Copyright edition.344 pages
Collection of British authors. v. 146
Prepared for the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center.
PRESENTIMENTS are strange things! and so are sympathies; and so are signs; and the three combined make one mystery to which humanity has not yet found the key. I never laughed at presentiments in my life, because I have had strange ones of my own. Sympathies, I believe, exist (for instance, between far-distant, long-absent, wholly estranged relatives asserting, notwithstanding their alienation, the unity of the source to which each traces his origin) whose workings baffle mortal comprehension. And signs, for aught we know, may be but the sympathies of Nature with man.
When I was a little girl, only six years old, I one night heard Bessie Leaven say to Martha Abbot that she had been dreaming about a little child; and that to dream of children was a sure sign of trouble, either to one's self or one's kin. The saying might have worn out of my memory, had not a circumstance immediately followed which served indelibly to fix it there. The next day Bessie was sent for home to the deathbed of her little sister.
Of late I had often recalled this saying and this incident; for during the past week scarcely a night had gone over my couch that had not brought with it a
I did not like this iteration of one idea -- this strange recurrence of one image, and I grew nervous as bedtime approached and the hour of the vision drew near. It was from companionship with this baby-phantom I had been roused on that moonlight night when I heard the cry; and it was on the afternoon of the day following I was summoned downstairs by a message that some one wanted me in Mrs. Fairfax's room. On repairing thither, I found a man waiting for me, having the appearance of a gentleman's servant: he was dressed in deep mourning, and the hat he held in his hand was surrounded with a crape band.
"I daresay you hardly remember me, Miss," he said, rising as I entered; "but my name is Leaven: I lived coachman with Mrs. Reed when you were at Gateshead, eight or nine years since, and I live there still."
"Oh, Robert! how do you do? I remember you very well: you used to give me a ride sometimes on Miss Georgiana's bay pony. And how is Bessie? You are married to Bessie?"
"Yes, Miss: my wife is very hearty, thank you; she brought me another little one about two months
"And are the family well at the house, Robert?"
"I am sorry I can't give you better news of them, Miss: they are very badly at present -- in great trouble."
"I hope no one is dead," I said, glancing at his black dress. He too looked down at the crape round his hat and replied, --
"Mr. John died yesterday was a week, at his chambers in London."
"And how does his mother bear it?"
"Why, you see, Miss Eyre, it is not a common mishap: his life has been very wild: these last three years he gave himself up to strange ways, and his death was shocking."
"I heard from Bessie he was not doing well."
"Doing well! He could not do worse: he ruined his health and his estate amongst the worst men and the worst women. He got into debt and into jail: his mother helped him out twice, but as soon as he was free he returned to his old companions and habits. His head was not strong: the knaves he lived amongst fooled him beyond anything I ever heard. He came down to Gateshead about three weeks ago and wanted missis to give up all to him. Missis refused: her means have long been much reduced by his extravagance; so he went back again, and the next news was that he was dead. How he died, God knows! -- they say he killed himself."
I was silent: the tidings were frightful. Robert Leaven resumed: --
"Missis had been out of health herself for some time: she had got very stout, but was not strong with it; and the loss of money and fear of poverty were quite breaking her down. The information about Mr. John's death and the manner of it came too suddenly: it brought on a stroke. She was three days without speaking; but last Tuesday she seemed rather better: she appeared as if she wanted to say something, and kept making signs to my wife and mumbling. It was only yesterday morning, however, that Bessie understood she was pronouncing your name; and at last she made out the words, "Bring Jane -- fetch Jane Eyre: I want to speak to her." Bessie is not sure whether she is in her right mind, or means anything by the words; but she told Miss Reed and Miss Georgiana, and advised them to send for you. The young ladies put it off at first; but their mother grew so restless, and said, "Jane, Jane," so many times, that at last they consented. I left Gateshead yesterday: and if you can get ready, Miss, I should like to take you back with me early to-morrow morning."
"Yes, Robert, I shall be ready: it seems to me that I ought to go."
"I think so too, Miss. Bessie said she was sure you would not refuse: but I suppose you will have to ask leave before you can get off?"
"Yes; and I will do it now"; and having directed him to the servants' hall, and recommended him to the care of John's wife, and the attentions of John himself, I went in search of Mr. Rochester.
He was not in any of the lower rooms; he was not in the yard, the stables, or the grounds. I asked Mrs. Fairfax if she had seen him; -- yes: she believed
"Does that person want you?" she inquired of Mr. Rochester; and Mr. Rochester turned to see who the "person" was. He made a curious grimace, -- one of his strange and equivocal demonstrations-threw down his cue and followed me from the room.
"Well, Jane?" he said, as he rested his back against the school-room door, which he had shut.
"If you please, Sir, I want leave of absence for a week or two."
"What to do? -- where to go?"
"To see a sick lady who has sent for me."
"What sick lady? -- where does she live?"
"At Gateshead, in -- -- shire."
" -- -- shire? That is a hundred miles off! Who may she be that sends for people to see her that distance?"
"Her name is Reed, Sir, -- Mrs. Reed."
"Reed of Gateshead? There was a Reed of Gateshead, a magistrate."
"It is his widow, Sir."
"And what have you to do with her? How do you know her?"
"Mr. Reed was my uncle, -- my mother's brother."
"The deuce he was! You never told me that before: you always said you had no relations."
"None that would own me, Sir. Mr. Reed is dead, and his wife cast me off."
"Because I was poor, and burdensome, and she disliked me."
"But Reed left children? -- you must have cousins? Sir George Lynn was talking of a Reed of Gateshead yesterday, who, he said, was one of the veriest rascals on town; and Ingram was mentioning a Georgiana Reed of the same place, who was much admired for her beauty a season or two ago in London."
"John Reed is dead, too, Sir: he ruined himself and half-ruined his family, and is supposed to have committed suicide. The news so shocked his mother that it brought on an apoplectic attack."
"And what good can you do her? Nonsense, Jane! I would never think of running a hundred miles to see an old lady who will, perhaps, be dead before you reach her: besides, you say she cast you off."
"Yes, Sir, but that is long ago; and when her circumstances were very different: I could not be easy to neglect her wishes now."
"How long will you stay?"
"As short a time as possible, Sir."
"Promise me only to stay a week -- "
"I had better not pass my word: I might be obliged to break it."
"At all events you will come back: you will not be induced under any pretext to take up a permanent residence with her?"
"Oh, no! I shall certainly return if all be well."
"And who goes with you? You don't travel a hundred miles alone."
"No, Sir, she has sent her coachman."
"A person to be trusted?"
"Yes, Sir, he has lived ten years in the family."
Mr. Rochester meditated. "When do you wish to go?"
"Early to-morrow morning, Sir."
"Well, you must have some money; you can't travel without money, and I daresay you have not much: I have given you no salary yet. How much have you in the world, Jane?" he asked, smiling.
I drew out my purse; a meagre thing it was. "Five shillings, Sir." He took the purse, poured the hoard into his palm, and chuckled over it as if its scantiness amused him. Soon he produced his pocket-book: "Here," said he, offering me a note; it was fifty pounds, and he owed me but fifteen. I told him I had no change.
"I don't want change; you know that. Take your wages."
I declined accepting more than was my due. He scowled at first; then, as if recollecting something, he said: --
"Right, right! Better not give you all now: you would, perhaps, stay away three months if you had fifty pounds. There are ten; is it not plenty?"
"Yes, Sir, but now you owe me five."
"Come back for it, then; I am your banker for forty pounds."
"Mr. Rochester, I may as well mention another matter of business to you while I have the opportunity."
"Matter of business? I am curious to hear it."
"You have as good as informed me, Sir, that you are going shortly to be married?"
"Yes; what then?"
"In that case, Sir, Adèle ought to go to school: I am sure you will perceive the necessity of it."
"To get her out of my bride's way, who might otherwise walk over her rather too emphatically? There's sense in the suggestion; not a doubt of it. Adèle, as you say, must go to school; and you, of course, must march straight to -- the devil?"
"I hope not, Sir; but I must seek another situation somewhere."
"In course!" he exclaimed, with a twang of voice and a distortion of features equally fantastic and ludicrous. He looked at me some minutes.
"And old Madam Reed, or the Misses, her daughters, will be solicited by you to seek a place, I suppose?"
"No, Sir; I am not on such terms with my relatives as would justify me in asking favours of them -- but I shall advertise."
"You shall walk up the pyramids of Egypt!" he growled. "At your peril you advertise! I wish I had
"And so have I, Sir," I returned, putting my hands and my purse behind me. "I could not spare the money on any account."
"Little niggard!" said he, "refusing me a pecuniary request! Give me five pounds, Jane."
"Not five shillings, Sir; nor five pence."
"Just let me look at the cash."
"No, Sir; you are not to be trusted."
"Promise me one thing."
"I'll promise you anything, Sir, that I think I am likely to perform."
"Not to advertise: and to trust this quest of a situation to me. I'll find you one in time."
"I shall be glad so to do, Sir, if you, in your turn, will promise that I and Adèle shall be both safe out of the house before your bride enters it."
"Very well! very well! I'll pledge my word on it. You go to-morrow, then?"
"Yes, Sir; early."
"Shall you come down to the drawing-room after dinner?"
"No, Sir, I must prepare for the journey."
"Then you and I must bid good-bye for a little while?"
"I suppose so, Sir."
"And how do people perform that ceremony of parting, Jane? Teach me; I'm not quite up to it."
"They say, Farewell, or any other form they prefer."
"Then say it."
"Farewell, Mr. Rochester, for the present."
"What must I say?"
"The same, if you like, Sir."
"Farewell, Miss Eyre, for the present; is that all?"
"It seems stingy, to my notions, and dry, and unfriendly. I should like something else: a little addition to the rite. If one shook hands, for instance; but no, -- that would not content me either. So you'll do no more than say Farewell, Jane?"
"It is enough, Sir: as much good-will may be conveyed in one hearty word as in many."
"Very likely; but it is blank and cool -- 'farewell.'"
"How long is he going to stand with his back against that door?" I asked myself; "I want to commence my packing." The dinner-bell rang, and suddenly away he bolted, without another syllable: I saw him no more during the day, and was off before he had risen in the morning.
I reached the lodge at Gateshead about five o'clock in the afternoon of the first of May: I stepped in there before going up to the hall. It was very clean and neat: the ornamental windows were hung with little white curtains; the floor was spotless; the grate and fire-irons were burnished bright, and the fire burnt clear. Bessie sat on the hearth, nursing her last-born, and Robert and his sister played quietly in a corner.
"Bless you! -- I knew you would come!" exclaimed Mrs. Leaven, as I entered.
"Yes, Bessie," said I, after I had kissed her; "and I trust I am not too late. How is Mrs. Reed? -- Alive still, I hope."
"Yes, she is alive; and more sensible and collected than she was. The doctor says she may linger a week or two yet; but he hardly thinks she will finally recover."
"Has she mentioned me lately?"
"She was talking of you only this morning, and wishing you would come: but she is sleeping now, or was ten minutes ago, when I was up at the house. She generally lies in a kind of lethargy all the afternoon, and wakes up about six or seven. Will you rest yourself here an hour, Miss, and then I will go up with you?"
Robert here entered, and Bessie laid her sleeping child in the cradle and went to welcome him: afterwards she insisted on my taking off my bonnet and having some tea; for she said I looked pale and tired. I was glad to accept her hospitality; and I submitted to be relieved of my travelling garb just as passively as I used to let her undress me when a child.
Old times crowded fast back on me as I watched her bustling about -- setting out the tea-tray with her best china, cutting bread and butter, toasting a tea-cake, and, between whiles, giving little Robert or Jane an occasional tap or push, just as she used to give me in former days. Bessie had retained her quick temper as well as her light foot and good looks.
Tea ready, I was going to approach the table; but she desired me to sit still, quite in her old peremptory tones. I must be served at the fireside, she said; and she placed before me a little round stand with my cup and a plate of toast, absolutely as she used to accommodate me with some privately purloined dainty on a
She wanted to know if I was happy at Thornfield-Hall, and what sort of a person the mistress was; and when I told her there was only a master, whether he was a nice gentleman, and if I liked him. I told her he was rather an ugly man, but quite a gentleman; and that he treated me kindly, and I was content. Then I went on to describe to her the gay company that had lately been staying at the house; and to these details Bessie listened with interest: they were precisely of the kind she relished.
In such conversation an hour was soon gone: Bessie restored to me my bonnet, etc., and, accompanied by her, I quitted the lodge for the hall. It was also accompanied by her that I had, nearly nine years ago, walked down the path I was now ascending. On a dark, misty, raw morning in January, I had left a hostile roof with a desperate and embittered heart -- a sense of outlawry and almost of reprobation -- to seek the chilly harbourage of Lowood: that bourne so far away and unexplored. The same hostile roof now again rose before me: my prospects were doubtful yet; and I had yet an aching heart. I still felt as a wanderer on the face of the earth; but I experienced firmer trust in myself and my own powers, and less withering dread of oppression. The gaping wound of my wrongs, too, was now quite healed; and the flame of resentment extinguished.
"You shall go into the breakfast-room first," said Bessie, as she preceded me through the hall; "the young ladies will be there."
In another moment I was within that apartment.
Two young ladies appeared before me; one very tall, almost as tall as Miss Ingram, -- very thin too, with a sallow face and severe mien. There was something ascetic in her look, was augmented by the extreme plainness of a straight-skirted, black, stuff dress, a starched linen collar, hair combed away from the temples, and the nun-like ornament of a string of ebony beads and a crucifix. This I felt sure was Eliza, though I could trace little resemblance to her former self in that elongated and colourless visage.
The other was as certainly Georgiana: but not the Georgiana I remembered -- the slim and fairy-like girl of eleven. This was a full-blown, very plump damsel, fair as waxwork, with handsome and regular features, languishing blue eyes, and ringleted yellow hair. The hue of her dress was black too; but its fashion was so different from her sister's -- so much more flowing and becoming -- it looked as stylish as the other's looked puritanical.
In each of the sisters there was one trait of the mother -- and only one; the thin and pallid elder daughter had her parent's Cairngorm eye: the blooming and luxuriant younger girl had her contour
Both ladies, as I advanced, rose to welcome me, and both addressed me by the name of "Miss Eyre." Eliza's greeting was delivered in a short, abrupt voice, without a smile; and then she sat down again, fixed her eyes on the fire, and seemed to forget me. Georgiana added to her "How d'ye do?" several commonplaces about my journey, the weather, and so on, uttered in rather a drawling tone: and accompanied by sundry side-glances that measured me from head to foot-now traversing the folds of my drab merino pelisse, and now lingering on the plain trimming of my cottage bonnet. Young ladies have a remarkable way of letting you know that they think you a "quiz" without actually saying the words. A certain superciliousness of look, coolness of manner, nonchalance of tone, express fully their sentiments on the point, without committing them by any positive rudeness in word or deed.
A sneer, however, whether covert or open, had now no longer that power over me it once possessed: as I sat between my cousins, I was surprised to find how easy I felt under the total neglect of the one and the semi-sarcastic attentions of the other -- Eliza did not mortify, nor Georgiana ruffle me. The fact was, I had other things to think about; within the last few months feelings had been stirred in me so much more potent than any they could raise -- pains and pleasures so much more acute and exquisite had been excited than any it was in their power to inflict or bestow -- that their airs gave me no concern either for good or bad.
"How is Mrs. Reed?" I asked soon, looking calmly at Georgiana, who thought fit to bridle at the direct address, as if it were an unexpected liberty.
"Mrs. Reed? Ah, mama, you mean; she is extremely poorly: I doubt if you can see her to-night."
"If," said I, "you would just step upstairs and tell her I am come, I should be much obliged to you."
Georgiana almost started, and she opened her blue eyes wild and wide. "I know she had a particular wish to see me," I added, "and I would not defer attending to her desire longer than is absolutely necessary."
"Mama dislikes being disturbed in an evening," remarked Eliza. I soon rose, quietly took off my bonnet and gloves, uninvited, and said I would just step out to Bessie -- who was, I dared say, in the kitchen -- and ask her to ascertain whether Mrs. Reed was disposed to receive me or not to-night. I went, and having found Bessie and despatched her on my errand, I proceeded to take further measures. It had heretofore been my habit always to shrink from arrogance: received as I had been to-day, I should, a year ago, have resolved to quit Gateshead the very next morning; now, it was disclosed to me all at once that that would be a foolish plan. I had taken a journey of a hundred miles to see my aunt, and I must stay with her till she was better -- or dead: as to her daughters' pride or folly, I must put it on one side, make myself independent of it. So I addressed the housekeeper; asked her to show me a room, told her I should probably be a visitor here for a week or two, had my trunk conveyed to my chamber, and followed it thither myself: I met Bessie on the landing.
"Missis is awake," said she; "I have told her you are here: come and let us see if she will know you."
I did not need to be guided to the well-known room, to which I had so often been summoned for chastisement or reprimand in former days. I hastened before Bessie; I softly opened the door: a shaded light stood on the table, for it was now getting dark. There was the great four-post bed with amber hangings as of old; there the toilet-table, the arm-chair, and the footstool, at which I had a hundred times been sentenced to kneel, to ask pardon for offences by me uncommitted. I looked into a certain corner near, half expecting to see the slim outline of a once dreaded switch which used to lurk there, waiting to leap out imp-like and lace my quivering palm or shrinking neck. I approached the bed; I opened the curtains and leant over the high-piled pillows.
Well did I remember Mrs. Reed's face, and I eagerly sought the familiar image. It is a happy thing that time quells the longings of vengeance and hushes the promptings of rage and aversion. I had left this woman in bitterness and hate, and I came back to her now with no other emotion than a sort of ruth for her great sufferings, and a strong yearning to forget and forgive all injuries -- to be reconciled and clasp hands in amity.
The well-known face was there: stern, relentless as ever -- there was that peculiar eye which nothing could melt, and the somewhat raised, imperious, despotic eyebrow. How often had it lowered on me menace and hate! and how the recollection of childhood's terrors and sorrows revived as I traced its
"Is this Jane Eyre?" she said.
"Yes, Aunt Reed. How are you, dear aunt?"
I had once vowed that I would never call her aunt again: I thought it no sin to forget and break that vow now. My fingers had fastened on her hand which lay outside the sheet: had she pressed mine kindly, I should at that moment have experienced true pleasure. But unimpressionable natures are not so soon softened, nor are natural antipathies so readily eradicated. Mrs. Reed took her hand away, and, turning her face rather from me, she remarked that the night was warm. Again she regarded me so icily, I felt at once that her opinion of me -- her feeling towards me -- was unchanged and unchangeable. I knew by her stony eye -- opaque to tenderness, indissoluble to tears -- that she was resolved to consider me bad to the last; because to believe me good would give her no generous pleasure: only a sense of mortification.
I felt pain, and then I felt ire; and then I felt a determination to subdue her -- to be her mistress in spite both of her nature and her will. My tears had risen, just as in childhood: I ordered them back to their source. I brought a chair to the bed-head: I sat down and leaned over the pillow.
"You sent for me," I said, "and I am here; and it is my intention to stay till I see how you get on."
"Oh, of course! You have seen my daughters?"
"Well, you may tell them I wish you to stay till I can talk some things over with you I have on my mind: to-night it is too late, and I have a difficulty
The wandering look and changed utterance told what wreck had taken place in her once vigorous frame. Turning restlessly, she drew the bedclothes round her; my elbow, resting on a corner of the quilt, fixed it down: she was at once irritated.
"Sit up!" said she; "don't annoy me with holding the clothes fast. Are you Jane Eyre?"
"I am Jane Eyre."
"I have had more trouble with that child than any one would believe. Such a burden to be left on my hands -- and so much annoyance as she caused me, daily and hourly, with her incomprehensible disposition, and her sudden starts of temper, and her continual, unnatural watchings of one's movements! I declare she talked to me once like something mad, or like a fiend -- no child ever spoke or looked as she did; I was glad to get her away from the house. What did they do with her at Lowood? The fever broke out there, and many of the pupils died. She, however, did not die: but I said she did -- I wish she had died!"
"A strange wish, Mrs. Reed; why do you hate her so?"
"I had a dislike to her mother always; for she was my husband's only sister, and a great favourite with him: he opposed the family's disowning her when she made her low marriage; and when news came of her death, he wept like a simpleton. He would send for the baby; though I entreated him rather to put it out to nurse and pay for its maintenance. I hated it the first time I set my eyes on it -- a sickly, whining, pining thing! It would wail in its cradle all night
She was getting much excited. "I think I had better leave her now," said I to Bessie, who stood on the other side of the bed.
"Perhaps you had, Miss: but she often talks in this way towards night -- in the morning she is calmer."
I rose. "Stop!" exclaimed Mrs. Reed, "there is another thing I wished to say. He threatens me --
Bessie now endeavoured to persuade her to take a sedative draught: she succeeded with difficulty. Soon after, Mrs. Reed grew more composed, and sank into a dozing state. I then left her.
More than ten days elapsed before I had again any conversation with her. She continued either delirious or lethargic; and the doctor forbade everything which could painfully excite her. Meantime, I got on as well as I could with Georgiana and Eliza. They were very cold, indeed, at first. Eliza would sit half the day sewing, reading, or writing, and scarcely utter a word either to me or her sister. Georgiana would chatter nonsense to her canary bird by the hour, and take no notice of me. But I was determined not to seem at a loss for occupation or amusement: I had brought my drawing materials with me, and they served me for both.
Provided with a case of pencils, and some sheets of paper, I used to take a seat apart from them, near the window, and busy myself in sketching fancy vignettes, representing any scene that happened momentarily to shape itself in the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of imagination: a glimpse of sea between two rocks; the rising moon, and a ship crossing its disk; a group of reeds and water-flags, and a naiad's head, crowned with lotus-flowers, rising out of them; an elf
One morning I fell to sketching a face: what sort of a face it was to be, I did not care or know. I took a soft black pencil, gave it a broad point, and worked away. Soon I had traced on the paper a broad and prominent forehead and a square lower outline of visage: that contour gave me pleasure; my fingers proceeded actively to fill it with features. Strongly-marked horizontal eyebrows must be traced under that brow; then followed, naturally, a well-defined nose, with a straight ridge and full nostrils; then a flexible-looking mouth, by no means narrow; then a firm chin, with a decided cleft down the middle of it: of course, some black whiskers were wanted, and some jetty hair, tufted on the temples, and waved above the forehead. Now for the eyes: I had left them to the last, because they required the most careful working. I drew them large; I shaped them well: the eyelashes I traced long and sombre; the irids lustrous and large. "Good! but not quite the thing," I thought, as I surveyed the effect: "they want more force and spirit"; and I wrought the shades blacker, that the lights might flash more brilliantly -- a happy touch or two secured success. There, I had a friend's face under my gaze; and what did it signify that those young ladies turned their backs on me? I looked at it; I smiled at the speaking likeness: I was absorbed and content.
"Is that a portrait of some one you know?" asked Eliza, who had approached me unnoticed. I responded that it was merely a fancy head, and hurried it beneath the other sheets. Of course, I lied: it was, in fact, a
Eliza still spoke little: she had evidently no time to talk. I never saw a busier person than she seemed to be; yet it was difficult to say what she did: or rather, to discover any result of her diligence. She
She told me one evening, when more disposed to be communicative than usual, that John's conduct, and the threatened ruin of the family, had been a source of profound affliction to her: but she had now, she said, settled her mind, and formed her resolution. Her own fortune she had taken care to secure; and when her mother died, -- and it was wholly improbable, she tranquilly remarked, that she should either recover or linger long, -- she would execute a long-cherished project: seek a retirement where punctual habits would be permanently secured from disturbance, and place safe barriers between herself and a frivolous world. I asked if Georgiana would accompany her.
"Of course not. Georgiana and she had nothing in common: they never had had. She would not be burdened with her society for any consideration. Georgiana should take her own course; and she, Eliza, would take hers."
Georgiana, when not unburdening her heart to me, spent most of her time in lying on the sofa, fretting about the dulness of the house, and wishing over and over again that her aunt Gibson would send her an invitation up to town. "It would be so much better," she said, "if she could only get out of the way for a month or two, till all was over." I did not ask what she meant by "all being over," but I suppose she referred to the expected decease of her mother and the gloomy sequel of funeral rites. Eliza generally took no more notice of her sister's indolence and complaints than if no such murmuring, lounging object had been before her. One day, however, as she put away her account-book and unfolded her embroidery, she suddenly took her up thus: --
"Georgiana, a more vain and absurd animal than you was certainly never allowed to cumber the earth. You had no right to be born, for you make no use of life. Instead of living for, in, and with yourself, as a reasonable being ought, you seek only to fasten your feebleness on some other person's strength: if no one can be found willing to burden her or himself with such a fat, weak, puffy, useless thing, you cry out that you are ill-treated, neglected, miserable. Then, too, existence for you must be a scene of continual change and excitement, or else the world is a dungeon: you must be admired, you must be courted, you must be flattered -- you must have music, dancing, and society
She closed her lips.
"You might have spared yourself the trouble of delivering that tirade," answered Georgiana. "Everybody
True, generous feeling is made small account of by some, but here were two natures rendered, the one intolerably acrid, the other despicably savourless for the want of it. Feeling without judgment is a washy draught indeed; but judgment untempered by feeling is too bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition.
It was a wet and windy afternoon: Georgiana had fallen asleep on the sofa over the perusal of a novel; Eliza was gone to attend a saint's-day service at the new church -- for in matters of religion she was a rigid formalist: no weather ever prevented the punctual discharge of what she considered her devotional duties; fair or foul, she went to church thrice every Sunday, and as often on week-days as there were prayers.
I bethought myself to go upstairs and see how the dying woman sped, who lay there almost unheeded: the very servants paid her but a remittent attention: the hired nurse, being little looked after, would slip out of the room whenever she could. Bessie was faithful; but she had her own family to mind, and could only come occasionally to the hall. I found the sick-room unwatched, as I had expected: no nurse was there; the patient lay still, and seemingly lethargic;
The rain beat strongly against the panes, the wind blew tempestuously: "One lies there," I thought, "who will soon be beyond the war of earthly elements. Whither will that spirit -- now struggling to quit its material tenement -- flit when at length released?"
In pondering the great mystery, I thought of Helen Burns, recalled her dying words -- her faith -- her doctrine of the equality of disembodied souls. I was still listening in thought to her well-remembered tones -- still picturing her pale and spiritual aspect, her wasted face and sublime gaze, as she lay on her placid deathbed, and whispered her longing to be restored to her divine Father's bosom -- when a feeble voice murmured from the couch behind: "Who is that?"
I knew Mrs. Reed had not spoken for days: was she reviving? I went up to her.
"It is I, aunt Reed."
"Who -- I?" was her answer. "Who are you?" looking at me with surprise and a sort of alarm, but still not wildly. "You are quite a stranger to me -- where is Bessie?"
"She is at the lodge, aunt."
"Aunt!" she repeated. "Who calls me Aunt? You are not one of the Gibsons; and yet I know you -- that face, and the eyes and forehead, are quite familiar to me: you are like -- why, you are like Jane Eyre!"
I said nothing: I was afraid of occasioning some shock by declaring my identity.
"Yet," said she, "I am afraid it is a mistake: my thoughts deceive me. I wished to see Jane Eyre, and I fancy a likeness where none exists: besides, in eight years she must be so changed." I now gently assured her that I was the person she supposed and desired me to be: and seeing that I was understood, and that her senses were quite collected, I explained how Bessie had sent her husband to fetch me from Thornfield.
"I am very ill, I know," she said ere long. "I was trying to turn myself a few minutes since, and find I cannot move a limb. It is as well I should ease my mind before I die: what we think little of in health, burdens us at such an hour as the present is to me. Is the nurse here? or is there no one in the room but you?"
I assured her we were alone.
"Well, I have twice done you a wrong which I regret now. One was in breaking the promise which I gave my husband to bring you up as my own child; the other -- " she stopped. "After all, it is of no great importance, perhaps," she murmured to herself: "and then I may get better; and to humble myself so to her is painful."
She made an effort to alter her position, but failed: her face changed; she seemed to experience some inward sensation -- the precursor, perhaps, of the last pang.
"Well, I must get it over. Eternity is before me: I had better tell her. -- Go to my dressing-case, open it, and take out a letter you will see there."
I obeyed her directions. "Read the letter," she said.
It was short, and thus conceived: --
"Will you have the goodness to send me the address of my niece, Jane Eyre, and to tell me how she is? It is my intention to write shortly and desire her to come to me at Madeira. Providence has blessed my endeavours to secure a competency; and as I am unmarried and childless, I wish to adopt her during my life, and bequeath her at my death whatever I may have to leave.
"I am, Madam, &c. &c.
"JOHN EYRE, Madeira."
It was dated three years back.
"Why did I never hear of this?" I asked.
"Because I disliked you too fixedly and thoroughly ever to lend a hand in lifting you to prosperity. I could not forget your conduct to me, Jane -- the fury with which you once turned on me; the tone in which you declared you abhorred me the worst of anybody in the world; the unchildlike look and voice with which you affirmed that the very thought of me made you sick, and asserted that I had treated you with miserable cruelty. I could not forget my own sensations when you thus started up and poured out the venom of your mind: I felt fear as if an animal that I had struck or pushed had looked up at me with human eyes and cursed me in a man's voice. -- Bring me some water! Oh, make haste!"
"Dear Mrs. Reed," said I, as I offered her the draught she required, "think no more of all this, let it pass away from your mind. Forgive me for my passionate language: I was a child then; eight, nine years have passed since that day."
She heeded nothing of what I said; but when she had tasted the water and drawn breath, she went on thus: --
"I tell you I could not forget it; and I took my revenge: for you to be adopted by your uncle, and placed in a state of ease and comfort, was what I could not endure. I wrote to him; I said I was sorry for his disappointment, but Jane Eyre was dead: she had died of typhus fever at Lowood. Now act as you please: write and contradict my assertion -- expose my falsehood as soon as you like. You were born, I think, to be my torment: my last hour is racked by the recollection of a deed which, but for you, I should never have been tempted to commit."
"If you could but be persuaded to think no more of it, aunt, and to regard me with kindness and forgiveness -- "
"You have a very bad disposition," said she, "and one to this day I feel it impossible to understand: how for nine years you could be patient and quiescent under any treatment, and in the tenth break out all fire and violence, I can never comprehend."
"My disposition is not so bad as you think: I am passionate, but not vindictive. Many a time, as a little child, I should have been glad to love you if you would have let me; and I long earnestly to be reconciled to you now: kiss me, aunt."
I approached my cheek to her lips: she would not touch it. She said I oppressed her by leaning over the bed, and again demanded water. As I laid her down -- for I raised her and supported her on my arm while she drank -- I covered her ice-cold and
"Love me, then, or hate me, as you will," I said at last, "you have my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God's, and be at peace."
Poor, suffering woman! it was too late for her to make now the effort to change her habitual frame of mind: living, she had ever hated me -- dying, she must hate me still.
The nurse now entered, and Bessie followed. I yet lingered half an hour longer, hoping to see some sign of amity: but she gave none. She was fast relapsing into stupor; nor did her mind again rally: at twelve o'clock that night she died. I was not present to close her eyes, nor were either of her daughters. They came to tell us the next morning that all was over. She was by that time laid out. Eliza and I went to look at her: Georgiana, who had burst out into loud weeping, said she dared not go. There was stretched Sarah Reed's once robust and active frame, rigid and still: her eye of flint was covered with its cold lid; her brow and strong traits wore yet the impress of her inexorable soul. A strange and solemn object was that corpse to me. I gazed on it with gloom and pain: nothing soft, nothing sweet, nothing pitying, or hopeful, or subduing did it inspire; only a grating anguish for her woes -- not my loss -- and a sombre tearless dismay at the fearfulness of death in such a form.
Eliza surveyed her parent calmly. After a silence of some minutes she observed, --
"With her constitution she should have lived to a good old age: her life was shortened by trouble." And
MR. ROCHESTER had given me but one week's leave of absence: yet a month elapsed before I quitted Gateshead. I wished to leave immediately after the funeral, but Georgiana entreated me to stay till she could get off to London, whither she was now at last invited by her uncle, Mr. Gibson, who had come down to direct his sister's interment and settle the family affairs. Georgiana said she dreaded being left alone with Eliza; from her she got neither sympathy in her dejection, support in her fears, nor aid in her preparations; so I bore with her feeble-minded wailings and selfish lamentations as well as I could, and did my best in sewing for her and packing her dresses. It is true, that while I worked, she would idle; and I thought to myself, "If you and I were destined to live always together, cousin, we would commence matters on a different footing. I should not settle tamely down into being the forbearing party; I should assign you your share of labour, and compel you to accomplish it, or else it should be left undone: I should insist, also, on your keeping some of those drawling, half-insincere complaints hushed in your own breast. It is only because our connection happens to be very transitory, and comes at a peculiarly mournful season, that I consent thus to render it so patient and compliant on my part."
At last I saw Georgiana off; but now it was Eliza's turn to request me to stay another week. Her plans required all her time and attention, she said; she was about to depart for some unknown bourne; and all day long she stayed in her own room, her door bolted within, filling trunks, emptying drawers, burning papers, and holding no communication with any one. She wished me to look after the house, to see callers, and answer notes of condolence.
One morning she told me I was at liberty. "And," she added, "I am obliged to you for your valuable services and discreet conduct! There is some difference between living with such an one as you and with Georgiana: you perform your own part in life and burden no one. To-morrow," she continued, "I set out for the Continent. I shall take up my abode in a religious house near Lisle -- a nunnery you would call it; there I shall be quiet and unmolested. I shall devote myself for a time to the examination of the Roman Catholic dogmas, and to a careful study of the workings of their system: if I find it to be, as I half suspect it is, the one best calculated to ensure the doing of all things decently and in order, I shall embrace the tenets of Rome and probably take the veil."
I neither expressed surprise at this resolution nor attempted to dissuade her from it. "The vocation will fit you to a hair," I thought: "much good may it do you!"
When we parted, she said: "Good-bye, cousin Jane Eyre; I wish you well: you have some sense."
I then returned: "You are not without sense, cousin Eliza; but what you have, I suppose, in another year will be walled up alive in a French convent.
"You are in the right," said she; and with these words we each went our separate way. As I shall not have occasion to refer either to her or her sister again, I may as well mention here, that Georgiana made an advantageous match with a wealthy worn-out man of fashion, and that Eliza actually took the veil, and is at this day superior of the convent where she passed the period of her novitiate, and which she endowed with her fortune.
How people feel when they are returning home from an absence, long or short, I did not know: I had never experienced the sensation. I had known what it was to come back to Gateshead when a child after a long walk, to be scolded for looking cold or gloomy; and later, what it was to come back from church to Lowood, to long for a plenteous meal and a good fire, and to be unable to get either. Neither of these returnings was very pleasant or desirable: no magnet drew me to a given point, increasing in its strength of attraction the nearer I came. The return to Thornfield was yet to be tried.
My journey seemed tedious -- very tedious: fifty miles one day, a night spent at an inn; fifty miles the next day. During the first twelve hours I thought of Mrs. Reed in her last moments; I saw her disfigured and discoloured face, and heard her strangely altered voice. I mused on the funeral day, the coffin, the hearse, the black train of tenants and servants -- few was the number of relatives -- the gaping vault, the silent church, the solemn service. Then I thought of Eliza and Georgiana; I beheld one the cynosure
I was going back to Thornfield: but how long was I to stay there? Not long; of that I was sure. I had heard from Mrs. Fairfax in the interim of my absence: the party at the hall was dispersed; Mr. Rochester had left for London three weeks ago, but he was then expected to return in a fortnight. Mrs. Fairfax surmised that he was gone to make arrangements for his wedding, as he had talked of purchasing a new carriage: she said the idea of his marrying Miss Ingram still seemed strange to her; but from what everybody said, and from what she had herself seen, she could no longer doubt that the event would shortly take place. "You would be strangely incredulous if you did doubt it," was my mental comment. "I don't doubt it."
The question followed, "Where was I to go?" I dreamt of Miss Ingram all the night: in a vivid morning dream I saw her closing the gates of Thornfield against me and pointing me out another road; and Mr. Rochester looked on with his arms folded -- smiling sardonically, as it seemed, at both her and me.
I had not notified to Mrs. Fairfax the exact day of my return; for I did not wish either car or carriage to meet me at Millcote. I proposed to walk the distance quietly by myself; and very quietly, after leaving my box in the ostler's care, did I slip away from the George Inn, about six o'clock of a June evening, and
It was not a bright or splendid summer evening, though fair and soft: the haymakers were at work all along the road; and the sky, though far from cloudless, was such as promised well for the future: its blue -- where blue was visible -- was mild and settled, and its cloud strata high and thin. The west, too, was warm: no watery gleam chilled it -- it seemed as if there was a fire lit, an altar burning behind its screen of marbled vapour, and out of apertures shone a golden redness.
I felt glad as the road shortened before me: so glad that I stopped once to ask myself what that joy meant: and to remind reason that it was not to my home I was going, or to a permanent resting-place, or to a place where fond friends looked out for me and waited my arrival. "Mrs. Fairfax will smile you a calm welcome, to be sure," said I; "and little Adèle will clap her hands and jump to see you: but you know very well you are thinking of another than they, and that he is not thinking of you."
But what is so headstrong as youth? What so blind as inexperience? These affirmed that it was pleasure enough to have the privilege of again looking on Mr. Rochester, whether he looked on me or not; and they added -- "Hasten! hasten! be with him while you may: but a few more days or weeks, at most, and you are parted from him for ever!" And then I strangled a new-born agony -- a deformed thing which I could not persuade myself to own and rear -- and ran on.
They are making hay, too, in Thornfield meadows: or rather, the labourers are just quitting their work, and returning home with their rakes on their shoulders, now, at the hour I arrive. I have but a field or two to traverse, and then I shall cross the road and reach the gates. How full the hedges are of roses! But I have no time to gather any; I want to be at the house. I passed a tall briar, shooting leafy and flowery branches across the path; I see the narrow stile with stone steps; and I see -- Mr. Rochester sitting there, a book and a pencil in his hand; he is writing.
Well, he is not a ghost; yet every nerve I have is unstrung: for a moment I am beyond my own mastery. What does it mean? I did not think I should tremble in this way when I saw him, or lose my voice or the power of motion in his presence. I will go back as soon as I can stir: I need not make an absolute fool of myself. I know another way to the house. It does not signify if I knew twenty ways; for he has seen me.
"Hillo!" he cries; and he puts up his book and his pencil. "There you are! Come on, if you please."
I suppose I do come on; though in what fashion I know not; being scarcely cognisant of my movements, and solicitous only to appear calm; and, above all, to control the working muscles of my face -- which I feel rebel insolently against my will, and struggle to express what I had resolved to conceal. But I have a veil -- it is down: I may make shift yet to behave with decent composure.
"And this is Jane Eyre? Are you coming from
"I have been with my aunt, Sir, who is dead."
"A true Janian reply! Good angels be my guard. She comes from the other world-from the abode of people who are dead; and tells me so when she meets me alone here in the gloaming! If I dared, I'd touch you, to see if you are substance or shadow, you elf! -- but I'd as soon offer to take hold of a blue ignis fatuus light in a marsh. Truant! truant!" he added, when he had paused an instant. "Absent from me a whole month, and forgetting me quite, I'll be sworn!"
I knew there would be pleasure in meeting my master again, even though broken by the fear that he was so soon to cease to be my master, and by the knowledge that I was nothing to him: but there was ever in Mr. Rochester (so at least I thought) such a wealth of the power of communicating happiness, that to taste but of the crumbs he scattered to stray and stranger birds like me, was to feast genially. His last words were balm: they seemed to imply vthat it imported something to him whether I forgot him or not. And he had spoken of Thornfield as my home -- would that it were my home!
He did not leave the stile, and I hardly liked to ask to go by. I inquired soon if he had not been to London.
"Yes; I suppose you found that out by second-sight."
"Mrs. Fairfax told me in a letter."
"And did she inform you what I went to do?"
"Oh, yes, Sir! Everybody knew your errand."
"You must see the carriage, Jane, and tell me if you don't think it will suit Mrs. Rochester exactly; and whether she won't look like Queen Boadicea, leaning back against those purple cushions. I wish, Jane, I were a trifle better adapted to match with her externally. Tell me now, fairy as you are, -- can't you give me a charm, or a philter, or something of that sort, to make me a handsome man?"
"It would be past the power of magic, Sir"; and, in thought, I added, "A loving eye is all the charm needed: to such you are handsome enough; or rather your sternness has a power beyond beauty."
Mr. Rochester had sometimes read my unspoken thoughts with an acumen to me incomprehensible: in the present instance he took no notice of my abrupt vocal response; but he smiled at me with a certain smile he had of his own, and which he used but on rare occasions. He seemed to think it too good for common purposes: it was the real sunshine of feeling -- he shed it over me now.
"Pass, Janet," said he, making room for me to cross the stile: "go up home, and stay your weary little wandering feet at a friend's threshold."
All I had now to do was to obey him in silence: no need for me to colloquise further. I got over the stile without a word, and meant to leave him calmly. An impulse held me fast, -- a force turned me round. I said -- or something in me said for me, and in spite of me: --
"Thank you, Mr. Rochester, for your great kindness.
I walked on so fast that even he could hardly have overtaken me had he tried. Little Adèle was half wild with delight when she saw me. Mrs. Fairfax received me with her usual plain friendliness. Leah smiled, and even Sophie bid me "bon soir" with glee. This was very pleasant; there is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.
I that evening shut my eyes resolutely against the future: I stopped my ears against the voice that kept warning me of near separation and coming grief. When tea was over and Mrs. Fairfax had taken her knitting, and I had assumed a low seat near her, and Adèle, kneeling on the carpet, had nestled close up to me, and a sense of mutual affection seemed to surround us with a ring of golden peace, I uttered a silent prayer that we might not be parted far or soon; but when, as we thus sat, Mr. Rochester entered, unannounced, and looking at us, seemed to take pleasure in the spectacle of a group so amicable -- when he said he supposed the old lady was all right now that she had got her adopted daughter back again, and added that he saw Adèle was "prête à croquer sa petite maman Anglaise" -- I half ventured to hope that he would, even after his marriage, keep us together somewhere under the shelter of his protection, and not quite exiled from the sunshine of his presence.
A fortnight of dubious calm succeeded my return to Thornfield-Hall. Nothing was said of the master's marriage, and I saw no preparation going on for such
One thing specially surprised me, and that was, there were no journeyings backward and forward, no visits to Ingram Park: to be sure it was twenty miles off, on the borders of another county; but what was that distance to an ardent lover? To so practised and indefatigable a horseman as Mr. Rochester, it would be but a morning's ride. I began to cherish hopes I had no right to conceive: that the match was broken off; that rumour had been mistaken; that one or both parties had changed their minds. I used to look at my master's face to see if it were sad or fierce; but I could not remember the time when it had been so uniformly clear of clouds or evil feelings. If, in the moments I and my pupil spent with him, I lacked spirits and sank into inevitable dejection, he became even gay. Never had he called me more frequently to his presence; never been kinder to me when there -- and, alas! never had I loved him so well.
A SPLENDID Midsummer shone over England: skies so pure, suns so radiant as were then seen in long succession, seldom favour even singly, our wave-girt land. It was as if a band of Italian days had come
On Midsummer-eve, Adèle, weary with gathering wild strawberries in Hay Lane half the day, had gone to bed with the sun. I watched her drop asleep, and when I left her, I sought the garden.
It was now the sweetest hour of the twenty-four: -- "Day its fervid fires had wasted," and dew fell cool on panting plain and scorched summit. Where the sun had gone down in simple state -- pure of the pomp of clouds -- spread a solemn purple, burning with the light of red jewel and furnace flame at one point, on one hill-peak, and extending high and wide, soft and still softer, over half heaven. The east had its own charm of fine deep blue, and its own modest gem, a rising and solitary star: soon it would boast the moon; but she was yet beneath the horizon.
I walked a while on the pavement; but a subtle, well-known scent -- that of a cigar -- stole from some window; I saw the library casement open a hand-breadth; I knew I might be watched thence; so I went apart into the orchard. No nook in the grounds more sheltered and more Eden-like; it was full of trees, it bloomed with flowers: a very high wall shut it out from the court, on one side; on the other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. At the bottom was a sunk fence; its sole separation from lonely fields: a winding walk, bordered with laurels and terminating
Sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose have long been yielding their evening sacrifice of incense: this new scent is neither of shrub nor flower; it is -- I know it well -- it is Mr. Rochester's cigar. I look round and I listen. I see trees laden with ripening fruit. I hear a nightingale warbling in a wood half a mile off; no moving form is visible, no coming step audible; but that perfume increases: I must flee. I make for the wicket leading to the shrubbery, and I see Mr. Rochester entering. I step aside into the ivy recess; he will not stay long: he will soon return whence he came, and if I sit still he will never see me.
But no -- eventide is as pleasant to him as to me, and this antique garden as attractive; and he strolls on, now lifting the gooseberry-tree branches to look at the fruit, large as plums, with which they are laden; now taking a ripe cherry from the wall; now stooping towards a knot of flowers, either to inhale their fragrance or to admire the dew-beads on their petals. A great moth goes humming by me; it alights on a plant at Mr. Rochester's foot: he sees it, and bends to examine it.
"Now, he has his back towards me," thought I,
I trode on an edging of turf that the crackle of the pebbly gravel might not betray me: he was standing among the beds at a yard or two distant from where I had to pass; the moth apparently engaged him. "I shall get by very well," I meditated. As I crossed his shadow, thrown long over the garden by the moon, not yet risen high, he said quietly, without turning: --
"Jane, come and look at this fellow."
I had made no noise: he had not eyes behind -- could his shadow feel? I started at first, and then I approached him.
"Look at his wings," said he, "he reminds me rather of a West Indian insect; one does not often see so large and gay a night-rover in England; there! he is flown."
The moth roamed away. I was sheepishly retreating also; but Mr. Rochester followed me, and when we reached the wicket, he said: --
"Turn back: on so lovely a night it is a shame to sit in the house; and surely no one can wish to go to bed while sunset is thus at meeting with moonrise."
It is one of my faults, that though my tongue is sometimes prompt enough at an answer, there are times when it sadly fails me in framing an excuse; and always the lapse occurs at some crisis, when a facile word or plausible pretext is specially wanted to get me out of painful embarrassment. I did not like to walk at this hour alone with Mr. Rochester in the shadowy orchard; but I could not find a reason to allege for leaving him. I followed with lagging step,
"Jane," he recommenced, as we entered the laurel-walk, and slowly strayed down in the direction of the sunk fence and the horse-chestnut, "Thornfield is a pleasant place in summer, is it not?"
"You must have become in some degree attached to the house, -- you, who have an eye for natural beauties, and a good deal of the organ of Adhesiveness?"
"I am attached to it, indeed."
"And though I don't comprehend how it is, I perceive you have acquired a degree of regard for that foolish little child Adèle, too; and even for simple dame Fairfax?"
"Yes, Sir; in different ways, I have an affection for both."
"And would be sorry to part with them?"
"Pity!" he said, and sighed and paused. "It is always the way of events in this life," he continued presently: "no sooner have you got settled in a pleasant resting-place, than a voice calls out to you to rise and move on, for the hour of repose is expired."
"Must I move on, Sir?" I asked. "Must I leave Thornfield?"
"I believe you must, Jane. I am sorry, Janet, but I believe indeed you must."
This was a blow: but I did not let it prostrate me.
"Well, Sir, I shall be ready when the order to march comes."
"It is come now -- I must give it to-night."
"Then you are going to be married, Sir?"
"Ex-act-ly -- pre-cise-ly: with your usual acuteness, you have hit the nail straight on the head."
"Very soon, my -- that is, Miss Eyre: and you'll remember, Jane, the first time I, or Rumour, plainly intimated to you that it was my intention to put my old bachelor's neck into the sacred noose, to enter into the holy estate of matrimony -- to take Miss Ingram to my bosom, in short (she's an extensive armful: but that's not to the point -- one can't have too much of such a very excellent thing as my beautiful Blanche): well, as I was saying -- listen to me, Jane! You're not turning your head to look after more moths, are you? That was only a lady-clock, child, "flying away home." I wish to remind you that it was you who first said to me, with that discretion I respect in you -- with that foresight, prudence, and humility which befit your responsible and dependent position -- that in case I married Miss Ingram, both you and little Adèle had better trot forthwith. I pass over the sort of slur conveyed in this suggestion on the character of my beloved; indeed, when you are far away, Janet, I'll try to forget it: I shall notice only its wisdom; which is such that I have made it my law of action. Adèle must go to school; and you, Miss Eyre, must get a new situation."
"Yes, Sir, I will advertise immediately: and meantime, I suppose -- " I was going to say, "I suppose
"In about a month I hope to be a bridegroom," continued Mr. Rochester; "and in the interim, I shall myself look out for employment and an asylum for you."
"Thank you, Sir; I am sorry to give -- "
"Oh, no need to apologise! I consider that when a dependant does her duty as well as you have done yours, she has a sort of claim upon her employer for any little assistance he can conveniently render her; indeed I have already, through my future mother-in-law, heard of a place that I think will suit: it is to undertake the education of the five daughters of Mrs. Dionysius O'Gall of Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught, Ireland. You'll like Ireland, I think: they're such warmhearted people there, they say."
"It is a long way off, Sir."
"No matter -- a girl of your sense will not object to the voyage or the distance."
"Not the voyage, but the distance: and then the sea is a barrier -- "
"From what, Jane?"
"From England and from Thornfield: and -- "
"From you, Sir."
I said this almost involuntarily, and, with as little sanction of free will, my tears gushed out. I did not cry so as to be heard, however; I avoided sobbing. The thought of Mrs. O'Gall and Bitternutt Lodge struck cold to my heart; and colder the thought of all
"It is a long way," I again said.
"It is, to be sure; and when you get to Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught, Ireland, I shall never see you again, Jane: that's morally certain. I never go over to Ireland, not having myself much of a fancy for the country. We have been good friends, Jane; have we not?"
"And when friends are on the eve of separation, they like to spend the little time that remains to them close to each other. Come! we'll talk over the voyage and the parting quietly half an hour or so, while the stars enter into their shining life up in heaven yonder: here is the chestnut tree: here is the bench at its old roots. Come, we will sit there in peace to-night, though we should never more be destined to sit there together." He seated me and himself.
"It is a long way to Ireland, Janet, and I am sorry to send my little friend on such weary travels: but if I can't do better, how is it to be helped? Are you anything akin to me, do you think, Jane?"
I could risk no sort of answer by this time: my heart was still.
"Because," he said, "I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you -- especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel
"That I never should, Sir: you know -- " Impossible to proceed.
"Jane, do you hear that nightingale singing in the wood? Listen!"
In listening, I sobbed convulsively; for I could repress what I endured no longer; I was obliged to yield, and I was shaken from head to foot with acute distress. When I did speak, it was only to express an impetuous wish that I had never been born, or never come to Thornfield.
"Because you are sorry to leave it?"
The vehemence of emotion, stirred by grief and love within me, was claiming mastery, and struggling for full sway, and asserting a right to predominate, to overcome, to live, rise, and reign at last: yes, -- and to speak.
"I grieve to leave Thornfield: I love Thornfield: -- I love it, because I have lived in it a full and delightful life, -- momentarily at least. I have not been trampled on. I have not been petrified. I have not been buried with inferior minds, and excluded from every glimpse of communion with what is bright and energetic and high. I have talked, face to face, with what I reverence, with what I delight in, -- with an original, a vigorous, an expanded mind. I have known you, Mr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and anguish to feel I absolutely must be torn from you for ever. I see the necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of death."
"Where do you see the necessity?" he asked suddenly.
"Where? You, Sir, have placed it before me."
"In what shape?"
"In the shape of Miss Ingram; a noble and beautiful woman, -- your bride."
"My bride! What bride? I have no bride!"
"But you will have."
"Yes; -- I will! -- I will!" He set his teeth.
"Then I must go: -- you have said it yourself."
"No: you must stay! I swear it -- and the oath shall be kept."
"I tell you I must go!" I retorted, roused to something like passion. "Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton? -- a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! -- I have as much soul as you, -- and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; -- it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal, -- as we are!"
"As we are!" repeated Mr. Rochester -- "so," he added, enclosing me in his arms, gathering me to his breast, pressing his lips on my lips: "so, Jane!"
"Yes, so, Sir," I rejoined: "and yet not so; for you are a married man -- or as good as a married man, and wed to one inferior to you -- to one with whom you have no sympathy-whom I do not believe you truly love; for I have seen and heard you sneer at her. I would scorn such a union: therefore I am better than you -- let me go!"
"Where, Jane? To Ireland?"
"Yes -- to Ireland. I have spoken my mind, and can go anywhere now."
"Jane, be still; don't struggle so, like a wild frantic bird that is rending its own plumage in its desperation."
"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you."
Another effort set me at liberty, and I stood erect before him.
"And your will shall decide your destiny," he said: "I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions."
"You play a farce, which I merely laugh at."
"I ask you to pass through life at my side -- to be my second self, and best earthly companion."
"For that fate you have already made your choice, and must abide by it."
"Jane, be still a few moments: you are over-excited: I will be still too."
A waft of wind came sweeping down the laurel-walk and trembled through the boughs of the chestnut: it wandered away -- away -- to an indefinite distance -- it died. The nightingale's song was then
"Come to my side, Jane, and let us explain and understand one another."
"I will never again come to your side: I am torn away now, and cannot return."
"But, Jane, I summon you as my wife: it is you only I intend to marry."
I was silent: I thought he mocked me.
"Come, Jane -- come hither."
"Your bride stands between us."
He rose, and with a stride reached me.
"My bride is here," he said, again drawing me to him, "because my equal is here, and my likeness. Jane, will you marry me?"
Still I did not answer, and still I writhed myself from his grasp: for I was still incredulous.
"Do you doubt me, Jane?"
"You have no faith in me?"
"Not a whit."
"Am I a liar in your eyes?" he asked passionately. "Little sceptic, you shall be convinced. What love have I for Miss Ingram? None: and that you know. What love has she for me? None: as I have taken pains to prove: I caused a rumour to reach her that my fortune was not a third of what was supposed, and after that I presented myself to see the result; it was coldness both from her and her mother. I would not -- I could not -- marry Miss Ingram. You -- you strange, you almost unearthly thing! -- I love
"What, me!" I ejaculated, beginning in his earnestness -- and especially in his incivility -- to credit his sincerity: "me who have not a friend in the world but you -- if you are my friend: not a shilling but what you have given me?"
"You, Jane. I must have you for my own -- entirely my own. Will you be mine? Say yes, quickly."
"Mr. Rochester, let me look at your face: turn to the moonlight."
"Because I want to read your countenance; turn!"
"There! you will find it scarcely more legible than a crumpled, scratched page. Read on: only make haste, for I suffer."
His face was very much agitated and very much flushed, and there were strong workings in the features, and strange gleams in the eyes.
"Oh, Jane, you torture me!" he exclaimed. "With that searching and yet faithful and generous look, you torture me!"
"How can I do that? If you are true, and your offer real, my only feelings to you must be gratitude and devotion -- they cannot torture."
"Gratitude!" he ejaculated; and added wildly -- "Jane, accept me quickly. Say, Edward -- give me my name -- Edward -- I will marry you."
"Are you in earnest? -- Do you truly love me? -- Do you sincerely wish me to be your wife?"
"I do; and if an oath is necessary to satisfy you, I swear it."
"Then, Sir, I will marry you."
"Edward -- my little wife!"
"Come to me -- come to me entirely now," said he; and added, in his deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine, "Make my happiness -- I will make yours."
"God pardon me!" he subjoined ere long; "and man meddle not with me: I have her, and will hold her."
"There is no one to meddle, Sir. I have no kindred to interfere."
"No -- that is the best of it," he said. And if I had loved him less I should have thought his accent and look of exultation savage; but, sitting by him, roused from the nightmare of parting -- called to the paradise of union -- I thought only of the bliss given me to drink in so abundant a flow. Again and again he said, "Are you happy, Jane?" And again and again I answered, "Yes," After which he murmured, "It will atone -- it will atone. Have I not found her friendless, and cold, and comfortless? Will I not guard, and cherish, and solace her? Is there not love in my heart, and constancy in my resolves? It will expiate at God's tribunal. I know my Maker sanctions what I do. For the world's judgment -- I wash my hands thereof. For man's opinion -- I defy it."
But what had befallen the night? The moon was not yet set, and we were all in shadow: I could scarcely see my master's face, near as I was. And what ailed the chestnut tree? it writhed and groaned; while
"We must go in," said Mr. Rochester: "the weather changes. I could have sat with thee till morning, Jane."
"And so," thought I, "could I with you." I should have said so, perhaps, but a livid, vivid spark leapt out of a cloud at which I was looking, and there was a crack, a crash, and a close rattling peal; and I thought only of hiding my dazzled eyes against Mr. Rochester's shoulder.
The rain rushed down. He hurried me up the walk, through the grounds, and into the house; but we were quite wet before we could pass the threshold. He was taking off my shawl in the hall, and shaking the water out of my loosened hair, when Mrs. Fairfax emerged from her room. I did not observe her at first, nor did Mr. Rochester. The lamp was lit. The dock was on the stroke of twelve.
"Hasten to take off your wet things," said he; "and before you go, good-night -- good-night, my darling!"
He kissed me repeatedly. When I looked up, on leaving his arms, there stood the widow, pale, grave, and amazed. I only smiled at her, and ran upstairs. "Explanation will do for another time," thought I. Still, when I reached my chamber, I felt a pang at the idea she should even temporarily misconstrue what she had seen. But joy soon effaced every other feeling; and loud as the wind blew, near and deep as the thunder crashed, fierce and frequent as the lightning gleamed, cataract-like as the rain fell during a storm of two hours'q duration, I experienced no fear, and
Before I left my bed in the morning, little Adèle came running in to tell me that the great horse-chestnut at the bottom of the orchard had been struck by lightning in the night, and half of it split away.
AS I rose and dressed, I thought over what had happened, and wondered if it were a dream. I could not be certain of the reality till I had seen Mr. Rochester again, and heard him renew his words of love and promise.
While arranging my hair, I looked at my face in the glass, and felt it was no longer plain: there was hope in its aspect and life in its colour; and my eyes seemed as if they had beheld the fount of fruition, and borrowed beams from the lustrous ripple. I had often been unwilling to look at my master, because I feared he could not be pleased at my look; but I was sure I might lift my face to his now, and not cool his affection by its expression. I took a plain but clean and light summer dress from my drawer and put it on: it seemed no attire had ever so well become me, because none had I ever worn in so blissful a mood.
I was not surprised, when I ran down into the hall, to see that a brilliant June morning had succeeded to the tempest of the night; and to feel, through the open glass door, the breathing of a fresh and fragrant breeze. Nature must be gladsome when I was so
Mrs. Fairfax surprised me by looking out of the window with a sad countenance, and saying gravely: -- "Miss Eyre, will you come to breakfast?" During the meal she was quiet and cool: but I could not undeceive her then. I must wait for my master to give explanations; and so must she. I ate what I could, and then I hastened upstairs. I met Adèle leaving the schoolroom.
"Where are you going? It is time for lessons."
"Mr. Rochester has sent me away to the nursery."
"Where is he?"
"In there," pointing to the apartment she had left; and I went in, and there he stood.
"Come and bid me good-morning," said he. I gladly advanced; and it was not merely a cold word now, or even a shake of the hand that I received, but an embrace and a kiss. It seemed natural: it seemed genial to be so well loved, so caressed by him.
"Jane, you look blooming, and smiling, and pretty," said he: "truly pretty this morning. Is this my pale, little elf? Is this my mustard-seed? This little sunny-faced girl with the dimpled cheek and rosy lips; the satin-smooth hazel hair, and the radiant hazel eyes?" (I had green eyes, reader; but you must excuse the mistake: for him they were new-dyed, I suppose.)
"It is Jane Eyre, Sir."
"Soon to be Jane Rochester," he added: "in four weeks, Janet; not a day more. Do you hear that?"
I did, and I could not quite comprehend it: it made me giddy. The feeling, the announcement sent through me, was something stronger than was consistent with joy -- something that smote and stunned: it was, I think, almost fear.
"You blushed, and now you are white, Jane: what is that for?"
"Because you gave me a new name -- Jane Rochester; and it seems so strange."
"Yes, Mrs. Rochester," said he; "young Mrs. Rochester -- Fairfax Rochester's girl-bride."
"It can never be, Sir; it does not sound likely. Human beings never enjoy complete happiness in this world. I was not born for a different destiny to the rest of my species: to imagine such a lot befalling me is a fairy tale -- a day-dream."
"Which I can and will realise. I shall begin to-day. This morning I wrote to my banker in London to send me certain jewels he has in his keeping, -- heirlooms for the ladies of Thornfield. In a day or two I hope to pour them into your lap: for every privilege, every attention shall be yours that I would accord a peer's daughter, if about to marry her."
"Oh, Sir! -- never mind jewels! I don't like to hear them spoken of. Jewels for Jane Eyre sounds unnatural and strange: I would rather not have them."
"I will myself put the diamond chain round your neck, and the circlet on your forehead, -- which it will become: for nature, at least, has stamped her patent of nobility on this brow, Jane; and I will clasp
"No, no, Sir! think of other subjects, and speak of other things, and in another strain. Don't address me as if I were a beauty; I am your plain, Quakerish governess."
"You are a beauty in my eyes, and a beauty just after the desire of my heart, -- delicate and aerial."
"Puny and insignificant, you mean. You are dreaming, Sir -- or you are sneering. For God's sake, don't be ironical!"
"I will make the world acknowledge you a beauty, too," he went on, while I really became uneasy at the strain he had adopted, because I felt he was either deluding himself or trying to delude me. "I will attire my Jane in satin and lace, and she shall have roses in her hair; and I will cover the head I love best with a priceless veil."
"And then you won't know me, Sir; and I shall not be your Jane Eyre any longer, but an ape in a harlequin's jacket, -- a jay in borrowed plumes. I would as soon see you, Mr. Rochester, tricked out in stage-trappings, as myself clad in a court-lady's robe; and I don't call you handsome, sir, though I love you most dearly: far too dearly to flatter you. Don't flatter me."
He pursued his theme, however, without noticing my deprecation. "This very day I shall take you in the carriage to Millcote, and you must choose some dresses for yourself. I told you we shall be married in four weeks. The wedding is to take place quietly, in the church down below yonder; and then I shall waft you away at once to town. After a brief stay
"Shall I travel? -- and with you, Sir?"
"You shall sojourn at Paris, Rome, and Naples: at Florence, Venice, and Vienna: all the ground I have wandered over shall be re-trodden by you: wherever I stamped my hoof, your sylph's foot shall step also. Ten years since, I flew through Europe half mad; with disgust, hate, and rage as my companions: now I shall revisit it healed and cleaned, with a very angel as my comforter."
I laughed at him as he said this. "I am not an angel," I asserted; "and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me -- for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate."
"What do you anticipate of me?"
"For a little while you will perhaps be as you are now, -- a very little while; and then you will turn cool; and then you will be capricious; and then you will be stern, and I shall have much ado to please you: but when you get well used to me, you will perhaps like me again, -- like me, I say, not love me. I suppose your love will effervesce in six months, or less. I have observed in books written by men, that period assigned as the farthest to which a husband's ardour extends. Yet, after all, as a friend and companion,
"Distasteful! and like you again! I think I shall like you again, and yet again: and I will make you confess I do not only like, but love you -- with truth, fervour, constancy."
"Yet are you not capricious, Sir?"
"To women who please me only by their faces, I am the very devil when I find out they have neither souls nor hearts -- when they open to me a perspective of flatness, triviality, and perhaps imbecility, coarseness, and ill-temper: but to the clear eye and eloquent tongue, to the soul made of fire, and the character that bends but does not break -- at once supple and stable, tractable and consistent -- I am ever tender and true."
"Had you ever experience of such a character, Sir? Did you ever love such an one?"
"I love it now."
"But before me: if I, indeed, in any respect come up to your difficult standard?"
"I never met your likeness. Jane, you please me, and you master me -- you seem to submit, and I like the sense of pliancy you impart; and while I am twining the soft, silken skein round my finger, it sends a thrill up my arm to my heart. I am influenced -- conquered; and the influence is sweeter than I can express; and the conquest I undergo has a witchery beyond any triumph I can win. Why do you smile, Jane? What does that inexplicable, that uncanny turn of countenance mean?"
"I was thinking, Sir (you will excuse the idea; it
"You were, you little elfish -- "
"Hush, Sir! You don't talk very wisely just now; any more than those gentlemen acted very wisely. However, had they been married, they would no doubt by their severity as husbands have made up for their softness as suitors; and so will you, I fear. I wonder how you will answer me a year hence, should I ask a favour it does not suit your convenience or pleasure to grant."
"Ask me something now, Janet -- the least thing: I desire to be entreated -- "
"Indeed I will Sir; I have my petition all ready."
"Speak! But if you look up and smile with that countenance, I shall swear concession before I know to what, and that will make a fool of me."
"Not at all, Sir; I ask only this: don't send for the jewels, and don't crown me with roses: you might as well put a border of gold lace round that plain pocket-handkerchief you have there."
"I might as well 'gild refined gold.' I know it: your request is granted then -- for the time. I will remand the order I despatched to my banker. But you have not yet asked for anything; you have prayed a gift to be withdrawn: try again."
"Well, then, Sir, have the goodness to gratify my curiosity, which is much piqued on one point."
He looked disturbed. "What? what?" he said hastily. "Curiosity is a dangerous petition: it is well I have not taken a vow to accord every request -- "
"But there can be no danger in complying with this, Sir."
"Utter it, Jane: but I wish that instead of a mere inquiry into, perhaps, a secret, it was a wish for half my estate."
"Now, King Ahasuerus! What do I want with half your estate? Do you think I am a Jew-usurer, seeking good investment in land? I would much rather have all your confidence. You will not exclude me from your confidence if you admit me to your heart?"
"You are welcome to all my confidence that is worth having, Jane; but for God's sake, don't desire a useless burden! Don't long for poison -- don't turn out a downright Eve on my hands!"
"Why not, Sir? You have just been telling me how much you liked to be conquered, and how pleasant over-persuasion is to you. Don't you think I had better take advantage of the confession, and begin and coax and entreat -- even cry and be sulky if necessary -- for the sake of a mere essay of my power?"
"I dare you to any such experiment. Encroach, presume, and the game is up."
"Is it, Sir? You soon give in. How stern you look now! Your eyebrows have become as thick as my finger, and your forehead resembles what, in some very astonishing poetry, I once saw styled, 'a blue-piled thunderloft.' That will be your married look, Sir, I suppose?"
"If that will be your married look, I, as a Christian, will soon give up the notion of consorting with a mere sprite or salamander. But what had you to ask, thing? -- out with it!"
"There, you are less than civil now; and I like rudeness a great deal better than flattery. I had rather be a thing than an angel. This is what I have
"Is that all? Thank God it is no worse!" And now he unknit his black brows; looked down, smiling at me, and stroked my hair, as if well pleased at seeing a danger averted. "I think I may confess," he continued, "even although I should make you a little indignant, Jane -- and I have seen what a fire-spirit you can be when you are indignant. You glowed in the cool moonlight last night, when you mutinied against fate, and claimed your rank as my equal. Janet, by the bye, it was you who made me the offer."
"Of course I did. But to the point if you please, Sir -- Miss Ingram?"
"Well, I feigned courtship of Miss Ingram, because I wished to render you as madly in love with me as I was with you; and I knew jealousy would be the best ally I could call in for the furtherance of that end."
"Excellent! -- Now you are small -- not one whit bigger than the end of my little finger. It was a burning shame and a scandalous disgrace to act in that way. Did you think nothing of Miss Ingram's feelings, Sir?"
"Her feelings are concentrated in one -- pride; and that needs humbling. Were you jealous, Jane?"
"Never mind, Mr. Rochester: it is in no way interesting to you to know that. Answer me truly once more. Do you think Miss Ingram will not suffer from your dishonest coquetry? Won't she feel forsaken and deserted?"
"Impossible! -- when I told you how she, on the contrary, deserted me: the idea of my insolvency cooled, or rather extinguished, her flame in a moment."
"You have a curious, designing mind, Mr. Rochester. I am afraid your principles on some points are eccentric."
"My principles were never trained, Jane: they may have grown a little awry for want of attention."
"Once again, seriously; may I enjoy the great good that has been vouchsafed to me, without fearing that any one else is suffering the bitter pain I myself felt a while ago?"
"That you may, my good little girl: there is not another being in the world has the same pure love for me as yourself -- for I lay that pleasant unction to my soul, Jane, a belief in your affection."
I turned my lips to the hand that lay on my shoulder. I loved him very much -- more than I could trust myself to say -- more than words had power to express.
"Ask something more," he said presently; "it is my delight to be entreated, and to yield."
I was again ready with my request. "Communicate your intentions to Mrs. Fairfax, Sir: she saw me with you last night in the hall, and she was shocked. Give her some explanation before I see her again. It pains me to be misjudged by so good a woman."
"Go to your room, and put on your bonnet," he replied. "I mean you to accompany me to Millcote this morning; and while you prepare for the drive, I will enlighten the old lady's understanding. Did she think, Janet, you had given the world for love, and considered it well lost?"
"I believe she thought I had forgotten my station, and yours, Sir."
"Station! station! -- your station is in my heart, and on the necks of those who would insult you, now or hereafter. -- Go."
I was soon dressed; and when I heard Mr. Rochester quit Mrs. Fairfax's parlour, I hurried down to it. The old lady had been reading her morning portion of Scripture -- the Lesson for the day; her Bible lay open before her, and her spectacles were upon it. Her occupation, suspended by Mr. Rochester's announcement, seemed now forgotten: her eyes, fixed on the blank wall opposite, expressed the surprise of a quiet mind stirred by unwonted tidings. Seeing me, she roused herself: she made a sort of effort to smile, and framed a few words of congratulation; but the smile expired, and the sentence was abandoned unfinished. She put up her spectacles, shut the Bible, and pushed her chair back from the table.
"I feel so astonished," she began, "I hardly know what to say to you, Miss Eyre. I have surely not been dreaming, have I? Sometimes I half fall asleep when I am sitting alone and fancy things that have never happened. It has seemed to me more than once when I have been in a doze, that my dear husband, who died fifteen years since, has come in and sat down beside me; and that I have even heard him call me by my name, Alice, as he used to do. Now, can you tell me whether it is actually true that Mr. Rochester has asked you to marry him? Don't laugh at me. But I really thought he came in here five minutes ago, and said that in a month you would be his wife."
"He has said the same thing to me," I replied.
"He has! Do you believe him? Have you accepted him?"
She looked at me bewildered.
"I could never have thought it. He is a proud man: all the Rochesters were proud: and his father, at least, liked money. He, too, has always been called careful. He means to marry you?"
"He tells me so."
She surveyed my whole person: in her eyes I read that they had there found no charm powerful enough to solve the enigma.
"It passes me!" she continued; "but no doubt it is true since you say so. How it will answer, I cannot tell: I really don't know. Equality of position and fortune is often advisable in such cases; and there are twenty years of difference in your ages. He might almost be your father."
"No, indeed, Mrs. Fairfax!" exclaimed I, nettled; "he is nothing like my father! No one, who saw us together, would suppose it for an instant. Mr. Rochester looks as young, and is as young, as some men at five-and-twenty."
"Is it really for love he is going to marry you?" she asked.
I was so hurt by her coldness and scepticism, that the tears rose to my eyes.
"I am sorry to grieve you," pursued the widow; "but you are so young, and so little acquainted with men, I wished to put you on your guard. It is an old saying that "all is not gold that glitters"; and in this case I do fear there will be something found to be different to what either you or I expect."
"Why? -- am I a monster?" I said: "is it impossible that Mr. Rochester should have a sincere affection for me?"
"No: you are very well; and much improved of late; and Mr. Rochester, I daresay, is fond of you. I have always noticed that you were a sort of pet of his. There are times when, for your sake, I have been a little uneasy at his marked preference, and have wished to put you on your guard: but I did not like to suggest even the possibility of wrong. I knew such an idea would shock, perhaps offend you; and you were so discreet, and so thoroughly modest and sensible, I hoped you might be trusted to protect yourself. Last night I cannot tell you what I suffered when I sought all over the house, and could find you nowhere, nor the master either; and then, at twelve o'clock, saw you come in with him."
"Well, never mind that now," I interrupted impatiently; "it is enough that all was right."
"I hope all will be right in the end," she said: "but believe me, you cannot be too careful. Try and keep Mr. Rochester at a distance: distrust yourself as well as him. Gentlemen in his station are not accustomed to marry their governesses."
I was growing truly irritated: happily, Adèle ran in.
"Let me go, -- let me go to Millcote too!" she cried. "Mr. Rochester won't: though there is so much room in the new carriage. Beg him to let me go, mademoiselle."
"That I will, Adèle;" and I hastened away with her, glad to quit my gloomy monitress. The carriage was ready: they were bringing it round to the front,
"Adèle may accompany us, may she not, Sir?"
"I told her no. I'll have no brats! -- I'll have only you."
"Do let her go, Mr. Rochester, if you please: it would be better."
"Not it: she will be a restraint."
He was quite peremptory, both in look and voice. The chill of Mrs. Fairfax's warnings, and the damp of her doubts were upon me: something of unsubstantiality and uncertainty had beset my hopes. I half lost the sense of power over him. I was about mechanically to obey him, without further remonstrance; but as he helped me into the carriage, he looked at my face.
"What is the matter?" he asked; "all the sunshine is gone. Do you really wish the bairn to go? Will it annoy you if she is left behind?"
"I would far rather she went, Sir."
"Then off for your bonnet, and back like a flash of lightning!" cried he to Adèle.
She obeyed him with what speed she might.
"After all, a single morning's interruption will not matter much," said he, "when I mean shortly to claim you -- your thoughts, conversation, and company -- for life."
Adèle, when lifted in, commenced kissing me, by way of expressing her gratitude for my intercession: she was instantly stowed away into a corner on the other side of him. She then peeped round to where I sat; so stern a neighbour was too restrictive; to him,
"Let her come to me," I entreated: "she will, perhaps, trouble you, Sir: there is plenty of room on this side."
He handed her over as if she had been a lapdog. "I'll send her to school yet," he said, but now he was smiling.
Adèle heard him, and asked if she was to go to school "sans mademoiselle?"
"Yes," he replied, "absolutely sans mademoiselle; for I am to take mademoiselle to the moon, and there I shall seek a cave in one of the white valleys among the volcano-tops, and mademoiselle shall live with me there, and only me."
"She will have nothing to eat: you will starve her," observed Adèle.
"I shall gather manna for her morning and night: the plains and hillsides in the moon are bleached with manna, Adèle."
"She will want to warm herself: what will she do for a fire?"
"Fire rises out of the lunar mountains: when she is cold, I'll carry her up to a peak, and lay her down on the edge of a crater."
"Oh, qu'elle y sera mal -- peu comfortable! And her clothes, they will wear out: how can she get new ones?"
Mr. Rochester professed to be puzzled. "Hem!" said he. "What would you do, Adèle? Cudgel your brains for an expedient. How would a white or a pink cloud answer for a gown, do you think? And one could cut a pretty enough scarf out of a rainbow."
"She is far better as she is," concluded Adèle, after musing some time: "besides, she would get tired of living with only you in the moon. If I were mademoiselle, I would never consent to go with you."
"She has consented: she has pledged her word."
"But you can't get her there; there is no road to the moon: it is all air; and neither you nor she can fly."
"Adèle, look at that field." We were now outside Thornfield gates, and bowling lightly along the smooth road to Millcote, where the dust was well laid by the thunderstorm, and where the low hedges and lofty timber trees on each side glistened green and rain-refreshed.
"In that field, Adèle, I was walking late one evening about a fortnight since -- the evening of the day you helped me to make hay in the orchard meadows; and as I was tired with raking swaths, I sat down to rest me on a stile; and there I took out a little book and a pencil, and began to write about a misfortune that befell me long ago, and a wish I had for happy days to come: I was writing away very fast, though daylight was fading from the leaf, when something came up the path and stopped two yards off me. I looked at it. It was a little thing with a veil of gossamer on its head. I beckoned it to come near me; it stood soon at my knee. I never spoke to it, and it never spoke to me, in words; but I read its eyes, and it read mine; and our speechless colloquy was to this effect: --
"It was a fairy, and come from Elf-land, it said; and its errand was to make me happy: I must go with it out of the common world to a lonely place -- such as the moon, for instance -- and it nodded its head
"'Oh,' returned the fairy, 'that does not signify! Here is a talisman will remove all difficulties;' and she held out a pretty gold ring. 'Put it,' she said, 'on the fourth finger of my left hand, and I am yours, and you are mine; and we shall leave earth, and make our own heaven yonder.' She nodded again at the moon. The ring, Adèle, is in my breeches-pocket, under the disguise of a sovereign: but I mean soon to change it to a ring again."
"But what has mademoiselle to do with it? I don't care for the fairy: you said it was mademoiselle you would take to the moon?"
"Mademoiselle is a fairy," he said, whispering mysteriously. Whereupon I told her not to mind his badinage; and she, on her part, evinced a fund of genuine French scepticism: denominating Mr. Rochester "un vrai menteur," and assuring him that she made no account whatever of his "Contes de fée," and that "du reste, il n'y avait pas de fées, et quand même il y en avait:" she was sure they would never appear to him, nor ever give him rings, or offer to live with him in the moon.
The hour spent at Millcote was a somewhat harassing one to me. Mr. Rochester obliged me to go to a certain silk warehouse: there I was ordered to choose half a dozen dresses. I hated the business, I begged leave to defer it: no -- it should be gone through with now. By dint of entreaties expressed in energetic whispers, I reduced the half-dozen to two: these, however,
Glad was I to get him out of the silk warehouse, and then out of a jeweller's shop: the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned with a sense of annoyance and degradation. As we re-entered the carriage, and I sat back feverish and fagged, I remembered what, in the hurry of events, dark and bright, I had wholly forgotten -- the letter of my uncle, John Eyre, to Mrs. Reed: his intention to adopt me and make me his legatee. "It would, indeed, be a relief," I thought, "if I had ever so small an independency; I never can bear being dressed like a doll by Mr. Rochester, or sitting like a second Danae with the golden shower falling daily round me. I will write to Madeira the moment I get home, and tell my uncle John I am going to be married, and to whom: if I had but a prospect of one day bringing Mr. Rochester an accession of fortune, I could better endure to be kept by him now." And somewhat relieved by this idea (which I failed not to execute that day), I ventured once more to meet my master's and lover's eye, which most pertinaciously sought mine, though I averted both face and gaze. He smiled; and I thought his smile was such as a sultan
"You need not look in that way," I said; "if you do, I'll wear nothing but my old Lowood frocks to the end of the chapter. I'll be married in this lilac gingham: you may make a dressing-gown for yourself out of the pearl-grey silk, and an infinite series of waistcoats out of the black satin."
He chuckled; he rubbed his hands. "Oh, it is rich to see and hear her!" he exclaimed. "Is she original? Is she piquant? I would not exchange this one little English girl for the Grand Turk's whole seraglio, gazelle-eyes, houri forms, and all!"
The Eastern allusion bit me again. "I'll not stand you an inch in the stead of a seraglio," I said; "so don't consider me an equivalent for one. If you have a fancy for anything in that line, away with you, Sir, to the bazaars of Stamboul without delay, and lay out in extensive slave-purchases some of that spare cash you seem at a loss to spend satisfactorily here."
"And what will you do, Janet, while I am bargaining for so many tons of flesh and such an assortment of black eyes?"
"I'll be preparing myself to go out as a missionary to preach liberty to them that are enslaved -- your harem inmates amongst the rest. I'll get admitted there, and I'll stir up mutiny; and you, three-tailed bashaw as you are, Sir, shall in a trice find yourself fettered amongst our hands: nor will I, for one, consent to cut your bonds till you have signed a charter, the most liberal that despot ever yet conferred."
"I would consent to be at your mercy, Jane."
"I would have no mercy, Mr. Rochester, if you supplicated for it with an eye like that. While you looked so, I should be certain that whatever charter you might grant under coercion, your first act, when released, would be to violate its conditions."
"Why, Jane, what would you have? I fear you will compel me to go through a private marriage ceremony, besides that performed at the altar. You will stipulate, I see, for peculiar terms -- what will they be?"
"I only want an easy mind, Sir; not crushed by crowded obligations. Do you remember what you said of Céline Varens? -- of the diamonds, the cashmeres you gave her? I will not be your English Céline Varens. I shall continue to act as Adèle's governess; by that I shall earn my board and lodging, and thirty pounds a year besides. I'll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money, and you shall give me nothing but -- "
"Well, but what?"
"Your regard; and if I give you mine in return, that debt will be quit."
"Well, for cool native impudence and pure innate pride, you haven't your equal," said he. We were now approaching Thornfield. "Will it please you to dine with me to-day?" he asked, as we re-entered the gates.
"No, thank you, Sir."
"And what for, 'no, thank you'? if one may inquire."
"I never have dined with you, Sir: and I see no reason why I should now: till -- "
"Till what? You delight in half-phrases."
"Till I can't help it."
"Do you suppose I eat like an ogre or a ghoul, that you dread being the companion of my repast?"
"I have formed no supposition on the subject, Sir; but I want to go on as usual for another month."
"You will give up your governessing slavery at once."
"Indeed, begging your pardon, Sir, I shall not. I shall just go on with it as usual. I shall keep out of your way all day, as I have been accustomed to do: you may send for me in the evening, when you feel disposed to see me, and I'll come then; but at no other time."
"I want a smoke, Jane, or a pinch of snuff, to comfort me under all this, "pour me donner une contenance," as Adèle would say; and unfortunately I have neither my cigar-case nor my snuff-box. But listen -- whisper -- It is your time now, little tyrant, but it will be mine presently; and when once I have fairly seized you, to have and to hold, I'll just -- figuratively speaking -- attach you to a chain like this" (touching his watch-guard). "Yes, bonny wee thing, I'll wear you in my bosom, lest my jewel I should tyne."
He said this as he helped me to alight from the carriage, and while he afterwards lifted out Adèle, I entered the house, and made good my retreat upstairs.
He duly summoned me to his presence in the evening. I had prepared an occupation for him; for I was determined not to spend the whole time in a tête-à-tête conversation. I remembered his fine voice; I knew he liked to sing -- good singers generally do. I was no vocalist myself, and, in his fastidious judgment, no musician, either; but I delighted in listening when the
"Did I like his voice?" he asked.
"Very much." I was not fond of pampering that susceptible vanity of his; but for once, and from motives of expediency, I would e'en soothe and stimulate it.
"Then, Jane, you must play the accompaniment."
"Very well, Sir, I will try."
I did try, but was presently swept off the stool and denominated "a little bungler." Being pushed unceremoniously to one side -- which was precisely what I wished -- he usurped my place, and proceeded to accompany himself: for he could play as well as sing. I hied me to the window-recess. And while I sat there and looked out on the still trees and dim lawn, to a sweet air was sung in mellow tones the following strain: --
He rose and came towards me, and I saw his face all kindled, and his full falcon-eye flashing, and tenderness and passion in every lineament. I quailed momentarily -- then I rallied. Soft scene, daring demonstration,
"That was a strange question to be put by his darling Jane."
"Indeed! I considered it a very natural and necessary one: he had talked of his future wife dying with him. What did he mean by such a pagan idea? I had no intention of dying with him -- he might depend on that."
"Oh, all he longed, all he prayed for, was that I might live with him! Death was not for such as I."
"Indeed it was: I had as good a right to die when my time came as he had: but I should bide that time, and not be hurried away in a suttee."
"Would I forgive him for the selfish idea, and prove my pardon by a reconciling kiss?"
"No: I would rather be excused."
Here I heard myself apostrophised as a "hard little thing"; and it was added, "any other woman would have been melted to marrow at hearing such stanzas crooned in her praise."
I assured him I was naturally hard -- very flinty, and that he would often find me so; and that, moreover, I was determined to show him divers rugged points in my character before the ensuing four weeks elapsed: he should know fully what sort of a bargain he had made, while there was yet time to rescind it.
"Would I be quiet and talk rationally?"
"I would be quiet if he liked, and as to talking rationally, I flattered myself I was doing that now."
He fretted, pished, and pshawed. "Very good," I
From less to more, I worked him up to considerable irritation; then, after he had retired, in dudgeon, quite to the other end of the room, I got up, and saying, "I wish you good-night, Sir," in my natural and wonted respectful manner, I slipped out by the side-door and got away.
The system thus entered on, I pursued during the whole season of probation; and with the best success. He was kept, to be sure, rather cross and crusty; but on the whole I could see he was excellently entertained, and that a lamb-like submission and turtle-dove sensibility, while fostering his despotism more, would have pleased his judgment, satisfied his common sense, and even suited his taste less.
In other people's presence I was, as formerly, deferential and quiet; any other line of conduct being uncalled for: it was only in the evening conferences I thus thwarted and afflicted him. He continued to send for me punctually the moment the clock struck seven; though when I appeared before him now, he had no such honeyed terms as "love" and "darling" on his lips: the best words at my service were "provoking puppet," "malicious elf," "sprite," "changeling," etc. For caresses, too, I now got grimaces; for a pressure of the hand, a pinch on the arm; for a kiss on the
Yet after all my task was not an easy one; often I would rather have pleased than teased him. My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol.
THE month of courtship had wasted: its very last hours were being numbered. There was no putting off the day that advanced -- the bridal day; and all preparations for its arrival were complete. I, at least, had nothing more to do: there were my trunks, packed, locked, corded, ranged in a row along the wall of my little chamber; to-morrow, at this time, they would be far on their road to London: and so should I (D.V.), -- or rather, not I, but one Jane Rochester, a person
It was not only the hurry of preparation that made me feverish; not only the anticipation of the great change -- the new life which was to commence to-morrow: both these circumstances had their share, doubtless, in producing that restless, excited mood which hurried me forth at this late hour into the darkening grounds: but a third cause influenced my mind more than they.
I had at heart a strange and anxious thought. Something had happened which I could not comprehend; no one knew of or had seen the event but myself: it had taken place the preceding night. Mr. Rochester
I sought the orchard, driven to its shelter by the wind, which all day had blown strong and full from the south, without, however, bringing a speck of rain. Instead of subsiding as night drew on, it seemed to augment its rush and deepen its roar: the trees blew steadfastly one way, never writhing round, and scarcely tossing back their boughs once in an hour; so continuous was the strain bending their branchy heads northward -- the clouds drifted from pole to pole, fast following, mass on mass: no glimpse of blue sky had been visible that July day.
It was not without a certain wild pleasure I ran before the wind, delivering my trouble of mind to the measureless air-torrent thundering through space. Descending the laurel walk, I faced the wreck of the chestnut-tree; it stood up black and riven: the trunk, split down the centre, gaped ghastly. The cloven halves were not broken from each other, for the firm base and strong roots kept them unsundered below; though community of vitality was destroyed -- the sap could flow no more: their great boughs on each side were dead, and next winter's tempests would be sure to fell one or both to earth: as yet, however,
"You did right to hold fast to each other," I said: as if the monster-splinters were living things, and could hear me. "I think, scathed as you look, and charred and scorched, there must be a little sense of life in you yet, rising out of that adhesion at the faithful, honest roots: you will never have green leaves more -- never more see birds making nests and singing idyls in your boughs; the time of pleasure and love is over with you: but you are not desolate: each of you has a comrade to sympathise with him in his decay." As I looked up at them, the moon appeared momentarily in that part of the sky which filled their fissure; her disk was blood-red and half overcast; she seemed to throw on me one bewildered, dreary glance, and buried herself again instantly in the deep drift of cloud. The wind fell, for a second, round Thornfield; but far away over wood and water, poured a wild, melancholy wail: it was sad to listen to, and I ran off again.
Here and there I strayed through the orchard, gathered up the apples with which the grass round the tree roots was thickly strewn; then I employed myself in dividing the ripe from the unripe; I carried them into the house and put them away in the storeroom. Then I repaired to the library to ascertain whether the fire was lit, for, though summer, I knew on such a gloomy evening Mr. Rochester would like to see a cheerful hearth when he came in: yes, the fire had been kindled some time, and burnt well. I placed his arm-chair by the chimney-corner: I wheeled the table near it: I let down the curtain, and had the candles brought in ready for lighting. More restless than ever,
"How late it grows!" I said. "I will run down to the gates: it is moonlight at intervals; I can see a good way on the road. He may be coming now, and to meet him will save some minutes of suspense."
The wind roared high in the great trees which embowered the gates; but the road as far as I could see, to the right hand and the left, was all still and solitary: save for the shadows of clouds crossing it at intervals as the moon looked out, it was a long pale line, unvaried by one moving speck.
A puerile tear dimmed my eye while I looked -- a tear of disappointment and impatience; ashamed of it, I wiped it away. I lingered; the moon shut herself wholly within her chamber, and drew close her curtain of dense cloud: the night grew dark; rain came driving fast on the gale.
"I wish he would come! I wish he would come!" I exclaimed, seized with hypochondriac foreboding. I had expected his arrival before tea; now it was dark: what could keep him? Had an accident happened? The event of last night again recurred to me. I interpreted it as a warning of disaster. I feared my hopes were too bright to be realised; and I had enjoyed so much bliss lately that I imagined my fortune had passed its meridian, and must now decline.
"Well, I cannot return to the house," I thought; "I cannot sit by the fireside, while he is abroad in inclement weather: better tire my limbs than strain my heart; I will go forward and meet him."
I set out; I walked fast, but not far: ere I had measured a quarter of a mile, I heard the tramp of hoofs; a horseman came on, full gallop; a dog ran by his side. Away with evil presentiment! It was he: here he was, mounted on Mesrour, followed by Pilot. He saw me; for the moon had opened a blue field in the sky, and rode in it watery bright: he took his hat off, and waved it round his head. I now ran to meet him.
"There!" he exclaimed, as he stretched out his hand and bent from the saddle: "you can't do without me, that is evident. Step on my boot-toe; give me both hands: mount!"
I obeyed: joy made me agile: I sprang up before him. A hearty kissing I got for a welcome, and some boastful triumph, which I swallowed as well as I could. He checked himself in his exultation to demand, "But is there anything the matter, Janet, that you come to meet me at such an hour? Is there anything wrong?"
"No, but I thought you would never come. I could not bear to wait in the house for you, especially with this rain and wind."
"Rain and wind, indeed! Yes, you are dripping like a mermaid; pull my cloak round you: but I think you are feverish, Jane: both your cheek and hand are burning hot. I ask again, is there anything the matter?"
"Nothing now; I am neither afraid nor unhappy."
"Then you have been both?"
"Rather: but I'll tell you all about it by and by, Sir; and I daresay you will only laugh at me for my pains."
"I'll laugh at you heartily when to-morrow is past; till then I dare not: my prize is not certain.
"I wanted you: but don't boast. Here we are at Thornfield: now let me get down."
He landed me on the pavement. As John took his horse, and he followed me into the hall, he told me to make haste and put something dry on, and then return to him in the library; and he stopped me, as I made for the staircase, to extort a promise that I would not be long: nor was I long; in five minutes I rejoined him. I found him at supper.
"Take a seat and bear me company, Jane: please God, it is the last meal but one you will eat at Thornfield-Hall for a long time."
I sat down near him, but told him I could not eat.
"Is it because you have the prospect of a journey before you, Jane? Is it the thoughts of going to London that takes away your appetite?"
"I cannot see my prospects clearly to-night, Sir; and I hardly know what thoughts I have in my head. Everything in life seems unreal."
"Except me: I am substantial enough: -- touch me."
"You, Sir, are the most phantom-like of all: you are a mere dream."
He held out his hand, laughing. "Is that a dream?" said he, placing it close to my eyes. He had a rounded, muscular, and vigorous hand, as well as a long, strong arm.
"Yes; though I touch it, it is a dream," said I, as
I rang the bell and ordered away the tray. When we were again alone, I stirred the fire, and then took a low seat at my master's knee.
"It is near midnight," I said.
"Yes: but remember, Jane, you promised to wake with me the night before my wedding."
"I did; and I will keep my promise, for an hour or two at least: I have no wish to go to bed."
"Are all your arrangements complete?"
"And on my part likewise," he returned, "I have settled everything; and we shall leave Thornfield to-morrow, within half an hour after our return from church."
"Very well, Sir."
"With what an extraordinary smile you uttered that word -- 'very well,' Jane! What a bright spot of colour you have on each cheek! and how strangely your eyes glitter! Are you well?"
"I believe I am."
"Believe! What is the matter? Tell me what you feel."
"I could not, Sir: no words could tell you what I feel. I wish this present hour would never end: who knows with what fate the next day may come charged?"
"This is hypochondria, Jane. You have been over-excited, or over-fatigued."
"Do you, Sir, feel calm and happy?"
"Calm? -- no: but happy -- to the heart's core."
I looked up at him to read the signs of bliss in his face: it was ardent and flushed.
"Give me your confidence, Jane," he said: "relieve your mind of any weight that oppresses it, by imparting it to me. What do you fear? -- that I shall not prove a good husband?"
"It is the idea farthest from my thoughts."
"Are you apprehensive of the new sphere you are about to enter? -- of the new life into which you are passing?"
"You puzzle me, Jane: your look and tone of sorrowful audacity perplex and pain me. I want an explanation."
"Then, Sir, listen. You were from home last night?"
"I was: I know that; and you hinted a while ago at something which had happened in my absence: -- nothing, probably, of consequence; but, in short, it has disturbed you. Let me hear it. Mrs. Fairfax has said something, perhaps? or you have overheard the servants talk? -- your sensitive self-respect has been wounded?"
"No, Sir." It struck twelve -- I waited till the timepiece had concluded its silver chime, and the clock its hoarse, vibrating stroke, and then I proceeded.
"All day yesterday I was very busy, and very happy in my ceaseless bustle; for I am not, as you seem to think, troubled by any haunting fears about the new sphere, et cetera: I think it a glorious thing to have the hope of living with you, because I love you. No, Sir, don't caress me now -- let me talk undisturbed. Yesterday I trusted well in Providence, and
"How well you read me, you witch!" interposed Mr. Rochester: "but what did you find in the veil besides its embroidery? Did you find poison, or a dagger, that you look so mournful now?"
"No, no, Sir; besides the delicacy and richness of the fabric, I found nothing save Fairfax Rochester's pride; and that did not scare me, because I am used to the sight of the demon. But, Sir, as it grew dark, the wind rose: it blew yesterday evening, not as it blows now -- wild and high -- but "with a sullen, moaning sound" far more eerie. I wished you were at home. I came into this room, and the sight of the empty chair and fireless hearth chilled me. For some time after I went to bed, I could not sleep -- a sense of anxious excitement distressed me. The gale still rising, seemed to my ear to muffle a mournful under-sound; whether in the house or abroad I could not at first tell, but it recurred, doubtful yet doleful at every lull; at last I made out it must be some dog howling at a distance. I was glad when it ceased. On sleeping, I continued in dreams the idea of a dark and gusty night. I continued also the wish to be with you, and experienced a strange, regretful consciousness of some barrier dividing us. During all my first sleep, I was following the windings of an unknown road; total obscurity environed me; rain pelted me; I was burdened with the charge of a little child: a very small creature, too young and feeble to walk, and which shivered in my cold arms, and wailed piteously in my ear. I thought, Sir, that you were on the road a long way before me; and I strained every nerve to overtake you, and made effort on effort to utter your name and entreat you to stop -- but my movements were fettered,
"And these dreams weigh on your spirits now, Jane, when I am close to you? Little nervous subject! Forget visionary woe, and think only of real happiness! You say you love me, Janet: yes -- I will not forget that; and you cannot deny it. Those words did not die inarticulate on your lips. I heard them clear and soft: a thought too solemn perhaps, but sweet as music -- "I think it is a glorious thing to have the hope of living with you, Edward, because I love you." Do you love me, Jane? -- repeat it."
"I do, Sir. -- I do, with my whole heart."
"Well," he said, after some minutes' silence, "it is strange; but that sentence has penetrated my breast painfully. Why? I think because you said it with such an earnest, religious energy, and because your upward gaze at me now is the very sublime of faith, truth, and devotion: it is too much as if some spirit were near me. Look wicked, Jane: as you know well how to look: coin one of your wild, shy, provoking smiles, tell me you hate me -- teaze me, vex me; do anything but move me: I would rather be incensed than saddened."
"I will tease you and vex you to your heart's content, when I have finished my tale: but hear me to the end."
"I thought, Jane, you had told me all. I thought I had found the source of your melancholy in a dream."
I shook my head. "What! is there more? But I will not believe it to be anything important. I warn you of incredulity beforehand. Go on."
The disquietude of his air, the somewhat apprehensive impatience of his manner, surprised me: but I proceeded.
"I dreamt another dream, Sir: that Thornfield-Hall was a dreary ruin, the retreat of bats and owls. I thought that of all the stately front nothing remained but a shell-like wall, very high and very fragile-looking. I wandered, on a moonlight night, through the grass-grown enclosure within: here I stumbled over a marble hearth, and there over a fallen fragment of cornice. Wrapped up in a shawl, I still carried the unknown little child: I might not lay it down anywhere, however tired were my arms -- however much its weight impeded my progress, I must retain it. I heard the gallop of a horse at a distance on the road; I was sure it was you; and you were departing for many years and for a distant country. I climbed the thin wall with frantic perilous haste, eager to catch one glimpse of you from the top: the stones rolled from under my feet, the ivy branches I grasped gave way, the child clung round my neck in terror, and almost strangled me; at last I gained the summit. I saw you like a speck on a white track, lessening every moment. The blast blew so strong I could not stand. I sat down on the narrow ledge; I hushed the scared infant in my lap: you turned an angle of the road: I bent forward to take a last look; the wall crumbled; I was shaken; the child rolled from my knee, I lost my balance, fell, and woke."
"Now, Jane, that is all."
"All the preface, Sir; the tale is yet to come. On waking, a gleam dazzled my eyes; I thought -- oh, it is daylight! But I was mistaken; it was only candlelight.
"It must have been one of them," interrupted my master.
"No, Sir, I solemnly assure you to the contrary. The shape standing before me had never crossed my eyes within the precincts of Thornfield-Hall before; the height, the contour were new to me."
"Describe it, Jane."
"It seemed, Sir, a woman, tall and large, with thick and dark hair hanging long down her back. I know not what dress she had on: it was white and straight; but whether gown, sheet, or shroud, I cannot tell."
"Did you see her face?"
"Not at first. But presently she took my veil from its place; she held it up, gazed at it long, and then she threw it over her own head, and turned to the mirror. At that moment I saw the reflection of the visage and features quite distinctly in the dark oblong glass."
"And how were they?"
"Fearful and ghastly to me -- oh, Sir, I never saw a face like it! It was a discoloured face -- it was a savage face. I wish I could forget the roll of the red eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of the lineaments!"
"Ghosts are usually pale, Jane."
"This, Sir, was purple: the lips were swelled and dark; the brow furrowed: the black eyebrows widely raised over the bloodshot eyes. Shall I tell you of what it reminded me?"
"Of the foul German spectre -- the Vampyre."
"Ah! -- what did it do?"
"Sir, it removed my veil from its gaunt head, rent it in two parts, and flinging both on the floor, trampled on them."
"It drew aside the window-curtain and looked out; perhaps it saw dawn approaching, for, taking the candle, it retreated to the door. Just at my bedside, the figure stopped: the fiery eyes glared upon me -- she thrust up her candle close to my face, and extinguished it under my eyes. I was aware her lurid visage flamed over mine, and I lost consciousness: for the second time in my life -- only the second time -- I became insensible from terror."
"Who was with you when you revived?"
"No one, Sir, but the broad day. I rose, bathed my head and face in water, drank a long draught; felt that though enfeebled I was not ill, and determined that to none but you would I impart this vision. Now Sir, tell me who and what that woman was?"
"The creature of an over-stimulated brain; that is
"Sir, depend on it, my nerves were not in fault; the thing was real: the transaction actually took place."
"And your previous dreams, were they real too? Is Thornfield-Hall a ruin? Am I severed from you by insuperable obstacles? Am I leaving you without a tear -- without a kiss -- without a word?"
"Am I about to do it? -- Why, the day is already commenced which is to bind us indissolubly; and when we are once united, there shall be no recurrence of these mental terrors: I guarantee that."
"Mental terrors, Sir! I wish I could believe them to be only such: I wish it more now than ever; since even you cannot explain to me the mystery of that awful visitant."
"And since I cannot do it, Jane, it must have been unreal."
"But, Sir, when I said so to myself on rising this morning, and when I looked round the room to gather courage and comfort from the cheerful aspect of each familiar object in full daylight, there -- on the carpet -- I saw what gave the distinct lie to my hypothesis, -- the veil, torn from top to bottom in two halves!"
I felt Mr. Rochester start and shudder; he hastily flung his arms round me. "Thank God!" he exclaimed, "that if anything malignant did come near you last night, it was only the veil that was harmed. Oh, to think what might have happened!"
He drew his breath short, and strained me so close to him, I could scarcely pant. After some minutes' silence, he continued, cheerily: --
"Now, Janet, I'll explain to you all about it. It was half dream, half reality. A woman did, I doubt not, enter your room: and that woman was -- must have been -- Grace Poole. You call her a strange being yourself: from all you know, you have reason so to call her -- what did she do to me? what to Mason? In a state between sleeping and waking, you noticed her entrance and her actions; but feverish, almost delirious as you were, you ascribed to her a goblin appearance different from her own: the long dishevelled hair, the swelled black face, the exaggerated stature, were figments of imagination; results of nightmare: the spiteful tearing of the veil was real: and it is like her. I see you would ask why I keep such a woman in my house: when we have been married a year and a day, I will tell you; but not now. Are you satisfied, Jane? Do you accept my solution of the mystery?"
I reflected, and in truth it appeared to me the only possible one: satisfied I was not, but to please him I endeavoured to appear so -- relieved, I certainly did feel; so I answered him with a contented smile. And now, as it was long past one, I prepared to leave him.
"Does not Sophie sleep with Adèle in the nursery?" he asked, as I lit my candle.
"And there is room enough in Adèle's little bed for you. You must share it with her to-night, Jane: it is no wonder that the incident you have related should make you nervous, and I would rather you did not sleep alone: promise me to go to the nursery."
"I shall be very glad to do so, Sir."
"And fasten the door securely on the inside. Wake
It was. Half heaven was pure and stainless: the clouds, now trooping before the wind, which had shifted to the west, were filing off eastward in long, silvered columns. The moon shone peacefully.
"Well," said Mr. Rochester, gazing inquiringly into my eyes, "how is my Janet now?"
"The night is serene, Sir; and so am I."
"And you will not dream of separation and sorrow to-night; but of happy love and blissful union."
This prediction was but half fulfilled: I did not indeed dream of sorrow, but as little did I dream of joy; for I never slept at all. With little Adèle in my arms, I watched the slumber of childhood -- so tranquil, so passionless, so innocent -- and waited for the coming day: all my life was awake and astir in my frame: and as soon as the sun rose I rose too. I remember Adèle clung to me as I left her: I remember I kissed her as I loosened her little hands from my neck; and I cried over her with strange emotion, and quitted her because I feared my sobs would break her still sound repose. She seemed the emblem of my past life; and he I was now to array myself to meet, the dread, but adored, type of my unknown future day.
SOPHIE came at seven to dress me: she was very long indeed in accomplishing her task; so long that Mr. Rochester, grown, I suppose, impatient of my delay, sent up to ask why I did not come. She was just fastening my veil (the plain square of blond after all) to my hair with a brooch; I hurried from under her hands as soon as I could.
"Stop!" she cried in French. "Look at yourself in the mirror: you have not taken one peep."
So I turned at the door: I saw a robed and veiled figure, so unlike my usual self that it seemed almost the image of a stranger. "Jane!" called a voice, and I hastened down. I was received at the foot of the stairs by Mr. Rochester.
"Lingerer!" he said, "my brain is on fire with impatience, and you tarry so long!"
He took me into the dining-room, surveyed me keenly all over, pronounced me "fair as a lily, and not only the pride of his life, but the desire of his eyes," and then telling me he would give me but ten minutes to eat some breakfast, he rang the bell. One of his lately hired servants, a footman, answered it.
"Is John getting the carriage ready?"
"Is the luggage brought down?"
"They are bringing it down, Sir."
"Go you to the church: see if Mr. Wood (the clergyman) and the clerk are there: return and
The church, as the reader knows, was but just beyond the gates; the footman soon returned.
"Mr. Wood is in the vestry, Sir, putting on his surplice."
"And the carriage?"
"The horses are harnessing."
"We shall not want it to go to church; but it must be ready the moment we return: all the boxes and luggage arranged and strapped on, and the coachman in his seat."
"Jane, are you ready?"
I rose. There were no groomsmen, no bridesmaids, no relatives to wait for or marshal: none but Mr. Rochester and I. Mrs. Fairfax stood in the hall as we passed. I would fain have spoken to her, but my hand was held by a grasp of iron: I was hurried along by a stride I could hardly follow; and to look at Mr. Rochester's face was to feel that not a second of delay would be tolerated for any purpose. I wonder what other bridegroom ever looked as he did -- so bent up to a purpose, so grimly resolute: or who, under such steadfast brows, ever revealed such flaming and flashing eyes.
I know not whether the day was fair or foul; in descending the drive, I gazed neither on sky nor earth: my heart was with my eyes; and both seemed migrated into Mr. Rochester's frame. I wanted to see the invisible thing on which, as we went along, he appeared to fasten a glance fierce and fell. I wanted to feel the thoughts whose force he seemed breasting and resisting.
At the churchyard wicket he stopped: he discovered
And now I can recall the picture of the grey old house of God rising calm before me, of a rook wheeling round the steeple, of a ruddy morning sky beyond. I remember something, too, of the green grave-mounds; and I have not forgotten, either, two figures of strangers straying amongst the low hillocks and reading the mementoes graven on the few mossy head-stones. I noticed them, because, as they saw us, they passed round to the back of the church; and I doubted not they were going to enter by the side-aisle door and witness the ceremony. By Mr. Rochester they were not observed; he was earnestly looking at my face, from which the blood had, I daresay, momentarily fled: for I felt my forehead dewy, and my cheeks and lips cold. When I rallied, which I soon did, he walked gently with me up the path to the porch.
We entered the quiet and humble temple; the priest waited in his white surplice at the lowly altar, the clerk beside him. All was still: two shadows only moved in a remote corner. My conjecture had been correct: the strangers had slipped in before us, and they now stood by the vault of the Rochesters, their backs towards us, viewing through the rails the old time-stained marble tomb, where a kneeling angel guarded the remains of Damer de Rochester, slain at Marston Moor in the time of the civil wars, and of Elizabeth, his wife.
Our place was taken at the communion rails. Hearing a cautious step behind me, I glanced over my shoulder: one of the strangers -- a gentleman, evidently
"I require and charge you both (as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed), that if either of you know any impediment why ye may not lawfully be joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it; for be ye well assured that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God's Word doth allow, are not joined together by God, neither is their matrimony lawful."
He paused, as the custom is. When is the pause after that sentence ever broken by reply? Not, perhaps, once in a hundred years. And the clergyman, who had not lifted his eyes from his book, and had held his breath but for a moment, was proceeding: his hand was already stretched towards Mr. Rochester, as his lips unclosed to ask, "Wilt thou have this woman for thy wedded wife?" -- when a distinct and near voice said: --
"The marriage cannot go on: I declare the existence of an impediment."
The clergyman looked up at the speaker and stood mute; the clerk did the same; Mr. Rochester moved slightly, as if an earthquake had rolled under his feet: taking a firmer footing, and not turning his head or eyes, he said, "Proceed."
Profound silence fell when he had uttered that word, with deep but low intonation. Presently Mr. Wood said: --
"I cannot proceed without some investigation into
"The ceremony is quite broken off," subjoined the voice behind us. "I am in a condition to prove my allegation: an insuperable impediment to this marriage exists."
Mr. Rochester heard, but heeded not: he stood stubborn and rigid, making no movement but to possess himself of my hand. What a hot and strong grasp he had! and how like quarried marble was his pale, firm, massive front at this moment! How his eye shone, still watchful, and yet wild beneath!
Mr. Wood seemed at a loss. "What is the nature of the impediment?" he asked. "Perhaps it may be got over -- explained away?"
"Hardly," was the answer. "I have called it insuperable, and I speak advisedly."
The speaker came forward and leaned on the rails. He continued, uttering each word distinctly, calmly, steadily, but not loudly.
"It simply consists in the existence of a previous marriage. Mr. Rochester has a wife now living."
My nerves vibrated to those low-spoken words as they had never vibrated to thunder -- my blood felt their subtle violence as it had never felt frost or fire; but I was collected, and in no danger of swooning. I looked at Mr. Rochester: I made him look at me. His whole face was colourless rock: his eye was both spark and flint. He disavowed nothing: he seemed as if he would defy all things. Without speaking, without smiling, without seeming to recognise in me a human being, he only twined my waist with his arm and riveted me to his side.
"Who are you?" he asked of the intruder.
"My name is Briggs -- a solicitor of -- -- street, London."
"And you would thrust on me a wife?"
"I would remind you of your lady's existence, Sir, which the law recognises, if you do not."
"Favour me with an account of her -- with her name, her parentage, her place of abode."
"Certainly." Mr. Briggs calmly took a paper from his pocket, and read out in a sort of official, nasal voice: --
"'I affirm and can prove that on the 20th of October A.D. -- -- (a date of fifteen years back), Edward Fairfax Rochester, of Thornfield-Hall, in the county of -- -- , and of Ferndean Manor, in -- -- shire, England, was married to my sister, Bertha Antoinetta Mason, daughter of Jonas Mason, merchant, and of Antoinetta his wife, a Creole -- at -- church, Spanish Town, Jamaica. The record of the marriage will be found in the register of that church -- a copy of it is now in my possession. Signed, Richard Mason.'"
"That -- if a genuine document -- may prove I have been married, but it does not prove that the woman mentioned therein as my wife is still living."
"She was living three months ago," returned the lawyer.
"How do you know?"
"I have a witness to the fact, whose testimony even you, Sir, will scarcely controvert."
"Produce him -- or go to hell."
"I will produce him first -- he is on the spot. Mr. Mason, have the goodness to step forward."
Mr. Rochester, on hearing the name, set his teeth;
An inaudible reply escaped Mason's white lips.
"The devil is in it if you cannot answer distinctly. I again demand, what have you to say?"
"Sir -- Sir -- " interrupted the clergyman, "do not forget you are in a sacred place." Then addressing Mason, he inquired gently, "Are you aware, Sir, whether or not this gentleman's wife is still living?"
"Courage," urged the lawyer, -- "speak out."
"She is now living at Thornfield-Hall," said Mason, in more articulate tones: "I saw her there last April. I am her brother."
"At Thornfield-Hall!" ejaculated the clergyman. "Impossible! I am an old resident in this neighbourhood, Sir, and I never heard of a Mrs. Rochester at Thornfield-Hall."
I saw a grim smile contort Mr. Rochester's lips, and he muttered: --
"No -- by God! I took care that none should hear of it -- or of her under that name." He mused -- for ten minutes he held counsel with himself: he formed his resolve, and announced it: --
"Enough! all shall bolt out at once, like the bullet from the barrel. Wood, close your book and take off your surplice; John Green (to the clerk), leave the church: there will be no wedding to-day." The man obeyed.
Mr. Rochester continued, hardily and recklessly: "Bigamy is an ugly word! -- I meant, however, to be a bigamist; but fate has out-manoeuvred me, or Providence has checked me, -- perhaps the last. I am little better than a devil at this moment; and, as my pastor there would tell me, deserve no doubt the sternest judgments of God, -- even to the quenchless fire and deathless worm. Gentlemen, my plan is broken up! -- what this lawyer and his client say is true: I have been married, and the woman to whom I was married lives! You say you never heard of a Mrs. Rochester at the house up yonder, Wood; but I daresay you have many a time inclined your ear to gossip about the mysterious lunatic kept there under watch and ward. Some have whispered to you that she is my bastard half-sister: some, my cast-off mistress. I now inform you that she is my wife, whom I married fifteen years ago, -- Bertha Mason by name; sister of this resolute personage, who is now, with his quivering limbs and white cheeks, showing you what a stout heart men may bear. Cheer up, Dick! -- never fear me! -- I'd almost as soon strike a woman as you.
Still holding me fast, he left the church: the three gentlemen came after. At the front door of the hall we found the carriage.
"Take it back to the coach-house, John," said Mr. Rochester coolly: "it will not be wanted to-day."
At our entrance, Mrs. Fairfax, Adèle, Sophie, Leah, advanced to meet and greet us.
"To the right about -- every soul!" cried the master; "away with your congratulations! Who wants them? -- Not I! -- they are fifteen years too late!"
He passed on and ascended the stairs, still holding
"You know this place, Mason," said our guide; "she bit and stabbed you here."
He lifted the hangings from the wall, uncovering the second door: this, too, he opened. In a room without a window, there burnt a fire guarded by a high and strong fender, and a lamp suspended from the ceiling by a chain. Grace Poole bent over the fire, apparently cooking something in a saucepan. In the deep shade, at the farther end of the room, a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face.
"Good-morrow, Mrs. Poole!" said Mr. Rochester. "How are you? and how is your charge to-day?"
"We're tolerable, Sir, I thank you," replied Grace, lifting the boiling mess carefully on to the hob: "rather snappish, but not 'rageous."
A fierce cry seemed to give the lie to her favourable report: the clothed hyena rose up, and stood tall on its hind-feet.
"Ah, Sir, she sees you!" exclaimed Grace: "you'd better not stay."
"Only a few moments, Grace: you must allow me a few moments."
"Take care then, Sir! -- for God's sake, take care!"
The maniac bellowed: she parted her shaggy locks from her visage, and gazed wildly at her visitors. I recognised well that purple face, -- those bloated features. Mrs. Poole advanced.
"Keep out of the way," said Mr. Rochester, thrusting her aside: "she has no knife now, I suppose, and I'm on my guard!"
"One never knows what she has, Sir: she is so cunning: it is not in mortal discretion to fathom her craft."
"We had better leave her," whispered Mason.
"Go to the devil!" was his brother-in-law's recommendation.
"Ware!" cried Grace. The three gentlemen retreated simultaneously. Mr. Rochester flung me behind him: the lunatic sprang and grappled his throat viciously, and laid her teeth to his cheek: they struggled. She was a big woman, in stature almost equalling her husband, and corpulent besides: she showed virile force in the contest -- more than once she almost throttled him, athletic as he was. He could have settled her with a well-planted blow: but he would not strike: he would only wrestle. At last he mastered her arms; Grace Poole gave him a cord, and he pinioned them behind her: with more rope, which was at hand, he bound her to a chair. The operation was performed amidst the fiercest yells and the most convulsive plunges. Mr. Rochester then turned to the spectators: he looked at them with a smile both acrid and desolate.
"That is my wife," said he. "Such is the sole conjugal
We all withdrew. Mr. Rochester stayed a moment behind us, to give some further order to Grace Poole. The solicitor addressed me as he descended the stair.
"You, madam," said he, "are cleared from all blame: your uncle will be glad to hear it -- if, indeed, he should be still living -- when Mr. Mason returns to Madeira."
"My uncle! What of him? Do you know him?"
"Mr. Mason does. Mr. Eyre has been the Funchal correspondent of his house for some years. When your uncle received your letter intimating the contemplated union between yourself and Mr. Rochester, Mr. Mason, who was staying at Madeira to recruit his health, on his way back to Jamaica, happened to be with him. Mr. Eyre mentioned the intelligence; for he knew that my client here was acquainted with a gentleman of the name of Rochester. Mr. Mason, astonished and distressed as you may suppose, revealed the real state of matters. Your uncle, I am sorry to say, is now on a sickbed; from which, considering the nature of his
"No, no -- let us be gone," was the anxious reply; and without waiting to take leave of Mr. Rochester, they made their exit at the hall door. The clergyman stayed to exchange a few sentences, either of admonition or reproof, with his haughty parishioner; this duty done, he too departed.
I heard him go as I stood at the half open door of my own room, to which I had now withdrawn. The house cleared, I shut myself in, fastened the bolt that none might intrude, and proceeded -- not to weep, not to mourn, I was yet too calm for that, but -- mechanically to take off the wedding dress, and replace it by the stuff gown I had worn yesterday, as I thought, for the last time. I then sat down: I felt weak and tired. I leaned my arms on a table, and my head dropped on them. And now I thought: till now I had only heard, seen, moved -- followed up and down where I was led or dragged -- watched event rush on event, disclosure open beyond disclosure: but now, I thought.
The morning had been a quiet morning enough -- all except the brief scene with the lunatic: the transaction in the church had not been noisy; there was no explosion of passion, no loud altercation, no dispute, no defiance or challenge, no tears, no sobs: a few words had been spoken, a calmly pronounced objection to the marriage made; some stern, short questions put by Mr. Rochester; answers, explanations given, evidence adduced; an open admission of the truth had been uttered by my master; then the living proof had been seen; the intruders were gone, and all was over.
I was in my own room as usual -- just myself, without obvious change: nothing had smitten me, orscathed me, or maimed me. And yet where was the Jane Eyre of yesterday? -- where was her life? -- where were her prospects?
Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman -- almost a bride -- was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale; her prospects were desolate. A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hayfield and cornfield lay a frozen shroud: lanes which last night blushed full of flowers, to-day were pathless with untrodden snow; and the woods, which twelve hours since waved leafy and fragrant as groves between the tropics, now spread, waste, wild, and white as pine-forests in wintry Norway. My hopes were all dead -- struck with a subtle doom, such as, in one night, fell on all the first-born in the land of Egypt. I looked on my cherished wishes, yesterday so blooming and glowing; they lay stark, chill, livid corpses that could never revive. I looked at my love: that feeling
My eyes were covered and closed: eddying darkness seemed to swim round me, and reflection came in as black and confused a flow. Self-abandoned, relaxed, and effortless, I seemed to have laid me down in the dried-up bed of a great river; I heard a flood loosened in remote mountains, and felt the torrent come: to rise I had no will, to flee I had no strength. I lay faint, longing to be dead. One idea only still throbbed life-like within me -- a remembrance of God: it begot an unuttered prayer: these words went wandering up and down in my rayless mind, as something that should be whispered, but no energy was found to express them: --
"Be not far from me, for trouble is near: there is none to help."
It was near: and as I had lifted no petition to Heaven to avert it -- as I had neither joined my hands, nor bent my knees, nor moved my lips -- it came: in full heavy swing the torrent poured over me. The whole consciousness of my life lorn, my love lost, my hope quenched, my faith death-struck, swayed full and mighty above me in one sullen mass. That bitter hour cannot be described: in truth, "the waters came into my soul; I sank in deep mire: I felt no standing: I came into deep waters; the floods overflowed me."
SOME time in the afternoon I raised my head, and looking round and seeing the western sun gilding the sign of its decline on the wall, I asked, "What am I to do?"
But the answer my mind gave -- "Leave Thornfield at once" -- was so prompt, so dread, that I stopped my ears. I said I could not bear such words now. "That I am not Edward Rochester's bride is the least part of my woe," I alleged: "that I have wakened out of most glorious dreams, and found them all void and vain, is a horror I could bear and master; but that I must leave him decidedly, instantly, entirely, is intolerable. I cannot do it."
But, then, a voice within me averred that I could do it and foretold that I should do it. I wrestled with my own resolution: I wanted to be weak that I might avoid the awful passage of further suffering I saw laid out for me; and Conscience, turned tyrant, held Passion by the throat, told her tauntingly, she
"Let me be torn away, then!" I cried. "Let another help me!"
"No; you shall tear yourself away, none shall help you: you shall yourself pluck out your right eye; yourself cut off your right hand: your heart shall be the victim, and you the priest to transfix it."
I rose up suddenly, terror-struck at the solitude which so ruthless a judge haunted, -- at the silence which so awful a voice filled. My head swam as I stood erect. I perceived that I was sickening from excitement and inanition; neither meat nor drink had passed my lips that day, for I had taken no breakfast. And, with a strange pang, I now reflected that, long as I had been shut up here, no message had been sent to ask how I was, or to invite me to come down: not even little Adèle had tapped at the door; not even Mrs. Fairfax had sought me. "Friends always forget those whom fortune forsakes," I murmured, as I undrew the bolt and passed out. I stumbled over an obstacle: my head was still dizzy, my sight was dim, and my limbs were feeble. I could not soon recover myself. I fell, but not on to the ground; an outstretched arm caught me. I looked up -- I was supported by Mr. Rochester, who sat in a chair across my chamber threshold.
"You come out at last," he said. "Well, I have been waiting for you long, and listening: yet not one movement have I heard, nor one sob: five minutes more of that death-like hush, and I should have forced the lock like a burglar. So you shun me? -- you
"Well, Jane! not a word of reproach? Nothing bitter -- nothing poignant? Nothing to cut a feeling or sting a passion? You sit quietly where I have placed you, and regard me with a weary, passive look.
"Jane, I never meant to wound you thus. If the man who had but one little ewe lamb that was dear to him as a daughter, that ate of his bread and drank of his cup, and lay in his bosom, had by some mistake slaughtered it at the shambles, he would not have rued his bloody blunder more than I now rue mine. Will you ever forgive me?"
Reader! -- I forgave him at the moment and on the spot. There was such deep remorse in his eye, such true pity in his tone, such manly energy in his manner; and besides, there was such unchanged love in his whole look and mien -- I forgave him all: yet not in words, not outwardly; only at my heart's core.
"You know I am a scoundrel, Jane?" ere long he inquired wistfully -- wondering, I suppose, at my continued silence and tameness, the result rather of weakness than of will.
"Then tell me so roundly and sharply -- don't spare me."
"I cannot: I am tired and sick. I want some water." He heaved a sort of shuddering sigh, and taking me in his arms, carried me downstairs. At first I did not know to what room he had borne me; all was cloudy to my glazed sight: presently I felt the reviving warmth of a fire; for, summer as it was, I had become icy cold in my chamber. He put wine to my lips; I tasted it and revived; then I ate something he offered me, and was soon myself. I was in the library -- sitting in his chair -- he was quite near. "If I could go out of life now, without too sharp a pang, it would be well for me," I thought; "then I should not have to make the effort of cracking my heart-strings in rending them from among Mr. Rochester's. I must leave him, it appears. I do not want to leave him -- I cannot leave him."
"How are you now, Jane?"
"Much better, Sir; I shall be well soon."
"Taste the wine again, Jane."
I obeyed him; then he put the glass on the table, stood before me, and looked at me attentively. Suddenly he turned away, with an inarticulate exclamation, full of passionate emotion of some kind; he walked fast through the room and came back; he stooped towards me as if to kiss me; but I remembered caresses were now forbidden. I turned my face away and put his aside.
"What! -- How is this?" he exclaimed hastily. "Oh, I know! you won't kiss the husband of Bertha Mason? You consider my arms filled and my embraces appropriated?"
"At any rate, there is neither room nor claim for me, Sir."
"Why, Jane? I will spare you the trouble of much talking; I will answer for you -- Because I have a wife already, you would reply. -- I guess rightly?"
"If you think so, you must have a strange opinion of me; you must regard me as a plotting profligate -- a base and low rake who has been simulating disinterested love in order to draw you into a snare deliberately laid, and strip you of honour and rob you of self-respect. What do you say to that? I see you can say nothing: in the first place, you are faint still, and have enough to do to draw your breath; in the second place, you cannot yet accustom yourself to accuse and revile me, and besides, the flood-gates of tears are opened, and they would rush out if you spoke much; and you have no desire to expostulate, to upbraid, to make a scene: you are thinking how to act -- talking you consider is of no use. I know you -- I am on my guard."
"Sir, I do not wish to act against you," I said; and my unsteady voice warned me to curtail my sentence.
"Not in your sense of the word, but in mine you are scheming to destroy me. You have as good as said that I am a married man -- as a married man you will shun me, keep out of my way: just now you have refused to kiss me. You intend to make yourself a complete stranger to me: to live under this roof only as Adèle's governess; if ever I say a friendly word to you, if ever a friendly feeling inclines you again to me, you will say, -- "That man had nearly made me his mistress: I must be ice and rock to him"; and ice and rock you will accordingly become."
I cleared and steadied my voice to reply: "All is changed about me, Sir; I must change too -- there is no doubt of that; and to avoid fluctuations of feeling, and continual combats with recollections and associations, there is only one way -- Adèle must have a new governess, Sir."
"Oh, Adèle will go to school -- I have settled that already; nor do I mean to torment you with the hideous associations and recollections of Thornfield-Hall -- this accursed place -- this tent of Achan -- this insolent vault, offering the ghastliness of living death to the light of the open sky -- this narrow stone hell, with its one real fiend, worse than a legion of such as we imagine. Jane, you shall not stay here, nor will I. I was wrong ever to bring you to Thornfield-Hall, knowing as I did how it was haunted. I charged them to conceal from you, before I ever saw you, all knowledge of the curse of the place; merely because I feared Adèle never would have a governess to stay if she knew with what inmate she was housed, and my plans would not permit me to remove the maniac elsewhere -- though I possess an old house, Ferndean Manor, even more retired and hidden than this, where I could have lodged her safely enough, had not a scruple about the unhealthiness of the situation, in the heart of a wood, made my conscience recoil from the arrangement. Probably those damp walls would soon have eased me of her charge: but to each villain his own vice; and mine is not a tendency to indirect assassination, even of what I most hate.
"Concealing the mad-woman's neighbourhood from you, however, was something like covering a child with a cloak and laying it down near a upas-tree: that
"Sir," I interrupted him, "you are inexorable for that unfortunate lady: you speak of her with hate -- with vindictive antipathy. It is cruel -- she cannot help being mad."
"Jane, my little darling (so I will call you, for so you are), you don't know what you are talking about; you misjudge me again: it is not because she is mad I hate her. If you were mad, do you think I should hate you?"
"I do indeed, Sir."
"Then you are mistaken, and you know nothing about me, and nothing about the sort of love of which I am capable. Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still: if you raved, my arms should confine you, and not a strait waistcoat -- your grasp, even in fury, would have a charm for me: if you flew at me as wildly as that woman did this morning, I should receive you in an embrace, at least as fond as it would be restrictive. I should not shrink from you with disgust as I did from her: in your quiet
"And take Adèle with you, Sir," I interrupted; "she will be a companion for you."
"What do you mean, Jane? I told you I would send Adèle to school; and what do I want with a child for a companion, and not my own child, -- a French dancer's bastard? Why do you importune me about her! I say, why do you assign Adèle to me for a companion?"
"You spoke of a retirement, Sir; and retirement and solitude are dull: too dull for you."
"Solitude! solitude!" he reiterated with irritation. "I see I must come to an explanation. I don't know what sphynx-like expression is forming in your countenance. You are to share my solitude. Do you understand?"
I shook my head: it required a degree of courage, excited as he was becoming, even to risk that mute sign of dissent. He had been walking fast about the room, and he stopped, as if suddenly rooted to one
"Now for the hitch in Jane's character," he said at last, speaking more calmly than from his look I had expected him to speak. "The reel of silk has run smoothly enough so far; but I always knew there would come a knot and a puzzle: here it is. Now for vexation, and exasperation, and endless trouble! By God! I long to exert a fraction of Samson's strength, and break the entanglement like tow!"
He recommenced his walk, but soon again stopped, and this time just before me.
"Jane! will you hear reason?" (he stooped and approached his lips to my ear); "because, if you won't, I'll try violence. His voice was hoarse; his look that of a man who is just about to burst an insufferable bond and plunge headlong into wild license. I saw that in another moment, and with one impetus of frenzy more, I should be able to do nothing with him. The present -- the passing second of time -- was all I had in which to control and restrain him: a movement of repulsion, flight, fear would have sealed my doom, -- and his. But I was not afraid: not in the least. I felt an inward power; a sense of influence, which supported me. The crisis was perilous; but not without its charm: such as the Indian, perhaps, feels when he slips over the rapid in his canoe. I took hold of his clenched hand, loosened the contorted fingers, and said to him, soothingly, --
"Sit down; I'll talk to you as long as you like, and hear all you have to say, whether reasonable or unreasonable."
He sat down: but he did not get leave to speak directly. I had been struggling with tears for some time: I had taken great pains to repress them, because I knew he would not like to see me weep. Now, however, I considered it well to let them flow as freely and as long as they liked. If the flood annoyed him, so much the better. So I gave way and cried heartily.
Soon I heard him earnestly entreating me to be composed. I said I could not while he was in such a passion.
"But I am not angry, Jane: I only love you too well; and you had steeled your little pale face with such a resolute, frozen look, I could not endure it. Hush, now, and wipe your eyes."
His softened voice announced that he was subdued; so I, in my turn, became calm. Now he made an effort to rest his head on my shoulder, but I would not permit it. Then he would draw me to him: no.
"Jane! Jane!" he said -- in such an accent of bitter sadness it thrilled along every nerve I had; "you don't love me, then? It was only my station, and the rank of my wife, that you valued? Now that you think me disqualified to become your husband, you recoil from my touch as if I were some toad or ape."
These words cut me: yet what could I do or say? I ought probably to have done or said nothing; but I was so tortured by a sense of remorse at thus hurting his feelings, I could not control the wish to drop balm where I had wounded.
"I do love you," I said, "more than ever: but I must not show or indulge the feeling: and this is the last time I must express it."
"The last time, Jane! What! do you think you can live with me, and see me daily, and yet, if you still love me, be always cold and distant?"
"No, Sir; that I am certain I could not; and therefore I see there is but one way: but you will be furious if I mention it."
"Oh, mention it! If I storm, you have the art of weeping."
"Mr. Rochester, I must leave you."
"For how long, Jane? For a few minutes, while you smooth your hair -- which is somewhat dishevelled; and bathe your face -- which looks feverish?"
"I must leave Adèle and Thornfield. I must part with you for my whole life: I must begin a new existence among strange faces and strange scenes."
"Of course: I told you you should. I pass over the madness about parting from me. You mean you must become a part of me. As to the new existence, it is all right: you shall yet be my wife: I am not married. You shall be Mrs. Rochester -- both virtually and nominally. I shall keep only to you so long as you and I live. You shall go to a place I have in the south of France: a whitewashed villa on the shores of the Mediterranean. There you shall live a happy, and guarded, and most innocent life. Never fear that I wish to lure you into error -- to make you my mistress. Why did you shake your head? Jane, you must be reasonable, or in truth I shall again become frantic."
His voice and hand quivered: his large nostrils dilated; his eye blazed: still I dared to speak.
"Sir, your wife is living: that is a fact acknowledged this morning by yourself. If I lived with you as
"Jane, I am not a gentle-tempered man -- you forget that: I am not long-enduring; I am not cool and dispassionate. Out of pity to me and yourself, put your finger on my pulse, feel how it throbs, and -- beware!"
He bared his wrist, and offered it to me: the blood was forsaking his cheek and lips, they were growing livid; I was distressed on all hands. To agitate him thus deeply, by a resistance he so abhorred, was cruel: to yield was out of the question. I did what human beings do instinctively when they are driven to utter extremity -- looked for aid to one higher than man: the words "God help me!" burst involuntarily from my lips.
"I am a fool!" cried Mr. Rochester suddenly. "I keep telling her I am not married, and do not explain to her why. I forget she knows nothing of the character of that woman, or of the circumstances attending my infernal union with her. Oh, I am certain Jane will agree with me in opinion, when she knows all that I know! Just put your hand in mine, Janet -- that I may have the evidence of touch as well as sight, to prove you are near me -- and I will in a few words show you the real state of the case. Can you listen to me?"
"Yes, Sir; for hours if you will."
"I ask only minutes. Jane, did you ever hear or know that I was not the eldest son of my house: that I had once a brother older than I?"
"I remember Mrs. Fairfax told me so once."
"And did you ever hear that my father was an avaricious, grasping man?"
"I have understood something to that effect."
"Well, Jane, being so, it was his resolution to keep the property together; he could not bear the idea of dividing his estate and leaving me a fair portion: all, he resolved, should go to my brother, Rowland. Yet as little could he endure that a son of his should be a poor man. I must be provided for by a wealthy marriage. He sought me a partner betimes. Mr. Mason, a West India planter and merchant, was his old acquaintance. He was certain his possessions were real and vast: he made inquiries. Mr. Mason, he found, had a son and daughter; and he learned from him that he could and would give the latter a fortune of thirty thousand pounds: that sufficed. When I left college, I was sent out to Jamaica, to espouse a bride already courted for me. My father said nothing about her money; but he told me Miss Mason was the boast of Spanish Town for her beauty: and this was no lie. I found her a fine woman, in the style of Blanche Ingram: tall, dark, and majestic. Her family wished to secure me because I was of a good race; and so did she. They showed her to me in parties, splendidly dressed. I seldom saw her alone, and had very little private conversation with her. She flattered me, and lavishly displayed for my pleasure her charms and accomplishments. All the men in her circle seemed to admire her and envy me. I was dazzled, stimulated: my senses were excited; and being ignorant, raw, and inexperienced, I thought I loved her. There is no folly so besotted that the idiotic rivalries of society, the prurience, the rashness, the blindness of youth, will not hurry a man to its commission. Her relatives encouraged me; competitors piqued me; she allured
"My bride's mother I had never seen: I understood she was dead. The honeymoon over, I learned my mistake; she was only mad, and shut up in a lunatic asylum. There was a younger brother, too; a complete dumb idiot. The elder one, whom you have seen (and whom I cannot hate, whilst I abhor all his kindred, because he has some grains of affection in his feeble mind, shown in the continued interest he takes in his wretched sister, and also in a dog-like attachment he once bore me), will probably be in the same state one day. My father and my brother Rowland knew all this; but they thought only of the thirty thousand pounds, and joined in the plot against me.
"These were vile discoveries; but except for the treachery of concealment, I should have made them no subject of reproach to my wife, even when I found her nature wholly alien to mine, her tastes obnoxious to me, her cast of mind common, low, narrow, and singularly incapable of being led to anything higher, expanded to anything larger -- when I found that I could not pass a single evening, nor even a single hour of the day with her in comfort; that kindly conversation
"Jane, I will not trouble you with abominable details: some strong words shall express what I have to say. I lived with that woman upstairs four years, and before that time she had tried me indeed: her character ripened and developed with frightful rapidity; her vices sprang up fast and rank: they were so strong, only cruelty could check them, and I would not use cruelty. What a pigmy intellect she had, and what giant propensities! How fearful were the curses those propensities entailed on me! Bertha Mason, the true daughter of an infamous mother, dragged me through all the hideous and degrading agonies which must attend a man bound to a wife at once intemperate and unchaste.
"My brother in the interval was dead; and at the end of the four years my father died too. I was rich enough now -- yet poor to hideous indigence: a nature the most gross, impure, depraved I ever saw, was associated with mine, and called by the law and by society a part of me. And I could not rid myself of it by any legal proceedings: for the doctors now discovered that my wife was mad -- her excesses had
"No, Sir, finish it now; I pity you -- I do earnestly pity you."
"Pity, Jane, from some people is a noxious and insulting sort of tribute, which one is justified in hurling back in the teeth of those who offer it; but that is the sort of pity native to callous, selfish hearts; it is a hybrid, egotistical pain at hearing of woes, crossed with ignorant contempt for those who have endured them. But that is not your pity, Jane; it is not the feeling of which your whole face is full at this moment -- with which your eyes are now almost overflowing -- with which your heart is heaving -- with which your hand is trembling in mine. Your pity, my darling, is the suffering mother of love: its anguish is the very natal pang of the divine passion. I accept it, Jane; let the daughter have free advent -- my arms wait to receive her."
"Now, Sir, proceed; what did you do when you found she was mad?"
"Jane -- I approached the verge of despair; a remnant of self-respect was all that intervened between me and the gulf. In the eyes of the world, I was doubtless covered with grimy dishonour; but I resolved to be clean in my own sight -- and to the last I repudiated the contamination of her crimes, and wrenched myself from connection with her mental defects. Still, society associated my name and person with hers; I yet saw her and heard her daily: something of her breath (faugh!) mixed with the air I breathed; and besides, I remembered I had once been her husband --
"One night I had been awakened by her yells -- (since the medical men had pronounced her mad, she had, of course, been shut up) -- it was a fiery West Indian night; one of the description that frequently precede the hurricanes of those climates. Being unable to sleep in bed, I got up and opened the window. The air was like sulphur-steams -- I could find no refreshment anywhere. Mosquitoes came buzzing in and hummed sullenly round the room; the sea, which I could hear from thence, rumbled dull like an earthquake -- black clouds were casting up over it; the moon was setting in the waves, broad and red, like a hot cannon-ball -- she threw her last bloody glance over a world quivering with the ferment of tempest. I was physically influenced by the atmosphere and scene, and my ears were filled with the curses the maniac still shrieked out; wherein she momentarily mingled my name with such a tone of demon-hate, with such language! -- no professed harlot ever had a fouler vocabulary than she: though two rooms off, I heard every word -- the thin partitions of the West India house opposing but slight obstruction to her wolfish cries.
"'This life,' said I at last, 'is hell: this is the air -- those are the sounds of the bottomless pit! I have
"I said this whilst I knelt down at, and unlocked a trunk which contained a brace of loaded pistols: I meant to shoot myself. I only entertained the intention for a moment; for, not being insane, the crisis of exquisite and unalloyed despair, which had originated the wish and design of self-destruction, was past in a second.
"A wind fresh from Europe blew over the ocean and rushed through the open casement: the storm broke, streamed, thundered, blazed, and the air grew pure. I then framed and fixed a resolution. While I walked under the dripping orange-trees of my wet garden, and amongst its drenched pomegranates and pineapples, and while the refulgent dawn of the tropics kindled round me -- I reasoned thus, Jane: -- and now listen; for it was true Wisdom that consoled me in that hour, and showed me the right path to follow.
"The sweet wind from Europe was still whispering in the refreshed leaves, and the Atlantic was thundering in glorious liberty; my heart, dried up and scorched for a long time, swelled to the tone, and filled with living blood -- my being longed for renewal -- my soul thirsted for a pure draught. I saw hope revive -- and felt regeneration possible. From a flowery arch at the bottom of my garden I gazed over the sea -- bluer than the sky: the old world was beyond; clear prospects opened thus: --
"'Go,' said Hope, 'and live again in Europe: there it is not known what a sullied name you bear, nor what a filthy burden is bound to you. You may take the maniac with you to England; confine her with due attendance and precautions at Thornfield: then travel yourself to what clime you will, and form what new tie you like. That woman, who has so abused your long-suffering -- so sullied your name, so outraged your honour, so blighted your youth, is not your wife, nor are you her husband. See that she is cared for as her condition demands, and you have done all that God and humanity require of you. Let her identity, her connection with yourself, be buried in oblivion: you are bound to impart them to no living being. Place her in safety and comfort: shelter her degradation with secrecy, and leave her.'
"I acted precisely on this suggestion. My father and brother had not made my marriage known to their acquaintance; because, in the very first letter I wrote to apprise them of the union -- having already begun to experience extreme disgust of its consequences, and, from the family character and constitution, seeing a hideous future opening to me -- I added an urgent charge to keep it secret: and very soon the infamous conduct of the wife my father had selected for me was such as to make him blush to own her as his daughter-in-law. Far from desiring to publish the connection, he became as anxious to conceal it as myself.
"To England, then, I conveyed her; a fearful voyage I had with such a monster in the vessel. Glad was I when I at last got her to Thornfield, and saw her safely lodged in that third storey room, of whose secret inner cabinet she has now for ten years made
"And what, Sir," I asked, while he paused, "did
"What did I do, Jane? I transformed myself into a Will-o'-the-wisp. Where did I go? I pursued wanderings as wild as those of the March-spirit. I sought the Continent, and went devious through all its lands. My fixed desire was to seek and find a good and intelligent woman, whom I could love: a contrast to the fury I left at Thornfield -- "
"But you could not marry, Sir."
"I had determined and was convinced that I could and ought. It was not my original intention to deceive, as I have deceived you. I meant to tell my tale plainly, and make my proposals openly: and it appeared to me so absolutely rational that I should be considered free to love and be loved, I never doubted some woman might be found willing and able to understand my case and accept me, in spite of the curse with which I was burdened."
"When you are inquisitive, Jane, you always make me smile. You open your eyes like an eager bird, and make every now and then a restless movement, as if answers in speech did not flow fast enough for you, and you wanted to read the tablet of one's heart. But before I go on, tell me what you mean by your 'Well, Sir?' It is a small phrase very frequent with you; and which many a time has drawn me on and on through interminable talk: I don't very well know why."
"I mean, -- What next? How did you proceed? What came of such an event?"
"Precisely! and what do you wish to know now?"
"Whether you found any one you liked: whether you asked her to marry you; and what she said."
"I can tell you whether I found any one I liked, and whether I asked her to marry me: but what she said is yet to be recorded in the book of Fate. For ten long years I roved about, living first in one capital, then another: sometimes in St. Petersburg; oftener in Paris; occasionally in Rome, Naples, and Florence. Provided with plenty of money and the passport of an old name, I could choose my own society: no circles were closed against me. I sought my ideal of a woman amongst English ladies, French countesses, Italian signoras, and German grafinnen. I could not find her. Sometimes, for a fleeting moment, I thought I caught a glance, heard a tone, beheld a form, which announced the realisation of my dream: but I was presently undeceived. You are not to suppose that I desired perfection, either of mind or person. I longed only for what suited me -- for the antipodes of the Creole: and I longed vainly. Amongst them all I found not one whom, had I been ever so free, I -- warned as I was of the risks, the horrors, the loathings of incongruous unions -- would have asked to marry me. Disappointment made me reckless. I tried dissipation -- never debauchery: that I hated, and hate. That was my Indian Messalina's attribute: rooted disgust at it and her restrained me much, even in pleasure. Any enjoyment that bordered on riot seemed to approach me to her and her vices, and I eschewed it.
"Yet I could not live alone; so I tried the companionship of mistresses. The first I chose was Céline Varens -- another of those steps which make a man spurn himself when he recalls them. You already know what she was, and how my liaison with her terminated. She had two successors: an Italian, Giacinta, and a
"I don't like you so well as I have done sometimes, indeed, Sir. Did it not seem to you in the least wrong to live in that way, first with one mistress and then another? You talk of it as a mere matter of course."
"It was with me; and I did not like it. It was a grovelling fashion of existence: I should never like to return to it. Hiring a mistress is the next worse thing to buying a slave: both are often by nature, and always by position, inferior: and to live familiarly with inferiors is degrading. I now hate the recollection of the time I passed with Céline, Giacinta, and Clara."
I felt the truth of these words; and I drew from them the certain inference, that if I were so far to forget myself and all the teaching that had ever been instilled into me, as -- under any pretext -- with any justification -- through any temptation -- to become the successor of these poor girls, he would one day regard me with the same feeling which now in his mind desecrated their memory. I did not give utterance to this conviction: it was enough to feel it. I impressed it on my heart, that it might remain there to serve me as aid in the time of trial.
"Now, Jane, why don't you say 'Well, Sir?' I have not done. You are looking grave. You disapprove of me still, I see. But let me come to the point. Last January, rid of all mistresses -- in a harsh, bitter frame of mind, the result of a useless, roving, lonely life -- corroded with disappointment, sourly disposed against all men, and especially against all womankind (for I began to regard the notion of an intellectual, faithful, loving woman as a mere dream), recalled by business, I came back to England.
"On a frosty winter afternoon, I rode in sight of Thornfield Hall. Abhorred spot! I expected no peace -- no pleasure there. On a stile in Hay Lane I saw a quiet little figure sitting by itself. I passed it as negligently as I did the pollard willow opposite to it: I had no presentiment of what it would be to me; no inward warning that the arbitress of my life -- my genius for good or evil -- waited there in humble guise. I did not know it, even when, on the occasion of Mesrour's accident, it came up and gravely offered me help. Childish and slender creature! It seemed as if a linnet had hopped to my foot and proposed to bear me on its tiny wing. I was surly; but the thing would not go: it stood by me with strange perseverance, and looked and spoke with a sort of authority. I must be aided, and by that hand: and aided I was.
"When once I had pressed the frail shoulder, something new -- a fresh sap and sense -- stole into my frame. It was well I had learnt that this elf must return to me -- that it belonged to my house down below -- or I could not have felt it pass away from under my hand, and seen it vanish behind the dim hedge, without singular regret. I heard you come
"Impatiently I waited for evening, when I might summon you to my presence. An unusual -- to me -- a perfectly new character I suspected was yours: I desired to search it deeper and know it better. You entered the room with a look and air at once shy and independent: you were quaintly dressed -- much as you are now. I made you talk: ere long I found you full of strange contrasts. Your garb and manner were restricted by rule; your air was often diffident, and altogether that of one refined by nature, but absolutely unused to society, and a good deal afraid of making herself disadvantageously conspicuous by some solecism or blunder; yet when addressed, you lifted a keen, a daring, and a glowing eye to your interlocutor's face: there was penetration and power in each glance you gave; when plied by close questions, you found ready and round answers. Very soon you seemed to get used to me: I believe you felt the existence of sympathy between you and your grim and cross master, Jane; for it was astonishing to see how quickly a certain pleasant ease tranquillised your manner: snarl as I would, you showed no surprise, fear, annoyance, or displeasure at my moroseness; you watched me, and now and then smiled at me with a simple yet sagacious grace I cannot describe. I was at once content and stimulated with what I saw: I liked what I had seen, and wished to see more. Yet, for a long time, I treated you distantly, and sought your company rarely. I was an intellectual epicure, and wished to prolong the gratification of making this novel and piquant acquaintance:
"Don't talk any more of those days, Sir," I interrupted, furtively dashing away some tears from my eyes; his language was torture to me; for I knew what I must do -- and do soon -- and these reminiscences, and these revelations of his feelings, only made my work more difficult.
"No, Jane," he returned: "what necessity is there to dwell on the Past, when the Present is so much surer -- the Future so much brighter?"
I shuddered to hear the infatuated assertion.
"You see now how the case stands -- do you not?" he continued. "After a youth and manhood passed half in unutterable misery and half in dreary solitude, I have for the first time found what I can truly love -- I have found you. You are my sympathy-my better self-my good angel. I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wraps my existence about you, and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.
"It was because I felt and knew this, that I resolved to marry you. To tell me that I had already a wife is empty mockery: you know now that I had but a hideous demon. I was wrong to attempt to deceive you; but I feared a stubbornness that exists in your character. I feared early instilled prejudice: I wanted to have you safe before hazarding confidences. This was cowardly: I should have appealed to your nobleness and magnanimity at first, as I do now --
"Why are you silent, Jane?"
I was experiencing an ordeal: a hand of fiery iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning! Not a human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better than I was loved; and him who thus loved me I absolutely worshipped: and I must renounce love and idol. One drear word comprised my intolerable duty -- "Depart!"
"Jane, you understand what I want of you? Just this promise -- 'I will be yours, Mr. Rochester.'"
"Mr. Rochester, I will not be yours."
Another long silence.
"Jane!" recommenced he, with a gentleness that broke me down with grief, and turned me stone-cold with ominous terror -- for this still voice was the pant of a lion rising -- "Jane, do you mean to go one way in the world, and to let me go another?"
"Jane" (bending towards and embracing me), "do you mean it now?"
"And now?" softly kissing my forehead and cheek.
"I do -- " extricating myself from restraint rapidly and completely.
"Oh, Jane, this is bitter! This -- this is wicked. It would not be wicked to love me."
"It would to obey you."
A wild look raised his brows -- crossed his features: he rose; but he forbore yet. I laid my hand on the back of a chair for support: I shook, I feared -- but I resolved.
"One instant, Jane. Give one glance to my horrible life when you are gone. All happiness will be torn away with you. What then is left? For a wife I have but the maniac up-stairs: as well might you refer me to some corpse in yonder churchyard. What shall I do, Jane? Where turn for a companion and for some hope?"
"Do as I do: trust in God and yourself. Believe in heaven. Hope to meet again there."
"Then you will not yield?"
"Then you condemn me to live wretched and to die accursed?" His voice rose.
"I advise you to live sinless, and I wish you to die tranquil."
"Then you snatch love and innocence from me? You fling me back on lust for a passion -- vice for an occupation?"
"Mr. Rochester, I no more assign this fate to you than I grasp at it for myself. We were born to strive and endure -- you as well as I: do so. You will forget me before I forget you."
"You make me a liar by such language: you sully my honour. I declared I could not change: you tell me to my face I shall change soon. And what a distortion in your judgment, what a perversity in your
This was true: and while he spoke my very conscience and reason turned traitors against me, and charged me with crime in resisting him. They spoke almost as loud as Feeling: and that clamoured wildly. "Oh, comply!" it said. "Think of his misery; think of his danger -- look at his state when left alone; remember his headlong nature; consider the recklessness following on despair -- soothe him; save him; love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?"
Still indomitable was the reply -- "I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad -- as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth -- so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane -- quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot."
I did. Mr. Rochester, reading my countenance, saw I had done so. His fury was wrought to the highest: he must yield to it for a moment, whatever followed; he crossed the floor and seized my arm and grasped my waist. He seemed to devour me with his flaming glance: physically, I felt, at the moment, powerless as stubble exposed to the draught and glow of a furnace -- mentally, I still possessed my soul, and with it the certainty of ultimate safety. The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter -- often an unconscious, but still a truthful interpreter -- in the eye. My eye rose to his; and while I looked in his fierce face I gave an involuntary sigh; his gripe was painful, and my overtaxed strength almost exhausted.
"Never," said he, as he ground his teeth, "never was anything at once so frail and so indomitable. A mere reed she feels in my hand!" (And he shook me with the force of his hold.) "I could bend her with my finger and thumb: and what good would it do if I bent, if I uptore, if I crushed her? Consider that eye: consider the resolute, wild, free thing looking out of it, defying me, with more than courage -- with a stern triumph. Whatever I do with its cage, I cannot get at it -- the savage, beautiful creature! If I tear, if I rend the slight prison, my outrage will only let the captive loose. Conqueror I might be of the house; but the inmate would escape to heaven before I could call myself possessor of its clay dwelling-place. And it is you, spirit -- with will and energy, and virtue and purity -- that I want: not alone your brittle frame. Of yourself you could come with soft flight and nestle against my heart, if you would: seized against your will, you will elude the grasp like an essence -- you
As he said this, he released me from his clutch, and only looked at me. The look was far worse to resist than the frantic strain: only an idiot, however, would have succumbed now. I had dared and baffled his fury; I must elude his sorrow: retired to the door.
"You are going, Jane?"
"I am going, Sir."
"You are leaving me?"
"You will not come? You will not be my comforter, my rescuer? My deep love, my wild woe, my frantic prayer, are all nothing to you?"
What unutterable pathos was in his voice! How hard it was to reiterate firmly, "I am going."
"Withdraw, then, -- I consent -- but remember, you leave me here in anguish. Go up to your own room; think over all I have said, and, Jane, cast a glance on my sufferings -- think of me."
He turned away; he threw himself on his face on the sofa. "Oh, Jane! my hope -- my love -- my life!" broke in anguish from his lips. Then came a deep, strong sob.
I had already gained the door; but, reader, I walked back -- walked back as determinedly as I had retreated. I knelt down by him; I turned his face from the cushion to me; I kissed his cheek; I smoothed his hair with my hand.
"God bless you, my dear master!" I said. "God
"Little Jane's love would have been my best reward," he answered; "without it, my heart is broken. But Jane will give me her love: yes -- nobly, generously."
Up the blood rushed to his face; forth flashed the fire from his eyes; erect he sprang; he held his arms out; but I evaded the embrace, and at once quitted the room.
"Farewell!" was the cry of my heart as I left him. Despair added, "Farewell for ever!"
* * * * * *
That night I never thought to sleep; but a slumber fell on me as soon as I lay down in bed. I was transported in thought to the scenes of childhood: I dreamt I lay in the red-room at Gateshead; that the night was dark, and my mind impressed with strange fears. The light that long ago had struck me into syncope, recalled in this vision, seemed glidingly to mount the wall, and tremblingly to pause in the centre of the obscured ceiling. I lifted up my head to look: the roof resolved to clouds, high and dim; the gleam was such as the moon imparts to vapours she is about to sever. I watched her come -- watched with the strangest anticipation; as though some word of doom were to be written on her disk. She broke forth as never moon yet burst from cloud: a hand first penetrated the sable folds and waved them away; then, not a moon, but a white human form shone in the azure, inclining a glorious brow earthward. It gazed and gazed on me. It spoke to my spirit: immeasurably distant was the tone, yet so near, it whispered in my heart --
"My daughter, flee temptation."
"Mother, I will."
So I answered after I had waked from the trancelike dream. It was yet night, but July nights are short: soon after midnight, dawn comes. "It cannot be too early to commence the task I have to fulfil," thought I. I rose: I was dressed; for I had taken off nothing but my shoes. I knew where to find in my drawers some linen, a locket, a ring. In seeking these articles, I encountered the beads of a pearl necklace Mr. Rochester had forced me to accept a few days ago. I left that; it was not mine: it was the visionary bride's who had melted in air. The other articles I made up in a parcel; my purse, containing twenty shillings (it was all I had), I put in my pocket: I tied on my straw bonnet, pinned my shawl, took the parcel and my slippers, which I would not put on yet, and stole from my room.
"Farewell, kind Mrs. Fairfax!" I whispered, as I glided past her door. "Farewell, my darling Adèle!" I said, as I glanced towards the nursery. No thought could be admitted of entering to embrace her. I had to deceive a fine ear: for aught I knew it might now be listening.
I would have got past Mr. Rochester's chamber without a pause; but my heart momentarily stopping its beat at that threshold, my foot was forced to stop also. No sleep was there: the inmate was walking restlessly from wall to wall; and again and again he sighed while I listened. There was a heaven -- a temporary heaven -- in this room for me, if I chose: I had but to go in and to say --
"Mr. Rochester, I will love you and live with you
That kind master, who could not sleep now, was waiting with impatience for day. He would send for me in the morning; I should be gone. He would have me sought for: vainly. He would feel himself forsaken; his love rejected: he would suffer; perhaps grow desperate. I thought of this too. My hand moved towards the lock: I caught it back, and glided on.
Drearily I wound my way downstairs: I knew what I had to do, and I did it mechanically. I sought the key of the side-door in the kitchen; I sought, too, a phial of oil and a feather; I oiled the key and the lock. I got some water, I got some bread: for perhaps I should have to walk far; and my strength, sorely shaken of late, must not break down. All this I did without one sound. I opened the door, passed out, shut it softly. Dim dawn glimmered in the yard. The great gates were closed and locked; but a wicket in one of them was only latched. Through that I departed: it, too, I shut; and now I was out of Thornfield.
A mile off, beyond the fields, lay a road which stretched in the contrary direction to Millcote; a road I had never travelled, but often noticed, and wondered where it led: thither I bent my steps. No reflection was to be allowed now: not one glance was to be cast back; not even one forward. Not one thought was to be given either to the past or to the future. The first was a page so heavenly sweet -- so deadly sad -- that to read one line of it would dissolve my courage and break down my energy. The last was an awful
I skirted fields, and hedges, and lanes till after sunrise. I believe it was a lovely summer morning: I know my shoes, which I had put on when I left the house, were soon wet with dew. But I looked neither to rising sun, nor smiling sky, nor wakening nature. He who is taken out to pass through a fair scene to the scaffold, thinks not of the flowers that smile on his road, but of the block and axe-edge; of the disseverment of bone and vein; of the grave gaping at the end: and I thought of drear flight and homeless wandering -- and oh! with agony I thought of what I left. I could not help it. I thought of him now -- in his room -- watching the sunrise; hoping I should soon come to say I would stay with him and be his. I longed to be his; I panted to return: it was not too late; I could yet spare him the bitter pang of bereavement. As yet my flight, I was sure, was undiscovered. I could go back and be his comforter -- his pride; his redeemer from misery, perhaps from ruin. Oh, that fear of his self-abandonment -- far worse than my abandonment -- how it goaded me! It was a barbed arrow-head in my breast; it tore me when I tried to extract it; it sickened me when remembrance thrust it farther in. Birds began singing in brake and copse: birds were faithful to their mates; birds were emblems of love. What was I? In the midst of my pain of heart and frantic effort of principle, I abhorred myself. I had no solace from self-approbation: none even from self-respect. I had injured -- wounded -- left my master. I was hateful in my own eyes. Still I could not turn, nor retrace one step. God must have led
When I got there, I was forced to sit to rest me under the hedge; and while I sat, I heard wheels, and saw a coach come on. I stood up and lifted my hand; it stopped. I asked where it was going: the driver named a place a long way off, and where I was sure Mr. Rochester had no connections. I asked for what sum he would take me there; he said thirty shillings; I answered I had but twenty; well, he would try to make it do. He further gave me leave to get into the inside, as the vehicle was empty: I entered, was shut in, and it rolled on its way.
Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonised as in that hour left my lips; for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.
TWO days are passed. It is a summer evening; the coachman has set me down at a place called Whitcross; he could take me no farther for the sum I had given, and I was not possessed of another shilling in the world. The coach is a mile off by this time; I am alone. At this moment I discover that I forgot to take my parcel out of the pocket of the coach, where I had placed it for safety; there it remains, there it must remain; and now, I am absolutely destitute.
Whitcross is no town, nor even a hamlet; it is but a stone pillar set up where four roads meet: whitewashed, I suppose, to be more obvious at a distance and in darkness. Four arms spring from its summit: the nearest town to which these point is, according to the inscription, distant ten miles; the farthest, above twenty. From the well-known names of these towns I learn in what county I have lighted; a north-midland shire, dusk with moorland, ridged with mountain: this I see. There are great moors behind and on each hand of me; there are waves of mountains far beyond that deep valley at my feet. The population here must be thin, and I see no passengers on these roads: they stretch out east, west, north, and south-white, broad, lonely; they are all cut in the moor, and the heather grows deep and wild to their very verge. Yet a chance traveller might pass by; and I wish no eye to see me now: strangers would wonder what I am doing, lingering here at the sign-post, evidently objectless and lost. I might be questioned: I could give no answer but
I struck straight into the heath; I held on to a hollow I saw deeply furrowing the brown moorside; I waded, knee-deep, in its dark growth; I turned with its turnings, and finding a moss-blackened granite crag in a hidden angle, I sat down under it. High banks of moor were about me; the crag protected my head: the sky was over that.
Some time passed before I felt tranquil even here: I had a vague dread that wild cattle might be near, or that some sportsman or poacher might discover me. If a gust of wind swept the waste, I looked up, fearing it was the rush of a bull; if a plover whistled, I imagined it a man. Finding my apprehensions unfounded, however, and calmed by the deep silence that reigned as evening declined at nightfall, I took confidence. As yet I had not thought; I had only listened, watched, dreaded; now I regained the faculty of reflection.
What was I to do? Where to go? Oh, intolerable questions, when I could do nothing and go nowhere! -- when a long way must yet be measured by my weary, trembling limbs before I could reach human habitation -- when cold charity must be entreated before I could get a lodging: reluctant sympathy importuned, almost certain repulse incurred, before my tale could be listened to, or one of my wants relieved!
I touched the heath: it was dry, and yet warm with the heat of the summer day. I looked at the sky; it was pure: a kindly star twinkled just above the chasm ridge. The day fell, but with propitious softness; no breeze whispered. Nature seemed to me benign and good; I thought she loved me, outcast as I was; and I, who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, insult, clung to her with filial fondness. To-night, at least, I would be her guest -- as I was her child: my mother would lodge me without money and without price. I had one morsel of bread yet: the remnant of a roll I had bought in a town we passed through at noon with a stray penny -- my last coin. I saw ripe bilberries gleaming here and there, like jet beads in the heath: I gathered a handful and ate them with the bread. My hunger, sharp before, was, if not satisfied, appeased by this hermit's meal. I said my evening prayers at its conclusion, and then chose my couch.
Beside the crag the heath was very deep: when I lay down my feet were buried in it; rising high on each side, it left only a narrow space for the night-air to invade. I folded my shawl double, and spread it over me for a coverlet; a low, mossy swell was my pillow. Thus lodged, I was not, at least at the commencement of the night, cold.
My rest might have been blissful enough, only a sad heart broke it. It plained of its gaping wounds, its inward bleeding, its riven chords. It trembled for Mr. Rochester and his doom; it bemoaned him with bitter pity; it demanded him with ceaseless longing; and, impotent as a bird with both wings broken, it
Worn out with this torture of thought, I rose to my knees. Night was come, and her planets were risen: a safe, still night: too serene for the companionship of fear. We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence. I had risen to my knees to pray for Mr. Rochester. Looking up, I, with tear-dimmed eyes, saw the mighty milky-way. Remembering what it was -- what countless systems there swept space like a soft trace of light -- I felt the might and strength of God. Sure was I of His efficiency to save what He had made: convinced I grew that neither earth should perish, nor one of the souls it treasured. I turned my prayer to thanksgiving: the Source of Life was also the Saviour of spirits. Mr. Rochester was safe: he was God's, and by God would he be guarded. I again nestled to the breast of the hill; and ere long in sleep forgot sorrow.
But next day, Want came to me pale and bare. Long after the little birds had left their nests; long after bees had come in the sweet prime of day to gather the heath honey before the dew was dried -- when the long morning shadows were curtailed, and the sun filled earth and sky -- I got up, and I looked round me.
What a still, hot, perfect day! What a golden desert this spreading moor! Everywhere sunshine. I wished I could live in it and on it. I saw a lizard
Whitcross regained, I followed a road which led from the sun, now fervent and high. By no other circumstance had I will to decide my choice. I walked a long time, and when I thought I had nearly done enough, and might conscientiously yield to the fatigue that almost overpowered me -- might relax this forced action, and, sitting down on a stone I saw near, submit resistlessly to the apathy that clogged heart and limb -- I heard a bell chime -- a church bell.
I turned in the direction of the sound, and there, amongst the romantic hills, whose changes and aspect I had ceased to note an hour ago, I saw a hamlet and a spire. All the valley at my right hand was full of pasture-fields, and cornfields, and wood; and a glittering stream ran zigzag through the varied shades of green, the mellowing grain, the sombre wood-land,
About two o'clock, P.M., I entered the village. At the bottom of its one street there was a little shop with some cakes of bread in the window. I coveted a cake of bread. With that refreshment I could perhaps regain a degree of energy: without it, it would be difficult to proceed. The wish to have some strength and some vigour returned to me as soon as I was amongst my fellow-beings. I felt it would be degrading to faint with hunger on the causeway of a hamlet. Had I nothing about me I could offer in exchange for one of these rolls? I considered. I had a small silk handkerchief tied round my throat; I had my gloves. I could hardly tell how men and women in extremities of destitution proceeded. I did not know whether either of these articles would be accepted: probably they would not; but I must try.
I entered the shop: a woman was there. Seeing a respectably-dressed person, a lady as she supposed, she came forward with civility. How could she serve me? I was seized with shame: my tongue would not utter the request I had prepared. I dared not offer her the half-worn gloves, the creased handkerchief: besides, I felt it would be absurd. I only begged permission to sit down a moment, as I was tired. Disappointed in the expectation of a customer, she coolly acceded to my request. She pointed to a seat; I sank into it. I felt sorely urged to weep; but conscious
"Yes; two or three. Quite as many as there was employment for."
I reflected. I was driven to the point now. I was brought face to face with Necessity. I stood in the position of one without a resource, without a friend, without a coin. I must do something. What? I must apply somewhere. Where?
"Did she know of any place in the neighbourhood where a servant was wanted?"
"Nay; she couldn't say."
"What was the chief trade in this place? What did most of the people do?"
"Some were farm labourers; a good deal worked at Mr. Oliver's needle-factory, and at the foundry."
"Did Mr. Oliver employ women?"
"Nay; it was men's work."
"And what do the women do?"
"I knawn't," was the answer. "Some does one thing, and some another. Poor folk mun get on as they can."
She seemed to be tired of my questions: and, indeed, what claim had I to importune her? A neighbour or two came in; my chair was evidently wanted. I took leave.
I passed up the street, looking as I went at all the houses to the right hand and to the left; but I could discover no pretext, nor see an inducement to enter any. I rambled round the hamlet, going sometimes to a little distance and returning again, for an hour or more. Much exhausted, and suffering greatly now for
"No," said she; "we do not keep a servant."
"Can you tell me where I could get employment of any kind?" I continued. "I am a stranger, without acquaintance in this place. I want some work: no matter what."
But it was not her business to think for me, or to seek a place for me: besides, in her eyes, how doubtful must have appeared my character, position, tale. She shook her head, she "was sorry she could give me no information," and the white door closed, quite gently and civilly: but it shut me out. If she had held it open a little longer, I believe I should have begged a piece of bread; for I was now brought low.
I could not bear to return to the sordid village, where, besides, no prospect of aid was visible. I should have longed rather to deviate to a wood I saw not far off, which appeared in its thick shade to offer inviting shelter; but I was so sick, so weak, so gnawed
I drew near houses; I left them, and came back again, and again I wandered away: always repelled by the consciousness of having no claim to ask -- no right to expect interest in my isolated lot. Meantime, the afternoon advanced, while I thus wandered about like a lost and starving dog. In crossing a field, I saw the church spire before me: I hastened towards it. Near the churchyard, and in the middle of a garden, stood a well-built though small house, which I had no doubt was the parsonage. I remembered that strangers who arrive at a place where they have no friends, and who want employment, sometimes apply to the clergyman for introduction and aid. It is the clergyman's function to help -- at least with advice -- those who wished to help themselves. I seemed to have something like a right to seek counsel here. Renewing then my courage, and gathering my feeble remains of strength, I pushed on. I reached the house, and knocked at the kitchen-door. An old woman opened: I asked was this the parsonage?
"Was the clergyman in?"
"Would he be in soon?"
"No, he was gone from home."
"To a distance?"
"Not so far -- happen three mile. He had been called away by the sudden death of his father: he was
"Was there any lady of the house?"
"Nay, there was naught but her, and she was housekeeper;" and of her, reader, I could not bear to ask the relief for want of which I was sinking; I could not yet beg; and again I crawled away.
Once more I took off my handkerchief -- once more I thought of the cakes of bread in the little shop. Oh, for but a crust! for but one mouthful to allay the pang of famine! Instinctively I turned my face again to the village; I found the shop again, and I went in; and though others were there besides the woman I ventured the request: "Would she give me a roll for this handkerchief?"
She looked at me with evident suspicion: "Nay, she never sold stuff i' that way."
Almost desperate, I asked for half a cake; she again refused. "How could she tell where I had got the handkerchief?" she said.
"Would she take my gloves?"
"No! what could she do with them?"
Reader, it is not pleasant to dwell on these details. Some say there is enjoyment in looking back to painful experience past; but at this day I can scarcely bear to review the times to which I allude: the moral degradation, blent with the physical suffering, form too distressing a recollection ever to be willingly dwelt on. I blamed none of those who repulsed me. I felt it was what was to be expected, and what could not be helped: an ordinary beggar is frequently an object of suspicion; a well-dressed beggar inevitably so. To be sure, what I begged was employment; but whose business
A little before dark I passed a farmhouse, at the open door of which the farmer was sitting, eating his supper of bread and cheese. I stopped and said: --
"Will you give me a piece of bread? for I am very hungry." He cast on me a glance of surprise; but without answering, he cut a thick slice from his loaf, and gave it to me. I imagine he did not think I was a beggar, but only an eccentric sort of lady, who had taken a fancy to his brown loaf. As soon as I was out of sight of his house, I sat down and ate it.
I could not hope to get a lodging under a roof, and sought it in the wood I have before alluded to. But my night was wretched, my rest broken: the ground was damp, the air cold: besides, intruders passed near me more than once, and I had again and again to change my quarters: no sense of safety or tranquillity befriended me. Towards morning it rained; the whole of the following day was wet. Do not ask me, reader, to give a minute account of that day; as before, I sought work; as before, I was repulsed; as before, I starved; but once did food pass my lips. At the door of a cottage I saw a little girl about to throw a mess of cold porridge into a pig trough. "Will you give me that?" I asked.
She stared at me. "Mother!" she exclaimed,
"Well, lass," replied a voice within, "give it her if she's a beggar. T' pig doesn't want it."
The girl emptied the stiffened mould into my hands and I devoured it ravenously.
As the wet twilight deepened, I stopped in a solitary bridle-path, which I had been pursuing an hour or more.
"My strength is quite failing me," I said in a soliloquy. "I feel I cannot go much farther. Shall I be an outcast again this night? While the rain descends so, must I lay my head on the cold, drenched ground? I fear I cannot do otherwise: for who will receive me? But it will be very dreadful, with this feeling of hunger, faintness, chill, and this sense of desolation -- this total prostration of hope. In all likelihood, though, I should die before morning. And why cannot I reconcile myself to the prospect of death? Why do I struggle to retain a valueless life? Because I know, or believe, Mr. Rochester is living: and then, to die of want and cold is a fate to which nature cannot submit passively. Oh, Providence! sustain me a little longer! Aid -- direct me!"
My glazed eye wandered over the dim and misty landscape. I saw I had strayed far from the village: it was quite out of sight. The very cultivation surrounding it had disappeared. I had, by cross-ways and by-paths, once more drawn near the tract of moorland; and now, only a few fields, almost as wild and unproductive as the heath from which they were scarcely reclaimed, lay between me and the dusky hill.
"Well, I would rather die yonder than in a street
To the hill, then, I turned. I reached it. It remained now only to find a hollow where I could lie down, and feel at least hidden, if not secure. But all the surface of the waste looked level. It showed no variation but of tint: green, where rush and moss overgrew the marshes; black, where the dry soil bore only heath. Dark as it was getting, I could still see these changes, though but as mere alternations of light and shade; for colour had faded with the daylight.
My eye still roved over the sullen swell and along the moor-edge, vanishing amidst the wildest scenery, when at one dim point, far in among the marshes and the ridges, a light sprang up. "That is an ignis fatuus," was my first thought; and I expected it would soon vanish. It burnt on, however, quite steadily, neither receding nor advancing. "Is it, then, a bonfire just kindled?" I questioned. I watched to see whether it would spread: but no; as it did not diminish, so it did not enlarge. "It may be a candle in a house," I then conjectured; "but if so, I can never reach it. It is much too far away: and were it within a yard of me, what would it avail? I should but knock at the door to have it shut in my face."
And I sank down where I stood, and hid my face against the ground. I lay still a while: the night-wind swept over the hill and over me, and died moaning in the distance; the rain fell fast, wetting me afresh to the skin. Could I but have stiffened to the still frost --
The light was yet there, shining dim but constant through the rain. I tried to walk again: I dragged my exhausted limbs slowly towards it. It led me aslant over the hill, through a wide bog, which would have been impassable in winter, and was splashy and shaking even now, in the height of summer. Here I fell twice; but as often I rose and rallied my faculties. This light was my forlorn hope: I must gain it.
Having crossed the marsh, I saw a trace of white over the moor. I approached it; it was a road or a track: it led straight up to the light, which now beamed from a sort of knoll, amidst a clump of trees -- firs, apparently, from what I could distinguish of the character of their forms and foliage through the gloom. My star vanished as I drew near: some obstacle had intervened between me and it. I put out my hand to feel the dark mass before me: I discriminated the rough stones of a low wall -- above it, something like palisades, and within, a high and prickly hedge. I groped on. Again a whitish object gleamed before me: it was a gate -- a wicket; it moved on its hinges as I touched it. On each side stood a sable bush -- holly or yew.
Entering the gate and passing the shrubs, the silhouette of a house rose to view, black, low, and rather long; but the guiding light shone nowhere. All was obscurity. Were the inmates retired to rest? I feared it must be so. In seeking the door, I turned an angle: there shot out the friendly gleam again, from the lozenged panes of a very small latticed window, within a foot of the ground, made still smaller by the growth of ivy or
I noticed these objects cursorily only -- in them there was nothing extraordinary. A group of more interest appeared near the hearth, sitting still amidst the rosy peace and warmth suffusing it. Two young, graceful women -- ladies in every point -- sat, one in a low rocking-chair, the other on a lower stool; both wore deep mourning of crape and bombazeen, which sombre garb singularly set off very fair necks and faces: a large old pointer dog rested its massive head on the knee of one girl -- in the lap of the other was cushioned a black cat.
A strange place was this humble kitchen for such occupants! Who were they? They could not be the daughters of the elderly person at the table; for she looked like a rustic, and they were all delicacy and cultivation. I had nowhere seen such faces as theirs: and yet, as I gazed on them, I seemed intimate with every lineament. I cannot call them handsome -- they were too pale and grave for the word: as they each
"Listen, Diana," said one of the absorbed students; "Franz and old Daniel are together in the night-time, and Franz is telling a dream from which he has awakened in terror -- listen!" And in a low voice she read something, of which not one word was intelligible to me; for it was in an unknown tongue -- neither French nor Latin. Whether it were Greek or German I could not tell.
"That is strong," she said, when she had finished: "I relish it." The other girl, who had lifted her head to listen to her sister, repeated, while she gazed at the fire, a line of what had been read. At a later day, I knew the language and the book; therefore, I will here quote the line: though, when I first heard it, it was only like a stroke on sounding brass to me -- conveying no meaning: --
"'Da trat hervor Einer, anzusehen wie die Sternen Nacht.' Good! good!" she exclaimed, while her dark and deep eye sparkled. "There you have a dim and mighty archangel fitly set before you! The line is
Both were again silent.
"Is there ony country where they talk i' that way?" asked the old woman, looking up from her knitting.
"Yes, Hannah -- a far larger country than England, where they talk in no other way."
"Well, for sure case, I knawn't how they can understand t' one t' other: and if either o' ye went there, ye could tell what they said, I guess?"
"We could probably tell something of what they said, but not all -- for we are not as clever as you think us, Hannah. We don't speak German, and we cannot read it without a dictionary to help us."
"And what good does it do you?"
"We mean to teach it some time -- or at least the elements, as they say; and then we shall get more money than we do now."
"Varry like: but give ower studying; ye've done enough for to-night."
"I think we have: at least I'm tired. Mary, are you?"
"Mortally: after all, it's tough work fagging away at a language with no master but a lexicon."
"It is, especially such a language as this crabbed but glorious Deutsch. I wonder when St. John will come home."
"Surely he will not be long now: it is just ten (looking at a little gold watch she drew from her girdle). It rains fast, Hannah: will you have the goodness to look at the fire in the parlour?"
The woman rose: she opened a door, through which
"Ah, childer!" said she, "it fair troubles me to go into yond' room now: it looks so lonesome wi' the chair empty and set back in a corner."
She wiped her eyes with her apron: the two girls, grave before, looked sad now.
"But he is in a better place," continued Hannah: "we shouldn't wish him here again. And then, nobody need to have a quieter death nor he had."
"You say he never mentioned us?" inquired one of the ladies.
"He hadn't time, bairn: he was gone in a minute -- was your father. He had been a bit ailing like the day before, but naught to signify; and when Mr. St. John asked if he would like either o' ye to be sent for, he fair laughed at him. He began again with a bit of a heaviness in his head the next day -- that is, a fortnight sin" -- and he went to sleep and niver wakened: he wor a'most stark when your brother went into t' chamber and fand him. Ah, childer! that's t' last o' t' old stock -- for ye and Mr. St. John is like of different soart to them 'at's gone; for all your mother wor mich i' your way, and a'most as book-learned. She wor the pictur' o' ye, Mary: Diana is more like your father."
I thought them so similar I could not tell where the old servant (for such I now concluded her to be) saw the difference. Both were fair complexioned and slenderly made; both possessed faces full of distinction and intelligence. One, to be sure, had hair a shade darker than the other, and there was a difference in their style of wearing it; Mary's pale brown locks were parted
"Ye'll want your supper, I am sure," observed Hannah; "and so will Mr. St. John when he comes in."
And she proceeded to prepare the meal. The ladies rose; they seemed about to withdraw to the parlour. Till this moment, I had been so intent on watching them, their appearance and conversation had excited in me so keen an interest, I had half-forgotten my own wretched position: now it recurred to me. More desolate, more desperate than ever, it seemed from contrast. And how impossible did it appear to touch the inmates of this house with concern on my behalf; to make them believe in the truth of my wants and woes -- to induce them to vouchsafe a rest for my wanderings! As I groped out the door, and knocked at it hesitatingly, I felt that last idea to be a mere chimera. Hannah opened.
"What do you want?" she inquired, in a voice of surprise, as she surveyed me by the light of the candle she held.
"May I speak to your mistresses?" I said.
"You had better tell me what you have to say to them. Where do you come from?"
"I am a stranger."
"What is your business here at this hour?"
"I want a night's shelter in an out-house or anywhere, and a morsel of bread to eat."
Distrust, the very feeling I dreaded, appeared in Hannah's face. "I'll give you a piece of bread," she said, after a pause; "but we can't take in a vagrant to lodge. It isn't likely."
"Do let me speak to your mistresses."
"No, not I. What can they do for you? You should not be roving about now; it looks very ill."
"But where shall I go if you drive me away? What shall I do?"
"Oh, I'll warrant you know where to go and what to do. Mind you don't do wrong, that's all. Here is a penny; now go -- "
"A penny cannot feed me, and I have no strength to go farther. Don't shut the door: -- oh, don't, for God's sake!"
"I must; the rain is driving in -- "
"Tell the young ladies. -- Let me see them -- "
"Indeed, I will not. You are not what you ought to be, or you wouldn't make such a noise. Move off."
"But I must die if I am turned away."
"Not you. I'm fear'd you have some ill plans agate, that bring you about folk's houses at this time o' night. If you've any followers -- housebreakers or such like -- anywhere near, you may tell them we are not by ourselves in the house; we have a gentleman, and dogs, and guns." Here the honest but inflexible servant clapped the door to and bolted it within.
This was the climax. A pang of exquisite suffering -- a throe of true despair -- rent and heaved my heart. Worn out, indeed, I was; not another step could I stir. I sank on the wet doorstep: I groaned -- I wrung my hands -- I wept in utter anguish. Oh, this spectre of death! Oh, this last hour, approaching in such horror! Alas, this isolation -- this banishment from my kind! Not only the anchor of hope, but the footing of fortitude was gone -- at least
"I can but die," I said, "and I believe in God. Let me try to wait His will in silence."
These words I not only thought, but uttered; and thrusting back all my misery into my heart, I made an effort to compel it to remain there -- dumb and still.
"All men must die," said a voice quite close at hand; "but all are not condemned to meet a lingering and premature doom, such as yours would be if you perished here of want."
"Who or what speaks?" I asked, terrified at the unexpected sound, and incapable now of deriving from any occurrence a hope of aid. A form was near -- what form, the pitch-dark night and my enfeebled vision prevented me from distinguishing. With a loud long knock, the newcomer appealed to the door.
"Is it you, Mr. St. John?" cried Hannah.
"Yes -- yes; open quickly."
"Well, how wet and cold you must be, such a wild night as it is! Come in -- your sisters are quite uneasy about you, and I believe there are bad folks about. There has been a beggar-woman -- I declare she is not gone yet! -- laid down there. Get up! for shame! Move off, I say!"
"Hush, Hannah! I have a word to say to the woman. You have done your duty in excluding, now let me do mine in admitting her. I was near, and listened to both you and her. I think this is a peculiar case -- I must at least examine into it. Young woman, rise, and pass before me into the house."
With difficulty I obeyed him. Presently I stood within that clean, bright kitchen -- on the very hearth
"St. John, who is it?" I heard one ask.
"I cannot tell: I found her at the door," was the reply.
"She does look white," said Hannah.
"As white as clay or death," was responded. "She will fall: let her sit."
And indeed my head swam: I dropped, but a chair received me. I still possessed my senses, though just now I could not speak.
"Perhaps a little water would restore her. Hannah, fetch some. But she is worn to nothing. How very thin, and how very bloodless!"
"A mere spectre!"
"Is she ill, or only famished?"
"Famished, I think. Hannah, is that milk? Give it me, and a piece of bread."
Diana (I knew her by the long curls which I saw drooping between me and the fire as she bent over me) broke some bread, dipped it in milk, and put it to my lips. Her face was near mine: I saw there was pity in it, and I felt sympathy in her hurried breathing. In her simple words, too, the same balm-like emotion spoke: "Try to eat."
"Yes -- try," repeated Mary gently; and Mary's hand removed my sodden bonnet and lifted my head. I tasted what they offered me: feebly at first, eagerly soon.
"Not too much at first -- restrain her," said the brother; "she has had enough." And he withdrew the cup of milk and the plate of bread.
"A little more, St. John -- look at the avidity in her eyes."
"No more at present, sister. Try if she can speak now -- ask her her name."
I felt I could speak, and I answered -- "My name is Jane Elliott." Anxious as ever to avoid discovery, I had before resolved to assume an alias.
"And where do you live? Where are your friends?"
I was silent.
"Can we send for any one you know?"
I shook my head.
"What account can you give of yourself?"
Somehow, now that I had once crossed the threshold of this house, and once was brought face to face with its owners, I felt no longer outcast, vagrant, and disowned by the wide world. I dared to put off the mendicant -- to resume my natural manner and character. I began once more to know myself; and when Mr. St. John demanded an account -- which at present I was far too weak to render -- I said after a brief pause, --
"Sir, I can give you no details to-night."
"But what, then," said he, "do you expect me to do for you?"
"Nothing," I replied. My strength sufficed for but short answers. Diana took the word: --
"Do you mean," she asked, "that we have now given you what aid you require? and that we may dismiss you to the moor and the rainy night?"
I looked at her. She had, I thought, a remarkable countenance, instinct both with power and goodness. I took sudden courage. Answering her compassionate gaze with a smile, I said: "I will trust you. If I
"Hannah," said Mr. St. John, at last, "let her sit there at present, and ask her no questions; in ten minutes more, give her the remainder of that milk and bread. Mary and Diana, let us go into the parlour and talk the matter over."
They withdrew. Very soon one of the ladies returned -- I could not tell which. A kind of pleasant stupor was stealing over me as I sat by the genial fire. In an undertone she gave some directions to Hannah. Ere long, with the servant's aid, I contrived to mount a staircase; my dripping clothes were removed; soon a warm, dry bed received me. I thanked God -- experienced amidst unutterable exhaustion a glow of grateful joy -- and slept.
THE recollection of about three days and nights succeeding this is very dim in my mind. I can recall some sensations felt in that interval; but few thoughts framed, and no actions performed. I knew I was in a small room and in a narrow bed. To that bed I seemed to have grown; I lay on it motionless as a stone; and to have torn me from it would have been almost to kill me. I took no note of the lapse of time -- of the change from morning to noon, from noon to
"It is very well we took her in."
"Yes; she would certainly have been found dead at the door in the morning had she been left out all night. I wonder what she has gone through?"
"Strange hardships, I imagine -- poor, emaciated, pallid wanderer?"
"She is not an uneducated person, I should think, by her manner of speaking; her accent was quite pure; and the clothes she took off, though splashed and wet, were little worn and fine."
"She has a peculiar face; fleshless and haggard as it is, I rather like it; and when in good health and animated, I can fancy her physiognomy would be agreeable."
Never once in their dialogues did I hear a syllable of regret at the hospitality they had extended to me, or of suspicion of, or aversion to, myself. I was comforted.
Mr. St. John came but once: he looked at me, and said my state of lethargy was the result of reaction from excessive and protracted fatigue. He pronounced
"Far otherwise," responded Diana. "To speak truth, St. John, my heart rather warms to the poor little soul. I wish we may be able to benefit her permanently."
"That is hardly likely," was the reply. "You will find she is some young lady who has had a misunderstanding with her friends, and has probably injudiciously left them. We may, perhaps, succeed in restoring her to them, if she is not obstinate: but I trace lines of force in her face which make me sceptical of her tractability." He stood considering me some minutes; then added, "She looks sensible, but not at all handsome."
"She is so ill, St. John."
"Ill or well, she would always be plain. The grace and harmony of beauty are quite wanting in those features."
On the third day I was better; on the fourth, I could speak, move, rise in bed, and turn. Hannah had brought me some gruel and dry toast, about, as I supposed, the dinner hour. I had eaten with relish: the food was good -- void of the feverish flavour which had hitherto poisoned what I had swallowed. When
On a chair by the bedside were all my own things, clean and dry. My black silk frock hung against the wall. The traces of the bog were removed from it; the creases left by the wet smoothed out: it was quite decent. My very shoes and stockings were purified and rendered presentable. There were the means of washing in the room, and a comb and brush to smooth my hair. After a weary process, and resting every five minutes, I succeeded in dressing myself. My clothes hung loose on me; for I was much wasted, but I covered deficiencies with a shawl, and once more, clean and respectable-looking -- no speck of the dirt, no trace of the disorder I so hated, and which seemed so to degrade me, left -- I crept down a stone staircase with the aid of the banisters, to a narrow low passage, and found my way presently to the kitchen.
It was full of the fragrance of new bread and the warmth of a generous fire. Hannah was baking. Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones. Hannah had been cold and stiff, indeed, at the first: latterly she had begun to relent a little; and when she saw me come in tidy and well-dressed, she even smiled.
"What, you have got up!" she said. "You are
She pointed to the rocking-chair: I took it. She bustled about, examining me every now and then with the corner of her eye. Turning to me, as she took some loaves from the oven, she asked, bluntly --
"Did you ever go a-begging afore you came here?"
I was indignant for a moment; but remembering that anger was out of the question, and that I had indeed appeared as a beggar to her, I answered quietly, but still not without a certain marked firmness --
"You are mistaken in supposing me a beggar. I am no beggar; any more than yourself or your young ladies."
After a pause she said, "I dunnut understand that: you've like no house, nor no brass, I guess?"
"The want of house or brass (by which I suppose you mean money) does not make a beggar in your sense of the word."
"Are you book-learned?" she inquired presently.
"But you've never been to a boarding-school?"
"I was at a boarding-school eight years."
She opened her eyes wide. "Whatever cannot ye keep yourself for, then?"
"I have kept myself; and, I trust, shall keep myself again. What are you going to do with these gooseberries?" I inquired as she brought out a basket of the fruit.
"Mak'em into pies."
"Give them to me and I'll pick them."
"Nay; I dunnut want ye to do nought."
"But I must do something. Let me have them."
She consented; and she even brought me a clean towel to spread over my dress, "lest," as she said, "I should mucky it."
"Ye've not been used to sarvant's wark, I see by your hands," she remarked. "Happen ye've been a dressmaker?"
"No, you are wrong. And now, never mind what I have been: don't trouble your head further about me; but tell me the name of the house where we are."
"Some calls it Marsh-End, and some calls it Moor-House."
"And the gentleman who lives here is called Mr. St. John?"
"Nay; he doesn't live here: he is only staying a while. When he is at home, he is in his own parish at Morton."
"That village a few miles off?"
"And what is he?"
"He is a parson."
I remembered the answer of the old housekeeper at the parsonage, when I had asked to see the clergyman. "This, then, was his father's residence?"
"Aye; old Mr. Rivers lived here, and his father, and grandfather, and gurt (great) grandfather afore him."
"The name, then, of that gentleman, is Mr. St. John Rivers?"
"Aye; St. John is like his kirstened name."
"And his sisters are called Diana and Mary Rivers?"
"Their father is dead?"
"Dead three weeks sin' of a stroke."
"They have no mother?"
"The mistress has been dead this mony a year."
"Have you lived with the family long?"
"I've lived here thirty year. I nursed them all three"
"That proves you must have been an honest and faithful servant. I will say so much for you, though you have had the incivility to call me a beggar."
She again regarded me with a surprised stare. "I believe," she said, "I was quite mista'en in my thoughts of you: but there is so mony cheats goes about, you mun forgie me."
"And though," I continued, rather severely, "you wished to turn me from the door, on a night when you should not have shut out a dog."
"Well, it was hard: but what can a body do? I thought more o' th' childer nor of mysel: poor things! They've like nobody to tak' care on 'em but me. I'm like to look sharpish."
I maintained a grave silence for some minutes.
"You munnut think too hardly of me," she again remarked.
"But I do think hardly of you," I said; "and I'll tell you why -- not so much because you refused to give me shelter, or regarded me as an impostor, as because you just now made it a species of reproach that I had no "brass" and no house. Some of the best people that ever lived have been as destitute as I am; and if you are a Christian, you ought not to consider poverty a crime."
"No more I ought," said she: "Mr. St. John tells me so too; and I see I wor wrang -- but I've clear a different notion on you now to what I had. You look a raight down dacent little crater."
"That will do -- I forgive you now. Shake hands."
She put her floury and horny hand into mine; another and heartier smile illumined her rough face, and from that moment we were friends.
Hannah was evidently fond of talking. While I picked the fruit, and she made the paste for the pies, she proceeded to give me sundry details about her deceased master and mistress, and "the childer," as she called the young people.
Old Mr. Rivers, she said, was a plain man enough, but a gentleman, and of as ancient a family as could be found. Marsh-End had belonged to the Rivers ever since it was a house: and it was, she affirmed, "aboon two hundred year old -- for all it looked but a small, humble place, naught to compare wi' Mr. Oliver's grand hall down i' Morton Vale. But she could remember Bill Oliver's father a journeyman needle-maker; and th' Rivers wor gentry i' thi' owd days o' th' Henrys, as onybody might see by looking into th' registers i' Morton Church vestry." Still, she allowed, "the owd maister was like other folk -- naught mich out o' t' common way: stark mad o' shooting, and farming, and sich like." The mistress was different. She was a great reader, and studied a deal; and the "bairns" had taken after her. There was nothing like them in these parts, nor ever had been; they had liked learning, all three, almost from the time they could speak; and they had always been "of a mak' of their own." Mr. St. John, when he grew up, would go to college and be a parson; and the girls, as soon as they left school, would seek places as governesses: for they had told her their father had some years ago lost a great deal of money by a man he had trusted turning
Having finished my task of gooseberry picking, I asked where the two ladies and their brother were now.
"Gone over to Morton for a walk; but they would be back in half an hour to tea."
They returned within the time Hannah had allotted them: they entered by the kitchen door. Mr. St. John, when he saw me, merely bowed and passed through; the two ladies stopped: Mary, in a few words, kindly and calmly expressed the pleasure she felt in seeing me well enough to be able to come down; Diana took my hand: she shook her head at me.
"You should have waited for my leave to descend," she said. "You still look very pale -- and so thin! Poor child! -- poor girl!"
Diana had a voice toned, to my ear, like the cooing of a dove. She possessed eyes whose gaze I delighted to encounter. Her whole face seemed to me full of charm. Mary's countenance was equally intelligent -- her features equally pretty; but her expression was more reserved, and her manners, though gentle, more distant. Diana looked and spoke with a certain
"And what business have you here?" she continued. "It is not your place. Mary and I sit in the kitchen sometimes, because at home we like to be free, even to license -- but you are a visitor, and must go into the parlour."
"I am very well here."
"Not at all -- with Hannah bustling about and covering you with flour."
"Besides, the fire is too hot for you," interposed Mary.
"To be sure," added her sister. "Come, you must be obedient." And still holding my hand she made me rise, and led me into the inner room.
"Sit there," she said, placing me on the sofa, "while we take our things off and get the tea ready; it is another privilege we exercise in our little moorland home -- to prepare our own meals when we are so inclined, or when Hannah is baking, brewing, washing, or ironing."
She closed the door, leaving me solus with Mr. St. John, who sat opposite, a book or newspaper in his hand. I examined first, the parlour, and then its occupant.
The parlour was rather a small room, very plainly furnished, yet comfortable, because clean and neat. The old-fashioned chairs were very bright, and the walnut-wood table was like a looking-glass. A few strange, antique portraits of the men and women of other days decorated the stained walls; a cupboard
Mr. St. John -- sitting as still as one of the dusty pictures on the walls, keeping his eyes fixed on the page he perused, and his lips mutely sealed -- was easy enough to examine. Had he been a statue instead of a man, he could not have been easier. He was young -- perhaps from twenty-eight to thirty -- tall, slender; his face riveted the eye; it was like a Greek face, very pure in outline: quite a straight, classic nose; quite an Athenian mouth and chin. It is seldom, indeed, an English face comes so near the antique models as did his. He might well be a little shocked at the irregularity of my lineaments, his own being so harmonious. His eyes were large and blue, with brown lashes; his high forehead, colourless as ivory, was partially streaked over by careless locks of fair hair.
This is a gentle delineation, is it not, reader? Yet he whom it describes scarcely impressed one with the idea of a gentle, a yielding, an impressible, or even of a placid nature. Quiescent as he now sat, there was something about his nostril, his mouth, his brow, which, to my perceptions, indicated elements within either restless, or hard, or eager. He did not speak to me one word, nor even direct to me one glance, till his sisters returned. Diana, as she passed in and out, in the course of preparing tea, brought me a little cake, baked on the top of the oven.
"Eat that now," she said: "you must be hungry. Hannah says you have had nothing but some gruel since breakfast."
I did not refuse it, for my appetite was awakened and keen. Mr. Rivers now closed his book, approached the table, and, as he took a seat, fixed his blue pictorial-looking eyes full on me. There was an unceremonious directness, a searching, decided steadfastness in his gaze now, which told that intention and not diffidence, had hitherto kept it averted from the stranger.
"You are very hungry," he said.
"I am, Sir." It is my way -- it always was my way, by instinct -- ever to meet the brief with brevity, the direct with plainness.
"It is well for you that a low fever has forced you to abstain for the last three days: there would have been danger in yielding to the cravings of your appetite at first. Now you may eat, though still not immoderately."
"I trust I shall not eat long at your expense, Sir," was my very clumsily-contrived, unpolished answer.
"No," he said coolly: "when you have indicated to us the residence of your friends, we can write to them, and you may be restored to home."
"That, I must plainly tell you, is out of my power to do; being absolutely without home and friends."
The three looked at me, but not distrustfully; I felt there was no suspicion in their glances: there was more of curiosity. I speak particularly of the young ladies. St. John's eyes, though clear enough in a
"Do you mean to say," he asked, "that you are completely isolated from every connection?"
"I do. Not a tie links me to any living thing: not a claim do I possess to admittance under any roof in England."
"A most singular position at your age!"
Here I saw his glance directed to my hands, which were folded on the table before me. I wondered what he sought there: his words soon explained the quest.
"You have never been married? You are a spinster?"
Diana laughed. "Why, she can't be above seventeen or eighteen years old, St. John," said she.
"I am near nineteen: but I am not married. No."
I felt a burning glow mount to my face; for bitter and agitating recollections were awakened by the allusion to marriage. They all saw the embarrassment and the emotion. Diana and Mary relieved me by turning their eyes elsewhere than to my crimsoned visage; but the colder and sterner brother continued to gaze, till the trouble he had excited forced out tears as well as colour.
"Where did you last reside?" he now asked.
"You are too inquisitive, St. John," murmured Mary in a low voice; but he leaned over the table
"The name of the place where, and of the person with whom I lived, is my secret," I replied concisely.
"Which, if you like, you have, in my opinion, a right to keep, both from St. John and every other questioner," remarked Diana.
"Yet if I know nothing about you or your history, I cannot help you," he said. "And you need help, do you not?"
"I need it, and I seek it so far, Sir, that some true philanthropist will put me in the way of getting work which I can do, and the remuneration for which will keep me, if but in the barest necessaries of life."
"I know not whether I am a true philanthropist; yet I am willing to aid you to the utmost of my power in a purpose so honest. First, then, tell me what you have been accustomed to do, and what you can do."
I had now swallowed my tea. I was mightily refreshed by the beverage; as much so as a giant with wine: it gave new tone to my unstrung nerves, and enabled me to address this penetrating young judge steadily.
"Mr. Rivers," I said, turning to him, and looking at him, as he looked at me, openly and without diffidence, "you and your sisters have done me a great service -- the greatest man can do his fellow-being; you have rescued me, by your noble hospitality, from death. This benefit conferred gives you an unlimited claim on my gratitude, and a claim, to a certain extent,
"I am an orphan, the daughter of a clergyman. My parents died before I could know them. I was brought up a dependant; educated in a charitable institution. I will even tell you the name of the establishment, where I passed six years as a pupil, and two as a teacher -- Lowood Orphan Asylum, -- -- shire: you will have heard of it, Mr. Rivers? -- the Rev. Robert Brocklehurst is the treasurer."
"I have heard of Mr. Brocklehurst, and I have seen the school."
"I left Lowood nearly a year since to become a private governess. I obtained a good situation, and was happy. This place I was obliged to leave four days before I came here. The reason of my departure I cannot and ought not to explain: it would be useless, dangerous, and would sound incredible. No blame attached to me: I am as free from culpability as any one of you three. Miserable I am, and must be for a time; for the catastrophe which drove me from a house I had found a paradise was of a strange and direful nature. I observed but two points in planning my departure -- speed, secrecy: to secure these, I had to leave behind me everything I possessed except a small parcel; which, in my hurry and trouble of mind, I forgot to take out of the coach that brought me to Whitcross. To this neighbourhood, then, I came, quite destitute. I slept two nights in the open air, and wandered about two days without crossing a
"Don't make her talk any more now, St. John," said Diana, as I paused; "she is evidently not yet fit for excitement. Come to the sofa and sit down now, Miss Elliott."
I gave an involuntary half-start at hearing the alias: I had forgotten my new name. Mr. Rivers, whom nothing seemed to escape, noticed it at once.
"You said your name was Jane Elliott?" he observed.
"I did say so; and it is the name by which I think it expedient to be called at present, but it is not my real name, and when I hear it, it sounds strange to me."
"Your real name you will not give?"
"No: I fear discovery above all things; and whatever disclosure would lead to it, I avoid."
"You are quite right, I am sure," said Diana. "Now do, brother, let her be at peace a while."
But when St. John had mused a few moments he recommenced as imperturbably and with as much acumen as ever.
"You would not like to be long dependent on our hospitality -- you would wish, I see, to dispense as soon as may be with my sisters' compassion, and,
"I do: I have already said so. Show me how to work, or how to seek work: that is all I now ask; then let me go, if it be but to the meanest cottage; but till then, allow me to stay here: I dread another essay of the horrors of homeless destitution."
"Indeed you shall stay here," said Diana, putting her white hand on my head. "You shall," repeated Mary, in the tone of undemonstrative sincerity which seemed natural to her.
"My sisters, you see, have a pleasure in keeping you," said Mr. St. John, "as they would have a pleasure in keeping and cherishing a half-frozen bird, some wintry wind might have driven through their casement. I feel more inclination to put you in the way of keeping yourself, and shall endeavour to do so; but observe, my sphere is narrow. I am but the incumbent of a poor country parish: my aid must be of the humblest sort. And if you are inclined to despise the day of small things, seek some more efficient succour than such as I can offer."
"She has already said that she is willing to do anything honest she can do," answered Diana for me; "and you know, St. John, she has no choice of helpers: she is forced to put up with such crusty people as you."
"I will be a dressmaker; I will be a plain-work-woman; I will be a servant, a nurse-girl, if I can be no better," I answered.
"Right," said Mr. St. John, quite coolly. "If such is your spirit, I promise to aid you, in my own time and way."
He now resumed the book with which he had been occupied before tea. I soon withdrew, for I had talked as much, and sat up as long, as my present strength would permit.
THE more I knew of the inmates of Moor-House, the better I liked them. In a few days I had so far recovered my health that I could sit up all day, and walk out sometimes. I could join with Diana and Mary in all their occupations; converse with them as much as they wished, and aid them when and where they would allow me. There was a reviving pleasure in this intercourse, of a kind now tasted by me for the first time -- the pleasure arising from perfect congeniality of tastes, sentiments, and principles.
I liked to read what they liked to read: what they enjoyed, delighted me; what they approved, I reverenced. They loved their sequestered home. I, too, in the grey, small, antique structure, with its low roof, its latticed casements, its mouldering walls, its avenue of aged firs -- all grown aslant under the stress of mountain winds; its garden, dark with yew and holly -- and where no flowers but of the hardiest species would bloom -- found a charm both potent and permanent. They clung to the purple moors behind and around their dwelling -- to the hollow vale into which the pebbly bridle-path leading from their gate descended, and which wound between fern-banks first, and then amongst a few of the wildest little pasture-fields that ever bordered a wilderness of heath, or gave sustenance
In-doors we agreed equally well. They were both more accomplished and better read than I was; but with eagerness I followed in the path of knowledge they had trodden before me. I devoured the books they lent me: then it was full satisfaction to discuss with them in the evening what I had perused during the day. Thought fitted thought; opinion met opinion: we coincided, in short, perfectly.
If in our trio there was a superior and a leader, it was Diana. Physically, she far excelled me: she was handsome; she was vigorous. In her animal spirits there was an affluence of life and certainty of flow, such as excited my wonder, while it baffled my comprehension. I could talk a while when the evening commenced, but the first gush of vivacity and fluency gone, I was fain to sit on a stool at Diana's feet, to rest my head on her knee, and
As to Mr. St. John, the intimacy which had arisen so naturally and rapidly between me and his sisters did not extend to him. One reason of the distance yet observed between us was, that he was comparatively seldom at home: a large proportion of his time appeared devoted to visiting the sick and poor among the scattered population of his parish.
No weather seemed to hinder him in these pastoral excursions: rain or fair, he would, when his hours of morning study were over, take his hat, and, followed by his father's old pointer, Carlo, go out on his mission of love or duty -- I scarcely know in which light he regarded it. Sometimes, when the day was very unfavourable, his sisters would expostulate. He would then say, with a peculiar smile, more solemn than cheerful, --
"And if I let a gust of wind or a sprinkling of rain turn me aside from these easy tasks, what preparation would such sloth be for the future I propose to myself?"
Diana and Mary's general answer to this question was a sigh, and some minutes of apparently mournful meditation.
But besides his frequent absences, there was another barrier to friendship with him: he seemed of a reserved, an abstracted, and even of a brooding nature. Zealous in his ministerial labours, blameless in his life and habits, he yet did not appear to enjoy that mental serenity, that inward content, which should be the reward of every sincere Christian and practical philanthropist. Often, of an evening, when he sat at the window, his desk and papers before him, he would cease reading or writing, rest his chin on his hand, and deliver himself up to I know not what course of thought; but that it was perturbed and exciting might be seen in the frequent flash and changeful dilation of his eye.
I think, moreover, that Nature was not to him that treasury of delight it was to his sisters. He expressed once, and but once in my hearing, a strong sense of the rugged charm of the hills, and an inborn affection for the dark roof and hoary walls he called his home; but there was more of gloom than pleasure in the tone and words in which the sentiment was manifested; and never did he seem to roam the moors for the sake of their soothing silence -- never seek out or dwell upon the thousand peaceful delights they could yield.
Incommunicative as he was, some time elapsed before I had an opportunity of gauging his mind. I first got an idea of its calibre when I heard him preach in his own church at Morton. I wish I could describe that sermon: but it is past my power. I cannot even render faithfully the effect it produced on me.
It began calm -- and indeed, as far as delivery and
Meantime a month was gone. Diana and Mary were soon to leave Moor-House, and return to the far different life and scene which awaited them, as governesses in a large, fashionable, south-of-England city, where each held a situation in families by whose wealthy and haughty members they were regarded only as humble dependants, and who neither knew nor sought one of
Looking up as I drew near -- "You have a question to ask of me?" he said.
"Yes; I wish to know whether you have heard of any service I can offer myself to undertake?"
"I found or devised something for you three weeks ago; but as you seemed both useful and happy here -- as my sisters had evidently become attached to you, and your society gave them unusual pleasure -- I deemed it inexpedient to break in on your mutual comfort till their approaching departure from Marsh-End should render yours necessary."
"And they will go in three days now?" I said.
"Yes; and when they go, I shall return to the parsonage at Morton: Hannah will accompany me; and this old house will be shut up."
I waited a few moments, expecting he would go on with the subject first broached: but he seemed to have entered another train of reflection: his look denoted
"What is the employment you had in view, Mr. Rivers? I hope this delay will not have increased the difficulty of securing it."
"Oh, no; since it is an employment which depends only on me to give, and you to accept."
He again paused: there seemed a reluctance to continue. I grew impatient: a restless movement or two, and an eager and exacting glance fastened on his face, conveyed the feeling to him as effectually as words could have done, and with less trouble.
"You need be in no hurry to hear," he said: "let me frankly tell you, I have nothing eligible or profitable to suggest. Before I explain, recall, if you please, my notice, clearly given, that if I helped you, it must be as the blind man would help the lame. I am poor; for I find that, when I have paid my father's debts, all the patrimony remaining to me will be this crumbling grange, the row of scathed firs behind, and the patch of moorish soil, with the yew-trees and holly-bushes in front. I am obscure: Rivers is an old name; but of the three sole descendants of the race, two earn the dependant's crust among strangers, and the third considers himself an alien from his native country -- not only for life, but in death. Yes, and deems, and is bound to deem, himself honoured by the lot, and aspires but after the day when the cross of separation from fleshly ties shall be laid on his shoulders, and when the Head of that church-militant of whose humblest members he is one, shall give the word, 'Rise, follow me!'"
St. John said these words as he pronounced his sermons, with a quiet, deep voice; with an unflushed cheek, and a coruscating radiance of glance. He resumed: --
"And since I am myself poor and obscure, I can offer you but a service of poverty and obscurity. You may even think it degrading -- for I see now your habits have been what the world calls refined: your tastes lean to the ideal, and your society has at least been amongst the educated -- but I consider that no service degrades which can better our race. I hold that the more arid and unreclaimed the soil where the Christian labourer's task of tillage is appointed him -- the scantier the meed his toil brings -- the higher the honour. His, under such circumstances, is the destiny of the pioneer; and the first pioneers of the Gospel were the Apostles -- their captain was Jesus, the Redeemer, Himself."
"Well?" I said, as he again paused -- "proceed."
He looked at me before he proceeded: indeed, he seemed leisurely to read my face, as if its features and lines were characters on a page. The conclusions drawn from this scrutiny he partially expressed in his succeeding observations.
"I believe you will accept the post I offer you," said he, "and hold it for a while: not permanently, though: any more than I could permanently keep the narrow and narrowing -- the tranquil, hidden office of English country incumbent; for in your nature is an alloy as detrimental to repose as that in mine, though of a different kind."
"Do explain," I urged, when he halted once more.
"I will; and you shall hear how poor the proposal
He put the question rather hurriedly; he seemed half to expect an indignant, or at least a disdainful rejection of the offer: not knowing all my thoughts and feelings, though guessing some, he could not tell in what light the lot would appear to me. In truth it was humble -- but then it was sheltered, and I wanted a safe asylum: it was plodding -- but then, compared with that of a governess in a rich house, it was independent; and the fear of servitude with strangers entered my soul like iron: it was not ignoble -- not unworthy -- not mentally degrading. I made my decision.
"I thank you for the proposal, Mr. Rivers, and I accept it with all my heart."
"But you comprehend me?" he said. "It is a village-school: your scholars will be only poor girls -- cottagers' children -- at the best, farmers' daughters. Knitting, sewing, reading, writing, ciphering, will be all you will have to teach. What will you do with your accomplishments? What, with the largest portion of your mind -- sentiments -- tastes?"
"Save them till they are wanted. They will keep."
"You know what you undertake, then?"
He now smiled: and not a bitter or a sad smile, but one well pleased and deeply gratified.
"And when will you commence the exercise of your function?"
"I will go to my house to-morrow, and open the school, if you like, next week."
"Very well: so be it."
He rose and walked through the room. Standing still, he again looked at me. He shook his head.
"What do you disapprove of, Mr. Rivers?" I asked.
"You will not stay at Morton long: no, no!"
"Why? What is your reason for saying so?"
"I read it in your eye; it is not of that description which promises the maintenance of an even tenor in life."
"I am not ambitious."
He started at the word "ambitious." He repeated, "No. What made you think of ambition? Who is ambitious? I know I am: but how did you find it out?"
"I was speaking of myself."
"Well, if you are not ambitious, you are -- " He paused.
"I was going to say, impassioned: but perhaps you would have misunderstood the word, and been displeased. I mean, that human affections and sympathies have a most powerful hold on you. I am sure you cannot long be content to pass your leisure in solitude, and to devote your working hours to a monotonous labour wholly void of stimulus: any more than I can be content," he added, with emphasis, "to live here buried in morass, pent in with mountain -- my nature, that God gave me, contravened; my faculties, heaven-bestowed, paralyzed -- made useless. You hear now how I contradict myself. I, who preached contentment with a humble lot, and justified the vocation even of hewers of wood and drawers of water in God's service -- I, his ordained minister, almost rave in my restlessness. Well, propensities and principles must be reconciled by some means."
He left the room. In this brief hour I had learnt more of him than in the whole previous month: yet still he puzzled me.
Diana and Mary Rivers became more sad and silent as the day approached for leaving their brother and their home. They both tried to appear as usual; but the sorrow they had to struggle against was one that could not be entirely conquered or concealed. Diana intimated that this would be a different parting from any they had ever yet known. It would probably, as far as St. John was concerned, be a parting for years: it might be a parting for life.
"He will sacrifice all to his long-framed resolves,"
"We are now without father: we shall soon be without home and brother," she murmured.
At that moment a little accident supervened, which seemed decreed by fate purposely to prove the truth of the adage, that "misfortunes never come singly," and to add to their distresses the vexing one of the slip between the cup and the lip. St. John passed the window reading a letter. He entered.
"Our uncle John is dead," said he.
Both the sisters seemed struck: not shocked or appalled; the tidings appeared in their eyes rather momentous than afflicting.
"Dead?" repeated Diana.
She riveted a searching gaze on her brother's face. "And what then?" she demanded, in a low voice.
"What then, Die?" he replied, maintaining a marble immobility of feature. "What then? Why -- nothing. Read."
He threw the letter into her lap. She glanced over it, and handed it to Mary. Mary perused it in silence, and returned it to her brother. All three looked at each other, and all three smiled -- a dreary, pensive smile enough.
"Amen! We can yet live," said Diana at last.
"At any rate, it makes us no worse off than we were before," remarked Mary.
"Only it forces rather strongly on the mind the picture of what might have been," said Mr. Rivers, "and contrasts it somewhat too vividly with what is."
He folded the letter, locked it in his desk, and again went out.
For some minutes no one spoke. Diana then turned to me.
"Jane, you will wonder at us and our mysteries," she said, "and think us hard-hearted beings not to be more moved at the death of so near a relation as an uncle; but we have never seen him or known him. He was my mother's brother. My father and he quarrelled long ago. It was by his advice that my father risked most of his property in the speculation that ruined him. Mutual recrimination passed between them: they parted in anger, and were never reconciled. My uncle engaged afterwards in more prosperous undertakings: it appears he realised a fortune of twenty thousand pounds. He was never married, and had no near kindred but ourselves and one other person, not more closely related than we. My father always cherished the idea that he would atone for his error by leaving his possessions to us; that letter informs us that he has bequeathed every penny to the other relation, with the exception of thirty guineas, to be divided between St. John, Diana, and Mary Rivers, for the purchase of three mourning rings. He had a right, of course, to do as he pleased: and yet a momentary damp is cast on the spirits by the receipt of such news. Mary and I would have esteemed ourselves rich with a thousand pounds
This explanation given, the subject was dropped, and no further reference made to it by either Mr. Rivers or his sisters. The next day I left Marsh-End for Morton. The day after, Diana and Mary quitted it for distant B -- -- . In a week, Mr. Rivers and Hannah repaired to the parsonage: and so the old grange was abandoned.
MY home, then, -- when I at last find a home, -- is a cottage; a little room with whitewashed walls and a sanded floor, containing four painted chairs and a table, a clock, a cupboard, with two or three plates and dishes, and a set of tea-things in delf. Above, a chamber of the same dimensions as the kitchen, with a deal bedstead and chest of drawers; small, yet too large to be filled with my scanty wardrobe: though the kindness of my gentle and generous friends has increased that, by a modest stock of such things as are necessary.
It is evening. I have dismissed, with the fee of an orange, the little orphan who serves me as a handmaid. I am sitting alone on the hearth. This morning, the village school opened. I had twenty scholars. But three of the number can read: none write or cipher. Several knit, and a few sew a little. They speak with the broadest accent of the district. At present, they and I have a difficulty in understanding each other's
Was I very gleeful, settled, content, during the hours I passed in yonder bare, humble schoolroom this morning and afternoon? Not to deceive myself, I must reply -- No: I felt desolate to a degree. I felt -- yes, idiot that I am -- I felt degraded. I doubted I had taken a step which sank instead of raising me in the scale of social existence. I was weakly dismayed at the ignorance, the poverty, the coarseness of all I heard and saw round me. But let me not hate and despise myself too much for these feelings; I know them to be wrong -- that is a great step gained; I shall strive to overcome them. To-morrow, I trust, I shall get the better of them partially; and in a few weeks, perhaps, they will be quite subdued. In a few months, it is possible, the happiness of seeing progress, and a change for the better in my scholars may substitute gratification for disgust.
Meantime, let me ask myself one question -- Which is better? -- To have surrendered to temptation;
Yes; I feel now that I was right when I adhered to principle and law, and scorned and crushed the insane promptings of a frenzied moment. God directed me to a correct choice: I thank His providence for the guidance!
Having brought my eventide musings to this point, I rose, went to my door, and looked at the sunset of the harvest-day, and at the quiet fields before my cottage, which, with the school, was distant half a mile from the village. The birds were singing their last strains --
While I looked, I thought myself happy, and was surprised
"No, I cannot stay; I have only brought you a little parcel My sisters left for you. I think it contains a colour-box, pencils, and paper."
I approached to take it: a welcome gift it was. He examined my face, I thought, with austerity, as I came near: the traces of tears were doubtless very visible upon it.
"Have you found your first day's work harder than you expected?" he asked.
"Oh, no! On the contrary, I think in time I shall get on with my scholars very well."
"But perhaps your accommodations -- your cottage
"My cottage is clean and weather-proof; my furniture sufficient and commodious. All I see has made me thankful, not despondent. I am not absolutely such a fool and sensualist as to regret the absence of a carpet, a sofa, and silver plate; besides, five weeks ago I had nothing -- I was an outcast, a beggar, a vagrant; now I have acquaintance, a home, a business. I wonder at the goodness of God; the generosity of my friends; the bounty of my lot. I do not repine."
"But you feel solitude an oppression? The little house there behind you is dark and empty."
"I have hardly had time yet to enjoy a sense of tranquillity, much less to grow impatient under one of loneliness."
"Very well; I hope you feel the content you express: at any rate, your good sense will tell you that it is too soon yet to yield to the vacillating fears of Lot's wife. What you had left before I saw you, of course I do not know; but I counsel you to resist firmly every temptation which would incline you to look back: pursue your present career steadily, for some months at least."
"It is what I mean to do," I answered. St. John continued: --
"It is hard work to control the workings of inclination and turn the bent of nature; but that it may be done, I know from experience. God has given us, in a measure, the power to make our own fate; and when our energies seem to demand a sustenance
"A year ago I was myself intensely miserable, because I thought I had made a mistake in entering the ministry: its uniform duties wearied me to death. I burnt for the more active life of the world -- for the more exciting toils of a literary career -- for the destiny of an artist, author, orator; anything rather than that of a priest: yes, the heart of a politician, of a soldier, of a votary of glory, a lover of renown, a luster after power, beat under my curate's surplice. I considered; my life was so wretched, it must be changed, or I must die. After a season of darkness and struggling, light broke and relief fell: my cramped existence all at once spread out to a plain without bounds -- my powers heard a call from heaven to rise, gather their full strength, spread their wings, and mount beyond ken. God had an errand for me; to bear which afar, to deliver it well, skill and strength, courage and eloquence, the best qualifications of soldier, statesman, and orator, were all needed: for these all centre in the good missionary.
"A missionary I resolved to be. From that moment my state of mind changed; the fetters dissolved and dropped from every faculty, leaving nothing of bondage but its galling soreness -- which time only can heal. My father, indeed, opposed the determination, but since
He said this, in his peculiar, subdued, yet emphatic voice; looking, when he had ceased speaking, not at me, but at the setting sun, at which I looked too. Both he and I had our backs towards the path leading up the field to the wicket. We had heard no step on the grass-grown track; the water running in the vale was the one lulling sound of the hour and scene; we might well then start when a gay voice, sweet as a silver bell, exclaimed: --
"Good evening, Mr. Rivers. And good evening, old Carlo. Your dog is quicker to recognise his friends than you are, Sir; he pricked his ears and wagged his tail when I was at the bottom of the field, and you have your back towards me now."
It was true. Though Mr. Rivers had started at the first of those musical accents, as if a thunderbolt had split a cloud over his head, he stood yet, at the close of the sentence, in the same attitude in which the speaker had surprised him -- his arm resting on the gate, his face directed towards the west. He turned at last, with measured deliberation. A vision, as it seemed to me, had risen at his side. There appeared, within three feet of him, a form clad in pure white -- a youthful, graceful form: full, yet fine in contour; and when, after bending to caress Carlo, it lifted up its head, and threw back a long veil, there bloomed under his glance
What did St. John Rivers think of this earthly angel? I naturally asked myself that question as I saw him turn to her and look at her; and, as naturally, I sought the answer to the inquiry in his countenance. He had already withdrawn his eye from the Peri, and was looking at a humble tuft of daisies which grew by the wicket.
"A lovely evening, but late for you to be out alone," he said, as he crushed the snowy heads of the closed flowers with his foot.
"Oh, I only came home from S -- -- " (she mentioned the name of a large town some twenty miles distant) "this afternoon. Papa told me you had opened your school, and that the new mistress was come; and so I put on my bonnet after tea, and ran up the valley to see her: this is she?" pointing to me.
"It is," said St. John.
"Do you think you shall like Morton?" she asked of me, with a direct and naive simplicity of tone and manner, pleasing, if child-like.
"I hope I shall. I have many inducements to do so."
"Did you find your scholars as attentive as you expected?"
"Do you like your house?"
"Have I furnished it nicely?"
"Very nicely, indeed."
"And made a good choice of an attendant for you in Alice Wood?"
"You have indeed. She is teachable and handy." (This then, I thought, is Miss Oliver, the heiress; favoured, it seems, in the gifts of fortune, as well as in those of nature! What happy combination of the planets presided over her birth, I wonder?)
"I shall come up and help you to teach sometimes," she added. "It will be a change for me to visit you now and then; and I like a change. Mr. Rivers, I have been so gay during my stay at S -- -- . Last night, or rather this morning, I was dancing till two o'clock. The -- -- th regiment are stationed there since the riots; and the officers are the most agreeable men in the
It seemed to me that Mr. St. John's under lip protruded, and his upper lip curled a moment. His mouth certainly looked a good deal compressed, and the lower part of his face unusually stern and square, as the laughing girl gave him this information. He lifted his gaze, too, from the daisies, and turned it on her. An unsmiling, a searching, a meaning gaze it was. She answered it with a second laugh, and laughter well became her youth, her roses, her dimples, her bright eyes.
As he stood, mute and grave, she again fell to caressing Carlo. "Poor Carlo loves me," said she. "He is not stern and distant to his friends; and if he could speak, he would not be silent."
As she patted the dog's head, bending with native grace before his young and austere master, I saw a glow rise to that master's face. I saw his solemn eye melt with sudden fire, and flicker with resistless emotion. Flushed and kindled thus, he looked nearly as beautiful for a man as she for a woman. His chest heaved once, as if his large heart, weary of despotic constriction, had expanded, despite the will, and made a vigorous bound for the attainment of liberty. But he curbed it, I think, as a resolute rider would curb a rearing steed. He responded neither by word nor movement to the gentle advances made him.
"Papa says you never come to see us now," continued Mis Oliver, looking up. "You are quite a stranger at Vale-Hall. He is alone this evening, and not very well: will you return with me and visit him?"
"It is not a seasonable hour to intrude on Mr. Oliver," answered St. John.
"Not a seasonable hour! But I declare it is. It is just the hour when papa most wants company: when the works are closed and he has no business to occupy him. Now, Mr. Rivers, do come. Why are you so very shy, and so very sombre?" She filled up the hiatus his silence left by a reply of her own.
"I forgot!" she exclaimed, shaking her beautiful curled head, as if shocked at herself. "I am so giddy and thoughtless! Do excuse me. It had slipped my memory that you have good reasons to be indisposed for joining in my chatter. Diana and Mary have left you, and Moor-House is shut up, and you are so lonely. I am sure I pity you. Do come and see papa."
"Not to-night, Miss Rosamond, not to-night."
Mr. St. John spoke almost like an automaton: himself only knew the effort it cost him thus to refuse.
"Well, if you are so obstinate, I will leave you; for I dare not stay any longer: the dew begins to fall. Good evening!"
She held out her hand. He just touched it. "Good evening!" he repeated, in a voice low and hollow as an echo. She turned, but in a moment returned.
"Are you well?" she asked. Well might she put the question: his face was blanched as her gown.
"Quite well," he enunciated; and, with a bow, he left the gate. She went one way; he another. She turned twice to gaze after him as she tripped fairy-like down the field; he, as he strode firmly across, never turned at all.
This spectacle of another's suffering and sacrifice rapt my thoughts from exclusive meditation on my own. Diana Rivers had designated her brother "inexorable as death." She had not exaggerated.
I CONTINUED the labours of the village-school as actively and faithfully as I could. It was truly hard work at first. Some time elapsed before, with all my efforts, I could comprehend my scholars and their nature. Wholly untaught, with faculties quite torpid, they seemed to me hopelessly dull; and, at first sight, all dull alike: but I soon found I was mistaken. There was a difference amongst them as amongst the educated; and when I got to know them, and they me, this difference rapidly developed itself. Their amazement at me, my language, my rules, and ways, once subsided, I found some of these heavy-looking, gaping rustics wake up into sharp-witted girls enough. Many showed themselves obliging, and amiable too; and I discovered amongst them not a few examples of natural politeness, and innate self-respect, as well as of excellent capacity, that won both my good-will and my admiration. These soon took a pleasure in doing their work well, in keeping their persons neat, in learning their tasks regularly, in acquiring quiet and orderly manners. The rapidity of their progress, in some instances, was even surprising; and an honest and happy pride I took in it: besides, I began personally to like some of the best girls; and they liked me. I had amongst my scholars several farmers' daughters: young women grown, almost. These could already read, write, and sew; and to them I taught the elements of grammar, geography, history, and the finer kinds of needlework. I found estimable characters amongst them -- characters desirous of information,
I felt I became a favourite in the neighbourhood. Whenever I went out, I heard on all sides cordial salutations, and was welcomed with friendly smiles. To live amidst general regard, though it be but the regard of working people, is like "sitting in sunshine, calm and sweet"; serene inward feelings bud and bloom under the ray. At this period of my life, my heart far oftener swelled with thankfulness than sank with dejection: and yet, reader, to tell you all, in the midst of this calm, this useful existence -- after a day passed in honourable exertion amongst my scholars, an evening spent in drawing or reading contentedly alone -- I used to rush into strange dreams at night: dreams many-coloured, agitated, full of the ideal, the stirring, the stormy -- dreams where, amidst unusual scenes, charged with adventure, with agitating risk and romantic chance, I still again and again met Mr. Rochester, always at some exciting crisis; and then the sense of being in his arms, hearing his voice, meeting his eye, touching his hand and cheek, loving him, being loved by him -- the hope of passing a lifetime at his side, would be renewed, with all its first force and fire.
Rosamond Oliver kept her word in coming to visit me. Her call at the school was generally made in the course of her morning ride. She would canter up to the door on her pony, followed by a mounted livery servant. Anything more exquisite than her appearance, in her purple habit, with her Amazon's cap of black velvet placed gracefully above the long curls that kissed her cheek and floated to her shoulders, can scarcely be imagined: and it was thus she would enter the rustic building, and glide through the dazzled ranks of the village children. She generally came at the hour when Mr. Rivers was engaged in giving his daily catechising lesson. Keenly, I fear, did the eye of the visitress pierce the young pastor's heart. A sort of instinct seemed to warn him of her entrance, even when he did not see it; and when he was looking quite away from the door, if she appeared at it, his cheek would glow, and his marble-seeming features, though they refused to relax, changed indescribably, and in their very quiescence became expressive of a repressed fervour, stronger than working muscle or darting glance could indicate.
Of course, she knew her power: indeed, he did not, because he could not, conceal it from her. In spite of his Christian stoicism, when she went up and addressed him, and smiled gaily, encouragingly, even fondly in
And then she would pout like a disappointed child; a pensive cloud would soften her radiant vivacity; she would withdraw her hand hastily from his, and turn in transient petulance from his aspect, at once so heroic and so martyr-like. St. John, no doubt, would have given the world to follow, recall, retain her, when she thus left him; but he would not give one chance of heaven, nor relinquish, for the elysium of her love, one hope of the true, eternal Paradise. Besides, he could not bind all that he had in his nature -- the rover, the aspirant, the poet, the priest -- in the limits of a single passion. He could not -- he would not -- renounce his wild field of mission warfare for the parlours and the peace of Vale-Hall. I learnt so much from himself in an inroad I once, despite his reserve, had the daring to make on his confidence.
Miss Oliver already honoured me with frequent visits to my cottage. I had learnt her whole character, which was without mystery or disguise: she was coquettish, but not heartless; exacting, but not worthlessly selfish. She had been indulged from her birth, but was not absolutely spoilt. She was hasty, but good-humoured; vain (she could not help it, when every glance in the glass showed her such a flush of loveliness), but not affected; liberal-handed; innocent
She had taken an amiable caprice to me. She said I was like Mr. Rivers, only, certainly, she allowed, "not one-tenth so handsome, though I was a nice neat little soul enough, but he was an angel." I was, however, good, clever, composed, and firm, like him. I was a lusus naturae, she affirmed, as a village schoolmistress: she was sure my previous history, if known, would make a delightful romance.
One evening, while, with her usual child-like activity, and thoughtless yet not offensive inquisitiveness, she was rummaging the cupboard and the table-drawer of my little kitchen, she discovered first two French books, a volume of Schiller, a German grammar and dictionary, and then my drawing-materials and some sketches, including a pencil-head of a pretty little cherub-like girl, one of my scholars, and sundry views from nature, taken in the Vale of Morton and on the surrounding moors. She was first transfixed with surprise, and then electrified with delight.
"Had I done these pictures? Did I know French and German? What a love -- what a miracle I was! I drew better than her master in the first school in
"With pleasure," I replied; and I felt a thrill of artist-delight at the idea of copying from so perfect and radiant a model. She had then on a dark-blue silk dress; her arms and her neck were bare; her only ornament was her chestnut tresses, which waved over her shoulders with all the wild grace of natural curls. I took a sheet of fine card-board, and drew a careful outline. I promised myself the pleasure of colouring it; and, as it was getting late then, I told her she must come and sit another day.
She made such a report of me to her father, that Mr. Oliver himself accompanied her next evening -- a tall, massive-featured, middle-aged, and grey-headed man, at whose side his lovely daughter looked like a bright flower near a hoary turret. He appeared a taciturn, and perhaps a proud personage; but he was very kind to me. The sketch of Rosamond's portrait pleased him highly: he said I must make a finished picture of it. He insisted, too, on my coming the next day to spend the evening at Vale-Hall.
I went. I found it a large, handsome residence, showing abundant evidences of wealth in the proprietor. Rosamond was full of glee and pleasure all the time I stayed. Her father was affable; and when he entered into conversation with me after tea, he expressed in strong terms his approbation of what I had done in Morton school, and said he only feared, from what he saw and heard, I was too good for the place, and would soon quit it for one more suitable.
"Indeed," cried Rosamond, "she is clever enough to be a governess in a high family, papa."
I thought -- I would far rather be where I am than in any high family in the land. Mr. Oliver spoke of Mr. Rivers -- of the Rivers' family -- with great respect. He said it was a very old name in that neighbourhood; that the ancestors of the house were wealthy; that all Morton had once belonged to them; that even now he considered the representative of that house might, if he liked, make an alliance with the best. He accounted it a pity that so fine and talented a young man should have formed the design of going out as a missionary; it was quite throwing a valuable life away. It appeared, then, that her father would throw no obstacle in the way of Rosamond's union with St. John. Mr. Oliver evidently regarded the young clergyman's good birth, old name, and sacred profession as sufficient compensation for the want of fortune.
It was the 5th of November, and a holiday. My little servant, after helping me to clean my house, was gone, well satisfied with the fee of a penny for her aid. All about me was spotless and bright -- scoured floor, polished grate, and well-rubbed chairs. I had also made myself neat, and had now the afternoon before me to spend as I would.
The translation of a few pages of German occupied an hour; then I got my palette and pencils, and fell to the more soothing, because easier occupation, of completing Rosamond Oliver's miniature. The head was finished already: there was but the background to tint and the drapery to shade off; a touch of carmine, too, to add to the ripe lips -- a soft curl here and there to the tresses -- a deeper tinge to the shadow of the lash under the azured eyelid. I was absorbed
"I am come to see how you are spending your holiday," he said. "Not, I hope, in thought? No, that is well: while you draw you will not feel lonely. You see, I mistrust you still, though you have borne up wonderfully so far. I have brought you a book for evening solace," and he laid on the table a new publication -- a poem: one of those genuine productions so often vouchsafed to the fortunate public of those days -- the golden age of modern literature. Alas! the readers of our era are less favoured. But courage! I will not pause either to accuse or repine. I know poetry is not dead, nor genius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over either, to bind or slay: they will both assert their existence, their presence, their liberty and strength again one day. Powerful angels, safe in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumph, and feeble ones weep over their destruction. Poetry destroyed? Genius banished? No! Mediocrity, no: do not let envy prompt you to the thought. No; they not only live, but reign and redeem: and without their divine influence spread everywhere, you would be in hell -- the hell of your own meanness.
While I was eagerly glancing at the bright pages of Marmion (for Marmion it was), St. John stooped to examine my drawing. His tall figure sprang erect again with a start: he said nothing. I looked up at him: he shunned my eye. I knew his thoughts well, and could read his heart plainly; at the moment I felt calmer and cooler than he: I had then temporarily the advantage of him, and I conceived an inclination to do him some good, if I could.
"With all his firmness and self-control," thought I, "he tasks himself too far: locks every feeling and pang within -- expresses, confesses, imparts nothing. I am sure it would benefit him to talk a little about this sweet Rosamond, whom he thinks he ought not to marry: I will make him talk."
I said first, "Take a chair, Mr. Rivers." But he answered, as he always did, that he could not stay. "Very well," I responded, mentally, "stand if you like; but you shall not go just yet, I am determined: solitude is at least as bad for you as it is for me. I'll try if I cannot discover the secret spring of your confidence, and find an aperture in that marble breast through which I can shed one drop of the balm of sympathy."
"Is this portrait like?" I asked bluntly.
"Like! Like whom? I did not observe it closely."
"You did, Mr. Rivers."
He almost started at my sudden and strange abruptness: he looked at me astonished. "Oh, that is nothing yet," I muttered within. "I don't mean to be baffled by a little stiffness on your part; I'm prepared to go to considerable lengths." I continued, "You observed it closely and distinctly; but I have no objection to your looking at it again," and I rose and placed it in his hand.
"A well-executed picture," he said; "very soft, clear colouring; very graceful and correct drawing."
"Yes, yes; I know all that. But what of the resemblance? Who is it like?"
Mastering some hesitation, he answered, "Miss Oliver, I presume."
"Of course. And now, Sir, to reward you for the
He continued to gaze at the picture: the longer he looked, the firmer he held it, the more he seemed to covet it. "It is like!" he murmured; "the eye is well managed: the colour, light, expression, are perfect. It smiles!"
"Would it comfort, or would it wound you to have a similar painting? Tell me that. When you are at Madagascar, or at the Cape, or in India, would it be a consolation to have that memento in your possession? or would the sight of it bring recollections calculated to enervate and distress?"
He now furtively raised his eyes: he glanced at me, irresolute, disturbed: he again surveyed the picture.
"That I should like to have it is certain: whether it would be judicious or wise is another question."
Since I had ascertained that Rosamond really preferred him, and that her father was not likely to oppose the match, I -- less exalted in my views than St. John -- had been strongly disposed in my own heart to advocate their union. It seemed to me that, should he become the possessor of Mr. Oliver's large fortune, he might do as much good with it as if he went and laid his genius out to wither, and his strength to waste, under a tropical sun. With this persuasion I now answered: --
"As far as I can see, it would be wiser and more judicious if you were to take to yourself the original at once."
By this time he had sat down: he had laid the picture on the table before him, and with his brow supported on both hands, hung fondly over it. I discerned he was now neither angry nor shocked at my audacity. I saw even that to be thus frankly addressed on a subject he had deemed unapproachable -- to hear it thus freely handled -- was beginning to be felt by him as a new pleasure -- an unhoped-for relief. Reserved people often really need the frank discussion of their sentiments and griefs more than the expansive. The sternest-seeming stoic is human after all; and to "burst" with boldness and good will into "the silent sea" of their souls is often to confer on them the first of obligations.
"She likes you, I am sure," said I, as I stood behind his chair, "and her father respects you. Moreover, she is a sweet girl -- rather thoughtless; but you would have sufficient thought for both yourself and her. You ought to marry her."
"Does she like me?" he asked.
"Certainly; better than she likes any one else. She talks of you continually: there is no subject she enjoys so much or touches upon so often."
"It is very pleasant to hear this," he said -- "very: go on for another quarter of an hour." And he actually took out his watch and laid it upon the table to measure the time.
"But where is the use of going on," I asked, "when you are probably preparing some iron blow of contradiction, or forging a fresh chain to fetter your heart?"
"Don't imagine such hard things. Fancy me yielding and melting, as I am doing: human love rising like a freshly opened fountain in my mind and overflowing
I humoured him: the watch ticked on: he breathed fast and low: I stood silent. Amidst this hush the quarter sped; he replaced the watch, laid the picture down, rose, and stood on the hearth.
"Now," said he, "that little space was given to delirium and delusion. I rested my temples on the breast of temptation, and put my neck voluntarily under her yoke of flowers; I tasted her cup. The pillow was burning: there is an asp in the garland: the wine has a bitter taste: her promises are hollow -- her offers false: I see and know all this."
I gazed at him in wonder.
"It is strange," pursued he, "that while I love Rosamond Oliver so wildly -- with all the intensity, indeed, of a first passion, the object of which is exquisitely beautiful, graceful, and fascinating -- I experience at the same time a calm, unwarped consciousness that she would not make me a good wife; that she is not the partner suited to me; that I should discover this
"Strange indeed!" I could not help ejaculating.
"While something in me," he went on, "is acutely sensible to her charms, something else is as deeply impressed with her defects: they are such that she could sympathise in nothing I aspired to -- co-operate in nothing I undertook. Rosamond a sufferer, a labourer, a female apostle? Rosamond a missionary's wife? No!"
"But you need not be a missionary. You might relinquish that scheme."
"Relinquish! What! my vocation? My great work? My foundation laid on earth for a mansion in heaven? My hopes of being numbered in the band who have merged all ambitions in the glorious one of bettering their race -- of carrying knowledge into the realms of ignorance -- of substituting peace for war -- freedom for bondage -- religion for superstition -- the hope of heaven for the fear of hell? Must I relinquish that? It is dearer than the blood in my veins. It is what I have to look forward to, and to live for."
After a considerable pause, I said -- "And Miss Oliver? Are her disappointment and sorrow of no interest to you?"
"Miss Oliver is ever surrounded by suitors and flatterers: in less than a month, my image will be effaced from her heart. She will forget me; and will marry, probably, some one who will make her far happier than I should do."
"You speak coolly enough; but you suffer in the conflict. You are wasting away."
"No. If I get a little thin, it is with anxiety about
"You tremble and become flushed whenever Miss Oliver enters the schoolroom."
Again the surprised expression crossed his face. He had not imagined that a woman would dare to speak so to a man. For me, I felt at home in this sort of discourse. I could never rest in communication with strong, discreet, and refined minds, whether male or female, till I had passed the outworks of conventional reserve, and crossed the threshold of confidence, and won a place by their heart's very hearthstone.
"You are original," said he, "and not timid. There is something brave in your spirit, as well as penetrating in your eye; but allow me to assure you that you partially misinterpret my emotions. You think them more profound and potent than they are. You give me a larger allowance of sympathy than I have a just claim to. When I colour, and when I shake before Miss Oliver, I do not pity myself. I scorn the weakness. I know it is ignoble: a mere fever of the flesh: not, I declare, the convulsion of the soul. That is just as fixed as a rock, firm set in the depths of a restless sea. Know me to be what I am -- a cold, hard man."
I smiled incredulously.
"You have taken my confidence by storm," he continued, "and now it is much at your service. I am simply, in my original state -- stripped of that blood-bleached robe with which Christianity covers human
"You would describe yourself as a mere pagan philosopher," I said.
"No. There is this difference between me and deistic philosophers: I believe; and I believe the Gospel. You missed your epithet. I am not a pagan, but a Christian philosopher -- a follower of the sect of Jesus. As His disciple I adopt His pure, His merciful, His benignant doctrines. I advocate them: I am sworn to spread them. Won in youth to religion, she has cultivated my original qualities thus: -- From the minute germ, natural affection, she has developed the overshadowing tree, philanthropy. From the wild stringy root of human uprightness, she has reared a due sense of the Divine justice. Of the ambition to win power and renown for my wretched self, she has formed the ambition to spread my Master's kingdom; to achieve victories for the standard of the cross. So much has religion done for me; turning the original materials to the best account; pruning and training nature. But she could not eradicate nature: nor will it be eradicated 'till this mortal shall put on immortality.'"
Having said this, he took his hat, which lay on the table beside my palette. Once more he looked at the portrait.
"She is lovely," he murmured. "She is well named the Rose of the World, indeed!"
"And may I not paint one like it for you?"
"Cui bono? No."
He drew over the picture the sheet of thin paper on which I was accustomed to rest my hand in painting, to prevent the card-board from being sullied. What he suddenly saw on this blank paper, it was impossible for me to tell; but something had caught his eye. He took it up with a snatch; he looked at the edge; then shot a glance at me, inexpressibly peculiar, and quite incomprehensible: a glance that seemed to take and make note of every point in my shape, face, and dress; for it traversed all, quick, keen as lightning. His lips parted, as if to speak: but he checked the coming sentence, whatever it was.
"What is the matter?" I asked.
"Nothing in the world," was the reply; and, replacing the paper, I saw him dexterously tear a narrow slip from the margin. It disappeared in his glove; and, with one hasty nod and "good-afternoon," he vanished.
"Well!" I exclaimed, using an expression of the district, "that caps the globe, however!"
I, in my turn, scrutinised the paper; but saw nothing on it save a few dingy stains of paint where I had tried the tint in my pencil. I pondered the mystery a minute or two; but finding it insolvable, and being certain it could not be of much moment, I dismissed, and soon forgot it.
WHEN Mr. St. John went, it was beginning to snow; the whirling storm continued all night. The next day a keen wind brought fresh and blinding falls; by twilight the valley was drifted up and almost impassable. I had closed my shutter, laid a mat to the door to prevent the snow from blowing in under it, trimmed my fire, and after sitting nearly an hour on the hearth listening to the muffled fury of the tempest, I lit a candle, took down Marmion, and beginning --
I soon forgot storm in music.
I heard a noise: the wind, I thought, shook the door. No; it was St. John Rivers, who, lifting the latch, came in out of the frozen hurricane -- the howling darkness -- and stood before me: the cloak that covered his tall figure all white as a glacier. I was almost in consternation, so little had I expected any guest from the blocked-up vale that night.
"Any ill news?" I demanded. "Has anything happened?"
"No. How very easily alarmed you are!" he answered, removing his cloak and hanging it up against the door, towards which he again coolly pushed the mat which his entrance had deranged. He stamped the snow from his boots.
"I shall sully the purity of your floor," said he, "but you must excuse me for once." Then he approached the fire. "I have had hard work to get here, I assure you," he observed, as he warmed his hands over the flame. "One drift took me up to the waist; happily the snow is quite soft yet."
"But why are you come?" I could not forbear saying.
"Rather an inhospitable question to put to a visitor; but since you ask it, I answer simply to have a little talk with you; I got tired of my mute books and empty rooms. Besides, since yesterday I have experienced the excitement of a person to whom a tale has been half-told, and who is impatient to hear the sequel."
He sat down. I recalled his singular conduct of yesterday, and really I began to fear his wits were touched. If he were insane, however, his was a very cool and collected insanity: I had never seen that handsome-featured face of his look more like chiselled marble than it did just now, as he put aside his snow-wet hair from his forehead and let the firelight shine free on his pale brow and cheek as pale, where it grieved me to discover the hollow trace of care or sorrow now so plainly graved. I waited, expecting he would say something I could at least comprehend; but his hand was now at his chin, his finger on his lip: he was thinking. It struck me that his hand looked wasted like his face. A perhaps uncalled-for gush of pity came over my heart: I was moved to say: --
"I wish Diana or Mary would come and live with you: it is too bad that you should be quite alone; and you are recklessly rash about your own health."
"Not at all," said he: "I care for myself when necessary. I am well now. What do you see amiss in me?"
This was said with a careless, abstracted indifference, which showed that my solicitude was, at least in his opinion, wholly superfluous. I was silenced.
He still slowly moved his finger over his upper lip, and still his eye dwelt dreamily on the glowing grate; thinking it urgent to say something, I asked him presently if he felt any cold draught from the door, which was behind him.
"No, no!" he responded shortly and somewhat testily.
"Well," I reflected, "if you won't talk, you may be still; I'll let you alone now, and return to my book."
So I snuffed the candle and resumed the perusal of Marmion. He soon stirred; my eye was instantly drawn to his movements; he only took out a morocco pocket-book, thence produced a letter, which he read in silence, folded it, put it back, relapsed into meditation. It was vain to try to read with such an inscrutable fixture before me; nor could I, in my impatience, consent to be dumb; he might rebuff me if he liked, but talk I would.
"Have you heard from Diana and Mary lately?"
"Not since the letter I showed you a week ago."
"There has not been any change made about your own arrangements? You will not be summoned to leave England sooner than you expected?"
"I fear not, indeed: such chance is too good to befall me." Baffled so far, I changed my ground. I bethought myself to talk about the school and my scholars.
"Mary Garrett's mother is better, and Mary came back to the school this morning, and I shall have four new girls next week from the Foundry Close -- they would have come to-day but for the snow."
"Mr. Oliver pays for two."
"He means to give the whole school a treat at Christmas."
"Was it your suggestion?"
"His daughter's, I think."
"It is like her: she is so good-natured."
Again came the blank of a pause: the clock struck eight strokes. It aroused him; he uncrossed his legs, sat erect, turned to me.
"Leave your book a moment, and come a little nearer the fire," he said.
Wondering, and of my wonder finding no end, I complied.
"Half an hour ago," he pursued, "I spoke of my impatience to hear the sequel of a tale: on reflection, I find the matter will be better managed by my assuming the narrator's part, and converting you into a listener. Before commencing, it is but fair to warn you that the story will sound somewhat hackneyed in your ears; but stale details often regain a degree of freshness when they pass through new lips. For the rest, whether trite or novel, it is short.
"Twenty years ago, a poor curate -- never mind
"Mr. Rivers!" I interrupted.
"I can guess your feelings," he said, "but restrain them for a while: I have nearly finished; hear me to
"Just tell me this," said I, "and since you know so much, you surely can tell it me -- what of Mr. Rochester? How and where is he? What is he doing? Is he well?"
"I am ignorant of all concerning Mr. Rochester: the letter never mentions him but to narrate the fraudulent and illegal attempt I have adverted to. You should rather ask the name of the governess -- the nature of the event which requires her appearance."
"Did no one go to Thornfield-Hall, then? Did no one see Mr. Rochester?"
"I suppose not."
"But they wrote to him?"
"And what did he say? Who has his letters?"
"Mr. Briggs intimates that the answer to his application
I felt cold and dismayed: my worst fears then were probably true: he had in all probability left England and rushed in reckless desperation to some former haunt on the Continent. And what opiate for his severe sufferings -- what object for his strong passions -- had he sought there? I dared not answer the question. Oh, my poor master -- once almost my husband -- whom I had often called "my dear Edward!"
"He must have been a bad man," observed Mr. Rivers.
"You don't know him -- don't pronounce an opinion upon him," I said, with warmth.
"Very well," he answered quietly: "and indeed my head is otherwise occupied than with him: I have my tale to finish. Since you won't ask the governess's name, I must tell it of my own accord -- stay -- I have it here -- it is always more satisfactory to see important points written down, fairly committed to black and white."
And the pocket-book was again deliberately produced, opened, sought through; from one of its compartments was extracted a shabby slip of paper, hastily torn off: I recognised in its texture and its stains of ultra-marine, and lake, and vermilion, the ravished margin of the portrait-cover. He got up, held it close to my eyes: and I read, traced in Indian ink, in my own handwriting, the words "JANE EYRE" -- the work doubtless of some moment of abstraction.
"Briggs wrote to me of a Jane Eyre:" he said, "the advertisements demanded a Jane Eyre: I knew a Jane Elliott. -- I confess I had my suspicions, but it was only yesterday afternoon they were at once resolved
"Yes -- yes -- but where is Mr. Briggs? He perhaps knows more of Mr. Rochester than you do."
"Briggs is in London. I should doubt his knowing anything at all about Mr. Rochester; it is not in Mr. Rochester he is interested. Meantime, you forget essential points in pursuing trifles: you do not inquire why Mr. Briggs sought after you -- what he wanted with you."
"Well, what did he want?"
"Merely to tell you that your uncle, Mr. Eyre of Madeira, is dead; that he has left you all his property, and that you are now rich -- merely that -- nothing more."
"Yes, you, rich -- quite an heiress."
"You must prove your identity of course," resumed St. John presently: "a step which will offer no difficulties; you can then enter on immediate possession. Your fortune is vested in the English funds; Briggs has the will and the necessary documents."
Here was a new card turned up! It is a fine thing, reader, to be lifted in a moment from indigence to wealth -- a very fine thing; but not a matter one can comprehend or consequently enjoy, all at once. And then there are other chances in life far more thrilling and rapture-giving: this is solid, an affair of the actual world, nothing ideal about it: all its associations are solid and sober, and its manifestations are the same. One does not jump, and spring, and shout hurrah! at hearing one has got a fortune; one begins to consider
Besides, the words Legacy, Bequest, go side by side with the words, Death, Funeral. My uncle I had heard was dead -- my only relative; ever since being made aware of his existence, I had cherished the hope of one day seeing him: now, I never should. And then this money came only to me: not to me and a rejoicing family, but to my isolated self. It was a grand boon doubtless; and independence would be glorious -- yes, I felt that -- that thought swelled my heart.
"You unbend your forehead at last," said Mr. Rivers. "I thought Medusa had looked at you, and that you were turning to stone. Perhaps now you will ask how much you are worth?"
"How much am I worth?"
"Oh, a trifle! Nothing of course to speak of -- twenty thousand pounds, I think they say -- but what is that?"
"Twenty thousand pounds?"
Here was a new stunner -- I had been calculating on four or five thousand. This news actually took my breath for a moment: Mr. St. John, whom I had never heard laugh before, laughed now.
"Well," said he, "if you had committed a murder, and I had told you your crime was discovered, you could scarcely look more aghast."
"It is a large sum -- don't you think there is a mistake?"
"No mistake at all."
"Perhaps you have read the figures wrong -- it may be 2000!"
"It is written in letters, not figures, -- twenty thousand."
I again felt rather like an individual of but average gastronomical powers sitting down to feast alone at a table spread with provisions for a hundred. Mr. Rivers rose now and put his cloak on.
"If it were not such a very wild night," he said, "I would send Hannah down to keep you company: you look too desperately miserable to be left alone. But Hannah, poor woman! could not stride the drifts so well as I: her legs are not quite so long: so I must e'en leave you to your sorrows. Good-night."
He was lifting the latch: a sudden thought occurred to me.
"Stop one minute!" I cried.
"It puzzles me to know why Mr. Briggs wrote to you about me; or how he knew you, or could fancy that you, living in such an out-of-the-way place, had the power to aid in my discovery."
"Oh! I am a clergyman," he said; "and the clergy are often appealed to about odd matters." Again the latch rattled.
"No; that does not satisfy me!" I exclaimed: and indeed there was something in the hasty and unexplanatory reply which, instead of allaying, piqued my curiosity more than ever.
"It is a very strange piece of business," I added; "I must know more about it."
"No: to-night! -- to-night!" and as he turned
"You certainly shall not go till you have told me all," I said.
"I would rather not just now."
"You shall! -- you must!"
"I would rather Diana or Mary informed you."
Of course these objections wrought my eagerness to a climax: gratified it must be, and that without delay; and I told him so.
"But I apprised you that I was a hard man," said he, "difficult to persuade."
"And I am a hard woman; -- impossible to put off."
"And then," he pursued, "I am cold: no fervour infects me."
"Whereas I am hot, and fire dissolves ice. The blaze there has thawed all the snow from your cloak; by the same token, it has streamed on to my floor, and made it like a trampled street. As you hope ever to be forgiven, Mr. Rivers, the high crime and misdemeanour of spoiling a sanded kitchen, tell me what I wish to know."
"Well, then," he said, "I yield; if not to your earnestness, to your perseverance: as stone is worn by continual dropping. Besides, you must know some day, -- as well now as later. Your name is Jane Eyre?"
"Of course: that was all settled before."
"You are not, perhaps, aware that I am your namesake? -- that I was christened St. John Eyre Rivers?"
"No, indeed! I remember now seeing the letter E.
I stopped: I could not trust myself to entertain, much less to express, the thought that rushed upon me -- that embodied itself, -- that, in a second, stood out a strong, solid probability. Circumstances knit themselves, fitted themselves, shot into order: the chain that had been lying hitherto a formless lump of links was drawn out straight, -- every ring was perfect, the connection complete. I knew, by instinct, how the matter stood, before St. John had said another word; but I cannot expect the reader to have the same intuitive perception, so I must repeat his explanation.
"My mother's name was Eyre; she had two brothers; one a clergyman, who married Miss Jane Reed, of Gateshead; the other, John Eyre, Esq., merchant, late of Funchal, Madeira. Mr. Briggs, being Mr. Eyre's solicitor, wrote to us last August to inform us of our uncle's death, and to say that he had left his property to his brother the clergyman's orphan daughter, overlooking us, in consequence of a quarrel, never forgiven, between him and my father. He wrote again a few weeks since, to intimate that the heiress was lost, and asking if we knew anything of her. A name casually written on a slip of paper has enabled me to find her out. You know the rest." Again he was going, but I set my back against the door.
"Do let me speak," I said; "let me have one moment to draw breath and reflect." I paused -- he stood before me, hat in hand, looking composed enough. I resumed: --
"Your mother was my father's sister?"
"My aunt, consequently?"
"My uncle John was your uncle John? You, Diana, and Mary are his sister's children, as I am his brother's child?"
"You three, then, are my cousins; half our blood on each side flows from the same source?"
"We are cousins; yes."
I surveyed him. It seemed I had found a brother: one I could be proud of, -- one I could love; and two sisters, whose qualities were such, that, when I knew them but as mere strangers, they had inspired me with genuine affection and admiration. The two girls, on whom, kneeling down on the wet ground, and looking through the low, latticed window of Moor-House kitchen, I had gazed with so bitter a mixture of interest and despair, were my near kinswomen; and the young and stately gentleman who had found me almost dying at his threshold was my blood relation. Glorious discovery to a lonely wretch! This was wealth indeed! -- wealth to the heart! -- a mine of pure, genial affections. This was a blessing, bright, vivid, and exhilarating; -- not like the ponderous gift of gold: rich and welcome enough in its way, but sobering from its weight. I now clapped my hands in sudden joy -- my pulse bounded, my veins thrilled.
"Oh, I am glad! -- I am glad!" I exclaimed.
St. John smiled. "Did I not say you neglected essential points to pursue trifles?" he asked. "You were serious when I told you you had got a fortune; and now, for a matter of no moment, you are excited."
"What can you mean? It may be of no moment to you; you have sisters and don't care for a cousin; but I had nobody; and now three relations, -- or two, if you don't choose to be counted, -- are born into my world full grown. I say again, I am glad!"
I walked fast through the room: I stopped, half suffocated with the thoughts that rose faster than I could receive, comprehend, settle them: -- thoughts of what might, could, would, and should be, and that ere long. I looked at the blank wall: it seemed a sky thick with ascending stars, -- every one lit me to a purpose or delight. Those who had saved my life, whom, till this hour, I had loved barrenly, I could now benefit. They were under a yoke: I could free them: they were scattered, -- I could reunite them: the independence, the affluence which was mine, might be theirs too. Were we not four? Twenty thousand pounds shared equally, would be five thousand each, -- enough and to spare: justice would be done, -- mutual happiness secured. Now the wealth did not weigh on me: now it was not a mere bequest of coin, -- it was a legacy of life, hope, enjoyment.
How I looked while these ideas were taking my spirit by storm, I cannot tell; but I perceived soon that Mr. Rivers had placed a chair behind me, and was gently attempting to make me sit down on it. He also advised me to be composed; I scorned the insinuation of helplessness and distraction, shook off his hand, and began to walk about again.
"Write to Diana and Mary to-morrow," I said, "and tell them to come home directly. Diana said they would both consider themselves rich with a thousand pounds, so with five thousand, they will do very well."
"Tell me where I can get you a glass of water," said St. John; "you must really make an effort to tranquillise your feelings."
"Nonsense! and what sort of an effect will the bequest have on you? Will it keep you in England, induce you to marry Miss Oliver, and settle down like an ordinary mortal?"
"You wander: your head becomes confused. I have been too abrupt in communicating the news; it has excited you beyond your strength."
"Mr. Rivers! you quite put me out of patience: I am rational enough; it is you who misunderstand, or rather who affect to misunderstand."
"Perhaps, if you explained yourself a little more fully, I should comprehend better."
"Explain! What is there to explain? You cannot fail to see that twenty thousand pounds, the sum in question, divided equally between the nephew and three nieces of our uncle, will give five thousand to each? What I want is, that you should write to your sisters and tell them of the fortune that has accrued to them."
"To you, you mean."
"I have intimated my view of the case: I am incapable of taking any other. I am not brutally selfish, blindly unjust, or fiendishly ungrateful. Besides, I am resolved I will have a home and connections. I like Moor-House, and I will live at Moor-House; I like Diana and Mary, and I will attach myself for life to Diana and Mary. It would please and benefit me to have five thousand pounds; it would torment and oppress me to have twenty thousand; which, moreover, could never be mine in justice, though it might in law. I abandon to you, then, what is absolutely superfluous
"This is acting on first impulses; you must take days to consider such a matter, ere your word can be regarded as valid."
"Oh! if all you doubt is my sincerity, I am easy: you see the justice of the case?"
"I do see a certain justice; but it is contrary to all custom. Besides, the entire fortune is your right: my uncle gained it by his own efforts; he was free to leave it to whom he would: he left it to you. After all, justice permits you to keep it: you may, with a clear conscience, consider it absolutely your own."
"With me," said I, "it is fully as much a matter of feeling as of conscience: I must indulge my feelings; I so seldom have had an opportunity of doing so. Were you to argue, object, and annoy me for a year, I could not forego the delicious pleasure of which I have caught a glimpse -- that of repaying, in part, a mighty obligation, and winning to myself life-long friends."
"You think so now," rejoined St. John, "because you do not know what it is to possess, nor consequently to enjoy wealth: you cannot form a notion of the importance twenty thousand pounds would give you; of the place it would enable you to take in society; of the prospects it would open to you: you cannot -- "
"And you," I interrupted, "cannot at all imagine the craving I have for fraternal and sisterly love. I never had a home, I never had brothers or sisters; I
"Jane, I will be your brother -- my sisters will be your sisters -- without stipulating for this sacrifice of your just rights."
"Brother? Yes; at the distance of a thousand leagues! Sisters? Yes; slaving amongst strangers! I, wealthy -- gorged with gold I never earned and do not merit! You, penniless! Famous equality and fraternisation! Close union! Intimate attachment!"
"But, Jane, your aspirations after family ties and domestic happiness may be realised otherwise than by the means you contemplate: you may marry."
"Nonsense, again! Marry! I don't want to marry, and never shall marry."
"That is saying too much: such hazardous affirmations are a proof of the excitement under which you labour."
"It is not saying too much: I know what I feel, and how averse are my inclinations to the bare thought of marriage. No one would take me for love; and I will not be regarded in the light of a mere money speculation. And I do not want a stranger -- unsympathizing, alien, different from me; I want my kindred: those with whom I have full fellow-feeling. Say again you will be my brother: when you uttered the words I was satisfied, happy; repeat them, if you can, repeat them sincerely."
"I think I can. I know I have always loved my own sisters; and I know on what my affection for them is grounded, -- respect for their worth and admiration of their talents. You too have principle and mind: your tastes and habits resemble Diana's and Mary's;
"Thank you: that contents me for to-night. Now you had better go; for if you stay longer, you will perhaps irritate me afresh by some mistrustful scruple."
"And the school, Miss Eyre? It must now be shut up, I suppose?"
"No. I will retain my post of mistress till you get a substitute."
He smiled approbation: we shook hands, and he took leave.
I need not narrate in detail the further struggles I had, and arguments I used, to get matters regarding the legacy settled as I wished. My task was a very hard one; but, as I was absolutely resolved -- as my cousins saw at length that my mind was really and immutably fixed on making a just division of the property -- as they must in their own hearts have felt the equity of the intention; and must, besides, have been innately conscious that in my place they would have done precisely what I wished to do -- they yielded at length so far as to consent to put the affair to arbitration. The judges chosen were Mr. Oliver and an able lawyer: both coincided in my opinion: I carried my point. The instruments of transfer were drawn out: St. John, Diana, Mary, and I, each became possessed of a competency.
IT was near Christmas by the time all was settled: the season of general holiday approached. I now closed Morton school, taking care that the parting should not be barren on my side. Good fortune opens the hand as well as the heart wonderfully; and to give somewhat when we have largely received, is but to afford a vent to the unusual ebullition of the sensations. I had long felt with pleasure that many of my rustic scholars liked me, and when we parted, that consciousness was confirmed: they manifested their affection plainly and strongly. Deep was my gratification to find I had really a place in their unsophisticated hearts: I promised them that never a week should pass in future that I did not visit them, and give them an hour's teaching in their school.
Mr. Rivers came up, as -- having seen the classes, now numbering sixty girls, file out before me, and locked the door -- I stood with the key in my hand, exchanging a few words of special farewell with some half-dozen of my best scholars: as decent, respectable, modest, and well-informed young women as could be found in the ranks of the British peasantry. And that is saying a great deal; for after all, the British peasantry are the best taught, best mannered, most self-respecting of any in Europe: since those days I have seen paysannes and Bäuerinnen; and the best of them seemed to me ignorant, coarse, and besotted, compared with my Morton girls.
"Do you consider you have got your reward for a
"And you have only toiled a few months! Would not a life devoted to the task of regenerating your race be well spent?"
"Yes," I said; "but I could not go on for ever so: I want to enjoy my own faculties as well as to cultivate those of other people. I must enjoy them now; don't recall either my mind or body to the school; I am out of it and disposed for full holiday."
He looked grave. "What now? What sudden eagerness is this you evince? What are you going to do?"
"To be active: as active as I can. And first I must beg you to set Hannah at liberty, and get somebody else to wait on you."
"Do you want her?"
"Yes, to go with me to Moor-House. Diana and Mary will be at home in a week, and I want to have everything in order against their arrival."
"I understand. I thought you were for flying off on some excursion. It is better so: Hannah shall go with you."
"Tell her to be ready by to-morrow then; and here is the school-room key: I will give you the key of my cottage in the morning."
He took it. "You give it up very gleefully," said he; "I don't quite understand your light-heartedness, because I cannot tell what employment you propose to yourself as a substitute for the one you are relinquishing.
"My first aim will be to clean down (do you comprehend the full force of the expression?) to clean down Moor-House from chamber to cellar; my next to rub it up with bees-wax, oil, and an indefinite number of cloths, till it glitters again; my third, to arrange every chair, table, bed, carpet, with mathematical precision; afterwards I shall go near to ruin you in coals and peat to keep up good fires in every room; and lastly, the two days preceding that on which your sisters are expected will be devoted by Hannah and me to such a beating of eggs, sorting of currants, grating of spices, compounding of Christmas cakes, chopping up of materials for mince-pies, and solemnising of other culinary rites, as words can convey but an inadequate notion of to the uninitiated like you. My purpose, in short, is to have all things in an absolutely perfect state of readiness for Diana and Mary before next Thursday; and my ambition is to give them a beau-ideal of a welcome when they come."
St. John smiled slightly: still he was dissatisfied.
"It is all very well for the present," said he; "but seriously, I trust that when the first flush of vivacity is over, you will look a little higher than domestic endearments and household joys."
"I mean, on the contrary, to be busy."
"Jane, I excuse you for the present: two months' grace I allow you for the full enjoyment of your new
I looked at him with surprise. "St. John," I said, "I think you are almost wicked to talk so. I am disposed to be as content as a queen, and you try to stir me up to restlessness! To what end?"
"To the end of turning to profit the talents which God has committed to your keeping; and of which He will surely one day demand a strict account. Jane, I shall watch you closely and anxiously -- I warn you of that. And try to restrain the disproportionate fervour with which you throw yourself into commonplace home pleasures. Don't cling so tenaciously to ties of the flesh; save your constancy and ardour for an adequate cause; forbear to waste them on trite transient objects. Do you hear, Jane?"
"Yes; just as if you were speaking Greek. I feel I have adequate cause to be happy, and I will be happy. Good-bye!"
Happy at Moor-House I was, and hard I worked; and so did Hannah: she was charmed to see how jovial I could be amidst the bustle of a house turned topsy-turvy -- how I could brush, and dust, and clean, and cook. And really, after a day or two of confusion worse confounded, it was delightful by degrees to invoke order from the chaos ourselves had made. I had previously taken a journey to S -- -- to purchase some new furniture: my cousins having given me carte blanche to effect what alterations I pleased, and a sum having
The eventful Thursday at length came. They were expected about dark, and ere dusk fires were lit upstairs and below; the kitchen was in perfect trim; Hannah and I were dressed, and all was in readiness.
St. John arrived first. I had entreated him to keep quite clear of the house till everything was arranged: and, indeed, the bare idea of the commotion, at once sordid and trivial, going on within its walls sufficed to scare him to estrangement. He found me in the kitchen, watching the progress of certain cakes for tea, then baking. Approaching the hearth, he asked, "If I was at last satisfied with house-maid's work?" I answered by inviting him to accompany me on a general inspection of the result of my labours. With some difficulty,
This silence damped me. I thought perhaps the alterations had disturbed some old associations he valued. I inquired whether this was the case: no doubt in a somewhat crestfallen tone.
"Not at all; he had, on the contrary, remarked that I had scrupulously respected every association: he feared, indeed, I must have bestowed more thought on the matter than it was worth. How many minutes, for instance, had I devoted to studying the arrangement of this very room? -- By-the-bye, could I tell him where such a book was?"
I showed him the volume on the shelf: he took it down, and withdrawing to his accustomed window recess, he began to read it.
Now, I did not like this, reader. St. John was a good man; but I began to feel he had spoken truth of himself when he said he was hard and cold. The humanities and amenities of life had no attraction for him -- its peaceful enjoyments no charm. Literally, he lived only to aspire -- after what was good and great, certainly; but still he would never rest, nor approve of others resting round him. As I looked at his lofty forehead, still and pale as a white stone -- at his fine lineaments fixed in study -- I comprehended all at once that he would hardly make a good husband: that it would be a trying thing to be his wife. I understood,
"This parlour is not his sphere," I reflected: "the Himalayan ridge or Caffre bush, even the plague-cursed Guinea Coast swamp would suit him better. Well may he eschew the calm of domestic life; it is not his element: there his faculties stagnate -- they cannot develop or appear to advantage. It is in scenes of strife and danger -- where courage is proved, and energy exercised, and fortitude tasked -- that he will speak and move, the leader and superior. A merry child would have the advantage of him on this hearth. He is right to choose a missionary's career -- I see it now."
"They are coming! they are coming!" cried Hannah, throwing open the parlour door. At the same moment old Carlo barked joyfully. Out I ran. It was now dark; but a rumbling of wheels was audible. Hannah soon had a lantern lit. The vehicle had stopped at the wicket; the driver opened the door: first one well-known form, then another, stepped out. In a minute I had my face under their bonnets, in contact first with Mary's soft cheek, then with Diana's flowing curls.
They were stiff with their long and jolting drive from Whitcross, and chilled with the frosty night air; but their pleasant countenances expanded to the cheerful firelight. While the driver and Hannah brought in the boxes, they demanded St. John. At this moment he advanced from the parlour. They both threw their arms round his neck at once. He gave each one quiet kiss, said in a low tone a few words of welcome, stood a while to be talked to, and then, intimating that he supposed they would soon rejoin him in the parlour, withdrew there as to a place of refuge.
I had lit their candles to go upstairs, but Diana had first to give hospitable orders respecting the driver; this done, both followed me. They were delighted with the renovation and decorations of their rooms; with the new drapery, and fresh carpets, and rich tinted china vases: they expressed their gratification ungrudgingly. I had the pleasure of feeling that my arrangements met their wishes exactly, and that what I had done added a vivid charm to their joyous return home.
Sweet was that evening. My cousins, full of exhilaration, were so eloquent in narrative and comment, that their fluency covered St. John's taciturnity: he was sincerely glad to see his sisters; but in their glow of fervour and flow of joy he could not sympathise. The event of the day -- that is, the return of Diana and Mary -- pleased him; but the accompaniments of that event, the glad tumult, the garrulous glee of reception irked him: I saw he wished the calmer morrow was
"Where does she live, Hannah?"
"Clear up at Whitcross Brow, almost four miles off, and moor and moss all the way."
"Tell him I will go."
"I'm sure, Sir, you had better not. It's the worst road to travel after dark that can be: there's no track at all over the bog. And then it is such a bitter night -- the keenest wind you ever felt. You had better send word, Sir, that you will be there in the morning."
But he was already in the passage, putting on his cloak; and without one objection, one murmur, he departed. It was then nine o'clock: he did not return till midnight. Starved and tired enough he was: but he looked happier than when he set out. He had performed an act of duty; made an exertion; felt his own strength to do and deny, and was on better terms with himself.
I am afraid the whole of the ensuing week tried his patience. It was Christmas week: we took to no settled employment, but spent it in a sort of merry domestic dissipation. The air of the moors, the freedom of home, the dawn of prosperity, acted on Diana and Mary's spirits like some life-giving elixir: they were gay from morning till noon, and from noon till night. They could always talk; and their discourse, witty, pithy, original, had such charms for me, that I preferred listening to, and sharing in it, to doing anything else. St. John did not rebuke our vivacity; but he escaped
One morning at breakfast, Diana, after looking a little pensive for some minutes, asked him, "If his plans were yet unchanged."
"Unchanged and unchangeable," was the reply. And he proceeded to inform us that his departure from England was now definitely fixed for the ensuing year.
"And Rosamond Oliver?" suggested Mary, the words seeming to escape her lips involuntarily: for no sooner had she uttered them, than she made a gesture as if wishing to recall them. St. John had a book in his hand -- it was his unsocial custom to read at meals -- he closed it, and looked up.
"Rosamond Oliver," said he, "is about to be married to Mr. Granby, one of the best connected and most estimable residents in S -- -- , grandson and heir to Sir Frederic Granby: I had the intelligence from her father yesterday."
His sisters looked at each other and at me; we all three looked at him: he was serene as glass.
"The match must have been got up hastily," said Diana: "they cannot have known each other long."
"But two months: they met in October at the county ball at S -- -- . But where there are no obstacles to a union, as in the present case, where the connection is in every point desirable, delays are unnecessary: they will be married as soon as S -- -- Place, which Sir Frederic gives up to them, can be refitted for their reception."
The first time I found St. John alone after this communication, I felt tempted to inquire if the event distressed him: but he seemed so little to need sympathy, that, so far from venturing to offer him more, I experienced some shame at the recollection of what I had already hazarded. Besides, I was out of practice in talking to him: his reserve was again frozen over, and my frankness was congealed beneath it. He had not kept his promise of treating me like his sisters; he continually made little, chilling differences between us, which did not at all tend to the development of cordiality: in short, now that I was acknowledged his kinswoman, and lived under the same roof with him, I felt the distance between us to be far greater than when he had known me only as the village schoolmistress. When I remembered how far I had once been admitted to his confidence, I could hardly comprehend his present frigidity.
Such being the case, I felt not a little surprised when he raised his head suddenly from the desk over which he was stooping, and said: --
"You see, Jane, the battle is fought and the victory won."
Startled at being thus addressed, I did not immediately reply: after a moment's hesitation I answered: --
"But are you sure you are not in the position of those conquerors whose triumphs have cost them too dear? Would not such another ruin you?"
"I think not; and if I were, it does not much signify; I shall never be called upon to contend for such another. The event of the conflict is decisive: my way is now clear; I thank God for
As our mutual happiness (i. e. Diana's, Mary's, and mine) settled into a quieter character, and we resumed our usual habits and regular studies, St. John stayed more at home: he sat with us in the same room, sometimes for hours together. While Mary drew, Diana pursued a course of encyclopædic reading she had (to my awe and amazement) undertaken, and I fagged away at German, he pondered a mystic lore of his own: that of some Eastern tongue, the acquisition of which he thought necessary to his plans.
Thus engaged, he appeared, sitting in his own recess, quiet and absorbed enough; but that blue eye of his had a habit of leaving the outlandish-looking grammar, and wandering over, and sometimes fixing upon us, his fellow-students, with a curious intensity of observation: if caught, it would be instantly withdrawn; yet ever and anon, it returned searchingly to our table. I wondered what it meant: I wondered, too, at the punctual satisfaction he never failed to exhibit on an occasion that seemed to me of small moment, namely, my weekly visit to Morton school; and still more was I puzzled when, if the day was unfavourable, if there was snow, or rain, or high wind, and his sisters urged me not to go, he would invariably make light of their solicitude, and encourage me to accomplish the task without regard to the elements.
"Jane is not such a weakling as you would make her," he would say: "she can bear a mountain blast, or a shower, or a few flakes of snow, as well as any of us. Her constitution is both sound and elastic; --
And when I returned, sometimes a good deal tired, and not a little weather-beaten, I never dared complain, because I saw that to murmur would be to vex him: on all occasions fortitude pleased him; the reverse was a special annoyance.
One afternoon, however, I got leave to stay at home, because I really had a cold. His sisters were gone to Morton in my stead: I sat reading Schiller; he, deciphering his crabbed Oriental scrolls. As I exchanged a translation for an exercise, I happened to look his way: there I found myself under the influence of the ever-watchful blue eye. How long it had been searching me through and through, and over and over, I cannot tell: so keen was it, and yet so cold, I felt for the moment superstitious -- as if I were sitting in the room with something uncanny.
"Jane, what are you doing?"
"I want you to give up German and learn Hindostanee."
"You are not in earnest?"
"In such earnest that I must have it so: and I will tell you why."
He then went on to explain that Hindostanee was the language he was himself at present studying; that, as he advanced, he was apt to forget the commencement; that it would assist him greatly to have a pupil with whom he might again and again go over the elements, and so fix them thoroughly in his mind; that his choice had hovered for some time between me and his sisters; but that he had fixed on me, because he
St. John was not a man to be lightly refused: you felt that every impression made on him, either for pain or pleasure, was deep-graved and permanent. I consented. When Diana and Mary returned, the former found her scholar transferred from her to her brother: she laughed, and both she and Mary agreed that St. John should never have persuaded them to such a step. He answered quietly: --
"I know it."
I found him a very patient, very forbearing, and yet an exacting master: he expected me to do a great deal; and when I fulfilled his expectations, he, in his own way, fully testified his approbation. By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away my liberty of mind: his praise and notice were more restraining than his indifference. I could no longer talk or laugh freely when he was by, because a tiresomely importunate instinct reminded me that vivacity (at least in me) was distasteful to him. I was so fully aware that only serious moods and occupations were acceptable, that in his presence every effort to sustain or follow any other became vain: I fell under a freezing spell. When he said "go," I went; "come," I came; "do this," I did it. But I did not love my servitude: I wished, many a time, he had continued to neglect me.
One evening when, at bedtime, his sisters and I stood round him, bidding him good-night, he kissed each of them, as was his custom; and, as was equally
"St. John! you used to call Jane your third sister, but you don't treat her as such: you should kiss her too."
She pushed me towards him. I thought Diana very provoking, and felt uncomfortably confused; and while I was thus thinking and feeling, St. John bent his head; his Greek face was brought to a level with mine, his eyes questioned my eyes piercingly -- he kissed me. There are no such things as marble kisses or ice kisses, or I should say my ecclesiastical cousin's salute belonged to one of these classes; but there may be experiment kisses, and his was an experiment kiss. When given, he viewed me to learn the result; it was not striking: I am sure I did not blush; perhaps I might have turned a little pale, for I felt as if this kiss were a seal affixed to my fetters. He never omitted the ceremony afterwards, and the gravity and quiescence with which I underwent it, seemed to invest it for him with a certain charm.
As for me, I daily wished more to please him; but to do so, I felt daily more and more that I must disown half my nature, stifle half my faculties, wrest my tastes from their original bent, force myself to the adoption of pursuits for which I had no natural vocation. He wanted to train me to an elevation I could never reach; it racked me hourly to aspire to the standard he uplifted. The thing was as impossible as to mould my irregular features to his correct and
Not his ascendancy alone, however, held me in thrall at present. Of late it had been easy enough for me to look sad: a cankering evil sat in my heart and drained my happiness at its source -- the evil of suspense.
Perhaps you think I had forgotten Mr. Rochester, reader, amidst these changes of place and fortune. Not for a moment. His idea was still with me, because it was not a vapour sunshine could disperse, nor a sand-traced effigy storms could wash away; it was a name graven on a tablet, fated to last as long as the marble it inscribed. The craving to know what had become of him followed me everywhere; when I was at Morton, I re-entered my cottage every evening to think of that; and now at Moor-House, I sought my bed-room each night to brood over it.
In the course of my necessary correspondence with Mr. Briggs about the will, I had inquired if he knew anything of Mr. Rochester's present residence and state of health; but, as St. John had conjectured, he was quite ignorant of all concerning him. I then wrote to Mrs. Fairfax, entreating information on the subject. I had calculated with certainty on this step answering my end: I felt sure it would elicit an early answer. I was astonished when a fortnight passed without reply; but when two months wore away, and day after day the post arrived and brought nothing for me, I fell a prey to the keenest anxiety.
I wrote again: there was a chance of my first letter having missed. Renewed hope followed renewed effort: it shone like the former for some weeks, then, like it,
A fine spring shone round me, which I could not enjoy. Summer approached; Diana tried to cheer me: she said I looked ill, and wished to accompany me to the sea-side. This St. John opposed; he said I did not want dissipation, I wanted employment; my present life was too purposeless, I required an aim; and, I suppose, by way of supplying deficiencies, he prolonged still further my lessons in Hindostanee, and grew more urgent in requiring their accomplishment: and I, like a fool, never thought of resisting him -- I could not resist him.
One day I had come to my studies in lower spirits than usual; the ebb was occasioned by a poignantly felt disappointment. Hannah had told me in the morning there was a letter for me, and when I went down to take it, almost certain that the long looked-for tidings were vouchsafed me at last, I found only an unimportant note from Mr. Briggs on business. The bitter check had wrung from me some tears; and now, as I sat poring over the crabbed characters and flourishing tropes of an Indian scribe, my eyes filled again.
St. John called me to his side to read; in attempting to do this my voice failed me: words were lost in sobs. He and I were the only occupants of the parlour: Diana was practising her music in the drawing-room, Mary was gardening -- it was a very fine May day, clear, sunny, and breezy. My companion expressed no surprise at this emotion, nor did he question me as to its cause; he only said: --
"We will wait a few minutes, Jane, till you are
"Now, Jane, you shall take a walk; and with me."
"I will call Diana and Mary."
"No; I want only one companion this morning, and that must be you. Put on your things; go out by the kitchen door: take the road towards the head of Marsh-Glen: I will join you in a moment."
I know no medium: I never in my life have known any medium in my dealings with positive, hard characters, antagonistic to my own, between absolute submission and determined revolt. I have always faithfully observed the one, up to the very moment of bursting, sometimes with volcanic vehemence, into the other; and as neither present circumstances warranted, nor my present mood inclined me to mutiny, I observed careful obedience to St. John's directions; and in ten minutes I was treading the wild track of the glen, side by side with him.
The breeze was from the west: it came over the hills, sweet with scents of heath and rush; the sky was of stainless blue; the stream descending the ravine, swelled with past spring rains, poured along plentiful and clear, catching golden gleams from the sun, and sapphire tints from the firmament. As we advanced and left the track, we trod a soft turf, mossy fine and
"Let us rest here," said St. John, as we reached the first stragglers of a battalion of rocks, guarding a sort of pass, beyond which the beck rushed down a waterfall; and where, still a little farther, the mountain shook off turf and flower, had only heath for raiment and crag for gem -- where it exaggerated the wild to the savage, and exchanged the fresh for the frowning -- where it guarded the forlorn hope of solitude, and a last refuge for silence.
I took a seat: St. John stood near me. He looked up the pass and down the hollow; his glance wandered away with the stream, and returned to traverse the unclouded heaven which coloured it: he removed his hat, let the breeze stir his hair and kiss his brow. He seemed in communion with the genius of the haunt: with his eye he bade farewell to something.
"And I shall see it again," he said aloud, "in dreams when I sleep by the Ganges: and again in a more remote hour -- when another slumber overcomes me -- on the shore of a darker stream!"
Strange words of a strange love! An austere patriot's passion for his fatherland! He sat down; for half an hour we never spoke; neither he to me nor I to him: that interval past, he recommenced: --
"Jane, I go in six weeks; I have taken my berth in an East Indiaman which sails on the twentieth of June."
"God will protect you; for you have undertaken His work," I answered.
"Yes," said he, "there is my glory and joy. I am the servant of an infallible Master. I am not going out under human guidance, subject to the defective laws and erring control of my feeble fellow-worms: my king, my lawgiver, my captain, is the All-perfect. It seems strange to me that all round me do not burn to enlist under the same banner, -- to join in the same enterprise."
"All have not Your powers, and it would be folly for the feeble to wish to march with the strong."
"I do not speak to the feeble, or think of them: I address only such as are worthy of the work, and competent to accomplish it."
"Those are few in number, and difficult to discover."
"You say truly; but when found, it is right to stir them up -- to urge and exhort them to the effort -- to show them what their gifts are, and why they were given -- to speak Heaven's message in their ear, -- to offer them, direct from God, a place in the ranks of His chosen."
"If they are really qualified for the task, will not their own hearts be the first to inform them of it?"
I felt as if an awful charm was framing round and gathering over me: I trembled to hear some fatal word spoken which would at once declare and rivet the spell.
"And what does your heart say?" demanded St. John.
"My heart is mute, -- my heart is mute," I answered, struck and thrilled.
"Then I must speak for it," continued the deep, relentless voice. "Jane, come with me to India: come as my help-mate and fellow-labourer."
The glen and sky spun round: the hills heaved! It was as if I had heard a summons from Heaven -- as if a visionary messenger, like him of Macedonia, had enounced, "Come over and help us!" But I was no apostle, -- I could not behold the herald, -- I could not receive his call.
"Oh, St. John!" I cried, "have some mercy!"
I appealed to one who, in the discharge of what he believed his duty, knew neither mercy nor remorse. He continued: --
"God and nature intended you for a missionary's wife. It is not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed for labour, not for love. A missionary's wife you must -- shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you -- not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign's service."
"I am not fit for it: I have no vocation," I said.
He had calculated on these first objections: he was not irritated by them. Indeed, as he leaned back against the crag behind him, folded his arms on his chest, and fixed his countenance, I saw he was prepared for a long and trying opposition, and had taken in a stock of patience to last him to its close -- resolved, however, that that close should be conquest for him.
"Humility, Jane," said he, "is the groundwork of Christian virtues: you say right that you are not fit for the work. Who is fit for it? Or who, that ever was truly called, believed himself worthy of the summons? I, for instance, am but dust and ashes. With St. Paul, I acknowledge myself the chiefest of sinners; but I do not suffer this sense of my personal vileness to daunt me. I know my Leader: that He is just as well as mighty; and while He has chosen a feeble instrument
"I do not understand a missionary life: I have never studied missionary labours."
"There I, humble as I am, can give you the aid you want: I can set you your task from hour to hour; stand by you always; help you from moment to moment. This I could do in the beginning: soon (for I know your powers) you would be as strong and apt as myself, and would not require my help."
"But my powers -- where are they for this undertaking? I do not feel them. Nothing speaks or stirs in me while you talk. I am sensible of no light kindling -- no life quickening -- no voice counselling or cheering. Oh, I wish I could make you see how much my mind is at this moment like a rayless dungeon, with one shrinking fear fettered in its depths -- the fear of being persuaded by you to attempt what I cannot accomplish!"
"I have an answer for you -- hear it. I have watched you ever since we first met: I have made you my study for ten months. I have proved you in that time by sundry tests: and what have I seen and elicited? In the village school I found you could perform well, punctually, uprightly, labour uncongenial to your habits and inclinations; I saw you could perform it with capacity and tact: you could win while you controlled. In the calm with which you learnt you had become suddenly rich, I read a mind clear of the vice of Demas:
My iron shroud contracted round me; persuasion advanced with slow, sure step. Shut my eyes as I would, these last words of his succeeded in making the way, which had seemed blocked up, comparatively clear. My work, which had appeared so vague, so hopelessly diffuse, condensed itself as he proceeded, and assumed a definite form under his shaping hand. He waited for an answer. I demanded a quarter of an hour to think, before I again hazarded a reply.
"Very willingly," he rejoined; and rising, he strode a little distance up the pass, threw himself down on a swell of heath, and there lay still.
"I can do what he wants me to do: I am forced to see and acknowledge that," I meditated -- "That is, if life be spared me. But I feel mine is not the existence to be long protracted under an Indian sun. -- What
"Consent, then, to his demand is possible: but for one item -- one dreadful item. It is -- that he asks me to be his wife, and has no more of a husband's
I looked towards the knoll: there he lay, still as a prostrate column; his face turned to me: his eye beaming watchful and keen. He started to his feet and approached me.
"I am ready to go to India, if I may go free."
"Your answer requires a commentary," he said; "it is not clear."
"You have hitherto been my adopted brother: I, your adopted sister: let us continue as such: you and I had better not marry."
He shook his head. "Adopted fraternity will not do in this case. If you were my real sister it would be different: I should take you, and seek no wife. But as it is, either our union must be consecrated and sealed by marriage, or it cannot exist: practical obstacles oppose themselves to any other plan. Do you not see it, Jane? Consider a moment -- your strong sense will guide you."
I did consider; and still my sense, such as it was,
"We cannot -- we cannot," he answered, with short, sharp determination: "it would not do. You have said you will go with me to India: remember -- you have said that."
"Well -- well. To the main point -- the departure with me from England, the co-operation with me in my future labours -- you do not object. You have already as good as put your hand to the plough: you are too consistent to withdraw it. You have but one end to keep in view -- how the work you have undertaken can best be done. Simplify your complicated interests, feelings, thoughts, wishes, aims; merge all considerations in one purpose: that of fulfilling with effect -- with power -- the mission of your great Master. To do so, you must have a coadjutor -- not a brother; that is a loose tie: but a husband. I, too, do not want a sister: a sister might any day be taken from me. I want a wife: the sole helpmeet I can influence efficiently in life, and retain absolutely till death."
I shuddered as he spoke: I felt his influence in my marrow -- his hold on my limbs.
"Seek one elsewhere than in me, St. John: seek one fitted to you."
"One fitted to my purpose, you mean -- fitted to my vocation. Again I tell you it is not the insignificant private individual -- the mere man, with the man's selfish senses -- I wish to mate: it is the missionary."
"And I will give the missionary my energies -- it is all he wants -- but not myself: that would be only adding the husk and shell to the kernel. For them he has no use: I retain them."
"You cannot -- you ought not. Do you think God will be satisfied with half an oblation? Will He accept a mutilated sacrifice? It is the cause of God I advocate: it is under his standard I enlist you. I cannot accept on His behalf a divided allegiance: it must be entire."
"Oh! I will give my heart to God," I said. "You do not want it."
I will not swear, reader, that there was not something of repressed sarcasm both in the tone in which I uttered this sentence, and in the feeling that accompanied it. I had silently feared St. John till now, because I had not understood him. He had held me in awe, because he had held me in doubt. How much of him was saint, how much mortal, I could not heretofore tell: but revelations were being made in this conference: the analysis of his nature was proceeding before my eyes. I saw his fallibilities: I comprehended them. I understood that, sitting there where I did, on the bank of heath, and with that handsome form before me, I sat at the feet of a man, erring as I. The veil fell from his hardness and despotism. Having felt in him the presence of these qualities, I felt his imperfection and took courage. I was with an equal -- one with whom I might argue -- one whom, if I saw good, I might resist.
He was silent after I had uttered the last sentence, and I presently risked an upward glance at his countenance. His eye, bent on me, expressed at once stern surprise and keen inquiry. "Is she sarcastic, and sarcastic to me!" it seemed to say.
"What does this signify?"
"Do not let us forget that this is a solemn matter," he said ere long; "one of which we may neither think nor talk lightly without sin. I trust, Jane, you are in earnest when you say you will give your heart to God: it is all I want. Once wrench your heart from man, and fix it on your Maker, the advancement of that Maker's spiritual kingdom on earth will be your chief delight and endeavour; you will be ready to do at once whatever furthers that end. You will see what impetus would be given to your efforts and mine by our physical and mental union in marriage: the only union that gives a character of permanent conformity to the destinies and designs of human beings; and, passing over all minor caprices -- all trivial difficulties and delicacies of feeling -- all scruple about the degree, kind, strength or tenderness of mere personal inclination -- you will hasten to enter into that union at once."
"Shall I?" I said briefly; and I looked at his features, beautiful in their harmony, but strangely formidable in their still severity; at his brow, commanding but not open; at his eyes, bright and deep and searching, but never soft; at his tall imposing figure; and fancied myself in idea his wife. Oh! it would never do! As his curate, his comrade, all would be right: I would cross oceans with him in that capacity; toil under Eastern suns, in Asian deserts with him in that office; admire and emulate his courage and devotion and vigour; accommodate quietly to his masterhood; smile undisturbed at his ineradicable ambition; discriminate the Christian from the man: profoundly esteem the one, and freely forgive the other. I should suffer often, no doubt, attached to him only in this capacity: my body
"St. John!" I exclaimed, when I had got so far in my meditation.
"Well?" he answered icily.
"I repeat I freely consent to go with you as your fellow-missionary, but not as your wife; I cannot marry you and become part of you."
"A part of me you must become," he answered steadily: "otherwise the whole bargain is void. How can I, a man not yet thirty, take out with me to India a girl of nineteen, unless she be married to me? How can we be for ever together -- sometimes in solitudes, sometimes amidst savage tribes -- and unwed?"
"Very well," I said shortly; "under the circumstances, quite as well as if I were either your real sister, or a man and a clergyman like yourself."
"It is known that you are not my sister; I cannot introduce you as such: to attempt it would be to fasten injurious suspicions on us both. And for the rest,
"It would do," I affirmed with some disdain, "perfectly well. I have a woman's heart, but not where you are concerned; for you I have only a comrade's constancy; a fellow-soldier's frankness, fidelity, fraternity, if you like; a neophyte's respect and submission to his hierophant: nothing more -- don't fear."
"It is what I want," he said, speaking to himself; "it is just what I want. And there are obstacles in the way: they must be hewn down. Jane, you would not repent marrying me; be certain of that; we must be married. I repeat it: there is no other way; and undoubtedly enough of love would follow upon marriage to render the union right even in your eyes."
"I scorn your idea of love," I could not help saying, as I rose up and stood before him, leaning my back against the rock. "I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer: yes, St. John, and I scorn you when you offer it."
He looked at me fixedly, compressing his well-cut lips while he did so. Whether he was incensed or surprised, or what, it was not easy to tell: he could command his countenance thoroughly.
"I scarcely expected to hear that expression from you," he said: "I think I have done and uttered nothing to deserve scorn."
I was touched by his gentle tone, and overawed by his high, calm mien.
"Forgive me the words, St. John; but it is your own fault that I have been roused to speak so unguardedly. You have introduced a topic on which our natures are at variance -- a topic we should never
"No," said he; "it is a long-cherished scheme, and the only one which can secure my great end: but I shall urge you no further at present. To-morrow, I leave home for Cambridge: I have many friends there to whom I should wish to say farewell. I shall be absent a fortnight -- take that space of time to consider my offer: and do not forget that if you reject it, it is not me you deny, but God. Through my means, He opens to you a noble career; as my wife only can you enter upon it. Refuse to be my wife, and you limit yourself for ever to a track of selfish ease and barren obscurity. Tremble lest in that case you should be numbered with those who have denied the faith, and are worse than infidels!"
He had done. Turning from me, he once more --
But this time his feelings were all pent in his heart: I was not worthy to hear them uttered. As I walked by his side homeward, I read well in his iron silence all he felt towards me: the disappointment of an austere and despotic nature, which has met resistance where it expected submission -- the disapprobation of a cool, inflexible judgment, which has detected in another feelings and views in which it has no power to sympathise: in short, as a man, he would have wished to coerce me into obedience: it was only as a sincere Christian he bore so patiently with my perversity, and allowed so long a space for reflection and repentance.
That night, after he had kissed his sisters, he
"I see you and St. John have been quarrelling, Jane," said Diana, "during your walk on the moor. But go after him; he is now lingering in the passage expecting you -- he will make it up."
I have not much pride under such circumstances: I would always rather be happy than dignified; and I ran after him -- he stood at the foot of the stairs.
"Good-night, St. John," said I.
"Good-night, Jane," he replied calmly.
"Then shake hands," I added.
What a cold, loose touch he impressed on my fingers! He was deeply displeased by what had occurred that day; cordiality would not warm, nor tears move him. No happy reconciliation was to be had with him -- no cheering smile or generous word: but still the Christian was patient and placid; and when I asked him if he forgave me, he answered that he was not in the habit of cherishing the remembrance of vexation; that he had nothing to forgive, not having been offended.
And with that answer he left me. I would much rather he had knocked me down.
HE did not leave for Cambridge the next day, as he had said he would. He deferred his departure a whole week, and during that time he made me feel what severe punishment a good yet stern, a conscientious yet implacable man can inflict on one who has offended him. Without one overt act of hostility, one upbraiding word he contrived to impress me momently with the conviction that I was put beyond the pale of his favour.
Not that St. John harboured a spirit of unchristian vindictiveness -- not that he would have injured a hair of my head, if it had been fully in his power to do so. Both by nature and principle, he was superior to the mean gratification of vengeance: he had forgiven me for saying I scorned him and his love, but he had not forgotten the words; and as long as he and I lived he never would forget them. I saw by his look, when he turned to me, that they were always written on the air between me and him; whenever I spoke, they sounded in my voice to his ear, and their echo toned every answer he gave me.
He did not abstain from conversing with me: he even called me as usual each morning to join him at his desk; and I fear the corrupt man within him had a pleasure unimparted to, and unshared by, the pure Christian, in evincing with what skill he could, while acting and speaking apparently just as usual, extract from every deed and every phrase the spirit of interest and approval which had formerly communicated a certain
All this was torture to me -- refined, lingering torture. It kept up a slow fire of indignation and a trembling trouble of grief, which harassed and crushed me altogether. I felt how -- if I were his wife, this good man, pure as the deep sunless source, could soon kill me, without drawing from my veins a single drop of blood, or receiving on his own crystal conscience the faintest stain of crime. Especially I felt this when I made any attempt to propitiate him. No ruth met my ruth. He experienced no suffering from estrangement -- no yearning after reconciliation; and though, more than once, my fast falling tears blistered the page over which we both bent, they produced no more effect on him than if his heart had been really a matter of stone or metal. To his sisters, meantime, he was somewhat kinder than usual: as if afraid that mere coldness would not sufficiently convince me how completely I was banished and banned, he added the force of contrast; and this I am sure he did not by malice, but on principle.
The night before he left home, happening to see him walking in the garden about sunset, and remembering, as I looked at him, that this man, alienated as he now was, had once saved my life, and that we were near relations, I was moved to make a last attempt to regain his friendship. I went out and approached him as he stood leaning over the little gate; I spoke to the point at once.
"St. John, I am unhappy because you are still angry with me. Let us be friends."
"I hope we are friends," was the unmoved reply; while he still watched the rising of the moon, which he had been contemplating as I approached.
"No, St. John, we are not friends as we were. You know that."
"Are we not? That is wrong. For my part, I wish you no ill and all good."
"I believe you, St. John; for I am sure you are incapable of wishing any one ill; but, as I am your kinswoman, I should desire somewhat more of affection than that sort of general philanthropy you extend to mere strangers."
"Of course," he said. "Your wish is reasonable, and I am far from regarding you as a stranger."
This, spoken in a cool, tranquil tone, was mortifying and baffling enough. Had I attended to the suggestions of pride and ire, I should immediately have left him; but something worked within me more strongly than those feelings could. I deeply venerated my cousin's talent and principle. His friendship was of value to me: to lose it tried me severely. I would not so soon relinquish the attempt to reconquer it.
"Must we part in this way, St. John? And when you go to India, will you leave me so, without a kinder word than you have yet spoken?"
He now turned quite from the moon and faced me.
"When I go to India, Jane, will I leave you! What! do you not go to India?"
"You said I could not unless I married you."
"And you will not marry me! You adhere to that resolution?"
Reader, do you know, as I do, what terror those cold people can put into the ice of their questions? How much of the fall of the avalanche is in their anger? of the breaking up of the frozen sea in their displeasure?
"No, St. John, I will not marry you. I adhere to my resolution."
The avalanche had shaken and slid a little forward, but it did not yet crash down.
"Once more, why this refusal?" he asked.
"Formerly," I answered, "because you did not love me; now, I reply, because you almost hate me. If I were to marry you, you would kill me. You are killing me now."
His lips and cheeks turned white -- quite white.
"I should kill you -- I am killing you? Your words are such as ought not to be used: violent, unfeminine, and untrue. They betray an unfortunate state of mind: they merit severe reproof: they would seem inexcusable, but that it is the duty of man to forgive his fellow even until seventy-and-seven times."
I had finished the business now. While earnestly wishing to erase from his mind the trace of my former offence, I had stamped on that tenacious surface another and far deeper impression: I had burnt it in.
"Now you will indeed hate me," I said. "It is useless to attempt to conciliate you: I see I have made an eternal enemy of you."
A fresh wrong did these words inflict: the worse, because they touched on the truth. That bloodless lip quivered to a temporary spasm. I knew the steely ire I had whetted. I was heart-wrung.
"You utterly misinterpret my words," I said, at once seizing his hand: "I have no intention to grieve or pain you -- indeed, I have not."
Most bitterly he smiled -- most decidedly he withdrew his hand from mine. "And now you recall your promise, and will not go to India at all, I presume?" said he, after a considerable pause.
"Yes, I will, as your assistant," I answered.
A very long silence succeeded. What struggle there was in him between Nature and Grace in this interval, I cannot tell: only singular gleams scintillated in his eyes, and strange shadows passed over his face. He spoke at last.
"I before proved to you the absurdity of a single woman of your age proposing to accompany abroad a single man of mine. I proved it to you in such terms as, I should have thought, would have prevented your ever again alluding to the plan. That you have done so, I regret -- for your sake."
I interrupted him. Anything like a tangible reproach gave me courage at once. "Keep to common sense, St. John: you are verging on nonsense. You pretend to be shocked by what I have said. You are not really shocked: for, with your superior mind, you cannot be either so dull or so conceited as to misunderstand my meaning. I say again, I will be your curate, if you like, but never your wife."
Again he turned lividly pale; but, as before, controlled his passion perfectly. He answered emphatically but calmly: --
"A female curate, who is not my wife, would never suit me. With me, then, it seems, you cannot go: but if you are sincere in your offer, I will, while in
Now I never had, as the reader knows, either given any formal promise or entered into any engagement; and this language was all much too hard and much too despotic for the occasion. I replied: --
"There is no dishonour, no breach of promise, no desertion in the case. I am not under the slightest obligation to go to India, especially with strangers. With you I would have ventured much, because I admire, confide in, and, as a sister, I love you; but I am convinced that, go when and with whom I would, I should not live long in that climate."
"Ah! you are afraid of yourself," he said, curling his lip.
"I am. God did not give me my life to throw away; and to do as you wish me would, I begin to think, be almost equivalent to committing suicide. Moreover, before I definitely resolve on quitting England, I will know for certain whether I cannot be of greater use by remaining in it than by leaving it."
"What do you mean?"
"It would be fruitless to attempt to explain; but there is a point on which I have long endured painful doubt, and I can go nowhere till by some means that doubt is removed."
"I know where your heart turns and to what it clings. The interest you cherish is lawless and unconsecrated. Long since you ought to have crushed it:
It was true. I confessed it by silence.
"Are you going to seek Mr. Rochester?"
"I must find out what is become of him."
"It remains for me, then," he said, "to remember you in my prayers, and to entreat God for you, in all earnestness, that you may not indeed become a castaway. I had thought I recognised in you one of the chosen. But God sees not as man sees: His will be done."
He opened the gate, passed through it, and strayed away down the glen. He was soon out of sight.
On re-entering the parlour, I found Diana standing at the window, looking very thoughtful. Diana was a great deal taller than I:. she put her hand on my shoulder, and, stooping, examined my face.
"Jane," she said, "you are always agitated and pale now. I am sure there is something the matter. Tell me what business St. John and you have on hands. I have watched you this half hour from the window; you must forgive my being such a spy, but for a long time I have fancied I hardly know what. St. John is a strange being -- "
She paused -- I did not speak: soon she resumed: --
"That brother of mine cherishes peculiar views of some sort respecting you, I am sure: he has long distinguished you by a notice and interest he never showed to any one else -- to what end? I wish he loved you -- does he, Jane?"
I put her cool hand to my hot forehead; "No, Die, not one whit."
"Then why does he follow you so with his eyes --
"He does -- he has asked me to be his wife."
Diana clapped her hands. "That is just what we hoped and thought! And you will marry him, Jane, won't you? And then he will stay in England."
"Far from that, Diana; his sole idea in proposing to me is to procure a fitting fellow-labourer in his Indian toils."
"What! He wishes you to go to India?"
"Madness!" she exclaimed. "You would not live three months there, I am certain. You never shall go: you have not consented -- have you, Jane?"
"I have refused to marry him -- "
"And have consequently displeased him?" she suggested.
"Deeply: he will never forgive me, I fear: yet I offered to accompany him as his sister."
"It was frantic folly to do so, Jane. Think of the task you undertook -- one of incessant fatigue, where fatigue kills even the strong, and you are weak. St. John -- you know him -- would urge you to impossibilities: with him there would be no permission to rest during the hot hours; and unfortunately, I have noticed, whatever he exacts, you force yourself to perform. I am astonished you found courage to refuse his hand. You do not love him then, Jane?"
"Not as a husband."
"Yet he is a handsome fellow."
"And I am so plain, you see, Die. We should never suit."
"Plain! You? Not at all. You are much too pretty, as well as too good, to be grilled alive in Calcutta." And again she earnestly conjured me to give up all thoughts of going out with her brother.
"I must indeed," I said; "for when just now I repeated the offer of serving him for a deacon, he expressed himself shocked at my want of decency. He seemed to think I had committed an impropriety in proposing to accompany him unmarried: as if I had not from the first hoped to find in him a brother, and habitually regarded him as such."
"What makes you say he does not love you, Jane?"
"You should hear himself on the subject. He has again and again explained that it is not himself, but his office he wishes to mate. He has told me I am formed for labour -- not for love: which is true, no doubt. But, in my opinion, if I am not formed for love, it follows that I am not formed for marriage. Would it not be strange, Die, to be chained for life to a man who regarded one but as a useful tool?"
"Insupportable -- unnatural -- out of the question!"
"And then," I continued, "though I have only sisterly affection for him now, yet, if forced to be his wife, I can imagine the possibility of conceiving an inevitable, strange, torturing kind of love for him, because he is so talented; and there is often a certain heroic grandeur in his look, manner, and conversation. In that case, my lot would become unspeakably wretched. He would not want me to love him; and if I showed the feeling, he would make me sensible that it was a superfluity, unrequired by him, unbecoming in me. I know he would."
"And yet St. John is a good man," said Diana.
"He is a good and a great man; but he forgets, pitilessly, the feelings and claims of little people, in pursuing his own large views. It is better, therefore, for the insignificant to keep out of his way, lest, in his progress, he should trample them down. Here he comes! I will leave you, Diana." And I hastened upstairs as I saw him entering the garden.
But I was forced to meet him again at supper. During that meal he appeared just as composed as usual. I had thought he would hardly speak to me, and I was certain he had given up the pursuit of his matrimonial scheme: the sequel showed I was mistaken on both points. He addressed me precisely in his ordinary manner, or what had, of late, been his ordinary manner; one scrupulously polite. No doubt he had invoked the help of the Holy Spirit to subdue the anger I had roused in him, and now believed he had forgiven me once more.
For the evening reading before prayers, he selected the twenty-first chapter of Revelations. It was at all times pleasant to listen while from his lips fell the words of the Bible: never did his fine voice sound at once so sweet and full -- never did his manner become so impressive in its noble simplicity, as when he delivered the oracles of God: and to-night that voice took a more solemn tone -- that manner a more thrilling meaning -- as he sat in the midst of his household circle (the May moon shining in through the uncurtained window, and rendering almost unnecessary the light of the candle on the table): as he sat there, bending over the great old Bible, and described from its page the vision of the new heaven and the new earth
The succeeding words thrilled me strangely as he spoke them: especially as I felt, by the slight, indescribable alteration in sound, that in uttering them, his eye had turned on me.
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But," was slowly, distinctly read, "the fearful, the unbelieving, etc., shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Henceforward, I knew what fate St. John feared for me.
A calm, subdued triumph, blent with a longing earnestness, marked his enunciation of the last glorious verses of that chapter. The reader believed his name was already written in the Lamb's book of life, and he yearned after the hour which should admit him to the city to which the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour; which has no need of sun or moon to shine in it, because the glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
In the prayer following the chapter, all his energy gathered -- all his stern zeal woke: he was in deep earnest, wrestling with God, and resolved on a conquest. He supplicated strength for the weak-hearted; guidance for wanderers from the fold: a return, even at the eleventh hour, for those whom the temptations of the world and the flesh were luring from the narrow path. He asked, he urged, he claimed the boon of a
The prayer over, we took leave of him: he was to go at a very early hour in the morning. Diana and Mary having kissed him, left the room -- in compliance, I think, with a whispered hint from him: I tendered my hand, and wished him a pleasant journey.
"Thank you, Jane. As I said, I shall return from Cambridge in a fortnight: that space, then, is yet left you for reflection. If I listened to human pride, I should say no more to you of marriage with me; but I listen to my duty, and keep steadily in view my first aim -- to do all things to the glory of God. My Master was long-suffering: so will I be. I cannot give you up to perdition as a vessel of wrath: repent -- resolve; while there is yet time. Remember, we are bid to work while it is day -- warned that "the night cometh when no man shall work." Remember the fate of Dives, who had his good things in this life. God give you strength to choose that better part which shall not be taken from you!"
He laid his hand on my head as he uttered the last words. He had spoken earnestly, mildly: his look was not, indeed, that of a lover beholding his mistress, but it was that of a pastor recalling his wandering sheep -- or better, of a guardian angel watching the soul for which he is responsible. All men of talent, whether they be men of feeling or not; whether they be zealots, or aspirants, or despots -- provided only they be sincere
I stood motionless under my hierophant's touch. My refusals were forgotten -- my fears overcome -- my wrestlings paralysed. The Impossible -- i. e. my marriage with St. John -- was fast becoming the Possible. All was changing utterly with a sudden sweep. Religion called -- Angels beckoned -- God commanded -- life rolled together like a scroll -- death's gates opening, showed eternity beyond: it seemed, that for safety and bliss there, all here might be sacrificed in a second. The dim room was full of visions.
"Could you decide now?" asked the missionary. The inquiry was put in gentle tones: he drew me to him as gently. Oh, that gentleness! how far more potent is it than force! I could resist St. John's wrath: I grew pliant as a reed under his kindness. Yet I knew all the time, if I yielded now, I should not the less be made to repent, some day, of my former rebellion. His nature was not changed by one hour of solemn prayer: it was only elevated.
"I could decide if I were but certain," I answered:
"My prayers are heard!" ejaculated St. John. He pressed his hand firmer on my head, as if he claimed me: he surrounded me with his arm, almost as if he loved me (I say almost -- I knew the difference -- for I had felt what it was to be loved; but, like him, I had now put love out of the question, and thought only of duty). I contended with my inward dimness of vision, before which clouds yet rolled. I sincerely, deeply, fervently longed to do what was right; and only that. "Show me, show me the path!" I entreated of Heaven. I was excited more than I had ever been; and whether what followed was the effect of excitement the reader shall judge.
All the house was still; for I believe all, except St. John and myself, were now retired to rest. The one candle was dying out: the room was full of moonlight. My heart beat fast and thick: I heard its throb. Suddenly it stood still to an inexpressible feeling that thrilled it through, and passed at once to my head and extremities. The feeling was not like an electric shock, but it was quite as sharp, as strange, as startling: it acted on my senses as if their utmost activity hitherto had been but torpor, from which they were now summoned and forced to wake. They rose expectant: eye and ear waited while the flesh quivered on my bones.
"What have you heard? What do you see?" asked St. John. I saw nothing, but I heard a voice somewhere cry --
"Jane! Jane! Jane!" nothing more.
"Oh God! what is it?" I gasped.
I might have said, "Where is it?" for it did not seem in the room -- nor in the house -- nor in the garden; it did not come out of the air -- nor from under the earth -- nor from overhead. I had heard it -- where, or whence, for ever impossible to know! And it was the voice of a human being -- a known, loved, well-remembered voice -- that of Edward Fairfax Rochester; and it spoke in pain and woe, wildly, eerily, urgently.
"I am coming!" I cried. "Wait for me! Oh, I will come!" I flew to the door and looked into the passage: it was dark. I ran out into the garden: it was void.
"Where are you?" I exclaimed.
The hills beyond Marsh-Glen sent the answer faintly back -- "Where are you?" I listened. The wind sighed low in the firs: all was moorland loneliness and midnight hush.
"Down superstition!" I commented, as that spectre rose up black by the black yew at the gate. "This is not thy deception, nor thy witchcraft: it is the work of nature. She was roused, and did -- no miracle -- but her best."
I broke from St. John, who had followed, and would have detained me. It was my time to assume ascendency. My powers were in play and in force. I told him to forbear question or remark; I desired him to leave me: I must and would be alone. He obeyed at once. Where there is energy to command well enough, obedience never fails. I mounted to my chamber; locked myself in; fell on my knees; and prayed in my way -- a different way to St. John's, but effective in its own fashion. I
THE daylight came. I rose at dawn. I busied myself for an hour or two with arranging my things in my chamber, drawers, and wardrobe, in the order wherein I should wish to leave them during a brief absence. Meantime, I heard St. John quit his room. He stopped at my door: I feared he would knock -- no, but a slip of paper was passed under the door. I took it up. It bore these words --
"You left me too suddenly last night. Had you stayed but a little longer, you would have laid your hand on the Christian's cross and the angel's crown. I shall expect your clear decision when I return this day fortnight. Meantime, watch and pray that you enter not into temptation: the spirit, I trust, is willing, but the flesh, I see, is weak. I shall pray for you hourly, -- Yours, St. John."
"My spirit," I answered mentally, "is willing to do what is right; and my flesh, I hope, is strong enough to accomplish the will of Heaven, when once that will is distinctly known to me. At any rate, it shall be strong enough to search -- inquire -- to grope an outlet from this cloud of doubt, and find the open day of certainty."
It was the first of June; yet the morning was overcast and chilly: rain beat fast on my casement. I heard
"In a few more hours I shall succeed you in that track, cousin," thought I: "I too have a coach to meet at Whitcross. I too have some to see and ask after in England, before I depart for ever."
It wanted yet two hours of breakfast-time. I filled the interval in walking softly about my room, and pondering the visitation which had given my plans their present bent. I recalled that inward sensation I had experienced: for I could recall it, with all its unspeakable strangeness. I recalled the voice I had heard; again I questioned whence it came, as vainly as before: it seemed in me -- not in the external world. I asked was it a mere nervous impression -- a delusion? I could not conceive or believe: it was more like an inspiration. The wondrous shock of feeling had come like the earthquake which shook the foundations of Paul and Silas's prison; it had opened the doors of the soul's cell and loosed its bands -- it had wakened it out of its sleep, whence it sprang trembling, listening, aghast; then vibrated thrice a cry on my startled ear, and in my quaking heart and through my spirit, which neither feared nor shook but exulted as if in joy over the success of one effort it had been privileged to make, independent of the cumbrous body.
"Ere many days," I said, as I terminated my musings, "I will know something of him whose voice seemed last night to summon me. Letters have proved of no avail -- personal inquiry shall replace them."
At breakfast I announced to Diana and Mary that I was going a journey, and should be absent at least four days.
"Alone, Jane?" they asked.
"Yes; it was to see or hear news of a friend about whom I had for some time been uneasy."
They might have said, as I have no doubt they thought, that they had believed me to be without any friends save them: for, indeed, I had often said so; but, with their true natural delicacy, they abstained from comment, except that Diana asked me if I was sure I was well enough to travel. I looked very pale, she observed. I replied, that nothing ailed me save anxiety of mind, which I hoped soon to alleviate.
It was easy to make my further arrangements; for I was troubled with no inquiries -- no surmises. Having once explained to them that I could not now be explicit about my plans, they kindly and wisely acquiesced in the silence with which I pursued them, according to me the privilege of free action I should under similar circumstances have accorded them.
I left Moor-House at three o'clock P. M., and soon after four I stood at the foot of the sign-post of Whitcross, waiting the arrival of the coach which was to take me to distant Thornfield. Amidst the silence of those solitary roads and desert hills, I heard it approach from a great distance. It was the same vehicle whence, a year ago, I had alighted one summer evening on this very spot -- how desolate, and hopeless, and objectless! It stopped as I beckoned. I entered -- not now obliged to part with my whole fortune as the price of its accommodation. Once more on the road to Thornfield, I felt like the messenger-pigeon flying home.
It was a journey of six-and-thirty hours. I had set out from Whitcross on a Tuesday afternoon, and early on the succeeding Thursday morning the coach stopped to water the horses at a wayside inn, situated in the midst of scenery whose green hedges and large fields and low pastoral hills (how mild of feature and verdant of hue compared with the stern north-midland moors of Morton!) met my eye like the lineaments of a once familiar face. Yes, I knew the character of this landscape: I was sure we were near my bourne.
"How far is Thornfield-Hall from here?" I asked of the ostler.
"Just two miles, Ma'am, across the fields."
"My journey is closed," I thought to myself. I got out of the coach, gave a box I had into the ostler's charge, to be kept till I called for it; paid my fare; satisfied the coachman, and was going: the brightening day gleamed on the sign of the inn, and I read in gilt letters, "The Rochester Arms." My heart leapt up: I was already on my master's very lands. It fell again: the thought struck it: --
"Your master himself may be beyond the British Channel, for aught you know: and then, if he is at Thornfield-Hall, towards which you hasten, who besides him is there? His lunatic wife: and you have nothing to do with him: you dare not speak to him or seek his presence. You have lost your labour -- you had better go no farther," urged the monitor. "Ask information of the people at the inn; they can give you all you seek: they can solve your doubts at once. Go up to that man, and inquire if Mr. Rochester be at home."
The suggestion was sensible, and yet I could not force self to act on it. I so dreaded a reply that would crush me with despair. To prolong doubt was to prolong hope. I might yet once more see the Hall under the ray of her star. There was the stile before me -- the very fields through which I had hurried, blind, deaf, distracted with a revengeful fury tracking and scourging me, on the morning I fled from Thornfield: ere I well knew what course I had resolved to take, I was in the midst of them. How fast I walked! How I ran sometimes? How I looked forward to catch the first view of the well-known woods! With what feelings I welcomed single trees I knew, and familiar glimpses of meadow and hill between them!
At last the woods rose; the rookery clustered dark; a loud cawing broke the morning stillness. Strange delight inspired me: on I hastened. Another field crossed -- a lane threaded -- and there were the courtyard walls -- the back offices: the house itself, the rookery still hid. "My first view of it shall be in front," I determined, "where its bold battlements will strike the eye nobly at once, and where I can single out my master's very window: perhaps he will be standing at it -- he rises early: perhaps he is now walking in the orchard, or on the pavement in front. Could I but see him! -- but a moment? Surely, in that case, I should not be so mad as to run to him? I cannot tell -- I am not certain. And if I did -- what then? God bless him! What then? Who would be hurt by my once more tasting the life his glance can give me? I rave: perhaps at this moment he is watching the sun rise over the Pyrenees, or on the tideless sea of the south."
I had coasted along the lower wall of the orchard -- turned its angle: there was a gate just there, opening into the meadow, between two stone pillars crowned by stone balls. From behind one pillar I could peep round quietly at the full front of the mansion. I advanced my head with precaution, desirous to ascertain if any bedroom window-blinds were yet drawn up: battlements, windows, long front -- all from this sheltered station were at my command.
The crows sailing overhead perhaps watched me while I took this survey. I wonder what they thought. They must have considered I was very careful and timid at first, and that gradually I grew very bold and reckless. A peep, and then a long stare; and then a departure from my niche and a straying out into the meadow; and a sudden stop full in front of the great mansion, and a protracted, hardy gaze towards it. "What affectation of diffidence was this at first?" they might have demanded; "what stupid regardlessness now?"
Hear an illustration, reader.
A lover finds his mistress asleep on a mossy bank; he wishes to catch a glimpse of her fair face without waking her. He steals softly over the grass, careful to make no sound; he pauses -- fancying she has stirred: he withdraws; not for worlds would he be seen. All is still: he again advances: he bends above her; a light veil rests on her features: he lifts it, bends lower; now his eyes anticipate the vision of beauty -- warm, and blooming, and lovely, in rest. How hurried was their first glance! But how they fix! How he starts! How he suddenly and vehemently clasps in both arms the form he dared not, a moment since,
I looked with timorous joy towards a stately house: I saw a blackened ruin.
No need to cower behind a gate-post, indeed! -- to peep up at chamber lattices, fearing life was astir behind them! No need to listen for doors opening -- to fancy steps on the pavement or the gravel-walk! The lawn, the grounds were trodden and waste: the portal yawned void. The front was, as I had once seen it in a dream, but a shell-like wall, very high and very fragile looking, perforated with paneless windows: no roof, no battlements, no chimneys: all had crashed in.
And there was the silence of death about it: the solitude of a lonesome wild. No wonder that letters addressed to people here had never received an answer: as well despatch epistles to a vault in a church aisle. The grim blackness of the stones told by what fate the Hall had fallen -- by conflagration: but how kindled? What story belonged to this disaster? What loss, besides mortar and marble and woodwork had followed upon it? Had life been wrecked as well as property? If so, whose? Dreadful question: there was no one here to answer it -- not even dumb sign, mute token.
In wandering round the shattered walls and through the devastated interior, I gathered evidence that the calamity was not of late occurrence. Winter snows, I thought, had drifted through that void arch; winter
Some answer must be had to these questions. I could find it nowhere but at the inn, and thither, ere long, I returned. The host himself brought my breakfast into the parlour. I requested him to shut the door and sit down: I had some questions to ask him. But when he complied, I scarcely knew how to begin; such horror had I of the possible answers. And yet the spectacle of desolation I had just left prepared me in a measure for a tale of misery. The host was a respectable-looking, middle-aged man.
"You know Thornfield-Hall, of course?" I managed to say at last.
"Yes, Ma'am; I lived there once."
"Did you?" Not in my time, I thought: you are a stranger to me.
"I was the late Mr. Rochester's butler," he added.
The late! I seem to have received, with full force, the blow I had been trying to evade.
"The late!" I gasped. "Is he dead?"
"I mean the present gentleman, Mr. Edward's father," he explained. I breathed again: my blood resumed its flow. Fully assured by these words that Mr. Edward -- my Mr. Rochester (God bless him, wherever he was!) -- was at least alive: was, in short,
"Is Mr. Rochester living at Thornfield-Hall now?" I asked, knowing, of course, what the answer would be, but yet desirous of deferring the direct question as to where he really was.
"No Ma'am -- oh, no! No one is living there. I suppose you are a stranger in these parts, or you would have heard what happened last autumn, -- Thornfield-Hall is quite a ruin: it was burnt down just about harvest time. A dreadful calamity! such an immense quantity of valuable property destroyed: hardly any of the furniture could be saved. The fire broke out at dead of night, and before the engines arrived from Millcote, the building was one mass of flame. It was a terrible spectacle: I witnessed it myself."
"At dead of night!" I muttered. Yes, that was ever the hour of fatality at Thornfield. "Was it known how it originated?" I demanded.
"They guessed, Ma'am: they guessed. Indeed, I should say it was ascertained beyond a doubt. You are not perhaps aware," he continued, edging his chair a little nearer the table, and speaking low, "that there was a lady, -- a -- a lunatic, kept in the house?"
"I have heard something of it."
"She was kept in very close confinement, Ma'am; people even for some years was not absolutely certain of her existence. No one saw her: they only knew by rumour that such a person was at the Hall; and who or what she was it was difficult to conjecture.
I feared now to hear my own story. I endeavoured to recall him to the main fact.
"And this lady?"
"This lady, Ma'am," he answered, "turned out to be Mr. Rochester's wife! The discovery was brought about in the strangest way. There was a young lady, a governess at the Hall, that Mr. Rochester fell in -- "
"But the fire," I suggested.
"I'm coming to that, Ma'am -- that Mr. Edward fell in love with. The servants say they never saw anybody so much in love as he was: he was after her continually. They used to watch him -- servants will, you know, Ma'am -- and he set store on her past everything: for all, nobody but him thought her so very handsome. She was a little small thing, they say, almost like a child. I never saw her myself; but I've heard Leah, the housemaid, tell of her. Leah liked her well enough. Mr. Rochester was about forty, and this governess not twenty; and you see, when gentlemen of his age fall in love with girls, they are often like as if they were bewitched. Well, he would marry her."
"You shall tell me this part of the story another time," I said; "but now I have a particular reason for wishing to hear all about the fire. Was it suspected that this lunatic, Mrs. Rochester, had any hand in it?"
"You've hit it, Ma'am: it's quite certain that it was her, and nobody but her, that set it going. She had a woman to take care of her called Mrs. Poole -- an
"What! did he not leave England?"
"Leave England? Bless you, no! He would not
"Then Mr. Rochester was at home when the fire broke out?"
"Yes, indeed was he; and he went up to the attics when all was burning above and below, and got the servants out of their beds and helped them down himself, and went back to get his mad wife out of her cell. And then they called out to him that she was on the roof, where she was standing, waving her arms, above the battlements, and shouting out till they could hear her a mile off: I saw her and heard her with my own eyes. She was a big woman, and had long black hair: we could see it streaming against the flames as she stood. I witnessed, and several more witnessed, Mr. Rochester ascend through the skylight on to the roof; we heard him call "Bertha!" We saw him approach her; and then, Ma'am, she yelled and gave a spring, and the next minute she lay smashed on the pavement."
"Dead! Ay, dead as the stones on which her brains and blood were scattered."
"You may well say so, Ma'am: it was frightful!"
"And afterwards?" I urged.
"Well, Ma'am, afterwards the house was burnt to the ground: there are only some bits of walls standing now."
"Were any other lives lost?"
"No -- perhaps it would have been better if there had."
"What do you mean?"
"Poor Mr. Edward!" he ejaculated, "I little thought ever to have seen it? Some say it was a just judgment on him for keeping his first marriage secret, and wanting to take another wife while he had one living: but I pity him, for my part."
"You said he was alive?" I exclaimed.
"Yes, yes: he is alive; but many think he had better be dead."
"Why? How?" My blood was again running cold. "Where is he?" I demanded. "Is he in England?"
"Ay -- ay -- he's in England; he can't get out of England, I fancy -- he's a fixture now."
What agony was this! And the man seemed resolved to protract it.
"He is stone-blind," he said at last. "Yes -- he is stone-blind, is Mr. Edward."
I had dreaded worse. I had dreaded he was mad. I summoned strength to ask what had caused this calamity.
"It was all his own courage, and a body may say, his kindness, in a way, Ma'am: he wouldn't leave the house till every one else was out before him. As he
"Where is he? Where does he now live?"
"At Ferndean, a manor-house on a farm he has, about thirty miles off: quite a desolate spot."
"Who is with him?"
"Old John and his wife: he would have none else. He is quite broken down, they say."
"Have you any sort of conveyance?"
"We have a chaise, Ma'am, a very handsome chaise."
"Let it be got ready instantly; and if your post-boy can drive me to Ferndean before dark this day, I'll pay both you and him twice the hire you usually demand."
THE manor-house of Ferndean was a building of considerable antiquity, moderate size, and no architectural pretensions, deep buried in a wood. I had heard of it before. Mr. Rochester often spoke of it, and sometimes went there. His father had purchased the estate for the sake of the game covers. He would have let the house, but could find no tenant, in consequence
To this house I came just ere dark on an evening marked by the characteristics of sad sky, cold gale, and continued small penetrating rain. The last mile I performed on foot, having dismissed the chaise and driver with the double remuneration I had promised. Even when within a very short distance of the manor-house, you could see nothing of it, so thick and dark grew the timber of the gloomy wood about it. Iron gates between granite pillars showed me where to enter, and passing through them, I found myself at once in the twilight of close-ranked trees. There was a grass-grown track descending the forest aisle between hoar and knotty shafts and under branched arches. I followed it, expecting soon to reach the dwelling; but it stretched on and on, it wound far and farther: no sign of habitation or grounds was visible.
I thought I had taken a wrong direction and lost my way. The darkness of natural as well as of sylvan dusk gathered over me. I looked round in search of another road. There was none: all was interwoven stem, columnar trunk, dense summer foliage -- no opening anywhere.
I proceeded: at last my way opened, the trees thinned a little; presently I beheld a railing, then the house -- scarce, by this dim light, distinguishable from the trees, so dank and green were its decaying walls. Entering a portal, fastened only by a latch, I stood amidst a space of enclosed ground, from which the
"Can there be life here?" I asked.
Yes, life of some kind there was; for I heard a movement -- that narrow front-door was unclosing, and some shape was about to issue from the grange.
It opened slowly: a figure came out into the twilight and stood on the step; a man without a hat: he stretched forth his hand as if to feel whether it rained. Dusk as it was, I had recognised him -- it was my master, Edward Fairfax Rochester, and no other.
I stayed my step, almost my breath, and stood to watch him -- to examine him, myself unseen, and alas! to him invisible. It was a sudden meeting, and one in which rapture was kept well in check by pain. I had no difficulty in restraining my voice from exclamation, my step from hasty advance.
His form was of the same strong and stalwart contour as ever: his port was still erect, his hair was still raven black; nor were his features altered or sunk: not in one year's space, by any sorrow, could his athletic strength be quelled or his vigorous prime blighted. But in his countenance I saw a change: that looked desperate and brooding -- that reminded me of some wronged and fettered wild beast or bird, dangerous to
And, reader, do you think I feared him in his blind ferocity? -- if you do, you little know me. A soft hope blent with my sorrow that soon I should dare to drop a kiss on that brow of rock, and on those lips so sternly sealed beneath it: but not yet. I would not accost him yet.
He descended the one step, and advanced slowly and gropingly towards the grass-plat. Where was his daring stride now? Then he paused, as if he knew not which way to turn. He lifted his hand and opened his eyelids; gazed blank, and with a straining effort, on the sky, and toward the amphitheatre of trees: one saw that all to him was void darkness. He stretched his right hand (the left arm, the mutilated one, he kept hidden in his bosom); he seemed to wish by touch to gain an idea of what lay around him: he met but vacancy still; for the trees were some yards off where he stood. He relinquished the endeavour, folded his arms, and stood quiet and mute in the rain, now falling fast on his uncovered head. At this moment John approached him from some quarter.
"Will you take my arm, Sir?" he said; "there is a heavy shower coming on: had you not better go in?"
"Let me alone," was the answer.
John withdrew without having observed me. Mr. Rochester now tried to walk about: vainly, -- all was too uncertain. He groped his way back to the house, and, re-entering it, closed the door.
I now drew near and knocked: John's wife opened for me. "Mary," I said, "how are you?"
She started as if she had seen a ghost: I calmed her. To her hurried "Is it really you, miss, come at this late hour to this lonely place?" I answered by taking her hand; and then I followed her into the kitchen, where John now sat by a good fire. I explained to them, in a few words, that I had heard all which had happened since I left Thornfield, and that I was come to see Mr. Rochester. I asked John to go down to the turnpike-house, where I had dismissed the chaise, and bring my trunk, which I had left there: and then, while I removed my bonnet and shawl, I questioned Mary as to whether I could be accommodated at the Manor House for the night; and finding that arrangements to that effect, though difficult, would not be impossible, I informed her I should stay. just at this moment the parlour-bell rang.
"When you go in," said I, "tell your master that a person wishes to speak to him, but do not give my name."
"I don't think he will see you," she answered; "he refuses everybody."
When she returned, I inquired what he had said.
"You are to send in your name and your business," she replied. She then proceeded to fill a glass with water, and place it on a tray, together with candles.
"Is that what he rang for?" I asked.
"Yes: he always has candles brought in at dark, though he is blind."
"Give the tray to me; I will carry it in."
I took it from her hand: she pointed me out the parlour door. The tray shook as I held it; the water spilt from the glass; my heart struck my ribs loud and
This parlour looked gloomy: a neglected handful of fire burnt low in the grate; and, leaning over it, with his head supported against the high, old-fashioned mantelpiece, appeared the blind tenant of the room. His old dog, Pilot, lay on one side, removed out of the way, and coiled up as if afraid of being inadvertently trodden upon. Pilot pricked up his ears when I came in: then he jumped up with a yelp and a whine, and bounded towards me: he almost knocked the tray from my hands. I set it on the table; then patted him, and said softly, "Lie down!" Mr. Rochester turned mechanically to see what the commotion was: but as he saw nothing, he returned and sighed.
"Give me the water, Mary," he said.
I approached him with the now only half-filled glass; Pilot followed me, still excited.
"What is the matter?" he inquired.
"Down, Pilot!" I again said. He checked the water on its way to his lips, and seemed to listen: he drank, and put the glass down. "This is you, Mary, is it not?"
"Mary is in the kitchen," I answered.
He put out his hand with a quick gesture, but not seeing where I stood, he did not touch me. "Who is this? Who is this?" he demanded, trying, as it seemed, to see with those sightless eyes -- unavailing and distressing attempt! "Answer me -- speak again!" he ordered, imperiously and aloud.
"Will you have a little more water, Sir? I spilt half of what was in the glass," I said.
"Who is it? What is it? Who speaks?"
"Pilot knows me, and John and Mary know I am here. I came only this evening," I answered.
"Great God! -- what delusion has come over me? What sweet madness has seized me?"
"No delusion -- no madness: your mind, Sir, is too strong for delusion, your health too sound for frenzy."
"And where is the speaker? Is it only a voice? Oh! I cannot see, but I must feel, or my heart will stop and my brain burst. Whatever -- whoever you are -- be perceptible to the touch or I cannot live!"
He groped; I arrested his wandering hand, and prisoned it in both mine.
"Her very fingers!" he cried; "her small, slight fingers! If so there must be more of her."
The muscular hand broke from my custody; my arm was seized, my shoulder -- neck -- waist -- I was entwined and gathered to him.
"Is it Jane? What is it? This is her shape -- this is her size -- "
"And this her voice," I added. "She is all here: her heart, too. God bless you, Sir! I am glad to be so near you again."
"Jane Eyre! -- Jane Eyre," was all he said.
"My dear master," I answered, "I am Jane Eyre: I have found you out -- I am come back to you."
"In truth? -- in the flesh? My living Jane?"
"You touch me, Sir, -- you hold me, and fast enough: I am not cold like a corpse, nor vacant like air, am I?"
"My living darling! These are certainly her limbs, and these her features; but I cannot be so blest, after all my misery. It is a dream; such dreams as I
"Which I never will, Sir, from this day."
"Never will, says the vision? But I always woke and found it an empty mockery; and I was desolate and abandoned -- my life dark, lonely, hopeless -- my soul athirst and forbidden to drink -- my heart famished and never to be fed. Gentle, soft dream, nestling in my arms now, you will fly, too, as your sisters have all fled before you: but kiss me before you go -- embrace me, Jane."
"There, Sir -- and there!"
I pressed my lips to his once brilliant and now rayless eyes -- I swept his hair from his brow, and kissed that too. He suddenly seemed to arouse himself: the conviction of the reality of all this seized him.
"It is you -- is it, Jane? You are come back to me then?"
"And you do not lie dead in some ditch under some stream? And you are not a pining outcast amongst strangers?"
"No, Sir! I am an independent woman now."
"Independent! What do you mean, Jane?"
"My uncle in Madeira is dead, and he left me five thousand pounds."
"Ah! this is practical -- this is real!" he cried: "I should never dream that. Besides, there is that peculiar voice of hers, so animating and piquant, as well as soft: it cheers my withered heart; it puts life into
"Quite rich, Sir. If you won't let me live with you, I can build a house of my own close up to your door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when you want company of an evening."
"But as you are rich, Jane, you have now, no doubt, friends who will look after you, and not suffer you to devote yourself to a blind lameter like me?"
"I told you I am independent, Sir, as well as rich: I am my own mistress."
"And you will stay with me?"
"Certainly -- unless you object. I will be your neighbour, your nurse, your housekeeper. I find you lonely: I will be your companion -- to read to you, to walk with you, to sit with you, to wait on you, to be eyes and hands to you. Cease to look so melancholy, my dear master; you shall not be left desolate, so long as I live."
He replied not: he seemed serious -- abstracted; he sighed; he half-opened his lips as if to speak: he closed them again. I felt a little embarrassed. Perhaps I had too rashly overleaped conventionalities; and he, like St. John, saw impropriety in my inconsiderateness. I had indeed made my proposal from the idea that he wished and would ask me to be his wife: an expectation, not the less certain because unexpressed, had buoyed me up, that he would claim me at once as his own. But no hint to that effect escaping him and his countenance becoming more overcast, I suddenly remembered that I might have been all wrong, and was perhaps playing the fool unwittingly; and I began
"No -- no -- Jane; you must not go. No -- I have touched you, heard you, felt the comfort of your presence -- the sweetness of your consolation: I cannot give up these joys. I have little left in myself -- I must have you. The world may laugh -- may call me absurd, selfish -- but it does not signify. My very soul demands you: it will be satisfied, or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame."
"Well, Sir, I will stay with you: I have said so."
"Yes -- but you understand one thing by staying with me; and I understand another. You, perhaps, could make up your mind to be about my hand and chair -- to wait on me as a kind little nurse (for you have an affectionate heart and a generous spirit, which prompt you to make sacrifices for those you pity), and that ought to suffice for me no doubt. I suppose I should now entertain none but fatherly feelings for you: do you think so? Come -- tell me."
"I will think what you like, Sir: I am content to be only your nurse, if you think it better."
"But you cannot always be my nurse, Janet: you are young -- you must marry one day."
"I don't care about being married."
"You should care, Janet: if I were what I once was, I would try to make you care -- but -- a sightless block!"
He relapsed again into gloom. I, on the contrary, became more cheerful, and took fresh courage: these last words gave me an insight as to where the difficulty lay; and as it was no difficulty with me, I felt
"It is time some one undertook to rehumanise you," said I, parting his thick and long uncut locks; "for I see you are being metamorphosed into a lion, or something of that sort. You have a 'faux air' of Nebuchadnezzar in the fields about you, that is certain: your hair reminds me of eagles' feathers; whether your nails are grown like birds' claws or not, I have not yet noticed."
"On this arm, I have neither hand nor nails," he said, drawing the mutilated limb from his breast, and showing it to me. "It is a mere stump -- a ghastly sight! Don't you think so, Jane?"
"It is a pity to see it; and a pity to see your eyes -- and the scar of fire on your forehead: and the worst of it is, one is in danger of loving you too well for all this; and making too much of you."
"I thought you would be revolted, Jane, when you saw my arm, and my cicatrised visage."
"Did you? Don't tell me so -- lest I should say something disparaging to your judgment. Now, let me leave you an instant, to make a better fire, and have the hearth swept up. Can you tell when there is a good fire?"
"Yes; with the right eye I see a glow -- a ruddy haze."
"And you see the candles?"
"Very dimly -- each is a luminous cloud."
"Can you see me?"
"No, my fairy: but I am only too thankful to hear and feel you."
"When do you take supper?"
"I never take supper."
"But you shall have some to-night. I am hungry: so are you, I daresay, only you forget."
Summoning Mary, I soon had the room in more cheerful order: I prepared him, likewise, a comfortable repast. My spirits were excited, and with pleasure and ease I talked to him during supper, and for a long time after. There was no harassing restraint, no repressing of glee and vivacity with him; for with him I was at perfect ease, because I knew I suited him; all I said or did seemed either to console or revive him. Delightful consciousness! It brought to life and light my whole nature: in his presence I thoroughly lived; and he lived in mine. Blind as he was, smiles played over his face, joy dawned on his forehead: his lineaments softened and warmed.
After supper, he began to ask me many questions, of where I had been, what I had been doing, how I had found him out; but I gave him only very partial replies: it was too late to enter into particulars that night. Besides, I wished to touch no deep-thrilling chord -- to open no fresh well of emotion in his heart: my sole present aim was to cheer him. Cheered, as I have said, he was: and yet but by fits. If a moment's silence broke the conversation, he would turn restless, touch me, then say, "Jane."
"You are altogether a human being, Janet? You are certain of that?"
"I conscientiously believe so, Mr. Rochester."
"Yet how, on this dark and doleful evening, could you so suddenly rise on my lone hearth? I stretched my hand to take a glass of water from a hireling, and it was given me by you: I asked a question, expecting
"Because I had come in, in Mary's stead, with the tray."
"And there is enchantment in the very hour I am now spending with you. Who can tell what a dark, dreary, hopeless life I have dragged on for months past? Doing nothing, expecting nothing; merging night in day; feeling but the sensation of cold when I let the fire go out, of hunger when I forgot to eat: and then a ceaseless sorrow, and, at times, a very delirium of desire to behold my Jane again. Yes: for her restoration I longed, far more than for that of my lost sight. How can it be that Jane is with me, and says she loves me? Will she not depart as suddenly as she came? To-morrow, I fear I shall find her no more."
A commonplace, practical reply, out of the train of his own disturbed ideas, was, I was sure, the best and most reassuring for him in this frame of mind. I passed my finger over his eyebrows, and remarked that they were scorched, and that I would apply something which would make them grow as broad and black as ever.
"Where is the use of doing me good in any way, beneficent spirit, when, at some fatal moment, you will again desert me -- passing like a shadow, whither and how to me unknown, and for me remaining afterwards undiscoverable?"
"Have you a pocket-comb about you, Sir?"
"What for, Jane?"
"Just to comb out this shaggy black mane. I find you rather alarming, when I examine you close
"Am I hideous, Jane?"
"Very, Sir: you always were, you know."
"Humph! The wickedness has not been taken out of you, wherever you have sojourned."
"Yet I have been with good people; far better than you: a hundred times better people; possessed of ideas and views you never entertained in your life: quite more refined and exalted."
"Who the deuce have you been with?"
"If you twist in that way you will make me pull the hair out of your head; and then I think you will cease to entertain doubts of my substantiality."
"Who have you been with, Jane?"
"You shall not get it out of me to-night, Sir; you must wait till to-morrow; to leave my tale half told, will, you know, be a sort of security that I shall appear at your breakfast table to finish it. By-the-bye, I must mind not to rise on your hearth with only a glass of water then: I must bring an egg at the least, to say nothing of fried ham."
"You mocking changeling -- fairy-born and human-bred! You make me feel as I have not felt these twelve months. If Saul could have had you for his David, the evil spirit would have been exorcised without the aid of the harp."
"There, Sir, you are redd up and made decent. Now I'll leave you: I have been travelling these last three days, and I believe I am tired. Good night."
"Just one word, Jane: were there only ladies in the house where you have been?"
I laughed and made my escape, still laughing as I
Very early the next morning I heard him up and astir, wandering from one room to another. As soon as Mary came down I heard the question: "Is Miss Eyre here?" Then: "Which room did you put her into? Was it dry? Is she up? Go and ask if she wants anything; and when she will come down."
I came down as soon as I thought there was a prospect of breakfast. Entering the room very softly, I had a view of him before he discovered my presence. It was mournful, indeed, to witness the subjugation of that vigorous spirit to a corporeal infirmity. He sat in his chair, -- still, but not at rest: expectant evidently; the lines of now habitual sadness marking his strong features. His countenance reminded one of a lamp quenched, waiting to be relit -- and alas! it was not himself that could now kindle the lustre of animated expression: he was dependent on another for that office! I had meant to be gay and careless, but the powerlessness of the strong man touched my heart to the quick: still I accosted him with what vivacity I could: --
"It is a bright, sunny morning, Sir," I said. "The rain is over and gone, and there is a tender shining after it: you shall have a walk soon."
I had wakened the glow: his features beamed.
"Oh, you are indeed there, my skylark! Come to me. You are not gone: not vanished? I heard one of your kind an hour ago, singing high over the wood: but its song had no music for me, any more than the rising sun had rays. All the melody on earth is concentrated in my Jane's tongue to my ear (I am glad it
The water stood in my eyes to hear this avowal of his dependence; just as if a royal eagle, chained to a perch, should be forced to entreat a sparrow to become its purveyor. But I would not be lachrymose: I dashed off the salt drops, and busied myself with preparing breakfast.
Most of the morning was spent in the open air. I led him out of the wet and wild wood into some cheerful fields: I described to him how brilliantly green they were; how the flowers and hedges looked refreshed; how sparklingly blue was the sky. I sought a seat for him in a hidden and lovely spot, a dry stump of a tree; nor did I refuse to let him, when seated, place me on his knee. Why should I, when both he and I were happier near than apart? Pilot lay beside us: all was quiet. He broke out suddenly while clasping me in his arms: --
"Cruel, cruel deserter! Oh, Jane, what did I feel when I discovered you had fled from Thornfield, and when I could nowhere find you; and, after examining your apartment, ascertained that you had taken no money, nor anything which could serve as an equivalent! A pearl necklace I had given you lay untouched in its little casket; your trunks were left corded and locked as they had been prepared for the bridal tour. What could my darling do, I asked, left destitute and penniless? And what did she do? Let me hear now."
Thus urged, I began the narrative of my experience for the last year. I softened considerably what related to the three days of wandering and starvation, because to have told him all would have been to inflict unnecessary
I should not have left him thus, he said, without any means of making my way: I should have told him my intention. I should have confided in him: he would never have forced me to be his mistress. Violent as he had seemed in his despair, he, in truth, loved me far too well and too tenderly to constitute himself my tyrant: he would have given me half his fortune, without demanding so much as a kiss in return, rather than I should have flung myself friendless on the wide world. I had endured, he was certain, more than I had confessed to him.
"Well, whatever my sufferings had been, they were very short," I answered: and then I proceeded to tell him how I had been received at Moor-House; how I had obtained the office of schoolmistress, etc. The accession of fortune, the discovery of my relations, followed in due order. Of course, St. John Rivers' name came in frequently in the progress of my tale. When I had done, that name was immediately taken up.
"This St. John, then, is your cousin?"
"You have spoken of him often: do you like him?"
"He was a very good man, Sir; I could not help liking him."
"A good man. Does that mean a respectable well-conducted man of fifty? Or what does it mean?"
"St. John was only twenty-nine, Sir."
"'Jeune encore,' as the French say. Is he a person of low stature, phlegmatic, and plain? A person whose goodness consists rather in his guiltlessness of vice, than in his prowess in virtue?"
"He is untiringly active. Great and exalted deeds are what he lives to perform."
"But his brain? That is probably rather soft? He means well: but you shrug your shoulders to hear him talk?"
"He talks little, Sir: what he does say is ever to the point. His brain is first-rate, I should think not impressible, but vigorous."
"Is he an able man, then?"
"A thoroughly educated man?"
"St. John is an accomplished and profound scholar."
"His manners, I think, you said are not to your taste? -- priggish and parsonic?"
"I never mentioned his manners; but, unless I had a very bad taste, they must suit it; they are polished, calm, and gentlemanlike."
"His appearance, -- I forget what description you gave of his appearance; -- a sort of raw curate, half strangled with his white neckcloth, and stilted up on his thick-soled highlows, eh?"
"St. John dresses well. He is a handsome man: tall, fair, with blue eyes, and a Grecian profile."
(Aside.) "Damn him!" -- (To me.) "Did you like him, Jane?"
"Yes, Mr. Rochester, I liked him: but you asked me that before."
I perceived, of course, the drift of my interlocutor. Jealousy had got hold of him: she stung him; but the sting was salutary: it gave him respite from the gnawing fang of melancholy. I would not, therefore, immediately charm the snake.
"Perhaps you would rather not sit any longer on my knee, Miss Eyre?" was the next somewhat unexpected observation.
"Why not, Mr. Rochester?"
"The picture you have just drawn is suggestive of a rather too overwhelming contrast. Your words have delineated very prettily a graceful Apollo: he is present to your imagination, -- tall, fair, blue-eyed, and with a Grecian profile. Your eyes dwell on a Vulcan, -- a real blacksmith, brown, broad-shouldered: and blind and lame into the bargain."
"I never thought of it, before; but you certainly are rather like Vulcan, Sir."
"Well, -- you can leave me, Ma'am: but before you go" (and he retained me by a firmer grasp than ever), "you will be pleased just to answer me a question or two." He paused.
"What questions, Mr. Rochester?"
Then followed this cross-examination.
"St. John made you schoolmistress of Morton before he knew you were his cousin?"
"You would often see him? He would visit the school sometimes?"
"He would approve of your plans, Jane? I know they would be clever, for you are a talented creature!"
"He approved of them -- yes."
"He would discover many things in you he could not have expected to find? Some of your accomplishments are not ordinary."
"I don't know about that."
"You had a little cottage near the school, you say: did he ever come there to see you?"
"Now and then."
"Of an evening?"
"Once or twice."
"How long did you reside with him and his sisters after the cousinship was discovered?"
"Did Rivers spend much time with the ladies of his family?"
"Yes; the back parlour was both his study and ours: he sat near the window, and we by the table."
"Did he study much?"
"A good deal."
"And what did you do meantime?"
"I learnt German, at first."
"Did he teach you?"
"He did not understand German."
"Did he teach you nothing?"
"A little Hindostanee."
"Rivers taught you Hindostanee?"
"And his sisters also?"
"Did you ask to learn?"
"He wished to teach you?"
A second pause.
"Why did he wish it? Of what use could Hindostanee be to you?"
"He intended me to go with him to India."
"Ah! here I reach the root of the matter. He wanted you to marry him?"
"He asked me to marry him."
"That is a fiction -- an impudent invention to vex me."
"I beg your pardon, it is the literal truth: he asked me more than once, and was as stiff about urging his point as ever you could be."
"Miss Eyre, I repeat it, you can leave me. How often am I to say the same thing? Why do you remain pertinaciously perched on my knee, when I have given you notice to quit?"
"Because I am comfortable there."
"No, Jane, you are not comfortable there, because your heart is not with me: it is with this cousin -- this St. John. Oh, till this moment, I thought my little Jane was all mine! I had a belief she loved me even when she left me: that was an atom of sweet in much bitter. Long as we have been parted, hot tears as I have wept over our separation, I never thought that while I was mourning her, she was loving another! But it is useless grieving. Jane, leave me: go and marry Rivers."
"Shake me off, then, Sir, -- push me away, for I'll not leave you of my own accord."
"Jane, I ever like your tone of voice: it still renews hope, it sounds so truthful. When I hear it, it carries me back a year. I forget that you have formed a new tie. But I am not a fool -- go -- "
"Where must I go, Sir?"
"Your own way -- with the husband you have chosen."
"Who is that?"
"You know -- this St. John Rivers."
"He is not my husband, nor ever will be. He does not love me: I do not love him. He loves (as he can love, and that is not as you love) a beautiful young lady called Rosamond. He wanted to marry me only because he thought I should make a suitable missionary's wife, which she would not have done. He is good and great, but severe; and, for me, cold as an iceberg. He is not like you, Sir: I am not happy at his side, nor near him, nor with him. He has no indulgence for me -- no fondness. He sees nothing attractive in me; not even youth -- only a few useful mental points. -- Then I must leave you, Sir, to go to him?"
I shuddered involuntarily, and clung instinctively closer to my blind but beloved master. He smiled.
"What, Jane! Is this true? Is such really the state of matters between you and Rivers?"
"Absolutely, Sir! Oh, you need not be jealous! I wanted to tease you a little to make you less sad: I thought anger would be better than grief. But if you wish me to love you, could you but see how much I do love you, you would be proud and content. All my heart is yours, Sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence for ever."
Again, as he kissed me, painful thoughts darkened his aspect.
"My seared vision! My crippled strength!" he murmured regretfully.
I caressed, in order to soothe him. I knew of what he was thinking, and wanted to speak for him, but dared not. As he turned aside his face a minute, I saw a tear slide from under the sealed eyelid, and trickle down the manly cheek. My heart swelled.
"I am no better than the old lightning-struck chestnut-tree in Thornfield orchard," he remarked ere long. "And what right would that ruin have to bid a budding woodbine cover its decay with freshness?"
"You are no ruin, Sir -- no lightning-struck tree: you are green and vigorous. Plants will grow about your roots, whether you ask them or not, because they take delight in your bountiful shadow; and as they grow they will lean towards you, and wind round you, because your strength offers them so safe a prop."
Again he smiled: I gave him comfort.
"You speak of friends, Jane?" he asked.
"Yes, of friends," I answered rather hesitatingly: for I knew I meant more than friends, but could not tell what other word to employ. He helped me.
"Ah! Jane. But I want a wife."
"Do you, Sir?"
"Yes: is it news to you?"
"Of course: you said nothing about it before."
"Is it unwelcome news?"
"That depends on circumstances, Sir -- on your choice."
"Which you shall make for me, Jane. I will abide by your decision."
"Choose then, Sir -- her who loves you best."
"I will at least choose -- her I love best. Jane, will you marry me?"
"A poor blind man, whom you will have to lead about by the hand?"
"A crippled man, twenty years older than you, whom you will have to wait on?"
"Most truly, Sir."
"Oh! my darling! God bless you and reward you!"
"Mr. Rochester, if ever I did a good deed in my life -- if ever I thought a good thought -- if ever I prayed a sincere and blameless prayer -- if ever I wished a righteous wish, -- I am rewarded now. To be your wife is, for me, to be as happy as I can be on earth."
"Because you delight in sacrifice."
"Sacrifice! What do I sacrifice? Famine for food, expectation for content. To be privileged to put my arms round what I value -- to press my lips to what I love -- to repose on what I trust: is that to make a sacrifice? If so, then certainly I delight in sacrifice."
"And to bear with my infirmities, Jane: to overlook my deficiencies."
"Which are none, Sir, to me. I love you better now, when I can really be useful to you, than I did in your state of proud independence, when you disdained every part but that of the giver and protector."
"Hitherto I have hated to be helped -- to be led: henceforth, I feel I shall hate it no more. I did not like to put my hand into a hireling's, but it is pleasant to feel it circled by Jane's little fingers. I preferred utter loneliness to the constant attendance of servants;
"To the finest fibre of my nature, Sir."
"The case being so, we have nothing in the world to wait for: we must be married instantly."
He looked and spoke with eagerness: his old impetuosity was rising.
"We must become one flesh without any delay, Jane: there is but the licence to get -- then we marry."
"Mr. Rochester, I have just discovered the sun is far declined from its meridian, and Pilot is actually gone home to his dinner. Let me look at your watch."
"Fasten it into your girdle, Janet, and keep it henceforward: I have no use for it."
"It is nearly four o'clock in the afternoon, Sir. Don't you feel hungry?"
"The third day from this must be our wedding-day, Jane. Never mind fine clothes and jewels, now: all that is not worth a fillip."
"The sun has dried up all the rain-drops, Sir. The breeze is still: it is quite hot."
"Do you know, Jane, I have your little pearl necklace at this moment fastened round my bronze scrag under my cravat? I have worn it since the day I lost my only treasure, as a memento of her."
"We will go home through the wood: that will be the shadiest way."
He pursued his own thoughts without heeding me.
"Jane! you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog: but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now. He sees not as man sees, but far clearer: judges not as man judges, but far more wisely. I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent
"Some days since: nay, I can number them -- four; it was last Monday night, a singular mood came over me: one in which grief replaced frenzy -- sorrow, sullenness. I had long had the impression that since I could nowhere find you, you must be dead. Late that night -- perhaps it might be between eleven and twelve o'clock -- ere I retired to my dreary rest, I supplicated God, that, if it seemed good to Him, I might soon be taken from this life, and admitted to that world to come, where there was still hope of rejoining Jane.
"I was in my own room, and sitting by the window, which was open: it soothed me to feel the balmy night-air; though I could see no stars, and only by a vague, luminous haze, knew the presence of a moon. I longed for thee, Janet! Oh, I longed for thee both with soul and flesh! I asked of God, at once in anguish and humility, if I had not been long enough desolate, afflicted, tormented; and might not soon taste bliss and
"Did you speak these words aloud?"
"I did, Jane. If any listener had heard me, he would have thought me mad: I pronounced them with such frantic energy."
"And it was last Monday night, somewhere near midnight?"
"Yes; but the time is of no consequence: what followed is the strange point. You will think me superstitious -- some superstition I have in my blood, and always had: nevertheless, this is true -- true at least it is that I heard what I now relate.
"As I exclaimed "Jane! Jane! Jane!" a voice -- I cannot tell whence the voice came, but I know whose voice it was -- replied, "I am coming: wait for me;" and a moment after, went whispering on the wind the words -- "Where are you?"
"I'll tell you, if I can, the idea, the picture these words opened to my mind: yet it is difficult to express what I want to express. Ferndean is buried, as you see, in a heavy wood, where sound falls dull, and dies unreverberating. "Where are you?" seemed spoken amongst mountains; for I heard a hill-sent echo repeat the words. Cooler and fresher at the moment the gale seemed to visit my brow: I could have deemed that in some wild, lone scene, I and Jane were meeting. In spirit, I believe we must have met. You no doubt were, at that hour, in unconscious sleep, Jane: perhaps your soul wandered from its cell to comfort mine;
Reader, it was on Monday night -- near midnight -- that I too had received the mysterious summons: those were the very words by which I replied to it. I listened to Mr. Rochester's narrative, but made no disclosure in return. The coincidence struck me as too awful and inexplicable to be communicated or discussed. If I told anything, my tale would be such as must necessarily make a profound impression on the mind of my hearer: and that mind, yet from its sufferings too prone to gloom, needed not the deeper shade of the supernatural. I kept these things then, and pondered them in my heart.
"You cannot now wonder," continued my master, "that when you rose upon me so unexpectedly last night, I had difficulty in believing you any other than a mere voice and vision, something that would melt to silence and annihilation, as the midnight whisper and mountain echo had melted before. Now, I thank God! I know it to be otherwise. Yes, I thank God!"
He put me off his knee, rose, and reverently lifting his hat from his brow, and bending his sightless eyes to the earth, he stood in mute devotion. Only the last words of the worship were audible.
"I thank my Maker, that, in the midst of judgment, he has remembered mercy. I humbly entreat my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto!"
Then he stretched his hand out to be led. I took that dear hand, held it a moment to my lips, then let it pass round my shoulder: being so much
READER, I married him. A quiet wedding we had: he and I, the parson and clerk, were alone present. When we got back from church, I went into the kitchen of the manor-house, where Mary was cooking the dinner and John cleaning the knives, and I said: --
"Mary, I have been married to Mr. Rochester this morning." The housekeeper and her husband were both of that decent phlegmatic order of people, to whom one may at any time safely communicate a remarkable piece of news without incurring the danger of having one's ears pierced by some shrill ejaculation, and subsequently stunned by a torrent of wordy wonderment. Mary did look up, and she did stare at me: the ladle with which she was basting a pair of chickens roasting at the fire, did for some three minutes hang suspended in air; and for the same space of time John's knives also had rest from the polishing process: but Mary, bending again over the roast, said only --
"Have you, Miss? Well, for sure!"
A short time after she pursued: "I seed you go out with the master, but I didn't know you were gone to church to be wed;" and she basted away. John, when I turned to him, was grinning from ear to ear.
"I telled Mary how it would be," he said: "I knew what Mr. Edward" (John was an old servant, and had known his master when he was the cadet of the house, therefore, he often gave him his christian name) -- "I knew what Mr. Edward would do; and I was certain he would not wait long neither: and he's done right, for aught I know. I wish you joy, Miss!" and he politely pulled his forelock.
"Thank you, John. Mr. Rochester told me to give you and Mary this." I put into his hand a five-pound note. Without waiting to hear more, I left the kitchen. In passing the door of that sanctum some time after, I caught the words, --
"She'll happen do better for him nor ony o' t' grand ladies." And again, "If she ben't one o' th' handsomest, she's noan faal and varry good-natured; and i' his een she's fair beautiful, onybody may see that."
I wrote to Moor-House and to Cambridge immediately, to say what I had done: fully explaining also why I had thus acted. Diana and Mary approved the step unreservedly. Diana announced that she would just give me time to get over the honeymoon, and then she would come and see me.
"She had better not wait till then, Jane," said Mr. Rochester, when I read her letter to him; "if she does, she will be too late, for our honeymoon will shine our life long: its beams will only fade over your grave or mine."
How St. John received the news, I don't know: he never answered the letter in which I communicated it: yet six months after he wrote to me, without, however, mentioning Mr. Rochester's name or alluding to
You have not quite forgotten little Adèle, have you, reader? I had not; I soon asked and obtained leave of Mr. Rochester, to go and see her at the school where he had placed her. Her frantic joy at beholding me again moved me much. She looked pale and thin: she said she was not happy. I found the rules of the establishment were too strict, its course of study too severe for a child of her age: I took her home with me. I meant to become her governess once more, but I soon found this impracticable; my time and cares were now required by another -- my husband needed them all. So I sought out a school conducted on a more indulgent system, and near enough to permit of my visiting her often, and bringing her home sometimes. I took care she should never want for anything that could contribute to her comfort: she soon settled in her new abode, became very happy there, and made fair progress in her studies. As she grew up, a sound English education corrected in a great measure her French defects; and when she left school, I found in her a pleasing and obliging companion: docile, good-tempered, and well-principled. By her grateful attention to me and mine, she has long since well repaid any little kindness I ever had it in my power to offer her.
My tale draws to its close: one word respecting my experience of married life, and one brief glance at
I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest -- blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do of the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together. To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but a more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character -- perfect concord is the result.
Mr. Rochester continued blind the first two years of our union: perhaps it was that circumstance that drew us so very near -- that knit us so very close: for I was then his vision, as I am still his right hand. Literally, I was (what he often called me) the apple of his eye. He saw nature -- he saw books through me; and never did I weary of gazing for his behalf, and of putting into words the effect of field, tree, town, river, cloud, sunbeam -- of the landscape before us; of the weather round us -- and impressing by sound on his ear what light could no longer stamp on his eye. Never did I weary of reading to him; never did I weary of conducting him where he wished to go: of doing for him what he wished to be done. And there was a
One morning at the end of the two years, as I was writing a letter to his dictation, he came and bent over me, and said --
"Jane, have you a glittering ornament round your neck?"
I had a gold watch-chain: I answered "Yes."
"And have you a pale blue dress on?"
I had. He informed me then, that for some time he had fancied the obscurity clouding one eye was becoming less dense; and that now he was sure of it.
He and I went up to London. He had the advice of an eminent oculist; and he eventually recovered the sight of that one eye. He cannot now see very distinctly: he cannot read or write much; but he can find his way without being led by the hand: the sky is no longer a blank to him -- the earth no longer a void. When his first-born was put into his arms, he could see that the boy had inherited his own eyes, as they once were -- large, brilliant, and black. On that occasion, he again, with a full heart, acknowledged that God had tempered judgment with mercy.
My Edward and I, then, are happy: and the more so, because those we most love are happy likewise. Diana and Mary Rivers are both married: alternately, once every year, they come to see us, and we go to
As to St. John Rivers, he left England: he went to India. He entered on the path he had marked for himself; he pursues it still. A more resolute, indefatigable pioneer never wrought amidst rocks and dangers. Firm, faithful, and devoted, full of energy, and zeal, and truth, he labours for his race; he clears their painful way to improvement; he hews down like a giant the prejudices of creed and caste that encumber it. He may be stern; he may be exacting; he may be ambitious yet; but his is the sternness of the warrior Greatheart, who guards his pilgrim convoy from the onslaught of Apollyon. His is the exaction of the apostle, who speaks but for Christ, when he says -- "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." His is the ambition of the high master-spirit, which aims to fill a place in the first rank of those who are redeemed from the earth -- who stand without fault before the throne of God, who share the last mighty victories of the Lamb, who are called, and chosen, and faithful.
St. John is unmarried: he never will marry now. Himself has hitherto sufficed to the toil, and the toil draws near its close: his glorious sun hastens to its setting. The last letter I received from him drew from my eyes human tears, and yet filled my heart with divine joy: he anticipated his sure reward, his incorruptible crown. I know that a stranger's hand will
"My Master," he says, "has forewarned me. Daily He announces more distinctly, -- 'Surely I come quickly!' and hourly I more eagerly respond, -- 'Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!'"
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