They reached the hotel rather early in the afternoon, so that most people wer_till lying down, or sitting speechless in their bedrooms, and Mrs. Thornbury, although she had asked them to tea, was nowhere to be seen. They sat down, therefore, in the shady hall, which was almost empty, and full of the ligh_wishing sounds of air going to and fro in a large empty space. Yes, this arm- chair was the same arm-chair in which Rachel had sat that afternoon whe_velyn came up, and this was the magazine she had been looking at, and thi_he very picture, a picture of New York by lamplight. How odd i_eemed—nothing had changed.
By degrees a certain number of people began to come down the stairs and t_ass through the hall, and in this dim light their figures possessed a sort o_race and beauty, although they were all unknown people. Sometimes they wen_traight through and out into the garden by the swing door, sometimes the_topped for a few minutes and bent over the tables and began turning over th_ewspapers. Terence and Rachel sat watching them through their half-close_yelids—the Johnsons, the Parkers, the Baileys, the Simmons', the Lees, th_orleys, the Campbells, the Gardiners. Some were dressed in white flannels an_ere carrying racquets under their arms, some were short, some tall, some wer_nly children, and some perhaps were servants, but they all had thei_tanding, their reason for following each other through the hall, their money, their position, whatever it might be. Terence soon gave up looking at them, for he was tired; and, closing his eyes, he fell half asleep in his chair.
Rachel watched the people for some time longer; she was fascinated by th_ertainty and the grace of their movements, and by the inevitable way in whic_hey seemed to follow each other, and loiter and pass on and disappear. Bu_fter a time her thoughts wandered, and she began to think of the dance, whic_ad been held in this room, only then the room itself looked quite different.
Glancing round, she could hardly believe that it was the same room. It ha_ooked so bare and so bright and formal on that night when they came into i_ut of the darkness; it had been filled, too, with little red, excited faces, always moving, and people so brightly dressed and so animated that they di_ot seem in the least like real people, nor did you feel that you could tal_o them. And now the room was dim and quiet, and beautiful silent peopl_assed through it, to whom you could go and say anything you liked. She fel_erself amazingly secure as she sat in her arm-chair, and able to review no_nly the night of the dance, but the entire past, tenderly and humorously, a_f she had been turning in a fog for a long time, and could now see exactl_here she had turned. For the methods by which she had reached her presen_osition, seemed to her very strange, and the strangest thing about them wa_hat she had not known where they were leading her. That was the strang_hing, that one did not know where one was going, or what one wanted, an_ollowed blindly, suffering so much in secret, always unprepared and amaze_nd knowing nothing; but one thing led to another and by degrees something ha_ormed itself out of nothing, and so one reached at last this calm, thi_uiet, this certainty, and it was this process that people called living.
Perhaps, then, every one really knew as she knew now where they were going; and things formed themselves into a pattern not only for her, but for them, and in that pattern lay satisfaction and meaning. When she looked back sh_ould see that a meaning of some kind was apparent in the lives of her aunts, and in the brief visit of the Dalloways whom she would never see again, and i_he life of her father.
The sound of Terence, breathing deep in his slumber, confirmed her in he_alm. She was not sleepy although she did not see anything very distinctly, but although the figures passing through the hall became vaguer and vaguer, she believed that they all knew exactly where they were going, and the sens_f their certainty filled her with comfort. For the moment she was as detache_nd disinterested as if she had no longer any lot in life, and she though_hat she could now accept anything that came to her without being perplexed b_he form in which it appeared. What was there to frighten or to perplex in th_rospect of life? Why should this insight ever again desert her? The world wa_n truth so large, so hospitable, and after all it was so simple. "Love," St.
John had said, "that seems to explain it all." Yes, but it was not the love o_an for woman, of Terence for Rachel. Although they sat so close together, they had ceased to be little separate bodies; they had ceased to struggle an_esire one another. There seemed to be peace between them. It might be love, but it was not the love of man for woman.
Through her half-closed eyelids she watched Terence lying back in his chair, and she smiled as she saw how big his mouth was, and his chin so small, an_is nose curved like a switchback with a knob at the end. Naturally, lookin_ike that he was lazy, and ambitious, and full of moods and faults. Sh_emembered their quarrels, and in particular how they had been quarrelin_bout Helen that very afternoon, and she thought how often they would quarre_n the thirty, or forty, or fifty years in which they would be living in th_ame house together, catching trains together, and getting annoyed becaus_hey were so different. But all this was superficial, and had nothing to d_ith the life that went on beneath the eyes and the mouth and the chin, fo_hat life was independent of her, and independent of everything else. So too, although she was going to marry him and to live with him for thirty, or forty, or fifty years, and to quarrel, and to be so close to him, she was independen_f him; she was independent of everything else. Nevertheless, as St. Joh_aid, it was love that made her understand this, for she had never felt thi_ndependence, this calm, and this certainty until she fell in love with him, and perhaps this too was love. She wanted nothing else.
For perhaps two minutes Miss Allan had been standing at a little distanc_ooking at the couple lying back so peacefully in their arm-chairs. She coul_ot make up her mind whether to disturb them or not, and then, seeming t_ecollect something, she came across the hall. The sound of her approach wok_erence, who sat up and rubbed his eyes. He heard Miss Allan talking t_achel.
"Well," she was saying, "this is very nice. It is very nice indeed. Gettin_ngaged seems to be quite the fashion. It cannot often happen that two couple_ho have never seen each other before meet in the same hotel and decide to ge_arried." Then she paused and smiled, and seemed to have nothing more to say, so that Terence rose and asked her whether it was true that she had finishe_er book. Some one had said that she had really finished it. Her face lit up; she turned to him with a livelier expression than usual.
"Yes, I think I can fairly say I have finished it," she said. "That is, omitting Swinburne—Beowulf to Browning—I rather like the two B's myself.
Beowulf to Browning," she repeated, "I think that is the kind of title whic_ight catch one's eye on a railway book-stall."
She was indeed very proud that she had finished her book, for no one knew wha_n amount of determination had gone to the making of it. Also she thought tha_t was a good piece of work, and, considering what anxiety she had been i_bout her brother while she wrote it, she could not resist telling them _ittle more about it.
"I must confess," she continued, "that if I had known how many classics ther_re in English literature, and how verbose the best of them contrive to be, _hould never have undertaken the work. They only allow one seventy thousan_ords, you see."
"Only seventy thousand words!" Terence exclaimed.
"Yes, and one has to say something about everybody," Miss Allan added. "Tha_s what I find so difficult, saying something different about everybody." The_he thought that she had said enough about herself, and she asked whether the_ad come down to join the tennis tournament. "The young people are very kee_bout it. It begins again in half an hour."
Her gaze rested benevolently upon them both, and, after a momentary pause, sh_emarked, looking at Rachel as if she had remembered something that woul_erve to keep her distinct from other people.
"You're the remarkable person who doesn't like ginger." But the kindness o_he smile in her rather worn and courageous face made them feel that althoug_he would scarcely remember them as individuals, she had laid upon them th_urden of the new generation.
"And in that I quite agree with her," said a voice behind; Mrs. Thornbury ha_verheard the last few words about not liking ginger. "It's associated in m_ind with a horrid old aunt of ours (poor thing, she suffered dreadfully, s_t isn't fair to call her horrid) who used to give it to us when we wer_mall, and we never had the courage to tell her we didn't like it. We just ha_o put it out in the shrubbery—she had a big house near Bath."
They began moving slowly across the hall, when they were stopped by the impac_f Evelyn, who dashed into them, as though in running downstairs to catch the_er legs had got beyond her control.
"Well," she exclaimed, with her usual enthusiasm, seizing Rachel by the arm,
"I call this splendid! I guessed it was going to happen from the ver_eginning! I saw you two were made for each other. Now you've just got to tel_e all about it—when's it to be, where are you going to live—are you bot_remendously happy?"
But the attention of the group was diverted to Mrs. Elliot, who was passin_hem with her eager but uncertain movement, carrying in her hands a plate an_n empty hot-water bottle. She would have passed them, but Mrs. Thornbury wen_p and stopped her.
"Thank you, Hughling's better," she replied, in answer to Mrs. Thornbury'_nquiry, "but he's not an easy patient. He wants to know what his temperatur_s, and if I tell him he gets anxious, and if I don't tell him he suspects.
You know what men are when they're ill! And of course there are none of th_roper appliances, and, though he seems very willing and anxious to help"
(here she lowered her voice mysteriously), "one can't feel that Dr. Rodrigue_s the same as a proper doctor. If you would come and see him, Mr. Hewet," sh_dded, "I know it would cheer him up—lying there in bed all day—and th_lies—But I must go and find Angelo—the food here—of course, with an invalid, one wants things particularly nice." And she hurried past them in search o_he head waiter. The worry of nursing her husband had fixed a plaintive frow_pon her forehead; she was pale and looked unhappy and more than usuall_nefficient, and her eyes wandered more vaguely than ever from point to point.
"Poor thing!" Mrs. Thornbury exclaimed. She told them that for some day_ughling Elliot had been ill, and the only doctor available was the brother o_he proprietor, or so the proprietor said, whose right to the title of docto_as not above suspicion.
"I know how wretched it is to be ill in a hotel," Mrs. Thornbury remarked, once more leading the way with Rachel to the garden. "I spent six weeks on m_oneymoon in having typhoid at Venice," she continued. "But even so, I loo_ack upon them as some of the happiest weeks in my life. Ah, yes," she said, taking Rachel's arm, "you think yourself happy now, but it's nothing to th_appiness that comes afterwards. And I assure you I could find it in my hear_o envy you young people! You've a much better time than we had, I may tel_ou. When I look back upon it, I can hardly believe how things have changed.
When we were engaged I wasn't allowed to go for walks with William alone—som_ne had always to be in the room with us—I really believe I had to show m_arents all his letters!—though they were very fond of him too. Indeed, I ma_ay they looked upon him as their own son. It amuses me," she continued, "t_hink how strict they were to us, when I see how they spoil their grand- children!"
The table was laid under the tree again, and taking her place before th_eacups, Mrs. Thornbury beckoned and nodded until she had collected quite _umber of people, Susan and Arthur and Mr. Pepper, who were strolling about, waiting for the tournament to begin. A murmuring tree, a river brimming in th_oonlight, Terence's words came back to Rachel as she sat drinking the tea an_istening to the words which flowed on so lightly, so kindly, and with suc_ilvery smoothness. This long life and all these children had left her ver_mooth; they seemed to have rubbed away the marks of individuality, and t_ave left only what was old and maternal.
"And the things you young people are going to see!" Mrs. Thornbury continued.
She included them all in her forecast, she included them all in her maternity, although the party comprised William Pepper and Miss Allan, both of whom migh_ave been supposed to have seen a fair share of the panorama. "When I see ho_he world has changed in my lifetime," she went on, "I can set no limit t_hat may happen in the next fifty years. Ah, no, Mr. Pepper, I don't agre_ith you in the least," she laughed, interrupting his gloomy remark abou_hings going steadily from bad to worse. "I know I ought to feel that, but _on't, I'm afraid. They're going to be much better people than we were. Surel_verything goes to prove that. All round me I see women, young women, wome_ith household cares of every sort, going out and doing things that we shoul_ot have thought it possible to do."
Mr. Pepper thought her sentimental and irrational like all old women, but he_anner of treating him as if he were a cross old baby baffled him and charme_im, and he could only reply to her with a curious grimace which was more _mile than a frown.
"And they remain women," Mrs. Thornbury added. "They give a great deal t_heir children."
As she said this she smiled slightly in the direction of Susan and Rachel.
They did not like to be included in the same lot, but they both smiled _ittle self-consciously, and Arthur and Terence glanced at each other too. Sh_ade them feel that they were all in the same boat together, and they looke_t the women they were going to marry and compared them. It was inexplicabl_ow any one could wish to marry Rachel, incredible that any one should b_eady to spend his life with Susan; but singular though the other's taste mus_e, they bore each other no ill-will on account of it; indeed, they liked eac_ther rather the better for the eccentricity of their choice.
"I really must congratulate you," Susan remarked, as she leant across th_able for the jam.
There seemed to be no foundation for St. John's gossip about Arthur and Susan.
Sunburnt and vigorous they sat side by side, with their racquets across thei_nees, not saying much but smiling slightly all the time. Through the thi_hite clothes which they wore, it was possible to see the lines of thei_odies and legs, the beautiful curves of their muscles, his leanness and he_lesh, and it was natural to think of the firm-fleshed sturdy children tha_ould be theirs. Their faces had too little shape in them to be beautiful, bu_hey had clear eyes and an appearance of great health and power of endurance, for it seemed as if the blood would never cease to run in his veins, or to li_eeply and calmly in her cheeks. Their eyes at the present moment wer_righter than usual, and wore the peculiar expression of pleasure and self- confidence which is seen in the eyes of athletes, for they had been playin_ennis, and they were both first-rate at the game.
Evelyn had not spoken, but she had been looking from Susan to Rachel.
Well—they had both made up their minds very easily, they had done in a ver_ew weeks what it sometimes seemed to her that she would never be able to do.
Although they were so different, she thought that she could see in each th_ame look of satisfaction and completion, the same calmness of manner, and th_ame slowness of movement. It was that slowness, that confidence, that conten_hich she hated, she thought to herself. They moved so slowly because the_ere not single but double, and Susan was attached to Arthur, and Rachel t_erence, and for the sake of this one man they had renounced all other men, and movement, and the real things of life. Love was all very well, and thos_nug domestic houses, with the kitchen below and the nursery above, which wer_o secluded and self-contained, like little islands in the torrents of th_orld; but the real things were surely the things that happened, the causes, the wars, the ideals, which happened in the great world outside, and went s_ndependently of these women, turning so quietly and beautifully towards th_en. She looked at them sharply. Of course they were happy and content, bu_here must be better things than that. Surely one could get nearer to life, one could get more out of life, one could enjoy more and feel more than the_ould ever do. Rachel in particular looked so young—what could she know o_ife? She became restless, and getting up, crossed over to sit beside Rachel.
She reminded her that she had promised to join her club.
"The bother is," she went on, "that I mayn't be able to start work seriousl_ill October. I've just had a letter from a friend of mine whose brother is i_usiness in Moscow. They want me to stay with them, and as they're in th_hick of all the conspiracies and anarchists, I've a good mind to stop on m_ay home. It sounds too thrilling." She wanted to make Rachel see ho_hrilling it was. "My friend knows a girl of fifteen who's been sent t_iberia for life merely because they caught her addressing a letter to a_narchist. And the letter wasn't from her, either. I'd give all I have in th_orld to help on a revolution against the Russian government, and it's boun_o come."
She looked from Rachel to Terence. They were both a little touched by th_ight of her remembering how lately they had been listening to evil word_bout her, and Terence asked her what her scheme was, and she explained tha_he was going to found a club—a club for doing things, really doing them. Sh_ecame very animated, as she talked on and on, for she professed hersel_ertain that if once twenty people—no, ten would be enough if they wer_een—set about doing things instead of talking about doing them, they coul_bolish almost every evil that exists. It was brains that were needed. If onl_eople with brains—of course they would want a room, a nice room, i_loomsbury preferably, where they could meet once a week… .
As she talked Terence could see the traces of fading youth in her face, th_ines that were being drawn by talk and excitement round her mouth and eyes, but he did not pity her; looking into those bright, rather hard, and ver_ourageous eyes, he saw that she did not pity herself, or feel any desire t_xchange her own life for the more refined and orderly lives of people lik_imself and St. John, although, as the years went by, the fight would becom_arder and harder. Perhaps, though, she would settle down; perhaps, after all, she would marry Perrott. While his mind was half occupied with what she wa_aying, he thought of her probable destiny, the light clouds of tobacco smok_erving to obscure his face from her eyes.
Terence smoked and Arthur smoked and Evelyn smoked, so that the air was ful_f the mist and fragrance of good tobacco. In the intervals when no one spoke, they heard far off the low murmur of the sea, as the waves quietly broke an_pread the beach with a film of water, and withdrew to break again. The coo_reen light fell through the leaves of the tree, and there were soft crescent_nd diamonds of sunshine upon the plates and the tablecloth. Mrs. Thornbury, after watching them all for a time in silence, began to ask Rachel kindl_uestions—When did they all go back? Oh, they expected her father. She mus_ant to see her father—there would be a great deal to tell him, and (sh_ooked sympathetically at Terence) he would be so happy, she felt sure. Year_go, she continued, it might have been ten or twenty years ago, she remembere_eeting Mr. Vinrace at a party, and, being so much struck by his face, whic_as so unlike the ordinary face one sees at a party, that she had asked who h_as, and she was told that it was Mr. Vinrace, and she had always remembere_he name,—an uncommon name,—and he had a lady with him, a very sweet-lookin_oman, but it was one of those dreadful London crushes, where you don'_alk,—you only look at each other,—and although she had shaken hands with Mr.
Vinrace, she didn't think they had said anything. She sighed very slightly, remembering the past.
Then she turned to Mr. Pepper, who had become very dependent on her, so tha_e always chose a seat near her, and attended to what she was saying, althoug_e did not often make any remark of his own.
"You who know everything, Mr. Pepper," she said, "tell us how did thos_onderful French ladies manage their salons? Did we ever do anything of th_ame kind in England, or do you think that there is some reason why we canno_o it in England?"
Mr. Pepper was pleased to explain very accurately why there has never been a_nglish salon. There were three reasons, and they were very good ones, h_aid. As for himself, when he went to a party, as one was sometimes oblige_o, from a wish not to give offence—his niece, for example, had been marrie_he other day—he walked into the middle of the room, said "Ha! ha!" as loud a_ver he could, considered that he had done his duty, and walked away again.
Mrs. Thornbury protested. She was going to give a party directly she got back, and they were all to be invited, and she should set people to watch Mr.
Pepper, and if she heard that he had been caught saying "Ha! ha!" sh_ould—she would do something very dreadful indeed to him. Arthur Vennin_uggested that what she must do was to rig up something in the nature of _urprise—a portrait, for example, of a nice old lady in a lace cap, concealin_ bath of cold water, which at a signal could be sprung on Pepper's head; o_hey'd have a chair which shot him twenty feet high directly he sat on it.
Susan laughed. She had done her tea; she was feeling very well contented, partly because she had been playing tennis brilliantly, and then every one wa_o nice; she was beginning to find it so much easier to talk, and to hold he_wn even with quite clever people, for somehow clever people did not frighte_er any more. Even Mr. Hirst, whom she had disliked when she first met him, really wasn't disagreeable; and, poor man, he always looked so ill; perhaps h_as in love; perhaps he had been in love with Rachel—she really shouldn'_onder; or perhaps it was Evelyn—she was of course very attractive to men.
Leaning forward, she went on with the conversation. She said that she though_hat the reason why parties were so dull was mainly because gentlemen will no_ress: even in London, she stated, it struck her very much how people don'_hink it necessary to dress in the evening, and of course if they don't dres_n London they won't dress in the country. It was really quite a treat a_hristmas-time when there were the Hunt balls, and the gentlemen wore nice re_oats, but Arthur didn't care for dancing, so she supposed that they wouldn'_o even to the ball in their little country town. She didn't think that peopl_ho were fond of one sport often care for another, although her father was a_xception. But then he was an exception in every way—such a gardener, and h_new all about birds and animals, and of course he was simply adored by al_he old women in the village, and at the same time what he really liked bes_as a book. You always knew where to find him if he were wanted; he would b_n his study with a book. Very likely it would be an old, old book, some fust_ld thing that no one else would dream of reading. She used to tell him tha_e would have made a first-rate old bookworm if only he hadn't had a family o_ix to support, and six children, she added, charmingly confident of universa_ympathy, didn't leave one much time for being a bookworm.
Still talking about her father, of whom she was very proud, she rose, fo_rthur upon looking at his watch found that it was time they went back agai_o the tennis court. The others did not move.
"They're very happy!" said Mrs. Thornbury, looking benignantly after them.
Rachel agreed; they seemed to be so certain of themselves; they seemed to kno_xactly what they wanted.
"D'you think they _are_ happy?" Evelyn murmured to Terence in an undertone, and she hoped that he would say that he did not think them happy; but, instead, he said that they must go too—go home, for they were always bein_ate for meals, and Mrs. Ambrose, who was very stern and particular, didn'_ike that. Evelyn laid hold of Rachel's skirt and protested. Why should the_o? It was still early, and she had so many things to say to them. "No," sai_erence, "we must go, because we walk so slowly. We stop and look at things, and we talk."
"What d'you talk about?" Evelyn enquired, upon which he laughed and said tha_hey talked about everything.
Mrs. Thornbury went with them to the gate, trailing very slowly and gracefull_cross the grass and the gravel, and talking all the time about flowers an_irds. She told them that she had taken up the study of botany since he_aughter married, and it was wonderful what a number of flowers there wer_hich she had never seen, although she had lived in the country all her lif_nd she was now seventy-two. It was a good thing to have some occupation whic_as quite independent of other people, she said, when one got old. But the od_hing was that one never felt old. She always felt that she was twenty-five, not a day more or a day less, but, of course, one couldn't expect other peopl_o agree to that.
"It must be very wonderful to be twenty-five, and not merely to imagine tha_ou're twenty-five," she said, looking from one to the other with her smooth, bright glance. "It must be very wonderful, very wonderful indeed." She stoo_alking to them at the gate for a long time; she seemed reluctant that the_hould go.