Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853)




  1. My godmother lived in a handsome house in the clean and ancient town of Bretton. Her husband's family had been residents there for generations, and bore, indeed, the name of their birth-place - Bretton of Bretton: whether by coincidence, or because some remote ancestor had been a personage of sufficient importance to leave his name to his neighbourhood, I know not.
  2. When I was a girl I went to Bretton about twice a year, and well I liked the visit. The house and its inmates specially suited me. The large peaceful rooms, the well-arranged furniture, the clear wide windows, the balcony outside, looking down on a fine antique street, where Sundays and holidays seemed always to abide - so quiet was its atmosphere, so clean its pavement - these things pleased me well.
  3. One child in a household of grown people is usually made very much of, and in a quiet way I was a good deal taken notice of by Mrs. Bretton, who had been left a widow, with one son, before I knew her; her husband, a physician, having died while she was yet a young and handsome woman.
  4. She was not young, as I remember her, but she was still handsome, tall, well-made, and though dark for an Englishwoman, yet wearing always the clearness of health in her brunette cheeks, and its vivacity in a pair of fine, cheerful black eyes. People esteemed it a grievous pity that she had not conferred her complexion on her son, whose eyes were blue - though, even in boyhood, very piercing - and the colour of his long hair such as friends did not venture to specify, except as the sun shone on it, when they called it golden. He inherited the lines of his mother's features, however; also her good teeth, her stature (or the promise of her stature, for he was not yet full-grown), and, what was better, her health without flaw, and her spirits of that tone and equality which are better than a fortune to the possessor.
  5. In the autumn of the year - I was staying at Bretton; my godmother having come in person to claim me of the kinsfolk with whom was at that time fixed my permanent residence. I believe she then plainly saw events coming, whose very shadow I scarce guessed; yet of which the faint suspicion sufficed to impart unsettled sadness, and made me glad to change scene and society.
  6. Time always flowed smoothly for me at my godmother's side; not with tumultuous swiftness, but blandly, like the gliding of a full river through a plain. My visits to her resembled the sojourn of Christian and Hopeful beside a certain pleasant stream, with green trees on each bank, and meadows beautified with lilies all the year round.' The charm of variety there was not, nor the excitement of incident; but I liked peace so well, and sought stimulus so little, that when the latter came I almost felt it a disturbance, and wished rather it had still held aloof.
  7. One day, a letter was received of which the contents evidently caused Mrs. Bretton surprise and some concern. I thought at first it was from home, and trembled, expecting I knew not what disastrous communication; to me, however, no reference was made, and the cloud seemed to pass.
  8. The next day, on my return from a long walk, I found, as I entered my bedroom, an unexpected change. In addition to my own French bed in its shady recess, appeared in a corner a small crib, draped with white; and in addition to my mahogany chest of drawers, I saw a tiny rosewood chest. I stood still, gazed, and considered.
  9. 'Of what are these things the signs and tokens?' I asked. The answer was obvious. 'A second guest is coming: Mrs. Bretton expects other visitors.'
  10. On descending to dinner, explanations ensued. A little girl, I was told, would shortly be my companion: the daughter of a friend and distant relation of the late Dr. Bretton's. This little girl, it was added, had recently lost her mother; though indeed, Mrs. Bretton ere long subjoined, the loss was not so great as might at first appear. Mrs. Home (Home it seems was the name) had been a very pretty, but a giddy, careless woman, who had neglected her child, and disappointed and disheartened her husband. So far from congenial had the union proved, that separation at last ensued - separation by mutual consent, not after any legal process. Soon after this event, the lady having over-exerted herself at a ball, caught cold, took a fever, and died after a very brief illness. Her husband, naturally a man of very sensitive feelings, and shocked inexpressibly by too sudden communication of the news, could hardly, it seems, now be persuaded but that some over-severity on his part - some deficiency in patience and indulgence - had contributed to hasten her end. He had brooded over this idea till his spirits were seriously affected; the medical men insisted on travelling being tried as a remedy; and meanwhile, Mrs. Bretton had offered to take charge of his little girl. 'And I hope', added my godmother in conclusion, 'the child will not be like her mama; as silly and frivolous a little flirt as ever sensible man was weak enough to marry. For', said she, 'Mr. Home is a sensible man in his way, though not very practical: he is fond of science, and lives half his life in a laboratory trying experiments - a thing his butterfly wife could neither comprehend nor endure; and indeed', confessed my godmother, 'I should not have liked it myself.'
  11. In answer to a question of mine, she further informed me that her late husband used to say, Mr. Home had derived this scientific turn from a maternal uncle, a French savant; for he came, it seems, of mixed French and Scottish origin, and had connections now living in France, of whom more than one wrote de before his name, and, called himself noble.
  12. That same evening, at nine o'clock, a servant was despatched to meet the coach by which our little visitor was expected. Mrs. Bretton and I sat alone in the drawing-room waiting her coming; John Graham Bretton being absent on a visit to one of his school-fellows who lived in the country. My godmother read the evening paper while she waited; I sewed. It was a wet night; the rain lashed the panes, and the wind sounded angry and restless.
  13. 'Poor child!' said Mrs. Bretton from time to time. 'What weather for her journey! I wish she were safe here.'
  14. A little before ten the doorbell announced Warren's return. No sooner was the door opened than I ran down into the hall: there lay a trunk and some band-boxes, beside them stood a person like a nurse-girl, and at the foot of the staircase was Warren with a shawled bundle in his arms.
  15. 'Is that the child?' I asked.
  16. 'Yes, miss.'
  17. I would have opened the shawl, and tried to get a peep at the face, but it was hastily turned from me to Warren's shoulder.
  18. 'Put me down, please', said a small voice when Warren opened the drawing-room door, 'and take off this shawl', continued the speaker, extracting with its minute hand the pin, and with a sort of fastidious haste doffing the clumsy wrapping. The creature which now appeared made a deft attempt to fold the shawl; but the drapery was much too heavy and large to be sustained or wielded by those hands and arms. 'Give it to Harriet, please', was the direction, 'and she can put it away.' This said, it turned and fixed its eyes on Mrs Bretton.
  19. 'Come here, little dear', said that lady, 'Come and let me see if you are cold and damp: come and let me warm you at the fire.'
  20. The child advanced promptly. Relieved of her wrapping, she appeared exceedingly tiny; but was a neat, completely-fashioned little figure, light, slight, and straight. Seated on my godmother's ample lap, she looked a mere doll; her neck, delicate as wax, her head of silky curls, increased, I thought, the resemblance.
  21. Mrs. Bretton talked in little fond phrases as she chafed the child's hands, arms, and feet; first she was considered with a wistful gaze, but soon a smile answered her, Mrs. Bretton was not generally a caressing woman; even with her deeply-cherished son, her manner was rarely sentimental, often the reverse; but when this small stranger smiled at her, she kissed it, asking:
  22. 'What is my little one's name?'
  23. 'Missy.'
  24. 'But besides Missy?'
  25. 'Polly, papa calls her.'
  26. 'Will Polly be content to live with me?'
  27. 'Not always; but till papa comes home. Papa is gone away.' She shook her head expressively.
  28. 'He will return to Polly, or send for her.'
  29. 'Will he, ma'am? Do you know he will?'
  30. 'I think so.'
  31. 'But Harriet thinks not: at least not for a long while. He is ill.'
  32. Her eyes filled. She drew her hands down from Mrs. Bretton's, and made a movement to leave her lap; it was at first resisted, but she said:
  33. 'Please, I wish to go: I can sit on a stool.'
  34. She was allowed to slip down from the knee, and taking a footstool, she carried it to a corner where the shade was deep, and there seated herself. Mrs. Bretton, though a commanding, and in grave matters even a peremptory woman, was often passive in trifles: she allowed the child, her way. She said to me, 'Take no notice at present.' But I did take notice: I watched Polly rest her small elbow on her small knee, her head on her hand; I observed her draw a square-inch or two of pocket handkerchief from the doll-pocket of her doll-skirt, and then I heard her weep. Other children in grief or pain cry aloud, without shame or restraint; but this being wept; the tiniest occasional sniff testified to her emotion. Mrs. Bretton did not hear it: which was quite as well. Ere long, a voice, issuing from the corner, demanded:
  35. 'May the bell be rung for Harriet?'
  36. I rang; the nurse was summoned and came.
  37. 'Harriet, I must be put to bed', said her little mistress. 'You must ask where my bed is.'
  38. Harriet signified that she had already made that inquiry.
  39. 'Ask if you sleep with me, Harriet.'
  40. 'No, missy', said the nurse: 'You are to share this young lady's room', designating me.
  41. Missy did not leave her seat, but I saw her eyes seek me. After some minutes' silent scrutiny, she emerged from her corner.
  42. 'I wish you, ma'am, good night', said she to Mrs. Bretton; but she passed me mute.
  43. 'Good night, Polly', I said.
  44. 'No need to say good night, since we sleep in the same chamber'; was the reply with which she vanished from the drawing-room. We heard Harriet propose to carry her upstairs. 'No need', was again her answer - 'No need, no need:' and her small step toiled wearily up the staircase.
  45. On going to bed an hour afterwards, I found her still wide awake. She had arranged her pillows so as to support her little person in a sitting posture; her hands, placed one within the other, rested quietly on the sheet, with an old-fashioned calm, most unchildlike. I abstained from speaking to her for some time, but just before extinguishing the light, I recommended her to lie down.
  46. 'By and by', was the answer.
  47. 'But you will take cold, missy.'
  48. She took some tiny article of raiment from the chair at her crib side, and with it covered her shoulders. I suffered her to do as she pleased. Listening awhile in the darkness, I was aware that she still wept - wept under restraint, quietly and cautiously.
  49. On awaking with daylight, a trickling of water caught my ear. Behold! there she was risen and mounted on a stool near the wash-stand, with pains and difficulty inclining the ewer (which she could not lift) so as to pour its contents into the basin. It was curious to watch her as she washed and dressed, so small, busy, and noiseless. Evidently she was little accustomed to perform her own toilet; and the buttons, strings, hooks and eyes, offered difficulties which she encountered with a perseverance good to witness. She folded her nightdress, she smoothed the drapery of her couch quite neatly; withdrawing into a corner, where the sweep of the white curtain concealed her, she became still. I half rose, and advanced my head to see how she was occupied. On her knees, with her forehead bent on her hands, I perceived that she was praying.
  50. Her nurse tapped at the door. She started up.
  51. 'I am dressed, Harriet', said she: 'I have dressed myself, but I do not feel neat. Make me neat!'
  52. 'Why did you dress yourself, missy?'
  53. 'Hush! speak low, Harriet, for fear of waking the girl' (meaning me, who now lay with my eyes shut). 'I dressed myself to learn, against the time you leave me.'
  54. 'Do you want me to go?'
  55. 'When you are cross, I have many a time wanted you to go, but not now. Tie my sash straight; make my hair smooth, please.'
  56. 'Your sash is straight enough. What a particular little body you are!'
  57. 'It must be tied again. Please to tie it.'
  58. 'There, then. When I am gone you must get that young lady to dress you.'
  59. 'On no account.'
  60. 'Why? She is a very nice young lady. I hope you mean to behave prettily to her, missy, and not show your airs.'
  61. 'She shall dress me on no account.'
  62. 'Comical little thing!'
  63. 'You are not passing the comb straight through my hair, Harriet: the line will be crooked.'
  64. 'Ay, you are ill to please. Does that suit?'
  65. 'Pretty well. Where should I go now that I am dressed?'
  66. 'I will take you into the breakfast-room.'
  67. 'Come, then.'
  68. They proceeded to the door. She stopped.
  69. 'Oh! Harriet, I wish this was papa's house! I don't know these people.'
  70. 'Be a good child, missy.'
  71. 'I am good, but I ache here'; putting her hand to her heart, and moaning while she reiterated 'Papa! papa!'
  72. I roused myself and started up, to check this scene while it was yet within bounds.
  73. 'Say good morning to the young lady', dictated Harriet.
  74. She said 'good morning', and then followed her nurse from the room. Harriet temporarily left that same day, to go to her own friends, who lived in the neighbourhood.
  75. On descending, I found Paulina (the child called herself Polly, but her full name was Paulina Mary) seated at the breakfast table, by Mrs. Bretton's side; a mug of milk stood before her, a morsel of bread filled her hand, which lay passive on the table-cloth: she was not eating.
  76. 'How we shall conciliate this little creature', said Mrs. Bretton to me, 'I don't know: she tastes nothing, and, by her looks, she has not slept.'
  77. I expressed my confidence in the effects of time and kindness.
  78. 'If she were to take a fancy to anybody in the house, she would soon settle; but not till then', replied Mrs. Bretton.



  1. Some days elapsed, and it appeared she was not likely to take much of a fancy to anybody in the house. She was not exactly naughty or wilful: she was far from disobedient; but an object less conducive to comfort - to tranquillity even - than she presented, it was scarcely possible to have before one's eyes. She moped: no grown person could have performed that uncheering business better; no furrowed face of adult exile, longing for Europe at Europe's antipodes, ever bore more legibly the signs of homesickness than did her infant visage. She seemed growing old and unearthly. I, Lucy Snowe, plead guiltless of that curse, an overheated and discursive imagination; but whenever, opening a room-door, I found her seated in a corner alone - her head on her pigmy hand - that room seemed to me not inhabited, but haunted.
  2. And again, when of moonlight nights, on waking, I beheld her figure, white and conspicuous in its night-dress, kneeling upright in bed, and praying like some Catholic or Methodist enthusiast - some precocious fanatic or untimely saint - I scarcely know what thoughts I had; but they ran risk of being hardly more rational and healthy than that child's mind must have been.
  3. I seldom caught a word of her prayers, for they were whispered low: sometimes, indeed, they were not whispered at all, but put up unuttered; such rare sentences as reached my ear still bore the burden, 'Papa; my dear papa!' This, I perceived, was a one-idead nature; betraying that monomaniac tendency I have ever thought the most unfortunate with which man or woman can be cursed.
  4. What might have been the end of this fretting, had it continued unchecked, can only be conjectured: it received, however, a sudden turn.
  5. One afternoon Mrs. Bretton, coaxing her from her usual station in a corner, had lifted her into the window-seat, and, by way of occupying her attention, told her to watch the passengers and count how many ladies should go down the street in a given time. She had sat listlessly, hardly looking, and not counting, when - my eye being fixed on hers - I witnessed in its iris and pupil a startling transfiguration. These sudden, dangerous natures - sensitive as they are called - offer many a curious spectacle to those whom a cooler temperament has secured from participation in their angular vagaries. The fixed and heavy gaze swum, trembled, then glittered in fire; the small overcast brow cleared; the trivial and dejected features lit up; the sad countenance vanished, and in its place appeared a sudden eagerness, an intense expectancy.
  6. 'It is!' were her words.
  7. Like a bird or a shaft, or any other swift thing, she was gone from the room. How she got the house-door open I cannot tell; probably it might be ajar; perhaps Warren was in the way and obeyed her behest, which would be impetuous enough. I - watching calmly from the window - saw her, in her black frock and tiny braided apron (to pinafores she had an antipathy), dart half the length of the street; and, as I was on the point of turning, and quietly announcing to Mrs. Bretton that the child was run out mad, and ought instantly to be pursued, I saw her caught up, and rapt at once from my cool observation, and from the wondering stare of the passengers. A gentleman had done this good turn, and now, covering her with his cloak, advanced to restore her to the house whence he had seen her issue.
  8. I concluded he would leave her in a servant's charge and withdraw; but he entered: having tarried a little while below, he came upstairs.
  9. His reception immediately explained that he was known to Mrs. Bretton. She recognised him; she greeted him, and yet she was fluttered, surprised, taken unawares. Her look and manner were even expostulatory; and in reply to these, rather than her words, he said,
  10. 'I could not help it, madam: I found it impossible to leave the country without seeing with my own eyes how she settled.'
  11. 'But you will unsettle her.'
  12. 'I hope not. And how is papa's little Polly?'
  13. This question he addressed to Paulina, as he sat down and placed her gently on the ground before him.
  14. 'How is Polly's papa?' was the reply, as she leaned on his knee, and gazed up into his face.
  15. It was not a noisy, not a wordy scene: for that I was thankful; but it was a scene of feeling, too brimful, and which, because the cup did not foam up high, or furiously overflow, only oppressed one the more. On all occasions of vehement, unrestrained expansion, a sense of disdain or ridicule comes to the weary spectator's relief; whereas I have ever felt most burdensome that sort of sensibility which bends of its own will, a giant slave under the sway of good sense.
  16. Mr. Home was a stern-featured, perhaps I should rather say, a hard-featured man: his forehead was knotty, and his cheek-bones were marked and prominent. The character of his face was quite Scotch; but there was feeling in his eye, and emotion in his now agitated countenance. His northern accent in speaking harmonised with his physiognomy. He was at once proud-looking and homely-looking.
  17. He laid his hand on the child's uplifted head. She said:
  18. 'Kiss Polly.'
  19. He kissed her. I wished she would utter some hysterical cry, so that I might get relief and be at ease. She made wonderfully little noise: she seemed to have got what she wanted - all she wanted - and to be in a trance of content. Neither in mien nor features was this creature like her sire, and yet she was of his strain: her mind had been filled from his, as the cup from the flagon.
  20. Indisputably Mr. Home owned manly self-control, however he might secretly feel on some matters. 'Polly', he said, looking down on this little girl, 'go into the hall; you will see papa's greatcoat lying on a chair; put your hand into the pockets, you will find a pocket handkerchief; bring it to me.'
  21. She obeyed; went and returned deftly and nimbly. He was talking to Mrs. Bretton when she came back, and she waited with the handkerchief in her hand. It was a picture, in its way, to see her, with her tiny stature and trim, neat shape, standing at his knee. Seeing that he continued to talk - apparently unconscious of her return - she took his hand, opened the unresisting fingers, insinuated into them the handkerchief, and closed them upon it one by one. He still seemed not to see or feel her; but by-and-by, he lifted her to his knee; she nestled against him, and though neither looked at or spoke to the other for an hour following, I suppose both were satisfied.
  22. During tea, the minute thing's movements and behaviour gave, as usual, full occupation to the eye. First she directed Warren, as he placed the chairs.
  23. 'Put papa's chair here, and mine near it, between papa and Mrs. Bretton: I must hand his tea.'
  24. She took her own seat, and beckoned with her hand to her father.
  25. 'Be near me, as if we were at home, papa.'
  26. And again, as she intercepted his cup in passing, and stirred the sugar and put in the cream herself, 'I always did it for you at home, papa: nobody could do it as well, not even your own self.'
  27. Throughout the meal she continued her attentions: rather absurd they were. The sugar-tongs were too wide for one of her hands, and she had to use both in wielding them; the weight of the silver cream-ewer, the bread and butter plates, the very cup and saucer tasked her insufficient strength and dexterity; but she would lift this, hand that, and luckily contrived through it all to break nothing. Candidly speaking, I thought her a little busy-body; but her father, blind like other parents, seemed perfectly content to let her wait on him, and even wonderfully soothed by her offices.
  28. 'She is my comfort!' he could not help saying to Mrs. Bretton. That lady had her own 'comfort' and nonpareil on a much larger scale, and for the moment, absent; so she sympathised with his foible.
  29. This second 'comfort' came on the stage in the course of the evening. I knew this day had been fixed for his return, and was aware that Mrs. Bretton had been expecting him through all its hours. We were seated round the fire, after tea, when Graham joined our circle: I should rather say, broke it up - for, of course, his arrival made a bustle; and then, as Mr. Graham was fasting, there was refreshment to be provided. He and Mr. Home met as old acquaintance; of the little girl he took no notice for a time.
  30. His meal over, and numerous questions from his mother answered, he turned from the table to the hearth. Opposite where he had placed himself was seated Mr. Home, and at his elbow, the child. When I say child I use an inappropriate and undescriptive term - a term suggesting any picture rather than that of the demure little person in a mourning frock and white chemisette, that might just have fitted a good-sized doll - perched now on a high chair beside a stand, whereon was her toy work-box of white varnished wood, and holding in her hands a shred of a handkerchief, which she was professing to hem, and at which she bored perseveringly with a needle, that in her fingers seemed almost a skewer, pricking herself ever and anon, marking the cambric with a track of minute red dots; occasionally starting when the perverse weapon - swerving from her control - inflicted a deeper stab than usual; but still silent, diligent, absorbed, womanly.
  31. Graham was at that time a handsome, faithless-looking youth of sixteen. I say faithless-looking, not because he was really of a very perfidious disposition, but because the epithet strikes me as proper to describe the fair, Celtic (not Saxon) character of his good looks; his waved light auburn hair, his supple symmetry, his smile frequent, and destitute neither of fascination nor of subtlety, (in no bad sense.) A spoiled, whimsical boy he was in those days.
  32. 'Mother', he said, after eyeing the little figure before him in silence for some time, and when the temporary absence of Mr. Home from the room relieved him from the half-laughing bashfulness, which was all he knew of timidity - 'Mother, I see a young lady in the present society to whom I have not been introduced.'
  33. 'Mr. Home's little girl, I suppose you mean', said his mother.
  34. 'Indeed, ma'am', replied her son, 'I consider your expression of the least ceremonious: Miss Home I should certainly have said, in venturing to speak of the gentlewoman to whom I allude.'
  35. 'Now, Graham, I will not have that child teased. Don't flatter yourself that I shall suffer you to make her your butt.'
  36. 'Miss Home', pursued Graham, undeterred by his mother's remonstrance, 'might I have the honour to introduce myself, since no one else seems willing to render you and me that service? Your slave, John Graham Bretton.'
  37. She looked at him; he rose and bowed quite gravely. She deliberately put down thimble, scissors, work; descended with precaution from her perch and, curtsying with unspeakable seriousness, said, 'How do you do?'
  38. 'I have the honour to be in fair health, only in some measure fatigued with a hurried journey. I hope, ma'am, I see you well.'
  39. 'Tor-rer-ably well', was the ambitious reply of the little woman; and she now essayed to regain her former elevation, but finding this could not be done without some climbing and straining - a sacrifice of decorum not to be thought of - and being utterly disdainful of aid in the presence of a strange young gentleman, she relinquished the high chair for a low stool: towards that low stool Graham drew in his chair.
  40. 'I hope, ma'am, the present residence, my mother's house, appears to you a convenient place of abode?'
  41. 'Not par-tic-er-er-ly: I want to go home.'
  42. 'A natural and laudable desire, ma'am; but one which, notwithstanding, I shall do my best to oppose. I reckon on being able to get out of you a little of that precious commodity called amusement, which mama and Mistress Snowe there fail to yield me.'
  43. 'I shall have to go with papa soon: I shall not stay long at your mother's.'
  44. 'Yes, yes; you will stay with me I am sure. I have a pony on which you shall ride, and no end of books with pictures to show you.'
  45. 'Are you going to live here now?'
  46. 'I am. Does that please you? Do you like me?'
  47. 'No.'
  48. 'Why?'
  49. 'I think you queer.'
  50. 'My face, ma'am?'
  51. 'Your face and all about you. You have long red hair.'
  52. 'Auburn hair, if you please: mama calls it auburn, or golden, and so do all her friends. But even with my "long red hair,"' (and he waved his mane with a sort of triumph - tawny he himself well knew that it was, and he was proud of the leonine hue) 'I cannot possibly be queerer than is your ladyship.'
  53. 'You call me queer?'
  54. 'Certainly.'
  55. (After a pause) 'I think I shall go to bed.'
  56. 'A little thing like you ought to have been in bed many hours since; but you probably sat up in the expectation of seeing me?'
  57. 'No, indeed.'
  58. 'You certainly wished to enjoy the pleasure of my society. You knew I was coming home, and would wait to have a look at me.'
  59. 'I sat up for papa, and not for you.'
  60. 'Very good, Miss Home. I am going to be a favourite: preferred before papa soon, I dare say.'
  61. She wished Mrs. Bretton and myself good night; she seemed hesitating whether Graham's deserts entitled him to the same attention, when he caught her up with one hand, and with that one hand held her poised aloft above his head. She saw herself thus lifted up on high, in the glass over the fireplace. The suddenness, the freedom, the disrespect of the action were too much.
  62. 'For shame, Mr. Graham!' was her indignant cry, 'put me down!' - and when again on her feet, 'I wonder what you would think of me if I were to treat you in that way, lifting you with my hand' (raising that mighty member) 'as Warren lifts the little cat?'
  63. So saying, she departed.



  1. Mr. Home stayed two days. During his visit he could not be prevailed on to go out: he sat all day long by the fireside, sometimes silent, sometimes receiving and answering Mrs. Bretton's chat, which was just of the proper sort for a man in his morbid mood - not over-sympathetic, yet not too uncongenial; sensible, and even with a touch of the motherly - she was sufficiently his senior to be permitted this touch.
  2. As to Paulina, the child was at once happy and mute, busy and watchful. Her father frequently lifted her to his knee; she would sit there till she felt or fancied he grew restless; then it was:
  3. 'Papa, put me down; I shall tire you with my weight.'
  4. And the mighty burden slid to the rug, and establishing itself on carpet or stool just at 'papa's' feet, the white work-box and the scarlet-speckled handkerchief came into play. This handkerchief it seems was intended as a keepsake for 'papa', and must be finished before his departure; consequently the demand on the sempstress's industry (she accomplished about a score of stitches in half an hour) was stringent.
  5. The evening, by restoring Graham to the maternal roof (his days were passed at school), brought us an accession of animation - a quality not diminished by the nature of the scenes pretty sure to be enacted between him and Miss Paulina.
  6. A distant and haughty demeanour had been the result of the indignity put upon her the first evening of his arrival: her usual answer, when he addressed her, was:
  7. 'I can't attend to you; I have other things to think about.' Being implored to state what things: 'Business.'
  8. Graham would endeavour to seduce her attention by opening his desk and displaying its multifarious contents: seals, bright sticks of wax, pen-knives, with a miscellany of engravings - some of them gaily coloured - which he had amassed from time to time. Nor was this powerful temptation wholly unavailing: her eyes, furtively raised from her work, cast many a peep towards the writing-table, rich in scattered pictures. An etching of a child playing with a Blenheim spaniel happened to flutter to the floor.
  9. 'Pretty little dog!' said she, delighted.
  10. Graham prudently took no notice. Ere long, stealing from her corner, she approached to examine the treasure more closely. The dog's great eyes and long ears, and the child's hat and feathers, were irresistible.
  11. 'Nice picture!' was her favourable criticism.
  12. 'Well - you may have it', said Graham.
  13. She seemed to hesitate. The wish to possess was strong, but to accept would be a compromise of dignity. No. She put it down and turned away.
  14. 'You won't have it then, Polly?'
  15. 'I would rather not, thank you.'
  16. 'Shall I tell you what I will do with the picture if you refuse it?'
  17. She half turned to listen.
  18. 'Cut it into strips for lighting the taper.'
  19. 'No!'
  20. 'But I shall.'
  21. 'Please - don't.'
  22. Graham waxed inexorable on hearing the pleading tone; he took the scissors from his mother's work-casket.
  23. 'Here goes!' said he, making a menacing flourish. 'Right through Fido's head, and splitting little Harry's nose.'
  24. 'No! No! NO!'
  25. 'Then come to me. Come quickly, or it is done.'
  26. She hesitated, lingered, but complied.
  27. 'Now, will you have it?' he asked, as she stood before him.
  28. 'Please.'
  29. 'But I shall want payment.'
  30. 'How much?'
  31. 'A kiss.'
  32. 'Give the picture first into my hand.'
  33. Polly, as she said this, looked rather faithless in her turn. Graham gave it. She absconded a debtor, darted to her father, and took refuge on his knee. Graham rose in mimic wrath and followed. She buried her face in Mr. Home's waistcoat.
  34. 'Papa - papa - send him away!'
  35. 'I'll not be sent away', said Graham.
  36. With face still averted, she held out her hand to keep him off.
  37. 'Then, I shall kiss the hand', said he; but that moment it became a miniature fist, and dealt him payment in a small coin that was not kisses.
  38. Graham not failing in his way to be as wily as his little playmate - retreated apparently quite discomfited; he flung himself on a sofa, and resting his head against the cushion, lay like one in pain. Polly, finding him silent, presently peeped at him. His eyes and face were covered with his hands. She turned on her father's knee, and gazed at her foe anxiously and long. Graham groaned.
  39. 'Papa, what is the matter?' she whispered.
  40. 'You had better ask him, Polly.'
  41. 'Is he hurt?' (groan second.)
  42. 'He makes a noise as if he were', said Mr. Home.
  43. 'Mother', suggested Graham, feebly, 'I think you had better send for the doctor. Oh my eye!' (renewed silence broken only by sighs from Graham.)
  44. 'If I were to become blind --?' suggested this last.
  45. His chastiser could not bear the suggestion. She was beside him directly.
  46. 'Let me see your eye: I did not mean to touch it, only your mouth; and I did not think I hit so very hard.'
  47. Silence answered her. Her features worked, 'I am sorry; I am sorry!'
  48. Then succeeded emotion, faltering, weeping.
  49. 'Have done trying that child, Graham', said Mrs. Bretton.
  50. 'It is all nonsense, my pet', cried Mr. Home.
  51. And Graham once more snatched her aloft, and she again punished him; and while she pulled his lion's locks, termed him:
  52. 'The naughtiest, rudest, worst, untruest person that ever was.'

  53. On the morning of Mr. Home's departure, he and his daughter had some conversation in a window-recess by themselves; I heard part of it.
  54. 'Couldn't I pack my box and go with you, papa?' she whispered earnestly.
  55. He shook his head.
  56. 'Should I be a trouble to you?'
  57. 'Yes, Polly.'
  58. 'Because I am little?'
  59. 'Because you are little and tender. It is only great, strong people that should travel. But don't look sad, my little girl; it breaks my heart. Papa will soon come back to his Polly.'
  60. 'Indeed, indeed, I am not sad, scarcely at all.'
  61. 'Polly would be sorry to give papa pain; would she not?'
  62. 'Sorrier than sorry.'
  63. 'Then Polly must be cheerful: not cry at parting; not fret afterwards. She must look forward to meeting again, and try to be happy meanwhile. Can she do this?'
  64. 'She will try.'
  65. 'I see she will. Farewell, then. It is time to go.'
  66. 'Now? - just now?'
  67. 'Just now.'
  68. She held up quivering lips. Her father sobbed, but she, I remarked, did not. Having put her down, he shook hands with the rest present, and departed.
  69. When the street-door closed, she dropped on her knees at a chair with a cry - 'Papa!'
  70. It was low and long; a sort of 'Why hast thou forsaken me?' During an ensuing space of some minutes, I perceived she endured agony. She went through, in that brief interval of her infant life, emotions such as some never feel; it was in her constitution: she would have more of such instants if she lived. Nobody spoke. Mrs. Bretton, being a mother, shed a tear or two. Graham, who was writing, lifted up his eyes and gazed at her. I, Lucy Snowe, was calm.
  71. The little creature, thus left unharassed, did for herself what none other could do - contended with an intolerable feeling; and, ere long, in some degree, repressed it. That day she would accept solace from none; nor the next day: she grew more passive afterwards.
  72. On the third evening, as she sat on the floor, worn and quiet, Graham, coming in, took her up gently, without a word. She did not resist: she rather nestled in his arms, as if weary. When he sat down, she laid her head against him; in a few minutes she slept; he carried her upstairs to bed. I was not surprised that, the next morning, the first thing she demanded was, 'Where is Mr. Graham?'
  73. It happened that Graham was not coming to the breakfast-table; he had some exercises to write for that morning's class, and had requested his mother to send a cup of tea into the study. Polly volunteered to carry it: she must be busy about something, look after somebody. The cup was entrusted to her: for, if restless, she was also careful. As the study was opposite the breakfast-room, the doors facing across the passage, my eye followed her.
  74. 'What are you doing?' she asked, pausing on the threshold.
  75. 'Writing', said Graham.
  76. 'Why don't you come to take breakfast with your mama?'
  77. 'Too busy.'
  78. 'Do you want any breakfast?'
  79. 'Of course.'
  80. 'There then.'
  81. And she deposited the cup on the carpet, like a jailer putting a prisoner's pitcher of water through his cell-door, and retreated. Presently she returned.
  82. 'What will you have besides tea - what to eat?'
  83. 'Anything good. Bring me something particularly nice; that's a kind little woman.'
  84. She came back to Mrs. Bretton.
  85. 'Please, ma'am, send your boy something good.'
  86. 'You shall choose for him, Polly; what shall my boy have?'
  87. She selected a portion of whatever was best on the table, and, ere long, came back with a whispered request for some marmalade, which was not there. Having got it, however (for Mrs. Bretton refused the pair nothing), Graham was, shortly after heard lauding her to the skies, promising that, when he had a house of his own, she should be his housekeeper, and perhaps - if she showed any culinary genius - his cook; and, as she did not return, I went to look after her, I found Graham and her breakfasting tête-à-tête - she standing at his elbow, and sharing his fare: excepting the marmalade, which she delicately refused to touch; lest, I suppose, it should appear that she had procured it as much on her own account as his. She constantly evinced these nice perceptions and delicate instincts.
  88. The league of acquaintanceship thus struck up was not hastily dissolved; on the contrary, it appeared that time and circumstances served rather to cement than loosen it. Ill-assimilated as the two were in age, sex, pursuits, &c., they somehow found a great deal to say to each other. As to Paulina, I observed that her little character never properly came out, except with young Bretton. As she got settled, and accustomed to the house, she proved tractable enough with Mrs. Bretton; but she would sit on a stool at that lady's feet all day long, learning her task, or sewing, or drawing figures with a pencil on a slate, and never kindling once to originality, or showing a single gleam of the peculiarities of her nature. I ceased to watch her under such circumstances: she was not interesting. But the moment Graham's knock sounded of an evening, a change occurred; she was instantly at the head of the staircase. Usually her welcome was a reprimand or a threat.
  89. 'You have not wiped your shoes properly on the mat. I shall tell your mama.'
  90. 'Little busybody! Are you there?'
  91. 'Yes - and you can't reach me: I am higher up than you' (peeping between the rails of the banister; she could not look over them).
  92. 'Polly!'
  93. 'My dear boy!' (such was one of her terms for him, adopted in imitation of his mother.)
  94. 'I am fit to faint with fatigue', declared Graham, leaning against the passage-wall in seeming exhaustion. 'Dr. Digby' (the headmaster) 'has quite knocked me up with over-work. Just come down and help me to carry up my book.'
  95. 'Ah! you're cunning!'
  96. 'Not at all, Polly - it is positive fact. I'm as weak as a rush. Come down.'
  97. 'Your eyes are quiet like the cat's, but you'll spring.'
  98. 'Spring? Nothing of the kind: it isn't in me. Come down.'
  99. 'Perhaps I may - if you'll promise not to touch - not to snatch me up, and not to whirl me round.'
  100. 'I? I couldn't do it!' (sinking into a chair.)
  101. 'Then put the books down on the first step, and go three yards off.'
  102. This being done, she descended warily, and not taking her eyes from the feeble Graham. Of course her approach always galvanised him to new and spasmodic life: the game of romps was sure to be exacted. Sometimes she would be angry; sometimes the matter was allowed to pass smoothly, and we could hear her say as she led him upstairs:
  103. 'Now, my dear boy, come and take your tea - I am sure you must want something.'
  104. It was sufficiently comical to observe her as she sat beside Graham, while he took that meal. In his absence she was a still personage, but with him the most officious, fidgety little body possible. I often wished she would mind her self and be tranquil; but no - herself was forgotten in him: he could not be sufficiently well waited on, nor carefully enough looked after; he was more than the Grand Turk in her estimation. She would gradually assemble the various plates before him, and, when one would suppose all he could possibly desire was within his reach, she would find out something else:
  105. 'Ma'am', she would whisper to Mrs. Bretton, 'perhaps your son would like a little cake - sweet cake, you know - there is some in there' (pointing to the side-board cupboard). Mrs. Bretton, as a rule, disapproved of sweet cake at tea, but still the request was urged, 'One little piece - only for him - as he goes to school: girls - such as me and Miss Snowe - don't need treats, but he would like it.'
  106. Graham did like it very well, and almost always got it. To do him justice, he would have shared his prize with her to whom he owed it; but that was never allowed: to insist, was to ruffle her for the evening. To stand by his knee, and monopolise his talk and notice, was the reward she wanted - not a share of the cake.
  107. With curious readiness did she adapt herself to such themes as interested him. One would have thought the child had no mind or life of her own, but must necessarily live, move, and have her being in another: now that her father was taken from her, she nestled to Graham, and seemed to feel by his feelings, to exist in his existence. She learned the names of all his school-fellows in a trice; she got by heart their characters as given from his lips: a single description of an individual seemed to suffice. She never forgot, or confused identities: she would talk with him the whole evening about people she had never seen, and appear completely to realise their aspect, manners, and dispositions. Some she learned to mimic: an under-master, who was an aversion of young Bretton's, had, it seems, some peculiarities, which she caught up in a moment from Graham's representation, and rehearsed for his amusement; this, however, Mrs. Bretton disapproved and forbade.
  108. The pair seldom quarrelled; yet once a rupture occurred, in which her feelings received a severe shock.
  109. One day Graham, on the occasion of his birthday, had some friends - lads of his own age - to dine with him. Paulina took much interest in the coming of these friends; she had frequently heard of them; they were amongst those of whom Graham oftenest spoke. After dinner, the young gentlemen were left by themselves in the dining-room, where they soon became very merry and made a good deal of noise. Chancing to pass through the hall, I found Paulina sitting alone on the lowest step of the staircase, her eyes fixed on the glossy panels of the dining-room door, where the reflection of the hall-lamp was shining; her little brow knit in anxious meditation.
  110. 'What are you thinking about, Polly?'
  111. 'Nothing particular; only I wish that door was clear glass - that I might see through it. The boys seem very cheerful, and I want to go to them: I want to be with Graham, and watch his friends.'
  112. 'What hinders you from going?'
  113. 'I feel afraid: but may I try, do you think? May I knock at the door, and ask to be let in?' I thought perhaps they might not object to have her as a playmate, and therefore encouraged the attempt.
  114. She knocked - too faintly at first to be heard, but on a second essay the door unclosed; Graham's head appeared; he looked in high spirits but impatient.
  115. 'What do you want, you little monkey?'
  116. 'To come to you.'
  117. 'Do you indeed? As if I would be troubled with you! Away to mama and Mistress Snowe, and tell them to put you to bed.' The auburn head and bright flushed face, vanished; the door shut peremptorily. She was stunned.
  118. 'Why does he speak so? He never spoke so before', she said in consternation. 'What have I done?'
  119. 'Nothing, Polly; but Graham is busy with his school friends.'
  120. 'And he likes them better than me! He turns me away now they are here!'
  121. I had some thoughts of consoling her, and of improving the occasion by inculcating some of those maxims of philosophy whereof I had ever a tolerable stock ready for application. She stopped me, however, by putting her fingers in her ears at the first words I uttered, and then lying down on the mat with her face against the flags; nor could either Warren or the cook root her from that position: she was allowed to lie, therefore, till she chose to rise of her own accord.
  122. Graham forgot his impatience the same evening, and would have accosted her as usual when his friends were gone, but she wrenched herself from his hand; her eye quite flashed; she would not bid him good-night; she would not look in his face. The next day he treated her with indifference, and she grew like a bit of marble. The day after, he teased her to know what was the matter; her lips would not unclose. Of course he could not feel real anger on his side: the match was too unequal in every way; he tried soothing and coaxing. 'Why was she angry? What had he done?' By-and-by tears answered him; he petted her and they were friends. But she was one on whom such incidents were not lost: I remarked that never after this rebuff did she seek him, or follow him, or in any way solicit his notice. I told her once to carry a book or some other article to Graham when he was shut up in his study.
  123. 'I shall wait till he comes out', said she, proudly; 'I don't choose to give him the trouble of rising to open the door.'
  124. Young Bretton had a favourite pony on which he often rode out; from the window she always watched his departure and return. It was her ambition to be permitted to have a ride round the courtyard on this pony; but far be it from her to ask such a favour. One day she descended to the yard to watch him dismount; as she leaned against the gate, the longing wish for the indulgence of a ride glittered in her eye.
  125. 'Come, Polly, will you have a canter?' asked Graham, half carelessly. I suppose she thought he was too careless.
  126. 'No thank you', said she, turning away with the utmost coolness.
  127. 'You'd better'; pursued he. 'You will like it, I am sure.'
  128. 'Don't think I should care a fig about it', was the response.
  129. 'That is not true. You told Lucy Snowe you longed to have a ride.'
  130. 'Lucy Snowe is a tatter-box', I heard her say: (her imperfect articulation was the least precocious thing she had about her), and with this, she walked into the house. Graham coming in soon after, observed to his mother:
  131. 'Mama, I believe that creature is a changeling: she is a perfect cabinet of oddities; but I should be dull without her: she amuses me a great deal more than you or Lucy Snowe.'

  132. 'Miss Snowe', said Paulina to me once (she had now got into the habit of occasionally chatting with me when we were alone in our room at night), 'do you know on what day in the week I like Graham best?'
  133. 'How can I possibly know anything so strange? Is there one day out of the seven when he is otherwise than on the other six?'
  134. 'To be sure! Can't you see? Don't you know? I find him the most excellent on a Sunday; then we have him the whole day, and he is quiet, and, in the evening, so kind.'
  135. This observation was not altogether groundless: going to church, &c., kept Graham quiet on the Sunday, and the evening he generally dedicated to a serene, though rather indolent sort of enjoyment by the parlour fireside. He would take possession of the couch, and then he would call Polly.
  136. Graham was a boy not quite as other boys are; all his delight did not lie in action: he was capable of some intervals of contemplation; he could take a pleasure, too, in reading, nor was his selection of books wholly indiscriminate: there were glimmerings of characteristic preference and even of instinctive taste in the choice. He rarely, it is true, remarked on what he read, but I have seen him sit and think of it.
  137. Polly being near him, kneeling on a little cushion or the carpet, a conversation would begin in murmurs, not inaudible, though subdued. I caught a snatch of their tenor now and then; and, in truth, some influence better and finer than that of every day, seemed to soothe Graham at such times into no ungentle mood.
  138. 'Have you learned any hymns this week, Polly?'
  139. 'I have learned a very pretty one, four verses long. Shall I say it?'
  140. 'Speak nicely, then: don't be in a hurry.'
  141. The hymn being rehearsed, or rather half-chanted, in a little singing voice, Graham would take exceptions at the manner, and proceed to give a lesson in recitation. She was quick in learning, apt in imitating; and, besides, her pleasure was to please Graham: she proved a ready scholar. To the hymn would succeed some reading - perhaps a chapter in the Bible; correction was seldom required here, for the child could read any simple narrative chapter very well; and, when the subject was such as she could understand and take an interest in, her expression and emphasis were something remarkable. Joseph cast into the pit; the calling of Samuel; Daniel in the lion's den; - these were favourite passages: of the first especially she seemed perfectly to feel the pathos.
  142. 'Poor Jacob!' she would sometimes say, with quivering lips. 'How he loved his son Joseph! As much', she once added - 'as much, Graham, as I love you: if you were to die' (and she re-opened the book, sought the verse, and read), 'I should "refuse to be comforted, and go down into the grave to your mourning."'
  143. With these words she gathered Graham in her little arms, drawing his long-tressed head towards her. The action, I remember, struck me as strangely rash; exciting the feeling one might experience on seeing an animal dangerous by nature, and but half-tamed by art, too heedlessly fondled. Not that I feared Graham would hurt, or very roughly check her; but I thought she ran risk of incurring such a careless, impatient repulse, as would be worse almost to her than a blow. On the whole, however, these demonstrations were borne passively: sometimes even a sort of complacent wonder at her earnest partiality would smile not unkindly in his eyes. Once he said:
  144. 'You like me almost as well as if you were my little sister, Polly.'
  145. 'Oh! I do like you', said she; 'I do like you very much.'

  146. I was not long allowed the amusement of this study of character. She had scarcely been at Bretton two months, when a letter came from Mr. Home, signifying that he was now settled amongst his maternal kinsfolk on the Continent, that, as England was become wholly distasteful to him, he had no thoughts of returning thither, perhaps, for years; and that he wished his little girl to join him immediately.
  147. 'I wonder how she will take this news?' said Mrs. Bretton, when she had read the letter. I wondered, too, and I took upon myself to communicate it.
  148. Repairing to the drawing-room - in which calm and decorated apartment she was fond of being alone, and where she could be implicitly trusted, for she fingered nothing, or rather soiled nothing she fingered - I found her seated, like a little Odalisque, on a couch, half shaded by the drooping draperies of the window near. She seemed happy; all her appliances for occupation were about her; the white wood work-box, a shred or two of muslin, an end or two of ribbon, collected for conversion into doll-millinery. The doll, duly night-capped and night-gowned, lay in its cradle; she was rocking it to sleep, with an air of the most perfect faith in its possession of sentient and somnolent faculties; her eyes, at the same time, being engaged with a picture-book, which lay open on her lap.
  149. 'Miss Snowe', said she in a whisper, 'this is a wonderful book. Candace' - the doll, christened by Graham; for, indeed, its begrimed complexion gave it much of an Ethiopian aspect - 'Candace is asleep now, and I may tell you about it; only we must both speak low, lest she should waken. This book was given me by Graham; it tells about distant countries, a long, long way from England, which no traveller can reach without sailing thousands of miles over the sea. Wild men live in these countries, Miss Snowe, who wear clothes different from ours: indeed, some of them wear scarcely any clothes, for the sake of being cool, you know; for they have very hot weather. Here is a picture of thousands gathered in a desolate place - a plain, spread with sand - round a man in black, a good, good Englishman, a missionary, who is preaching to them under a palm-tree.' (She showed a little coloured cut to that effect.) 'And. here are pictures' (she went on) 'more stranger' (grammar was occasionally forgotten) 'than that. There is the wonderful Great Wall of China; here is a Chinese lady, with a foot littler than mine. There is a wild horse of Tartary; and here - most strange of all - is a land of ice and snow, without green fields, woods, or gardens. In this land, they found some mammoth bones: there are no mammoths now. You don't know what it was; but I can tell you, because Graham told me. A mighty, goblin creature, as high as this room, and as long as the hall; but not a fierce, flesh-eating thing, Graham thinks. He believes, if I met one in a forest, it would not kill me, unless I came quite in its way; when it would trample me down amongst the bushes, as I might tread on a grasshopper in a hay-field without knowing it.'
  150. Thus she rambled on.
  151. 'Polly', I interrupted, 'should you like to travel?'
  152. 'Not just yet', was the prudent answer; 'but perhaps in twenty years, when I am grown a woman, as tall as Mrs. Bretton, I may travel with Graham. We intend going to Switzerland, and climbing Mount Blanck; and some day we shall sail over to South America, and walk to the top of Kim - kim - borazo.'
  153. 'But how would you like to travel now, if your papa was with you?'
  154. Her reply - not given till after a pause - evinced one of those unexpected turns of temper peculiar to her:
  155. 'Where is the good of talking in that silly way?' said she. 'Why do you mention papa? What is papa to you? I was just beginning to be happy, and not think about him so much; and there it will be all to do over again!'
  156. Her lip trembled. I hastened to disclose the fact of a letter having been received, and to mention the directions given that she and Harriet should immediately rejoin this dear papa. 'Now, Polly, are you not glad?' I added.
  157. She made no answer. She dropped her book, and ceased to rock her doll; she gazed at me with gravity and earnestness.
  158. 'Shall you not like to go to papa?'
  159. 'Of course', she said at last in that trenchant manner she usually employed in speaking to me; and which was quite different from that she used with Mrs. Bretton, and different again from the one dedicated to Graham. I wished to ascertain more of what she thought; but no: she would converse no more. Hastening to Mrs. Bretton, she questioned her, and received the confirmation of my news. The weight and importance of these tidings kept her perfectly serious the whole day. In the evening, at the moment Graham's entrance was heard below, I found her at my side. She began to arrange a locket-ribbon about my neck, she displaced and replaced the comb in my hair; while thus busied, Graham entered.
  160. 'Tell him by-and-by', she whispered; 'tell him I am going.'
  161. In the course of tea-time I made the desired communication. Graham, it chanced, was at that time greatly preoccupied about some school-prize, for which he was competing. The news had to be told twice before it took proper hold of his attention; and even then he dwelt on it but momently.
  162. 'Polly going? What a pity! Dear little Mousie, I shall be sorry to lose her: she must come to us again, mama.'
  163. And hastily swallowing his tea, he took a candle and a small table to himself and his books, and was soon buried in study.
  164. 'Little Mousie' crept to his side, and lay down on the carpet at his feet, her face to the floor; mute and motionless she kept that post and position till bed-time. Once I saw Graham - wholly unconscious of her proximity - push her with his restless foot, She receded an inch or two. A minute after one little hand stole out from beneath her face, to which it had been pressed, and softly caressed the heedless foot. When summoned by her nurse she rose and departed very obediently, having bid us all a subdued good-night.
  165. I will not say that I dreaded going to bed, an hour later; yet I certainly went with an unquiet anticipation that I should find that child in no peaceful sleep. The forewarning of my instinct was but fulfilled, when I discovered her, all cold and vigilant, perched like a white bird on the outside of the bed. I scarcely knew how to accost her; she was not to be managed like another child. She, however, accosted me. As I closed the door, and put the light on the dressing-table, she turned to me with these words:
  166. 'I cannot, cannot sleep; and in this way I cannot, cannot live!'
  167. I asked what ailed her.
  168. 'Dedful miz-er-y!' said she, with her piteous lisp.
  169. 'Shall I call Mrs. Bretton?'
  170. 'That is downright silly', was her impatient reply; and, indeed, I well knew that if she had heard Mrs. Bretton's foot approach, she would have nestled quiet as a mouse under the bedclothes. While lavishing her eccentricities regardlessly before me - for whom she professed scarcely the semblance of affection - she never showed my godmother one glimpse of her inner self: for her, she was nothing but a docile, somewhat quaint little maiden. I examined her; her cheek was crimson; her dilated eye was both troubled and glowing, and painfully restless: in this state it was obvious she must not be left till morning. I guessed how the case stood.
  171. 'Would you like to bid Graham good-night again?' I asked. 'He is not gone to his room yet.'
  172. She at once stretched out her little arms to be lifted. Folding a shawl round her, I carried her back to the drawing-room. Graham was just coming out.
  173. 'She cannot sleep without seeing and speaking to you once more', I said. 'She does not like the thought of leaving you.'
  174. 'I've spoilt her', said he, taking her from me with good humour; and kissing her little hot face and burning lips. 'Polly, you care for me more than for papa, now.'
  175. 'I do care for you, but you care nothing for me', was her whisper.
  176. She was assured to the contrary, again kissed, restored to me, and I carried her away; but, alas! not soothed.
  177. When I thought she could listen to me I said:
  178. 'Paulina, you should not grieve that Graham does not care for you so much as you care for him. It must be so.'
  179. Her lifted and questioning eyes asked why.
  180. 'Because he is a boy and you are a girl; he is sixteen and you are only six; his nature is strong and gay, and yours is otherwise.'
  181. 'But I love him so much; he should love me a little.'
  182. 'He does. He is fond of you. You are his favourite.'
  183. 'Am I Graham's favourite?'
  184. 'Yes, more than any little child I know.'
  185. The assurance soothed her; she smiled in her anguish.
  186. 'But', I continued, 'don't fret, and don't expect too much of him, or else he will feel you to be troublesome, and then it is all over.'
  187. 'All over!' she echoed softly, 'then I'll be good. I'll try to be good, Lucy Snowe.'
  188. I put her to bed.
  189. 'Will he forgive me this one time?' she asked as I undressed myself. I assured her that he would; that as yet he was by no means alienated; that she had only to be careful for the future.
  190. 'There is no future', said she: 'I am going. Shall I ever, ever, see him again, after I leave England?'
  191. I returned an encouraging response. The candle being extinguished, a still half-hour elapsed. I thought her asleep, when the little white shape once more lifted itself in the crib, and the small voice asked, 'Do you like Graham, Miss Snowe?'
  192. 'Like him! Yes, a little.'
  193. 'Only a little! Do you like him as I do?'
  194. 'I think not. No. Not as you do.'
  195. 'Do you like him much?'
  196. 'I told you I liked him a little. Where is the use of caring for him so very much? He is full of faults.'
  197. 'Is he?'
  198. 'All boys are.'
  199. 'More than girls?'
  200. 'Very likely. Wise people say it is folly to think anybody perfect; and as to likes and dislikes, we should be friendly to all, and worship none.'
  201. 'Are you a wise person?'
  202. 'I mean to try to be so. Go to sleep.'
  203. 'I cannot go to sleep. Have you no pain just here' (laying her elfish hand on her elfish breast), 'when you think you shall have to leave Graham; for your home is not here?'
  204. 'Surely, Polly', said I, 'you should not feel so much pain when you are very soon going to rejoin your father. Have you forgotten him? Do you no longer wish to be his little companion?'
  205. Dead silence succeeded this question.
  206. 'Child, lie down and sleep', I urged.
  207. 'My bed is cold', said she. 'I can't warm it.'
  208. I saw the little thing shiver. 'Come to me', I said, wishing, yet scarcely hoping, that she would comply: for she was a most strange, capricious, little creature, and especially whimsical with me. She came, however, instantly, like a small ghost gliding over the carpet. I took her in. She was chill; I warmed her in my arms. She trembled nervously; I soothed her. Thus tranquilised and cherished she at last slumbered.
  209. 'A very unique child', thought I, as I viewed her sleeping countenance by the fitful moonlight, and cautiously and softly wiped her glittering eyelids and her wet cheeks with my handkerchief. 'How will she get through this world, or battle with this life? How will she bear the shocks and repulses, the humiliations and desolations, which books, and my own reason tell me are prepared for all flesh?'
  210. She departed the next day; trembling like a leaf when she took leave, but exercising self-command.



  1. On quitting Bretton, which I did a few weeks after Paulina's departure - little thinking then I was never again to visit it: never more to tread its calm old streets - I betook myself home, having been absent six months. It will be conjectured that I was of course glad to return to the bosom of my kindred. Well! the amiable conjecture does no harm, and may therefore be safely left uncontradicted. Far from saying nay, indeed, I will permit the reader to picture me, for the next eight years, as a bark slumbering through halcyon weather, in a harbour still as glass - the steersman stretched on the little deck, his face up to heaven, his eyes closed: buried, if you will, in a long prayer. A great many women and girls are supposed to pass their lives something in that fashion; why not I with the rest?
  2. Picture me then idle, basking, plump, and happy, stretched on a cushioned deck, warmed with constant sunshine, rocked by breezes indolently soft. However, it cannot be concealed that, in that case, I must somehow have fallen over-board, or that there must have been wreck at last. I too well remember a time - a long time, of cold, of danger, of contention. To this hour, when I have the nightmare, it repeats the rush and saltness of briny waves in my throat, and their icy pressure on my lungs. I even know there was a storm, and that not of one hour nor one day. For many days and nights neither sun nor stars appeared; we cast with our own hands the tackling out of the ship; a heavy tempest lay on us; all hope that we should be saved was taken away. In fine, the ship was lost, the crew perished.
  3. As far as I recollect, I complained to no one about these troubles. Indeed, to whom could I complain? Of Mrs. Bretton I had long lost sight. Impediments, raised by others, had, years ago, come in the way of our intercourse, and cut it off. Besides, time had brought changes for her too: the handsome property of which she was left guardian for her son, and which had been chiefly invested in some joint-stock undertaking, had melted, it was said, to a fraction of its original amount. Graham, I learned from incidental rumours, had adopted a profession; both he and his mother were gone from Bretton, and were understood to be now in London. Thus, there remained no possibility of dependence on others; to myself alone could I look. I know not that I was of a self-reliant or active nature; but self-reliance and exertion were forced upon me by circumstances, as they are upon thousands besides; and when Miss Marchmont, a maiden lady of our neighbourhood, sent for me, I obeyed her behest, in the hope that she might assign me some task I could undertake.
  4. Miss Marchmont was a woman of fortune, and lived in a handsome residence; but she was a rheumatic cripple, impotent, foot and hand, and had been so for twenty years. She always sat upstairs: her drawing-room adjoined her bedroom. I had often heard of Miss Marchmont, and of her peculiarities (she had the character of being very eccentric), but till now had never seen her. I found her a furrowed, grey-haired woman, grave with solitude, stern with long affliction, irritable also, and perhaps exacting. It seemed that a maid, or rather companion, who had waited on her for some years, was about to be married; and she, hearing of my bereaved lot, had sent for me, with the idea that I might supply this person's place. She made the proposal to me after tea, as she and I sat alone by her fireside.
  5. 'It will not be an easy life', said she candidly, 'for I require a good deal of attention, and you will be much confined; yet, perhaps, contrasted with the existence you have lately led, it may appear tolerable.'
  6. I reflected. Of course it ought to appear tolerable, I argued inwardly; but somehow, by some strange fatality, it would not. To live here, in this close room, the watcher of suffering, sometimes, perhaps, the butt of temper, through all that was to come of my youth; while all that was gone had passed, to say the least, not blissfully - my heart sunk one moment, then it revived; for though I forced myself to realise evils, I think I was too prosaic to idealise, and consequently to exaggerate them.
  7. 'My doubt is whether I should have strength for the undertaking', I observed.
  8. 'That is my own scruple', said she; 'for you look a worn-out creature.'
  9. So I did. I saw myself in the glass, in my mourning-dress, a faded, hollow-eyed vision. Yet I thought little of the wan spectacle. The blight, I believed, was chiefly external: I still felt life at life's sources.
  10. 'What else have you in view - anything?'
  11. 'Nothing clear as yet: but I may find something.'
  12. 'So you imagine: perhaps you are right. Try your own method, then; and if it does not succeed, test mine. The chance I have offered shall be left open to you for three months.'
  13. This was kind. I told her so, and expressed my gratitude. While I was speaking, a paroxysm of pain came on. I ministered to her; made the necessary applications, according to her directions, and, by the time she was relieved, a sort of intimacy was already formed between us. I, for my part, had learned from the manner in which she bore this attack, that she was a firm, patient woman (patient under physical pain, though sometimes perhaps excitable under long mental canker); and she, from the good-will with which I succoured her, discovered that she could influence my sympathies (such as they were). She sent for me the next day; for five or six successive days she claimed my company. Closer acquaintance, while it developed both faults and eccentricities, opened, at the same time, a view of a character I could respect. Stern and even morose as she sometimes was, I could wait on her and sit beside her with that calm which always blesses us when we are sensible that our manners, presence, contact, please and soothe the persons we serve. Even when she scolded me - which she did, now and then, very tartly - it was in such a way as did not humiliate, and left no sting; it was rather like an irascible mother rating her daughter, than a harsh mistress lecturing a dependent: lecture, indeed, she could not, though she could occasionally storm. Moreover, a vein of reason ever ran through her passion: she was logical even when fierce. Ere long a growing sense of attachment began to present the thought of staying with her as companion in quite a new light; in another week I had agreed to remain.
  14. Two hot, close rooms thus became my world; and a crippled old woman, my mistress, my friend, my all. Her service was my duty - her pain, my suffering - her relief, my hope - her anger, my punishment - her regard, my reward. I forgot that there were fields, woods, rivers, seas, an ever-changing sky outside the steam-dimmed lattice of this sick-chamber; I was almost content to forget it. All within me became narrowed to my lot. Tame and still by habit, disciplined by destiny, I demanded no walks in the fresh air; my appetite needed no more than the tiny messes served for the invalid. In addition she gave me the originality of her character to study: the steadiness of her virtues, I will add, the power of her passions, to admire, the truth of her feelings to trust. All these things she had, and for these things I clung to her.
  15. For these things I would have crawled on with her for twenty years, if for twenty years longer her life of endurance had been protracted. But another decree was written. It seemed I must be stimulated into action. I must be goaded, driven, stung, forced to energy. My little morsel of human affection, which I prized as if It were a solid pearl, must melt in my fingers and slip thence like a dissolving hailstone. My small adopted duty must be snatched from my easily contented conscience. I had wanted to compromise with Fate: to escape occasional great agonies by submitting to a whole life of privation and small pains. Fate would not so be pacified; nor would Providence sanction this shrinking sloth and cowardly indolence.
  16. One February night - I remember it well - there came a voice near Miss Marchmont's house, heard by every inmate, but translated, perhaps, only by one. After a calm winter, storms were ushering in the spring. I had put Miss Marchmont to bed; I sat at the fireside sewing. The wind was wailing at the windows: it had wailed all day; but, as night deepened, it took a new tone an accent keen, piercing, almost articulate to the ear; a plaint, piteous and disconsolate to the nerves, trilled in every gust.
  17. 'Oh, hush! hush!' I said in my disturbed mind, dropping my work, and making a vain effort to stop my ears against that subtle, searching cry. I had heard that very voice ere this, and compulsory observation had forced on me a theory as to what it boded. Three times in the course of my life, events had taught me that these strange accents in the storm - this restless, hopeless cry - denote a coming state of the atmosphere unpropitious to life. Epidemic diseases, I believed, were often heralded by a gasping, sobbing, tormented, long-lamenting east wind. Hence, I inferred, arose the legend of the Banshee. I fancied, too, I had noticed - but was not philosopher enough to know whether there was any connection between the circumstances - that we often at the same time hear of disturbed volcanic action in distant parts of the world; of rivers suddenly rushing above their banks; and of strange high tides flowing furiously in on low seacoasts. 'Our globe', I had said to myself, 'seems at such periods torn and disordered; the feeble amongst us wither in her distempered breath, rushing hot from steaming volcanoes.'
  18. I listened, and trembled; Miss Marchmont slept.
  19. About midnight, the storm in one half hour fell to a dead calm. The fire, which had been burning dead, glowed up vividly. I felt the air change, and become keen. Raising blind and curtain, I looked out, and saw in the stars the keen sparkle of a sharp frost.
  20. Turning away, the object that met my eyes was Miss Marchmont awake, lifting her head from the pillow, and regarding me with unusual earnestness.
  21. 'Is it a fine night?' she asked.
  22. I replied in the affirmative.
  23. 'I thought so', she said; 'for I feel so strong, so well. Raise me. I feel young to-night', she continued; 'young, light-hearted, and happy. What if my complaint be about to take a turn, and I am yet destined to enjoy health? It would be a miracle!'
  24. 'And these are not the days of miracles', I thought to myself, and wondered to hear her talk so. She went on directing her conversation to the past, and seeming to recall its incidents, scenes, and personages with singular vividness.
  25. 'I love Memory to-night', she said: 'I prize her as my best friend. She is just now giving me a deep delight; she is bringing back to my heart, in warm and beautiful life, realities - not mere empty ideas - but what were once realities, and that I long, have thought decayed, dissolved, mixed in with grave-mould. I possess just now the hours, the thoughts, the hopes of my youth. I renew the love of my life - its only love - almost its only affection; for I am not a particularly good woman: I am not amiable. Yet I have had my feelings, strong and concentrated; and these feelings had their object; which, in its single self, was dear to me, as, to the majority of men and women, are all the unnumbered points on which they dissipate their regard. While I loved, and while I was loved, what an existence I enjoyed! What a glorious year I can recall - how bright it comes back to me! What a living spring - what a warm, glad summer - what soft moonlight, silvering the autumn evenings - what strength of hope under the ice-bound waters and frost-hoar fields of that year's winter! Through that year my heart lived with Frank's heart. O my noble Frank - my faithful Frank - my good Frank! so much better than myself - his standard in all things so much higher! This I can now see and say - if few women have suffered as I did in his loss, few have enjoyed what I did in his love. It was a far better kind of love than common; I had no doubts about it or him: it was such a love as honoured, protected, and elevated, no less than it gladdened her to whom it was given. Let me now ask, just at this moment, when my mind is so strangely clear, let me reflect why it was taken from me? For what crime was I condemned, after twelve months of bliss, to undergo thirty years of sorrow?'
  26. 'I do not know', she continued, after a pause: 'I cannot, cannot see the reason; yet at this hour I can say with sincerity, what I never tried to say before - Inscrutable God, Thy will be done! And at this moment I can believe that death will restore me to Frank. I never believed it till now.'
  27. 'He is dead, then?' I inquired in a low voice.
  28. 'My dear girl', she said, 'one happy Christmas Eve I dressed and decorated myself, expecting my lover, very soon to be my husband, would come that night to visit me. I sat down to wait. Once more I see that moment - I see the snow-twilight stealing through the window over which the curtain was not dropped, for I designed to watch him ride up the white walk; I see and feel the soft firelight warming me, playing on my silk dress, and fitfully showing me my own young figure in a glass. I see the moon of a calm winter night float full, clear and cold, over the inky mass of shrubbery, and the silvered turf of my grounds. I wait, with some impatience in my pulse, but no doubt in my breast. The flames had died in the fire, but it was a bright mass yet; the moon was mounting high, but she was still visible from the lattice; the clock neared ten; he rarely tarried later than this, but once or twice he had been delayed so long.
  29. 'Would he for once fail me? No - not even for once; and now he was coming and coming fast - to atone for lost time. 'Frank! you furious rider,' I said inwardly, listening gladly, yet anxiously, to his approaching gallop, 'you shall be rebuked for this: I will tell you it is my neck you are putting in peril; for whatever is yours is, in a dearer and tenderer sense, mine.' There he was: I saw him; but I think tears were in, my eyes; my sight was so confused. I saw the horse; I heard it stamp - I saw at least a mass; I heard a clamour. Was it a horse? or what heavy, dragging thing was it, crossing, strangely dark, the lawn? How could I name that thing in the moonlight before me? or how could I utter the feeling which rose in my soul?
  30. 'I could only run out. A great animal - truly, Frank's black horse - stood trembling, panting, snorting before the door; a man held it: Frank, as I thought.
  31. '"What is the matter?" I demanded. Thomas, my own servant, answered by saying sharply, "Go into the house, madam." And then calling to another servant, who came hurrying from the kitchen as if summoned by some instinct, "Ruth, take missis into the house directly." But I was kneeling down in the snow, beside something that lay there - something that I had seen dragged along the ground - something that sighed, that groaned on my breast, as I lifted and drew it to me. He was not dead; he was not quite unconscious. I had him carried in; I refused to be ordered about and thrust from him. I was quite collected enough, not only to be my own mistress, but the mistress of others. They had begun by trying to treat me like a child, as they always do with people struck by God's hand; but I gave place to none except the surgeon; and when he had done what he could, I took my dying Frank to myself. He had strength to fold me in his arms; he had power to speak my name; he heard me as I prayed over him very softly; he felt me as I tenderly and fondly comforted him.
  32. '"Maria," he said, "I am dying in Paradise." He spent his last breath in faithful words for me. When the dawn of Christmas morning broke, my Frank was with God.
  33. 'And that', she went on, 'happened thirty years ago. I have suffered since. I doubt if I have made the best use of all my calamities. Soft, amiable natures they would have refined to saintliness; of strong, evil spirits they would have made demons; as for me, I have only been a woe-struck and selfish woman.'
  34. 'You have done much good', I said; for she was noted for her liberal almsgiving.
  35. 'I have not withheld money, you mean, where it could assuage affliction. What of that? It cost me no effort or pang to give. But I think from this day I am about to enter a better frame of mind, to prepare myself for reunion with Frank. You see I still think of Frank more than of God; and unless it be counted that in thus loving the creature so much, so long, and so exclusively, I have not at least blasphemed the Creator, small is my chance of salvation. What do you think, Lucy, of these things? Be my chaplain and tell me.'
  36. This question I could not answer: I had no words. It seemed as if she thought I had answered it.
  37. 'Very right, my child. We should acknowledge God merciful, but not always for us comprehensible. We should accept our own lot whatever it be, and try to render happy that of others. Should we not? Well, to-morrow I will begin by trying to make you happy. I will endeavour to do something for you, Lucy: something that will benefit you when I am dead. My head aches now with talking too much; still I am happy. Go to bed. The clock strikes two. How late you sit up; or rather how late I, in my selfishness, keep you up. But go now; have no more anxiety for me: I feel I shall rest well.'
  38. She composed herself as if to slumber. I, too, retired to my crib in a closet within her room. The night passed in quietness; quietly her doom must at last have come: peacefully and painlessly: in the morning she was found without life, nearly cold, but all calm and undisturbed. Her previous excitement of spirits and change of mood had been the prelude of a fit; one stroke sufficed to sever the thread of an existence so long fretted by affliction.



  1. My mistress being dead, and I once more alone, I had to look out for a new place. About this time I might be a little - a very little - shaken in nerves. I grant I was not looking well, but, on the contrary, thin, haggard, and hollow-eyed; like a sitter-up at night, like an over-wrought servant, or a placeless person in debt. In debt, however, I was not; nor quite poor; for though Miss Marchmont had not had time to benefit me, as, on that last night, she said she intended, yet, after the funeral, my wages were duly paid by her second cousin, the heir, an avaricious-looking man, with pinched nose and narrow temples, who, indeed, I heard long afterwards, turned out a thorough miser: a direct contrast to his generous kinswoman, and a foil to her memory, blessed to this day by the poor and needy. The possessor, then, of fifteen pounds; of health, though worn, not broken, and of a spirit in similar condition; I might still, in comparison with many people, be regarded as occupying an enviable position. An embarrassing one it was, however, at the same time; as I felt with some acuteness on a certain day, of which the corresponding one in the next week was to see my departure from my present abode, while with another I was not provided.
  2. In this dilemma I went, as a last and sole resource, to see and consult an old servant of our family; once my nurse, now housekeeper at a grand mansion not far from Miss Marchmont. I spent some hours with her; she comforted, but knew not how to advise me. Still all inward darkness, I left her about twilight; a walk of two miles lay before me; it was a clear, frosty night. In spite of my solitude, my poverty, and my perplexity, my heart, nourished and nerved with the vigour of a youth that had not yet counted twenty-three summers, beat light and not feebly. Not feebly, I am sure, or I should have trembled in that lonely walk, which lay through still fields and passed neither village, nor farmhouse, nor cottage: I should have quailed in the absence of moonlight, for it was by the leading of stars only I traced the dim path; I should have quailed still more in the unwonted presence of that which to-night shone in the north, a moving mystery - the Aurora Borealis. But this solemn stranger influenced me otherwise than through my fears. Some new power it seemed to bring. I drew in energy with the keen, low breeze that blew on its path. A bold thought was sent to my mind; my mind was made strong to receive it.
  3. 'Leave this wilderness', it was said to me, 'and go out hence.'
  4. 'Where?' was the query.
  5. I had not very far to look; gazing from this country parish in that flat, rich middle of England - I mentally saw within reach what I had never yet beheld with my bodily eyes; I saw London.
  6. The next day I returned to the hall, and asking once more to see the housekeeper, I communicated to her my plan.
  7. Mrs. Barrett was a grave, judicious woman, though she knew little more of the world than myself; but grave and judicious as she was, she did not charge me with being out of my senses: and, indeed, I had a staid manner of my own which ere now had been as good to me as cloak and hood of hodden grey; since under its favour I had been enabled to achieve with impunity, and even approbation, deeds that, if attempted with an excited and unsettled air, would in some minds have stamped me as a dreamer and zealot.
  8. The housekeeper was slowly propounding some difficulties, while she prepared orange-rind for marmalade, when a child ran past the window and came bounding into the room. It was a pretty child, and as it danced, laughing, up to me - for we were not strangers (nor, indeed, was its mother - a young married daughter of the house - a stranger) - I took it on my knee. Different as were our social positions now, this child's mother and I had been schoolfellows, when I was a girl of ten and she a young lady of sixteen; and I remembered her - good-looking, but dull - in a lower class than mine.
  9. I was admiring the boy's handsome dark eyes, when the mother, young Mrs. Leigh, entered. What a beautiful and kind-looking woman was the good-natured and comely, but unintellectual girl become! Wifehood and maternity had changed her thus, as I have since seen them change others even less promising than she. Me she had forgotten. I was changed too; though not, I fear, for the better. I made no attempt to recall myself to her memory: why should I? She came for her son to accompany her in a walk, and behind her followed a nurse, carrying an infant. I only mention the incident because, in addressing the nurse, Mrs. Leigh spoke French (very bad French, by the way, and with an incorrigibly bad accent, again forcibly reminding me of our schooldays): and I found the woman was a foreigner. The little boy chattered volubly in French too. When the whole party were withdrawn, Mrs. Barrett remarked that her young lady had brought that foreign nurse home with her two years ago, on her return from a Continental excursion; that she was treated almost as well as a governess, and had nothing to do but walk out with the baby and chatter French with Master Charles; 'and', added Mrs. Barrett, 'she says there are many Englishwomen in foreign families as well placed as she.'
  10. I stored up this piece of casual information, as careful housewives store seemingly worthless shreds and fragments for which their prescient minds anticipate a possible use some day. Before I left my old friend, she gave me the address of a respectable old-fashioned inn in the city, which, she said, my uncles used to frequent in former days.
  11. In going to London, I ran less risk and evinced less enterprise than the reader may think. In fact, the distance was only fifty miles. My means would suffice both to take me there, to keep me a few days, and also to bring me back if I found no inducement to stay. I regarded it as a brief holiday, permitted for once to work-weary faculties, rather than as an adventure of life and death. There is nothing like taking all you do at a moderate estimate: it keeps mind and body tranquil; whereas grandiloquent notions are apt to hurry both into fever.
  12. Fifty miles were then a day's journey (for I speak of a time gone by: my hair, which, till a late period, withstood the frosts of time, lies now, at last white, under a white cap, like snow beneath snow). About nine o'clock of a wet February night I reached London.
  13. My reader, I know, is one who would not thank me for an elaborate reproduction of poetic first impressions; and it is well, inasmuch as I had neither time nor mood to cherish such; arriving as I did late, on a dark, raw, and rainy evening, in a Babylon and a wilderness, of which the vastness and the strangeness tried to the utmost any powers of clear thought and steady self-possession with which, in the absence of more brilliant faculties, Nature might have gifted me.
  14. When I left the coach, the strange speech of the cabmen and others waiting round, seemed to me odd as a foreign tongue. I had never before heard the English language chopped up in that way. However, I managed to understand and to be understood, so far as to get myself and trunk safely conveyed to the old inn whereof I had the address. How difficult, how oppressive, how puzzling seemed my flight! In London for the first time; at an inn for the first time; tired with travelling; confused with darkness; palsied with cold; unfurnished with either experience or advice to tell me how to act, and yet - to act obliged.
  15. Into the hands of Common-sense I confided the matter. Common-sense, however, was as chilled and bewildered as all my other faculties, and it was only under the spur of an inexorable, necessity that she spasmodically executed her trust. Thus urged, she paid the porter; considering the crisis, I did not blame her too much that she was hugely cheated; she asked the waiter for a room; she timorously called for the chambermaid; what is far more, she bore, without being wholly overcome, a highly supercilious style of demeanour from that young lady, when she appeared.
  16. I recollect this same chambermaid was a pattern of town prettiness and smartness. So trim her waist, her cap, her dress - I wondered how they had all been manufactured. Her speech had an accent which in its mincing glibness seemed to rebuke mine as by authority; her spruce attire flaunted an easy scorn to my plain country garb.
  17. 'Well, it can't be helped', I thought, 'and then the scene is new, and the circumstances; I shall gain good.'
  18. Maintaining a very quiet manner towards this arrogant little maid, and subsequently observing the same towards the parsonic-looking, black-coated, white-neckclothed waiter, I got civility from them ere long. I believe at first they thought I was a servant; but in a little while they changed their minds, and hovered in a doubtful state between patronage and politeness.
  19. I kept up well till I had partaken of some refreshment, warmed myself by a fire, and was fairly shut into my room; but, as I sat down by the bed and rested my head and arms on the pillow, a terrible oppression overcame me. All at once my position rose on me like a ghost. Anomalous; desolate, almost blank of hope, it stood. What was I doing here alone in great London? What should I do on the morrow? What prospects had I in life? What friends had I on earth? Whence did I come? Whither should I go? What should I do?
  20. I wet the pillow, my arms, and my hair, with rushing tears. A dark interval of most bitter thought followed this burst; but I did not regret the step taken, nor wish to retract it. A strong, vague persuasion that it was better to go forward than backward, and that I could go forward - that a way, however narrow and difficult, would in time open - predominated over other feelings: its influence hushed them so far, that at last I became sufficiently tranquil to be able to say my prayers and seek my couch. I had just extinguished my candle and lain down, when a deep, low, mighty tone swung through the night. At first I knew it not; but it was uttered twelve times, and at the twelfth colossal hum and trembling knell, I said: 'I lie in the shadow of St. Paul's.'



  1. The next day was the first of March, and when I awoke, rose and opened my curtain, I saw the risen sun struggling through fog. Above my head, above the house-tops, co-elevate almost with the clouds, I saw a solemn, orbed mass, dark-blue and dim - THE DOME. While I looked, my inner self moved: my spirit shook its always-fettered wings half loose; I had a sudden feeling as if I, who never yet truly lived, were at last about to taste life: in that morning my soul grew as fast as Jonah's gourd.
  2. 'I did well to come', I said, proceeding to dress with speed and care. 'I like the spirit of this great London which I feel around me. Who but a coward would pass his whole life in hamlets, and for ever abandon his faculties to the eating rust of obscurity?'
  3. Being dressed, I went down; not travel-worn and exhausted, but tidy and refreshed. When the waiter came in with my breakfast, I managed to accost him sedately, yet cheerfully; we had ten minutes discourse, in the course of which we became usefully known to each other.
  4. He was a grey-haired elderly man; and, it seemed, had lived in his present place twenty years. Having ascertained this, I was sure he must remember my two uncles, Charles and Wilmot, who, fifteen years ago, were frequent visitors here. I mentioned their names; he recalled them perfectly and with respect. Having intimated my connection, my position in his eyes was henceforth clear, and on a right footing. He said I was like my uncle Charles: I suppose he spoke truth, because Mrs. Barrett was accustomed to say the same thing. A ready and obliging courtesy now replaced his former uncomfortably doubtful manner: henceforth I need no longer be at a loss for a civil answer to a sensible question.
  5. The street on which my little sitting-room window looked was narrow, perfectly quiet, and not dirty: the few passengers were just such as one sees in provincial towns: here was nothing formidable; I felt sure I might venture out alone.
  6. Having breakfasted, out I went. Elation and pleasure were in my heart: to walk alone in London seemed of itself an adventure. Presently I found myself in Paternoster Row - classic ground this. I entered a bookseller's shop, kept by one Jones; I bought a little book - a piece of extravagance I could ill afford; but I thought I would one day give or send it to Mrs. Barrett. Mr. Jones, a dried-in man of business, stood behind his desk; he seemed one of the greatest, and I one of the happiest, of beings.
  7. Prodigious was the amount of life I lived that morning. Finding myself before St. Paul's, I went in; I mounted to the dome: I saw thence London, with its river, and its bridges, and its churches; I saw antique Westminster, and the green Temple Gardens, with sun upon them, and a glad, blue sky, of early spring above; and, between them and it, not too dense a cloud of haze.
  8. Descending, I went wandering whither chance might lead, in a still ecstasy of freedom and enjoyment; and I got - I know not how - I got into the heart of city life. I saw and felt London at last: I got into the Strand; I went up Cornhill; I mixed with the life passing along; I dared the perils of crossings. To do this, and to do it utterly alone, gave me, perhaps an irrational, but a real pleasure. Since those days I have seen the West-end, the parks, the fine squares, but I love the city far better. The city seems so much more in earnest: its business, its rush, its roar, are such serious things, sights and sounds. The city is getting its living - the West-end but enjoying its pleasure. At the West-end you may be amused, but in the city you are deeply excited.
  9. Faint, at last, and hungry (it was years since I had felt such healthy hunger), I returned, about two o'clock, to my dark, old and quiet inn. I dined on two dishes - a plain joint and vegetables; both seemed excellent: how much better than the small, dainty messes Miss Marchmont's cook used to send up to my kind, dead mistress and me, and to the discussion of which we could not bring half an appetite between us! Delightfully tired, I lay down on three chairs for an hour (the room did not boast a sofa.) I slept, then I woke and thought for two hours.
  10. My state of mind, and all accompanying circumstances, were just now such as most to favour the adoption of a new, resolute and daring - perhaps desperate - line of action. I had nothing to lose. Unutterable loathing of a desolate existence past, forbade return. If I failed in what I now designed to undertake, who, save myself would suffer? If I died far away from - home, I was going to say, but I had no home - from England, then, who would weep?
  11. I might suffer; I was inured to suffering: death itself had not, I thought, those terrors for me which it has for the softly reared. I had, ere this, looked on the thought of death with a quiet eye. Prepared then for any consequences, I formed a project.
  12. That same evening I obtained from my friend, the waiter, information respecting the sailing of vessels for a certain continental port, Boue-Marine. No time, I found, was to be lost: that very night I must take my berth. I might, indeed, have waited till the morning before going on board, but would not run the risk of being too late.
  13. 'Better take your berth at once, ma'am', counselled the waiter. I agreed with him, and having discharged my bill, and acknowledged my friend's services at a rate which I now know was princely, and which in his eyes must have seemed absurd - and indeed, while pocketing the cash, he smiled a faint smile which intimated his opinion of the donor's savoir-faire - he proceeded to call a coach. To the driver he also recommended me, giving at the same time an injunction about taking me, I think, to the wharf and not leaving me to the watermen; which that functionary promised to observe, but failed in keeping his promise. On the contrary, he offered me up as an oblation, served me as a dripping roast, making me alight in the midst of a throng of watermen.
  14. This was an uncomfortable crisis. It was a dark night. The coachman instantly drove off as soon as he had got his fare; the watermen commenced a struggle for me and my trunk. Their oaths I hear at this moment: they shook my philosophy more than did the night, or the isolation, or the strangeness of the scene. One laid hands on my trunk. I looked on and waited quietly; but when another laid hands on me I spoke up, shook off his touch, stepped at once into a boat, desired austerely that the trunk should be placed beside me - 'Just there' - which was instantly done; for the owner of the boat I had chosen became now an ally: I was rowed off.
  15. Black was the river as a torrent of ink: lights glanced on it from the piles of building round, ships rocked on its bosom. They rowed me up to several vessels; I read by lantern-light their names painted in great, white letters on a dark ground. The Ocean, the Phoenix, the Consort, the Dolphin, were passed in turns; but the Vivid was my ship, and it seemed she lay further down.
  16. Down the sable flood we glided; I thought of the Styx, and of Charon rowing some solitary soul to the Land of Shades. Amidst the strange scene, with a chilly wind blowing in my face, and midnight-clouds dropping rain above my head; with two rude rowers for companions, whose insane oaths still tortured my ear, I asked myself if I was wretched or terrified. I was neither. Often in my life have I been far more so under comparatively safe circumstances. 'How is this?' said I. 'Methinks I am animated and alert, instead of being depressed and apprehensive?' I could not tell how it was.
  17. The Vivid started out, white and glaring, from the black night at last. 'Here you are!' said the waterman, and instantly demanded six shillings.
  18. 'You ask too much', I said. He drew off from the vessel and swore he would not embark me till I paid it. A young man, the steward as I found afterwards, was looking over the ship's side; he grinned a smile in anticipation of the coming contest; to disappoint him, I paid the money. Three times that afternoon I had given crowns where I should have given shillings; but I consoled myself with the reflection, 'It is the price of experience.'
  19. 'They've cheated you!' said the steward exultantly when I got on board. I answered phlegmatically that 'I knew it', and went below.
  20. A stout, handsome and showy woman was in the ladies' cabin. I asked to be shown my berth; she looked hard at me, muttered something about it being unusual for passengers to come on board at that hour, and seemed disposed to be less than civil. What a face she had - so comely - so insolent and so selfish!
  21. 'Now that I am on board, I shall certainly stay here', was my answer. 'I will trouble you to show me my berth.'
  22. She complied, but sullenly. I took off my bonnet, arranged my things, and lay down. Some difficulties had been passed through; a sort of victory was won: my homeless, anchorless, unsupported mind had again leisure for a brief repose: till the Vivid arrived in harbour, no further action would be required of me; but then. . . . Oh! I could not look forward. Harassed, exhausted, I lay in a half-trance.
  23. The stewardess talked all night; not to me but to the young steward, her son and her very picture. He passed in and out of the cabin continually: they disputed, they quarrelled, they made it up again twenty times in the course of the night. She professed to be writing a letter home - she said to her father; she read passages of it aloud, heeding me no more than a stock - perhaps she believed me asleep: several of these passages appeared to comprise family secrets, and bore special reference to one 'Charlotte', a younger sister who, from the bearing of the epistle, seemed to be on the brink of perpetrating a romantic and imprudent match; loud was the protest of this elder lady against the distasteful union. The dutiful son laughed his mother's correspondence to scorn. She defended it, and raved at him. They were a strange pair. She might be thirty-nine or forty, and was buxom and blooming as a girl of twenty. Hard, loud, vain and vulgar, her mind and body alike seemed brazen and imperishable. I should think, from her childhood, she must have lived in public stations; and in her youth might very likely have been a bar-maid.
  24. Towards morning her discourse ran on a new theme: 'the Watsons', a certain expected family-party of passengers, known to her, it appeared, and by her much esteemed on account of the handsome profit realised in their fees. She said, 'it was as good as a little fortune to her whenever this family crossed.'
  25. At dawn all were astir, and by sunrise the passengers came on board. Boisterous was the welcome given by the stewardess to the 'Watsons', and great was the bustle made in their honour. They were four in number, two males and two females. Besides them, there was but one other passenger - a young lady, whom a gentlemanly, though languid-looking man escorted. The two groups offered a marked contrast. The Watsons were doubtless rich people, for they had the confidence of conscious wealth in their bearing; the women - youthful both of them, and one perfectly handsome, as far as physical beauty went - were dressed richly, gaily, and absurdly out of character for the circumstances. Their bonnets - with bright flowers - their velvet cloaks and silk dresses seemed better suited for park or promenade than for a damp packet deck. The men were of low stature, plain, fat and vulgar; the oldest, plainest, greasiest, broadest, I soon found was the husband - the bridegroom I suppose, for she was very young - of the beautiful girl. Deep was my amazement at this discovery; and deeper still when I perceived that, instead of being desperately wretched in such a union, she was gay even to giddiness. 'Her laughter', I reflected, 'must be the mere frenzy of despair.' And even while this thought was crossing my mind, as I stood leaning quiet and solitary against the ship's side, she came tripping up to me, an utter stranger, with a camp stool in her hand, and smiling a smile of which the levity puzzled and startled me, though it showed a perfect set of perfect teeth, she offered me the accommodation of this piece of furniture. I declined it of course, with all the courtesy I could put into my manner; she danced off heedless and lightsome. She must have been good-natured; but what had made her marry that individual, who was at least as much like an oil-barrel as a man?
  26. The other lady-passenger, with the gentleman companion, was quite a girl - pretty and fair: her simple print dress, untrimmed straw bonnet and large shawl, gracefully worn, formed a costume plain to quakerism: yet, for her, becoming enough. Before the gentleman quitted her, I observed him throwing a glance of scrutiny over all the passengers, as if to ascertain in what company his charge would be left. With a most dissatisfied air did his eye turn from the ladies with the gay flowers; he looked at me, and then he spoke to his daughter, niece, or whatever she was: she also glanced in my direction, and slightly curled her short, pretty lip. It might be myself or it might be my homely mourning habit, that elicited this mark of contempt; more likely, both. A bell rang; her father (I afterwards knew that it was her father) kissed her, and returned to land. The packet sailed.
  27. Foreigners say that it is only English girls who can thus be trusted to travel alone, and deep is their wonder at the daring confidence of English parents and guardians. As for the 'jeunes Miss', by some their intrepidity is pronounced masculine and 'inconvenant', others regard them as the passive victims of an educational and theological system which wantonly dispenses with proper 'surveillance.' Whether this particular young lady was of the sort that can the most safely be left unwatched, I do not know: or rather did not then know; but it soon appeared that the dignity of solitude was not to her taste. She paced the deck once or twice backwards and forwards; she looked with a little sour air of disdain at the flaunting silks and velvets, and the bears which thereon danced attendance, and eventually she approached me and spoke.
  28. 'Are you fond of a sea voyage?' was her question.
  29. I explained that my fondness for a sea voyage had yet to undergo the test of experience; I had never made one.
  30. 'Oh, how charming!' cried she. 'I quite envy you the novelty: first impressions, you know, are so pleasant. Now I have made so many, I quite forget the first: I am quite blasée about the sea and all that.'
  31. I could not help smiling.
  32. 'Why do you laugh at me?' she inquired, with a frank testiness that pleased me better than her other talk.
  33. 'Because you are so young to be blasée about anything.'
  34. 'I am seventeen' (a little piqued.)
  35. 'You hardly look sixteen. Do you like travelling alone?'
  36. 'Bah! I care nothing about it. I have crossed the Channel ten times, alone; but then I take care never to be long alone; I always make friends.'
  37. 'You will scarcely make many friends this voyage, I think' (glancing at the Watson group, who were now laughing and making a great deal of noise on deck).
  38. 'Not of those odious men and women', said she: 'such people should be steerage passengers. Are you going to school?'
  39. 'No.'
  40. 'Where are you going?'
  41. 'I have not the least idea - beyond, at least, the Port of Boue-Marine.'
  42. She stared, then carelessly ran on:
  43. 'I am going to school. Oh, the number of foreign schools I have been at in my life! And yet I am quite an ignoramus. I know nothing - nothing in the world - I assure you; except that I play and dance beautifully - and French and German of course I know, to speak; but I can't read or write them very well. Do you know they wanted me to translate a page of an easy German book into English the other day, and I couldn't do it. Papa was so mortified: he says it looks as if M. de Bassompierre - my god-papa, who pays all my school-bills - had thrown away all his money. And then, in matters of information - in history, geography, arithmetic, and so on, I am quite a baby; and I write English so badly - such spelling and grammar, they tell me. Into the bargain I have quite forgotten my religion; they call me a Protestant, you know, but really I am not sure whether I am one or not: I don't well know the difference between Romanism and Protestantism. However, I don't the least care for that. I was a Lutheran once at Bonn - dear Bonn! charming Bonn! - where there were so many handsome students. Every nice girl in our school had an admirer; they knew our hours for walking out, and almost always passed us on the promenade: "Schönes Maädchen," we used to hear them say. I was excessively happy at Bonn!'
  44. 'And where are you now?' I inquired.
  45. 'Oh! at - chose', said she.
  46. Now, Miss Ginevra Fanshawe (such was this young person's name) only substituted this word 'chose' in temporary oblivion of the real name. It was a habit she had: 'chose' came in at every turn in her conversation - the convenient substitute for any missing word in any language she might chance at the time to be speaking. French girls often do the like; from them she caught the custom. 'Chose', however, I found in this instance, stood for Villette - the great capital of the great kingdom of Labassecour.
  47. 'Do you like Villette?' I asked.
  48. 'Pretty well. The natives, you know, are intensely stupid and vulgar; but there are some nice English families.'
  49. 'Are you in a school?'
  50. 'Yes.'
  51. 'A good one?'
  52. 'Oh no! horrid: but I go out every Sunday, and care nothing about the maîtresses or the professeurs, or the élèves, and send lessons au diable; (one daren't say that in English, you know, but it sounds quite right in French), and thus I get on charmingly. . . . You are laughing at me again?'
  53. 'No - I am only smiling at my own thoughts.'
  54. 'What are they?' (without waiting for an answer) - 'Now, do tell me where you are going.'
  55. 'Where Fate may lead me. My business is to earn a living where I can find it.'
  56. 'To earn!' (in consternation) 'are you poor, then?'
  57. 'As poor as Job.'
  58. (After a pause) 'Bah! how unpleasant! But I know what it is to be poor: they are poor enough at home - papa and mamma, and all of them. Papa is called Captain Fanshawe; he is an officer on half-pay, but well descended, and some of our connections are great enough; but my uncle and god-papa De Bassompierre, who lives in France, is the only one that helps us: he educates us girls. I have five sisters and three brothers. By-and-by we are to marry - rather elderly gentlemen, I suppose, with cash: papa and mamma manage that. My sister Augusta is married now to a man much older looking than papa. Augusta is very beautiful - not in my style - but dark; her husband, Mr. Davies, had the yellow fever in India, and he is still the colour of a guinea; but then he is rich, and Augusta has her carriage and establishment, and we all think she has done perfectly well. Now, this is better than "earning a living," as you say. By the way, are you clever?'
  59. 'No - not at all.'
  60. 'You can play, sing, speak three or four languages?'
  61. 'By no means.'
  62. 'Still I think you are clever' (a pause and a yawn). 'Shall you be sea-sick?'
  63. 'Shall you?'
  64. 'Oh, immensely! as soon as ever we get in sight of the sea: I begin, indeed, to feel it already. I shall go below; and won't I order about that fat odious stewardess. Heureusement je sais faire aller mon monde.' Down she went.
  65. It was not long before the other passengers followed her: throughout the afternoon I remained on deck alone. When I recall the tranquil, and even happy mood in which I passed those hours, and remember, at the same time, the position in which I was placed: its hazardous - some would have said its hopeless - character; I feel that, as:

    'Stone walls do not a prison make,
    Nor iron bars - a cage',

    so peril, loneliness, an uncertain future, are not oppressive evils, so long as the frame is healthy and the faculties are employed; so long, especially, as Liberty lends us her wings, and Hope guides us by her star.

  66. I was not sick till long after we passed Margate, and deep was the pleasure I drank in with the sea-breeze; divine the delight I drew from the heaving channel-waves, from the sea-birds on their ridges, from the white sails on their dark distance, from the quiet yet beclouded sky, overhanging all. In my reverie, methought I saw the continent of Europe, like a wide dream-land, far away. Sunshine lay on it, making the long coast one line of gold; tiniest tracery of clustered town and snow-gleaming tower, of woods deep-massed, of heights serrated, of smooth pasturage and veiny stream, embossed the metal-bright prospect. For background, spread a sky, solemn and dark-blue, and - grand with imperial promise, soft with tints of enchantment - strode from north to south a God-bent bow, an arch of hope.
  67. Cancel the whole of that, if you please, reader - or rather let it stand, and draw thence a moral - an alliterative, text-hand copy:

    'Day-dreams are delusions of the demon.'

    Becoming excessively sick, I faltered down into the cabin.

  68. Miss Fanshawe's berth chanced to be next mine; and, I am sorry to say, she tormented me with an unsparing selfishness during the whole time of our mutual distress. Nothing could exceed her impatience and fretfulness. The Watsons, who were very sick too, and on whom the stewardess attended with shameless partiality, were stoics compared with her. Many a time since have I noticed, in persons of Ginevra Fanshawe's light, careless temperament, and fair, fragile style of beauty, an entire incapacity to endure: they seem to sour in adversity, like small-beer in thunder: the man who takes such a woman for his wife, ought to be prepared to guarantee her an existence all sunshine. Indignant at last with her teasing peevishness, I curtly requested her 'to hold her tongue.' The rebuff did her good, and it was observable that she liked me no worse for it.
  69. As dark night drew on, the sea roughened: larger waves swayed strong against the vessel's side. It was strange to reflect that blackness and water were round us, and to feel the ship ploughing straight on her pathless way, despite noise, billow and rising gale. Articles of furniture began to fall about, and it became needful to lash them to their places; the passengers grew sicker than ever; Miss Fanshawe declared, with groans, that she must die.
  70. 'Not just yet, honey', said the stewardess. 'We're just in port.' Accordingly, in another quarter of an hour, a calm fell upon us all; and about midnight the voyage ended.
  71. I was sorry: yes, I was sorry. My resting time was past; my difficulties - my stringent difficulties - recommenced. When I went on deck, the cold air and black scowl of the night seemed to rebuke me for my presumption in being where I was: the lights of the foreign sea-port town, glimmering round the foreign harbour, met me like unnumbered threatening eyes. Friends came on board to welcome the Watsons; a whole family of friends surrounded and bore away Miss Fanshawe; I - but I dared not for one moment dwell on a comparison of positions.
  72. Yet where should I go? I must go somewhere. Necessity dare not be nice. As I gave the stewardess her fee - and she seemed surprised at receiving a coin of more value than, from such a quarter, her coarse calculations had probably reckoned on - I said:
  73. 'Be kind enough to direct me to some quiet, respectable inn, where I can go for the night.'
  74. She not only gave me the required direction, but called a commissionaire, and bid him take charge of me, and - not my trunk, for that was gone to the custom-house.
  75. I followed this man along a rudely-paved street, lit now by a fitful gleam of moonlight; he brought me to the inn. I offered him sixpence, which he refused to take; supposing it not enough, I changed it for a shilling; but this also he declined, speaking rather sharply, in a language to me unknown. A waiter, coming forward into the lamp-lit inn-passage, reminded me, in broken English, that my money was foreign money, not current here. I gave him a sovereign to change. This little matter settled, I asked for a bedroom; supper I could not take; I was still sea-sick and unnerved, and trembling all over. How deeply glad I was when the door of a very small chamber at length closed on me and my exhaustion. Again I might rest: though the cloud of doubt would be as thick to-morrow as ever; the necessity for exertion more urgent, the peril (of destitution) nearer, the conflict (for existence) more severe.



  1. I awoke next morning with courage revived and spirits refreshed: physical debility no longer enervated my judgment; my mind felt prompt and clear.
  2. Just as I finished dressing, a tap came to the door; I said, 'Come in', expecting the chambermaid, whereas a rough man walked in and said:
  3. 'Gif me your keys, Meess.'
  4. 'Why?' I asked.
  5. 'Gif!' said he impatiently; and as he half-snatched them from my hand, he added, 'All right! haf your tronc soon.'
  6. Fortunately it did turn out all right: he was from the custom-house. Where to go to get some breakfast I could not tell; but I proceeded, not without hesitation, to descend.
  7. I now observed, what I had not noticed in my extreme weariness last night, viz., that this inn was, in fact, a large hotel; and as I slowly descended the broad staircase, halting on each step (for I was in wonderfully little haste to get down), I gazed at the high ceiling above me, at the painted walls around, at the wide windows which filled the house with light, at the veined marble I trod (for the steps were all of marble, though uncarpeted and not very clean), and contrasting all this with the dimensions of the closet assigned to me as a chamber, with the extreme modesty of its appointments, I fell into a philosophising mood.
  8. Much I marvelled at the sagacity evinced by waiters and chambermaids in proportioning the accommodation to the guest. How could inn-servants and ship-stewardesses everywhere tell at a glance that, I for instance, was an individual of no social significance and little burdened by cash? They did know it evidently: I saw quite well that they all, in a moment's calculation, estimated me at about the same fractional value. The fact seemed to me curious and pregnant; I would not disguise from myself what it indicated, yet managed to keep up my spirits pretty well under its pressure.
  9. Having at last landed in a great hall, full of skylight glare, I made my way somehow to what proved to be the coffee-room. It cannot be denied that on entering this room I trembled somewhat; felt uncertain, solitary, wretched; wished to Heaven I knew whether I was doing right or wrong; felt convinced it was the last, but could not help myself. Acting in the spirit and with the calm of a fatalist, I sat down at a small table, to which a waiter presently brought me some breakfast; and I partook of that meal in a frame of mind not greatly calculated to favour digestion. There were many other people breakfasting at other tables in the room; I should have felt rather more happy if amongst them all I could have seen any women; however, there was not one - all present were men. But nobody seemed to think I was doing anything strange; one or two gentlemen glanced at me occasionally, but none stared obtrusively; I suppose if there was anything eccentric in the business, they accounted for it by this word 'Anglaise!'
  10. Breakfast over, I must again move - in what direction? 'Go to Villette', said an inward voice; prompted doubtless by the recollection of this slight sentence uttered carelessly and at random by Miss Fanshawe, as she bid me goodbye:
  11. 'I wish you would come to Madame Beck's; she has some marmots whom you might look after: she wants an English gouvernante, or was wanting one two months ago.'
  12. Who Madame Beck was, where she lived, I knew not; I had asked, but the question passed unheard: Miss Fanshawe, hurried away by her friends, left it unanswered. I presumed Villette to be her residence - to Villette I would go. The distance was forty miles. I knew I was catching at straws; but in the wide and weltering deep where I found myself I would have caught at cobwebs. Having inquired about the means of travelling to Villette, and secured a seat in the diligence, I departed on the strength of this outline - this shadow of a project. Before you pronounce on the rashness of the proceeding, reader, look back to the point whence I started; consider the desert I had left, note how little I perilled: mine was the game where the player cannot lose and may win.
  13. Of an artistic temperament, I deny that I am; yet I must possess something of the artist's faculty of making the most of present pleasure: that is to say, when it is of the kind to my taste; I enjoyed that day, though we travelled slowly, though it was cold, though it rained. Somewhat bare, flat, and treeless was the route along which our journey lay; and slimy canals crept, like half-torpid green snakes, beside the road; and formal pollard willows edged level fields, tilled like kitchen-garden beds. The sky too was monotonously grey; the atmosphere was stagnant and humid; yet amidst all these deadening influences, my fancy budded fresh and my heart basked in sunshine. These feelings, however, were well kept in check by the secret but ceaseless consciousness of anxiety lying in wait on enjoyment, like a tiger crouched in a jungle. The breathing of that beast of prey was in my ear always; his fierce heart panted close against mine; he never stirred in his lair but I felt him: I knew he waited only for sundown to bound ravenous from his ambush.
  14. I had hoped we might reach Villette ere night set in, and that thus I might escape the deeper embarrassment which obscurity seems to throw round a first arrival at an unknown bourne; but, what with our slow progress and long stoppages - what with a thick fog and small, dense rain - darkness, that might almost be felt, had settled on the city by the time we gained its suburbs.
  15. I know we passed through a gate where soldiers were stationed - so much I could see by lamplight; then, having left behind us the miry Chaussée, we rattled over a pavement of strangely rough and flinty surface. At a bureau, the diligence stopped, and the passengers alighted. My first business was to get my trunk: a small matter enough, but important to me. Understanding that it was best not to be importunate or over eager about luggage, but to wait and watch quietly the delivery of other boxes till I saw my own, and then promptly claim and secure it, I stood apart; my eye fixed on that part of the vehicle in which I had seen my little portmanteau safely stowed, and upon which piles of additional bags and boxes were now heaped. One by one, I saw these removed, lowered and seized on. I was sure mine ought to be by this time visible: it was not. I had tied on the direction card with a piece of green ribbon that I might know it at a glance; not a fringe or fragment of green was perceptible. Every package was removed; every tin case and brown paper parcel; the oilcloth cover was lifted; I saw with distinct vision that not an umbrella, cloak, cane, hat-box or band-box remained.
  16. And my portmanteau, with my few clothes and little pocket-book enclasping the remnant of my fifteen pounds, where were they?
  17. I ask this question now, but I could not ask it then. I could say nothing whatever; not possessing a phrase of speaking French: and it was French, and French only, the whole world seemed now gabbling around me. What should I do? Approaching the conductor, I just laid my hand on his arm, pointed to a trunk, thence to the diligence roof and tried to express a question with my eyes. He misunderstood me, seized the trunk indicated, and was about to hoist it on the vehicle.
  18. 'Let that alone - will you?' said a voice in good English; then, in correction, 'Qu'est ce que vous faites donc? Cette malle est à moi.'
  19. But I had heard the fatherland accents; they rejoiced my heart; I turned:
  20. 'Sir', said I, appealing to the stranger, without, in my distress, noticing what he was like, 'I cannot speak French. May I entreat you to ask this man what he has done with my trunk?'
  21. Without discriminating for the moment what sort of face it was to which my eyes were raised and on which they were fixed, I felt in its expression half-surprise at my appeal and half-doubt of the wisdom of interference.
  22. 'Do ask him; I would do as much for you', said I.
  23. I don't know whether he smiled, but he said in a gentlemanly tone; that is to say, a tone not hard nor terrifying:
  24. 'What sort of trunk was yours?'
  25. I described it, including in my description the green ribbon. And forthwith he took the conductor under hand, and I felt, through all the storm of French which followed, that he raked him fore and aft. Presently he returned to me.
  26. 'The fellow avers he was overloaded, and confesses that he removed your trunk after you saw it put on, and has left it behind at Boue-Marine with other parcels; he has promised, however, to forward it to-morrow; the day after, therefore, you will find it safe at this bureau.'
  27. 'Thank you', said I: but my heart sank.
  28. Meantime what should I do? Perhaps this English gentleman saw the failure of courage in my face; he inquired kindly:
  29. 'Have you any friends in this city?'
  30. 'No, and I don't know where to go.'
  31. There was a little pause, in the course of which, as he turned more fully to the light of a lamp above him, I saw that he was a young, distinguished and handsome man; he might be a lord for anything I knew; nature had made him good enough for a prince, I thought. His face was very pleasant; he looked high but not arrogant, manly but not overbearing. I was turning away, in the deep consciousness of all absence of claim to look for further help from such a one as he.
  32. 'Was all your money in your trunk?' he asked, stopping me.
  33. How thankful was I to be able to answer with truth:
  34. 'No. I have enough in my purse' (for I had near twenty francs) 'to keep me at a quiet inn till the day after to-morrow; but I am quite a stranger in Villette, and don't know the streets and the inns.'
  35. 'I can give you the address of such an inn as you want', said he; 'and it is not far off; with my direction you will easily find it.'
  36. He tore a leaf from his pocket-book, wrote a few words and gave it to me. I did think him kind; and as to distrusting him, or his advice, or his address, I should almost as soon have thought of distrusting the Bible. There was goodness in his countenance, and honour in his bright eyes.
  37. 'Your shortest way will be to follow the Boulevard and cross the park', he continued; 'but it is too late and too dark for a woman to go through the park alone; I will step with you thus far.'
  38. He moved on, and I followed him, through the darkness and the small soaking rain. The Boulevard was all deserted, its path miry, the water dripping from its trees; the park was black as midnight. In the double gloom of trees and fog, I could not see my guide; I could only follow his tread. Not the least fear had I. I believe I would have followed that frank tread, through continual night, to the world's end.
  39. 'Now', said he, when the park was traversed, 'you will go along this broad street till you come to steps; two lamps will show you where they are: these steps you will descend: a narrower street lies below; following that, at the bottom you will find your inn. They speak English there, so your difficulties are now pretty well over. Good-night.'
  40. 'Good-night, sir', said I; 'accept my sincerest thanks.' And we parted.
  41. The remembrance of his countenance, which I am sure wore a light not unbenignant to the friendless - the sound in my ear of his voice, which spoke a nature chivalric to the needy and feeble, as well as the youthful and fair - were a sort of cordial to me long after. He was a true young English gentleman.
  42. On I went, hurrying fast through a magnificent street and square, with the grandest houses round, and amidst them the huge outline of more than one overbearing pile; which might be palace or church - I could not tell. Just as I passed a portico, two moustachioed men came suddenly from behind the pillars; they were smoking cigars, their dress implied pretensions to the rank of gentlemen, but, poor things! they were very plebeian in soul. They spoke with insolence, and, fast as I walked, they kept pace with me a long way. At last I met a sort of patrol, and my dreaded hunters were turned from the pursuit; but they had driven me beyond my reckoning: when I could collect my faculties, I no longer knew where I was; the staircase I must long since have passed; puzzled, out of breath, all my pulses throbbing in inevitable agitation, I knew not where to turn. It was terrible to think of again encountering those bearded, sneering simpletons; yet the ground must be retraced, and the steps sought out.
  43. I came at last to an old and worn flight, and, taking it for granted that this must be the one indicated, I descended them. The street into which they led was indeed narrow, but it contained no inn. On I wandered. In a very quiet and comparatively clean and well paved street, I saw a light burning over the door of a rather large house, loftier by a storey than those round it. This might be the inn at last. I hastened on: my knees now trembled under me: I was getting quite exhausted.
  44. No inn was this. A brass plate embellished the great portecochère: 'Pensionnat de Demoiselles' was the inscription; and beneath, a name, 'Madame Beck.'
  45. I started. About a hundred thoughts volleyed through my mind in a moment. Yet I planned nothing, and considered nothing: I had not time. Providence said, 'Stop here; this is your inn.' Fate took me in her Strong hand; mastered my will; directed my actions: I rang the door bell.
  46. While I waited, I would not reflect. I fixedly looked at the street stones, where the door lamp shone, and counted them and noted their shapes, and the glitter of wet on their angles. I rang again. They opened at last. A bonne in a smart cap stood before me.
  47. 'May I see Madame Beck?' I inquired.
  48. I believe if I had spoken French she would not have admitted me; but, as I spoke English, she concluded I was a foreign teacher come on business connected with the pensionnat, and, even at that late hour, she let me in, without a word of reluctance or a moment of hesitation.
  49. The next moment I sat in a cold, glittering salon, with porcelain stove unlit, and gilded ornaments, and polished floor. A pendule on the mantel-piece struck nine o'clock.
  50. A quarter of an hour passed. How fast beat every pulse in my frame! How I turned cold and hot by turns! I sat with my eyes fixed on the door - a great white folding-door, with gilt mouldings: I watched to see a leaf move and open. All had been quiet: not a mouse had stirred; the white doors were closed and motionless.
  51. 'You ayre Engliss?' said a voice at my elbow. I almost bounded, so unexpected was the sound; so certain had I been of solitude.
  52. No ghost stood beside me, nor anything of spectral aspect; merely a motherly, dumpy little woman, in a large shawl, a wrapping-gown, and a clean, trim night-cap.
  53. I said I was English, and immediately, without further prelude, we fell to a most remarkable conversation. Madame Beck (for Madame Beck it was - she had entered by a little door behind me, and, being shod with the shoes of silence, I had heard neither her entrance nor approach) - Madame Beck had exhausted her command of insular speech when she said 'You ayre Engliss', and she now proceeded to work away volubly in her own tongue. I answered in mine. She partly understood me, but as I did not at all understand her - though we made together an awful clamour (anything like Madame's gift of utterance I had not hitherto heard or imagined) - we achieved little progress. She rang, ere long, for aid; which arrived in the shape of a 'maîtresse', who had been partly educated in an Irish convent, and was esteemed a perfect adept in the English language. A bluff little personage this maîtresse was - Labassecourienne from top to toe: and how she did slaughter the speech of Albion! However, I told her a plain tale, which she translated. I told her how I had left my own country, intent on extending my knowledge, and gaining my bread; how I was ready to turn my hand to any useful thing, provided it was not wrong or degrading; how I would be a child's nurse, or a lady's-maid, and would not refuse even housework adapted to my strength. Madame heard this; and, questioning her countenance, I almost thought the tale won her ear.
  54. 'Il n'y a que les Anglaises pour ces sortes d'entreprises', said she: 'sont-elles donc intrépides ces femmes-là!'
  55. She asked my name, my age; she sat and looked at me - not pityingly, not with interest: never a gleam of sympathy, or a shade of compassion, crossed her countenance during the interview. I felt she was not one to be led an inch by her feelings: grave and considerate, she gazed, consulting her judgment and studying my narrative. A bell rang.
  56. 'Voilà pour la prière du soir!' said she, and rose. Through her interpreter, she desired me to depart now, and come back on the morrow; but this did not suit me: I could not bear to return to the perils of darkness and the street. With energy, yet with a collected and controlled manner, I said, addressing herself personally, and not the maîtresse:
  57. 'Be assured, madame, that by instantly securing my services, your interests will be served and not injured: you will find me one who will wish to give, in her labour, a full equivalent for her wages; and if you hire me, it will be better that I should stay here this night: having no acquaintance in Villette, and not possessing the language of the country, how can I secure a lodging?'
  58. 'It is true', said she; 'but at least you can give a reference?'
  59. 'None.'
  60. She inquired after my luggage: I told her when it would arrive. She mused. At that moment a man's step was heard in the vestibule, hastily proceeding to the outer door. (I shall go on with this part of my tale as if I had understood all that had passed; for though it was then scarce intelligible to me, I heard it translated afterwards.)
  61. 'Who goes out now?' demanded Madame Beck, listening to the tread.
  62. 'M. Paul', replied the teacher. 'He came this evening to give a reading to the first class.'
  63. 'The very man I should at this moment most wish to see. Call him.'
  64. The teacher ran to the salon door. M. Paul was summoned. He entered: a small, dark and spare man, in spectacles.
  65. 'Mon cousin', began Madame, 'I want your opinion. We know your skill in physiognomy; use it now. Read that countenance.'
  66. The little man fixed on me his spectacles. A resolute compression of the lips, and gathering of the brow, seemed to say that he meant to see through me, and that a veil would be no veil for him.
  67. 'I read it', he pronounced.
  68. 'Et qu'en dites-vous?'
  69. 'Mais - bien des choses', was the oracular answer.
  70. 'Bad or good?'
  71. 'Of each kind, without doubt', pursued the diviner.
  72. 'May one trust her word?'
  73. 'Are you negotiating a matter of importance?'
  74. 'She wishes me to engage her as bonne or gouvernante; tells a tale full of integrity, but gives no reference.'
  75. 'She is a stranger?'
  76. 'An Englishwoman, as one may see.'
  77. 'She speaks French?'
  78. 'Not a word.'
  79. 'She understands it?'
  80. 'No.'
  81. 'One may then speak plainly in her presence?'
  82. 'Doubtless.'
  83. He gazed steadily. 'Do you need her services?'
  84. 'I could do with them. You know I am disgusted with Madame Svini.'
  85. Still he scrutinised. The judgment, when it at last came, was as indefinite as what had gone before it.
  86. 'Engage her. If good predominates in that nature, the action will bring its own reward; if evil - eh bien! ma cousine, ce sera toujours une bonne oeuvre.' And with a bow and a 'bon soir', this vague arbiter of my destiny vanished.
  87. And Madame did engage me that very night - by God's blessing I was spared the necessity of passing forth again into the lonesome, dreary, hostile street.



  1. Being delivered into the charge of the maîtresse, I was led through a long narrow passage into a foreign kitchen, very clean but very strange. It seemed to contain no means of cooking - neither fireplace nor oven; I did not understand that the great black furnace which filled one corner, was an efficient substitute for these. Surely pride was not already beginning its whispers in my heart; yet I felt a sense of relief when, instead of being left in the kitchen, as I half anticipated, I was led forward to a small inner room termed a 'cabinet.' A cook in a jacket, a short petticoat and sabots, brought my supper: to wit - some meat, nature unknown, served in an odd and acid, but pleasant sauce, some chopped potatoes, made savoury with, I know not what: vinegar and sugar, I think: a tartine, or slice of bread and butter, and a baked pear. Being hungry, I ate and was grateful.
  2. After the 'Prière du Soir', Madame herself came to have another look at me. She desired me to follow her upstairs. Through a series of the queerest little dormitories - which, I heard afterwards, had once been nuns' cells: for the premises were in part of ancient date - and through the oratory - a long, low, gloomy room, where a crucifix hung, pale, against the wall, and two tapers kept dim vigils - she conducted me to an apartment where three children were asleep in three tiny beds. A heated stove made the air of this room oppressive; and, to mend matters, it was scented with an odour rather strong than delicate: a perfume, indeed, altogether surprising and unexpected under the circumstances, being like the combination of smoke with some spirituous essence - a smell, in short, of whisky.
  3. Beside a table, on which flared the remnant of a candle guttering to waste in the socket, a coarse woman, heterogeneously clad in a broad striped showy silk dress, and a stuff apron, sat in a chair fast asleep. To complete the picture, and leave no doubt as to the state of matters, a bottle and an empty glass stood at the sleeping beauty's elbow.
  4. Madame contemplated this remarkable tableau with great calm; she neither smiled nor scowled: no impress of anger, disgust, or surprise, ruffled the equality of her grave aspect; she did not even wake the woman. Serenely pointing to a fourth bed, she intimated that it was to be mine; then, having extinguished the candle and substituted for it a night-lamp, she glided through an inner door, which she left ajar - the entrance to her own chamber, a large, well furnished apartment; as was discernible through the aperture.
  5. My devotions that night were all thanksgiving. Strangely had I been led since morning - unexpectedly had I been provided for. Scarcely could I believe that not forty-eight hours had elapsed since I left London, under no other guardianship than that which protects the passenger bird - with no prospect but the dubious cloud tracery of hope.
  6. I was a light sleeper; in the dead of night I suddenly awoke. All was hushed but a white figure stood in the room - Madam in her night-dress. Moving without perceptible sound, she visited the three children in the three beds; she approached me: I feigned sleep, and she studied me long. A small pantomime ensued, curious enough. I daresay she sat a quarter of an hour on the edge of my bed, gazing at my face. She then drew nearer, bent close over me, slightly raised my cap, and turned back the border so as to expose my hair; she looked at my hand lying on the bed-clothes. This done, she turned to the chair where my clothes lay: it was at the foot of the bed. Hearing her touch and lift them, I opened my eyes with precaution, for I own I felt curious to see how far her taste for research would lead her. It led her a good way: every article did she inspect. I divined her motive for this proceeding, viz., the wish to form from the garments a judgment respecting the wearer, her station, means, neatness, &c. The end was not bad, but the means were hardly fair or justifiable. In my dress was a pocket; she fairly turned it inside out; she counted the money in my purse; she opened a little memorandum-book, coolly perused its contents, and took from between the leaves a small plaited lock of Miss Marchmont's grey hair. To a bunch of three keys, being those of my trunk, desk and work-box she accorded special attention; with these, indeed, she withdrew a moment to her own room. I softly rose in my bed and followed her with my eye: these keys, reader, were not brought back till they had left on the toilet of the adjoining room the impress of their wards in wax. All being thus done decently and in order, my property was returned to its place, my clothes were carefully refolded. Of what nature were the conclusions deduced from this scrutiny? Were they favourable or otherwise? Vain question. Madame's face of stone (for of stone in its present night aspect it looked: it had been human, and, as I said before, motherly, in the salon) betrayed no response.
  7. Her duty done - I felt that in her eyes this business was a duty - she rose, noiseless as a shadow: she moved towards her own chamber; at the door, she turned, fixing her eye on the heroine of the bottle, who still slept and loudly snored. Mrs. Svini (I presume this was Mrs. Svini, Anglicé or Hibernice, Sweeny) - Mrs. Sweeny's doom was in Madame Beck's eye - an immutable purpose that eye spoke: madame's visitations for shortcomings might be slow, but they were sure. All this was very un-English: truly, I was in a foreign land.
  8. The morrow made me further acquainted with Mrs. Sweeny. It seems she had introduced herself to her present employer as an English lady in reduced circumstances: a native, indeed, of Middlesex, professing to speak the English tongue with the purest metropolitan accent. madame - reliant on her own infallible expedients for finding out the truth in time - had a singular intrepidity in hiring service off-hand (as indeed seemed abundantly proved in my own case.) She received Mrs. Sweeny as nursery-governess to her three children. I need hardly explain to the reader that this lady was in effect a native of Ireland; her station I do not pretend to fix; she boldly declared that she had 'had the bringing-up of the son and daughter of a marquis.' I think, myself, she might possibly have been a hanger-on, nurse, fosterer, or washer-woman in some Irish family: she spoke a smothered tongue, curiously overlaid with mincing cockney inflections. By some means or other she had acquired, and now held in possession, a wardrobe of rather suspicious splendour - gowns of stiff and costly silk, fitting her indifferently, and apparently made for other proportions than those they now adorned; caps with real lace borders, and - the chief item in the inventory, the spell by which she struck a certain awe through the household, quelling the otherwise scornfully disposed teachers and servants, and, so long as her broad shoulders wore the folds of that majestic drapery, even influencing Madame herself - a real Indian shawl - 'un véritable Cachmire', as Madame Beck said, with unmixed reverence and amaze. I feel quite sure that without this 'Cachmire' she would not have kept her footing in the pensionnat for two days: by virtue of it, and it only, she maintained the same a month.
  9. But when Mrs. Sweeny knew that I was come to fill her shoes, then it was that she declared herself - then did she rise on Madame Beck in her full power - then come down on me with her concentrated weight. Madame bore this revelation and visitation so well, so stoically, that I for very shame could not support it otherwise than with composure. For one little moment Madame Beck absented herself from the room; ten minutes after an agent of the police stood in the midst of us. Mrs. Sweeny and her effects were removed. Madame's brow had not been ruffled during the scene - her lips had not dropped one sharply accented word.
  10. This brisk little affair of the dismissal was all settled before breakfast: order to march given, policeman called, mutineer expelled, 'chambre d'enfants' fumigated and cleansed, windows thrown open, and every trace of the accomplished Mrs. Sweeny - even to the fine essence and spiritual fragrance which gave token so subtle and so fatal of the head and front of her offending - was annihilated from the Rue Fossette: all this, I say, was done between the moment of Madame Beck's issuing like Aurora from her chamber, and that moment in which she coolly sat down to pour out her first cup of coffee.
  11. About noon I was summoned to dress madame. (It appeared my place was to be a hybrid between gouvernante and lady's-maid.) Till noon she haunted the house in her wrapping-gown, shawl and soundless slippers. How would the lady-chief of an English school approve this custom?
  12. The dressing of her hair puzzled me; she had plenty of it: auburn, unmixed with grey: though she was forty years old. Seeing my embarrassment, she said, 'You have not been a femme de chambre in your own country?' And taking the brush from my hand, and setting me aside, not urgently or disrespectfully, she arranged it herself. In performing other offices of the toilet, she half-directed, half-aided me, without the least display of temper or impatience. N.B. - That was the first and last time I was required to dress her. Henceforth, on Rosine, the portress, devolved that duty.
  13. When attired, Madame Beck appeared a personage of a figure rather short and stout, yet still graceful in its own peculiar way; that is, with the grace resulting from proportion of parts. Her complexion was fresh and sanguine, not too rubicund; her eye, blue and serene; her dark silk dress fitted her as a French sempstress alone can make a dress fit; she looked well, though a little bourgeoise; as bourgeoise, indeed, she was. I know not what of harmony pervaded her whole person; and yet her face offered contrast, too: its features were by no means such as are usually seen in conjunction with a complexion of such blended freshness and repose: their outline was stern; her forehead was high but narrow; it expressed capacity and some benevolence, but no expanse; nor did her peaceful yet watchful eye ever know the fire which is kindled in the heart or the softness which flows thence. Her mouth was hard: it could be a little grim; her lips were thin. For sensibility and genius, with all their tenderness and temerity, I felt somehow that madame would be the right sort of Minos in petticoats.
  14. In the long run, I found she was something else in petticoats too. Her name was Modeste Maria Beck, née Kint: it ought to have been Ignacia. She was a charitable woman, and did a great deal of good. There never was a mistress whose rule was milder. I was told that she never once remonstrated with the intolerable Mrs. Sweeny, despite her tipsiness, disorder and general neglect; yet Mrs. Sweeny had to go the moment her departure became convenient. I was told, too, that neither masters nor teachers were found fault with in that establishment; yet both masters and teachers were often changed: they vanished and others filled their places, none could well explain how.
  15. The establishment was both a pensionnat and an externat; the externes or day-pupils exceeded one hundred in number; the boarders were about a score. Madame must have possessed high administrative powers: she ruled all these, together with four teachers, eight masters, six servants, and three children, managing at the same time, to perfection, the pupils' parents and friends; and that without apparent effort; without bustle, fatigue, fever, or any symptom of undue excitement: occupied she always was - busy, rarely. It is true that madame had her own system for managing and regulating this mass of machinery; and a very pretty system it was: the reader has seen a specimen of it, in that small affair of turning my pocket inside out, and reading my private memoranda. 'Surveillance', 'espionage' - these were her watchwords.
  16. Still, Madame knew what honesty was, and liked it - that is, when it did not obtrude its clumsy scruples in the way of her will and interest. She had a respect for Angleterre; and as to les Anglaises, she would have the women of no other country about her own children, if she could help it.
  17. Often in the evening, after she had been plotting and counterplotting, spying and receiving the reports of spies all day, she would come up to my room - a trace of real weariness on her brow - and she would sit down and listen while the children said their little prayers to me in English: the Lord's Prayer, and the hymn beginning 'Gentle Jesus', these little Catholics were permitted to repeat at my knee; and, when I had put them to bed, she would talk to me (I soon gained enough French to be able to understand, and even answer her) about England and Englishwomen, and the reasons for what she was pleased to term their superior intelligence, and more real and reliable probity. Very good sense she often showed; very sound opinions she often broached: she seemed to know that keeping girls in distrustful restraint, in blind ignorance, and under a surveillance that left them no moment and no corner for retirement, was not the best way to make them grow up honest and modest women; but she averred that ruinous consequences would ensue if any other method were tried with continental children - they were so accustomed to restraint, that relaxation, however guarded, would be misunderstood and fatally presumed on: she was sick, she would declare, of the means she had to use, but use them she must; and after discoursing, often with dignity and delicacy, to me, she would move away on her souliers de silence, and glide ghost-like through the house, watching and spying everywhere, peering through every keyhole, listening behind every door.
  18. After all, Madame's system was not bad - let me do her justice. Nothing could be better than all her arrangements for the physical well-being of her scholars. No minds were overtasked; the lessons were well distributed and made incomparably easy to the learner; there was a liberty of amusement, and a provision for exercise which kept the girls healthy; the food was abundant and good: neither pale nor puny faces were anywhere to be seen in the Rue Fossette. She never grudged a holiday; she allowed plenty of time for sleeping, dressing, washing, eating; her method in all these matters was easy, liberal, salutary and rational: many an austere English schoolmistress would do vastly well to imitate it - and I believe many would be glad to do so, if exacting English parents would let them.
  19. As Madame Beck ruled by espionage, she of course had her staff of spies: she perfectly knew the quality of the tools she used, and while she would not scruple to handle the dirtiest for a dirty occasion - flinging this sort from her like refuse rind, after the orange has been duly squeezed - I have known her fastidious in seeking pure metal for clean uses; and when once a bloodless and rustless instrument was found, she was careful of the prize, keeping it in silk and cottonwool. Yet, woe be to that man or woman who relied on her one inch beyond the point where it was her interest to be trustworthy; interest was the master-key of madame's nature - the mainspring of her motives - the alpha and omega of her life. I have seen her feelings appealed to, and I have smiled in half-pity, half-scorn at the appellants. None ever gained her ear through that channel, or swayed her purpose by that means. On the contrary, to attempt to touch her heart was the surest way to rouse her antipathy, and to make of her a secret foe. It proved to her that she had no heart to be touched: it reminded her where she was impotent and dead. Never was the distinction between charity and mercy better exemplified than in her. While devoid of sympathy, she had a sufficiency of rational benevolence: she would give in the readiest manner to people she had never seen - rather, however, to classes than to individuals. Pour les pauvres, she opened her purse freely - against the poor man, as a rule, she kept it closed. In philanthropic schemes for the benefit of society at large she took a cheerful part; no private sorrow touched her: no force or mass of suffering concentrated in one heart had power to pierce hers. Not the agony in Gethsemane, not the death on Calvary, could have wrung from her eyes one tear.
  20. I say again, Madame was a very great and a very capable woman. That school offered her for her powers too limited a sphere; she ought to have swayed a nation: she should have been the leader of a turbulent legislative assembly. Nobody could have browbeaten her, none irritated her nerves, exhausted her patience, or over-reached her astuteness. In her own single person she could have comprised the duties of a first minister and a superintendent of police. Wise, firm, faithless; secret, crafty, passionless; watchful and inscrutable; acute and insensate - withal perfectly decorous - what more could be desired?
  21. The sensible reader will not suppose that I gained all the knowledge here condensed for his benefit in one month, or in one half-year. No! what I saw at first was the thriving outside of a large and flourishing educational establishment. Here was a great house, full of healthy, lively girls, all well dressed and many of them handsome, gaining knowledge by a marvellously easy method, without painful exertion or useless waste of spirits; not, perhaps, making very rapid progress in anything; taking it easy, but still always employed, and never oppressed. Here was a corps of teachers and masters more stringently tasked, as all the real head-labour was to be done by them, in order to save the pupils, yet having their duties so arranged that they relieved each other in quick succession whenever the work was severe; here, in short, was a foreign school; of which the life, movement and variety made it a complete and most charming contrast to many English institutions of the same kind.
  22. Behind the house was a large garden, and, in summer, the pupils almost lived out of doors amongst the rose bushes and the fruit trees. Under the vast and vine-draped berceau, madame would take her seat on summer afternoons, and send for the classes, in turns, to sit round her and sew and read. Meantime, masters came and went, delivering short and lively lectures, rather than lessons, and the pupils made notes of their instructions, or did not make them - just as inclination prompted; secure that, in case of neglect, they could copy the notes of their companions. Besides the regular monthly jours de sortie, the Catholic fête-days brought a succession of holidays all the year round; and sometimes on a bright summer morning, or soft summer evening, the boarders were taken out for a long walk into the country, regaled with gaufres and vin blanc, or new milk and pain bis, or pistolets au beurre (rolls) and coffee. All this seemed very pleasant, and madame appeared goodness itself; and the teachers not so bad, but they might be worse; and the pupils, perhaps, a little noisy and rough, but types of health and glee.
  23. Thus did the view appear, seen through the enchantment of distance; but there came a time when distance was to melt for me, when I was to be called down from my watch-tower of the nursery, whence I had hitherto made my observations, and was to be compelled into closer intercourse with this little world of the Rue Fossette.
  24. I was one day sitting upstairs, as usual, hearing the children their English lessons, and at the same time turning a silk dress for Madame, when she came sauntering into the room with that absorbed air and brow of hard thought she sometimes wore, and which made her look so little genial. Dropping into a seat opposite mine, she remained some minutes silent. Désirée, the eldest girl, was reading to me some little essay of Mrs. Barbauld's, and I was making her translate currently from English to French, as she proceeded, by way of ascertaining that she comprehended what she read: Madame listened.
  25. Presently, without preface or prelude, she said, almost in the tone of one making an accusation, 'Meess, in England you were a governess.'
  26. 'No, madame', said I smiling, 'you are mistaken.'
  27. 'Is this your first essay at teaching - this attempt with my children?'
  28. I assured her it was. Again she became silent; but looking up, as I took a pin from the cushion, I found myself an object of study: she held me under her eye; she seemed turning me round in her thoughts - measuring my fitness for a purpose, weighing my value in a plan. Madame had, ere this, scrutinised all I had, and I believe she esteemed herself cognisant of much that I was; but from that day, for the space of about a fortnight, she tried me by new tests. She listened at the nursery door when I was shut in with the children; she followed me at a cautious distance when I walked out with them, stealing within ear-shot whenever the trees of park or boulevard afforded a sufficient screen: a strict preliminary process having thus been observed, she made a move forward.
  29. One morning, coming on me abruptly, and with the semblance of hurry, she said she found herself placed in a little dilemma. Mr. Wilson, the English master, had failed to come at his hour, she feared he was ill; the pupils were waiting in classe; there was no one to give a lesson; should I, for once, object to giving a short dictation exercise, just that the pupils might not have it to say they had missed their English lesson?
  30. 'In classe, madame?' I asked.
  31. 'Yes, in classe: in the second division.'
  32. 'Where there are sixty pupils', said I; for I knew the number, and with my usual base habit of cowardice, I shrunk into my sloth like a snail into its shell, and alleged incapacity and impracticability as a pretext to escape action. If left to myself, I should infallibly have let this chance slip. Inadventurous, unstirred by impulses of practical ambition, I was capable of sitting twenty years teaching infants the hornbook, turning silk dresses and making children's frocks. Not that true contentment dignified this infatuated resignation: my work had neither charm for my taste, nor hold on my interest; but it seemed to me a great thing to be without heavy anxiety, and relieved from intimate trial; the negation of severe suffering was the nearest approach to happiness I expected to know. Besides, I seemed to hold two lives - the life of thought, and that of reality; and, provided the former was nourished with a sufficiency of the strange necromantic joys of fancy, the privileges of the latter might remain limited to daily bread, hourly work, and a roof of shelter.
  33. 'Come', said Madame, as I stooped more busily than ever over the cutting out of a child's pinafore, 'leave that work.'
  34. 'But Fifine wants it, Madame.'
  35. 'Fifine must want it, then, for I want you'.
  36. And as Madame Beck did really want and was resolved to have me - as she had long been dissatisfied with the English master, with his shortcomings in punctuality, and his careless method of tuition - as, too, she did not lack resolution and practical activity, whether I lacked them or not - she, without more ado, made me relinquish thimble and needle; my hand was taken into hers, and I was conducted downstairs. When we reached the carré, a large square hall between the dwelling-house and the pensionnat, she paused, dropped my hand, faced, and scrutinised me. I was flushed and tremulous from head to foot: tell it not in Gath, I believe I was crying. In fact, the difficulties before me were far from being wholly imaginary; some of them were real enough; and not the least substantial lay in my want of mastery over the medium through which I should be obliged to teach. I had, indeed, studied French closely since my arrival in Villette; learning its practice by day, and its theory in every leisure moment at night, to as late an hour as the rule of the house would allow candlelight, but I was far from yet being able to trust my powers of correct oral expression.
  37. 'Dites donc', said madame sternly, 'vous sentez-vous réellement trop faible?'
  38. I might have said 'Yes', and gone back to nursery obscurity, and there, perhaps, mouldered for the rest of my life; but looking up at Madame, I saw in her countenance a something that made me think twice ere I decided. At that instant, she did not wear a woman's aspect but rather a man's. Power of a particular kind strongly limned itself in all her traits, and that power was not my kind of power: neither sympathy nor congeniality, nor submission were the emotions it awakened. I stood - not soothed, nor won, nor overwhelmed. It seemed as if a challenge of strength between opposing gifts was given, and I suddenly felt all the dishonour of my diffidence - all the pusillanimity of my slackness to aspire.
  39. 'Will you', she said, 'go backward or forward?' indicating with her hand, first, the small door of communication with the dwelling-house, and then the great double portals of the classes or school-rooms.
  40. 'En avant', I said.
  41. 'But', pursued she, cooling as I warmed, and continuing the hard look, from very antipathy to which I drew strength and determination, 'can you face the classes, or are you over-excited?'
  42. She sneered slightly in saying this: nervous excitability was not much to Madame's taste.
  43. 'I am no more excited than this stone', I said, tapping the flag with my toe: 'or than you', I added, returning her look.
  44. 'Bon! But let me tell you these are not quiet, decorous English girls you are going to encounter. Ce sont des Labassecouriennes, rondes, franches, brusques, et tant soit peu rebelles.'
  45. I said: 'I know; and I know, too, that though I have studied French hard since I came here, yet I still speak it with far too much hesitation - too little accuracy to be able to command their respect: I shall make blunders that will lay me open to the scorn of the most ignorant. Still I mean to give the lesson.'
  46. 'They always throw over timid teachers', said she.
  47. 'I know that, too, madame; I have heard how they rebelled against and persecuted Miss Turner' - a poor, friendless English teacher, whom Madame had employed, and lightly discarded; and to whose piteous history I was no stranger.
  48. 'C'est vrai', said she, coolly. 'Miss Turner had no more command over them than a servant from the kitchen would have had. She was weak and wavering; she had neither tact nor intelligence, decision nor dignity. Miss Turner would not do for these girls at all.'
  49. I made no reply, but advanced to the closed school-room door.
  50. 'You will not expect aid from me, or from any one', said madame. 'That would at once set you down as incompetent for your office.'
  51. I opened the door, let her pass with courtesy, and followed her. There were three school-rooms, all large. That dedicated to the second division, where I was to figure, was considerably the largest, and accommodated an assemblage more numerous, more turbulent, and infinitely more unmanageable than the other two. In after days, when I knew the ground better, I used to think sometimes (if such a comparison may be permitted), that the quiet, polished, tame first division, was to the robust, riotous, demonstrative second division, what the English House of Lords is to the House of Commons.
  52. The first glance informed me that many of the pupils were more than girls - quite young women; I knew that some of them were of noble family (as nobility goes in Labassecour), and I was well convinced that not one amongst them was ignorant of my position in madame's household. As I mounted the estrade (a low platform, raised a step above the flooring), where stood the teacher's chair and desk, I beheld opposite to me a row of eyes and brows that threatened stormy weather - eyes full of an insolent light, and brows hard and unblushing as marble. The continental 'female' is quite a different being to the insular 'female' of the same age and class: I never saw such eyes and brows in England. Madame Beck introduced me in one cool phrase, sailed from the room, and left me alone in my glory.
  53. I shall never forget that first lesson, nor all the under-current of life and character it opened up to me. Then first did I begin rightly to see the wide difference that lies between the novelist's and poet's ideal 'jeune fille', and the said 'jeune fille' as she really is.
  54. It seems that three titled belles in the first row had sat down predetermined that a bonne d'enfants should not give them lessons in English. They knew they had succeeded in expelling obnoxious teachers before now; they knew that madame would at any time throw overboard a professeur or maîtresse who became unpopular with the school - that she never assisted a weak official to retain his place - that if he had not strength to fight, or tact to win his way - down he went: looking at 'Miss Snowe' they promised themselves an easy victory.
  55. Mesdemoiselles Blanche, Virginie, and Angélique opened the campaign by a series of titterings and whisperings; these soon swelled into murmurs and short laughs, which the remoter benches caught up and echoed more loudly. This growing revolt of sixty against one, soon became oppressive enough; my command of French being so limited, and exercised under such cruel constraint.
  56. Could I but have spoken in my own tongue, I felt as if I might have gained a hearing; for, in the first place, though I knew I looked a poor creature, and in many respects actually was so, yet nature had given me a voice that could make itself heard, if lifted in excitement or deepened by emotion. In the second place, while I had no flow, only a hesitating trickle of language, in ordinary circumstances, yet - under stimulus such as was now rife through the mutinous mass - I could, in English, have rolled out readily phrases stigmatising their proceedings as such proceedings deserved to be stigmatised; and then with some sarcasm, flavoured with contemptuous bitterness for the ringleaders, and relieved with easy banter for the weaker, but less knavish followers, it seemed to me that one might possibly get command over this wild herd and bring them into training, at least. All I could now do was to walk up to Blanche - Mademoiselle de Melcy, a young baronne - the eldest, tallest, handsomest and most vicious - stand before her desk, take from under her hand her exercise-book, remount the estrade, deliberately read the composition, which I found very stupid, and, as deliberately, and in the face of the whole school, tear the blotted page in two.
  57. This action availed to draw attention and check noise. One girl alone, quite in the background, persevered in the riot with undiminished energy. I looked at her attentively. She had a pale face, hair like night, broad, strong eyebrows, decided features, and a dark, mutinous, sinister eye: I noted that she sat close by a little door, which door, I was well aware, opened into a small closet where books were kept. She was standing up for the purpose of conducting her clamour with freer energies. I measured her stature and calculated her strength. She seemed both tall and wiry; but, so the conflict were brief and the attack unexpected, I thought I might manage her.
  58. Advancing up the room, looking as cool and careless as I possibly could, in short, ayant l'air de rien; I slightly pushed the door and found it was ajar. In an instant, and with sharpness, I had turned on her. In another instant she occupied the closet, the door was shut, and the key was in my pocket.
  59. It so happened that this girl, Dolores by name, and a Catalonian by race, was the sort of character at once dreaded and hated by all her associates; the act of summary justice, above noted, proved popular: there was not one present but, in her heart, liked to see it done. They were stilled for a moment; then a smile - not a laugh - passed from desk to desk: then - when I had gravely and tranquilly returned to the estrade, courteously requested silence and commenced a dictation as if nothing at all had happened - the pens travelled peacefully over the pages, and the remainder of the lesson passed in order and industry.
  60. 'C'est bien', said Madame Beck, when I came out of class, hot and a little exhausted. 'Ça ira.'
  61. She had been listening and peeping through a spy-hole the whole time.
  62. From that day I ceased to be nursery-governess, and became English teacher. Madame raised my salary; but she got thrice the work out of me she had extracted from Mr. Wilson, at half the expense.



  1. My time was now well and profitably filled up. What with teaching others and studying closely myself, I had hardly a spare moment. It was pleasant. I felt I was getting on; not lying the stagnant prey of mould and rust, but polishing my faculties and whetting them to a keen edge with constant use. Experience of a certain kind lay before me, on no narrow scale. Villette is a cosmopolitan city, and in this school were girls of almost every European nation, and likewise of very varied rank in life. Equality is much practised in Labassecour; though not republican in form, it is nearly so in substance, and at the desks of Madame Beck's establishment the young countess and the young bourgeoise sat side by side. Nor could you always by outward indications decide which was noble and which plebeian; except that, indeed, the latter had often franker and more courteous manners, while the former bore away the bell for a delicately balanced combination of insolence and deceit. In the former there was often quick French blood mixed with the marsh-phlegm: I regret to say that the effect of this vivacious fluid chiefly appeared in the oilier glibness with which flattery and fiction ran from the tongue, and in a manner lighter and livelier, but quite heartless and insincere.
  2. To do all parties justice, the honest aboriginal Labassecouriennes had an hypocrisy of their own, too; but it was of a coarse order, such as could deceive few. Whenever a lie was necessary for their occasions, they brought it out with a careless ease and breadth altogether untroubled by the rebuke of conscience. Not a soul in Madame Beck's house, from the scullion to the directress herself, but was above being ashamed of a lie; they thought nothing of it: to invent might not be precisely a virtue, but it was the most venial of faults. 'J'ai menti plusieurs fois' formed an item of every girl's and woman's monthly confession: the priest heard unshocked, and absolved unreluctant. If they had missed going to mass, or read a chapter of a novel, that was another thing: these were crimes whereof rebuke and penance were the unfailing meed.
  3. While yet but half-conscious of this state of things, and unlearned in its results, I got on in my new sphere very well. After the first few difficult lessons, given amidst peril and on the edge of a moral volcano that rumbled under my feet and sent sparks and hot fumes into my eyes, the eruptive spirit seemed to subside, as far as I was concerned. My mind was a good deal bent on success: I could not bear the thought of being baffled by mere undisciplined disaffection and wanton indocility, in this first attempt to get on in life. Many hours of the night I used to lie awake, thinking what plan I had best adopt to get a reliable hold on these mutineers, to bring this stiff-necked tribe under permanent influence. In the first place, I saw plainly that aid in no shape was to be expected from madame: her righteous plan was to maintain an unbroken popularity with the pupils, at any and every cost of justice or comfort to the teachers. For a teacher to seek her alliance in any crisis of insubordination was equivalent to securing her own expulsion. In intercourse with her pupils, madame only took to herself what was pleasant, amiable and recommendatory; rigidly requiring of her lieutenants sufficiency for every annoying crisis, where to act with adequate promptitude was to be unpopular. Thus, I must look only to myself.
  4. Imprimis - it was clear as the day that this swinish multitude were not to be driven by force. They were to be humoured, borne with very patiently: a courteous though sedate manner impressed them; a very rare flash of raillery did good. Severe or continuous mental application they could not, or would not, bear: heavy demand on the memory, the reason, the attention, they rejected point-blank. Where an English girl of not more than average capacity and docility would quietly take a theme and bind herself to the task of comprehension and mastery, a Labassecourienne would laugh in your face, and throw it back to you with the phrase - 'Dieu, que c'est difficile! Je n'en veux pas. Cela m'ennuie trop.'
  5. A teacher who understood her business would take it back at once, without hesitation, contest, or expostulation - proceed with even exaggerated care to smooth every difficulty, to reduce it to the level of their understandings, return it to them thus modified, and lay on the lash of sarcasm with unsparing hand. They would feel the sting, perhaps wince a little under it; but they bore no malice against this sort of attack, provided the sneer was not sour, but hearty, and that it held well up to them, in a clear light and bold type, so that she who ran might read, their incapacity, ignorance and sloth. They would riot for three additional lines to a lesson; but I never knew them rebel against a wound given to their self-respect: the little they had of that quality was trained to be crushed, and it rather liked the pressure of a firm heel than otherwise.
  6. By degrees, as I acquired fluency and freedom in their language, and could make such application of its more nervous idioms as suited their case, the elder and more intelligent girls began rather to like me in their way: I noticed that whenever a pupil had been roused to feel in her soul the stirring of worthy emulation, or the quickening of honest shame, from that date she was won. If I could but once make their (usually large) ears burn under their thick glossy hair, all was comparatively well. By-and-by bouquets began to be laid on my desk in the morning; by way of acknowledgment for this little foreign attention, I used sometimes to walk with a select few during recreation. In the course of conversation it befell once or twice that I made an unpremeditated attempt to rectify some of their singularly distorted notions of principle; especially I expressed my ideas of the evil and baseness of a lie. In an unguarded moment, I chanced to say that, of the two errors, I considered falsehood worse than an occasional lapse in church attendance. The poor girls were tutored to report in Catholic ears whatever the Protestant teacher said. An edifying consequence ensued. Something - an unseen, an indefinite, a nameless something - stole between myself and these my best pupils: the bouquets continued to be offered, but conversation thenceforth became impracticable. As I paced the alleys or sat in the berceau, a girl never came to my right hand but a teacher, as if by magic, appeared at my left. Also, wonderful to relate, Madame's shoes of silence brought her continually to my back, as quick, as noiseless and unexpected, as some wandering zephyr.
  7. The opinion of my Catholic acquaintance concerning my spiritual prospects was somewhat naively expressed to me on one occasion. A pensionnaire, to whom I had rendered some little service, exclaimed one day as she sat beside me:
  8. 'Mademoiselle, what a pity you are a Protestant!'
  9. 'Why, Isabelle?'
  10. 'Parce que, quand vous serez morte - vous brûlerez tout de suite dans l'Enfer.'
  11. 'Croyez-vous?'
  12. 'Certainement que j'y crois: tout le monde le sait; et d'ailleurs le prêtre me l'a dit.'
  13. Isabelle was an odd, blunt little creature. She added, sotto voce -
  14. 'Pour assurer votre salut là-haut, on ferait bien de vous brûler toute vive ici-bas.'
  15. I laughed, as, indeed, it was impossible to do otherwise.
  16. Has the reader forgotten Miss Ginevra Fanshawe? If so, I must be allowed to re-introduce that young lady as a thriving pupil of Madame Beck's; for such she was. On her arrival in the Rue Fossette, two or three days after my sudden settlement there, she encountered me with very little surprise. She must have had good blood in her veins, for never was any duchess more perfectly, radically, unaffectedly nonchalante than she; a weak, transient amaze was all she knew of the sensation of wonder. Most of her other faculties seemed to be in the same flimsy condition: her liking and disliking, her love and hate, were mere cobweb and gossamer; but she had one thing about her that seemed strong and durable enough, and that was - her selfishness.
  17. She was not proud; and - bonne d'enfants as I was - she would forthwith have made of me a sort of friend and confidant. She teased me with a thousand vapid complaints about school-quarrels and household economy: the cookery was not to her taste - the people about her, teachers and pupils, she held to be despicable, because they were foreigners. I bore with her abuse of the Friday's salt fish and hard eggs - with her invective against the soup, the bread, the coffee - with some patience for a time; but at last, wearied by iteration, I turned crusty, and put her to rights - a thing I ought to have done in the very beginning, for a salutary setting down always agreed with her.
  18. Much longer had I to endure her demands on me in the way of work. Her wardrobe, so far as concerned articles of external wear, was well and elegantly supplied; but there were other habiliments not so carefully provided: what she had, needed frequent repair. She hated needle drudgery herself, and she would bring her hose, &c., to me in heaps, to be mended. A compliance of some weeks threatening to result in the establishment of an intolerable bore - I at last distinctly told her she must make up her mind to mend her own garments. She cried on receiving this information, and accused me of having ceased to be her friend; but I held by my decision, and let the hysterics pass as they could.
  19. Notwithstanding these foibles, and various others needless to mention - but by no means of a refined or elevating character - how pretty she was! How charming she looked, when she came down on a sunny Sunday morning, well-dressed and well-humoured, robed in pale lilac silk, and with her fair long curls reposing on her white shoulders. Sunday was a holiday which she always passed with friends resident in town; and amongst these friends she speedily gave me to understand was one who would fain become something more. By glimpses and hints it was shown me, and by the general buoyancy of her look and manner it was ere long proved, that ardent admiration - perhaps genuine love - was at her command. She called her suitor 'Isidore': this, however, she intimated was not his real name, but one by which it pleased her to baptise him - his own, she hinted, not being 'very pretty.' Once, when she had been bragging about the vehemence of 'Isidore's' attachment, I asked if she loved him in return.
  20. 'Comme cela,' said she: 'he is handsome, and he loves me to distraction, so that I am well amused. Ça suffit.'
  21. Finding that she carried the thing on longer than, from her very fickle tastes, I had anticipated, I one day took it upon me to make Serious inquiries as to whether the gentleman was such as her parents, and especially her uncle - on whom, it appeared, she was dependent - would be likely to approve. She allowed that this was very doubtful, as she did not believe 'Isidore' had much money.
  22. 'Do you encourage him?' I asked.
  23. 'Furieusement, sometimes', said she.
  24. 'Without being certain that you will be permitted to marry him?'
  25. 'Oh how dowdyish you are! I don't want to be married. I am too young.'
  26. 'But if he loves you as much as you say, and yet it comes to nothing in the end, he will be made miserable.'
  27. 'Of course he will break his heart. I should be shocked and disappointed if he didn't.'
  28. 'I wonder whether this M. Isidore is a fool?' said I.
  29. 'He is, about me; but he is wise in other things, à ce qu'on dit. Mrs. Cholmondeley considers him extremely clever: she says he will push his way by his talents; all I know is, that he does little more than sigh in my presence, and that I can wind him round my little finger.'
  30. Wishing to get a more definite idea of this love-stricken M. Isidore, whose position seemed to me of the least secure, I requested her to favour me with a personal description; but she could not describe: she had neither words nor the power of putting them together so as to make graphic phrases. She even seemed not properly to have noticed him: nothing of his looks, of the changes in his countenance, had touched her heart or dwelt in her memory - that he was 'beau, mais plutôt bel homme que joli garçon', was all she could assert. My patience would often have failed, and my interest flagged, in listening to her, but for one thing. All the hints she dropped, all the details she gave, went unconsciously to prove, to my thinking, that M. Isidore's homage was offered with great delicacy and respect. I informed her very plainly that I believed him much too good for her, and intimated with equal plainness my impression that she was but a vain coquette. She laughed, shook her curls from her eyes, and danced away as if I had paid her a compliment.
  31. Miss Ginevra's school studies were little better than nominal; there were but three things she practised in earnest, viz., music, singing, and dancing; also embroidering the fine cambric handkerchiefs which she could not afford to buy ready worked: such mere trifles as lessons in history, geography, grammar, and arithmetic, she left undone, or got others to do for her. Very much of her time was spent in visiting. Madame, aware that her stay at school was now limited to a certain period which would not be extended whether she made progress or not, allowed her great license in this particular. Mrs. Cholmondeley - her chaperon - a gay, fashionable lady, invited her whenever she had company at her own house, and sometimes took her to evening parties at the houses of her acquaintance. Ginevra perfectly approved this mode of procedure: it had but one inconvenience; she was obliged to be well dressed, and she had not money to buy variety of dresses. All her thoughts turned on this difficulty; her whole soul was occupied with expedients for effecting its solution. It was wonderful to witness the activity of her otherwise indolent mind on this point, and to see the much-daring intrepidity to which she was spurred by a sense of necessity, and the wish to shine.
  32. She begged boldly of Mrs. Cholmondeley - boldly, I say: not with an air of reluctant shame, but in this strain -
  33. 'My darling Mrs. C., I have nothing in the world fit to wear for your party next week; you must give me a book-muslin dress, and then a ceinture bleu céleste: do - there's an angel! will you?'
  34. The 'darling Mrs. C.' yielded at first; but finding that applications increased as they were complied with, she was soon obliged, like all Miss Fanshawe's friends, to oppose resistance to encroachment. After a while I heard no more of Mrs. Cholmondeley's presents; but still, visiting went on, and the absolutely necessary dresses continued to be supplied: also many little expensive etceterae - gloves, bouquets, even trinkets. These things, contrary to her custom, and even nature - for she was not secretive - were most sedulously kept out of sight for a time; but one evening, when she was going to a large party for which particular care and elegance of costume were demanded, she could not resist coming to my chamber to show herself in all her splendour.
  35. Beautiful she looked: so young, so fresh, and with a delicacy of skin and flexibility of shape altogether English, and not found in the list of continental female charms. Her dress was new, costly and perfect. I saw at a glance that it lacked none of those finishing details which cost so much, and give to the general effect such an air of tasteful completeness.
  36. I viewed her from top to toe. She turned airily round that I might survey her on all sides. Conscious of her charms, she was in her best humour: her rather small blue eyes sparkled gleefully. She was going to bestow on me a kiss, in her school-girl fashion of showing her delight: but I said, 'Steady! Let us be steady, and know what we are about, and find out the meaning of our magnificence' - and so put her off at arm's length, to undergo cooler inspection.
  37. 'Shall I do?' was her question.
  38. 'Do?' said I. 'There are different ways of doing; and, by my word, I don't understand yours.'
  39. 'But how do I look?'
  40. 'You look well dressed.'
  41. She thought the praise not warm enough, and proceeded to direct attention to the various decorative points of her attire. 'Look at this parure', said she 'The brooch, the ear-rings, the bracelets: no one in the school has such a set - not madame herself.'
  42. 'I see them all.' (Pause.) 'Did M. de Bassompierre give you those jewels?
  43. 'My uncle knows nothing about them.'
  44. 'Were they presents from Mrs. Cholmondeley?'
  45. 'Not they, indeed. Mrs. Cholmondeley is a mean, stingy creature; she never gives me anything now.'
  46. I did not choose to ask any further questions, but turned abruptly away.
  47. 'Now, old Crusty - old Diogenes' (these were her familiar terms for me when we disagreed), 'what is the matter now?'
  48. 'Take yourself away. I have no pleasure in looking at you or your parure.'
  49. For an instant she seemed taken by surprise.
  50. 'What now, Mother Wisdom? I have not got into debt for it - that is, not for the jewels, nor the gloves, nor the bouquet. My dress is certainly not paid for, but uncle de Bassompierre will pay it in the bill: he never notices items, but just looks at the total; and he is so rich, one need not care about a few guineas more or less.'
  51. 'Will you go? I want to shut the door. . . . Ginevra, people may tell you you are very handsome in that ball attire; but, in my eyes, you will never look so pretty as you did in the gingham gown and plain straw bonnet you wore when I first saw you.'
  52. 'Other people have not your puritanical tastes:' was her angry reply. 'And, besides, I see no right you have to sermonise me.'
  53. 'Certainly! I have little right; and you, perhaps, have still less to come flourishing and fluttering into my chamber - a mere jay in borrowed plumes. I have not the least respect for your feathers, Miss Fanshawe; and especially the peacock's eyes you call a parure: very pretty things, if you had bought them with money which was your own, and which you could well spare, but not at all pretty under present circumstances.'
  54. 'On est là pour Mademoiselle Fanshawe!' was announced by the portress, and away she tripped.
  55. This semi-mystery of the parure was not solved till two or three days afterwards, when she came to make a voluntary confession.
  56. 'You need not be sulky with me', she began, 'in the idea that I am running somebody, papa or M. de Bassompierre, deeply into debt. I assure you nothing remains unpaid for, but the few dresses I have lately had: all the rest is settled.'
  57. 'There', I thought, 'lies the mystery; considering that they were not given you by Mrs. Cholmondeley, and that your own means are limited to a few shillings, of which I know you to be excessively careful.'
  58. 'Ecoutez!' she went on, drawing near and speaking in her most confidential and coaxing tone; for my 'sulkiness' was inconvenient to her: she liked me to be in a talking and listening mood, even if I only talked to chide and listened to rail. 'Ecoutez, chère grogneuse! I will tell you all how and about it; and you will then see, not only how right the whole thing is, but how cleverly managed. In the first place, I must go out. Papa himself said that he wished me to see something of the world: he particularly remarked to Mrs. Cholmondeley, that, though I was a sweet creature enough, I had rather a bread-and-butter-eating, school-girl air; of which it was his special desire that I should get rid, by an introduction to society here, before I make my regular début in England. Well, then, if I go out, I must dress. Mrs. Cholmondeley is turned shabby, and will give nothing more; it would be too hard upon uncle to make him pay for all the things I need: that you can't deny - that agrees with your own preachments. Well, but SOMEBODY who heard me (quite by chance, I assure you) complaining to Mrs. Cholmondeley of my distressed circumstances, and what straits I was put to for an ornament or two - somebody, far from grudging one a present, was quite delighted at the idea of being permitted to offer some trifle. You should have seen what a blanc-bec he looked when he first spoke of it: how he hesitated and blushed, and positively trembled from fear of a repulse.'
  59. 'That will do, Miss Fanshawe. I suppose I am to understand that M. Isidore is the benefactor: that it is from him you have accepted that costly parure; that he supplies your bouquets and your gloves?'
  60. 'You express yourself so disagreeably', said she, 'one hardly knows how to answer; what I mean to say is, that I occasionally allow Isidore the pleasure and honour of expressing his homage by the offer of a trifle.'
  61. 'It comes to the same thing. . . . Now, Ginevra, to speak the plain truth, I don't very well understand these matters; but I believe you are doing very wrong - seriously wrong. Perhaps, however, you now feel certain that you will be able to marry M. Isidore; your parents and uncle have given their consent, and, for your part, you love him entirely?'
  62. 'Mais pas du tout!' (she always had recourse to French when about to say something specially heartless and perverse). 'Je suis sa reine, mais il n'est pas mon roi.'
  63. 'Excuse me, I must believe this language is mere nonsense and coquetry. There is nothing great about you, yet you are above profiting by the good nature and purse of a man to whom you feel absolute indifference. You love M. Isidore far more than you think, or will avow.'
  64. 'No. I danced with a young officer the other night, whom I love a thousand times more than he. I often wonder why I feel so very cold to Isidore, for everybody says he is handsome, and other ladies admire him; but, somehow, he bores me: let me see now how it is. . . .'
  65. And she seemed to make an effort to reflect. In this I encouraged her. 'Yes!' I said, 'try to get a clear idea of the state of your mind. To me it seems in a great mess - chaotic as a rag-bag.'
  66. 'It is something in this fashion', she cried out ere long: 'the man is too romantic and devoted, and he expects something more of me than I find it convenient to be. He thinks I am perfect: furnished with all sorts of sterling qualities and solid virtues, such as I never had, nor intend to have. Now, one can't help in his presence, rather trying to justify his good opinion; and it does so tire one to be goody, and to talk sense - for he really thinks I am sensible. I am far more at my ease with you, old lady - you, you dear crosspatch - who take me at my lowest, and know me to be coquettish, and ignorant, and flirting, and fickle, and silly, and selfish, and all the other sweet things you and I have agreed to be a part of my character.'
  67. 'This is all very well', I said, making a strenuous effort to preserve that gravity and severity which ran risk of being shaken by this whimsical candour, 'but it does not alter that wretched business of the presents. Pack them up, Ginevra, like a good, honest girl, and send them back.'
  68. 'Indeed, I won't', said she, stoutly.
  69. 'Then you are deceiving M. Isidore. It stands to reason that by accepting his presents you give him to understand he will one day receive an equivalent, in your regard. . . .'
  70. 'But he won't' she interrupted: 'he has his equivalent now, in the pleasure of seeing me wear them - quite enough for him: he is only bourgeois.'
  71. This phrase, in its senseless arrogance, quite cured me of the temporary weakness which had made me relax my tone and aspect. She rattled on -
  72. 'My present business is to enjoy youth, and not to think of fettering myself, by promise or vow, to this man or that. When first I saw Isidore, I believed he would help me to enjoy it. I believed he would be content with my being a pretty girl; and that we should meet and part and flutter about like two butterflies, and be happy. Lo, and behold! I find him at times as grave as a judge, and deep-feeling and thoughtful. Bah! Les penseurs, les hommes profonds et passionnés, ne sont pas à mon gout. Le Colonel Alfred de Hamal suits me far better. Va pour les beaux fats et les jolis fripons! Vive les joies et les plaisirs! A bas les grandes passions et les sévères vertus!'
  73. She looked for an answer to this tirade. I gave none.
  74. 'J'aime mon beau Colonel' she went on: 'je n'aimerai jamais son rival. Je ne serai jamais femme de bourgeois, moi!'
  75. I now signified that it was imperatively necessary my apartment should be relieved of the honour of her presence; she went away laughing.



  1. Madame Beck was a most consistent character; forbearing with all the world, and tender to no part of it. Her own children drew her into no deviation from the even tenor of her stoic calm. She was solicitous about her family, vigilant for their interests and physical well-being; but she never seemed to know the wish to take her little children upon her lap, to press their rosy lips with her own, to gather them in a genial embrace, to shower on them softly the benignant caress, the loving word.
  2. I have watched her sometimes sitting in the garden, viewing the little ones afar off, as they walked in a distant alley with Trinette, their bonne; in her mien spoke care and prudence. I know she often pondered anxiously what she called 'leur avenir'; but if the youngest, a puny and delicate but engaging child, chancing to spy her, broke from its nurse, and toddling down the walk, came all eager and laughing and panting to clasp her knee, madame would just calmly put out one hand, so as to prevent inconvenient concussion from the child's sudden onset: 'Prends garde, mon enfant!' she would say unmoved, patiently permit it to stand near her a few moments, and then, without smile or kiss, or endearing syllable, rise and lead it back to Trinette.
  3. Her demeanour to the eldest girl was equally characteristic in another way. This was a vicious child. 'Quelle peste que cette Désirée! Quel poison que cet enfant-là!' were the expressions dedicated to her, alike in kitchen and in school-room. Amongst her other endowments she boasted an exquisite skill in the art of provocation, sometimes driving her bonne and the servants almost wild. She would steal to their attics, open their drawers and boxes, wantonly tear their best caps and soil their best shawls; she would watch her opportunity to get at the beaufet of the salle à manger, where she would smash articles of porcelain or glass - or to the cupboard of the storeroom, where she would plunder the preserves, drink the sweet wine, break jars and bottles, and so contrive as to throw the onus of suspicion on the cook and the kitchenmaid. All this when Madame saw, and of which when she received report, her sole observation, uttered with matchless serenity, was -
  4. 'Désirée a besoin d'une surveillance toute particulière.' Accordingly she kept this promising olive-branch a good deal at her side. Never once, I believe, did she tell her faithfully of her faults, explain the evil of such habits, and show the results which must thence ensue. Surveillance must work the whole cure. It failed of course. Désirée was kept in some measure from the servants, but she teased and pillaged her mamma instead. Whatever belonging to madame's work-table or toilet she could lay her hands on, she stole and hid. Madame saw all this, but she still pretended not to see. She had not rectitude of soul to confront the child with her vices. When an article disappeared whose value rendered restitution necessary, she would profess to think that Désirée had taken it away in play, and beg her to restore it. Désirée was not to be so cheated: she had learned to bring falsehood to the aid of theft, and would deny having touched the brooch, ring, or scissors. Carrying on the hollow system, the mother would calmly assume an air of belief and afterwards, ceaselessly watch and dog the child till she tracked her to her hiding-places - some hole in the garden-wall - some chink or cranny in garret or out-house. This done, madame would send Désirée out for a walk with her bonne, and profit by her absence to rob the robber. Désirée proved herself the true daughter of her astute parent, by never suffering either her countenance or manner to betray the least sign of mortification on discovering the loss.
  5. The second child, Fifine, was said to be like its dead father. Certainly though the mother had given it her healthy frame, her blue eye and ruddy cheek, not from her was derived its moral being. It was an honest, gleeful little soul: a passionate, warm-tempered, bustling creature it was too, and of the sort likely to blunder often into perils and difficulties. One day it bethought itself to fall from top to bottom of a steep flight of stone steps; and when madame, hearing the noise (she always heard every noise), issued from the salle à manger and picked it up, she said quietly -
  6. 'Cet enfant a un os de cassé.'
  7. At first we hoped this was not the case. It was, however, but too true: one little plump arm hung powerless.
  8. 'Let Meess' (meaning me) 'take her', said Madame; 'et qu'on aille tout de suite chercher un fiacre.'
  9. In a fiacre she promptly, but with admirable coolness and self-possession, departed to fetch a surgeon.
  10. It appeared she did not find the family surgeon at home; but that mattered not: she sought until she laid her hand on a substitute to her mind, and brought him back with her. Meantime I had cut the child's sleeve from its arm, undressed and put it to bed.
  11. We none of us, I suppose (by we I mean the bonne, the cook, the portress, and myself, all which personages were now gathered in the small and heated chamber), looked very scrutinisingly at the new doctor when he came into the room. I, at least, was taken up with endeavouring to soothe Fifine, whose cries (for she had good lungs), were appalling to hear. These cries redoubled in intensity as the stranger approached her bed; when he took her up, 'Let alone!' she cried passionately, in her broken English (for she spoke English as did the other children). 'I will not you: I will Dr. Pillule!'
  12. 'And Dr. Pillule is my very good friend', was the answer, in perfect English; 'but he is busy at a place three leagues off; and I am come in his stead. So now, when we get a little calmer, we must commence business; and we will soon have that unlucky little arm bandaged and in right order.'
  13. Hereupon he called for a glass of eau sucrée, fed her with some teaspoonsful of the sweet liquid (Fifine was a frank gourmande; anybody could win her heart through her palate), promised her more when the operation should be over, and promptly went to work. Some assistance being needed, he demanded it of the cook, a robust, strong-armed woman; but she; the portress, and the nurse instantly fled. I did not like to touch that small, tortured limb, but, thinking there was no alternative, my hand was already extended to do what was requisite. I was anticipated; Madame Beck had put out her own hand: hers was steady while mine trembled.
  14. 'Ça vaudra mieux', said the doctor, turning from me to her.
  15. He showed wisdom in his choice. Mine would have been feigned stoicism, forced fortitude. Hers was neither forced nor feigned.
  16. 'Merci, Madame; très bien, fort bien!' said the operator when he had finished. 'Voilà un sang-froid bien opportun, et qui vaut mille élans de sensibilité déplacée.'
  17. He was pleased with her firmness, she with his compliment. It is likely, too, that his whole general appearance, his voice, mien and manner wrought impressions in his favour. Indeed, when you looked well at him, and when a lamp was brought in - for it was evening and now waxing dusk - you saw that, unless Madame Beck had been less than woman, it could not well be otherwise. This young doctor (he was young) had no common aspect. His stature looked imposingly tall in that little chamber, and amidst that group of Dutch-made women; his profile was clear, fine and expressive: perhaps his eye glanced from face to face rather too vividly, too quickly and too often; but it had a most pleasant character, and so had his mouth; his chin was full, cleft, Grecian and perfect. As to his smile, one could not in a hurry make up one's mind as to the descriptive epithet it merited; there was something in it that pleased, but something too that brought surging up into the mind all one's foibles and weak points: all that could lay one open to a laugh. Yet Fifine liked this doubtful smile, and thought the owner genial: much as he had hurt her, she held out her hand to bid him a friendly good-night. He patted the little hand kindly, and then he and Madame went downstairs together; she talking in her highest tide of spirits and volubility; he listening with an air of good-natured amenity, dashed with that unconscious roguish archness I find it difficult to describe.
  18. I noticed that though he spoke French well, he spoke English better; he had, too, an English complexion, eyes and form. I noticed more. As he passed me in leaving the room, turning his face in my direction one moment - not to address me, but to speak to madame, yet so standing, that I almost necessarily looked up at him - a recollection which had been struggling to form in my memory, since the first moment I heard his voice, started up perfected. This was the very gentleman to whom I had spoken at the bureau; who had helped me in the matter of the trunk; who had been my guide through the dark, wet park. Listening, as he passed down the long vestibule out into the street, I recognised his very tread: it was the same firm and equal stride I had followed under the dripping trees.

  19. It was to be concluded that this young surgeon-physician's first visit to the Rue Fossette would be the last. The respectable Dr. Pillule being expected home the next day, there appeared no reason why his temporary substitute should again represent him; but the Fates had written their decree to the contrary.
  20. Dr. Pillule had been summoned to see a rich old hypochondriac at the antique university town of Bouquin-Moisi, and upon his prescribing change of air and travel as remedies, he was retained to accompany the timid patient on a tour of some weeks; it but remained, therefore, for the new doctor to continue his attendance at the Rue Fossette.
  21. I often saw him when he came; for Madame would not trust the little invalid to Trinette, but required me to spend much of my time in the nursery. I think he was skilful. Fifine recovered rapidly under his care, yet even her convalescence did not hasten his dismissal. Destiny and Madame Beck seemed in league, and both had ruled that he should make deliberate acquaintance with the vestibule, the private staircase and upper chambers of the Rue Fossette.
  22. No sooner did Fifine emerge from his hands than Désirée declared herself ill. That possessed child had a genius for simulation, and captivated by the attentions and indulgences of a sick-room, she came to the conclusion that an illness would perfectly accommodate her tastes, and took to her bed accordingly. She acted well, and her mother still better; for while the whole case was transparent to Madame Beck as the day, she treated it with an astonishingly well-assured air of gravity and good faith.
  23. What surprised me was, that Dr. John (so the young Englishman had taught Fifine to call him, and we all took from her the habit of addressing him by this name, till it became an established custom, and he was known by no other in the Rue Fossette) - that Dr. John consented tacitly to adopt Madame's tactics, and to fall in with her manoeuvres. He betrayed, indeed, a period of comic doubt, cast one or two rapid glances from the child to the mother, indulged in an interval of self-consultation, but finally resigned himself with a good grace to play his part in the farce. Désirée ate like a raven, gambolled day and night in her bed, pitched tents with the sheets and blankets, lounged like a Turk amidst pillows and bolsters, diverted herself with throwing her shoes at her bonne and grimacing at her sisters - overflowed, in short, with unmerited health and evil spirits - only languishing when her mamma and the physician paid their diurnal visit. Madame Beck, I knew, was glad, at any price, to have her daughter in bed out of the way of mischief; but I wondered that Dr. John did not tire of the business.
  24. Every day, on this mere pretext of a motive, he gave punctual attendance; madame always received him with the same empressement, the same sunshine for himself the same admirably counterfeited air of concern for her child. Dr. John wrote harmless prescriptions for the patient, and viewed her mother with a shrewdly sparkling eye. Madame caught his rallying looks without resenting them - she had too much good sense for that. Supple as the young doctor seemed, one could not despise him - this pliant part was evidently not adopted in the design to curry favour with his employer: while he liked his office at the pensionnat, and lingered strangely about the Rue Fossette, he was independent, almost careless in his carriage there; and yet, too, he was often thoughtful and preoccupied.
  25. It was not perhaps my business to observe the mystery of his bearing, or search out its origin or aim; but, placed as I was, I could hardly help it. He laid himself open to my observation, according to my presence in the room just that degree of notice and consequence a person of my exterior habitually expects: that is to say, about what is given to unobtrusive articles of furniture, chairs of ordinary joiner's work, and carpets of no striking pattern. Often, while waiting for Madame, he would muse, smile, watch, or listen like a man who thinks himself alone. I, meantime, was free to puzzle over his countenance and movements, and wonder what could be the meaning of that peculiar interest and attachment - all mixed up with doubt and strangeness, and inexplicably ruled by some presiding spell - which wedded him to this demi-convent, secluded in the built-up core of a capital. He, I believe, never remembered that I had eyes in my head; much less a brain behind them.
  26. Nor would he ever have found this out, but that one day, while he sat in the sunshine, and I was observing the colouring of his hair, whiskers and complexion - the whole being of such a tone as a strong light brings out with somewhat perilous force (indeed I recollect I was driven to compare his beamy head in my thoughts to that of the 'golden image' which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up), an idea new, sudden, and startling, rivetted my attention with an overmastering strength and power of attraction. I know not to this day how I looked at him - the force of surprise and also of conviction made me forget myself; and I only recovered wonted consciousness when I saw that his notice was arrested, and that it had caught my movement in a clear little oval mirror fixed in the side of the window recess - by the aid of which reflector Madame often secretly spied persons walking in the garden below. Though of so gay and sanguine a temperament, he was not without a certain nervous sensitiveness which made him ill at ease under a direct, inquiring gaze. On surprising me thus, he turned and said, in a tone which though courteous, had just so much dryness in it as to mark a shade of annoyance, as well as to give to what was said the character of rebuke -
  27. 'Mademoiselle does not spare me: I am not vain enough to fancy that it is my merits which attract her attention; it must then be some defect. Dare I ask - what?'
  28. I was confounded, as the reader may suppose, yet not with an irrecoverable confusion; being conscious that it was from no emotion of incautious admiration, nor yet in a spirit of unjustifiable inquisitiveness, that I had incurred this reproof. I might have cleared myself on the spot, but would not. I did not speak. I was not in the habit of speaking to him. Suffering him, then, to think what he chose and accuse me of what he would, I resumed some work I had dropped, and kept my head bent over it during the remainder of his stay. There is a perverse mood of the mind which is rather soothed than irritated by misconstruction; and in quarters where we can never be rightly known, we take pleasure, I think, in being consummately ignored. What honest man on being casually taken for a housebreaker does not feel rather tickled than vexed at the mistake?



  1. It was summer and very hot. Georgette, the youngest of Madame Beck's children, took a fever. Désirée, suddenly cured of her ailments was, together with Fifine, packed off to Bonne-Maman in the country, by way of precaution against infection. Medical aid was now really needed, and Madame, choosing to ignore the return of Dr. Pillule, who had been at home a week, conjured his English rival to continue his visits. One or two of the pensionnaires complained of headache, and in other respects seemed slightly to participate in Georgette's ailment. 'Now, at last', I thought, 'Dr. Pillule must be recalled: the prudent directress will never venture to permit the attendance of so young a man on the pupils.'
  2. The directress was very prudent, but she could also be intrepidly venturous. She actually introduced Dr. John to the school-division of the premises, and established him in attendance on the proud and handsome Blanche de Melcy, and the vain, flirting Angélique, her friend. Dr. John, I thought, testified a certain gratification at this mark of confidence; and if discretion of bearing could have justified the step, it would by him have been amply justified. Here, however, in this land of convents and confessionals, such a presence as his was not to be suffered with impunity in a 'pensionnat de demoiselles.' The school gossipped, the kitchen whispered, the town caught the rumour, parents wrote letters and paid visits of remonstrance. Madame, had she been weak, would now have been lost: a dozen rival educational houses were ready to improve this false step - if false step it were - to her ruin; but Madame was not weak, and little Jesuit though she might be, yet I clapped the hands of my heart, and with its voice cried 'brava!' as I watched her able bearing, her skilled management, her temper and her firmness on this occasion.
  3. She met the alarmed parents with a good-humoured, easy grace: for nobody matched her in, I know not whether to say the possession or the assumption of a certain 'rondeur et franchise de bonne femme'; which on various occasions gained the point aimed at with instant and complete success, where severe gravity and serious reasoning would probably have failed.
  4. 'Ce pauvre Docteur Jean!' she would say, chuckling and rubbing joyously her fat, little, white hands; 'ce cher jeune homme! le meilleur créature du monde!' and go on to explain how she happened to be employing him for her own children, who were so fond of him they would scream themselves into fits at the thought of another doctor; how where she had confidence for her own, she thought it natural to repose trust for others, and au reste it was only the most temporary expedient in the world; Blanche and Angélique had the migraine; Dr. John had written a prescription; voilà tout!
  5. The parents' mouths were closed. Blanche and Angélique saved her all remaining trouble by chanting loud duets in their physician's praise; the other pupils echoed them, unanimously declaring that when they were ill they would have Dr. John and nobody else; and Madame laughed, and the parents laughed too. The Labassecouriens must have a large organ of philopro-genitiveness: at least the indulgence of offspring is carried by them to excessive lengths; the law of most households being the children's will. Madame now got credit for having acted on this occasion in a spirit of motherly partiality: she came off with flying colours; people liked her as a directress better than ever.
  6. To this day I never fully understood why she thus risked her interest for the sake of Dr. John. What people said, of course I know well: the whole house - pupils, teachers, servants included - affirmed that she was going to marry him. So they had settled it; difference of age seemed to make no obstacle in their eyes: it was to be so.
  7. It must be admitted that appearances did not wholly discountenance this idea; Madame seemed so bent on retaining his services, so oblivious of her former protégé, Pillule. She made, too, such a point of personally receiving his visits, and was so unfailingly cheerful, blithe and benignant in her manner to him. Moreover, she paid, about this time, marked attention to dress: the morning deshabille, the nightcap and shawl were discarded; Dr. John's early visits always found her with auburn braids all nicely arranged, silk dress trimly fitted on, neat laced brodequins in lieu of slippers: in short the whole toilette complete as a model and fresh as a flower. I scarcely think, however, that her intention in this went further than just to show a very handsome man that she was not quite a plain woman: and plain she was not. Without beauty of feature or elegance of form, she pleased. Without youth and its gay graces, she cheered. One never tired of seeing her: she was never monotonous, or insipid, or colourless, or flat. Her unfaded hair, her eye with its temperate blue light, her cheek with its wholesome fruit-like bloom - these things pleased in moderation, but with constancy.
  8. Had she, indeed, floating visions of adopting Dr. John as a husband, taking him to her well-furnished home, endowing him with her savings, which were said to amount to a moderate competency, and making him comfortable for the rest of his life? Did Dr. John suspect her of such visions? I have met him coming out of her presence with a mischievous half-smile about his lips, and in his eyes a look as of masculine vanity elate and tickled. With all his good looks and good-nature he was not perfect; he must have been very imperfect if he roguishly encouraged aims he never intended to be successful. But did he not intend them to be successful? People said he had no money, that he was wholly dependent upon his profession. Madame - though perhaps some fourteen years his senior - was yet the sort of woman never to grow old, never to wither, never to break down. They certainly were on good terms. He perhaps was not in love; but how many people ever do love, or at least marry for love, in this world? We waited the end.
  9. For what he waited I do not know, nor for what he watched; but the peculiarity of his manner, his expectant, vigilant, absorbed, eager look, never wore off: it rather intensified. He had never been quite within the compass of my penetration, and I think he ranged farther and farther beyond it.
  10. One morning little Georgette had been more feverish and consequently more peevish; she was crying, and would not be pacified. I thought a particular draught ordered, disagreed with her, and I doubted whether it ought to be continued; I waited impatiently for the doctor's coming in order to consult him.
  11. The doorbell rung, he was admitted; I felt sure of this, for I heard his voice addressing the portresse. It was his custom to mount straight to the nursery, taking about three degrees of the staircase at once, and coming upon us like a cheerful surprise. Five minutes elapsed - ten - and I saw and heard nothing of him. What could he be doing? Possibly waiting in the corridor below. Little Georgette still piped her plaintive wail, appealing to me by her familiar term, 'Minnie, Minnie, me very poorly!' till my heart ached. I descended to ascertain why he did not come. The corridor was empty. Whither was he vanished? Was he with Madame in the salle à manger? Impossible: I had left her but a short time since, dressing in her own chamber. I listened. Three pupils were just then hard at work practising in three proximate rooms - the dining-room and the greater and lesser drawing-rooms, between which and the corridor there was but the portresse's cabinet communicating with the salons, and intended originally for a boudoir. Farther off, at a fourth instrument in the oratory, a whole class of a dozen or more were taking a singing lesson, and just then joining in a 'barcarole' (I think they called it), whereof I yet remember these words 'fraîchë-brisë'; and 'Venisë.' Under these circumstances, what could I hear? A great deal, certainly; had it only been to the purpose.
  12. Yes; I heard a giddy treble laugh in the above-mentioned little cabinet, close by the door of which I stood - that door half-unclosed; a man's voice in a soft, deep, pleading tone, uttered some words, whereof I only caught the adjuration, 'For God's sake!' Then, after a second's pause, forth issued Dr. John, his eye full shining, but not with either joy or triumph; his fair English cheek high coloured; a baffled, tortured, anxious, and yet a tender meaning on his brow.
  13. The open door served me as a screen; but had I been full in his way, I believe he would have passed without seeing me. Some mortification, some strong vexation had hold of his soul: or rather, to write my impressions now as I received them at the time, I should say some sorrow, some sense of injustice. I did not so much think his pride was hurt, as that his affections had been wounded - cruelly wounded, it seemed to me. But who was the torturer? What being in that house had him so much in her power? Madame I believed to be in her chamber; the room whence he had stepped was dedicated to the portresse's sole use; and she, Rosine Matou, an unprincipled though pretty little French grisette, airy, fickle, dressy, vain and mercenary - it was not, surely, to her hand, he owed the ordeal through which he seemed to have passed?
  14. But while I pondered, her voice, clear, though somewhat sharp, broke out in a lightsome French song, trilling through the door still ajar: I glanced in, doubting my senses. There at the table she sat in a smart dress of 'jaconas rose', trimming a tiny blond cap: not a living thing save herself was in the room, except indeed some gold fish in a glass globe, some flowers in pots, and a broad July sunbeam.
  15. Here was a problem: but I must go upstairs to ask about the medicine.
  16. Dr. John sat in a chair at Georgette's bedside; Madame stood before him; the little patient had been examined and soothed, and now lay composed in her crib. Madame Beck, as I entered, was discussing the physician's own health, remarking on some real or fancied change in his looks, charging him with overwork, and recommending rest and change of air. He listened good-naturedly, but with laughing indifference, telling her that she was 'trop bonne', and that he felt perfectly well. Madame appealed to me - Dr. John following her movement with a slow glance which seemed to express languid surprise at reference being made to a quarter so insignificant.
  17. 'What do you think, Miss Lucie?' asked Madame. 'Is he not paler and thinner?'
  18. It was very seldom that I uttered more than monosyllables in Dr. John's presence; he was the kind of person with whom I was likely ever to remain the neutral, passive thing he thought me. Now, however, I took license to answer in a phrase: and a phrase I purposely made quite significant.
  19. 'He looks ill at this moment; but perhaps it is owing to some temporary cause: Dr. John may have been vexed or harassed.' I cannot tell how he took this speech, as I never sought his face for information. Georgette here began to ask me in her broken English if she might have a glass of eau sucrée. I answered her in English. For the first time, I fancy, he noticed that I spoke his language; hitherto he had always taken me for a foreigner, addressing me as 'Mademoiselle', and giving in French the requisite directions about the children's treatment. He seemed on the point of making a remark, but thinking better of it, held his tongue.
  20. Madame recommenced advising him; he shook his head laughing, rose and bid her good-morning, with courtesy, but still with the regardless air of one whom too much unsolicited attention was surfeiting and spoiling.
  21. When he was gone, madame dropped into the chair he had just left; she rested her chin in her hand; all that was animated and amiable vanished from her face: she looked stony and stern, almost mortified and morose. She sighed; a single, but a deep sigh. A loud bell rang for morning school. She got up; as she passed a dressing-table with a glass upon it, she looked at her reflected image. One single white hair streaked her nut brown tresses; she plucked it out with a shudder. In the full summer daylight, her face, - though it still had the colour, could plainly be seen to have lost the texture of youth; and then, where were youth's contours? Ah, madame! wise as you were, even you knew weakness. Never had I pitied madame before, but my heart softened towards her, when she turned darkly from the glass. A calamity had come upon her. That hag Disappointment was greeting her with a grisly 'All-hail', and her soul rejected the intimacy.
  22. But Rosine! My bewilderment there surpasses description. I embraced five opportunities of passing her cabinet that day, with a view to contemplating her charms, and finding out the secret of their influence. She was pretty, young, and wore a well-made dress. All very good points, and, I suppose, amply sufficient to account; in any philosophic mind, for any amount of agony and distraction in a young man like Dr. John. Still, I could not help forming half a wish that the said doctor were my brother; or at least that he had a sister or a mother who would kindly sermonise him. I say half a wish; I broke it, and flung it away before it became a whole one, discovering in good time its exquisite folly. 'Somebody', I argued, 'might as well sermonise madame about her young physician: and what good would that do?'
  23. I believe madame sermonised herself. She did not behave weakly, or make herself in any shape ridiculous. It is true she had neither strong feelings to overcome, nor tender feelings by which to be miserably pained. It is true likewise that she had an important avocation, a real business to fill her time, divert her thoughts and divide her interest. It is especially true that she possessed a genuine good sense which is not given to all women nor to all men; and by dint of these combined advantages she behaved wisely - she behaved well. Brava! once more, Madame Beck, I saw you matched against an Apollyon of a predilection; you fought a good fight, and you overcame!



  1. Behind the house at the Rue Fossette there was a garden - large, considering that it lay in the heart of a city, and to my recollection at this day it seems pleasant: but time, like distance, lends to certain scenes an influence so softening; and where all is stone around, blank wall and hot pavement, how precious seems one shrub, how lovely an enclosed and planted spot of ground!
  2. There went a tradition that Madame Beck's house had in old days been a convent; that in years gone by - how long gone by I cannot tell, but I think some centuries - before the city had overspread this quarter; and when it was tilled ground and avenue, and such deep and leafy seclusion as ought to embosom a religious house; something had happened on this site which, rousing fear and inflicting horror, had left to the place the inheritance of a ghost story. A vague tale went of a black and white nun, sometimes, on some night or nights of the year, seen in some part of this vicinage. The ghost must have been built out some ages ago, for there were houses all round now; but certain convent relics, in the shape of old and huge fruit trees, yet consecrated the spot; and, at the foot of one - a Methuselah of a pear tree, dead, all but a few boughs which still faithfully renewed their perfumed snow in spring, and their honey-sweet pendants in autumn - you saw, in scraping away the mossy earth between the half-bared roots, a glimpse of slab, smooth, hard and black. The legend went, unconfirmed and unaccredited, but still propagated, that this was the portal of a vault, imprisoning deep beneath that ground, on whose surface grass grew and flowers bloomed, the bones of a girl whom the monkish conclave of the drear middle ages had here buried alive for some sin against her vow. Her shadow it was that tremblers had feared, through long generations after her poor frame was dust; her black robe and white veil that, for timid eyes, moonlight and shade had mocked, as they fluctuated in the night wind through the garden thicket.
  3. Independently of romantic rubbish, however, that old garden had its charms. On summer mornings I used to rise early to enjoy them alone; on summer evenings, to linger solitary, to keep tryste with the rising moon, or taste one kiss of the evening breeze, or fancy rather than feel the freshness of dew descending. The turf was verdant, the gravelled walks were white; sun-bright nasturtiums clustered beautiful about the roots of the doddered orchard giants. There was a large berceau, above which spread the shade of an acacia; there was a smaller, more sequestered bower, nestled in the vines which ran all along a high and grey wall, and gathered their tendrils in a knot of beauty, and hung their clusters in loving profusion about the favoured spot where jasmine and ivy met and married them.
  4. Doubtless at high noon, in the broad, vulgar middle of the day, when Madame Beck's large school turned out rampant, and externes and pensionnaires were spread abroad, vying with the denizens of the boys' college close at hand, in the brazen exercise of their lungs and limbs - doubtless then the garden was a trite, trodden-down place enough. But at sunset or at the hour of salut, when the externes were gone home, and the boarders quiet at their studies; pleasant was it then to stray down the peaceful alleys, and hear the bells of St. Jean Baptiste peal out with their sweet, soft, exalted sound.
  5. I was walking thus one evening, and had been detained farther within the verge of twilight than usual, by the still deepening calm, the mellow coolness, the fragrant breathing with which flowers no sunshine could win now answered the persuasion of the dew. I saw by a light in the oratory window that the Catholic household were then gathered to evening prayer - a rite, from attendance on which, I now and then, as a Protestant, exempted myself.
  6. 'One moment longer', whispered solitude and the summer moon, 'stay with us: all is truly quiet now; for another quarter of an hour your presence will not be missed: the day's heat and bustle have tired you; enjoy these precious minutes.'
  7. The windowless backs of houses built in this garden, and in particular the whole of one side was skirted by the rear of a long line of premises - being the boarding-houses of the neighbouring college. This rear, however, was all blank stone, with the exception of certain attic loop-holes high up, opening from the sleeping-rooms of the women-servants, and also one casement in a lower storey said to mark the chamber or study of a master. But, though thus secure, an alley, which ran parallel with the very high wall on that side the garden, was forbidden to be entered by the pupils. It was called indeed 'l'allée défendue', and any girl setting foot there would have rendered herself liable to as severe a penalty as the mild rules of Madame Beck's establishment permitted. Teachers might indeed go there with impunity; but as the walk was narrow, and the neglected shrubs were grown very thick and close on each side, weaving overhead a roof of branch and leaf which the sun's rays penetrated but in rare chequers, this alley was seldom entered even during day, and after dusk was carefully shunned.
  8. From the first I was tempted to make an exception to this rule of avoidance: the seclusion, the very gloom of the walk attracted me. For a long time the fear of seeming singular scared me away; but by degrees, as people became accustomed to me and my habits, and to such shades of peculiarity as were engrained in my nature - shades, certainly not striking enough to interest, and perhaps not prominent enough to offend, but born in and with me, and no more to be parted with than my identity - by slow degrees I became a frequenter of this straight and narrow path. I made myself gardener of some tintless flowers that grew between its closely-ranked shrubs; I cleared away the relics of past autumns choking up a rustic seat at the far end. Borrowing of Goton, the cuisinière, a pail of water and a scrubbing brush, I made this seat clean. Madame saw me at work and smiled approbation: whether sincerely or not I don't know; but she seemed sincere.
  9. 'Voyez-vous!' cried she, 'comme elle est propre cette demoiselle Lucie? Vous aimez donc cette allée, meess?'
  10. 'Yes', I said, 'it is quiet and shady.'
  11. 'C'est juste', cried she with an air of bonté; and she kindly recommended me to confine myself to it as much as I chose, saying, that as I was not charged with the surveillance, I need not trouble myself to walk with the pupils: only I might permit her children to come there, to talk English with me.
  12. On the night in question, I was sitting on the hidden seat reclaimed from fungi and mould, listening to what seemed the far off sounds of the city. Far-off, in truth, they were not: this school was in the city's centre; hence, it was but five minutes' walk to the park, scarce ten to buildings of palatial splendour. Quite near were wide streets brightly lit, teeming at this moment with life: carriages were rolling through them, to balls or to the opera. The same hour which tolled curfew for our convent, which extinguished each lamp, and dropped the curtain round each couch, rang for the gay city about us the summons to festal enjoyment. Of this contrast I thought not, however: gay instincts my nature had few; ball or opera I had never seen; and though often I had heard them described, and even wished to see them, it was not the wish of one who hopes to partake a pleasure if she could only reach it - who feels fitted to shine in some bright distant sphere, could she but thither win her way; it was no yearning to attain, no hunger to taste; only the calm desire to look on a new thing.
  13. A moon was in the sky, not a full moon but a young crescent. I saw her through a space in the boughs overhead. She and the stars, visible beside her, were no strangers where all else was strange: my childhood knew them. I had seen that golden sign with the dark globe in its curve leaning back on azure, beside an old thorn at the top of an old field, in Old England, in long past days, just as it now leaned back beside a stately spire in this continental capital.
  14. Oh, my childhood! I had feelings: passive as I lived, little as I spoke, cold as I looked, when I thought of past days, I could feel. About the present, it was better to be stoical: about the future - such a future as mine - to be dead. And in catalepsy and a dead trance, I studiously held the quick of my nature.
  15. At this time, I well remember whatever could excite - certain accidents of the weather, for instance, were almost dreaded by me, because they woke the being I was always lulling, and stirred up a craving cry I could not satisfy. One night a thunderstorm broke; a sort of hurricane shook us in our beds: the Catholics rose in panic and prayed to their saints. As for me, the tempest took hold of me with tyranny: I was roughly roused and obliged to live. I got up and dressed myself, and creeping outside the casement close by my bed, sat on its ledge, with my feet on the roof of a lower adjoining building. It was wet, it was wild, it was pitch dark. Within the dormitory they gathered round the night-lamp in consternation, praying loud. I could not go in: too resistless was the delight of staying with the wild hour, black and full of thunder, pealing out such an ode as language never delivered to man - too terribly glorious, the spectacle of clouds, split and pierced by white and blinding bolts.
  16. I did long, achingly, then and for four-and-twenty hours afterwards, for something to fetch me out of my present existence, and lead me upwards and onwards. This longing, and all of a similar kind, it was necessary to knock on the head; which I did, figuratively, after the manner of Jael to Sisera, driving a nail through their temples. Unlike Sisera, they did not die: they were but transiently stunned, and at intervals would turn on the nail with a rebellious wrench; then did the temples bleed, and the brain thrill to its core.
  17. To-night, I was not so mutinous, nor so miserable. My Sisera lay quiet in the tent, slumbering; and if his pain ached through his slumbers, something like an angel - the Ideal - knelt near, dropping balm on the soothed temples, holding before the sealed eyes a magic glass, of which the sweet, solemn visions were repeated in dreams, and shedding a reflex from her moonlight wings and robe over the transfixed sleeper, over the tent threshold, over all the landscape lying without. Jael, the stern woman, sat apart, relenting somewhat over her captive; but more prone to dwell on the faithful expectation of Heber coming home. By which words I mean that the cool peace and dewy sweetness of the night filled me with a mood of hope: not hope on any definite point, but a general sense of encouragement and heart-ease.
  18. Should not such a mood, so sweet, so tranquil, so unwonted, have been the harbinger of good? Alas, no good came of it! Presently the rude Real burst coarsely in - all evil, grovelling and repellent as she too often is.
  19. Amid the intense stillness of that pile of stone overlooking the walk, the trees, the high wall, I heard a sound; a casement (all the windows here are casements, opening on hinges) creaked. Ere I had time to look up and mark where, in which storey, or by whom unclosed, a tree overhead shook, as if struck by a missile; some object dropped prone at my feet.
  20. Nine was striking by St. Jean Baptiste's clock; day was fading, but it was not dark: the crescent moon aided little, but the deep gilding of that point in heaven where the sun beamed last, and the crystalline clearness of a wide space above, sustained the summer twilight; even in my dark walk I could, by approaching an opening, have managed to read print of a small type. Easy was it to see then that the missile was a box, a small box of white and coloured ivory: its loose lid opened in my hand; violets lay within, violets smothering a closely folded bit of pink paper, a note, superscribed, 'Pour la robe grise.' I wore indeed a dress of French grey.
  21. Good. Was this a billet-doux? A thing I had heard of; but hitherto had not had the honour of seeing or handling. Was it this sort of commodity I held between my finger and thumb at this moment?
  22. Scarcely: I did not dream it for a moment. Suitor or admirer my very thoughts had not conceived. All the teachers had dreams of some lover; one (but she was naturally of a credulous turn) believed in a future husband. All the pupils above fourteen knew of some prospective bridegroom; two or three were already affianced by their parents, and had been so from childhood: but into the realm of feelings and hopes which such prospects open, my speculations, far less my presumptions, had never once had warrant to intrude. If the other teachers went into town, or took a walk on the boulevards, or only attended mass, they were very certain (according to the accounts brought back) to meet with some individual of the 'opposite sex', whose rapt, earnest gaze assured them of their power to strike and to attract. I can't say that my experience tallied with theirs, in this respect. I went to church and I took walks, and am very well convinced that nobody minded me. There was not a girl or woman in the Rue Fossette who could not, and did not testify to having received an admiring beam from our young doctor's blue eyes at one time or other. I am obliged, however humbling it may sound, to except myself: as far as I was concerned, those blue eyes were guiltless, and calm as the sky, to whose tint theirs seemed akin. So it came to pass that I heard the others talk, wondered often at their gaiety, security and self-satisfaction, but did not trouble myself to look up and gaze along the path they seemed so certain of treading. This then was no billet doux; and it was in settled conviction to the contrary that I quietly opened it. Thus it ran - I translate:
  23. 'Angel of my dreams! A thousand, thousand thanks for the promise kept: scarcely did I venture to hope its fulfilment. I believed you, indeed, to be half in jest; and then you seemed to think the enterprise beset with such danger - the hour so untimely, the alley so strictly secluded - often, you said, haunted by that dragon, the English teacher - une véritable bégueule Britannique à ce que vous dites - espèce de monstre, brusque et rude comme un vieux caporal de grenadiers, et revêche comme une religieuse' (the reader will excuse my modesty in allowing this flattering sketch of my amiable self to retain the slight veil of the original tongue). 'You are aware', went on this precious effusion, 'that little Gustave, on account of his illness, has been removed to a master's chamber - that favoured chamber, whose lattice overlooks your prison ground. There, I, the best uncle in the world, am admitted to visit him. How tremblingly I approached the window and glanced into your Eden - an Eden for me, though a desert for you! - how I feared to behold vacancy, or the dragon aforesaid! How my heart palpitated with delight when, through apertures in the envious boughs, I at once caught the gleam of your graceful straw hat, and the waving of your grey dress - dress that I should recognise amongst a thousand. But why, my angel, will you not look up? Cruel, to deny me one ray of those adorable eyes! - how a single glance would have revived me! I write this in fiery haste; while the physician examines Gustave, I snatch an opportunity to enclose it in a small casket, together with a bouquet of flowers, the sweetest that blow - yet less sweet than thee, my Peri - my all-charming! ever thine - thou well knowest whom!'
  24. 'I wish I did know whom', was my comment: and the wish bore even closer reference to the person addressed in this choice document, than to the writer thereof. Perhaps it was from the fiancé of one of the engaged pupils; and, in that case, there was no great harm done or intended - only a small irregularity. Several of the girls, the majority, indeed, had brothers or cousins at the neighbouring college. But, 'la robe grise, le chapeau de paille', here surely was a clue - a very confusing one. The straw hat was an ordinary garden head screen, common to a score besides myself. The grey dress hardly gave more definite indication. Madame Beck herself ordinarily wore a grey dress just now; another teacher, and three of the pensionnaires, had had grey dresses purchased of the same shade and fabric as mine: it was a sort of everyday wear which happened at that time to be in vogue.
  25. Meanwhile, as I pondered, I knew I must go in. Lights moving in the dormitory announced that prayers were over and the pupils going to bed. Another half-hour and all doors would be locked - all lights extinguished. The front door yet stood open, to admit into the heated house the coolness of the summer night; from the portresse's cabinet close by shone a lamp, showing the long vestibule with the two-leaved drawing-room doors on one side, the great street door closing the vista.
  26. All at once, quick rang the bell - quick, but not loud - a cautious tinkle - a sort of warning metal whisper. Rosine darted from her cabinet and ran to open. The person she admitted stood with her two minutes in parley: there seemed a demur, a delay. Rosine came to the garden door, lamp in hand; she stood on the steps, lifting her lamp, looking round vaguely.
  27. 'Quel conte!' she cried, with a coquettish laugh. 'Personne n'y a été.'
  28. 'Let me pass', pleaded a voice I knew: 'I ask but five minutes'; and a familiar shape, tall and grand (as we of the Rue Fossette all thought it), issued from the house, and strode down amongst the beds and walks. It was sacrilege - the intrusion of a man into that spot, at that hour; but he knew himself privileged, and perhaps he trusted to the friendly night. He wandered down the alleys, looking on this side and on that - he was lost in the shrubs, trampling flowers and breaking branches in his search - he penetrated at last the 'forbidden walk.' There I met him, like some ghost, I suppose.
  29. 'Dr. John! it is found.'
  30. He did not ask by whom, for with his quick eye he perceived that I held it in my hand.
  31. 'Do not betray her', he said, looking at me as if I were indeed a dragon.
  32. 'Were I ever so disposed to treachery, I cannot betray what I do not know', was my answer. 'Read the note, and you will see how little it reveals.'
  33. 'Perhaps you have read it', I thought to myself; and yet I could not believe he wrote it: that could hardly be his style: besides, I was fool enough to think there would be a degree of hardship in his calling me such names. His own look vindicated him; he grew hot, and coloured as he read.
  34. 'This is indeed too much: this is cruel, this is humiliating', were the words that fell from him. I thought it was cruel, when I saw his countenance so moved. No matter whether he was to blame or not; somebody, it seemed to me, must be more to blame.
  35. 'What shall you do about it?' he inquired of me. 'Shall you tell Madame Beck what you have found, and cause a stir - an esclandre?'
  36. I thought I ought to tell, and said so; adding that I did not believe there would be either stir or esclandre: madame was much too prudent to make a noise about an affair of that sort connected with her establishment.
  37. He stood looking down and meditating. He was both too proud and too honourable to entreat my secrecy on a point which duty evidently commanded me to communicate. I wished to do right, yet loathed to grieve or injure him. Just then Rosine glanced out through the open door; she could not see us, though between the trees I could plainly see her: her dress was grey, like mine. This circumstance, taken in connection with prior transactions, suggested to me that perhaps the case, however deplorable, was one in which I was under no obligation whatever to concern myself. Accordingly, I said -
  38. 'If you can assure me that none of Madame Beck's pupils are implicated in this business, I shall be happy to stand aloof from all interference. Take the casket, the bouquet and the billet; for my part I gladly forget the whole affair.'
  39. 'Look there!' he whispered suddenly, as his hand closed on what I offered, and at the same time he pointed through the boughs.
  40. I looked. Behold madame, in shawl, wrapping-gown and slippers, softly descending the steps, and stealing like a cat round the garden: in two minutes she would have been upon Dr. John. If she were like a cat, however, he, quite as much, resembled a leopard: nothing could be lighter than his tread when he chose. He watched, and as she turned a corner, he took the garden at two noiseless bounds. She reappeared, and he was gone. Rosine helped him, instantly interposing the door between him and his huntress. I, too, might have got away, but I preferred to meet madame openly.
  41. Though it was my frequent and well-known custom to spend twilight in the garden, yet, never till now, had I remained so late. Full sure was I that Madame had missed - was come in search of me, and designed now to pounce on the defaulter unawares. I expected a reprimand. No. Madame was all goodness. She tendered not even a remonstrance; she testified no shade of surprise. With that consummate tact of hers, in which I believe she was never surpassed by living thing, she even professed merely to have issued forth to taste 'la brise du soir.'
  42. 'Quelle belle nuit!' cried she, looking up at the stars - the moon was now gone down behind the broad tower of Jean Baptiste. 'Qu'il fait bon! que l'air est frais!'
  43. And, instead of sending me in, she detained me to take a few turns with her down the principal alley. When at last we both re-entered, she leaned affably on my shoulder by way of support in mounting the front door steps; at parting, her cheek was presented to my lips, and Bon soir, ma bonne amie; dormez bien!' was her kindly adieu for the night.
  44. I caught myself smiling as I lay awake and thoughtful on my couch - smiling at madame. The unction, the suavity of her behaviour offered, for one who knew her, a sure token that suspicion of some kind was busy in her brain. From some aperture or summit of observation, through parted bough or open window, she had doubtless caught a glimpse, remote or near, deceptive or instructive, of that night's transactions. Finely accomplished as she was in the art of surveillance, it was next to impossible that a casket could be thrown into her garden, or an interloper could cross her walks to seek it, without that she, in shaken branch, passing shade, unwonted footfall, or stilly murmur (and though Dr. John had spoken very low in the few words he dropped me, yet the hum of his man's voice pervaded, I thought, the whole conventual ground) without, I say, that she should have caught intimation of things extraordinary transpiring on her premises. What things, she might by no means see, or at that time be able to discover; but a delicious little ravelled plot lay tempting her to disentanglement; and in the midst, folded round and round in cobwebs, had she not secured 'Meess Lucie', clumsily involved, like the foolish fly she was?



  1. I had occasion to smile - nay, to laugh, at madame again, within the space of four-and-twenty hours after the little scene treated of in the last chapter.
  2. Villette owns a climate as variable, though not so humid, as that of any English town. A night of high wind followed upon that soft sunset, and all the next day was one of dry storm - dark, be-clouded, yet rainless - the streets were dim with sand and dust, whirled from the boulevards. I know not that even lovely weather would have tempted me to spend the evening-time of study and recreation, where I had spent it yesterday. My alley, and, indeed, all the walks and shrubs in the garden, had acquired a new, but not a pleasant interest; their seclusion was now become precarious; their calm - insecure. That casement which rained billets, had vulgarised the once dear nook it overlooked; and elsewhere, the eyes of the flowers had gained vision, and the knots in the tree boles listened like secret ears. Some plants there were, indeed, trodden down by Dr. John in his search, and his hasty and heedless progress, which I wished to prop up, water, and revive; some foot-marks, too, he had left on the beds: but these, in spite of the strong wind, I found a moment's leisure to efface very early in the morning, ere common eyes had discovered them. With a pensive sort of content, I sat down to my desk and my German, while the pupils settled to their evening lessons, and the other teachers took up their needlework.
  3. The scene of the 'étude du soir' was always the refectory, a much smaller apartment than any of the three classes or school-rooms; for here none, save the boarders, were ever admitted, and these numbered only a score. Two lamps hung from the ceiling over the two tables; these were lit at dusk, and their kindling was the signal for school-books being set aside, a grave demeanour assumed, general silence enforced, and then commenced 'la lecture pieuse.' This said 'lecture pieuse' was, I soon found, mainly designed as a wholesome mortification of the Intellect, a useful humiliation of the Reason; and such a dose for Common Sense as she might digest at her leisure, and thrive on as she best could.
  4. The book brought out (it was never changed, but when finished, recommenced) was a venerable volume, old as the hills - grey as the Hôtel de Ville.
  5. I would have given two francs for the chance of getting that book once into my hands, turning over the sacred yellow leaves, ascertaining the title, and perusing with my own eyes the enormous figments which, as an unworthy heretic, it was only permitted me to drink in with my bewildered ears. This book contained legends of the saints. Good God! (I speak the words reverently) what legends they were. What gasconading rascals those saints must have been, if they first boasted these exploits or invented these miracles. These legends, however, were no more than monkish extravagances, over which one laughed inwardly; there were, besides, priestly matters, and the priestcraft of the book was far worse than its monkery. The ears burned on each side of my head as I listened, perforce, to tales of moral martyrdom inflicted by Rome; the dread boasts of confessors, who had wickedly abused their office, trampling to deep degradation high-born ladies, making of countesses and princesses the most tormented slaves under the sun. Stories like that of Conrad and Elizabeth of Hungary, recurred again and again, with all its dreadful viciousness, sickening tyranny and black impiety: tales that were nightmares of oppression, privation and agony.
  6. I sat out this 'lecture pieuse' for some nights as well as I could, and as quietly too; only once breaking off the points of my scissors by involuntarily sticking them somewhat deep in the worm-eaten board of the table before me. But, at last, it made me so burning hot, and my temples, and my heart and my wrist throbbed so fast, and my sleep afterwards was so broken with excitement, that I could sit no longer. Prudence recommended henceforward a swift clearance of my person from the place, the moment that guilty old book was brought out. No Mause Headrigg ever felt a stronger call to take up her testimony against Sergeant Bothwell, than I - to speak my mind in this matter of the popish 'lecture pieuse.' However, I did manage somehow to curb and rein in; and though always, as soon as Rosine came to light the lamps, I shot from the room quickly, yet also I did it quietly; seizing that vantage moment given by the little bustle before the dead silence, and vanishing whilst the boarders put their books away.
  7. When I vanished - it was into darkness; candles were not allowed to be carried about, and the teacher who forsook the refectory, had only the unlit hall, schoolroom, or bedroom, as a refuge. In winter I sought the long classes, and paced them fast to keep myself warm - fortunate if the moon shone, and if there were only stars, soon reconciled to their dim gleam, or even to the total eclipse of their absence. In summer it was never quite dark, and then I went upstairs to my own quarter of the long dormitory, opened my own casement (that chamber was lit by five casements large as great doors), and leaning out, looked forth upon the city beyond the garden, and listened to band music from the park or the palace-square, thinking meantime my own thoughts, living my own life, in my own still, shadow world.
  8. This evening, fugitive as usual before the Pope and his works, I mounted the staircase, approached the dormitory, and quietly opened the door which was always kept carefully shut, and which, like every other door in this house, revolved noiselessly on well-oiled hinges. Before I saw, I felt that life was in the great room, usually void: not that there was either stir or breath, or rustle of sound, but Vacuum lacked, Solitude was not at home. All the white beds - the 'lits d'ange', as they were poetically termed - lay visible at a glance; all were empty: no sleeper reposed therein. The sound of a drawer cautiously slid out struck my ear; stepping a little to one side, my vision took a free range, unimpeded by falling curtains. I now commanded my own bed and my own toilet, with a locked work-box upon it, and locked drawers underneath.
  9. Very good. A dumpy, motherly, little body, in decent shawl and the cleanest of possible nightcaps, stood before this toilet, hard at work, apparently doing me the kindness of 'tidying out' the 'meuble.' Open stood the lid of the work-box, open the top drawer; duly and impartially was each succeeding drawer opened in turn: not an article of their contents but was lifted and unfolded, not a paper but was glanced over, not a little box but was unlidded; and beautiful was the adroitness, exemplary the care with which the search was accomplished. Madame wrought at it like a true star, 'unhasting yet unresting.' I will not deny that it was with a secret glee I watched her. Had I been a gentleman I believe madame would have found favour in my eyes, she was so handy, neat, thorough in all she did: some people's movements provoke the soul by their loose awkwardness, hers - satisfied by their trim compactness. I stood, in short, fascinated; but it was necessary to make an effort to break this spell: a retreat must be beaten. The searcher might have turned and caught me; there would have been nothing for it then but a scene, and she and I would have had to come all at once, with a sudden clash, to a thorough knowledge of each other: down would have gone conventionalities, away swept disguises, and I should have looked into her eyes, and she into mine - we should have known that we could work together no more, and parted in this life for ever.
  10. Where was the use of tempting such a catastrophe? I was not angry, and had no wish in the world to leave her. I could hardly get another employer whose yoke would be so light and so easy of carriage; and truly, I liked madame for her capital sense, whatever I might think of her principles: as to her system, it did me no harm; she might work me with it to her heart's content: nothing would come of the operation. Loverless and inexpectant of love, I was as safe from spies in my heart-poverty, as the beggar from thieves in his destitution of purse. I turned then and fled, descending the stairs with progress as swift and soundless as that of the spider, which at the same instant ran down the bannister.
  11. How I laughed when I reached the schoolroom. I knew now she had certainly seen Dr. John in the garden; I knew what her thoughts were. The spectacle of a suspicious nature so far misled by its own inventions, tickled me much. Yet as the laugh died, a kind of wrath smote me, and then bitterness followed: it was the rock struck, and Meribah's waters gushing out. I never had felt so strange and contradictory an inward tumult as I felt for an hour that evening: soreness and laughter, and fire, and grief shared my heart between them. I cried hot tears: not because madame mistrusted me - I did not care twopence for her mistrust - but for other reasons. Complicated, disquieting thoughts broke up the whole repose of my nature. However, that turmoil subsided: next day I was again Lucy Snowe.
  12. On revisiting my drawers, I found them all securely locked; the closest subsequent examination could not discover change or apparent disturbance in the position of one object. My few dresses were folded as I had left them; a certain little bunch of white violets that had once been silently presented to me by a stranger (a stranger to me, for we had never exchanged words), and which I had dried and kept for its sweet perfume between the folds of my best dress, lay there unstirred; my black silk scarf my lace chemisette and collars were unrumpled. Had she creased one solitary article, I own I should have felt much greater difficulty in forgiving her; but finding all straight and orderly, I said, 'Let bygones be bygones. I am unharmed: why should I bear malice?'
  13. A thing there was which puzzled myself, and I sought in my brain a key to that riddle almost as sedulously as madame had sought a guide to useful knowledge in my toilet drawers. How was it that Dr. John, if he had not been accessory to the dropping of that casket into the garden, should have known that it was dropped and appeared so promptly on the spot to seek it? So strong was the wish to clear up this point that I began to entertain this daring suggestion -
  14. 'Why may I not, in case I should ever have the opportunity, ask Dr. John himself to explain this coincidence?'
  15. And so long as Dr. John was absent, I really believed I had courage to test him with such a question.
  16. Little Georgette was now convalescent; and her physician accordingly made his visits very rare: indeed, he would have ceased them altogether had not madame insisted on his giving an occasional call till the child should be quite well.
  17. She came into the nursery one evening just after I had listened to Georgette's lisped and broken prayer, and had put her to bed. Taking the little one's hand, she said -
  18. 'Cette enfant a toujours un peu de fièvre.' And presently afterwards, looking at me with a quicker glance than was habitual to her quiet eye, 'Le Docteur John l'a-t-il vue dernièrement? Non, n'est ce pas?'
  19. Of course, she knew this better than any other person in the house. 'Well', she continued, 'I am going out, pour faire quelques courses en fiacre. I shall call on Dr. John, and send him to the child. I will that he sees her this evening, her cheeks are flushed, her pulse is quick: you will receive him - for my part, I shall be from home.'
  20. Now the child was well enough, only warm with the warmth of July; it was scarcely less needful to send for a priest to administer extreme unction than for a doctor to prescribe a dose; also Madame rarely made 'courses', as she called them, in the evening: moreover, this was the first time she had chosen to absent herself on the occasion of a visit from Dr. John. The whole arrangement indicated some plan; this I saw, but without the least anxiety. 'Ha! ha! Madame', laughed. Light-heart the Beggar, 'your crafty wits are on the wrong track.'
  21. She departed, attired very smartly, in a shawl of price, and a certain chapeau vert tendre - hazardous, as to its tint, for any complexion less fresh than her own, but to her, not unbecoming. I wondered what she intended: whether she really would send Dr. John or not; or whether indeed he would come: he might be engaged.
  22. Madame had charged me not to let Georgette sleep till the doctor came: I had therefore sufficient occupation in telling her nursery tales and palavering the little language for her benefit. I affected Georgette; she was a sensitive and a loving child: to hold her in my lap, or carry her in my arms, was to me a treat. To-night she would have me lay my head on the pillow of her crib; she even put her little arms round my neck. Her clasp and the nestling action with which she pressed her cheek to mine, made me almost cry with a tender pain. Feeling of no kind abounded in that house; this pure little drop from a pure little source was too sweet: it penetrated deep, and subdued the heart, and sent a gush to the eyes.
  23. Half an hour or an hour passed: Georgette murmured in her soft lisp that she was growing sleepy. 'And you shall sleep', thought I, 'malgré maman and médecin, if they are not here in ten minutes.'
  24. Hark! There was the ring, and there the tread, astonishing the staircase by the fleetness with which it left the steps behind. Rosine introduced Dr. John, and, with a freedom of manner not altogether peculiar to herself but characteristic of the domestics of Villette generally, she stayed to hear what he had to say. Madame's presence would have awed her back to her own realm of the vestibule and the cabinet - for mine, or that of any other teacher or pupil, she cared not a jot. Smart, trim and pert, she stood, a hand in each pocket of her gay grisette apron, eyeing Dr. John with no more fear or shyness than if he had been a picture instead of a living gentleman.
  25. 'Le marmot n'a rien, n'est ce pas?' said she, indicating Georgette with a jerk of her chin.
  26. 'Pas beaucoup', was the answer, as the doctor hastily scribbled with his pencil some harmless prescription.
  27. 'Eh bien!' pursued Rosine, approaching him quite near, while he put up his pencil. 'And the box - did you get it? Monsieur went off like a coup de vent the other night; I had not time to ask him.'
  28. 'I found it: yes.'
  29. 'And who threw it, then?' continued Rosine, speaking quite freely the very words I should so much have wished to say, but had no address or courage to bring it out: how short some people make the road to a point which, for others, seems unattainable!
  30. 'That may be my secret, rejoined Dr. John briefly, but with no sort of hauteur: he seemed quite to understand the Rosine or grisette character.
  31. 'Mais enfin', continued she, nothing abashed, 'monsieur knew it was thrown, since he came to seek it - how did he know?'
  32. 'I was attending a little patient in the college near', said he, 'and saw it dropped out of his chamber window, and so came to pick it up.'
  33. How simple the whole explanation! The note had alluded to a physician as then examining 'Gustave.'
  34. 'Ah ça!' pursued Rosine, 'il n'y a donc rien là-dessous: pas de mystère, pas d'amourette, par exemple?'
  35. 'Pas plus que sur ma main', responded the doctor, showing his palm.
  36. 'Quel dommage!' responded the grisette: 'et moi - à qui tout cela commençait à donner des idées.'
  37. 'Vraiment! vous en êtes pour vos frais', was the doctor's cool rejoinder.
  38. She pouted. The doctor could not help laughing at the sort of 'moue' she made: when he laughed, he had something peculiarly good-natured and genial in his look. I saw his hand incline to his pocket.
  39. 'How many times have you opened the door for me within this last month?' he asked.
  40. 'Monsieur ought to have kept count of that', said Rosine, quite readily.
  41. 'As if I had not something better to do!' rejoined he; but I saw him give her a piece of gold, which she took unscrupulously, and then danced off to answer the doorbell, ringing just now every five minutes, as the various servants came to fetch the half-boarders.
  42. The reader must not think too hardly of Rosine; on the whole, she was not a bad. sort of person, and had no idea there could be any disgrace in grasping at whatever she could get, or any effrontery in chattering like a pie to the best gentleman in Christendom.
  43. I had learnt something from the above scene besides what concerned the ivory box: viz., that not on the robe de jaconas, pink or grey, nor yet on the frilled and pocketed apron, lay the blame of breaking Dr. John's heart: these items of array were obviously guiltless as Georgette's little blue tunic. So much the better. But who then was the culprit? What was the ground - what the origin - what the perfect explanation of the whole business? Some points had been cleared, but how many yet remained obscure as night!
  44. 'However', I said to myself 'it is no affair of yours'; and turning from the face on which I had been unconsciously dwelling with a questioning gaze, I looked through the window which commanded the garden below. Dr. John meantime, standing by the bed-side, was slowly drawing on his gloves and watching his little patient, as her eyes closed and her rosy lips parted in coming sleep. I waited till he should depart as usual, with a quick bow and scarce articulate 'good night.' Just as he took his hat, my eyes, fixed on the tall houses bounding the garden, saw the one lattice, already commemorated, cautiously open; forth from the aperture projected a hand and a white handkerchief; both waved. I know not whether the signal was answered from some viewless quarter of our own dwelling; but immediately after there fluttered from the lattice a falling object, white and light - billet the second, of course.
  45. 'There!' I ejaculated involuntarily.
  46. 'Where?' asked Dr. John with energy, making direct for the window. 'What is it?'
  47. 'They have gone and done it again', was my reply. 'A handkerchief waved and something fell:' and I pointed to the lattice, now closed and looking hypocritically blank.
  48. 'Go at once; pick it up and bring it here', was his prompt direction: adding, 'nobody will take notice of you: I should be seen.'
  49. Straight I went. After some little search, I found a folded paper, lodged on the lower branch of a shrub; I seized and brought it direct to Dr. John. This time, I believe not even Rosine saw me.
  50. He instantly tore the billet into small pieces, without reading it.
  51. 'It is not in the least her fault, you must remember', he said, looking at me.
  52. 'Whose fault?' I asked. 'Who is it?'
  53. 'You don't yet know, then?'
  54. 'Not in the least.'
  55. 'Have you no guess?'
  56. 'None.'
  57. 'If I knew you better, I might be tempted to risk some confidence, and thus secure you as guardian over a most innocent and excellent, but somewhat inexperienced being.'
  58. 'As a duenna?' I asked.
  59. 'Yes', said he abstractedly. 'What snares are round her!' he added, musingly: and now, certainly for the first time, he examined my face, anxious, doubtless, to see if any kindly expression there, would warrant him in recommending to my care and indulgence some ethereal creature, against whom powers of darkness were plotting. I felt no particular vocation to undertake the surveillance of ethereal creatures; but recalling the scene at the bureau, it seemed to me that I owed him a good turn: if I could help him then I would, and it lay not with me to decide how. With as little reluctance as might be, I intimated that 'I was willing to do what I could towards taking care of any person in whom he might be interested.'
  60. 'I am no farther interested than as a spectator', said he, with a modesty, admirable, as I thought, to witness. 'I happen to be acquainted with the rather worthless character of the person who, from the house opposite, has now twice invaded the sanctity of this place; I have also met in society the object at whom these vulgar attempts are aimed. Her exquisite superiority and innate refinement ought, one would think, to scare impertinence from her very idea. It is not so, however; and innocent, unsuspicious as she is, I would guard her from evil if I could. In person, however, I can do nothing: I cannot come near her' - he paused.
  61. 'Well, I am willing to help you', said I, 'only tell me how.' And busily, in my own mind, I ran over the list of our inmates, seeking this paragon, this pearl of great price, this gem without flaw. 'It must be madame', I concluded. 'She only, amongst us all, has the art even to seem superior: but as to being unsuspicious, inexperienced, &c., Dr. John need not distract himself about that. However, this is just his whim, and I will not contradict him; he shall be humoured: his angel shall be an angel.'
  62. 'Just notify the quarter to which my care is to be directed', I continued gravely: chuckling, however, to myself over the thought of being set to chaperon Madame Beck or any of her pupils.
  63. Now Dr. John had a fine set of nerves, and he at once felt by instinct, what no more coarsely constituted mind would have detected; namely, that I was a little amused at him. The colour rose to his cheek; with half a smile he turned and took his hat - he was going. My heart smote me.
  64. 'I will - I will help you', said I eagerly. 'I will do what you wish. I will watch over your angel; I will take care of her, only tell me who she is.'
  65. 'But you must know', said he then with earnestness, yet speaking very low. 'So spotless, so good, so unspeakably beautiful! impossible that one house should contain two like her. I allude, of course - '
  66. Here the latch of Madame Beck's chamber-door (opening into the nursery) gave a sudden click, as if the hand holding it had been slightly convulsed; there was the suppressed explosion of an irrepressible sneeze. These little accidents will happen to the best of us. Madame - excellent woman! was then on duty. She had come home quietly, stolen upstairs on tip-toe; she was in her chamber. If she had not sneezed, she would have heard all, and so should I; but that unlucky sternutation routed Dr. John. While he stood aghast, she came forward alert, composed, in the best yet most tranquil spirits: no novice to her habits but would have thought she had just some in, and scouted the idea of her ear having been glued to the key-hole for at least ten minutes. She affected to sneeze again, declared she was 'enrhumée', and then proceeded volubly to recount her 'courses en fiacre.' The prayer-bell rang, and I left her with the doctor.



  1. As soon as Georgette was well, madame sent her away into the country. I was sorry; I loved the child, and her loss made me poorer than before. But I must not complain. I lived in a house full of robust life; I might have had companions and I chose solitude. Each of the teachers in turn made me overtures of special intimacy; I tried them all. One I found to be an honest woman, but a narrow thinker, a coarse feeler, and an egotist. The second was a Parisienne, externally refined - at heart, corrupt - without a creed, without a principle, without an affection: having penetrated the outward crust of decorum in this character, you found a slough beneath. She had a wonderful passion for presents; and, in this point, the third teacher - a person otherwise characterless and insignificant - closely resembled her. This last-named had also one other distinctive property - that of avarice. In her reigned the love of money for its own sake. The sight of a piece of gold would bring into her eyes a green glisten, singular to witness. She once, as a mark of high favour, took me upstairs, and, opening a secret door, showed me a hoard - a mass of coarse, large coin - about fifteen guineas, in five-franc pieces. She loved this hoard as a bird loves its eggs. These were her savings. She would come and talk to me about them with an infatuated and persevering dotage, strange to behold in a person not yet twenty-five.
  2. The Parisienne on the other hand, was prodigal and profligate (in disposition, that is: as to action, I do not know). That latter quality showed its snake-head to me but once, peering out very cautiously. A curious kind of reptile it seemed, judging from the glimpse I got; its novelty whetted my curiosity: if it would have come out boldly, perhaps I might philosophically have stood my ground, and coolly surveyed the long thing from forked tongue to scaly tail-tip; but it merely rustled in the leaves of a bad novel; and, on encountering a hasty and ill-advised demonstration of wrath, recoiled and vanished, hissing. She hated me from that day.
  3. This Parisienne was always in debt; her salary being anticipated, not only in dress, but in perfumes, cosmetics, confectionery and condiments. What a cold, callous epicure she was in all things! I see her now. Thin in face and figure, sallow in complexion, regular in features, with perfect teeth, lips like a thread, a large prominent chin, a well-opened, but frozen eye, of light at once craving and ingrate. She mortally hated work, and loved what she called pleasure, being an insipid, heartless, brainless dissipation of time.
  4. Madame Beck knew this woman's character perfectly well. She once talked to me about her, with an odd mixture of discrimination, indifference, and antipathy. I asked why she kept her in the establishment. She answered plainly, 'because it suited her interest to do so'; and pointed out a fact I had already noticed, namely that Mademoiselle St. Pierre possessed, in an almost unique degree, the power of keeping order amongst her undisciplined ranks of scholars. A certain petrifying influence accompanied and surrounded her: without passion, noise, or violence, she held them in check as a breezeless frost air might still a brawling stream. She was of little use as far as communication of knowledge went, but for strict surveillance and maintenance of rules she was invaluable. 'Je sais bien qu'elle n'a pas de principes, ni, peutêtre, de moeurs', admitted Madame frankly; but added with philosophy, 'son maintien en classe est toujours convenable et rempli même d'une certaine dignité: c'est tout ce qu'il faut. Ni les élèves ni les parents ne regardent plus loin; ni, par conséquent, moi non plus.'

  5. A strange, frolicsome, noisy little world was this school: great pains were taken to hide chains with flowers: a subtle essence of Romanism pervaded every arrangement: large sensual indulgence (so to speak) was permitted by way of counterpoise to jealous spiritual restraint. Each mind was being reared in slavery; but, to prevent reflection from dwelling on this fact, every pretext for physical recreation was seized and made the most of. There, as elsewhere, the CHURCH strove to bring up her children robust in body, feeble in soul, fat, ruddy, hale, joyous, ignorant, unthinking, unquestioning. 'Eat, drink and live!' she says. 'Look after your bodies; leave your souls to me. I hold their cure - guide their course: I guarantee their final fate.' A bargain, in which every true Catholic deems himself a gainer. Lucifer just offers the same terms; 'All this power will I give thee, and the glory of it; for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it. If thou, therefore, wilt worship me, all shall be thine!'
  6. About this time - in the ripest glow of summer - Madame Beck's house became as merry a place as a school could well be. All day long the broad folding-doors and the two-leaved casements stood wide open: settled sunshine seemed naturalised in the atmosphere; clouds were far off, sailing away beyond sea, resting, no doubt, round islands such as England - that dear land of mists - but withdrawn wholly from the drier continent. We lived far more in the garden than under a roof: classes were held, and meals partaken of in the 'grand berceau.' Moreover, there was a note of holiday preparation, which almost turned freedom into license. The autumnal long vacation was but two months distant; but before that, a great day - an important ceremony - none other than the fête of Madame - awaited celebration.
  7. The conduct of this fête devolved chiefly on Mademoiselle St. Pierre; madame herself being supposed to stand aloof, disinterestedly unconscious of what might be going forward in her honour. Especially, she never knew, never in the least suspected that a subscription was annually levied on the whole school for the purchase of a handsome present. The polite tact of the reader will please to leave out of the account a brief secret consultation on this point in Madame's own chamber.
  8. 'What will you have this year?' was asked by her Parisienne lieutenant.
  9. 'Oh, no matter! Let it alone. Let the poor children keep their francs.' And madame looked benign and modest.
  10. The St. Pierre would here protrude her chin; she knew madame by heart; she always called her airs of 'bonté'; - 'des grimaces.' She never even professed to respect them one instant.
  11. 'Vite!' she would say coldly. 'Name the article. Shall it be jewellery or porcelain, haberdashery or silver?'
  12. 'Eh bien! Deux ou trois cuillers et autant de fourchettes en argent.'
  13. And the result was a handsome case, containing 300 francs worth of plate.
  14. The programme of the fête day's proceedings comprised: Presentation of plate, collation in the garden, dramatic performance (with pupils and teachers for actors), a dance and supper. Very gorgeous seemed the effect of the whole to me, as I well remember. Zélie St. Pierre understood these things and managed them ably.
  15. The play was the main point; a month's previous drilling being there required. The choice too of the actors required knowledge and care; then came lessons in elocution, in attitude, and then the fatigue of countless rehearsals. For all this, as may well be supposed, St. Pierre did not suffice: other management, other accomplishments than hers were requisite here They were supplied in the person of a master - M. Paul Emanuel, professor of literature. It was never my lot to be present at the histrionic lessons of M. Paul, but I often saw him as he crossed the carré (a square hall between the dwelling-house and school-house). I heard him too in the warm evenings, lecturing with open doors, and his name, with anecdotes of him, resounded in one's ears from all sides. Especially our former acquaintance, Miss Ginevra Fanshawe, who had been selected to take a prominent part in the play - used, in bestowing upon me a large portion of her leisure, to lard her discourse with frequent allusions to his sayings and doings. She esteemed him hideously plain, and used to profess herself frightened almost into hysterics at the sound of his step or voice. A dark little man he certainly was; pungent and austere. Even to me he seemed a harsh apparition, with his close-shorn, black head, his broad, sallow brow, his thin cheek, his wide and quivering nostril, his thorough glance and hurried bearing. Irritable he was; one heard that, as he apostrophised with vehemence the awkward squad under his orders. Sometimes he would break out on these raw amateur actresses with a passion of impatience at their falseness of conception, their coldness of emotion, their feebleness of delivery. 'Ecoutez!' he would cry; and then his voice rang through the premises like a trumpet; and when, mimicking it, came the small pipe of a Ginevra, a Mathilde, or a Blanche, one understood why a hollow groan of scorn, or a fierce hiss of rage, rewarded the tame echo.
  16. 'Vous n'étes donc que des poupées?' I heard him thunder. 'Vous n'avez pas de passions - vous autres? Vous ne sentez donc rien? Votre chair est de neige, votre sang de glace? Moi, je veux que tout cela s'allume, qu'il ait une vie, une âme!'
  17. Vain resolve! And when he at last found it was vain, he suddenly broke the whole business down. Hitherto he had been teaching them a grand tragedy; he tore the tragedy in morsels, and came next day with a compact little comic trifle. To this they took more kindly; he presently knocked it all into their smooth round pates.
  18. Mademoiselle St. Pierre always presided at M. Emanuel's lessons, and I was told that the polish of her manner, her seeming attention, her tact and grace, impressed that gentleman very favourably. She had, indeed, the art of pleasing, for a given time, whom she would; but the feeling. would not last: in an hour it was dried like dew, vanished like gossamer.
  19. The day preceding Madame's fête was as much a holiday as the fête itself. It was devoted to clearing out, cleaning, arranging and decorating the three school-rooms. All within doors was the gayest bustle; neither upstairs nor down could a quiet, isolated person find rest for the sole of her foot; accordingly, for my part, I took refuge in the garden. The whole day did I wander or sit there alone, finding warmth in the sun, shelter among the trees, and a sort of companionship in my own thoughts. I well remember that I exchanged but two sentences that day with any living being: not that I felt solitary; I was glad to be quiet. For a looker-on, it sufficed to pass through the rooms once or twice, observe what changes were being wrought, how a green-room and a dressing-room were being contrived, a little stage with scenery erected, how M. Paul Emanuel, in conjunction with Mademoiselle St. Pierre, was directing all, and how an eager band of pupils, amongst them Ginevra Fanshawe, were working gaily under his control.
  20. The great day arrived. The sun rose hot and unclouded, and hot and unclouded it burned on till evening. All the doors and all the windows were set open, which gave a pleasant sense of summer freedom - and freedom the most complete seemed indeed the order of the day. Teachers and pupils descended to breakfast in dressing-gowns and curlpapers: anticipating 'avec délices' the toilette of the evening, they seemed to take a pleasure in indulging that forenoon in a luxury of slovenliness; like aldermen fasting in preparation for a feast. About nine o'clock a.m., an important functionary, the coiffeur, arrived. Sacrilegious to state, he fixed his headquarters in the oratory, and there, in presence of bênitier, candle and crucifix, solemnised the mysteries of his art. Each girl was summoned in turn to pass through his hands; emerging from them with head as smooth as a shell, intersected by faultless white lines, and wreathed about with Grecian plaits that shone as if lacquered. I took my turn with the rest, and could hardly believe what the glass said when I applied to it for information afterwards; the lavished garlandry of woven brown hair amazed me - I feared it was not all my own, and it required several convincing pulls to give assurance to the contrary. I then acknowledged in the coiffeur a first-rate artist - one who certainly made the most of indifferent materials.
  21. The oratory closed, the dormitory became the scene of ablutions, arrayings and bedizenings curiously elaborate. To me it was, and ever must be an enigma, how they contrived to spend so much time in doing so little. The operation seemed close, intricate, prolonged: the result simple. A clear white muslin dress, a blue sash (the Virgin's colours), a pair of white, or straw colour kid gloves - such was the gala uniform, to the assumption whereof that houseful of teachers and pupils devoted three mortal hours. But though simple, it must be allowed the array was perfect - perfect in fashion, fit and freshness; every head being also dressed with exquisite nicety, and a certain compact taste - suiting the full, firm comeliness of Labassecourien contours, though too stiff for any more flowing and flexible style of beauty - the general effect was, on the whole, commendable.
  22. In beholding this diaphanous and snowy mass, I well remember feeling myself to be a mere shadowy spot on a field of light; the courage was not in me to put on a transparent white dress: something thin I must wear - the weather and rooms being too hot to give substantial fabrics sufferance, so I had sought through a dozen shops till I lit upon a crape-like material of purple-gray - the colour, in short, of dun mist, lying on a moor in bloom. My tailleuse had kindly made it as well as she could: because, as she judiciously observed, it was 'si triste - si peu voyant', care in the fashion was the more imperative: it was well she took this view of the matter, for I had no flower, no jewel to relieve it: and, what was more, I had no natural rose of complexion.
  23. We become oblivious of these deficiencies in the uniform routine of daily drudgery, but they will force upon us their unwelcome blank on those bright occasions when beauty should shine.
  24. However, in this same gown of shadow, I felt at home and at ease; an advantage I should not have enjoyed in anything more brilliant or striking. Madame Beck, too, kept me in countenance; her dress was almost as quiet as mine, except that she wore a bracelet, and a large brooch bright with gold and fine stones. We chanced to meet on the stairs, and she gave me a nod and smile of approbation. Not that she thought I was looking well - a point unlikely to engage her interest - but she considered me dressed 'convenablement', 'décemment', and la Convenance et la Décence were the two calm deities of Madame's worship. She even paused, laid on my shoulder her gloved hand, holding an embroidered and perfumed handkerchief and confided to my ear a sarcasm on the other teachers (whom she had just been complimenting to their faces). 'Nothing so absurd', she said, 'as for des femme mûres "to dress themselves like girls of fifteen" - quant a' la St. Pierre, elle a l'air d'une vieille coquette qui fait l'ingénue.'
  25. Being dressed at least a couple of hours before anybody else, I felt a pleasure in betaking myself - not to the garden, where servants were busy propping up long tables, placing seats, and spreading cloths in readiness for the collation - but to the school-rooms, now empty, quiet, cool and clean; their walls fresh stained; their planked floors fresh scoured and scarce dry; flowers fresh gathered adorning the recesses in pots, and draperies, fresh hung, beautifying the great windows.
  26. Withdrawing to the first classe, a smaller and neater room than the others, and taking from the glazed book-case, of which I kept the key, a volume whose title promised some interest, I sat down to read. The glass door of this classe, or schoolroom, opened into the large berceau; acacia boughs caressed its panes, as they stretched across to meet a rose-bush blooming by the opposite lintel: in this rose-bush bees murmured busy and happy. I commenced reading. Just as the stilly hum, the embowering shade, the warm, lonely calm of my retreat were beginning to steal meaning from the page, vision from my eyes, and to lure me along the track of reverie, down into some deep dell of dream-land - just then, the sharpest ring of the street-door bell to which that much tried instrument had ever thrilled, snatched me back to consciousness.
  27. Now, the bell had been ringing all the morning, as workmen, or servants, or coiffeuses, or tailleuses went and came on their several errands. Moreover, there was good reason to expect it would ring all the afternoon, since about one hundred externes were yet to arrive in carriages or fiacres: nor could it be expected to rest during the evening, when parents and friends would gather thronging to the play. Under these circumstances, a ring - even a sharp ring - was a matter of course: yet this particular peal had an accent of its own, which chased my dream, and startled my book from my knee.
  28. I was stooping to pick up this last, when - firm, fast, straight - right on through vestibule - along corridor, across carré, through first division, second division, grand salle - strode a step, quick, regular, intent. The closed door of the first classe - my sanctuary - offered no obstacle; it burst open, and a paletot and a bonnet grec filled the void; also two eyes first vaguely struck upon, and then hungrily dived into me.
  29. 'C'est cela!' said a voice. 'Je la connais: c'est l'Anglaise. Tant pis. Toute Anglaise, et, par conséquent, toute bégueule qu'elle soit - elle fera mon affaire, ou je saurai pourquoi.'
  30. Then, with a certain stern politeness (I suppose he thought I had not caught the drift of his previous uncivil mutterings), and in a jargon the most execrable that ever was heard. 'Meess----, play you must: I am planted there.'
  31. 'What can I do for you, M. Paul Emanuel?' I inquired: for M. Paul Emanuel it was, and in a state of no little excitement.
  32. 'Play you must. I will not have you shrink, or frown, or make the prude. I read your skull that night you came; I see your moyens: play you can; play you must.'
  33. 'But how, M. Paul? What do you mean?'
  34. 'There is no time to be lost', he went on now speaking in French; 'and let us thrust to the wall all reluctance, all excuses, all minauderies. You must take a part.'
  35. 'In the vaudeville?'
  36. 'In the vaudeville. You have said it.'
  37. I gasped, horror-struck. What did the little man mean?
  38. 'Listen!' he said. 'The case shall be stated, and you shall then answer me Yes, or No; and according to your answer shall I ever after estimate you.'
  39. The scarce-suppressed impetus of a most irritable nature glowed in his cheek, fed with sharp shafts his glances, a nature - the injudicious, the mawkish, the hesitating, the sullen, the affected, above all, the unyielding, might quickly render violent and implacable. Silence and attention was the best balm to apply: I listened.
  40. 'The whole matter is going to fail', he began. 'Louise Vanderkelkov has fallen ill - at least so her ridiculous mother asserts; for my part, I feel sure she might play if she would: it is only good-will that lacks. She was charged with a rôle, as you know, or do not know - it is equal: without that rôle the play is stopped. There are now but a few hours in which to learn it: not a girl in this school would hear reason, and accept the task. Forsooth, it is not an interesting, not an amiable, part; their vile amour-propre - that base quality of which women have so much - would revolt from it. Englishwomen are either the best or the worst of their sex. Dieu sait que je les déteste comme la peste, ordinairement' (this between his recreant teeth). 'I apply to an Englishwoman to rescue me. What is her answer - Yes, or No?'
  41. A thousand objections rushed into my mind. The foreign language, the limited time, the public display . . . Inclination recoiled, Ability faltered, Self-respect (that 'vile quality') trembled. 'Non, non, non!' said all these; but looking up at M. Paul, and seeing in his vexed, fiery, and searching eye, a sort of appeal behind all its menace - my lips dropped the word 'oui'. For a moment his rigid countenance relaxed with a quiver of content: quickly bent up again, however, he went on -
  42. 'Vite à l'ouvrage! Here is the book; here is your rôle: read.' And I read. He did not commend; at some passages he scowled and stamped. He gave me a lesson: I diligently imitated. It was a disagreeable part - a man's - an empty-headed fop's. One could put into it neither heart nor soul: I hated it. The play - a mere trifle - ran chiefly on the efforts of a brace of rivals to gain the hand of a fair coquette. One lover was called the 'Ours', a good and gallant but unpolished man, a sort of diamond in the rough; the other was a butterfly, a talker, and a traitor: and I was to be the butterfly, talker, and traitor.
  43. I did my best - which was bad, I know: it provoked M. Paul; he fumed. Putting both hands to the work, I endeavoured to do better than my best; I presume he gave me credit for good intentions; he professed to be partially content. 'Ça ira!' he cried; and as voices began sounding from the garden, and white dresses fluttering among the trees, he added: 'You must withdraw: you must be alone to learn this. Come with me.'
  44. Without being allowed time or power to deliberate, I found myself in the same breath convoyed along as in a species of whirlwind, up stairs, up two pair of stairs, nay, actually up three (for this fiery little man seemed as by instinct to know his way everywhere); to the solitary and lofty attic was I borne, put in and locked in, the key being on the door, and that key he took with him and vanished.
  45. The attic was no pleasant place: I believe he did not know how unpleasant it was, or he never would have locked me in with so little ceremony. In this summer weather, it was hot as Africa; as in winter, it was always cold as Greenland. Boxes and lumber filled it; old dresses draped its unstained wall - cobwebs its unswept ceiling. Well was it known to be tenanted by rats, by black beetles, and by cockroaches - nay, rumour affirmed that the ghostly Nun of the garden had once been seen here. A partial darkness obscured one end, across which, as for deeper mystery, an old russet curtain was drawn, by way of screen to a sombre band of winter cloaks, pendant each from its pin - like a malefactor from his gibbet. From amongst these cloaks, and behind that curtain, the Nun was said to issue. I did not believe this, nor was I troubled by apprehension thereof; but I saw a very dark and large rat, with a long tail, come gliding out from that squalid alcove; and, moreover, my eye fell on many a black beetle dotting the floor. These objects discomposed me more, perhaps, than it would be wise to say, as also did the dust, lumber and stifling heat of the place. The last inconvenience would soon have become intolerable had I not found means to open and prop up the skylight, thus admitting some freshness. Underneath this aperture I pushed a large empty chest, and having mounted upon it a smaller box, and wiped from both the dust, I gathered my dress (my best, the reader must remember, and therefore a legitimate object of care) fastidiously around me, ascended this species of extempore throne, and being seated, commenced the acquisition of my task; while I learned, not forgetting to keep a sharp look-out on the black beetles and cockroaches, of which, more even, I believe, than of the rats, I sat in mortal dread.
  46. My impression at first was that I had undertaken what it really was impossible to perform, and I simply resolved to do my best and be resigned to fail. I soon found, however, that one part in so short a piece was not more than memory could master at a few hours' notice. I learned and learned on, first in a whisper, and then aloud. Perfectly secure from human audience, I acted my part before the garret vermin. Entering into its emptiness, frivolity, and falsehood, with a spirit inspired by scorn and impatience, I took my revenge on this 'fat', by making him as fatuitous as I possibly could.
  47. In this exercise the afternoon passed: day began to glide into evening; and I, who had eaten nothing since breakfast, grew excessively hungry. Now I thought of the collation, which doubtless they were just then devouring in the garden far below. (I had seen in the vestibule a basketful of small pâtés à la crème, than which nothing in the whole range of cookery seemed to me better.) A pâté; or a square of cake, it seemed to me would come very apropos; and as my relish for those dainties increased, it began to appear somewhat hard that I should pass my holiday fasting and in prison. Remote as was the attic from the street door and vestibule, yet the ever-tinkling bell was faintly audible here; and also the ceaseless roll of wheels on the tormented pavement. I knew that the house and garden were thronged, and that all was gay and glad below; here it began to grow dusk: the beetles were fading from my sight; I trembled lest they should steal on me a march, mount my throne unseen, and unsuspected, invade my skirts. Impatient and apprehensive, I commenced the rehearsal of my part merely to kill time. Just as I was concluding, the long-delayed rattle of the key in the lock came to my ear - no unwelcome sound. M. Paul (I could just see through the dusk that is was M. Paul, for light enough still lingered to show the velvet blackness of his close shorn head and the sallow ivory of his brow) looked in.
  48. 'Brava!' cried he, holding the door open and remaining at the threshold. 'J'ai tout entendu. C'est assez bien. Encore!'
  49. A moment I hesitated.
  50. 'Encore!' said he sternly. 'Et point de grimaces! A bas la timidité!'
  51. Again I went through the part, but not half so well as I had spoken it alone.
  52. 'Enfin, elle sait', said he, half dissatisfied, 'and one cannot be fastidious or exacting under the circumstances.' Then he added. 'You may yet have twenty minutes for preparation: au revoir!' And he was going.
  53. 'Monsieur', I called out, taking courage.
  54. 'Eh bien. Qu'est ce que c'est, mademoiselle?'
  55. 'J'ai bien faim.'
  56. 'Comment, vous avez faim! Et la collation?'
  57. 'I know nothing about it. I have not seen it, shut up here.'
  58. 'Ah! C'est vrai', cried he.
  59. In a moment my throne was abdicated, the attic evacuted; an inverse repetition of the impetus which had brought me up into the attic, instantly took me down - down - down to the very kitchen. I thought I should have gone to the cellar. The cook was imperatively ordered to produce food, and I, as imperatively, was commanded to eat. To my great joy this food was limited to coffee and cake: I had feared wine and sweets, which I did not like. How he guessed that I should like a petit pâté à la crème I cannot tell; but he went out and procured me one from some quarter. With considerable willingness I ate and drank, keeping the petit pâté till the last, as a bonne bouche. M. Paul superintended my repast, and almost forced upon me more than I could swallow.
  60. 'A la bonne heure', he cried, when I signified that I really could take no more, and, with uplifted hands, implored to be spared the additional roll on which he had just spread butter. 'You will set me down as a species of tyrant and Bluebeard, starving women in a garret; whereas, after all, I am no such thing. Now, mademoiselle, do you feel courage and strength to appear?'
  61. I said, I thought I did; though, in truth, I was perfectly confused, and could hardly tell how I felt: but this little man was of the order of beings who must not be opposed, unless you possessed an all-dominant force sufficient to crush him at once.
  62. 'Come then', said he, offering his hand.
  63. I gave him mine, and he set off with a rapid walk, which obliged me to run at his side in order to keep pace. In the carré he stopped a moment; it was lit with large lamps; the wide doors of the classes were open, and so were the equally wide garden doors; orange trees in tubs, and tall flowers in pots, ornamented these portals on each side; groups of ladies and gentlemen in evening dress stood and walked amongst the flowers. Within, the long vista of the school-rooms presented a thronging, undulating, murmuring, waving, streaming multitude, all rose, and blue, and half translucent white. There were lustres burning overhead; far off there was a stage, a solemn green curtain, a row of footlights.
  64. 'N'est-ce pas que c'est beau?' demanded my companion.
  65. I should have said it was, but my heart got up into my throat. M. Paul discovered this, and gave me a side scowl and a little shake for my pains.
  66. 'I will do my best, but I wish it was over.' said I; then I asked: 'Are we to walk through that crowd?'
  67. 'By no means: I manage matters better: we pass through the garden - here.'
  68. In an instant we were out of doors: the cool, calm night revived me somewhat. It was moonless, but the reflex from the many glowing windows lit the court brightly, and even the alleys - dimly. Heaven was cloudless, and grand with the quiver of its living fires. How soft are the nights of the continent! How bland, balmy, safe! No sea fog: no chilling damp: mistless as noon, and fresh as morning.
  69. Having crossed court and garden, we reached the glass door of the first classe. It stood open, like all other doors that night; we passed, and then I was ushered into a small cabinet, dividing the first classe from the grand salle. This cabinet dazzled me, it was so full of light: it deafened me, it was clamorous with voices: it stifled me, it was so hot, choking, thronged.
  70. 'De l'ordre! Du silence!' cried M. Paul. 'Is this chaos?' he demanded; and there was a hush. With a dozen words, and as many gestures, he turned out half the persons present, and obliged the remnant to fall into rank. Those left were all in costume: they were the performers, and this was the green-room. M. Paul introduced me. All stared and some tittered. It was a surprise: they had not expected the Englishwoman would play in a vaudeville. Ginevra Fanshawe, beautifully dressed for her part, and looking fascinatingly pretty, turned on me a pair of eyes as round as beads. In the highest spirit, unperturbed by fear or bashfulness, delighted indeed at the thought of shining off before hundreds - my entrance seemed to transfix her with amazement in the midst of her joy. She would have exclaimed, but M. Paul held her and all the rest in check.
  71. Having surveyed and criticised the whole troop, he turned to me.
  72. 'You, too, must be dressed for your part.'
  73. 'Dressed - dressed like a man!' exclaimed Zélie St. Pierre, darting forwards; adding with officiousness, 'I will dress her myself.'
  74. To be dressed like a man did not please, and would not suit me. I had consented to take a man's name and part; as to his dress - halte là! No. I would keep my own dress, come what might. M. Paul might storm, might rage: I would keep my own dress. I said so, with a voice as resolute in intent, as it was low, and perhaps unsteady, in utterance.
  75. He did not immediately storm or rage, as I fully thought he would: he stood silent. But Zélie again interposed.
  76. 'She will make a capital petit-maître. Here are the garments, all - all complete: somewhat too large, but I will arrange all that. Come, chère amie - belle Anglaise!'
  77. And she sneered, for I was not 'belle.' She seized my hand, she was drawing me away. M. Paul stood impassible - neutral.
  78. 'You must not resist', pursued St. Pierre - for resist I did. 'You will spoil all, destroy the mirth of the piece, the enjoyment of the company, sacrifice everything to your amour-propre. This would be too bad - monsieur will never permit this?'
  79. She sought his eye. I watched, likewise, for a glance. He gave her one, and then he gave me one. 'Stop!' he said slowly, arresting St. Pierre, who continued her efforts to drag me after her. Everybody awaited the decision. He was not angry, not irritated; I perceived that, and took heart.
  80. 'You do not like these clothes?' he asked, pointing to the masculine vestments.
  81. 'I don't object to some of them, but I won't have them all.'
  82. 'How must it be, then? How, accept a man's part, and go on the stage dressed as a woman? This is an amateur affair, it is true - a vaudeville de pensionnat; certain modifications I might sanction, yet something you must have to announce you as of the nobler sex.'
  83. 'And I will, monsieur; but it must be arranged in my own way: nobody must meddle; the things must not be forced upon me. Just let me dress myself.'
  84. Monsieur; without another word, took the costume from St. Pierre, gave it to me, and permitted me to pass into the dressing-room. Once alone, I grew calm, and collectedly went to work. Retaining my woman's garb without the slightest retrenchment, I merely assumed, in addition, a little vest, a collar, and cravat, and a paletôt of small dimensions; the whole being the costume of a brother of one of the pupils. Having loosened my hair out of its braid, made up the long back hair close, and brushed the front hair to one side, I took my hat and gloves in my hand and came out. M. Paul was waiting, and so were the others. He looked at me. 'That may pass in a pensionnat', he pronounced. Then added, not unkindly, 'Courage, mon ami! Un peu de sang froid - un peu d'aplomb, M. Lucien, et tout ira bien.'
  85. St. Pierre sneered again, in her cold snaky manner.
  86. I was irritable, because excited, and I could not help turning upon her and saying, that if she were not a lady and I a gentleman, I should feel disposed to call her out.
  87. 'After the play, after the play', said M. Paul. 'I will then divide my pair of pistols between you, and we will settle the dispute according to form: it will only be the old quarrel of France and England.'
  88. But now the moment approached for the performance to commence. M. Paul, setting us before him, harangued us briefly, like a general addressing soldiers about to charge. I don't know what he said, except that he recommended each to penetrate herself with a sense of her personal insignificance. God knows I thought this advice superfluous for some of us. A bell tinkled. I and two more were ushered on to the stage. The bell tinkled again. I had to speak the very first words.
  89. 'Do not look at the crowd, nor think of it', whispered M. Paul in my ear. 'Imagine yourself in the garret, acting to the rats.'
  90. He vanished. The curtain drew up - shrivelled to the ceiling; the bright lights, the long room, the gay throng, burst upon us. I thought of the black beetles, the old boxes, the worm-eaten bureaux. I said my say badly; but I said it. That first speech was the difficulty; it revealed to me this fact, that it was not the crowd I feared so much as my own voice. Foreigners and strangers, the crowd were nothing to me. Nor did I think of them. When my tongue once got free, and my voice took its true pitch, and found its natural tone, I thought of nothing but the personage I represented - and of M. Paul, who was listening, watching, prompting in the side scenes.
  91. By-and-by, feeling the right power come - the spring demanded gush and rise inwardly - I became sufficiently composed to notice my fellow actors. Some of them played very well; especially Ginevra Fanshawe, who had to coquette between two suitors, and managed admirably: in fact she was in her element. I observed that she once or twice threw a certain marked fondness and pointed partiality into her manner towards me - the fop. With such emphasis and animation did she favour me, such glances did she dart out into the listening and applauding crowd, that to me - who knew her - it presently became evident she was acting at some one; and I followed her eye, her smile, her gesture, and ere long discovered that she had at least singled out a handsome and distinguished aim for her shafts; full in the path of those arrows - taller than other spectators, and therefore more sure to receive them - stood, in attitude quiet but intent, a well-known form - that of Dr. John.
  92. The spectacle seemed somehow suggestive. There was language in Dr. John's look, though I cannot tell what he said; it animated me: I drew out of it a history; I put my idea into the part I performed; I threw it into my wooing of Ginevra. In the 'Ours', or sincere lover, I saw Dr. John. Did I pity him, as erst? No, I hardened my heart, rivalled and outrivalled him. I knew myself but a fop, but where he was outcast I could please. Now I know I acted as if wishful and resolute to win and conquer. Ginevra seconded me; between us we half changed the nature of the rôle, gilding it from top to toe. Between the acts M. Paul told us he knew not what possessed us, and half expostulated, 'C'est peut être plus beau que votre modèle', said he, 'mais ce n'est pas juste.' I know not what possessed me either; but somehow, my longing was to eclipse the 'Ours', i.e., Dr. John. Ginevra was tender; how could I be otherwise than chivalric? Retaining the letter, I recklessly altered the spirit of the rôle. Without heart, without interest, I could not play it at all. It must be played - in went the yearned-for seasoning - thus flavoured, I played it with relish.
  93. What I felt that night, and what I did, I no more expected to feel and do, than to be lifted in a trance to the seventh heaven. Cold, reluctant, apprehensive, I had accepted a part to please another: ere long, warming, becoming interested, taking courage, I acted to please myself. Yet the next day, when I thought it over, I quite disapproved of these amateur performances; and though glad that I had obliged M. Paul and tried my own strength for once, I took a firm resolution never to be drawn into a similar affair. A keen relish for dramatic expression had revealed itself as part of my nature; to cherish and exercise this new-found faculty might gift me with a world of delight, but it would not do for a mere looker-on at life: the strength and longing must be put by; and I put them by, and fastened them in with the lock of a resolution which neither Time nor Temptation has since picked.
  94. No sooner was the play over and well over, than the choleric and arbitrary M. Paul underwent a metamorphosis. His hour of managerial responsibility past, he at once laid aside his magisterial austerity; in a moment he stood amongst us, vivacious, kind and social, shook hands with us all round, thanked us separately, and announced his determination that each of us should in turn be his partner in the coming ball. On his claiming my promise, I told him I did not dance. 'For once I must', was the answer; and if I had not slipped aside and kept out of his way, he would have compelled me to this second performance. But I had acted enough for one evening; it was time I retired into myself and my ordinary life. My dun-coloured dress did well enough under a paletôt on the stage, but would not suit a waltz or a quadrille. Withdrawing to a quiet nook, whence unobserved I could observe - the ball, its splendours and its pleasures, passed before me as a spectacle.
  95. Again, Ginevra Fanshawe was the belle, the fairest and the gayest present; she was selected to open the ball: very lovely she looked, very gracefully she danced, very joyously she smiled. Such scenes were her triumphs - she was the child of pleasure. Work or suffering found her listless and dejected, powerless and repining; but gaiety expanded her butterfly's wings, lit up their gold-dust and bright spots, made her flash like a gem, and flush like a flower. At all ordinary diet and plain beverage she would pout; but she fed on creams and ices like a humming-bird on honey-paste: sweet wine was her clement, and sweet cake her daily bread. Ginevra lived her full life in a ballroom; elsewhere she drooped dispirited.
  96. Think not, reader, that she thus bloomed and sparkled for the mere sake of M. Paul, her partner, or that she lavished her best graces that night for the edification of her companions only, or for that of the parents and grandparents, who filled the carré and lined the ballroom; under circumstances so insipid and limited, with motives so chilly and vapid, Ginevra would scarce have deigned to walk one quadrille, and weariness and fretfulness would have replaced animation and good humour, but she knew of a leaven in the otherwise heavy festal mass which lighted the whole; she tasted a condiment which gave it zest; she perceived reasons justifying the display of her choicest attractions.
  97. In the ballroom, indeed, not a single male spectator was to be seen who was not married and a father - M. Paul excepted - that gentleman, too, being the sole creature of his sex permitted to lead out a pupil to the dance; and this exceptional part was allowed him, partly as a matter of old-established custom (for he was a kinsman of Madame Beck's, and high in her confidence), partly because he would always have his own way, and do as he pleased, and partly because - wilful, passionate, partial, as he might be - he was the soul of honour, and might be trusted with a regiment of the fairest and purest, in perfect security that under his leadership they would come to no harm. Many of the girls - it may be noted in parenthesis - were not pure-minded at all, very much otherwise; but they no more dare betray their natural coarseness in M. Paul's presence, than they dare tread purposely on his corns, laugh in his face during a stormy apostrophe, or speak above their breath while some crisis of irritability was covering his human visage with the mask of an intelligent tiger. M. Paul, then, might dance with whom he would - and woe be to the interference which put him out of step.
  98. Others there were admitted as spectators - with (seeming) reluctance, through prayers, by influence, under restriction, by special and difficult exercise of Madame Beck's gracious good nature, and whom she all the evening - with her own personal surveillance - kept far aloof at the remotest, drearest, coldest, darkest side of the carré - a small forlorn band of 'jeunes gens'; these being all of the best families, grown-up sons of mothers present, and whose sisters were pupils in the school. That whole evening was Madame on duty beside these 'jeunes gens' - attentive to them as a mother, but strict with them as a dragon. There was a sort of cordon sketched before them, which they wearied her with prayers to be permitted to pass, and just to revive themselves by one dance with that 'belle blonde', or that 'jolie brune', or 'cette jeune fille magnifique aux cheveux noirs comme le jais.'
  99. 'Taisez-vous!' Madame would reply, heroically and inexorably. 'Vous ne passerez pas à moins que ce ne soit sur mon cadavre, et vous ne danserez qu'avec la nonnette du jardin' (alluding to the legend). And she majestically walked to and fro along their disconsolate and impatient line, like a little Bonaparte in a mouse-coloured silk gown.
  100. Madame knew something of the world; Madame knew much of human nature. I don't think that another directress in Villette would have dared to admit a 'jeune homme' within her walls; but Madame knew that by granting such admission, on an occasion like the present, a bold stroke might be struck, and a great point gained.
  101. In the first place, the parents were made accomplices to the deed, for it was only through their mediation it was brought about. Secondly: the admission of these rattlesnakes, so fascinating and so dangerous, served to draw out Madame precisely in her strongest character - that of a first-rate surveillante. Thirdly: their presence furnished a most piquant ingredient to the entertainment: the pupils knew it, and saw it, and the view of such golden apples shining afar off, animated them with a spirit no other circumstance could have kindled. The children's pleasure spread to the parents; life and mirth circulated quickly round the ballroom; the 'jeunes gens' themselves, though restrained, were amused; for madame never permitted them to feel dull - and thus Madame Beck's fête annually ensured a success unknown to the fête of any other directress in the land.
  102. I observed that Dr. John was at first permitted to walk at large through the classes: there was about him a manly, responsible look, that redeemed his youth, and half expiated his beauty; but as soon as the ball began, madame ran up to him.
  103. 'Come, Wolf; come', said she, laughing: 'You wear sheep's clothing, but you must quit the fold notwithstanding. Come; I have a fine menagerie of twenty here in the carré: let me place you among my collection.'
  104. 'But first suffer me to have one dance with one pupil of my choice.'
  105. 'Have you the face to ask such a thing? It is madness: it is impiety. Sortez, sortez, au plus vite.'
  106. She drove him before her, and soon had him enclosed within the cordon.
  107. Ginevra being, I suppose, tired with dancing sought me out in my retreat. She threw herself on the bench beside me, and (a demonstration I could very well have dispensed with) cast her arms round my neck.
  108. 'Lucy Snowe! Lucy Snowe!' she cried in a somewhat sobbing voice, half hysterical.
  109. 'What in the world is the matter?' I drily said.
  110. 'How do I look - how do I look to-night?' she demanded.
  111. 'As usual', said I; 'preposterously vain.'
  112. 'Caustic creature! You never have a kind word for me; but in spite of you, and all other envious detractors, I know I am beautiful; I feel it, I see it - for there is a great looking-glass in the dressing-room, where I can view my shape from head to foot. Will you go with me now, and let us two stand before it?'
  113. 'I will, Miss Fanshawe: you shall be humoured even to the top of your bent.'
  114. The dressing-room was very near, and we stepped in. Putting her arm through mine, she drew me to the mirror. Without resistance, remonstrance, or remark, I stood and let her self-love have its feast and triumph: curious to see how much it could swallow - whether it was possible it could feed to satiety - whether any whisper of consideration for others could penetrate her heart, and moderate its vain-glorious exultation.
  115. Not at all. She turned me and herself round; she viewed us both on all sides; she smiled, she waved her curls, she retouched her sash, she spread her dress, and finally, letting go my arm, and curtseying with mock respect, she said:
  116. 'I would not be you for a kingdom.'
  117. The remark was too naïve to rouse anger; I merely said -
  118. 'Very good.'
  119. 'And what would you give to be ME?' she inquired.
  120. 'Not a bad sixpence - strange as it may sound', I replied. 'You are but a poor creature.'
  121. 'You don't think so in your heart.'
  122. 'No; for in my heart you have not the outline of a place: I only occasionally turn you over in my brain.'
  123. 'Well, but', said she, in an expostulatory tone, just listen to the difference of our positions, and then see how happy am I, and how miserable are you.'
  124. 'Go on; I listen.'
  125. 'In the first place: I am the daughter of a gentleman of family, and though my father is not rich, I have expectations from an uncle. Then, I am just eighteen, the finest age possible. I have had a continental education, and though I can't spell, I have abundant accomplishments. I am pretty; you can't deny that; I may have as many admirers as I choose. This very night I have been breaking the hearts of two gentlemen, and it is the dying look I had from one of them just now, which puts me in such spirits. I do so like to watch them turn red and pale, and scowl and dart fiery glances at each other, and languishing ones at me. There is me - happy ME; now for you, poor soul!
  126. 'I suppose you are nobody's daughter, since you took care of little children when you first came to Villette: you have no relations; you can't call yourself young at twenty-three; you have no attractive accomplishments - no beauty. As to admirers, you hardly know what they are; you can't even talk on the subject: you sit dumb when the other teachers quote their conquests. I believe you never were in love, and never will be; you don't know the feeling: and so much the better, for though you might have your own heart broken, no living heart will you ever break. Isn't it all true?'
  127. 'A good deal of it is true as gospel, and shrewd besides. There must be good in you, Ginevra, to speak so honestly; that snake, Zélie St. Pierre, could not utter what you have uttered. Still, Miss Fanshawe, hapless as I am, according to your showing, sixpence I would not give to purchase you, body and soul.'
  128. 'Just because I am not clever, and that is all you think of. Nobody in the world but you cares for cleverness.'
  129. 'On the contrary, I consider you are clever, in your way - very smart indeed. But you were talking of breaking hearts - that edifying amusement into the merits of which I don't quite enter; pray on whom does your vanity lead you to think you have done execution to-night?'
  130. She approached her lips to my ear - 'Isidore and Alfred de Hamal are both here', she whispered.
  131. 'Oh! they are? I should like to see them.'
  132. 'There's a dear creature! your curiosity is roused at last. Follow me, I will point them out.'
  133. She proudly led the way - 'But you cannot see them well from the classes', said she, turning, 'Madame keeps them too far off. Let us cross the garden, enter by the corridor, and get close to them behind: we shall be scolded if we are seen, but never mind.'
  134. For once, I did not mind. Through the garden we went - penetrated into the corridor by a quiet private entrance, and approaching the carré, yet keeping in the corridor shade, commanded a near view of the band of 'jeunes gens.'
  135. I believe I could have picked out the conquering De Hamal even undirected. He was a straight-nosed, very correct-featured little dandy. I say little dandy, though he was not beneath the middle standard in stature; but his lineaments were small, and so were his hands and feet; and he was pretty and smooth, and as trim as a doll: so nicely dressed, so nicely curled, so booted and gloved and cravated - he was charming indeed. I said so: 'What a dear personage!' cried I, and commended Ginevra's taste warmly; and asked her what she thought De Hamal might have done with the precious fragments of that heart she had broken - whether he kept them in a scent vial, and conserved them in otto of roses? I observed, too, with deep rapture of approbation, that the colonel's hands were scarce larger than Miss Fanshawe's own, and suggested that this circumstance might be convenient, as he could wear her gloves at a pinch. On his dear curls, I told her I doated: and as to his low, Grecian brow, and exquisite classic headpiece, I confessed I had no language to do such perfections justice.
  136. 'And if he were your lover?' suggested the cruelly exultant Ginevra.
  137. 'Oh! heavens, what bliss!' said I; 'but do not be inhuman, Miss Fanshawe: to put such thoughts into my head is like showing poor outcast Cain a far glimpse of Paradise.'
  138. 'You like him, then?'
  139. 'As I like sweets, and jams, and comfits, and conservatory flowers.'
  140. Ginevra admired my taste, for all these things were her adoration; she could then readily credit that they were mine too.
  141. 'Now for Isidore', I went on. I own I felt still more curious to see him than his rival; but Ginevra was absorbed in the latter.
  142. 'Alfred was admitted here to-night', said she, 'through the influence of his aunt, Madame la Baronne de Dorlodot; and now, having seen him, can you not understand why I have been in such spirits all the evening, and acted so well, and danced with such life, and why I am now happy as a queen? Dieu! Dieu! It was such good fun to glance first at him and then at the other and madden them both.'
  143. 'But that other - where is he? Show me Isidore.'
  144. 'I don't like.'
  145. 'Why not?'
  146. 'I am ashamed of him.'
  147. 'For what reason?'
  148. 'Because - because' (in a whisper) 'he has such - such whiskers, orange - red - there now!'
  149. 'The murder is out', I subjoined. 'Never mind, show him all the same; I engage not to faint.'
  150. She looked round. Just then an English voice spoke behind her and me.
  151. 'You are both standing in a draught; you must leave this corridor.'
  152. 'There is no draught, Dr. John', said I, turning.
  153. 'She takes cold so easily', he pursued, looking at Ginevra with extreme kindness. 'She is delicate; she must be cared for: fetch her a shawl.'
  154. 'Permit me to judge for myself', said Miss Fanshawe, with hauteur. 'I want no shawl.'
  155. 'Your dress is thin, you have been dancing, you are heated.'
  156. 'Always preaching', retorted she; 'always coddling and admonishing.'
  157. The answer Dr. John would have given did not come; that his heart was hurt became evident in his eye; darkened, and saddened, and pained, he turned a little aside, but was patient. I knew where there were plenty of shawls near at hand; I ran and fetched one.
  158. 'She shall wear this if I have strength to make her', said I, folding it well round her muslin dress, covering carefully her neck and her arms. 'Is that Isidore?' I asked, in a somewhat fierce whisper.
  159. She pushed up her lip, smiled and nodded.
  160. 'Is that Isidore?' I repeated, giving her a shake: I could have given her a dozen.
  161. 'C'est lui-même', said she. 'How coarse he is, compared with the Colonel-Count! And then - oh, ciel! - the whiskers!'
  162. Dr. John now passed on.
  163. 'The Colonel-Count!' I echoed. 'The doll - the puppet - the manikin - the poor inferior creature! A mere lackey for Dr. John: his valet, his foot-boy! Is it possible that fine generous gentleman - handsome as a vision - offers you his honourable hand and gallant heart, and promises to protect your flimsy person and wretchless mind through the storms and struggles of life - and you hang back - you scorn, you sting, you torture him! Have you power to do this? Who gave you that power? Where is it? Does it lie all in your beauty - your pink and white complexion, and your yellow hair? Does this bind his soul at your feet, and bend his neck under your yoke? Does this purchase for you his affection, his tenderness, his thoughts, his hopes, his interest, his noble cordial love - and will you not have it? Do you scorn it? You are only dissembling: you are not in earnest; you love him; you long for him; but you trifle with his heart to make him more surely yours?'
  164. 'Bah! How you run on! I don't understand half you have said.'
  165. I had got her out into the garden ere this. I now set her down on a seat and told her she should not stir till she had avowed which she meant in the end to accept - the man or the monkey.
  166. 'Him you call the man', said she, 'is bourgeois, sandy-haired, and answers to the name of John? - cela suffit: je n'en veux pas. Colonel de Hamal is a gentleman of excellent connections, perfect manners, sweet appearance, with pale interesting face, and hair and eyes like an Italian. Then, too, he is the most delightful company possible - a man quite in my way; not sensible and serious like the other, but one with whom I can talk on equal terms - who does not plague and bore, and harass me with depths, and heights, and passions, and talents for which I have no taste. There now. Don't hold me so fast.'
  167. I slackened my grasp, and she darted off. I did not care to pursue her.
  168. Somehow I could not avoid returning once more in the direction of the corridor to get another glimpse of Dr. John; but I met him on the garden-steps, standing where the light from a window fell broad. His well-proportioned figure was not to be mistaken, for I doubt whether there was another in that assemblage his equal. He carried his hat in his hand; his uncovered head, his face and fine brow were most handsome and manly. His features were not delicate, not slight like those of a woman, nor were they cold, frivolous and feeble; though well cut, they were not so chiselled, so frittered away, as to lose in power and significance what they gained in unmeaning symmetry. Much feeling spoke in them at times, and more sat silent in his eye. Such at least were my thoughts of him: to me he seemed all this. An inexpressible sense of wonder occupied me as I looked at this man, and reflected that he could not be slighted.
  169. It was not my intention to approach or address him in the garden, our terms of acquaintance not warranting such a step; I had only meant to view him in the crowd - myself unseen; coming upon him thus alone, I withdrew. But he was looking out for me, or rather for her who had been with me: therefore he descended the steps, and followed me down the alley.
  170. 'You know Miss Fanshawe? I have often wished to ask whether you knew her', said he.
  171. 'Yes: I know her.'
  172. 'Intimately?'
  173. 'Quite as intimately as I wish.'
  174. 'What have you done with her now?'
  175. 'Am I her keeper?' I felt inclined to ask; but I simply answered, 'I have shaken her well, and would have shaken her better, but she escaped out of my hands and ran away.'
  176. 'Would you favour me', he asked, 'by watching over her this one evening, and observing that she does nothing imprudent - does not, for instance, run out into the night air immediately after dancing?'
  177. 'I may, perhaps, look after her a little, since you wish it; but she likes her own way too well to submit readily to control.'
  178. 'She is so young, so thoroughly artless', said he.
  179. 'To me she is an enigma', I responded.
  180. 'Is she?' he asked - much interested. 'How?'
  181. 'It would be difficult to say how - difficult, at least, to tell you how.'
  182. 'And why me?'
  183. 'I wonder she is not better pleased that you are so much her friend.'
  184. 'But she has not the slightest idea how much I am her friend. That is precisely the point I cannot teach her. May I inquire did she ever speak of me to you?'
  185. 'Under the name of "Isidore" she has talked about you often; but I must add that it is only within the last ten minutes I have discovered that you and "Isidore" are identical. It is only, Dr. John, within that brief space of time I have learned that Ginevra Fanshawe is the person, under this roof, in whom you have long been interested - that she is the magnet which attracts you to the Rue Fossette, that for her sake you venture into this garden, and seek out caskets dropped by rivals.'
  186. 'You know all?'
  187. 'I know so much.'
  188. 'For more than a year I have been accustomed to meet her in society. Mrs. Cholmondeley, her friend, is an acquaintance of mine; thus I see her every Sunday. But you observed that under the name of "Isidore" she often spoke of me: may I - without inviting you to a breach of confidence - inquire what was the tone, what the feeling of her remarks? I feel somewhat anxious to know, being a little tormented with uncertainty as to how I stand with her.'
  189. 'Oh, she varies: she shifts and changes like the wind.'
  190. 'Still, you can gather some general idea - ?'
  191. 'I can', thought I, 'but it would not do to communicate that general idea to you. Besides, if I said she did not love you, I know you would not believe me.'
  192. 'You are silent', he pursued. 'I suppose you have no good news to impart. No matter. If she feels for me positive coldness and aversion, it is a sign I do not deserve her.'
  193. 'Do you doubt yourself? Do you consider yourself the inferior of Colonel de Hamal?'
  194. 'I love Miss Fanshawe far more than De Hamal loves any human being, and would care for and guard her better than he. Respecting De Hamal, I fear she is under an illusion; the man's character is known to me, all his antecedents, all his scrapes. He is not worthy of your beautiful young friend'
  195. 'My "beautiful young friend" ought to know that, and to know or feel who is worthy of her', said I. 'If her beauty or her brains will not serve her so far, she merits the sharp lesson of experience.
  196. 'Are you not a little severe?'
  197. 'I am excessively severe - more severe than I choose to show you. You should hear the strictures with which I favour my "beautiful young friend," only that you would be unutterably shocked at my want of tender considerateness for her delicate nature.'
  198. 'She is so lovely, one cannot but be loving towards her. You - every woman older than herself must feel for such a simple, innocent, girlish fairy a sort of motherly or elder-sisterly fondness. Graceful angel! Does not your heart yearn towards her when she pours into your ear her pure, child-like confidences? How you are privileged!' And he sighed.
  199. 'I cut short these confidences somewhat abruptly now and then', said I. 'But excuse me, Dr. John, may I change the theme for one instant? What a god-like person is that De Hamal! What a nose on his face - perfect! Model one in putty or clay, you could not make a better or straighter, or neater; and then, such classic lips and chin - and his bearing - sublime.'
  200. 'De Hamal is an unutterable puppy, besides being a very white-livered hero.'
  201. 'You, Dr. John, and every man of a less refined mould than he, must feel for him a sort of admiring affection, such as Mars and the coarser deities may be supposed to have borne the young, graceful Apollo.'
  202. 'An unprincipled, gambling, little jackanapes!' said Dr. John curtly, 'whom, with one hand, I could lift up by the waistband any day, and lay low in the kennel, if I liked.'
  203. 'The sweet seraph!' said I. 'What a cruel idea! Are you not a little severe, Dr. John?'
  204. And now I paused. For the second time that night I was going beyond myself - venturing out of what I looked on as my natural habits - speaking in an unpremeditated, impulsive strain, which startled me strangely when I halted to reflect. On rising that morning, had I anticipated that before night I should have acted the part of a gay lover in a vaudeville; and an hour after, frankly discussed with Dr. John the question of his hapless suit, and rallied him on his illusions? I had no more presaged such feats than I had looked forward to an ascent in a balloon, or a voyage to Cape Horn.
  205. The Doctor and I, having paced down the walk, were now returning; the reflex from the window again lit his face: he smiled, but his eye was melancholy. How I wished that he could feel heart's-ease! How I grieved that he brooded over pain, and pain from such a cause! He, with his great advantages, he to love in vain! I did not then know that the pensiveness of reverse is the best phase for some minds; nor did I reflect that some herbs, 'though scentless when entire, yield fragrance when they're bruised.'
  206. 'Do not be sorrowful, do not grieve', I broke out. 'If there is in Ginevra one spark of worthiness of your affection, she will - she must feel devotion in return. Be cheerful, be hopeful, Dr. John. Who should hope, if not you?'
  207. In return for this speech I got - what, it must be supposed, I deserved - a look of surprise: I thought also of some disapprobation. We parted, and I went into the house very chill. The clocks struck and the bells tolled midnight; people were leaving fast: the fête was over; the lamps were fading. In another hour all the dwelling-house and all the pensionnat were dark and hushed. I too was in bed, but not asleep. To me it was not easy to sleep after a day of such excitement.



  1. Following Madame Beck's fête, with its three preceding weeks of relaxation, its brief twelve hours' burst of hilarity and dissipation, and its one subsequent day of utter languor, came a period of reaction; two months of real application, of close, hard study. These two months, being the last of the 'année scolaire', were indeed the only genuine working months in the year. To them was procrastinated - into them concentrated, alike by professors, mistresses and pupils - the main burden of preparation for the examinations preceding the distribution of prizes. Candidates for rewards had then to work in good earnest; masters and teachers had to set their shoulders to the wheel, to urge on the backward, and diligently aid and train the more promising. A showy demonstration - a telling exhibition - must be got up for public view, and all means were fair to this end.
  2. I scarcely noted how the other teachers went to work; I had my own business to mind: and my task was not the least onerous, being to imbue some ninety sets of brains with a due tincture of what they considered a most complicated and difficult science, that of the English language; and to drill ninety tongues in what, for them, was an almost impossible pronunciation - the lisping and hissing dentals of the Isles.
  3. The examination-day arrived. Awful day! Prepared for with anxious care, dressed for with silent despatch - nothing vaporous or fluttering now - no white gauze or azure streamers; the grave, close, compact was the order of the toilette. It seemed to me that I was this day especially doomed - the main burden and trial falling on me alone of all the female teachers. The others were not expected to examine in the studies they taught; the professor of literature, M. Paul, taking upon himself this duty. He, this school-autocrat, gathered all and sundry reins into the hollow of his one hand; he irefully rejected any colleague; he would not have help. Madame herself; who evidently rather wished to undertake the examination in geography - her favourite study, which she taught well - was forced to succumb, and be subordinate to her despotic kinsman's direction. The whole staff of instructors, male and female, he set aside, and stood on the examiner's estrade alone. It irked him that he was forced to make one exception to this rule. He could not manage English: he was obliged to leave that branch of education in the English teacher's hands; which he did, not without a flash of naïve jealousy.
  4. A constant crusade against the amour-propre of every human being but himself; was the crotchet of this able, but fiery and grasping little man. He had a strong relish for public representation in his own person, but an extreme abhorrence of the like display in any other. He quelled, he kept down when he could; and when he could not, he fumed like a bottled storm.
  5. On the evening preceding the examination-day, I was walking in the garden, as were the other teachers and all the boarders. M. Emanuel joined me in the 'allée défendue'; his cigar was at his lips; his paletôt - a most characteristic garment of no particular shape - hung dark and menacing; the tassel of his bonnet grec sternly shadowed his left temple; his black whiskers curled like those of a wrathful cat; his blue eye had a cloud in its glitter.
  6. 'Ainsi', he began, abruptly fronting and arresting me, 'vous allez tróner comme une reine; demain - trôner à mes côtés? Sans doute vous savourez d'avance les délices de l'autorité. Je crois voir un je ne sais quoi de rayonnant, petite ambitieuse!'
  7. Now the fact was, he happened to be entirely mistaken. I did not - could not - estimate the admiration or the good opinion of to-morrow's audience at the same rate as he did. Had that audience numbered as many personal friends and acquaintance for me, as for him, I know not how it might have been: I speak of the case as it stood. On me school triumphs shed but a cold lustre. I had wondered - and I wondered now - how it was that for him they seemed to shine as with hearth warmth and hearth glow. He cared for them perhaps too much; I, probably, too little. However, I had my own fancies as well as he. I liked, for instance, to see M. Emanuel jealous: it lit up his nature, and woke his spirit; it threw all sorts of queer lights and shadows over his dun face, and into his violet azure eyes (he used to say that his black hair and blue eyes were 'une de ses beautés'). There was a relish in his anger; it was artless, earnest, quite unreasonable, but never hypocritical. I uttered no disclaimer then of the complacency he attributed to me; I merely asked where the English examination was to come in - whether at the commencement or close of the day?
  8. 'I hesitate', said he, 'whether at the very beginning, before many persons are come, and when your aspiring nature will not be gratified by a large audience, or quite at the close, when everybody is tired, and only a jaded and worn-out attention will be at your service.
  9. 'Que vous êtes dur, monsieur!' I said, affecting dejection.
  10. 'One ought to be "dur" with you. You are one of those beings who must be kept down. I know you! I know you! Other people in this house see you pass, and think that a colourless shadow has gone by. As for me, I scrutinised your face once, and it sufficed.'
  11. 'You are satisfied that you understand me?'
  12. Without answering directly, he went on, 'Were you not gratified when you succeeded in that vaudeville? I watched you and saw a passionate ardour for triumph in your physiognomy. What fire shot into the glance! Not mere light, but flame: je me tins pour averti.'
  13. 'What feeling I had on that occasion, monsieur - and pardon me, if I say, you immensely exaggerate both its quality and quantity - was quite abstract. I did not care for the vaudeville. I hated the part you assigned me. I had not the slightest sympathy with the audience below the stage. They are good people, doubtless, but do I know them? Are they anything to me? Can I care for being brought before their view again to-morrow? Will the examination be anything but a task to me - a task I wish well over?'
  14. 'Shall I take it out of your hands?'
  15. 'With all my heart; if you do not fear failure.'
  16. 'But I should fail. I only know three phrases of English, and a few words: par exemple, de sonn, de mone, de stare - est-ce bien dit? My opinion is that it would be better to give up the thing altogether: to have no English examination, eh?'
  17. 'If Madame consents; I consent.'
  18. 'Heartily?'
  19. 'Very heartily.'
  20. He smoked his cigar in silence. He turned suddenly.
  21. 'Donnez-moi la main', said he, and the spite and jealousy melted out of his face, and a generous kindliness shone there instead.
  22. 'Come, we will not be rivals, we will be friends'; he pursued. 'The examination shall take place, and I will choose a good moment; and instead of vexing and hindering, as I felt half inclined ten minutes ago - for I have my malevolent moods: I always had from childhood - I will aid you sincerely. After all, you are solitary and a stranger, and have your way to make and your bread to earn; it may be well that you should become known. We will be friends: do you agree?'
  23. 'Out of my heart, monsieur. I am glad of a friend. I like that better than a triumph.'
  24. 'Pauvrette!' said he, and turned away and left the alley.
  25. The examination passed over well; M. Paul was as good as his word, and did his best to make my part easy. The next day came the distribution of prizes; that also passed; the school broke up; the pupils went home, and now began the long vacation.
  26. That vacation! Shall I ever forget it? I think not. Madame Beck went, the first day of the holidays, to join her children at the seaside; all the three teachers had parents or friends with whom they took refuge; every professor quitted the city; some went to Paris, some to Boue-Marine; M. Paul set forth on a pilgrimage to Rome; the house was left quite empty, but for me, a servant, and a poor deformed and imbecile pupil, a sort of crétin, whom her stepmother in a distant province would not allow to return home.
  27. My heart almost died within me; miserable longings strained its chords. How long were the September days! How silent, how lifeless! How vast and void seemed the desolate premises! How gloomy the forsaken garden - grey now with the dust of a town summer departed. Looking forward at the commencement of those eight weeks, I hardly knew how I was to live to the end. My spirits had long been gradually sinking; now that the prop of employment was withdrawn, they went down fast. Even to look forward was not to hope: the dumb future spoke no comfort, offered no promise, gave no inducement to bear present evil in reliance on future good. A sorrowful indifference to existence often pressed on me - a despairing resignation to reach betimes the end of all things earthly. Alas! When I had full leisure to look on life as life must be looked on by such as me, I found it but a hopeless desert: tawny sands, with no green fields, no palm tree, no well in view. The hopes which are dear to youth, which bear it up and lead it on, I knew not and dared not know. If they knocked at my heart sometimes, an inhospitable bar to admission must be inwardly drawn. When they turned away thus rejected, tears sad enough sometimes flowed; but it could not be helped: I dared not give such guests lodging. So mortally did I fear the sin and weakness of presumption.
  28. Religious reader, you will preach to me a long sermon about what I have just written, and so will you, moralist; and you, stern sage: you, stoic, will frown; you, cynic, sneer; you, epicure, laugh. Well, each and all, take it your own way. I accept the sermon, frown, sneer, and laugh; perhaps you are all right: and perhaps, circumstanced like me, you would have been, like me, wrong. The first month was, indeed, a long, black, heavy month to me.
  29. The crétin did not seem unhappy. I did my best to feed her well and keep her warm, and she only asked food and sunshine, or when that lacked, fire. Her weak faculties approved of inertion: her brain, her eyes, her ears, her heart slept content; they could not wake to work, so lethargy was their Paradise.
  30. Three weeks of that vacation were hot, fair, and dry, but the fourth and fifth were tempestuous and wet. I do not know why that change in the atmosphere made a cruel impression on me, why the raging storm and beating rain crushed me with a deadlier paralysis than I had experienced while the air had remained serene: but so it was, and my nervous system could hardly support what it had for many days and nights to undergo in that huge, empty house. How I used to pray to Heaven for consolation and support! With what dread force the conviction would grasp me that Fate was my permanent foe, never to be conciliated. I did not, in my heart, arraign the mercy or justice of God for this; I concluded it to be a part of His great plan that some must deeply suffer while they live, and I thrilled in the certainty that of this number, I was one.
  31. It was some relief when an aunt of the crétin, a kind old woman, came one day and took away my strange, deformed companion. The hapless creature had been at times a heavy charge; I could not take her out beyond the garden, and I could not leave her a minute alone; for her poor mind, like her body, was warped: its propensity was to evil. A vague bent to mischief an aimless malevolence, made constant vigilance indispensable. As she very rarely spoke, and would sit for hours together moping and mowing and distorting her features with indescribable grimaces, it was more like being prisoned with some strange tameless animal, than associating with a human being. Then there were personal attentions to be rendered which required the nerve of a hospital nurse; my resolution was so tried, it sometimes fell dead sick. These duties should not have fallen on me; a servant, now absent, had rendered them hitherto, and in the hurry of holiday departure, no substitute to fill this office had been provided. This tax and trial were by no means the least I have known in life. Still, menial and distasteful as they were, my mental pain was far more wasting and wearing. Attendance on the crétin deprived me often of the power and inclination to swallow a meal, and sent me faint to the fresh air, and the well or fountain in the court; but this duty never wrung my heart, or brimmed my eyes, or scalded my cheek with tears hot as molten metal.
  32. The crétin being gone, I was free to walk out. At first I lacked courage to venture far from the Rue Fossette, but by degrees I sought the city gates and passed them, and then went wandering away far along chaussées, through fields, beyond cemeteries, Catholic and Protestant, beyond farmsteads, to lanes and little woods, and I know not where. A goad thrust me on, a fever forbade me to rest; a want of companionship maintained in my soul the cravings of a most deadly famine. I often walked all day, through the burning noon and the arid afternoon, and the dusk evening, and came back with moonrise.
  33. While wandering in solitude, I would sometimes picture the present probable position of others, my acquaintance. There was Madame Beck at a cheerful watering-place with her children, her mother, and a whole troop of friends who had sought the same scene of relaxation. Zélie St. Pierre was at Paris, with her relatives; the other teachers were at their homes. There was Ginevra Fanshawe, whom certain of her connections had carried on a pleasant tour southward. Ginevra seemed to me the happiest. She was on the route of beautiful scenery; these September suns shone for her on fertile plains, where harvest and vintage matured under their mellow beam. These gold and crystal moons rose on her vision over blue horizons waved in mountain lines.
  34. But all this was nothing; I too felt those autumn suns and saw those harvest moons, and I almost wished to be covered in with earth and turf deep out of their influence; for I could not live in their light, nor make them comrades, nor yield them affection. But Ginevra had a kind of spirit with her, empowered to give constant strength and comfort, to gladden daylight and embalm darkness; the best of the good genii that guard humanity curtained her with his wings, and canopied her head with his bending form. By True Love was Ginevra followed: never could she be alone. Was she insensible to this presence? It seemed to me impossible: I could not realise such deadness. I imagined her grateful in secret, loving now with reserve; but purposing one day to show how much she loved: I pictured her faithful hero half conscious of her coy fondness, and comforted by that consciousness: I conceived an electric chord of sympathy between them, a fine chain of mutual understanding, sustaining union through a separation of a hundred leagues - carrying, across mound and hollow, communication by prayer and wish. Ginevra gradually became with me a sort of heroine. One day, perceiving this growing illusion, I said, 'I really believe my nerves are getting overstretched: my mind has suffered somewhat too much; a malady is growing upon it - what shall I do? How shall I keep well?'
  35. Indeed there was no way to keep well under the circumstances. At last a day and night of peculiarly agonising depression were succeeded by physical illness, I took perforce to my bed. About this time the Indian summer closed and the equinoctial storms began; and for nine dark and wet days, of which the hours rushed on all turbulent, deaf dishevelled - bewildered with sounding hurricane - I lay in a strange fever of the nerves and blood. Sleep went quite away. I used to rise in the night, look round for her, beseech her earnestly to return. A rattle of the window, a cry of the blast only replied - Sleep never came!
  36. I err. She came once, but in anger. Impatient of my importunity she brought with her an avenging dream. By the clock of St. Jean Baptiste, that dream remained scarce fifteen minutes - a brief space, but sufficing to wring my whole frame with unknown anguish; to confer a nameless experience that had the hue, the mien, the terror, the very tone of a visitation from eternity. Between twelve and one that night a cup was forced to my lips, black, strong, strange, drawn from no well, but filled up seething from bottomless and boundless sea. Suffering, brewed in temporal or calculable measure, and mixed for mortal lips, tastes not as this suffering tasted. Having drank and woke, I thought all was over: the end come and past by. Trembling fearfully - as consciousness returned - ready to cry out on some fellow-creature to help me, only that I knew no fellow-creature was near enough to catch the wild summons - Goton in her far distant attic could not hear - I rose on my knees in bed. Some fearful hours went over me: indescribably was I torn, racked and oppressed in mind. Amidst the horrors of that dream I think the worst lay here. Methought the well-loved dead, who had loved me well in life, met me elsewhere, alienated: galled was my inmost spirit with an unutterable sense of despair about the future. Motive there was none why I should try to recover or wish to live; and yet quite unendurable was the pitiless and haughty voice in which Death challenged me to engage his unknown terrors. When I tried to pray I could only utter these words -
  37. 'From my youth up Thy terrors have I suffered with a troubled mind.'
  38. Most true was it.
  39. On bringing me my tea next morning Goton urged me to call in a doctor. I would not: I thought no doctor could cure me.
  40. One evening - and I was not delirious: I was in my sane mind, I got up - I dressed myself, weak and shaking. The solitude and the stillness of the long dormitory could not be borne any longer; the ghastly white beds were turning into spectres - the coronal of each became a death's head, huge and sun-bleached - dead dreams of an elder world and mightier race lay frozen in their wide gaping eyeholes. That evening more firmly than ever fastened into my soul the conviction that Fate was of stone, and Hope a false idol - blind, bloodless, and of granite core. I felt, too, that the trial God had appointed me was gaining its climax, and must now be turned by my own hands, hot, feeble, trembling as they were. It rained still, and blew; but with more clemency, I thought, than it had poured and raged all day. Twilight was falling, and I deemed its influence pitiful; from the lattice I saw coming night-clouds trailing low like banners drooping. It seemed to me that at this hour there was affection and sorrow in Heaven above for all pain suffered on earth beneath; the weight of my dreadful dream became alleviated - that insufferable thought of being no more loved, no more owned, half yielded to hope of the contrary - I was sure this hope would shine clearer if I got out from under this house roof, which was crushing as the slab of a tomb, and went outside the city to a certain quiet hill, a long way distant in the fields. Covered with a cloak (I could not be delirious, for I had sense and recollection to put on warm clothing), forth I set. The bells of a church arrested me in passing; they seemed to call me in to the salut, and I went in. Any solemn rite, any spectacle of sincere worship, any opening for appeal to God was as welcome to me then as bread to one in extremity of want. I knelt down with others on the stone pavement. It was an old solemn church, its pervading gloom not gilded but purpled by light shed through stained glass.
  41. Few worshippers were assembled, and, the salut over, half of them departed. I discovered soon that those left remained to confess. I did not stir. Carefully every door of the church was shut; a holy quiet sank upon, and a solemn shade gathered about us. After a space, breathless and spent in prayer, a penitent approached the confessional. I watched. She whispered her avowal; her shrift was whispered back: she returned consoled. Another went, and another. A pale lady, kneeling near me, said in a low, kind voice -
  42. 'Go you now, I am not quite prepared.'
  43. Mechanically obedient, I rose and went. I knew what I was about; my mind had run over the intent with lightning speed. To take this step could not make me more wretched than I was; it might soothe me.
  44. The priest within the confessional never turned his eyes to regard me; he only quietly inclined his ear to my lips. He might be a good man, but this duty had become to him a sort of form: he went through it with the phlegm of custom. I hesitated; of the formula of confession I was ignorant: instead of commencing them with the prelude usual, I said -
  45. 'Mon père, je suis Protestante.'
  46. He directly turned. He was not a native priest: of that class, the cast of physiognomy is, almost invariably, grovelling: I saw by his profile and brow he was a Frenchman; though grey and advanced in years, he did not, I think, lack feeling or intelligence. He inquired, not unkindly, why, being a Protestant, I came to him?'
  47. I said I was perishing for a word of advice or an accent of comfort. I had been living for some weeks quite alone; I had been ill; I had a pressure of affliction on my mind of which it would hardly any longer endure the weight.
  48. 'Was it a sin, a crime?' he inquired, somewhat startled.
  49. I reassured him on this point, and, as well as I could, I showed him the mere outline of my experience.
  50. He looked thoughtful, surprised, puzzled. 'You take me unawares', said he. 'I have not had such a case as yours before: ordinarily we know our routine, and are prepared; but this makes a great break in the common course of confession. I am hardly furnished with counsel fitting the circumstances.'
  51. Of course, I had not expected he would be; but the mere relief of communication in an ear which was human and sentient, yet consecrated - the mere pouring out of some portion of long accumulating, long pent-up pain into a vessel whence it could not be again diffused - had done me good. I was already solaced.
  52. 'Must I go, father?' I asked of him as he sat silent.
  53. 'My daughter', he said kindly - and I am sure he was a kind man: he had a compassionate eye - 'for the present you had better go: but I assure you your words have struck me. Confession, like other things, is apt to become formal and trivial with habit. You have come and poured your heart out; a thing seldom done. I would fain think your case over, and take it with me to my oratory. Were you of our faith I should know what to say - a mind so tossed can find repose but in the bosom of retreat, and the punctual practice of piety. The world, it is well known, has no satisfaction for that class of natures. Holy men have bidden penitents like you to hasten their path upward by penance, self-denial and difficult good works. Tears are given them here for meat and drink - bread of affliction and waters of affliction - their recompense comes hereafter. It is my own conviction that these impressions under which you are smarting are messengers from God to bring you back to the true Church. You were made for our faith: depend upon it our faith alone could heal and help you - Protestantism is altogether too dry, cold, prosaic for you. The further I look into this matter, the more plainly I see it is entirely out of the common order of things. On no account would I lose sight of you. Go, my daughter, for the present; but return to me again.
  54. I rose and thanked him. I was withdrawing when he signed me to return.
  55. 'You must not come to this church', said he: 'I see you are ill, and this church is too cold; you must come to my house: I live----' (and he gave me his address). 'Be there to-morrow morning at ten.'
  56. In reply to this appointment, I only bowed; and pulling down my veil, and gathering round me my cloak, I glided away.
  57. Did I, do you suppose, reader, contemplate venturing again within that worthy priest's reach? As soon should I have thought of walking into a Babylonish furnace. That priest had arms which could influence me: he was naturally kind, with a sentimental French kindness, to whose softness I knew myself not wholly impervious. Without respecting some sorts of affection, there was hardly any sort having a fibre of root in reality, which I could rely on my force wholly to withstand. Had I gone to him, he would have shown me all that was tender, and comforting, and gentle, in the honest Popish superstition. Then he would have tried to kindle, blow and stir up in me the zeal of good works. I know not how it would all have ended. We all think ourselves strong in some points; we all know ourselves weak in many; the probabilities are that, had I visited Numero 10, Rue des Mages, at the hour and day appointed, I might just now, instead of writing this heretic narrative, be counting my beads in the cell of a certain Carmelite convent on the Boulevard of Crécy, in Villette. There was something of Fénelon about that benign old priest; and whatever most of his brethren may be, and whatever I may think of his Church and creed (and I like neither), of himself I must ever retain a grateful recollection. He was kind when I needed kindness; he did me good. May Heaven bless him!
  58. Twilight had passed into night, and the lamps were lit in the streets, ere I issued from that sombre church. To turn back was now become possible to me; the wild longing to breathe this October wind on the little hill far without the city walls had ceased to be an imperative impulse, and was softened into a wish with which Reason could cope: she put it down, and I turned, as I thought, to the Rue Fossette. But I had become involved in a part of the city with which I was not familiar; it was the old part, and full of narrow streets of picturesque, ancient and mouldering houses. I was much too weak to be very collected, and I was still too careless of my own welfare and safety to be cautious; I grew embarrassed; I got immeshed in a network of turns unknown. I was lost and had no resolution to ask guidance of any passenger.
  59. If the storm had lulled a little at sunset, it made up now for lost time. Strong and horizontal thundered the current of the wind from north-west to south-east; it brought rain like spray, and sometimes a sharp, hail like shot; it was cold and pierced me to the vitals. I bent my head to meet it, but it beat me back. My heart did not fail at all in this conflict; I only wished that I had wings and could ascend the gale, spread and repose my pinions on its strength, career in its course, sweep where it swept. While wishing this, I suddenly felt colder where before I was cold, and more powerless where before I was weak. I tried to reach the porch of a great building near, but the mass of frontage and the giant spire turned black and vanished from my eyes. Instead of sinking on the steps as I intended, I seemed to pitch headlong down an abyss. I remember no more.



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