Connie was sorting out one of the Wragby lumber rooms. There were several: the house was a warren, and the family never sold anything. Sir Geoffery’s father had liked pictures and Sir Geoffery’s mother had liked Cinquecento furniture. Sir Geoffery himself had liked old carved oak chests, vestry chests. So it went on through the generations. Clifford collected very modern pictures, at very moderate prices.
So in the lumber room there were bad Sir Edwin Landseers and pathetic William Henry Hunt birds’ nests: and other Academy stuff, enough to frighten the daughter of an R.A. She determined to look through it one day, and clear it all. And the grotesque furniture interested her.
Wrapped up carefully to preserve it from damage and dry-rot was the old family cradle, of rosewood. She had to unwrap it, to look at it. It had a certain charm: she looked at it a longtime.
‘It’s thousand pities it won’t be called for,’ sighed Mrs Bolton, who was helping. ‘Though cradles like that are out of date nowadays.’
‘It might be called for. I might have a child,’ said Connie casually, as if saying she might have a new hat.
‘You mean if anything happened to Sir Clifford!’ stammered Mrs Bolton.
‘No! I mean as things are. It’s only muscular paralysis with Sir Clifford – it doesn’t affect him,’ said Connie, lying as naturally as breathing.
Clifford had put the idea into her head. He had said: ‘Of course I may have a child yet. I’m not really mutilated at all. The potency may easily come back, even if the muscles of the hips and legs are paralysed. And then the seed may be transferred.’
He really felt, when he had his periods of energy and worked so hard at the question of the mines, as if his sexual potency were returning. Connie had looked at him in terror. But she was quite quick-witted enough to use his suggestion for her own preservation. For she would have a child if she could: but not his.
Mrs Bolton was for a moment breathless, flabbergasted. Then she didn’t believe it: she saw in it a ruse. Yet doctors could do such things nowadays. They might sort of graft seed.
‘Well, my Lady, I only hope and pray you may. It would be lovely for you: and for everybody. My word, a child in Wragby, what a difference it would make!’
‘Wouldn’t it!’ said Connie.
And she chose three R. A. pictures of sixty years ago, to send to the Duchess of Shortlands for that lady’s next charitable bazaar. She was called ‘the bazaar duchess’, and she always asked all the county to send things for her to sell. She would be delighted with three framed R. A.s. She might even call, on the strength of them. How furious Clifford was when she called!
But oh my dear! Mrs Bolton was thinking to herself. Is it Oliver Mellors’ child you’re preparing us for? Oh my dear, that WOULD be a Tevershall baby in the Wragby cradle, my word! Wouldn’t shame it, neither!
Among other monstrosities in this lumber room was a largish blackjapanned box, excellently and ingeniously made some sixty or seventy years ago, and fitted with every imaginable object. On top was a concentrated toilet set: brushes, bottles, mirrors, combs, boxes, even three beautiful little razors in safety sheaths, shaving-bowl and all. Underneath came a sort of ESCRITOIRE outfit: blotters, pens, ink-bottles, paper, envelopes, memorandum books: and then a perfect sewing-outfit, with three different sized scissors, thimbles, needles, silks and cottons, darning egg, all of the very best quality and perfectly finished. Then there was a little medicine store, with bottles labelled Laudanum, Tincture of Myrrh, Ess. Cloves and so on: but empty. Everything was perfectly new, and the whole thing, when shut up, was as big as a small, but fat weekend bag. And inside, it fitted together like a puzzle. The bottles could not possibly have spilled: there wasn’t room.
The thing was wonderfully made and contrived, excellent craftsmanship of the Victorian order. But somehow it was monstrous. Some Chatterley must even have felt it, for the thing had never been used. It had a peculiar soullessness.
Yet Mrs Bolton was thrilled.
‘Look what beautiful brushes, so expensive, even the shaving brushes, three perfect ones! No! and those scissors! They’re the best that money could buy. Oh, I call it lovely!’
‘Do you?’ said Connie. ‘Then you have it.’
‘Oh no, my Lady!’
‘Of course! It will only lie here till Doomsday. If you won’t have it, I’ll send it to the Duchess as well as the pictures, and she doesn’t deserve so much. Do have it!’
‘Oh, your Ladyship! Why, I shall never be able to thank you.’
‘You needn’t try,’ laughed Connie.
And Mrs Bolton sailed down with the huge and very black box in her arms, flushing bright pink in her excitement.
Mr Betts drove her in the trap to her house in the village, with the box. And she HAD to have a few friends in, to show it: the school-mistress, the chemist’s wife, Mrs Weedon the undercashier’s wife. They thought it marvellous. And then started the whisper of Lady Chatterley’s child.
‘Wonders’ll never cease!’ said Mrs Weedon.
But Mrs Bolton was CONVINCED, if it did come, it would be Sir Clifford’s child. So there!
Not long after, the rector said gently to Clifford:
‘And may we really hope for an heir to Wragby? Ah, that would be the hand of God in mercy, indeed!’
‘Well! We may HOPE,’ said Clifford, with a faint irony, and at the same time, a certain conviction. He had begun to believe it really possible it might even be HIS child.
Then one afternoon came Leslie Winter, Squire Winter, as everybody called him: lean, immaculate, and seventy: and every inch a gentleman, as Mrs Bolton said to Mrs Betts. Every millimetre indeed! And with his old-fashioned, rather haw-haw! manner of speaking, he seemed more out of date than bag wigs. Time, in her flight, drops these fine old feathers.
They discussed the collieries. Clifford’s idea was, that his coal, even the poor sort, could be made into hard concentrated fuel that would burn at great heat if fed with certain damp, acidulated air at a fairly strong pressure. It had long been observed that in a particularly strong, wet wind the pit-bank burned very vivid, gave off hardly any fumes, and left a fine powder of ash, instead of the slow pink gravel.
‘But where will you find the proper engines for burning your fuel?’ asked Winter.
‘I’ll make them myself. And I’ll use my fuel myself. And I’ll sell electric power. I’m certain I could do it.’
‘If you can do it, then splendid, splendid, my dear boy. Haw! Splendid! If I can be of any help, I shall be delighted. I’m afraid I am a little out of date, and my collieries are like me. But who knows, when I’m gone, there may be men like you. Splendid! It will employ all the men again, and you won’t have to sell your coal, or fail to sell it. A splendid idea, and I hope it will be a success. If I had sons of my own, no doubt they would have up-to-date ideas for Shipley: no doubt! By the way, dear boy, is there any foundation to the rumour that we may entertain hopes of an heir to Wragby?’
‘Is there a rumour?’ asked Clifford.
‘Well, my dear boy, Marshall from Fillingwood asked me, that’s all I can say about a rumour. Of course I wouldn’t repeat it for the world, if there were no foundation.’
‘Well, Sir,’ said Clifford uneasily, but with strange bright eyes. ‘There is a hope. There is a hope.’
Winter came across the room and wrung Clifford’s hand.
‘My dear boy, my dear lad, can you believe what it means to me, to hear that! And to hear you are working in the hopes of a son: and that you may again employ every man at Tevershall. Ah, my boy! to keep up the level of the race, and to have work waiting for any man who cares to work! – ‘
The old man was really moved.
Next day Connie was arranging tall yellow tulips in a glass vase.
‘Connie,’ said Clifford, ‘did you know there was a rumour that you are going to supply Wragby with a son and heir?’
Connie felt dim with terror, yet she stood quite still, touching the flowers.
‘No!’ she said. ‘Is it a joke? Or malice?’
He paused before he answered:
‘Neither, I hope. I hope it may be a prophecy.’
Connie went on with her flowers.
‘I had a letter from Father this morning,’ She said. ‘He wants to know if I am aware he has accepted Sir Alexander Cooper’s Invitation for me for July and August, to the Villa Esmeralda in Venice.’
‘July AND August?’ said Clifford.
‘Oh, I wouldn’t stay all that time. Are you sure you wouldn’t come?’
‘I won’t travel abroad,’ said Clifford promptly. She took her flowers to the window.
‘Do you mind if I go?’ she said. You know it was promised, for this summer.
‘For how long would you go?’
‘Perhaps three weeks.’
There was silence for a time.
‘Well,’ said Clifford slowly, and a little gloomily. ‘I suppose I could stand it for three weeks: if I were absolutely sure you’d want to come back.’
‘I should want to come back,’ she said, with a quiet simplicity, heavy with conviction. She was thinking of the other man.
Clifford felt her conviction, and somehow he believed her, he believed it was for him. He felt immensely relieved, joyful at once.
‘In that case,’ he said,
‘I think it would be all right, don’t you?’
‘I think so,’ she said.
‘You’d enjoy the change?’ She looked up at him with strange blue eyes.
‘I should like to see Venice again,’ she said, ‘and to bathe from one of the shingle islands across the lagoon. But you know I loathe the Lido! And I don’t fancy I shall like Sir Alexander Cooper and Lady Cooper. But if Hilda is there, and we have a gondola of our own: yes, it will be rather lovely. I DO wish you’d come.’
She said it sincerely. She would so love to make him happy, in these ways.
‘Ah, but think of me, though, at the Gare du Nord: at Calais quay!’
‘But why not? I see other men carried in litter-chairs, who have been wounded in the war. Besides, we’d motor all the way.’
‘We should need to take two men.’
‘Oh no! We’d manage with Field. There would always be another man there.’
But Clifford shook his head.
‘Not this year, dear! Not this year! Next year probably I’ll try.’
She went away gloomily. Next year! What would next year bring? She herself did not really want to go to Venice: not now, now there was the other man. But she was going as a sort of discipline: and also because, if she had a child, Clifford could think she had a lover in Venice.
It was already May, and in June they were supposed to start. Always these arrangements! Always one’s life arranged for one! Wheels that worked one and drove one, and over which one had no real control!
It was May, but cold and wet again. A cold wet May, good for corn and hay! Much the corn and hay matter nowadays! Connie had to go into Uthwaite, which was their little town, where the Chatterleys were still THEChatterleys. She went alone, Field driving her.
In spite of May and a new greenness, the country was dismal. It was rather chilly, and there was smoke on the rain, and a certain sense of exhaust vapour in the air. One just had to live from one’s resistance. No wonder these people were ugly and tough.
The car ploughed uphill through the long squalid straggle of Tevershall, the blackened brick dwellings, the black slate roofs glistening their sharp edges, the mud black with coal-dust, the pavements wet and black. It was as if dismalness had soaked through and through everything. The utter negation of natural beauty, the utter negation of the gladness of life, the utter absence of the instinct for shapely beauty which every bird and beast has, the utter death of the human intuitive faculty was appalling. The stacks of soap in the grocers’ shops, the rhubarb and lemons in the greengrocers! the awful hats in the milliners! all went by ugly, ugly, ugly, followed by the plaster-and-gilt horror of the cinema with its wet picture announcements, ‘A Woman’s Love!’, and the new big Primitive chapel, primitive enough in its stark brick and big panes of greenish and raspberry glass in the windows. The Wesleyan chapel, higher up, was of blackened brick and stood behind iron railings and blackened shrubs. The Congregational chapel, which thought itself superior, was built of rusticated sandstone and had a steeple, but not a very high one. Just beyond were the new school buildings, expensivink brick, and gravelled playground inside iron railings, all very imposing, and fixing the suggestion of a chapel and a prison. Standard Five girls were having a singing lesson, just finishing the la-me-doh-la exercises and beginning a ‘sweet children’s song’. Anything more unlike song, spontaneous song, would be impossible to imagine: a strange bawling yell that followed the outlines of a tune. It was not like savages: savages have subtle rhythms. It was not like animals: animals MEAN something when they yell. It was like nothing on earth, and it was called singing. Connie sat and listened with her heart in her boots, as Field was filling petrol. What could possibly become of such a people, a people in whom the living intuitive faculty was dead as nails, and only queer mechanical yells and uncanny will-power remained?
A coal-cart was coming downhill, clanking in the rain. Field started upwards, past the big but weary-looking drapers and clothing shops, the post-office, into the little market-place of forlorn space, where Sam Black was peering out of the door of the Sun, that called itself an inn, not a pub, and where the commercial travellers stayed, and was bowing to Lady Chatterley’s car.
The church was away to the left among black trees. The car slid on downhill, past the Miners’ Arms. It had already passed the Wellington, the Nelson, the Three Tuns, and the Sun, now it passed the Miners’ Arms, then the Mechanics’ Hall, then the new and almost gaudy Miners’ Welfare and so, past a few new ‘villas’, out into the blackened road between dark hedges and dark green fields, towards Stacks Gate.
Tevershall! That was Tevershall! Merrie England! Shakespeare’s England! No, but the England of today, as Connie had realized since she had come to live in it. It was producing a new race of mankind, over-conscious in the money and social and political side, on the spontaneous, intuitive side dead, but dead. Half-corpses, all of them: but with a terrible insistent consciousness in the other half. There was something uncanny and underground about it all. It was an under-world. And quite incalculable. How shall we understand the reactions in half-corpses? When Connie saw the great lorries full of steel-workers from Sheffield, weird, distorted smallish beings like men, off for an excursion to Matlock, her bowels fainted and she thought: Ah God, what has man done to man? What have the leaders of men been doing to their fellow men? They have reduced them to less than humanness; and now there can be no fellowship any more! It is just a nightmare.
She felt again in a wave of terror the grey, gritty hopelessness of it all. With such creatures for the industrial masses, and the upper classes as she knew them, there was no hope, no hope any more. Yet she was wanting a baby, and an heir to Wragby! An heir to Wragby! She shuddered with dread.
Yet Mellors had come out of all this! – Yes, but he was as apart from it all as she was. Even in him there was no fellowship left. It was dead. The fellowship was dead. There was only apartness and hopelessness, as far as all this was concerned. And this was England, the vast bulk of England: as Connie knew, since she had motored from the centre of it.
The car was rising towards Stacks Gate. The rain was holding off, and in the air came a queer pellucid gleam of May. The country rolled away in long undulations, south towards the Peak, east towards Mansfield and Nottingham. Connie was travelling South.
As she rose on to the high country, she could see on her left, on a height above the rolling land, the shadowy, powerful bulk of Warsop Castle, dark grey, with below it the reddish plastering of miners’ dwellings, newish, and below those the plumes of dark smoke and white steam from the great colliery which put so many thousand pounds per annum into the pockets of the Duke and the other shareholders. The powerful old castle was a ruin, yet it hung its bulk on the low sky-line, over the black plumes and the white that waved on the damp air below.
A turn, and they ran on the high level to Stacks Gate. Stacks Gate, as seen from the highroad, was just a huge and gorgeous new hotel, the Coningsby Arms, standing red and white and gilt in barbarous isolation off the road. But if you looked, you saw on the left rows of handsome ‘modern’ dwellings, set down like a game of dominoes, with spaces and gardens, a queer game of dominoes that some weird ‘masters’ were playing on the surprised earth. And beyond these blocks of dwellings, at the back, rose all the astonishing and frightening overhead erections of a really modern mine, chemical works and long galleries, enormous, and of shapes not before known to man. The head-stock and pit-bank of the mine itself were insignificant among the huge new installations. And in front of this, the game of dominoes stood forever in a sort of surprise, waiting to be played.
This was Stacks Gate, new on the face of the earth, since the war. But as a matter of fact, though even Connie did not know it, downhill half a mile below the ‘hotel’ was old Stacks Gate, with a little old colliery and blackish old brick dwellings, and a chapel or two and a shop or two and a little pub or two.
But that didn’t count any more. The vast plumes of smoke and vapour rose from the new works up above, and this was now Stacks Gate: no chapels, no pubs, even no shops. Only the great works’, which are the modern Olympia with temples to all the gods; then the model dwellings: then the hotel. The hotel in actuality was nothing but a miners’ pub though it looked first-classy.
Even since Connie’s arrival at Wragby this new place had arisen on the face of the earth, and the model dwellings had filled with riff-raff drifting in from anywhere, to poach Clifford’s rabbits among other occupations.
The car ran on along the uplands, seeing the rolling county spread out. The county! It had once been a proud and lordly county. In front, looming again and hanging on the brow of the sky-line, was the huge and splendid bulk of Chadwick Hall, more window than wall, one of the most famous Elizabethan houses. Noble it stood alone above a great park, but out of date, passed over. It was still kept up, but as a show place. ‘Look how our ancestors lorded it!’
That was the past. The present lay below. God alone knows where the future lies. The car was already turning, between little old blackened miners’ cottages, to descend to Uthwaite. And Uthwaite, on a damp day, was sending up a whole array of smoke plumes and steam, to whatever gods there be. Uthwaite down in the valley, with all the steel threads of the railways to Sheffield drawn through it, and the coal-mines and the steel-works sending up smoke and glare from long tubes, and the pathetic little corkscrew spire of the church, that is going to tumble down, still pricking the fumes, always affected Connie strangely. It was an old market-town, centre of the dales. One of the chief inns was the Chatterley Arms. There, in Uthwaite, Wragby was known as Wragby, as if it were a whole place, not just a house, as it was to outsiders: Wragby Hall, near Tevershall: Wragby, a ‘seat’.
The miners’ cottages, blackened, stood flush on the pavement, with that intimacy and smallness of colliers’ dwellings over a hundred years old. They lined all the way. The road had become a street, and as you sank, you forgot instantly the open, rolling country where the castles and big houses still dominated, but like ghosts. Now you were just above the tangle of naked railway-lines, and foundries and other ‘works’ rose about you, so big you were only aware of walls. And iron clanked with a huge reverberating clank, and huge lorries shook the earth, and whistles screamed.
Yet again, once you had got right down and into the twisted and crooked heart of the town, behind the church, you were in the world of two centuries ago, in the crooked streets where the Chatterley Arms stood, and the old pharmacy, streets which used to lead Out to the wild open world of the castles and stately couchant houses.
But at the corner a policeman held up his hand as three lorries loaded with iron rolled past, shaking the poor old church. And not till the lorries were past could he salute her ladyship.
So it was. Upon the old crooked burgess streets hordes of oldish blackened miners’ dwellings crowded, lining the roads out. And immediately after these came the newer, pinker rows of rather larger houses, plastering the valley: the homes of more modern workmen. And beyond that again, in the wide rolling regions of the castles, smoke waved against steam, and patch after patch of raw reddish brick showed the newer mining settlements, sometimes in the hollows, sometimes gruesomely ugly along the sky-line of the slopes. And between, in between, were the tattered remnants of the old coaching and cottage England, even the England of Robin Hood, where the miners prowled with the dismalness of suppressed sporting instincts, when they were not at work.
England, my England! But which is MY England? The stately homes of England make good photographs, and create the illusion of a connexion with the Elizabethans. The handsome old halls are there, from the days of Good Queen Anne and Tom Jones. But smuts fall and blacken on the drab stucco, that has long ceased to be golden. And one by one, like the stately homes, they were abandoned. Now they are being pulled down. As for the cottages of England – there they are – great plasterings of brick dwellings on the hopeless countryside.
‘Now they are pulling down the stately homes, the Georgian halls are going. Fritchley, a perfect old Georgian mansion, was even now, as Connie passed in the car, being demolished. It was in perfect repair: till the war the Weatherleys had lived in style there. But now it was too big, too expensive, and the country had become too uncongenial. The gentry were departing to pleasanter places, where they could spend their money without having to see how it was made.’
This is history. One England blots out another. The mines had made the halls wealthy. Now they were blotting them out, as they had already blotted out the cottages. The industrial England blots out the agricultural England. One meaning blots out another. The new England blots out the old England. And the continuity is not Organic, but mechanical.
Connie, belonging to the leisured classes, had clung to the remnants of the old England. It had taken her years to realize that it was really blotted out by this terrifying new and gruesome England, and that the blotting out would go on till it was complete. Fritchley was gone, Eastwood was gone, Shipley was going: Squire Winter’s beloved Shipley.
Connie called for a moment at Shipley. The park gates, at the back, opened just near the level crossing of the colliery railway; the Shipley colliery itself stood just beyond the trees. The gates stood open, because through the park was a right-of-way that the colliers used. They hung around the park.
The car passed the ornamental ponds, in which the colliers threw their newspapers, and took the private drive to the house. It stood above, aside, a very pleasant stucco building from the middle of the eighteenth century. It had a beautiful alley of yew trees, that had approached an older house, and the hall stood serenely spread out, winking its Georgian panes as if cheerfully. Behind, there were really beautiful gardens.
Connie liked the interior much better than Wragby. It was much lighter, more alive, shapen and elegant. The rooms were panelled with creamy painted panelling, the ceilings were touched with gilt, and everything was kept in exquisite order, all the appointments were perfect, regardless of expense. Even the corridors managed to be ample and lovely, softly curved and full of life.
But Leslie Winter was alone. He had adored his house. But his park was bordered by three of his own collieries. He had been a generous man in his ideas. He had almost welcomed the colliers in his park. Had the miners not made him rich! So, when he saw the gangs of unshapely men lounging by his ornamental waters – not in the private part of the park, no, he drew the line there – he would say: ‘the miners are perhaps not so ornamental as deer, but they are far more profitable.’
But that was in the golden – monetarily – latter half of Queen Victoria’s reign. Miners were then ‘good working men’.
Winter had made this speech, half apologetic, to his guest, the then Prince of Wales. And the Prince had replied, in his rather guttural English:
‘You are quite right. If there were coal under Sandringham, I would open a mine on the lawns, and think it first-rate landscape gardening. Oh, I am quite willing to exchange roe-deer for colliers, at the price. Your men are good men too, I hear.’
But then, the Prince had perhaps an exaggerated idea of the beauty of money, and the blessings of industrialism.
However, the Prince had been a King, and the King had died, and now there was another King, whose chief function seemed to be to open soup-kitchens.
And the good working men were somehow hemming Shipley in. New mining villages crowded on the park, and the squire felt somehow that the population was alien. He used to feel, in a good-natured but quite grand way, lord of his own domain and of his own colliers. Now, by a subtle pervasion of the new spirit, he had somehow been pushed out. It was he who did not belong any more. There was no mistaking it. The mines, the industry, had a will of its own, and this will was against the gentleman-owner. All the colliers took part in the will, and it was hard to live up against it. It either shoved you out of the place, or out of life altogether.
Squire Winter, a soldier, had stood it out. But he no longer cared to walk in the park after dinner. He almost hid, indoors. Once he had walked, bare-headed, and in his patent-leather shoes and purple silk socks, with Connie down to the gate, talking to her in his well-bred rather haw-haw fashion. But when it came to passing the little gangs of colliers who stood and stared without either salute or anything else, Connie felt how the lean, well-bred old man winced, winced as an elegant antelope stag in a cage winces from the vulgar stare. The colliers were not PERSONALLY hostile: not at all. But their spirit was cold, and shoving him out. And, deep down, there was a profound grudge. They ‘worked for him’. And in their ugliness, they resented his elegant, well-groomed, well-bred existence. ‘Who’s he!’ It was the DIFFERENCE they resented.
And somewhere, in his secret English heart, being a good deal of a soldier, he believed they were right to resent the difference. He felt himself a little in the wrong, for having all the advantages. Nevertheless he represented a system, and he would not be shoved out.
Except by death. Which came on him soon after Connie’s call, suddenly. And he remembered Clifford handsomely in his will.
The heirs at once gave out the order for the demolishing of Shipley. It cost too much to keep up. No one would live there. So it was broken up. The avenue of yews was cut down. The park was denuded of its timber, and divided into lots. It was near enough to Uthwaite. In the strange, bald desert of this still-one-more no-man’s-land, new little streets of semi-detacheds were run up, very desirable! The Shipley Hall Estate!
Within a year of Connie’s last call, it had happened. There stood Shipley Hall Estate, an array of red-brick semi-detached ‘villas’ in new streets. No one would have dreamed that the stucco hall had stood there twelve months before.
But this is a later stage of King Edward’s landscape gardening, the sort that has an ornamental coal-mine on the lawn.
One England blots out another. The England of the Squire Winters and the Wragby Halls was gone, dead. The blotting out was only not yet complete.
What would come after? Connie could not imagine. She could only see the new brick streets spreading into the fields, the new erections rising at the collieries, the new girls in their silk stockings, the new collier lads lounging into the Pally or the Welfare. The younger generation were utterly unconscious of the old England. There was a gap in the continuity of consciousness, almost American: but industrial really. What next?
Connie always felt there was no next. She wanted to hide her head in the sand: or, at least, in the bosom of a living man.
The world was so complicated and weird and gruesome! The common people were so many, and really so terrible. So she bought as she was going home, and saw the colliers trailing from the pits, grey-black, distorted, one shoulder higher than the other, slurring their heavy ironshod boots. Underground grey faces, whites of eyes rolling, necks cringing from the pit roof, shoulders Out of shape. Men! Men! Alas, in some ways patient and good men. In other ways, non-existent. Something that men SHOULD have was bred and killed out of them. Yet they were men. They begot children. One might bear a child to them. Terrible, terrible thought! They were good and kindly. But they were only half, Only the grey half of a human being. As yet, they were ‘good’. But even that was the goodness of their halfness. Supposing the dead in them ever rose up! But no, it was too terrible to think of. Connie was absolutely afraid of the industrial masses. They seemed so WEIRD to her. A life with utterly no beauty in it, no intuition, always ‘in the pit’.
Children from such men! Oh God, oh God!
Yet Mellors had come from such a father. Not quite. Forty years had made a difference, an appalling difference in manhood. The iron and the coal had eaten deep into the bodies and souls of the men.
Incarnate ugliness, and yet alive! What would become of them all? Perhaps with the passing of the coal they would disappear again, off the face of the earth. They had appeared out of nowhere in their thousands, when the coal had called for them. Perhaps they were only weird fauna of the coal-seams. Creatures of another reality, they were elementals, serving the elements of coal, as the metal-workers were elementals, serving the element of iron. Men not men, but animas of coal and iron and clay. Fauna of the elements, carbon, iron, silicon: elementals. They had perhaps some of the weird, inhuman beauty of minerals, the lustre of coal, the weight and blueness and resistance of iron, the transparency of glass. Elemental creatures, weird and distorted, of the mineral world! They belonged to the coal, the iron, the clay, as fish belong to the sea and worms to dead wood. The anima of mineral disintegration!
Connie was glad to be home, to bury her head in the sand. She was glad even to babble to Clifford. For her fear of the mining and iron Midlands affected her with a queer feeling that went all over her, like influenza.
‘Of course I had to have tea in Miss Bentley’s shop,’ she said.
‘Really! Winter would have given you tea.’
‘Oh yes, but I daren’t disappoint Miss Bentley.’ Miss Bentley was a shallow old maid with a rather large nose and romantic disposition who served tea with a careful intensity worthy of a sacrament.
‘Did she ask after me?’ said Clifford.
‘Of course! – . MAY I ask your Ladyship how Sir Clifford is! – I believe she ranks you even higher than Nurse Cavell!’
‘And I suppose you said I was blooming.’
‘Yes! And she looked as rapt as if I had said the heavens had opened to you. I said if she ever came to Tevershall she was to come to see you.’
‘Me! Whatever for! See me!’
‘Why yes, Clifford. You can’t be so adored without making some slight return. Saint George of Cappadocia was nothing to you, in her eyes.’
‘And do you think she’ll come?’
‘Oh, she blushed! and looked quite beautiful for a moment, poor thing! Why don’t men marry the women who would really adore them?’
‘The women start adoring too late. But did she say she’d come?’
‘Oh!’ Connie imitated the breathless Miss Bentley, ‘your Ladyship, if ever I should dare to presume!’
‘Dare to presume! how absurd! But I hope to God she won’t turn up. And how was her tea?’
‘Oh, Lipton’s and VERY strong. But Clifford, do you realize you are the ROMAN DE LA ROSE of Miss Bentley and lots like her?’
‘I’m not flattered, even then.’
‘They treasure up every one of your pictures in the illustrated papers, and probably pray for you every night. It’s rather wonderful.’
She went upstairs to change.
That evening he said to her:
‘You do think, don’t you, that there is something eternal in marriage?’
She looked at him.
‘But Clifford, you make eternity sound like a lid or a long, long chain that trailed after one, no matter how far one went.’
He looked at her, annoyed.
‘What I mean,’ he said, ‘is that if you go to Venice, you won’t go in the hopes of some love affair that you can take AU GRAND S�RIEUX, will you?’
‘A love affair in Venice AU GRAND S�RIEUX? No. I assure you! No, I’d never take a love affair in Venice more than AU TRÔS PETIT S�RIEUX.’
She spoke with a queer kind of contempt. He knitted his brows, looking at her.
Coming downstairs in the morning, she found the keeper’s dog Flossie sitting in the corridor outside Clifford’s room, and whimpering very faintly.
‘Why, Flossie!’ she said softly. ‘What are you doing here?’
And she quietly opened Clifford’s door. Clifford was sitting up in bed, with the bed-table and typewriter pushed aside, and the keeper was standing at attention at the foot of the bed. Flossie ran in. With a faint gesture of head and eyes, Mellors ordered her to the door again, and she slunk out.
‘Oh, good morning, Clifford!’ Connie said. ‘I didn’t know you were busy.’ Then she looked at the keeper, saying good morning to him. He murmured his reply, looking at her as if vaguely. But she felt a whiff of passion touch her, from his mere presence.
‘Did I interrupt you, Clifford? I’m sorry.’
‘No, it’s nothing of any importance.’
She slipped out of the room again, and up to the blue boudoir on the first floor. She sat in the window, and saw him go down the drive, with his curious, silent motion, effaced. He had a natural sort of quiet distinction, an aloof pride, and also a certain look of frailty. A hireling! One of Clifford’s hirelings! ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.’
Was he an underling? Was he? What did he think of HER?
It was a sunny day, and Connie was working in the garden, and Mrs Bolton was helping her. For some reason, the two women had drawn together, in one of the unaccountable flows and ebbs of sympathy that exist between people. They were pegging down carnations, and putting in small plants for the summer. It was work they both liked. Connie especially felt a delight in putting the soft roots of young plants into a soft black puddle, and cradling them down. On this spring morning she felt a quiver in her womb too, as if the sunshine had touched it and made it happy.
‘It is many years since you lost your husband?’ she said to Mrs Bolton as she took up another little plant and laid it in its hole.
‘Twenty-three!’ said Mrs Bolton, as she carefully separated the young columbines into single plants. ‘Twenty-three years since they brought him home.’
Connie’s heart gave a lurch, at the terrible finality of it. ‘Brought him home!’
‘Why did he get killed, do you think?’ she asked. ‘He was happy with you?’
It was a woman’s question to a woman. Mrs Bolton put aside a strand of hair from her face, with the back of her hand.
‘I don’t know, my Lady! He sort of wouldn’t give in to things: he wouldn’t really go with the rest. And then he hated ducking his head for anything on earth. A sort of obstinacy, that gets itself killed. You see he didn’t really care. I lay it down to the pit. He ought never to have been down pit. But his dad made him go down, as a lad; and then, when you’re over twenty, it’s not very easy to come out.’
‘Did he say he hated it?’
‘Oh no! Never! He never said he hated anything. He just made a funny face. He was one of those who wouldn’t take care: like some of the first lads as went off so blithe to the war and got killed right away. He wasn’t really wezzle-brained. But he wouldn’t care. I used to say to him: You care for nought nor nobody! But he did! The way he sat when my first baby was born, motionless, and the sort of fatal eyes he looked at me with, when it was over! I had a bad time, but I had to comfort HIM. It’s all right, lad, it’s all right! I said to him. And he gave me a look, and that funny sort of smile. He never said anything. But I don’t believe he had any right pleasure with me at nights after; he’d never really let himself go. I used to say to him: Oh, let thysen go, lad! – I’d talk broad to him sometimes. And he said nothing. But he wouldn’t let himself go, or he couldn’t. He didn’t want me to have any more children. I always blamed his mother, for letting him in th’ room. He’d no right t’ave been there. Men makes so much more of things than they should, once they start brooding.’
‘Did he mind so much?’ said Connie in wonder.
‘Yes, he sort of couldn’t take it for natural, all that pain. And it spoilt his pleasure in his bit of married love. I said to him: If I don’t care, why should you? It’s my look-out! – But all he’d ever say was: It’s not right!’
‘Perhaps he was too sensitive,’ said Connie.
‘That’s it! When you come to know men, that’s how they are: too sensitive in the wrong place. And I believe, unbeknown to himself he hated the pit, just hated it. He looked so quiet when he was dead, as if he’d got free. He was such a nice-looking lad. It just broke my heart to see him, so still and pure looking, as if he’d WANTED to die. Oh, it broke my heart, that did. But it was the pit.’
She wept a few bitter tears, and Connie wept more. It was a warm spring day, with a perfume of earth and of yellow flowers, many things rising to bud, and the garden still with the very sap of sunshine.
‘It must have been terrible for you!’ said Connie.
‘Oh, my Lady! I never realized at first. I could only say: Oh my lad, what did you want to leave me for! – That was all my cry. But somehow I felt he’d come back.’
‘But he DIDN’T want to leave you,’ said Connie.
‘Oh no, my Lady! That was only my silly cry. And I kept expecting him back. Especially at nights. I kept waking up thinking: Why he’s not in bed with me! – It was as if MY FEELINGS wouldn’t believe he’d gone. I just felt he’d HAVE to come back and lie against me, so I could feel him with me. That was all I wanted, to feel him there with me, warm. And it took me a thousand shocks before I knew he wouldn’t come back, it took me years.’
‘The touch of him,’ said Connie.
‘That’s it, my Lady, the touch of him! I’ve never got over it to this day, and never shall. And if there’s a heaven above, he’ll be there, and will lie up against me so I can sleep.’
Connie glanced at the handsome, brooding face in fear. Another passionate one out of Tevershall! The touch of him! For the bonds of love are ill to loose!
‘It’s terrible, once you’ve got a man into your blood!’ she said. ‘Oh, my Lady! And that’s what makes you feel so bitter. You feel folks WANTED him killed. You feel the pit fair WANTED to kill him. Oh, I felt, if it hadn’t been for the pit, an’ them as runs the pit, there’d have been no leaving me. But they all WANT to separate a woman and a man, if they’re together.’
‘If they’re physically together,’ said Connie.
‘That’s right, my Lady! There’s a lot of hard-hearted folks in the world. And every morning when he got up and went to th’ pit, I felt it was wrong, wrong. But what else could he do? What can a man do?’
A queer hate flared in the woman.
‘But can a touch last so long?’ Connie asked suddenly. ‘That you could feel him so long?’
‘Oh my Lady, what else is there to last? Children grows away from you. But the man, well! But even THAT they’d like to kill in you, the very thought of the touch of him. Even your own children! Ah well! We might have drifted apart, who knows. But the feeling’s something different. It’s ‘appen better never to care. But there, when I look at women who’s never really been warmed through by a man, well, they seem to me poor doolowls after all, no matter how they may dress up and gad. No, I’ll abide by my own. I’ve not much respect for people.’
Connie went to the wood directly after lunch. It was really a lovely day, the first dandelions making suns, the first daisies so white. The hazel thicket was a lace-work, of half-open leaves, and the last dusty perpendicular of the catkins. Yellow celandines now were in crowds, flat open, pressed back in urgency, and the yellow glitter of themselves. It was the yellow, the powerful yellow of early summer. And primroses were broad, and full of pale abandon, thick-clustered primroses no longer shy. The lush, dark green of hyacinths was a sea, with buds rising like pale corn, while in the riding the forget-me-nots were fluffing up, and columbines were unfolding their ink-purple ruches, and there were bits of blue bird’s eggshell under a bush. Everywhere the bud-knots and the leap of life!
The keeper was not at the hut. Everything was serene, brown chickens running lustily. Connie walked on towards the cottage, because she wanted to find him.
The cottage stood in the sun, off the wood’s edge. In the little garden the double daffodils rose in tufts, near the wide-open door, and red double daisies made a border to the path. There was the bark of a dog, and Flossie came running.
The wide-open door! so he was at home. And the sunlight falling on the red-brick floor! As she went up the path, she saw him through the window, sitting at the table in his shirt-sleeves, eating. The dog wuffed softly, slowly wagging her tail.
He rose, and came to the door, wiping his mouth with a red handkerchief still chewing.
‘May I come in?’ she said.
The sun shone into the bare room, which still smelled of a mutton chop, done in a dutch oven before the fire, because the dutch oven still stood on the fender, with the black potato-saucepan on a piece of paper, beside it on the white hearth. The fire was red, rather low, the bar dropped, the kettle singing.
On the table was his plate, with potatoes and the remains of the chop; also bread in a basket, salt, and a blue mug with beer. The table-cloth was white oil-cloth, he stood in the shade.
‘You are very late,’ she said. ‘Do go on eating!’
She sat down on a wooden chair, in the sunlight by the door.
‘I had to go to Uthwaite,’ he said, sitting down at the table but not eating.
‘Do eat,’ she said. But he did not touch the food.
‘Shall y’ave something?’ he asked her. ‘Shall y’ave a cup of tea? t’ kettle’s on t’ boil’ – he half rose again from his chair.
‘If you’ll let me make it myself,’ she said, rising. He seemed sad, and she felt she was bothering him.
‘Well, tea-pot’s in there’ – he pointed to a little, drab corner cupboard; ‘an’ cups. An’ tea’s on t’ mantel ower yer ‘ead,’
She got the black tea-pot, and the tin of tea from the mantel-shelf. She rinsed the tea-pot with hot water, and stood a moment wondering where to empty it.
‘Throw it out,’ he said, aware of her. ‘It’s clean.’
She went to the door and threw the drop of water down the path. How lovely it was here, so still, so really woodland. The oaks were putting out ochre yellow leaves: in the garden the red daisies were like red plush buttons. She glanced at the big, hollow sandstone slab of the threshold, now crossed by so few feet.
‘But it’s lovely here,’ she said. ‘Such a beautiful stillness, everything alive and still.’
He was eating again, rather slowly and unwillingly, and she could feel he was discouraged. She made the tea in silence, and set the tea-pot on the hob, as she knew the people did. He pushed his plate aside and went to the back place; she heard a latch click, then he came back with cheese on a plate, and butter.
She set the two cups on the table; there were only two. ‘Will you have a cup of tea?’ she said.
‘If you like. Sugar’s in th’ cupboard, an’ there’s a little cream jug. Milk’s in a jug in th’ pantry.’
‘Shall I take your plate away?’ she asked him. He looked up at her with a faint ironical smile.
‘Why…if you like,’ he said, slowly eating bread and cheese. She went to the back, into the pent-house scullery, where the pump was. On the left was a door, no doubt the pantry door. She unlatched it, and almost smiled at the place he called a pantry; a long narrow white-washed slip of a cupboard. But it managed to contain a little barrel of beer, as well as a few dishes and bits of food. She took a little milk from the yellow jug.
‘How do you get your milk?’ she asked him, when she came back to the table.
‘Flints! They leave me a bottle at the warren end. You know, where I met you!’
But he was discouraged. She poured out the tea, poising the cream-jug.
‘No milk,’ he said; then he seemed to hear a noise, and looked keenly through the doorway.
Appen we’d better shut,’ he said.
‘It seems a pity,’ she replied. ‘Nobody will come, will they?’
‘Not unless it’s one time in a thousand, but you never know.’
‘And even then it’s no matter,’ she said. ‘It’s only a cup of tea.’
‘Where are the spoons?’
He reached over, and pulled open the table drawer. Connie sat at the table in the sunshine of the doorway.
‘Flossie!’ he said to the dog, who was lying on a little mat at the stair foot. ‘Go an’ hark, hark!’
He lifted his finger, and his ‘hark!’ was very vivid. The dog trotted out to reconnoitre.
‘Are you sad today?’ she asked him.
He turned his blue eyes quickly, and gazed direct on her.
‘Sad! no, bored! I had to go getting summonses for two poachers I caught, and, oh well, I don’t like people.’
He spoke cold, good English, and there was anger in his voice. ‘Do you hate being a game-keeper?’ she asked.
‘Being a game-keeper, no! So long as I’m left alone. But when I have to go messing around at the police-station, and various other places, and waiting for a lot of fools to attend to me…oh well, I get mad…’ and he smiled, with a certain faint humour.
‘Couldn’t you be really independent?’ she asked.
‘Me? I suppose I could, if you mean manage to exist on my pension. I could! But I’ve got to work, or I should die. That is, I’ve got to have something that keeps me occupied. And I’m not in a good enough temper to work for myself. It’s got to be a sort of job for somebody else, or I should throw it up in a month, out of bad temper. So altogether I’m very well off here, especially lately…’
He laughed at her again, with mocking humour.
‘But why are you in a bad temper?’ she asked. ‘Do you mean you are ALWAYS in a bad temper?’
‘Pretty well,’ he said, laughing. ‘I don’t quite digest my bile.’
‘But what bile?’ she said.
‘Bile!’ he said. ‘Don’t you know what that is?’ She was silent, and disappointed. He was taking no notice of her.
‘I’m going away for a while next month,’ she said.
‘You are! Where to?’
‘With Sir Clifford? For how long?’
‘For a month or so,’ she replied. ‘Clifford won’t go.’
‘He’ll stay here?’ he asked.
‘Yes! He hates to travel as he is.’
‘Ay, poor devil!’ he said, with sympathy. There was a pause.
‘You won’t forget me when I’m gone, will you?’ she asked. Again he lifted his eyes and looked full at her.
‘Forget?’ he said. ‘You know nobody forgets. It’s not a question of memory;’
She wanted to say: ‘When then?’ but she didn’t. Instead, she said in a mute kind of voice: ‘I told Clifford I might have a child.’
Now he really looked at her, intense and searching.
‘You did?’ he said at last. ‘And what did he say?’
‘Oh, he wouldn’t mind. He’d be glad, really, so long as it seemed to be his.’ She dared not look up at him.
He was silent a long time, then he gazed again on her face.
‘No mention of ME, of course?’ he said.
‘No. No mention of you,’ she said.
‘No, he’d hardly swallow me as a substitute breeder. Then where are you supposed to be getting the child?’
‘I might have a love-affair in Venice,’ she said.
‘You might,’ he replied slowly. ‘So that’s why you’re going?’
‘Not to have the love-affair,’ she said, looking up at him, pleading.
‘Just the appearance of one,’ he said.
There was silence. He sat staring out the window, with a faint grin, half mockery, half bitterness, on his face. She hated his grin.
‘You’ve not taken any precautions against having a child then?’ he asked her suddenly. ‘Because I haven’t.’
‘No,’ she said faintly. ‘I should hate that.’
He looked at her, then again with the peculiar subtle grin out of the window. There was a tense silence.
At last he turned his head and said satirically:
‘That was why you wanted me, then, to get a child?’
She hung her head.
‘No. Not really,’ she said. ‘What then, REALLY?’ he asked rather bitingly.
She looked up at him reproachfully, saying: ‘I don’t know.’
He broke into a laugh.
‘Then I’m damned if I do,’ he said.
There was a long pause of silence, a cold silence.
‘Well,’ he said at last. ‘It’s as your Ladyship likes. If you get the baby, Sir Clifford’s welcome to it. I shan’t have lost anything. On the contrary, I’ve had a very nice experience, very nice indeed!’ – and he stretched in a half-suppressed sort of yawn. ‘If you’ve made use of me,’ he said, ‘it’s not the first time I’ve been made use of; and I don’t suppose it’s ever been as pleasant as this time; though of course one can’t feel tremendously dignified about it.’ – He stretched again, curiously, his muscles quivering, and his jaw oddly set.
‘But I didn’t make use of you,’ she said, pleading.
‘At your Ladyship’s service,’ he replied.
‘No,’ she said. ‘I liked your body.’
‘Did you?’ he replied, and he laughed. ‘Well, then, we’re quits, because I liked yours.’
He looked at her with queer darkened eyes.
‘Would you like to go upstairs now?’ he asked her, in a strangled sort of voice.
‘No, not here. Not now!’ she said heavily, though if he had used any power over her, she would have gone, for she had no strength against him.
He turned his face away again, and seemed to forget her. ‘I want to touch you like you touch me,’ she said. ‘I’ve never really touched your body.’
He looked at her, and smiled again. ‘Now?’ he said. ‘No! No! Not here! At the hut. Would you mind?’
‘How do I touch you?’ he asked.
‘When you feel me.’
He looked at her, and met her heavy, anxious eyes.
‘And do you like it when I feel you?’ he asked, laughing at her still.
‘Yes, do you?’ she said.
‘Oh, me!’ Then he changed his tone. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘You know without asking.’ Which was true.
She rose and picked up her hat. ‘I must go,’ she said.
‘Will you go?’ he replied politely.
She wanted him to touch her, to say something to her, but he said nothing, only waited politely.
‘Thank you for the tea,’ she said.
‘I haven’t thanked your Ladyship for doing me the honours of my tea-pot,’ he said.
She went down the path, and he stood in the doorway, faintly grinning. Flossie came running with her tail lifted. And Connie had to plod dumbly across into the wood, knowing he was standing there watching her, with that incomprehensible grin on his face.
She walked home very much downcast and annoyed. She didn’t at all like his saying he had been made use of because, in a sense, it was true. But he oughtn’t to have said it. Therefore, again, she was divided between two feelings: resentment against him, and a desire to make it up with him.
She passed a very uneasy and irritated tea-time, and at once went up to her room. But when she was there it was no good; she could neither sit nor stand. She would have to do something about it. She would have to go back to the hut; if he was not there, well and good.
She slipped out of the side door, and took her way direct and a little sullen. When she came to the clearing she was terribly uneasy. But there he was again, in his shirt-sleeves, stooping, letting the hens out of the coops, among the chicks that were now growing a little gawky, but were much more trim than hen-chickens.
She went straight across to him. ‘You see I’ve come!’ she said.
‘Ay, I see it!’ he said, straightening his back, and looking at her with a faint amusement.
‘Do you let the hens out now?’ she asked.
‘Yes, they’ve sat themselves to skin and bone,’ he said. ‘An’ now they’re not all that anxious to come out an’ feed. There’s no self in a sitting hen; she’s all in the eggs or the chicks.’
The poor mother-hens; such blind devotion! even to eggs not their own! Connie looked at them in compassion. A helpless silence fell between the man and the woman.
‘Shall us go i’ th’ ‘ut?’ he asked.
‘Do you want me?’ she asked, in a sort of mistrust.
‘Ay, if you want to come.’
She was silent.
‘Come then!’ he said.
And she went with him to the hut. It was quite dark when he had shut the door, so he made a small light in the lantern, as before.
‘Have you left your underthings off?’ he asked her.
‘Ay, well, then I’ll take my things off too.’
He spread the blankets, putting one at the side for a coverlet. She took off her hat, and shook her hair. He sat down, taking off his shoes and gaiters, and undoing his cord breeches.
‘Lie down then!’ he said, when he stood in his shirt. She obeyed in silence, and he lay beside her, and pulled the blanket over them both.
‘There!’ he said.
And he lifted her dress right back, till he came even to her breasts. He kissed them softly, taking the nipples in his lips in tiny caresses.
‘Eh, but tha’rt nice, tha’rt nice!’ he said, suddenly rubbing his face with a snuggling movement against her warm belly.
And she put her arms round him under his shirt, but she was afraid, afraid of his thin, smooth, naked body, that seemed so powerful, afraid of the violent muscles. She shrank, afraid.
And when he said, with a sort of little sigh: ‘Eh, tha’rt nice!’ something in her quivered, and something in her spirit stiffened in resistance: stiffened from the terribly physical intimacy, and from the peculiar haste of his possession. And this time the sharp ecstasy of her own passion did not overcome her; she lay with her ends inert on his striving body, and do what she might, her spirit seemed to look on from the top of her head, and the butting of his haunches seemed ridiculous to her, and the sort of anxiety of his penis to come to its little evacuating crisis seemed farcical. Yes, this was love, this ridiculous bouncing of the buttocks, and the wilting of the poor, insignificant, moist little penis. This was the divine love! After all, the moderns were right when they felt contempt for the performance; for it was a performance. It was quite true, as some poets said, that the God who created man must have had a sinister sense of humour, creating him a reasonable being, yet forcing him to take this ridiculous posture, and driving him with blind craving for this ridiculous performance. Even a Maupassant found it a humiliating anti-climax. Men despised the intercourse act, and yet did it.
Cold and derisive her queer female mind stood apart, and though she lay perfectly still, her impulse was to heave her loins, and throw the man out, escape his ugly grip, and the butting over-riding of his absurd haunches. His body was a foolish, impudent, imperfect thing, a little disgusting in its unfinished clumsiness. For surely a complete evolution would eliminate this performance, this ‘function’.
And yet when he had finished, soon over, and lay very very still, receding into silence, and a strange motionless distance, far, farther than the horizon of her awareness, her heart began to weep. She could feel him ebbing away, ebbing away, leaving her there like a stone on a shore. He was withdrawing, his spirit was leaving her. He knew.
And in real grief, tormented by her own double consciousness and reaction, she began to weep. He took no notice, or did not even know. The storm of weeping swelled and shook her, and shook him.
‘Ay!’ he said. ‘It was no good that time. You wasn’t there.’ – So he knew! Her sobs became violent.
‘But what’s amiss?’ he said. ‘It’s once in a while that way.’
‘I…I can’t love you,’ she sobbed, suddenly feeling her heart breaking.
‘Canna ter? Well, dunna fret! There’s no law says as tha’s got to. Ta’e it for what it is.’
He still lay with his hand on her breast. But she had drawn both her hands from him.
His words were small comfort. She sobbed aloud.
‘Nay, nay!’ he said. ‘Ta’e the thick wi’ th’ thin. This wor a bit o’ thin for once.’
She wept bitterly, sobbing. ‘But I want to love you, and I can’t. It only seems horrid.’
He laughed a little, half bitter, half amused.
‘It isna horrid,’ he said, ‘even if tha thinks it is. An’ tha canna ma’e it horrid. Dunna fret thysen about lovin’ me. Tha’lt niver force thysen to ‘t. There’s sure to be a bad nut in a basketful. Tha mun ta’e th’ rough wi’ th’ smooth.’
He took his hand away from her breast, not touching her. And now she was untouched she took an almost perverse satisfaction in it. She hated the dialect: the THEE and the THA and the THYSEN. He could get up if he liked, and stand there, above her, buttoning down those absurd corduroy breeches, straight in front of her. After all, Michaelis had had the decency to turn away. This man was so assured in himself he didn’t know what a clown other people found him, a half-bred fellow.
Yet, as he was drawing away, to rise silently and leave her, she clung to him in terror.
‘Don’t! Don’t go! Don’t leave me! Don’t be cross with me! Hold me! Hold me fast!’ she whispered in blind frenzy, not even knowing what she said, and clinging to him with uncanny force. It was from herself she wanted to be saved, from her own inward anger and resistance. Yet how powerful was that inward resistance that possessed her!
He took her in his arms again and drew her to him, and suddenly she became small in his arms, small and nestling. It was gone, the resistance was gone, and she began to melt in a marvellous peace. And as she melted small and wonderful in his arms, she became infinitely desirable to him, all his blood-vessels seemed to scald with intense yet tender desire, for her, for her softness, for the penetrating beauty of her in his arms, passing into his blood. And softly, with that marvellous swoon-like caress of his hand in pure soft desire, softly he stroked the silky slope of her loins, down, down between her soft warm buttocks, coming nearer and nearer to the very quick of her. And she felt him like a flame of desire, yet tender, and she felt herself melting in the flame. She let herself go. She felt his penis risen against her with silent amazing force and assertion and she let herself go to him. She yielded with a quiver that was like death, she went all open to him. And oh, if he were not tender to her now, how cruel, for she was all open to him and helpless!
She quivered again at the potent inexorable entry inside her, so strange and terrible. It might come with the thrust of a sword in her softly-opened body, and that would be death. She clung in a sudden anguish of terror. But it came with a strange slow thrust of peace, the dark thrust of peace and a ponderous, primordial tenderness, such as made the world in the beginning. And her terror subsided in her breast, her breast dared to be gone in peace, she held nothing. She dared to let go everything, all herself and be gone in the flood.
And it seemed she was like the sea, nothing but dark waves rising and heaving, heaving with a great swell, so that slowly her whole darkness was in motion, and she was Ocean rolling its dark, dumb mass. Oh, and far down inside her the deeps parted and rolled asunder, in long, fair-travelling billows, and ever, at the quick of her, the depths parted and rolled asunder, from the centre of soft plunging, as the plunger went deeper and deeper, touching lower, and she was deeper and deeper and deeper disclosed, the heavier the billows of her rolled away to some shore, uncovering her, and closer and closer plunged the palpable unknown, and further and further rolled the waves of herself away from herself leaving her, till suddenly, in a soft, shuddering convulsion, the quick of all her plasm was touched, she knew herself touched, the consummation was upon her, and she was gone. She was gone, she was not, and she was born: a woman.
Ah, too lovely, too lovely! In the ebbing she realized all the loveliness. Now all her body clung with tender love to the unknown man, and blindly to the wilting penis, as it so tenderly, frailly, unknowingly withdrew, after the fierce thrust of its potency. As it drew out and left her body, the secret, sensitive thing, she gave an unconscious cry of pure loss, and she tried to put it back. It had been so perfect! And she loved it so!
And only now she became aware of the small, bud-like reticence and tenderness of the penis, and a little cry of wonder and poignancy escaped her again, her woman’s heart crying out over the tender frailty of that which had been the power.
‘It was so lovely!’ she moaned. ‘It was so lovely!’ But he said nothing, only softly kissed her, lying still above her. And she moaned with a sort of bliss, as a sacrifice, and a newborn thing.
And now in her heart the queer wonder of him was awakened.
A man! The strange potency of manhood upon her! Her hands strayed over him, still a little afraid. Afraid of that strange, hostile, slightly repulsive thing that he had been to her, a man. And now she touched him, and it was the sons of god with the daughters of men. How beautiful he felt, how pure in tissue! How lovely, how lovely, strong, and yet pure and delicate, such stillness of the sensitive body! Such utter stillness of potency and delicate flesh. How beautiful! How beautiful! Her hands came timorously down his back, to the soft, smallish globes of the buttocks. Beauty! What beauty! a sudden little flame of new awareness went through her. How was it possible, this beauty here, where she had previously only been repelled? The unspeakable beauty to the touch of the warm, living buttocks! The life within life, the sheer warm, potent loveliness. And the strange weight of the balls between his legs! What a mystery! What a strange heavy weight of mystery, that could lie soft and heavy in one’s hand! The roots, root of all that is lovely, the primeval root of all full beauty.
She clung to him, with a hiss of wonder that was almost awe, terror. He held her close, but he said nothing. He would never say anything. She crept nearer to him, nearer, only to be near to the sensual wonder of him. And out of his utter, incomprehensible stillness, she felt again the slow momentous, surging rise of the phallus again, the other power. And her heart melted out with a kind of awe.
And this time his being within her was all soft and iridescent, purely soft and iridescent, such as no consciousness could seize. Her whole self quivered unconscious and alive, like plasm. She could not know what it was. She could not remember what it had been. Only that it had been more lovely than anything ever could be. Only that. And afterwards she was utterly still, utterly unknowing, she was not aware for how long. And he was still with her, in an unfathomable silence along with her. And of this, they would never speak.
When awareness of the outside began to come back, she clung to his breast, murmuring ‘My love! My love!’ And he held her silently. And she curled on his breast, perfect.
But his silence was fathomless. His hands held her like flowers, so still and strange. ‘Where are you?’ she whispered to him. ‘Where are you? Speak to me! Say something to me!’
He kissed her softly, murmuring: ‘Ay, my lass!’
But she did not know what he meant, she did not know where he was. In his silence he seemed lost to her.
‘You love me, don’t you?’ she murmured.
‘Ay, tha knows!’ he said.
‘But tell me!’ she pleaded.
‘Ay! Ay! ‘asn’t ter felt it?’ he said dimly, but softly and surely. And she clung close to him, closer. He was so much more peaceful in love than she was, and she wanted him to reassure her.
‘You do love me!’ she whispered, assertive. And his hands stroked her softly, as if she were a flower, without the quiver of desire, but with delicate nearness. And still there haunted her a restless necessity to get a grip on love.
‘Say you’ll always love me!’ she pleaded.
‘Ay!’ he said, abstractedly. And she felt her questions driving him away from her.
‘Mustn’t we get up?’ he said at last.
‘No!’ she said.
But she could feel his consciousness straying, listening to the noises outside.
‘It’ll be nearly dark,’ he said. And she heard the pressure of circumstances in his voice. She kissed him, with a woman’s grief at yielding up her hour.
He rose, and turned up the lantern, then began to pull on his clothes, quickly disappearing inside them. Then he stood there, above her, fastening his breeches and looking down at her with dark, wide eyes, his face a little flushed and his hair ruffled, curiously warm and still and beautiful in the dim light of the lantern, so beautiful, she would never tell him how beautiful. It made her want to cling fast to him, to hold him, for there was a warm, half-sleepy remoteness in his beauty that made her want to cry out and clutch him, to have him. She would never have him. So she lay on the blanket with curved, soft naked haunches, and he had no idea what she was thinking, but to him too she was beautiful, the soft, marvellous thing he could go into, beyond everything.
‘I love thee that I call go into thee,’ he said.
‘Do you like me?’ she said, her heart beating.
‘It heals it all up, that I can go into thee. I love thee that tha opened to me. I love thee that I came into thee like that.’
He bent down and kissed her soft flank, rubbed his cheek against it, then covered it up.
‘And will you never leave me?’ she said.
‘Dunna ask them things,’ he said.
‘But you do believe I love you?’ she said.
‘Tha loved me just now, wider than iver tha thout tha would. But who knows what’ll ‘appen, once tha starts thinkin’ about it!’
‘No, don’t say those things! – And you don’t really think that I wanted to make use of you, do you?’
‘To have a child – ?’
‘Now anybody can ‘ave any childt i’ th’ world,’ he said, as he sat down fastening on his leggings.
‘Ah no!’ she cried. ‘You don’t mean it?’
‘Eh well!’ he said, looking at her under his brows. ‘This wor t’ best.’
She lay still. He softly opened the door. The sky was dark blue, with crystalline, turquoise rim. He went out, to shut up the hens, speaking softly to his dog. And she lay and wondered at the wonder of life, and of being.
When he came back she was still lying there, glowing like a gipsy. He sat on the stool by her.
‘Tha mun come one naight ter th’ cottage, afore tha goos; sholl ter?’ he asked, lifting his eyebrows as he looked at her, his hands dangling between his knees.
‘Sholl ter?’ she echoed, teasing.
He smiled. ‘Ay, sholl ter?’ he repeated.
‘Ay!’ she said, imitating the dialect sound.
‘Yi!’ he said.
‘Yi!’ she repeated.
‘An’ slaip wi’ me,’ he said. ‘It needs that. When sholt come?’
‘When sholl I?’ she said.
‘Nay,’ he said, ‘tha canna do’t. When sholt come then?’
Appen Sunday,’ she said.
Appen a’ Sunday! Ay!’
He laughed at her quickly.
‘Nay, tha canna,’ he protested.
‘Why canna I?’ she said.
On Sunday Clifford wanted to go into the wood. It was a lovely morning, the pear-blossom and plum had suddenly appeared in the world in a wonder of white here and there.
It was cruel for Clifford, while the world bloomed, to have to be helped from chair to bath-chair. But he had forgotten, and even seemed to have a certain conceit of himself in his lameness. Connie still suffered, having to lift his inert legs into place. Mrs Bolton did it now, or Field.
She waited for him at the top of the drive, at the edge of the screen of beeches. His chair came puffing along with a sort of valetudinarian slow importance. As he joined his wife he said:
‘Sir Clifford on his roaming steed!’
‘Snorting, at least!’ she laughed.
He stopped and looked round at the facade of the long, low old brown house.
‘Wragby doesn’t wink an eyelid!’ he said. ‘But then why should it! I ride upon the achievements of the mind of man, and that beats a horse.’
‘I suppose it does. And the souls in Plato riding up to heaven in a two-horse chariot would go in a Ford car now,’ she said.
‘Or a Rolls-Royce: Plato was an aristocrat!’
‘Quite! No more black horse to thrash and maltreat. Plato never thought we’d go one better than his black steed and his white steed, and have no steeds at all, only an engine!’
‘Only an engine and gas!’ said Clifford.
‘I hope I can have some repairs done to the old place next year. I think I shall have about a thousand to spare for that: but work costs so much!’ he added.
‘Oh, good!’ said Connie. ‘If only there aren’t more strikes!’
‘What would be the use of their striking again! Merely ruin the industry, what’s left of it: and surely the owls are beginning to see it!’
‘Perhaps they don’t mind ruining the industry,’ said Connie.
‘Ah, don’t talk like a woman! The industry fills their bellies, even if it can’t keep their pockets quite so flush,’ he said, using turns of speech that oddly had a twang of Mrs Bolton.
‘But didn’t you say the other day that you were a conservative-anarchist,’ she asked innocently.
‘And did you understand what I meant?’ he retorted. ‘All I meant is, people can be what they like and feel what they like and do what they like, strictly privately, so long as they keep the FORM of life intact, and the apparatus.’
Connie walked on in silence a few paces. Then she said, obstinately:
‘It sounds like saying an egg may go as addled as it likes, so long as it keeps its shell on whole. But addled eggs do break of themselves.’
‘I don’t think people are eggs,’ he said. ‘Not even angels’ eggs, my dear little evangelist.’
He was in rather high feather this bright morning. The larks were trilling away over the park, the distant pit in the hollow was fuming silent steam. It was almost like old days, before the war. Connie didn’t really want to argue. But then she did not really want to go to the wood with Clifford either. So she walked beside his chair in a certain obstinacy of spirit.
‘No,’ he said. ‘There will be no more strikes, it. The thing is properly managed.’
‘Because strikes will be made as good as impossible.’
‘But will the men let you?’ she asked.
‘We shan’t ask them. We shall do it while they aren’t looking: for their own good, to save the industry.’
‘For your own good too,’ she said.
‘Naturally! For the good of everybody. But for their good even more than mine. I can live without the pits. They can’t. They’ll starve if there are no pits. I’ve got other provision.’
They looked up the shallow valley at the mine, and beyond it, at the black-lidded houses of Tevershall crawling like some serpent up the hill. From the old brown church the bells were ringing: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
‘But will the men let you dictate terms?’ she said.
‘My dear, they will have to: if one does it gently.’
‘But mightn’t there be a mutual understanding?’
‘Absolutely: when they realize that the industry comes before the individual.’
‘But must you own the industry?’ she said.
‘I don’t. But to the extent I do own it, yes, most decidedly. The ownership of property has now become a religious question: as it has been since Jesus and St Francis. The point is NOT: take all thou hast and give to the poor, but use all thou hast to encourage the industry and give work to the poor. It’s the only way to feed all the mouths and clothe all the bodies. Giving away all we have to the poor spells starvation for the poor just as much as for us. And universal starvation is no high aim. Even general poverty is no lovely thing. Poverty is ugly.’
‘But the disparity?’
‘That is fate. Why is the star Jupiter bigger than the star Neptune? You can’t start altering the make-up of things!’
‘But when this envy and jealousy and discontent has once started,’ she began.
‘Do your best to stop it. Somebody’s GOT to be boss of the show.’
‘But who is boss of the show?’ she asked.
‘The men who own and run the industries.’
There was a long silence.
‘It seems to me they’re a bad boss,’ she said.
‘Then you suggest what they should do.’
‘They don’t take their boss-ship seriously enough,’ she said.
‘They take it far more seriously than you take your ladyship,’ he said.
‘That’s thrust upon me. I don’t really want it,’ she blurted out. He stopped the chair and looked at her.
‘Who’s shirking their responsibility now!’ he said. ‘Who is trying to get away NOW from the responsibility of their own boss-ship, as you call it?’
‘But I don’t want any boss-ship,’ she protested.
‘Ah! But that is funk. You’ve got it: fated to it. And you should live up to it. Who has given the colliers all they have that’s worth having: all their political liberty, and their education, such as it is, their sanitation, their health-conditions, their books, their music, everything. Who has given it them? Have colliers given it to colliers? No! All the Wragbys and Shipleys in England have given their part, and must go on giving. There’s your responsibility.’
Connie listened, and flushed very red.
‘I’d like to give something,’ she said. ‘But I’m not allowed. Everything is to be sold and paid for now; and all the things you mention now, Wragby and Shipley SELLS them to the people, at a good profit. Everything is sold. You don’t give one heart-beat of real sympathy. And besides, who has taken away from the people their natural life and manhood, and given them this industrial horror? Who has done that?’
‘And what must I do?’ he asked, green. ‘Ask them to come and pillage me?’
‘Why is Tevershall so ugly, so hideous? Why are their lives so hopeless?’
‘They built their own Tevershall, that’s part of their display of freedom. They built themselves their pretty Tevershall, and they live their own pretty lives. I can’t live their lives for them. Every beetle must live its own life.’
‘But you make them work for you. They live the life of your coal-mine.’
‘Not at all. Every beetle finds its own food. Not one man is forced to work for me.
‘Their lives are industrialized and hopeless, and so are ours,’ she cried.
‘I don’t think they are. That’s just a romantic figure of speech, a relic of the swooning and die-away romanticism. You don’t look at all a hopeless figure standing there, Connie my dear.’
Which was true. For her dark-blue eyes were flashing, her colour was hot in her cheeks, she looked full of a rebellious passion far from the dejection of hopelessness. She noticed, ill the tussocky places of the grass, cottony young cowslips standing up still bleared in their down. And she wondered with rage, why it was she felt Clifford was so WRONG, yet she couldn’t say it to him, she could not say exactly WHERE he was wrong.
‘No wonder the men hate you,’ she said.
‘They don’t!’ he replied. ‘And don’t fall into errors: in your sense of the word, they are NOT men. They are animals you don’t understand, and never could. Don’t thrust your illusions on other people. The masses were always the same, and will always be the same. Nero’s slaves were extremely little different from our colliers or the Ford motor-car workmen. I mean Nero’s mine slaves and his field slaves. It is the masses: they are the unchangeable. An individual may emerge from the masses. But the emergence doesn’t alter the mass. The masses are unalterable. It is one of the most momentous facts of social science. PANEM ET CIRCENSES! Only today education is one of the bad substitutes for a circus. What is wrong today is that we’ve made a profound hash of the circuses part of the programme, and poisoned our masses with a little education.’
When Clifford became really roused in his feelings about the common people, Connie was frightened. There was something devastatingly true in what he said. But it was a truth that killed.
Seeing her pale and silent, Clifford started the chair again, and no more was said till he halted again at the wood gate, which she opened.
‘And what we need to take up now,’ he said, ‘is whips, not swords. The masses have been ruled since time began, and till time ends, ruled they will have to be. It is sheer hypocrisy and farce to say they can rule themselves.’
‘But can you rule them?’ she asked.
‘I? Oh yes! Neither my mind nor my will is crippled, and I don’t rule with my legs. I can do my share of ruling: absolutely, my share; and give me a son, and he will be able to rule his portion after me.’
‘But he wouldn’t be your own son, of your own ruling class; or perhaps not,’ she stammered.
‘I don’t care who his father may be, so long as he is a healthy man not below normal intelligence. Give me the child of any healthy, normally intelligent man, and I will make a perfectly competent Chatterley of him. It is not who begets us, that matters, but where fate places us. Place any child among the ruling classes, and he will grow up, to his own extent, a ruler. Put kings’ and dukes’ children among the masses, and they’ll be little plebeians, mass products. It is the overwhelming pressure of environment.’
‘Then the common people aren’t a race, and the aristocrats aren’t blood,’ she said.
‘No, my child! All that is romantic illusion. Aristocracy is a function, a part of fate. And the masses are a functioning of another part of fate. The individual hardly matters. It is a question of which function you are brought up to and adapted to. It is not the individuals that make an aristocracy: it is the functioning of the aristocratic whole. And it is the functioning of the whole mass that makes the common man what he is.’
‘Then there is no common humanity between us all!’
‘Just as you like. We all need to fill our bellies. But when it comes to expressive or executive functioning, I believe there is a gulf and an absolute one, between the ruling and the serving classes. The two functions are opposed. And the function determines the individual.’
Connie looked at him with dazed eyes.
‘Won’t you come on?’ she said.
And he started his chair. He had said his say. Now he lapsed into his peculiar and rather vacant apathy, that Connie found so trying. In the wood, anyhow, she was determined not to argue.
In front of them ran the open cleft of the riding, between the hazel walls and the gay grey trees. The chair puffed slowly on, slowly surging into the forget-me-nots that rose up in the drive like milk froth, beyond the hazel shadows. Clifford steered the middle course, where feet passing had kept a channel through the flowers. But Connie, walking behind, had watched the wheels jolt over the wood-ruff and the bugle, and squash the little yellow cups of the creeping-jenny. Now they made a wake through the forget-me-nots.
All the flowers were there, the first bluebells in blue pools, like standing water.
‘You are quite right about its being beautiful,’ said Clifford. ‘It is so amazingly. What is QUITE so lovely as an English spring!’
Connie thought it sounded as if even the spring bloomed by act of Parliament. An English spring! Why not an Irish one? or Jewish? The chair moved slowly ahead, past tufts of sturdy bluebells that stood up like wheat and over grey burdock leaves. When they came to the open place where the trees had been felled, the light flooded in rather stark. And the bluebells made sheets of bright blue colour, here and there, sheering off into lilac and purple. And between, the bracken was lifting its brown curled heads, like legions of young snakes with a new secret to whisper to Eve. Clifford kept the chair going till he came to the brow of the hill; Connie followed slowly behind. The oak-buds were opening soft and brown. Everything came tenderly out of the old hardness. Even the snaggy craggy oak-trees put out the softest young leaves, spreading thin, brown little wings like young bat-wings in the light. Why had men never any newness in them, any freshness to come forth with! Stale men!
Clifford stopped the chair at the top of the rise and looked down. The bluebells washed blue like flood-water over the broad riding, and lit up the downhill with a warm blueness.
‘It’s a very fine colour in itself,’ said Clifford, ‘but useless for making a painting.’
‘Quite!’ said Connie, completely uninterested.
‘Shall I venture as far as the spring?’ said Clifford.
‘Will the chair get up again?’ she said.
‘We’ll try; nothing venture, nothing win!’
And the chair began to advance slowly, joltingly down the beautiful broad riding washed over with blue encroaching hyacinths. O last of all ships, through the hyacinthian shallows! O pinnace on the last wild waters, sailing in the last voyage of our civilization! Whither, O weird wheeled ship, your slow course steering. Quiet and complacent, Clifford sat at the wheel of adventure: in his old black hat and tweed jacket, motionless and cautious. O Captain, my Captain, our splendid trip is done! Not yet though! Downhill, in the wake, came Constance in her grey dress, watching the chair jolt downwards.
They passed the narrow track to the hut. Thank heaven it was not wide enough for the chair: hardly wide enough for one person. The chair reached the bottom of the slope, and swerved round, to disappear. And Connie heard a low whistle behind her. She glanced sharply round: the keeper was striding downhill towards her, his dog keeping behind him.
‘Is Sir Clifford going to the cottage?’ he asked, looking into her eyes.
‘No, only to the well.’
‘Ah! Good! Then I can keep out of sight. But I shall see you tonight. I shall wait for you at the park-gate about ten.’
He looked again direct into her eyes.
‘Yes,’ she faltered.
They heard the Papp! Papp! of Clifford’s horn, tooting for Connie. She ‘Coo-eed!’ in reply. The keeper’s face flickered with a little grimace, and with his hand he softly brushed her breast upwards, from underneath. She looked at him, frightened, and started running down the hill, calling Coo-ee! again to Clifford. The man above watched her, then turned, grinning faintly, back into his path.
She found Clifford slowly mounting to the spring, which was halfway up the slope of the dark larch-wood. He was there by the time she caught him up.
‘She did that all right,’ he said, referring to the chair.
Connie looked at the great grey leaves of burdock that grew out ghostly from the edge of the larch-wood. The people call it Robin Hood’s Rhubarb. How silent and gloomy it seemed by the well! Yet the water bubbled so bright, wonderful! And there were bits of eye-bright and strong blue bugle…And there, under the bank, the yellow earth was moving. A mole! It emerged, rowing its pink hands, and waving its blind gimlet of a face, with the tiny pink nose-tip uplifted.
‘It seems to see with the end of its nose,’ said Connie.
‘Better than with its eyes!’ he said. ‘Will you drink?’
She took an enamel mug from a twig on a tree, and stooped to fill it for him. He drank in sips. Then she stooped again, and drank a little herself.
‘So icy!’ she said gasping.
‘Good, isn’t it! Did you wish?’
‘Yes, I wished. But I won’t tell.’
She was aware of the rapping of a woodpecker, then of the wind, soft and eerie through the larches. She looked up. White clouds were crossing the blue.
‘Clouds!’ she said.
‘White lambs only,’ he replied.
A shadow crossed the little clearing. The mole had swum out on to the soft yellow earth.
‘Unpleasant little beast, we ought to kill him,’ said Clifford.
‘Look! he’s like a parson in a pulpit,’ she said.
She gathered some sprigs of woodruff and brought them to him.
‘New-mown hay!’ he said. ‘Doesn’t it smell like the romantic ladies of the last century, who had their heads screwed on the right way after all!’
She was looking at the white clouds.
‘I wonder if it will rain,’ she said.
‘Rain! Why! Do you want it to?’
They started on the return journey, Clifford jolting cautiously downhill. They came to the dark bottom of the hollow, turned to the right, and after a hundred yards swerved up the foot of the long slope, where bluebells stood in the light.
‘Now, old girl!’ said Clifford, putting the chair to it.
It was a steep and jolty climb. The chair pugged slowly, in a struggling unwilling fashion. Still, she nosed her way up unevenly, till she came to where the hyacinths were all around her, then she balked, struggled, jerked a little way out of the flowers, then stopped
‘We’d better sound the horn and see if the keeper will come,’ said Connie. ‘He could push her a bit. For that matter, I will push. It helps.’
‘We’ll let her breathe,’ said Clifford. ‘Do you mind putting a scotch under the wheel?’
Connie found a stone, and they waited. After a while Clifford started his motor again, then set the chair in motion. It struggled and faltered like a sick thing, with curious noises.
‘Let me push!’ said Connie, coming up behind.
‘No! Don’t push!’ he said angrily. ‘What’s the good of the damned thing, if it has to be pushed! Put the stone under!’
There was another pause, then another start; but more ineffectual than before.
‘You MUST let me push,’ said she. ‘Or sound the horn for the keeper.’
She waited; and he had another try, doing more harm than good.
‘Sound the horn then, if you won’t let me push,’ she said.
‘Hell! Be quiet a moment!’
She was quiet a moment: he made shattering efforts with the little motor.
‘You’ll only break the thing down altogether, Clifford,’ she remonstrated; ‘besides wasting your nervous energy.’
‘If I could only get out and look at the damned thing!’ he said, exasperated. And he sounded the horn stridently. ‘Perhaps Mellors can see what’s wrong.’
They waited, among the mashed flowers under a sky softly curdling with cloud. In the silence a wood-pigeon began to coo roo-hoo hoo! roo-hoo hoo! Clifford shut her up with a blast on the horn.
The keeper appeared directly, striding inquiringly round the corner. He saluted.
‘Do you know anything about motors?’ asked Clifford sharply.
‘I am afraid I don’t. Has she gone wrong?’
‘Apparently!’ snapped Clifford.
The man crouched solicitously by the wheel, and peered at the little engine.
‘I’m afraid I know nothing at all about these mechanical things, Sir Clifford,’ he said calmly. ‘If she has enough petrol and oil – ‘
‘Just look carefully and see if you can see anything broken,’ snapped Clifford.
The man laid his gun against a tree, took off his coat, and threw it beside it. The brown dog sat guard. Then he sat down on his heels and peered under the chair, poking with his finger at the greasy little engine, and resenting the grease-marks on his clean Sunday shirt.
‘Doesn’t seem anything broken,’ he said. And he stood up, pushing back his hat from his forehead, rubbing his brow and apparently studying.
‘Have you looked at the rods underneath?’ asked Clifford. ‘See if they are all right!’
The man lay flat on his stomach on the floor, his neck pressed back, wriggling under the engine and poking with his finger. Connie thought what a pathetic sort of thing a man was, feeble and small-looking, when he was lying on his belly on the big earth.
‘Seems all right as far as I can see,’ came his muffled voice.
‘I don’t suppose you can do anything,’ said Clifford.
‘Seems as if I can’t!’ And he scrambled up and sat on his heels, collier fashion. ‘There’s certainly nothing obviously broken.’
Clifford started his engine, then put her in gear. She would not move.
‘Run her a bit hard, like,’ suggested the keeper.
Clifford resented the interference: but he made his engine buzz like a blue-bottle. Then she coughed and snarled and seemed to go better.
‘Sounds as if she’d come clear,’ said Mellors.
But Clifford had already jerked her into gear. She gave a sick lurch and ebbed weakly forwards.
‘If I give her a push, she’ll do it,’ said the keeper, going behind.
‘Keep off!’ snapped Clifford. ‘She’ll do it by herself.’
‘But Clifford!’ put in Connie from the bank, ‘you know it’s too much for her. Why are you so obstinate!’
Clifford was pale with anger. He jabbed at his levers. The chair gave a sort of scurry, reeled on a few more yards, and came to her end amid a particularly promising patch of bluebells.
‘She’s done!’ said the keeper. ‘Not power enough.’
‘She’s been up here before,’ said Clifford coldly.
‘She won’t do it this time,’ said the keeper.
Clifford did not reply. He began doing things with his engine, running her fast and slow as if to get some sort of tune out of her. The wood re-echoed with weird noises. Then he put her in gear with a jerk, having jerked off his brake.
‘You’ll rip her inside out,’ murmured the keeper.
The chair charged in a sick lurch sideways at the ditch.
‘Clifford!’ cried Connie, rushing forward.
But the keeper had got the chair by the rail. Clifford, however, putting on all his pressure, managed to steer into the riding, and with a strange noise the chair was fighting the hill. Mellors pushed steadily behind, and up she went, as if to retrieve herself.
‘You see, she’s doing it!’ said Clifford, victorious, glancing over his shoulder. There he saw the keeper’s face.
‘Are you pushing her?’
‘She won’t do it without.’
‘Leave her alone. I asked you not.
‘She won’t do it.’
‘ LET HER TRY!’ snarled Clifford, with all his emphasis.
The keeper stood back: then turned to fetch his coat and gun. The chair seemed to strange immediately. She stood inert. Clifford, seated a prisoner, was white with vexation. He jerked at the levers with his hand, his feet were no good. He got queer noises out of her. In savage impatience he moved little handles and got more noises out of her. But she would not budge. No, she would not budge. He stopped the engine and sat rigid with anger.
Constance sat on the bank and looked at the wretched and trampled bluebells. ‘Nothing quite so lovely as an English spring.’ ‘I can do my share of ruling.’ ‘What we need to take up now is whips, not swords.’ ‘The ruling classes!’
The keeper strode up with his coat and gun, Flossie cautiously at his heels. Clifford asked the man to do something or other to the engine. Connie, who understood nothing at all of the technicalities of motors, and who had had experience of breakdowns, sat patiently on the bank as if she were a cipher. The keeper lay on his stomach again. The ruling classes and the serving classes!
He got to his feet and said patiently: ‘Try her again, then.’
He spoke in a quiet voice, almost as if to a child.
Clifford tried her, and Mellors stepped quickly behind and began to push. She was going, the engine doing about half the work, the man the rest.
Clifford glanced round, yellow with anger.
‘Will you get off there!’
The keeper dropped his hold at once, and Clifford added: ‘How shall I know what she is doing!’
The man put his gun down and began to pull on his coat. He’d done.
The chair began slowly to run backwards.
‘Clifford, your brake!’ cried Connie.
She, Mellors, and Clifford moved at once, Connie and the keeper jostling lightly. The chair stood. There was a moment of dead silence.
‘It’s obvious I’m at everybody’s mercy!’ said Clifford. He was yellow with anger.
No one answered. Mellors was slinging his gun over his shoulder, his face queer and expressionless, save for an abstracted look of patience. The dog Flossie, standing on guard almost between her master’s legs, moved uneasily, eyeing the chair with great suspicion and dislike, and very much perplexed between the three human beings. The TABLEAU VIVANT remained set among the squashed bluebells, nobody proffering a word.
‘I expect she’ll have to be pushed,’ said Clifford at last, with an affectation of SANG FROID.
No answer. Mellors’ abstracted face looked as if he had heard nothing. Connie glanced anxiously at him. Clifford too glanced round.
‘Do you mind pushing her home, Mellors!’ he said in a cool superior tone. ‘I hope I have said nothing to offend you,’ he added, in a tone of dislike.
‘Nothing at all, Sir Clifford! Do you want me to push that chair?’
‘If you please.’
The man stepped up to it: but this time it was without effect. The brake was jammed. They poked and pulled, and the keeper took off his gun and his coat once more. And now Clifford said never a word. At last the keeper heaved the back of the chair off the ground and, with an instantaneous push of his foot, tried to loosen the wheels. He failed, the chair sank. Clifford was clutching the sides. The man gasped with the weight.
‘Don’t do it!’ cried Connie to him.
‘If you’ll pull the wheel that way, so!’ he said to her, showing her how.
‘No! You mustn’t lift it! You’ll strain yourself,’ she said, flushed now with anger.
But he looked into her eyes and nodded. And she had to go and take hold of the wheel, ready. He heaved and she tugged, and the chair reeled.
‘For God’s sake!’ cried Clifford in terror.
But it was all right, and the brake was off. The keeper put a stone under the wheel, and went to sit on the bank, his heart beat and his face white with the effort, semi-conscious.
Connie looked at him, and almost cried with anger. There was a pause and a dead silence. She saw his hands trembling on his thighs.
‘Have you hurt yourself?’ she asked, going to him.
‘No. No!’ He turned away almost angrily.
There was dead silence. The back of Clifford’s fair head did not move. Even the dog stood motionless. The sky had clouded over.
At last he sighed, and blew his nose on his red handkerchief.
‘That pneumonia took a lot out of me,’ he said.
No one answered. Connie calculated the amount of strength it must have taken to heave up that chair and the bulky Clifford: too much, far too much! If it hadn’t killed him!
He rose, and again picked up his coat, slinging it through the handle of the chair.
‘Are you ready, then, Sir Clifford?’
‘When you are!’
He stooped and took out the scotch, then put his weight against the chair. He was paler than Connie had ever seen him: and more absent. Clifford was a heavy man: and the hill was steep. Connie stepped to the keeper’s side.
‘I’m going to push too!’ she said.
And she began to shove with a woman’s turbulent energy of anger. The chair went faster. Clifford looked round.
‘Is that necessary?’ he said.
‘Very! Do you want to kill the man! If you’d let the motor work while it would – ‘
But she did not finish. She was already panting. She slackened off a little, for it was surprisingly hard work.
‘Ay! slower!’ said the man at her side, with a faint smile of his eyes.
‘Are you sure you’ve not hurt yourself?’ she said fiercely.
He shook his head. She looked at his smallish, short, alive hand, browned by the weather. It was the hand that caressed her. She had never even looked at it before. It seemed so still, like him, with a curious inward stillness that made her want to clutch it, as if she could not reach it. All her soul suddenly swept towards him: he was so silent, and out of reach! And he felt his limbs revive. Shoving with his left hand, he laid his right on her round white wrist, softly enfolding her wrist, with a caress. And the flame of strength went down his back and his loins, reviving him. And she bent suddenly and kissed his hand. Meanwhile the back of Clifford’s head was held sleek and motionless, just in front of them.
At the top of the hill they rested, and Connie was glad to let go. She had had fugitive dreams of friendship between these two men: one her husband, the other the father of her child. Now she saw the screaming absurdity of her dreams. The two males were as hostile as fire and water. They mutually exterminated one another. And she realized for the first time what a queer subtle thing hate is. For the first time, she had consciously and definitely hated Clifford, with vivid hate: as if he ought to be obliterated from the face of the earth. And it was strange, how free and full of life it made her feel, to hate him and to admit it fully to herself. – ‘Now I’ve hated him, I shall never be able to go on living with him,’ came the thought into her mind.
On the level the keeper could push the chair alone. Clifford made a little conversation with her, to show his complete composure: about Aunt Eva, who was at Dieppe, and about Sir Malcolm, who had written to ask would Connie drive with him in his small car, to Venice, or would she and Hilda go by train.
‘I’d much rather go by train,’ said Connie. ‘I don’t like long motor drives, especially when there’s dust. But I shall see what Hilda wants.’
‘She will want to drive her own car, and take you with her,’ he said.
‘Probably! – I must help up here. You’ve no idea how heavy this chair is.’
She went to the back of the chair, and plodded side by side with the keeper, shoving up the pink path. She did not care who saw.
‘Why not let me wait, and fetch Field? He is strong enough for the job,’ said Clifford.
‘It’s so near,’ she panted.
But both she and Mellors wiped the sweat from their faces when they came to the top. It was curious, but this bit of work together had brought them much closer than they had been before.
‘Thanks so much, Mellors,’ said Clifford, when they were at the house door. ‘I must get a different sort of motor, that’s all. Won’t you go to the kitchen and have a meal? It must be about time.’
‘Thank you, Sir Clifford. I was going to my mother for dinner today, Sunday.’
‘As you like.’
Mellors slung into his coat, looked at Connie, saluted, and was gone. Connie, furious, went upstairs.
At lunch she could not contain her feeling.
‘Why are you so abominably inconsiderate, Clifford?’ she said to him.
‘Of the keeper! If that is what you call ruling classes, I’m sorry for you.’
‘A man who’s been ill, and isn’t strong! My word, if I were the serving classes, I’d let you wait for service. I’d let you whistle.’
‘I quite believe it.’
‘If he’d been sitting in a chair with paralysed legs, and behaved as you behaved, what would you have done for HIM?’
‘My dear evangelist, this confusing of persons and personalities is in bad taste.’
‘And your nasty, sterile want of common sympathy is in the worst taste imaginable. NOBLESSE OBLIGE! You and your ruling class!’
‘And to what should it oblige me? To have a lot of unnecessary emotions about my game-keeper? I refuse. I leave it all to my evangelist.’
‘As if he weren’t a man as much as you are, my word!’
‘My game-keeper to boot, and I pay him two pounds a week and give him a house.’
‘Pay him! What do you think you pay for, with two pounds a week and a house?’
‘Bah! I would tell you to keep your two pounds a week and your house.’
‘Probably he would like to: but can’t afford the luxury!’
‘You, and RULE!’ she said. ‘You don’t rule, don’t flatter yourself. You have only got more than your share of the money, and make people work for you for two pounds a week, or threaten them with starvation. Rule! What do you give forth of rule? Why, you’re dried up! You only bully with your money, like any Jew or any Schieber!’
‘You are very elegant in your speech, Lady Chatterley!’
‘I assure you, you were very elegant altogether out there in the wood. I was utterly ashamed of you. Why, my father is ten times the human being you are: you GENTLEMAN!’
He reached and rang the bell for Mrs Bolton. But he was yellow at the gills.
She went up to her room, furious, saying to herself: ‘Him and buying people! Well, he doesn’t buy me, and therefore there’s no need for me to stay with him. Dead fish of a gentleman, with his celluloid soul! And how they take one in, with their manners and their mock wistfulness and gentleness. They’ve got about as much feeling as celluloid has.’
She made her plans for the night, and determined to get Clifford off her mind. She didn’t want to hate him. She didn’t want to be mixed up very intimately with him in any sort of feeling. She wanted him not to know anything at all about herself: and especially, not to know anything about her feeling for the keeper. This squabble of her attitude to the servants was an old one. He found her too familiar, she found him stupidly insentient, tough and indiarubbery where other people were concerned.
She went downstairs calmly, with her old demure bearing, at dinner-time. He was still yellow at the gills: in for one of his liver bouts, when he was really very queer. – He was reading a French book.
‘Have you ever read Proust?’ he asked her.
‘I’ve tried, but he bores me.’
‘He’s really very extraordinary.’
‘Possibly! But he bores me: all that sophistication! He doesn’t have feelings, he only has streams of words about feelings. I’m tired of self-important mentalities.’
‘Would you prefer self-important animalities?’
‘Perhaps! But one might possibly get something that wasn’t self-important.’
‘Well, I like Proust’s subtlety and his well-bred anarchy.’
‘It makes you very dead, really.’
‘There speaks my evangelical little wife.’
They were at it again, at it again! But she couldn’t help fighting him. He seemed to sit there like a skeleton, sending out a skeleton’s cold grizzly WILL against her. Almost she could feel the skeleton clutching her and pressing her to its cage of ribs. He too was really up in arms: and she was a little afraid of him.
She went upstairs as soon as possible, and went to bed quite early. But at half past nine she got up, and went outside to listen. There was no sound. She slipped on a dressing-gown and went downstairs. Clifford and Mrs Bolton were playing cards, gambling. They would probably go on until midnight.
Connie returned to her room, threw her pyjamas on the tossed bed, put on a thin tennis-dress and over that a woollen day-dress, put on rubber tennis-shoes, and then a light coat. And she was ready. If she met anybody, she was just going out for a few minutes. And in the morning, when she came in again, she would just have been for a little walk in the dew, as she fairly often did before breakfast. For the rest, the only danger was that someone should go into her room during the night. But that was most unlikely: not one chance in a hundred.
Betts had not locked up. He fastened up the house at ten o’clock, and unfastened it again at seven in the morning. She slipped out silently and unseen. There was a half-moon shining, enough to make a little light in the world, not enough to show her up in her dark-grey coat. She walked quickly across the park, not really in the thrill of the assignation, but with a certain anger and rebellion burning in her heart. It was not the right sort of heart to take to a love-meeting. But à la guerre comme à la guerre!
* * *
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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States between 1923 and 1977 (inclusive) without a copyright notice.