`Yes,' replied Gudrun. They watched him. He waved again, with a strange movement of recognition across the difference.

`Like a Nibelung,' laughed Ursula. Gudrun said nothing, only stood still looking over the water.

Gerald suddenly turned, and was swimming away swiftly, with a side stroke. He was alone now, alone and immune in the middle of the waters, which he had all to himself. He exulted in his isolation in the new element, unquestioned and unconditioned. He was happy, thrusting with his legs and all his body, without bond or connection anywhere, just himself in the watery world.

Gudrun envied him almost painfully. Even this momentary possession of pure isolation and fluidity seemed to her so terribly desirable that she felt herself as if damned, out there on the high-road.

`God, what it is to be a man!' she cried.

`What?' exclaimed Ursula in surprise.

`The freedom, the liberty, the mobility!' cried Gudrun, strangely flushed and brilliant. `You're a man, you want to do a thing, you do it. You haven't the thousand obstacles a woman has in front of her.'

Ursula wondered what was in Gudrun's mind, to occasion this outburst. She could not understand.

`What do you want to do?' she asked.

`Nothing,' cried Gudrun, in swift refutation. `But supposing I did. Supposing I want to swim up that water. It is impossible, it is one of the impossibilities of life, for me to take my clothes off now and jump in. But isn't it ridiculous, doesn't it simply prevent our living!'

She was so hot, so flushed, so furious, that Ursula was puzzled.

The two sisters went on, up the road. They were passing between the trees just below Shortlands. They looked up at the long, low house, dim and glamorous in the wet morning, its cedar trees slanting before the windows. Gudrun seemed to be studying it closely.

`Don't you think it's attractive, Ursula?' asked Gudrun.

`Very,' said Ursula. `Very peaceful and charming.'

`It has form, too -- it has a period.'

`What period?'

`Oh, eighteenth century, for certain; Dorothy Wordsworth and Jane Austen, don't you think?'

Ursula laughed.

`Don't you think so?' repeated Gudrun.

`Perhaps. But I don't think the Criches fit the period. I know Gerald is putting in a private electric plant, for lighting the house, and is making all kinds of latest improvements.'

Gudrun shrugged her shoulders swiftly.

`Of course,' she said, `that's quite inevitable.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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