The Rainbow (Chapter 4, page 2 of 27)


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Chapter 4

Anna loved to watch him. She liked the big, new, rambling
vicarage, desolate and stark on its hill. It was so exposed, so
bleak and bold after the Marsh. The Baron talked endlessly in
Polish to Mrs. Brangwen; he made furious gestures with his
hands, his blue eyes were full of fire. And to Anna, there was a
significance about his sharp, flinging movements. Something in
her responded to his extravagance and his exuberant manner. She
thought him a very wonderful person. She was shy of him, she
liked him to talk to her. She felt a sense of freedom near
him.

She never could tell how she knew it, but she did know that
he was a knight of Malta. She could never remember whether she
had seen his star, or cross, of his order or not, but it flashed
in her mind, like a symbol. He at any rate represented to the
child the real world, where kings and lords and princes moved
and fulfilled their shining lives, whilst queens and ladies and
princesses upheld the noble order.

She had recognized the Baron Skrebensky as a real person, he
had had some regard for her. But when she did not see him any
more, he faded and became a memory. But as a memory he was
always alive to her.

Anna became a tall, awkward girl. Her eyes were still very
dark and quick, but they had grown careless, they had lost their
watchful, hostile look. Her fierce, spun hair turned brown, it
grew heavier and was tied back. She was sent to a young ladies'
school in Nottingham.

And at this period she was absorbed in becoming a young lady.
She was intelligent enough, but not interested in learning. At
first, she thought all the girls at school very ladylike and
wonderful, and she wanted to be like them. She came to a speedy
disillusion: they galled and maddened her, they were petty and
mean. After the loose, generous atmosphere of her home, where
little things did not count, she was always uneasy in the world,
that would snap and bite at every trifle.

A quick change came over her. She mistrusted herself, she
mistrusted the outer world. She did not want to go on, she did
not want to go out into it, she wanted to go no further.

"What do I care about that lot of girls?" she would
say to her father, contemptuously; "they are nobody."

The trouble was that the girls would not accept Anna at her
measure. They would have her according to themselves or not at
all. So she was confused, seduced, she became as they were for a
time, and then, in revulsion, she hated them furiously.

"Why don't you ask some of your girls here?" her father would
say.

"They're not coming here," she cried.

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