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To the Lighthouse Main Text Part-Three (The Lighthouse)

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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

THE LIGHTHOUSE

1

What does it mean then, what can it all mean? Lily Briscoe asked
herself, wondering whether, since she had been left alone, it behoved
her to go to the kitchen to fetch another cup of coffee or wait here.
What does it mean?–a catchword that was, caught up from some book,
fitting her thought loosely, for she could not, this first morning with
the Ramsays, contract her feelings, could only make a phrase resound to
cover the blankness of her mind until these vapours had shrunk. For
really, what did she feel, come back after all these years and Mrs.
Ramsay dead? Nothing, nothing–nothing that she could express at all.

She had come late last night when it was all mysterious, dark. Now she
was awake, at her old place at the breakfast table, but alone. It was
very early too, not yet eight. There was this expedition–they were
going to the Lighthouse, Mr. Ramsay, Cam, and James. They should have
gone already–they had to catch the tide or something. And Cam was
not ready and James was not ready and Nancy had forgotten to order the
sandwiches and Mr. Ramsay had lost his temper and banged out of the
room.

“What’s the use of going now?” he had stormed.

Nancy had vanished. There he was, marching up and down the terrace in
a rage. One seemed to hear doors slamming and voices calling all over
the house. Now Nancy burst in, and asked, looking round the room, in a
queer half dazed, half desperate way, “What does one send to the
Lighthouse?” as if she were forcing herself to do what she despaired of
ever being able to do.

What does one send to the Lighthouse indeed! At any other time Lily
could have suggested reasonably tea, tobacco, newspapers. But this
morning everything seemed so extraordinarily queer that a question like
Nancy’s–What does one send to the Lighthouse?–opened doors in one’s
mind that went banging and swinging to and fro and made one keep
asking, in a stupefied gape, What does one send? What does one do?
Why is one sitting here, after all?

Sitting alone (for Nancy went out again) among the clean cups at the
long table, she felt cut off from other people, and able only to go on
watching, asking, wondering. The house, the place, the morning, all
seemed strangers to her. She had no attachment here, she felt, no
relations with it, anything might happen, and whatever did happen, a
step outside, a voice calling (“It’s not in the cupboard; it’s on the
landing,” some one cried), was a question, as if the link that usually
bound things together had been cut, and they floated up here, down
there, off, anyhow. How aimless it was,, how chaotic, how unreal it
was, she thought, looking at her empty coffee cup. Mrs. Ramsay dead;
Andrew killed; Prue dead too–repeat it as she might, it roused no
feeling in her. And we all get together in a house like this on a
morning like this, she said, looking out of the window. It was a
beautiful still day.

2

Suddenly Mr. Ramsay raised his head as he passed and looked straight at
her, with his distraught wild gaze which was yet so penetrating, as if
he saw you, for one second, for the first time, for ever; and she
pretended to drink out of her empty coffee cup so as to escape him–to
escape his demand on her, to put aside a moment longer that imperious
need. And he shook his head at her, and strode on (“Alone” she heard
him say, “Perished” she heard him say) and like everything else this
strange morning the words became symbols, wrote themselves all over the
grey-green walls. If only she could put them together, she felt, write
them out in some sentence, then she would have got at the truth of
things. Old Mr. Carmichael came padding softly in, fetched his coffee,
took his cup and made off to sit in the sun. The extraordinary
unreality was frightening; but it was also exciting. Going to the
Lighthouse. But what does one send to the Lighthouse? Perished. Alone.
The grey-green light on the wall opposite. The empty places. Such were
some of the parts, but how bring them together? she asked. As if any
interruption would break the frail shape she was building on the table
she turned her back to the window lest Mr. Ramsay should see her. She
must escape somewhere, be alone somewhere. Suddenly she remembered.
When she had sat there last ten years ago there had been a little sprig
or leaf pattern on the table-cloth, which she had looked at in a moment
of revelation. There had been a problem about a foreground of a
picture. Move the tree to the middle, she had said. She had never
finished that picture. She would paint that picture now. It had been
knocking about in her mind all these years. Where were her paints, she
wondered? Her paints, yes. She had left them in the hall last night.
She would start at once. She got up quickly, before Mr. Ramsay turned.

She fetched herself a chair. She pitched her easel with her precise
old-maidish movements on the edge of the lawn, not too close to Mr.
Carmichael, but close enough for his protection. Yes, it must have
been precisely here that she had stood ten years ago. There was the
wall; the hedge; the tree. The question was of some relation between
those masses. She had borne it in her mind all these years. It seemed
as if the solution had come to her: she knew now what she wanted to do.

But with Mr. Ramsay bearing down on her, she could do nothing. Every
time he approached–he was walking up and down the terrace–ruin
approached, chaos approached. She could not paint. She stooped, she
turned; she took up this rag; she squeezed that tube. But all she did
was to ward him off a moment. He made it impossible for her to do
anything. For if she gave him the least chance, if he saw her
disengaged a moment, looking his way a moment, he would be on her,
saying, as he had said last night, “You find us much changed.” Last
night he had got up and stopped before her, and said that. Dumb and
staring though they had all sat, the six children whom they used to
call after the Kings and Queens of England–the Red, the Fair, the
Wicked, the Ruthless–she felt how they raged under it. Kind old Mrs.
Beckwith said something sensible. But it was a house full of unrelated
passions–she had felt that all the evening. And on top of this chaos
Mr. Ramsay got up, pressed her hand, and said: “You will find us much
changed” and none of them had moved or had spoken; but had sat there as
if they were forced to let him say it. Only James (certainly the
Sullen) scowled at the lamp; and Cam screwed her handkerchief round her
finger. Then he reminded them that they were going to the Lighthouse
tomorrow. They must be ready, in the hall, on the stroke of half-past
seven. Then, with his hand on the door, he stopped; he turned upon
them. Did they not want to go? he demanded. Had they dared say
No (he had some reason for wanting it) he would have flung himself
tragically backwards into the bitter waters of depair. Such a
gift he had for gesture. He looked like a king in exile. Doggedly
James said yes. Cam stumbled more wretchedly. Yes, oh, yes, they’d
both be ready, they said. And it struck her, this was tragedy–not
palls, dust, and the shroud; but children coerced, their spirits
subdued. James was sixteen, Cam, seventeen, perhaps. She had looked
round for some one who was not there, for Mrs. Ramsay, presumably. But
there was only kind Mrs. Beckwith turning over her sketches under the
lamp. Then, being tired, her mind still rising and falling with the
sea, the taste and smell that places have after long absence possessing
her, the candles wavering in her eyes, she had lost herself and gone
under. It was a wonderful night, starlit; the waves sounded as they
went upstairs; the moon surprised them, enormous, pale, as they passed
the staircase window. She had slept at once.

She set her clean canvas firmly upon the easel, as a barrier, frail,
but she hoped sufficiently substantial to ward off Mr. Ramsay and his
exactingness. She did her best to look, when his back was turned, at
her picture; that line there, that mass there. But it was out of the
question. Let him be fifty feet away, let him not even speak to you,
let him not even see you, he permeated, he prevailed, he imposed
himself. He changed everything. She could not see the colour; she
could not see the lines; even with his back turned to her, she could
only think, But he’ll be down on me in a moment, demanding–something
she felt she could not give him. She rejected one brush; she chose
another. When would those children come? When would they all be off?
she fidgeted. That man, she thought, her anger rising in her, never
gave; that man took. She, on the other hand, would be forced to give.
Mrs. Ramsay had given. Giving, giving, giving, she had died–and had
left all this. Really, she was angry with Mrs. Ramsay. With the brush
slightly trembling in her fingers she looked at the hedge, the step,
the wall. It was all Mrs. Ramsay’s doing. She was dead. Here was Lily,
at forty-four, wasting her time, unable to do a thing, standing there,
playing at painting, playing at the one thing one did not play at, and
it was all Mrs. Ramsay’s fault. She was dead. The step where she used
to sit was empty. She was dead.

But why repeat this over and over again? Why be always trying to bring
up some feeling she had not got? There was a kind of blasphemy in it.
It was all dry: all withered: all spent. They ought not to have asked
her; she ought not to have come. One can’t waste one’s time at forty-
four, she thought. She hated playing at painting. A brush, the one
dependable thing in a world of strife, ruin, chaos–that one should not
play with, knowingly even: she detested it. But he made her. You
shan’t touch your canvas, he seemed to say, bearing down on her, till
you’ve given me what I want of you. Here he was, close upon her again,
greedy, distraught. Well, thought Lily in despair, letting her right
hand fall at her side, it would be simpler then to have it over.
Surely, she could imitate from recollection the glow, the rhapsody, the
self-surrender, she had seen on so many women’s faces (on Mrs. Ramsay’s,
for instance) when on some occasion like this they blazed up–she could
remember the look on Mrs. Ramsay’s face–into a rapture of sympathy, of
delight in the reward they had, which, though the reason of it escaped
her, evidently conferred on them the most supreme bliss of which human
nature was capable. Here he was, stopped by her side. She would give
him what she could.

3

She seemed to have shrivelled slightly, he thought. She looked a little
skimpy, wispy; but not unattractive. He liked her. There had been some
talk of her marrying William Bankes once, but nothing had come of it.
His wife had been fond of her. He had been a little out of temper too
at breakfast. And then, and then–this was one of those moments when
an enormous need urged him, without being conscious what it was, to
approach any woman, to force them, he did not care how, his need was so
great, to give him what he wanted: sympathy.

Was anybody looking after her? he said. Had she everything she
wanted?

“Oh, thanks, everything,” said Lily Briscoe nervously. No; she could
not do it. She ought to have floated off instantly upon some wave of
sympathetic expansion: the pressure on her was tremendous. But she
remained stuck. There was an awful pause. They both looked at the
sea. Why, thought Mr. Ramsay, should she look at the sea when I am
here? She hoped it would be calm enough for them to land at the
Lighthouse, she said. The Lighthouse! The Lighthouse! What’s that
got to do with it? he thought impatiently. Instantly, with the force
of some primeval gust (for really he could not restrain himself any
longer), there issued from him such a groan that any other woman in the
whole world would have done something, said something–all except
myself, thought Lily, girding at herself bitterly, who am not a woman,
but a peevish, ill-tempered, dried-up old maid, presumably.

[Mr. Ramsay sighed to the full. He waited. Was she not going to say
anything? Did she not see what he wanted from her? Then he said he
had a particular reason for wanting to go to the Lighthouse. His
wife used to send the men things. There was a poor boy with a
tuberculous hip, the lightkeeper’s son. He sighed profoundly.
He sighed significantly. All Lily wished was that this enormous flood
of grief, this insatiable hunger for sympathy, this demand that she
should surrender herself up to him entirely, and even so he had sorrows
enough to keep her supplied for ever, should leave her, should be
diverted (she kept looking at the house, hoping for an interruption)
before it swept her down in its flow.

“Such expeditions,” said Mr. Ramsay, scraping the ground with his toe,
“are very painful.” Still Lily said nothing. (She is a stock, she is a
stone, he said to himself.) “They are very exhausting,” he said,
looking, with a sickly look that nauseated her (he was acting, she
felt, this great man was dramatising himself), at his beautiful hands.
It was horrible, it was indecent. Would they never come, she asked,
for she could not sustain this enormous weight of sorrow, support these
heavy draperies of grief (he had assumed a pose of extreme
decreptitude; he even tottered a little as he stood there) a moment
longer.

Still she could say nothing; the whole horizon seemed swept bare of
objects to talk about; could only feel, amazedly, as Mr. Ramsay stood
there, how his gaze seemed to fall dolefully over the sunny grass and
discolour it, and cast over the rubicund, drowsy, entirely contented
figure of Mr. Carmichael, reading a French novel on a deck-chair, a veil
of crape, as if such an existence, flaunting its prosperity in a world
of woe, were enough to provoke the most dismal thoughts of all. Look
at him, he seemed to be saying, look at me; and indeed, all the time he
was feeling, Think of me, think of me. Ah, could that bulk only be
wafted alongside of them, Lily wished; had she only pitched her easel a
yard or two closer to him; a man, any man, would staunch this effusion,
would stop these lamentations. A woman, she had provoked this horror;
a woman, she should have known how to deal with it. It was immensely
to her discredit, sexually, to stand there dumb. One said–what did
one say?–Oh, Mr. Ramsay! Dear Mr. Ramsay! That was what that kind old
lady who sketched, Mrs. Beckwith, would have said instantly, and
rightly. But, no. They stood there, isolated from the rest of the
world. His immense self-pity, his demand for sympathy poured and
spread itself in pools at ther feet, and all she did, miserable sinner
that she was, was to draw her skirts a little closer round her ankles,
lest she should get wet. In complete silence she stood there, grasping
her paint brush.

Heaven could never be sufficiently praised! She heard sounds in the
house. James and Cam must be coming. But Mr. Ramsay, as if he knew
that his time ran short, exerted upon her solitary figure the immense
pressure of his concentrated woe; his age; his frailty: his desolation;
when suddenly, tossing his head impatiently, in his annoyance–for
after all, what woman could resist him?–he noticed that his boot-laces
were untied. Remarkable boots they were too, Lily thought, looking
down at them: sculptured; colossal; like everything that Mr. Ramsay
wore, from his frayed tie to his half-buttoned waistcoat, his own
indisputably. She could see them walking to his room of their own
accord, expressive in his absence of pathos, surliness, ill-temper,
charm.

“What beautiful boots!” she exclaimed. She was ashamed of herself. To
praise his boots when he asked her to solace his soul; when he had
shown her his bleeding hands, his lacerated heart, and asked her to
pity them, then to say, cheerfully, “Ah, but what beautiful boots you
wear!” deserved, she knew, and she looked up expecting to get it in one
of his sudden roars of ill-temper complete annihilation.

Instead, Mr. Ramsay smiled. His pall, his draperies, his infirmities
fell from him. Ah, yes, he said, holding his foot up for her to look
at, they were first-rate boots. There was only one man in England who
could make boots like that. Boots are among the chief curses of
mankind, he said. “Bootmakers make it their business,” he exclaimed,
“to cripple and torture the human foot.” They are also the most
obstinate and perverse of mankind. It had taken him the best part of
his youth to get boots made as they should be made. He would have her
observe (he lifted his right foot and then his left) that she had never
seen boots made quite that shape before. They were made of the finest
leather in the world, also. Most leather was mere brown paper and
cardboard. He looked complacently at his foot, still held in the air.
They had reached, she felt, a sunny island where peace dwelt, sanity
reigned and the sun for ever shone, the blessed island of good boots.
Her heart warmed to him. “Now let me see if you can tie a knot,” he
said. He poohpoohed her feeble system. He showed her his own
invention. Once you tied it, it never came undone. Three times he
knotted her shoe; three times he unknotted it.

Why, at this completely inappropriate moment, when he was stooping over
her shoe, should she be so tormented with sympathy for him that, as she
stooped too, the blood rushed to her face, and, thinking of her
callousness (she had called him a play-actor) she felt her eyes swell
and tingle with tears? Thus occupied he seemed to her a figure of
infinite pathos. He tied knots. He bought boots. There was no helping
Mr. Ramsay on the journey he was going. But now just as she wished to
say something, could have said something, perhaps, here they were–Cam
and James. They appeared on the terrace. They came, lagging, side by
side, a serious, melancholy couple.

But why was it like THAT that they came? She could not help feeling
annoyed with them; they might have come more cheerfully; they might
have given him what, now that they were off, she would not have the
chance of giving him. For she felt a sudden emptiness; a frustration.
Her feeling had come too late; there it was ready; but he no longer
needed it. He had become a very distinguished, elderly man, who had no
need of her whatsoever. She felt snubbed. He slung a knapsack round
his shoulders. He shared out the parcels–there were a number of them,
ill tied in brown paper. He sent Cam for a cloak. He had all the
appearance of a leader making ready for an expedition. Then, wheeling
about, he led the way with his firm military tread, in those wonderful
boots, carrying brown paper parcels, down the path, his children
following him. They looked, she thought, as if fate had devoted them
to some stern enterprise, and they went to it, still young enough to be
drawn acquiescent in their father’s wake, obediently, but with a pallor
in their eyes which made her feel that they suffered something beyond
their years in silence. So they passed the edge of the lawn, and it
seemed to Lily that she watched a procession go, drawn on by some
stress of common feeling which made it, faltering and flagging as it
was, a little company bound together and strangely impressive to her.
Politely, but very distantly, Mr. Ramsay raised his hand and saluted her
as they passed.

But what a face, she thought, immediately finding the sympathy which
she had not been asked to give troubling her for expression. What had
made it like that? Thinking, night after night, she supposed–about
the reality of kitchen tables, she added, remembering the symbol which
in her vagueness as to what Mr. Ramsay did think about Andrew had given
her. (He had been killed by the splinter of a shell instantly, she
bethought her.) The kitchen table was something visionary, austere;
something bare, hard, not ornamental. There was no colour to it; it
was all edges and angles; it was uncompromisingly plain. But Mr. Ramsay
kept always his eyes fixed upon it, never allowed himself to be
distracted or deluded, until his face became worn too and ascetic and
partook of this unornamented beauty which so deeply impressed her.
Then, she recalled (standing where he had left her, holding her brush),
worries had fretted it–not so nobly. He must have had his doubts
about that table, she supposed; whether the table was a real table;
whether it was worth the time he gave to it; whether he was able after
all to find it. He had had doubts, she felt, or he would have asked
less of people. That was what they talked about late at night
sometimes, she suspected; and then next day Mrs. Ramsay looked tired,
and Lily flew into a rage with him over some absurd little thing. But
now he had nobody to talk to about that table, or his boots, or his
knots; and he was like a lion seeking whom he could devour, and his
face had that touch of desperation, of exaggeration in it which alarmed
her, and made her pull her skirts about her. And then, she recalled,
there was that sudden revivification, that sudden flare (when she
praised his boots), that sudden recovery of vitality and interest in
ordinary human things, which too passed and changed (for he was always
changing, and hid nothing) into that other final phase which was new to
her and had, she owned, made herself ashamed of her own irritability,
when it seemed as if he had shed worries and ambitions, and the hope of
sympathy and the desire for praise, had entered some other region, was
drawn on, as if by curiosity, in dumb colloquy, whether with himself or
another, at the head of that little procession out of one’s range. An
extraordinary face! The gate banged.

4

So they’re gone, she thought, sighing with relief and disappointment.
Her sympathy seemed to be cast back on her, like a bramble sprung
across her face. She felt curiously divided, as if one part of her
were drawn out there–it was a still day, hazy; the Lighthouse looked
this morning at an immense distance; the other had fixed itself
doggedly, solidly, here on the lawn. She saw her canvas as if it had
floated up and placed itself white and uncompromising directly before
her. It seemed to rebuke her with its cold stare for all this hurry
and agitation; this folly and waste of emotion; it drastically recalled
her and spread through her mind first a peace, as her disorderly
sensations (he had gone and she had been so sorry for him and she had
said nothing) trooped off the field; and then, emptiness. She looked
blankly at the canvas, with its uncompromising white stare; from the
canvas to the garden. There was something (she stood screwing up her
little Chinese eyes in her small puckered face), something she
remembered in the relations of those lines cutting across, slicing
down, and in the mass of the hedge with its green cave of blues and
browns, which had stayed in her mind; which had tied a knot in her mind
so that at odds and ends of time, involuntarily, as she walked along
the Brompton Road, as she brushed her hair, she found herself painting
that picture, passing her eye over it, and untying the knot in
imagination. But there was all the difference in the world between
this planning airily away from the canvas and actually taking her brush
and making the first mark.

She had taken the wrong brush in her agitation at Mr. Ramsay’s presence,
and her easel, rammed into the earth so nervously, was at the wrong
angle. And now that she had ut that right, and in so doing had subdued
the impertinences and irrelevances that plucked her attention and made
her remember how she was such and such a person, had such and such
relations to people, she took her hand and raised her brush. For a
moment it stayed trembling in a painful but exciting ecstasy in the
air. Where to begin?–that was the question at what point to make
the first mark? One line placed on the canvas committed her to
innumerable risks, to frequent and irrevocable decisions. All that in
idea seemed simple became in practice immediately complex; as the waves
shape themselves symmetrically from the cliff top, but to the swimmer
among them are divided by steep gulfs, and foaming crests. Still the
risk must be run; the mark made.

With a curious physical sensation, as if she were urged forward and at
the same time must hold herself back, she made her first quick decisive
stroke. The brush descended. It flickered brown over the white canvas;
it left a running mark. A second time she did it–a third time. And
so pausing and so flickering, she attained a dancing rhythmical
movement, as if the pauses were one part of the rhythm and the strokes
another, and all were related; and so, lightly and swiftly pausing,
striking, she scored her canvas with brown running nervous lines which
had no sooner settled there than they enclosed ( she felt it looming
out at her) a space. Down in the hollow of one wave she saw the next
wave towering higher and higher above her. For what could be more
formidable than that space? Here she was again, she thought, stepping
back to look at it, drawn out of gossip, out of living, out of
community with people into the presence of this formidable ancient
enemy of hers–this other thing, this truth, this reality, which
suddenly laid hands on her, emerged stark at the back of appearances
and commanded her attention. She was half unwilling, half reluctant.
Why always be drawn out and haled away? Why not left in peace, to
talk to Mr. Carmichael on the lawn? It was an exacting form of
intercourse anyhow. Other worshipful objects were content with
worship; men, women, God, all let one kneel prostrate; but this
form, were it only the shape of a white lamp-shade looming on a
wicker table, roused one to perpetual combat, challenged one to a fight
in which one was bound to be worsted. Always (it was in her nature, or
in her sex, she did not know which) before she exchanged the fluidity
of life for the concentration of painting she had a few moments of
nakedness when she seemed like an unborn soul, a soul reft of body,
hesitating on some windy pinnacle and exposed without protection to all
the blasts of doubt. Why then did she do it? She looked at the
canvas, lightly scored with running lines. It would be hung in the
servants’ bedrooms. It would be rolled up and stuffed under a sofa.
What was the good of doing it then, and she heard some voice saying she
couldn’t paint, saying she couldn’t create, as if she were caught up in
one of those habitual currents in which after a certain time experience
forms in the mind, so that one repeats words without being aware any
longer who originally spoke them.

Can’t paint, can’t write, she murmured monotonously, anxiously
considering what her plan of attack should be. For the mass loomed
before her; it protruded; she felt it pressing on her eyeballs. Then,
as if some juice necessary for the lubrication of her faculties were
spontaneously squirted, she began precariously dipping among the blues
and umbers, moving her brush hither and thither, but it was now heavier
and went slower, as if it had fallen in with some rhythm which was
dictated to her (she kept looking at the hedge, at the canvas) by what
she rhythm was strong enough to bear her along with it on its current.
Certainly she was losing consciousness of outer things. And as she
lost consciousness of outer things, and her name and her personality
and her appearance, and whether Mr. Carmichael was there or not, her
mind kept throwing up from its depths, scenes, and names, and sayings,
and memories and ideas, like a fountain spurting over that glaring,
hideously difficult white space, while she modelled it with greens and
blues.

Charles Tansley used to say that, she remembered, women can’t paint,
can’t write. Coming up behind her, he had stood close beside her, a
thing she hated, as she painted her on this very spot. “Shag tobacco,”
he said, “fivepence an ounce,” parading his poverty, his principles.
(But the war had drawn the sting of her femininity. Poor devils, one
thought, poor devils, of both sexes.) He was always carrying a book
about under his arm–a purple book. He “worked.” He sat, she
remembered, working in a blaze of sun. At dinner he would sit right in
the middle of the view. But after all, she reflected, there was the
scene on the beach. One must remember that. It was a windy morning.
They had all gone down to the beach. Mrs. Ramsay sat down and wrote
letters by a rock. She wrote and wrote. “Oh,” she said, looking up at
something floating in the sea, “is it a lobster pot? Is it an upturned
boat?” She was so short-sighted that she could not see, and then
Charles Tansley became as nice as he could possibly be. He began
playing ducks and drakes. They chose little flat black stones and sent
them skipping over the waves. Every now and then Mrs. Ramsay looked up
over her spectacles and laughed at them. What they said she could not
remember, but only she and Charles throwing stones and getting on very
well all of a sudden and Mrs. Ramsay watching them. She was highly
conscious of that. Mrs. Ramsay, she thought, stepping back and screwing
up her eyes. (It must have altered the design a good deal when she was
sitting on the step with James. There must have been a shadow.) When
she thought of herself and Charles throwing ducks and drakes and of the
whole scene on the beach, it seemed to depend somehow upon Mrs. Ramsay
sitting under the rock, with a pad on her knee, writing letters. (She
wrote innumerable letters, and sometimes the wind took them and she and
Charles just saved a page from the sea.) But what a power was in the
human soul! she thought. That woman sitting there writing under the
rock resolved everything into simplicity; made these angers,
irritations fall off like old rags; she brought together this and that
and then this, and so made out of that miserable silliness and spite
(she and Charles squabbling, sparring, had been silly and spiteful)
something–this scene on the beach for example, this moment of
friendship and liking–which survived, after all these years complete,
so that she dipped into it to re-fashion her memory of him, and there
it stayed in the mind affecting one almost like a work of art.

“Like a work of art,” she repeated, looking from her canvas to the
drawing-room steps and back again. She must rest for a moment. And,
resting, looking from one to the other vaguely, the old question which
traversed the sky of the soul perpetually, the vast, the general
question which was apt to particularise itself at such moments as
these, when she released faculties that had been on the strain, stood
over her, paused over her, darkened over her. What is the meaning of
life? That was all–a simple question; one that tended to close in on
one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great
revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily
miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark;
here was one. This, that, and the other; herself and Charles Tansley
and the breaking wave; Mrs. Ramsay bringing them together; Mrs. Ramsay
saying, “Life stand still here”; Mrs. Ramsay making of the moment
something permanent (as in another sphere Lily herself tried to
make of the moment something permanent)–this was of the nature
of a revelation. In the midst of chaos there was shape; this eternal
passing and flowing (she looked at the clouds going and the leaves
shaking) was struck into stability. Life stand still here, Mrs. Ramsay
said. “Mrs. Ramsay! Mrs. Ramsay!” she repeated. She owed it all to her.

All was silence. Nobody seemed yet to be stirring in the house. She
looked at it there sleeping in the early sunlight with its windows
green and blue with the reflected leaves. The faint thought she was
thinking of Mrs. Ramsay seemed in consonance with this quiet house; this
smoke; this fine early morning air. Faint and unreal, it was amazingly
pure and exciting. She hoped nobody would open the window or come out
of the house, but that she might be left alone to go on thinking, to go
on painting. She turned to her canvas. But impelled by some curiosity,
driven by the discomfort of the sympathy which she held undischarged,
she walked a pace or so to the end of the lawn to see whether, down
there on the beach, she could see that little company setting sail.
Down there among the little boats which floated, some with their sails
furled, some slowly, for it was very calm moving away, there was one
rather apart from the others. The sail was even now being hoisted.
She decided that there in that very distant and entirely silent little
boat Mr. Ramsay was sitting with Cam and James. Now they had got the
sail up; now after a little flagging and silence, she watched the boat
take its way with deliberation past the other boats out to sea.

5

The sails flapped over their heads. The water chuckled and slapped the
sides of the boat, which drowsed motionless in the sun. Now and then
the sails rippled with a little breeze in them, but the ripple ran over
them and ceased. The boat made no motion at all. Mr. Ramsay sat in the
middle of the boat. He would be impatient in a moment, James thought,
and Cam thought, looking at her father, who sat in the middle of the
boat between them (James steered; Cam sat alone in the bow) with his
legs tightly curled. He hated hanging about. Sure enough, after
fidgeting a second or two, he said something sharp to Macalister’s boy,
who got out his oars and began to row. But their father, they knew,
would never be content until they were flying along. He would keep
looking for a breeze, fidgeting, saying things under his breath, which
Macalister and and Macalister’s boy would overhear, and they would both
be made horribly uncomfortable. He had made them come. He had forced
them to come. In their anger they hoped that the breeze would never
rise, that he might be thwarted in every possible way, since he had
forced them to come against their wills.

All the way down to the beach they had lagged behind together, though
he bade them “Walk up, walk up,” without speaking. Their heads were
bent down, their heads were pressed down by some remorseless gale.
Speak to him they could not. They must come; they must follow. They
must walk behind him carrying brown paper parcels. But they vowed, in
silence, as they walked, to stand by each other and carry out the great
compact–to resist tyranny to the death. So there they would sit, one
at one end of the boat, one at the other, in silence. They would say
nothing, only look at him now and then where he sat with his legs
twisted, frowning and fidgeting, and pishing and pshawing and muttering
things to himself, and waiting impatiently for a breeze. And they
hoped it would be calm. They hoped he would be thwarted. They hoped
the whole expedition would fail, and they would have to put back, with
their parcels, to the beach.

But now, when Macalister’s boy had rowed a little way out, the sails
slowly swung round, the boat quickened itself, flattened itself, and
shot off. Instantly, as if some great strain had been relieved, Mr.
Ramsay uncurled his legs, took out his tobacco pouch, handed it with a
little grunt to Macalister, and felt, they knew, for all they suffered,
perfectly content. Now they would sail on for hours like this, and Mr.
Ramsay would ask old Macalister a question–about the great storm
last winter probably–and old Macalister would answer it, and they
would puff their pipes together, and Macalister would take a tarry rope
in his fingers, tying or untying some knot, and the boy would fish, and
never say a word to any one. James would be forced to keep his eye all
the time on the sail. For if he forgot, then the sail puckered and
shivered, and the boat slackened, and Mr. Ramsay would say sharply,
“Look out! Look out!” and old Macalister would turn slowly on his
seat. So they heard Mr. Ramsay asking some question about the great
storm at Christmas. “She comes driving round the point,” old
Macalister said, describing the great storm last Christmas, when ten
ships had been driven into the bay for shelter, and he had seen “one
there, one there, one there” (he pointed slowly round the bay. Mr.
Ramsay followed him, turning his head). He had seen four men clinging
to the mast. Then she was gone. “And at last we shoved her off,” he
went on (but in their anger and their silence they only caught a word
here and there, sitting at opposite ends of the boat, united by their
compact to fight tyranny to the death). At last they had shoved
her off, they had launched the lifeboat, and they had got her out
past the point–Macalister told the story; and though they only
caught a word here and there, they were conscious all the time of their
father–how he leant forward, how he brought his voice into tune with
Macalister’s voice; how, puffing at his pipe, and looking there and
there where Macalister pointed, he relished the thought of the storm
and the dark night and the fishermen striving there. He liked that men
should labour and sweat on the windy beach at night; pitting muscle and
brain against the waves and the wind; he liked men to work like that,
and women to keep house, and sit beside sleeping children indoors,
while men were drowned, out there in a storm. So James could tell, so
Cam could tell (they looked at him, they looked at each other), from
his toss and his vigilance and the ring in his voice, and the little
tinge of Scottish accent which came into his voice, making him seem
like a peasant himself, as he questioned Macalister about the eleven
ships that had been driven into the bay in a storm. Three had sunk.

He looked proudly where Macalister pointed; and Cam thought, feeling
proud of him without knowing quite why, had he been there he would have
launched the lifeboat, he would have reached the wreck, Cam thought.
He was so brave, he was so adventurous, Cam thought. But she
remembered. There was the compact; to resist tyranny to the death.
Their grievance weighed them down. They had been forced; they had been
bidden. He had borne them down once more with his gloom and his
authority, making them do his bidding, on this fine morning, come,
because he wished it, carrying these parcels, to the Lighthouse; take
part in these rites he went through for his own pleasure in memory of
dead people, which they hated, so that they lagged after him, all
the pleasure of the day was spoilt.

Yes, the breeze was freshening. The boat was leaning, the water was
sliced sharply and fell away in green cascades, in bubbles, in
cataracts. Cam looked down into the foam, into the sea with all its
treasure in it, and its speed hypnotised her, and the tie between her
and James sagged a little. It slackened a little. She began to think,
How fast it goes. Where are we going? and the movement hypnotised her,
while James, with his eye fixed on the sail and on the horizon, steered
grimly. But he began to think as he steered that he might escape; he
might be quit of it all. They might land somewhere; and be free then.
Both of them, looking at each other for a moment, had a sense of escape
and exaltation, what with the speed and the change. But the breeze
bred in Mr. Ramsay too the same excitement, and, as old Macalister
turned to fling his line overboard, he cried out aloud,

“We perished,” and then again, “each alone.” And then with his usual
spasm of repentance or shyness, pulled himself up, and waved his hand
towards the shore.

“See the little house,” he said pointing, wishing Cam to look. She
raised herself reluctantly and looked. But which was it? She could no
longer make out, there on the hillside, which was their house. All
looked distant and peaceful and strange. The shore seemed refined, far
away, unreal. Already the little distance they had sailed had put them
far from it and given it the changed look, the composed look, of
something receding in which one has no longer any part. Which was
their house? She could not see it.

“But I beneath a rougher sea,” Mr. Ramsay murmured. He had found the
house and so seeing it, he had also seen himself there; he had seen
himself walking on the terrace, alone. He was walking up and down
between the urns; and he seemed to himself very old and bowed. Sitting
in the boat, he bowed, he crouched himself, acting instantly his part–
the part of a desolate man, widowed, bereft; and so called up before
him in hosts people sympathising with him; staged for himself as he sat
in the boat, a little drama; which required of him decrepitude and
exhaustion and sorrow (he raised his hands and looked at the thinness
of them, to confirm his dream) and then there was given him in
abundance women’s sympathy, and he imagined how they would soothe him
and sympathise with him, and so getting in his dream some reflection of
the exquisite pleasure women’s sympathy was to him, he sighed and said
gently and mournfully:

But I beneath a rougher sea
Was whelmed in deeper gulfs than he,

so that the mournful words were heard quite clearly by them all. Cam
half started on her seat. It shocked her–it outraged her. The
movement roused her father; and he shuddered, and broke off,
exclaiming: “Look! Look!” so urgently that James also turned his head
to look over his shoulder at the island. They all looked. They looked
at the island.

But Cam could see nothing. She was thinking how all those paths and
the lawn, thick and knotted with the lives they had lived there, were
gone: were rubbed out; were past; were unreal, and now this was real;
the boat and the sail with its patch; Macalister with his earrings; the
noise of the waves–all this was real. Thinking this, she was
murmuring to herself, “We perished, each alone,” for her father’s words
broke and broke again in her mind, when her father, seeing her gazing
so vaguely, began to tease her. Didn’t she know the points of the
compass? he asked. Didn’t she know the North from the South? Did she
really think they lived right out there? And he pointed again, and
showed her where their house was, there, by those trees. He wished she
would try to be more accurate, he said: “Tell me–which is East, which
is West?” he said, half laughing at her, half scolding her, for he
could not understand the state of mind of any one, not absolutely
imbecile, who did not know the points of the compass. Yet she did not
know. And seeing her gazing, with her vague, now rather frightened,
eyes fixed where no house was Mr. Ramsay forgot his dream; how he walked
up and down between the urns on the terrace; how the arms were
stretched out to him. He thought, women are always like that; the
vagueness of their minds is hopeless; it was a thing he had never been
able to understand; but so it was. It had been so with her–his wife.
They could not keep anything clearly fixed in their minds. But he had
been wrong to be angry with her; moreover, did he not rather like this
vagueness in women? It was part of their extraordinary charm. I will
make her smile at me, he thought. She looks frightened. She was so
silent. He clutched his fingers, and determined that his voice and his
face and all the quick expressive gestures which had been at his
command making people pity him and praise him all these years should
subdue themselves. He would make her smile at him. He would find some
simple easy thing to say to her. But what? For, wrapped up in his
work as he was, he forgot the sort of thing one said. There was a
puppy. They had a puppy. Who was looking after the puppy today? he
asked. Yes, thought James pitilessly, seeing his sister’s head against
the sail, now she will give way. I shall be left to fight the tyrant
alone. The compact would be left to him to carry out. Cam would never
resist tyranny to the death, he thought grimly, watching her face, sad,
sulky, yielding. And as sometimes happens when a cloud falls on a
green hillside and gravity descends and there among all the surrounding
hills is gloom and sorrow, and it seems as if the hills themselves
must ponder the fate of the clouded, the darkened, either in pity,
or maliciously rejoicing in her dismay: so Cam now felt herself
overcast, as she sat there among calm, resolute people and wondered
how to answer her father about the puppy; how to resist his
entreaty–forgive me, care for me; while James the lawgiver, with the
tablets of eternal wisdom laid open on his knee (his hand on the tiller
had become symbolical to her), said, Resist him. Fight him. He said
so rightly; justly. For they must fight tyranny to the death, she
thought. Of all human qualities she reverenced justice most. Her
brother was most god-like, her father most suppliant. And to which did
she yield, she thought, sitting between them, gazing at the shore whose
points were all unknown to her, and thinking how the lawn and the
terrace and the house were smoothed away now and peace dwelt there.

“Jasper,” she said sullenly. He’d look after the puppy.

And what was she going to call him? her father persisted. He had had
a dog when he was a little boy, called Frisk. She’ll give way, James
thought, as he watched a look come upon her face, a look he remembered.
They look down he thought, at their knitting or something. Then
suddenly they look up. There was a flash of blue, he remembered, and
then somebody sitting with him laughed, surrendered, and he was very
angry. It must have been his mother, he thought, sitting on a low
chair, with his father standing over her. He began to search among the
infinite series of impressions which time had laid down, leaf upon
leaf, fold upon fold softly, incessantly upon his brain; among scents,
sounds; voices, harsh, hollow, sweet; and lights passing, and brooms
tapping; and the wash and hush of the sea, how a man had marched up and
down and stopped dead, upright, over them. Meanwhile, he noticed, Cam
dabbled her fingers in the water, and stared at the shore and said
nothing. No, she won’t give way, he thought; she’s different, he
thought. Well, if Cam would not answer him, he would not bother her Mr.
Ramsay decided, feeling in his pocket for a book. But she would answer
him; she wished, passionately, to move some obstacle that lay upon her
tongue and to say, Oh, yes, Frisk. I’ll call him Frisk. She wanted
even to say, Was that the dog that found its way over the moor alone?
But try as she might, she could think of nothing to say like that,
fierce and loyal to the compact, yet passing on to her father,
unsuspected by James, a private token of the love she felt for him.
For she thought, dabbling her hand (and now Macalister’s boy had caught
a mackerel, and it lay kicking on the floor, with blood on its gills)
for she thought, looking at James who kept his eyes dispassionately on
the sail, or glanced now and then for a second at the horizon, you’re
not exposed to it, to this pressure and division of feeling, this
extraordinary temptation. Her father was feeling in his pockets; in
another second, he would have found his book. For no one attracted her
more; his hands were beautiful, and his feet, and his voice, and his
words, and his haste, and his temper, and his oddity, and his passion,
and his saying straight out before every one, we perish, each alone,
and his remoteness. (He had opened his book.) But what remained
intolerable, she thought, sitting upright, and watching Macalister’s
boy tug the hook out of the gills of another fish, was that crass
blindness and tyranny of his which had poisoned her childhood and
raised bitter storms, so that even now she woke in the night trembling
with rage and remembered some command of his; some insolence: “Do
this,” “Do that,” his dominance: his “Submit to me.”

So she said nothing, but looked doggedly and sadly at the shore,
wrapped in its mantle of peace; as if the people there had fallen
asleep, she thought; were free like smoke, were free to come and go
like ghosts. They have no suffering there, she thought.

6

Yes, that is their boat, Lily Briscoe decided, standing on the edge of
the lawn. It was the boat with greyish-brown sails, which she saw now
flatten itself upon the water and shoot off across the bay. There he
sits, she thought, and the children are quite silent still. And she
could not reach him either. The sympathy she had not given him weighed
her down. It made it difficult for her to paint.

She had always found him difficult. She never had been able to praise
him to his face, she remembered. And that reduced their relationship to
something neutral, without that element of sex in it which made his
manner to Minta so gallant, almost gay. He would pick a flower for
her, lend her his books. But could he believe that Minta read them?
She dragged them about the garden, sticking in leaves to mark the
place.

“D’you remember, Mr. Carmichael?” she was inclined to ask, looking at
the old man. But he had pulled his hat half over his forehead; he was
asleep, or he was dreaming, or he was lying there catching words, she
supposed.

“D’you remember?” she felt inclined to ask him as she passed him,
thinking again of Mrs. Ramsay on the beach; the cask bobbing up and
down; and the pages flying. Why, after all these years had that
survived, ringed round, lit up, visible to the last detail, with all
before it blank and all after it blank, for miles and miles?

“Is it a boat? Is it a cork?” she would say, Lily repeated, turning
back, reluctantly again, to her canvas. Heaven be praised for it, the
problem of space remained, she thought, taking up her brush again. It
glared at her. The whole mass of the picture was poised upon that
weight. Beautiful and bright it should be on the surface, feathery and
evanescent, one colour melting into another like the colours on a
butterfly’s wing; but beneath the fabric must be clamped together with
bolts of iron. It was to be a thing you could ruffle with your breath;
and a thing you could not dislodge with a team of horses. And she began
to lay on a red, a grey, and she began to model her way into the hollow
there. At the same time, she seemed to be sitting beside Mrs. Ramsay on
the beach.

“Is it a boat? Is it a cask?” Mrs. Ramsay said. And she began hunting
round for her spectacles. And she sat, having found them, silent,
looking out to sea. And Lily, painting steadily, felt as if a door had
opened, and one went in and stood gazing silently about in a high
cathedral-like place, very dark, very solemn. Shouts came from a world
far away. Steamers vanished in stalks of smoke on the horizon.
Charles threw stones and sent them skipping.

Mrs. Ramsay sat silent. She was glad, Lily thought, to rest in silence,
uncommunicative; to rest in the extreme obscurity of human
relationships. Who knows what we are, what we feel? Who knows even at
the moment of intimacy, This is knowledge? Aren’t things spoilt then,
Mrs. Ramsay may have asked (it seemed to have happened so often, this
silence by her side) by saying them? Aren’t we more expressive thus?
The moment at least seemed extraordinarily fertile. She rammed a
little hole in the sand and covered it up, by way of burying in it the
perfection of the moment. It was like a drop of silver in which one
dipped and illumined the darkness of the past.

Lily stepped back to get her canvas–so–into perspective. It was an
odd road to be walking, this of painting. Out and out one went,
further, until at last one seemed to be on a narrow plank, perfectly
alone, over the sea. And as she dipped into the blue paint, she
dipped too into the past there. Now Mrs. Ramsay got up, she
remembered. It was time to go back to the house–time for
luncheon. And they all walked up from the beach together, she walking
behind with William Bankes, and there was Minta in front of them with a
hole in her stocking. How that little round hole of pink heel seemed
to flaunt itself before them! How William Bankes deplored it, without,
so far as she could remember, saying anything about it! It meant to
him the annihilation of womanhood, and dirt and disorder, and servants
leaving and beds not made at mid-day–all the things he most abhorred.
He had a way of shuddering and spreading his fingers out as if to cover
an unsightly object which he did now–holding his hand in front of
him. And Minta walked on ahead, and presumably Paul met her and she
went off with Paul in the garden.

The Rayleys, thought Lily Briscoe, squeezing her tube of green paint.
She collected her impressions of the Rayleys. Their lives appeared to
her in a series of scenes; one, on the staircase at dawn. Paul had
come in and gone to bed early; Minta was late. There was Minta,
wreathed, tinted, garish on the stairs about three o’clock in the
morning. Paul came out in his pyjamas carrying a poker in case of
burglars. Minta was eating a sandwich, standing half-way up by a
window, in the cadaverous early morning light, and the carpet had a
hole in it. But what did they say? Lily asked herself, as if by
looking she could hear them. Minta went on eating her sandwich,
annoyingly, while he spoke something violent, abusing her, in a mutter
so as not to wake the children, the two little boys. He was withered,
drawn; she flamboyant, careless. For things had worked loose after the
first year or so; the marriage had turned out rather badly.

And this, Lily thought, taking the green paint on her brush, this
making up scenes about them, is what we call “knowing” people,
“thinking” of them, “being fond” of them! Not a word of it was true;
she had made it up; but it was what she knew them by all the same. She
went on tunnelling her way into her picture, into the past.

Another time, Paul said he “played chess in coffee-houses.” She had
built up a whole structure of imagination on that saying too. She
remembered how, as he said it, she thought how he rang up the servant,
and she said, “Mrs. Rayley’s out, sir,” and he decided that he would not
come home either. She saw him sitting in the corner of some lugubrious
place where the smoke attached itself to the red plush seats, and the
waitresses got to know you, and he played chess with a little man who
was in the tea trade and lived at Surbiton, but that was all Paul knew
about him. And then Minta was out when he came home and then there was
that scene on the stairs, when he got the poker in case of burglars (no
doubt to frighten her too) and spoke so bitterly, saying she had ruined
his life. At any rate when she went down to see them at a cottage near
Rickmansworth, things were horribly strained. Paul took her down the
garden to look at the Belgian hares which he bred, and Minta followed
them, singing, and put her bare arm on his shoulder, lest he should
tell her anything.

Minta was bored by hares, Lily thought. But Minta never gave herself
away. She never said things like that about playing chess in coffee-
houses. She was far too conscious, far too wary. But to go on with
their story–they had got through the dangerous stage by now. She had
been staying with them last summer some time and the car broke down and
Minta had to hand him his tools. He sat on the road mending the car,
and it was the way she gave him the tools–business-like,
straightforward, friendly–that proved it was all right now. They were
“in love” no longer; no, he had taken up with another woman, a serious
woman, with her hair in a plait and a case in her hand (Minta had
described her gratefully, almost admiringly), who went to meetings and
shared Paul’s views (they had got more and more pronounced) about the
taxation of land values and a capital levy. Far from breaking up the
marriage, that alliance had righted it. They were excellent friends,
obviously, as he sat on the road and she handed him his tools.

So that was the story of the Rayleys, Lily thought. She imagined
herself telling it to Mrs. Ramsay, who would be full of curiosity to
know what had become of the Rayleys. She would feel a little
triumphant, telling Mrs. Ramsay that the marriage had not been a
success.

But the dead, thought Lily, encountering some obstacle in her design
which made her pause and ponder, stepping back a foot or so, oh, the
dead! she murmured, one pitied them, one brushed them aside, one had
even a little contempt for them. They are at our mercy. Mrs. Ramsay
has faded and gone, she thought. We can over-ride her wishes, improve
away her limited, old-fashioned ideas. She recedes further and further
from us. Mockingly she seemed to see her there at the end of the
corridor of years saying, of all incongruous things, “Marry, marry!”
(sitting very upright early in the morning with the birds beginning to
cheep in the garden outside). And one would have to say to her, It has
all gone against your wishes. They’re happy like that; I’m happy like
this. Life has changed completely. At that all her being, even her
beauty, became for a moment, dusty and out of date. For a moment Lily,
standing there, with the sun hot on her back, summing up the Rayleys,
triumphed over Mrs. Ramsay, who would never know how Paul went to
coffee-houses and had a mistress; how he sat on the ground and Minta
handed him his tools; how she stood here painting, had never married,
not even William Bankes.

Mrs. Ramsay had planned it. Perhaps, had she lived, she would have
compelled it. Already that summer he was “the kindest of men.” He was
“the first scientist of his age, my husband says.” He was also “poor
William–it makes me so unhappy, when I go to see him, to find nothing
nice in his house–no one to arrange the flowers.” So they were sent
for walks together, and she was told, with that faint touch of irony
that made Mrs. Ramsay slip through one’s fingers, that she had a
scientific mind; she liked flowers; she was so exact. What was this
mania of hers for marriage? Lily wondered, stepping to and fro from
her easel.

(Suddenly, as suddenly as a star slides in the sky, a reddish light
seemed to burn in her mind, covering Paul Rayley, issuing from him. It
rose like a fire sent up in token of some celebration by savages on a
distant beach. She heard the roar and the crackle. The whole sea for
miles round ran red and gold. Some winey smell mixed with it and
intoxicated her, for she felt again her own headlong desire to throw
herself off the cliff and be drowned looking for a pearl brooch on a
beach. And the roar and the crackle repelled her with fear and
disgust, as if while she saw its splendour and power she saw too how it
fed on the treasure of the house, greedily, disgustingly, and she
loathed it. But for a sight, for a glory it surpassed everything in
her experience, and burnt year after year like a signal fire on a
desert island at the edge of the sea, and one had only to say “in love”
and instantly, as happened now, up rose Paul’s fire again. And it sank
and she said to herself, laughing, “The Rayleys”; how Paul went to
coffee-houses and played chess.)

She had only escaped by the skin of her teeth though, she thought. She
had been looking at the table-cloth, and it had flashed upon her that
she would move the tree to the middle, and need never marry anybody,
and she had felt an enormous exultation. She had felt, now she could
stand up to Mrs. Ramsay–a tribute to the astonishing power that Mrs.
Ramsay had over one. Do this, she said, and one did it. Even her
shadow at the window with James was full of authority. She remembered
how William Bankes had been shocked by her neglect of the significance
of mother and son. Did she not admire their beauty? he said. But
William, she remembered, had listened to her with his wise child’s eyes
when she explained how it was not irreverence: how a light there needed
a shadow there and so on. She did not intend to disparage a subject
which, they agreed, Raphael had treated divinely. She was not cynical.
Quite the contrary. Thanks to his scientific mind he understood–a
proof of disinterested intelligence which had pleased her and comforted
her enormously. One could talk of painting then seriously to a man.
Indeed, his friendship had been one of the pleasures of her life. She
loved William Bankes.

They went to Hampton Court and he always left her, like the perfect
gentleman he was, plenty of time to wash her hands, while he strolled
by the river. That was typical of their relationship. Many things were
left unsaid. Then they strolled through the courtyards, and admired,
summer after summer, the proportions and the flowers, and he would tell
her things, about perspective, about architecture, as they walked, and
he would stop to look at a tree, or the view over the lake, and admire
a child–(it was his great grief–he had no daughter) in the vague aloof
way that was natural to a man who spent spent so much time in
laboratories that the world when he came out seemed to dazzle him,
so that he walked slowly, lifted his hand to screen his eyes and
paused, with his head thrown back, merely to breathe the air. Then
he would tell her how his housekeeper was on her holiday; he must
buy a new carpet for the staircase. Perhaps she would go with him to
buy a new carpet for the staircase. And once something led him to talk
about the Ramsays and he had said how when he first saw her she had
been wearing a grey hat; she was not more than nineteen or twenty. She
was astonishingly beautiful. There he stood looking down the avenue at
Hampton Court as if he could see her there among the fountains.

She looked now at the drawing-room step. She saw, through William’s
eyes, the shape of a woman, peaceful and silent, with downcast eyes.
She sat musing, pondering (she was in grey that day, Lily thought).
Her eyes were bent. She would never lift them. Yes, thought Lily,
looking intently, I must have seen her look like that, but not in grey;
nor so still, nor so young, nor so peaceful. The figure came readily
enough. She was astonishingly beautiful, as William said. But beauty
was not everything. Beauty had this penalty–it came too readily, came
too completely. It stilled life–froze it. One forgot the little
agitations; the flush, the pallor, some queer distortion, some light or
shadow, which made the face unrecognisable for a moment and yet added a
quality one saw for ever after. It was simpler to smooth that all out
under the cover of beauty. But what was the look she had, Lily
wondered, when she clapped her deer-stalkers’s hat on her head, or ran
across the grass, or scolded Kennedy, the gardener? Who could tell
her? Who could help her?

Against her will she had come to the surface, and found herself half
out of the picture, looking, little dazedly, as if at unreal things, at
Mr. Carmichael. He lay on his chair with his hands clasped above his
paunch not reading, or sleeping, but basking like a creature gorged
with existence. His book had fallen on to the grass.

She wanted to go straight up to him and say, “Mr. Carmichael!” Then he
would look up benevolently as always, from his smoky vague green eyes.
But one only woke people if one knew what one wanted to say to them.
And she wanted to say not one thing, but everything. Little words that
broke up the thought and dismembered it said nothing. “About life,
about death; about Mrs. Ramsay”–no, she thought, one could say
nothing to nobody. The urgency of the moment always missed its mark.
Words fluttered sideways and struck the object inches too low. Then
one gave it up; then the idea sunk back again; then one became like
most middle-aged people, cautious, furtive, with wrinkles between the
eyes and a look of perpetual apprehension. For how could one express
in words these emotions of the body? express that emptiness there?
(She was looking at the drawing-room steps; they looked extraordinarily
empty.) It was one’s body feeling, not one’s mind. The physical
sensations that went with the bare look of the steps had become
suddenly extremely unpleasant. To want and not to have, sent all up
her body a hardness, a hollowness, a strain. And then to want and not
to have–to want and want–how that wrung the heart, and wrung it again
and again! Oh, Mrs. Ramsay! she called out silently, to that essence
which sat by the boat, that abstract one made of her, that woman in
grey, as if to abuse her for having gone, and then having gone, come
back again. It had seemed so safe, thinking of her. Ghost, air,
nothingness, a thing you could play with easily and safely at any time
of day or night, she had been that, and then suddenly she put her hand
out and wrung the heart thus. Suddenly, the empty drawing-room steps,
the frill of the chair inside, the puppy tumbling on the terrace, the
whole wave and whisper of the garden became like curves and arabesques
flourishing round a centre of complete emptiness.

“What does it mean? How do you explain it all?” she wanted to say,
turning to Mr. Carmichael again. For the whole world seemed to have
dissolved in this early morning hour into a pool of thought, a deep
basin of reality, and one could almost fancy that had Mr. Carmichael
spoken, for instance, a little tear would have rent the surface pool.
And then? Something would emerge. A hand would be shoved up, a blade
would be flashed. It was nonsense of course.

A curious notion came to her that he did after all hear the things she
could not say. He was an inscrutable old man, with the yellow stain on
his beard, and his poetry, and his puzzles, sailing serenely through a
world which satisfied all his wants, so that she thought he had only to
put down his hand where he lay on the lawn to fish up anything he
wanted. She looked at her picture. That would have been his answer,
presumably–how “you” and “I” and “she” pass and vanish; nothing stays;
all changes; but not words, not paint. Yet it would be hung in the
attics, she thought; it would be rolled up and flung under a sofa; yet
even so, even of a picture like that, it was true. One might say, even
of this scrawl, not of that actual picture, perhaps, but of what it
attempted, that it “remained for ever,” she was going to say, or, for
the words spoken sounded even to herself, too boastful, to hint,
wordlessly; when, looking at the picture, she was surprised to find
that she could not see it. Her eyes were full of a hot liquid (she did
not think of tears at first) which, without disturbing the firmness of
her lips, made the air thick, rolled down her cheeks. She had perfect
control of herself–Oh, yes!–in every other way. Was she crying then
for Mrs. Ramsay, without being aware of any unhappiness? She addressed
old Mr. Carmichael again. What was it then? What did it mean? Could
things thrust their hands up and grip one; could the blade cut; the
fist grasp? Was there no safety? No learning by heart of the ways of
the world? No guide, no shelter, but all was miracle, and leaping from
the pinnacle of a tower into the air? Could it be, even for elderly
people, that this was life?–startling, unexpected, unknown? For one
moment she felt that if they both got up, here, now on the lawn, and
demanded an explanation, why was it so short, why was it so
inexplicable, said it with violence, as two fully equipped human beings
from whom nothing should be hid might speak, then, beauty would roll
itself up; the space would fill; those empty flourishes would form into
shape; if they shouted loud enough Mrs. Ramsay would return. “Mrs.
Ramsay!” she said aloud, “Mrs. Ramsay!” The tears ran down her face.

7

[Macalister’s boy took one of the fish and cut a square out of its side
to bait his hook with. The mutilated body (it was alive still) was
thrown back into the sea.]

8

“Mrs. Ramsay!” Lily cried, “Mrs. Ramsay!” But nothing happened. The pain
increased. That anguish could reduce one to such a pitch of
imbecility, she thought! Anyhow the old man had not heard her. He
remained benignant, calm–if one chose to think it, sublime. Heaven be
praised, no one had heard her cry that ignominious cry, stop pain,
stop! She had not obviously taken leave of her senses. No one had
seen her step off her strip of board into the waters of annihilation.
She remained a skimpy old maid, holding a paint-brush.

And now slowly the pain of the want, and the bitter anger (to be called
back, just as she thought she would never feel sorrow for Mrs. Ramsay
again. Had she missed her among the coffee cups at breakfast? not in
the least) lessened; and of their anguish left, as antidote, a relief
that was balm in itself, and also, but more mysteriously, a sense of
some one there, of Mrs. Ramsay, relieved for a moment of the weight that
the world had put on her, staying lightly by her side and then (for
this was Mrs. Ramsay in all her beauty) raising to her forehead a wreath
of white flowers with which she went. Lily squeezed her tubes again.
She attacked that problem of the hedge. It was strange how clearly she
saw her, stepping with her usual quickness across fields among whose
folds, purplish and soft, among whose flowers, hyacinth or lilies, she
vanished. It was some trick of the painter’s eye. For days after she
had heard of her death she had seen her thus, putting her wreath to her
forehead and going unquestioningly with her companion, a shade across
the fields. The sight, the phrase, had its power to console. Wherever
she happened to be, painting, here, in the country or in London, the
vision would come to her, and her eyes, half closing, sought something
to base her vision on. She looked down the railway carriage, the
omnibus; took a line from shoulder or cheek; looked at the windows
opposite; at Piccadilly, lamp-strung in the evening. All had been part
of the fields of death. But always something–it might be a face, a
voice, a paper boy crying STANDARD, NEWS–thrust through, snubbed her,
waked her, required and got in the end an effort of attention, so that
the vision must be perpetually remade. Now again, moved as she was by
some instinctive need of distance and blue, she looked at the bay
beneath her, making hillocks of the blue bars of the waves, and
stony fields of the purpler spaces, again she was roused as usual by
something incongruous. There was a brown spot in the middle of the
bay. It was a boat. Yes, she realised that after a second. But whose
boat? Mr. Ramsay’s boat, she replied. Mr. Ramsay; the man who had
marched past her, with his hand raised, aloof, at the head of a
procession, in his beautiful boots, asking her for sympathy, which
she had refused. The boat was now half way across the bay.

So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that
the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up
in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea. A steamer far
out at sea had drawn in the air a great scroll of smoke which stayed
there curving and circling decoratively, as if the air were a fine
gauze which held things and kept them softly in its mesh, only gently
swaying them this way and that. And as happens sometimes when the
weather is very fine, the cliffs looked as if they were conscious of
the ships, and the ships looked as if they were conscious of the
cliffs, as if they signalled to each other some message of their own.
For sometimes quite close to the shore, the Lighthouse looked this
morning in the haze an enormous distance away.

“Where are they now?” Lily thought, looking out to sea. Where was he,
that very old man who had gone past her silently, holding a brown paper
parcel under his arm? The boat was in the middle of the bay.

9

They don’t feel a thing there, Cam thought, looking at the shore,
which, rising and falling, became steadily more distant and more
peaceful. Her hand cut a trail in the sea, as her mind made the green
swirls and streaks into patterns and, numbed and shrouded, wandered in
imagination in that underworld of waters where the pearls stuck in
clusters to white sprays, where in the green light a change came over
one’s entire mind and one’s body shone half transparent enveloped in a
green cloak.

Then the eddy slackened round her hand. The rush of the water ceased;
the world became full of little creaking and squeaking sounds. One
heard the waves breaking and flapping against the side of the boat as
if they were anchored in harbour. Everything became very close to one.
For the sail, upon which James had his eyes fixed until it had become
to him like a person whom he knew, sagged entirely; there they came to
a stop, flapping about waiting for a breeze, in the hot sun, miles from
shore, miles from the Lighthouse. Everything in the whole world seemed
to stand still. The Lighthouse became immovable, and the line of the
distant shore became fixed. The sun grew hotter and everybody seemed
to come very close together and to feel each other’s presence, which
they had almost forgotten. Macalister’s fishing line went plumb down
into the sea. But Mr. Ramsay went on reading with his legs curled under
him.

He was reading a little shiny book with covers mottled like a plover’s
egg. Now and again, as they hung about in that horrid calm, he turned
a page. And James felt that each page was turned with a peculiar
gesture aimed at him; now assertively, now commandingly; now with the
intention of making people pity him; and all the time, as his father
read and turned one after another of those little pages, James kept
dreading the moment when he would look up and speak sharply to him
about something or other. Why were they lagging about here? he would
demand, or something quite unreasonable like that. And if he does,
James thought, then I shall take a knife and strike him to the heart.

He had always kept this old symbol of taking a knife and striking
his father to the heart. Only now, as he grew older, and sat
staring at his father in an impotent rage, it was not him, that old
man reading, whom he wanted to kill, but it was the thing that
descended on him–without his knowing it perhaps: that fierce sudden
black-winged harpy, with its talons and its beak all cold and hard,
that struck and struck at you (he could feel the beak on his bare legs,
where it had struck when he was a child) and then made off, and there
he was again, an old man, very sad, reading his book. That he would
kill, that he would strike to the heart. Whatever he did–(and he
might do anything, he felt, looking at the Lighthouse and the distant
shore) whether he was in a business, in a bank, a barrister, a man at
the head of some enterprise, that he would fight, that he would track
down and stamp out–tyranny, despotism, he called it–making people
do what they did not want to do, cutting off their right to speak. How
could any of them say, But I won’t, when he said, Come to the
Lighthouse. Do this. Fetch me that. The black wings spread, and the
hard beak tore. And then next moment, there he sat reading his book;
and he might look up–one never knew–quite reasonably. He might talk
to the Macalisters. He might be pressing a sovereign into some frozen
old woman’s hand in the street, James thought, and he might be shouting
out at some fisherman’s sports; he might be waving his arms in the air
with excitement. Or he might sit at the head of the table dead silent
from one end of dinner to the other. Yes, thought James, while the
boat slapped and dawdled there in the hot sun; there was a waste of
snow and rock very lonely and austere; and there he had come to feel,
quite often lately, when his father said something or did something
which surprised the others, there were two pairs of footprints only;
his own and his father’s. They alone knew each other. What then was
this terror, this hatred? Turning back among the many leaves
which the past had folded in him, peering into the heart of that
forest where light and shade so chequer each other that all shape
is distorted, and one blunders, now with the sun in one’s eyes,
now with a dark shadow, he sought an image to cool and detach and round
off his feeling in a concrete shape. Suppose then that as a child
sitting helpless in a perambulator, or on some one’s knee, he had seen
a waggon crush ignorantly and innocently, some one’s foot? Suppose he
had seen the foot first, in the grass, smooth, and whole; then the
wheel; and the same foot, purple, crushed. But the wheel was innocent.
So now, when his father came striding down the passage knocking them up
early in the morning to go to the Lighthouse down it came over his
foot, over Cam’s foot, over anybody’s foot. One sat and watched it.

But whose foot was he thinking of, and in what garden did all this
happen? For one had settings for these scenes; trees that grew there;
flowers; a certain light; a few figures. Everything tended to set
itself in a garden where there was none of this gloom. None of this
throwing of hands about; people spoke in an ordinary tone of voice.
They went in and out all day long. There was an old woman gossiping in
the kitchen; and the blinds were sucked in and out by the breeze; all
was blowing, all was growing; and over all those plates and bowls and
tall brandishing red and yellow flowers a very thin yellow veil would
be drawn, like a vine leaf, at night. Things became stiller and darker
at night. But the leaf-like veil was so fine, that lights lifted it,
voices crinkled it; he could see through it a figure stooping, hear,
coming close, going away, some dress rustling, some chain tinkling.

It was in this world that the wheel went over the person’s foot.
Something, he remembered, stayed flourished up in the air, something
arid and sharp descended even there, like a blade, a scimitar, smiting
through the leaves and flowers even of that happy world and making it
shrivel and fall.

“It will rain,” he remembered his father saying. “You won’t be able to
go to the Lighthouse.”

The Lighthouse was then a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow
eye, that opened suddenly, and softly in the evening. Now–

James looked at the Lighthouse. He could see the white-washed rocks;
the tower, stark and straight; he could see that it was barred with
black and white; he could see windows in it; he could even see washing
spread on the rocks to dry. So that was the Lighthouse, was it?

No, the other was also the Lighthouse. For nothing was simply one
thing. The other Lighthouse was true too. It was sometimes hardly to
be seen across the bay. In the evening one looked up and saw the eye
opening and shutting and the light seemed to reach them in that airy
sunny garden where they sat.

But he pulled himself up. Whenever he said “they” or “a person,” and
then began hearing the rustle of some one coming, the tinkle of some
one going, he became extremely sensitive to the presence of whoever
might be in the room. It was his father now. The strain was acute.
For in one moment if there was no breeze, his father would slap the
covers of his book together, and say: “What’s happening now? What are
we dawdling about here for, eh?” as, once before he had brought his
blade down among them on the terrace and she had gone stiff all over,
and if there had been an axe handy, a knife, or anything with a sharp
point he would have seized it and struck his father through the heart.
She had gone stiff all over, and then, her arm slackening, so that he
felt she listened to him no longer, she had risen somehow and gone away
and left him there, impotent, ridiculous, sitting on the floor grasping
a pair of scissors.

Not a breath of wind blew. The water chuckled and gurgled in the
bottom of the boat where three or four mackerel beat their tails up and
down in a pool of water not deep enough to cover them. At any moment
Mr. Ramsay (he scarcely dared look at him) might rouse himself, shut his
book, and say something sharp; but for the moment he was reading, so
that James stealthily, as if he were stealing downstairs on bare feet,
afraid of waking a watchdog by a creaking board, went on thinking what
was she like, where did she go that day? He began following her from
room to room and at last they came to a room where in a blue light, as
if the reflection came from many china dishes, she talked to somebody;
he listened to her talking. She talked to a servant, saying simply
whatever came into her head. She alone spoke the truth; to her alone
could he speak it. That was the source of her everlasting attraction
for him, perhaps; she was a person to whom one could say what came into
one’s head. But all the time he thought of her, he was conscious of
his father following his thought, surveying it, making it shiver and
falter. At last he ceased to think.

There he sat with his hand on the tiller in the sun, staring at the
Lighthouse, powerless to move, powerless to flick off these grains of
misery which settled on his mind one after another. A rope seemed to
bind him there, and his father had knotted it and he could only escape
by taking a knife and plunging it… But at that moment the sail
swung slowly round, filled slowly out, the boat seemed to shake
herself, and then to move off half conscious in her sleep, and then she
woke and shot through the waves. The relief was extraordinary. They
all seemed to fall away from each other again and to be at their
ease, and the fishing-lines slanted taut across the side of the
boat. But his father did not rouse himself. He only raised his right
hand mysteriously high in the air, and let it fall upon his knee again
as if he were conducting some secret symphony.

10

[The sea without a stain on it, thought Lily Briscoe, still standing
and looking out over the bay. The sea stretched like silk across the
bay. Distance had an extraordinary power; they had been swallowed up
in it, she felt, they were gone for ever, they had become part of the
nature of things. It was so calm; it was so quiet. The steamer itself
had vanished, but the great scroll of smoke still hung in the air and
drooped like a flag mournfully in valediction.]

11

It was like that then, the island, thought Cam, once more drawing her
fingers through the waves. She had never seen it from out at sea
before. It lay like that on the sea, did it, with a dent in the middle
and two sharp crags, and the sea swept in there, and spread away for
miles and miles on either side of the island. It was very small;
shaped something like a leaf stood on end. So we took a little boat,
she thought, beginning to tell herself a story of adventure about
escaping from a sinking ship. But with the sea streaming through her
fingers, a spray of seaweed vanishing behind them, she did not want to
tell herself seriously a story; it was the sense of adventure and
escape that she wanted, for she was thinking, as the boat sailed on,
how her father’s anger about the points of the compass, James’s
obstinacy about the compact, and her own anguish, all had slipped, all
had passed, all had streamed away. What then came next? Where were
they going? From her hand, ice cold, held deep in the sea, there
spurted up a fountain of joy at the change, at the escape, at the
adventure (that she should be alive, that she should be there). And
the drops falling from this sudden and unthinking fountain of joy fell
here and there on the dark, the slumbrous shapes in her mind; shapes of
a world not realised but turning in their darkness, catching here and
there, a spark of light; Greece, Rome, Constantinople. Small as it
was, and shaped something like a leaf stood on its end with the gold-
sprinkled waters flowing in and about it, it had, she supposed, a place
in the universe–even that little island? The old gentlemen in the
study she thought could have told her. Sometimes she strayed in from
the garden purposely to catch them at it. There they were (it might be
Mr. Carmichael or Mr. Bankes who was sitting with her father) sitting
opposite each other in their low arm-chairs. They were crackling in
front of them the pages of THE TIMES, when she came in from the garden,
all in a muddle, about something some one had said about Christ, or
hearing that a mammoth had been dug up in a London street, or wondering
what Napoleon was like. Then they took all this with their clean hands
(they wore grey-coloured clothes; they smelt of heather) and they
brushed the scraps together, turning the paper, crossing their knees,
and said something now and then very brief. Just to please herself she
would take a book from the shelf and stand there, watching her father
write, so equally, so neatly from one side of the page to another, with
a little cough now and then, or something said briefly to the other old
gentleman opposite. And she thought, standing there with her book open,
one could let whatever one thought expand here like a leaf in water;
and if it did well here, among the old gentlemen smoking and THE TIMES
crackling then it was right. And watching her father as he wrote in
his study, she thought (now sitting in the boat) he was not vain, nor a
tyrant and did not wish to make you pity him. Indeed, if he saw she
was there, reading a book, he would ask her, as gently as any one
could, Was there nothing he could give her?

Lest this should be wrong, she looked at him reading the little book
with the shiny cover mottled like a plover’s egg. No; it was right.
Look at him now, she wanted to say aloud to James. (But James had his
eye on the sail.) He is a sarcastic brute, James would say. He brings
the talk round to himself and his books, James would say. He is
intolerably egotistical. Worst of all, he is a tyrant. But look! she
said, looking at him. Look at him now. She looked at him reading the
little book with his legs curled; the little book whose yellowish pages
she knew, without knowing what was written on them. It was small; it
was closely printed; on the fly-leaf, she knew, he had written that he
had spent fifteen francs on dinner; the wine had been so much; he had
given so much to the waiter; all was added up neatly at the bottom of
the page. But what might be written in the book which had rounded its
edges off in his pocket, she did not know. What he thought they none
of them knew. But he was absorbed in it, so that when he looked up, as
he did now for an instant, it was not to see anything; it was to pin
down some thought more exactly. That done, his mind flew back again
and he plunged into his reading. He read, she thought, as if he were
guiding something, or wheedling a large flock of sheep, or pushing his
way up and up a single narrow path; and sometimes he went fast and
straight, and broke his way through the bramble, and sometimes it
seemed a branch struck at him, a bramble blinded him, but he was not
going to let himself be beaten by that; on he went, tossing over page
after page. And she went on telling herself a story about escaping
from a sinking ship, for she was safe, while he sat there; safe, as she
felt herself when she crept in from the garden, and took a book
down, and the old gentleman, lowering the paper suddenly, said
something very brief over the top of it about the character of Napoleon.

She gazed back over the sea, at the island. But the leaf was losing
its sharpness. It was very small; it was very distant. The sea was
more important now than the shore. Waves were all round them, tossing
and sinking, with a log wallowing down one wave; a gull riding on
another. About here, she thought, dabbling her fingers in the water, a
ship had sunk, and she murmured, dreamily half asleep, how we perished,
each alone.

12

So much depends then, thought Lily Briscoe, looking at the sea which
had scarcely a stain on it, which was so soft that the sails and the
clouds seemed set in its blue, so much depends, she thought, upon
distance: whether people are near us or far from us; for her feeling
for Mr. Ramsay changed as he sailed further and further across the bay.
It seemed to be elongated, stretched out; he seemed to become more and
more remote. He and his children seemed to be swallowed up in that
blue, that distance; but here, on the lawn, close at hand, Mr.
Carmichael suddenly grunted. She laughed. He clawed his book up from
the grass. He settled into his chair again puffing and blowing like
some sea monster. That was different altogether, because he was so
near. And now again all was quiet. They must be out of bed by this
time, she supposed, looking at the house, but nothing appeared there.
But then, she remembered, they had always made off directly a meal was
over, on business of their own. It was all in keeping with this
silence, this emptiness, and the unreality of the early morning hour.
It was a way things had sometimes, she thought, lingering for a moment
and looking at the long glittering windows and the plume of blue smoke:
they became illness, before habits had spun themselves across the
surface, one felt that same unreality, which was so startling; felt
something emerge. Life was most vivid then. One could be at one’s
ease. Mercifully one need not say, very briskly, crossing the lawn to
greet old Mrs. Beckwith, who would be coming out to find a corner to sit
in, “Oh, good-morning, Mrs. Beckwith! What a lovely day! Are you going
to be so bold as to sit in the sun? Jasper’s hidden the chairs. Do
let me find you one!” and all the rest of the usual chatter. One need
not speak at all. One glided, one shook one’s sails (there was a good
deal of movement in the bay, boats were starting off) between things,
beyond things. Empty it was not, but full to the brim. She seemed to
be standing up to the lips in some substance, to move and float and
sink in it, yes, for these waters were unfathomably deep. Into them
had spilled so many lives. The Ramsays’; the children’s; and all sorts
of waifs and strays of things besides. A washer-woman with her basket;
a rook, a red-hot poker; the purples and grey-greens of flowers: some
common feeling which held the whole together.

It was some such feeling of completeness perhaps which, ten years ago,
standing almost where she stood now, had made her say that she must be
in love with the place. Love had a thousand shapes. There might be
lovers whose gift it was to choose out the elements of things and place
them together and so, giving them a wholeness not theirs in life, make
of some scene, or meeting of people (all now gone and separate), one of
those globed compacted things over which thought lingers, and love
plays.

Her eyes rested on the brown speck of Mr. Ramsay’s sailing boat. They
would be at the Lighthouse by lunch time she supposed. But the wind
had freshened, and, as the sky changed slightly and the sea changed
slightly and the boats altered their positions, the view, which a
moment before had seemed miraculously fixed, was now unsatisfactory.
The wind had blown the trail of smoke about; there was something
displeasing about the placing of the ships.

The disproportion there seemed to upset some harmony in her own mind.
She felt an obscure distress. It was confirmed when she turned to her
picture. She had been wasting her morning. For whatever reason she
could not achieve that razor edge of balance between two opposite
forces; Mr. Ramsay and the picture; which was necessary. There was
something perhaps wrong with the design? Was it, she wondered, that
the line of the wall wanted breaking, was it that the mass of the trees
was too heavy? She smiled ironically; for had she not thought, when
she began, that she had solved her problem?

What was the problem then? She must try to get hold of something tht
evaded her. It evaded her when she thought of Mrs. Ramsay; it evaded
her now when she thought of her picture. Phrases came. Visions came.
Beautiful pictures. Beautiful phrases. But what she wished to get hold
of was that very jar on the nerves, the thing itself before it has been
made anything. Get that and start afresh; get that and start afresh;
she said desperately, pitching herself firmly again before her easel.
It was a miserable machine, an inefficient machine, she thought, the
human apparatus for painting or for feeling; it always broke down at
the critical moment; heroically, one must force it on. She stared,
frowning. There was the hedge, sure enough. But one got nothing by
soliciting urgently. One got only a glare in the eye from looking at
the line of the wall, or from thinking–she wore a grey hat. She was
astonishingly beautiful. Let it come, she thought, if it will come.
For there are moments when one can neither think nor feel. And if
one can neither think nor feel, she thought, where is one?

Here on the grass, on the ground, she thought, sitting down, and
examining with her brush a little colony of plantains. For the lawn
was very rough. Here sitting on the world, she thought, for she could
not shake herself free from the sense that everything this morning was
happening for the first time, perhaps for the last time, as a
traveller, even though he is half asleep, knows, looking out of the
train window, that he must look now, for he will never see that town,
or that mule-cart, or that woman at work in the fields, again. The
lawn was the world; they were up here together, on this exalted
station, she thought, looking at old Mr. Carmichael, who seemed (though
they had not said a word all this time) to share her thoughts. And she
would never see him again perhaps. He was growing old. Also, she
remembered, smiling at the slipper that dangled from his foot, he was
growing famous. People said that his poetry was “so beautiful.” They
went and published things he had written forty years ago. There was a
famous man now called Carmichael, she smiled, thinking how many shapes
one person might wear, how he was that in the newspapers, but here the
same as he had always been. He looked the same–greyer, rather.
Yes, he looked the same, but somebody had said, she recalled, that when
he had heard of Andrew Ramsay’s death (he was killed in a second by a
shell; he should have been a great mathematician) Mr. Carmichael had
“lost all interest in life.” What did it mean–that? she wondered. Had
he marched through Trafalgar Square grasping a big stick? Had he
turned pages over and over, without reading them, sitting in his room
in St. John’s Wood alone? She did not know what he had done, when he
heard that Andrew was killed, but she felt it in him all the same.
They only mumbled at each other on staircases; they looked up at the
sky and said it will be fine or it won’t be fine. But this was one way
of knowing people, she thought: to know the outline, not the detail, to
sit in one’s garden and look at the slopes of a hill running purple
down into the distant heather. She knew him in that way. She knew
that he had changed somehow. She had never read a line of his poetry.
She thought that she knew how it went though, slowly and sonorously.
It was seasoned and mellow. It was about the desert and the camel. It
was about the palm tree and the sunset. It was extremely impersonal;
it said something about death; it said very little about love. There
was an impersonality about him. He wanted very little of other people.
Had he not always lurched rather awkwardly past the drawing-room window
with some newspaper under his arm, trying to avoid Mrs. Ramsay whom for
some reason he did not much like? On that account, of course, she
would always try to make him stop. He would bow to her. He would halt
unwillingly and bow profoundly. Annoyed that he did not want anything
of her, Mrs. Ramsay would ask him (Lily could hear her) wouldn’t he like
a coat, a rug, a newspaper? No, he wanted nothing. (Here he bowed.)
There was some quality in her which he did not much like. It was
perhaps her masterfulness, her positiveness, something matter-of-fact
in her. She was so direct.

(A noise drew her attention to the drawing-room window–the squeak of a
hinge. The light breeze was toying with the window.)

There must have been people who disliked her very much, Lily thought
(Yes; she realised that the drawing-room step was empty, but it had no
effect on her whatever. She did not want Mrs. Ramsay now.)–People who
thought her too sure, too drastic.

Also, her beauty offended people probably. How monotonous, they would
say, and the same always! They preferred another type–the dark, the
vivacious. Then she was weak with her husband. She let him make those
scenes. Then she was reserved. Nobody knew exactly what had happened
to her. And (to go back to Mr. Carmichael and his dislike) one could not
imagine Mrs. Ramsay standing painting, lying reading, a whole morning on
the lawn. It was unthinkable. Without saying a word, the only token of
her errand a basket on her arm, she went off to the town, to the poor,
to sit in some stuffy little bedroom. Often and often Lily had seen
her go silently in the midst of some game, some discussion, with her
basket on her arm, very upright. She had noted her return. She had
thought, half laughing (she was so methodical with the tea cups), half
moved (her beauty took one’s breath away), eyes that are closing in
pain have looked on you. You have been with them there.

And then Mrs. Ramsay would be annoyed because somebody was late, or the
butter not fresh, or the teapot chipped. And all the time she was
saying that the butter was not fresh one would be thinking of Greek
temples, and how beauty had been with them there in that stuffy little
room. She never talked of it–she went, punctually, directly. It was
her instinct to go, an instinct like the swallows for the south, the
artichokes for the sun, turning her infallibly to the human race,
making her nest in its heart. And this, like all instincts, was a
little distressing to people who did not share it; to Mr. Carmichael
perhaps, to herself certainly. Some notion was in both of them about
the ineffectiveness of action, the supremacy of thought. Her going was
a reproach to them, gave a different twist to the world, so that they
were led to protest, seeing their own prepossessions disappear, and
clutch at them vanishing. Charles Tansley did that too: it was part of
the reason why one disliked him. He upset the proportions of one’s
world. And what had happened to him, she wondered, idly stirring the
platains with her brush. He had got his fellowship. He had married;
he lived at Golder’s Green.

She had gone one day into a Hall and heard him speaking during the war.
He was denouncing something: he was condemning somebody. He was
preaching brotherly love. And all she felt was how could he love his
kind who did not know one picture from another, who had stood behind
her smoking shag (“fivepence an ounce, Miss Briscoe”) and making it his
business to tell her women can’t write, women can’t paint, not so much
that he believed it, as that for some odd reason he wished it? There
he was lean and red and raucous, preaching love from a platform (there
were ants crawling about among the plantains which she disturbed with
her brush–red, energetic, shiny ants, rather like Charles Tansley).
She had looked at him ironically from her seat in the half-empty hall,
pumping love into that chilly space, and suddenly, there was the old
cask or whatever it was bobbing up and down among the waves and Mrs.
Ramsay looking for her spectacle case among the pebbles. “Oh, dear!
What a nuisance! Lost again. Don’t bother, Mr. Tansley. I lose
thousands every summer,” at which he pressed his chin back against his
collar, as if afraid to sanction such exaggeration, but could stand it
in her whom he liked, and smiled very charmingly. He must have
confided in her on one of those long expeditions when people got
separated and walked back alone. He was educating his little sister,
Mrs. Ramsay had told her. It was immensely to his credit. Her own idea
of him was grotesque, Lily knew well, stirring the plantains with her
brush. Half one’s notions of other people were, after all, grotesque.
They served private purposes of one’s own. He did for her instead of a
whipping-boy. She found herself flagellating his lean flanks when she
was out of temper. If she wanted to be serious about him she had to
help herself to Mrs. Ramsay’s sayings, to look at him through her eyes.

She raised a little mountain for the ants to climb over. She reduced
them to a frenzy of indecision by this interference in their cosmogony.
Some ran this way, others that.

One wanted fifty pairs of eyes to see with, she reflected. Fifty pairs
of eyes were not enough to get round that one woman with, she thought.
Among them, must be one that was stone blind to her beauty. One wanted
most some secret sense, fine as air, with which to steal through
keyholes and surround her where she sat knitting, talking, sitting
silent in the window alone; which took to itself and treasured up like
the air which held the smoke of the steamer, her thoughts, her
imaginations, her desires. What did the hedge mean to her, what did
the garden mean to her, what did it mean to her when a wave broke?
(Lily looked up, as she had seen Mrs. Ramsay look up; she too heard a
wave falling on the beach.) And then what stirred and trembled in her
mind when the children cried, “How’s that? How’s that?” cricketing?
She would stop knitting for a second. She would look intent. Then she
would lapse again, and suddenly Mr. Ramsay stopped dead in his pacing in
front of her and some curious shock passed through her and seemed to
rock her in profound agitation on its breast when stopping there he
stood over her and looked down at her. Lily could see him.

He stretched out his hand and raised her from her chair. It seemed
somehow as if he had done it before; as if he had once bent in the same
way and raised her from a boat which, lying a few inches off some
island, had required that the ladies should thus be helped on shore by
the gentlemen. An old-fashioned scene that was, which required,
very nearly, crinolines and peg-top trousers. Letting herself be
helped by him, Mrs. Ramsay had thought (Lily supposed) the time
has come now. Yes, she would say it now. Yes, she would marry him.
And she stepped slowly, quietly on shore. Probably she said one
word only, letting her hand rest still in his. I will marry you,
she might have said, with her hand in his; but no more. Time
after time the same thrill had passed between them–obviously it
had, Lily thought, smoothing a way for her ants. She was not
inventing; she was only trying to smooth out something she had been
given years ago folded up; something she had seen. For in the rough
and tumble of daily life, with all those children about, all those
visitors, one had constantly a sense of repetition–of one thing
falling where another had fallen, and so setting up an echo which
chimed in the air and made it full of vibrations.

But it would be a mistake, she thought, thinking how they walked off
together, arm in arm, past the greenhouse, to simplify their
relationship. It was no monotony of bliss–she with her impulses and
quicknesses; he with his shudders and glooms. Oh, no. The bedroom door
would slam violently early in the morning. He would start from the
table in a temper. He would whizz his plate through the window. Then
all through the house there would be a sense of doors slamming and
blinds fluttering, as if a gusty wind were blowing and people scudded
about trying in a hasty way to fasten hatches and make things ship-
shape. She had met Paul Rayley like that one day on the stairs.
They had laughed and laughed, like a couple of children, all because
Mr. Ramsay, finding an earwig in his milk at breakfast had sent the
whole thing flying through the air on to the terrace outside. ‘An earwig,
Prue murmured, awestruck, ‘in his milk.’ Other people might find
centipedes. But he had built round him such a fence of sanctity, and
occupied the space with such a demeanour of majesty that an earwig
in his milk was a monster.

But it tired Mrs. Ramsay, it cowed her a little–the plates whizzing
and the doors slamming. And there would fall between them sometimes
long rigid silences, when, in a state of mind which annoyed Lily
in her, half plaintive, half resentful, she seemed unable to surmount
the tempest calmly, or to laugh as they laughed, but in her weariness
perhaps concealed something. She brooded and sat silent. After a
time he would hang stealthily about the places where she was–roaming
under the window where she sat writing letters or talking, for she
would take care to be busy when he passed, and evade him, and pretend
not to see him. Then he would turn smooth as silk, affable, urbane,
and try to win her so. Still she would hold off, and now she would
assert for a brief season some of those prides and airs the due
of her beauty which she was generally utterly without; would turn
her head; would look so, over her shoulder, always with some
Minta, Paul, or William Bankes at her side. At length, standing
outside the group the very figure of a famished wolfhound (Lily got up
off the grass and stood looking at the steps, at the window, where she
had seen him), he would say her name, once only, for all the world like
a wolf barking in the snow, but still she held back; and he would say
it once more, and this time something in the tone would rouse her, and
she would go to him, leaving them all of a sudden, and they would walk
off together among the pear trees, the cabbages, and the raspberry
beds. They would have it out together. But with what attitudes and
with what words? Such a dignity was theirs in this relationship that,
turning away, she and Paul and Minta would hide their curiosity and
their discomfort, and begin picking flowers, throwing balls,
chattering, until it was time for dinner, and there they were, he at
one end of the table, she at the other, as usual.

“Why don’t some of you take up botany?.. With all those legs and arms
why doesn’t one of you…?” So they would talk as usual, laughing,
among the children. All would be as usual, save only for some quiver,
as of a blade in the air, which came and went between them as if
the usual sight of the children sitting round their soup plates
had freshened itself in their eyes after that hour among the pears and
the cabbages. Especially, Lily thought, Mrs. Ramsay would glance at
Prue. She sat in the middle between brothers and sisters, always
occupied, it seemed, seeing that nothing went wrong so that she
scarcely spoke herself. How Prue must have blamed herself for that
earwig in the milk How white she had gone when Mr. Ramsay threw his
plate through the window! How she drooped under those long silences
between them! Anyhow, her mother now would seem to be making it up to
her; assuring her that everything was well; promising her that one of
these days that same happiness would be hers. She had enjoyed it for
less than a year, however.

She had let the flowers fall from her basket, Lily thought, screwing up
her eyes and standing back as if to look at her picture, which she was
not touching, however, with all her faculties in a trance, frozen over
superficially but moving underneath with extreme speed.

She let her flowers fall from her basket, scattered and tumbled them on
to the grass and, reluctantly and hesitatingly, but without question or
complaint–had she not the faculty of obedience to perfection?–went
too. Down fields, across valleys, white, flower-strewn–that was
how she would have painted it. The hills were austere. It was rocky;
it was steep. The waves sounded hoarse on the stones beneath. They
went, the three of them together, Mrs. Ramsay walking rather fast in
front, as if she expected to meet some one round the corner.

Suddenly the window at which she was looking was whitened by some light
stuff behind it. At last then somebody had come into the drawing-room;
somebody was sitting in the chair. For Heaven’s sake, she prayed, let
them sit still there and not come floundering out to talk to her.
Mercifully, whoever it was stayed still inside; had settled by some
stroke of luck so as to throw an odd-shaped triangular shadow over the
step. It altered the composition of the picture a little. It was
interesting. It might be useful. Her mood was coming back to her. One
must keep on looking without for a second relaxing the intensity of
emotion, the determination not to be put off, not to be bamboozled.
One must hold the scene–so–in a vise and let nothing come in and
spoil it. One wanted, she thought, dipping her brush deliberately, to
be on a level with ordinary experience, to feel simply that’s a chair,
that’s a table, and yet at the same time, It’s a miracle, it’s an
ecstasy. The problem might be solved after all. Ah, but what had
happened? Some wave of white went over the window pane. The air must
have stirred some flounce in the room. Her heart leapt at her and
seized her and tortured her.

“Mrs. Ramsay! Mrs. Ramsay!” she cried, feeling the old horror come
back–to want and want and not to have. Could she inflict that still?
And then, quietly, as if she refrained, that too became part of
ordinary experience, was on a level with the chair, with the table.
Mrs. Ramsay–it was part of her perfect goodness–sat there quite
simply, in the chair, flicked her needles to and fro, knitted her
reddish-brown stocking, cast her shadow on the step. There she sat.

And as if she had something she must share, yet could hardly leave her
easel, so full her mind was of what she was thinking, of what she was
seeing, Lily went past Mr. Carmichael holding her brush to the edge of
the lawn. Where was that boat now? And Mr. Ramsay? She wanted him.

13

Mr. Ramsay had almost done reading. One hand hovered over the page as
if to be in readiness to turn it the very instant he had finished it.
He sat there bareheaded with the wind blowing his hair about,
extraordinarily exposed to everything. He looked very old. He looked,
James thought, getting his head now against the Lighthouse, now against
the waste of waters running away into the open, like some old stone
lying on the sand; he looked as if he had become physically what was
always at the back of both of their minds–that loneliness which was
for both of them the truth about things.

He was reading very quickly, as if he were eager to get to the end.
Indeed they were very close to the Lighthouse now. There it loomed up,
stark and straight, glaring white and black, and one could see the
waves breaking in white splinters like smashed glass upon the rocks.
One could see lines and creases in the rocks. One could see the
windows clearly; a dab of white on one of them, and a little tuft of
green on the rock. A man had come out and looked at them through a
glass and gone in again. So it was like that, James thought, the
Lighthouse one had seen across the bay all these years; it was a stark
tower on a bare rock. It satisfied him. It confirmed some obscure
feeling of his about his own character. The old ladies, he thought,
thinking of the garden at home, went dragging their chairs about on the
lawn. Old Mrs. Beckwith, for example, was always saying how nice it was
and how sweet it was and how they ought to be so proud and they ought
to be so happy, but as a matter of fact, James thought, looking at the
Lighthouse stood there on its rock, it’s like that. He looked at his
father reading fiercely with his legs curled tight. They shared that
knowledge. “We are driving before a gale–we must sink,” he began
saying to himself, half aloud, exactly as his father said it.

Nobody seemed to have spoken for an age. Cam was tired of looking at
the sea. Little bits of black cork had floated past; the fish were
dead in the bottom of the boat. Still her father read, and James
looked at him and she looked at him, and they vowed that they would
fight tyranny to the death, and he went on reading quite unconscious of
what they thought. It was thus that he escaped, she thought. Yes,
with his great forehead and his great nose, holding his little mottled
book firmly in front of him, he escaped. You might try to lay hands on
him, but then like a bird, he spread his wings, he floated off to
settle out of your reach somewhere far away on some desolate stump.
She gazed at the immense expanse of the sea. The island had grown so
small that it scarcely looked like a leaf any longer. It looked like
the top of a rock which some wave bigger than the rest would cover.
Yet in its frailty were all those paths, those terraces, those bedrooms–
all those innumberable things. But as, just before sleep, things
simplify themselves so that only one of all the myriad details has
power to assert itself, so, she felt, looking drowsily at the island,
all those paths and terraces and bedrooms were fading and disappearing,
and nothing was left but a pale blue censer swinging rhythmically this
way and that across her mind. It was a hanging garden; it was a
valley, full of birds, and flowers, and antelopes… She was falling
asleep.

“Come now,” said Mr. Ramsay, suddenly shutting his book.

Come where? To what extraordinary adventure? She woke with a start.
To land somewhere, to climb somewhere? Where was he leading them? For
after his immense silence the words startled them. But it was absurd.
He was hungry, he said. It was time for lunch. Besides, look, he
said. “There’s the Lighthouse. We’re almost there.”

“He’s doing very well,” said Macalister, praising James. “He’s keeping
her very steady.”

But his father never praised him, James thought grimly.

Mr. Ramsay opened the parcel and shared out the sandwiches among them.
Now he was happy, eating bread and cheese with these fishermen. He
would have liked to live in a cottage and lounge about in the harbour
spitting with the other old men, James thought, watching him slice his
cheese into thin yellow sheets with his penknife.

This is right, this is it, Cam kept feeling, as she peeled her hard-
boiled egg. Now she felt as she did in the study when the old men were
reading THE TIMES. Now I can go on thinking whatever I like, and I
shan’t fall over a precipice or be drowned, for there he is, keeping
his eye on me, she thought.

At the same time they were sailing so fast along by the rocks that it
was very exciting–it seemed as if they were doing two things at once;
they were eating their lunch here in the sun and they were also making
for safety in a great storm after a shipwreck. Would the water last?
Would the provisions last? she asked herself, telling herself a story
but knowing at the same time what was the truth.

They would soon be out of it, Mr. Ramsay was saying to old Macalister;
but their children would see some strange things. Macalister said he
was seventy-five last March; Mr. Ramsay was seventy-one. Macalister said
he had never seen a doctor; he had never lost a tooth. And that’s the
way I’d like my children to live–Cam was sure that her father was
thinking that, for he stopped her throwing a sandwich into the sea and
told her, as if he were thinking of the fishermen and how they lived,
that if she did not want it she should put it back in the parcel. She
should not waste it. He said it so wisely, as if he knew so well all
the things that happened in the world that she put it back at once, and
then he gave her, from his own parcel, a gingerbread nut, as if he were
a great Spanish gentleman, she thought, handing a flower to a lady at a
window (so courteous his manner was). He was shabby, and simple,
eating bread and cheese; and yet he was leading them on a great
expedition where, for all she knew, they would be drowned.

“That was where she sunk,” said Macalister’s boy suddenly.

Three men were drowned where we are now, the old man said. He had seen
them clinging to the mast himself. And Mr. Ramsay taking a look at the
spot was about, James and Cam were afraid, to burst out:

But I beneath a rougher sea,

and if he did, they could not bear it; they would shriek aloud; they
could not endure another explosion of the passion that boiled in him;
but to their surprise all he said was “Ah” as if he thought to himself.
But why make a fuss about that? Naturally men are drowned in a storm,
but it is a perfectly straightforward affair, and the depths of the sea
(he sprinkled the crumbs from his sandwich paper over them) are only
water after all. Then having lighted his pipe he took out his watch.
He looked at it attentively; he made, perhaps, some mathematical
calculation. At last he said, triumphantly:

“Well done!” James had steered them like a born sailor.

There! Cam thought, addressing herself silently to James. You’ve got
it at last. For she knew that this was what James had been wanting,
and she knew that now he had got it he was so pleased that he would not
look at her or at his father or at any one. There he sat with his hand
on the tiller sitting bolt upright, looking rather sulky and frowning
slightly. He was so pleased that he was not going to let anybody share
a grain of his pleasure. His father had praised him. They must think
that he was perfectly indifferent. But you’ve got it now, Cam thought.

They had tacked, and they were sailing swiftly, buoyantly on long
rocking waves which handed them on from one to another with an
extraordinary lilt and exhilaration beside the reef. On the left a
row of rocks showed brown through the water which thinned and
became greener and on one, a higher rock, a wave incessantly broke
and spurted a little column of drops which fell down in a shower. One
could hear the slap of the water and the patter of falling drops and a
kind of hushing and hissing sound from the waves rolling and gambolling
and slapping the rocks as if they were wild creatures who were
perfectly free and tossed and tumbled and sported like this for ever.

Now they could see two men on the Lighthouse, watching them and making
ready to meet them.

Mr. Ramsay buttoned his coat, and turned up his trousers. He took the
large, badly packed, brown paper parcel which Nancy had got ready and
sat with it on his knee. Thus in complete readiness to land he sat
looking back at the island. With his long-sighted eyes perhaps he
could see the dwindled leaf-like shape standing on end on a plate of
gold quite clearly. What could he see? Cam wondered. It was all a
blur to her. What was he thinking now? she wondered. What was it he
sought, so fixedly, so intently, so silently? They watched him, both
of them, sitting bareheaded with his parcel on his knee staring and
staring at the frail blue shape which seemed like the vapour of
something that had burnt itself away. What do you want? they both
wanted to ask. They both wanted to say, Ask us anything and we will
give it you. But he did not ask them anything. He sat and looked at
the island and he might be thinking, We perished, each alone, or he
might be thinking, I have reached it. I have found it; but he said
nothing.

Then he put on his hat.

“Bring those parcels,” he said, nodding his head at the things Nancy
had done up for them to take to the Lighthouse. “The parcels for the
Lighthouse men,” he said. He rose and stood in the bow of the boat,
very straight and tall, for all the world, James thought, as if he were
saying, “There is no God,” and Cam thought, as if he were leaping into
space, and they both rose to follow him as he sprang, lightly like a
young man, holding his parcel, on to the rock.

14

“He must have reached it,” said Lily Briscoe aloud, feeling suddenly
completely tired out. For the Lighthouse had become almost invisible,
had melted away into a blue haze, and the effort of looking at it and
the effort of thinking of him landing there, which both seemed to be
one and the same effort, had stretched her body and mind to the utmost.
Ah, but she was relieved. Whatever she had wanted to give him, when he
left her that morning, she had given him at last.

“He has landed,” she said aloud. “It is finished.” Then, surging up,
puffing slightly, old Mr. Carmichael stood beside her, looking like an
old pagan god, shaggy, with weeds in his hair and the trident (it was
only a French novel) in his hand. He stood by her on the edge of the
lawn, swaying a little in his bulk and said, shading his eyes with his
hand: “They will have landed,” and she felt that she had been right.
They had not needed to speak. They had been thinking the same things
and he had answered her without her asking him anything. He stood
there as if he were spreading his hands over all the weakness and
suffering of mankind; she thought he was surveying, tolerantly and
compassionately, their final destiny. Now he has crowned the occasion,
she thought, when his hand slowly fell, as if she had seen him let fall
from his great height a wreath of violets and asphodels which,
fluttering slowly, lay at length upon the earth.

Quickly, as if she were recalled by something over there, she turned to
her canvas. There it was–her picture. Yes, with all its greens and
blues, its lines running up and across, its attempt at something. It
would be hung in the attics, she thought; it would be destroyed. But
what did that matter? she asked herself, taking up her brush again.
She looked at the steps; they were empty; she looked at her canvas; it
was blurred. With a sudden intensity, as if she saw it clear for a
second, she drew a line there, in the centre. It was done; it was
finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue,
I have had my vision.

 

THE END

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