AS THE DAY wore on, the life-blood seemed to ebb away from Ursula, and within
the emptiness a heavy despair gathered. Her passion seemed to bleed to death,
and there was nothing. She sat suspended in a state of complete nullity, harder
to bear than death.
`Unless something happens,' she said to herself, in the perfect lucidity of
final suffering, `I shall die. I am at the end of my line of life.'
She sat crushed and obliterated in a darkness that was the border of death.
She realised how all her life she had been drawing nearer and nearer to this
brink, where there was no beyond, from which one had to leap like Sappho into
the unknown. The knowledge of the imminence of death was like a drug. Darkly,
without thinking at all, she knew that she was near to death. She had travelled
all her life along the line of fulfilment, and it was nearly concluded. She
knew all she had to know, she had experienced all she had to experience, she was
fulfilled in a kind of bitter ripeness, there remained only to fall from the
tree into death. And one must fulfil one's development to the end, must carry
the adventure to its conclusion. And the next step was over the border into
death. So it was then! There was a certain peace in the knowledge.
After all, when one was fulfilled, one was happiest in falling into death, as
a bitter fruit plunges in its ripeness downwards. Death is a great
consummation, a consummating experience. It is a development from life. That
we know, while we are yet living. What then need we think for further? One can
never see beyond the consummation. It is enough that death is a great and
conclusive experience. Why should we ask what comes after the experience, when
the experience is still unknown to us? Let us die, since the great experience
is the one that follows now upon all the rest, death, which is the next great
crisis in front of which we have arrived. If we wait, if we baulk the issue, we
do but hang about the gates in undignified uneasiness. There it is, in front of
us, as in front of Sappho, the illimitable space. Thereinto goes the journey.
Have we not the courage to go on with our journey, must we cry `I daren't'? On
ahead we will go, into death, and whatever death may mean. If a man can see the
next step to be taken, why should he fear the next but one? Why ask about the
next but one? Of the next step we are certain. It is the step into death.
`I shall die I shall quickly die,' said Ursula to herself, clear as if in
a trance, clear, calm, and certain beyond human certainty. But somewhere
behind, in the twilight, there was a bitter weeping and a hopelessness. That
must not be attended to. One must go where the unfaltering spirit goes, there
must be no baulking the issue, because of fear. No baulking the issue, no
listening to the lesser voices. If the deepest desire be now, to go on into the
unknown of death, shall one forfeit the deepest truth for one more shallow?
`Then let it end,' she said to herself. It was a decision. It was not a
question of taking one's life she would never kill herself, that was
repulsive and violent. It was a question of knowing the next step. And
the next step led into the space of death. Did it? or was there ?
Her thoughts drifted into unconsciousness, she sat as if asleep beside the
fire. And then the thought came back. The space o' death! Could she give
herself to it? Ah yes it was a sleep. She had had enough So long she had
held out; and resisted. Now was the time to relinquish, not to resist any more.
In a kind of spiritual trance, she yielded, she gave way, and all was dark.
She could feel, within the darkness, the terrible assertion of her body, the
unutterable anguish of dissolution, the only anguish that is too much, the far-
off, awful nausea of dissolution set in within the body.
`Does the body correspond so immediately with the spirit?' she asked
herself. And she knew, with the clarity of ultimate knowledge, that the body is
only one of the manifestations of the spirit, the transmutation of the integral
spirit is the transmutation of the physical body as well. Unless I set my will,
unless I absolve myself from the rhythm of life, fix myself and remain static,
cut off from living, absolved within my own will. But better die than live
mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions. To die is to move on
with the invisible. To die is also a joy, a joy of submitting to that which is
greater than the known, namely, the pure unknown. That is a joy. But to live
mechanised and cut off within the motion of the will, to live as an entity
absolved from the unknown, that is shameful and ignominious. There is no
ignominy in death. There is complete ignominy in an unreplenished, mechanised
life. Life indeed may be ignominious, shameful to the soul. But death is never
a shame. Death itself, like the illimitable space, is beyond our sullying.
Tomorrow was Monday. Monday, the beginning of another school-week! Another
shameful, barren school-week, mere routine and mechanical activity. Was not the
adventure of death infinitely preferable? Was not death infinitely more lovely
and noble than such a life? A life of barren routine, without inner meaning,
without any real significance. How sordid life was, how it was a terrible shame
to the soul, to live now! How much cleaner and more dignified to be dead! One
could not bear any more of this shame of sordid routine and mechanical nullity.
One might come to fruit in death. She had had enough. For where was life to be
found? No flowers grow upon busy machinery, there is no sky to a routine, there
is no space to a rotary motion. And all life was a rotary motion, mechanised,
cut off from reality. There was nothing to look for from life it was the
same in all countries and all peoples. The only window was death. One could
look out on to the great dark sky of death with elation, as one had looked out
of the classroom window as a child, and seen perfect freedom in the outside.
Now one was not a child, and one knew that the soul was a prisoner within this
sordid vast edifice of life, and there was no escape, save in death.
But what a joy! What a gladness to think that whatever humanity did, it could
not seize hold of the kingdom of death, to nullify that. The sea they turned
into a murderous alley and a soiled road of commerce, disputed like the dirty
land of a city every inch of it. The air they claimed too, shared it up,
parcelled it out to certain owners, they trespassed in the air to fight for it.
Everything was gone, walled in, with spikes on top of the walls, and one must
ignominiously creep between the spiky walls through a labyrinth of life.
But the great, dark, illimitable kingdom of death, there humanity was put to
scorn. So much they could do upon earth, the multifarious little gods that they
were. But the kingdom of death put them all to scorn, they dwindled into their
true vulgar silliness in face of it.
How beautiful, how grand and perfect death was, how good to look forward to.
There one would wash off all the lies and ignominy and dirt that had been put
upon one here, a perfect bath of cleanness and glad refreshment, and go unknown,
unquestioned, unabased. After all, one was rich, if only in the promise of
perfect death. It was a gladness above all, that this remained to look forward
to, the pure inhuman otherness of death.
Whatever life might be, it could not take away death, the inhuman
transcendent death. Oh, let us ask no question of it, what it is or is not. To
know is human, and in death we do not know, we are not human. And the joy of
this compensates for all the bitterness of knowledge and the sordidness of our
humanity. In death we shall not be human, and we shall not know. The promise
of this is our heritage, we look forward like heirs to their majority.
Ursula sat quite still and quite forgotten, alone by the fire in the drawing-
room. The children were playing in the kitchen, all the others were gone to
church. And she was gone into the ultimate darkness of her own soul.
She was startled by hearing the bell ring, away in the kitchen, the children
came scudding along the passage in delicious alarm.
`Ursula, there's somebody.'
`I know. Don't be silly,' she replied. She too was startled, almost
frightened. She dared hardly go to the door.
Birkin stood on the threshold, his rain-coat turned up to his ears. He had
come now, now she was gone far away. She was aware of the rainy night behind
`Oh is it you?' she said.
`I am glad you are at home,' he said in a low voice, entering the house.
`They are all gone to church.'
He took off his coat and hung it up. The children were peeping at him round
`Go and get undressed now, Billy and Dora,' said Ursula. `Mother will be
back soon, and she'll be disappointed if you're not in bed.'
The children, in a sudden angelic mood, retired without a word. Birkin and
Ursula went into the drawing-room.
The fire burned low. He looked at her and wondered at the luminous delicacy
of her beauty, and the wide shining of her eyes. He watched from a distance,
with wonder in his heart, she seemed transfigured with light.
`What have you been doing all day?' he asked her.
`Only sitting about,' she said.
He looked at her. There was a change in her. But she was separate from
him. She remained apart, in a kind of brightness. They both sat silent in the
soft light of the lamp. He felt he ought to go away again, he ought not to have
come. Still he did not gather enough resolution to move. But he was de
trop, her mood was absent and separate.
Then there came the voices of the two children calling shyly outside the
door, softly, with self-excited timidity:
She rose and opened the door. On the threshold stood the two children in
their long nightgowns, with wide-eyed, angelic faces. They were being very good
for the moment, playing the role perfectly of two obedient children.
`Shall you take us to bed!' said Billy, in a loud whisper.
`Why you are angels tonight,' she said softly. `Won't you come and
say good-night to Mr Birkin?'
The children merged shyly into the room, on bare feet. Billy's face was wide
and grinning, but there was a great solemnity of being good in his round blue
eyes. Dora, peeping from the floss of her fair hair, hung back like some tiny
Dryad, that has no soul.
`Will you say good-night to me?' asked Birkin, in a voice that was strangely
soft and smooth. Dora drifted away at once, like a leaf lifted on a breath of
wind. But Billy went softly forward, slow and willing, lifting his pinched-up
mouth implicitly to be kissed. Ursula watched the full, gathered lips of the man
gently touch those of the boy, so gently. Then Birkin lifted his fingers and
touched the boy's round, confiding cheek, with a faint touch of love. Neither
spoke. Billy seemed angelic like a cherub boy, or like an acolyte, Birkin was a
tall, grave angel looking down to him.
`Are you going to be kissed?' Ursula broke in, speaking to the little girl.
But Dora edged away like a tiny Dryad that will not be touched.
`Won't you say good-night to Mr Birkin? Go, he's waiting for you,' said
Ursula. But the girl-child only made a little motion away from him.
`Silly Dora, silly Dora!' said Ursula.
Birkin felt some mistrust and antagonism in the small child. He could not
`Come then,' said Ursula. `Let us go before mother comes.'
`Who'll hear us say our prayers?' asked Billy anxiously.
`Whom you like.'
`Yes, I will.'
`Is it whom you like?'
`Well what is whom?'
`It's the accusative of who.'
There was a moment's contemplative silence, then the confiding:
Birkin smiled to himself as he sat by the fire. When Ursula came down he sat
motionless, with his arms on his knees. She saw him, how he was motionless and
ageless, like some crouching idol, some image of a deathly religion. He looked
round at her, and his face, very pale and unreal, seemed to gleam with a
whiteness almost phosphorescent.
`Don't you feel well?' she asked, in indefinable repulsion.
`I hadn't thought about it.'
`But don't you know without thinking about it?'
He looked at her, his eyes dark and swift, and he saw her revulsion. He did
not answer her question.
`Don't you know whether you are unwell or not, without thinking about it?'
`Not always,' he said coldly.
`But don't you think that's very wicked?'
`Yes. I think it's criminal to have so little connection with your own
body that you don't even know when you are ill.'
He looked at her darkly.
`Yes,' he said.
`Why don't you stay in bed when you are seedy? You look perfectly ghastly.'
`Offensively so?' he asked ironically.
`Yes, quite offensive. Quite repelling.'
`Ah!! Well that's unfortunate.'
`And it's raining, and it's a horrible night. Really, you shouldn't be
forgiven for treating your body like it you ought to suffer, a man who
takes as little notice of his body as that.'
` takes as little notice of his body as that,' he echoed mechanically.
This cut her short, and there was silence.
The others came in from church, and the two had the girls to face, then the
mother and Gudrun, and then the father and the boy.
`Good-evening,' said Brangwen, faintly surprised. `Came to see me, did you?'
`No,' said Birkin, `not about anything, in particular, that is. The day was
dismal, and I thought you wouldn't mind if I called in.'
`It has been a depressing day,' said Mrs Brangwen sympathetically. At
that moment the voices of the children were heard calling from upstairs:
`Mother! Mother!' She lifted her face and answered mildly into the distance: `I
shall come up to you in a minute, Doysie.' Then to Birkin: `There is nothing
fresh at Shortlands, I suppose? Ah,' she sighed, `no, poor things, I should
`You've been over there today, I suppose?' asked the father.
`Gerald came round to tea with me, and I walked back with him. The house is
overexcited and unwholesome, I thought.'
`I should think they were people who hadn't much restraint,' said Gudrun.
`Or too much,' Birkin answered.
`Oh yes, I'm sure,' said Gudrun, almost vindictively, `one or the other.'
`They all feel they ought to behave in some unnatural fashion,' said Birkin.
`When people are in grief, they would do better to cover their faces and keep in
retirement, as in the old days.'
`Certainly!' cried Gudrun, flushed and inflammable. `What can be worse than
this public grief what is more horrible, more false! If grief is not
private, and hidden, what is?'
`Exactly,' he said. `I felt ashamed when I was there and they were all going
about in a lugubrious false way, feeling they must not be natural or ordinary.'
`Well ' said Mrs Brangwen, offended at this criticism, `it isn't so easy to
bear a trouble like that.'
And she went upstairs to the children.
He remained only a few minutes longer, then took his leave. When he was gone
Ursula felt such a poignant hatred of him, that all her brain seemed turned into
a sharp crystal of fine hatred. Her whole nature seemed sharpened and
intensified into a pure dart of hate. She could not imagine what it was. It
merely took hold of her, the most poignant and ultimate hatred, pure and clear
and beyond thought. She could not think of it at all, she was translated beyond
herself. It was like a possession. She felt she was possessed. And for
several days she went about possessed by this exquisite force of hatred against
him. It surpassed anything she had ever known before, it seemed to throw her
out of the world into some terrible region where nothing of her old life held
good. She was quite lost and dazed, really dead to her own life.
It was so completely incomprehensible and irrational. She did not know
why she hated him, her hate was quite abstract. She had only realised
with a shock that stunned her, that she was overcome by this pure
transportation. He was the enemy, fine as a diamond, and as hard and jewel-
like, the quintessence of all that was inimical.
She thought of his face, white and purely wrought, and of his eyes that had
such a dark, constant will of assertion, and she touched her own forehead, to
feel if she were mad, she was so transfigured in white flame of essential hate.
It was not temporal, her hatred, she did not hate him for this or for that;
she did not want to do anything to him, to have any connection with him. Her
relation was ultimate and utterly beyond words, the hate was so pure and
gemlike. It was as if he were a beam of essential enmity, a beam of light that
did not only destroy her, but denied her altogether, revoked her whole world.
She saw him as a clear stroke of uttermost contradiction, a strange gem-like
being whose existence defined her own non-existence. When she heard he was ill
again, her hatred only intensified itself a few degrees, if that were possible.
It stunned her and annihilated her, but she could not escape it. She could not
escape this transfiguration of hatred that had come upon her.