The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by

Anne Brontë

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Gilbert Markham Character Analysis

A gentleman farmer who followed his father into the profession, Gilbert Markham had, at one time, more worldly ambitions. The first half of the novel consists of Markham’s letters to his brother-in-law, Jack Halford, in which he details his young life on his father’s farm with his mother, his sister Rose, and younger brother Fergus. The real subject of the letters is his love for Helen Graham, whom he soon learns to value above the flirtatious but empty Eliza Millward. Gilbert is quick to anger and suspicion, and these flaws cause both him and Helen unnecessary suffering when he erroneously presumes Frederick Lawrence is her lover, and later when he worries that the inheritance she receives from her uncle makes her unlikely to accept his proposal. Like the other inhabitants of the village of Linden-Car, Gilbert begins the book leery of Helen, but he soon grows to think of her as the perfect woman and he defies the wishes of his family to make her his wife.

Gilbert Markham Quotes in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The The Tenant of Wildfell Hall quotes below are all either spoken by Gilbert Markham or refer to Gilbert Markham. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Wordsworth Classics edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall published in 2001.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“I would rather admire you from this distance, fair lady, than be the partner of your home.”

Related Characters: Gilbert Markham (speaker), Helen Graham, Eliza Millward
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 3 Quotes

I have not yet said that a boy should be ought to rush into the snares of life—or even willfully to seek temptation for the sake of exercising his virtue by overcoming it; I only say that it is better to arm and strengthen your hero, than to disarm and enfeeble the foe; and if you were to rear an oak sapling in a hothouse, tending it carefully night and day, and shielding it from every breath of wind, you could not expect it to become a hardy tree, like that which has grown up on the mountainside, exposed to all the action of the elements, and not even sheltered from the shock of the tempest.

Related Symbols: Trees and Flowers
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
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Well then, it must be that you think they are both weakened and prone to err, and the slightest error, the merest shadow of pollution will ruin the one, while the character of the other will be strengthened and embellished—his education properly finished by a little practical acquaintance with forbidden things. Such experience, to him (to use a trite simile), will be like the storm to the oak which, though it may scatter the leaves, and snap the smaller branches, serves but to rivet the roots, and to harden and condense the fibres of the tree. You would have us encourage our sons to prove all things by their own experience,

while our daughters must not even profit by the experience of others.

Related Characters: Helen Graham (speaker), Gilbert Markham
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 6 Quotes

Then you must fall each into your proper place. You’ll do your business, and she, if she’s worthy of you, will do hers; but it's your business to please yourself, and hers to please you.

Related Characters: Mrs. Markham (speaker), Gilbert Markham
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

You’re not fit to associate with ladies and gentlemen, like us, that have nothing to do but to run snooking about to our neighbours’ houses, peeping into their private corners; and scenting out their secrets, and picking holes in their coats, when we don't find them ready made to our hands—you don’t understand such refined sources of enjoyment.

Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 10 Quotes

You see what it is for women to affect to be different to other people.

Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 15 Quotes

“I can crush that bold spirit,” thought I. But while I secretly exulted in my power, I felt disposed to dally with my victim like a cat.

Related Characters: Gilbert Markham (speaker), Helen Graham
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 45 Quotes

“It gives me little consolation to think I shall next behold you as a disembodied spirit, or an altered being, with a frame perfect and glorious, but not like this! —and a heart, perhaps, entirely estranged from me.”

“No, Gilbert, there is perfect love in Heaven!”

“So perfect, I suppose, that it soars above distinctions, and you will have no closer sympathy with me than with any one of the ten thousand angels and the innumerable multitude of happy spirits round us.”

Related Characters: Helen Graham (speaker), Gilbert Markham (speaker)
Page Number: 316
Explanation and Analysis:
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Gilbert Markham Character Timeline in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The timeline below shows where the character Gilbert Markham appears in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
To J. Halford, Esq.
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Gilbert Markham, as of yet unnamed, is writing a letter to his brother-in-law, Jack Halford, in... (full context)
Chapter 1. A Discovery
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Gilbert begins his story in fall 1827, when, against his own wishes and the advice of... (full context)
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Before he can settle in before the fire, Gilbert takes care to remove his muddy clothes and boots. His mother (Mrs. Markham) is particular... (full context)
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...ample, charms of Eliza Millward. After Mrs. Markham leaves the room, she continues to regale Gilbert with details of Mrs. Graham’s person and home. He ignores most of what she has... (full context)
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Mrs. Graham gives him a scornful look that Gilbert vows to make her regret someday. Then, deeming such thoughts unworthy of a man supposedly... (full context)
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Gilbert writes a long description of Eliza Millward for Jack Halford’s benefit. The reverend’s daughter, is,... (full context)
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In the interest of giving Jack an overview of the village of Linden-Car’s main inhabitants, Gilbert continues sketching the characters of the churchgoers around him. Mary, Eliza’s sister, is beloved by... (full context)
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Mrs. Markham respects the Reverend Millward a great deal, but when Gilbert and Fergus were young, did at times grow exasperated with his tendency to hold even... (full context)
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Gilbert then mentions Mrs. Wilson and her children Jane, Robert, and Richard. Mrs. Wilson, Gilbert says,... (full context)
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Gilbert closes his first letter to Jack Halford saying that, should he find this initial installment... (full context)
Chapter 2. An Interview
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Since Jack has expressed to Gilbert that he wants to hear more, Gilbert continues his story on yet another day in... (full context)
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Gilbert ascends the hill and takes in the ghostly majesty of Wildfell Hall, an Elizabethan era... (full context)
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Having killed two hawks and a crow, Gilbert gets as close as he dares to the house, where he meets a young boy.... (full context)
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At the Millward home, Gilbert finds Eliza at work on a piece of embroidery, and her sister Mary mending stockings.... (full context)
Chapter 3. A Controversy
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...her up to ridicule. Helen responds sharply and in a way that shocks the Markhams. Gilbert thinks that his first impression about her temper was the right one. She is beautiful... (full context)
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Gilbert, occupied with a farmer’s magazine, had been observing Helen from a distance. Then Arthur (Jr.)... (full context)
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Helen disagrees with Gilbert’s assessment of the situation. There are, she contends, so many temptations and rough paths in... (full context)
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Helen then asks Gilbert if he would apply the same principal to the female sex. He says he would... (full context)
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Helen then tells Gilbert that she would welcome a visit from him and Rose soon. She could tolerate his... (full context)
Chapter 4. The Party
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Everyone that Gilbert introduced Jack to in his first letter—Eliza, Mary, and the Reverend Milward;  Jane, Richard, Robert,... (full context)
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...best that they abstain completely from intoxicants. Mr. Lawrence then takes the opportunity to ask Gilbert what he thinks of Helen Graham, who is Mr. Lawrence’s tenant at Wildfell Hall. Gilbert... (full context)
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The party ends with dancing. When Gilbert tries to take Eliza’s hand and lead her on to the floor, however, the reverend... (full context)
Chapter 5. The Studio
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Gilbert and Rose pay their promised visit to Wildfell Hall and find Helen in the middle... (full context)
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Gilbert glances through the paintings stacked along the studio wall, finding one that is clearly of... (full context)
Chapter 6. Progression
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Gilbert soon finds that he very much enjoys the company of Helen Graham and her son.... (full context)
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On a clear day in March, Gilbert finds Helen painting on the edge of a brook. He admires her skill with winter... (full context)
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Gilbert then runs into Mr. Lawrence, and, without ever saying so directly, the two men admit... (full context)
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Gilbert arrives home too late for tea, but when he says his reheated drink is overdrawn,... (full context)
Chapter 7. The Excursion
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On a beautiful spring day, while Gilbert is out inspecting his lambs, he runs into Fergus, Rose, and Eliza, who are on... (full context)
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Gilbert and the rest find Helen and little Arthur together in a relatively cheerful sitting room.... (full context)
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...acquaintance to make her daily life pleasurable. She flees to the corner to talk to Gilbert, asking him if he might remind her how to find the view of the sea... (full context)
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...coast. Flowers are in bloom, and everything is verdant and lovely. The party consists of Gilbert, Fergus, and Rose Markham; Mary and Eliza Millward; Richard Wilson; and Arthur (Jr.) and Helen... (full context)
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Eventually they reach the precipice that affords a view of the ocean, and Gilbert is struck by the wild, untamed beauty of the sea and how it is reflected... (full context)
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It is a merry meal and Gilbert is again happy, even though this time he finds himself near Eliza Millward and separated... (full context)
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Helen ignores Gilbert for the most part and focuses on her painting, but she does consult him on... (full context)
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Everyone heads back to the parish, but the journey home is not as pleasurable for Gilbert, because Helen has decided to ride with the others in the carriage and he is... (full context)
Chapter 8. The Present
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On yet another fine day in early summer, Gilbert is hard at work in his fields, working among servants and hired hands to cut... (full context)
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Much to Gilbert’s dismay, Helen insists on paying him for it. She will not allow herself to be... (full context)
Chapter 9. A Snake in the Grass
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Gilbert feels obligated to pay a call on the Millwards, partially because he hopes to let... (full context)
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A few days later, the Markhams invite their friends for a small party, and Gilbert finally discovers the secret Eliza was keeping. He also gets a glimpse of Eliza’s true... (full context)
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Angry and distracted, Gilbert leaves the party to take a walk outside, where he eventually meets up with Helen,... (full context)
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While in the garden, Gilbert sees Jane Wilson and Mr. Lawrence having an intense conversation, which Gilbert assumes is about... (full context)
Chapter 10. A Contract and a Quarrel
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...to the rumors, saying Helen has always tried to be different from other women. Disgusted, Gilbert takes a book from his shelf and walks over to Wildfell Hall, hoping to use... (full context)
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Leaving, Gilbert runs into Mr. Lawrence, also on his way to Wildfell Hall. Gilbert accosts his former... (full context)
Chapter 11. The Vicar Again
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Gilbert and Helen are by this time firm friends. Gilbert wishes they could be more, but... (full context)
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...counsel kindly. In fact, she grew angry. The reverend then turns his judgmental glance on Gilbert, who also becomes furious, and storms out of the house, aiming for Wildfell Hall. (full context)
Chapter 12. A Tete-a-Tete and a Discovery
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Gilbert finds Helen in a disturbed state of mind, pacing back and forth in a cold... (full context)
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On the way to his house, Gilbert realizes he can’t abide his mother and sister’s company. They are bound to say something... (full context)
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Angry and broken-hearted, Gilbert throws himself to the ground and weeps like a child. After a while, he gets... (full context)
Chapter 13. A Return to Duty
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Gilbert has been making life at home a torment for his mother and siblings. His wrath... (full context)
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The chance encounter with Helen leaves Gilbert miserable for the rest of the day. He concludes that his infatuation is of a... (full context)
Chapter 14. An Assault
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Still wanting to forget his disappointment in work, Gilbert sets out for town on a gloomy morning after breakfast. On the road, he meets... (full context)
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Gilbert then rides on, trying not to think of Lawrence, but his conscience gets the better... (full context)
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...from his horse and brought to his house on the verge of death. They urge Gilbert to visit him, but Gilbert refuses. They’re shocked by his lack of feeling for Mr.... (full context)
Chapter 15. An Encounter and Its Consequences
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One beautiful day Gilbert is out in his cornfields, ready to begin reaping, when little Arthur approaches him and... (full context)
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Gilbert is pleased with himself at first for torturing her as a cat would a mouse,... (full context)
Chapter 16. The Warnings of Experience
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...hands, and the reader and Jack Halford are, in effect, reading her diary along with Gilbert. It begins with her entry from June 21, 1821, when Helen and her aunt and... (full context)
Chapter 44. The Retreat
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...sentence about the “fine gentleman and beau of the parish,” but the entry ends incomplete. Gilbert senses she is writing about him, but has no way of knowing for sure. (full context)
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The rest of Helen’s journal is torn away. Gilbert assumes this is because she does not want him to read any entries about himself.... (full context)
Chapter 45. Reconciliation
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The narrative is back in Gilbert Markham’s hands, and he is again addressing his brother-in-law, Jack Halford. He writes to him... (full context)
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At Wildfell Hall, Rachel tries to keep Gilbert from entering. She tells him her mistress is not well, but little Arthur appears and... (full context)
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Desperate, Gilbert asks if they might now meet as friends, but Helen tells him that is impossible.... (full context)
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Gilbert vows to wait for her for as long as it takes, knowing, of course, that... (full context)
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Gilbert asks her again if they really will never meet again, and Helen says at least... (full context)
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Gilbert is still not persuaded, so Helen makes the argument that as earthly humans they cannot... (full context)
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Gilbert finally yields, but not before they share one, quick, intense embrace during which Gilbert feels... (full context)
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Frederick is especially pleased that Gilbert has promised not to see Helen anymore. As her brother, he thinks this resolution best... (full context)
Chapter 46. Friendly Counsels
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Gilbert wishes he could enlighten his mother and sister to Helen’s true character, but it is... (full context)
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Frederick tells Gilbert that he has been to see Helen and that, while she is not yet cheerful,... (full context)
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Frederick is offended at first, both by Gilbert’s presumption and then by the charges Gilbert lays against Jane. Gilbert informs Frederick that Jane... (full context)
Chapter 47. Startling Intelligence
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Gilbert is home with Rose and Fergus one day when Eliza Millward pays a visit to... (full context)
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...Myers, apparently left him some time ago. Frederick has a letter explaining Helen’s situation, and Gilbert snatches it from his hand. In the letter, Helen describes Arthur’s state. His injuries were... (full context)
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When Gilbert finishes reading the letter, Frederick asks him what he makes of it. Gilbert wishes Helen... (full context)
Chapter 48. Further Intelligence
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Frederick receives another letter from Helen and visits Gilbert in order to share its contents with him. In the letter, Helen invites Gilbert to... (full context)
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The letter alternately depresses Gilbert and makes him happy. He has less hope for their future, but is consoled by... (full context)
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Gilbert flashes forward somewhat in this letter to Halford, updating him on Richard and the former... (full context)
Chapter 49. Untitled
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...a house and winds beating it until it comes crashing down with a great roar. Gilbert writes to Halford of his steady friendship with Frederick, which is founded in no small... (full context)
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Gilbert pities Helen and feels almost responsible for her sufferings. He had allowed himself to hope... (full context)
Chapter 50. Doubts and Disappointments
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Gilbert is overjoyed that Helen is finally free of the burden of nursing a man who... (full context)
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...that Helen was exhausted from her efforts. There is no talk of Helen asking after Gilbert at all, or even of her thinking of him. Gilbert assumes from his cold manner... (full context)
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...and she leaves Grassdale for Staningley so she can be of service to her aunt. Gilbert is in an agony of frustration. While Helen is at Staningley, he cannot write to... (full context)
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Gilbert can sense that Frederick is trying to give him an opportunity to send a message... (full context)
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Gilbert takes this moment to acquaint Halford with the fates of Lady Lowborough, Lord Lowborough, Hattersley,... (full context)
Chapter 51. A Strange Occurrence
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Gilbert is walking home from the vicarage, where, in order to satisfy his mother, he’d been... (full context)
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It’s a long, snowy journey, but eventually Gilbert makes it to the small country church where a wedding is indeed taking place—not between... (full context)
Chapter 52. Fluctuations
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Gilbert gets in a coach headed for Grassdale Manor. The driver is a talkative man. He... (full context)
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Gilbert decides to make the journey there, even though it will take him several days. He... (full context)
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Soon, though, another carriage overtakes him and Gilbert hears little Arthur’s voice exclaiming that he sees Mr. Markham. The carriage stops and little... (full context)
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...tells him that the rose symbolized her heart. How could he treat her so coldly? Gilbert then realizes his folly. He was being too cautious, too guarded. He runs out and... (full context)
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...of the engagement, as she will think it a rash and foolish step. Helen asks Gilbert to return home and come back to her in the spring for a long visit—then... (full context)
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 Gilbert balks at such a long separation, but he agrees to it. He will do anything... (full context)
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Back in the present moment, Helen takes Gilbert on a tour of her aunt’s flower garden. She takes him there to propose that... (full context)