But there was only kind Mrs Beckwith turning over her sketchesunder the lamp. Then, being tired, her mind still rising and falling withthe sea, the taste and smell that places have after long absence possessingher, the candles wavering in her eyes, she had lost herself and gone under.
It was a wonderful night, starlit; the waves sounded as they wentupstairs; the moon surprised them, enormous, pale, as they passed thestaircase window. She had slept at once.
She set her clean canvas firmly upon the easel, as a barrier, frail, butshe hoped sufficiently substantial to ward off Mr Ramsay and his exactingness.
She did her best to look, when his back was turned, at her picture;that line there, that mass there. But it was out of the question. Lethim be fifty feet away, let him not even speak to you, let him not evensee you, he permeated, he prevailed, he imposed himself. He changedeverything. She could not see the colour; she could not see the lines; evenwith his back turned to her, she could only think, But he'll be down onme in a moment, demanding—something she felt she could not givehim. She rejected one brush; she chose another. When would those childrencome? When would they all be off? she fidgeted. That man, shethought, her anger rising in her, never gave; that man took. She, on theother hand, would be forced to give. Mrs Ramsay had given. Giving, giving,giving, she had died—and had left all this. Really, she was angrywith Mrs Ramsay. With the brush slightly trembling in her fingers shelooked at the hedge, the step, the wall. It was all Mrs Ramsay's doing.
She was dead. Here was Lily, at forty-four, wasting her time, unable todo a thing, standing there, playing at painting, playing at the one thingone did not play at, and it was all Mrs Ramsay's fault. She was dead. Thestep where she used to sit was empty. She was dead.
But why repeat this over and over again? Why be always trying tobring up some feeling she had not got? There was a kind of blasphemy init. It was all dry: all withered: all spent. They ought not to have askedher; she ought not to have come. One can't waste one's time at forty-four, she thought. She hated playing at painting. A brush, the one dependablething in a world of strife, ruin, chaos—that one should not playwith, knowingly even: she detested it. But he made her. You shan't touchyour canvas, he seemed to say, bearing down on her, till you've given mewhat I want of you. Here he was, close upon her again, greedy, distraught.
Well, thought Lily in despair, letting her right hand fall at herside, it would be simpler then to have it over. Surely, she could imitatefrom recollection the glow, the rhapsody, the self-surrender, she hadseen on so many women's faces (on Mrs Ramsay's, for instance) when onsome occasion like this they blazed up—she could remember the look onMrs Ramsay's face—into a rapture of sympathy, of delight in the rewardthey had, which, though the reason of it escaped her, evidently conferredon them the most supreme bliss of which human nature was capable.
Here he was, stopped by her side. She would give him what she could.