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第4节 第三十二章 【
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我继续为积极办好乡村学校尽心尽力。起初确实困难重重。尽管我使出浑身解数,还是过了一段时间才了解我的学生和她们的天性。她们完全没有受过教育,官能都很迟钝,使我觉得这些人笨得无可救药。粗粗一看,个个都是呆头呆脑的,但不久我便发现自己错了。就像受过教育的人之间是有区别的一样,她们之间也有区别。我了解她们,她们也了解我之后,这种区别很快便不知不觉地扩大了。一旦她们对我的语言、习惯和生活方式不再感到惊讶,我便发现一些神态呆滞、目光迟钝的乡巴佬,蜕变成了头脑机灵的姑娘。很多人亲切可爱很有礼貌。我发现她们中间不少人天性就懂礼貌,自尊自爱,很有能力,赢得了我的好感和敬佩。这些人不久便很乐意把工作做好,保持自身整洁,按时做功课,养成斯斯文文有条有理的习惯。在某些方面,她们进步之快甚至令人吃惊,我真诚愉快地为此感到骄傲。另外,我本人也开始喜欢上几位最好的姑娘,她们也喜欢我。学生中有几个农夫的女儿,差不多已经长成了少女。她们已经会读,会写,会缝,于是我就教她们语法、地理和历史的基本知识,以及更精细的针线活。我还在她们中间发现了几位可贵的人物一一这些人渴求知识,希望上进——我在她们家里一起度过了不少愉快的夜晚。而她们的父母(农夫和妻子)对我很殷勤。我乐于接受他们纯朴的善意,并以尊重他们的情感来作为回报一—对此他们不一定会随时都感到习惯,但这既让她们着迷,也对他们有益,因为他们眼看自己提高了地位,并渴望无愧于所受到的厚待。

我觉得自己成了附近地区的宠儿。无论什么时候出门,我都会处处听到亲切的招呼,受到满脸笑容的欢迎。生活在众人的关心之,即便是劳动者的关心,也如同“坐在阳光下,既宁静又舒心”。内心的恬静感觉开始萌芽,并在阳光下开放出花朵。在这段时间的生活中,我的心常常涌起感激之情,而没有颓唐沮丧。可是,读者呀,让我全都告诉你吧,在平静而充实的生活中——白天为学生作出了高尚的努力,晚上心满意足地独自作画和读书——之后我常常匆匆忙忙地进入了夜间奇异的梦境,多姿多彩的梦,有骚动不安的、充满理想的、激动人心的,也有急风骤雨式的——这些梦有着千奇百怪的场景,充满冒险的经历,揪心的险情和浪漫的机遇。梦中我依旧一次次遇见罗切斯特先生,往往是在激动人心的关键时刻。随后我感到投入了他的怀抱,听见了他的声音,遇见了他的目光,碰到了他的手和脸颊,爱他而又被他所爱。于是重又燃起在他身边度过一生的希望,像当初那么强烈,那么火热,随后我醒了过来。于是我想起了自己身在何处,处境如何。接着我颤颤巍巍地从没有帐幔的床上爬起来。沉沉黑夜目睹了我绝望的痉挛,听见了我怒火的爆发。到了第二天早上九点,我按时开学,平心静气地为一天的例行公事作好准备。

罗莎蒙德.奥利弗守信来看我。她一般是在早上遛马时到学校里来的,骑着她的小马慢跑到门口,后面跟了一位骑马的随从。她穿了一套紫色的骑装,戴一顶亚马逊式黑丝绒帽,很有风度地戴在从脸颊一直披到肩的卷发上,很难想象世上还有比她的外貌更标致的东西了。于是她会走进土里土气的房子,穿过被弄得眼花缭乱的乡村孩子的队伍。她总是在里弗斯先主上教义回答课时到。我猜想这位女来访者的目光,锐利地穿透了年青牧师的心。一种直觉向他提醒她已经进来了,即使他没有看到,或者视线正好从门口转开时也是如此。而要是她出现在门口,他的脸会灼灼生光,他那大理石一般的五官尽管拒不松弛,但难以形容地变了形。恬静中流露出一种受压抑的热情,要比肌肉的活动和目光的顾盼所显现的强烈得多。

当然她知道自己的魅力。其实他倒没有在她面前掩饰自己所感受到的魅力,因为他无法掩饰。虽然他信奉基督教禁欲主义,但她走近他,同他说话,对着他兴高彩烈、满含鼓励乃至多情地笑起来时,他的手会颤抖起来,他的眼睛会燃烧起来。他似乎不是用嘴巴,而是用哀伤而坚定的目光在说:“我爱你,我知道你也喜欢我。我不是因为毫无成功的希望而保持缄默。要是我献出这颗心来,我相信你会接受它,但是这颗心已经摆到了神圣的祭坛上了,周围燃起了火,很快它会成为耗尽的供品。”

而随后她会像失望的孩子那样板着脸,一片阴沉的乌云会掩去她光芒四射的活力。她会急忙从他那里抽出手来,使一会儿性子,从他既像英雄又像殉道者的面孔转开。她离开他时,圣.约翰无疑愿意不顾一切地跟随着,叫唤她,留她下来、但是他不愿放弃进入天国的机会,也不愿为了她爱情的一片乐土,而放弃踏进真正的、永久的天堂的希望。此外,他无法把他的一切集于自己的个性之中,——流浪汉、追求者、诗人和牧师——集中于一种情感的局限之内。他不能——也不会——放弃布道的战场,而要溪谷庄的客厅和宁静。尽管他守口如瓶,但我有一次还是大胆地闯进他内心的密室,因此从他本人那儿了解到了如许秘密。

奥利弗小姐经常造访我的小屋,使我不胜荣幸。我已了解她的全部性格,它既无秘密,也没有遮掩。她爱卖弄风情,但并不冷酷;她苛刻,但并非自私得一钱不值;她从小受到宠爱,但并没有被完全惯坏;她性子急,但脾气好;爱慕虚荣(在她也难怪,镜子里随便瞟一眼都照出了她的可爱),但并不装腔作势;她出手大方。却并不因为有钱而自鸣得意;她头脑机灵,相当聪明,快乐活泼而无所用心。总之她很迷人,即使是对象我这样同性别的冷眼旁观者,也是如此。但她并不能使人深感兴趣,或者留下难以磨灭的印象。譬如同圣.约翰的妹妹们相比,属于一种截然不同的头脑。但我仍象喜欢我的学生阿黛勒那样喜欢她,所不同的是,我们会对自己看护和教育的孩子,产生一种比对同祥可爱的成年朋友亲近的感情。

她心血来潮,对我产生了好感。她说我像里弗斯先生(当然只不过她宣布“没有他的十分之一漂亮,尽管你是个整洁可爱的小个子,但他是个天使”)。然而我象他那样为人很好,聪明、冷静、坚定。她断言,作为一个乡村女教师,我天性是个怪人。她确信,要是我以前的历史给透露出来,一定会成为一部有趣的传奇。

一天晚上,她照例像孩子一样好动,粗心却并不冒犯地问这问那,一面翻着我小厨房里的碗橱和桌子的抽屉。她看到了两本法文书,一卷席勒的作品,一本德文语法和词典。随后又看到了我的绘画材料,几张速写,其中包括用铅笔画的一个小天使般的小姑娘、我的一个学生的头像和取自莫尔顿溪谷及周围荒原的不同自然景色。她先是惊讶得发呆,随后是高兴得激动不已。

“是你画的吗?你懂法文和德文?你真可爱—一真是个奇迹!你比S城第一所学校的教师还画得好。你愿意为我画一张让我爸爸看看吗?”

“很乐意,”我回答。一想到要照着这样一个如此完美、如此容光焕发的模特儿画,我便感到了艺术家喜悦的颤栗。那时她穿了深蓝色的丝绸衣服;裸露着胳膊和脖子,唯一的装饰是她栗色的头发,以一种天然卷曲所有的不加修饰的雅致,波浪似地从肩上披下来。我拿了一张精致的卡纸,仔细地画了轮廓,并打算享受将它上彩的乐趣。由于当时天色已晚,我告诉她得改天再坐下来让我画了。

她把我的情况向她父亲作了详尽的报告,结果第二天晚上奥利弗先生居然亲自陪着她来了。他高个子,五官粗大,中等年纪,头发灰白。身边那位可爱的的女儿看上去象一座古塔旁的一朵鲜花。他似乎是个沉默寡言,或许还很自负的人,但对我很客气。罗莎蒙德的那张速写画很使他高兴。他嘱我千万要把它完成,还坚持要我第二天去溪谷庄度过一个夜晚。

我去了,发现这是一所宽敞漂亮的住宅,充分显出主人的富有。我呆在那里时罗莎蒙德一直非常高兴。她父亲和蔼可亲,茶点以后开始同我们交谈时,用很强烈的字眼,对我在莫尔顿学校所做的,表示十分满意。还说就他所见所闻,他担心我在这个地方大材小用,会很快离去干一项更合适的工作。

“真的!”罗莎蒙德嚷道,“她那么聪明,做一个名门家庭的女教师绰绰有余,爸爸。”

我想——与其到国内哪个名门家庭,远不如在这里。奥利弗先生说起了里弗斯先生——说起了里弗斯的家庭——肃然起敬。他说在附近地区,这是一个古老的名字,这家的祖宗都很有钱,整个莫尔顿一度属于他们。甚至现在,他认为这家的代表要是乐意,满可以同最好的家庭联姻。他觉得这么好、这么有才能的一个年青人竟然决定出家当传教士,实在可惜。那等于抛弃了一种很有价值的生活。那么看来罗莎蒙德的父亲不会在她与圣.约翰结合的道路上设置任何障碍。奥利弗先生显然认为青年牧师的良好出身、古老的名字和神圣的职业是对他缺乏家财的足够补偿。

那天是十一月五日,一个假日。我的小佣人帮我清扫了房子后走掉了,对一个便士的酬劳十分满意。我周围窗明几净,一尘不染——擦洗过的地板,磨得锃亮的炉格和擦得干干净净的椅子。我把自己也弄得整整齐齐,这会儿整个下午就随我度过了。

翻译几页德文占去了我一个小时。随后我拿了画板和画笔,开始了更为容易因而也更加惬意的工作,完成罗莎蒙德.奥利弗的小画像。头部已经画好,剩下的只是给背景着色,给服饰画上阴影,再在成熟的嘴唇上添一抹胭脂红,——头发这儿那儿再画上一点柔软的卷发——把天蓝的眼盖下睫毛的阴影加深一些。我正全神贯注地画着这些有趣的细节,一阵急促的敲门声响了起来,我那扇门开了,圣.约翰.里弗斯先生走了进来。

“我来看看你怎么过假日,”他说。“但愿没有动什么脑筋?没有,那很好,你一画画就不感到寂莫了。你瞧,我还是不大相信,尽管你到目前为止还是很好地挺过来了,我给你带来了一本书供你晚上消遣,”他把一本新出版的书放在桌上——一部诗:是那个时代——现代文学的黄金时代常常赐予幸运的公众一本货真价实的出版物。哎呀!我们这个时代的读者却没有那份福气。不过拿出勇气来!我不会停下来控诉或者发牢骚。我知道诗歌并没有死亡,天才并未销声匿迹,财神爷也没有把两者征服,把他们捆绑起来或者杀掉,总有一天两者都会表明自己的存在、风采、自由和力量。强大的天使,稳坐天堂吧!当肮脏的灵魂获得胜利,弱者为自己的毁灭恸哭时,他们微笑着。诗歌被毁灭了吗?天才遭到了驱逐吗?没有!中不溜儿的人们,不,别让嫉妒激起你这种想法。不,他们不仅还活着,而且统治着,拯救着。没有它们无处不在的神圣影响,你会进地狱——你自己的卑微所造成的地狱。

我急不可耐地浏览着《玛米昂》辉煌的篇章(因为《玛米昂》确实如此)时,圣.约翰俯身细看起我的画来。他蓦地惊跳起来,拉直了高高的身子。他什么也没有说,我抬头看他,他避开了我的目光,我很明白他的想法,能直截了当地看出他的心思来。这时候我觉得比他镇定和冷静。随后我暂时占了优势,产生了在可能情况下帮他做些好事的想法。

“他那么坚定不移和一味自我控制,”我想,“实在太苛刻自己了。他把每种情感和痛苦都锁在内心——什么也不表白,不流露,不告诉。我深信,谈一点他认为不应当娶的可爱的罗莎蒙德,会对他有好处。我要使他开口。”

我先是说:“坐一下,里弗斯先生,”可是他照例又回答说,不能逗留。“很好,”我心里回答,“要是你高兴,你就站着吧,但你还不能走,我的决心已下。寂寞对你和对我至少是一样不好,我倒要试试,看我能不能发现你内心的秘密,在你大理石般的胸膛找到一个孔,从那里我可以灌进一滴同情的香油。”

“这幅画像不像?”我直截了当地问。

“像!像谁呀?我没细看。”

“你看了,里弗斯先生。”

他被我直率得有些突然和奇怪的发问弄得几乎跳了起来,惊异地看着我。“呵,那还算不了什么,”我心里嘟哝着。“我不想因为你一点点生硬态度而罢休。我准备付出巨大的努力。”我继续想道,“你看得很仔细很清楚,但我不反对你再看一遍。”我站起来把画放在他手里。

“一张画得很好的画,”他说,“色彩柔和清晰,是一张很优美、很恰当的画。”

“是呀,是呀,这我都知道。不过像不像呢?这像谁?”

他打消了某种犹豫,回答说:“我想是奥利弗小姐。”

“当然。而现在,先生,为了奖励你猜得准,我答应给我创作一幅精细准确的复制品,要是你答应这个礼物是可以接受的。我不想把时间和精力化在一件你认为毫无价值的东西上。”

他继续凝视着这张画。他看得越久就把画捧得越紧,同时也似乎越想看它。“是很像!”他喃喃地说。“眼睛画得很好。颜色、光线、表情都很完美。它微笑着!”

“保存一张复制品会使你感到安慰呢,还是会伤你的心?请你告诉我。当你在马达加斯加,或者好望角,或者印度,在你的行囊中有这样的纪念品,对你是一种安慰呢,还是一看见就激起你令人丧气和难受的回忆?”

这时他偷偷地抬起眼来。他犹犹豫豫忐忑不安地看了我一眼,再次细看起这幅画来。

“我是肯定要的,不过这样做是不是审慎或明智,那就是另外一回事了。”

既然我已弄明白罗莎蒙德真的喜欢他,她的父亲也不大可能反对这门亲事,我——我对自己的观点并不像圣.约翰那样得意扬扬——我心里完全倾向于主张他们的结合。我觉得要是他能获得奥利弗先生的大宗财产,他可以用这笔钱做很多事情,强似在热带的太阳下让才能枯竭,让力气白费。想着可以这么劝说他,我此刻回答说:

“依我看来,立刻把画中的本人要走,倒是更明智和更有识见的。”

这时候他已坐了下来,把画放在面前的桌子上,双手支撑着额头,多情地反复看着这张画。我发觉他对我的大胆放肆既不发火也不感到震惊。我甚至还看到,那么坦率地谈论一个他认为不可接触的话题——听这个话题任意处理——开始被他感到是一种新的乐趣——一种出乎意外的宽慰。沉默寡言的人常常要比性格爽朗的人更需要直率地讨论他们的感情和不幸,看似最严酷的禁欲主义者毕竟也是人。大胆和好心“闯入”他们灵魂的“沉寂大海”,常常等于是赋予他们最好的恩惠。

“她喜欢你,我敢肯定,”我站在他椅子背后说,“她的父亲尊重你,此外,她是个可爱的姑娘——不大有想法。但你会有够你们两个管用的想法。你应当娶她。”

“难道她喜欢我?”他问。

“当然,胜过爱任何其他人。她不断谈起你,没有比这个更使她喜欢或者触及得更多的话题了。”

“很高兴听你这样说,”他说——“很高兴,再淡一刻钟吧。”他真的取出手表,放在桌上掌握时间。

“可是继续谈有什么用?”我问,“既然你也许正在浇铸反抗的铁拳,或者锻造新的链条把自己的心束缚起来。”

“别想这些严酷无情的东西了。要想象我让步了,被感化了,就像我正在做的那样。人类的爱像是我心田里新开辟的喷泉,不断上涨,甜蜜的洪水四溢,流淌到了我仔细而辛劳地开垦出来的田野——这里辛勤地播种着善意和自我克制的种子。现在这里泛滥着甜美的洪水——稚嫩的萌芽已被淹没——可口的毒药腐蚀着它们。此刻我看到自己躺在溪谷庄休息室的睡榻上,在我的新娘罗莎蒙德.奥利弗的脚跟前。她用那甜甜的嗓音同我在说话——用被你灵巧的手画得那么逼真的眼睛俯视着我——她那珊瑚色的嘴唇朝我微笑着——她是我的——我是她的——眼前的生活和过眼烟云般的世界对我已经足够了。嘘!别张嘴!一—我欣喜万分——我神魂颠倒—让我平静地度过我所规定的时间。”

我满足了他。手表嘀嗒嘀嗒响着,他的呼吸时紧时慢,我默默地站着。在一片静谧中一
刻钟过去了。他拿起手表,放下画,立起来,站在壁炉边。

“行啦,”他说,“在那一小段时间中我己沉溺于痴心妄想了。我把脑袋靠在诱惑的胸口,心甘情愿地把脖子伸向她花一般的枷锁。我尝了她的酒杯,枕头还燃着火,花环里有一条毒蛇,酒有苦味,她的允诺是空的——建议是假的。这一切我都明白。”

我惊诧不己地瞪着他。

“事情也怪,”他说下去,“我那么狂热地爱着罗莎蒙德.奥利弗——说真的怀着初恋的全部热情,而恋上的对象绝对漂亮、优雅、迷人——与此同时我又有一种宁静而不偏不倚的感悟,觉得她不会当个好妻子,不是适合我的伴侣,婚后一年之内我便会发现。十二个月销魂似的日子之后,接踵而来的是终身遗憾。这我知道。”

“奇怪,真奇怪!”我禁不住叫了起来。

“我内心的某一方面,”他说下去,对她的魅力深为敏感,但另一方面对她的缺陷,印象也很深。那就是她无法对我所追求的产生共鸣——不能为我所做的事业携手合作。难道罗莎蒙德是一个吃得起苦的人,一个劳作者,一个女使徒吗?难道罗莎蒙德是一个传教士的妻子?不!”

“不过你不必当传教士?你可以放弃那个打算。”

“放弃!什么——我的职业?我的伟大的工作?我为天堂里的大厦在世间所打的基础?我要成为那一小群人的希望?这群人把自己的一切雄心壮志同那桩光荣的事业合而为一,那就是提高他们的种族——把知识传播到无知的领域——用和平代替战争——用自由代替束缚——宗教代替迷信——上天堂的愿望代替入地狱的恐俱。难道连这也得放弃?它比我血管里流的血还可贵。这正是我所向往的,是我活着的目的。”

他沉默了好长一会儿后,我说——“那么奥利弗小姐呢,难道你就不关心她的失望和哀伤了?”

“奥利弗小姐向来有一大群求婚者和献殷勤的人围着她转,不到一个月,我的形象会从她心坎里抹去,她会忘掉我,很可能会跟一个比我更能使她幸福的人结婚。”

“你说得倒够冷静的,不过你内心很矛盾,很痛苦。你日见消瘦。”

“不,要是我有点儿瘦,那是我为悬而未决的前景担忧的缘故——我的离别日期一拖再拖。就是今大早上我还接到了消息,我一直盼着的后继者,三个月之内无法接替我,也许这三个月又会延长到六个月。”

“无论什么时候,奥利弗小姐一走进教室你就颤抖起来、脸涨得通红。”

他脸上再次浮起惊讶的表情。他想象不到一个女人居然敢于这么同一个男人说话。至于我,这—类交谈我非常习惯。我与很有头脑、言语谨慎、富有教养的人交际的时候,不管是男人还是女人,我非要绕过缄默的传统防卫工事,踏进奥秘的门槛,在心坎的火炉边上找到一个位置才肯罢休。

“你确实见解独到,”他说,“胆子也不小。你的精神中有一种勇气,你的眼睛有一种穿透力,可是请允许我向你保证,你部份误解了我的情感。你把这些情感想象得比实际的要深沉,要强烈。你给了我甚于我正当要求的同情。我在奥利弗小姐面前脸红,颤抖时,我不是怜悯自己,而是蔑视我的弱点。我知道这并不光彩,它不过是肉体的狂热,我宣布,不是灵魂的抽搐。那灵魂坚加磐石,牢牢扎在骚动不安的大海深处。你知道我是怎么个人——一个冷酷无情的人。”

我怀疑地笑了笑。

“你用突然袭击的办法掏出了我的心里话,”他继续说,“现在就听任你摆布了,剥去用基督教义来掩盖人性缺陷、漂净了血污的袍子,我本是个冷酷无情雄心勃勃的人。只有各种天生的情感会对我产生永久的力量。我的向导是理智而并非情感,我的雄心没有止境,我要比别人爬得高干得多的欲望永不能满足。我尊崇忍耐、坚持、勤勉和才能,因为这是人要干大事业,出大名的必要条件。我兴趣十足地观察了你的经历,因为我认为你是勤勤恳恳、有条有理、精力充沛的女人的典范,倒并不是因为我对你所经历的或正在受的苦深表同情。”

“你会把自己描述成不过是位异教徒哲学家的。”我说。

“不,我与自然神论的哲学家之间是有区别的:我有信仰,我信奉福音。你用错了修饰语。我不是异教徒哲学家,正是基督教哲学家——一个耶稣教派的信徒,作为他的信徒,我信仰他纯洁、宽厚、仁慈的教义。我主张这样的教义、发誓要为之传播,我年轻时就信仰宗教,于是宗教培养了我最初的品格——它已从小小的幼芽,自然的情感,长成浓荫蔽日的大树,变成了慈善主义,从人类真诚品质的粗糙野生的根子上,相应长出了神圣的公正感。把我为可怜的自我谋求权力和名声的雄心,变成扩大主的天地、为十字架旗帜获得胜利的大志。宗教已为我做了很多,把原始的天性变成最好的品质、修剪和培育了天性。但是无法根除天性,天性也不可能根除,直到“这必死的变成不死的’时候。”

说完,他拿起放在桌上我画板旁的帽子,再一次看了看画像。

“她的确可爱,”他喃喃地说。“她不愧为世界上最好的玫瑰,真的。”

“我可不可以画一张像这样的给你呢?”

“干嘛?不必了。”

他拉过一张薄薄的纸盖在画上,这张纸是我平常作画时怕弄脏纸板常作为垫手用的。他突然在这张空白纸上究竟看到了什么,我无法判断。但某种东西引起了他的注意。他猛地拣起来,看了看纸边,随后瞟了我一眼,那目光奇怪得难以形容,而旦不可理解,似乎摄取并记下了我的体态、面容和服饰的每个细节。它一扫而过,犹如闪电般迅速和锐利。他张开嘴唇,似乎想说话,但把到了嘴边的什么话咽了下去。

“怎么回事?”我问。

“什么事也没有”对方回答,一面又把纸放下。我见他利索地从边上撕下一小条,放进
了手套,匆勿忙忙点了点头。“下午好,”就消失得无影无踪了。

“嗨!”我用那个地区的一个短语嚷道:“这可绝了!”

我呢,仔细看了看那张纸,但除了我试画笔色泽所留下的几滴暗淡的污渍,我什么也没有看到。我把这个谜琢磨了一两分钟,但无法解开。我相信这也无关紧要,便不再去想它,不久也就忘了。

I CONTINUED the labours of the village-school as actively and faithfully as I could. It was truly hard work at first. Some time elapsed before, with all my efforts, I could comprehend my scholars and their nature. Wholly untaught, with faculties quite torpid, they seemed to me hopelessly dull; and, at first sight, all dull alike: but I soon found I was mistaken. There was a difference amongst them as amongst the educated; and when I got to know them, and they me, this difference rapidly developed itself. Their amazement at me, my language, my rules, and ways, once subsided, I found some of these heavy-looking, gaping rustics wake up into sharp-witted girls enough. Many showed themselves obliging, and amiable too; and I discovered amongst them not a few examples of natural politeness, and innate self-respect, as well as of excellent capacity, that won both my good-will and my admiration. These soon took a pleasure in doing their work well, in keeping their persons neat, in learning their tasks regularly, in acquiring quiet and orderly manners. The rapidity of their progress, in some instances, was even surprising; and an honest and happy pride I took in it: besides, I began  personally to like some of the best girls; and they liked me. I had amongst my scholars several farmers' daughters: young women grown, almost. These could already read, write, and sew; and to them I taught the elements of grammar, geography, history, and the finer kinds of needlework. I found estimable characters amongst them- characters desirous of information and disposed for improvement- with whom I passed many a pleasant evening hour in their own homes. Their parents then (the farmer and his wife) loaded me with attentions.
There was an enjoyment in accepting their simple kindness, and in repaying it by a consideration- a scrupulous regard to their feelings- to which they were not, perhaps, at all times accustomed, and which both charmed and benefited them; because, while it elevated them in their own eyes, it made them emulous to merit the deferential treatment they received.

I felt I became a favourite in the neighbourhood. Whenever I went out, I heard on all sides cordial salutations, and was welcomed with friendly smiles. To live amidst general regard, though it be but the regard of working people, is like 'sitting in sunshine, calm and sweet'; serene inward feelings bud and bloom under the ray. At this period of my life, my heart far oftener swelled with thankfulness than sank with dejection: and yet, reader, to tell you all, in the midst of this calm, this useful existence- after a day passed in honourable exertion amongst my scholars, an evening spent in drawing or reading contentedly alone- I used to rush into strange dreams at night: dreams many-coloured, agitated, full of the ideal, the stirring, the stormy- dreams where, amidst unusual scenes, charged with adventure, with agitating risk and romantic chance, I still again and again met Mr. Rochester, always at some exciting crisis; and then the sense of being in his arms, hearing his voice, meeting his eye, touching his hand and cheek, loving him, being loved by him- the hope of passing a lifetime at his side, would be renewed, with all its first force and fire. Then I awoke. Then I recalled where I was, and how situated.

Then I rose up on my curtainless bed, trembling and quivering; and then the still, dark night witnessed the convulsion of despair, and heard the burst of passion. By nine o'clock the next morning I was punctually opening the school; tranquil, settled, prepared for the steady duties of the day.

Rosamond Oliver kept her word in coming to visit me. Her call at the school was generally made in the course of her morning ride. She would canter up to the door on her pony, followed by a mounted livery servant. Anything more exquisite than her appearance, in her purple habit, with her Amazon's cap of black velvet placed gracefully above the long curls that kissed her cheek and floated to her shoulders, can scarcely be imagined: and it was thus she would enter the rustic building, and glide through the dazzled ranks of the village children. She generally came at the hour when Mr. Rivers was engaged in giving his daily catechising lesson. Keenly, I fear, did the eye of the visitress pierce the young pastor's heart. A sort of instinct seemed to warn him of her entrance, even when he did not see it; and when he was looking quite away from the door, if she appeared at it, his cheek would glow, and his marble-seeming features, though they refused to relax, changed indescribably, and in their very quiescence became expressive of a repressed fervour, stronger than working muscle or darting glance could indicate.

Of course, she knew her power: indeed, he did not, because he could not, conceal it from her. In spite of his Christian stoicism, when she went up and addressed him, and smiled gaily, encouragingly, even fondly in his face, his hand would tremble and his eye burn. He seemed to say, with his sad and resolute look, if he did not say it with his lips, 'I love you, and I know you prefer me. It is not despair of success that keeps me dumb. If I offered my heart, I believe you would accept it. But that heart is already laid on a sacred altar: the fire is arranged round it. It will soon be no more than a sacrifice consumed.'

And then she would pout like a disappointed child; a pensive cloud would soften her radiant vivacity; she would withdraw her hand hastily from his, and turn in transient petulance from his aspect, at once so heroic and so martyr-like. St. John, no doubt, would have given the world to follow, recall, retain her, when she thus left him; but he would not give one chance of heaven, nor relinquish, for the elysium of her love, one hope of the true, eternal Paradise.

Besides, he could not bind all that he had in his nature- the rover, the aspirant, the poet, the priest- in the limits of a single passion.

He could not- he would not- renounce his wild field of mission warfare for the parlours and the peace of Vale Hall. I learnt so much from himself in an inroad I once, despite his reserve, had the daring to make on his confidence.

Miss Oliver already honoured me with frequent visits to my cottage.

I had learnt her whole character, which was without mystery or disguise: she was coquettish, but not heartless; exacting, but not worthlessly selfish. She had been indulged from her birth, but was not absolutely spoilt. She was hasty, but good-humoured; vain (she could not help it, when every glance in the glass showed her such a flush of loveliness), but not affected; liberal-handed; innocent of the pride of wealth; ingenuous; sufficiently intelligent; gay, lively, and unthinking: she was very charming, in short, even to a cool observer of her own sex like me; but she was not profoundly interesting or thoroughly impressive. A very different sort of mind was hers from that, for instance, of the sisters of St. John. Still, I liked her almost as I liked my pupil Adele; except that, for a child whom we have watched over and taught, a closer affection is engendered than we can give an equally attractive adult acquaintance.

She had taken an amiable caprice to me. She said I was like Mr. Rivers, only, certainly, she allowed, 'not one-tenth so handsome, though I was a nice neat little soul enough, but he was an angel.' I was, however, good, clever, composed, and firm, like him. I was a lusus naturae, she affirmed, as a village schoolmistress: she was sure my previous history, if known, would make a delightful romance.

One evening, while, with her usual child-like activity, and thoughtless yet not offensive inquisitiveness, she was rummaging the cupboard and the table-drawer of my little kitchen, she discovered first two French books, a volume of Schiller, a German grammar and dictionary, and then my drawing-materials and some sketches, including a pencil-head of a pretty little cherub-like girl, one of my scholars, and sundry views from nature, taken in the Vale of Morton and on the surrounding moors. She was first transfixed with surprise, and then electrified with delight.

'Had I done these pictures? Did I know French and German? What a love- what a miracle I was! I drew better than her master in the first 'With pleasure,' I replied; and I felt a thrill of artist-delight at the idea of copying from so perfect and radiant a model. She had then on a dark-blue silk dress; her arms and her neck were bare; her only ornament was her chestnut tresses, which waved over her shoulders with all the wild grace of natural curls. I took a sheet of fine card-board, and drew a careful outline. I promised myself the pleasure of colouring it; and, as it was getting late then, I told her she must come and sit another day.

She made such a report of me to her father, that Mr. Oliver himself accompanied her next evening- a tall, massive-featured, middle-aged, and grey-headed man, at whose side his lovely daughter looked like a bright flower near a hoary turret. He appeared a taciturn, and perhaps a proud personage; but he was very kind to me. The sketch of Rosamond's portrait pleased him highly: he said I must make a finished picture of it. He insisted, too, on my coming the next day to spend the evening at Vale Hall.

I went. I found it a large, handsome residence, showing abundant evidences of wealth in the proprietor. Rosamond was full of glee and pleasure all the time I stayed. Her father was affable; and when he entered into conversation with me after tea, he expressed in strong terms his approbation of what I had done in Morton school, and said he only feared, from what he saw and heard, I was too good for the place, and would soon quit it for one more suitable.

'Indeed,' cried Rosamond, 'she is clever enough to be a governess in a high family, papa.'

I thought I would far rather be where I am than in any high family in the land. Mr. Oliver spoke of Mr. Rivers- of the Rivers family- with great respect. He said it was a very old name in that neighbourhood; that the ancestors of the house were wealthy; that all Morton had once belonged to them; that even now he considered the representative of that house might, if he liked, make an alliance with the best. He accounted it a pity that so fine and talented a young man should have formed the design of going out as a missionary; it was quite throwing a valuable life away. It appeared, then, that her father would throw no obstacle in the way of Rosamond's union with St. John. Mr. Oliver evidently regarded the young clergyman's good birth, old name, and sacred profession as sufficient compensation for the want of fortune.

It was the 5th of November, and a holiday. My little servant, after helping me to clean my house, was gone, well satisfied with the fee of a penny for her aid. All about me was spotless and bright- scoured floor, polished grate, and well-rubbed chairs. I had also made myself neat, and had now the afternoon before me to spend as I would.

The translation of a few pages of German occupied an hour; then I got my palette and pencils, and fell to the more soothing, because easier occupation, of completing Rosamond Oliver's miniature. The head was finished already: there was but the background to tint and the drapery to shade off; a touch of carmine, too, to add to the ripe lips- a soft curl here and there to the tresses- a deeper tinge to the shadow of the lash under the azured eyelid. I was absorbed in the execution of these nice details, when, after one rapid tap, my door unclosed, admitting St. John Rivers.

'I am come to see how you are spending your holiday,' he said.

'Not, I hope, in thought? No, that is well: while you draw you will not feel lonely. You see, I mistrust you still, though you have borne up wonderfully so far. I have brought you a book for evening solace,' and he laid on the table a new publication- a poem: one of those genuine productions so often vouchsafed to the fortunate public of those days- the golden age of modern literature. Alas! the readers of our era are less favoured. But courage! I will not pause either to accuse or repine. I know poetry is not dead, nor genius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over either, to bind or slay: they will both assert their existence, their presence, their liberty and strength again one day. Powerful angels, safe in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumph, and feeble ones weep over their destruction. Poetry destroyed? Genius banished? No! Mediocrity, no: do not let envy prompt you to the thought. No; they not only live, but reign and redeem: and without their divine influence spread everywhere, you would be in hell- the hell of your own meanness.

While I was eagerly glancing at the bright pages of Marmion (for Marmion it was), St. John stooped to examine my drawing. His tall figure sprang erect again with a start: he said nothing. I looked up at him: he shunned my eye. I knew his thoughts well, and could read his heart plainly; at the moment I felt calmer and cooler than he: I had then temporarily the advantage of him, and I conceived an inclination to do him some good, if I could.

'With all his firmness and self-control,' thought I, 'he tasks himself too far: locks every feeling and pang within- expresses, confesses, imparts nothing. I am sure it would benefit him to talk a little about this sweet Rosamond, whom he thinks he ought not to marry: I will make him talk.'

I said first, 'Take a chair, Mr. Rivers.' But he answered, as he always did, that he could not stay. 'Very well,' I responded, mentally, 'stand if you like; but you shall not go just yet, I am determined: solitude is at least as bad for you as it is for me.

I'll try if I cannot discover the secret spring of your confidence, and find an aperture in that marble breast through which I can shed one drop of the balm of sympathy.'

'Is this portrait like?' I asked bluntly.

'Like! Like whom? I did not observe it closely.'

'You did, Mr. Rivers.'

He almost started at my sudden and strange abruptness: he looked at me astonished. 'Oh, that is nothing yet,' I muttered within. 'I don't mean to be baffled by a little stiffness on your part; I'm prepared to go to considerable lengths.' I continued, 'You observed it closely and distinctly; but I have no objection to your looking at it again,' and I rose and placed it in his hand.

'A well-executed picture,' he said; 'very soft, clear colouring; very graceful and correct drawing.'

'Yes, yes; I know all that. But what of the resemblance? Who is it like?'

Mastering some hesitation, he answered, 'Miss Oliver, I presume.'

'Of course. And now, sir, to reward you for the accurate guess, I will promise to paint you a careful and faithful duplicate of this very picture, provided you admit that the gift would be acceptable to you. I don't wish to throw away my time and trouble on an offering you would deem worthless.'

He continued to gaze at the picture: the longer he looked, the firmer he held it, the more he seemed to covet it. 'It is like!' he murmured; 'the eye is well managed: the colour, light, expression, are perfect. It smiles!'

'Would it comfort, or would it wound you to have a similar painting? Tell me that. When you are at Madagascar, or at the Cape, or in India, would it be a consolation to have that memento in your possession? or would the sight of it bring recollections calculated to enervate and distress?'

He now furtively raised his eyes: he glanced at me, irresolute, disturbed: he again surveyed the picture.

'That I should like to have it is certain: whether it would be judicious or wise is another question.'

Since I had ascertained that Rosamond really preferred him, and that her father was not likely to oppose the match, I- less exalted in my views than St. John- had been strongly disposed in my own heart to advocate their union. It seemed to me that, should he become the possessor of Mr. Oliver's large fortune, he might do as much good with  it as if he went and laid his genius out to wither, and his strength to waste, under a tropical sun. With this persuasion I now answered-

'As far as I can see, it would be wiser and more judicious if you were to take to yourself the original at once.'

By this time he had sat down: he had laid the picture on the table before him, and with his brow supported on both hands, hung fondly over it. I discerned he was now neither angry nor shocked at my audacity. I saw even that to be thus frankly addressed on a subject he had deemed unapproachable- to hear it thus freely handled- was beginning to be felt by him as a new pleasure- an unhoped-for relief. Reserved people often really need the frank discussion of their sentiments and griefs more than the expansive. The sternest-seeming stoic is human after all; and to 'burst' with boldness and good-will into 'the silent sea' of their souls is often to confer on them the first of obligations.

'She likes you, I am sure,' said I, as I stood behind his chair, 'and her father respects you. Moreover, she is a sweet girl- rather thoughtless; but you would have sufficient thought for both yourself and her. You ought to marry her.'

'Does she like me?' he asked.

'Certainly; better than she likes any one else. She talks of you continually: there is no subject she enjoys so much or touches upon so often.'

'It is very pleasant to hear this,' he said- 'very: go on for another quarter of an hour.' And he actually took out his watch and laid it upon the table to measure the time.

'But where is the use of going on,' I asked, 'when you are probably preparing some iron blow of contradiction, or forging a fresh chain to fetter your heart?'

'Don't imagine such hard things. Fancy me yielding and melting, as I am doing: human love rising like a freshly opened fountain in my mind and overflowing with sweet inundation all the field I have so carefully and with such labour prepared- so assiduously sown with the seeds of good intentions, of self-denying plans. And now it is deluged with a nectarous flood- the young germs swamped- delicious poison cankering them: now I see myself stretched on an ottoman in the drawing-room at Vale Hall at my bride Rosamond Oliver's feet: she is talking to me with her sweet voice- gazing down on me with those eyes your skilful hand has copied so well- smiling at me with these coral lips. She is mine- I am hers- this present life and passing world suffice to me. Hush! say nothing- my heart is full of delight- my senses are entranced- let the time I marked pass in peace.'

I humoured him: the watch ticked on: he breathed fast and low: I stood silent. Amidst this hush the quarter sped; he replaced the watch, laid the picture down, rose, and stood on the hearth.

'Now,' said he, 'that little space was given to delirium and delusion. I rested my temples on the breast of temptation, and put my neck voluntarily under her yoke of flowers; I tasted her cup. The pillow was burning: there is an asp in the garland: the wine has a bitter taste: her promises are hollow- her offers false: I see and know all this.'

I gazed at him in wonder.

'It is strange,' pursued he, 'that while I love Rosamond Oliver so wildly- with all the intensity, indeed, of a first passion, the object of which is exquisitely beautiful, graceful, and fascinating- I experience at the same time a calm, unwarped consciousness that she would not make me a good wife; that she is not the partner suited to me; that I should discover this within a year after marriage; and that to twelve months' rapture would succeed a lifetime of regret. This I know.'

'Strange indeed!' I could not help ejaculating.

'While something in me,' he went on, 'is acutely sensible to her charms, something else is as deeply impressed with her defects: they are such that she could sympathise in nothing I aspired to- co-operate in nothing I undertook. Rosamond a sufferer, a labourer, a female apostle? Rosamond a missionary's wife? No!'

'But you need not be a missionary. You might relinquish that scheme.'

'Relinquish! What! my vocation? My great work? My foundation laid on earth for a mansion in heaven? My hopes of being numbered in the band who have merged all ambitions in the glorious one of bettering their race- of carrying knowledge into the realms of ignorance- of substituting peace for war- freedom for bondage- religion for superstition- the hope of heaven for the fear of hell? Must I relinquish that? It is dearer than the blood in my veins. It is what I have to look forward to, and to live for.'

After a considerable pause, I said- 'And Miss Oliver? Are her disappointment and sorrow of no interest to you?'

'Miss Oliver is ever surrounded by suitors and flatterers: in less than a month, my image will be effaced from her heart. She will forget me; and will marry, probably, some one who will make her far happier than I should do.'

'You speak coolly enough; but you suffer in the conflict. You are wasting away.'

'No. If I get a little thin, it is with anxiety about my prospects, yet unsettled- my departure, continually procrastinated. Only this morning, I received intelligence that the successor, whose arrival I have been so long expecting, cannot be ready to replace me for three months to come yet; and perhaps the three months may extend to six.'

'You tremble and become flushed whenever Miss Oliver enters the schoolroom.'

Again the surprised expression crossed his face. He had not imagined that a woman would dare to speak so to a man. For me, I felt at home in this sort of discourse. I could never rest in communication with strong, discreet, and refined minds, whether male or female, till I had passed the outworks of conventional reserve, and crossed the threshold of confidence, and won a place by their heart's very hearthstone.

'You are original,' said he, 'and not timid. There is something brave in your spirit, as well as penetrating in your eye; but allow me to assure you that you partially misinterpret my emotions. You think them more profound and potent than they are. You give me a larger allowance of sympathy than I have a just claim to. When I colour, and when I shake before Miss Oliver, I do not pity myself. I scorn the weakness. I know it is ignoble: a mere fever of the flesh: not, I declare, the convulsion of the soul. That is just as fixed as a rock, firm set in the depths of a restless sea. Know me to be what I am- a cold, hard man.'

I smiled incredulously.

'You have taken my confidence by storm,' he continued, 'and now it is much at your service. I am simply, in my original state-

stripped of that blood-bleached robe with which Christianity covers human deformity- a cold, hard, ambitious man. Natural affection only, of all the sentiments, has permanent power over me. Reason, and not feeling, is my guide; my ambition is unlimited: my desire to rise higher, to do more than others, insatiable. I honour endurance, perseverance, industry, talent; because these are the means by which men achieve great ends and mount to lofty eminence. I watch your career with interest, because I consider you a specimen of a  diligent, orderly, energetic woman: not because I deeply compassionate what you have gone through, or what you still suffer.'

'You would describe yourself as a mere pagan philosopher,' I said.

'No. There is this difference between me and deistic philosophers: I believe; and I believe the Gospel. You missed your epithet. I am not a pagan, but a Christian philosopher- a follower of the sect of Jesus. As His disciple I adopt His pure, His merciful, His benignant doctrines. I advocate them: I am sworn to spread them. Won in youth to religion, she has cultivated my original qualities thus:- From the minute germ, natural affection, she has developed the overshadowing tree, philanthropy. From the wild stringy root of human uprightness, she has reared a due sense of the Divine justice. Of the ambition to win power and renown for my wretched self, she has formed the ambition to spread my Master's kingdom; to achieve victories for the standard of the cross. So much has religion done for me; turning the original materials to the best account; pruning and training nature. But she could not eradicate nature: nor will it be eradicated "till this mortal shall put on immortality."'

Having said this, he took his hat, which lay on the table beside my palette. Once more he looked at the portrait.

'She is lovely,' he murmured. 'She is well named the Rose of the World, indeed!'

'And may I not paint one like it for you?'

'Cui bono? No.'

He drew over the picture the sheet of thin paper on which I was accustomed to rest my hand in painting, to prevent the card-board from being sullied. What he suddenly saw on this blank paper, it was impossible for me to tell; but something had caught his eye. He took it up with a snatch; he looked at the edge; then shot a glance at me, inexpressibly peculiar, and quite incomprehensible: a glance that seemed to take and make note of every point in my shape, face, and dress; for it traversed all, quick, keen as lightning. His lips parted, as if to speak: but he checked the coming sentence, whatever it was.

'What is the matter?' I asked.

'Nothing in the world,' was the reply; and, replacing the paper, I saw him dexterously tear a narrow slip from the margin. It disappeared in his glove; and, with one hasty nod and 'good-afternoon,' he vanished.

'Well!' I exclaimed, using an expression of the district, 'that caps the globe, however!'

I, in my turn, scrutinised the paper; but saw nothing on it save a few dingy stains of paint where I had tried the tint in my pencil. I pondered the mystery a minute or two; but finding it insolvable, and being certain it could not be of much moment, I dismissed, and soon forgot it.