(Suddenly, as suddenly as a star slides in the sky, a reddish lightseemed to burn in her mind, covering Paul Rayley, issuing from him. Itrose like a fire sent up in token of some celebration by savages on a distantbeach. She heard the roar and the crackle. The whole sea for milesround ran red and gold. Some winey smell mixed with it and intoxicatedher, for she felt again her own headlong desire to throw herself off thecliff and be drowned looking for a pearl brooch on a beach. And the roarand the crackle repelled her with fear and disgust, as if while she saw itssplendour and power she saw too how it fed on the treasure of thehouse, greedily, disgustingly, and she loathed it. But for a sight, for aglory it surpassed everything in her experience, and burnt year after yearlike a signal fire on a desert island at the edge of the sea, and one hadonly to say "in love" and instantly, as happened now, up rose Paul's fireagain. And it sank and she said to herself, laughing, "The Rayleys"; howPaul went to coffee-houses and played chess.)She had only escaped by the skin of her teeth though, she thought. Shehad been looking at the table-cloth, and it had flashed upon her that shewould move the tree to the middle, and need never marry anybody, andshe had felt an enormous exultation. She had felt, now she could standup to Mrs Ramsay—a tribute to the astonishing power that Mrs Ramsayhad over one. Do this, she said, and one did it. Even her shadow at thewindow with James was full of authority. She remembered how WilliamBankes had been shocked by her neglect of the significance of motherand son. Did she not admire their beauty? he said. But William, she remembered,had listened to her with his wise child's eyes when she explainedhow it was not irreverence: how a light there needed a shadowthere and so on. She did not intend to disparage a subject which, theyagreed, Raphael had treated divinely. She was not cynical. Quite the contrary.
Thanks to his scientific mind he understood—a proof of disinterestedintelligence which had pleased her and comforted her enormously.
One could talk of painting then seriously to a man. Indeed, his friendshiphad been one of the pleasures of her life. She loved William Bankes.
They went to Hampton Court and he always left her, like the perfectgentleman he was, plenty of time to wash her hands, while he strolled bythe river. That was typical of their relationship. Many things were leftunsaid. Then they strolled through the courtyards, and admired, summerafter summer, the proportions and the flowers, and he would tellher things, about perspective, about architecture, as they walked, and hewould stop to look at a tree, or the view over the lake, and admire achild—(it was his great grief—he had no daughter) in the vague aloofway that was natural to a man who spent spent so much time in laboratoriesthat the world when he came out seemed to dazzle him, so that hewalked slowly, lifted his hand to screen his eyes and paused, with hishead thrown back, merely to breathe the air. Then he would tell her howhis housekeeper was on her holiday; he must buy a new carpet for thestaircase. Perhaps she would go with him to buy a new carpet for thestaircase. And once something led him to talk about the Ramsays and hehad said how when he first saw her she had been wearing a grey hat; shewas not more than nineteen or twenty. She was astonishingly beautiful.
There he stood looking down the avenue at Hampton Court as if hecould see her there among the fountains.
She looked now at the drawing-room step. She saw, through William'seyes, the shape of a woman, peaceful and silent, with downcast eyes. Shesat musing, pondering (she was in grey that day, Lily thought). Her eyeswere bent. She would never lift them. Yes, thought Lily, looking intently,I must have seen her look like that, but not in grey; nor so still, nor soyoung, nor so peaceful. The figure came readily enough. She was astonishinglybeautiful, as William said. But beauty was not everything.
Beauty had this penalty—it came too readily, came too completely. Itstilled life—froze it. One forgot the little agitations; the flush, the pallor,some queer distortion, some light or shadow, which made the face unrecognisablefor a moment and yet added a quality one saw for ever after.
It was simpler to smooth that all out under the cover of beauty. But whatwas the look she had, Lily wondered, when she clapped her deerstalkers'shat on her head, or ran across the grass, or scolded Kennedy,the gardener? Who could tell her? Who could help her?