As Dr John falls into the story’s background and the focus shifts to M. Paul I start getting more and more confused: am I suppose to like him?!
(The Brussels Brontë Group with the British Ambassador to Belgium)
Maybe I’m being a bit unfair here (who knows what will happen in the next chapters?), but the word “bully” keps popping into my mind. That scene at the Hotel Crécy, when Mr Paul “sibilates” those insults and just minutes afterwards speaks to Lucy “politely, and even deferentially” reminded me of the usual behavior of violent husbands.
By making M. Paul behave like this (the criticism of Lucy’s dress, the inflamed speech against the English) is Charlotte Brontë expecting us to think “what a passionate man! I wish someone was jealous like this over me”? Because I’m not feeling it, and am becoming increasingly concerned about Lucy’s interest in him.
She actually tells us the reason behind her fascination:
He [Dr John] has said, and you have heard him say it: “Lucy’s disadvantages spring from over-gravity in tastes and manner – want of colour in character and costume. ‘Such are your own and your friends’ impressions; and behold! There starts up a little man, differing diametrically from all these, roundly charging you with being too airy and cheery – too volatile and versatile – too flowery ad coloury.
I understand why Lucy might start to enjoy this new image of herself, but from where I’m standing, she really could have used a bit of colour to character and costume, or at least some… lighten-up. So someone who sees her as too vivacious must be at the extreme of the specter. I think we all agree that Dr John is not the man for her, but can she really be happy with someone like M. Paul?
These chapters also made me wonder how much of Mr Heger (Charlotte’s Professor whom she fell in love with while living in his Pensionnate) is in M. Paul. Lucy seems to understand him really well and he also becomes her tutor. I even googled M. Heger to see if his anniversary was in March, but didn’t find the date.
I’m really curious about how I’ll feel about all of this by the end of the book.
Or a lighter note, I couldn’t help but smile at Lucy’s comment on the different ways to greet people:
[Fraulein Braun] though we thought we were very cordial with her: but we did not slap her on the shoulder, and if we consented to kiss her cheek, it was done quietly, and without any explosive smack.
Living in an extremely international city and in a country culturally divided into three, how to say hello is important. The Flemish part of Belgium gives three kisses on the cheek, the Walloon part gives 2, the French community gives 1 or 2 (haven’t figured out what the choice depends on), the Italian also 2 but they start on the right side of the face, the Russians and Balkan men kiss other men, and some other nationalities don’t kiss at all.
So as you can imagine, at a normal party of the Brussels international community, some diplomacy is required! At Joanna’s wedding last Saturday, for instance, 16 nationalities were represented in a group of about 50 people 🙂