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THE   BRONTES                     143
Nevertheless, we must still pity that solitary
daughter who was conscientious to a point reached
only by Victorian spinsters. Had the old man
been really terrible, Charlotte might have left
him ; she took herself off once for several days
when he overstepped the bounds in abuse of Mr.
Nicholls. But Victorian parents rarely gave their
children the opportunity of leaving them with a
good conscience, and, in all ages, the trials of
domestic life come from living, not with those who
are obviously " impossible/' for these can be
deserted without compunction, but with those
who are merely " trying " and whom, therefore,
it is difficult to abandon.
Mr. Bronte and his son-in-law lived together,
an odd couple linked by bereavement, for another
six years after Charlotte's death. The old man
died in 1861, in his eighty-fifth year. Mr. Nicholls
then retired to Ireland and remarried* He died
in 1906.
If Charlotte had lived longer, and if, as might
have happened, circumstances had diverted her
attention as a novelist from passionate love to
other human relationships, she might have given
the world as truthful an analysis of the conflict
between filial feeling and a woman's longing for
independence, or between wifely feeling and
literary ambitions, as that she gave in Jam Eyre of
the conflict between passion and duty. She took
up her pen in childhood and in womanhood as an
anodyne, and when the glamour of being Char-
lotte Bell Nicholls had worn off, she might, to
some telling purpose, have taken it up again.