A monologue from the novel by Charlotte Brontë
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Villette. Currer Bell [Charlotte Brontë]. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1853.
MISS MARCHMONT: I love Memory to-night.
I prize her as my best friend.
She is just now giving me a deep delight: she is bringing back to my heart, in warm and beautiful life, realities–not mere empty ideas, but what were once realities, and that I long have thought decayed, dissolved, mixed in with grave-mould.
I possess just now the hours, the thoughts, the hopes of my youth. I renew the love of my life–its only love–almost its only affection; for I am not a particularly good woman: I am not amiable.
Yet I have had my feelings, strong and concentrated; and these feelings had their object; which, in its single self, was dear to me, as to the majority of men and women, are all the unnumbered points on which they dissipate their regard.
While I loved, and while I was loved, what an existence I enjoyed! What a glorious year I can recall–how bright it comes back to me!
What a living spring–what a warm, glad summer–what soft moonlight, silvering the autumn evenings–what strength of hope under the ice- bound waters and frost-hoar fields of that year’s winter!
Through that year my heart lived with Frank’s heart. O my noble Frank–my faithful Frank–my good Frank! so much better than myself–his standard in all things so much higher!
This I can now see and say: if few women have suffered as I did in his loss, few have enjoyed what I did in his love.
It was a far better kind of love than common; I had no doubts about it or him: it was such a love as honoured, protected, and elevated, no less than it gladdened her to whom it was given.
Let me now ask, just at this moment, when my mind is so strangely clear,–let me reflect why it was taken from me?
For what crime was I condemned, after twelve months of bliss, to undergo thirty years of sorrow? One happy Christmas Eve I dressed and decorated myself, expecting my lover, very soon to be my husband, would come that night to visit me.
I sat down to wait.
Once more I see that moment–I see the snow twilight stealing through the window over which the curtain was not dropped, for I designed to watch him ride up the white walk; I see and feel the soft firelight warming me, playing on my silk dress, and fitfully showing me my own young figure in a glass.
I see the moon of a calm winter night, float full, clear, and cold, over the inky mass of shrubbery, and the silvered turf of my grounds.
I wait, with some impatience in my pulse, but no doubt in my breast.
The flames had died in the fire, but it was a bright mass yet; the moon was mounting high, but she was still visible from the lattice; the clock neared ten; he rarely tarried later than this, but once or twice he had been delayed so long.
Would he for once fail me? No–not even for once; and now he was coming–and coming fast-to atone for lost time. “Frank! you furious rider,” I said inwardly, listening gladly, yet anxiously, to his approaching gallop, “you shall be rebuked for this:
I will tell you it is my neck you are putting in peril; for whatever is yours is, in a dearer and tenderer sense, mine.”
There he was: I saw him; but I think tears were in my eyes, my sight was so confused. I saw the horse; I heard it stamp–I saw at least a mass; I heard a clamour.
Was it a horse? or what heavy, dragging thing was it, crossing, strangely dark, the lawn. How could I name that thing in the moonlight before me? or how could I utter the feeling which rose in my soul? I could only run out.
A great animal–truly, Frank’s black horse– stood trembling, panting, snorting before the door; a man held it–Frank, as I thought. “What is the matter?” I demanded.
Thomas, my own servant, answered by saying sharply, “Go into the house, madam.” And then calling to another servant, who came hurrying from the kitchen as if summoned by some instinct, “Ruth, take missis into the house directly.”
But I was kneeling down in the snow, beside something that lay there–something that I had seen dragged along the ground–something that sighed, that groaned on my breast, as I lifted and drew it to ms.
He was not dead; he was not quite unconscious.
I had him carried in; I refused to be ordered about and thrust from him.
I was quite collected enough, not only to be my own mistress but the mistress of others.
They had begun by trying to treat me like a child, as they always do with people struck by God’s hand; but I gave place to none except the surgeon; and when he had done what he could, I took my dying Frank to myself
. He had strength to fold me in his arms; he had power to speak my name; he heard me as I prayed over him very softly; he felt me as I tenderly and fondly comforted him. “‘Maria,” he said, “I am dying in Paradise.”
He spent his last breath in faithful words for me. When the dawn of Christmas morning broke, my Frank was with God. It happened thirty years ago.
I have suffered since.
I doubt if I have made the best use of all my calamities. Soft, amiable natures–they would have refined to saintliness; of strong, evil spirits they would have made demons; as for me, I have only been a woe-struck and selfish woman.
Yet at this hour I can say with sincerity, what I never tried to say before, Inscrutable God, Thy will be done!
And at this moment I can believe that death will restore me to Frank.
I never believed it till now.