There was always regular connection between the Yew Cottage and the Marsh, ye_he two households remained separate, distinct.
After Anna's marriage, the Marsh became the home of the two boys, Tom an_red. Tom was a rather short, good-looking youth, with crisp black hair an_ong black eyelashes and soft, dark, possessed eyes. He had a quic_ntelligence. From the High School he went to London to study. He had a_nstinct for attracting people of character and energy. He gave place entirel_o the other person, and at the same time kept himself independent. H_carcely existed except through other people. When he was alone he wa_nresolved. When he was with another man, he seemed to add himself to th_ther, make the other bigger than life size. So that a few people loved hi_nd attained a sort of fulfilment in him. He carefully chose these few.
He had a subtle, quick, critical intelligence, a mind that was like a scale o_alance. There was something of a woman in all this.
In London he had been the favourite pupil of an engineer, a clever man, wh_ecame well-known at the time when Tom Brangwen had just finished his studies.
Through this master the youth kept acquaintance with various individual, outstanding characters. He never asserted himself. He seemed to be there t_stimate and establish the rest. He was like a presence that makes us aware o_ur own being. So that he was while still young connected with some of th_ost energetic scientific and mathematical people in London. They took him a_n equal. Quiet and perceptive and impersonal as he was, he kept his place an_earned how to value others in just degree. He was there like a judgment.
Besides, he was very good-looking, of medium stature, but beautifull_roportioned, dark, with fine colouring, always perfectly healthy.
His father allowed him a liberal pocket-money, besides which he had a sort o_ost as assistant to his chief. Then from time to time the young man appeare_t the Marsh, curiously attractive, well-dressed, reserved, having by nature _ubtle, refined manner. And he set the change in the farm.
Fred, the younger brother, was a Brangwen, large-boned, blue-eyed, English. H_as his father's very son, the two men, father and son, were supremely at eas_ith one another. Fred was succeeding to the farm.
Between the elder brother and the younger existed an almost passionate love.
Tom watched over Fred with a woman's poignant attention and self-less care.
Fred looked up to Tom as to something miraculous, that which he himself woul_spire to be, were he great also.
So that after Anna's departure, the Marsh began to take on a new tone. Th_oys were gentlemen; Tom had a rare nature and had risen high. Fred wa_ensitive and fond of reading, he pondered Ruskin and then the Agnosti_ritings. Like all the Brangwens, he was very much a thing to himself, thoug_ond of people, and indulgent to them, having an exaggerated respect for them.
There was a rather uneasy friendship between him and one of the young Hardy_t the Hall. The two households were different, yet the young men met on sh_erms of equality.
It was young Tom Brangwen, with his dark lashes and beautiful colouring, hi_oft, inscrutable nature, his strange repose and his informed air, added t_is position in London, who seemed to emphasise the superior foreign elemen_n the Marsh. When he appeared, perfectly dressed, as if soft and affable, an_et quite removed from everybody, he created an uneasiness in people, he wa_eserved in the minds of the Cossethay and Ilkeston acquaintances to _ifferent, remote world.
He and his mother had a kind of affinity. The affection between them was of _ute, distant character, but radical. His father was always uneasy an_lightly deferential to his eldest son. Tom also formed the link that kept th_arsh in real connection with the Skrebenskys, now quite important people i_heir own district.
So a change in tone came over the Marsh. Tom Brangwen the father, as he gre_lder, seemed to mature into a gentleman-farmer. His figure lent itself: burl_nd handsome. His face remained fresh and his blue eyes as full of light, hi_hick hair and beard had turned gradually to a silky whiteness. It was hi_ustom to laugh a great deal, in his acquiescent, wilful manner. Things ha_uzzled him very much, so he had taken the line of easy, good-humoure_cceptance. He was not responsible for the frame of things. Yet he was afrai_f the unknown in life.
He was fairly well-off. His wife was there with him, a different being fro_imself, yet somewhere vitally connected with him:-who was he to understan_here and how? His two sons were gentlemen. They were men distinct fro_imself, they had separate beings of their own, yet they were connected wit_imself. It was all adventurous and puzzling. Yet one remained vital withi_ne's own existence, whatever the off-shoots.
So, handsome and puzzled, he laughed and stuck to himself as the only thing h_ould stick to. His youngness and the wonder remained almost the same in him.
He became indolent, he developed a luxuriant ease. Fred did most of the farm- work, the father saw to the more important transactions. He drove a good mare, and sometimes he rode his cob. He drank in the hotels and the inns wit_etter-class farmers and proprietors, he had well-to-do acquaintances amon_en. But one class suited him no better than another.
His wife, as ever, had no acquaintances. Her hair was threaded now with grey, her face grew older in form without changing in expression. She seemed th_ame as when she had come to the Marsh twenty-five years ago, save that he_ealth was more fragile. She seemed always to haunt the Marsh rather than t_ive there. She was never part of the life. Something she represented wa_lien there, she remained a stranger within the gates, in some ways fixed an_mpervious, in some ways curiously refining. She caused the separateness an_ndividuality of all the Marsh inmates, the friability of the household.
When young Tom Brangwen was twenty-three years old there was some breac_etween him and his chief which was never explained, and he went away t_taly, then to America. He came home for a while, then went to Germany; alway_he same good-looking, carefully-dressed, attractive young man, in perfec_ealth, yet somehow outside of everything. In his dark eyes was a deep miser_hich he wore with the same ease and pleasantness as he wore his close-sittin_lothes.
To Ursula he was a romantic, alluring figure. He had a grace of bringin_eautiful presents: a box of expensive sweets, such as Cossethay had neve_een; or he gave her a hair-brush and a long slim mirror of mother-of-pearl, all pale and glimmering and exquisite; or he sent her a little necklace o_ough stones, amethyst and opal and brilliants and garnet. He spoke othe_anguages easily and fluently, his nature was curiously gracious an_nsinuating. With all that, he was undefinably an outsider. He belonged t_owhere, to no society.
Anna Brangwen had left her intimacy with her father undeveloped since the tim_f her marriage. At her marriage it had been abandoned. He and she had drawn _eserve between them. Anna went more to her mother.
Then suddenly the father died.
It happened one springtime when Ursula was about eight years old, he, To_rangwen, drove off on a Saturday morning to the market in Nottingham, sayin_e might not be back till late, as there was a special show and then a meetin_e had to attend. His family understood that he would enjoy himself.
The season had been rainy and dreary. In the evening it was pouring with rain.
Fred Brangwen, unsettled, uneasy, did not go out, as was his wont. He smoke_nd read and fidgeted, hearing always the trickling of water outside. Thi_et, black night seemed to cut him off and make him unsettled, aware o_imself, aware that he wanted something else, aware that he was scarcel_iving. There seemed to him to be no root to his life, no place for him to ge_atisfied in. He dreamed of going abroad. But his instinct knew that change o_lace would not solve his problem. He wanted change, deep, vital change o_iving. And he did not know how to get it.
Tilly, an old woman now, came in saying that the labourers who had bee_uppering up said the yard and everywhere was just a slew of water. He hear_n indifference. But he hated a desolate, raw wetness in the world. He woul_eave the Marsh.
His mother was in bed. At last he shut his book, his mind was blank, he walke_pstairs intoxicated with depression and anger, and, intoxicated wit_epression and anger, locked himself into sleep.
Tilly set slippers before the kitchen fire, and she also went to bed, leavin_he door unlocked. Then the farm was in darkness, in the rain.
At eleven o'clock it was still raining. Tom Brangwen stood in the yard of the
"Angel", Nottingham, and buttoned his coat.
"Oh, well," he said cheerfully, "it's rained on me before. Put 'er in, Jack, my lad, put her in-Tha'rt a rare old cock, Jacky-boy, wi' a belly on thee a_oes credit to thy drink, if not to thy corn. Co' up lass, let's get off te_h' old homestead. Oh, my heart, what a wetness in the night! There'll be n_olcanoes after this. Hey, Jack, my beautiful young slender feller, which o_s is Noah? It seems as though the water-works is bursted. Ducks and ayquati_owl 'll be king o' the castle at this rate-dove an' olive branch an' all.
Stand up then, gel, stand up, we're not stoppin' here all night, even if yo_hought we was. I'm dashed if the jumping rain wouldn't make anybody thin_hey was drunk. Hey, Jack-does rain-water wash the sense in, or does it was_t out?" And he laughed to himself at the joke.
He was always ashamed when he had to drive after he had been drinking, alway_pologetic to the horse. His apologetic frame made him facetious. He was awar_f his inability to walk quite straight. Nevertheless his will kept stiff an_ttentive, in all his fuddleness.
He mounted and bowled off through the gates of the innyard. The mare wen_ell, he sat fixed, the rain beating on his face. His heavy body rod_otionless in a kind of sleep, one centre of attention was kept fitfull_urning, the rest was dark. He concentrated his last attention on the fact o_riving along the road he knew so well. He knew it so well, he watched for i_ttentively, with an effort of will.
He talked aloud to himself, sententious in his anxiety, as if he wer_erfectly sober, whilst the mare bowled along and the rain beat on him. H_atched the rain before the gig-lamps, the faint gleaming of the shadow_orse's body, the passing of the dark hedges.
"It's not a fit night to turn a dog out," he said to himself, aloud. "It'_igh time as it did a bit of clearing up, I'll be damned if it isn't. It was _ot of use putting those ten loads of cinders on th' road. They'll be washe_o kingdom-come if it doesn't alter. Well, it's our Fred's look-out, if the_re. He's top-sawyer as far as those things go. I don't see why I shoul_oncern myself. They can wash to kingdom-come and back again for what I care.
I suppose they would be washed back again some day. That's how things are. Th'
rain tumbles down just to mount up in clouds again. So they say. There's n_ore water on the earth than there was in the year naught. That's the story, my boy, if you understand it. There's no more to-day than there was a thousan_ears ago-nor no less either. You can't wear water out. No, my boy: it'll giv_ou the go-by. Try to wear it out, and it takes its hook into vapour, it ha_ts fingers at its nose to you. It turns into cloud and falleth as rain on th_ust and unjust. I wonder if I'm the just or the unjust."
He started awake as the trap lurched deep into a rut. And he wakened to th_oint in his journey. He had travelled some distance since he was las_onscious.
But at length he reached the gate, and stumbled heavily down, reeling, gripping fast to the trap. He descended into several inches of water.
"Be damned!" he said angrily. "Be damned to the miserable slop."
And he led the horse washing through the gate. He was quite drunk now, movin_lindly, in habit. Everywhere there was water underfoot.
The raised causeway of the house and the farm-stead was dry, however. Bu_here was a curious roar in the night which seemed to be made in the darknes_f his own intoxication. Reeling, blinded, almost without consciousness h_arried his parcels and the rug and cushions into the house, dropped them, an_ent out to put up the horse.
Now he was at home, he was a sleep-walker, waiting only for the moment o_ctivity to stop. Very deliberately and carefully, he led the horse down th_lope to the cart-shed. She shied and backed.
"Why, wha's amiss?" he hiccupped, plodding steadily on. And he was again in _ash of water, the horse splashed up water as he went. It was thickly dark, save for the gig-lamps, and they lit on a rippling surface of water.
"Well, that's a knock-out," he said, as he came to the cart-shed, and wa_ading in six inches of water. But everything seemed to him amusing. H_aughed to think of six inches of water being in the cart- shed.
He backed in the mare. She was restive. He laughed at the fun of untacklin_he mare with a lot of water washing round his feet. He laughed because i_pset her. "What's amiss, what's amiss, a drop o' water won't hurt you!" A_oon as he had undone the traces, she walked quickly away.
He hung up the shafts and took the gig-lamp. As he came out of the familia_umble of shafts and wheels in the shed, the water, in little waves, cam_ashing strongly against his legs. He staggered and almost fell.
"Well, what the deuce!" he said, staring round at the running water in th_lack, watery night.
He went to meet the running flood, sinking deeper and deeper. His soul wa_ull of great astonishment. He had to go and look where it came from, thoug_he ground was going from under his feet. He went on, down towards the pond, shakily. He rather enjoyed it. He was knee-deep, and the water was pullin_eavily. He stumbled, reeled sickeningly.
Fear took hold of him. Gripping tightly to the lamp, he reeled, and looke_ound. The water was carrying his feet away, he was dizzy. He did not kno_hich way to turn. The water was whirling, whirling, the whole black night wa_wooping in rings. He swayed uncertainly at the centre of all the attack, reeling in dismay. In his soul, he knew he would fall.
As he staggered something in the water struck his legs, and he fell. Instantl_e was in the turmoil of suffocation. He fought in a black horror o_uffocation, fighting, wrestling, but always borne down, borne inevitabl_own. Still he wrestled and fought to get himself free, in the unutterabl_truggle of suffocation, but he always fell again deeper. Something struck hi_ead, a great wonder of anguish went over him, then the blackness covered hi_ntirely.
In the utter darkness, the unconscious, drowning body was rolled along, th_aters pouring, washing, filling in the place. The cattle woke up and rose t_heir feet, the dog began to yelp. And the unconscious, drowning body wa_ashed along in the black, swirling darkness, passively.
Mrs. Brangwen woke up and listened. With preternaturally sharp senses sh_eard the movement of all the darkness that swirled outside. For a moment sh_ay still. Then she went to the window. She heard the sharp rain, and the dee_unning of water. She knew her husband was outside.
"Fred," she called, "Fred!"
Away in the night was a hoarse, brutal roar of a mass of water rushin_ownwards.
She went downstairs. She could not understand the multiplied running of water.
Stepping down the step into the kitchen, she put her foot into water. Th_itchen was flooded. Where did it come from? She could not understand.
Water was running in out of the scullery. She paddled through barefoot, t_ee. Water was bubbling fiercely under the outer door. She was afraid. The_omething washed against her, something twined under her foot. It was th_iding whip. On the table were the rug and the cushion and the parcel from th_ig.
He had come home.
"Tom!" she called, afraid of her own voice.
She opened the door. Water ran in with a horrid sound. Everywhere was movin_ater, a sound of waters.
"Tom!" she cried, standing in her nightdress with the candle, calling into th_arkness and the flood out of the doorway.
And she listened. Fred appeared behind her, in trousers and shirt.
"Where is he?" he asked.
He looked at the flood, then at his mother. She seemed small and uncanny, elvish, in her nightdress.
"Go upstairs," he said. "He'll be in th' stable."
"To-om! To-om!" cried the elderly woman, with a long, unnatural, penetratin_all that chilled her son to the marrow. He quickly pulled on his boots an_is coat.
"Go upstairs, mother," he said; "I'll go an' see where he is."
"To-om! To-o-om!" rang out the shrill, unearthly cry of the small woman. Ther_as only the noise of water and the mooing of uneasy cattle, and the lon_elping of the dog, clamouring in the darkness.
Fred Brangwen splashed out into the flood with a lantern. His mother stood o_ chair in the doorway, watching him go. It was all water, water, running, flashing under the lantern.
"Tom! Tom! To-o-om!" came her long, unnatural cry, ringing over the night. I_ade her son feel cold in his soul.
And the unconscious, drowning body of the father rolled on below the house, driven by the black water towards the high-road.
Tilly appeared, a skirt over her nightdress. She saw her mistress clinging o_he top of a chair in the open doorway, a candle burning on the table.
"God's sake!" cried the old serving-woman. "The cut's burst. That embankment'_roke down. Whativer are we goin' to do!"
Mrs. Brangwen watched her son, and the lantern, go along the upper causeway t_he stable. Then she saw the dark figure of a horse: then her son hung th_amp in the stable, and the light shone out faintly on him as he untackled th_are. The mother saw the soft blazed face of the horse thrust forward into th_table-door. The stables were still above the flood. But the water flowe_trongly into the house.
"It's getting higher," said Tilly. "Hasn't master come in?"
Mrs. Brangwen did not hear.
"Isn't he the-ere?" she called, in her far-reaching, terrifying voice.
"No," came the short answer out of the night.
"Go and loo-ok for him."
His mother's voice nearly drove the youth mad.
He put the halter on the horse and shut the stable door. He came splashin_ack through the water, the lantern swinging.
The unconscious, drowning body was pushed past the house in the deepes_urrent. Fred Brangwen came to his mother.
"I'll go to th' cart-shed," he said.
"To-om, To-o-om!" rang out the strong, inhuman cry. Fred Brangwen's bloo_roze, his heart was very angry. He gripped his veins in a frenzy. Why was sh_elling like this? He could not bear the sight of her, perched on a chair i_er white nightdress in the doorway, elvish and horrible.
"He's taken the mare out of the trap, so he's all right," he said, growling, pretending to be normal.
But as he descended to the cart-shed, he sank into a foot of water. He hear_he rushing in the distance, he knew the canal had broken down. The water wa_unning deeper.
The trap was there all right, but no signs of his father. The young man wade_own to the pond. The water rose above his knees, it swirled and forced him.
He drew back.
"Is he the-e-ere?" came the maddening cry of the mother.
"No," was the sharp answer.
"To-om-To-o-om!" came the piercing, free, unearthly call. It seemed high an_upernatural, almost pure. Fred Brangwen hated it. It nearly drove him mad. S_wfully it sang out, almost like a song.
The water was flowing fuller into the house.
"You'd better go up to Beeby's and bring him and Arthur down, and tell Mrs.
Beeby to fetch Wilkinson," said Fred to Tilly. He forced his mother to g_pstairs.
"I know your father is drowned," she said, in a curious dismay.
The flood rose through the night, till it washed the kettle off the hob in th_itchen. Mrs. Brangwen sat alone at a window upstairs. She called no more. Th_en were busy with the pigs and the cattle. They were coming with a boat fo_er.
Towards morning the rain ceased, the stars came out over the noise and th_errifying clucking and trickling of the water. Then there was a pallor in th_ast, the light began to come. In the ruddy light of the dawn she saw th_aters spreading out, moving sluggishly, the buildings rising out of a wast_f water. Birds began to sing, drowsily, and as if slightly hoarse with th_awn. It grew brighter. Up the second field was the great, raw gap in th_anal embankment.
Mrs. Brangwen went from window to window, watching the flood. Somebody ha_rought a little boat. The light grew stronger, the red gleam was gone off th_lood-waters, day took place. Mrs. Brangwen went from the front of the hous_o the back, looking out, intent and unrelaxing, on the pallid morning o_pring.
She saw a glimpse of her husband's buff coat in the floods, as the wate_olled the body against the garden hedge. She called to the men in the boat.
She was glad he was found. They dragged him out of the hedge. They could no_ift him into the boat. Fred Brangwen jumped into the water, up to his waist, and half carried the body of his father through the flood to the road. Hay an_wigs and dirt were in the beard and hair. The youth pushed through the wate_rying loudly without tears, like a stricken animal. The mother at the windo_ried, making no trouble.
The doctor came. But the body was dead. They carried it up to Cossethay, t_nna's house.
When Anna Brangwen heard the news, she pressed back her head and rolled he_yes, as if something were reaching forward to bite at her throat. She presse_ack her head, her mind was driven back to sleep. Since she had married an_ecome a mother, the girl she had been was forgotten. Now, the shoc_hreatened to break in upon her and sweep away all her intervening life, mak_er as a girl of eighteen again, loving her father. So she pressed back, awa_rom the shock, she clung to her present life.
It was when they brought him to her house dead and in his wet clothes, hi_et, sodden clothes, fully dressed as he came from market, yet all sodden an_nert, that the shock really broke into her, and she was terrified. A big, soaked, inert heap, he was, who had been to her the image of power and stron_ife.
Almost in horror, she began to take the wet things from him, to pull off hi_he incongruous market-clothes of a well-to-do farmer. The children were sen_way to the Vicarage, the dead body lay on the parlour floor, Anna quickl_egan to undress him, laid his fob and seals in a wet heap on the table. He_usband and the woman helped her. They cleared and washed the body, and lai_t on the bed.
There, it looked still and grand. He was perfectly calm in death, and, now h_as laid in line, inviolable, unapproachable. To Anna, he was the majesty o_he inaccessible male, the majesty of death. It made her still and awe- stricken, almost glad.
Lydia Brangwen, the mother, also came and saw the impressive, inviolable bod_f the dead man. She went pale, seeing death. He was beyond change o_nowledge, absolute, laid in line with the infinite. What had she to do wit_im? He was a majestic Abstraction, made visible now for a moment, inviolate, absolute. And who could lay claim to him, who could speak of him, of the hi_ho was revealed in the stripped moment of transit from life into death?
Neither the living nor the dead could claim him, he was both the one and th_ther, inviolable, inaccessibly himself.
"I shared life with you, I belong in my own way to eternity," said Lydi_rangwen, her heart cold, knowing her own singleness.
"I did not know you in life. You are beyond me, supreme now in death," sai_nna Brangwen, awe-stricken, almost glad.
It was the sons who could not bear it. Fred Brangwen went about with a set, blanched face and shut hands, his heart full of hatred and rage for what ha_een done to his father, bleeding also with desire to have his father again, to see him, to hear him again. He could not bear it.
Tom Brangwen only arrived on the day of the funeral. He was quiet an_ontrolled as ever. He kissed his mother, who was still dark-faced, inscrutable, he shook hands with his brother without looking at him, he sa_he great coffin with its black handles. He even read the name-plate, "To_rangwen, of the Marsh Farm. Born ——. Died ——."
The good-looking, still face of the young man crinkled up for a moment in _errible grimace, then resumed its stillness. The coffin was carried round t_he church, the funeral bell tanged at intervals, the mourners carried thei_reaths of white flowers. The mother, the Polish woman, went with dark, abstract face, on her son's arm. He was good-looking as ever, his fac_erfectly motionless and somehow pleasant. Fred walked with Anna, she strang_nd winsome, he with a face like wood, stiff, unyielding.
Only afterwards Ursula, flitting between the currant bushes down the garden, saw her Uncle Tom standing in his black clothes, erect and fashionable, bu_is fists lifted, and his face distorted, his lips curled back from his teet_n a horrible grin, like an animal which grimaces with torment, whilst hi_ody panted quick, like a panting dog's. He was facing the open distance, panting, and holding still, then panting rapidly again, but his face neve_hanging from its almost bestial look of torture, the teeth all showing, th_ose wrinkled up, the eyes, unseeing, fixed.
Terrified, Ursula slipped away. And when her Uncle Tom was in the house again, grave and very quiet, so that he seemed almost to affect gravity, to preten_rief, she watched his still, handsome face, imagining it again in it_istortion. But she saw the nose was rather thick, rather Russian, under it_ransparent skin, she remembered the teeth under the carefully cut moustach_ere small and sharp and spaced. She could see him, in all his elegan_emeanour, bestial, almost corrupt. And she was frightened. She never forgo_o look for the bestial, frightening side of him, after this.
He said "Good-bye" to his mother and went away at once. Ursula almost shran_rom his kiss, now. She wanted it, nevertheless, and the little revulsion a_ell.
At the funeral, and after the funeral, Will Brangwen was madly in love wit_is wife. The death had shaken him. But death and all seemed to gather in hi_nto a mad, over-whelming passion for his wife. She seemed so strange an_insome. He was almost beside himself with desire for her.
And she took him, she seemed ready for him, she wanted him.
The grandmother stayed a while at the Yew Cottage, till the Marsh wa_estored. Then she returned to her own rooms, quiet, and it seemed, wantin_othing. Fred threw himself into the work of restoring the farm. That hi_ather was killed there, seemed to make it only the more intimate and the mor_nevitably his own place.
There was a saying that the Brangwens always died a violent death. To the_ll, except perhaps Tom, it seemed almost natural. Yet Fred went abou_bstinate, his heart fixed. He could never forgive the Unknown this murder o_is father.
After the death of the father, the Marsh was very quiet. Mrs. Brangwen wa_nsettled. She could not sit all the evening peacefully, as she could before, and during the day she was always rising to her feet and hesitating, as if sh_ust go somewhere, and were not quite sure whither.
She was seen loitering about the garden, in her little woollen jacket. She wa_ften driven out in the gig, sitting beside her son and watching th_ountryside or the streets of the town, with a childish, candid, uncanny face, as if it all were strange to her.
The children, Ursula and Gudrun and Theresa went by the garden gate on thei_ay to school. The grandmother would have them call in each time they passed, she would have them come to the Marsh for dinner. She wanted children abou_er.
Of her sons, she was almost afraid. She could see the sombre passion an_esire and dissatisfaction in them, and she wanted not to see it any more.
Even Fred, with his blue eyes and his heavy jaw, troubled her. There was n_eace. He wanted something, he wanted love, passion, and he could not fin_hem. But why must he trouble her? Why must he come to her with his seethin_nd suffering and dissatisfactions? She was too old.
Tom was more restrained, reserved. He kept his body very still. But h_roubled her even more. She could not but see the black depths o_isintegration in his eyes, the sudden glance upon her, as if she could sav_im, as if he would reveal himself.
And how could age save youth? Youth must go to youth. Always the storm! Coul_he not lie in peace, these years, in the quiet, apart from life? No, alway_he swell must heave upon her and break against the barriers. Always she mus_e embroiled in the seethe and rage and passion, endless, endless, going o_or ever. And she wanted to draw away. She wanted at last her own innocenc_nd peace. She did not want her sons to force upon her any more the old bruta_tory of desire and offerings and deep, deep-hidden rage of unsatisfied me_gainst women. She wanted to be beyond it all, to know the peace and innocenc_f age.
She had never been a woman to work much. So that now she would stand often a_he garden-gate, watching the scant world go by. And the sight of childre_leased her, made her happy. She had usually an apple or a few sweets in he_ocket. She liked children to smile at her.
She never went to her husband's grave. She spoke of him simply, as if he wer_live. Sometimes the tears would run down her face, in helpless sadness. The_he recovered, and was herself again, happy.
On wet days, she stayed in bed. Her bedroom was her city of refuge, where sh_ould lie down and muse and muse. Sometimes Fred would read to her. But tha_id not mean much. She had so many dreams to dream over, such an unsifte_tore. She wanted time.
Her chief friend at this period was Ursula. The little girl and the musing, fragile woman of sixty seemed to understand the same language. At Cossetha_ll was activity and passion, everything moved upon poles of passion. The_here were four children younger than Ursula, a throng of babies, all the tim_any lives beating against each other.
So that for the eldest child, the peace of the grandmother's bedroom wa_xquisite. Here Ursula came as to a hushed, paradisal land, here her ow_xistence became simple and exquisite to her as if she were a flower.
Always on Saturdays she came down to the Marsh, and always clutching a littl_ffering, either a little mat made of strips of coloured, woven paper, or _iny basket made in the kindergarten lesson, or a little crayon drawing of _ird.
When she appeared in the doorway, Tilly, ancient but still in authority, woul_rane her skinny neck to see who it was.
"Oh, it's you, is it?" she said. "I thought we should be seein' you. My word, that's a bobby-dazzlin' posy you've brought!"
It was curious how Tilly preserved the spirit of Tom Brangwen, who was dead, in the Marsh. Ursula always connected her with her grandfather.
This day the child had brought a tight little nosegay of pinks, white ones, with a rim of pink ones. She was very proud of it, and very shy because of he_ride.
"Your gran'mother's in her bed. Wipe your shoes well if you're goin' up, an_on't go burstin' in on her like a skyrocket. My word, but that's a fine posy!
Did you do it all by yourself, an' all?"
Tilly stealthily ushered her into the bedroom. The child entered with _trange, dragging hesitation characteristic of her when she was moved. He_randmother was sitting up in bed, wearing a little grey woollen jacket.
The child hesitated in silence near the bed, clutching the nosegay in front o_er. Her childish eyes were shining. The grandmother's grey eyes shone with _imilar light.
"How pretty!" she said. "How pretty you have made them! What a darling littl_unch."
Ursula, glowing, thrust them into her grandmother's hand, saying, "I made the_ou."
"That is how the peasants tied them at home," said the grandmother, pushin_he pinks with her fingers, and smelling them. "Just such tight littl_unches! And they make wreaths for their hair-they weave the stalks. Then the_o round with wreaths in their hair, and wearing their best aprons."
Ursula immediately imagined herself in this story-land.
"Did you used to have a wreath in your hair, grandmother?"
"When I was a little girl, I had golden hair, something like Katie's. Then _sed to have a wreath of little blue flowers, oh, so blue, that come when th_now is gone. Andrey, the coachman, used to bring me the very first."
They talked, and then Tilly brought the tea-tray, set for two. Ursula had _pecial green and gold cup kept for herself at the Marsh. There was thin brea_nd butter, and cress for tea. It was all special and wonderful. She ate ver_aintily, with little fastidious bites.
"Why do you have two wedding-rings, grandmother?-Must you?" asked the child, noticing her grandmother's ivory coloured hand with blue veins, above th_ray.
"If I had two husbands, child."
Ursula pondered a moment.
"Then you must wear both rings together?"
"Which was my grandfather's ring?"
The woman hesitated.
"This grandfather whom you knew? This was his ring, the red one. The yello_ne was your other grandfather's whom you never knew."
Ursula looked interestedly at the two rings on the proffered finger.
"Where did he buy it you?" she asked.
"This one? In Warsaw, I think."
"You didn't know my own grandfather then?"
"Not this grandfather."
Ursula pondered this fascinating intelligence.
"Did he have white whiskers as well?"
"No, his beard was dark. You have his brows, I think."
Ursula ceased and became self-conscious. She at once identified herself wit_er Polish grandfather.
"And did he have brown eyes?"
"Yes, dark eyes. He was a clever man, as quick as a lion. He was never still."
Lydia still resented Lensky. When she thought of him, she was always younge_han he, she was always twenty, or twenty-five, and under his domination. H_ncorporated her in his ideas as if she were not a person herself, as if sh_ere just his aide-de-camp, or part of his baggage, or one among his surgica_ppliances. She still resented it. And he was always only thirty: he had die_hen he was thirty-four. She did not feel sorry for him. He was older tha_he. Yet she still ached in the thought of those days.
"Did you like my first grandfather best?" asked Ursula.
"I liked them both," said the grandmother.
And, thinking, she became again Lensky's girl-bride. He was of good family, o_etter family even than her own, for she was half German. She was a young gir_n a house of insecure fortune. And he, an intellectual, a clever surgeon an_hysician, had loved her. How she had looked up to him! She remembered he_irst transports when he talked to her, the important young man with th_evere black beard. He had seemed so wonderful, such an authority. After he_wn lax household, his gravity and confident, hard authority seemed almos_od-like to her. For she had never known it in her life, all her surrounding_ad been loose, lax, disordered, a welter.
"Miss Lydia, will you marry me?" he had said to her in German, in his grave, yet tremulous voice. She had been afraid of his dark eyes upon her. They di_ot see her, they were fixed upon her. And he was hard, confident. Sh_hrilled with the excitement of it, and accepted. During the courtship, hi_isses were a wonder to her. She always thought about them, and wondered ove_hem. She never wanted to kiss him back. In her idea, the man kissed, and th_oman examined in her soul the kisses she had received.
She had never quite recovered from her prostration of the first days, o_ights, of marriage. He had taken her to Vienna, and she was utterly alon_ith him, utterly alone in another world, everything, everything foreign, eve_e foreign to her. Then came the real marriage, passion came to her, and sh_ecame his slave, he was her lord, her lord. She was the girl-bride, th_lave, she kissed his feet, she had thought it an honour to touch his body, t_nfasten his boots. For two years, she had gone on as his slave, crouching a_is feet, embracing his knees.
Children had come, he had followed his ideas. She was there for him, just t_eep him in condition. She was to him one of the baser or material condition_ecessary for his welfare in prosecuting his ideas, of nationalism, o_iberty, of science.
But gradually, at twenty-three, twenty-four, she began to realise that she to_ight consider these ideas. By his acceptance of her self-subordination, h_xhausted the feeling in her. There were those of his associates who woul_iscuss the ideas with her, though he did not wish to do so himself. Sh_dventured into the minds of other men. His, then, was not the only male mind!
She did not exist, then, just as his attribute! She began to perceive th_ttention of other men. An excitement came over her. She remembered now th_en who had paid her court, when she was married, in Warsaw.
Then the rebellion broke out, and she was inspired too. She would go as _urse at her husband's side. He worked like a lion, he wore his life out. An_he followed him helplessly. But she disbelieved in him. He was so separate, he ignored so much. He counted too much on himself. His work, his ideas,-di_othing else matter?
Then the children were dead, and for her, everything became remote. He becam_emote. She saw him, she saw him go white when he heard the news, then frown, as if he thought, "Why have they died now, when I have no time to grieve?"
"He has no time to grieve," she had said, in her remote, awful soul. "He ha_o time. It is so important, what he does! He is then so self-important, thi_alf-frenzied man! Nothing matters, but this work of rebellion! He has no_ime to grieve, nor to think of his children! He had not time even to bege_hem, really."
She had let him go on alone. But, in the chaos, she had worked by his sid_gain. And out of the chaos, she had fled with him to London.
He was a broken, cold man. He had no affection for her, nor for anyone. He ha_ailed in his work, so everything had failed. He stiffened, and died.
She could not subscribe. He had failed, everything had failed, yet behind th_ailure was the unyielding passion of life. The individual effort might fail, but not the human joy. She belonged to the human joy.
He died and went his way, but not before there was another child. And thi_ittle Ursula was his grandchild. She was glad of it. For she still honoure_im, though he had been mistaken.
She, Lydia Brangwen, was sorry for him now. He was dead-he had scarcely lived.
He had never known her. He had lain with her, but he had never known her. H_ad never received what she could give him. He had gone away from her empty.
So, he had never lived. So, he had died and passed away. Yet there had bee_trength and power in him.
She could scarcely forgive him that he had never lived. If it were not fo_nna, and for this little Ursula, who had his brows, there would be no mor_eft of him than of a broken vessel thrown away, and just remembered.
Tom Brangwen had served her. He had come to her, and taken from her. He ha_ied and gone his way into death. But he had made himself immortal in hi_nowledge with her. So she had her place here, in life, and in immortality.
For he had taken his knowledge of her into death, so that she had her place i_eath. "In my father's house are many mansions."
She loved both her husbands. To one she had been a naked little girl-bride, running to serve him. The other she loved out of fulfilment, because he wa_ood and had given her being, because he had served her honourably, and becom_er man, one with her.
She was established in this stretch of life, she had come to herself. Durin_er first marriage, she had not existed, except through him, he was th_ubstance and she the shadow running at his feet. She was very glad she ha_ome to her own self. She was grateful to Brangwen. She reached out to him i_ratitude, into death.
In her heart she felt a vague tenderness and pity for her first husband, wh_ad been her lord. He was so wrong when he died. She could not bear it, tha_e had never lived, never really become himself. And he had been her lord!
Strange, it all had been! Why had he been her lord? He seemed now so far off, so without bearing on her.
"Which did you, grandmother?"
"I liked them both. I married the first when I was quite a girl. Then I love_our grandfather when I was a woman. There is a difference."
They were silent for a time.
"Did you cry when my first grandfather died?" the child asked.
Lydia Brangwen rocked herself on the bed, thinking aloud.
"When we came to England, he hardly ever spoke, he was too much concerned t_ake any notice of anybody. He grew thinner and thinner, till his cheeks wer_ollow and his mouth stuck out. He wasn't handsome any more. I knew h_ouldn't bear being beaten, I thought everything was lost in the world. Only _ad your mother a baby, it was no use my dying.
"He looked at me with his black eyes, almost as if he hated me, when he wa_ll, and said, 'It only wanted this. It only wanted that I should leave yo_nd a young child to starve in this London.' I told him we should not starve.
But I was young, and foolish, and frightened, which he knew.
"He was bitter, and he never gave way. He lay beating his brains, to see wha_e could do. 'I don't know what you will do,' he said. 'I am no good, I am _ailure from beginning to end. I cannot even provide for my wife and child!'
"But you see, it was not for him to provide for us. My life went on, thoug_is stopped, and I married your grandfather.
"I ought to have known, I ought to have been able to say to him: 'Don't be s_itter, don't die because this has failed. You are not the beginning and th_nd.' But I was too young, he had never let me become myself, I thought he wa_ruly the beginning and the end. So I let him take all upon himself. Yet al_id not depend on him. Life must go on, and I must marry your grandfather, an_ave your Uncle Tom, and your Uncle Fred. We cannot take so much upo_urselves."
The child's heart beat fast as she listened to these things. She could no_nderstand, but she seemed to feel far-off things. It gave her a deep, joyou_hrill, to know she hailed from far off, from Poland, and that dark-bearde_mpressive man. Strange, her antecedents were, and she felt fate on eithe_ide of her terrible.
Almost every day, Ursula saw her grandmother, and every time, they talke_ogether. Till the grandmother's sayings and stories, told in the complet_ush of the Marsh bedroom, accumulated with mystic significance, and became _ort of Bible to the child.
And Ursula asked her deepest childish questions of her grandmother.
"Will somebody love me, grandmother?"
"Many people love you, child. We all love you."
"But when I am grown up, will somebody love me?"
"Yes, some man will love you, child, because it's your nature. And I hope i_ill be somebody who will love you for what you are, and not for what he want_f you. But we have a right to what we want."
Ursula was frightened, hearing these things. Her heart sank, she felt she ha_o ground under her feet. She clung to her grandmother. Here was peace an_ecurity. Here, from her grandmother's peaceful room, the door opened on t_he greater space, the past, which was so big, that all it contained seeme_iny, loves and births and deaths, tiny units and features within a vas_orizon. That was a great relief, to know the tiny importance of th_ndividual, within the great past.