A dispirited, unnamed woman decides to leave her ordinary and unfulfilling life to ride out into the lands of the Chilchui Indians and get in touch with their spiritual and ancient ways. While her quest brings physical danger, it also becomes a journey of deep self-discovery and self-acceptance. D.H. Lawrence’s writing often reflects upon the degradation of humanity in a modern, industrialized society. This short story and its main character—who is presented to the reader without any true identity—provide another powerful commentary by Lawrence on the dehumanizing effects of modern culture.
423 pages with a reading time of ~6.50 hours (105925 words), and first published in 1928. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2021.
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She had thought that this marriage, of all marriages, would be an adventure. Not that the man himself was exactly magical to her. A little, wiry, twisted fellow, twenty years older than herself, with brown eyes and greying hair, who had come to America a scrap of a wastrel, from Holland, years ago, as a tiny boy, and from the gold– mines of the west had been kicked south into Mexico, and now was more or less rich, owning silver–mines in the wilds of the Sierra Madre: it was obvious that the adventure lay in his circumstances, rather than his person. But he was still a little dynamo of energy, in spite of accidents survived, and what he had accomplished he had accomplished alone. One of those human oddments there is no accounting for.
When she actually SAW what he had accomplished, her heart quailed.
Great green–covered, unbroken mountain–hills, and in the midst of the lifeless isolation, the sharp pinkish mounds of the dried mud from the silver–works. Under the nakedness of the works, the walled–in, one–storey adobe house, with its garden inside, and its deep inner verandah with tropical climbers on the sides. And when you looked up from this shut–in flowered patio, you saw the huge pink cone of the silver–mud refuse, and the machinery of the extracting plant against heaven above. No more.
To be sure, the great wooden doors were often open. And then she
could stand outside, in the vast open world. And see great, void, tree–clad hills piling behind one another, from nowhere into nowhere. They were green in autumn time. For the rest, pinkish, stark dry, and abstract.
And in his battered Ford car her husband would take her into the
dead, thrice–dead little Spanish town forgotten among the mountains. The great, sundried dead church, the dead portales, the hopeless covered market–place, where, the first time she went, she saw a dead dog lying between the meat stalls and the vegetable array, stretched out as if for ever, nobody troubling to throw it away. Deadness within deadness.
Everybody feebly talking silver, and showing bits of ore. But
silver was at a standstill. The great war came and went. Silver was a dead market. Her husband’s mines were closed down. But she and he lived on in the adobe house under the works, among the flowers that were never very flowery to her.
She had two children, a boy and a girl. And her eldest, the boy,
was nearly ten years old before she aroused from her stupor of subjected amazement. She was now thirty–three, a large, blue–eyed, dazed woman, beginning to grow stout. Her little, wiry, tough, twisted, brown–eyed husband was fifty–three, a man as tough as wire, tenacious as wire, still full of energy, but dimmed by the lapse of silver from the market, and by some curious inaccessibility on his wife’s part.
He was a man of principles, and a good husband. In a way, he doted
on her. He never quite got over his dazzled admiration of her. But essentially, he was still a bachelor. He had been thrown out on the world, a little bachelor, at the age of ten. When he married he was over forty, and had enough money to marry on. But his capital was all a bachelor’s. He was boss of his own works, and marriage was the last and most intimate bit of his own works. He admired his wife to extinction, he admired her body, all her points. And she was to him always the rather dazzling Californian girl from Berkeley, whom he had first known. Like any sheik, he kept her guarded among those mountains of Chihuahua. He was jealous of her as he was of his silver–mine: and that is saying a lot.
At thirty–three she really was still the girl from Berkeley, in all
but physique. Her conscious development had stopped mysteriously with her marriage, completely arrested. Her husband had never become real to her, neither mentally nor physically. In spite of his late sort of passion for her, he never meant anything to her, physically. Only morally he swayed her, downed her, kept her in an invincible slavery.
So the years went by, in the adobe house strung round the sunny
patio, with the silver–works overhead. Her husband was never still. When the silver went dead, he ran a ranch lower down, some twenty miles away, and raised pure–bred hogs, splendid creatures. At the same time, he hated pigs. He was a squeamish waif of an idealist, and really hated the physical side of life. He loved work, work, work, and making things. His marriage, his children, were something he was making, part of his business, but with a sentimental income this time.
Gradually her nerves began to go wrong: she must get out. She must
get out. So he took her to El Paso for three months. And at least it was the United States.
But he kept his spell over her