English Literature

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf


Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.  For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would  be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer’s men were coming.
And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning – fresh  as if issued to children on a beach.
What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to  her when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could  hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged  at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller  than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the  flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for  a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did,  standing there at the open window, that something awful was  about to happen; looking at the flowers, at the trees with the  smoke winding off them and the rooks rising, falling; standing  and looking until Peter Walsh said, “Musing among the vegetables?”  – was that it? – “I prefer men to cauliflowers” – was  that it? He must have said it at breakfast one morning when  she had gone out onto the terrace – Peter Walsh. He would  be back from India one of these days, June or July, she forgot  which, for his letters were awfully dull; it was his sayings one  remembered; his eyes, his pocket knife, his smile, his grumpiness  and, when millions of things had utterly vanished – how  strange it was! – a few sayings like this about cabbages.
She stiffened a little on the kerb, waiting for Durtnall’s  van to pass. A charming woman, Scrope Purvis thought her  (knowing her as one does know people who live next door  to one in Westminster); a touch of the bird about her, of the jay, blue-green, light, vivacious, though she was over fifty, and  grown very white since her illness. There she perched, never  seeing him, waiting to cross, very upright.
For having lived in Westminster – how many years now? over  twenty – one feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at  night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity;  an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her  heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes.
There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour,  irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools  we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only  knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up,  building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment  afresh – but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries  sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t
be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that  very reason: they love life. In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp  and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor  cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging;
brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and  the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what  she loved; life; London; this moment of June.
For it was the middle of June. The War was over, except for  someone like Mrs Foxcroft at the Embassy last night eating  her heart out because that nice boy was killed and now the
old Manor House must go to a cousin, or Lady Bexborough  who opened a bazaar, they said, with the telegram in her hand,  John, her favourite, killed – but it was over; thank Heaven –  over. It was June. The King and Queen were at the Palace. And  everywhere, though it was still so early, there was a beating,  a stirring of galloping ponies, tapping of cricket bats; Lords,  Ascot, Ranelagh* and all the rest of it; wrapped in the soft  mesh of the grey-blue morning air, which, as the day wore on,  would unwind them, and set down on their lawns and pitches  the bouncing ponies, whose forefeet just …



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