The Voyage Out HTML version

Chapter XVIII
Everything he saw was distasteful to him. He hated the blue and white, the intensity and
definiteness, the hum and heat of the south; the landscape seemed to him as hard and as
romantic as a cardboard background on the stage, and the mountain but a wooden screen
against a sheet painted blue. He walked fast in spite of the heat of the sun.
Two roads led out of the town on the eastern side; one branched off towards the
Ambroses' villa, the other struck into the country, eventually reaching a village on the
plain, but many footpaths, which had been stamped in the earth when it was wet, led off
from it, across great dry fields, to scattered farm-houses, and the villas of rich natives.
Hewet stepped off the road on to one of these, in order to avoid the hardness and heat of
the main road, the dust of which was always being raised in small clouds by carts and
ramshackle flies which carried parties of festive peasants, or turkeys swelling unevenly
like a bundle of air balls beneath a net, or the brass bedstead and black wooden boxes of
some newly wedded pair.
The exercise indeed served to clear away the superficial irritations of the morning, but he
remained miserable. It seemed proved beyond a doubt that Rachel was indifferent to him,
for she had scarcely looked at him, and she had talked to Mr. Flushing with just the same
interest with which she talked to him. Finally, Hirst's odious words flicked his mind like a
whip, and he remembered that he had left her talking to Hirst. She was at this moment
talking to him, and it might be true, as he said, that she was in love with him. He went
over all the evidence for this supposition--her sudden interest in Hirst's writing, her way
of quoting his opinions respectfully, or with only half a laugh; her very nickname for
him, "the great Man," might have some serious meaning in it. Supposing that there were
an understanding between them, what would it mean to him?
"Damn it all!" he demanded, "am I in love with her?" To that he could only return
himself one answer. He certainly was in love with her, if he knew what love meant. Ever
since he had first seen her he had been interested and attracted, more and more interested
and attracted, until he was scarcely able to think of anything except Rachel. But just as he
was sliding into one of the long feasts of meditation about them both, he checked himself
by asking whether he wanted to marry her? That was the real problem, for these miseries
and agonies could not be endured, and it was necessary that he should make up his mind.
He instantly decided that he did not want to marry any one. Partly because he was
irritated by Rachel the idea of marriage irritated him. It immediately suggested the picture
of two people sitting alone over the fire; the man was reading, the woman sewing. There
was a second picture. He saw a man jump up, say good-night, leave the company and
hasten away with the quiet secret look of one who is stealing to certain happiness. Both
these pictures were very unpleasant, and even more so was a third picture, of husband
and wife and friend; and the married people glancing at each other as though they were
content to let something pass unquestioned, being themselves possessed of the deeper
truth. Other pictures--he was walking very fast in his irritation, and they came before him
without any conscious effort, like pictures on a sheet--succeeded these. Here were the