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  • CHAPTER XII

  • The promise of a smooth career, which my first calm introduction to Thornfield Hall

  • seemed to pledge, was not belied on a longer acquaintance with the place and its

  • inmates.

  • Mrs. Fairfax turned out to be what she appeared, a placid-tempered, kind-natured

  • woman, of competent education and average intelligence.

  • My pupil was a lively child, who had been spoilt and indulged, and therefore was

  • sometimes wayward; but as she was committed entirely to my care, and no injudicious

  • interference from any quarter ever thwarted

  • my plans for her improvement, she soon forgot her little freaks, and became

  • obedient and teachable.

  • She had no great talents, no marked traits of character, no peculiar development of

  • feeling or taste which raised her one inch above the ordinary level of childhood; but

  • neither had she any deficiency or vice which sunk her below it.

  • She made reasonable progress, entertained for me a vivacious, though perhaps not very

  • profound, affection; and by her simplicity, gay prattle, and efforts to please,

  • inspired me, in return, with a degree of

  • attachment sufficient to make us both content in each other's society.

  • This, par parenthese, will be thought cool language by persons who entertain

  • solemn doctrines about the angelic nature of children, and the duty of those charged

  • with their education to conceive for them

  • an idolatrous devotion: but I am not writing to flatter parental egotism, to

  • echo cant, or prop up humbug; I am merely telling the truth.

  • I felt a conscientious solicitude for Adele's welfare and progress, and a quiet

  • liking for her little self: just as I cherished towards Mrs. Fairfax a

  • thankfulness for her kindness, and a

  • pleasure in her society proportionate to the tranquil regard she had for me, and the

  • moderation of her mind and character.

  • Anybody may blame me who likes, when I add further, that, now and then, when I took a

  • walk by myself in the grounds; when I went down to the gates and looked through them

  • along the road; or when, while Adele played

  • with her nurse, and Mrs. Fairfax made jellies in the storeroom, I climbed the

  • three staircases, raised the trap-door of the attic, and having reached the leads,

  • looked out afar over sequestered field and

  • hill, and along dim sky-line--that then I longed for a power of vision which might

  • overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I

  • had heard of but never seen--that then I

  • desired more of practical experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my

  • kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach.

  • I valued what was good in Mrs. Fairfax, and what was good in Adele; but I believed in

  • the existence of other and more vivid kinds of goodness, and what I believed in I

  • wished to behold.

  • Who blames me? Many, no doubt; and I shall be called

  • discontented.

  • I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain

  • sometimes.

  • Then my sole relief was to walk along the corridor of the third storey, backwards and

  • forwards, safe in the silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind's eye to

  • dwell on whatever bright visions rose

  • before it--and, certainly, they were many and glowing; to let my heart be heaved by

  • the exultant movement, which, while it swelled it in trouble, expanded it with

  • life; and, best of all, to open my inward

  • ear to a tale that was never ended--a tale my imagination created, and narrated

  • continuously; quickened with all of incident, life, fire, feeling, that I

  • desired and had not in my actual existence.

  • It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must

  • have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.

  • Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent

  • revolt against their lot.

  • Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses

  • of life which people earth.

  • Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel;

  • they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their

  • brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a

  • restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is

  • narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to

  • confine themselves to making puddings and

  • knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.

  • It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn

  • more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.

  • When thus alone, I not unfrequently heard Grace Poole's laugh: the same peal, the

  • same low, slow ha! ha! which, when first heard, had thrilled me: I heard, too, her

  • eccentric murmurs; stranger than her laugh.

  • There were days when she was quite silent; but there were others when I could not

  • account for the sounds she made.

  • Sometimes I saw her: she would come out of her room with a basin, or a plate, or a

  • tray in her hand, go down to the kitchen and shortly return, generally (oh, romantic

  • reader, forgive me for telling the plain truth!) bearing a pot of porter.

  • Her appearance always acted as a damper to the curiosity raised by her oral oddities:

  • hard-featured and staid, she had no point to which interest could attach.

  • I made some attempts to draw her into conversation, but she seemed a person of

  • few words: a monosyllabic reply usually cut short every effort of that sort.

  • The other members of the household, viz., John and his wife, Leah the housemaid, and

  • Sophie the French nurse, were decent people; but in no respect remarkable; with

  • Sophie I used to talk French, and sometimes

  • I asked her questions about her native country; but she was not of a descriptive

  • or narrative turn, and generally gave such vapid and confused answers as were

  • calculated rather to check than encourage inquiry.

  • October, November, December passed away.

  • One afternoon in January, Mrs. Fairfax had begged a holiday for Adele, because she had

  • a cold; and, as Adele seconded the request with an ardour that reminded me how

  • precious occasional holidays had been to me

  • in my own childhood, I accorded it, deeming that I did well in showing pliability on

  • the point.

  • It was a fine, calm day, though very cold; I was tired of sitting still in the library

  • through a whole long morning: Mrs. Fairfax had just written a letter which was waiting

  • to be posted, so I put on my bonnet and

  • cloak and volunteered to carry it to Hay; the distance, two miles, would be a

  • pleasant winter afternoon walk.

  • Having seen Adele comfortably seated in her little chair by Mrs. Fairfax's parlour

  • fireside, and given her her best wax doll (which I usually kept enveloped in silver

  • paper in a drawer) to play with, and a

  • story-book for change of amusement; and having replied to her "Revenez bientot, ma

  • bonne amie, ma chere Mdlle. Jeannette," with a kiss I set out.

  • The ground was hard, the air was still, my road was lonely; I walked fast till I got

  • warm, and then I walked slowly to enjoy and analyse the species of pleasure brooding

  • for me in the hour and situation.

  • It was three o'clock; the church bell tolled as I passed under the belfry: the

  • charm of the hour lay in its approaching dimness, in the low-gliding and pale-

  • beaming sun.

  • I was a mile from Thornfield, in a lane noted for wild roses in summer, for nuts

  • and blackberries in autumn, and even now possessing a few coral treasures in hips

  • and haws, but whose best winter delight lay in its utter solitude and leafless repose.

  • If a breath of air stirred, it made no sound here; for there was not a holly, not

  • an evergreen to rustle, and the stripped hawthorn and hazel bushes were as still as

  • the white, worn stones which causewayed the middle of the path.

  • Far and wide, on each side, there were only fields, where no cattle now browsed; and

  • the little brown birds, which stirred occasionally in the hedge, looked like

  • single russet leaves that had forgotten to drop.

  • This lane inclined up-hill all the way to Hay; having reached the middle, I sat down

  • on a stile which led thence into a field.

  • Gathering my mantle about me, and sheltering my hands in my muff, I did not

  • feel the cold, though it froze keenly; as was attested by a sheet of ice covering the

  • causeway, where a little brooklet, now

  • congealed, had overflowed after a rapid thaw some days since.

  • From my seat I could look down on Thornfield: the grey and battlemented hall

  • was the principal object in the vale below me; its woods and dark rookery rose against

  • the west.

  • I lingered till the sun went down amongst the trees, and sank crimson and clear

  • behind them. I then turned eastward.

  • On the hill-top above me sat the rising moon; pale yet as a cloud, but brightening

  • momentarily, she looked over Hay, which, half lost in trees, sent up a blue smoke

  • from its few chimneys: it was yet a mile

  • distant, but in the absolute hush I could hear plainly its thin murmurs of life.

  • My ear, too, felt the flow of currents; in what dales and depths I could not tell: but

  • there were many hills beyond Hay, and doubtless many becks threading their

  • passes.

  • That evening calm betrayed alike the tinkle of the nearest streams, the sough of the

  • most remote.

  • A rude noise broke on these fine ripplings and whisperings, at once so far away and so

  • clear: a positive tramp, tramp, a metallic clatter, which effaced the soft wave-

  • wanderings; as, in a picture, the solid

  • mass of a crag, or the rough boles of a great oak, drawn in dark and strong on the

  • foreground, efface the aerial distance of azure hill, sunny horizon, and blended

  • clouds where tint melts into tint.

  • The din was on the causeway: a horse was coming; the windings of the lane yet hid

  • it, but it approached.

  • I was just leaving the stile; yet, as the path was narrow, I sat still to let it go

  • by.

  • In those days I was young, and all sorts of fancies bright and dark tenanted my mind:

  • the memories of nursery stories were there amongst other rubbish; and when they

  • recurred, maturing youth added to them a

  • vigour and vividness beyond what childhood could give.

  • As this horse approached, and as I watched for it to appear through the dusk, I

  • remembered certain of Bessie's tales, wherein figured a North-of-England spirit

  • called a "Gytrash," which, in the form of

  • horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came upon belated

  • travellers, as this horse was now coming upon me.

  • It was very near, but not yet in sight; when, in addition to the tramp, tramp, I

  • heard a rush under the hedge, and close down by the hazel stems glided a great dog,

  • whose black and white colour made him a distinct object against the trees.

  • It was exactly one form of Bessie's Gytrash--a lion-like creature with long

  • hair and a huge head: it passed me, however, quietly enough; not staying to

  • look up, with strange pretercanine eyes, in my face, as I half expected it would.