Chapter 19 – The Letter

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

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MY father’s mortal remains had been consigned to the tomb; and we,
with sad faces and sombre garments, sat lingering over the frugal
breakfast-table, revolving plans for our future life. My mother’s
strong mind had not given way beneath even this affliction: her
spirit, though crushed, was not broken. Mary’s wish was that I
should go back to Horton Lodge, and that our mother should come and
live with her and Mr. Richardson at the vicarage: she affirmed
that he wished it no less than herself, and that such an
arrangement could not fail to benefit all parties; for my mother’s
society and experience would be of inestimable value to them, and
they would do all they could to make her happy. But no arguments
or entreaties could prevail: my mother was determined not to go.
Not that she questioned, for a moment, the kind wishes and
intentions of her daughter; but she affirmed that so long as God
spared her health and strength, she would make use of them to earn
her own livelihood, and be chargeable to no one; whether her
dependence would be felt as a burden or not. If she could afford
to reside as a lodger in – vicarage, she would choose that house
before all others as the place of her abode; but not being so
circumstanced, she would never come under its roof, except as an
occasional visitor: unless sickness or calamity should render her
assistance really needful, or until age or infirmity made her
incapable of maintaining herself.

‘No, Mary,’ said she, ‘if Richardson and you have anything to
spare, you must lay it aside for your family; and Agnes and I must
gather honey for ourselves. Thanks to my having had daughters to
educate, I have not forgotten my accomplishments. God willing, I
will check this vain repining,’ she said, while the tears coursed
one another down her cheeks in spite of her efforts; but she wiped
them away, and resolutely shaking back her head, continued, ‘I will
exert myself, and look out for a small house, commodiously situated
in some populous but healthy district, where we will take a few
young ladies to board and educate – if we can get them – and as
many day pupils as will come, or as we can manage to instruct.
Your father’s relations and old friends will be able to send us
some pupils, or to assist us with their recommendations, no doubt:
I shall not apply to my own. What say you to it, Agnes? will you
be willing to leave your present situation and try?’

‘Quite willing, mamma; and the money I have saved will do to
furnish the house. It shall be taken from the bank directly.’

‘When it is wanted: we must get the house, and settle on
preliminaries first.’

Mary offered to lend the little she possessed; but my mother
declined it, saying that we must begin on an economical plan; and
she hoped that the whole or part of mine, added to what we could
get by the sale of the furniture, and what little our dear papa had
contrived to lay aside for her since the debts were paid, would be
sufficient to last us till Christmas; when, it was hoped, something
would accrue from our united labours. It was finally settled that
this should be our plan; and that inquiries and preparations should
immediately be set on foot; and while my mother busied herself with
these, I should return to Horton Lodge at the close of my four
weeks’ vacation, and give notice for my final departure when things
were in train for the speedy commencement of our school.

We were discussing these affairs on the morning I have mentioned,
about a fortnight after my father’s death, when a letter was
brought in for my mother, on beholding which the colour mounted to
her face – lately pale enough with anxious watchings and excessive
sorrow. ‘From my father!’ murmured she, as she hastily tore off
the cover. It was many years since she had heard from any of her
own relations before. Naturally wondering what the letter might
contain, I watched her countenance while she read it, and was
somewhat surprised to see her bite her lip and knit her brows as if
in anger. When she had done, she somewhat irreverently cast it on
the table, saying with a scornful smile, – ‘Your grandpapa has been
so kind as to write to me. He says he has no doubt I have long
repented of my “unfortunate marriage,” and if I will only
acknowledge this, and confess I was wrong in neglecting his advice,
and that I have justly suffered for it, he will make a lady of me
once again – if that be possible after my long degradation – and
remember my girls in his will. Get my desk, Agnes, and send these
things away: I will answer the letter directly. But first, as I
may be depriving you both of a legacy, it is just that I should
tell you what I mean to say. I shall say that he is mistaken in
supposing that I can regret the birth of my daughters (who have
been the pride of my life, and are likely to be the comfort of my
old age), or the thirty years I have passed in the company of my
best and dearest friend; – that, had our misfortunes been three
times as great as they were (unless they had been of my bringing
on), I should still the more rejoice to have shared them with your
father, and administered what consolation I was able; and, had his
sufferings in illness been ten times what they wore, I could not
regret having watched over and laboured to relieve them; – that, if
he had married a richer wife, misfortunes and trials would no doubt
have come upon him still; while I am egotist enough to imagine that
no other woman could have cheered him through them so well: not
that I am superior to the rest, but I was made for him, and he for
me; and I can no more repent the hours, days, years of happiness we
have spent together, and which neither could have had without the
other, than I can the privilege of having been his nurse in
sickness, and his comfort in affliction.

‘Will this do, children? – or shall I say we are all very sorry for
what has happened during the last thirty years, and my daughters
wish they had never been born; but since they have had that
misfortune, they will be thankful for any trifle their grandpapa
will be kind enough to bestow?’

Of course, we both applauded our mother’s resolution; Mary cleared
away the breakfast things; I brought the desk; the letter was
quickly written and despatched; and, from that day, we heard no
more of our grandfather, till we saw his death announced in the
newspaper a considerable time after – all his worldly possessions,
of course, being left to our wealthy unknown cousins.


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