‘You see, Hilda,’ said Connie after lunch, when they were nearing London, ‘you have never known either real tenderness or real sensuality: and if you do know them, with the same person, it makes a great difference.’
‘For mercy’s sake don’t brag about your experiences!’ said Hilda. ‘I’ve never met the man yet who was capable of intimacy with a woman, giving himself up to her. That was what I wanted. I’m not keen on their self-satisfied tenderness, and their sensuality. I’m not content to be any man’s little petsy-wetsy, nor his CHAIR · PLAISIR either. I wanted a complete intimacy, and I didn’t get it. That’s enough for me.
Connie pondered this. Complete intimacy! She supposed that meant revealing everything concerning yourself to the other person, and his revealing everything concerning himself. But that was a bore. And all that weary self-consciousness between a man and a woman! a disease!
‘I think you’re too conscious of yourself all the time, with everybody,’ she said to her sister.
‘I hope at least I haven’t a slave nature,’ said Hilda.
‘But perhaps you have! Perhaps you are a slave to your own idea of yourself.’
Hilda drove in silence for some time after this piece of unheard of insolence from that chit Connie.
‘At least I’m not a slave to somebody else’s idea of me: and the somebody else a servant of my husband’s,’ she retorted at last, in crude anger.
‘You see, it’s not so,’ said Connie calmly.
She had always let herself be dominated by her elder sister. Now, though somewhere inside herself she was weeping, she was free of the dominion of OTHER WOMEN. Ah! that in itself was a relief, like being given another life: to be free of the strange dominion and obsession of OTHER WOMEN. How awful they were, women!
She was glad to be with her father, whose favourite she had always been. She and Hilda stayed in a little hotel off Pall Mall, and Sir Malcolm was in his club. But he took his daughters out in the evening, and they liked going with him.
He was still handsome and robust, though just a little afraid of the new world that had sprung up around him. He had got a second wife in Scotland, younger than himself and richer. But he had as many holidays away from her as possible: just as with his first wife.
Connie sat next to him at the opera. He was moderately stout, and had stout thighs, but they were still strong and well-knit, the thighs of a healthy man who had taken his pleasure in life. His good-humoured selfishness, his dogged sort of independence, his unrepenting sensuality, it seemed to Connie she could see them all in his well-knit straight thighs. Just a man! And now becoming an old man, which is sad. Because in his strong, thick male legs there was none of the alert sensitiveness and power of tenderness which is the very essence of youth, that which never dies, once it is there.
Connie woke up to the existence of legs. They became more important to her than faces, which are no longer very real. How few people had live, alert legs! She looked at the men in the stalls. Great puddingy thighs in black pudding-cloth, or lean wooden sticks in black funeral stuff, or well-shaped young legs without any meaning whatever, either sensuality or tenderness or sensitiveness, just mere leggy ordinariness that pranced around. Not even any sensuality like her father’s. They were all daunted, daunted out of existence.
But the women were not daunted. The awful mill-posts of most females! really shocking, really enough to justify murder! Or the poor thin pegs! or the trim neat things in silk stockings, without the slightest look of life! Awful, the millions of meaningless legs prancing meaninglessly around!
But she was not happy in London. The people seemed so spectral and blank. They had no alive happiness, no matter how brisk and good-looking they were. It was all barren. And Connie had a woman’s blind craving for happiness, to be assured of happiness.
In Paris at any rate she felt a bit of sensuality still. But what a weary, tired, worn-out sensuality. Worn-out for lack of tenderness. Oh! Paris was sad. One of the saddest towns: weary of its now-mechanical sensuality, weary of the tension of money, money, money, weary even of resentment and conceit, just weary to death, and still not sufficiently Americanized or Londonized to hide the weariness under a mechanical jig-jig-jig! Ah, these manly he-men, these FLANEURS, the oglers, these eaters of good dinners! How weary they were! weary, worn-out for lack of a little tenderness, given and taken. The efficient, sometimes charming women knew a thing or two about the sensual realities: they had that pull over their jigging English sisters. But they knew even less of tenderness. Dry, with the endless dry tension of will, they too were wearing out. The human world was just getting worn out. Perhaps it would turn fiercely destructive. A sort of anarchy! Clifford and his conservative anarchy! Perhaps it wouldn’t be conservative much longer. Perhaps it would develop into a very radical anarchy.
Connie found herself shrinking and afraid of the world. Sometimes she was happy for a little while in the Boulevards or in the Bois or the Luxembourg Gardens. But already Paris was full of Americans and English, strange Americans in the oddest uniforms, and the usual dreary English that are so hopeless abroad.
She was glad to drive on. It was suddenly hot weather, so Hilda was going through Switzerland and over the Brenner, then through the Dolomites down to Venice. Hilda loved all the managing and the driving and being mistress of the show. Connie was quite content to keep quiet.
And the trip was really quite nice. Only Connie kept saying to herself: Why don’t I really care! Why am I never really thrilled? How awful, that I don’t really care about the landscape any more! But I don’t. It’s rather awful. I’m like Saint Bernard, who could sail down the lake of Lucerne without ever noticing that there were even mountain and green water. I just don’t care for landscape any more. Why should one stare at it? Why should one? I refuse to.
No, she found nothing vital in France or Switzerland or the Tyrol or Italy. She just was carted through it all. And it was all less real than Wragby. Less real than the awful Wragby! She felt she didn’t care if she never saw France or Switzerland or Italy again. They’d keep. Wragby was more real.
As for people! people were all alike, with very little difference. They all wanted to get money out of you: or, if they were travellers, they wanted to get enjoyment, perforce, like squeezing blood out of a stone. Poor mountains! poor landscape! it all had to be squeezed and squeezed and squeezed again, to provide a thrill, to provide enjoyment. What did people mean, with their simply determined enjoying of themselves?
No! said Connie to herself, I’d rather be at Wragby, where I can go about and be still, and not stare at anything or do any performing of any sort. This tourist performance of enjoying oneself is too hopelessly humiliating: it’s such a failure.
She wanted to go back to Wragby, even to Clifford, even to poor crippled Clifford. He wasn’t such a fool as this swarming holidaying lot, anyhow.
But in her inner consciousness she was keeping touch with the other man. She mustn’t let her connexion with him go: oh, she mustn’t let it go, or she was lost, lost utterly in this world of riff-raffy expensive people and joy-hogs. Oh, the joy-hogs! Oh ‘enjoying oneself’! Another modern form of sickness.
They left the car in Mestre, in a garage, and took the regular steamer over to Venice. It was a lovely summer afternoon, the shallow lagoon rippled, the full sunshine made Venice, turning its back to them across the water, look dim.
At the station quay they changed to a gondola, giving the man the address. He was a regular gondolier in a white-and-blue blouse, not very good-looking, not at all impressive.
‘Yes! The Villa Esmeralda! Yes! I know it! I have been the gondolier for a gentleman there. But a fair distance out!’
He seemed a rather childish, impetuous fellow. He rowed with a certain exaggerated impetuosity, through the dark side-canals with the horrible, slimy green walls, the canals that go through the poorer quarters, where the washing hangs high up on ropes, and there is a slight, or strong, odour of sewage.
But at last he came to one of the open canals with pavement on either side, and looping bridges, that run straight, at right-angles to the Grand Canal. The two women sat under the little awning, the man was perched above, behind them.
‘Are the signorine staying long at the Villa Esmeralda?’ he asked, rowing easy, and wiping his perspiring face with a white-and-blue handkerchief.
‘Some twenty days: we are both married ladies,’ said Hilda, in her curious hushed voice, that made her Italian sound so foreign.
‘Ah! Twenty days!’ said the man. There was a pause. After which he asked: ‘Do the signore want a gondolier for the twenty days or so that they will stay at the Villa Esmeralda? Or by the day, or by the week?’
Connie and Hilda considered. In Venice, it is always preferable to have one’s own gondola, as it is preferable to have one’s own car on land.
‘What is there at the Villa? what boats?’
‘There is a motor-launch, also a gondola. But–‘ The BUT meant: they won’t be your property.
‘How much do you charge?’
It was about thirty shillings a day, or ten pounds a week.
‘Is that the regular price?’ asked Hilda.
‘Less, Signora, less. The regular price–‘
The sisters considered.
‘Well,’ said Hilda, ‘come tomorrow morning, and we will arrange it. What is your name?’
His name was Giovanni, and he wanted to know at what time he should come, and then for whom should he say he was waiting. Hilda had no card. Connie gave him one of hers. He glanced at it swiftly, with his hot, southern blue eyes, then glanced again.
‘Ah!’ he said, lighting up. ‘Milady! Milady, isn’t it?’
‘Milady Costanza!’ said Connie.
He nodded, repeating: ‘Milady Costanza!’ and putting the card carefully away in his blouse.
The Villa Esmeralda was quite a long way out, on the edge of the lagoon looking towards Chioggia. It was not a very old house, and pleasant, with the terraces looking seawards, and below, quite a big garden with dark trees, walled in from the lagoon.
Their host was a heavy, rather coarse Scotchman who had made a good fortune in Italy before the war, and had been knighted for his ultrapatriotism during the war. His wife was a thin, pale, sharp kind of person with no fortune of her own, and the misfortune of having to regulate her husband’s rather sordid amorous exploits. He was terribly tiresome with the servants. But having had a slight stroke during the winter, he was now more manageable.
The house was pretty full. Besides Sir Malcolm and his two daughters, there were seven more people, a Scotch couple, again with two daughters; a young Italian Contessa, a widow; a young Georgian prince, and a youngish English clergyman who had had pneumonia and was being chaplain to Sir Alexander for his health’s sake. The prince was penniless, good-looking, would make an excellent chauffeur, with the necessary impudence, and basta! The Contessa was a quiet little puss with a game on somewhere. The clergyman was a raw simple fellow from a Bucks vicarage: luckily he had left his wife and two children at home. And the Guthries, the family of four, were good solid Edinburgh middle class, enjoying everything in a solid fashion, and daring everything while risking nothing.
Connie and Hilda ruled out the prince at once. The Guthries were more or less their own sort, substantial, but boring: and the girls wanted husbands. The chaplain was not a bad fellow, but too deferential. Sir Alexander, after his slight stroke, had a terrible heaviness in his joviality, but he was still thrilled at the presence of so many handsome young women. Lady Cooper was a quiet, catty person who had a thin time of it, poor thing, and who watched every other woman with a cold watchfulness that had become her second nature, and who said cold, nasty little things which showed what an utterly low opinion she had of all human nature. She was also quite venomously overbearing with the servants, Connie found: but in a quiet way. And she skilfully behaved so that Sir Alexander should think that HE was lord and monarch of the whole caboosh, with his stout, would-be-genial paunch, and his utterly boring jokes, his humourosity, as Hilda called it.
Sir Malcolm was painting. Yes, he still would do a Venetian lagoonscape, now and then, in contrast to his Scottish landscapes. So in the morning he was rowed off with a huge canvas, to his ‘site’. A little later, Lady Cooper would he rowed off into the heart of the city, with sketching-block and colours. She was an inveterate watercolour painter, and the house was full of rose-coloured palaces, dark canals, swaying bridges, medieval facades, and so on. A little later the Guthries, the prince, the countess, Sir Alexander, and sometimes Mr Lind, the chaplain, would go off to the Lido, where they would bathe; coming home to a late lunch at half past one.
The house-party, as a house-party, was distinctly boring. But this did not trouble the sisters. They were out all the time. Their father took them to the exhibition, miles and miles of weary paintings. He took them to all the cronies of his in the Villa Lucchese, he sat with them on warm evenings in the piazza, having got a table at Florian’s: he took them to the theatre, to the Goldoni plays. There were illuminated water-fêtes, there were dances. This was a holiday-place of all holiday-places. The Lido, with its acres of sun-pinked or pyjamaed bodies, was like a strand with an endless heap of seals come up for mating. Too many people in the piazza, too many limbs and trunks of humanity on the Lido, too many gondolas, too many motor-launches, too many steamers, too many pigeons, too many ices, too many cocktails, too many menservants wanting tips, too many languages rattling, too much, too much sun, too much smell of Venice, too many cargoes of strawberries, too many silk shawls, too many huge, raw-beef slices of watermelon on stalls: too much enjoyment, altogether far too much enjoyment!
Connie and Hilda went around in their sunny frocks. There were dozens of people they knew, dozens of people knew them. Michaelis turned up like a bad penny. ‘Hullo! Where you staying? Come and have an ice-cream or something! Come with me somewhere in my gondola.’ Even Michaelis almost sun-burned: though sun-cooked is more appropriate to the look of the mass of human flesh.
It was pleasant in a way. It was ALMOST enjoyment. But anyhow, with all the cocktails, all the lying in warmish water and sunbathing on hot sand in hot sun, jazzing with your stomach up against some fellow in the warm nights, cooling off with ices, it was a complete narcotic. And that was what they all wanted, a drug: the slow water, a drug; the sun, a drug; jazz, a drug; cigarettes, cocktails, ices, vermouth. To be drugged! Enjoyment! Enjoyment!
Hilda half liked being drugged. She liked looking at all the women, speculating about them. The women were absorbingly interested in the women. How does she look! what man has she captured? what fun is she getting out of it?–The men were like great dogs in white flannel trousers, waiting to be patted, waiting to wallow, waiting to plaster some woman’s stomach against their own, in jazz.
Hilda liked jazz, because she could plaster her stomach against the stomach of some so-called man, and let him control her movement from the visceral centre, here and there across the floor, and then she could break loose and ignore ‘the creature’. He had been merely made use of. Poor Connie was rather unhappy. She wouldn’t jazz, because she simply couldn’t plaster her stomach against some ‘creature’s’ stomach. She hated the conglomerate mass of nearly nude flesh on the Lido: there was hardly enough water to wet them all. She disliked Sir Alexander and Lady Cooper. She did not want Michaelis or anybody else trailing her.
The happiest times were when she got Hilda to go with her away across the lagoon, far across to some lonely shingle-bank, where they could bathe quite alone, the gondola remaining on the inner side of the reef.
Then Giovanni got another gondolier to help him, because it was a long way and he sweated terrifically in the sun. Giovanni was very nice: affectionate, as the Italians are, and quite passionless. The Italians are not passionate: passion has deep reserves. They are easily moved, and often affectionate, but they rarely have any abiding passion of any sort.
So Giovanni was already devoted to his ladies, as he had been devoted to cargoes of ladies in the past. He was perfectly ready to prostitute himself to them, if they wanted him: he secretly hoped they would want him. They would give him a handsome present, and it would come in very handy, as he was just going to be married. He told them about his marriage, and they were suitably interested.
He thought this trip to some lonely bank across the lagoon probably meant business: business being L’AMORE, love. So he got a mate to help him, for it was a long way; and after all, they were two ladies. Two ladies, two mackerels! Good arithmetic! Beautiful ladies, too! He was justly proud of them. And though it was the Signora who paid him and gave him orders, he rather hoped it would be the young milady who would select him for L’AMORE. She would give more money too.
The mate he brought was called Daniele. He was not a regular gondolier, so he had none of the cadger and prostitute about him. He was a sandola man, a sandola being a big boat that brings in fruit and produce from the islands.
Daniele was beautiful, tall and well-shapen, with a light round head of little, close, pale-blond curls, and a good-looking man’s face, a little like a lion, and long-distance blue eyes. He was not effusive, loquacious, and bibulous like Giovanni. He was silent and he rowed with a strength and ease as if he were alone on the water. The ladies were ladies, remote from him. He did not even look at them. He looked ahead.
He was a real man, a little angry when Giovanni drank too much wine and rowed awkwardly, with effusive shoves of the great oar. He was a man as Mellors was a man, unprostituted. Connie pitied the wife of the easily-overflowing Giovanni. But Daniele’s wife would be one of those sweet Venetian women of the people whom one still sees, modest and flower-like in the back of that labyrinth of a town.
Ah, how sad that man first prostitutes woman, then woman prostitutes man. Giovanni was pining to prostitute himself, dribbling like a dog, wanting to give himself to a woman. And for money!
Connie looked at Venice far off, low and rose-coloured upon the water. Built of money, blossomed of money, and dead with money. The money-deadness! Money, money, money, prostitution and deadness.
Yet Daniele was still a man capable of a man’s free allegiance. He did not wear the gondolier’s blouse: only the knitted blue jersey. He was a little wild, uncouth and proud. So he was hireling to the rather doggy Giovanni who was hireling again to two women. So it is! When Jesus refused the devil’s money, he left the devil like a Jewish banker, master of the whole situation.
Connie would come home from the blazing light of the lagoon in a kind of stupor, to find letters from home. Clifford wrote regularly. He wrote very good letters: they might all have been printed in a book. And for this reason Connie found them not very interesting.
She lived in the stupor of the light of the lagoon, the lapping saltiness of the water, the space, the emptiness, the nothingness: but health, health, complete stupor of health. It was gratifying, and she was lulled away in it, not caring for anything. Besides, she was pregnant. She knew now. So the stupor of sunlight and lagoon salt and sea-bathing and lying on shingle and finding shells and drifting away, away in a gondola, was completed by the pregnancy inside her, another fullness of health, satisfying and stupefying.
She had been at Venice a fortnight, and she was to stay another ten days or a fortnight. The sunshine blazed over any count of time, and the fullness of physical health made forgetfulness complete. She was in a sort of stupor of well-being.
From which a letter of Clifford roused her.
‘We too have had our mild local excitement. It appears the truant wife of Mellors, the keeper, turned up at the cottage and found herself unwelcome. He packed her off, and locked the door. Report has it, however, that when he returned from the wood he found the no longer fair lady firmly established in his bed, in PURIS NATURALIBUS; or one should say, in IMPURIS NATURALIBUS. She had broken a window and got in that way. Unable to evict the somewhat man-handled Venus from his couch, he beat a retreat and retired, it is said, to his mother’s house in Tevershall. Meanwhile the Venus of Stacks Gate is established in the cottage, which she claims is her home, and Apollo, apparently, is domiciled in Tevershall.
I repeat this from hearsay, as Mellors has not come to me personally. I had this particular bit of local garbage from our garbage bird, our ibis, our scavenging turkey-buzzard, Mrs Bolton. I would not have repeated it had she not exclaimed: her Ladyship will go no more to the wood if THAT woman’s going to be about!
I like your picture of Sir Malcolm striding into the sea with white hair blowing and pink flesh glowing. I envy you that sun. Here it rains. But I don’t envy Sir Malcolm his inveterate mortal carnality. However, it suits his age. Apparently one grows more carnal and more mortal as one grows older. Only youth has a taste of immortality–‘
This news affected Connie in her state of semi-stupefied ill being with vexation amounting to exasperation. Now she had got to be bothered by that beast of a woman! Now she must start and fret! She had no letter from Mellors. They had agreed not to write at all, but now she wanted to hear from him personally. After all, he was the father of the child that was coming. Let him write!
But how hateful! Now everything was messed up. How foul those low people were! How nice it was here, in the sunshine and the indolence, compared to that dismal mess of that English Midlands! After all, a clear sky was almost the most important thing in life.
She did not mention the fact of her pregnancy, even to Hilda. She wrote to Mrs Bolton for exact information.
Duncan Forbes, an artist friend of theirs, had arrived at the Villa Esmeralda, coming north from Rome. Now he made a third in the gondola, and he bathed with them across the lagoon, and was their escort: a quiet, almost taciturn young man, very advanced in his art.
She had a letter from Mrs Bolton:
‘You will be pleased, I am sure, my Lady, when you see Sir Clifford. He’s looking quite blooming and working very hard, and very hopeful. Of course he is looking forward to seeing you among us again. It is a dull house without my Lady, and we shall all welcome her presence among us once more.
About Mr Mellors, I don’t know how much Sir Clifford told you. It seems his wife came back all of a sudden one afternoon, and he found her sitting on the doorstep when he came in from the wood. She said she was come back to him and wanted to live with him again, as she was his legal wife, and he wasn’t going to divorce her. But he wouldn’t have anything to do with her, and wouldn’t let her in the house, and did not go in himself; he went back into the wood without ever opening the door.
But when he came back after dark, he found the house broken into, so he went upstairs to see what she’d done, and he found her in bed without a rag on her. He offered her money, but she said she was his wife and he must take her back. I don’t know what sort of a scene they had. His mother told me about it, she’s terribly upset. Well, he told her he’d die rather than ever live with her again, so he took his things and went straight to his mother’s on Tevershall hill. He stopped the night and went to the wood next day through the park, never going near the cottage. It seems he never saw his wife that day. But the day after she was at her brother Dan’s at Beggarlee, swearing and carrying on, saying she was his legal wife, and that he’d beers having women at the cottage, because she’d found a scent-bottle in his drawer, and gold-tipped cigarette-ends on the ash-heap, and I don’t know what all. Then it seems the postman Fred Kirk says he heard somebody talking in Mr Mellors’ bedroom early one morning, and a motor-car had been in the lane.
Mr Mellors stayed on with his mother, and went to the wood through the park, and it seems she stayed on at the cottage. Well, there was no end of talk. So at last Mr Mellors and Tom Phillips went to the cottage and fetched away most of the furniture and bedding, and unscrewed the handle of the pump, so she was forced to go. But instead of going back to Stacks Gate she went and lodged with that Mrs Swain at Beggarlee, because her brother Dan’s wife wouldn’t have her. And she kept going to old Mrs Mellors’ house, to catch him, and she began swearing he’d got in bed with her in the cottage and she went to a lawyer to make him pay her an allowance. She’s grown heavy, and more common than ever, and as strong as a bull. And she goes about saying the most awful things about him, how he has women at the cottage, and how he behaved to her when they were married, the low, beastly things he did to her, and I don’t know what all. I’m sure it’s awful, the mischief a woman can do, once she starts talking. And no matter how low she may be, there’ll be some as will believe her, and some of the dirt will stick. I’m sure the way she makes out that Mr Mellors was one of those low, beastly men with women, is simply shocking. And people are only too ready to believe things against anybody, especially things like that. She declared she’ll never leave him alone while he lives. Though what I say is, if he was so beastly to her, why is she so anxious to go back to him? But of course she’s coming near her change of life, for she’s years older than he is. And these common, violent women always go partly insane whets the change of life comes upon them–‘
This was a nasty blow to Connie. Here she was, sure as life, coming in for her share of the lowness and dirt. She felt angry with him for not having got clear of a Bertha Coutts: nay, for ever having married her. Perhaps he had a certain hankering after lowness. Connie remembered the last night she had spent with him, and shivered. He had known all that sensuality, even with a Bertha Coutts! It was really rather disgusting. It would be well to be rid of him, clear of him altogether. He was perhaps really common, really low.
She had a revulsion against the whole affair, and almost envied the Guthrie girls their gawky inexperience and crude maidenliness. And she now dreaded the thought that anybody would know about herself and the keeper. How unspeakably humiliating! She was weary, afraid, and felt a craving for utter respectability, even for the vulgar and deadening respectability of the Guthrie girls. If Clifford knew about her affair, how unspeakably humiliating! She was afraid, terrified of society and its unclean bite. She almost wished she could get rid of the child again, and be quite clear. In short, she fell into a state of funk.
As for the scent-bottle, that was her own folly. She had not been able to refrain from perfuming his one or two handkerchiefs and his shirts in the drawer, just out of childishness, and she had left a little bottle of Coty’s Wood-violet perfume, half empty, among his things. She wanted him to remember her in the perfume. As for the cigarette-ends, they were Hilda’s.
She could not help confiding a little in Duncan Forbes. She didn’t say she had been the keeper’s lover, she only said she liked him, and told Forbes the history of the man.
‘Oh,’ said Forbes, ‘you’ll see, they’ll never rest till they’ve pulled the man down and done him in. If he has refused to creep up into the middle classes, when he had a chance; and if he’s a man who stands up for his own sex, then they’ll do him in. It’s the one thing they won’t let you be, straight and open in your sex. You can be as dirty as you like. In fact the more dirt you do on sex the better they like it. But if you believe in your own sex, and won’t have it done dirt to: they’ll down you. It’s the one insane taboo left: sex as a natural and vital thing. They won’t have it, and they’ll kill you before they’ll let you have it. You’ll see, they’ll hound that man down. And what’s he done, after all? If he’s made love to his wife all ends on, hasn’t he a right to? She ought to be proud of it. But you see, even a low bitch like that turns on him, and uses the hyena instinct of the mob against sex, to pull him down. You have a snivel and feel sinful or awful about your sex, before you’re allowed to have any. Oh, they’ll hound the poor devil down.’
Connie had a revulsion in the opposite direction now. What had he done, after all? what had he done to herself, Connie, but give her an exquisite pleasure and a sense of freedom and life? He had released her warm, natural sexual flow. And for that they would hound him down.
No, no, it should not be. She saw the image of him, naked white with tanned face and hands, looking down and addressing his erect penis as if it were another being, the odd grin flickering on his face. And she heard his voice again: Tha’s got the nicest woman’s arse of anybody! And she felt his hand warmly and softly closing over her tail again, over her secret places, like a benediction. And the warmth ran through her womb, and the little flames flickered in her knees, and she said: Oh, no! I mustn’t go back on it! I must not go back on him. I must stick to him and to what I had of him, through everything. I had no warm, flamy life till he gave it me. And I won’t go back on it.
She did a rash thing. She sent a letter to Ivy Bolton, enclosing a note to the keeper, and asking Mrs Bolton to give it him. And she wrote to him:
‘I am very much distressed to hear of all the trouble your wife is making for you, but don’t mind it, it is only a sort of hysteria. It will all blow over as suddenly as it came. But I’m awfully sorry about it, and I do hope you are not minding very much. After all, it isn’t worth it. She is only a hysterical woman who wants to hurt you. I shall be home in ten days’ time, and I do hope everything will be all right.’
A few days later came a letter from Clifford. He was evidently upset.
‘I am delighted to hear you are prepared to leave Venice on the sixteenth. But if you are enjoying it, don’t hurry home. We miss you, Wragby misses you. But it is essential that you should get your full amount of sunshine, sunshine and pyjamas, as the advertisements of the Lido say. So please do stay on a little longer, if it is cheering you up and preparing you for our sufficiently awful winter. Even today, it rains.
I am assiduously, admirably looked after by Mrs Bolton. She is a queer specimen. The more I live, the more I realize what strange creatures human beings are. Some of them might Just as well have a hundred legs, like a centipede, or six, like a lobster. The human consistency and dignity one has been led to expect from one’s fellow-men seem actually nonexistent. One doubts if they exist to any startling degree even is oneself.
The scandal of the keeper continues and gets bigger like a snowball. Mrs Bolton keeps me informed. She reminds me of a fish which, though dumb, seems to be breathing silent gossip through its gills, while ever it lives. All goes through the sieve of her gills, and nothing surprises her. It is as if the events of other people’s lives were the necessary oxygen of her own.
She is preoccupied with the Mellors scandal, and if I will let her begin, she takes me down to the depths. Her great indignation, which even then is like the indignation of an actress playing a role, is against the wife of Mellors, whom she persists in calling Bertha Coutts. I have been to the depths of the muddy lies of the Bertha Couttses of this world, and when, released from the current of gossip, I slowly rise to the surface again, I look at the daylight in wonder that it ever should be.
It seems to me absolutely true, that our world, which appears to us the surface of all things, is really the BOTTOM of a deep ocean: all our trees are submarine growths, and we are weird, scaly-clad submarine fauna, feeding ourselves on offal like shrimps. Only occasionally the soul rises gasping through the fathomless fathoms under which we live, far up to the surface of the ether, where there is true air. I am convinced that the air we normally breathe is a kind of water, and men and women are a species of fish.
But sometimes the soul does come up, shoots like a kittiwake into the light, with ecstasy, after having preyed on the submarine depths. It is our mortal destiny, I suppose, to prey upon the ghastly subaqueous life of our fellow-men, in the submarine jungle of mankind. But our immortal destiny is to escape, once we have swallowed our swimmy catch, up again into the bright ether, bursting out from the surface of Old Ocean into real light. Then one realizes one’s eternal nature.
When I hear Mrs Bolton talk, I feel myself plunging down, down, to the depths where the fish of human secrets wriggle and swim. Carnal appetite makes one seize a beakful of prey: then up, up again, out of the dense into the ethereal, from the wet into the dry. To you I can tell the whole process. But with Mrs Bolton I only feel the downward plunge, down, horribly, among the sea-weeds and the pallid monsters of the very bottom.
I am afraid we are going to lose our game-keeper. The scandal of the truant wife, instead of dying down, has reverberated to greater and greater dimensions. He is accused of all unspeakable things and curiously enough, the woman has managed to get the bulk of the colliers’ wives behind her, gruesome fish, and the village is putrescent with talk.
I hear this Bertha Coutts besieges Mellors in his mother’s house, having ransacked the cottage and the hut. She seized one day upon her own daughter, as that chip of the female block was returning from school; but the little one, instead of kissing the loving mother’s hand, bit it firmly, and so received from the other hand a smack in the face which sent her reeling into the gutter: whence she was rescued by an indignant and harassed grandmother.
The woman has blown off an amazing quantity of poison-gas. She has aired in detail all those incidents of her conjugal life which are usually buried down in the deepest grave of matrimonial silence, between married couples. Having chosen to exhume them, after ten years of burial, she has a weird array. I hear these details from Linley and the doctor: the latter being amused. Of course there is really nothing in it. Humanity has always had a strange avidity for unusual sexual postures, and if a man likes to use his wife, as Benvenuto Cellini says, ‘in the Italian way’, well that is a matter of taste. But I had hardly expected our game-keeper to be up to so many tricks. No doubt Bertha Coutts herself first put him up to them. In any case, it is a matter of their own personal squalor, and nothing to do with anybody else.
However, everybody listens: as I do myself. A dozen years ago, common decency would have hushed the thing. But common decency no longer exists, and the colliers’ wives are all up in arms and unabashed in voice. One would think every child in Tevershall, for the last fifty years, had been an immaculate conception, and every one of our nonconformist females was a shining Joan of Arc. That our estimable game-keeper should have about him a touch of Rabelais seems to make him more monstrous and shocking than a murderer like Crippen. Yet these people in Tevershall are a loose lot, if one is to believe all accounts.
The trouble is, however, the execrable Bertha Coutts has not confined herself to her own experiences and sufferings. She has discovered, at the top of her voice, that her husband has been ‘keeping’ women down at the cottage, and has made a few random shots at naming the women. This has brought a few decent names trailing through the mud, and the thing has gone quite considerably too far. An injunction has been taken out against the woman.
I have had to interview Mellors about the business, as it was impossible to keep the woman away from the wood. He goes about as usual, with his Miller-of-the-Dee air, I care for nobody, no not I, if nobody care for me! Nevertheless, I shrewdly suspect he feels like a dog with a tin can tied to its tail: though he makes a very good show of pretending the tin can isn’t there. But I heard that in the village the women call away their children if he is passing, as if he were the Marquis de Sade in person. He goes on with a certain impudence, but I am afraid the tin can is firmly tied to his tail, and that inwardly he repeats, like Don Rodrigo in the Spanish ballad: ‘Ah, now it bites me where I most have sinned!’
I asked him if he thought he would be able to attend to his duty in the wood, and he said he did not think he had neglected it. I told him it was a nuisance to have the woman trespassing: to which he replied that he had no power to arrest her. Then I hinted at the scandal and its unpleasant course. ‘Ay,’ he said. ‘folks should do their own fuckin’, then they wouldn’t want to listen to a lot of clatfart about another man’s.’
He said it with some bitterness, and no doubt it contains the real germ of truth. The mode of putting it, however, is neither delicate nor respectful. I hinted as much, and then I heard the tin can rattle again. ‘It’s not for a man the shape you’re in, Sir Clifford, to twit me for havin’ a cod atween my legs.’
These things, said indiscriminately to all and sundry, of course do not help him at all, and the rector, and Finley, and Burroughs all think it would be as well if the man left the place.
I asked him if it was true that he entertained ladies down at the cottage, and all he said was: ‘Why, what’s that to you, Sir Clifford?’ I told him I intended to have decency observed on my estate, to which he replied: ‘Then you mun button the mouths o’ a’ th’ women.’–When I pressed him about his manner of life at the cottage, he said: ‘Surely you might ma’e a scandal out o’ me an’ my bitch Flossie. You’ve missed summat there.’ As a matter of fact, for an example of impertinence he’d be hard to beat.
I asked him if it would be easy for him to find another job. He said: ‘If you’re hintin’ that you’d like to shunt me out of this job, it’d be easy as wink.’ So he made no trouble at all about leaving at the end of next week, and apparently is willing to initiate a young fellow, Joe Chambers, into as many mysteries of the craft as possible. I told him I would give him a month’s wages extra, when he left. He said he’d rather I kept my money, as I’d no occasion to ease my conscience. I asked him what he meant, and he said: ‘You don’t owe me nothing extra, Sir Clifford, so don’t pay me nothing extra. If you think you see my shirt hanging out, just tell me.’
Well, there is the end of it for the time being. The woman has gone away: we don’t know where to: but she is liable to arrest if she shows her face in Tevershall. And I heard she is mortally afraid of gaol, because she merits it so well. Mellors will depart on Saturday week, and the place will soon become normal again.
Meanwhile, my dear Connie, if you would enjoy to stay in Venice or in Switzerland till the beginning of August, I should be glad to think you were out of all this buzz of nastiness, which will have died quite away by the end of the month.
So you see, we are deep-sea monsters, and when the lobster walks on mud, he stirs it up for everybody. We must perforce take it philosophically.’
The irritation, and the lack of any sympathy in any direction, of Clifford’s letter, had a bad effect on Connie. But she understood it better when she received the following from Mellors:
‘The cat is out of the bag, along with various other pussies. You have heard that my wife Bertha came back to my unloving arms, and took up her abode in the cottage: where, to speak disrespectfully, she smelled a rat, in the shape of a little bottle of Coty. Other evidence she did not find, at least for some days, when she began to howl about the burnt photograph. She noticed the glass and the back-board in the square bedroom. Unfortunately, on the back-board somebody had scribbled little sketches, and the initials, several times repeated: C. S. R. This, however, afforded no clue until she broke into the hut, and found one of your books, an autobiography of the actress Judith, with your name, Constance Stewart Reid, on the front page. After this, for some days she went round loudly saying that my paramour was no less a person than Lady Chatterley herself. The news came at last to the rector, Mr Burroughs, and to Sir Clifford. They then proceeded to take legal steps against my liege lady, who for her part disappeared, having always had a mortal fear of the police.
Sir Clifford asked to see me, so I went to him. He talked around things and seemed annoyed with me. Then he asked if I knew that even her ladyship’s name had been mentioned. I said I never listened to scandal, and was surprised to hear this bit from Sir Clifford himself. He said, of course it was a great insult, and I told him there was Queen Mary on a calendar in the scullery, no doubt because Her Majesty formed part of my harem. But he didn’t appreciate the sarcasm. He as good as told me I was a disreputable character who walked about with my breeches’ buttons undone, and I as good as told him he’d nothing to unbutton anyhow, so he gave me the sack, and I leave on Saturday week, and the place thereof shall know me no more.
I shall go to London, and my old landlady, Mrs Inger, 17 Coburg Square, will either give me a room or will find one for me.
Be sure your sins will find you out, especially if you’re married and her name’s Bertha–‘
There was not a word about herself, or to her. Connie resented this. He might have said some few words of consolation or reassurance. But she knew he was leaving her free, free to go back to Wragby and to Clifford. She resented that too. He need not be so falsely chivalrous. She wished he had said to Clifford: ‘Yes, she is my lover and my mistress and I am proud of it!’ But his courage wouldn’t carry him so far.
So her name was coupled with his in Tevershall! It was a mess. But that would soon die down.
She was angry, with the complicated and confused anger that made her inert. She did not know what to do nor what to say, so she said and did nothing. She went on at Venice just the same, rowing out in the gondola with Duncan Forbes, bathing, letting the days slip by. Duncan, who had been rather depressingly in love with her ten years ago, was in love with her again. But she said to him: ‘I only want one thing of men, and that is, that they should leave me alone.’
So Duncan left her alone: really quite pleased to be able to. All the same, he offered her a soft stream of a queer, inverted sort of love. He wanted to be WITH her.
‘Have you ever thought,’ he said to her one day, ‘how very little people are connected with one another. Look at Daniele! He is handsome as a son of the sun. But see how alone he looks in his handsomeness. Yet I bet he has a wife and family, and couldn’t possibly go away from them.’
‘Ask him,’ said Connie.
Duncan did so. Daniele said he was married, and had two children, both male, aged seven and nine. But he betrayed no emotion over the fact.
‘Perhaps only people who are capable of real togetherness have that look of being alone in the universe,’ said Connie. ‘The others have a certain stickiness, they stick to the mass, like Giovanni.’ ‘And,’ she thought to herself, ‘like you, Duncan.’
She had to make up her mind what to do. She would leave Venice on the Saturday that he was leaving Wragby: in six days’ time. This would bring her to London on the Monday following, and she would then see him. She wrote to him to the London address, asking him to send her a letter to Hartland’s hotel, and to call for her on the Monday evening at seven.
Inside herself she was curiously and complicatedly angry, and all her responses were numb. She refused to confide even in Hilda, and Hilda, offended by her steady silence, had become rather intimate with a Dutch woman. Connie hated these rather stifling intimacies between women, intimacy into which Hilda always entered ponderously.
Sir Malcolm decided to travel with Connie, and Duncan could come on with Hilda. The old artist always did himself well: he took berths on the Orient Express, in spite of Connie’s dislike of TRAINS DE LUXE, the atmosphere of vulgar depravity there is aboard them nowadays. However, it would make the journey to Paris shorter.
Sir Malcolm was always uneasy going back to his wife. It was habit carried over from the first wife. But there would be a house-party for the grouse, and he wanted to be well ahead. Connie, sunburnt and handsome, sat in silence, forgetting all about the landscape.
‘A little dull for you, going back to Wragby,’ said her father, noticing her glumness.
‘I’m not sure I shall go back to Wragby,’ she said, with startling abruptness, looking into his eyes with her big blue eyes. His big blue eyes took on the frightened look of a man whose social conscience is not quite clear.
‘You mean you’ll stay on in Paris a while?’
‘No! I mean never go back to Wragby.’
He was bothered by his own little problems, and sincerely hoped he was getting none of hers to shoulder.
‘How’s that, all at once?’ he asked.
‘I’m going to have a child.’
It was the first time she had uttered the words to any living soul, and it seemed to mark a cleavage in her life.
‘How do you know?’ said her father.
‘How SHOULD I know?’
‘But not Clifford’s child, of course?’
‘No! Another man’s.’
She rather enjoyed tormenting him.
‘Do I know the man?’ asked Sir Malcolm.
‘No! You’ve never seen him.’
There was a long pause.
‘And what are your plans?’
‘I don’t know. That’s the point.’
‘No patching it up with Clifford?’
‘I suppose Clifford would take it,’ said Connie. ‘He told me, after last time you talked to him, he wouldn’t mind if I had a child, so long as I went about it discreetly.’
‘Only sensible thing he could say, under the circumstances. Then I suppose it’ll be all right.’
‘In what way?’ said Connie, looking into her father’s eyes. They were big blue eyes rather like her own, but with a certain uneasiness in them, a look sometimes of an uneasy little boy, sometimes a look of sullen selfishness, usually good-humoured and wary.
‘You can present Clifford with an heir to all the Chatterleys, and put another baronet in Wragby.’
Sir Malcolm’s face smiled with a half-sensual smile.
‘But I don’t think I want to,’ she said.
‘Why not? Feeling entangled with the other man? Well! If you want the truth from me, my child, it’s this. The world goes on. Wragby stands and will go on standing. The world is more or less a fixed thing and, externally, we have to adapt ourselves to it. Privately, in my private opinion, we can please ourselves. Emotions change. You may like one man this year and another next. But Wragby still stands. Stick by Wragby as far as Wragby sticks by you. Then please yourself. But you’ll get very little out of making a break. You can make a break if you wish. You have an independent income, the only thing that never lets you down. But you won’t get much out of it. Put a little baronet in Wragby. It’s an amusing thing to do.’
And Sir Malcolm sat back and smiled again. Connie did not answer.
‘I hope you had a real man at last,’ he said to her after a while, sensually alert.
‘I did. That’s the trouble. There aren’t many of them about,’ she said.
‘No, by God!’ he mused. ‘There aren’t! Well, my dear, to look at you, he was a lucky man. Surely he wouldn’t make trouble for you?’
‘Oh no! He leaves me my own mistress entirely.’
‘Quite! Quite! A genuine man would.’
Sir Malcolm was pleased. Connie was his favourite daughter, he had always liked the female in her. Not so much of her mother in her as in Hilda. And he had always disliked Clifford. So he was pleased, and very tender with his daughter, as if the unborn child were his child.
He drove with her to Hartland’s hotel, and saw her installed: then went round to his club. She had refused his company for the evening.
She found a letter from Mellors.
‘I won’t come round to your hotel, but I’ll wait for you outside the Golden Cock in Adam Street at seven.’
There he stood, tall and slender, and so different, in a formal suit of thin dark cloth. He had a natural distinction, but he had not the cut-to-pattern look of her class. Yet, she saw at once, he could go anywhere. He had a native breeding which was really much nicer than the cut-to-pattern class thing.
‘Ah, there you are! How well you look!’
‘Yes! But not you.’
She looked in his face anxiously. It was thin, and the cheekbones showed. But his eyes smiled at her, and she felt at home with him. There it was: suddenly, the tension of keeping up her appearances fell from her. Something flowed out of him physically, that made her feel inwardly at ease and happy, at home. With a woman’s now alert instinct for happiness, she registered it at once. ‘I’m happy when he’s there!’ Not all the sunshine of Venice had given her this inward expansion and warmth.
‘Was it horrid for you?’ she asked as she sat opposite him at table. He was too thin; she saw it now. His hand lay as she knew it, with the curious loose forgottenness of a sleeping animal. She wanted so much to take it and kiss it. But she did not quite dare.
‘People are always horrid,’ he said.
‘And did you mind very much?’
‘I minded, as I always shall mind. And I knew I was a fool to mind.’
‘Did you feel like a dog with a tin can tied to its tail? Clifford said you felt like that.’
He looked at her. It was cruel of her at that moment: for his pride had suffered bitterly.
‘I suppose I did,’ he said.
She never knew the fierce bitterness with which he resented insult.
There was a long pause.
‘And did you miss me?’ she asked.
‘I was glad you were out of it.’
Again there was a pause.
‘But did people BELIEVE about you and me?’ she asked.
‘No! I don’t think so for a moment.’
‘I should say not. He put it off without thinking about it. But naturally it made him want to see the last of me.’
‘I’m going to have a child.’
The expression died utterly out of his face, out of his whole body. He looked at her with darkened eyes, whose look she could not understand at all: like some dark-flamed spirit looking at her.
‘Say you’re glad!’ she pleaded, groping for his hand. And she saw a certain exultance spring up in him. But it was netted down by things she could not understand.
‘It’s the future,’ he said.
‘But aren’t you glad?’ she persisted.
‘I have such a terrible mistrust of the future.’
‘But you needn’t be troubled by any responsibility. Clifford would have it as his own, he’d be glad.’
She saw him go pale, and recoil under this. He did not answer.
‘Shall I go back to Clifford and put a little baronet into Wragby?’ she asked.
He looked at her, pale and very remote. The ugly little grin flickered on his face.
‘You wouldn’t have to tell him who the father was?’
‘Oh!’ she said; ‘he’d take it even then, if I wanted him to.’
He thought for a time.
‘Ay!’ he said at last, to himself. ‘I suppose he would.’
There was silence. A big gulf was between them.
‘But you don’t want me to go back to Clifford, do you?’ she asked him.
‘What do you want yourself?’ he replied.
‘I want to live with you,’ she said simply.
In spite of himself, little flames ran over his belly as he heard her say it, and he dropped his head. Then he looked up at her again, with those haunted eyes.
‘If it’s worth it to you,’ he said. ‘I’ve got nothing.’
‘You’ve got more than most men. Come, you know it,’ she said.
‘In one way, I know it.’ He was silent for a time, thinking. Then he resumed: ‘They used to say I had too much of the woman in me. But it’s not that. I’m not a woman not because I don’t want to shoot birds, neither because I don’t want to make money, or get on. I could have got on in the army, easily, but I didn’t like the army. Though I could manage the men all right: they liked me and they had a bit of a holy fear of me when I got mad. No, it was stupid, dead-handed higher authority that made the army dead: absolutely fool-dead. I like men, and men like me. But I can’t stand the twaddling bossy impudence of the people who run this world. That’s why I can’t get on. I hate the impudence of money, and I hate the impudence of class. So in the world as it is, what have I to offer a woman?’
‘But why offer anything? It’s not a bargain. It’s just that we love one another,’ she said.
‘Nay, nay! It’s more than that. Living is moving and moving on. My life won’t go down the proper gutters, it just won’t. So I’m a bit of a waste ticket by myself. And I’ve no business to take a woman into my life, unless my life does something and gets somewhere, inwardly at least, to keep us both fresh. A man must offer a woman some meaning in his life, if it’s going to be an isolated life, and if she’s a genuine woman. I can’t be just your male concubine.’
‘Why not?’ she said.
‘Why, because I can’t. And you would soon hate it.’
‘As if you couldn’t trust me,’ she said.
The grin flickered on his face.
‘The money is yours, the position is yours, the decisions will lie with you. I’m not just my Lady’s fucker, after all.’
‘What else are you?’
‘You may well ask. It no doubt is invisible. Yet I’m something to myself at least. I can see the point of my own existence, though I can quite understand nobody else’s seeing it.’
‘And will your existence have less point, if you live with me?’
He paused a long time before replying:
She too stayed to think about it.
‘And what is the point of your existence?’
‘I tell you, it’s invisible. I don’t believe in the world, not in money, nor in advancement, nor in the future of our civilization. If there’s got to be a future for humanity, there’ll have to be a very big change from what now is.’
‘And what will the real future have to be like?’
‘God knows! I can feel something inside me, all mixed up with a lot of rage. But what it really amounts to, I don’t know.’
‘Shall I tell you?’ she said, looking into his face. ‘Shall I tell you what you have that other men don’t have, and that will make the future? Shall I tell you?’
‘Tell me then,’ he replied.
‘It’s the courage of your own tenderness, that’s what it is: like when you put your hand on my tail and say I’ve got a pretty tail.’
The grin came flickering on his face.
‘That!’ he said.
Then he sat thinking.
‘Ay!’ he said. ‘You’re right. It’s that really. It’s that all the way through. I knew it with the men. I had to be in touch with them, physically, and not go back on it. I had to be bodily aware of them and a bit tender to them, even if I put ’em through hell. It’s a question of awareness, as Buddha said. But even he fought shy of the bodily awareness, and that natural physical tenderness, which is the best, even between men; in a proper manly way. Makes ’em really manly, not so monkeyish. Ay! it’s tenderness, really; it’s cunt-awareness. Sex is really only touch, the closest of all touch. And it’s touch we’re afraid of. We’re only half-conscious, and half alive. We’ve got to come alive and aware. Especially the English have got to get into touch with one another, a bit delicate and a bit tender. It’s our crying need.’
She looked at him.
‘Then why are you afraid of me?’ she said.
He looked at her a long time before he answered.
‘It’s the money, really, and the position. It’s the world in you.’
‘But isn’t there tenderness in me?’ she said wistfully.
He looked down at her, with darkened, abstract eyes.
‘Ay! It comes an’ goes, like in me.’
‘But can’t you trust it between you and me?’ she asked, gazing anxiously at him.
She saw his face all softening down, losing its armour. ‘Maybe!’ he said. They were both silent.
‘I want you to hold me in your arms,’ she said. ‘I want you to tell me you are glad we are having a child.’
She looked so lovely and warm and wistful, his bowels stirred towards her.
‘I suppose we can go to my room,’ he said. ‘Though it’s scandalous again.’
But she saw the forgetfulness of the world coming over him again, his face taking the soft, pure look of tender passion.
They walked by the remoter streets to Coburg Square, where he had a room at the top of the house, an attic room where he cooked for himself on a gas ring. It was small, but decent and tidy.
She took off her things, and made him do the same. She was lovely in the soft first flush of her pregnancy.
‘I ought to leave you alone,’ he said.
‘No!’ she said. ‘Love me! Love me, and say you’ll keep me. Say you’ll keep me! Say you’ll never let me go, to the world nor to anybody.’
She crept close against him, clinging fast to his thin, strong naked body, the only home she had ever known.
‘Then I’ll keep thee,’ he said. ‘If tha wants it, then I’ll keep thee.’
He held her round and fast.
‘And say you’re glad about the child,’ she repeated. ‘Kiss it! Kiss my womb and say you’re glad it’s there.’
But that was more difficult for him.
‘I’ve a dread of puttin’ children i’ th’ world,’ he said. ‘I’ve such a dread o’ th’ future for ’em.’
‘But you’ve put it into me. Be tender to it, and that will be its future already. Kiss it!’
He quivered, because it was true. ‘Be tender to it, and that will be its future.’–At that moment he felt a sheer love for the woman. He kissed her belly and her mound of Venus, to kiss close to the womb and the foetus within the womb.
‘Oh, you love me! You love me!’ she said, in a little cry like one of her blind, inarticulate love cries. And he went in to her softly, feeling the stream of tenderness flowing in release from his bowels to hers, the bowels of compassion kindled between them.
And he realized as he went into her that this was the thing he had to do, to be in tender touch, without losing his pride or his dignity or his integrity as a man. After all, if she had money and means, and he had none, he should be too proud and honourable to hold back his tenderness from her on that account. ‘I stand for the touch of bodily awareness between human beings,’ he said to himself, ‘and the touch of tenderness. And she is my mate. And it is a battle against the money, and the machine, and the insentient ideal monkeyishness of the world. And she will stand behind me there. Thank God I’ve got a woman! Thank God I’ve got a woman who is with me, and tender and aware of me. Thank God she’s not a bully, nor a fool. Thank God she’s a tender, aware woman.’ And as his seed sprang in her, his soul sprang towards her too, in the creative act that is far more than procreative.
She was quite determined now that there should be no parting between him and her. But the ways and means were still to settle.
‘Did you hate Bertha Coutts?’ she asked him.
‘Don’t talk to me about her.’
‘Yes! You must let me. Because once you liked her. And once you were as intimate with her as you are with me. So you have to tell me. Isn’t it rather terrible, when you’ve been intimate with her, to hate her so? Why is it?’
‘I don’t know. She sort of kept her will ready against me, always, always: her ghastly female will: her freedom! A woman’s ghastly freedom that ends in the most beastly bullying! Oh, she always kept her freedom against me, like vitriol in my face.’
‘But she’s not free of you even now. Does she still love you?’
‘No, no! If she’s not free of me, it’s because she’s got that mad rage, she must try to bully me.’
‘But she must have loved you.’
‘No! Well, in specks she did. She was drawn to me. And I think even that she hated. She loved me in moments. But she always took it back, and started bullying. Her deepest desire was to bully me, and there was no altering her. Her will was wrong, from the first.’
‘But perhaps she felt you didn’t really love her, and she wanted to make you.’
‘My God, it was bloody making.’
‘But you didn’t really love her, did you? You did her that wrong.’
‘How could I? I began to. I began to love her. But somehow, she always ripped me up. No, don’t let’s talk of it. It was a doom, that was. And she was a doomed woman. This last time, I’d have shot her like I shoot a stoat, if I’d but been allowed: a raving, doomed thing in the shape of a woman! If only I could have shot her, and ended the whole misery! It ought to be allowed. When a woman gets absolutely possessed by her own will, her own will set against everything, then it’s fearful, and she should be shot at last.’
‘And shouldn’t men be shot at last, if they get possessed by their own will?’
‘Ay!–the same! But I must get free of her, or she’ll be at me again. I wanted to tell you. I must get a divorce if I possibly can. So we must be careful. We mustn’t really be seen together, you and I. I never, NEVER could stand it if she came down on me and you.’
Connie pondered this.
‘Then we can’t be together?’ she said.
‘Not for six months or so. But I think my divorce will go through in September; then till March.’
‘But the baby will probably be born at the end of February,’ she said.
He was silent.
‘I could wish the Cliffords and Berthas all dead,’ he said.
‘It’s not being very tender to them,’ she said.
‘Tender to them? Yea, even then the tenderest thing you could do for them, perhaps, would be to give them death. They can’t live! They only frustrate life. Their souls are awful inside them. Death ought to be sweet to them. And I ought to be allowed to shoot them.’
‘But you wouldn’t do it,’ she said.
‘I would though! and with less qualms than I shoot a weasel. It anyhow has a prettiness and a loneliness. But they are legion. Oh, I’d shoot them.’
‘Then perhaps it is just as well you daren’t.’
Connie had now plenty to think of. It was evident he wanted absolutely to be free of Bertha Coutts. And she felt he was right. The last attack had been too grim.–This meant her living alone, till spring. Perhaps she could get divorced from Clifford. But how? If Mellors were named, then there was an end to his divorce. How loathsome! Couldn’t one go right away, to the far ends of the earth, and be free from it all?
One could not. The far ends of the world are not five minutes from Charing Cross, nowadays. While the wireless is active, there are no far ends of the earth. Kings of Dahomey and Lamas of Tibet listen in to London and New York.
Patience! Patience! The world is a vast and ghastly intricacy of mechanism, and one has to be very wary, not to get mangled by it.
Connie confided in her father.
‘You see, Father, he was Clifford’s game-keeper: but he was an officer in the army in India. Only he is like Colonel C. E. Florence, who preferred to become a private soldier again.’
Sir Malcolm, however, had no sympathy with the unsatisfactory mysticism of the famous C. E. Florence. He saw too much advertisement behind all the humility. It looked just like the sort of conceit the knight most loathed, the conceit of self-abasement.
‘Where did your game-keeper spring from?’ asked Sir Malcolm irritably.
‘He was a collier’s son in Tevershall. But he’s absolutely presentable.’
The knighted artist became more angry.
‘Looks to me like a gold-digger,’ he said. ‘And you’re a pretty easy gold-mine, apparently.’
‘No, Father, it’s not like that. You’d know if you saw him. He’s a man. Clifford always detested him for not being humble.’
‘Apparently he had a good instinct, for once.’
What Sir Malcolm could not bear was the scandal of his daughter’s having an intrigue with a game-keeper. He did not mind the intrigue: he minded the scandal.
‘I care nothing about the fellow. He’s evidently been able to get round you all right. But, by God, think of all the talk. Think of your step-mother how she’ll take it!’
‘I know,’ said Connie. ‘Talk is beastly: especially if you live in society. And he wants so much to get his own divorce. I thought we might perhaps say it was another man’s child, and not mention Mellors’ name at all.’
‘Another man’s! What other man’s?’
‘Perhaps Duncan Forbes. He has been our friend all his life.’
‘And he’s a fairly well-known artist. And he’s fond of me.’
‘Well I’m damned! Poor Duncan! And what’s he going to get out of it?’
‘I don’t know. But he might rather like it, even.’
‘He might, might he? Well, he’s a funny man if he does. Why, you’ve never even had an affair with him, have you?’
‘No! But he doesn’t really want it. He only loves me to be near him, but not to touch him.’
‘My God, what a generation!’
‘He would like me most of all to be a model for him to paint from. Only I never wanted to.’
‘God help him! But he looks down-trodden enough for anything.’
‘Still, you wouldn’t mind so much the talk about him?’
‘My God, Connie, all the bloody contriving!’
‘I know! It’s sickening! But what can I do?’
‘Contriving, conniving; conniving, contriving! Makes a man think he’s lived too long.’
‘Come, Father, if you haven’t done a good deal of contriving and conniving in your time, you may talk.’
‘But it was different, I assure you.’
‘It’s ALWAYS different.’
Hilda arrived, also furious when she heard of the new developments. And she also simply could not stand the thought of a public scandal about her sister and a game-keeper. Too, too humiliating!
‘Why should we not just disappear, separately, to British Columbia, and have no scandal?’ said Connie.
But that was no good. The scandal would come out just the same. And if Connie was going with the man, she’d better be able to marry him. This was Hilda’s opinion. Sir Malcolm wasn’t sure. The affair might still blow over.
‘But will you see him, Father?’
Poor Sir Malcolm! he was by no means keen on it. And poor Mellors, he was still less keen. Yet the meeting took place: a lunch in a private room at the club, the two men alone, looking one another up and down.
Sir Malcolm drank a fair amount of whisky, Mellors also drank. And they talked all the while about India, on which the young man was well informed.
This lasted during the meal. Only when coffee was served, and the waiter had gone, Sir Malcolm lit a cigar and said, heartily:
‘Well, young man, and what about my daughter?’
The grin flickered on Mellors’ face.
‘Well, Sir, and what about her?’
‘You’ve got a baby in her all right.’
‘I have that honour!’ grinned Mellors.
‘Honour, by God!’ Sir Malcolm gave a little squirting laugh, and became Scotch and lewd. ‘Honour! How was the going, eh? Good, my boy, what?’
‘I’ll bet it was! Ha-ha! My daughter, chip of the old block, what! I never went back on a good bit of fucking, myself. Though her mother, oh, holy saints!’ He rolled his eyes to heaven. ‘But you warmed her up, oh, you warmed her up, I can see that. Ha-ha! My blood in her! You set fire to her haystack all right. Ha-ha-ha! I was jolly glad of it, I can tell you. She needed it. Oh, she’s a nice girl, she’s a nice girl, and I knew she’d be good going, if only some damned man would set her stack on fire! Ha-ha-ha! A game-keeper, eh, my boy! Bloody good poacher, if you ask me. Ha-ha! But now, look here, speaking seriously, what are we going to do about it? Speaking seriously, you know!’
Speaking seriously, they didn’t get very far. Mellors, though a little tipsy, was much the soberer of the two. He kept the conversation as intelligent as possible: which isn’t saying much.
‘So you’re a game-keeper! Oh, you’re quite right! That sort of game is worth a man’s while, eh, what? The test of a woman is when you pinch her bottom. You can tell just by the feel of her bottom if she’s going to come up all right. Ha-ha! I envy you, my boy. How old are you?’
The knight lifted his eyebrows.
‘As much as that! Well, you’ve another good twenty years, by the look of you. Oh, game-keeper or not, you’re a good cock. I can see that with one eye shut. Not like that blasted Clifford! A lily-livered hound with never a fuck in him, never had. I like you, my boy, I’ll bet you’ve a good cod on you; oh, you’re a bantam, I can see that. You’re a fighter. Game-keeper! Ha-ha, by crikey, I wouldn’t trust my game to you! But look here, seriously, what are we going to do about it? The world’s full of blasted old women.’
Seriously, they didn’t do anything about it, except establish the old free-masonry of male sensuality between them.
‘And look here, my boy, if ever I can do anything for you, you can rely on me. Game-keeper! Christ, but it’s rich! I like it! Oh, I like it! Shows the girl’s got spunk. What? After all, you know, she has her own income, moderate, moderate, but above starvation. And I’ll leave her what I’ve got. By God, I will. She deserves it for showing spunk, in a world of old women. I’ve been struggling to get myself clear of the skirts of old women for seventy years, and haven’t managed it yet. But you’re the man, I can see that.’
‘I’m glad you think so. They usually tell me, in a sideways fashion, that I’m the monkey.’
‘Oh, they would! My dear fellow, what could you be but a monkey, to all the old women?’
They parted most genially, and Mellors laughed inwardly all the time for the rest of the day.
The following day he had lunch with Connie and Hilda, at some discreet place.
‘It’s a very great pity it’s such an ugly situation all round,’ said Hilda.
‘I had a lot o’ fun out of it,’ said he.
‘I think you might have avoided putting children into the world until you were both free to marry and have children.’
‘The Lord blew a bit too soon on the spark,’ said he.
‘I think the Lord had nothing to do with it. Of course, Connie has enough money to keep you both, but the situation is unbearable.’
‘But then you don’t have to bear more than a small corner of it, do you?’ said he.
‘If you’d been in her own class.’
‘Or if I’d been in a cage at the Zoo.’
There was silence.
‘I think,’ said Hilda, ‘it will be best if she names quite another man as co-respondent and you stay out of it altogether.’
‘But I thought I’d put my foot right in.’
‘I mean in the divorce proceedings.’
He gazed at her in wonder. Connie had not dared mention the Duncan scheme to him.
‘I don’t follow,’ he said.
‘We have a friend who would probably agree to be named as co-respondent, so that your name need not appear,’ said Hilda.
‘You mean a man?’
‘But she’s got no other?’
He looked in wonder at Connie.
‘No, no!’ she said hastily. ‘Only that old friendship, quite simple, no love.’
‘Then why should the fellow take the blame? If he’s had nothing out of you?’
‘Some men are chivalrous and don’t only count what they get out of a woman,’ said Hilda.
‘One for me, eh? But who’s the johnny?’
‘A friend whom we’ve known since we were children in Scotland, an artist.’
‘Duncan Forbes!’ he said at once, for Connie had talked to him. ‘And how would you shift the blame on to him?’
‘They could stay together in some hotel, or she could even stay in his apartment.’
‘Seems to me like a lot of fuss for nothing,’ he said.
‘What else do you suggest?’ said Hilda. ‘If your name appears, you will get no divorce from your wife, who is apparently quite an impossible person to be mixed up with.’
‘All that!’ he said grimly.
There was a long silence.
‘We could go right away,’ he said.
‘There is no right away for Connie,’ said Hilda. ‘Clifford is too well known.’
Again the silence of pure frustration.
‘The world is what it is. If you want to live together without being persecuted, you will have to marry. To marry, you both have to be divorced. So how are you both going about it?’
He was silent for a long time.
‘How are you going about it for us?’ he said.
‘We will see if Duncan will consent to figure as co-respondent: then we must get Clifford to divorce Connie: and you must go on with your divorce, and you must both keep apart till you are free.’
‘Sounds like a lunatic asylum.’
‘Possibly! And the world would look on you as lunatics: or worse.
‘What is worse?’
‘Criminals, I suppose.’
‘Hope I can plunge in the dagger a few more times yet,’ he said, grinning. Then he was silent, and angry.
‘Well!’ he said at last. ‘I agree to anything. The world is a raving idiot, and no man can kill it: though I’ll do my best. But you’re right. We must rescue ourselves as best we can.’
He looked in humiliation, anger, weariness and misery at Connie.
‘Ma lass!’ he said. ‘The world’s goin’ to put salt on thy tail.’
‘Not if we don’t let it,’ she said.
She minded this conniving against the world less than he did.
Duncan, when approached, also insisted on seeing the delinquent game-keeper, so there was a dinner, this time in his flat: the four of them. Duncan was a rather short, broad, dark-skinned, taciturn Hamlet of a fellow with straight black hair and a weird Celtic conceit of himself. His art was all tubes and valves and spirals and strange colours, ultra-modern, yet with a certain power, even a certain purity of form and tone: only Mellors thought it cruel and repellent. He did not venture to say so, for Duncan was almost insane on the point of his art: it was a personal cult, a personal religion with him.
They were looking at the pictures in the studio, and Duncan kept his smallish brown eyes on the other man. He wanted to hear what the game-keeper would say. He knew already Connie’s and Hilda’s opinions.
‘It is like a pure bit of murder,’ said Mellors at last; a speech Duncan by no means expected from a game-keeper.
‘And who is murdered?’ asked Hilda, rather coldly and sneeringly.
‘Me! It murders all the bowels of compassion in a man.’
A wave of pure hate came out of the artist. He heard the note of dislike in the other man’s voice, and the note of contempt. And he himself loathed the mention of bowels of compassion. Sickly sentiment!
Mellors stood rather tall and thin, worn-looking, gazing with flickering detachment that was something like the dancing of a moth on the wing, at the pictures.
‘Perhaps stupidity is murdered; sentimental stupidity,’ sneered the artist.
‘Do you think so? I think all these tubes and corrugated vibrations are stupid enough for anything, and pretty sentimental. They show a lot of self-pity and an awful lot of nervous self-opinion, seems to me.’
In another wave of hate the artist’s face looked yellow. But with a sort of silent HAUTEUR he turned the pictures to the wall.
‘I think we may go to the dining-room,’ he said. And they trailed off, dismally.
After coffee, Duncan said:
‘I don’t at all mind posing as the father of Connie’s child. But only on the condition that she’ll come and pose as a model for me. I’ve wanted her for years, and she’s always refused.’ He uttered it with the dark finality of an inquisitor announcing an AUTO DA FE.
‘Ah!’ said Mellors. ‘You only do it on condition, then?’
‘Quite! I only do it on that condition.’ The artist tried to put the utmost contempt of the other person into his speech. He put a little too much.
‘Better have me as a model at the same time,’ said Mellors. ‘Better do us in a group, Vulcan and Venus under the net of art. I used to be a blacksmith, before I was a game-keeper.’
‘Thank you,’ said the artist. ‘I don’t think Vulcan has a figure that interests me.’
‘Not even if it was tubified and titivated up?’
There was no answer. The artist was too haughty for further words.
It was a dismal party, in which the artist henceforth steadily ignored the presence of the other man, and talked only briefly, as if the words were wrung out of the depths of his gloomy portentousness, to the women.
‘You didn’t like him, but he’s better than that, really. He’s really kind,’ Connie explained as they left.
‘He’s a little black pup with a corrugated distemper,’ said Mellors.
‘No, he wasn’t nice today.’
‘And will you go and be a model to him?’
‘Oh, I don’t really mind any more. He won’t touch me. And I don’t mind anything, if it paves the way to a life together for you and me.’
‘But he’ll only shit on you on canvas.’
‘I don’t care. He’ll only be painting his own feelings for me, and I don’t mind if he does that. I wouldn’t have him touch me, not for anything. But if he thinks he can do anything with his owlish arty staring, let him stare. He can make as many empty tubes and corrugations out of me as he likes. It’s his funeral. He hated you for what you said: that his tubified art is sentimental and self-important. But of course it’s true.’
‘Dear Clifford, I am afraid what you foresaw has happened. I am really in love with another man, and do hope you will divorce me. I am staying at present with Duncan its his flat. I told you he was at Venice with us. I’m awfully unhappy for your sake: but do try to take it quietly. You don’t really need me any more, and I can’t bear to come back to Wragby. I’m awfully sorry. But do try to forgive me, and divorce me and find someone better. I’m not really the right person for you, I am too impatient and selfish, I suppose. But I can’t ever come back to live with you again. And I feel so frightfully sorry about it all, for your sake. But if you don’t let yourself get worked up, you’ll see you won’t mind so frightfully. You didn’t really care about me personally. So do forgive me and get rid of me.’
Clifford was not INWARDLY surprised to get this letter. Inwardly, he had known for a long time she was leaving him. But he had absolutely refused any outward admission of it. Therefore, outwardly, it came as the most terrible blow and shock to him, He had kept the surface of his confidence in her quite serene.
And that is how we are, By strength of will we cut off our inner intuitive knowledge from admitted consciousness. This causes a state of dread, or apprehension, which makes the blow ten times worse when it does fall.
Clifford was like a hysterical child. He gave Mrs Bolton a terrible shock, sitting up in bed ghastly and blank.
‘Why, Sir Clifford, whatever’s the matter?’
No answer! She was terrified lest he had had a stroke. She hurried and felt his face, took his pulse.
‘Is there a pain? Do try and tell me where it hurts you. Do tell me!’
‘Oh dear, oh dear! Then I’ll telephone to Sheffield for Dr Carrington, and Dr Lecky may as well run round straight away.’
She was moving to the door, when he said in a hollow tone:
She stopped and gazed at him. His face was yellow, blank, and like the face of an idiot.
‘Do you mean you’d rather I didn’t fetch the doctor?’
‘Yes! I don’t want him,’ came the sepulchral voice.
‘Oh, but Sir Clifford, you’re ill, and I daren’t take the responsibility. I MUST send for the doctor, or I shall be blamed.’
A pause: then the hollow voice said:
‘I’m not ill. My wife isn’t coming back.’–It was as if an image spoke.
‘Not coming back? you mean her ladyship?’ Mrs Bolton moved a little nearer to the bed. ‘Oh, don’t you believe it. You can trust her ladyship to come back.’
The image in the bed did not change, but it pushed a letter over the counterpane.
‘Read it!’ said the sepulchral voice.
‘Why, if it’s a letter from her ladyship, I’m sure her ladyship wouldn’t want me to read her letter to you, Sir Clifford. You can tell me what she says, if you wish.’
‘Read it!’ repeated the voice.
‘Why, if I must, I do it to obey you, Sir Clifford,’ she said. And she read the letter.
‘Well, I AM surprised at her ladyship,’ she said. ‘She promised so faithfully she’d come back!’
The face in the bed seemed to deepen its expression of wild, but motionless distraction. Mrs Bolton looked at it and was worried. She knew what she was up against: male hysteria. She had not nursed soldiers without learning something about that very unpleasant disease.
She was a little impatient of Sir Clifford. Any man in his senses must have KNOWN his wife was in love with somebody else, and was going to leave him. Even, she was sure, Sir Clifford was inwardly absolutely aware of it, only he wouldn’t admit it to himself. If he would have admitted it, and prepared himself for it: or if he would have admitted it, and actively struggled with his wife against it: that would have been acting like a man. But no! he knew it, and all the time tried to kid himself it wasn’t so. He felt the devil twisting his tail, and pretended it was the angels smiling on him. This state of falsity had now brought on that crisis of falsity and dislocation, hysteria, which is a form of insanity. ‘It comes’, she thought to herself, hating him a little, ‘because he always thinks of himself. He’s so wrapped up in his own immortal self, that when he does get a shock he’s like a mummy tangled in its own bandages. Look at him!’
But hysteria is dangerous: and she was a nurse, it was her duty to pull him out. Any attempt to rouse his manhood and his pride would only make him worse: for his manhood was dead, temporarily if not finally. He would only squirm softer and softer, like a worm, and become more dislocated.
The only thing was to release his self-pity. Like the lady in Tennyson, he must weep or he must die.
So Mrs Bolton began to weep first. She covered her face with her hand and burst into little wild sobs. ‘I would never have believed it of her ladyship, I wouldn’t!’ she wept, suddenly summoning up all her old grief and sense of woe, and weeping the tears of her own bitter chagrin. Once she started, her weeping was genuine enough, for she had had something to weep for.
Clifford thought of the way he had been betrayed by the woman Connie, and in a contagion of grief, tears filled his eyes and began to run down his cheeks. He was weeping for himself. Mrs Bolton, as soon as she saw the tears running over his blank face, hastily wiped her own wet cheeks on her little handkerchief, and leaned towards him.
‘Now, don’t you fret, Sir Clifford!’ she said, in a luxury of emotion. ‘Now, don’t you fret, don’t, you’ll only do yourself an injury!’
His body shivered suddenly in an indrawn breath of silent sobbing, and the tears ran quicker down his face. She laid her hand on his arm, and her own tears fell again. Again the shiver went through him, like a convulsion, and she laid her arm round his shoulder. ‘There, there! There, there! Don’t you fret, then, don’t you! Don’t you fret!’ she moaned to him, while her own tears fell. And she drew him to her, and held her arms round his great shoulders, while he laid his face on her bosom and sobbed, shaking and hulking his huge shoulders, whilst she softly stroked his dusky-blond hair and said: ‘There! There! There! There then! There then! Never you mind! Never you mind, then!’
And he put his arms round her and clung to her like a child, wetting the bib of her starched white apron, and the bosom of her pale-blue cotton dress, with his tears. He had let himself go altogether, at last.
So at length she kissed him, and rocked him on her bosom, and in her heart she said to herself: ‘Oh, Sir Clifford! Oh, high and mighty Chatterleys! Is this what you’ve come down to!’ And finally he even went to sleep, like a child. And she felt worn out, and went to her own room, where she laughed and cried at once, with a hysteria of her own. It was so ridiculous! It was so awful! Such a come-down! So shameful! And it WAS so upsetting as well.
After this, Clifford became like a child with Mrs Bolton. He would hold her hand, and rest his head on her breast, and when she once lightly kissed him, he said, ‘Yes! Do kiss me! Do kiss me!’ And when she sponged his great blond body, he would say the same! ‘Do kiss me!’ and she would lightly kiss his body, anywhere, half in mockery.
And he lay with a queer, blank face like a child, with a bit of the wonderment of a child. And he would gaze on her with wide, childish eyes, in a relaxation of madonna-worship. It was sheer relaxation on his part, letting go all his manhood, and sinking back to a childish position that was really perverse. And then he would put his hand into her bosom and feel her breasts, and kiss them in exultation, the exultation of perversity, of being a child when he was a man.
Mrs Bolton was both thrilled and ashamed, she both loved and hated it. Yet she never rebuffed nor rebuked him. And they drew into a closer physical intimacy, an intimacy of perversity, when he was a child stricken with an apparent candour and an apparent wonderment, that looked almost like a religious exaltation: the perverse and literal rendering of: ‘except ye become again as a little child’.–While she was the Magna Mater, full of power and potency, having the great blond child-man under her will and her stroke entirely.
The curious thing was that when this child-man, which Clifford was now and which he had been becoming for years, emerged into the world, it was much sharper and keener than the real man he used to be. This perverted child-man was now a REAL business-man; when it was a question of affairs, he was an absolute he-man, sharp as a needle, and impervious as a bit of steel. When he was out among men, seeking his own ends, and ‘making good’ his colliery workings, he had an almost uncanny shrewdness, hardness, and a straight sharp punch. It was as if his very passivity and prostitution to the Magna Mater gave him insight into material business affairs, and lent him a certain remarkable inhuman force. The wallowing in private emotion, the utter abasement of his manly self, seemed to lend him a second nature, cold, almost visionary, business-clever. In business he was quite inhuman.
And in this Mrs Bolton triumphed. ‘How he’s getting on!’ she would say to herself in pride. ‘And that’s my doing! My word, he’d never have got on like this with Lady Chatterley. She was not the one to put a man forward. She wanted too much for herself.’
At the same time, in some corner of her weird female soul, how she despised him and hated him! He was to her the fallen beast, the squirming monster. And while she aided and abetted him all she could, away in the remotest corner of her ancient healthy womanhood she despised him with a savage contempt that knew no bounds. The merest tramp was better than he.
His behaviour with regard to Connie was curious. He insisted on seeing her again. He insisted, moreover, on her coming to Wragby. On this point he was finally and absolutely fixed. Connie had promised to come back to Wragby, faithfully.
‘But is it any use?’ said Mrs Bolton. ‘Can’t you let her go, and be rid of her?’
‘No! She said she was coming back, and she’s got to come.’
Mrs Bolton opposed him no more. She knew what she was dealing with.
‘I needn’t tell you what effect your letter has had on me [he wrote to Connie to London]. Perhaps you can imagine it if you try, though no doubt you won’t trouble to use your imagination on my behalf.
I can only say one thing in answer: I must see you personally, here at Wragby, before I can do anything. You promised faithfully to come back to Wragby, and I hold you to the promise. I don’t believe anything nor understand anything until I see you personally, here under normal circumstances. I needn’t tell you that nobody here suspects anything, so your return would be quite normal. Then if you feel, after we have talked things over, that you still remain in the same mind, no doubt we can come to terms.’
Connie showed this letter to Mellors.
‘He wants to begin his revenge on you,’ he said, handing the letter back.
Connie was silent. She was somewhat surprised to find that she was afraid of Clifford. She was afraid to go near him. She was afraid of him as if he were evil and dangerous.
‘What shall I do?’ she said.
‘Nothing, if you don’t want to do anything.’
She replied, trying to put Clifford off. He answered:
‘If you don’t come back to Wragby now, I shall consider that you are coming back one day, and act accordingly. I shall just go on the same, and wait for you here, if I wait for fifty years.’
She was frightened. This was bullying of an insidious sort. She had no doubt he meant what he said. He would not divorce her, and the child would be his, unless she could find some means of establishing its illegitimacy.
After a time of worry and harassment, she decided to go to Wragby. Hilda would go with her. She wrote this to Clifford. He replied:
‘I shall not welcome your sister, but I shall not deny her the door. I have no doubt she has connived at your desertion of your duties and responsibilities, so do not expect me to show pleasure in seeing her.’
They went to Wragby. Clifford was away when they arrived. Mrs Bolton received them.
‘Oh, your Ladyship, it isn’t the happy home-coming we hoped for, is it!’ she said.
‘Isn’t it?’ said Connie.
So this woman knew! How much did the rest of the servants know or suspect?
She entered the house, which now she hated with every fibre in her body. The great, rambling mass of a place seemed evil to her, just a menace over her. She was no longer its mistress, she was its victim.
‘I can’t stay long here,’ she whispered to Hilda, terrified.
And she suffered going into her own bedroom, re-entering into possession as if nothing had happened. She hated every minute inside the Wragby walls.
They did not meet Clifford till they went down to dinner. He was dressed, and with a black tie: rather reserved, and very much the superior gentleman. He behaved perfectly politely during the meal and kept a polite sort of conversation going: but it seemed all touched with insanity.
‘How much do the servants know?’ asked Connie, when the woman was out of the room.
‘Of your intentions? Nothing whatsoever.’
‘Mrs Bolton knows.’
He changed colour.
‘Mrs Bolton is not exactly one of the servants,’ he said.
‘Oh, I don’t mind.’
There was tension till after coffee, when Hilda said she would go up to her room.
Clifford and Connie sat in silence when she had gone. Neither would begin to speak. Connie was so glad that he wasn’t taking the pathetic line, she kept him up to as much haughtiness as possible. She just sat silent and looked down at her hands.
‘I suppose you don’t at all mind having gone back on your word?’ he said at last.
‘I can’t help it,’ she murmured.
‘But if you can’t, who can?’
‘I suppose nobody.’
He looked at her with curious cold rage. He was used to her. She was as it were embedded in his will. How dared she now go back on him, and destroy the fabric of his daily existence? How dared she try to cause this derangement of his personality?
‘And for WHAT do you want to go back on everything?’ he insisted.
‘Love!’ she said. It was best to be hackneyed.
‘Love of Duncan Forbes? But you didn’t think that worth having, when you met me. Do you mean to say you now love him better than anything else in life?’
‘One changes,’ she said.
‘Possibly! Possibly you may have whims. But you still have to convince me of the importance of the change. I merely don’t believe in your love of Duncan Forbes.’
‘But why SHOULD you believe in it? You have only to divorce me, not to believe in my feelings.’
‘And why should I divorce you?’
‘Because I don’t want to live here any more. And you really don’t want me.’
‘Pardon me! I don’t change. For my part, since you are my wife, I should prefer that you should stay under my roof in dignity and quiet. Leaving aside personal feelings, and I assure you, on my part it is leaving aside a great deal, it is bitter as death to me to have this order of life broken up, here in Wragby, and the decent round of daily life smashed, just for some whim of yours.’
After a time of silence she said:
‘I can’t help it. I’ve got to go. I expect I shall have a child.’
He too was silent for a time.
‘And is it for the child’s sake you must go?’ he asked at length.
‘And why? Is Duncan Forbes so keen on his spawn?’
‘Surely keener than you would be,’ she said.
‘But really? I want my wife, and I see no reason for letting her go. If she likes to bear a child under my roof, she is welcome, and the child is welcome: provided that the decency and order of life is preserved. Do you mean to tell me that Duncan Forbes has a greater hold over you? I don’t believe it.’
There was a pause.
‘But don’t you see,’ said Connie. ‘I MUST go away from you, and I must live with the man I love.’
‘No, I don’t see it! I don’t give tuppence for your love, nor for the man you love. I don’t believe in that sort of cant.’
‘But you see, I do.’
‘Do you? My dear Madam, you are too intelligent, I assure you, to believe in your own love for Duncan Forbes. Believe me, even now you really care more for me. So why should I give in to such nonsense!’
She felt he was right there. And she felt she could keep silent no longer.
‘Because it isn’t Duncan that I DO love,’ she said, looking up at him. ‘We only said it was Duncan, to spare your feelings.’
‘To spare my feelings?’
‘Yes! Because who I really love, and it’ll make you hate me, is Mr Mellors, who was our game-keeper here.’
If he could have sprung out of his chair, he would have done so. His face went yellow, and his eyes bulged with disaster as he glared at her.
Then he dropped back in the chair, gasping and looking up at the ceiling.
At length he sat up.
‘Do you mean to say you’re telling me the truth?’ he asked, looking gruesome.
‘Yes! You know I am.’
‘And when did you begin with him?’
‘In the spring.’
He was silent like some beast in a trap.
‘And it WAS you, then, in the bedroom at the cottage?’
So he had really inwardly known all the time.
He still leaned forward in his chair, gazing at her like a cornered beast.
‘My God, you ought to be wiped off the face of the earth!’
‘Why?’ she ejaculated faintly.
But he seemed not to hear.
‘That scum! That bumptious lout! That miserable cad! And carrying on with him all the time, while you were here and he was one of my servants! My God, my God, is there any end to the beastly lowness of women!’
He was beside himself with rage, as she knew he would be.
‘And you mean to say you want to have a child to a cad like that?’
‘Yes! I’m going to.’
‘You’re going to! You mean you’re sure! How long have you been sure?’
He was speechless, and the queer blank look of a child came over him again.
‘You’d wonder,’ he said at last, ‘that such beings were ever allowed to be born.’
‘What beings?’ she asked.
He looked at her weirdly, without an answer. It was obvious, he couldn’t even accept the fact of the existence of Mellors, in any connexion with his own life. It was sheer, unspeakable, impotent hate.
‘And do you mean to say you’d marry him?–and bear his foul name?’ he asked at length.
‘Yes, that’s what I want.’
He was again as if dumbfounded.
‘Yes!’ he said at last. ‘That proves that what I’ve always thought about you is correct: you’re not normal, you’re not in your right senses. You’re one of those half-insane, perverted women who must run after depravity, the NOSTALGIE DE LA BOUE.’
Suddenly he had become almost wistfully moral, seeing himself the incarnation of good, and people like Mellors and Connie the incarnation of mud, of evil. He seemed to be growing vague, inside a nimbus.
‘So don’t you think you’d better divorce me and have done with it?’ she said.
‘No! You can go where you like, but I shan’t divorce you,’ he said idiotically.
He was silent, in the silence of imbecile obstinacy.
‘Would you even let the child be legally yours, and your heir?’ she said.
‘I care nothing about the child.’
‘But if it’s a boy it will be legally your son, and it will inherit your title, and have Wragby.’
‘I care nothing about that,’ he said.
‘But you MUST! I shall prevent the child from being legally yours, if I can. I’d so much rather it were illegitimate, and mine: if it can’t be Mellors’.’
‘Do as you like about that.’
He was immovable.
‘And won’t you divorce me?’ she said. ‘You can use Duncan as a pretext! There’d be no need to bring in the real name. Duncan doesn’t mind.’
‘ I shall never divorce you,’ he said, as if a nail had been driven in.
‘But why? Because I want you to?’
‘Because I follow my own inclination, and I’m not inclined to.’
It was useless. She went upstairs and told Hilda the upshot.
‘Better get away tomorrow,’ said Hilda, ‘and let him come to his senses.’
So Connie spent half the night packing her really private and personal effects. In the morning she had her trunks sent to the station, without telling Clifford. She decided to see him only to say good-bye, before lunch.
But she spoke to Mrs Bolton.
‘I must say good-bye to you, Mrs Bolton, you know why. But I can trust you not to talk.’
‘Oh, you can trust me, your Ladyship, though it’s a sad blow for us here, indeed. But I hope you’ll be happy with the other gentleman.’
‘The other gentleman! It’s Mr Mellors, and I care for him. Sir Clifford knows. But don’t say anything to anybody. And if one day you think Sir Clifford may be willing to divorce me, let me know, will you? I should like to be properly married to the man I care for.’
‘I’m sure you would, my Lady. Oh, you can trust me. I’ll be faithful to Sir Clifford, and I’ll be faithful to you, for I can see you’re both right in your own ways.’
‘Thank you! And look! I want to give you this–may I?’ So Connie left Wragby once more, and went on with Hilda to Scotland. Mellors went into the country and got work on a farm. The idea was, he should get his divorce, if possible, whether Connie got hers or not. And for six months he should work at farming, so that eventually he and Connie could have some small farm of their own, into which he could put his energy. For he would have to have some work, even hard work, to do, and he would have to make his own living, even if her capital started him.
So they would have to wait till spring was in, till the baby was born, till the early summer came round again.
‘The Grange Farm Old Heanor 29 September
I got on here with a bit of contriving, because I knew Richards, the company engineer, in the army. It is a farm belonging to Butler and Smitham Colliery Company, they use it for raising hay and oats for the pit-ponies; not a private concern. But they’ve got cows and pigs and all the rest of it, and I get thirty shillings a week as labourer. Rowley, the farmer, puts me on to as many jobs as he can, so that I can learn as much as possible between now and next Easter. I’ve not heard a thing about Bertha. I’ve no idea why she didn’t show up at the divorce, nor where she is nor what she’s up to. But if I keep quiet till March I suppose I shall be free. And don’t you bother about Sir Clifford. He’ll want to get rid of you one of these days. If he leaves you alone, it’s a lot.
I’ve got lodging in a bit of an old cottage in Engine Row very decent. The man is engine-driver at High Park, tall, with a beard, and very chapel. The woman is a birdy bit of a thing who loves anything superior. King’s English and allow-me! all the time. But they lost their only son in the war, and it’s sort of knocked a hole in them. There’s a long gawky lass of a daughter training for a school-teacher, and I help her with her lessons sometimes, so we’re quite the family. But they’re very decent people, and only too kind to me. I expect I’m more coddled than you are.
I like farming all right. It’s not inspiring, but then I don’t ask to be inspired. I’m used to horses, and cows, though they are very female, have a soothing effect on me. When I sit with my head in her side, milking, I feel very solaced. They have six rather fine Herefords. Oat-harvest is just over and I enjoyed it, in spite of sore hands and a lot of rain. I don’t take much notice of people, but get on with them all right. Most things one just ignores.
The pits are working badly; this is a colliery district like Tevershall, only prettier. I sometimes sit in the Wellington and talk to the men. They grumble a lot, but they’re not going to alter anything. As everybody says, the Notts-Derby miners have got their hearts in the right place. But the rest of their anatomy must be in the wrong place, in a world that has no use for them. I like them, but they don’t cheer me much: not enough of the old fighting-cock in them. They talk a lot about nationalization, nationalization of royalties, nationalization of the whole industry. But you can’t nationalize coal and leave all the other industries as they are. They talk about putting coal to new uses, like Sir Clifford is trying to do. It may work here and there, but not as a general thing, I doubt. Whatever you make you’ve got to sell it. The men are very apathetic. They feel the whole damned thing is doomed, and I believe it is. And they are doomed along with it. Some of the young ones spout about a Soviet, but there’s not much conviction in them. There’s no sort of conviction about anything, except that it’s all a muddle and a hole. Even under a Soviet you’ve still got to sell coal: and that’s the difficulty.
We’ve got this great industrial population, and they’ve got to be fed, so the damn show has to be kept going somehow. The women talk a lot more than the men, nowadays, and they are a sight more cock-sure. The men are limp, they feel a doom somewhere, and they go about as if there was nothing to be done. Anyhow, nobody knows what should be done in spite of all the talk, the young ones get mad because they’ve no money to spend. Their whole life depends on spending money, and now they’ve got none to spend. That’s our civilization and our education: bring up the masses to depend entirely on spending money, and then the money gives out. The pits are working two days, two and a half days a week, and there’s no sign of betterment even for the winter. It means a man bringing up a family on twenty-five and thirty shillings. The women are the maddest of all. But then they’re the maddest for spending, nowadays.
If you could only tell them that living and spending isn’t the same thing! But it’s no good. If only they were educated to LIVE instead of earn and spend, they could manage very happily on twenty-five shillings. If the men wore scarlet trousers as I said, they wouldn’t think so much of money: if they could dance and hop and skip, and sing and swagger and be handsome, they could do with very little cash. And amuse the women themselves, and be amused by the women. They ought to learn to be naked and handsome, and to sing in a mass and dance the old group dances, and carve the stools they sit on, and embroider their own emblems. Then they wouldn’t need money. And that’s the only way to solve the industrial problem: train the people to be able to live and live in handsomeness, without needing to spend. But you can’t do it. They’re all one-track minds nowadays. Whereas the mass of people oughtn’t even to try to think, because they can’t. They should be alive and frisky, and acknowledge the great god Pan. He’s the only god for the masses, forever. The few can go in for higher cults if they like. But let the mass be forever pagan.
But the colliers aren’t pagan, far from it. They’re a sad lot, a deadened lot of men: dead to their women, dead to life. The young ones scoot about on motor-bikes with girls, and jazz when they get a chance, but they’re very dead. And it needs money. Money poisons you when you’ve got it, and starves you when you haven’t.
I’m sure you’re sick of all this. But I don’t want to harp on myself, and I’ve nothing happening to me. I don’t like to think too much about you, in my head, that only makes a mess of us both. But, of course, what I live for now is for you and me to live together. I’m frightened, really. I feel the devil in the air, and he’ll try to get us. Or not the devil, Mammon: which I think, after all, is only the mass-will of people, wanting money and hating life. Anyhow, I feel great grasping white hands in the air, wanting to get hold of the throat of anybody who tries to live, to live beyond money, and squeeze the life out. There’s a bad time coming. There’s a bad time coming, boys, there’s a bad time coming! If things go on as they are, there’s nothing that lies in the future but death and destruction, for these industrial masses. I feel my inside turn to water sometimes, and there you are, going to have a child by me. But never mind. All the bad times that ever have been, haven’t been able to blow the crocus out: not even the love of women. So they won’t be able to blow out my wanting you, nor the little glow there is between you and me. We’ll be together next year. And though I’m frightened, I believe in your being with me. A man has to fend and fettle for the best, and then trust in something beyond himself. You can’t insure against the future, except by really believing in the best bit of you, and in the power beyond it. So I believe in the little flame between us. For me now, it’s the only thing in the world. I’ve got no friends, not inward friends. Only you. And now the little flame is all I care about in my life. There’s the baby, but that is a side issue. It’s my Pentecost, the forked flame between me and you. The old Pentecost isn’t quite right. Me and God is a bit uppish, somehow. But the little forked flame between me and you: there you are! That’s what I abide by, and will abide by, Cliffords and Berthas, colliery companies and governments and the money-mass of people all notwithstanding.
That’s why I don’t like to start thinking about you actually. It only tortures me, and does you no good. I don’t want you to be away from me. But if I start fretting it wastes something. Patience, always patience. This is my fortieth winter. And I can’t help all the winters that have been. But this winter I’ll stick to my little Pentecost flame, and have some peace. And I won’t let the breath of people blow it out. I believe in a higher mystery, that doesn’t let even the crocus be blown out. And if you’re in Scotland and I’m in the Midlands, and I can’t put my arms round you, and wrap my legs round you, yet I’ve got something of you. My soul softly naps in the little Pentecost flame with you, like the peace of fucking. We fucked a flame into being. Even the flowers are fucked into being between the sun and the earth. But it’s a delicate thing, and takes patience and the long pause.
So I love chastity now, because it is the peace that comes of fucking. I love being chaste now. I love it as snowdrops love the snow. I love this chastity, which is the pause of peace of our fucking, between us now like a snowdrop of forked white fire. And when the real spring comes, when the drawing together comes, then we can fuck the little flame brilliant and yellow, brilliant. But not now, not yet! Now is the time to be chaste, it is so good to be chaste, like a river of cool water in my soul. I love the chastity now that it flows between us. It is like fresh water and rain. How can men want wearisomely to philander. What a misery to be like Don Juan, and impotent ever to fuck oneself into peace, and the little flame alight, impotent and unable to be chaste in the cool between-whiles, as by a river.
Well, so many words, because I can’t touch you. If I could sleep with my arms round you, the ink could stay in the bottle. We could be chaste together just as we can fuck together. But we have to be separate for a while, and I suppose it is really the wiser way. If only one were sure.
Never mind, never mind, we won’t get worked up. We really trust in the little flame, and in the unnamed god that shields it from being blown out. There’s so much of you here with me, really, that it’s a pity you aren’t all here.
Never mind about Sir Clifford. If you don’t hear anything from him, never mind. He can’t really do anything to you. Wait, he will want to get rid of you at last, to cast you out. And if he doesn’t, we’ll manage to keep clear of him. But he will. In the end he will want to spew you out as the abominable thing.
Now I can’t even leave off writing to you.
But a great deal of us is together, and we can but abide by it, and steer our courses to meet soon. John Thomas says good-night to Lady Jane, a little droopingly, but with a hopeful heart.’
* * *
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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.