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Elizabeth Gaskell
The Life of Charlotte Brontë
(1857) 



PART ONE 
 
PART TWO


CONTENTS

CHAPTER I
Description of Keighley and its neighbourhood - Haworth Parsonage and Church - Tablets of the Brontë family
CHAPTER II
Characteristics of Yorkshiremen - Manufactures of the West Riding - Descendants of the Puritans - A characteristic incident - Former state of the country - Isolated country houses - Two Yorkshire squires - Rude sports of the people - Rev. William Grimshaw, Curate of Haworth - His opinion and treatment of his parishioners - The "arvills," or funeral feasts - Haworth Field-Kirk - Church-riots at Haworth on the appointment of Mr. Redhead as Perpetual Curate - Arrival of Mr. Brontë at Haworth
CHAPTER III
The Rev. Patrick Brontë - His marriage with Miss Branwell of Penzance - Social customs in Penzance - The Branwell family - Letters of Miss Branwell to Mr. Brontë - Marriage of Mrs. Brontë - Thornton, the birth-place of Charlotte Brontë - Removal to Haworth - Description of the Parsonage - The people of Haworth - The Brontë family at Haworth - Early training of the little Brontës - Characteristic anecdotes of Mr. Brontë - Death of Mrs. Brontë - Village scandal - Studies of the Brontë family - Mr. Brontë's account of his children
CHAPTER IV
Miss Branwell comes to Haworth - Account of Cowan's Bridge (Lowood) School and the Rev. Carus Wilson - Originals of "Miss Scatcherd," "Helen Burns," and "Miss Temple" - Outbreak of fever in the school - Characteristics of the Brontë sisters - Deaths of Maria and Elizabeth Brontë
CHAPTER V
The old servant Tabby - Patrick Branwell Brontë - Charlotte Brontë's catalogue of her juvenile productions, with specimen page - Extract from the introduction to Tales of the Islanders - History of the year 1829 - Charlotte's taste for Art - Extracts from other early writings in MS. - Charlotte's mental tendencies and home duties - A strange occurrence at the Parsonage - A youthful effusion in verse
CHAPTER VI
Personal description of Charlotte Brontë - Miss Wooler's school at Roe Head - Oakwell Hall and its legends - Charlotte's first appearance at school - Her youthful character and political feelings - School days at Miss Wooler's - Mr. Cartwright and the Luddites - Mr. Roberson of Heald's Hall - Chapel scenes and other characteristics of Heckmondwike and Gomersall
CHAPTER VII
Charlotte Brontë leaves school, and returns home to instruct her sisters - Books at the parsonage - A dreary winter - Letters to a friend visiting London for the first time - On the choice of books - On dancing - Character and talents of Branwell Brontë - Plans for his advancement - Prospect of separation
CHAPTER VIII
Charlotte as teacher at Miss Wooler's school - Emily's home-sickness - Letters indicative of Charlotte's despondency and melancholy - The sisters at home - Winter evenings at Haworth - Charlotte writes to Southey, and Branwell to Wordsworth - Branwell's letter and verses - Prospect of losing the society of a friend - Charlotte's correspondence with Southey - Letter written in a state of despondency - Accident to the old servant, and characteristic kindness of the Brontës - Symptoms of illness in Anne Brontë - Charlotte's first proposal of marriage - Charlotte and Anne go out as governesses - Experiences of governess life - Advent of the first Curate at Haworth - A second proposal of marriage - A visit to the sea-side
CHAPTER IX
Branwell Brontë still at home - Miss Branwell and her nieces - Plan of keeping a school - Charlotte commences her first story - The Curates at Haworth - Charlotte's sentiments on marriage - She seeks and obtains a situation as governess
CHAPTER X
Second experiences of governess life - Project of a school revived, and plans for its realisation - Miss Wooler's offer of her school declined
CHAPTER XI
Mr. Brontë accompanies his daughters to Brussels - Charlotte's impressions of the place - The Pensionnat of Madame Héger and its inmates - M. Héger's method of teaching French - Charlotte's exercises in French composition - Her impressions of the Belgians - Arrangements of the Pensionnat - Charlotte's conduct as English teacher - Loss of a young friend - Death of Miss Branwell, and return to Haworth - M. Héger's letter to Mr. Brontë".
CHAPTER XII
Charlotte returns to Brussels - Her account of Carnival and Lent - Solitariness of the English teacher in the Pensionnat - Her devoir "Sur la nom de Napoleon" - Depression, loneliness, and home-sickness - Estrangement from Madame Héger, and return to Haworth - Traits of kindness - Emily and her dog "Keeper"
CHAPTER XIII
Plan of school-keeping revived and abandoned - Deplorable conduct of Branwell Brontë and its consequences


IMITATION
"Le 31 Juillet, 1842.
PORTRAIT DE PIERRE L'HERMITE. CHARLOTTE BRONTË
"De temps en temps, il parait sur la terre des hommes destinés à etre les instruments [prédestinés] de grands changements, moreaux ou politiques. Quelquefois c'est un conquérant, un Alexandre ou un Attila, qui passe comme un ouragan, et purifie 1'atmosphère moral, comme l'orage purifie l'atmosphère physique; quelquefois, c'est un révolutionnaire, un Cromwell, ou un Robespierre, qui fait expier par un roi les vices de toute une dynastie; quelquefois c'est un enthousiaste réligieux comme Mahométe, ou Pierre l'Ermite, qui, avec le seul levier de la pensée soulève des nations entières, les déracine et les transplante dans des climats nouveaux, peuplant l'Asie avec les habitants de l'Europe. Pierre l'Ermite était gentilhomme de Picardie, en France, pourquoi donc n'a-t-il passé sa vie comme les autres gentilhommes ses contemporains ont passé la leur, à table, à la chasse, dans son lit, sans s'inquiéter de Saladin, ou de ses Sarrasins? N'est-ce pas, parce qu'il y a dans certaines natures, une ardeur [un foyer d'activité] indomptable qui ne leur permet pas de rester inactives, qui les force à se remuer afin d'exercer les facultés puissantes, qui même en dormant sont prêtes comme Sampson à briser les noeuds qui les retiennent?
"Pierre prit la profession des armes; si son ardeur avait été de cette espèce [si il n'avait eu que cette ardeur vulgaire] qui provient d'une robuste santé il aurait [c'eut] été un brave militaire, et rien de plus; mais son ardeur était celle de l'âme, sa flamme était pure et elle s'élevait vers le ciel.
"Sans doute [Il est vrai que] la jeunesse de Pierre, était [fut] troublée par passions orageuses; les natures puissantes sont extrèmes en tout, elles ne connaissent la tiédeur ni dans le bien, ni dans le mal; Pierre donc chercha d'abord avidément la gloire què se flétrit, et les plaisirs qui trompent, mais il fit bientôt la découverte [bientôt il s'aperçut] que ce qu'il poursuivait n'était qu' une illusion à laquelle il ne pourrait jamais atteindre; il retourna donc sur ses pas, il recommença le voyage de la vie, mais cette fois il évita le chemin spacieux qui méne à la perdition et il prit le chemin étroit qui méne à la vie; puisque [comme] le trajet était long et difficile il jeta la casque et les armes du soldat, et se vêtit de l'habit simple du moine. A la vie militaire succéda la vie monastique, car, les extrêmes se touchent et chez l'homme sincere la sincerite du repentir amène [necessairement à la suite] avec lui la rigueur de la penitence. [Voila donc Pierre devena moine!]
"Mais Pierre [il] avait en lui un principe qui 1'empechait de rester long-temps inactif, ses idées, sur quel sujet qu'il soit [que ce fut] ne pouvaient pas être bornées; il ne lui suffisait pas que lui-même fût religieux, que lui-même fût convaincee de la réalité de Christianismé (sic) il fallait que toute l'Europe que toute l'Asie partagea sa conviction et professât la croyance de la Croix. La Piété [fervente] élevée par le Génie, nourrie par la Solitude fit naitre une éspèce d'inspiration [exalta son âme jusqu'a l'inspiration) dans son ame, et lorsqu'il quitta sa cellule et reparut dans le monde, il portrait comme Moise l'empreinte de la Divinité sur son front, et tout [tous] réconnurent en lui la veritable apôtre de la Croix.
"Mahomet n'avait jamais rémué les molles nations de l'Orient comme alors Pièrre remua les peuples austéres de l'Occident; il fallait que cette éloquence fût d'une force presque miraculeuse qui pouvait [presqu'elle] persuader [ait] aux rois de vendre leurs royaumes afin de procurer [pour avoir] des armes et des soldats pour aider [à offrir] a Pierre dans la guerre sainte qu'il voulait livrer aux infidéles. La puissance de Pierre [l'Ermite] n'était nullement une puissance physique, car la nature, ou pour mieux dire, Dieu est impartial dans la distribution de ses dons; il accorde à l'un de ses enfants la grace, la beauté, les perfections corporelles, à l'autre l'esprit, la grandeur morale. Pierre donc était un homme, petit d'une physionomie peu agréable; mais il avait ce courage, cette constance, cet enthousiasme, cette energie de sentiment qui écrase toute opposition, et qui fait que la volonté d'un seul homme devient la loi de toute une nation. Pour se former une juste idée de l'influence qu'exerça cet homme sur les caractères [choses] et les idées de son temps il faut se le representer au milieu de l'armée des croisées, dans son double rôle de prophète et de guerrier; le pauvre hermite vêtu du pauvre [de l'humble] habit gris est la plus puissant qu'un roi; il est entouré d'une [de la] multitude [abide] une multitude qui ne voit que lui, tandis que lui, il ne voit que le ciel; ses yeux lévés semblent dire 'Je vois Dieu et les anges, et j'ai perdu de vue la terre!'
"Dans ce moment le [mais ce] pauvre habit [froc] gris est pour lui comme le manteau d'Elijah; il l'enveloppe d'inspiration; il [Pierre] lit dans l'avenir; il voit Jerusalem delivrée; [il voit] le saint sepulchre libre; il voit le croissant argent est arraché du Temple, et l'Oriflamme et la Croix rouge sont établi à sa place; non seulement Pierre voit ces merveilles, mais il les fait voir à tous ceux qui l'entourent, il ravive l'espérance, et le courage dans [tous ces corps epuisés de fatigues et de privations] La bataille ne sera livrée que demain, mais la victoire est décidée ce soir. Pierre a promis; et les Croisées se fient à sa parole, comme les Israëlites se fiaient à celle de Moise et de Josué."
As a companion portrait to this, Emily chose to depict Harold on the eve of the battle of Hastings. It appears to me, that her dévoir is superior to Charlotte's in power and in imagination, and fully equal to it in language; and that this, in both cases, considering how little practical knowledge of French they had when they arrived at Brussels in February, and that they wrote without the aid of dictionary or grammar, is unusual and remarkable. We shall see the progress Charlotte had made, in ease and grace of style, a year later.
In the choice of subjects left to her selection, she frequently took characters and scenes from the Old Testament, with which all her writings show that she was especially familiar. The picturesqueness and colour (if I may so express it), the grandeur and breadth of its narrations, impressed her deeply. To use M. Héger's expression, "Elle était nourrie de la Bible." After he had read De la Vigne's poem on Joan of Arc, she chose the "Vision and Death of Moses on Mount Nebo" to write about; and, in looking over this dévoir, I was much struck with one or two of M. Héger's remarks. After describing, in a quiet and simple manner, the circumstances under which Moses took leave of the Israelites, her imagination becomes warmed, and she launches out into a noble strain, depicting the glorious futurity of the Chosen People, as looking down upon the Promised Land, he sees their prosperity in prophetic vision. But, before reaching the middle of this glowing description, she interrupts herself to discuss for a moment the doubts that have been thrown on the miraculous relations of the Old Testament. M. Héger remarks, "When you are writing, place your argument first in cool, prosaic language; but when you have thrown the reins on the neck of your imagination, do not pull her up to reason." Again, in the vision of Moses, he sees the maidens leading forth their flocks to the wells at eventide, and they are described as wearing flowery garlands. Here the writer is reminded of the necessity of preserving a certain verisimilitude: Moses might from his elevation see mountains and plains, groups of maidens and herds of cattle, but could hardly perceive the details of dress, or the ornaments of the head.
When they had made further progress, M. Héger took up a more advanced plan, that of synthetical teaching. He would read to them various accounts of the same person or event, and make them notice the points of agreement and disagreement. Where they were different, he would make them seek the origin of that difference by causing them to examine well into the character and position of each separate writer, and how they would be likely to affect his conception of truth. For instance, take Cromwell. He would read Bossuet's description of him in the "Oraison Funebre de la Reine d'Angleterre," and show how in this he was considered entirely from the religious point of view, as an instrument in the hands of God, pre-ordained to His work. Then he would make them read Guizot, and see how, in his view, Cromwell was endowed with the utmost power of free will, but governed by no higher motive than that of expediency; while Carlyle regarded him as a character regulated by a strong and conscientious desire to do the will of the Lord. Then he would desire them to remember that the Royalist and Commonwealth man had each their different opinions of the great Protector. And from these conflicting characters he would require them to sift and collect the elements of truth, and try to unite them into a perfect whole.
This kind of exercise delighted Charlotte. It called into play her powers of analysis, which were extraordinary, and she very soon excelled in it.
Wherever the Brontës could be national they were so, with the same tenacity of attachment which made them suffer as they did whenever they left Haworth. They were Protestant to the backbone in other things beside their religion, but preeminently so in that. Touched as Charlotte was by the letter of St. Ignatius before alluded to, she claimed equal self-devotion, and from as high a motive, for some of the missionaries of the English Church sent out to toil and to perish on the poisonous African coast, and wrote as an "imitation," "Lettre d'un Missionaire, Sierra Leone, Afrique."
Something of her feeling, too, appears in the following letter: -
"Brussels, I842.
"I consider it doubtful whether I shall come home in September or not. Madame Héger has made a proposal for both me and Emily to stay another half year, offering to dismiss her English master, and take me as English teacher; also to employ Emily some part of each day in teaching music to a certain number of the pupils. For these services we are to be allowed to continue our studies in French and German, and to have board, etc., without paying for it; no salaries, however, are offered. The proposal is kind, and in a great selfish city like Brussels, and a great selfish school, containing nearly ninety pupils (boarders and day-pupils included), implies a degree of interest which demands gratitude in return. I am inclined to accept it. What think you? I don't deny I sometimes wish to be in England, or that I have brief attacks of home-sickness; but, on the whole, I have borne a very valiant heart so far; and I have been happy in Brussels, because I have always been fully occupied with the employments that I like. Emily is making rapid progress in French, German, music, and drawing. Monsieur and Madame Héger begin to recognise the valuable parts of her character, under her singularities. If the national character of the Belgians is to be measured by the character of most of the girls in this school, it is a character singularly cold, selfish, animal, and inferior. They are very mutinous and difficult for the teachers to manage; and their principles are rotten to the core. We avoid them, which it is not difficult to do, as we have the brand of Protestantism and Anglicism upon us. People talk of the danger which Protestants expose themselves to, in going to reside in Catholic countries, and thereby running the chance of changing their faith. My advice to all Protestants who are tempted to do anything so besotted as turn Catholics is, to walk over the sea on to the Continent to attend mass sedulously for a time; to note well the mummeries thereof; also the idiotic, mercenary aspect of all the priests; and then, if they are still disposed to consider Papistry in any other light than a most feeble, childish piece of humbug, let them turn Papists at once - that's all. I consider Methodism, Quakerism, and the extremes of High and Low Churchism foolish, but Roman Catholicism beats them all. At the same time, allow me to tell you, that there are some Catholics who are as good as any Christians can be to whom the Bible is a sealed book, and much better than many Protestants."
When the Brontës first went to Brussels, it was with the intention of remaining there for six months, or until the grandes vacances began in September. The duties of the school were then suspended for six weeks or two months, and it seemed a desirable period for their return. But the proposal mentioned in the foregoing letter altered their plans. Besides, they were happy in the feeling that they were making progress in all the knowledge they had so long been yearning to acquire. They were happy, too, in possessing friends whose society had been for years congenial to them; and in occasional meetings with these, they could have the inexpressible solace to residents in a foreign country - and peculiarly such to the Brontës - of talking over the intelligence received from their respective homes - referring to past, or planning for future days. Mary and her sister, the bright, dancing, laughing Martha, were parlour - boarders in an establishment just beyond the barriers of Brussels. Again, the cousins of these friends were resident in the town; and at their house Charlotte and Emily were always welcome, though their overpowering shyness prevented their more valuable qualities from being known, and generally kept them silent. They spent their weekly holiday with this family, for many months; but at the end of the time, Emily was as impenetrable to friendly advances as at the beginning; while Charlotte was too physically weak (as Mary has expressed it) to "gather up her forces" sufficiently to express any difference or opposition of opinion, and had consequently an assenting and deferential manner, strangely at variance with what they knew of her remarkable talents and decided character. At this house, the T.'s and the Brontës could look forward to meeting each other pretty frequently. There was another English family where Charlotte soon became a welcome guest, and where, I suspect, she felt herself more at her ease than either at Mrs. Jenkins', or the friends whom I have first mentioned.
An English physician, with a large family of daughters, went to reside at Brussels, for the sake of their education. He placed them at Madame Héger's school in July, 1842, not a month before the beginning of the grandes vacances on August 15th. In order to make the most of their time, and become accustomed to the language, these English sisters went daily, through the holidays, to the pensionnat in the Rue d'Isabelle. Six or eight boarders remained, besides the Miss Brontës. They were there during the whole time, never even having the break to their monotonous life, which passing an occasional day with a friend would have afforded them; but devoting themselves with indefatigable diligence to the different studies in which they were engaged. Their position in the school appeared, to these new comers, analogous to what is often called a parlour-boarder. They prepared their French, drawing, German, and literature for their various masters; and to these occupations Emily added that of music, in which she was somewhat of a proficient; so much so as to be qualified to give instruction in it to the three younger sisters of my informant.
The school was divided into three classes. In the first, were from fifteen to twenty pupils; in the second, sixty was about the average number - all foreigners, excepting the two Brontës and one other; in the third, there were from twenty to thirty pupils. The first and second classes occupied a long room, divided by a wooden partition; in each division were four long ranges of desks; and at the end was the estrade, or platform for the presiding instructor. On the last row, in the quietest corner, sat Charlotte and Emily, side by side, so deeply absorbed in their studies as to be insensible to any noise or movement around them.
The school-hours were from nine to twelve (the luncheon hour), when the boarders and half-boarders - perhaps two-and-thirty girls - went to the refectoire (a room with two long tables, having an oil-lamp suspended over each), to partake of bread and fruit; the externes, or morning pupils, who had brought their own refreshment with them, adjourning to eat it in the garden. From one to two, there was fancy-work - a pupil reading aloud some light literature in each room; from two to four, lessons again. At four, the externes left; and the remaining girls dined in the refectoire, M. and Madame Héger presiding. From five to six there was recreation; from six to seven preparation for lessons; and, after that, succeeded the lecture pieuse - Charlotte's nightmare. On rare occasions, M. Héger himself would come in, and substitute a book of a different and more interesting kind. At eight, there was a slight meal of water and pistolets (the delicious little Brussels rolls), which was immediately followed by prayers, and then to bed.
The principal bed-room was over the long classe, or school-room. There were six or eight narrow beds on each side of the apartment, every one enveloped in its white draping curtain; a long drawer, beneath each, served for a wardrobe, and between each was a stand for ewer, basin, and looking-glass. The beds of the two Miss Brontës were at the extreme end of the room, almost as private and retired as if they had been in a separate apartment.
During the hours of recreation, which were always spent in the garden, they invariably walked together, and generally kept a profound silence; Emily, though so much the taller, leaning on her sister. Charlotte would always answer when spoken to, taking the lead in replying to any remark addressed to both; Emily rarely spoke to any one. Charlotte's quiet, gentle manner never changed. She was never seen out of temper for a moment; and, occasionally, when she herself had assumed the post of English teacher, and the impertinence or inattention of her pupils was most irritating, a slight increase of colour, a momentary sparkling of the eye, and more decided energy of manner, were the only outward tokens she gave of being conscious of the annoyance to which she was subjected. But this dignified endurance of hers subdued her pupils, in the long run, far more than the voluble tirades of the other mistresses. My informant adds: - "The effect of this manner was singular. I can speak from personal experience. I was at that time high-spirited and impetuous, not respecting the French mistresses; yet, to my own astonishment, at one word from her, I was perfectly tractable; so much so, that at length M. and Madame Héger invariably preferred all their wishes to me through her; the other pupils did not, perhaps, love her as I did, she was so quiet and silent, but all respected her."
With the exception of that part which describes her manner as English teacher - an office which she did not assume for some months later - all this description of the school life of the two Brontës refers to the commencement of the new scholastic year in October 1842; and the extracts I have given convey the first impression which the life at a foreign school, and the position of the two Miss Brontës therein, made upon an intelligent English girl of sixteen.
The first break in this life of regular duties and employments came heavily and sadly. Martha - pretty, winning, mischievous, tricksome Martha - was taken ill suddenly at the Chateau de Koekelberg. Her sister tended her with devoted love; but it was all in vain; in a few days she died. Charlotte's own short account of this event is as follows: -
"Martha T.'s illness was unknown to me till the day before she died. I hastened to Koekelberg the next morning - unconscious that she was in great danger - and was told that it was finished. She had died in the night. Mary was taken away to Bruxelles. I have seen Mary frequently since. She is in no ways crushed by the event; but while Martha was ill, she was to her more than a mother - more than a sister: watching, nursing, cherishing her so tenderly, so unweariedly. She appears calm and serious now; no bursts of violent emotion; no exaggeration of distress. I have seen Martha's grave - the place where her ashes lie in a foreign country."
Who that has read Shirley does not remember the few lines - perhaps half a page - of sad recollection?
"He has no idea that little Jessy will die young, she is so gay, and chattering, and arch - original even now; passionate when provoked, but most affectionate if caressed; by turns gentle and rattling; exacting yet generous; fearless . . . yet reliant on any who will help her. Jessy, with her little piquant face, engaging prattle, and winning ways, is made to be a pet.
. . . . . . . . . . "Do you know this place? No, you never saw it; but you recognise the nature of these trees, this foliage - the cypress, the willow, the yew. Stone crosses like these are not unfamiliar to you, nor are these dim garlands of everlasting flowers. Here is the place; green sod and a gray marble head-stone - Jessy sleeps below. She lived through an April day; much loved was she, much loving. She often, in her brief life, shed tears - she had frequent sorrows; she smiled between, gladdening whatever saw her. Her death was tranquil and happy in Rose's guardian arms, for Rose had been her stay and defence through many trials; the dying and the watching English girls were at that hour alone in a foreign country, and the soil of that country gave Jessy a grave. . . .
"But, Jessy, I will write about you no more. This is an autumn evening, wet and wild. There is only one cloud in the sky; but it curtains it from pole to pole. The wind cannot rest; it hurries sobbing over hills of sullen outline, colourless with twilight and mist. Rain has beat all day on that church tower" (Haworth): "it rises dark from the stony enclosure of its graveyard: the nettles, the long grass, and the tombs all drip with wet. This evening reminds me too forcibly of another evening some years ago: a howling, rainy autumn evening too - when certain who had that day performed a pilgrimage to a grave new made in a heretic cemetery, sat near a wood fire on the hearth of a foreign dwelling. They were merry and social, but they each knew that a gap, never to be filled, had been made in their circle. They knew they had lost something whose absence could never be quite atoned for, so long as they lived; and they knew that, heavy falling rain was soaking into the wet earth which covered their lost darling; and that the sad, sighing gale was mourning above her buried head. The fire warmed them; Life and Friendship yet blessed them: but Jessy lay cold, coffined, solitary - only the sod screening her from the storm."
This was the first death that had occurred in the small circle of Charlotte's immediate and intimate friends since the loss of her two sisters long ago. She was still in the midst of her deep sympathy with Mary, when word came from home that her aunt, Miss Branwell, was ailing - was very ill. Emily and Charlotte immediately resolved to go home straight, and hastily packed up for England, doubtful whether they should ever return to Brussels or not, leaving all their relations with M. and Madame Héger, and the pensionnat, uprooted, and uncertain of any future existence. Even before their departure, on the morning after they received the first intelligence of illness - when they were on the very point of starting - came a second letter, telling them of their aunt's death. It could not hasten their movements, for every arrangement had been made for speed. They sailed from Antwerp; they travelled night and day, and got home on a Tuesday morning. The funeral and all was over, and Mr. Brontë and Anne were sitting together, in quiet grief for the loss of one who had done her part well in their household for nearly twenty years, and earned the regard and respect of many who never knew how much they should miss her till she was gone. The small property which she had accumulated, by dint of personal frugality and self-denial, was bequeathed to her nieces. Branwell, her darling, was to have had his share; but his reckless expenditure had distressed the good old lady, and his name was omitted in her will.
When the first shock was over, the three sisters began to enjoy the full relish of meeting again, after the longest separation they had had in their lives. They had much to tell of the past, and much to settle for the future. Anne had been for some little time in a situation, to which she was to return at the end of the Christmas holidays. For another year or so they were again to be all three apart; and, after that, the happy vision of being together and opening a school was to be realised. Of course they did not now look forward to settling at Burlington, or any other place which would take them away from their father; but the small sum which they each independently possessed would enable them to effect such alterations in the parsonage-house at Haworth as would adapt it to the reception of pupils. Anne's plans for the interval were fixed. Emily quickly decided to be the daughter to remain at home. About Charlotte there was much deliberation and some discussion.
Even in all the haste of their sudden departure from Brussels,M. Héger had found time to write a letter of sympathy to Mr. Brontë on the loss which he had just sustained; a letter containing such a graceful appreciation of the daughters' characters, under the form of a tribute of respect to their father, that I should have been tempted to copy it, even had there not also been a proposal made in it respecting Charlotte, which deserves a place in the record of her life.
"Au Révérend Monsieur Brontë; Pasteur Evangélique, etc., etc.
"Samedi; 5 9bre.
"MONSIEUR, - Un événement bien triste décide mesdemoiselles vos filles à retourner brusquement en Angleterre, ce départ qui nous afflige beaucoup a cependant ma complète approbation; il est bien naturel qu'elles cherchent à vous consoler de ce que le ciel vient de vous ôter, en se serrant autour de vous, pour mieux vous faire apprécier ce que le ciel vous a donné et ce qu'il vous laisse encore. J'espère que vous me pardonnerez, Monsieur, de profiter de cette circonstance pour vous faire prevenir l'expression de mon respect; je n'ai pas l'honneur de vous connaître personellement, et cependant j'éeprouve pour votre personne un sentiment de sincere vénération, car en jugeant un pओre de famille par ses enfants on ne risque pas de se tromper, et sous ce rapport l'éducation et les sentiments que nous avons trouvés dans mesdemoiselles vos filles, n'ont pu que nous donner une très haute idée de votre mérite et de votre caractère. Vous apprendrez sans doute avec plaisir que vos enfants ont fait du progrès très remarquable dans toutes les branches de l'enseignement, et que ces progrès sont entièrement du à leur amour pour le travail et à leur perséverance; nous n'avons eu que bien peu à faire avec de pareilles élèves; leur avancement est votre oeuvre bien plus que la notre; nous n'avons pas eu à leur apprendre le prix du temps et de l'instruction, elles avaient appris tout cela dans la maison paternelle, et nous n'avons eu, pour notre part, que le faible mérite de diriger leurs efforts et de fournir un aliment convenable à la louable activité que vos filles ont puisée dans votre exemple et dans vos leçons. Puissent les éloges méritées que nous donnons à vos enfants vous être de quelque consolation dans le malheur qui vous afflige; c'est là notre espoir en vous écrivant, et ce sera, pour Mesdemoiselles Charlotte et Emily, une douce et belle récompense de leurs travaux.
"En perdant nos deux chères élèves nous ne devons pas vous cacher que nous éprouvons à la fois et du chagrin et de l'inquiétude; nous sommes affligés parceque cette brusque séparation vient briser l'affection presque paternelle que nous leur avons vouée, et notre peine s'augmente à la vue de tant de travaux interrompues, de tant des choses bien commencées, et qui ne demandent que quelque temps encore pour être menées à bonne fin. Dans un an, chacune de vos demoiselles eût été entièrement prémunie contre les éventualités de l'avenir; chacune d'elles acquerrait à la fois et l'instruction et la science d'enseignement; Mlle. Emily allait apprendre le piano; recevoir les leçons du meilleur professeur que nous ayons en Belgique, et déjà elle avait elle-même de petites élèves; elle perdait donc à la fois un reste d'ignorance, et un reste plus gènant encore de timidité; Mlle. Charlotte commençait à donner des leçons en français, et d'acquerir cette assurance, cet aplomb si necessaire dans l'enseignement; encore un au tout au plus, et l'oeuvre était achevée et bien achevée. Alors nous aurions pu, si cela vous eût convenu, offrir à mesdemoiselles vos filles ou du moins à l'une de deux une position qui eût été dans ses gouts, et qui lui eût donne cette douce indépendance si difficile à trouver pour une jeune personne. Ce n'est pas, croyez le bien monsieur, ce n'est pas ici pour nous une question d'interet personnel, c'est une question d'affection; vous me pardonnerez si nous vous parlons de vos enfants, si nous nous occupons de leur avenir, comme si elles faisaient partie de notre famille; leurs qualités personnelles, leur bon vouloir, leur zèle extrème sont les seules causes qui nous poussent à nous hasarder de la sorte. Nous savons, Monsieur, que vous peserez plus mûrement et plus sagement que nous la conséquence qu'aurait pour 1'avenir une interruption complète dans les études de vos deux filles; vous deciderez ce qu'il faut faire, et vous nous pardonnerez notre franchise, si vous daignez considérer que le motif qui nous fait agir est une affection bien désinterressée et qui s'affligerait beaucoup de devoir déjà se résigner à n'étre plus utile à vos chers enfants.
"Agréez, je vous prie, Monsieur, d'expression respectueuse de mes sentiments de haute considération.
"C. HÉGER."
There was so much truth, as well as so much kindness, in this letter - it was so obvious that a second year of instruction would be so far more valuable than the first, that there was no long hesitation before it was decided that Charlotte should return to Brussels.
Meanwhile, they enjoyed their Christmas all together inexpressibly. Branwell was with them; that was always a pleasure at this time; whatever might be his faults, or even his vices, his sisters yet held him up as their family hope, as they trusted that he would some day be their family pride. They blinded themselves to the magnitude of the failings of which they were now and then told, by persuading themselves that such failings were common to all men of any strength of character, for, till sad experience taught them better, they fell into the usual error of confounding strong passions with strong character.
Charlotte's friend came over to see her, and she returned the visit. Her Brussels life must have seemed like a dream, so completely, in this short space of time, did she fall back into the old household ways; with more of household independence than she could ever have had during her aunt's life-time. Winter though it was, the sisters took their accustomed walks on the snow-covered moors; or went often down the long road to Keighley, for such books as had been added to the library there during their absence from England.

© Митрофанова Екатерина Борисовна, 2009 |