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Women in Love

23. Excurse
Next day Birkin sought Ursula out. It happened to be the half-day at the Grammar
School. He appeared towards the end of the morning, and asked her, would she
drive with him in the afternoon. She consented. But her face was closed and
unresponding, and his heart sank.
The afternoon was fine and dim. He was driving the motor-car, and she sat
beside him. But still her face was closed against him, unresponding. When she
became like this, like a wall against him, his heart contracted.
His life now seemed so reduced, that he hardly cared any more. At moments it
seemed to him he did not care a straw whether Ursula or Hermione or anybody
else existed or did not exist. Why bother! Why strive for a coherent, satisfied life?
Why not drift on in a series of accidents-like a picaresque novel? Why not? Why
bother about human relationships? Why take them seriously-male or female?
Why form any serious connections at all? Why not be casual, drifting along,
taking all for what it was worth?
And yet, still, he was damned and doomed to the old effort at serious living.
'Look,' he said, 'what I bought.' The car was running along a broad white road,
between autumn trees.
He gave her a little bit of screwed-up paper. She took it and opened it.
'How lovely,' she cried.
She examined the gift.
'How perfectly lovely!' she cried again. 'But why do you give them me?' She put
the question offensively.
His face flickered with bored irritation. He shrugged his shoulders slightly.
'I wanted to,' he said, coolly.
'But why? Why should you?'
'Am I called on to find reasons?' he asked.
There was a silence, whilst she examined the rings that had been screwed up in
the paper.
'I think they are beautiful,' she said, 'especially this. This is wonderful-'
It was a round opal, red and fiery, set in a circle of tiny rubies.
'You like that best?' he said.
'I think I do.'
'I like the sapphire,' he said.
'This?'
It was a rose-shaped, beautiful sapphire, with small brilliants.
'Yes,' she said, 'it is lovely.' She held it in the light. 'Yes, perhaps it is the best-'
'The blue-' he said.
'Yes, wonderful-'
He suddenly swung the car out of the way of a farm-cart. It tilted on the bank. He
was a careless driver, yet very quick. But Ursula was frightened. There was
always that something regardless in him which terrified her. She suddenly felt he
might kill her, by making some dreadful accident with the motor-car. For a
moment she was stony with fear.
 
 
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