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Chapter 32


CHAPTER XXXII


I continued the labours of the village-school as actively and
faithfully as I could.  It was truly hard work at first.  Some time
elapsed before, with all my efforts, I could comprehend my scholars
and their nature.  Wholly untaught, with faculties quite torpid,
they seemed to me hopelessly dull; and, at first sight, all dull
alike:  but I soon found I was mistaken.  There was a difference
amongst them as amongst the educated; and when I got to know them,
and they me, this difference rapidly developed itself.  Their
amazement at me, my language, my rules, and ways, once subsided, I
found some of these heavy-looking, gaping rustics wake up into
sharp-witted girls enough.  Many showed themselves obliging, and
amiable too; and I discovered amongst them not a few examples of
natural politeness, and innate self-respect, as well as of excellent
capacity, that won both my goodwill and my admiration.  These soon
took a pleasure in doing their work well, in keeping their persons
neat, in learning their tasks regularly, in acquiring quiet and
orderly manners.  The rapidity of their progress, in some instances,
was even surprising; and an honest and happy pride I took in it:
besides, I began personally to like some of the best girls; and they
liked me.  I had amongst my scholars several farmers' daughters:
young women grown, almost.  These could already read, write, and
sew; and to them I taught the elements of grammar, geography,
history, and the finer kinds of needlework.  I found estimable
characters amongst them--characters desirous of information and
disposed for improvement--with whom I passed many a pleasant evening
hour in their own homes.  Their parents then (the farmer and his
wife) loaded me with attentions.  There was an enjoyment in
accepting their simple kindness, and in repaying it by a
consideration--a scrupulous regard to their feelings--to which they
were not, perhaps, at all times accustomed, and which both charmed
and benefited them; because, while it elevated them in their own
eyes, it made them emulous to merit the deferential treatment they
received.

I felt I became a favourite in the neighbourhood.  Whenever I went
out, I heard on all sides cordial salutations, and was welcomed with
friendly smiles.  To live amidst general regard, though it be but
the regard of working people, is like "sitting in sunshine, calm and
sweet;" serene inward feelings bud and bloom under the ray.  At this
period of my life, my heart far oftener swelled with thankfulness
than sank with dejection:  and yet, reader, to tell you all, in the
midst of this calm, this useful existence--after a day passed in
honourable exertion amongst my scholars, an evening spent in drawing
or reading contentedly alone--I used to rush into strange dreams at
night:  dreams many-coloured, agitated, full of the ideal, the
stirring, the stormy--dreams where, amidst unusual scenes, charged
with adventure, with agitating risk and romantic chance, I still
again and again met Mr. Rochester, always at some exciting crisis;
and then the sense of being in his arms, hearing his voice, meeting
his eye, touching his hand and cheek, loving him, being loved by
him--the hope of passing a lifetime at his side, would be renewed,
with all its first force and fire.  Then I awoke.  Then I recalled
where I was, and how situated.  Then I rose up on my curtainless
bed, trembling and quivering; and then the still, dark night
witnessed the convulsion of despair, and heard the burst of passion.
By nine o'clock the next morning I was punctually opening the
school; tranquil, settled, prepared for the steady duties of the
day.

Rosamond Oliver kept her word in coming to visit me.  Her call at
the school was generally made in the course of her morning ride.
She would canter up to the door on her pony, followed by a mounted
livery servant.  Anything more exquisite than her appearance, in her
purple habit, with her Amazon's cap of black velvet placed
gracefully above the long curls that kissed her cheek and floated to
her shoulders, can scarcely be imagined:  and it was thus she would
enter the rustic building, and glide through the dazzled ranks of
the village children.  She generally came at the hour when Mr.
Rivers was engaged in giving his daily catechising lesson.  Keenly,
I fear, did the eye of the visitress pierce the young pastor's
heart.  A sort of instinct seemed to warn him of her entrance, even
when he did not see it; and when he was looking quite away from the
door, if she appeared at it, his cheek would glow, and his marble-
seeming features, though they refused to relax, changed
indescribably, and in their very quiescence became expressive of a
repressed fervour, stronger than working muscle or darting glance
could indicate.

Of course, she knew her power:  indeed, he did not, because he could
not, conceal it from her.  In spite of his Christian stoicism, when
she went up and addressed him, and smiled gaily, encouragingly, even
fondly in his face, his hand would tremble and his eye burn.  He
seemed to say, with his sad and resolute look, if he did not say it
with his lips, "I love you, and I know you prefer me.  It is not
despair of success that keeps me dumb.  If I offered my heart, I
believe you would accept it.  But that heart is already laid on a
sacred altar:  the fire is arranged round it.  It will soon be no
more than a sacrifice consumed."

And then she would pout like a disappointed child; a pensive cloud
would soften her radiant vivacity; she would withdraw her hand
hastily from his, and turn in transient petulance from his aspect,
at once so heroic and so martyr-like.  St. John, no doubt, would
have given the world to follow, recall, retain her, when she thus
left him; but he would not give one chance of heaven, nor
relinquish, for the elysium of her love, one hope of the true,
eternal Paradise.  Besides, he could not bind all that he had in his
nature--the rover, the aspirant, the poet, the priest--in the limits
of a single passion.  He could not--he would not--renounce his wild
field of mission warfare for the parlours and the peace of Vale
Hall.  I learnt so much from himself in an inroad I once, despite
his reserve, had the daring to make on his confidence.

Miss Oliver already honoured me with frequent visits to my cottage.
I had learnt her whole character, which was without mystery or
disguise:  she was coquettish but not heartless; exacting, but not
worthlessly selfish.  She had been indulged from her birth, but was
not absolutely spoilt.  She was hasty, but good-humoured; vain (she
could not help it, when every glance in the glass showed her such a
flush of loveliness), but not affected; liberal-handed; innocent of
the pride of wealth; ingenuous; sufficiently intelligent; gay,
lively, and unthinking:  she was very charming, in short, even to a
cool observer of her own sex like me; but she was not profoundly
interesting or thoroughly impressive.  A very different sort of mind
was hers from that, for instance, of the sisters of St. John.
Still, I liked her almost as I liked my pupil Adele; except that,
for a child whom we have watched over and taught, a closer affection
is engendered than we can give an equally attractive adult
acquaintance.

She had taken an amiable caprice to me.  She said I was like Mr.
Rivers, only, certainly, she allowed, "not one-tenth so handsome,
though I was a nice neat little soul enough, but he was an angel."
I was, however, good, clever, composed, and firm, like him.  I was a
lusus naturae, she affirmed, as a village schoolmistress:  she was
sure my previous history, if known, would make a delightful romance.

One evening, while, with her usual child-like activity, and
thoughtless yet not offensive inquisitiveness, she was rummaging the
cupboard and the table-drawer of my little kitchen, she discovered
first two French books, a volume of Schiller, a German grammar and
dictionary, and then my drawing-materials and some sketches,
including a pencil-head of a pretty little cherub-like girl, one of
my scholars, and sundry views from nature, taken in the Vale of
Morton and on the surrounding moors.  She was first transfixed with
surprise, and then electrified with delight.

"Had I done these pictures?  Did I know French and German?  What a
love--what a miracle I was!  I drew better than her master in the
first school in S-.  Would I sketch a portrait of her, to show to
papa?"

"With pleasure," I replied; and I felt a thrill of artist--delight
at the idea of copying from so perfect and radiant a model.  She had
then on a dark-blue silk dress; her arms and her neck were bare; her
only ornament was her chestnut tresses, which waved over her
shoulders with all the wild grace of natural curls.  I took a sheet
of fine card-board, and drew a careful outline.  I promised myself
the pleasure of colouring it; and, as it was getting late then, I
told her she must come and sit another day.

She made such a report of me to her father, that Mr. Oliver himself
accompanied her next evening--a tall, massive-featured, middle-aged,
and grey-headed man, at whose side his lovely daughter looked like a
bright flower near a hoary turret.  He appeared a taciturn, and
perhaps a proud personage; but he was very kind to me.  The sketch
of Rosamond's portrait pleased him highly:  he said I must make a
finished picture of it.  He insisted, too, on my coming the next day
to spend the evening at Vale Hall.

I went.  I found it a large, handsome residence, showing abundant
evidences of wealth in the proprietor.  Rosamond was full of glee
and pleasure all the time I stayed.  Her father was affable; and
when he entered into conversation with me after tea, he expressed in
strong terms his approbation of what I had done in Morton school,
and said he only feared, from what he saw and heard, I was too good
for the place, and would soon quit it for one more suitable.

"Indeed," cried Rosamond, "she is clever enough to be a governess in
a high family, papa."

I thought I would far rather be where I am than in any high family
in the land.  Mr. Oliver spoke of Mr. Rivers--of the Rivers family--
with great respect.  He said it was a very old name in that
neighbourhood; that the ancestors of the house were wealthy; that
all Morton had once belonged to them; that even now he considered
the representative of that house might, if he liked, make an
alliance with the best.  He accounted it a pity that so fine and
talented a young man should have formed the design of going out as a
missionary; it was quite throwing a valuable life away.  It
appeared, then, that her father would throw no obstacle in the way
of Rosamond's union with St. John.  Mr. Oliver evidently regarded
the young clergyman's good birth, old name, and sacred profession as
sufficient compensation for the want of fortune.

It was the 5th of November, and a holiday.  My little servant, after
helping me to clean my house, was gone, well satisfied with the fee
of a penny for her aid.  All about me was spotless and bright--
scoured floor, polished grate, and well-rubbed chairs.  I had also
made myself neat, and had now the afternoon before me to spend as I
would.

The translation of a few pages of German occupied an hour; then I
got my palette and pencils, and fell to the more soothing, because
easier occupation, of completing Rosamond Oliver's miniature.  The
head was finished already:  there was but the background to tint and
the drapery to shade off; a touch of carmine, too, to add to the
ripe lips--a soft curl here and there to the tresses--a deeper tinge
to the shadow of the lash under the azured eyelid.  I was absorbed
in the execution of these nice details, when, after one rapid tap,
my door unclosed, admitting St. John Rivers.

"I am come to see how you are spending your holiday," he said.
"Not, I hope, in thought?  No, that is well:  while you draw you
will not feel lonely.  You see, I mistrust you still, though you
have borne up wonderfully so far.  I have brought you a book for
evening solace," and he laid on the table a new publication--a poem:
one of those genuine productions so often vouchsafed to the
fortunate public of those days--the golden age of modern literature.
Alas! the readers of our era are less favoured.  But courage!  I
will not pause either to accuse or repine.  I know poetry is not
dead, nor genius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over either, to
bind or slay:  they will both assert their existence, their
presence, their liberty and strength again one day.  Powerful
angels, safe in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumph, and
feeble ones weep over their destruction.  Poetry destroyed?  Genius
banished?  No!  Mediocrity, no:  do not let envy prompt you to the
thought.  No; they not only live, but reign and redeem:  and without
their divine influence spread everywhere, you would be in hell--the
hell of your own meanness.

While I was eagerly glancing at the bright pages of "Marmion" (for
"Marmion" it was), St. John stooped to examine my drawing.  His tall
figure sprang erect again with a start:  he said nothing.  I looked
up at him:  he shunned my eye.  I knew his thoughts well, and could
read his heart plainly; at the moment I felt calmer and cooler than
he:  I had then temporarily the advantage of him, and I conceived an
inclination to do him some good, if I could.

"With all his firmness and self-control," thought I, "he tasks
himself too far:  locks every feeling and pang within--expresses,
confesses, imparts nothing.  I am sure it would benefit him to talk
a little about this sweet Rosamond, whom he thinks he ought not to
marry:  I will make him talk."

I said first, "Take a chair, Mr. Rivers."  But he answered, as he
always did, that he could not stay.  "Very well," I responded,
mentally, "stand if you like; but you shall not go just yet, I am
determined:  solitude is at least as bad for you as it is for me.
I'll try if I cannot discover the secret spring of your confidence,
and find an aperture in that marble breast through which I can shed
one drop of the balm of sympathy."

"Is this portrait like?" I asked bluntly.

"Like!  Like whom?  I did not observe it closely."

"You did, Mr. Rivers."

He almost started at my sudden and strange abruptness:  he looked at
me astonished.  "Oh, that is nothing yet," I muttered within.  "I
don't mean to be baffled by a little stiffness on your part; I'm
prepared to go to considerable lengths."  I continued, "You observed
it closely and distinctly; but I have no objection to your looking
at it again," and I rose and placed it in his hand.

"A well-executed picture," he said; "very soft, clear colouring;
very graceful and correct drawing."

"Yes, yes; I know all that.  But what of the resemblance?  Who is it
like?"

Mastering some hesitation, he answered, "Miss Oliver, I presume."

"Of course.  And now, sir, to reward you for the accurate guess, I
will promise to paint you a careful and faithful duplicate of this
very picture, provided you admit that the gift would be acceptable
to you.  I don't wish to throw away my time and trouble on an
offering you would deem worthless."

He continued to gaze at the picture:  the longer he looked, the
firmer he held it, the more he seemed to covet it.  "It is like!" he
murmured; "the eye is well managed:  the colour, light, expression,
are perfect.  It smiles!"

"Would it comfort, or would it wound you to have a similar painting?
Tell me that.  When you are at Madagascar, or at the Cape, or in
India, would it be a consolation to have that memento in your
possession? or would the sight of it bring recollections calculated
to enervate and distress?"

He now furtively raised his eyes:  he glanced at me, irresolute,
disturbed:  he again surveyed the picture.

"That I should like to have it is certain:  whether it would be
judicious or wise is another question."

Since I had ascertained that Rosamond really preferred him, and that
her father was not likely to oppose the match, I--less exalted in my
views than St. John--had been strongly disposed in my own heart to
advocate their union.  It seemed to me that, should he become the
possessor of Mr. Oliver's large fortune, he might do as much good
with it as if he went and laid his genius out to wither, and his
strength to waste, under a tropical sun.  With this persuasion I now
answered -

"As far as I can see, it would be wiser and more judicious if you
were to take to yourself the original at once."

By this time he had sat down:  he had laid the picture on the table
before him, and with his brow supported on both hands, hung fondly
over it.  I discerned he was now neither angry nor shocked at my
audacity.  I saw even that to be thus frankly addressed on a subject
he had deemed unapproachable--to hear it thus freely handled--was
beginning to be felt by him as a new pleasure--an unhoped-for
relief.  Reserved people often really need the frank discussion of
their sentiments and griefs more than the expansive.  The sternest-
seeming stoic is human after all; and to "burst" with boldness and
good-will into "the silent sea" of their souls is often to confer on
them the first of obligations.

"She likes you, I am sure," said I, as I stood behind his chair,
"and her father respects you.  Moreover, she is a sweet girl--rather
thoughtless; but you would have sufficient thought for both yourself
and her.  You ought to marry her."

"DOES she like me?" he asked.

"Certainly; better than she likes any one else.  She talks of you
continually:  there is no subject she enjoys so much or touches upon
so often."

"It is very pleasant to hear this," he said--"very:  go on for
another quarter of an hour."  And he actually took out his watch and
laid it upon the table to measure the time.

"But where is the use of going on," I asked, "when you are probably
preparing some iron blow of contradiction, or forging a fresh chain
to fetter your heart?"

"Don't imagine such hard things.  Fancy me yielding and melting, as
I am doing:  human love rising like a freshly opened fountain in my
mind and overflowing with sweet inundation all the field I have so
carefully and with such labour prepared--so assiduously sown with
the seeds of good intentions, of self-denying plans.  And now it is
deluged with a nectarous flood--the young germs swamped--delicious
poison cankering them:  now I see myself stretched on an ottoman in
the drawing-room at Vale Hall at my bride Rosamond Oliver's feet:
she is talking to me with her sweet voice--gazing down on me with
those eyes your skilful hand has copied so well--smiling at me with
these coral lips.  She is mine--I am hers--this present life and
passing world suffice to me.  Hush! say nothing--my heart is full of
delight--my senses are entranced--let the time I marked pass in
peace."

I humoured him:  the watch ticked on:  he breathed fast and low:  I
stood silent.  Amidst this hush the quartet sped; he replaced the
watch, laid the picture down, rose, and stood on the hearth.

"Now," said he, "that little space was given to delirium and
delusion.  I rested my temples on the breast of temptation, and put
my neck voluntarily under her yoke of flowers.  I tasted her cup.
The pillow was burning:  there is an asp in the garland:  the wine
has a bitter taste:  her promises are hollow--her offers false:  I
see and know all this."

I gazed at him in wonder.

"It is strange," pursued he, "that while I love Rosamond Oliver so
wildly--with all the intensity, indeed, of a first passion, the
object of which is exquisitely beautiful, graceful, fascinating--I
experience at the same time a calm, unwarped consciousness that she
would not make me a good wife; that she is not the partner suited to
me; that I should discover this within a year after marriage; and
that to twelve months' rapture would succeed a lifetime of regret.
This I know."

"Strange indeed!" I could not help ejaculating.

"While something in me," he went on, "is acutely sensible to her
charms, something else is as deeply impressed with her defects:
they are such that she could sympathise in nothing I aspired to--co-
operate in nothing I undertook.  Rosamond a sufferer, a labourer, a
female apostle?  Rosamond a missionary's wife?  No!"

"But you need not be a missionary.  You might relinquish that
scheme."

"Relinquish!  What! my vocation?  My great work?  My foundation laid
on earth for a mansion in heaven?  My hopes of being numbered in the
band who have merged all ambitions in the glorious one of bettering
their race--of carrying knowledge into the realms of ignorance--of
substituting peace for war--freedom for bondage--religion for
superstition--the hope of heaven for the fear of hell?  Must I
relinquish that?  It is dearer than the blood in my veins.  It is
what I have to look forward to, and to live for."

After a considerable pause, I said--"And Miss Oliver?  Are her
disappointment and sorrow of no interest to you?"

"Miss Oliver is ever surrounded by suitors and flatterers:  in less
than a month, my image will be effaced from her heart.  She will
forget me; and will marry, probably, some one who will make her far
happier than I should do."

"You speak coolly enough; but you suffer in the conflict.  You are
wasting away."

"No.  If I get a little thin, it is with anxiety about my prospects,
yet unsettled--my departure, continually procrastinated.  Only this
morning, I received intelligence that the successor, whose arrival I
have been so long expecting, cannot be ready to replace me for three
months to come yet; and perhaps the three months may extend to six."

"You tremble and become flushed whenever Miss Oliver enters the
schoolroom."

Again the surprised expression crossed his face.  He had not
imagined that a woman would dare to speak so to a man.  For me, I
felt at home in this sort of discourse.  I could never rest in
communication with strong, discreet, and refined minds, whether male
or female, till I had passed the outworks of conventional reserve,
and crossed the threshold of confidence, and won a place by their
heart's very hearthstone.

"You are original," said he, "and not timid.  There is something
brave in your spirit, as well as penetrating in your eye; but allow
me to assure you that you partially misinterpret my emotions.  You
think them more profound and potent than they are.  You give me a
larger allowance of sympathy than I have a just claim to.  When I
colour, and when I shade before Miss Oliver, I do not pity myself.
I scorn the weakness.  I know it is ignoble:  a mere fever of the
flesh:  not, I declare, the convulsion of the soul.  THAT is just as
fixed as a rock, firm set in the depths of a restless sea.  Know me
to be what I am--a cold hard man."

I smiled incredulously.

"You have taken my confidence by storm," he continued, "and now it
is much at your service.  I am simply, in my original state--
stripped of that blood-bleached robe with which Christianity covers
human deformity--a cold, hard, ambitious man.  Natural affection
only, of all the sentiments, has permanent power over me.  Reason,
and not feeling, is my guide; my ambition is unlimited:  my desire
to rise higher, to do more than others, insatiable.  I honour
endurance, perseverance, industry, talent; because these are the
means by which men achieve great ends and mount to lofty eminence.
I watch your career with interest, because I consider you a specimen
of a diligent, orderly, energetic woman:  not because I deeply
compassionate what you have gone through, or what you still suffer."

"You would describe yourself as a mere pagan philosopher," I said.

"No.  There is this difference between me and deistic philosophers:
I believe; and I believe the Gospel.  You missed your epithet.  I am
not a pagan, but a Christian philosopher--a follower of the sect of
Jesus.  As His disciple I adopt His pure, His merciful, His
benignant doctrines.  I advocate them:  I am sworn to spread them.
Won in youth to religion, she has cultivated my original qualities
thus:- From the minute germ, natural affection, she has developed
the overshadowing tree, philanthropy.  From the wild stringy root of
human uprightness, she has reared a due sense of the Divine justice.
Of the ambition to win power and renown for my wretched self, she
has formed the ambition to spread my Master's kingdom; to achieve
victories for the standard of the cross.  So much has religion done
for me; turning the original materials to the best account; pruning
and training nature.  But she could not eradicate nature:  nor will
it be eradicated 'till this mortal shall put on immortality.'"

Having said this, he took his hat, which lay on the table beside my
palette.  Once more he looked at the portrait.

"She IS lovely," he murmured.  "She is well named the Rose of the
World, indeed!"

"And may I not paint one like it for you?"

"CUI BONO?  No."

He drew over the picture the sheet of thin paper on which I was
accustomed to rest my hand in painting, to prevent the cardboard
from being sullied.  What he suddenly saw on this blank paper, it
was impossible for me to tell; but something had caught his eye.  He
took it up with a snatch; he looked at the edge; then shot a glance
at me, inexpressibly peculiar, and quite incomprehensible:  a glance
that seemed to take and make note of every point in my shape, face,
and dress; for it traversed all, quick, keen as lightning.  His lips
parted, as if to speak:  but he checked the coming sentence,
whatever it was.

"What is the matter?" I asked.

"Nothing in the world," was the reply; and, replacing the paper, I
saw him dexterously tear a narrow slip from the margin.  It
disappeared in his glove; and, with one hasty nod and "good-
afternoon," he vanished.

"Well!" I exclaimed, using an expression of the district, "that caps
the globe, however!"

I, in my turn, scrutinised the paper; but saw nothing on it save a
few dingy stains of paint where I had tried the tint in my pencil.
I pondered the mystery a minute or two; but finding it insolvable,
and being certain it could not be of much moment, I dismissed, and
soon forgot it.


Charlotte Bronte