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Chapter 20 – The Farewell

Anne BronteJul 20, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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A HOUSE in A-, the fashionable watering-place, was hired for our
seminary; and a promise of two or three pupils was obtained to
commence with. I returned to Horton Lodge about the middle of
July, leaving my mother to conclude the bargain for the house, to
obtain more pupils, to sell off the furniture of our old abode, and
to fit out the new one.

We often pity the poor, because they have no leisure to mourn their
departed relatives, and necessity obliges them to labour through
their severest afflictions: but is not active employment the best
remedy for overwhelming sorrow – the surest antidote for despair?
It may be a rough comforter: it may seem hard to be harassed with
the cares of life when we have no relish for its enjoyments; to be
goaded to labour when the heart is ready to break, and the vexed
spirit implores for rest only to weep in silence: but is not
labour better than the rest we covet? and are not those petty,
tormenting cares less hurtful than a continual brooding over the
great affliction that oppresses us? Besides, we cannot have cares,
and anxieties, and toil, without hope – if it be but the hope of
fulfilling our joyless task, accomplishing some needful project, or
escaping some further annoyance. At any rate, I was glad my mother
had so much employment for every faculty of her action-loving
frame. Our kind neighbours lamented that she, once so exalted in
wealth and station, should be reduced to such extremity in her time
of sorrow; but I am persuaded that she would have suffered thrice
as much had she been left in affluence, with liberty to remain in
that house, the scene of her early happiness and late affliction,
and no stern necessity to prevent her from incessantly brooding
over and lamenting her bereavement.

I will not dilate upon the feelings with which I left the old
house, the well-known garden, the little village church – then
doubly dear to me, because my father, who, for thirty years, had
taught and prayed within its walls, lay slumbering now beneath its
flags – and the old bare hills, delightful in their very
desolation, with the narrow vales between, smiling in green wood
and sparkling water – the house where I was born, the scene of all
my early associations, the place where throughout life my earthly
affections had been centred; – and left them to return no more!
True, I was going back to Horton Lodge, where, amid many evils, one
source of pleasure yet remained: but it was pleasure mingled with
excessive pain; and my stay, alas! was limited to six weeks. And
even of that precious time, day after day slipped by and I did not
see him: except at church, I never saw him for a fortnight after
my return. It seemed a long time to me: and, as I was often out
with my rambling pupil, of course hopes would keep rising, and
disappointments would ensue; and then, I would say to my own heart,
‘Here is a convincing proof – if you would but have the sense to
see it, or the candour to acknowledge it – that he does not care
for you. If he only thought HALF as much about you as you do about
him, he would have contrived to meet you many times ere this: you
must know that, by consulting your own feelings. Therefore, have
done with this nonsense: you have no ground for hope: dismiss, at
once, these hurtful thoughts and foolish wishes from your mind, and
turn to your own duty, and the dull blank life that lies before
you. You might have known such happiness was not for you.’

But I saw him at last. He came suddenly upon me as I was crossing
a field in returning from a visit to Nancy Brown, which I had taken
the opportunity of paying while Matilda Murray was riding her
matchless mare. He must have heard of the heavy loss I had
sustained: he expressed no sympathy, offered no condolence: but
almost the first words he uttered were, – ‘How is your mother?’
And this was no matter-of -course question, for I never told him
that I had a mother: he must have learned the fact from others, if
he knew it at all; and, besides, there was sincere goodwill, and
even deep, touching, unobtrusive sympathy in the tone and manner of
the inquiry. I thanked him with due civility, and told him she was
as well as could be expected. ‘What will she do?’ was the next
question. Many would have deemed it an impertinent one, and given
an evasive reply; but such an idea never entered my head, and I
gave a brief but plain statement of my mother’s plans and
prospects.

‘Then you will leave this place shortly?’ said he.

‘Yes, in a month.’

He paused a minute, as if in thought. When he spoke again, I hoped
it would be to express his concern at my departure; but it was only
to say, – ‘I should think you will be willing enough to go?’

‘Yes – for some things,’ I replied.

‘For SOME things only – I wonder what should make you regret it?’

I was annoyed at this in some degree; because it embarrassed me: I
had only one reason for regretting it; and that was a profound
secret, which he had no business to trouble me about.

‘Why,’ said I – ‘why should you suppose that I dislike the place?’

‘You told me so yourself,’ was the decisive reply. ‘You said, at
least, that you could not live contentedly, without a friend; and
that you had no friend here, and no possibility of making one –
and, besides, I know you MUST dislike it.’

‘But if you remember rightly, I said, or meant to say, I could not
live contentedly without a friend in the world: I was not so
unreasonable as to require one always near me. I think I could be
happy in a house full of enemies, if – ‘ but no; that sentence must
not be continued – I paused, and hastily added, – ‘And, besides, we
cannot well leave a place where we have lived for two or three
years, without some feeling of regret.’

‘Will you regret to part with Miss Murray, your sole remaining
pupil and companion?’

‘I dare say I shall in some degree: it was not without sorrow I
parted with her sister.’

‘I can imagine that.’

‘Well, Miss Matilda is quite as good – better in one respect.’

‘What is that?’

‘She’s honest.’

‘And the other is not?’

‘I should not call her DIShonest; but it must be confessed she’s a
little artful.’

‘ARTFUL is she? – I saw she was giddy and vain – and now,’ he
added, after a pause, ‘I can well believe she was artful too; but
so excessively so as to assume an aspect of extreme simplicity and
unguarded openness. Yes,’ continued he, musingly, ‘that accounts
for some little things that puzzled me a trifle before.’

After that, he turned the conversation to more general subjects.
He did not leave me till we had nearly reached the park-gates: he
had certainly stepped a little out of his way to accompany me so
far, for he now went back and disappeared down Moss Lane, the
entrance of which we had passed some time before. Assuredly I did
not regret this circumstance: if sorrow had any place in my heart,
it was that he was gone at last – that he was no longer walking by
my side, and that that short interval of delightful intercourse was
at an end. He had not breathed a word of love, or dropped one hint
of tenderness or affection, and yet I had been supremely happy. To
be near him, to hear him talk as he did talk, and to feel that he
thought me worthy to be so spoken to – capable of understanding and
duly appreciating such discourse – was enough.

‘Yes, Edward Weston, I could indeed be happy in a house full of
enemies, if I had but one friend, who truly, deeply, and faithfully
loved me; and if that friend were you – though we might be far
apart – seldom to hear from each other, still more seldom to meet –
though toil, and trouble, and vexation might surround me, still –
it would be too much happiness for me to dream of! Yet who can
tell,’ said I within myself, as I proceeded up the park, – ‘who can
tell what this one month may bring forth? I have lived nearly
three-and-twenty years, and I have suffered much, and tasted little
pleasure yet; is it likely my life all through will be so clouded?
Is it not possible that God may hear my prayers, disperse these
gloomy shadows, and grant me some beams of heaven’s sunshine yet?
Will He entirely deny to me those blessings which are so freely
given to others, who neither ask them nor acknowledge them when
received? May I not still hope and trust? I did hope and trust
for a while: but, alas, alas! the time ebbed away: one week
followed another, and, excepting one distant glimpse and two
transient meetings – during which scarcely anything was said –
while I was walking with Miss Matilda, I saw nothing of him:
except, of course, at church.

And now, the last Sunday was come, and the last service. I was
often on the point of melting into tears during the sermon – the
last I was to hear from him: the best I should hear from anyone, I
was well assured. It was over – the congregation were departing;
and I must follow. I had then seen him, and heard his voice, too,
probably for the last time. In the churchyard, Matilda was pounced
upon by the two Misses Green. They had many inquiries to make
about her sister, and I know not what besides. I only wished they
would have done, that we might hasten back to Horton Lodge: I
longed to seek the retirement of my own room, or some sequestered
nook in the grounds, that I might deliver myself up to my feelings
– to weep my last farewell, and lament my false hopes and vain
delusions. Only this once, and then adieu to fruitless dreaming –
thenceforth, only sober, solid, sad reality should occupy my mind.
But while I thus resolved, a low voice close beside me said – ‘I
suppose you are going this week, Miss Grey?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied. I
was very much startled; and had I been at all hysterically
inclined, I certainly should have committed myself in some way
then. Thank God, I was not.

‘Well,’ said Mr. Weston, ‘I want to bid you good-bye – it is not
likely I shall see you again before you go.’

‘Good-bye, Mr. Weston,’ I said. Oh, how I struggled to say it
calmly! I gave him my hand. He retained it a few seconds in his.

‘It is possible we may meet again,’ said he; ‘will it be of any
consequence to you whether we do or not?’

‘Yes, I should be very glad to see you again.’

I COULD say no less. He kindly pressed my hand, and went. Now, I
was happy again – though more inclined to burst into tears than
ever. If I had been forced to speak at that moment, a succession
of sobs would have inevitably ensued; and as it was, I could not
keep the water out of my eyes. I walked along with Miss Murray,
turning aside my face, and neglecting to notice several successive
remarks, till she bawled out that I was either deaf or stupid; and
then (having recovered my self-possession), as one awakened from a
fit of abstraction, I suddenly looked up and asked what she had
been saying.

 

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