Would he tell her—now that they were all talking again—what hadhappened?
"We went back to look for Minta's brooch," he said, sitting down byher. "We"—that was enough. She knew from the effort, the rise in hisvoice to surmount a difficult word that it was the first time he had said"we." "We did this, we did that." They'll say that all their lives, shethought, and an exquisite scent of olives and oil and juice rose from thegreat brown dish as Marthe, with a little flourish, took the cover off. Thecook had spent three days over that dish. And she must take great care,Mrs Ramsay thought, diving into the soft mass, to choose a speciallytender piece for William Bankes. And she peered into the dish, with itsshiny walls and its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats and itsbay leaves and its wine, and thought, This will celebrate the occasion—acurious sense rising in her, at once freakish and tender, of celebrating afestival, as if two emotions were called up in her, one profound—forwhat could be more serious than the love of man for woman, what morecommanding, more impressive, bearing in its bosom the seeds of death;at the same time these lovers, these people entering into illusion glitteringeyed, must be danced round with mockery, decorated with garlands.
"It is a triumph," said Mr Bankes, laying his knife down for a moment.
He had eaten attentively. It was rich; it was tender. It was perfectlycooked. How did she manage these things in the depths of the country?
he asked her. She was a wonderful woman. All his love, all his reverence,had returned; and she knew it.
"It is a French recipe of my grandmother's," said Mrs Ramsay, speakingwith a ring of great pleasure in her voice. Of course it was French.
What passes for cookery in England is an abomination (they agreed). It isputting cabbages in water. It is roasting meat till it is like leather. It iscutting off the delicious skins of vegetables. "In which," said Mr Bankes,"all the virtue of the vegetable is contained." And the waste, said MrsRamsay. A whole French family could live on what an English cookthrows away. Spurred on by her sense that William's affection had comeback to her, and that everything was all right again, and that her suspensewas over, and that now she was free both to triumph and to mock,she laughed, she gesticulated, till Lily thought, How childlike, how absurdshe was, sitting up there with all her beauty opened again in her,talking about the skins of vegetables. There was something frighteningabout her. She was irresistible. Always she got her own way in the end,Lily thought. Now she had brought this off—Paul and Minta, one mightsuppose, were engaged. Mr Bankes was dining here. She put a spell onthem all, by wishing, so simply, so directly, and Lily contrasted thatabundance with her own poverty of spirit, and supposed that it waspartly that belief (for her face was all lit up—without looking young, shelooked radiant) in this strange, this terrifying thing, which made PaulRayley, sitting at her side, all of a tremor, yet abstract, absorbed, silent.
Mrs Ramsay, Lily felt, as she talked about the skins of vegetables, exaltedthat, worshipped that; held her hands over it to warm them, to protect it,and yet, having brought it all about, somehow laughed, led her victims,Lily felt, to the altar. It came over her too now—the emotion, the vibration,of love. How inconspicuous she felt herself by Paul's side! He,glowing, burning; she, aloof, satirical; he, bound for adventure; she,moored to the shore; he, launched, incautious; she solitary, left out—and,ready to implore a share, if it were a disaster, in his disaster, she saidshyly: