expectancy. The provincial people, intimidated by Gudrun's perfect sang-froid and exclusive bareness of manner, said of her: `She is a smart woman.' She had just come back from London, where she had spent several years, working at an art-school, as a student, and living a studio life.
`I was hoping now for a man to come along,' Gudrun said, suddenly catching her underlip between her teeth, and making a strange grimace, half sly smiling, half anguish. Ursula was afraid.
`So you have come home, expecting him here?' she laughed.
`Oh my dear,' cried Gudrun, strident, `I wouldn't go out of my way to look for him. But if there did happen to come along a highly attractive individual of sufficient means -- well --' she tailed off ironically. Then she looked searchingly at Ursula, as if to probe her. `Don't you find yourself getting bored?' she asked of her sister. `Don't you find, that things fail to materialise? Nothing materialises! Everything withers in the bud.'
`What withers in the bud?' asked Ursula.
`Oh, everything -- oneself -- things in general.' There was a pause, whilst each sister vaguely considered her fate.
`It does frighten one,' said Ursula, and again there was a pause. `But do you hope to get anywhere by just marrying?'
`It seems to be the inevitable next step,' said Gudrun. Ursula pondered this, with a little bitterness. She was a class mistress herself, in Willey Green Grammar School, as she had been for some years.
`I know,' she said, `it seems like that when one thinks in the abstract. But really imagine it: imagine any man one knows, imagine him coming home to one every evening, and saying "Hello," and giving one a kiss --'
There was a blank pause.
`Yes,' said Gudrun, in a narrowed voice. `It's just impossible. The man makes it impossible.'
`Of course there's children --' said Ursula doubtfully.
Gudrun's face hardened.
`Do you really want children, Ursula?' she asked coldly. A dazzled, baffled look came on Ursula's face.
`One feels it is still beyond one,' she said.
`Do you feel like that?' asked Gudrun. `I get no feeling whatever from the thought of bearing children.'
Gudrun looked at Ursula with a masklike, expressionless face. Ursula knitted her brows.
`Perhaps it isn't genuine,' she faltered. `Perhaps one doesn't really want them, in one's soul -- only superficially.' A hardness came over Gudrun's face. She did not want to be too definite.
`When one thinks of other people's children --' said Ursula.
Again Gudrun looked at her sister, almost hostile.
`Exactly,' she said, to close the conversation.
The two sisters worked on in silence, Ursula having always that strange brightness of an essential flame that is caught, meshed, contravened. She lived a good deal by herself, to herself, working, passing on
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