'You like that best?' he said.
'I think I do.'
'I like the sapphire,' he said.
It was a rose-shaped, beautiful sapphire, with small brilliants.
'Yes,' she said, 'it is lovely.' She held it in the light. 'Yes,
perhaps it IS the best-'
'The blue-' he said.
He suddenly swung the car out of the way of a farm-cart. It tilted on
the bank. He was a careless driver, yet very quick. But Ursula was
frightened. There was always that something regardless in him which
terrified her. She suddenly felt he might kill her, by making some
dreadful accident with the motor-car. For a moment she was stony with
'Isn't it rather dangerous, the way you drive?' she asked him.
'No, it isn't dangerous,' he said. And then, after a pause: 'Don't you
like the yellow ring at all?'
It was a squarish topaz set in a frame of steel, or some other similar
mineral, finely wrought.
'Yes,' she said, 'I do like it. But why did you buy these rings?'
'I wanted them. They are second-hand.'
'You bought them for yourself?'
'No. Rings look wrong on my hands.'
'Why did you buy them then?'
'I bought them to give to you.'
'But why? Surely you ought to give them to Hermione! You belong to
He did not answer. She remained with the jewels shut in her hand. She
wanted to try them on her fingers, but something in her would not let
her. And moreover, she was afraid her hands were too large, she shrank
from the mortification of a failure to put them on any but her little
finger. They travelled in silence through the empty lanes.
Driving in a motor-car excited her, she forgot his presence even.
'Where are we?' she asked suddenly.
'Not far from Worksop.'
'And where are we going?'
It was the answer she liked.
She opened her hand to look at the rings. They gave her SUCH pleasure,
as they lay, the three circles, with their knotted jewels, entangled in
her palm. She would have to try them on. She did so secretly, unwilling
to let him see, so that he should not know her finger was too large for
them. But he saw nevertheless. He always saw, if she wanted him not to.
It was another of his hateful, watchful characteristics.
Only the opal, with its thin wire loop, would go on her ring finger.
And she was superstitious. No, there was ill-portent enough, she would
not accept this ring from him in pledge.
'Look,' she said, putting forward her hand, that was half-closed and
shrinking. 'The others don't fit me.'
He looked at the red-glinting, soft stone, on her over-sensitive skin.
'Yes,' he said.
'But opals are unlucky, aren't they?' she said wistfully.
'No. I prefer unlucky things. Luck is vulgar. Who wants what LUCK would
bring? I don't.'
'But why?' she laughed.
And, consumed with a desire to see how the other rings would look on
her hand, she put them on her little finger.
'They can be made a little bigger,' he said.
'Yes,' she replied, doubtfully. And she sighed. She knew that, in
accepting the rings, she was accepting a pledge. Yet fate seemed more
than herself. She looked again at the jewels. They were very beautiful
to her eyes-not as ornament, or wealth, but as tiny fragments of
'I'm glad you bought them,' she said, putting her hand, half
unwillingly, gently on his arm.
He smiled, slightly. He wanted her to come to him. But he was angry at
the bottom of his soul, and indifferent. He knew she had a passion for
him, really. But it was not finally interesting. There were depths of
passion when one became impersonal and indifferent, unemotional.
Whereas Ursula was still at the emotional personal level-always so
abominably personal. He had taken her as he had never been taken
himself. He had taken her at the roots of her darkness and shame-like a
demon, laughing over the fountain of mystic corruption which was one of
the sources of her being, laughing, shrugging, accepting, accepting
finally. As for her, when would she so much go beyond herself as to
accept him at the quick of death?
She now became quite happy. The motor-car ran on, the afternoon was
soft and dim. She talked with lively interest, analysing people and
their motives-Gudrun, Gerald. He answered vaguely. He was not very much
interested any more in personalities and in people-people were all
different, but they were all enclosed nowadays in a definite
limitation, he said; there were only about two great ideas, two great
streams of activity remaining, with various forms of reaction
therefrom. The reactions were all varied in various people, but they
followed a few great laws, and intrinsically there was no difference.
They acted and reacted involuntarily according to a few great laws, and
once the laws, the great principles, were known, people were no longer
mystically interesting. They were all essentially alike, the
differences were only variations on a theme. None of them transcended
the given terms.
Ursula did not agree-people were still an adventure to her-but-perhaps
not as much as she tried to persuade herself. Perhaps there was
something mechanical, now, in her interest. Perhaps also her interest
was destructive, her analysing was a real tearing to pieces. There was
an under-space in her where she did not care for people and their
idiosyncracies, even to destroy them. She seemed to touch for a moment
this undersilence in herself, she became still, and she turned for a
moment purely to Birkin.
'Won't it be lovely to go home in the dark?' she said. 'We might have
tea rather late-shall we?-and have high tea? Wouldn't that be rather
'I promised to be at Shortlands for dinner,' he said.
'But-it doesn't matter-you can go tomorrow-'
'Hermione is there,' he said, in rather an uneasy voice. 'She is going
away in two days. I suppose I ought to say good-bye to her. I shall
never see her again.'
Ursula drew away, closed in a violent silence. He knitted his brows,
and his eyes began to sparkle again in anger.
'You don't mind, do you?' he asked irritably.
'No, I don't care. Why should I? Why should I mind?' Her tone was
jeering and offensive.
'That's what I ask myself,' he said; 'why SHOULD you mind! But you seem
to.' His brows were tense with violent irritation.
'I ASSURE you I don't, I don't mind in the least. Go where you
belong-it's what I want you to do.'
'Ah you fool!' he cried, 'with your "go where you belong." It's
finished between Hermione and me. She means much more to YOU, if it
comes to that, than she does to me. For you can only revolt in pure
reaction from her-and to be her opposite is to be her counterpart.'
'Ah, opposite!' cried Ursula. 'I know your dodges. I am not taken in by
your word-twisting. You belong to Hermione and her dead show. Well, if
you do, you do. I don't blame you. But then you've nothing to do with
In his inflamed, overwrought exasperation, he stopped the car, and they
sat there, in the middle of the country lane, to have it out. It was a
crisis of war between them, so they did not see the ridiculousness of
'If you weren't a fool, if only you weren't a fool,' he cried in bitter
despair, 'you'd see that one could be decent, even when one has been
wrong. I WAS wrong to go on all those years with Hermione - it was a
deathly process. But after all, one can have a little human decency.
But no, you would tear my soul out with your jealousy at the very
mention of Hermione's name.'
'I jealous! I - jealous! You ARE mistaken if you think that. I'm not
jealous in the least of Hermione, she is nothing to me, not THAT!' And
Ursula snapped her fingers. 'No, it's you who are a liar. It's you who
must return, like a dog to his vomit. It is what Hermione STANDS FOR
that I HATE. I HATE it. It is lies, it is false, it is death. But you
want it, you can't help it, you can't help yourself. You belong to that
old, deathly way of living - then go back to it. But don't come to me,
for I've nothing to do with it.'
And in the stress of her violent emotion, she got down from the car and
went to the hedgerow, picking unconsciously some flesh-pink
spindleberries, some of which were burst, showing their orange seeds.
'Ah, you are a fool,' he cried, bitterly, with some contempt.
'Yes, I am. I AM a fool. And thank God for it. I'm too big a fool to
swallow your cleverness. God be praised. You go to your women - go to
them - they are your sort - you've always had a string of them trailing
after you - and you always will. Go to your spiritual brides - but don't
come to me as well, because I'm not having any, thank you. You're not
satisfied, are you? Your spiritual brides can't give you what you want,
they aren't common and fleshy enough for you, aren't they? So you come
to me, and keep them in the background! You will marry me for daily
use. But you'll keep yourself well provided with spiritual brides in
the background. I know your dirty little game.' Suddenly a flame ran
over her, and she stamped her foot madly on the road, and he winced,
afraid that she would strike him. 'And I, I'M not spiritual enough, I'M
not as spiritual as that Hermione - !' Her brows knitted, her eyes
blazed like a tiger's. 'Then go to her, that's all I say, GO to her, GO.
Ha, she spiritual - SPIRITUAL, she! A dirty materialist as she is. SHE
spiritual? What does she care for, what is her spirituality? What IS
it?' Her fury seemed to blaze out and burn his face. He shrank a
little. 'I tell you it's DIRT, DIRT, and nothing BUT dirt. And it's
dirt you want, you crave for it. Spiritual! Is THAT spiritual, her
bullying, her conceit, her sordid materialism? She's a fishwife, a
fishwife, she is such a materialist. And all so sordid. What does she
work out to, in the end, with all her social passion, as you call it.
Social passion - what social passion has she? - show it me! - where is it?
She wants petty, immediate POWER, she wants the illusion that she is a
great woman, that is all. In her soul she's a devilish unbeliever,
common as dirt. That's what she is at the bottom. And all the rest is
pretence - but you love it. You love the sham spirituality, it's your
food. And why? Because of the dirt underneath. Do you think I don't
know the foulness of your sex life - and her's? - I do. And it's that
foulness you want, you liar. Then have it, have it. You're such a
She turned away, spasmodically tearing the twigs of spindleberry from
the hedge, and fastening them, with vibrating fingers, in the bosom of
He stood watching in silence. A wonderful tenderness burned in him, at
the sight of her quivering, so sensitive fingers: and at the same time
he was full of rage and callousness.
'This is a degrading exhibition,' he said coolly.
'Yes, degrading indeed,' she said. 'But more to me than to you.'
'Since you choose to degrade yourself,' he said. Again the flash came
over her face, the yellow lights concentrated in her eyes.
'YOU!' she cried. 'You! You truth-lover! You purity-monger! It STINKS,
your truth and your purity. It stinks of the offal you feed on, you
scavenger dog, you eater of corpses. You are foul, FOUL and you must
know it. Your purity, your candour, your goodness - yes, thank you,
we've had some. What you are is a foul, deathly thing, obscene, that's
what you are, obscene and perverse. You, and love! You may well say,
you don't want love. No, you want YOURSELF, and dirt, and death - that's
what you want. You are so PERVERSE, so death-eating. And then - '
'There's a bicycle coming,' he said, writhing under her loud
She glanced down the road.
'I don't care,' she cried.
Nevertheless she was silent. The cyclist, having heard the voices
raised in altercation, glanced curiously at the man, and the woman, and
at the standing motor-car as he passed.
' - Afternoon,' he said, cheerfully.
'Good-afternoon,' replied Birkin coldly.
They were silent as the man passed into the distance.
A clearer look had come over Birkin's face. He knew she was in the main
right. He knew he was perverse, so spiritual on the one hand, and in
some strange way, degraded, on the other. But was she herself any
better? Was anybody any better?
'It may all be true, lies and stink and all,' he said. 'But Hermione's
spiritual intimacy is no rottener than your emotional-jealous intimacy.
One can preserve the decencies, even to one's enemies: for one's own
sake. Hermione is my enemy - to her last breath! That's why I must bow
her off the field.'
'You! You and your enemies and your bows! A pretty picture you make of
yourself. But it takes nobody in but yourself. I JEALOUS! I! What I
say,' her voice sprang into flame, 'I say because it is TRUE, do you
see, because you are YOU, a foul and false liar, a whited sepulchre.
That's why I say it. And YOU hear it.'
'And be grateful,' he added, with a satirical grimace.
'Yes,' she cried, 'and if you have a spark of decency in you, be
'Not having a spark of decency, however - ' he retorted.
'No,' she cried, 'you haven't a SPARK. And so you can go your way, and
I'll go mine. It's no good, not the slightest. So you can leave me now,
I don't want to go any further with you - leave me - '
'You don't even know where you are,' he said.
'Oh, don't bother, I assure you I shall be all right. I've got ten
shillings in my purse, and that will take me back from anywhere YOU
have brought me to.' She hesitated. The rings were still on her
fingers, two on her little finger, one on her ring finger. Still she
'Very good,' he said. 'The only hopeless thing is a fool.'
'You are quite right,' she said.
Still she hesitated. Then an ugly, malevolent look came over her face,
she pulled the rings from her fingers, and tossed them at him. One
touched his face, the others hit his coat, and they scattered into the
'And take your rings,' she said, 'and go and buy yourself a female
elsewhere - there are plenty to be had, who will be quite glad to share
your spiritual mess, - or to have your physical mess, and leave your
spiritual mess to Hermione.'
With which she walked away, desultorily, up the road. He stood
motionless, watching her sullen, rather ugly walk. She was sullenly
picking and pulling at the twigs of the hedge as she passed. She grew
smaller, she seemed to pass out of his sight. A darkness came over his
mind. Only a small, mechanical speck of consciousness hovered near him.
He felt tired and weak. Yet also he was relieved. He gave up his old
position. He went and sat on the bank. No doubt Ursula was right. It
was true, really, what she said. He knew that his spirituality was
concomitant of a process of depravity, a sort of pleasure in
self-destruction. There really WAS a certain stimulant in
self-destruction, for him - especially when it was translated
spiritually. But then he knew it - he knew it, and had done. And was not
Ursula's way of emotional intimacy, emotional and physical, was it not
just as dangerous as Hermione's abstract spiritual intimacy? Fusion,
fusion, this horrible fusion of two beings, which every woman and most
men insisted on, was it not nauseous and horrible anyhow, whether it
was a fusion of the spirit or of the emotional body? Hermione saw
herself as the perfect Idea, to which all men must come: And Ursula was
the perfect Womb, the bath of birth, to which all men must come! And
both were horrible. Why could they not remain individuals, limited by
their own limits? Why this dreadful all-comprehensiveness, this hateful
tyranny? Why not leave the other being, free, why try to absorb, or
melt, or merge? One might abandon oneself utterly to the MOMENTS, but
not to any other being.
He could not bear to see the rings lying in the pale mud of the road.
He picked them up, and wiped them unconsciously on his hands. They were
the little tokens of the reality of beauty, the reality of happiness in
warm creation. But he had made his hands all dirty and gritty.
There was a darkness over his mind. The terrible knot of consciousness
that had persisted there like an obsession was broken, gone, his life
was dissolved in darkness over his limbs and his body. But there was a
point of anxiety in his heart now. He wanted her to come back. He
breathed lightly and regularly like an infant, that breathes
innocently, beyond the touch of responsibility.
She was coming back. He saw her drifting desultorily under the high
hedge, advancing towards him slowly. He did not move, he did not look
again. He was as if asleep, at peace, slumbering and utterly relaxed.
She came up and stood before him, hanging her head.
'See what a flower I found you,' she said, wistfully holding a piece of
purple-red bell-heather under his face. He saw the clump of coloured
bells, and the tree-like, tiny branch: also her hands, with their
over-fine, over-sensitive skin.
'Pretty!' he said, looking up at her with a smile, taking the flower.
Everything had become simple again, quite simple, the complexity gone
into nowhere. But he badly wanted to cry: except that he was weary and
bored by emotion.
Then a hot passion of tenderness for her filled his heart. He stood up
and looked into her face. It was new and oh, so delicate in its
luminous wonder and fear. He put his arms round her, and she hid her
face on his shoulder.
It was peace, just simple peace, as he stood folding her quietly there
on the open lane. It was peace at last. The old, detestable world of
tension had passed away at last, his soul was strong and at ease.
She looked up at him. The wonderful yellow light in her eyes now was
soft and yielded, they were at peace with each other. He kissed her,
softly, many, many times. A laugh came into her eyes.
'Did I abuse you?' she asked.
He smiled too, and took her hand, that was so soft and given.
'Never mind,' she said, 'it is all for the good.' He kissed her again,
softly, many times.
'Isn't it?' she said.
'Certainly,' he replied. 'Wait! I shall have my own back.'
She laughed suddenly, with a wild catch in her voice, and flung her
arms around him.
'You are mine, my love, aren't you?' she cried straining him close.
'Yes,' he said, softly.
His voice was so soft and final, she went very still, as if under a
fate which had taken her. Yes, she acquiesced - but it was accomplished
without her acquiescence. He was kissing her quietly, repeatedly, with
a soft, still happiness that almost made her heart stop beating.
'My love!' she cried, lifting her face and looking with frightened,
gentle wonder of bliss. Was it all real? But his eyes were beautiful
and soft and immune from stress or excitement, beautiful and smiling
lightly to her, smiling with her. She hid her face on his shoulder,
hiding before him, because he could see her so completely. She knew he
loved her, and she was afraid, she was in a strange element, a new
heaven round about her. She wished he were passionate, because in
passion she was at home. But this was so still and frail, as space is
more frightening than force.
Again, quickly, she lifted her head.
'Do you love me?' she said, quickly, impulsively.
'Yes,' he replied, not heeding her motion, only her stillness.
She knew it was true. She broke away.
'So you ought,' she said, turning round to look at the road. 'Did you
find the rings?'
'Where are they?'
'In my pocket.'
She put her hand into his pocket and took them out.
She was restless.
'Shall we go?' she said.
'Yes,' he answered. And they mounted to the car once more, and left
behind them this memorable battle-field.
They drifted through the wild, late afternoon, in a beautiful motion
that was smiling and transcendent. His mind was sweetly at ease, the
life flowed through him as from some new fountain, he was as if born
out of the cramp of a womb.
'Are you happy?' she asked him, in her strange, delighted way.
'Yes,' he said.
'So am I,' she cried in sudden ecstacy, putting her arm round him and
clutching him violently against her, as he steered the motor-car.
'Don't drive much more,' she said. 'I don't want you to be always doing
'No,' he said. 'We'll finish this little trip, and then we'll be free.'
'We will, my love, we will,' she cried in delight, kissing him as he
turned to her.
He drove on in a strange new wakefulness, the tension of his
consciousness broken. He seemed to be conscious all over, all his body
awake with a simple, glimmering awareness, as if he had just come
awake, like a thing that is born, like a bird when it comes out of an
egg, into a new universe.
They dropped down a long hill in the dusk, and suddenly Ursula
recognised on her right hand, below in the hollow, the form of
'Are we here!' she cried with pleasure.
The rigid, sombre, ugly cathedral was settling under the gloom of the
coming night, as they entered the narrow town, the golden lights showed
like slabs of revelation, in the shop-windows.
'Father came here with mother,' she said, 'when they first knew each
other. He loves it - he loves the Minster. Do you?'
'Yes. It looks like quartz crystals sticking up out of the dark hollow.
We'll have our high tea at the Saracen's Head.'
As they descended, they heard the Minster bells playing a hymn, when
the hour had struck six.
Glory to thee my God this night
For all the blessings of the light -
So, to Ursula's ear, the tune fell out, drop by drop, from the unseen
sky on to the dusky town. It was like dim, bygone centuries sounding.
It was all so far off. She stood in the old yard of the inn, smelling
of straw and stables and petrol. Above, she could see the first stars.
What was it all? This was no actual world, it was the dream-world of
one's childhood - a great circumscribed reminiscence. The world had
become unreal. She herself was a strange, transcendent reality.
They sat together in a little parlour by the fire.
'Is it true?' she said, wondering.
'Everything - is everything true?'
'The best is true,' he said, grimacing at her.
'Is it?' she replied, laughing, but unassured.
She looked at him. He seemed still so separate. New eyes were opened in
her soul. She saw a strange creature from another world, in him. It was
as if she were enchanted, and everything were metamorphosed. She
recalled again the old magic of the Book of Genesis, where the sons of
God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair. And he was one of
these, one of these strange creatures from the beyond, looking down at
her, and seeing she was fair.
He stood on the hearth-rug looking at her, at her face that was
upturned exactly like a flower, a fresh, luminous flower, glinting
faintly golden with the dew of the first light. And he was smiling
faintly as if there were no speech in the world, save the silent
delight of flowers in each other. Smilingly they delighted in each
other's presence, pure presence, not to be thought of, even known. But
his eyes had a faintly ironical contraction.
And she was drawn to him strangely, as in a spell. Kneeling on the
hearth-rug before him, she put her arms round his loins, and put her
face against his thigh. Riches! Riches! She was overwhelmed with a
sense of a heavenful of riches.
'We love each other,' she said in delight.
'More than that,' he answered, looking down at her with his glimmering,
Unconsciously, with her sensitive fingertips, she was tracing the back
of his thighs, following some mysterious life-flow there. She had
discovered something, something more than wonderful, more wonderful
than life itself. It was the strange mystery of his life-motion, there,
at the back of the thighs, down the flanks. It was a strange reality of
his being, the very stuff of being, there in the straight downflow of
the thighs. It was here she discovered him one of the sons of God such
as were in the beginning of the world, not a man, something other,
This was release at last. She had had lovers, she had known passion.
But this was neither love nor passion. It was the daughters of men
coming back to the sons of God, the strange inhuman sons of God who are
in the beginning.
Her face was now one dazzle of released, golden light, as she looked up
at him, and laid her hands full on his thighs, behind, as he stood
before her. He looked down at her with a rich bright brow like a diadem
above his eyes. She was beautiful as a new marvellous flower opened at
his knees, a paradisal flower she was, beyond womanhood, such a flower
of luminousness. Yet something was tight and unfree in him. He did not
like this crouching, this radiance - not altogether.