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THE LIGHTHOUSE 207strain. And then to want and not to have—to wantand want—how that wrung the heart, and wrung itagain and again! Oh Mrs Ramsay! she called outsilently, to that essence which sat by the boat, thatabstract one made of her, that woman in grey, as ifto abuse her for having gone, and then having gone,come back again. It had seemed so safe, thinkingof her. Ghost, air, nothingness, a thing you couldplay with easily and safely at any time of day ornight, she had been that, and then suddenly she puther hand out and wrung the heart thus. Suddenly,the empty drawing-room steps, the frill of the chairinside, the puppy tumbling on the terrace, the wholewave and whisper of the garden became like curvesand arabesques flourishing round a centre of com-plete emptiness.

‘What does it mean? How do you explain it all?’she wanted to say, turning to Mr Carmichael again.For the whole world seemed to have dissolved in thisearly morning hour into a pool of thought, a deepbasin of reality, and one could almost fancy that hadMr Carmichael spoken, a little tear would have rentthe surface of the pool. And then? Somethingwould emerge. A hand would be shoved up, a bladewould be flashed. It was nonsense of course.

A curious notion came to her that he did after allhear the things she could not say. He was an in-scrutable old man, with the yellow stain on hisbeard, and his poetry, and his puzzles, sailing serenelythrough a world which satisfied all his wants, sothat she thought he had only to put down his handwhere he lay on the lawn to fish up anything hewanted. She looked at her picture. That would