Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Bronte

 

PREFACE

A preface to the first edition of "Jane Eyre" being unnecessary,

I gave none: this second edition demands a few words both of

acknowledgment and miscellaneous remark.

My thanks are due in three quarters.

To the Public, for the indulgent ear it has inclined to a plain tale

with few pretensions.

To the Press, for the fair field its honest suffrage has opened to

an obscure aspirant.

To my Publishers, for the aid their tact, their energy, their

practical sense and frank liberality have afforded an unknown and

unrecommended Author.

The Press and the Public are but vague personifications for me, and

I must thank them in vague terms; but my Publishers are definite:

so are certain generous critics who have encouraged me as only

large-hearted and high-minded men know how to encourage a struggling

stranger; to them, i.e., to my Publishers and the select Reviewers,

I say cordially, Gentlemen, I thank you from my heart.

Having thus acknowledged what I owe those who have aided and

approved me, I turn to another class; a small one, so far as I know,

but not, therefore, to be overlooked. I mean the timorous or

carping few who doubt the tendency of such books as "Jane Eyre:" in

whose eyes whatever is unusual is wrong; whose ears detect in each

protest against bigotry--that parent of crime--an insult to piety,

that regent of God on earth. I would suggest to such doubters

certain obvious distinctions; I would remind them of certain simple

truths.

Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not

religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck

the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious

hand to the Crown of Thorns.

These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as

distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they

should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for

truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a

few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of

Christ. There is--I repeat it--a difference; and it is a good, and

not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation

between them.

The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has

been accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make

external show pass for sterling worth--to let white-washed walls

vouch for clean shrines. It may hate him who dares to scrutinise

and expose--to rase the gilding, and show base metal under it--to

penetrate the sepulchre, and reveal charnel relics: but hate as it

will, it is indebted to him.

Ahab did not like Micaiah, because he never prophesied good

concerning him, but evil; probably he liked the sycophant son of

Chenaannah better; yet might Ahab have escaped a bloody death, had

he but stopped his ears to flattery, and opened them to faithful

counsel.

There is a man in our own days whose words are not framed to tickle

delicate ears: who, to my thinking, comes before the great ones of

society, much as the son of Imlah came before the throned Kings of

Judah and Israel; and who speaks truth as deep, with a power as

prophet-like and as vital--a mien as dauntless and as daring. Is

the satirist of "Vanity Fair" admired in high places? I cannot

tell; but I think if some of those amongst whom he hurls the Greek

fire of his sarcasm, and over whom he flashes the levin-brand of his

denunciation, were to take his warnings in time--they or their seed

might yet escape a fatal Rimoth-Gilead.

Why have I alluded to this man? I have alluded to him, Reader,

because I think I see in him an intellect profounder and more unique

than his contemporaries have yet recognised; because I regard him as

the first social regenerator of the day--as the very master of that

working corps who would restore to rectitude the warped system of

things; because I think no commentator on his writings has yet found

the comparison that suits him, the terms which rightly characterise

his talent. They say he is like Fielding: they talk of his wit,

humour, comic powers. He resembles Fielding as an eagle does a

vulture: Fielding could stoop on carrion, but Thackeray never does.

His wit is bright, his humour attractive, but both bear the same

relation to his serious genius that the mere lambent sheet-lightning

playing under the edge of the summer-cloud does to the electric

death-spark hid in its womb. Finally, I have alluded to Mr.

Thackeray, because to him--if he will accept the tribute of a total

stranger--I have dedicated this second edition of "JANE EYRE."

CURRER BELL.

December 21st, 1847.

 

 

NOTE TO THE THIRD EDITION

I avail myself of the opportunity which a third edition of "Jane

Eyre" affords me, of again addressing a word to the Public, to

explain that my claim to the title of novelist rests on this one

work alone. If, therefore, the authorship of other works of fiction

has been attributed to me, an honour is awarded where it is not

merited; and consequently, denied where it is justly due.

This explanation will serve to rectify mistakes which may already

have been made, and to prevent future errors.

CURRER BELL.

April 13th, 1848.

 

 

CHAPTER I

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been

wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning;

but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early)

the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a

rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of

the question.

I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly

afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight,

with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings

of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my

physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.

The said Eliza, John, and Georgiana were now clustered round their

mama in the drawing-room: she lay reclined on a sofa by the

fireside, and with her darlings about her (for the time neither

quarrelling nor crying) looked perfectly happy. Me, she had

dispensed from joining the group; saying, "She regretted to be under

the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard

from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation, that I was

endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and

childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner--

something lighter, franker, more natural, as it were--she really

must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy,

little children."

"What does Bessie say I have done?" I asked.

"Jane, I don't like cavillers or questioners; besides, there is

something truly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that

manner. Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly,

remain silent."

A breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room, I slipped in there. It

contained a bookcase: I soon possessed myself of a volume, taking

care that it should be one stored with pictures. I mounted into the

window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk;

and, having drawn the red moreen curtain nearly close, I was shrined

in double retirement.

Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the

left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating

me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over

the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter

afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near a

scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping

away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.

I returned to my book--Bewick's History of British Birds: the

letterpress thereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet

there were certain introductory pages that, child as I was, I could

not pass quite as a blank. They were those which treat of the

haunts of sea-fowl; of "the solitary rocks and promontories" by them

only inhabited; of the coast of Norway, studded with isles from its

southern extremity, the Lindeness, or Naze, to the North Cape -

 

"Where the Northern Ocean, in vast whirls,

Boils round the naked, melancholy isles

Of farthest Thule; and the Atlantic surge

Pours in among the stormy Hebrides."

 

Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of

Lapland, Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with

"the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn regions of

dreary space,--that reservoir of frost and snow, where firm fields

of ice, the accumulation of centuries of winters, glazed in Alpine

heights above heights, surround the pole, and concentre the

multiplied rigours of extreme cold." Of these death-white realms I

formed an idea of my own: shadowy, like all the half-comprehended

notions that float dim through children's brains, but strangely

impressive. The words in these introductory pages connected

themselves with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significance to

the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to the

broken boat stranded on a desolate coast; to the cold and ghastly

moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking.

I cannot tell what sentiment haunted the quite solitary churchyard,

with its inscribed headstone; its gate, its two trees, its low

horizon, girdled by a broken wall, and its newly-risen crescent,

attesting the hour of eventide.

The two ships becalmed on a torpid sea, I believed to be marine

phantoms.

The fiend pinning down the thief's pack behind him, I passed over

quickly: it was an object of terror.

So was the black horned thing seated aloof on a rock, surveying a

distant crowd surrounding a gallows.

Each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped

understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly

interesting: as interesting as the tales Bessie sometimes narrated

on winter evenings, when she chanced to be in good humour; and when,

having brought her ironing-table to the nursery hearth, she allowed

us to sit about it, and while she got up Mrs. Reed's lace frills,

and crimped her nightcap borders, fed our eager attention with

passages of love and adventure taken from old fairy tales and other

ballads; or (as at a later period I discovered) from the pages of

Pamela, and Henry, Earl of Moreland.

With Bewick on my knee, I was then happy: happy at least in my way.

I feared nothing but interruption, and that came too soon. The

breakfast-room door opened.

"Boh! Madam Mope!" cried the voice of John Reed; then he paused:

he found the room apparently empty.

"Where the dickens is she!" he continued. "Lizzy! Georgy! (calling

to his sisters) Joan is not here: tell mama she is run out into the

rain--bad animal!"

"It is well I drew the curtain," thought I; and I wished fervently

he might not discover my hiding-place: nor would John Reed have

found it out himself; he was not quick either of vision or

conception; but Eliza just put her head in at the door, and said at

once -

"She is in the window-seat, to be sure, Jack."

And I came out immediately, for I trembled at the idea of being

dragged forth by the said Jack.

"What do you want?" I asked, with awkward diffidence.

"Say, 'What do you want, Master Reed?'" was the answer. "I want you

to come here;" and seating himself in an arm-chair, he intimated by

a gesture that I was to approach and stand before him.

John Reed was a schoolboy of fourteen years old; four years older

than I, for I was but ten: large and stout for his age, with a

dingy and unwholesome skin; thick lineaments in a spacious visage,

heavy limbs and large extremities. He gorged himself habitually at

table, which made him bilious, and gave him a dim and bleared eye

and flabby cheeks. He ought now to have been at school; but his

mama had taken him home for a month or two, "on account of his

delicate health." Mr. Miles, the master, affirmed that he would do

very well if he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent him from home;

but the mother's heart turned from an opinion so harsh, and inclined

rather to the more refined idea that John's sallowness was owing to

over-application and, perhaps, to pining after home.

John had not much affection for his mother and sisters, and an

antipathy to me. He bullied and punished me; not two or three times

in the week, nor once or twice in the day, but continually: every

nerve I had feared him, and every morsel of flesh in my bones shrank

when he came near. There were moments when I was bewildered by the

terror he inspired, because I had no appeal whatever against either

his menaces or his inflictions; the servants did not like to offend

their young master by taking my part against him, and Mrs. Reed was

blind and deaf on the subject: she never saw him strike or heard

him abuse me, though he did both now and then in her very presence,

more frequently, however, behind her back.

Habitually obedient to John, I came up to his chair: he spent some

three minutes in thrusting out his tongue at me as far as he could

without damaging the roots: I knew he would soon strike, and while

dreading the blow, I mused on the disgusting and ugly appearance of

him who would presently deal it. I wonder if he read that notion in

my face; for, all at once, without speaking, he struck suddenly and

strongly. I tottered, and on regaining my equilibrium retired back

a step or two from his chair.

"That is for your impudence in answering mama awhile since," said

he, "and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for

the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!"

Accustomed to John Reed's abuse, I never had an idea of replying to

it; my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow

the insult.

"What were you doing behind the curtain?" he asked.

"I was reading."

"Show the book."

I returned to the window and fetched it thence.

"You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mama

says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to

beg, and not to live here with gentlemen's children like us, and eat

the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama's expense. Now,

I'll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they ARE mine; all

the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by

the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows."

I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw

him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I

instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enough,

however; the volume was flung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my

head against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was

sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.

"Wicked and cruel boy!" I said. "You are like a murderer--you are

like a slave-driver--you are like the Roman emperors!"

I had read Goldsmith's History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of

Nero, Caligula, &c. Also I had drawn parallels in silence, which I

never thought thus to have declared aloud.

"What! what!" he cried. "Did she say that to me? Did you hear her,

Eliza and Georgiana? Won't I tell mama? but first--"

He ran headlong at me: I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder:

he had closed with a desperate thing. I really saw in him a tyrant,

a murderer. I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down

my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: these

sensations for the time predominated over fear, and I received him

in frantic sort. I don't very well know what I did with my hands,

but he called me "Rat! Rat!" and bellowed out aloud. Aid was near

him: Eliza and Georgiana had run for Mrs. Reed, who was gone

upstairs: she now came upon the scene, followed by Bessie and her

maid Abbot. We were parted: I heard the words -

"Dear! dear! What a fury to fly at Master John!"

"Did ever anybody see such a picture of passion!"

Then Mrs. Reed subjoined -

"Take her away to the red-room, and lock her in there." Four hands

were immediately laid upon me, and I was borne upstairs.

 

 

CHAPTER II

I resisted all the way: a new thing for me, and a circumstance

which greatly strengthened the bad opinion Bessie and Miss Abbot

were disposed to entertain of me. The fact is, I was a trifle

beside myself; or rather OUT of myself, as the French would say: I

was conscious that a moment's mutiny had already rendered me liable

to strange penalties, and, like any other rebel slave, I felt

resolved, in my desperation, to go all lengths.

"Hold her arms, Miss Abbot: she's like a mad cat."

"For shame! for shame!" cried the lady's-maid. "What shocking

conduct, Miss Eyre, to strike a young gentleman, your benefactress's

son! Your young master."

"Master! How is he my master? Am I a servant?"

"No; you are less than a servant, for you do nothing for your keep.

There, sit down, and think over your wickedness."

They had got me by this time into the apartment indicated by Mrs.

Reed, and had thrust me upon a stool: my impulse was to rise from

it like a spring; their two pair of hands arrested me instantly.

"If you don't sit still, you must be tied down," said Bessie. "Miss

Abbot, lend me your garters; she would break mine directly."

Miss Abbot turned to divest a stout leg of the necessary ligature.

This preparation for bonds, and the additional ignominy it inferred,

took a little of the excitement out of me.

"Don't take them off," I cried; "I will not stir."

In guarantee whereof, I attached myself to my seat by my hands.

"Mind you don't," said Bessie; and when she had ascertained that I

was really subsiding, she loosened her hold of me; then she and Miss

Abbot stood with folded arms, looking darkly and doubtfully on my

face, as incredulous of my sanity.

"She never did so before," at last said Bessie, turning to the

Abigail.

"But it was always in her," was the reply. "I've told Missis often

my opinion about the child, and Missis agreed with me. She's an

underhand little thing: I never saw a girl of her age with so much

cover."

Bessie answered not; but ere long, addressing me, she said--"You

ought to be aware, Miss, that you are under obligations to Mrs.

Reed: she keeps you: if she were to turn you off, you would have

to go to the poorhouse."

I had nothing to say to these words: they were not new to me: my

very first recollections of existence included hints of the same

kind. This reproach of my dependence had become a vague sing-song

in my ear: very painful and crushing, but only half intelligible.

Miss Abbot joined in -

"And you ought not to think yourself on an equality with the Misses

Reed and Master Reed, because Missis kindly allows you to be brought

up with them. They will have a great deal of money, and you will

have none: it is your place to be humble, and to try to make

yourself agreeable to them."

"What we tell you is for your good," added Bessie, in no harsh

voice, "you should try to be useful and pleasant, then, perhaps, you

would have a home here; but if you become passionate and rude,

Missis will send you away, I am sure."

"Besides," said Miss Abbot, "God will punish her: He might strike

her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go?

Come, Bessie, we will leave her: I wouldn't have her heart for

anything. Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, when you are by yourself;

for if you don't repent, something bad might be permitted to come

down the chimney and fetch you away."

They went, shutting the door, and locking it behind them.

The red-room was a square chamber, very seldom slept in, I might say

never, indeed, unless when a chance influx of visitors at Gateshead

Hall rendered it necessary to turn to account all the accommodation

it contained: yet it was one of the largest and stateliest chambers

in the mansion. A bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany,

hung with curtains of deep red damask, stood out like a tabernacle

in the centre; the two large windows, with their blinds always drawn

down, were half shrouded in festoons and falls of similar drapery;

the carpet was red; the table at the foot of the bed was covered

with a crimson cloth; the walls were a soft fawn colour with a blush

of pink in it; the wardrobe, the toilet-table, the chairs were of

darkly polished old mahogany. Out of these deep surrounding shades

rose high, and glared white, the piled-up mattresses and pillows of

the bed, spread with a snowy Marseilles counterpane. Scarcely less

prominent was an ample cushioned easy-chair near the head of the

bed, also white, with a footstool before it; and looking, as I

thought, like a pale throne.

This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent,

because remote from the nursery and kitchen; solemn, because it was

known to be so seldom entered. The house-maid alone came here on

Saturdays, to wipe from the mirrors and the furniture a week's quiet

dust: and Mrs. Reed herself, at far intervals, visited it to review

the contents of a certain secret drawer in the wardrobe, where were

stored divers parchments, her jewel-casket, and a miniature of her

deceased husband; and in those last words lies the secret of the

red-room--the spell which kept it so lonely in spite of its

grandeur.

Mr. Reed had been dead nine years: it was in this chamber he

breathed his last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borne

by the undertaker's men; and, since that day, a sense of dreary

consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion.

My seat, to which Bessie and the bitter Miss Abbot had left me

riveted, was a low ottoman near the marble chimney-piece; the bed

rose before me; to my right hand there was the high, dark wardrobe,

with subdued, broken reflections varying the gloss of its panels; to

my left were the muffled windows; a great looking-glass between them

repeated the vacant majesty of the bed and room. I was not quite

sure whether they had locked the door; and when I dared move, I got

up and went to see. Alas! yes: no jail was ever more secure.

Returning, I had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinated

glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed. All looked

colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the

strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms

specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all

else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like

one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie's evening

stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and

appearing before the eyes of belated travellers. I returned to my

stool.

Superstition was with me at that moment; but it was not yet her hour

for complete victory: my blood was still warm; the mood of the

revolted slave was still bracing me with its bitter vigour; I had to

stem a rapid rush of retrospective thought before I quailed to the

dismal present.

All John Reed's violent tyrannies, all his sisters' proud

indifference, all his mother's aversion, all the servants'

partiality, turned up in my disturbed mind like a dark deposit in a

turbid well. Why was I always suffering, always browbeaten, always

accused, for ever condemned? Why could I never please? Why was it

useless to try to win any one's favour? Eliza, who was headstrong

and selfish, was respected. Georgiana, who had a spoiled temper, a

very acrid spite, a captious and insolent carriage, was universally

indulged. Her beauty, her pink cheeks and golden curls, seemed to

give delight to all who looked at her, and to purchase indemnity for

every fault. John no one thwarted, much less punished; though he

twisted the necks of the pigeons, killed the little pea-chicks, set

the dogs at the sheep, stripped the hothouse vines of their fruit,

and broke the buds off the choicest plants in the conservatory: he

called his mother "old girl," too; sometimes reviled her for her

dark skin, similar to his own; bluntly disregarded her wishes; not

unfrequently tore and spoiled her silk attire; and he was still "her

own darling." I dared commit no fault: I strove to fulfil every

duty; and I was termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaking,

from morning to noon, and from noon to night.

My head still ached and bled with the blow and fall I had received:

no one had reproved John for wantonly striking me; and because I had

turned against him to avert farther irrational violence, I was

loaded with general opprobrium.

"Unjust!--unjust!" said my reason, forced by the agonising stimulus

into precocious though transitory power: and Resolve, equally

wrought up, instigated some strange expedient to achieve escape from

insupportable oppression--as running away, or, if that could not be

effected, never eating or drinking more, and letting myself die.

What a consternation of soul was mine that dreary afternoon! How

all my brain was in tumult, and all my heart in insurrection! Yet

in what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle

fought! I could not answer the ceaseless inward question--WHY I

thus suffered; now, at the distance of--I will not say how many

years, I see it clearly.

I was a discord in Gateshead Hall: I was like nobody there; I had

nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed or her children, or her chosen

vassalage. If they did not love me, in fact, as little did I love

them. They were not bound to regard with affection a thing that

could not sympathise with one amongst them; a heterogeneous thing,

opposed to them in temperament, in capacity, in propensities; a

useless thing, incapable of serving their interest, or adding to

their pleasure; a noxious thing, cherishing the germs of indignation

at their treatment, of contempt of their judgment. I know that had

I been a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome, romping

child--though equally dependent and friendless--Mrs. Reed would have

endured my presence more complacently; her children would have

entertained for me more of the cordiality of fellow-feeling; the

servants would have been less prone to make me the scapegoat of the

nursery.

Daylight began to forsake the red-room; it was past four o'clock,

and the beclouded afternoon was tending to drear twilight. I heard

the rain still beating continuously on the staircase window, and the

wind howling in the grove behind the hall; I grew by degrees cold as

a stone, and then my courage sank. My habitual mood of humiliation,

self-doubt, forlorn depression, fell damp on the embers of my

decaying ire. All said I was wicked, and perhaps I might be so;

what thought had I been but just conceiving of starving myself to

death? That certainly was a crime: and was I fit to die? Or was

the vault under the chancel of Gateshead Church an inviting bourne?

In such vault I had been told did Mr. Reed lie buried; and led by

this thought to recall his idea, I dwelt on it with gathering dread.

I could not remember him; but I knew that he was my own uncle--my

mother's brother--that he had taken me when a parentless infant to

his house; and that in his last moments he had required a promise of

Mrs. Reed that she would rear and maintain me as one of her own

children. Mrs. Reed probably considered she had kept this promise;

and so she had, I dare say, as well as her nature would permit her;

but how could she really like an interloper not of her race, and

unconnected with her, after her husband's death, by any tie? It

must have been most irksome to find herself bound by a hard-wrung

pledge to stand in the stead of a parent to a strange child she

could not love, and to see an uncongenial alien permanently intruded

on her own family group.

A singular notion dawned upon me. I doubted not--never doubted--

that if Mr. Reed had been alive he would have treated me kindly; and

now, as I sat looking at the white bed and overshadowed walls--

occasionally also turning a fascinated eye towards the dimly

gleaning mirror--I began to recall what I had heard of dead men,

troubled in their graves by the violation of their last wishes,

revisiting the earth to punish the perjured and avenge the

oppressed; and I thought Mr. Reed's spirit, harassed by the wrongs

of his sister's child, might quit its abode--whether in the church

vault or in the unknown world of the departed--and rise before me in

this chamber. I wiped my tears and hushed my sobs, fearful lest any

sign of violent grief might waken a preternatural voice to comfort

me, or elicit from the gloom some haloed face, bending over me with

strange pity. This idea, consolatory in theory, I felt would be

terrible if realised: with all my might I endeavoured to stifle it-

-I endeavoured to be firm. Shaking my hair from my eyes, I lifted

my head and tried to look boldly round the dark room; at this moment

a light gleamed on the wall. Was it, I asked myself, a ray from the

moon penetrating some aperture in the blind? No; moonlight was

still, and this stirred; while I gazed, it glided up to the ceiling

and quivered over my head. I can now conjecture readily that this

streak of light was, in all likelihood, a gleam from a lantern

carried by some one across the lawn: but then, prepared as my mind

was for horror, shaken as my nerves were by agitation, I thought the

swift darting beam was a herald of some coming vision from another

world. My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my

ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings; something seemed near me;

I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance broke down; I rushed to the

door and shook the lock in desperate effort. Steps came running

along the outer passage; the key turned, Bessie and Abbot entered.

"Miss Eyre, are you ill?" said Bessie.

"What a dreadful noise! it went quite through me!" exclaimed Abbot.

"Take me out! Let me go into the nursery!" was my cry.

"What for? Are you hurt? Have you seen something?" again demanded

Bessie.

"Oh! I saw a light, and I thought a ghost would come." I had now

got hold of Bessie's hand, and she did not snatch it from me.

"She has screamed out on purpose," declared Abbot, in some disgust.

"And what a scream! If she had been in great pain one would have

excused it, but she only wanted to bring us all here: I know her

naughty tricks."

"What is all this?" demanded another voice peremptorily; and Mrs.

Reed came along the corridor, her cap flying wide, her gown rustling

stormily. "Abbot and Bessie, I believe I gave orders that Jane Eyre

should be left in the red-room till I came to her myself."

"Miss Jane screamed so loud, ma'am," pleaded Bessie.

"Let her go," was the only answer. "Loose Bessie's hand, child:

you cannot succeed in getting out by these means, be assured. I

abhor artifice, particularly in children; it is my duty to show you

that tricks will not answer: you will now stay here an hour longer,

and it is only on condition of perfect submission and stillness that

I shall liberate you then."

"O aunt! have pity! Forgive me! I cannot endure it--let me be

punished some other way! I shall be killed if--"

"Silence! This violence is all most repulsive:" and so, no doubt,

she felt it. I was a precocious actress in her eyes; she sincerely

looked on me as a compound of virulent passions, mean spirit, and

dangerous duplicity.

Bessie and Abbot having retreated, Mrs. Reed, impatient of my now

frantic anguish and wild sobs, abruptly thrust me back and locked me

in, without farther parley. I heard her sweeping away; and soon

after she was gone, I suppose I had a species of fit:

unconsciousness closed the scene.

 

CHAPTER III

The next thing I remember is, waking up with a feeling as if I had

had a frightful nightmare, and seeing before me a terrible red

glare, crossed with thick black bars. I heard voices, too, speaking

with a hollow sound, and as if muffled by a rush of wind or water:

agitation, uncertainty, and an all-predominating sense of terror

confused my faculties. Ere long, I became aware that some one was

handling me; lifting me up and supporting me in a sitting posture,

and that more tenderly than I had ever been raised or upheld before.

I rested my head against a pillow or an arm, and felt easy.

In five minutes more the cloud of bewilderment dissolved: I knew

quite well that I was in my own bed, and that the red glare was the

nursery fire. It was night: a candle burnt on the table; Bessie

stood at the bed-foot with a basin in her hand, and a gentleman sat

in a chair near my pillow, leaning over me.

I felt an inexpressible relief, a soothing conviction of protection

and security, when I knew that there was a stranger in the room, an

individual not belonging to Gateshead., and not related to Mrs.

Reed. Turning from Bessie (though her presence was far less

obnoxious to me than that of Abbot, for instance, would have been),

I scrutinised the face of the gentleman: I knew him; it was Mr.

Lloyd, an apothecary, sometimes called in by Mrs. Reed when the

servants were ailing: for herself and the children she employed a

physician.

"Well, who am I?" he asked.

I pronounced his name, offering him at the same time my hand: he

took it, smiling and saying, "We shall do very well by-and-by."

Then he laid me down, and addressing Bessie, charged her to be very

careful that I was not disturbed during the night. Having given

some further directions, and intimates that he should call again the

next day, he departed; to my grief: I felt so sheltered and

befriended while he sat in the chair near my pillow; and as he

closed the door after him, all the room darkened and my heart again

sank: inexpressible sadness weighed it down.

"Do you feel as if you should sleep, Miss?" asked Bessie, rather

softly.

Scarcely dared I answer her; for I feared the next sentence might be

rough. "I will try."

"Would you like to drink, or could you eat anything?"

"No, thank you, Bessie."

"Then I think I shall go to bed, for it is past twelve o'clock; but

you may call me if you want anything in the night."

Wonderful civility this! It emboldened me to ask a question.

"Bessie, what is the matter with me? Am I ill?"

"You fell sick, I suppose, in the red-room with crying; you'll be

better soon, no doubt."

Bessie went into the housemaid's apartment, which was near. I heard

her say -

"Sarah, come and sleep with me in the nursery; I daren't for my life

be alone with that poor child to-night: she might die; it's such a

strange thing she should have that fit: I wonder if she saw

anything. Missis was rather too hard."

Sarah came back with her; they both went to bed; they were

whispering together for half-an-hour before they fell asleep. I

caught scraps of their conversation, from which I was able only too

distinctly to infer the main subject discussed.

"Something passed her, all dressed in white, and vanished"--"A great

black dog behind him"--"Three loud raps on the chamber door"--"A

light in the churchyard just over his grave," &c. &c.

At last both slept: the fire and the candle went out. For me, the

watches of that long night passed in ghastly wakefulness; strained

by dread: such dread as children only can feel.

No severe or prolonged bodily illness followed this incident of the

red-room; it only gave my nerves a shock of which I feel the

reverberation to this day. Yes, Mrs. Reed, to you I owe some

fearful pangs of mental suffering, but I ought to forgive you, for

you knew not what you did: while rending my heart-strings, you

thought you were only uprooting my bad propensities.

Next day, by noon, I was up and dressed, and sat wrapped in a shawl

by the nursery hearth. I felt physically weak and broken down: but

my worse ailment was an unutterable wretchedness of mind: a

wretchedness which kept drawing from me silent tears; no sooner had

I wiped one salt drop from my cheek than another followed. Yet, I

thought, I ought to have been happy, for none of the Reeds were

there, they were all gone out in the carriage with their mama.

Abbot, too, was sewing in another room, and Bessie, as she moved

hither and thither, putting away toys and arranging drawers,

addressed to me every now and then a word of unwonted kindness.

This state of things should have been to me a paradise of peace,

accustomed as I was to a life of ceaseless reprimand and thankless

fagging; but, in fact, my racked nerves were now in such a state

that no calm could soothe, and no pleasure excite them agreeably.

Bessie had been down into the kitchen, and she brought up with her a

tart on a certain brightly painted china plate, whose bird of

paradise, nestling in a wreath of convolvuli and rosebuds, had been

wont to stir in me a most enthusiastic sense of admiration; and

which plate I had often petitioned to be allowed to take in my hand

in order to examine it more closely, but had always hitherto been

deemed unworthy of such a privilege. This precious vessel was now

placed on my knee, and I was cordially invited to eat the circlet of

delicate pastry upon it. Vain favour! coming, like most other

favours long deferred and often wished for, too late! I could not

eat the tart; and the plumage of the bird, the tints of the flowers,

seemed strangely faded: I put both plate and tart away. Bessie

asked if I would have a book: the word BOOK acted as a transient

stimulus, and I begged her to fetch Gulliver's Travels from the

library. This book I had again and again perused with delight. I

considered it a narrative of facts, and discovered in it a vein of

interest deeper than what I found in fairy tales: for as to the

elves, having sought them in vain among foxglove leaves and bells,

under mushrooms and beneath the ground-ivy mantling old wall-nooks,

I had at length made up my mind to the sad truth, that they were all

gone out of England to some savage country where the woods were

wilder and thicker, and the population more scant; whereas, Lilliput

and Brobdignag being, in my creed, solid parts of the earth's

surface, I doubted not that I might one day, by taking a long

voyage, see with my own eyes the little fields, houses, and trees,

the diminutive people, the tiny cows, sheep, and birds of the one

realm; and the corn-fields forest-high, the mighty mastiffs, the

monster cats, the tower-like men and women, of the other. Yet, when

this cherished volume was now placed in my hand--when I turned over

its leaves, and sought in its marvellous pictures the charm I had,

till now, never failed to find--all was eerie and dreary; the giants

were gaunt goblins, the pigmies malevolent and fearful imps,

Gulliver a most desolate wanderer in most dread and dangerous

regions. I closed the book, which I dared no longer peruse, and put

it on the table, beside the untasted tart.

Bessie had now finished dusting and tidying the room, and having

washed her hands, she opened a certain little drawer, full of

splendid shreds of silk and satin, and began making a new bonnet for

Georgiana's doll. Meantime she sang: her song was -

 

"In the days when we went gipsying,

A long time ago."

 

I had often heard the song before, and always with lively delight;

for Bessie had a sweet voice,--at least, I thought so. But now,

though her voice was still sweet, I found in its melody an

indescribable sadness. Sometimes, preoccupied with her work, she

sang the refrain very low, very lingeringly; "A long time ago" came

out like the saddest cadence of a funeral hymn. She passed into

another ballad, this time a really doleful one.

 

"My feet they are sore, and my limbs they are weary;

Long is the way, and the mountains are wild;

Soon will the twilight close moonless and dreary

Over the path of the poor orphan child.

Why did they send me so far and so lonely,

Up where the moors spread and grey rocks are piled?

Men are hard-hearted, and kind angels only

Watch o'er the steps of a poor orphan child.

Yet distant and soft the night breeze is blowing,

Clouds there are none, and clear stars beam mild,

God, in His mercy, protection is showing,

Comfort and hope to the poor orphan child.

Ev'n should I fall o'er the broken bridge passing,

Or stray in the marshes, by false lights beguiled,

Still will my Father, with promise and blessing,

Take to His bosom the poor orphan child.

There is a thought that for strength should avail me,

Though both of shelter and kindred despoiled;

Heaven is a home, and a rest will not fail me;

God is a friend to the poor orphan child."

 

"Come, Miss Jane, don't cry," said Bessie as she finished. She

might as well have said to the fire, "don't burn!" but how could she

divine the morbid suffering to which I was a prey? In the course of

the morning Mr. Lloyd came again.

"What, already up!" said he, as he entered the nursery. "Well,

nurse, how is she?"

Bessie answered that I was doing very well.

"Then she ought to look more cheerful. Come here, Miss Jane: your

name is Jane, is it not?"

"Yes, sir, Jane Eyre."

"Well, you have been crying, Miss Jane Eyre; can you tell me what

about? Have you any pain?"

"No, sir."

"Oh! I daresay she is crying because she could not go out with

Missis in the carriage," interposed Bessie.

"Surely not! why, she is too old for such pettishness."

I thought so too; and my self-esteem being wounded by the false

charge, I answered promptly, "I never cried for such a thing in my

life: I hate going out in the carriage. I cry because I am

miserable."

"Oh fie, Miss!" said Bessie.

The good apothecary appeared a little puzzled. I was standing

before him; he fixed his eyes on me very steadily: his eyes were

small and grey; not very bright, but I dare say I should think them

shrewd now: he had a hard-featured yet good-natured looking face.

Having considered me at leisure, he said -

"What made you ill yesterday?"

"She had a fall," said Bessie, again putting in her word.

"Fall! why, that is like a baby again! Can't she manage to walk at

her age? She must be eight or nine years old."

"I was knocked down," was the blunt explanation, jerked out of me by

another pang of mortified pride; "but that did not make me ill," I

added; while Mr. Lloyd helped himself to a pinch of snuff.

As he was returning the box to his waistcoat pocket, a loud bell

rang for the servants' dinner; he knew what it was. "That's for

you, nurse," said he; "you can go down; I'll give Miss Jane a

lecture till you come back."

Bessie would rather have stayed, but she was obliged to go, because

punctuality at meals was rigidly enforced at Gateshead Hall.

"The fall did not make you ill; what did, then?" pursued Mr. Lloyd

when Bessie was gone.

"I was shut up in a room where there is a ghost till after dark."

I saw Mr. Lloyd smile and frown at the same time.

"Ghost! What, you are a baby after all! You are afraid of ghosts?"

"Of Mr. Reed's ghost I am: he died in that room, and was laid out

there. Neither Bessie nor any one else will go into it at night, if

they can help it; and it was cruel to shut me up alone without a

candle,--so cruel that I think I shall never forget it."

"Nonsense! And is it that makes you so miserable? Are you afraid

now in daylight?"

"No: but night will come again before long: and besides,--I am

unhappy,--very unhappy, for other things."

"What other things? Can you tell me some of them?"

How much I wished to reply fully to this question! How difficult it

was to frame any answer! Children can feel, but they cannot analyse

their feelings; and if the analysis is partially effected in

thought, they know not how to express the result of the process in

words. Fearful, however, of losing this first and only opportunity

of relieving my grief by imparting it, I, after a disturbed pause,

contrived to frame a meagre, though, as far as it went, true

response.

"For one thing, I have no father or mother, brothers or sisters."

"You have a kind aunt and cousins."

Again I paused; then bunglingly enounced -

"But John Reed knocked me down, and my aunt shut me up in the red-

room."

Mr. Lloyd a second time produced his snuff-box.

"Don't you think Gateshead Hall a very beautiful house?" asked he.

"Are you not very thankful to have such a fine place to live at?"

"It is not my house, sir; and Abbot says I have less right to be

here than a servant."

"Pooh! you can't be silly enough to wish to leave such a splendid

place?"

"If I had anywhere else to go, I should be glad to leave it; but I

can never get away from Gateshead till I am a woman."

"Perhaps you may--who knows? Have you any relations besides Mrs.

Reed?"

"I think not, sir."

"None belonging to your father?"

"I don't know. I asked Aunt Reed once, and she said possibly I

might have some poor, low relations called Eyre, but she knew

nothing about them."

"If you had such, would you like to go to them?"

I reflected. Poverty looks grim to grown people; still more so to

children: they have not much idea of industrious, working,

respectable poverty; they think of the word only as connected with

ragged clothes, scanty food, fireless grates, rude manners, and

debasing vices: poverty for me was synonymous with degradation.

"No; I should not like to belong to poor people," was my reply.

"Not even if they were kind to you?"

I shook my head: I could not see how poor people had the means of

being kind; and then to learn to speak like them, to adopt their

manners, to be uneducated, to grow up like one of the poor women I

saw sometimes nursing their children or washing their clothes at the

cottage doors of the village of Gateshead: no, I was not heroic

enough to purchase liberty at the price of caste.

"But are your relatives so very poor? Are they working people?"

"I cannot tell; Aunt. Reed says if I have any, they must be a

beggarly set: I should not like to go a begging."

"Would you like to go to school?"

Again I reflected: I scarcely knew what school was: Bessie

sometimes spoke of it as a place where young ladies sat in the

stocks, wore backboards, and were expected to be exceedingly genteel

and precise: John Reed hated his school, and abused his master; but

John Reed's tastes were no rule for mine, and if Bessie's accounts

of school-discipline (gathered from the young ladies of a family

where she had lived before coming to Gateshead) were somewhat

appalling, her details of certain accomplishments attained by these

same young ladies were, I thought, equally attractive. She boasted

of beautiful paintings of landscapes and flowers by them executed;

of songs they could sing and pieces they could play, of purses they

could net, of French books they could translate; till my spirit was

moved to emulation as I listened. Besides, school would be a

complete change: it implied a long journey, an entire separation

from Gateshead, an entrance into a new life.

"I should indeed like to go to school," was the audible conclusion

of my musings.

"Well, well! who knows what may happen?" said Mr. Lloyd, as he got

up. "The child ought to have change of air and scene," he added,

speaking to himself; "nerves not in a good state."

Bessie now returned; at the same moment the carriage was heard

rolling up the gravel-walk.

"Is that your mistress, nurse?" asked Mr. Lloyd. "I should like to

speak to her before I go."

Bessie invited him to walk into the breakfast-room, and led the way

out. In the interview which followed between him and Mrs. Reed, I

presume, from after-occurrences, that the apothecary ventured to

recommend my being sent to school; and the recommendation was no

doubt readily enough adopted; for as Abbot said, in discussing the

subject with Bessie when both sat sewing in the nursery one night,

after I was in bed, and, as they thought, asleep, "Missis was, she

dared say, glad enough to get rid of such a tiresome, ill-

conditioned child, who always looked as if she were watching

everybody, and scheming plots underhand." Abbot, I think, gave me

credit for being a sort of infantine Guy Fawkes.

On that same occasion I learned, for the first time, from Miss

Abbot's communications to Bessie, that my father had been a poor

clergyman; that my mother had married him against the wishes of her

friends, who considered the match beneath her; that my grandfather

Reed was so irritated at her disobedience, he cut her off without a

shilling; that after my mother and father had been married a year,

the latter caught the typhus fever while visiting among the poor of

a large manufacturing town where his curacy was situated, and where

that disease was then prevalent: that my mother took the infection

from him, and both died within a month of each other.

Bessie, when she heard this narrative, sighed and said, "Poor Miss

Jane is to be pitied, too, Abbot."

"Yes," responded Abbot; "if she were a nice, pretty child, one might

compassionate her forlornness; but one really cannot care for such a

little toad as that."

"Not a great deal, to be sure," agreed Bessie: "at any rate, a

beauty like Miss Georgiana would be more moving in the same

condition."

"Yes, I doat on Miss Georgiana!" cried the fervent Abbot. "Little

darling!--with her long curls and her blue eyes, and such a sweet

colour as she has; just as if she were painted!--Bessie, I could

fancy a Welsh rabbit for supper."

"So could I--with a roast onion. Come, we'll go down." They went.

 

CHAPTER IV

From my discourse with Mr. Lloyd, and from the above reported

conference between Bessie and Abbot, I gathered enough of hope to

suffice as a motive for wishing to get well: a change seemed near,-

-I desired and waited it in silence. It tarried, however: days and

weeks passed: I had regained my normal state of health, but no new

allusion was made to the subject over which I brooded. Mrs. Reed

surveyed me at times with a severe eye, but seldom addressed me:

since my illness, she had drawn a more marked line of separation

than ever between me and her own children; appointing me a small

closet to sleep in by myself, condemning me to take my meals alone,

and pass all my time in the nursery, while my cousins were

constantly in the drawing-room. Not a hint, however, did she drop

about sending me to school: still I felt an instinctive certainty

that she would not long endure me under the same roof with her; for

her glance, now more than ever, when turned on me, expressed an

insuperable and rooted aversion.

Eliza and Georgiana, evidently acting according to orders, spoke to

me as little as possible: John thrust his tongue in his cheek

whenever he saw me, and once attempted chastisement; but as I

instantly turned against him, roused by the same sentiment of deep

ire and desperate revolt which had stirred my corruption before, he

thought it better to desist, and ran from me tittering execrations,

and vowing I had burst his nose. I had indeed levelled at that

prominent feature as hard a blow as my knuckles could inflict; and

when I saw that either that or my look daunted him, I had the

greatest inclination to follow up my advantage to purpose; but he

was already with his mama. I heard him in a blubbering tone

commence the tale of how "that nasty Jane Eyre" had flown at him

like a mad cat: he was stopped rather harshly -

"Don't talk to me about her, John: I told you not to go near her;

she is not worthy of notice; I do not choose that either you or your

sisters should associate with her."

Here, leaning over the banister, I cried out suddenly, and without

at all deliberating on my words -

"They are not fit to associate with me."

Mrs. Reed was rather a stout woman; but, on hearing this strange and

audacious declaration, she ran nimbly up the stair, swept me like a

whirlwind into the nursery, and crushing me down on the edge of my

crib, dared me in an emphatic voice to rise from that place, or

utter one syllable during the remainder of the day.

"What would Uncle Reed say to you, if he were alive?" was my

scarcely voluntary demand. I say scarcely voluntary, for it seemed

as if my tongue pronounced words without my will consenting to their

utterance: something spoke out of me over which I had no control.

"What?" said Mrs. Reed under her breath: her usually cold composed

grey eye became troubled with a look like fear; she took her hand

from my arm, and gazed at me as if she really did not know whether I

were child or fiend. I was now in for it.

"My Uncle Reed is in heaven, and can see all you do and think; and

so can papa and mama: they know how you shut me up all day long,

and how you wish me dead."

Mrs. Reed soon rallied her spirits: she shook me most soundly, she

boxed both my ears, and then left me without a word. Bessie

supplied the hiatus by a homily of an hour's length, in which she

proved beyond a doubt that I was the most wicked and abandoned child

ever reared under a roof. I half believed her; for I felt indeed

only bad feelings surging in my breast.

November, December, and half of January passed away. Christmas and

the New Year had been celebrated at Gateshead with the usual festive

cheer; presents had been interchanged, dinners and evening parties

given. From every enjoyment I was, of course, excluded: my share

of the gaiety consisted in witnessing the daily apparelling of Eliza

and Georgiana, and seeing them descend to the drawing-room, dressed

out in thin muslin frocks and scarlet sashes, with hair elaborately

ringletted; and afterwards, in listening to the sound of the piano

or the harp played below, to the passing to and fro of the butler

and footman, to the jingling of glass and china as refreshments were

handed, to the broken hum of conversation as the drawing-room door

opened and closed. When tired of this occupation, I would retire

from the stairhead to the solitary and silent nursery: there,

though somewhat sad, I was not miserable. To speak truth, I had not

the least wish to go into company, for in company I was very rarely

noticed; and if Bessie had but been kind and companionable, I should

have deemed it a treat to spend the evenings quietly with her,

instead of passing them under the formidable eye of Mrs. Reed, in a

room full of ladies and gentlemen. But Bessie, as soon as she had

dressed her young ladies, used to take herself off to the lively

regions of the kitchen and housekeeper's room, generally bearing the

candle along with her. I then sat with my doll on my knee till the

fire got low, glancing round occasionally to make sure that nothing

worse than myself haunted the shadowy room; and when the embers sank

to a dull red, I undressed hastily, tugging at knots and strings as

I best might, and sought shelter from cold and darkness in my crib.

To this crib I always took my doll; human beings must love

something, and, in the dearth of worthier objects of affection, I

contrived to find a pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded graven

image, shabby as a miniature scarecrow. It puzzles me now to

remember with what absurd sincerity I doated on this little toy,

half fancying it alive and capable of sensation. I could not sleep

unless it was folded in my night-gown; and when it lay there safe

and warm, I was comparatively happy, believing it to be happy

likewise.

Long did the hours seem while I waited the departure of the company,

and listened for the sound of Bessie's step on the stairs:

sometimes she would come up in the interval to seek her thimble or

her scissors, or perhaps to bring me something by way of supper--a

bun or a cheese-cake--then she would sit on the bed while I ate it,

and when I had finished, she would tuck the clothes round me, and

twice she kissed me, and said, "Good night, Miss Jane." When thus

gentle, Bessie seemed to me the best, prettiest, kindest being in

the world; and I wished most intensely that she would always be so

pleasant and amiable, and never push me about, or scold, or task me

unreasonably, as she was too often wont to do. Bessie Lee must, I

think, have been a girl of good natural capacity, for she was smart

in all she did, and had a remarkable knack of narrative; so, at

least, I judge from the impression made on me by her nursery tales.

She was pretty too, if my recollections of her face and person are

correct. I remember her as a slim young woman, with black hair,

dark eyes, very nice features, and good, clear complexion; but she

had a capricious and hasty temper, and indifferent ideas of

principle or justice: still, such as she was, I preferred her to

any one else at Gateshead Hall.

It was the fifteenth of January, about nine o'clock in the morning:

Bessie was gone down to breakfast; my cousins had not yet been

summoned to their mama; Eliza was putting on her bonnet and warm

garden-coat to go and feed her poultry, an occupation of which she

was fond: and not less so of selling the eggs to the housekeeper

and hoarding up the money she thus obtained. She had a turn for

traffic, and a marked propensity for saving; shown not only in the

vending of eggs and chickens, but also in driving hard bargains with

the gardener about flower-roots, seeds, and slips of plants; that

functionary having orders from Mrs. Reed to buy of his young lady

all the products of her parterre she wished to sell: and Eliza

would have sold the hair off her head if she could have made a

handsome profit thereby. As to her money, she first secreted it in

odd corners, wrapped in a rag or an old curl-paper; but some of

these hoards having been discovered by the housemaid, Eliza, fearful

of one day losing her valued treasure, consented to intrust it to

her mother, at a usurious rate of interest--fifty or sixty per

cent.; which interest she exacted every quarter, keeping her

accounts in a little book with anxious accuracy.

Georgiana sat on a high stool, dressing her hair at the glass, and

interweaving her curls with artificial flowers and faded feathers,

of which she had found a store in a drawer in the attic. I was

making my bed, having received strict orders from Bessie to get it

arranged before she returned (for Bessie now frequently employed me

as a sort of under-nurserymaid, to tidy the room, dust the chairs,

&c.). Having spread the quilt and folded my night-dress, I went to

the window-seat to put in order some picture-books and doll's house

furniture scattered there; an abrupt command from Georgiana to let

her playthings alone (for the tiny chairs and mirrors, the fairy

plates and cups, were her property) stopped my proceedings; and

then, for lack of other occupation, I fell to breathing on the

frost-flowers with which the window was fretted, and thus clearing a

space in the glass through which I might look out on the grounds,

where all was still and petrified under the influence of a hard

frost.

From this window were visible the porter's lodge and the carriage-

road, and just as I had dissolved so much of the silver-white

foliage veiling the panes as left room to look out, I saw the gates

thrown open and a carriage roll through. I watched it ascending the

drive with indifference; carriages often came to Gateshead, but none

ever brought visitors in whom I was interested; it stopped in front

of the house, the door-bell rang loudly, the new-comer was admitted.

All this being nothing to me, my vacant attention soon found

livelier attraction in the spectacle of a little hungry robin, which

came and chirruped on the twigs of the leafless cherry-tree nailed

against the wall near the casement. The remains of my breakfast of

bread and milk stood on the table, and having crumbled a morsel of

roll, I was tugging at the sash to put out the crumbs on the window-

sill, when Bessie came running upstairs into the nursery.

"Miss Jane, take off your pinafore; what are you doing there? Have

you washed your hands and face this morning?" I gave another tug

before I answered, for I wanted the bird to be secure of its bread:

the sash yielded; I scattered the crumbs, some on the stone sill,

some on the cherry-tree bough, then, closing the window, I replied -

"No, Bessie; I have only just finished dusting."

"Troublesome, careless child! and what are you doing now? You look

quite red, as if you had been about some mischief: what were you

opening the window for?"

I was spared the trouble of answering, for Bessie seemed in too

great a hurry to listen to explanations; she hauled me to the

washstand, inflicted a merciless, but happily brief scrub on my face

and hands with soap, water, and a coarse towel; disciplined my head

with a bristly brush, denuded me of my pinafore, and then hurrying

me to the top of the stairs, bid me go down directly, as I was

wanted in the breakfast-room.

I would have asked who wanted me: I would have demanded if Mrs.

Reed was there; but Bessie was already gone, and had closed the

nursery-door upon me. I slowly descended. For nearly three months,

I had never been called to Mrs. Reed's presence; restricted so long

to the nursery, the breakfast, dining, and drawing-rooms were become

for me awful regions, on which it dismayed me to intrude.

I now stood in the empty hall; before me was the breakfast-room

door, and I stopped, intimidated and trembling. What a miserable

little poltroon had fear, engendered of unjust punishment, made of

me in those days! I feared to return to the nursery, and feared to

go forward to the parlour; ten minutes I stood in agitated

hesitation; the vehement ringing of the breakfast-room bell decided

me; I MUST enter.

"Who could want me?" I asked inwardly, as with both hands I turned

the stiff door-handle, which, for a second or two, resisted my

efforts. "What should I see besides Aunt Reed in the apartment?--a

man or a woman?" The handle turned, the door unclosed, and passing

through and curtseying low, I looked up at--a black pillar!--such,

at least, appeared to me, at first sight, the straight, narrow,

sable-clad shape standing erect on the rug: the grim face at the

top was like a carved mask, placed above the shaft by way of

capital.

Mrs. Reed occupied her usual seat by the fireside; she made a signal

to me to approach; I did so, and she introduced me to the stony

stranger with the words: "This is the little girl respecting whom I

applied to you."

HE, for it was a man, turned his head slowly towards where I stood,

and having examined me with the two inquisitive-looking grey eyes

which twinkled under a pair of bushy brows, said solemnly, and in a

bass voice, "Her size is small: what is her age?"

"Ten years."

"So much?" was the doubtful answer; and he prolonged his scrutiny

for some minutes. Presently he addressed me--"Your name, little

girl?"

"Jane Eyre, sir."

In uttering these words I looked up: he seemed to me a tall

gentleman; but then I was very little; his features were large, and

they and all the lines of his frame were equally harsh and prim.

"Well, Jane Eyre, and are you a good child?"

Impossible to reply to this in the affirmative: my little world

held a contrary opinion: I was silent. Mrs. Reed answered for me

by an expressive shake of the head, adding soon, "Perhaps the less

said on that subject the better, Mr. Brocklehurst."

"Sorry indeed to hear it! she and I must have some talk;" and

bending from the perpendicular, he installed his person in the arm-

chair opposite Mrs. Reed's. "Come here," he said.

I stepped across the rug; he placed me square and straight before

him. What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with

mine! what a great nose! and what a mouth! and what large prominent

teeth!

"No sight so sad as that of a naughty child," he began, "especially

a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after

death?"

"They go to hell," was my ready and orthodox answer.

"And what is hell? Can you tell me that?"

"A pit full of fire."

"And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there

for ever?"

"No, sir."

"What must you do to avoid it?"

I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was

objectionable: "I must keep in good health, and not die."

"How can you keep in good health? Children younger than you die

daily. I buried a little child of five years old only a day or two

since,--a good little child, whose soul is now in heaven. It is to

be feared the same could not be said of you were you to be called

hence."

Not being in a condition to remove his doubt, I only cast my eyes

down on the two large feet planted on the rug, and sighed, wishing

myself far enough away.

"I hope that sigh is from the heart, and that you repent of ever

having been the occasion of discomfort to your excellent

benefactress."

"Benefactress! benefactress!" said I inwardly: "they all call Mrs.

Reed my benefactress; if so, a benefactress is a disagreeable

thing."

"Do you say your prayers night and morning?" continued my

interrogator.

"Yes, sir."

"Do you read your Bible?"

"Sometimes."

"With pleasure? Are you fond of it?"

"I like Revelations, and the book of Daniel, and Genesis and Samuel,

and a little bit of Exodus, and some parts of Kings and Chronicles,

and Job and Jonah."

"And the Psalms? I hope you like them?"

"No, sir."

"No? oh, shocking! I have a little boy, younger than you, who knows

six Psalms by heart: and when you ask him which he would rather

have, a gingerbread-nut to eat or a verse of a Psalm to learn, he

says: 'Oh! the verse of a Psalm! angels sing Psalms;' says he, 'I

wish to be a little angel here below;' he then gets two nuts in

recompense for his infant piety."

"Psalms are not interesting," I remarked.

"That proves you have a wicked heart; and you must pray to God to

change it: to give you a new and clean one: to take away your

heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."

I was about to propound a question, touching the manner in which

that operation of changing my heart was to be performed, when Mrs.

Reed interposed, telling me to sit down; she then proceeded to carry

on the conversation herself.

"Mr. Brocklehurst, I believe I intimated in the letter which I wrote

to you three weeks ago, that this little girl has not quite the

character and disposition I could wish: should you admit her into

Lowood school, I should be glad if the superintendent and teachers

were requested to keep a strict eye on her, and, above all, to guard

against her worst fault, a tendency to deceit. I mention this in

your hearing, Jane, that you may not attempt to impose on Mr.

Brocklehurst."

Well might I dread, well might I dislike Mrs. Reed; for it was her

nature to wound me cruelly; never was I happy in her presence;

however carefully I obeyed, however strenuously I strove to please

her, my efforts were still repulsed and repaid by such sentences as

the above. Now, uttered before a stranger, the accusation cut me to

the heart; I dimly perceived that she was already obliterating hope

from the new phase of existence which she destined me to enter; I

felt, though I could not have expressed the feeling, that she was

sowing aversion and unkindness along my future path; I saw myself

transformed under Mr. Brocklehurst's eye into an artful, noxious

child, and what could I do to remedy the injury?

"Nothing, indeed," thought I, as I struggled to repress a sob, and

hastily wiped away some tears, the impotent evidences of my anguish.

"Deceit is, indeed, a sad fault in a child," said Mr. Brocklehurst;

"it is akin to falsehood, and all liars will have their portion in

the lake burning with fire and brimstone; she shall, however, be

watched, Mrs. Reed. I will speak to Miss Temple and the teachers."

"I should wish her to be brought up in a manner suiting her

prospects," continued my benefactress; "to be made useful, to be

kept humble: as for the vacations, she will, with your permission,

spend them always at Lowood."

"Your decisions are perfectly judicious, madam," returned Mr.

Brocklehurst. "Humility is a Christian grace, and one peculiarly

appropriate to the pupils of Lowood; I, therefore, direct that

especial care shall be bestowed on its cultivation amongst them. I

have studied how best to mortify in them the worldly sentiment of

pride; and, only the other day, I had a pleasing proof of my

success. My second daughter, Augusta, went with her mama to visit

the school, and on her return she exclaimed: 'Oh, dear papa, how

quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look, with their hair combed

behind their ears, and their long pinafores, and those little

holland pockets outside their frocks--they are almost like poor

people's children! and,' said she, 'they looked at my dress and

mama's, as if they had never seen a silk gown before.'"

"This is the state of things I quite approve," returned Mrs. Reed;

"had I sought all England over, I could scarcely have found a system

more exactly fitting a child like Jane Eyre. Consistency, my dear

Mr. Brocklehurst; I advocate consistency in all things."

"Consistency, madam, is the first of Christian duties; and it has

been observed in every arrangement connected with the establishment

of Lowood: plain fare, simple attire, unsophisticated

accommodations, hardy and active habits; such is the order of the

day in the house and its inhabitants."

"Quite right, sir. I may then depend upon this child being received

as a pupil at Lowood, and there being trained in conformity to her

position and prospects?"

"Madam, you may: she shall be placed in that nursery of chosen

plants, and I trust she will show herself grateful for the

inestimable privilege of her election."

"I will send her, then, as soon as possible, Mr. Brocklehurst; for,

I assure you, I feel anxious to be relieved of a responsibility that

was becoming too irksome."

"No doubt, no doubt, madam; and now I wish you good morning. I

shall return to Brocklehurst Hall in the course of a week or two:

my good friend, the Archdeacon, will not permit me to leave him

sooner. I shall send Miss Temple notice that she is to expect a new

girl, so that there will he no difficulty about receiving her.

Good-bye."

"Good-bye, Mr. Brocklehurst; remember me to Mrs. and Miss

Brocklehurst, and to Augusta and Theodore, and Master Broughton

Brocklehurst."

"I will, madam. Little girl, here is a book entitled the 'Child's

Guide,' read it with prayer, especially that part containing 'An

account of the awfully sudden death of Martha G -, a naughty child

addicted to falsehood and deceit.'"

With these words Mr. Brocklehurst put into my hand a thin pamphlet

sewn in a cover, and having rung for his carriage, he departed.

Mrs. Reed and I were left alone: some minutes passed in silence;

she was sewing, I was watching her. Mrs. Reed might be at that time

some six or seven and thirty; she was a woman of robust frame,

square-shouldered and strong-limbed, not tall, and, though stout,

not obese: she had a somewhat large face, the under jaw being much

developed and very solid; her brow was low, her chin large and

prominent, mouth and nose sufficiently regular; under her light

eyebrows glimmered an eye devoid of ruth; her skin was dark and

opaque, her hair nearly flaxen; her constitution was sound as a

bell--illness never came near her; she was an exact, clever manager;

her household and tenantry were thoroughly under her control; her

children only at times defied her authority and laughed it to scorn;

she dressed well, and had a presence and port calculated to set off

handsome attire.

Sitting on a low stool, a few yards from her arm-chair, I examined

her figure; I perused her features. In my hand I held the tract

containing the sudden death of the Liar, to which narrative my

attention had been pointed as to an appropriate warning. What had

just passed; what Mrs. Reed had said concerning me to Mr.

Brocklehurst; the whole tenor of their conversation, was recent,

raw, and stinging in my mind; I had felt every word as acutely as I

had heard it plainly, and a passion of resentment fomented now

within me.

Mrs. Reed looked up from her work; her eye settled on mine, her

fingers at the same time suspended their nimble movements.

"Go out of the room; return to the nursery," was her mandate. My

look or something else must have struck her as offensive, for she

spoke with extreme though suppressed irritation. I got up, I went

to the door; I came back again; I walked to the window, across the

room, then close up to her.

SPEAK I must: I had been trodden on severely, and MUST turn: but

how? What strength had I to dart retaliation at my antagonist? I

gathered my energies and launched them in this blunt sentence -

"I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I

declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in

the world except John Reed; and this book about the liar, you may

give to your girl, Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not

I."

Mrs. Reed's hands still lay on her work inactive: her eye of ice

continued to dwell freezingly on mine.

"What more have you to say?" she asked, rather in the tone in which

a person might address an opponent of adult age than such as is

ordinarily used to a child.

That eye of hers, that voice stirred every antipathy I had. Shaking

from head to foot, thrilled with ungovernable excitement, I

continued -

"I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt

again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am

grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you

treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and

that you treated me with miserable cruelty."

"How dare you affirm that, Jane Eyre?"

"How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the TRUTH. You

think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love

or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall

remember how you thrust me back--roughly and violently thrust me

back--into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day;

though I was in agony; though I cried out, while suffocating with

distress, 'Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!' And that punishment

you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me--knocked me

down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions, this

exact tale. People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hard-

hearted. YOU are deceitful!"

Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult,

with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It

seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled

out into unhoped-for liberty. Not without cause was this sentiment:

Mrs. Reed looked frightened; her work had slipped from her knee; she

was lifting up her hands, rocking herself to and fro, and even

twisting her face as if she would cry.

"Jane, you are under a mistake: what is the matter with you? Why

do you tremble so violently? Would you like to drink some water?"

"No, Mrs. Reed."

"Is there anything else you wish for, Jane? I assure you, I desire

to be your friend."

"Not you. You told Mr. Brocklehurst I had a bad character, a

deceitful disposition; and I'll let everybody at Lowood know what

you are, and what you have done."

"Jane, you don't understand these things: children must be

corrected for their faults."

"Deceit is not my fault!" I cried out in a savage, high voice.

"But you are passionate, Jane, that you must allow: and now return

to the nursery--there's a dear--and lie down a little."

"I am not your dear; I cannot lie down: send me to school soon,

Mrs. Reed, for I hate to live here."

"I will indeed send her to school soon," murmured Mrs. Reed sotto

voce; and gathering up her work, she abruptly quitted the apartment.

I was left there alone--winner of the field. It was the hardest

battle I had fought, and the first victory I had gained: I stood

awhile on the rug, where Mr. Brocklehurst had stood, and I enjoyed

my conqueror's solitude. First, I smiled to myself and felt elate;

but this fierce pleasure subsided in me as fast as did the

accelerated throb of my pulses. A child cannot quarrel with its

elders, as I had done; cannot give its furious feelings uncontrolled

play, as I had given mine, without experiencing afterwards the pang

of remorse and the chill of reaction. A ridge of lighted heath,

alive, glancing, devouring, would have been a meet emblem of my mind

when I accused and menaced Mrs. Reed: the same ridge, black and

blasted after the flames are dead, would have represented as meetly

my subsequent condition, when half-an-hour's silence and reflection

had shown me the madness of my conduct, and the dreariness of my

hated and hating position.

Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic

wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy: its after-flavour,

metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been

poisoned. Willingly would I now have gone and asked Mrs. Reed's

pardon; but I knew, partly from experience and partly from instinct,

that was the way to make her repulse me with double scorn, thereby

re-exciting every turbulent impulse of my nature.

I would fain exercise some better faculty than that of fierce

speaking; fain find nourishment for some less fiendish feeling than

that of sombre indignation. I took a book--some Arabian tales; I

sat down and endeavoured to read. I could make no sense of the

subject; my own thoughts swam always between me and the page I had

usually found fascinating. I opened the glass-door in the

breakfast-room: the shrubbery was quite still: the black frost

reigned, unbroken by sun or breeze, through the grounds. I covered

my head and arms with the skirt of my frock, and went out to walk in

a part of the plantation which was quite sequestrated; but I found

no pleasure in the silent trees, the falling fir-cones, the

congealed relics of autumn, russet leaves, swept by past winds in

heaps, and now stiffened together. I leaned against a gate, and

looked into an empty field where no sheep were feeding, where the

short grass was nipped and blanched. It was a very grey day; a most

opaque sky, "onding on snaw," canopied all; thence flakes felt it

intervals, which settled on the hard path and on the hoary lea

without melting. I stood, a wretched child enough, whispering to

myself over and over again, "What shall I do?--what shall I do?"

All at once I heard a clear voice call, "Miss Jane! where are you?

Come to lunch!"

It was Bessie, I knew well enough; but I did not stir; her light

step came tripping down the path.

"You naughty little thing!" she said. "Why don't you come when you

are called?"

Bessie's presence, compared with the thoughts over which I had been

brooding, seemed cheerful; even though, as usual, she was somewhat

cross. The fact is, after my conflict with and victory over Mrs.

Reed, I was not disposed to care much for the nursemaid's transitory

anger; and I WAS disposed to bask in her youthful lightness of

heart. I just put my two arms round her and said, "Come, Bessie!

don't scold."

The action was more frank and fearless than any I was habituated to

indulge in: somehow it pleased her.

"You are a strange child, Miss Jane," she said, as she looked down

at me; "a little roving, solitary thing: and you are going to

school, I suppose?"

I nodded.

"And won't you be sorry to leave poor Bessie?"

"What does Bessie care for me? She is always scolding me."

"Because you're such a queer, frightened, shy little thing. You

should be bolder."

"What! to get more knocks?"

"Nonsense! But you are rather put upon, that's certain. My mother

said, when she came to see me last week, that she would not like a

little one of her own to be in your place.--Now, come in, and I've

some good news for you."

"I don't think you have, Bessie."

"Child! what do you mean? What sorrowful eyes you fix on me! Well,

but Missis and the young ladies and Master John are going out to tea

this afternoon, and you shall have tea with me. I'll ask cook to

bake you a little cake, and then you shall help me to look over your

drawers; for I am soon to pack your trunk. Missis intends you to

leave Gateshead in a day or two, and you shall choose what toys you

like to take with you."

"Bessie, you must promise not to scold me any more till I go."

"Well, I will; but mind you are a very good girl, and don't be

afraid of me. Don't start when I chance to speak rather sharply;

it's so provoking."

"I don't think I shall ever be afraid of you again, Bessie, because

I have got used to you, and I shall soon have another set of people

to dread."

"If you dread them they'll dislike you."

"As you do, Bessie?"

"I don't dislike you, Miss; I believe I am fonder of you than of all

the others."

"You don't show it."

"You little sharp thing! you've got quite a new way of talking.

What makes you so venturesome and hardy?"

"Why, I shall soon be away from you, and besides"--I was going to

say something about what had passed between me and Mrs. Reed, but on

second thoughts I considered it better to remain silent on that

head.

"And so you're glad to leave me?"

"Not at all, Bessie; indeed, just now I'm rather sorry."

"Just now! and rather! How coolly my little lady says it! I dare

say now if I were to ask you for a kiss you wouldn't give it me:

you'd say you'd RATHER not."

"I'll kiss you and welcome: bend your head down." Bessie stooped;

we mutually embraced, and I followed her into the house quite

comforted. That afternoon lapsed in peace and harmony; and in the

evening Bessie told me some of her most enchaining stories, and sang

me some of her sweetest songs. Even for me life had its gleams of

sunshine.

 

CHAPTER V

Five o'clock had hardly struck on the morning of the 19th of

January, when Bessie brought a candle into my closet and found me

already up and nearly dressed. I had risen half-an-hour before her

entrance, and had washed my face, and put on my clothes by the light

of a half-moon just setting, whose rays streamed through the narrow

window near my crib. I was to leave Gateshead that day by a coach

which passed the lodge gates at six a.m. Bessie was the only person

yet risen; she had lit a fire in the nursery, where she now

proceeded to make my breakfast. Few children can eat when excited

with the thoughts of a journey; nor could I. Bessie, having pressed

me in vain to take a few spoonfuls of the boiled milk and bread she

had prepared for me, wrapped up some biscuits in a paper and put

them into my bag; then she helped me on with my pelisse and bonnet,

and wrapping herself in a shawl, she and I left the nursery. As we

passed Mrs. Reed's bedroom, she said, "Will you go in and bid Missis

good-bye?"

"No, Bessie: she came to my crib last night when you were gone down

to supper, and said I need not disturb her in the morning, or my

cousins either; and she told me to remember that she had always been

my best friend, and to speak of her and be grateful to her

accordingly."

"What did you say, Miss?"

"Nothing: I covered my face with the bedclothes, and turned from

her to the wall."

"That was wrong, Miss Jane."

"It was quite right, Bessie. Your Missis has not been my friend:

she has been my foe."

"O Miss Jane! don't say so!"

"Good-bye to Gateshead!" cried I, as we passed through the hall and

went out at the front door.

The moon was set, and it was very dark; Bessie carried a lantern,

whose light glanced on wet steps and gravel road sodden by a recent

thaw. Raw and chill was the winter morning: my teeth chattered as

I hastened down the drive. There was a light in the porter's lodge:

when we reached it, we found the porter's wife just kindling her

fire: my trunk, which had been carried down the evening before,

stood corded at the door. It wanted but a few minutes of six, and

shortly after that hour had struck, the distant roll of wheels

announced the coming coach; I went to the door and watched its lamps

approach rapidly through the gloom.

"Is she going by herself?" asked the porter's wife.

"Yes."

"And how far is it?"

"Fifty miles."

"What a long way! I wonder Mrs. Reed is not afraid to trust her so

far alone."

The coach drew up; there it was at the gates with its four horses

and its top laden with passengers: the guard and coachman loudly

urged haste; my trunk was hoisted up; I was taken from Bessie's

neck, to which I clung with kisses.

"Be sure and take good care of her," cried she to the guard, as he

lifted me into the inside.

"Ay, ay!" was the answer: the door was slapped to, a voice

exclaimed "All right," and on we drove. Thus was I severed from

Bessie and Gateshead; thus whirled away to unknown, and, as I then

deemed, remote and mysterious regions.

I remember but little of the journey; I only know that the day

seemed to me of a preternatural length, and that we appeared to

travel over hundreds of miles of road. We passed through several

towns, and in one, a very large one, the coach stopped; the horses

were taken out, and the passengers alighted to dine. I was carried

into an inn, where the guard wanted me to have some dinner; but, as

I had no appetite, he left me in an immense room with a fireplace at

each end, a chandelier pendent from the ceiling, and a little red

gallery high up against the wall filled with musical instruments.

Here I walked about for a long time, feeling very strange, and

mortally apprehensive of some one coming in and kidnapping me; for I

believed in kidnappers, their exploits having frequently figured in

Bessie's fireside chronicles. At last the guard returned; once more

I was stowed away in the coach, my protector mounted his own seat,

sounded his hollow horn, and away we rattled over the "stony street"

of L-.

The afternoon came on wet and somewhat misty: as it waned into

dusk, I began to feel that we were getting very far indeed from

Gateshead: we ceased to pass through towns; the country changed;

great grey hills heaved up round the horizon: as twilight deepened,

we descended a valley, dark with wood, and long after night had

overclouded the prospect, I heard a wild wind rushing amongst trees.

Lulled by the sound, I at last dropped asleep; I had not long

slumbered when the sudden cessation of motion awoke me; the coach-

door was open, and a person like a servant was standing at it: I

saw her face and dress by the light of the lamps.

"Is there a little girl called Jane Eyre here?" she asked. I

answered "Yes," and was then lifted out; my trunk was handed down,

and the coach instantly drove away.

I was stiff with long sitting, and bewildered with the noise and

motion of the coach: Gathering my faculties, I looked about me.

Rain, wind, and darkness filled the air; nevertheless, I dimly

discerned a wall before me and a door open in it; through this door

I passed with my new guide: she shut and locked it behind her.

There was now visible a house or houses--for the building spread

far--with many windows, and lights burning in some; we went up a

broad pebbly path, splashing wet, and were admitted at a door; then

the servant led me through a passage into a room with a fire, where

she left me alone.

I stood and warmed my numbed fingers over the blaze, then I looked

round; there was no candle, but the uncertain light from the hearth

showed, by intervals, papered walls, carpet, curtains, shining

mahogany furniture: it was a parlour, not so spacious or splendid

as the drawing-room at Gateshead, but comfortable enough. I was

puzzling to make out the subject of a picture on the wall, when the

door opened, and an individual carrying a light entered; another

followed close behind.

The first was a tall lady with dark hair, dark eyes, and a pale and

large forehead; her figure was partly enveloped in a shawl, her

countenance was grave, her bearing erect.

"The child is very young to be sent alone," said she, putting her

candle down on the table. She considered me attentively for a

minute or two, then further added -

"She had better be put to bed soon; she looks tired: are you

tired?" she asked, placing her hand on my shoulder.

"A little, ma'am."

"And hungry too, no doubt: let her have some supper before she goes

to bed, Miss Miller. Is this the first time you have left your

parents to come to school, my little girl?"

I explained to her that I had no parents. She inquired how long

they had been dead: then how old I was, what was my name, whether I

could read, write, and sew a little: then she touched my cheek

gently with her forefinger, and saying, "She hoped I should be a

good child," dismissed me along with Miss Miller.

The lady I had left might be about twenty-nine; the one who went

with me appeared some years younger: the first impressed me by her

voice, look, and air. Miss Miller was more ordinary; ruddy in

complexion, though of a careworn countenance; hurried in gait and

action, like one who had always a multiplicity of tasks on hand:

she looked, indeed, what I afterwards found she really was, an

under-teacher. Led by her, I passed from compartment to

compartment, from passage to passage, of a large and irregular

building; till, emerging from the total and somewhat dreary silence

pervading that portion of the house we had traversed, we came upon

the hum of many voices, and presently entered a wide, long room,

with great deal tables, two at each end, on each of which burnt a

pair of candles, and seated all round on benches, a congregation of

girls of every age, from nine or ten to twenty. Seen by the dim

light of the dips, their number to me appeared countless, though not

in reality exceeding eighty; they were uniformly dressed in brown

stuff frocks of quaint fashion, and long holland pinafores. It was

the hour of study; they were engaged in conning over their to-

morrow's task, and the hum I had heard was the combined result of

their whispered repetitions.

Miss Miller signed to me to sit on a bench near the door, then

walking up to the top of the long room she cried out -

"Monitors, collect the lesson-books and put them away! Four tall

girls arose from different tables, and going round, gathered the

books and removed them. Miss Miller again gave the word of command

-

"Monitors, fetch the supper-trays!"

The tall girls went out and returned presently, each bearing a tray,

with portions of something, I knew not what, arranged thereon, and a

pitcher of water and mug in the middle of each tray. The portions

were handed round; those who liked took a draught of the water, the

mug being common to all. When it came to my turn, I drank, for I

was thirsty, but did not touch the food, excitement and fatigue

rendering me incapable of eating: I now saw, however, that it was a

thin oaten cake shared into fragments.

The meal over, prayers were read by Miss Miller, and the classes

filed off, two and two, upstairs. Overpowered by this time with

weariness, I scarcely noticed what sort of a place the bedroom was,

except that, like the schoolroom, I saw it was very long. To-night

I was to be Miss Miller's bed-fellow; she helped me to undress:

when laid down I glanced at the long rows of beds, each of which was

quickly filled with two occupants; in ten minutes the single light

was extinguished, and amidst silence and complete darkness I fell

asleep.

The night passed rapidly. I was too tired even to dream; I only

once awoke to hear the wind rave in furious gusts, and the rain fall

in torrents, and to be sensible that Miss Miller had taken her place

by my side. When I again unclosed my eyes, a loud bell was ringing;

the girls were up and dressing; day had not yet begun to dawn, and a

rushlight or two burned in the room. I too rose reluctantly; it was

bitter cold, and I dressed as well as I could for shivering, and

washed when there was a basin at liberty, which did not occur soon,

as there was but one basin to six girls, on the stands down the

middle of the room. Again the bell rang: all formed in file, two

and two, and in that order descended the stairs and entered the cold

and dimly lit schoolroom: here prayers were read by Miss Miller;

afterwards she called out -

"Form classes!"

A great tumult succeeded for some minutes, during which Miss Miller

repeatedly exclaimed, "Silence!" and "Order!" When it subsided, I

saw them all drawn up in four semicircles, before four chairs,

placed at the four tables; all held books in their hands, and a

great book, like a Bible, lay on each table, before the vacant seat.

A pause of some seconds succeeded, filled up by the low, vague hum

of numbers; Miss Miller walked from class to class, hushing this

indefinite sound.

A distant bell tinkled: immediately three ladies entered the room,

each walked to a table and took her seat. Miss Miller assumed the

fourth vacant chair, which was that nearest the door, and around

which the smallest of the children were assembled: to this inferior

class I was called, and placed at the bottom of it.

Business now began, the day's Collect was repeated, then certain

texts of Scripture were said, and to these succeeded a protracted

reading of chapters in the Bible, which lasted an hour. By the time

that exercise was terminated, day had fully dawned. The

indefatigable bell now sounded for the fourth time: the classes

were marshalled and marched into another room to breakfast: how

glad I was to behold a prospect of getting something to eat! I was

now nearly sick from inanition, having taken so little the day

before.

The refectory was a great, low-ceiled, gloomy room; on two long

tables smoked basins of something hot, which, however, to my dismay,

sent forth an odour far from inviting. I saw a universal

manifestation of discontent when the fumes of the repast met the

nostrils of those destined to swallow it; from the van of the

procession, the tall girls of the first class, rose the whispered

words -

"Disgusting! The porridge is burnt again!"

"Silence!" ejaculated a voice; not that of Miss Miller, but one of

the upper teachers, a little and dark personage, smartly dressed,

but of somewhat morose aspect, who installed herself at the top of

one table, while a more buxom lady presided at the other. I looked

in vain for her I had first seen the night before; she was not

visible: Miss Miller occupied the foot of the table where I sat,

and a strange, foreign-looking, elderly lady, the French teacher, as

I afterwards found, took the corresponding seat at the other board.

A long grace was said and a hymn sung; then a servant brought in

some tea for the teachers, and the meal began.

Ravenous, and now very faint, I devoured a spoonful or two of my

portion without thinking of its taste; but the first edge of hunger

blunted, I perceived I had got in hand a nauseous mess; burnt

porridge is almost as bad as rotten potatoes; famine itself soon

sickens over it. The spoons were moved slowly: I saw each girl

taste her food and try to swallow it; but in most cases the effort

was soon relinquished. Breakfast was over, and none had

breakfasted. Thanks being returned for what we had not got, and a

second hymn chanted, the refectory was evacuated for the schoolroom.

I was one of the last to go out, and in passing the tables, I saw

one teacher take a basin of the porridge and taste it; she looked at

the others; all their countenances expressed displeasure, and one of

them, the stout one, whispered -

"Abominable stuff! How shameful!"

A quarter of an hour passed before lessons again began, during which

the schoolroom was in a glorious tumult; for that space of time it

seemed to be permitted to talk loud and more freely, and they used

their privilege. The whole conversation ran on the breakfast, which

one and all abused roundly. Poor things! it was the sole

consolation they had. Miss Miller was now the only teacher in the

room: a group of great girls standing about her spoke with serious

and sullen gestures. I heard the name of Mr. Brocklehurst

pronounced by some lips; at which Miss Miller shook her head

disapprovingly; but she made no great effort to cheek the general

wrath; doubtless she shared in it.

A clock in the schoolroom struck nine; Miss Miller left her circle,

and standing in the middle of the room, cried -

"Silence! To your seats!"

Discipline prevailed: in five minutes the confused throng was

resolved into order, and comparative silence quelled the Babel

clamour of tongues. The upper teachers now punctually resumed their

posts: but still, all seemed to wait. Ranged on benches down the

sides of the room, the eighty girls sat motionless and erect; a

quaint assemblage they appeared, all with plain locks combed from

their faces, not a curl visible; in brown dresses, made high and

surrounded by a narrow tucker about the throat, with little pockets

of holland (shaped something like a Highlander's purse) tied in

front of their frocks, and destined to serve the purpose of a work-

bag: all, too, wearing woollen stockings and country-made shoes,

fastened with brass buckles. Above twenty of those clad in this

costume were full-grown girls, or rather young women; it suited them

ill, and gave an air of oddity even to the prettiest.

I was still looking at them, and also at intervals examining the

teachers--none of whom precisely pleased me; for the stout one was a

little coarse, the dark one not a little fierce, the foreigner harsh

and grotesque, and Miss Miller, poor thing! looked purple, weather-

beaten, and over-worked--when, as my eye wandered from face to face,

the whole school rose simultaneously, as if moved by a common

spring.

What was the matter? I had heard no order given: I was puzzled.

Ere I had gathered my wits, the classes were again seated: but as

all eyes were now turned to one point, mine followed the general

direction, and encountered the personage who had received me last

night. She stood at the bottom of the long room, on the hearth; for

there was a fire at each end; she surveyed the two rows of girls

silently and gravely. Miss Miller approaching, seemed to ask her a

question, and having received her answer, went back to her place,

and said aloud -

"Monitor of the first class, fetch the globes!"

While the direction was being executed, the lady consulted moved

slowly up the room. I suppose I have a considerable organ of

veneration, for I retain yet the sense of admiring awe with which my

eyes traced her steps. Seen now, in broad daylight, she looked

tall, fair, and shapely; brown eyes with a benignant light in their

irids, and a fine pencilling of long lashes round, relieved the

whiteness of her large front; on each of her temples her hair, of a

very dark brown, was clustered in round curls, according to the

fashion of those times, when neither smooth bands nor long ringlets

were in vogue; her dress, also in the mode of the day, was of purple

cloth, relieved by a sort of Spanish trimming of black velvet; a

gold watch (watches were not so common then as now) shone at her

girdle. Let the reader add, to complete the picture, refined

features; a complexion, if pale, clear; and a stately air and

carriage, and he will have, at least, as clearly as words can give

it, a correct idea of the exterior of Miss Temple--Maria Temple, as

I afterwards saw the name written in a prayer-book intrusted to me

to carry to church.

The superintendent of Lowood (for such was this lady) having taken

her seat before a pair of globes placed on one of the tables,

summoned the first class round her, and commenced giving a lesson on

geography; the lower classes were called by the teachers:

repetitions in history, grammar, &c., went on for an hour; writing

and arithmetic succeeded, and music lessons were given by Miss

Temple to some of the elder girls. The duration of each lesson was

measured by the clock, which at last struck twelve. The

superintendent rose -

"I have a word to address to the pupils," said she.

The tumult of cessation from lessons was already breaking forth, but

it sank at her voice. She went on -

"You had this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you must

be hungry:--I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese shall be

served to all."

The teachers looked at her with a sort of surprise.

"It is to be done on my responsibility," she added, in an

explanatory tone to them, and immediately afterwards left the room.

The bread and cheese was presently brought in and distributed, to

the high delight and refreshment of the whole school. The order was

now given "To the garden!" Each put on a coarse straw bonnet, with

strings of coloured calico, and a cloak of grey frieze. I was

similarly equipped, and, following the stream, I made my way into

the open air.

The garden was a wide inclosure, surrounded with walls so high as to

exclude every glimpse of prospect; a covered verandah ran down one

side, and broad walks bordered a middle space divided into scores of

little beds: these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to

cultivate, and each bed had an owner. When full of flowers they

would doubtless look pretty; but now, at the latter end of January,

all was wintry blight and brown decay. I shuddered as I stood and

looked round me: it was an inclement day for outdoor exercise; not

positively rainy, but darkened by a drizzling yellow fog; all under

foot was still soaking wet with the floods of yesterday. The

stronger among the girls ran about and engaged in active games, but

sundry pale and thin ones herded together for shelter and warmth in

the verandah; and amongst these, as the dense mist penetrated to

their shivering frames, I heard frequently the sound of a hollow

cough.

As yet I had spoken to no one, nor did anybody seem to take notice

of me; I stood lonely enough: but to that feeling of isolation I

was accustomed; it did not oppress me much. I leant against a

pillar of the verandah, drew my grey mantle close about me, and,

trying to forget the cold which nipped me without, and the

unsatisfied hunger which gnawed me within, delivered myself up to

the employment of watching and thinking. My reflections were too

undefined and fragmentary to merit record: I hardly yet knew where

I was; Gateshead and my past life seemed floated away to an

immeasurable distance; the present was vague and strange, and of the

future I could form no conjecture. I looked round the convent-like

garden, and then up at the house--a large building, half of which

seemed grey and old, the other half quite new. The new part,

containing the schoolroom and dormitory, was lit by mullioned and

latticed windows, which gave it a church-like aspect; a stone tablet

over the door bore this inscription:-

"Lowood Institution.--This portion was rebuilt A.D.--, by Naomi

Brocklehurst, of Brocklehurst Hall, in this county." "Let your

light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and

glorify your Father which is in heaven."-- St. Matt. v. 16.

I read these words over and over again: I felt that an explanation

belonged to them, and was unable fully to penetrate their import. I

was still pondering the signification of "Institution," and

endeavouring to make out a connection between the first words and

the verse of Scripture, when the sound of a cough close behind me

made me turn my head. I saw a girl sitting on a stone bench near;

she was bent over a book, on the perusal of which she seemed intent:

from where I stood I could see the title--it was "Rasselas;" a name

that struck me as strange, and consequently attractive. In turning

a leaf she happened to look up, and I said to her directly -

"Is your book interesting?" I had already formed the intention of

asking her to lend it to me some day.

"I like it," she answered, after a pause of a second or two, during

which she examined me.

"What is it about?" I continued. I hardly know where I found the

hardihood thus to open a conversation with a stranger; the step was

contrary to my nature and habits: but I think her occupation

touched a chord of sympathy somewhere; for I too liked reading,

though of a frivolous and childish kind; I could not digest or

comprehend the serious or substantial.

"You may look at it," replied the girl, offering me the book.

I did so; a brief examination convinced me that the contents were

less taking than the title: "Rasselas" looked dull to my trifling

taste; I saw nothing about fairies, nothing about genii; no bright

variety seemed spread over the closely-printed pages. I returned it

to her; she received it quietly, and without saying anything she was

about to relapse into her former studious mood: again I ventured to

disturb her -

"Can you tell me what the writing on that stone over the door means?

What is Lowood Institution?"

"This house where you are come to live."

"And why do they call it Institution? Is it in any way different

from other schools?"

"It is partly a charity-school: you and I, and all the rest of us,

are charity-children. I suppose you are an orphan: are not either

your father or your mother dead?"

"Both died before I can remember."

"Well, all the girls here have lost either one or both parents, and

this is called an institution for educating orphans."

"Do we pay no money? Do they keep us for nothing?"

"We pay, or our friends pay, fifteen pounds a year for each."

"Then why do they call us charity-children?"

"Because fifteen pounds is not enough for board and teaching, and

the deficiency is supplied by subscription."

"Who subscribes?"

"Different benevolent-minded ladies and gentlemen in this

neighbourhood and in London."

"Who was Naomi Brocklehurst?"

"The lady who built the new part of this house as that tablet

records, and whose son overlooks and directs everything here."

"Why?"

"Because he is treasurer and manager of the establishment."

"Then this house does not belong to that tall lady who wears a

watch, and who said we were to have some bread and cheese?"

"To Miss Temple? Oh, no! I wish it did: she has to answer to Mr.

Brocklehurst for all she does. Mr. Brocklehurst buys all our food

and all our clothes."

"Does he live here?"

"No--two miles off, at a large hall."

"Is he a good man?"

"He is a clergyman, and is said to do a great deal of good."

"Did you say that tall lady was called Miss Temple?"

"Yes."

"And what are the other teachers called?"

"The one with red cheeks is called Miss Smith; she attends to the

work, and cuts out--for we make our own clothes, our frocks, and

pelisses, and everything; the little one with black hair is Miss

Scatcherd; she teaches history and grammar, and hears the second

class repetitions; and the one who wears a shawl, and has a pocket-

handkerchief tied to her side with a yellow ribband, is Madame

Pierrot: she comes from Lisle, in France, and teaches French."

"Do you like the teachers?"

"Well enough."

"Do you like the little black one, and the Madame -?--I cannot

pronounce her name as you do."

"Miss Scatcherd is hasty--you must take care not to offend her;

Madame Pierrot is not a bad sort of person."

"But Miss Temple is the best--isn't she?"

"Miss Temple is very good and very clever; she is above the rest,

because she knows far more than they do."

"Have you been long here?"

"Two years."

"Are you an orphan?"

"My mother is dead."

"Are you happy here?"

"You ask rather too many questions. I have given you answers enough

for the present: now I want to read."

But at that moment the summons sounded for dinner; all re-entered

the house. The odour which now filled the refectory was scarcely

more appetising than that which had regaled our nostrils at

breakfast: the dinner was served in two huge tin-plated vessels,

whence rose a strong steam redolent of rancid fat. I found the mess

to consist of indifferent potatoes and strange shreds of rusty meat,

mixed and cooked together. Of this preparation a tolerably abundant

plateful was apportioned to each pupil. I ate what I could, and

wondered within myself whether every day's fare would be like this.

After dinner, we immediately adjourned to the schoolroom: lessons

recommenced, and were continued till five o'clock.

The only marked event of the afternoon was, that I saw the girl with

whom I had conversed in the verandah dismissed in disgrace by Miss

Scatcherd from a history class, and sent to stand in the middle of

the large schoolroom. The punishment seemed to me in a high degree

ignominious, especially for so great a girl--she looked thirteen or

upwards. I expected she would show signs of great distress and

shame; but to my surprise she neither wept nor blushed: composed,

though grave, she stood, the central mark of all eyes. "How can she

bear it so quietly--so firmly?" I asked of myself. "Were I in her

place, it seems to me I should wish the earth to open and swallow me

up. She looks as if she were thinking of something beyond her

punishment--beyond her situation: of something not round her nor

before her. I have heard of day-dreams--is she in a day-dream now?

Her eyes are fixed on the floor, but I am sure they do not see it--

her sight seems turned in, gone down into her heart: she is looking

at what she can remember, I believe; not at what is really present.

I wonder what sort of a girl she is--whether good or naughty."

Soon after five p.m. we had another meal, consisting of a small mug

of coffee, and half-a-slice of brown bread. I devoured my bread and

drank my coffee with relish; but I should have been glad of as much

more--I was still hungry. Half-an-hour's recreation succeeded, then

study; then the glass of water and the piece of oat-cake, prayers,

and bed. Such was my first day at Lowood.

 

CHAPTER VI

The next day commenced as before, getting up and dressing by

rushlight; but this morning we were obliged to dispense with the

ceremony of washing; the water in the pitchers was frozen. A change

had taken place in the weather the preceding evening, and a keen

north-east wind, whistling through the crevices of our bedroom

windows all night long, had made us shiver in our beds, and turned

the contents of the ewers to ice.

Before the long hour and a half of prayers and Bible-reading was

over, I felt ready to perish with cold. Breakfast-time came at

last, and this morning the porridge was not burnt; the quality was

eatable, the quantity small. How small my portion seemed! I wished

it had been doubled.

In the course of the day I was enrolled a member of the fourth

class, and regular tasks and occupations were assigned me:

hitherto, I had only been a spectator of the proceedings at Lowood;

I was now to become an actor therein. At first, being little

accustomed to learn by heart, the lessons appeared to me both long

and difficult; the frequent change from task to task, too,

bewildered me; and I was glad when, about three o'clock in the

afternoon, Miss Smith put into my hands a border of muslin two yards

long, together with needle, thimble, &c., and sent me to sit in a

quiet corner of the schoolroom, with directions to hem the same. At

that hour most of the others were sewing likewise; but one class

still stood round Miss Scatcherd's chair reading, and as all was

quiet, the subject of their lessons could be heard, together with

the manner in which each girl acquitted herself, and the

animadversions or commendations of Miss Scatcherd on the

performance. It was English history: among the readers I observed

my acquaintance of the verandah: at the commencement of the lesson,

her place had been at the top of the class, but for some error of

pronunciation, or some inattention to stops, she was suddenly sent

to the very bottom. Even in that obscure position, Miss Scatcherd

continued to make her an object of constant notice: she was

continually addressing to her such phrases as the following:-

"Burns" (such it seems was her name: the girls here were all called

by their surnames, as boys are elsewhere), "Burns, you are standing

on the side of your shoe; turn your toes out immediately." "Burns,

you poke your chin most unpleasantly; draw it in." "Burns, I insist

on your holding your head up; I will not have you before me in that

attitude," &c. &c.

A chapter having been read through twice, the books were closed and

the girls examined. The lesson had comprised part of the reign of

Charles I., and there were sundry questions about tonnage and

poundage and ship-money, which most of them appeared unable to

answer; still, every little difficulty was solved instantly when it

reached Burns: her memory seemed to have retained the substance of

the whole lesson, and she was ready with answers on every point. I

kept expecting that Miss Scatcherd would praise her attention; but,

instead of that, she suddenly cried out -

"You dirty, disagreeable girl! you have never cleaned your nails

this morning!"

Burns made no answer: I wondered at her silence. "Why," thought I,

"does she not explain that she could neither clean her nails nor

wash her face, as the water was frozen?"

My attention was now called off by Miss Smith desiring me to hold a

skein of thread: while she was winding it, she talked to me from

time to time, asking whether I had ever been at school before,

whether I could mark, stitch, knit, &c.; till she dismissed me, I

could not pursue my observations on Miss Scatcherd's movements.

When I returned to my seat, that lady was just delivering an order

of which I did not catch the import; but Burns immediately left the

class, and going into the small inner room where the books were

kept, returned in half a minute, carrying in her hand a bundle of

twigs tied together at one end. This ominous tool she presented to

Miss Scatcherd with a respectful curtesy; then she quietly, and

without being told, unloosed her pinafore, and the teacher instantly

and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch of

twigs. Not a tear rose to Burns' eye; and, while I paused from my

sewing, because my fingers quivered at this spectacle with a

sentiment of unavailing and impotent anger, not a feature of her

pensive face altered its ordinary expression.

"Hardened girl!" exclaimed Miss Scatcherd; "nothing can correct you

of your slatternly habits: carry the rod away."

Burns obeyed: I looked at her narrowly as she emerged from the

book-closet; she was just putting back her handkerchief into her

pocket, and the trace of a tear glistened on her thin cheek.

The play-hour in the evening I thought the pleasantest fraction of

the day at Lowood: the bit of bread, the draught of coffee

swallowed at five o'clock had revived vitality, if it had not

satisfied hunger: the long restraint of the day was slackened; the

schoolroom felt warmer than in the morning--its fires being allowed

to burn a little more brightly, to supply, in some measure, the

place of candles, not yet introduced: the ruddy gloaming, the

licensed uproar, the confusion of many voices gave one a welcome

sense of liberty.

On the evening of the day on which I had seen Miss Scatcherd flog

her pupil, Burns, I wandered as usual among the forms and tables and

laughing groups without a companion, yet not feeling lonely: when I

passed the windows, I now and then lifted a blind, and looked out;

it snowed fast, a drift was already forming against the lower panes;

putting my ear close to the window, I could distinguish from the

gleeful tumult within, the disconsolate moan of the wind outside.

Probably, if I had lately left a good home and kind parents, this

would have been the hour when I should most keenly have regretted

the separation; that wind would then have saddened my heart; this

obscure chaos would have disturbed my peace! as it was, I derived

from both a strange excitement, and reckless and feverish, I wished

the wind to howl more wildly, the gloom to deepen to darkness, and

the confusion to rise to clamour.

Jumping over forms, and creeping under tables, I made my way to one

of the fire-places; there, kneeling by the high wire fender, I found

Burns, absorbed, silent, abstracted from all round her by the

companionship of a book, which she read by the dim glare of the

embers.

"Is it still 'Rasselas'?" I asked, coming behind her.

"Yes," she said, "and I have just finished it."

And in five minutes more she shut it up. I was glad of this.

"Now," thought I, "I can perhaps get her to talk." I sat down by

her on the floor.

"What is your name besides Burns?"

"Helen."

"Do you come a long way from here?"

"I come from a place farther north, quite on the borders of

Scotland."

"Will you ever go back?"

"I hope so; but nobody can be sure of the future."

"You must wish to leave Lowood?"

"No! why should I? I was sent to Lowood to get an education; and it

would be of no use going away until I have attained that object."

"But that teacher, Miss Scatcherd, is so cruel to you?"

"Cruel? Not at all! She is severe: she dislikes my faults."

"And if I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist

her. If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand;

I should break it under her nose."

"Probably you would do nothing of the sort: but if you did, Mr.

Brocklehurst would expel you from the school; that would be a great

grief to your relations. It is far better to endure patiently a

smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action

whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you; and

besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil."

"But then it seems disgraceful to be flogged, and to be sent to

stand in the middle of a room full of people; and you are such a

great girl: I am far younger than you, and I could not bear it."

"Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it:

it is weak and silly to say you CANNOT BEAR what it is your fate to

be required to bear."

I heard her with wonder: I could not comprehend this doctrine of

endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathise with the

forbearance she expressed for her chastiser. Still I felt that

Helen Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes. I

suspected she might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder the

matter deeply; like Felix, I put it off to a more convenient season.

"You say you have faults, Helen: what are they? To me you seem

very good."

"Then learn from me, not to judge by appearances: I am, as Miss

Scatcherd said, slatternly; I seldom put, and never keep, things, in

order; I am careless; I forget rules; I read when I should learn my

lessons; I have no method; and sometimes I say, like you, I cannot

BEAR to be subjected to systematic arrangements. This is all very

provoking to Miss Scatcherd, who is naturally neat, punctual, and

particular."

"And cross and cruel," I added; but Helen Burns would not admit my

addition: she kept silence.

"Is Miss Temple as severe to you as Miss Scatcherd?"

At the utterance of Miss Temple's name, a soft smile flitted over

her grave face.

"Miss Temple is full of goodness; it pains her to be severe to any

one, even the worst in the school: she sees my errors, and tells me

of them gently; and, if I do anything worthy of praise, she gives me

my meed liberally. One strong proof of my wretchedly defective

nature is, that even her expostulations, so mild, so rational, have

not influence to cure me of my faults; and even her praise, though I

value it most highly, cannot stimulate me to continued care and

foresight."

"That is curious," said I, "it is so easy to be careful."

"For YOU I have no doubt it is. I observed you in your class this

morning, and saw you were closely attentive: your thoughts never

seemed to wander while Miss Miller explained the lesson and

questioned you. Now, mine continually rove away; when I should be

listening to Miss Scatcherd, and collecting all she says with

assiduity, often I lose the very sound of her voice; I fall into a

sort of dream. Sometimes I think I am in Northumberland, and that

the noises I hear round me are the bubbling of a little brook which

runs through Deepden, near our house;--then, when it comes to my

turn to reply, I have to be awakened; and having heard nothing of

what was read for listening to the visionary brook, I have no answer

ready."

"Yet how well you replied this afternoon."

"It was mere chance; the subject on which we had been reading had

interested me. This afternoon, instead of dreaming of Deepden, I

was wondering how a man who wished to do right could act so unjustly

and unwisely as Charles the First sometimes did; and I thought what

a pity it was that, with his integrity and conscientiousness, he

could see no farther than the prerogatives of the crown. If he had

but been able to look to a distance, and see how what they call the

spirit of the age was tending! Still, I like Charles--I respect

him--I pity him, poor murdered king! Yes, his enemies were the

worst: they shed blood they had no right to shed. How dared they

kill him!"

Helen was talking to herself now: she had forgotten I could not

very well understand her--that I was ignorant, or nearly so, of the

subject she discussed. I recalled her to my level.

"And when Miss Temple teaches you, do your thoughts wander then?"

"No, certainly, not often; because Miss Temple has generally

something to say which is newer than my own reflections; her

language is singularly agreeable to me, and the information she

communicates is often just what I wished to gain."

"Well, then, with Miss Temple you are good?"

"Yes, in a passive way: I make no effort; I follow as inclination

guides me. There is no merit in such goodness."

"A great deal: you are good to those who are good to you. It is

all I ever desire to be. If people were always kind and obedient to

those who are cruel and unjust, the wicked people would have it all

their own way: they would never feel afraid, and so they would

never alter, but would grow worse and worse. When we are struck at

without a reason, we should strike back again very hard; I am sure

we should--so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do

it again."

"You will change your mind, I hope, when you grow older: as yet you

are but a little untaught girl."

"But I feel this, Helen; I must dislike those who, whatever I do to

please them, persist in disliking me; I must resist those who punish

me unjustly. It is as natural as that I should love those who show

me affection, or submit to punishment when I feel it is deserved."

"Heathens and savage tribes hold that doctrine, but Christians and

civilised nations disown it."

"How? I don't understand."

"It is not violence that best overcomes hate--nor vengeance that

most certainly heals injury."

"What then?"

"Read the New Testament, and observe what Christ says, and how He

acts; make His word your rule, and His conduct your example."

"What does He say?"

"Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that

hate you and despitefully use you."

"Then I should love Mrs. Reed, which I cannot do; I should bless her

son John, which is impossible."

In her turn, Helen Burns asked me to explain, and I proceeded

forthwith to pour out, in my own way, the tale of my sufferings and

resentments. Bitter and truculent when excited, I spoke as I felt,

without reserve or softening.

Helen heard me patiently to the end: I expected she would then make

a remark, but she said nothing.

"Well," I asked impatiently, "is not Mrs. Reed a hard-hearted, bad

woman?"

"She has been unkind to you, no doubt; because you see, she dislikes

your cast of character, as Miss Scatcherd does mine; but how

minutely you remember all she has done and said to you! What a

singularly deep impression her injustice seems to have made on your

heart! No ill-usage so brands its record on my feelings. Would you

not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with

the passionate emotions it excited? Life appears to me too short to

be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. We are, and

must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world: but the

time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting

off our corruptible bodies; when debasement and sin will fall from

us with this cumbrous frame of flesh, and only the spark of the

spirit will remain,--the impalpable principle of light and thought,

pure as when it left the Creator to inspire the creature: whence it

came it will return; perhaps again to be communicated to some being

higher than man--perhaps to pass through gradations of glory, from

the pale human soul to brighten to the seraph! Surely it will

never, on the contrary, be suffered to degenerate from man to fiend?

No; I cannot believe that: I hold another creed: which no one ever

taught me, and which I seldom mention; but in which I delight, and

to which I cling: for it extends hope to all: it makes Eternity a

rest--a mighty home, not a terror and an abyss. Besides, with this

creed, I can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his

crime; I can so sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last:

with this creed revenge never worries my heart, degradation never

too deeply disgusts me, injustice never crushes me too low: I live

in calm, looking to the end."

Helen's head, always drooping, sank a little lower as she finished

this sentence. I saw by her look she wished no longer to talk to

me, but rather to converse with her own thoughts. She was not

allowed much time for meditation: a monitor, a great rough girl,

presently came up, exclaiming in a strong Cumberland accent -

"Helen Burns, if you don't go and put your drawer in order, and fold

up your work this minute, I'll tell Miss Scatcherd to come and look

at it!"

Helen sighed as her reverie fled, and getting up, obeyed the monitor

without reply as without delay.

 

CHAPTER VII

My first quarter at Lowood seemed an age; and not the golden age

either; it comprised an irksome struggle with difficulties in

habituating myself to new rules and unwonted tasks. The fear of

failure in these points harassed me worse than the physical

hardships of my lot; though these were no trifles.

During January, February, and part of March, the deep snows, and,

after their melting, the almost impassable roads, prevented our

stirring beyond the garden walls, except to go to church; but within

these limits we had to pass an hour every day in the open air. Our

clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe cold: we

had no boots, the snow got into our shoes and melted there: our

ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains, as were

our feet: I remember well the distracting irritation I endured from

this cause every evening, when my feet inflamed; and the torture of

thrusting the swelled, raw, and stiff toes into my shoes in the

morning. Then the scanty supply of food was distressing: with the

keen appetites of growing children, we had scarcely sufficient to

keep alive a delicate invalid. From this deficiency of nourishment

resulted an abuse, which pressed hardly on the younger pupils:

whenever the famished great girls had an opportunity, they would

coax or menace the little ones out of their portion. Many a time I

have shared between two claimants the precious morsel of brown bread

distributed at tea-time; and after relinquishing to a third half the

contents of my mug of coffee, I have swallowed the remainder with an

accompaniment of secret tears, forced from me by the exigency of

hunger.

Sundays were dreary days in that wintry season. We had to walk two

miles to Brocklebridge Church, where our patron officiated. We set

out cold, we arrived at church colder: during the morning service

we became almost paralysed. It was too far to return to dinner, and

an allowance of cold meat and bread, in the same penurious

proportion observed in our ordinary meals, was served round between

the services.

At the close of the afternoon service we returned by an exposed and

hilly road, where the bitter winter wind, blowing over a range of

snowy summits to the north, almost flayed the skin from our faces.

I can remember Miss Temple walking lightly and rapidly along our

drooping line, her plaid cloak, which the frosty wind fluttered,

gathered close about her, and encouraging us, by precept and

example, to keep up our spirits, and march forward, as she said,

"like stalwart soldiers." The other teachers, poor things, were

generally themselves too much dejected to attempt the task of

cheering others.

How we longed for the light and heat of a blazing fire when we got

back! But, to the little ones at least, this was denied: each

hearth in the schoolroom was immediately surrounded by a double row

of great girls, and behind them the younger children crouched in

groups, wrapping their starved arms in their pinafores.

A little solace came at tea-time, in the shape of a double ration of

bread--a whole, instead of a half, slice--with the delicious

addition of a thin scrape of butter: it was the hebdomadal treat to

which we all looked forward from Sabbath to Sabbath. I generally

contrived to reserve a moiety of this bounteous repast for myself;

but the remainder I was invariably obliged to part with.

The Sunday evening was spent in repeating, by heart, the Church

Catechism, and the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of St.

Matthew; and in listening to a long sermon, read by Miss Miller,

whose irrepressible yawns attested her weariness. A frequent

interlude of these performances was the enactment of the part of

Eutychus by some half-dozen of little girls, who, overpowered with

sleep, would fall down, if not out of the third loft, yet off the

fourth form, and be taken up half dead. The remedy was, to thrust

them forward into the centre of the schoolroom, and oblige them to

stand there till the sermon was finished. Sometimes their feet

failed them, and they sank together in a heap; they were then

propped up with the monitors' high stools.

I have not yet alluded to the visits of Mr. Brocklehurst; and indeed

that gentleman was from home during the greater part of the first

month after my arrival; perhaps prolonging his stay with his friend

the archdeacon: his absence was a relief to me. I need not say

that I had my own reasons for dreading his coming: but come he did

at last.

One afternoon (I had then been three weeks at Lowood), as I was

sitting with a slate in my hand, puzzling over a sum in long

division, my eyes, raised in abstraction to the window, caught sight

of a figure just passing: I recognised almost instinctively that

gaunt outline; and when, two minutes after, all the school, teachers

included, rose en masse, it was not necessary for me to look up in

order to ascertain whose entrance they thus greeted. A long stride

measured the schoolroom, and presently beside Miss Temple, who

herself had risen, stood the same black column which had frowned on

me so ominously from the hearthrug of Gateshead. I now glanced

sideways at this piece of architecture. Yes, I was right: it was

Mr. Brocklehurst, buttoned up in a surtout, and looking longer,

narrower, and more rigid than ever.

I had my own reasons for being dismayed at this apparition; too well

I remembered the perfidious hints given by Mrs. Reed about my

disposition, &c.; the promise pledged by Mr. Brocklehurst to apprise

Miss Temple and the teachers of my vicious nature. All along I had

been dreading the fulfilment of this promise,--I had been looking

out daily for the "Coming Man," whose information respecting my past

life and conversation was to brand me as a bad child for ever: now

there he was.

He stood at Miss Temple's side; he was speaking low in her ear: I

did not doubt he was making disclosures of my villainy; and I

watched her eye with painful anxiety, expecting every moment to see

its dark orb turn on me a glance of repugnance and contempt. I

listened too; and as I happened to be seated quite at the top of the

room, I caught most of what he said: its import relieved me from

immediate apprehension.

"I suppose, Miss Temple, the thread I bought at Lowton will do; it

struck me that it would be just of the quality for the calico

chemises, and I sorted the needles to match. You may tell Miss

Smith that I forgot to make a memorandum of the darning needles, but

she shall have some papers sent in next week; and she is not, on any

account, to give out more than one at a time to each pupil: if they

have more, they are apt to be careless and lose them. And, O ma'am!

I wish the woollen stockings were better looked to!--when I was here

last, I went into the kitchen-garden and examined the clothes drying

on the line; there was a quantity of black hose in a very bad state

of repair: from the size of the holes in them I was sure they had

not been well mended from time to time."

He paused.

"Your directions shall be attended to, sir," said Miss Temple.

"And, ma'am," he continued, "the laundress tells me some of the

girls have two clean tuckers in the week: it is too much; the rules

limit them to one."

"I think I can explain that circumstance, sir. Agnes and Catherine

Johnstone were invited to take tea with some friends at Lowton last

Thursday, and I gave them leave to put on clean tuckers for the

occasion."

Mr. Brocklehurst nodded.

"Well, for once it may pass; but please not to let the circumstance

occur too often. And there is another thing which surprised me; I

find, in settling accounts with the housekeeper, that a lunch,

consisting of bread and cheese, has twice been served out to the

girls during the past fortnight. How is this? I looked over the

regulations, and I find no such meal as lunch mentioned. Who

introduced this innovation? and by what authority?"

"I must be responsible for the circumstance, sir," replied Miss

Temple: "the breakfast was so ill prepared that the pupils could

not possibly eat it; and I dared not allow them to remain fasting

till dinner-time."

"Madam, allow me an instant. You are aware that my plan in bringing

up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and

indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying. Should

any little accidental disappointment of the appetite occur, such as

the spoiling of a meal, the under or the over dressing of a dish,

the incident ought not to be neutralised by replacing with something

more delicate the comfort lost, thus pampering the body and

obviating the aim of this institution; it ought to be improved to

the spiritual edification of the pupils, by encouraging them to

evince fortitude under temporary privation. A brief address on

those occasions would not be mistimed, wherein a judicious

instructor would take the opportunity of referring to the sufferings

of the primitive Christians; to the torments of martyrs; to the

exhortations of our blessed Lord Himself, calling upon His disciples

to take up their cross and follow Him; to His warnings that man

shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out

of the mouth of God; to His divine consolations, "If ye suffer

hunger or thirst for My sake, happy are ye." Oh, madam, when you

put bread and cheese, instead of burnt porridge, into these

children's mouths, you may indeed feed their vile bodies, but you

little think how you starve their immortal souls!"

Mr. Brocklehurst again paused--perhaps overcome by his feelings.

Miss Temple had looked down when he first began to speak to her; but

she now gazed straight before her, and her face, naturally pale as

marble, appeared to be assuming also the coldness and fixity of that

material; especially her mouth, closed as if it would have required

a sculptor's chisel to open it, and her brow settled gradually into

petrified severity.

Meantime, Mr. Brocklehurst, standing on the hearth with his hands

behind his back, majestically surveyed the whole school. Suddenly

his eye gave a blink, as if it had met something that either dazzled

or shocked its pupil; turning, he said in more rapid accents than he

had hitherto used -

"Miss Temple, Miss Temple, what--WHAT is that girl with curled hair?

Red hair, ma'am, curled--curled all over?" And extending his cane

he pointed to the awful object, his hand shaking as he did so.

"It is Julia Severn," replied Miss Temple, very quietly.

"Julia Severn, ma'am! And why has she, or any other, curled hair?

Why, in defiance of every precept and principle of this house, does

she conform to the world so openly--here in an evangelical,

charitable establishment--as to wear her hair one mass of curls?"

"Julia's hair curls naturally," returned Miss Temple, still more

quietly.

"Naturally! Yes, but we are not to conform to nature; I wish these

girls to be the children of Grace: and why that abundance? I have

again and again intimated that I desire the hair to be arranged

closely, modestly, plainly. Miss Temple, that girl's hair must be

cut off entirely; I will send a barber to-morrow: and I see others

who have far too much of the excrescence--that tall girl, tell her

to turn round. Tell all the first form to rise up and direct their

faces to the wall."

Miss Temple passed her handkerchief over her lips, as if to smooth

away the involuntary smile that curled them; she gave the order,

however, and when the first class could take in what was required of

them, they obeyed. Leaning a little back on my bench, I could see

the looks and grimaces with which they commented on this manoeuvre:

it was a pity Mr. Brocklehurst could not see them too; he would

perhaps have felt that, whatever he might do with the outside of the

cup and platter, the inside was further beyond his interference than

he imagined.

He scrutinised the reverse of these living medals some five minutes,

then pronounced sentence. These words fell like the knell of doom -

"All those top-knots must be cut off."

Miss Temple seemed to remonstrate.

"Madam," he pursued, "I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not

of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of

the flesh; to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facedness

and sobriety, not with braided hair and costly apparel; and each of

the young persons before us has a string of hair twisted in plaits

which vanity itself might have woven; these, I repeat, must be cut

off; think of the time wasted, of--"

Mr. Brocklehurst was here interrupted: three other visitors,

ladies, now entered the room. They ought to have come a little

sooner to have heard his lecture on dress, for they were splendidly

attired in velvet, silk, and furs. The two younger of the trio

(fine girls of sixteen and seventeen) had grey beaver hats, then in

fashion, shaded with ostrich plumes, and from under the brim of this

graceful head-dress fell a profusion of light tresses, elaborately

curled; the elder lady was enveloped in a costly velvet shawl,

trimmed with ermine, and she wore a false front of French curls.

These ladies were deferentially received by Miss Temple, as Mrs. and

the Misses Brocklehurst, and conducted to seats of honour at the top

of the room. It seems they had come in the carriage with their

reverend relative, and had been conducting a rummaging scrutiny of

the room upstairs, while he transacted business with the

housekeeper, questioned the laundress, and lectured the

superintendent. They now proceeded to address divers remarks and

reproofs to Miss Smith, who was charged with the care of the linen

and the inspection of the dormitories: but I had no time to listen

to what they said; other matters called off and enchanted my

attention.

Hitherto, while gathering up the discourse of Mr. Brocklehurst and

Miss Temple, I had not, at the same time, neglected precautions to

secure my personal safety; which I thought would be effected, if I

could only elude observation. To this end, I had sat well back on

the form, and while seeming to be busy with my sum, had held my

slate in such a manner as to conceal my face: I might have escaped

notice, had not my treacherous slate somehow happened to slip from

my hand, and falling with an obtrusive crash, directly drawn every

eye upon me; I knew it was all over now, and, as I stooped to pick

up the two fragments of slate, I rallied my forces for the worst.

It came.

"A careless girl!" said Mr. Brocklehurst, and immediately after--"It

is the new pupil, I perceive." And before I could draw breath, "I

must not forget I have a word to say respecting her." Then aloud:

how loud it seemed to me! "Let the child who broke her slate come

forward!"

Of my own accord I could not have stirred; I was paralysed: but the

two great girls who sit on each side of me, set me on my legs and

pushed me towards the dread judge, and then Miss Temple gently

assisted me to his very feet, and I caught her whispered counsel -

"Don't be afraid, Jane, I saw it was an accident; you shall not be

punished."

The kind whisper went to my heart like a dagger.

"Another minute, and she will despise me for a hypocrite," thought

I; and an impulse of fury against Reed, Brocklehurst, and Co.

bounded in my pulses at the conviction. I was no Helen Burns.

"Fetch that stool," said Mr. Brocklehurst, pointing to a very high

one from which a monitor had just risen: it was brought.

"Place the child upon it."

And I was placed there, by whom I don't know: I was in no condition

to note particulars; I was only aware that they had hoisted me up to

the height of Mr. Brocklehurst's nose, that he was within a yard of

me, and that a spread of shot orange and purple silk pelisses and a

cloud of silvery plumage extended and waved below me.

Mr. Brocklehurst hemmed.

"Ladies," said he, turning to his family, "Miss Temple, teachers,

and children, you all see this girl?"

Of course they did; for I felt their eyes directed like burning-

glasses against my scorched skin.

"You see she is yet young; you observe she possesses the ordinary

form of childhood; God has graciously given her the shape that He

has given to all of us; no signal deformity points her out as a

marked character. Who would think that the Evil One had already

found a servant and agent in her? Yet such, I grieve to say, is the

case."

A pause--in which I began to steady the palsy of my nerves, and to

feel that the Rubicon was passed; and that the trial, no longer to

be shirked, must be firmly sustained.

"My dear children," pursued the black marble clergyman, with pathos,

"this is a sad, a melancholy occasion; for it becomes my duty to

warn you, that this girl, who might be one of God's own lambs, is a

little castaway: not a member of the true flock, but evidently an

interloper and an alien. You must be on your guard against her; you

must shun her example; if necessary, avoid her company, exclude her

from your sports, and shut her out from your converse. Teachers,

you must watch her: keep your eyes on her movements, weigh well her

words, scrutinise her actions, punish her body to save her soul:

if, indeed, such salvation be possible, for (my tongue falters while

I tell it) this girl, this child, the native of a Christian land,

worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and

kneels before Juggernaut--this girl is--a liar!"

Now came a pause of ten minutes, during which I, by this time in

perfect possession of my wits, observed all the female Brocklehursts

produce their pocket-handkerchiefs and apply them to their optics,

while the elderly lady swayed herself to and fro, and the two

younger ones whispered, "How shocking!" Mr. Brocklehurst resumed.

"This I learned from her benefactress; from the pious and charitable

lady who adopted her in her orphan state, reared her as her own

daughter, and whose kindness, whose generosity the unhappy girl

repaid by an ingratitude so bad, so dreadful, that at last her

excellent patroness was obliged to separate her from her own young

ones, fearful lest her vicious example should contaminate their

purity: she has sent her here to be healed, even as the Jews of old

sent their diseased to the troubled pool of Bethesda; and, teachers,

superintendent, I beg of you not to allow the waters to stagnate

round her."

With this sublime conclusion, Mr. Brocklehurst adjusted the top

button of his surtout, muttered something to his family, who rose,

bowed to Miss Temple, and then all the great people sailed in state

from the room. Turning at the door, my judge said -

"Let her stand half-an-hour longer on that stool, and let no one

speak to her during the remainder of the day."

There was I, then, mounted aloft; I, who had said I could not bear

the shame of standing on my natural feet in the middle of the room,

was now exposed to general view on a pedestal of infamy. What my

sensations were no language can describe; but just as they all rose,

stifling my breath and constricting my throat, a girl came up and

passed me: in passing, she lifted her eyes. What a strange light

inspired them! What an extraordinary sensation that ray sent

through me! How the new feeling bore me up! It was as if a martyr,

a hero, had passed a slave or victim, and imparted strength in the

transit. I mastered the rising hysteria, lifted up my head, and

took a firm stand on the stool. Helen Burns asked some slight

question about her work of Miss Smith, was chidden for the

triviality of the inquiry, returned to her place, and smiled at me

as she again went by. What a smile! I remember it now, and I know

that it was the effluence of fine intellect, of true courage; it lit

up her marked lineaments, her thin face, her sunken grey eye, like a

reflection from the aspect of an angel. Yet at that moment Helen

Burns wore on her arm "the untidy badge;" scarcely an hour ago I had

heard her condemned by Miss Scatcherd to a dinner of bread and water

on the morrow because she had blotted an exercise in copying it out.

Such is the imperfect nature of man! such spots are there on the

disc of the clearest planet; and eyes like Miss Scatcherd's can only

see those minute defects, and are blind to the full brightness of

the orb.

 

CHAPTER VIII

Ere the half-hour ended, five o'clock struck; school was dismissed,

and all were gone into the refectory to tea. I now ventured to

descend: it was deep dusk; I retired into a corner and sat down on

the floor. The spell by which I had been so far supported began to

dissolve; reaction took place, and soon, so overwhelming was the

grief that seized me, I sank prostrate with my face to the ground.

Now I wept: Helen Burns was not here; nothing sustained me; left to

myself I abandoned myself, and my tears watered the boards. I had

meant to be so good, and to do so much at Lowood: to make so many

friends, to earn respect and win affection. Already I had made

visible progress: that very morning I had reached the head of my

class; Miss Miller had praised me warmly; Miss Temple had smiled

approbation; she had promised to teach me drawing, and to let me

learn French, if I continued to make similar improvement two months

longer: and then I was well received by my fellow-pupils; treated

as an equal by those of my own age, and not molested by any; now,

here I lay again crushed and trodden on; and could I ever rise more?

"Never," I thought; and ardently I wished to die. While sobbing out

this wish in broken accents, some one approached: I started up--

again Helen Burns was near me; the fading fires just showed her

coming up the long, vacant room; she brought my coffee and bread.

"Come, eat something," she said; but I put both away from me,

feeling as if a drop or a crumb would have choked me in my present

condition. Helen regarded me, probably with surprise: I could not

now abate my agitation, though I tried hard; I continued to weep

aloud. She sat down on the ground near me, embraced her knees with

her arms, and rested her head upon them; in that attitude she

remained silent as an Indian. I was the first who spoke -

"Helen, why do you stay with a girl whom everybody believes to be a

liar?"

"Everybody, Jane? Why, there are only eighty people who have heard

you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions."

"But what have I to do with millions? The eighty, I know, despise

me."

"Jane, you are mistaken: probably not one in the school either

despises or dislikes you: many, I am sure, pity you much."

"How can they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst has said?"

"Mr. Brocklehurst is not a god: nor is he even a great and admired

man: he is little liked here; he never took steps to make himself

liked. Had he treated you as an especial favourite, you would have

found enemies, declared or covert, all around you; as it is, the

greater number would offer you sympathy if they dared. Teachers and

pupils may look coldly on you for a day or two, but friendly

feelings are concealed in their hearts; and if you persevere in

doing well, these feelings will ere long appear so much the more

evidently for their temporary suppression. Besides, Jane"--she

paused.

"Well, Helen?" said I, putting my hand into hers: she chafed my

fingers gently to warm them, and went on -

"If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own

conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not

be without friends."

"No; I know I should think well of myself; but that is not enough:

if others don't love me I would rather die than live--I cannot bear

to be solitary and hated, Helen. Look here; to gain some real

affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly love,

I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to

let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it

dash its hoof at my chest--"

"Hush, Jane! you think too much of the love of human beings; you are

too impulsive, too vehement; the sovereign hand that created your

frame, and put life into it, has provided you with other resources

than your feeble self, or than creatures feeble as you. Besides

this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world

and a kingdom of spirits: that world is round us, for it is

everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned to

guard us; and if we were dying in pain and shame, if scorn smote us

on all sides, and hatred crushed us, angels see our tortures,

recognise our innocence (if innocent we be: as I know you are of

this charge which Mr. Brocklehurst has weakly and pompously repeated

at second-hand from Mrs. Reed; for I read a sincere nature in your

ardent eyes and on your clear front), and God waits only the

separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward.

Why, then, should we ever sink overwhelmed with distress, when life

is so soon over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness--

to glory?"

I was silent; Helen had calmed me; but in the tranquillity she

imparted there was an alloy of inexpressible sadness. I felt the

impression of woe as she spoke, but I could not tell whence it came;

and when, having done speaking, she breathed a little fast and

coughed a short cough, I momentarily forgot my own sorrows to yield

to a vague concern for her.

Resting my head on Helen's shoulder, I put my arms round her waist;

she drew me to her, and we reposed in silence. We had not sat long

thus, when another person came in. Some heavy clouds, swept from

the sky by a rising wind, had left the moon bare; and her light,

streaming in through a window near, shone full both on us and on the

approaching figure, which we at once recognised as Miss Temple.

"I came on purpose to find you, Jane Eyre," said she; "I want you in

my room; and as Helen Burns is with you, she may come too."

We went; following the superintendent's guidance, we had to thread

some intricate passages, and mount a staircase before we reached her

apartment; it contained a good fire, and looked cheerful. Miss

Temple told Helen Burns to be seated in a low arm-chair on one side

of the hearth, and herself taking another, she called me to her

side.

"Is it all over?" she asked, looking down at my face. "Have you

cried your grief away?"

"I am afraid I never shall do that."

"Why?"

"Because I have been wrongly accused; and you, ma'am, and everybody

else, will now think me wicked."

"We shall think you what you prove yourself to be, my child.

Continue to act as a good girl, and you will satisfy us."

"Shall I, Miss Temple?"

"You will," said she, passing her arm round me. "And now tell me

who is the lady whom Mr. Brocklehurst called your benefactress?"

"Mrs. Reed, my uncle's wife. My uncle is dead, and he left me to

her care."

"Did she not, then, adopt you of her own accord?"

"No, ma'am; she was sorry to have to do it: but my uncle, as I have

often heard the servants say, got her to promise before he died that

she would always keep me."

"Well now, Jane, you know, or at least I will tell you, that when a

criminal is accused, he is always allowed to speak in his own

defence. You have been charged with falsehood; defend yourself to

me as well as you can. Say whatever your memory suggests is true;

but add nothing and exaggerate nothing."

I resolved, in the depth of my heart, that I would be most moderate-

-most correct; and, having reflected a few minutes in order to

arrange coherently what I had to say, I told her all the story of my

sad childhood. Exhausted by emotion, my language was more subdued

than it generally was when it developed that sad theme; and mindful

of Helen's warnings against the indulgence of resentment, I infused

into the narrative far less of gall and wormwood than ordinary.

Thus restrained and simplified, it sounded more credible: I felt as

I went on that Miss Temple fully believed me.

In the course of the tale I had mentioned Mr. Lloyd as having come

to see me after the fit: for I never forgot the, to me, frightful

episode of the red-room: in detailing which, my excitement was

sure, in some degree, to break bounds; for nothing could soften in

my recollection the spasm of agony which clutched my heart when Mrs.

Reed spurned my wild supplication for pardon, and locked me a second

time in the dark and haunted chamber.

I had finished: Miss Temple regarded me a few minutes in silence;

she then said -

"I know something of Mr. Lloyd; I shall write to him; if his reply

agrees with your statement, you shall be publicly cleared from every

imputation; to me, Jane, you are clear now."

She kissed me, and still keeping me at her side (where I was well

contented to stand, for I derived a child's pleasure from the

contemplation of her face, her dress, her one or two ornaments, her

white forehead, her clustered and shining curls, and beaming dark

eyes), she proceeded to address Helen Burns.

"How are you to-night, Helen? Have you coughed much to-day?"

"Not quite so much, I think, ma'am."

"And the pain in your chest?"

"It is a little better."

Miss Temple got up, took her hand and examined her pulse; then she

returned to her own seat: as she resumed it, I heard her sigh low.

She was pensive a few minutes, then rousing herself, she said

cheerfully -

"But you two are my visitors to-night; I must treat you as such."

She rang her bell.

"Barbara," she said to the servant who answered it, "I have not yet

had tea; bring the tray and place cups for these two young ladies."

And a tray was soon brought. How pretty, to my eyes, did the china

cups and bright teapot look, placed on the little round table near

the fire! How fragrant was the steam of the beverage, and the scent

of the toast! of which, however, I, to my dismay (for I was

beginning to be hungry) discerned only a very small portion: Miss

Temple discerned it too.

"Barbara," said she, "can you not bring a little more bread and

butter? There is not enough for three."

Barbara went out: she returned soon -

"Madam, Mrs. Harden says she has sent up the usual quantity."

Mrs. Harden, be it observed, was the housekeeper: a woman after Mr.

Brocklehurst's own heart, made up of equal parts of whalebone and

iron.

"Oh, very well!" returned Miss Temple; "we must make it do, Barbara,

I suppose." And as the girl withdrew she added, smiling,

"Fortunately, I have it in my power to supply deficiencies for this

once."

Having invited Helen and me to approach the table, and placed before

each of us a cup of tea with one delicious but thin morsel of toast,

she got up, unlocked a drawer, and taking from it a parcel wrapped

in paper, disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized seed-cake.

"I meant to give each of you some of this to take with you," said

she, "but as there is so little toast, you must have it now," and

she proceeded to cut slices with a generous hand.

We feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia; and not the least

delight of the entertainment was the smile of gratification with

which our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished

appetites on the delicate fare she liberally supplied.

Tea over and the tray removed, she again summoned us to the fire; we

sat one on each side of her, and now a conversation followed between

her and Helen, which it was indeed a privilege to be admitted to

hear.

Miss Temple had always something of serenity in her air, of state in

her mien, of refined propriety in her language, which precluded

deviation into the ardent, the excited, the eager: something which

chastened the pleasure of those who looked on her and listened to

her, by a controlling sense of awe; and such was my feeling now:

but as to Helen Burns, I was struck with wonder.

The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness

of her beloved instructress, or, perhaps, more than all these,

something in her own unique mind, had roused her powers within her.

They woke, they kindled: first, they glowed in the bright tint of

her cheek, which till this hour I had never seen but pale and

bloodless; then they shone in the liquid lustre of her eyes, which

had suddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of Miss

Temple's--a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor

pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance. Then her

soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I cannot

tell. Has a girl of fourteen a heart large enough, vigorous enough,

to hold the swelling spring of pure, full, fervid eloquence? Such

was the characteristic of Helen's discourse on that, to me,

memorable evening; her spirit seemed hastening to live within a very

brief span as much as many live during a protracted existence.

They conversed of things I had never heard of; of nations and times

past; of countries far away; of secrets of nature discovered or

guessed at: they spoke of books: how many they had read! What

stores of knowledge they possessed! Then they seemed so familiar

with French names and French authors: but my amazement reached its

climax when Miss Temple asked Helen if she sometimes snatched a

moment to recall the Latin her father had taught her, and taking a

book from a shelf, bade her read and construe a page of Virgil; and

Helen obeyed, my organ of veneration expanding at every sounding

line. She had scarcely finished ere the bell announced bedtime! no

delay could be admitted; Miss Temple embraced us both, saying, as

she drew us to her heart -

"God bless you, my children!"

Helen she held a little longer than me: she let her go more

reluctantly; it was Helen her eye followed to the door; it was for

her she a second time breathed a sad sigh; for her she wiped a tear

from her cheek.

On reaching the bedroom, we heard the voice of Miss Scatcherd: she

was examining drawers; she had just pulled out Helen Burns's, and

when we entered Helen was greeted with a sharp reprimand, and told

that to-morrow she should have half-a-dozen of untidily folded

articles pinned to her shoulder.

"My things were indeed in shameful disorder," murmured Helen to me,

in a low voice: "I intended to have arranged them, but I forgot."

Next morning, Miss Scatcherd wrote in conspicuous characters on a

piece of pasteboard the word "Slattern," and bound it like a

phylactery round Helen's large, mild, intelligent, and benign-

looking forehead. She wore it till evening, patient, unresentful,

regarding it as a deserved punishment. The moment Miss Scatcherd

withdrew after afternoon school, I ran to Helen, tore it off, and

thrust it into the fire: the fury of which she was incapable had

been burning in my soul all day, and tears, hot and large, had

continually been scalding my cheek; for the spectacle of her sad

resignation gave me an intolerable pain at the heart.

About a week subsequently to the incidents above narrated, Miss

Temple, who had written to Mr. Lloyd, received his answer: it

appeared that what he said went to corroborate my account. Miss

Temple, having assembled the whole school, announced that inquiry

had been made into the charges alleged against Jane Eyre, and that

she was most happy to be able to pronounce her completely cleared

from every imputation. The teachers then shook hands with me and

kissed me, and a murmur of pleasure ran through the ranks of my

companions.

Thus relieved of a grievous load, I from that hour set to work

afresh, resolved to pioneer my way through every difficulty: I

toiled hard, and my success was proportionate to my efforts; my

memory, not naturally tenacious, improved with practice; exercise

sharpened my wits; in a few weeks I was promoted to a higher class;

in less than two months I was allowed to commence French and

drawing. I learned the first two tenses of the verb ETRE, and

sketched my first cottage (whose walls, by-the-bye, outrivalled in

slope those of the leaning tower of Pisa), on the same day. That

night, on going to bed, I forgot to prepare in imagination the

Barmecide supper of hot roast potatoes, or white bread and new milk,

with which I was wont to amuse my inward cravings: I feasted

instead on the spectacle of ideal drawings, which I saw in the dark;

all the work of my own hands: freely pencilled houses and trees,

picturesque rocks and ruins, Cuyp-like groups of cattle, sweet

paintings of butterflies hovering over unblown roses, of birds

picking at ripe cherries, of wren's nests enclosing pearl-like eggs,

wreathed about with young ivy sprays. I examined, too, in thought,

the possibility of my ever being able to translate currently a

certain little French story which Madame Pierrot had that day shown

me; nor was that problem solved to my satisfaction ere I fell

sweetly asleep.

Well has Solomon said--"Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,

than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."

I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations for

Gateshead and its daily luxuries.

 

CHAPTER IX

But the privations, or rather the hardships, of Lowood lessened.

Spring drew on: she was indeed already come; the frosts of winter

had ceased; its snows were melted, its cutting winds ameliorated.

My wretched feet, flayed and swollen to lameness by the sharp air of

January, began to heal and subside under the gentler breathings of

April; the nights and mornings no longer by their Canadian

temperature froze the very blood in our veins; we could now endure

the play-hour passed in the garden: sometimes on a sunny day it

began even to be pleasant and genial, and a greenness grew over

those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought

that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter

traces of her steps. Flowers peeped out amongst the leaves; snow-

drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. On

Thursday afternoons (half-holidays) we now took walks, and found

still sweeter flowers opening by the wayside, under the hedges.

I discovered, too, that a great pleasure, an enjoyment which the

horizon only bounded, lay all outside the high and spike-guarded

walls of our garden: this pleasure consisted in prospect of noble

summits girdling a great hill-hollow, rich in verdure and shadow; in

a bright beck, full of dark stones and sparkling eddies. How

different had this scene looked when I viewed it laid out beneath

the iron sky of winter, stiffened in frost, shrouded with snow!--

when mists as chill as death wandered to the impulse of east winds

along those purple peaks, and rolled down "ing" and holm till they

blended with the frozen fog of the beck! That beck itself was then

a torrent, turbid and curbless: it tore asunder the wood, and sent

a raving sound through the air, often thickened with wild rain or

whirling sleet; and for the forest on its banks, THAT showed only

ranks of skeletons.

April advanced to May: a bright serene May it was; days of blue

sky, placid sunshine, and soft western or southern gales filled up

its duration. And now vegetation matured with vigour; Lowood shook

loose its tresses; it became all green, all flowery; its great elm,

ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life; woodland

plants sprang up profusely in its recesses; unnumbered varieties of

moss filled its hollows, and it made a strange ground-sunshine out

of the wealth of its wild primrose plants: I have seen their pale

gold gleam in overshadowed spots like scatterings of the sweetest

lustre. All this I enjoyed often and fully, free, unwatched, and

almost alone: for this unwonted liberty and pleasure there was a

cause, to which it now becomes my task to advert.

Have I not described a pleasant site for a dwelling, when I speak of

it as bosomed in hill and wood, and rising from the verge of a

stream? Assuredly, pleasant enough: but whether healthy or not is

another question.

That forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of fog and fog-

bred pestilence; which, quickening with the quickening spring, crept

into the Orphan Asylum, breathed typhus through its crowded

schoolroom and dormitory, and, ere May arrived, transformed the

seminary into an hospital.

Semi-starvation and neglected colds had predisposed most of the

pupils to receive infection: forty-five out of the eighty girls lay

ill at one time. Classes were broken up, rules relaxed. The few

who continued well were allowed almost unlimited license; because

the medical attendant insisted on the necessity of frequent exercise

to keep them in health: and had it been otherwise, no one had

leisure to watch or restrain them. Miss Temple's whole attention

was absorbed by the patients: she lived in the sick-room, never

quitting it except to snatch a few hours' rest at night. The

teachers were fully occupied with packing up and making other

necessary preparations for the departure of those girls who were

fortunate enough to have friends and relations able and willing to

remove them from the seat of contagion. Many, already smitten, went

home only to die: some died at the school, and were buried quietly

and quickly, the nature of the malady forbidding delay.

While disease had thus become an inhabitant of Lowood, and death its

frequent visitor; while there was gloom and fear within its walls;

while its rooms and passages steamed with hospital smells, the drug

and the pastille striving vainly to overcome the effluvia of

mortality, that bright May shone unclouded over the bold hills and

beautiful woodland out of doors. Its garden, too, glowed with

flowers: hollyhocks had sprung up tall as trees, lilies had opened,

tulips and roses were in bloom; the borders of the little beds were

gay with pink thrift and crimson double daisies; the sweetbriars

gave out, morning and evening, their scent of spice and apples; and

these fragrant treasures were all useless for most of the inmates of

Lowood, except to furnish now and then a handful of herbs and

blossoms to put in a coffin.

But I, and the rest who continued well, enjoyed fully the beauties

of the scene and season; they let us ramble in the wood, like

gipsies, from morning till night; we did what we liked, went where

we liked: we lived better too. Mr. Brocklehurst and his family

never came near Lowood now: household matters were not scrutinised

into; the cross housekeeper was gone, driven away by the fear of

infection; her successor, who had been matron at the Lowton

Dispensary, unused to the ways of her new abode, provided with

comparative liberality. Besides, there were fewer to feed; the sick

could eat little; our breakfast-basins were better filled; when

there was no time to prepare a regular dinner, which often happened,

she would give us a large piece of cold pie, or a thick slice of

bread and cheese, and this we carried away with us to the wood,

where we each chose the spot we liked best, and dined sumptuously.

My favourite seat was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry

from the very middle of the beck, and only to be got at by wading

through the water; a feat I accomplished barefoot. The stone was

just broad enough to accommodate, comfortably, another girl and me,

at that time my chosen comrade--one Mary Ann Wilson; a shrewd,

observant personage, whose society I took pleasure in, partly

because she was witty and original, and partly because she had a

manner which set me at my ease. Some years older than I, she knew

more of the world, and could tell me many things I liked to hear:

with her my curiosity found gratification: to my faults also she

gave ample indulgence, never imposing curb or rein on anything I

said. She had a turn for narrative, I for analysis; she liked to

inform, I to question; so we got on swimmingly together, deriving

much entertainment, if not much improvement, from our mutual

intercourse.

And where, meantime, was Helen Burns? Why did I not spend these

sweet days of liberty with her? Had I forgotten her? or was I so

worthless as to have grown tired of her pare society? Surely the

Mary Arm Wilson I have mentioned was inferior to my first

acquaintance: she could only tell me amusing stories, and

reciprocate any racy and pungent gossip I chose to indulge in;

while, if I have spoken truth of Helen, she was qualified to give

those who enjoyed the privilege of her converse a taste of far

higher things.

True, reader; and I knew and felt this: and though I am a defective

being, with many faults and few redeeming points, yet I never tired

of Helen Burns; nor ever ceased to cherish for her a sentiment of

attachment, as strong, tender, and respectful as any that ever

animated my heart. How could it be otherwise, when Helen, at all

times and under all circumstances, evinced for me a quiet and

faithful friendship, which ill-humour never soured, nor irritation

never troubled? But Helen was ill at present: for some weeks she

had been removed from my sight to I knew not what room upstairs.

She was not, I was told, in the hospital portion of the house with

the fever patients; for her complaint was consumption, not typhus:

and by consumption I, in my ignorance, understood something mild,

which time and care would be sure to alleviate.

I was confirmed in this idea by the fact of her once or twice coming

downstairs on very warm sunny afternoons, and being taken by Miss

Temple into the garden; but, on these occasions, I was not allowed

to go and speak to her; I only saw her from the schoolroom window,

and then not distinctly; for she was much wrapped up, and sat at a

distance under the verandah.

One evening, in the beginning of June, I had stayed out very late

with Mary Ann in the wood; we had, as usual, separated ourselves

from the others, and had wandered far; so far that we lost our way,

and had to ask it at a lonely cottage, where a man and woman lived,

who looked after a herd of half-wild swine that fed on the mast in

the wood. When we got back, it was after moonrise: a pony, which

we knew to be the surgeon's, was standing at the garden door. Mary

Ann remarked that she supposed some one must be very ill, as Mr.

Bates had been sent for at that time of the evening. She went into

the house; I stayed behind a few minutes to plant in my garden a

handful of roots I had dug up in the forest, and which I feared

would wither if I left them till the morning. This done, I lingered

yet a little longer: the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell; it

was such a pleasant evening, so serene, so warm; the still glowing

west promised so fairly another fine day on the morrow; the moon

rose with such majesty in the grave east. I was noting these things

and enjoying them as a child might, when it entered my mind as it

had never done before:-

"How sad to be lying now on a sick bed, and to be in danger of

dying! This world is pleasant--it would be dreary to be called from

it, and to have to go who knows where?"

And then my mind made its first earnest effort to comprehend what

had been infused into it concerning heaven and hell; and for the

first time it recoiled, baffled; and for the first time glancing

behind, on each side, and before it, it saw all round an unfathomed

gulf: it felt the one point where it stood--the present; all the

rest was formless cloud and vacant depth; and it shuddered at the

thought of tottering, and plunging amid that chaos. While pondering

this new idea, I heard the front door open; Mr. Bates came out, and

with him was a nurse. After she had seen him mount his horse and

depart, she was about to close the door, but I ran up to her.

"How is Helen Burns?"

"Very poorly," was the answer.

"Is it her Mr. Bates has been to see?"

"Yes."

"And what does he say about her?"

"He says she'll not be here long."

This phrase, uttered in my hearing yesterday, would have only

conveyed the notion that she was about to be removed to

Northumberland, to her own home. I should not have suspected that

it meant she was dying; but I knew instantly now! It opened clear

on my comprehension that Helen Burns was numbering her last days in

this world, and that she was going to be taken to the region of

spirits, if such region there were. I experienced a shock of

horror, then a strong thrill of grief, then a desire--a necessity to

see her; and I asked in what room she lay.

"She is in Miss Temple's room," said the nurse.

"May I go up and speak to her?"

"Oh no, child! It is not likely; and now it is time for you to come

in; you'll catch the fever if you stop out when the dew is falling."

The nurse closed the front door; I went in by the side entrance

which led to the schoolroom: I was just in time; it was nine

o'clock, and Miss Miller was calling the pupils to go to bed.

It might be two hours later, probably near eleven, when I--not

having been able to fall asleep, and deeming, from the perfect

silence of the dormitory, that my companions were all wrapt in

profound repose--rose softly, put on my frock over my night-dress,

and, without shoes, crept from the apartment, and set off in quest

of Miss Temple's room. It was quite at the other end of the house;

but I knew my way; and the light of the unclouded summer moon,

entering here and there at passage windows, enabled me to find it

without difficulty. An odour of camphor and burnt vinegar warned me

when I came near the fever room: and I passed its door quickly,

fearful lest the nurse who sat up all night should hear me. I

dreaded being discovered and sent back; for I MUST see Helen,--I

must embrace her before she died,--I must give her one last kiss,

exchange with her one last word.

Having descended a staircase, traversed a portion of the house

below, and succeeded in opening and shutting, without noise, two

doors, I reached another flight of steps; these I mounted, and then

just opposite to me was Miss Temple's room. A light shone through

the keyhole and from under the door; a profound stillness pervaded

the vicinity. Coming near, I found the door slightly ajar; probably

to admit some fresh air into the close abode of sickness.

Indisposed to hesitate, and full of impatient impulses--soul and

senses quivering with keen throes--I put it back and looked in. My

eye sought Helen, and feared to find death.

Close by Miss Temple's bed, and half covered with its white

curtains, there stood a little crib. I saw the outline of a form

under the clothes, but the face was hid by the hangings: the nurse

I had spoken to in the garden sat in an easy-chair asleep; an

unsnuffed candle burnt dimly on the table. Miss Temple was not to

be seen: I knew afterwards that she had been called to a delirious

patient in the fever-room. I advanced; then paused by the crib

side: my hand was on the curtain, but I preferred speaking before I

withdrew it. I still recoiled at the dread of seeing a corpse.

"Helen!" I whispered softly, "are you awake?"

She stirred herself, put back the curtain, and I saw her face, pale,

wasted, but quite composed: she looked so little changed that my

fear was instantly dissipated.

"Can it be you, Jane?" she asked, in her own gentle voice.

"Oh!" I thought, "she is not going to die; they are mistaken: she

could not speak and look so calmly if she were."

I got on to her crib and kissed her: her forehead was cold, and her

cheek both cold and thin, and so were her hand and wrist; but she

smiled as of old.

"Why are you come here, Jane? It is past eleven o'clock: I heard

it strike some minutes since."

"I came to see you, Helen: I heard you were very ill, and I could

not sleep till I had spoken to you."

"You came to bid me good-bye, then: you are just in time probably."

"Are you going somewhere, Helen? Are you going home?"

"Yes; to my long home--my last home."

"No, no, Helen!" I stopped, distressed. While I tried to devour my

tears, a fit of coughing seized Helen; it did not, however, wake the

nurse; when it was over, she lay some minutes exhausted; then she

whispered -

"Jane, your little feet are bare; lie down and cover yourself with

my quilt."

I did so: she put her arm over me, and I nestled close to her.

After a long silence, she resumed, still whispering -

"I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must

be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about. We all

must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not

painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest. I leave no

one to regret me much: I have only a father; and he is lately

married, and will not miss me. By dying young, I shall escape great

sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well

in the world: I should have been continually at fault."

"But where are you going to, Helen? Can you see? Do you know?"

"I believe; I have faith: I am going to God."

"Where is God? What is God?"

"My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created. I rely

implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness: I

count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore

me to Him, reveal Him to me."

"You are sure, then, Helen, that there is such a place as heaven,

and that our souls can get to it when we die?"

"I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can

resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my

father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me."

"And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?"

"You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by the

same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane."

Again I questioned, but this time only in thought. "Where is that

region? Does it exist?" And I clasped my arms closer round Helen;

she seemed dearer to me than ever; I felt as if I could not let her

go; I lay with my face hidden on her neck. Presently she said, in

the sweetest tone -

"How comfortable I am! That last fit of coughing has tired me a

little; I feel as if I could sleep: but don't leave me, Jane; I

like to have you near me."

"I'll stay with you, DEAR Helen: no one shall take me way."

"Are you warm, darling?"

"Yes."

"Good-night, Jane."

"Good-night, Helen."

She kissed me, and I her, and we both soon slumbered.

When I awoke it was day: an unusual movement roused me; I looked

up; I was in somebody's arms; the nurse held me; she was carrying me

through the passage back to the dormitory. I was not reprimanded

for leaving my bed; people had something else to think about; no

explanation was afforded then to my many questions; but a day or two

afterwards I learned that Miss Temple, on returning to her own room

at dawn, had found me laid in the little crib; my face against Helen

Burns's shoulder, my arms round her neck. I was asleep, and Helen

was--dead.

Her grave is in Brocklebridge churchyard: for fifteen years after

her death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey

marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word

"Resurgam."

 

CHAPTER X

Hitherto I have recorded in detail the events of my insignificant

existence: to the first ten years of my life I have given almost as

many chapters. But this is not to be a regular autobiography. I am

only bound to invoke Memory where I know her responses will possess

some degree of interest; therefore I now pass a space of eight years

almost in silence: a few lines only are necessary to keep up the

links of connection.

When the typhus fever had fulfilled its mission of devastation at

Lowood, it gradually disappeared from thence; but not till its

virulence and the number of its victims had drawn public attention

on the school. Inquiry was made into the origin of the scourge, and

by degrees various facts came out which excited public indignation

in a high degree. The unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity

and quality of the children's food; the brackish, fetid water used

in its preparation; the pupils' wretched clothing and

accommodations--all these things were discovered, and the discovery

produced a result mortifying to Mr. Brocklehurst, but beneficial to

the institution.

Several wealthy and benevolent individuals in the county subscribed

largely for the erection of a more convenient building in a better

situation; new regulations were made; improvements in diet and

clothing introduced; the funds of the school were intrusted to the

management of a committee. Mr. Brocklehurst, who, from his wealth

and family connections, could not be overlooked, still retained the

post of treasurer; but he was aided in the discharge of his duties

by gentlemen of rather more enlarged and sympathising minds: his

office of inspector, too, was shared by those who knew how to

combine reason with strictness, comfort with economy, compassion

with uprightness. The school, thus improved, became in time a truly

useful and noble institution. I remained an inmate of its walls,

after its regeneration, for eight years: six as pupil, and two as

teacher; and in both capacities I bear my testimony to its value and

importance.

During these eight years my life was uniform: but not unhappy,

because it was not inactive. I had the means of an excellent

education placed within my reach; a fondness for some of my studies,

and a desire to excel in all, together with a great delight in

pleasing my teachers, especially such as I loved, urged me on: I

availed myself fully of the advantages offered me. In time I rose

to be the first girl of the first class; then I was invested with

the office of teacher; which I discharged with zeal for two years:

but at the end of that time I altered.

Miss Temple, through all changes, had thus far continued

superintendent of the seminary: to her instruction I owed the best

part of my acquirements; her friendship and society had been my

continual solace; she had stood me in the stead of mother,

governess, and, latterly, companion. At this period she married,

removed with her husband (a clergyman, an excellent man, almost

worthy of such a wife) to a distant county, and consequently was

lost to me.

From the day she left I was no longer the same: with her was gone

every settled feeling, every association that had made Lowood in

some degree a home to me. I had imbibed from her something of her

nature and much of her habits: more harmonious thoughts: what

seemed better regulated feelings had become the inmates of my mind.

I had given in allegiance to duty and order; I was quiet; I believed

I was content: to the eyes of others, usually even to my own, I

appeared a disciplined and subdued character.

But destiny, in the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, came between me

and Miss Temple: I saw her in her travelling dress step into a

post-chaise, shortly after the marriage ceremony; I watched the

chaise mount the hill and disappear beyond its brow; and then

retired to my own room, and there spent in solitude the greatest

part of the half-holiday granted in honour of the occasion.

I walked about the chamber most of the time. I imagined myself only

to be regretting my loss, and thinking how to repair it; but when my

reflections were concluded, and I looked up and found that the

afternoon was gone, and evening far advanced, another discovery

dawned on me, namely, that in the interval I had undergone a

transforming process; that my mind had put off all it had borrowed

of Miss Temple--or rather that she had taken with her the serene

atmosphere I had been breathing in her vicinity--and that now I was

left in my natural element, and beginning to feel the stirring of

old emotions. It did not seem as if a prop were withdrawn, but

rather as if a motive were gone: it was not the power to be

tranquil which had failed me, but the reason for tranquillity was no

more. My world had for some years been in Lowood: my experience

had been of its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real

world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of

sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go

forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its

perils.

I went to my window, opened it, and looked out. There were the two

wings of the building; there was the garden; there were the skirts

of Lowood; there was the hilly horizon. My eye passed all other

objects to rest on those most remote, the blue peaks; it was those I

longed to surmount; all within their boundary of rock and heath

seemed prison-ground, exile limits. I traced the white road winding

round the base of one mountain, and vanishing in a gorge between

two; how I longed to follow it farther! I recalled the time when I

had travelled that very road in a coach; I remembered descending

that hill at twilight; an age seemed to have elapsed since the day

which brought me first to Lowood, and I had never quitted it since.

My vacations had all been spent at school: Mrs. Reed had never sent

for me to Gateshead; neither she nor any of her family had ever been

to visit me. I had had no communication by letter or message with

the outer world: school-rules, school-duties, school-habits and

notions, and voices, and faces, and phrases, and costumes, and

preferences, and antipathies--such was what I knew of existence.

And now I felt that it was not enough; I tired of the routine of

eight years in one afternoon. I desired liberty; for liberty I

gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the

wind then faintly blowing. I abandoned it and framed a humbler

supplication; for change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed

swept off into vague space: "Then," I cried, half desperate, "grant

me at least a new servitude!"

Here a bell, ringing the hour of supper, called me downstairs.

I was not free to resume the interrupted chain of my reflections

till bedtime: even then a teacher who occupied the same room with

me kept me from the subject to which I longed to recur, by a

prolonged effusion of small talk. How I wished sleep would silence

her. It seemed as if, could I but go back to the idea which had

last entered my mind as I stood at the window, some inventive

suggestion would rise for my relief.

Miss Gryce snored at last; she was a heavy Welshwoman, and till now

her habitual nasal strains had never been regarded by me in any

other light than as a nuisance; to-night I hailed the first deep

notes with satisfaction; I was debarrassed of interruption; my half-

effaced thought instantly revived.

"A new servitude! There is something in that," I soliloquised

(mentally, be it understood; I did not talk aloud), "I know there

is, because it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words

as Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment: delightful sounds truly; but no

more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is mere

waste of time to listen to them. But Servitude! That must be

matter of fact. Any one may serve: I have served here eight years;

now all I want is to serve elsewhere. Can I not get so much of my

own will? Is not the thing feasible? Yes--yes--the end is not so

difficult; if I had only a brain active enough to ferret out the

means of attaining it."

I sat up in bed by way of arousing this said brain: it was a chilly

night; I covered my shoulders with a shawl, and then I proceeded TO

THINK again with all my might.

"What do I want? A new place, in a new house, amongst new faces,

under new circumstances: I want this because it is of no use

wanting anything better. How do people do to get a new place? They

apply to friends, I suppose: I have no friends. There are many

others who have no friends, who must look about for themselves and

be their own helpers; and what is their resource?"

I could not tell: nothing answered me; I then ordered my brain to

find a response, and quickly. It worked and worked faster: I felt

the pulses throb in my head and temples; but for nearly an hour it

worked in chaos; and no result came of its efforts. Feverish with

vain labour, I got up and took a turn in the room; undrew the

curtain, noted a star or two, shivered with cold, and again crept to

bed.

A kind fairy, in my absence, had surely dropped the required

suggestion on my pillow; for as I lay down, it came quietly and

naturally to my mind.--"Those who want situations advertise; you

must advertise in the -shire Herald."

"How? I know nothing about advertising."

Replies rose smooth and prompt now:-

"You must enclose the advertisement and the money to pay for it

under a cover directed to the editor of the Herald; you must put it,

the first opportunity you have, into the post at Lowton; answers

must be addressed to J.E., at the post-office there; you can go and

inquire in about a week after you send your letter, if any are come,

and act accordingly."

This scheme I went over twice, thrice; it was then digested in my

mind; I had it in a clear practical form: I felt satisfied, and

fell asleep.

With earliest day, I was up: I had my advertisement written,

enclosed, and directed before the bell rang to rouse the school; it

ran thus:-

"A young lady accustomed to tuition" (had I not been a teacher two

years?) "is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private family

where the children are under fourteen (I thought that as I was

barely eighteen, it would not do to undertake the guidance of pupils

nearer my own age). She is qualified to teach the usual branches of

a good English education, together with French, Drawing, and Music"

(in those days, reader, this now narrow catalogue of

accomplishments, would have been held tolerably comprehensive).

"Address, J.E., Post-office, Lowton, -shire."

This document remained locked in my drawer all day: after tea, I

asked leave of the new superintendent to go to Lowton, in order to

perform some small commissions for myself and one or two of my

fellow-teachers; permission was readily granted; I went. It was a

walk of two miles, and the evening was wet, but the days were still

long; I visited a shop or two, slipped the letter into the post-

office, and came back through heavy rain, with streaming garments,

but with a relieved heart.

The succeeding week seemed long: it came to an end at last,

however, like all sublunary things, and once more, towards the close

of a pleasant autumn day, I found myself afoot on the road to

Lowton. A picturesque track it was, by the way; lying along the

side of the beck and through the sweetest curves of the dale: but

that day I thought more of the letters, that might or might not be

awaiting me at the little burgh whither I was bound, than of the

charms of lea and water.

My ostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for a pair

of shoes; so I discharged that business first, and when it was done,

I stepped across the clean and quiet little street from the

shoemaker's to the post-office: it was kept by an old dame, who

wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands.

"Are there any letters for J.E.?" I asked.

She peered at me over her spectacles, and then she opened a drawer

and fumbled among its contents for a long time, so long that my

hopes began to falter. At last, having held a document before her

glasses for nearly five minutes, she presented it across the

counter, accompanying the act by another inquisitive and mistrustful

glance--it was for J.E.

"Is there only one?" I demanded.

"There are no more," said she; and I put it in my pocket and turned

my face homeward: I could not open it then; rules obliged me to be

back by eight, and it was already half-past seven.

Various duties awaited me on my arrival. I had to sit with the

girls during their hour of study; then it was my turn to read

prayers; to see them to bed: afterwards I supped with the other

teachers. Even when we finally retired for the night, the

inevitable Miss Gryce was still my companion: we had only a short

end of candle in our candlestick, and I dreaded lest she should talk

till it was all burnt out; fortunately, however, the heavy supper

she had eaten produced a soporific effect: she was already snoring

before I had finished undressing. There still remained an inch of

candle: I now took out my letter; the seal was an initial F.; I

broke it; the contents were brief.

"If J.E., who advertised in the -shire Herald of last Thursday,

possesses the acquirements mentioned, and if she is in a position to

give satisfactory references as to character and competency, a

situation can be offered her where there is but one pupil, a little

girl, under ten years of age; and where the salary is thirty pounds

per annum. J.E. is requested to send references, name, address, and

all particulars to the direction:-

"Mrs. Fairfax, Thornfield, near Millcote, -shire."

I examined the document long: the writing was old-fashioned and

rather uncertain, like that of in elderly lady. This circumstance

was satisfactory: a private fear had haunted me, that in thus

acting for myself, and by my own guidance, I ran the risk of getting

into some scrape; and, above all things, I wished the result of my

endeavours to be respectable, proper, en regle. I now felt that an

elderly lady was no bad ingredient in the business I had on hand.

Mrs. Fairfax! I saw her in a black gown and widow's cap; frigid,

perhaps, but not uncivil: a model of elderly English

respectability. Thornfield! that, doubtless, was the name of her

house: a neat orderly spot, I was sure; though I failed in my

efforts to conceive a correct plan of the premises. Millcote, -

shire; I brushed up my recollections of the map of England, yes, I

saw it; both the shire and the town. -shire was seventy miles

nearer London than the remote county where I now resided: that was

a recommendation to me. I longed to go where there was life and

movement: Millcote was a large manufacturing town on the banks of

the A-; a busy place enough, doubtless: so much the better; it

would be a complete change at least. Not that my fancy was much

captivated by the idea of long chimneys and clouds of smoke--"but,"

I argued, "Thornfield will, probably, be a good way from the town."

Here the socket of the candle dropped, and the wick went out.

Next day new steps were to be taken; my plans could no longer be

confined to my own breast; I must impart them in order to achieve

their success. Having sought and obtained an audience of the

superintendent during the noontide recreation, I told her I had a

prospect of getting a new situation where the salary would be double

what I now received (for at Lowood I only got 15 pounds per annum);

and requested she would break the matter for me to Mr. Brocklehurst,

or some of the committee, and ascertain whether they would permit me

to mention them as references. She obligingly consented to act as

mediatrix in the matter. The next day she laid the affair before

Mr. Brocklehurst, who said that Mrs. Reed must be written to, as she

was my natural guardian. A note was accordingly addressed to that

lady, who returned for answer, that "I might do as I pleased: she

had long relinquished all interference in my affairs." This note

went the round of the committee, and at last, after what appeared to

me most tedious delay, formal leave was given me to better my

condition if I could; and an assurance added, that as I had always

conducted myself well, both as teacher and pupil, at Lowood, a

testimonial of character and capacity, signed by the inspectors of

that institution, should forthwith be furnished me.

This testimonial I accordingly received in about a month, forwarded

a copy of it to Mrs. Fairfax, and got that lady's reply, stating

that she was satisfied, and fixing that day fortnight as the period

for my assuming the post of governess in her house.

I now busied myself in preparations: the fortnight passed rapidly.

I had not a very large wardrobe, though it was adequate to my wants;

and the last day sufficed to pack my trunk,--the same I had brought

with me eight years ago from Gateshead.

The box was corded, the card nailed on. In half-an-hour the carrier

was to call for it to take it to Lowton, whether I myself was to

repair at an early hour the next morning to meet the coach. I had

brushed my black stuff travelling-dress, prepared my bonnet, gloves,

and muff; sought in all my drawers to see that no article was left

behind; and now having nothing more to do, I sat down and tried to

rest. I could not; though I had been on foot all day, I could not

now repose an instant; I was too much excited. A phase of my life

was closing to-night, a new one opening to-morrow: impossible to

slumber in the interval; I must watch feverishly while the change

was being accomplished.

"Miss," said a servant who met me in the lobby, where I was

wandering like a troubled spirit, "a person below wishes to see

you."

"The carrier, no doubt," I thought, and ran downstairs without

inquiry. I was passing the back-parlour or teachers' sitting-room,

the door of which was half open, to go to the kitchen, when some one

ran out -

"It's her, I am sure!--I could have told her anywhere!" cried the

individual who stopped my progress and took my hand.

I looked: I saw a woman attired like a well-dressed servant,

matronly, yet still young; very good-looking, with black hair and

eyes, and lively complexion.

"Well, who is it?" she asked, in a voice and with a smile I half

recognised; "you've not quite forgotten me, I think, Miss Jane?"

In another second I was embracing and kissing her rapturously:

"Bessie! Bessie! Bessie!" that was all I said; whereat she half

laughed, half cried, and we both went into the parlour. By the fire

stood a little fellow of three years old, in plaid frock and

trousers.

"That is my little boy," said Bessie directly.

"Then you are married, Bessie?"

"Yes; nearly five years since to Robert Leaven, the coachman; and

I've a little girl besides Bobby there, that I've christened Jane."

"And you don't live at Gateshead?"

"I live at the lodge: the old porter has left."

"Well, and how do they all get on? Tell me everything about them,

Bessie: but sit down first; and, Bobby, come and sit on my knee,

will you?" but Bobby preferred sidling over to his mother.

"You're not grown so very tall, Miss Jane, nor so very stout,"

continued Mrs. Leaven. "I dare say they've not kept you too well at

school: Miss Reed is the head and shoulders taller than you are;

and Miss Georgiana would make two of you in breadth."

"Georgiana is handsome, I suppose, Bessie?"

"Very. She went up to London last winter with her mama, and there

everybody admired her, and a young lord fell in love with her: but

his relations were against the match; and--what do you think?--he

and Miss Georgiana made it up to run away; but they were found out

and stopped. It was Miss Reed that found them out: I believe she

was envious; and now she and her sister lead a cat and dog life

together; they are always quarrelling--"

"Well, and what of John Reed?"

"Oh, he is not doing so well as his mama could wish. He went to

college, and he got--plucked, I think they call it: and then his

uncles wanted him to be a barrister, and study the law: but he is

such a dissipated young man, they will never make much of him, I

think."

"What does he look like?"

"He is very tall: some people call him a fine-looking young man;

but he has such thick lips."

"And Mrs. Reed?"

"Missis looks stout and well enough in the face, but I think she's

not quite easy in her mind: Mr. John's conduct does not please her-

-he spends a deal of money."

"Did she send you here, Bessie?"

"No, indeed: but I have long wanted to see you, and when I heard

that there had been a letter from you, and that you were going to

another part of the country, I thought I'd just set of, and get a

look at you before you were quite out of my reach."

"I am afraid you are disappointed in me, Bessie." I said this

laughing: I perceived that Bessie's glance, though it expressed

regard, did in no shape denote admiration.

"No, Miss Jane, not exactly: you are genteel enough; you look like

a lady, and it is as much as ever I expected of you: you were no

beauty as a child."

I smiled at Bessie's frank answer: I felt that it was correct, but

I confess I was not quite indifferent to its import: at eighteen

most people wish to please, and the conviction that they have not an

exterior likely to second that desire brings anything but

gratification.

"I dare say you are clever, though," continued Bessie, by way of

solace. "What can you do? Can you play on the piano?"

"A little."

There was one in the room; Bessie went and opened it, and then asked

me to sit down and give her a tune: I played a waltz or two, and

she was charmed.

"The Miss Reeds could not play as well!" said she exultingly. "I

always said you would surpass them in learning: and can you draw?"

"That is one of my paintings over the chimney-piece." It was a

landscape in water colours, of which I had made a present to the

superintendent, in acknowledgment of her obliging mediation with the

committee on my behalf, and which she had framed and glazed.

"Well, that is beautiful, Miss Jane! It is as fine a picture as any

Miss Reed's drawing-master could paint, let alone the young ladies

themselves, who could not come near it: and have you learnt

French?"

"Yes, Bessie, I can both read it and speak it."

"And you can work on muslin and canvas?"

"I can."

"Oh, you are quite a lady, Miss Jane! I knew you would be: you

will get on whether your relations notice you or not. There was

something I wanted to ask you. Have you ever heard anything from

your father's kinsfolk, the Eyres?"

"Never in my life."

"Well, you know Missis always said they were poor and quite

despicable: and they may be poor; but I believe they are as much

gentry as the Reeds are; for one day, nearly seven years ago, a Mr.

Eyre came to Gateshead and wanted to see you; Missis said you were

it school fifty miles off; he seemed so much disappointed, for he

could not stay: he was going on a voyage to a foreign country, and

the ship was to sail from London in a day or two. He looked quite a

gentleman, and I believe he was your father's brother."

"What foreign country was he going to, Bessie?"

"An island thousands of miles off, where they make wine--the butler

did tell me--"

"Madeira?" I suggested.

"Yes, that is it--that is the very word."

"So he went?"

"Yes; he did not stay many minutes in the house: Missis was very

high with him; she called him afterwards a 'sneaking tradesman.' My

Robert believes he was a wine-merchant."

"Very likely," I returned; "or perhaps clerk or agent to a wine-

merchant."

Bessie and I conversed about old times an hour longer, and then she

was obliged to leave me: I saw her again for a few minutes the next

morning at Lowton, while I was waiting for the coach. We parted

finally at the door of the Brocklehurst Arms there: each went her

separate way; she set off for the brow of Lowood Fell to meet the

conveyance which was to take her back to Gateshead, I mounted the

vehicle which was to bear me to new duties and a new life in the

unknown environs of Millcote.

 

CHAPTER XI

A new chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play;

and when I draw up the curtain this time, reader, you must fancy you

see a room in the George Inn at Millcote, with such large figured

papering on the walls as inn rooms have; such a carpet, such

furniture, such ornaments on the mantelpiece, such prints, including

a portrait of George the Third, and another of the Prince of Wales,

and a representation of the death of Wolfe. All this is visible to

you by the light of an oil lamp hanging from the ceiling, and by

that of an excellent fire, near which I sit in my cloak and bonnet;

my muff and umbrella lie on the table, and I am warming away the

numbness and chill contracted by sixteen hours' exposure to the

rawness of an October day: I left Lowton at four o'clock a.m., and

the Millcote town clock is now just striking eight.

Reader, though I look comfortably accommodated, I am not very

tranquil in my mind. I thought when the coach stopped here there

would be some one to meet me; I looked anxiously round as I

descended the wooden steps the "boots" placed for my convenience,

expecting to hear my name pronounced, and to see some description of

carriage waiting to convey me to Thornfield. Nothing of the sort

was visible; and when I asked a waiter if any one had been to

inquire after a Miss Eyre, I was answered in the negative: so I had

no resource but to request to be shown into a private room: and

here I am waiting, while all sorts of doubts and fears are troubling

my thoughts.

It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itself

quite alone in the world, cut adrift from every connection,

uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and

prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has quitted.

The charm of adventure sweetens that sensation, the glow of pride

warms it; but then the throb of fear disturbs it; and fear with me

became predominant when half-an-hour elapsed and still I was alone.

I bethought myself to ring the bell.

"Is there a place in this neighbourhood called Thornfield?" I asked

of the waiter who answered the summons.

"Thornfield? I don't know, ma'am; I'll inquire at the bar." He

vanished, but reappeared instantly -

"Is your name Eyre, Miss?"

"Yes."

"Person here waiting for you."

I jumped up, took my muff and umbrella, and hastened into the inn-

passage: a man was standing by the open door, and in the lamp-lit

street I dimly saw a one-horse conveyance.

"This will be your luggage, I suppose?" said the man rather abruptly

when he saw me, pointing to my trunk in the passage.

"Yes." He hoisted it on to the vehicle, which was a sort of car,

and then I got in; before he shut me up, I asked him how far it was

to Thornfield.

"A matter of six miles."

"How long shall we be before we get there?"

"Happen an hour and a half."

He fastened the car door, climbed to his own seat outside, and we

set off. Our progress was leisurely, and gave me ample time to

reflect; I was content to be at length so near the end of my

journey; and as I leaned back in the comfortable though not elegant

conveyance, I meditated much at my ease.

"I suppose," thought I, "judging from the plainness of the servant

and carriage, Mrs. Fairfax is not a very dashing person: so much

the better; I never lived amongst fine people but once, and I was

very miserable with them. I wonder if she lives alone except this

little girl; if so, and if she is in any degree amiable, I shall

surely be able to get on with her; I will do my best; it is a pity

that doing one's best does not always answer. At Lowood, indeed, I

took that resolution, kept it, and succeeded in pleasing; but with

Mrs. Reed, I remember my best was always spurned with scorn. I pray

God Mrs. Fairfax may not turn out a second Mrs. Reed; but if she

does, I am not bound to stay with her! let the worst come to the

worst, I can advertise again. How far are we on our road now, I

wonder?"

I let down the window and looked out; Millcote was behind us;

judging by the number of its lights, it seemed a place of

considerable magnitude, much larger than Lowton. We were now, as

far as I could see, on a sort of common; but there were houses

scattered all over the district; I felt we were in a different

region to Lowood, more populous, less picturesque; more stirring,

less romantic.

The roads were heavy, the night misty; my conductor let his horse

walk all the way, and the hour and a half extended, I verify

believe, to two hours; at last he turned in his seat and said -

"You're noan so far fro' Thornfield now."

Again I looked out: we were passing a church; I saw its low broad

tower against the sky, and its bell was tolling a quarter; I saw a

narrow galaxy of lights too, on a hillside, marking a village or

hamlet. About ten minutes after, the driver got down and opened a

pair of gates: we passed through, and they clashed to behind us.

We now slowly ascended a drive, and came upon the long front of a

house: candlelight gleamed from one curtained bow-window; all the

rest were dark. The car stopped at the front door; it was opened by

a maid-servant; I alighted and went in.

"Will you walk this way, ma'am?" said the girl; and I followed her

across a square hall with high doors all round: she ushered me into

a room whose double illumination of fire and candle at first dazzled

me, contrasting as it did with the darkness to which my eyes had

been for two hours inured; when I could see, however, a cosy and

agreeable picture presented itself to my view.

A snug small room; a round table by a cheerful fire; an arm-chair

high-backed and old-fashioned, wherein sat the neatest imaginable

little elderly lady, in widow's cap, black silk gown, and snowy

muslin apron; exactly like what I had fancied Mrs. Fairfax, only

less stately and milder looking. She was occupied in knitting; a

large cat sat demurely at her feet; nothing in short was wanting to

complete the beau-ideal of domestic comfort. A more reassuring

introduction for a new governess could scarcely be conceived; there

was no grandeur to overwhelm, no stateliness to embarrass; and then,

as I entered, the old lady got up and promptly and kindly came

forward to meet me.

"How do you do, my dear? I am afraid you have had a tedious ride;

John drives so slowly; you must be cold, come to the fire."

"Mrs. Fairfax, I suppose?" said I.

"Yes, you are right: do sit down."

She conducted me to her own chair, and then began to remove my shawl

and untie my bonnet-strings; I begged she would not give herself so

much trouble.

"Oh, it is no trouble; I dare say your own hands are almost numbed

with cold. Leah, make a little hot negus and cut a sandwich or two:

here are the keys of the storeroom."

And she produced from her pocket a most housewifely bunch of keys,

and delivered them to the servant.

"Now, then, draw nearer to the fire," she continued. "You've

brought your luggage with you, haven't you, my dear?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"I'll see it carried into your room," she said, and bustled out.

"She treats me like a visitor," thought I. "I little expected such

a reception; I anticipated only coldness and stiffness: this is not

like what I have heard of the treatment of governesses; but I must

not exult too soon."

She returned; with her own hands cleared her knitting apparatus and

a book or two from the table, to make room for the tray which Leah

now brought, and then herself handed me the refreshments. I felt

rather confused at being the object of more attention than I had

ever before received, and, that too, shown by my employer and

superior; but as she did not herself seem to consider she was doing

anything out of her place, I thought it better to take her

civilities quietly.

"Shall I have the pleasure of seeing Miss Fairfax to-night?" I

asked, when I had partaken of what she offered me.

"What did you say, my dear? I am a little deaf," returned the good

lady, approaching her ear to my mouth.

I repeated the question more distinctly.

"Miss Fairfax? Oh, you mean Miss Varens! Varens is the name of

your future pupil."

"Indeed! Then she is not your daughter?"

"No -- I have no family."

I should have followed up my first inquiry, by asking in what way

Miss Varens was connected with her; but I recollected it was not

polite to ask too many questions: besides, I was sure to hear in

time.

"I am so glad," she continued, as she sat down opposite to me, and

took the cat on her knee; "I am so glad you are come; it will be

quite pleasant living here now with a companion. To be sure it is

pleasant at any time; for Thornfield is a fine old hall, rather

neglected of late years perhaps, but still it is a respectable

place; yet you know in winter-time one feels dreary quite alone in

the best quarters. I say alone--Leah is a nice girl to be sure, and

John and his wife are very decent people; but then you see they are

only servants, and one can't converse with them on terms of

equality: one must keep them at due distance, for fear of losing

one's authority. I'm sure last winter (it was a very severe one, if

you recollect, and when it did not snow, it rained and blew), not a

creature but the butcher and postman came to the house, from

November till February; and I really got quite melancholy with

sitting night after night alone; I had Leah in to read to me

sometimes; but I don't think the poor girl liked the task much: she

felt it confining. In spring and summer one got on better:

sunshine and long days make such a difference; and then, just at the

commencement of this autumn, little Adela Varens came and her nurse:

a child makes a house alive all at once; and now you are here I

shall be quite gay."

My heart really warmed to the worthy lady as I heard her talk; and I

drew my chair a little nearer to her, and expressed my sincere wish

that she might find my company as agreeable as she anticipated.

"But I'll not keep you sitting up late to-night," said she; "it is

on the stroke of twelve now, and you have been travelling all day:

you must feel tired. If you have got your feet well warmed, I'll

show you your bedroom. I've had the room next to mine prepared for

you; it is only a small apartment, but I thought you would like it

better than one of the large front chambers: to be sure they have

finer furniture, but they are so dreary and solitary, I never sleep

in them myself."

I thanked her for her considerate choice, and as I really felt

fatigued with my long journey, expressed my readiness to retire.

She took her candle, and I followed her from the room. First she

went to see if the hall-door was fastened; having taken the key from

the lock, she led the way upstairs. The steps and banisters were of

oak; the staircase window was high and latticed; both it and the

long gallery into which the bedroom doors opened looked as if they

belonged to a church rather than a house. A very chill and vault-

like air pervaded the stairs and gallery, suggesting cheerless ideas

of space and solitude; and I was glad, when finally ushered into my

chamber, to find it of small dimensions, and furnished in ordinary,

modern style.

When Mrs. Fairfax had bidden me a kind good-night, and I had

fastened my door, gazed leisurely round, and in some measure effaced

the eerie impression made by that wide hall, that dark and spacious

staircase, and that long, cold gallery, by the livelier aspect of my

little room, I remembered that, after a day of bodily fatigue and

mental anxiety, I was now at last in safe haven. The impulse of

gratitude swelled my heart, and I knelt down at the bedside, and

offered up thanks where thanks were due; not forgetting, ere I rose,

to implore aid on my further path, and the power of meriting the

kindness which seemed so frankly offered me before it was earned.

My couch had no thorns in it that night; my solitary room no fears.

At once weary and content, I slept soon and soundly: when I awoke

it was broad day.

The chamber looked such a bright little place to me as the sun shone

in between the gay blue chintz window curtains, showing papered

walls and a carpeted floor, so unlike the bare planks and stained

plaster of Lowood, that my spirits rose at the view. Externals have

a great effect on the young: I thought that a fairer era of life

was beginning for me, one that was to have its flowers and

pleasures, as well as its thorns and toils. My faculties, roused by

the change of scene, the new field offered to hope, seemed all

astir. I cannot precisely define what they expected, but it was

something pleasant: not perhaps that day or that month, but at an

indefinite future period.

I rose; I dressed myself with care: obliged to be plain--for I had

no article of attire that was not made with extreme simplicity--I

was still by nature solicitous to be neat. It was not my habit to

be disregardful of appearance or careless of the impression I made:

on the contrary, I ever wished to look as well as I could, and to

please as much as my want of beauty would permit. I sometimes

regretted that I was not handsomer; I sometimes wished to have rosy

cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherry mouth; I desired to be

tall, stately, and finely developed in figure; I felt it a

misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so

irregular and so marked. And why had I these aspirations and these

regrets? It would be difficult to say: I could not then distinctly

say it to myself; yet I had a reason, and a logical, natural reason

too. However, when I had brushed my hair very smooth, and put on my

black frock--which, Quakerlike as it was, at least had the merit of

fitting to a nicety--and adjusted my clean white tucker, I thought I

should do respectably enough to appear before Mrs. Fairfax, and that

my new pupil would not at least recoil from me with antipathy.

Having opened my chamber window, and seen that I left all things

straight and neat on the toilet table, I ventured forth.

Traversing the long and matted gallery, I descended the slippery

steps of oak; then I gained the hall: I halted there a minute; I

looked at some pictures on the walls (one, I remember, represented a

grim man in a cuirass, and one a lady with powdered hair and a pearl

necklace), at a bronze lamp pendent from the ceiling, at a great

clock whose case was of oak curiously carved, and ebon black with

time and rubbing. Everything appeared very stately and imposing to

me; but then I was so little accustomed to grandeur. The hall-door,

which was half of glass, stood open; I stepped over the threshold.

It was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on

embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I

looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three

storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a

gentleman's manor-house, not a nobleman's seat: battlements round

the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well

from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on

the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great

meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where

an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as

oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion's designation.

Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so

craggy, nor so like barriers of separation from the living world;

but yet quiet and lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace

Thornfield with a seclusion I had not expected to find existent so

near the stirring locality of Millcote. A little hamlet, whose

roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of these

hills; the church of the district stood nearer Thornfield: its old

tower-top looked over a knoll between the house and gates.

I was yet enjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh air, yet

listening with delight to the cawing of the rooks, yet surveying the

wide, hoary front of the hall, and thinking what a great place it

was for one lonely little dame like Mrs. Fairfax to inhabit, when

that lady appeared at the door.

"What! out already?" said she. "I see you are an early riser." I

went up to her, and was received with an affable kiss and shake of

the hand.

"How do you like Thornfield?" she asked. I told her I liked it very

much.

"Yes," she said, "it is a pretty place; but I fear it will be

getting out of order, unless Mr. Rochester should take it into his

head to come and reside here permanently; or, at least, visit it

rather oftener: great houses and fine grounds require the presence

of the proprietor."

"Mr. Rochester!" I exclaimed. "Who is he?"

"The owner of Thornfield," she responded quietly. "Did you not know

he was called Rochester?"

Of course I did not--I had never heard of him before; but the old

lady seemed to regard his existence as a universally understood

fact, with which everybody must be acquainted by instinct.

"I thought," I continued, "Thornfield belonged to you."

"To me? Bless you, child; what an idea! To me! I am only the

housekeeper--the manager. To be sure I am distantly related to the

Rochesters by the mother's side, or at least my husband was; he was

a clergyman, incumbent of Hay--that little village yonder on the

hill--and that church near the gates was his. The present Mr.

Rochester's mother was a Fairfax, and second cousin to my husband:

but I never presume on the connection--in fact, it is nothing to me;

I consider myself quite in the light of an ordinary housekeeper: my

employer is always civil, and I expect nothing more."

"And the little girl--my pupil!"

"She is Mr. Rochester's ward; he commissioned me to find a governess

for her. He intended to have her brought up in -shire, I believe.

Here she comes, with her 'bonne,' as she calls her nurse." The

enigma then was explained: this affable and kind little widow was

no great dame; but a dependant like myself. I did not like her the

worse for that; on the contrary, I felt better pleased than ever.

The equality between her and me was real; not the mere result of

condescension on her part: so much the better--my position was all

the freer.

As I was meditating on this discovery, a little girl, followed by

her attendant, came running up the lawn. I looked at my pupil, who

did not at first appear to notice me: she was quite a child,

perhaps seven or eight years old, slightly built, with a pale,

small-featured face, and a redundancy of hair falling in curls to

her waist.

"Good morning, Miss Adela," said Mrs. Fairfax. "Come and speak to

the lady who is to teach you, and to make you a clever woman some

day." She approached.

"C'est le ma gouverante!" said she, pointing to me, and addressing

her nurse; who answered -

"Mais oui, certainement."

"Are they foreigners?" I inquired, amazed at hearing the French

language.

"The nurse is a foreigner, and Adela was born on the Continent; and,

I believe, never left it till within six months ago. When she first

came here she could speak no English; now she can make shift to talk

it a little: I don't understand her, she mixes it so with French;

but you will make out her meaning very well, I dare say."

Fortunately I had had the advantage of being taught French by a

French lady; and as I had always made a point of conversing with

Madame Pierrot as often as I could, and had besides, during the last

seven years, learnt a portion of French by heart daily--applying

myself to take pains with my accent, and imitating as closely as

possible the pronunciation of my teacher, I had acquired a certain

degree of readiness and correctness in the language, and was not

likely to be much at a loss with Mademoiselle Adela. She came and

shook hand with me when she heard that I was her governess; and as I

led her in to breakfast, I addressed some phrases to her in her own

tongue: she replied briefly at first, but after we were seated at

the table, and she had examined me some ten minutes with her large

hazel eyes, she suddenly commenced chattering fluently.

"Ah!" cried she, in French, "you speak my language as well as Mr.

Rochester does: I can talk to you as I can to him, and so can

Sophie. She will be glad: nobody here understands her: Madame

Fairfax is all English. Sophie is my nurse; she came with me over

the sea in a great ship with a chimney that smoked--how it did

smoke!--and I was sick, and so was Sophie, and so was Mr. Rochester.

Mr. Rochester lay down on a sofa in a pretty room called the salon,

and Sophie and I had little beds in another place. I nearly fell

out of mine; it was like a shelf. And Mademoiselle--what is your

name?"

"Eyre--Jane Eyre."

"Aire? Bah! I cannot say it. Well, our ship stopped in the

morning, before it was quite daylight, at a great city--a huge city,

with very dark houses and all smoky; not at all like the pretty

clean town I came from; and Mr. Rochester carried me in his arms

over a plank to the land, and Sophie came after, and we all got into

a coach, which took us to a beautiful large house, larger than this

and finer, called an hotel. We stayed there nearly a week: I and

Sophie used to walk every day in a great green place full of trees,

called the Park; and there were many children there besides me, and

a pond with beautiful birds in it, that I fed with crumbs."

"Can you understand her when she runs on so fast?" asked Mrs.

Fairfax.

I understood her very well, for I had been accustomed to the fluent

tongue of Madame Pierrot.

"I wish," continued the good lady, "you would ask her a question or

two about her parents: I wonder if she remembers them?"

"Adele," I inquired, "with whom did you live when you were in that

pretty clean town you spoke of?"

"I lived long ago with mama; but she is gone to the Holy Virgin.

Mama used to teach me to dance and sing, and to say verses. A great

many gentlemen and ladies came to see mama, and I used to dance

before them, or to sit on their knees and sing to them: I liked it.

Shall I let you hear me sing now?"

She had finished her breakfast, so I permitted her to give a

specimen of her accomplishments. Descending from her chair, she

came and placed herself on my knee; then, folding her little hands

demurely before her, shaking back her curls and lifting her eyes to

the ceiling, she commenced singing a song from some opera. It was

the strain of a forsaken lady, who, after bewailing the perfidy of

her lover, calls pride to her aid; desires her attendant to deck her

in her brightest jewels and richest robes, and resolves to meet the

false one that night at a ball, and prove to him, by the gaiety of

her demeanour, how little his desertion has affected her.

The subject seemed strangely chosen for an infant singer; but I

suppose the point of the exhibition lay in hearing the notes of love

and jealousy warbled with the lisp of childhood; and in very bad

taste that point was: at least I thought so.

Adele sang the canzonette tunefully enough, and with the naivete of

her age. This achieved, she jumped from my knee and said, "Now,

Mademoiselle, I will repeat you some poetry."

Assuming an attitude, she began, "La Ligue des Rats: fable de La

Fontaine." She then declaimed the little piece with an attention to

punctuation and emphasis, a flexibility of voice and an

appropriateness of gesture, very unusual indeed at her age, and

which proved she had been carefully trained.

"Was it your mama who taught you that piece?" I asked.

"Yes, and she just used to say it in this way: 'Qu' avez vous donc?

lui dit un de ces rats; parlez!' She made me lift my hand--so--to

remind me to raise my voice at the question. Now shall I dance for

you?"

"No, that will do: but after your mama went to the Holy Virgin, as

you say, with whom did you live then?"

"With Madame Frederic and her husband: she took care of me, but she

is nothing related to me. I think she is poor, for she had not so

fine a house as mama. I was not long there. Mr. Rochester asked me

if I would like to go and live with him in England, and I said yes;

for I knew Mr. Rochester before I knew Madame Frederic, and he was

always kind to me and gave me pretty dresses and toys: but you see

he has not kept his word, for he has brought me to England, and now

he is gone back again himself, and I never see him."

After breakfast, Adele and I withdrew to the library, which room, it

appears, Mr. Rochester had directed should be used as the

schoolroom. Most of the books were locked up behind glass doors;

but there was one bookcase left open containing everything that

could be needed in the way of elementary works, and several volumes

of light literature, poetry, biography, travels, a few romances, &c.

I suppose he had considered that these were all the governess would

require for her private perusal; and, indeed, they contented me

amply for the present; compared with the scanty pickings I had now

and then been able to glean at Lowood, they seemed to offer an

abundant harvest of entertainment and information. In this room,

too, there was a cabinet piano, quite new and of superior tone; also

an easel for painting and a pair of globes.

I found my pupil sufficiently docile, though disinclined to apply:

she had not been used to regular occupation of any kind. I felt it

would be injudicious to confine her too much at first; so, when I

had talked to her a great deal, and got her to learn a little, and

when the morning had advanced to noon, I allowed her to return to

her nurse. I then proposed to occupy myself till dinner-time in

drawing some little sketches for her use.

As I was going upstairs to fetch my portfolio and pencils, Mrs.

Fairfax called to me: "Your morning school-hours are over now, I

suppose," said she. She was in a room the folding-doors of which

stood open: I went in when she addressed me. It was a large,

stately apartment, with purple chairs and curtains, a Turkey carpet,

walnut-panelled walls, one vast window rich in slanted glass, and a

lofty ceiling, nobly moulded. Mrs. Fairfax was dusting some vases

of fine purple spar, which stood on a sideboard.

"What a beautiful room!" I exclaimed, as I looked round; for I had

never before seen any half so imposing.

"Yes; this is the dining-room. I have just opened the window, to

let in a little air and sunshine; for everything gets so damp in

apartments that are seldom inhabited; the drawing-room yonder feels

like a vault."

She pointed to a wide arch corresponding to the window, and hung

like it with a Tyrian-dyed curtain, now looped up. Mounting to it

by two broad steps, and looking through, I thought I caught a

glimpse of a fairy place, so bright to my novice-eyes appeared the

view beyond. Yet it was merely a very pretty drawing-room, and

within it a boudoir, both spread with white carpets, on which seemed

laid brilliant garlands of flowers; both ceiled with snowy mouldings

of white grapes and vine-leaves, beneath which glowed in rich

contrast crimson couches and ottomans; while the ornaments on the

pale Pariain mantelpiece were of sparkling Bohemian glass, ruby red;

and between the windows large mirrors repeated the general blending

of snow and fire.

"In what order you keep these rooms, Mrs. Fairfax!" said I. "No

dust, no canvas coverings: except that the air feels chilly, one

would think they were inhabited daily."

"Why, Miss Eyre, though Mr. Rochester's visits here are rare, they

are always sudden and unexpected; and as I observed that it put him

out to find everything swathed up, and to have a bustle of

arrangement on his arrival, I thought it best to keep the rooms in

readiness."

"Is Mr. Rochester an exacting, fastidious sort of man?"

"Not particularly so; but he has a gentleman's tastes and habits,

and he expects to have things managed in conformity to them."

"Do you like him? Is he generally liked?"

"Oh, yes; the family have always been respected here. Almost all

the land in this neighbourhood, as far as you can see, has belonged

to the Rochesters time out of mind."

"Well, but, leaving his land out of the question, do you like him?

Is he liked for himself?"

"I have no cause to do otherwise than like him; and I believe he is

considered a just and liberal landlord by his tenants: but he has

never lived much amongst them."

"But has he no peculiarities? What, in short, is his character?"

"Oh! his character is unimpeachable, I suppose. He is rather

peculiar, perhaps: he has travelled a great deal, and seen a great

deal of the world, I should think. I dare say he is clever, but I

never had much conversation with him."

"In what way is he peculiar?"

"I don't know--it is not easy to describe--nothing striking, but you

feel it when he speaks to you; you cannot be always sure whether he

is in jest or earnest, whether he is pleased or the contrary; you

don't thoroughly understand him, in short--at least, I don't: but

it is of no consequence, he is a very good master."

This was all the account I got from Mrs. Fairfax of her employer and

mine. There are people who seem to have no notion of sketching a

character, or observing and describing salient points, either in

persons or things: the good lady evidently belonged to this class;

my queries puzzled, but did not draw her out. Mr. Rochester was Mr.

Rochester in her eyes; a gentleman, a landed proprietor--nothing

more: she inquired and searched no further, and evidently wondered

at my wish to gain a more definite notion of his identity.

When we left the dining-room, she proposed to show me over the rest

of the house; and I followed her upstairs and downstairs, admiring

as I went; for all was well arranged and handsome. The large front

chambers I thought especially grand: and some of the third-storey

rooms, though dark and low, were interesting from their air of

antiquity. The furniture once appropriated to the lower apartments

had from time to time been removed here, as fashions changed: and

the imperfect light entering by their narrow casement showed

bedsteads of a hundred years old; chests in oak or walnut, looking,

with their strange carvings of palm branches and cherubs' heads,

like types of the Hebrew ark; rows of venerable chairs, high-backed

and narrow; stools still more antiquated, on whose cushioned tops

were yet apparent traces of half-effaced embroideries, wrought by

fingers that for two generations had been coffin-dust. All these

relics gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a

home of the past: a shrine of memory. I liked the hush, the gloom,

the quaintness of these retreats in the day; but I by no means

coveted a night's repose on one of those wide and heavy beds: shut

in, some of them, with doors of oak; shaded, others, with wrought

old English hangings crusted with thick work, portraying effigies of

strange flowers, and stranger birds, and strangest human beings,--

all which would have looked strange, indeed, by the pallid gleam of

moonlight.

"Do the servants sleep in these rooms?" I asked.

"No; they occupy a range of smaller apartments to the back; no one

ever sleeps here: one would almost say that, if there were a ghost

at Thornfield Hall, this would be its haunt."

"So I think: you have no ghost, then?"

"None that I ever heard of," returned Mrs. Fairfax, smiling.

"Nor any traditions of one? no legends or ghost stories?"

"I believe not. And yet it is said the Rochesters have been rather

a violent than a quiet race in their time: perhaps, though, that is

the reason they rest tranquilly in their graves now."

"Yes--'after life's fitful fever they sleep well,'" I muttered.

"Where are you going now, Mrs. Fairfax?" for she was moving away.

"On to the leads; will you come and see the view from thence?" I

followed still, up a very narrow staircase to the attics, and thence

by a ladder and through a trap-door to the roof of the hall. I was

now on a level with the crow colony, and could see into their nests.

Leaning over the battlements and looking far down, I surveyed the

grounds laid out like a map: the bright and velvet lawn closely

girdling the grey base of the mansion; the field, wide as a park,

dotted with its ancient timber; the wood, dun and sere, divided by a

path visibly overgrown, greener with moss than the trees were with

foliage; the church at the gates, the road, the tranquil hills, all

reposing in the autumn day's sun; the horizon bounded by a

propitious sky, azure, marbled with pearly white. No feature in the

scene was extraordinary, but all was pleasing. When I turned from

it and repassed the trap-door, I could scarcely see my way down the

ladder; the attic seemed black as a vault compared with that arch of

blue air to which I had been looking up, and to that sunlit scene of

grove, pasture, and green hill, of which the hall was the centre,

and over which I had been gazing with delight.

Mrs. Fairfax stayed behind a moment to fasten the trap-door; I, by

drift of groping, found the outlet from the attic, and proceeded to

descend the narrow garret staircase. I lingered in the long passage

to which this led, separating the front and back rooms of the third

storey: narrow, low, and dim, with only one little window at the

far end, and looking, with its two rows of small black doors all

shut, like a corridor in some Bluebeard's castle.

While I paced softly on, the last sound I expected to hear in so

still a region, a laugh, struck my ear. It was a curious laugh;

distinct, formal, mirthless. I stopped: the sound ceased, only for

an instant; it began again, louder: for at first, though distinct,

it was very low. It passed off in a clamorous peal that seemed to

wake an echo in every lonely chamber; though it originated but in

one, and I could have pointed out the door whence the accents

issued.

"Mrs. Fairfax!" I called out: for I now heard her descending the

great stairs. "Did you hear that loud laugh? Who is it?"

"Some of the servants, very likely," she answered: "perhaps Grace

Poole."

"Did you hear it?" I again inquired.

"Yes, plainly: I often hear her: she sews in one of these rooms.

Sometimes Leah is with her; they are frequently noisy together."

The laugh was repeated in its low, syllabic tone, and terminated in

an odd murmur.

"Grace!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax.

I really did not expect any Grace to answer; for the laugh was as

tragic, as preternatural a laugh as any I ever heard; and, but that

it was high noon, and that no circumstance of ghostliness

accompanied the curious cachinnation; but that neither scene nor

season favoured fear, I should have been superstitiously afraid.

However, the event showed me I was a fool for entertaining a sense

even of surprise.

The door nearest me opened, and a servant came out,--a woman of

between thirty and forty; a set, square-made figure, red-haired, and

with a hard, plain face: any apparition less romantic or less

ghostly could scarcely be conceived.

"Too much noise, Grace," said Mrs. Fairfax. "Remember directions!"

Grace curtseyed silently and went in.

"She is a person we have to sew and assist Leah in her housemaid's

work," continued the widow; "not altogether unobjectionable in some

points, but she does well enough. By-the-bye, how have you got on

with your new pupil this morning?"

The conversation, thus turned on Adele, continued till we reached

the light and cheerful region below. Adele came running to meet us

in the hall, exclaiming -

"Mesdames, vous etes servies!" adding, "J'ai bien faim, moi!"

We found dinner ready, and waiting for us in Mrs. Fairfax's room.

 

CHAPTER XII

The promise of a smooth career, which my first calm introduction to

Thornfield Hall seemed to pledge, was not belied on a longer

acquaintance with the place and its inmates. Mrs. Fairfax turned

out to be what she appeared, a placid-tempered, kind-natured woman,

of competent education and average intelligence. My pupil was a

lively child, who had been spoilt and indulged, and therefore was

sometimes wayward; but as she was committed entirely to my care, and

no injudicious interference from any quarter ever thwarted my plans

for her improvement, she soon forgot her little freaks, and became

obedient and teachable. She had no great talents, no marked traits

of character, no peculiar development of feeling or taste which

raised her one inch above the ordinary level of childhood; but

neither had she any deficiency or vice which sunk her below it. She

made reasonable progress, entertained for me a vivacious, though

perhaps not very profound, affection; and by her simplicity, gay

prattle, and efforts to please, inspired me, in return, with a

degree of attachment sufficient to make us both content in each

other's society.

This, par parenthese, will be thought cool language by persons who

entertain solemn doctrines about the angelic nature of children, and

the duty of those charged with their education to conceive for them

an idolatrous devotion: but I am not writing to flatter parental

egotism, to echo cant, or prop up humbug; I am merely telling the

truth. I felt a conscientious solicitude for Adele's welfare and

progress, and a quiet liking for her little self: just as I

cherished towards Mrs. Fairfax a thankfulness for her kindness, and

a pleasure in her society proportionate to the tranquil regard she

had for me, and the moderation of her mind and character.

Anybody may blame me who likes, when I add further, that, now and

then, when I took a walk by myself in the grounds; when I went down

to the gates and looked through them along the road; or when, while

Adele played with her nurse, and Mrs. Fairfax made jellies in the

storeroom, I climbed the three staircases, raised the trap-door of

the attic, and having reached the leads, looked out afar over

sequestered field and hill, and along dim sky-line--that then I

longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which

might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard

of but never seen--that then I desired more of practical experience

than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance

with variety of character, than was here within my reach. I valued

what was good in Mrs. Fairfax, and what was good in Adele; but I

believed in the existence of other and more vivid kinds of goodness,

and what I believed in I wished to behold.

Who blames me? Many, no doubt; and I shall be called discontented.

I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated

me to pain sometimes. Then my sole relief was to walk along the

corridor of the third storey, backwards and forwards, safe in the

silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind's eye to dwell

on whatever bright visions rose before it--and, certainly, they were

many and glowing; to let my heart be heaved by the exultant

movement, which, while it swelled it in trouble, expanded it with

life; and, best of all, to open my inward ear to a tale that was

never ended--a tale my imagination created, and narrated

continuously; quickened with all of incident, life, fire, feeling,

that I desired and had not in my actual existence.

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with

tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they

cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine,

and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows

how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the

masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very

calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise

for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their

brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a

stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded

in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to

confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to

playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to

condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn

more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.

When thus alone, I not unfrequently heard Grace Poole's laugh: the

same peal, the same low, slow ha! ha! which, when first heard, had

thrilled me: I heard, too, her eccentric murmurs; stranger than her

laugh. There were days when she was quite silent; but there were

others when I could not account for the sounds she made. Sometimes

I saw her: she would come out of her room with a basin, or a plate,

or a tray in her hand, go down to the kitchen and shortly return,

generally (oh, romantic reader, forgive me for telling the plain

truth!) bearing a pot of porter. Her appearance always acted as a

damper to the curiosity raised by her oral oddities: hard-featured

and staid, she had no point to which interest could attach. I made

some attempts to draw her into conversation, but she seemed a person

of few words: a monosyllabic reply usually cut short every effort

of that sort.

The other members of the household, viz., John and his wife, Leah

the housemaid, and Sophie the French nurse, were decent people; but

in no respect remarkable; with Sophie I used to talk French, and

sometimes I asked her questions about her native country; but she

was not of a descriptive or narrative turn, and generally gave such

vapid and confused answers as were calculated rather to check than

encourage inquiry.

October, November, December passed away. One afternoon in January,

Mrs. Fairfax had begged a holiday for Adele, because she had a cold;

and, as Adele seconded the request with an ardour that reminded me

how precious occasional holidays had been to me in my own childhood,

I accorded it, deeming that I did well in showing pliability on the

point. It was a fine, calm day, though very cold; I was tired of

sitting still in the library through a whole long morning: Mrs.

Fairfax had just written a letter which was waiting to be posted, so

I put on my bonnet and cloak and volunteered to carry it to Hay; the

distance, two miles, would be a pleasant winter afternoon walk.

Having seen Adele comfortably seated in her little chair by Mrs.

Fairfax's parlour fireside, and given her her best wax doll (which I

usually kept enveloped in silver paper in a drawer) to play with,

and a story-book for change of amusement; and having replied to her

"Revenez bientot, ma bonne amie, ma chere Mdlle. Jeannette," with a

kiss I set out.

The ground was hard, the air was still, my road was lonely; I walked

fast till I got warm, and then I walked slowly to enjoy and analyse

the species of pleasure brooding for me in the hour and situation.

It was three o'clock; the church bell tolled as I passed under the

belfry: the charm of the hour lay in its approaching dimness, in

the low-gliding and pale-beaming sun. I was a mile from Thornfield,

in a lane noted for wild roses in summer, for nuts and blackberries

in autumn, and even now possessing a few coral treasures in hips and

haws, but whose best winter delight lay in its utter solitude and

leafless repose. If a breath of air stirred, it made no sound here;

for there was not a holly, not an evergreen to rustle, and the

stripped hawthorn and hazel bushes were as still as the white, worn

stones which causewayed the middle of the path. Far and wide, on

each side, there were only fields, where no cattle now browsed; and

the little brown birds, which stirred occasionally in the hedge,

looked like single russet leaves that had forgotten to drop.

This lane inclined up-hill all the way to Hay; having reached the

middle, I sat down on a stile which led thence into a field.

Gathering my mantle about me, and sheltering my hands in my muff, I

did not feel the cold, though it froze keenly; as was attested by a

sheet of ice covering the causeway, where a little brooklet, now

congealed, had overflowed after a rapid thaw some days since. From

my seat I could look down on Thornfield: the grey and battlemented

hall was the principal object in the vale below me; its woods and

dark rookery rose against the west. I lingered till the sun went

down amongst the trees, and sank crimson and clear behind them. I

then turned eastward.

On the hill-top above me sat the rising moon; pale yet as a cloud,

but brightening momentarily, she looked over Hay, which, half lost

in trees, sent up a blue smoke from its few chimneys: it was yet a

mile distant, but in the absolute hush I could hear plainly its thin

murmurs of life. My ear, too, felt the flow of currents; in what

dales and depths I could not tell: but there were many hills beyond

Hay, and doubtless many becks threading their passes. That evening

calm betrayed alike the tinkle of the nearest streams, the sough of

the most remote.

A rude noise broke on these fine ripplings and whisperings, at once

so far away and so clear: a positive tramp, tramp, a metallic

clatter, which effaced the soft wave-wanderings; as, in a picture,

the solid mass of a crag, or the rough boles of a great oak, drawn

in dark and strong on the foreground, efface the aerial distance of

azure hill, sunny horizon, and blended clouds where tint melts into

tint.

The din was on the causeway: a horse was coming; the windings of

the lane yet hid it, but it approached. I was just leaving the

stile; yet, as the path was narrow, I sat still to let it go by. In

those days I was young, and all sorts of fancies bright and dark

tenanted my mind: the memories of nursery stories were there

amongst other rubbish; and when they recurred, maturing youth added

to them a vigour and vividness beyond what childhood could give. As

this horse approached, and as I watched for it to appear through the

dusk, I remembered certain of Bessie's tales, wherein figured a

North-of-England spirit called a "Gytrash," which, in the form of

horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came

upon belated travellers, as this horse was now coming upon me.

It was very near, but not yet in sight; when, in addition to the

tramp, tramp, I heard a rush under the hedge, and close down by the

hazel stems glided a great dog, whose black and white colour made

him a distinct object against the trees. It was exactly one form of

Bessie's Gytrash--a lion-like creature with long hair and a huge

head: it passed me, however, quietly enough; not staying to look

up, with strange pretercanine eyes, in my face, as I half expected

it would. The horse followed,--a tall steed, and on its back a

rider. The man, the human being, broke the spell at once. Nothing

ever rode the Gytrash: it was always alone; and goblins, to my

notions, though they might tenant the dumb carcasses of beasts,

could scarce covet shelter in the commonplace human form. No

Gytrash was this,--only a traveller taking the short cut to

Millcote. He passed, and I went on; a few steps, and I turned: a

sliding sound and an exclamation of "What the deuce is to do now?"

and a clattering tumble, arrested my attention. Man and horse were

down; they had slipped on the sheet of ice which glazed the

causeway. The dog came bounding back, and seeing his master in a

predicament, and hearing the horse groan, barked till the evening

hills echoed the sound, which was deep in proportion to his

magnitude. He snuffed round the prostrate group, and then he ran up

to me; it was all he could do,--there was no other help at hand to

summon. I obeyed him, and walked down to the traveller, by this

time struggling himself free of his steed. His efforts were so

vigorous, I thought he could not be much hurt; but I asked him the

question -

"Are you injured, sir?"

I think he was swearing, but am not certain; however, he was

pronouncing some formula which prevented him from replying to me

directly.

"Can I do anything?" I asked again.

"You must just stand on one side," he answered as he rose, first to

his knees, and then to his feet. I did; whereupon began a heaving,

stamping, clattering process, accompanied by a barking and baying

which removed me effectually some yards' distance; but I would not

be driven quite away till I saw the event. This was finally

fortunate; the horse was re-established, and the dog was silenced

with a "Down, Pilot!" The traveller now, stooping, felt his foot

and leg, as if trying whether they were sound; apparently something

ailed them, for he halted to the stile whence I had just risen, and

sat down.

I was in the mood for being useful, or at least officious, I think,

for I now drew near him again.

"If you are hurt, and want help, sir, I can fetch some one either

from Thornfield Hall or from Hay."

"Thank you: I shall do: I have no broken bones,--only a sprain;"

and again he stood up and tried his foot, but the result extorted an

involuntary "Ugh!"

Something of daylight still lingered, and the moon was waxing

bright: I could see him plainly. His figure was enveloped in a

riding cloak, fur collared and steel clasped; its details were not

apparent, but I traced the general points of middle height and

considerable breadth of chest. He had a dark face, with stern

features and a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked

ireful and thwarted just now; he was past youth, but had not reached

middle-age; perhaps he might be thirty-five. I felt no fear of him,

and but little shyness. Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking

young gentleman, I should not have dared to stand thus questioning

him against his will, and offering my services unasked. I had

hardly ever seen a handsome youth; never in my life spoken to one.

I had a theoretical reverence and homage for beauty, elegance,

gallantry, fascination; but had I met those qualities incarnate in

masculine shape, I should have known instinctively that they neither

had nor could have sympathy with anything in me, and should have

shunned them as one would fire, lightning, or anything else that is

bright but antipathetic.

If even this stranger had smiled and been good-humoured to me when I

addressed him; if he had put off my offer of assistance gaily and

with thanks, I should have gone on my way and not felt any vocation

to renew inquiries: but the frown, the roughness of the traveller,

set me at my ease: I retained my station when he waved to me to go,

and announced -

"I cannot think of leaving you, sir, at so late an hour, in this

solitary lane, till I see you are fit to mount your horse."

He looked at me when I said this; he had hardly turned his eyes in

my direction before.

"I should think you ought to be at home yourself," said he, "if you

have a home in this neighbourhood: where do you come from?"

"From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when

it is moonlight: I will run over to Hay for you with pleasure, if

you wish it: indeed, I am going there to post a letter."

"You live just below--do you mean at that house with the

battlements?" pointing to Thornfield Hall, on which the moon cast a

hoary gleam, bringing it out distinct and pale from the woods that,

by contrast with the western sky, now seemed one mass of shadow.

"Yes, sir."

"Whose house is it?"

"Mr. Rochester's."

"Do you know Mr. Rochester?"

"No, I have never seen him."

"He is not resident, then?"

"No."

"Can you tell me where he is?"

"I cannot."

"You are not a servant at the hall, of course. You are--" He

stopped, ran his eye over my dress, which, as usual, was quite

simple: a black merino cloak, a black beaver bonnet; neither of

them half fine enough for a lady's-maid. He seemed puzzled to

decide what I was; I helped him.

"I am the governess."

"Ah, the governess!" he repeated; "deuce take me, if I had not

forgotten! The governess!" and again my raiment underwent scrutiny.

In two minutes he rose from the stile: his face expressed pain when

he tried to move.

"I cannot commission you to fetch help," he said; "but you may help

me a little yourself, if you will be so kind."

"Yes, sir."

"You have not an umbrella that I can use as a stick?"

"No."

"Try to get hold of my horse's bridle and lead him to me: you are

not afraid?"

I should have been afraid to touch a horse when alone, but when told

to do it, I was disposed to obey. I put down my muff on the stile,

and went up to the tall steed; I endeavoured to catch the bridle,

but it was a spirited thing, and would not let me come near its

head; I made effort on effort, though in vain: meantime, I was

mortally afraid of its trampling fore-feet. The traveller waited

and watched for some time, and at last he laughed.

"I see," he said, "the mountain will never be brought to Mahomet, so

all you can do is to aid Mahomet to go to the mountain; I must beg

of you to come here."

I came. "Excuse me," he continued: "necessity compels me to make

you useful." He laid a heavy hand on my shoulder, and leaning on me

with some stress, limped to his horse. Having once caught the

bridle, he mastered it directly and sprang to his saddle; grimacing

grimly as he made the effort, for it wrenched his sprain.

"Now," said he, releasing his under lip from a hard bite, "just hand

me my whip; it lies there under the hedge."

I sought it and found it.

"Thank you; now make haste with the letter to Hay, and return as

fast as you can."

A touch of a spurred heel made his horse first start and rear, and

then bound away; the dog rushed in his traces; all three vanished,

 

"Like heath that, in the wilderness,

The wild wind whirls away."

 

I took up my muff and walked on. The incident had occurred and was

gone for me: it WAS an incident of no moment, no romance, no

interest in a sense; yet it marked with change one single hour of a

monotonous life. My help had been needed and claimed; I had given

it: I was pleased to have done something; trivial, transitory

though the deed was, it was yet an active thing, and I was weary of

an existence all passive. The new face, too, was like a new picture

introduced to the gallery of memory; and it was dissimilar to all

the others hanging there: firstly, because it was masculine; and,

secondly, because it was dark, strong, and stern. I had it still

before me when I entered Hay, and slipped the letter into the post-

office; I saw it as I walked fast down-hill all the way home. When

I came to the stile, I stopped a minute, looked round and listened,

with an idea that a horse's hoofs might ring on the causeway again,

and that a rider in a cloak, and a Gytrash-like Newfoundland dog,

might be again apparent: I saw only the hedge and a pollard willow

before me, rising up still and straight to meet the moonbeams; I

heard only the faintest waft of wind roaming fitful among the trees

round Thornfield, a mile distant; and when I glanced down in the

direction of the murmur, my eye, traversing the hall-front, caught a

light kindling in a window: it reminded me that I was late, and I

hurried on.

I did not like re-entering Thornfield. To pass its threshold was to

return to stagnation; to cross the silent hall, to ascend the

darksome staircase, to seek my own lonely little room, and then to

meet tranquil Mrs. Fairfax, and spend the long winter evening with

her, and her only, was to quell wholly the faint excitement wakened

by my walk -- to slip again over my faculties the viewless fetters of

an uniform and too still existence; of an existence whose very

privileges of security and ease I was becoming incapable of

appreciating. What good it would have done me at that time to have

been tossed in the storms of an uncertain struggling life, and to

have been taught by rough and bitter experience to long for the calm

amidst which I now repined! Yes, just as much good as it would do a

man tired of sitting still in a "too easy chair" to take a long

walk: and just as natural was the wish to stir, under my

circumstances, as it would be under his.

I lingered at the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwards

and forwards on the pavement; the shutters of the glass door were

closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and

spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house--from the grey-hollow

filled with rayless cells, as it appeared to me--to that sky

expanded before me,--a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud; the

moon ascending it in solemn march; her orb seeming to look up as she

left the hill-tops, from behind which she had come, far and farther

below her, and aspired to the zenith, midnight dark in its

fathomless depth and measureless distance; and for those trembling

stars that followed her course; they made my heart tremble, my veins

glow when I viewed them. Little things recall us to earth; the

clock struck in the hall; that sufficed; I turned from moon and

stars, opened a side-door, and went in.

The hall was not dark, nor yet was it lit, only by the high-hung

bronze lamp; a warm glow suffused both it and the lower steps of the

oak staircase. This ruddy shine issued from the great dining-room,

whose two-leaved door stood open, and showed a genial fire in the

grate, glancing on marble hearth and brass fire-irons, and revealing

purple draperies and polished furniture, in the most pleasant

radiance. It revealed, too, a group near the mantelpiece: I had

scarcely caught it, and scarcely become aware of a cheerful mingling

of voices, amongst which I seemed to distinguish the tones of Adele,

when the door closed.

I hastened to Mrs. Fairfax's room; there was a fire there too, but

no candle, and no Mrs. Fairfax. Instead, all alone, sitting upright

on the rug, and gazing with gravity at the blaze, I beheld a great

black and white long-haired dog, just like the Gytrash of the lane.

It was so like it that I went forward and said--"Pilot" and the

thing got up and came to me and snuffed me. I caressed him, and he

wagged his great tail; but he looked an eerie creature to be alone

with, and I could not tell whence he had come. I rang the bell, for

I wanted a candle; and I wanted, too, to get an account of this

visitant. Leah entered.

"What dog is this?"

"He came with master."

"With whom?"

"With master--Mr. Rochester--he is just arrived."

"Indeed! and is Mrs. Fairfax with him?"

"Yes, and Miss Adele; they are in the dining-room, and John is gone

for a surgeon; for master has had an accident; his horse fell and

his ankle is sprained."

"Did the horse fall in Hay Lane?"

"Yes, coming down-hill; it slipped on some ice."

"Ah! Bring me a candle will you Leah?"

Leah brought it; she entered, followed by Mrs. Fairfax, who repeated

the news; adding that Mr. Carter the surgeon was come, and was now

with Mr. Rochester: then she hurried out to give orders about tea,

and I went upstairs to take off my things.

 

CHAPTER XIII

Mr. Rochester, it seems, by the surgeon's orders, went to bed early

that night; nor did he rise soon next morning. When he did come

down, it was to attend to business: his agent and some of his

tenants were arrived, and waiting to speak with him.

Adele and I had now to vacate the library: it would be in daily

requisition as a reception-room for callers. A fire was lit in an

apartment upstairs, and there I carried our books, and arranged it

for the future schoolroom. I discerned in the course of the morning

that Thornfield Hall was a changed place: no longer silent as a

church, it echoed every hour or two to a knock at the door, or a

clang of the bell; steps, too, often traversed the hall, and new

voices spoke in different keys below; a rill from the outer world

was flowing through it; it had a master: for my part, I liked it

better.

Adele was not easy to teach that day; she could not apply: she kept

running to the door and looking over the banisters to see if she

could get a glimpse of Mr. Rochester; then she coined pretexts to go

downstairs, in order, as I shrewdly suspected, to visit the library,

where I knew she was not wanted; then, when I got a little angry,

and made her sit still, she continued to talk incessantly of her

"ami, Monsieur Edouard Fairfax DE Rochester," as she dubbed him (I

had not before heard his prenomens), and to conjecture what presents

he had brought her: for it appears he had intimated the night

before, that when his luggage came from Millcote, there would be

found amongst it a little box in whose contents she had an interest.

"Et cela doit signifier," said she, "qu'il y aura le dedans un

cadeau pour moi, et peut-etre pour vous aussi, mademoiselle.

Monsieur a parle de vous: il m'a demande le nom de ma gouvernante,

et si elle n'etait pas une petite personne, assez mince et un peu

pale. J'ai dit qu'oui: car c'est vrai, n'est-ce pas,

mademoiselle?"

I and my pupil dined as usual in Mrs. Fairfax's parlour; the

afternoon was wild and snowy, and we passed it in the schoolroom.

At dark I allowed Adele to put away books and work, and to run

downstairs; for, from the comparative silence below, and from the

cessation of appeals to the door-bell, I conjectured that Mr.

Rochester was now at liberty. Left alone, I walked to the window;

but nothing was to be seen thence: twilight and snowflakes together

thickened the air, and hid the very shrubs on the lawn. I let down

the curtain and went back to the fireside.

In the clear embers I was tracing a view, not unlike a picture I

remembered to have seen of the castle of Heidelberg, on the Rhine,

when Mrs. Fairfax came in, breaking up by her entrance the fiery

mosaic I had been piercing together, and scattering too some heavy

unwelcome thoughts that were beginning to throng on my solitude.

"Mr. Rochester would be glad if you and your pupil would take tea

with him in the drawing-room this evening," said she: "he has been

so much engaged all day that he could not ask to see you before."

"When is his tea-time?" I inquired.

"Oh, at six o'clock: he keeps early hours in the country. You had

better change your frock now; I will go with you and fasten it.

Here is a candle."

"Is it necessary to change my frock?"

"Yes, you had better: I always dress for the evening when Mr.

Rochester is here."

This additional ceremony seemed somewhat stately; however, I

repaired to my room, and, with Mrs. Fairfax's aid, replaced my black

stuff dress by one of black silk; the best and the only additional

one I had, except one of light grey, which, in my Lowood notions of

the toilette, I thought too fine to be worn, except on first-rate

occasions.

"You want a brooch," said Mrs. Fairfax. I had a single little pearl

ornament which Miss Temple gave me as a parting keepsake: I put it

on, and then we went downstairs. Unused as I was to strangers, it

was rather a trial to appear thus formally summoned in Mr.

Rochester's presence. I let Mrs. Fairfax precede me into the

dining-room, and kept in her shade as we crossed that apartment;

and, passing the arch, whose curtain was now dropped, entered the

elegant recess beyond.

Two wax candles stood lighted on the table, and two on the

mantelpiece; basking in the light and heat of a superb fire, lay

Pilot--Adele knelt near him. Half reclined on a couch appeared Mr.

Rochester, his foot supported by the cushion; he was looking at

Adele and the dog: the fire shone full on his face. I knew my

traveller with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead,

made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I

recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than

beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim

mouth, chin, and jaw--yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake.

His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonised in

squareness with his physiognomy: I suppose it was a good figure in

the athletic sense of the term--broad chested and thin flanked,

though neither tall nor graceful.

Mr. Rochester must have been aware of the entrance of Mrs. Fairfax

and myself; but it appeared he was not in the mood to notice us, for

he never lifted his head as we approached.

"Here is Miss Eyre, sir," said Mrs. Fairfax, in her quiet way. He

bowed, still not taking his eyes from the group of the dog and

child.

"Let Miss Eyre be seated," said he: and there was something in the

forced stiff bow, in the impatient yet formal tone, which seemed

further to express, "What the deuce is it to me whether Miss Eyre be

there or not? At this moment I am not disposed to accost her."

I sat down quite disembarrassed. A reception of finished politeness

would probably have confused me: I could not have returned or

repaid it by answering grace and elegance on my part; but harsh

caprice laid me under no obligation; on the contrary, a decent

quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage.

Besides, the eccentricity of the proceeding was piquant: I felt

interested to see how he would go on.

He went on as a statue would, that is, he neither spoke nor moved.

Mrs. Fairfax seemed to think it necessary that some one should be

amiable, and she began to talk. Kindly, as usual--and, as usual,

rather trite--she condoled with him on the pressure of business he

had had all day; on the annoyance it must have been to him with that

painful sprain: then she commended his patience and perseverance in

going through with it.

"Madam, I should like some tea," was the sole rejoinder she got.

She hastened to ring the bell; and when the tray came, she proceeded

to arrange the cups, spoons, &c., with assiduous celerity. I and

Adele went to the table; but the master did not leave his couch.

"Will you hand Mr. Rochester's cup?" said Mrs. Fairfax to me; "Adele

might perhaps spill it."

I did as requested. As he took the cup from my hand, Adele,

thinking the moment propitious for making a request in my favour,

cried out -

"N'est-ce pas, monsieur, qu'il y a un cadeau pour Mademoiselle Eyre

dans votre petit coffre?"

"Who talks of cadeaux?" said he gruffly. "Did you expect a present,

Miss Eyre? Are you fond of presents?" and he searched my face with

eyes that I saw were dark, irate, and piercing.

"I hardly know, sir; I have little experience of them: they are

generally thought pleasant things."

"Generally thought? But what do YOU think?"

"I should be obliged to take time, sir, before I could give you an

answer worthy of your acceptance: a present has many faces to it,

has it not? and one should consider all, before pronouncing an

opinion as to its nature."

"Miss Eyre, you are not so unsophisticated as Adele: she demands a

'cadeau,' clamorously, the moment she sees me: you beat about the

bush."

"Because I have less confidence in my deserts than Adele has: she

can prefer the claim of old acquaintance, and the right too of

custom; for she says you have always been in the habit of giving her

playthings; but if I had to make out a case I should be puzzled,

since I am a stranger, and have done nothing to entitle me to an

acknowledgment."

"Oh, don't fall back on over-modesty! I have examined Adele, and

find you have taken great pains with her: she is not bright, she

has no talents; yet in a short time she has made much improvement."

"Sir, you have now given me my 'cadeau;' I am obliged to you: it is

the meed teachers most covet--praise of their pupils' progress."

"Humph!" said Mr. Rochester, and he took his tea in silence.

"Come to the fire," said the master, when the tray was taken away,

and Mrs. Fairfax had settled into a corner with her knitting; while

Adele was leading me by the hand round the room, showing me the

beautiful books and ornaments on the consoles and chiffonnieres. We

obeyed, as in duty bound; Adele wanted to take a seat on my knee,

but she was ordered to amuse herself with Pilot.

"You have been resident in my house three months?"

"Yes, sir."

"And you came from--?"

"From Lowood school, in -shire."

"Ah! a charitable concern. How long were you there?"

"Eight years."

"Eight years! you must be tenacious of life. I thought half the

time in such a place would have done up any constitution! No wonder

you have rather the look of another world. I marvelled where you

had got that sort of face. When you came on me in Hay Lane last

night, I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half a mind

to demand whether you had bewitched my horse: I am not sure yet.

Who are your parents?"

"I have none."

"Nor ever had, I suppose: do you remember them?"

"No."

"I thought not. And so you were waiting for your people when you

sat on that stile?"

"For whom, sir?"

"For the men in green: it was a proper moonlight evening for them.

Did I break through one of your rings, that you spread that damned

ice on the causeway?"

I shook my head. "The men in green all forsook England a hundred

years ago," said I, speaking as seriously as he had done. "And not

even in Hay Lane, or the fields about it, could you find a trace of

them. I don't think either summer or harvest, or winter moon, will

ever shine on their revels more."

Mrs. Fairfax had dropped her knitting, and, with raised eyebrows,

seemed wondering what sort of talk this was.

"Well," resumed Mr. Rochester, "if you disown parents, you must have

some sort of kinsfolk: uncles and aunts?"

"No; none that I ever saw."

"And your home?"

"I have none."

"Where do your brothers and sisters live?"

"I have no brothers or sisters."

"Who recommended you to come here?"

"I advertised, and Mrs. Fairfax answered my advertisement."

"Yes," said the good lady, who now knew what ground we were upon,

"and I am daily thankful for the choice Providence led me to make.

Miss Eyre has been an invaluable companion to me, and a kind and

careful teacher to Adele."

"Don't trouble yourself to give her a character," returned Mr.

Rochester: "eulogiums will not bias me; I shall judge for myself.

She began by felling my horse."

"Sir?" said Mrs. Fairfax.

"I have to thank her for this sprain."

The widow looked bewildered.

"Miss Eyre, have you ever lived in a town?"

"No, sir."

"Have you seen much society?"

"None but the pupils and teachers of Lowood, and now the inmates of

Thornfield."

"Have you read much?"

"Only such books as came in my way; and they have not been numerous

or very learned."

"You have lived the life of a nun: no doubt you are well drilled in

religious forms;--Brocklehurst, who I understand directs Lowood, is

a parson, is he not?"

"Yes, sir."

"And you girls probably worshipped him, as a convent full of

religieuses would worship their director."

"Oh, no."

"You are very cool! No! What! a novice not worship her priest!

That sounds blasphemous."

"I disliked Mr. Brocklehurst; and I was not alone in the feeling.

He is a harsh man; at once pompous and meddling; he cut off our

hair; and for economy's sake bought us bad needles and thread, with

which we could hardly sew."

"That was very false economy," remarked Mrs. Fairfax, who now again

caught the drift of the dialogue.

"And was that the head and front of his offending?" demanded Mr.

Rochester.

"He starved us when he had the sole superintendence of the provision

department, before the committee was appointed; and he bored us with

long lectures once a week, and with evening readings from books of

his own inditing, about sudden deaths and judgments, which made us

afraid to go to bed."

"What age were you when you went to Lowood?"

"About ten."

"And you stayed there eight years: you are now, then, eighteen?"

I assented.

"Arithmetic, you see, is useful; without its aid, I should hardly

have been able to guess your age. It is a point difficult to fix

where the features and countenance are so much at variance as in

your case. And now what did you learn at Lowood? Can you play?"

"A little."

"Of course: that is the established answer. Go into the library--I

mean, if you please.--(Excuse my tone of command; I am used to say,

'Do this,' and it is done: I cannot alter my customary habits for

one new inmate.)--Go, then, into the library; take a candle with

you; leave the door open; sit down to the piano, and play a tune."

I departed, obeying his directions.

"Enough!" he called out in a few minutes. "You play A LITTLE, I

see; like any other English school-girl; perhaps rather better than

some, but not well."

I closed the piano and returned. Mr. Rochester continued--"Adele

showed me some sketches this morning, which she said were yours. I

don't know whether they were entirely of your doing; probably a

master aided you?"

"No, indeed!" I interjected.

"Ah! that pricks pride. Well, fetch me your portfolio, if you can

vouch for its contents being original; but don't pass your word

unless you are certain: I can recognise patchwork."

"Then I will say nothing, and you shall judge for yourself, sir."

I brought the portfolio from the library.

"Approach the table," said he; and I wheeled it to his couch. Adele

and Mrs. Fairfax drew near to see the pictures.

"No crowding," said Mr. Rochester: "take the drawings from my hand

as I finish with them; but don't push your faces up to mine."

He deliberately scrutinised each sketch and painting. Three he laid

aside; the others, when he had examined them, he swept from him.

"Take them off to the other table, Mrs. Fairfax," said he, and look

at them with Adele;--you" (glancing at me) "resume your seat, and

answer my questions. I perceive those pictures were done by one

hand: was that hand yours?"

"Yes."

"And when did you find time to do them? They have taken much time,

and some thought."

"I did them in the last two vacations I spent at Lowood, when I had

no other occupation."

"Where did you get your copies?"

"Out of my head."

"That head I see now on your shoulders?"

"Yes, sir."

"Has it other furniture of the same kind within?"

"I should think it may have: I should hope--better."

He spread the pictures before him, and again surveyed them

alternately.

While he is so occupied, I will tell you, reader, what they are:

and first, I must premise that they are nothing wonderful. The

subjects had, indeed, risen vividly on my mind. As I saw them with

the spiritual eye, before I attempted to embody them, they were

striking; but my hand would not second my fancy, and in each case it

had wrought out but a pale portrait of the thing I had conceived.

These pictures were in water-colours. The first represented clouds

low and livid, rolling over a swollen sea: all the distance was in

eclipse; so, too, was the foreground; or rather, the nearest

billows, for there was no land. One gleam of light lifted into

relief a half-submerged mast, on which sat a cormorant, dark and

large, with wings flecked with foam; its beak held a gold bracelet

set with gems, that I had touched with as brilliant tints as my

palette could yield, and as glittering distinctness as my pencil

could impart. Sinking below the bird and mast, a drowned corpse

glanced through the green water; a fair arm was the only limb

clearly visible, whence the bracelet had been washed or torn.

The second picture contained for foreground only the dim peak of a

hill, with grass and some leaves slanting as if by a breeze. Beyond

and above spread an expanse of sky, dark blue as at twilight:

rising into the sky was a woman's shape to the bust, portrayed in

tints as dusk and soft as I could combine. The dim forehead was

crowned with a star; the lineaments below were seen as through the

suffusion of vapour; the eyes shone dark and wild; the hair streamed

shadowy, like a beamless cloud torn by storm or by electric travail.

On the neck lay a pale reflection like moonlight; the same faint

lustre touched the train of thin clouds from which rose and bowed

this vision of the Evening Star.

The third showed the pinnacle of an iceberg piercing a polar winter

sky: a muster of northern lights reared their dim lances, close

serried, along the horizon. Throwing these into distance, rose, in

the foreground, a head,--a colossal head, inclined towards the

iceberg, and resting against it. Two thin hands, joined under the

forehead, and supporting it, drew up before the lower features a

sable veil, a brow quite bloodless, white as bone, and an eye

hollow and fixed, blank of meaning but for the glassiness of

despair, alone were visible. Above the temples, amidst wreathed

turban folds of black drapery, vague in its character and

consistency as cloud, gleamed a ring of white flame, gemmed with

sparkles of a more lurid tinge. This pale crescent was "the

likeness of a kingly crown;" what it diademed was "the shape which

shape had none."

"Were you happy when you painted these pictures?" asked Mr.

Rochester presently.

"I was absorbed, sir: yes, and I was happy. To paint them, in

short, was to enjoy one of the keenest pleasures I have ever known."

"That is not saying much. Your pleasures, by your own account, have

been few; but I daresay you did exist in a kind of artist's

dreamland while you blent and arranged these strange tints. Did you

sit at them long each day?"

"I had nothing else to do, because it was the vacation, and I sat at

them from morning till noon, and from noon till night: the length

of the midsummer days favoured my inclination to apply."

"And you felt self-satisfied with the result of your ardent

labours?"

"Far from it. I was tormented by the contrast between my idea and

my handiwork: in each case I had imagined something which I was

quite powerless to realise."

"Not quite: you have secured the shadow of your thought; but no

more, probably. You had not enough of the artist's skill and

science to give it full being: yet the drawings are, for a school-

girl, peculiar. As to the thoughts, they are elfish. These eyes in

the Evening Star you must have seen in a dream. How could you make

them look so clear, and yet not at all brilliant? for the planet

above quells their rays. And what meaning is that in their solemn

depth? And who taught you to paint wind. There is a high gale in

that sky, and on this hill-top. Where did you see Latmos? For that

is Latmos. There! put the drawings away!"

I had scarce tied the strings of the portfolio, when, looking at his

watch, he said abruptly -

"It is nine o'clock: what are you about, Miss Eyre, to let Adele

sit up so long? Take her to bed."

Adele went to kiss him before quitting the room: he endured the

caress, but scarcely seemed to relish it more than Pilot would have

done, nor so much.

"I wish you all good-night, now," said he, making a movement of the

hand towards the door, in token that he was tired of our company,

and wished to dismiss us. Mrs. Fairfax folded up her knitting: I

took my portfolio: we curtseyed to him, received a frigid bow in

return, and so withdrew.

"You said Mr. Rochester was not strikingly peculiar, Mrs. Fairfax,"

I observed, when I rejoined her in her room, after putting Adele to

bed.

"Well, is he?"

"I think so: he is very changeful and abrupt."

"True: no doubt he may appear so to a stranger, but I am so

accustomed to his manner, I never think of it; and then, if he has

peculiarities of temper, allowance should be made."

"Why?"

"Partly because it is his nature--and we can none of us help our

nature; and partly because he has painful thoughts, no doubt, to

harass him, and make his spirits unequal."

"What about?"

"Family troubles, for one thing."

"But he has no family."

"Not now, but he has had--or, at least, relatives. He lost his

elder brother a few years since."

"His ELDER brother?"

"Yes. The present Mr. Rochester has not been very long in

possession of the property; only about nine years."

"Nine years is a tolerable time. Was he so very fond of his brother

as to be still inconsolable for his loss?"

"Why, no--perhaps not. I believe there were some misunderstandings

between them. Mr. Rowland Rochester was not quite just to Mr.

Edward; and perhaps he prejudiced his father against him. The old

gentleman was fond of money, and anxious to keep the family estate

together. He did not like to diminish the property by division, and

yet he was anxious that Mr. Edward should have wealth, too, to keep

up the consequence of the name; and, soon after he was of age, some

steps were taken that were not quite fair, and made a great deal of

mischief. Old Mr. Rochester and Mr. Rowland combined to bring Mr.

Edward into what he considered a painful position, for the sake of

making his fortune: what the precise nature of that position was I

never clearly knew, but his spirit could not brook what he had to

suffer in it. He is not very forgiving: he broke with his family,

and now for many years he has led an unsettled kind of life. I

don't think he has ever been resident at Thornfield for a fortnight

together, since the death of his brother without a will left him

master of the estate; and, indeed, no wonder he shuns the old

place."

"Why should he shun it?"

"Perhaps he thinks it gloomy."

The answer was evasive. I should have liked something clearer; but

Mrs. Fairfax either could not, or would not, give me more explicit

information of the origin and nature of Mr. Rochester's trials. She

averred they were a mystery to herself, and that what she knew was

chiefly from conjecture. It was evident, indeed, that she wished me

to drop the subject, which I did accordingly.

 

CHAPTER XIV

For several subsequent days I saw little of Mr. Rochester. In the

mornings he seemed much engaged with business, and, in the

afternoon, gentlemen from Millcote or the neighbourhood called, and

sometimes stayed to dine with him. When his sprain was well enough

to admit of horse exercise, he rode out a good deal; probably to

return these visits, as he generally did not come back till late at

night.

During this interval, even Adele was seldom sent for to his

presence, and all my acquaintance with him was confined to an

occasional rencontre in the hall, on the stairs, or in the gallery,

when he would sometimes pass me haughtily and coldly, just

acknowledging my presence by a distant nod or a cool glance, and

sometimes bow and smile with gentlemanlike affability. His changes

of mood did not offend me, because I saw that I had nothing to do

with their alternation; the ebb and flow depended on causes quite

disconnected with me.

One day he had had company to dinner, and had sent for my portfolio;

in order, doubtless, to exhibit its contents: the gentlemen went

away early, to attend a public meeting at Millcote, as Mrs. Fairfax

informed me; but the night being wet and inclement, Mr. Rochester

did not accompany them. Soon after they were gone he rang the bell:

a message came that I and Adele were to go downstairs. I brushed

Adele's hair and made her neat, and having ascertained that I was

myself in my usual Quaker trim, where there was nothing to retouch--

all being too close and plain, braided locks included, to admit of

disarrangement--we descended, Adele wondering whether the petit

coffre was at length come; for, owing to some mistake, its arrival

had hitherto been delayed. She was gratified: there it stood, a

little carton, on the table when we entered the dining-room. She

appeared to know it by instinct.

"Ma boite! ma boite!" exclaimed she, running towards it.

"Yes, there is your 'boite' at last: take it into a corner, you

genuine daughter of Paris, and amuse yourself with disembowelling

it," said the deep and rather sarcastic voice of Mr. Rochester,

proceeding from the depths of an immense easy-chair at the fireside.

"And mind," he continued, "don't bother me with any details of the

anatomical process, or any notice of the condition of the entrails:

let your operation be conducted in silence: tiens-toi tranquille,

enfant; comprends-tu?"

Adele seemed scarcely to need the warning--she had already retired

to a sofa with her treasure, and was busy untying the cord which

secured the lid. Having removed this impediment, and lifted certain

silvery envelopes of tissue paper, she merely exclaimed -

"Oh ciel! Que c'est beau!" and then remained absorbed in ecstatic

contemplation.

"Is Miss Eyre there?" now demanded the master, half rising from his

seat to look round to the door, near which I still stood.

"Ah! well, come forward; be seated here." He drew a chair near his

own. "I am not fond of the prattle of children," he continued;

"for, old bachelor as I am, I have no pleasant associations

connected with their lisp. It would be intolerable to me to pass a

whole evening tete-e-tete with a brat. Don't draw that chair

farther off, Miss Eyre; sit down exactly where I placed it--if you

please, that is. Confound these civilities! I continually forget

them. Nor do I particularly affect simple-minded old ladies. By-

the-bye, I must have mine in mind; it won't do to neglect her; she

is a Fairfax, or wed to one; and blood is said to be thicker than

water."

He rang, and despatched an invitation to Mrs. Fairfax, who soon

arrived, knitting-basket in hand.

"Good evening, madam; I sent to you for a charitable purpose. I

have forbidden Adele to talk to me about her presents, and she is

bursting with repletion: have the goodness to serve her as

auditress and interlocutrice; it will be one of the most benevolent

acts you ever performed."

Adele, indeed, no sooner saw Mrs. Fairfax, than she summoned her to

her sofa, and there quickly filled her lap with the porcelain, the

ivory, the waxen contents of her "boite;" pouring out, meantime,

explanations and raptures in such broken English as she was mistress

of.

"Now I have performed the part of a good host," pursued Mr.

Rochester, "put my guests into the way of amusing each other, I

ought to be at liberty to attend to my own pleasure. Miss Eyre,

draw your chair still a little farther forward: you are yet too far

back; I cannot see you without disturbing my position in this

comfortable chair, which I have no mind to do."

I did as I was bid, though I would much rather have remained

somewhat in the shade; but Mr. Rochester had such a direct way of

giving orders, it seemed a matter of course to obey him promptly.

We were, as I have said, in the dining-room: the lustre, which had

been lit for dinner, filled the room with a festal breadth of light;

the large fire was all red and clear; the purple curtains hung rich

and ample before the lofty window and loftier arch; everything was

still, save the subdued chat of Adele (she dared not speak loud),

and, filling up each pause, the beating of winter rain against the

panes.

Mr. Rochester, as he sat in his damask-covered chair, looked

different to what I had seen him look before; not quite so stern--

much less gloomy. There was a smile on his lips, and his eyes

sparkled, whether with wine or not, I am not sure; but I think it

very probable. He was, in short, in his after-dinner mood; more

expanded and genial, and also more self-indulgent than the frigid

and rigid temper of the morning; still he looked preciously grim,

cushioning his massive head against the swelling back of his chair,

and receiving the light of the fire on his granite-hewn features,

and in his great, dark eyes; for he had great, dark eyes, and very

fine eyes, too--not without a certain change in their depths

sometimes, which, if it was not softness, reminded you, at least, of

that feeling.

He had been looking two minutes at the fire, and I had been looking

the same length of time at him, when, turning suddenly, he caught my

gaze fastened on his physiognomy.

"You examine me, Miss Eyre," said he: "do you think me handsome?"

I should, if I had deliberated, have replied to this question by

something conventionally vague and polite; but the answer somehow

slipped from my tongue before I was aware--"No, sir."

"Ah! By my word! there is something singular about you," said he:

"you have the air of a little nonnette; quaint, quiet, grave, and

simple, as you sit with your hands before you, and your eyes

generally bent on the carpet (except, by-the-bye, when they are

directed piercingly to my face; as just now, for instance); and when

one asks you a question, or makes a remark to which you are obliged

to reply, you rap out a round rejoinder, which, if not blunt, is at

least brusque. What do you mean by it?"

"Sir, I was too plain; I beg your pardon. I ought to have replied

that it was not easy to give an impromptu answer to a question about

appearances; that tastes mostly differ; and that beauty is of little

consequence, or something of that sort."

"You ought to have replied no such thing. Beauty of little

consequence, indeed! And so, under pretence of softening the

previous outrage, of stroking and soothing me into placidity, you

stick a sly penknife under my ear! Go on: what fault do you find

with me, pray? I suppose I have all my limbs and all my features

like any other man?"

"Mr. Rochester, allow me to disown my first answer: I intended no

pointed repartee: it was only a blunder."

"Just so: I think so: and you shall be answerable for it.

Criticise me: does my forehead not please you?"

He lifted up the sable waves of hair which lay horizontally over his

brow, and showed a solid enough mass of intellectual organs, but an

abrupt deficiency where the suave sign of benevolence should have

risen.

"Now, ma'am, am I a fool?"

"Far from it, sir. You would, perhaps, think me rude if I inquired

in return whether you are a philanthropist?"

"There again! Another stick of the penknife, when she pretended to

pat my head: and that is because I said I did not like the society

of children and old women (low be it spoken!). No, young lady, I am

not a general philanthropist; but I bear a conscience;" and he

pointed to the prominences which are said to indicate that faculty,

and which, fortunately for him, were sufficiently conspicuous;

giving, indeed, a marked breadth to the upper part of his head:

"and, besides, I once had a kind of rude tenderness of heart. When

I was as old as you, I was a feeling fellow enough, partial to the

unfledged, unfostered, and unlucky; but Fortune has knocked me about

since: she has even kneaded me with her knuckles, and now I flatter

myself I am hard and tough as an India-rubber ball; pervious,

though, through a chink or two still, and with one sentient point in

the middle of the lump. Yes: does that leave hope for me?"

"Hope of what, sir?"

"Of my final re-transformation from India-rubber back to flesh?"

"Decidedly he has had too much wine," I thought; and I did not know

what answer to make to his queer question: how could I tell whether

he was capable of being re-transformed?

"You looked very much puzzled, Miss Eyre; and though you are not

pretty any more than I am handsome, yet a puzzled air becomes you;

besides, it is convenient, for it keeps those searching eyes of

yours away from my physiognomy, and busies them with the worsted

flowers of the rug; so puzzle on. Young lady, I am disposed to be

gregarious and communicative to-night."

With this announcement he rose from his chair, and stood, leaning

his arm on the marble mantelpiece: in that attitude his shape was

seen plainly as well as his face; his unusual breadth of chest,

disproportionate almost to his length of limb. I am sure most

people would have thought him an ugly man; yet there was so much

unconscious pride in his port; so much ease in his demeanour; such a

look of complete indifference to his own external appearance; so

haughty a reliance on the power of other qualities, intrinsic or

adventitious, to atone for the lack of mere personal attractiveness,

that, in looking at him, one inevitably shared the indifference,

and, even in a blind, imperfect sense, put faith in the confidence.

"I am disposed to be gregarious and communicative to-night," he

repeated, "and that is why I sent for you: the fire and the

chandelier were not sufficient company for me; nor would Pilot have

been, for none of these can talk. Adele is a degree better, but

still far below the mark; Mrs. Fairfax ditto; you, I am persuaded,

can suit me if you will: you puzzled me the first evening I invited

you down here. I have almost forgotten you since: other ideas have

driven yours from my head; but to-night I am resolved to be at ease;

to dismiss what importunes, and recall what pleases. It would

please me now to draw you out--to learn more of you--therefore

speak."

Instead of speaking, I smiled; and not a very complacent or

submissive smile either.

"Speak," he urged.

"What about, sir?"

"Whatever you like. I leave both the choice of subject and the

manner of treating it entirely to yourself."

Accordingly I sat and said nothing: "If he expects me to talk for

the mere sake of talking and showing off, he will find he has

addressed himself to the wrong person," I thought.

"You are dumb, Miss Eyre."

I was dumb still. He bent his head a little towards me, and with a

single hasty glance seemed to dive into my eyes.

"Stubborn?" he said, "and annoyed. Ah! it is consistent. I put my

request in an absurd, almost insolent form. Miss Eyre, I beg your

pardon. The fact is, once for all, I don't wish to treat you like

an inferior: that is" (correcting himself), "I claim only such

superiority as must result from twenty years' difference in age and

a century's advance in experience. This is legitimate, et j'y

tiens, as Adele would say; and it is by virtue of this superiority,

and this alone, that I desire you to have the goodness to talk to me

a little now, and divert my thoughts, which are galled with dwelling

on one point--cankering as a rusty nail."

He had deigned an explanation, almost an apology, and I did not feel

insensible to his condescension, and would not seem so.

"I am willing to amuse you, if I can, sir--quite willing; but I

cannot introduce a topic, because how do I know what will interest

you? Ask me questions, and I will do my best to answer them."

"Then, in the first place, do you agree with me that I have a right

to be a little masterful, abrupt, perhaps exacting, sometimes, on

the grounds I stated, namely, that I am old enough to be your

father, and that I have battled through a varied experience with

many men of many nations, and roamed over half the globe, while you

have lived quietly with one set of people in one house?"

"Do as you please, sir."

"That is no answer; or rather it is a very irritating, because a

very evasive one. Reply clearly."

"I don't think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because

you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world

than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have

made of your time and experience."

"Humph! Promptly spoken. But I won't allow that, seeing that it

would never suit my case, as I have made an indifferent, not to say

a bad, use of both advantages. Leaving superiority out of the

question, then, you must still agree to receive my orders now and

then, without being piqued or hurt by the tone of command. Will

you?"

I smiled: I thought to myself Mr. Rochester IS peculiar--he seems

to forget that he pays me 30 pounds per annum for receiving his

orders.

"The smile is very well," said he, catching instantly the passing

expression; "but speak too."

"I was thinking, sir, that very few masters would trouble themselves

to inquire whether or not their paid subordinates were piqued and

hurt by their orders."

"Paid subordinates! What! you are my paid subordinate, are you? Oh

yes, I had forgotten the salary! Well then, on that mercenary

ground, will you agree to let me hector a little?"

"No, sir, not on that ground; but, on the ground that you did forget

it, and that you care whether or not a dependent is comfortable in

his dependency, I agree heartily."

"And will you consent to dispense with a great many conventional

forms and phrases, without thinking that the omission arises from

insolence?"

"I am sure, sir, I should never mistake informality for insolence:

one I rather like, the other nothing free-born would submit to, even

for a salary."

"Humbug! Most things free-born will submit to anything for a

salary; therefore, keep to yourself, and don't venture on

generalities of which you are intensely ignorant. However, I

mentally shake hands with you for your answer, despite its

inaccuracy; and as much for the manner in which it was said, as for

the substance of the speech; the manner was frank and sincere; one

does not often see such a manner: no, on the contrary, affectation,

or coldness, or stupid, coarse-minded misapprehension of one's

meaning are the usual rewards of candour. Not three in three

thousand raw school-girl-governesses would have answered me as you

have just done. But I don't mean to flatter you: if you are cast

in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours:

Nature did it. And then, after all, I go too fast in my

conclusions: for what I yet know, you may be no better than the

rest; you may have intolerable defects to counterbalance your few

good points."

"And so may you," I thought. My eye met his as the idea crossed my

mind: he seemed to read the glance, answering as if its import had

been spoken as well as imagined -

"Yes, yes, you are right," said he; "I have plenty of faults of my

own: I know it, and I don't wish to palliate them, I assure you.

God wot I need not be too severe about others; I have a past

existence, a series of deeds, a colour of life to contemplate within

my own breast, which might well call my sneers and censures from my

neighbours to myself. I started, or rather (for like other

defaulters, I like to lay half the blame on ill fortune and adverse

circumstances) was thrust on to a wrong tack at the age of one-and-

twenty, and have never recovered the right course since: but I

might have been very different; I might have been as good as you--

wiser--almost as stainless. I envy you your peace of mind, your

clean conscience, your unpolluted memory. Little girl, a memory

without blot or contamination must be an exquisite treasure--an

inexhaustible source of pure refreshment: is it not?"

"How was your memory when you were eighteen, sir?"

"All right then; limpid, salubrious: no gush of bilge water had

turned it to fetid puddle. I was your equal at eighteen--quite your

equal. Nature meant me to be, on the whole, a good man, Miss Eyre;

one of the better kind, and you see I am not so. You would say you

don't see it; at least I flatter myself I read as much in your eye

(beware, by-the-bye, what you express with that organ; I am quick at

interpreting its language). Then take my word for it,--I am not a

villain: you are not to suppose that--not to attribute to me any

such bad eminence; but, owing, I verily believe, rather to

circumstances than to my natural bent, I am a trite commonplace

sinner, hackneyed in all the poor petty dissipations with which the

rich and worthless try to put on life. Do you wonder that I avow

this to you? Know, that in the course of your future life you will

often find yourself elected the involuntary confidant of your

acquaintances' secrets: people will instinctively find out, as I

have done, that it is not your forte to tell of yourself, but to

listen while others talk of themselves; they will feel, too, that

you listen with no malevolent scorn of their indiscretion, but with

a kind of innate sympathy; not the less comforting and encouraging

because it is very unobtrusive in its manifestations."

"How do you know?--how can you guess all this, sir?"

"I know it well; therefore I proceed almost as freely as if I were

writing my thoughts in a diary. You would say, I should have been

superior to circumstances; so I should--so I should; but you see I

was not. When fate wronged me, I had not the wisdom to remain cool:

I turned desperate; then I degenerated. Now, when any vicious

simpleton excites my disgust by his paltry ribaldry, I cannot

flatter myself that I am better than he: I am forced to confess

that he and I are on a level. I wish I had stood firm--God knows I

do! Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse

is the poison of life."

"Repentance is said to be its cure, sir."

"It is not its cure. Reformation may be its cure; and I could

reform--I have strength yet for that--if--but where is the use of

thinking of it, hampered, burdened, cursed as I am? Besides, since

happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure

out of life: and I WILL get it, cost what it may."

"Then you will degenerate still more, sir."

"Possibly: yet why should I, if I can get sweet, fresh pleasure?

And I may get it as sweet and fresh as the wild honey the bee

gathers on the moor."

"It will sting--it will taste bitter, sir."

"How do you know?--you never tried it. How very serious--how very

solemn you look: and you are as ignorant of the matter as this

cameo head" (taking one from the mantelpiece). "You have no right

to preach to me, you neophyte, that have not passed the porch of

life, and are absolutely unacquainted with its mysteries."

"I only remind you of your own words, sir: you said error brought

remorse, and you pronounced remorse the poison of existence."

"And who talks of error now? I scarcely think the notion that

flittered across my brain was an error. I believe it was an

inspiration rather than a temptation: it was very genial, very

soothing--I know that. Here it comes again! It is no devil, I

assure you; or if it be, it has put on the robes of an angel of

light. I think I must admit so fair a guest when it asks entrance

to my heart."

"Distrust it, sir; it is not a true angel."

"Once more, how do you know? By what instinct do you pretend to

distinguish between a fallen seraph of the abyss and a messenger

from the eternal throne--between a guide and a seducer?"

"I judged by your countenance, sir, which was troubled when you said

the suggestion had returned upon you. I feel sure it will work you

more misery if you listen to it."

"Not at all--it bears the most gracious message in the world: for

the rest, you are not my conscience-keeper, so don't make yourself

uneasy. Here, come in, bonny wanderer!"

He said this as if he spoke to a vision, viewless to any eye but his

own; then, folding his arms, which he had half extended, on his

chest, he seemed to enclose in their embrace the invisible being.

"Now," he continued, again addressing me, "I have received the

pilgrim--a disguised deity, as I verify believe. Already it has

done me good: my heart was a sort of charnel; it will now be a

shrine."

"To speak truth, sir, I don't understand you at all: I cannot keep

up the conversation, because it has got out of my depth. Only one

thing, I know: you said you were not as good as you should like to

be, and that you regretted your own imperfection;--one thing I can

comprehend: you intimated that to have a sullied memory was a

perpetual bane. It seems to me, that if you tried hard, you would

in time find it possible to become what you yourself would approve;

and that if from this day you began with resolution to correct your

thoughts and actions, you would in a few years have laid up a new

and stainless store of recollections, to which you might revert with

pleasure."

"Justly thought; rightly said, Miss Eyre; and, at this moment, I am

paving hell with energy."

"Sir?"

"I am laying down good intentions, which I believe durable as flint.

Certainly, my associates and pursuits shall be other than they have

been."

"And better?"

"And better--so much better as pure ore is than foul dross. You

seem to doubt me; I don't doubt myself: I know what my aim is, what

my motives are; and at this moment I pass a law, unalterable as that

of the Medes and Persians, that both are right."

"They cannot be, sir, if they require a new statute to legalise

them."

"They are, Miss Eyre, though they absolutely require a new statute:

unheard-of combinations of circumstances demand unheard-of rules."

"That sounds a dangerous maxim, sir; because one can see at once

that it is liable to abuse."

"Sententious sage! so it is: but I swear by my household gods not

to abuse it."

"You are human and fallible."

"I am: so are you--what then?"

"The human and fallible should not arrogate a power with which the

divine and perfect alone can be safely intrusted."

"What power?"

"That of saying of any strange, unsanctioned line of action,--'Let

it be right.'"

"'Let it be right'--the very words: you have pronounced them."

"MAY it be right then," I said, as I rose, deeming it useless to

continue a discourse which was all darkness to me; and, besides,

sensible that the character of my interlocutor was beyond my

penetration; at least, beyond its present reach; and feeling the

uncertainty, the vague sense of insecurity, which accompanies a

conviction of ignorance.

"Where are you going?"

"To put Adele to bed: it is past her bedtime."

"You are afraid of me, because I talk like a Sphynx."

"Your language is enigmatical, sir: but though I am bewildered, I

am certainly not afraid."

"You ARE afraid--your self-love dreads a blunder."

"In that sense I do feel apprehensive--I have no wish to talk

nonsense."

"If you did, it would be in such a grave, quiet manner, I should

mistake it for sense. Do you never laugh, Miss Eyre? Don't trouble

yourself to answer--I see you laugh rarely; but you can laugh very

merrily: believe me, you are not naturally austere, any more than I

am naturally vicious. The Lowood constraint still clings to you

somewhat; controlling your features, muffling your voice, and

restricting your limbs; and you fear in the presence of a man and a

brother--or father, or master, or what you will--to smile too gaily,

speak too freely, or move too quickly: but, in time, I think you

will learn to be natural with me, as I find it impossible to be

conventional with you; and then your looks and movements will have

more vivacity and variety than they dare offer now. I see at

intervals the glance of a curious sort of bird through the close-set

bars of a cage: a vivid, restless, resolute captive is there; were

it but free, it would soar cloud-high. You are still bent on

going?"

"It has struck nine, sir."

"Never mind,--wait a minute: Adele is not ready to go to bed yet.

My position, Miss Eyre, with my back to the fire, and my face to the

room, favours observation. While talking to you, I have also

occasionally watched Adele (I have my own reasons for thinking her a

curious study,--reasons that I may, nay, that I shall, impart to you

some day). She pulled out of her box, about ten minutes ago, a

little pink silk frock; rapture lit her face as she unfolded it;

coquetry runs in her blood, blends with her brains, and seasons the

marrow of her bones. 'Il faut que je l'essaie!' cried she, 'et e

l'instant meme!' and she rushed out of the room. She is now with

Sophie, undergoing a robing process: in a few minutes she will re-

enter; and I know what I shall see,--a miniature of Celine Varens,

as she used to appear on the boards at the rising of-- But never

mind that. However, my tenderest feelings are about to receive a

shock: such is my presentiment; stay now, to see whether it will be

realised."

Ere long, Adele's little foot was heard tripping across the hall.

She entered, transformed as her guardian had predicted. A dress of

rose-coloured satin, very short, and as full in the skirt as it

could be gathered, replaced the brown frock she had previously worn;

a wreath of rosebuds circled her forehead; her feet were dressed in

silk stockings and small white satin sandals.

"Est-ce que ma robe va bien?" cried she, bounding forwards; "et mes

souliers? et mes bas? Tenez, je crois que je vais danser!"

And spreading out her dress, she chasseed across the room till,

having reached Mr. Rochester, she wheeled lightly round before him

on tip-toe, then dropped on one knee at his feet, exclaiming -

"Monsieur, je vous remercie mille fois de votre bonte;" then rising,

she added, "C'est comme cela que maman faisait, n'est-ce pas,

monsieur?"

"Pre-cise-ly!" was the answer; "and, 'comme cela,' she charmed my

English gold out of my British breeches' pocket. I have been green,

too, Miss Eyre,--ay, grass green: not a more vernal tint freshens

you now than once freshened me. My Spring is gone, however, but it

has left me that French floweret on my hands, which, in some moods,

I would fain be rid of. Not valuing now the root whence it sprang;

having found that it was of a sort which nothing but gold dust could

manure, I have but half a liking to the blossom, especially when it

looks so artificial as just now. I keep it and rear it rather on

the Roman Catholic principle of expiating numerous sins, great or

small, by one good work. I'll explain all this some day. Good-

night."

 

CHAPTER XV

Mr. Rochester did, on a future occasion, explain it. It was one

afternoon, when he chanced to meet me and Adele in the grounds: and

while she played with Pilot and her shuttlecock, he asked me to walk

up and down a long beech avenue within sight of her.

He then said that she was the daughter of a French opera-dancer,

Celine Varens, towards whom he had once cherished what he called a

"grande passion." This passion Celine had professed to return with

even superior ardour. He thought himself her idol, ugly as he was:

he believed, as he said, that she preferred his "taille d'athlete"

to the elegance of the Apollo Belvidere.

"And, Miss Eyre, so much was I flattered by this preference of the

Gallic sylph for her British gnome, that I installed her in an

hotel; gave her a complete establishment of servants, a carriage,

cashmeres, diamonds, dentelles, &c. In short, I began the process

of ruining myself in the received style, like any other spoony. I

had not, it seems, the originality to chalk out a new road to shame

and destruction, but trode the old track with stupid exactness not

to deviate an inch from the beaten centre. I had--as I deserved to

have--the fate of all other spoonies. Happening to call one evening

when Celine did not expect me, I found her out; but it was a warm

night, and I was tired with strolling through Paris, so I sat down

in her boudoir; happy to breathe the air consecrated so lately by

her presence. No,--I exaggerate; I never thought there was any

consecrating virtue about her: it was rather a sort of pastille

perfume she had left; a scent of musk and amber, than an odour of

sanctity. I was just beginning to stifle with the fumes of

conservatory flowers and sprinkled essences, when I bethought myself

to open the window and step out on to the balcony. It was moonlight

and gaslight besides, and very still and serene. The balcony was

furnished with a chair or two; I sat down, and took out a cigar,--I

will take one now, if you will excuse me."

Here ensued a pause, filled up by the producing and lighting of a

cigar; having placed it to his lips and breathed a trail of Havannah

incense on the freezing and sunless air, he went on -

"I liked bonbons too in those days, Miss Eyre, and I was croquant--

(overlook the barbarism)--croquant chocolate comfits, and smoking

alternately, watching meantime the equipages that rolled along the

fashionable streets towards the neighbouring opera-house, when in an

elegant close carriage drawn by a beautiful pair of English horses,

and distinctly seen in the brilliant city-night, I recognised the

'voiture' I had given Celine. She was returning: of course my

heart thumped with impatience against the iron rails I leant upon.

The carriage stopped, as I had expected, at the hotel door; my flame

(that is the very word for an opera inamorata) alighted: though

muffed in a cloak--an unnecessary encumbrance, by-the-bye, on so

warm a June evening--I knew her instantly by her little foot, seen

peeping from the skirt of her dress, as she skipped from the

carriage-step. Bending over the balcony, I was about to murmur 'Mon

ange'--in a tone, of course, which should be audible to the ear of

love alone--when a figure jumped from the carriage after her;

cloaked also; but that was a spurred heel which had rung on the

pavement, and that was a hatted head which now passed under the

arched porte cochere of the hotel.

"You never felt jealousy, did you, Miss Eyre? Of course not: I

need not ask you; because you never felt love. You have both

sentiments yet to experience: your soul sleeps; the shock is yet to

be given which shall waken it. You think all existence lapses in as

quiet a flow as that in which your youth has hitherto slid away.

Floating on with closed eyes and muffled ears, you neither see the

rocks bristling not far off in the bed of the flood, nor hear the

breakers boil at their base. But I tell you--and you may mark my

words--you will come some day to a craggy pass in the channel, where

the whole of life's stream will be broken up into whirl and tumult,

foam and noise: either you will be dashed to atoms on crag points,

or lifted up and borne on by some master-wave into a calmer current-

-as I am now.

"I like this day; I like that sky of steel; I like the sternness and

stillness of the world under this frost. I like Thornfield, its

antiquity, its retirement, its old crow-trees and thorn-trees, its

grey facade, and lines of dark windows reflecting that metal welkin:

and yet how long have I abhorred the very thought of it, shunned it

like a great plague-house? How I do still abhor -"

He ground his teeth and was silent: he arrested his step and struck

his boot against the hard ground. Some hated thought seemed to have

him in its grip, and to hold him so tightly that he could not

advance.

We were ascending the avenue when he thus paused; the hall was

before us. Lifting his eye to its battlements, he cast over them a

glare such as I never saw before or since. Pain, shame, ire,

impatience, disgust, detestation, seemed momentarily to hold a

quivering conflict in the large pupil dilating under his ebon

eyebrow. Wild was the wrestle which should be paramount; but

another feeling rose and triumphed: something hard and cynical:

self-willed and resolute: it settled his passion and petrified his

countenance: he went on -

"During the moment I was silent, Miss Eyre, I was arranging a point

with my destiny. She stood there, by that beech-trunk--a hag like

one of those who appeared to Macbeth on the heath of Forres. 'You

like Thornfield?' she said, lifting her finger; and then she wrote

in the air a memento, which ran in lurid hieroglyphics all along the

house-front, between the upper and lower row of windows, 'Like it if

you can! Like it if you dare!'

"'I will like it,' said I; 'I dare like it;' and" (he subjoined

moodily) "I will keep my word; I will break obstacles to happiness,

to goodness--yes, goodness. I wish to be a better man than I have

been, than I am; as Job's leviathan broke the spear, the dart, and

the habergeon, hindrances which others count as iron and brass, I

will esteem but straw and rotten wood."

Adele here ran before him with her shuttlecock. "Away!" he cried

harshly; "keep at a distance, child; or go in to Sophie!"

Continuing then to pursue his walk in silence, I ventured to recall

him to the point whence he had abruptly diverged -

"Did you leave the balcony, sir," I asked, "when Mdlle. Varens

entered?"

I almost expected a rebuff for this hardly well-timed question, but,

on the contrary, waking out of his scowling abstraction, he turned

his eyes towards me, and the shade seemed to clear off his brow.

"Oh, I had forgotten Celine! Well, to resume. When I saw my

charmer thus come in accompanied by a cavalier, I seemed to hear a

hiss, and the green snake of jealousy, rising on undulating coils

from the moonlit balcony, glided within my waistcoat, and ate its

way in two minutes to my heart's core. Strange!" he exclaimed,

suddenly starting again from the point. "Strange that I should

choose you for the confidant of all this, young lady; passing

strange that you should listen to me quietly, as if it were the most

usual thing in the world for a man like me to tell stories of his

opera-mistresses to a quaint, inexperienced girl like you! But the

last singularity explains the first, as I intimated once before:

you, with your gravity, considerateness, and caution were made to be

the recipient of secrets. Besides, I know what sort of a mind I

have placed in communication with my own: I know it is one not

liable to take infection: it is a peculiar mind: it is a unique

one. Happily I do not mean to harm it: but, if I did, it would not

take harm from me. The more you and I converse, the better; for

while I cannot blight you, you may refresh me." After this

digression he proceeded -

"I remained in the balcony. 'They will come to her boudoir, no

doubt,' thought I: 'let me prepare an ambush.' So putting my hand

in through the open window, I drew the curtain over it, leaving only

an opening through which I could take observations; then I closed

the casement, all but a chink just wide enough to furnish an outlet

to lovers' whispered vows: then I stole back to my chair; and as I

resumed it the pair came in. My eye was quickly at the aperture.

Celine's chamber-maid entered, lit a lamp, left it on the table, and

withdrew. The couple were thus revealed to me clearly: both

removed their cloaks, and there was 'the Varens,' shining in satin

and jewels,--my gifts of course,--and there was her companion in an

officer's uniform; and I knew him for a young roue of a vicomte--a

brainless and vicious youth whom I had sometimes met in society, and

had never thought of hating because I despised him so absolutely.

On recognising him, the fang of the snake Jealousy was instantly

broken; because at the same moment my love for Celine sank under an

extinguisher. A woman who could betray me for such a rival was not

worth contending for; she deserved only scorn; less, however, than

I, who had been her dupe.

"They began to talk; their conversation eased me completely:

frivolous, mercenary, heartless, and senseless, it was rather

calculated to weary than enrage a listener. A card of mine lay on

the table; this being perceived, brought my name under discussion.

Neither of them possessed energy or wit to belabour me soundly, but

they insulted me as coarsely as they could in their little way:

especially Celine, who even waxed rather brilliant on my personal

defects--deformities she termed them. Now it had been her custom to

launch out into fervent admiration of what she called my 'beaute

male:' wherein she differed diametrically from you, who told me

point-blank, at the second interview, that you did not think me

handsome. The contrast struck me at the time and--"

Adele here came running up again.

"Monsieur, John has just been to say that your agent has called and

wishes to see you."

"Ah! in that case I must abridge. Opening the window, I walked in

upon them; liberated Celine from my protection; gave her notice to

vacate her hotel; offered her a purse for immediate exigencies;

disregarded screams, hysterics, prayers, protestations, convulsions;

made an appointment with the vicomte for a meeting at the Bois de

Boulogne. Next morning I had the pleasure of encountering him; left

a bullet in one of his poor etiolated arms, feeble as the wing of a

chicken in the pip, and then thought I had done with the whole crew.

But unluckily the Varens, six months before, had given me this

filette Adele, who, she affirmed, was my daughter; and perhaps she

may be, though I see no proofs of such grim paternity written in her

countenance: Pilot is more like me than she. Some years after I

had broken with the mother, she abandoned her child, and ran away to

Italy with a musician or singer. I acknowledged no natural claim on

Adele's part to be supported by me, nor do I now acknowledge any,

for I am not her father; but hearing that she was quite destitute, I

e'en took the poor thing out of the slime and mud of Paris, and

transplanted it here, to grow up clean in the wholesome soil of an

English country garden. Mrs. Fairfax found you to train it; but now

you know that it is the illegitimate offspring of a French opera-

girl, you will perhaps think differently of your post and protegee:

you will be coming to me some day with notice that you have found

another place--that you beg me to look out for a new governess, &c.-

-Eh?"

"No: Adele is not answerable for either her mother's faults or

yours: I have a regard for her; and now that I know she is, in a

sense, parentless--forsaken by her mother and disowned by you, sir--

I shall cling closer to her than before. How could I possibly

prefer the spoilt pet of a wealthy family, who would hate her

governess as a nuisance, to a lonely little orphan, who leans

towards her as a friend?"

"Oh, that is the light in which you view it! Well, I must go in

now; and you too: it darkens."

But I stayed out a few minutes longer with Adele and Pilot--ran a

race with her, and played a game of battledore and shuttlecock.

When we went in, and I had removed her bonnet and coat, I took her

on my knee; kept her there an hour, allowing her to prattle as she

liked: not rebuking even some little freedoms and trivialities into

which she was apt to stray when much noticed, and which betrayed in

her a superficiality of character, inherited probably from her

mother, hardly congenial to an English mind. Still she had her

merits; and I was disposed to appreciate all that was good in her to

the utmost. I sought in her countenance and features a likeness to

Mr. Rochester, but found none: no trait, no turn of expression

announced relationship. It was a pity: if she could but have been

proved to resemble him, he would have thought more of her.

It was not till after I had withdrawn to my own chamber for the

night, that I steadily reviewed the tale Mr. Rochester had told me.

As he had said, there was probably nothing at all extraordinary in

the substance of the narrative itself: a wealthy Englishman's

passion for a French dancer, and her treachery to him, were every-

day matters enough, no doubt, in society; but there was something

decidedly strange in the paroxysm of emotion which had suddenly

seized him when he was in the act of expressing the present

contentment of his mood, and his newly revived pleasure in the old

hall and its environs. I meditated wonderingly on this incident;

but gradually quitting it, as I found it for the present

inexplicable, I turned to the consideration of my master's manner to

myself. The confidence he had thought fit to repose in me seemed a

tribute to my discretion: I regarded and accepted it as such. His

deportment had now for some weeks been more uniform towards me than

at the first. I never seemed in his way; he did not take fits of

chilling hauteur: when he met me unexpectedly, the encounter seemed

welcome; he had always a word and sometimes a smile for me: when

summoned by formal invitation to his presence, I was honoured by a

cordiality of reception that made me feel I really possessed the

power to amuse him, and that these evening conferences were sought

as much for his pleasure as for my benefit.

I, indeed, talked comparatively little, but I heard him talk with

relish. It was his nature to be communicative; he liked to open to

a mind unacquainted with the world glimpses of its scenes and ways

(I do not mean its corrupt scenes and wicked ways, but such as

derived their interest from the great scale on which they were

acted, the strange novelty by which they were characterised); and I

had a keen delight in receiving the new ideas he offered, in

imagining the new pictures he portrayed, and following him in

thought through the new regions he disclosed, never startled or

troubled by one noxious allusion.

The ease of his manner freed me from painful restraint: the

friendly frankness, as correct as cordial, with which he treated me,

drew me to him. I felt at times as if he were my relation rather

than my master: yet he was imperious sometimes still; but I did not

mind that; I saw it was his way. So happy, so gratified did I

become with this new interest added to life, that I ceased to pine

after kindred: my thin crescent-destiny seemed to enlarge; the

blanks of existence were filled up; my bodily health improved; I

gathered flesh and strength.

And was Mr. Rochester now ugly in my eyes? No, reader: gratitude,

and many associations, all pleasurable and genial, made his face the

object I best liked to see; his presence in a room was more cheering

than the brightest fire. Yet I had not forgotten his faults;

indeed, I could not, for he brought them frequently before me. He

was proud, sardonic, harsh to inferiority of every description: in

my secret soul I knew that his great kindness to me was balanced by

unjust severity to many others. He was moody, too; unaccountably

so; I more than once, when sent for to read to him, found him

sitting in his library alone, with his head bent on his folded arms;

and, when he looked up, a morose, almost a malignant, scowl

blackened his features. But I believed that his moodiness, his

harshness, and his former faults of morality (I say FORMER, for now

he seemed corrected of them) had their source in some cruel cross of

fate. I believed he was naturally a man of better tendencies,

higher principles, and purer tastes than such as circumstances had

developed, education instilled, or destiny encouraged. I thought

there were excellent materials in him; though for the present they

hung together somewhat spoiled and tangled. I cannot deny that I

grieved for his grief, whatever that was, and would have given much

to assuage it.

Though I had now extinguished my candle and was laid down in bed, I

could not sleep for thinking of his look when he paused in the

avenue, and told how his destiny had risen up before him, and dared

him to be happy at Thornfield.

"Why not?" I asked myself. "What alienates him from the house?

Will he leave it again soon? Mrs. Fairfax said he seldom stayed

here longer than a fortnight at a time; and he has now been resident

eight weeks. If he does go, the change will be doleful. Suppose he

should be absent spring, summer, and autumn: how joyless sunshine

and fine days will seem!"

I hardly know whether I had slept or not after this musing; at any

rate, I started wide awake on hearing a vague murmur, peculiar and

lugubrious, which sounded, I thought, just above me. I wished I had

kept my candle burning: the night was drearily dark; my spirits

were depressed. I rose and sat up in bed, listening. The sound was

hushed.

I tried again to sleep; but my heart beat anxiously: my inward

tranquillity was broken. The clock, far down in the hall, struck

two. Just then it seemed my chamber-door was touched; as if fingers

had swept the panels in groping a way along the dark gallery

outside. I said, "Who is there?" Nothing answered. I was chilled

with fear.

All at once I remembered that it might be Pilot, who, when the

kitchen-door chanced to be left open, not unfrequently found his way

up to the threshold of Mr. Rochester's chamber: I had seen him

lying there myself in the mornings. The idea calmed me somewhat: I

lay down. Silence composes the nerves; and as an unbroken hush now

reigned again through the whole house, I began to feel the return of

slumber. But it was not fated that I should sleep that night. A

dream had scarcely approached my ear, when it fled affrighted,

scared by a marrow-freezing incident enough.

This was a demoniac laugh--low, suppressed, and deep--uttered, as it

seemed, at the very keyhole of my chamber door. The head of my bed

was near the door, and I thought at first the goblin-laugher stood

at my bedside--or rather, crouched by my pillow: but I rose, looked

round, and could see nothing; while, as I still gazed, the unnatural

sound was reiterated: and I knew it came from behind the panels.

My first impulse was to rise and fasten the bolt; my next, again to

cry out, "Who is there?"

Something gurgled and moaned. Ere long, steps retreated up the

gallery towards the third-storey staircase: a door had lately been

made to shut in that staircase; I heard it open and close, and all

was still.

"Was that Grace Poole? and is she possessed with a devil?" thought

I. Impossible now to remain longer by myself: I must go to Mrs.

Fairfax. I hurried on my frock and a shawl; I withdrew the bolt and

opened the door with a trembling hand. There was a candle burning

just outside, and on the matting in the gallery. I was surprised at

this circumstance: but still more was I amazed to perceive the air

quite dim, as if filled with smoke; and, while looking to the right

hand and left, to find whence these blue wreaths issued, I became

further aware of a strong smell of burning.

Something creaked: it was a door ajar; and that door was Mr.

Rochester's, and the smoke rushed in a cloud from thence. I thought

no more of Mrs. Fairfax; I thought no more of Grace Poole, or the

laugh: in an instant, I was within the chamber. Tongues of flame

darted round the bed: the curtains were on fire. In the midst of

blaze and vapour, Mr. Rochester lay stretched motionless, in deep

sleep.

"Wake! wake!" I cried. I shook him, but he only murmured and

turned: the smoke had stupefied him. Not a moment could be lost:

the very sheets were kindling, I rushed to his basin and ewer;

fortunately, one was wide and the other deep, and both were filled

with water. I heaved them up, deluged the bed and its occupant,

flew back to my own room, brought my own water-jug, baptized the

couch afresh, and, by God's aid, succeeded in extinguishing the

flames which were devouring it.

The hiss of the quenched element, the breakage of a pitcher which I

flung from my hand when I had emptied it, and, above all, the splash

of the shower-bath I had liberally bestowed, roused Mr. Rochester at

last. Though it was now dark, I knew he was awake; because I heard

him fulminating strange anathemas at finding himself lying in a pool

of water.

"Is there a flood?" he cried.

"No, sir," I answered; "but there has been a fire: get up, do; you

are quenched now; I will fetch you a candle."

"In the name of all the elves in Christendom, is that Jane Eyre?" he

demanded. "What have you done with me, witch, sorceress? Who is in

the room besides you? Have you plotted to drown me?"

"I will fetch you a candle, sir; and, in Heaven's name, get up.

Somebody has plotted something: you cannot too soon find out who

and what it is."

"There! I am up now; but at your peril you fetch a candle yet:

wait two minutes till I get into some dry garments, if any dry there

be--yes, here is my dressing-gown. Now run!"

I did run; I brought the candle which still remained in the gallery.

He took it from my hand, held it up, and surveyed the bed, all

blackened and scorched, the sheets drenched, the carpet round

swimming in water.

"What is it? and who did it?" he asked. I briefly related to him

what had transpired: the strange laugh I had heard in the gallery:

the step ascending to the third storey; the smoke,--the smell of

fire which had conducted me to his room; in what state I had found

matters there, and how I had deluged him with all the water I could

lay hands on.

He listened very gravely; his face, as I went on, expressed more

concern than astonishment; he did not immediately speak when I had

concluded.

"Shall I call Mrs. Fairfax?" I asked.

"Mrs. Fairfax? No; what the deuce would you call her for? What can

she do? Let her sleep unmolested."

"Then I will fetch Leah, and wake John and his wife."

"Not at all: just be still. You have a shawl on. If you are not

warm enough, you may take my cloak yonder; wrap it about you, and

sit down in the arm-chair: there,--I will put it on. Now place

your feet on the stool, to keep them out of the wet. I am going to

leave you a few minutes. I shall take the candle. Remain where you

are till I return; be as still as a mouse. I must pay a visit to

the second storey. Don't move, remember, or call any one."

He went: I watched the light withdraw. He passed up the gallery

very softly, unclosed the staircase door with as little noise as

possible, shut it after him, and the last ray vanished. I was left

in total darkness. I listened for some noise, but heard nothing. A

very long time elapsed. I grew weary: it was cold, in spite of the

cloak; and then I did not see the use of staying, as I was not to

rouse the house. I was on the point of risking Mr. Rochester's

displeasure by disobeying his orders, when the light once more

gleamed dimly on the gallery wall, and I heard his unshod feet tread

the matting. "I hope it is he," thought I, "and not something

worse."

He re-entered, pale and very gloomy. "I have found it all out,"

said he, setting his candle down on the washstand; "it is as I

thought."

"How, sir?"

He made no reply, but stood with his arms folded, looking on the

ground. At the end of a few minutes he inquired in rather a

peculiar tone -

"I forget whether you said you saw anything when you opened your

chamber door."

"No, sir, only the candlestick on the ground."

"But you heard an odd laugh? You have heard that laugh before, I

should think, or something like it?"

"Yes, sir: there is a woman who sews here, called Grace Poole,--she

laughs in that way. She is a singular person."

"Just so. Grace Poole--you have guessed it. She is, as you say,

singular--very. Well, I shall reflect on the subject. Meantime, I

am glad that you are the only person, besides myself, acquainted

with the precise details of to-night's incident. You are no talking

fool: say nothing about it. I will account for this state of

affairs" (pointing to the bed): "and now return to your own room.

I shall do very well on the sofa in the library for the rest of the

night. It is near four:- in two hours the servants will be up."

"Good-night, then, sir," said I, departing.

He seemed surprised--very inconsistently so, as he had just told me

to go.

"What!" he exclaimed, "are you quitting me already, and in that

way?"

"You said I might go, sir."

"But not without taking leave; not without a word or two of

acknowledgment and good-will: not, in short, in that brief, dry

fashion. Why, you have saved my life!--snatched me from a horrible

and excruciating death! and you walk past me as if we were mutual

strangers! At least shake hands."

He held out his hand; I gave him mine: he took it first in one,

them in both his own.

"You have saved my life: I have a pleasure in owing you so immense

a debt. I cannot say more. Nothing else that has being would have

been tolerable to me in the character of creditor for such an

obligation: but you: it is different;--I feel your benefits no

burden, Jane."

He paused; gazed at me: words almost visible trembled on his lips,-

-but his voice was checked.

"Good-night again, sir. There is no debt, benefit, burden,

obligation, in the case."

"I knew," he continued, "you would do me good in some way, at some

time;--I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you: their

expression and smile did not"--(again he stopped)--"did not" (he

proceeded hastily) "strike delight to my very inmost heart so for

nothing. People talk of natural sympathies; I have heard of good

genii: there are grains of truth in the wildest fable. My

cherished preserver, goodnight!"

Strange energy was in his voice, strange fire in his look.

"I am glad I happened to be awake," I said: and then I was going.

"What! you WILL go?"

"I am cold, sir."

"Cold? Yes,--and standing in a pool! Go, then, Jane; go!" But he

still retained my hand, and I could not free it. I bethought myself

of an expedient.

"I think I hear Mrs. Fairfax move, sir," said I.

"Well, leave me:" he relaxed his fingers, and I was gone.

I regained my couch, but never thought of sleep. Till morning

dawned I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of

trouble rolled under surges of joy. I thought sometimes I saw

beyond its wild waters a shore, sweet as the hills of Beulah; and

now and then a freshening gale, wakened by hope, bore my spirit

triumphantly towards the bourne: but I could not reach it, even in

fancy--a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove

me back. Sense would resist delirium: judgment would warn passion.

Too feverish to rest, I rose as soon as day dawned.

 

CHAPTER XVI

I both wished and feared to see Mr. Rochester on the day which

followed this sleepless night: I wanted to hear his voice again,

yet feared to meet his eye. During the early part of the morning, I

momentarily expected his coming; he was not in the frequent habit of

entering the schoolroom, but he did step in for a few minutes

sometimes, and I had the impression that he was sure to visit it

that day.

But the morning passed just as usual: nothing happened to interrupt

the quiet course of Adele's studies; only soon after breakfast, I

heard some bustle in the neighbourhood of Mr. Rochester's chamber,

Mrs. Fairfax's voice, and Leah's, and the cook's--that is, John's

wife--and even John's own gruff tones. There were exclamations of

"What a mercy master was not burnt in his bed!" "It is always

dangerous to keep a candle lit at night." "How providential that he

had presence of mind to think of the water-jug!" "I wonder he waked

nobody!" "It is to be hoped he will not take cold with sleeping on

the library sofa," &c.

To much confabulation succeeded a sound of scrubbing and setting to

rights; and when I passed the room, in going downstairs to dinner, I

saw through the open door that all was again restored to complete

order; only the bed was stripped of its hangings. Leah stood up in

the window-seat, rubbing the panes of glass dimmed with smoke. I

was about to address her, for I wished to know what account had been

given of the affair: but, on advancing, I saw a second person in

the chamber--a woman sitting on a chair by the bedside, and sewing

rings to new curtains. That woman was no other than Grace Poole.

There she sat, staid and taciturn-looking, as usual, in her brown

stuff gown, her check apron, white handkerchief, and cap. She was

intent on her work, in which her whole thoughts seemed absorbed: on

her hard forehead, and in her commonplace features, was nothing

either of the paleness or desperation one would have expected to see

marking the countenance of a woman who had attempted murder, and

whose intended victim had followed her last night to her lair, and

(as I believed), charged her with the crime she wished to

perpetrate. I was amazed--confounded. She looked up, while I still

gazed at her: no start, no increase or failure of colour betrayed

emotion, consciousness of guilt, or fear of detection. She said

"Good morning, Miss," in her usual phlegmatic and brief manner; and

taking up another ring and more tape, went on with her sewing.

"I will put her to some test," thought I: "such absolute

impenetrability is past comprehension."

"Good morning, Grace," I said. "Has anything happened here? I

thought I heard the servants all talking together a while ago."

"Only master had been reading in his bed last night; he fell asleep

with his candle lit, and the curtains got on fire; but, fortunately,

he awoke before the bed-clothes or the wood-work caught, and

contrived to quench the flames with the water in the ewer.

"A strange affair!" I said, in a low voice: then, looking at her

fixedly--"Did Mr. Rochester wake nobody? Did no one hear him move?"

She again raised her eyes to me, and this time there was something

of consciousness in their expression. She seemed to examine me

warily; then she answered -

"The servants sleep so far off, you know, Miss, they would not be

likely to hear. Mrs. Fairfax's room and yours are the nearest to

master's; but Mrs. Fairfax said she heard nothing: when people get

elderly, they often sleep heavy." She paused, and then added, with

a sort of assumed indifference, but still in a marked and

significant tone--"But you are young, Miss; and I should say a light

sleeper: perhaps you may have heard a noise?"

"I did," said I, dropping my voice, so that Leah, who was still

polishing the panes, could not hear me, "and at first I thought it

was Pilot: but Pilot cannot laugh; and I am certain I heard a

laugh, and a strange one."

She took a new needleful of thread, waxed it carefully, threaded her

needle with a steady hand, and then observed, with perfect composure

-

"It is hardly likely master would laugh, I should think, Miss, when

he was in such danger: You must have been dreaming."

"I was not dreaming," I said, with some warmth, for her brazen

coolness provoked me. Again she looked at me; and with the same

scrutinising and conscious eye.

"Have you told master that you heard a laugh?" she inquired.

"I have not had the opportunity of speaking to him this morning."

"You did not think of opening your door and looking out into the

gallery?" she further asked.

She appeared to be cross-questioning me, attempting to draw from me

information unawares. The idea struck me that if she discovered I

knew or suspected her guilt, she would be playing of some of her

malignant pranks on me; I thought it advisable to be on my guard.

"On the contrary," said I, "I bolted my door."

"Then you are not in the habit of bolting your door every night

before you get into bed?"

"Fiend! she wants to know my habits, that she may lay her plans

accordingly!" Indignation again prevailed over prudence: I replied

sharply, "Hitherto I have often omitted to fasten the bolt: I did

not think it necessary. I was not aware any danger or annoyance was

to be dreaded at Thornfield Hall: but in future" (and I laid marked

stress on the words) "I shall take good care to make all secure

before I venture to lie down."

"It will be wise so to do," was her answer: "this neighbourhood is

as quiet as any I know, and I never heard of the hall being

attempted by robbers since it was a house; though there are hundreds

of pounds' worth of plate in the plate-closet, as is well known.

And you see, for such a large house, there are very few servants,

because master has never lived here much; and when he does come,

being a bachelor, he needs little waiting on: but I always think it

best to err on the safe side; a door is soon fastened, and it is as

well to have a drawn bolt between one and any mischief that may be

about. A deal of people, Miss, are for trusting all to Providence;

but I say Providence will not dispense with the means, though He

often blesses them when they are used discreetly." And here she

closed her harangue: a long one for her, and uttered with the

demureness of a Quakeress.

I still stood absolutely dumfoundered at what appeared to me her

miraculous self-possession and most inscrutable hypocrisy, when the

cook entered.

"Mrs. Poole," said she, addressing Grace, "the servants' dinner will

soon be ready: will you come down?"

"No; just put my pint of porter and bit of pudding on a tray, and

I'll carry it upstairs."

"You'll have some meat?"

"Just a morsel, and a taste of cheese, that's all."

"And the sago?"

"Never mind it at present: I shall be coming down before teatime:

I'll make it myself."

The cook here turned to me, saying that Mrs. Fairfax was waiting for

me: so I departed.

I hardly heard Mrs. Fairfax's account of the curtain conflagration

during dinner, so much was I occupied in puzzling my brains over the

enigmatical character of Grace Poole, and still more in pondering

the problem of her position at Thornfield and questioning why she

had not been given into custody that morning, or, at the very least,

dismissed from her master's service. He had almost as much as

declared his conviction of her criminality last night: what

mysterious cause withheld him from accusing her? Why had he

enjoined me, too, to secrecy? It was strange: a bold, vindictive,

and haughty gentleman seemed somehow in the power of one of the

meanest of his dependants; so much in her power, that even when she

lifted her hand against his life, he dared not openly charge her

with the attempt, much less punish her for it.

Had Grace been young and handsome, I should have been tempted to

think that tenderer feelings than prudence or fear influenced Mr.

Rochester in her behalf; but, hard-favoured and matronly as she was,

the idea could not be admitted. "Yet," I reflected, "she has been

young once; her youth would be contemporary with her master's: Mrs.

Fairfax told me once, she had lived here many years. I don't think

she can ever have been pretty; but, for aught I know, she may

possess originality and strength of character to compensate for the

want of personal advantages. Mr. Rochester is an amateur of the

decided and eccentric: Grace is eccentric at least. What if a

former caprice (a freak very possible to a nature so sudden and

headstrong as his) has delivered him into her power, and she now

exercises over his actions a secret influence, the result of his own

indiscretion, which he cannot shake off, and dare not disregard?"

But, having reached this point of conjecture, Mrs. Poole's square,

flat figure, and uncomely, dry, even coarse face, recurred so

distinctly to my mind's eye, that I thought, "No; impossible! my

supposition cannot be correct. Yet," suggested the secret voice

which talks to us in our own hearts, "you are not beautiful either,

and perhaps Mr. Rochester approves you: at any rate, you have often

felt as if he did; and last night--remember his words; remember his

look; remember his voice!"

I well remembered all; language, glance, and tone seemed at the

moment vividly renewed. I was now in the schoolroom; Adele was

drawing; I bent over her and directed her pencil. She looked up

with a sort of start.

"Qu' avez-vous, mademoiselle?" said she. "Vos doigts tremblent

comme la feuille, et vos joues sont rouges: mais, rouges comme des

cerises!"

"I am hot, Adele, with stooping!" She went on sketching; I went on

thinking.

I hastened to drive from my mind the hateful notion I had been

conceiving respecting Grace Poole; it disgusted me. I compared

myself with her, and found we were different. Bessie Leaven had

said I was quite a lady; and she spoke truth--I was a lady. And now

I looked much better than I did when Bessie saw me; I had more

colour and more flesh, more life, more vivacity, because I had

brighter hopes and keener enjoyments.

"Evening approaches," said I, as I looked towards the window. "I

have never heard Mr. Rochester's voice or step in the house to-day;

but surely I shall see him before night: I feared the meeting in

the morning; now I desire it, because expectation has been so long

baffled that it is grown impatient."

When dusk actually closed, and when Adele left me to go and play in

the nursery with Sophie, I did most keenly desire it. I listened

for the bell to ring below; I listened for Leah coming up with a

message; I fancied sometimes I heard Mr. Rochester's own tread, and

I turned to the door, expecting it to open and admit him. The door

remained shut; darkness only came in through the window. Still it

was not late; he often sent for me at seven and eight o'clock, and

it was yet but six. Surely I should not be wholly disappointed to-

night, when I had so many things to say to him! I wanted again to

introduce the subject of Grace Poole, and to hear what he would

answer; I wanted to ask him plainly if he really believed it was she

who had made last night's hideous attempt; and if so, why he kept

her wickedness a secret. It little mattered whether my curiosity

irritated him; I knew the pleasure of vexing and soothing him by

turns; it was one I chiefly delighted in, and a sure instinct always

prevented me from going too far; beyond the verge of provocation I

never ventured; on the extreme brink I liked well to try my skill.

Retaining every minute form of respect, every propriety of my

station, I could still meet him in argument without fear or uneasy

restraint; this suited both him and me.

A tread creaked on the stairs at last. Leah made her appearance;

but it was only to intimate that tea was ready in Mrs. Fairfax's

room. Thither I repaired, glad at least to go downstairs; for that

brought me, I imagined, nearer to Mr. Rochester's presence.

"You must want your tea," said the good lady, as I joined her; "you

ate so little at dinner. I am afraid," she continued, "you are not

well to-day: you look flushed and feverish."

"Oh, quite well! I never felt better."

"Then you must prove it by evincing a good appetite; will you fill

the teapot while I knit off this needle?" Having completed her

task, she rose to draw down the blind, which she had hitherto kept

up, by way, I suppose, of making the most of daylight, though dusk

was now fast deepening into total obscurity.

"It is fair to-night," said she, as she looked through the panes,

"though not starlight; Mr. Rochester has, on the whole, had a

favourable day for his journey."

"Journey!--Is Mr. Rochester gone anywhere? I did not know he was

out."

"Oh, he set of the moment he had breakfasted! He is gone to the

Leas, Mr. Eshton's place, ten miles on the other side Millcote. I

believe there is quite a party assembled there; Lord Ingram, Sir

George Lynn, Colonel Dent, and others."

"Do you expect him back to-night?"

"No--nor to-morrow either; I should think he is very likely to stay

a week or more: when these fine, fashionable people get together,

they are so surrounded by elegance and gaiety, so well provided with

all that can please and entertain, they are in no hurry to separate.

Gentlemen especially are often in request on such occasions; and Mr.

Rochester is so talented and so lively in society, that I believe he

is a general favourite: the ladies are very fond of him; though you

would not think his appearance calculated to recommend him

particularly in their eyes: but I suppose his acquirements and

abilities, perhaps his wealth and good blood, make amends for any

little fault of look."

"Are there ladies at the Leas?"

"There are Mrs. Eshton and her three daughters--very elegant young

ladies indeed; and there are the Honourable Blanche and Mary Ingram,

most beautiful women, I suppose: indeed I have seen Blanche, six or

seven years since, when she was a girl of eighteen. She came here

to a Christmas ball and party Mr. Rochester gave. You should have

seen the dining-room that day--how richly it was decorated, how

brilliantly lit up! I should think there were fifty ladies and

gentlemen present--all of the first county families; and Miss Ingram

was considered the belle of the evening."

"You saw her, you say, Mrs. Fairfax: what was she like?"

"Yes, I saw her. The dining-room doors were thrown open; and, as it

was Christmas-time, the servants were allowed to assemble in the

hall, to hear some of the ladies sing and play. Mr. Rochester would

have me to come in, and I sat down in a quiet corner and watched

them. I never saw a more splendid scene: the ladies were

magnificently dressed; most of them--at least most of the younger

ones--looked handsome; but Miss Ingram was certainly the queen."

"And what was she like?"

"Tall, fine bust, sloping shoulders; long, graceful neck: olive

complexion, dark and clear; noble features; eyes rather like Mr.

Rochester's: large and black, and as brilliant as her jewels. And

then she had such a fine head of hair; raven-black and so becomingly

arranged: a crown of thick plaits behind, and in front the longest,

the glossiest curls I ever saw. She was dressed in pure white; an

amber-coloured scarf was passed over her shoulder and across her

breast, tied at the side, and descending in long, fringed ends below

her knee. She wore an amber-coloured flower, too, in her hair: it

contrasted well with the jetty mass of her curls."

"She was greatly admired, of course?"

"Yes, indeed: and not only for her beauty, but for her

accomplishments. She was one of the ladies who sang: a gentleman

accompanied her on the piano. She and Mr. Rochester sang a duet."

"Mr. Rochester? I was not aware he could sing."

"Oh! he has a fine bass voice, and an excellent taste for music."

"And Miss Ingram: what sort of a voice had she?"

"A very rich and powerful one: she sang delightfully; it was a

treat to listen to her;--and she played afterwards. I am no judge

of music, but Mr. Rochester is; and I heard him say her execution

was remarkably good."

"And this beautiful and accomplished lady, she is not yet married?"

"It appears not: I fancy neither she nor her sister have very large

fortunes. Old Lord Ingram's estates were chiefly entailed, and the

eldest son came in for everything almost."

"But I wonder no wealthy nobleman or gentleman has taken a fancy to

her: Mr. Rochester, for instance. He is rich, is he not?"

"Oh! yes. But you see there is a considerable difference in age:

Mr. Rochester is nearly forty; she is but twenty-five."

"What of that? More unequal matches are made every day."

"True: yet I should scarcely fancy Mr. Rochester would entertain an

idea of the sort. But you eat nothing: you have scarcely tasted

since you began tea."

"No: I am too thirsty to eat. Will you let me have another cup?"

I was about again to revert to the probability of a union between

Mr. Rochester and the beautiful Blanche; but Adele came in, and the

conversation was turned into another channel.

When once more alone, I reviewed the information I had got; looked

into my heart, examined its thoughts and feelings, and endeavoured

to bring back with a strict hand such as had been straying through

imagination's boundless and trackless waste, into the safe fold of

common sense.

Arraigned at my own bar, Memory having given her evidence of the

hopes, wishes, sentiments I had been cherishing since last night--of

the general state of mind in which I had indulged for nearly a

fortnight past; Reason having come forward and told, in her own

quiet way a plain, unvarnished tale, showing how I had rejected the

real, and rabidly devoured the ideal;--I pronounced judgment to this

effect:-

That a greater fool than Jane Eyre had never breathed the breath of

life; that a more fantastic idiot had never surfeited herself on

sweet lies, and swallowed poison as if it were nectar.

"YOU," I said, "a favourite with Mr. Rochester? YOU gifted with the

power of pleasing him? YOU of importance to him in any way? Go!

your folly sickens me. And you have derived pleasure from

occasional tokens of preference--equivocal tokens shown by a

gentleman of family and a man of the world to a dependent and a

novice. How dared you? Poor stupid dupe!--Could not even self-

interest make you wiser? You repeated to yourself this morning the

brief scene of last night?--Cover your face and be ashamed! He said

something in praise of your eyes, did he? Blind puppy! Open their

bleared lids and look on your own accursed senselessness! It does

good to no woman to be flattered by her superior, who cannot

possibly intend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to let

a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown,

must devour the life that feeds it; and, if discovered and responded

to, must lead, ignis-fatus-like, into miry wilds whence there is no

extrication.

"Listen, then, Jane Eyre, to your sentence: tomorrow, place the

glass before you, and draw in chalk your own picture, faithfully,

without softening one defect; omit no harsh line, smooth away no

displeasing irregularity; write under it, 'Portrait of a Governess,

disconnected, poor, and plain.'

"Afterwards, take a piece of smooth ivory--you have one prepared in

your drawing-box: take your palette, mix your freshest, finest,

clearest tints; choose your most delicate camel-hair pencils;

delineate carefully the loveliest face you can imagine; paint it in

your softest shades and sweetest lines, according to the description

given by Mrs. Fairfax of Blanche Ingram; remember the raven

ringlets, the oriental eye;--What! you revert to Mr. Rochester as a

model! Order! No snivel!--no sentiment!--no regret! I will endure

only sense and resolution. Recall the august yet harmonious

lineaments, the Grecian neck and bust; let the round and dazzling

arm be visible, and the delicate hand; omit neither diamond ring nor

gold bracelet; portray faithfully the attire, aerial lace and

glistening satin, graceful scarf and golden rose; call it 'Blanche,

an accomplished lady of rank.'

"Whenever, in future, you should chance to fancy Mr. Rochester

thinks well of you, take out these two pictures and compare them:

say, 'Mr. Rochester might probably win that noble lady's love, if he

chose to strive for it; is it likely he would waste a serious

thought on this indigent and insignificant plebeian?'"

"I'll do it," I resolved: and having framed this determination, I

grew calm, and fell asleep.

I kept my word. An hour or two sufficed to sketch my own portrait

in crayons; and in less than a fortnight I had completed an ivory

miniature of an imaginary Blanche Ingram. It looked a lovely face

enough, and when compared with the real head in chalk, the contrast

was as great as self-control could desire. I derived benefit from

the task: it had kept my head and hands employed, and had given

force and fixedness to the new impressions I wished to stamp

indelibly on my heart.

Ere long, I had reason to congratulate myself on the course of

wholesome discipline to which I had thus forced my feelings to

submit. Thanks to it, I was able to meet subsequent occurrences

with a decent calm, which, had they found me unprepared, I should

probably have been unequal to maintain, even externally.

 

CHAPTER XVII

A week passed, and no news arrived of Mr. Rochester: ten days, and

still he did not come. Mrs. Fairfax said she should not be

surprised if he were to go straight from the Leas to London, and

thence to the Continent, and not show his face again at Thornfield

for a year to come; he had not unfrequently quitted it in a manner

quite as abrupt and unexpected. When I heard this, I was beginning

to feel a strange chill and failing at the heart. I was actually

permitting myself to experience a sickening sense of disappointment;

but rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once

called my sensations to order; and it was wonderful how I got over

the temporary blunder--how I cleared up the mistake of supposing Mr.

Rochester's movements a matter in which I had any cause to take a

vital interest. Not that I humbled myself by a slavish notion of

inferiority: on the contrary, I just said -

"You have nothing to do with the master of Thornfield, further than

to receive the salary he gives you for teaching his protegee, and to

be grateful for such respectful and kind treatment as, if you do

your duty, you have a right to expect at his hands. Be sure that is

the only tie he seriously acknowledges between you and him; so don't

make him the object of your fine feelings, your raptures, agonies,

and so forth. He is not of your order: keep to your caste, and be

too self-respecting to lavish the love of the whole heart, soul, and

strength, where such a gift is not wanted and would be despised."

I went on with my day's business tranquilly; but ever and anon vague

suggestions kept wandering across my brain of reasons why I should

quit Thornfield; and I kept involuntarily framing advertisements and

pondering conjectures about new situations: these thoughts I did

not think check; they might germinate and bear fruit if they could.

Mr. Rochester had been absent upwards of a fortnight, when the post

brought Mrs. Fairfax a letter.

"It is from the master," said she, as she looked at the direction.

"Now I suppose we shall know whether we are to expect his return or

not."

And while she broke the seal and perused the document, I went on

taking my coffee (we were at breakfast): it was hot, and I

attributed to that circumstance a fiery glow which suddenly rose to

my face. Why my hand shook, and why I involuntarily spilt half the

contents of my cup into my saucer, I did not choose to consider.

"Well, I sometimes think we are too quiet; but we run a chance of

being busy enough now: for a little while at least," said Mrs.

Fairfax, still holding the note before her spectacles.

Ere I permitted myself to request an explanation, I tied the string

of Adele's pinafore, which happened to be loose: having helped her

also to another bun and refilled her mug with milk, I said,

nonchalantly -

"Mr. Rochester is not likely to return soon, I suppose?"

"Indeed he is--in three days, he says: that will be next Thursday;

and not alone either. I don't know how many of the fine people at

the Leas are coming with him: he sends directions for all the best

bedrooms to be prepared; and the library and drawing-rooms are to be

cleaned out; I am to get more kitchen hands from the George Inn, at

Millcote, and from wherever else I can; and the ladies will bring

their maids and the gentlemen their valets: so we shall have a full

house of it." And Mrs. Fairfax swallowed her breakfast and hastened

away to commence operations.

The three days were, as she had foretold, busy enough. I had

thought all the rooms at Thornfield beautifully clean and well

arranged; but it appears I was mistaken. Three women were got to

help; and such scrubbing, such brushing, such washing of paint and

beating of carpets, such taking down and putting up of pictures,

such polishing of mirrors and lustres, such lighting of fires in

bedrooms, such airing of sheets and feather-beds on hearths, I never

beheld, either before or since. Adele ran quite wild in the midst

of it: the preparations for company and the prospect of their

arrival, seemed to throw her into ecstasies. She would have Sophie

to look over all her "toilettes," as she called frocks; to furbish

up any that were "passees," and to air and arrange the new. For

herself, she did nothing but caper about in the front chambers, jump

on and off the bedsteads, and lie on the mattresses and piled-up

bolsters and pillows before the enormous fires roaring in the

chimneys. From school duties she was exonerated: Mrs. Fairfax had

pressed me into her service, and I was all day in the storeroom,

helping (or hindering) her and the cook; learning to make custards

and cheese-cakes and French pastry, to truss game and garnish

desert-dishes.

The party were expected to arrive on Thursday afternoon, in time for

dinner at six. During the intervening period I had no time to nurse

chimeras; and I believe I was as active and gay as anybody--Adele

excepted. Still, now and then, I received a damping check to my

cheerfulness; and was, in spite of myself, thrown back on the region

of doubts and portents, and dark conjectures. This was when I

chanced to see the third-storey staircase door (which of late had

always been kept locked) open slowly, and give passage to the form

of Grace Poole, in prim cap, white apron, and handkerchief; when I

watched her glide along the gallery, her quiet tread muffled in a

list slipper; when I saw her look into the bustling, topsy-turvy

bedrooms,--just say a word, perhaps, to the charwoman about the

proper way to polish a grate, or clean a marble mantelpiece, or take

stains from papered walls, and then pass on. She would thus descend

to the kitchen once a day, eat her dinner, smoke a moderate pipe on

the hearth, and go back, carrying her pot of porter with her, for

her private solace, in her own gloomy, upper haunt. Only one hour

in the twenty-four did she pass with her fellow-servants below; all

the rest of her time was spent in some low-ceiled, oaken chamber of

the second storey: there she sat and sewed--and probably laughed

drearily to herself,--as companionless as a prisoner in his dungeon.

The strangest thing of all was, that not a soul in the house, except

me, noticed her habits, or seemed to marvel at them: no one

discussed her position or employment; no one pitied her solitude or

isolation. I once, indeed, overheard part of a dialogue between

Leah and one of the charwomen, of which Grace formed the subject.

Leah had been saying something I had not caught, and the charwoman

remarked -

"She gets good wages, I guess?"

"Yes," said Leah; "I wish I had as good; not that mine are to

complain of,--there's no stinginess at Thornfield; but they're not

one fifth of the sum Mrs. Poole receives. And she is laying by:

she goes every quarter to the bank at Millcote. I should not wonder

but she has saved enough to keep her independent if she liked to

leave; but I suppose she's got used to the place; and then she's not

forty yet, and strong and able for anything. It is too soon for her

to give up business."

"She is a good hand, I daresay," said the charwoman.

"Ah!--she understands what she has to do,--nobody better," rejoined

Leah significantly; "and it is not every one could fill her shoes--

not for all the money she gets."

"That it is not!" was the reply. "I wonder whether the master--"

The charwoman was going on; but here Leah turned and perceived me,

and she instantly gave her companion a nudge.

"Doesn't she know?" I heard the woman whisper.

Leah shook her head, and the conversation was of course dropped.

All I had gathered from it amounted to this,--that there was a

mystery at Thornfield; and that from participation in that mystery I

was purposely excluded.

Thursday came: all work had been completed the previous evening;

carpets were laid down, bed-hangings festooned, radiant white

counterpanes spread, toilet tables arranged, furniture rubbed,

flowers piled in vases: both chambers and saloons looked as fresh

and bright as hands could make them. The hall, too, was scoured;

and the great carved clock, as well as the steps and banisters of

the staircase, were polished to the brightness of glass; in the

dining-room, the sideboard flashed resplendent with plate; in the

drawing-room and boudoir, vases of exotics bloomed on all sides.

Afternoon arrived: Mrs. Fairfax assumed her best black satin gown,

her gloves, and her gold watch; for it was her part to receive the

company,--to conduct the ladies to their rooms, &c. Adele, too,

would be dressed: though I thought she had little chance of being

introduced to the party that day at least. However, to please her,

I allowed Sophie to apparel her in one of her short, full muslin

frocks. For myself, I had no need to make any change; I should not

be called upon to quit my sanctum of the schoolroom; for a sanctum

it was now become to me,--"a very pleasant refuge in time of

trouble."

It had been a mild, serene spring day--one of those days which,

towards the end of March or the beginning of April, rise shining

over the earth as heralds of summer. It was drawing to an end now;

but the evening was even warm, and I sat at work in the schoolroom

with the window open.

"It gets late," said Mrs. Fairfax, entering in rustling state. "I

am glad I ordered dinner an hour after the time Mr. Rochester

mentioned; for it is past six now. I have sent John down to the

gates to see if there is anything on the road: one can see a long

way from thence in the direction of Millcote." She went to the

window. "Here he is!" said she. "Well, John" (leaning out), "any

news?"

"They're coming, ma'am," was the answer. "They'll be here in ten

minutes."

Adele flew to the window. I followed, taking care to stand on one

side, so that, screened by the curtain, I could see without being

seen.

The ten minutes John had given seemed very long, but at last wheels

were heard; four equestrians galloped up the drive, and after them

came two open carriages. Fluttering veils and waving plumes filled

the vehicles; two of the cavaliers were young, dashing-looking

gentlemen; the third was Mr. Rochester, on his black horse, Mesrour,

Pilot bounding before him; at his side rode a lady, and he and she

were the first of the party. Her purple riding-habit almost swept

the ground, her veil streamed long on the breeze; mingling with its

transparent folds, and gleaming through them, shone rich raven

ringlets.

"Miss Ingram!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax, and away she hurried to her

post below.

The cavalcade, following the sweep of the drive, quickly turned the

angle of the house, and I lost sight of it. Adele now petitioned to

go down; but I took her on my knee, and gave her to understand that

she must not on any account think of venturing in sight of the

ladies, either now or at any other time, unless expressly sent for:

that Mr. Rochester would be very angry, &c. "Some natural tears she

shed" on being told this; but as I began to look very grave, she

consented at last to wipe them.

A joyous stir was now audible in the hall: gentlemen's deep tones

and ladies' silvery accents blent harmoniously together, and

distinguishable above all, though not loud, was the sonorous voice

of the master of Thornfield Hall, welcoming his fair and gallant

guests under its roof. Then light steps ascended the stairs; and

there was a tripping through the gallery, and soft cheerful laughs,

and opening and closing doors, and, for a time, a hush.

"Elles changent de toilettes," said Adele; who, listening

attentively, had followed every movement; and she sighed.

"Chez maman," said she, "quand il y avait du monde, je le suivais

partout, au salon et e leurs chambres; souvent je regardais les

femmes de chambre coiffer et habiller les dames, et c'etait si

amusant: comme cela on apprend."

"Don't you feel hungry, Adele?"

"Mais oui, mademoiselle: voile cinq ou six heures que nous n'avons

pas mange."

"Well now, while the ladies are in their rooms, I will venture down

and get you something to eat."

And issuing from my asylum with precaution, I sought a back-stairs

which conducted directly to the kitchen. All in that region was

fire and commotion; the soup and fish were in the last stage of

projection, and the cook hung over her crucibles in a frame of mind

and body threatening spontaneous combustion. In the servants' hall

two coachmen and three gentlemen's gentlemen stood or sat round the

fire; the abigails, I suppose, were upstairs with their mistresses;

the new servants, that had been hired from Millcote, were bustling

about everywhere. Threading this chaos, I at last reached the

larder; there I took possession of a cold chicken, a roll of bread,

some tarts, a plate or two and a knife and fork: with this booty I

made a hasty retreat. I had regained the gallery, and was just

shutting the back-door behind me, when an accelerated hum warned me

that the ladies were about to issue from their chambers. I could

not proceed to the schoolroom without passing some of their doors,

and running the risk of being surprised with my cargo of victualage;

so I stood still at this end, which, being windowless, was dark:

quite dark now, for the sun was set and twilight gathering.

Presently the chambers gave up their fair tenants one after another:

each came out gaily and airily, with dress that gleamed lustrous

through the dusk. For a moment they stood grouped together at the

other extremity of the gallery, conversing in a key of sweet subdued

vivacity: they then descended the staircase almost as noiselessly

as a bright mist rolls down a hill. Their collective appearance had

left on me an impression of high-born elegance, such as I had never

before received.

I found Adele peeping through the schoolroom door, which she held

ajar. "What beautiful ladies!" cried she in English. "Oh, I wish I

might go to them! Do you think Mr. Rochester will send for us by-

and-bye, after dinner?"

"No, indeed, I don't; Mr. Rochester has something else to think

about. Never mind the ladies to-night; perhaps you will see them

to-morrow: here is your dinner."

She was really hungry, so the chicken and tarts served to divert her

attention for a time. It was well I secured this forage, or both

she, I, and Sophie, to whom I conveyed a share of our repast, would

have run a chance of getting no dinner at all: every one downstairs

was too much engaged to think of us. The dessert was not carried

out till after nine and at ten footmen were still running to and fro

with trays and coffee-cups. I allowed Adele to sit up much later

than usual; for she declared she could not possibly go to sleep

while the doors kept opening and shutting below, and people bustling

about. Besides, she added, a message might possibly come from Mr.

Rochester when she was undressed; "et alors quel dommage!"

I told her stories as long as she would listen to them; and then for

a change I took her out into the gallery. The hall lamp was now

lit, and it amused her to look over the balustrade and watch the

servants passing backwards and forwards. When the evening was far

advanced, a sound of music issued from the drawing-room, whither the

piano had been removed; Adele and I sat down on the top step of the

stairs to listen. Presently a voice blent with the rich tones of

the instrument; it was a lady who sang, and very sweet her notes

were. The solo over, a duet followed, and then a glee: a joyous

conversational murmur filled up the intervals. I listened long:

suddenly I discovered that my ear was wholly intent on analysing the

mingled sounds, and trying to discriminate amidst the confusion of

accents those of Mr. Rochester; and when it caught them, which it

soon did, it found a further task in framing the tones, rendered by

distance inarticulate, into words.

The clock struck eleven. I looked at Adele, whose head leant

against my shoulder; her eyes were waxing heavy, so I took her up in

my arms and carried her off to bed. It was near one before the

gentlemen and ladies sought their chambers.

The next day was as fine as its predecessor: it was devoted by the

party to an excursion to some site in the neighbourhood. They set

out early in the forenoon, some on horseback, the rest in carriages;

I witnessed both the departure and the return. Miss Ingram, as

before, was the only lady equestrian; and, as before, Mr. Rochester

galloped at her side; the two rode a little apart from the rest. I

pointed out this circumstance to Mrs. Fairfax, who was standing at

the window with me -

"You said it was not likely they should think of being married,"

said I, "but you see Mr. Rochester evidently prefers her to any of

the other ladies."

"Yes, I daresay: no doubt he admires her."

"And she him," I added; "look how she leans her head towards him as

if she were conversing confidentially; I wish I could see her face;

I have never had a glimpse of it yet."

"You will see her this evening," answered Mrs. Fairfax. "I happened

to remark to Mr. Rochester how much Adele wished to be introduced to

the ladies, and he said: 'Oh! let her come into the drawing-room

after dinner; and request Miss Eyre to accompany her.'"

"Yes; he said that from mere politeness: I need not go, I am sure,"

I answered.

"Well, I observed to him that as you were unused to company, I did

not think you would like appearing before so gay a party--all

strangers; and he replied, in his quick way--'Nonsense! If she

objects, tell her it is my particular wish; and if she resists, say

I shall come and fetch her in case of contumacy.'"

"I will not give him that trouble," I answered. "I will go, if no

better may be; but I don't like it. Shall you be there, Mrs.

Fairfax?"

"No; I pleaded off, and he admitted my plea. I'll tell you how to

manage so as to avoid the embarrassment of making a formal entrance,

which is the most disagreeable part of the business. You must go

into the drawing-room while it is empty, before the ladies leave the

dinner-table; choose your seat in any quiet nook you like; you need

not stay long after the gentlemen come in, unless you please: just

let Mr. Rochester see you are there and then slip away--nobody will

notice you."

"Will these people remain long, do you think?"

"Perhaps two or three weeks, certainly not more. After the Easter

recess, Sir George Lynn, who was lately elected member for Millcote,

will have to go up to town and take his seat; I daresay Mr.

Rochester will accompany him: it surprises me that he has already

made so protracted a stay at Thornfield."

It was with some trepidation that I perceived the hour approach when

I was to repair with my charge to the drawing-room. Adele had been

in a state of ecstasy all day, after hearing she was to be presented

to the ladies in the evening; and it was not till Sophie commenced

the operation of dressing her that she sobered down. Then the

importance of the process quickly steadied her, and by the time she

had her curls arranged in well-smoothed, drooping clusters, her pink

satin frock put on, her long sash tied, and her lace mittens

adjusted, she looked as grave as any judge. No need to warn her not

to disarrange her attire: when she was dressed, she sat demurely

down in her little chair, taking care previously to lift up the

satin skirt for fear she should crease it, and assured me she would

not stir thence till I was ready. This I quickly was: my best

dress (the silver-grey one, purchased for Miss Temple's wedding, and

never worn since) was soon put on; my hair was soon smoothed; my

sole ornament, the pearl brooch, soon assumed. We descended.

Fortunately there was another entrance to the drawing-room than that

through the saloon where they were all seated at dinner. We found

the apartment vacant; a large fire burning silently on the marble

hearth, and wax candles shining in bright solitude, amid the

exquisite flowers with which the tables were adorned. The crimson

curtain hung before the arch: slight as was the separation this

drapery formed from the party in the adjoining saloon, they spoke in

so low a key that nothing of their conversation could be

distinguished beyond a soothing murmur.

Adele, who appeared to be still under the influence of a most

solemnising impression, sat down, without a word, on the footstool I

pointed out to her. I retired to a window-seat, and taking a book

from a table near, endeavoured to read. Adele brought her stool to

my feet; ere long she touched my knee.

"What is it, Adele?"

"Est-ce que je ne puis pas prendrie une seule de ces fleurs

magnifiques, mademoiselle? Seulement pour completer ma toilette."

"You think too much of your 'toilette,' Adele: but you may have a

flower." And I took a rose from a vase and fastened it in her sash.

She sighed a sigh of ineffable satisfaction, as if her cup of

happiness were now full. I turned my face away to conceal a smile I

could not suppress: there was something ludicrous as well as

painful in the little Parisienne's earnest and innate devotion to

matters of dress.

A soft sound of rising now became audible; the curtain was swept

back from the arch; through it appeared the dining-room, with its

lit lustre pouring down light on the silver and glass of a

magnificent dessert-service covering a long table; a band of ladies

stood in the opening; they entered, and the curtain fell behind

them.

There were but eight; yet, somehow, as they flocked in, they gave

the impression of a much larger number. Some of them were very

tall; many were dressed in white; and all had a sweeping amplitude

of array that seemed to magnify their persons as a mist magnifies

the moon. I rose and curtseyed to them: one or two bent their

heads in return, the others only stared at me.

They dispersed about the room, reminding me, by the lightness and

buoyancy of their movements, of a flock of white plumy birds. Some

of them threw themselves in half-reclining positions on the sofas

and ottomans: some bent over the tables and examined the flowers

and books: the rest gathered in a group round the fire: all talked

in a low but clear tone which seemed habitual to them. I knew their

names afterwards, and may as well mention them now.

First, there was Mrs. Eshton and two of her daughters. She had

evidently been a handsome woman, and was well preserved still. Of

her daughters, the eldest, Amy, was rather little: naive, and

child-like in face and manner, and piquant in form; her white muslin

dress and blue sash became her well. The second, Louisa, was taller

and more elegant in figure; with a very pretty face, of that order

the French term minois chiffone: both sisters were fair as lilies.

Lady Lynn was a large and stout personage of about forty, very

erect, very haughty-looking, richly dressed in a satin robe of

changeful sheen: her dark hair shone glossily under the shade of an

azure plume, and within the circlet of a band of gems.

Mrs. Colonel Dent was less showy; but, I thought, more lady-like.

She had a slight figure, a pale, gentle face, and fair hair. Her

black satin dress, her scarf of rich foreign lace, and her pearl

ornaments, pleased me better than the rainbow radiance of the titled

dame.

But the three most distinguished--partly, perhaps, because the

tallest figures of the band--were the Dowager Lady Ingram and her

daughters, Blanche and Mary. They were all three of the loftiest

stature of women. The Dowager might be between forty and fifty:

her shape was still fine; her hair (by candle-light at least) still

black; her teeth, too, were still apparently perfect. Most people

would have termed her a splendid woman of her age: and so she was,

no doubt, physically speaking; but then there was an expression of

almost insupportable haughtiness in her bearing and countenance.

She had Roman features and a double chin, disappearing into a throat

like a pillar: these features appeared to me not only inflated and

darkened, but even furrowed with pride; and the chin was sustained

by the same principle, in a position of almost preternatural

erectness. She had, likewise, a fierce and a hard eye: it reminded

me of Mrs. Reed's; she mouthed her words in speaking; her voice was

deep, its inflections very pompous, very dogmatical,--very

intolerable, in short. A crimson velvet robe, and a shawl turban of

some gold-wrought Indian fabric, invested her (I suppose she

thought) with a truly imperial dignity.

Blanche and Mary were of equal stature,--straight and tall as

poplars. Mary was too slim for her height, but Blanche was moulded

like a Dian. I regarded her, of course, with special interest.

First, I wished to see whether her appearance accorded with Mrs.

Fairfax's description; secondly, whether it at all resembled the

fancy miniature I had painted of her; and thirdly--it will out!--

whether it were such as I should fancy likely to suit Mr.

Rochester's taste.

As far as person went, she answered point for point, both to my

picture and Mrs. Fairfax's description. The noble bust, the sloping

shoulders, the graceful neck, the dark eyes and black ringlets were

all there;--but her face? Her face was like her mother's; a

youthful unfurrowed likeness: the same low brow, the same high

features, the same pride. It was not, however, so saturnine a

pride! she laughed continually; her laugh was satirical, and so was

the habitual expression of her arched and haughty lip.

Genius is said to be self-conscious. I cannot tell whether Miss

Ingram was a genius, but she was self-conscious--remarkably self-

conscious indeed. She entered into a discourse on botany with the

gentle Mrs. Dent. It seemed Mrs. Dent had not studied that science:

though, as she said, she liked flowers, "especially wild ones;" Miss

Ingram had, and she ran over its vocabulary with an air. I

presently perceived she was (what is vernacularly termed) TRAILING

Mrs. Dent; that is, playing on her ignorance--her TRAIL might be

clever, but it was decidedly not good-natured. She played: her

execution was brilliant; she sang: her voice was fine; she talked

French apart to her mamma; and she talked it well, with fluency and

with a good accent.

Mary had a milder and more open countenance than Blanche; softer

features too, and a skin some shades fairer (Miss Ingram was dark as

a Spaniard)--but Mary was deficient in life: her face lacked

expression, her eye lustre; she had nothing to say, and having once

taken her seat, remained fixed like a statue in its niche. The

sisters were both attired in spotless white.

And did I now think Miss Ingram such a choice as Mr. Rochester would

be likely to make? I could not tell--I did not know his taste in

female beauty. If he liked the majestic, she was the very type of

majesty: then she was accomplished, sprightly. Most gentlemen

would admire her, I thought; and that he DID admire her, I already

seemed to have obtained proof: to remove the last shade of doubt,

it remained but to see them together.

You are not to suppose, reader, that Adele has all this time been

sitting motionless on the stool at my feet: no; when the ladies

entered, she rose, advanced to meet them, made a stately reverence,

and said with gravity -

"Bon jour, mesdames."

And Miss Ingram had looked down at her with a mocking air, and

exclaimed, "Oh, what a little puppet!"

Lady Lynn had remarked, "It is Mr. Rochester's ward, I suppose--the

little French girl he was speaking of."

Mrs. Dent had kindly taken her hand, and given her a kiss.

Amy and Louisa Eshton had cried out simultaneously--"What a love of

a child!"

And then they had called her to a sofa, where she now sat, ensconced

between them, chattering alternately in French and broken English;

absorbing not only the young ladies' attention, but that of Mrs.

Eshton and Lady Lynn, and getting spoilt to her heart's content.

At last coffee is brought in, and the gentlemen are summoned. I sit

in the shade--if any shade there be in this brilliantly-lit

apartment; the window-curtain half hides me. Again the arch yawns;

they come. The collective appearance of the gentlemen, like that of

the ladies, is very imposing: they are all costumed in black; most

of them are tall, some young. Henry and Frederick Lynn are very

dashing sparks indeed; and Colonel Dent is a fine soldierly man.

Mr. Eshton, the magistrate of the district, is gentleman-like: his

hair is quite white, his eyebrows and whiskers still dark, which

gives him something of the appearance of a "pere noble de theatre."

Lord Ingram, like his sisters, is very tall; like them, also, he is

handsome; but he shares Mary's apathetic and listless look: he

seems to have more length of limb than vivacity of blood or vigour

of brain.

And where is Mr. Rochester?

He comes in last: I am not looking at the arch, yet I see him

enter. I try to concentrate my attention on those netting-needles,

on the meshes of the purse I am forming--I wish to think only of the

work I have in my hands, to see only the silver beads and silk

threads that lie in my lap; whereas, I distinctly behold his figure,

and I inevitably recall the moment when I last saw it; just after I

had rendered him, what he deemed, an essential service, and he,

holding my hand, and looking down on my face, surveyed me with eyes

that revealed a heart full and eager to overflow; in whose emotions

I had a part. How near had I approached him at that moment! What

had occurred since, calculated to change his and my relative

positions? Yet now, how distant, how far estranged we were! So far

estranged, that I did not expect him to come and speak to me. I did

not wonder, when, without looking at me, he took a seat at the other

side of the room, and began conversing with some of the ladies.

No sooner did I see that his attention was riveted on them, and that

I might gaze without being observed, than my eyes were drawn

involuntarily to his face; I could not keep their lids under

control: they would rise, and the irids would fix on him. I

looked, and had an acute pleasure in looking,--a precious yet

poignant pleasure; pure gold, with a steely point of agony: a

pleasure like what the thirst-perishing man might feel who knows the

well to which he has crept is poisoned, yet stoops and drinks divine

draughts nevertheless.

Most true is it that "beauty is in the eye of the gazer." My

master's colourless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and

jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth,--all

energy, decision, will,--were not beautiful, according to rule; but

they were more than beautiful to me; they were full of an interest,

an influence that quite mastered me,--that took my feelings from my

own power and fettered them in his. I had not intended to love him;

the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the

germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of

him, they spontaneously arrived, green and strong! He made me love

him without looking at me.

I compared him with his guests. What was the gallant grace of the

Lynns, the languid elegance of Lord Ingram,--even the military

distinction of Colonel Dent, contrasted with his look of native pith

and genuine power? I had no sympathy in their appearance, their

expression: yet I could imagine that most observers would call them

attractive, handsome, imposing; while they would pronounce Mr.

Rochester at once harsh-featured and melancholy-looking. I saw them

smile, laugh--it was nothing; the light of the candles had as much

soul in it as their smile; the tinkle of the bell as much

significance as their laugh. I saw Mr. Rochester smile:- his stern

features softened; his eye grew both brilliant and gentle, its ray

both searching and sweet. He was talking, at the moment, to Louisa

and Amy Eshton. I wondered to see them receive with calm that look

which seemed to me so penetrating: I expected their eyes to fall,

their colour to rise under it; yet I was glad when I found they were

in no sense moved. "He is not to them what he is to me," I thought:

"he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine;--I am sure he

is--I feel akin to him--I understand the language of his countenance

and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have

something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that

assimilates me mentally to him. Did I say, a few days since, that I

had nothing to do with him but to receive my salary at his hands?

Did I forbid myself to think of him in any other light than as a

paymaster? Blasphemy against nature! Every good, true, vigorous

feeling I have gathers impulsively round him. I know I must conceal

my sentiments: I must smother hope; I must remember that he cannot

care much for me. For when I say that I am of his kind, I do not

mean that I have his force to influence, and his spell to attract; I

mean only that I have certain tastes and feelings in common with

him. I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever

sundered:- and yet, while I breathe and think, I must love him."

Coffee is handed. The ladies, since the gentlemen entered, have

become lively as larks; conversation waxes brisk and merry. Colonel

Dent and Mr. Eshton argue on politics; their wives listen. The two

proud dowagers, Lady Lynn and Lady Ingram, confabulate together.

Sir George--whom, by-the-bye, I have forgotten to describe,--a very

big, and very fresh-looking country gentleman, stands before their

sofa, coffee-cup in hand, and occasionally puts in a word. Mr.

Frederick Lynn has taken a seat beside Mary Ingram, and is showing

her the engravings of a splendid volume: she looks, smiles now and

then, but apparently says little. The tall and phlegmatic Lord

Ingram leans with folded arms on the chair-back of the little and

lively Amy Eshton; she glances up at him, and chatters like a wren:

she likes him better than she does Mr. Rochester. Henry Lynn has

taken possession of an ottoman at the feet of Louisa: Adele shares

it with him: he is trying to talk French with her, and Louisa

laughs at his blunders. With whom will Blanche Ingram pair? She is

standing alone at the table, bending gracefully over an album. She

seems waiting to be sought; but she will not wait too long: she

herself selects a mate.

Mr. Rochester, having quitted the Eshtons, stands on the hearth as

solitary as she stands by the table: she confronts him, taking her

station on the opposite side of the mantelpiece.

"Mr. Rochester, I thought you were not fond of children?"

"Nor am I."

"Then, what induced you to take charge of such a little doll as

that?" (pointing to Adele). "Where did you pick her up?"

"I did not pick her up; she was left on my hands."

"You should have sent her to school."

"I could not afford it: schools are so dear."

"Why, I suppose you have a governess for her: I saw a person with

her just now--is she gone? Oh, no! there she is still, behind the

window-curtain. You pay her, of course; I should think it quite as

expensive,--more so; for you have them both to keep in addition."

I feared--or should I say, hoped?--the allusion to me would make Mr.

Rochester glance my way; and I involuntarily shrank farther into the

shade: but he never turned his eyes.

"I have not considered the subject," said he indifferently, looking

straight before him.

"No, you men never do consider economy and common sense. You should

hear mama on the chapter of governesses: Mary and I have had, I

should think, a dozen at least in our day; half of them detestable

and the rest ridiculous, and all incubi--were they not, mama?"

"Did you speak, my own?"

The young lady thus claimed as the dowager's special property,

reiterated her question with an explanation.

"My dearest, don't mention governesses; the word makes me nervous.

I have suffered a martyrdom from their incompetency and caprice. I

thank Heaven I have now done with them!"

Mrs. Dent here bent over to the pious lady and whispered something

in her ear; I suppose, from the answer elicited, it was a reminder

that one of the anathematised race was present.

"Tant pis!" said her Ladyship, "I hope it may do her good!" Then,

in a lower tone, but still loud enough for me to hear, "I noticed

her; I am a judge of physiognomy, and in hers I see all the faults

of her class."

"What are they, madam?" inquired Mr. Rochester aloud.

"I will tell you in your private ear," replied she, wagging her

turban three times with portentous significancy.

"But my curiosity will be past its appetite; it craves food now."

"Ask Blanche; she is nearer you than I."

"Oh, don't refer him to me, mama! I have just one word to say of

the whole tribe; they are a nuisance. Not that I ever suffered much

from them; I took care to turn the tables. What tricks Theodore and

I used to play on our Miss Wilsons, and Mrs. Greys, and Madame

Jouberts! Mary was always too sleepy to join in a plot with spirit.

The best fun was with Madame Joubert: Miss Wilson was a poor sickly

thing, lachrymose and low-spirited, not worth the trouble of

vanquishing, in short; and Mrs. Grey was coarse and insensible; no

blow took effect on her. But poor Madame Joubert! I see her yet in

her raging passions, when we had driven her to extremities--spilt

our tea, crumbled our bread and butter, tossed our books up to the

ceiling, and played a charivari with the ruler and desk, the fender

and fire-irons. Theodore, do you remember those merry days?"

"Yaas, to be sure I do," drawled Lord Ingram; "and the poor old

stick used to cry out 'Oh you villains childs!'--and then we

sermonised her on the presumption of attempting to teach such clever

blades as we were, when she was herself so ignorant."

"We did; and, Tedo, you know, I helped you in prosecuting (or

persecuting) your tutor, whey-faced Mr. Vining--the parson in the

pip, as we used to call him. He and Miss Wilson took the liberty of

falling in love with each other--at least Tedo and I thought so; we

surprised sundry tender glances and sighs which we interpreted as

tokens of 'la belle passion,' and I promise you the public soon had

the benefit of our discovery; we employed it as a sort of lever to

hoist our dead-weights from the house. Dear mama, there, as soon as

she got an inkling of the business, found out that it was of an

immoral tendency. Did you not, my lady-mother?"

"Certainly, my best. And I was quite right: depend on that: there

are a thousand reasons why liaisons between governesses and tutors

should never be tolerated a moment in any well-regulated house;

firstly--"

"Oh, gracious, mama! Spare us the enumeration! Au reste, we all

know them: danger of bad example to innocence of childhood;

distractions and consequent neglect of duty on the part of the

attached--mutual alliance and reliance; confidence thence resulting-

-insolence accompanying--mutiny and general blow-up. Am I right,

Baroness Ingram, of Ingram Park?"

"My lily-flower, you are right now, as always."

"Then no more need be said: change the subject."

Amy Eshton, not hearing or not heeding this dictum, joined in with

her soft, infantine tone: "Louisa and I used to quiz our governess

too; but she was such a good creature, she would bear anything:

nothing put her out. She was never cross with us; was she, Louisa?"

"No, never: we might do what we pleased; ransack her desk and her

workbox, and turn her drawers inside out; and she was so good-

natured, she would give as anything we asked for."

"I suppose, now," said Miss Ingram, curling her lip sarcastically,

"we shall have an abstract of the memoirs of all the governesses

extant: in order to avert such a visitation, I again move the

introduction of a new topic. Mr. Rochester, do you second my

motion?"

"Madam, I support you on this point, as on every other."

"Then on me be the onus of bringing it forward. Signior Eduardo,

are you in voice to-night?"

"Donna Bianca, if you command it, I will be."

"Then, signior, I lay on you my sovereign behest to furbish up your

lungs and other vocal organs, as they will be wanted on my royal

service."

"Who would not be the Rizzio of so divine a Mary?"

"A fig for Rizzio!" cried she, tossing her head with all its curls,

as she moved to the piano. "It is my opinion the fiddler David must

have been an insipid sort of fellow; I like black Bothwell better:

to my mind a man is nothing without a spice of the devil in him; and

history may say what it will of James Hepburn, but I have a notion,

he was just the sort of wild, fierce, bandit hero whom I could have

consented to gift with my hand."

"Gentlemen, you hear! Now which of you most resembles Bothwell?"

cried Mr. Rochester.

"I should say the preference lies with you," responded Colonel Dent.

"On my honour, I am much obliged to you," was the reply.

Miss Ingram, who had now seated herself with proud grace at the

piano, spreading out her snowy robes in queenly amplitude, commenced

a brilliant prelude; talking meantime. She appeared to be on her

high horse to-night; both her words and her air seemed intended to

excite not only the admiration, but the amazement of her auditors:

she was evidently bent on striking them as something very dashing

and daring indeed.

"Oh, I am so sick of the young men of the present day!" exclaimed

she, rattling away at the instrument. "Poor, puny things, not fit

to stir a step beyond papa's park gates: nor to go even so far

without mama's permission and guardianship! Creatures so absorbed

in care about their pretty faces, and their white hands, and their

small feet; as if a man had anything to do with beauty! As if

loveliness were not the special prerogative of woman--her legitimate

appanage and heritage! I grant an ugly WOMAN is a blot on the fair

face of creation; but as to the GENTLEMEN, let them be solicitous to

possess only strength and valour: let their motto be:- Hunt, shoot,

and fight: the rest is not worth a fillip. Such should be my

device, were I a man."

"Whenever I marry," she continued after a pause which none

interrupted, "I am resolved my husband shall not be a rival, but a

foil to me. I will suffer no competitor near the throne; I shall

exact an undivided homage: his devotions shall not be shared

between me and the shape he sees in his mirror. Mr. Rochester, now

sing, and I will play for you."

"I am all obedience," was the response.

"Here then is a Corsair-song. Know that I doat on Corsairs; and for

that reason, sing it con spirito."

"Commands from Miss Ingram's lips would put spirit into a mug of

milk and water."

"Take care, then: if you don't please me, I will shame you by

showing how such things SHOULD be done."

"That is offering a premium on incapacity: I shall now endeavour to

fail."

"Gardez-vous en bien! If you err wilfully, I shall devise a

proportionate punishment."

"Miss Ingram ought to be clement, for she has it in her power to

inflict a chastisement beyond mortal endurance."

"Ha! explain!" commanded the lady.

"Pardon me, madam: no need of explanation; your own fine sense must

inform you that one of your frowns would be a sufficient substitute

for capital punishment."

"Sing!" said she, and again touching the piano, she commenced an

accompaniment in spirited style.

"Now is my time to slip away," thought I: but the tones that then

severed the air arrested me. Mrs. Fairfax had said Mr. Rochester

possessed a fine voice: he did--a mellow, powerful bass, into which

he threw his own feeling, his own force; finding a way through the

ear to the heart, and there waking sensation strangely. I waited

till the last deep and full vibration had expired--till the tide of

talk, checked an instant, had resumed its flow; I then quitted my

sheltered corner and made my exit by the side-door, which was

fortunately near. Thence a narrow passage led into the hall: in

crossing it, I perceived my sandal was loose; I stopped to tie it,

kneeling down for that purpose on the mat at the foot of the

staircase. I heard the dining-room door unclose; a gentleman came

out; rising hastily, I stood face to face with him: it was Mr.

Rochester.

"How do you do?" he asked.

"I am very well, sir."

"Why did you not come and speak to me in the room?"

I thought I might have retorted the question on him who put it: but

I would not take that freedom. I answered -

"I did not wish to disturb you, as you seemed engaged, sir."

"What have you been doing during my absence?"

"Nothing particular; teaching Adele as usual."

"And getting a good deal paler than you were--as I saw at first

sight. What is the matter?"

"Nothing at all, sir."

"Did you take any cold that night you half drowned me?"

"Not she least."

"Return to the drawing-room: you are deserting too early."

"I am tired, sir."

He looked at me for a minute.

"And a little depressed," he said. "What about? Tell me."

"Nothing--nothing, sir. I am not depressed."

"But I affirm that you are: so much depressed that a few more words

would bring tears to your eyes--indeed, they are there now, shining

and swimming; and a bead has slipped from the lash and fallen on to

the flag. If I had time, and was not in mortal dread of some

prating prig of a servant passing, I would know what all this means.

Well, to-night I excuse you; but understand that so long as my

visitors stay, I expect you to appear in the drawing-room every

evening; it is my wish; don't neglect it. Now go, and send Sophie

for Adele. Good-night, my--" He stopped, bit his lip, and abruptly

left me.

 

CHAPTER XVIII

Merry days were these at Thornfield Hall; and busy days too: how

different from the first three months of stillness, monotony, and

solitude I had passed beneath its roof! All sad feelings seemed now

driven from the house, all gloomy associations forgotten: there was

life everywhere, movement all day long. You could not now traverse

the gallery, once so hushed, nor enter the front chambers, once so

tenantless, without encountering a smart lady's-maid or a dandy

valet.

The kitchen, the butler's pantry, the servants' hall, the entrance

hall, were equally alive; and the saloons were only left void and

still when the blue sky and halcyon sunshine of the genial spring

weather called their occupants out into the grounds. Even when that

weather was broken, and continuous rain set in for some days, no

damp seemed cast over enjoyment: indoor amusements only became more

lively and varied, in consequence of the stop put to outdoor gaiety.

I wondered what they were going to do the first evening a change of

entertainment was proposed: they spoke of "playing charades," but

in my ignorance I did not understand the term. The servants were

called in, the dining-room tables wheeled away, the lights otherwise

disposed, the chairs placed in a semicircle opposite the arch.

While Mr. Rochester and the other gentlemen directed these

alterations, the ladies were running up and down stairs ringing for

their maids. Mrs. Fairfax was summoned to give information

respecting the resources of the house in shawls, dresses, draperies

of any kind; and certain wardrobes of the third storey were

ransacked, and their contents, in the shape of brocaded and hooped

petticoats, satin sacques, black modes, lace lappets, &c., were

brought down in armfuls by the abigails; then a selection was made,

and such things as were chosen were carried to the boudoir within

the drawing-room.

Meantime, Mr. Rochester had again summoned the ladies round him, and

was selecting certain of their number to be of his party. "Miss

Ingram is mine, of course," said he: afterwards he named the two

Misses Eshton, and Mrs. Dent. He looked at me: I happened to be

near him, as I had been fastening the clasp of Mrs. Dent's bracelet,

which had got loose.

"Will you play?" he asked. I shook my head. He did not insist,

which I rather feared he would have done; he allowed me to return

quietly to my usual seat.

He and his aids now withdrew behind the curtain: the other party,

which was headed by Colonel Dent, sat down on the crescent of

chairs. One of the gentlemen, Mr. Eshton, observing me, seemed to

propose that I should be asked to join them; but Lady Ingram

instantly negatived the notion.

"No," I heard her say: "she looks too stupid for any game of the

sort."

Ere long a bell tinkled, and the curtain drew up. Within the arch,

the bulky figure of Sir George Lynn, whom Mr. Rochester had likewise

chosen, was seen enveloped in a white sheet: before him, on a

table, lay open a large book; and at his side stood Amy Eshton,

draped in Mr. Rochester's cloak, and holding a book in her hand.

Somebody, unseen, rang the bell merrily; then Adele (who had

insisted on being one of her guardian's party), bounded forward,

scattering round her the contents of a basket of flowers she carried

on her arm. Then appeared the magnificent figure of Miss Ingram,

clad in white, a long veil on her head, and a wreath of roses round

her brow; by her side walked Mr. Rochester, and together they drew

near the table. They knelt; while Mrs. Dent and Louisa Eshton,

dressed also in white, took up their stations behind them. A

ceremony followed, in dumb show, in which it was easy to recognise

the pantomime of a marriage. At its termination, Colonel Dent and

his party consulted in whispers for two minutes, then the Colonel

called out -

"Bride!" Mr. Rochester bowed, and the curtain fell.

A considerable interval elapsed before it again rose. Its second

rising displayed a more elaborately prepared scene than the last.

The drawing-room, as I have before observed, was raised two steps

above the dining-room, and on the top of the upper step, placed a

yard or two back within the room, appeared a large marble basin--

which I recognised as an ornament of the conservatory--where it

usually stood, surrounded by exotics, and tenanted by gold fish--and

whence it must have been transported with some trouble, on account

of its size and weight.

Seated on the carpet, by the side of this basin, was seen Mr.

Rochester, costumed in shawls, with a turban on his head. His dark

eyes and swarthy skin and Paynim features suited the costume

exactly: he looked the very model of an Eastern emir, an agent or a

victim of the bowstring. Presently advanced into view Miss Ingram.

She, too, was attired in oriental fashion: a crimson scarf tied

sash-like round the waist: an embroidered handkerchief knotted

about her temples; her beautifully-moulded arms bare, one of them

upraised in the act of supporting a pitcher, poised gracefully on

her head. Both her cast of form and feature, her complexion and her

general air, suggested the idea of some Israelitish princess of the

patriarchal days; and such was doubtless the character she intended

to represent.

She approached the basin, and bent over it as if to fill her

pitcher; she again lifted it to her head. The personage on the

well-brink now seemed to accost her; to make some request:- "She

hasted, let down her pitcher on her hand, and gave him to drink."

From the bosom of his robe he then produced a casket, opened it and

showed magnificent bracelets and earrings; she acted astonishment

and admiration; kneeling, he laid the treasure at her feet;

incredulity and delight were expressed by her looks and gestures;

the stranger fastened the bracelets on her arms and the rings in her

ears. It was Eliezer and Rebecca: the camels only were wanting.

The divining party again laid their heads together: apparently they

could not agree about the word or syllable the scene illustrated.

Colonel Dent, their spokesman, demanded "the tableau of the whole;"

whereupon the curtain again descended.

On its third rising only a portion of the drawing-room was

disclosed; the rest being concealed by a screen, hung with some sort

of dark and coarse drapery. The marble basin was removed; in its

place, stood a deal table and a kitchen chair: these objects were

visible by a very dim light proceeding from a horn lantern, the wax

candles being all extinguished.

Amidst this sordid scene, sat a man with his clenched hands resting

on his knees, and his eyes bent on the ground. I knew Mr.

Rochester; though the begrimed face, the disordered dress (his coat

hanging loose from one arm, as if it had been almost torn from his

back in a scuffle), the desperate and scowling countenance, the

rough, bristling hair might well have disguised him. As he moved, a

chain clanked; to his wrists were attached fetters.

"Bridewell!" exclaimed Colonel Dent, and the charade was solved.

A sufficient interval having elapsed for the performers to resume

their ordinary costume, they re-entered the dining-room. Mr.

Rochester led in Miss Ingram; she was complimenting him on his

acting.

"Do you know," said she, "that, of the three characters, I liked you

in the last best? Oh, had you but lived a few years earlier, what a

gallant gentleman-highwayman you would have made!"

"Is all the soot washed from my face?" he asked, turning it towards

her.

"Alas! yes: the more's the pity! Nothing could be more becoming to

your complexion than that ruffian's rouge."

"You would like a hero of the road then?"

"An English hero of the road would be the next best thing to an

Italian bandit; and that could only be surpassed by a Levantine

pirate."

"Well, whatever I am, remember you are my wife; we were married an

hour since, in the presence of all these witnesses." She giggled,

and her colour rose.

"Now, Dent," continued Mr. Rochester, "it is your turn." And as the

other party withdrew, he and his band took the vacated seats. Miss

Ingram placed herself at her leader's right hand; the other diviners

filled the chairs on each side of him and her. I did not now watch

the actors; I no longer waited with interest for the curtain to

rise; my attention was absorbed by the spectators; my eyes, erewhile

fixed on the arch, were now irresistibly attracted to the semicircle

of chairs. What charade Colonel Dent and his party played, what

word they chose, how they acquitted themselves, I no longer

remember; but I still see the consultation which followed each

scene: I see Mr. Rochester turn to Miss Ingram, and Miss Ingram to

him; I see her incline her head towards him, till the jetty curls

almost touch his shoulder and wave against his cheek; I hear their

mutual whisperings; I recall their interchanged glances; and

something even of the feeling roused by the spectacle returns in

memory at this moment.

I have told you, reader, that I had learnt to love Mr. Rochester: I

could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased

to notice me--because I might pass hours in his presence, and he

would never once turn his eyes in my direction--because I saw all

his attentions appropriated by a great lady, who scorned to touch me

with the hem of her robes as she passed; who, if ever her dark and

imperious eye fell on me by chance, would withdraw it instantly as

from an object too mean to merit observation. I could not unlove

him, because I felt sure he would soon marry this very lady--because

I read daily in her a proud security in his intentions respecting

her--because I witnessed hourly in him a style of courtship which,

if careless and choosing rather to be sought than to seek, was yet,

in its very carelessness, captivating, and in its very pride,

irresistible.

There was nothing to cool or banish love in these circumstances,

though much to create despair. Much too, you will think, reader, to

engender jealousy: if a woman, in my position, could presume to be

jealous of a woman in Miss Ingram's. But I was not jealous: or

very rarely;--the nature of the pain I suffered could not be

explained by that word. Miss Ingram was a mark beneath jealousy:

she was too inferior to excite the feeling. Pardon the seeming

paradox; I mean what I say. She was very showy, but she was not

genuine: she had a fine person, many brilliant attainments; but her

mind was poor, her heart barren by nature: nothing bloomed

spontaneously on that soil; no unforced natural fruit delighted by

its freshness. She was not good; she was not original: she used to

repeat sounding phrases from books: she never offered, nor had, an

opinion of her own. She advocated a high tone of sentiment; but she

did not know the sensations of sympathy and pity; tenderness and

truth were not in her. Too often she betrayed this, by the undue

vent she gave to a spiteful antipathy she had conceived against

little Adele: pushing her away with some contumelious epithet if

she happened to approach her; sometimes ordering her from the room,

and always treating her with coldness and acrimony. Other eyes

besides mine watched these manifestations of character--watched them

closely, keenly, shrewdly. Yes; the future bridegroom, Mr.

Rochester himself, exercised over his intended a ceaseless

surveillance; and it was from this sagacity--this guardedness of

his--this perfect, clear consciousness of his fair one's defects--

this obvious absence of passion in his sentiments towards her, that

my ever-torturing pain arose.

I saw he was going to marry her, for family, perhaps political

reasons, because her rank and connections suited him; I felt he had

not given her his love, and that her qualifications were ill adapted

to win from him that treasure. This was the point--this was where

the nerve was touched and teased--this was where the fever was

sustained and fed: SHE COULD NOT CHARM HIM.

If she had managed the victory at once, and he had yielded and

sincerely laid his heart at her feet, I should have covered my face,

turned to the wall, and (figuratively) have died to them. If Miss

Ingram had been a good and noble woman, endowed with force, fervour,

kindness, sense, I should have had one vital struggle with two

tigers--jealousy and despair: then, my heart torn out and devoured,

I should have admired her--acknowledged her excellence, and been

quiet for the rest of my days: and the more absolute her

superiority, the deeper would have been my admiration--the more

truly tranquil my quiescence. But as matters really stood, to watch

Miss Ingram's efforts at fascinating Mr. Rochester, to witness their

repeated failure--herself unconscious that they did fail; vainly

fancying that each shaft launched hit the mark, and infatuatedly

pluming herself on success, when her pride and self-complacency

repelled further and further what she wished to allure--to witness

THIS, was to be at once under ceaseless excitation and ruthless

restraint.

Because, when she failed, I saw how she might have succeeded.

Arrows that continually glanced off from Mr. Rochester's breast and

fell harmless at his feet, might, I knew, if shot by a surer hand,

have quivered keen in his proud heart--have called love into his

stern eye, and softness into his sardonic face; or, better still,

without weapons a silent conquest might have been won.

"Why can she not influence him more, when she is privileged to draw

so near to him?" I asked myself. "Surely she cannot truly like him,

or not like him with true affection! If she did, she need not coin

her smiles so lavishly, flash her glances so unremittingly,

manufacture airs so elaborate, graces so multitudinous. It seems to

me that she might, by merely sitting quietly at his side, saying

little and looking less, get nigher his heart. I have seen in his

face a far different expression from that which hardens it now while

she is so vivaciously accosting him; but then it came of itself: it

was not elicited by meretricious arts and calculated manoeuvres; and

one had but to accept it--to answer what he asked without

pretension, to address him when needful without grimace--and it

increased and grew kinder and more genial, and warmed one like a

fostering sunbeam. How will she manage to please him when they are

married? I do not think she will manage it; and yet it might be

managed; and his wife might, I verily believe, be the very happiest

woman the sun shines on."

I have not yet said anything condemnatory of Mr. Rochester's project

of marrying for interest and connections. It surprised me when I

first discovered that such was his intention: I had thought him a

man unlikely to be influenced by motives so commonplace in his

choice of a wife; but the longer I considered the position,

education, &c., of the parties, the less I felt justified in judging

and blaming either him or Miss Ingram for acting in conformity to

ideas and principles instilled into them, doubtless, from their

childhood. All their class held these principles: I supposed,

then, they had reasons for holding them such as I could not fathom.

It seemed to me that, were I a gentleman like him, I would take to

my bosom only such a wife as I could love; but the very obviousness

of the advantages to the husband's own happiness offered by this

plan convinced me that there must be arguments against its general

adoption of which I was quite ignorant: otherwise I felt sure all

the world would act as I wished to act.

But in other points, as well as this, I was growing very lenient to

my master: I was forgetting all his faults, for which I had once

kept a sharp look-out. It had formerly been my endeavour to study

all sides of his character: to take the bad with the good; and from

the just weighing of both, to form an equitable judgment. Now I saw

no bad. The sarcasm that had repelled, the harshness that had

startled me once, were only like keen condiments in a choice dish:

their presence was pungent, but their absence would be felt as

comparatively insipid. And as for the vague something--was it a

sinister or a sorrowful, a designing or a desponding expression?--

that opened upon a careful observer, now and then, in his eye, and

closed again before one could fathom the strange depth partially

disclosed; that something which used to make me fear and shrink, as

if I had been wandering amongst volcanic-looking hills, and had

suddenly felt the ground quiver and seen it gape: that something,

I, at intervals, beheld still; and with throbbing heart, but not

with palsied nerves. Instead of wishing to shun, I longed only to

dare--to divine it; and I thought Miss Ingram happy, because one day

she might look into the abyss at her leisure, explore its secrets

and analyse their nature.

Meantime, while I thought only of my master and his future bride--

saw only them, heard only their discourse, and considered only their

movements of importance--the rest of the party were occupied with

their own separate interests and pleasures. The Ladies Lynn and

Ingram continued to consort in solemn conferences, where they nodded

their two turbans at each other, and held up their four hands in

confronting gestures of surprise, or mystery, or horror, according

to the theme on which their gossip ran, like a pair of magnified

puppets. Mild Mrs. Dent talked with good-natured Mrs. Eshton; and

the two sometimes bestowed a courteous word or smile on me. Sir

George Lynn, Colonel Dent, and Mr. Eshton discussed politics, or

county affairs, or justice business. Lord Ingram flirted with Amy

Eshton; Louisa played and sang to and with one of the Messrs. Lynn;

and Mary Ingram listened languidly to the gallant speeches of the

other. Sometimes all, as with one consent, suspended their by-play

to observe and listen to the principal actors: for, after all, Mr.

Rochester and--because closely connected with him--Miss Ingram were

the life and soul of the party. If he was absent from the room an

hour, a perceptible dulness seemed to steal over the spirits of his

guests; and his re-entrance was sure to give a fresh impulse to the

vivacity of conversation.

The want of his animating influence appeared to be peculiarly felt

one day that he had been summoned to Millcote on business, and was

not likely to return till late. The afternoon was wet: a walk the

party had proposed to take to see a gipsy camp, lately pitched on a

common beyond Hay, was consequently deferred. Some of the gentlemen

were gone to the stables: the younger ones, together with the

younger ladies, were playing billiards in the billiard-room. The

dowagers Ingram and Lynn sought solace in a quiet game at cards.

Blanche Ingram, after having repelled, by supercilious taciturnity,

some efforts of Mrs. Dent and Mrs. Eshton to draw her into

conversation, had first murmured over some sentimental tunes and

airs on the piano, and then, having fetched a novel from the

library, had flung herself in haughty listlessness on a sofa, and

prepared to beguile, by the spell of fiction, the tedious hours of

absence. The room and the house were silent: only now and then the

merriment of the billiard-players was heard from above.

It was verging on dusk, and the clock had already given warning of

the hour to dress for dinner, when little Adele, who knelt by me in

the drawing-room window-seat, suddenly exclaimed -

"Voile, Monsieur Rochester, qui revient!"

I turned, and Miss Ingram darted forwards from her sofa: the

others, too, looked up from their several occupations; for at the

same time a crunching of wheels and a splashing tramp of horse-hoofs

became audible on the wet gravel. A post-chaise was approaching.

"What can possess him to come home in that style?" said Miss Ingram.

"He rode Mesrour (the black horse), did he not, when he went out?

and Pilot was with him:- what has he done with the animals?"

As she said this, she approached her tall person and ample garments

so near the window, that I was obliged to bend back almost to the

breaking of my spine: in her eagerness she did not observe me at

first, but when she did, she curled her lip and moved to another

casement. The post-chaise stopped; the driver rang the door-bell,

and a gentleman alighted attired in travelling garb; but it was not

Mr. Rochester; it was a tall, fashionable-looking man, a stranger.

"How provoking!" exclaimed Miss Ingram: "you tiresome monkey!"

(apostrophising Adele), "who perched you up in the window to give

false intelligence?" and she cast on me an angry glance, as if I

were in fault.

Some parleying was audible in the hall, and soon the new-comer

entered. He bowed to Lady Ingram, as deeming her the eldest lady

present.

"It appears I come at an inopportune time, madam," said he, "when my

friend, Mr. Rochester, is from home; but I arrive from a very long

journey, and I think I may presume so far on old and intimate

acquaintance as to instal myself here till he returns."

His manner was polite; his accent, in speaking, struck me as being

somewhat unusual,--not precisely foreign, but still not altogether

English: his age might be about Mr. Rochester's,--between thirty

and forty; his complexion was singularly sallow: otherwise he was a

fine-looking man, at first sight especially. On closer examination,

you detected something in his face that displeased, or rather that

failed to please. His features were regular, but too relaxed: his

eye was large and well cut, but the life looking out of it was a

tame, vacant life--at least so I thought.

The sound of the dressing-bell dispersed the party. It was not till

after dinner that I saw him again: he then seemed quite at his

ease. But I liked his physiognomy even less than before: it struck

me as being at the same time unsettled and inanimate. His eye

wandered, and had no meaning in its wandering: this gave him an odd

look, such as I never remembered to have seen. For a handsome and

not an unamiable-looking man, he repelled me exceedingly: there was

no power in that smooth-skinned face of a full oval shape: no

firmness in that aquiline nose and small cherry mouth; there was no

thought on the low, even forehead; no command in that blank, brown

eye.

As I sat in my usual nook, and looked at him with the light of the

girandoles on the mantelpiece beaming full over him--for he occupied

an arm-chair drawn close to the fire, and kept shrinking still

nearer, as if he were cold, I compared him with Mr. Rochester. I

think (with deference be it spoken) the contrast could not be much

greater between a sleek gander and a fierce falcon: between a meek

sheep and the rough-coated keen-eyed dog, its guardian.

He had spoken of Mr. Rochester as an old friend. A curious

friendship theirs must have been: a pointed illustration, indeed,

of the old adage that "extremes meet."

Two or three of the gentlemen sat near him, and I caught at times

scraps of their conversation across the room. At first I could not

make much sense of what I heard; for the discourse of Louisa Eshton

and Mary Ingram, who sat nearer to me, confused the fragmentary

sentences that reached me at intervals. These last were discussing

the stranger; they both called him "a beautiful man." Louisa said

he was "a love of a creature," and she "adored him;" and Mary

instanced his "pretty little mouth, and nice nose," as her ideal of

the charming.

"And what a sweet-tempered forehead he has!" cried Louisa,--"so

smooth--none of those frowning irregularities I dislike so much; and

such a placid eye and smile!"

And then, to my great relief, Mr. Henry Lynn summoned them to the

other side of the room, to settle some point about the deferred

excursion to Hay Common.

I was now able to concentrate my attention on the group by the fire,

and I presently gathered that the new-comer was called Mr. Mason;

then I learned that he was but just arrived in England, and that he

came from some hot country: which was the reason, doubtless, his

face was so sallow, and that he sat so near the hearth, and wore a

surtout in the house. Presently the words Jamaica, Kingston,

Spanish Town, indicated the West Indies as his residence; and it was

with no little surprise I gathered, ere long, that he had there

first seen and become acquainted with Mr. Rochester. He spoke of

his friend's dislike of the burning heats, the hurricanes, and rainy

seasons of that region. I knew Mr. Rochester had been a traveller:

Mrs. Fairfax had said so; but I thought the continent of Europe had

bounded his wanderings; till now I had never heard a hint given of

visits to more distant shores.

I was pondering these things, when an incident, and a somewhat

unexpected one, broke the thread of my musings. Mr. Mason,

shivering as some one chanced to open the door, asked for more coal

to be put on the fire, which had burnt out its flame, though its

mass of cinder still shone hot and red. The footman who brought the

coal, in going out, stopped near Mr. Eshton's chair, and said

something to him in a low voice, of which I heard only the words,

"old woman,"--"quite troublesome."

"Tell her she shall be put in the stocks if she does not take

herself off," replied the magistrate.

"No--stop!" interrupted Colonel Dent. "Don't send her away, Eshton;

we might turn the thing to account; better consult the ladies." And

speaking aloud, he continued--"Ladies, you talked of going to Hay

Common to visit the gipsy camp; Sam here says that one of the old

Mother Bunches is in the servants' hall at this moment, and insists

upon being brought in before 'the quality,' to tell them their

fortunes. Would you like to see her?"

"Surely, colonel," cried Lady Ingram, "you would not encourage such

a low impostor? Dismiss her, by all means, at once!"

 

"But I cannot persuade her to go away, my lady," said the footman;

"nor can any of the servants: Mrs. Fairfax is with her just now,

entreating her to be gone; but she has taken a chair in the chimney-

comer, and says nothing shall stir her from it till she gets leave

to come in here."

"What does she want?" asked Mrs. Eshton.

"'To tell the gentry their fortunes,' she says, ma'am; and she

swears she must and will do it."

"What is she like?" inquired the Misses Eshton, in a breath.

"A shockingly ugly old creature, miss; almost as black as a crock."

"Why, she's a real sorceress!" cried Frederick Lynn. "Let us have

her in, of course."

"To be sure," rejoined his brother; "it would be a thousand pities

to throw away such a chance of fun."

"My dear boys, what are you thinking about?" exclaimed Mrs. Lynn.

"I cannot possibly countenance any such inconsistent proceeding,"

chimed in the Dowager Ingram.

"Indeed, mama, but you can--and will," pronounced the haughty voice

of Blanche, as she turned round on the piano-stool; where till now

she had sat silent, apparently examining sundry sheets of music. "I

have a curiosity to hear my fortune told: therefore, Sam, order the

beldame forward."

"My darling Blanche! recollect--"

"I do--I recollect all you can suggest; and I must have my will--

quick, Sam!"

"Yes--yes--yes!" cried all the juveniles, both ladies and gentlemen.

"Let her come--it will be excellent sport!"

The footman still lingered. "She looks such a rough one," said he.

"Go!" ejaculated Miss Ingram, and the man went.

Excitement instantly seized the whole party: a running fire of

raillery and jests was proceeding when Sam returned.

"She won't come now," said he. "She says it's not her mission to

appear before the 'vulgar herd' (them's her words). I must show her

into a room by herself, and then those who wish to consult her must

go to her one by one."

"You see now, my queenly Blanche," began Lady Ingram, "she

encroaches. Be advised, my angel girl--and--"

"Show her into the library, of course," cut in the "angel girl."

"It is not my mission to listen to her before the vulgar herd

either: I mean to have her all to myself. Is there a fire in the

library?"

"Yes, ma'am--but she looks such a tinkler."

"Cease that chatter, blockhead! and do my bidding."

Again Sam vanished; and mystery, animation, expectation rose to full

flow once more.

"She's ready now," said the footman, as he reappeared. "She wishes

to know who will be her first visitor."

"I think I had better just look in upon her before any of the ladies

go," said Colonel Dent.

"Tell her, Sam, a gentleman is coming."

Sam went and returned.

"She says, sir, that she'll have no gentlemen; they need not trouble

themselves to come near her; nor," he added, with difficulty

suppressing a titter, "any ladies either, except the young, and

single."

"By Jove, she has taste!" exclaimed Henry Lynn.

Miss Ingram rose solemnly: "I go first," she said, in a tone which

might have befitted the leader of a forlorn hope, mounting a breach

in the van of his men.

"Oh, my best! oh, my dearest! pause--reflect!" was her mama's cry;

but she swept past her in stately silence, passed through the door

which Colonel Dent held open, and we heard her enter the library.

A comparative silence ensued. Lady Ingram thought it "le cas" to

wring her hands: which she did accordingly. Miss Mary declared she

felt, for her part, she never dared venture. Amy and Louisa Eshton

tittered under their breath, and looked a little frightened.

The minutes passed very slowly: fifteen were counted before the

library-door again opened. Miss Ingram returned to us through the

arch.

Would she laugh? Would she take it as a joke? All eyes met her

with a glance of eager curiosity, and she met all eyes with one of

rebuff and coldness; she looked neither flurried nor merry: she

walked stiffly to her seat, and took it in silence.

"Well, Blanche?" said Lord Ingram.

"What did she say, sister?" asked Mary.

"What did you think? How do you feel?--Is she a real fortune-

teller?" demanded the Misses Eshton.

"Now, now, good people," returned Miss Ingram, "don't press upon me.

Really your organs of wonder and credulity are easily excited: you

seem, by the importance of you all--my good mama included--ascribe

to this matter, absolutely to believe we have a genuine witch in the

house, who is in close alliance with the old gentleman. I have seen

a gipsy vagabond; she has practised in hackneyed fashion the science

of palmistry and told me what such people usually tell. My whim is

gratified; and now I think Mr. Eshton will do well to put the hag in

the stocks to-morrow morning, as he threatened."

Miss Ingram took a book, leant back in her chair, and so declined

further conversation. I watched her for nearly half-an-hour:

during all that time she never turned a page, and her face grew

momently darker, more dissatisfied, and more sourly expressive of

disappointment. She had obviously not heard anything to her

advantage: and it seemed to me, from her prolonged fit of gloom and

taciturnity, that she herself, notwithstanding her professed

indifference, attached undue importance to whatever revelations had

been made her.

Meantime, Mary Ingram, Amy and Louisa Eshton, declared they dared

not go alone; and yet they all wished to go. A negotiation was

opened through the medium of the ambassador, Sam; and after much

pacing to and fro, till, I think, the said Sam's calves must have

ached with the exercise, permission was at last, with great

difficulty, extorted from the rigorous Sibyl, for the three to wait

upon her in a body.

Their visit was not so still as Miss Ingram's had been: we heard

hysterical giggling and little shrieks proceeding from the library;

and at the end of about twenty minutes they burst the door open, and

came running across the hall, as if they were half-scared out of

their wits.

"I am sure she is something not right!" they cried, one and all.

"She told us such things! She knows all about us!" and they sank

breathless into the various seats the gentlemen hastened to bring

them.

Pressed for further explanation, they declared she had told them of

things they had said and done when they were mere children;

described books and ornaments they had in their boudoirs at home:

keepsakes that different relations had presented to them. They

affirmed that she had even divined their thoughts, and had whispered

in the ear of each the name of the person she liked best in the

world, and informed them of what they most wished for.

Here the gentlemen interposed with earnest petitions to be further

enlightened on these two last-named points; but they got only

blushes, ejaculations, tremors, and titters, in return for their

importunity. The matrons, meantime, offered vinaigrettes and

wielded fans; and again and again reiterated the expression of their

concern that their warning had not been taken in time; and the elder

gentlemen laughed, and the younger urged their services on the

agitated fair ones.

In the midst of the tumult, and while my eyes and ears were fully

engaged in the scene before me, I heard a hem close at my elbow: I

turned, and saw Sam.

"If you please, miss, the gipsy declares that there is another young

single lady in the room who has not been to her yet, and she swears

she will not go till she has seen all. I thought it must be you:

there is no one else for it. What shall I tell her?"

"Oh, I will go by all means," I answered: and I was glad of the

unexpected opportunity to gratify my much-excited curiosity. I

slipped out of the room, unobserved by any eye--for the company were

gathered in one mass about the trembling trio just returned--and I

closed the door quietly behind me.

"If you like, miss," said Sam, "I'll wait in the hall for you; and

if she frightens you, just call and I'll come in."

"No, Sam, return to the kitchen: I am not in the least afraid."

Nor was I; but I was a good deal interested and excited.

 

CHAPTER XIX

The library looked tranquil enough as I entered it, and the Sibyl--

if Sibyl she were--was seated snugly enough in an easy-chair at the

chimney-corner. She had on a red cloak and a black bonnet: or

rather, a broad-brimmed gipsy hat, tied down with a striped

handkerchief under her chin. An extinguished candle stood on the

table; she was bending over the fire, and seemed reading in a little

black book, like a prayer-book, by the light of the blaze: she

muttered the words to herself, as most old women do, while she read;

she did not desist immediately on my entrance: it appeared she

wished to finish a paragraph.

I stood on the rug and warmed my hands, which were rather cold with

sitting at a distance from the drawing-room fire. I felt now as

composed as ever I did in my life: there was nothing indeed in the

gipsy's appearance to trouble one's calm. She shut her book and

slowly looked up; her hat-brim partially shaded her face, yet I

could see, as she raised it, that it was a strange one. It looked

all brown and black: elf-locks bristled out from beneath a white

band which passed under her chin, and came half over her cheeks, or

rather jaws: her eye confronted me at once, with a bold and direct

gaze.

"Well, and you want your fortune told?" she said, in a voice as

decided as her glance, as harsh as her features.

"I don't care about it, mother; you may please yourself: but I

ought to warn you, I have no faith."

"It's like your impudence to say so: I expected it of you; I heard

it in your step as you crossed the threshold."

"Did you? You've a quick ear."

"I have; and a quick eye and a quick brain."

"You need them all in your trade."

"I do; especially when I've customers like you to deal with. Why

don't you tremble?"

"I'm not cold."

"Why don't you turn pale?"

"I am not sick."

"Why don't you consult my art?"

"I'm not silly."

The old crone "nichered" a laugh under her bonnet and bandage; she

then drew out a short black pipe, and lighting it began to smoke.

Having indulged a while in this sedative, she raised her bent body,

took the pipe from her lips, and while gazing steadily at the fire,

said very deliberately--"You are cold; you are sick; and you are

silly."

"Prove it," I rejoined.

"I will, in few words. You are cold, because you are alone: no

contact strikes the fire from you that is in you. You are sick;

because the best of feelings, the highest and the sweetest given to

man, keeps far away from you. You are silly, because, suffer as you

may, you will not beckon it to approach, nor will you stir one step

to meet it where it waits you."

She again put her short black pipe to her lips, and renewed her

smoking with vigour.

"You might say all that to almost any one who you knew lived as a

solitary dependent in a great house."

"I might say it to almost any one: but would it be true of almost

any one?"

"In my circumstances."

"Yes; just so, in YOUR circumstances: but find me another precisely

placed as you are."

"It would be easy to find you thousands."

"You could scarcely find me one. If you knew it, you are peculiarly

situated: very near happiness; yes, within reach of it. The

materials are all prepared; there only wants a movement to combine

them. Chance laid them somewhat apart; let them be once approached

and bliss results."

"I don't understand enigmas. I never could guess a riddle in my

life."

"If you wish me to speak more plainly, show me your palm."

"And I must cross it with silver, I suppose?"

"To be sure."

I gave her a shilling: she put it into an old stocking-foot which

she took out of her pocket, and having tied it round and returned

it, she told me to hold out my hand. I did. She ached her face to

the palm, and pored over it without touching it.

"It is too fine," said she. "I can make nothing of such a hand as

that; almost without lines: besides, what is in a palm? Destiny is

not written there."

"I believe you," said I.

"No," she continued, "it is in the face: on the forehead, about the

eyes, in the lines of the mouth. Kneel, and lift up your head."

"Ah! now you are coming to reality," I said, as I obeyed her. "I

shall begin to put some faith in you presently."

I knelt within half a yard of her. She stirred the fire, so that a

ripple of light broke from the disturbed coal: the glare, however,

as she sat, only threw her face into deeper shadow: mine, it

illumined.

"I wonder with what feelings you came to me to-night," she said,

when she had examined me a while. "I wonder what thoughts are busy

in your heart during all the hours you sit in yonder room with the

fine people flitting before you like shapes in a magic-lantern:

just as little sympathetic communion passing between you and them as

if they were really mere shadows of human forms, and not the actual

substance."

"I feel tired often, sleepy sometimes, but seldom sad."

"Then you have some secret hope to buoy you up and please you with

whispers of the future?"

"Not I. The utmost I hope is, to save money enough out of my

earnings to set up a school some day in a little house rented by

myself."

"A mean nutriment for the spirit to exist on: and sitting in that

window-seat (you see I know your habits )--"

"You have learned them from the servants."

"Ah! you think yourself sharp. Well, perhaps I have: to speak

truth, I have an acquaintance with one of them, Mrs. Poole--"

I started to my feet when I heard the name.

"You have--have you?" thought I; "there is diablerie in the business

after all, then!"

"Don't be alarmed," continued the strange being; "she's a safe hand

is Mrs. Poole: close and quiet; any one may repose confidence in

her. But, as I was saying: sitting in that window-seat, do you

think of nothing but your future school? Have you no present

interest in any of the company who occupy the sofas and chairs

before you? Is there not one face you study? one figure whose

movements you follow with at least curiosity?"

"I like to observe all the faces and all the figures."

"But do you never single one from the rest--or it may be, two?"

"I do frequently; when the gestures or looks of a pair seem telling

a tale: it amuses me to watch them."

"What tale do you like best to hear?"

"Oh, I have not much choice! They generally run on the same theme--

courtship; and promise to end in the same catastrophe--marriage."

"And do you like that monotonous theme?"

"Positively, I don't care about it: it is nothing to me."

"Nothing to you? When a lady, young and full of life and health,

charming with beauty and endowed with the gifts of rank and fortune,

sits and smiles in the eyes of a gentleman you--"

"I what?"

"You know--and perhaps think well of."

"I don't know the gentlemen here. I have scarcely interchanged a

syllable with one of them; and as to thinking well of them, I

consider some respectable, and stately, and middle-aged, and others

young, dashing, handsome, and lively: but certainly they are all at

liberty to be the recipients of whose smiles they please, without my

feeling disposed to consider the transaction of any moment to me."

"You don't know the gentlemen here? You have not exchanged a

syllable with one of them? Will you say that of the master of the

house!"

"He is not at home."

"A profound remark! A most ingenious quibble! He went to Millcote

this morning, and will be back here to-night or to-morrow: does

that circumstance exclude him from the list of your acquaintance--

blot him, as it were, out of existence?"

"No; but I can scarcely see what Mr. Rochester has to do with the

theme you had introduced."

"I was talking of ladies smiling in the eyes of gentlemen; and of

late so many smiles have been shed into Mr. Rochester's eyes that

they overflow like two cups filled above the brim: have you never

remarked that?"

"Mr. Rochester has a right to enjoy the society of his guests."

"No question about his right: but have you never observed that, of

all the tales told here about matrimony, Mr. Rochester has been

favoured with the most lively and the most continuous?"

"The eagerness of a listener quickens the tongue of a narrator." I

said this rather to myself than to the gipsy, whose strange talk,

voice, manner, had by this time wrapped me in a kind of dream. One

unexpected sentence came from her lips after another, till I got

involved in a web of mystification; and wondered what unseen spirit

had been sitting for weeks by my heart watching its workings and

taking record of every pulse.

"Eagerness of a listener!" repeated she: "yes; Mr. Rochester has

sat by the hour, his ear inclined to the fascinating lips that took

such delight in their task of communicating; and Mr. Rochester was

so willing to receive and looked so grateful for the pastime given

him; you have noticed this?"

"Grateful! I cannot remember detecting gratitude in his face."

"Detecting! You have analysed, then. And what did you detect, if

not gratitude?"

I said nothing.

"You have seen love: have you not?--and, looking forward, you have

seen him married, and beheld his bride happy?"

"Humph! Not exactly. Your witch's skill is rather at fault

sometimes."

"What the devil have you seen, then?"

"Never mind: I came here to inquire, not to confess. Is it known

that Mr. Rochester is to be married?"

"Yes; and to the beautiful Miss Ingram."

"Shortly?"

"Appearances would warrant that conclusion: and, no doubt (though,

with an audacity that wants chastising out of you, you seem to

question it), they will be a superlatively happy pair. He must love

such a handsome, noble, witty, accomplished lady; and probably she

loves him, or, if not his person, at least his purse. I know she

considers the Rochester estate eligible to the last degree; though

(God pardon me!) I told her something on that point about an hour

ago which made her look wondrous grave: the corners of her mouth

fell half an inch. I would advise her blackaviced suitor to look

out: if another comes, with a longer or clearer rent-roll,--he's

dished--"

"But, mother, I did not come to hear Mr. Rochester's fortune: I

came to hear my own; and you have told me nothing of it."

"Your fortune is yet doubtful: when I examined your face, one trait

contradicted another. Chance has meted you a measure of happiness:

that I know. I knew it before I came here this evening. She has

laid it carefully on one side for you. I saw her do it. It depends

on yourself to stretch out your hand, and take it up: but whether

you will do so, is the problem I study. Kneel again on the rug."

"Don't keep me long; the fire scorches me."

I knelt. She did not stoop towards me, but only gazed, leaning back

in her chair. She began muttering, -

"The flame flickers in the eye; the eye shines like dew; it looks

soft and full of feeling; it smiles at my jargon: it is

susceptible; impression follows impression through its clear sphere;

where it ceases to smile, it is sad; an unconscious lassitude weighs

on the lid: that signifies melancholy resulting from loneliness.

It turns from me; it will not suffer further scrutiny; it seems to

deny, by a mocking glance, the truth of the discoveries I have

already made,--to disown the charge both of sensibility and chagrin:

its pride and reserve only confirm me in my opinion. The eye is

favourable.

"As to the mouth, it delights at times in laughter; it is disposed

to impart all that the brain conceives; though I daresay it would be

silent on much the heart experiences. Mobile and flexible, it was

never intended to be compressed in the eternal silence of solitude:

it is a mouth which should speak much and smile often, and have

human affection for its interlocutor. That feature too is

propitious.

"I see no enemy to a fortunate issue but in the brow; and that brow

professes to say,--'I can live alone, if self-respect, and

circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy

bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me

alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only

at a price I cannot afford to give.' The forehead declares, 'Reason

sits firm and holds the reins, and she will not let the feelings

burst away and hurry her to wild chasms. The passions may rage

furiously, like true heathens, as they are; and the desires may

imagine all sorts of vain things: but judgment shall still have the

last word in every argument, and the casting vote in every decision.

Strong wind, earthquake-shock, and fire may pass by: but I shall

follow the guiding of that still small voice which interprets the

dictates of conscience.'

"Well said, forehead; your declaration shall be respected. I have

formed my plans--right plans I deem them--and in them I have

attended to the claims of conscience, the counsels of reason. I

know how soon youth would fade and bloom perish, if, in the cup of

bliss offered, but one dreg of shame, or one flavour of remorse were

detected; and I do not want sacrifice, sorrow, dissolution--such is

not my taste. I wish to foster, not to blight--to earn gratitude,

not to wring tears of blood--no, nor of brine: my harvest must be

in smiles, in endearments, in sweet-- That will do. I think I rave

in a kind of exquisite delirium. I should wish now to protract this

moment ad infinitum; but I dare not. So far I have governed myself

thoroughly. I have acted as I inwardly swore I would act; but

further might try me beyond my strength. Rise, Miss Eyre: leave

me; the play is played out'."

Where was I? Did I wake or sleep? Had I been dreaming? Did I

dream still? The old woman's voice had changed: her accent, her

gesture, and all were familiar to me as my own face in a glass--as

the speech of my own tongue. I got up, but did not go. I looked; I

stirred the fire, and I looked again: but she drew her bonnet and

her bandage closer about her face, and again beckoned me to depart.

The flame illuminated her hand stretched out: roused now, and on

the alert for discoveries, I at once noticed that hand. It was no

more the withered limb of eld than my own; it was a rounded supple

member, with smooth fingers, symmetrically turned; a broad ring

flashed on the little finger, and stooping forward, I looked at it,

and saw a gem I had seen a hundred times before. Again I looked at

the face; which was no longer turned from me--on the contrary, the

bonnet was doffed, the bandage displaced, the head advanced.

"Well, Jane, do you know me?" asked the familiar voice.

"Only take off the red cloak, sir, and then--"

"But the string is in a knot--help me."

"Break it, sir."

"There, then--'Off, ye lendings!'" And Mr. Rochester stepped out of

his disguise.

"Now, sir, what a strange idea!"

"But well carried out, eh? Don't you think so?"

"With the ladies you must have managed well."

"But not with you?"

"You did not act the character of a gipsy with me."

"What character did I act? My own?"

"No; some unaccountable one. In short, I believe you have been

trying to draw me out--or in; you have been talking nonsense to make

me talk nonsense. It is scarcely fair, sir."

"Do you forgive me, Jane?"

"I cannot tell till I have thought it all over. If, on reflection,

I find I have fallen into no great absurdity, I shall try to forgive

you; but it was not right."

"Oh, you have been very correct--very careful, very sensible."

I reflected, and thought, on the whole, I had. It was a comfort;

but, indeed, I had been on my guard almost from the beginning of the

interview. Something of masquerade I suspected. I knew gipsies and

fortune-tellers did not express themselves as this seeming old woman

had expressed herself; besides I had noted her feigned voice, her

anxiety to conceal her features. But my mind had been running on

Grace Poole--that living enigma, that mystery of mysteries, as I

considered her. I had never thought of Mr. Rochester.

"Well," said he, "what are you musing about? What does that grave

smile signify?"

"Wonder and self-congratulation, sir. I have your permission to

retire now, I suppose?"

"No; stay a moment; and tell me what the people in the drawing-room

yonder are doing."

"Discussing the gipsy, I daresay."

"Sit down!--Let me hear what they said about me."

"I had better not stay long, sir; it must be near eleven o'clock.

Oh, are you aware, Mr. Rochester, that a stranger has arrived here

since you left this morning?"

"A stranger!--no; who can it be? I expected no one; is he gone?"

"No; he said he had known you long, and that he could take the

liberty of installing himself here till you returned."

"The devil he did! Did he give his name?"

"His name is Mason, sir; and he comes from the West Indies; from

Spanish Town, in Jamaica, I think."

Mr. Rochester was standing near me; he had taken my hand, as if to

lead me to a chair. As I spoke he gave my wrist a convulsive grip;

the smile on his lips froze: apparently a spasm caught his breath.

"Mason!--the West Indies!" he said, in the tone one might fancy a

speaking automaton to enounce its single words; "Mason!--the West

Indies!" he reiterated; and he went over the syllables three times,

growing, in the intervals of speaking, whiter than ashes: he hardly

seemed to know what he was doing.

"Do you feel ill, sir?" I inquired.

"Jane, I've got a blow; I've got a blow, Jane!" He staggered.

"Oh, lean on me, sir."

"Jane, you offered me your shoulder once before; let me have it

now."

"Yes, sir, yes; and my arm."

He sat down, and made me sit beside him. Holding my hand in both

his own, he chafed it; gazing on me, at the same time, with the most

troubled and dreary look.

"My little friend!" said he, "I wish I were in a quiet island with

only you; and trouble, and danger, and hideous recollections removed

from me."

"Can I help you, sir?--I'd give my life to serve you."

"Jane, if aid is wanted, I'll seek it at your hands; I promise you

that."

"Thank you, sir. Tell me what to do,--I'll try, at least, to do

it."

"Fetch me now, Jane, a glass of wine from the dining-room: they

will be at supper there; and tell me if Mason is with them, and what

he is doing."

I went. I found all the party in the dining-room at supper, as Mr.

Rochester had said; they were not seated at table,--the supper was

arranged on the sideboard; each had taken what he chose, and they

stood about here and there in groups, their plates and glasses in

their hands. Every one seemed in high glee; laughter and

conversation were general and animated. Mr. Mason stood near the

fire, talking to Colonel and Mrs. Dent, and appeared as merry as any

of them. I filled a wine-glass (I saw Miss Ingram watch me

frowningly as I did so: she thought I was taking a liberty, I

daresay), and I returned to the library.

Mr. Rochester's extreme pallor had disappeared, and he looked once

more firm and stern. He took the glass from my hand.

"Here is to your health, ministrant spirit!" he said. He swallowed

the contents and returned it to me. "What are they doing, Jane?"

"Laughing and talking, sir."

"They don't look grave and mysterious, as if they had heard

something strange?"

"Not at all: they are full of jests and gaiety."

"And Mason?"

"He was laughing too."

"If all these people came in a body and spat at me, what would you

do, Jane?"

"Turn them out of the room, sir, if I could."

He half smiled. "But if I were to go to them, and they only looked

at me coldly, and whispered sneeringly amongst each other, and then

dropped off and left me one by one, what then? Would you go with

them?"

"I rather think not, sir: I should have more pleasure in staying

with you."

"To comfort me?"

"Yes, sir, to comfort you, as well as I could."

"And if they laid you under a ban for adhering to me?"

"I, probably, should know nothing about their ban; and if I did, I

should care nothing about it."

"Then, you could dare censure for my sake?"

"I could dare it for the sake of any friend who deserved my

adherence; as you, I am sure, do."

"Go back now into the room; step quietly up to Mason, and whisper in

his ear that Mr. Rochester is come and wishes to see him: show him

in here and then leave me."

"Yes, sir."

I did his behest. The company all stared at me as I passed straight

among them. I sought Mr. Mason, delivered the message, and preceded

him from the room: I ushered him into the library, and then I went

upstairs.

At a late hour, after I had been in bed some time, I heard the

visitors repair to their chambers: I distinguished Mr. Rochester's

voice, and heard him say, "This way, Mason; this is your room."

He spoke cheerfully: the gay tones set my heart at ease. I was

soon asleep.

 

CHAPTER XX

I had forgotten to draw my curtain, which I usually did, and also to

let down my window-blind. The consequence was, that when the moon,

which was full and bright (for the night was fine), came in her

course to that space in the sky opposite my casement, and looked in

at me through the unveiled panes, her glorious gaze roused me.

Awaking in the dead of night, I opened my eyes on her disk--silver-

white and crystal clear. It was beautiful, but too solemn; I half

rose, and stretched my arm to draw the curtain.

Good God! What a cry!

The night--its silence--its rest, was rent in twain by a savage, a

sharp, a shrilly sound that ran from end to end of Thornfield Hall.

My pulse stopped: my heart stood still; my stretched arm was

paralysed. The cry died, and was not renewed. Indeed, whatever

being uttered that fearful shriek could not soon repeat it: not the

widest-winged condor on the Andes could, twice in succession, send

out such a yell from the cloud shrouding his eyrie. The thing

delivering such utterance must rest ere it could repeat the effort.

It came out of the third storey; for it passed overhead. And

overhead--yes, in the room just above my chamber-ceiling--I now

heard a struggle: a deadly one it seemed from the noise; and a

half-smothered voice shouted -

"Help! help! help!" three times rapidly.

"Will no one come?" it cried; and then, while the staggering and

stamping went on wildly, I distinguished through plank and plaster:-

"Rochester! Rochester! for God's sake, come!"

A chamber-door opened: some one ran, or rushed, along the gallery.

Another step stamped on the flooring above and something fell; and

there was silence.

I had put on some clothes, though horror shook all my limbs; I

issued from my apartment. The sleepers were all aroused:

ejaculations, terrified murmurs sounded in every room; door after

door unclosed; one looked out and another looked out; the gallery

filled. Gentlemen and ladies alike had quitted their beds; and "Oh!

what is it?"--"Who is hurt?"--"What has happened?"--"Fetch a

light!"--"Is it fire?"--"Are there robbers?"--"Where shall we run?"

was demanded confusedly on all hands. But for the moonlight they

would have been in complete darkness. They ran to and fro; they

crowded together: some sobbed, some stumbled: the confusion was

inextricable.

"Where the devil is Rochester?" cried Colonel Dent. "I cannot find

him in his bed."

"Here! here!" was shouted in return. "Be composed, all of you: I'm

coming."

And the door at the end of the gallery opened, and Mr. Rochester

advanced with a candle: he had just descended from the upper

storey. One of the ladies ran to him directly; she seized his arm:

it was Miss Ingram.

"What awful event has taken place?" said she. "Speak! let us know

the worst at once!"

"But don't pull me down or strangle me," he replied: for the Misses

Eshton were clinging about him now; and the two dowagers, in vast

white wrappers, were bearing down on him like ships in full sail.

"All's right!--all's right!" he cried. "It's a mere rehearsal of

Much Ado about Nothing. Ladies, keep off, or I shall wax

dangerous."

And dangerous he looked: his black eyes darted sparks. Calming

himself by an effort, he added -

"A servant has had the nightmare; that is all. She's an excitable,

nervous person: she construed her dream into an apparition, or

something of that sort, no doubt; and has taken a fit with fright.

Now, then, I must see you all back into your rooms; for, till the

house is settled, she cannot be looked after. Gentlemen, have the

goodness to set the ladies the example. Miss Ingram, I am sure you

will not fail in evincing superiority to idle terrors. Amy and

Louisa, return to your nests like a pair of doves, as you are.

Mesdames" (to the dowagers), "you will take cold to a dead

certainty, if you stay in this chill gallery any longer."

And so, by dint of alternate coaxing and commanding, he contrived to

get them all once more enclosed in their separate dormitories. I

did not wait to be ordered back to mine, but retreated unnoticed, as

unnoticed I had left it.

Not, however, to go to bed: on the contrary, I began and dressed

myself carefully. The sounds I had heard after the scream, and the

words that had been uttered, had probably been heard only by me; for

they had proceeded from the room above mine: but they assured me

that it was not a servant's dream which had thus struck horror

through the house; and that the explanation Mr. Rochester had given

was merely an invention framed to pacify his guests. I dressed,

then, to be ready for emergencies. When dressed, I sat a long time

by the window looking out over the silent grounds and silvered

fields and waiting for I knew not what. It seemed to me that some

event must follow the strange cry, struggle, and call.

No: stillness returned: each murmur and movement ceased gradually,

and in about an hour Thornfield Hall was again as hushed as a

desert. It seemed that sleep and night had resumed their empire.

Meantime the moon declined: she was about to set. Not liking to

sit in the cold and darkness, I thought I would lie down on my bed,

dressed as I was. I left the window, and moved with little noise

across the carpet; as I stooped to take off my shoes, a cautious

hand tapped low at the door.

"Am I wanted?" I asked.

"Are you up?" asked the voice I expected to hear, viz., my master's.

"Yes, sir."

"And dressed?"

"Yes."

"Come out, then, quietly."

I obeyed. Mr. Rochester stood in the gallery holding a light.

"I want you," he said: "come this way: take your time, and make no

noise."

My slippers were thin: I could walk the matted floor as softly as a

cat. He glided up the gallery and up the stairs, and stopped in the

dark, low corridor of the fateful third storey: I had followed and

stood at his side.

"Have you a sponge in your room?" he asked in a whisper.

"Yes, sir."

"Have you any salts--volatile salts? Yes."

"Go back and fetch both."

I returned, sought the sponge on the washstand, the salts in my

drawer, and once more retraced my steps. He still waited; he held a

key in his hand: approaching one of the small, black doors, he put

it in the lock; he paused, and addressed me again.

"You don't turn sick at the sight of blood?"

"I think I shall not: I have never been tried yet."

I felt a thrill while I answered him; but no coldness, and no

faintness.

"Just give me your hand," he said: "it will not do to risk a

fainting fit."

I put my fingers into his. "Warm and steady," was his remark: he

turned the key and opened the door.

I saw a room I remembered to have seen before, the day Mrs. Fairfax

showed me over the house: it was hung with tapestry; but the

tapestry was now looped up in one part, and there was a door

apparent, which had then been concealed. This door was open; a

light shone out of the room within: I heard thence a snarling,

snatching sound, almost like a dog quarrelling. Mr. Rochester,

putting down his candle, said to me, "Wait a minute," and he went

forward to the inner apartment. A shout of laughter greeted his

entrance; noisy at first, and terminating in Grace Poole's own

goblin ha! ha! SHE then was there. He made some sort of

arrangement without speaking, though I heard a low voice address

him: he came out and closed the door behind him.

"Here, Jane!" he said; and I walked round to the other side of a

large bed, which with its drawn curtains concealed a considerable

portion of the chamber. An easy-chair was near the bed-head: a man

sat in it, dressed with the exception of his coat; he was still; his

head leant back; his eyes were closed. Mr. Rochester held the

candle over him; I recognised in his pale and seemingly lifeless

face--the stranger, Mason: I saw too that his linen on one side,

and one arm, was almost soaked in blood.

"Hold the candle," said Mr. Rochester, and I took it: he fetched a

basin of water from the washstand: "Hold that," said he. I obeyed.

He took the sponge, dipped it in, and moistened the corpse-like

face; he asked for my smelling-bottle, and applied it to the

nostrils. Mr. Mason shortly unclosed his eyes; he groaned. Mr.

Rochester opened the shirt of the wounded man, whose arm and

shoulder were bandaged: he sponged away blood, trickling fast down.

"Is there immediate danger?" murmured Mr. Mason.

"Pooh! No--a mere scratch. Don't be so overcome, man: bear up!

I'll fetch a surgeon for you now, myself: you'll be able to be

removed by morning, I hope. Jane," he continued.

"Sir?"

"I shall have to leave you in this room with this gentleman, for an

hour, or perhaps two hours: you will sponge the blood as I do when

it returns: if he feels faint, you will put the glass of water on

that stand to his lips, and your salts to his nose. You will not

speak to him on any pretext--and--Richard, it will be at the peril

of your life if you speak to her: open your lips--agitate yourself-

-and I'll not answer for the consequences."

Again the poor man groaned; he looked as if he dared not move; fear,

either of death or of something else, appeared almost to paralyse

him. Mr. Rochester put the now bloody sponge into my hand, and I

proceeded to use it as he had done. He watched me a second, then

saying, "Remember!--No conversation," he left the room. I

experienced a strange feeling as the key grated in the lock, and the

sound of his retreating step ceased to be heard.

Here then I was in the third storey, fastened into one of its mystic

cells; night around me; a pale and bloody spectacle under my eyes

and hands; a murderess hardly separated from me by a single door:

yes--that was appalling--the rest I could bear; but I shuddered at

the thought of Grace Poole bursting out upon me.

I must keep to my post, however. I must watch this ghastly

countenance--these blue, still lips forbidden to unclose--these eyes

now shut, now opening, now wandering through the room, now fixing on

me, and ever glazed with the dulness of horror. I must dip my hand

again and again in the basin of blood and water, and wipe away the

trickling gore. I must see the light of the unsnuffed candle wane

on my employment; the shadows darken on the wrought, antique

tapestry round me, and grow black under the hangings of the vast old

bed, and quiver strangely over the doors of a great cabinet

opposite--whose front, divided into twelve panels, bore, in grim

design, the heads of the twelve apostles, each enclosed in its

separate panel as in a frame; while above them at the top rose an

ebon crucifix and a dying Christ.

According as the shifting obscurity and flickering gleam hovered

here or glanced there, it was now the bearded physician, Luke, that

bent his brow; now St. John's long hair that waved; and anon the

devilish face of Judas, that grew out of the panel, and seemed

gathering life and threatening a revelation of the arch-traitor--of

Satan himself--in his subordinate's form.

Amidst all this, I had to listen as well as watch: to listen for

the movements of the wild beast or the fiend in yonder side den.

But since Mr. Rochester's visit it seemed spellbound: all the night

I heard but three sounds at three long intervals,--a step creak, a

momentary renewal of the snarling, canine noise, and a deep human

groan.

Then my own thoughts worried me. What crime was this that lived

incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled

nor subdued by the owner?--what mystery, that broke out now in fire

and now in blood, at the deadest hours of night? What creature was

it, that, masked in an ordinary woman's face and shape, uttered the

voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of

prey?

And this man I bent over--this commonplace, quiet stranger--how had

he become involved in the web of horror? and why had the Fury flown

at him? What made him seek this quarter of the house at an untimely

season, when he should have been asleep in bed? I had heard Mr.

Rochester assign him an apartment below--what brought him here! And

why, now, was he so tame under the violence or treachery done him?

Why did he so quietly submit to the concealment Mr. Rochester

enforced? Why DID Mr. Rochester enforce this concealment? His

guest had been outraged, his own life on a former occasion had been

hideously plotted against; and both attempts he smothered in secrecy

and sank in oblivion! Lastly, I saw Mr. Mason was submissive to Mr.

Rochester; that the impetuous will of the latter held complete sway

over the inertness of the former: the few words which had passed

between them assured me of this. It was evident that in their

former intercourse, the passive disposition of the one had been

habitually influenced by the active energy of the other: whence

then had arisen Mr. Rochester's dismay when he heard of Mr. Mason's

arrival? Why had the mere name of this unresisting individual--whom

his word now sufficed to control like a child--fallen on him, a few

hours since, as a thunderbolt might fall on an oak?

Oh! I could not forget his look and his paleness when he whispered:

"Jane, I have got a blow--I have got a blow, Jane." I could not

forget how the arm had trembled which he rested on my shoulder: and

it was no light matter which could thus bow the resolute spirit and

thrill the vigorous frame of Fairfax Rochester.

"When will he come? When will he come?" I cried inwardly, as the

night lingered and lingered--as my bleeding patient drooped, moaned,

sickened: and neither day nor aid arrived. I had, again and again,

held the water to Mason's white lips; again and again offered him

the stimulating salts: my efforts seemed ineffectual: either

bodily or mental suffering, or loss of blood, or all three combined,

were fast prostrating his strength. He moaned so, and looked so

weak, wild, and lost, I feared he was dying; ant I might not even

speak to him.

The candle, wasted at last, went out; as it expired, I perceived

streaks of grey light edging the window curtains: dawn was then

approaching. Presently I heard Pilot bark far below, out of his

distant kennel in the courtyard: hope revived. Nor was it

unwarranted: in five minutes more the grating key, the yielding

lock, warned me my watch was relieved. It could not have lasted

more than two hours: many a week has seemed shorter.

Mr. Rochester entered, and with him the surgeon he had been to

fetch.

"Now, Carter, be on the alert," he said to this last: "I give you

but half-an-hour for dressing the wound, fastening the bandages,

getting the patient downstairs and all."

"But is he fit to move, sir?"

"No doubt of it; it is nothing serious; he is nervous, his spirits

must be kept up. Come, set to work."

Mr. Rochester drew back the thick curtain, drew up the holland

blind, let in all the daylight he could; and I was surprised and

cheered to see how far dawn was advanced: what rosy streaks were

beginning to brighten the east. Then he approached Mason, whom the

surgeon was already handling.

"Now, my good fellow, how are you?" he asked.

"She's done for me, I fear," was the faint reply.

"Not a whit!--courage! This day fortnight you'll hardly be a pin

the worse of it: you've lost a little blood; that's all Carter,

assure him there's no danger."

"I can do that conscientiously," said Carter, who had now undone the

bandages; "only I wish I could have got here sooner: he would not

have bled so much--but how is this? The flesh on the shoulder is

torn as well as cut. This wound was not done with a knife: there

have been teeth here!"

"She bit me," he murmured. "She worried me like a tigress, when

Rochester got the knife from her."

"You should not have yielded: you should have grappled with her at

once," said Mr. Rochester.

"But under such circumstances, what could one do?" returned Mason.

"Oh, it was frightful!" he added, shuddering. "And I did not expect

it: she looked so quiet at first."

"I warned you," was his friend's answer; "I said--be on your guard

when you go near her. Besides, you might have waited till to-

morrow, and had me with you: it was mere folly to attempt the

interview to-night, and alone."

"I thought I could have done some good."

"You thought! you thought! Yes, it makes me impatient to hear you:

but, however, you have suffered, and are likely to suffer enough for

not taking my advice; so I'll say no more. Carter--hurry!--hurry!

The sun will soon rise, and I must have him off."

"Directly, sir; the shoulder is just bandaged. I must look to this

other wound in the arm: she has had her teeth here too, I think."

"She sucked the blood: she said she'd drain my heart," said Mason.

I saw Mr. Rochester shudder: a singularly marked expression of

disgust, horror, hatred, warped his countenance almost to

distortion; but he only said -

"Come, be silent, Richard, and never mind her gibberish: don't

repeat it."

"I wish I could forget it," was the answer.

"You will when you are out of the country: when you get back to

Spanish Town, you may think of her as dead and buried--or rather,

you need not think of her at all."

"Impossible to forget this night!"

"It is not impossible: have some energy, man. You thought you were

as dead as a herring two hours since, and you are all alive and

talking now. There!--Carter has done with you or nearly so; I'll

make you decent in a trice. Jane" (he turned to me for the first

time since his re-entrance), "take this key: go down into my

bedroom, and walk straight forward into my dressing-room: open the

top drawer of the wardrobe and take out a clean shirt and neck-

handkerchief: bring them here; and be nimble."

I went; sought the repository he had mentioned, found the articles

named, and returned with them.

"Now," said he, "go to the other side of the bed while I order his

toilet; but don't leave the room: you may be wanted again."

I retired as directed.

"Was anybody stirring below when you went down, Jane?" inquired Mr.

Rochester presently.

"No, sir; all was very still."

"We shall get you off cannily, Dick: and it will be better, both

for your sake, and for that of the poor creature in yonder. I have

striven long to avoid exposure, and I should not like it to come at

last. Here, Carter, help him on with his waist-coat. Where did you

leave your furred cloak? You can't travel a mile without that, I

know, in this damned cold climate. In your room?--Jane, run down to

Mr. Mason's room,--the one next mine,--and fetch a cloak you will

see there."

Again I ran, and again returned, bearing an immense mantle lined and

edged with fur.

"Now, I've another errand for you," said my untiring master; "you

must away to my room again. What a mercy you are shod with velvet,

Jane!--a clod-hopping messenger would never do at this juncture.

You must open the middle drawer of my toilet-table and take out a

little phial and a little glass you will find there,--quick!"

I flew thither and back, bringing the desired vessels.

"That's well! Now, doctor, I shall take the liberty of

administering a dose myself, on my own responsibility. I got this

cordial at Rome, of an Italian charlatan--a fellow you would have

kicked, Carter. It is not a thing to be used indiscriminately, but

it is good upon occasion: as now, for instance. Jane, a little

water."

He held out the tiny glass, and I half filled it from the water-

bottle on the washstand.

"That will do;--now wet the lip of the phial."

I did so; he measured twelve drops of a crimson liquid, and

presented it to Mason.

"Drink, Richard: it will give you the heart you lack, for an hour

or so."

"But will it hurt me?--is it inflammatory?"

"Drink! drink! drink!"

Mr. Mason obeyed, because it was evidently useless to resist. He

was dressed now: he still looked pale, but he was no longer gory

and sullied. Mr. Rochester let him sit three minutes after he had

swallowed the liquid; he then took his arm -

"Now I am sure you can get on your feet," he said--"try."

The patient rose.

"Carter, take him under the other shoulder. Be of good cheer,

Richard; step out--that's it!"

"I do feel better," remarked Mr. Mason.

"I am sure you do. Now, Jane, trip on before us away to the

backstairs; unbolt the side-passage door, and tell the driver of the

post-chaise you will see in the yard--or just outside, for I told

him not to drive his rattling wheels over the pavement--to be ready;

we are coming: and, Jane, if any one is about, come to the foot of

the stairs and hem."

It was by this time half-past five, and the sun was on the point of

rising; but I found the kitchen still dark and silent. The side-

passage door was fastened; I opened it with as little noise as

possible: all the yard was quiet; but the gates stood wide open,

and there was a post-chaise, with horses ready harnessed, and driver

seated on the box, stationed outside. I approached him, and said

the gentlemen were coming; he nodded: then I looked carefully round

and listened. The stillness of early morning slumbered everywhere;

the curtains were yet drawn over the servants' chamber windows;

little birds were just twittering in the blossom-blanched orchard

trees, whose boughs drooped like white garlands over the wall

enclosing one side of the yard; the carriage horses stamped from

time to time in their closed stables: all else was still.

The gentlemen now appeared. Mason, supported by Mr. Rochester and

the surgeon, seemed to walk with tolerable ease: they assisted him

into the chaise; Carter followed.

"Take care of him," said Mr. Rochester to the latter, "and keep him

at your house till he is quite well: I shall ride over in a day or

two to see how he gets on. Richard, how is it with you?"

"The fresh air revives me, Fairfax."

"Leave the window open on his side, Carter; there is no wind--good-

bye, Dick."

"Fairfax--"

"Well what is it?"

"Let her be taken care of; let her be treated as tenderly as may be:

let her--" he stopped and burst into tears.

"I do my best; and have done it, and will do it," was the answer:

he shut up the chaise door, and the vehicle drove away.

"Yet would to God there was an end of all this!" added Mr.

Rochester, as he closed and barred the heavy yard-gates.

This done, he moved with slow step and abstracted air towards a door

in the wall bordering the orchard. I, supposing he had done with

me, prepared to return to the house; again, however, I heard him

call "Jane!" He had opened feel portal and stood at it, waiting for

me.

"Come where there is some freshness, for a few moments," he said;

"that house is a mere dungeon: don't you feel it so?"

"It seems to me a splendid mansion, sir."

"The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes," he answered; "and

you see it through a charmed medium: you cannot discern that the

gilding is slime and the silk draperies cobwebs; that the marble is

sordid slate, and the polished woods mere refuse chips and scaly

bark. Now HERE" (he pointed to the leafy enclosure we had entered)

"all is real, sweet, and pure."

He strayed down a walk edged with box, with apple trees, pear trees,

and cherry trees on one side, and a border on the other full of all

sorts of old-fashioned flowers, stocks, sweet-williams, primroses,

pansies, mingled with southernwood, sweet-briar, and various

fragrant herbs. They were fresh now as a succession of April

showers and gleams, followed by a lovely spring morning, could make

them: the sun was just entering the dappled east, and his light

illumined the wreathed and dewy orchard trees and shone down the

quiet walks under them.

"Jane, will you have a flower?"

He gathered a half-blown rose, the first on the bush, and offered it

to me.

"Thank you, sir."

"Do you like this sunrise, Jane? That sky with its high and light

clouds which are sure to melt away as the day waxes warm--this

placid and balmly atmosphere?"

"I do, very much."

"You have passed a strange night, Jane."

"Yes, sir."

"And it has made you look pale--were you afraid when I left you

alone with Mason?"

"I was afraid of some one coming out of the inner room."

"But I had fastened the door--I had the key in my pocket: I should

have been a careless shepherd if I had left a lamb--my pet lamb--so

near a wolf's den, unguarded: you were safe."

"Will Grace Poole live here still, sir?"

"Oh yes! don't trouble your head about her--put the thing out of

your thoughts."

"Yet it seems to me your life is hardly secure while she stays."

"Never fear--I will take care of myself."

"Is the danger you apprehended last night gone by now, sir?"

"I cannot vouch for that till Mason is out of England: nor even

then. To live, for me, Jane, is to stand on a crater-crust which

may crack and spue fire any day."

"But Mr. Mason seems a man easily led. Your influence, sir, is

evidently potent with him: he will never set you at defiance or

wilfully injure you."

"Oh, no! Mason will not defy me; nor, knowing it, will he hurt me--

but, unintentionally, he might in a moment, by one careless word,

deprive me, if not of life, yet for ever of happiness."

"Tell him to be cautious, sir: let him know what you fear, and show

him how to avert the danger."

He laughed sardonically, hastily took my hand, and as hastily threw

it from him.

"If I could do that, simpleton, where would the danger be?

Annihilated in a moment. Ever since I have known Mason, I have only

had to say to him 'Do that,' and the thing has been done. But I

cannot give him orders in this case: I cannot say 'Beware of

harming me, Richard;' for it is imperative that I should keep him

ignorant that harm to me is possible. Now you look puzzled; and I

will puzzle you further. You are my little friend, are you not?"

"I like to serve you, sir, and to obey you in all that is right."

"Precisely: I see you do. I see genuine contentment in your gait

and mien, your eye and face, when you are helping me and pleasing

me--working for me, and with me, in, as you characteristically say,

'ALL THAT IS RIGHT:' for if I bid you do what you thought wrong,

there would be no light-footed running, no neat-handed alacrity, no

lively glance and animated complexion. My friend would then turn to

me, quiet and pale, and would say, 'No, sir; that is impossible: I

cannot do it, because it is wrong;' and would become immutable as a

fixed star. Well, you too have power over me, and may injure me:

yet I dare not show you where I am vulnerable, lest, faithful and

friendly as you are, you should transfix me at once."

"If you have no more to fear from Mr. Mason than you have from me,

sir, you are very safe."

"God grant it may be so! Here, Jane, is an arbour; sit down."

The arbour was an arch in the wall, lined with ivy; it contained a

rustic seat. Mr. Rochester took it, leaving room, however, for me:

but I stood before him.

"Sit," he said; "the bench is long enough for two. You don't

hesitate to take a place at my side, do you? Is that wrong, Jane?"

I answered him by assuming it: to refuse would, I felt, have been

unwise.

"Now, my little friend, while the sun drinks the dew--while all the

flowers in this old garden awake and expand, and the birds fetch

their young ones' breakfast out of the Thornfield, and the early

bees do their first spell of work--I'll put a case to you, which you

must endeavour to suppose your own: but first, look at me, and tell

me you are at ease, and not fearing that I err in detaining you, or

that you err in staying."

"No, sir; I am content."

"Well then, Jane, call to aid your fancy:- suppose you were no

longer a girl well reared and disciplined, but a wild boy indulged

from childhood upwards; imagine yourself in a remote foreign land;

conceive that you there commit a capital error, no matter of what

nature or from what motives, but one whose consequences must follow

you through life and taint all your existence. Mind, I don't say a

CRIME; I am not speaking of shedding of blood or any other guilty

act, which might make the perpetrator amenable to the law: my word

is ERROR. The results of what you have done become in time to you

utterly insupportable; you take measures to obtain relief: unusual

measures, but neither unlawful nor culpable. Still you are

miserable; for hope has quitted you on the very confines of life:

your sun at noon darkens in an eclipse, which you feel will not

leave it till the time of setting. Bitter and base associations

have become the sole food of your memory: you wander here and

there, seeking rest in exile: happiness in pleasure--I mean in

heartless, sensual pleasure--such as dulls intellect and blights

feeling. Heart-weary and soul-withered, you come home after years

of voluntary banishment: you make a new acquaintance--how or where

no matter: you find in this stranger much of the good and bright

qualities which you have sought for twenty years, and never before

encountered; and they are all fresh, healthy, without soil and

without taint. Such society revives, regenerates: you feel better

days come back--higher wishes, purer feelings; you desire to

recommence your life, and to spend what remains to you of days in a

way more worthy of an immortal being. To attain this end, are you

justified in overleaping an obstacle of custom--a mere conventional

impediment which neither your conscience sanctifies nor your

judgment approves?"

He paused for an answer: and what was I to say? Oh, for some good

spirit to suggest a judicious and satisfactory response! Vain

aspiration! The west wind whispered in the ivy round me; but no

gentle Ariel borrowed its breath as a medium of speech: the birds

sang in the tree-tops; but their song, however sweet, was

inarticulate.

Again Mr. Rochester propounded his query:

"Is the wandering and sinful, but now rest-seeking and repentant,

man justified in daring the world's opinion, in order to attach to

him for ever this gentle, gracious, genial stranger, thereby

securing his own peace of mind and regeneration of life?"

"Sir," I answered, "a wanderer's repose or a sinner's reformation

should never depend on a fellow-creature. Men and women die;

philosophers falter in wisdom, and Christians in goodness: if any

one you know has suffered and erred, let him look higher than his

equals for strength to amend and solace to heal."

"But the instrument--the instrument! God, who does the work,

ordains the instrument. I have myself--I tell it you without

parable--been a worldly, dissipated, restless man; and I believe I

have found the instrument for my cure in--"

He paused: the birds went on carolling, the leaves lightly

rustling. I almost wondered they did not check their songs and

whispers to catch the suspended revelation; but they would have had

to wait many minutes--so long was the silence protracted. At last I

looked up at the tardy speaker: he was looking eagerly at me.

"Little friend," said he, in quite a changed tone--while his face

changed too, losing all its softness and gravity, and becoming harsh

and sarcastic--"you have noticed my tender penchant for Miss Ingram:

don't you think if I married her she would regenerate me with a

vengeance?"

He got up instantly, went quite to the other end of the walk, and

when he came back he was humming a tune.

"Jane, Jane," said he, stopping before me, "you are quite pale with

your vigils: don't you curse me for disturbing your rest?"

"Curse you? No, sir."

"Shake hands in confirmation of the word. What cold fingers! They

were warmer last night when I touched them at the door of the

mysterious chamber. Jane, when will you watch with me again?"

"Whenever I can be useful, sir."

"For instance, the night before I am married! I am sure I shall not

be able to sleep. Will you promise to sit up with me to bear me

company? To you I can talk of my lovely one: for now you have seen

her and know her."

"Yes, sir."

"She's a rare one, is she not, Jane?"

"Yes, sir."

"A strapper--a real strapper, Jane: big, brown, and buxom; with

hair just such as the ladies of Carthage must have had. Bless me!

there's Dent and Lynn in the stables! Go in by the shrubbery,

through that wicket."

As I went one way, he went another, and I heard him in the yard,

saying cheerfully -

"Mason got the start of you all this morning; he was gone before

sunrise: I rose at four to see him off."

 

CHAPTER XXI

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 dream of an infant, which I sometimes

hushed in my arms, sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched

playing with daisies on a lawn, or again, dabbling its hands in

running water. It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing

one the next: now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from me;

but whatever mood the apparition evinced, whatever aspect it wore,

it failed not for seven successive nights to meet me the moment I

entered the land of slumber.

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 since--we have three now--and

both mother and child are thriving."

"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."

"Mr. John?"

"Yes."

"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 things 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 he was playing billiards with Miss Ingram. To

the billiard-room I hastened: the click of balls and the hum of

voices resounded thence; Mr. Rochester, Miss Ingram, the two Misses

Eshton, and their admirers, were all busied in the game. It

required some courage to disturb so interesting a party; my errand,

however, was one I could not defer, so I approached the master where

he stood at Miss Ingram's side. She turned as I drew near, and

looked at me haughtily: her eyes seemed to demand, "What can the

creeping creature want now?" and when I said, in a low voice, "Mr.

Rochester," she made a movement as if tempted to order me away. I

remember her appearance at the moment--it was very graceful and very

striking: she wore a morning robe of sky-blue crape; a gauzy azure

scarf was twisted in her hair. She had been all animation with the

game, and irritated pride did not lower the expression of her

haughty lineaments.

"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 schoolroom

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."

"Why?"

"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, Adele 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. Adele, 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 only offered you a sovereign

instead of ten pounds. Give me back nine pounds, Jane; I've a use

for it."

"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."

"Jane!"

"Sir?"

"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 Adele 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?"

"Yes?"

"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 nursery

chair: and I smiled and obeyed her as in bygone days.

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 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, &c., 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. There was every

article of furniture looking just as it did on the morning I was

first introduced to Mr. Brocklehurst: the very rug he had stood

upon still covered the hearth. Glancing at the bookcases, I thought

I could distinguish the two volumes of Bewick's British Birds

occupying their old place on the third shelf, and Gulliver's Travels

and the Arabian Nights ranged just above. The inanimate objects

were not changed; but the living things had altered past

recognition.

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, which 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 of jaw

and chin--perhaps a little softened, but still imparting an

indescribable hardness to the countenance otherwise so voluptuous

and buxom.

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 armchair, 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 harsh line now! And yet I stooped

down and kissed her: she looked at me.

"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?"

"Yes."

"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 in recalling them. But there was something

I wished to say--let me see--"

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 long--not screaming heartily like any other child, but

whimpering and moaning. Reed pitied it; and he used to nurse it and

notice it as if it had been his own: more, indeed, than he ever

noticed his own at that age. He would try to make my children

friendly to the little beggar: the darlings could not bear it, and

he was angry with them when they showed their dislike. In his last

illness, he had it brought continually to his bedside; and but an

hour before he died, he bound me by vow to keep the creature. I

would as soon have been charged with a pauper brat out of a

workhouse: but he was weak, naturally weak. John does not at all

resemble his father, and I am glad of it: John is like me and like

my brothers--he is quite a Gibson. Oh, I wish he would cease

tormenting me with letters for money? I have no more money to give

him: we are getting poor. I must send away half the servants and

shut up part of the house; or let it off. I can never submit to do

that--yet how are we to get on? Two-thirds of my income goes in

paying the interest of mortgages. John gambles dreadfully, and

always loses--poor boy! He is beset by sharpers: John is sunk and

degraded--his look is frightful--I feel ashamed for him when I see

him."

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--he continually threatens me with

his own death, or mine: and I dream sometimes that I see him laid

out with a great wound in his throat, or with a swollen and

blackened face. I am come to a strange pass: I have heavy

troubles. What is to be done? How is the money to be had?"

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 sitting in a hedge-sparrow's nest, under a wreath of hawthorn-

bloom

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 very faithful representation of Mr. Rochester.

But what was that to her, or to any one but myself? Georgiana also

advanced to look. The other drawings pleased her much, but she

called that "an ugly man." They both seemed surprised at my skill.

I offered to sketch their portraits; and each, in turn, sat for a

pencil outline. Then Georgiana produced her album. I promised to

contribute a water-colour drawing: this put her at once into good

humour. She proposed a walk in the grounds. Before we had been out

two hours, we were deep in a confidential conversation: she had

favoured me with a description of the brilliant winter she had spent

in London two seasons ago--of the admiration she had there excited--

the attention she had received; and I even got hints of the titled

conquest she had made. In the course of the afternoon and evening

these hints were enlarged on: various soft conversations were

reported, and sentimental scenes represented; and, in short, a

volume of a novel of fashionable life was that day improvised by her

for my benefit. The communications were renewed from day to day:

they always ran on the same theme--herself, her loves, and woes. It

was strange she never once adverted either to her mother's illness,

or her brother's death, or the present gloomy state of the family

prospects. Her mind seemed wholly taken up with reminiscences of

past gaiety, and aspirations after dissipations to come. She passed

about five minutes each day in her mother's sick-room, and no more.

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 had an alarm to call her up early. I know not

how she occupied herself before breakfast, but after that meal she

divided her time into regular portions, and each hour had its

allotted task. Three times a day she studied a little book, which I

found, on inspection, was a Common Prayer Book. I asked her once

what was the great attraction of that volume, and she said, "the

Rubric." Three hours she gave to stitching, with gold thread, the

border of a square crimson cloth, almost large enough for a carpet.

In answer to my inquiries after the use of this article, she

informed me it was a covering for the altar of a new church lately

erected near Gateshead. Two hours she devoted to her diary; two to

working by herself in the kitchen-garden; and one to the regulation

of her accounts. She seemed to want no company; no conversation. I

believe she was happy in her way: this routine sufficed for her;

and nothing annoyed her so much as the occurrence of any incident

which forced her to vary its clockwork regularity.

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--or you languish, you die

away. Have you no sense to devise a system which will make you

independent of all efforts, and all wills, but your own? Take one

day; share it into sections; to each section apportion its task:

leave no stray unemployed quarters of an hour, ten minutes, five

minutes--include all; do each piece of business in its turn with

method, with rigid regularity. The day will close almost before you

are aware it has begun; and you are indebted to no one for helping

you to get rid of one vacant moment: you have had to seek no one's

company, conversation, sympathy, forbearance; you have lived, in

short, as an independent being ought to do. Take this advice: the

first and last I shall offer you; then you will not want me or any

one else, happen what may. Neglect it--go on as heretofore,

craving, whining, and idling--and suffer the results of your idiocy,

however bad and insuperable they may be. I tell you this plainly;

and listen: for though I shall no more repeat what I am now about

to say, I shall steadily act on it. After my mother's death, I wash

my hands of you: from the day her coffin is carried to the vault in

Gateshead Church, you and I will be as separate as if we had never

known each other. You need not think that because we chanced to be

born of the same parents, I shall suffer you to fasten me down by

even the feeblest claim: I can tell you this--if the whole human

race, ourselves excepted, were swept away, and we two stood alone on

the earth, I would leave you in the old world, and betake myself to

the new."

She closed her lips.

"You might have spared yourself the trouble of delivering that

tirade," answered Georgiana. "Everybody knows you are the most

selfish, heartless creature in existence: and I know your spiteful

hatred towards me: I have had a specimen of it before in the trick

you played me about Lord Edwin Vere: you could not bear me to be

raised above you, to have a title, to be received into circles where

you dare not show your face, and so you acted the spy and informer,

and ruined my prospects for ever." Georgiana took out her

handkerchief and blew her nose for an hour afterwards; Eliza sat

cold, impassable, and assiduously industrious.

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;

her livid face sunk in the pillows: the fire was dying in the

grate. I renewed the fuel, re-arranged the bedclothes, gazed awhile

on her who could not now gaze on me, and then I moved away to the

window.

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 quiet 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:-

 

"Madam,--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 clammy hand with

mine: the feeble fingers shrank from my touch--the glazing eyes

shunned my gaze.

"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 then a spasm constricted her

mouth for an instant: as it passed away she turned and left the

room, and so did I. Neither of us had dropt a tear.

 

CHAPTER XXII

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. However, it is not my business, and so it suits

you, I don't much care."

"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 of

a ball-room, the other the inmate of a convent cell; and I dwelt on

and analysed their separate peculiarities of person and character.

The evening arrival at the great town of--scattered these thoughts;

night gave them quite another turn: laid down on my traveller's

bed, I left reminiscence for anticipation.

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 take the old

road to Thornfield: a road which lay chiefly through fields, and

was now little frequented.

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 Adele 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 Millcote, and on foot?

Yes--just one of your tricks: not to send for a carriage, and come

clattering over street and road like a common mortal, but to steal

into the vicinage of your home along with twilight, just as if you

were a dream or a shade. What the deuce have you done with yourself

this last month?"

"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

that 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 am strangely

glad to get back again to you: and wherever you are is my home--my

only home."

I walked on so fast that even he could hardly have overtaken me had

he tried. Little Adele 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 cars 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

Adele, 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 Adele was "prete e 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 an event. Almost every day I asked Mrs. Fairfax

if she had yet heard anything decided: her answer was always in the

negative. Once she said she had actually put the question to Mr.

Rochester as to when he was going to bring his bride home; but he

had answered her only by a joke and one of his queer looks, and she

could not tell what to make of him.

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.

 

CHAPTER XXIII

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 from the South, like a flock of glorious passenger birds, and

lighted to rest them on the cliffs of Albion. The hay was all got

in; the fields round Thornfield were green and shorn; the roads

white and baked; the trees were in their dark prime; hedge and wood,

full-leaved and deeply tinted, contrasted well with the sunny hue of

the cleared meadows between.

On Midsummer-eve, Adele, 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 or fine deep blue, and its own modest

gem, a casino 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 handbreadth; 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 in a giant horse-

chestnut, circled at the base by a seat, led down to the fence.

Here one could wander unseen. While such honey-dew fell, such

silence reigned, such gloaming gathered, I felt as if I could haunt

such shade for ever; but in threading the flower and fruit parterres

at the upper part of the enclosure, enticed there by the light the

now rising moon cast on this more open quarter, my step is stayed--

not by sound, not by sight, but once more by a warning fragrance.

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, "and he is occupied

too; perhaps, if I walk softly, I can slip away unnoticed."

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, and

thoughts busily bent on discovering a means of extrication; but he

himself looked so composed and so grave also, I became ashamed of

feeling any confusion: the evil--if evil existent or prospective

there was--seemed to lie with me only; his mind was unconscious and

quiet.

"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?"

"Yes, sir."

"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 Adele,

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?"

"Yes."

"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."

"Soon, sir?"

"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 Adele 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. Adele 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 I may stay here, till I find another

shelter to betake myself to:" but I stopped, feeling it would not do

to risk a long sentence, for my voice was not quite under command.

"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 dependent 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 warm-hearted 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--"

"Well?"

"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 the brine and foam, destined, as it seemed, to rush between me

and the master at whose side I now walked, and coldest the

remembrance of the wider ocean--wealth, caste, custom intervened

between me and what I naturally and inevitably loved.

"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?"

"Yes, sir."

"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, and two hundred

miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of

communion will be snapt; and then I've a nervous notion I should

take to bleeding inwardly. As for you,--you'd forget me."

"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 the

only voice of the hour: in listening to it, I again wept. Mr.

Rochester sat quiet, looking at me gently and seriously. Some time

passed before he spoke; he at last said -

"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?"

"Entirely."

"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 as my own flesh.

You--poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are--I entreat to

accept me as a husband."

"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."

"Why?"

"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!"

"Dear Edward!"

"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 wind roared in the laurel walk, and came sweeping over us.

"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 clock 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' duration, I experienced no fear and little awe. Mr.

Rochester came thrice to my door in the course of it, to ask if I

was safe and tranquil: and that was comfort, that was strength for

anything.

Before I left my bed in the morning, little Adele 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.

 

CHAPTER XXIV

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 happy.

A beggar-woman and her little boy--pale, ragged objects both--were

coming up the walk, and I ran down and gave them all the money I

happened to have in my purse--some three or four shillings: good or

bad, they must partake of my jubilee. The rooks cawed, and blither

birds sang; but nothing was so merry or so musical as my own

rejoicing heart.

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 Adele 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 rain 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 the bracelets on these fine wrists, and load these fairy-

like fingers with rings."

"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 there, I shall bear my treasure to regions

nearer the sun: to French vineyards and Italian plains; and she

shall see whatever is famous in old story and in modern record: she

shall taste, too, of the life of cities; and she shall learn to

value herself by just comparison with others."

"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 cleansed, 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, I hope

never to become quite distasteful to my dear master."

"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 was involuntary),

I was thinking of Hercules and Samson with their charmers--"

"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, Jane,--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: you 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 to ask,--Why did you take such pains to make me

believe you wished to marry Miss Ingram?"

"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?"

"Yes."

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, Adele 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, Adele;" and I hastened away with her, glad to quit my

gloomy monitress. The carriage was ready: they were bringing it

round to the front, and my master was the pavement, Pilot following

him backwards and forwards.

"Adele 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 Adele.

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."

Adele, 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, in his

present fractious mood, she dared whisper no observations, nor ask

of him any information.

"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.

Adele 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

Adele.

"I shall gather manna for her morning and night: the plains and

hillsides in the moon are bleached with manna, Adele."

"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, Adele? 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 Adele, 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."

"Adele, 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, Adele, 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

towards her horn, rising over Hay-hill: it told me of the alabaster

cave and silver vale where we might live. I said I should like to

go; but reminded it, as you did me, that I had no wings to fly.

"'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, Adele, 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 fee," and that "du reste, il n'y

avait pas de fees, et quand meme 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, he vowed he would select himself.

With anxiety I watched his eye rove over the gay stores: he fixed

on a rich silk of the most brilliant amethyst dye, and a superb pink

satin. I told him in a new series of whispers, that he might as

well buy me a gold gown and a silver bonnet at once: I should

certainly never venture to wear his choice. With infinite

difficulty, for he was stubborn as a stone, I persuaded him to make

an exchange in favour of a sober black satin and pearl-grey silk.

"It might pass for the present," he said; "but he would yet see me

glittering like a parterre."

Glad was I to get him out of the silk warehouse, and then out of a

jewellers 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 might, in a blissful and fond moment,

bestow on a slave his gold and gems had enriched: I crushed his

hand, which was ever hunting mine, vigorously, and thrust it back to

him red with the passionate pressure.

"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 Celine Varens?--of the diamonds,

the cashmeres you gave her? I will not be your English Celine

Varens. I shall continue to act as Adele'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 Adele 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 Adele, 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 tete-e-tete 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 performance was good. No sooner had

twilight, that hour of romance, began to lower her blue and starry

banner over the lattice, than I rose, opened the piano, and

entreated him, for the love of heaven, to give me a song. He said I

was a capricious witch, and that he would rather sing another time;

but I averred that no time was like the present.

"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:-

 

"The truest love that ever heart

Felt at its kindled core,

Did through each vein, in quickened start,

The tide of being pour.

Her coming was my hope each day,

Her parting was my pain;

The chance that did her steps delay

Was ice in every vein.

I dreamed it would be nameless bliss,

As I loved, loved to be;

And to this object did I press

As blind as eagerly.

But wide as pathless was the space

That lay our lives between,

And dangerous as the foamy race

Of ocean-surges green.

And haunted as a robber-path

Through wilderness or wood;

For Might and Right, and Woe and Wrath,

Between our spirits stood.

I dangers dared; I hindrance scorned;

I omens did defy:

Whatever menaced, harassed, warned,

I passed impetuous by.

On sped my rainbow, fast as light;

I flew as in a dream;

For glorious rose upon my sight

That child of Shower and Gleam.

Still bright on clouds of suffering dim

Shines that soft, solemn joy;

Nor care I now, how dense and grim

Disasters gather nigh.

I care not in this moment sweet,

Though all I have rushed o'er

Should come on pinion, strong and fleet,

Proclaiming vengeance sore:

Though haughty Hate should strike me down,

Right, bar approach to me,

And grinding Might, with furious frown,

Swear endless enmity.

My love has placed her little hand

With noble faith in mine,

And vowed that wedlock's sacred band

Our nature shall entwine.

My love has sworn, with sealing kiss,

With me to live--to die;

I have at last my nameless bliss.

As I love--loved am I!"

 

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, I would not have; and I stood in peril of

both: a weapon of defence must be prepared--I whetted my tongue:

as he reached me, I asked with asperity, "whom he was going to marry

now?"

"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 thought; "you may

fume and fidget as you please: but this is the best plan to pursue

with you, I am certain. I like you more than I can say; but I'll

not sink into a bathos of sentiment: and with this needle of

repartee I'll keep you from the edge of the gulf too; and, moreover,

maintain by its pungent aid that distance between you and myself

most conducive to our real mutual advantage."

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," &c. For caresses, too, I now got grimaces; for a

pressure of the hand, a pinch on the arm; for a kiss on the cheek, a

severe tweak of the ear. It was all right: at present I decidedly

preferred these fierce favours to anything more tender. Mrs.

Fairfax, I saw, approved me: her anxiety on my account vanished;

therefore I was certain I did well. Meantime, Mr. Rochester

affirmed I was wearing him to skin and bone, and threatened awful

vengeance for my present conduct at some period fast coming. I

laughed in my sleeve at his menaces. "I can keep you in reasonable

check now," I reflected; "and I don't doubt to be able to do it

hereafter: if one expedient loses its virtue, another must be

devised."

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.

 

CHAPTER XXV

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 whom as yet I knew not. The cards of address alone remained

to nail on: they lay, four little squares, in the drawer. Mr.

Rochester had himself written the direction, "Mrs. Rochester,--

Hotel, London," on each: I could not persuade myself to affix them,

or to have them affixed. Mrs. Rochester! She did not exist: she

would not be born till to-morrow, some time after eight o'clock

a.m.; and I would wait to be assured she had come into the world

alive before I assigned to her all that property. It was enough

that in yonder closet, opposite my dressing-table, garments said to

be hers had already displaced my black stuff Lowood frock and straw

bonnet: for not to me appertained that suit of wedding raiment; the

pearl-coloured robe, the vapoury veil pendent from the usurped

portmanteau. I shut the closet to conceal the strange, wraith-like

apparel it contained; which, at this evening hour--nine o'clock--

gave out certainly a most ghostly shimmer through the shadow of my

apartment. "I will leave you by yourself, white dream," I said. "I

am feverish: I hear the wind blowing: I will go out of doors and

feel it."

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 that night was absent from home; nor was he yet returned:

business had called him to a small estate of two or three farms he

possessed thirty miles off--business it was requisite he should

settle in person, previous to his meditated departure from England.

I waited now his return; eager to disburthen my mind, and to seek of

him the solution of the enigma that perplexed me. Stay till he

comes, reader; and, when I disclose my secret to him, you shall

share the confidence.

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, gasped 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, they might be said to form one tree--a

ruin, but an entire ruin.

"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 store-room. 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, when I had completed these arrangements I could

not sit still, nor even remain in the house: a little time-piece in

the room and the old clock in the hall simultaneously struck ten.

"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 but 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-bye, 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. This is you, who have been as

slippery as an eel this last month, and as thorny as a briar-rose?

I could not lay a finger anywhere but I was pricked; and now I seem

to have gathered up a stray lamb in my arms. You wandered out of

the fold to seek your shepherd, did you, Jane?"

"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 put it down

from before my face. "Sir, have you finished supper?"

"Yes, Jane."

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?"

"All, sir."

"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 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?"

"No."

"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 time-piece had

concluded its silver chime, and the clock its hoarse, vibritting

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 believed that events were working together

for your good and mine: it was a fine day, if you recollect--the

calmness of the air and sky forbade apprehensions respecting your

safety or comfort on your journey. I walked a little while on the

pavement after tea, thinking of you; and I beheld you in imagination

so near me, I scarcely missed your actual presence. I thought of

the life that lay before me--YOUR life, sir--an existence more

expansive and stirring than my own: as much more so as the depths

of the sea to which the brook runs are than the shallows of its own

strait channel. I wondered why moralists call this world a dreary

wilderness: for me it blossomed like a rose. Just at sunset, the

air turned cold and the sky cloudy: I went in, Sophie called me

upstairs to look at my wedding-dress, which they had just brought;

and under it in the box I found your present--the veil which, in

your princely extravagance, you sent for from London: resolved, I

suppose, since I would not have jewels, to cheat me into accepting

something as costly. I smiled as I unfolded it, and devised how I

would tease you about your aristocratic tastes, and your efforts to

masque your plebeian bride in the attributes of a peeress. I though

how I would carry down to you the square of unembroidered blond I

had myself prepared as a covering for my low-born head, and ask if

that was not good enough for a woman who could bring her husband

neither fortune, beauty, nor connections. I saw plainly how you

would look; and heard your impetuous republican answers, and your

haughty disavowal of any necessity on your part to augment your

wealth, or elevate your standing, by marrying either a purse or a

coronet."

"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 my voice still died away

inarticulate; while you, I felt, withdrew farther and farther every

moment."

"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 by 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--tease 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. Sophie, I supposed, had come in. There

was a light in the dressing-table, and the door of the closet,

where, before going to bed, I had hung my wedding-dress and veil,

stood open; I heard a rustling there. I asked, 'Sophie, what are

you doing?' No one answered; but a form emerged from the closet; it

took the light, held it aloft, and surveyed the garments pendent

from the portmanteau. 'Sophie! Sophie!' I again cried: and still

it was silent. I had risen up in bed, I bent forward: first

surprise, then bewilderment, came over me; and then my blood crept

cold through my veins. Mr. Rochester, this was not Sophie, it was

not Leah, it was not Mrs. Fairfax: it was not--no, I was sure of

it, and am still--it was not even that strange woman, Grace Poole."

"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?"

"You may."

"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."

"Afterwards?"

"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 certain. I must

be careful of you, my treasure: nerves like yours were not made for

rough handling."

"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?"

"Not yet."

"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 Adele in the nursery?" he asked, as I

lit my candle.

"Yes, sir."

"And there is room enough in Adele'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 Sophie when you

go upstairs, under pretence of requesting her to rouse you in good

time to-morrow; for you must be dressed and have finished breakfast

before eight. And now, no more sombre thoughts: chase dull care

away, Janet. Don't you hear to what soft whispers the wind has

fallen? and there is no more beating of rain against the window-

panes: look here" (he lifted up the curtain)--"it is a lovely

night!"

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 Adele 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 Adele 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.

 

CHAPTER XXVI

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?"

"Yes, sir."

"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 tell me."

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."

"Yes, sir."

"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 I was quite out

of breath. "Am I cruel in my love?" he said. "Delay an instant:

lean on me, Jane."

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--was advancing up the chancel. The service

began. The explanation of the intent of matrimony was gone through;

and then the clergyman came a step further forward, and, bending

slightly towards Mr. Rochester, went on.

"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 what has been

asserted, and evidence of its truth or falsehood."

"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; he experienced,

too, a sort of strong convulsive quiver; near to him as I was, I

felt the spasmodic movement of fury or despair run through his

frame. The second stranger, who had hitherto lingered in the

background, now drew near; a pale face looked over the solicitor's

shoulder--yes, it was Mason himself. Mr. Rochester turned and

glared at him. His eye, as I have often said, was a black eye: it

had now a tawny, nay, a bloody light in its gloom; and his face

flushed--olive cheek and hueless forehead received a glow as from

spreading, ascending heart-fire: and he stirred, lifted his strong

arm--he could have struck Mason, dashed him on the church-floor,

shocked by ruthless blow the breath from his body--but Mason shrank

away, and cried faintly, "Good God!" Contempt fell cool on Mr.

Rochester--his passion died as if a blight had shrivelled it up: he

only asked--"What have YOU to say?"

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. Bertha Mason is

mad; and she came of a mad family; idiots and maniacs through three

generations? Her mother, the Creole, was both a madwoman and a

drunkard!--as I found out after I had wed the daughter: for they

were silent on family secrets before. Bertha, like a dutiful child,

copied her parent in both points. I had a charming partner--pure,

wise, modest: you can fancy I was a happy man. I went through rich

scenes! Oh! my experience has been heavenly, if you only knew it!

But I owe you no further explanation. Briggs, Wood, Mason, I invite

you all to come up to the house and visit Mrs. Poole's patient, and

MY WIFE! You shall see what sort of a being I was cheated into

espousing, and judge whether or not I had a right to break the

compact, and seek sympathy with something at least human. This

girl," he continued, looking at me, "knew no more than you, Wood, of

the disgusting secret: she thought all was fair and legal and never

dreamt she was going to be entrapped into a feigned union with a

defrauded wretch, already bound to a bad, mad, and embruted partner!

Come all of you--follow!"

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, Adele, 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 my hand, and

still beckoning the gentlemen to follow him, which they did. We

mounted the first staircase, passed up the gallery, proceeded to the

third storey: the low, black door, opened by Mr. Rochester's

master-key, admitted us to the tapestried room, with its great bed

and its pictorial cabinet.

"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 embrace I am

ever to know--such are the endearments which are to solace my

leisure hours! And THIS is what I wished to have" (laying his hand

on my shoulder): "this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at

the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon, I

wanted her just as a change after that fierce ragout. Wood and

Briggs, look at the difference! Compare these clear eyes with the

red balls yonder--this face with that mask--this form with that

bulk; then judge me, priest of the gospel and man of the law, and

remember with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged! Off with

you now. I must shut up my prize."

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 sick

bed; from which, considering the nature of his disease--decline--and

the stage it has reached, it is unlikely he will ever rise. He

could not then hasten to England himself, to extricate you from the

snare into which you had fallen, but he implored Mr. Mason to lose

no time in taking steps to prevent the false marriage. He referred

him to me for assistance. I used all despatch, and am thankful I

was not too late: as you, doubtless, must be also. Were I not

morally certain that your uncle will be dead ere you reach Madeira,

I would advise you to accompany Mr. Mason back; but as it is, I

think you had better remain in England till you can hear further,

either from or of Mr. Eyre. Have we anything else to stay for?" he

inquired of Mr. Mason.

"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, or scathed 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 flagrant 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 which was my master's--which he had created; it

shivered in my heart, like a suffering child in a cold cradle;

sickness and anguish had seized it; it could not seek Mr.

Rochester's arms--it could not derive warmth from his breast. Oh,

never more could it turn to him; for faith was blighted--confidence

destroyed! Mr. Rochester was not to me what he had been; for he was

not what I had thought him. I would not ascribe vice to him; I

would not say he had betrayed me; but the attribute of stainless

truth was gone from his idea, and from his presence I must go: THAT

I perceived well. When--how--whither, I could not yet discern; but

he himself, I doubted not, would hurry me from Thornfield. Real

affection, it seemed, he could not have for me; it had been only

fitful passion: that was balked; he would want me no more. I

should fear even to cross his path now: my view must be hateful to

him. Oh, how blind had been my eyes! How weak my conduct!

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."

 

CHAPTER XXVII

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 had yet but dipped her

dainty foot in the slough, and swore that with that arm of iron he

would thrust her down to unsounded depths of agony.

"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 Adele 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 shut yourself

up and grieve alone! I would rather you had come and upbraided me

with vehemence. You are passionate. I expected a scene of some

kind. I was prepared for the hot rain of tears; only I wanted them

to be shed on my breast: now a senseless floor has received them,

or your drenched handkerchief. But I err: you have not wept at

all! I see a white cheek and a faded eye, but no trace of tears. I

suppose, then, your heart has been weeping blood?"

"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.

"Yes, sir."

"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?"

"Yes."

"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 Adele'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--Adele must have a new

governess, sir."

"Oh, Adele 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 Adele 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 demon's vicinage is poisoned, and always was.

But I'll shut up Thornfield Hall: I'll nail up the front door and

board the lower windows: I'll give Mrs. Poole two hundred a year to

live here with MY WIFE, as you term that fearful hag: Grace will do

much for money, and she shall have her son, the keeper at Grimsby

Retreat, to bear her company and be at hand to give her aid in the

paroxysms, when MY WIFE is prompted by her familiar to burn people

in their beds at night, to stab them, to bite their flesh from their

bones, and so on--"

"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 moments you should have no

watcher and no nurse but me; and I could hang over you with untiring

tenderness, though you gave me no smile in return; and never weary

of gazing into your eyes, though they had no longer a ray of

recognition for me.--But why do I follow that train of ideas? I was

talking of removing you from Thornfield. All, you know, is prepared

for prompt departure: to-morrow you shall go. I only ask you to

endure one more night under this roof, Jane; and then, farewell to

its miseries and terrors for ever! I have a place to repair to,

which will be a secure sanctuary from hateful reminiscences, from

unwelcome intrusion--even from falsehood and slander."

"And take Adele with you, sir," I interrupted; "she will be a

companion for you."

"What do you mean, Jane? I told you I would send Adele 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 Adele 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 spot. He looked at me long and hard: I turned my eyes from

him, fixed them on the fire, and tried to assume and maintain a

quiet, collected aspect.

"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 I 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 Adele 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 you desire, I should then be

your mistress: to say otherwise is sophistical--is false."

"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 at 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 me: a marriage was achieved almost before I

knew where I was. Oh, I have no respect for myself when I think of

that act!--an agony of inward contempt masters me. I never loved, I

never esteemed, I did not even know her. I was not sure of the

existence of one virtue in her nature: I had marked neither

modesty, nor benevolence, nor candour, nor refinement in her mind or

manners--and, I married her:- gross, grovelling, mole-eyed blockhead

that I was! With less sin I might have--But let me remember to whom

I am speaking."

"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 could not be sustained between us, because

whatever topic I started, immediately received from her a turn at

once coarse and trite, perverse and imbecile--when I perceived that

I should never have a quiet or settled household, because no servant

would bear the continued outbreaks of her violent and unreasonable

temper, or the vexations of her absurd, contradictory, exacting

orders--even then I restrained myself: I eschewed upbraiding, I

curtailed remonstrance; I tried to devour my repentance and disgust

in secret; I repressed the deep antipathy I felt.

"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 prematurely developed the germs of insanity. Jane,

you don't like my narrative; you look almost sick--shall I defer the

rest to another day?"

"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--that recollection was then,

and is now, inexpressibly odious to me; moreover, I knew that while

she lived I could never be the husband of another and better wife;

and, though five years my senior (her family and her father had lied

to me even in the particular of her age), she was likely to live as

long as I, being as robust in frame as she was infirm in mind.

Thus, at the age of twenty-six, I was hopeless.

"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 a right to deliver myself

from it if I can. The sufferings of this mortal state will leave me

with the heavy flesh that now cumbers my soul. Of the fanatic's

burning eternity I have no fear: there is not a future state worse

than this present one--let me break away, and go home to God!'

"I said this whilst I knelt down at, and unlocked a trunk which

contained a brace of loaded pistols: I mean 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 pine-apples, 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 a wild

beast's den--a goblin's cell. I had some trouble in finding an

attendant for her, as it was necessary to select one on whose

fidelity dependence could be placed; for her ravings would

inevitably betray my secret: besides, she had lucid intervals of

days--sometimes weeks--which she filled up with abuse of me. At

last I hired Grace Poole from the Grimbsy Retreat. She and the

surgeon, Carter (who dressed Mason's wounds that night he was

stabbed and worried), are the only two I have ever admitted to my

confidence. Mrs. Fairfax may indeed have suspected something, but

she could have gained no precise knowledge as to facts. Grace has,

on the whole, proved a good keeper; though, owing partly to a fault

of her own, of which it appears nothing can cure her, and which is

incident to her harassing profession, her vigilance has been more

than once lulled and baffled. The lunatic is both cunning and

malignant; she has never failed to take advantage of her guardian's

temporary lapses; once to secrete the knife with which she stabbed

her brother, and twice to possess herself of the key of her cell,

and issue therefrom in the night-time. On the first of these

occasions, she perpetrated the attempt to burn me in my bed; on the

second, she paid that ghastly visit to you. I thank Providence, who

watched over you, that she then spent her fury on your wedding

apparel, which perhaps brought back vague reminiscences of her own

bridal days: but on what might have happened, I cannot endure to

reflect. When I think of the thing which flew at my throat this

morning, hanging its black and scarlet visage over the nest of my

dove, my blood curdles

"And what, sir," I asked, while he paused, "did you do when you had

settled her here? Where did you go?"

"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."

"Well, sir?"

"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 undeserved. 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 Celine 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 German, Clara;

both considered singularly handsome. What was their beauty to me in

a few weeks? Giacinta was unprincipled and violent: I tired of her

in three months. Clara was honest and quiet; but heavy, mindless,

and unimpressible: not one whit to my taste. I was glad to give

her a sufficient sum to set her up in a good line of business, and

so get decently rid of her. But, Jane, I see by your face you are

not forming a very favourable opinion of me just now. You think me

an unfeeling, loose-principled rake: don't you?"

"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 Celine, 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 home that night, Jane, though probably you were not aware

that I thought of you or watched for you. The next day I observed

you--myself unseen--for half-an-hour, while you played with Adele in

the gallery. It was a snowy day, I recollect, and you could not go

out of doors. I was in my room; the door was ajar: I could both

listen and watch. Adele claimed your outward attention for a while;

yet I fancied your thoughts were elsewhere: but you were very

patient with her, my little Jane; you talked to her and amused her a

long time. When at last she left you, you lapsed at once into deep

reverie: you betook yourself slowly to pace the gallery. Now and

then, in passing a casement, you glanced out at the thick-falling

snow; you listened to the sobbing wind, and again you paced gently

on and dreamed. I think those day visions were not dark: there was

a pleasurable illumination in your eye occasionally, a soft

excitement in your aspect, which told of no bitter, bilious,

hypochondriac brooding: your look revealed rather the sweet musings

of youth when its spirit follows on willing wings the flight of Hope

up and on to an ideal heaven. The voice of Mrs. Fairfax, speaking

to a servant in the hall, wakened you: and how curiously you smiled

to and at yourself, Janet! There was much sense in your smile: it

was very shrewd, and seemed to make light of your own abstraction.

It seemed to say--'My fine visions are all very well, but I must not

forget they are absolutely unreal. I have a rosy sky and a green

flowery Eden in my brain; but without, I am perfectly aware, lies at

my feet a rough tract to travel, and around me gather black tempests

to encounter.' You ran downstairs and demanded of Mrs. Fairfax some

occupation: the weekly house accounts to make up, or something of

that sort, I think it was. I was vexed with you for getting out of

my sight.

"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: besides, I was for a while troubled with a haunting

fear that if I handled the flower freely its bloom would fade--the

sweet charm of freshness would leave it. I did not then know that

it was no transitory blossom, but rather the radiant resemblance of

one, cut in an indestructible gem. Moreover, I wished to see

whether you would seek me if I shunned you--but you did not; you

kept in the schoolroom as still as your own desk and easel; if by

chance I met you, you passed me as soon, and with as little token of

recognition, as was consistent with respect. Your habitual

expression in those days, Jane, was a thoughtful look; not

despondent, for you were not sickly; but not buoyant, for you had

little hope, and no actual pleasure. I wondered what you thought of

me, or if you ever thought of me, and resolved to find this out.

"I resumed my notice of you. There was something glad in your

glance, and genial in your manner, when you conversed: I saw you

had a social heart; it was the silent schoolroom--it was the tedium

of your life--that made you mournful. I permitted myself the

delight of being kind to you; kindness stirred emotion soon: your

face became soft in expression, your tones gentle; I liked my name

pronounced by your lips in a grateful happy accent. I used to enjoy

a chance meeting with you, Jane, at this time: there was a curious

hesitation in your manner: you glanced at me with a slight trouble-

-a hovering doubt: you did not know what my caprice might be--

whether I was going to play the master and be stern, or the friend

and be benignant. I was now too fond of you often to simulate the

first whim; and, when I stretched my hand out cordially, such bloom

and light and bliss rose to your young, wistful features, I had much

ado often to avoid straining you then and there to my heart."

"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 all 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--opened to

you plainly my life of agony--described to you my hunger and thirst

after a higher and worthier existence--shown to you, not my

RESOLUTION (that word is weak), but my resistless BENT to love

faithfully and well, where I am faithfully and well loved in return.

Then I should have asked you to accept my pledge of fidelity and to

give me yours. Jane--give it me now."

A pause.

"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?"

"I do."

"Jane" (bending towards and embracing me), "do you mean it now?"

"I do."

"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

forebore 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 upstairs: 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?"

"No."

"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 ideas, is proved by your conduct! Is it better to drive a

fellow-creature to despair than to transgress a mere human law, no

man being injured by the breach? for you have neither relatives nor

acquaintances whom you need fear to offend by living with me?"

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 over-taxed 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 will vanish ere I inhale your fragrance. Oh! come,

Jane, come!"

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: I retired to the door.

"You are going, Jane?"

"I am going, sir."

"You are leaving me?"

"Yes."

"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."

"Jane!"

"Mr. Rochester!"

"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 keep you from harm

and wrong--direct you, solace you--reward you well for your past

kindness to me."

"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 trance-like 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 Adele!" 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 through life till

death," and a fount of rapture would spring to my lips. I thought

of this.

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 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 blank: something

like the world when the deluge was gone by.

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 me on. As to my own

will or conscience, impassioned grief had trampled one and stifled

the other. I was weeping wildly as I walked along my solitary way:

fast, fast I went like one delirious. A weakness, beginning

inwardly, extending to the limbs, seized me, and I fell: I lay on

the ground some minutes, pressing my face to the wet turf. I had

some fear--or hope--that here I should die: but I was soon up;

crawling forwards on my hands and knees, and then again raised to my

feet--as eager and as determined as ever to reach the road.

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.

 

CHAPTER XXVIII

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 what would sound incredible and excite suspicion. Not

a tie holds me to human society at this moment--not a charm or hope

calls me where my fellow-creatures are--none that saw me would have

a kind thought or a good wish for me. I have no relative but the

universal mother, Nature: I will seek her breast and ask repose.

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 beat of the

summer day. I looked at the sky; it was pure: a kindly star

twinkled just above the chasm ridge. The dew 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 still quivered its

shattered pinions in vain attempts to seek him.

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 run over the crag; I saw a bee busy among the sweet

bilberries. I would fain at the moment have become bee or lizard,

that I might have found fitting nutriment, permanent shelter here.

But I was a human being, and had a human being's wants: I must not

linger where there was nothing to supply them. I rose; I looked

back at the bed I had left. Hopeless of the future, I wished but

this--that my Maker had that night thought good to require my soul

of me while I slept; and that this weary frame, absolved by death

from further conflict with fate, had now but to decay quietly, and

mingle in peace with the soil of this wilderness. Life, however,

was yet in my possession, with all its requirements, and pains, and

responsibilities. The burden must be carried; the want provided

for; the suffering endured; the responsibility fulfilled. I set

out.

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 zig-zag through the varied shades of green,

the mellowing grain, the sombre woodland, the clear and sunny lea.

Recalled by the rumbling of wheels to the road before me, I saw a

heavily-laden waggon labouring up the hill, and not far beyond were

two cows and their drover. Human life and human labour were near.

I must struggle on: strive to live and bend to toil like the rest.

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 how

unseasonable such a manifestation would be, I restrained it. Soon I

asked her "if there were any dressmaker or plain-workwoman in the

village?"

"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 want of food, I

turned aside into a lane and sat down under the hedge. Ere many

minutes had elapsed, I was again on my feet, however, and again

searching something--a resource, or at least an informant. A pretty

little house stood at the top of the lane, with a garden before it,

exquisitely neat and brilliantly blooming. I stopped at it. What

business had I to approach the white door or touch the glittering

knocker? In what way could it possibly be the interest of the

inhabitants of that dwelling to serve me? Yet I drew near and

knocked. A mild-looking, cleanly-attired young woman opened the

door. In such a voice as might be expected from a hopeless heart

and fainting frame--a voice wretchedly low and faltering--I asked if

a servant was wanted here?

"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 with

nature's cravings, instinct kept me roaming round abodes where there

was a chance of food. Solitude would be no solitude--rest no rest--

while the vulture, hunger, thus sank beak and talons in my side.

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?

"Yes."

"Was the clergyman in?"

"No."

"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 at Marsh End now, and would very

likely stay there a fortnight longer."

"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

was it to provide me with employment? Not, certainly, that of

persons who saw me then for the first time, and who knew nothing

about my character. And as to the woman who would not take my

handkerchief in exchange for her bread, why, she was right, if the

offer appeared to her sinister or the exchange unprofitable. Let me

condense now. I am sick of the subject.

A little before dark I passed a farm-house, 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, "there is a woman wants

me to give her these porridge."

"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 hand, 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 or on a frequented

road," I reflected. "And far better that crows and ravens--if any

ravens there be in these regions--should pick my flesh from my

bones, than that they should be prisoned in a workhouse coffin and

moulder in a pauper's grave."

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 friendly numbness of death--it might have pelted on; I should

not have felt it; but my yet living flesh shuddered at its chilling

influence. I rose ere long.

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 some other creeping

plant, whose leaves clustered thick over the portion of the house

wall in which it was set. The aperture was so screened and narrow,

that curtain or shutter had been deemed unnecessary; and when I

stooped down and put aside the spray of foliage shooting over it, I

could see all within. I could see clearly a room with a sanded

floor, clean scoured; a dresser of walnut, with pewter plates ranged

in rows, reflecting the redness and radiance of a glowing peat-fire.

I could see a clock, a white deal table, some chairs. The candle,

whose ray had been my beacon, burnt on the table; and by its light

an elderly woman, somewhat rough-looking, but scrupulously clean,

like all about her, was knitting a stocking.

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 bent over a book, they looked thoughtful almost

to severity. A stand between them supported a second candle and two

great volumes, to which they frequently referred, comparing them,

seemingly, with the smaller books they held in their hands, like

people consulting a dictionary to aid them in the task of

translation. This scene was as silent as if all the figures had

been shadows and the firelit apartment a picture: so hushed was it,

I could hear the cinders fall from the grate, the clock tick in its

obscure corner; and I even fancied I could distinguish the click-

click of the woman's knitting-needles. When, therefore, a voice

broke the strange stillness at last, it was audible enough to me.

"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 worth a hundred pages of fustian. 'Ich wage die Gedanken in der

Schale meines Zornes und die Werke mit dem Gewichte meines Grimms.'

I like it!"

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 I dimly saw a

passage: soon I heard her stir a fire in an inner room; she

presently came back.

"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 and braided smooth:

Diana's duskier tresses covered her neck with thick curls. The

clock struck ten.

"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 for a moment;

but the last I soon endeavoured to regain.

"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 new-comer 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--trembling, sickening; conscious

of an aspect in the last degree ghastly, wild, and weather-beaten.

The two ladies, their brother, Mr. St. John, the old servant, were

all gazing at me.

"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 gate with a smile, I said--"I will trust

you. If I were a masterless and stray dog, I know that you would

not turn me from your hearth to-night: as it is, I really have no

fear. Do with me and for me as you like; but excuse me from much

discourse--my breath is short--I feel a spasm when I speak." All

three surveyed me, and all three were silent.

"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.

 

CHAPTER XXIX

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

evening. I observed when any one entered or left the apartment: I

could even tell who they were; I could understand what was said when

the speaker stood near to me; but I could not answer; to open my

lips or move my limbs was equally impossible. Hannah, the servant,

was my most frequent visitor. Her coming disturbed me. I had a

feeling that she wished me away: that she did not understand me or

my circumstances; that she was prejudiced against me. Diana and

Mary appeared in the chamber once or twice a day. They would

whisper sentences of this sort at my bedside -

"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 it needless to send for a doctor: nature,

he was sure, would manage best, left to herself. He said every

nerve had been overstrained in some way, and the whole system must

sleep torpid a while. There was no disease. He imagined my

recovery would be rapid enough when once commenced. These opinions

he delivered in a few words, in a quiet, low voice; and added, after

a pause, in the tone of a man little accustomed to expansive

comment, "Rather an unusual physiognomy; certainly, not indicative

of vulgarity or degradation."

"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 she left me, I felt

comparatively strong and revived: ere long satiety of repose and

desire for action stirred me. I wished to rise; but what could I

put on? Only my damp and bemired apparel; in which I had slept on

the ground and fallen in the marsh. I felt ashamed to appear before

my benefactors so clad. I was spared the humiliation.

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 better, then. You may

sit you down in my chair on the hearthstone, if you will."

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.

"Yes, very."

"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?

"Aye."

"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?"

"Yes."

"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 needlemaker; and th' Rivers wor gentry i' th' 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

bankrupt; and as he was now not rich enough to give them fortunes,

they must provide for themselves. They had lived very little at

home for a long while, and were only come now to stay a few weeks on

account of their father's death; but they did so like Marsh End and

Morton, and all these moors and hills about. They had been in

London, and many other grand towns; but they always said there was

no place like home; and then they were so agreeable with each other-

-never fell out nor "threaped." She did not know where there was

such a family for being united.

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 fill 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 authority: she had a will,

evidently. It was my nature to feel pleasure in yielding to an

authority supported like hers, and to bend, where my conscience and

self-respect permitted, to an active will.

"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 with glass doors contained

some books and an ancient set of china. There was no superfluous

ornament in the room--not one modern piece of furniture, save a

brace of workboxes and a lady's desk in rosewood, which stood on a

side-table: everything--including the carpet and curtains--looked

at once well worn and well saved.

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 literal sense, in a figurative one were difficult to

fathom. He seemed to use them rather as instruments to search other

people's thoughts, than as agents to reveal his own: the which

combination of keenness and reserve was considerably more calculated

to embarrass than to encourage.

"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 he 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 and required an answer by a second firm

and piercing look.

"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, on my confidence. I will tell you

as much of the history of the wanderer you have harboured, as I can

tell without compromising my own peace of mind--my own security,

moral and physical, and that of others.

"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

threshold: but twice in that space of time did I taste food; and it

was when brought by hunger, exhaustion, and despair almost to the

last gasp, that you, Mr. Rivers, forbade me to perish of want at

your door, and took me under the shelter of your roof. I know all

your sisters have done for me since--for I have not been insensible

during my seeming torpor--and I owe to their spontaneous, genuine,

genial compassion as large a debt as to your evangelical charity."

"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, above all, with my CHARITY (I am quite sensible of

the distinction drawn, nor do I resent it--it is just): you desire

to be independent of us?"

"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-workwoman; 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.

 

CHAPTER XXX

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

to a flock of grey moorland sheep, with their little mossy-faced

lambs:- they clung to this scene, I say, with a perfect enthusiasm

of attachment. I could comprehend the feeling, and share both its

strength and truth. I saw the fascination of the locality. I felt

the consecration of its loneliness: my eye feasted on the outline

of swell and sweep--on the wild colouring communicated to ridge and

dell by moss, by heath-bell, by flower-sprinkled turf, by brilliant

bracken, and mellow granite crag. These details were just to me

what they were to them--so many pure and sweet sources of pleasure.

The strong blast and the soft breeze; the rough and the halcyon day;

the hours of sunrise and sunset; the moonlight and the clouded

night, developed for me, in these regions, the same attraction as

for them--wound round my faculties the same spell that entranced

theirs.

Indoors 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 listen

alternately to her and Mary, while they sounded thoroughly the topic

on which I had but touched. Diana offered to teach me German. I

liked to learn of her: I saw the part of instructress pleased and

suited her; that of scholar pleased and suited me no less. Our

natures dovetailed: mutual affection--of the strongest kind--was

the result. They discovered I could draw: their pencils and

colour-boxes were immediately at my service. My skill, greater in

this one point than theirs, surprised and charmed them. Mary would

sit and watch me by the hour together: then she would take lessons;

and a docile, intelligent, assiduous pupil she made. Thus occupied,

and mutually entertained, days passed like hours, and weeks like

days.

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 bet he

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 pitch of voice

went, it was calm to the end: an earnestly felt, yet strictly

restrained zeal breathed soon in the distinct accents, and prompted

the nervous language. This grew to force--compressed, condensed,

controlled. The heart was thrilled, the mind astonished, by the

power of the preacher: neither were softened. Throughout there was

a strange bitterness; an absence of consolatory gentleness; stern

allusions to Calvinistic doctrines--election, predestination,

reprobation--were frequent; and each reference to these points

sounded like a sentence pronounced for doom. When he had done,

instead of feeling better, calmer, more enlightened by his

discourse, I experienced an inexpressible sadness; for it seemed to

me--I know not whether equally so to others--that the eloquence to

which I had been listening had sprung from a depth where lay turbid

dregs of disappointment--where moved troubling impulses of insatiate

yearnings and disquieting aspirations. I was sure St. John Rivers--

pure-lived, conscientious, zealous as he was--had not yet found that

peace of God which passeth all understanding: he had no more found

it, I thought, than had I with my concealed and racking regrets for

my broken idol and lost elysium--regrets to which I have latterly

avoided referring, but which possessed me and tyrannised over me

ruthlessly.

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 out their innate excellences, and

appreciated only their acquired accomplishments as they appreciated

the skill of their cook or the taste of their waiting-woman. Mr.

St. John had said nothing to me yet about the employment he had

promised to obtain for me; yet it became urgent that I should have a

vocation of some kind. One morning, being left alone with him a few

minutes in the parlour, I ventured to approach the window-recess--

which his table, chair, and desk consecrated as a kind of study--and

I was going to speak, though not very well knowing in what words to

frame my inquiry--for it is at all times difficult to break the ice

of reserve glassing over such natures as his--when he saved me the

trouble by being the first to commence a dialogue.

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 abstraction from me and my business.

I was obliged to recall him to a theme which was of necessity one of

close and anxious interest to me.

"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 in 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 is,--how trivial--

how cramping. I shall not stay long at Morton, now that my father

is dead, and that I am my own master. I shall leave the place

probably in the course of a twelve-month; but while I do stay, I

will exert myself to the utmost for its improvement. Morton, when I

came to it two years ago, had no school: the children of the poor

were excluded from every hope of progress. I established one for

boys: I mean now to open a second school for girls. I have hired a

building for the purpose, with a cottage of two rooms attached to it

for the mistress's house. Her salary will be thirty pounds a year:

her house is already furnished, very simply, but sufficiently, by

the kindness of a lady, Miss Oliver; the only daughter of the sole

rich man in my parish--Mr. Oliver, the proprietor of a needle-

factory and iron-foundry in the valley. The same lady pays for the

education and clothing of an orphan from the workhouse, on condition

that she shall aid the mistress in such menial offices connected

with her own house and the school as her occupation of teaching will

prevent her having time to discharge in person. Will you be this

mistress?"

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?"

"I do."

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.

"What?"

"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 mountains--my

nature, that God gave me, contravened; my faculties, heaven-

bestowed, paralysed--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; bat 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," she said:

"natural affection and feelings more potent still. St. John looks

quiet, Jane; but he hides a fever in his vitals. You would think

him gentle, yet in some things he is inexorable as death; and the

worst of it is, my conscience will hardly permit me to dissuade him

from his severe decision: certainly, I cannot for a moment blame

him for it. It is right, noble, Christian: yet it breaks my

heart!" And the tears gushed to her fine eyes. Mary bent her head

low over her work.

"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.

"Yes."

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 each; and to St. John

such a sum would have been valuable, for the good it would have

enabled him to do."

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.

 

CHAPTER XXXI

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 language. Some of them are unmannered,

rough, intractable, as well as ignorant; but others are docile, have

a wish to learn, and evince a disposition that pleases me. I must

not forget that these coarsely-clad little peasants are of flesh and

blood as good as the scions of gentlest genealogy; and that the

germs of native excellence, refinement, intelligence, kind feeling,

are as likely to exist in their hearts as in those of the best-born.

My duty will be to develop these germs: surely I shall find some

happiness in discharging that office. Much enjoyment I do not

expect in the life opening before me: yet it will, doubtless, if I

regulate my mind, and exert my powers as I ought, yield me enough to

live on from day to day.

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; listened to passion; made no painful

effort--no struggle;--but to have sunk down in the silken snare;

fallen asleep on the flowers covering it; wakened in a southern

clime, amongst the luxuries of a pleasure villa: to have been now

living in France, Mr. Rochester's mistress; delirious with his love

half my time--for he would--oh, yes, he would have loved me well for

a while. He DID love me--no one will ever love me so again. I

shall never more know the sweet homage given to beauty, youth, and

grace--for never to any one else shall I seem to possess these

charms. He was fond and proud of me--it is what no man besides will

ever be.--But where am I wandering, and what am I saying, and above

all, feeling? Whether is it better, I ask, to be a slave in a

fool's paradise at Marseilles--fevered with delusive bliss one hour-

-suffocating with the bitterest tears of remorse and shame the next-

-or to be a village-schoolmistress, free and honest, in a breezy

mountain nook in the healthy heart of England?

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 -

 

"The air was mild, the dew was balm."

 

While I looked, I thought myself happy, and was surprised to find

myself ere long weeping--and why? For the doom which had reft me

from adhesion to my master: for him I was no more to see; for the

desperate grief and fatal fury--consequences of my departure--which

might now, perhaps, be dragging him from the path of right, too far

to leave hope of ultimate restoration thither. At this thought, I

turned my face aside from the lovely sky of eve and lonely vale of

Morton--I say LONELY, for in that bend of it visible to me there was

no building apparent save the church and the parsonage, half-hid in

trees, and, quite at the extremity, the roof of Vale Hall, where the

rich Mr. Oliver and his daughter lived. I hid my eyes, and leant my

head against the stone frame of my door; but soon a slight noise

near the wicket which shut in my tiny garden from the meadow beyond

it made me look up. A dog--old Carlo, Mr. Rivers' pointer, as I saw

in a moment--was pushing the gate with his nose, and St. John

himself leant upon it with folded arms; his brow knit, his gaze,

grave almost to displeasure, fixed on me. I asked him to come in.

"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--your furniture--have

disappointed your expectations? They are, in truth, scanty enough;

but--" I interrupted -

"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 they cannot get--when

our will strains after a path we may not follow--we need neither

starve from inanition, nor stand still in despair: we have but to

seek another nourishment for the mind, as strong as the forbidden

food it longed to taste--and perhaps purer; and to hew out for the

adventurous foot a road as direct and broad as the one Fortune has

blocked up against us, if rougher than it.

"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, imposed the determination, but since

his death, I have not a legitimate obstacle to contend with; some

affairs settled, a successor for Morton provided, an entanglement or

two of the feelings broken through or cut asunder--a last conflict

with human weakness, in which I know I shall overcome, because I

have vowed that I WILL overcome--and I leave Europe for the East."

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 that

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 a

face of perfect beauty. Perfect beauty is a strong expression; but

I do not retrace or qualify it: as sweet features as ever the

temperate clime of Albion moulded; as pure hues of rose and lily as

ever her humid gales and vapoury skies generated and screened,

justified, in this instance, the term. No charm was wanting, no

defect was perceptible; the young girl had regular and delicate

lineaments; eyes shaped and coloured as we see them in lovely

pictures, large, and dark, and full; the long and shadowy eyelash

which encircles a fine eye with so soft a fascination; the pencilled

brow which gives such clearness; the white smooth forehead, which

adds such repose to the livelier beauties of tint and ray; the cheek

oval, fresh, and smooth; the lips, fresh too, ruddy, healthy,

sweetly formed; the even and gleaming teeth without flaw; the small

dimpled chin; the ornament of rich, plenteous tresses--all

advantages, in short, which, combined, realise the ideal of beauty,

were fully hers. I wondered, as I looked at this fair creature: I

admired her with my whole heart. Nature had surely formed her in a

partial mood; and, forgetting her usual stinted step-mother dole of

gifts, had endowed this, her darling, with a grand-dame's bounty.

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?"

"Quite."

"Do you like your house?"

"Very much."

"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 world: they put all our young

knife-grinders and scissor merchants to shame."

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 Miss 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.

 

CHAPTER XXXII

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 goodwill 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 and

disposed for improvement--with whom I passed many a pleasant evening

hour in their own homes. Their parents then (the farmer and his

wife) loaded me with attentions. There was an enjoyment in

accepting their simple kindness, and in repaying it by a

consideration--a scrupulous regard to their feelings--to which they

were not, perhaps, at all times accustomed, and which both charmed

and benefited them; because, while it elevated them in their own

eyes, it made them emulous to merit the deferential treatment they

received.

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. Then I awoke. Then I recalled

where I was, and how situated. Then I rose up on my curtainless

bed, trembling and quivering; and then the still, dark night

witnessed the convulsion of despair, and heard the burst of passion.

By nine o'clock the next morning I was punctually opening the

school; tranquil, settled, prepared for the steady duties of the

day.

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 his face, his hand would tremble and his eye burn. He

seemed to say, with his sad and resolute look, if he did not say it

with his lips, "I love you, and I know you prefer me. It is not

despair of success that keeps me dumb. If I offered my heart, I

believe you would accept it. But that heart is already laid on a

sacred altar: the fire is arranged round it. It will soon be no

more than a sacrifice consumed."

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 of

the pride of wealth; ingenuous; sufficiently intelligent; gay,

lively, and unthinking: she was very charming, in short, even to a

cool observer of her own sex like me; but she was not profoundly

interesting or thoroughly impressive. A very different sort of mind

was hers from that, for instance, of the sisters of St. John.

Still, I liked her almost as I liked my pupil Adele; except that,

for a child whom we have watched over and taught, a closer affection

is engendered than we can give an equally attractive adult

acquaintance.

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 S-. Would I sketch a portrait of her, to show to

papa?"

"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

in the execution of these nice details, when, after one rapid tap,

my door unclosed, admitting St. John Rivers.

"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 accurate guess, I

will promise to paint you a careful and faithful duplicate of this

very picture, provided you admit that the gift would be acceptable

to you. I don't wish to throw away my time and trouble on an

offering you would deem worthless."

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 with sweet inundation all the field I have so

carefully and with such labour prepared--so assiduously sown with

the seeds of good intentions, of self-denying plans. And now it is

deluged with a nectarous flood--the young germs swamped--delicious

poison cankering them: now I see myself stretched on an ottoman in

the drawing-room at Vale Hall at my bride Rosamond Oliver's feet:

she is talking to me with her sweet voice--gazing down on me with

those eyes your skilful hand has copied so well--smiling at me with

these coral lips. She is mine--I am hers--this present life and

passing world suffice to me. Hush! say nothing--my heart is full of

delight--my senses are entranced--let the time I marked pass in

peace."

I humoured him: the watch ticked on: he breathed fast and low: I

stood silent. Amidst this hush the quartet 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, 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 within a year after marriage; and

that to twelve months' rapture would succeed a lifetime of regret.

This I know."

"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 my prospects,

yet unsettled--my departure, continually procrastinated. Only this

morning, I received intelligence that the successor, whose arrival I

have been so long expecting, cannot be ready to replace me for three

months to come yet; and perhaps the three months may extend to six."

"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 shade 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 deformity--a cold, hard, ambitious man. Natural affection

only, of all the sentiments, has permanent power over me. Reason,

and not feeling, is my guide; my ambition is unlimited: my desire

to rise higher, to do more than others, insatiable. I honour

endurance, perseverance, industry, talent; because these are the

means by which men achieve great ends and mount to lofty eminence.

I watch your career with interest, because I consider you a specimen

of a diligent, orderly, energetic woman: not because I deeply

compassionate what you have gone through, or what you still suffer."

"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 cardboard

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.

 

CHAPTER XXXIII

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 -

 

"Day set on Norham's castled steep,

And Tweed's fair river broad and deep,

And Cheviot's mountains lone;

The massive towers, the donjon keep,

The flanking walls that round them sweep,

In yellow lustre shone" -

 

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 impatience, consent to be dumb; he might rebuff

me if my 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."

"Indeed!"

"Mr. Oliver pays for two."

"Does he?"

"He means to give the whole school a treat at Christmas."

"I know."

"Was it your suggestion?"

"No."

"Whose, then?"

"His daughter's, I think."

"It is like her: she is so good-natured."

"Yes."

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 his name at this

moment--fell in love with a rich man's daughter; she fell in love

with him, and married him, against the advice of all her friends,

who consequently disowned her immediately after the wedding. Before

two years passed, the rash pair were both dead, and laid quietly

side by side under one slab. (I have seen their grave; it formed

part of the pavement of a huge churchyard surrounding the grim,

soot-black old cathedral of an overgrown manufacturing town in -

shire.) They left a daughter, which, at its very birth, Charity

received in her lap--cold as that of the snow-drift I almost stuck

fast in to-night. Charity carried the friendless thing to the house

of its rich maternal relations; it was reared by an aunt-in-law,

called (I come to names now) Mrs. Reed of Gateshead. You start--did

you hear a noise? I daresay it is only a rat scrambling along the

rafters of the adjoining schoolroom: it was a barn before I had it

repaired and altered, and barns are generally haunted by rats.--To

proceed. Mrs. Reed kept the orphan ten years: whether it was happy

or not with her, I cannot say, never having been told; but at the

end of that time she transferred it to a place you know--being no

other than Lowood School, where you so long resided yourself. It

seems her career there was very honourable: from a pupil, she

became a teacher, like yourself--really it strikes me there are

parallel points in her history and yours--she left it to be a

governess: there, again, your fates were analogous; she undertook

the education of the ward of a certain Mr. Rochester."

"Mr. Rivers!" I interrupted.

"I can guess your feelings," he said, "but restrain them for a

while: I have nearly finished; hear me to the end. Of Mr.

Rochester's character I know nothing, but the one fact that he

professed to offer honourable marriage to this young girl, and that

at the very altar she discovered he had a wife yet alive, though a

lunatic. What his subsequent conduct and proposals were is a matter

of pure conjecture; but when an event transpired which rendered

inquiry after the governess necessary, it was discovered she was

gone--no one could tell when, where, or how. She had left

Thornfield Hall in the night; every research after her course had

been vain: the country had been scoured far and wide; no vestige of

information could be gathered respecting her. Yet that she should

be found is become a matter of serious urgency: advertisements have

been put in all the papers; I myself have received a letter from one

Mr. Briggs, a solicitor, communicating the details I have just

imparted. Is it not an odd tale?"

"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?"

"Of course."

"And what did he say? Who has his letters?"

"Mr. Briggs intimates that the answer to his application was not

from Mr. Rochester, but from a lady: it is signed 'Alice Fairfax.'"

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 vermillion, 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 into certainty. You own the name and renounce the alias?"

"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."

"I!--rich?"

"Yes, you, rich--quite an heiress."

Silence succeeded.

"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 responsibilities, and to ponder business; on a base of

steady satisfaction rise certain grave cares, and we contain

ourselves, and blood over our bliss with a solemn brow.

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 two thousand!"

"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.

"Well?"

"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."

"Another time."

"No; to-night!--to-night!" and as he turned from the door, I placed

myself between it and him. He looked rather embarrassed.

"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. comprised in your

initials written in books you have at different times lent me; but I

never asked for what name it stood. But what then? Surely--"

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?"

"Yes."

"My aunt, consequently?"

He bowed.

"My uncle John was your uncle John? You, Diana, and Mary are his

sister's children, as I am his brother's child?"

"Undeniably."

"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,

justice--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 to me. Let

there be no opposition, and no discussion about it; let us agree

amongst each other, and decide the point at once."

"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 lifelong 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 must and will have them now: you are not

reluctant to admit me and own me, are you?"

"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--unsympathising, 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; your

presence is always agreeable to me; in your conversation I have

already for some time found a salutary solace. I feel I can easily

and naturally make room in my heart for you, as my third and

youngest sister."

"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.

 

CHAPTER XXXIV

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 Bauerinnen; 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 season of exertion?"

asked Mr. Rivers, when they were gone. "Does not the consciousness

of having done some real good in your day and generation give

pleasure?"

"Doubtless."

"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 schoolroom

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. What aim, what purpose, what ambition in life

have you now?"

"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."

"The best things the world has!" I interrupted.

"No, Jane, no: this world is not the scene of fruition; do not

attempt to make it so: nor of rest; do not turn slothful."

"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 position, and for pleasing

yourself with this late-found charm of relationship; but THEN, I

hope you will begin to look beyond Moor House and Morton, and

sisterly society, and the selfish calm and sensual comfort of

civilised affluence. I hope your energies will then once more

trouble you with their strength."

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. Goodbye!"

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 been

set aside for that purpose. The ordinary sitting-room and bedrooms

I left much as they were: for I knew Diana and Mary would derive

more pleasure from seeing again the old homely tables, and chairs,

and beds, than from the spectacle of the smartest innovations.

Still some novelty was necessary, to give to their return the

piquancy with which I wished it to be invested. Dark handsome new

carpets and curtains, an arrangement of some carefully selected

antique ornaments in porcelain and bronze, new coverings, and

mirrors, and dressing-cases, for the toilet tables, answered the

end: they looked fresh without being glaring. A spare parlour and

bedroom I refurnished entirely, with old mahogany and crimson

upholstery: I laid canvas on the passage, and carpets on the

stairs. When all was finished, I thought Moor House as complete a

model of bright modest snugness within, as it was, at this season, a

specimen of wintry waste and desert dreariness without.

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 housemaid's work?" I answered by inviting him to

accompany me on a general inspection of the result of my labours.

With some difficulty, I got him to make the tour of the house. He

just looked in at the doors I opened; and when he had wandered

upstairs and downstairs, he said I must have gone through a great

deal of fatigue and trouble to have effected such considerable

changes in so short a time: but not a syllable did he utter

indicating pleasure in the improved aspect of his abode.

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 crest-fallen 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, as by inspiration, the nature

of his love for Miss Oliver; I agreed with him that it was but a

love of the senses. I comprehended how he should despise himself

for the feverish influence it exercised over him; how he should wish

to stifle and destroy it; how he should mistrust its ever conducting

permanently to his happiness or hers. I saw he was of the material

from which nature hews her heroes--Christian and Pagan--her

lawgivers, her statesmen, her conquerors: a steadfast bulwark for

great interests to rest upon; but, at the fireside, too often a cold

cumbrous column, gloomy and out of place.

"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 laughed--kissed me--then Hannah: patted Carlo, who was

half wild with delight; asked eagerly if all was well; and being

assured in the affirmative, hastened into the house.

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 come. In the very meridian of the night's enjoyment,

about an hour after tea, a rap was heard at the door. Hannah

entered with the intimation that "a poor lad was come, at that

unlikely time, to fetch Mr. Rivers to see his mother, who was

drawing away."

"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 from it:

he was seldom in the house; his parish was large, the population

scattered, and he found daily business in visiting the sick and poor

in its different districts.

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 definitively 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 he 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 it!" So

saying, he returned to his papers and his silence.

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 encyclopaedic 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;--better calculated to endure variations of climate than

many more robust."

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?"

"Learning German."

"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 saw I could sit at a task the longest of the three.

Would I do him this favour? I should not, perhaps, have to make the

sacrifice long, as it wanted now barely three months to his

departure.

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 his custom, he gave me his hand. Diana, who

chanced to be in a frolicsome humour (SHE was not painfully

controlled by his will; for hers, in another way, was as strong),

exclaimed -

"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

classic pattern, to give to my changeable green eyes the sea-blue

tint and solemn lustre of his own.

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 at 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 bedroom

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, it faded, flickered: not a line, not a

word reached me. When half a year wasted in vain expectancy, my

hope died out, and then I felt dark indeed.

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 more composed." And

while I smothered the paroxysm with all haste, he sat calm and

patient, leaning on his desk, and looking like a physician watching

with the eye of science an expected and fully understood crisis in a

patient's malady. Having stifled my sobs, wiped my eyes, and

muttered something about not being very well that morning, I resumed

my task, and succeeded in completing it. St. John put away my books

and his, locked his desk, and said -

"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 emerald green, minutely

enamelled with a tiny white flower, and spangled with a star-like

yellow blossom: the hills, meantime, shut us quite in; for the

glen, towards its head, wound to their very core.

"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 20th of June."