Charlotte purposefully left it vague it seems, and even then she had people petitioning her to clarify. She laughingly admitted whatever she told them pretty much left the matter as it was. Sometimes, when I read it, I think she has irrefutably said that Paul was lost. Other times, I catch some obscure reference which seems to indicate a far more intimate, and long, acquaintance than they had opportunity for--excepting, of course, their correspondence while he was in the West Indies. She gives us the choice, to choose 'sunny imagination' but it seems almost patronizing--delude yourself, if you can't take it. I have finally come to the conclusion that it was a story of deep, enduring love--but love is not the crux of the story. As Lucy climbed to the dome of St. Paul's and was able to see the city spread out before her, and was able to descend and 'mix with life', Paul's love and faith in her gave her the courage to live a full life and faith in herself. And THAT is the true triumph of Villette!