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Mrs Ramsay, who had been sitting loosely, foldingher son in her arm, braced herself, and, half turning,seemed to raise herself with an effort, and at once topour erect into the air a rain of energy, a column of

spray, looking at the same time animated and aliveas if all her energies were being fused into force,burning and illuminating (quietly though she sat,taking up her stocking again), and into this deliciousfecundity, this fountain and spray of life, the fatalsterility of the male plunged itself, like a beak ofbrass, barren and bare. He wanted sympathy. Hewas a failure, he said. Mrs Ramsay flashed herneedles. Mr Ramsay repeated, never taking his eyesfrom her face, that he was a failure. She blew thewords back at him. ‘Charles Tansley . . .’ she said.But he must have more than that. It was sympathyhe wanted, to be assured of his genius, first of all, andthen to be taken within the circle of life, warmed andsoothed, to have his senses restored to him, hisbarrenness made fertile, and all the rooms of thehouse made full of life—the drawing-room; behindthe drawing-room the kitchen; above the kitchenthe bedrooms; and beyond them the nurseries; theymust be furnished, they must be filled with life.

Charles Tansley thought him the greatest meta-physician of the time, she said. But he must havemore than that. He must have sympathy. Hemust be assured that he too lived in the heart of life;was needed; not here only, but all over the world.Flashing her needles, confident, upright, she createddrawing-room and kitchen, set them all aglow; badehim take his ease there, go in and out, enjoy himself.She laughed, she knitted. Standing between her