Dear Clifford, I am afraid what you foresaw has happened. I am really in love with another man, and do hope you will divorce me. I am staying at present with Duncan in his flat. I told you he was at Venice with us. I'm awfully unhappy for your sake: but do try to take it quietly. You don't really need me any more, and I can't bear to come back to Wragby. I'm awfully sorry. But do try to forgive me, and divorce me and find someone better. I'm not really the right person for you, I am too impatient and selfish, I suppose. But I can't ever come back to live with you again. And I feel so frightfully sorry about it all, for your sake. But if you don't let yourself get worked up, you'll see you won't mind so frightfully. You didn't really care about me personally. So do forgive me and get rid of me.
Clifford was not INWARDLY surprised to get this letter. Inwardly, he had known for a long time she was leaving him. But he had absolutely refused any outward admission of it. Therefore, outwardly, it came as the most terrible blow and shock to him. He had kept the surface of his confidence in her quite serene. And that is how we are. By strength of will we cut of our inner intuitive knowledge from admitted consciousness. This causes a state of dread, or apprehension, which makes the blow ten times worse when it does fall.
Clifford was like a hysterical child. He gave Mrs. Bolton a terrible shock, sitting up in bed ghastly and blank.
"Why, Sir Clifford, whatever's the matter?” No answer! She was terrified lest he had had a stroke. She hurried and felt his face, took his pulse.
"Is there a pain? Do try and tell me where it hurts you. Do tell me!" No answer!
"Oh dear, oh dear! Then I'll telephone to Sheffield for Dr Carrington, and Dr Lecky may as well run round straight away.” She was moving to the door, when he said in a hollow tone: "No!" She stopped and gazed at him. His face was yellow, blank, and like the face of an idiot.
"Do you mean you'd rather I didn't fetch the doctor?” "Yes! I don't want him," came the sepulchral voice.
"Oh, but Sir Clifford, you're ill, and I daren't take the responsibility. I must send for the doctor, or I shall be blamed.” A pause: then the hollow voice said: "I'm not ill. My wife isn't coming back.”— It was as if an image spoke.
"Not coming back? you mean her ladyship?" Mrs. Bolton moved a little nearer to the bed. "Oh, don't you believe it. You can trust her ladyship to come back.” The image in the bed did not change, but it pushed a letter over the counterpane.
"Read it!" said the sepulchral voice.
"Why, if it's a letter from her ladyship, I'm sure her ladyship wouldn't want me to read her letter to you, Sir Clifford. You can tell me what she says, if you wish.” "Read it!" repeated the voice.
"Why, if I must, I do it to obey you, Sir Clifford," she said. And she read the letter.
"Well, I am surprised at her ladyship," she said. "She promised so faithfully she'd come back!” The face in the bed seemed to deepen its expression of wild, but motionless distraction. Mrs. Bolton looked at it and was worried. She knew what she was up against: male hysteria. She had not nursed soldiers without learning something about that very unpleasant disease.
She was a little impatient of Sir Clifford. Any man in his senses must have known his wife was in love with somebody else, and was going to leave him. Even, she was sure, Sir Clifford was inwardly absolutely aware of it, only he wouldn't admit it to himself. If he would have admitted it, and prepared himself for it: or if he would have admitted it, and actively struggled with his wife against it: that would have been acting like a man. But no! he knew it, and all the time tried to kid himself it wasn't so.
He felt the devil twisting his tail, and pretended it was the angels smiling on him. This state of falsity had now brought on that crisis of falsity and dislocation, hysteria, which is a form of insanity. "It comes", she thought to herself, hating him a little, "because he always thinks of himself. He's so wrapped up in his own immortal self, that when he does get a shock he's like a mummy tangled in its own bandages. Look at him!” But hysteria is dangerous: and she was a nurse, it was her duty to pull him out. Any attempt to rouse his manhood and his pride would only make him worse: for his manhood was dead, temporarily if not finally. He would only squirm softer and softer, like a worm, and become more dislocated.
The only thing was to release his self-pity. Like the lady in Tennyson, he must weep or he must die.
So Mrs. Bolton began to weep first. She covered her face with her hand and burst into little wild sobs. "I would never have believed it of her ladyship, I wouldn't!” She wept, suddenly summoning up all her old grief and sense of woe, and weeping the tears of her own bitter chagrin. Once she started, her weeping was genuine enough, for she had had something to weep for.
Clifford thought of the way he had been betrayed by the woman Connie, and in a contagion of grief, tears filled his eyes and began to run down his cheeks. He was weeping for himself. Mrs. Bolton, as soon as she saw the tears running over his blank face, hastily wiped her own wet cheeks on her little handkerchief, and leaned towards him.
"Now, don't you fret, Sir Clifford!” She said, in a luxury of emotion. "Now, don't you fret, don't, you'll only do yourself an injury!” His body shivered suddenly in an indrawn breath of silent sobbing, and the tears ran quicker down his face. She laid her hand on his arm, and her own tears fell again. Again the shiver went through him, like a convulsion, and she laid her arm round his shoulder. "There, there! There, there! Don't you fret, then, don't you! Don't you fret!" she moaned to him, while her own tears fell.
And she drew him to her, and held her arms round his great shoulders, while he laid his face on her bosom and sobbed, shaking and hulking his huge shoulders, whilst she softly stroked his dusky blond hair and said: "There! There! There! There then! There then! Never you mind! Never you mind, then!" And he put his arms round her and clung to her like a child, wetting the bib of her starched white apron, and the bosom of her pale blue cotton dress, with his tears. He had let himself go altogether, at last.
So at length she kissed him, and rocked him on her bosom, and in her heart she said to herself: "Oh, Sir Clifford! Oh, high and mighty Chatterleys! Is this what you've come down to!” And finally he even went to sleep, like a child. And she felt worn out, and went to her own room, where she laughed and cried at once, with a hysteria of her own. It was so ridiculous! It was so awful! Such a comedown! So shameful! And it was so upsetting as well.
After this, Clifford became like a child with Mrs. Bolton. He would hold her hand, and rest his head on her breast, and when she once lightly kissed him, he said! "Yes! Do kiss me! Do kiss me!" And when she sponged his great blond body, he would say the same! "Do kiss me!" and she would lightly kiss his body, anywhere, half in mockery.
And he lay with a queer, blank face like a child, with a bit of the wonderment of a child. And he would gaze on her with wide, childish eyes, in a relaxation of madonna worship. It was sheer relaxation on his part, letting go all his manhood, and sinking back to a childish position that was really perverse. And then he would put his hand into her bosom and feel her breasts, and kiss them in exultation, the exultation of perversity, of being a child when he was a man.
Mrs. Bolton was both thrilled and ashamed, she both loved and hated it. Yet she never rebuffed nor rebuked him. And they drew into a closer physical intimacy, an intimacy of perversity, when he was a child stricken with an apparent candour and an apparent wonderment, that looked almost like a religious exaltation: the perverse and literal rendering of: "except ye become again as a little child'. While she was the Magna Mater, full of power and potency, having the great blond childman under her will and her stroke entirely.
The curious thing was that when this childman, which Clifford was now and which he had been becoming for years, emerged into the world, it was much sharper and keener than the real man he used to be. This perverted childman was now a real businessman; when it was a question of affairs, he was an absolute heman, sharp as a needle, and impervious as a bit of steel. When he was out among men, seeking his own ends, and 'making good' his colliery workings, he had an almost uncanny shrewdness, hardness, and a straight sharp punch. It was as if his very passivity and prostitution to the Magna Mater gave him insight into material business affairs, and lent him a certain remarkable inhuman force. The wallowing in private emotion, the utter abasement of his manly self, seemed to lend him a second nature, cold, almost visionary, businessclever. In business he was quite inhuman.
And in this Mrs. Bolton triumphed. "How he's getting on!” She would say to herself in pride. "And that's my doing! My word, he'd never have got on like this with Lady Chatterley. She was not the one to put a man forward. She wanted too much for herself.” At the same time, in some corner of her weird female soul, how she despised him and hated him! He was to her the fallen beast, the squirming monster. And while she aided and abetted him all she could, away in the remotest corner of her ancient healthy womanhood she despised him with a savage contempt that knew no bounds. The merest tramp was better than he.
His behaviour with regard to Connie was curious. He insisted on seeing her again. He insisted, moreover, on her coming to Wragby. On this point he was finally and absolutely fixed. Connie had promised to come back to Wragby, faithfully.
"But is it any use?" said Mrs. Bolton. "Can't you let her go, and be rid of her?” "No! She said she was coming back, and she's got to come.” Mrs. Bolton opposed him no more. She knew what she was dealing with.
I needn't tell you what effect your letter has had on me (he wrote to Connie to London). Perhaps you can imagine it if you try, though no doubt you won't trouble to use your imagination on my behalf.