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Women in Love

9. Coal-Dust
Going home from school in the afternoon, the Brangwen girls descended the hill
between the picturesque cottages of Willey Green till they came to the railway
crossing. There they found the gate shut, because the colliery train was rumbling
nearer. They could hear the small locomotive panting hoarsely as it advanced
with caution between the embankments. The one-legged man in the little signal-
hut by the road stared out from his security, like a crab from a snail-shell.
Whilst the two girls waited, Gerald Crich trotted up on a red Arab mare. He rode
well and softly, pleased with the delicate quivering of the creature between his
knees. And he was very picturesque, at least in Gudrun's eyes, sitting soft and
close on the slender red mare, whose long tail flowed on the air. He saluted the
two girls, and drew up at the crossing to wait for the gate, looking down the
railway for the approaching train. In spite of her ironic smile at his
picturesqueness, Gudrun liked to look at him. He was well-set and easy, his face
with its warm tan showed up his whitish, coarse moustache, and his blue eyes
were full of sharp light as he watched the distance.
The locomotive chuffed slowly between the banks, hidden. The mare did not like
it. She began to wince away, as if hurt by the unknown noise. But Gerald pulled
her back and held her head to the gate. The sharp blasts of the chuffing engine
broke with more and more force on her. The repeated sharp blows of unknown,
terrifying noise struck through her till she was rocking with terror. She recoiled
like a spring let go. But a glistening, half-smiling look came into Gerald's face. He
brought her back again, inevitably.
The noise was released, the little locomotive with her clanking steel connecting-
rod emerged on the highroad, clanking sharply. The mare rebounded like a drop
of water from hot iron. Ursula and Gudrun pressed back into the hedge, in fear.
But Gerald was heavy on the mare, and forced her back. It seemed as if he sank
into her magnetically, and could thrust her back against herself.
'The fool!' cried Ursula loudly. 'Why doesn't he ride away till it's gone by?'
Gudrun was looking at him with black-dilated, spellbound eyes. But he sat
glistening and obstinate, forcing the wheeling mare, which spun and swerved like
a wind, and yet could not get out of the grasp of his will, nor escape from the mad
clamour of terror that resounded through her, as the trucks thumped slowly,
heavily, horrifying, one after the other, one pursuing the other, over the rails of
the crossing.
The locomotive, as if wanting to see what could be done, put on the brakes, and
back came the trucks rebounding on the iron buffers, striking like horrible
cymbals, clashing nearer and nearer in frightful strident concussions. The mare
opened her mouth and rose slowly, as if lifted up on a wind of terror. Then
suddenly her fore feet struck out, as she convulsed herself utterly away from the
horror. Back she went, and the two girls clung to each other, feeling she must fall
backwards on top of him. But he leaned forward, his face shining with fixed
amusement, and at last he brought her down, sank her down, and was bearing
her back to the mark. But as strong as the pressure of his compulsion was the
 
 
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