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28                          THE  BRONTE  SISTERS
promises to return in three years. A storm wrecks his ship
of return and poor Lucy's hopes.
Now all this part of Villette belongs to a very high
creative level; it is strongly original and effective. The
character-drawing is superb. M. Paul—that 'magnificent-
minded, grand-hearted, dear, faulty little man', irritable,
fussy, intelligent, and noble, with his facial resemblance to
fia black and sallow tiger' and his temper to match—is a
wonderful creation, intensely original, intensely living.
Mme. Beck, a 'compact little pony' with an ever-neat,
fresh appearance, an admirable manager, bland and decorous,
who wears list slippers so that she may the more easily spy,
is equally new in fiction and equally striking. Lucy herself
is a magnificent study, though exasperating as a person—
which accounts for her comparative unpopularity among
Charlotte's heroines. Independent, alone, poor, and proud,
ice without, fire within, she is in fact a Puritan, a masochist
who often denies herself what her ardent soul craves, on
principle, believes that it is part of God's plan that 'some
must deeply suffer while they live', and thrills to know
herself one of their number. 'Dark through the wilderness
of this world stretches the way for most of us; equal and
steady be our tread; be our cross our banner.' The intensity
of Lucy's feeling, whether of abandonment, loneliness,
despair or love, in the rain outside Mine. Beck's door or
on her knees at the confessional, and the wild poetry of
their expression, sweep the reader away on the tide of
complete conviction. If Shirley lies at the Yorkshire end of
Charlotte's gamut, Villette lies at the other, the Celtic,
Unfortunately around this core, their interrelations
rather too neatly and skilfully arranged, circle three other
groups: the Brettons, mother and son; the Home de
Bassompierres, father and daughter; Ginevra Fanshawe and
her mysterious suitor. Though Lucy at one time loves
Dr. John Bretton, her godmother's son, and has to watch
him. first entangled with the lazy, pretty Ginevra and then