Ursula had only two more terms at school. She was studying for he_atriculation examination. It was dreary work, for she had very littl_ntelligence when she was disjointed from happiness. Stubbornness and _onsciousness of impending fate kept her half-heartedly pinned to it. She kne_hat soon she would want to become a self-responsible person, and her drea_as that she would be prevented. An all-containing will in her for complet_ndependence, complete social independence, complete independence from an_ersonal authority, kept her dullishly at her studies. For she knew that sh_ad always her price of ransom—her femaleness. She was always a woman, an_hat she could not get because she was a human being, fellow to the rest o_ankind, she would get because she was a female, other than the man. In he_emaleness she felt a secret riches, a reserve, she had always the price o_reedom.
However, she was sufficiently reserved about this last resource. The othe_hings should be tried first. There was the mysterious man's world to b_dventured upon, the world of daily work and duty, and existence as a workin_ember of the community. Against this she had a subtle grudge. She wanted t_ake her conquest also of this man's world.
So she ground away at her work, never giving it up. Some things she liked. He_ubjects were English, Latin, French, mathematics and history. Once she kne_ow to read French and Latin, the syntax bored her. Most tedious was the clos_tudy of English literature. Why should one remember the things one read?
Something in mathematics, their cold absoluteness, fascinated her, but th_ctual practice was tedious. Some people in history puzzled her and made he_onder, but the political parts angered her, and she hated ministers. Only i_dd streaks did she get a poignant sense of acquisition and enrichment an_nlarging from her studies; one afternoon, reading As You Like It; once when, with her blood, she heard a passage of Latin, and she knew how the blood bea_n a Roman's body; so that ever after she felt she knew the Romans by contact.
She enjoyed the vagaries of English Grammar, because it gave her pleasure t_etect the live movements of words and sentences; and mathematics, the ver_ight of the letters in Algebra, had a real lure for her.
She felt so much and so confusedly at this time, that her face got a queer, wondering, half-scared look, as if she were not sure what might seize upon he_t any moment out of the unknown.
Odd little bits of information stirred unfathomable passion in her. When sh_new that in the tiny brown buds of autumn were folded, minute and complete, the finished flowers of the summer nine months hence, tiny, folded up, an_eft there waiting, a flash of triumph and love went over her.
"I could never die while there was a tree," she said passionately, sententiously, standing before a great ash in worship.
It was the people who, somehow, walked as an upright menace to her. Her lif_t this time was unformed, palpitating, essentially shrinking from all touch.
She gave something to other people, but she was never herself, since she ha_o self. She was not afraid nor ashamed before trees, and birds, and the sky.
But she shrank violently from people, ashamed she was not as they were, fixed, emphatic, but a wavering, undefined sensibility only, without form or being.
Gudrun was at this time a great comfort and shield to her. The younger gir_as a lithe, farouche animal, who mistrusted all approach, and would have non_f the petty secrecies and jealousies of schoolgirl intimacy. She would hav_o truck with the tame cats, nice or not, because she believed that they wer_ll only untamed cats with a nasty, untrustworthy habit of tameness.
This was a great stand-back for Ursula, who suffered agonies when she though_ person disliked her, no matter how much she despised that other person. Ho_ould anyone dislike her, Ursula Brangwen? The question terrified her and wa_nanswerable. She sought refuge in Gudrun's natural, proud indifference.
It had been discovered that Gudrun had a talent for drawing. This solved th_roblem of the girl's indifference to all study. It was said of her, "She ca_raw marvellously."
Suddenly Ursula found a queer awareness existed between herself and her class- mistress, Miss Inger. The latter was a rather beautiful woman of twenty-eight, a fearless-seeming, clean type of modern girl whose very independence betray_er sorrow. She was clever, and expert in what she did, accurate, quick, commanding.
To Ursula she had always given pleasure, because of her clear, decided, ye_raceful appearance. She carried her head high, a little thrown back, an_rsula thought there was a look of nobility in the way she twisted her smoot_rown hair upon her head. She always wore clean, attractive, well-fittin_louses, and a well-made skirt. Everything about her was so well-ordered, betraying a fine, clear spirit, that it was a pleasure to sit in her class.
Her voice was just as ringing and clear, and with unwavering, finely-touche_odulation. Her eyes were blue, clear, proud, she gave one altogether th_ense of a fine-mettled, scrupulously groomed person, and of an unyieldin_ind. Yet there was an infinite poignancy about her, a great pathos in he_onely, proudly closed mouth.
It was after Skrebensky had gone that there sprang up between the mistress an_he girl that strange awareness, then the unspoken intimacy that sometime_onnects two people who may never even make each other's acquaintance. Before, they had always been good friends, in the undistinguished way of the class- room, with the professional relationship of mistress and scholar alway_resent. Now, however, another thing came to pass. When they were in the roo_ogether, they were aware of each other, almost to the exclusion of everythin_lse. Winifred Inger felt a hot delight in the lessons when Ursula wa_resent, Ursula felt her whole life begin when Miss Inger came into the room.
Then, with the beloved, subtly-intimate teacher present, the girl sat a_ithin the rays of some enrichening sun, whose intoxicating heat poure_traight into her veins.
The state of bliss, when Miss Inger was present, was supreme in the girl, bu_lways eager, eager. As she went home, Ursula dreamed of the schoolmistress, made infinite dreams of things she could give her, of how she might make th_lder woman adore her.
Miss Inger was a Bachelor of Arts, who had studied at Newnham. She was _lergyman's daughter, of good family. But what Ursula adored so much was he_ine, upright, athletic bearing, and her indomitably proud nature. She wa_roud and free as a man, yet exquisite as a woman.
The girl's heart burned in her breast as she set off for school in th_orning. So eager was her breast, so glad her feet, to travel towards th_eloved. Ah, Miss Inger, how straight and fine was her back, how strong he_oins, how calm and free her limbs!
Ursula craved ceaselessly to know if Miss Inger cared for her. As yet n_efinite sign had been passed between the two. Yet surely, surely Miss Inge_oved her too, was fond of her, liked her at least more than the rest of th_cholars in the class. Yet she was never certain. It might be that Miss Inge_ared nothing for her. And yet, and yet, with blazing heart, Ursula felt tha_f only she could speak to her, touch her, she would know.
The summer term came, and with it the swimming class. Miss Inger was to tak_he swimming class. Then Ursula trembled and was dazed with passion. Her hope_ere soon to be realised. She would see Miss Inger in her bathing dress.
The day came. In the great bath the water was glimmering pale emerald green, _ovely, glimmering mass of colour within the whitish marble-like confines.
Overhead the light fell softly and the great green body of pure water move_nder it as someone dived from the side.
Ursula, trembling, hardly able to contain herself, pulled off her clothes, pu_n her tight bathing-suit, and opened the door of her cabin. Two girls were i_he water. The mistress had not appeared. She waited. A door opened. Mis_nger came out, dressed in a rust-red tunic like a Greek girl's, tied roun_he waist, and a red silk handkerchief round her head. How lovely she looked!
Her knees were so white and strong and proud, and she was firm-bodied a_iana. She walked simply to the side of the bath, and with a negligen_ovement, flung herself in. For a moment Ursula watched the white, smooth, strong shoulders, and the easy arms swimming. Then she too dived into th_ater.
Now, ah now, she was swimming in the same water with her dear mistress. Th_irl moved her limbs voluptuously, and swam by herself, deliciously, yet wit_ craving of unsatisfaction. She wanted to touch the other, to touch her, t_eel her.
"I will race you, Ursula," came the well-modulated voice.
Ursula started violently. She turned to see the warm, unfolded face of he_istress looking at her, to her. She was acknowledged. Laughing her ow_eautiful, startled laugh, she began to swim. The mistress was just ahead, swimming with easy strokes. Ursula could see the head put back, the wate_lickering upon the white shoulders, the strong legs kicking shadowily. An_he swam blinded with passion. Ah, the beauty of the firm, white, cool flesh!
Ah, the wonderful firm limbs. Ah, if she did not so despise her own thin, dusky fragment of a body, if only she too were fearless and capable.
She swam on eagerly, not wanting to win, only wanting to be near her mistress, to swim in a race with her. They neared the end of the bath, the deep end.
Miss Inger touched the pipe, swung herself round, and caught Ursula round th_aist in the water, and held her for a moment.
"I won," said Miss Inger, laughing.
There was a moment of suspense. Ursula's heart was beating so fast, she clun_o the rail, and could not move. Her dilated, warm, unfolded, glowing fac_urned to the mistress, as if to her very sun.
"Good-bye," said Miss Inger, and she swam away to the other pupils, takin_rofessional interest in them.
Ursula was dazed. She could still feel the touch of the mistress's bod_gainst her own—only this, only this. The rest of the swimming time passe_ike a trance. When the call was given to leave the water, Miss Inger walke_own the bath towards Ursula. Her rust-red, thin tunic was clinging to her, the whole body was defined, firm and magnificent, as it seemed to the girl.
"I enjoyed our race, Ursula, did you?" said Miss Inger.
The girl could only laugh with revealed, open, glowing face.
The love was now tacitly confessed. But it was some time before any furthe_rogress was made. Ursula continued in suspense, in inflamed bliss.
Then one day, when she was alone, the mistress came near to her, and touchin_er cheek with her fingers, said with some difficulty.
"Would you like to come to tea with me on Saturday, Ursula?"
The girl flushed all gratitude.
"We'll go to a lovely little bungalow on the Soar, shall we? I stay the week- ends there sometimes."
Ursula was beside herself. She could not endure till the Saturday came, he_houghts burned up like a fire. If only it were Saturday, if only it wer_aturday.
Then Saturday came, and she set out. Miss Inger met her in Sawley, and the_alked about three miles to the bungalow. It was a moist, warm cloudy day.
The bungalow was a tiny, two-roomed shanty set on a steep bank. Everything i_t was exquisite. In delicious privacy, the two girls made tea, and then the_alked. Ursula need not be home till about ten o'clock.
The talk was led, by a kind of spell, to love. Miss Inger was telling Ursul_f a friend, how she had died in childbirth, and what she had suffered; the_he told of a prostitute, and of some of her experiences with men.
As they talked thus, on the little verandah of the bungalow, the night fell, there was a little warm rain.
"It is really stifling," said Miss Inger.
They watched a train, whose lights were pale in the lingering twilight, rushing across the distance.
"It will thunder," said Ursula.
The electric suspense continued, the darkness sank, they were eclipsed.
"I think I shall go and bathe," said Miss Inger, out of the cloud-blac_arkness.
"At night?" said Ursula.
"It is best at night. Will you come?"
"I should like to."
"It is quite safe—the grounds are private. We had better undress in th_ungalow, for fear of the rain, then run down."
Shyly, stiffly, Ursula went into the bungalow, and began to remove he_lothes. The lamp was turned low, she stood in the shadow. By another chai_inifred Inger was undressing.
Soon the naked, shadowy figure of the elder girl came to the younger.
"Are you ready?" she said.
Ursula could hardly speak. The other naked woman stood by, stood near, silent.
Ursula was ready.
They ventured out into the darkness, feeling the soft air of night upon thei_kins.
"I can't see the path," said Ursula.
"It is here," said the voice, and the wavering, pallid figure was beside her, a hand grasping her arm. And the elder held the younger close against her, close, as they went down, and by the side of the water, she put her arms roun_er, and kissed her. And she lifted her in her arms, close, saying, softly:
"I shall carry you into the water."
Ursula lay still in her mistress's arms, her forehead against the beloved, maddening breast.
"I shall put you in," said Winifred.
But Ursula twined her body about her mistress.
After awhile the rain came down on their flushed, hot limbs, startling, delicious. A sudden, ice-cold shower burst in a great weight upon them. The_tood up to it with pleasure. Ursula received the stream of it upon he_reasts and her limbs. It made her cold, and a deep, bottomless silence welle_p in her, as if bottomless darkness were returning upon her.
So the heat vanished away, she was chilled, as if from a waking up. She ra_ndoors, a chill, non-existent thing, wanting to get away. She wanted th_ight, the presence of other people, the external connection with the many.
Above all she wanted to lose herself among natural surroundings.
She took her leave of her mistress and returned home. She was glad to be o_he station with a crowd of Saturday-night people, glad to sit in the lighted, crowded railway carriage. Only she did not want to meet anybody she knew. Sh_id not want to talk. She was alone, immune.
All this stir and seethe of lights and people was but the rim, the shores of _reat inner darkness and void. She wanted very much to be on the seething, partially illuminated shore, for within her was the void reality of dar_pace.
For a time Miss Inger, her mistress, was gone; she was only a dark void, an_rsula was free as a shade walking in an underworld of extinction, o_blivion. Ursula was glad, with a kind of motionless, lifeless gladness, tha_er mistress was extinct, gone out of her.
In the morning, however, the love was there again, burning, burning. Sh_emembered yesterday, and she wanted more, always more. She wanted to be wit_er mistress. All separation from her mistress was a restriction from living.
Why could she not go to her to-day, to-day? Why must she pace about revoked a_ossethay whilst her mistress was elsewhere? She sat down and wrote a burning, passionate love-letter: she could not help it.
The two women became intimate. Their lives seemed suddenly to fuse into one, inseparable. Ursula went to Winifred's lodging, she spent there her onl_iving hours. Winifred was very fond of water,—of swimming, of rowing. Sh_elonged to various athletic clubs. Many delicious afternoons the two girl_pent in a light boat on the river, Winifred always rowing. Indeed, Winifre_eemed to delight in having Ursula in her charge, in giving things to th_irl, in filling and enrichening her life.
So that Ursula developed rapidly during the few months of her intimacy wit_er mistress. Winifred had had a scientific education. She had known man_lever people. She wanted to bring Ursula to her own position of thought.
They took religion and rid it of its dogmas, its falsehoods. Winifre_umanised it all. Gradually it dawned upon Ursula that all the religion sh_new was but a particular clothing to a human aspiration. The aspiration wa_he real thing,—the clothing was a matter almost of national taste or need.
The Greeks had a naked Apollo, the Christians a white-robed Christ, th_uddhists a royal prince, the Egyptians their Osiris. Religions were local an_eligion was universal. Christianity was a local branch. There was as yet n_ssimilation of local religions into universal religion.
In religion there were the two great motives of fear and love. The motive o_ear was as great as the motive of love. Christianity accepted crucifixion t_scape from fear; "Do your worst to me, that I may have no more fear of th_orst." But that which was feared was not necessarily all evil, and that whic_as loved not necessarily all good. Fear shall become reverence, and reverenc_s submission in identification; love shall become triumph, and triumph i_elight in identification.
So much she talked of religion, getting the gist of many writings. I_hilosophy she was brought to the conclusion that the human desire is th_riterion of all truth and all good. Truth does not lie beyond humanity, bu_s one of the products of the human mind and feeling. There is really nothin_o fear. The motive of fear in religion is base, and must be left to th_ncient worshippers of power, worship of Moloch.
We do not worship power, in our enlightened souls. Power is degenerated t_oney and Napoleonic stupidity.
Ursula could not help dreaming of Moloch. Her God was not mild and gentle, neither Lamb nor Dove. He was the lion and the eagle. Not because the lion an_he eagle had power, but because they were proud and strong; they wer_hemselves, they were not passive subjects of some shepherd, or pets of som_oving woman, or sacrifices of some priest. She was weary to death of mild, passive lambs and monotonous doves. If the lamb might lie down with the lion, it would be a great honour to the lamb, but the lion's powerful heart woul_uffer no diminishing. She loved the dignity and self-possession of lions.
She did not see how lambs could love. Lambs could only be loved. They coul_nly be afraid, and tremblingly submit to fear, and become sacrificial; o_hey could submit to love, and become beloveds. In both they were passive.
Raging, destructive lovers, seeking the moment when fear is greatest, an_riumph is greatest, the fear not greater than the triumph, the triumph no_reater than the fear, these were no lambs nor doves. She stretched her ow_imbs like a lion or a wild horse, her heart was relentless in its desires. I_ould suffer a thousand deaths, but it would still be a lion's heart when i_ose from death, a fiercer lion she would be, a surer, knowing hersel_ifferent from and separate from the great, conflicting universe that was no_erself.
Winifred Inger was also interested in the Women's Movement.
"The men will do no more,—they have lost the capacity for doing," said th_lder girl. "They fuss and talk, but they are really inane. They mak_verything fit into an old, inert idea. Love is a dead idea to them. The_on't come to one and love one, they come to an idea, and they say 'You are m_dea,' so they embrace themselves. As if I were any man's idea! As if I exis_ecause a man has an idea of me! As if I will be betrayed by him, lend him m_ody as an instrument for his idea, to be a mere apparatus of his dead theory.
But they are too fussy to be able to act; they are all impotent, they can'_ake a woman. They come to their own idea every time, and take that. They ar_ike serpents trying to swallow themselves because they are hungry."
Ursula was introduced by her friend to various women and men, educated, unsatisfied people, who still moved within the smug provincial society as i_hey were nearly as tame as their outward behaviour showed, but who wer_nwardly raging and mad.
It was a strange world the girl was swept into, like a chaos, like the end o_he world. She was too young to understand it all. Yet the inoculation passe_nto her, through her love for her mistress.
The examination came, and then school was over. It was the long vacation.
Winifred Inger went away to London. Ursula was left alone in Cossethay. _errible, outcast, almost poisonous despair possessed her. It was no use doin_nything, or being anything. She had no connection with other people. Her lo_as isolated and deadly. There was nothing for her anywhere, but this blac_isintegration. Yet, within all the great attack of disintegration upon her, she remained herself. It was the terrible core of all her suffering, that sh_as always herself. Never could she escape that: she could not put off bein_erself.
She still adhered to Winifred Inger. But a sort of nausea was coming over her.
She loved her mistress. But a heavy, clogged sense of deadness began to gathe_pon her, from the other woman's contact. And sometimes she thought Winifre_as ugly, clayey. Her female hips seemed big and earthy, her ankles and he_rms were too thick. She wanted some fine intensity, instead of this heav_leaving of moist clay, that cleaves because it has no life of its own.
Winifred still loved Ursula. She had a passion for the fine flame of the girl, she served her endlessly, would have done anything for her.
"Come with me to London," she pleaded to the girl. "I will make it nice fo_ou,—you shall do lots of things you will enjoy."
"No," said Ursula, stubbornly and dully. "No, I don't want to go to London, _ant to be by myself."
Winifred knew what this meant. She knew that Ursula was beginning to rejec_er. The fine, unquenchable flame of the younger girl would consent no more t_ingle with the perverted life of the elder woman. Winifred knew it woul_ome. But she too was proud. At the bottom of her was a black pit of despair.
She knew perfectly well that Ursula would cast her off.
And that seemed like the end of her life. But she was too hopeless to rage.
Wisely, economising what was left of Ursula's love, she went away to London, leaving the beloved girl alone.
And after a fortnight, Ursula's letters became tender again, loving. Her Uncl_om had invited her to go and stay with him. He was managing a big, ne_olliery in Yorkshire. Would Winifred come too?
For now Ursula was imagining marriage for Winifred. She wanted her to marr_er Uncle Tom. Winifred knew this. She said she would come to Wiggiston. Sh_ould now let fate do as it liked with her, since there was nothing remainin_o be done. Tom Brangwen also saw Ursula's intention. He too was at the end o_is desires. He had done the things he had wanted to. They had all ended in _isintegrated lifelessness of soul, which he hid under an utterly toleran_ood-humour. He no longer cared about anything on earth, neither man no_oman, nor God nor humanity. He had come to a stability of nullification. H_id not care any more, neither about his body nor about his soul. Only h_ould preserve intact his own life. Only the simple, superficial fact o_iving persisted. He was still healthy. He lived. Therefore he would fill eac_oment. That had always been his creed. It was not instinctive easiness: i_as the inevitable outcome of his nature. When he was in the absolute privac_f his own life, he did as he pleased, unscrupulous, without any ulterio_hought. He believed neither in good nor evil. Each moment was like a separat_ittle island, isolated from time, and blank, unconditioned by time.
He lived in a large new house of red brick, standing outside a mass o_omogeneous red-brick dwellings, called Wiggiston. Wiggiston was only seve_ears old. It had been a hamlet of eleven houses on the edge of healthy, half- agricultural country. Then the great seam of coal had been opened. In a yea_iggiston appeared, a great mass of pinkish rows of thin, unreal dwellings o_ive rooms each. The streets were like visions of pure ugliness; a grey-blac_acadamised road, asphalt causeways, held in between a flat succession o_all, window, and door, a new-brick channel that began nowhere, and ende_owhere. Everything was amorphous, yet everything repeated itself endlessly.
Only now and then, in one of the house-windows vegetables or small grocerie_ere displayed for sale.
In the middle of the town was a large, open, shapeless space, or market-place, of black trodden earth, surrounded by the same flat material of dwellings, ne_ed-brick becoming grimy, small oblong windows, and oblong doors, repeate_ndlessly, with just, at one corner, a great and gaudy publichouse, an_omewhere lost on one of the sides of the square, a large window opaque an_arkish green, which was the postoffice.
The place had the strange desolation of a ruin. Colliers hanging about i_angs and groups, or passing along the asphalt pavements heavily to work, seemed not like living people, but like spectres. The rigidity of the blan_treets, the homogeneous amorphous sterility of the whole suggested deat_ather than life. There was no meeting place, no centre, no artery, no organi_ormation. There it lay, like the new foundations of a red-brick confusio_apidly spreading, like a skin-disease.
Just outside of this, on a little hill, was Tom Brangwen's big, red-bric_ouse. It looked from the front upon the edge of the place, a meaningles_qualor of ash-pits and closets and irregular rows of the backs of houses, each with its small activity made sordid by barren cohesion with the rest o_he small activities. Farther off was the great colliery that went night an_ay. And all around was the country, green with two winding streams, ragge_ith gorse, and heath, the darker woods in the distance.
The whole place was just unreal, just unreal. Even now, when he had been ther_or two years, Tom Brangwen did not believe in the actuality of the place. I_as like some gruesome dream, some ugly, dead, amorphous mood become concrete.
Ursula and Winifred were met by the motor-car at the raw little station, an_rove through what seemed to them like the horrible raw beginnings o_omething. The place was a moment of chaos perpetuated, persisting, chao_ixed and rigid. Ursula was fascinated by the many men who were there—group_f men standing in the streets, four or five men walking in a gang together, their dogs running behind or before. They were all decently dressed, and mos_f them rather gaunt. The terrible gaunt repose of their bearing fascinate_er. Like creatures with no more hope, but which still live and hav_assionate being, within some utterly unliving shell, they passe_eaninglessly along, with strange, isolated dignity. It was as if a hard, horny shell enclosed them all.
Shocked and startled, Ursula was carried to her Uncle Tom's house. He was no_et at home. His house was simply, but well furnished. He had taken out _ividing wall, and made the whole front of the house into a large library, with one end devoted to his science. It was a handsome room, appointed as _aboratory and reading room, but giving the same sense of hard, mechanica_ctivity, activity mechanical yet inchoate, and looking out on the hideou_bstraction of the town, and at the green meadows and rough country beyond, and at the great, mathematical colliery on the other side.
They saw Tom Brangwen walking up the curved drive. He was getting stouter, bu_ith his bowler hat worn well set down on his brows, he looked manly, handsome, curiously like any other man of action. His colour was as fresh, hi_ealth as perfect as ever, he walked like a man rather absorbed.
Winifred Inger was startled when he entered the library, his coat fastened an_orrect, his head bald to the crown, but not shiny, rather like somethin_aked that one is accustomed to see covered, and his dark eyes liquid an_ormless. He seemed to stand in the shadow, like a thing ashamed. And th_lasp of his hand was so soft and yet so forceful, that it chilled the heart.
She was afraid of him, repelled by him, and yet attracted.
He looked at the athletic, seemingly fearless girl, and he detected in her _inship with his own dark corruption. Immediately, he knew they were akin.
His manner was polite, almost foreign, and rather cold. He still laughed i_is curious, animal fashion, suddenly wrinkling up his wide nose, and showin_is sharp teeth. The fine beauty of his skin and his complexion, some almos_axen quality, hid the strange, repellent grossness of him, the slight sens_f putrescence, the commonness which revealed itself in his rather fat thigh_nd loins.
Winifred saw at once the deferential, slightly servile, slightly cunnin_egard he had for Ursula, which made the girl at once so proud and s_erplexed.
"But is this place as awful as it looks?" the young girl asked, a strain i_er eyes.
"It is just what it looks," he said. "It hides nothing."
"Why are the men so sad?"
"Are they sad?" he replied.
"They seem unutterably, unutterably sad," said Ursula, out of a passionat_hroat.
"I don't think they are that. They just take it for granted."
"What do they take for granted?"
"This—the pits and the place altogether."
"Why don't they alter it?" she passionately protested.
"They believe they must alter themselves to fit the pits and the place, rathe_han alter the pits and the place to fit themselves. It is easier," he said.
"And you agree with them," burst out his niece, unable to bear it. "You thin_ike they do—that living human beings must be taken and adapted to all kind_f horrors. We could easily do without the pits."
He smiled, uncomfortably, cynically. Ursula felt again the revolt of hatre_rom him.
"I suppose their lives are not really so bad," said Winifred Inger, superio_o the Zolaesque tragedy.
He turned with his polite, distant attention.
"Yes, they are pretty bad. The pits are very deep, and hot, and in some place_et. The men die of consumption fairly often. But they earn good wages."
"How gruesome!" said Winifred Inger.
"Yes," he replied gravely. It was his grave, solid, selfcontained manner whic_ade him so much respected as a colliery manager.
The servant came in to ask where they would have tea.
"Put it in the summer-house, Mrs. Smith," he said.
The fair-haired, good-looking young woman went out.
"Is she married and in service?" asked Ursula.
"She is a widow. Her husband died of consumption a little while ago." Brangwe_ave a sinister little laugh. "He lay there in the house-place at he_other's, and five or six other people in the house, and died very gradually.
I asked her if his death wasn't a great trouble to her. 'Well,' she said, 'h_as very fretful towards the last, never satisfied, never easy, always fret- fretting, an' never knowing what would satisfy him. So in one way it was _elief when it was over—for him and for everybody.' They had only been marrie_wo years, and she has one boy. I asked her if she hadn't been very happy.
'Oh, yes, sir, we was very comfortable at first, till he took bad—oh, we wa_ery comfortable—oh, yes—but, you see, you get used to it. I've had my fathe_nd two brothers go off just the same. You get used to it'."
"It's a horrible thing to get used to," said Winifred Inger, with a shudder.
"Yes," he said, still smiling. "But that's how they are. She'll be gettin_arried again directly. One man or another—it does not matter very much.
They're all colliers."
"What do you mean?" asked Ursula. "They're all colliers?"
"It is with the women as with us," he replied. "Her husband was John Smith, loader. We reckoned him as a loader, he reckoned himself as a loader, and s_he knew he represented his job. Marriage and home is a little side-show.
"The women know it right enough, and take it for what it's worth. One man o_nother, it doesn't matter all the world. The pit matters. Round the pit ther_ill always be the sideshows, plenty of 'em."
He looked round at the red chaos, the rigid, amorphous confusion of Wiggiston.
"Every man his own little side-show, his home, but the pit owns every man. Th_omen have what is left. What's left of this man, or what is left of that—i_oesn't matter altogether. The pit takes all that really matters."
"It is the same everywhere," burst out Winifred. "It is the office, or th_hop, or the business that gets the man, the woman gets the bit the shop can'_igest. What is he at home, a man? He is a meaningless lump—a standin_achine, a machine out of work."
"They know they are sold," said Tom Brangwen. "That's where it is. They kno_hey are sold to their job. If a woman talks her throat out, what differenc_an it make? The man's sold to his job. So the women don't bother. They tak_hat they can catch—and vogue la galere."
"Aren't they very strict here?" asked Miss Inger.
"Oh, no. Mrs. Smith has two sisters who have just changed husbands. They'r_ot very particular—neither are they very interested. They go dragging alon_hat is left from the pits. They're not interested enough to be ver_mmoral—it all amounts to the same thing, moral or immoral—just a question o_it-wages. The most moral duke in England makes two hundred thousand a yea_ut of these pits. He keeps the morality end up."
Ursula sat black-souled and very bitter, hearing the two of them talk. Ther_eemed something ghoulish even in their very deploring of the state of things.
They seemed to take a ghoulish satisfaction in it. The pit was the grea_istress. Ursula looked out of the window and saw the proud, demonlik_olliery with her wheels twinkling in the heavens, the formless, squalid mas_f the town lying aside. It was the squalid heap of side-shows. The pit wa_he main show, the raison d'etre of all.
How terrible it was! There was a horrible fascination in it—human bodies an_ives subjected in slavery to that symmetric monster of the colliery. Ther_as a swooning, perverse satisfaction in it. For a moment she was dizzy.
Then she recovered, felt herself in a great loneliness, where-in she was sa_ut free. She had departed. No more would she subscribe to the great colliery, to the great machine which has taken us all captives. In her soul, she wa_gainst it, she disowned even its power. It had only to be forsaken to b_nane, meaningless. And she knew it was meaningless. But it needed a great, passionate effort of will on her part, seeing the colliery, still to maintai_er knowledge that it was meaningless.
But her Uncle Tom and her mistress remained there among the horde, cynicall_eviling the monstrous state and yet adhering to it, like a man who revile_is mistress, yet who is in love with her. She knew her Uncle Tom perceive_hat was going on. But she knew moreover that in spite of his criticism an_ondemnation, he still wanted the great machine. His only happy moments, hi_nly moments of pure freedom were when he was serving the machine. Then, an_hen only, when the machine caught him up, was he free from the hatred o_imself, could he act wholely, without cynicism and unreality.
His real mistress was the machine, and the real mistress of Winifred was th_achine. She too, Winifred, worshipped the impure abstraction, the mechanism_f matter. There, there, in the machine, in service of the machine, was sh_ree from the clog and degradation of human feeling. There, in the monstrou_echanism that held all matter, living or dead, in its service, did sh_chieve her consummation and her perfect unison, her immortality.
Hatred sprang up in Ursula's heart. If she could she would smash the machine.
Her soul's action should be the smashing of the great machine. If she coul_estroy the collliery, and make all the men of Wiggiston out of work, sh_ould do it. Let them starve and grub in the earth for roots, rather tha_erve such a Moloch as this.
She hated her Uncle Tom, she hated Winifred Inger. They went down to th_ummer-house for tea. It was a pleasant place among a few trees, at the end o_ tiny garden, on the edge of a field. Her Uncle Tom and Winifred seemed t_eer at her, to cheapen her. She was miserable and desolate. But she woul_ever give way.
Her coldness for Winifred should never cease. She knew it was over betwee_hem. She saw gross, ugly movements in her mistress, she saw a clayey, inert, unquickened flesh, that reminded her of the great prehistoric lizards. One da_er Uncle Tom came in out of the broiling sunshine heated from walking. The_he perspiration stood out upon his head and brow, his hand was wet and ho_nd suffocating in its clasp. He too had something marshy about him—th_ucculent moistness and turgidity, and the same brackish, nauseating effect o_ marsh, where life and decaying are one.
He was repellent to her, who was so dry and fine in her fire. Her very bone_eemed to bid him keep his distance from her.
It was in these weeks that Ursula grew up. She stayed two weeks at Wiggiston, and she hated it. All was grey, dry ash, cold and dead and ugly. But sh_tayed. She stayed also to get rid of Winifred. The girl's hatred and he_ense of repulsiveness in her mistress and in her uncle seemed to throw th_ther two together. They drew together as if against her.
In hardness and bitterness of soul, Ursula knew that Winifred was become he_ncle's lover. She was glad. She had loved them both. Now she wanted to be ri_f them both. Their marshy, bitter-sweet corruption came sick and unwholesom_n her nostrils. Anything, to get out of the foetid air. She would leave the_oth for ever, leave for ever their strange, soft, half-corrupt element.
Anything to get away.
One night Winifred came all burning into Ursula's bed, and put her arms roun_he girl, holding her to herself in spite of unwillingness, and said,
"Dear, my dear—shall I marry Mr. Brangwen—shall I?"
The clinging, heavy, muddy question weighed on Ursula intolerably.
"Has he asked you?" she said, using all her might of hard resistance.
"He's asked me," said Winifred. "Do you want me to marry him, Ursula?"
"Yes," said Ursula.
The arms tightened more on her.
"I knew you did, my sweet—and I will marry him. You're fond of him, aren'_ou?"
"I've been awfully fond of him—ever since I was a child."
"I know—I know. I can see what you like in him. He is a man by himself, he ha_omething apart from the rest."
"Yes," said Ursula.
"But he's not like you, my dear—ha, he's not as good as you. There's somethin_ven objectionable in him—his thick thighs—"
Ursula was silent.
"But I'll marry him, my dear—it will be best. Now say you love me."
A sort of profession was extorted out of the girl. Nevertheless her mistres_ent away sighing, to weep in her own chamber.
In two days' time Ursula left Wiggiston. Miss Inger went to Nottingham. Ther_as an engagement between her and Tom Brangwen, which the uncle seemed t_aunt as if it were an assurance of his validity.
Brangwen and Winifred Inger continued engaged for another term. Then the_arried. Brangwen had reached the age when he wanted children. He wante_hildren. Neither marriage nor the domestic establishment meant anything t_im. He wanted to propagate himself. He knew what he was doing. He had th_nstinct of a growing inertia, of a thing that chooses its place of rest i_hich to lapse into apathy, complete, profound indifference. He would let th_achinery carry him; husband, father, pit-manager, warm clay lifted throug_he recurrent action of day after day by the great machine from which i_erived its motion. As for Winifred, she was an educated woman, and of th_ame sort as himself. She would make a good companion. She was his mate.