THERE WAS a jumble market every Monday afternoon in the old market-place in
town. Ursula and Birkin strayed down there one afternoon. They had been
talking of furniture, and they wanted to see if there was any fragment they
would like to buy, amid the heaps of rubbish collected on the cobble-
The old market-square was not very large, a mere bare patch of granite
setts, usually with a few fruit-stalls under a wall. It was in a poor quarter
of the town. Meagre houses stood down one side, there was a hosiery factory, a
great blank with myriad oblong windows, at the end, a street of little shops
with flagstone pavement down the other side, and, for a crowning monument,
the public baths, of new red brick, with a clock-tower. The people who moved
about seemed stumpy and sordid, the air seemed to smell rather dirty, there
was a sense of many mean streets ramifying off into warrens of meanness. Now
and again a great chocolate-and-yellow tramcar ground round a difficult bend
under the hosiery factory.
Ursula was superficially thrilled when she found herself out among the
common people, in the jumbled place piled with old bedding, heaps of old iron,
shabby crockery in pale lots, muffled lots of unthinkable clothing. She and
Birkin went unwillingly down the narrow aisle between the rusty wares. He was
looking at the goods, she at the people.
She excitedly watched a young woman, who was going to have a baby, and who
was turning over a mattress and making a young man, down-at-heel and
dejected, feel it also. So secretive and active and anxious the young woman
seemed, so reluctant, slinking, the young man. He was going to marry her
because she was having a child.
When they had felt the mattress, the young woman asked the old man seated on
a stool among his wares, how much it was. He told her, and she turned to the
young man. The latter was ashamed, and selfconscious. He turned his face
away, though he left his body standing there, and muttered aside. And again
the woman anxiously and actively fingered the mattress and added up in her
mind and bargained with the old, unclean man. All the while, the young man
stood by, shamefaced and down-at-heel, submitting.
`Look,' said Birkin, `there is a pretty chair.'
`Charming!' cried Ursula. `Oh, charming.'
It was an arm-chair of simple wood, probably birch, but of such fine
delicacy of grace, standing there on the sordid stones, it almost brought
tears to the eyes. It was square in shape, of the purest, slender lines, and
four short lines of wood in the back, that reminded Ursula of harpstrings.
`It was once,' said Birkin, `gilded and it had a cane seat. Somebody has
nailed this wooden seat in. Look, here is a trifle of the red that underlay
the gilt. The rest is all black, except where the wood is worn pure and glossy.
It is the fine unity of the lines that is so attractive. Look, how they run
and meet and counteract. But of course the wooden seat is wrong it
destroys the perfect lightness and unity in tension the cane gave. I like it
`Ah yes,' said Ursula, `so do I.'
`How much is it?' Birkin asked the man.
`And you will send it ?'
It was bought.
`So beautiful, so pure!' Birkin said. `It almost breaks my heart.' They
walked along between the heaps of rubbish. `My beloved country it had
something to express even when it made that chair.'
`And hasn't it now?' asked Ursula. She was always angry when he took this
`No, it hasn't. When I see that clear, beautiful chair, and I think of
England, even Jane Austen's England it had living thoughts to unfold even
then, and pure happiness in unfolding them. And now, we can only fish among
the rubbish heaps for the remnants of their old expression. There is no
production in us now, only sordid and foul mechanicalness.'
`It isn't true,' cried Ursula. `Why must you always praise the past, at the
expense of the present? Really, I don't think so much of Jane Austen's
England. It was materialistic enough, if you like '
`It could afford to be materialistic,' said Birkin, `because it had the
power to be something other which we haven't. We are materialistic because we
haven't the power to be anything else try as we may, we can't bring off
anything but materialism: mechanism, the very soul of materialism.'
Ursula was subdued into angry silence. She did not heed what he said.
She was rebelling against something else.
`And I hate your past. I'm sick of it,' she cried. `I believe I even hate
that old chair, though it is beautiful. It isn't my sort of
beauty. I wish it had been smashed up when its day was over, not left to
preach the beloved past to us. I'm sick of the beloved past.'
`Not so sick as I am of the accursed present,' he said.
`Yes, just the same. I hate the present but I don't want the past to take
its place I don't want that old chair.'
He was rather angry for a moment. Then he looked at the sky shining beyond
the tower of the public baths, and he seemed to get over it all. He laughed.
`All right,' he said, `then let us not have it. I'm sick of it all, too.
At any rate one can't go on living on the old bones of beauty.'
`One can't,' she cried. `I don't want old things.'
`The truth is, we don't want things at all,' he replied. `The thought of a
house and furniture of my own is hateful to me.'
This startled her for a moment. Then she replied:
`So it is to me. But one must live somewhere.'
`Not somewhere anywhere,' he said. `One should just live anywhere
not have a definite place. I don't want a definite place. As soon as you
get a room, and it is complete, you want to run from it. Now my rooms
at the Mill are quite complete, I want them at the bottom of the sea. It is
a horrible tyranny of a fixed milieu, where each piece of furniture is a
She clung to his arm as they walked away from the market.
`But what are we going to do?' she said. `We must live somehow. And I do
want some beauty in my surroundings. I want a sort of natural grandeur
`You'll never get it in houses and furniture or even clothes. Houses and
furniture and clothes, they are all terms of an old base world, a detestable
society of man. And if you have a Tudor house and old, beautiful furniture,
it is only the past perpetuated on top of you, horrible. And if you have a
perfect modern house done for you by Poiret, it is something else perpetuated
on top of you. It is all horrible. It is all possessions, possessions,
bullying you and turning you into a generalisation. You have to be like Rodin,
Michelangelo, and leave a piece of raw rock unfinished to your figure. You
must leave your surroundings sketchy, unfinished, so that you are never
contained, never confined, never dominated from the outside.'
She stood in the street contemplating.
`And we are never to have a complete place of our own never a home?' she
`Pray God, in this world, no,' he answered.
`But there's only this world,' she objected.
He spread out his hands with a gesture of indifference.
`Meanwhile, then, we'll avoid having things of our own,' he said.
`But you've just bought a chair,' she said.
`I can tell the man I don't want it,' he replied.
She pondered again. Then a queer little movement twitched her face.
`No,' she said, `we don't want it. I'm sick of old things.'
`New ones as well,' he said.
They retraced their steps.
There in front of some furniture, stood the young couple, the woman who
was going to have a baby, and the narrow-faced youth. She was fair, rather
short, stout. He was of medium height, attractively built. His dark hair fell
sideways over his brow, from under his cap, he stood strangely aloof, like
one of the damned.
`Let us give it to them,' whispered Ursula. `Look they are getting a
`I won't aid abet them in it,' he said petulantly, instantly
sympathising with the aloof, furtive youth, against the active, procreant
`Oh yes,' cried Ursula. `It's right for them there's nothing else
`Very well,' said Birkin, `you offer it to them. I'll watch.'
Ursula went rather nervously to the young couple, who were discussing an
iron washstand or rather, the man was glancing furtively and wonderingly,
like a prisoner, at the abominable article, whilst the woman was arguing.
`We bought a chair,' said Ursula, `and we don't want it. Would you have it?
We should be glad if you would.'
The young couple looked round at her, not believing that she could be
`Would you care for it?' repeated Ursula. `It's really very pretty -
- but but ' she smiled rather dazzlingly.
The young couple only stared at her, and looked significantly at each
other, to know what to do. And the man curiously obliterated himself, as if he
could make himself invisible, as a rat can.
`We wanted to give it to you,' explained Ursula, now overcome with
confusion and dread of them. She was attracted by the young man. He was a
still, mindless creature, hardly a man at all, a creature that the towns have
produced, strangely pure-bred and fine in one sense, furtive, quick, subtle.
His lashes were dark and long and fine over his eyes, that had no mind in them,
only a dreadful kind of subject, inward consciousness, glazed and dark. His
dark brows and all his lines, were finely drawn. He would be a dreadful, but
wonderful lover to a woman, so marvellously contributed. His legs would be
marvellously subtle and alive, under the shapeless, trousers, he had some of
the fineness and stillness and silkiness of a dark-eyed, silent rat.
Ursula had apprehended him with a fine frisson of attraction. The
full-built woman was staring offensively. Again Ursula forgot him.
`Won't you have the chair?' she said.
The man looked at her with a sideways look of appreciation, yet faroff,
almost insolent. The woman drew herself up. There was a certain costermonger
richness about her. She did not know what Ursula was after, she was on her
guard, hostile. Birkin approached, smiling wickedly at seeing Ursula so
nonplussed and frightened.
`What's the matter?' he said, smiling. His eyelids had dropped slightly,
there was about him the same suggestive, mocking secrecy that was in the bearing
of the two city creatures. The man jerked his head a little on one side,
indicating Ursula, and said, with curious amiable, jeering warmth:
`What she warnt? eh?' An odd smile writhed his lips.
Birkin looked at him from under his slack, ironical eyelids.
`To give you a chair that with the label on it,' he said, pointing.
The man looked at the object indicated. There was a curious hostility in
male, outlawed understanding between the two men.
`What's she warnt to give it us for, guvnor,' he replied, in a tone of
free intimacy that insulted Ursula.
`Thought you'd like it it's a pretty chair. We bought it and don't want
it. No need for you to have it, don't be frightened,' said Birkin, with a wry
The man glanced up at him, half inimical, half recognising.
`Why don't you want it for yourselves, if you've just bought it?' asked the
woman coolly. `'Taint good enough for you, now you've had a look at it.
Frightened it's got something in it, eh?'
She was looking at Ursula, admiringly, but with some resentment.
`I'd never thought of that,' said Birkin. `But no, the wood's too thin
`You see,' said Ursula, her face luminous and pleased. `We are just
going to get married, and we thought we'd buy things. Then we decided, just now,
that we wouldn't have furniture, we'd go abroad.'
The full-built, slightly blowsy city girl looked at the fine face of the
other woman, with appreciation. They appreciated each other. The youth stood
aside, his face expressionless and timeless, the thin line of the black
moustache drawn strangely suggestive over his rather wide, closed mouth. He was
impassive, abstract, like some dark suggestive presence, a gutter-presence.
`It's all right to be some folks,' said the city girl, turning to her own
young man. He did not look at her, but he smiled with the lower part of his
face, putting his head aside in an odd gesture of assent. His eyes were
unchanging, glazed with darkness.
`Cawsts something to change your mind,' he said, in an incredibly low accent.
`Only ten shillings this time,' said Birkin.
The man looked up at him with a grimace of a smile, furtive, unsure.
`Cheap at 'arf a quid, guvnor,' he said. `Not like getting divawced.'
`We're not married yet,' said Birkin.
`No, no more aren't we,' said the young woman loudly. `But we shall be, a
Again she looked at the young man with a determined, protective look, at once
overbearing and very gentle. He grinned sicklily, turning away his head. She had
got his manhood, but Lord, what did he care! He had a strange furtive pride and
`Good luck to you,' said Birkin.
`Same to you,' said the young woman. Then, rather tentatively: `When's yours
coming off, then?'
Birkin looked round at Ursula.
`It's for the lady to say,' he replied. `We go to the registrar the moment
Ursula laughed, covered with confusion and bewilderment.
`No 'urry,' said the young man, grinning suggestive.
`Oh, don't break your neck to get there,' said the young woman. `'Slike when
you're dead you're long time married.'
The young man turned aside as if this hit him.
`The longer the better, let us hope,' said Birkin.
`That's it, guvnor,' said the young man admiringly. `Enjoy it while it larsts
niver whip a dead donkey.'
`Only when he's shamming dead,' said the young woman, looking at her young
man with caressive tenderness of authority.
`Aw, there's a difference,' he said satirically.
`What about the chair?' said Birkin.
`Yes, all right,' said the woman.
They trailed off to the dealer, the handsome but abject young fellow hanging
a little aside.
`That's it,' said Birkin. `Will you take it with you, or have the address
`Oh, Fred can carry it. Make him do what he can for the dear old 'ome.'
`Mike use of'im,' said Fred, grimly humorous, as he took the chair from the
dealer. His movements were graceful, yet curiously abject, slinking.
`'Ere's mother's cosy chair,' he said. `Warnts a cushion.' And he stood it
down on the market stones.
`Don't you think it's pretty?' laughed Ursula.
`Oh, I do,' said the young woman.
`'Ave a sit in it, you'll wish you'd kept it,' said the young man.
Ursula promptly sat down in the middle of the market-place.
`Awfully comfortable,' she said. `But rather hard. You try it.' She invited
the young man to a seat. But he turned uncouthly, awkwardly aside, glancing up
at her with quick bright eyes, oddly suggestive, like a quick, live rat.
`Don't spoil him,' said the young woman. `He's not used to arm-chairs, 'e
The young man turned away, and said, with averted grin:
`Only warnts legs on 'is.'
The four parted. The young woman thanked them.
`Thank you for the chair it'll last till it gives way.'
`Keep it for an ornyment,' said the young man.
`Good afternoon Good afternoon,' said Ursula and Birkin.
`Goo'-luck to you,' said the young man, glancing and avoiding Birkin's eyes,
as he turned aside his head.
The two couples went asunder, Ursula clinging to Birkin's arm. When they had
gone some distance, she glanced back and saw the young man going beside the
full, easy young woman. His trousers sank over his heels, he moved with a sort
of slinking evasion, more crushed with odd self-consciousness now he had the
slim old arm-chair to carry, his arm over the back, the four fine, square
tapering legs swaying perilously near the granite setts of the pavement. And yet
he was somewhere indomitable and separate, like a quick, vital rat. He had a
queer, subterranean beauty, repulsive too.
`How strange they are!' said Ursula.
`Children of men,' he said. `They remind me of Jesus: "The meek shall inherit
`But they aren't the meek,' said Ursula.
`Yes, I don't know why, but they are,' he replied.
They waited for the tramcar. Ursula sat on top and looked out on the town.
The dusk was just dimming the hollows of crowded houses.
`And are they going to inherit the earth?' she said.
`Then what are we going to do?' she asked. `We're not like them are we?
We're not the meek?'
`No. We've got to live in the chinks they leave us.'
`How horrible!' cried Ursula. `I don't want to live in chinks.'
`Don't worry,' he said. `They are the children of men, they like market-
places and street-corners best. That leaves plenty of chinks.'
`All the world,' she said.
`Ah no but some room.'
The tramcar mounted slowly up the hill, where the ugly winter-grey masses of
houses looked like a vision of hell that is cold and angular. They sat and
looked. Away in the distance was an angry redness of sunset. It was all cold,
somehow small, crowded, and like the end of the world.
`I don't mind it even then,' said Ursula, looking at the repulsiveness of it
all. `It doesn't concern me.'
`No more it does,' he replied, holding her hand. `One needn't see. One goes
one's way. In my world it is sunny and spacious '
`It is, my love, isn't it?' she cried, hugging near to him on the top of the
tramcar, so that the other passengers stared at them.
`And we will wander about on the face of the earth,' he said, `and we'll look
at the world beyond just this bit.'
There was a long silence. Her face was radiant like gold, as she sat
`I don't want to inherit the earth,' she said. `I don't want to inherit
He closed his hand over hers.
`Neither do I. I want to be disinherited.'
She clasped his fingers closely.
`We won't care about anything,' she said.
He sat still, and laughed.
`And we'll be married, and have done with them,' she added.
Again he laughed.
`It's one way of getting rid of everything,' she said, `to get married.'
`And one way of accepting the whole world,' he added.
`A whole other world, yes,' she said happily.
`Perhaps there's Gerald and Gudrun ' he said.
`If there is there is, you see,' she said. `It's no good our worrying. We
can't really alter them, can we?'
`No,' he said. `One has no right to try not with the best intentions in
`Do you try to force them?' she asked.
`Perhaps,' he said. `Why should I want him to be free, if it isn't his
She paused for a time.
`We can't make him happy, anyhow,' she said. `He'd have to be it of
`I know,' he said. `But we want other people with us, don't we?'
`Why should we?' she asked.
`I don't know,' he said uneasily. `One has a hankering after a sort of
`But why?' she insisted. `Why should you hanker after other people? Why
should you need them?'
This hit him right on the quick. His brows knitted.
`Does it end with just our two selves?' he asked, tense.
`Yes what more do you want? If anybody likes to come along, let them. But
why must you run after them?'
His face was tense and unsatisfied.
`You see,' he said, `I always imagine our being really happy with some few
other people a little freedom with people.'
She pondered for a moment.
`Yes, one does want that. But it must happen. You can't do anything
for it with your will. You always seem to think you can force the flowers
to come out. People must love us because they love us you can't make
`I know,' he said. `But must one take no steps at all? Must one just go as if
one were alone in the world the only creature in the world?'
`You've got me,' she said. `Why should you need others? Why must you
force people to agree with you? Why can't you be single by yourself, as you are
always saying? You try to bully Gerald as you tried to bully Hermione. You
must learn to be alone. And it's so horrid of you. You've got me. And yet you
want to force other people to love you as well. You do try to bully them to love
you. And even then, you don't want their love.'
His face was full of real perplexity.
`Don't I?' he said. `It's the problem I can't solve. I know I want a
perfect and complete relationship with you: and we've nearly got it we really
have. But beyond that. Do I want a real, ultimate relationship with
Gerald? Do I want a final, almost extra-human relationship with him a
relationship in the ultimate of me and him or don't I?'
She looked at him for a long time, with strange bright eyes, but she did not