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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Professor - Chapter XIX
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The Professor - Chapter XIX Post by :casken Category :Long Stories Author :Charlotte Bronte Date :January 2011 Read :1439

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The Professor - Chapter XIX

NOVELISTS should never allow themselves to weary of the study of
real life. If they observed this duty conscientiously, they
would give us fewer pictures chequered with vivid contrasts of
light and shade; they would seldom elevate their heroes and
heroines to the heights of rapture--still seldomer sink them to
the depths of despair; for if we rarely taste the fulness of joy
in this life, we yet more rarely savour the acrid bitterness of
hopeless anguish; unless, indeed, we have plunged like beasts
into sensual indulgence, abused, strained, stimulated, again
overstrained, and, at last, destroyed our faculties for
enjoyment; then, truly, we may find ourselves without support,
robbed of hope. Our agony is great, and how can it end? We have
broken the spring of our powers; life must be all suffering--too
feeble to conceive faith--death must be darkness--God, spirits,
religion can have no place in our collapsed minds, where linger
only hideous and polluting recollections of vice; and time brings
us on to the brink of the grave, and dissolution flings us in--a
rag eaten through and through with disease, wrung together with
pain, stamped into the churchyard sod by the inexorable heel of
despair.

But the man of regular life and rational mind never despairs. He
loses his property--it is a blow--he staggers a moment; then, his
energies, roused by the smart, are at work to seek a remedy;
activity soon mitigates regret. Sickness affects him; he takes
patience--endures what he cannot cure. Acute pain racks him; his
writhing limbs know not where to find rest; he leans on Hope's
anchors. Death takes from him what he loves; roots up, and tears
violently away the stem round which his affections were twined--a
dark, dismal time, a frightful wrench--but some morning Religion
looks into his desolate house with sunrise, and says, that in
another world, another life, he shall meet his kindred again.
She speaks of that world as a place unsullied by sin--of that
life, as an era unembittered by suffering; she mightily
strengthens her consolation by connecting with it two ideas
--which mortals cannot comprehend, but on which they love to
repose--Eternity, Immortality; and the mind of the mourner, being
filled with an image, faint yet glorious, of heavenly hills all
light and peace--of a spirit resting there in bliss--of a day
when his spirit shall also alight there, free and disembodied--of
a reunion perfected by love, purified from fear--he takes
courage--goes out to encounter the necessities and discharge the
duties of life; and, though sadness may never lift her burden
from his mind, Hope will enable him to support it.

Well--and what suggested all this? and what is the inference to
be drawn therefrom? What suggested it, is the circumstance of my
best pupil--my treasure--being snatched from my hands, and put
away out of my reach; the inference to be drawn from it is--that,
being a steady, reasonable man, I did not allow the resentment,
disappointment, and grief, engendered in my mind by this evil
chance, to grow there to any monstrous size; nor did I allow them
to monopolize the whole space of my heart; I pent them, on the
contrary, in one strait and secret nook. In the daytime, too,
when I was about my duties, I put them on the silent system; and
it was only after I had closed the door of my chamber at night
that I somewhat relaxed my severity towards these morose
nurslings, and allowed vent to their language of murmurs; then,
in revenge, they sat on my pillow, haunted my bed, and kept me
awake with their long, midnight cry.

A week passed. I had said nothing more to Mdlle. Reuter. I had
been calm in my demeanour to her, though stony cold and hard.
When I looked at her, it was with the glance fitting to be
bestowed on one who I knew had consulted jealousy as an adviser,
and employed treachery as an instrument--the glance of quiet
disdain and rooted distrust. On Saturday evening, ere I left the
house, I stept into the SALLE-A-MANGER, where she was sitting
alone, and, placing myself before her, I asked, with the same
tranquil tone and manner that I should have used had I put the
question for the first time--

"Mademoiselle, will you have the goodness to give me the address
of Frances Evans Henri?"

A little surprised, but not disconcerted, she smilingly
disclaimed any knowledge of that address, adding, "Monsieur has
perhaps forgotten that I explained all about that circumstance
before--a week ago?"

"Mademoiselle," I continued, "you would greatly oblige me by
directing me to that young person's abode."

She seemed somewhat puzzled; and, at last, looking up with an
admirably counterfeited air of naivete, she demanded, "Does
Monsieur think I am telling an untruth?"

Still avoiding to give her a direct answer, I said, "It is not
then your intention, mademoiselle, to oblige me in this
particular?"

"But, monsieur, how can I tell you what I do not know?"

"Very well; I understand you perfectly, mademoiselle, and now I
have only two or three words to say. This is the last week in
July; in another month the vacation will commence I have the
goodness to avail yourself of the leisure it will afford you to
look out for another English master--at the close of August, I
shall be under the necessity of resigning my post in your
establishment."

I did not wait for her comments on this announcement, but bowed
and immediately withdrew.

That same evening, soon after dinner, a servant brought me a
small packet; it was directed in a hand I knew, but had not hoped
so soon to see again; being in my own apartment and alone, there
was nothing to prevent my immediately opening it; it contained
four five-franc pieces, and a note in English.

"MONSIEUR,
"I came to Mdlle. Reuter's house yesterday, at the time when I
knew you would be just about finishing your lesson, and I asked
if I might go into the schoolroom and speak to you. Mdlle.
Reuter came out and said you were already gone; it had not yet
struck four, so I thought she must be mistaken, but concluded it
would be vain to call another day on the same errand. In one
sense a note will do as well--it will wrap up the 20 francs, the
price of the lessons I have received from you; and if it will not
fully express the thanks I owe you in addition--if it will not
bid you good-bye as I could wish to have done--if it will not
tell you, as I long to do, how sorry I am that I shall probably
never see you more--why, spoken words would hardly be more
adequate to the task. Had I seen you, I should probably have
stammered out something feeble and unsatisfactory--something
belying my feelings rather than explaining them; so it is perhaps
as well that I was denied admission to your presence. You often
remarked, monsieur, that my devoirs dwelt a great deal on
fortitude in bearing grief--you said I introduced that theme too
often: I find indeed that it is much easier to write about a
severe duty than to perform it, for I am oppressed when I see and
feel to what a reverse fate has condemned me; you were kind to
me, monsieur--very kind; I am afflicted--I am heart-broken to be
quite separated from you; soon I shall have no friend on earth.
But it is useless troubling you with my distresses. What claim
have I on your sympathy? None; I will then say no more.

"Farewell, Monsieur.
"F. E. HENRI."

I put up the note in my pocket-book. I slipped the five-franc
pieces into my purse--then I took a turn through my narrow
chamber.

"Mdlle. Reuter talked about her poverty," said I, "and she is
poor; yet she pays her debts and more. I have not yet given her
a quarter's lessons, and she has sent me a quarter's due. I
wonder of what she deprived herself to scrape together the twenty
francs--I wonder what sort of a place she has to live in, and
what sort of a woman her aunt is, and whether she is likely to
get employment to supply the place she has lost. No doubt she
will have to trudge about long enough from school to school, to
inquire here, and apply there--be rejected in this place,
disappointed in that. Many an evening she'll go to her bed tired
and unsuccessful. And the directress would not let her in to bid
me good-bye? I might not have the chance of standing with her
for a few minutes at a window in the schoolroom and exchanging
some half-dozen of sentences--getting to know where she lived
--putting matters in train for having all things arranged to my
mind? No address on the note"--I continued, drawing it again
from the pocket-book and examining it on each side of the two
leaves: "women are women, that is certain, and always do
business like women; men mechanically put a date and address to
their communications. And these five-franc pieces?"--(I hauled
them forth from my purse)--"if she had offered me them herself
instead of tying them up with a thread of green silk in a kind of
Lilliputian packet, I could have thrust them back into her little
hand, and shut up the small, taper fingers over them--so--and
compelled her shame, her pride, her shyness, all to yield to a
little bit of determined Will--now where is she? How can I get
at her?"

Opening my chamber door I walked down into the kitchen.

"Who brought the packet ?" I asked of the servant who had
delivered it to me.

"Un petit commissionaire, monsieur."

"Did he say anything?"

"Rien."

And I wended my way up the back-stairs, wondrously the wiser for
my inquiries.

"No matter," said I to myself, as I again closed the door. "No
matter--I'll seek her through Brussels."

And I did. I sought her day by day whenever I had a moment's
leisure, for four weeks; I sought her on Sundays all day long; I
sought her on the Boulevards, in the Allee Verte, in the Park; I
sought her in Ste. Gudule and St. Jacques; I sought her in the
two Protestant chapels; I attended these latter at the German,
French, and English services, not doubting that I should meet her
at one of them. All my researches were absolutely fruitless; my
security on the last point was proved by the event to be equally
groundless with my other calculations. I stood at the door of
each chapel after the service, and waited till every individual
had come out, scrutinizing every gown draping a slender form,
peering under every bonnet covering a young head. In vain; I saw
girlish figures pass me, drawing their black scarfs over their
sloping shoulders, but none of them had the exact turn and air of
Mdlle. Henri's; I saw pale and thoughtful faces "encadrees" in
bands of brown hair, but I never found her forehead, her eyes,
her eyebrows. All the features of all the faces I met seemed
frittered away, because my eye failed to recognize the
peculiarities it was bent upon; an ample space of brow and a
large, dark, and serious eye, with a fine but decided line of
eyebrow traced above.

"She has probably left Brussels--perhaps is gone to England, as
she said she would," muttered I inwardly, as on the afternoon of
the fourth Sunday, I turned from the door of the chapel-royal
which the door-keeper had just closed and locked, and followed in
the wake of the last of the congregation, now dispersed and
dispersing over the square. I had soon outwalked the couples of
English gentlemen and ladies. (Gracious goodness! why don't they
dress better? My eye is yet filled with visions of the
high-flounced, slovenly, and tumbled dresses in costly silk and
satin, of the large unbecoming collars in expensive lace; of the
ill-cut coats and strangely fashioned pantaloons which every
Sunday, at the English service, filled the choirs of the
chapel-royal, and after it, issuing forth into the square, came
into disadvantageous contrast with freshly and trimly attired
foreign figures, hastening to attend salut at the church of
Coburg.) I had passed these pairs of Britons, and the groups of
pretty British children, and the British footmen and
waiting-maids; I had crossed the Place Royale, and got into the
Rue Royale, thence I had diverged into the Rue de Louvain--an old
and quiet street. I remember that, feeling a little hungry, and
not desiring to go back and take my share of the "gouter," now on
the refectory-table at Pelet's--to wit, pistolets and water--I
stepped into a baker's and refreshed myself on a COUC(?)--it is
a Flemish word, I don't know how to spell it--A CORINTHE-ANGLICE,
a currant bun--and a cup of coffee; and then I strolled on
towards the Porte de Louvain. Very soon I was out of the city,
and slowly mounting the hill, which ascends from the gate, I took
my time; for the afternoon, though cloudy, was very sultry, and
not a breeze stirred to refresh the atmosphere. No inhabitant of
Brussels need wander far to search for solitude; let him but move
half a league from his own city and he will find her brooding
still and blank over the wide fields, so drear though so fertile,
spread out treeless and trackless round the capital of Brabant.
Having gained the summit of the hill, and having stood and looked
long over the cultured but lifeless campaign, I felt a wish to
quit the high road, which I had hitherto followed, and get in
among those tilled grounds--fertile as the beds of a
Brobdignagian kitchen-garden--spreading far and wide even to the
boundaries of the horizon, where, from a dusk green, distance
changed them to a sullen blue, and confused their tints with
those of the livid and thunderous-looking sky. Accordingly I
turned up a by-path to the right; I had not followed it far ere
it brought me, as I expected, into the fields, amidst which, just
before me, stretched a long and lofty white wall enclosing, as it
seemed from the foliage showing above, some thickly planted
nursery of yew and cypress, for of that species were the branches
resting on the pale parapets, and crowding gloomily about a
massive cross, planted doubtless on a central eminence and
extending its arms, which seemed of black marble, over the
summits of those sinister trees. I approached, wondering to what
house this well-protected garden appertained; I turned the angle
of the wall, thinking to see some stately residence; I was close
upon great iron gates; there was a hut serving for a lodge near,
but I had no occasion to apply for the key--the gates were open;
I pushed one leaf back--rain had rusted its hinges, for it
groaned dolefully as they revolved. Thick planting embowered the
entrance. Passing up the avenue, I saw objects on each hand
which, in their own mute language. of inscription and sign,
explained clearly to what abode I had made my way. This was the
house appointed for all living; crosses, monuments, and garlands
of everlastings announced, "The Protestant Cemetery, outside the
gate of Louvain."

The place was large enough to afford half an hour's strolling
without the monotony of treading continually the same path; and,
for those who love to peruse the annals of graveyards, here was
variety of inscription enough to occupy the attention for double
or treble that space of time. Hither people of many kindreds,
tongues, and nations, had brought their dead for interment; and
here, on pages of stone, of marble, and of brass, were written
names, dates, last tributes of pomp or love, in English, in
French, in German, and Latin. Here the Englishman had erected a
marble monument over the remains of his Mary Smith or Jane Brown,
and inscribed it only with her name. There the French widower had
shaded the grave: of his Elmire or Celestine with a brilliant
thicket of roses, amidst which a little tablet rising, bore an
equally bright testimony to her countless virtues. Every nation,
tribe, and kindred, mourned after its own fashion; and how
soundless was the mourning of all! My own tread, though slow and
upon smooth-rolled paths, seemed to startle, because it formed
the sole break to a silence otherwise total. Not only the winds,
but the very fitful, wandering airs, were that afternoon, as by
common consent, all fallen asleep in their various quarters; the
north was hushed, the south silent, the east sobbed not, nor did
the west whisper. The clouds in heaven were condensed and dull,
but apparently quite motionless. Under the trees of this
cemetery nestled a warm breathless gloom, out of which the
cypresses stood up straight and mute, above which the willows
hung low and still; where the flowers, as languid as fair, waited
listless for night dew or thunder-shower; where the tombs, and
those they hid, lay impassible to sun or shadow, to rain or
drought.

Importuned by the sound of my own footsteps, I turned off upon
the turf, and slowly advanced to a grove of yews; I saw something
stir among the stems; I thought it might be a broken branch
swinging, my short-sighted vision had caught no form, only a
sense of motion; but the dusky shade passed on, appearing and
disappearing at the openings in the avenue. I soon discerned it
was a living thing, and a human thing; and, drawing nearer, I
perceived it was a woman, pacing slowly to and fro, and evidently
deeming herself alone as I had deemed myself alone, and
meditating as I had been meditating. Ere long she returned to a
seat which I fancy she had but just quitted, or I should have
caught sight of her before. It was in a nook, screened by a
clump of trees; there was the white wall before her, and a little
stone set up against the wall, and, at the foot of the stone, was
an allotment of turf freshly turned up, a new-made grave. I put
on my spectacles, and passed softly close behind her; glancing at
the inscription on the stone, I read," Julienne Henri, died at
Brussels, aged sixty. August 10th, 18--." Having perused the
inscription, I looked down at the form sitting bent and
thoughtful just under my eyes, unconscious of the vicinity of any
living thing; it was a slim, youthful figure in mourning apparel
of the plainest black stuff, with a little simple, black crape
bonnet; I felt, as well as saw, who it was; and, moving neither
hand nor foot, I stood some moments enjoying the security of
conviction. I had sought her for a month, and had never
discovered one of her traces--never met a hope, or seized a
chance of encountering her anywhere. I had been forced to loosen
my grasp on expectation; and, but an hour ago, had sunk slackly
under the discouraging thought that the current of life, and the
impulse of destiny, had swept her for ever from my reach; and,
behold, while bending suddenly earthward beneath the pressure of
despondency--while following with my eyes the track of sorrow on
the turf of a graveyard--here was my lost jewel dropped on the
tear-fed herbage, nestling in the messy and mouldy roots of
yew-trees.

Frances sat very quiet, her elbow on her knee, and her head on
her hand. I knew she could retain a thinking attitude a long
time without change; at last, a tear fell; she had been looking
at the name on the stone before her, and her heart had no doubt
endured one of those constrictions with which the desolate
living, regretting the dead, are, at times, so sorely oppressed.
Many tears rolled down, which she wiped away, again and again,
with her handkerchief; some distressed sobs escaped her, and
then, the paroxysm over, she sat quiet as before. I put my hand
gently on her shoulder; no need further to prepare her, for she
was neither hysterical nor liable to fainting-fits; a sudden
push, indeed, might have startled her, but the contact of my
quiet touch merely woke attention as I wished; and, though she
turned quickly, yet so lightning-swift is thought--in some minds
especially--I believe the wonder of what--the consciousness of
who it was that thus stole unawares on her solitude, had passed
through her brain, and flashed into her heart, even before she
had effected that hasty movement; at least, Amazement had hardly
opened her eyes and raised them to mine, ere Recognition informed
their irids with most speaking brightness. Nervous surprise had
hardly discomposed her features ere a sentiment of most vivid joy
shone clear and warm on her whole countenance. I had hardly time
to observe that she was wasted and pale, ere called to feel a
responsive inward pleasure by the sense of most full and
exquisite pleasure glowing in the animated flush, and shining in
the expansive light, now diffused over my pupil's face. It was
the summer sun flashing out after the heavy summer shower; and
what fertilizes more rapidly than that beam, burning almost like
fire in its ardour?

I hate boldness--that boldness which is of the brassy brow and
insensate nerves; but I love the courage of the strong heart, the
fervour of the generous blood; I loved with passion the light of
Frances Evans' clear hazel eye when it did not fear to look
straight into mine; I loved the tones with which she uttered the
words--

"Mon maitre! mon maitre!"

I loved the movement with which she confided her hand to my hand;
I loved her as she stood there, penniless and parentless; for a
sensualist charmless, for me a treasure--my best object of
sympathy on earth, thinking such thoughts as I thought, feeling
such feelings as I felt; my ideal of the shrine in which to seal
my stores of love; personification of discretion and forethought,
of diligence and perseverance, of self-denial and self-control
--those guardians, those trusty keepers of the gift I longed to
confer on her--the gift of all my affections; model of truth and
honour, of independence and conscientiousness--those refiners and
sustainers of an honest life; silent possessor of a well of
tenderness, of a flame, as genial as still, as pure as
quenchless, of natural feeling, natural passion--those sources of
refreshment and comfort to the sanctuary of home. I knew how
quietly and how deeply the well bubbled in her heart; I knew how
the more dangerous flame burned safely under the eye of reason; I
had seen when the fire shot up a moment high and vivid, when the
accelerated heat troubled life's current in its channels; I had
seen reason reduce the rebel, and humble its blaze to embers. I
had confidence in Frances Evans; I had respect for her, and as I
drew her arm through mine, and led her out of the cemetery, I
felt I had another sentiment, as strong as confidence, as firm as
respect, more fervid than either--that of love.

"Well, my pupil," said I, as the ominous sounding gate swung to
behind us--"Well, I have found you again: a month's search has
seemed long, and I little thought to have discovered my lost
sheep straying amongst graves."

Never had I addressed her but as " Mademoiselle" before, and to
speak thus was to take up a tone new to both her and me. Her
answer suprised me that this language ruffled none of her
feelings, woke no discord in her heart:-

"Mon maitre," she said, "have you troubled yourself to seek me?
I little imagined you would think much of my absence, but I
grieved bitterly to be taken away from you. I was sorry for that
circumstance when heavier troubles ought to have made me forget
it."

"Your aunt is dead?"

"Yes, a fortnight since, and she died full of regret, which I
could not chase from her mind; she kept repeating, even during
the last night of her existence, 'Frances, you will be so lonely
when I am gone, so friendless:' she wished too that she could
have been buried in Switzerland, and it was I who persuaded her
in her old age to leave the banks of Lake Leman, and to come,
only as it seems to die, in this flat region of Flanders.
Willingly would I have observed her last wish, and taken her
remains back to our own country, but that was impossible; I was
forced to lay her here."

"She was ill but a short time, I presume?"

"But three weeks. When she began to sink I asked Mdlle. Reuter's
leave to stay with her and wait on her; I readily got leave."

"Do you return to the pensionnat!" I demanded hastily.

"Monsieur, when I had been at home a week Mdlle. Reuter called
one evening, just after I had got my aunt to bed; she went into
her room to speak to her, and was extremely civil and affable, as
she always is; afterwards she came and sat with me a long time,
and just as she rose to go away, she said: "Mademoiselle, I
shall not soon cease to regret your departure from my
establishment, though indeed it is true that you have taught your
class of pupils so well that they are all quite accomplished in
the little works you manage so skilfully, and have not the
slightest need of further instruction; my second teacher must in
future supply your place, with regard to the younger pupils, as
well as she can, though she is indeed an inferior artiste to you,
and doubtless it will be your part now to assume a higher
position in your calling; I am sure you will everywhere find
schools and families willing to profit by your talents.' And then
she paid me my last quarter's salary. I asked, as mademoiselle
would no doubt think, very bluntly, if she designed to discharge
me from the establishment. She smiled at my inelegance of
speech, and answered that 'our connection as employer and
employed was certainly dissolved, but that she hoped still to
retain the pleasure of my acquaintance; she should always be
happy to see me as a friend;' and then she said something about
the excellent condition of the streets, and the long continuance
of fine weather, and went away quite cheerful."

I laughed inwardly; all this was so like the directress--so like
what I had expected and guessed of her conduct; and then the
exposure and proof of her lie, unconsciously afforded by
Frances:--"She had frequently applied for Mdlle. Henri's
address," forsooth; "Mdlle. Henri had always evaded giving it,"
&c., &c., and here I found her a visitor at the very house of
whose locality she had professed absolute ignorance!

Any comments I might have intended to make on my pupil's
communication, were checked by the plashing of large rain-drops
on our faces and on the path, and by the muttering of a distant
but coming storm. The warning obvious in stagnant air and leaden
sky had already induced me to take the road leading back to
Brussels, and now I hastened my own steps and those of my
companion, and, as our way lay downhill, we got on rapidly.
There was an interval after the fall of the first broad drops
before heavy rain came on; in the meantime we had passed through
the Porte de Louvain, and were again in the city.

"Where do you live?" I asked; "I will see you safe home,"

"Rue Notre Dame aux Neiges," answered Frances.

It was not far from the Rue de Louvain, and we stood on the
doorsteps of the house we sought ere the clouds, severing with
loud peal and shattered cataract of lightning, emptied their
livid folds in a torrent, heavy, prone, and broad.

"Come in! come in!" said Frances, as, after putting her into the
house, I paused ere I followed: the word decided me; I stepped
across the threshold, shut the door on the rushing, flashing,
whitening storm, and followed her upstairs to her apartments.
Neither she nor I were wet; a projection over the door had warded
off the straight-descending flood; none but the first, large
drops had touched our garments; one minute more and we should not
have had a dry thread on us.

Stepping over a little mat of green wool, I found myself in a
small room with a painted floor and a square of green carpet in
the middle; the articles of furniture were few, but all bright
and exquisitely clean; order reigned through its narrow limits
--such order as it soothed my punctilious soul to behold. And I
had hesitated to enter the abode, because I apprehended after all
that Mdlle. Reuter's hint about its extreme poverty might be too
well-founded, and I feared to embarrass the lace-mender by
entering her lodgings unawares! Poor the place might be; poor
truly it was; but its neatness was better than elegance, and had
but a bright little fire shone on that clean hearth, I should
have deemed it more attractive than a palace. No fire was there,
however, and no fuel laid ready to light; the lace-mender was
unable to allow herself that indulgence, especially now when,
deprived by death of her sole relative, she had only her own
unaided exertions to rely on. Frances went into an inner room to
take off her bonnet, and she came out a model of frugal neatness,
with her well-fitting black stuff dress, so accurately defining
her elegant bust and taper waist, with her spotless white collar
turned back from a fair and shapely neck, with her plenteous
brown hair arranged in smooth bands on her temples, and in a
large Grecian plait behind: ornaments she had none--neither
brooch, ring, nor ribbon; she did well enough without them
--perfection of fit, proportion of form, grace of carriage,
agreeably supplied their place. Her eye, as she re-entered the
small sitting-room, instantly sought mine, which was just then
lingering on the hearth; I knew she read at once the sort of
inward ruth and pitying pain which the chill vacancy of that
hearth stirred in my soul: quick to penetrate, quick to
determine, and quicker to put in practice, she had in a moment
tied a holland apron round her waist; then she disappeared, and
reappeared with a basket; it had a cover; she opened it, and
produced wood and coal; deftly and compactly she arranged them in
the grate.

"It is her whole stock, and she will exhaust it out of
hospitality," thought I.

"What are you going to do?" I asked: "not surely to light a fire
this hot evening? I shall be smothered."

"Indeed, monsieur, I feel it very chilly since the rain began;
besides, I must boil the water for my tea, for I take tea on
Sundays; you will be obliged to try and bear the heat."

She had struck a light; the wood was already in a blaze; and
truly, when contrasted with the darkness, the wild tumult of the
tempest without, that peaceful glow which began to beam on the
now animated hearth, seemed very cheering. A low, purring sound,
from some quarter, announced that another being, besides myself,
was pleased with the change; a black cat, roused by the light
from its sleep on a little cushioned foot-stool, came and rubbed
its head against Frances' gown as she knelt; she caressed it,
saying it had been a favourite with her "pauvre tante Julienne."

The fire being lit, the hearth swept, and a small kettle of a
very antique pattern, such as I thought I remembered to have seen
in old farmhouses in England, placed over the now ruddy flame,
Frances' hands were washed, and her apron removed in an instant
then she opened a cupboard, and took out a tea-tray, on which she
had soon arranged a china tea-equipage, whose pattern, shape, and
size, denoted a remote antiquity; a little, old-fashioned silver
spoon was deposited in each saucer; and a pair of silver tongs,
equally old-fashioned, were laid on the sugar-basin; from the
cupboard, too, was produced a tidy silver cream-ewer, not larger
then an egg-shell. While making these preparations, she chanced
to look up, and, reading curiosity in my eyes, she smiled and
asked--

"Is this like England, monsieur?"

"Like the England of a hundred years ago," I replied.

"Is it truly? Well, everything on this tray is at least a
hundred years old: these cups, these spoons, this ewer, are all
heirlooms; my great-grandmother left them to my grandmother, she
to my mother, and my mother brought them with her from England to
Switzerland, and left them to me; and, ever since I was a little
girl, I have thought I should like to carry them back to England,
whence they came."

She put some pistolets on the table; she made the tea, as
foreigners do make tea--i.e., at the rate of a teaspoonful to
half-a-dozen cups; she placed me a chair, and, as I took it, she
asked, with a sort of exaltation--

"Will it make you think yourself at home for a moment?"

"If I had a home in England, I believe it would recall it," I
answered; and, in truth, there was a sort of illusion in seeing
the fair-complexioned English-looking girl presiding at the
English meal, and speaking in the English language.

"You have then no home?" was her remark.

"None, nor ever have had. If ever I possess a home, it must be
of my own making, and the task is yet to begin." And, as I
spoke, a pang, new to me, shot across my heart: it was a pang of
mortification at the humility of my position, and the inadequacy
of my means; while with that pang was born a strong desire to do
more, earn more, be more, possess more; and in the increased
possessions, my roused and eager spirit panted to include the
home I had never had, the wife I inwardly vowed to win.

Frances' tea was little better than hot water, sugar, and milk;
and her pistolets, with which she could not offer me butter, were
sweet to my palate as manna.

The repast over, and the treasured plate and porcelain being
washed and put by, the bright table rubbed still brighter, "le
chat de ma tante Julienne" also being fed with provisions brought
forth on a plate for its special use, a few stray cinders, and a
scattering of ashes too, being swept from the hearth, Frances at
last sat down; and then, as she took a chair opposite to me, she
betrayed, for the first time, a little embarrassment; and no
wonder, for indeed I had unconsciously watched her rather too
closely, followed all her steps and all her movements a little
too perseveringly with my eyes, for she mesmerized me by the
grace and alertness of her action--by the deft, cleanly, and even
decorative effect resulting from each touch of her slight and
fine fingers; and when, at last, she subsided to stillness, the
intelligence of her face seemed beauty to me, and I dwelt on it
accordingly. Her colour, however, rising, rather than settling
with repose, and her eyes remaining downcast, though I kept
waiting for the lids to be raised that I might drink a ray of the
light I loved--a light where fire dissolved in softness, where
affection tempered penetration, where, just now at least,
pleasure played with thought--this expectation not being
gratified, I began at last to suspect that I had probably myself
to blame for the disappointment; I must cease gazing, and begin
talking, if I wished to break the spell under which she now sat
motionless; so recollecting the composing effect which an
authoritative tone and manner had ever been wont to produce on
her, I said--

"Get one of your English books, mademoiselle, for the rain yet
falls heavily, and will probably detain me half an hour longer.

Released, and set at ease, up she rose, got her book, and
accepted at once the chair I placed for her at my side. She had
selected "Paradise Lost" from her shelf of classics, thinking, I
suppose, the religious character of the book best adapted it to
Sunday; I told her to begin at the beginning, and while she read
Milton's invocation to that heavenly muse, who on the "secret top
of Oreb or Sinai" had taught the Hebrew shepherd how in the womb
of chaos, the conception of a world had originated and ripened, I
enjoyed, undisturbed, the treble pleasure of having her near me,
hearing the sound of her voice--a sound sweet and satisfying in
my ear--and looking, by intervals, at her face: of this last
privilege, I chiefly availed myself when I found fault with an
intonation, a pause, or an emphasis; as long as I dogmatized, I
might also gaze, without exciting too warm a flush.

"Enough," said I, when she had gone through some half dozen pages
(a work of time with her, for she read slowly and paused often to
ask and receive information)--"enough; and now the rain is
ceasing, and I must soon go." For indeed, at that moment,
looking towards the window, I saw it all blue; the thunder-clouds
were broken and scattered, and the setting August sun sent a
gleam like the reflection of rubies through the lattice. I got
up; I drew on my gloves.

"You have not yet found another situation to supply the place of
that from which you were dismissed by Mdlle. Reuter?"

"No, monsieur; I have made inquiries everywhere, but they all ask
me for references; and to speak truth, I do not like to apply to
the directress, because I consider she acted neither justly nor
honourably towards me; she used underhand means to set my pupils
against me, and thereby render me unhappy while I held my place
in her establishment, and she eventually deprived me of it by a
masked and hypocritical manoeuvre, pretending that she was acting
for my good, but really snatching from me my chief means of
subsistence, at a crisis when not only my own life, but that of
another, depended on my exertions: of her I will never more ask
a favour."

"How, then, do you propose to get on? How do you live now?"

"I have still my lace-mending trade; with care it will keep me
from starvation, and I doubt not by dint of exertion to get
better employment yet; it is only a fortnight since I began to
try; my courage or hopes are by no means worn out yet."

"And if you get what you wish, what then? what are? your ultimate
views?"

"To save enough to cross the Channel: I always look to England
as my Canaan."

"Well, well--ere long I shall pay you another visit; good evening
now," and I left her rather abruptly; I had much ado to resist a
strong inward impulse, urging me to take a warmer, more
expressive leave: what so natural as to fold her for a moment in
a close embrace, to imprint one kiss on her cheek or forehead? I
was not unreasonable--that was all I wanted; satisfied in that
point, I could go away content; and Reason denied me even this;
she ordered me to turn my eyes from her face, and my steps from
her apartment--to quit her as dryly and coldly as I would have
quitted old Madame Pelet. I obeyed, but I swore rancorously to
be avenged one day. "I'll earn a right to do as I please in this
matter, or I'll die in the contest. I have one object before me
now--to get that Genevese girl for my wife; and my wife she shall
be--that is, provided she has as much, or half as much regard for
her master as he has for her. And would she be so docile, so
smiling, so happy under my instructions if she had not? would she
sit at my side when I dictate or correct, with such a still,
contented, halcyon mien?" for I had ever remarked, that however
sad or harassed her countenance might be when I entered a room,
yet after I had been near her, spoken to her a few words, given
her some directions, uttered perhaps some reproofs, she would,
all at once, nestle into a nook of happiness, and look up serene
and revived. The reproofs suited her best of all: while I
scolded she would chip away with her pen-knife at a pencil or a
pen; fidgetting a little, pouting a little, defending herself by
monosyllables, and when I deprived her of the pen or pencil,
fearing it would be all cut away, and when I interdicted even the
monosyllabic defence, for the purpose of working up the subdued
excitement a little higher, she would at last raise her eyes and
give me a certain glance, sweetened with gaiety, and pointed with
defiance, which, to speak truth, thrilled me as nothing had ever
done, and made me, in a fashion (though happily she did not know
it), her subject, if not her slave. After such little scenes her
spirits would maintain their flow, often for some hours, and, as
I remarked before, her health therefrom took a sustenance and
vigour which, previously to the event of her aunt's death and her
dismissal, had almost recreated her whole frame.

It has taken me several minutes to write these last sentences;
but I had thought all their purport during the brief interval of
descending the stairs from Frances' room. Just as I was opening
the outer door, I remembered the twenty francs which I had not
restored; I paused: impossible to carry them away with me;
difficult to force them back on their original owner; I had now
seen her in her own humble abode, witnessed the dignity of her
poverty, the pride of order, the fastidious care of conservatism,
obvious in the arrangement and economy of her little home; I was
sure she would not suffer herself to be excused paying her debts;
I was certain the favour of indemnity would be accepted from no
hand, perhaps least of all from mine: yet these four five-franc
pieces were a burden to my self-respect, and I must get rid of
them. An expedient--a clumsy one no doubt, but the best I could
devise-suggested itself to me. I darted up the stairs, knocked,
re-entered the room as if in haste:--

"Mademoiselle, I have forgotten one of my gloves; I must have
left it here."

She instantly rose to seek it; as she turned her back, I--being
now at the hearth--noiselessly lifted a little vase, one of a set
of china ornaments, as old-fashioned as the tea-cups--slipped the
money under it, then saying--"Oh here is my glove! I had dropped
it within the fender; good evening, mademoiselle," I made my
second exit.

Brief as my impromptu return had been, it had afforded me time
to pick up a heart-ache; I remarked that Frances had already
removed the red embers of her cheerful little fire from the
grate: forced to calculate every item, to save in every detail,
she had instantly on my departure retrenched a luxury too
expensive to be enjoyed alone.

"I am glad it is not yet winter," thought I; "but in two months
more come the winds and rains of November; would to God that
before then I could earn the right, and the power, to shovel
coals into that grate AD LIBITUM!"

Already the pavement was drying; a balmy and fresh breeze stirred
the air, purified by lightning; I felt the West behind me, where
spread a sky like opal; azure immingled with crimson: the
enlarged sun, glorious in Tyrian tints, dipped his brim already;
stepping, as I was, eastward, I faced a vast bank of clouds, but
also I had before me the arch of an evening rainbow; a perfect
rainbow--high, wide, vivid. I looked long; my eye drank in the
scene, and I suppose my brain must have absorbed it; for that
night, after lying awake in pleasant fever a long time, watching
the silent sheet-lightning, which still played among the
retreating clouds, and flashed silvery over the stars, I at last
fell asleep; and then in a dream were reproduced the setting sun,
the bank of clouds, the mighty rainbow. I stood, methought, on a
terrace; I leaned over a parapeted wall; there was space below
me, depth I could not fathom, but hearing an endless dash of
waves, I believed it to be the sea; sea spread to the horizon;
sea of changeful green and intense blue: all was soft in the
distance; all vapour-veiled. A spark of gold glistened on the
line between water and air, floated up, approached, enlarged,
changed; the object hung midway between heaven and earth, under
the arch of the rainbow; the soft but dusk clouds diffused
behind. It hovered as on wings; pearly, fleecy, gleaming air
streamed like raiment round it; light, tinted with carnation,
coloured what seemed face and limbs; A large star shone with
still lustre on an angel's forehead; an upraised arm and hand,
glancing like a ray, pointed to the bow overhead, and a voice in
my heart whispered--

"Hope smiles on Effort!"

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THE young Anglo-Swiss evidently derived both pleasure and profitfrom the study of her mother-tongue. In teaching her I did not,of course, confine myself to the ordinary school routine; I madeinstruction in English a channel for instruction in literature.I prescribed to her a course of reading; she had a littleselection of English classics, a few of which had been left herby her mother, and the others she had purchased with her ownpenny-fee. I lent her some more modern works; all these she readwith avidity, giving me, in writing, a clear summary of each workwhen she had perused it. Composition, too,
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