The Rainbow (Chapter 1, page 1 of 36)


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Chapter 1

I

The Brangwens had lived for generations on the Marsh Farm, in
the meadows where the Erewash twisted sluggishly through alder
trees, separating Derbyshire from Nottinghamshire. Two miles
away, a church-tower stood on a hill, the houses of the little
country town climbing assiduously up to it. Whenever one of the
Brangwens in the fields lifted his head from his work, he saw
the church-tower at Ilkeston in the empty sky. So that as he
turned again to the horizontal land, he was aware of something
standing above him and beyond him in the distance.

There was a look in the eyes of the Brangwens as if they were
expecting something unknown, about which they were eager. They
had that air of readiness for what would come to them, a kind of
surety, an expectancy, the look of an inheritor.

They were fresh, blond, slow-speaking people, revealing
themselves plainly, but slowly, so that one could watch the
change in their eyes from laughter to anger, blue, lit-up
laughter, to a hard blue-staring anger; through all the
irresolute stages of the sky when the weather is changing.

Living on rich land, on their own land, near to a growing
town, they had forgotten what it was to be in straitened
circumstances. They had never become rich, because there were
always children, and the patrimony was divided every time. But
always, at the Marsh, there was ample.

So the Brangwens came and went without fear of necessity,
working hard because of the life that was in them, not for want
of the money. Neither were they thriftless. They were aware of
the last halfpenny, and instinct made them not waste the peeling
of their apple, for it would help to feed the cattle. But heaven
and earth was teeming around them, and how should this cease?
They felt the rush of the sap in spring, they knew the wave
which cannot halt, but every year throws forward the seed to
begetting, and, falling back, leaves the young-born on the
earth.

They knew the intercourse between heaven and earth,
sunshine drawn into the breast and bowels, the rain sucked up in
the daytime, nakedness that comes under the wind in autumn,
showing the birds' nests no longer worth hiding. Their life and
interrelations were such; feeling the pulse and body of the
soil, that opened to their furrow for the grain, and became
smooth and supple after their ploughing, and clung to their feet
with a weight that pulled like desire, lying hard and
unresponsive when the crops were to be shorn away. The young
corn waved and was silken, and the lustre slid along the limbs
of the men who saw it. They took the udder of the cows, the cows
yielded milk and pulse against the hands of the men, the pulse
of the blood of the teats of the cows beat into the pulse of the
hands of the men. They mounted their horses, and held life
between the grip of their knees, they harnessed their horses at
the wagon, and, with hand on the bridle-rings, drew the heaving
of the horses after their will.

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