What was it then? What did it mean? Could things thrust their hands upand grip one; could the blade cut; the fist grasp? Was there no safety? Nolearning by heart of the ways of the world? No guide, no shelter, but allwas miracle, and leaping from the pinnacle of a tower into the air? Couldit be, even for elderly people, that this was life?—startling, unexpected,unknown? For one moment she felt that if they both got up, here, nowon the lawn, and demanded an explanation, why was it so short, whywas it so inexplicable, said it with violence, as two fully equipped humanbeings from whom nothing should be hid might speak, then, beautywould roll itself up; the space would fill; those empty flourishes wouldform into shape; if they shouted loud enough Mrs Ramsay would return.
"Mrs Ramsay!" she said aloud, "Mrs Ramsay!" The tears ran down herface.
[Macalister's boy took one of the fish and cut a square out of its side tobait his hook with. The mutilated body (it was alive still) was thrownback into the sea.]
"Mrs Ramsay!" Lily cried, "Mrs Ramsay!" But nothing happened. Thepain increased. That anguish could reduce one to such a pitch of imbecility,she thought! Anyhow the old man had not heard her. He remainedbenignant, calm—if one chose to think it, sublime. Heaven be praised, noone had heard her cry that ignominious cry, stop pain, stop! She had notobviously taken leave of her senses. No one had seen her step off herstrip of board into the waters of annihilation. She remained a skimpy oldmaid, holding a paint-brush.
And now slowly the pain of the want, and the bitter anger (to be calledback, just as she thought she would never feel sorrow for Mrs Ramsayagain. Had she missed her among the coffee cups at breakfast? not in theleast) lessened; and of their anguish left, as antidote, a relief that wasbalm in itself, and also, but more mysteriously, a sense of some onethere, of Mrs Ramsay, relieved for a moment of the weight that the worldhad put on her, staying lightly by her side and then (for this was MrsRamsay in all her beauty) raising to her forehead a wreath of whiteflowers with which she went. Lily squeezed her tubes again. She attackedthat problem of the hedge. It was strange how clearly she sawher, stepping with her usual quickness across fields among whose folds,purplish and soft, among whose flowers, hyacinth or lilies, she vanished.
It was some trick of the painter's eye. For days after she had heard of herdeath she had seen her thus, putting her wreath to her forehead and goingunquestioningly with her companion, a shade across the fields. Thesight, the phrase, had its power to console. Wherever she happened tobe, painting, here, in the country or in London, the vision would come toher, and her eyes, half closing, sought something to base her vision on.
She looked down the railway carriage, the omnibus; took a line fromshoulder or cheek; looked at the windows opposite; at Piccadilly, lamp-strung in the evening. All had been part of the fields of death. But alwayssomething—it might be a face, a voice, a paper boy crying STANDARD,NEWS—thrust through, snubbed her, waked her, required and got in theend an effort of attention, so that the vision must be perpetually remade.
Now again, moved as she was by some instinctive need of distance andblue, she looked at the bay beneath her, making hillocks of the blue barsof the waves, and stony fields of the purpler spaces, again she wasroused as usual by something incongruous. There was a brown spot inthe middle of the bay. It was a boat. Yes, she realised that after a second.