Lady Chatterley's Lover
On a frosty morning with a little February sun, Clifford and Connie went for a walk
across the park to the wood. That is, Clifford chuffed in his motor-chair, and
Connie walked beside him.
The hard air was still sulphurous, but they were both used to it. Round the near
horizon went the haze, opalescent with frost and smoke, and on the top lay the
small blue sky; so that it was like being inside an enclosure, always inside. Life
always a dream or a frenzy, inside an enclosure.
The sheep coughed in the rough, sere grass of the park, where frost lay bluish in
the sockets of the tufts. Across the park ran a path to the wood-gate, a fine
ribbon of pink. Clifford had had it newly gravelled with sifted gravel from the pit-
bank. When the rock and refuse of the underworld had burned and given off its
sulphur, it turned bright pink, shrimp-coloured on dry days, darker, crab-coloured
on wet. Now it was pale shrimp-colour, with a bluish-white hoar of frost. It always
pleased Connie, this underfoot of sifted, bright pink. It's an ill wind that brings
Clifford steered cautiously down the slope of the knoll from the hall, and Connie
kept her hand on the chair. In front lay the wood, the hazel thicket nearest, the
purplish density of oaks beyond. From the wood's edge rabbits bobbed and
nibbled. Rooks suddenly rose in a black train, and went trailing off over the little
Connie opened the wood-gate, and Clifford puffed slowly through into the broad
riding that ran up an incline between the clean-whipped thickets of the hazel. The
wood was a remnant of the great forest where Robin Hood hunted, and this
riding was an old, old thoroughfare coming across country. But now, of course, it
was only a riding through the private wood. The road from Mansfield swerved
round to the north.
In the wood everything was motionless, the old leaves on the ground keeping the
frost on their underside. A jay called harshly, many little birds fluttered. But there
was no game; no pheasants. They had been killed off during the war, and the
wood had been left unprotected, till now Clifford had got his game-keeper again.
Clifford loved the wood; he loved the old oak-trees. He felt they were his own
through generations. He wanted to protect them. He wanted this place inviolate,
shut off from the world.
The chair chuffed slowly up the incline, rocking and jolting on the frozen clods.
And suddenly, on the left, came a clearing where there was nothing but a ravel of
dead bracken, a thin and spindly sapling leaning here and there, big sawn
stumps, showing their tops and their grasping roots, lifeless. And patches of
blackness where the woodmen had burned the brushwood and rubbish.
This was one of the places that Sir Geoffrey had cut during the war for trench
timber. The whole knoll, which rose softly on the right of the riding, was denuded
and strangely forlorn. On the crown of the knoll where the oaks had stood, now
was bareness; and from there you could look out over the trees to the colliery
railway, and the new works at Stacks Gate. Connie had stood and looked, it was