The Rainbow (Chapter 8, page 1 of 22)


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Chapter 8

From the first, the baby stirred in the young father a
deep, strong emotion he dared scarcely acknowledge, it was so
strong and came out of the dark of him. When he heard the child
cry, a terror possessed him, because of the answering echo from
the unfathomed distances in himself. Must he know in himself
such distances, perilous and imminent?

He had the infant in his arms, he walked backwards and
forwards troubled by the crying of his own flesh and blood. This
was his own flesh and blood crying! His soul rose against the
voice suddenly breaking out from him, from the distances in
him.

Sometimes in the night, the child cried and cried, when the
night was heavy and sleep oppressed him. And half asleep, he
stretched out his hand to put it over the baby's face to stop
the crying. But something arrested his hand: the very
inhumanness of the intolerable, continuous crying arrested him.
It was so impersonal, without cause or object. Yet he echoed to
it directly, his soul answered its madness. It filled him with
terror, almost with frenzy.

He learned to acquiesce to this, to submit to the awful,
obliterated sources which were the origin of his living tissue.
He was not what he conceived himself to be! Then he was what he
was, unknown, potent, dark.

He became accustomed to the child, he knew how to lift and
balance the little body. The baby had a beautiful, rounded head
that moved him passionately. He would have fought to the last
drop to defend that exquisite, perfect round head.

He learned to know the little hands and feet, the strange,
unseeing, golden-brown eyes, the mouth that opened only to cry,
or to suck, or to show a queer, toothless laugh. He could almost
understand even the dangling legs, which at first had created in
him a feeling of aversion. They could kick in their queer little
way, they had their own softness.

One evening, suddenly, he saw the tiny, living thing rolling
naked in the mother's lap, and he was sick, it was so utterly
helpless and vulnerable and extraneous; in a world of hard
surfaces and varying altitudes, it lay vulnerable and naked at
every point. Yet it was quite blithe. And yet, in its blind,
awful crying, was there not the blind, far-off terror of its own
vulnerable nakedness, the terror of being so utterly delivered
over, helpless at every point. He could not bear to hear it
crying. His heart strained and stood on guard against the whole
universe.

But he waited for the dread of these days to pass; he saw the
joy coming. He saw the lovely, creamy, cool little ear of the
baby, a bit of dark hair rubbed to a bronze floss, like
bronze-dust. And he waited, for the child to become his, to look
at him and answer him.

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