The Rainbow (Chapter 7, page 2 of 11)


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Chapter 7

Anna took her best clothes, recovered her best high-school
manner, and arrived with her husband. Will Brangwen, ruddy,
bright, with long limbs and a small head, like some uncouth
bird, was not changed in the least. The little Baroness was
smiling, showing her teeth. She had a real charm, a kind of
joyous coldness, laughing, delighted, like some weasel. Anna at
once respected her, and was on her guard before her,
instinctively attracted by the strange, childlike surety of the
Baroness, yet mistrusting it, fascinated. The little baron was
now quite white-haired, very brittle. He was wizened and
wrinkled, yet fiery, unsubdued. Anna looked at his lean body, at
his small, fine lean legs and lean hands as he sat talking, and
she flushed. She recognized the quality of the male in him, his
lean, concentrated age, his informed fire, his faculty for
sharp, deliberate response. He was so detached, so purely
objective. A woman was thoroughly outside him. There was no
confusion. So he could give that fine, deliberate response.

He was something separate and interesting; his hard,
intrinsic being, whittled down by age to an essentiality and a
directness almost death-like, cruel, was yet so unswervingly
sure in its action, so distinct in its surety, that she was
attracted to him. She watched his cool, hard, separate fire,
fascinated by it. Would she rather have it than her husband's
diffuse heat, than his blind, hot youth?

She seemed to be breathing high, sharp air, as if she had
just come out of a hot room. These strange Skrebenskys made her
aware of another, freer element, in which each person was
detached and isolated. Was not this her natural element? Was not
the close Brangwen life stifling her?

Meanwhile the little baroness, with always a subtle light
stirring of her full, lustrous, hazel eyes, was playing with
Will Brangwen. He was not quick enough to see all her movements.
Yet he watched her steadily, with unchanging, lit-up eyes. She
was a strange creature to him. But she had no power over him.
She flushed, and was irritated. Yet she glanced again and again
at his dark, living face, curiously, as if she despised him. She
despised his uncritical, unironical nature, it had nothing for
her. Yet it angered her as if she were jealous. He watched her
with deferential interest as he would watch a stoat playing. But
he himself was not implicated. He was different in kind. She was
all lambent, biting flames, he was a red fire glowing steadily.
She could get nothing out of him. So she made him flush darkly
by assuming a biting, subtle class-superiority. He flushed, but
still he did not object. He was too different.

Her little boy came in with the nurse. He was a quick, slight
child, with fine perceptiveness, and a cool transitoriness in
his interest. At once he treated Will Brangwen as an outsider.
He stayed by Anna for a moment, acknowledged her, then was gone
again, quick, observant, restless, with a glance of interest at
everything.

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