Women in Love

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Chapter1

I SISTERS Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen sat o ne morning in the window-bay of their father?s house in Beldover, working and talking. Ursula was stitc hing a piece of brightly- coloured embroidery, and Gudrun was drawing upon a board which she held on her knee. They were mostly silent, talki ng as their thoughts strayed through their minds. ?Ursula,? sai d Gudrun, ? don?t you REALLY WANT to get married? ? Ursula laid her embroidery in her lap and looked up. Her face was calm and considerate. ?I don?t know,? she replied. ?It depends how you mean.? Gudrun was slightly taken aback. She watched her sister for some moments. ?Well,? she said, ironically, ?it usually means one thing! But don?t y ou think anyhow, you?d be?? she darkened slightly??in a better position than you are in now.? A shadow ca me over Ursula?s face. ?I might,? she said. ?But I?m not sure.? Again Gudrun paused, slightly irritated. She wanted to be quite definite. 2 of 903 Women in L ove ?You don?t think one needs the EXPERIENCE of having been married?? sh e asked. ?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 experi ence o f some sort.? ?Not really,? said Ursula. ?M ore likely to be the end of experi ence.? Gudrun sat very still, to attend to this. ?Of course,? she said, ?there? s THAT to consider.? This brought the conversation to a cl ose. 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 you REALLY?? ?A thousand a year, and an awfully nice man. I liked him awfully,? said Ursula. ?Really! But weren?t you fearfully tempted?? ?In the abstract but not in the concrete,? said Ursula . ?When it co mes to the p oint, one i sn?t even tempted?oh, if I were tempted, I?d marry like a shot. I?m only tempted 3 of 903 Women in L ove NOT to.? The faces of both sisters suddenly l it up with amusement. ?Isn?t it an amazing thing,? cried Gu drun, ?how strong the temptati on is, no t to!? They both laughed, looking at each other. In their heart s they were f rightened. 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 sleev es; and she had emerald-green stocki ngs. Her look of confi dence and diffidence contrasted with Ursul a?s sensi tive 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 y ears, working at an art- school, as a student, and living a studio life. ?I was hopi ng now for a ma n to come along,? Gudrun said, suddenly catching her und erlip between her teeth, and making a strange grimace, half sly smiling, half anguish. Ursula was afraid. 4 of 903 Women in L ove ?So you have come home, expecting him here?? she laughed. ?Oh my dear,? cried Gudrun, strident, ?I wouldn?t g o out of my way to look for him. But if there did happen to come along a highly attractive ind ividual 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 the bud.? ?What withe rs in the bud?? asked Ursula. ?Oh, everyt hing?oneself?things in general.? There was a pause, whilst each sist er vaguely considered her fate. ?It does frigh ten one,? said Ursula, and again there was a pause. ?But do you hope to get anywhere by just marrying?? ?It seems to be the inevita ble 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 se ems like that when one thinks in the abstract. But really imagine it: imagine any man one knows, imag ine him coming home to one every evening, and saying ?Hello,? and giving one a kiss?? 5 of 903 Women in L ove 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 s aid. ?DO you feel like that?? asked Gudrun. ?I get no feeling whatever fro m the thoug ht of bearing children.? Gudrun looked at Ur sula with a masklike, expressionless face. Ursul a knitted her brows. ?Perhaps it isn?t genuine,? she falte red. ?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. Sh e lived a good deal by herself, to herself, working, passing on from day to day, 6 of 903 Women in L ove 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, somethin g 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 strang e pre science, an intimation of something y et to come. She laid down her work and looked at her sister. She thought Gu drun 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 h er with all h er soul. ?Why did yo u come home, Prune?? sh e asked. Gudrun knew she was being admired. She sa t back from her drawing and l ooked at Ursula, from under her finely-curved lashes. ?Why did I come back, Ursula?? she repeated. ?I have asked myself a thousand times.? ?And don?t you know?? ?Yes, I think I do. I think my comi ng back h ome was just RECULER POUR MIEUX SAUTER.? 7 of 903 Women in L ove And she looked with a l ong, slow look of k nowl edge 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 somew here.? ?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.? ?And father?? Gudrun looked at Ursula, almost with resentment, as if brought to bay. ?I haven?t t hought about him: I?ve refrain ed,? she said coldly. 8 of 903 Women in L ove ?Yes,? wavered Ursula; and the conv ersation was really at an end. The sisters found themselves confronted by a void, a terri fying chasm, as if they had looked over the edge. They worked on in sile nce for some time, Gudrun?s cheek was flushed with repressed em otion. 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 awa re 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 frightened h er. The two girls were so on 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 cruel ly from thi s am orphous ugliness of a small 9 of 903 Women in L ove 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 sho uld 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 ins ufferable torture of these ugly, meaningless people, this defaced countryside? She felt like a beetle toiling in the du st. She was filled with repulsion. They turned off the main road, past a black p atch 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 G udrun. ?The colliers bring it above- ground with them, shovel it up. Ursula, it?s marvellous, it?s r eally marvellous?it?s really wonderful, another world. The people are all ghouls, and everything is ghostly. Ev erything is a ghoulish replica of the real wo rld, 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 wit h cornfields and woods, all 10 of 903 Women in L ove blackened with distance, as if seen thr ough a veil of crape. White and black smoke rose up in s teady columns, magic within the d ark air. Near at hand came the long rows of dwellings, approaching curved up t he hill-slope, in straight lines along the brow of the hill. They were of darkened red brick, brittle, with d ark slate roofs. The path on which the sisters walked was black, trodden-in by the fe et of the recurrent c olliers, and bounded from the field by iron fences; the stile that led ag ain into the road was rubbed shiny by the moleskins of th e 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 g ossipin g 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 gra ss-green stockings, her la rge g rass- green v elour hat, her full soft coat, of a strong blue colour. And she felt as if she were treadi ng in the air, quite unstable, her heart was c ontracted, as if at any minute she might be precipitated to the ground. She was afraid. 11 of 903 Women in L ove 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 no t to know it, no t to know th at thi s exists. ? Yet she must go for ward. Ursula could feel h er suffering. ?You hate this, don?t you?? she asked. ?It bewilders me,? stammered Gudru n. ?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. S till 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, c hill, with snatches of sunshine. Yellow ce landi nes showed out from the hedge-bottoms, and in the cottage gardens of Willey Green, currant-bushes were brea king into leaf, and little flowers were comi ng white on the grey alyssum that hung over the stone walls. Turning, they passed down the high-road, that went between hig h banks towards the church. There, in the lowest bend of the road, low under the trees, stood a little 12 of 903 Women in L ove group of expectant people, wa iting to see the wedding. The daughter of the chief mine-owner of the district, Thomas Crich, was getti ng married t o a naval officer. ?Let us go back,? said Gudrun, swerving away. ?There are all those people.? And she hung wavering in the road. ?Never mind them,? said Ursula, ? the y?re all right. They all know me, they don?t matter.? ?But must we go through them?? asked Gudrun. ?They?re qu ite 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 th e more shif tless sort. They had watchful, und erworld faces. The two sisters held themselves tense, and went straight towards the gate. The women ma de way for them, but barely suffici ent, as if grudging to yiel d 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 th at the world was left clear 13 of 903 Women in L ove for her. Ho w she hated walking up the churchyard path, along the red carpet, continuing in motion, in their sight. ?I won?t go into the ch ur ch,? she said suddenly , with such final decision tha t Ursula i mmediately halted, turned round, and branched off up a sma ll side path which led to the little pr ivate 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 r ose up peacefully, the windows all open for the holiday. Ov er 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 regre tting bitterly tha t she h ad ever come back. Ursula looked at her, and thought how amazingly b eautiful she was, flushed with discomfiture. But she caused a constrai nt over Ursula?s nature, a certain weariness. Ursula wished to be a lone, freed from the tightness, the enclosure of Gudrun?s presence. ?Are we goi ng to stay here?? asked G udrun. 14 of 903 Women in L ove ?I was only resting a min ute,? said Ur sula, getting up as if rebuked. ?We will stand in the corner by the fives-court, we shall see everyt hing 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 sti r in the cr owd at the gate, a concentration as a carriage drove up, wedding guests were mounti ng up the steps and passi ng al ong the red carpet to the church. They were a ll gay and excited because the sun was shining. 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 ch aracteristics, to place them in their true light, give them their own surroundings, settle them for ever as they passed before her along the pa th to the ch urch. 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 15 of 903 Women in L ove to appear. Then her i nterest was piqued. Here was something not quite so preconcluded. There came the mother, Mrs Crich, with her eld est son Gerald. She was a queer unkempt figure, in spite of the attempts th at had obvio usly 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 lo ok. 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 exaggera tedly well- dressed. But about him also was the strange, guarded look, the unconscious glisten, as if he did n ot belong to the same creation as the people about him. G udrun lighted on him at once. There was something northern about him that magnetised her. In his clear northern flesh and hi s fair hair was a glisten like sunshine refracted through crystals of ice . And he looked so new, unbroached, pure as an arcti c thing. Perha ps he was thirty years ol d, perhaps more. His gleaming beauty, maleness, like a young, good-humoured, smiling wolf, did not blind her to the significant, sinister 16 of 903 Women in L ove stillness in his bearing, the lurking da nger of his unsubdued temper. ?His totem is the wolf,? she repeated t o 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 t ook possession of her, all he r veins were in a paroxysm of violent sensation. ?Good God!? she exclaimed to herself, ?wha t is this?? And then, a moment a fter, she was sa ying assuredly, ?I shall know more of tha t 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 strang e and overwhelming sensation on his account, th is knowl edge of him in her essence, thi s powerful apprehension of hi m. ?Am I REALLY singled out for him in some way, is there really some pale g old, arctic light that env elopes only us two?? she asked herself. And she could not believe it, she remained in a mu se, sca rcely c onsci ous 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 17 of 903 Women in L ove had arrived. Ursula wa tched them co me up the steps. One of them she knew, a tall, sl ow, 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 fl at hat of pale yellow velvet, on which were streaks of ostrich feathers, nat ural 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 ye llow colour, and she carried a lot of small rose-col oured cyclamens. Her shoes and stockings were of brownish grey, like the fe athers 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, r oused, wanting to jeer, yet for some reason silence d. Her long, pale face, that she carried lifted up, somewhat in the Rossetti fa shio n, seemed almost drugged, as if a str ange mass of thoughts coiled in the darkness within her, and she was never a llowed to escape. Ursula watched her wit h fascination. She knew her a little. She was the most remarkable woman in the 18 of 903 Women in L ove 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 inti macies of mind and soul with various men of capaci ty. Ursula knew, among these men, only Rupert Birkin, who was one of the school-inspector s of the county. But Gud run had met others, in London. Moving with her a rtist friends in diff erent kinds of society, Gudrun had already come to know a good many people of repute and standing. S he had met Hermione twice, but they did not take to each other. It would be queer to meet again down here in t he 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 ar istocracy 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. 19 of 903 Women in L ove She was a K ULTURTRAGER, a medium for th e culture of ideas. With all that was highe st, whether in society or in thought or i n public acti on, or even in art, she was at one, she moved among the foremo st, 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 b elow her, either i n rank, or in wealth, or in high associ ation of thought and progress and understanding. So, she was in vulnerable. All her life, she had sought to make herself invulnerable, un assailable , beyond reac h of the world?s judgment. And yet her soul was tortured, expo sed. Even walking up the pa th to the ch urch, con fident a s she w as that in every respect she stood bey ond all vulgar judgment, knowing perfectly that her appeara nce was complete and perfect, according to the first standards, yet she suffered a torture, under her confidence and her p ride, feel ing herself exposed to wounds and to mockery and to despite. She always felt vulnerable, vulnera ble, there was always a secret chink in he r armour. She did not know herself what it was. It was a lack of robust self, she had no natural sufficiency, there was a terribl e void, a lack, a deficiency of being within her. 20 of 903 Women in L ove And she wa nted someo ne to close u p 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 establi shed on the sa nd, built over a chasm, and, in spite of all her vanity and securities, any commo n maid- servant of posi tive, 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 wo man piled up her own defences of aesthetic knowledge, an d 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 connecti on with her, she would be safe during this fretful voyage of life. He could make her sound and triumphant, triumphant over the very angel s 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 defic iency. He was perverse too. He fought her off, he alway s 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 21 of 903 Women in L ove so tired. But still she believed in hers elf. She knew he was trying to lea ve 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 believ ed in her ow n higher knowledge. His own knowle dge 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 fulfil ment also, with the pe rverseness 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 weddin g; he was to be groom?s man. He would be in the church, waiting. He would know when she came. She shuddered wit h nervous apprehension and desire as sh e 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 ac cept 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, 22 of 903 Women in L ove her slender body convulsed with agitation. As best man, he would be standing beside the alt ar. She looked slowly, deferring in her certainty. And then, he was not there. A terrib le storm came over her, as if s he were drowning. She was possessed by a devastating hopelessness. An d she approached mechanicall y to the altar. Never had she known such a pang of utte r and final hopelessn ess. It was beyond death, so utterly null, desert. The bridegroom and the gr oom?s man had not yet come. There was a growing cons ternation outside. Ursula felt almost r esponsible. She could not bear it that the bride should arrive, and no groom. The wedding must not be a fiasco, it mu st not. But here wa s the bride?s carriage, ado rned with ri bbons and cockad es. Gaily the grey horses curvetted to their destination at the church-gat e, a laughter in the whole movement. Here was the quick of all laughter and pleasure. The door of th e carriage w as 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 23 of 903 Women in L ove thin black beard that was touched with grey. He waited at the door of the carriage patiently, self-obliterated. In the opening of the d oorway was a shower of fine foliage and flowers, a whiteness of sati n 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 n ear to recei ve 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 sudde n 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 laughter. ?That?s done it!? she said. She put her hand on the arm of her care-worn, sallow father, and fr othing her li ght 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 b ride went along with him undiminished. And no bridegroom had arrived! It was intolerable for her. Ursula, her heart strai ned with anxiety, was watching the hill beyond; the white, descending road, that should 24 of 903 Women in L ove give sight of him. There was a carriage. It was running. It had just co me into sight. Yes, it was he. Ursula turned towards the bride and the people, an d, from her place of vantage, gave an inarticulate cry. She wanted to war n them th at he was coming . But her cr y was inarti culate 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. Sh e 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 crie d in her sudden, mocking excitement, standing hig h on the path in the sun light and waving her bouquet. He, dodging with his hat in his hand, had not heard. ?Tibs!? she cried again, lo oking down to him. He glanced up, unaware, and saw the bride and her father standi ng on the path above him. A queer, startled look went over his face. He hesita ted for a mome nt. Then he gathered himself together for a lea p, to overtake her. 25 of 903 Women in L ove ?Ah-h-h!? came her strange, intaken cry, as, on the reflex, she started, turned and fled , scuddi ng with an unthinkable swift beati ng of her white feet and fraying of her white garments, tow ards th e 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 wo men below, carried suddenly into the sport. She, her flowers shaken from her like froth, was steadying h erself to tur n the angle of the ch urch. She glanced behind, and with a wild cry of laughter and challenge, veered, poised, and was gone beyon d the grey stone buttre ss. In another instant the bridegroom, bent forward as he ran, had c aught the angle of the silent stone with his hand, and had swung himself out of sight, his supple, strong loins vanishing in pursuit. Instantly cries and excl amat ions of excitement burst from the cro wd at the gate. And then Ursula n oticed agai n the dark, r ather stooping figure of Mr Crich, waiting suspended on the path, watching wi th expressionless face the flight to the church. It was over, and he turned round to look behi nd him, at the figure of Rupert Birkin, who at once came forward and joined him. 26 of 903 Women in L ove ?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 p ath. Birkin was as thin as Mr Cr ich, pale and ill-looking. His figure was narrow but nicely made. He went with a slight trail of one foot, wh ich came only from self- consciousness. Although he wa s dressed correctl y for his part, yet there was an innate incongruity which caused a slight ridiculousness in hi s appearance. His nature was clever and separate, he did not fit at all in the conventional occa sion. Y et he subor dinated himself to the common idea, travestied himself. He affected to be q uite ordinary, perfectly and marvellously commonplace. An d he did it so well, taking the tone of his surround ings, adjusti ng himself quickly to his interlocutor and hi s circum stance, that he achieved a verisimilitude of ordinary commonplaceness that usually propitiated his onl ookers for the mo ment, disarmed them from atta cki ng his singleness. Now he spoke quite easily and pleasa ntly to Mr Crich, as they walked along the path; he played with situations like a man on a tight-r ope: bu t always on a tight-rope, pretending n othing but ease. 27 of 903 Women in L ove ?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 p unctu al, onl y accidentall y not so. I?m sorry.? The two men were go ne, there w as nothing more to see, for the time. Ursula was left thinking about Birkin. He piqued h er, attracted her, and annoyed her. She wanted to know hi m more. She had spoke n with him once or twice, but only in hi s offi cial capacity as inspector. S he thought he seemed t o acknowle dge some kinship be tween her and him, a natural, tacit understanding, a using of the same language. But there had been no time for the understand ing to develop. And something k ept 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 wan ted to know him. ?What do y ou think of Rupert Bir kin?? 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 28 of 903 Women in L ove stand ab out him is hi s w ay with othe r people?his way of treating any little fool as if she were h is greatest consideration. One feels so awfully sold, oneself.? ?Why does he do it?? said Ursula. ?Because he has no real critical facul ty?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,? rep eated 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 accor d altogether. The sisters sat silent, wait ing for the wedding party to come out. Gudrun was impatient of talk. She wanted to think about Gerald Cric h. She wanted to see if the strong feeling she h ad 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 grav itate physically towards him. She wanted to stand touching him. She could hardly be 29 of 903 Women in L ove 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 pote ntial absence from her. She had awaited him in a faint d elirium 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 he ad, her rapt face, the face of an almost demoniacal ecstatic. Fe eling him looking, she lifted her face and sought his eyes, her own beautiful grey eyes flaring him a great sig nal. But he avoided her look, she sank her head in tor men t and shame, the gnawing at her heart going on. And he t oo 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 f lare of recognition. The bride and bridegroom were married, the party went into th e vestry. Hermi one crowded involu ntarily up against Birkin, to touch him. And he endured it. Outside, Gudrun and Ursula listened for their f ather?s playing on the organ. He would enjoy playing a wedding march. Now the married pair were coming! The bells 30 of 903 Women in L ove were ringin g, making the air shake. Ursula wondered if the trees and the flowers could feel the vibration, and what they thought of it, thi s strange motion in the air. The bride was quite demure on the ar m of the br idegroom, 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 emotional ly he was violated by his exposure to a crowd. He looked a typical nav al officer, manly, and up to his duty. Birkin came with Hermione. She had a rapt, triumphant look, like the falle n angels restored, yet still subtly demoniacal, now she held Birkin by the arm. And he was expressionless, n eutralis ed, possessed by her as if it were his fate, without question. Gerald Crich came, fair, good-looking, healthy, with a great res erv e of energ y. He was erec t and complete, there was a strang e stealth glistening through his amiab le, almost happy appearance. Gudrun rose sharply and went away. She could not bear it. S he wanted to be alone, to know this strange, sharp inocul ation that had changed the whole temper of her blood. 31 of 903 Women in L ove
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