Ursula went home to Beldover faint, dim, closed up. She could scarcely spea_r notice. It was as if her energy were frozen. Her people asked her what wa_he matter. She told them she had broken off the engagement with Skrebensky.
They looked blank and angry. But she could not feel any more.
The weeks crawled by in apathy. He would have sailed for India now. She wa_carcely interested. She was inert, without strength or interest.
Suddenly a shock ran through her, so violent that she thought she was struc_own. Was she with child? She had been so stricken under the pain of hersel_nd of him, this had never occurred to her. Now like a flame it took hold o_er limbs and body. Was she with child?
In the first flaming hours of wonder, she did not know what she felt. She wa_s if tied to the stake. The flames were licking her and devouring her. Bu_he flames were also good. They seemed to wear her away to rest. What she fel_n her heart and her womb she did not know. It was a kind of swoon.
Then gradually the heaviness of her heart pressed and pressed int_onsciousness. What was she doing? Was she bearing a child? Bearing a child?
Her flesh thrilled, but her soul was sick. It seemed, this child, like th_eal set on her own nullity. Yet she was glad in her flesh that she was wit_hild. She began to think, that she would write to Skrebensky, that she woul_o out to him, and marry him, and live simply as a good wife to him. What di_he self, the form of life matter? Only the living from day to day mattered, the beloved existence in the body, rich, peaceful, complete, with no beyond, no further trouble, no further complication. She had been wrong, she had bee_rrogant and wicked, wanting that other thing, that fantastic freedom, tha_llusory, conceited fulfilment which she had imagined she could not have wit_krebensky. Who was she to be wanting some fantastic fulfilment in her life?
Was it not enough that she had her man, her children, her place of shelte_nder the sun? Was it not enough for her, as it had been enough for he_other? She would marry and love her husband and fill her place simply. Tha_as the ideal.
Suddenly she saw her mother in a just and true light. Her mother was simpl_nd radically true. She had taken the life that was given. She had not, in he_rrogant conceit, insisted on creating life to fit herself. Her mother wa_ight, profoundly right, and she herself had been false, trashy, conceited.
A great mood of humility came over her, and in this humility a bondaged sor_f peace. She gave her limbs to the bondage, she loved the bondage, she calle_t peace. In this state she sat down to write to Skrebensky.
Since you left me I have suffered a great deal, and so have come to myself. _annot tell you the remorse I feel for my wicked, perverse behaviour. It wa_iven to me to love you, and to know your love for me. But instead o_hankfully, on my knees, taking what God had given me, I must have the moon i_y keeping, I must insist on having the moon for my own. Because I could no_ave it, everything else must go.
I do not know if you can ever forgive me. I could die with shame to think o_y behaviour with you during our last times, and I don't know if I could eve_ear to look you in the face again. Truly the best thing would be for me t_ie, and cover my fantasies for ever. But I find I am with child, so tha_annot be.
It is your child, and for that reason I must revere it and submit my bod_ntirely to its welfare, entertaining no thought of death, which once more i_argely conceit. Therefore, because you once loved me, and because this chil_s your child, I ask you to have me back. If you will cable me one word, _ill come to you as soon as I can. I swear to you to be a dutiful wife, and t_erve you in all things. For now I only hate myself and my own conceite_oolishness. I love you—I love the thought of you—you were natural and decen_ll through, whilst I was so false. Once I am with you again, I shall ask n_ore than to rest in your shelter all my life——
This letter she wrote, sentence by sentence, as if from her deepest, sinceres_eart. She felt that now, now, she was at the depths of herself. This was he_rue self, forever. With this document she would appear before God at th_udgment Day.
For what had a woman but to submit? What was her flesh but for childbearing, her strength for her children and her husband, the giver of life? At last sh_as a woman.
She posted her letter to his club, to be forwarded to him in Calcutta. H_ould receive it soon after his arrival in India—within three weeks of hi_rrival there. In a month's time she would receive word from him. Then sh_ould go.
She was quite sure of him. She thought only of preparing her garments and o_iving quietly, peacefully, till the time when she should join him again an_er history would be concluded for ever. The peace held like an unnatural cal_or a long time. She was aware, however, of a gathering restiveness, a tumul_mpending within her. She tried to run away from it. She wished she could hea_rom Skrebensky, in answer to her letter, so that her course should b_esolved, she should be engaged in fulfilling her fate. It was this inactivit_hich made her liable to the revulsion she dreaded.
It was curious how little she cared about his not having written to he_efore. It was enough that she had sent her letter. She would get the require_nswer, that was all.
One afternoon in early October, feeling the seething rising to madness withi_er, she slipped out in the rain, to walk abroad, lest the house shoul_uffocate her. Everywhere was drenched wet and deserted, the grimed house_lowed dull red, the butt houses burned scarlet in a gleam of light, under th_listening, blackish purple slates. Ursula went on towards Willey Green. Sh_ifted her face and walked swiftly, seeing the passage of light across th_hallow valley, seeing the colliery and its clouds of steam for a momen_isionary in dim brilliance, away in the chaos of rain. Then the veils close_gain. She was glad of the rain's privacy and intimacy.
Making on towards the wood, she saw the pale gleam of Willey Water through th_loud below, she walked the open space where hawthorn trees streamed like hai_n the wind and round bushes were presences slowing through the atmosphere. I_as very splendid, free and chaotic.
Yet she hurried to the wood for shelter. There, the vast booming overhea_ibrated down and encircled her, tree-trunks spanned the circle of tremendou_ound, myriads of tree-trunks, enormous and streaked black with water, thrus_ike stanchions upright between the roaring overhead and the sweeping of th_ircle underfoot. She glided between the tree-trunks, afraid of them. The_ight turn and shut her in as she went through their martialled silence.
So she flitted along, keeping an illusion that she was unnoticed. She fel_ike a bird that has flown in through the window of a hall where vast warrior_it at the board. Between their grave, booming ranks she was hastening, assuming she was unnoticed, till she emerged, with beating heart, through th_ar window and out into the open, upon the vivid green, marshy meadow.
She turned under the shelter of the common, seeing the great veils of rai_winging with slow, floating waves across the landscape. She was very wet an_ long way from home, far enveloped in the rain and the waving landscape. Sh_ust beat her way back through all this fluctuation, back to stability an_ecurity.
A solitary thing, she took the track straight across the wilderness, goin_ack. The path was a narrow groove in the turf between high, sere, tussock_rass; it was scarcely more than a rabbit run. So she moved swiftly along, watching her footing, going like a bird on the wind, with no thought, contained in motion. But her heart had a small, living seed of fear, as sh_ent through the wash of hollow space.
Suddenly she knew there was something else. Some horses were looming in th_ain, not near yet. But they were going to be near. She continued her path, inevitably. They were horses in the lee of a clump of trees beyond, above her.
She pursued her way with bent head. She did not want to lift her face to them.
She did not want to know they were there. She went on in the wild track.
She knew the heaviness on her heart. It was the weight of the horses. But sh_ould circumvent them. She would bear the weight steadily, and so escape. Sh_ould go straight on, and on, and be gone by.
Suddenly the weight deepened and her heart grew tense to bear it. He_reathing was laboured. But this weight also she could bear. She knew withou_ooking that the horses were moving nearer. What were they? She felt the thu_f their heavy hoofs on the ground. What was it that was drawing near her, what weight oppressing her heart? She did not know, she did not look.
Yet now her way was cut off. They were blocking her back. She knew they ha_athered on a log bridge over the sedgy dike, a dark, heavy, powerfully heav_not. Yet her feet went on and on. They would burst before her. They woul_urst before her. Her feet went on and on. And tense, and more tense becam_er nerves and her veins, they ran hot, they ran white hot, they must fuse an_he must die.
But the horses had burst before her. In a sort of lightning of knowledge thei_ovement travelled through her, the quiver and strain and thrust of thei_owerful flanks, as they burst before her and drew on, beyond.
She knew they had not gone, she knew they awaited her still. But she went o_ver the log bridge that their hoofs had churned and drummed, she went on, knowing things about them. She was aware of their breasts gripped, clenche_arrow in a hold that never relaxed, she was aware of their red nostril_laming with long endurance, and of their haunches, so rounded, so massive, pressing, pressing, pressing to burst the grip upon their breasts, pressin_or ever till they went mad, running against the walls of time, and neve_ursting free. Their great haunches were smoothed and darkened with rain. Bu_he darkness and wetness of rain could not put out the hard, urgent, massiv_ire that was locked within these flanks, never, never.
She went on, drawing near. She was aware of the great flash of hoofs, _luish, iridescent flash surrounding a hollow of darkness. Large, large seeme_he bluish, incandescent flash of the hoof-iron, large as a halo of lightnin_ound the knotted darkness of the flanks. Like circles of lightning came th_lash of hoofs from out of the powerful flanks.
They were awaiting her again. They had gathered under an oak tree, knottin_heir awful, blind, triumphing flanks together, and waiting, waiting. The_ere waiting for her approach. As if from a far distance she was drawing near, towards the line of twiggy oak trees where they made their intense darkness, gathered on a single bank.
She must draw near. But they broke away, they cantered round, making a wid_ircle to avoid noticing her, and cantered back into the open hillside behin_er.
They were behind her. The way was open before her, to the gate in the hig_edge in the near distance, so she could pass into the smaller, cultivate_ield, and so out to the high-road and the ordered world of man. Her way wa_lear. She lulled her heart. Yet her heart was couched with fear, couched wit_ear all along.
Suddenly she hesitated as if seized by lightning. She seemed to fall, ye_ound herself faltering forward with small steps. The thunder of horse_alloping down the path behind her shook her, the weight came down upon her, down, to the moment of extinction. She could not look round, so the horse_hundered upon her.
Cruelly, they swerved and crashed by on her left hand. She saw the fierc_lanks crinkled and as yet inadequate, the great hoofs flashing bright as ye_nly brandished about her, and one by one the horses crashed by, intent, working themselves up.
They had gone by, brandishing themselves thunderously about her, enclosin_er. They slackened their burst transport, they slowed down, and cantere_ogether into a knot once more, in the corner by the gate and the trees ahea_f her. They stirred, they moved uneasily, they settled their uneasy flank_nto one group, one purpose. They were up against her.
Her heart was gone, she had no more heart. She knew she dare not draw near.
That concentrated, knitted flank of the horse-group had conquered. It stirre_neasily, awaiting her, knowing its triumph. It stirred uneasily, with th_neasiness of awaited triumph. Her heart was gone, her limbs were dissolved, she was dissolved like water. All the hardness and looming power was in th_assive body of the horse-group.
Her feet faltered, she came to a standstill. It was the crisis. The horse_tirred their flanks uneasily. She looked away, failing. On her left, tw_undred yards down the slope, the thick hedge ran parallel. At one point ther_as an oak tree. She might climb into the boughs of that oak tree, and s_ound and drop on the other side of the hedge.
Shuddering, with limbs like water, dreading every moment to fall, she began t_ork her way as if making a wide detour round the horse-mass. The horse_tirred their flanks in a knot against her. She trembled forward as if in _rance.
Then suddenly, in a flame of agony, she darted, seized the rugged knots of th_ak tree and began to climb. Her body was weak but her hands were as hard a_teel. She knew she was strong. She struggled in a great effort till she hun_n the bough. She knew the horses were aware. She gained her foot-hold on th_ough. The horses were loosening their knot, stirring, trying to realise. Sh_as working her way round to the other side of the tree. As they started t_anter towards her, she fell in a heap on the other side of the hedge.
For some moments she could not move. Then she saw through the rabbit-cleare_ottom of the hedge the great, working hoofs of the horses as they cantere_ear. She could not bear it. She rose and walked swiftly, diagonally acros_he field. The horses galloped along the other side of the hedge to th_orner, where they were held up. She could feel them there in their huddle_roup all the while she hastened across the bare field. They were almos_athetic, now. Her will alone carried her, till, trembling, she climbed th_ence under a leaning thorn tree that overhung the grass by the high-road. Th_se went from her, she sat on the fence leaning back against the trunk of th_horn tree, motionless.
As she sat there, spent, time and the flux of change passed away from her, sh_ay as if unconscious upon the bed of the stream, like a stone, unconscious, unchanging, unchangeable, whilst everything rolled by in transience, leavin_er there, a stone at rest on the bed of the stream, inalterable and passive, sunk to the bottom of all change.
She lay still a long time, with her back against the thorn tree trunk, in he_inal isolation. Some colliers passed, tramping heavily up the wet road, thei_oices sounding out, their shoulders up to their ears, their figures blotche_nd spectral in the rain. Some did not see her. She opened her eyes languidl_s they passed by. Then one man going alone saw her. The whites of his eye_howed in his black face as he looked in wonderment at her. He hesitated i_is walk, as if to speak to her, out of frightened concern for her. How sh_readed his speaking to her, dreaded his questioning her.
She slipped from her seat and went vaguely along the path—vaguely. It was _ong way home. She had an idea that she must walk for the rest of her life, wearily, wearily. Step after step, step after step, and always along the wet, rainy road between the hedges. Step after step, step after step, the monoton_roduced a deep, cold sense of nausea in her. How profound was her col_ausea, how profound! That too plumbed the bottom. She seemed destined to fin_he bottom of all things to-day: the bottom of all things. Well, at any rat_he was walking along the bottom-most bed—she was quite safe: quite safe, i_he had to go on and on for ever, seeing this was the very bottom, and ther_as nothing deeper. There was nothing deeper, you see, so one could not bu_eel certain, passive.
She arrived home at last. The climb up the hill to Beldover had been ver_rying. Why must one climb the hill? Why must one climb? Why not stay below?
Why force one's way up the slope? Why force one's way up and up, when one i_t the bottom? Oh, it was very trying, very wearying, very burdensome. Alway_urdens, always, always burdens. Still, she must get to the top and go home t_ed. She must go to bed.
She got in and went upstairs in the dusk without its being noticed she was i_uch a sodden condition. She was too tired to go downstairs again. She go_nto bed and lay shuddering with cold, yet too apathetic to get up or call fo_elief. Then gradually she became more ill.
She was very ill for a fortnight, delirious, shaken and racked. But always, amid the ache of delirium, she had a dull firmness of being, a sense o_ermanency. She was in some way like the stone at the bottom of the river, inviolable and unalterable, no matter what storm raged in her body. Her sou_ay still and permanent, full of pain, but itself for ever. Under all he_llness, persisted a deep, inalterable knowledge.
She knew, and she cared no more. Throughout her illness, distorted into vagu_orms, persisted the question of herself and Skrebensky, like a gnawing ach_hat was still superficial, and did not touch her isolated, impregnable cor_f reality. But the corrosion of him burned in her till it burned itself out.
Must she belong to him, must she adhere to him? Something compelled her, an_et it was not real. Always the ache, the ache of unreality, of her belongin_o Skrebensky. What bound her to him when she was not bound to him? Why di_he falsity persist? Why did the falsity gnaw, gnaw, gnaw at her, why coul_he not wake up to clarity, to reality. If she could but wake up, if she coul_ut wake up, the falsity of the dream, of her connection with Skrebensky, would be gone. But the sleep, the delirium pinned her down. Even when she wa_alm and sober she was in its spell.
Yet she was never in its spell. What extraneous thing bound her to him? Ther_as some bond put upon her. Why could she not break it through? What was it?
What was it?
In her delirium she beat and beat at the question. And at last her wearines_ave her the answer—it was the child. The child bound her to him. The chil_as like a bond round her brain, tightened on her brain. It bound her t_krebensky.
But why, why did it bind her to Skrebensky? Could she not have a child o_erself? Was not the child her own affair? all her own affair? What had it t_o with him? Why must she be bound, aching and cramped with the bondage, t_krebensky and Skrebensky's world? Anton's world: it became in her feveris_rain a compression which enclosed her. If she could not get out of th_ompression she would go mad. The compression was Anton and Anton's world, no_he Anton she possessed, but the Anton she did not possess, that which wa_wned by some other influence, by the world.
She fought and fought and fought all through her illness to be free of him an_is world, to put it aside, to put it aside, into its place. Yet ever anew i_ained ascendency over her, it laid new hold on her. Oh, the unutterabl_eariness of her flesh, which she could not cast off, nor yet extricate. I_he could but extricate herself, if she could but disengage herself fro_eeling, from her body, from all the vast encumbrances of the world that wa_n contact with her, from her father, and her mother, and her lover, and al_er acquaintance.
Repeatedly, in an ache of utter weariness she repeated: "I have no father no_other nor lover, I have no allocated place in the world of things, I do no_elong to Beldover nor to Nottingham nor to England nor to this world, the_one of them exist, I am trammelled and entangled in them, but they are al_nreal. I must break out of it, like a nut from its shell which is a_nreality."
And again, to her feverish brain, came the vivid reality of acorns in Februar_ying on the floor of a wood with their shells burst and discarded and th_ernel issued naked to put itself forth. She was the naked, clear kerne_hrusting forth the clear, powerful shoot, and the world was a bygone winter, discarded, her mother and father and Anton, and college and all her friends, all cast off like a year that has gone by, whilst the kernel was free an_aked and striving to take new root, to create a new knowledge of Eternity i_he flux of Time. And the kernel was the only reality; the rest was cast of_nto oblivion.
This grew and grew upon her. When she opened her eyes in the afternoon and sa_he window of her room and the faint, smoky landscape beyond, this was al_usk and shell lying by, all husk and shell, she could see nothing else, sh_as enclosed still, but loosely enclosed. There was a space between her an_he shell. It was burst, there was a rift in it. Soon she would have her roo_ixed in a new Day, her nakedness would take itself the bed of a new sky and _ew air, this old, decaying, fibrous husk would be gone.
Gradually she began really to sleep. She slept in the confidence of her ne_eality. She slept breathing with her soul the new air of a new world. Th_eace was very deep and enrichening. She had her root in new ground, she wa_radually absorbed into growth.
When she woke at last it seemed as if a new day had come on the earth. Ho_ong, how long had she fought through the dust and obscurity, for this ne_awn? How frail and fine and clear she felt, like the most fragile flower tha_pens in the end of winter. But the pole of night was turned and the dawn wa_oming in.
Very far off was her old experience—Skrebensky, her parting with him—very fa_ff. Some things were real; those first glamorous weeks. Before, these ha_eemed like hallucination. Now they seemed like common reality. The rest wa_nreal. She knew that Skrebensky had never become finally real. In the week_f passionate ecstasy he had been with her in her desire, she had created hi_or the time being. But in the end he had failed and broken down.
Strange, what a void separated him and her. She liked him now, as she liked _emory, some bygone self. He was something of the past, finite. He was tha_hich is known. She felt a poignant affection for him, as for that which i_ast. But, when she looked with her face forward, he was not. Nay, when sh_ooked ahead, into the undiscovered land before her, what was there she coul_ecognise but a fresh glow of light and inscrutable trees going up from th_arth like smoke. It was the unknown, the unexplored, the undiscovered upo_hose shore she had landed, alone, after crossing the void, the darkness whic_ashed the New World and the Old.
There would be no child: she was glad. If there had been a child, it woul_ave made little difference, however. She would have kept the child an_erself, she would not have gone to Skrebensky. Anton belonged to the past.
There came the cablegram from Skrebensky: "I am married." An old pain an_nger and contempt stirred in her. Did he belong so utterly to the cast-of_ast? She repudiated him. He was as he was. It was good that he was as he was.
Who was she to have a man according to her own desire? It was not for her t_reate, but to recognise a man created by God. The man should come from th_nfinite and she should hail him. She was glad she could not create her man.
She was glad she had nothing to do with his creation. She was glad that thi_ay within the scope of that vaster power in which she rested at last. The ma_ould come out of Eternity to which she herself belonged.
As she grew better, she sat to watch a new creation. As she sat at her window, she saw the people go by in the street below, colliers, women, children, walking each in the husk of an old fruition, but visible through the husk, th_welling and the heaving contour of the new germination. In the still, silenced forms of the colliers she saw a sort of suspense, a waiting in pai_or the new liberation; she saw the same in the false hard confidence of th_omen. The confidence of the women was brittle. It would break quickly t_eveal the strength and patient effort of the new germination.
In everything she saw she grasped and groped to find the creation of th_iving God, instead of the old, hard barren form of bygone living. Sometime_reat terror possessed her. Sometimes she lost touch, she lost her feeling, she could only know the old horror of the husk which bound in her and al_ankind. They were all in prison, they were all going mad.
She saw the stiffened bodies of the colliers, which seemed already enclosed i_ coffin, she saw their unchanging eyes, the eyes of those who are burie_live: she saw the hard, cutting edges of the new houses, which seemed t_pread over the hillside in their insentient triumph, the triumph of horrible, amorphous angles and straight lines, the expression of corruption triumphan_nd unopposed, corruption so pure that it is hard and brittle: she saw the du_tmosphere over the blackened hills opposite, the dark blotches of houses, slate roofed and amorphous, the old church-tower standing up in hideou_bsoleteness above raw new houses on the crest of the hill, the amorphous, brittle, hard edged new houses advancing from Beldover to meet the corrupt ne_ouses from Lethley, the houses of Lethley advancing to mix with the houses o_ainor, a dry, brittle, terrible corruption spreading over the face of th_and, and she was sick with a nausea so deep that she perished as she sat. An_hen, in the blowing clouds, she saw a band of faint iridescence colouring i_aint colours a portion of the hill. And forgetting, startled, she looked fo_he hovering colour and saw a rainbow forming itself. In one place it gleame_iercely, and, her heart anguished with hope, she sought the shadow of iri_here the bow should be. Steadily the colour gathered, mysteriously, fro_owhere, it took presence upon itself, there was a faint, vast rainbow. Th_rc bended and strengthened itself till it arched indomitable, making grea_rchitecture of light and colour and the space of heaven, its pedestal_uminous in the corruption of new houses on the low hill, its arch the top o_eaven.
And the rainbow stood on the earth. She knew that the sordid people who crep_ard-scaled and separate on the face of the world's corruption were livin_till, that the rainbow was arched in their blood and would quiver to life i_heir spirit, that they would cast off their horny covering of disintegration, that new, clean, naked bodies would issue to a new germination, to a ne_rowth, rising to the light and the wind and the clean rain of heaven. She sa_n the rainbow the earth's new architecture, the old, brittle corruption o_ouses and factories swept away, the world built up in a living fabric o_ruth, fitting to the over-arching heaven.