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The Professor, a novel by Charlotte Bronte


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_ M. PELET could not of course object to the proposal made by
Mdlle. Reuter; permission to accept such additional employment,
should it offer, having formed an article of the terms on which
he had engaged me. It was, therefore, arranged in the course of
next day that I should be at liberty to give lessons in Mdlle.
Reuter's establishment four afternoons in every week.

When evening came I prepared to step over in order to seek a
conference with Mademoiselle herself on the subject; I had not
had time to pay the visit before, having been all day closely
occupied in class. I remember very well that before quitting my
chamber, I held a brief debate with myself as to whether I should
change my ordinary attire for something smarter. At last I
concluded it would be a waste of labour. "Doubtless," thought I,
"she is some stiff old maid; for though the daughter of Madame
Reuter, she may well number upwards of forty winters; besides, if
it were otherwise, if she be both young and pretty, I am not
handsome, and no dressing can make me so, therefore I'll go as I
am." And off I started, cursorily glancing sideways as I passed
the toilet-table, surmounted by a looking-glass: a thin
irregular face I saw, with sunk, dark eyes under a large, square
forehead, complexion destitute of bloom or attraction; something
young, but not youthful, no object to win a lady's love, no butt
for the shafts of Cupid.

I was soon at the entrance of the pensionnat, in a moment I had
pulled the bell; in another moment the door was opened, and
within appeared a passage paved alternately with black and white
marble; the walls were painted in imitation of marble also; and
at the far end opened a glass door, through which I saw shrubs
and a grass-plat, looking pleasant in the sunshine of the mild
spring evening-for it was now the middle of April.

This, then, was my first glimpse of the garden; but I had not
time to look long, the portress, after having answered in the
affirmative my question as to whether her mistress was at home,
opened the folding-doors of a room to the left, and having
ushered me in, closed them behind me. I found myself in a salon
with a very well-painted, highly varnished floor; chairs and
sofas covered with white draperies, a green porcelain stove,
walls hung with pictures in gilt frames, a gilt pendule and other
ornaments on the mantelpiece, a large lustre pendent from the
centre of the ceiling, mirrors, consoles, muslin curtains, and a
handsome centre table completed the inventory of furniture. All
looked extremely clean and glittering, but the general effect
would have been somewhat chilling had not a second large pair of
folding-doors, standing wide open, and disclosing another and
smaller salon, more snugly furnished, offered some relief to the
eye. This room was carpeted, and therein was a piano, a couch,
a chiffonniere--above all, it contained a lofty window with a
crimson curtain, which, being undrawn, afforded another glimpse
of the garden, through the large, clear panes, round which some
leaves of ivy, some tendrils of vine were trained

"Monsieur Creemsvort, n'est ce pas?" said a voice behind me; and,
starting involuntarily, I turned. I had been so taken up with
the contemplation of the pretty little salon that I had not
noticed the entrance of a person into the larger room. It was,
however, Mdlle. Reuter who now addressed me, and stood close
beside me; and when I had bowed with instantaneously recovered
sang-froid--for I am not easily embarrassed--I commenced the
conversation by remarking on the pleasant aspect of her little
cabinet, and the advantage she had over M. Pelet in possessing a

"Yes," she said, "she often thought so;" and added, "it is my
garden, monsieur, which makes me retain this house, otherwise I
should probably have removed to larger and more commodious
premises long since; but you see I could not take my garden with
me, and I should scarcely find one so large and pleasant anywhere
else in town."

I approved her judgment.

"But you have not seen it yet," said she, rising; "come to the
window and take a better view." I followed her; she opened the
sash, and leaning out I saw in full the enclosed demesne which
had hitherto been to me an unknown region. It was a long, not
very broad strip of cultured ground, with an alley bordered by
enormous old fruit trees down the middle; there was a sort of
lawn, a parterre of rose-trees, some flower-borders, and, on the
far side, a thickly planted copse of lilacs, laburnums, and
acacias. It looked pleasant, to me--very pleasant, so long a
time had elapsed since I had seen a garden of any sort. But it
was not only on Mdlle. Reuter's garden that my eyes dwelt; when
I had taken a view of her well-trimmed beds and budding
shrubberies, I allowed my glance to come back to herself, nor did
I hastily withdraw it.

I had thought to see a tall, meagre, yellow, conventual image in
black, with a close white cap, bandaged under the chin like a
nun's head-gear; whereas, there stood by me a little and roundly
formed woman, who might indeed be older than I, but was still
young; she could not, I thought, be more than six or seven and
twenty; she was as fair as a fair Englishwoman; she had no cap;
her hair was nut-brown, and she wore it in curls; pretty her
features were not, nor very soft, nor very regular, but neither
were they in any degree plain, and I already saw cause to deem
them expressive. What was their predominant cast? Was it
sagacity?--sense? Yes, I thought so; but I could scarcely as yet
be sure. I discovered, however, that there was a certain
serenity of eye, and freshness of complexion, most pleasing to
behold. The colour on her cheek was like the bloom on a good
apple, which is as sound at the core as it is red on the rind.

Mdlle. Reuter and I entered upon business. She said she was not
absolutely certain of the wisdom of the step she was about to
take, because I was so young, and parents might possibly object
to a professor like me for their daughters: "But it is often
well to act on one's own judgment," said she, "and to lead
parents, rather than be led by them. The fitness of a professor
is not a matter of age; and, from what I have heard, and from
what I observe myself, I would much rather trust you than M.
Ledru, the music-master, who is a married man of near fifty."

I remarked that I hoped she would find me worthy of her good
opinion; that if I knew myself, I was incapable of betraying any
confidence reposed in me. "Du reste," said she, "the
surveillance will be strictly attended to." And then she
proceeded to discuss the subject of terms. She was very cautious,
quite on her guard; she did not absolutely bargain, but she
warily sounded me to find out what my expectations might be; and
when she could not get me to name a sum, she reasoned and
reasoned with a fluent yet quiet circumlocution of speech, and at
last nailed me down to five hundred francs per annum--not too
much, but I agreed. Before the negotiation was completed, it
began to grow a little dusk. I did not hasten it, for I liked
well enough to sit and hear her talk; I was amused with the sort
of business talent she displayed. Edward could not have shown
himself more practical, though he might have evinced more
coarseness and urgency; and then she had so many reasons, so many
explanations; and, after all, she succeeded in proving herself
quite disinterested and even liberal. At last she concluded, she
could say no more, because, as I acquiesced in all things, there
was no further ground for the exercise of her parts of speech. I
was obliged to rise. I would rather have sat a little longer;
what had I to return to but my small empty room? And my eyes had
a pleasure in looking at Mdlle. Reuter, especially now, when the
twilight softened her features a little, and, in the doubtful
dusk, I could fancy her forehead as open as it was really
elevated, her mouth touched with turns of sweetness as well as
defined in lines of sense. When I rose to go, I held out my hand,
on purpose, though I knew it was contrary to the etiquette of
foreign habits; she smiled, and said--

"Ah! c'est comme tous les Anglais," but gave me her hand very

"It is the privilege of my country, Mademoiselle," said I; "and,
remember, I shall always claim it."

She laughed a little, quite good-naturedly, and with the sort of
tranquillity obvious in all she did--a tranquillity which soothed
and suited me singularly, at least I thought so that evening.
Brussels seemed a very pleasant place to me when I got out again
into the street, and it appeared as if some cheerful, eventful,
upward-tending career were even then opening to me, on that
selfsame mild, still April night. So impressionable a being is
man, or at least such a man as I was in those days. _

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