The Widening Circle
It was very burdensome to Ursula, that she was the eldest of the family. By the time she was eleven, she had to take to school Gudrun and Theresa and Catherine. The boy, William, always called Billy, so that he should not be confused with his father, was a lovable, rather delicate child of three, so he stayed at home as yet. There was another baby girl, called Cassandra.
The children went for a time to the little church school just near the Marsh. It was the only place within reach, and being so small, Mrs. Brangwen felt safe in sending her children there, though the village boys did nickname Ursula Urtler, and Gudrun Good-runner, and Theresa Tea-pot.
Gudrun and Ursula were co-mates. The second child, with her long, sleepy body and her endless chain of fancies, would have nothing to do with realities. She was not for them, she was for her own fancies. Ursula was the one for realities. So Gudrun left all such to her elder sister, and trusted in her implicitly, indifferently. Ursula had a great tenderness for her co-mate sister.
It was no good trying to make Gudrun responsible. She floated along like a fish in the sea, perfect within the medium of her own difference and being. Other existence did not trouble her. Only she believed in Ursula, and trusted to Ursula.
The eldest child was very much fretted by her responsibility for the other young ones. Especially Theresa, a sturdy, bold-eyed thing, had a faculty for warfare.
Our Ursula, Billy Pillins has lugged my hair.
What did you say to him?
I said nothing.
Then the Brangwen girls were in for a feud with the Pillinses, or Phillipses.
You wont pull my hair again, Billy Pillins, said Theresa, walking with her sisters, and looking superbly at the freckled, red-haired boy.
Why shant I? retorted Billy Pillins.
You wont because you dursnt, said the tiresome Theresa.
You come here, then, Tea-pot, an see if I dursna.
Up marched Tea-pot, and immediately Billy Pillins lugged her black, snaky locks. In a rage she flew at him. Immediately in rushed Ursula and Gudrun, and little Katie, in clashed the other Phillipses, Clem and Walter, and Eddie Anthony. Then there was a fray. The Brangwen girls were well-grown and stronger than many boys. But for pinafores and long hair, they would have carried easy victories. They went home, however, with hair lugged and pinafores torn. It was a joy to the Phillips boys to rip the pinafores of the Brangwen girls.
Then there was an outcry. Mrs. Brangwen would not have it; no, she would not. All her innate dignity and standoffishness rose up. Then there was the vicar lecturing the school. It was a sad thing that the boys of Cossethay could not behave more like gentlemen to the girls of Cossethay. Indeed, what kind of boy was it that should set upon a girl, and kick her, and beat her, and tear her pinafore? That boy deserved severe castigation, and the name of coward, for no boy who was not a cowardetc., etc.
Meanwhile much hang-dog fury in the Pillinses hearts, much virtue in the Brangwen girls, particularly in Theresas. And the feud continued, with periods of extraordinary amity, when Ursula was Clem Phillipss sweetheart, and Gudrun was Walters, and Theresa was Billys, and even the tiny Katie had to be Eddie Antnys sweetheart. There was the closest union. At every possible moment the little gang of Brangwens
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