Women in LoveD. H. Lawrence / Romance & Love
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Women in Love
D. H. Lawrence
CHAPTER I. Sisters CHAPTER II. Shortlands CHAPTER III. Class-room CHAPTER IV. Diver CHAPTER V. In the Train CHAPTER VI. Creme de Menthe CHAPTER VII. Fetish CHAPTER VIII. Breadalby CHAPTER IX. Coal-dust CHAPTER X. Sketch-book CHAPTER XI. An Island CHAPTER XII. Carpeting CHAPTER XIII. Mino CHAPTER XIV. Water-party CHAPTER XV. Sunday Evening CHAPTER XVI. Man to Man CHAPTER XVII. The Industrial Magnate CHAPTER XVIII. Rabbit CHAPTER XIX. Moony CHAPTER XX. Gladiatorial CHAPTER XXI. Threshold CHAPTER XXII. Woman to Woman CHAPTER XXIII. Excurse CHAPTER XXIV. Death and Love CHAPTER XXV. Marriage or Not CHAPTER XXVI. A Chair CHAPTER XXVII. Flitting CHAPTER XXVIII. Gudrun in the Pompadour CHAPTER XXIX. Continental CHAPTER XXX. Snowed Up CHAPTER XXXI. Exeunt
Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen sat one morning in the window-bay of theirfather's house in Beldover, working and talking. Ursula was stitching apiece of brightly-coloured embroidery, and Gudrun was drawing upon aboard which she held on her knee. They were mostly silent, talking astheir thoughts strayed through their minds.
'Ursula,' said Gudrun, 'don't you REALLY WANT to get married?' Ursulalaid her embroidery in her lap and looked up. Her face was calm andconsiderate.
'I don't know,' she replied. 'It depends how you mean.'
Gudrun was slightly taken aback. She watched her sister for somemoments.
'Well,' she said, ironically, 'it usually means one thing! But don'tyou think anyhow, you'd be--' she darkened slightly--'in a betterposition 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 quitedefinite.
'You don't think one needs the EXPERIENCE of having been married?' sheasked.
'Do you think it need BE an experience?' replied Ursula.
'Bound to be, in some way or other,' said Gudrun, coolly. 'Possiblyundesirable, 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 theconversation to a close. Gudrun, almost angrily, took up her rubber andbegan 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? Haveyou REALLY?'
'A thousand a year, and an awfully nice man. I liked him awfully,' saidUrsula.
'Really! But weren't you fearfully tempted?'
'In the abstract but not in the concrete,' said Ursula. 'When it comesto the point, one isn't even tempted--oh, if I were tempted, I'd marrylike a shot. I'm only tempted NOT to.' The faces of both sisterssuddenly lit up with amusement.
'Isn't it an amazing thing,' cried Gudrun, 'how strong the temptationis, not to!' They both laughed, looking at each other. In their heartsthey were frightened.
There was a long pause, whilst Ursula stitched and Gudrun went on withher sketch. The sisters were women, Ursula twenty-six, and Gudruntwenty-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 silkystuff, with ruches of blue and green linen lace in the neck andsleeves; and she had emerald-green stockings. Her look of confidenceand diffidence contrasted with Ursula's sensitive expectancy. Theprovincial people, intimidated by Gudrun's perfect sang-froid andexclusive bareness of manner, said of her: 'She is a smart woman.' Shehad 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, suddenlycatching 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 tolook for him. But if there did happen to come along a highly attractiveindividual of sufficient means--well--' she tailed off ironically. Thenshe looked searchingly at Ursula, as if to probe her. 'Don't you findyourself getting bored?' she asked of her sister. 'Don't you find, thatthings fail to materialise? NOTHING MATERIALISES! Everything withers inthe bud.'
'What withers in the bud?' asked Ursula.
'Oh, everything--oneself--things in general.' There was a pause, whilsteach sister vaguely considered her fate.
'It does frighten one,' said Ursula, and again there was a pause. 'Butdo you hope to get anywhere by just marrying?'
'It seems to be the inevitable next step,' said Gudrun. Ursula ponderedthis, with a little bitterness. She was a class mistress herself, inWilley Green Grammar School, as she had been for some years.
'I know,' she said, 'it seems like that when one thinks in theabstract. But really imagine it: imagine any man one knows, imagine himcoming home to one every evening, and saying Hello, and giving one akiss--'
There was a blank pause.
'Yes,' said Gudrun, in a narrowed voice. 'It's just impossible. The manmakes 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 fromthe thought of bearing children.'
Gudrun looked at Ursula with a masklike, expressionless face. Ursulaknitted her brows.
'Perhaps it isn't genuine,' she faltered. 'Perhaps one doesn't reallywant them, in one's soul--only superficially.' A hardness came overGudrun'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 strangebrightness of an essential flame that is caught, meshed, contravened.She lived a good deal by herself, to herself, working, passing on fromday to day, and always thinking, trying to lay hold on life, to graspit in her own understanding. Her active living was suspended, butunderneath, in the darkness, something was coming to pass. If only shecould break through the last integuments! She seemed to try and put herhands out, like an infant in the womb, and she could not, not yet.Still she had a strange prescience, an intimation of something yet tocome.
She laid down her work and looked at her sister. She thought Gudrun soCHARMING, so infinitely charming, in her softness and her fine,exquisite richness of texture and delicacy of line. There was a certainplayfulness about her too, such a piquancy or ironic suggestion, suchan 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 andlooked at Ursula, from under her finely-curved lashes.
'Why did I come back, Ursula?' she repeated. 'I have asked myself athousand times.'
'And don't you know?'
'Yes, I think I do. I think my coming back home was just RECULER POURMIEUX SAUTER.'
And she looked with a long, slow look of knowledge at Ursula.
'I know!' cried Ursula, looking slightly dazzled and falsified, and asif she did NOT know. 'But where can one jump to?'
'Oh, it doesn't matter,' said Gudrun, somewhat superbly. 'If one jumpsover 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 sheclosed 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 acold 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. Thesisters found themselves confronted by a void, a terrifying chasm, asif they had looked over the edge.
They worked on in silence for some time, Gudrun's cheek was flushedwith repressed emotion. She resented its having been called into being.
'Shall we go out and look at that wedding?' she asked at length, in avoice that was too casual.
'Yes!' cried Ursula, too eagerly, throwing aside her sewing and leapingup, as if to escape something, thus betraying the tension of thesituation 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 roundabout her. And she loathed it, the sordid, too-familiar place! She wasafraid at the depth of her feeling against the home, the milieu, thewhole atmosphere and condition of this obsolete life. Her feelingfrightened her.
The two girls were soon walking swiftly down the main road of Beldover,a wide street, part shops, part dwelling-houses, utterly formless andsordid, without poverty. Gudrun, new from her life in Chelsea andSussex, shrank cruelly from this amorphous ugliness of a small collierytown in the Midlands. Yet forward she went, through the whole sordidgamut of pettiness, the long amorphous, gritty street. She was exposedto every stare, she passed on through a stretch of torment. It wasstrange that she should have chosen to come back and test the fulleffect of this shapeless, barren ugliness upon herself. Why had shewanted to submit herself to it, did she still want to submit herself toit, the insufferable torture of these ugly, meaningless people, thisdefaced countryside? She felt like a beetle toiling in the dust. Shewas 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 beashamed. No one was ashamed of it all.
'It is like a country in an underworld,' said Gudrun. 'The colliersbring it above-ground with them, shovel it up. Ursula, it's marvellous,it's really marvellous--it's really wonderful, another world. Thepeople are all ghouls, and everything is ghostly. Everything is aghoulish 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. Onthe left was a large landscape, a valley with collieries, and oppositehills with cornfields and woods, all blackened with distance, as ifseen through a veil of crape. White and black smoke rose up in steadycolumns, magic within the dark air. Near at hand came the long rows ofdwellings, approaching curved up the hill-slope, in straight linesalong 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 thefield by iron fences; the stile that led again into the road was rubbedshiny by the moleskins of the passing miners. Now the two girls weregoing between some rows of dwellings, of the poorer sort. Women, theirarms folded over their coarse aprons, standing gossiping at the end oftheir 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 thesewere human beings, living in a complete world, then what was her ownworld, outside? She was aware of her grass-green stockings, her largegrass-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, herheart was contracted, as if at any minute she might be precipitated tothe ground. She was afraid.
She clung to Ursula, who, through long usage was inured to thisviolation of a dark, uncreated, hostile world. But all the time herheart was crying, as if in the midst of some ordeal: 'I want to goback, I want to go away, I want not to know it, not to know that thisexists.' 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. Stillthe faint glamour of blackness persisted over the fields and the woodedhills, and seemed darkly to gleam in the air. It was a spring day,chill, with snatches of sunshine. Yellow celandines showed out from thehedge-bottoms, and in the cottage gardens of Willey Green,currant-bushes were breaking into leaf, and little flowers were comingwhite on the grey alyssum that hung over the stone walls.
Turning, they passed down the high-road, that went between high bankstowards the church. There, in the lowest bend of the road, low underthe trees, stood a little group of expectant people, waiting to see thewedding. The daughter of the chief mine-owner of the district, ThomasCrich, was getting married to a naval officer.
'Let us go back,' said Gudrun, swerving away. 'There are all thosepeople.'
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. Andtogether the two sisters approached the group of uneasy, watchfulcommon people. They were chiefly women, colliers' wives of the moreshiftless sort. They had watchful, underworld faces.
The two sisters held themselves tense, and went straight towards thegate. The women made way for them, but barely sufficient, as ifgrudging to yield ground. The sisters passed in silence through thestone gateway and up the steps, on the red carpet, a policemanestimating their progress.
'What price the stockings!' said a voice at the back of Gudrun. Asudden fierce anger swept over the girl, violent and murderous. Shewould have liked them all annihilated, cleared away, so that the worldwas 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 finaldecision that Ursula immediately halted, turned round, and branched offup a small side path which led to the little private gate of theGrammar 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 laurelbushes, to rest. Behind her, the large red building of the school roseup peacefully, the windows all open for the holiday. Over the shrubs,before her, were the pale roofs and tower of the old church. Thesisters 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 lookedat her, and thought how amazingly beautiful she was, flushed withdiscomfiture. But she caused a constraint over Ursula's nature, acertain 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 seeeverything from there.'
For the moment, the sunshine fell brightly into the churchyard, therewas a vague scent of sap and of spring, perhaps of violets from off thegraves. Some white daisies were out, bright as angels. In the air, theunfolding leaves of a copper-beech were blood-red.
Punctually at eleven o'clock, the carriages began to arrive. There wasa stir in the crowd at the gate, a concentration as a carriage droveup, wedding guests were mounting up the steps and passing along the redcarpet to the church. They were all gay and excited because the sun wasshining.
Gudrun watched them closely, with objective curiosity. She saw each oneas a complete figure, like a character in a book, or a subject in apicture, or a marionette in a theatre, a finished creation. She lovedto recognise their various characteristics, to place them in their truelight, give them their own surroundings, settle them for ever as theypassed before her along the path to the church. She knew them, theywere finished, sealed and stamped and finished with, for her. There wasnone that had anything unknown, unresolved, until the Crichesthemselves began to appear. Then her interest was piqued. Here wassomething not quite so preconcluded.
There came the mother, Mrs Crich, with her eldest son Gerald. She was aqueer unkempt figure, in spite of the attempts that had obviously beenmade to bring her into line for the day. Her face was pale, yellowish,with a clear, transparent skin, she leaned forward rather, her featureswere strongly marked, handsome, with a tense, unseeing, predative look.Her colourless hair was untidy, wisps floating down on to her sac coatof dark blue silk, from under her blue silk hat. She looked like awoman 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 alsowas the strange, guarded look, the unconscious glisten, as if he didnot belong to the same creation as the people about him. Gudrun lightedon him at once. There was something northern about him that magnetisedher. In his clear northern flesh and his fair hair was a glisten likesunshine 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 unsubduedtemper. 'His totem is the wolf,' she repeated to herself. 'His motheris an old, unbroken wolf.' And then she experienced a keen paroxyism, atransport, as if she had made some incredible discovery, known tonobody else on earth. A strange transport took possession of her, allher veins were in a paroxysm of violent sensation. 'Good God!' sheexclaimed to herself, 'what is this?' And then, a moment after, she wassaying assuredly, 'I shall know more of that man.' She was torturedwith desire to see him again, a nostalgia, a necessity to see himagain, to make sure it was not all a mistake, that she was not deludingherself, that she really felt this strange and overwhelming sensationon his account, this knowledge of him in her essence, this powerfulapprehension of him. 'Am I REALLY singled out for him in some way, isthere really some pale gold, arctic light that envelopes only us two?'she asked herself. And she could not believe it, she remained in amuse, scarcely conscious of what was going on around.
The bridesmaids were here, and yet the bridegroom had not come. Ursulawondered if something was amiss, and if the wedding would yet all gowrong. She felt troubled, as if it rested upon her. The chiefbridesmaids had arrived. Ursula watched them come up the steps. One ofthem she knew, a tall, slow, reluctant woman with a weight of fair hairand a pale, long face. This was Hermione Roddice, a friend of theCriches. Now she came along, with her head held up, balancing anenormous flat hat of pale yellow velvet, on which were streaks ofostrich feathers, natural and grey. She drifted forward as if scarcelyconscious, her long blanched face lifted up, not to see the world. Shewas rich. She wore a dress of silky, frail velvet, of pale yellowcolour, and she carried a lot of small rose-coloured cyclamens. Hershoes and stockings were of brownish grey, like the feathers on herhat, her hair was heavy, she drifted along with a peculiar fixity ofthe hips, a strange unwilling motion. She was impressive, in her lovelypale-yellow and brownish-rose, yet macabre, something repulsive. Peoplewere silent when she passed, impressed, roused, wanting to jeer, yetfor some reason silenced. Her long, pale face, that she carried liftedup, somewhat in the Rossetti fashion, seemed almost drugged, as if astrange mass of thoughts coiled in the darkness within her, and she wasnever allowed to escape.
Ursula watched her with fascination. She knew her a little. She was themost remarkable woman in the Midlands. Her father was a DerbyshireBaronet of the old school, she was a woman of the new school, full ofintellectuality, and heavy, nerve-worn with consciousness. She waspassionately interested in reform, her soul was given up to the publiccause. 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 ofcapacity. Ursula knew, among these men, only Rupert Birkin, who was oneof the school-inspectors of the county. But Gudrun had met others, inLondon. Moving with her artist friends in different kinds of society,Gudrun had already come to know a good many people of repute andstanding. She had met Hermione twice, but they did not take to eachother. It would be queer to meet again down here in the Midlands, wheretheir social standing was so diverse, after they had known each otheron terms of equality in the houses of sundry acquaintances in town. ForGudrun had been a social success, and had her friends among the slackaristocracy that keeps touch with the arts.
Hermione knew herself to be well-dressed; she knew herself to be thesocial equal, if not far the superior, of anyone she was likely to meetin Willey Green. She knew she was accepted in the world of culture andof intellect. She was a KULTURTRAGER, a medium for the culture ofideas. With all that was highest, whether in society or in thought orin public action, or even in art, she was at one, she moved among theforemost, at home with them. No one could put her down, no one couldmake mock of her, because she stood among the first, and those thatwere against her were below her, either in rank, or in wealth, or inhigh association of thought and progress and understanding. So, she wasinvulnerable. All her life, she had sought to make herselfinvulnerable, unassailable, beyond reach of the world's judgment.
And yet her soul was tortured, exposed. Even walking up the path to thechurch, confident as she was that in every respect she stood beyond allvulgar judgment, knowing perfectly that her appearance was complete andperfect, according to the first standards, yet she suffered a torture,under her confidence and her pride, feeling herself exposed to woundsand to mockery and to despite. She always felt vulnerable, vulnerable,there was always a secret chink in her armour. She did not know herselfwhat it was. It was a lack of robust self, she had no naturalsufficiency, there was a terrible void, a lack, a deficiency of beingwithin her.
And she wanted someone to close up this deficiency, to close it up forever. She craved for Rupert Birkin. When he was there, she feltcomplete, she was sufficient, whole. For the rest of time she wasestablished on the sand, built over a chasm, and, in spite of all hervanity and securities, any common maid-servant of positive, robusttemper could fling her down this bottomless pit of insufficiency, bythe slightest movement of jeering or contempt. And all the while thepensive, tortured woman piled up her own defences of aestheticknowledge, and culture, and world-visions, and disinterestedness. Yetshe could never stop up the terrible gap of insufficiency.
If only Birkin would form a close and abiding connection with her, shewould be safe during this fretful voyage of life. He could make hersound and triumphant, triumphant over the very angels of heaven. Ifonly he would do it! But she was tortured with fear, with misgiving.She made herself beautiful, she strove so hard to come to that degreeof beauty and advantage, when he should be convinced. But always therewas a deficiency.
He was perverse too. He fought her off, he always fought her off. Themore she strove to bring him to her, the more he battled her back. Andthey 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 wastrying to leave her. She knew he was trying to break away from herfinally, to be free. But still she believed in her strength to keephim, she believed in her own higher knowledge. His own knowledge washigh, she was the central touchstone of truth. She only needed hisconjunction with her.
And this, this conjunction with her, which was his highest fulfilmentalso, with the perverseness of a wilful child he wanted to deny. Withthe wilfulness of an obstinate child, he wanted to break the holyconnection that was between them.
He would be at this wedding; he was to be groom's man. He would be inthe church, waiting. He would know when she came. She shuddered withnervous apprehension and desire as she went through the church-door. Hewould be there, surely he would see how beautiful her dress was, surelyhe would see how she had made herself beautiful for him. He wouldunderstand, he would be able to see how she was made for him, thefirst, how she was, for him, the highest. Surely at last he would beable to accept his highest fate, he would not deny her.
In a little convulsion of too-tired yearning, she entered the churchand looked slowly along her cheeks for him, her slender body convulsedwith agitation. As best man, he would be standing beside the altar. Shelooked slowly, deferring in her certainty.
And then, he was not there. A terrible storm came over her, as if shewere drowning. She was possessed by a devastating hopelessness. And sheapproached mechanically to the altar. Never had she known such a pangof utter and final hopelessness. It was beyond death, so utterly null,desert.
The bridegroom and the groom's man had not yet come. There was agrowing consternation outside. Ursula felt almost responsible. Shecould not bear it that the bride should arrive, and no groom. Thewedding 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 thechurch-gate, a laughter in the whole movement. Here was the quick ofall laughter and pleasure. The door of the carriage was thrown open, tolet out the very blossom of the day. The people on the roadway murmuredfaintly with the discontented murmuring of a crowd.
The father stepped out first into the air of the morning, like ashadow. He was a tall, thin, careworn man, with a thin black beard thatwas touched with grey. He waited at the door of the carriage patiently,self-obliterated.
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 pressednear to receive her, looking with zest at the stooping blond head withits flower buds, and at the delicate, white, tentative foot that wasreaching down to the step of the carriage. There was a sudden foamingrush, and the bride like a sudden surf-rush, floating all white besideher father in the morning shadow of trees, her veil flowing withlaughter.
'That's done it!' she said.
She put her hand on the arm of her care-worn, sallow father, andfrothing her light draperies, proceeded over the eternal red carpet.Her father, mute and yellowish, his black beard making him look morecareworn, mounted the steps stiffly, as if his spirit were absent; butthe laughing mist of the bride went along with him undiminished.
And no bridegroom had arrived! It was intolerable for her. Ursula, herheart 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. Ursulaturned towards the bride and the people, and, from her place ofvantage, gave an inarticulate cry. She wanted to warn them that he wascoming. But her cry was inarticulate and inaudible, and she flusheddeeply, between her desire and her wincing confusion.
The carriage rattled down the hill, and drew near. There was a shoutfrom 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 confusionamong the people, a cab pulling up, and her lover dropping out of thecarriage, and dodging among the horses and into the crowd.
'Tibs! Tibs!' she cried in her sudden, mocking excitement, standinghigh on the path in the sunlight and waving her bouquet. He, dodgingwith 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 onthe path above him. A queer, startled look went over his face. Hehesitated 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, shestarted, turned and fled, scudding with an unthinkable swift beating ofher white feet and fraying of her white garments, towards the church.Like a hound the young man was after her, leaping the steps andswinging past her father, his supple haunches working like those of ahound that bears down on the quarry.
'Ay, after her!' cried the vulgar women below, carried suddenly intothe sport.
She, her flowers shaken from her like froth, was steadying herself toturn the angle of the church. She glanced behind, and with a wild cryof laughter and challenge, veered, poised, and was gone beyond the greystone buttress. In another instant the bridegroom, bent forward as heran, had caught the angle of the silent stone with his hand, and hadswung himself out of sight, his supple, strong loins vanishing inpursuit.
Instantly cries and exclamations of excitement burst from the crowd atthe gate. And then Ursula noticed again the dark, rather stoopingfigure of Mr Crich, waiting suspended on the path, watching withexpressionless face the flight to the church. It was over, and heturned round to look behind him, at the figure of Rupert Birkin, who atonce 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 togetherup the path.
Birkin was as thin as Mr Crich, pale and ill-looking. His figure wasnarrow but nicely made. He went with a slight trail of one foot, whichcame only from self-consciousness. Although he was dressed correctlyfor his part, yet there was an innate incongruity which caused a slightridiculousness in his appearance. His nature was clever and separate,he did not fit at all in the conventional occasion. Yet he subordinatedhimself to the common idea, travestied himself.
He affected to be quite ordinary, perfectly and marvellouslycommonplace. And he did it so well, taking the tone of hissurroundings, adjusting himself quickly to his interlocutor and hiscircumstance, that he achieved a verisimilitude of ordinarycommonplaceness 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 walkedalong 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 abutton-hook, so it took us a long time to button our boots. But youwere 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, butonly in his official capacity as inspector. She thought he seemed toacknowledge some kinship between her and him, a natural, tacitunderstanding, a using of the same language. But there had been no timefor the understanding to develop. And something kept her from him, aswell as attracted her to him. There was a certain hostility, a hiddenultimate 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'sattractive--decidedly attractive. What I can't stand about him is hisway with other people--his way of treating any little fool as if shewere 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 oryou--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'spronouncements, 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 wasthinking only of Birkin. He stood near her. She seemed to gravitatephysically towards him. She wanted to stand touching him. She couldhardly be sure he was near her, if she did not touch him. Yet she stoodsubjected through the wedding service.
She had suffered so bitterly when he did not come, that still she wasdazed. Still she was gnawed as by a neuralgia, tormented by hispotential absence from her. She had awaited him in a faint delirium ofnervous torture. As she stood bearing herself pensively, the rapt lookon her face, that seemed spiritual, like the angels, but which camefrom torture, gave her a certain poignancy that tore his heart withpity. He saw her bowed head, her rapt face, the face of an almostdemoniacal ecstatic. Feeling him looking, she lifted her face andsought his eyes, her own beautiful grey eyes flaring him a greatsignal. But he avoided her look, she sank her head in torment andshame, the gnawing at her heart going on. And he too was tortured withshame, and ultimate dislike, and with acute pity for her, because hedid not want to meet her eyes, he did not want to receive her flare ofrecognition.
The bride and bridegroom were married, the party went into the vestry.Hermione crowded involuntarily up against Birkin, to touch him. And heendured it.
Outside, Gudrun and Ursula listened for their father's playing on theorgan. He would enjoy playing a wedding march. Now the married pairwere coming! The bells were ringing, making the air shake. Ursulawondered if the trees and the flowers could feel the vibration, andwhat they thought of it, this strange motion in the air. The bride wasquite demure on the arm of the bridegroom, who stared up into the skybefore him, shutting and opening his eyes unconsciously, as if he wereneither here nor there. He looked rather comical, blinking and tryingto be in the scene, when emotionally he was violated by his exposure toa crowd. He looked a typical naval officer, manly, and up to his duty.
Birkin came with Hermione. She had a rapt, triumphant look, like thefallen angels restored, yet still subtly demoniacal, now she heldBirkin by the arm. And he was expressionless, neutralised, possessed byher as if it were his fate, without question.
Gerald Crich came, fair, good-looking, healthy, with a great reserve ofenergy. He was erect and complete, there was a strange stealthglistening through his amiable, almost happy appearance. Gudrun rosesharply and went away. She could not bear it. She wanted to be alone,to know this strange, sharp inoculation that had changed the wholetemper of her blood.