Chapter 14 – The Rector

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

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THE following day was as fine as the preceding one. Soon after
breakfast Miss Matilda, having galloped and blundered through a few
unprofitable lessons, and vengeably thumped the piano for an hour,
in a terrible humour with both me and it, because her mamma would
not give her a holiday, had betaken herself to her favourite places
of resort, the yards, the stables, and the dog-kennels; and Miss
Murray was gone forth to enjoy a quiet ramble with a new
fashionable novel for her companion, leaving me in the schoolroom
hard at work upon a water-colour drawing which I had promised to do
for her, and which she insisted upon my finishing that day.

At my feet lay a little rough terrier. It was the property of Miss
Matilda; but she hated the animal, and intended to sell it,
alleging that it was quite spoiled. It was really an excellent dog
of its kind; but she affirmed it was fit for nothing, and had not
even the sense to know its own mistress.

The fact was she had purchased it when but a small puppy, insisting
at first that no one should touch it but herself; but soon becoming
tired of so helpless and troublesome a nursling, she had gladly
yielded to my entreaties to be allowed to take charge of it; and I,
by carefully nursing the little creature from infancy to
adolescence, of course, had obtained its affections: a reward I
should have greatly valued, and looked upon as far outweighing all
the trouble I had had with it, had not poor Snap’s grateful
feelings exposed him to many a harsh word and many a spiteful kick
and pinch from his owner, and were he not now in danger of being
‘put away’ in consequence, or transferred to some rough, stony-
hearted master. But how could I help it? I could not make the dog
hate me by cruel treatment, and she would not propitiate him by

However, while I thus sat, working away with my pencil, Mrs. Murray
came, half-sailing, half-bustling, into the room.

‘Miss Grey,’ she began, – ‘dear! how can you sit at your drawing
such a day as this?’ (She thought I was doing it for my own
pleasure.) ‘I WONDER you don’t put on your bonnet and go out with
the young ladies.’

‘I think, ma’am, Miss Murray is reading; and Miss Matilda is
amusing herself with her dogs.’

‘If you would try to amuse Miss Matilda yourself a little more, I
think she would not be driven to seek amusement in the
companionship of dogs and horses and grooms, so much as she is; and
if you would be a little more cheerful and conversable with Miss
Murray, she would not so often go wandering in the fields with a
book in her hand. However, I don’t want to vex you,’ added she,
seeing, I suppose, that my cheeks burned and my hand trembled with
some unamiable emotion. ‘Do, pray, try not to be so touchy –
there’s no speaking to you else. And tell me if you know where
Rosalie is gone: and why she likes to be so much alone?’

‘She says she likes to be alone when she has a new book to read.’

‘But why can’t she read it in the park or the garden? – why should
she go into the fields and lanes? And how is it that that Mr.
Hatfield so often finds her out? She told me last week he’d walked
his horse by her side all up Moss Lane; and now I’m sure it was he
I saw, from my dressing-room window, walking so briskly past the
park-gates, and on towards the field where she so frequently goes.
I wish you would go and see if she is there; and just gently remind
her that it is not proper for a young lady of her rank and
prospects to be wandering about by herself in that manner, exposed
to the attentions of anyone that presumes to address her; like some
poor neglected girl that has no park to walk in, and no friends to
take care of her: and tell her that her papa would be extremely
angry if he knew of her treating Mr. Hatfield in the familiar
manner that I fear she does; and – oh! if you – if ANY governess
had but half a mother’s watchfulness – half a mother’s anxious
care, I should be saved this trouble; and you would see at once the
necessity of keeping your eye upon her, and making your company
agreeable to – Well, go – go; there’s no time to be lost,’ cried
she, seeing that I had put away my drawing materials, and was
waiting in the doorway for the conclusion of her address.

According to her prognostications, I found Miss Murray in her
favourite field just without the park; and, unfortunately, not
alone; for the tall, stately figure of Mr. Hatfield was slowly
sauntering by her side.

Here was a poser for me. It was my duty to interrupt the TETE-A-
TETE: but how was it to be done? Mr. Hatfield could not to be
driven away by so insignificant person as I; and to go and place
myself on the other side of Miss Murray, and intrude my unwelcome
presence upon her without noticing her companion, was a piece of
rudeness I could not be guilty of: neither had I the courage to
cry aloud from the top of the field that she was wanted elsewhere.
So I took the intermediate course of walking slowly but steadily
towards them; resolving, if my approach failed to scare away the
beau, to pass by and tell Miss Murray her mamma wanted her.

She certainly looked very charming as she strolled, lingering along
under the budding horse-chestnut trees that stretched their long
arms over the park-palings; with her closed book in one hand, and
in the other a graceful sprig of myrtle, which served her as a very
pretty plaything; her bright ringlets escaping profusely from her
little bonnet, and gently stirred by the breeze, her fair cheek
flushed with gratified vanity, her smiling blue eyes, now slyly
glancing towards her admirer, now gazing downward at her myrtle
sprig. But Snap, running before me, interrupted her in the midst
of some half-pert, half-playful repartee, by catching hold of her
dress and vehemently tugging thereat; till Mr. Hatfield, with his
cane, administered a resounding thwack upon the animal’s skull, and
sent it yelping back to me with a clamorous outcry that afforded
the reverend gentleman great amusement: but seeing me so near, he
thought, I suppose, he might as well be taking his departure; and,
as I stooped to caress the dog, with ostentatious pity to show my
disapproval of his severity, I heard him say: ‘When shall I see
you again, Miss Murray?’

‘At church, I suppose,’ replied she, ‘unless your business chances
to bring you here again at the precise moment when I happen to be
walking by.’

‘I could always manage to have business here, if I knew precisely
when and where to find you.’

‘But if I would, I could not inform you, for I am so immethodical,
I never can tell to-day what I shall do tomorrow.’

‘Then give me that, meantime, to comfort me,’ said he, half
jestingly and half in earnest, extending his hand for the sprig of

‘No, indeed, I shan’t.’

‘Do! PRAY do! I shall be the most miserable of men if you don’t.
You cannot be so cruel as to deny me a favour so easily granted and
yet so highly prized!’ pleaded he as ardently as if his life
depended on it.

By this time I stood within a very few yards of them, impatiently
waiting his departure.

‘There then! take it and go,’ said Rosalie.

He joyfully received the gift, murmured something that made her
blush and toss her head, but with a little laugh that showed her
displeasure was entirely affected; and then with a courteous
salutation withdrew.

‘Did you ever see such a man, Miss Grey?’ said she, turning to me;
‘I’m so GLAD you came! I thought I never SHOULD, get rid of him;
and I was so terribly afraid of papa seeing him.’

‘Has he been with you long?’

‘No, not long, but he’s so extremely impertinent: and he’s always
hanging about, pretending his business or his clerical duties
require his attendance in these parts, and really watching for poor
me, and pouncing upon me wherever he sees me.’

‘Well, your mamma thinks you ought not to go beyond the park or
garden without some discreet, matronly person like me to accompany
you, and keep off all intruders. She descried Mr. Hatfield
hurrying past the park-gates, and forthwith despatched me with
instructions to seek you up and to take care of you, and likewise
to warn – ‘

‘Oh, mamma’s so tiresome! As if I couldn’t take care of myself.
She bothered me before about Mr. Hatfield; and I told her she might
trust me: I never should forget my rank and station for the most
delightful man that ever breathed. I wish he would go down on his
knees to-morrow, and implore me to be his wife, that I might just
show her how mistaken she is in supposing that I could ever – Oh,
it provokes me so! To think that I could be such a fool as to fall
in LOVE! It is quite beneath the dignity of a woman to do such a
thing. Love! I detest the word! As applied to one of our sex, I
think it a perfect insult. A preference I MIGHT acknowledge; but
never for one like poor Mr. Hatfield, who has not seven hundred a
year to bless himself with. I like to talk to him, because he’s so
clever and amusing – I wish Sir Thomas Ashby were half as nice;
besides, I must have SOMEBODY to flirt with, and no one else has
the sense to come here; and when we go out, mamma won’t let me
flirt with anybody but Sir Thomas – if he’s there; and if he’s NOT
there, I’m bound hand and foot, for fear somebody should go and
make up some exaggerated story, and put it into his head that I’m
engaged, or likely to be engaged, to somebody else; or, what is
more probable, for fear his nasty old mother should see or hear of
my ongoings, and conclude that I’m not a fit wife for her excellent
son: as if the said son were not the greatest scamp in
Christendom; and as if any woman of common decency were not a world
too good for him.’

‘Is it really so, Miss Murray? and does your mamma know it, and yet
wish you to marry him?’

‘To be sure, she does! She knows more against him than I do, I
believe: she keeps it from me lest I should be discouraged; not
knowing how little I care about such things. For it’s no great
matter, really: he’ll be all right when he’s married, as mamma
says; and reformed rakes make the best husbands, EVERYBODY knows.
I only wish he were not so ugly – THAT’S all I think about: but
then there’s no choice here in the country; and papa WILL NOT let
us go to London – ‘

‘But I should think Mr. Hatfield would be far better.’

‘And so he would, if he were lord of Ashby Park – there’s not a
doubt of it: but the fact is, I MUST have Ashby Park, whoever
shares it with me.’

‘But Mr. Hatfield thinks you like him all this time; you don’t
consider how bitterly he will be disappointed when he finds himself

‘NO, indeed! It will be a proper punishment for his presumption –
for ever DARING to think I could like him. I should enjoy nothing
so much as lifting the veil from his eyes.’

‘The sooner you do it the better then.’

‘No; I tell you, I like to amuse myself with him. Besides, he
doesn’t really think I like him. I take good care of that: you
don’t know how cleverly I manage. He may presume to think he can
induce me to like him; for which I shall punish him as he

‘Well, mind you don’t give too much reason for such presumption –
that’s all,’ replied I.

But all my exhortations were in vain: they only made her somewhat
more solicitous to disguise her wishes and her thoughts from me.
She talked no more to me about the Rector; but I could see that her
mind, if not her heart, was fixed upon him still, and that she was
intent upon obtaining another interview: for though, in compliance
with her mother’s request, I was now constituted the companion of
her rambles for a time, she still persisted in wandering in the
fields and lanes that lay in the nearest proximity to the road;
and, whether she talked to me or read the book she carried in her
hand, she kept continually pausing to look round her, or gaze up
the road to see if anyone was coming; and if a horseman trotted by,
I could tell by her unqualified abuse of the poor equestrian,
whoever he might be, that she hated him BECAUSE he was not Mr.

‘Surely,’ thought I, ‘she is not so indifferent to him as she
believes herself to be, or would have others to believe her; and
her mother’s anxiety is not so wholly causeless as she affirms.’

Three days passed away, and he did not make his appearance. On the
afternoon of the fourth, as we were walking beside the park-palings
in the memorable field, each furnished with a book (for I always
took care to provide myself with something to be doing when she did
not require me to talk), she suddenly interrupted my studies by
exclaiming –

‘Oh, Miss Grey! do be so kind as to go and see Mark Wood, and take
his wife half-a-crown from me – I should have given or sent it a
week ago, but quite forgot. There!’ said she, throwing me her
purse, and speaking very fast – ‘Never mind getting it out now, but
take the purse and give them what you like; I would go with you,
but I want to finish this volume. I’ll come and meet you when I’ve
done it. Be quick, will you – and – oh, wait; hadn’t you better
read to him a bit? Run to the house and get some sort of a good
book. Anything will do.’

I did as I was desired; but, suspecting something from her hurried
manner and the suddenness of the request, I just glanced back
before I quitted the field, and there was Mr. Hatfield about to
enter at the gate below. By sending me to the house for a book,
she had just prevented my meeting him on the road.

‘Never mind!’ thought I, ‘there’ll be no great harm done. Poor
Mark will be glad of the half-crown, and perhaps of the good book
too; and if the Rector does steal Miss Rosalie’s heart, it will
only humble her pride a little; and if they do get married at last,
it will only save her from a worse fate; and she will be quite a
good enough partner for him, and he for her.’

Mark Wood was the consumptive labourer whom I mentioned before. He
was now rapidly wearing away. Miss Murray, by her liberality,
obtained literally the blessing of him that was ready to perish;
for though the half-crown could be of very little service to him,
he was glad of it for the sake of his wife and children, so soon to
be widowed and fatherless. After I had sat a few minutes, and read
a little for the comfort and edification of himself and his
afflicted wife, I left them; but I had not proceeded fifty yards
before I encountered Mr. Weston, apparently on his way to the same
abode. He greeted me in his usual quiet, unaffected way, stopped
to inquire about the condition of the sick man and his family, and
with a sort of unconscious, brotherly disregard to ceremony took
from my hand the book out of which I had been reading, turned over
its pages, made a few brief but very sensible remarks, and restored
it; then told me about some poor sufferer he had just been
visiting, talked a little about Nancy Brown, made a few
observations upon my little rough friend the terrier, that was
frisking at his feet, and finally upon the beauty of the weather,
and departed.

I have omitted to give a detail of his words, from a notion that
they would not interest the reader as they did me, and not because
I have forgotten them. No; I remember them well; for I thought
them over and over again in the course of that day and many
succeeding ones, I know not how often; and recalled every
intonation of his deep, clear voice, every flash of his quick,
brown eye, and every gleam of his pleasant, but too transient
smile. Such a confession will look very absurd, I fear: but no
matter: I have written it: and they that read it will not know
the writer.

While I was walking along, happy within, and pleased with all
around, Miss Murray came hastening to meet me; her buoyant step,
flushed cheek, and radiant smiles showing that she, too, was happy,
in her own way. Running up to me, she put her arm through mine,
and without waiting to recover breath, began – ‘Now, Miss Grey,
think yourself highly honoured, for I’m come to tell you my news
before I’ve breathed a word of it to anyone else.’

‘Well, what is it?’

‘Oh, SUCH news! In the first place, you must know that Mr.
Hatfield came upon me just after you were gone. I was in such a
way for fear papa or mamma should see him; but you know I couldn’t
call you back again, and so! – oh, dear! I can’t tell you all
about it now, for there’s Matilda, I see, in the park, and I must
go and open my budget to her. But, however, Hatfield was most
uncommonly audacious, unspeakably complimentary, and
unprecedentedly tender – tried to be so, at least – he didn’t
succeed very well in THAT, because it’s not his vein. I’ll tell
you all he said another time.’

‘But what did YOU say – I’m more interested in that?’

‘I’ll tell you that, too, at some future period. I happened to be
in a very good humour just then; but, though I was complaisant and
gracious enough, I took care not to compromise myself in any
possible way. But, however, the conceited wretch chose to
interpret my amiability of temper his own way, and at length
presumed upon my indulgence so far – what do you think? – he
actually made me an offer!’

‘And you – ‘

‘I proudly drew myself up, and with the greatest coolness expressed
my astonishment at such an occurrence, and hoped he had seen
nothing in my conduct to justify his expectations. You should have
SEEN how his countenance fell! He went perfectly white in the
face. I assured him that I esteemed him and all that, but could
not possibly accede to his proposals; and if I did, papa and mamma
could never be brought to give their consent.’

‘”But if they could,” said he, “would yours be wanting?”

‘”Certainly, Mr. Hatfield,” I replied, with a cool decision which
quelled all hope at once. Oh, if you had seen how dreadfully
mortified he was – how crushed to the earth by his disappointment!
really, I almost pitied him myself.

‘One more desperate attempt, however, he made. After a silence of
considerable duration, during which he struggled to be calm, and I
to be grave – for I felt a strong propensity to laugh – which would
have ruined all – he said, with the ghost of a smile – “But tell me
plainly, Miss Murray, if I had the wealth of Sir Hugh Meltham, or
the prospects of his eldest son, would you still refuse me? Answer
me truly, upon your honour.”

‘”Certainly,” said I. “That would make no difference whatever.”

‘It was a great lie, but he looked so confident in his own
attractions still, that I determined not to leave him one stone
upon another. He looked me full in the face; but I kept my
countenance so well that he could not imagine I was saying anything
more than the actual truth.

‘”Then it’s all over, I suppose,” he said, looking as if he could
have died on the spot with vexation and the intensity of his
despair. But he was angry as well as disappointed. There was he,
suffering so unspeakably, and there was I, the pitiless cause of it
all, so utterly impenetrable to all the artillery of his looks and
words, so calmly cold and proud, he could not but feel some
resentment; and with singular bitterness he began – “I certainly
did not expect this, Miss Murray. I might say something about your
past conduct, and the hopes you have led me to foster, but I
forbear, on condition – ”

‘”No conditions, Mr. Hatfield!” said I, now truly indignant at his

‘”Then let me beg it as a favour,” he replied, lowering his voice
at once, and taking a humbler tone: “let me entreat that you will
not mention this affair to anyone whatever. If you will keep
silence about it, there need be no unpleasantness on either side –
nothing, I mean, beyond what is quite unavoidable: for my own
feelings I will endeavour to keep to myself, if I cannot annihilate
them – I will try to forgive, if I cannot forget the cause of my
sufferings. I will not suppose, Miss Murray, that you know how
deeply you have injured me. I would not have you aware of it; but
if, in addition to the injury you have already done me – pardon me,
but, whether innocently or not, you HAVE done it – and if you add
to it by giving publicity to this unfortunate affair, or naming it
AT ALL, you will find that I too can speak, and though you scorned
my love, you will hardly scorn my – ”

‘He stopped, but he bit his bloodless lip, and looked so terribly
fierce that I was quite frightened. However, my pride upheld me
still, and I answered disdainfully; “I do not know what motive you
suppose I could have for naming it to anyone, Mr. Hatfield; but if
I were disposed to do so, you would not deter me by threats; and it
is scarcely the part of a gentleman to attempt it.”

‘”Pardon me, Miss Murray,” said he, “I have loved you so intensely
– I do still adore you so deeply, that I would not willingly offend
you; but though I never have loved, and never CAN love any woman as
I have loved you, it is equally certain that I never was so ill-
treated by any. On the contrary, I have always found your sex the
kindest and most tender and obliging of God’s creation, till now.”
(Think of the conceited fellow saying that!) “And the novelty and
harshness of the lesson you have taught me to-day, and the
bitterness of being disappointed in the only quarter on which the
happiness of my life depended, must excuse any appearance of
asperity. If my presence is disagreeable to you, Miss Murray,” he
said (for I was looking about me to show how little I cared for
him, so he thought I was tired of him, I suppose) – “if my presence
is disagreeable to you, Miss Murray, you have only to promise me
the favour I named, and I will relieve you at once. There are many
ladies – some even in this parish – who would be delighted to
accept what you have so scornfully trampled under your feet. They
would be naturally inclined to hate one whose surpassing loveliness
has so completely estranged my heart from them and blinded me to
their attractions; and a single hint of the truth from me to one of
these would be sufficient to raise such a talk against you as would
seriously injure your prospects, and diminish your chance of
success with any other gentleman you or your mamma might design to

‘”What do your mean, sir?” said I, ready to stamp with passion.

‘”I mean that this affair from beginning to end appears to me like
a case of arrant flirtation, to say the least of it – such a case
as you would find it rather inconvenient to have blazoned through
the world: especially with the additions and exaggerations of your
female rivals, who would be too glad to publish the matter, if I
only gave them a handle to it. But I promise you, on the faith of
a gentleman, that no word or syllable that could tend to your
prejudice shall ever escape my lips, provided you will – ”

‘”Well, well, I won’t mention it,” said I. “You may rely upon my
silence, if that can afford you any consolation.”

‘”You promise it?”

‘”Yes,” I answered; for I wanted to get rid of him now.

‘”Farewell, then!” said he, in a most doleful, heart-sick tone; and
with a look where pride vainly struggled against despair, he turned
and went away: longing, no doubt, to get home, that he might shut
himself up in his study and cry – if he doesn’t burst into tears
before he gets there.’

‘But you have broken your promise already,’ said I, truly horrified
at her perfidy.

‘Oh! it’s only to you; I know you won’t repeat it.’

‘Certainly, I shall not: but you say you are going to tell your
sister; and she will tell your brothers when they come home, and
Brown immediately, if you do not tell her yourself; and Brown will
blazon it, or be the means of blazoning it, throughout the

‘No, indeed, she won’t. We shall not tell her at all, unless it be
under the promise of the strictest secrecy.’

‘But how can you expect her to keep her promises better than her
more enlightened mistress?’

‘Well, well, she shan’t hear it then,’ said Miss Murray, somewhat

‘But you will tell your mamma, of course,’ pursued I; ‘and she will
tell your papa.’

‘Of course I shall tell mamma – that is the very thing that pleases
me so much. I shall now be able to convince her how mistaken she
was in her fears about me.’

‘Oh, THAT’S it, is it? I was wondering what it was that delighted
you so much.’

‘Yes; and another thing is, that I’ve humbled Mr. Hatfield so
charmingly; and another – why, you must allow me some share of
female vanity: I don’t pretend to be without that most essential
attribute of our sex – and if you had seen poor Hatfield’s intense
eagerness in making his ardent declaration and his flattering
proposal, and his agony of mind, that no effort of pride could
conceal, on being refused, you would have allowed I had some cause
to be gratified.’

‘The greater his agony, I should think, the less your cause for

‘Oh, nonsense!’ cried the young lady, shaking herself with
vexation. ‘You either can’t understand me, or you won’t. If I had
not confidence in your magnanimity, I should think you envied me.
But you will, perhaps, comprehend this cause of pleasure – which is
as great as any – namely, that I am delighted with myself for my
prudence, my self-command, my heartlessness, if you please. I was
not a bit taken by surprise, not a bit confused, or awkward, or
foolish; I just acted and spoke as I ought to have done, and was
completely my own mistress throughout. And here was a man,
decidedly good-looking – Jane and Susan Green call him bewitchingly
handsome I suppose they’re two of the ladies he pretends would be
so glad to have him; but, however, he was certainly a very clever,
witty, agreeable companion – not what you call clever, but just
enough to make him entertaining; and a man one needn’t be ashamed
of anywhere, and would not soon grow tired of; and to confess the
truth, I rather liked him – better even, of late, than Harry
Meltham – and he evidently idolised me; and yet, though he came
upon me all alone and unprepared, I had the wisdom, and the pride,
and the strength to refuse him – and so scornfully and coolly as I
did: I have good reason to be proud of that.’

‘And are you equally proud of having told him that his having the
wealth of Sir Hugh Meltham would make no difference to you, when
that was not the case; and of having promised to tell no one of his
misadventure, apparently without the slightest intention of keeping
your promise?’

‘Of course! what else could I do? You would not have had me – but
I see, Miss Grey, you’re not in a good temper. Here’s Matilda;
I’ll see what she and mamma have to say about it.’

She left me, offended at my want of sympathy, and thinking, no
doubt, that I envied her. I did not – at least, I firmly believed
I did not. I was sorry for her; I was amazed, disgusted at her
heartless vanity; I wondered why so much beauty should be given to
those who made so bad a use of it, and denied to some who would
make it a benefit to both themselves and others.

But, God knows best, I concluded. There are, I suppose, some men
as vain, as selfish, and as heartless as she is, and, perhaps, such
women may be useful to punish them.


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