فصل 06

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فصل 06

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CHAPTER SIX

Monsieur Heger and Mrs Robinson

At first, everything went well. Monsieur Heger wrote to me often. He was pleased with my daughters, he said; they were good pupils. But life at home in Haworth was hard. My curate died, and Aunt Branwell became very ill. Emily and Charlotte came home to see her, but she was dead before they arrived.

She was a good woman, Elizabeth Branwell. She kept my home for more than twenty years, and she taught my daughters everything she knew. But she never liked Haworth, I am sure of that. She said it was a cold, miserable place. I hope that God has found somewhere warm and comfortable for her now.

But how could I live without her? My eyes were now very bad, and I could not see to read. And our servant Tabby was older than I was. Anne could not help me - she was a governess for the Robinson family, and now Branwell had a job there too, teaching their young son. So Charlotte went back to Brussels alone, this time as a teacher in Monsieur Heger’s school. Emily stayed at home to cook and clean for me. She did not like Brussels, she said. She was happy to do the housework, and live at home with Tabby and me.

She was a strange, quiet girl, Emily. She was the tallest of the girls, and in some ways she was as strong as a man. She loved to walk by herself on the wild lonely moors, with her dog Keeper running by her side. Sometimes I saw her there, singing or talking quietly to herself, and I thought perhaps she could see the people in her secret world of Gondal, and was talking to them. I know that she spent a lot of time writing alone in her room; and when Anne was at home, she and Emily often talked and wrote about the world of Gondal together.

There were sometimes dangerous people near Haworth, so I always had a gun in the house. Before my eyes were bad, I taught Emily to shoot - she loved that. Sometimes I used to practise shooting in the garden while she was making bread in the kitchen. I shot first, then I called Emily. She came out, cleaned her hands, picked up the gun, shot, and went back in to finish the bread. She was much better at shooting than I was.

But by 1844 my eyes were too bad for shooting. Emily cooked, cleaned the house, played the piano. And almost every day she went for long walks on the moors with her dog, Keeper.

She loved that dog, but she could be very hard with him, too. We did not let him go upstairs, but one day Tabby found him on my bed. Emily was very angry; her face was white and hard. Keeper was a big, strong dog, but she pulled him downstairs and hit him again and again until the dog was nearly blind. Then she gently washed his cuts herself. He never went upstairs again.

Charlotte was another year in Brussels. When she came home, she was quiet and sad. Sometimes she wrote long letters in French to Monsieur Heger, but no letters came from him. But this was a time of hope, too. The girls wrote advertisements for their new school, and sent them to newspapers, and to everybody they knew. It was exciting - they were good advertisements, and we waited for the first children to come.

We waited a long time, and Charlotte wrote more advertisements.

No children came.

Every day Charlotte and Emily waited for a letter from the postman, or for a parent to come to see them. Every day they became more miserable.

Anne left her job with the Robinsons and came home to Haworth. A month later Branwell also came home, for a holiday.

And then one morning, early, there was a knock on the door. Charlotte ran to open it. But it was not a parent - it was a letter for her brother Branwell. He went upstairs with it, smiling.

A few minutes later there was a terrible scream. We ran upstairs to Branwell’s room. He lay on his bed, screaming, with a white face and wild dark eyes. The letter was in his hand.

‘Branwell! What is it? What’s the matter?’ I asked.

He tore his hair with his hands. ‘I’m ill,’ he said. ‘I’m cold - oh, what does it matter? She doesn’t care… I can’t see her… Oh, it’s all finished now, finished for ever! I’ll die without her!’

‘Here, Branwell, drink this.’ Emily brought him a cup of hot milk, but his hand was shaking and he nearly dropped it.

Charlotte put her hand on his head. ‘He’s hot, papa, he’s burning,’ she said. ‘You must go to bed at once, Branwell.’

He went to bed, and he lay there, sometimes sleeping, sometimes shouting and crying. I tried to talk to him, but I couldn’t understand what he said. Then, later, Anne explained.

She told us a terrible story. I was so angry! I nearly broke a chair with my hands as I listened. My son Branwell, Anne said, was in love with Mrs Robinson, the rich mother of his pupil. For months this lady had spoken kindly to Branwell, walked with him in the garden, talked to him alone in the evenings. He thought she would marry him when her husband died. And then there were other things, that Anne did not want to speak about.

The letter was from Mr Robinson. He was often ill, Anne told us, but his children knew about Branwell and their mother, and the servants knew too, I think. Perhaps Mr Robinson had learnt something from them, or perhaps that woman (I cannot call her a wife) had told him everything. Only one thing was certain - in his letter Mr Robinson had ordered Branwell never to return to his house or to speak to any of his family again.

My face was hot and my hands were shaking. I tried to talk to Branwell about it, but it was impossible.

‘I love her, papa!’ he shouted. ‘You don’t understand - how can you? You’ve never seen her!’

‘I don’t want to see her, my son,’ I said. ‘I understand that she is a bad, evil woman. I hope that God will punish her and…’

‘Don’t say that, papa!’ he screamed. ‘You are talking about the woman I love! She will call me back! I will see her again!’

‘I hope you never see her again, my son,’ I said. ‘You must forget her. Branwell, listen to me…’

But he did not listen. He ran out of the house. He did not come back until the evening, and then he was drunk. He did not listen that day, or the next day, or any day. He began to drink laudanum as well. I thought he would kill himself.

So I think Charlotte was pleased that no parents came. No school could have a man like Branwell in it.

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