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THE   BRONTES                       83
love till the offer has been made, accepted, the
marriage ceremony performed, and the first half
year of wedded Hfe has passed away. A woman
may then begin to love, but with great precau-
tion, very- coolly, very moderately, very ration-
ally. ..." Either Charlotte had burnt her
fingers, or she was spouting from some of the
French novels the Taylors had lately lent her-
and fancied herself as an aged cynic.
A masculine jauntiness had begun to mark her
letters, and continued. This may have been partly
the influence of Branwell, who was at home during
the summer of 1840, in between leaving a tutor's
post and starting as a railway clerk. He affected
a blase, Don Juan manner of writing ; indeed, the
famous " Old Knave of Trumps " letter, written
by him to a personal friend and brother-mason,
the Master of the Haworth Lodge of the Three
Graces, which has so often been held up as evi-
dence of BranwelPs shocking depravity, is no
more than a specimen of a young man's aping of
fashionable diablerie., and there are passages in one
or two of Charlotte's letters to Ellen not very
different in their affectation of a bold hardihood.
The Marquis of Douro's insolent shade was still
hovering in the background, and just as Branwell
liked to pretend to John Brown and his brother
that he was a bit of a dog, so Charlotte occasion-
ally fancied herself as a knowing bird, not to be
caught by Willie Weightman's triflings, or to be
taken in by any sentimentalism. She had given
up writing poetry, so she told Henry Nussey to
whom she wrote worldly-wise letters from time to