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Women in Love

14.
Water-Party
Every year Mr Crich gave a more or less public water-party on the lake. There
was a little pleasure-launch on Willey Water and several rowing boats, and
guests could take tea either in the marquee that was set up in the grounds of the
house, or they could picnic in the shade of the great walnut tree at the boat-
house by the lake. This year the staff of the Grammar-School was invited, along
with the chief officials of the firm. Gerald and the younger Criches did not care for
this party, but it had become customary now, and it pleased the father, as being
the only occasion when he could gather some people of the district together in
festivity with him. For he loved to give pleasures to his dependents and to those
poorer than himself. But his children preferred the company of their own equals
in wealth. They hated their inferiors' humility or gratitude or awkwardness.
Nevertheless they were willing to attend at this festival, as they had done almost
since they were children, the more so, as they all felt a little guilty now, and
unwilling to thwart their father any more, since he was so ill in health. Therefore,
quite cheerfully Laura prepared to take her mother's place as hostess, and
Gerald assumed responsibility for the amusements on the water.
Birkin had written to Ursula saying he expected to see her at the party, and
Gudrun, although she scorned the patronage of the Criches, would nevertheless
accompany her mother and father if the weather were fine.
The day came blue and full of sunshine, with little wafts of wind. The sisters both
wore dresses of white crepe, and hats of soft grass. But Gudrun had a sash of
brilliant black and pink and yellow colour wound broadly round her waist, and she
had pink silk stockings, and black and pink and yellow decoration on the brim of
her hat, weighing it down a little. She carried also a yellow silk coat over her arm,
so that she looked remarkable, like a painting from the Salon. Her appearance
was a sore trial to her father, who said angrily:
'Don't you think you might as well get yourself up for a Christmas cracker, an'ha'
done with it?'
But Gudrun looked handsome and brilliant, and she wore her clothes in pure
defiance. When people stared at her, and giggled after her, she made a point of
saying loudly, to Ursula:
'Regarde, regarde ces gens-la! Ne sont-ils pas des hiboux incroyables?' And with
the words of French in her mouth, she would look over her shoulder at the
giggling party.
'No, really, it's impossible!' Ursula would reply distinctly. And so the two girls took
it out of their universal enemy. But their father became more and more enraged.
Ursula was all snowy white, save that her hat was pink, and entirely without
trimming, and her shoes were dark red, and she carried an orange-coloured coat.
And in this guise they were walking all the way to Shortlands, their father and
mother going in front.
They were laughing at their mother, who, dressed in a summer material of black
and purple stripes, and wearing a hat of purple straw, was setting forth with much
more of the shyness and trepidation of a young girl than her daughters ever felt,
 
 
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