—and the clean linen tight-stretched clean to skin warm and. Humming. Stretching against the chill one feels. Warm. Heavy and. Spinning. Not too much. Spin. Only a bit. Lovely.
And the clock as it chimes. Missed how many; could be. Yawning, hugely. Tomorrow, already. The snow falling faintly, faintly falling. Only there isn't; not a flake. Melted since November. In London the descent of one's last end comes a heavy mist. Smile into the pillow: a light rain. Smoke rising from damp wood and a bottle of Spanish wine from the Knole cellars. Eyelids heavy. It was a good present.
Strange how it could be. The giving of gifts, and how they were received. So difficult to predict. One reaches out—but who knows what one will find. Perhaps a blankness. Awful. Insurmountable. And then sometimes, at the oddest moments… even this evening. Sitting in dull company, should say familiar company (though Lytton called him dull—Angus, not Leonard; even Lytton wouldn't)—even tonight one felt one's edges softening. Yearning, as Grizzle at the fire-side, for a scritch behind the ears. Tug-of-war with a scrap of something. Her blue velvet coat. (Only, Nelly should die of mortification if Grizzle got hold of Vita's blue velvet coat.) There are such moments. Never the opportune times, it seems, but still they spread out, warm… and absurdly one craves. Pants after communion with—with, of all people, Angus, sitting smiling over his port. And all the time one knows—Lytton is right, he is dull. It is undeniable, but it is no barrier, is it. Not tonight. Not with the fire so warm and Vita's bottle of Spanish wine; and Leonard's old familiar voice saying eight hundred ninety Seducers sold. Twelve hundred six Waste Lands. One wants to reach out a hand; to look into his eyes. Simply connect, one feels, after Morgan; and becomes more affable; more outward-reaching. For once it is easy. One could make any space needed, one feels; anything needed; with one's fingers gliding fireglow-warm over the smooth glass. So simple, it appears now, to be generous. Why is one not always generous? Why does one keep oneself back so, from one's fellows, twenty-nine days out of the month? Only connect!; but one becomes a cipher, even to oneself. So easy it seems, to give, in kindness.
Yet even tonight… one is glad that the men drink port. The feeling it creates. As if one had her all to oneself. And one could laugh—for no reason! For she is far away. Striding over the countryside in her bear-skin and breeches. It is the effect of the wine, one knows; and yet one feels: if she were here, rising on her strong legs to refill one's glass…
And still. When the looked-for opportunity arises, one is aloof. A stone; unmoved. For she happens along and it is a clear bright morning, and there is no wine, and one's edges are hard. It could be thrilling! one thinks, and tries to feel it; but no use. Come mottled sunlight one would, if one is honest, far rather be closeted in one's rooms, with a pen and a sheaf of revisions. One cannot take it in. (The sheet was stretched and the bed was narrow. The bed narrow. The sheet stretched and the bed.) One is a scarecrow, in the wrong dress, with the wrong hat; and she is walking the portrait-gallery of her ancestors, with her dogs and her riding-crop. Saying, off-hand, of Mary Stuart: An ancestor of ours took her the death warrant. Lighting a cigarette in a chair where Shakespeare might have sat. The memory kindles in the dark but in the clear bright morning nothing. Nothing.
Cheek to cool linen. Between the covers warm now; the pillow cool only when it's turned. Mist falling softly through the universe and softly falling. If only one might be transported in space, just now—now!—in the moment it feels possible. Only connect. Yet one might feel that kindling with such warmth; and reach out one's aching hand—and find no answering pressure. For the hand reached out to one a moment before, has now withdrawn. Or one might clasp together in a winter season, when one is numb with cold and then… lilacs out of the dead land…
Remember Leonard, leaning across for a kiss, that day in Hampstead before the War—and feeling nothing. No movement at all; though one wanted to. And he said, you are like a hill; like a mountain. How painful it was! Yet could not be gainsaid. Think that you are upon a rock; and now, Throw me again. However many tosses: there was nothing to be done. A mountain does not have it in itself to become a river. And yet, tonight, to be full of shifting currents. Of water rippling out, and out; and out; lapping with soft susurrations about a hand reached down off a dock to dip fingers—but no hand does reach. For one is alone.
Whereas others, somehow, are not. Others can… others, it seems, must. Can't help themselves, any more than anyone. Move legs like a child angel-making in snow. Warm cool. Warm cool.
Lytton is right to say: Angus is dull. Lytton can say so because Angus is not beautiful to him. Not… what is it? Surely not only beauty but some vivid quickening. There must be—well. Not young enough, anyway. Dull, he says; yet how he debases himself before the dullness of Ritchie; the dullness of Senhouse. Twenty years of them. Hobhouse! Remember Cambridge, the cloven damn'd hoof. More brain, O Lord, more brain! Twenty years of trembling declarations. Fawning, and pleading. And him the first to sniff out falseness, anywhere else. One adores him and yet one feels—one's stomach turns. He knows it, that's worse. One is repulsed, and he sees it. Surly with new love he withdraws for six months at once... and then one misses him, so dreadfully. Laughing, as one does with him and no one quite else. That ability of his to strike through a matter. All the way through, when he isn't on his knees to a golden-haired boy. One abuses him to Leonard, and Clive, and Nessa; because one wishes to abuse them to him and he is gone.
But think of Nessa, of Clive, saying, oh. What? I suppose Virginia is otherwise occupied with—. Does Virginia's work suffer, d'you think, since—? We'ld invite Virginia, of course, but that Grenadier philistine of hers… Philistine! From Clive! But one can hear him say it. One's skin shrinks up around one at the thought. And at his party, on Sunday: Vita, bluff and jovial, looking at paintings with her blunt mouth around her cigarette and her feet planted wide saying Well! I think it's jolly and next to her Roger prickling up at once into the self-assertive lecturing undergraduate, to set her right. The whole thing, distasteful. One felt one might walk at once from the room, decisive and unafraid. Wash one's hands of them; never speak to them again. Board a train for the sea-side and live in solitude, far from the madding… though of course directly one did, one would wish oneself back together with the both of them—only in different moods; different days. Different versions of themselves.
Or—alone, in the salt-spray—wish oneself back in Kent. Watching her stride her ancestral galleries on legs like oaks, that first day at Knole, in the warm half-sun of July. Her jodhpurs. Tight-fitted, mud-splattered. The light fur on her upper lip. Tonight, one could. Well, write her tomorrow. Hold to some fragment of this—this. Invite her down. Sign again, Yr dirty illiterate: no, too much. (Think of Lytton, panting like a puppy. Yet why should he be allowed, why should he always be allowed, and never—?) Continue thus and you will undermine my virtue. You are—It is sad you are determined to. Dear Vita. Never was I happier than last night. You were in Kent; I in London; I had you all alone.
Tomorrow. Remember, tomorrow. Now warm, still. Rung like a bell, still. Turn over. Skin humming; everything humming under the surface of things but that—best not look much beneath that. Dark, anyway. Night after such a lovely day.
Water, Leonard would say. Water, or your aching head, when you wake.