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The Professor by Charlotte Bronte

Part 4 out of 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening my chamber door I walked down into the kitchen.

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

"Un petit commissionaire, monsieur."

"Did he say anything?"

"Rien."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Mon maitre! mon maitre!"

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

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

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

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

"Your aunt is dead?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Rue Notre Dame aux Neiges," answered Frances.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is this like England, monsieur?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hope smiles on Effort!"

CHAPTER XX.

A COMPETENCY was what I wanted; a competency it was now my aim
and resolve to secure; but never had I been farther from the
mark. With August the school-year (l'annee scolaire) closed, the
examinations concluded, the prizes were adjudged, the schools
dispersed, the gates of all colleges, the doors of all
pensionnats shut, not to be reopened till the beginning or middle
of October. The last day of August was at hand, and what was my
position? Had I advanced a step since the commencement of the
past quarter? On the contrary, I had receded one. By renouncing
my engagement as English master in Mdlle. Reuter's establishment,
I had voluntarily cut off 20l. from my yearly income; I had
diminished my 60l. per annum to 40l., and even that sum I now
held by a very precarious tenure.

It is some time since I made any reference to M. Pelet. The
moonlight walk is, I think, the last incident recorded in this
narrative where that gentleman cuts any conspicuous figure: the
fact is, since that event, a change had come over the spirit of
our intercourse. He, indeed, ignorant that the still hour, a
cloudless moon, and an open lattice, had revealed to me the
secret of his selfish love and false friendship, would have
continued smooth and complaisant as ever; but I grew spiny as a
porcupine, and inflexible as a blackthorn cudgel; I never had a
smile for his raillery, never a moment for his society; his
invitations to take coffee with him in his parlour were
invariably rejected, and very stiffly and sternly rejected too;
his jesting allusions to the directress (which he still
continued) were heard with a grim calm very different from the
petulant pleasure they were formerly wont to excite. For a long
time Pelet bore with my frigid demeanour very patiently; he even
increased his attentions; but finding that even a cringing
politeness failed to thaw or move me, he at last altered too; in
his turn he cooled; his invitations ceased; his countenance
became suspicious and overcast, and I read in the perplexed yet
brooding aspect of his brow, a constant examination and
comparison of premises, and an anxious endeavour to draw thence
some explanatory inference. Ere long, I fancy, he succeeded, for
he was not without penetration; perhaps, too, Mdlle. Zoraide
might have aided him in the solution of the enigma; at any rate I
soon found that the uncertainty of doubt had vanished from his
manner; renouncing all pretence of friendship and cordiality, he
adopted a reserved, formal, but still scrupulously polite
deportment. This was the point to which I had wished to bring
him, and I was now again comparatively at my ease. I did not, it
is true, like my position in his house; but being freed from the
annoyance of false professions and double-dealing I could endure
it, especially as no heroic sentiment of hatred or jealousy of
the director distracted my philosophical soul; he had not, I
found, wounded me in a very tender point, the wound was so soon
and so radically healed, leaving only a sense of contempt for the
treacherous fashion in which it had been inflicted, and a lasting
mistrust of the hand which I had detected attempting to stab in
the dark.

This state of things continued till about the middle of July, and
then there was a little change; Pelet came home one night, an
hour after his usual time, in a state of unequivocal
intoxication, a thing anomalous with him; for if he had some of
the worst faults of his countrymen, he had also one at least of
their virtues, i.e. sobriety. So drunk, however, was he upon
this occasion, that after having roused the whole establishment
(except the pupils, whose dormitory being over the classes in a
building apart from the dwelling-house, was consequently out of
the reach of disturbance) by violently ringing the hall-bell and
ordering lunch to be brought in immediately, for he imagined it
was noon, whereas the city bells had just tolled midnight; after
having furiously rated the servants for their want of
punctuality, and gone near to chastise his poor old mother, who
advised him to go to bed, he began raving dreadfully about "le
maudit Anglais, Creemsvort." I had not yet retired; some German
books I had got hold of had kept me up late; I heard the uproar
below, and could distinguish the director's voice exalted in a
manner as appalling as it was unusual. Opening my door a little,
I became aware of a demand on his part for "Creemsvort" to be
brought down to him that he might cut his throat on the
hall-table and wash his honour, which he affirmed to be in a
dirty condition, in infernal British blood. "He is either mad or
drunk," thought I, "and in either case the old woman and the
servants will be the better of a man's assistance," so I
descended straight to the hall. I found him staggering about,
his eyes in a fine frenzy rolling--a pretty sight he was, a just
medium between the fool and the lunatic.

"Come, M. Pelet," said I, "you had better go to bed," and I took
hold of his arm. His excitement, of course, increased greatly at
sight and touch of the individual for whose blood he had been
making application: he struggled and struck with fury--but a
drunken man is no match for a sober one; and, even in his normal
state, Pelet's worn out frame could not have stood against my
sound one. I got him up-stairs, and, in process of time, to bed.
During the operation he did not fail to utter comminations which,
though broken, had a sense in them; while stigmatizing me as the
treacherous spawn of a perfidious country, he, in the same
breath, anathematized Zoraide Reuter; he termed her "femme sotte
et vicieuse," who, in a fit of lewd caprice, had thrown herself
away on an unprincipled adventurer; directing the point of the
last appellation by a furious blow, obliquely aimed at me. I
left him in the act of bounding elastically out of the bed into
which I had tucked him; but, as I took the precaution of turning
the key in the door behind me, I retired to my own room, assured
of his safe custody till the morning, and free to draw
undisturbed conclusions from the scene I had just witnessed.

Now, it was precisely about this time that the directress, stung
by my coldness, bewitched by my scorn,and excited by the
preference she suspected me of cherishing for another, had fallen
into a snare of her own laying--was herself caught in the meshes
of the very passion with which she wished to entangle me.
Conscious of the state of things in that quarter, I gathered,
from the condition in which I saw my employer, that his lady-love
had betrayed the alienation of her affections--inclinations,
rather, I would say; affection is a word at once too warm and too
pure for the subject--had let him see that the cavity of her
hollow heart, emptied of his image, was now occupied by that of
his usher. It was not without some surprise that I found myself
obliged to entertain this view of the case; Pelet, with his old
-established school, was so convenient, so profitable a match
--Zoraide was so calculating, so interested a woman--I wondered
mere personal preference could, in her mind, have prevailed for a
moment over worldly advantage: yet, it was evident, from what
Pelet said, that, not only had she repulsed him, but had even let
slip expressions of partiality for me. One of his drunken
exclamations was, "And the jade doats on your youth, you raw
blockhead! and talks of your noble deportment, as she calls your
accursed English formality--and your pure morals, forsooth! des
moeurs de Caton a-t-elle dit--sotte!" Hers, I thought, must be a
curious soul, where in spite of a strong, natural tendency to
estimate unduly advantages of wealth and station, the sardonic
disdain of a fortuneless subordinate had wrought a deeper
impression than could be imprinted by the most flattering
assiduities of a prosperous CHEF D'INSTITUTION. I smiled
inwardly; and strange to say, though my AMOUR PROPRE was excited
not disagreeably by the conquest, my better feelings remained
untouched. Next day, when I saw the directress, and when she
made an excuse to meet me in the corridor, and besought my notice
by a demeanour and look subdued to Helot humility, I could not
love, I could scarcely pity her. To answer briefly and dryly some
interesting inquiry about my health--to pass her by with a stern
bow--was all I could; her presence and manner had then, and for
some time previously and consequently, a singular effect upon me:
they sealed up all that was good elicited all that was noxious in
my nature; sometimes they enervated my senses, but they always
hardened my heart. I was aware of the detriment done, and
quarrelled with myself for the change. I had ever hated a
tyrant; and, behold, the possession of a slave, self-given, went
near to transform me into what I abhorred! There was at once a
sort of low gratification in receiving this luscious incense from
an attractive and still young worshipper; and an irritating sense
of degradation in the very experience of the pleasure. When she
stole about me with the soft step of a slave, I felt at once
barbarous and sensual as a pasha. I endured her homage
sometimes; sometimes I rebuked it. My indifference or harshness
served equally to increase the evil I desired to check.

"Que le dedain lui sied bien!" I once overheard her say to her
mother: "il est beau comme Apollon quand il sourit de son air
hautain."

And the jolly old dame laughed, and said she thought her daughter
was bewitched, for I had no point of a handsome man about me,
except being straight and without deformity. "Pour moi," she
continued, "il me fait tout l'effet d'un chat-huant, avec ses
besicles."

Worthy old girl! I could have gone and kissed her had she not
been a little too old, too fat, and too red-faced; her sensible,
truthful words seemed so wholesome, contrasted with the morbid
illusions of her daughter.

When Pelet awoke on the morning after his frenzy fit, he retained
no recollection of what had happened the previous night, and his
mother fortunately had the discretion to refrain from informing
him that I had been a witness of his degradation. He did not
again have recourse to wine for curing his griefs, but even in
his sober mood he soon showed that the iron of jealousy had
entered into his soul. A thorough Frenchman, the national
characteristic of ferocity had not been omitted by nature in
compounding the ingredients of his character; it had appeared
first in his access of drunken wrath, when some of his
demonstrations of hatred to my person were of a truly fiendish
character, and now it was more covertly betrayed by momentary
contractions of the features, and flashes of fierceness in his
light blue eyes, when their glance chanced to encounter mine. He
absolutely avoided speaking to me; I was now spared even the
falsehood of his politeness. In this state of our mutual
relations, my soul rebelled. sometimes almost ungovernably,
against living in the house and discharging the service of such a
man; but who is free from the constraint of circumstances? At
that time, I was not: I used to rise each morning eager to shake
off his yoke, and go out with my portmanteau under my arm, if a
beggar, at least a freeman; and in the evening, when I came back
from the pensionnat de demoiselles, a certain pleasant voice in
my ear; a certain face, so intelligent, yet so docile, so
reflective, yet so soft, in my eyes; a certain cast of character,
at once proud and pliant, sensitive and sagacious, serious and
ardent, in my head; a certain tone of feeling, fervid and modest,
refined and practical, pure and powerful, delighting and
troubling my memory--visions of new ties I longed to contract, of
new duties I longed to undertake, had taken the rover and the
rebel out of me, and had shown endurance of my hated lot in the
light of a Spartan virtue.

But Pelet's fury subsided; a fortnight sufficed for its rise,
progress, and extinction: in that space of time the dismissal of
the obnoxious teacher had been effected in the neighbouring
house, and in the same interval I had declared my resolution to
follow and find out my pupil, and upon my application for her
address being refused, I had summarily resigned my own post.
This last act seemed at once to restore Mdlle. Reuter to her
senses; her sagacity, her judgment, so long misled by a
fascinating delusion, struck again into the right track the
moment that delusion vanished. By the right track, I do not mean
the steep and difficult path of principle--in that path she never
trod; but the plain highway of common sense, from which she had
of late widely diverged. When there she carefully sought, and
having found, industriously pursued the trail of her old suitor,
M. Pelet. She soon overtook him. What arts she employed to
soothe and blind him I know not, but she succeeded both in
allaying his wrath, and hoodwinking his discernment, as was soon
proved by the alteration in his mien and manner; she must have
managed to convince him that I neither was, nor ever had been, a
rival of his, for the fortnight of fury against me terminated in
a fit of exceeding graciousness and amenity, not unmixed with a
dash of exulting self-complacency, more ludicrous than
irritating. Pelet's bachelor's life had been passed in proper
French style with due disregard to moral restraint, and I thought
his married life promised to be very French also. He often
boasted to me what a terror he had been to certain husbands of
his acquaintance; I perceived it would not now be difficult to
pay him back in his own coin.

The crisis drew on. No sooner had the holidays commenced than
note of preparation for some momentous event sounded all through
the premises of Pelet: painters, polishers, and upholsterers
were immediately set to work, and there was talk of "la chambre
de Madame," "le salon de Madame." Not deeming it probable that
the old duenna at present graced with that title in our house,
had inspired her son with such enthusiasm of filial piety, as to
induce him to fit up apartments expressly for her use, I
concluded, in common with the cook, the two housemaids, and the
kitchen-scullion, that a new and more juvenile Madame was
destined to be the tenant of these gay chambers.

Presently official announcement of the coming event was put
forth. In another week's time M. Francois Pelet, directeur, and
Mdlle. Zoraide Reuter, directrice, were to be joined together in
the bands of matrimony. Monsieur, in person, heralded the fact
to me; terminating his communication by an obliging expression of
his desire that I should continue, as heretofore, his ablest
assistant and most trusted friend; and a proposition to raise my
salary by an additional two hundred francs per annum. I thanked
him, gave no conclusive answer at the time, and, when he had left
me, threw off my blouse, put on my coat, and set out on a long
walk outside the Porte de Flandre, in order, as I thought, to
cool my blood, calm my nerves, and shake my disarranged ideas
into some order. In fact, I had just received what was virtually
my dismissal. I could not conceal, I did not desire to conceal
from myself the conviction that, being now certain that Mdlle.
Reuter was destined to become Madame Pelet it would not do for me
to remain a dependent dweller in the house which was soon to be
hers. Her present demeanour towards me was deficient neither in
dignity nor propriety; but I knew her former feeling was
unchanged. Decorum now repressed, and Policy masked it, but
Opportunity would be too strong for either of these--Temptation
would shiver their restraints.

I was no pope--I could not boast infallibility: in short, if I
stayed, the probability was that, in three months' time, a
practical modern French novel would be in full process of
concoction under the roof of the unsuspecting Pelet. Now, modern
French novels are not to my taste, either practically or
theoretically. Limited as had yet been my experience of life, I
had once had the opportunity of contemplating, near at hand, an
example of the results produced by a course of interesting and
romantic domestic treachery. No golden halo of fiction was about
this example, I saw it bare and real, and it was very loathsome.
I saw a mind degraded by the practice of mean subterfuge, by the
habit of perfidious deception, and a body depraved by the
infectious influence of the vice-polluted soul. I had suffered
much from the forced and prolonged view of this spectacle; those
sufferings I did not now regret, for their simple recollection
acted as a most wholesome antidote to temptation. They had
inscribed on my reason the conviction that unlawful pleasure,
trenching on another's rights, is delusive and envenomed
pleasure--its hollowness disappoints at the time, its poison
cruelly tortures afterwards, its effects deprave for ever.

>From all this resulted the conclusion that I must leave Pelet's,
and that instantly; "but," said Prudence, "you know not where to
go, nor how to live;" and then the dream of true love came over
me: Frances Henri seemed to stand at my side; her slender waist
to invite my arm; her hand to court my hand; I felt it was made
to nestle in mine; I could not relinquish my right to it, nor
could I withdraw my eyes for ever from hers, where I saw so much
happiness, such a correspondence of heart with heart; over whose
expression I had such influence; where I could kindle bliss,
infuse awe, stir deep delight, rouse sparkling spirit, and
sometimes waken pleasurable dread. My hopes to will and possess,
my resolutions to merit and rise, rose in array against me; and
here I was about to plunge into the gulf of absolute destitution;
"and all this," suggested an inward voice, "because you fear an
evil which may never happen!" "It will happen; you KNOW it
will," answered that stubborn monitor, Conscience. "Do what you
feel is right; obey me, and even in the sloughs of want I will
plant for you firm footing." And then, as I walked fast along
the road, there rose upon me a strange, inly-felt idea of some
Great Being, unseen, but all present, who in His beneficence
desired only my welfare, and now watched the struggle of good sad
evil in my heart, and waited to see whether I should obey His
voice, heard in the whispers of my conscience, or lend an ear to
the sophisms by which His enemy and mine--the Spirit of Evil
--sought to lead me astray. Rough and steep was the path
indicated by divine suggestion; mossy and declining the green way
along which Temptation strewed flowers; but whereas, methought,
the Deity of Love, the Friend of all that exists, would smile
well-pleased were I to gird up my loins and address myself to the
rude ascent; so, on the other hand, each inclination to the
velvet declivity seemed to kindle a gleam of triumph on the brow
of the man-hating, God-defying demon. Sharp and short I turned
round; fast I retraced my steps; in half an hour I was again at
M. Pelet's: I sought him in his study; brief parley, concise
explanation sufficed; my manner proved that I was resolved; he,
perhaps, at heart approved my decision. After twenty minutes'
conversation, I re-entered my own room, self-deprived of the
means of living, self-sentenced to leave my present home, with
the short notice of a week in which to provide another.

CHAPTER XXI.

DIRECTLY as I closed the door, I saw laid on the table two
letters; my thought was, that they were notes of invitation from
the friends of some of my pupils; I had received such marks of
attention occasionally, and with me, who had no friends,
correspondence of more interest was out of the question; the
postman's arrival had never yet been an event of interest to me
since I came to Brussels. I laid my hand carelessly on the
documents, and coldly and slowly glancing at them, I prepared to
break the seals; my eye was arrested and my hand too; I saw what
excited me, as if I had found a vivid picture where I expected
only to discover a blank page: on one cover was an English
postmark; on the other, a lady's clear, fine autograph; the last
I opened first:--

"MONSIEUR,
"I FOUND out what you had done the very morning after your visit
to me; you might be sure I should dust the china, every day; and,
as no one but you had been in my room for a week, and as
fairy-money is not current in Brussels, I could not doubt who
left the twenty francs on the chimney-piece. I thought I heard
you stir the vase when I was stooping to look for your glove
under the table, and I wondered you should imagine it had got
into such a little cup. Now, monsieur, the money is not mine,
and I shall not keep it; I will not send it in this note because
it might be lost--besides, it is heavy; but I will restore it to
you the first time I see you, and you must make no difficulties
about taking it; because, in the first place, I am sure,
monsieur, you can understand that one likes to pay one's debts;
that it is satisfactory to owe no man anything; and, in the
second place, I can now very well afford to be honest, as I am
provided with a situation. This last circumstance is, indeed,
the reason of my writing to you, for it is pleasant to
communicate good news; and, in these days, I have only my master
to whom I can tell anything.

"A week ago, monsieur, I was sent for by a Mrs. Wharton, an
English lady; her eldest daughter was going to be married, and
some rich relation having made her a present of a veil and dress
in costly old lace, as precious, they said, almost as jewels, but
a little damaged by time, I was commissioned to put them in
repair. I had to do it at the house; they gave me, besides, some
embroidery to complete, and nearly a week elapsed before I had
finished everything. While I worked, Miss Wharton often came
into the room and sat with me, and so did Mrs. Wharton; they made
me talk English; asked how I had learned to speak it so well;
then they inquired what I knew besides--what books I had read;
soon they seemed to make a sort of wonder of me, considering me
no doubt as a learned grisette. One afternoon, Mrs. Wharton
brought in a Parisian lady to test the accuracy of my knowledge
of French; the result of it: was that, owing probably in a great
degree to the mother's and daughter's good humour about the
marriage, which inclined them to do beneficent deeds, and partly,
I think, because they are naturally benevolent people, they
decided that the wish I had expressed to do something more than
mend lace was a very legitimate one; and the same day they took
me in their carriage to Mrs. D.'s, who is the directress of the
first English school at Brussels. It seems she happened to be in
want of a French lady to give lessons in geography, history,
grammar, and composition, in the French language. Mrs. Wharton
recommended me very warmly; and, as two of her younger daughters
are pupils in the house, her patronage availed to get me the
place. It was settled that I am to attend six hours daily (for,
happily, it was not required that I should live in the house; I
should have been sorry to leave my lodgings), and, for this, Mrs.
D. will give me twelve hundred francs per annum.

"You see, therefore, monsieur, that I am now rich; richer almost
than I ever hoped to be: I feel thankful for it, especially as
my sight was beginning to be injured by constant working at fine
lace; and I was getting, too, very weary of sitting up late at
nights, and yet not being able to find time for reading or study.
I began to fear that I should fall ill, and be unable to pay my
way; this fear is now, in a great measure, removed; and, in
truth, monsieur, I am very grateful to God for the relief; and I
feel it necessary, almost, to speak of my happiness to some one
who is kind-hearted enough to derive joy from seeing others
joyful. I could not, therefore, resist the temptation of writing
to you; I argued with myself it is very pleasant for me to write,
and it will not be exactly painful, though it may be tiresome to
monsieur to read. Do not be too angry with my circumlocution and
inelegancies of expression, and, believe me

"Your attached pupil,
"F. E. HENRI."

Having read this letter, I mused on its contents for a few
moments--whether with sentiments pleasurable or otherwise I will
hereafter note--and then took up the other. It was directed in a
hand to me unknown--small, and rather neat; neither masculine nor
exactly feminine; the seal bore a coat of arms, concerning which
I could only decipher that it was not that of the Seacombe
family, consequently the epistle could be from none of my almost
forgotten, and certainly quite forgetting patrician relations.
>From whom, then, was it? I removed the envelope; the note folded
within ran as follows :-

"I have no doubt in the world that you are doing well in that
greasy Flanders; living probably on the fat of the unctuous land;
sitting like a black-haired, tawny-skinned, long-nosed Israelite
by the flesh-pots of Egypt; or like a rascally son of Levi near
the brass cauldrons of the sanctuary, and every now and then
plunging in a consecrated hook, and drawing out of the sea, of
broth the fattest of heave-shoulders and the fleshiest of
wave-breasts. I know this, because you never write to any one in
England. Thankless dog that you are! I, by the sovereign
efficacy of my recommendation, got you the place where you are
now living in clover, and yet not a word of gratitude, or even
acknowledgment, have you ever offered in return; but I am coming
to see you, and small conception can you, with your addled
aristocratic brains, form of the sort of moral kicking I have,
ready packed in my carpet-bag, destined to be presented to you
immediately on my arrival.

"Meantime I know all about your affairs, and have just got
information, by Brown's last letter, that you are said to be on
the point of forming an advantageous match with a pursy, little
Belgian schoolmistress--a Mdlle. Zenobie, or some such name.
Won't I have a look at her when I come over! And this you may
rely on: if she pleases my taste, or if I think it worth while
in a pecuniary point of view, I'll pounce on your prize and bear
her away triumphant in spite of your teeth. Yet I don't like
dumpies either, and Brown says she is little and stout--the
better fitted for a wiry, starved-looking chap like you.
"Be on the look-out, for you know neither the day nor hour when
your ---- (I don't wish to blaspheme, so I'll leave a blank)
--cometh.

"Yours truly,
"HUNSDEN YORKE HUNSDEN."

"Humph!" said I; and ere I laid the letter down, I again glanced
at the small, neat handwriting, not a bit like that of a
mercantile man, nor, indeed, of any man except Hunsden himself.
They talk of affinities between the autograph and the character:
what affinity was there here? I recalled the writer's peculiar
face and certain traits I suspected, rather than knew, to
appertain to his nature, and I answered, "A great deal."

Hunsden, then, was coming to Brussels, and coming I knew not
when; coming charged with the expectation of finding me on the
summit of prosperity, about to be married, to step into a warm
nest, to lie comfortably down by the side of a snug, well-fed
little mate.

"I wish him joy of the fidelity of the picture he has painted,"
thought I. "What will he say when, instead of a pair of plump
turtle doves, billing and cooing in a bower of roses, he finds a
single lean cormorant, standing mateless and shelterless on
poverty's bleak cliff? Oh, confound him! Let him come, and let
him laugh at the contrast between rumour and fact. Were he the
devil himself, instead of being merely very like him, I'd not
condescend to get out of his way, or to forge a smile or a
cheerful word wherewith to avert his sarcasm."

Then I recurred to the other letter: that struck a chord whose
sound I could not deaden by thrusting my fingers into my ears,
for it vibrated within; and though its swell might be exquisite
music, its cadence was a groan.

That Frances was relieved from the pressure of want, that the
curse of excessive labour was taken off her, filled me with
happiness; that her first thought in prosperity should be to
augment her joy by sharing it with me, met and satisfied the wish
of my heart. Two results of her letter were then pleasant, sweet
as two draughts of nectar; but applying my lips for the third
time to the cup, and they were excoriated as with vinegar and
gall.

Two persons whose desires are moderate may live well enough in
Brussels on an income which would scarcely afford a respectable
maintenance for one in London: and that, not because the
necessaries of life are so much dearer in the latter capital, or
taxes so much higher than in the former, but because the English
surpass in folly all the nations on God's earth, and are more
abject slaves to custom, to opinion, to the desire to keep up a
certain appearance, than the Italians are to priestcraft, the
French to vain-glory, the Russians to their Czar, or the Germans
to black beer. I have seen a degree of sense in the modest
arrangement of one homely Belgian household, that might put to
shame the elegance, the superfluities, the luxuries, the strained
refinements of a hundred genteel English mansions. In Belgium,
provided you can make money, you may save it; this is scarcely
possible in England; ostentation there lavishes in a month what
industry has earned in a year. More shame to all classes in that
most bountiful and beggarly country for their servile following
of Fashion; I could write a chapter or two on this subject, but
must forbear, at least for the present. Had I retained my 60l.
per annum I could, now that Frances was in possession of 50l.,
have gone straight to her this very evening, and spoken out the
words which, repressed, kept fretting my heart with fever; our
united income would, as we should have managed it, have sufficed
well for our mutual support; since we lived in a country where
economy was not confounded with meanness, where frugality in
dress, food, and furniture, was not synonymous with vulgarity in
these various points. But the placeless usher, bare of resource,
and unsupported by connections, must not think of this; such a
sentiment as love, such a word as marriage, were misplaced in his
heart, and on his lips. Now for the first time did I truly feel
what it was to be poor; now did the sacrifice I had made in
casting from me the means of living put on a new aspect; instead
of a correct, just, honourable act, it seemed a deed at once
light and fanatical; I took several turns in my room, under the
goading influence of most poignant remorse; I walked a quarter of
an hour from the wall to the window; and at the window,
self-reproach seemed to face me; at the wall, self-disdain: all
at once out spoke Conscience:--

"Down, stupid tormenters!" cried she; "the man has done his
duty; you shall not bait him thus by thoughts of what might have
been; he relinquished a temporary and contingent good to avoid a
permanent and certain evil he did well. Let him reflect now, and
when your blinding dust and deafening hum subside, he will
discover a path."

I sat down; I propped my forehead on both my hands; I thought and
thought an hour-two hours; vainly. I seemed like one sealed in a
subterranean vault, who gazes at utter blackness; at blackness
ensured by yard-thick stone walls around, and by piles of
building above, expecting light to penetrate through granite, and
through cement firm as granite. But there are chinks, or there
may be chinks, in the best adjusted masonry; there was a chink in
my cavernous cell; for, eventually, I saw, or seemed to see, a
ray--pallid, indeed, and cold, and doubtful, but still a ray, for
it showed that narrow path which conscience had promised after
two, three hours' torturing research in brain and memory, I
disinterred certain remains of circumstances, and conceived a
hope that by putting them together an expedient might be framed,
and a resource discovered. The circumstances were briefly these
:--

Some three months ago M. Pelet had, on the occasion of his fete,
given the boys a treat, which treat consisted in a party of
pleasure to a certain place of public resort in the outskirts of
Brussels, of which I do not at this moment remember the name, but
near it were several of those lakelets called etangs; and there
was one etang, larger than the rest, where on holidays people
were accustomed to amuse themselves by rowing round it in little
boats. The boys having eaten an unlimited quantity of "gaufres,"
and drank several bottles of Louvain beer, amid the shades of a
garden made and provided for such crams, petitioned the director
for leave to take a row on the etang. Half a dozen of the eldest
succeeded in obtaining leave, and I was commissioned to accompany
them as surveillant. Among the half dozen happened to be a
certain Jean Baptiste Vandenhuten, a most ponderous young
Flamand, not tall, but even now, at the early age of sixteen,
possessing a breadth and depth of personal development truly
national. It chanced that Jean was the first lad to step into the
boat; he stumbled, rolled to one side, the boat revolted at his
weight and capsized. Vandenhuten sank like lead, rose, sank
again. My coat and waistcoat were off in an instant; I had not
been brought up at Eton and boated and bathed and swam there ten
long years for nothing; it was a natural and easy act for me to
leap to the rescue. The lads and the boatmen yelled; they
thought there would be two deaths by drowning instead of one; but
as Jean rose the third time, I clutched him by one leg and the
collar, and in three minutes more both he and I were safe landed.
To speak heaven's truth, my merit in the action was small indeed,
for I had run no risk, and subsequently did not even catch cold
from the wetting; but when M. and Madame Vandenhuten, of whom
Jean Baptiste was the sole hope, came to hear of the exploit,
they seemed to think I had evinced a bravery and devotion which
no thanks could sufficiently repay. Madame, in particular, was
"certain I must have dearly loved their sweet son, or I would not
thus have hazarded my own life to save his." Monsieur, an
honest-looking, though phlegmatic man, said very little, but he
would not suffer me to leave the room, till I had promised that
in case I ever stood in need of help I would, by applying to him,
give him a chance of discharging the obligation under which he
affirmed I had laid him. These words, then, were my glimmer of
light; it was here I found my sole outlet; and in truth, though
the cold light roused, it did not cheer me; nor did the outlet
seem such as I should like to pass through. Right I had none to
M. Vandenhuten's good offices; it was not on the ground of merit
I could apply to him; no, I must stand on that of necessity: I
had no work; I wanted work; my best chance of obtaining it lay in
securing his recommendation. This I knew could be had by asking
for it; not to ask, because the request revolted my pride and
contradicted my habits, would, I felt, be an indulgence of false
and indolent fastidiousness. I might repent the omission all my
life; I would not then be guilty of it.

That evening I went to M. Vandenhuten's; but I had bent the bow
and adjusted the shaft in vain; the string broke. I rang the
bell at the great door (it was a large, handsome house in an
expensive part of the town); a manservant opened; I asked for M.
Vandenhuten; M. Vandenhuten and family were all out of town
--gone to Ostend--did not know when they would be back. I left
my card, and retraced my steps.

CHAPTER XXII

A WEEK is gone; LE JOUR DES NOCES arrived; the marriage was
solemnized at St. Jacques; Mdlle. Zoraide became Madame Pelet,
NEE Reuter; and, in about an hour after this transformation, "the
happy pair," as newspapers phrase it, were on their way to Paris;
where, according to previous arrangement, the honeymoon was to be
spent. The next day I quitted the pensionnat. Myself and my
chattels (some books and clothes) were soon transferred to a
modest lodging I had hired in a street not far off. In half an
hour my clothes were arranged in a commode, my books on a shelf,
and the "flitting" was effected. I should not have been unhappy
that day had not one pang tortured me--a longing to go to the Rue
Notre Dame aux Neiges, resisted, yet irritated by an inward
resolve to avoid that street till such time as the mist of doubt
should clear from my prospects.

It was a sweet September evening--very mild, very still; I had
nothing to do; at that hour I knew Frances would be equally
released from occupation; I thought she might possibly be wishing
for her master, I knew I wished for my pupil. Imagination began
with her low whispers, infusing into my soul the soft tale of
pleasures that might be.

"You will find her reading or writing," said she; "you can take
your seat at her side; you need not startle her peace by undue
excitement; you need not embarrass her manner by unusual action
or language. Be as you always are; look over what she has
written; listen while she reads; chide her, or quietly approve;
you know the effect of either system; you know her smile when
pleased, you you know the play of her looks when roused; you have
the secret of awakening that expression you will, and you can
choose amongst that pleasant variety. With you she will sit
silent as long as it suits you to talk alone; you can hold her
under a potent spell: intelligent as she is, eloquent as she can
be, you can seal her lips, and veil her bright countenance with
diffidence; yet, you know, she is not all monotonous mildness;
you have seen, with a sort of strange pleasure, revolt, scorn,
austerity, bitterness, lay energetic claim to a place in her
feelings and physiognomy; you know that few could rule her as you
do; you know she might break, but never bend under the hand of
Tyranny and Injustice, but Reason and Affection can guide her by
a sign. Try their influence now. Go--they are not passions;
you may handle them safely."

"I will NOT go was my answer to the sweet temptress. "A man is
master of himself to a certain point, but not beyond it. Could I
seek Frances to-night, could I sit with her alone in a quiet
room, and address her only in the language of Reason and
Affection?"

"No," was the brief, fervent reply of that Love which had
conquered and now controlled me.

Time seemed to stagnate; the sun would not go down; my watch
ticked, but I thought the hands were paralyzed.

"What a hot evening!" I cried, throwing open the lattice; for,
indeed, I had seldom felt so feverish. Hearing a step ascending
the common stair, I wondered whether the "locataire," now
mounting to his apartments, were as unsettled in mind and
condition as I was, or whether he lived in the calm of certain
resources, and in the freedom of unfettered feelings. What! was
he coming in person to solve the problem hardly proposed in
inaudible thought? He had actually knocked at the door--at MY
door; a smart, prompt rap; and, almost before I could invite him
in, he was over the threshold, and had closed the door behind
him.

"And how are you?" asked an indifferent, quiet voice, in the
English language; while my visitor, without any sort of bustle or
introduction, put his hat on the table, and his gloves into his
hat, and drawing the only armchair the room afforded a little
forward, seated himself tranquilly therein.

"Can't you speak?" he inquired in a few moments, in a tone whose
nonchalance seemed to intimate that it was much the same thing
whether I answered or not. The fact is, I found it desirable to
have recourse to my good friends "les besicles;" not exactly to
ascertain the identity of my visitor--for I already knew him,
confound his impudence! but to see how he looked--to get a clear
notion of his mien and countenance. I wiped the glasses very
deliberately, and put them on quite as deliberately; adjusting
them so as not to hurt the bridge of my nose or get entangled in
my short tufts of dun hair. I was sitting in the window-seat,
with my back to the light, and I had him VIS-A-VIS; a position he
would much rather have had reversed; for, at any time, he
preferred scrutinizing to being scrutinized. Yes, it was HE, and
no mistake, with his six feet of length arranged in a sitting
attitude; with his dark travelling surtout with its velvet
collar, his gray pantaloons, his black stock, and his face, the
most original one Nature ever modelled, yet the least obtrusively
so; not one feature that could be termed marked or odd, yet the
effect of the whole unique. There is no use in attempting to
describe what is indescribable. Being in no hurry to address
him, I sat and stared at my ease.

"Oh, that's your game--is it?" said he at last. "Well, we'll see
which is soonest tired." And he slowly drew out a fine
cigar-case, picked one to his taste, lit it, took a book from the
shelf convenient to his hand, then leaning back, proceeded to
smoke and read as tranquilly as if he had been in his own room,
in Grove-street, X---shire, England. I knew he was capable of
continuing in that attitude till midnight, if he conceived the
whim, so I rose, and taking the book from his hand, I said,--

"You did not ask for it, and you shall not have it."

"It is silly and dull," he observed, "so I have not lost much;"
then the spell being broken, he went on. "I thought you lived at
Pelet's; I went there this afternoon. expecting to be starved to
death by sitting in a boarding-school drawing-room, and they told
me you were gone, had departed this morning; you had left your
address behind you though, which I wondered at; it was a more
practical and sensible precaution than I should have imagined you
capable of. Why did you leave?"

"Because M. Pelet has just married the lady whom you and Mr.
Brown assigned to me as my wife."

"Oh, indeed!" replied Hunsden with a short laugh; "so you've lost
both your wife and your place?"

"Precisely so."

I saw him give a quick, covert glance all round my room; he
marked its narrow limits, its scanty furniture: in an instant he
had comprehended the state of matters--had absolved me from the
crime of prosperity. A curious effect this discovery wrought in
his strange mind; I am morally certain that if he had found me
installed in a handsome parlour, lounging on a soft couch, with a
pretty, wealthy wife at my side, he would have hated me; a brief,
cold, haughty visit, would in such a case have been the extreme
limit of his civilities, and never would he have come near me
more, so long as the tide of fortune bore me smoothly on its
surface; but the painted furniture, the bare walls, the cheerless
solitude of my room relaxed his rigid pride, and I know not what
softening change had taken place both in his voice and look ere
he spoke again.

"You have got another place?"

"No."

"You are in the way of getting one?"

"No."

"That is bad; have you applied to Brown?"

"No, indeed."

"You had better; he often has it in his power to give useful
information in such matters."

"He served me once very well; I have no claim on him, and am not
in the humour to bother him again."

"Oh, if you're bashful, and dread being intrusive, you need only
commission me. I shall see him to-night; I can put in a word."

"I beg you will not, Mr. Hunsden; I am in your debt already; you
did me an important service when I was at X----; got me out of a
den where I was dying: that service I have never repaid, and at
present I decline positively adding another item to the account."

"If the wind sits that way, I'm satisfied. I thought my
unexampled generosity in turning you out of that accursed
counting-house would be duly appreciated some day: 'Cast your
bread on the waters, and it shall be found after many days,' say
the Scriptures. Yes, that's right, lad--make much of me--I'm a
nonpareil: there's nothing like me in the common herd. In the
meantime, to put all humbug aside and talk sense for a few
moments, you would be greatly the better of a situation, and what
is more, you are a fool if you refuse to take one from any hand
that offers it."

"Very well, Mr. Hunsden; now you have settled that point, talk of
something else. What news from X----?"

"I have not settled that point, or at least there is another to
settle before we get to X----. Is this Miss Zenobie" (Zoraide,
interposed I)--"well, Zoraide--is she really married to Pelet?"

"I tell you yes--and if you don't believe me, go and ask the cure
of St. Jacques."

"And your heart is broken?"

"I am not aware that it is; it feels all right--beats as usual."

"Then your feelings are less superfine than I took them to be;
you must be a coarse, callous character, to bear such a thwack
without staggering under it."

"Staggering under it? What the deuce is there to stagger under
in the circumstance of a Belgian schoolmistress marrying a
French schoolmaster? The progeny will doubtless be a strange
hybrid race; but that's their Look out--not mine."

"He indulges in scurrilous jests, and the bride was his affianced
one!"

"Who said so?"

"Brown."

I'll tell you what, Hunsden--Brown is an old gossip."

"He is; but in the meantime, if his gossip be founded on less
than fact--if you took no particular interest in Miss Zoraide
--why, O youthful pedagogue! did you leave your place in
consequence of her becoming Madame Pelet?"

"Because--" I felt my face grow a little hot; "because--in
short, Mr. Hunsden, I decline answering any more questions," and
I plunged my hands deep in my breeches pocket.

Hunsden triumphed: his eyes--his laugh announced victory.

"What the deuce are you laughing at, Mr. Hunsden?"

"At your exemplary composure. Well, lad, I'll not bore you; I
see how it is: Zoraide has jilted you--married some one richer,
as any sensible woman would have done if she had had the chance."

I made no reply--I let him think so, not feeling inclined to
enter into an explanation of the real state of things, and as
little to forge a false account; but it was not easy to blind
Hunsden; my very silence, instead of convincing him that he had
hit the truth, seemed to render him doubtful about it; he went
on:--

"I suppose the affair has been conducted as such affairs always
are amongst rational people: you offered her your youth and your
talents-such as they are--in exchange for her position and money:
I don't suppose you took appearance, or what is called LOVE, into
the account--for I understand she is older than you, and Brown
says, rather sensible-looking than beautiful. She, having then
no chance of making a better bargain, was at first inclined to
come to terms with you, but Pelet--the head or a flourishing
school--stepped in with a higher bid; she accepted, and he has
got her: a correct transaction--perfectly so--business-like and
legitimate. And now we'll talk of something else."

"Do," said I, very glad to dismiss the topic, and especially glad
to have baffled the sagacity of my cross-questioner--if, indeed,
I had baffled it; for though his words now led away from the
dangerous point, his eyes, keen and watchful, seemed still
preoccupied with the former idea.

"You want to hear news from X----? And what interest can you
have in X----? You left no friends there, for you made none.
Nobody ever asks after you--neither man nor woman; and if I
mention your name in company, the men look as if I had spoken of
Prester John; and the women sneer covertly. Our X---- belles
must have disliked you. How did you excite their displeasure?"

"I don't know. I seldom spoke to them--they were nothing to me.
I considered them only as something to be glanced at from a
distance; their dresses and faces were often pleasing enough to
the eye: but I could not understand their conversation, nor even
read their countenances. When I caught snatches of what they
said, I could never make much of it; and the play of their lips
and eyes did not help me at all."

"That was your fault, not theirs. There are sensible, as well as
handsome women in X----; women it is worth any man's while to
talk to, and with whom I can talk with pleasure: but you had and
have no pleasant address; there is nothing in you to induce a
woman to be affable. I have remarked you sitting near the door
in a room full of company, bent on hearing, not on speaking; on
observing, not on entertaining; looking frigidly shy at the
commencement of a party, confusingly vigilant about the middle,
and insultingly weary towards the end. Is that the way, do you
think, ever to communicate pleasure or excite interest? No; and
if you are generally unpopular, it is because you deserve to be
so."

"Content!" I ejaculated.

"No, you are not content; you see beauty always turning its back
on you; you are mortified and then you sneer. I verily believe
all that is desirable on earth--wealth, reputation, love--will
for ever to you be the ripe grapes on the high trellis: you'll
look up at them; they will tantalize in you the lust of the eye;
but they are out of reach: you have not the address to fetch a
ladder, and you'll go away calling them sour."

Cutting as these words might have been under some circumstances,
they drew no blood now. My life was changed; my experience had
been varied since I left X----, but Hunsden could not know this;
he had seen me only in the character of Mr. Crimsworth's clerk--a
dependant amongst wealthy strangers, meeting disdain with a hard
front, conscious of an unsocial and unattractive exterior,
refusing to sue for notice which I was sure would be withheld,
declining to evince an admiration which I knew would be scorned
as worthless. He could not be aware that since then youth and
loveliness had been to me everyday objects; that I had studied
them at leisure and closely, and had seen the plain texture of
truth under the embroidery of appearance; nor could he,
keen-sighted as he was, penetrate into my heart, search my
brain, and read my peculiar sympathies and antipathies; he had
not known me long enough, or well enough, to perceive how low my
feelings would ebb under some influences, powerful over most
minds; how high, how fast they would flow under other influences,
that perhaps acted with the more intense force on me, because
they acted on me alone. Neither could he suspect for an instant
the history of my communications with Mdlle. Reuter; secret to
him and to all others was the tale of her strange infatuation;
her blandishments, her wiles had been seen but by me, and to me
only were they known; but they had changed me, for they had
proved that I COULD impress. A sweeter secret nestled deeper in
my heart; one full of tenderness and as full of strength: it
took the sting out of Hunsden's sarcasm; it kept me unbent by
shame, and unstirred by wrath. But of all this I could say
nothing--nothing decisive at least; uncertainty sealed my lips,
and during the interval of silence by which alone I replied to
Mr. Hunsden, I made up my mind to be for the present wholly
misjudged by him, and misjudged I was; he thought he had been
rather too hard upon me, and that I was crushed by the weight of
his upbraidings; so to re-assure me he said, doubtless I should
mend some day; I was only at the beginning of life yet; and since
happily I was not quite without sense, every false step I made
would be a good lesson.

Just then I turned my face a little to the light; the approach of
twilight, and my position in the window-seat, had, for the last
ten minutes, prevented him from studying my countenance; as I
moved, however, he caught an expression which he thus
interpreted:--

"Confound it! How doggedly self-approving the lad looks! I
thought he was fit to die with shame, and there he sits grinning
smiles, as good as to say, 'Let the world wag as it will, I've
the philosopher's stone in my waist-coat pocket, and the elixir
of life in my cupboard; I'm independent of both Fate and
Fortune'"

"Hunsden--you spoke of grapes; I was thinking of a fruit I like
better than your X---- hot-house grapes--an unique fruit, growing
wild, which I have marked as my own, and hope one day to gather
and taste. It is of no use your offering me the draught of
bitterness, or threatening me with death by thirst: I have the
anticipation of sweetness on my palate; the hope of freshness on
my lips; I can reject the unsavoury, and endure the exhausting."

"For how long?"

"Till the next opportunity for effort; and as the prize of
success will be a treasure after my own heart, I'll bring a
bull's strength to the struggle."

"Bad luck crushes bulls as easily as bullaces; and, I believe,
the fury dogs you: you were born with a wooden spoon in your
mouth, depend on it."

"I believe you; sad I mean to make my wooden spoon do the work of
some people's silver ladles: grasped firmly, and handled nimbly,
even a wooden spoon will shovel up broth."

Hunsden rose: "I see," said he; "I suppose you're one of those
who develop best unwatched, and act best unaided-work your own
way. Now, I'll go." And, without another word, he was going; at
the door he turned:--

"Crimsworth Hall is sold," said he.

"Sold!" was my echo.

"Yes; you know, of course, that your brother failed three months
ago?"

"What! Edward Crimsworth?"

"Precisely; and his wife went home to her fathers; when affairs
went awry, his temper sympathized with them; he used her ill; I
told you he would be a tyrant to her some day; as to him--"

"Ay, as to him--what is become of him?"

"Nothing extraordinary--don't be alarmed; he put himself under
the protection of the court, compounded with his creditors
--tenpence in the pound; in six weeks set up again, coaxed back
his wife, and is flourishing like a green bay-tree."

"And Crimsworth Hall--was the furniture sold too?"

"Everything--from the grand piano down to the rolling-pin."

"And the contents of the oak dining-room--were they sold?"

"Of course; why should the sofas and chairs of that room be held
more sacred than those of any other?"

"And the pictures?"

"What pictures? Crimsworth had no special collection that I know
of--he did not profess to be an amateur."

"There were two portraits, one on each side the mantelpiece; you
cannot have forgotten them, Mr. Hunsden; you once noticed that of
the lady--"

"Oh, I know! the thin-faced gentlewoman with a shawl put on like
drapery.--Why, as a matter of course, it would be sold among the
other things. If you had been rich, you might have bought it,
for I remember you said it represented your mother: you see what
it is to be without a sou."

I did. "But surely," I thought to myself, "I shall not always be
so poverty-stricken; I may one day buy it back yet.--Who
purchased it? do you know?" I asked.

"How is it likely? I never inquired who purchased anything;
there spoke the unpractical man--to imagine all the world is
interested in what interests himself! Now, good night--I'm off
for Germany to-morrow morning; I shall be back here in six weeks,
and possibly I may call and see you again; I wonder whether
you'll be still out of place!" he laughed, as mockingly, as
heartlessly as Mephistopheles, and so laughing, vanished.

Some people, however indifferent they may become after a
considerable space of absence, always contrive to leave a
pleasant impression just at parting; not so Hunsden, a conference
with him affected one like a draught of Peruvian bark; it seemed
a concentration of the specially harsh, stringent, bitter;
whether, like bark, it invigorated, I scarcely knew.

A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow; I slept little on the
night after this interview; towards morning I began to doze, but
hardly had my slumber become sleep, when I was roused from it by
hearing a noise in my sitting room, to which my bed-room
adjoined--a step, and a shoving of furniture; the movement lasted
barely two minutes; with the closing of the door it ceased. I
listened; not a mouse stirred; perhaps I had dreamt it; perhaps a
locataire had made a mistake, and entered my apartment instead of
his own. It was yet but five o'clock; neither I nor the day were
wide awake; I turned, and was soon unconscious. When I did rise,
about two hours later, I had forgotten the circumstance; the
first thing I saw, however, on quitting my chamber, recalled it;
just pushed in at the door of my sitting-room, and still standing
on end, was a wooden packing-case--a rough deal affair, wide but
shallow; a porter had doubtless shoved it forward, but seeing no
occupant of the room, had left it at the entrance.

"That is none of mine," thought I, approaching; "it must be meant
for somebody else." I stooped to examine the address:--

"Wm. Crimsworth, Esq., No --, -- St., Brussels."

I was puzzled, but concluding that the best way to obtain
information was to ask within, I cut the cords and opened the
case. Green baize enveloped its contents, sewn carefully at the
sides; I ripped the pack-thread with my pen-knife, and still, as
the seam gave way, glimpses of gilding appeared through the
widening interstices. Boards and baize being at length removed,
I lifted from the case a large picture, in a magnificent frame;
leaning it against a chair, in a position where the light from
the window fell favourably upon it, I stepped back--already I had
mounted my spectacles. A portrait-painter's sky (the most sombre
and threatening of welkins), and distant trees of a conventional
depth of hue, raised in full relief a pale, pensive-looking
female face, shadowed with soft dark hair, almost blending with
the equally dark clouds; large, solemn eyes looked reflectively
into mine; a thin cheek rested on a delicate little hand; a
shawl, artistically draped, half hid, half showed a slight
figure. A listener (had there been one) might have heard me,
after ten minutes' silent gazing, utter the word "Mother!" I
might have said more--but with me, the first word uttered aloud
in soliloquy rouses consciousness; it reminds me that only crazy
people talk to themselves, and then I think out my monologue,
instead of speaking it. I had thought a long while, and a long
while had contemplated the intelligence, the sweetness, and
--alas! the sadness also of those fine, grey eyes, the mental
power of that forehead, and the rare sensibility of that serious
mouth, when my glance, travelling downwards, fell on a narrow
billet, stuck in the corner of the picture, between the frame and
the canvas. Then I first asked, "Who sent this picture? Who
thought of me, saved it out of the wreck of Crimsworth Hall, and
now commits it to the care of its natural keeper?" I took the
note from its niche; thus it spoke:--

"There is a sort of stupid pleasure in giving a child sweets, a
fool his bells, a dog a bone. You are repaid by seeing the child
besmear his face with sugar; by witnessing how the fool's ecstasy
makes a greater fool of him than ever; by watching the dog's
nature come out over his bone. In giving William Crimsworth his
mother's picture, I give him sweets, bells, and bone all in one;
what grieves me is, that I cannot behold the result; I would have
added five shillings more to my bid if the, auctioneer could only
have promised me that pleasure.

"H. Y. H.

"P.S.--You said last night you positively declined adding another
item to your account with me; don't you think I've saved you that
trouble?"

I muffled the picture in its green baize covering, restored it to
the case, and having transported the whole concern to my
bed-room, put it out of sight under my bed. My pleasure was now
poisoned by pungent pain; I determined to look no more till I
could look at my ease. If Hunsden had come in at that moment, I
should have said to him, "I owe you nothing, Hunsden--not a
fraction of a farthing: you have paid yourself in taunts!"

Too anxious to remain any longer quiescent, I had no sooner
breakfasted, than I repaired once more to M. Vandenhuten's,
scarcely hoping to find him at home; for a week had barely
elapsed since my first call: but fancying I might be able to
glean information as to the time when his return was expected.
A better result awaited me than I had anticipated, for though
the family were yet at Ostend, M. Vandenhuten had come over to
Brussels on business for the day. He received me with the quiet
kindness of a sincere though not excitable man. I had not sat
five minutes alone with him in his bureau, before I became aware
of a sense of ease in his presence, such as I rarely experienced
with strangers. I was surprised at my own composure, for, after
all, I had come on business to me exceedingly painful--that of
soliciting a favour. I asked on what basis the calm rested--I
feared it might be deceptive. Ere long I caught a glimpse of the
ground, and at once I felt assured of its solidity; I knew where
it was.

M.Vandenhuten was rich, respected, and influential; I, poor,
despised and powerless; so we stood to the world at large as
members of the world's society; but to each other, as a pair of
human beings, our positions were reversed. The Dutchman (he was
not Flamand, but pure Hollandais) was slow, cool, of rather dense
intelligence, though sound and accurate judgment; the Englishman
far more nervous, active, quicker both to plan and to practise,
to conceive and to realize. The Dutchman was benevolent, the
Englishman susceptible; in short our characters dovetailed, but
my mind having more fire and action than his, instinctively
assumed and kept the predominance.

This point settled, and my position well ascertained, I addressed
him on the subject of my affairs with that genuine frankness
which full confidence can alone inspire. It was a pleasure to him
to be so appealed to; he thanked me for giving him this
opportunity of using a little exertion in my behalf. I went on
to explain to him that my wish was not so much to be helped, as
to be put into the way of helping myself; of him I did not want
exertion--that was to be my part--but only information and
recommendation. Soon after I rose to go. He held out his hand
at parting--an action of greater significance with foreigners
than with Englishmen. As I exchanged a smile with him, I thought
the benevolence of his truthful face was better than the
intelligence of my own. Characters of my order experience a
balm-like solace in the contact of such souls as animated the
honest breast of Victor Vandenhuten.

The next fortnight was a period of many alternations; my
existence during its lapse resembled a sky of one of those
autumnal nights which are specially haunted by meteors and
falling stars. Hopes and fears, expectations and
disappointments, descended in glancing showers from zenith to
horizon; but all were transient, and darkness followed swift each
vanishing apparition. M. Vandenhuten aided me faithfully; he set
me on the track of several places, and himself made efforts to
secure them for me; but for a long time solicitation and
recommendation were vain--the door either shut in my face when I
was about to walk in, or another candidate, entering before me,
rendered my further advance useless. Feverish and roused, no
disappointment arrested me; defeat following fast on defeat
served as stimulants to will. I forgot fastidiousness, conquered
reserve, thrust pride from me: I asked, I persevered, I
remonstrated, I dunned. It is so that openings are forced into
the guarded circle where Fortune sits dealing favours round. My
perseverance made me known; my importunity made me remarked. I
was inquired about; my former pupils' parents, gathering the
reports of their children, heard me spoken of as talented, and
they echoed the word: the sound, bandied about at random, came
at last to ears which, but for its universality, it might never
have reached; and at the very crisis when I had tried my last
effort and knew not what to do, Fortune looked in at me one
morning, as I sat in drear and almost desperate deliberation on
my bedstead, nodded with the familiarity of an old acquaintance
--though God knows I had never met her before--and threw a prize
into my lap.

In the second week of October, 18--, I got the appointment of
English professor to all the classes of ---- College, Brussels,
with a salary of three thousand francs per annum; and the
certainty of being able, by dint of the reputation and publicity
accompanying the position, to make as much more by private means.
The official notice, which communicated this information,
mentioned also that it was the strong recommendation of M.
Vandenhuten, negociant, which had turned the scale of choice in
my favour.

No sooner had I read the announcement than I hurried to M.
Vandenhuten's bureau, pushed the document under his nose, and
when he had perused it, took both his hands, and thanked him with
unrestrained vivacity. My vivid words and emphatic gesture moved
his Dutch calm to unwonted sensation. He said he was happy--glad
to have served me; but he had done nothing meriting such thanks.
He had not laid out a centime--only scratched a few words on a
sheet of paper.

Again I repeated to him--

"You have made me quite happy, and in a way that suits me; I do
not feel an obligation irksome, conferred by your kind hand; I do
not feel disposed to shun you because you have done me a favour;
from this day you must consent to admit me to your intimate
acquaintance, for I shall hereafter recur again and again to the
pleasure of your society."

"Ainsi soit-il," was the reply, accompanied by a smile of
benignant content. I went away with its sunshine in my heart.

CHAPTER XXIII

IT was two o'clock when I returned to my lodgings; my dinner,
just brought in from a neighbouring hotel, smoked on the table; I
sat down thinking to eat--had the plate been heaped with
potsherds and broken glass, instead of boiled beef and haricots,
I could not have made a more signal failure: appetite had
forsaken me. Impatient of seeing food which I could not taste, I
put it all aside into a cupboard, and then demanded, "What shall
I do till evening?" for before six P.M. it would be vain to seek
the Rue Notre Dame aux Neiges; its inhabitant (for me it had but
one) was detained by her vocation elsewhere. I walked in the
streets of Brussels, and I walked in my own room from two o'clock
till six; never once in that space of time did I sit down. I was
in my chamber when the last-named hour struck; I had just bathed
my face and feverish hands, and was standing near the glass; my
cheek was crimson, my eye was flame, still all my features looked
quite settled and calm. Descending swiftly the stair and
stepping out, I was glad to see Twilight drawing on in clouds;
such shade was to me like a grateful screen, and the chill of
latter Autumn, breathing in a fitful wind from the north-west,
met me as a refreshing coolness. Still I saw it was cold to
others, for the women I passed were wrapped in shawls, and the
men had their coats buttoned close.

When are we quite happy? Was I so then? No; an urgent and
growing dread worried my nerves, and had worried them since the
first moment good tidings had reached me. How was Frances? It
was ten weeks since I had seen her, six since I had heard from
her, or of her. I had answered her letter by a brief note,
friendly but calm, in which no mention of continued
correspondence or further visits was made. At that hour my bark
hung on the topmost curl of a wave of fate, and I knew not on
what shoal the onward rush of the billow might hurl it; I would
not then attach her destiny to mine by the slightest thread; if
doomed to split on the rock, or run a aground on the sand-bank, I
was resolved no other vessel should share my disaster: but six
weeks was a long time; and could it be that she was still well
and doing well? Were not all sages agreed in declaring that
happiness finds no climax on earth? Dared I think that but half
a street now divided me from the full cup of contentment--the
draught drawn from waters said to flow only in heaven?

I was at the door; I entered the quiet house; I mounted the
stairs; the lobby was void and still, all the doors closed; I
looked for the neat green mat; it lay duly in its place.

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