Chapter 6 – The Parsonage Again

Anne Bronte2016年07月20日'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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FOR a few months I remained peaceably at home, in the quiet
enjoyment of liberty and rest, and genuine friendship, from all of
which I had fasted so long; and in the earnest prosecution of my
studies, to recover what I had lost during my stay at Wellwood
House, and to lay in new stores for future use. My father’s health
was still very infirm, but not materially worse than when I last
saw him; and I was glad I had it in my power to cheer him by my
return, and to amuse him with singing his favourite songs.

No one triumphed over my failure, or said I had better have taken
his or her advice, and quietly stayed at home. All were glad to
have me back again, and lavished more kindness than ever upon me,
to make up for the sufferings I had undergone; but not one would
touch a shilling of what I had so cheerfully earned and so
carefully saved, in the hope of sharing it with them. By dint of
pinching here, and scraping there, our debts were already nearly
paid. Mary had had good success with her drawings; but our father
had insisted upon HER likewise keeping all the produce of her
industry to herself. All we could spare from the supply of our
humble wardrobe and our little casual expenses, he directed us to
put into the savings’-bank; saying, we knew not how soon we might
be dependent on that alone for support: for he felt he had not
long to be with us, and what would become of our mother and us when
he was gone, God only knew!

Dear papa! if he had troubled himself less about the afflictions
that threatened us in case of his death, I am convinced that
dreaded event would not have taken place so soon. My mother would
never suffer him to ponder on the subject if she could help it.

‘Oh, Richard!’ exclaimed she, on one occasion, ‘if you would but
dismiss such gloomy subjects from your mind, you would live as long
as any of us; at least you would live to see the girls married, and
yourself a happy grandfather, with a canty old dame for your

My mother laughed, and so did my father: but his laugh soon
perished in a dreary sigh.

‘THEY married – poor penniless things!’ said he; ‘who will take
them I wonder!’

‘Why, nobody shall that isn’t thankful for them. Wasn’t I
penniless when you took me? and you PRETENDED, at least, to be
vastly pleased with your acquisition. But it’s no matter whether
they get married or not: we can devise a thousand honest ways of
making a livelihood. And I wonder, Richard, you can think of
bothering your head about our POVERTY in case of your death; as if
THAT would be anything compared with the calamity of losing you –
an affliction that you well know would swallow up all others, and
which you ought to do your utmost to preserve us from: and there
is nothing like a cheerful mind for keeping the body in health.’

‘I know, Alice, it is wrong to keep repining as I do, but I cannot
help it: you must bear with me.’

‘I WON’T bear with you, if I can alter you,’ replied my mother:
but the harshness of her words was undone by the earnest affection
of her tone and pleasant smile, that made my father smile again,
less sadly and less transiently than was his wont.

‘Mamma,’ said I, as soon as I could find an opportunity of speaking
with her alone, ‘my money is but little, and cannot last long; if I
could increase it, it would lessen papa’s anxiety, on one subject
at least. I cannot draw like Mary, and so the best thing I could
do would be to look out for another situation.’

‘And so you would actually try again, Agnes?’

‘Decidedly, I would.’

‘Why, my dear, I should have thought you had had enough of it.’

‘I know,’ said I, ‘everybody is not like Mr. and Mrs. Bloomfield –

‘Some are worse,’ interrupted my mother.

‘But not many, I think,’ replied I, ‘and I’m sure all children are
not like theirs; for I and Mary were not: we always did as you bid
us, didn’t we?’

‘Generally: but then, I did not spoil you; and you were not
perfect angels after all: Mary had a fund of quiet obstinacy, and
you were somewhat faulty in regard to temper; but you were very
good children on the whole.’

‘I know I was sulky sometimes, and I should have been glad to see
these children sulky sometimes too; for then I could have
understood them: but they never were, for they COULD not be
offended, nor hurt, nor ashamed: they could not be unhappy in any
way, except when they were in a passion.’

‘Well, if they COULD not, it was not their fault: you cannot
expect stone to be as pliable as clay.’

‘No, but still it is very unpleasant to live with such
unimpressible, incomprehensible creatures. You cannot love them;
and if you could, your love would be utterly thrown away: they
could neither return it, nor value, nor understand it. But,
however, even if I should stumble on such a family again, which is
quite unlikely, I have all this experience to begin with, and I
should manage better another time; and the end and aim of this
preamble is, let me try again.’

‘Well, my girl, you are not easily discouraged, I see: I am glad
of that. But, let me tell you, you are a good deal paler and
thinner than when you first left home; and we cannot have you
undermining your health to hoard up money either for yourself or

‘Mary tells me I am changed too; and I don’t much wonder at it, for
I was in a constant state of agitation and anxiety all day long:
but next time I am determined to take things coolly.’

After some further discussion, my mother promised once more to
assist me, provided I would wait and be patient; and I left her to
broach the matter to my father, when and how she deemed it most
advisable: never doubting her ability to obtain his consent.
Meantime, I searched, with great interest, the advertising columns
of the newspapers, and wrote answers to every ‘Wanted a Governess’
that appeared at all eligible; but all my letters, as well as the
replies, when I got any, were dutifully shown to my mother; and
she, to my chagrin, made me reject the situations one after
another: these were low people, these were too exacting in their
demands, and these too niggardly in their remuneration.

‘Your talents are not such as every poor clergyman’s daughter
possesses, Agnes,’ she would say, ‘and you must not throw them
away. Remember, you promised to be patient: there is no need of
hurry: you have plenty of time before you, and may have many
chances yet.’

At length, she advised me to put an advertisement, myself, in the
paper, stating my qualifications, &c.

‘Music, singing, drawing, French, Latin, and German,’ said she,
‘are no mean assemblage: many will be glad to have so much in one
instructor; and this time, you shall try your fortune in a somewhat
higher family in that of some genuine, thoroughbred gentleman; for
such are far more likely to treat you with proper respect and
consideration than those purse-proud tradespeople and arrogant
upstarts. I have known several among the higher ranks who treated
their governesses quite as one of the family; though some, I allow,
are as insolent and exacting as any one else can be: for there are
bad and good in all classes.’

The advertisement was quickly written and despatched. Of the two
parties who answered it, but one would consent to give me fifty
pounds, the sum my mother bade me name as the salary I should
require; and here, I hesitated about engaging myself, as I feared
the children would be too old, and their parents would require some
one more showy, or more experienced, if not more accomplished than
I. But my mother dissuaded me from declining it on that account:
I should do vastly well, she said, if I would only throw aside my
diffidence, and acquire a little more confidence in myself. I was
just to give a plain, true statement of my acquirements and
qualifications, and name what stipulations I chose to make, and
then await the result. The only stipulation I ventured to propose,
was that I might be allowed two months’ holidays during the year to
visit my friends, at Midsummer and Christmas. The unknown lady, in
her reply, made no objection to this, and stated that, as to my
acquirements, she had no doubt I should be able to give
satisfaction; but in the engagement of governesses she considered
those things as but subordinate points; as being situated in the
neighbourhood of O-, she could get masters to supply any
deficiencies in that respect: but, in her opinion, next to
unimpeachable morality, a mild and cheerful temper and obliging
disposition were the most essential requisities.

My mother did not relish this at all, and now made many objections
to my accepting the situation; in which my sister warmly supported
her: but, unwilling to be balked again, I overruled them all; and,
having first obtained the consent of my father (who had, a short
time previously, been apprised of these transactions), I wrote a
most obliging epistle to my unknown correspondent, and, finally,
the bargain was concluded.

It was decreed that on the last day of January I was to enter upon
my new office as governess in the family of Mr. Murray, of Horton
Lodge, near O-, about seventy miles from our village: a formidable
distance to me, as I had never been above twenty miles from home in
all the course of my twenty years’ sojourn on earth; and as,
moreover, every individual in that family and in the neighbourhood
was utterly unknown to myself and all my acquaintances. But this
rendered it only the more piquant to me. I had now, in some
measure, got rid of the MAUVAISE HONTE that had formerly oppressed
me so much; there was a pleasing excitement in the idea of entering
these unknown regions, and making my way alone among its strange
inhabitants. I now flattered myself I was going to see something
in the world: Mr. Murray’s residence was near a large town, and
not in a manufacturing district, where the people had nothing to do
but to make money; his rank from what I could gather, appeared to
be higher than that of Mr. Bloomfield; and, doubtless, he was one
of those genuine thorough-bred gentry my mother spoke of, who would
treat his governess with due consideration as a respectable well-
educated lady, the instructor and guide of his children, and not a
mere upper servant. Then, my pupils being older, would be more
rational, more teachable, and less troublesome than the last; they
would be less confined to the schoolroom, and not require that
constant labour and incessant watching; and, finally, bright
visions mingled with my hopes, with which the care of children and
the mere duties of a governess had little or nothing to do. Thus,
the reader will see that I had no claim to be regarded as a martyr
to filial piety, going forth to sacrifice peace and liberty for the
sole purpose of laying up stores for the comfort and support of my
parents: though certainly the comfort of my father, and the future
support of my mother, had a large share in my calculations; and
fifty pounds appeared to me no ordinary sum. I must have decent
clothes becoming my station; I must, it seemed, put out my washing,
and also pay for my four annual journeys between Horton Lodge and
home; but with strict attention to economy, surely twenty pounds,
or little more, would cover those expenses, and then there would be
thirty for the bank, or little less: what a valuable addition to
our stock! Oh, I must struggle to keep this situation, whatever it
might be! both for my own honour among my friends and for the solid
services I might render them by my continuance there.


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