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Full text of "The Brontèˆ sisters"

16                          THE  BRONTE  SISTERS
language and composition they did not in any real sense
assimilate the continental culture or way of thought. On
Emily the year's sojourn left little trace, unless we accept the
hypothesis that the German tales she read there gave
elements to Wuthering Heights; but on Charlotte the effect
was profound. To her Professor Heger, a fine teacher and
a dominating, fiery, irascible, benevolent little man, whose
word in the pensionnat was law, appeared as a Zamorna
translated into terms of real life; a Zamorna respectabilized,
modernized, made flesh and blood. That the devotion she
felt for him was a sort of delayed schoolgirl's schwarmerei
is undoubtedly true, but she was a young woman of twenty-
six, not a schoolgirl, and the letters she wrote to him later
reveal a passion which is all the more poignant for being not
quite conscious of its own nature. The girls were summoned
home in the autumn by the death of their aunt, but Charlotte
'prompted by what then seemed an irresistible impulse'
returned in 1843 and spent a wretched year as pupil-teacher
in the pensionnat—wretched because as a teacher she now
had little contact with her adored master. A terrible holiday
spent alone in the pensionnat except for a detested colleague,
the increasing coolness of the perceptive Mme Heger, and
the failing sight of Mr. Bronte, determined Charlotte to
return to Haworth in early 1844.
Before the day-dream writings were studied it used to be
said that M. Heger awakened Charlotte's genius. This is
not so; her literary genius was awake and fertile from 1829.
But M. Heger's part in her work is still immensely important,
for he drew her and her creations out of the shadowy and
lurid realms of dreamland into the daylight of the real world.
This point gains emphasis, and M. Heger's integrity its
due appreciation, when we see the converse fate which
befell Branwell. He, too, fell in love, in the manner of his
beloved Angrian Northangerland—that Byronic villain-
hero, 'bright with beauty, dark with crime'—within
forbidden limits, namely with his employer's wife, Mrs.
Robinson. Instead of being gently drawn bv her out of