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 Towards the end of January, the time came for Charlotte to return to Brussels.  Her journey thither1 was rather disastrous2.  She had to make her way alone; and the train from Leeds to London, which should have reached Euston-square early in the afternoon, was so much delayed that it did not get in till ten at night.  She had intended to seek out the Chapter Coffee-house, where she had stayed before, and which would have been near the place where the steam-boats lay; but she appears to have been frightened by the idea of arriving at an hour which, to Yorkshire notions, was so late and unseemly; and taking a cab, therefore, at the station, she drove straight to the London Bridge Wharf3, and desired a waterman to row her to the Ostend packet, which was to sail the next morning.  She described to me, pretty much as she has since described it in “Villette,” her sense of loneliness, and yet her strange pleasure in the excitement of the situation, as in the dead of that winter’s night she went swiftly over the dark river to the black hull’s side, and was at first refused leave to ascend4 to the deck.  “No passengers might sleep on board,” they said, with some appearance of disrespect.  She looked back to the lights and subdued5 noises of London—that “Mighty Heart” in which she had no place—and, standing6 up in the rocking boat, she asked to speak to some one in authority on board the packet.  He came, and her quiet simple statement of her wish, and her reason for it, quelled7 the feeling of sneering8 distrust in those who had first heard her request; and impressed the authority so favourably9 that he allowed her to come on board, and take possession of a berth10.  The next morning she sailed; and at seven on Sunday evening she reached the Rue11 d’Isabelle once more; having only left Haworth on Friday morning at an early hour.  
Her salary was 16l. a year; out of which she had to pay for her German lessons, for which she was charged as much (the lessons being probably rated by time) as when Emily learnt with her and divided the expense, viz., ten francs a month.  By Miss Brontë’s own desire, she gave her English lessons in the classe, or schoolroom, without the supervision12 of Madame or M. Héger.  They offered to be present, with a view to maintain order among the unruly Belgian girls; but she declined this, saying that she would rather enforce discipline by her own manner and character than be indebted for obedience13 to the presence of a gendarme14.  She ruled over a new schoolroom, which had been built on the space in the play-ground adjoining the house.  Over that First Class she was surveillante at all hours; and henceforward she was called Mademoiselle Charlotte by M. Héger’s orders.  She continued her own studies, principally attending to German, and to Literature; and every Sunday she went alone to the German and English chapels15.  Her walks too were solitary16, and principally taken in the allée défendue, where she was secure from intrusion.  This solitude17 was a perilous18 luxury to one of her temperament19; so liable as she was to morbid20 and acute mental suffering.
On March 6th, 1843, she writes thus:—
“I am settled by this time, of course.  I am not too much overloaded21 with occupation; and besides teaching English, I have time to improve myself in German.  I ought to consider myself well off, and to be thankful for my good fortunes.  I hope I am thankful; and if I could always keep up my spirits and never feel lonely, or long for companionship, or friendship, or whatever they call it, I should do very well.  As I told you before, M. and Madame Héger are the only two persons in the house for whom I really experience regard and esteem22, and of course, I cannot be always with them, nor even very often.  They told me, when I first returned, that I was to consider their sitting-room23 my sitting-room also, and to go there whenever I was not engaged in the schoolroom.  This, however, I cannot do.  In the daytime it is a public room, where music-masters and mistresses are constantly passing in and out; and in the evening, I will not, and ought not to intrude25 on M. and Madame Héger and their children.  Thus I am a good deal by myself, out of school-hours; but that does not signify.  I now regularly give English lessons to M. Héger and his brother-in-law.  They get on with wonderful rapidity; especially the first.  He already begins to speak English very decently.  If you could see and hear the efforts I make to teach them to pronounce like Englishmen, and their unavailing attempts to imitate, you would laugh to all eternity26.
“The Carnival27 is just over, and we have entered upon the gloom and abstinence of Lent.  The first day of Lent we had coffee without milk for breakfast; vinegar and vegetables, with a very little salt fish, for dinner; and bread for supper.  The Carnival was nothing but masking and mummery.  M. Héger took me and one of the pupils into the town to see the masks.  It was animating28 to see the immense crowds, and the general gaiety, but the masks were nothing.  I have been twice to the D.’s” (those cousins of “Mary’s” of whom I have before made mention).  “When she leaves Bruxelles, I shall have nowhere to go to.  I have had two letters from Mary.  She does not tell me she has been ill, and she does not complain; but her letters are not the letters of a person in the enjoyment29 of great happiness.  She has nobody to be as good to her as M. Héger is to me; to lend her books; to converse30 with her sometimes, &c.
“Good-bye.  When I say so, it seems to me that you will hardly hear me; all the waves of the Channel heaving and roaring between must deaden the sound.”
From the tone of this letter, it may easily be perceived that the Brussels of 1843 was a different place from that of 1842.  Then she had Emily for a daily and nightly solace31 and companion.  She had the weekly variety of a visit to the family of the D.s; and she had the frequent happiness of seeing “Mary” and Martha.  Now Emily was far away in Haworth—where she or any other loved one, might die, before Charlotte, with her utmost speed, could reach them, as experience, in her aunt’s case, had taught her.  The D.s were leaving Brussels; so, henceforth, her weekly holiday would have to be passed in the Rue d’Isabelle, or so she thought.  “Mary” was gone off on her own independent course; Martha alone remained—still and quiet for ever, in the cemetery32 beyond the Porte de Louvain.  The weather, too, for the first few weeks after Charlotte’s return, had been piercingly cold; and her feeble constitution was always painfully sensitive to an inclement33 season.  Mere34 bodily pain, however acute, she could always put aside; but too often ill-health assailed35 her in a part far more to be dreaded37.  Her depression of spirits, when she was not well, was pitiful in its extremity38.  She was aware that it was constitutional, and could reason about it; but no reasoning prevented her suffering mental agony, while the bodily cause remained in force.
The Hégers have discovered, since the publication of “Villette,” that at this beginning of her career as English teacher in their school, the conduct of her pupils was often impertinent and mutinous39 in the highest degree.  But of this they were unaware40 at the time, as she had declined their presence, and never made any complaint.  Still it must have been a depressing thought to her at this period, that her joyous41, healthy, obtuse42 pupils were so little answerable to the powers she could bring to bear upon them; and though from their own testimony43, her patience, firmness, and resolution, at length obtained their just reward, yet with one so weak in health and spirits, the reaction after such struggles as she frequently had with her pupils, must have been very sad and painful.
She thus writes to her friend E.:—
“April, 1843.
“Is there any talk of your coming to Brussels?  During the bitter cold weather we had through February, and the principal part of March, I did not regret that you had not accompanied me.  If I had seen you shivering as I shivered myself, if I had seen your hands and feet as red and swelled44 as mine were, my discomfort45 would just have been doubled.  I can do very well under this sort of thing; it does not fret46 me; it only makes me numb47 and silent; but if you were to pass a winter in Belgium, you would be ill.  However, more genial48 weather is coming now, and I wish you were here.  Yet I never have pressed you, and never would press you too warmly to come.  There are privations and humiliations to submit to; there is monotony and uniformity of life; and, above all, there is a constant sense of solitude in the midst of numbers.  The Protestant, the foreigner, is a solitary being, whether as teacher or pupil.  I do not say this by way of complaining of my own lot; for though I acknowledge that there are certain disadvantages in my present position, what position on earth is without them?  And, whenever I turn back to compare what I am with what I was—my place here with my place at Mrs. ---’s for instance—I am thankful.  There was an observation in your last letter which excited, for a moment, my wrath49.  At first, I thought it would be folly50 to reply to it, and I would let it die.  Afterwards, I determined51 to give one answer, once for all.  ‘Three or four people,’ it seems, ‘have the idea that the future époux of Mademoiselle Brontë is on the Continent.’  These people are wiser than I am.  They could not believe that I crossed the sea merely to return as teacher to Madame Hégers.  I must have some more powerful motive52 than respect for my master and mistress, gratitude53 for their kindness, &c., to induce me to refuse a salary of 50l. in England, and accept one of 16l. in Belgium.  I must, forsooth, have some remote hope of entrapping54 a husband somehow, or somewhere.  If these charitable people knew the total seclusion55 of the life I lead,—that I never exchange a word with any other man than Monsieur Héger, and seldom indeed with him,—they would, perhaps, cease to suppose that any such chimerical56 and groundless notion had influenced my proceedings57.  Have I said enough to clear myself of so silly an imputation58?  Not that it is a crime to marry, or a crime to wish to be married; but it is an imbecility, which I reject with contempt, for women, who have neither fortune nor beauty, to make marriage the principal object of their wishes and hopes, and the aim of all their actions; not to be able to convince themselves that they are unattractive, and that they had better be quiet, and think of other things than wedlock59.”
The following is an extract, from one of the few letters which have been preserved, of her correspondence with her sister Emily:—
“May 29, 1843
“I get on here from day to day in a Robinson-Crusoe-like sort of way, very lonely, but that does not signify.  In other respects, I have nothing substantial to complain of, nor is this a cause for complaint.  I hope you are well.  Walk out often on the moors60.  My love to Tabby.  I hope she keeps well.”
And about this time she wrote to her father,
“June 2nd, 1818,
“I was very glad to hear from home.  I had begun to get low-spirited at not receiving any news, and to entertain indefinite fears that something was wrong.  You do not say anything about your own health, but I hope you are well, and Emily also.  I am afraid she will have a good deal of hard work to do now that Hannah” (a servant-girl who had been assisting Tabby) “is gone.  I am exceedingly glad to hear that you still keep Tabby” (considerably upwards61 of seventy).  “It is an act of great charity to her, and I do not think it will be unrewarded, for she is very faithful, and will always serve you, when she has occasion, to the best of her abilities; besides, she will be company for Emily, who, without her, would be very lonely.”
I gave a devoir, written after she had been four months under M. Héger’s tuition.  I will now copy out another, written nearly a year later, during which the progress made appears to me very great.
“31 Mai, 1843.
“Napoléon naquit en Corse et mourut à Ste. Hélène.  Entre ces deux îles rien qu’un vaste et brûlant désert et l’océan immense.  Il naquit fils d’un simple gentilhomme, et mourut empereur, mais sans couronne et dans les fers.  Entre son berceau et sa tombe qu’y a-t-il? la carrière d’un soldat parvenu62, des champs de bataille, une mer de sang, un trône, puis du sang encore, et des fers.  Sa vie, c’est l’arc en ciel; les deux points extrêmes touchent la terre, la comble lumi-neuse mesure les cieux.  Sur Napoléon au berceau une mère brillait; dans la maison paternelle il avait des frères et des soeurs; plus tard dans son palais il eut une femme qui l’aimait.  Mais sur son lit de mort Napoléon est seul; plus de mère, ni de frère, ni de soeur, ni de femme, ni d’enfant!!  D’autres ont dit et rediront ses exploits, moi, je m’arrête à contempler l’abandonnement de sa dernière heure!
“Il est là, exilé et captif, enchaîné sur un écueil.  Nouveau Prométhée il subit le châtiment de son orgueil!  Prométhée avait voulu être Dieu et Créateur; il déroba le feu du Ciel pour animer le corps63 qu’il avait formé.  Et lui, Buonaparte, il a voulu créer, non pas un homme, mais un empire, et pour donner une existence, une âme, à son œuvre gigantesque, il n’a pas hésité à arracher la vie à des nations entières.  Jupiter indigné de l’impiété de Prométhée, le riva vivant à la cime du Caucase.  Ainsi, pour punir l’ambition rapace de Buonaparte, la Providence64 l’a enchaîné, jusqu’à ce que la mort s’en suivit, sur un roc isolé de l’Atlantique.  Peut-être là aussi a-t-il senti lui fouillant le flanc cet insatiable vautour dont parle la fable65, peut-être a-t-il souffert aussi cette soif du coeur, cette faim de l’âme, qui torturent l’exilé, loin de sa famille et de sa patrie.  Mais parler ainsi n’est-ce pas attribuer gratuitement à Napoléon une humaine faiblesse qu’il n’éprouva jamais?  Quand donc s’est-il laissé enchaîner par36 un lien66 d’affection?  Sans doute d’autres conquérants ont hésité dans leur carrière de gloire, arrêtés par un obstacle d’amour ou d’amitié, retenus par la main d’une femme, rappéles par la voix d’un ami—lui, jamais!  Il n’eut pas besoin, comme Ulysse, de se lier au mât du navire, ni de se boucher les oreilles avec de la cire; il ne redoutait pas le chant des Sirènes—il le dédaignait; il se fit marbre et fer pour exécuter ses grands projets.  Napoléon ne se regardait pas comme un homme, mais comme l’incarnation d’un peuple.  Il n’aimait pas; il ne considérait ses amis et ses proches que comme des instruments auxquels il tint67, tant qu’ils furent utiles, et qu’il jeta de côté quand ils cessèrent de l’être.  Qu’on ne se permette donc pas d’approcher du sépulcre du Corse avec sentiments de pitié, ou de souiller de larmes la pierre qui couvre ses restes, son âme répudierait tout68 cela.  On a dit, je le sais, qu’elle fut cruelle la main qui le sépara de sa femme et de son enfant.  Non, c’était une main qui, comme la sienne, ne tremblait ni de passion ni de crainte, c’était la main d’un homme froid, convaincu, qui avait su deviner Buonaparte; et voici ce que disait cet homme que la défaite n’a pu humilier, ni la victoire enorgueiller.  ‘Marie-Louise n’est pas la femme de Napoléon; c’est la France que Napoléon a épousée; c’est la France qu’il aime, leur union enfante la perte de l’Europe; voilà la divorce que je veux; voilà l’union qu’il faut briser.’
“La voix des timides et des traîtres protesta contre cette sentence.  ‘C’est abuser de droit de la victoire!  C’est fouler69 aux pieds le vaincu!  Que l’Angleterre se montre clémente, qu’elle ouvre ses bras pour recevoir comme hôte son ennemi désarmé.’  L’Angleterre aurait peut-être écouté ce conseii, car partout et toujours il y a des âmes faibles et timorées bientôt séduites par la flatterie ou effrayées par le reproche.  Mais la Providence permit qu’un homme se trouvât qui n’a jamais su ce que c’est que la crainte; qui aima sa patrie mieux que sa renommée; impénétrable devant les menaces, inaccessible70 aux louanges, il se présenta devant le conseil de la nation, et levant son front tranquille en haut, il osa dire71: ‘Que la trahison se taise! car c’est trahir que de conseiller de temporiser avec Buonaparte.  Moi je sais ce que sont ces guerres dont l’Europe saigne encore, comme une victime sous le couteau du boucher.  Il faut en finir avec Napoléon Buonaparte.  Vous vous effrayez à tort d’un mot si dur!  Je n’ai pas de magnanimité, dit-on?  Soit! que m’importe ce qu’on dit de moi?  Je n’ai pas ici à me faire une réputation de héros magnanime, mais à guérir, si la cure est possible, l’Europe qui se meurt, épuisée de ressources et de sang, l’Europe dont vous négligez les vrais intérêts, pré-occupés que vous êtes d’une vaine renommée de clémence.  Vous êtes faibles!  Eh bien! je viens vous aider.  Envoyez Buonaparte à Ste. Hélène! n’hésitez pas, ne cherchez pas un autre endroit; c’ést le seul convenable72.  Je vous le dis, j’ai réfléchi pour vous; c’est là qu’il doit êtré et non pas ailleurs.  Quant à Napoléon, homme, soldat, je n’ai rien contre lui; c’est un lion royal, auprès de qui vous n’êtes que des chacals.  Mais Napoléon Empereur, c’est autre chose, je l’extirperai du sol de l’Europe.’  Et celui qui parla ainsi toujours sut garder sa promesse, celle-là comme toutes les autres.  Je l’ai dit, et je le répète, cet homme est l’égal de Napoléon par le génie; comme trempe de caractère, comme droiture, comme élévation de pensée et de but, il est d’une tout autre espèce.  Napoléon Buonaparte était avide de renommée et de gloire; Arthur Wellesley ne se soucie ni de l’une ni de l’autre; l’opinion publique, la popularité, étaient choses de grand valeur aux yeux de Napoléon; pour Wellington l’opinion publique est une rumeur, un rien que le souffle de son inflexible73 volonté fait disparaître comme une bulle de savon.  Napoléon flattait le peuple; Wellington le brusqne; l’un cherchait les applau-dissements, l’autre ne se soucie que du témoignage de sa conscience; quand elle approuve, c’est assez; toute autre louange l’obsède.  Aussi ce peuple, qui adorait Buonaparte s’irritait, s’insurgeait contre la morgue de Wellington: parfois il lui témoigna sa colère et sa haine par des grognements, par des hurlements de bêtes fauves; et alors, avec une impassibilité de sénateur romain, le moderne Coriolan toisait du regard l’émeute furieuse; il croisait ses bras nerveux sur sa large poitrine, et seul, debout sur son seuil, il attendait, il bravait cette tempête populaire dont les flots venaient mourir à quelques pas de lui: et quand la foule, honteuse de sa rebellion, venait lécher les pieds du maître, le hautain patricien méprisait l’hommage d’aujourd’hui comme la haine d’hier, et dans les rues75 de Londres, et devant son palais ducal d’Apsley, il repoussait d’un genre76 plein de froid dédain l’incommode empressement du peuple enthousiaste.  Cette fierté néanmoins n’excluait pas en lui une rare modestie; partout il se soustrait à l’éloge; se dérobe au panégyrique; jamais il ne parle de ses exploits, et jamais il ne souffre qu’un autre lui en parle en sa présence.  Son caractère égale en grandeur77 et surpasse en vérité celui de tout autre héros ancien ou moderne.  La gloire de Napoléon crût en une nuit, comme la vigne de Jonas, et il suffit d’un jour pour la flétrir; la gloire de Wellington est comme les vieux chênes qui ombragent le château de ses pères sur les rives du Shannon; le chêne croît lentement; il lui faut du temps pour pousser vers le ciel ses branches noueuses, et pour enfoncer dans le sol ces racines profondes qui s’enchevêtrent dans les fondements solides de la terre; mais alors, l’arbre séculaire, inébranlable comme le roc où il a sa base, brave et la faux du temps et l’effort des vents78 et des tempêtes.  Il faudra peut-être un siècle à l’Angleterre pour qu’elle connaise la valeur de son héros.  Dans un siècle, l’Europe entière saura combien Wellington a des droits à sa reconnaissance.”
How often in writing this paper “in a strange land,” must Miss Brontë have thought of the old childish disputes in the kitchen of Haworth parsonage, touching79 the respective merits of Wellington and Buonaparte!  Although the title given to her devoir is, “On the Death of Napoleon,” she seems yet to have considered it a point of honour rather to sing praises to an English hero than to dwell on the character of a foreigner, placed as she was among those who cared little either for an England or for Wellington.  She now felt that she had made great progress towards obtaining proficiency80 in the French language, which had been her main object in coming to Brussels.  But to the zealous81 learner “Alps on Alps arise.”  No sooner is one difficulty surmounted82 than some other desirable attainment83 appears, and must be laboured after.  A knowledge of German now became her object; and she resolved to compel herself to remain in Brussels till that was gained.  The strong yearning85 to go home came upon her; the stronger self-denying will forbade.  There was a great internal struggle; every fibre of her heart quivered in the strain to master her will; and, when she conquered herself, she remained, not like a victor calm and supreme86 on the throne, but like a panting, torn, and suffering victim.  Her nerves and her spirits gave way.  Her health became much shaken.
“Brussels, August 1st, 1843.
“If I complain in this letter, have mercy and don’t blame me, for, I forewarn you, I am in low spirits, and that earth and heaven are dreary87 and empty to me at this moment.  In a few days our vacation will begin; everybody is joyous and animated88 at the prospect89, because everybody is to go home.  I know that I am to stay here during the five weeks that the holidays last, and that I shall be much alone during that time, and consequently get downcast, and find both days and nights of a weary length.  It is the first time in my life that I have really dreaded the vacation.  Alas90!  I can hardly write, I have such a dreary weight at my heart; and I do so wish to go home.  Is not this childish?  Pardon me, for I cannot help it.  However, though I am not strong enough to bear up cheerfully, I can still bear up; and I will continue to stay (D. V.) some mo............
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