The Captain’s Doll, by D. H. Lawrence

XIX

They ate venison and spinach in the hotel, then set off down again. Both felt happier. She gathered some flowers and put them in her handkerchief so they should not die. And again they sat by the stream, to drink a little wine.

But the fume of cloud was blowing up again, thick from behind the glacier. Hannele was uneasy. She wanted to get down. So they went fairly quickly. Many other tourists were hurrying downwards also. The rain began — a sharp handful of drops flung from beyond the glacier. So Hannele and he did not stay to rest, but dropped easily down the steep, dark valley towards the motor-car terminus.

There they had tea, rather tired, but comfortably so. The big hotel restaurant was hideous, and seemed sordid. So in the gloom of a grey, early twilight they went out again and sat on a seat, watching the tourists and the trippers and the motor-car men. There were three Jews from Vienna: and the girl had a huge white woolly dog, as big as a calf, and white and woolly and silky and amiable as a toy. The men, of course, came patting it and admiring it, just as men always do, in life and in novels. And the girl, holding the leash, posed and leaned backwards in the attitude of heroines on novel-covers. She said the white cool monster was a Siberian steppe-dog. Alexander wondered what the steppes made of such a wuffer. And the three Jews pretended they were elegant Austrians out of popular romances.

‘Do you think,’ said Alexander, ‘you will marry the Herr Regierungsrat?’

She looked round, making wide eyes.

‘It looks like it, doesn’t it!’ she said.

‘Quite,’ he said.

Hannele watched the woolly white dog. So of course it came wagging its ever-amiable hindquarters towards her. She looked at it still, but did not touch it.

‘What makes you ask such a question?’ she said.

‘I can’t say. But even so, you haven’t really answered. Do you really fully intend to marry the Herr Regierungsrat? Is that your final intention at this moment?’

She looked at him again.

‘But before I answer,’ she said, ‘oughtn’t I to know why you ask?’

‘Probably you know already,’ he said.

‘I assure you I don’t.’

He was silent for some moments. The huge, woolly dog stood in front of him and breathed enticingly, with its tongue out. He only looked at it blankly.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘if you were not going to marry the Herr Regierungsrat, I should suggest that you marry me.’

She stared away at the auto-garage, a very faint look of amusement, or pleasure, or ridicule on her face: or all three. And a certain shyness.

‘But why?’ she said.

‘Why what?’ he returned.

‘Why should you suggest that I should marry you?’

‘WHY?’ he replied, in his lingering tones. ‘WHY? Well, for what purpose does a man usually ask a woman to marry him?’

‘For what PURPOSE!’ she repeated, rather haughtily.

‘For what reason, then!’ he corrected.

She was silent for some moments. Her face was closed and a little numb-looking, her hands lay very still in her lap. She looked away from him, across the road.

‘There is usually only one reason,’ she replied, in a rather small voice.

‘Yes?’ he replied curiously. ‘What would you say that was?’

She hesitated. Then she said, rather stiffly:

‘Because he really loved her, I suppose. That seems to me the only excuse for a man asking a woman to marry him.’

Followed a dead silence, which she did not intend to break. He knew he would have to answer, and for some reason he didn’t want to say what was obviously the thing to say.

‘Leaving aside the question of whether you love me or I love you — ’ he began.

‘I certainly WON’T leave it aside,’ she said.

‘And I certainly won’t consider it,’ he said, just as obstinately.

She turned now and looked full at him, with amazement, ridicule, and anger in her face.

‘I really think you must be mad,’ she said.

‘I doubt if you do think that,’ he replied. ‘It is only a method of retaliation, that is. I think you understand my point very clearly.’

‘Your point!’ she cried. ‘Your point! Oh, so you have a point in all this palavering?’

‘Quite!’ said he.

She was silent with indignation for some time. Then she said angrily:

‘I assure you I do NOT see your point. I don’t see any point at all. I see only impertinence.’

‘Very good,’ he replied. ‘The point is whether we marry on a basis of love.’

‘Indeed! Marry! We, marry! I don’t think that is by any means the point.’

He took his knapsack from under the seat between his feet. And from the knapsack he took the famous picture.

‘When,’ he said, ‘we were supposed to be in love with one another, you made that doll of me, didn’t you?’ And he sat looking at the odious picture.

‘I never for one moment deluded myself that you REALLY loved me,’ she said bitterly.

‘Take the other point, whether YOU loved ME or not,’ said he.

‘How could I love you when I couldn’t believe in your love for me?’ she cried.

He put the picture down between his knees again.

‘All this about love,’ he said, ‘is very confusing and very complicated.’

‘Very! In YOUR case. Love to me is simple enough,’ she said.

‘Is it? Is it? And was it simple love which made you make that doll of me?’

‘Why shouldn’t I make a doll of you? Does it do you any harm? And WEREN’T you a doll, good heavens! You WERE nothing but a doll. So what hurt does it do you?’

‘Yes, it does. It does me the greatest possible damage,’ he replied.

She turned on him with wide-open eyes of amazement and rage.

‘Why? Pray why? Can you tell me why?’

‘Not quite, I can’t,’ he replied, taking up the picture and holding it in front of him. She turned her face from it as a cat turns its nose away from a lighted cigarette.’ But when I look at it — when I look at this — then I KNOW that there is no love between you and me.’

‘Then why are you talking at me in this shameful way?’ she flashed at him, tears of anger and mortification rising to her eyes. ‘You want your little revenge on me, I suppose, because I made that doll of you.’

‘That may be so, in a small measure,’ he said.

‘That is ALL. That is all and everything,’ she cried. ‘And that is all you came back to me for — for this petty revenge. Well, you’ve had it now. But please don’t speak to me any more. I shall see if I can go home in the big omnibus.’

She rose and walked away. He saw her hunting for the motor-bus conductor. He saw her penetrate into the yard of the garage. And he saw her emerge again, after a time, and take the path to the river. He sat on in front of the hotel. There was nothing else to do.

The tourists who had arrived in the big bus now began to collect. And soon the huge, drab vehicle itself rolled up and stood big as a house before the hotel door. The passengers began to scramble into their seats. The two men of the white dog were going: but the woman of the white dog, and the dog, were staying behind. Hepburn wondered if Hannele had managed to get herself transferred. He doubted it, because he knew the omnibus was crowded.

Moreover, he had her ticket.

The passengers were packed in. The conductor was collecting the tickets. And at last the great bus rolled away. The bay of the road-end seemed very empty. Even the woman with the white dog had gone. Soon the other car, the Luxus, so-called, must appear. Hepburn sat and waited. The evening was falling chilly, the trees looked gruesome.

At last Hannele sauntered up again, unwillingly.

‘I think,’ she said, ‘you have my ticket.’

‘Yes, I have,’ he replied.

‘Will you give it me, please?’

He gave it to her. She lingered a moment. Then she walked away.

There was the sound of a motor-car. With a triumphant purr the Luxus came steering out of the garage yard and drew up at the hotel door. Hannele came hastening also. She went straight to one of the hinder doors — she and Hepburn had their seats in front, beside the driver. She had her foot on the step of the back seat. And then she was afraid. The little sharp-faced driver — there was no conductor — came round looking at the car. He looked at her with his sharp, metallic eye of a mechanic.

‘Are all the people going back who came?’ she asked, shrinking.

‘Jawohl.’

‘It is full — this car?’

‘Jawohl.’

‘There’s no other place?’

‘Nein.’

Hannele shrank away. The driver was absolutely laconic.

Six of the passengers were here: four were already seated. Hepburn sat still by the hotel door, Hannele lingered in the road by the car, and the little driver, with a huge woollen muffler round his throat, was running round and in and out looking for the two missing passengers. Of course there were two missing passengers. No, he could not find them. And off he trotted again, silently, like a weasel after two rabbits. And at last, when everybody was getting cross, he unearthed them and brought them scuttling to the car.

Now Hannele took her seat, and Hepburn beside her. The driver snapped up the tickets and climbed in past them. With a vindictive screech the car glided away down the ravine. Another beastly trip was over, another infernal joyful holiday done with.

‘I think,’ said Hepburn, ‘I may as well finish what I had to say.’

‘What?’ cried Hannele, fluttering in the wind of the rushing car.

‘I may as well finish what I had to say,’ shouted he, his breath blown away.

‘Finish then,’ she screamed, the ends of her scarf flickering behind her.

‘When my wife died,’ he said loudly, ‘I knew I couldn’t love any more.’

‘Oh — h!’ she screamed ironically.

‘In fact,’ he shouted, ‘I realized that, as far as I was concerned, love was a mistake.’

‘WHAT was a mistake?’ she screamed.

‘Love,’ he bawled.

‘Love!’ she screamed. ‘A mistake?’ Her tone was derisive.

‘For me personally,’ he said, shouting.

‘Oh, only for you personally,’ she cried, with a pouf of laughter.

The car gave a great swerve, and she fell on the driver. Then she righted herself. It gave another swerve, and she fell on Alexander. She righted herself angrily. And now they ran straight on: and it seemed a little quieter.

‘I realized,’ he said, ‘that I had always made a mistake, undertaking to love.’

‘It must have been an undertaking for you,’ she cried.

‘Yes, I’m afraid it was. I never really wanted it. But I thought I did. And that’s where I made my mistake.’

‘Whom have you ever loved? — even as an undertaking?’ she asked.

‘To begin with, my mother: and that was a mistake. Then my sister: and that was a mistake. Then a girl I had known all my life: and that was a mistake. Then my wife: and that was my most terrible mistake. And then I began the mistake of loving you.’

‘Undertaking to love me, you mean,’ she said. ‘But then you never did properly undertake it. You never really UNDERTOOK to love me.’

‘Not quite, did I?’ said he.

And she sat feeling angry that he had never made the undertaking.

‘No,’ he continued. ‘Not quite. That is why I came back to you. I don’t want to love you. I don’t want marriage on a basis of love.’

‘On a basis of what, then?’

‘I think you know without my putting it into words,’ he said.

‘Indeed, I assure you I don’t. You are much too mysterious,’ she replied.

Talking in a swiftly-running motor-car is a nerve-racking business. They both had a pause, to rest, and to wait for a quieter stretch of road.

‘It isn’t very easy to put it into words,’ he said. ‘But I tried marriage once on a basis of love, and I must say it was a ghastly affair in the long run. And I believe it would be so, for me, WHATEVER woman I had.’

‘There must be something wrong with you, then,’ said she.

‘As far as love goes. And yet I want marriage. I want marriage. I want a woman to honour and obey me.’

‘If you are quite reasonable and VERY sparing with your commands,’ said Hannele. ‘And very careful how you give your orders.’

‘In fact, I want a sort of patient Griselda. I want to be honoured and obeyed. I don’t want love.’

‘How Griselda managed to honour that fool of a husband of hers, even if she obeyed him, is more than I can say,’ said Hannele. ‘I’d like to know what she REALLY thought of him. Just what any woman thinks of a bullying fool of a husband.’

‘Well,’ said he, ‘that’s no good to me.’

They were silent now until the car stopped at the station. There they descended and walked on under the trees by the lake.

‘Sit on a seat,’ he said, ‘and let us finish.’

Hannele, who was really anxious to hear what he should say, and who, woman-like, was fascinated by a man when he began to give away his own inmost thoughts — no matter how much she might jeer afterwards — sat down by his side. It was a grey evening, just falling dark. Lights twinkled across the lake, the hotel over there threaded its strings of light. Some little boats came rowing quietly to shore. It was a grey, heavy evening, with that special sense of dreariness with which a public holiday usually winds up.

‘Honour and obedience: and the proper physical feelings,’ he said. ‘To me that is marriage. Nothing else.’

‘But what are the proper physical feelings but love?’ asked Hannele.

‘No,’ he said. ‘A woman wants you to adore her, and be in love with her — and I shan’t. I will not do it again, if I live a monk for the rest of my days. I will neither adore you nor be in love with you.’

‘You won’t get a chance, thank you. And what do you call the proper physical feelings, if you are not in love? I think you want something vile.’

‘If a woman honours me — absolutely from the bottom of her nature honours me — and obeys me because of that, I take it, my desire for her goes very much deeper than if I was in love with her, or if I adored her.’

‘It’s the same thing. If you love, then everything is there — all the lot: your honour and obedience and everything. And if love isn’t there, nothing is there,’ she said.

‘That isn’t true,’ he replied. ‘A woman may love you, she may adore you, but she’ll never honour you nor obey you. The most loving and adoring woman today could any minute start and make a doll of her husband — as you made of me.’

‘Oh, that eternal doll. What makes it stick so in your mind?’

‘I don’t know. But there it is. It wasn’t malicious. It was flattering, if you like. But it just sticks in me like a thorn: like a thorn. And there it is, in the world, in Germany somewhere. And you can say what you like, but ANY woman, today, no matter HOW much she loves her man — she could start any minute and make a doll of him. And the doll would be her hero: and her hero would be no more than her doll. My wife might have done it. She did do it, in her mind. She had her doll of me right enough. Why, I heard her talk about me to other women. And her doll was a great deal sillier than the one you made. But it’s all the same. If a woman loves you, she’ll make a doll out of you. She’ll never be satisfied till she’s made your doll. And when she’s got your doll, that’s all she wants. And that’s what love means. And so, I won’t be loved. And I won’t love. I won’t have anybody loving me. It is an insult. I feel I’ve been insulted for forty years: by love, and the women who’ve loved me. I won’t be loved. And I won’t love. I’ll be honoured and I’ll be obeyed: or nothing.’

‘Then it’ll most probably be nothing,’ said Hannele sarcastically. ‘For I assure you I’ve nothing but love to offer.’

‘Then keep your love,’ said he.

She laughed shortly.

‘And you?’ she cried. ‘You! Even suppose you WERE honoured and obeyed. I suppose all you’ve got to do is to sit there like a sultan and sup it up.’

‘Oh no. I have many things to do. And woman or no woman, I’m going to start to do them.’

‘What, pray?’

‘Why, nothing very exciting. I’m going to East Africa to join a man who’s breaking his neck to get his three thousand acres of land under control. And when I’ve done a few more experiments and observations, and got all the necessary facts, I’m going to do a book on the moon. Woman or no woman, I’m going to do that.’

‘And the woman? — supposing you get the poor thing.’

‘Why, she’ll come along with me, and we’ll set ourselves up out there.’

‘And she’ll do all the honouring and obeying and housekeeping incidentally, while you ride about in the day and stare at the moon in the night.’

He did not answer. He was staring away across the lake.

‘What will you do for the woman, poor thing, while she’s racking herself to pieces honouring you and obeying you and doing frightful housekeeping in Africa: because I know it can be AWFUL: awful.’

‘Well,’ he said slowly, ‘she’ll be my wife, and I shall treat her as such. If the marriage service says love and cherish — well, in that sense I shall do so.’

‘Oh!’ cried Hannele. ‘What, LOVE her? Actually love the poor thing?’

‘Not in that sense of the word, no. I shan’t adore her or be in love with her. But she’ll be my wife, and I shall love and cherish her as such.’

‘Just because she’s your wife. Not because she’s herself. Ghastly fate for any miserable woman,’ said Hannele.

‘I don’t think so. I think it’s her highest fate.’

‘To be your wife?’

‘To be a wife — and to be loved and shielded as a wife — not as a flirting woman.’

‘To be loved and cherished just because you’re his wife! No, thank you. All I can admire is the conceit and impudence of it.’

‘Very well, then — there it is,’ he said, rising.

She rose too, and they went on towards where the boat was tied.

As they were rowing in silence over the lake, he said:

‘I shall leave tomorrow.’

She made no answer. She sat and watched the lights of the villa draw near. And then she said:

‘I’ll come to Africa with you. But I won’t promise to honour and obey you.’

‘I don’t want you otherwise,’ he said, very quietly.

The boat was drifting to the little landing-stage. Hannele’s friends were hallooing to her from the balcony.

‘Hallo!’ she cried. ‘Ja. Da bin ich. Ja, ‘s war wunderschön.’

Then to him she said:

‘You’ll come in?’

‘No,’ he said, ‘I’ll row straight back.’

From the villa they were running down the steps to meet Hannele.

‘But won’t you have me even if I love you?’ she asked him.

‘You must promise the other,’ he said. ‘It comes in the marriage service.’

‘Hat ‘s geregnet? Wiewar das Wetter? Warst du auf dem Gletscher?’ cried the voices from the garden.

‘Nein — kein Regen. Wunderschön! Ja, er war ganz auf dem Gletscher,’ cried Hannele in reply. And to him, sotto voce:

‘Don’t be a solemn ass. Do come in.’

‘No,’ he said, ‘I don’t want to come in.’

‘Do you want to go away tomorrow? Go if you DO. But, anyway, I won’t say it BEFORE the marriage service. I needn’t, need I?’

She stepped from the boat on to the plank.

‘Oh,’ she said, turning round, ‘give me that picture, please, will you? I want to burn it.’

He handed it to her.

‘And come tomorrow, will you?’ she said.

‘Yes, in the morning.’

He pulled back quickly into the darkness.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:49