
'That's enough,' he said to himself involuntarily.
Hermione knew his motion, though not in her consciousness. She lifted
her heavy eyes and saw him lapse suddenly away, on a sudden, unknown
tide, and the waves broke over her. Only her indomitable will remained
static and mechanical, she sat at the table making her musing, stray
remarks. But the darkness had covered her, she was like a ship that has
gone down. It was finished for her too, she was wrecked in the
darkness. Yet the unfailing mechanism of her will worked on, she had
'Shall we bathe this morning?' she said, suddenly looking at them all.
'Splendid,' said Joshua. 'It is a perfect morning.'
'Oh, it is beautiful,' said Fraulein.
'Yes, let us bathe,' said the Italian woman.
'We have no bathing suits,' said Gerald.
'Have mine,' said Alexander. 'I must go to church and read the lessons.
They expect me.'
'Are you a Christian?' asked the Italian Countess, with sudden
'No,' said Alexander. 'I'm not. But I believe in keeping up the old
'They are so beautiful,' said Fraulein daintily.
'Oh, they are,' cried Miss Bradley.
They all trailed out on to the lawn. It was a sunny, soft morning in
early summer, when life ran in the world subtly, like a reminiscence.
The church bells were ringing a little way off, not a cloud was in the
sky, the swans were like lilies on the water below, the peacocks walked
with long, prancing steps across the shadow and into the sunshine of
the grass. One wanted to swoon into the by-gone perfection of it all.
'Good-bye,' called Alexander, waving his gloves cheerily, and he
disappeared behind the bushes, on his way to church.
'Now,' said Hermione, 'shall we all bathe?'
'I won't,' said Ursula.
'You don't want to?' said Hermione, looking at her slowly.
'No. I don't want to,' said Ursula.
'Nor I,' said Gudrun.
'What about my suit?' asked Gerald.
'I don't know,' laughed Hermione, with an odd, amused intonation. 'Will
a handkerchief do--a large handkerchief?'
'That will do,' said Gerald.
'Come along then,' sang Hermione.
The first to run across the lawn was the little Italian, small and like
a cat, her white legs twinkling as she went, ducking slightly her head,
that was tied in a gold silk kerchief. She tripped through the gate and
down the grass, and stood, like a tiny figure of ivory and bronze, at
the water's edge, having dropped off her towelling, watching the swans,
which came up in surprise. Then out ran Miss Bradley, like a large,
soft plum in her dark-blue suit. Then Gerald came, a scarlet silk
kerchief round his loins, his towels over his arms. He seemed to flaunt
himself a little in the sun, lingering and laughing, strolling easily,
looking white but natural in his nakedness. Then came Sir Joshua, in an
overcoat, and lastly Hermione, striding with stiff grace from out of a
great mantle of purple silk, her head tied up in purple and gold.
Handsome was her stiff, long body, her straight-stepping white legs,
there was a static magnificence about her as she let the cloak float
loosely away from her striding. She crossed the lawn like some strange
memory, and passed slowly and statelily towards the water.
There were three ponds, in terraces descending the valley, large and
smooth and beautiful, lying in the sun. The water ran over a little
stone wall, over small rocks, splashing down from one pond to the level
below. The swans had gone out on to the opposite bank, the reeds
smelled sweet, a faint breeze touched the skin.
Gerald had dived in, after Sir Joshua, and had swum to the end of the
pond. There he climbed out and sat on the wall. There was a dive, and
the little Countess was swimming like a rat, to join him. They both sat
in the sun, laughing and crossing their arms on their breasts. Sir
Joshua swam up to them, and stood near them, up to his arm-pits in the
water. Then Hermione and Miss Bradley swam over, and they sat in a row
on the embankment.
'Aren't they terrifying? Aren't they really terrifying?' said Gudrun.
'Don't they look saurian? They are just like great lizards. Did you
ever see anything like Sir Joshua? But really, Ursula, he belongs to
the primeval world, when great lizards crawled about.'
Gudrun looked in dismay on Sir Joshua, who stood up to the breast in
the water, his long, greyish hair washed down into his eyes, his neck
set into thick, crude shoulders. He was talking to Miss Bradley, who,
seated on the bank above, plump and big and wet, looked as if she might
roll and slither in the water almost like one of the slithering
sealions in the Zoo.
Ursula watched in silence. Gerald was laughing happily, between
Hermione and the Italian. He reminded her of Dionysos, because his hair
was really yellow, his figure so full and laughing. Hermione, in her
large, stiff, sinister grace, leaned near him, frightening, as if she
were not responsible for what she might do. He knew a certain danger in
her, a convulsive madness. But he only laughed the more, turning often
to the little Countess, who was flashing up her face at him.
They all dropped into the water, and were swimming together like a
shoal of seals. Hermione was powerful and unconscious in the water,
large and slow and powerful. Palestra was quick and silent as a water
rat, Gerald wavered and flickered, a white natural shadow. Then, one
after the other, they waded out, and went up to the house.
But Gerald lingered a moment to speak to Gudrun.
'You don't like the water?' he said.
She looked at him with a long, slow inscrutable look, as he stood
before her negligently, the water standing in beads all over his skin.
'I like it very much,' she replied.
He paused, expecting some sort of explanation.
'And you swim?'
'Yes, I swim.'
Still he would not ask her why she would not go in then. He could feel
something ironic in her. He walked away, piqued for the first time.
'Why wouldn't you bathe?' he asked her again, later, when he was once
more the properly-dressed young Englishman.
She hesitated a moment before answering, opposing his persistence.
'Because I didn't like the crowd,' she replied.
He laughed, her phrase seemed to re-echo in his consciousness. The
flavour of her slang was piquant to him. Whether he would or not, she
signified the real world to him. He wanted to come up to her standards,
fulfil her expectations. He knew that her criterion was the only one
that mattered. The others were all outsiders, instinctively, whatever
they might be socially. And Gerald could not help it, he was bound to
strive to come up to her criterion, fulfil her idea of a man and a
After lunch, when all the others had withdrawn, Hermione and Gerald and
Birkin lingered, finishing their talk. There had been some discussion,
on the whole quite intellectual and artificial, about a new state, a
new world of man. Supposing this old social state WERE broken and
destroyed, then, out of the chaos, what then?
The great social idea, said Sir Joshua, was the SOCIAL equality of man.
No, said Gerald, the idea was, that every man was fit for his own
little bit of a task--let him do that, and then please himself. The
unifying principle was the work in hand. Only work, the business of
production, held men together. It was mechanical, but then society WAS
a mechanism. Apart from work they were isolated, free to do as they
'Oh!' cried Gudrun. 'Then we shan't have names any more--we shall be
like the Germans, nothing but Herr Obermeister and Herr Untermeister. I
can imagine it--"I am Mrs Colliery-Manager Crich--I am Mrs
Member-of-Parliament Roddice. I am Miss Art-Teacher Brangwen." Very
'Things would work very much better, Miss Art-Teacher Brangwen,' said
'What things, Mr Colliery-Manager Crich? The relation between you and
me, PAR EXEMPLE?'
'Yes, for example,' cried the Italian. 'That which is between men and
'That is non-social,' said Birkin, sarcastically.
'Exactly,' said Gerald. 'Between me and a woman, the social question
does not enter. It is my own affair.'
'A ten-pound note on it,' said Birkin.
'You don't admit that a woman is a social being?' asked Ursula of
'She is both,' said Gerald. 'She is a social being, as far as society
is concerned. But for her own private self, she is a free agent, it is
her own affair, what she does.'
'But won't it be rather difficult to arrange the two halves?' asked
'Oh no,' replied Gerald. 'They arrange themselves naturally--we see it
'Don't you laugh so pleasantly till you're out of the wood,' said
Gerald knitted his brows in momentary irritation.
'Was I laughing?' he said.
'IF,' said Hermione at last, 'we could only realise, that in the SPIRIT
we are all one, all equal in the spirit, all brothers there--the rest
wouldn't matter, there would be no more of this carping and envy and
this struggle for power, which destroys, only destroys.'
This speech was received in silence, and almost immediately the party
rose from the table. But when the others had gone, Birkin turned round
in bitter declamation, saying:
'It is just the opposite, just the contrary, Hermione. We are all
different and unequal in spirit--it is only the SOCIAL differences that
are based on accidental material conditions. We are all abstractly or
mathematically equal, if you like. Every man has hunger and thirst, two
eyes, one nose and two legs. We're all the same in point of number. But
spiritually, there is pure difference and neither equality nor
inequality counts. It is upon these two bits of knowledge that you must
found a state. Your democracy is an absolute lie--your brotherhood of
man is a pure falsity, if you apply it further than the mathematical
abstraction. We all drank milk first, we all eat bread and meat, we all
want to ride in motor-cars--therein lies the beginning and the end of
the brotherhood of man. But no equality.
'But I, myself, who am myself, what have I to do with equality with any
other man or woman? In the spirit, I am as separate as one star is from
another, as different in quality and quantity. Establish a state on
THAT. One man isn't any better than another, not because they are
equal, but because they are intrinsically OTHER, that there is no term
of comparison. The minute you begin to compare, one man is seen to be
far better than another, all the inequality you can imagine is there by
nature. I want every man to have his share in the world's goods, so
that I am rid of his importunity, so that I can tell him: "Now you've
got what you want--you've got your fair share of the world's gear. Now,
you one-mouthed fool, mind yourself and don't obstruct me."'
Hermione was looking at him with leering eyes, along her cheeks. He
could feel violent waves of hatred and loathing of all he said, coming
out of her. It was dynamic hatred and loathing, coming strong and black
out of the unconsciousness. She heard his words in her unconscious
self, CONSCIOUSLY she was as if deafened, she paid no heed to them.
'It SOUNDS like megalomania, Rupert,' said Gerald, genially.
Hermione gave a queer, grunting sound. Birkin stood back.
'Yes, let it,' he said suddenly, the whole tone gone out of his voice,
that had been so insistent, bearing everybody down. And he went away.
But he felt, later, a little compunction. He had been violent, cruel
with poor Hermione. He wanted to recompense her, to make it up. He had
hurt her, he had been vindictive. He wanted to be on good terms with
He went into her boudoir, a remote and very cushiony place. She was
sitting at her table writing letters. She lifted her face abstractedly
when he entered, watched him go to the sofa, and sit down. Then she
looked down at her paper again.
He took up a large volume which he had been reading before, and became
minutely attentive to his author. His back was towards Hermione. She
could not go on with her writing. Her whole mind was a chaos, darkness
breaking in upon it, and herself struggling to gain control with her
will, as a swimmer struggles with the swirling water. But in spite of
her efforts she was borne down, darkness seemed to break over her, she
felt as if her heart was bursting. The terrible tension grew stronger
and stronger, it was most fearful agony, like being walled up.
And then she realised that his presence was the wall, his presence was
destroying her. Unless she could break out, she must die most
fearfully, walled up in horror. And he was the wall. She must break
down the wall--she must break him down before her, the awful
obstruction of him who obstructed her life to the last. It must be
done, or she must perish most horribly.
Terribly shocks ran over her body, like shocks of electricity, as if
many volts of electricity suddenly struck her down. She was aware of
him sitting silently there, an unthinkable evil obstruction. Only this
blotted out her mind, pressed out her very breathing, his silent,
stooping back, the back of his head.
A terrible voluptuous thrill ran down her arms--she was going to know
her voluptuous consummation. Her arms quivered and were strong,
immeasurably and irresistibly strong. What delight, what delight in
strength, what delirium of pleasure! She was going to have her
consummation of voluptuous ecstasy at last. It was coming! In utmost
terror and agony, she knew it was upon her now, in extremity of bliss.
Her hand closed on a blue, beautiful ball of lapis lazuli that stood on
her desk for a paper-weight. She rolled it round in her hand as she
rose silently. Her heart was a pure flame in her breast, she was purely
unconscious in ecstasy. She moved towards him and stood behind him for
a moment in ecstasy. He, closed within the spell, remained motionless
Then swiftly, in a flame that drenched down her body like fluid
lightning and gave her a perfect, unutterable consummation, unutterable
satisfaction, she brought down the ball of jewel stone with all her
force, crash on his head. But her fingers were in the way and deadened
the blow. Nevertheless, down went his head on the table on which his
book lay, the stone slid aside and over his ear, it was one convulsion
of pure bliss for her, lit up by the crushed pain of her fingers. But
it was not somehow complete. She lifted her arm high to aim once more,
straight down on the head that lay dazed on the table. She must smash
it, it must be smashed before her ecstasy was consummated, fulfilled
for ever. A thousand lives, a thousand deaths mattered nothing now,
only the fulfilment of this perfect ecstasy.
She was not swift, she could only move slowly. A strong spirit in him
woke him and made him lift his face and twist to look at her. Her arm
was raised, the hand clasping the ball of lapis lazuli. It was her left
hand, he realised again with horror that she was left-handed.
Hurriedly, with a burrowing motion, he covered his head under the thick
volume of Thucydides, and the blow came down, almost breaking his neck,
and shattering his heart.
He was shattered, but he was not afraid. Twisting round to face her he
pushed the table over and got away from her. He was like a flask that
is smashed to atoms, he seemed to himself that he was all fragments,
smashed to bits. Yet his movements were perfectly coherent and clear,
his soul was entire and unsurprised.
'No you don't, Hermione,' he said in a low voice. 'I don't let you.'
He saw her standing tall and livid and attentive, the stone clenched
tense in her hand.
'Stand away and let me go,' he said, drawing near to her.
As if pressed back by some hand, she stood away, watching him all the
time without changing, like a neutralised angel confronting him.
'It is not good,' he said, when he had gone past her. 'It isn't I who
will die. You hear?'
He kept his face to her as he went out, lest she should strike again.
While he was on his guard, she dared not move. And he was on his guard,
she was powerless. So he had gone, and left her standing.
She remained perfectly rigid, standing as she was for a long time. Then
she staggered to the couch and lay down, and went heavily to sleep.
When she awoke, she remembered what she had done, but it seemed to her,
she had only hit him, as any woman might do, because he tortured her.
She was perfectly right. She knew that, spiritually, she was right. In
her own infallible purity, she had done what must be done. She was
right, she was pure. A drugged, almost sinister religious expression
became permanent on her face.
Birkin, barely conscious, and yet perfectly direct in his motion, went
out of the house and straight across the park, to the open country, to
the hills. The brilliant day had become overcast, spots of rain were
falling. He wandered on to a wild valley-side, where were thickets of
hazel, many flowers, tufts of heather, and little clumps of young
firtrees, budding with soft paws. It was rather wet everywhere, there
was a stream running down at the bottom of the valley, which was
gloomy, or seemed gloomy. He was aware that he could not regain his
consciousness, that he was moving in a sort of darkness.
Yet he wanted something. He was happy in the wet hillside, that was
overgrown and obscure with bushes and flowers. He wanted to touch them
all, to saturate himself with the touch of them all. He took off his
clothes, and sat down naked among the primroses, moving his feet softly
among the primroses, his legs, his knees, his arms right up to the
arm-pits, lying down and letting them touch his belly, his breasts. It
was such a fine, cool, subtle touch all over him, he seemed to saturate
himself with their contact.
But they were too soft. He went through the long grass to a clump of
young fir-trees, that were no higher than a man. The soft sharp boughs
beat upon him, as he moved in keen pangs against them, threw little
cold showers of drops on his belly, and beat his loins with their
clusters of soft-sharp needles. There was a thistle which pricked him
vividly, but not too much, because all his movements were too
discriminate and soft. To lie down and roll in the sticky, cool young
hyacinths, to lie on one's belly and cover one's back with handfuls of
fine wet grass, soft as a breath, soft and more delicate and more
beautiful than the touch of any woman; and then to sting one's thigh
against the living dark bristles of the fir-boughs; and then to feel
the light whip of the hazel on one's shoulders, stinging, and then to
clasp the silvery birch-trunk against one's breast, its smoothness, its
hardness, its vital knots and ridges--this was good, this was all very
good, very satisfying. Nothing else would do, nothing else would
satisfy, except this coolness and subtlety of vegetation travelling
into one's blood. How fortunate he was, that there was this lovely,
subtle, responsive vegetation, waiting for him, as he waited for it;
how fulfilled he was, how happy!
As he dried himself a little with his handkerchief, he thought about
Hermione and the blow. He could feel a pain on the side of his head.
But after all, what did it matter? What did Hermione matter, what did
people matter altogether? There was this perfect cool loneliness, so
lovely and fresh and unexplored. Really, what a mistake he had made,
thinking he wanted people, thinking he wanted a woman. He did not want
a woman--not in the least. The leaves and the primroses and the trees,
they were really lovely and cool and desirable, they really came into
the blood and were added on to him. He was enrichened now immeasurably,
and so glad.
It was quite right of Hermione to want to kill him. What had he to do
with her? Why should he pretend to have anything to do with human
beings at all? Here was his world, he wanted nobody and nothing but the
lovely, subtle, responsive vegetation, and himself, his own living
It was necessary to go back into the world. That was true. But that did
not matter, so one knew where one belonged. He knew now where he
belonged. This was his place, his marriage place. The world was
He climbed out of the valley, wondering if he were mad. But if so, he
preferred his own madness, to the regular sanity. He rejoiced in his
own madness, he was free. He did not want that old sanity of the world,
which was become so repulsive. He rejoiced in the new-found world of
his madness. It was so fresh and delicate and so satisfying.
As for the certain grief he felt at the same time, in his soul, that
was only the remains of an old ethic, that bade a human being adhere to
humanity. But he was weary of the old ethic, of the human being, and of
humanity. He loved now the soft, delicate vegetation, that was so cool
and perfect. He would overlook the old grief, he would put away the old
ethic, he would be free in his new state.
He was aware of the pain in his head becoming more and more difficult
every minute. He was walking now along the road to the nearest station.
It was raining and he had no hat. But then plenty of cranks went out
nowadays without hats, in the rain.
He wondered again how much of his heaviness of heart, a certain
depression, was due to fear, fear lest anybody should have seen him
naked lying against the vegetation. What a dread he had of mankind, of
other people! It amounted almost to horror, to a sort of dream
terror--his horror of being observed by some other people. If he were
on an island, like Alexander Selkirk, with only the creatures and the
trees, he would be free and glad, there would be none of this
heaviness, this misgiving. He could love the vegetation and be quite
happy and unquestioned, by himself.
He had better send a note to Hermione: she might trouble about him, and
he did not want the onus of this. So at the station, he wrote saying:
I will go on to town--I don't want to come back to Breadalby for the
present. But it is quite all right--I don't want you to mind having
biffed me, in the least. Tell the others it is just one of my moods.
You were quite right, to biff me--because I know you wanted to. So
there's the end of it.
In the train, however, he felt ill. Every motion was insufferable pain,
and he was sick. He dragged himself from the station into a cab,
feeling his way step by step, like a blind man, and held up only by a
For a week or two he was ill, but he did not let Hermione know, and she
thought he was sulking; there was a complete estrangement between them.
She became rapt, abstracted in her conviction of exclusive
righteousness. She lived in and by her own self-esteem, conviction of
her own rightness of spirit.
Going home from school in the afternoon, the Brangwen girls descended
the hill between the picturesque cottages of Willey Green till they
came to the railway crossing. There they found the gate shut, because
the colliery train was rumbling nearer. They could hear the small
locomotive panting hoarsely as it advanced with caution between the
embankments. The one-legged man in the little signal-hut by the road
stared out from his security, like a crab from a snail-shell.
Whilst the two girls waited, Gerald Crich trotted up on a red Arab
mare. He rode well and softly, pleased with the delicate quivering of
the creature between his knees. And he was very picturesque, at least
in Gudrun's eyes, sitting soft and close on the slender red mare, whose
long tail flowed on the air. He saluted the two girls, and drew up at
the crossing to wait for the gate, looking down the railway for the
approaching train. In spite of her ironic smile at his picturesqueness,
Gudrun liked to look at him. He was well-set and easy, his face with
its warm tan showed up his whitish, coarse moustache, and his blue eyes
were full of sharp light as he watched the distance.
The locomotive chuffed slowly between the banks, hidden. The mare did
not like it. She began to wince away, as if hurt by the unknown noise.
But Gerald pulled her back and held her head to the gate. The sharp
blasts of the chuffing engine broke with more and more force on her.
The repeated sharp blows of unknown, terrifying noise struck through
her till she was rocking with terror. She recoiled like a spring let
go. But a glistening, half-smiling look came into Gerald's face. He
brought her back again, inevitably.
The noise was released, the little locomotive with her clanking steel
connecting-rod emerged on the highroad, clanking sharply. The mare
rebounded like a drop of water from hot iron. Ursula and Gudrun pressed
back into the hedge, in fear. But Gerald was heavy on the mare, and
forced her back. It seemed as if he sank into her magnetically, and
could thrust her back against herself.
'The fool!' cried Ursula loudly. 'Why doesn't he ride away till it's
Gudrun was looking at him with black-dilated, spellbound eyes. But he
sat glistening and obstinate, forcing the wheeling mare, which spun and
swerved like a wind, and yet could not get out of the grasp of his
will, nor escape from the mad clamour of terror that resounded through
her, as the trucks thumped slowly, heavily, horrifying, one after the
other, one pursuing the other, over the rails of the crossing.
The locomotive, as if wanting to see what could be done, put on the
brakes, and back came the trucks rebounding on the iron buffers,
striking like horrible cymbals, clashing nearer and nearer in frightful
strident concussions. The mare opened her mouth and rose slowly, as if
lifted up on a wind of terror. Then suddenly her fore feet struck out,
as she convulsed herself utterly away from the horror. Back she went,
and the two girls clung to each other, feeling she must fall backwards
on top of him. But he leaned forward, his face shining with fixed
amusement, and at last he brought her down, sank her down, and was
bearing her back to the mark. But as strong as the pressure of his
compulsion was the repulsion of her utter terror, throwing her back
away from the railway, so that she spun round and round, on two legs,
as if she were in the centre of some whirlwind. It made Gudrun faint
with poignant dizziness, which seemed to penetrate to her heart.
'No--! No--! Let her go! Let her go, you fool, you FOOL--!' cried
Ursula at the top of her voice, completely outside herself. And Gudrun
hated her bitterly for being outside herself. It was unendurable that
Ursula's voice was so powerful and naked.
A sharpened look came on Gerald's face. He bit himself down on the mare
like a keen edge biting home, and FORCED her round. She roared as she
breathed, her nostrils were two wide, hot holes, her mouth was apart,
her eyes frenzied. It was a repulsive sight. But he held on her
unrelaxed, with an almost mechanical relentlessness, keen as a sword
pressing in to her. Both man and horse were sweating with violence. Yet
he seemed calm as a ray of cold sunshine.
Meanwhile the eternal trucks were rumbling on, very slowly, treading
one after the other, one after the other, like a disgusting dream that
has no end. The connecting chains were grinding and squeaking as the
tension varied, the mare pawed and struck away mechanically now, her
terror fulfilled in her, for now the man encompassed her; her paws were
blind and pathetic as she beat the air, the man closed round her, and
brought her down, almost as if she were part of his own physique.
'And she's bleeding! She's bleeding!' cried Ursula, frantic with
opposition and hatred of Gerald. She alone understood him perfectly, in
Gudrun looked and saw the trickles of blood on the sides of the mare,
and she turned white. And then on the very wound the bright spurs came
down, pressing relentlessly. The world reeled and passed into
nothingness for Gudrun, she could not know any more.
When she recovered, her soul was calm and cold, without feeling. The
trucks were still rumbling by, and the man and the mare were still
fighting. But she herself was cold and separate, she had no more
feeling for them. She was quite hard and cold and indifferent.
They could see the top of the hooded guard's-van approaching, the sound
of the trucks was diminishing, there was hope of relief from the
intolerable noise. The heavy panting of the half-stunned mare sounded
automatically, the man seemed to be relaxing confidently, his will
bright and unstained. The guard's-van came up, and passed slowly, the
guard staring out in his transition on the spectacle in the road. And,
through the man in the closed wagon, Gudrun could see the whole scene
spectacularly, isolated and momentary, like a vision isolated in
Lovely, grateful silence seemed to trail behind the receding train. How
sweet the silence is! Ursula looked with hatred on the buffers of the
diminishing wagon. The gatekeeper stood ready at the door of his hut,
to proceed to open the gate. But Gudrun sprang suddenly forward, in
front of the struggling horse, threw off the latch and flung the gates
asunder, throwing one-half to the keeper, and running with the other
half, forwards. Gerald suddenly let go the horse and leaped forwards,
almost on to Gudrun. She was not afraid. As he jerked aside the mare's
head, Gudrun cried, in a strange, high voice, like a gull, or like a
witch screaming out from the side of the road:
'I should think you're proud.'
The words were distinct and formed. The man, twisting aside on his
dancing horse, looked at her in some surprise, some wondering interest.
Then the mare's hoofs had danced three times on the drum-like sleepers
of the crossing, and man and horse were bounding springily, unequally
up the road.
The two girls watched them go. The gate-keeper hobbled thudding over
the logs of the crossing, with his wooden leg. He had fastened the
gate. Then he also turned, and called to the girls:
'A masterful young jockey, that; 'll have his own road, if ever anybody
'Yes,' cried Ursula, in her hot, overbearing voice. 'Why couldn't he
take the horse away, till the trucks had gone by? He's a fool, and a
bully. Does he think it's manly, to torture a horse? It's a living
thing, why should he bully it and torture it?'
There was a pause, then the gate-keeper shook his head, and replied:
'Yes, it's as nice a little mare as you could set eyes on--beautiful
little thing, beautiful. Now you couldn't see his father treat any
animal like that--not you. They're as different as they welly can be,
Gerald Crich and his father--two different men, different made.'
Then there was a pause.
'But why does he do it?' cried Ursula, 'why does he? Does he think he's
grand, when he's bullied a sensitive creature, ten times as sensitive
Again there was a cautious pause. Then again the man shook his head, as
if he would say nothing, but would think the more.
'I expect he's got to train the mare to stand to anything,' he replied.
'A pure-bred Harab--not the sort of breed as is used to round
here--different sort from our sort altogether. They say as he got her
'He would!' said Ursula. 'He'd better have left her to the Turks, I'm
sure they would have had more decency towards her.'
The man went in to drink his can of tea, the girls went on down the
lane, that was deep in soft black dust. Gudrun was as if numbed in her
mind by the sense of indomitable soft weight of the man, bearing down
into the living body of the horse: the strong, indomitable thighs of
the blond man clenching the palpitating body of the mare into pure
control; a sort of soft white magnetic domination from the loins and
thighs and calves, enclosing and encompassing the mare heavily into
unutterable subordination, soft blood-subordination, terrible.
On the left, as the girls walked silently, the coal-mine lifted its
great mounds and its patterned head-stocks, the black railway with the
trucks at rest looked like a harbour just below, a large bay of
railroad with anchored wagons.
Near the second level-crossing, that went over many bright rails, was a
farm belonging to the collieries, and a great round globe of iron, a
disused boiler, huge and rusty and perfectly round, stood silently in a
paddock by the road. The hens were pecking round it, some chickens were
balanced on the drinking trough, wagtails flew away in among trucks,
from the water.
On the other side of the wide crossing, by the road-side, was a heap of
pale-grey stones for mending the roads, and a cart standing, and a
middle-aged man with whiskers round his face was leaning on his shovel,
talking to a young man in gaiters, who stood by the horse's head. Both
men were facing the crossing.
They saw the two girls appear, small, brilliant figures in the near
distance, in the strong light of the late afternoon. Both wore light,
gay summer dresses, Ursula had an orange-coloured knitted coat, Gudrun
a pale yellow, Ursula wore canary yellow stockings, Gudrun bright rose,
the figures of the two women seemed to glitter in progress over the
wide bay of the railway crossing, white and orange and yellow and rose
glittering in motion across a hot world silted with coal-dust.
The two men stood quite still in the heat, watching. The elder was a
short, hard-faced energetic man of middle age, the younger a labourer
of twenty-three or so. They stood in silence watching the advance of
the sisters. They watched whilst the girls drew near, and whilst they
passed, and whilst they receded down the dusty road, that had dwellings
on one side, and dusty young corn on the other.
Then the elder man, with the whiskers round his face, said in a
prurient manner to the young man:
'What price that, eh? She'll do, won't she?'
'Which?' asked the young man, eagerly, with laugh.
'Her with the red stockings. What d'you say? I'd give my week's wages
for five minutes; what!--just for five minutes.'
Again the young man laughed.
'Your missis 'ud have summat to say to you,' he replied.
Gudrun had turned round and looked at the two men. They were to her
sinister creatures, standing watching after her, by the heap of pale
grey slag. She loathed the man with whiskers round his face.
'You're first class, you are,' the man said to her, and to the
'Do you think it would be worth a week's wages?' said the younger man,
'Do I? I'd put 'em bloody-well down this second--'
The younger man looked after Gudrun and Ursula objectively, as if he
wished to calculate what there might be, that was worth his week's
wages. He shook his head with fatal misgiving.
'No,' he said. 'It's not worth that to me.'
'Isn't?' said the old man. 'By God, if it isn't to me!'
And he went on shovelling his stones.
The girls descended between the houses with slate roofs and blackish
brick walls. The heavy gold glamour of approaching sunset lay over all
the colliery district, and the ugliness overlaid with beauty was like a
narcotic to the senses. On the roads silted with black dust, the rich
light fell more warmly, more heavily, over all the amorphous squalor a
kind of magic was cast, from the glowing close of day.
'It has a foul kind of beauty, this place,' said Gudrun, evidently
suffering from fascination. 'Can't you feel in some way, a thick, hot
attraction in it? I can. And it quite stupifies me.'
They were passing between blocks of miners' dwellings. In the back
yards of several dwellings, a miner could be seen washing himself in
the open on this hot evening, naked down to the loins, his great
trousers of moleskin slipping almost away. Miners already cleaned were
sitting on their heels, with their backs near the walls, talking and
silent in pure physical well-being, tired, and taking physical rest.
Their voices sounded out with strong intonation, and the broad dialect
was curiously caressing to the blood. It seemed to envelop Gudrun in a
labourer's caress, there was in the whole atmosphere a resonance of
physical men, a glamorous thickness of labour and maleness, surcharged
in the air. But it was universal in the district, and therefore
unnoticed by the inhabitants.
To Gudrun, however, it was potent and half-repulsive. She could never
tell why Beldover was so utterly different from London and the south,
why one's whole feelings were different, why one seemed to live in
another sphere. Now she realised that this was the world of powerful,
underworld men who spent most of their time in the darkness. In their
voices she could hear the voluptuous resonance of darkness, the strong,
dangerous underworld, mindless, inhuman. They sounded also like strange
machines, heavy, oiled. The voluptuousness was like that of machinery,
cold and iron.
It was the same every evening when she came home, she seemed to move
through a wave of disruptive force, that was given off from the
presence of thousands of vigorous, underworld, half-automatised
colliers, and which went to the brain and the heart, awaking a fatal
desire, and a fatal callousness.
There came over her a nostalgia for the place. She hated it, she knew
how utterly cut off it was, how hideous and how sickeningly mindless.
Sometimes she beat her wings like a new Daphne, turning not into a tree
but a machine. And yet, she was overcome by the nostalgia. She
struggled to get more and more into accord with the atmosphere of the
place, she craved to get her satisfaction of it.
She felt herself drawn out at evening into the main street of the town,
that was uncreated and ugly, and yet surcharged with this same potent
atmosphere of intense, dark callousness. There were always miners
about. They moved with their strange, distorted dignity, a certain
beauty, and unnatural stillness in their bearing, a look of abstraction
and half resignation in their pale, often gaunt faces. They belonged to
another world, they had a strange glamour, their voices were full of an
intolerable deep resonance, like a machine's burring, a music more
maddening than the siren's long ago.
She found herself, with the rest of the common women, drawn out on
Friday evenings to the little market. Friday was pay-day for the
colliers, and Friday night was market night. Every woman was abroad,
every man was out, shopping with his wife, or gathering with his pals.
The pavements were dark for miles around with people coming in, the
little market-place on the crown of the hill, and the main street of
Beldover were black with thickly-crowded men and women.
It was dark, the market-place was hot with kerosene flares, which threw
a ruddy light on the grave faces of the purchasing wives, and on the
pale abstract faces of the men. The air was full of the sound of criers
and of people talking, thick streams of people moved on the pavements
towards the solid crowd of the market. The shops were blazing and
packed with women, in the streets were men, mostly men, miners of all
ages. Money was spent with almost lavish freedom.
The carts that came could not pass through. They had to wait, the
driver calling and shouting, till the dense crowd would make way.
Everywhere, young fellows from the outlying districts were making
conversation with the girls, standing in the road and at the corners.
The doors of the public-houses were open and full of light, men passed
in and out in a continual stream, everywhere men were calling out to
one another, or crossing to meet one another, or standing in little
gangs and circles, discussing, endlessly discussing. The sense of talk,
buzzing, jarring, half-secret, the endless mining and political
wrangling, vibrated in the air like discordant machinery. And it was
their voices which affected Gudrun almost to swooning. They aroused a
strange, nostalgic ache of desire, something almost demoniacal, never
to be fulfilled.
Like any other common girl of the district, Gudrun strolled up and
down, up and down the length of the brilliant two-hundred paces of the
pavement nearest the market-place. She knew it was a vulgar thing to
do; her father and mother could not bear it; but the nostalgia came
over her, she must be among the people. Sometimes she sat among the
louts in the cinema: rakish-looking, unattractive louts they were. Yet
she must be among them.
And, like any other common lass, she found her 'boy.' It was an
electrician, one of the electricians introduced according to Gerald's
new scheme. He was an earnest, clever man, a scientist with a passion
for sociology. He lived alone in a cottage, in lodgings, in Willey
Green. He was a gentleman, and sufficiently well-to-do. His landlady
spread the reports about him; he WOULD have a large wooden tub in his
bedroom, and every time he came in from work, he WOULD have pails and
pails of water brought up, to bathe in, then he put on clean shirt and
under-clothing EVERY day, and clean silk socks; fastidious and exacting
he was in these respects, but in every other way, most ordinary and
Gudrun knew all these things. The Brangwen's house was one to which the
gossip came naturally and inevitably. Palmer was in the first place a
friend of Ursula's. But in his pale, elegant, serious face there showed
the same nostalgia that Gudrun felt. He too must walk up and down the
street on Friday evening. So he walked with Gudrun, and a friendship
was struck up between them. But he was not in love with Gudrun; he
REALLY wanted Ursula, but for some strange reason, nothing could happen
between her and him. He liked to have Gudrun about, as a
fellow-mind--but that was all. And she had no real feeling for him. He
was a scientist, he had to have a woman to back him. But he was really
impersonal, he had the fineness of an elegant piece of machinery. He
was too cold, too destructive to care really for women, too great an
egoist. He was polarised by the men. Individually he detested and
despised them. In the mass they fascinated him, as machinery fascinated
him. They were a new sort of machinery to him--but incalculable,
So Gudrun strolled the streets with Palmer, or went to the cinema with
him. And his long, pale, rather elegant face flickered as he made his
sarcastic remarks. There they were, the two of them: two elegants in
one sense: in the other sense, two units, absolutely adhering to the
people, teeming with the distorted colliers. The same secret seemed to
be working in the souls of all alike, Gudrun, Palmer, the rakish young
bloods, the gaunt, middle-aged men. All had a secret sense of power,
and of inexpressible destructiveness, and of fatal half-heartedness, a
sort of rottenness in the will.
Sometimes Gudrun would start aside, see it all, see how she was sinking
in. And then she was filled with a fury of contempt and anger. She felt
she was sinking into one mass with the rest--all so close and
intermingled and breathless. It was horrible. She stifled. She prepared
for flight, feverishly she flew to her work. But soon she let go. She
started off into the country--the darkish, glamorous country. The spell
was beginning to work again.
One morning the sisters were sketching by the side of Willey Water, at
the remote end of the lake. Gudrun had waded out to a gravelly shoal,
and was seated like a Buddhist, staring fixedly at the water-plants
that rose succulent from the mud of the low shores. What she could see
was mud, soft, oozy, watery mud, and from its festering chill,
water-plants rose up, thick and cool and fleshy, very straight and
turgid, thrusting out their leaves at right angles, and having dark
lurid colours, dark green and blotches of black-purple and bronze. But
she could feel their turgid fleshy structure as in a sensuous vision,
she KNEW how they rose out of the mud, she KNEW how they thrust out
from themselves, how they stood stiff and succulent against the air.
Ursula was watching the butterflies, of which there were dozens near
the water, little blue ones suddenly snapping out of nothingness into a
jewel-life, a large black-and-red one standing upon a flower and
breathing with his soft wings, intoxicatingly, breathing pure, ethereal
sunshine; two white ones wrestling in the low air; there was a halo
round them; ah, when they came tumbling nearer they were orangetips,
and it was the orange that had made the halo. Ursula rose and drifted
away, unconscious like the butterflies.
Gudrun, absorbed in a stupor of apprehension of surging water-plants,
sat crouched on the shoal, drawing, not looking up for a long time, and
then staring unconsciously, absorbedly at the rigid, naked, succulent
stems. Her feet were bare, her hat lay on the bank opposite.
She started out of her trance, hearing the knocking of oars. She looked
round. There was a boat with a gaudy Japanese parasol, and a man in
white, rowing. The woman was Hermione, and the man was Gerald. She knew
it instantly. And instantly she perished in the keen FRISSON of
anticipation, an electric vibration in her veins, intense, much more
intense than that which was always humming low in the atmosphere of
Gerald was her escape from the heavy slough of the pale, underworld,
automatic colliers. He started out of the mud. He was master. She saw
his back, the movement of his white loins. But not that--it was the
whiteness he seemed to enclose as he bent forwards, rowing. He seemed
to stoop to something. His glistening, whitish hair seemed like the
electricity of the sky.
'There's Gudrun,' came Hermione's voice floating distinct over the
water. 'We will go and speak to her. Do you mind?'
Gerald looked round and saw the girl standing by the water's edge,
looking at him. He pulled the boat towards her, magnetically, without
thinking of her. In his world, his conscious world, she was still
nobody. He knew that Hermione had a curious pleasure in treading down
all the social differences, at least apparently, and he left it to her.
'How do you do, Gudrun?' sang Hermione, using the Christian name in the
fashionable manner. 'What are you doing?'
'How do you do, Hermione? I WAS sketching.'
'Were you?' The boat drifted nearer, till the keel ground on the bank.
'May we see? I should like to SO much.'
It was no use resisting Hermione's deliberate intention.
'Well--' said Gudrun reluctantly, for she always hated to have her
unfinished work exposed--'there's nothing in the least interesting.'
'Isn't there? But let me see, will you?'
Gudrun reached out the sketch-book, Gerald stretched from the boat to
take it. And as he did so, he remembered Gudrun's last words to him,
and her face lifted up to him as he sat on the swerving horse. An
intensification of pride went over his nerves, because he felt, in some
way she was compelled by him. The exchange of feeling between them was
strong and apart from their consciousness.
And as if in a spell, Gudrun was aware of his body, stretching and
surging like the marsh-fire, stretching towards her, his hand coming
straight forward like a stem. Her voluptuous, acute apprehension of him
made the blood faint in her veins, her mind went dim and unconscious.
And he rocked on the water perfectly, like the rocking of
phosphorescence. He looked round at the boat. It was drifting off a
little. He lifted the oar to bring it back. And the exquisite pleasure
of slowly arresting the boat, in the heavy-soft water, was complete as
'THAT'S what you have done,' said Hermione, looking searchingly at the
plants on the shore, and comparing with Gudrun's drawing. Gudrun looked
round in the direction of Hermione's long, pointing finger. 'That is
it, isn't it?' repeated Hermione, needing confirmation.
'Yes,' said Gudrun automatically, taking no real heed.
'Let me look,' said Gerald, reaching forward for the book. But Hermione
ignored him, he must not presume, before she had finished. But he, his
will as unthwarted and as unflinching as hers, stretched forward till
he touched the book. A little shock, a storm of revulsion against him,
shook Hermione unconsciously. She released the book when he had not
properly got it, and it tumbled against the side of the boat and
bounced into the water.
'There!' sang Hermione, with a strange ring of malevolent victory. 'I'm
so sorry, so awfully sorry. Can't you get it, Gerald?'
This last was said in a note of anxious sneering that made Gerald's
veins tingle with fine hate for her. He leaned far out of the boat,
reaching down into the water. He could feel his position was
ridiculous, his loins exposed behind him.
'It is of no importance,' came the strong, clanging voice of Gudrun.
She seemed to touch him. But he reached further, the boat swayed
violently. Hermione, however, remained unperturbed. He grasped the
book, under the water, and brought it up, dripping.
'I'm so dreadfully sorry--dreadfully sorry,' repeated Hermione. 'I'm
afraid it was all my fault.'
'It's of no importance--really, I assure you--it doesn't matter in the
least,' said Gudrun loudly, with emphasis, her face flushed scarlet.
And she held out her hand impatiently for the wet book, to have done
with the scene. Gerald gave it to her. He was not quite himself.
'I'm so dreadfully sorry,' repeated Hermione, till both Gerald and
Gudrun were exasperated. 'Is there nothing that can be done?'
'In what way?' asked Gudrun, with cool irony.
'Can't we save the drawings?'
There was a moment's pause, wherein Gudrun made evident all her
refutation of Hermione's persistence.
'I assure you,' said Gudrun, with cutting distinctness, 'the drawings
are quite as good as ever they were, for my purpose. I want them only
'But can't I give you a new book? I wish you'd let me do that. I feel
so truly sorry. I feel it was all my fault.'
'As far as I saw,' said Gudrun, 'it wasn't your fault at all. If there
was any FAULT, it was Mr Crich's. But the whole thing is ENTIRELY
trivial, and it really is ridiculous to take any notice of it.'
Gerald watched Gudrun closely, whilst she repulsed Hermione. There was
a body of cold power in her. He watched her with an insight that
amounted to clairvoyance. He saw her a dangerous, hostile spirit, that
could stand undiminished and unabated. It was so finished, and of such
perfect gesture, moreover.
'I'm awfully glad if it doesn't matter,' he said; 'if there's no real
She looked back at him, with her fine blue eyes, and signalled full
into his spirit, as she said, her voice ringing with intimacy almost
caressive now it was addressed to him:
'Of course, it doesn't matter in the LEAST.'
The bond was established between them, in that look, in her tone. In
her tone, she made the understanding clear--they were of the same kind,
he and she, a sort of diabolic freemasonry subsisted between them.
Henceforward, she knew, she had her power over him. Wherever they met,
they would be secretly associated. And he would be helpless in the
association with her. Her soul exulted.
'Good-bye! I'm so glad you forgive me. Gooood-bye!'
Hermione sang her farewell, and waved her hand. Gerald automatically
took the oar and pushed off. But he was looking all the time, with a
glimmering, subtly-smiling admiration in his eyes, at Gudrun, who stood
on the shoal shaking the wet book in her hand. She turned away and
ignored the receding boat. But Gerald looked back as he rowed,
beholding her, forgetting what he was doing.
'Aren't we going too much to the left?' sang Hermione, as she sat
ignored under her coloured parasol.
Gerald looked round without replying, the oars balanced and glancing in
'I think it's all right,' he said good-humouredly, beginning to row
again without thinking of what he was doing. And Hermione disliked him
extremely for his good-humoured obliviousness, she was nullified, she
could not regain ascendancy.
Meanwhile Ursula had wandered on from Willey Water along the course of
the bright little stream. The afternoon was full of larks' singing. On
the bright hill-sides was a subdued smoulder of gorse. A few
forget-me-nots flowered by the water. There was a rousedness and a
She strayed absorbedly on, over the brooks. She wanted to go to the
mill-pond above. The big mill-house was deserted, save for a labourer
and his wife who lived in the kitchen. So she passed through the empty
farm-yard and through the wilderness of a garden, and mounted the bank
by the sluice. When she got to the top, to see the old, velvety surface
of the pond before her, she noticed a man on the bank, tinkering with a
punt. It was Birkin sawing and hammering away.
She stood at the head of the sluice, looking at him. He was unaware of
anybody's presence. He looked very busy, like a wild animal, active and
intent. She felt she ought to go away, he would not want her. He seemed
to be so much occupied. But she did not want to go away. Therefore she
moved along the bank till he would look up.
Which he soon did. The moment he saw her, he dropped his tools and came
'How do you do? I'm making the punt water-tight. Tell me if you think
it is right.'
She went along with him.
'You are your father's daughter, so you can tell me if it will do,' he
She bent to look at the patched punt.
'I am sure I am my father's daughter,' she said, fearful of having to
judge. 'But I don't know anything about carpentry. It LOOKS right,
don't you think?'
'Yes, I think. I hope it won't let me to the bottom, that's all. Though
even so, it isn't a great matter, I should come up again. Help me to
get it into the water, will you?'
With combined efforts they turned over the heavy punt and set it
'Now,' he said, 'I'll try it and you can watch what happens. Then if it
carries, I'll take you over to the island.'
'Do,' she cried, watching anxiously.
The pond was large, and had that perfect stillness and the dark lustre
of very deep water. There were two small islands overgrown with bushes
and a few trees, towards the middle. Birkin pushed himself off, and
veered clumsily in the pond. Luckily the punt drifted so that he could
catch hold of a willow bough, and pull it to the island.
'Rather overgrown,' he said, looking into the interior, 'but very nice.
I'll come and fetch you. The boat leaks a little.'
In a moment he was with her again, and she stepped into the wet punt.
'It'll float us all right,' he said, and manoeuvred again to the
They landed under a willow tree. She shrank from the little jungle of
rank plants before her, evil-smelling figwort and hemlock. But he
explored into it.
'I shall mow this down,' he said, 'and then it will be romantic--like
Paul et Virginie.'
'Yes, one could have lovely Watteau picnics here,' cried Ursula with
His face darkened.
'I don't want Watteau picnics here,' he said.
'Only your Virginie,' she laughed.
'Virginie enough,' he smiled wryly. 'No, I don't want her either.'
Ursula looked at him closely. She had not seen him since Breadalby. He
was very thin and hollow, with a ghastly look in his face.
'You have been ill; haven't you?' she asked, rather repulsed.
'Yes,' he replied coldly.
They had sat down under the willow tree, and were looking at the pond,
from their retreat on the island.
'Has it made you frightened?' she asked.
'What of?' he asked, turning his eyes to look at her. Something in him,
inhuman and unmitigated, disturbed her, and shook her out of her
'It IS frightening to be very ill, isn't it?' she said.
'It isn't pleasant,' he said. 'Whether one is really afraid of death,
or not, I have never decided. In one mood, not a bit, in another, very
'But doesn't it make you feel ashamed? I think it makes one so ashamed,
to be ill--illness is so terribly humiliating, don't you think?'
He considered for some minutes.
'May-be,' he said. 'Though one knows all the time one's life isn't
really right, at the source. That's the humiliation. I don't see that
the illness counts so much, after that. One is ill because one doesn't
live properly--can't. It's the failure to live that makes one ill, and
'But do you fail to live?' she asked, almost jeering.
'Why yes--I don't make much of a success of my days. One seems always
to be bumping one's nose against the blank wall ahead.'
Ursula laughed. She was frightened, and when she was frightened she
always laughed and pretended to be jaunty.
'Your poor nose!' she said, looking at that feature of his face.
'No wonder it's ugly,' he replied.
She was silent for some minutes, struggling with her own
self-deception. It was an instinct in her, to deceive herself.
'But I'M happy--I think life is AWFULLY jolly,' she said.
'Good,' he answered, with a certain cold indifference.
She reached for a bit of paper which had wrapped a small piece of
chocolate she had found in her pocket, and began making a boat. He
watched her without heeding her. There was something strangely pathetic
and tender in her moving, unconscious finger-tips, that were agitated
and hurt, really.
'I DO enjoy things--don't you?' she asked.
'Oh yes! But it infuriates me that I can't get right, at the really
growing part of me. I feel all tangled and messed up, and I CAN'T get
straight anyhow. I don't know what really to DO. One must do something
'Why should you always be DOING?' she retorted. 'It is so plebeian. I
think it is much better to be really patrician, and to do nothing but
just be oneself, like a walking flower.'
'I quite agree,' he said, 'if one has burst into blossom. But I can't
get my flower to blossom anyhow. Either it is blighted in the bud, or
has got the smother-fly, or it isn't nourished. Curse it, it isn't even
a bud. It is a contravened knot.'
Again she laughed. He was so very fretful and exasperated. But she was
anxious and puzzled. How was one to get out, anyhow. There must be a
way out somewhere.
There was a silence, wherein she wanted to cry. She reached for another
bit of chocolate paper, and began to fold another boat.
'And why is it,' she asked at length, 'that there is no flowering, no
dignity of human life now?'
'The whole idea is dead. Humanity itself is dry-rotten, really. There
are myriads of human beings hanging on the bush--and they look very
nice and rosy, your healthy young men and women. But they are apples of
Sodom, as a matter of fact, Dead Sea Fruit, gall-apples. It isn't true
that they have any significance--their insides are full of bitter,
'But there ARE good people,' protested Ursula.
'Good enough for the life of today. But mankind is a dead tree, covered
with fine brilliant galls of people.'
Ursula could not help stiffening herself against this, it was too
picturesque and final. But neither could she help making him go on.
'And if it is so, WHY is it?' she asked, hostile. They were rousing
each other to a fine passion of opposition.
'Why, why are people all balls of bitter dust? Because they won't fall
off the tree when they're ripe. They hang on to their old positions
when the position is over-past, till they become infested with little
worms and dry-rot.'
There was a long pause. His voice had become hot and very sarcastic.
Ursula was troubled and bewildered, they were both oblivious of
everything but their own immersion.
'But even if everybody is wrong--where are you right?' she cried,
'where are you any better?'
'I?--I'm not right,' he cried back. 'At least my only rightness lies in
the fact that I know it. I detest what I am, outwardly. I loathe myself
as a human being. Humanity is a huge aggregate lie, and a huge lie is
less than a small truth. Humanity is less, far less than the
individual, because the individual may sometimes be capable of truth,
and humanity is a tree of lies. And they say that love is the greatest
thing; they persist in SAYING this, the foul liars, and just look at
what they do! Look at all the millions of people who repeat every
minute that love is the greatest, and charity is the greatest--and see
what they are doing all the time. By their works ye shall know them,
for dirty liars and cowards, who daren't stand by their own actions,
much less by their own words.'
'But,' said Ursula sadly, 'that doesn't alter the fact that love is the
greatest, does it? What they DO doesn't alter the truth of what they
say, does it?'
'Completely, because if what they say WERE true, then they couldn't
help fulfilling it. But they maintain a lie, and so they run amok at
last. It's a lie to say that love is the greatest. You might as well
say that hate is the greatest, since the opposite of everything
balances. What people want is hate--hate and nothing but hate. And in
the name of righteousness and love, they get it. They distil themselves
with nitroglycerine, all the lot of them, out of very love. It's the
lie that kills. If we want hate, let us have it--death, murder,
torture, violent destruction--let us have it: but not in the name of
love. But I abhor humanity, I wish it was swept away. It could go, and
there would be no ABSOLUTE loss, if every human being perished
tomorrow. The reality would be untouched. Nay, it would be better. The
real tree of life would then be rid of the most ghastly, heavy crop of
Dead Sea Fruit, the intolerable burden of myriad simulacra of people,
an infinite weight of mortal lies.'
'So you'd like everybody in the world destroyed?' said Ursula.
'I should indeed.'
'And the world empty of people?'
'Yes truly. You yourself, don't you find it a beautiful clean thought,
a world empty of people, just uninterrupted grass, and a hare sitting
The pleasant sincerity of his voice made Ursula pause to consider her
own proposition. And really it WAS attractive: a clean, lovely,
humanless world. It was the REALLY desirable. Her heart hesitated, and
exulted. But still, she was dissatisfied with HIM.
'But,' she objected, 'you'd be dead yourself, so what good would it do
'I would die like a shot, to know that the earth would really be
cleaned of all the people. It is the most beautiful and freeing
thought. Then there would NEVER be another foul humanity created, for a
'No,' said Ursula, 'there would be nothing.'
'What! Nothing? Just because humanity was wiped out? You flatter
yourself. There'd be everything.'
'But how, if there were no people?'
'Do you think that creation depends on MAN! It merely doesn't. There
are the trees and the grass and birds. I much prefer to think of the
lark rising up in the morning upon a human-less world. Man is a
mistake, he must go. There is the grass, and hares and adders, and the
unseen hosts, actual angels that go about freely when a dirty humanity
doesn't interrupt them--and good pure-tissued demons: very nice.'
It pleased Ursula, what he said, pleased her very much, as a phantasy.
Of course it was only a pleasant fancy. She herself knew too well the
actuality of humanity, its hideous actuality. She knew it could not
disappear so cleanly and conveniently. It had a long way to go yet, a
long and hideous way. Her subtle, feminine, demoniacal soul knew it
'If only man was swept off the face of the earth, creation would go on
so marvellously, with a new start, non-human. Man is one of the
mistakes of creation--like the ichthyosauri. If only he were gone
again, think what lovely things would come out of the liberated
days;--things straight out of the fire.'
'But man will never be gone,' she said, with insidious, diabolical
knowledge of the horrors of persistence. 'The world will go with him.'
'Ah no,' he answered, 'not so. I believe in the proud angels and the
demons that are our fore-runners. They will destroy us, because we are
not proud enough. The ichthyosauri were not proud: they crawled and
floundered as we do. And besides, look at elder-flowers and
bluebells--they are a sign that pure creation takes place--even the
butterfly. But humanity never gets beyond the caterpillar stage--it
rots in the chrysalis, it never will have wings. It is anti-creation,
like monkeys and baboons.'
Ursula watched him as he talked. There seemed a certain impatient fury
in him, all the while, and at the same time a great amusement in
everything, and a final tolerance. And it was this tolerance she
mistrusted, not the fury. She saw that, all the while, in spite of
himself, he would have to be trying to save the world. And this
knowledge, whilst it comforted her heart somewhere with a little
self-satisfaction, stability, yet filled her with a certain sharp
contempt and hate of him. She wanted him to herself, she hated the
Salvator Mundi touch. It was something diffuse and generalised about
him, which she could not stand. He would behave in the same way, say
the same things, give himself as completely to anybody who came along,
anybody and everybody who liked to appeal to him. It was despicable, a
very insidious form of prostitution.
'But,' she said, 'you believe in individual love, even if you don't
believe in loving humanity--?'
'I don't believe in love at all--that is, any more than I believe in
hate, or in grief. Love is one of the emotions like all the others--and
so it is all right whilst you feel it But I can't see how it becomes an
absolute. It is just part of human relationships, no more. And it is
only part of ANY human relationship. And why one should be required
ALWAYS to feel it, any more than one always feels sorrow or distant
joy, I cannot conceive. Love isn't a desideratum--it is an emotion you
feel or you don't feel, according to circumstance.'
'Then why do you care about people at all?' she asked, 'if you don't
believe in love? Why do you bother about humanity?'
'Why do I? Because I can't get away from it.'
'Because you love it,' she persisted.
It irritated him.
'If I do love it,' he said, 'it is my disease.'
'But it is a disease you don't want to be cured of,' she said, with
some cold sneering.
He was silent now, feeling she wanted to insult him.
'And if you don't believe in love, what DO you believe in?' she asked
mocking. 'Simply in the end of the world, and grass?'
He was beginning to feel a fool.
'I believe in the unseen hosts,' he said.
'And nothing else? You believe in nothing visible, except grass and
birds? Your world is a poor show.'
'Perhaps it is,' he said, cool and superior now he was offended,
assuming a certain insufferable aloof superiority, and withdrawing into
Ursula disliked him. But also she felt she had lost something. She
looked at him as he sat crouched on the bank. There was a certain
priggish Sunday-school stiffness over him, priggish and detestable. And
yet, at the same time, the moulding of him was so quick and attractive,
it gave such a great sense of freedom: the moulding of his brows, his
chin, his whole physique, something so alive, somewhere, in spite of
the look of sickness.
And it was this duality in feeling which he created in her, that made a
fine hate of him quicken in her bowels. There was his wonderful,
desirable life-rapidity, the rare quality of an utterly desirable man:
and there was at the same time this ridiculous, mean effacement into a
Salvator Mundi and a Sunday-school teacher, a prig of the stiffest
He looked up at her. He saw her face strangely enkindled, as if
suffused from within by a powerful sweet fire. His soul was arrested in
wonder. She was enkindled in her own living fire. Arrested in wonder
and in pure, perfect attraction, he moved towards her. She sat like a
strange queen, almost supernatural in her glowing smiling richness.
'The point about love,' he said, his consciousness quickly adjusting
itself, 'is that we hate the word because we have vulgarised it. It
ought to be prescribed, tabooed from utterance, for many years, till we
get a new, better idea.'
There was a beam of understanding between them.
'But it always means the same thing,' she said.
'Ah God, no, let it not mean that any more,' he cried. 'Let the old
'But still it is love,' she persisted. A strange, wicked yellow light
shone at him in her eyes.
He hesitated, baffled, withdrawing.
'No,' he said, 'it isn't. Spoken like that, never in the world. You've
no business to utter the word.'
'I must leave it to you, to take it out of the Ark of the Covenant at
the right moment,' she mocked.
Again they looked at each other. She suddenly sprang up, turned her
back to him, and walked away. He too rose slowly and went to the
water's edge, where, crouching, he began to amuse himself
unconsciously. Picking a daisy he dropped it on the pond, so that the
stem was a keel, the flower floated like a little water lily, staring
with its open face up to the sky. It turned slowly round, in a slow,
slow Dervish dance, as it veered away.
He watched it, then dropped another daisy into the water, and after
that another, and sat watching them with bright, absolved eyes,
crouching near on the bank. Ursula turned to look. A strange feeling
possessed her, as if something were taking place. But it was all
intangible. And some sort of control was being put on her. She could
not know. She could only watch the brilliant little discs of the
daisies veering slowly in travel on the dark, lustrous water. The
little flotilla was drifting into the light, a company of white specks
in the distance.
'Do let us go to the shore, to follow them,' she said, afraid of being
any longer imprisoned on the island. And they pushed off in the punt.
She was glad to be on the free land again. She went along the bank
towards the sluice. The daisies were scattered broadcast on the pond,
tiny radiant things, like an exaltation, points of exaltation here and
there. Why did they move her so strongly and mystically?
'Look,' he said, 'your boat of purple paper is escorting them, and they
are a convoy of rafts.'
Some of the daisies came slowly towards her, hesitating, making a shy
bright little cotillion on the dark clear water. Their gay bright
candour moved her so much as they came near, that she was almost in
'Why are they so lovely,' she cried. 'Why do I think them so lovely?'
'They are nice flowers,' he said, her emotional tones putting a
constraint on him.
'You know that a daisy is a company of florets, a concourse, become
individual. Don't the botanists put it highest in the line of
development? I believe they do.'
'The compositae, yes, I think so,' said Ursula, who was never very sure
of anything. Things she knew perfectly well, at one moment, seemed to
become doubtful the next.
'Explain it so, then,' he said. 'The daisy is a perfect little
democracy, so it's the highest of flowers, hence its charm.'
'No,' she cried, 'no--never. It isn't democratic.'
'No,' he admitted. 'It's the golden mob of the proletariat, surrounded
by a showy white fence of the idle rich.'
'How hateful--your hateful social orders!' she cried.
'Quite! It's a daisy--we'll leave it alone.'
'Do. Let it be a dark horse for once,' she said: 'if anything can be a
dark horse to you,' she added satirically.
They stood aside, forgetful. As if a little stunned, they both were
motionless, barely conscious. The little conflict into which they had
fallen had torn their consciousness and left them like two impersonal
forces, there in contact.
He became aware of the lapse. He wanted to say something, to get on to
a new more ordinary footing.
'You know,' he said, 'that I am having rooms here at the mill? Don't
you think we can have some good times?'
'Oh are you?' she said, ignoring all his implication of admitted
He adjusted himself at once, became normally distant.
'If I find I can live sufficiently by myself,' he continued, 'I shall
give up my work altogether. It has become dead to me. I don't believe
in the humanity I pretend to be part of, I don't care a straw for the
social ideals I live by, I hate the dying organic form of social
mankind--so it can't be anything but trumpery, to work at education. I
shall drop it as soon as I am clear enough--tomorrow perhaps--and be by
'Have you enough to live on?' asked Ursula.
'Yes--I've about four hundred a year. That makes it easy for me.'
There was a pause.
'And what about Hermione?' asked Ursula.
'That's over, finally--a pure failure, and never could have been
'But you still know each other?'
'We could hardly pretend to be strangers, could we?'
There was a stubborn pause.
'But isn't that a half-measure?' asked Ursula at length.
'I don't think so,' he said. 'You'll be able to tell me if it is.'
Again there was a pause of some minutes' duration. He was thinking.
'One must throw everything away, everything--let everything go, to get
the one last thing one wants,' he said.
'What thing?' she asked in challenge.
'I don't know--freedom together,' he said.
She had wanted him to say 'love.'
There was heard a loud barking of the dogs below. He seemed disturbed
by it. She did not notice. Only she thought he seemed uneasy.
'As a matter of fact,' he said, in rather a small voice, 'I believe
that is Hermione come now, with Gerald Crich. She wanted to see the
rooms before they are furnished.'
'I know,' said Ursula. 'She will superintend the furnishing for you.'
'Probably. Does it matter?'
'Oh no, I should think not,' said Ursula. 'Though personally, I can't
bear her. I think she is a lie, if you like, you who are always talking
about lies.' Then she ruminated for a moment, when she broke out: 'Yes,
and I do mind if she furnishes your rooms--I do mind. I mind that you
keep her hanging on at all.'
He was silent now, frowning.
'Perhaps,' he said. 'I don't WANT her to furnish the rooms here--and I
don't keep her hanging on. Only, I needn't be churlish to her, need I?
At any rate, I shall have to go down and see them now. You'll come,
'I don't think so,' she said coldly and irresolutely.
'Won't you? Yes do. Come and see the rooms as well. Do come.'
He set off down the bank, and she went unwillingly with him. Yet she
would not have stayed away, either.
'We know each other well, you and I, already,' he said. She did not
In the large darkish kitchen of the mill, the labourer's wife was
talking shrilly to Hermione and Gerald, who stood, he in white and she
in a glistening bluish foulard, strangely luminous in the dusk of the
room; whilst from the cages on the walls, a dozen or more canaries sang
at the top of their voices. The cages were all placed round a small
square window at the back, where the sunshine came in, a beautiful
beam, filtering through green leaves of a tree. The voice of Mrs Salmon
shrilled against the noise of the birds, which rose ever more wild and
triumphant, and the woman's voice went up and up against them, and the
birds replied with wild animation.
'Here's Rupert!' shouted Gerald in the midst of the din. He was
suffering badly, being very sensitive in the ear.
'O-o-h them birds, they won't let you speak--!' shrilled the labourer's
wife in disgust. 'I'll cover them up.'
And she darted here and there, throwing a duster, an apron, a towel, a
table-cloth over the cages of the birds.
'Now will you stop it, and let a body speak for your row,' she said,
still in a voice that was too high.
The party watched her. Soon the cages were covered, they had a strange
funereal look. But from under the towels odd defiant trills and
bubblings still shook out.
'Oh, they won't go on,' said Mrs Salmon reassuringly. 'They'll go to
'Really,' said Hermione, politely.
'They will,' said Gerald. 'They will go to sleep automatically, now the
impression of evening is produced.'
'Are they so easily deceived?' cried Ursula.
'Oh, yes,' replied Gerald. 'Don't you know the story of Fabre, who,
when he was a boy, put a hen's head under her wing, and she straight
away went to sleep? It's quite true.'
'And did that make him a naturalist?' asked Birkin.
'Probably,' said Gerald.
Meanwhile Ursula was peeping under one of the cloths. There sat the
canary in a corner, bunched and fluffed up for sleep.
'How ridiculous!' she cried. 'It really thinks the night has come! How
absurd! Really, how can one have any respect for a creature that is so
easily taken in!'
'Yes,' sang Hermione, coming also to look. She put her hand on Ursula's
arm and chuckled a low laugh. 'Yes, doesn't he look comical?' she
chuckled. 'Like a stupid husband.'
Then, with her hand still on Ursula's arm, she drew her away, saying,
in her mild sing-song:
'How did you come here? We saw Gudrun too.'
'I came to look at the pond,' said Ursula, 'and I found Mr Birkin
'Did you? This is quite a Brangwen land, isn't it!'
'I'm afraid I hoped so,' said Ursula. 'I ran here for refuge, when I
saw you down the lake, just putting off.'
'Did you! And now we've run you to earth.'
Hermione's eyelids lifted with an uncanny movement, amused but
overwrought. She had always her strange, rapt look, unnatural and
'I was going on,' said Ursula. 'Mr Birkin wanted me to see the rooms.
Isn't it delightful to live here? It is perfect.'
'Yes,' said Hermione, abstractedly. Then she turned right away from
Ursula, ceased to know her existence.
'How do you feel, Rupert?' she sang in a new, affectionate tone, to
'Very well,' he replied.
'Were you quite comfortable?' The curious, sinister, rapt look was on
Hermione's face, she shrugged her bosom in a convulsed movement, and
seemed like one half in a trance.
'Quite comfortable,' he replied.
There was a long pause, whilst Hermione looked at him for a long time,
from under her heavy, drugged eyelids.
'And you think you'll be happy here?' she said at last.
'I'm sure I shall.'
'I'm sure I shall do anything for him as I can,' said the labourer's
wife. 'And I'm sure our master will; so I HOPE he'll find himself
Hermione turned and looked at her slowly.
'Thank you so much,' she said, and then she turned completely away
again. She recovered her position, and lifting her face towards him,
and addressing him exclusively, she said:
'Have you measured the rooms?'
'No,' he said, 'I've been mending the punt.'
'Shall we do it now?' she said slowly, balanced and dispassionate.
'Have you got a tape measure, Mrs Salmon?' he said, turning to the
'Yes sir, I think I can find one,' replied the woman, bustling
immediately to a basket. 'This is the only one I've got, if it will
Hermione took it, though it was offered to him.
'Thank you so much,' she said. 'It will do very nicely. Thank you so
much.' Then she turned to Birkin, saying with a little gay movement:
'Shall we do it now, Rupert?'
'What about the others, they'll be bored,' he said reluctantly.
'Do you mind?' said Hermione, turning to Ursula and Gerald vaguely.
'Not in the least,' they replied.
'Which room shall we do first?' she said, turning again to Birkin, with
the same gaiety, now she was going to DO something with him.
'We'll take them as they come,' he said.
'Should I be getting your teas ready, while you do that?' said the
labourer's wife, also gay because SHE had something to do.
'Would you?' said Hermione, turning to her with the curious motion of
intimacy that seemed to envelop the woman, draw her almost to
Hermione's breast, and which left the others standing apart. 'I should
be so glad. Where shall we have it?'
'Where would you like it? Shall it be in here, or out on the grass?'
'Where shall we have tea?' sang Hermione to the company at large.
'On the bank by the pond. And WE'LL carry the things up, if you'll just
get them ready, Mrs Salmon,' said Birkin.
'All right,' said the pleased woman.
The party moved down the passage into the front room. It was empty, but
clean and sunny. There was a window looking on to the tangled front
'This is the dining room,' said Hermione. 'We'll measure it this way,
Rupert--you go down there--'
'Can't I do it for you,' said Gerald, coming to take the end of the
'No, thank you,' cried Hermione, stooping to the ground in her bluish,
brilliant foulard. It was a great joy to her to DO things, and to have
the ordering of the job, with Birkin. He obeyed her subduedly. Ursula
and Gerald looked on. It was a peculiarity of Hermione's, that at every
moment, she had one intimate, and turned all the rest of those present
into onlookers. This raised her into a state of triumph.
They measured and discussed in the dining-room, and Hermione decided
what the floor coverings must be. It sent her into a strange, convulsed
anger, to be thwarted. Birkin always let her have her way, for the
Then they moved across, through the hall, to the other front room, that
was a little smaller than the first.
'This is the study,' said Hermione. 'Rupert, I have a rug that I want
you to have for here. Will you let me give it to you? Do--I want to
give it you.'
'What is it like?' he asked ungraciously.
'You haven't seen it. It is chiefly rose red, then blue, a metallic,
mid-blue, and a very soft dark blue. I think you would like it. Do you
think you would?'
'It sounds very nice,' he replied. 'What is it? Oriental? With a pile?'
'Yes. Persian! It is made of camel's hair, silky. I think it is called
Bergamos--twelve feet by seven--. Do you think it will do?'
'It would DO,' he said. 'But why should you give me an expensive rug? I
can manage perfectly well with my old Oxford Turkish.'
'But may I give it to you? Do let me.'
'How much did it cost?'
She looked at him, and said:
'I don't remember. It was quite cheap.'
He looked at her, his face set.
'I don't want to take it, Hermione,' he said.
'Do let me give it to the rooms,' she said, going up to him and putting
her hand on his arm lightly, pleadingly. 'I shall be so disappointed.'
'You know I don't want you to give me things,' he repeated helplessly.
'I don't want to give you THINGS,' she said teasingly. 'But will you
'All right,' he said, defeated, and she triumphed.
They went upstairs. There were two bedrooms to correspond with the
rooms downstairs. One of them was half furnished, and Birkin had
evidently slept there. Hermione went round the room carefully, taking
in every detail, as if absorbing the evidence of his presence, in all
the inanimate things. She felt the bed and examined the coverings.
'Are you SURE you were quite comfortable?' she said, pressing the
'Perfectly,' he replied coldly.
'And were you warm? There is no down quilt. I am sure you need one. You
mustn't have a great pressure of clothes.'
'I've got one,' he said. 'It is coming down.'
They measured the rooms, and lingered over every consideration. Ursula
stood at the window and watched the woman carrying the tea up the bank
to the pond. She hated the palaver Hermione made, she wanted to drink
tea, she wanted anything but this fuss and business.
At last they all mounted the grassy bank, to the picnic. Hermione
poured out tea. She ignored now Ursula's presence. And Ursula,
recovering from her ill-humour, turned to Gerald saying:
'Oh, I hated you so much the other day, Mr Crich,'
'What for?' said Gerald, wincing slightly away.
'For treating your horse so badly. Oh, I hated you so much!'
'What did he do?' sang Hermione.
'He made his lovely sensitive Arab horse stand with him at the
railway-crossing whilst a horrible lot of trucks went by; and the poor
thing, she was in a perfect frenzy, a perfect agony. It was the most
horrible sight you can imagine.'
'Why did you do it, Gerald?' asked Hermione, calm and interrogative.
'She must learn to stand--what use is she to me in this country, if she
shies and goes off every time an engine whistles.'
'But why inflict unnecessary torture?' said Ursula. 'Why make her stand
all that time at the crossing? You might just as well have ridden back
up the road, and saved all that horror. Her sides were bleeding where
you had spurred her. It was too horrible--!'
'I have to use her,' he replied. 'And if I'm going to be sure of her at
ALL, she'll have to learn to stand noises.'
'Why should she?' cried Ursula in a passion. 'She is a living creature,
why should she stand anything, just because you choose to make her? She
has as much right to her own being, as you have to yours.'
'There I disagree,' said Gerald. 'I consider that mare is there for my
use. Not because I bought her, but because that is the natural order.
It is more natural for a man to take a horse and use it as he likes,
than for him to go down on his knees to it, begging it to do as it
wishes, and to fulfil its own marvellous nature.'
Ursula was just breaking out, when Hermione lifted her face and began,
in her musing sing-song:
'I do think--I do really think we must have the COURAGE to use the
lower animal life for our needs. I do think there is something wrong,
when we look on every living creature as if it were ourselves. I do
feel, that it is false to project our own feelings on every animate
creature. It is a lack of discrimination, a lack of criticism.'
'Quite,' said Birkin sharply. 'Nothing is so detestable as the maudlin
attributing of human feelings and consciousness to animals.'
'Yes,' said Hermione, wearily, 'we must really take a position. Either
we are going to use the animals, or they will use us.'
'That's a fact,' said Gerald. 'A horse has got a will like a man,
though it has no MIND strictly. And if your will isn't master, then the
horse is master of you. And this is a thing I can't help. I can't help
being master of the horse.'
'If only we could learn how to use our will,' said Hermione, 'we could
do anything. The will can cure anything, and put anything right. That I
am convinced of--if only we use the will properly, intelligibly.'
'What do you mean by using the will properly?' said Birkin.
'A very great doctor taught me,' she said, addressing Ursula and Gerald
vaguely. 'He told me for instance, that to cure oneself of a bad habit,
one should FORCE oneself to do it, when one would not do it--make
oneself do it--and then the habit would disappear.'
'How do you mean?' said Gerald.
'If you bite your nails, for example. Then, when you don't want to bite
your nails, bite them, make yourself bite them. And you would find the
habit was broken.'
'Is that so?' said Gerald.
'Yes. And in so many things, I have MADE myself well. I was a very
queer and nervous girl. And by learning to use my will, simply by using
my will, I MADE myself right.'
Ursula looked all the white at Hermione, as she spoke in her slow,
dispassionate, and yet strangely tense voice. A curious thrill went
over the younger woman. Some strange, dark, convulsive power was in
Hermione, fascinating and repelling.
'It is fatal to use the will like that,' cried Birkin harshly,
'disgusting. Such a will is an obscenity.'
Hermione looked at him for a long time, with her shadowed, heavy eyes.
Her face was soft and pale and thin, almost phosphorescent, her jaw was
'I'm sure it isn't,' she said at length. There always seemed an
interval, a strange split between what she seemed to feel and
experience, and what she actually said and thought. She seemed to catch
her thoughts at length from off the surface of a maelstrom of chaotic
black emotions and reactions, and Birkin was always filled with
repulsion, she caught so infallibly, her will never failed her. Her
voice was always dispassionate and tense, and perfectly confident. Yet
she shuddered with a sense of nausea, a sort of seasickness that always
threatened to overwhelm her mind. But her mind remained unbroken, her
will was still perfect. It almost sent Birkin mad. But he would never,
never dare to break her will, and let loose the maelstrom of her
subconsciousness, and see her in her ultimate madness. Yet he was
always striking at her.
'And of course,' he said to Gerald, 'horses HAVEN'T got a complete
will, like human beings. A horse has no ONE will. Every horse,
strictly, has two wills. With one will, it wants to put itself in the
human power completely--and with the other, it wants to be free, wild.
The two wills sometimes lock--you know that, if ever you've felt a
horse bolt, while you've been driving it.'
'I have felt a horse bolt while I was driving it,' said Gerald, 'but it
didn't make me know it had two wills. I only knew it was frightened.'
Hermione had ceased to listen. She simply became oblivious when these
subjects were started.
'Why should a horse want to put itself in the human power?' asked
Ursula. 'That is quite incomprehensible to me. I don't believe it ever
'Yes it did. It's the last, perhaps highest, love-impulse: resign your
will to the higher being,' said Birkin.
'What curious notions you have of love,' jeered Ursula.
'And woman is the same as horses: two wills act in opposition inside
her. With one will, she wants to subject herself utterly. With the
other she wants to bolt, and pitch her rider to perdition.'
'Then I'm a bolter,' said Ursula, with a burst of laughter.
'It's a dangerous thing to domesticate even horses, let alone women,'
said Birkin. 'The dominant principle has some rare antagonists.'
'Good thing too,' said Ursula.
'Quite,' said Gerald, with a faint smile. 'There's more fun.'
Hermione could bear no more. She rose, saying in her easy sing-song:
'Isn't the evening beautiful! I get filled sometimes with such a great
sense of beauty, that I feel I can hardly bear it.'
Ursula, to whom she had appealed, rose with her, moved to the last
impersonal depths. And Birkin seemed to her almost a monster of hateful
arrogance. She went with Hermione along the bank of the pond, talking
of beautiful, soothing things, picking the gentle cowslips.
'Wouldn't you like a dress,' said Ursula to Hermione, 'of this yellow
spotted with orange--a cotton dress?'
'Yes,' said Hermione, stopping and looking at the flower, letting the
thought come home to her and soothe her. 'Wouldn't it be pretty? I
should LOVE it.'
And she turned smiling to Ursula, in a feeling of real affection.
But Gerald remained with Birkin, wanting to probe him to the bottom, to
know what he meant by the dual will in horses. A flicker of excitement
danced on Gerald's face.
Hermione and Ursula strayed on together, united in a sudden bond of
deep affection and closeness.
'I really do not want to be forced into all this criticism and analysis
of life. I really DO want to see things in their entirety, with their
beauty left to them, and their wholeness, their natural holiness. Don't
you feel it, don't you feel you CAN'T be tortured into any more
knowledge?' said Hermione, stopping in front of Ursula, and turning to
her with clenched fists thrust downwards.
'Yes,' said Ursula. 'I do. I am sick of all this poking and prying.'
'I'm so glad you are. Sometimes,' said Hermione, again stopping
arrested in her progress and turning to Ursula, 'sometimes I wonder if
I OUGHT to submit to all this realisation, if I am not being weak in
rejecting it. But I feel I CAN'T--I CAN'T. It seems to destroy
EVERYTHING. All the beauty and the--and the true holiness is
destroyed--and I feel I can't live without them.'
'And it would be simply wrong to live without them,' cried Ursula. 'No,
it is so IRREVERENT to think that everything must be realised in the
head. Really, something must be left to the Lord, there always is and
always will be.'
'Yes,' said Hermione, reassured like a child, 'it should, shouldn't it?
And Rupert--' she lifted her face to the sky, in a muse--'he CAN only
tear things to pieces. He really IS like a boy who must pull everything
to pieces to see how it is made. And I can't think it is right--it does
seem so irreverent, as you say.'
'Like tearing open a bud to see what the flower will be like,' said
'Yes. And that kills everything, doesn't it? It doesn't allow any
possibility of flowering.'
'Of course not,' said Ursula. 'It is purely destructive.'
'It is, isn't it!'
Hermione looked long and slow at Ursula, seeming to accept confirmation
from her. Then the two women were silent. As soon as they were in
accord, they began mutually to mistrust each other. In spite of
herself, Ursula felt herself recoiling from Hermione. It was all she
could do to restrain her revulsion.
They returned to the men, like two conspirators who have withdrawn to
come to an agreement. Birkin looked up at them. Ursula hated him for
his cold watchfulness. But he said nothing.
'Shall we be going?' said Hermione. 'Rupert, you are coming to
Shortlands to dinner? Will you come at once, will you come now, with
'I'm not dressed,' replied Birkin. 'And you know Gerald stickles for
'I don't stickle for it,' said Gerald. 'But if you'd got as sick as I
have of rowdy go-as-you-please in the house, you'd prefer it if people
were peaceful and conventional, at least at meals.'
'All right,' said Birkin.
'But can't we wait for you while you dress?' persisted Hermione.
'If you like.'
He rose to go indoors. Ursula said she would take her leave.
'Only,' she said, turning to Gerald, 'I must say that, however man is
lord of the beast and the fowl, I still don't think he has any right to
violate the feelings of the inferior creation. I still think it would
have been much more sensible and nice of you if you'd trotted back up
the road while the train went by, and been considerate.'
'I see,' said Gerald, smiling, but somewhat annoyed. 'I must remember
'They all think I'm an interfering female,' thought Ursula to herself,
as she went away. But she was in arms against them.
She ran home plunged in thought. She had been very much moved by
Hermione, she had really come into contact with her, so that there was
a sort of league between the two women. And yet she could not bear her.
But she put the thought away. 'She's really good,' she said to herself.
'She really wants what is right.' And she tried to feel at one with
Hermione, and to shut off from Birkin. She was strictly hostile to him.
But she was held to him by some bond, some deep principle. This at once
irritated her and saved her.
Only now and again, violent little shudders would come over her, out of
her subconsciousness, and she knew it was the fact that she had stated
her challenge to Birkin, and he had, consciously or unconsciously,
accepted. It was a fight to the death between them--or to new life:
though in what the conflict lay, no one could say.
The days went by, and she received no sign. Was he going to ignore her,
was he going to take no further notice of her secret? A dreary weight
of anxiety and acrid bitterness settled on her. And yet Ursula knew she
was only deceiving herself, and that he would proceed. She said no word
Then, sure enough, there came a note from him, asking if she would come
to tea with Gudrun, to his rooms in town.
'Why does he ask Gudrun as well?' she asked herself at once. 'Does he
want to protect himself, or does he think I would not go alone?' She
was tormented by the thought that he wanted to protect himself. But at
the end of all, she only said to herself:
'I don't want Gudrun to be there, because I want him to say something
more to me. So I shan't tell Gudrun anything about it, and I shall go
alone. Then I shall know.'
She found herself sitting on the tram-car, mounting up the hill going
out of the town, to the place where he had his lodging. She seemed to
have passed into a kind of dream world, absolved from the conditions of
actuality. She watched the sordid streets of the town go by beneath
her, as if she were a spirit disconnected from the material universe.
What had it all to do with her? She was palpitating and formless within
the flux of the ghost life. She could not consider any more, what
anybody would say of her or think about her. People had passed out of
her range, she was absolved. She had fallen strange and dim, out of the
sheath of the material life, as a berry falls from the only world it
has ever known, down out of the sheath on to the real unknown.
Birkin was standing in the middle of the room, when she was shown in by
the landlady. He too was moved outside himself. She saw him agitated
and shaken, a frail, unsubstantial body silent like the node of some
violent force, that came out from him and shook her almost into a
'You are alone?' he said.
'Yes--Gudrun could not come.'
He instantly guessed why.
And they were both seated in silence, in the terrible tension of the
room. She was aware that it was a pleasant room, full of light and very
restful in its form--aware also of a fuchsia tree, with dangling
scarlet and purple flowers.
'How nice the fuchsias are!' she said, to break the silence.
'Aren't they! Did you think I had forgotten what I said?'
A swoon went over Ursula's mind.
'I don't want you to remember it--if you don't want to,' she struggled
to say, through the dark mist that covered her.
There was silence for some moments.
'No,' he said. 'It isn't that. Only--if we are going to know each
other, we must pledge ourselves for ever. If we are going to make a
relationship, even of friendship, there must be something final and
infallible about it.'
There was a clang of mistrust and almost anger in his voice. She did
not answer. Her heart was too much contracted. She could not have
Seeing she was not going to reply, he continued, almost bitterly,
giving himself away:
'I can't say it is love I have to offer--and it isn't love I want. It
is something much more impersonal and harder--and rarer.'
There was a silence, out of which she said:
'You mean you don't love me?'
She suffered furiously, saying that.
'Yes, if you like to put it like that. Though perhaps that isn't true.
I don't know. At any rate, I don't feel the emotion of love for
you--no, and I don't want to. Because it gives out in the last issues.'
'Love gives out in the last issues?' she asked, feeling numb to the
'Yes, it does. At the very last, one is alone, beyond the influence of
love. There is a real impersonal me, that is beyond love, beyond any
emotional relationship. So it is with you. But we want to delude
ourselves that love is the root. It isn't. It is only the branches. The
root is beyond love, a naked kind of isolation, an isolated me, that
does NOT meet and mingle, and never can.'
She watched him with wide, troubled eyes. His face was incandescent in
its abstract earnestness.
'And you mean you can't love?' she asked, in trepidation.
'Yes, if you like. I have loved. But there is a beyond, where there is
She could not submit to this. She felt it swooning over her. But she
could not submit.
'But how do you know--if you have never REALLY loved?' she asked.
'It is true, what I say; there is a beyond, in you, in me, which is
further than love, beyond the scope, as stars are beyond the scope of
vision, some of them.'
'Then there is no love,' cried Ursula.
'Ultimately, no, there is something else. But, ultimately, there IS no
Ursula was given over to this statement for some moments. Then she half
rose from her chair, saying, in a final, repellent voice:
'Then let me go home--what am I doing here?'
'There is the door,' he said. 'You are a free agent.'
He was suspended finely and perfectly in this extremity. She hung
motionless for some seconds, then she sat down again.
'If there is no love, what is there?' she cried, almost jeering.
'Something,' he said, looking at her, battling with his soul, with all
He was silent for a long time, unable to be in communication with her
while she was in this state of opposition.
'There is,' he said, in a voice of pure abstraction; 'a final me which
is stark and impersonal and beyond responsibility. So there is a final
you. And it is there I would want to meet you--not in the emotional,
loving plane--but there beyond, where there is no speech and no terms
of agreement. There we are two stark, unknown beings, two utterly
strange creatures, I would want to approach you, and you me. And there
could be no obligation, because there is no standard for action there,
because no understanding has been reaped from that plane. It is quite
inhuman,--so there can be no calling to book, in any form
whatsoever--because one is outside the pale of all that is accepted,
and nothing known applies. One can only follow the impulse, taking that
which lies in front, and responsible for nothing, asked for nothing,
giving nothing, only each taking according to the primal desire.'
Ursula listened to this speech, her mind dumb and almost senseless,
what he said was so unexpected and so untoward.
'It is just purely selfish,' she said.
'If it is pure, yes. But it isn't selfish at all. Because I don't KNOW
what I want of you. I deliver MYSELF over to the unknown, in coming to
you, I am without reserves or defences, stripped entirely, into the
unknown. Only there needs the pledge between us, that we will both cast
off everything, cast off ourselves even, and cease to be, so that that
which is perfectly ourselves can take place in us.'
She pondered along her own line of thought.
'But it is because you love me, that you want me?' she persisted.
'No it isn't. It is because I believe in you--if I DO believe in you.'
'Aren't you sure?' she laughed, suddenly hurt.
He was looking at her steadfastly, scarcely heeding what she said.
'Yes, I must believe in you, or else I shouldn't be here saying this,'
he replied. 'But that is all the proof I have. I don't feel any very
strong belief at this particular moment.'
She disliked him for this sudden relapse into weariness and
'But don't you think me good-looking?' she persisted, in a mocking
He looked at her, to see if he felt that she was good-looking.
'I don't FEEL that you're good-looking,' he said.
'Not even attractive?' she mocked, bitingly.
He knitted his brows in sudden exasperation.
'Don't you see that it's not a question of visual appreciation in the
least,' he cried. 'I don't WANT to see you. I've seen plenty of women,
I'm sick and weary of seeing them. I want a woman I don't see.'
'I'm sorry I can't oblige you by being invisible,' she laughed.
'Yes,' he said, 'you are invisible to me, if you don't force me to be
visually aware of you. But I don't want to see you or hear you.'
'What did you ask me to tea for, then?' she mocked.
But he would take no notice of her. He was talking to himself.
'I want to find you, where you don't know your own existence, the you
that your common self denies utterly. But I don't want your good looks,
and I don't want your womanly feelings, and I don't want your thoughts
nor opinions nor your ideas--they are all bagatelles to me.'
'You are very conceited, Monsieur,' she mocked. 'How do you know what
my womanly feelings are, or my thoughts or my ideas? You don't even
know what I think of you now.'
'Nor do I care in the slightest.'
'I think you are very silly. I think you want to tell me you love me,
and you go all this way round to do it.'
'All right,' he said, looking up with sudden exasperation. 'Now go away
then, and leave me alone. I don't want any more of your meretricious
'Is it really persiflage?' she mocked, her face really relaxing into
laughter. She interpreted it, that he had made a deep confession of
love to her. But he was so absurd in his words, also.
They were silent for many minutes, she was pleased and elated like a
child. His concentration broke, he began to look at her simply and
'What I want is a strange conjunction with you--' he said quietly; 'not
meeting and mingling--you are quite right--but an equilibrium, a pure
balance of two single beings--as the stars balance each other.'
She looked at him. He was very earnest, and earnestness was always
rather ridiculous, commonplace, to her. It made her feel unfree and
uncomfortable. Yet she liked him so much. But why drag in the stars.
'Isn't this rather sudden?' she mocked.
He began to laugh.
'Best to read the terms of the contract, before we sign,' he said.
A young grey cat that had been sleeping on the sofa jumped down and
stretched, rising on its long legs, and arching its slim back. Then it
sat considering for a moment, erect and kingly. And then, like a dart,
it had shot out of the room, through the open window-doors, and into
'What's he after?' said Birkin, rising.
The young cat trotted lordly down the path, waving his tail. He was an
ordinary tabby with white paws, a slender young gentleman. A crouching,
fluffy, brownish-grey cat was stealing up the side of the fence. The
Mino walked statelily up to her, with manly nonchalance. She crouched
before him and pressed herself on the ground in humility, a fluffy soft
outcast, looking up at him with wild eyes that were green and lovely as
great jewels. He looked casually down on her. So she crept a few inches
further, proceeding on her way to the back door, crouching in a
wonderful, soft, self-obliterating manner, and moving like a shadow.
He, going statelily on his slim legs, walked after her, then suddenly,
for pure excess, he gave her a light cuff with his paw on the side of
her face. She ran off a few steps, like a blown leaf along the ground,
then crouched unobtrusively, in submissive, wild patience. The Mino
pretended to take no notice of her. He blinked his eyes superbly at the
landscape. In a minute she drew herself together and moved softly, a
fleecy brown-grey shadow, a few paces forward. She began to quicken her
pace, in a moment she would be gone like a dream, when the young grey
lord sprang before her, and gave her a light handsome cuff. She
subsided at once, submissively.
'She is a wild cat,' said Birkin. 'She has come in from the woods.'
The eyes of the stray cat flared round for a moment, like great green
fires staring at Birkin. Then she had rushed in a soft swift rush, half
way down the garden. There she paused to look round. The Mino turned
his face in pure superiority to his master, and slowly closed his eyes,
standing in statuesque young perfection. The wild cat's round, green,
wondering eyes were staring all the while like uncanny fires. Then
again, like a shadow, she slid towards the kitchen.
In a lovely springing leap, like a wind, the Mino was upon her, and had
boxed her twice, very definitely, with a white, delicate fist. She sank
and slid back, unquestioning. He walked after her, and cuffed her once
or twice, leisurely, with sudden little blows of his magic white paws.
'Now why does he do that?' cried Ursula in indignation.
'They are on intimate terms,' said Birkin.
'And is that why he hits her?'
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