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Chapter 3 Connie was aware, however, of a growing restlessness. Out of her disconnexion, a restlessness was taking possession of her like madness. It twitched her limbs when she didn’t want to twitch them, it jerked her spine when she didn’t want to jerk upright but preferred to rest comfortably. It thrilled inside her body, in her womb, somewhere, till she felt she must jump into water and swim to get away from it; a mad restlessness. It made her heart beat violently for no reason. And she was getting thinner. It was just restlessness. She would rush off across the park, abandon Clifford, and lie prone in the bracken. To get away from the house...she must get away from the house and everybody. The work was her one refuge, her sanctuary. But it was not really a refuge, a sanctuary, because she had no connexion with it. It was only a place where she could get away from the rest. She never really touched the spirit of the wood itself...if it had any such nonsensical thing. Vaguely she knew herself that she was going to pieces in some way. Vaguely she knew she was out of connexion: she had lost touch with the substantial and vital world. Only Clifford and his books, which did not exist...which had nothing in them! Void to void. Vaguely she knew. But it was like beating her head against a stone. Free eBooks at Planet eBook.com 27 Her father warned her again: ‘Why don’t you get yourself a beau, Connie? Do you all the good in the world.’ That winter Michaelis came for a few days. He was a young Irishman who had already made a large fortune by his plays in America. He had been taken up quite enthusiastically for a time by smart society in London, for he wrote smart society plays. Then gradually smart society realized that it had been made ridiculous at the hands of a down-atheel Dublin street-rat, and revulsion came. Michaelis was the last word in what was caddish and bounderish. He was discovered to be anti-English, and to the class that made this discovery this was worse than the dirtiest crime. He was cut dead, and his corpse thrown into the refuse can. Nevertheless Michaelis had his apartment in Mayfair, and walked down Bond Street the image of a gentleman, for you cannot get even the best tailors to cut their low-down customers, when the customers pay. Clifford was inviting the young man of thirty at an inauspicious moment in thyoung man’s career. Yet Clifford did not hesitate. Michaelis had the ear of a few million people, probably; and, being a hopeless outsider, he would no doubt be grateful to be asked down to Wragby at this juncture, when the rest of the smart world was cutting him. Being grateful, he would no doubt do Clifford ‘good’ over there in America. Kudos! A man gets a lot of kudos, whatever that may be, by being talked about in the right way, especially ‘over there’. Clifford was a coming man; and it was remarkable what a sound publicity instinct he had. In the end Michaelis did him most nobly in a play, and Clifford was a sort of popular hero. Till the reaction, when he found he had been made ridiculous. Connie wondered a little over Clifford’s blind, imperious instinct to become known: known, that is, to the vast amorphous world he did not himself know, and of which he was uneasily afraid; known as a writer, as a first-class modern writer. Connie was aware from successful, old, hearty, bluffing Sir Malcolm, that artists did advertise themselves, and exert themselves to put their goods over. But her father used channels ready-made, used by all the other R. A.s who sold their pictures. Whereas Clifford discovered new channels of publicity, all kinds. He had all kinds of people at Wragby, without exactly lowering himself. But, determined to build himself a monument of a reputation quickly, he used any handy rubble in the making. Michaelis arrived duly, in a very neat car, with a chauffeur and a manservant. He was absolutely Bond Street! But at right of him something in Clifford’s county soul recoiled. He wasn’t exactly... not exactly...in fact, he wasn’t at all, well, what his appearance intended to imply. To Clifford this was final and enough. Yet he was very polite to the man; to the amazing success in him. The bitch-goddess, as she is called, of Success, roamed, snarling and protective, round the half-humble, half-defiant Michaelis’ heels, and intimidated Clifford completely: for he wanted to prostitute himself to the bitch-goddess, Success also, if only she would have him. Michaelis obviously wasn’t an Englishman, in spite of all the tailors, hatters, barbers, booters of the very best quarter of London. No, no, he obviously wasn’t an Englishman: Free eBooks at Planet eBook.com 29 the wrong sort of flattish, pale face and bearing; and the wrong sort of grievance. He had a grudge and a grievance: that was obvious to any true-born English gentleman, who would scorn to let such a thing appear blatant in his own demeanour. Poor Michaelis had been much kicked, so that he had a slightly tail-between-the-legs look even now. He had pushed his way by sheer instinct and sheerer effrontery on to the stage and to the front of it, with his plays. He had caught the public. And he had thought the kicking days were over. Alas, they weren’t... They never would be. For he, in a sense, asked to be kicked. He pined to be where he didn’t belong...among the English upper classes. And how they enjoyed the various kicks they got at him! And how he hated them! Nevertheless he travelled with his manservant and his very neat car, this Dublin mongrel. There was something about him that Connie liked. He didn’t put on airs to himself, he had no illusions about himself. He talked to Clifford sensibly, briefly, practically, about all the things Clifford wanted to know. He didn’t expand or let himself go. He knew he had been asked down to Wragby to be made use of, and like an old, shrewd, almost indifferent business man, or big-business man, he let himself be asked questions, and he answered with as little waste of feeling as possible. ’Money!’ he said. ‘Money is a sort of instinct. It’s a sort of property of nature in a man to make money. It’s nothing you do. It’s no trick you play. It’s a sort of permanent accident of your own nature; once you start, you make money, and you go on; up to a point, I suppose.’ ’But you’ve got to begin,’ said Clifford. ’Oh, quite! You’ve got to get IN. You can do nothing if you are kept outside. You’ve got to beat your way in. Once you’ve done that, you can’t help it.’ ’But could you have made money except by plays?’ asked Clifford. ’Oh, probably not! I may be a good writer or I may be a bad one, but a writer and a writer of plays is what I am, and I’ve got to be. There’s no question of that.’ ’And you think it’s a writer of popular plays that you’ve got to be?’ asked Connie. ’There, exactly!’ he said, turning to her in a sudden flash. ‘There’s nothing in it! There’s nothing in popularity. There’s nothing in the public, if it comes to that. There’s nothing really in my plays to make them popular. It’s not that. They just are like the weather...the sort that will HAVE to be...for the time being.’ He turned his slow, rather full eyes, that had been drowned in such fathomless disillusion, on Connie, and she trembled a little. He seemed so old...endlessly old, built up of layers of disillusion, going down in him generation after generation, like geological strata; and at the same time he was forlorn like a child. An outcast, in a certain sense; but with the desperate bravery of his rat-like existence. ’At least it’s wonderful what you’ve done at your time of life,’ said Clifford contemplatively. ’I’m thirty...yes, I’m thirty!’ said Michaelis, sharply and suddenly, with a curious laugh; hollow, triumphant, and Free eBooks at Planet eBook.com 31 bitter. ’And are you alone?’ asked Connie. ’How do you mean? Do I live alone? I’ve got my servant. He’s a Greek, so he says, and quite incompetent. But I keep him. And I’m going to marry. Oh, yes, I must marry.’ ’It sounds like going to have your tonsils cut,’ laughed Connie. ‘Will it be an effort?’ He looked at her admiringly. ‘Well, Lady Chatterley, somehow it will! I find... excuse me... I find I can’t marry an Englishwoman, not even an Irishwoman...’ ’Try an American,’ said Clifford. ’Oh, American!’ He laughed a hollow laugh. ‘No, I’ve asked my man if he will find me a Turk or something... something nearer to the Oriental.’ Connie really wondered at this queer, melancholy specimen of extraordinary success; it was said he had an income of fifty thousand dollars from America alone. Sometimes he was handsome: sometimes as he looked sideways, downwards, and the light fell on him, he had the silent, enduring beauty of a carved ivory Negro mask, with his rather full eyes, and the strong queerly-arched brows, the immobile, compressed mouth; that momentary but revealed immobility, an immobility, a timelessness which the Buddha aims at, and which Negroes express sometimes without ever aiming at it; something old, old, and acquiescent in the race! Aeons of acquiescence in race destiny, instead of our individual resistance. And then a swimming through, like rats in a dark river. Connie felt a sudden, strange leap of sympathy for him, a leap mingled with compassion, and tinged with repulsion, amounting almost to love. The outsider! The outsider! And they called him a bounder! How much more bounderish and assertive Clifford looked! How much stupider! Michaelis knew at once he had made an impression on her. He turned his full, hazel, slightly prominent eyes on her in a look of pure detachment. He was estimating her, and the extent of the impression he had made. With the English nothing could save him from being the eternal outsider, not even love. Yet women sometimes fell for him...Englishwomen too. He knew just where he was with Clifford. They were two alien dogs which would have liked to snarl at one another, but which smiled instead, perforce. But with the woman he was not quite so sure. Breakfast was served in the bedrooms; Clifford never appeared before lunch, and the dining-room was a little dreary. After coffee Michaelis, restless and ill-sitting soul, wondered what he should do. It was a fine November...day fine for Wragby. He looked over the melancholy park. My God! What a place! He sent a servant to ask, could he be of any service to Lady Chatterley: he thought of driving into Sheffield. The answer came, would he care to go up to Lady Chatterley’s sitting-room. Connie had a sitting-room on the third floor, the top floor of the central portion of the house. Clifford’s rooms were on the ground floor, of course. Michaelis was flattered by being asked up to Lady Chatterley’s own parlour. He folFree eBooks at Planet eBook.com 33 lowed blindly after the servant...he never noticed things, or had contact with Isis surroundings. In her room he did glance vaguely round at the fine German reproductions of Renoir and C‚zanne. ’It’s very pleasant up here,’ he said, with his queer smile, as if it hurt him to smile, showing his teeth. ‘You are wise to get up to the top.’ ’Yes, I think so,’ she said. Her room was the only gay, modern one in the house, the only spot in Wragby where her personality was at all revealed. Clifford had never seen it, and she asked very few people up. Now she and Michaelis sit on opposite sides of the fire and talked. She asked him about himself, his mother and father, his brothers...other people were always something of a wonder to her, and when her sympathy was awakened she was quite devoid of class feeling. Michaelis talked frankly about himself, quite frankly, without affectation, simply revealing his bitter, indifferent, stray-dog’s soul, then showing a gleam of revengeful pride in his success. ’But why are you such a lonely bird?’ Connie asked him; and again he looked at her, with his full, searching, hazel look. ’Some birds ARE that way,’ he replied. Then, with a touch of familiar irony: ‘but, look here, what about yourself? Aren’t you by way of being a lonely bird yourself?’ Connie, a little startled, thought about it for a few moments, and then she said: ‘Only in a way! Not altogether, like you!’ ’Am I altogether a lonely bird?’ he asked, with his queer grin of a smile, as if he had toothache; it was so wry, and his eyes were so perfectly unchangingly melancholy, or stoical, or disillusioned or afraid. ’Why?’ she said, a little breathless, as she looked at him. ‘You are, aren’t you?’ She felt a terrible appeal coming to her from him, that made her almost lose her balance. ’Oh, you’re quite right!’ he said, turning his head away, and looking sideways, downwards, with that strange immobility of an old race that is hardly here in our present day. It was that that really made Connie lose her power to see him detached from herself. He looked up at her with the full glance that saw everything, registered everything. At the same time, the infant crying in the night was crying out of his breast to her, in a way that affected her very womb. ’It’s awfully nice of you to think of me,’ he said laconically. ’Why shouldn’t I think of you?’ she exclaimed, with hardly breath to utter it. He gave the wry, quick hiss of a laugh. ’Oh, in that way!...May I hold your hand for a minute?’ he asked suddenly, fixing his eyes on her with almost hypnotic power, and sending out an appeal that affected her direct in the womb. She stared at him, dazed and transfixed, and he went over and kneeled beside her, and took her two feet close in his two hands, and buried his face in her lap, remaining motionless. She was perfectly dim and dazed, looking down in Free eBooks at Planet eBook.com 35 a sort of amazement at the rather tender nape of his neck, feeling his face pressing her thighs. In all her burning dismay, she could not help putting her hand, with tenderness and compassion, on the defenceless nape of his neck, and he trembled, with a deep shudder. Then he looked up at her with that awful appeal in his full, glowing eyes. She was utterly incapable of resisting it. From her breast flowed the answering, immense yearning over him; she must give him anything, anything. He was a curious and very gentle lover, very gentle with the woman, trembling uncontrollably, and yet at the same time detached, aware, aware of every sound outside. To her it meant nothing except that she gave herself to him. And at length he ceased to quiver any more, and lay quite still, quite still. Then, with dim, compassionate fingers, she stroked his head, that lay on her breast. When he rose, he kissed both her hands, then both her feet, in their suede slippers, and in silence went away to the end of the room, where he stood with his back to her. There was silence for some minutes. Then he turned and came to her again as she sat in her old place by the fire. ’And now, I suppose you’ll hate me!’ he said in a quiet, inevitable way. She looked up at him quickly. ’Why should I?’ she asked. ’They mostly do,’ he said; then he caught himself up. ‘I mean...a woman is supposed to.’ ’This is the last moment when I ought to hate you,’ she said resentfully. ’I know! I know! It should be so! You’re FRIGHTFULLY good to me...’ he cried miserably. She wondered why he should be miserable. ‘Won’t you sit down again?’ she said. He glanced at the door. ’Sir Clifford!’ he said, ‘won’t he...won’t he be...?’ She paused a moment to consider. ‘Perhaps!’ she said. And she looked up at him. ‘I don’t want Clifford to know not even to suspect. It WOULD hurt him so much. But I don’t think it’s wrong, do you?’ ’Wrong! Good God, no! You’re only too infinitely good to me...I can hardly bear it.’ He turned aside, and she saw that in another moment he would be sobbing. ’But we needn’t let Clifford know, need we?’ she pleaded. ‘It would hurt him so. And if he never knows, never suspects, it hurts nobody.’ ’Me!’ he said, almost fiercely; ‘he’ll know nothing from me! You see if he does. Me give myself away! Ha! Ha!’ he laughed hollowly, cynically, at such an idea. She watched him in wonder. He said to her: ‘May I kiss your hand arid go? I’ll run into Sheffield I think, and lunch there, if I may, and be back to tea. May I do anything for you? May I be sure you don’t hate me?—and that you won’t?’—he ended with a desperate note of cynicism. ’No, I don’t hate you,’ she said. ‘I think you’re nice.’ ’Ah!’ he said to her fiercely, ‘I’d rather you said that to me than said you love me! It means such a lot more...Till afternoon then. I’ve plenty to think about till then.’ He kissed her hands humbly and was gone. ’I don’t think I can stand that young man,’ said Clifford Free eBooks at Planet eBook.com 37 at lunch. ’Why?’ asked Connie. ’He’s such a bounder underneath his veneer...just waiting to bounce us.’ ’I think people have been so unkind to him,’ said Connie. ’Do you wonder? And do you think he employs his shining hours doing deeds of kindness?’ ’I think he has a certain sort of generosity.’ ’Towards whom?’ ’I don’t quite know.’ ’Naturally you don’t. I’m afraid you mistake unscrupulousness for generosity.’ Connie paused. Did she? It was just possible. Yet the unscrupulousness of Michaelis had a certain fascination for her. He went whole lengths where Clifford only crept a few timid paces. In his way he had conquered the world, which was what Clifford wanted to do. Ways and means...? Were those of Michaelis more despicable than those of Clifford? Was the way the poor outsider had shoved and bounced himself forward in person, and by the back doors, any worse than Clifford’s way of advertising himself into prominence? The bitch-goddess, Success, was trailed by thousands of gasping, dogs with lolling tongues. The one that got her first was the real dog among dogs, if you go by success! So Michaelis could keep his tail up. The queer thing was, he didn’t. He came back towards tea-time with a large handful of violets and lilies, and the same hang-dog expression. Connie wondered sometimes if it were a sort of mask to disarm opposition, because it was almost too fixed. Was he really such a sad dog? His sad-dog sort of extinguished self persisted all the evening, though through it Clifford felt the inner effrontery. Connie didn’t feel it, perhaps because it was not directed against women; only against men, and their presumptions and assumptions. That indestructible, inward effrontery in the meagre fellow was what made men so down on Michaelis. His very presence was an affront to a man of society, cloak it as he might in an assumed good manner. Connie was in love with him, but she managed to sit with her embroidery and let the men talk, and not give herself away. As for Michaelis, he was perfect; exactly the same melancholic, attentive, aloof young fellow of the previous evening, millions of degrees remote from his hosts, but laconically playing up to them to the required amount, and never coming forth to them for a moment. Connie felt he must have forgotten the morning. He had not forgotten. But he knew where he was...in the same old place outside, where the born outsiders are. He didn’t take the love-making altogether personally. He knew it would not change him from an ownerless dog, whom everybody begrudges its golden collar, into a comfortable society dog. The final fact being that at the very bottom of his soul he WASan outsider, and anti-social, and he accepted the fact inwardly, no matter how Bond-Streety he was on the outside. His isolation was a necessity to him; just as the appearance of conformity and mixing-in with the smart people was also a necessity. Free eBooks at Planet eBook.com 39 But occasional love, as a comfort arid soothing, was also a good thing, and he was not ungrateful. On the contrary, he was burningly, poignantly grateful for a piece of natural, spontaneous kindness: almost to tears. Beneath his pale, immobile, disillusioned face, his child’s soul was sobbing with gratitude to the woman, and burning to come to her again; just as his outcast soul was knowing he would keep really clear of her. He found an opportunity to say to her, as they were lighting the candles in the hall: ’May I come?’ ’I’ll come to you,’ she said. ’Oh, good!’ He waited for her a long time...but she came. He was the trembling excited sort of lover, whose crisis soon came, and was finished. There was something curiously childlike and defenceless about his naked body: as children are naked. His defences were all in his wits and cunning, his very instincts of cunning, and when these were in abeyance he seemed doubly naked and like a child, of unfinished, tender flesh, and somehow struggling helplessly. He roused in the woman a wild sort of compassion and yearning, and a wild, craving physical desire. The physical desire he did not satisfy in her; he was always come and finished so quickly, then shrinking down on her breast, and recovering somewhat his effrontery while she lay dazed, disappointed, lost. But then she soon learnt to hold him, to keep him there inside her when his crisis was over. And there he was generous and curiously potent; he stayed firm inside her, giving to her, while she was active...wildly, passionately active, coming to her own crisis. And as he felt the frenzy of her achieving her own orgasmic satisfaction from his hard, erect passivity, he had a curious sense of pride and satisfaction. ’Ah, how good!’ she whispered tremulously, and she became quite still, clinging to him. And he lay there in his own isolation, but somehow proud. He stayed that time only the three days, and to Clifford was exactly the same as on the first evening; to Connie also. There was no breaking down his external man. He wrote to Connie with the same plaintive melancholy note as ever, sometimes witty, and touched with a queer, sexless affection. A kind of hopeless affection he seemed to feel for her, and the essential remoteness remained the same. He was hopeless at the very core of him, and he wanted to be hopeless. He rather hated hope. ‘UNE IMMENSE ESP RANCE A TRAVERS LA TERRE’, he read somewhere, and his comment was:’—and it’s darned-well drowned everything worth having.’ Connie never really understood him, but, in her way, she loved him. And all the time she felt the reflection of his hopelessness in her. She couldn’t quite, quite love in hopelessness. And he, being hopeless, couldn’t ever quite love at all. So they went on for quite a time, writing, and meeting occasionally in London. She still wanted the physical, sexuFree eBooks at Planet eBook.com 41 al thrill she could get with him by her own activity, his little orgasm being over. And he still wanted to give it her. Which was enough to keep them connected. And enough to give her a subtle sort of self-assurance, something blind and a little arrogant. It was an almost mechanical confidence in her own powers, and went with a great cheerfulness. She was terrifically cheerful at Wragby. And she used all her aroused cheerfulness and satisfaction to stimulate Clifford, so that he wrote his best at this time, and was almost happy in his strange blind way. He really reaped the fruits of the sensual satisfaction she got out of Michaelis’ male passivity erect inside her. But of course he never knew it, and if he had, he wouldn’t have said thank you! Yet when those days of her grand joyful cheerfulness and stimulus were gone, quite gone, and she was depressed and irritable, how Clifford longed for them again! Perhaps if he’d known he might even have wished to get her and Michaelis together again.




CAPITOLUL III. T;

otuşi, Constance simţea o nelinişte crescîndă din pricina desprinderii sale de lume, o nelinişte care punea stăpmire pe ea ca o demenţă, o hărţuia, n-o lăsa să doarmă, palpita în trupul ei, în măruntaiele ei, ca o flacără. Inima îi bătea mai tare fără pricină; şi slăbea, slăbea mereu.

Şi nu era numai o nelinişte; cîteodată traversa parcul în fugă, se prăvălea ca faţa la pămînt, în ferigi să scape de casă... de lume...

Dar nici pădurea nu era un refugiu, un sanctuar, fiindcă nu avea o legătură adevărată cu ea. Nu pricepuse niciodată adevăratul spirit al pădurii, presupunmd că e posibil să fii existat un lucru aşa de absurd. Simţea nedesluşit că se istoveşte; nedesluşit se ştia desprinsă de totul: pierduse orice contact cu ceea ce este real, vital, pe lume. Nu-i rămăsese decît Clifford şi cărţile sale; şi nici ele nu existau - nu mai era nimic. Gol în gol. Simţea asta, dar era ca şi cum şi-ar fi izbit capul de o piatră. Tatăl ei ii dădu un nou avertisment. — De ce nu-ţi cauţi un amant? Ţi-ar face biae. în iarna aceea, Michaelis, dramaturgul, venise pentru cîteva zile la Wragby. Tîhărul irlandez cîştigase o avere în America şi fusese primit cu entuziasm de societatea mondenă şi elegantă a Loadrei, fiindcă scria piese elegante şi mondene. Apoi, puţin cîte puţin, lumea îşi dădu seama că fusese îsşelată de acest mizerabil „şoarece de canal din Dublin", şi „Micfeaelis" devenise sinonim cu „ticălos" căci era antibritaaic şi în ochii societăţii aristocratice nu era crimă mai scîmavă. Fu condamnat la moarte, iar cadavrul lui aruncat în lada de gunoi a high-Ufe-ului. Şi totuşi, Michaelis avea un apartament în Mayfair şi se arăta pe Bond Street cu toate semnele exterioare ale bunăstării unui adevărat gentleman; căci nici cei mai mari croitori nu întorc spatele clienţilor, cînd clienţii plătesc.

Acest tînăr de treizeci de ani trecea printr-un impas. Totuşi, Clifford nu şovăi să-l invite. Michaelis avea milioane de cititori sau auditori; şi ca paria social era, desigur, recunoscător 25 că fusese invitat la Wragby, într-o vreme cînd toata 1,,™ călătorea însoţit de valet, într-o maşină frumoasă, dinele acela bastard din Dublin...

Era în el ceva care-i plăcea Constancei. Nu-şi dădea aere; nU.şi făcea nici o iluzie despre el; vorbea măsurat, scurt, practic, despre tot ceea ce Clifford dorea să ştie. Nu insista, n-o lua prea repede. Ştia că fusese invitat la Wragby spre a fi pus la con-- •• -: ca un vechi om de afaceri, judicios şi aproape in-lăsa întrebat şi răspundea, pierzînd cît mai puţin celebritate^ SB tMa ""^ Ş1 rasPundea' Pierzmd cît mai P»tm n«n?rO-Ş^a Şi-Care-i ^P^^SeTiieSS?^/^0™1' ~ Banu1' ^Dnea * este m fel de '"**»*• A *&& bani nespus sa ajungă cunoscut ca scriitor şi să fieTotat ™ ? 1 °^ este la om un fel de dar natural. Puţin importă ceea ce face el. coi™ ^- ^Lff ştia bine> P™ exemplul bătrLnlf^T/,6 Nu există planuri, înşelătorii. Este doar o continuă întîinplare! ţ^^^^^sS^^^ 2KSESsă cîştigi ba*mer6i mai departe; pînă la -

intrebuanţate de toţi pictorii dbAcadeS Ret^CMOSCUte.Şi " Dar *rebuie să începi, spuse Clifford. Sa-Şl vinda tablourile. Dar CMff^A JZ™™ .Rega!a Care VOiau _ Da. desimir. trehnie să intri în hnră N„ fari n\m\r Ha.5 te. Invita tot felul se înjosească; dar, hotărît ţinea t d fwuru am Academia Reo-al" —• ~* ucuuic sa uitcpi, spuse ^uiiora.

  • • Dar Clifford descoperise miil ^^ ™*f ~ Da' desiSur' trebuie să intri în horă. Nu faci nimic dacă

felul de oameni la Wraebv fi,- &C&- D01 stai Pe de lături. Trebuie să lupţi ca să intri. Dar odată intrat, otărît să-şi facă rapid o reDutatip3^86 '• mmeni nU te mai P°ate haPiB^ca-

lui arisforraf^s r ^puiaue, nu mai _ Dar ai fi nutut cîstiffa hani si altfel Hp.rît s^riinH

rnmp. ___7 _„^«i»i oa-ţl late ţinea cont de morga lui aristocratică. arata exteriorul. Asta era, centru C\ ff 2 f™ ■ eIoc- «^ ce - Si - *"-------------------------------M. ------------------------------- — Dar ai fi putut cîştiga bani şi altfel decît scriind come- ' --------- 1. _, Bun sau rău, sînt un scriitor sau mai precis pot face altceva. Nu rămîne nici o îndoială

— Uite, tocmai asta-i dilema, spuse el întorcîndu-se spre ea cu un elan subit. Toate piesele acestea nu sînt nimic. Succesul nu Canină nimic Şi nici publicul. în piesele mele nu pun nimic ^ ar putea face din ele piese de succes. Ele sînt pur şi simplu

de succes Sînt a§a cum le face timpul; trebuie să fie cel p d la respect, căci v^Tsă se^n^ g^,) Canină nimic Şi nici publicul. în piesele mele nu pun nimic prostltueze V el Zeiţei-caţea numai să fi vrut ea să-l accepte ^ ar putea face din ele piese de succes. Ele sînt pur şi simplu crnitZ-r Pt'cMJ.cnaelis n» era de loc englez, cu tnti ,u *•- - piese de succes- Sînt a§a cum le face timpul; trebuie să fie... cel LonHr "'p.0^0"1' Pălărierii ^ cizmarifX carrieS ? ? ""j P^i56111"1 moment ^onarei. EI nu semăna a en^ez uerui ,ae ux al fşi mtOarse spre Constance ochii lui leneşi,cufundaţi într-o deziluzie fără fund' *'* ea tremură puţin. Avea un aer can^r/" '"^ şi manifestări necSte? SSSî ^ de atît de nPCr.,,c A„ fmfcst»*„ît „sV»; ««.# capabil de resentiment «•' »'S. „._ ... nite! "°aucea şi era îmhăfrînît ^:„ „,„,.,„• „,.„ adevaSt^ rHS eDtiment * ură: era'SîSLtafa"^"51 6r3 ^«f^ nespus de îmbătrînit, părea făcut din straturi suc- SdTSeESr11 î8^carnia ^fî fc?5So^ătS^S c-sive de deziluzii'depuse to el generaţie după generaţie>« TSSH, asemenea sentimente. Bietul Michaelk „,;!• Sa,se mŞte straturi geologice; şi în acelaşi timp era ca un copil aban- iTZl 3-Şa ^' ^ V ^ea coadTiSrăSSH? ?*** donat Un P^ia c" dte cuvmteî dar a^nd curaJul di*Perat ^ Ioc numai prm mstinctul său, mai degrabă nrinn •Ş f3cUse existentei sale de şobolan. £££ Sf^JP1". fa- Mf desele lufcteSă^E^..8!,' J ^ tot ^^ fr^a«a carieră pentru vîrsta dumitale! o

____, ^u. ukgiwa pnn neruşinarea sa,

pină la scenă, pînă în faţă. Piesele lui cuceriseră publicul. Şi el crezuse că vremea loviturilor trecuse. Dar nu trecuse şi n-avea ss treacă niciodată. Pentru că el însuşi cerea loviturile. N-avea decîl "

să trăiască într-un mediu care nu era al lui, în şi cît de mult îi plăcea acesteia Şi cît de mult îl ura! Totuşi, spuse Clifford cu un aer gînditor. — Am treizeci de ani... Da, numai treizeci de Michaelis repede, cu un rîs ciudat; un rîs sec, triumfător

— Şi eşti singur? întreabă Constance. — Ce vrei să spui? Dacă trăiesc singur? Am un servitor.

replică i amar. 26 I

27 Spune că e grec - şi nu ştie să facă nimic, dar tot 0 ţin. Şi ap, vreau să mă căsătoresc.

— Vorbeşti de însurătoare ca de o operaţie de amigdal spuse Constance rîzînd. Oare să fie atît de greu?

El o privi cu admiraţie. — Ei bine Lady Chatterley, da, e foarte greu. Mi se pare iartă-mă, am impresia... că n-aş putea să mă căsătoresc cu englezoaică şi Bici cu o irlandeza.

— încearcă, spuse Clifford, cu o assericancă.

— Oh! o americancă! rfee sec. Nu, i-am spus servitondt meu să-mi găsească o turcoaică sau ceva... mai aproape A Orient.

___aproape », Constasce era puţia sorpriasă de acest curios şi melanccii( exemplu de reuşită extraordinară. Se spunea despre Michaelis c; numai din America primea un venit aaual de cincizeci de mii dt dolari. în unele clipe era frumos; alteori, cînd privea dintr-c parte şi lumina cădea pe el, avea tăcuta şi durabila frumuseţe, a unei măşti de fildeş sculptat, cu ochii săi cam prea mari, :a sprînceaele bogate şi curios arcuite, cu gura imobilă, co -> primată; acea imobilitate de o clipă, revelatoare însă, acea im-bilitate eliberată de timp, la care aspira Budha, şi pe care net o exprimă câteodată fără a o căuta; ceva bătrîn, foarte bătrîn supus ... Veacuri de supunere la soarta rasei, în loc de rezister individuală. Şi mai era ceva, un aer de disperare care plutea deasupra lui - părea mereu pe marginea unei prăpăstii. Ce stance simţi deodată un straniu elan de simpatie pentru el, 12 elan m care era milă şi puţin dezgust, şi care era aproape fa iubire. Era un paria „omul de-alături de drum" şi se spunea că o vulgar! Cit de vulgar părea Clifford pe lingă el, cu toate că era , mai tare! Şi cît de stupid...

1 Michaelis simţi repede simpatia ei. întoarse ochii de cu- I loarea alunei. O privire de perfectă detaşare. O măsură ca să * vadă impresia pe care i-o făcuse. Cu englezii, nimic nu-l salva d a fi mereu „omul de alături", nici chiar iubirea. Totuşi, femeile cedau cîteodată; da, chiar şi englezoaicele.

Cunoştea exact poziţia sa faţă de Clifford. Erau ca doi crin de rase diferite, care ar vrea să-şi arate colţii şi care se guduri de nevoie. Dar cu femeile era mai puţin sigur pe sine... Se servise dejunul în camere. Clifford nu apărea niciodată înainte de prihz, iar sufrageria era tristă. După cafea, Michaelis, singur şi neliniştit, se întrebă ce-ar mai avea de făcut. Era o zi frumoasă de noiembrie; frumoasă pentru Wragby. Privi spre parcul melancolic. Doamne, ce loc! întrebă, printr-un servitor, dacă ar putea fi de vreun folos Lady-ei Chatterley. Se gîndea să

ducă pînă la Sheffield. Lady Chatterley răspunse că ar prefera să meargă în salonul ei cel mic. Constance avea un salonaş în al doilea şi cel din urmă etaj Hin corpul central al clădirii. Apartamentele lui Clifford erau, desigur, la parter. Michaelis fu măgulit că e invitat în salonul particular al Lady-ei Chatterley. îl urmă, fără a vedea altceva, pe servitor. Nu remarca niciodată cele ce-l înconjurau şi nu lua contact cu lucrurile. Totuşi, în saloaaş, aruncă o vagă privire frumoaselor reproduceri germane după Renoir şi Cezanne.

- Ce cameră plăcută, constată el cu un surîs straniu re

28 i4u>„„„___.~f~w~»wu*» guiuiauu uup xvcuutr şi cezanne. — Ce cameră plăcută, constată el, cu un surîs straniu, ca-.j-i descoperi dinţii, de parcă zîmbetull-ar fi durut. Bine faci că preferi etajul superior al casei.

— Nu-i aşa? spuse ea.

Salonul ei era singura odaie veselă şi modernă din castel, singurul loc din Wragby unde personalitatea ei se revela puţin. Clifford nu-l văzuse niciodată; şi Constance invita puţină lume acolo.

Acum, Michaelis şi cu ea se aşezară de o parte şi de alta a căminului. Constance îl întrebă despre el, despre părinţii Iui, despre fraţi; pentru ea oamenii prezentaseră totdeauna interes şi mister, iar cînd cineva îi cîştiga simpatia, pierdea orice prejudecată de clasă. Michaelis vorbea despre sine cu o since-ritate deplină, fără afectare, descoperindu-şi sufletul amar, indiferent, de cîine pierdut, apoi, într-o scăpărare de fulger îşi arătă mândria răzbunătoare a succesului său. — Dar de ce eşti atît de singur? întrebă Constance. El o privi iarăşi cu ochii săi curioşi, de culoarea alunei. — Sînt şi oameni solitari pe lume, răspunse. Apoi, cu o nuanţă de ironie familiară: — Dar şi dumneata îmi faci impresia de a fi cam singură.

I Constance, puţin surprinsă se gîndi un moment: — în parte se poate, dar nu aşa, ca dumneata! — Să fiu eu cu totul singuratic? întrebă el cu straniul său surîs, mai curînd rictus. Şi ochii lui erau atît de melancolici, de stoici, de deziluzionaţi! — Oare, spuse ea, pierzîndu-şi răsuflarea pe cînd fl privea, nu este adevărat? Simţea că de la el îi vine o chemare teribilă, care o făcea să-şi piardă echilibrul, muştea.

— Da, ai dreptate! şi el întoarse capul, cu o privire umilă, cu acea imobilitate de rasă îmbătrînită, care se ţine deoparte şi trăieşte în trecut.

Se uita la eajje furiş, cu ochii aceia mari, care vedeau totul, înregistrau totul. fi» acelaşi timp, copilul singur în noapte, striga

29

spre ea din adîncul fiinţei lui, un strigăt care o tulbura, 0 cutremura. — Eşti prea bună că te gîndeşti la mine, spuse el laconic.

— De ce să nu mă gândesc la dumneata? E ceva rău în asta? El rîse, un rîs chinuit, şuierător:

— O, aşa!... Pot să te iau puţin de mînă? întrebă deodată, fixîndu-şi ochii asupra ei cu o forţă aproape hipnotică.

Ea 2 privea fascinată, pe cînd se apropie şi, îngenunchind, îi îmbrăţişa pulpele şi-şi lipi faţa de genunchii ei. Constance rămase nemişcată privind cu un fel de consternare capul acela din poala sa. în uimirea-i arzătoare nu se putea opri de a-l mîn-gîia cu blîndeţe şi milă, iar el începu să tremure. Apoi, Michaelis ridică ochii strălucitori, plini de acea teribilă chemare şi ea nu-i putu rezista. Din piept i se revărsă o imensă dorinţă, şi se lăsă în voia lui. Era un ciudat şi foarte delicat amant, tremurînd de plăcere şi în acelaşi timp lucid, sensibil la toate sunetele de afară.

Pe urmă, puţin cîte puţin, el se linişti cu totul, iar Constance îi mîhgîie capul pe care şi-l rezemase de sînii ei dezgoliţi. El se ridică, îi sărută mnnile, picioarele încălţate cu pantofi de piele de Suedia, se duse într-un colţ al camerei şi rămase acolo pîhă ce ea îşi aranja hainele şi se aşeză iarăşi lîngă cămin.

— Şi acum socotesc că mă vei urî, se auzi glasul lui, ca o şoaptă.

— De ce să te urăsc? — Aşa se întîmplă de obicei. Apoi, îndreptîndu-se de spate adăugă: — Vreau să spun... e ceea ce aşteptăm noi de la femei. — E ultima dată cîhd voi încerca să te urăsc, răspunse ea liniştită. — Ştiu! Ştiu! Aşa trebuie să fie! Ce bună eşti! exclamă el umilit. Ea nu-i înţelegea durerea.

— Sir Clifford... adăugă el. îl iubeşti? Constance se gîhdi puţin.

— Poate că da. Apoi se uită la el hotărîtă:

— Nu vreau să afle Clifford. Nici măcar să bănuiască. Asta l-ar răni. Doar n-am făcut nici un rău, nu-i aşa?

— Rău? O, Doamne, nu! Eşti doar prea bună cu mine... întoarse capul şi Constance observă că era gata să plîngă.

— Dar nu e nevoie să ştie Clifford nimic, insistă ea. Şi dacă nu ştie şi nici nu va bănui vreodată, înseamnă că va fi bine

30

pentru toată lumea. El se înclină. _ Nu va afla nimic de la mine. îţi pot săruta munile şi apoi să plec? Mă duc cu automobilul la Sheffield, acolo voi dejuna, şi mă voi întoarce pentru ceai. Pot fi sigur că nu mă urăşti şi că nu mă vei urî?

— Nu, nu te urase. îmi placi.

— Ah! spuse el, asta înseamnă mai mult! La revedere şi pe curîfld. Am la ce mă gîndi pînă atunci. îi sărută munile şi plecă. — Nu cred că am să-l pot suporta mult pe acest tînăr, spuse Clifford în timpul mesei.

— De ce? întrebă Constance. — Este imposibil sub spoiala lui; e gata să sară la noi.

— Dar toată lumea s-a purtat atît de rău cu el! — Te surprinde? Şi crezi că el are timp de gentileţe şi bunătate?

— Cred că are un fel de generozitate. — Faţă de cine?

— Nu ştiu. — Desigur. Mi-era teamă că ai să iei lipsa lui de scrupule drept generozitate.

Constance tăcu. Să fi fost adevărat? Poate că da. Şi totuşi, ipsa de scrupule, de reţinere a lui Michaelis o atrăgea. El par-îrgea kilometri întregi, acolo unde Clifford înainta cu paşi ti -izi. într-un cuvînt, cucerise lumea, ceea ce dorea şi Clifford. Oare mijloacele lui-Michaelis erau mai de dispreţuit decît cele ale lui Clifford? Oare chipul în care un om sărac, fără sprijin, înaintase cu mijloace proprii şi pe uşile din dos, era mai rău decît acela al lui Clifford, care încerca să ajungă pe primul plan prii? reclamă? Zeiţa-căţea a succesului era urmărită de mii de cîini, cu boturile întinse şi limbile scoase. Cel care o avusese mai întu era cel mai vrednic, dacă judecăm după succes! Şi Michaelis îşi putea ţine coada în sus.

Totuşi, ciudat, n-o făcea. Se întoarse aproape de ora ceaiului, cu un buchet mare de violete şi crini şi cu aceeaşi înfăţişare de cîine bătut. Constance se întrebase uneori dacă această expresie de dezmoştenit al soartei nu era o mască pentru a-şi dezarma adversarii.

înfăţişarea de cîine bătut se menţinu întreaga seară. Clifford simţea în ea doar neruşinarea interioară. Constance nu simţea sfidarea, poate fiindcă nu era îndreptată împotriva femeilor, ci numai împotriva bărbaţilor, a orgoliului, mîndriei şi

31

pretenţiilor lor. Tocmai această indestructibilă sfidare a acesttij slăbănog, îi aţfţa atît de mult pe bărbaţi împotriva Iui. Numai prezenţa care se ghicea svsb fkfăţişarea- i de împrumut era o j; ■;. nire pentru un om bine crescat. Coastmce era îisdrăgostkă &e Michaelis, dar putu să reziste şi îi lăsă pe bărbaţi să vorbească fără a se trăda. Cît despre irlandez, el se portă la fel ca înainte şi păru la milioane de kilometri de aaafkrioaii săi, răspunzrâdu-le cum trebuia şi aeapropiindu-se de ei o cîipă măcar. Constance se gîadi chiar că el uitase scena de dissrineaţă. N-o uitase. Dar ştia unde se află... Mereu afară, acolo aade trăiesc cei „născu;! pe de lături". El nu dădea îmbrăţişării din salonul unei lady o valoare prea mare. Ştia că nu-l prescinmba din dme fără stăph în câne de salon.

în foad, în adîncul sufletului său era mtr-adevăr „antisi cial", şi o ştia bine, cu toată eleganţa sa exterioară de Bood Street. Izolarea era, peatru el, o aparenţă de conformism, kt compania cămeşilor eleganţi îi era o necesitate.

Dar puţină iubire, din cînd în cîad, era un calmant, ua reconfortant, un lucru bun. Şi Michaelis avea o recunoştinţă fiei -binte pentru orice act de gentileţe naturală şi spontană; bunătatea aproape că-l făcea să plîngă. Sub masca lui palida, imobilă, un suflet de copil suspina recunoscător faţă de acea femeie care i se dăduse; ardea de dorinţa de a se întoarce lîng i ea, de a o avea din nou şi, în acelaşi timp, sufletul său de paria nu se simţea înjosit m faţa ei.

Găsi prilejul să-i spună pe cîad aprindeau lumina în hol, înainte de a se duce la culcare: — Pot să vin?

— Nu, am să vin eu. — Foarte bine.

O aşteptă mult... dar, pînă la urmă, Constance apăru. Michaelis făcea parte din acei bărbaţi nervoşi, care ejaculează repede. Era ceva ciudat, copilăresc şi fără apărare în trupul lui gol; ascunzişurile se datorau unor adinei instincte de viclenie; iar cînd instinctele nu erau treze se înfăţişa de două ori gol, un biet copil înspăimântat. fn Constance se deşteptă un fel de tandreţe, de patimă sălbatică, o dorinţă fizică aproape josnică. Michaelis nu-i satisfăcea dorinţele; ejacula prea repede şi totul se sfîrşea prea curînd; pe urmă rămînea moleşit pe pieptul ei şi femeia se simţea înşelată, frustrată. Dar, în curînd se obişnui a-l ţeţine, a-l păstra acolo, în ea; atunci bărbatul se dovedea generos şi ciudat de puternic; rămînea în ea, se lăsa în voia ei şi femeia se zbuciuma sălbatic, furtunos de pasionată, provocîndu-şi propriul

— Ah, ce bine e! murmura ea cu glas tremurător şi se agăţa de el, liniştită» în sfîrşit satisfăcută. Michaelis nu mai stătu decît trei zile. Purtarea lui faţă de Clifford fu la fel ca în prima seară; faţă de Constance tot aşa. j^jinic nu-i putea schimba înfăţişarea exterioară. Mai tîrziu, scrise Constancei pe acelaşi ton jalnic şi melancolic, cîteodată cu spirit, mereu cu o notă de curioasă afecţiune, fără aluzii sexuale. Părea să aibă pentru ea un fel de dorinţă fără de nădejde, totdeauna distantă. Era lipsit de speranţă pînă in adîncul fiinţei sale şi voia să fie lipsit de speranţă. Avea un fel de ură pentru speranţă. Citise undeva: „Une immense esperance a traverse la terre". Şi adăugase:

— Şi ea a prăpădit tot ce valora ceva.

Constance nu-l înţelesese niciodată; dar în felul ei, îl iubea. Şi tot timpul simţea reflexul acestei deznădejdi. Ea nu putu să-l iubească pe deplin, fără speranţă. Şi el, care nu mai spera nimic, nu putea s-o iubească.

Continuară astfel destul de mult, scriindu-şi şi întîlnmdu-se cîteodată Ia Londra. Ea dorea acea vie senzaţie sexuală pe care

0 obţinea mereu singură, după ce el avusese mica-i plăcere, el voia totdeauna să i-o dea şi asta era de ajuns ca să menţină relaţiile dintre ei.

La Wragby, ea dovedi atunci o dispoziţie grozavă. Şi se servea de toată această satisfacţie trezită pentru a-l stimula pe Clifford, astfel că el scria mai bine ca niciodată şi era, în felul său straniu, fericit, fn realitate, recolta fructul plăcerii pe care Constance o storcea din pasivitatea lui Michaelis. Natural, el nu ştiu aceasta niciodată. Şi dacă ar fi ştiut-o, nu ar fi fost recunoscător

Şi totuşi, cînd zilele de bucurie şi bună dispoziţie trecură, cînd Constance deveni iar posacă şi iritabilă, Clifford le regretă adine. Dacă ar fi ştiut cauza, poate că ar fi îndemnat-o singur să 1 se dea din nou lui Michaelis. 3Comanda nr.520

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