The Voyage Out HTML version

Chapter XVI
Hewet and Rachel had long ago reached the particular place on the edge of the cliff
where, looking down into the sea, you might chance on jelly-fish and dolphins. Looking
the other way, the vast expanse of land gave them a sensation which is given by no view,
however extended, in England; the villages and the hills there having names, and the
farthest horizon of hills as often as not dipping and showing a line of mist which is the
sea; here the view was one of infinite sun-dried earth, earth pointed in pinnacles, heaped
in vast barriers, earth widening and spreading away and away like the immense floor of
the sea, earth chequered by day and by night, and partitioned into different lands, where
famous cities were founded, and the races of men changed from dark savages to white
civilised men, and back to dark savages again. Perhaps their English blood made this
prospect uncomfortably impersonal and hostile to them, for having once turned their
faces that way they next turned them to the sea, and for the rest of the time sat looking at
the sea. The sea, though it was a thin and sparkling water here, which seemed incapable
of surge or anger, eventually narrowed itself, clouded its pure tint with grey, and swirled
through narrow channels and dashed in a shiver of broken waters against massive granite
rocks. It was this sea that flowed up to the mouth of the Thames; and the Thames washed
the roots of the city of London.
Hewet's thoughts had followed some such course as this, for the first thing he said as they
stood on the edge of the cliff was--
"I'd like to be in England!"
Rachel lay down on her elbow, and parted the tall grasses which grew on the edge, so that
she might have a clear view. The water was very calm; rocking up and down at the base
of the cliff, and so clear that one could see the red of the stones at the bottom of it. So it
had been at the birth of the world, and so it had remained ever since. Probably no human
being had ever broken that water with boat or with body. Obeying some impulse, she
determined to mar that eternity of peace, and threw the largest pebble she could find. It
struck the water, and the ripples spread out and out. Hewet looked down too.
"It's wonderful," he said, as they widened and ceased. The freshness and the newness
seemed to him wonderful. He threw a pebble next. There was scarcely any sound.
"But England," Rachel murmured in the absorbed tone of one whose eyes are
concentrated upon some sight. "What d'you want with England?"
"My friends chiefly," he said, "and all the things one does."
He could look at Rachel without her noticing it. She was still absorbed in the water and
the exquisitely pleasant sensations which a little depth of the sea washing over rocks
suggests. He noticed that she was wearing a dress of deep blue colour, made of a soft thin
cotton stuff, which clung to the shape of her body. It was a body with the angles and