[Bernard:] ‘We who yelped like jackals biting at each other’s heels now assume the sober and confident air of soldiers in the presence of their captain. We who have been separated by our youth… now come nearer; and shuffling closer on our perch in this restaurant where everybody’s interests are at variance, and the incessant passage of traffic chafes us with distractions, and the door opening perpetually its glass cage solicits us with myriad temptations and offers insults and wounds to our confidence–sitting together here we love each other and believe in our own endurance.’
‘Now let us issue from the darkness of solitude,’ said Louis.
‘Now let us say, brutally and directly, what is in our minds,’ said Neville. ‘Our isolation, our preparation, is over. The furtive days of secrecy and hiding, the revelations on staircases, moments of terror and ecstasy.’
‘Old Mrs Constable lifted her sponge and warmth poured over us,’ said Bernard. ‘We became clothed in this changing, this feeling garment of flesh.’
‘The boot-boy made love to the scullery-maid in the kitchen garden,’ said Susan, ‘among the blown-out washing.’
‘The breath of the wind was like a tiger panting,’ said Rhoda.
‘The man lay livid with his throat cut in the gutter,’ said Neville. ‘And going upstairs I could not raise my foot against the immitigable apple tree with its silver leaves held stiff.’
‘The leaf danced in the hedge without anyone to blow it,’ said Jinny.
‘In the sun-baked corner,’ said Louis, ‘the petals swam on depths of green.’
‘At Elvedon the gardeners swept and swept with their great brooms, and the woman sat at a table writing,’ said Bernard.
‘From these close-furled balls of string we draw now every filament,’ said Louis, ‘remembering, when we meet.’
‘And then,’ said Bernard, ‘the cab came to the door, and, pressing our new bowler hats tightly over our eyes to hide our unmanly tears, we drove through streets in which even the housemaids looked at us, and our names painted in white letters on our boxes proclaimed to all the world that we were going to school with the regulation number of socks and drawers, on which our mothers for some nights previously had stitched our initials, in our boxes. A second severance from the body of our mother.’
‘And Miss Lambert, Miss Cutting and Miss Bard,’ said Jinny, ‘monumental ladies, white-ruffed, stone-coloured, enigmatic, with amethyst rings moving like virginal tapers, dim glow-worms over the pages of French, geography and arithmetic, presided; and there were maps, green-baize boards, and rows of shoes on a shelf.’
‘Bells rang punctually,’ said Susan, ‘maids scuffled and giggled. There was a drawing in of chairs and a drawing out of chairs on the linoleum. But from one attic there was a blue view, a distant view of a field unstained by the corruption of this regimented, unreal existence.’
‘Down from our heads veils fell,’ said Rhoda. ‘We clasped the flowers with their green leaves rustling in garlands.’
‘We changed, we became unrecognizable,’ said Louis. ‘Exposed to all these different lights, what we had in us (for we are all so different) came intermittently, in violent patches, spaced by blank voids, to the surface as if some acid had dropped unequally on the plate. I was this, Neville that, Rhoda different again, and Bernard too.’
‘Then canoes slipped through palely tinted yellow branches,’ said Neville, ‘and Bernard, advancing in his casual way against breadths of green, against houses of very ancient foundation, tumbled in a heap on the ground beside me. In an access of emotion–winds are not more raving, nor lightning more sudden–I took my poem, I flung my poem, I slammed the door behind me.’
‘I, however,’ said Louis, ‘losing sight of you, sat in my office and tore the date from the calendar, and announced to the world of ship-brokers, corn-chandlers and actuaries that Friday the tenth, or Tuesday the eighteenth, had dawned on the city of London.’
‘Then,’ said Jinny, ‘Rhoda and I, exposed in bright dresses, with a few precious stones nestling on a cold ring round our throats, bowed, shook hands and took a sandwich from a plate with a smile.’
‘The tiger leapt, and the swallow dipped her wings in dark pools on the other side of the world,’ said Rhoda.
‘But here and now we are together,’ said Bernard. ‘We have come together, at a particular time, to this particular spot. We are drawn into this communion by some deep, some common emotion. Shall we call it, conveniently, “love”..?
‘No, that is too small, too particular a name. We cannot attach the width and spread of our feelings to so small a mark. We have come together (from the North, from the South, from Susan’s farm, from Louis’ house of business) to make one thing, not enduring–for what endures?–but seen by many eyes simultaneously. There is a red carnation in that vase. A single flower as we sat here waiting, but now a seven-sided flower, many-petalled, red, puce, purple-shaded, stiff with silver-tinted leaves–a whole flower to which every eye brings its own contribution.
‘After the capricious fires, the abysmal dullness of youth,’ said Neville, ‘the light falls upon real objects now. Here are knives and forks. The world is displayed, and we too, so that we can talk.’
SOURCE: Virginia Woolf, The Waves, 1931