The Life of Charlotte Bronte HTML version

Chapter 12
Towards the end of January, the time came for Charlotte to return to Brussels. Her
journey thither was rather disastrous. She had to make her way alone; and the train from
Leeds to London, which should have reached Euston-square early in the afternoon, was
so much delayed that it did not get in till ten at night. She had intended to seek out the
Chapter Coffee-house, where she had stayed before, and which would have been near the
place where the steam-boats lay; but she appears to have been frightened by the idea of
arriving at an hour which, to Yorkshire notions, was so late and unseemly; and taking a
cab, therefore, at the station, she drove straight to the London Bridge Wharf, and desired
a waterman to row her to the Ostend packet, which was to sail the next morning. She
described to me, pretty much as she has since described it in "Villette," her sense of
loneliness, and yet her strange pleasure in the excitement of the situation, as in the dead
of that winter's night she went swiftly over the dark river to the black hull's side, and was
at first refused leave to ascend to the deck. "No passengers might sleep on board," they
said, with some appearance of disrespect. She looked back to the lights and subdued
noises of London--that "Mighty Heart" in which she had no place--and, standing up in the
rocking boat, she asked to speak to some one in authority on board the packet. He came,
and her quiet simple statement of her wish, and her reason for it, quelled the feeling of
sneering distrust in those who had first heard her request; and impressed the authority so
favourably that he allowed her to come on board, and take possession of a berth. The next
morning she sailed; and at seven on Sunday evening she reached the Rue d'Isabelle once
more; having only left Haworth on Friday morning at an early hour.
Her salary was 16L. a year; out of which she had to pay for her German lessons, for
which she was charged as much (the lessons being probably rated by time) as when
Emily learnt with her and divided the expense, viz., ten francs a month. By Miss Bronte's
own desire, she gave her English lessons in the CLASSE, or schoolroom, without the
supervision of Madame or M. Heger. They offered to be present, with a view to maintain
order among the unruly Belgian girls; but she declined this, saying that she would rather
enforce discipline by her own manner and character than be indebted for obedience to the
presence of a GENDARME. She ruled over a new school-room, which had been built on
the space in the play-ground adjoining the house. Over that First Class she was
SURVEILLANTE at all hours; and henceforward she was called MADEMOISELLE
Charlotte by M. Heger's orders. She continued her own studies, principally attending to
German, and to Literature; and every Sunday she went alone to the German and English
chapels. Her walks too were solitary, and principally taken in the allee defendue, where
she was secure from intrusion. This solitude was a perilous luxury to one of her
temperament; so liable as she was to morbid and acute mental suffering.