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Women in Love

24. Death And Love
Thomas Crich died slowly, terribly slowly. It seemed impossible to everybody that
the thread of life could be drawn out so thin, and yet not break. The sick man lay
unutterably weak and spent, kept alive by morphia and by drinks, which he
sipped slowly. He was only half conscious---a thin strand of consciousness
linking the darkness of death with the light of day. Yet his will was unbroken, he
was integral, complete. Only he must have perfect stillness about him.
Any presence but that of the nurses was a strain and an effort to him now. Every
morning Gerald went into the room, hoping to find his father passed away at last.
Yet always he saw the same transparent face, the same dread dark hair on the
waxen forehead, and the awful, inchoate dark eyes, which seemed to be
decomposing into formless darkness, having only a tiny grain of vision within
And always, as the dark, inchoate eyes turned to him, there passed through
Gerald's bowels a burning stroke of revolt, that seemed to resound through his
whole being, threatening to break his mind with its clangour, and making him
Every morning, the son stood there, erect and taut with life, gleaming in his
blondness. The gleaming blondness of his strange, imminent being put the father
into a fever of fretful irritation. He could not bear to meet the uncanny, downward
look of Gerald's blue eyes. But it was only for a moment. Each on the brink of
departure, the father and son looked at each other, then parted.
For a long time Gerald preserved a perfect sang froid, he remained quite
collected. But at last, fear undermined him. He was afraid of some horrible
collapse in himself. He had to stay and see this thing through. Some perverse will
made him watch his father drawn over the borders of life. And yet, now, every
day, the great red-hot stroke of horrified fear through the bowels of the son struck
a further inflammation. Gerald went about all day with a tendency to cringe, as if
there were the point of a sword of Damocles pricking the nape of his neck.
There was no escape--he was bound up with his father, he had to see him
through. And the father's will never relaxed or yielded to death. It would have to
snap when death at last snapped it,---if it did not persist after a physical death. In
the same way, the will of the son never yielded. He stood firm and immune, he
was outside this death and this dying.
It was a trial by ordeal. Could he stand and see his father slowly dissolve and
disappear in death, without once yielding his will, without once relenting before
the omnipotence of death. Like a Red Indian undergoing torture, Gerald would
experience the whole process of slow death without wincing or flinching. He even
triumphed in it. He somehow wanted this death, even forced it. It was as if he
himself were dealing the death, even when he most recoiled in horror. Still, he
would deal it, he would triumph through death.
But in the stress of this ordeal, Gerald too lost his hold on the outer, daily life.
That which was much to him, came to mean nothing. Work, pleasure---it was all
left behind. He went on more or less mechanically with his business, but this