The fourth was a different matter. Arthur Bell Nicholls had been curate under Patrick for seven years, and suddenly in December 1852, while Villette was in production, he proposed to Charlotte, without having asked Patrick’s permission first. Charlotte could decide for herself, Patrick exploded and Charlotte was forced to refuse. Arthur, who normally repressed his emotions, was visibly shattered and resigned his job, with no other prospects. Perhaps Patrick’s outrageous behaviour influenced Charlotte, or perhaps it was the souring of her fantasy relationship with George Smith, but she soon began to regret Arthur’s departure. She herself became ill, and then Patrick suffered a stroke, his second. Charlotte started a clandestine correspondence with Arthur. Within the parsonage, what Charlotte wanted, Charlotte usually got. In time she forced her father to accept that she would marry Arthur, and she forced Arthur to accept that they must live at the Parsonage to look after her father. The wedding was at 8 o’clock in the morning of Thursday, 29 June 1854 with scarcely anyone in the village aware of the event. The couple took their honeymoon in Ireland, visiting his relations – who to her astonishment turned out to be both wealthy and genteel. (Charlotte had no intention of contacting her own relations in Drumballyroney, who were neither.) When they returned to Haworth, for the first time ever Charlotte took a delight in helping in parish affairs. She was blissfully happy in her marriage – and her letters to Ellen suggested she no longer had much time to spare for her old friend. Arthur was to be the sole object of her attention. Ellen must have been deeply hurt.
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