ONE MORNING the sisters were sketching by the side of Willey Water, at the
remote end of the lake. Gudrun had waded out to a gravelly shoal, and was seated
like a Buddhist, staring fixedly at the water-plants that rose succulent from
the mud of the low shores. What she could see was mud, soft, oozy, watery mud,
and from its festering chill, water-plants rose up, thick and cool and fleshy,
very straight and turgid, thrusting out their leaves at right angles, and having
dark lurid colours, dark green and blotches of black-purple and bronze. But she
could feel their turgid fleshy structure as in a sensuous vision, she
knew how they rose out of the mud, she knew how they thrust out
from themselves, how they stood stiff and succulent against the air.
Ursula was watching the butterflies, of which there were dozens near the
water, little blue ones suddenly snapping out of nothingness into a jewel-life,
a large black-and-red one standing upon a flower and breathing with his soft
wings, intoxicatingly, breathing pure, ethereal sunshine; two white ones
wrestling in the low air; there was a halo round them; ah, when they came
tumbling nearer they were orangetips, and it was the orange that had made the
halo. Ursula rose and drifted away, unconscious like the butterflies.
Gudrun, absorbed in a stupor of apprehension of surging water-plants, sat
crouched on the shoal, drawing, not looking up for a long time, and then staring
unconsciously, absorbedly at the rigid, naked, succulent stems. Her feet were
bare, her hat lay on the bank opposite.
She started out of her trance, hearing the knocking of oars. She looked
round. There was a boat with a gaudy Japanese parasol, and a man in white,
rowing. The woman was Hermione, and the man was Gerald. She knew it instantly.
And instantly she perished in the keen frisson of anticipation, an
electric vibration in her veins, intense, much more intense than that which was
always humming low in the atmosphere of Beldover.
Gerald was her escape from the heavy slough of the pale, underworld,
automatic colliers. He started out of the mud. He was master. She saw his back,
the movement of his white loins. But not that it was the whiteness he seemed
to enclose as he bent forwards, rowing. He seemed to stoop to something. His
glistening, whitish hair seemed like the electricity of the sky.
`There's Gudrun,' came Hermione's voice floating distinct over the water. `We
will go and speak to her. Do you mind?'
Gerald looked round and saw the girl standing by the water's edge, looking at
him. He pulled the boat towards her, magnetically, without thinking of her. In
his world, his conscious world, she was still nobody. He knew that Hermione had
a curious pleasure in treading down all the social differences, at least
apparently, and he left it to her.
`How do you do, Gudrun?' sang Hermione, using the Christian name in the
fashionable manner. `What are you doing?'
`How do you do, Hermione? I was sketching.'
`Were you?' The boat drifted nearer, till the keel ground on the bank. `May
we see? I should like to so much.'
It was no use resisting Hermione's deliberate intention.
`Well ' said Gudrun reluctantly, for she always hated to have her
unfinished work exposed `there's nothing in the least interesting.'
`Isn't there? But let me see, will you?'
Gudrun reached out the sketch-book, Gerald stretched from the boat to take
it. And as he did so, he remembered Gudrun's last words to him, and her face
lifted up to him as he sat on the swerving horse. An intensification of pride
went over his nerves, because he felt, in some way she was compelled by him. The
exchange of feeling between them was strong and apart from their consciousness.
And as if in a spell, Gudrun was aware of his body, stretching and surging
like the marsh-fire, stretching towards her, his hand coming straight forward
like a stem. Her voluptuous, acute apprehension of him made the blood faint in
her veins, her mind went dim and unconscious. And he rocked on the water
perfectly, like the rocking of phosphorescence. He looked round at the boat. It
was drifting off a little. He lifted the oar to bring it back. And the exquisite
pleasure of slowly arresting the boat, in the heavy-soft water, was complete as
`That's what you have done,' said Hermione, looking searchingly at the
plants on the shore, and comparing with Gudrun's drawing. Gudrun looked round in
the direction of Hermione's long, pointing finger. `That is it, isn't it?'
repeated Hermione, needing confirmation.
`Yes,' said Gudrun automatically, taking no real heed.
`Let me look,' said Gerald, reaching forward for the book. But Hermione
ignored him, he must not presume, before she had finished. But he, his will as
unthwarted and as unflinching as hers, stretched forward till he touched the
book. A little shock, a storm of revulsion against him, shook Hermione
unconsciously. She released the book when he had not properly got it, and it
tumbled against the side of the boat and bounced into the water.
`There!' sang Hermione, with a strange ring of malevolent victory. `I'm so
sorry, so awfully sorry. Can't you get it, Gerald?'
This last was said in a note of anxious sneering that made Gerald's veins
tingle with fine hate for her. He leaned far out of the boat, reaching down into
the water. He could feel his position was ridiculous, his loins exposed behind
`It is of no importance,' came the strong, clanging voice of Gudrun. She
seemed to touch him. But he reached further, the boat swayed violently.
Hermione, however, remained unperturbed. He grasped the book, under the water,
and brought it up, dripping.
`I'm so dreadfully sorry dreadfully sorry,' repeated Hermione. `I'm afraid
it was all my fault.'
`It's of no importance really, I assure you it doesn't matter in the
least,' said Gudrun loudly, with emphasis, her face flushed scarlet. And she
held out her hand impatiently for the wet book, to have done with the scene.
Gerald gave it to her. He was not quite himself.
`I'm so dreadfully sorry,' repeated Hermione, till both Gerald and Gudrun
were exasperated. `Is there nothing that can be done?'
`In what way?' asked Gudrun, with cool irony.
`Can't we save the drawings?'
There was a moment's pause, wherein Gudrun made evident all her refutation of
`I assure you,' said Gudrun, with cutting distinctness, `the drawings are
quite as good as ever they were, for my purpose. I want them only for
`But can't I give you a new book? I wish you'd let me do that. I feel so
truly sorry. I feel it was all my fault.'
`As far as I saw,' said Gudrun, `it wasn't your fault at all. If there was
any fault, it was Mr Crich's. But the whole thing is entirely
trivial, and it really is ridiculous to take any notice of it.'
Gerald watched Gudrun closely, whilst she repulsed Hermione. There was a body
of cold power in her. He watched her with an insight that amounted to
clairvoyance. He saw her a dangerous, hostile spirit, that could stand
undiminished and unabated. It was so finished, and of such perfect gesture,
`I'm awfully glad if it doesn't matter,' he said; `if there's no real harm
She looked back at him, with her fine blue eyes, and signalled full into his
spirit, as she said, her voice ringing with intimacy almost caressive now it was
addressed to him:
`Of course, it doesn't matter in the least.'
The bond was established between them, in that look, in her tone. In her
tone, she made the understanding clear they were of the same kind, he and
she, a sort of diabolic freemasonry subsisted between them. Henceforward, she
knew, she had her power over him. Wherever they met, they would be secretly
associated. And he would be helpless in the association with her. Her soul
`Good-bye! I'm so glad you forgive me. Gooood-bye!'
Hermione sang her farewell, and waved her hand. Gerald automatically took the
oar and pushed off. But he was looking all the time, with a glimmering, subtly-
smiling admiration in his eyes, at Gudrun, who stood on the shoal shaking the
wet book in her hand. She turned away and ignored the receding boat. But Gerald
looked back as he rowed, beholding her, forgetting what he was doing.
`Aren't we going too much to the left?' sang Hermione, as she sat ignored
under her coloured parasol.
Gerald looked round without replying, the oars balanced and glancing in the
`I think it's all right,' he said good-humouredly, beginning to row again
without thinking of what he was doing. And Hermione disliked him extremely for
his good-humoured obliviousness, she was nullified, she could not regain