The Rainbow (Chapter 4, page 1 of 27)


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Chapter 4

When Anna was nine years old, Brangwen sent her to the dames'
school in Cossethay. There she went, flipping and dancing in her
inconsequential fashion, doing very much as she liked,
disconcerting old Miss Coates by her indifference to
respectability and by her lack of reverence. Anna only laughed
at Miss Coates, liked her, and patronized her in superb,
childish fashion.

The girl was at once shy and wild. She had a curious contempt
for ordinary people, a benevolent superiority. She was very shy,
and tortured with misery when people did not like her. On the
other hand, she cared very little for anybody save her mother,
whom she still rather resentfully worshipped, and her father,
whom she loved and patronized, but upon whom she depended. These
two, her mother and father, held her still in fee. But she was
free of other people, towards whom, on the whole, she took the
benevolent attitude. She deeply hated ugliness or intrusion or
arrogance, however. As a child, she was as proud and shadowy as
a tiger, and as aloof. She could confer favours, but, save from
her mother and father, she could receive none. She hated people
who came too near to her. Like a wild thing, she wanted her
distance. She mistrusted intimacy.

In Cossethay and Ilkeston she was always an alien. She had
plenty of acquaintances, but no friends. Very few people whom
she met were significant to her. They seemed part of a herd,
undistinguished. She did not take people very seriously.

She had two brothers, Tom, dark-haired, small, volatile, whom
she was intimately related to but whom she never mingled with,
and Fred, fair and responsive, whom she adored but did not
consider as a real, separate thing. She was too much the centre
of her own universe, too little aware of anything outside.

The first person she met, who affected her as a real,
living person, whom she regarded as having definite existence,
was Baron Skrebensky, her mother's friend. He also was a Polish
exile, who had taken orders, and had received from Mr. Gladstone
a small country living in Yorkshire.

When Anna was about ten years old, she went with her mother
to spend a few days with the Baron Skrebensky. He was very
unhappy in his red-brick vicarage. He was vicar of a country
church, a living worth a little over two hundred pounds a year,
but he had a large parish containing several collieries, with a
new, raw, heathen population. He went to the north of England
expecting homage from the common people, for he was an
aristocrat. He was roughly, even cruelly received. But he never
understood it. He remained a fiery aristocrat. Only he had to
learn to avoid his parishioners.

Anna was very much impressed by him. He was a smallish man
with a rugged, rather crumpled face and blue eyes set very deep
and glowing. His wife was a tall thin woman, of noble Polish
family, mad with pride. He still spoke broken English, for he
had kept very close to his wife, both of them forlorn in this
strange, inhospitable country, and they always spoke in Polish
together. He was disappointed with Mrs. Brangwen's soft, natural
English, very disappointed that her child spoke no Polish.

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