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Women in Love

2. Shortlands
The Brangwens went home to Beldover, the wedding-party gathered at
Shortlands, the Criches' home. It was a long, low old house, a sort of manor
farm, that spread along the top of a slope just beyond the narrow little lake of
Willey Water. Shortlands looked across a sloping meadow that might be a park,
because of the large, solitary trees that stood here and there, across the water of
the narrow lake, at the wooded hill that successfully hid the colliery valley
beyond, but did not quite hide the rising smoke. Nevertheless, the scene was
rural and picturesque, very peaceful, and the house had a charm of its own.
It was crowded now with the family and the wedding guests. The father, who was
not well, withdrew to rest. Gerald was host. He stood in the homely entrance hall,
friendly and easy, attending to the men. He seemed to take pleasure in his social
functions, he smiled, and was abundant in hospitality.
The women wandered about in a little confusion, chased hither and thither by the
three married daughters of the house. All the while there could be heard the
characteristic, imperious voice of one Crich woman or another calling 'Helen,
come here a minute,' 'Marjory, I want you---here.' 'Oh, I say, Mrs Witham---.'
There was a great rustling of skirts, swift glimpses of smartly-dressed women, a
child danced through the hall and back again, a maidservant came and went
hurriedly.
Meanwhile the men stood in calm little groups, chatting, smoking, pretending to
pay no heed to the rustling animation of the women's world. But they could not
really talk, because of the glassy ravel of women's excited, cold laughter and
running voices. They waited, uneasy, suspended, rather bored. But Gerald
remained as if genial and happy, unaware that he was waiting or unoccupied,
knowing himself the very pivot of the occasion.
Suddenly Mrs Crich came noiselessly into the room, peering about with her
strong, clear face. She was still wearing her hat, and her sac coat of blue silk.
'What is it, mother?' said Gerald.
'Nothing, nothing!' she answered vaguely. And she went straight towards Birkin,
who was talking to a Crich brother-in-law.
'How do you do, Mr Birkin,' she said, in her low voice, that seemed to take no
count of her guests. She held out her hand to him.
'Oh Mrs Crich,' replied Birkin, in his readily-changing voice, 'I couldn't come to
you before.'
'I don't know half the people here,' she said, in her low voice. Her son-in-law
moved uneasily away.
'And you don't like strangers?' laughed Birkin. 'I myself can never see why one
should take account of people, just because they happen to be in the room with
one: why should I know they are there?'
'Why indeed, why indeed!' said Mrs Crich, in her low, tense voice. 'Except that
they are there. I don't know people whom I find in the house. The children
introduce them to me---"Mother, this is Mr So-and-so." I am no further. What has
 
 
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