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Chapter 31

  • My home, then, when I at last find a home,—is a cottage; a little room wit_hitewashed walls and a sanded floor, containing four painted chairs and _able, a clock, a cupboard, with two or three plates and dishes, and a set o_ea-things in delf.  Above, a chamber of the same dimensions as the kitchen, with a deal bedstead and chest of drawers; small, yet too large to be fille_ith my scanty wardrobe: though the kindness of my gentle and generous friend_as increased that, by a modest stock of such things as are necessary.
  • It is evening.  I have dismissed, with the fee of an orange, the little orpha_ho serves me as a handmaid.  I am sitting alone on the hearth.  This morning, the village school opened.  I had twenty scholars.  But three of the numbe_an read: none write or cipher.  Several knit, and a few sew a little.  The_peak with the broadest accent of the district.  At present, they and I have _ifficulty in understanding each other’s language.  Some of them ar_nmannered, rough, intractable, as well as ignorant; but others are docile, have a wish to learn, and evince a disposition that pleases me.  I must no_orget that these coarsely-clad little peasants are of flesh and blood as goo_s the scions of gentlest genealogy; and that the germs of native excellence, refinement, intelligence, kind feeling, are as likely to exist in their heart_s in those of the best-born.  My duty will be to develop these germs: surel_ shall find some happiness in discharging that office.  Much enjoyment I d_ot expect in the life opening before me: yet it will, doubtless, if _egulate my mind, and exert my powers as I ought, yield me enough to live o_rom day to day.
  • Was I very gleeful, settled, content, during the hours I passed in yonde_are, humble schoolroom this morning and afternoon?  Not to deceive myself, _ust reply—No: I felt desolate to a degree.  I felt—yes, idiot that I am—_elt degraded.  I doubted I had taken a step which sank instead of raising m_n the scale of social existence.  I was weakly dismayed at the ignorance, th_overty, the coarseness of all I heard and saw round me.  But let me not hat_nd despise myself too much for these feelings; I know them to be wrong—tha_s a great step gained; I shall strive to overcome them.  To-morrow, I trust, I shall get the better of them partially; and in a few weeks, perhaps, the_ill be quite subdued.  In a few months, it is possible, the happiness o_eeing progress, and a change for the better in my scholars may substitut_ratification for disgust.
  • Meantime, let me ask myself one question—Which is better?—To have surrendere_o temptation; listened to passion; made no painful effort—no struggle;—but t_ave sunk down in the silken snare; fallen asleep on the flowers covering it; wakened in a southern clime, amongst the luxuries of a pleasure villa: to hav_een now living in France, Mr. Rochester’s mistress; delirious with his lov_alf my time—for he would—oh, yes, he would have loved me well for a while.
  • He _did_ love me—no one will ever love me so again.  I shall never more kno_he sweet homage given to beauty, youth, and grace—for never to any one els_hall I seem to possess these charms.  He was fond and proud of me—it is wha_o man besides will ever be.—But where am I wandering, and what am I saying, and above all, feeling?  Whether is it better, I ask, to be a slave in _ool’s paradise at Marseilles—fevered with delusive bliss one hour—suffocatin_ith the bitterest tears of remorse and shame the next—or to be a village- schoolmistress, free and honest, in a breezy mountain nook in the health_eart of England?
  • Yes; I feel now that I was right when I adhered to principle and law, an_corned and crushed the insane promptings of a frenzied moment.  God directe_e to a correct choice: I thank His providence for the guidance!
  • Having brought my eventide musings to this point, I rose, went to my door, an_ooked at the sunset of the harvest-day, and at the quiet fields before m_ottage, which, with the school, was distant half a mile from the village.
  • The birds were singing their last strains—
  • > “The air was mild, the dew was balm.”
  • While I looked, I thought myself happy, and was surprised to find myself er_ong weeping—and why?  For the doom which had reft me from adhesion to m_aster: for him I was no more to see; for the desperate grief and fata_ury—consequences of my departure—which might now, perhaps, be dragging hi_rom the path of right, too far to leave hope of ultimate restoration thither.
  • At this thought, I turned my face aside from the lovely sky of eve and lonel_ale of Morton—I say _lonely_ , for in that bend of it visible to me there wa_o building apparent save the church and the parsonage, half-hid in trees, and, quite at the extremity, the roof of Vale Hall, where the rich Mr. Olive_nd his daughter lived.  I hid my eyes, and leant my head against the ston_rame of my door; but soon a slight noise near the wicket which shut in m_iny garden from the meadow beyond it made me look up.  A dog—old Carlo, Mr.
  • Rivers’ pointer, as I saw in a moment—was pushing the gate with his nose, an_t. John himself leant upon it with folded arms; his brow knit, his gaze, grave almost to displeasure, fixed on me.  I asked him to come in.
  • “No, I cannot stay; I have only brought you a little parcel my sisters lef_or you.  I think it contains a colour-box, pencils, and paper.”
  • I approached to take it: a welcome gift it was.  He examined my face, _hought, with austerity, as I came near: the traces of tears were doubtles_ery visible upon it.
  • “Have you found your first day’s work harder than you expected?” he asked.
  • “Oh, no!  On the contrary, I think in time I shall get on with my scholar_ery well.”
  • “But perhaps your accommodations—your cottage—your furniture—have disappointe_our expectations?  They are, in truth, scanty enough; but—” I interrupted—
  • “My cottage is clean and weather-proof; my furniture sufficient an_ommodious.  All I see has made me thankful, not despondent.  I am no_bsolutely such a fool and sensualist as to regret the absence of a carpet, _ofa, and silver plate; besides, five weeks ago I had nothing—I was a_utcast, a beggar, a vagrant; now I have acquaintance, a home, a business.  _onder at the goodness of God; the generosity of my friends; the bounty of m_ot.  I do not repine.”
  • “But you feel solitude an oppression?  The little house there behind you i_ark and empty.”
  • “I have hardly had time yet to enjoy a sense of tranquillity, much less t_row impatient under one of loneliness.”
  • “Very well; I hope you feel the content you express: at any rate, your goo_ense will tell you that it is too soon yet to yield to the vacillating fear_f Lot’s wife.  What you had left before I saw you, of course I do not know; but I counsel you to resist firmly every temptation which would incline you t_ook back: pursue your present career steadily, for some months at least.”
  • “It is what I mean to do,” I answered.  St. John continued—
  • “It is hard work to control the workings of inclination and turn the bent o_ature; but that it may be done, I know from experience.  God has given us, i_ measure, the power to make our own fate; and when our energies seem t_emand a sustenance they cannot get—when our will strains after a path we ma_ot follow—we need neither starve from inanition, nor stand still in despair: we have but to seek another nourishment for the mind, as strong as th_orbidden food it longed to taste—and perhaps purer; and to hew out for th_dventurous foot a road as direct and broad as the one Fortune has blocked u_gainst us, if rougher than it.
  • “A year ago I was myself intensely miserable, because I thought I had made _istake in entering the ministry: its uniform duties wearied me to death.  _urnt for the more active life of the world—for the more exciting toils of _iterary career—for the destiny of an artist, author, orator; anything rathe_han that of a priest: yes, the heart of a politician, of a soldier, of _otary of glory, a lover of renown, a luster after power, beat under m_urate’s surplice.  I considered; my life was so wretched, it must be changed, or I must die.  After a season of darkness and struggling, light broke an_elief fell: my cramped existence all at once spread out to a plain withou_ounds—my powers heard a call from heaven to rise, gather their full strength, spread their wings, and mount beyond ken.  God had an errand for me; to bea_hich afar, to deliver it well, skill and strength, courage and eloquence, th_est qualifications of soldier, statesman, and orator, were all needed: fo_hese all centre in the good missionary.
  • “A missionary I resolved to be.  From that moment my state of mind changed; the fetters dissolved and dropped from every faculty, leaving nothing o_ondage but its galling soreness—which time only can heal.  My father, indeed, imposed the determination, but since his death, I have not a legitimat_bstacle to contend with; some affairs settled, a successor for Morto_rovided, an entanglement or two of the feelings broken through or cu_sunder—a last conflict with human weakness, in which I know I shall overcome, because I have vowed that I _will_ overcome—and I leave Europe for the East.”
  • He said this, in his peculiar, subdued, yet emphatic voice; looking, when h_ad ceased speaking, not at me, but at the setting sun, at which I looked too.
  • Both he and I had our backs towards the path leading up the field to th_icket.  We had heard no step on that grass-grown track; the water running i_he vale was the one lulling sound of the hour and scene; we might well the_tart when a gay voice, sweet as a silver bell, exclaimed—
  • “Good evening, Mr. Rivers.  And good evening, old Carlo.  Your dog is quicke_o recognise his friends than you are, sir; he pricked his ears and wagged hi_ail when I was at the bottom of the field, and you have your back towards m_ow.”
  • It was true.  Though Mr. Rivers had started at the first of those musica_ccents, as if a thunderbolt had split a cloud over his head, he stood yet, a_he close of the sentence, in the same attitude in which the speaker ha_urprised him—his arm resting on the gate, his face directed towards the west.
  • He turned at last, with measured deliberation.  A vision, as it seemed to me, had risen at his side.  There appeared, within three feet of him, a form cla_n pure white—a youthful, graceful form: full, yet fine in contour; and when, after bending to caress Carlo, it lifted up its head, and threw back a lon_eil, there bloomed under his glance a face of perfect beauty.  Perfect beaut_s a strong expression; but I do not retrace or qualify it: as sweet feature_s ever the temperate clime of Albion moulded; as pure hues of rose and lil_s ever her humid gales and vapoury skies generated and screened, justified, in this instance, the term.  No charm was wanting, no defect was perceptible; the young girl had regular and delicate lineaments; eyes shaped and coloure_s we see them in lovely pictures, large, and dark, and full; the long an_hadowy eyelash which encircles a fine eye with so soft a fascination; th_encilled brow which gives such clearness; the white smooth forehead, whic_dds such repose to the livelier beauties of tint and ray; the cheek oval, fresh, and smooth; the lips, fresh too, ruddy, healthy, sweetly formed; th_ven and gleaming teeth without flaw; the small dimpled chin; the ornament o_ich, plenteous tresses—all advantages, in short, which, combined, realise th_deal of beauty, were fully hers.  I wondered, as I looked at this fai_reature: I admired her with my whole heart.  Nature had surely formed her i_ partial mood; and, forgetting her usual stinted step-mother dole of gifts, had endowed this, her darling, with a grand-dame’s bounty.
  • What did St. John Rivers think of this earthly angel?  I naturally aske_yself that question as I saw him turn to her and look at her; and, a_aturally, I sought the answer to the inquiry in his countenance.  He ha_lready withdrawn his eye from the Peri, and was looking at a humble tuft o_aisies which grew by the wicket.
  • “A lovely evening, but late for you to be out alone,” he said, as he crushe_he snowy heads of the closed flowers with his foot.
  • “Oh, I only came home from S-” (she mentioned the name of a large town som_wenty miles distant) “this afternoon.  Papa told me you had opened you_chool, and that the new mistress was come; and so I put on my bonnet afte_ea, and ran up the valley to see her: this is she?” pointing to me.
  • “It is,” said St. John.
  • “Do you think you shall like Morton?” she asked of me, with a direct and naiv_implicity of tone and manner, pleasing, if child-like.
  • “I hope I shall.  I have many inducements to do so.”
  • “Did you find your scholars as attentive as you expected?”
  • “Quite.”
  • “Do you like your house?”
  • “Very much.”
  • “Have I furnished it nicely?”
  • “Very nicely, indeed.”
  • “And made a good choice of an attendant for you in Alice Wood?”
  • “You have indeed.  She is teachable and handy.”  (This then, I thought, i_iss Oliver, the heiress; favoured, it seems, in the gifts of fortune, as wel_s in those of nature!  What happy combination of the planets presided ove_er birth, I wonder?)
  • “I shall come up and help you to teach sometimes,” she added.  “It will be _hange for me to visit you now and then; and I like a change.  Mr. Rivers, _ave been _so_ gay during my stay at S-.  Last night, or rather this morning, I was dancing till two o’clock.  The —th regiment are stationed there sinc_he riots; and the officers are the most agreeable men in the world: they pu_ll our young knife-grinders and scissor merchants to shame.”
  • It seemed to me that Mr. St. John’s under lip protruded, and his upper li_urled a moment.  His mouth certainly looked a good deal compressed, and th_ower part of his face unusually stern and square, as the laughing girl gav_im this information.  He lifted his gaze, too, from the daisies, and turne_t on her.  An unsmiling, a searching, a meaning gaze it was.  She answered i_ith a second laugh, and laughter well became her youth, her roses, he_imples, her bright eyes.
  • As he stood, mute and grave, she again fell to caressing Carlo.  “Poor Carl_oves me,” said she.  “ _He_ is not stern and distant to his friends; and i_e could speak, he would not be silent.”
  • As she patted the dog’s head, bending with native grace before his young an_ustere master, I saw a glow rise to that master’s face.  I saw his solemn ey_elt with sudden fire, and flicker with resistless emotion.  Flushed an_indled thus, he looked nearly as beautiful for a man as she for a woman.  Hi_hest heaved once, as if his large heart, weary of despotic constriction, ha_xpanded, despite the will, and made a vigorous bound for the attainment o_iberty.  But he curbed it, I think, as a resolute rider would curb a rearin_teed.  He responded neither by word nor movement to the gentle advances mad_im.
  • “Papa says you never come to see us now,” continued Miss Oliver, looking up.
  • “You are quite a stranger at Vale Hall.  He is alone this evening, and no_ery well: will you return with me and visit him?”
  • “It is not a seasonable hour to intrude on Mr. Oliver,” answered St. John.
  • “Not a seasonable hour!  But I declare it is.  It is just the hour when pap_ost wants company: when the works are closed and he has no business to occup_im.  Now, Mr. Rivers, _do_ come.  Why are you so very shy, and so ver_ombre?”  She filled up the hiatus his silence left by a reply of her own.
  • “I forgot!” she exclaimed, shaking her beautiful curled head, as if shocked a_erself.  “I am so giddy and thoughtless!  _Do_ excuse me.  It had slipped m_emory that you have good reasons to be indisposed for joining in my chatter.
  • Diana and Mary have left you, and Moor House is shut up, and you are s_onely.  I am sure I pity you.  Do come and see papa.”
  • “Not to-night, Miss Rosamond, not to-night.”
  • Mr. St. John spoke almost like an automaton: himself only knew the effort i_ost him thus to refuse.
  • “Well, if you are so obstinate, I will leave you; for I dare not stay an_onger: the dew begins to fall.  Good evening!”
  • She held out her hand.  He just touched it.  “Good evening!” he repeated, in _oice low and hollow as an echo.  She turned, but in a moment returned.
  • “Are you well?” she asked.  Well might she put the question: his face wa_lanched as her gown.
  • “Quite well,” he enunciated; and, with a bow, he left the gate.  She went on_ay; he another.  She turned twice to gaze after him as she tripped fairy-lik_own the field; he, as he strode firmly across, never turned at all.
  • This spectacle of another’s suffering and sacrifice rapt my thoughts fro_xclusive meditation on my own.  Diana Rivers had designated her brother “inexorable as death.”  She had not exaggerated.