Tevershall pit-bank was burning, had been burning for years, and it would cost thousands to put it out. So it had to burn. And when the wind was that way, which was often, the house was full of the stench of this sulphurous combustion of the earth’s excrement.
Time went on. Whatever happened, nothing happened, because she was so beautifully out of contact. She and Clifford lived in their ideas and his books. She entertained… there were always people in the house. Time went on as the clock does, half past eight instead of half past seven.
But, mind you, it’s like this: while you live your life, you are in some way an Organic whole with all life. But once you start the mental life you pluck the apple. You’ve severed the connexion between the apple and the tree: the organic connexion. And if you’ve got nothing in your life but the mental life, then you yourself are a plucked apple… you’ve fallen off the tree. And then it is a logical necessity to be spiteful, just as it’s a natural necessity for a plucked apple to go bad.’
And dimly she realized one of the great laws of the human soul: that when the emotional soul receives a wounding shock, which does not kill the body, the soul seems to recover as the body recovers. But this is only appearance. It is really only the mechanism of the re-assumed habit. Slowly, slowly the wound to the soul begins to make itself felt, like a bruise, which only slowly deepens its terrible ache, till it fills all the psyche. And when we think we have recovered and forgotten, it is then that the terrible after-effects have to be encountered at their worst.
She understood perfectly well why people had cocktail parties, and jazzed, and Charlestoned till they were ready to drop. You had to take it out some way or other, your youth, or it ate you up. But what a ghastly thing, this youth! … You felt as old as Methuselah, and yet the thing fizzed somehow, and didn’t let you be comfortable.
Clifford, however, inside himself, never quite forgave Connie for giving up her personal care of him to a strange hired woman. It killed, he said to himself, the real flower of the intimacy between him and her. But Connie didn’t mind that. The fine flower of their intimacy was to her rather like an orchid, a bulb stuck parasitic on her tree of life, and producing, to her eyes, a rather shabby flower.
It was not woman’s fault, nor even love’s fault, nor the fault of sex. The fault lay there, out there, in those evil electric lights and diabolical rattlings of engines. There, in the world of the mechanical greedy, greedy mechanism and mechanized greed, sparkling with lights and gushing hot metal and roaring with traffic, there lay the vast evil thing, ready to destroy whatever did not conform. Soon it would destroy the wood, and the bluebells would spring no more. All vulnerable things must perish under the rolling and running of iron.
Connie woke up to the existence of legs. They became more important to her than faces, which are no longer very real. How few people had live, alert legs! She looked at the men in the stalls. Great puddingy thighs in black pudding-cloth, or lean wooden sticks in black funeral stuff, or well-shaped young legs without any meaning whatever, either sensuality or tenderness or sensitiveness, just mere leggy ordinariness that pranced around.
Connie was absolutely afraid of the industrial masses. They seemed so weird to her. A life with utterly no beauty in it, no intuition, always ‘in the pit’. Children from such men! Oh God, oh God! … Incarnate ugliness, and yet alive! What would become of them all? Perhaps with the passing of the coal they would disappear again, off the face of the earth. They had appeared out of nowhere in their thousands, when the coal had called for them. Perhaps they were only weird fauna of the coal-seams. Creatures of another reality, they were elementals, serving the elements of coal, as the metal-workers were elementals, serving the element of iron.
‘Shall I tell you?’ she said, looking into his face. ‘Shall I tell you what you have that other men don’t have, and that will make the future? Shall I tell you?’ ‘Tell me then,’ he replied. ‘It’s the courage of your own tenderness, that’s what it is: like when you put your hand on my tail and say I’ve got a pretty tail.’
‘I stand for the touch of bodily awareness between human beings,’ he said to himself, ‘and the touch of tenderness. And she is my mate. And it is a battle against the money, and the machine, and the insentient ideal monkeyishness of the world. And she will stand behind me there. Thank God I’ve got a woman! Thank God I’ve got a woman who is with me, and tender and aware of me. Thank God she’s not a bully, nor a fool. Thank God she’s a tender, aware woman.’
But the little forked flame between me and you: there you are! That’s what I abide by, and will abide by, Cliffords and Berthas, colliery companies and governments and the money-mass of people all notwithstanding.
… But a great deal of us is together, and we can but abide by it, and steer our courses to meet soon. John Thomas says good-night to Lady Jane, a little droopingly, but with a hopeful heart.
Forget the scandal, the filthy, the porn. This book is not a pornography. There is something much deeper here, of war and industrialization and capitalism, of a crumbling old-world order, of disconnection and re-connection, of something tender. It is brutally honest, and rang crisp clear more than any other book that I have read recently.