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Villette

2. Paulina
Some days elapsed, and it appeared she was not likely to take much of a fancy to
anybody in the house. She was not exactly naughty or wilful: she was far from
disobedient; but an object less conducive to comfort - to tranquillity even - than she
presented, it was scarcely possible to have before one's eyes. She moped: no grown
person could have performed that uncheering business better; no furrowed face of adult
exile, longing for Europe at Europe's antipodes, ever bore more legibly the signs of
homesickness than did her infant visage. She seemed growing old and unearthly. I, Lucy
Snowe, plead guiltless of that curse, an overheated and discursive imagination; but
whenever, opening a room-door, I found her seated in a corner alone - her head on her
pigmy hand - that room seemed to me not inhabited, but haunted.
And again, when of moonlight nights, on waking, I beheld her figure, white and
conspicuous in its night-dress, kneeling upright in bed, and praying like some Catholic or
Methodist enthusiast - some precocious fanatic or untimely saint - I scarcely know what
thoughts I had; but they ran risk of being hardly more rational and healthy than that
child's mind must have been.
I seldom caught a word of her prayers, for they were whispered low: sometimes, indeed,
they were not whispered at all, but put up unuttered; such rare sentences as reached my
ear still bore the burden, 'Papa; my dear papa!' This, I perceived, was a one-idea'd nature;
betraying that monomaniac tendency I have ever thought the most unfortunate with
which man or woman can be cursed.
What might have been the end of this fretting, had it continued unchecked, can only be
conjectured: it received, however, a sudden turn.
One afternoon Mrs. Bretton, coaxing her from her usual station in a corner, had lifted her
into the window-seat, and, by way of occupying her attention, told her to watch the
passengers and count how many ladies should go down the street in a given time. She had
sat listlessly, hardly looking, and not counting, when - my eye being fixed on hers - I
witnessed in its iris and pupil a startling transfiguration. These sudden, dangerous natures
- sensitive as they are called - offer many a curious spectacle to those whom a cooler
temperament has secured from participation in their angular vagaries. The fixed and
heavy gaze swum, trembled, then glittered in fire; the small overcast brow cleared; the
trivial and dejected features lit up; the sad countenance vanished, and in its place
appeared a sudden eagerness, an intense expectancy.
'It is!' were her words.
Like a bird or a shaft, or any other swift thing, she was gone from the room. How she got
the house-door open I cannot tell; probably it might be ajar; perhaps Warren was in the
way and obeyed her behest, which would be impetuous enough. I - watching calmly from
the window - saw her, in her black frock and tiny braided apron (to pinafores she had an
 
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