Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
It was a thousand pities if you thought, as he did, that Carlyle was one of the great teachers of mankind. You have greatness, she continued, but Mr. Q he could demonstrate. He keeps a shop. Items that are sold exclusive of VAT, as identified at the time of sale, are to be sold in accordance with the Auctioneers Margin Scheme. You can also plant them directly in the soil once the weather warms up in spring.
He was leaving them fatherless. Scolding and demonstrating how to make a bed, how to open a window, with hands that shut and spread like a Frenchwoman's all had folded itself quietly about her, when the girl spoke, as, after a flight through the sunshine the wings of a bird fold themselves quietly and the blue of its plumage changes from bright steel to soft purple.
She had stood there silent for there was nothing to be said. He had cancer of the throat. At the recolection--how she had stood there, how the girl had said, "At home the mountains are so beautiful," and there was no hope, no hope whatever, she had a spasm of irritation, and speaking sharply, said to James:.
Don't be tiresome," so that he knew instantly that her severity was real, and straightened his leg and she measured it. The stocking was too short by half an inch at least, making allowance for the fact that Sorley's little boy would be less well grown than James. Never did anybody look so sad.
Bitter and black, half-way down, in the darkness, in the shaft which ran from the sunlight to the depths, perhaps a tear formed; a tear fell; the waters swayed this way and that, received it, and were at rest. But was it nothing but looks, people said? What was there behind it--her beauty and splendour? Had he blown his brains out, they asked, had he died the week before they were married--some other, earlier lover, of whom rumours reached one? Or was there nothing? For easily though she might have said at some moment of intimacy when stories of great passion, of love foiled, of ambition thwarted came her way how she too had known or felt or been through it herself, she never spoke.
She was silent always. She knew then--she knew without having learnt. Her simplicity fathomed what clever people falsified. Her singleness of mind made her drop plumb like a stone, alight exact as a bird, gave her, naturally, this swoop and fall of the spirit upon truth which delighted, eased, sustained--falsely perhaps.
Bankes once, much moved by her voice on the telephone, though she was only telling him a fact about a train, "like that of which she moulded you. How incongruous it seemed to be telephoning to a woman like that. The Graces assembling seemed to have joined hands in meadows of asphodel to compose that face. Yes, he would catch the Bankes, replacing the receiver and crossing the room to see what progress the workmen were making with an hotel which they were building at the back of his house.
And he thought of Mrs. Ramsay as he looked at that stir among the unfinished walls. For always, he thought, there was something incongruous to be worked into the harmony of her face. She clapped a deer-stalker's hat on her head; she ran across the lawn in galoshes to snatch a child from mischief.
So that if it was her beauty merely that one thought of, one must remember the quivering thing, the living thing they were carrying bricks up a little plank as he watched them , and work it into the picture; or if one thought of her simply as a woman, one must endow her with some freak of idiosyncrasy--she did not like admiration--or suppose some latent desire to doff her royalty of form as if her beauty bored her and all that men say of beauty, and she wanted only to be like other people, insignificant.
He did not know. He must go to his work. Knitting her reddish-brown hairy stocking, with her head outlined absurdly by the gilt frame, the green shawl which she had tossed over the edge of the frame, and the authenticated masterpiece by Michael Angelo, Mrs.
Ramsay smoothed out what had been harsh in her manner a moment before, raised his head, and kissed her little boy on the forehead. Starting from her musing she gave meaning to words which she had held meaningless in her mind for a long stretch of time.
But she could not for the life of her think what. He shivered; he quivered. All his vanity, all his satisfaction in his own splendour, riding fell as a thunderbolt, fierce as a hawk at the head of his men through the valley of death, had been shattered, destroyed. Stormed at by shot and shell, boldly we rode and well, flashed through the valley of death, volleyed and thundered--straight into Lily Briscoe and William Bankes. He quivered; he shivered.
Not for the world would she have spoken to him, realising, from the familiar signs, his eyes averted, and some curious gathering together of his person, as if he wrapped himself about and needed privacy into which to regain his equilibrium, that he was outraged and anguished.
She stroked James's head; she transferred to him what she felt for her husband, and, as she watched him chalk yellow the white dress shirt of a gentleman in the Army and Navy Stores catalogue, thought what a delight it would be to her should he turn out a great artist; and why should he not?
He had a splendid forehead. Then, looking up, as her husband passed her once more, she was relieved to find that the ruin was veiled; domesticity triumphed; custom crooned its soothing rhythm, so that when stopping deliberately, as his turn came round again, at the window he bent quizzically and whimsically to tickle James's bare calf with a sprig of something, she twitted him for having dispatched "that poor young man," Charles Tansley.
Tansley had had to go in and write his dissertation, he said. Hating his father, James brushed away the tickling spray with which in a manner peculiar to him, compound of severity and humour, he teased his youngest son's bare leg.
She was trying to get these tiresome stockings finished to send to Sorley's little boy tomorrow, said Mrs. There wasn't the slightest possible chance that they could go to the Lighthouse tomorrow, Mr.
Ramsay snapped out irascibly. The extraordinary irrationality of her remark, the folly of women's minds enraged him. He had ridden through the valley of death, been shattered and shivered; and now, she flew in the face of facts, made his children hope what was utterly out of the question, in effect, told lies.
He stamped his foot on the stone step. But what had she said? Simply that it might be fine tomorrow. To pursue truth with such astonishing lack of consideration for other people's feelings, to rendthe thin veils of civilization so wantonly, so brutally, was to her so horrible an outrage of human decency that, without replying, dazed and blinded, she bent her head as if to let the pelt of jagged hail, the drench of dirty water, bespatter her unrebuked.
There was nothing to be said. He stood by her in silence. Very humbly, at length, he said that he would step over and ask the Coastguards if she liked.
She was quite ready to take his word for it, she said. Only then they need not cut sandwiches--that was all. They came to her, naturally, since she was a woman, all day long with this and that; one wanting this, another that; the children were growing up; she often felt she was nothing but a sponge sopped full of human emotions.
Then he said, Damn you. He said, It must rain. He said, It won't rain; and instantly a Heaven of security opened before her. There was nobody she reverenced more. She was not good enough to tie his shoe strings, she felt. Already ashamed of that petulance, of that gesticulation of the hands when charging at the head of his troops, Mr.
Ramsay rather sheepishly prodded his son's bare legs once more, and then, as if he had her leave for it, with a movement which oddly reminded his wife of the great sea lion at the Zoo tumbling backwards after swallowing his fish and walloping off so that the water in the tank washes from side to side, he dived into the evening air which, already thinner, was taking the substance from leaves and hedges but, as if in return, restoring to roses and pinks a lustre which they had not had by day.
But how extraordinarily his note had changed! It was like the cuckoo; "in June he gets out of tune"; as if he were trying over, tentatively seeking, some phrase for a new mood, and having only this at hand, used it, cracked though it was.
But it sounded ridiculous--"Some one had blundered"--said like that, almost as a question, without any conviction, melodiously.
Ramsay could not help smiling, and soon, sure enough, walking up and down, he hummed it, dropped it, fell silent. He was safe, he was restored to his privacy. He stopped to light his pipe, looked once at his wife and son in the window, and as one raises one's eyes from a page in an express train and sees a farm, a tree, a cluster of cottages as an illustration, a confirmation of something on the printed page to which one returns, fortified, and satisfied, so without his distinguishing either his son or his wife, the sight of them fortified him and satisfied him and consecrated his effort to arrive at a perfectly clear understanding of the problem which now engaged the energies of his splendid mind.
It was a splendid mind. For if thought is like the keyboard of a piano, divided into so many notes, or like the alphabet is ranged in twenty-six letters all in order, then his splendid mind had no sort of difficulty in running over those letters one by one, firmly and accurately, until it had reached, say, the letter Q. Very few people in the whole of England ever reach Q. Here, stopping for one moment by the stone urn which held the geraniums, he saw, but now far, far away, like children picking up shells, divinely innocent and occupied with little trifles at their feet and somehow entirely defenceless against a doom which he perceived, his wife and son, together, in the window.
They needed his protection; he gave it them. After Q there are a number of letters the last of which is scarcely visible to mortal eyes, but glimmers red in the distance. Z is only reached once by one man in a generation. Still, if he could reach R it would be something. Here at least was Q. He dug his heels in at Q. Q he was sure of. Q he could demonstrate.
If Q then is Q--R Here he knocked his pipe out, with two or three resonant taps on the handle of the urn, and proceeded. Qualities that would have saved a ship's company exposed on a broiling sea with six biscuits and a flask of water--endurance and justice, foresight, devotion, skill, came to his help.
R is then--what is R? A shutter, like the leathern eyelid of a lizard, flickered over the intensity of his gaze and obscured the letter R. In that flash of darkness he heard people saying--he was a failure--that R was beyond him. He would never reach R. On to R, once more. Qualities that in a desolate expedition across the icy solitudes of the Polar region would have made him the leader, the guide, the counsellor, whose temper, neither sanguine nor despondent, surveys with equanimity what is to be and faces it, came to his help again.
The lizard's eye flickered once more. The veins on his forehead bulged. The geranium in the urn became startlingly visible and, displayed among its leaves, he could see, without wishing it, that old, that obvious distinction between the two classes of men; on the one hand the steady goers of superhuman strength who, plodding and persevering, repeat the whole alphabet in order, twenty-six letters in all, from start to finish; on the other the gifted, the inspired who, miraculously, lump all the letters together in one flash--the way of genius.
He had not genius; he laid no claim to that: Meanwhile, he stuck at Q. On, then, on to R. Feelings that would not have disgraced a leader who, now that the snow has begun to fall and the mountain top is covered in mist, knows that he must lay himself down and die before morning comes, stole upon him, paling the colour of his eyes, giving him, even in the two minutes of his turn on the terrace, the bleached look of withered old age.
Yet he would not die lying down; he would find some crag of rock, and there, his eyes fixed on the storm, trying to the end to pierce the darkness, he would die standing.
He stood stock-still, by the urn, with the geranium flowing over it. How many men in a thousand million, he asked himself, reach Z after all?
Surely the leader of a forlorn hope may ask himself that, and answer, without treachery to the expedition behind him, "One perhaps. Is he to be blamed then if he is not that one? And his fame lasts how long? It is permissible even for a dying hero to think before he dies how men will speak of him hereafter. His fame lasts perhaps two thousand years. And what are two thousand years? Ramsay ironically, staring at the hedge. What, indeed, if you look from a mountain top down the long wastes of the ages?
The very stone one kicks with one's boot will outlast Shakespeare. His own little light would shine, not very brightly, for a year or two, and would then be merged in some bigger light, and that in a bigger still.
He looked into the hedge, into the intricacy of the twigs. Who then could blame the leader of that forlorn party which after all has climbed high enough to see the waste of the years and the perishing of the stars, if before death stiffens his limbs beyond the power of movement he does a little consciously raise his numbed fingers to his brow, and square his shoulders, so that when the search party comes they will find him dead at his post, the fine figure of a soldier?
Ramsay squared his shoulders and stood very upright by the urn. Who shall blame him, if, so standing for a moment he dwells upon fame, upon search parties, upon cairns raised by grateful followers over his bones? Finally, who shall blame the leader of the doomed expedition, if, having adventured to the uttermost, and used his strength wholly to the last ounce and fallen asleep not much caring if he wakes or not, he now perceives by some pricking in his toes that he lives, and does not on the whole object to live, but requires sympathy, and whisky, and some one to tell the story of his suffering to at once?
Who shall blame him? Who will not secretly rejoice when the hero puts his armour off, and halts by the window and gazes at his wife and son, who, very distant at first, gradually come closer and closer, till lips and book and head are clearly before him, though still lovely and unfamiliar from the intensity of his isolation and the waste of ages and the perishing of the stars, and finally putting his pipe in his pocket and bending his magnificent head before her--who will blame him if he does homage to the beauty of the world?
But his son hated him. He hated him for coming up to them, for stopping and looking down on them; he hated him for interrupting them; he hated him for the exaltation and sublimity of his gestures; for the magnificence of his head; for his exactingness and egotism for there he stood, commanding them to attend to him but most of all he hated the twang and twitter of his father's emotion which, vibrating round them, disturbed the perfect simplicity and good sense of his relations with his mother.
By looking fixedly at the page, he hoped to make him move on; by pointing his finger at a word, he hoped to recall his mother's attention, which, he knew angrily, wavered instantly his father stopped. Nothing would make Mr. There he stood, demanding sympathy. Ramsay, who had been sitting loosely, folding her son in her arm, braced herself, and, half turning, seemed to raise herself with an effort, and at once to pour erect into the air a rain of energy, a column of spray, looking at the same time animated and alive as if all her energies were being fused into force, burning and illuminating quietly though she sat, taking up her stocking again , and into this delicious fecundity, this fountain and spray of life, the fatal sterility of the male plunged itself, like a beak of brass, barren and bare.
He was a failure, he said. Ramsay flashed her needles. Ramsay repeated, never taking his eyes from her face, that he was a failure. She blew the words back at him.
But he must have more than that. It was sympathy he wanted, to be assured of his genius, first of all, and then to be taken within the circle of life, warmed and soothed, to have his senses restored to him, his barrenness made furtile, and all the rooms of the house made full of life--the drawing-room; behind the drawing-room the kitchen; above the kitchen the bedrooms; and beyond them the nurseries; they must be furnished, they must be filled with life. Charles Tansley thought him the greatest metaphysician of the time, she said.
He must have sympathy. He must be assured that he too lived in the heart of life; was needed; not only here, but all over the world. Flashing her needles, confident, upright, she created drawing-room and kitchen, set them all aglow; bade him take his ease there, go in and out, enjoy himself. She laughed, she knitted.
Standing between her knees, very stiff, James felt all her strength flaring up to be drunk and quenched by the beak of brass, the arid scimitar of the male, which smote mercilessly, again and again, demanding sympathy. He was a failure, he repeated. Well, look then, feel then. Flashing her needles, glancing round about her, out of the window, into the room, at James himself, she assured him, beyond a shadow of a doubt, by her laugh, her poise, her competence as a nurse carrying a light across a dark room assures a fractious child , that it was real; the house was full; the garden blowing.
If he put implicit faith in her, nothing should hurt him; however deep he buried himself or climed high, not for a second should he find himself without her. So boasting of her capacity to surround and protect, there was scarcely a shell of herself left for her to know herself by; all was so lavished and spent; and James, as he stood stiff between her knees, felt her rise in a rosy-flowered fruit tree laid with leaves and dancing boughs into which the beak of brass, the arid scimitar of his father, the egotistical man, plunged and smote, demanding sympathy.
Filled with her words, like a child who drops off satisfied, he said, at last, looking at her with humble gratitude, restored, renewed, that he would take a turn; he would watch the children playing cricket. Ramsey seemed to fold herself together, one petal closed in another, and the whole fabric fell in exhaustion upon itself, so that she had only strength enough to move her finger, in exquisite abandonment to exhaustion, across the page of Grimm's fairy story, while there throbbed through her, like a pulse in a spring which has expanded to its full width and now gently ceases to beat, the rapture of successful creation.
Every throb of this pulse seemed, as he walked away, to enclose her and her husband, and to give to each that solace which two different notes, one high, one low, struck together, seem to give each other as they combine.
Yet as the resonance died, and she turned to the Fairy Tale again, Mrs. Ramsey felt not only exhausted in body afterwards, not at the time, she always felt this but also there tinged her physical fatigue some faintly disagreeable sensation with another origin. Not that, as she read aloud the story of the Fisherman's Wife, she knew precisely what it came from; nor did she let herself put into words her dissatisfaction when she realized, at the turn of the page when she stopped and heard dully, ominously, a wave fall, how it came from this: Universities and people wanting him, lectures and books and their being of the highest importance--all that she did not doubt for a moment; but it was their relation, and his coming to her like that, openly, so that any one could see, that discomposed her; for then people said he depended on her, when they must know that of the two he was infinitely the more important, and what she gave the world, in comparison with what he gave, negligable.
But then again, it was the other thing too--not being able to tell him the truth, being afraid, for instance, about the greenhouse roof and the expense it would be, fifty pounds perhaps to mend it; and then about his books, to be afraid that he might guess, what she a little suspected, that his last book was not quite his best book she gathered that from William Bankes ; and then to hide small daily things, and the children seeing it, and the burden it laid on them--all this diminished the entire joy, the pure joy, of the two notes sounding together, and let the sound die on her ear now with a dismal flatness.
A shadow was on the page; she looked up. It was Augustus Carmichael shuffling past, precisely now, at the very moment when it was painful to be reminded of the inadequacy of human relationships, that the most perfect was flawed, and could not bear the examination which, loving her husband, with her instinct for truth, she turned upon it; when it was painful to feel herself convicted of unworthiness, and impeded in her proper function by these lies, these exaggerations,--it was at this moment when she was fretted thus ignobly in the wake of her exaltation, that Mr.
Carmichael shuffled past, in his yellow slippers, and some demon in her made it necessary for her to call out, as he passed,. The children said he had stained his beard yellow with it. What was obvious to her was that the poor man was unhappy, came to them every year as an escape; and yet every year she felt the same thing; he did not trust her.
She said, "I am going to the town. Shall I get you stamps, paper, tobacco? He did not trust her. It was his wife's doing. She remembered that iniquity of his wife's towards him, which had made her turn to steel and adamant there, in the horrible little room in St John's Wood, when with her own eyes she had seen that odious woman turn him out of the house.
He was unkempt; he dropped things on his coat; he had the tiresomeness of an old man with nothing in the world to do; and she turned him out of the room. She said, in her odious way, "Now, Mrs. Ramsay and I want to have a little talk together," and Mrs.
Ramsay could see, as if before her eyes, the innumerable miseries of his life. Had he money enough to buy tobacco? Did he have to ask her for it?
Oh, she could not bear to think of the little indignities she made him suffer. And always now why, she could not guess, except that it came probably from that woman somehow he shrank from her. He never told her anything. But what more could she have done? There was a sunny room given up to him. The children were good to him. Never did she show a sign of not wanting him. She went out of her way indeed to be friendly. Do you want stamps, do you want tobacco? Here's a book you might like and so on.
And after all--after all here insensibly she drew herself together, physically, the sense of her own beauty becoming, as it did so seldom, present to her after all, she had not generally any difficulty in making people like her; for instance, George Manning; Mr. Wallace; famous as they were, they would come to her of an evening, quietly, and talk alone over her fire. She bore about with her, she could not help knowing it, the torch of her beauty; she carried it erect into any room that she entered; and after all, veil it as she might, and shrink from the monotony of bearing that it imposed on her, her beauty was apparent.
She had been admired. She had been loved. She had entered rooms where mourners sat. Tears had flown in her presence. Men, and women too, letting go to the multiplicity of things, had allowed themselves with her the relief of simplicity. It injured her that he should shrink. And yet not cleanly, not rightly. That was what she minded, coming as it did on top of her discontent with her husband; the sense she had now when Mr. Carmichael shuffled past, just nodding to her question, with a book beneath his arm, in his yellow slippers, that she was suspected; and that all this desire of hers to give, to help, was vanity.
For her own self-satisfaction was it that she wished so instinctively to help, to give, that people might say of her, "O Mrs. Was it not secretly this that she wanted, and therefore when Mr. Carmichael shrank away from her, as he did at this moment, making off to some corner where he did acrostics endlessly, she did not feel merely snubbed back in her instinct, but made aware of the pettiness of some part of her, and of human relations, how flawed they are, how despicable, how self-seeking, at their best.
Shabby and worn out, and not presumably her cheeks were hollow, her hair was white any longer a sight that filled the eyes with joy, she had better devote her mind to the story of the Fisherman and his Wife and so pacify that bundle of sensitiveness none of her children was as sensitive as he was , her son James.
He said to himself, 'It is not right,' and yet he went. And when he came to the sea the water was quite purple and dark blue, and grey and thick, and no longer so green and yellow, but it was still quiet. And he stood there and said--". Ramsay could have wished that her husband had not chosen that moment to stop. Why had he not gone as he said to watch the children playing cricket?
But he did not speak; he looked; he nodded; he approved; he went on. He slipped, seeing before him that hedge which had over and over again rounded some pause, signified some conclusion, seeing his wife and child, seeing again the urns with the trailing of red geraniums which had so often decorated processes of thought, and bore, written up among their leaves, as if they were scraps of paper on which one scribbles notes in the rush of reading--he slipped, seeing all this, smoothly into speculation suggested by an article in THE TIMES about the number of Americans who visit Shakespeare's house every year.
If Shakespeare had never existed, he asked, would the world have differed much from what it is today? Does the progress of civilization depend upon great men?
Is the lot of the average human being better now than in the time of the Pharaohs? Is the lot of the average human being, however, he asked himself, the criterion by which we judge the measure of civilization? Possibly the greatest good requires the existence of a slave class. The liftman in the Tube is an eternal necessity. The thought was distasteful to him. He tossed his head. To avoid it, he would find some way of snubbing the predominance of the arts. He would argue that the world exists for the average human being; that the arts are merely a decoration imposed on the top of human life; they do not express it.
Nor is Shakespeare necessary to it. Not knowing precisely why it was that he wanted to disparage Shakespeare and come to the rescue of the man who stands eternally in the door of the lift, he picked a leaf sharply from the hedge. All this would have to be dished up for the young men at Cardiff next month, he thought; here, on his terrace, he was merely foraging and picnicking he threw away the leaf that he had picked so peevishly like a man who reaches from his horse to pick a bunch of roses, or stuffs his pockets with nuts as he ambles at his ease through the lanes and fields of a country known to him from boyhood.
It was all familiar; this turning, that stile, that cut across the fields. Hours he would spend thus, with his pipe, of an evening, thinking up and down and in and out of the old familiar lanes and commons, which were all stuck about with the history of that campaign there, the life of this statesman here, with poems and with anecdotes, with figures too, this thinker, that soldier; all very brisk and clear; but at length the lane, the field, the common, the fruitful nut-tree and the flowering hedge led him on to that further turn of the road where he dismounted always, tied his horse to a tree, and proceeded on foot alone.
He reached the edge of the lawn and looked out on the bay beneath. It was his fate, his peculiarity, whether he wished it or not, to come out thus on a spit of land which the sea is slowly eating away, and there to stand, like a desolate sea-bird, alone. It was his power, his gift, suddenly to shed all superfluities, to shrink and diminish so that he looked barer and felt sparer, even physically, yet lost none of his intensity of mind, and so to stand on his little ledge facing the dark of human ignorance, how we know nothing and the sea eats away the ground we stand on--that was his fate, his gift.
But having thrown away, when he dismounted, all gestures and fripperies, all trophies of nuts and roses, and shrunk so that not only fame but even his own name was forgotten by him, kept even in that desolation a vigilance which spared no phantom and luxuriated in no vision, and it was in this guise that he inspired in William Bankes intermittently and in Charles Tansley obsequiously and in his wife now, when she looked up and saw him standing at the edge of the lawn, profoundly, reverence, and pity, and gratitude too, as a stake driven into the bed of a channel upon which the gulls perch and the waves beat inspires in merry boat-loads a feeling of gratitude for the duty it is taking upon itself of marking the channel out there in the floods alone.
He turned from the sight of human ignorance and human fate and the sea eating the ground we stand on, which, had he been able to contemplate it fixedly might have led to something; and found consolation in trifles so slight compared with the august theme just now before him that he was disposed to slur that comfort over, to deprecate it, as if to be caught happy in a world of misery was for an honest man the most despicable of crimes.
It was true; he was for the most part happy; he had his wife; he had his children; he had promised in six weeks' time to talk "some nonsense" to the young men of Cardiff about Locke, Hume, Berkeley, and the causes of the French Revolution. But this and his pleasure in it, his glory in the phrases he made, in the ardour of youth, in his wife's beauty, in the tributes that reached him from Swansea, Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton, Kidderminster, Oxford, Cambridge--all had to be deprecated and concealed under the phrase "talking nonsense," because, in effect, he had not done the thing he might have done.
It was a disguise; it was the refuge of a man afraid to own his own feelings, who could not say, This is what I like--this is what I am; and rather pitiable and distasteful to William Bankes and Lily Briscoe, who wondered why such concealments should be necessary; why he needed always praise; why so brave a man in thought should be so timid in life; how strangely he was venerable and laughable at one and the same time.
Teaching and preaching is beyond human power, Lily suspected. She was putting away her things. If you are exalted you must somehow come a cropper. Ramsay gave him what he asked too easily. Then the change must be so upsetting, Lily said. He comes in from his books and finds us all playing games and talking nonsense.
Imagine what a change from the things he thinks about, she said. He was bearing down upon them. Now he stopped dead and stood looking in silence at the sea. Now he had turned away again. Bankes said, watching him go. It was a thousand pities. Lily had said something about his frightening her--he changed from one mood to another so suddenly. Bankes, it was a thousand pities that Ramsay could not behave a little more like other people. For he liked Lily Briscoe; he could discuss Ramsay with her quite openly.
It was for that reason, he said, that the young don't read Carlyle. A crusty old grumbler who lost his temper if the porridge was cold, why should he preach to us? Bankes understood that young people said nowadays.
It was a thousand pities if you thought, as he did, that Carlyle was one of the great teachers of mankind. Lily was ashamed to say that she had not read Carlyle since she was at school. But in her opinion one liked Mr. Ramsay all the better for thinking that if his little finger ached the whole world must come to an end.
It was not THAT she minded. For who could be deceived by him? He asked you quite openly to flatter him, to admire him, his little dodges deceived nobody. What she disliked was his narrowness, his blindness, she said, looking after him. Bankes suggested, looking too at Mr.
Ramsay's back, for was he not thinking of his friendship, and of Cam refusing to give him a flower, and of all those boys and girls, and his own house, full of comfort, but, since his wife's death, quiet rather? Of course, he had his work All the same, he rather wished Lily to agree that Ramsay was, as he said, "a bit of a hypocrite. Lily Briscoe went on putting away her brushes, looking up, looking down.
Looking up, there he was--Mr. Ramsay--advancing towards them, swinging, careless, oblivious, remote. A bit of a hypocrite? Oh, no--the most sincere of men, the truest here he was , the best; but, looking down, she thought, he is absorbed in himself, he is tyrannical, he is unjust; and kept looking down, purposely, for only so could she keep steady, staying with the Ramsays. Directly one looked up and saw them, what she called "being in love" flooded them.
They became part of that unreal but penetrating and exciting universe which is the world seen through the eyes of love. The sky stuck to them; the birds sang through them. And, what was even more exciting, she felt, too, as she saw Mr.
Ramsay bearing down and retreating, and Mrs. Ramsay sitting with James in the window and the cloud moving and the tree bending, how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach.
Bankes expected her to answer. And she was about to say something criticizing Mrs. Ramsay, how she was alarming, too, in her way, high-handed, or words to that effect, when Mr. Bankes made it entirely unnecessary for her to speak by his rapture. For such it was considering his age, turned sixty, and his cleanliness and his impersonality, and the white scientific coat which seemed to clothe him.
For him to gaze as Lily saw him gazing at Mrs. Ramsay was a rapture, equivalent, Lily felt, to the loves of dozens of young men and perhaps Mrs. Ramsay had never excited the loves of dozens of young men. It was love, she thought, pretending to move her canvas, distilled and filtered; love that never attempted to clutch its object; but, like the love which mathematicians bear their symbols, or poets their phrases, was meant to be spread over the world and become part of the human gain.
So it was indeed. The world by all means should have shared it, could Mr. Bankes have said why that woman pleased him so; why the sight of her reading a fairy tale to her boy had upon him precisely the same effect as the solution of a scientific problem, so that he rested in contemplation of it, and felt, as he felt when he had proved something absolute about the digestive system of plants, that barbarity was tamed, the reign of chaos subdued. Such a rapture--for by what other name could one call it?
It was nothing of importance; something about Mrs. It paled beside this "rapture," this silent stare, for which she felt intense gratitude; for nothing so solaced her, eased her of the perplexity of life, and miraculously raised its burdens, as this sublime power, this heavenly gift, and one would no more disturb it, while it lasted, than break up the shaft of sunlight, lying level across the floor.
That people should love like this, that Mr. Bankes should feel this for Mrs. Ramsey she glanced at him musing was helpful, was exalting. She wiped one brush after another upon a piece of old rag, menially, on purpose.
She took shelter from the reverence which covered all women; she felt herself praised. Let him gaze; she would steal a look at her picture. She could have wept. It was bad, it was bad, it was infinitely bad! She could have done it differently of course; the colour could have been thinned and faded; the shapes etherealised; that was how Paunceforte would have seen it. But then she did not see it like that. She saw the colour burning on a framework of steel; the light of a butterfly's wing lying upon the arches of a cathedral.
Of all that only a few random marks scrawled upon the canvas remained. And it would never be seen; never be hung even, and there was Mr. Tansley whispering in her ear, "Women can't paint, women can't write She now remembered what she had been going to say about Mrs.
She did not know how she would have put it; but it would have been something critical. She had been annoyed the other night by some highhandedness. Looking along the level of Mr. Bankes's glance at her, she thought that no woman could worship another woman in the way he worshipped; they could only seek shelter under the shade which Mr. Bankes extended over them both. Looking along his beam she added to it her different ray, thinking that she was unquestionably the loveliest of people bowed over her book ; the best perhaps; but also, different too from the perfect shape which one saw there.
But why different, and how different? How did she differ? What was the spirit in her, the essential thing, by which, had you found a crumpled glove in the corner of a sofa, you would have known it, from its twisted finger, hers indisputably? She was like a bird for speed, an arrow for directness. She was willful; she was commanding of course, Lily reminded herself, I am thinking of her relations with women, and I am much younger, an insignificant person, living off the Brompton Road. She opened bedroom windows.
So she tried to start the tune of Mrs. Ramsay in her head. Arriving late at night, with a light tap on one's bedroom door, wrapped in an old fur coat for the setting of her beauty was always that--hasty, but apt , she would enact again whatever it might be--Charles Tansley losing his umbrella; Mr. Carmichael snuffling and sniffing; Mr. Bankes saying, "The vegetable salts are lost. Ramsay cared not a fig for her painting , or triumphs won by her probably Mrs. Ramsay had had her share of those , and here she saddened, darkened, and came back to her chair, there could be no disputing this: The house seemed full of children sleeping and Mrs.
Ramsay listening; shaded lights and regular breathing. Oh, but, Lily would say, there was her father; her home; even, had she dared to say it, her painting. But all this seemed so little, so virginal, against the other.
Yet, as the night wore on, and white lights parted the curtains, and even now and then some bird chirped in the garden, gathering a desperate courage she would urge her own exemption from the universal law; plead for it; she liked to be alone; she liked to be herself; she was not made for that; and so have to meet a serious stare from eyes of unparalleled depth, and confront Mrs. Ramsay's simple certainty and she was childlike now that her dear Lily, her little Brisk, was a fool.
Then, she remembered, she had laid her head on Mrs. Ramsay's lap and laughed and laughed and laughed, laughed almost hysterically at the thought of Mrs. Ramsay presiding with immutable calm over destinies which she completely failed to understand.
There she sat, simple, serious. She had recovered her sense of her now--this was the glove's twisted finger. But into what sanctuary had one penetrated?
Lily Briscoe had looked up at last, and there was Mrs. Ramsay, unwitting entirely what had caused her laughter, still presiding, but now with every trace of wilfulness abolished, and in its stead, something clear as the space which the clouds at last uncover--the little space of sky which sleeps beside the moon.
Was it, once more, the deceptiveness of beauty, so that all one's perceptions, half way to truth, were tangled in a golden mesh? Every one could not be as helter skelter, hand to mouth as she was. But if they knew, could they tell one what they knew? Sitting on the floor with her arms round Mrs. Ramsay's knees, close as she could get, smiling to think that Mrs.
Ramsay would never know the reason of that pressure, she imagined how in the chambers of the mind and heart of the woman who was, physically, touching her, were stood, like the treasures in the tombs of kings, tablets bearing sacred inscriptions, which if one could spell them out, would teach one everything, but they would never be offered openly, never made public. What art was there, known to love or cunning, by which one pressed through into those secret chambers? What device for becoming, like waters poured into one jar, inextricably the same, one with the object one adored?
Could the body achieve, or the mind, subtly mingling in the intricate passages of the brain? Could loving, as people called it, make her and Mrs. And yet, she knew knowledge and wisdom were stored up in Mrs. How, then, she had asked herself, did one know one thing or another thing about people, sealed as they were? Only like a bee, drawn by some sweetness or sharpness in the air intangible to touch or taste, one haunted the dome-shaped hive, ranged the wastes of the air over the countries of the world alone, and then haunted the hives with their murmurs and their stirrings; the hives, which were people.
For days there hung about her, as after a dream some subtle change is felt in the person one has dreamt of, more vividly than anything she said, the sound of murmuring and, as she sat in the wicker arm-chair in the drawing-room window she wore, to Lily's eyes, an august shape; the shape of a dome. This ray passed level with Mr. Bankes's ray straight to Mrs. Ramsay sitting reading there with James at her knee.
But now while she still looked, Mr. He had put on his spectacles. He had stepped back. He had raised his hand. He had slightly narrowed his clear blue eyes, when Lily, rousing herself, saw what he was at, and winced like a dog who sees a hand raised to strike it.
She would have snatched her picture off the easel, but she said to herself, One must. She braced herself to stand the awful trial of some one looking at her picture. One must, she said, one must. And if it must be seen, Mr. Bankes was less alarming than another. But that any other eyes should see the residue of her thirty-three years, the deposit of each day's living mixed with something more secret than she had ever spoken or shown in the course of all those days was an agony.
At the same time it was immensely exciting. Nothing could be cooler and quieter. Taking out a pen-knife, Mr. Bankes tapped the canvas with the bone handle.
What did she wish to indicate by the triangular purple shape, "just there"? Ramsay reading to James, she said. She knew his objection-- that no one could tell it for a human shape. But she had made no attempt at likeness, she said. For what reason had she introduced them then? Simple, obvious, commonplace, as it was, Mr.
Mother and child then--objects of universal veneration, and in this case the mother was famous for her beauty--might be reduced, he pondered, to a purple shadow without irreverence. But the picture was not of them, she said.
Or, not in his sense. There were other senses too in which one might reverence them. By a shadow here and a light there, for instance. Her tribute took that form if, as she vaguely supposed, a picture must be a tribute.
A mother and child might be reduced to a shadow without irreverence. A light here required a shadow there. He took it scientifically in complete good faith. The truth was that all his prejudices were on the other side, he explained.
The largest picture in his drawing-room, which painters had praised, and valued at a higher price than he had given for it, was of the cherry trees in blossom on the banks of the Kennet. He had spent his honeymoon on the banks of the Kennet, he said. Lily must come and see that picture, he said. But now--he turned, with his glasses raised to the scientific examination of her canvas.
The question being one of the relations of masses, of lights and shadows, which, to be honest, he had never considered before, he would like to have it explained--what then did she wish to make of it?
And he indicated the scene before them. She could not show him what she wished to make of it, could not see it even herself, without a brush in her hand. She took up once more her old painting position with the dim eyes and the absent-minded manner, subduing all her impressions as a woman to something much more general; becoming once more under the power of that vision which she had seen clearly once and must now grope for among hedges and houses and mothers and children--her picture.
It was a question, she remembered, how to connect this mass on the right hand with that on the left. She might do it by bringing the line of the branch across so; or break the vacancy in the foreground by an object James perhaps so. But the danger was that by doing that the unity of the whole might be broken. She stopped; she did not want to bore him; she took the canvas lightly off the easel. But it had been seen; it had been taken from her.
This man had shared with her something profoundly intimate. Ramsay for it and Mrs. Ramsay for it and the hour and the place, crediting the world with a power which she had not suspected--that one could walk away down that long gallery not alone any more but arm in arm with somebody--the strangest feeling in the world, and the most exhilarating--she nicked the catch of her paint-box to, more firmly than was necessary, and the nick seemed to surround in a circle forever the paint-box, the lawn, Mr.
Bankes, and that wild villain, Cam, dashing past. For Cam grazed the easel by an inch; she would not stop for Mr. Bankes and Lily Briscoe; though Mr.
Bankes, who would have liked a daughter of his own, held out his hand; she would not stop for her father, whom she grazed also by an inch; nor for her mother, who called "Cam! I want you a moment! She was off like a bird, bullet, or arrow, impelled by what desire, shot by whom, at what directed, who could say? Ramsay pondered, watching her.
It might be a vision--of a shell, of a wheelbarrow, of a fairy kingdom on the far side of the hedge; or it might be the glory of speed; no one knew. What was she dreaming about, Mrs.
Ramsay wondered, seeing her engrossed, as she stood there, with some thought of her own, so that she had to repeat the message twice--ask Mildred if Andrew, Miss Doyle, and Mr. Rayley have come back? What message would Cam give the cook? And indeed it was only by waiting patiently, and hearing that there was an old woman in the kitchen with very red cheeks, drinking soup out of a basin, that Mrs.
Ramsay at last prompted that parrot-like instinct which had picked up Mildred's words quite accurately and could now produce them, if one waited, in a colourless singsong. Shifting from foot to foot, Cam repeated the words, "No, they haven't, and I've told Ellen to clear away tea. Minta Doyle and Paul Rayley had not come back then. That could only mean, Mrs. Ramsay thought, one thing. She must accept him, or she must refuse him.
This going off after luncheon for a walk, even though Andrew was with them--what could it mean? Ramsay thought and she was very, very fond of Minta , to accept that good fellow, who might not be brilliant, but then, thought Mrs.
Ramsay, realising that James was tugging at her, to make her go on reading aloud the Fisherman and his Wife, she did in her own heart infinitely prefer boobies to clever men who wrote dissertations; Charles Tansley, for instance. Anyhow it must have happened, one way or the other, by now. But she read, "Next morning the wife awoke first, and it was just daybreak, and from her bed she saw the beautiful country lying before her.
Her husband was still stretching himself But how could Minta say now that she would not have him? Tritoma seeds need 6 weeks of moist chilling in the refrigerator prior to planting. Germination normally occurs in about 20 days, but may take up to 3 months for certain cultivars. Gardens Learn How to create and maintain gardens. Troubleshooting Plant Insects Good Bugs. Christmas Cookies Gardening with Kids. Gardener's Forum Gardening Questions and Answers.
Other articles you might like: Make this planting space directly in front of an evergreen background, or as a 'stand alone' specimen, and it is sure to turn heads. Red Hot Pokers are one of the favorite flowers for hummingbirds. Kniphofia uvaria is commonly known as a Red Hot Poker, Torch Lily or sometimes a Tritoma Depending on the variety, the flame colored flower spikes will reach feet in height. The flower's coloring may range from ivory and orange to coral red. If you have sufficient space, you can select varieties to provide bloom during every month from May through October!
They must be grown in full sun. Provide adequate spacing for these plants which may spread up to three feet over time. Good drainage is essential to prevent crown rot, otherwise these plants are tolerant of most soil types.