That done, his mind flew back again and he plunged into his reading. Heread, she thought, as if he were guiding something, or wheedling a largeflock of sheep, or pushing his way up and up a single narrow path; andsometimes he went fast and straight, and broke his way through thebramble, and sometimes it seemed a branch struck at him, a brambleblinded him, but he was not going to let himself be beaten by that; on hewent, tossing over page after page. And she went on telling herself astory about escaping from a sinking ship, for she was safe, while he satthere; safe, as she felt herself when she crept in from the garden, andtook a book down, and the old gentleman, lowering the paper suddenly,said something very brief over the top of it about the character ofNapoleon.
She gazed back over the sea, at the island. But the leaf was losing itssharpness. It was very small; it was very distant. The sea was more importantnow than the shore. Waves were all round them, tossing andsinking, with a log wallowing down one wave; a gull riding on another.
About here, she thought, dabbling her fingers in the water, a ship hadsunk, and she murmured, dreamily half asleep, how we perished, eachalone.
So much depends then, thought Lily Briscoe, looking at the sea whichhad scarcely a stain on it, which was so soft that the sails and the cloudsseemed set in its blue, so much depends, she thought, upon distance:
whether people are near us or far from us; for her feeling for Mr Ramsaychanged as he sailed further and further across the bay. It seemed to beelongated, stretched out; he seemed to become more and more remote.
He and his children seemed to be swallowed up in that blue, that distance;but here, on the lawn, close at hand, Mr Carmichael suddenlygrunted. She laughed. He clawed his book up from the grass. He settledinto his chair again puffing and blowing like some sea monster. That wasdifferent altogether, because he was so near. And now again all wasquiet. They must be out of bed by this time, she supposed, looking at thehouse, but nothing appeared there. But then, she remembered, they hadalways made off directly a meal was over, on business of their own. Itwas all in keeping with this silence, this emptiness, and the unreality ofthe early morning hour. It was a way things had sometimes, she thought,lingering for a moment and looking at the long glittering windows andthe plume of blue smoke: they became illness, before habits had spunthemselves across the surface, one felt that same unreality, which was sostartling; felt something emerge. Life was most vivid then. One could beat one's ease. Mercifully one need not say, very briskly, crossing the lawnto greet old Mrs Beckwith, who would be coming out to find a corner tosit in, "Oh, good-morning, Mrs Beckwith! What a lovely day! Are you goingto be so bold as to sit in the sun? Jasper's hidden the chairs. Do let mefind you one!" and all the rest of the usual chatter. One need not speak atall. One glided, one shook one's sails (there was a good deal of movementin the bay, boats were starting off) between things, beyond things.
Empty it was not, but full to the brim. She seemed to be standing up tothe lips in some substance, to move and float and sink in it, yes, for thesewaters were unfathomably deep. Into them had spilled so many lives.
The Ramsays'; the children's; and all sorts of waifs and strays of thingsbesides. A washer-woman with her basket; a rook, a red-hot poker; thepurples and grey-greens of flowers: some common feeling which heldthe whole together.