My friend Lee leant me this book, which talks of the London through which we promenade. For me, the character developments of the nasty, bitter, wronged, politically contrary, religious, dour, ugly Miss Kilman and of the young, pretty and privileged Elizabeth are the most compelling parts.
'Elizabeth wondered whether Miss Kilman could be hungry. It was her way of eating, eating with intensity, then looking, again and again, at the plate and a child sat down and the child took the cake, could Miss Kilman really mind it? Yes, Miss Kilman did mind it. She had wanted that cake - the pink one. The pleasure of eating was almost the only pure pleasure left her, and then to be baffled even in that!
[ . . . ]
Elizabeth had never thought about the poor. They lived with everything they wanted - her mother had breakfast in bed every day; Lucy carried it up; and she liked old women because they were Duchesses, and being descended from some Lord. But Miss Kilman said (one of those Tuesday mornings when the lesson was over), "My grandfather kept an oil and colour shop in Kensington." Miss Kilman was quite different from any one she knew; she made one feel so small.
Miss Kilman took another cup of tea. Elizabeth, with her oriental bearing, her inscrutable mystery, sat perfectly upright; no she did not want anything more. She looked for her gloves - her white gloves. They were under the table. Ah, but she must not go! Miss Kilman could not let her go! this youth, that was so beautiful; this girl, whom she genuinely loved! Her large hand opened and shut on the table.
But perhaps it was a little flat somehow, Elizabeth felt. And really she would like to go.
"But," said Miss Kilman, "I've not quite finished yet."
[ . . . ] "Are you going to the party tonight?" Miss Kilman said. Elizabeth supposed she was going; her mother wanted her to go. [ . . . ]
She was about to split asunder, she felt. The agony was so terrific. If she could grasp her, if she could clasp he, if she could make her hers absolutely and for ever and then die; that was all she wanted. But to sit here, unable to think of anything to say; to see Elizabeth turning against her; to be felt repulsive even by her - it was too much; she could not stand it. The thick fingers curled inwards.
"I never go to parties," said Miss Kilman, just to keep Elizabeth from going. "People don't ask me to parties" - and she knew as she said it that it was this egotism that was her undoing; Mr Whitaker had warned her; but she could not help it. She had suffered so horribly. "Why should they ask me?" she said. "I'm plain, I'm unhappy." She knew it was idiotic. But it was all those people passing - people with parcels who despised her - who made her say it. However, she was Doris Kilman. She had her degree. She was a woman who had made her way in the world. Her knowledge of modern history was more than respectable [ . . . ]
Like some dumb creature who has been brought up to a gate for an unknown purpose, and stands there longing to gallop away, Elizabeth Dalloway sat silent. Was Miss Kilman going to say anything more?
"Don't quite forget me," said Doris Kilman; her voice quivered. Right away to the end of the field the dumb creature galloped in terror.
The great hand opened and shut.
Elizabeth turned her head. The waitress came. One had to pay at the desk, Elizabeth said, and went off, drawing out, so Miss Kilman felt, the very entrails of her body, stretching them as she crossed the room, and then, with a final twist, bowing her head very politely, she went.'