Chapter XXI: Threshold
Gudrun was away in London, having a little show of her work, with a friend, and looking round, preparing for flight from Beldover. Come what might she would be on the wing in a very short time. She received a letter from Winifred Crich, ornamented with drawings.
'Father also has been to London, to be examined by the doctors. It made him very tired. They say he must rest a very great deal, so he is mostly in bed. He brought me a lovely tropical parrot in faience, of Dresden ware, also a man ploughing, and two mice climbing up a stalk, also in faience. The mice were Copenhagen ware. They are the best, but mice don't shine so much, otherwise they are very good, their tails are slim and long. They all shine nearly like glass. Of course it is the glaze, but I don't like it. Gerald likes the man ploughing the best, his trousers are torn, he is ploughing with an ox, being I suppose a German peasant. It is all grey and white, white shirt and grey trousers, but very shiny and clean. Mr Birkin likes the girl best, under the hawthorn blossom, with a lamb, and with daffodils painted on her skirts, in the drawing room. But that is silly, because the lamb is not a real lamb, and she is silly too.
'Dear Miss Brangwen, are you coming back soon, you are very much missed here. I enclose a drawing of father sitting up in bed. He says he hopes you are not going to forsake us. Oh dear Miss Brangwen, I am sure you won't. Do come back and draw the ferrets, they are the most lovely noble darlings in the world. We might carve them in holly-wood, playing against a background of green leaves. Oh do let us, for they are most beautiful.
'Father says we might have a studio. Gerald says we could easily have a beautiful one over the stables, it would only need windows to be put in the slant of the roof, which is a simple matter. Then you could stay here all day and work, and we could live in the studio, like two real artists, like the man in the picture in the hall, with the frying-pan and the walls all covered with drawings. I long to be free, to live the free life of an artist. Even Gerald told father that only an artist is free, because he lives in a creative world of his own—'
Gudrun caught the drift of the family intentions, in this letter. Gerald wanted her to be attached to the household at Shortlands, he was using Winifred as his stalking-horse. The father thought only of his child, he saw a rock of salvation in Gudrun. And Gudrun admired him for his perspicacity. The child, moreover, was really exceptional. Gudrun was quite content. She was quite willing, given a studio, to spend her days at Shortlands. She disliked the Grammar School already thoroughly, she wanted to be free. If a studio were provided, she would be free to go on with her work, she would await the turn of events with complete serenity. And she was really interested in Winifred, she would be quite glad to understand the girl.
So there was quite a little festivity on Winifred's account, the day Gudrun returned to Shortlands.
'You should make a bunch of flowers to give to Miss Brangwen when she arrives,' Gerald said smiling to his sister.
'Oh no,' cried Winifred, 'it's silly.'
'Not at all. It is a very charming and ordinary attention.'
'Oh, it is silly,' protested Winifred, with all the extreme MAUVAISE HONTE of her years. Nevertheless, the idea appealed to her. She wanted very much to carry it out. She flitted round the green-houses and the conservatory looking wistfully at the flowers on their stems. And the more she looked, the more she LONGED to have a bunch of the blossoms she saw, the more fascinated she became with her little vision of ceremony, and the more consumedly shy and self-conscious she grew, till she was almost beside herself. She could not get the idea out of her mind. It was as if some haunting challenge prompted her, and she had not enough courage to take it up. So again she drifted into the green-houses, looking at the lovely roses in their pots, and at the virginal cyclamens, and at the mystic white clusters of a creeper. The beauty, oh the beauty of them, and oh the paradisal bliss, if she should have a perfect bouquet and could give it to Gudrun the next day. Her passion and her complete indecision almost made her ill.
At last she slid to her father's side.
'Daddie—' she said.
'What, my precious?'
But she hung back, the tears almost coming to her eyes, in her sensitive confusion. Her father looked at her, and his heart ran hot with tenderness, an anguish of poignant love.
'What do you want to say to me, my love?'
'Daddie—!' her eyes smiled laconically—'isn't it silly if I give Miss Brangwen some flowers when she comes?'
The sick man looked at the bright, knowing eyes of his child, and his heart burned with love.
'No, darling, that's not silly. It's what they do to queens.'
This was not very reassuring to Winifred. She half suspected that queens in themselves were a silliness. Yet she so wanted her little romantic occasion.
'Shall I then?' she asked.
'Give Miss Brangwen some flowers? Do, Birdie. Tell Wilson I say you are to have what you want.'
The child smiled a small, subtle, unconscious smile to herself, in anticipation of her way.
'But I won't get them till tomorrow,' she said.
'Not till tomorrow, Birdie. Give me a kiss then—'
Winifred silently kissed the sick man, and drifted out of the room. She again went the round of the green-houses and the conservatory, informing the gardener, in her high, peremptory, simple fashion, of what she wanted, telling him all the blooms she had selected.
'What do you want these for?' Wilson asked.
'I want them,' she said. She wished servants did not ask questions.
'Ay, you've said as much. But what do you want them for, for decoration, or to send away, or what?'
'I want them for a presentation bouquet.'
'A presentation bouquet! Who's coming then?—the Duchess of Portland?'
'Oh, not her? Well you'll have a rare poppy-show if you put all the things you've mentioned into your bouquet.'
'Yes, I want a rare poppy-show.'
'You do! Then there's no more to be said.'
The next day Winifred, in a dress of silvery velvet, and holding a gaudy bunch of flowers in her hand, waited with keen impatience in the schoolroom, looking down the drive for Gudrun's arrival. It was a wet morning. Under her nose was the strange fragrance of hot-house flowers, the bunch was like a little fire to her, she seemed to have a strange new fire in her heart. This slight sense of romance stirred her like an intoxicant.
At last she saw Gudrun coming, and she ran downstairs to warn her father and Gerald. They, laughing at her anxiety and gravity, came with her into the hall. The man-servant came hastening to the door, and there he was, relieving Gudrun of her umbrella, and then of her raincoat. The welcoming party hung back till their visitor entered the hall.
Gudrun was flushed with the rain, her hair was blown in loose little curls, she was like a flower just opened in the rain, the heart of the blossom just newly visible, seeming to emit a warmth of retained sunshine. Gerald winced in spirit, seeing her so beautiful and unknown. She was wearing a soft blue dress, and her stockings were of dark red.
Winifred advanced with odd, stately formality.
'We are so glad you've come back,' she said. 'These are your flowers.' She presented the bouquet.
'Mine!' cried Gudrun. She was suspended for a moment, then a vivid flush went over her, she was as if blinded for a moment with a flame of pleasure. Then her eyes, strange and flaming, lifted and looked at the father, and at Gerald. And again Gerald shrank in spirit, as if it would be more than he could bear, as her hot, exposed eyes rested on him. There was something so revealed, she was revealed beyond bearing, to his eyes. He turned his face aside. And he felt he would not be able to avert her. And he writhed under the imprisonment.
Gudrun put her face into the flowers.
'But how beautiful they are!' she said, in a muffled voice. Then, with a strange, suddenly revealed passion, she stooped and kissed Winifred.
Mr Crich went forward with his hand held out to her.
'I was afraid you were going to run away from us,' he said, playfully.
Gudrun looked up at him with a luminous, roguish, unknown face.
'Really!' she replied. 'No, I didn't want to stay in London.' Her voice seemed to imply that she was glad to get back to Shortlands, her tone was warm and subtly caressing.
'That is a good thing,' smiled the father. 'You see you are very welcome here among us.'
Gudrun only looked into his face with dark-blue, warm, shy eyes. She was unconsciously carried away by her own power.
'And you look as if you came home in every possible triumph,' Mr Crich continued, holding her hand.
'No,' she said, glowing strangely. 'I haven't had any triumph till I came here.'
'Ah, come, come! We're not going to hear any of those tales. Haven't we read notices in the newspaper, Gerald?'
'You came off pretty well,' said Gerald to her, shaking hands. 'Did you sell anything?'
'No,' she said, 'not much.'
'Just as well,' he said.
She wondered what he meant. But she was all aglow with her reception, carried away by this little flattering ceremonial on her behalf.
'Winifred,' said the father, 'have you a pair of shoes for Miss Brangwen? You had better change at once—'
Gudrun went out with her bouquet in her hand.
'Quite a remarkable young woman,' said the father to Gerald, when she had gone.
'Yes,' replied Gerald briefly, as if he did not like the observation.
Mr Crich liked Gudrun to sit with him for half an hour. Usually he was ashy and wretched, with all the life gnawed out of him. But as soon as he rallied, he liked to make believe that he was just as before, quite well and in the midst of life—not of the outer world, but in the midst of a strong essential life. And to this belief, Gudrun contributed perfectly. With her, he could get by stimulation those precious half-hours of strength and exaltation and pure freedom, when he seemed to live more than he had ever lived.
She came to him as he lay propped up in the library. His face was like yellow wax, his eyes darkened, as it were sightless. His black beard, now streaked with grey, seemed to spring out of the waxy flesh of a corpse. Yet the atmosphere about him was energetic and playful. Gudrun subscribed to this, perfectly. To her fancy, he was just an ordinary man. Only his rather terrible appearance was photographed upon her soul, away beneath her consciousness. She knew that, in spite of his playfulness, his eyes could not change from their darkened vacancy, they were the eyes of a man who is dead.
'Ah, this is Miss Brangwen,' he said, suddenly rousing as she entered, announced by the man-servant. 'Thomas, put Miss Brangwen a chair here—that's right.' He looked at her soft, fresh face with pleasure. It gave him the illusion of life. 'Now, you will have a glass of sherry and a little piece of cake. Thomas—'
'No thank you,' said Gudrun. And as soon as she had said it, her heart sank horribly. The sick man seemed to fall into a gap of death, at her contradiction. She ought to play up to him, not to contravene him. In an instant she was smiling her rather roguish smile.
'I don't like sherry very much,' she said. 'But I like almost anything else.'
The sick man caught at this straw instantly.
'Not sherry! No! Something else! What then? What is there, Thomas?'
'I would love some curacao—' said Gudrun, looking at the sick man confidingly.
'You would. Well then Thomas, curacao—and a little cake, or a biscuit?'
'A biscuit,' said Gudrun. She did not want anything, but she was wise.
He waited till she was settled with her little glass and her biscuit. Then he was satisfied.
'You have heard the plan,' he said with some excitement, 'for a studio for Winifred, over the stables?'
'No!' exclaimed Gudrun, in mock wonder.
'Oh!—I thought Winnie wrote it to you, in her letter!'
'Oh—yes—of course. But I thought perhaps it was only her own little idea—' Gudrun smiled subtly, indulgently. The sick man smiled also, elated.
'Oh no. It is a real project. There is a good room under the roof of the stables—with sloping rafters. We had thought of converting it into a studio.'
'How VERY nice that would be!' cried Gudrun, with excited warmth. The thought of the rafters stirred her.
'You think it would? Well, it can be done.'
'But how perfectly splendid for Winifred! Of course, it is just what is needed, if she is to work at all seriously. One must have one's workshop, otherwise one never ceases to be an amateur.'
'Is that so? Yes. Of course, I should like you to share it with Winifred.'
'Thank you SO much.'
Gudrun knew all these things already, but she must look shy and very grateful, as if overcome.
'Of course, what I should like best, would be if you could give up your work at the Grammar School, and just avail yourself of the studio, and work there—well, as much or as little as you liked—'
He looked at Gudrun with dark, vacant eyes. She looked back at him as if full of gratitude. These phrases of a dying man were so complete and natural, coming like echoes through his dead mouth.
'And as to your earnings—you don't mind taking from me what you have taken from the Education Committee, do you? I don't want you to be a loser.'
'Oh,' said Gudrun, 'if I can have the studio and work there, I can earn money enough, really I can.'
'Well,' he said, pleased to be the benefactor, 'we can see about all that. You wouldn't mind spending your days here?'
'If there were a studio to work in,' said Gudrun, 'I could ask for nothing better.'
'Is that so?'
He was really very pleased. But already he was getting tired. She could see the grey, awful semi-consciousness of mere pain and dissolution coming over him again, the torture coming into the vacancy of his darkened eyes. It was not over yet, this process of death. She rose softly saying:
'Perhaps you will sleep. I must look for Winifred.'
She went out, telling the nurse that she had left him. Day by day the tissue of the sick man was further and further reduced, nearer and nearer the process came, towards the last knot which held the human being in its unity. But this knot was hard and unrelaxed, the will of the dying man never gave way. He might be dead in nine-tenths, yet the remaining tenth remained unchanged, till it too was torn apart. With his will he held the unit of himself firm, but the circle of his power was ever and ever reduced, it would be reduced to a point at last, then swept away.
To adhere to life, he must adhere to human relationships, and he caught at every straw. Winifred, the butler, the nurse, Gudrun, these were the people who meant all to him, in these last resources. Gerald, in his father's presence, stiffened with repulsion. It was so, to a less degree, with all the other children except Winifred. They could not see anything but the death, when they looked at their father. It was as if some subterranean dislike overcame them. They could not see the familiar face, hear the familiar voice. They were overwhelmed by the antipathy of visible and audible death. Gerald could not breathe in his father's presence. He must get out at once. And so, in the same way, the father could not bear the presence of his son. It sent a final irritation through the soul of the dying man.
The studio was made ready, Gudrun and Winifred moved in. They enjoyed so much the ordering and the appointing of it. And now they need hardly be in the house at all. They had their meals in the studio, they lived there safely. For the house was becoming dreadful. There were two nurses in white, flitting silently about, like heralds of death. The father was confined to his bed, there was a come and go of SOTTO-VOCE sisters and brothers and children.
Winifred was her father's constant visitor. Every morning, after breakfast, she went into his room when he was washed and propped up in bed, to spend half an hour with him.
'Are you better, Daddie?' she asked him invariably.
And invariably he answered:
'Yes, I think I'm a little better, pet.'
She held his hand in both her own, lovingly and protectively. And this was very dear to him.
She ran in again as a rule at lunch time, to tell him the course of events, and every evening, when the curtains were drawn, and his room was cosy, she spent a long time with him. Gudrun was gone home, Winifred was alone in the house: she liked best to be with her father. They talked and prattled at random, he always as if he were well, just the same as when he was going about. So that Winifred, with a child's subtle instinct for avoiding the painful things, behaved as if nothing serious was the matter. Instinctively, she withheld her attention, and was happy. Yet in her remoter soul, she knew as well as the adults knew: perhaps better.
Her father was quite well in his make-belief with her. But when she went away, he relapsed under the misery of his dissolution. But still there were these bright moments, though as his strength waned, his faculty for attention grew weaker, and the nurse had to send Winifred away, to save him from exhaustion.
He never admitted that he was going to die. He knew it was so, he knew it was the end. Yet even to himself he did not admit it. He hated the fact, mortally. His will was rigid. He could not bear being overcome by death. For him, there was no death. And yet, at times, he felt a great need to cry out and to wail and complain. He would have liked to cry aloud to Gerald, so that his son should be horrified out of his composure. Gerald was instinctively aware of this, and he recoiled, to avoid any such thing. This uncleanness of death repelled him too much. One should die quickly, like the Romans, one should be master of one's fate in dying as in living. He was convulsed in the clasp of this death of his father's, as in the coils of the great serpent of Laocoon. The great serpent had got the father, and the son was dragged into the embrace of horrifying death along with him. He resisted always. And in some strange way, he was a tower of strength to his father.
The last time the dying man asked to see Gudrun he was grey with near death. Yet he must see someone, he must, in the intervals of consciousness, catch into connection with the living world, lest he should have to accept his own situation. Fortunately he was most of his time dazed and half gone. And he spent many hours dimly thinking of the past, as it were, dimly re-living his old experiences. But there were times even to the end when he was capable of realising what was happening to him in the present, the death that was on him. And these were the times when he called in outside help, no matter whose. For to realise this death that he was dying was a death beyond death, never to be borne. It was an admission never to be made.
Gudrun was shocked by his appearance, and by the darkened, almost disintegrated eyes, that still were unconquered and firm.
'Well,' he said in his weakened voice, 'and how are you and Winifred getting on?'
'Oh, very well indeed,' replied Gudrun.
There were slight dead gaps in the conversation, as if the ideas called up were only elusive straws floating on the dark chaos of the sick man's dying.
'The studio answers all right?' he said.
'Splendid. It couldn't be more beautiful and perfect,' said Gudrun.
She waited for what he would say next.
'And you think Winifred has the makings of a sculptor?'
It was strange how hollow the words were, meaningless.
'I'm sure she has. She will do good things one day.'
'Ah! Then her life won't be altogether wasted, you think?'
Gudrun was rather surprised.
'Sure it won't!' she exclaimed softly.
Again Gudrun waited for what he would say.
'You find life pleasant, it is good to live, isn't it?' he asked, with a pitiful faint smile that was almost too much for Gudrun.
'Yes,' she smiled—she would lie at random—'I get a pretty good time I believe.'
'That's right. A happy nature is a great asset.'
Again Gudrun smiled, though her soul was dry with repulsion. Did one have to die like this—having the life extracted forcibly from one, whilst one smiled and made conversation to the end? Was there no other way? Must one go through all the horror of this victory over death, the triumph of the integral will, that would not be broken till it disappeared utterly? One must, it was the only way. She admired the self-possession and the control of the dying man exceedingly. But she loathed the death itself. She was glad the everyday world held good, and she need not recognise anything beyond.
'You are quite all right here?—nothing we can do for you?—nothing you find wrong in your position?'
'Except that you are too good to me,' said Gudrun.
'Ah, well, the fault of that lies with yourself,' he said, and he felt a little exultation, that he had made this speech.
He was still so strong and living! But the nausea of death began to creep back on him, in reaction.
Gudrun went away, back to Winifred. Mademoiselle had left, Gudrun stayed a good deal at Shortlands, and a tutor came in to carry on Winifred's education. But he did not live in the house, he was connected with the Grammar School.
One day, Gudrun was to drive with Winifred and Gerald and Birkin to town, in the car. It was a dark, showery day. Winifred and Gudrun were ready and waiting at the door. Winifred was very quiet, but Gudrun had not noticed. Suddenly the child asked, in a voice of unconcern:
'Do you think my father's going to die, Miss Brangwen?'
'I don't know,' she replied.
'Don't you truly?'
'Nobody knows for certain. He MAY die, of course.'
The child pondered a few moments, then she asked:
'But do you THINK he will die?'
It was put almost like a question in geography or science, insistent, as if she would force an admission from the adult. The watchful, slightly triumphant child was almost diabolical.
'Do I think he will die?' repeated Gudrun. 'Yes, I do.'
But Winifred's large eyes were fixed on her, and the girl did not move.
'He is very ill,' said Gudrun.
A small smile came over Winifred's face, subtle and sceptical.
'I don't believe he will,' the child asserted, mockingly, and she moved away into the drive. Gudrun watched the isolated figure, and her heart stood still. Winifred was playing with a little rivulet of water, absorbedly as if nothing had been said.
'I've made a proper dam,' she said, out of the moist distance.
Gerald came to the door from out of the hall behind.
'It is just as well she doesn't choose to believe it,' he said.
Gudrun looked at him. Their eyes met; and they exchanged a sardonic understanding.
'Just as well,' said Gudrun.
He looked at her again, and a fire flickered up in his eyes.
'Best to dance while Rome burns, since it must burn, don't you think?' he said.
She was rather taken aback. But, gathering herself together, she replied:
'Oh—better dance than wail, certainly.'
'So I think.'
And they both felt the subterranean desire to let go, to fling away everything, and lapse into a sheer unrestraint, brutal and licentious. A strange black passion surged up pure in Gudrun. She felt strong. She felt her hands so strong, as if she could tear the world asunder with them. She remembered the abandonments of Roman licence, and her heart grew hot. She knew she wanted this herself also—or something, something equivalent. Ah, if that which was unknown and suppressed in her were once let loose, what an orgiastic and satisfying event it would be. And she wanted it, she trembled slightly from the proximity of the man, who stood just behind her, suggestive of the same black licentiousness that rose in herself. She wanted it with him, this unacknowledged frenzy. For a moment the clear perception of this preoccupied her, distinct and perfect in its final reality. Then she shut it off completely, saying:
'We might as well go down to the lodge after Winifred—we can get in the care there.'
'So we can,' he answered, going with her.
They found Winifred at the lodge admiring the litter of purebred white puppies. The girl looked up, and there was a rather ugly, unseeing cast in her eyes as she turned to Gerald and Gudrun. She did not want to see them.
'Look!' she cried. 'Three new puppies! Marshall says this one seems perfect. Isn't it a sweetling? But it isn't so nice as its mother.' She turned to caress the fine white bull-terrier bitch that stood uneasily near her.
'My dearest Lady Crich,' she said, 'you are beautiful as an angel on earth. Angel—angel—don't you think she's good enough and beautiful enough to go to heaven, Gudrun? They will be in heaven, won't they—and ESPECIALLY my darling Lady Crich! Mrs Marshall, I say!'
'Yes, Miss Winifred?' said the woman, appearing at the door.
'Oh do call this one Lady Winifred, if she turns out perfect, will you? Do tell Marshall to call it Lady Winifred.'
'I'll tell him—but I'm afraid that's a gentleman puppy, Miss Winifred.'
'Oh NO!' There was the sound of a car. 'There's Rupert!' cried the child, and she ran to the gate.
Birkin, driving his car, pulled up outside the lodge gate.
'We're ready!' cried Winifred. 'I want to sit in front with you, Rupert. May I?'
'I'm afraid you'll fidget about and fall out,' he said.
'No I won't. I do want to sit in front next to you. It makes my feet so lovely and warm, from the engines.'
Birkin helped her up, amused at sending Gerald to sit by Gudrun in the body of the car.
'Have you any news, Rupert?' Gerald called, as they rushed along the lanes.
'News?' exclaimed Birkin.
'Yes,' Gerald looked at Gudrun, who sat by his side, and he said, his eyes narrowly laughing, 'I want to know whether I ought to congratulate him, but I can't get anything definite out of him.'
Gudrun flushed deeply.
'Congratulate him on what?' she asked.
'There was some mention of an engagement—at least, he said something to me about it.'
Gudrun flushed darkly.
'You mean with Ursula?' she said, in challenge.
'Yes. That is so, isn't it?'
'I don't think there's any engagement,' said Gudrun, coldly.
'That so? Still no developments, Rupert?' he called.
'Where? Matrimonial? No.'
'How's that?' called Gudrun.
Birkin glanced quickly round. There was irritation in his eyes also.
'Why?' he replied. 'What do you think of it, Gudrun?'
'Oh,' she cried, determined to fling her stone also into the pool, since they had begun, 'I don't think she wants an engagement. Naturally, she's a bird that prefers the bush.' Gudrun's voice was clear and gong-like. It reminded Rupert of her father's, so strong and vibrant.
'And I,' said Birkin, his face playful but yet determined, 'I want a binding contract, and am not keen on love, particularly free love.'
They were both amused. WHY this public avowal? Gerald seemed suspended a moment, in amusement.
'Love isn't good enough for you?' he called.
'No!' shouted Birkin.
'Ha, well that's being over-refined,' said Gerald, and the car ran through the mud.
'What's the matter, really?' said Gerald, turning to Gudrun.
This was an assumption of a sort of intimacy that irritated Gudrun almost like an affront. It seemed to her that Gerald was deliberately insulting her, and infringing on the decent privacy of them all.
'What is it?' she said, in her high, repellent voice. 'Don't ask me!—I know nothing about ULTIMATE marriage, I assure you: or even penultimate.'
'Only the ordinary unwarrantable brand!' replied Gerald. 'Just so—same here. I am no expert on marriage, and degrees of ultimateness. It seems to be a bee that buzzes loudly in Rupert's bonnet.'
'Exactly! But that is his trouble, exactly! Instead of wanting a woman for herself, he wants his IDEAS fulfilled. Which, when it comes to actual practice, is not good enough.'
'Oh no. Best go slap for what's womanly in woman, like a bull at a gate.' Then he seemed to glimmer in himself. 'You think love is the ticket, do you?' he asked.
'Certainly, while it lasts—you only can't insist on permanency,' came Gudrun's voice, strident above the noise.
'Marriage or no marriage, ultimate or penultimate or just so-so?—take the love as you find it.'
'As you please, or as you don't please,' she echoed. 'Marriage is a social arrangement, I take it, and has nothing to do with the question of love.'
His eyes were flickering on her all the time. She felt as is he were kissing her freely and malevolently. It made the colour burn in her cheeks, but her heart was quite firm and unfailing.
'You think Rupert is off his head a bit?' Gerald asked.
Her eyes flashed with acknowledgment.
'As regards a woman, yes,' she said, 'I do. There IS such a thing as two people being in love for the whole of their lives—perhaps. But marriage is neither here nor there, even then. If they are in love, well and good. If not—why break eggs about it!'
'Yes,' said Gerald. 'That's how it strikes me. But what about Rupert?'
'I can't make out—neither can he nor anybody. He seems to think that if you marry you can get through marriage into a third heaven, or something—all very vague.'
'Very! And who wants a third heaven? As a matter of fact, Rupert has a great yearning to be SAFE—to tie himself to the mast.'
'Yes. It seems to me he's mistaken there too,' said Gudrun. 'I'm sure a mistress is more likely to be faithful than a wife—just because she is her OWN mistress. No—he says he believes that a man and wife can go further than any other two beings—but WHERE, is not explained. They can know each other, heavenly and hellish, but particularly hellish, so perfectly that they go beyond heaven and hell—into—there it all breaks down—into nowhere.'
'Into Paradise, he says,' laughed Gerald.
Gudrun shrugged her shoulders. 'FE M'EN FICHE of your Paradise!' she said.
'Not being a Mohammedan,' said Gerald. Birkin sat motionless, driving the car, quite unconscious of what they said. And Gudrun, sitting immediately behind him, felt a sort of ironic pleasure in thus exposing him.
'He says,' she added, with a grimace of irony, 'that you can find an eternal equilibrium in marriage, if you accept the unison, and still leave yourself separate, don't try to fuse.'
'Doesn't inspire me,' said Gerald.
'That's just it,' said Gudrun.
'I believe in love, in a real ABANDON, if you're capable of it,' said Gerald.
'So do I,' said she.
'And so does Rupert, too—though he is always shouting.'
'No,' said Gudrun. 'He won't abandon himself to the other person. You can't be sure of him. That's the trouble I think.'
'Yet he wants marriage! Marriage—ET PUIS?'
'Le paradis!' mocked Gudrun.
Birkin, as he drove, felt a creeping of the spine, as if somebody was threatening his neck. But he shrugged with indifference. It began to rain. Here was a change. He stopped the car and got down to put up the hood.