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Lady Anna: Chapter 15

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Wharfedale


Commentary


The visit to Wharfedale was fixed for Monday and Tuesday, and on the Monday morning they started, after an early breakfast. The party consisted of Aunt Jane, Aunt Julia, Lady Anna, Minnie, and Mr Cross, one of the rector's curates. The rector would not accompany them, excusing himself to the others generally on the ground that he could not be absent from his parish on those two days. To his wife and sister he explained that he was not able, as yet, to take pleasure in such a party as this with Lady Anna. There was no knowing, he said, what might happen. It was evident that he did not mean to open his heart to Lady Anna, at any rate till the marriage should be settled.

  • “There was no knowing what might happen,” This capacity for false excuse when seen against the parson’s reluctance to call her Lady Anna is the grain of falsehood in his truth. Compare it with the final outcome. But he is too awake. It is true he knows life and its secret.
  • “he did not mean to open his heart.” He is one who wants to act according to the decision later. He certainly is not one who can work for a certain end, especially when it is new.

An open carriage which would take them all was ordered--with four post-horses, and two antiquated post-boys, with white hats and blue jackets, and yellow breeches. Minnie and the curate sat on the box, and there was a servant in the rumble. Rooms at the inn had been ordered, and everything was done in proper lordly manner. The sun shone brightly above their heads, and Anna, having as yet received no further letter from her mother, was determined to be happy. Four horses took them to Bolton Bridge, and then, having eaten lunch and ordered dinner, they started for their ramble in the woods.

The first thing to be seen at Bolton Abbey is, of course, the Abbey. The Abbey itself, as a ruin--a ruin not so ruinous but that a part of it is used for a modern church--is very well; but the glory of Bolton Abbey is in the river which runs round it and in the wooded banks which overhang it. No more luxuriant pasture, no richer foliage, no brighter water, no more picturesque arrangement of the freaks of nature, aided by the art and taste of man, is to be found, perhaps, in England. Lady Anna, who had been used to wilder scenery in her native county, was delighted. Nothing had ever been so beautiful as the Abbey--nothing so lovely as the running Wharfe! Might they not climb up among those woods on the opposite bank? Lord Lovel declared that, of course they would climb up among the woods--it was for that purpose they had come. That was the way to the Stryd--over which he was determined that Lady Anna should be made to jump.

  • “No more luxuriant pasture…” It is appropriate, for Nature too cooperates with the arrangement of marriage. It is worth noting that except her view, the whole circumstances cooperate. A very valuable point for Life Response.

But the river below the Abbey is to be traversed by stepping-stones, which, to the female uninitiated foot, appear to be full of danger. The Wharfe here is no insignificant brook, to be overcome by a long stride and a jump. There is a causeway, of perhaps forty stones, across it, each some eighteen inches distant from the other, which, flat and excellent though they be, are perilous from their number. Mrs Lovel, who knew the place of old, had begun by declaring that no consideration should induce her to cross the water. Aunt Julia had proposed that they should go along the other bank, on the Abbey side of the river, and thence cross by the bridge half a mile up. But the Earl was resolved that he would take his cousin over the stepping-stones; and Minnie and the curate were equally determined. Minnie, indeed, had crossed the river, and was back again, while the matter was still being discussed. Aunt Julia, who was strong-limbed, as well as strong-minded, at last assented, the curate having promised all necessary aid. Mrs Lovel seated herself at a distance to see the exploit; and then Lord Lovel started, with Lady Anna, turning at every stone to give a hand to his cousin.

  • “to the female uninitiated foot…” Another symbolism.

"Oh, they are very dreadful!" said Lady Anna, when about a dozen had been passed.

  • “Oh, they are very dreadful…” It is her subconscious dread against her conscious mind.

The black water was flowing fast, fast beneath her feet; the stones became smaller and smaller to her imagination, and the apertures between them broader and broader.

  • “the stones became smaller and smaller.” Characteristic representation of the flow of her emotions.

"Don't look at the water, dear," said the lord, "but come on quick."

  • “Don’t look at the water, dear.” He wants her to accept him ‘without looking at water’ – means without looking at the status quo. He wants it quickly. If we examine ourselves when we speak to others to see how much our words express our state of mind and our wish, it will be hilarious.

"I can't come on quick. I shall never get over. Oh, Frederic!" That morning she had promised that she would call him Frederic. Even Daniel could not think it wrong that she should call her cousin by his Christian name. "It's no good, I can't do that one--it's crooked. Mayn't I go back again?"

  • “I can’t come on quick.” A gentle change in address.

"You can't go back, dear. It is only up to your knees, if you do go in. But take my hand. There--all the others are straight--you must come on, or Aunt Julia will catch us. After two or three times, you'll hop over like a milkmaid. There are only half a dozen more. Here we are. Isn't that pretty?"

"I thought I never should have got over. I wouldn't go back for anything. But it is lovely; and I am so much obliged to you for bringing me here. We can go back another way?"

  • “I wouldn’t go back for anything.” Again a thought from the depth.

"Oh, yes--but now we'll get up the bank. Give me your hand." Then he took her along the narrow, twisting, steep paths, to the top of the wooded bank, and they were soon beyond the reach of Aunt Julia, Minnie, and the curate.

It was very pleasant, very lovely, and very joyous; but there was still present to her mind some great fear. The man was there with her as an acknowledged lover--a lover, acknowledged to be so by all but herself; but she could not lawfully have any lover but him who was now slaving at his trade in London. She must tell this gallant lord that he must not be her lover and, as they went along, she was always meditating how she might best tell him, when the moment for telling him should come. But on that morning, during the entire walk, he said no word to her which seemed quite to justify the telling. He called her by sweet, petting names--Anna, my girl, pretty coz, and such like. He would hold her hand twice longer than he would have held that of either aunt in helping her over this or that little difficulty--and would help her when no help was needed. He talked to her, of small things, as though he and she must needs have kindred interests. He spoke to her of his uncle as though, near as his uncle was, the connection were not nigh so close as that between him and her. She understood it with a half understanding--feeling that in all this he was in truth making love to her, and yet telling herself that he said no more than cousinship might warrant. But the autumn colours were bright, and the river rippled, and the light breeze came down from the mountains, and the last of the wild flowers were still sweet in the woods. After a while she was able to forget her difficulties, to cease to think of Daniel, and to find in her cousin, not a lover, but simply the pleasantest friend that fortune had ever sent her.

  • “It was very pleasant,…very joyous..” The physical activity releases the joyous emotions of the body, especially for young people. Love at first sight is vital. Love made in work or activity will be physical. The emotion of romantic love never enters the plane of mind. Mind is out of bounds to love.
  • “She must tell this gallant lord…” Gallantry is elevating to man, flattering to women. I a Lord, gallantry makes him noble and aristocratic. Nothing brings out the innate aristocrat in him like being a gentle man. Gallantry excels that.
  • “He called her by sweet..names.” These words are becoming in his mouth. Should a coarser person use them, they would sound jarring. For a second meeting – in fact, this is the first meeting for activities – for Fred to use these words sweetly is great. That is possible only for innate blue blood – to be making love in sweet words without it jarring in her eyes. The truth of life is one cannot speak out a truth to another without its being flattery or jarring or coarse, unless his sincerity sanctions it. High birth and high breeding give that ability.
  • “help her, when no help was needed.” A sign of attention.
  • “He talked of small things..” Small talk makes for great moments.
  • “half understanding” All talk of seriousness or culture or even sincerity or technicality are half understood by the listener who is not introduced to such seriousness or culture or technology. The way all higher culture is understood.
  • “he was in truth making love to her…” Capacity to deserve it is different form the capacity to angle for it.
  • “But the autumn colours were bright…” Reflection of the mood Anna is in.
  • “to cease to think of Daniel…” Truth of non-covetousness. To her Daniel was part of life, a power in her life like her mother. No love blossoms where there is power to overcome or wade through. Love is a sweet emotion that spreads its wings to the far end, it is not a power than can penetrate through the veil of power. She never knew pleasant behaviour like the Lord’s. It is elevating and expansive in itself. Daniel’s personality has nothing to do with any aspect of human nature she now faces.

And so they came, all alone--for Aunt Julia, though both limbs and mind were strong, had not been able to keep up with them--all alone to the Stryd. The Stryd is a narrow gully or passage which the waters have cut for themselves in the rocks, perhaps five or six feet broad where the river passes, but narrowed at the top by an overhanging mass which in old days withstood the wearing of the stream, till the softer stone below was cut away, and then was left bridging over a part of the chasm below. There goes a story that a mountain chieftain's son, hunting the stag across the valley when the floods were out, in leaping the stream, from rock to rock, failed to make good his footing, was carried down by the rushing waters, and dashed to pieces among the rocks. Lord Lovel told her the tale, as they sat looking at the now innocent brook, and then bade her follow him as he leaped from edge to edge.

  • “The Stryd is a narrow gully…” Trollope’s imagination is great to create such parallels between the inner emotion and outer physical circumstances. Here is a picture wrought with danger. Had Anna been a weak minded girl, she would have given in. Had she done so, her strength down below would have wreaked vengeance on her life – inner life. The girl, in spite of her extreme youth of inexperience, exhibits maturity in matters practical. Studying Anna’s character comparing and contrasting it with that of her mother, Daniel, Thomas, Frederick, the rector, her father and everyone in the story will be fruitful. In strength, she is equalled only by Sir William, the strength of maturity of practical wisdom. He excels her by his evolutionary role.

"I couldn't do it--indeed, I couldn't," said the shivering girl.

"It is barely a step," said the Earl, jumping over, and back again. "Going from this side, you couldn't miss to do it, if you tried."

"I'm sure I should tumble in. It makes me sick to look at you while you are leaping."

  • “I am sure I would tumble in.” A true reflection of her situation.

"You'd jump over twice the distance on dry ground."

"Then let me jump on dry ground."

  • “Then let me jump…” This is a joke. For one in her position, it demands a lot of sense of freedom to venture a joke. Considering her timidity, the impending proposal, the imminent ‘danger’, Anna is a strong character, especially for her lack of education.

"I've set my heart upon it. Do you think I'd ask you if I wasn't sure?"

"You want to make another legend of me."

"I want to leave Aunt Julia behind, which we shall certainly do."

"Oh, but I can't afford to drown myself just that you may run away from Aunt Julia. You can run by yourself, and I will wait for Aunt Julia."

"That is not exactly my plan. Be a brave girl, now, and stand up, and do as I bid you."

Then she stood up on the edge of the rock, holding tight by his arm. How pleasant it was to be thus frightened, with such a protector near her to ensure her safety! And yet the chasm yawned, and the water ran rapid and was very black. But if he asked her to make the spring, of course she must make it. What would she not have done at his bidding!

  • “How pleasant it was..” Fright is pleasing in proper company. “Pleasant fright”, what a concept! Mother gives plenty of it.
  • “what would she not have done…” He inspires great confidence in her more by his status than by anything else.

"I can almost touch you, you see," he said, as he stood opposite, with his arm out ready to catch her hand.

"Oh, Frederic, I don't think I can."

"You can very well, if you will only jump."

"It is ever so many yards."

"It is three feet. I'll back Aunt Julia to do it for a promise of ten shillings to the infirmary."

"I'll give the ten shillings, if you'll only let me off."

"I won't let you off--so you might as well come at once."

Then she stood and shuddered for a moment, looking with beseeching eyes up into his face. Of course she meant to jump. Of course she would have been disappointed had Aunt Julia come and interrupted her jumping. Yes--she would jump into his arms. She knew that he would catch her. At that moment her memory of Daniel Thwaite had become faint as the last shaded glimmer of twilight. She shut her eyes for half a moment, then opened them, looked into his face, and made her spring. As she did so, she struck her foot against a rising ledge of the rock, and, though she covered more than the distance in her leap, she stumbled as she came to the ground, and fell into his arms. She had sprained her ankle, in her effort to recover herself.

  • “Of course she meant to jump…” She very much means to jump. It is all metaphorical.
  • “Daniel had become faint as the last shaded glimmer..” Our deepest feelings are only strongest memory.
  • “She had sprained her ankle…” The sprain is the symptom that she would not marry the Lord.

"Are you hurt?" he asked, holding her close to his side.

  • “Are you hurt?” She did come physically close to him, a parallel to her coming close to his request.

"No--I think not--only a little, that is. I was so awkward."

"I shall never forgive myself if you are hurt."

"There is nothing to forgive. I'll sit down for a moment. It was my own fault because I was so stupid--and it does not in the least signify. I know what it is now; I've sprained my ankle."

"There is nothing so painful as that."

"It hurts a little, but it will go off. It wasn't the jump, but I twisted my foot somehow. If you look so unhappy, I'll get up and jump back again."

  • “If you look so unhappy…” To her, he should not be unhappy. That signifies.

"I am unhappy, dearest."

"Oh, but you mustn't." The prohibition might be taken as applying to the epithet of endearment, and thereby her conscience be satisfied. Then he bent over her, looking anxiously into her face as she winced with the pain, and he took her hand and kissed it. "Oh, no," she said, gently struggling to withdraw the hand which he held. "Here is Aunt Julia. You had better just move." Not that she would have cared a straw for the eyes of Aunt Julia, had it not been that the image of Daniel Thwaite again rose strong before her mind. Then Aunt Julia, and the curate, and Minnie were standing on the rock within a few paces of them, but on the other side of the stream.

  • “The prohibition might be taken…” The conversation goes into nuances of subtleties.
  • “her conscience be satisfied.” Fine way to do it.

"Is there anything the matter?" asked Miss Lovel.

"She has sprained her ankle in jumping over the Stryd, and she cannot walk. Perhaps Mr Cross would not mind going back to the inn and getting a carriage. The road is only a quarter of a mile above us, and we could carry her up."

"How could you be so foolish, Frederic, as to let her jump it?" said the aunt.

"Don't mind about my folly now. The thing is to get a carriage for Anna." The curate immediately hurried back, jumping over the Stryd as the nearest way to the inn; and Minnie also sprung across the stream so that she might sit down beside her cousin and offer consolation. Aunt Julia was left alone, and after a while was forced to walk back by herself to the bridge.

"Is she much hurt?" asked Minnie.

"I am afraid she is hurt," said the lord.

"Dear, dear Minnie, it does not signify a bit," said Anna, lavishing on her younger cousin the caresses which fate forbade her to give to the elder. "I know I could walk home in a few minutes. I am better now. It is one of those things which go away almost immediately. I'll try and stand, Frederic, if you'll let me." Then she raised herself, leaning upon him, and declared that she was nearly well--and then was reseated, still leaning on him.

  • “Dear, dear Minnie, it does not signify…” Normal expression of feelings.

"Shall we attempt to get her up to the road, Minnie, or wait till Mr Cross comes to help us?" Lady Anna declared that she did not want any help--certainly not Mr Cross's help, and that she could do very well, just with Minnie's arm. They waited there sitting on the rocks for half an hour, saying but little to each other, throwing into the stream the dry bits of stick which the last flood had left upon the stones, and each thinking how pleasant it was to sit there and dream, listening to the running waters. Then Lady Anna hobbled up to the carriage road, helped by a stronger arm than that of her cousin Minnie.

Of course there was some concern and dismay at the inn. Embrocations were used, and doctors were talked of, and heads were shaken, and a couch in the sitting-room was prepared, so that the poor injured one might eat her dinner without being driven to the solitude of her own bedroom.

  • Her sprain is indicative.

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