She had to make up her mind what to do. She would leave Venice on the Saturday that he was leaving Wragby: in six days’ time. This would bring her to London on the Monday following, and she would then see him. She wrote to him to the London address, asking him to send her a letter to Hartland’s hotel, and to call for her on the Monday evening at seven.
Inside herself she was curiously and complicatedly angry, and all her responses were numb. She refused to confide even in Hilda, and Hilda, offended by her steady silence, had become rather intimate with a Dutch woman. Connie hated these rather stifling intimacies between women, intimacy into which Hilda always entered ponderously.
Sir Malcolm decided to travel with Connie, and Duncan could come on with Hilda. The old artist always did himself well: he took berths on the Orient Express, in spite of Connie’s dislike of trains de luxe, the atmosphere of vulgar depravity there is aboard them nowadays. However, it would make the journey to Paris shorter.
Sir Malcolm was always uneasy going back to his wife. It was habit carried over from the first wife. But there would be a house-party for the grouse, and he wanted to be well ahead. Connie, sunburnt and handsome, sat in silence, forgetting all about the landscape.
‘A little dull for you, going back to Wragby,’ said her father, noticing her glumness.
‘I’m not sure I shall go back to Wragby,’ she said, with startling abruptness, looking into his eyes with her big blue eyes. His big blue eyes took on the frightened look of a man whose social conscience is not quite clear.
‘You mean you’ll stay on in Paris a while?’
‘No! I mean never go back to Wragby.’
He was bothered by his own little problems, and sincerely hoped he was getting none of hers to shoulder.
‘How’s that, all at once?’ he asked.
‘I’m going to have a child.’
It was the first time she had uttered the words to any living soul, and it seemed to mark a cleavage in her life.
‘How do you know?’ said her father.
‘How should I know?’
‘But not Clifford’s child, of course?’
‘No! Another man’s.’
She rather enjoyed tormenting him.
‘Do I know the man?’ asked Sir Malcolm.
‘No! You’ve never seen him.’
There was a long pause.
‘And what are your plans?’
‘I don’t know. That’s the point.’
‘No patching it up with Clifford?’
‘I suppose Clifford would take it,’ said Connie. ‘He told me, after last time you talked to him, he wouldn’t mind if I had a child, so long as I went about it discreetly.’
‘Only sensible thing he could say, under the circumstances. Then I suppose it’ll be all right.’
‘In what way?’ said Connie, looking into her father’s eyes. They were big blue eyes rather like her own, but with a certain uneasiness in them, a look sometimes of an uneasy little boy, sometimes a look of sullen selfishness, usually good-humoured and wary.
‘You can present Clifford with an heir to all the Chatterleys, and put another baronet in Wragby.’
Sir Malcolm’s face smiled with a half-sensual smile.
‘But I don’t think I want to,’ she said.
‘Why not? Feeling entangled with the other man? Well! If you want the truth from me, my child, it’s this. The world goes on. Wragby stands and will go on standing. The world is more or less a fixed thing and, externally, we have to adapt ourselves to it. Privately, in my private opinion, we can please ourselves. Emotions change. You may like one man this year and another next. But Wragby still stands. Stick by Wragby as far as Wragby sticks by you. Then please yourself. But you’ll get very little out of making a break. You can make a break if you wish. You have an independent income, the only thing that never lets you down. But you won’t get much out of it. Put a little baronet in Wragby. It’s an amusing thing to do.’
And Sir Malcolm sat back and smiled again. Connie did not answer.
‘I hope you had a real man at last,’ he said to her after a while, sensually alert.
‘I did. That’s the trouble. There aren’t many of them about,’ she said.
‘No, by God!’ he mused. ‘There aren’t! Well, my dear, to look at you, he was a lucky man. Surely he wouldn’t make trouble for you?’
‘Oh no! He leaves me my own mistress entirely.’
‘Quite! Quite! A genuine man would.’
Sir Malcolm was pleased. Connie was his favourite daughter, he had always liked the female in her. Not so much of her mother in her as in Hilda. And he had always disliked Clifford. So he was pleased, and very tender with his daughter, as if the unborn child were his child.
He drove with her to Hartland’s hotel, and saw her installed: then went round to his club. She had refused his company for the evening.
She found a letter from Mellors.
I won’t come round to your hotel, but I’ll wait for you outside the Golden Cock in Adam Street at seven.
There he stood, tall and slender, and so different, in a formal suit of thin dark cloth. He had a natural distinction, but he had not the cut-to-pattern look of her class. Yet, she saw at once, he could go anywhere. He had a native breeding which was really much nicer than the cut-to-pattern class thing.
‘Ah, there you are! How well you look!’
‘Yes! But not you.’
She looked in his face anxiously. It was thin, and the cheekbones showed. But his eyes smiled at her, and she felt at home with him. There it was: suddenly, the tension of keeping up her appearances fell from her. Something flowed out of him physically, that made her feel inwardly at ease and happy, at home. With a woman’s now alert instinct for happiness, she registered it at once. ‘I’m happy when he’s there!’ Not all the sunshine of Venice had given her this inward expansion and warmth.
‘Was it horrid for you?’ she asked as she sat opposite him at table. He was too thin; she saw it now. His hand lay as she knew it, with the curious loose forgottenness of a sleeping animal. She wanted so much to take it and kiss it. But she did not quite dare.
‘People are always horrid,’ he said.
‘And did you mind very much?’
‘I minded, as I always shall mind. And I knew I was a fool to mind.’
‘Did you feel like a dog with a tin can tied to its tail? Clifford said you felt like that.’
He looked at her. It was cruel of her at that moment: for his pride had suffered bitterly.
‘I suppose I did,’ he said.
She never knew the fierce bitterness with which he resented insult.
There was a long pause.
‘And did you miss me?’ she asked.
‘I was glad you were out of it.’
Again there was a pause.
‘But did people believe about you and me?’ she asked.
‘No! I don’t think so for a moment.’
‘I should say not. He put it off without thinking about it. But naturally it made him want to see the last of me.’
‘I’m going to have a child.’
The expression died utterly out of his face, out of his whole body. He looked at her with darkened eyes, whose look she could not understand at all: like some dark-flamed spirit looking at her.
‘Say you’re glad!’ she pleaded, groping for his hand. And she saw a certain exultance spring up in him. But it was netted down by things she could not understand.
‘It’s the future,’ he said.
‘But aren’t you glad?’ she persisted.
‘I have such a terrible mistrust of the future.’
‘But you needn’t be troubled by any responsibility. Clifford would have it as his own, he’d be glad.’
She saw him go pale, and recoil under this. He did not answer.
‘Shall I go back to Clifford and put a little baronet into Wragby?’ she asked.
He looked at her, pale and very remote. The ugly little grin flickered on his face.
‘You wouldn’t have to tell him who the father was?’
‘Oh!’ she said; ‘he’d take it even then, if I wanted him to.’
He thought for a time.
‘Ay!’ he said at last, to himself. ‘I suppose he would.’
There was silence. A big gulf was between them.
‘But you don’t want me to go back to Clifford, do you?’ she asked him.
‘What do you want yourself?’ he replied.
‘I want to live with you,’ she said simply.
In spite of himself, little flames ran over his belly as he heard her say it, and he dropped his head. Then he looked up at her again, with those haunted eyes.
‘If it’s worth it to you,’ he said. ‘I’ve got nothing.’
‘You’ve got more than most men. Come, you know it,’ she said.
‘In one way, I know it.’ He was silent for a time, thinking. Then he resumed: ‘They used to say I had too much of the woman in me. But it’s not that. I’m not a woman not because I don’t want to shoot birds, neither because I don’t want to make money, or get on. I could have got on in the army, easily, but I didn’t like the army. Though I could manage the men all right: they liked me and they had a bit of a holy fear of me when I got mad. No, it was stupid, dead-handed higher authority that made the army dead: absolutely fool-dead. I like men, and men like me. But I can’t stand the twaddling bossy impudence of the people who run this world. That’s why I can’t get on. I hate the impudence of money, and I hate the impudence of class. So in the world as it is, what have I to offer a woman?’
‘But why offer anything? It’s not a bargain. It’s just that we love one another,’ she said.
‘Nay, nay! It’s more than that. Living is moving and moving on. My life won’t go down the proper gutters, it just won’t. So I’m a bit of a waste ticket by myself. And I’ve no business to take a woman into my life, unless my life does something and gets somewhere, inwardly at least, to keep us both fresh. A man must offer a woman some meaning in his life, if it’s going to be an isolated life, and if she’s a genuine woman. I can’t be just your male concubine.’
‘Why not?’ she said.
‘Why, because I can’t. And you would soon hate it.’
‘As if you couldn’t trust me,’ she said.
The grin flickered on his face.
‘The money is yours, the position is yours, the decisions will lie with you. I’m not just my Lady’s fucker, after all.’
‘What else are you?’
‘You may well ask. It no doubt is invisible. Yet I’m something to myself at least. I can see the point of my own existence, though I can quite understand nobody else’s seeing it.’
‘And will your existence have less point, if you live with me?’
He paused a long time before replying:
She too stayed to think about it.
‘And what is the point of your existence?’
‘I tell you, it’s invisible. I don’t believe in the world, not in money, nor in advancement, nor in the future of our civilization. If there’s got to be a future for humanity, there’ll have to be a very big change from what now is.’
‘And what will the real future have to be like?’
‘God knows! I can feel something inside me, all mixed up with a lot of rage. But what it really amounts to, I don’t know.’
‘Shall I tell you?’ she said, looking into his face. ‘Shall I tell you what you have that other men don’t have, and that will make the future? Shall I tell you?’
‘Tell me then,’ he replied.
‘It’s the courage of your own tenderness, that’s what it is: like when you put your hand on my tail and say I’ve got a pretty tail.’
The grin came flickering on his face.
‘That!’ he said.
Then he sat thinking.
‘Ay!’ he said. ‘You’re right. It’s that really. It’s that all the way through. I knew it with the men. I had to be in touch with them, physically, and not go back on it. I had to be bodily aware of them and a bit tender to them, even if I put em through hell. It’s a question of awareness, as Buddha said. But even he fought shy of the bodily awareness, and that natural physical tenderness, which is the best, even between men; in a proper manly way. Makes ’em really manly, not so monkeyish. Ay! it’s tenderness, really; it’s cunt-awareness. Sex is really only touch, the closest of all touch. And it’s touch we’re afraid of. We’re only half-conscious, and half alive. We’ve got to come alive and aware. Especially the English have got to get into touch with one another, a bit delicate and a bit tender. It’s our crying need.’
She looked at him.
‘Then why are you afraid of me?’ she said.
He looked at her a long time before he answered.
‘It’s the money, really, and the position. It’s the world in you.’
‘But isn’t there tenderness in me?’ she said wistfully.
He looked down at her, with darkened, abstract eyes.
‘Ay! It comes an’ goes, like in me.’
‘But can’t you trust it between you and me?’ she asked, gazing anxiously at him.
She saw his face all softening down, losing its armour. ‘Maybe!’ he said. They were both silent.
‘I want you to hold me in your arms,’ she said. ‘I want you to tell me you are glad we are having a child.’
She looked so lovely and warm and wistful, his bowels stirred towards her.
‘I suppose we can go to my room,’ he said. ‘Though it’s scandalous again.’
But she saw the forgetfulness of the world coming over him again, his face taking the soft, pure look of tender passion.
They walked by the remoter streets to Coburg Square, where he had a room at the top of the house, an attic room where he cooked for himself on a gas ring. It was small, but decent and tidy.
She took off her things, and made him do the same. She was lovely in the soft first flush of her pregnancy.
‘I ought to leave you alone,’ he said.
‘No!’ she said. ‘Love me! Love me, and say you’ll keep me. Say you’ll keep me! Say you’ll never let me go, to the world nor to anybody.’
She crept close against him, clinging fast to his thin, strong naked body, the only home she had ever known.
‘Then I’ll keep thee,’ he said. ‘If tha wants it, then I’ll keep thee.’
He held her round and fast.
‘And say you’re glad about the child,’ she repeated.
‘Kiss it! Kiss my womb and say you’re glad it’s there.’
But that was more difficult for him.
‘I’ve a dread of puttin’ children i’ th’ world,’ he said. ‘I’ve such a dread o’ th’ future for ’em.’
‘But you’ve put it into me. Be tender to it, and that will be its future already. Kiss it!’
He quivered, because it was true. ‘Be tender to it, and that will be its future.’ — At that moment he felt a sheer love for the woman. He kissed her belly and her mound of Venus, to kiss close to the womb and the foetus within the womb.
‘Oh, you love me! You love me!’ she said, in a little cry like one of her blind, inarticulate love cries. And he went in to her softly, feeling the stream of tenderness flowing in release from his bowels to hers, the bowels of compassion kindled between them.
And he realized as he went into her that this was the thing he had to do, to e into tender touch, without losing his pride or his dignity or his integrity as a man. After all, if she had money and means, and he had none, he should be too proud and honourable to hold back his tenderness from her on that account. ‘I stand for the touch of bodily awareness between human beings,’ he said to himself, ‘and the touch of tenderness. And she is my mate. And it is a battle against the money, and the machine, and the insentient ideal monkeyishness of the world. And she will stand behind me there. Thank God I’ve got a woman! Thank God I’ve got a woman who is with me, and tender and aware of me. Thank God she’s not a bully, nor a fool. Thank God she’s a tender, aware woman.’ And as his seed sprang in her, his soul sprang towards her too, in the creative act that is far more than procreative.
She was quite determined now that there should be no parting between him and her. But the ways and means were still to settle.
‘Did you hate Bertha Coutts?’ she asked him.
‘Don’t talk to me about her.’
‘Yes! You must let me. Because once you liked her. And once you were as intimate with her as you are with me. So you have to tell me. Isn’t it rather terrible, when you’ve been intimate with her, to hate her so? Why is it?’
‘I don’t know. She sort of kept her will ready against me, always, always: her ghastly female will: her freedom! A woman’s ghastly freedom that ends in the most beastly bullying! Oh, she always kept her freedom against me, like vitriol in my face.’
‘But she’s not free of you even now. Does she still love you?’
‘No, no! If she’s not free of me, it’s because she’s got that mad rage, she must try to bully me.’
‘But she must have loved you.’
‘No! Well, in specks she did. She was drawn to me. And I think even that she hated. She loved me in moments. But she always took it back, and started bullying. Her deepest desire was to bully me, and there was no altering her. Her will was wrong, from the first.’
‘But perhaps she felt you didn’t really love her, and she wanted to make you.’
‘My God, it was bloody making.’
‘But you didn’t really love her, did you? You did her that wrong.’
‘How could I? I began to. I began to love her. But somehow, she always ripped me up. No, don’t let’s talk of it. It was a doom, that was. And she was a doomed woman. This last time, I’d have shot her like I shoot a stoat, if I’d but been allowed: a raving, doomed thing in the shape of a woman! If only I could have shot her, and ended the whole misery! It ought to be allowed. When a woman gets absolutely possessed by her own will, her own will set against everything, then it’s fearful, and she should be shot at last.’
‘And shouldn’t men be shot at last, if they get possessed by their own will?’
‘Ay! — the same! But I must get free of her, or she’ll be at me again. I wanted to tell you. I must get a divorce if I possibly can. So we must be careful. We mustn’t really be seen together, you and I. I never, never could stand it if she came down on me and you.’
Connie pondered this.
‘Then we can’t be together?’ she said.
‘Not for six months or so. But I think my divorce will go through in September; then till March.’
‘But the baby will probably be born at the end of February,’ she said.
He was silent.
‘I could wish the Cliffords and Berthas all dead,’ he said.
‘It’s not being very tender to them,’ she said.
‘Tender to them? Yea, even then the tenderest thing you could do for them, perhaps, would be to give them death. They can’t live! They only frustrate life. Their souls are awful inside them. Death ought to be sweet to them. And I ought to be allowed to shoot them.’
‘But you wouldn’t do it,’ she said.
‘I would though! and with less qualms than I shoot a weasel. It anyhow has a prettiness and a loneliness. But they are legion. Oh, I’d shoot them.’
‘Then perhaps it is just as well you daren’t.’
Connie had now plenty to think of. It was evident he wanted absolutely to be free of Bertha Coutts. And she felt he was right. The last attack had been too grim. — This meant her living alone, till spring. Perhaps she could get divorced from Clifford. But how? If Mellors were named, then there was an end to his divorce. How loathsome! Couldn’t one go right away, to the far ends of the earth, and be free from it all?
One could not. The far ends of the world are not five minutes from Charing Cross, nowadays. While the wireless is active, there are no far ends of the earth. Kings of Dahomey and Lamas of Tibet listen in to London and New York.
Patience! Patience! The world is a vast and ghastly intricacy of mechanism, and one has to be very wary, not to get mangled by it.
Connie confided in her father.
‘You see, Father, he was Clifford’s game-keeper: but he was an officer in the army in India. Only he is like Colonel C. E. Florence, who preferred to become a private soldier again.’
Sir Malcolm, however, had no sympathy with the unsatisfactory mysticism of the famous C. E. Florence. He saw too much advertisement behind all the humility. It looked just like the sort of conceit the knight most loathed, the conceit of self-abasement.
‘Where did your game-keeper spring from?’ asked Sir Malcolm irritably.
‘He was a collier’s son in Tevershall. But he’s absolutely presentable.’
The knighted artist became more angry.
‘Looks to me like a gold-digger,’ he said. ‘And you’re a pretty easy gold-mine, apparently.’
‘No, Father, it’s not like that. You’d know if you saw him. He’s a man. Clifford always detested him for not being humble.’
‘Apparently he had a good instinct, for once.’
What Sir Malcolm could not bear was the scandal of his daughter’s having an intrigue with a game-keeper. He did not mind the intrigue: he minded the scandal.
‘I care nothing about the fellow. He’s evidently been able to get round you all right. But, by God, think of all the talk. Think of your step-mother how she’ll take it!’
‘I know,’ said Connie. ‘Talk is beastly: especially if you live in society. And he wants so much to get his own divorce. I thought we might perhaps say it was another man’s child, and not mention Mellors’ name at all.’
‘Another man’s! What other man’s?’
‘Perhaps Duncan Forbes. He has been our friend all his life.’
‘And he’s a fairly well-known artist. And he’s fond of me.’
‘Well I’m damned! Poor Duncan! And what’s he going to get out of it?’
‘I don’t know. But he might rather like it, even.’
‘He might, might he? Well, he’s a funny man if he does. Why, you’ve never even had an affair with him, have you?’
‘No! But he doesn’t really want it. He only loves me to be near him, but not to touch him.’
‘My God, what a generation!’
‘He would like me most of all to be a model for him to paint from. Only I never wanted to.’
‘God help him! But he looks down-trodden enough for anything.’
‘Still, you wouldn’t mind so much the talk about him?’
‘My God, Connie, all the bloody contriving!’
‘I know! It’s sickening! But what can I do?’
‘Contriving, conniving; conniving, contriving! Makes a man think he’s lived too long.’
‘Come, Father, if you haven’t done a good deal of contriving and conniving in your time, you may talk.’
‘But it was different, I assure you.’
‘It’s always different.’
Hilda arrived, also furious when she heard of the new developments. And she also simply could not stand the thought of a public scandal about her sister and a game-keeper. Too, too humiliating!
‘Why should we not just disappear, separately, to British Columbia, and have no scandal?’ said Connie.
But that was no good. The scandal would come out just the same. And if Connie was going with the man, she’d better be able to marry him. This was Hilda’s opinion. Sir Malcolm wasn’t sure. The affair might still blow over.
‘But will you see him, Father?’
Poor Sir Malcolm! he was by no means keen on it. And poor Mellors, he was still less keen. Yet the meeting took place: a lunch in a private room at the club, the two men alone, looking one another up and down.
Sir Malcolm drank a fair amount of whisky, Mellors also drank. And they talked all the while about India, on which the young man was well informed.
This lasted during the meal. Only when coffee was served, and the waiter had gone, Sir Malcolm lit a cigar and said, heartily:
‘Well, young man, and what about my daughter?’
The grin flickered on Mellors’ face.
‘Well, Sir, and what about her?’
‘You’ve got a baby in her all right.’
‘I have that honour!’ grinned Mellors.
‘Honour, by God!’ Sir Malcolm gave a little squirting laugh, and became Scotch and lewd. ‘Honour! How was the going, eh? Good, my boy, what?’
‘I’ll bet it was! Ha-ha! My daughter, chip of the old block, what! I never went back on a good bit of fucking, myself. Though her mother, oh, holy saints!’ He rolled his eyes to heaven. ‘But you warmed her up, oh, you warmed her up, I can see that. Ha-ha! My blood in her! You set fire to her haystack all right. Ha-ha-ha! I was jolly glad of it, I can tell you. She needed it. Oh, she’s a nice girl, she’s a nice girl, and I knew she’d be good going, if only some damned man would set her stack on fire! Ha-ha-ha! A game-keeper, eh, my boy! Bloody good poacher, if you ask me. Ha-ha! But now, look here, speaking seriously, what are we going to do about it? Speaking seriously, you know!’
Speaking seriously, they didn’t get very far. Mellors, though a little tipsy, was much the soberer of the two. He kept the conversation as intelligent as possible: which isn’t saying much.
‘So you’re a game-keeper! Oh, you’re quite right! That sort of game is worth a man’s while, eh, what? The test of a woman is when you pinch her bottom. You can tell just by the feel of her bottom if she’s going to come up all right. Ha-ha! I envy you, my boy. How old are you?’
The knight lifted his eyebrows.
‘As much as that! Well, you’ve another good twenty years, by the look of you. Oh, game-keeper or not, you’re a good cock. I can see that with one eye shut. Not like that blasted Clifford! A lily-livered hound with never a fuck in him, never had. I like you, my boy, I’ll bet you’ve a good cod on you; oh, you’re a bantam, I can see that. You’re a fighter. Game-keeper! Ha-ha, by crikey, I wouldn’t trust my game to you! But look here, seriously, what are we going to do about it? The world’s full of blasted old women.’
Seriously, they didn’t do anything about it, except establish the old free-masonry of male sensuality between them.
‘And look here, my boy, if ever I can do anything for you, you can rely on me. Game-keeper! Christ, but it’s rich! I like it! Oh, I like it! Shows the girl’s got spunk. What? After all, you know, she has her own income, moderate, moderate, but above starvation. And I’ll leave her what I’ve got. By God, I will. She deserves it for showing spunk, in a world of old women. I’ve been struggling to get myself clear of the skirts of old women for seventy years, and haven’t managed it yet. But you’re the man, I can see that.’
‘I’m glad you think so. They usually tell me, in a sideways fashion, that I’m the monkey.’
‘Oh, they would! My dear fellow, what could you be but a monkey, to all the old women?’
They parted most genially, and Mellors laughed inwardly all the time for the rest of the day.
The following day he had lunch with Connie and Hilda, at some discreet place.
‘It’s a very great pity it’s such an ugly situation all round,’ said Hilda.
‘I had a lot o’ fun out of it,’ said he.
‘I think you might have avoided putting children into the world until you were both free to marry and have children.’
‘The Lord blew a bit too soon on the spark,’ said he.
‘I think the Lord had nothing to do with it. Of course, Connie has enough money to keep you both, but the situation is unbearable.’
‘But then you don’t have to bear more than a small corner of it, do you?’ said he.
‘If you’d been in her own class.’
‘Or if I’d been in a cage at the Zoo.’
There was silence.
‘I think,’ said Hilda, ‘it will be best if she names quite another man as co-respondent and you stay out of it altogether.’
‘But I thought I’d put my foot right in.’
‘I mean in the divorce proceedings.’
He gazed at her in wonder. Connie had not dared mention the Duncan scheme to him.
‘I don’t follow,’ he said.
‘We have a friend who would probably agree to be named as co-respondent, so that your name need not appear,’ said Hilda.
‘You mean a man?’
‘But she’s got no other?’
He looked in wonder at Connie.
‘No, no!’ she said hastily. ‘Only that old friendship, quite simple, no love.’
‘Then why should the fellow take the blame? If he’s had nothing out of you?’
‘Some men are chivalrous and don’t only count what they get out of a woman,’ said Hilda.
‘One for me, eh? But who’s the johnny?’
‘A friend whom we’ve known since we were children in Scotland, an artist.’
‘Duncan Forbes!’ he said at once, for Connie had talked to him. ‘And how would you shift the blame on to him?’
‘They could stay together in some hotel, or she could even stay in his apartment.’
‘Seems to me like a lot of fuss for nothing,’ he said.
‘What else do you suggest?’ said Hilda. ‘If your name appears, you will get no divorce from your wife, who is apparently quite an impossible person to be mixed up with.’
‘All that!’ he said grimly.
There was a long silence.
‘We could go right away,’ he said.
‘There is no right away for Connie,’ said Hilda. ‘Clifford is too well known.’
Again the silence of pure frustration.
‘The world is what it is. If you want to live together without being persecuted, you will have to marry. To marry, you both have to be divorced. So how are you both going about it?’
He was silent for a long time.
‘How are you going about it for us?’ he said.
‘We will see if Duncan will consent to figure as co-respondent: then we must get Clifford to divorce Connie: and you must go on with your divorce, and you must both keep apart till you are free.’
‘Sounds like a lunatic asylum.’
‘Possibly! And the world would look on you as lunatics: or worse.
‘What is worse?’
‘Criminals, I suppose.’
‘Hope I can plunge in the dagger a few more times yet,’ he said, grinning. Then he was silent, and angry.
‘Well!’ he said at last. ‘I agree to anything. The world is a raving idiot, and no man can kill it: though I’ll do my best. But you re right. We must rescue ourselves as best we can.’
He looked in humiliation, anger, weariness and misery at Connie.
‘Ma lass!’ he said. ‘The world’s goin’ to put salt on thy tail.’
‘Not if we don’t let it,’ she said.
She minded this conniving against the world less than he did.
Duncan, when approached, also insisted on seeing the delinquent game-keeper, so there was a dinner, this time in his flat: the four of them. Duncan was a rather short, broad, dark-skinned, taciturn Hamlet of a fellow with straight black hair and a weird Celtic conceit of himself. His art was all tubes and valves and spirals and strange colours, ultra-modern, yet with a certain power, even a certain purity of form and tone: only Mellors thought it cruel and repellent. He did not venture to say so, for Duncan was almost insane on the point of his art: it was a personal cult, a personal religion with him.
They were looking at the pictures in the studio, and Duncan kept his smallish brown eyes on the other man. He wanted to hear what the game-keeper would say. He knew already Connie’s and Hilda’s opinions.
‘It is like a pure bit of murder,’ said Mellors at last; a speech Duncan by no means expected from a game-keeper.
‘And who is murdered?’ asked Hilda, rather coldly and sneeringly.
‘Me! It murders all the bowels of compassion in a man.’
A wave of pure hate came out of the artist. He heard the note of dislike in the other man’s voice, and the note of contempt. And he himself loathed the mention of bowels of compassion. Sickly sentiment!
Mellors stood rather tall and thin, worn-looking, gazing with flickering detachment that was something like the dancing of a moth on the wing, at the pictures.
‘Perhaps stupidity is murdered; sentimental stupidity,’ sneered the artist.
‘Do you think so? I think all these tubes and corrugated vibrations are stupid enough for anything, and pretty sentimental. They show a lot of self-pity and an awful lot of nervous self-opinion, seems to me.’
In another wave of hate the artist’s face looked yellow. But with a sort of silent hauteur he turned the pictures to the wall.
‘I think we may go to the dining-room,’ he said. And they trailed off, dismally.
After coffee, Duncan said:
‘I don’t at all mind posing as the father of Connie’s child. But only on the condition that she’ll come and pose as a model for me. I’ve wanted her for years, and she’s always refused.’ He uttered it with the dark finality of an inquisitor announcing an auto da fe.
‘Ah!’ said Mellors. ‘You only do it on condition, then?’
‘Quite! I only do it on that condition.’ The artist tried to put the utmost contempt of the other person into his speech. He put a little too much.
‘Better have me as a model at the same time,’ said Mellors. ‘Better do us in a group, Vulcan and Venus under the net of art. I used to be a blacksmith, before I was a game-keeper.’
‘Thank you,’ said the artist. ‘I don’t think Vulcan has a figure that interests me.’
‘Not even if it was tubified and titivated up?’
There was no answer. The artist was too haughty for further words.
It was a dismal party, in which the artist henceforth steadily ignored the presence of the other man, and talked only briefly, as if the words were wrung out of the depths of his gloomy portentousness, to the women.
‘You didn’t like him, but he’s better than that, really. He’s really kind,’ Connie explained as they left.
‘He’s a little black pup with a corrugated distemper,’ said Mellors.
‘No, he wasn’t nice today.’
‘And will you go and be a model to him?’
‘Oh, I don’t really mind any more. He won’t touch me. And I don’t mind anything, if it paves the way to a life together for you and me.’
‘But he’ll only shit on you on canvas.’
‘I don’t care. He’ll only be painting his own feelings for me, and I don’t mind if he does that. I wouldn’t have him touch me, not for anything. But if he thinks he can do anything with his owlish arty staring, let him stare. He can make as many empty tubes and corrugations out of me as he likes. It’s his funeral. He hated you for what you said: that his tubified art is sentimental and self-important. But of course it’s true.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57