You must suppose about three
weeks passed over. Mrs. Graham
and I were now established friends
- or brother and sister, as we
rather chose to consider ourselves.
She called me Gilbert, by my
express desire, and I called
her Helen, for I had seen that
name written in her books. I
seldom attempted to see her above
twice a week; and still I made
our meetings appear the result
of accident as often as I could
- for I found it necessary to
be extremely careful - and, altogether,
I behaved with such exceeding
propriety that she never had
occasion to reprove me once.
Yet I could not but perceive
that she was at times unhappy
and dissatisfied with herself
or her position, and truly I
myself was not quite contented
with the latter: this assumption
of brotherly nonchalance was
very hard to sustain, and I often
felt myself a most confounded
hypocrite with it all; I saw
too, or rather I felt, that,
in spite of herself, 'I was not
indifferent to her,' as the novel
heroes modestly express it, and
while I thankfully enjoyed my
present good fortune, I could
not fail to wish and hope for
something better in future; but,
of course, I kept such dreams
entirely to myself.
'Where are you going, Gilbert?'
said Rose, one evening, shortly
after tea, when I had been busy
with the farm all day.
'To take a walk,' was the reply.
'Do you always brush your hat
so carefully, and do your hair
so nicely, and put on such smart
new gloves when you take a walk?'
'You're going to Wildfell Hall,
'What makes you think so?'
'Because you look as if you
were - but I wish you wouldn't
go so often.'
'Nonsense, child! I don't go
once in six weeks - what do you
'Well, but if I were you, I
wouldn't have so much to do with
'Why, Rose, are you, too, giving
in to the prevailing opinion?'
'No,' returned she, hesitatingly
- 'but I've heard so much about
her lately, both at the Wilsons'
and the vicarage; - and besides,
mamma says, if she were a proper
person she would not be living
there by herself - and don't
you remember last winter, Gilbert,
all that about the false name
to the picture; and how she explained
it - saying she had friends or
acquaintances from whom she wished
her present residence to be concealed,
and that she was afraid of their
tracing her out; - and then,
how suddenly she started up and
left the room when that person
came - whom she took good care
not to let us catch a glimpse
of, and who Arthur, with such
an air of mystery, told us was
his mamma's friend?'
'Yes, Rose, I remember it all;
and I can forgive your uncharitable
conclusions; for, perhaps, if
I did not know her myself, I
should put all these things together,
and believe the same as you do;
but thank God, I do know her;
and I should be unworthy the
name of a man, if I could believe
anything that was said against
her, unless I heard it from her
own lips. - I should as soon
believe such things of you, Rose.'
'Well, do you think I could
believe anything of the kind,
- whatever the Wilsons and Millwards
dared to whisper?'
'I should hope not indeed!'
'And why not? - Because I know
you - Well, and I know her just
'Oh, no! you know nothing of
her former life; and last year,
at this time, you did not know
that such a person existed.'
'No matter. There is such a
thing as looking through a person's
eyes into the heart, and learning
more of the height, and breadth,
and depth of another's soul in
one hour than it might take you
a lifetime to discover, if he
or she were not disposed to reveal
it, or if you had not the sense
to understand it.'
'Then you are going to see
her this evening?'
'To be sure I am!'
'But what would mamma say,
'Mamma needn't know.'
'But she must know some time,
if you go on.'
'Go on! - there's no going
on in the matter. Mrs. Graham
and I are two friends - and will
be; and no man breathing shall
hinder it, - or has a right to
interfere between us.'
'But if you knew how they talk
you would be more careful, for
her sake as well as for your
own. Jane Wilson thinks your
visits to the old hall but another
proof of her depravity - '
'Confound Jane Wilson!'
'And Eliza Millward is quite
grieved about you.'
'I hope she is.'
'But I wouldn't, if I were
'Wouldn't what? - How do they
know that I go there?'
'There's nothing hid from them:
they spy out everything.'
'Oh, I never thought of this!
- And so they dare to turn my
friendship into food for further
scandal against her! - That proves
the falsehood of their other
lies, at all events, if any proof
were wanting. - Mind you contradict
them, Rose, whenever you can.'
'But they don't speak openly
to me about such things: it is
only by hints and innuendoes,
and by what I hear others say,
that I knew what they think.'
'Well, then, I won't go to-day,
as it's getting latish. But oh,
deuce take their cursed, envenomed
tongues!' I muttered, in the
bitterness of my soul.
And just at that moment the
vicar entered the room: we had
been too much absorbed in our
conversation to observe his knock.
After his customary cheerful
and fatherly greeting of Rose,
who was rather a favourite with
the old gentleman, he turned
somewhat sternly to me:-
'Well, sir!' said he, 'you're
quite a stranger. It is - let
- me - see,' he continued, slowly,
as he deposited his ponderous
bulk in the arm-chair that Rose
officiously brought towards him;
'it is just - six-weeks - by
my reckoning, since you darkened
- my - door!' He spoke it with
emphasis, and struck his stick
on the floor.
'Is it, sir?' said I.
'Ay! It is so!' He added an
affirmatory nod, and continued
to gaze upon me with a kind of
irate solemnity, holding his
substantial stick between his
knees, with his hands clasped
upon its head.
'I have been busy,' I said,
for an apology was evidently
'Busy!' repeated he, derisively.
'Yes, you know I've been getting
in my hay; and now the harvest
Just then my mother came in,
and created a diversion in my
favour by her loquacious and
animated welcome of the reverend
guest. She regretted deeply that
he had not come a little earlier,
in time for tea, but offered
to have some immediately prepared,
if he would do her the favour
to partake of it.
'Not any for me, I thank you,'
replied he; 'I shall be at home
in a few minutes.'
'Oh, but do stay and take a
little! it will be ready in five
But he rejected the offer with
a majestic wave of the hand.
'I'll tell you what I'll take,
Mrs. Markham,' said he: 'I'll
take a glass of your excellent
'With pleasure!' cried my mother,
proceeding with alacrity to pull
the bell and order the favoured
'I thought,' continued he,
'I'd just look in upon you as
I passed, and taste your home-brewed
ale. I've been to call on Mrs.
'Have you, indeed?'
He nodded gravely, and added
with awful emphasis - 'I thought
it incumbent upon me to do so.'
'Really!' ejaculated my mother.
'Why so, Mr. Millward?' asked
He looked at me with some severity,
and turning again to my mother,
repeated, - 'I thought it incumbent
upon me!' and struck his stick
on the floor again. My mother
sat opposite, an awe-struck but
'"Mrs. Graham," said I,' he
continued, shaking his head as
he spoke, '"these are terrible
reports!" "What, sir?" says she,
affecting to be ignorant of my
meaning. "It is my - duty - as
- your pastor," said I, "to tell
you both everything that I myself
see reprehensible in your conduct,
and all I have reason to suspect,
and what others tell me concerning
you." - So I told her!'
'You did, sir?' cried I, starting
from my seat and striking my
fist on the table. He merely
glanced towards me, and continued
- addressing his hostess:-
'It was a painful duty, Mrs.
Markham - but I told her!'
'And how did she take it?'
asked my mother.
'Hardened, I fear - hardened!'
he replied, with a despondent
shake of the head; 'and, at the
same time, there was a strong
display of unchastened, misdirected
passions. She turned white in
the face, and drew her breath
through her teeth in a savage
sort of way; - but she offered
no extenuation or defence; and
with a kind of shameless calmness
- shocking indeed to witness
in one so young - as good as
told me that my remonstrance
was unavailing, and my pastoral
advice quite thrown away upon
her - nay, that my very presence
was displeasing while I spoke
such things. And I withdrew at
length, too plainly seeing that
nothing could be done - and sadly
grieved to find her case so hopeless.
But I am fully determined, Mrs.
Markham, that my daughters -
shall - not - consort with her.
Do you adopt the same resolution
with regard to yours! - As for
your sons - as for you, young
man,' he continued, sternly turning
to me -
'As for ME, sir,' I began,
but checked by some impediment
in my utterance, and finding
that my whole frame trembled
with fury, I said no more, but
took the wiser part of snatching
up my hat and bolting from the
room, slamming the door behind
me, with a bang that shook the
house to its foundations, and
made my mother scream, and gave
a momentary relief to my excited
The next minute saw me hurrying
with rapid strides in the direction
of Wildfell Hall - to what intent
or purpose I could scarcely tell,
but I must be moving somewhere,
and no other goal would do -
I must see her too, and speak
to her - that was certain; but
what to say, or how to act, I
had no definite idea. Such stormy
thoughts - so many different
resolutions crowded in upon me,
that my mind was little better
than a chaos of conflicting passions.