Almost all the familiar Baptists would easily agree that she is not a very interesting woman. She does not cause much sympathy, but also does not cause hate. Not every person can be understood quickly and easily. Many emotions are hidden deep inside and these people do not manifest themselves in ordinary life. She was born and lived in the west of England. The woman’s father was a farmer. He spent a large amount of money to send her to a good school. After graduation, she found a job. Now she teaches children as well as she can. But something begins to bother the woman. It turns out that a neighbor from her native village wants to marry her. He is much older and planned this wedding, even when she was a child. And now the parents say that she must accept this proposal.
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A Moment of Madness by Thomas Hardy
Most people who knew Baptista Trewthen agreed that there was nothing in her to love, and nothing in her to hate. She did not seem to feel very strongly about anything. But still waters run deep, and nothing had yet happened to make her show what lay hidden inside her, like gold underground.
Since her birth she had lived on St Maria’s, an island off the south-west coast of England. Her father, a farmer, had spent a lot of money on sending her to school on the mainland. At nineteen she studied at a training college for teachers, and at twenty-one she found a teaching job in a town called Tor-upon-Sea, on the mainland coast.
Baptista taught the children as well as she could, but after a year had passed she seemed worried about something. Mrs Wace, her landlady, noticed the change in the young woman and asked her what the matter was.
‘It has nothing to do with the town, or you,’ replied Miss Trewthen. She seemed reluctant to say more.
‘Then is it the pay?’
‘No, it isn’t the pay.’
‘Is it something that you’ve heard from home, my dear?’
Baptista was silent for a few moments. Then she said, ‘It’s Mr Heddegan – David Heddegan. He’s an old neighbour of ours on St Maria’s, with no wife or family at all. When I was a child, he used to say he wanted to marry me one day. Now I’m a woman, it’s no longer a joke, and he really wishes to do it. And my parents say I can’t do better than have him.’
‘Has he a lot of money?’
‘Yes, he’s the richest man that we know.’
‘How much older than you is he?’
‘Twenty years, maybe more.’
‘And is he, perhaps, an unpleasant man?’
‘No, he’s not unpleasant.’
‘Well, child, all I can say is this – don’t accept this engagement if it doesn’t please you. You’re comfortable here in my house, I hope, and I like having you here.’
‘Thank you, Mrs Wace. You’re very kind to me. But here comes my difficulty. I don’t like teaching. Ah, you’re surprised. That’s because I’ve hidden it from everyone. Well, I really hate school. The children are awful little things, who make trouble all day long. But even they are not as bad as the inspector. For the three months before his visit I woke up several times every night, worrying about it. It’s so difficult knowing what to teach and what to leave untaught! I think father and mother are right. They say I’ll never be a good teacher if I don’t like the work, so I should marry Mr Heddegan and then I won’t need to work. I don’t know what to do, Mrs Wace. I like him better than teaching, but I don’t like him enough to marry him…