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The Captain's Dol

D. H. Lawrence


  A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

  Title: The Captain's Doll (1923)

  Author: D. H. Lawrence

  eBook No.: 0200841.txt

  Edition: 1

  Language: English

  Character set encoding: Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit

  Date first posted: November 2002

  Date most recently updated: November 2002

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  A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

  Title: The Captain's Doll (1923)

  Author: D. H. Lawrence




  'Wo bist du?'


  'Wo dann?'

  Hannele did not lift her head from her work. She sat in a low

  chair under a reading-lamp, a basket of coloured silk pieces beside

  her, and in her hands a doll, or mannikin, which she was dressing.

  She was doing something to the knee of the mannikin, so that the

  poor little gentleman flourished head downwards with arms wildly

  tossed out. And it was not at all seemly, because the doll was a

  Scotch soldier in tight-fitting tartan trews.

  There was a tap at the door, and the same voice, a woman's,




  'Are you here? Are you alone?' asked the voice in German.

  'Yes--come in.'

  Hannele did not sound very encouraging. She turned round her doll

  as the door opened, and straightened his coat. A dark-eyed young

  woman peeped in through the door, with a roguish coyness. She was

  dressed fashionably for the street, in a thick cape-wrap, and a

  little black hat pulled down to her ears.

  'Quite, quite alone!' said the newcomer, in a tone of wonder.

  'Where is he, then?'

  'That I don't know,' said Hannele.

  'And you sit here alone and wait for him? But no! That I call

  courage! Aren't you afraid?' Mitchka strolled across to her


  'Why shall I be afraid?' said Hannele curtly.

  'But no! And what are you doing? Another puppet! He is a good

  one, though! Ha--ha--ha! HIM! It is him! No--no--that is too

  beautiful! No--that is too beautiful, Hannele. It is him--exactly

  him. Only the trousers.'

  'He wears those trousers too,' said Hannele, standing her doll on

  her knee. It was a perfect portrait of an officer of a Scottish

  regiment, slender, delicately made, with a slight, elegant stoop of

  the shoulders and close-fitting tartan trousers. The face was

  beautifully modelled, and a wonderful portrait, dark-skinned, with

  a little, close-cut, dark moustache, and wide-open dark eyes, and

  that air of aloofness and perfect diffidence which marks an officer

  and a gentleman.

  Mitchka bent forward, studying the doll. She was a handsome woman

  with a warm, dark golden skin and clear black eyebrows over her

  russet-brown eyes.

  'No,' she whispered to herself, as if awe-struck. 'That is him.

  That is him. Only not the trousers. Beautiful, though, the

  trousers. Has he really such beautiful fine legs?'

  Hannele did not answer.

  'Exactly him. Just as finished as he is. Just as complete. He is

  just like that: finished off. Has he seen it?'

  'No,' said Hannele.

  'What will he say, then?' She started. Her quick ear had caught a

  sound on the stone stairs. A look of fear came to her face. She

  flew to the door and out of the room, closing the door to behind


  'Who is it?' her voice was heard calling anxiously down the stairs.

  The answer came in German. Mitchka immediately opened the door

  again and came back to join Hannele.

  'Only Martin,' she said.

  She stood waiting. A man appeared in the doorway--erect, military.

  'Ah! Countess Hannele,' he said in his quick, precise way, as he

  stood on the threshold in the distance. 'May one come in?'

  'Yes, come in,' said Hannele.

  The man entered with a quick, military step, bowed, and kissed the

  hand of the woman who was sewing the doll. Then, much more

  intimately, he touched Mitchka's hands with his lips.

  Mitchka meanwhile was glancing round the room. It was a very large

  attic, with the ceiling sloping and then bending in two handsome

  movements towards the walls. The light from the dark-shaded

  reading-lamp fell softly on the huge whitewashed vaulting of the

  ceiling, on the various objects round the walls, and made a

  brilliant pool of colour where Hannele sat in her soft, red dress,

  with her basket of silks.

  She was a fair woman with dark-blond hair and a beautiful fine

  skin. Her face seemed luminous, a certain quick gleam of life

  about it as she looked up at the man. He was handsome, clean-

  shaven, with very blue eyes strained a little too wide. One could

  see the war in his face.

  Mitchka was wandering round the room, looking at everything, and

  saying: 'Beautiful! But beautiful! Such good taste! A man, and

  such good taste! No, they don't need a woman. No, look here,

  Martin, the Captain Hepburn has arranged all this room himself.

  Here you have the man. Do you see? So simple, yet so elegant. He

  needs a woman.'

  The room was really beautiful, spacious, pale, soft-lighted. It

  was heated by a large stove of dark-blue tiles, and had very little

  furniture save large peasant cupboards or presses of painted wood,

  and a huge writing-table, on which were writing materials and some

  scientific apparatus and a cactus plant with fine scarlet blossoms.

  But it was a man's room. Tobacco and pipes were on a little tray,

  on the pegs in the distance hung military overcoats and belts, and

  two guns on a bracket. Then there were two telescopes, one mounted

  on a stand near a window. Various astronomical apparatus lay upon

  the table.

  'And he reads the stars.
Only think--he is an astronomer and reads

  the stars. Queer, queer people, the English!'

  'He is Scottish,' said Hannele.

  'Yes, Scottish,' said Mitchka. 'But, you know, I am afraid when I

  am with him. He is at a closed end. I don't know where I can get

  to with him. Are you afraid of him too, Hannele? Ach, like a

  closed road!'

  'Why should I be?'

  'Ah, you! Perhaps you don't know when you should be afraid. But

  if he were to come and find us here? No, no--let us go. Let us

  go, Martin. Come, let us go. I don't want the Captain Hepburn to

  come and find me in his room. Oh no!' Mitchka was busily pushing

  Martin to the door, and he was laughing with the queer, mad laugh

  in his strained eyes. 'Oh no! I don't like. I don't like it,'

  said Mitchka, trying her English now. She spoke a few sentences

  prettily. 'Oh no, Sir Captain, I don't want that you come. I

  don't like it, to be here when you come. Oh no. Not at all. I

  go. I go, Hannele. I go, my Hannele. And you will really stay

  here and wait for him? But when will he come? You don't know? Oh

  dear, I don't like it, I don't like it. I do not wait in the man's

  room. No, no--Never--jamais--jamais, voyez-vous. Ach, you poor

  Hannele! And he has got wife and children in England? Nevair!

  No, nevair shall I wait for him.'

  She had bustlingly pushed Martin through the door and settled her

  wrap and taken a mincing, elegant pose, ready for the street, and

  waved her hand and made wide, scared eyes at Hannele, and was gone.

  The Countess Hannele picked up the doll again and began to sew its

  shoe. What living she now had she earned making these puppets.

  But she was restless. She pressed her arms into her lap, as if

  holding them bent had wearied her. Then she looked at the little

  clock on his writing-table. It was long after dinner-time--why

  hadn't he come? She sighed rather exasperated. She was tired of

  her doll.

  Putting aside her basket of silks, she went to one of the windows.

  Outside the stars seemed white, and very near. Below was the dark

  agglomeration of the roofs of houses, a fume of light came up from

  beneath the darkness of roofs, and a faint breakage of noise from

  the town far below. The room seemed high, remote, in the sky.

  She went to the table and looked at his letter-clip with letters in

  it, and at his sealing-wax and his stamp-box, touching things and

  moving them a little, just for the sake of the contrast, not really

  noticing what she touched. Then she took a pencil, and in stiff

  Gothic characters began to write her name--Johanna zu Rassentlow--

  time after time her own name--and then once, bitterly, curiously,

  with a curious sharpening of her nose: Alexander Hepburn.

  But she threw the pencil down, having no more interest in her

  writing. She wandered to where the large telescope stood near a

  farther window, and stood for some minutes with her fingers on the

  barrel, where it was a little brighter from his touching it. Then

  she drifted restlessly back to her chair. She had picked up her

  puppet when she heard him on the stairs. She lifted her face and

  watched as he entered.

  'Hello, you there!' he said quietly, as he closed the door behind

  him. She glanced at him swiftly, but did not move or answer.

  He took off his overcoat with quick, quiet movements, and went to

  hang it up on the pegs. She heard his step, and looked again. He

  was like the doll, a tall, slender, well-bred man in uniform. When

  he turned, his dark eyes seemed very wide open. His black hair was

  growing grey at the temples--the first touch.

  She was sewing her doll. Without saying anything, he wheeled round

  the chair from the writing-table, so that he sat with his knees

  almost touching her. Then he crossed one leg over the other. He

  wore fine tartan socks. His ankles seemed slender and elegant, his

  brown shoes fitted as if they were part of him. For some moments

  he watched her as she sat sewing. The light fell on her soft,

  delicate hair, that was full of strands of gold and of tarnished

  gold and shadow. She did not look up.

  In silence he held out his small, naked-looking brown hand for the

  doll. On his fore-arm were black hairs.

  She glanced up at him. Curious how fresh and luminous her face

  looked in contrast to his.

  'Do you want to see it?' she asked, in natural English.

  'Yes,' he said.

  She broke off her thread of cotton and handed him the puppet. He

  sat with one leg thrown over the other, holding the doll in one

  hand and smiling inscrutably with his dark eyes. His hair, parted

  perfectly on one side, was jet black and glossy.

  'You've got me,' he said at last, in his amused, melodious voice.

  'What?' she said.

  'You've got me,' he repeated.

  'I don't care,' she said.

  'What--You don't care?' His face broke into a smile. He had an

  odd way of answering, as if he were only half attending, as if he

  were thinking of something else.

  'You are very late, aren't you?' she ventured.

  'Yes. I am rather late.'

  'Why are you?'

  'Well, as a matter of fact, I was talking with the Colonel.'

  'About me?'

  'Yes. It was about you.'

  She went pale as she sat looking up into his face. But it was

  impossible to tell whether there was distress on his dark brow or


  'Anything nasty?' she said.

  'Well, yes. It was rather nasty. Not about you, I mean. But

  rather awkward for me.'

  She watched him. But still he said no more.

  'What was it?' she said.

  'Oh, well--only what I expected. They seem to know rather too much

  about you--about you and me, I mean. Not that anybody cares one

  bit, you know, unofficially. The trouble is, they are apparently

  going to have to take official notice.'


  'Oh, well--it appears my wife has been writing letters to the

  Major-General. He is one of her family acquaintances--known her

  all his life. And I suppose she's been hearing rumours. In fact,

  I know she has. She said so in her letter to me.'

  'And what do you say to her then?'

  'Oh, I tell her I'm all right--not to worry.'

  'You don't expect THAT to stop her worrying, do you?' she asked.

  'Oh, I don't know. Why should she worry?' he said.

  'I think she might have some reason,' said Hannele. 'You've not

  seen her for a year. And if she adores you--'

  'Oh, I don't think she adores me. I think she quite likes me.'

  'Do you think you matter as little as that to her?'

  'I don't see why not. Of course she likes to feel SAFE about me.'

  'But now she doesn't feel safe?'

  'No--exactly. Exactly. That's the point. That's where it is.

  The Colonel advises me to go home on leave.'

  He sat gazing with curious, bright, dark, unseeing eyes at the doll

  which he held by one arm. It was an extraordinary likeness of

  himself, true even to the smooth parting of his hair and his
br />   peculiar way of fixing his dark eyes.

  'For how long?' she asked.

  'I don't know. For a month,' he replied, first vaguely, then


  'For a month!' She watched him, and seemed to see him fade from

  her eyes.

  'And will you go?' she asked.

  'I don't know. I don't know.' His head remained bent, he seemed

  to muse rather vaguely. 'I don't know,' he repeated. 'I can't

  make up my mind what I shall do.'

  'Would you like to go?' she asked.

  He lifted his brows and looked at her. Her heart always melted in

  her when he looked straight at her with his black eyes and that

  curious, bright, unseeing look that was more like second sight than

  direct human vision. She never knew what he saw when he looked at


  'No,' he said simply. 'I don't WANT to go. I don't think I've any

  desire at all to go to England.'

  'Why not?' she asked.

  'I can't say.' Then again he looked at her, and a curious white

  light seemed to shine on his eyes, as he smiled slowly with his

  mouth, and said: 'I suppose you ought to know, if anybody does.'

  A glad, half-frightened look came on her face.

  'You mean you don't want to leave me?' she asked, breathless.

  'Yes. I suppose that's what I mean.'

  'But you aren't sure?'

  'Yes, I am, I'm quite sure,' he said, and the curious smile

  lingered on his face, and the strange light shone in his eyes.

  'That you don't want to leave me?' she stammered, looking aside.

  'Yes, I'm quite sure I don't want to leave you,' he repeated. He

  had a curious, very melodious Scottish voice. But it was the

  incomprehensible smile on his face that convinced and frightened

  her. It was almost a gargoyle smile, a strange, lurking,

  changeless-seeming grin.

  She was frightened, and turned aside her face. When she looked at

  him again, his face was like a mask, with strange, deep-graven

  lines and a glossy dark skin and a fixed look--as if carved half

  grotesquely in some glossy stone. His black hair on his smooth,

  beautifully-shaped head seemed changeless.

  'Are you rather tired?' she asked him.

  'Yes, I think I am.' He looked at her with black, unseeing eyes

  and a mask-like face. Then he glanced as if he heard something.

  Then he rose with his hand on his belt, saying: 'I'll take off my

  belt and change my coat, if you don't mind.'

  He walked across the room, unfastening his broad, brown belt. He

  was in well-fitting, well-cut khaki. He hung up his belt and came

  back to her wearing an old, light tunic, which he left unbuttoned.

  He carried his slippers in one hand. When he sat down to unfasten

  his shoes, she noticed again how black and hairy his fore-arm was,

  how naked his brown hand seemed. His hair was black and smooth and

  perfect on his head, like some close helmet, as he stooped down.

  He put on his slippers, carried his shoes aside, and resumed his

  chair, stretching luxuriously.

  'There,' he said. 'I feel better now.' And he looked at her.

  'Well,' he said, 'and how are you?'

  'Me?' she said. 'Do I matter?' She was rather bitter.

  'Do you matter?' he repeated, without noticing her bitterness.

  'Why, what a question! Of course you are of the very highest

  importance. What? Aren't you?' And smiling his curious smile--it

  made her for a moment think of the fixed sadness of monkeys, of

  those Chinese carved soapstone apes. He put his hand under her

  chin, and gently drew his finger along her cheek. She flushed


  'But I'm not as important as you, am I?' she asked defiantly.

  'As important as me! Why, bless you, I'm not important a bit. I'm

  not important a bit!'--the odd straying sound of his words