MEANWHILE Ursula had wandered on from Willey Water along the course of the
bright little stream. The afternoon was full of larks' singing. On the bright
hill-sides was a subdued smoulder of gorse. A few forget-me-nots flowered by
the water. There was a rousedness and a glancing everywhere.
She strayed absorbedly on, over the brooks. She wanted to go to the mill-
pond above. The big mill-house was deserted, save for a labourer and his wife
who lived in the kitchen. So she passed through the empty farm-yard and through
the wilderness of a garden, and mounted the bank by the sluice. When she got to
the top, to see the old, velvety surface of the pond before her, she noticed a
man on the bank, tinkering with a punt. It was Birkin sawing and hammering
She stood at the head of the sluice, looking at him. He was unaware of
anybody's presence. He looked very busy, like a wild animal, active and intent.
She felt she ought to go away, he would not want her. He seemed to be so much
occupied. But she did not want to go away. Therefore she moved along the bank
till he would look up.
Which he soon did. The moment he saw her, he dropped his tools and came
`How do you do? I'm making the punt water-tight. Tell me if you think it is
She went along with him.
`You are your father's daughter, so you can tell me if it will do,' he said.
She bent to look at the patched punt.
`I am sure I am my father's daughter,' she said, fearful of having to judge.
`But I don't know anything about carpentry. It looks right, don't you
`Yes, I think. I hope it won't let me to the bottom, that's all. Though
even so, it isn't a great matter, I should come up again. Help me to get it
into the water, will you?'
With combined efforts they turned over the heavy punt and set it afloat.
`Now,' he said, `I'll try it and you can watch what happens. Then if it
carries, I'll take you over to the island.'
`Do,' she cried, watching anxiously.
The pond was large, and had that perfect stillness and the dark lustre of
very deep water. There were two small islands overgrown with bushes and a few
trees, towards the middle. Birkin pushed himself off, and veered clumsily in
the pond. Luckily the punt drifted so that he could catch hold of a willow
bough, and pull it to the island.
`Rather overgrown,' he said, looking into the interior, `but very nice. I'll
come and fetch you. The boat leaks a little.'
In a moment he was with her again, and she stepped into the wet punt.
`It'll float us all right,' he said, and manoeuvred again to the island.
They landed under a willow tree. She shrank from the little jungle of rank
plants before her, evil-smelling figwort and hemlock. But he explored into it.
`I shall mow this down,' he said, `and then it will be romantic like Paul
`Yes, one could have lovely Watteau picnics here,' cried Ursula with
His face darkened.
`I don't want Watteau picnics here,' he said.
`Only your Virginie,' she laughed.
`Virginie enough,' he smiled wryly. `No, I don't want her either.'
Ursula looked at him closely. She had not seen him since Breadalby. He was
very thin and hollow, with a ghastly look in his face.
`You have been ill; haven't you?' she asked, rather repulsed.
`Yes,' he replied coldly.
They had sat down under the willow tree, and were looking at the pond, from
their retreat on the island.
`Has it made you frightened?' she asked.
`What of?' he asked, turning his eyes to look at her. Something in him,
inhuman and unmitigated, disturbed her, and shook her out of her ordinary self.
`It is frightening to be very ill, isn't it?' she said.
`It isn't pleasant,' he said. `Whether one is really afraid of death, or
not, I have never decided. In one mood, not a bit, in another, very much.'
`But doesn't it make you feel ashamed? I think it makes one so ashamed, to
be ill illness is so terribly humiliating, don't you think?'
He considered for some minutes.
`May-be,' he said. `Though one knows all the time one's life isn't really
right, at the source. That's the humiliation. I don't see that the illness
counts so much, after that. One is ill because one doesn't live properly
can't. It's the failure to live that makes one ill, and humiliates one.'
`But do you fail to live?' she asked, almost jeering.
`Why yes I don't make much of a success of my days. One seems always to
be bumping one's nose against the blank wall ahead.'
Ursula laughed. She was frightened, and when she was frightened she always
laughed and pretended to be jaunty.
`Your poor nose!' she said, looking at that feature of his face.
`No wonder it's ugly,' he replied.
She was silent for some minutes, struggling with her own self-deception. It
was an instinct in her, to deceive herself.
`But I'm happy I think life is awfully jolly,' she said.
`Good,' he answered, with a certain cold indifference.
She reached for a bit of paper which had wrapped a small piece of chocolate
she had found in her pocket, and began making a boat. He watched her without
heeding her. There was something strangely pathetic and tender in her moving,
unconscious finger-tips, that were agitated and hurt, really.
`I do enjoy things don't you?' she asked.
`Oh yes! But it infuriates me that I can't get right, at the really growing
part of me. I feel all tangled and messed up, and I can't get straight
anyhow. I don't know what really to do. One must do something
`Why should you always be doing?' she retorted. `It is so plebeian.
I think it is much better to be really patrician, and to do nothing but just be
oneself, like a walking flower.'
`I quite agree,' he said, `if one has burst into blossom. But I can't get my
flower to blossom anyhow. Either it is blighted in the bud, or has got the
smother-fly, or it isn't nourished. Curse it, it isn't even a bud. It is a
Again she laughed. He was so very fretful and exasperated. But she was
anxious and puzzled. How was one to get out, anyhow. There must be a way out
There was a silence, wherein she wanted to cry. She reached for another bit
of chocolate paper, and began to fold another boat.
`And why is it,' she asked at length, `that there is no flowering, no dignity
of human life now?'
`The whole idea is dead. Humanity itself is dry-rotten, really. There are
myriads of human beings hanging on the bush and they look very nice and rosy,
your healthy young men and women. But they are apples of Sodom, as a matter of
fact, Dead Sea Fruit, gall-apples. It isn't true that they have any
significance their insides are full of bitter, corrupt ash.'
`But there are good people,' protested Ursula.
`Good enough for the life of today. But mankind is a dead tree, covered with
fine brilliant galls of people.'
Ursula could not help stiffening herself against this, it was too picturesque
and final. But neither could she help making him go on.
`And if it is so, why is it?' she asked, hostile. They were rousing
each other to a fine passion of opposition.
`Why, why are people all balls of bitter dust? Because they won't fall off
the tree when they're ripe. They hang on to their old positions when the
position is over-past, till they become infested with little worms and dry-rot.'
There was a long pause. His voice had become hot and very sarcastic. Ursula
was troubled and bewildered, they were both oblivious of everything but their
`But even if everybody is wrong where are you right?' she cried, `where
are you any better?'
`I? I'm not right,' he cried back. `At least my only rightness lies in
the fact that I know it. I detest what I am, outwardly. I loathe myself as a
human being. Humanity is a huge aggregate lie, and a huge lie is less than a
small truth. Humanity is less, far less than the individual, because the
individual may sometimes be capable of truth, and humanity is a tree of lies.
And they say that love is the greatest thing; they persist in saying
this, the foul liars, and just look at what they do! Look at all the millions of
people who repeat every minute that love is the greatest, and charity is the
greatest and see what they are doing all the time. By their works ye shall
know them, for dirty liars and cowards, who daren't stand by their own actions,
much less by their own words.'
`But,' said Ursula sadly, `that doesn't alter the fact that love is the
greatest, does it? What they do doesn't alter the truth of what they
say, does it?'
`Completely, because if what they say were true, then they couldn't
help fulfilling it. But they maintain a lie, and so they run amok at last.
It's a lie to say that love is the greatest. You might as well say that hate is
the greatest, since the opposite of everything balances. What people want is
hate hate and nothing but hate. And in the name of righteousness and love,
they get it. They distil themselves with nitroglycerine, all the lot of them,
out of very love. It's the lie that kills. If we want hate, let us have it
death, murder, torture, violent destruction let us have it: but not in the
name of love. But I abhor humanity, I wish it was swept away. It could go, and
there would be no absolute loss, if every human being perished tomorrow.
The reality would be untouched. Nay, it would be better. The real tree of life
would then be rid of the most ghastly, heavy crop of Dead Sea Fruit, the
intolerable burden of myriad simulacra of people, an infinite weight of mortal
`So you'd like everybody in the world destroyed?' said Ursula.
`I should indeed.'
`And the world empty of people?'
`Yes truly. You yourself, don't you find it a beautiful clean thought, a
world empty of people, just uninterrupted grass, and a hare sitting up?'
The pleasant sincerity of his voice made Ursula pause to consider her own
proposition. And really it was attractive: a clean, lovely, humanless
world. It was the really desirable. Her heart hesitated, and exulted.
But still, she was dissatisfied with him.
`But,' she objected, `you'd be dead yourself, so what good would it do you?'
`I would die like a shot, to know that the earth would really be cleaned of
all the people. It is the most beautiful and freeing thought. Then there would
never be another foul humanity created, for a universal defilement.'
`No,' said Ursula, `there would be nothing.'
`What! Nothing? Just because humanity was wiped out? You flatter yourself.
There'd be everything.'
`But how, if there were no people?'
`Do you think that creation depends on man! It merely doesn't. There
are the trees and the grass and birds. I much prefer to think of the lark
rising up in the morning upon a human-less world. Man is a mistake, he must go.
There is the grass, and hares and adders, and the unseen hosts, actual angels
that go about freely when a dirty humanity doesn't interrupt them and good
pure-tissued demons: very nice.'
It pleased Ursula, what he said, pleased her very much, as a phantasy. Of
course it was only a pleasant fancy. She herself knew too well the actuality of
humanity, its hideous actuality. She knew it could not disappear so cleanly and
conveniently. It had a long way to go yet, a long and hideous way. Her subtle,
feminine, demoniacal soul knew it well.
`If only man was swept off the face of the earth, creation would go on so
marvellously, with a new start, non-human. Man is one of the mistakes of
creation like the ichthyosauri. If only he were gone again, think what
lovely things would come out of the liberated days; things straight out of
`But man will never be gone,' she said, with insidious, diabolical knowledge
of the horrors of persistence. `The world will go with him.'
`Ah no,' he answered, `not so. I believe in the proud angels and the demons
that are our fore-runners. They will destroy us, because we are not proud
enough. The ichthyosauri were not proud: they crawled and floundered as we do.
And besides, look at elder-flowers and bluebells they are a sign that pure
creation takes place even the butterfly. But humanity never gets beyond the
caterpillar stage it rots in the chrysalis, it never will have wings. It is
anti-creation, like monkeys and baboons.'
Ursula watched him as he talked. There seemed a certain impatient fury in
him, all the while, and at the same time a great amusement in everything, and a
final tolerance. And it was this tolerance she mistrusted, not the fury. She
saw that, all the while, in spite of himself, he would have to be trying to save
the world. And this knowledge, whilst it comforted her heart somewhere with a
little self-satisfaction, stability, yet filled her with a certain sharp
contempt and hate of him. She wanted him to herself, she hated the Salvator
Mundi touch. It was something diffuse and generalised about him, which she
could not stand. He would behave in the same way, say the same things, give
himself as completely to anybody who came along, anybody and everybody who liked
to appeal to him. It was despicable, a very insidious form of prostitution.
`But,' she said, `you believe in individual love, even if you don't believe
in loving humanity ?'
`I don't believe in love at all that is, any more than I believe in hate,
or in grief. Love is one of the emotions like all the others and so it is
all right whilst you feel it But I can't see how it becomes an absolute. It is
just part of human relationships, no more. And it is only part of any
human relationship. And why one should be required always to feel it,
any more than one always feels sorrow or distant joy, I cannot conceive. Love
isn't a desideratum it is an emotion you feel or you don't feel, according to
`Then why do you care about people at all?' she asked, `if you don't believe
in love? Why do you bother about humanity?'
`Why do I? Because I can't get away from it.'
`Because you love it,' she persisted.
It irritated him.
`If I do love it,' he said, `it is my disease.'
`But it is a disease you don't want to be cured of,' she said, with some cold
He was silent now, feeling she wanted to insult him.
`And if you don't believe in love, what do you believe in?' she asked
mocking. `Simply in the end of the world, and grass?'
He was beginning to feel a fool.
`I believe in the unseen hosts,' he said.
`And nothing else? You believe in nothing visible, except grass and birds?
Your world is a poor show.'
`Perhaps it is,' he said, cool and superior now he was offended, assuming a
certain insufferable aloof superiority, and withdrawing into his distance.
Ursula disliked him. But also she felt she had lost something. She looked
at him as he sat crouched on the bank. There was a certain priggish Sunday-
school stiffness over him, priggish and detestable. And yet, at the same time,
the moulding of him was so quick and attractive, it gave such a great sense of
freedom: the moulding of his brows, his chin, his whole physique, something so
alive, somewhere, in spite of the look of sickness.
And it was this duality in feeling which he created in her, that made a fine
hate of him quicken in her bowels. There was his wonderful, desirable life-
rapidity, the rare quality of an utterly desirable man: and there was at the
same time this ridiculous, mean effacement into a Salvator Mundi and a Sunday-
school teacher, a prig of the stiffest type.
He looked up at her. He saw her face strangely enkindled, as if suffused
from within by a powerful sweet fire. His soul was arrested in wonder. She was
enkindled in her own living fire. Arrested in wonder and in pure, perfect
attraction, he moved towards her. She sat like a strange queen, almost
supernatural in her glowing smiling richness.
`The point about love,' he said, his consciousness quickly adjusting itself,
`is that we hate the word because we have vulgarised it. It ought to be
prescribed, tabooed from utterance, for many years, till we get a new, better
There was a beam of understanding between them.
`But it always means the same thing,' she said.
`Ah God, no, let it not mean that any more,' he cried. `Let the old meanings
`But still it is love,' she persisted. A strange, wicked yellow light shone
at him in her eyes.
He hesitated, baffled, withdrawing.
`No,' he said, `it isn't. Spoken like that, never in the world. You've no
business to utter the word.'
`I must leave it to you, to take it out of the Ark of the Covenant at the
right moment,' she mocked.
Again they looked at each other. She suddenly sprang up, turned her back to
him, and walked away. He too rose slowly and went to the water's edge, where,
crouching, he began to amuse himself unconsciously. Picking a daisy he dropped
it on the pond, so that the stem was a keel, the flower floated like a little
water lily, staring with its open face up to the sky. It turned slowly round,
in a slow, slow Dervish dance, as it veered away.
He watched it, then dropped another daisy into the water, and after that
another, and sat watching them with bright, absolved eyes, crouching near on the
bank. Ursula turned to look. A strange feeling possessed her, as if something
were taking place. But it was all intangible. And some sort of control was
being put on her. She could not know. She could only watch the brilliant
little discs of the daisies veering slowly in travel on the dark, lustrous
water. The little flotilla was drifting into the light, a company of white
specks in the distance.
`Do let us go to the shore, to follow them,' she said, afraid of being any
longer imprisoned on the island. And they pushed off in the punt.
She was glad to be on the free land again. She went along the bank towards
the sluice. The daisies were scattered broadcast on the pond, tiny radiant
things, like an exaltation, points of exaltation here and there. Why did they
move her so strongly and mystically?
`Look,' he said, `your boat of purple paper is escorting them, and they are a
convoy of rafts.'
Some of the daisies came slowly towards her, hesitating, making a shy bright
little cotillion on the dark clear water. Their gay bright candour moved her so
much as they came near, that she was almost in tears.
`Why are they so lovely,' she cried. `Why do I think them so lovely?'
`They are nice flowers,' he said, her emotional tones putting a constraint on
`You know that a daisy is a company of florets, a concourse, become
individual. Don't the botanists put it highest in the line of development? I
believe they do.'
`The compositae, yes, I think so,' said Ursula, who was never very sure of
anything. Things she knew perfectly well, at one moment, seemed to become
doubtful the next.
`Explain it so, then,' he said. `The daisy is a perfect little democracy, so
it's the highest of flowers, hence its charm.'
`No,' she cried, `no never. It isn't democratic.'
`No,' he admitted. `It's the golden mob of the proletariat, surrounded by a
showy white fence of the idle rich.'
`How hateful your hateful social orders!' she cried.
`Quite! It's a daisy we'll leave it alone.'
`Do. Let it be a dark horse for once,' she said: `if anything can be a dark
horse to you,' she added satirically.
They stood aside, forgetful. As if a little stunned, they both were
motionless, barely conscious. The little conflict into which they had fallen
had torn their consciousness and left them like two impersonal forces, there in
He became aware of the lapse. He wanted to say something, to get on to a new
more ordinary footing.
`You know,' he said, `that I am having rooms here at the mill? Don't you
think we can have some good times?'
`Oh are you?' she said, ignoring all his implication of admitted intimacy.
He adjusted himself at once, became normally distant.
`If I find I can live sufficiently by myself,' he continued, `I shall give up
my work altogether. It has become dead to me. I don't believe in the humanity
I pretend to be part of, I don't care a straw for the social ideals I live by, I
hate the dying organic form of social mankind so it can't be anything but
trumpery, to work at education. I shall drop it as soon as I am clear enough
tomorrow perhaps and be by myself.'
`Have you enough to live on?' asked Ursula.
`Yes I've about four hundred a year. That makes it easy for me.'
There was a pause.
`And what about Hermione?' asked Ursula.
`That's over, finally a pure failure, and never could have been anything
`But you still know each other?'
`We could hardly pretend to be strangers, could we?'
There was a stubborn pause.
`But isn't that a half-measure?' asked Ursula at length.
`I don't think so,' he said. `You'll be able to tell me if it is.'
Again there was a pause of some minutes' duration. He was thinking.
`One must throw everything away, everything let everything go, to get the
one last thing one wants,' he said.
`What thing?' she asked in challenge.
`I don't know freedom together,' he said.
She had wanted him to say `love.'
There was heard a loud barking of the dogs below. He seemed disturbed by it.
She did not notice. Only she thought he seemed uneasy.
`As a matter of fact,' he said, in rather a small voice, `I believe that is
Hermione come now, with Gerald Crich. She wanted to see the rooms before they
`I know,' said Ursula. `She will superintend the furnishing for you.'
`Probably. Does it matter?'
`Oh no, I should think not,' said Ursula. `Though personally, I can't bear
her. I think she is a lie, if you like, you who are always talking about lies.'
Then she ruminated for a moment, when she broke out: `Yes, and I do mind if she
furnishes your rooms I do mind. I mind that you keep her hanging on at all.'
He was silent now, frowning.
`Perhaps,' he said. `I don't want her to furnish the rooms here
and I don't keep her hanging on. Only, I needn't be churlish to her, need I?
At any rate, I shall have to go down and see them now. You'll come, won't you?'
`I don't think so,' she said coldly and irresolutely.
`Won't you? Yes do. Come and see the rooms as well. Do come.'