To the Lighthouse Main Text Part Two (TIME PASSES)

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To the Lighthouse is a notable literary work by Virginia Woolf. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of To the Lighthouse.

main text



“Well, we must wait for the future to show,” said Mr. Bankes, coming in
from the terrace.

“It’s almost too dark to see,” said Andrew, coming up from the beach.

“One can hardly tell which is the sea and which is the land,” said

“Do we leave that light burning?” said Lily as they took their coats
off indoors.

“No,” said Prue, “not if every one’s in.”

“Andrew,” she called back, “just put out the light in the hall.”

One by one the lamps were all extinguished, except that Mr. Carmichael,
who liked to lie awake a little reading Virgil, kept his candle burning
rather longer than the rest.


So with the lamps all put out, the moon sunk, and a thin rain drumming
on the roof a downpouring of immense darkness began. Nothing, it
seemed, could survive the flood, the profusion of darkness which,
creeping in at keyholes and crevices, stole round window blinds, came
into bedrooms, swallowed up here a jug and basin, there a bowl of red
and yellow dahlias, there the sharp edges and firm bulk of a chest of
drawers. Not only was furniture confounded; there was scarcely
anything left of body or mind by which one could say, “This is he” or
“This is she.” Sometimes a hand was raised as if to clutch something or
ward off something, or somebody groaned, or somebody laughed aloud as
if sharing a joke with nothingness.

Nothing stirred in the drawing-room or in the dining-room or on the
staircase. Only through the rusty hinges and swollen sea-moistened
woodwork certain airs, detached from the body of the wind (the house
was ramshackle after all) crept round corners and ventured indoors.
Almost one might imagine them, as they entered the drawing-room
questioning and wondering, toying with the flap of hanging wall-paper,
asking, would it hang much longer, when would it fall? Then smoothly
brushing the walls, they passed on musingly as if asking the red and
yellow roses on the wall-paper whether they would fade, and questioning
(gently, for there was time at their disposal) the torn letters in
the wastepaper basket, the flowers, the books, all of which were now
open to them and asking, Were they allies? Were they enemies? How
long would they endure?

So some random light directing them with its pale footfall upon stair
and mat, from some uncovered star, or wandering ship, or the Lighthouse
even, with its pale footfall upon stair and mat, the little airs
mounted the staircase and nosed round bedroom doors. But here surely,
they must cease. Whatever else may perish and disappear, what lies here
is steadfast. Here one might say to those sliding lights, those
fumbling airs that breathe and bend over the bed itself, here you can
neither touch nor destroy. Upon which, wearily, ghostlily, as if they
had feather-light fingers and the light persistency of feathers, they
would look, once, on the shut eyes, and the loosely clasping fingers,
and fold their garments wearily and disappear. And so, nosing,
rubbing, they went to the window on the staircase, to the servants’
bedrooms, to the boxes in the attics; descending, blanched the apples
on the dining-room table, fumbled the petals of roses, tried the
picture on the easel, brushed the mat and blew a little sand along the
floor. At length, desisting, all ceased together, gathered together,
all sighed together; all together gave off an aimless gust of
lamentation to which some door in the kitchen replied; swung wide;
admitted nothing; and slammed to.

[Here Mr. Carmichael, who was reading Virgil, blew out his candle. It
was past midnight.]


But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the
darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a
faint green quickens, like a turning leaf, in the hollow of the wave.
Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in
store and deals them equally, evenly, with indefatigable fingers.
They lengthen; they darken. Some of them hold aloft clear planets,
plates of brightness. The autumn trees, ravaged as they are, take
on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cool
cathedral caves where gold letters on marble pages describe death in
battle and how bones bleach and burn far away in Indian sands. The
autumn trees gleam in the yellow moonlight, in the light of harvest
moons, the light which mellows the energy of labour, and smooths the
stubble, and brings the wave lapping blue to the shore.

It seemed now as if, touched by human penitence and all its toil,
divine goodness had parted the curtain and displayed behind it, single,
distinct, the hare erect; the wave falling; the boat rocking; which,
did we deserve them, should be ours always. But alas, divine goodness,
twitching the cord, draws the curtain; it does not please him; he
covers his treasures in a drench of hail, and so breaks them, so
confuses them that it seems impossible that their calm should ever
return or that we should ever compose from their fragments a perfect
whole or read in the littered pieces the clear words of truth. For our
penitence deserves a glimpse only; our toil respite only.

The nights now are full of wind and destruction; the trees plunge and
bend and their leaves fly helter skelter until the lawn is plastered
with them and they lie packed in gutters and choke rain pipes and
scatter damp paths. Also the sea tosses itself and breaks itself, and
should any sleeper fancying that he might find on the beach an answer
to his doubts, a sharer of his solitude, throw off his bedclothes and
go down by himself to walk on the sand, no image with semblance of
serving and divine promptitude comes readily to hand bringing the night
to order and making the world reflect the compass of the soul. The
hand dwindles in his hand; the voice bellows in his ear. Almost it
would appear that it is useless in such confusion to ask the night
those questions as to what, and why, and wherefore, which tempt the
sleeper from his bed to seek an answer.

[Mr. Ramsay, stumbling along a passage one dark morning, stretched his
arms out, but Mrs. Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night before,
his arms, though stretched out, remained empty.]]


So with the house empty and the doors locked and the mattresses rolled
round, those stray airs, advance guards of great armies, blustered in,
brushed bare boards, nibbled and fanned, met nothing in bedroom or
drawing-room that wholly resisted them but only hangings that flapped,
wood that creaked, the bare legs of tables, saucepans and china already
furred, tarnished, cracked. What people had shed and left–a pair of
shoes, a shooting cap, some faded skirts and coats in wardrobes–those
alone kept the human shape and in the emptiness indicated how once they
were filled and animated; how once hands were busy with hooks and
buttons; how once the looking-glass had held a face; had held a world
hollowed out in which a figure turned, a hand flashed, the door opened,
in came children rushing and tumbling; and went out again. Now, day
after day, light turned, like a flower reflected in water, its sharp
image on the wall opposite. Only the shadows of the trees, flourishing
in the wind, made obeisance on the wall, and for a moment darkened the
pool in which light reflected itself; or birds, flying, made a soft
spot flutter slowly across the bedroom floor.

So loveliness reigned and stillness, and together made the shape of
loveliness itself, a form from which life had parted; solitary like a
pool at evening, far distant, seen from a train window, vanishing so
quickly that the pool, pale in the evening, is scarcely robbed of its
solitude, though once seen. Loveliness and stillness clasped hands in
the bedroom, and among the shrouded jugs and sheeted chairs even the
prying of the wind, and the soft nose of the clammy sea airs, rubbing,
snuffling, iterating, and reiterating their questions–“Will you fade?
Will you perish?”–scarcely disturbed the peace, the indifference, the
air of pure integrity, as if the question they asked scarcely needed
that they should answer: we remain.

Nothing it seemed could break that image, corrupt that innocence, or
disturb the swaying mantle of silence which, week after week, in the
empty room, wove into itself the falling cries of birds, ships hooting,
the drone and hum of the fields, a dog’s bark, a man’s shout, and
folded them round the house in silence. Once only a board sprang on
the landing; once in the middle of the night with a roar, with a
rupture, as after centuries of quiescence, a rock rends itself from the
mountain and hurtles crashing into the valley, one fold of the shawl
loosened and swung to and fro. Then again peace descended; and the
shadow wavered; light bent to its own image in adoration on the bedroom
wall; and Mrs. McNab, tearing the veil of silence with hands that had
stood in the wash-tub, grinding it with boots that had crunched the
shingle, came as directed to open all windows, and dust the bedrooms.


As she lurched (for she rolled like a ship at sea) and leered (for her
eyes fell on nothing directly, but with a sidelong glance that
deprecated the scorn and anger of the world–she was witless, she knew
it), as she clutched the banisters and hauled herself upstairs and
rolled from room to room, she sang. Rubbing the glass of the long
looking-glass and leering sideways at her swinging figure a sound
issued from her lips–something that had been gay twenty years before
on the stage perhaps, had been hummed and danced to, but now,
coming from the toothless, bonneted, care-taking woman, was robbed
of meaning, was like the voice of witlessness, humour, persistency
itself, trodden down but springing up again, so that as she
lurched, dusting, wiping, she seemed to say how it was one long sorrow
and trouble, how it was getting up and going to bed again, and bringing
things out and putting them away again. It was not easy or snug this
world she had known for close on seventy years. Bowed down she was
with weariness. How long, she asked, creaking and groaning on her
knees under the bed, dusting the boards, how long shall it endure? but
hobbled to her feet again, pulled herself up, and again with her
sidelong leer which slipped and turned aside even from her own face,
and her own sorrows, stood and gaped in the glass, aimlessly smiling,
and began again the old amble and hobble, taking up mats, putting down
china, looking sideways in the glass, as if, after all, she had her
consolations, as if indeed there twined about her dirge some
incorrigible hope. Visions of joy there must have been at the wash-
tub, say with her children (yet two had been base-born and one had
deserted her), at the public-house, drinking; turning over scraps in
her drawers. Some cleavage of the dark there must have been, some
channel in the depths of obscurity through which light enough issued to
twist her face grinning in the glass and make her, turning to her job
again, mumble out the old music hall song. The mystic, the visionary,
walking the beach on a fine night, stirring a puddle, looking at a
stone, asking themselves “What am I,” “What is this?” had suddenly an
answer vouchsafed them: (they could not say what it was) so that they
were warm in the frost and had comfort in the desert. But Mrs. McNab
continued to drink and gossip as before.


The Spring without a leaf to toss, bare and bright like a virgin fierce
in her chastity, scornful in her purity, was laid out on fields wide-
eyed and watchful and entirely careless of what was done or thought by
the beholders. [Prue Ramsay, leaning on her father’s arm, was given in
marriage. What, people said, could have been more fitting? And, they
added, how beautiful she looked!]

As summer neared, as the evenings lengthened, there came to the
wakeful, the hopeful, walking the beach, stirring the pool,
imaginations of the strangest kind–of flesh turned to atoms which
drove before the wind, of stars flashing in their hearts, of cliff,
sea, cloud, and sky brought purposely together to assemble outwardly
the scattered parts of the vision within. In those mirrors, the minds
of men, in those pools of uneasy water, in which clouds for ever turn
and shadows form, dreams persisted, and it was impossible to resist the
strange intimation which every gull, flower, tree, man and woman, and
the white earth itself seemed to declare (but if questioned at once to
withdraw) that good triumphs, happiness prevails, order rules; or to
resist the extraordinary stimulus to range hither and thither in search
of some absolute good, some crystal of intensity, remote from the known
pleasures and familiar virtues, something alien to the processes of
domestic life, single, hard, bright, like a diamond in the sand, which
would render the possessor secure. Moreover, softened and acquiescent,
the spring with her bees humming and gnats dancing threw her cloak
about her, veiled her eyes, averted her head, and among passing shadows
and flights of small rain seemed to have taken upon her a knowledge of
the sorrows of mankind.

[Prue Ramsay died that summer in some illness connected with
childbirth, which was indeed a tragedy, people said, everything, they
said, had promised so well.]

And now in the heat of summer the wind sent its spies about the house
again. Flies wove a web in the sunny rooms; weeds that had grown close
to the glass in the night tapped methodically at the window pane. When
darkness fell, the stroke of the Lighthouse, which had laid itself with
such authority upon the carpet in the darkness, tracing its pattern,
came now in the softer light of spring mixed with moonlight gliding
gently as if it laid its caress and lingered steathily and looked and
came lovingly again. But in the very lull of this loving caress, as
the long stroke leant upon the bed, the rock was rent asunder; another
fold of the shawl loosened; there it hung, and swayed. Through the
short summer nights and the long summer days, when the empty rooms
seemed to murmur with the echoes of the fields and the hum of flies,
the long streamer waved gently, swayed aimlessly; while the sun so
striped and barred the rooms and filled them with yellow haze that Mrs.
McNab, when she broke in and lurched about, dusting, sweeping, looked
like a tropical fish oaring its way through sun-lanced waters.

But slumber and sleep though it might there came later in the summer
ominous sounds like the measured blows of hammers dulled on felt,
which, with their repeated shocks still further loosened the shawl and
cracked the tea-cups. Now and again some glass tinkled in the cupboard
as if a giant voice had shrieked so loud in its agony that tumblers
stood inside a cupboard vibrated too. Then again silence fell; and
then, night after night, and sometimes in plain mid-day when the roses
were bright and light turned on the wall its shape clearly there seemed
to drop into this silence, this indifference, this integrity, the thud
of something falling.

[A shell exploded. Twenty or thirty young men were blown up in France,
among them Andrew Ramsay, whose death, mercifully, was instantaneous.]

At that season those who had gone down to pace the beach and ask of the
sea and sky what message they reported or what vision they affirmed had
to consider among the usual tokens of divine bounty–the sunset on
the sea, the pallor of dawn, the moon rising, fishing-boats against the
moon, and children making mud pies or pelting each other with handfuls
of grass, something out of harmony with this jocundity and this
serenity. There was the silent apparition of an ashen-coloured ship
for instance, come, gone; there was a purplish stain upon the bland
surface of the sea as if something had boiled and bled, invisibly,
beneath. This intrusion into a scene calculated to stir the most
sublime reflections and lead to the most comfortable conclusions stayed
their pacing. It was difficult blandly to overlook them; to abolish
their significance in the landscape; to continue, as one walked by the
sea, to marvel how beauty outside mirrored beauty within.

Did Nature supplement what man advanced? Did she complete what he
began? With equal complacence she saw his misery, his meanness, and
his torture. That dream, of sharing, completing, of finding in
solitude on the beach an answer, was then but a reflection in a mirror,
and the mirror itself was but the surface glassiness which forms in
quiescence when the nobler powers sleep beneath? Impatient, despairing
yet loth to go (for beauty offers her lures, has her consolations), to
pace the beach was impossible; contemplation was unendurable; the
mirror was broken.

[Mr. Carmichael brought out a volume of poems that spring, which had an
unexpected success. The war, people said, had revived their interest
in poetry.]


Night after night, summer and winter, the torment of storms, the arrow-
like stillness of fine (had there been any one to listen) from the
upper rooms of the empty house only gigantic chaos streaked with
lightning could have been heard tumbling and tossing, as the winds and
waves disported themselves like the amorphous bulks of leviathans whose
brows are pierced by no light of reason, and mounted one on top of
another, and lunged and plunged in the darkness or the daylight (for
night and day, month and year ran shapelessly together) in idiot games,
until it seemed as if the universe were battling and tumbling, in brute
confusion and wanton lust aimlessly by itself.

In spring the garden urns, casually filled with wind-blown plants, were
gay as ever. Violets came and daffodils. But the stillness and the
brightness of the day were as strange as the chaos and tumult of night,
with the trees standing there, and the flowers standing there, looking
before them, looking up, yet beholding nothing, eyeless, and so


Thinking no harm, for the family would not come, never again, some
said, and the house would be sold at Michaelmas perhaps, Mrs. McNab
stooped and picked a bunch of flowers to take home with her. She laid
them on the table while she dusted. She was fond of flowers. It was a
pity to let them waste. Suppose the house were sold (she stood arms
akimbo in front of the looking-glass) it would want seeing to–it
would. There it had stood all these years without a soul in it. The
books and things were mouldy, for, what with the war and help being
hard to get, the house had not been cleaned as she could have wished.
It was beyond one person’s strength to get it straight now. She was
too old. Her legs pained her. All those books needed to be laid out
on the grass in the sun; there was plaster fallen in the hall; the
rain-pipe had blocked over the study window and let the water in;
the carpet was ruined quite. But people should come themselves;
they should have sent somebody down to see. For there were clothes
in the cupboards; they had left clothes in all the bedrooms. What
was she to do with them? They had the moth in them–Mrs. Ramsay’s
things. Poor lady! She would never want THEM again. She was dead,
they said; years ago, in London. There was the old grey cloak she wore
gardening (Mrs. McNab fingered it). She could see her, as she came up
the drive with the washing, stooping over her flowers (the garden was a
pitiful sight now, all run to riot, and rabbits scuttling at you out of
the beds)–she could see her with one of the children by her in that
grey cloak. There were boots and shoes; and a brush and comb left on
the dressing-table, for all the world as if she expected to come back
tomorrow. (She had died very sudden at the end, they said.) And once
they had been coming, but had put off coming, what with the war, and
travel being so difficult these days; they had never come all these
years; just sent her money; but never wrote, never came, and expected
to find things as they had left them, ah, dear! Why the dressing-table
drawers were full of things (she pulled them open), handkerchiefs, bits
of ribbon. Yes, she could see Mrs. Ramsay as she came up the drive with
the washing.

“Good-evening, Mrs. McNab,” she would say.

She had a pleasant way with her. The girls all liked her. But, dear,
many things had changed since then (she shut the drawer); many families
had lost their dearest. So she was dead; and Mr. Andrew killed; and
Miss Prue dead too, they said, with her first baby; but everyone had
lost some one these years. Prices had gone up shamefully, and didn’t
come down again neither. She could well remember her in her grey

“Good-evening, Mrs. McNab,” she said, and told cook to keep a plate of
milk soup for her–quite thought she wanted it, carrying that heavy
basket all the way up from town. She could see her now, stooping over
her flowers; and faint and flickering, like a yellow beam or the circle
at the end of a telescope, a lady in a grey cloak, stooping over her
flowers, went wandering over the bedroom wall, up the dressing-table,
across the wash-stand, as Mrs. McNab hobbled and ambled, dusting,
straightening. And cook’s name now? Mildred? Marian?–some name like
that. Ah, she had forgotten–she did forget things. Fiery, like all
red-haired women. Many a laugh they had had. She was always welcome
in the kitchen. She made them laugh, she did. Things were better then
than now.

She sighed; there was too much work for one woman. She wagged her head
this side and that. This had been the nursery. Why, it was all damp in
here; the plaster was falling. Whatever did they want to hang a
beast’s skull there? gone mouldy too. And rats in all the attics. The
rain came in. But they never sent; never came. Some of the locks had
gone, so the doors banged. She didn’t like to be up here at dusk alone
neither. It was too much for one woman, too much, too much. She
creaked, she moaned. She banged the door. She turned the key in the
lock, and left the house alone, shut up, locked.


The house was left; the house was deserted. It was left like a shell
on a sandhill to fill with dry salt grains now that life had left it.
The long night seemed to have set in; the trifling airs, nibbling, the
clammy breaths, fumbling, seemed to have triumphed. The saucepan had
rusted and the mat decayed. Toads had nosed their way in. Idly,
aimlessly, the swaying shawl swung to and fro. A thistle thrust itself
between the tiles in the larder. The swallows nested in the drawing-
roon; the floor was strewn with straw; the plaster fell in shovelfuls;
rafters were laid bare; rats carried off this and that to gnaw behind
the wainscots. Tortoise-shell butterflies burst from the chrysalis and
pattered their life out on the window-pane. Poppies sowed themselves
among the dahlias; the lawn waved with long grass; giant artichokes
towered among roses; a fringed carnation flowered among the cabbages;
while the gentle tapping of a weed at the window had become, on
winters’ nights, a drumming from sturdy trees and thorned briars which
made the whole room green in summer.

What power could now prevent the fertility, the insensibility of
nature? Mrs. McNab’s dream of a lady, of a child, of a plate of milk
soup? It had wavered over the walls like a spot of sunlight and
vanished. She had locked the door; she had gone. It was beyond the
strength of one woman, she said. They never sent. They never wrote.
There were things up there rotting in the drawers–it was a shame to
leave them so, she said. The place was gone to rack and ruin. Only
the Lighthouse beam entered the rooms for a moment, sent its sudden
stare over bed and wall in the darkness of winter, looked with
equanimity at the thistle and the swallow, the rat and the straw.
Nothing now withstood them; nothing said no to them. Let the wind
blow; let the poppy seed itself and the carnation mate with the
cabbage. Let the swallow build in the drawing-room, and the thistle
thrust aside the tiles, and the butterfly sun itself on the faded
chintz of the arm-chairs. Let the broken glass and the china lie out
on the lawn and be tangled over with grass and wild berries.

For now had come that moment, that hesitation when dawn trembles and
night pauses, when if a feather alight in the scale it will be weighed
down. One feather, and the house, sinking, falling, would have turned
and pitched downwards to the depths of darkness. In the ruined room,
picnickers would have lit their kettles; lovers sought shelter there,
lying on the bare boards; and the shepherd stored his dinner on the
bricks, and the tramp slept with his coat round him to ward off the
cold. Then the roof would have fallen; briars and hemlocks would have
blotted out path, step and window; would have grown, unequally but
lustily over the mound, until some trespasser, losing his way, could
have told only by a red-hot poker among the nettles, or a scrap of
china in the hemlock, that here once some one had lived; there had been
a house.

If the feather had fallen, if it had tipped the scale downwards, the
whole house would have plunged to the depths to lie upon the sands of
oblivion. But there was a force working; something not highly
conscious; something that leered, something that lurched; something not
inspired to go about its work with dignified ritual or solemn chanting.
Mrs. McNab groaned; Mrs. Bast creaked. They were old; they were stiff;
their legs ached. They came with their brooms and pails at last; they
got to work. All of a sudden, would Mrs. McNab see that the house was
ready, one of the young ladies wrote: would she get this done; would
she get that done; all in a hurry. They might be coming for the
summer; had left everything to the last; expected to find things as
they had left them. Slowly and painfully, with broom and pail,
mopping, scouring, Mrs. McNab, Mrs. Bast, stayed the corruption and the
rot; rescued from the pool of Time that was fast closing over them now
a basin, now a cupboard; fetched up from oblivion all the Waverley
novels and a tea-set one morning; in the afternoon restored to sun and
air a brass fender and a set of steel fire-irons. George, Mrs. Bast’s
son, caught the rats, and cut the grass. They had the builders.
Attended with the creaking of hinges and the screeching of bolts, the
slamming and banging of damp-swollen woodwork, some rusty laborious
birth seemed to be taking place, as the women, stooping, rising,
groaning, singing, slapped and slammed, upstairs now, now down in the
cellars. Oh, they said, the work!

They drank their tea in the bedroom sometimes, or in the study;
breaking off work at mid-day with the smudge on their faces, and their
old hands clasped and cramped with the broom handles. Flopped on
chairs, they contemplated now the magnificent conquest over taps and
bath; now the more arduous, more partial triumph over long rows of
books, black as ravens once, now white-stained, breeding pale mushrooms
and secreting furtive spiders. Once more, as she felt the tea warm in
her, the telescope fitted itself to Mrs. McNab’s eyes, and in a ring of
light she saw the old gentleman, lean as a rake, wagging his head, as
she came up with the washing, talking to himself, she supposed, on the
lawn. He never noticed her. Some said he was dead; some said she was
dead. Which was it? Mrs. Bast didn’t know for certain either. The
young gentleman was dead. That she was sure. She had read his name in
the papers.

There was the cook now, Mildred, Marian, some such name as that–a red-
headed woman, quick-tempered like all her sort, but kind, too, if you
knew the way with her. Many a laugh they had had together. She saved a
plate of soup for Maggie; a bite of ham, sometimes; whatever was over.
They lived well in those days. They had everything they wanted
(glibly, jovially, with the tea hot in her, she unwound her ball of
memories, sitting in the wicker arm-chair by the nursery fender).
There was always plenty doing, people in the house, twenty staying
sometimes, and washing up till long past midnight.

Mrs. Bast (she had never known them; had lived in Glasgow at that time)
wondered, putting her cup down, whatever they hung that beast’s skull
there for? Shot in foreign parts no doubt.

It might well be, said Mrs. McNab, wantoning on with her memories; they
had friends in eastern countries; gentlemen staying there, ladies in
evening dress; she had seen them once through the dining-room door all
sitting at dinner. Twenty she dared say all in their jewellery, and
she asked to stay help wash up, might be till after midnight.

Ah, said Mrs. Bast, they’d find it changed. She leant out of the
window. She watched her son George scything the grass. They might
well ask, what had been done to it? seeing how old Kennedy was
supposed to have charge of it, and then his leg got so bad after he
fell from the cart; and perhaps then no one for a year, or the better
part of one; and then Davie Macdonald, and seeds might be sent, but who
should say if they were ever planted? They’d find it changed.

She watched her son scything. He was a great one for work–one of
those quiet ones. Well they must be getting along with the cupboards,
she supposed. They hauled themselves up.

At last, after days of labour within, of cutting and digging without,
dusters were flicked from the windows, the windows were shut to, keys
were turned all over the house; the front door was banged; it was

And now as if the cleaning and the scrubbing and the scything and the
mowing had drowned it there rose that half-heard melody, that
intermittent music which the ear half catches but lets fall; a bark, a
bleat; irregular, intermittent, yet somehow related; the hum of an
insect, the tremor of cut grass, disevered yet somehow belonging; the
jar of a dorbeetle, the squeak of a wheel, loud, low, but mysteriously
related; which the ear strains to bring together and is always on the
verge of harmonising, but they are never quite heard, never fully
harmonised, and at last, in the evening, one after another the sounds
die out, and the harmony falters, and silence falls. With the sunset
sharpness was lost, and like mist rising, quiet rose, quiet spread,
the wind settled; loosely the world shook itself down to sleep, darkly
here without a light to it, save what came green suffused through
leaves, or pale on the white flowers in the bed by the window.

[Lily Briscoe had her bag carried up to the house late one evening in
September. Mr. Carmichael came by the same train.]


Then indeed peace had come. Messages of peace breathed from the sea to
the shore. Never to break its sleep any more, to lull it rather more
deeply to rest, and whatever the dreamers dreamt holily, dreamt wisely,
to confirm–what else was it murmuring–as Lily Briscoe laid her head
on the pillow in the clean still room and heard the sea. Through the
open window the voice of the beauty of the world came murmuring, too
softly to hear exactly what it said–but what mattered if the meaning
were plain? entreating the sleepers (the house was full again; Mrs.
Beckwith was staying there, also Mr. Carmichael), if they would not
actually come down to the beach itself at least to lift the blind and
look out. They would see then night flowing down in purple; his head
crowned; his sceptre jewelled; and how in his eyes a child might look.
And if they still faltered (Lily was tired out with travelling and
slept almost at once; but Mr. Carmichael read a book by candlelight), if
they still said no, that it was vapour, this splendour of his, and the
dew had more power than he, and they preferred sleeping; gently then
without complaint, or argument, the voice would sing its song. Gently
the waves would break (Lily heard them in her sleep); tenderly the
light fell (it seemed to come through her eyelids). And it all looked,
Mr. Carmichael thought, shutting his book, falling asleep, much as it
used to look.

Indeed the voice might resume, as the curtains of dark wrapped
themselves over the house, over Mrs. Beckwith, Mr. Carmichael, and Lily
Briscoe so that they lay with several folds of blackness on their eyes,
why not accept this, be content with this, acquiesce and resign? The
sigh of all the seas breaking in measure round the isles soothed them;
the night wrapped them; nothing broke their sleep, until, the birds
beginning and the dawn weaving their thin voices in to its whiteness, a
cart grinding, a dog somewhere barking, the sun lifted the curtains,
broke the veil on their eyes, and Lily Briscoe stirring in her sleep.
She clutched at her blankets as a faller clutches at the turf on the
edge of a cliff. Her eyes opened wide. Here she was again, she
thought, sitting bold upright in bed. Awake.

Part- Three