one time I wrote better than DH Lawrence...DH Lawrence's The Fox, revisited
I enjoyed the writing process as it gave me the opportunity to get inside another author's head and 'borrow' their voice. I added and expanded throughout but the end is where you can find my most profound contribution.
I didn't feel that the end was fully developed. It felt, to me, as though my co-writer either lost interest in the story or needed a paycheck. (Dark writer laugh here.) The end is rushed. And so, I developed additional final scenes, filling out the end for a more complete and, while intensely dark, emotionally and intellectually satisfying experience. Perhaps in a future world I'll get to talk to DH and discover what he thinks of my version.
You can see my substantial addition below. All of the content between the banners is mine.
This book is an excellent pick for those who classic literature that features historicals, country living, chickens, hunting, and steamy slow build sensual tension.
My addition begins here.
He had won. And it had happened almost without him trying, as though Fate had recognised what must occur and had made it so. March stood there absolutely helpless, shuddering—her dry sobs and her mouth trembling rapidly. Then, as in a child, with a little crash came the tears and the blind agony of sightless weeping. She sank down on the grass, and sat there with her hands on her breast and her face lifted in sightless, convulsed weeping. He stood above her, looking down on her, mute, pale, and everlasting-seeming. She was broken now and he would be the one to pull the pieces together. He alone could make her whole. He never moved, but looked down on her, watching and waiting for her to accept the truth of the situation. And among all the torture of the scene, the torture of his own heart and bowels, he was glad, he had won. In time, she too would be glad.
After a long time he stooped to her and took her hands. He pulled her close and held her tightly. There was no rush now to take what he wanted. She was his now and forever. He would have what he wanted from her every day and as often as he wanted.
“Don’t cry,” he said softly. “Don’t cry.”
She looked up at him with tears running from her eyes, a senseless look of helplessness and submission. So she gazed on him as if sightless, yet looking up to him. She would never leave him again. He had won her. And he knew it and was glad, because he wanted her for his life. His life must have her. And now he had won her. It was what his life must have.
But if he had won her, he had not yet got her. They were to be married at Christmas as he had planned, and he got again ten days’ leave. They went to Cornwall, to his own village, on the sea. Each step he took through his village resounded with the thump of his success. The weight of his boots as he went across the stones of the streets reminded him of the weight of the tree boughs and of the frailness of Banford’s body.
And so he enjoyed his time in the village. He took March’s firm hand in his tough one and walked her through the streets, between the cottages and businesses, past the school, along the fenced farm lanes that bordered the centre of the village. With each new delight, her face brightened and she would turn to him, her dark eyes almost light with joy. He realised it was awful for her to be at the farm – so he took he took her away from it and showed her the sights of his village. But more than her delight, he relished her submission to him and his world. Years later, he would relive those days before the ceremony. On nights when his bed was cold and his heart felt like stone, he would draw up the images of March’s smile, expectant and open, filled with the hope that he was going to take her pain away and replace it with something so hot it would burn away the loss of her best friend. During those hours when they walked hand in hand, scarves covering their chins, their heavy boots making dull thumps across the cold stones, she had believed he could mend her. And he had believed it. Why shouldn’t he have? He had, with two strong swings of an axe, changed the course of their lives. He had planned, he had won. He could do anything.
Or so he believed.
On the eve of their wedding, the boy, still filled with confidence and the knowledge that he had won her, took his bride-to-be to the top of the highest hill in the village. He wanted her to see the dark hills, dotted with white and yellow lights. The moon was full and bright and the village was beautiful and when he looked across the valley he felt as if he owned it in the same way he would soon own her. He wasn’t sure why he wanted her to see the expanse of homes and farms, but he did. The highest place was the centre point of the cemetery and so they were surrounded by grave markers and low trees.
To the left were recent graves—one that looked to have been covered in late autumn and one, still a hole, that looked to have been forgotten. The edges of the one abandoned were not sharp from being freshly dug. They were soft from the rain and snow and now the hole gaped open like a mouth waiting to devour someone.
March pointed to the hole. “Odd, isn’t it? An empty hole like that? Why go to the trouble of digging it if it’s not needed?”
The boy ignored her enquiries as he wrapped his arm behind her back and turned her to face the other way. “The large farm there, do you see it? That’s the home of Captain Berryman.”
“The captain who gave me the leave to go to you. After I received your letter I went straight to him. He let me go even though I hadn’t earned the time away.”
“I didn’t realise the letter was going to have such an effect on you,” she said, her gaze on the fencing connecting the captain’s outbuildings. “I expected you to do the sensible thing and just throw it away and forget about me.”
The image of Banford standing in the path of the tree flashed in his mind and again he was reminded that he had won and he knew the satisfaction of getting what he wanted. “I never even considered giving up on what I wanted,” he said, tightening his grip around her back.
She looked up at him and her dark eyes caught the gleam of the moonlight. He’d never seen her more weak and beautiful. “I suppose I should stop by and thank him for letting you leave. Shouldn’t I?”
But Henry barely heard her, and so he did not respond. He was instead reliving Banford’s last moments, remembering the mocking tilt of her small head and the crack of the tree as it fell from the second swing.
They stood in silence for a while, their breaths coming out in cold puffs that became a delicate fog and filled the air in front of them. He watched the gentle rise and fall of her chest and thought about seducing her as he had before, pressing himself against her until she softened and gave in, but decided to wait. Once they were husband and wife it would no longer be seduction, it would be her submission and his control. And taking her now would deny him the opportunity to revel in his last hours as victor.
The wind picked up and crept under their scarves and iced their cheeks. And so it became too cold to stand on the hill. Henry dropped his arm from behind her back and took her hand. “Let’s go,” he said. She took one last look at the view and turned to the graves behind them.
Suddenly impatient for the night to end, he pulled her forward and they neared the empty hole. March stopped at the foot of it and looked across the soft edges and again toward the captain’s farm far away in the valley. “It really is odd, isn’t it?” she said. “To dig a grave but not use it. What do you think it means?”
Henry heard her questions that time but he did not want to reply. So he tugged her forward, leading her away. He had accomplished what he set out to do and saw no reason to linger.
Their first night as husband and wife they ate a fine meal prepared by the pastor’s wife. He had rented some rooms for them at an inn and she had brought the meal to them. She was a kind woman who seemed to see the best in everyone. She cooked them a fine leg of lamb and some spiced potatoes. She even made them a small, white wedding cake.
Even though he kept waiting, the woman never asked any questions as she set up the meal. Not any that were difficult to answer anyway, such as, ‘How did you two meet?’ That one especially would lead to another and another then they would be faced with the death of Banford, yet again. She, especially, was the one person he did not want to invade, the night when he finally mastered Nellie. But he was filled with uncertainty and could not decide how best to proceed in taking from his new wife what was now rightly his. It was as though he wanted to do it in a rush, all at once and be done with it, yet at the same time he wanted his coupling with Nellie to last forever. And so the meal, which they ate in front of the fireplace in the centre of the room, was a surprise to Henry. It was a welcome one though, because the meal gave him the opportunity to observe the woman newly made his wife and decide how he should treat her. He studied her while they ate.
She wore the green dress and black stockings and fine black shoes with buckles. She looked as womanly as she had the first time he had seen her in the attire, and he appreciated the reminder of that night.
“I’m glad you wore the dress,” he said, after swallowing a mouthful of tender lamb.
“Remember the last time I wore it?” she asked, her gaze down on the sweet meat covering her plate. She had yet to eat much even though his plate was nearly empty.
“I do.” He lowered his voice and tried a soft smile. “But that wasn’t what I was thinking of.”
“It is what I was thinking of.” She moved her potatoes around the plate with her fork and finally looked up, and he saw the weight of the loss of Banford in her dark eyes. She blinked away a single tear. “I can’t stop thinking of it.”
“You must stop thinking of the farm.” He pierced another piece of lamb and put it into his mouth, chewing slowly and thoroughly and relishing of how easily he had removed Banford from their lives. Yet her ghost lingered, haunting them. If he only could grab the visage, squeeze it until it evaporated and be done with her once and for all. After he swallowed the pulverized meat, he said, “And you must stop thinking of her. It’s the only way.”
March dropped her fork onto the table. “But she—”
Henry leapt from his chair so quickly it toppled behind him. The hefty smack of the wood made Nellie jump and her eyes brightened. Although he hadn’t intended to frighten her, he was glad for it because he liked to see her that way. Her eyes wide, her breasts rising and falling quickly, and her fingers gripping the edge of the table. She was vulnerable and weak. He was manly and in charge.
He grabbed one of her arms and tugged. “Stand, Nellie. I intend to have you now.”
She stood on quivering legs. He kicked her chair away, and she jumped when it too thumped to the floor.
“Is it the noise that frightens you? Or is it me?”
She turned and her gaze darted to the chair then back to him. “The farm was quiet. Very quiet. I think the only sound that ever affected me there was the screech of the chickens when the fox was after them.”
Henry remembered the screech of Banford’s cries of anguish and anger. Those were the sounds that had made his skin tight with emotion. He took Nellie’s other arm and pulled her away from the table. “You aren’t at the farm now. You’re with me, and you’re mine.”
“I know.” She didn’t look at him.
“Your life didn’t start at the farm. It didn’t start with Banford.”
“You know, but what are you going to do about it?”
He wondered if she was going to say it—‘You killed Banford, my beloved Banford.’
He waited in silence, gripping her arms tight enough to feel the bones within. If she did mention her dear, frail, bespectacled friend he didn’t know what he would do. Or rather he was afraid of what he might do.
Finally, she looked at him. The flames of the fire cast a golden glow across her face, and so her usual firm expression was softened. But it was her eyes where he saw the difference. He saw that she was trying to forget Banford. She was trying to be his and only his. His fear that she would drag her friend into their wedding night faded. He lifted his mouth into the curve of a smile. She did not smile back but she did not look away.
“Lift your face more so that I can kiss you.”
She did as he had requested, and he kissed her soundly. The gentle warmth of her lips stirred his blood, and this time he was determined to see things through to the end, to show her why he was her master. He lifted his mouth from hers, wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her. He threw her over his shoulder and gripped her stockinged legs. The gold buckles of her shoes gleamed in the firelight. She was light and willing, so carrying her to their marriage bedroom was as easy as carrying a sack of chicken feed to the shed.
Once he had positioned himself at the foot of the bed, he threw her across it. She rolled onto her side and moved to the edge of the mattress.
“No. I want you on the bed. Lift your skirt.”
Again she did as he had asked but no more. “Lift it higher. And take off your stockings.”
She pulled the hem of her dress high on her thighs to expose the garters. He watched, fascinated, as her strong fingers worked over the tabs and freed the stockings from the straps. “Wait,” he said when she started to unroll the stockings.
He crawled onto the bed, positioned himself between her legs and placed his hands at the top of one thigh. Her skin was soft, much softer than he had ever imagined. How could a woman so strong, with muscles so firm, have such soft, smooth skin? It was incomprehensible to him. And so he ran his hands down her leg, taking the stocking down and off. Instead of removing the stocking from the other leg, he placed his mouth on the thigh he had just exposed. He ran his mouth upward, inching his way to the warm juncture between her legs. The musky scent of her arousal filled his nostrils, awakening the feral part of him. He covered her mound with his mouth, speared his tongue between her slick nether lips. The taste of her coated his tongue and so he lapped the sweet liquid. Beneath him, she squirmed but did not move away. Again and again, he licked the tiny bud hidden inside her, working her into a fierce frenzy. But he would not release her so soon. He wanted her desperate and needy when he finally drove his cock into her.
He lifted his mouth and turned his attention to the other leg. She lifted her head to watch him, her body motionless. Her stillness appealed to him, and he felt himself responding, growing hotter and harder, preparing to thrust into her.
The flames in the bedroom fireplace flickered and danced and cast shadows across her pale skin. He threw the second stocking aside, sat up and folded his arms across his chest, holding himself back to savour the moment. “Stand up and take your dress off.”
After rolling to her feet, she started on the tiny buttons of her dress. Her obedient efficiency aroused him even more. She would do his bidding and be glad for it. Once the dress had been cast onto a chair, he told her to take off her slip and stand before him naked. She complied. He unfolded his arms, and stretched out onto his back to take off his own clothing. Piece by piece it fell to the floor in a pile.
Once he was naked, he thrust his hips upward. “Look at me, Nellie. And while you look at me, touch yourself as I touched you.”
Only her eyelids moved. She blinked twice.
Henry grabbed his shaft and stroked himself. “Do as I say.”
Slowly, she slipped one hand between her legs and began caressing herself.
“More,” he commanded, gliding his hand up and down as he watched her.
Gradually she accepted his stare and allowed herself to move faster. When she dropped her head back and closed her eyes, he got off the bed. He pushed her back onto the quilt and climbed on top of her. He kissed her and ran his mouth down the smooth column of her throat. He worked his way lower until his mouth lingered above one of her nipples. He licked the tight tip, making her moan and lift her back off the mattress as she tried to shove more of her breast into his mouth. He parted his lips further and took in as much of her warm mound as he could. She set her hands on the sides of his head and then shoved her fingers through his hair. When her grip eased, he knew she was close to shattering and so lifted his mouth.
He braced himself above her and knees his feet between her legs. “Spread your legs, Nellie.”
“Who do you belong to?”
Her reply came out as a whisper. “You.”
Staring down at her so that she could feel his dominance, he said, “Say my name.”
“Henry Grenfel.” Her brown eyes were hazed with desire and desperate need. “I belong to you, Henry Grenfel.”
And she always would.
He impaled her. She winced. He paused, waiting for her body to soften and accept him as its master. The moment seemed to last much longer than the seconds that actually passed, but he held steady, feeling her cunt become slick around his stiff cock. “Do you want me?” he asked after she began to whimper and squirm beneath him.
“Yes. Yes, Henry.”
He grabbed the sheets in his fists and began to move his hips slowly, sliding his hard shaft in and out. She grabbed his shoulders and thrust against him. When he increased his speed, she turned her face to the side. He was glad she’d looked away. It allowed him time to stare at her face and watch her expression as he conquered her.
The flames of the fire cast a yellowish hue across her and made her dark hair glow. The strands lay across the pillow, curving downward towards the bed, a series of delicate arrows. He thrust harder, watching the arrows. The strands shifted, yet remained pointing downward, to the bed, to the place where their bodies were fused. As he continued to move into her, her mouth opened and she began to pant, as though she’d been chased through the woods and had finally found a place to hide. But of course, that was not true. She would never have a place to hide.
“Say it again. Tell me who owns you.”
She opened her eyes and her gaze was hazy as she looked up into his face. “I—I…”
To remind her, he drove his cock into her cunt, thrusting himself in to the hilt. But when she remained silent he stopped. She would say the words or get no more.
“You, Henry. I belong to you, Henry Grenfel.”
The boy was satisfied and so he impaled her again with his stiff shaft.
March welcomed Henry’s possession. His body took command of hers and she went willingly, letting him drive into her with unrelenting fury. Soon her body coiled with a hot tension that squeezed the last of her away. It was as though she ceased existing , maybe that she had never really existed at all. As she felt the rings of harsh pleasure subside, she felt she was both alive and dead. She had never felt more alive, filled with energy and hope, and yet she had never felt more dead, as though everything she had ever been meant to do was now done.
Above her, Henry moaned as he continued to rock back and forth. He emptied himself into her and then collapsed upon her with a grunt. He said nothing and she was glad for that because she had nothing left to say to him.
She closed her eyes and slept.
The next morning, her new husband woke her with a soft row of kisses across her back. The light press of his mouth stirred her blood, and she waited for the searing rush of desire she’d felt the night before. But it did not come. After she stirred, he rolled her onto her back and used his knee to spread her thighs. She expected that hot rush of need to wash over her and remove her conscious thoughts, but it did not find her. Instead, she simply felt a warm flush of expectation.
As he had the night before, he positioned himself between her legs and entered her with one thrust. Once he was fully inside, he paused, waiting for her body to adjust to his thick invasion. March opened her eyes and stared at a crack in the plaster above. The early sunlight spread across the ceiling, casting the shadows of a new day, the first of her new life as Mrs Grenfel.
Henry didn’t kiss her while he waited for her body to soften and turn wet. Instead, he rolled his hips gently against her, reminding her of his physical dominance. “You are mine. Today and every day that follows.”
“I know,” she replied. It was what she wanted. It must be, she told herself as she waited for that wild rush of heat to steal her senses.
Then he pulled back his body back, leaving her cunt empty, and looked down, the morning sun so bright on his face that his mouth looked harsh. “And I’ll take you whenever I want.” He lowered his mouth to one of her breasts and sucked her nipple. When it tightened into an obedient peak, he tended to the other breast, working it until it too responded. Once he was satisfied, he loomed above her and added, “I’ll take you however I want.”
“Yes,” she acknowledged, spreading her legs.
“No. Roll over.”
She stared up at him, confused.
“Onto your stomach.”
Wanting to satisfy him, she rolled over and then cocked her head to see him. He was looking not at her face but was staring at her naked hips. His cock was stiff and jutting forward. He reached under her and lifted her body until her hips were pressed against his groin. She felt the press of his shaft and remembered that night in the shed when he’d first brought up the question of marriage. She clung to the memory of how her body had responded, getting hot and wet between her legs when he’d pressed himself against her.
He placed the smooth tip of his cock between her legs and used his hand to glide his hard shaft slowly inside her. March winced. But he was behind her and could not see her face. She focused on the memory of that night, willed her body to hunger for him, to accept his physical dominance. He was her husband now and she must be prepared to serve him in all ways.
He said nothing as he gripped her hips with his rough hands and thrust in and out. Gradually, her channel became slick and his drives brought some pleasure. She arched her back and clung tight to her memory. In her mind, she could smell the wood and the metallic scent of his sweat. She could feel the quivering need and hot rush of her blood. Oh, to want. It was the wanting, she realized now, that had held the meaning for her and Henry.
He moved faster and drove in deeper. She gripped the sheets. Soon, he moaned, the sound the same as it had been the night before. Also, as he had the night before, he collapsed upon her, saying nothing.
It was not the same, there was no fevered rush that stole her breath and made her insides shatter. But she did not mind. Neither did she mind that the word ‘love’ was never spoken. It hadn’t been spoken between her and Banford, either, she now realised.
My addition ends here.
Though she belonged to him, though she lived in his shadow, as if she could not be away from him, she was not happy. She did not want to leave him, and yet she did not feel free with him. Everything round her seemed to watch her, seemed to press on her. He had won her, he had her with him, she was his wife. And she—she belonged to him, she knew it. But she was not glad. And he was still foiled. He realised that though he was married to her and possessed her in every possible way, apparently, and though she wanted him to possess her, she wanted it, she wanted nothing else, now—still he did not quite succeed.
Something was missing. Instead of her soul swaying with new life, it seemed to droop, to bleed, as if it were wounded. She would sit for a long time with her hand in his, looking away at the sea. And in her dark, vacant eyes was a sort of wound, and her face looked a little peaked. If he spoke to her, she would turn to him with a faint new smile, the strange, quivering little smile of a woman who has died in the old way of love, and can’t quite rise to the new way.
She still felt she ought to do something, to strain herself in some direction. And there was nothing to do, and no direction in which to strain herself. And she could not quite accept the submergence which his new love put upon her. If she was in love, she ought to exert herself, in some way, loving. She felt the weary need of our day to exert herself in love. But she knew that in fact she must no more exert herself in love.
He would not have the love which exerted itself towards him. It made his brow go black. No, he wouldn’t let her exert her love towards him. No, she had to be passive, to acquiesce, and to be submerged under the surface of love. She had to be like the seaweeds she saw as she peered down from the boat, swaying forever delicately under water, with all their delicate fibrils put tenderly out upon the flood, sensitive, utterly sensitive and receptive within the shadowy sea, and never, never rising and looking forth above water while they lived. Never. Never looking forth from the water until they died, only then washing, corpses, upon the surface. But while they lived, always submerged, always beneath the wave. Beneath the wave they might have powerful roots, stronger than iron—they might be tenacious and dangerous in their soft waving within the flood. Beneath the water they might be stronger, more indestructible than resistant oak trees are on land. But it was always underwater, always underwater. And she, being a woman, must be like that.
And she had been so used to the very opposite. She had had to take all the thought for love and for life, and all the responsibility. Day after day she had been responsible for the coming day, for the coming year, for her dear Jill’s health and happiness and well-being. Verily, in her own small way, she had felt herself responsible for the well-being of the world. And this had been her great stimulant, this grand feeling that, in her own small sphere, she was responsible for the well-being of the world.
And she had failed. She knew that, even in her small way, she had failed. She had failed to satisfy her own feeling of responsibility. It was so difficult. It seemed so grand and easy at first. And the more you tried, the more difficult it became. It had seemed so easy to make one beloved creature happy. And the more you tried, the worse the failure. It was terrible. She had been all her life reaching, reaching, and what she reached for seemed so near, until she had stretched to her utmost limit. Then it was always beyond her.
Always beyond her, vaguely, unrealisably beyond her, and she was left with nothingness at last. The life she reached for, the happiness she reached for, the well-being she reached for all slipped back, became unreal, the farther she stretched her hand. She wanted some goal, some finality—and there was none. Always this ghastly reaching, reaching, striving for something that might be just beyond. Even to make Jill happy. She was glad Jill was dead. For she had realised that she could never make her happy. Jill would always be fretting herself thinner and thinner, weaker and weaker. Her pains grew worse instead of less. It would be so forever. She was glad she was dead.
And if Jill had married a man it would have been just the same. The woman striving, striving to make the man happy, striving within her own limits for the well-being of her world. And always achieving failure. Little, foolish successes in money or in ambition. But at the very point where she most wanted success, in the anguished effort to make some one beloved human being happy and perfect, there the failure was almost catastrophic. You wanted to make your beloved happy, and his happiness seemed always achievable. If only you did just this, that, and the other. And you did this, that, and the other, in all good faith, and every time the failure became a little more ghastly. You could love yourself to ribbons and strive and strain yourself to the bone, and things would go from bad to worse, bad to worse, as far as happiness went. The awful mistake of happiness.
Poor March, in her goodwill and her responsibility, she had strained herself till it seemed to her that the whole of life and everything was only a horrible abyss of nothingness. The more you reached after the fatal flower of happiness, which trembles so blue and lovely in a crevice just beyond your grasp, the more fearfully you became aware of the ghastly and awful gulf of the precipice below you, into which you will inevitably plunge, as into the bottomless pit, if you reach any farther. You pluck flower after flower—it is never the flower. The flower itself—its calyx is a horrible gulf, it is the bottomless pit.Available in paperback and eBook.