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Chapter 1 Sisters

URSULA AND GUDRUN Brangwen sat one morning in the window-bay of their father's house in Beldover, working and talking. Ursula was stitching a piece of brightly-coloured embroidery, and Gudrun was drawing upon a board which she held on her knee. They were mostly silent, talking as their thoughts strayed through their minds.

`Ursula,' said Gudrun, `don't you really want to get married?' Ursula laid her embroidery in her lap and looked up. Her face was calm and considerate.

`I don't know,' she replied. `It depends how you mean.'

Gudrun was slightly taken aback. She watched her sister for some moments.

`Well,' she said, ironically, `it usually means one thing! But don't you think anyhow, you'd be --' she darkened slightly -- `in a better position than you are in now.'

A shadow came over Ursula's face.

`I might,' she said. `But I'm not sure.'

Again Gudrun paused, slightly irritated. She wanted to be quite definite.

`You don't think one needs the experience of having been married?' she asked.

`Do you think it need be an experience?' replied Ursula.

`Bound to be, in some way or other,' said Gudrun, coolly. `Possibly undesirable, but bound to be an experience of some sort.'

`Not really,' said Ursula. `More likely to be the end of experience.'

Gudrun sat very still, to attend to this.

`Of course,' she said, `there's that to consider.' This brought the conversation to a close. Gudrun, almost angrily, took up her rubber and began to rub out part of her drawing. Ursula stitched absorbedly.

`You wouldn't consider a good offer?' asked Gudrun.

`I think I've rejected several,' said Ursula.

`Really!' Gudrun flushed dark -- `But anything really worth while? Have you really?'

`A thousand a year, and an awfully nice man. I liked him awfully,' said Ursula.

`Really! But weren't you fearfully tempted?'

`In the abstract but not in the concrete,' said Ursula. `When it comes to the point, one isn't even tempted -- oh, if I were tempted, I'd marry like a shot. I'm only tempted not to.' The faces of both sisters suddenly lit up with amusement.

`Isn't it an amazing thing,' cried Gudrun, `how strong the temptation is, not to!' They both laughed, looking at each other. In their hearts they were frightened.

There was a long pause, whilst Ursula stitched and Gudrun went on with her sketch. The sisters were women, Ursula twenty-six, and Gudrun twenty-five. But both had the remote, virgin look of modern girls, sisters of Artemis rather than of Hebe. Gudrun was very beautiful, passive, soft-skinned, soft-limbed. She wore a dress of dark-blue silky stuff, with ruches of blue and green linen lace in the neck and sleeves; and she had emerald-green stockings. Her look of confidence and diffidence contrasted with Ursula's sensitive expectancy. The provincial people, intimidated by Gudrun's perfect sang-froid and exclusive bareness of manner, said of her: `She is a smart woman.' She had just come back from London, where she had spent several years, working at an art-school, as a student, and living a studio life.

`I was hoping now for a man to come along,' Gudrun said, suddenly catching her underlip between her teeth, and making a strange grimace, half sly smiling, half anguish. Ursula was afraid.

`So you have come home, expecting him here?' she laughed.

`Oh my dear,' cried Gudrun, strident, `I wouldn't go out of my way to look for him. But if there did happen to come along a highly attractive individual of sufficient means -- well --' she tailed off ironically. Then she looked searchingly at Ursula, as if to probe her. `Don't you find yourself getting bored?' she asked of her sister. `Don't you find, that things fail to materialise? Nothing materialises! Everything withers in the bud.'

`What withers in the bud?' asked Ursula.

`Oh, everything -- oneself -- things in general.' There was a pause, whilst each sister vaguely considered her fate.

`It does frighten one,' said Ursula, and again there was a pause. `But do you hope to get anywhere by just marrying?'

`It seems to be the inevitable next step,' said Gudrun. Ursula pondered this, with a little bitterness. She was a class mistress herself, in Willey Green Grammar School, as she had been for some years.

`I know,' she said, `it seems like that when one thinks in the abstract. But really imagine it: imagine any man one knows, imagine him coming home to one every evening, and saying "Hello," and giving one a kiss --'

There was a blank pause.

`Yes,' said Gudrun, in a narrowed voice. `It's just impossible. The man makes it impossible.'

`Of course there's children --' said Ursula doubtfully.

Gudrun's face hardened.

`Do you really want children, Ursula?' she asked coldly. A dazzled, baffled look came on Ursula's face.

`One feels it is still beyond one,' she said.

`Do you feel like that?' asked Gudrun. `I get no feeling whatever from the thought of bearing children.'

Gudrun looked at Ursula with a masklike, expressionless face. Ursula knitted her brows.

`Perhaps it isn't genuine,' she faltered. `Perhaps one doesn't really want them, in one's soul -- only superficially.' A hardness came over Gudrun's face. She did not want to be too definite.

`When one thinks of other people's children --' said Ursula.

Again Gudrun looked at her sister, almost hostile.

`Exactly,' she said, to close the conversation.

The two sisters worked on in silence, Ursula having always that strange brightness of an essential flame that is caught, meshed, contravened. She lived a good deal by herself, to herself, working, passing on from day to day, and always thinking, trying to lay hold on life, to grasp it in her own understanding. Her active living was suspended, but underneath, in the darkness, something was coming to pass. If only she could break through the last integuments! She seemed to try and put her hands out, like an infant in the womb, and she could not, not yet. Still she had a strange prescience, an intimation of something yet to come.

She laid down her work and looked at her sister. She thought Gudrun so charming, so infinitely charming, in her softness and her fine, exquisite richness of texture and delicacy of line. There was a certain playfulness about her too, such a piquancy or ironic suggestion, such an untouched reserve. Ursula admired her with all her soul.

`Why did you come home, Prune?' she asked.

Gudrun knew she was being admired. She sat back from her drawing and looked at Ursula, from under her finely-curved lashes.

`Why did I come back, Ursula?' she repeated. `I have asked myself a thousand times.'

`And don't you know?'

`Yes, I think I do. I think my coming back home was just reculer pour mieux sauter.'

And she looked with a long, slow look of knowledge at Ursula.

`I know!' cried Ursula, looking slightly dazzled and falsified, and as if she did not know. `But where can one jump to?'

`Oh, it doesn't matter,' said Gudrun, somewhat superbly. `If one jumps over the edge, one is bound to land somewhere.'

`But isn't it very risky?' asked Ursula.

A slow mocking smile dawned on Gudrun's face.

`Ah!' she said laughing. `What is it all but words!' And so again she closed the conversation. But Ursula was still brooding.

`And how do you find home, now you have come back to it?' she asked.

Gudrun paused for some moments, coldly, before answering. Then, in a cold truthful voice, she said:

`I find myself completely out of it.'

`And father?'

Gudrun looked at Ursula, almost with resentment, as if brought to bay.

`I haven't thought about him: I've refrained,' she said coldly.

`Yes,' wavered Ursula; and the conversation was really at an end. The sisters found themselves confronted by a void, a terrifying chasm, as if they had looked over the edge.

They worked on in silence for some time, Gudrun's cheek was flushed with repressed emotion. She resented its having been called into being.

`Shall we go out and look at that wedding?' she asked at length, in a voice that was too casual.

`Yes!' cried Ursula, too eagerly, throwing aside her sewing and leaping up, as if to escape something, thus betraying the tension of the situation and causing a friction of dislike to go over Gudrun's nerves.

As she went upstairs, Ursula was aware of the house, of her home round about her. And she loathed it, the sordid, too-familiar place! She was afraid at the depth of her feeling against the home, the milieu, the whole atmosphere and condition of this obsolete life. Her feeling frightened her.

The two girls were soon walking swiftly down the main road of Beldover, a wide street, part shops, part dwelling-houses, utterly formless and sordid, without poverty. Gudrun, new from her life in Chelsea and Sussex, shrank cruelly from this amorphous ugliness of a small colliery town in the Midlands. Yet forward she went, through the whole sordid gamut of pettiness, the long amorphous, gritty street. She was exposed to every stare, she passed on through a stretch of torment. It was strange that she should have chosen to come back and test the full effect of this shapeless, barren ugliness upon herself. Why had she wanted to submit herself to it, did she still want to submit herself to it, the insufferable torture of these ugly, meaningless people, this defaced countryside? She felt like a beetle toiling in the dust. She was filled with repulsion.

They turned off the main road, past a black patch of common-garden, where sooty cabbage stumps stood shameless. No one thought to be ashamed. No one was ashamed of it all.

`It is like a country in an underworld,' said Gudrun. `The colliers bring it aboveground with them, shovel it up. Ursula, it's marvellous, it's really marvellous -- it's really wonderful, another world. The people are all ghouls, and everything is ghostly. Everything is a ghoulish replica of the real world, a replica, a ghoul, all soiled, everything sordid. It's like being mad, Ursula.'

The sisters were crossing a black path through a dark, soiled field. On the left was a large landscape, a valley with collieries, and opposite hills with cornfields and woods, all blackened with distance, as if seen through a veil of crape. White and black smoke rose up in steady columns, magic within the dark air. Near at hand came the long rows of dwellings, approaching curved up the hill-slope, in straight lines along the brow of the hill. They were of darkened red brick, brittle, with dark slate roofs. The path on which the sisters walked was black, trodden-in by the feet of the recurrent colliers, and bounded from the field by iron fences; the stile that led again into the road was rubbed shiny by the moleskins of the passing miners. Now the two girls were going between some rows of dwellings, of the poorer sort. Women, their arms folded over their coarse aprons, standing gossiping at the end of their block, stared after the Brangwen sisters with that long, unwearying stare of aborigines; children called out names.

Gudrun went on her way half dazed. If this were human life, if these were human beings, living in a complete world, then what was her own world, outside? She was aware of her grass-green stockings, her large grass-green velour hat, her full soft coat, of a strong blue colour. And she felt as if she were treading in the air, quite unstable, her heart was contracted, as if at any minute she might be precipitated to the ground. She was afraid.

She clung to Ursula, who, through long usage was inured to this violation of a dark, uncreated, hostile world. But all the time her heart was crying, as if in the midst of some ordeal: `I want to go back, I want to go away, I want not to know it, not to know that this exists.' Yet she must go forward.

Ursula could feel her suffering.

`You hate this, don't you?' she asked.

`It bewilders me,' stammered Gudrun.

`You won't stay long,' replied Ursula.

And Gudrun went along, grasping at release.

They drew away from the colliery region, over the curve of the hill, into the purer country of the other side, towards Willey Green. Still the faint glamour of blackness persisted over the fields and the wooded hills, and seemed darkly to gleam in the air. It was a spring day, chill, with snatches of sunshine. Yellow celandines showed out from the hedge-bottoms, and in the cottage gardens of Willey Green, currant-bushes were breaking into leaf, and little flowers were coming white on the grey alyssum that hung over the stone walls.

Turning, they passed down the high-road, that went between high banks towards the church. There, in the lowest bend of the road, low under the trees, stood a little group of expectant people, waiting to see the wedding. The daughter of the chief mine-owner of the district, Thomas Crich, was getting married to a naval officer.

`Let us go back,' said Gudrun, swerving away. `There are all those people.'

And she hung wavering in the road.

`Never mind them,' said Ursula, `they're all right. They all know me, they don't matter.'

`But must we go through them?' asked Gudrun.

`They're quite all right, really,' said Ursula, going forward. And together the two sisters approached the group of uneasy, watchful common people. They were chiefly women, colliers' wives of the more shiftless sort. They had watchful, underworld faces.

The two sisters held themselves tense, and went straight towards the gate. The women made way for them, but barely sufficient, as if grudging to yield ground. The sisters passed in silence through the stone gateway and up the steps, on the red carpet, a policeman estimating their progress.

`What price the stockings!' said a voice at the back of Gudrun. A sudden fierce anger swept over the girl, violent and murderous. She would have liked them all annihilated, cleared away, so that the world was left clear for her. How she hated walking up the churchyard path, along the red carpet, continuing in motion, in their sight.

`I won't go into the church,' she said suddenly, with such final decision that Ursula immediately halted, turned round, and branched off up a small side path which led to the little private gate of the Grammar School, whose grounds adjoined those of the church.

Just inside the gate of the school shrubbery, outside the churchyard, Ursula sat down for a moment on the low stone wall under the laurel bushes, to rest. Behind her, the large red building of the school rose up peacefully, the windows all open for the holiday. Over the shrubs, before her, were the pale roofs and tower of the old church. The sisters were hidden by the foliage.

Gudrun sat down in silence. Her mouth was shut close, her face averted. She was regretting bitterly that she had ever come back. Ursula looked at her, and thought how amazingly beautiful she was, flushed with discomfiture. But she caused a constraint over Ursula's nature, a certain weariness. Ursula wished to be alone, freed from the tightness, the enclosure of Gudrun's presence.

`Are we going to stay here?' asked Gudrun.

`I was only resting a minute,' said Ursula, getting up as if rebuked. `We will stand in the corner by the fives-court, we shall see everything from there.'

For the moment, the sunshine fell brightly into the churchyard, there was a vague scent of sap and of spring, perhaps of violets from off the graves. Some white daisies were out, bright as angels. In the air, the unfolding leaves of a copperbeech were blood-red.

Punctually at eleven o'clock, the carriages began to arrive. There was a stir in the crowd at the gate, a concentration as a carriage drove up, wedding guests were mounting up the steps and passing along the red carpet to the church. They were all gay and excited because the sun was shining.

Gudrun watched them closely, with objective curiosity. She saw each one as a complete figure, like a character in a book, or a subject in a picture, or a marionette in a theatre, a finished creation. She loved to recognise their various characteristics, to place them in their true light, give them their own surroundings, settle them for ever as they passed before her along the path to the church. She knew them, they were finished, sealed and stamped and finished with, for her. There was none that had anything unknown, unresolved, until the Criches themselves began to appear. Then her interest was piqued. Here was something not quite so preconcluded.

There came the mother, Mrs Crich, with her eldest son Gerald. She was a queer unkempt figure, in spite of the attempts that had obviously been made to bring her into line for the day. Her face was pale, yellowish, with a clear, transparent skin, she leaned forward rather, her features were strongly marked, handsome, with a tense, unseeing, predative look. Her colourless hair was untidy, wisps floating down on to her sac coat of dark blue silk, from under her blue silk hat. She looked like a woman with a monomania, furtive almost, but heavily proud.

Her son was of a fair, sun-tanned type, rather above middle height, well-made, and almost exaggeratedly well-dressed. But about him also was the strange, guarded look, the unconscious glisten, as if he did not belong to the same creation as the people about him. Gudrun lighted on him at once. There was something northern about him that magnetised her. In his clear northern flesh and his fair hair was a glisten like sunshine refracted through crystals of ice. And he looked so new, unbroached, pure as an arctic thing. Perhaps he was thirty years old, perhaps more. His gleaming beauty, maleness, like a young, good-humoured, smiling wolf, did not blind her to the significant, sinister stillness in his bearing, the lurking danger of his unsubdued temper. `His totem is the wolf,' she repeated to herself. `His mother is an old, unbroken wolf.' And then she experienced a keen paroxyism, a transport, as if she had made some incredible discovery, known to nobody else on earth. A strange transport took possession of her, all her veins were in a paroxysm of violent sensation. `Good God!' she exclaimed to herself, `what is this?' And then, a moment after, she was saying assuredly, `I shall know more of that man.' She was tortured with desire to see him again, a nostalgia, a necessity to see him again, to make sure it was not all a mistake, that she was not deluding herself, that she really felt this strange and overwhelming sensation on his account, this knowledge of him in her essence, this powerful apprehension of him. `Am I really singled out for him in some way, is there really some pale gold, arctic light that envelopes only us two?' she asked herself. And she could not believe it, she remained in a muse, scarcely conscious of what was going on around.

The bridesmaids were here, and yet the bridegroom had not come. Ursula wondered if something was amiss, and if the wedding would yet all go wrong. She felt troubled, as if it rested upon her. The chief bridesmaids had arrived. Ursula watched them come up the steps. One of them she knew, a tall, slow, reluctant woman with a weight of fair hair and a pale, long face. This was Hermione Roddice, a friend of the Criches. Now she came along, with her head held up, balancing an enormous flat hat of pale yellow velvet, on which were streaks of ostrich feathers, natural and grey. She drifted forward as if scarcely conscious, her long blanched face lifted up, not to see the world. She was rich. She wore a dress of silky, frail velvet, of pale yellow colour, and she carried a lot of small rosecoloured cyclamens. Her shoes and stockings were of brownish grey, like the feathers on her hat, her hair was heavy, she drifted along with a peculiar fixity of the hips, a strange unwilling motion. She was impressive, in her lovely paleyellow and brownish-rose, yet macabre, something repulsive. People were silent when she passed, impressed, roused, wanting to jeer, yet for some reason silenced. Her long, pale face, that she carried lifted up, somewhat in the Rossetti fashion, seemed almost drugged, as if a strange mass of thoughts coiled in the darkness within her, and she was never allowed to escape.

Ursula watched her with fascination. She knew her a little. She was the most remarkable woman in the Midlands. Her father was a Derbyshire Baronet of the old school, she was a woman of the new school, full of intellectuality, and heavy, nerve-worn with consciousness. She was passionately interested in reform, her soul was given up to the public cause. But she was a man's woman, it was the manly world that held her.

She had various intimacies of mind and soul with various men of capacity. Ursula knew, among these men, only Rupert Birkin, who was one of the schoolinspectors of the county. But Gudrun had met others, in London. Moving with her artist friends in different kinds of society, Gudrun had already come to know a good many people of repute and standing. She had met Hermione twice, but they did not take to each other. It would be queer to meet again down here in the Midlands, where their social standing was so diverse, after they had known each other on terms of equality in the houses of sundry acquaintances in town. For Gudrun had been a social success, and had her friends among the slack aristocracy that keeps touch with the arts.

Hermione knew herself to be well-dressed; she knew herself to be the social equal, if not far the superior, of anyone she was likely to meet in Willey Green. She knew she was accepted in the world of culture and of intellect. She was a Kulturtrager, a medium for the culture of ideas. With all that was highest, whether in society or in thought or in public action, or even in art, she was at one, she moved among the foremost, at home with them. No one could put her down, no one could make mock of her, because she stood among the first, and those that were against her were below her, either in rank, or in wealth, or in high association of thought and progress and understanding. So, she was invulnerable. All her life, she had sought to make herself invulnerable, unassailable, beyond reach of the world's judgment.

And yet her soul was tortured, exposed. Even walking up the path to the church, confident as she was that in every respect she stood beyond all vulgar judgment, knowing perfectly that her appearance was complete and perfect, according to the first standards, yet she suffered a torture, under her confidence and her pride, feeling herself exposed to wounds and to mockery and to despite. She always felt vulnerable, vulnerable, there was always a secret chink in her armour. She did not know herself what it was. It was a lack of robust self, she had no natural sufficiency, there was a terrible void, a lack, a deficiency of being within her.

And she wanted someone to close up this deficiency, to close it up for ever. She craved for Rupert Birkin. When he was there, she felt complete, she was sufficient, whole. For the rest of time she was established on the sand, built over a chasm, and, in spite of all her vanity and securities, any common maid-servant of positive, robust temper could fling her down this bottomless pit of insufficiency, by the slightest movement of jeering or contempt. And all the while the pensive, tortured woman piled up her own defences of aesthetic knowledge, and culture, and worldvisions, and disinterestedness. Yet she could never stop up the terrible gap of insufficiency.

If only Birkin would form a close and abiding connection with her, she would be safe during this fretful voyage of life. He could make her sound and triumphant, triumphant over the very angels of heaven. If only he would do it! But she was tortured with fear, with misgiving. She made herself beautiful, she strove so hard to come to that degree of beauty and advantage, when he should be convinced. But always there was a deficiency.

He was perverse too. He fought her off, he always fought her off. The more she strove to bring him to her, the more he battled her back. And they had been lovers now, for years. Oh, it was so wearying, so aching; she was so tired. But still she believed in herself. She knew he was trying to leave her. She knew he was trying to break away from her finally, to be free. But still she believed in her strength to keep him, she believed in her own higher knowledge. His own knowledge was high, she was the central touchstone of truth. She only needed his conjunction with her.

And this, this conjunction with her, which was his highest fulfilment also, with the perverseness of a wilful child he wanted to deny. With the wilfulness of an obstinate child, he wanted to break the holy connection that was between them.

He would be at this wedding; he was to be groom's man. He would be in the church, waiting. He would know when she came. She shuddered with nervous apprehension and desire as she went through the church-door. He would be there, surely he would see how beautiful her dress was, surely he would see how she had made herself beautiful for him. He would understand, he would be able to see how she was made for him, the first, how she was, for him, the highest. Surely at last he would be able to accept his highest fate, he would not deny her.

In a little convulsion of too-tired yearning, she entered the church and looked slowly along her cheeks for him, her slender body convulsed with agitation. As best man, he would be standing beside the altar. She looked slowly, deferring in her certainty.

And then, he was not there. A terrible storm came over her, as if she were drowning. She was possessed by a devastating hopelessness. And she approached mechanically to the altar. Never had she known such a pang of utter and final hopelessness. It was beyond death, so utterly null, desert.

The bridegroom and the groom's man had not yet come. There was a growing consternation outside. Ursula felt almost responsible. She could not bear it that the bride should arrive, and no groom. The wedding must not be a fiasco, it must not.

But here was the bride's carriage, adorned with ribbons and cockades. Gaily the grey horses curvetted to their destination at the church-gate, a laughter in the whole movement. Here was the quick of all laughter and pleasure. The door of the carriage was thrown open, to let out the very blossom of the day. The people on the roadway murmured faintly with the discontented murmuring of a crowd.

The father stepped out first into the air of the morning, like a shadow. He was a tall, thin, careworn man, with a thin black beard that was touched with grey. He waited at the door of the carriage patiently, self-obliterated.

In the opening of the doorway was a shower of fine foliage and flowers, a whiteness of satin and lace, and a sound of a gay voice saying:

`How do I get out?'

A ripple of satisfaction ran through the expectant people. They pressed near to receive her, looking with zest at the stooping blond head with its flower buds, and at the delicate, white, tentative foot that was reaching down to the step of the carriage. There was a sudden foaming rush, and the bride like a sudden surf-rush, floating all white beside her father in the morning shadow of trees, her veil flowing with laughter.

`That's done it!' she said.

She put her hand on the arm of her care-worn, sallow father, and frothing her light draperies, proceeded over the eternal red carpet. Her father, mute and yellowish, his black beard making him look more careworn, mounted the steps stiffly, as if his spirit were absent; but the laughing mist of the bride went along with him undiminished.

And no bridegroom had arrived! It was intolerable for her. Ursula, her heart strained with anxiety, was watching the hill beyond; the white, descending road, that should give sight of him. There was a carriage. It was running. It had just come into sight. Yes, it was he. Ursula turned towards the bride and the people, and, from her place of vantage, gave an inarticulate cry. She wanted to warn them that he was coming. But her cry was inarticulate and inaudible, and she flushed deeply, between her desire and her wincing confusion.

The carriage rattled down the hill, and drew near. There was a shout from the people. The bride, who had just reached the top of the steps, turned round gaily to see what was the commotion. She saw a confusion among the people, a cab pulling up, and her lover dropping out of the carriage, and dodging among the horses and into the crowd.

`Tibs! Tibs!' she cried in her sudden, mocking excitement, standing high on the path in the sunlight and waving her bouquet. He, dodging with his hat in his hand, had not heard.

`Tibs!' she cried again, looking down to him.

He glanced up, unaware, and saw the bride and her father standing on the path above him. A queer, startled look went over his face. He hesitated for a moment. Then he gathered himself together for a leap, to overtake her.

`Ah-h-h!' came her strange, intaken cry, as, on the reflex, she started, turned and fled, scudding with an unthinkable swift beating of her white feet and fraying of her white garments, towards the church. Like a hound the young man was after her, leaping the steps and swinging past her father, his supple haunches working like those of a hound that bears down on the quarry.

`Ay, after her!' cried the vulgar women below, carried suddenly into the sport.

She, her flowers shaken from her like froth, was steadying herself to turn the angle of the church. She glanced behind, and with a wild cry of laughter and challenge, veered, poised, and was gone beyond the grey stone buttress. In another instant the bridegroom, bent forward as he ran, had caught the angle of the silent stone with his hand, and had swung himself out of sight, his supple, strong loins vanishing in pursuit.

Instantly cries and exclamations of excitement burst from the crowd at the gate. And then Ursula noticed again the dark, rather stooping figure of Mr Crich, waiting suspended on the path, watching with expressionless face the flight to the church. It was over, and he turned round to look behind him, at the figure of Rupert Birkin, who at once came forward and joined him.

`We'll bring up the rear,' said Birkin, a faint smile on his face.

`Ay!' replied the father laconically. And the two men turned together up the path.

Birkin was as thin as Mr Crich, pale and ill-looking. His figure was narrow but nicely made. He went with a slight trail of one foot, which came only from selfconsciousness. Although he was dressed correctly for his part, yet there was an innate incongruity which caused a slight ridiculousness in his appearance. His nature was clever and separate, he did not fit at all in the conventional occasion. Yet he subordinated himself to the common idea, travestied himself.

He affected to be quite ordinary, perfectly and marvellously commonplace. And he did it so well, taking the tone of his surroundings, adjusting himself quickly to his interlocutor and his circumstance, that he achieved a verisimilitude of ordinary commonplaceness that usually propitiated his onlookers for the moment, disarmed them from attacking his singleness.

Now he spoke quite easily and pleasantly to Mr Crich, as they walked along the path; he played with situations like a man on a tight-rope: but always on a tightrope, pretending nothing but ease.

`I'm sorry we are so late,' he was saying. `We couldn't find a button-hook, so it took us a long time to button our boots. But you were to the moment.'

`We are usually to time,' said Mr Crich.

`And I'm always late,' said Birkin. `But today I was really punctual, only accidentally not so. I'm sorry.'

The two men were gone, there was nothing more to see, for the time. Ursula was left thinking about Birkin. He piqued her, attracted her, and annoyed her.

She wanted to know him more. She had spoken with him once or twice, but only in his official capacity as inspector. She thought he seemed to acknowledge some kinship between her and him, a natural, tacit understanding, a using of the same language. But there had been no time for the understanding to develop. And something kept her from him, as well as attracted her to him. There was a certain hostility, a hidden ultimate reserve in him, cold and inaccessible.

Yet she wanted to know him.

`What do you think of Rupert Birkin?' she asked, a little reluctantly, of Gudrun. She did not want to discuss him.

`What do I think of Rupert Birkin?' repeated Gudrun. `I think he's attractive -decidedly attractive. What I can't stand about him is his way with other people -his way of treating any little fool as if she were his greatest consideration. One feels so awfully sold, oneself.'

`Why does he do it?' said Ursula.

`Because he has no real critical faculty -- of people, at all events,' said Gudrun. `I tell you, he treats any little fool as he treats me or you -- and it's such an insult.'

`Oh, it is,' said Ursula. `One must discriminate.'

`One must discriminate,' repeated Gudrun. `But he's a wonderful chap, in other respects -- a marvellous personality. But you can't trust him.'

`Yes,' said Ursula vaguely. She was always forced to assent to Gudrun's pronouncements, even when she was not in accord altogether.

The sisters sat silent, waiting for the wedding party to come out. Gudrun was impatient of talk. She wanted to think about Gerald Crich. She wanted to see if the strong feeling she had got from him was real. She wanted to have herself ready.

Inside the church, the wedding was going on. Hermione Roddice was thinking only of Birkin. He stood near her. She seemed to gravitate physically towards him. She wanted to stand touching him. She could hardly be sure he was near her, if she did not touch him. Yet she stood subjected through the wedding service.

She had suffered so bitterly when he did not come, that still she was dazed. Still she was gnawed as by a neuralgia, tormented by his potential absence from her. She had awaited him in a faint delirium of nervous torture. As she stood bearing herself pensively, the rapt look on her face, that seemed spiritual, like the angels, but which came from torture, gave her a certain poignancy that tore his heart with pity. He saw her bowed head, her rapt face, the face of an almost demoniacal ecstatic. Feeling him looking, she lifted her face and sought his eyes, her own beautiful grey eyes flaring him a great signal. But he avoided her look, she sank her head in torment and shame, the gnawing at her heart going on. And he too was tortured with shame, and ultimate dislike, and with acute pity for her, because he did not want to meet her eyes, he did not want to receive her flare of recognition.

The bride and bridegroom were married, the party went into the vestry. Hermione crowded involuntarily up against Birkin, to touch him. And he endured it.

Outside, Gudrun and Ursula listened for their father's playing on the organ. He would enjoy playing a wedding march. Now the married pair were coming! The bells were ringing, making the air shake. Ursula wondered if the trees and the flowers could feel the vibration, and what they thought of it, this strange motion in the air. The bride was quite demure on the arm of the bridegroom, who stared up into the sky before him, shutting and opening his eyes unconsciously, as if he were neither here nor there. He looked rather comical, blinking and trying to be in the scene, when emotionally he was violated by his exposure to a crowd. He looked a typical naval officer, manly, and up to his duty.

Birkin came with Hermione. She had a rapt, triumphant look, like the fallen angels restored, yet still subtly demoniacal, now she held Birkin by the arm. And he was expressionless, neutralised, possessed by her as if it were his fate, without question.

Gerald Crich came, fair, good-looking, healthy, with a great reserve of energy. He was erect and complete, there was a strange stealth glistening through his amiable, almost happy appearance. Gudrun rose sharply and went away. She could not bear it. She wanted to be alone, to know this strange, sharp inoculation that had changed the whole temper of her blood.

 

在贝多弗父亲的房子里,布朗温家两姐妹厄秀拉和戈珍坐在凸肚窗窗台上,一边绣花、绘画,一边聊着。厄秀拉正绣一件色彩鲜艳的东西,戈珍膝盖上放着一块画板在画画儿。

她们默默地绣着、画着,想到什么就说点什么。

“厄秀拉,”戈珍说,“你真想结婚吗?”厄秀拉把刺绣摊在膝上抬起头来,神情平静、若有所思地说:

“我不知道,这要看怎么讲了。”

戈珍有点吃惊地看着姐姐,看了好一会儿。

“这个嘛,”戈珍调侃地说,“一般来说指的就是那回事!但是,你不觉得你应该,嗯,”她有点神色黯然地说,“不应该比现在的处境更好一点吗?”

厄秀拉脸上闪过一片阴影。

“应该,”她说,“不过我没把握。”

戈珍又不说话了,有点不高兴了,她原本要得到一个确切的答复。

“你不认为一个人需要结婚的经验吗?”她问。

“你认为结婚是一种经验吗?”厄秀拉反问。

“肯定是,不管怎样都是。”戈珍冷静地说,“可能这经验让人不愉快,但肯定是一种经验。”

“那不见得,”厄秀拉说,“也许倒是经验的结束呢。”

戈珍笔直地坐着,认真听厄秀拉说这话。

“当然了,”她说,“是要想到这个。”说完后,她们不再说话了。戈珍几乎是气呼呼地抓起橡皮,开始擦掉画上去的东西。厄秀拉专心地绣她的花儿。

“有象样的人求婚你不考虑接受吗?”戈珍问。

“我都回绝了好几个了。”厄秀拉说。

“真的!?”戈珍绯红了脸问:“什么值得你这么干?你真有什么想法吗?”

“一年中有好多人求婚,我喜欢上了一个非常好的人,太喜欢他了。”厄秀拉说。

“真的!是不是你让人家引诱了?”

“可以说是,也可以说不是。”厄秀拉说,“一到那时候,压根儿就没了引诱这一说。要是我让人家引诱了,我早立即结婚了。我受的是不结婚的引诱。”说到这里,两姐妹的脸色明朗起来,感到乐不可支。

“太棒了,”戈珍叫道,“这引诱力也太大了,不结婚!”她们两人相对大笑起来,但她们心里感到可怕。

这以后她们沉默了好久,厄秀拉仍旧绣花儿,戈珍照旧画她的素描。姐妹俩都是大姑娘了,厄秀拉二十六,戈珍二十五。但她们都象现代女性那样,看上去冷漠、纯洁,不象青春女神,反倒更象月神。戈珍很漂亮、皮肤柔嫩,体态婀娜,人也温顺。她身着一件墨绿色绸上衣,领口和袖口上都镶着蓝色和绿色的亚麻布褶边儿;脚上穿的袜子则是翠绿色的。她看上去与厄秀拉正相反。她时而自信,时而羞赦,而厄秀拉则敏感,充满信心。本地人被戈珍那泰然自若的神态和毫无掩饰的举止所惊诧,说她是个“伶俐的姑娘。”她刚从伦敦回来,在那儿住了几年,在一所艺术学校边工作边学习,俨然是个艺术家。

“我现在在等一个男人的到来,”戈珍说着,突然咬住下嘴唇,一半是狡猾的笑,一半是痛苦相,做了个奇怪的鬼脸。

厄秀拉被吓了一跳。

“你回家来,就是为了在这儿等他?”她笑道。

“得了吧,”戈珍刺耳地叫道,“我才不会犯神经去找他呢。不过嘛,要是真有那么一个人,相貌出众、丰采照人,又有足够的钱,那——”戈珍有点不好意思,话没说完。然后她盯着厄秀拉,好象要看透她似的。“你不觉得你都感到厌烦了吗?”她问姐姐,“你是否发现什么都无法实现?什么都实现不了!一切都还未等开花儿就凋谢了。”

“什么没开花就凋谢了?”厄秀拉问。

“嗨,什么都是这样,自己一般的事情都这样。”姐妹俩不说话了,都在朦朦胧胧地考虑着自己的命运。

“这是够可怕的。”厄秀拉说,停了一会儿又说:“不过你想通过结婚达到什么目的吗?”

“那是下一步的事儿,不可避免。”戈珍说。厄秀拉思考着这个问题,心中有点发苦。她在威利·格林中学教书,工作好几年了。

“我知道,”她说,“人一空想起来似乎都那样,可要是设身处地地想想就好了,想想吧,想想你了解的一个男人,每天晚上回家来,对你说声‘哈罗’,然后吻你——”

谁都不说话了。

“没错,”戈珍小声说,“这不可能。男人不可能这样。”

“当然还有孩子——”厄秀拉迟疑地说。

戈珍的表情严峻起来。

“你真想要孩子吗,厄秀拉?”她冷冷地问。听她这一问,厄秀拉脸上露出了迷惑不解的表情。

“我觉得这个问题离我还太远,”她说。

“你是这种感受吗?”戈珍问,“我从来没想过生孩子,没那感受。”

戈珍毫无表情地看着厄秀拉。厄秀拉皱起了眉头。

“或许这并不是真的,”她支吾道,“或许人们心里并不想要孩子,只是表面上这样而已。”戈珍的神态严肃起来。她并不需要太肯定的说法。

“可有时一个人会想到别人的孩子。”厄秀拉说。

戈珍又一次看看姐姐,目光中几乎有些敌意。

“是这样。”她说完不再说话了。

姐妹两人默默地绣花、绘画儿。厄秀拉总是那么精神抖擞,心中燃着一团扑扑作响、熊熊腾腾的火。她自己独立生活很久了,洁身自好,工作着,日复一日,总想把握住生活,照自己的想法去把握生活。表面上她停止了活跃的生活,可实际上,在冥冥中却有什么在生长出来。要是她能够冲破那最后的一层壳皮该多好啊!她似乎象一个胎儿那样伸出了双手,可是,她不能,还不能。她仍有一种奇特的预感,感到有什么将至。

她放下手中的刺绣,看看妹妹。她觉得戈珍太漂亮、实在太迷人了,她柔美、丰腴、线条纤细。她还有点顽皮、淘气、出言辛辣,真是个毫无修饰的处女。厄秀拉打心眼儿里羡慕她。

“你为什么回家来?”

戈珍知道厄秀拉羡慕她了。她直起腰来,线条优美的眼睫毛下目光凝视着厄秀拉。

“问我为什么回来吗,厄秀拉?”她重复道:“我自己已经问过自己一千次了。”

“你知道了吗?”

“知道了,我想我明白了。我觉得我退一步是为了更好地前进。”

说完她久久地盯着厄秀拉,目光寻问着她。

“我知道!”厄秀拉叫道,那神情有些迷茫,象是在说谎,好象她不明白一样。“可你要跳到哪儿去呢?”

“哦,无所谓,”戈珍说,口气有点超然。“一个人如果跳过了篱笆,他总能落到一个什么地方的。”

“可这不是在冒险吗?”厄秀拉说。

戈珍脸上渐渐掠过一丝嘲讽的笑意。

“嗨!”她笑道:“我们尽吵些什么呀!”她又不说话了,可厄秀拉仍然郁闷地沉思着。

“你回来了,觉得家里怎么样?”她问。

戈珍沉默了片刻,有点冷漠。然后冷冷地说:

“我发现我完全不是这儿的人了。”

“那爸爸呢?”

戈珍几乎有点反感地看看厄秀拉,有些被迫的样子,说:

“我还没想到他呢,我不让自己去想。”她的话很冷漠。

“好啊,”厄秀拉吞吞吐吐地说。她俩的对话的确进行不下去了。姐妹两人发现自己遇到了一条黑洞洞的深渊,很可怕,好象她们就在边上窥视一样。

她们又默默地做着自己的活儿。一会儿,戈珍的脸因为控制着情绪而通红起来。她不愿让脸红起来。

“我们出去看看人家的婚礼吧。”她终于说话了,口气很随便。

“好啊!”厄秀拉叫道,急切地把针线扔到一边,跳了起来,似乎要逃离什么东西一样。这么一来,反倒弄得很紧张,令戈珍感到不高兴。

往楼上走着,厄秀拉注意地看着这座房子,这是她的家。可是她讨厌这儿,这块肮脏、太让人熟习的地方!也许她内心深处对这个家是反感的,这周围的环境,整个气氛和这种陈腐的生活都让她反感。这种感觉令她恐怖。

两个姑娘很快就来到了贝多弗的主干道上,匆匆走着。这条街很宽,路旁有商店和住房,布局散乱,街面上也很脏,不过倒不显得贫寒。戈珍刚从彻西区①和苏塞克斯②来,对中部这座小小的矿区城十分厌恶,这儿真是又乱又脏。她朝前走着,穿过长长的砾石街道,把个混乱不堪、肮脏透顶、小气十足的场面尽收眼底。人们的目光都盯着她,她感到很难受。真不知道她为什么要回来,为什么要尝尝这乱七八糟、丑陋不堪的小城滋味。她为什么要向这些令人难以忍受的折磨,这些毫无意义的人和这座毫无光彩的农村小镇屈服呢?为什么她仍然要向这些东西屈服?她感到自己就象一只在尘土中蠕动的甲壳虫,这真令人反感。

①彻西区是伦敦聚集了文学艺术家的一个区。

②英国的一个郡。——译者注。以后所有的注释均为译者注。

她们走下主干道,从一座黑乎乎的公家菜园旁走过,园子里沾满煤炭的白菜根不识羞耻地散落着。没人感到难看,没人为这个感到不好意思。

“这真象地狱中的农村。”戈珍说,“矿工们把煤炭带到地面上来,带来这么多呀。厄秀拉,这可真太好玩了,太好了,真是太妙了,这儿又是一个世界。这儿的人全是些吃尸鬼,这儿什么东西都沾着鬼气。全是真实世界的鬼影,是鬼影、食尸鬼,全是些肮脏、龌龊的东西。厄秀拉,这简直让人发疯。”

姐妹俩穿过一片黑黝黝、肮脏不堪的田野。左边是散落着一座座煤矿的谷地,谷地上面的山坡上是小麦田和森林,远远一片黝黑,就象罩着一层黑纱一样。敦敦实实的烟窗里冒着白烟黑烟,象黑沉沉天空上在变魔术一样。近处是一排排的住房,顺山坡而上,一直通向山顶。这些房子用暗红砖砌成,房顶铺着石板,看上去很不结实。姐妹二人走的这条路也是黑乎乎的。路是让矿工们的脚一步步踩出来的,路旁围着铁栅栏,栅门也让进出的矿工们的厚毛布裤磨亮了。现在姐妹二人走在几排房屋中间的路上,这里可就寒酸了。女人们戴着围裙,双臂交叉着抱在胸前,站在远处窃窃私语,她们用一种不开化人的目光目不转睛地盯着布朗温姐妹;孩子们在叫骂着。

戈珍走着,被眼前的东西惊呆了。如果说这是人的生活,如果说这些是生活在一个完整世界中的人,那么她自己那个世界算什么呢?她意识到自己穿着绿草般鲜绿的袜子,戴着绿色的天鹅绒帽,柔软的长大衣也是绿的,颜色更深一点。她感到自己腾云驾雾般地走着,一点都不稳,她的心缩紧了,似乎她随时都会猝然摔倒在地。她怕了。

她紧紧偎依着厄秀拉,她对这个黑暗、粗鄙、充满敌意的世界早习以为常了。尽管有厄秀拉,戈珍还感到象是在受着苦刑,心儿一直在呼喊:“我要回去,要走,我不想知道这儿,不想知道这些东西。”可她不得不继续朝前走。

厄秀拉可以感觉到戈珍是在受罪。

“你讨厌这些,是吗?”她问。

“这儿让我吃惊。”戈珍结结巴巴地说。

“你别在这儿呆太久。”厄秀拉说。

戈珍松了一口气,继续朝前走。

她们离开了矿区,翻过山,进入了山后宁静的乡村,朝威利·格林中学走去。田野上仍有些煤炭,但好多了,山上的林子里也这样,似乎在闪着黑色的光芒。这是春天,春寒料峭,但尚有几许阳光。篱笆下冒出些黄色的花来,威利·格林的农家菜园里,覆盆子已经长出了叶子,伏种在石墙上的油菜,灰叶中已绽出些小白花儿。

她们转身走下了高高的田梗,中间是通向教堂的主干道。在转弯的低处,树下站着一群等着看婚礼的人们。这个地区的矿业主托玛斯·克里奇的女儿与一位海军军官的婚礼将要举行。

“咱们回去吧,”戈珍转过身说着,“全是些这种人。”

她在路上犹豫着。

“别管他们,”厄秀拉说,“他们都不错,都认识我,没事儿。”

“我们非得从他们当中穿过去吗?”戈珍问。

“他们都不错,真的。”厄秀拉说着继续朝前走。这姐妹两人一起接近了这群躁动不安、眼巴巴盯着看的人。这当中大多数是女人,矿工们的妻子,更是些混日子的人,她们脸上透着警觉的神色,一看就是下层人。

姐妹两人提心吊胆地直朝大门走去。女人们为她们让路,可让出来的就那么窄窄的一条缝,好象是在勉强放弃自己的地盘儿一样。姐妹俩默默地穿过石门踏上台阶,站在红色地毯上的一个警察盯着她们往前行进的步伐。

“这双袜子可够值钱的!”戈珍后面有人说。一听这话,戈珍浑身就燃起一股怒火,一股凶猛、可怕的火。她真恨不得把这些人全干掉,从这个世界上清除干净。她真讨厌在这些人注视下穿过教堂的院子沿着地毯往前走。

“我不进教堂了。”戈珍突然做出了最后的决定。她的话让厄秀拉立即停住脚步,转过身走上了旁边一条通向中学旁门的小路,中学就在教堂隔壁。

穿过学校与教堂中间的灌木丛进到学校里,厄秀拉坐在月桂树下的矮石墙上歇息。她身后学校高大的红楼静静地伫立着,假日里窗户全敞开着,面前灌木丛那边就是教堂淡淡的屋顶和塔楼。姐妹两人被掩映在树木中。

戈珍默默地坐了下来,紧闭着嘴,头扭向一边。她真后悔回到家来。厄秀拉看看她,觉得她漂亮极了,自己认输了,脸都红了。可她让厄秀拉感到紧张得有点累了。厄秀拉希望单独自处,脱离戈珍给她造成的透不过气来的紧张感。

“我们还要在这儿呆下去吗?”戈珍问。

“我就歇一小会儿,”厄秀拉说着站起身,象是受到戈珍的斥责一样。“咱们就站在隔壁球场的角落里,从那儿什么都看得见。”

太阳正辉煌地照耀着教堂墓地,空气中淡淡地弥漫着树脂的清香,那是春天的气息,或许是墓地黑紫罗兰散发着幽香的缘故。一些雏菊已绽开了洁白的花朵,象小天使一样漂亮。空中铜色山毛榉上舒展出血红色的树叶。

十一点时,马车准时到达。一辆车驶过来,门口人群拥挤起来,产生了一阵骚动。出席婚礼的宾客们徐徐走上台阶,沿着红地毯走向教堂。这天阳光明媚,人们个个兴高采烈。

戈珍用外来人那种好奇的目光仔细观察着这些人。她把每个人都整体地观察一通,或把他们看作书中的一个个人物,一幅画中的人物或剧院中的活动木偶,总之,完整地观察他们。她喜欢辨别他们不同的性格,将他们还其本来面目,给他们设置自我环境,在他们从她眼前走过的当儿就给他们下了个永久的定论。她了解他们了,对她来说他们是些完整的人,已经打上了烙印的完整的人。等到克里奇家的人开始露面时,再也没有什么未知、不能解决的问题了。她的兴趣被激发起来了,她发现这里有点什么东西是不那么容易提前下结论的。

那边走过来克里奇太太和她的儿子杰拉德。尽管她为了今天这个日子明显地修饰装扮了一番,但仍看得出她这人是不修边幅的。她脸色苍白,有点发黄,皮肤洁净透明,有点前倾的身体,线条分明,很健壮,看上去象是要鼓足力气不顾一切地去捕捉什么。她一头的白发一点都不整齐,几缕头发从绿绸帽里掉出来,飘到罩着墨绿绸衣的褶皱纱上。一看就知道她是个患偏执狂的女人,狡猾而傲慢。

她儿子本是个肤色白净的人,但让太阳晒黑了。他个头中等偏高,身材很好,穿着似乎有些过分的讲究。但他的神态却是那么奇异、警觉,脸上情不自禁地闪烁着光芒,似乎他同周围的这些人有着根本的不同。戈珍的目光在打量他,他身上某种北方人的东西迷住了戈珍。他那北方人纯净的肌肤和金色的头发象透过水晶折射的阳光一样在闪烁。他看上去是那么新奇的一个人,没有任何做作的痕迹,象北极的东西一样纯洁。他或许有三十岁了,或许更大些。他丰采照人,男子气十足,恰象一只脾气温和、微笑着的幼狼一样。但这副外表无法令她变得盲目,她还是冷静地看出他静态中存在着危险,他那扑食的习性是无法改变的。“他的图腾是狼,”她自己重复着这句话。“他母亲是一只毫不屈服的老狼。”想到此,她一阵狂喜,好象她有了一个全世界都不知道的令人难以置信的发现。一阵狂喜攫住了她,全身的血管一时间猛烈激动起来。“天啊!”她自己大叫着,“这是怎么一回事啊?”一会儿,她又自信地说,“我会更多地了解那个人的。”她要再次见到他,她被这种欲望折磨着,一定要再次见到他,这心情如同一种乡恋一样。她清楚,她没有错,她没有自欺欺人,她的确因为见到了他才产生了这种奇特而振奋人心的感觉。她从本质上了解了他,深刻地理解他,“难道我真地选中了他吗?难道真有一道苍白、金色的北极光把我们两人拴在一起了吗?”她对自己发问。她无法相信自己,她仍然沉思着,几乎意识不到周围都发生了什么事。

女傧相来了,但新娘还迟迟未到。厄秀拉猜想可能出了点差错,这场婚礼弄不好就办不成了。她为此感到忧虑,似乎婚礼成功与否是取决于她。主要的女傧相们都到了,厄秀拉看着她们走上台阶。她认识她们当中的一个,这人高高的个子,行动缓慢,长着一头金发,长长的脸,脸色苍白,一看就知道是个难以驾驭的人。她是克里奇家的朋友,叫赫麦妮·罗迪斯。她走过来了,昂着头,戴着一顶浅黄色天鹅绒宽沿帽,帽子上插着几根天然灰色鸵鸟羽毛。她飘然而过,似乎对周围视而不见,苍白的长脸向上扬起,并不留意周围。她很富有,今天穿了一件浅黄色软天鹅绒上衣,亮闪闪的,手上捧一束玫瑰色仙客来花儿;鞋和袜子的颜色很象帽子上羽毛的颜色,也是灰色的。她这人汗毛很重呢。走起路来臀部收得很紧,这是她的一大特点,那种悠悠然的样子跟众人就是不同,她的衣着由浅黄和暗灰搭配而成,衣服漂亮,人也很美,但有点可怕,有点让人生厌。她走过时,人们都静了下来,看来让她迷住了,继而人们又激动起来,想调侃几句,但终究不敢,又沉默了。她高扬着苍白的长脸,样子颇象罗塞蒂①,似乎有点麻木,似乎她黑暗的内心深处聚集了许许多多奇特的思想令她永远无法从中解脱。

①罗塞蒂(1830—1894),英国拉斐尔前派著名女诗人。她的诗多以田园牧歌诗为主,富有神秘宗教色彩。

厄秀拉出神地看着赫麦妮。她了解一点她的情况。赫麦妮是中原地区最出色的女人,父亲是德比郡的男爵,是个旧派人物,而她则全然新派,聪明过人且极有思想。她对改革充满热情,心思全用在社会事业上。可她还是终归嫁了人,仍然得受男性世界的左右。

她同各路有地位的男人都有神交。厄秀拉只知道其中有一位是学校监察员,名叫卢伯特·伯金。倒是戈珍在伦敦认识人更多些。她同搞艺术的朋友们出入各种社交圈子,已经认识了不少知名人士。她与赫麦妮打过两次交道,但她们两人话不投机。她们在伦敦城里各类朋友家以平等的身份相识,现在如果以如此悬殊的社会地位在中原相会将会令人很不舒服。戈珍在社会上一直是个佼佼者,与贵族中搞点艺术的有闲者交往密切。

赫麦妮知道自己穿得很漂亮,她知道自己在威利·格林可以平等地同任何她想认识的人打交道,或许想摆摆架子就摆摆架子。她知道她的地位在文化知识界的圈子里是得到认可的,她是文化意识的传播媒介。无论在社会上还是在思想意识方面甚至在艺术上,她都处在最高层次上,木秀于林,在这些方面她显得左右逢源。没谁能把她比下去,没谁能够让她出丑,因为她总是高居一流,而那些与她作对的人都在她之下,无论在等级上、财力上或是在高层次的思想交流,思想发展及领悟能力上都不如她。因此她是冒犯不得的人物。她一生中都努力不受人伤害或侵犯,要让人们无法判断她。

但是她的心在受折磨,这一点她无法掩饰。别看她在通往教堂的路上如此信步前行,确信庸俗的舆论对她毫无损伤,深信自己的形象完美无缺、属于第一流。但是她忍受着折磨,自信和傲慢只是表面现象而已,其实她感到自己伤痕累累,受着人们的嘲讽与蔑视。她总感到自己容易受到伤害,在她的盔甲下总有一道隐秘的伤口。她不知道这是怎么回事。其实这是因为她缺乏强健的自我,不具备天然的自负感。她有的只是一个可怕空洞的灵魂,缺乏生命的底蕴。

她需要有个人来充溢她生命的底蕴,永远这样。于是她极力追求卢伯特·伯金。当伯金在她身边时,她就感到自己是完整的,底气很足。而在其它时间里,她就感到摇摇欲跌,就象建立在断裂带之上的房屋一样。尽管她爱面子,掩饰自己,但任何一位自信、脾气倔犟的普通女佣都可以用轻微的嘲讽和蔑视举止将她抛入无底的深渊,令她感到自己无能。但是,这位忧郁、忍受着折磨的女人一直在进取,用美学、文化、上流社会的态度和大公无私的行为来保护自己。可她怎么也无法越过这道可怕的沟壑,总感到自己没有底气。

如果伯金能够保持跟她之间的密切关系,赫麦妮在人生这多愁多忧的航行中就会感到安全。伯金可以让她安全,让她成功,让她战胜天使。他要是这样就好了!可他没有。于是她就在恐怖与担心中受着折磨。她把自己装扮得很漂亮,尽量达到能令伯金相信的美与优越程度。可她总也不能。

他也不是个一般人。他把她击退了,总击退她。她越是要拉他,他越是要击退她。可他们几年来竟一直相爱着。天啊,这太令人厌倦痛苦了,可她依然很自信。她知道他试图离她而去,但她仍然自信有力量守住他,她对自己高深的学问深信不疑。伯金的知识水平很高,但赫麦妮则是真理的试金石,她要的是伯金跟她一条心。

他象一个有变态心理的任性孩子一样要否认与她的联系,否认了这个就是否认了自己的完美。他象一个任性的孩子,要打破他们两人之间的神圣联系。

他会来参加这场婚礼的,他要来当男傧相。他会早早来教堂等候的。赫麦妮走进教堂大门时想到这些,不禁怕起来,心里打了一个寒慄。他会在那里的,他肯定会看到她的衣服是多么漂亮,他肯定会明白她是为了他才把自己打扮得如此漂亮。他会明白的,他能够看得出她是为了他才把自己打扮得如此出众,无与伦比。他会认可自己最好的命运,最终他不会不接受她的。

渴望令她疲倦地抽搐了一下。她走进教堂的门后左右寻顾着找他,她苗条的躯体不安地颤动着。作为男傧相,他是应该站在祭坛边上的。她缓缓地充满自信地把目光投过去,但心中不免有点怀疑。

他没在那儿,这给了她一个可怕的打击,她好象要沉没了。毁灭性的失望感攫住了她。她木然地朝祭坛挪过去。她从来没有经历过这样彻底毁灭性的打击,它比死还可怕,那种感觉是如此空旷、荒芜。

新郎和伴郎还没有到。外面的人群渐渐乱动起来。厄秀拉感到自己似乎该对这件事负责。她不忍心看到新娘来了却没有新郎陪伴。这场婚礼千万不能失败,千万不能。

新娘的马车来了,马车上装饰着彩带和花结。灰马雀跃着奔向教堂大门,整个进程都充满了欢笑,这儿是所有欢笑与欢乐的中心。马车门开了,今天的花儿就要从车中出来了。

路上的人们稍有不满地窃窃私语。

先走出马车的是新娘的父亲,他就象一个阴影出现在晨空中。他高大、瘦削、一副饱经磨难的形象,唇上细细的一道黑髭已经有些灰白了。他忘我耐心地等在车门口。

车门一开,车上落下纷纷扬扬的漂亮叶子和鲜花,飘下来白色缎带,车中传出一个欢快的声音:

“我怎么出去呀?”

等待的人群中响起一片满意的议论声。大家靠近车门来迎她,眼巴巴地盯着她垂下去的头,那一头金发上沾满了花蕾。眼看着那只娇小的白色金莲儿试探着蹬到车梯上,一阵雪浪般的冲击,随之新娘呼地一下,拥向树荫下的父亲,她一团雪白,从面纱中荡漾出笑声来。

“这下好了!”

她用手挽住饱经风霜、面带病色的父亲,荡着一身白浪走上了红地毯。面色发黄的父亲沉默不语,黑髭令他看上去更显得饱经磨难。他快步踏上台阶,似乎头脑里一片空虚,可他身边的新娘却一直笑声不断。

可是新郎还没有到!厄秀拉简直对此无法忍受。她忧心忡忡地望着远山,希望那白色的下山路上会出现新郎的身影。那边驶来一辆马车,渐渐进入人们的视线。没错,是他来了。厄秀拉



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