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Chapter 8 Two Hanged Women

Hand in hand the youthful lovers sauntered along the esplanade. It was a night in midsummer; a wispy1 moon had set, and the stars glittered. The dark mass of the sea, at flood, lay tranquil2, slothfully lapping the shingle3.

“Come on, let’s make for the usual,” said the boy.

But on nearing their favourite seat they found it occupied. In the velvety4 shade of the overhanging sea-wall, the outlines of two figures were visible.

“Oh, blast!” said the lad. “That’s torn it. What now, Baby?”

“Why, let’s stop here, Pincher, right close up, till we frighten ’em off.”

And very soon loud, smacking5 kisses, amatory pinches and ticklings, and skittish6 squeals7 of pleasure did their work. Silently the intruders rose and moved away.

But the boy stood gaping8 after them, open-mouthed.

“Well, I’m DAMNED! If it wasn’t just two hanged women!”

* * *

Retreating before a salvo of derisive9 laughter, the elder of the girls said: “We’ll go out on the break-water.” She was tall and thin, and walked with a long stride.

Her companion, shorter than she by a bobbed head of straight flaxen hair, was hard put to it to keep pace. As she pegged10 along she said doubtfully, as if in self-excuse: “Though I really ought to go home. It’s getting late. Mother will be angry.”

They walked with finger-tips lightly in contact; and at her words she felt what was like an attempt to get free, on the part of the fingers crooked11 in hers. But she was prepared for this, and held fast, gradually working her own up till she had a good half of the other hand in her grip.

For a moment neither spoke12. Then, in a low, muffled13 voice, came the question: “Was she angry last night, too?”

The little fair girl’s reply had an unlooked-for vehemence14. “You know she wasn’t!” And, mildly despairing: “But you never WILL understand. Oh, what’s the good of . . . of anything!”

And on sitting down she let the prisoned hand go, even putting it from her with a kind of push. There it lay, palm upwards15, the fingers still curved from her hold, looking like a thing with a separate life of its own; but a life that was ebbing16.

On this remote seat, with their backs turned on lovers, lights, the town, the two girls sat and gazed wordlessly at the dark sea, over which great Jupiter was flinging a thin gold line. There was no sound but the lapping, sucking, sighing, of the ripples17 at the edge of the breakwater, and the occasional screech18 of an owl19 in the tall trees on the hillside.

But after a time, having stolen more than one side-glance at her companion, the younger seemed to take heart of grace. With a childish toss of the head that set her loose hair swaying, she said, in a tone of meaning emphasis: “I like Fred.”

The only answer was a faint, contemptuous shrug20.

“I tell you I LIKE him!”

“Fred? Rats!”

“No it isn’t . . . that’s just where you’re wrong, Betty. But you think you’re so wise. Always.”

“I know what I know.”

“Or imagine you do! But it doesn’t matter. Nothing you can say makes any difference. I like him, and always shall. In heaps of ways. He’s so big and strong, for one thing: it gives you such a safe sort of feeling to be with him . . . as if nothing could happen while you were. Yes, it’s . . . it’s . . . well, I can’t help it, Betty, there’s something COMFY in having a boy to go about with — like other girls do. One they’d eat their hats to get, too! I can see it in their eyes when we pass; Fred with his great long legs and broad shoulders — I don’t nearly come up to them — and his blue eyes with the black lashes21, and his shiny black hair. And I like his tweeds, the Harris smell of them, and his dirty old pipe, and the way he shows his teeth — he’s got TOPPING teeth — when he laughs and says ‘ra-THER!’ And other people, when they see us, look . . . well I don’t quite know how to say it, but they look sort of pleased; and they make room for us and let us into the dark corner-seats at the pictures, just as if we’d a right to them. And they never laugh. (Oh, I can’t STICK being laughed at!— and that’s the truth.) Yes, it’s so comfy, Betty darling . . . such a warm cosy22 comfy feeling. Oh, WON’T you understand?”

“Gawd! why not make a song of it?” But a moment later, very fiercely: “And who is it’s taught you to think all this? Who’s hinted it and suggested it till you’ve come to believe it? . . . believe it’s what you really feel.”

“She hasn’t! Mother’s never said a word . . . about Fred.”

“Words?— why waste words? . . . when she can do it with a cock of the eye. For your Fred, that!” and the girl called Betty held her fingers aloft and snapped them viciously. “But your mother’s a different proposition.”

“I think you’re simply horrid23.”

To this there was no reply.

“WHY have you such a down on her? What’s she ever done to you? . . . except not get ratty when I stay out late with Fred. And I don’t see how you can expect . . . being what she is . . . and with nobody but me — after all she IS my mother . . . you can’t alter that. I know very well — and you know, too — I’m not TOO putrid-looking. But”— beseechingly24 —“I’m NEARLY twenty-five now, Betty. And other girls . . . well, she sees them, every one of them, with a boy of their own, even though they’re ugly, or fat, or have legs like sausages — they’ve only got to ogle25 them a bit — the girls, I mean . . . and there they are. And Fred’s a good sort — he is, really!— and he dances well, and doesn’t drink, and so . . . so why SHOULDN’T I like him? . . . and off my own bat . . . without it having to be all Mother’s fault, and me nothing but a parrot, and without any will of my own?”

“Why? Because I know her too well, my child! I can read her as you’d never dare to . . . even if you could. She’s sly, your mother is, so sly there’s no coming to grips with her . . . one might as well try to fill one’s hand with cobwebs. But she’s got a hold on you, a strangle-hold, that nothing ‘ll loosen. Oh! mothers aren’t fair — I mean it’s not fair of nature to weigh us down with them and yet expect us to be our own true selves. The handicap’s too great. All those months, when the same blood’s running through two sets of veins26 — there’s no getting away from that, ever after. Take yours. As I say, does she need to open her mouth? Not she! She’s only got to let it hang at the corners, and you reek27, you drip with guilt28.”

Something in these words seemed to sting the younger girl. She hit back. “I know what it is, you’re jealous, that’s what you are! . . . and you’ve no other way of letting it out. But I tell you this. If ever I marry — yes, MARRY!— it’ll be to please myself, and nobody else. Can, you imagine me doing it to oblige her?”

Again silence.

“If I only think what it would be like to be fixed29 up and settled, and able to live in peace, without this eternal dragging two ways . . . just as if I was being torn in half. And see Mother smiling and happy again, like she used to be. Between the two of you I’m nothing but a punch-ball. Oh, I’m fed up with it! . . . fed up to the neck. As for you . . . And yet you can sit there as if you were made of stone! Why don’t you SAY something? BETTY! Why won’t you speak?”

But no words came.

“I can FEEL you sneering31. And when you sneer30 I hate you more than any one on earth. If only I’d never seen you!”

“Marry your Fred, and you’ll never need to again.”

“I will, too! I’ll marry him, and have a proper wedding like other girls, with a veil and bridesmaids and bushels of flowers. And I’ll live in a house of my own, where I can do as I like, and be left in peace, and there’ll be no one to badger32 and bully33 me — Fred wouldn’t . . . ever! Besides, he’ll be away all day. And when he came back at night, he’d . . . I’d . . I mean I’d ——” But here the flying words gave out; there came a stormy breath and a cry of: “Oh, Betty, Betty! . . . I couldn’t, no, I couldn’t! It’s when I think of THAT . . . Yes, it’s quite true! I like him all right, I do indeed, but only as long as he doesn’t come too near. If he even sits too close, I have to screw myself up to bear it”— and flinging herself down over her companion’s lap, she hid her face. “And if he tries to touch me, Betty, or even takes my arm or puts his round me. . . . And then his face . . . when it looks like it does sometimes all wrong . . . as if it had gone all wrong — oh! then I feel I shall have to scream — out loud. I’m afraid of him . . . when he looks like that. Once . . . when he kissed me . . . I could have died with the horror of it. His breath . . .his breath . . . and his mouth — like fruit pulp34 — and the black hairs on his wrists . . . and the way he looked — and . . . and everything! No, I can’t, I can’t . . . nothing will make me . . . I’d rather die twice over. But what am I to do? Mother’ll NEVER understand. Oh, why has it got to be like this? I want to be happy, like other girls, and to make her happy, too . . . and everything’s all wrong. You tell me, Betty darling, you help me, you’re older . . . you KNOW . . . and you can help me, if you will . . . if you only will!” And locking her arms round her friend she drove her face deeper into the warmth and darkness, as if, from the very fervour of her clasp, she could draw the aid and strength she needed.

Betty had sat silent, unyielding, her sole movement being to loosen her own arms from her sides and point her elbows outwards35, to hinder them touching36 the arms that lay round her. But at this last appeal she melted; and gathering37 the young girl to her breast, she held her fast.— And so for long she continued to sit, her chin resting lightly on the fair hair, that was silky and downy as an infant’s, and gazing with sombre eyes over the stealthily heaving sea.

The End


1 wispy wispy     
  • Grey wispy hair straggled down to her shoulders.稀疏的灰白头发披散在她肩头。
  • The half moon is hidden behind some wispy clouds.半轮月亮躲在淡淡的云彩之后。
2 tranquil UJGz0     
adj. 安静的, 宁静的, 稳定的, 不变的
  • The boy disturbed the tranquil surface of the pond with a stick. 那男孩用棍子打破了平静的池面。
  • The tranquil beauty of the village scenery is unique. 这乡村景色的宁静是绝无仅有的。
3 shingle 8yKwr     
  • He scraped away the dirt,and exposed a pine shingle.他刨去泥土,下面露出一块松木瓦块。
  • He hung out his grandfather's shingle.他挂出了祖父的行医招牌。
4 velvety 5783c9b64c2c5d03bc234867b2d33493     
adj. 像天鹅绒的, 轻软光滑的, 柔软的
  • a velvety red wine 醇厚的红葡萄酒
  • Her skin was admired for its velvety softness. 她的皮肤如天鹅绒般柔软,令人赞叹。
5 smacking b1f17f97b1bddf209740e36c0c04e638     
  • He gave both of the children a good smacking. 他把两个孩子都狠揍了一顿。
  • She inclined her cheek,and John gave it a smacking kiss. 她把头低下,约翰在她的脸上响亮的一吻。
6 skittish 5hay2     
  • She gets very skittish when her boy-friend is around.她男朋友在场时,她就显得格外轻佻。
  • I won't have my son associating with skittish girls.我不准我的儿子与轻佻的女孩交往。
7 squeals 4754a49a0816ef203d1dddc615bc7983     
n.长而尖锐的叫声( squeal的名词复数 )v.长声尖叫,用长而尖锐的声音说( squeal的第三人称单数 )
  • There was an outburst of squeals from the cage. 铁笼子里传来一阵吱吱的叫声。 来自英汉文学
  • There were squeals of excitement from the children. 孩子们兴奋得大声尖叫。 来自辞典例句
8 gaping gaping     
adj.口的;张口的;敞口的;多洞穴的v.目瞪口呆地凝视( gape的现在分词 );张开,张大
  • Ahead of them was a gaping abyss. 他们前面是一个巨大的深渊。
  • The antelope could not escape the crocodile's gaping jaws. 那只羚羊无法从鱷鱼张开的大口中逃脱。 来自《简明英汉词典》
9 derisive ImCzF     
  • A storm of derisive applause broke out.一阵暴风雨般的哄笑声轰然响起。
  • They flushed,however,when she burst into a shout of derisive laughter.然而,当地大声嘲笑起来的时候,她们的脸不禁涨红了。
10 pegged eb18fad4b804ac8ec6deaf528b06e18b     
v.用夹子或钉子固定( peg的过去式和过去分词 );使固定在某水平
  • They pegged their tent down. 他们钉好了账篷。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • She pegged down the stairs. 她急忙下楼。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
11 crooked xvazAv     
  • He crooked a finger to tell us to go over to him.他弯了弯手指,示意我们到他那儿去。
  • You have to drive slowly on these crooked country roads.在这些弯弯曲曲的乡间小路上你得慢慢开车。
12 spoke XryyC     
n.(车轮的)辐条;轮辐;破坏某人的计划;阻挠某人的行动 v.讲,谈(speak的过去式);说;演说;从某种观点来说
  • They sourced the spoke nuts from our company.他们的轮辐螺帽是从我们公司获得的。
  • The spokes of a wheel are the bars that connect the outer ring to the centre.辐条是轮子上连接外圈与中心的条棒。
13 muffled fnmzel     
adj.(声音)被隔的;听不太清的;(衣服)裹严的;蒙住的v.压抑,捂住( muffle的过去式和过去分词 );用厚厚的衣帽包着(自己)
  • muffled voices from the next room 从隔壁房间里传来的沉闷声音
  • There was a muffled explosion somewhere on their right. 在他们的右面什么地方有一声沉闷的爆炸声。 来自《简明英汉词典》
14 vehemence 2ihw1     
  • The attack increased in vehemence.进攻越来越猛烈。
  • She was astonished at his vehemence.她对他的激昂感到惊讶。
15 upwards lj5wR     
  • The trend of prices is still upwards.物价的趋向是仍在上涨。
  • The smoke rose straight upwards.烟一直向上升。
16 ebbing ac94e96318a8f9f7c14185419cb636cb     
(指潮水)退( ebb的现在分词 ); 落; 减少; 衰落
  • The pain was ebbing. 疼痛逐渐减轻了。
  • There are indications that his esoteric popularity may be ebbing. 有迹象表明,他神秘的声望可能正在下降。
17 ripples 10e54c54305aebf3deca20a1472f4b96     
逐渐扩散的感觉( ripple的名词复数 )
  • The moon danced on the ripples. 月亮在涟漪上舞动。
  • The sea leaves ripples on the sand. 海水在沙滩上留下了波痕。
18 screech uDkzc     
  • He heard a screech of brakes and then fell down. 他听到汽车刹车发出的尖锐的声音,然后就摔倒了。
  • The screech of jet planes violated the peace of the afternoon. 喷射机的尖啸声侵犯了下午的平静。
19 owl 7KFxk     
  • Her new glasses make her look like an owl.她的新眼镜让她看上去像只猫头鹰。
  • I'm a night owl and seldom go to bed until after midnight.我睡得很晚,经常半夜后才睡觉。
20 shrug Ry3w5     
  • With a shrug,he went out of the room.他耸一下肩,走出了房间。
  • I admire the way she is able to shrug off unfair criticism.我很佩服她能对错误的批评意见不予理会。
21 lashes e2e13f8d3a7c0021226bb2f94d6a15ec     
n.鞭挞( lash的名词复数 );鞭子;突然猛烈的一击;急速挥动v.鞭打( lash的第三人称单数 );煽动;紧系;怒斥
  • Mother always lashes out food for the children's party. 孩子们聚会时,母亲总是给他们许多吃的。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Never walk behind a horse in case it lashes out. 绝对不要跟在马后面,以防它突然猛踢。 来自《简明英汉词典》
22 cosy dvnzc5     
  • We spent a cosy evening chatting by the fire.我们在炉火旁聊天度过了一个舒适的晚上。
  • It was so warm and cosy in bed that Simon didn't want to get out.床上温暖而又舒适,西蒙简直不想下床了。
23 horrid arozZj     
  • I'm not going to the horrid dinner party.我不打算去参加这次讨厌的宴会。
  • The medicine is horrid and she couldn't get it down.这种药很难吃,她咽不下去。
24 beseechingly c092e88c28d2bb0ccde559d682617827     
adv. 恳求地
  • She stood up, and almost beseechingly, asked her husband,'shall we go now?" 她站起身来,几乎是恳求似地问丈夫:“我们现在就走吧?”
  • Narcissa began to cry in earnest, gazing beseechingly all the while at Snape. 纳西莎伤心地哭了起来,乞求地盯着斯内普。
25 ogle f0UyA     
  • He likes to ogle at the pretty girls.他爱盯着漂亮的女孩子。
  • All she did was hang around ogling the men in the factory.她所做的就只是在工厂里荡来荡去,朝男人抛媚眼。
26 veins 65827206226d9e2d78ea2bfe697c6329     
n.纹理;矿脉( vein的名词复数 );静脉;叶脉;纹理
  • The blood flows from the capillaries back into the veins. 血从毛细血管流回静脉。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • I felt a pleasant glow in all my veins from the wine. 喝过酒后我浑身的血都热烘烘的,感到很舒服。 来自《简明英汉词典》
27 reek 8tcyP     
  • Where there's reek,there's heat.哪里有恶臭,哪里必发热。
  • That reek is from the fox.那股恶臭是狐狸发出的。
28 guilt 9e6xr     
  • She tried to cover up her guilt by lying.她企图用谎言掩饰自己的罪行。
  • Don't lay a guilt trip on your child about schoolwork.别因为功课责备孩子而使他觉得很内疚。
29 fixed JsKzzj     
  • Have you two fixed on a date for the wedding yet?你们俩选定婚期了吗?
  • Once the aim is fixed,we should not change it arbitrarily.目标一旦确定,我们就不应该随意改变。
30 sneer YFdzu     
  • He said with a sneer.他的话中带有嘲笑之意。
  • You may sneer,but a lot of people like this kind of music.你可以嗤之以鼻,但很多人喜欢这种音乐。
31 sneering 929a634cff0de62dfd69331a8e4dcf37     
  • "What are you sneering at?" “你冷笑什么?” 来自子夜部分
  • The old sorceress slunk in with a sneering smile. 老女巫鬼鬼崇崇地走进来,冷冷一笑。
32 badger PuNz6     
  • Now that our debts are squared.Don't badger me with them any more.我们的债务两清了。从此以后不要再纠缠我了。
  • If you badger him long enough,I'm sure he'll agree.只要你天天纠缠他,我相信他会同意。
33 bully bully     
  • A bully is always a coward.暴汉常是懦夫。
  • The boy gave the bully a pelt on the back with a pebble.那男孩用石子掷击小流氓的背脊。
34 pulp Qt4y9     
  • The pulp of this watermelon is too spongy.这西瓜瓤儿太肉了。
  • The company manufactures pulp and paper products.这个公司制造纸浆和纸产品。
35 outwards NJuxN     
  • Does this door open inwards or outwards?这门朝里开还是朝外开?
  • In lapping up a fur,they always put the inner side outwards.卷毛皮时,他们总是让内层朝外。
36 touching sg6zQ9     
  • It was a touching sight.这是一幅动人的景象。
  • His letter was touching.他的信很感人。
37 gathering ChmxZ     
  • He called on Mr. White to speak at the gathering.他请怀特先生在集会上讲话。
  • He is on the wing gathering material for his novels.他正忙于为他的小说收集资料。


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